Friday, December 31, 2010

Woody Allen

I love Woody Allen. I recently picked up a book, Dread & Superficiality: Woody Allen as Comic Strip, featuring the great strips from the former newspaper funny "Inside Woody Allen." I didn't even know the comic strip existed, but I stumbled upon it while browsing the 741.5s on the 3rd floor of Faulk Central. The title alone made me giggle and seemed apropos to the Woody character most that have seen his movies or been a fan of his stand-up are familiar with. "Inside Woody Allen" is full of self-deprecating humor as well as Allen's comic pursuits of women, love, and philosophical questions. The author and artist of the strip, Stuart Hample, actually met Woody in his stand-up days and had his explicit permission, cooperation, and even assistance in writing the strips. It's been a delight to read through and I highly recommend it to any fan of Woody Allen's comedy.

I'm sure I never would have picked up the book had I not seen so many of Allen's movies. The first one I ever saw was "Manhattan;" the opening scene of that movie instantly captivated me with its awesome black and white shots of Manhattan, the Gershwin tunes, and Allen's comedic narration. I went on to watch "Annie Hall," of course, and my all-time favorite, "Hannah and Her Sisters." After just adoring those three movies, I moved on to his earlier stuff with its slapstick humor such as "Bananas" and "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (*But Were Afraid to Ask)" (unfortunately, our copies of this title were damaged or missing and it is no longer available). At this point, I've seen most of his movies (except some of the newer stuff, which I don't like as much), so I could go on at length, but I'll provide a brief list below of some of my personal favorites and some of the critically acclaimed I haven't yet seen. (Hint: click on the Catalog Record tab above the title when viewing these movies in FindIt, the online catalog, to get a description of the movie along with a list of the actors.) Granted, Woody Allen's personal life and the notorious scandal regarding his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn may not make him the most likable figure in the world this present day, but, if you can put that aside, his works are well worth the watching.

P.S. Happy New Year! When you're making your New Year's resolutions consider this quote from Allen's movie "Interiors": "You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred."

Two moral crises regarding love and betrayal play themselves out in this dark comedy/drama.

Everyone Says I Love You
I admit to watching this one probably hundreds of times. It's a musical with an all-star cast singing standards and dancing around. I freakin' love a good musical and nothing beats listening to celebrities belt out classic songs (this is your chance to discover the musical or not-so-musical talents of Goldie Hawn, Edward Norton, Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Alan Alda, and more!).

A co-worker suggested this one to me - it's a spoof on Russian novels such as War and Peace full of silliness and philosophical debates featuring Diane Keaton and Woody Allen. Hilarious!

Just a fun story featuring murder, mystery, and Diane Keaton.

This is an intense tale of love and betrayal featuring the always lovely and often seductive Scarlett Johansson.

I just love this silly plot of dim-witted would-be crooks that end up making it big legitimately. Tracey Ullman is fantastic and was nominated for an Oscar for her role.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

And the Champagne Poured

Just in time for New Year's Eve, a study may settle that long-standing disagreement over the best way to pour a glass of champagne. Scientists in France report that pouring champagne in an angled, down-the-side way is the best way to preserve its taste and fizz.

I searched the Library’s ejournal finder to see if we had the study full-text, but we don’t, but you can read the abstract from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

The tiny bubbles that are the essence of fine champagnes are formed during the release of large amounts of dissolved carbon dioxide gas. When making champagne, grapes are fermented into wines and then bottled. Then a second fermentation is induced in the bottle, which produces carbon dioxide that carbonates the wine.

The French scientists found that pouring champagne down the side preserved up to twice as much carbon dioxide in champagne than pouring down the middle — probably because the angled method was gentler. They also confirmed that chilling champagne to a cooler temperature (39 degrees) helps reduce carbon dioxide loss and preserves the taste.

More champagne information at the Library:

The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook has a chapter titled “Once in a While a Little Champagne”.

The Everyday Guide to Wine
, a Teaching Company dvd.

The Finest Wines of Champagne, published by the University of California Press.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Mighty Boosh

A friend of mine recently introduced me to the BBC comedic series The Mighty Boosh. Needless to say, it cracked me up. After talking it up to friends and acquaintances, I've discovered that it's a bit of an accquired taste so consider yourself forewarned. All that aside, if you remember watching H.R. Pufnstuf in the early seventies (possibly as a child) and were intrigued by it, then I think you will readily see some similarities.

