Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Book & Music Junkie | Whatsis iSuggestions

By Joyce Hansen, MLIS

Salutations. It took just four measly minutes to yank down the Xmas lights from the front porch last week, yet I experienced a rush of accomplishment that got me thinking. A
s I roll to the end of my time here, this is the small corner I have come to sometimes occupy—a person who prizes polishing off tiny, non-school tasks. Because there is hardly any time for laundry, QFC or scrambling eggs, these little bursts of short-term satisfaction allow me to slog through papers, tedious readings, the cat throwing up, the car breaking down, etc. For that I am mighty grateful.

Anyway, I’ve come across some nice stuff so put aside that research paper. Here are a few whatsis suggestions…


The Gothic Archies / THE TRAGIC TREASURY: Songs from A Series of Unfortunate Events. 2006. Nonesuch Records. www.nonesuch.com/thegothicarchies. Shake up your music cache with this compilation of witty, miserable songs, most of which originally showed up within the audio versions of the Lemony Snicket books. Lemony Snicket not only writes wondrous strange children’s books, he plays the accordion. Along with Snicket, The Gothic Archies are singer/songwriter Stephin Merritt and John Woo on electric sitar. The songs are short in length and lyrics included. Sing along! The music is jaunty, and, sometimes vaguely reminiscent of 80s pop songs with their angst-filled chords and gloomy singers (hello, Morrissey). The chorus from the song Scream and Run Away:

When you see Count Olaf, count to zero;
Then scream and run away
Scream, scream, scream and run away
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run
or die, die, die, die, die, die, die, die,
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run,
or die, die, die, die, die, die, die, die, die, die, die


Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass whipped Cream & Other Delights Re-Whipped. 2006. Shout! Factory. www.shoutfactory.com. Listen to this remixed classic and even scrubbing out the red-sauce encrusted oven is pure mirth! The cover says it all: Once upon a time, there was a badass with a horn, a babe in whipped cream and a bunch of songs that became American classics. Now, 40 years later, Herb Alpert is back with new solos mixed in alongside even newer grooves by some of the most innovative artists around. Rewhipped indeed.


The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby. 2006. Believer Books. It’s possible you and Hornby are in the same boat. This is the predicament: “a hilarious and true account of one man’s struggle with the monthly tide of the books he’s bought and the books he’s been meaning to read” (from the book jacket). The comic writer keeps a monthly journal for 14 months that includes lists of books he’s purchased and books he’s actually read for each month.

From the book: “Books are, let’s face it, better than everything else. If we played cultural Fantasy Boxing League, and made books go fifteen rounds in the ring against the best that any other art form had to offer, then books would win pretty much every time. Go on, try it. The Magic flute v. Middlemarch? Middlemarch in six. The Last Supper vs. Crime and Punishment? Fyodor on points. See?”

Because I’ve only finished half of it(!), I can’t say if it’s all-the-way-through noteworthy, but there’s remarkable consistency in this and his other books, and because of that I’m going to go ahead and say, pick it up: it’s smart and entertaining.

Arboretum by David Byrne. 2006. McSweeney’s Books. www.davidbyrne.com. www.mcsweeneys.net. How do we perceive information? What associations with that info does our ever-churning brain create? Byrne’s compiled an intriguing book of his tree diagram drawings which he describes as “faux science, automatic writing, self-analysis, satire and maybe even a serious attempt at finding connections where none were thought to exist.” Byrne, legendary former lead singer and co-founder of the music group Talking Heads, has spent much of his life exploring stories, and started

Alternate Universes, 2002

these drawings as instructions to himself: “draw an evolutionary tree on pleasure,” mental maps of imaginary territory. Paragraphs explain some of the drawings. Byrne cites Lawrence Weschler and his book, Everything That Rises: A Book of convergences as some of what makes him consider connections beyond the obvious. Byrne: “(Weschler) asks if the similarities in the branching structures of neurons, trees and genealogies mean that we have a predisposition towards making things fit these structures.” What stories do we tell ourselves? No commitment to reading straight through—open it and step in anywhere.

That’s all, folks!

