Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Who Can You Trust?

The 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer--the global PR firm's annual survey covering trust and credibility, had some surprising results – results that will make you want to use your Library’s resources for business information. It was is the firm's tenth survey. It surveyed 4,875 'informed publics' in two age groups (25-34 and 35-64) in 22 countries.

The barometer showed huge declines in the public's trust in information from friends and peers. The poll also found an increase in distrust of almost all forms of mass media. Trust in information from digital media is woefully low; between 11 and 22 percent of respondents said they trust information gleaned from social networks. Traditional news media such as TV, radio and the newspaper are showing similar declines.
Industry analyst or stock reports and articles in business magazines held strong as the most trusted sources of information about a company.

The U.S. results for ages 25-64 are as follows:
• Articles in business magazines is #1 with 49%
• Stock or industry analyst reports is #2 with 48%
• Conversations with company employees is #3 with 38%
• Articles in newspapers is #4 with 32%
• News coverage on the radio is #5 with 31%
• Conversations with your friends and peers is #6 with 27% (tied with “Online search engines e.g. Google news, YouTube” and “Corporate communications such as press releases, reports and emails”)

So, for accuracy and credibility, use the Library’s databases for business and company information.

Business and Investment Databases

Business Research Guides

Monday, September 27, 2010

Working Girl

One of my favorite movies is Working Girl from 1988. Harrison Ford is handsome, Melanie Griffith looks fabulous (that navy velvet number with the embedded rhinestones is one of the great movie dresses of all time), and Joan Cusack has an epic line: “Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn’t make me Madonna… never will.” The plot is a simple success story cleverly told. It’s a lot of fun.

But it’s dated, and I’m not talking about the enormous reading glasses. Working Girl glorifies rapacious corporatism. Tess McGill works in mergers and acquisitions at a company swallowing up other companies in the late 80s, the decade when, many economists posit, the government began to make laws so advantageous to business that the distribution of wealth has been shifting ever since. Working Girl never questions corporate acquisitiveness. Oh sure, the ruthless and unethical Katharine loses her man, her job, and her dignity, but once the devious schemer is purged (only one?), Trask Industries roars on while Carly Simon sings about the New Jerusalem.

Movies usually take a dimmer view: big business is manipulative (Trading Places, Network), money isn’t everything (You Can't Take it With You), a job isn't worth your soul (Office Space), it's more rewarding to raise kids (Kramer vs. Kramer). Except for The Fountainhead, Working Girl might be unique in portraying a behemoth corporation as a good thing, a more charming idea in 1988 than it is in 2010.

Still… Harrison Ford. I mean, come on.

Here are some recent books about our current economic woes:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity

A very exciting announcement was made Thursday, September 16th that I'm sure many of you have heard about: Jon Stewart will be hosting a "Rally to Restore Sanity" Saturday, October 30th! Stewart calls for a return to moderation and sanity in politics amid what he believes is a level of media sensationalism that merely fuels the divide between "conservative" and "liberal" America. One of his arguments involves the pervasiveness of 24-hour news channels whom fill their many hours with dramatic, grab-the-viewer speakers, stories, and antics contributing to continued polarization of the country. Stewart believes that most of us are sane and reasonable and we should demonstrate that our numbers are greater than the extremely polarized ones frequently portrayed in and sometimes dominating the media.

So, who should go to this rally? Here are Stewart's words from last Thursday night's show:

"You may be asking yourself, right now, sitting at home, but am I the right type of person to go to this rally. The fact that you would even stop to ask yourself that question, as opposed to just, let's say, jumping up, grabbing the nearest stack of burnable holy books, strapping on a diaper and just pointing your car toward D.C. — that means I think you might just be right for it."

Stewart's new book, Earth (the Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race, was just released on Tuesday - it's "Coming Soon" in the catalog and you can place a hold on it today. While you wait, try some of our, perhaps less humorous, but interesting books on the role of the media in politics and American lives - a few of which are listed below.

And, don't forget Stewart's arch-nemesis, Stephen Colbert, is having his counter-rally on the exact same day, at the same time and place: the March to Keep Fear Alive.


The Kingmakers: How the Media Threatens Our Security and Our Democracy

The New Blue Media: How Michael Moore,, Jon Stewart and Company Are Transforming Progressive Politics

The Opinion Makers: An Insider Exposes the Truth Behind the Polls

Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen
Colbert's very amusing graphic novel - a continuation on the story from his "unpublished novel."


