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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Music and Originality

Recently, a Los Angeles jury has decided that Robin Thicke's 2013 hit, "Blurred Lines", copied original elements of Marvin Gaye's 1977 song "Got to Give it Up" and that Thicke must grant Gaye's estate 7.4 million dollars.

Robin Thicke (left) and Marvin Gaye(right) 

Both songs, which can be heard side-by-side here, certainly sound similar. I am no music production expert, but I still noticed the similar beats, percussion instruments, and melodies. However, unlike the jury, I feel that this does not justify a copyright infringement charge.

Music, like other arts, is never completely original. Music is carefully constructed to sound pleasing to the ears, and there are only a set number of ways to do this. This is especially true when trying to make catchy songs that will appeal to the general public, what both Gaye and Thicke tried to do with their respective songs. The relative lack of flexibility in making hit songs leads to phenomena such as the "4 Chord Song", the use of the same four chords in a plethora of pop hits.

In fact, taking inspiration from other artists is an accepted practice in music. Using the same melodies or beats as another song is known as a sample, such as Kanye West's use of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" in his song "Stronger". Sampling can enhance the meaning of both songs involved, as described by producer Mark Ronson in his TED talk on the subject. Using the same musical style as a certain artist or time period is known as a homage, exemplified by Mark Ronson's and Bruno Mars's "Uptown Funk", an homage to 80s funk band Morris Day and the Time.

As his defense, Thicke claimed to be paying homage to Gaye's musical style, which was characteristic of the 70s. However, Thicke has wavered in his assertions of how much Gaye influenced the composition of "Blurred Lines". The jury has also noted that the similarities between the two songs, such as in their hooks, bass line, chords, and phrase structures, are too plentiful to be considered an homage.

Clearly this is a complex issue, calling into question originality and plagiarism in the music industry. But what do you think? Is Thicke innocent and the similarities simply a coincidental result of homage? Or are the similarities too uncanny and the result of intentional copying?

Written by Jenna M, Homework Assistant

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Looking for Lego volunteers!


If you like building with Legos we need you!

Bots For Fun is teaching a four week Saturday class for kids (grades 4-7) here at the Mountain View Library and they are looking for kids in grades 8-12 to help with the program!

If you're interested please email Divya at info.botsforfun@gmail.com by March 30th.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Literary Holidays

Literary Holidays

Last year, I found out some remarkable news: International Harry Potter Day exists! And as if that isn't enough, I then found out that HP Day is May 2nd, my very own birthday!!! May 2nd is the day that Harry ultimately defeats Voldemort in The Deathly Hallows. After rejoicing in this news, I did some research and discovered that there are many days devoted to beloved books. Read on to learn about several literary holidays and ideas for how to celebrate them.

I do not like green eggs and ham... 

Holiday: Dr. Seuss Day (or National Read Across America Day)
Date: March 2nd
Significance: The birthday of the great Dr. Seuss!
How to celebrate: Make green eggs and ham! If the thought of dripping green food coloring into sunny-side up eggs grosses you out, here’s a normal looking recipe that is still reminiscent of this childhood classic.

Celebrate Hobbit Day with  sparklers!

Holiday: The Hobbit Day
Date: September 22nd
Significance: The birthday of Hobbit characters Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.
How to celebrate: Tolkien fanatics, this one is clearly for you! Throw a party that is similar to the grand feasts of the elves complete with music, games, and plenty of food. Bonus points if you celebrate with sparklers!
Best party hat ever! 

Holiday: Winnie the Pooh Day
Date: January 15th 
Significance: The birthday of author A.A. Milne

How to celebrate: First of all, one must be appropriately clad. There is plenty of Pooh themed apparel out there, but this particular tee shirt is especially artsy and cool. Also, Winnie the Pooh celebrates friendship and love, so what better day is there to make a special card for your family and friends (besides, you know, Valentine’s Day)? Simply select your favorite Pooh quote (there are so many to choose from!) and craft a note around it. 

And for the Classic Lit lovers: Jane Austen Day (Pride and Prejudice, Emma, etc.)  is December 16th, Bloomsday (named after the main character in James Joyce's Ulysses) is June 16th, and Hemingway Days (For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Sun Also Rises, etc.) span from July 16th to July 21st.

Post by Allie C., Homework Assistant

Monday, March 16, 2015

Magazines in the Teen Zone

Hey readers!

In the process of going through the magazines, we wanted to know which ones you enjoy reading the most! By completing this survey (literally click on the word survey and POOF), we can determine which magazines are the most read and which ones we should retire.

Need some ideas for magazines to read?
Here are some featured in the Teen Zone:

  • Mental Floss
    • Need something quirky? Mental Floss is the perfect combination of fun and smart. With tons of random facts, it is hard to lose interest!
  • Teen Ink
    • Read the works of other teens around the world! This magazine is very relatable considering it is written for teens by teens!
  • J-14
    • Want to know who Taylor Swift is dating or what Justin Bieber's confessions are? Check out J-14 for some fun celeb gossip!

