Sunday, August 30, 2009

We Miss You Diana

Twelve years ago today, August 31, 1997, Princess Diana was killed in Paris. It seems like just yesterday when the earth stood still and everyone was talking about the same thing, her tragic death.

Are you or someone you know really into the royal family? Do you have all the books and magazines with Diana's face on the covers? Do you spout royal trivia and dates with ease? Yeah, I know someone like that too. I remember growing up my mother was absolutely mad about Princess Diana and everything English royalty. She claims that she is related to Prince Charles, a cousin of a cousin of a cousin or something, and loved seeing the two get married on television decades ago. She was thrilled with the births of each of their sons, was sad when the two decided on divorce and even more saddened with Princess Diana's death. If you needed any kind of royal question answered you would call on my mom.

Today, however, I just use the library. There is so much available, even today, on Princess Diana and the English royal family in the library, in print and online. First, there are countless books and DVDs in our library catalog that will bring you up to snuff on Princess Diana and anything royal. I did a simple search for Princess Diana and a list of 103 items popped up. That should keep you busy for a few days.

And don't forget about our databases. There are several that I used to learn a little bit more about Princess Diana. Encycloepdia Britannica, Biography Resource Center, MasterFILE Premier, any of the magazine & journal or newspaper & current events databases will give you much, much more.

Now, I wonder if you read up on Princess Diana you could beat my mom in a trivia contest. I bet you could, but don't tell her I said that.

Friday, August 28, 2009

"You can have New Orleans back, but you’ve got to want it bad."

Four years ago tomorrow, the first report of a levee breach in New Orleans, Louisiana was made (see a timeline of Katrina here). New Orleanians that had weathered the brutal Category 5 Hurricane Katrina were to realize shortly that the worst of the storm would begin only after it had ended. The flooding was terrible and, undoubtedly, still remembered by even those of us who have never called New Orleans home. Today New Orleans is slowly rebuilding, but it hasn’t been and still will not be easy. Some sections of the city are coming up just fine, while others, particularly the poorer areas, are still abandoned and have been left untouched since Katrina.

There are a ton of books out there about New Orleans, and, if you’ve ever been there, you would understand why. New Orleans has a culture all its own and its food, music, and people are well-known in the Western world. Katrina’s impact on New Orleans has been the central theme of most books that have been published about the city in the past few years. For example, there’s Why New Orleans Matters by Tom Piazza (2005), a New Orleanian who describes the city so intimately that there’s no doubting his love and passion for it. Or, Nine Lives by Dan Baum (2009), who arrived in New Orleans after the storm as a reporter and became so intrigued by the city he wrote the stories of nine of its inhabitants and their hurricane experiences. A similar story portrayed in graphic novel format, is A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge by Josh Neufeld (2009), who captures the Katrina experiences of seven people in bold, color-infused panels, that was originally serialized in Smith magazine. Celebrate this fine city, its past as well as its future, with a great book or documentary from the Austin Public Library. Do a subject search in FindIt, our online catalog, by choosing Subject in the dropdown menu and search for “Katrina, 2005”, to see all of the materials we have about the storm, or “New Orleans and biography”, to see all of the materials we have about New Orleans and its culture.


A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge
Read all about this comic and see it in its web format here.

City of Refuge
A novel by Tom Piazza about two families weathering Katrina.

Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans
An excellent idea for an excellent book - listen to the story behind it here on NPR.

The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans

Sugarcane Academy: How a New Orleans Teacher and His Storm-Struck Students Created a School to Remember

Why New Orleans Matters

This one was just recently published, was written by the acclaimed Dave Eggers, and has received nothing but raves, such as this one here.

Documentaries (DVDs)

The Old Man and the Storm
A PBS Frontline documentary

The Axe in the Attic

Trouble the Water

When the Levees Broke
Acclaimed 3-disc documentary by the legendary Spike Lee

Articles and News

Barriers to Mental Health Services for Children Persist in Greater New Orleans, Although Federal Grants Are Helping to Address Them *requires an APL card
An interesting report compiled by the U.S. Government Accountability Office on New Orleanian children and their mental health

Hope, Reality Collide in Post-Katrina New Orleans

The State of New Orleans
Op-ed from the New York Times

Then and Now: New Orleans After Katrina
Carl Lastie is the man behind the quote that titles this blog post. More about his and others' rebuilding triumphs can be read about and seen in this article.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rick Bass is good.