Essentially, the show revolves around the misadventures and experiences of two characters who are outwardly very different. The straight man (comedic term) is Howard Moon who considers himself a connoisseur of Jazz as well as a thespian in the deepest Shakespearian sense of the word. His alter ego is Vince Noir who is really in to fashion and following trends. So much so, he has a subscription to Cheekbone magazine that is so cutting edge it goes out of date every fifteen minutes. The show is also peppered with a rich variety of outlandish characters like Bolo the talking gorilla who gives Vince fashion advice, the acclaimed actor Sammy the Crab (who is really a crab), or Bob Fossil an all around shady character who dresses like Mr. Furley from Three's Company and strikes me as someone who wasn't happy with his life at Seinfeld's Del Boca Vista and decided to move to London. Trust me, any discription of the show cannot do it justice. It is just too funny, in my humble opinion. There are so many hilarious exchanges. Judge for yourself. The Austin Public Library has all three seasons available for checkout.

The Mighty Boosh 1
The Mighty Boosh 2
The Might Boosh 3

Friday, December 24, 2010

Mark Twain's Autobiography

Mark Twain's 743-page autobiography hit bookshelves Nov. 15, and now sits high atop the New York Times' best-seller list for hardcover non-fiction at No. 3, leaving Bill O'Reilly and Sarah Palin in the dust. The Library’s 12 copies are all checked out with holds, with more on order.

The director of the Mark Twain Project said the book is in the structure the author himself wanted. In 1904, Mark Twain wrote that he had "hit upon the right way to do an Autobiography." Instead of writing down his autobiography, Twain wanted to tell stories to another human being. And instead of telling his life story in chronological order, Twain wanted to talk about what interested him at that moment — and to allow himself to change the subject when his interest waned. It’s not a “tell all” memoir that is so popular today. Three months into the dictations, he says, "I have thought of 1,500 or 2,000 incidents in my life which I am ashamed of, but I have not gotten one of them to consent to go on paper yet." Versions of the autobiography have appeared over the years in newspapers and in print, but this is the first time it has been left in the order Twain dictated and with the honesty requiring Twain’s 100 year embargo. This first volume of the autobiography meanders through his thoughts on politics and religion, success and failure, friends and enemies. He grappled with the same things we continue to grapple with today.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dessa for the Holidays

If you need a last minute holiday gift, I suggest the 2010 hip-hop CD by Dessa, Badly Broken Code. (Dessa was in Austin in November as part of her 40-city tour.) Singing was part of her upbringing, but performance wasn't. Her mother used to challenge her to come up with harmonies to songs on the radio. But her first career path was to get a masters in philosophy and then become a technical writer.

Then she took a stab at slam poetry competitions at the urging of a friend, which brought her into contact with the Minneapolis hip-hop scene. Through the poetry slam circuit, Dessa met members of the Doomtree collective, of which she was soon a member, and started rapping with them.

She began writing her own hip hop songs with a more writerly approach at the urging of P.O.S., another Doomtree member. Being a wordsmith, she likes the rap format where she can get a high word count in three minutes.

Her solo debut, A Badly Broken Code is loaded with literate, thoughtful rhymes influenced by her background in poetry and philosophy. I especially like the violin-enhanced Matches to Paper Dolls, a song about clinging to a failed relationship.

Check out the cd from the Library, or browse any Library location's music cd collection. You will find something to like and check out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Leftovers

Alistair Sim as Ebeneezer Scrooge, pre-ghostly visitations, 1951

I was going to blog about the holiday goodies you can check out from the library to have on hand to read to your kids in front of the fire or to slide into the DVD player when everybody's stuffed with Christmas goose, but you beat me to it! All the classics, like A Christmas Carol, or The Gift of the Magi, or A Visit from St. Nicholas, are just about gone! We're down to slim pickings in the Christmas department, except for music. We still have a lot of Christmas CDs to check out. Here's a list of some of them:

And here's a list of some Christmas orphans: funky DVDs that will be alone here in the dark library on Christmas Eve if somebody doesn't take them home:

And here's a little something new for 2011: a puzzle.
If it's a hit, I'll post more (if I can think of more).

So here goes: Guess the title of the book depicted literally in the photo to the right and win our admiration. (Click the photo to enlarge it.)

Friday, December 17, 2010


Lunch can become terribly boring. PB&J is quite tedious and downright unappetizing after consuming it 5 days a week for weeks on end. Taking lunch with you to work is a great way to save money, but continuously coming up with tasty things to pack in your lunch, can be a real challenge. I'm lucky to have stumbled upon Vegan Lunch Box, a great blog with tons of great ideas for packing a nutritious yet delicious lunch. I am not vegan or even vegetarian, but I do like trying to get a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in my diet, so this blog is perfect. The author, Jennifer McCann, has published two books of the same name based on this successful blog that I recently checked out from the library and they have saved my lunches. I've been eating things like Thai Spring Rolls, Black-eyed Peas and Potatoes, and Mini-Veggie Burgers and I'm happy to say that my days of PB&J are (mostly) over.

By discovering these little gems, I also found that lunch-specific cookbooks can be located in FindIt, the online catalog, by using the term "lunchbox cookery." Oh, Library of Congress Subject Headings, how mysterious and elusive you can be! Some of these say they are for kids and I think most lunch-related cookbooks typically are, but there is still a lot in these for adults to enjoy as well!

