The Ruffled Crow

Animation, Art, and Other Shiny Things

Tag Archives: SPL

A Small Slip of Paper

I grew up around books. Lots of books. I began to read them at 3, or so I’m told. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t read nor do I know how many books I’ve read, but I’d bet that number is somewhere on the upside of the average.

And because of this I’ve always had bookmarks too. In my mind, dog-earing a page corner is akin to writing in the margins – a cardinal sin, but occasionally necessary, and only then if the book’s condition or value allows it.

Nearly every bookstore supplies their own bookmark, as do most libraries, civic activities and organizations, museums and aquaria, parks and playhouses. If you need a ‘real’ bookmark, something created for the task, they’re easy to find.

We all have certain favorite bookmarks that we struggle not to lose, but in a pinch any slip of paper will do. Or a leaf, a feather, a piece of string, a gum wrapper, a picture, a dollar bill, a magazine response card, a random business card, or possibly even a ticket stub to a museum in Italy.

And they aren’t just slips of paper, either – formed brass, punched tin, stamped leather, wood laminate, shaved bark, reflective plastic, magnifying plastics, light lace, pattern-woven linen, crushed reed – just about any material that is cohesive, and won’t get absorbed by the book’s paper can or has been used to note a spot in someone’s book.

“The choice of a bookmark is a matter of personal taste and civilization, show me your bookmark and I will tell you who you are.”

George Hartong

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But Books Just Lay There, They Don’t Do Anything

c 2007 Will Austin

Central Library at Night

Staff from the Seattle Public Library met with the Seattle City Council today to begin hashing out funding issues for SPL beginning in 2011.

All of us here at the library (full disclosure, I am a denizen) are very well aware of the the funding shortfalls in our budget; it’s costing us jobs (fortunately taken care of through attrition rather than lay-offs, but it’s pinching) and operating hours. Plus we get a week off, unpaid… again… Many city and county departments are doing the same thing. It’s also being felt in our collection development, meaning we don’t order as many titles, or as many copies of popular titles, as we would have prior to the economic downturn.

In doing a quick read it appears that there are a half-dozen or so proposals on the table and about all of them will require legislative action and a few will pit SPL’s funding against the needs/wants of other city departments. Not a pleasant position to be in.

Larry Lange at seattlepi.com sums it up pretty well:

Even with a $50.9-million budget this year, the system will have to lay off three staffers and has cut back hours at 15 branches to deal with a revenue shortfall.

This year’s capital budget for maintenance was cut 37 percent, and libraries are likely candidates for more spending reductions as the City deals with a general-fund budget revenue shortfall estimated at $121 million through 2012.

Read the rest of his article here, it’s a good overview.

The raw Statements of Legislative Intent (SLIs) aren’t exactly thrilling tales, but they are pretty enlightening reading. One thing that caught my eye, though, was a metric they are using; per capita cost. Read more of this post

All Your Bass Are Belong to Us (part 2)

(My original post is at shelftalk.spl.org)

Bombay Dub Orchestra – Take a fully orchestrated Bollywood soundtrack, chop it up, chill it down and this is what you get. A 2-disc set, the second disc is remixes of disc 1. A very well done mix of base genres.

Mocean Worker is worth mentioning again. And again. A New York club DJ, Adam Dorn combines swing and jazz samples in a pure funk sauce. Portions of his stuff have been used in Lincoln car commercials. Cinco de Mowo is one of his best. You will not want to get between me and a record store when he releases a new album…

I hesitate to lump Enigma and Delerium together, but if you ever decide to have one of those “lost weekends” these two bands are the ready soundtrack for it. Delerium is generally a bit more ambient and can lean pretty far into trance, whereas Enigma is a bit more funky and likes to toss in a Gregorian Chant now and again and who doesn’t enjoy a good Gregorian Chant?

The Brit band Massive Attack pretty much defined the term “trip hop”, a neo-soul dub sound. Their Mezzanine album put them on the map here in the US. Having gone through a half dozen or so evolutions since their debut in the late 80’s there is some speculation as to whether they’ll be able to release a new album (due later this year) in full rather than a smattering of singles.

Orbital is a pair of British brothers that were big drivers of the acid house and ambient trance scene in the early 90’s. Mean beats, heavy synth, and a bit of Middle Eastern influence marks this band. Though they broke up in 2004 (rumors abound, however) they were pretty prolific, releasing 13 albums.

