Thursday, October 30, 2008

Where Do You Get Your Inspiration?

Elizabeth Peyton, forty-two, is having her first big survey exhibition at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. She sells her paintings for up to three hundred thousand dollars today, but back in 1990 her inspiration began very modestly – reading books.

"I'd graduated from the School of Visual Arts a few years earlier," she continued, "and I was living with my ex-boyfriend in a tiny apartment on the Lower East Side. Earlier that summer, I'd lost my job, as an assistant to Ronald Jones, a teacher at S.V.A. I didn't have any money, and I was so ashamed of myself for not having a job. All I did was read. I read a book on Napoleon, by Vincent Cronin, and a book by Stefan Zweig on Marie Antoinette. I read Stendahl's 'The Charterhouse of Parma' and 'The Red and the Black.' Even though I was miserable, I was eating up every word in those books. And somehow I came out of this knowing what I wanted to do."

She began painting real and fictional characters from her readings, such as portraits of Napolean. Elizabeth II, and Ludwing II of Bavaria. She believed that people contain “their time” in their faces. She then began painting pop cultural icons, including Kurt Cobain, Leoanrd diCaprio, and Eminem. Since 9/11 her focus has changed again, and paints the people and places that are important to her. The painting above is a self-portrait.

The quotation is from an article in the New Yorker, October 6, 2008 by Calvin Tomkins.
You can read the entire article about Ms Peyton using the Library's Masterfile database.

Click the yellow Database rectangle under "Highlights" on the Library's homepage. Select "Articles and News" under Subject Guide on the right-hand side. Select Masterfile Premiere and enter your Library card number.

1. Type Elizabeth Peyton in the search box.
2. Type New Yorker in the publication box.
3. Click on Search.

More information on Ms Peyton:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What was that noise?!?!?!?!?

“I had a daughter” “My daughter… Raymunda… I never heard the word “mommy”.” These are some of the phrases recorded by a team of parapsychologists at one of the most famous haunted houses in the world: the Linares Palace, right in the heart of Madrid. Some say that the recordings are false but others still think that they are true. The first owners of this palace, which was built around 1900, had a tragic story: José de Murga married his own sister, Raymunda Osorio, without knowing. Raymunda was the product of an affair that Jose’s father had in the past. José and Raymunda had a miserable life: stigmatized by society, secluded in their palace, they carried a feeling of guilt and embarrassment that accompanied them until their grave. All the following owners of this palace since then have been murdered or have suffered through very rough health or financial problems.

In the United States a renowned haunted house is the Winchester Mystery House, in San José, California. The house was built after Sarah Winchester was advised by a medium to provide a home for the spirits of all those killed by Winchester guns.

In some cases, there is not only one haunted house in a community, but an entire neighborhood could be haunted, like in the case of Old Louisville, Kentucky. Old Louisville is considered the most haunted neighborhood in the country.

Haunted houses exist around the world and they also play an important role in literature. If you want to get in the mood for Halloween, here are some ideas of books you might want to check out:

The shining by Stephen King

House by Frank Peretti

From the dust returned: a family remembrance by Ray Bradbury

In a dark season by Vicki Lane

Deadly night by Heather Graham

If you would like to visit some of these houses, we also have some materials that can help you with your ghostly adventure:

Haunted Houses (DVD)

Haunted America

Historic Haunted America

A ghost in my suitcase: a guide to haunted travel in America

Finally, if you want to go ghost hunting yourself, here is a book that tells you how:

Picture yourself ghost hunting: step-by-step instruction for exploring haunts and finding spirits, spooks, and specters

Good luck with that and happy Halloween!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Simon LeBon is 50 today…

Who? Simon LeBon is the singer of Duran Duran. And Duran Duran is quite possibly my most favorite band of all time. I know, I know…I don’t sound cool to a lot of you, but I also listen to what the “kids listen to”, The Mars Volta, MGMT, and other stuff. But, my longtime fave is Duran Duran. They may not top the charts with every album they put out, but they seem like they are always having fun and genuinely enjoy what they’re doing and I like that. Their latest album, Red Carpet Massacre, came out about a year ago and they’re still touring, the next show in Texas is December 1st in San Antonio. My personal favorite of all their albums is their first, self-titled, Duran Duran, Friends of Mine being my favorite song. Are you a Duranie as well? Check out the ‘did you know’ list and find out.

