by Brian Visser on October 23rd, 2015
Just kidding, I’m so excited for The Force Awakens that there’s a tingling sensation in my extremities (maybe I should go see a doctor about that…). Anyway, J.J.’s take on Star Wars in December kicks off annual movie releases for the beloved franchise. This is something that I still have trouble wrapping my mind around: We’re going to get a new Star Wars movie EVERY YEAR. In 2016, “Rogue One,” the first spin-off film, directed by Gareth Edwards, will be in cinemas. “Star Wars: Episode VIII“ will arrive on May 26, 2017, with Rian Johnson as the writer and director. When Rian Johnson’s involvement was first announced, I couldn’t believe it. It seemed too perfect, and I kept waiting for Disney to say, “nope, never mind, you don’t get nice things.” Why am I so happy about Johnson directing a Star Wars movie? Because he wrote and directed one of my favorite films of the last five years, “Looper,” and the fantastic neo-noir “Brick.”
Set in the somewhat near future, “Looper” is a time travel movie. In it, organized crime types send people who they want to disappear back in time to get whacked. Joe, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is one of the guys who does the whacking. Things get complicated, though, when an older version of Joe, played by Bruce Willis, is the person sent back. Sounds great, right? The movie also plays with the idea of the fluidity and malleability of time. It’s intelligent sci-fi that’s sometimes hard to come by. Also, I looooooove time travel movies.
“Brick” is a stylish, mystery that takes place at a high school. Brendan (also Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a loner. When the girl he loves turns up dead, he will do whatever is takes to figure out who is responsible. If that sounds like the most basic noir set-up out there, that’s because it is. Seriously, this movie is so hard-boiled that in my memory it’s shot in black and white. It’s not, but I had to check to make sure. But Johnson hits it out of the park with smart and tight writing which Gordon-Levitt nails. Brendan gets mixed-up and roughed up, and it’s definitely worth a watch.
I encourage you to watch either or both of these great movies to get a taste of what Star Wars: Episode VIII might be like. And now that I think about it, does this mean Joseph Gordon-Levitt is going to be in the movie?!? I can only hope.
by Brian Visser on August 18th, 2015
I rode the last day of RAGBRAI this year. The route was from Coralville to Davenport—68 miles—and I absolutely loved it! The best part was the people. The small towns celebrated our arrival. In Atalissa, a row of kids along the road gave riders hi-fives. People in several towns sat at the end of their driveways with hoses and offered to spray riders down to cool them off. About 10 miles away from Davenport, I had to rest, so I stopped and laid down in someone’s lawn. A little girl walked up and asked if I wanted a popsicle. All of this made me smile the biggest smile.
The people riding RAGBRAI were also great. Several times I saw bicyclists with flat tires pulled off to the side of the road. Other riders always stopped to offer assistance or would ask if they needed help. I took comfort in this because I have no idea how to fix a tire. If I had gotten a flat, I would’ve had to rely on the kindness of strangers to get back on the road. I had the thought that I should try to remedy that, and the Library has plenty of books to help teach you how to handle common repairs. One that I really liked was Bike Repair & Maintenance by Christopher Wiggins
. It has big pictures and simple instructions that even I could follow. We have a lot of other titles that you can check out here.
I still feel like a bit of a casual rider. There’s a culture around biking that I don’t quite get yet. I’ve been reading two digital magazines that the Library offers through Zinio*– Bicycling and Bicycle Times — to help figure it out. Also, there are a lot of blogs around cycling that I’ve been checking out. One of them, Fat Cyclist, is really good. The author started his blog after he noticed that he had put on some weight and decided to shed the pounds by biking (sounds familiar, right?). He now posts stories about races and bike trips that he goes on. His writing is affable and humorous. He’s also really into mountain biking, and it’s hard not to get excited about it too. Maybe that will be the next thing I’ll try
I can’t wait for next year’s RAGBRAI. I need to train more, and I should get some common sense gear (like gloves!) to make the ride more manageable. I want to take more rides around the state. The Library has books about that too. You can find those here. I’ll see you on the trails!
*Magazines through Zinio are available to patrons who live in Iowa City, Hills, University Heights, Lone Tree, or rural Johnson County.
by Brian Visser on July 24th, 2015
I love movie lists. They’re a lot of fun and usually spark some good-natured debates. The BBC recently asked a group of international film critics–which included critics from magazines, newspapers, television and online–to create lists of the 10 movies they felt were the greatest in American cinema. They then used those to create a list of 100 films using a point system giving 10 points for a #1 pick down to 1 point for a #10 pick. Here are the top 25 with links to our catalog:
25. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
24. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
23. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
22. Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1924)
21. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
20. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
19. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
18. City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
17. The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925)
16. McCabe & Mrs Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)
15. The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)
14. Nashville (Robert Altman, 1975)
13. North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
12. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
11. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942)
10. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
9. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
8. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
7. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)
6. Sunrise (FW Murnau, 1927)
5. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
3. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
2. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
1. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
A few of the movies are out-of-print or just not available on DVD. Here’s the page where they break-down the top 25, and this page has the whole top 100 list. The list has already generated talk online for notable omissions like no films by the Coen Brothers or Wes Anderson. What do you think? How many of these films have you watched? Any of your favorites not make the cut?