Lunch Boxes and Snacks: Over 120 Healthy Recipes, From Delicious Sandwiches and Salads to Hot Soups and Sweet Treats

Paula Deen's Cookbook for the Lunch-Box Set

The Top 100 Recipes for a Healthy Lunchbox: Easy and Exciting Ideas for Your Child's Lunches

Vegan Lunch Box: 150 Amazing, Animal-Free Lunches Kids and Grown-Ups Will Love!

Vegan Lunch Box Around the World: 125 Easy, International Lunches Kids and Grown-Ups Will Love!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oxford English Dictionary Online

While pondering what classes to take my last semester in college I seriously considered a course in lexicography. What is lexicography you ask? The act of writing dictionaries. A noble act indeed. For a few days I could think of no better way to spend a semester than examining the intricacies of dictionary writing. My mind's eye saw bushy eyebrowed zealots amidst piles of words and a gilded scale of linguistic judgment. While my interest in taking the course thankfully waned, my interests in dictionaries did not.

The Austin Public Library offers the Oxford English Dictionary Online. The OED Online is an incredibly dynamic resource. Oxford University Press continues to provide paramount etymology and has now integrated their groundbreaking Historical Thesaurus into OED Online. A search for a specific word will now retrieve all known historical spellings, first noted usage of each spelling, as well as similar words used throughout the centuries (one of my favorite words alacrity first appeared in the English language in 1510 and was spelled alacritee). OED Online now also offers a filter search, which allows you to narrow or broaden your word nerd conundrums. Using your Austin Public Library card number you may access OED Online from just about any computer in the world.

If digital dictionaries aren’t your cup of tea, we have you covered as well. You may peruse all twenty volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary at the Faulk Central Library. It does not check out though. It weighs 130 pounds.

An interesting related read is The Professor and the Madman: a Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. The book tells of the nineteenth century idea to create the seminal dictionary and the thousands who assisted in the dictionary's creation. Noted scholars responded to the call, but one contributor remained unique: an American expat confined to an asylum contributed thousands of entries.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Escaramuza Charra

When my wife and I were dating, she took me to a Mexican rodeo or Jaripeo here in town. It involved all of the ususal bull riding and horse roping events common to many U.S. rodeos. All of the brute force and machismo on exhibition was entertaining enough, but I think I would have really howled if it had included escaramuza charra. These events consist of teams of women dressed in brilliantly colored dresses, executing intricate movements or passes at high speeds on horseback all the while riding side saddle. No easy feat to say the least. Below I've listed some resources we have in our collection. However, remember the world's libraries are at your disposal via Interlibrary Loan.

La Charreria Mexicana : Su Historia y Practica
Charreada : Mexican Rodeo in Texas

Friday, December 10, 2010

Book vs Film

Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner is a stylish action movie about a handsome bounty hunter in pursuit of coolly attractive androids. Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the 1968 book it’s based on, is a very different story about an unhappily married man who’s afraid he’s growing fat and bald. It’s also a meditation on religion, consumerism, community, and what it means to be human. Set in the wake of an environmental disaster, Deckard, the bounty hunter, tests the androids’ humanity with an empathy test and, if they fail, destroys them. Since the newer models are so advanced, the fakes can seem more empathetic than Deckard himself. And the question of his own humanity is not certain either.

The humans who have not left Earth for colonies either worship Mercer, a Christlike leader on television or a cheerier alternative named Buster Friendly. "Buster Friendly, a 24-hour TV talk show host who is the messiah to androids, does not even appear in the film.

A more recent book about a not-too-distant future crazed consumerist, high-tech society that you should read before Hollywood gets a hold of it, is Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. In this over-the-top satire, the US is an incompetently run police state, and its citizens are illiterate and addicted to shopping and streaming images and audio- all on a device everyone is required to wear around their necks. Do Androids was set in 2019, and this story may be set a few years after that.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Vol 1

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Vol 2

Blade Runner
Cd Scf Dic

Blade Runner
DVD Feature Bla

Blade Runner (Do Androids dream of electric sheep?)

Future Imperfect; Philip K. Dick at the Movies

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A Model Prison Librarian

With over 1.4 million people incarcerated in the US, prison libraries are often inmates best link to the outside world. Sixty-eight percent of the inmates come into the system without a high school diploma. In a good prison library, they can research the legal system, take classes, participate in book discussions, gain their GED, and check out a book for recreational reading. Educating them is not only a good thing to do; it’s essential. How good a prison library is depends on the state. The law does not specify how access should be provided, so states have various interpretations. Prison libraries range from institutions that are open every day to books-by-mail programs. Some states go way beyond the minimum and provide services that model public libraries. The American Library Association and ACLU also help fight for prisoners' right to read.