Discovering a new writer is special. It might be the cadence of the writing that attracts us. It might be the subject. It is often something entirely indefinable. I recently stumbled across the works of Rick Bass and am and will remain a firm fan.

I like dogs. I prefer to be outside. I like stories. Mr. Bass covers all those. He lives in rural Montana and poignantly depicts the intersection between animals and humans as well as the dual need for community and isolation. Plus, he was raised in Texas.

The Austin Public Library has a fine selection of Rick Bass’ work.

Colter: The Story of the Best Dog I Ever Had

The Wild Marsh: Four Seasons at Home in Montana

Why I Came West

The Lives of Rocks: Stories

Falling from Grace in Texas

Where the Sea Used to Be

The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness

Monday, August 24, 2009

JOBView: Thousands of Jobs at Your Finger Tips!

The Austin Public Library has a very handy new tool for job seekers called JOBView. The database serves as an aggregator for job openings within the state of Texas as well as the rest of the country. Position descriptions can be printed, emailed, or sent to your cell phone in the form of a text message. The database will automatically route you to the employer’s or program’s website in order to apply.

Other features include:

  • Job searches can be statewide or isolated to a specific city.
  • The job radius search feature allows you to look for employment within a set distance from the center of a chosen city.
  • Search only for Hourly and Part Time positions.
  • Search for jobs in specific categories such as Accounting and Finance, Construction/Trades, Government/Military, Hospitality/Travel, Law Enforcement/Security, Non-Profit/Volunteer, Retail, Sales, etc.
  • Federal Contractors with Veteran Preference and Work in Texas positions are clearly noted.
  • A general search will list all jobs within the category as well as the employer. Click on the position’s title to see the full job description.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Shark Fiction

With summer coming to a close, and beach vacations on hold until next year, it’s now safe to read about sharks. Guys especially seem to enjoy a good shark story. And it just takes one good book to convince someone that reading can be as entertaining as watching TV. In the list below, only the Meg series is a total shark attack story like Jaws, but sharks or the fear of sharks play a role in the other titles.

Beat the Reaper by Josh Bizell
Comic thriller about Dr. Peter Brown, a successful Mafia hit man who entered witness protection and turned to medicine, and who also has a fear of sharks.

Blind Willow by Huraki Murakami
Stories in this collection have Murakami’s matter-of-fact style combined with plausible but surreal premises to produce a dizzying adventure. In one story a mother loses her only son to a shark attack in Hawaii and then travels to the site of the accident for a vacation every year.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Already a classic, a survival story about 16-year-old Pi Patel who drifts in a lifeboat for 227 days through shark-infested waters while fighting hunger.

Meg: a Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten
A riveting tale of prehistoric Megalodon sharks spawned a series with the following sequels:
Meg: The Trench
Meg: Primal Waters
Meg: Hell's Aquarium

Raw Shark Texts by Stephen Hall
In this tale of awakening and discovery, a young man learns that the agony of losing the love of his life in a scuba-diving accident three years before has destroyed his memory.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mom= Mamá=матушка= μητέρα

We all know that babies have an amazing capacity to learn. If you think about it, the first five years in the life of a human are very dramatic. We learn so much in a short period of time: walking, running, eating, and, of course, talking. Children do not only have the capacity of learning how to talk and to communicate in just one language, but to learn up to four languages at once. Yes, that’s correct, that’s why people say that children are like sponges, they are literally absorbing every bit of knowledge available, in this case, languages.

According to Richard Tucker from the Carnegie Mellon University, there are more bilingual or multilingual people in the world than monolingual ones. He also mentions that worldwide the majority or children learn more than one language at once at an early age. CNN also published a brief article a while back with some interesting facts about world languages in which they found that “66 percent of children in the world are raised bilingual.”

You might be thinking: what are the pros and cons of raising a multilingual child? Well, the pros are easy to count: it’s easier for a person to learn a new language from birth than later in life; your child will learn to appreciate other cultures; it will facilitate communication with other members of the community; and it helps children develop stronger writing and reading skills. When we consider the benefits of learning more than one language, the cons seem minuscule in comparison: multilingual children tend to speak later than monolingual children; they also have a tendency to mix languages (something that they overcome with consistency in the use of one language or the other by family and friends); and parents of multilingual children need to make an extra effort to provide them with materials and an adequate learning environment. Visit the Multilingual Children's Association web site for more information.

