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Japanese William Gibson Covers

These are covers for William Gibson Sprawl novels (Mona Lisa Overdrive is missing) published by Hayakawa, and designed by Yukimasa Okumura. They have a kind of proto-glitch art look to them, although upon close inspection you can see they are actually very intense collages.SwJLtGZnYMFrXI-1ajcUeVC-1

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Libraries I Have Known and Loved

Your library’s pulse will be there beneath your feet. I promise. You’ll feel its mind percolating in the hive of activities, talks and events running through its halls. Its beating heart can be felt as you navigate your way through the stacks in search of exactly the right Dewey decimal number. Its memories lay impressed like gravestone etchings on the fading date stamps at the back of every musty hardbound book.

Libraries are alive — growing adapting and dreaming side by side with the patrons and communities they serve.

And they do serve us: faithfully, without rest, and always free of charge. They patiently answer our questions and relentlessly fuel our imaginations.

But while libraries are living creatures, they are also public institutions. And like all public institutions they face the brick walls of bureaucracy, the fickle sway of public opinion and the political gamesmanship of our leaders.

Lately, the usefulness of our libraries seems to be a question floating in the air. Few come right out and say it, but there’s a growing sentiment in some quarters that our libraries’ best days are behind them. That perhaps our tax dollars might be better spent elsewhere. That we should give up on these generous creatures and allow them to go extinct.

I believe the opposite. But this piece isn’t going to be a list of all the reasons libraries should be counted among our most valuable public resources. You can find those arguments in enough places already.

Instead, I just want to talk about what libraries have meant to me. And so here, in chronological order are some of the libraries that have made an impact on my life:

The Lindsay Public Library

My first. And the one that taught me the endless adventures that can be found in the stacks. Like many libraries in North America, it’s actually a combination of two buildings. One a beautiful old victorian structure featuring roman columns, the other a sixties-era modernist government thing made from large windows and tall ceilings.

My mother would bring me here regularly and by seven-years-old I was spending a lot of spare time here alone with no one to keep me company except the librarian who always seemed patient and encouraged my reading.

The children’s department had two Commodore PET computers with green monochrome monitors which you were allowed to play on for a half hour at a time. The computers weren’t really capable of much, but they did have a few text adventure games, including one I loved where you had to hunt down Dracula before he attacked too many of the townsfolk. It was amazing.

This is the library where I first came into contact with Dewey decimal sections 100–130, an area I feel is often both the most neglected and interesting.

It tends to be neglected simply because it’s close to the beginning of the system, and ends up being placed in some out of the way edge of the collection. It’s interesting because a lot of a library’s more esoteric and strange books end up here, where computer science and futurism bumps up again the occult and supernatural.

The is the section where I was first exposed to Usborne publishing’s fantastic Mysterious World collection, where I found countless pictures of futuristic cities and juggernaut space vehicles and where I terrified myself half to death reading a book about Witchcraft that had a long section devoted to the real case the exorcist had been based on.

That book, and few others I found in those stacks haunted my young mind. But in a good way. Maybe that sounds strange to some people, but others out there know what I’m talking about. There are times when it’s good to let a book leave a scar. Especially when you’re small. It makes the world feel strange, wild and beyond knowing. Which is exactly what some books — especially some children’s books — are for.

The Whitby Public Library

I’ll be honest: this library wasn’t the greatest. But like many things when you’re a teenager, you make the most of what you’re given.

This was my main library through high school. And while we never quite fell in love, we had a very nice longterm relationship. Granted this was due to circumstance rather than any sort of real affinity for one another. It was a bit of an arranged marriage really. But sometimes those marriages work quite well in spite of themselves. It’s worth noting that I did some significant cheating with my nicely stocked school library which featured a full set of Richard Cavendish’s Man, Myth and Magic.

Since I left, the town of Whitby has gone on to demolish this building and replace it with a state of the art facility straight out of some architectural magazine. But that wasn’t the library I knew. The library I knew was another product of sixties government modernism. Large plate glass windows with dust bunnies and spider webs accumulating in the corners, worn-through carpeting and a faint smell of mold.

As a teenager I was terrible student and frequently skipped school to go spend time by myself in the reading room, surrounded mostly by older men who had come to read the newspaper. I remember one dark and rainy afternoon spent there reading Oliver Sacks’ the Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat.

There was nothing too remarkable about the afternoon. But something about it has stuck with me: the silence of the reading room punctuated by the occasional page turn of a newspaper. The sound of rain dancing on the roof.

A vision from a brutal future

Robarts Library, University of Toronto

It holds over 4.5 million books and the stacks are open very late. In fact they used to be open 24 hours a day until some students were busted have sex in some out-of-the-way areas.

The building is a massive brutalist structure in the shape of a peacock, or perhaps a dinosaur. It lies at the heart of the University’s downtown campus rising from the ground like some eruption from a dystopic fever dream. To get into the main stacks you need to show your university ID card and ride a Blade Runner-esque elevator to one of the upper floors.

 

This library is where I perfected my browsing technique of wandering through the stacks with no sense of what subject I happened to be in, simply stopping at whatever book happened to catch my eye. It proved quite a mind-expanding technique, and over the course of my time with this library I experimented with all sorts of variations on this: stopping every five minutes then checking the top shelf. Stopping between songs while listening to the INXS album kick then pulling out a book with my foot. It sounds random and it is, but I have discovered many books using this technique including Zen and the Art of Archery, The Wine of Youth by John Fante, Hearths of Darkness (an excellent study of how the Family is represented in Horror films) and An Assassin’s Diary by Arthur Bremer which is an odd, thin diary by the real-life assassin of Alabama Governor George Wallace.

