Friday, August 29, 2008

Politics in the movies

With the conventions under way, the campaign season is ready to begin in earnest. If the real campaigns aren't enough for you, there are several movies devoted to the subject. M. Keith Booker discusses several of these films in From Box Office to Ballot Box: the American Political Film:

State of the Union (1948, Directed by Frank Capra): Spencer Tracy stars as an idealistic industrialist who runs for the Presidency.

The Candidate (1972, Directed by Michael Ritchie): While Richard Nixon is on his way to re-election by a landslide, a young, honest, idealistic lawyer (Robert Redford) begins to learn the truth about running for office in the U.S. Senate.

Primary Colors (1998, Directed by Mike Nichols) Jack Stanton (John Travolta) is a virtually unknown Southern governor on a quest for the White House with his strong, savvy and equally ambitious wife, Susan. Running against the odds, the Stantons need all the help they can get from their extremely colorful political team. Based on the book by the same name.

Bulworth (1998, Directed by Warren Beatty) Believing his career is over, Senator Jay Bulworth (Warren Beatty) takes out an enormous insurance policy and a contract on his own life on the campaign trail. His impending death fills him with an outrageous desire to break the rules and tell it like it is.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Blue 42. Blue 42. Hut. Hut!

You’ve had all summer to practice grilling. You might have bought a bigger TV since last season. You prepared your couch with ample Olympics watching. It’s time. You’re ready. The college football season starts this week, and it starts with a bang. Alabama v. Clemson, Illinois v. Missouri, Florida v. Miami, Arkansas v. Texas, and Ohio State v. USC are all within the first three weeks of the season. For the unlucky, national title aspirations could be crushed by mid-September. The rest will continue battling until the field is whittled to a national champion, crowned January 8, 2009.
Even if football leaves you with little weekend time for reading, try one of these recent college football books during the week. Clay Travis’ Dixieland Delight depicts a hilarious season-long voyage to see a home game at every Southeastern Conference stadium. For any football historians out there, Football Rankings offers historical rankings beginning in 1936. If you’d like to know what university was ranked fourth in 1952, Football Rankings is your source.

Dixieland Delight: A Football Season On the Road in the Southeastern Conference

Fifty Years of College Football: A Modern History of America's Most Colorful Sport

Every Week a Season : A Journey Inside Big-Time College Football

Texas Longhorns Football History A to Z

Runnin' with the Big Dogs: The True, Unvarnished Story of the Texas-Oklahoma Football Wars

Football Rankings: College Teams in the Associated Press Poll, 1936-1984

Monday, August 25, 2008

That's Hot

This past Sunday at Waterloo Park The Austin Chronicle’s 18th annual Hot Sauce Festival took place where hundreds of folks gathered together in the sweltering heat to sample sauces even hotter. Contestants included individuals, restaurants, and commercial bottlers with each group judged separately. Entries were tasted by a panel of judges including Austin restaurateurs and executive chefs Tyson Cole (Uchi), Jack Gilmore (Z’Tejas), and Alan Lazarus (Vespaio). The winners of the contest have been announced and can be found here. Congratulations to them all!

If foods help to define a region, hot sauce (salsa in particular) could easily define Texas. However, in 1992, salsa overtook ketchup as the highest selling condiment in the United States, so it may in fact more accurately define America (J. Andrews; “Chili Peppers”, Encyclopedia of Food and Culture). Either way, I think you’ll find few hot sauce festivals outside of Texas, and the Austin Public Library has a number of excellent salsa cookbooks for you to prepare your own award-winning sauce. Check them out:

The Great Hot Sauce Book

The Hot Sauce Bible

Nueva Salsa: Recipes to Spice it Up

Secrets of Salsa: A Bilingual Cookbook by the Mexican Women of Anderson Valley (or, Secretos de la Salsa)

Don’t miss the Chronicle’s coverage of this year’s Festival:

“Let Commercial Bottler Winners Add Some Spice to Your Cooking”
Article about some of the best commercial bottles of hot sauce out there

”Saucy Proposals"
Recipes using commercial bottle sauces

”Who’s a Pepper?”
Interesting look at the history of Pace Picante sauce

And for fun:

Hot Sauce Blog
Dedicated to all sauces and foods that are hot and spicy

Friday, August 22, 2008

Beijing Fiction

In anticipation of the Olympic Games, the Guardian's book blog showcased top 10 books on Beijing. The books were chosen by Catherine Sampson, a crime novelist who has lived in Beijing for 15 years. Now that the games are almost over, we can all admit that we have been dazzled, impressed, and blown away by the city’s presentation. The books listed below are the seven titles from the list that the Library owns. The book summaries reveal once again how writers can show their country's contradictions.

