Center for Cartoon Studies Donates Scholarship to Vermont Department of Libraries

We talked recently about the Center for Cartoon Studies and their summer programs. For the sixth year, the school is donating a full scholarship to the Vermont Department of Libraries for a Vermont teenager to use to attend the Create Comics summer workshop. Applications for interested parties are due May 2.

Create Comics is a ‘boot camp’ for cartoonists. The 5-day workshop packs in the essentials for producing your own comics. Through lectures, exercises, and group projects, students learn about story structure, page composition, pacing, materials and techniques, character design, drawing, environmental drawing, and production. Students collaborate on a comic anthology that they self-publish during the workshop. Create Comics is for both beginner and advanced students age 16 and over.

Any Vermont student age 16 or older is eligible. This year the workshop will take place in White River Junction, Vermont, July 7-11, 2014. This full scholarship, includes the workshop, supplies, light breakfast, full lunch and evening student activities. Vermonters interested in the scholarship should apply through the local school or public library.

For the application form, please visit the Vermont Department of Libraries site.

Game Designers’ Hard Work on Display at Champlain College and ArtsRiot

The 2014 Senior Game Show at Champlain College. Photo by Steve Mease, used with permission.

The 2014 Senior Game Show at Champlain College. Photo by Steve Mease, used with permission.

Last night, the seniors at Champlain College’s Game Studio showed off their final projects and their demo reels. Teams of students collaborated to create playable games, demonstrating the skills in planning, design, execution as well as programming and computer art during their course of study. The development teams displayed their games’ trailers, as well as their personal demo reels. The keynote address by Jason Della Rocca, co-founder of Execution Labs, hit on the opportunities to learn from failures as much, if not more, from successes.

The live stream of the proceedings is available on the Game Studio’s Ustream channel. The students’ games are on exhibit at ArtsRiot on Pine Street in Burlington for the next two weeks. Pop by and play them yourself.

Vermont Adult Learning hiring Literary Specialist

This looks interesting: Vermont Adult Learning is looking for a full-time position for a Literary Specialist in Burlington. Here’s the full description:

Full Time Position Available: Vermont Adult Learning has a position available for a Literacy Specialist at the Cherry Street Learning Center located in Burlington Vermont. This position is responsible for the delivery of reading and writing instruction to low-skilled adult students based upon assessment. This position demands a commitment to exceptional performance and working successfully within a team environment. It also offers health and dental insurance, flexible spending plan, a retirement plan with organizational match and paid time off.

Resume deadline: Monday April 28, 2014. Go to: to view the job description and for instructions to apply.

Go here for more details.


Todd Lecture: Rachel Armstrong “Icological Cities”

Tonight, Norwich University will present Dr. Rachel Armstrong for the latest entry in the Todd Lecture Series. Her talk, titled “Icological Cities”, will take place in the school’s Plumley Armory at 7pm.

From the school’s press release:

Armstrong is a co-director of Advanced Virtual and Technological Architectural Research (AVATAR) specializing in architecture and synthetic biology at the Department of Architecture and Landscape, University of Greenwich, London. Her TED lecture titled “Architecture that repairs itself?” has received more than 750,000 views.

Armstrong is investigating a new approach to building materials called “living architecture,” a movement that suggests buildings can share properties of living systems.

Frequently regarded as a pioneer, Armstrong is named among the 2014 Citizens of the Next Century. She also appeared in the “Wired” 2013 Smart List and among the 2013 “ICON” magazine 50. In 2012, “Director” magazine called her one of the ten people in the UK that may shape the UK’s recovery, and “Chick Chip” magazine recognized her as one of the year’s nine most inspiring women. In 2011, the BBC “Focus” magazine placed her in a list of “big ideas, ten original thinkers.”

The event will be livestreamed on the school’s website. Watch it here at 7pm EST.

You can also watch Armstrong’s TED Talk, which is pretty interesting.

The Todd series is a fantastic offering from the University, and just about every single one I’ve gone to is enlightening and interesting, opening my mind up to new things and new perspectives.

Digital Arts Technician Position at Bennington College

Bennington College has a job listing for a technician to support equipment used in their digital arts curriculum. The toys one gets to play with include: “14 Macintosh Computers, Epson 7600 and 2400 printers, an adjunct physical computing workspace with a small equipment bank, laser cutter and 2 makerbot replicator 3D printers.”

Two makerbots? Yes, please. Check out the listing for full details.

[Tip via @proscriptus.]

Weird Lovecraft Conference Calls for Papers

Weird Tales cover for January 1942.The call is out — the call of Dr. Jonas Prida, that is — for proposals for Weird Lovecraft: H.P. Lovecraft, Weird Tales, and the American Horror Canon, a pop culture conference held at the College of St. Joseph in Rutland, Vermont. As the circular elaborates:

The College of St. Joseph is actively looking for paper proposals that explore the way that Lovecraft and/or Weird Tales helped construct the American horror canon or the American horrific aesthetic. Papers will be presented at the College of St. Joseph’s popular culture conference, held October 26-27th.

You can download the notice directly from the college’s website. It covers the abstract deadline, how to contact Dr. Prida and some possibilities of topics for those needing a nudge.