A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Trees: I like to look at them. I like to sit beneath them.

I like trees. Whether a stunning forest or a lone oak in a pasture, I'm constantly on the look out for beautiful trees. Last spring I realized that despite loving trees I'm quite inept at identifying them. I could walk through my yard and declare "that's a hackberry and those are red oaks," but I embarrassingly could not identify the other trees in my yard. That wouldn't work. I brought a few field guides home and set to work learning about American elms and scrub oaks and a tree that many call a weed but I call a chinaberry.

These two books were invaluable as I identified the trees in my yard:
A Field Guide to Texas Trees
Trees of Central Texas

Like any urban area, Austin abounds with non-native trees. This book is a great guide to all those trees we see throughout our urban landscape.
The Urban Tree Book: an Uncommon Field Guide for City and Town

Put a pretty tree in your house: Coffee table tree books
Remarkable Trees of the World
The Remarkable Baobab
The Encyclopedia of North American Trees
America's Famous and Historic Trees: from George Washington's Tulip Poplar to Elvis Presley's Pin Oak
Trees & Forests of America

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center announced earlier this year the creation of The Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum. Scheduled to open in 2012, the Texas Arboretum will showcase the vast variety of Texas trees with native grasses and wildflowers peppering the trails.

Monday, September 20, 2010

American Male

I often find myself thinking a great deal about my father since his death. I remember him when he was at the age I am now, the kind of father figure he was to me and my sister, and his character flaws. To his credit and my occasional embarrassment, he frequently reminds me of the increasingly iconic character Don Draper of the television series Mad Men. What is odd about this is that he didn't come to the U.S. until he was 26. This has me wondering if these similarities can be attributed to culture and generation or is it something bigger, perhaps a mixture of universal characteristics tied to current societal trends? Sure enough, the library has me covered.

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Book by a Caltech Physicist

Leonard Mlodinow is a physicist at Caltech and the co-author with Stephen Hawking of The Grand Design which was released September 7, 2010. I recently saw a group of students from Caltech in a cafĂ©, and they weren’t talking, or texting, or looking at a laptop, they were just quietly thinking. Einstein came up with his greatest breakthroughs by just sitting quietly with his thoughts.

In this major new work, Hawking and Mlodinow look to the laws of nature and physics for the answers to the ultimate questions. You can’t find the book in our catalog today, but it has been ordered. If you hear about a newly published book, and can’t find it in the catalog, ask a librarian to see if it has been ordered. You can place a hold on the title when it appears in the catalog with a call number or coming soon.

Mlodinow is also the author of The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, which is an irreverent look at how randomness influences our lives, and how our successes and failures are far more dependent on chance events than we recognize. He also wrote Feynman's Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life and Euclid's Window: The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace. He also co-authored A Briefer History of Time with Stephen Hawking, which many have read, but few have understood.

In a recent interview on Shelf-Awareness, he quoted his favorite line from a book:
"We think that grass is green, that stones are hard, and that snow is cold. But physics assures us that the greenness of grass, the hardness of stones, and the coldness of snow, are not the greenness, hardness, and coldness that we know in our own experience, but something very different." (An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth by Bertrand Russell.) In other words, we should question our beliefs and experiences, perhaps by sitting quietly and thinking.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fire in the sky

On June 30th, 1908 something incredible happened on Earth; specifically, in Siberia, near the Tunguska River. Some witnesses say that it was like the sky was split in two by a huge ball of fire, for others it was like we had another sun. Then they heard a huge thunder, and another, and another. We are talking about the Tunguska event, something that has kept the community of scientists busy for more than a hundred years. The first expedition to the area came after this explosion happened almost ten years later. What they found then was about 80 million trees knocked down in 800 miles square miles. At the center of this area though, the trees were standing, but they were stripped from their branches and bark. Creepy!