Did you know
…that MTV just announced their video for Rio as best music video of all time, beating out Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit?
…they got their name from the villain from the movie Barbarella, Dr. Durand Durand?
A view to a kill is the only James Bond theme song to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and recently listed as the top James Bond theme song?
…August 10th is Duran Duran Appreciation Day?
…In 1985, People magazine labeled the “prettiest boys in rock”?
…Princess Diana regarded them as her favorite band?
…They’ve received a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from MTV Video Music Awards, Q Magazine and the BRIT Awards?
…they’re the first band to play live at the Lourve Museum in Paris?

Want to know more about my beloved band? Check out the news on Duran Duran in our databases (Factiva has a lot of articles and Biography Resource Center has excellent bios) and their homepage.

Check out some music and other stuff from Duran Duran:

Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran by Andy Taylor

The Essential Collection


Duran Duran


Maximum Duran Duran (interview biography disc)

Happy Birthday Simon!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

The movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang made its way onto my DVD player recently, and I was really impressed! It's a quirky, film noir homage with snarky performances by Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer. Everyone's constantly cracking wise and the whole ride is just a hoot. The title sequence is worth seeing on its own (think Saul Bass).

As I watched, the movie's convoluted plot reminded me of The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. Turns out that Chandler's book titles were used as the chapter headings in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Even if you're not familiar with Raymond Chandler's name, you probably know his stuff. His work continues to influence crime fiction, movies, and television and has been parodied often. In fact, Kafka's Soup: A Complete History of World Literature in 14 Recipes, begins with a recipe for "Lamb with Dill Sauce à la Raymond Chandler":

"I sipped my whiskey sour, ground out my cigarette on the chopping board, and watched a bug trying to crawl out of the basin. I needed a table at Maxim's, a hundred bucks, and a gorgeous blonde; what I had was a leg of lamb and no clues."

Whether you want a silly action movie, a classic detective film, or even a literary cookbook, we've got them all here at the library.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Favorite Billionaire

There are certain things that can only be done when one has gobs of money. Solid gold bathroom fixtures, Picasso collecting, and diamond-encrusting everything are a few. While those are fine and dandy for run-of-the-mill billionaires, I prefer Richard Branson’s style. The guy has billions and doesn’t settle for art, wine, and cars. In 1986 he broke the Transatlantic record for speedboats, after sinking his vessel less than two-hundred miles from the British coast the previous year.

As of 2 o’clock this morning, he and his crew are attempting to shatter the Transatlantic sailing record. They left from New York City and are hoping to break the record which currently stands at 6 days 17 hours 39 minutes and 52 seconds. The attempt has been in the works for two years, waiting for optimum sailing conditions. In this case, optimum sailing conditions are ridiculous winds (including forty foot waves) and some of the most treacherous storms ever sailed. Why? Without these storms, the wind needed to break the record would not be strong enough. The crew’s main concern is to not break the boat. I would have some other concerns, notably sea sickness and sheer terror.

Richard Branson’s autobiography:
Losing my Virginity: How I've Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business my Way

Great Sailing Books:
The America's Cup: 1851 to the Present Day

Making Waves: the Inside Story of Managing and Motivating the First Women's Team to Compete for the America's Cup

The America's Cup: the History of Sailing's Greatest Competition in the Twentieth Century

The Race: an Inside Account of What it's Like to Compete in the Observer Singlehanded Transatlantic Race from Plymouth, England, to Newport, Rhode Island

If the voyage is successful the crew should reach landfall in southwestern Great Britain the evening of October 28th.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hand Tools

I like to make things out of wood. Typically, this is a very labor intensive process even with the use of power tools. The times that I am required to use hand tools makes me marvel at the dedication, artistry, and patience evidenced by wood workers of the past as well as by those individuals who prefer to use them exclusively today. Photographs of these types of tools readily illustrate just how physically taxing and mentally fatiguing the use of these tools can be. I’ve listed some titles below for your appreciation.