Joyce Hansen is the editor of the Silverfish and a 2nd year. She really didn't mean to leave the Xmas lights up so long. Really. Her cat, Debbie, fights crime.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Christmas and Tabaski: A Time for Collection Management in The Gambia

Entrance to Sololo School Library

By Jamie Hancock, MLIS

There is no weekly garbage pick-up in The Gambia. Mornings are never quiet – always beginning with the morning prayer call at 5 am from the loudspeakers of the mosque, followed shortly thereafter by the crows of roosters, the clucking of hens, and the chirping of chicks.

But they are never interrupted by the rude mechanical noise of a garbage truck, abruptly stopping with a large hydraulic sigh and lowering its talons to scoop up a dumpster. Nor will you see a man in a jumpsuit stepping down from his vehicle to survey the latest offerings.

Dawn welcomes sanitation workers of a different sort. Goats, sheep, and stray dogs regularly wander into family compounds looking for edible scraps left over from last night’s dinner. With livestock roaming about, there is no need to place food waste in a plastic container. These animals are vigilant vacuum cleaners that scour the grounds daily.

Certainly this is a more reliable form of food disposal than weekly garbage service instituted in developed countries. Goats do not take public holidays off, and they often greet their customers with a friendly bleat.

Unfortunately, waste management is not limited to food items and even a large population of goats (given their reputation to eat anything) cannot be expected to consume millions of aluminum cans and double-A batteries. In The Gambia, there are three main methods of garbage disposal: littering, burning, or depositing trash in a latrine. People walking the streets generally discard their food wrappers or drink containers anywhere they please. Inside their home compounds, they may burn collected piles of trash. Household items that do not burn easily or safely, such as batteries, are dropped into the backyard latrine.

Now that you are familiar with the country’s sanitation practices, it may help you to understand how I stood in front of a pile of burning books one afternoon outside a grade school, in a state of perfect calm and with a sense of accomplishment. Or perhaps I should take a step back, before your mind draws connections with “Fahrenheit 451.”

During a two-week trip to visit my girlfriend in The Gambia over the winter holidays, I volunteered to help

Boys of Sololo help with the weeding process.

organize and clean up the school library in the
village of Sololo. This is one of perks of being a Peace Corps boyfriend – besides the obvious strain of a long-distance relationship.

Sololo is a small village located in the Central River District, about 318 km east of Banjul, the capital city. The village is home to dozens of family compounds, a mosque, a small store, and a primary school. Villagers yield some crops from the fields and gardens, but rely heavily on income gained from employment in the nearest city, Bansang. My girlfriend, Megan Svec, lives with a host family in a fenced compound of six mudbrick huts. Ebrima, her late host father, worked as an orderly at the hospital in Bansang. Since his passing, the family of two wives, six sons and two daughters has more or less split apart. No longer financially supported by their father, some of the family members have left Sololo to live with relatives and attend school in other towns. As it stands, the village primary school is generally regarded as a poor educational institution that provides little discipline or preparation for advanced schooling. Low-paying teaching jobs, lack of resources and corruption (as rumored by the school librarian) are a few reasons for the school’s substandard education.

Another contributing factor is the condition of the library. When I first visited the library in February, it was closed to students and the books were piled in no discernible fashion on two shelves and a wooden bench. Upon my return to Sololo in December, the library was still only available to faculty and the books were in a fixed state of disarray, gathering dust and offering homes for insects. The school principal would like to re-open the library to students and perhaps expand it to include a reading area. My girlfriend was enlisted to spearhead the organization effort, and I unwittingly became her partner in this venture. As a student of library and information science (albeit one academic quarter), I felt confident that I could implement innovative ideas to improve access to information and encourage literacy.

Within the far corners of these piles, there were books housing families of termites. Little white squirming bugs had discovered their private paradise: neglected copies of “Brave Tales of Adventure” and “Roger and the School Bus.” We killed the termites and swept them out of the library. We sorted partially or completely destroyed books into a pile for burning.
During the first day of this project, I realized some huge obstacles. Besides the absence of call numbers on each book and the lack of electricity (and thus computers) in the building, there were problems of adequate shelving space and book decay. Rows of books were piled behind rows of books on both shelves, and boxes of books lie beneath them. The shelves were packed as tightly as possible. There was no way imaginable to place all of the books with their spine facing out (to allow patrons to browse the stacks); not to mention, many of the children’s non-hardcover books did not have spines with titles.

Burning damaged books in the back of the school.

