Monday, December 19, 2011
Are you like me? Does your heart melt looking at all those warmly lit, slightly overexposed (so they glow) photos of holiday celebrations in the Martha Stewart books, and do you hate her for reminding you that you never enjoyed a holiday so perfectly arranged and never will? The woman did time for obstructing justice! Why do I long to spend Christmas with her??
Martha’s daughter didn’t profit (emotionally, anyway) from her mother’s homemaking (take a look at Alexis Stewart’s recent book, Whateverland; APL doesn't have it), so it should be obvious that it’s healthy to keep Martha at a distance—she directing teams of crafters in her snow-kissed Connecticut manse; I with my glue gun in Texas—yet I want just once to find myself sitting on a spindly Early American chair in a meticulously restored, candle-lit, antebellum New England home, Martha bending to offer me a perfectly made eggnog and a work-of-art sugar cookie painted flawlessly with royal icing.
I can’t explain it. I bet you can’t either.
There’s still time to create Martha’s fantasyland, if you can:
Martha Stewart’s Cookies
Martha Stewart’s New Pies and Tarts
Martha’s Holiday Celebrations (DVD)
Martha’s Favorite Cookies (DVD)
Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
Martha’s Homemade Holidays (DVD)
Friday, December 16, 2011
- It is the home of Marion Morrison (later known as John Wayne)
- Iowa is the origin of the Red Delicious apple (you can read more about this factoid in Michael Pollan’s book Botany of Desire)
- The Des Moines Register sponsors an annual bike ride across the state (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa a.k.a. RAGBRAI)
- It is hilly and beautiful (not technically a fact)
- Iowa is also important (to me alone) because it is the first state in which I cast my vote for President of the United States of America.
Maybe, like many of us, you’re confused about why and how Iowa has become so important in elections. Guess what! Your local library can help you out. In addition to providing access to many newspapers in print and through our databases, we also have quite a few books on this topic precisely!
A few suggestions:
Primary politics : how presidential candidates have shaped the modern nominating system
by Kamarck, Elaine Ciulla.
Grassroots rules : how the Iowa Caucus helps elect American presidents
by Hull, Christopher C.
We will be heard : women's struggles for political power in the United States
by Freeman, Jo
Postville : a clash of cultures in heartland America
by Bloom, Stephen G. (Also the author of the Atlantic article reference above)
An Electronic Resource:
Iowa precinct caucuses [electronic resource] : the making of a media event 2nd ed.
by Winebrenner, Hugh, 1937-
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Monday, December 12, 2011
Friday, December 09, 2011
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
In 1953 he joined The Paris Review as its first editor and remained in that position until his passing in 2003. He fashioned the journal’s offices as the de facto literary salon of America, hosting memorable parties in between constructing some of the best literary journal issues of the twentieth century. He was a fireworks aficionado and held the ceremonial title of Fireworks Commissioner of New York City. He was a Harvard buddy and close friend of Robert Kennedy and wrestled Sirhan Sirhan to the ground after Robert Kennedy’s assassination. He made numerous film cameos, including a turn as an urbane psychologist in Good Will Hunting.
Outside of literary circles, George Plimpton was most known for his participatory journalistic exploits. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s he challenged numerous professional athletes and wrote about his humblings.
Out of My League is his account of pitching a pre-inning in the 1960 All Star game. He faced the National League lineup and intended to face the American League lineup as well but was replaced due to fatigue.
Paper Lion is probably Plimpton’s most famous book. He attended the Detroit Lions 1963 preseason training as a backup quarterback.
The Bogey Man is Plimpton’s tale of attempting to qualify for the PGA tour in the era of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
In Open Net Plimption recounts his time as a goalie with the Boston Bruins. He played briefly in a preseason game.
Monday, December 05, 2011
On the Nature of Things describes Epicurean philosophy, which posits that the universe is made of atoms (yep--first century BCE) that join at random to create matter; that there is no overarching intelligence and no afterlife, so don't fear death, but enjoy what you have while you can. (Lest you find Epicureanism a rationale for selfishness, know that Epicures believed it wasn't possible to enjoy an immoderate life without relationships and charity).
Christianity, especially early Christians' desire to emulate the suffering of Christ, overwhelmed hedonistic Epicureanism--what could be more opposite?--and Lucretius' book disappeared for a thousand years, until it was discovered in that German monastery. (Ironic that monasteries were the first places scholars looked for subversive works. Monks took librarianship seriously.) When On the Nature of Things reappeared in the 1400s, riling the church meant risking being burned at the stake. Even so, people read it, talked about it, and the renaissance followed.
There's a little of the history of book making and of libraries in The Swerve, there's a little of the history of philosophy and art, and as enjoyable as I find that amalgam under any circumstances, it is made even better by the book's beautifully legible font, and when a book is easy to read, the ideas in it are more likely to endure, and The Swerve's author, Stephen Greenblatt, will explain that to you, too.
