Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (DVD)

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World is a documentary DVD that explores the influence of the internet on human life.

It begins by following internet pioneer Leonard Kleinrock into a room on the UCLA campus where the first internet communication took place at 10:30pm on Oct 29, 1969, between UCLA and Stanford Research Institute. Kleinrock describes the moment he began typing the very first internet message, “Login.” Before he could complete it, the computer system crashed, and the first message transmitted by the internet turned out to be “Lo” – thus the movie’s name.

Danny Hillis, an American inventor and computer scientist, describes the phone book he owned back in the early days of the internet. It contained the names of everyone on the internet. Can you imagine a directory of everyone on the internet today? It is estimated it would be 72 miles thick.

Director Werner Herzog takes us to Stanford Dept of Robotics, where we learn how the discovery of biomolecule patterns was enhanced by the creation of a crowdsourced video game called EteRNA. Crowdsourcing, as defined by Wikipedia (itself a famous example of crowdsourcing) is “to divide work between participants to achieve a cumulative result.” In this case, a videogame played by a multitude of interested laypeople -“lawyers, grandmas, students, bedridden people” contributed in useful ways to the collective knowledge base about RNA (Ribonucleic Acid), which is present in all living cells. Crowdsourcing has been used in a variety of other ways for the common good. In addition to Wikipedia, another well-known example of crowdsourcing is crowdfunding, the collection of funds from a crowd (for example, Kickstarter). If you would like to learn more about how you can be similarly involved in contributing to the universe of knowledge (sometimes even by playing video games!) see this list of crowdsourcing projects.

While at Stanford, Herzog takes us to Professor of Computer Science and director of the Artificial Intelligence Lab, Sebastian Thrun, who is designing self-driving cars. He addressed the concern for safety of self-driving cars by saying, “When a computer makes a mistake, it learns from it, along with all the other computers (in use and unborn.) When a human makes a mistake, just that one person learns from it.” He shares a fascinating anecdote about a certain class he taught to 200 students enrolled at Stanford. He was able to offer the same course online to interested members of the general public. Over 1000 people signed up for the online class. When he tested them, he found that the best Stanford student ranked 412th among all the students combined. From this he said he learned that for every one great Stanford student, there are 412 better out there in the world who couldn’t or didn’t go to Stanford.

Then, we are presented with some particularly dark sides of the internet. The family of Nikki Catsouras shares their story, explaining why they no longer use email or the internet. Nikki died in a car accident in 2006 when she was 18 years old. Gruesome photos of her decapitated body were posted online shortly after the accident. Then, the family began receiving anonymous emails containing the photos, one with the caption “Woohoo Daddy! Hey daddy, I’m still alive.” The Catsouras family deeply lamented the lack of accountability on the internet.

What would today’s landscape be like without the internet? We find out more about that by visiting Green Bank, West Virginia, home of a telescope 100 meters in diameter that picks up radio waves from outer space. To eliminate interference with the radioastronomy project, all wireless transmissions are disabled within a 10 mile radius. The area has become a haven for people who experience severe physical reactions to being in the presence of radio waves. Diane Schou and Jennifer Wood describe their lives before they moved to Green Bank. They spent all their time inside Faraday cages –  boxes named for the 19th century scientist Michael Faraday, designed to shield their contents from electromagnetic fields. Some regard their condition as a supersense. They regard it as a nightmare.

We visit an internet addiction treatment center near Seattle, Washington where we hear the personal stories of some clients. We learn about a South Korean couple who were imprisoned for allowing their newborn daughter to starve to death while they were consumed with playing a video game. Ironically, it was a game in which they were nurturing an electronic baby.

Adler Planetarium astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz tells us about large solar flares called Carrington Events, which have the power to disable communications and create widespread power outages, and how we could see the next powerful solar event soon. We are given a glimpse of what that might look like from footage of a recent, relatively small-scale blackout in New York City. Theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss warns “if the internet shuts down, people will not remember how they lived before that.”

Famous hacker Kevin Mitnick is interviewed about the methods he employed to gain access to secured information. He goes into detail about how he manipulated weaknesses in cybersecurity systems, noting that he always found them in the people, not the systems.

In the final third of the documentary, the possible future of Artificial Intelligence is explored. Entrepreneur Elon Musk, who made a fortune through PayPal, talks about the rockets he is launching into space, and his goals of creating a colony on Mars in case Earth becomes unlivable.