Within the far corners of these piles, there were books housing families of termites. Little white squirming bugs had discovered their private paradise: neglected copies of “Brave Tales of Adventure” and “Roger and the School Bus.” We killed the termites and swept them out of the library. We sorted partially or completely destroyed books into a pile for burning.

On the second day, a group of children wandering the school grounds poked their heads into the door of the library. What were two white strangers doing inside the library while school was not in service (on the week before the Muslim holiday of Tabaski)? My girlfriend asked them if they wanted to help, and in an instant, we had hired a library workforce (at a cost of a few used coloring books). The children pulled out the boxes from underneath the shelves and sorted damaged books into our garbage pile. At the end of the day, the kids hauled this pile into a field behind the school and lit it on fire. They controlled the burning by scooping handfuls of water from a bucket on the edges of the flames.

So far, I have detailed the weeding process, but most of our time was spent organizing the collection. Without a library catalog or labeling system, my girlfriend and I decided to sort the books into groups to facilitate easier browsing. On my earlier trip to Sololo in February, we had separated the textbooks from other books. This time around, we created categories of non-fiction, beginner fiction,

All children's literature was reviewed to determine reading level.

intermediate fiction, and advanced fiction. These divisions were largely arbitrary, based on our judgment of reading level, appropriate themes and amount of pictures. Within each category, we grouped books together in series such as “One, Two, Three and Away” and “Wide Range Readers.”

Most of the books in the library were published in the UK, because The Gambia is a former British colony and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. I examined several books with content that seem totally unrelated to Gambian culture and customs. A reading guide titled “Dad’s Sunday” detailed the normal activities of a British family: “On Sunday morning my Dad likes to go out for a beer or two. He comes home, has his lunch and then goes to sleep. Usually he snores. He wakes up just in time to go out for his evening beer.” As most Gambians are Muslim and refrain from drinking alcohol, this guide is inappropriate for teaching reading comprehension. Yet, as a volunteer and an outsider to the village, I did not feel comfortable removing it from the collection.

At the end of two days, we had managed to sort hundreds of books into several categories. We had also removed damaged books and termites from the building. Sadly, I won’t get to see the next stage of development and organization. If the library is to serve its purpose as educating the schoolchildren, it needs expanded shelf space and more room for students to read and study the materials. Beyond physical improvements, teachers should encourage library use and make books outside the curriculum more available to students. If reading can’t be made pleasurable or easy, then children are less likely to learn. All parents, teachers, and librarians must understand this correlation, whether in Africa or America.

Jamie Hancock is studying to become a middle school librarian. He refuses to watch the Super Bowl because of an altercation earlier this year with Rex Grossman.

Book Review: Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge

Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge
by Cass R. Sunstein, Oxford University Press, 273 p.

Reviewed by Sheri Boggs, MLIS

Even if the subject – the aggregation of the world’s information – didn’t hook me, the cover of Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge would have. A simple red background with the black silhouette of a thickly-branched tree, the cover image looks remarkably like the neural circuitry of the brain; the visual suggestion is one of networks, connections, expansion and growth.

A notable professor at the University of Chicago Law School, author Cass R. Sunstein, is no stranger to the ramifications of mob mentality. He actively opposed the impeachment of Bill Clinton and has written prolifically on the importance of dissent, the dangers of right wing politics in the judicial system, and how the Internet can engender insularity and “information cocoons.” In Infotopia, he celebrates the potential of the Web—how it offers us the possibility of aggregating information like never before while simultaneously facilitating the movement of information out of individual heads and out into the open where it can be accessed and utilized – before exploring the pitfalls of information overload. Sunstein cites herd-like behavior, an over-reliance on heuristics and a very human tendency to shut out information that is too complex or that challenges our most cherished beliefs as examples of what can happen in an information-saturated society.

On the other hand, he finds fault with the time-honored process of deliberation, arguing that it is possible to “blunder, and blunder badly” even when many minds are working on an issue for a considerable amount of time. The greatest potential of the Information Age, in Sunstein’s estimation, lies somewhere in the middle. There is great promise in many minds working together, as long as those minds don’t get lost in the mire of endless and circuitous deliberation.

