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Cindy Cantrell

Globe NorthWest people

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Cindy Cantrell
April 20, 2008

ANIMATED COLLECTOR: Josh Bernard of Dracut traces his interest in Japanese animation to his childhood, when he was a loyal viewer of "Speed Racer," "Force Five," and "Voltron." His collection of the "cool robots" he admired on television gradually became more sophisticated, leading him to travel twice to Tokyo in search of rare items.

These trips inspired the book, "Tokyo Underground: Toy and Design Culture in Tokyo," which he cowrote last year with Brian Flynn of San Francisco. Bernard is also founder of CollectionDX.com, an online source of reviews, news, and collections of Japanese and American toys, robots, and action figures.

The "show-and-tell" portion of his website features some of Bernard's thousands of toys, not all of which fit in the toy room he specified as a requirement when he and his wife recently moved from Chelmsford. While he began building his collection through eBay in 1998, Bernard hopes his book will help others follow in his footsteps to "the motherland" where his favorite toys and robots originate.

"I bring empty suitcases to fill with toys," he said, "but I'm also totally jazzed to check out touristy landmarks."

With that in mind, Bernard said, he designed his "alternative travel guide" for toy collectors who share his interest in Japanese culture. Features include information about toy shows and festivals, as well as listings of shops, galleries, restaurants, and other places of interest sorted by neighborhood.

Bernard will be one of nine participants in "A Gathering of Local Authors" on at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Chelmsford Public Library. He will be joined by Michael Ramseur of Amesbury; Lester Macklin of Bedford; Anne Beecher, Bob Moore, and Mark Rennella of Chelmsford; Gayle C. Heney and Blair Woodman of North Andover; and Margaret Ledger of Westford.

For more information, call 978-256-5521 or visit chelmsfordlibrary.org.

ALTERNATIVE SPRING BREAK: David "DJ" Paron of Billerica said he enjoyed volunteering at the Billerica Boys and Girls Club so much last semester that he never considered going away on vacation for spring break. Instead, he joined a group of fellow students and staff from Middlesex Community College's Center for Community Engagement in volunteering recently for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Lowell.

Over the course of three days, the team worked on a single-family house on Williams Street in Westford. Paron was joined by fellow students Melissa Welch of Dracut; Bunthoeun Phay, Jin-ju Brooks, and Alyssa Bunker of Lowell; Valerie Joncas of Maynard; Rosie Austin of Medford; Helen Franco of Nashua; Francesca Desire of North Chelmsford; Taylor Murphy of Tewksbury; Middlesex Community College service learning coordinator Cynthia Lynch of Bedford; and Center for Community Engagement coordinator Sheri Denk of Westford.

Paron, a freshman studying journalism, said he enjoyed working on a project that will directly assist a disadvantaged family. He also respected the emphasis on sorting the plastic, glass, aluminum, and other recyclable building materials.

Volunteering is nothing new to Paron, who has logged more than 300 volunteer hours since middle school - ranging from charity car washes to serving meals for low-income residents on Easter and Thanksgiving.

"You learn a lot by participating in the community," he said.

People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cantrell@globe.com.

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