So, what’s the theory? Scientists say that it seems to be a meteor or comet that exploded in the air. Even though it didn’t touch the surface of Earth, the explosion had an energy blast a thousand times bigger than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. This kind of impact event (which is the name used by scientists for the collision of comets or other objects with Earth) happens approximately once every ten million years. The next asteroid that could possibly crash with Earth will pass by in the year 2880, so be sure to tell your grandkids to tell their grandkids to tell their grandkids…

For more information about this topic, here are some suggestions:

There is also a nice article by NASA that talks about this event you might enjoy reading.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Voices in Your Head

You've been hearing Paul Frees' voice all your life. He's Boris Badenov. He's the narrator of Dudley Do-Right and Fractured Flickers. He's the voice in the old ride at Disneyland--the one that shrank you to the size of the nucleus of an atom (Monsanto's greatest technological triumph, if you ask me).

Maybe you're more familiar with Mel Blanc, who was nearly every voice of every character in every Loony Tunes cartoon: Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, Wile E. Coyote... check his Wikipedia page, he was all of them.

Being a voice actor has always sounded to me like a great job. If you're interested, we have some books at the library you'll want to read:

Here's Mel Blanc's autobiography:

That's Not All Folks

The photo above is the vinyl album (does anybody remember albums?), Paul Frees and the Poster People. It's one of the great recordings of all time, imho, (Paul singing "Hey Jude" in the voice of Peter Lorre should not be missed) and it's not out on CD. If you still have a turntable you can ask for it through interlibrary loan, but there are only three in libraries worldwide. Paul's biography is easier to get, though, Welcome, Foolish Mortals (that's the first thing you hear when you enter the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney, and yep, that's Paul Frees' voice) by Ben Ohmart. It's an interesting look at a kind of crazy guy working in Hollywood in the 40s 50s and 60s.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Top 5 Graphic Novels for Book Club Discussions

If you're involved in a book club and looking for something new and interesting to read, I'm hoping the below list will be handy. It's a list of graphic novels that make for excellent group discussion, each with a different appeal. The Graphic Novels Book Club at Halcyon Coffee hosted by the Austin Public Library has actually discussed all but one of these and our meetings were lively and engaged.

Asterios Polyp
by David Mazzuchelli
was published fairly recently and is one of those widely accepted, critically acclaimed (even reviewed by The New York Times Book Review) novels that would work really well for groups that already have an interest in discussing literary fiction. It is rife with metaphor and the artwork is a unique and essential part of the story.

Palestine by Joe Sacco
For those reading groups that enjoy discussing nonfiction, most of Sacco's work will be very appealing. Sacco is a comics journalist - he has spent time in Israel/Palestine and this particular work is a reflection on his experiences and the plight of the Palestinian people. Other works by him to try would be Safe Area Gonazde (about the Bosnian War) and Footnotes in Gaza.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
I'm guessing everyone has heard of this one by now, but I want to mention it because it is ideally suited for reading groups and just a fantastic book. There are two volumes, but there is an edition that collects both into one volume. It is about Satrapi herself growing up in pre- and post-revolution Iran whose family deals with the fear-instilling, fundamentalism of the Iranian government. The second volume focuses more on Satrapi's experiences outside of Iran as a teenager. Satrapi is a wonderfully interesting, funny, deep, and emotional character that will appeal to most.

Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis
Ellis is a powerhouse in the industry and this science fiction series is perhaps for what he is known best. Spider Jerusalem is a journalist and all around interesting character living in a dystopian future world. This is a 10-volume series, but don't let that stop you - the volumes are short and choosing to read just the first volume is usually the best way to go. You'll find that most people will come having read multiple volumes (each volume is a pretty quick read) and the trick will just be avoiding spoilers.

Watchmen by Alan Moore
This is a classic and a great introduction to graphic novels. It is a bit of a spoof on the typical superhero genre: the characters reside in a world where superheroes have played a significant role in history and have now been outlawed. The movie is good, but the book is far better because it reveals how multi-layered this novel is. It truly does what only comics can do!

Thursday, September 09, 2010


I didn't sleep well Tuesday night. The arm of Hurricane Hermine that soaked Central Texas woke me up several times. While nothing close to the destruction of coastal communities five years ago, the abundance of rain found me thinking about the power of hurricanes. I read Eric Larson's Isaac's Storm a couple of summers ago and was intrigued by the compelling narrative. Isaac's Storm depicts the destruction of Galveston in 1900. I had no idea that until that hurricane Galveston was second only to New York in wealth. Once I reached the library the next morning I discovered numerous works on hurricane history. The following titles discuss the scientific aspects of hurricanes as well as social and communal implications of a deluge.