In case you want to learn more about multilingualism and children, here are some resources for you:

Here are some tools in case you want to expose your children to a new language in a fun way:



Monday, August 17, 2009

Les Paul, a True Legend

Les Paul, born Lester Polsfuss, died last Thursday, August 13, at the age of 94. If you do not recognize his name, shame on you. Mr. Paul is the inventor of the famous Gibson guitar named after him and the "sound-on-sound" technology so many musicians and bands use today. Every time you turn on the radio, you hear Paul's influences, be it in country, jazz or rock and roll. Check out our copy of PBS' American Masters episode on Les Paul, Chasing Sound for a wonderful interview and clips of his life. You can also look at the PBS website for more. Mr. Paul was so full of life even until the end, he played in New York City clubs weekly.

Les Paul was an honorary board member of the organization, Little Kids Rock. This organization makes sure underprivileged kids get music instruments and instruction when they wouldn't otherwise. This participation shows that Mr. Paul was a giver; he wanted to extend his innovations and talent to the world and was successful every time. Musicians around the world are influenced by him and will continue to be long after today. Even though he has many honors and has won many awards, it all boils down to the fact that he touched everyone from those learning how to play guitar at a wee young age to those who are listening to the masters play it for the first time.

Thanks Mr. Paul. We appreciate you, your vision and what you've done for us.

For a little more info on Mr. Paul, check out the Biography Resource Center database. Search our FindIt catalog as well.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dress Up

I love to dress up. As a little girl I used to stroll around the house in my grandmother’s old hats and gaudy costume jewelry. As a teenager I took the first part-time job I could to afford my closet full of clothes. As an adult I have fallen in love with vintage clothes and the thrill of the bargain hunt. It’s no wonder then that I also love fashion photography. I like to look for inspiration in what other people wear and what designers are creating and have created. In particular, I have been a devout follower of the blog, The Sartorialist – a photo blog of photographs taken by Scott Schuman to, as he says, “share photos of people that I saw on the streets of New York that I thought looked great”. Mr. Schuman puts up pictures from all over the world now and he photographs men, women, and children. While I enjoy looking at the designs created by designers like Christian Lacroix, Cynthia Rowley, and Christian Dior, it’s the photos on The Sartorialist that really get me going because what is usually on display is individual style, rather than the latest fashions. Fashions come and go, but style is forever.

I can always find inspiration at the library as well. From books about fashion, developing and honing your own style, and basic upkeep and tailoring of your clothes, we’ve got it all:


Avedon Fashion 1944-2000

Christian Lacroix on Fashion

Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, The Condé Nast Years, 1923-1937

The Golden Age of Couture: Paris And London, 1947-57

The Sartorialist
(just published – copies on order – place a hold today!)


Vogue Fashion


Freakin' Fabulous: How to Dress, Speak, Behave, Eat, Drink, Entertain, Decorate, and Generally Be Better than Everyone Else

How to Have Style

The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own

Style Clinic: How to Look Fabulous All The Time, At Any Age, For Any Occasion

Tim Gun: A Guide to Quality, Taste, & Style

Mending, Tailoring, and Upkeep:

Hand Mending Made Easy: Save Time and Money Repairing Your Own Clothes

S.E.W.: Sew Everything Workshop: The Complete Step-By-Step Beginner's Guide

Sew Fast Sew Easy: All You Need To Know When You Start To Sew

A Stitch in Time: Life's Most Essential Hand-Sewn Repairs


Fashion Shows

See any designer’s complete collection here, photo by photo.

The Sartorialist

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

World War II through memoirs

I waited until my late-twenties to read Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. Having not experienced the book in my early teens leaves me slightly embarrassed; however, reading it as an adult allowed for deeper enjoyment and amazement of Anne’s writing, spirit, and elevated perception. Upon completing the diary and being absolutely blown away, I began to consider the pragmatics. How did two families remain hidden in central Amsterdam for more than two years? The Franks believed each day they survived was a victory. These daily victories were achieved through belief, but also through the tireless work of a handful of Amsterdammers dedicated to the Frank’s survival.

Miep Gies was one of these resisters. She appears throughout Anne’s diary: having sleepovers with the Frank girls, bringing vital news, and most importantly, ensuring food. Gies remains adamant that she did nothing special, saying: “I am not a hero but did what seemed necessary at the time.” Her humility is certainly admirable but the day-to-day risks she encountered were heroic. After decades of refusals, Miep Gies fortunately agreed to depict her time during the war. Her memoir is titled Anne Frank Remembered and is an excellent companion to The Diary of a Young Girl. Gies tells of the constant struggle to find enough food, yet never flinches in her devotion to the preservation of the Franks.

