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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

New Music Fridays – Starting in July!

Written by Jon Williams

For years, Monday was the standard day of the week for music album releases in North America. Because so much commerce is shut down on Sundays, however, many outlets received their shipments too late to offer new albums at the start of business on Monday. That’s why, in 1989, the music industry agreed to move their release day to Tuesday, which it has been ever since.

That has not been the case around the world, though, as various countries have their own release schedules that haven’t always coincided with those in North America. The U.K., for instance, held onto Monday for their releases, while Germany and Australia saw new music come out on Friday. This non-uniformity caused angst for fans (who were upset when listeners in other countries got new tunes before they did) and the industry (with piracy concerns) alike.

That angst is about to go by the wayside. The music industry and music retailers have agreed to a new release day that will be the same around the globe. Beginning on July 10, new music everywhere will drop as 12:01 a.m. local time on Friday. Fans all around the world will be able to get the music they crave at approximately the same time as everyone else.

For libraries, the only difference is that new albums can be made available to your patrons on Fridays instead of Tuesdays. The last Tuesday release date for new music will be June 30. The following week , there will be no music releases on Tuesday (July 7). The releases will instead be on Friday (July 10), which will then be the standard.

If you have any questions about New Music Fridays and what they mean for your library, please contact our Customer Service department at 1.866.698.2231 or You can also click here for a printable flyer to let your patrons know about the change.

Friday, April 24, 2015

2015 Quite a Year for Movie Anniversaries

Written by Jon Williams

This year is shaping up to be a pretty big one for movies. Movies like Insurgent, Fifty Shades of Grey, and Furious 7 have already brought tons of people to the box office, and others like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Spectre, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (to name just a very few) are still on the horizon. But that’s looking ahead. Looking back, 2015 also sees a number of classic films celebrating significant landmark anniversaries.

Going back to 1940, a handful of notable films are celebrating their 75th anniversary this year. One is The Grapes of Wrath, an adaptation of the classic John Steinbeck novel of the same name, starring Henry Ford and John Carradine. That was also a great year for Disney, which released the animated staples Fantasia and Pinocchio. Unfortunately, both of those titles are in Disney’s vault at the moment, so if you already have copies of them on your shelves, consider yourself lucky.

Moving forward to 1965, some great and notable films are marking 50 years. Doctor Zhivago is an all-time great film, a romance with the backdrop of World War I and the Russian Revolution. For a Few Dollars More (released in 1965 in Italy, but not until 1967 in North America) is one of the Sergio Leone westerns that helped launch the career of Clint Eastwood, a career that’s still going strong all these years later. Thunderball (currently unavailable, although the novel by Ian Fleming is) was one of the first James Bond films to feature the organization SPECTRE as the enemy; fitting, as that’s the title of the Bond film releasing later this year. Finally, there’s The Sound of Music, one of the quintessential movie musicals of all time, which was recently released in a 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray that includes a ton of bonus material in addition to the film.

And then there’s 1990, which was a banner year for great movies. Just look at this list of films released that year, which turn 25 in 2015: The Hunt for Red October. Total Recall (the Schwarzenegger original, of course). Pretty Woman. Ghost. Goodfellas. Home Alone (currently unavailable). Dances with Wolves. Misery. Edward Scissorhands (currently unavailable). Is that a great list of movies or what?

So those are the big landmark anniversaries—25, 50, and 75 years—for 2015. Anything in particular catch your eye, or did we miss anything? And don’t forget, there are plenty of great films celebrating other, not quite as grand anniversaries, such as Rebel Without a Cause (60 years), Jaws (40 years), and Back to the Future (30 years). You can find these great films are more on our website.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Going to the Dogs

Written by Jon Williams

If you’re anything like me, you’re a sucker for a good dog story. Actually, if you’re even more like me, you tend to avoid a lot of dog stories, because you tend to get a little too emotionally invested in them. What can I say? Some of my best friends have been dogs. Fortunately for storytellers and moviemakers everywhere, though, it seems that most people are not like me in that regard, as stories about dogs always turn out to be quite popular.