Sunstein looks to the power of “prediction markets” as well as the popularity (and surprising accuracy) of wikis for examples of “many-minded” information aggregation at its best. Along the way he also explores the blogosphere and the importance of open source software to a fully democratic information-literate society. While Infotopia takes a hard look at the more pessimistic possibilities of knowledge produced by the masses, it ultimately places its bets on optimism, concluding that “…for society’s most important institutions, dispersed information, if elicited, is far more likely to lead to better understanding – and ultimately to more sensible decisions in both market and politics.” Erudite and far-reaching in its implications, Infotopia deserves a place in many an iSchool faculty and/or student’s towering book stack.

Sheri Boggs is a 2nd year day MLIS student. Before coming to the i-School
she was a writer and editor for the Pacific Northwest Inlander in Spokane.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

iSchoolers Journey North, Hit BC Literary Hot Spots -- UBC & Vancouver Public

By Jeff Winter, MLIS
By Stella Shafer, MLIS
Ivy Henderickson, Photo

MLIS iSchoolers headed north over Veterans Day weekend last November to visit colleagues at SLAIS (the University of British Columbia School of Library, Archival and Information Studies SLAIS) http://www.slais.ubc.ca.
The UW's Student Chapter of SALA (Student American Library Association) organized the trip on the U.S. end, and we were warmly received by the BCLA (British Columbia Library Association) Student Representative, Natalie Catto, a third year student, at SLAIS’ temporary home, Technology Enterprise Facility, on the UBC campus. Its new permanent home, the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, is partially constructed, and the hope is the move in will be soon (more on that later).

During lunch in their conference room, we met a number of other students. This year’s incoming class totaled a few under 40. The school runs on a two term academic year, and applicants not admitted in Fall can be placed on a wait list for January the following calendar year. On a tour of their temporary facility, we all noted one thing—their students have lockers! Many students come from western Canada and the U.S, but they receive interest from around the world, as shown by the link on their home page Who is visiting the SLAIS Site?

After lunch, we were introduced to Edie Rasmussen, director of SLAIS for the past three and a half years. She outlined the program, which is both
ALA and CLA accredited, and described the various degree paths. Their major emphases are public librarianship and archival services.

Teacher librarians earn library endorsements only through education programs and do not have the opportunity, like we do, to add an endorsement to a teaching certificate through the MLIS program. Canadian public schools do not hire those having only MLIS degrees. While they do not train teacher librarians at SLAIS, they do offer at least twenty courses in youth services. These courses include specific classes in both children’s and youth services and both children’s and youth materials, as well as unique classes such as “Writing, Publishing and the Book Trade for Children,” and “Family Literacy and Early Years Intervention.”

Their main degree paths are:
Master of Archival Studies, Master of Library and Information Studies, a joint MAS/MLIS program, and a multi-disciplinary Master of Arts Program in Children's Literature. These are two year programs, with the joint MAS/MLIS program being three and a half years. SLAIS is also in the process of developing a joint MACL/MLIS program which, if all goes well, should be offered within two years. The MACL program is composed of courses from five different programs. Another option is for students to declare a “First Nations Curriculum Concentration,” which is intended for those who would like to serve Native Canadian communities. Some classes are offered in distance mode, but there is no distance degree program. Students in the MAS, MLIS and the joint programs are able to participate in a co-op program (similar to our DFW program), but these co-op jobs run either four or eight months, do not earn credits and pay professional-level wages. One final difference between the two programs is that SLAIS regularly offers one-credit classes, some of which only last one weekend!

Our next stop was the
Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, where the largest Automatic Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) in North America is located. This is a mechanized system for housing books and other items that are in low demand. It also acts as a regional repository for archival materials. The ASRS room is a restricted access, environmentally controlled area with a two-stage fire suppression system. However, it is not intended for rare or fragile materials. The facility entrance is at the top level, and once in, looks down on a series of stacked shelves more than three stories deep. Each pair of stacks has a robotic arm between them, which moves to retrieve and replace the bins in which the items are kept. These shelves hold 19,032 bins of four different sizes with a total storage capacity of 1.8 million items! Bins can be divided into as many as nine compartments for the most efficient storage of books, maps, folios, etc. Bin contents are determined by format and size, not subject, call number, etc. All items are bar-coded. When a user requests an item on-line, the computer instructs the correct arm to retrieve the bin that holds the item with the related bar code. That arm then brings the bin to the area where a library staff person removes the item and takes it to the circulation desk. When the item is returned, the whole process runs in reverse. The system in operation looks like something out of “The Matrix.”

