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Live on Mars!

by Tomas - 1 Comment(s)

Curiosity on Mars!

Whew! What an intense few weeks. Amazing performances by Usain Bolt, Christine St Clair, the reunited Spice Girls, hmm, what else happened? Oh yeah…. A ROBOT LANDED ON MARS! MARS!!!

Ok, fair enough, the Olympics were a thrilling spectacle of athletic prowess, but seriously consider for a moment the magnitude of sending a rocket flying through the vastness of space and safely touching down on another planet… I think there is a team of engineers and astrophysicists that deserve to bite down on a gold medal too.

Of course, this also isn’t the first contact we've had with the red planet. Curiousity (nice name!), the plucky little rover that is currently exploring the planet is the latest in a number of robotic explorers that over the years have given us a clearer picture of the planet. The similarities in size and climate to Earth, and the tantalizing possibility of water and life continues to stoke our imaginations and ambitions to one day reach the planet.

But what will happen when we reach it? Humans don’t exactly have an impressive track record when it comes to encountering and then laying claim to ‘uncharted’ territory…so after the initial thrill of discovery, what can we expect? .

Although set on a fictional planet, Monica Hughes' classic Isis Trilogy offers one possible scenerio. Olwen, and her guardian -until recently the only residents on the remote planet of Isis- now have to come to terms with newly arrived colonists.

Recently republished on account of it's 100th Anniversary (I wonder if CPL had this book in it's collection in 1912, hmmm...) The Mars Trilogy by Edgar Rice Burroughs is a pulpy sci fi classic. Earth man John Carter finds himself mysteriously transported to a fantastically imagined Mars, complete with Martians! Skip the disappointing film adaptation and go right to the source for this one.

As the first book in a new trilogy by David MacInnis Gill, Black Hole Sun is a dark and gritty -and at times also humourous- story of sixteen-year-old Durango and his crew of mercenaries who are hired by the settlers of a mining community on Mars to protect their most valuable resource from a feral band of marauders.

Closer to home, in stories such as Girl from Mars and the critically acclaimed Manga series Mars, the planet plays a peripheral role, but also stands as a metaphor of the terrifying and wonderful emotional terrains of the strange world we currently find ourselves on.

Youth in Revolt

by Tomas Jonsson - 0 Comment(s)

Arcade Fire with Mick Jagger

During their recent set on Saturday Night Live, performing with Mick Jagger, The Canadian band Arcade Fire pointedly and politically wore red squares in solidarity with the student protests in Quebec.

Now over 100 days, the protests in Quebec are an example of a global overflowing spirit of rebellion and dissatisfaction with authority, particularly by youth, an emotional wellspring that Arcade Fire has tapped into throughout their various projects.

As much as I love Karen O and the Children's contributions to the Where the Wild Things Are Soundtrack, to me the defining song of this movie – or rather it's trailer – is still "Wake Up". The song, from Arcade Fire’s breakthrough album Funeral is a pitch perfect complement to Director Spike Jonze’s psychoanalytic take on Maurice Sendak’s classic story. While they weren't included in the soundtrack to his movie, Jones later worked with lead singer Win Butler and his brother Will in creating a 28 minute short film, Scenes from the Suburbs, another dystopian vision of growing up in a future full of alienation and lurking violence, inspired by Arcade Fire's album the Suburbs.

Scenes from the Suburbs - Spike Jonze

Named after John Kennedy Toole’s first novel (written when he was 16), Neon Bible is a darkly melancholic concept album, with many allusions to the recent flooding of New Orleans, the city where Toole grew up, and where he set his follow up novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, whose protagonist wages a Quixotic revolt against the entire 20th Century. Recently, Arcade Fire contributed two songs to the Hunger Games film soundtrack. "Horn of Plenty", which plays several times in the movie as an anthem for the fascist District of Panem. Conversely, their second song, "Abraham's daughter" is a subversive reinterpretation of the biblical story, weaving in a very Katniss-like character that up-ends the overly patriarchal tone of the original story:

Abraham took Isaac's hand
And led him to the lonesome hill
While his daughter hid and watched
She dare not breathe; she was so still

Just as an angel cried for the slaughter
Abraham’s daughter raised her voice

Then the angel asked her what her name was
She said, "I have none."
Then he asked, "How can this be?"
"My father never gave me one."

And when he saw her raised for the slaughter
Abraham’s daughter raised her bow
"How darest you, child, defy your father?"
"You better let young Isaac go."

D.I.Y. culture is alive and well in Calgary!

by Tomas Jonsson - 0 Comment(s)

Artist Trading Cards How To

The Calgary Public Library will be hosting a workshop about artist trading cards at our Village Square Branch on July 9-10 (Registration opens on April 24!). This 2-day workshop will introduce you to some basic techniques using different materials to explore in creating your own Artist Trading Cards.

For those who don’t know, Artist Trading cards are miniature works of art, about the size of a hockey card, that are traded freely between creators. The process is deceptively simple. On the last Saturday of the month, artists meet and trade cards they’ve produced. The only firm rules being that cards must be 2 ½ x 3 ½ in size, and can only be traded one for one. Beyond that, the sky's the limit! You can also take part in regularly scheduled trading sessions at The New Gallery, one of calgary’s original Artist-Run Centres.
Artist Trading cards are just one example of a number of local initiatives that are guided by a common ethos of generosity and exchange. Here are other examples of the rich diversity of Do It Yourself (DIY) culture the city has to offer:


I’m sure most people have had the opportunity to read, if not write a zine. If not, the Zine Tree Collective is a great place to start! The Zine Tree Collective aims to encourage expression and the sharing of ideas through self published, DIY zines. The collective defines zines as “self-published magazines or pamphlets made outside of mainstream press and professional media, by all kinds of people about all kinds of things… Zines are an empowering way to communicate a person's experiences or thoughts, as well as to learn about other people's opinions.” The zine library, recently found a new home at the Old Y Centre for Community Organizations, and offers access to thousands of zines written by people in Calgary, in Canada, and all over the world. The space functions both as a library and a workshop, with information and the equipment necessary to make your very own zine!