One such upcoming release is sure to be a hit with young library patrons. Mogie: The Heart of the House begins with a litter of puppies that are all designated to be trained for a variety of jobs—all of them, that is, except for Mogie, who is too high-spirited for any of these roles. However, Mogie eventually finds his place keeping kids company at the Ronald McDonald House in Houston, Texas. This is a touching true story, and you can read a bit more about Mogie here.

One of the most popular recent dog stories, of course, and another true story, is Marley and Me. John Grogan’s memoir of “the world’s worst dog” captured hearts and leapt onto the bestseller lists. It spawned a movie adaptation starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. And that movie then inspired a prequel of its own, which features a talking Marley going on adventures as a puppy with his human pal. Bodi. And for those who like dog memoirs, another one that has gotten plenty of attention is A Big Little Life from bestselling author Dean Koontz, who shares the life of his golden retriever Trixie. Koontz’s affection for dogs is well known, as he has presented heroic canine characters into many of his most popular novels, including Watchers and Fear Nothing.

One dog story I found particularly compelling was David Wroblewski’s novel The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I was hardly alone in that, as it was a selection of Oprah’s Book Club, and Oprah, along with Tom Hanks, is said to be working toward bringing it to the big screen. The story is a modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, with Edgar’s three dogs playing a pivotal role. Fantastic in its own right, it also made me aware of the story of Hachiko, the dog who accompanied his owner to the train station each day, and continued to make the pilgrimage even after the owner’s death. That tale was made into a movie, Hachi, starring Richard Gere and Joan Allen, and it was also featured in Martha Sherrill’s Dog Man, a book about Morie Sawataishi, who saved the Akita breed from extinction.

The list of dog “tails” is nearly endless. In addition to the above, there are classics like Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, and Sounder, as well as more contemporary comedies and family films such as Turner and Hooch, Because of Winn-Dixie, Hotel for Dogs, and the Air Bud movies. Then there are all the animated films—101 Dalmatians, The Fox and the Hound, All Dogs Go to Heaven, Balto—not to mention TV cartoon dogs like Snoopy and Scooby-Doo. Oh, and we can’t forget about Cujo, the one dog that’s the complete antithesis of all these warm and fuzzy pets, companions, friends, and heroes.

Clearly, there is plenty of interest in stories about man’s best friend. What are some of your favourites? Tell us about them in the comments section below.

Friday, March 20, 2015

WWII Still Fascinates

Written by Jon Williams

Although it ended nearly seventy years ago, World War II remains a major factor in the events of today, and stories surrounding the worldwide conflict continue to connect with audiences, whether they are grounded in truth or fiction. One of the most incredible true stories to come out of the war is that of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic distance runner for the United States who then joined the Army Air Corps in 1941. When his plane went down in the ocean during a 1943 rescue mission, his tale of survival would become one for the ages. That story is told by Laura Hillenbrand in the bestselling book Unbroken, which was then made into a movie directed by Angelina Jolie. And the rest of Zamperini’s life makes for a pretty good story in its own right, available in Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In by Zamperini and David Rensin.

Another tale of World War II is getting quite a bit of attention right now, this one on the fictional side. Anthony Doerr’s novel All the Light We Cannot See came out on May 6 of last year and has been on the New York Times best sellers list nearly ever since, topping it several times and sitting even now at #2. A beautiful story of a young blind French girl and a German army radio expert, whose disparate paths somehow converge in the war’s closing days, it’s easy to understand how it has become and remained so popular.

Of course, there are any number of World War II stories for your interested patrons. On the literary side, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my own favourites, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk. These epic novels detail the lives of U.S. Navy Captain Victor Henry and his family as they are swept up in the events leading up to and carrying through the war. Books like Elie Wiesel’s Night and Anne Frank – The Diary of a Young Girl detail the true-life horrors of the Holocaust, while the classic novel and Catch-22 injects an element of black humour into the dire situations facing those fighting the war on a day-to-day basis. There are even young adult books that address the war, like The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Number the Stars, the Newbery Medal-winning novel from Lois Lowry.