The antique tool collector's guide to value

300 years of farm implements and machinery, 1630-1930

Encyclopedia of antique tools & machinery

Antique tools ... our American heritage

Collecting antique tools

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Look for Your Old Deck

The hot summer sun has was hard on Austin decks. The New York Times, in a June article in the Sunday Home section, had tips on how to improve our neglected decks. Danny Lipford, host of the TV show, Today's Homeowner, said that every deck should be cleaned once a year. Below are instructions from the article:

-Apply a deck detergent with a garden-style sprayer, saturating the deck completely
-Let the detergent set for 10-15 minutes to loosen the dirt
-Apply a brightener
-Use a stiff brush or pressure washer (very carefully) to clean off all the dirt
-Allow the deck to dry for 2-3 days
-Apply stain or sealant. If you use a stain first, allow it ot dry before applying the sealer.
-Apply two coats of sealer on consecutive days

Consumer Reports, which you can access through the Library's Masterfile database, rated deck stains and sealers in the July 2008 issue. To find this article and other articles in Consumer Reports:

Click the yellow Database rectangle under "Highlights" on the Library's homepage. Select "Articles and News" under Subject Guide on the right-hand side. Select Masterfile Premiere and enter your Library card number.

1. Type stains in the search box.
2. Type Consumer Reports in the publication box.
3. Limit to full text search by clicking on the box.
4. Click on Search.

The Library also has two dvds on desk restoration produced by Today's Homeowner.

Deck Renewal
Deck Rehab

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

And the prize goes to....

As we know, the Nobel Price for Literature went to Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio. He is one of the most translated French authors or our time, whose work is hard to categorize. His revolutionary writing style and the freedom to pick the topics for his works gave him the title of one of the most important avant-garde writers.

The topics of his books are varied: ecology, philosophy, the clash of cultures, insanity, immigration, traveling, memory, and exile among others. His work consists of more than 40 books published in French, a dozen in English, as well as some publications in Swedish and German. The Nobel Prize Academy considers him, “an author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy,” and his work as, "the best and most imaginative prose work of the year."

When looking as his biography, it is easy to understand the richness of his work. Le Clezio was born in France but spent his childhood in Nigeria. As a young adult he studied in England and France. He moved to the United States where he worked as a teacher but was then sent to Thailand and Mexico for his military service. Later he lived with the Embera-Wounaan Indians in Panamá. He has taught at numerous universities in countries around the world: México, South Korea, Bangkok, Boston, Austin, and Albuquerque.

If you haven’t read any books by this author, here are some of the titles available at our libraries:

The prospector


The round & other cold hard facts

In case you want to read his works in French here are some ideas:
Ourania : roman.

Peuple du ciel ; suivi de Les bergers

Hasard ; suivi de, Angoli Mala

Monday, October 13, 2008

Go to Harvard for Free

I love to learn. This may be obvious if one considers that I chose Librarian as a profession. I also love the internet. I think lolcats are hilarious, I use a feed reader to read more blogs than reasonable, and my delicious links are precious to me. When learning and the internet are combined, I, and librarians the world over, salivate and take note. Lately, I’ve been salivating over and exploring the many free college courses, offered by some of the best universities in the country, anyone can take via the internet. You do not have to be enrolled or affiliated in any way with the university. In fact, none of these websites even require you to sign up for some sort of free account. Merely click the link to the course and let the learning commence. Right now I’m taking an introductory computer science course at Harvard and next semester I’m considering taking “Ingmar Bergman, Cinematic Philosopher” at MIT, and all I had to do was point and click.

100 Free Podcasts from the Best Colleges in the World

Austin Public Library’s Education and Training Research Guide
Scroll down to Online Education and Training: Free Classes and Tutorials to see a more comprehensive list of free classes on the internet.

Big Think
These are not necessarily courses, but it is a large collection of lectures and videos by "intellectuals".

Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative

* You have to utilize Google to find Harvard classes – they are not all in one place. Often instructors establish their own course websites. For example, I googled “harvard computer science courses”, browsed the results, and then found a class I was interested in.

Internet Archive’s Open Educational Resources
Links to many free university-level lectures and courses.

Lecturefox: Free University Lectures

MIT OpenCourseWare

Open Yale Courses

Tufts OpenCourseWare

Friday, October 10, 2008

Scopes Trial Photos

Boing Boing reports that the Smithsonian Institution Archives recently added 39 photographs from the State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes trial to Flickr. According to the Archives, the negatives were discovered eighty years after the trial and then restored in 2005.

In 1925, a Tennessee law passed prohibiting the teaching of evolution in public schools. John Scopes accepted the ACLU's offer to defend him if he challenged the law. Scopes was arrested, and the "Monkey Trial" quickly became a media circus. William Jennings Bryan prosecuted and Clarence Darrow defended Scopes. The fierce exchanges became legendary and inspired the play Inherit the Wind, which later became a movie starring Spencer Tracy. Scopes was convicted and fined $100, however the fine was overturned by a higher court. The law was repealed in 1967.