Marcel Just and Tom Mitchell, brain scientists at Carnegie Mellon postulate on whether or not it is possible for computers to dream.

The Wikipedia Emergency Project is described. It is a plan that people should print out hard copies of the information found on its website and store them somewhere our heirs can find them should a catastrophic planetary event occur.

The documentary prompted much thought, and left me with so many questions the first time around, I eagerly watched it a second time a couple of weeks later, after I gave myself some time to let the ideas rattle around in my mind for a while. If you like to explore multiple sides of issues relating to the past, present, and future of technology I would recommend you watch Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World.




Zoo Tycoon

zoo tycoonWhen I was younger, the Tycoon series of games was really popular. Everyone seemed to be playing them and after several months of begging, I was finally able to convince my mother to purchase a copy of Rollercoaster Tycoon. As I was looking over the videogame section at the library, imagine my happiness when I found Zoo Tycoon, a build-your-own-zoo game put out by Microsoft Studios for the Xbox 360 in 2013.

Looking online and also talking to other gamers results in a wide variety of definitions for the term “tycoon games”. In tycoon games, instead of just controlling one character, you are acting instead like “the manager” who is in control of a wide variety of people or animals, as well as the place where all of the activity is happening. That is very true in Zoo Tycoon. Here the game offers you tutorials, so you aren’t flying blind into how to operate and run your zoo. As the over-seer of the whole zoo, you need to remember to play smart because the guests who visit your zoo, as well as the animals, will ultimately decide just how well you are doing as a zoo tycoon.

This interactive game lets you design your zoo, build, and then manage it to make sure more and more guests keep coming and visiting. Once you build your zoo, you then get to have face time with all of your animals. You are allowed to adopt and care for your animals with the ultimate decision for you to then release them into the wild.

This game was interactive for me and definitely brought back memories of the older tycoon games that I had played. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Thor: God of Thunder

thor god of thunderRight around the release of any superhero movie, a lot of other merchandise related to that superhero begins hitting the market. Because I am not a pre-teen or teenager anymore and have decided that I need to start decorating like a proper adult (It’s sad, I know), buying superhero towels, sheets, and posters to decorate are no longer an option. You know what venue that does still leave open? Videogames! Because of this adulthood I have been thrust into, I have become a sucker for superhero videogames.

I recently went on a Thor binge again because of our recently ended superhero summer reading program. Confession: The movies, both Thor  and Thor: The Dark World, are not my favorite superhero movies, primarily because I love a lot of actiony fights in my movies and the first of a superhero’s movie or graphic novel usually always generates around his origin story, which can be tedious, to me. (This girl is not a fan of origin stories.)

What I found lacking in the Thor movies, I found in Thor: God of Thunder. This game is available in both the Xbox 360 and Wii formats. In this game, all of the action I was missing in the movies came alive. Here, I am able to heft Mjolnir, Thor’s massive hammer, and release all of his powers of wind, thunder, lightning, and storms to fight against 25-foot-tall, 12-ton weighing frost giants and trolls that were plaguing the Norse worlds during the Thor movie. Talk about awesome! There are a variety of combinations that you can release upon your enemies from hammer throws to melee combos to all of those storm powers that I mentioned previously. What I found interesting was that you could scale the giants! You could climb them using a grappling system and multiple points to try and find their weaknesses in order to defeat them. The game also allows you to collect runes in order to pick new powers and abilities and even upgrade your weapons.

Yes, this game is repetitious, but there’s really only so much variety you can do with frost giants and trolls. Those Norse worlds didn’t exactly have many different enemies to fight. It’s important to remember that this videogame was made to be a “movie tie-in,” so it was to be released around the time when the movie actually came out. Graphics and controls are not going to be as up-to-par as if they had taken the time and released this a while after the movie came out. I still enjoyed it and I’m hoping that fellow fans of Thor will enjoy this game too.

Want to check out some other cool Thor related items that the library has? Click on the pictures below to be directed to the Thor items(movies, graphic novels, etc.) in our catalog!

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Donkey Kong Country Returns

donkey kong country returnsFor those of us who grew up with older gaming systems (shout out to everyone who remembers having to blow on Nintendo cartridges to get them to work!), the introduction of games with characters that were originally released on those platforms are always met with big cheers and applause. One of my favorites to play with the neighbor boys when I was younger was Donkey Kong. As I was searching the shelves for a new game to try, I found Donkey Kong Country Returns seemingly waiting for me to check-out and get all nostalgic playing.

