Press Play @ Your Library during Teen Tech Week 2009

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Think the library is all about books? Think again. Libraries are chock-full of CDs, DVDs, access to on-line databases, and a great place for gaming events too.

Teen Tech Week (March 8-14) is a national initiative of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). This Survey will tell YALSA what your technology preferences are; so go ahead, it only takes a few minutes. So whether it's Dark Knight or a Ry Cooder Anthology go ahead and 'press play' today.

Ann Arbor Film Festival Website Now Up

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The official website for the 47th annual Ann Arbor Film Festival is now up and teeming with information about the March 24-29 event. On the site, you can preview stills, descriptions, and times of the films that will be screened and judged throughout the week, making it easier to decide which days you want to attend. A couple of films sure to garner their fill of attention are Secret Machine, a short about a woman whose resistance to pain is measured by an antagonistic scientist, and Afterville, the apocalyptic tale of a few lives at the end of days in Turin, Italy. Also see the full schedule of events to find out what's going on each day of the festival. Want to know more about film criticism before diving into the experimental films? Check out Stanley Kauffmann's book, Regarding Film: Criticism and Comment from the AADL before you go.

Amazon's New Kindle E-Reader

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Perhaps you've seen one of the first-generation Kindle e-readers from Amazon, one of those rare little creatures that everyone seems to have heard about but no one has actually seen. As someone who's heard quite a bit about the first version of Kindle but never met one, I was interested to hear that Amazon is now releasing a second-generation product, touted as Kindle 2. The changes appear to be minor, and by all accounts, seem to have improved what was already a good piece of technology. The new Kindle comes with more memory space, holding up to 1,500 titles, a battery that lasts 25 percent longer than before, better text definition, and a sleeker design. The Kindle 2 also has automated audio-read voices; you can choose from a male or female voice and plug your headphones in for a listen.

Dear Science Delivers

When post-punk/electronic band TV on the Radio broke onto the Brooklyn indie rock scene, most comparisons leaned toward The Pixies because of their penchant for layering heavily distorted guitar and keyboard hooks over punched-out vocals that teetered the line between screaming and singing. The most pulse-pounding tunes were accusations of masked racial inequity, and the ballads were just a touch less angry, but still pointed statements of mistrust.

None of these elements are absent from 2008's Dear Science, but whereas the first two records were a sonic shock that grated on the listener halfway through the record, the latest album is much more listener friendly. Here, the dance beats on tracks like Golden Age, Dancing Choose, and DLZ, along with the opaque ballads like Family Tree strengthen the record as a whole, making it an investment sure to return in repeat listens. Each song has a clear thematic direction, and though the sounds and structure of the music are still experimental, TVOTR no longer comes off like art for artists, but rather, music that speaks to artists and rock audiences alike.

Bruce Conner Films Screening at the AAFF

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Two premiere events in honor of late experimental filmmaker and artist, Bruce Conner (1933-2008), highlight this year's Ann Arbor Film Festival, held March 24-29. The AAFF will host a rare screening of the artist's films, which are not available on DVD or online.

In the late 1950s, Conner was prominent in the San Francisco Beat scene for his avant-garde assemblage scultptures, which were often draped in discarded Eisenhower-era novelties. Furthering this idea of "found" art, he began making short experimental films by editing newsreel and obscure film footage together, then laying either pop or classical music over the images. Critics consider this work a precursor to music videos and Godfrey Reggio's films.

Conner's best known work includes a sculpture titled Child, which depicts a molded child figure screaming in pain and strapped to a high chair with nylon stockings, the non-linear violence hymn, A Movie, and JFK assassination coverage footage, Report. More recent movies from experimental film distributor, Canyon Cinema, will also be shown in honor of Bruce Conner.

The Play Ground

The Play GroundThe Play Ground

Around the beginning of February we always take time from plays and concerts and sit in front of the TV and watch the Westminster Dog Show. It will be broadcast on two different channels: Monday, February 9, 8-9 p.m. on USA Network and 9-11 p.m. CNBC. On Tuesday, February 10 it will run from 8-11 on USA Network. A little confusing, but dog people can figure it out. Hey, most dogs can probably figure it out! As is our custom, we are rooting for the Highland Terrier to win.

The Midwest Hip Hop Summit

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The Midwest Hip Hop Summit comes to the Michigan Union on UM's campus this weekend. Starting Friday night at 8pm, catch Atlantic recording artist, Little Brother, along with OneBeLo, Invincible, and DCM co-founder and 4REAL host, Sol Guy, live in concert. Then on Saturday, join workshops teaching other facets of hip-hop culture, including breakdancing, MC'ing, graffiti art, and DJ'ing. These events and several panels on issues of race, gender, and the state of hip hop today will be held throughout the day at various locations in the Union. For current literature addressing these issues, try The Hip Hop Wars, or Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap, or All About the Beat: Why Hip Hop Can't Save Black America, all available at the AADL.

Andrew Bird Releases Album, Plays Michigan Theater in April

Rare as it is to hear a record investigate topics like the status of the plecostomus and the plight of the "harmless sociopath," what makes Andrew Bird's latest release, Noble Beast, worth digging into is the artist's gift for arranging this cornucopia of ideas into irresistible pop tunes. Stylistically, Bird plucks from flamenco and jazz as he did on The Mysterious Production of Eggs and The Swimming Hour, but whereas previous records were concerned with evoking the emotions of a situation, Noble Beast is more of an experiment with the duplicity of language. Ergo, the whistling wunderkind and former Squirrel Nut Zippers violinist treats his audience to snippets such as, "In the salsify mains of what was thought but unsaid / All the calcified arhythmitists were doing the math," and "The seemingly innocuous plecostomus / Though posthumous / They talk to us." Catch Andrew Bird playing live at the Michigan Theater on April 8 at 8pm.

Animal Collective -- Merriweather Post Pavilion

On Ok Computer, Radiohead made rock audiences want to climb into alien spacecrafts and learn the meaning of life from those they met on board. Now just over ten years later, Animal Collective reverses that impulse by bringing what might be the closest thing to alien psychedelia down to us mortals. The most anticipated record so far this year, Merriweather Post Pavilion is being released in the U.S. today to massive critical applause. By combining the heavily textured synth lines and bleating bass undertones -- long a signpost of Animal Collective's work -- with sequenced pop hooks that would make Phil Spector cry, the avant-garde Brooklyn band has captured a sound that will be inexorably imitated in the coming years. Check out Strawberry Jam, the band's 2007 release, or Person Pitch, by Panda Bear, a primary songwriter and vocalist for Animal Collective.

The Thrill Isn't Gone Yet

Eight films from director Alfred Hitchcock are featured this month as part of Michigan Theater's Great Directors series, and although most of the films were shown earlier this month, you can still catch three of his best on the big screen. Watch Tippi Hedren duck and cover in The Birds this Friday, January 16 at midnight, or see if Jimmy Stewart can snare his suspicious neighbor in Rear Window next Monday, January 19 at 7p.m. If dark comedy is your style, then watch Barbara Harris swindle the gullible in Hitchcock's final film, Family Plot, playing the following Monday, January 26 at 7p.m. The AADL also owns Psycho, North by Northwest, Vertigo, and The 39 Steps if you missed them at the Michigan Theater this month.

To delve into the director's psyche and his unconventional relationships with the actresses in his films, try the 2008 book, Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies.

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