For more information, check out one of the many books on the subject or find more primary sources using the library's research databases:
Also visit PBS's American Experience Online to see the film Monkey Trial, hear monkey themed music, and much more!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

American Writers and the Nobel Prize

*UPDATE*: Well, the Nobel folks have a tendency to announce that they'll be awarding a prize in a couple of weeks, then go ahead and do it the next morning. Jean-Marie Gustave le Clezio is the 2008 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Horace Engdahl, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy and keeper of the Nobel Prize, recently said that American writers do not engage themselves with the greater world and therefore are not worthy of wining the Nobel Prize. Yikes! That’s a serious condemnation. With the Nobel Prize in literature expected to be awarded within a couple of weeks, deserving American writers such as Philip Roth and Joyce Carol Oates look like their Nobel exile will continue.

Whether or not Roth or Oates claims the world’s richest literary prize ($1.3million), they remain highly productive and constantly acclaimed writers. I can’t think of a better way to honor a writer than to read her work. The Austin Public Library owns dozens and dozens of their books. Below are just a few highlights:

Philip Roth:
American Pastoral
Sabbath’s Theater
Portnoy’s Complaint

Indignation is the November selection for the Contemporary Fiction Book Club.

Joyce Carol Oates:
The Gravedigger’s Daughter
What I Lived For

Scott McLemee asked American scholars, critics, and writers to respond to Engdahl’s pointed criticism. Their responses can be found here.

Monday, October 06, 2008


Do you feel overwhelmed in trying to understand the most significant economic blunder in American history since the Great Depression? Would you like to have more of a sense of how this continually unfolding man-made disaster affects you personally? Have we reached bottom? Will the $700 billion bailout by the Federal Government instill confidence in the banking system? Was it a good idea? Were there alternatives? Do you catch yourself staring off into space at the mention of mortgage backed securities, commercial paper, or credit default swaps? Fortunately for us, the producers of "This American Life" have put together a very well organized, concise, and easily understandable explanation of this crisis entitled, 365: Another Frightening Show About the Economy. Also fortunately for us, the Austin Public Library subscribes to a variety of publications and databases to help keep the public informed about an event that will impact generations of individuals globally for years to come, and will influence the public policy of many governments, as well as serve as a case study for future economists and business people. I've listed some avenues of exploration below.

Serial Publications:
Business Week
The Economist
Harvard Business Review
Investor's Business Daily Inc.

Business and Investment
Newspapers and Current Events

Friday, October 03, 2008

James Thurber and Humor

James Thurber was quoted as saying, “I write humor the way a surgeon operates, because it is a livelihood, because I have a great urge to do it, because many interesting challenges are set up, and because I have the hope it may do some good.” A few months ago the esteemed Thurber House announced their finalists for the Thurber Prize, the nation’s highest honor to writers of humor. The prize includes $5,000 cash and a commemorative crystal plaque. The finalists are Larry Doyle for I Love You, Beth Cooper, Patricia Marx for Him, Her, Him Again, the End of Him, and Simon Rich for Ant Farm. The winner will be announced this Monday, October 6th, keep an eye on the Thurber House website. I'm sure Thurber would consider the winner as a writer who has great urgency, meets today's interesting challenges, and certainly does good.

James Thurber, born in Colombus, Ohio in 1894, is known for his writings and drawings. His familiar cartoons were a large part of the New Yorker magazine. My Life and Hard Times, Thurber’s autobiography is considered his greatest work. Check out the Biography Resource Center database for a lot more on Thurber. Take a look at the book
Cartoon America : comic art in the Library of Congress for an insight to Thurber's cartoons. Finally, check out our Good Reads page for more humorous writing!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

It's the top ten!

Do you know what the top 10 sleepiest animals are? How about the top 10 longest-running programs on National Public Radio or 10 longest words in the Oxford English Dictionary?

You can find all of these and the answers to other interesting questions on the Top 10 of Everything book. The first edition of this book was published in 1989. Since then, this book has been printed annually and special editions dedicated to specific topics have been also released. For example: Top 10 of Sport, Top 10 of Music and Top 10 of Film, among others.

Russell Ash, the author of this book, is a British author that has also published other similar books for children and adults. So, if you want to have a fun light read at the library, feel free to browse our 2009 edition or to take home one of the previous ones.