After reading these two memoirs I began seeking out other World War II memoirs and found an excellent one in Philip Freiherr von Boeselager’s Valkyrie. Von Boeselager passed away in 2008 and was the last survivor of the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler. This memoir reveals the conflict felt by von Boeselager and his comrades: how do you serve the country you love yet destroy the apparatus committing genocide? Von Boeselager and his conspirators answer was to assassinate the Nazi leadership.

World War II was horrendous, but I am enjoying learning through the memories of its victims and its participants.

The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank Remembered


Sunday, August 09, 2009

Cooking is Over

I recently listened to a fascinating interview on the NPR program “Fresh Air.” The focus of the show centered on the idea of cooking. The person being interviewed had some very interesting insights as to our society’s relationship with food. One such insight was the inverted proportion regarding people watching cooking shows compared with those of us who actually still cook. Research has proven the wild popularity of cooking shows. This same research has illustrated the fact that the vast majority of U.S. society would rather pick up the phone and place an order than pick up a spatula.

Another insight that was offered was the idea that the act of cooking, as with the act of producing tools and works of art, is an intrinsically human act. Cooking is something our species does because of some deeply seeded need and is a primal act. Marketing experts would disagree however. A very prominent marketing executive recently heralded the death of cooking. He went on to proclaim that within a few generations the act of cooking would be as alien as using a rotary dial phone is now. A very succinct example he used to bolster his argument was eating chicken. In the past, such meals were not entered into lightly. Cooking such a dish involved a tremendous amount of preparation. Before one could even begin to actually cook the meat one had to kill a chicken, pluck the bird, and remove and dispose of the bones and innards (not to mention all the blood). Suffice it to say, preparing the same dish is vastly more convenient nowadays.

Nonetheless, there is something instinctively more appealing about sitting down to a beautifully prepared, exquisitely flavorful home-cooked meal as compared to something squeezed out of a plastic bag, plopped onto a plate, and then zapped in a microwave for ten minutes. So, in the interest of preserving our humanity (and beating back the tide of obesity), I challenge everyone to prove the marketing executives wrong by picking up pots and pans and cooking utensils and revolt by dedicating some time in the kitchen to whipping up something tasty and nutritious.

To pull up the vast amounts of items the Austin Public Library has in its collection on cooking, use the subject term, cookery. You can further refine your retrieved results by specifying that certain terms appear within the title field or subject field of the bibliographic records. Here are a few titles that interest me:

The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food: Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation's Food was Seasonal, Regional, and Traditional: From the Lost WPA Files

Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico

Lidia's Italy

Made in Spain: Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen

Friday, August 07, 2009

The Genghis Khan We Don't Know

Last weekend I enjoyed watching the Russian-made film Mongol: the Rise of Genghis Khan. I had always thought of Genghis Khan as a power-hungry brute, but the film convinced me to see Genghis Kahan more as a visionary leader. Without irony or digital effects, Mongol, an old-fashioned epic movie and the first installment in a planned trilogy, tells the story of how Genghis sought to unify the warring Mongolian tribes into one nation. In the film, he was fair to his soldiers, a devoted husband, and a tolerant step father. He loved the Mongolian language and made it the national language. His rules for Mongols were: no killing of women and children, pay your debts, and respect your kahn.

Then on Monday morning, the NYT had an article on Mongolia’s rising tourist industry. A 131-foot-tall statue of Genghis on horseback, wrapped in 250 tons of gleaming stainless steel, is the pride of Mongolians and a new tourist attraction. Eventually it will be large park, where tourists can sleep in yurts on the steppes, just like you see in the movie.

Fictional biographies of Genghis Khan have been published recently, and the Library has all four.

The Blue Wolf is an imagined tale about the life of Genghis Khan. The author Inoue Yasushi was a prolific Japanese writer and a Harvard professor best known for his sweeping historical epics. He pieces together a psychological portrait of this "lone wolf" from the materials of myth and history (relying largely on The Secret History of the Mongols[1227], written shortly after the khan's death). Focusing on the relationship between Genghis and his father, and the warrior's obsession with his true paternity, Inoue tries to uncover the root of the khan's insatiable appetite for supremacy.