Friday, December 02, 2011
Today I would like to encourage you to add a Gothic novel or two to your reading list. Now, I understand you may be wary of diving into a genre that took off in the late 18th Century, but let me remind you that the 1790s were a cRaZy time (lots of French Revolution-related beheadings). Today, you may have noticed an intense fascination in monsters. Zombies are everywhere, even inserted in Jane Austen novels. The Twilight Series, featuring both a werewolf and a vampire is hugely successful. The Sookie Stackhouse series has become a hit television program. But I say none of these hold a candle (candles are kind of ominous) to some of the classic Gothic novels.
Check this out. Matthew Lewis’ The Monk was published in 1796 and caused quite a stir. So much so that Lewis and his publisher were indicted and the novel was essentially banned. No, there are no vampires. But you know what the novel does have? Evil Monks, wicked nuns, cross-dressers, hidden identities, black magic, magic mirrors, romance, duels, secret tombs in secret tunnels, seduction, lasciviousness, murder, ghost stories, the Inquisition, and the Devil himself! This is neither irony or hyperbole on my part. This novel is dark, creepy, and gripping. It has the added benefit of sometimes being so over the top that it is comical which can be a nice break. And here’s a bonus: it’s at the library!
The Monk by Matthew Lewis
Some other titles that are full of their own dark twists and turns:
- Three Gothic Novels (Wieland, or The Transformation, Arthur Mervyn or, Memoris of the Year 1793, and Edgar Huntly, or Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker) by Charles Brockeden Brown
- The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
- The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
- Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Four new books of humor can lift your spirits during the holiday season:
The 50 Funniest American Writers: an Anthology of Humor from Mark Twain to the Onion by Andy Borowtiz is a hand-picked collection of the best funny writing in America: David Sedaris, John Hughes, Nora Ephron, George Carlin and dozens of others guaranteed to make you laugh out loud. You can find Andy's humor on his blog.
I Found This Funny: My Favorite Pieces of Humor, and, Some That May Not be Funny at All by Judd Apatow
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Thank You Notes
by Jimmy Fallon
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Below are some titles available in the library's collection chronicling perhaps Argentina's darkest historical period that came to be know as the Dirty War.
Departing at Dawn: A Novel of Argentina's Dirty War
You can also request copies of El Eternauta via Interlibrary Loan if you are curious.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Okay, enough of my ranting. I have a plan to de-stress. I like to craft. It makes me happy, and this is the perfect time of year to do so. I like to make presents for my family and friends. This year I am making felt toys for the little ones. I bought some fabulous fabric in New York City this fall and am making some scarves for the ladies in my life. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to make for the men, have any ideas? If I can't think of anything, I'll go local and shop for something perfect. Maybe, I'll tuck in a massage or pedicure for myself among all that crafting. How's that for de-stressing? What do you do to relax this time of year?
Here's a very short sampling of some great craft books available at the library, search "handicrafts", "crafts", "holiday craft", and any other good combination of keywords in our catalog to come up with more.
Complete Book of Home Crafts: Projects for Adventurous Beginners by Carine Tracanelli
Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi by Anna Hrachovec
Rediscovered Treasures by Ellen Dyrop
- select Keyword... under Business Type,
- select City under Geography,
- select Number of Employees (or Employee Size) under Business Size
- type "knitting" (or whatever else!) in the lookup box under Keyword
- choose Austin under Texas in the city section
- choose 1-4, 5-9, and 10-19 (the fewer the number, the smaller the business)
- then click update count and view results (or search)
Relax and enjoy the season.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of The Cloud Appreciation Society and devout cloud enthusiast, claims clouds can help us regain our youthful exuberance and wonder. He points out that children, full of wonder and exuberance, are constantly cloud-watching as the world is built for adults thus children are always looking up. As we grow our sightline evens out and often in adulthood our eyes tend to focus on the ground. So, take a look at these books and then look up.
The Cloudspotter’s Guide: the Science, History and Culture of Clouds (Gavin Pretor-Pinney)
The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies
Peterson First Guide to Clouds and Weather
In Pursuit of Clouds: Images and Metaphors
The Book of Clouds
If your interest in clouds grows beyond admiration, the nitty gritty can be found in numerous articles accessible through our databases. Academic Search Complete provides great articles for the cloud scholar. Apparently the water vapor in an average-sized cumulus cloud weighs the amount of eighty elephants. Thunder makes sense to me now.
Monday, November 21, 2011
You know that birds are the descendants of dinosaurs, right? That paleontologists have found fossils of dinosaurs with feathers, or protofeathers? A few scientists argue that birds and dinosaurs diverged early and developed separately, and so birds are not dino descendants, but that's not the consensus, and I'm glad of that. I prefer to think that I eat dinosaur a couple of times a week.
So how are you going to cook your Thanksgiving dinosaur?