For those who prefer movies to books, there are plenty of options as well. The aforementioned Winds of War and War and Remembrance were each made into miniseries starring Robert Mitchum as Captain Henry, and show the full scope of the war, including both the Atlantic and Pacific theatres as well as the Holocaust. Schindler’s List, detailing Oskar Schindler’s covert efforts to save lives during the Holocaust, is considered one of the best films of all time, while similarly acclaimed films like Saving Private Ryan and HBO’s Band of Brothers depict on-the-ground combat, as does the recently released Fury, starring Brad Pitt. To see how the war affected daily life at home, you can’t go wrong with The War, from documentarian Ken Burns.

And this is just scratching the surface of all the books and movies out there on the subject of World War II. What are some of your favourites, or what’s popular with patrons at your library? Tell us in the comments section below.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Small-Screen Superheroes

Written by Jon Williams

These days, when you think of superhero-based entertainment, what comes to mind first is likely the big-budget blockbuster like The Dark Knight or Guardians of the Galaxy. While those movies garner a lot of attention—and for good reason!—there’s plenty to be excited about for fans looking for more regular installments in their favourite stories. There’s a long and stories tradition of superhero shows on TV, and that trend shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

I mentioned The Dark Knight because, of course, Batman is one of the most popular superheroes. Making his DC Comics debut in 1939, the Caped Crusader finally came to television in 1966. Adam West and Burt Ward played Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder, and the series also included iconic turns from Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, and Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt as frequent adversaries. The lighthearted tone of that series differed greatly from the darker, grittier portrayals seen in the Michael Keaton and Christian Bale movies, as well as from the Gotham TV series currently airing on Fox.

Making his debut just before Batman, Superman has been a sometime ally and sometime adversary to his DC Comics counterpart, such as in the upcoming movie Batman v Superman. A cultural icon, the Man of Steel has been through many television iterations, beginning in 1952 with Adventures of Superman, which featured George Reeves donning the cape. In 1988, The Adventures of Superboy followed Clark Kent and his alter ego in his youth, while in 1993, Lois & Clark dealt with Superman’s adventures as well has his relationship with Lois Lane (actress Teri Hatcher’s big break). Following on the heels of that show’s popularity, Smallville, in some ways similar to Superboy, explores Clark Kent’s origins and younger days.

It’s worth nothing that yet another DC Comics character, Wonder Woman, also had a series from 1975-1979 featuring the Amazon warrior princess. There have been considerably fewer series featuring characters from Marvel Comics, at least until Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hit the airwaves in 2013. A notable example, though, is The Incredible Hulk, which ran from 1978 to 1982 and starred Bill Bixby as scientist Bruce Banner and Lou Ferrigno as the green behemoth he changes into during moments of intense anger. A TV movie continuation, The Incredible Hulk Returns, was originally intended as a setup for a series featuring Thor, another Marvel superhero, but that never panned out.

DC and Marvel have been the source for so much superhero lore in pop culture, but there are a number of other tales as well. One of my favourite shows as a kid was The Greatest American Hero (currently unavailable), about a hapless everyman who comes to possess a suit that bestows a number of powers—but, unfortunately, he loses the instructions and has to figure it out as he goes along. It also featured one of the all-time great TV theme songs, “Believe It or Not” by Joey Scarbury. A similar premise underlies the more recent series Heroes, in which seemingly ordinary people discover their own superpowers. The show concluded in 2010, but a 13-episode follow-up is scheduled to air this fall on NBC.