If you want more of page-turner, but less authenticity, then read the masterful series by Conn Iggulden, coauthor of the megaseller The Dangerous Book for Boys.

Genghis: Birth of an Empire
Genghis: Lords of the Bow
Genghis: Bones of the Hills

NOTE: We hope you like the new blog design.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Woodstock: 40 years and counting

The scene at Woodstock was just what you see in the movie footage. If you think it looked like fun, and if you think the music was great, then multiply that by a billion.” From the book “Woodstock Revisited

Yes, it is incredible, but it has already been 40 years since almost half a million people gathered in Bethel, New York to celebrate “3 days of peace and music.” It took 6 months to put together this concert, which was considered by Rolling Stone one of the 50 Moments that changed the history of Rock and Roll.

At the time, no one knew that this was going to be one of the most important concerts in history: not the organizers, the participants, or the artists. For example, some of the most influential musicians declined the invitation to the concert, including Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Jethro Tull, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.

Thirty-two famous artists, however, performed at this concert. Among them were: Richie Havens, Sweetwater, a six months pregnant Joan Baez, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Who and of course the amazing Jimi Hendrix.

When you think about half a million people crowded on 600 acres for three days without enough food, rain, mud, and no place to sleep, you might think that this would be a formula for disaster. But when you see some of Woodstock’s statistics, it seems like things were quite different:

Number of deaths (one each from heroin overdose, ruptured appendix, and being run over by a tractor): 3
Number of people arrested on drug charges: 13
Number of doctors who treated 6,000 patients: 18
Number of caldrons of rice-carrot-raisin combo made at Hog Farm Free Kitchen by 3 a.m. Sun, Aug 17: 51
Lawsuits filed after the festival: 80
Cows unfenced for three days with the campers: 450
Frankfurters and hamburgers consumed on the first day: 500,000

Gosh! I wish I was there. Were you?

Some materials for your enjoyment at the library are:

Back to the garden : the story of Woodstock
Woodstock vision : the spirit of a generation
Woodstock : the summer of our lives
The road to Woodstock
Woodstock revisited : 50 far out, groovy, peace-loving, flashback-inducing stories from those who were there
Woodstock : peace, music & memories : 40th anniversary
Taking Woodstock : [a true story of a riot, a concert, and a life]

Woodstock: 3 days of peace & music

Jimi Hendrix: Woodstock

Monday, August 03, 2009

Travel, It's a Must.

I don't know about you, but I always feel that travel is a necessary in life. To leave my home and go elsewhere seems to rejuvenate me. Be it a country on the other side of the ocean or the hill country just to the west of Austin, as long as I leave my beaten path of every day. Last year it was the mountains, this year, it's the beach.

So, I'm probably not alone when I say that I need to do a little research on my intended destination before a trip. I like to Google as much as I can about the town, city, village, resort we're going to and then I check the Library's catalog and databases for more information. With this trifecta of research, I am always satisfied when I travel back home that I've seen and done it all and avoided the traps.

Here are some hints on getting prepared for your wonderful trip!

The Library has many wonderful travel magazines, take a peek!
Frommer's Budget Travel
Conde Nast Traveler
National Geographic
National Geographic Adventurer
National Geographic Traveler
Texas Highways
Trailer Life
Travel & Leisure
Travel 50 & beyond

These two databases are an absolute must when traveling near or far.
Global Road Warrior is a very informative database offering everything from greetings and courtesies, holidays, currency converter, health notes to maps, tipping, and travel warnings for 175 countries. Great for the foreign business traveler too.
PressDisplay is the database to use if you want to read newspapers from around the world, there are more than 800 U.S. and international titles! This wonderful database offers full text, full color, full page formating. Read what's going on in Italy, Brazil and the UK, among many other countries before you go.

If you're at a loss of where to go, just wander around in the 910s of any library, those books focus on geography and travel. You will find so many guidebooks, you won't know where to go first!

When you Google (or any other search engine), try these keywords:
how to travel
how to travel with a baby
how to travel with a dog
how to travel to China (or your desired country)
how to travel alone
budget travel
vacation ideas
vacation destinations

Check out popular travel websites!
Travel Channel
Rick Steves
Rough Guides
Let's Go
Travel Texas
Texas Parks and Wildlife

Enjoy your trip, and don't forget to visit the library when you get there!

[image from the New York Public Library Digital Gallery]