Tolkien’s Bestiary: From Ponies to Balrogs

On Saturday I attended the morning session of the 9th Annual Tolkien at UVM Conference as a part of my Tolkien & Medievalism class at Saint Michael’s College. Taught by Dr. Kerry Shea, the class has involved a semester of reading Tolkien’s major works accompanied by medieval classics such as Beowulf in order to discuss and explore the roots of his created world and how it has fathered today’s concepts of fantasy. University of Vermont has a similar class and offered this conference to professionals and undergraduates alike to share ideas.

The theme of this year’s conference was Tolkien’s Bestiary, thus focusing mainly on the creatures of Middle-Earth and beyond. The day started with the reading of several undergraduate papers: an analysis of language and the complex etymology Tolkien created; a look at the premise of light vs. dark in the fantasy world; and a modern-day comparison of Gandalf and Dr. Who.

The next session included three scholars: Martha Monsson, Andrew C. Peterson of Harvard University, and Matt Dickerson of Middlebury College.

Monsson’s piece, titled “Forth Eorlingas: Horses and Ponies in The Lord of the Rings” traced the various differences between horses and ponies in LOTR, and what each shows about the peoples who use them. For example, the hobbits only use ponies because of their size, but they also value their endurance and labor use, showing their simple and humble natures. The horses of Rohan, on the other hand, are bred for heroic warfare, representing freedom and the status of the owner. Monsson looked at Shadowfax and Gandalf, as well as Gandalf’s treatment in general of horses. There are many origins in Anglo-Saxon history involving horse tactics in battle; the idea of the beast vs. a machine is also an interesting idea she explored. From the language Tolkien used to shape his horses to the meanings behind the colors of certain specified horses, Monsson’s paper was very thorough.

Peterson wrote “The Many Faces of Trolls in Middle-Earth” to investigate the uncertainties surrounding trolls in many of Tolkien’s works: their very nature shifts between stories. Tolkien’s trolls seem to be derived from Old Norse, and could be a combination of dwarfs and giants because of the many shared characteristics. Grendel also may be an inspiration for these characters. Tolkien seemed to have preferred folklore versions instead of the tamer English fairy-tale creatures, despite the trolls in The Hobbit that provide comedic relief with an apparently Cockney accent. The trolls in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion seem much more threatening: they are servants of Sauron and accomplices with the Balrgos of Moria; they are described as Ents that were twisted and mutilated. In The Lord of the Rings, Sam’s troll-song connects the story to the larger picture of Middle-Earth that we find in Silmarillion. This was a very interesting study for those of us who have recently read Silmarillion, and certainly caused me to think about Tolkien’s process.

The final paper of this session was “From Goblins to the Valarukar: Scourges of Fire and Demons of Terror” by Dickerson. He looked at some very interesting connections both in plot and language between the Balrogs and the Orcs, or the Valarukar and the Goblins. The idea of the Balrogs may have come from a poem in Old English that told of creatures of shadows and flames. The Balrogs remain creatures of mystery, however, since few of them are ever named. One commenter posited that Balrogs are a supernatural version of the more earthly trolls, since they do work together at times. We know that the Balrogs are a dark version of the Maiar, placing them on Gandalf’s level, which explains the repeating motif throughout Tolkien’s created history of wizards and Balrogs slaying one another. Gandalf’s resolute speech to the Balrog in Moria ties both of their stories back to what (little) we learned in Silmarillion about Iluvatar’s imperishable flame. Dickerson also considered Tolkien’s creation of Orcs, possibly taken from George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin. The name in Old English means demon-spirit or demon-corpse—which may have been where Tolkien got the idea for the Ring-Wraiths—but the concept is a darker version of a goblin. This was another fascinating paper for the creative, Silmarillon-educated mind.

The conference continued with a table discussion on “What to do with Tolkien’s Orcs.” I was unable to stay for the afternoon, but heard that some of the speakers and discussions that followed were very interesting. University of Georgia presented the conference’s keynote speaker, Jonathan Evans, who spoke on “Tolkien’s Non-Allegorical Bestiary.” I was sorry to have missed Marc Zender of Tulane University presenting “Mammoths, Mumakil, and ‘The Old Fireside Rhyme of Oliphaunt’: Tolkien’s Contributions to the Medieval Bestiary Tradition.”

All in all, it was a great experience which allowed us to cultivate new thoughts on Tolkien’s process with creatures, language, creation, and story. I know I have some great ideas for our final term paper, and am looking forward to reading and re-reading these classics in even more depth.

2011 – A Librarian Looks Back

Revisiting 2011 with my librarian lens, I discovered several Vermont library-related geeky highlights.

KOHA Transition

KOHA is an open-source library management system (LMS). In Vermont, the Green Mountain Library Consortium formed a VOKAL/KOHA group dedicated to making KOHA work for Vermont libraries. By the end of 2010, I had helped the Brownell Library transition from its propriety LMS to KOHA – the first library in the consortium to do so as part of the VOKAL project. In the spring of 2011, several other libraries completed their own transition, and I trained librarians around the state on how to use KOHA’s amazingly powerful search features. This year has seen an incredible coming-together of librarians throughout Vermont as more joined VOKAL and helped create a working online library catalog. To see if your library is part of the VOKAL consortium, check out the catalog.