 
The Ansonia Public Library

This was a small, weird and likely haunted place that seemed less like a library and more like the refuge of a vampire.The librarians gave off the odd feeling that they might have lived there. The building had the look of a small victorian church, and even featured an ornate fountain outside complete with a basin for horses to drink from.

The fiction stacks were arranged in a long room with a mezzanine surrounding it. This upper level held biographies and history books. Hunting through this section could be fascinating. For some reason the library had a lot of volumes from the seventies and early eighties that I have never seen anywhere else. It’s as though they had a significant budget for a few short years and then had been left with a small allowance ever since.

This library is where I first encountered all three volumes of Michael Moorcock’s strange and psychedelic saga The Dancers at the End of Time. I bring this up because running into Moorcock’s books in any library is a shamefully rare occurrence. He seems to have been stuck into that unfortunate cadre of writers that libraries for one reason or another rarely carry. In this group you’ll find (or rather won’t find) authors such as H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and the Strugatsky Brothers. Why are they so rarely stocked by libraries? I have no idea. I can only assume there is some kind of left-over prejudice against pulp fantasy and science fiction authors.

Fairfield Public Library

My current library, and without a doubt the peak of my library experiences so far.

I think they won me over when I realized they were perfectly willing to order a book on my behalf to add to their collection. They have done this on multiple occasions without blinking an eye. Books they have ordered for me have included Super Gods by Grant Morrison and a study of John Carpenter’s They Live.

In most cases the way that science fiction is separated out from the rest of the fiction stacks has always kind of annoyed me. But at this library, the vast long wall filled with thousands of sci-fi volumes feels less like a case of genre ghettoization and more like being let into a focused private collection.

My favorite part of this library though might not be the collection. Instead I think it’s the events the library stages on a nearly daily basis. Whether it’s a visiting author, a Star Wars festival or a job fair, the library has worked to transform itself from a repository of books into a truly invaluable community resource.

In short, it’s a living breathing place. As every library on this list is. And each of them deserves our protection, our gratitude and even our love.

They already have mine.

Wikipedia’s List of Emerging Technologies

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It seems as though every day we are coming closer and closer to living in what we perceive to be The Future. In fact, a brief walk down 23rd street and you’ll know that we’re there already, judging by the amount of people staring into the small black rectangle they are holding in their hands.

But the “The Future” is about a lot more than ubiquitous computing and telecommunications. It’s a time and place full of marvelous feats of engineering, biological breakthroughs and mastery over the natural world.

This list of emerging technologies page on wikipedia is like a ones-stop-shop for every interesting technological development happening right now. It’s great place to keep track of “The Future” as it arrives.

In addition to being a really handy list, the technologies are broken down by industry (Agriculture, home appliance, etc.) and then into a handy table that includes the potential applications of the innovation along with links to relevant articles, and perhaps most interestingly a box for marginalized technologies – that is current technologies that will be replaced by new innovations.

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The Making of Rock and Rule

In the late seventies and early eighties there was a slew of animated films made for an “adult audience”.

I put the adult in quotes because despite the nudity and violence in films like Heavy Metal and Wizards, the subject matter was still pretty juvenile. 1982’s Rock and Rule was part of this trend. Although it’s pretty tame if you’re going to compare it to something like Heavy Metal, the influence that of that film is pretty apparent. Set in a futuristic post-apocalyptic world populated by talking rats, the story centers around a rock band whose lead singer is kidnapped by Mok, an aging rock star intent of summoning an inter-dimensional demon through the power of music. It features a pretty insane soundtrack that includes Iggy Pop, Cheap Trick Lou Reed and Debby Harry.

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Rock and Rule was made by the Canadian production company Nelvana, who actually turned down the opportunity to work on Heavy Metal in favor of concentrating their efforts on this story. In the end they poured nearly all of their financial resources into the film. It would make or break them. And it broke them. When the film was released it got almost no play, either from the media or from audiences and it was quickly out of theaters. Nelvana would have been ruined if it hadn’t quickly scored with a bunch of live action shows that went on to become staples of Canadian television including the Edison Twins (check out the theme song below) and the 20 Minute Workout (which featured some of the hottest women on television circa 1985).

Jack Kirby Re-Imagines 2001: A Space Odyssey

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The Tumblr MarvelMania has posted several pages from a 1976 Marvel Treasury Special in which Jack Kirby adapted Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 into a comic book.

As with so many Tumblrs, the JPGs were posted without comment. So in lieu of their commentary I’ll provide my own: This looks incredible: the sixties arguably most psychedelic film re-imagined by Marvel’s most mind bending artists (see his 4th world series for any reference you need). 

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I say re-imagining rather than flat-out adaptation because this truly is more than a simple movie-to comic translation. One of the reasons 2001 is such a successful film, such a revered work, is that it uses film to transcend the barriers of language. It gives us something – a feeling, a philosophy, an experience – that is available only through the visual poetry of the cinema. As such, nearly every single shot and, by extension, sequence, has become iconic to one degree or another.

What makes Kirby’s presentation so interesting is that he seems to complete eschew the idea of recreating these iconic shots in favor of translating the thoughts, ideas and feelings conveyed in the film into the the language of comic books.

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