Beijing Coma by Ma Jian
At once a powerful allegory of a rising China, racked by contradictions, and a seminal examination of the Tiananmen Square protests, Beijing Coma is Ma Jian’s masterpiece.

Please Don't Call Me Human by Wang Shuo
Author imagines an Olympics where nations compete not on the basis of athletic prowess, but on their citizens' capacity for humiliation--and China is determined to win at any cost.

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li
Ten breathtaking stories set in China and among Chinese Americans in the United States explore the ravages of the Cultural Revolution.

The Crazed by Ha Jin
Powerful novel is at once an unblinking look into the bell jar of communist Chinese society and a portrait of the eternal compromises and deceptions of the human state.

The Last Empress by Anchee Min
Story of Empress Orchid's dramatic transition from a strong-willed, instinctive young woman to a wise and politically savvy leader who ruled China for more than four decades.

Serve the People by Yan Lianke
Set in 1967, at the peak of the Mao cult, Serve the People! is a beautifully told, wickedly daring story about the forbidden love affair between Liu Lian, the young, pretty wife of a powerful Division Commander in Communist China, and her household’s lowly servant, Wu Dawang.

I Love Dollars by Zhu Wen
An immediate sensation upon publication in China, I Love Dollars is a hilarious send-up of China’s love affair with capitalism by one of its most gifted new writers.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

“The art of enchanting the soul…”

… defines rhetoric for Socrates. According to Webster’s dictionary, rhetoric is the art of speaking or writing effectively but also the skill in the effective use of speech. We experience this art in speeches and in writing, and even though we might think of rhetoric as a relatively new discipline, it has been around for quite some time. Rhetoric was developed in the year 600 BC by the philosophers called Sophists. Since then, rhetoric has been present in fields like politics, law, public relations, and lobbying.

We are now in the middle of the national elections campaign and the use of rhetoric in speeches is fundamental. These speeches will show us down the road, where we were, what was happening in this country at a certain period of time, and also how much things had changed. One of our recent books here at the Faulk Central Library talks about this particular type of speeches: Live from the campaign trail: the greatest presidential campaign speeches of the twentieth century and how they shaped modern America.

But, as you know, speeches can be about pretty much everything, not only politics. This is the case of other two recent books titled: Mistress of herself: speeches and letters of Ernestine Rose, early women's rights leader and Charge! : history's greatest military speeches.

If you would like to listen or view videos of different speeches in the history of America, I recommended the web site American Rhetoric, which has hundreds of original recordings of speeches important in American history.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Stanley Hotel

the Maude Jellison Library at the YMCA at Estes Park, CO (closed for dinner)

I went on vacation last week and was hoping to see a Library on my trip so I could write about it for you. I did, but it was closed! We drove up to Estes Park, Colorado and stayed at the YMCA; it had a lovely Library and when I went up to it and yanked on the door, I discovered it was locked. I scanned their open hours and found they were closed for dinner. I took a picture of the outside and view. I so wished to take a look around inside, but I guess I'll keep in mind their hours for next time.

Estes Park, Colorado is a little tourist town in upper Colorado (about an hour north of Denver). There are lots of things to do in Estes Park, such as the obligatory shopping, rafting, hiking, biking, horseback riding, discovering the Rocky Mountain National Park, among other things. One such stop may not be on the top of everyone's list, however. I didn't even know it was in Estes Park until someone said so. The Stanley Hotel. You know, the hotel Stephen King based his book, The Shining, on. It's a huge, beautiful, white building that stands up on a hill overlooking the town. (In fact, that's the name of the hotel in the book, The Overlook Hotel.) Apparently, Stephen King started writing the book while he stayed there. If you have read the book or seen the movie, you know the hotel is kind of spooky. The hotel banks on this and even has ghost tours. Next time you're in the area, stay at the Stanley and request the most haunted room! (That's room 418, just in case you were wondering!) However, next year they'll be celebrating 100 years, so book in advance!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Remembering Julia

The joy of cooking has always eluded me. I find it to be a chore, which is why cooking shows are so fascinating to me. The ingenuity, patience, and care that the chefs exhibit amaze me. I love the quiet professionalism of Lidia Bastianich, the sensationalism of Top Chef, and the goofiness of Alton Brown. However, none can top the grand dame of all cooking shows: Julia Child, who would have been 96 today.
Her birthday anniversary this year has brought confirmation that she did work for the OSS as a spy during World War II.

Child's first series, The French Chef, began as a simple guest appearance on a local educational television station to promote her first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Her warm personality resonated with the audience and soon she had her own show. In The French Chef Cookbook, Child describes how the bare-bones production led to taping the show in one long take.