The Good Life Community Bicycle Shop is a non-profit community bicycle repair shop, resource center, and community space. The Good Life is a place where people can come in to learn how to fix their own bikes, build bikes from recycled materials, get a hand doing so, and use this space to facilitate some much needed community building. Check out their new space at the former Ant Hill Fabrics space in Kensington (148 10 Street NW).

Dorkbot Calgary is the local chapter of a worldwide network of people who get together to do strange things with electricity. Each dorkbot is different and is driven by the needs and interests of people in the local community. Meet ups are informal, friendly environments in which people can talk about the work they're doing and get inspired for new projects. Dorkbot get-togethers generally take place on the third Thursday of the month, with additional meetings for special guests and topics. Everyone is welcome, and can find out more about past and upcoming meetups here.

Protospace is a hackerspace – sometimes called a maker or make space, where inventors, artists, geeks can come together to make or ‘break’ anything involving science, technology, digital and electronic arts. Meetings and workshops are held every Tuesday evening, guided by a desire to promote creativity and community in Calgary and around the world… the more diverse the group, the more interesting it gets!

The Local Library is a place where people can come and experiment with new ideas, mediums and equipment in a space that's supportive and accessible, as well as learn from practicing members of the arts community in Calgary. All of their programs are open to your involvement, not just as a spectator but as an active participant! The Local Library hosts a variety of activities including regular all-ages shows, a visual arts gallery, open studios, workshops and more! Under "more", you can file Choose yer Own Festival, a do-it-yourself collaborative festival affiliated with the Local Library, but spilling out into all corners of the city.

And let's not forget about the 'other' local Library... The Living Library works exactly like your local Calgary Public Library - readers can borrow a "book". The difference is, books in the Living Library are human beings: "living books", with whom the reader can have a conversation. The Living Library uses volunteers as “living books” that can be “checked out” by “readers”. This unique program enables readers to ask the questions they have always wanted to ask; while "books" are given the opportunity to share stories about their personal experiences in a safe and welcoming environment. This enables individuals to actively contribute to building inclusive communities of understanding. As a Living Book, all you need is yourself - no more, no less. By being available to answer questions about your life, you will help readers understand you and your experiences better.

Just like these real-life, in-town examples, there are virtually tons of websites that cater to collaboration and skill sharing groups. Instructables is a web-based platform where passionate people share what they do and how they do it, and learn from and collaborate with others. Want to learn how to make something? Do you have a skill you want to share? Check out this site! Similar to Instructables, Howtoons is a site that combines instructions with comic-book style storytelling.


This list is just the tip of the iceberg of DIY culture in Calgary. Anything else you want to add? Just do it ... yourself!

Behind the Page

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Young Adult Movie PosterA new movie has come out from the makers of Juno, again looking at adolescence, again featuring adults in states of arrested development. “Young Adult” is unfortunately-and paradoxically- rated R, so intended for grownups who might relate to the challenges of growing up, which seems to become increasingly difficult as we age for some reason.

Charlize Theron's character, Mavis Gary, has not advanced since her glory days in high school. As a writer of teen romance novels, she is suddenly faced with an opportunity to return to her home town and attempt to relive these days-- with disastrous results.

The film reminded me of Gentlemen Broncos, a quirky follow up to Napoleon Dynamite, which features a home-schooled writing prodigy whose science fiction story is plagiarized by a celebrity fantasy author (Germaine from Flight of the Conchords).

These two movies are the latest in a line of films subversively setting up expectations of authors (Renee Zellweger as Beatrix Potter notwithstanding), portraying them as complicated, petty, mean spirited, fallible and completely human. Think of the tightly wound children’s author in Elf, or in another Will Ferrell vehicle, Emma Thompson’s darkly disturbed author in “Stranger than Fiction”, who is unknowingly narrating the real-life counterpart of her protagonist to his demise.

The gaping character flaws are usually played for comedic relief largely because they are counter to the conventional image of the writer, especially those writing children’s and teens fiction. After all, these are people who are supposed to have it all figured out, right? More often than not, I’d say they deserve more credit.

“No one suspects the children’s writer.” Says Mo Willems, who among many other writers of children's books, is included in the documentary Library of the Early Mind, an exploration of the art and impact of children’s literature on our kids, our culture, and ourselves. The film features nearly 40 prominent authors and illustrators talking about their work, its genesis and its impact, offering a surprising and deeply insightful look into the lives of writers, illustrators and the industry itself. We learn some surprising facts about some of our most beloved writers. For example, can you guess which author started writing books after a lengthy stint in jail for drug trafficking? Whose Orwellian childhood upbringing inspired a series of books that subversively challenged the infallibility of grown up characters?

What do you Really know about your favorite authors? Check out their biographies (we have tons! just ask), come to our information desks and check out our great reference books on authors, or try the database Something About The Author through the E-library. Let me know what you find!

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