The Maryland Division of Correction prison library system is an example of a model library. This fall they have bought hundreds of copies of Fahrenheit 451 and organized dozens of reading and discussion groups thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Maryland Correctional Education Libraries acquired two bookmobile units that travel to each pre-release library, providing prisoners with access to forty-inch smart screens, computers, wireless access, as well as databases and books.

Avi Steinberg, a prison librarian in Boston, has just written Running The Books: Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian. He gives literary advice, teaches creative writing, and tries to gain the inmates trust and help untangle their damaged lives, just the kind of librarian you would want
in a prison library.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Comedy circa 1975

I weed the showbiz books, which is lots of fun. While I was going through the comedy department I came across I'm Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Stand-up Comedy's Golden Era by William Knoedelseder. The book is about the Comedy Store, the Los Angeles night spot where Robin Williams, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Tom Dreesen, Elayne Boosler, Richard Lewis, Andy Kaufman, all but a few of today's big-name comics, got their start, and they worked there for free! It's hard to imagine Jay Leno and David Letterman, two of the richest guys on the planet, working until dawn just for the experience of working, then curling up to sleep on a friend's couch, but they did.

Mitzi Shore owned the Store and liked the price she was paying for entertainers: nothing. For a lot of years the entertainers didn't mind, until they noticed Mitzi was putting money in the bank while they were cadging maraschino cherries from the bar for dinner. Once the comics did the math, it was the beginning of the end.

One reason I liked the book is that I was in the vicinity at the time. We lived near L.A. in the 70s. On a big night we'd drive in and see a show at the Roxy. At the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion we laughed until we couldn't breathe because Steve Martin had an arrow through his head.
I took my mom to see Robin Williams. (He talked a lot about cocaine. Sorry Mom.) After Vietnam it seemed to me that rock and roll had stopped saying important things and that comedy was the language of subversion.

Now that I'm done with I'm Dying Up Here I'm reading Milton Berle's autobiography: Lots of knock-out dames in spangles and seltzer water in the face. It's the library. We have it all.

Friday, December 03, 2010

New Life

** UPDATE: There is mounting evidence that the science behind this finding is flawed! Read more in this good article at **

Yesterday NASA announced the discovery of a new type of life, not on Mars, but right here on Earth. What they found is a bacteria that can use arsenic to build the stuff of life, rather than the known elements all living things typically use: phosphorus, sulfur, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. The microbe, GFAJ-1, replaces phosphorus with arsenic, known to be toxic to most other life forms on Earth. By discovering GFAJ-1, scientists believe we will be better equipped to potentially find life on other planets considering we now know that we need to look for more than just the six elements once believed to be the only building blocks of life. As Ed Weiler of NASA said, "The definition of life has just expanded."

I just love scientific developments like these. I've always secretly wanted to be some sort of biologist studying life forms all day long. This discovery was made while NASA astrobiologists were running tests on bacteria collected from sediment in the beautiful Mono Lake. I, mean, who doesn't wish their job at least sometimes looks like this picture. I explored the NASA Astrobiology webpage and found information on some amazing sounding careers (now, all I need is another degree!). They even have an Ask an Astrobiologist feature where the public can submit their astrobiology-related questions and hear back from a professional. But you don't even have to wait because they've already answered your Niburu and 2012 question, you can view the answer here (apparently over 2500 questions have been submitted regarding the topic!).


Astrobiology Magazine - Searching for Alien Life, on Earth

NASA Astrobiology
"Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe."

NASA-Funded Research Discovers Life Built With Toxic Chemical

NASA News Conference in its entirety: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4


Beyond UFOs: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Its Astonishing Implications For Our Future

Life in Space: Astrobiology for Everyone

The Living Universe: NASA and the Development of Astrobiology

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Notable Books of 2010

Each December the New York Times releases its 100 Notable Books of the year. Each year I like to compare what I have read to what the self-styled tastemakers declared best. So how many of this year's notable 100 did I read?


That's not to say I wasn't reading this year, but the paltry number did surprise me. Upon reflection I realized the answer: while I read lots this year, all but a handful of those books were at least several years old.

My sole read from this year's 100 Notable Books was Robert Stones' Fun With Problems. This collection of stories portrays despicable people in often selfish situations, yet you will end up not only sympathizing with them but cheering for their redemption.

Some other books from 100 Notable Books of 2010 that caught my eye:

David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet

Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists

Karl Marlantes' Matterhorn

Anthony Doerr's Memory Wall


Lewis Hyde's Common As Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership

Paul Greenberg's Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food

Daniel Okrent's Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

Ian Frazier's Travels in Siberia

I'm hoping to get to a few of these, but the 2011 books are quickly approaching (not to mention 130 million books estimated to have been written in recorded history).

What were your favorite books of 2010?