Erik Larson's Isaac's Storm: a Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History

Douglas Brinkley's The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Richard Murnane's Hurricanes and Typhoons: Past, Present, and Future

Bryan Carlile's After Ike: Aerial Views from the No-Fly Zone

David Longshore's Encyclopedia of Hurricanes, Typhoons, and Cyclones

Monday, September 06, 2010

We've been celebrating LABOR DAY since 1882.

Thanks to the United Auto Workers, when my father-in-law retired from General Motors in the late 70s, he had enough pension, benefits, and savings to do what all Detroiters dream of doing: escaping winter. He and his wife became snow birds. They'd spend summers in Michigan and winters south of Tucson near another center of union organizing (though I doubt that they knew it) Bisbee, Arizona. Southeast of their retirement condo, past Tombstone and the OK Corral, almost on the Mexican border, sits Bisbee, a settlement formed to serve the Phelps Dodge mine, the Copper Queen.

Bisbee is bizarre. When the Copper Queen played out in 1975, Bisbee became an art colony. Now it's a tourist stop of galleries and jewelers in the middle of nowhere. It's a desert town of rickety Victorian houses sitting on mineral-streaked hillsides threaded with narrow, winding streets.

It's also the site of one of the seminal events in labor history. On July 12, 1917, after repeatedly refusing the demands of striking miners, the mining companies used an army of vigilantes to round up more than 1000 men--some on strike, some just in the wrong place at the wrong time--and march them two miles to a waiting train of cattle cars. The plan was to take the men east to Columbus, New Mexico, but when that town turned the train away, the men were left stranded in the desert.

Although a federal investigation found the transport illegal and some of the hijacked men sued (no one died, but some were imprisoned for weeks), no one was ever held liable, and mining interests continued to call the tune in southern Arizona. The Bisbee Deportation of 1917 helped energize the labor movement to create the strong unions that buoyed the American middle class, including my husband's family, after World War II.

If my in-laws had read some of these books, they would have known that they spent their GM pension shuttling from one hotbed of union activity to another:

Friday, September 03, 2010

Learn a 2nd Language

The Library will supply the resources, but you have to commit the time. Together, we can learn to speak a 2nd language.

Powerspeak Languages simulates gradual immersion into a new language through a series of stories, activities and learning exercises. For Spanish, French, Mandarin, German, or English for Spanish speakers

Tumblebook Library presents talking children's books in Spanish and French, as well as English.

Tell Me More Performance Spanish offers ten levels of instruction, from Complete Beginner to Expert, that cover all the skill areas needed to learn a language. A special feature of the program is its speech recognition technology which allows users to practice and assess their pronunciation. Tell Me More Performance Spanish is provided on a PC-compatible DVD-ROM. To get the full benefit of the program, computer speakers or headset and a microphone are needed.

Recorded Books’ Transparent Language courses consists of lessons--equivalent to one year of high school or one semester of a college course—designed to take users from beginner to intermediate-level proficiency. The software is provided on a USB drive that acts as a “key”. Users can access the program only when the drive is inserted into their PC or Mac. In addition to software for Spanish and English for Spanish speakers, the Library has Transparent Language programs for learning Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Polish, Russian, Spanish,and Portuguese.

Language Learning Research Guide includes instructions on how to search the catalog for study materials, and lists free websites for learning languages.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Novel Places

One of my favorite things to do is stroll around a new city. Whether a pretty front door or a tree with which I'm unfamiliar, these serendipitous discoveries make me smile. When visiting a new city I routinely pass by museums, choosing to continue exploring the city's fabric rather than inspect its wall-mounted art. This love of city exploration affects how I react to novels. I don't necessarily need action or believable dialogue so long as the novel expresses a strong sense of place. Granted, the total package is always appreciated, but place seems to be the driving force behind my novel reading these days.

Below are a few novels that convey a unique depiction of a specific place.

Max Beerbohm's Zuleika Dobson (Oxford, England)

Larry McMurtry's Horseman, Pass By (rural West Texas)

Walker Percy's The Moviegoer (New Orleans)

Philip Roth's American Pastoral (New Jersey)

Joseph O'Neill's Netherland (Manhattan)

Aleksander Hemon's The Lazarus Project (Chicago and Bosnia)

Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping (Idaho)

Steve Yarbrough's Safe from the Neighbors (Mississippi)

Gerbrand Bakker's The Twin (rural Holland)