Let me tell you, this game did not let me down. Donkey Kong Country Returns plays with just as much difficulty as the original Donkey Kong games, even complete with the side-scrolling features that are unmistakably Kong with the introduction of 3D movements and sequences to appeal to newer players. Familiar characters throughout the Donkey Kong franchise are present within this game with one neat introduction: two player cooperative play! Players can play two at a time: one as Donkey Kong and another as Diddy Kong. Brilliant! Hidden items, puzzle pieces, and other bonus surprises can be found throughout the levels with the option for you to eventually spell out K-O-N-G and win an awesome bonus! There are also additional levels that allow players the opportunity to slow down and strategize as they are greeted with new challenges, movements, and attacks.

Here’s a brief game overview: The animals of Donkey Kong Island have raided Donkey Kong’s hoard of bananas and STOLEN them. Don’t worry. It’s not entirely their fault. They’ve been taken under the influence of several evil Tikis. As a result, Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong have to team up to find where the animals have hidden the bananas! (And try to stay out of danger, of course.)

(Sidenote: When researching for this blog post, I found an article written by NPR about Shigeru Miyamoto, the inventor of Mario and Donkey Kong. Check it out! It’s full of some interesting information about the two that I never know. The article is called The Legendary Mr. Miyamoto, Father of Mario and Donkey Kong.)

Falling Skies

I’m a sucker for television shows that cross genres and formats. One of my most recent finds was the television show, Falling Skies, which also has a videogame and a graphic novel out at this time.

falling skies tvThe library currently has multiple seasons of Falling Skies available for check-out. If you have never heard of this show, Falling Skies is a science fiction, post-apocalyptic drama that runs on TNT with its final season premiering on June 28th at 9pm. Falling Skies takes place after an alien attack has happened on planet Earth, forcing citizens to gather together and attempt to fight back. Boston professor of history, Tom Mason, played by Noah Wyle, is struggling to deal with the fact that his wife has died and his son has been captured by the aliens. Groups of people are being held captive, the number of dead is rising, and in order to rescue the captives, militia groups are forming to protect the survivors. What seems like a straight and easy plan becomes increasingly complicated as the survivors realize that the aliens are more intelligent and crafty than they initially believed. Mason and his group must band together and come up with new ideas to outsmart the aliens.


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If the television show interests you, check out Paul Tobin’s graphic novel Falling Skies with artwork by Juan Ferreyra. Tobin’s graphic novel serves as a prequel to the television show. Here, you follow the life of Professor Tom Mason and his three sons who are forced to come to terms with the fact that Mason’s wife has died. Mason believes that in order to survive, they must all hide, which ultimately backfires when one of his sons is captured by the aliens. The artwork in this novel draws from the likeness of the television characters with viewers of the show easily able to recognize their favorite characters. Tobin draws a tale for readers about the months after the alien attack and Mason’s decision to join a militia group to rescue his son. Fans of the television show will not be disappointed in the graphic novel.

falling skies gameThe final part of Falling Skies’ transition across genres in the videogame available on PlayStation 3 called Falling Skies: The Game. This game expands upon the tactical warfare element of the television show and by extension, Tom Mason’s vast knowledge of historical warfare and battle strategy. In the videogame, players have the option to customize and maneuver their squad in order to outsmart the enemy. In addition to the over 90 tactical warfare missions, players are also given the option to undertake an infinite number of side quests. This turn-based style of gameplay allows you to complete missions and finish objectives as you command a squad made up of anywhere from 1-6 units.

Check out any of the Falling Skies materials available at the library and let us know if there are other materials for which you are looking!

Disney Universe

disney universeDisney Universe is a family-friendly video game that allows players to work together to solve the different puzzles and levels. There are six different worlds that you can choose to play in: Monsters, Inc., Wall-E, Aladdin, Lion King, Alice in Wonderland, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Each world has three different levels within it with the objective of each being to collect coins, solve puzzles, and defeat your enemies. One of the biggest draws of this game is the fact that players can cash in those coins to dress up as different characters, with a total of 40 different characters to choose from. Disney Universe also gives you objectives to complete within each level.

While other videogames may leave you to fend for yourself, this game instead offers pop-up hints to help you finish your objectives. The addition of hints allows younger players to play this on their own without help from older players. Each level also offers a mini-game that allows you to compete with the other players. One to four players can take a spin at this game and have the opportunity to pretend like they are their favorite Disney and Pixar characters.