The building where the ASRS is located will eventually house a library with a capacity of 500,000 volumes in open stacks and will be the new home for SLAIS once completed. Later in the afternoon, Natalie and a few of her colleagues took us to the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library http://www.vpl.ca/. We took an hour-long tour of the building, conducted by Heather Scoular, manager of the Science and Business Division. It is a beautiful, seven-story facility in the center of downtown, which looks like the Roman Coliseum from the outside and has great interior views all around and a sustainable design rooftop garden. The building is partially wireless enabled, with plans to expand coverage. According to the VPL website, the library holds over 1.3 million items and had over 2.3 million visitors in 2005. One of the most surprising statistics Scoular provided was that 50% of the library’s users speak Chinese. Scoular was encouraging when it came to discussing a subject we are all interested in--jobs! She welcomed graduates of our program to apply at VPL, especially those who speak Chinese.

The visiting group included Linda Barton, Esther Benson, Ivy Hendrickson, Bethany Klassen, Rebecca Paul, Lisa Pirlot, Stella Shafer, Naomi Smith, and Jeff Winter.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Book Junkie | iSuggestions for Books & Other Whatsis Along the Way

Greetings! I trust you're having a merry new year. To help muddle through whatever else winter may have in store for us here in the Pacific NW, I’d like to offer up a selection of books (& one DVD) that I enjoyed in 2006, and hope you have time to read one or two.

Escaping the Delta. Elijah Wald. This book will change the way you listen to the blues. Although a scholarly work, it reads like a novel. The core figure is Robert Johnson, yet he remains the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle. If you had asked any of Johnson’s contemporaries about him, with the exception of the very few that lived in his small part of the Delta, your questions would be met with a resounding, “Who?” This book also has a lot of information on women in the blues.

Moby Dick. Herman Melville. This was my summer project. Whew! Everyone thinks they know that this book is about the obsessed sea captain and the white whale. It is, but out of 650 pages, only about 50 pages are spent on that story. Instead, you learn everything about whales and whaling. And the language! All told from the viewpoint of a 19th century sailor who has read all of Shakespeare and is trying to write like the immortal bard himself. You keep turning pages just to see if Melville can keep it up. And he does.

Chronicles. Bob Dylan. Bob is sort of like Starbucks these days; he seems to be everywhere. I enjoyed this book. But then again, I like Bob. He seems to write from the persona of a really smart guy pretending to be a regular Joe pretending to be a really smart guy. Tiresome part: The “fame and fortune is such a drag” song and dance. If fortune and fame is a drag, then give all your money away and go bag groceries. I mean, look, Gary Coleman did, and he became governor of California. Didn’t he? This leads us to:

Masked and Anonymous. DVD. Written by Bob Dylan and Larry Charles (Seinfeld director). Directed by Larry Charles. I think this film, which made many critics' lists of worst movies of 2003, is really misunderstood! And not just because I like Bob. Instead of putting the story into the context of Dylan's songs, I think he was trying for the magic realism style of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Like most of Garcia Marquez, it takes place in a mythical South American country. John Goodman, Luke Wilson, and Bob himself play a sort of holy trinity of Bobness. Plus Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange. What's not to like?

Of Love and Other Demons. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This novella or long short story is so achingly beautiful it doesn't need to be a page or a word longer. As in many of his stories, characters seem to shift through time, so that a character struck by lightning (literally), pops up later. Dreamlike.

Well, I'm off to cram in some leisure reading for "Book Lust 101." If I come across something racy or particularly adventuresome, I'll pass it along.


Joyce Hansen, MLIS
Editor Silverfish,'06-'07
The Silverfish Blog, Feed & eNewsletter

Miraculous Musical Madness, Comparing Free Music Recommendation Sites

By Amy Vecchione, dMLIS

One of the greatest aspects of the World Wide Web has been the seemingly unlimited access to music. Yes, music. No, not information (am I really in the iSchool?).

Music is good for you. It increases your quality of life. But how often do we find ourselves listening to the same music because we can’t find anything new that is “good?” Meaning, we can’t find new music that we like.

Music recommendation sites acquire intelligence about what you, the listener, like and do not like based on your choices and uses that to inform its next recommendations. Another bonus is that musicians and listeners readily tag their own music, making deciphering “good” music from “bad” music somewhat easy for the untrained eye.

