Archive for January, 2009

On Avatar, casting, and other such matters (AKA why doesn’t Hollywood have a clue?)

I’m a big fan of adaptations sticking very close to the originals. I get very angry when things stray far from where they were intended to be for no good reason (there are some places where it is inevitable, and that’s fine, so long as Zaphod’s heads are side by side and not one on top of the other). Traditionally this has only applied to movie

I should not exist
I should not exist

adaptations of books (I’m looking at you, Twilight– and seriously, don’t they come up with any original ideas anymore?) but this new trend of anime/manga to movies might do me in. I’ve previously discussed my disdain for the casting of Keanu Reeves as Spike from Cowboy Bebop, but at least Spike is intended to be Caucasian, albeit Martian Caucasian. Similarly, the mulling over of Keira Knightley for Faye irks me a bit more (it’s easily determined from an old video that Faye is Singaporean, and her features do lean to the Asian side) but since her national identity is not at all crucial to the story I’m more irritated that Keira couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag-no less be a voluptuous trickster tomboy.

Avatar, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. Although I’m not a huge fan of the series (which comes simply from being born too late), the entirety of the story is based in Asian legend and folklore. It is a crucial element that the characters are, in fact, from a variety of different Asian cultures. Why the hell are we going to have white kids running around with tans (seriously, did they need to say that? OMG.) when there are scores of young, aspiring Asian actors and actresses who would die happy for just being considered? In a show so intricately woven into elements of Asian culture, there is no logical reason to not cast appropriately. Tan them as much as you want (which, by the way, is super insulting; didn’t we stop with blackface a long time ago? why is tanning a white kid to look asian a-okay?) they still aren’t going to be able to play the part accurately for anyone who thinks, no less fans of the series. They should have taken this movie as an opportunity to teach the young ones about the different Asian cultures- then maybe more of them could pass the test on All Look Same.


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Thoughts on ALA MidWinter

I’ve been spending the last couple of days perusing the blogs regarding the ALA MidWinter conference in Denver. I was unfortunately unable to attend (read: not important or rich enough) so this is the only way I am able to keep up with everything that’s going on. YALSA did a great job of covering it this year- I love that people are getting more into liveblogging because there are so many of us who are unable to attend these national conferences.

As usual, there is very little love for my otaku tastes (but lets be honest, there’s almost no awards that even include these mediums). I was happy with the selection of Uehashi’s Moribito for the Batchelder award over the honor books. Moribito is a great novel series, and I feel like the recognition will lead to a greater push of the variety of spin-off mediums including the anime and manga (maybe CN will start running the anime again after dropping it so suddenly). But as usual, my library system has slmost no copies. In fact, my fellow librarians left out the Batchelder award altogether when giving ALA news. *sigh* I’m still psyched that it won out over Tiger Moon.

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More EduManga- The Manga Guide to Databases

Manga Guide to DatabasesAs I’ve said previously, I love the idea that EduManga is working with. Manga stats would have been the highlight of my senior year of high school. Well, No Starch press is coming back at us again, this time with The Manga Guide to Databses. Now we’re entering the realm of college help (unless they’re teaching SQL to high schoolers now, in which case I feel really old).  Geared at non specialists, this book could be a huge help for those students knocking out the first year prereqs (I had to take a C++ course even though I was a history major!). I don’t think that this will have as broad of an appeal as the math help volume would, but it’s definitely got its own niche market. The sample pages seem interesting enough- I never really imagined databases being visualized, but it seems effective. An interesting concept, and definitely worth taking a chance on.

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The quest for good shojo (or why can’t women kick ass too?)

Another post by Kate over at the YALSA blog has had me thinking hard and deep about manga as it relates to females. Although it is true that I am able to come up with some royally butt-kicking females like Haruko from FLCL and Motoko from GITS, it is also so very true that the world of shojo- a field supposedly dedicated to female readers- has a total lack of strong female roles. I hadn’t really thought about it before she raised the issue, but all (and I do mean all) of my favorite manga/anime comes from the shonen genre. Looking back on the booklist I wrote just last year, the only shojo that even ended up on there were Ouran High School, Crescent Moon,  and Alice 19th, and frankly those inclusions were for variety purposes more than anything. Thankfully Crescent Moon and Alice both have more than just romance to them, but they’re still pretty-pretty-princess happy-go-lucky fluff.

I’m not putting shojo down. I do appreciate that there is a market for it- hell, I have a wicked collection of Sailor Moon toys from my time growing up and ladies, it doesn’t get more shojo than that. But why can’t we have a shojo where the lead chick kicks ass and takes names? None of this “oooh magic” or “he saved me!” Just some real, solid, butt-kicking fun from a chick who knows how to handle herself. How about a shojo where the girl rejects the popular guy because she really doesn’t need to have him around instead of living her life to win him over? I think there are plenty of girls who could identify with that (as a teenager, I was known to leave guys after three days due to boredom). Although the blossoming beauty of Papillon may reach out to the ugly ducklings yearning to be free of another person’s shadow, why does the ugly duckling need to have beauty tips and a new hairstyle and wardrobe to get what she wants? Why can’t she find her confidence elsewhere and tell the in crowd to shove it where the sun don’t shine?