For those who love their superheroes, there are obviously plenty of options to choose from, and more on the way. In addition to current shows like Arrow and The Flash, there are any number of shows coming soon, such as Powers, a superhero detective drama starring Sharlto Copley and Eddie Izzard, and Constantine, a series featuring the DC Comics character played on the big screen by Keanu Reeves. In addition, there will be a number of further additions to the Marvel universe, like Daredevil and AKA Jessica Jones, both of which will be offered by Netflix. So which of these older shows do you love, and which of the new ones are you looking forward to?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Get Lost in Space

Written by Jon Williams

I’m admittedly late to the party on this one, but I finally got around to watching Gravity recently. I wanted to see it in theatres, and now I’m even more irritated with myself that I didn’t. In HD on a big-screen television, the film looked utterly incredible…I can only imagine how breathtaking and immersive it was on a giant silver screen. All the technical awards and accolades the film won for its production and presentation were well-deserved.

Of course, humanity facing adversity in the course of space exploration is a plot device that has been explored time and time again (with Interstellar being the most recent example). The movie Gravity most reminded me of in that regard was Apollo 13, the dramatisation of the ill-fated 1970 NASA mission to the moon. Although Apollo 13 was based on a true story, boiled down, both films have similar plots: a group of astronauts go into space on a mission that is soon marred by catastrophe and they have to attempt to return to Earth under increasingly harrowing circumstances. Interestingly, both films feature Ed Harris (voice only in Gravity), who also stars in another acclaimed movie about astronauts, 1983’s The Right Stuff.

Another film along somewhat similar lines is on the horizon. The Martian, starring Matt Damon, is slated for a November 25 release into theatres. Based on the popular novel of the same name by Andy Weir, it’s not about an alien from the Red Planet, but rather about an astronaut abandoned there after an accident leads the rest of his crew to assume he is dead. Actually only mildly injured, he must then use what few supplies he has available in an attempt to survive long enough for a rescue mission to be mounted from Earth. This brings to mind, to a certain extent, the sci-fi classic Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, about a human born on Mars coming to Earth for the first time (although I suppose that’s actually the exact opposite of space exploration).

Some movies play on our fears of finding hostile (or at the very least dangerous) alien life on our forays into space. The successful Alien franchise has been built on this premise, and a new Alien film by District 9’s Neill Blomkamp is in the works. Then there’s Apollo 18, a found-footage film that posits one more crewed moon landing after the Apollo 17 mission, one that found a very good reason why no one has landed on the moon since. Another in this vein is Europa Report, in which a crew is sent to explore the possibility of water and life on one of Jupiter’s moons.

Of course, this barely scratches the surface when it comes to tales of humans venturing into space. There’s much more to explore, including the wide range of Star Trek shows and movies, Moon, starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey, and, of course, 2001 and 2010. So tell us about some of your favourites, or what’s popular with your patrons, in the comments section below.

Friday, February 13, 2015

2015 Looks to Be Banner Year for Movies

Written by Jon Williams

You’ve heard about it, and it’s finally here. Today, Fifty Shades of Grey opens in theatres, following months of anticipation and controversy. Based on the first of author E.L. James’s trilogy of novels, the film (itself the first of a trilogy) is expected to win the weekend’s box office handily, even against strong competition from Kingsman, another new release, plus holdovers SpongeBob and American Sniper.

Fifty Shades is the first really highly anticipated movie to open in 2015, but by no means is it the last. Looking at what’s in store for the year should have moviegoers feeling pretty excited. First up is a number of reboots, remakes, and reimaginings, including a live-action version of Cinderella, directed by Kenneth Branagh, hitting the screen one month from today. This summer, you can look for an update of the horror classic Poltergeist, as well as a new version of Fantastic Four, with Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, and Jamie Bell as the titular superhero quartet. For Christmas, you can look forward to a remake of Point Break that features extreme sports in place of surfing in the original. And finally, if iconic characters are your thing, you won’t want to miss Mr. Holmes, which stars Sir Ian McKellan as the world’s most famous detective in his elder days and dealing with a failing memory. No North American release date has yet been announced, but it is expected to be out sometime this year.