Below is my analysis of several of these sites geared to help you, the reader, find more music compatible with your tastes. I chose the sites based on price; they had to be free because, well, we’re all college students, right? Some of these sites give you the whole song, or just ten seconds of the song. You usually have to register, which is free, but both listening and registration is free for all of those I reviewed. I mention Rhapsody because it is totally fee based, but provides on-demand access to entire albums for that cost, and is more similar to iTunes in that way, but it also provides excellent recommendations.

These web sites work by making use of some fancy database programming, which if you feel like nerding out, you might enjoy investigating. They work similarly to the way the readers’ advisory database NoveList works, except you don’t then need to go out and find the music to see if you like it.

For some sites, the music is added into the database, but each web site does this differently. (See more about this below.) And also unlike NoveList—I’m going to give away the ending of this article: I chose last.fm to be the best music recommendation site.

The sites that I enjoyed the least are the ones where you have to really, really choose which ones you like and dislike so much that you lose track of listening to good music. That’s part of why Pandora lost the number one slot—I had to click “dislike” so many times that I stopped enjoying myself, and I wound up hearing repeated songs or The Dave Matthews Band (a band I don’t really like much).

About me: I like independent, world, rock, rap and country music. I don’t like Britney Spears, but I like Madonna. I like Ludacris, and sometimes Eminem. I like Justin Timberlake, but not his boy band beginnings. I like Erase Errata, Low, Lightning Bolt and Neil Young. I’m very varied so my tastes will showcase these sites pretty well.

And onto the sites!!! Explore away!!!

Music Strands


  • Complex interface with too many options and tabs to comprehend at first use. You choose an artist you like and then are presented with a list of artists that are similar.
  • Only plays snippets of songs, so it’s only previews. For previews, AllMusic is much better, and the interface is far more navigable.
  • There are some features that aren’t really about recommending music.
  • Does not stream.
  • Has a networked community where you can add friends or people with similar musical tastes, which might help expand one’s horizons.
  • Don’t have to download a new interface as everything is in Flash in the website.



  • Find out everything an artist has done, which bands they’ve been in, which bands they started, which bands they inspired, which bands inspired them.
  • Awesome fact-checking tool!
  • Plus, snippets of hit songs.
  • Perfect when trying to find a song, but you only know how it goes, the tune, the lyrics, or both, and you think you might know the name of the artist, but can’t really remember.
  • No networked community.
  • Incredible and accurate history.
  • Easy to use with simple search bar and advanced search options.
  • Incredible database.



  • Pandora has a huge library and is part of the Music Genome Project, an incredible project founded by Tim Westergren: “Over the past six years, we've carefully listened to the songs of over 10,000 different artists - ranging from popular to obscure - and analyzed the musical qualities of each song one attribute at a time.”
  • Pandora does not require downloading of new software; the interface is easy to use and online with a Flash system.
  • By building your own custom radio station, Pandora learns your taste in music.
  • Search by artist name or song title. Recommendations are made based on the song attributes that you choose and like.
  • Recommendations depend on whether you like or dislike a song (or do nothing, so three choices).
  • Pandora tends to descend into newer, indie rock that I don’t like. More of that jock-rock. Since it’s not based on user tags, it’s difficult to know how the decisions are made.
  • Obscure artists are represented because they can submit their own music to Pandora.
  • You start by picking a song or artist that you like, and the recommendations follow. Recommendations do sound similar to the music that you choose, but sometimes lack a certain edge or emotional quality of music.
  • Pandora tends to present some of the best specific mood selections and variety.
  • You can only skip three songs per hour, so if you dislike more than three songs, you have to sit through the others.
  • I have no clue what the algorithm might be for determining recommendations.
  • No networked community of friends.
  • It is seemingly near impossible to get Pandora to stick to a sub-genre.
  • Streaming is terrific, and recommendations are generally of an incredible variety.



  • You have to download new software, but it’s quick, fast, and doesn’t occupy a huge portion of your desktop like some downloads.
  • Recommendations are based off of user tags and band tags.
  • Like Pandora, creates “radio stations,” but skip as many songs as you want and store a track listing of every song listened to. Declare your “love” with a heart icon for certain songs, instead of just plain “like.”
  • Calculates your favorite or most listened to band based on number of listens.
  • Tracks all the music you listen to and stores it on a website.
  • Search based on tags or on artist name.
  • Has very obscure artists.
  • It's fast and simple to upload songs.
  • See what music your friends are listening to.
  • Easy to use. The interface is user friendly with a simple search bar.
  • Networking community.
  • Option of skipping songs without saying you don’t like it. Sometimes you’re just not in the mood for a certain song, but you like it.