Perhaps this is just something that gets lost in the cultural divide when it crosses the Pacific. I don’t know if young girls in Japan want to read about a young, strong female who doesn’t need a popular boy to get by in life. But let me tell you, I think there’s a real market for it here- we’ve seen it in YA lit, why not make the jump to the graphic format?

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Keanu to Play Spike- No No No No No No NO (did I say no?)

I’m covered in “eww” right now! Ugh. There is definitely some kind of trend for doing live action anime movies right now (I blame you, Death  Note!). I thought it was horrible enough that they were working on a live DBZ movie (c’mon, the animated version is torture enough) but I don’t want to see them butcher a series that I love so deeply. Cowboy Bebop is one of my all time favorite shows, and Spike is one of my all time favorite leading men. He’s quiet and debonair and deep on so many levels. Keanu Reeves is still Ted. The only reason the Matrix worked was because they wrote to his acting ability (which is basically saying “woah” and looking like he has no idea what’s going on). Aside from that horrible touch of casting, you know they’re going to make the graphics look terrible. And let’s be honest anyway- who, other than otaku who will cry over this injustice, will actually go see a movie about bounty hunters in space?

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An otaku explains being an otaku!

I wanted to give a quick kickover to this great post by Kate at the YALSA blog. She sums the world of otaku and anime up nicely and gives me hope for future generations of Otaku Librarians!

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On MySpace, Facebook, and my valuable time

As I have mentioned previously, I am a young adult librarian in a large, consolidated system. As a part of my regular duties, I assist with running the MySpace (almost a year and a half in service now) and co-developed and run the library’s Facebook account (just wrapping up our first three months). Although it is true that there is a lot of professional-to-professional networking and not as many connections with actual teens, running these two services takes very little of my time and puts another tendril out there for our kids to grab on to.

Unfortunately, every three months I spend much more of my valuable time justifying continuing these projects and spending my time on them. As is frequently the case, administration comes from a different generation and sees little value in making connections through social networking, something that I as a next-gen librarian see value in pretty much by default. Admin is concerned with raw numbers- how many comments did we get, how many new friends did we get, how many views did we have, how many bullitens did we post. Of course these numbers are important and if nothing is going on there is no point in continuing the project. However, it drives me absolutely batty when I get the “why don’t we have more teen friends?” and “what’s the point if we only have 200 people on our friends list?” These questions not only miss the larget point of the project, they ignore the basic way these networking sites operate (naturally both our MySpace and Facebook are publically visible even to those people without an account on either site).

Without further ado- here is the Otaku Librarian’s quick list of social networking facts from a YA librarian’s P.O.V:

1. Number of friends does not accurately indicate the success of your profile. View count is far more accurate unless you make your account private (in which case, why are you bothering?). As an example, we have just about 250 friends but over 5000 views on our MySpace.

2. Yes, MySpace is a scary, evil place where every person is waiting to molest your child. However, teens are going to go on it anyway and the library having an account on the site is not encouraging social delinquency or the “dumbening” of America. If anything, we’re trying to reach them and maybe get them to come into our educational institution, and it’s even possible that they’ll come in to one of our social networking safety courses or utilize our teen hotline numbers.

3. After the initial set-up period, the maintenance of a social networking account takes very little time. Even with the monitoring of each and every comment and post, I spend less than half an hour per week taking care of both MySpace and Facebook. We spend maybe an hour a month on any major event updates. This is hardly a waste of valuable work time, especially since the majority of this work takes place while I am working on the reference desk anyway.

4. Please, for the love of whatever higher diety you may or may not believe in, do not put a choke chain on your social networking success through needless rules and regulations. You can’t require that librarians make no postings, join no groups, and only add friends who have requested us and then question why your friend count isn’t higher. This is ineffective advertising. No one is going to think that the library is stalking them. Even joining another group of libraries provides a surprising increase in visibility as well as giving them impression that you are actually using the profile actively.

5. Yeah, you’ve got more authors, bands, and other literary related friends than teens. This is not indicative of failure! Professional networking is so valuable. For one, most of the people who add libraries are the people who will perform at libraries. They also post relevant contests and news that will help you professionally. For two, on MySpace in particular, adding a musician will put you in all of your friends’ feeds. Visibility is key!

6. Keep current!!! The internet changes so rapidly; what is “in” one day is “out” the next. It is not helpful to keep the proposal of a new profile suspended in red tape for 6 months. This is where I envy all you individual branches out there- you may not have the kind of team support I have, but when you decide something there are relatively few hoops for you to jump through.

That’s about all for now, though I’m sure as soon as I hit publish I’ll think of something else. I will say that the most satisfying thing for me has been getting emailed for advice on running a library MySpace because someone liked our profile and knowing that our Facebook was used as an example in a YA class. It makes me feel like my work is really contributing to the community- even if some people don’t see it that way!

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