The nonstop taping we have always continued, and in only a few instances….have we had to break off, erase, and pick up again. I can remember only half a dozen occasions, some of which were due to electrical failures, others due to me. Once, doing the 'Lobster a l'Americaine,' every time I touched the cooktop I got a short-circuit in the microphone against my chest, and kept clutching my breast in a very odd fashion. It felt like a bee sting. We wiped out back to the worst clutch, and were able to continue in midstream.

Lucky for us, her talent and her occasional gaffes were captured on film. Take the time to savor a show or two or recreate her recipes at home.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Traveling Librarian in New York

The traveling librarian went to New York. I spent last week amidst the mindboggling human sea that is Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx (never made it to Staten Island). Trying my hardest not to look like a rube yet with a Manhattan map ready in my back pocket, I hit the pavement, hunting New York’s great libraries. First stop was the New York Public Library’s Humanities and Social Sciences Library. Yup, that one. After saying hello to Patience and Fortitude, I headed into the library. The reading room is incredible. I could have spent the day reading there bolstered by the long list of luminaries who have done such throughout the building’s existence. However, with limited days and Yankees tickets in my other back pocket, I reluctantly left.

My trip to NYU’s Bobst Library paled in comparison. While the library is impressive, due to its private affiliation access remains limited to faculty and students. Even sincere pleas of “but I’m a librarian visiting from Texas” failed to get me past the security guard.

Sore feet prohibited me from visiting Columbia’s Low Library. In retrospect, this was a mixed blessing as I look forward to visiting next time. Other significant libraries in the city include the Mercantile Library, the Brooklyn Public Library, and a whole host of others I look forward to discovering while ambling along avenues and side streets of this ridiculous yet incredible city.

The New York Public Library: Its Architecture and Decoration

The New York Public Library: A Universe of Knowledge

Monday, August 11, 2008

Into Thin Air and Back Again

I recently read a story about a man from Switzerland who was circumnavigating the globe in search of the most exquisite dishes prepared in all of the world’s top rated restaurants. After having dined in 40 of the 68 restaurants, Mr. Henry simply vanished.
His disappearance set off an international firestorm. Newspapers and television stations from countries such as New Zealand, Uruguay, Argentina, the United States, Romania, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, and Switzerland all ran stories publicizing the enigma surrounding his disappearance as well as his reasons for having undertaken such a curiously single-minded crusade.

What makes this story most fascinating to me centers around the discipline and determination he exhibited in not only saving the money demanded by this transcontinental pilgrimage but also the careful research and planning necessary to see it through. Mr. Henry is by no means a wealthy man. The $60,000 he raised for his trip was done at considerable sacrifice. He works as a motorbike courier. His very modest and working class background makes his vision even more compelling. Mr. Henry’s love and appreciation for very fine food and the sacrifice necessary to obtain it speak to a purity and earnestness bordering on that which is deeply spiritual, even religious. This quality is made even more sublime by Mr. Henry’s recent resurfacing after two months. His only surviving relative is quoted as saying that all of the publicity garnered by his quest must have been highly irritating to him and that he imagined that his nephew likely preferred that the world forget about him and simply leave him to his culinary pursuits.

The Austin Public Library has an assortment of tasty guides so that you too might sample some of the best dishes the world has to offer. I've listed two below just to whet your appetite.


The last supper: mystery of the Swiss motorbike courier

The Michelin Man turns up - but a tasty riddle remains


Main cities of Europe. 2008 : hotels & restaurants

New York City : selection of restaurants and hotels

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Biggest Book in the Library?

The Austin Public Library has a wonderful collection of oversized books - books that are over 31 cm. in length, and which are full of photographs and art reproductions. I was browsing the recent oversized books on the 1st floor of the Faulk Library, when I picked up Ralph Lauren, which weighs in at a whopping 14.5 pounds. The book has its own heavy cardboard case which should help to preserve it. Mr. Lauren is celebrating his 40-years and growing designing career in this coffee-table tome. The photographs – there are over 700 – are grand and elegant. The text, written by Mr. Lauren, is minimal, but it does chronicle his rise from the baseball diamond in his immigrant Bronx neighborhood to the Manhattan headquarters of a multibillion-dollar clothing franchise.

A quotation from the book helps to explain his fashion style: "I've always loved the girl in the convertible with her hair blowing in the wind. When I started to design clothes for women they were for that natural girl. I liked the girl in jeans and while shirt with rolled-up sleeves, wearing her boyfriend’s jacket". In fact, when he first met his wife (who looks like a Ralph Lauren model), he took her to a men's clothing store and bought her a tweed jacket.