It’s impossible to even think about electronica without the duo Crystal Method coming to mind. CM makes it clear what “big beat” electronica is all about and beats you bigly with it. While many equate the band’s name with certain illegal, and downright scary, substances, the actual reference is to a girl. (Scarier by far, in my opinion…) Both guys had a crush on the same girl, Crystal coincidently, and after bemoaning the fact to a producer they were working with the producer blurted out the money quote “Ah, the Crystal method…” Take any of their albums and you might as well superglue your CD player’s door closed as it will be all you ever need. If you absolutely must make a choice try Legion of Boom or Vegas.

Finally, if you just want to stick a digital digit into the mix and sample some samplers a couple compilation albums that are well worth a listen are the Hackers soundtrack volume 1 and 2 – Stereo MC’s, Underworld, Carl Cox, Orbital, Moby, and Empiron are on these albums. ‘nuff said…

All Your Bass Are Belong to Us (part 1)

(My original post is at shelftalk.spl.org)

Back in 1919, when the world was in black and white (I’ve always wondered how they knew the sky was blue and the grass was green but every time I ask a Librarian about it they get a funny look, mumble something, and wander away. But I digress…) Leon Theremin was working for the Russian government on proximity sensors. Now Russia was quite a large country with an awful lot of proximity to sense and Leon, both a physicist and a cellist, found that he could turn some of that sensed proximity into sound. Enter the Theremin, the only known instrument that you do not touch to play. (How one knows that they are playing it rather than someone in the first row is beyond me, but again, I digress…)

Early on Leon’s odd little box was primarily used in movie soundtracks (Forbidden Planet, notably) and began integrating into popular music in the 50’s. For a fascinating look at the main-streaming of electronics into music and the bleeding-edge composers that led it take a listen and look at OHM+. While very interesting intellectually, the vast majority of the OHM+ collection has about as much musicality as Sputnik.

Throughout the 60’s, for those of us that are unsure if we remember it, integration of electronics into the current instruments and the creation of sound processors and synthesizers exploded. (And that exact sound effect was finally possible without lots of mess, fuss, and the probability of personal harm.)

While many would say that The Beach Boys Good Vibrations was the first usage of the Theremin in popular music, it was actually used earlier in 1966 on their song “I just wasn’t made for these times”. I think it needs have an asterisk next to it, however, as they used an ‘electro-Theremin’ in both cases; basically a keyboarded version. I consider Led Zeppelin’s “Whole lotta love” the first use as they used a ‘real’ one. Neener neener.

Many old-schoolers like me, though, got our daily dose of electronic tunage from the likes of Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream. As electronic music developed and psychedelia gave way to progressive rock and dance, artists like Jean Michel Jarre (yeah, Maurice Jarre’s  kid) began to refine ‘dream electronica’ and Alan Parsons took what he learned as engineer for Pink Floyd and The Beatles to create several well-crafted pop albums.

By the mid-70’s European electronica was starting to impact American music driven largely by the German band Kraftwerk. Dubbed ‘Krautrock’, the highly electricized dance beats found plenty of play in the clubs (okokok, Discos. There, I said it. Discos played it, a lot. Don’t ask me how I know, I just know. ) and fueled much of the growth of the burgeoning underground dance scene.

With the advances in computer hardware and software, electronica, as its own genre, really took flight in the 80’s and 90’s, and with more people able to create it, more sub-genres were created. Trance, industrial, goa, house, acid, progressive, drum and bass, as well as successful mixtures of electronica with jazz, swing, soul, classical, and metal. Electronic remixing and sampling of music became easily possible and artists such as Paul Oakenfold and Mocean Worker have taken that in some interesting directions.

You got that where? (part 2)

(My original post is at shelftalk.spl.org)

As promised in part 1 of our journey into the dank recesses of the library’s metal-clad hallways, here are a few examples of what SPL has available to feed your head-banging habit.

Army of Anyone : Take the lead vocalist from Filter, add the guitars from Stone Temple Pilots and a stellar studio drummer (who cut his chops with Devo) and you’ve got a great album. Unfortunately it’s the only disc they ever made… “Father Figure” is probably the best track. No relation to George Michael’s song of the same name. In fact, AoA’s version regularly kicks that versions butt and takes its lunch money.