NELA Conference

In October, Vermont hosted the New England Library Association (NELA) Conference, and librarians from throughout NE flooded the Sheraton in Burlington to discuss library issues and trends. R. David Lankes, a professor from Syracuse University, gave a keynote titled “Killing Librarianship” in which he challenged us to become “activist librarians” and figure out the purpose of libraries in the 21st Century (presentation). Other highlights included Vermont’s own Jessamyn West discussing the persistent and increasingly dangerous digital divide in the U.S., especially in rural states like Vermont (link to her talk); and Steve Butzel’s presentation called “Website Makeovers for Mobile Users,” in which he discussed the importance of making library Web sites more user-friendly for mobile devices (link).

Hurricane Irene

Despite the widespread damage in VT from Hurricane Irene, most libraries escaped significant harm. The one exception was West Hartford Public Library which lost about 60% of its collection. Many librarians, however, faced enormous personal property damage, and the Vermont Department of Libraries (DOL) established a fund into which librarians could donate money to help other librarians recover from personal property damage. Once again, VT librarians come together!

Vermont Library Calendar

The Vermont Library Association produced a Vermont Public Libraries calendar for 2012 – and it features gorgeous photos showcasing unique library spaces in VT. My sister library – The Brownell – is featured! Check it out.

First Wednesdays Series

Once again this year, the Vermont Humanities Council and the Vermont DOL created the First Wednesdays Humanities Lecture Series. Nine libraries around Vermont host a speaker on the 1st Wednesday of the month, and we are incredibly blessed to have such amazing speakers! So far in Essex Junction, I’ve attended a lecture given by UVM Professor Paul Bierman on the interstate highway system in Vermont, a lecture by NYT Chief Washington Correspondent David Sanger on U.S. foreign policy under President Obama, and a lecture by UVM Classics Professor Emeritus Philip Ambrose on Greek tragedies. It’s a free way to increase your geek cred. Learn more about upcoming First Wednesdays here.

David Sedaris

And how can a retrospective be complete without least one author event. My favorite of this past year: David Sedaris speaking at the Flynn. His mischievous humor set the sold-out crowd giggling with glee as he shared both published and unpublished essays. As he read, he made marks on his pages to register when we laughed and how hard – for, as he told us, he continually modifies each piece based on the responses he receives when reading. How geekilicious is that?!

Here’s to another year full of library geekiness!

Winooski Teacher attends Space Program

Alyssa Gagne of Colchester, a teacher at St. Francis XavierSchool in Winooski, participates in Space Acacemy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

via the Burlington Free Press this morning, St. Francis Xavier School teacher Alyssa Gange was awarded a scholarship to attend astronaut training at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where the space program got its legs during the early days of the Cold War. From the Free Press:

The scholarship program was designed to provide teaching techniques for science and math and help teachers move beyond the standard math and science curriculum with supplemental teaching techniques.

Gagne learned about the program from a flier at a teacher’s conference last year, she said. She applied and said the many essays required were a bit challenging. “I must say it was a little rigorous, but I wanted the chance to experience some intensive hands-on learning that would give me a jump start for the new school year.”

The scholarship included tuition for the six-day program, round-trip airfare, meals, accommodation and program materials.

New units on rockets and sunspots, just to name a few, will be in the curriculum for her students this fall, Gagne said.

“I’m a new teacher and still so excited about all of it,” she said. “I thought this program would help me to understand how to bring lessons to life for my students and to get kids motivated about the history of space, but really, this program changed me as a teacher. It was a successful mission.”

Click the link for the full article. Looks like an oustanding, exciting and unforgettable experience. We’re jealous.

Norwich to offer Gaming & Algorithms Course

This in from the Norwich Guidon:

The dining hall may serve the same food each semester, the same professors may teach year after year, and some traditions are forever, but there is one change for Norwich students to look forward to next fall: Brand-new classes.
Instead of assigning a textbook, Professor Jeremy Hansen, an assistant professor of computer science, is asking his students to choose one of their favorite games and purchase that for class.
Hansen is offering a new course titled Gaming and Algorithms.
“Although the class is a 400 level course, the material is not that advanced,” Hansen said, “It’s more for non-computer science and non-computer security folks to be introduced to the things people really shy away from in computer science like algorithms, probability and gaming theory.”
This elective course is explained nearly entirely through games, according to Hansen. “Most people know how to play chess or checkers, but we are going to find out the purpose and strategies of the games,” Hansen said.
Meeting once a week, Hansen plans to divide the three hours into sections.
“(The students) will not be simply sitting at the computer and playing Bejeweled for an hour and a half, but the students will document things like rules and analyzing the state of the game,” Hansen said.
The course itself does not get into computer programming but, “if there are students with any programming backgrounds in the class, I may have them build the stuff because they have the resources,” Hansen said.
“It really boils down to games and problem solving,” Hansen said, but outside of the problem solving, he plans to look in the role of theme in a game.

Full article.