Interested in playing this game, but you don’t have an XBox360? If that’s the case, the library also offers this game for the Wii and for PlayStation 3.

The Price is Right

the price is rightCome on down! When I’m sick, I find myself binge-watching daytime television. Bob Barker’s voice haunts my sickness dreams telling me that I’m the next contestant on The Price is Right! Even though Mr. Barker is no longer the host, I still find myself watching the show as Drew Carey leads contestants through all the classic games in order to win the showcase.

Since my dream to be on The Price is Right has never materialized(Dangit!), I have found other ways to compete with my family and friends to win bragging rights. One of these is the Wii game, The Price is Right. Here I can live out my fantasy of being on the show and compete on Contestant’s Row against my friends to try to get to that treasured Showcase round. Fans of the old and new version of the show will recognize a wide variety of the games: Bonkers, Plinko, Punch a Bunch, Hole in One, Contestant Row, Grocery Game, Lucky Seven and many more. Over thirty classic pricing games are available to be played.

Gather up your friends and see which one of you is the best at guessing the closest price!

NBA 2K12

nba 2k12March Madness has descended upon us. For those of you not familiar with this, March Madness refers to the NCAA college men’s basketball tournament or the NCAA college women’s basketball tournament that both happen every spring. If your house is anything like mine, basketball has now taken over every television and computer screen. Videogame basketball is even happening!

One of the favorites to be played in my house is NBA 2K12. The NBA 2K series lets you utilize real player rankings and press conferences to talk up the rankings of your player(ie. get more endorsements, money, and a better draft spot), learn who the famous players were that year and in previous years, and even learn more about how basketball statistics work. The 2K12 version of this game allows you to pick from the greatest NBA teams of all time and even lets you see the rosters, which show the players who were actually playing during that time. If you’re more interested in the current players, the previous years’ rosters have all been included as well.

Don’t have a Wii and are looking for this game in a different platform? Or maybe you’re looking for a more up-to-date version of this game with more current players? If yes, then head to the library catalog and search “nba 2k*” and that will pull up results for the other versions of this game, (for example: NBA 2K13, NBA 2K14, and NBA 2K15), as well as different platforms: Wii, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Playstation 4. Any questions? Visit or call the library and our reference librarians call help you.

Lego: The Hobbit

lego the hobbitI must admit that I love any kind of adaptations of books and movies. Find me a funny book about one random character in a famous movie or even a graphic novel about a classic book that I could never make it through in school and I will be a happy camper. Imagine my happiness when I discovered movies that had been made into videogames! SCORE!

Having just been to see the new Hobbit movie (and succumbing to my deep love of anything Lego-related,) I decided to check out Lego: The Hobbit on Xbox 360. (Want to check out this game, but don’t have an Xbox 360? No problem! The library also has it in Wii U, Playstation 3, and Nintendo 3DS.) From the creators of Lego: The Lord of the Rings (also available in different platforms – just search the catalog by the videogame name), came Lego: The Hobbit, a game inspired by the first two films in the Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. This game allows players to follow and play along with Bilbo Baggins as he leaves the Shire and rambles through Middle Earth in order to help the dwarves in Lonely Mountain. Traipse around with Thorin Oakenshield, Gandalf, Bilbo, trolls, orcs, and dwarves as you encounter different quests set up to challenge your abilities to conquer the dwarves’ powers.

Game Party

game party wiiAre you getting a little tired of the cold weather and looking for some new entertainment? Sometimes bundling up to go outside when it’s cold is just too much. I’d much rather stay home where it’s warm and have fun. Video games are my boredom/winter weather answer!

One of my new favorites is Game Party. Game Party is a collection of classic skill games ranging from trivia, shuffle board, table hockey, and darts to skii ball, ping cup, and hoop shoot. Because Game Party was released through the Wii platform, the Wii’s unique controls allow you to play those seven games just like you would in real life: flick your wrists to shoot a dart, extend your arms to shot a basketball, and practice your bowling motion to play skii ball. If competition is what you enjoy, never fear! Game Party allows you to participate in multi-player games, either by yourself or on a team, and even keep track of your progress on the leaderboard. Design your own player or pick from the ones Game Party offers.

Break out Game Party and enjoy playing these seven classic games in their own natural settings from arcades, gymnasiums, traditional English pubs, and more. Game Party will allow you, your family, and friends the ability to compete and play without having to leave your house!