Finger Eleven : They have a couple albums out and are considered alternative metal. “Paralyzer” on the “Them vs You vs Me” album put them on the map. “Paralyzer” pulls its main riff out of Led Zeppelin’s “Trampled Under Foot” and actually pulls it off. Keep an ear out; we’ll be hearing more from these guys.


Puddle of Mudd : Think Nickelback without all the self flagellation and a better sense of humor. “She Hates Me” from the Come Clean album hit the charts, but my fave is “Psycho” on the Famous disc. Questioning one’s own sanity is always entertaining.

Chevelle : Formed by 3 brothers and named after their Dad’s favorite car. Nice boys, that. Later along, one of the brothers was replaced by a brother-in-law. Talk about playing with fire… Sounds a bit like Tool except Chevelle doesn’t wander off into the theatrics and self-absorbed long jams.

Breaking Benjamin : Named for an incident where the lead singer (yes, Benjamin) accidentally broke the microphone during an open-mic show. Alt metal in the same vein as Chevelle. “The Diary of Jane” off the Phobia disc got some airplay – rightly so.

Seether :  First saw them in a music video for “Remedy”. Excellent post-grunge metal and the best album covers of the lot by far. I’d buy them on LP just to have the album covers full sized. Bonus track on the Disclaimer II disc is “Broken” featuring Amy Lee from Evanescence.

Three Days Grace :  If you’re throwing a heavy metal pity party then this is the band to crank. Their second album, One-X, is wonderfully depressing and angry. Myself, I prefer the lighter ‘peevishly irritated’ tone of the self-titled first album.

Saliva : Awful name but completely and seriously heavy ‘kick-you-in-the-nards’ metal. These Memphis boys decided they were going to be rock stars and they meant it. “Cinco Diablo” is their newest release and is excellent, but any of their discs are worth listening to. Several times. In a row. Really, really loud.

This only lightly scratches the surface and more is left out than can be included here, but it’s a place to start.

Rock on, dudes and dudettes!

(WARNING!: If you are looking for music to play at the weekly Bridge get-together or if the worst epithet you can think of is “darn” then you may not want to listen to ANY of this music. If, however, you want to learn new words… Suffice it to say there are advisory stickers on just about all of these albums.)

You got that where? (part 1)

(My original post is at shelftalk.spl.org)

Way in the back of the library, behind the rows of Mozart and Etta James, Jean-Luc Ponty and Steely Dan, in a place where even Frank Sinatra’s ghost won’t tread is a huge, iron-studded door. Locked inside are the dirty little secrets the Librarians don’t want you to know about. They remember the horror and gut-wrenching terror when Pat Boone returned from his brief foray into its depths.

Yes, it is (gasp!) The Heavy Metal Room. Full of Tool(s), Nine Inch Nails, and Chevelle(s). It can make one quite Disturbed. A place where the amp stacks can be turned up to 11….

Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here. Ok, maybe I’m making it up completely, but someone needs to point out that SPL has more heavy metal than a 1957 Eldorado.


It’s a given that SPL carries classic metal artists like Motorhead and Led Zeppelin, as well as a good bunch of Seattle folks such as Jimi Hendrix, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains. (We were ground zero for grunge metal, after all.) And what a myriad of metaldom! Thrash, progressive, death, nu, groove, gothic, symphonic, Viking (is Pirate metal far behind? Arrrrr!), Christian (yes, Virginia, there is such thing as Christian metal), funk, glam, neo-classical. You name the metal and SPL has it.


If you’re like me, an old school head-banger who bought all the Aerosmith albums when they were new releases, the big hair band and rock ballad years were tough ones. When Ozzie Osbourne put out that duet with Lita Ford I was inconsolable for days. Only huge doses of Rush (2112 specifically) got me through it and ZZ Top helped erase many of the scars left over, but I was still certain that it was one of the signs of the apocalypse.


Fortunately metal got through that phase and grunge helped re-focus the general genre back onto what us metal maniacs were thirsting for; heavy riffs that put an air guitar in your hands and smacks you up-side the head.

Several bands deserve, no, require, full posts of their own (Tool, NiN, Zeppelin, Judas Priest, to name just a few), so I’ll try to restrain myself while we look at some of the newer purveyors of metallic mayhem that you can find here at SPL.

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