The book is expensive - $135.00. This is where your Library comes in. You, and many others, may check the book out without spending a penny. If you are truly a Ralph Lauren fan, you can then decide to buy it or not.

Other oversized books on the recent shelf today:

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

We’re not in Kansas anymore!

Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer's wife.”

Who doesn’t remember the introduction to the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, one of the most famous and influential books in America? Written by L. Frank Baum, an American author, actor and independent filmmaker, its first edition came out in 1900 becoming almost immediately a bestseller of children’s literature.

In August 12th, 1939, Metro Goldwyn-Meyer (MGM) released the world premier of the movie based on this book starring Judy Garland as Dorothy and spending $2,777,000.00 in its production. The movie wasn’t as successful as the book in the beginning. It took quite some time for people to become fans of it, being now one of most popular and acclaimed versions of the book. This was also the first movie in video cassette released by MGM in 1980.

But, the story doesn’t stop here: there are more than a hundred books, songs, essays, plays and musicals inspired by this book. An example is the book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire which was also used for the musical titled Wicked.

This month we have an exhibit in our display case about the Wizard of Oz in celebration of the release of the movie. So, if you are passing by the Faulk Central Library (800 Guadalupe), please walk in and enjoy it. If, after visiting the exhibit you feel like reading the book, watching the movie, or reading other related books, here are some ideas:

L. Frank Baum's The wonderful Wizard of Oz

Memories of a Munchkin : an illustrated walk down the yellow brick road

Wizard of Oz [DVD]

L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz : the graphic novel

The wizardry of Oz : the artistry and magic of the 1939 M-G-M classic

The annotated Wizard of Oz : the wonderful Wizard of Oz

Monday, August 04, 2008

Forty Whacks in 1892

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
And when she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.

On this day in 1892, Lizzie Borden was suspected of killing her father and stepmother by hacking them to death with a hatchet.

Apparently, life at the Borden house was uncomfortable. The sisters, Lizzie and Emma Borden, were upset with their father as he wanted to make a decision on what to do with his property before he died, and it didn't include them. This was the reason many believed she killed her parents. She even tried to buy some cyanide (called prussic acid at the time) the day before the murders, but was denied it by the local pharmacy. She and the housekeeper were the only ones in the house at the time of the murders; the housekeeper, Bridget Sullivan, had washed the windows outside in the sweltering heat of the summer and was resting afterward when Lizzie called out to her that her father had been murdered.

Even with the circumstantial evidence against Lizzie, there was no blood, no blood on her clothes, and no fingerprint evidence taken. She was aquitted. The all-male jury was suspected of not wanting to convict Lizzie, as they felt a young girl couldn't have done such a dastardly act.

Discover more about Lizzie Borden...

Encyclopedia Britannica Online

The Lizzie Borden "Axe Murder" Trial: a Headline Court Case

The Borden Tragedy: a Memoir of the Infamous Double Murder at Fall River, Mass., 1892

Spirituals; Fall River Legend: Ballet Suite

Lizzie Borden: the Legend, the Truth, the Final Chapter

Friday, August 01, 2008

Tango Therapy

My parents are not from this country. When I was a kid, they would often relay the experiences they had growing up in Argentina to me. Like many children whose parents came from another country, the influence of the homeland looms large. Argentinean culture is as familiar to me as is the culture of the United States. An aspect of Argentinean culture that has always interested me is tango. There is nothing more readily associated internationally with Argentina, well perhaps football, than tango. The thought of learning to dance tango has always been personally daunting. The movements involved are very complicated. Participants are required to execute many intricate steps while maintaining a fluidity and cohesiveness. When done well the end result is sublime. Now, however, there is another benefit to learning the dance apart from the pursuit of radiant artistry. Empirical evidence actually demonstrates that dancing tango can improve one’s memory and alleviate depression. Individuals suffering from Parkinson’s disease have also shown an improvement in their functionality as a result of consistent practice. If you have it in mind to be able to dance tango well you had better get started sooner rather than later. Those who have devoted their lives in trying to master tango are fond of saying that it takes a lifetime and a half to dance it well. The Austin Public Library has several resources available to get you started.


PRI’s The World

Shall We Dance?

Tango Therapy May Aid Parkinson's

Tango in Austin:

Austin Tango Calendar

Esquina Tango


Tango : creation of a cultural icon

Long after midnight at the Niño Bien : a Yanqui's missteps in Argentina

Tango : the art history of love

Tango : discusión y clave


Tango! : the dance, the song, the story

Video Instruction:

The tango fundamentals. volume 1 [videorecording] : basic elements

The tango fundamentals. volume 2 [videorecording] : basic caminadas

Tango fundamentals. volume 3 [videorecording] : basic giros