If your favourite franchise isn’t getting a reboot, then chances are good that it’s getting a sequel, as there are a ton of those on tap for 2015. First on the docket is Insurgent, coming March 20, the second in the Divergent series based on the young adult novels by Veronica Ross. Staying in the dystopian future genre, this year will see the conclusion to the Hunger Games series, as Mockingjay Part 2 debuts in November. The summer a number of blockbusters will have viewers flocking to theatres for new installments of The Avengers (Age of Ultron), Jurassic Park (Jurassic World), and Terminator (Genisys). Daniel Craig takes another turn as super-spy James Bond in Spectre, the follow-up to Skyfall. There will also be new installments for The Fast and the Furious, Pitch Perfect, Ted, and Magic Mike as the year goes on. And in December, there’s that new Star Wars movie that has everyone all abuzz.

Of course, if original fare is more your cup of tea, there’s plenty to look forward to on that score as well. Later this month, Serena comes to the screen, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence and based on the novel by Ron Rash. March 6 will see the release of Chappie, the story of a robot who gains intelligence and emotions, directed and written by Neill Blomkamp, known for District 9 and Elysium. Child 44, in theatres in April, tells a story of murder and intrigue in the Soviet Union, based on the bestselling novel by Tom Rob Smith. In May, look for Tomorrowland, the sci-fi fantasy from Disney starring George Clooney. Another Marvel movie, Ant-Man, comes out in July, with Paul Rudd playing the tiny superhero. And November looks pretty awesome, with releases including Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, Disney/Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur, and the adaptation of Andy Weir’s acclaimed novel The Martian, starring Matt Damon.

Naturally, this is just scratching the surface of all the amazing films coming our way this year. As always, look to CVS Midwest Tape for these films as they come available on DVD and Blu-ray, and let us know what you’re looking forward to seeing.

Friday, January 30, 2015

“The Raven” Turns 170

Written by Jon Williams

Yesterday marked the 170th anniversary of the first publication of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem “The Raven,” for my money one of the finest examples of poesy in the English language. The long narrative poem tells the tale of a man lamenting for his lost love to a raven that he has inadvertently let into his home. Appearing first in the New York Evening Mirror on January 20, 1845, the poem is a delight in print, but for the musicality of the language, it must be heard aloud for the full effect. One such performance can be found on Select Stories of Edgar Allan Poe, narrated by Chris Lutkin.

That audiobook also features eleven other classics from Poe, the others being pieces of his short fiction rather than poetry. Several of them are classic examples of the style that has led to Poe being known as the “Master of Macabre,” like “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado.” As much as he is associated with the horror genre, though, that was by no means the only trick in his bag. “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” contains some grisly details, but it’s most notable for being the first modern detective story. So although this sometimes gets lost, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle owes as much to Poe as does someone like, say, Stephen King (who, in truth, is another writer associated with the horror genre that writes in a number of styles).

Classic literature never goes out of style or favour, of course, but merely sits on the shelf and patiently waits to be discovered by new generations of readers and/or listeners. And that’s why Dreamscape Media, publishers of the aforementioned Poe title, is producing a line of classic titles on audiobook with new recordings that will appeal to longtime literature lovers and first-time listeners alike. This includes such beloved favourites as A Christmas Carol and other Christmas stories from Charles Dickens, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and a number of other Oz stories from L. Frank Baum, to name just a few.

And that’s not all. Along similar lines, Dreamscape is also putting together narrations of historical texts. These include Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee as well as Letters from Lee’s Army, President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (plus another edition that also includes the Gettysburg Address).

Needless to say, titles like these can add a great deal of value to your audiobook collection while enriching the lives of your patrons. SmartBrowse ‘Dreamscape Classics’ on our website for more new recordings of literature’s canon, or search for any other must-have titles you need for your collection.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

New Collection Takes Aim at Bullying

Written by Jon Williams

It’s one of the hottest topics of today, a conundrum that unfortunately has no easy solutions and isn’t even easy to discuss. The topic is bullying, and it’s a situation that occurs far too often. Teachers, school administrators, parents, and students themselves often deal with it on a daily basis. That was the case for Carrie Goldman, for whom the bullying of her daughter led her to write a book that lays out ways to help deal with bullying situations, hopefully before they start. That book is Bullied, and it’s an essential guide for anyone who deal with children on a day-to-day basis.