by Brian Visser on June 11th, 2015
I’ve been commuting to work on my bike for the last three years. I started because my doctor said that I wasn’t exercising enough. My grandma has Type 2 diabetes and my dad is pre-diabetic, and my doctor said I was traveling down that same path. It shook me up enough to do something about it. Riding my bike to work seemed like a good solution. I got some exercise, and I didn’t have to sacrifice any of my precious free time. At first, I was a little anxious to ride on the road. The Iowa DOT has great resources for bicyclists including safety information for both motorists and bicyclists—
I’ve internalized the safety tips for bicyclists, especially this one–Make eye contact with motorists.
Never assume a motorist sees you or that you have the right-of-way. Expect the unexpected such as: parked vehicles pulling into traffic; vehicle doors opening into your path; and debris on the road
I can’t count how many times I’ve thought, “They see me, right? Nope, they totally don’t see me.” Also, motorists, I feel your pain, because you read that “Obey traffic signs and signals” in the bicyclists column and thought, “Yeah, they totally don’t do that.” I do! I wish more of my fellow bicyclists did too.
I didn’t expect to like riding my bike so much. Now I go on longer rides. I even bought some bike shorts. Not the super tight spandex kind, but the baggy kind (this Amazon review that said they were like “wearing a fully loaded diaper” is what won me over). I recently took a ride to North Liberty and back. Again, the DOT website is great for planning rides like that, because they have an interactive bike map. I know what you’re thinking, “Brian, I use Google Maps!” Google Maps is the best, but have you ever used it to plan a bike ride? It’s awful for that! If you plug in the ride I just went on, this is the route it tells you to take:
For some reason it doesn’t want you to use the awesome Clear Creek Trail, which makes for a prettier and safer ride. That trail is easily found on the DOT map. Also, Google Maps considers Mormon Trek a “bicycle-friendly road” which is completely bonkers.
I’m going to make an effort to take part in more local bike events and rides. ThinkBicyles.org has a good page listing the cycling events in Johnson County, and Bike Iowa has a comprehensive and searchable list of events across the state. The big one, of course, is RAGBRAI. I’ve never gone on it before, but this year I’m riding the last day from Coralville to Davenport. I’m really excited!
by Brian Visser on May 5th, 2015
The first season of the Daredevil TV show was released on Netflix last month. For the uninitiated, Daredevil is a street-level superhero who was blinded as a boy when a radioactive isotope was splashed in his eyes. His other senses were super-heightened and gave him a sort of radar sense. Comics, everybody! He became a lawyer (after he grew up, not some Doogie Howser nonsense), and also became a ninja. Yeah. He wears all red, but is basically Marvel’s Batman.
I inhaled the first season and was soon forcing it on others with a zeal. But it was over for me, and I had a Daredevil shaped hole in my heart. That hole was filled with comics. Brian Michael Bendis had a 55 issue, Eisner Award-winning run on Daredevil in the 2000s, and it has been collected into three Ultimate Collection volumes. Volume 1 is an excellent place to start if you’re looking for more about the Man Without Fear.
“Wake Up” is the first story in the volume, and it’s surprisingly low key. Matt Murdoch or Daredevil are not in it much. Instead the focus is on Ben Urich, the journalist who is heavily featured in the show. He’s investigating a young boy who’s catatonic after his father, a low-level Daredevil villain named Leap Frog, goes missing. Urich is sure that Daredevil has something to do with the boy’s current state and seeks him out. David Mack provides beautiful painted art for the story.
“Underboss” and “Out” make up the rest of this volume. “Underboss” has a new player in town trying to take out the Kingpin. “Out” deals with the fallout of that story, and the fact that the FBI learns that Matt Murdoch is Daredevil. The writing in all of these stories is top notch, and it’s complimented nicely by the fantastic noir influenced artwork of Alex Maleev. Seriously, the art is great. Check this out:
I highly recommend Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis Ultimate Collection Volume 1 and the rest of the volumes to anyone who is suffering from a Daredevil hangover.
by Brian Visser on April 8th, 2015
I’ve been pretty excited for the movie adaptation of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews since it debuted to universally positive reviews at the Sundance Fim Festival this year. It won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize, which are the two big awards at Sundance. The first trailer just hit. You can watch it here (warning: There’s a little colorful language). The buzz is that it will be the next The Fault in Our Stars, and the book commonly came up as a TFiOS read-alike. You can beat the rush and read the book (or eBook) now!
by Brian Visser on March 5th, 2015
There have been some big issues discussed recently by the Iowa House and Senate including when schools must start or the recent gas tax increase. The Iowa Legislature page is a great tool to help follow a bill’s progress. If you know the bill’s number, such as HF13 for the school start date bill, just enter it into the “Bills Quick Search” on the right side. You’ll be shown the bill in its entirety. You can click on “Current Bill History” on the left, and it will tell you when the bill was introduced or if it has passed. There’s also a link on the left to track versions of the bill.
