Participatory . . . lending?

Prosper logoProsper logo

The Web 2.0 revolution has brought user participation to a new level. Thanks to sites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, and the newly announced Media Predict, mere mortals can create and judge content previously controlled by large media companies.

But according to a pair of segments on the July 4th episode of Marketplace, the participatory mantra is coming to an unlikely sector: banking.

Prosper.com and Kiva.org both connect borrowers directly with lenders, without bank intermediaries. Prosper allows users to solicit lenders by posting their need and fully explaining their situation. They can then borrow from (or lend to) multiple individuals, at various dollar amounts and interest rates. Taking a similar approach, Kiva puts a slightly more philanthropic spin on participatory lending: it facilitates microlending. You can make small loans to entrepreneurs in developing nations, where access to credit is difficult to come by.

What do you think? Would you borrow/lend on such a site? Should banks be afraid?

Antarctica is more than cool!

In anticipation of the Library's program on Antarctica this Wednesday, July 11, the following three books may be of interest:

Scott of the Antarctic: A Life of Courage and Tragedy by David Crane. A biography of Robert Falcon Scott and his attempts to be the first to reach the South Pole only to be foiled by a Norwegian, Amundsen, who had arrived a month earlier. Scott and his crew perished in a storm. Excerpts from Scott's diaries and photos enrich the text.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #73

Fans of novelist and memoirist Diana Abu-Jaber: The Language of Baklava (2005), Crescent (2003); and Arabian Jazz (1993), should not be surprised that critics are calling her first mystery The Origin* ...“poetic in tone and profound in its inquiry into the nature of memory and the self”, themes explored in her earlier works which centered mostly around the Arab-American communities close to her heart. (Author's website)

This time around, in The Origin, Lena Dawson, an emotional fragile fingerprint examiner for the Syracuse police is suffering from personal memory issues. Since her philandering husband’s departure, she lives for her work. When a rash of infant deaths afflict the area, she suspects that something (someone, more likely), other than crib death is at work. Added to the palpitating tension is her budding romance with a wounded detective, the nagging mystery of her own childhood, and a stalker dogging her every step.

A gripping contemporary thriller with a “flawed but appealing protagonist”. “Haunted, moving,” and highly recommended.

* = Starred Reviews

I've found the lost city of Atlantis!

Stargate Atlantis - RisingStargate Atlantis - Rising

The location of the lost city of Atlantis is... The Pegasus Galaxy. At least according to Stargate Atlantis - The Rising the pilot of the Stargate Atlantis TV show. Be sure to check-out both seasons 1 and 2 as well.

No "Stranger in a Strange Land"

Today, July 7, is the 100th birthday of science fiction writer, Robert Heinlein. Considered by some to be the father of modern science fiction, Heinlein wrote over 50 novels and collections of short stories. He never considered becoming a writer. While serving in the Navy, Heinlein contracted tuberculosis and was at a loss on what direction his life would take. When he saw an ad in a pulp fiction magazine offering $50 for a story, he wrote one but decided it was too good and sent it to a science fiction magazine where it was accepted. And so began his new career. Unlike other science fiction stories at the time that were full of gadgets and imaginary machines, Heinlein's fiction dealt with the world as it was and how it could be imagined realistically in the future.

Stories in Every Size

Bill's lost his mom and we need a bed that is just so. Not to mention that Mother Brown is still trying to keep her knees up and our big black boots are still making that bonka bonka noise. So many problems to solve at this week's storytimes at the Downtown and Pittsfield branches!

A good sketch is better than a long speech

I've been in to picture books, comics, manga, graphic novels or what ever you prefer to call the medium of artistic story telling for a long time. I remember trying to explain my appreciation for graphic novels to my parents. They looked at me with slightly puzzled, slightly worried looks...

"...so are they called graphic novels because they are violent?"

"Some are some aren't, but thats not important"

"... so are they called graphic novels because they have naughty pictures?"

"Some do some don't, but that's not important"

".. so is it the foul language that makes them graphic?"

" NO!, they are called graphic because of the art work."

Deadwood on DVD

Will they or won't they? Who knows if they will ever tell more of the story and make the Deadwood movies? Either way, the third and last season of Deadwood was released in June. Relive the conflict between George Hearst and the residents of Deadwood. Watch Sheriff Seth Bullock and saloon owner Al Swearengen form an uneasy partnership to counter Hearst. Don't miss the ladies, Calamity Jane, bank owner and claim holder Alma Garret Ellsworth, former Madame of the Chez Ami Joanie Stubbs, and their lives either. Beware of foul language!

Frida Kahlo et al

Friday, July 6 is the 100th birthday of Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo who was born Magdelena Carmen Frida Kahlo in Coyoacan, Mexico in 1907. After a bus accident in which she was severely injured, Kahlo turned to art, encouraged by the great muralist, Diego Rivera. Kahlo married Rivera twice, once in 1929 and then in 1941. Kahlo painted lush, surrealistic scenes, many of them self-portraits. She was also known for her leftist politics. She and Rivera gave Soviet revolutionary Leon Trotsky political asylum in their home. Near the end of her life, she was carried on a stretcher to the first exhibit solely of her work.

Also, on this day, are the birthdays of the the Dalai Lama who turns 72 and President George W. Bush who will be 61.

Road Trip Reads: Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 1

20 issues of the series that launched the Silver Age, plus the first annual are collected in this volume. In 1961, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby changed the world's perception of what a super-hero was by creating the Fantastic Four, a family of heroes with real human problems. Meet the monstrous yet lovable Thing, the hot-headed and impetuous Human Torch, the compassionate Invisible Woman, and the dashing scientist known as Mister Fantastic. While their inter-personal conflicts reflect real world problems and concerns, their rouges gallery is a cast of wonderfully overstated characters.

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