  • Need to install a plug in.
  • Listen to full songs on demand.
  • Has networking community.
  • Become a Mercora DJ.
  • Clearly a Pandora rip-off project, but is based on P2P software.
  • Since you can demand whatever song you want, the predictability takes away from of the charm. Not knowing what will be suggested next—what makes Pandora and last.fm both so outstanding—is what makes the listening experience a real adventure.



Rhapsody is probably the best, but wasn’t rated for this survey because it costs money to sign up. Download entire albums at a time, and listen to them over and over. Rhapsody, like last.fm, makes quality recommendations, has an unlimited library, and brings you the ultimate in control.

Well, that’s all for now. Hopefully you guys can get some entertaining done in between papers, group projects, and discussions. And remember…. Listen to music! Life will be better if you do!!

Concert Review: Malkmus & The Jicks @ Neumo's January 19, 2007


By Jamie Hancock, MLIS Day

Two of Portland’s biggest rock stars were in Seattle on Friday night, and for a couple of hours, the animosity between the Rose and Emerald Cities subsided.

We forgot about the sales tax divide, rent prices, and light rail transportation solutions.

On the last stop of their I-5 Corridor tour before heading home, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks made an ambassadorial visit to Capitol Hill. Joining the musical envoy this time was Janet Weiss, longtime drummer of Sleater-Kinney and Quasi. The Jicks made a plea to the citizens of Seattle: “Our differences should never interfere with our ability to rock. Though some of us live on a river, and others of us live on a sound, we both live near water…and we both have sports teams owned by Paul Allen.”

That statement is, of course, a fabrication. But it would not be out of character for Malkmus, who regularly provides sarcasm mixed with social commentary in between songs. As the former frontman of Pavement and now a member of the Jicks, he has made a career out of clever wordplay in his songs (“carry on/it’s a marathon…carrion/it’s what we all become”), as well as lyrics that are hard to interpret (“swing your nachos like you just don’t care”?). Malkmus’ witticisms and goofy behavior come out in his performances as well as his recordings. At the beginning of the encore, he delivered an impromptu song about popcorn and then told the audience to get ready for some “rock action shreddage in the (206)/(503) corridor.”

His banter with the crowd, however, was sparser than usual. Likewise, most of the new Jicks songs (no album release date yet) are not as wordy and more jammy. By “jammy,” I’m referring to the nature of a Phish song, not a word choice made by Ice Cube. One of my friends left halfway through the show to go for a walk and he cited this characteristic as the reason for his departure. There is a noticeable increase in song length (average of four minutes) over the last two Malkmus albums. Whether or not that is attributed to old age or artistic freedom granted by his now legendary “indie” status remains to be seen. What’s clear is that Malkmus is still having fun and that he’s still an incredible guitarist. And Weiss’ addition to the Jicks is a welcome change. Besides raising the hipness quotient of the band by 75%, she’s an excellent drummer who provides spirited back-up vocals.

The set began with the first songs off the last two albums, “Pencil Rot” and “Water and A Rat.” Then the band veered into unknown territory and returned to crowd favorites at the end of the show. “Jo Jo’s Jacket” and “The Hook,” songs that glorify Yul Brynner and the pirate lifestyle, received the greatest cheers. All in all, concert goers at Neumo’s provided a warm reception for the Portland-based Jicks. During the lively encore, Malkmus revealed that all three of his band mates hailed from the Seattle area. So maybe it’s time we put aside our differences and realize--Portlanders and Seattleites are of one ilk. The small city-big city argument is not as important as embracing our common musical heritage.

But, seriously, who does that pansy Malkmus think he is with that pretentious Laurelwood mustache?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

iSchooler Stumbles Upon ALA & David Lynch's newest, "Inland Empire"

By Jack Baur, MLIS
Due to a number of factors (some obscure, some all too obvious), I have not been feeling particularly motivated of late. Homework, jobs, and society have rather disturbingly fallen by the wayside in favor of… well, idleness I suppose (and Stumble, which is my new favorite pointless web gimmick: http://www.stumbleupon.com/, check it out!).