It’s very possible that you won’t know the bill’s number. If that’s the case, you can use the “Bill Keyword Quick Search.” I did a search for “school” and HF13 was the sixth result. But searching that way can be frustrating. To take the guess work out of it, consider searching the Des Moines Register (you’ll have to scroll down a bit to get to DMR). They do excellent statehouse reporting and often mention the bill number in their articles.
Want to contact your state representative or senator about a bill? We have a handy page with that information right here.
by Brian Visser on February 5th, 2015
Earlier this week, the winner of the 2015 Michael L. Printz Award was announced. The award honors the best book in young adult literature each year as decided by the Printz Committee. They also name honor books, which are the close, but no cigar books of the year. Personally, I usually like the honor books more than the book that wins each year. Here are this year’s books:
I’ll Give You the Sun
By Jandy Nelson
Published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group, (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company Once inseparable, twins Noah and Jude are torn apart by a family tragedy that transforms their intense love for each other into intense anger. Timelines twist and turn around each other in beautifully orchestrated stories of love and longing.
2015 Honor Books
And We Stay
By Jenny Hubbard
Published by Delacorte, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., a Penguin Random House Company.
Reeling from her boyfriend’s dramatic suicide, Emily hides her anguish at a new boarding school, where she finds healing through poetry. Hubbard’s gem-like prose beautifully balances Emily’s poetry.
The Carnival at Bray
By Jessie Ann Foley
Published by Elephant Rock Books.
In 1993, Maggie is dismayed to leave Chicago and her beloved Uncle Kevin behind when she moves to a small Irish town. Yet it is within this evocative setting that Foley unwinds Maggie’s exceptional coming-of-age tale, where Maggie discovers music and forgiveness as antidotes for grief.
By Andrew Smith
Published by Dutton Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.
Historian Austin Szerba is in love with his best girl friend, Shann. He is also in love with his best boy friend, Robby. Mastermind Smith takes these tender facts and swirls them into a whirlwind tale of carnivorous praying mantises, the history of the world, the role of the individual, and the end of all we know.
This One Summer
By Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Published by First Second
Adolescence in its precarious first bloom is the subject of this sensitive graphic novel. The team of Mariko and Jillian Tamaki show and tell us of one special summer in Rose’s life, in a brilliant flow of pictures and text.
by Brian Visser on December 31st, 2014
Calling all people in grades 7-12! The Iowa City Public Library’s Teen Activity Group is looking for new members!
The Teen Activity Group (TAG) is designed to energize teen programming and services and give teens a greater voice at the Library. We meet monthly to discuss books, plan upcoming events, and hang out.
Want to make a difference in your Library? Maybe you just love reading or want to make new friends? We’d love to hear from you! TAG meets each month during the school year. Our next meeting is Saturday, March 21 from 1-2 in the Koza Family Teen Center.
If you’re interested in joining TAG, please drop by and find out what we’re about!
by Brian Visser on November 28th, 2014
Have you ever loved a book so much that you had to let the author know? That they were the only person who would understand how you felt? Letters About Literature is a program where students in grades 4 through 12 write a letter to an author explaining how that author’s work impacted them.
The Letters can be written about works from any genre, fiction or nonfiction by authors from the present or the past. Students can write about a book, short story, poem, or speech.
The program is sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. The Iowa Center for the Book is the Iowa sponsor.
Iowa first place winners win $75. Second and third place winners win $50. Honorable Mention winners win $25.
The deadline for high school students is December 15, 2014. The deadline for elementary and middle school students is January 15, 2015. You can learn more at the Iowa Center for the Book website and read last year’s winning entries at http://www.iowacenterforthebook.org/letters
But maybe you don’t want to enter the contest and just want to write a letter to your favorite author. We have a database that can help with that. To access it, go to http://www.icpl.org/resources/ scroll down and click on “Contemporary Authors.” Contemporary Authors has a lot of interesting information about more than 120,000 U.S. and international authors. For example, you can search “Lowry, Lois,” and it will list info about awards she has won, her bibliography and personal information including a home address. So, you could write a letter about how The Giver is your absolute favorite book of all time. Wouldn’t that be awesome?