If you have any suggestion for magazines that we should add to our collection, feel free to comment with your suggestions! 

by Rebecca B., Homework Assistant

Friday, March 13, 2015

St. Patrick's Day!

When I think of March, I think of the color green. And when I think of the color green, I think of Kermit the Frog and St. Patrick's Day! Sorry to any Muppet fans but here are some facts about St. Patrick's Day (if you haven't already guessed from the title)!

St. Patrick casting out
the worm-snakes
The original Saint Patrick was captured in his homeland of Wales (What?! He's not even Irish?) and taken to Ireland as a slave. He was able to escape back to his family but traveled back to Ireland for mission work. In Ireland, he found a place as a cleric and eventually Bishop within the Christian faith.

One popular belief surrounding Saint Patrick is that he used the shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity; thus, we get the shamrock symbol and the origin of why the color green is used to celebrate the holiday. Another legend is that he banished snakes from Ireland and chased all of them into the ocean. However, this has been confirmed impossible as there is no evidence of any type of snake in Ireland. Many still believe it could be true but about worms (Sorry, the snake story is WAY cooler). 

Chicago River - permanent residence
of the Wicked Witch of the West
The actual holiday was first celebrated in 1737 by the Charitable Irish Society of Boston. It was a feast and religious service to honor the Irish culture that came to the American colonies. To this day, many fun traditions still exist and surround the holiday. Parades and numerous festivals are held. Almost 13 million pints of Guinness beer, an Irish brand often served at pubs, are consumed. By far one of the coolest traditions is the fact that every year, Chicago dyes a portion of the Chicago River green.

Here are some cool St. Patrick's Day traditions to participate in:
    • Attend a St. Patrick's Day parade or festival
      • There are definitely some local celebrations
    • Find a four-leaf clover (Once I found two in one day!)
    • Listen to some Irish music
    • Eat corned beef, cabbage, and Irish stew
      • BONUS: Make Shamrock Shakes! Blend mint and vanilla ice cream together and all your dreams will come true
    • Wear green (don't get pinched)
Hope everyone has a green St. Patrick's day!

Links to more information:

by Rebecca B, homework assistant

Monday, March 9, 2015

How to Celebrate Pi Day

How to Celebrate Pi Day

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, it’s not Christmas, it’s Pi Day! Prepare your protractors, people, because March 14 (3.14, get it?) is the most beloved holiday for math nerds around the world. In fact, this year Pi Day is extra special because year 2015 makes the date 3.14.15! This won’t happen again for another hundred years! In preparation for this magnificent day, I’ve compiled some ideas to celebrate as well as some fun facts about pi.

1.       Of course, the best way to celebrate Pi Day is to indulge in your favorite pie! Bonus points if you you are able to calculate the area of your pie using everyone’s favorite irrational number. Here is my personal favorite pie recipe:

2.       After enjoying your treat, take part in some pi-themed exercise! Walk, jog, or bike 3.14 miles on your favorite route (my favorite place to run is Rancho San Antonio in Los Altos. It’s close, it’s free, and it’s beautiful!).

3.       Wear a pi themed shirt! Not only will you be festive for the holidays, but it is a sure-fire way to make awesome friends who will inevitably compliment you on your attire. Seriously, sporting a nerdy shirt is the best way to meet new people. Whenever I wear my Deathly Hallows (from Harry Potter) sweatshirt, at least four people at school mention it. 
An especially nice option: National Pi Day T-Shirt

The world record for reciting the digits of pi is held by Akira Haraguchi, who correctly recited 100,000 (!) digits of pi in 2006.

Post by Allie C, Homework Assistant

To Kill a Mockingbird Sequel

A couple of weeks ago, HarperCollins announced that it would be publishing Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee on July 14, 2015. This highly anticipated novel is the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. It follows Scout (the protagonist of Mockingbird) as a young adult dealing with political and personal issues.

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books, and I was elated when I heard this news. However, this book may be harboring a dark past. Harper Lee, in the past, has shown reservations about releasing the sequel and has demonstrated little motivation for writing any more books. Because of this, some believe that Lee did not really want to publish Watchman, and was duped into publishing it. This is also supported by the fact that Harper Lee is 88, and her caretaker died recently, which would have made it easier for others to take advantage of her.

However, the circumstances regarding the release of this book are still uncertain. Her lawyer recently released a statement saying that Lee independently decided this and that Lee was "hurt and humiliated" by theories that she was tricked into it. Additionally, Lee reported that she is "alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions to 'Watchman'".

So what do you think? Was Lee duped,and pressured to saying she wasn't? Or did she have a change of heart about her writing? And what could be the reason for either of these?

Written by Jenna M, Homework Assistant

Friday, March 6, 2015