I went into this last weekend with every intention of checking out the ALA Midwinter Conference (you may have heard of it) and kicking off this blog with some unique insights into its function, purpose, and the society around it, as well the library profession in general. Instead, I half-assedly went at the last minute, “borrowing” a recent alum’s badge (I’m not naming any names, and besides you’ll never catch us!) and spending maybe an hour wandering around the exhibit hall picking up free comic books (and a WorldCat book-bag that might just be the niftiest thing ever).

I’m actually kind of glad that I didn’t try to make a bigger commitment to ALA this time around. Being new to the iSchool and the profession, I still feel like I am trying to establish my bearings, and my impression of the conference was that it was simply too large, with too much happening for me to have been able to focus on anyone thing very effectively without getting a headache. So I skipped all the talks, happy hours, meet-and-greets, receptions, presentations, etc. I will say that seeing all the different vendors and spending some time with some of the new products and technology had its interesting aspects, but I couldn’t get past the fact that all those people were essentially there to shill. Gave me flashbacks to my days as a remanufactured ink cartridge salesman (it’s true, I’ll admit it) and I got a little creeped out.

All of this is to say that, as a second-term student here, I am definitely still trying to come to grips with the realities of the library world that I hope to inhabit and its less romantic sides. The combination of that and my general malaise (which is hitting too early in the term for my comfort) must be making for some very boring reading. So I’m gonna finish off with a couple paragraphs about David Lynch.

* * *

As many of you are hopefully aware, auteur filmmaker David Lynch blessed Seattle last week by coming to town for the Northwest premiere of his new film, Inland Empire. I personally could not attend every event, but he was on hand to give a talk on his relationship with Transcendental Meditation, a signing at Scarecrow video (which went remarkably smoothly and quickly, a testament to the great people they have working there) and to present two screenings of the film. I am grateful to Mr. Lynch for coming, for being so gracious and patient at the signing (shaking his hand and speaking briefly with him was, I’ll admit, a thrilling experience for me), and for being such a courageous and challenging filmmaker.

But what about Inland Empire itself? I heartily recommend that people go see it, with a few caveats.

Caveat the first: If you’ve never seen a David Lynch film, view some his earlier works first. Start with Blue Velvet, go a little deeper with Mulholland Drive or Lost Highway (my favorite), take in some Twin Peaks for levity (but don’t watch Fire Walk With Me before you see the rest of the series!) Inland Empire is self-referential to the point of seeming cannibalistic, and a familiarity with Lynch’s style and themes will aid enjoyment greatly.

Caveat the second: This film is long: three hours and it feels every minute of that length. It’s fractured: any recognition of conventional storytelling techniques vanishes in the first hour. And, like all of Lynch’s movies, it is willfully obscure and, occasionally, unbearably intense.

That said, this is a deeply emotional and powerful work. Laura Dern gives a stunning and complex performance. And, if you’re willing to pay attention, to dig, to give yourself over to Lynch’s dream-logic, there is plenty of fascinating commentary on identity, fame, and the function of Film as a medium (Film with a capitol F). Lynch praises the power of Film and the potential for humans as emotional beings to see themselves and their lives in the stories that Film can bring us (along with us, a battered Polish hooker watches the action of the movie on a television screen, weeping). At the same time Lynch rails against the destructive forces of fame and the Hollywood system as we watch Laura Dern (who starts the movie out playing an actress about to begin filming a movie) literally unravel. The psychic price that she pays for giving herself up as a vessel for the stories and characters that Film brings to us is a large one, and her identity splits, fractures, loops back on itself, and ultimately.

Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? Even if I wanted to tell you what the film is about I’m not sure that I could, and to try to explain the film with any sort of certainty would be an injustice. This is a film, like most of Lynch’s, that demands that you put analysis aside and simply experience it. In my opinion, if you have the constitution and the fortitude, it is well worth the effort.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Hello and welcome to the Blog version of The Silverfish! We've been a web magazine for so long, and now you can get updates here as well!

Sometimes these will be quick announcements, you know, just quick news updates, kinda like this one! We just want to keep you up to date on stuff that happens.

Speaking of stuff that happens... The Silverfish Newsletter is a student run magazine that comes out of the iSchool at the University of Washington. To learn more about what we do check out this history and explanation of The Silverfish.

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The Silverfish Web Editor, '06-'07