The one bright spot is that there are any number of resources, both fiction and non-fiction, that deal with bullying. The fiction titles can help students—and adults—think about bullying from different perspectives and perhaps come to terms with its causes and effects. The non-fiction titles offer anyone who might find themselves dealing with a bullying situation (from any angle) with practical advice on how to get through it as peacefully as possible and prevent it from happening again.

To that end, Midwest Tape has put together a collection of these audiobook resources that libraries can put on their shelves for those who need them. Kids & Bullying: Audiobooks for Conversation can be found via a panel on our homepage. In the coming weeks, you can look for a number of audiobook collections like this on a variety of topics. We hope you find them useful, and that they expose you to some great titles you may have missed. You can let us know what you think here in the comments.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Golden Globes Reflect Changing Face of Television

Written by Jon Williams

If you watched the Golden Globe awards ceremony on Sunday night—or even if you just perused the list of winners on Monday morning—you may have noticed something a little odd on the television side. Despite garnering a fair number of nominations, the major over-the-air networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC) did not take home a single award. Instead, the shows celebrated for their excellence were all from non-traditional, premium cable, or streaming services.

Non-network stations did quite well for themselves. In fact, the CW, jointly operated by CBS and Time Warner, was the closest thing to a major network to come away with the win. The channel, which is generally aimed at a young adult audience, earned its first major award nomination and win, with Gina Rodriguez taking home Best Actress in a TV Comedy for her portrayal of the title character on Jane the Virgin (which is not yet available on DVD/Blu-ray). Also winning awards were Downton Abbey (Best Supporting Actress Joanne Froggatt) and The Honourable Woman (Best Actress in a Miniseries Maggie Gyllenhaal); both were produced for British television and aired on this side of the pond via PBS and SundanceTV, respectively. Finally, FX’s television reboot of Fargo won two awards: Best Miniseries and Best Actor in a Miniseries Billy Bob Thornton.

The streaming services also won big on the night. Kevin Spacey, star of Netflix’s powerhouse political show House of Cards, won the Golden Globe for Best Drama Actor just ahead of the release of Season 3 on February 27. Following in Netflix’s footsteps of developing original programming, Amazon had a winner on its hands this year with Transparent (not yet available), which took two awards: Best TV Comedy and Best Actor Jeffrey Tambor. The show’s full first season was made available to users in September, and it was recently renewed for a second season that will be released later this year.

The premium cable outlets also came away with three awards. With fifteen nominations, it seemed like something of an upset for HBO to end the evening with just one win, but that’s the way it went down. Their award was for Matt Bomer’s Best Supporting Actor turn in The Normal Heart. Also in something of a surprise, the award for Best TV Drama went to Showtime’s The Affair (not yet available), which also featured the night’s Best Drama Actress, Ruth Wilson.

This shift in where the best shows call home is indicative of a shift in the way viewers watch television. Fading are the days of being in front of a television at a certain time on a certain day to catch the latest episode of a favourite show. More and more, it seems that viewers prefer the freedom of watching episodes at their leisure, or being able to watch multiple episodes at once, as soon as the season “starts,” and these non-network outlets are capitalizing on that. Along those lines, this column on the Huffington Post has an interesting (if non-scientific) note on most-recommended series for binge watching, including a breakdown along gender lines (which, apparently, do not diverge as much as you might expect).

The takeaway? It’s true: non-network shows are the hottest right now. In addition to this year’s crop of Golden Globe winners, make sure you’re stocking seasons of shows like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Orange Is the New Black, and The Wire for your patrons who just can’t get enough, as well as for those who don’t have access to those channels or services.