Home for the Holidays Cookbook
A Southern Thanksgiving
Vegetarian Times Complete Thanksgiving Cookbook
Friday, November 18, 2011
I’ve had Muppets on the brain recently. This recent brain activity is not due solely to the upcoming Muppet movie starring Jason Segel and Amy Adams (but really starring Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy), but also because of a recent reference question I received. In short, I was tasked with finding some materials that would entertain a seven-year old and two adults simultaneously. I can think of anyone that does this better than Jim Henson’s Muppets. As a kid, you see bright, silly characters bouncing around doing dances and it’s great. As an adult, you can appreciate lines like this:
Bernie: You, you with the banjo, can you help me? I seem to have lost my sense of direction!
Kermit: Have you tried Hare Krishna?
Awesome! But most likely a bit over your tot's head. Plus, Dom DeLuise is Bernie and it just doesn’t get much better than that.
The Muppets comes to theaters starting November 23rd which feels like a long time to wait. You could take the Fozzie Bear approach and try hibernating until then OR you could come down to your local library and experience some Muppet awesomeness.
A sampling of what we have to offer:
- A Christmas Together (featuring John Denver)
- The Muppet Show comic book: on the road
- Quilting with the Muppets: 15 fun and creative patterns
- Kermit learns Windows: Starring Jim Henson's Muppets
They do it all!
Gizmodo’s interview in which the cast of the new movie discusses the importance of the puppets all being real instead of computer generated!
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
downloadables. These "downloadables" are our eBook and eAudiobook collection. We signed a contract with Overdrive and now have several thousand items in the e-collection. Do you have a Kindle, iPad, Nook, or Sony eReader? You're in luck, you can download to all these devices and many more! To figure compatibility, look here and see what format you should download.
Need help in exploring this ebook adventure? Go to the help page first, if nothing there works, give us a call and we'll do our best to walk you through whatever you need. I find that reading through the FAQs is very helpful, myself.
Looking for books that are available? (Don't you hate it when you find a title only to discover that it's checked out?) Tick the "only available copies" in the quick search box on the downloadables homepage, near the top left corner.
Want to read public domain or Disney books? These do not count toward your three book limit. Read something while you wait for that hot, new bestseller to come back in. By the way, you can put that bestseller on hold; you have a limit of five.
eBooks and eAudiobooks can be checked out for seven or fourteen days. At the end of the checkout period the item will automatically be returned. You can return eBooks early, but not eAudiobooks. If you need instructions for returning items early, read this before you call us.
Don't see what you're looking for? Suggest a title be purchased using our "suggest a purchase" form. Chances are very high that we'll buy it.
Hope you enjoy our new service, it'll only get better.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Every once in a while, you are presented with a gift so big that it takes a while for your mind to compute its magnitude. You experience so many feelings at once that your spirit floats up to limbo, numb for a while. Well, that was me last week, and I am still day dreaming about what happened. The Benson Latin American Collection invited a small crowd (including yours truly) to a conversation about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, known also as Mexico’s Tenth Muse. In the invitation they said that they were showing a selection of her rare books and manuscripts. I was so excited!
Before I continue with my story, let me tell you about Sor Juana. She was born in Mexico in 1648. From an early age she displayed signs of an amazing intelligence. She learned to read at age three and started writing at age eight. She taught herself Latin, and Nahuatl, and read voraciously everything she could get her hands on. The Marquis of Mancera, viceroy in Mexico at that time, took her under his wing. Wanting to know how much the young Juana knew, she was fifteen at that time, the Marquis asked 40 scholars to test her orally on various topics ranging from theology to science. To their surprise, she responded correctly to all the questions and her reputation grew in the vice-royal court.
But let’s remember, we are talking about a woman in the seventeenth century with many things against her: she was illegitimate, her family wasn’t rich, she was very pretty (yes, this could be bad in those days) and finally, she was female. Because the only other option left to her was to get married and stop studying, Juana joined the convent of the Discalced Carmelite as a nun. Later she transferred to the Convent of the Order of St. Jerome. She wrote poems, essays, plays and papers, both secular and religious, which were mostly published in Spain. But Sor Juana's writings were dangerous. She criticized the hypocrisy of society, its double values and sexism. Many admired her, but also many hated her, and in 1694 she was forced to give up her desire for learning in a document which she signed in her own blood: I, the Worst of All.
And last week, there I was, in a small room in the Benson Latin American Collection, standing in front of that very same document, the one she signed with her blood more than three hundred years ago. I could only imagine what was going through her mind and soul while signing that document. A document that curators only let you peak at for a couple of minutes every 50 years or so, and a manuscript that made me feel grateful for my freedom and the opportunity I have had to learn what I want, whenever I want. What an inspiration Sor Juana is still for us today! I now have a good story for my grandkids to tell.
At Austin Public Library you can find:
I, the worst of all (DVD)
The divine Narcissus poems by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Treasury of Mexican love poems, quotations & proverbs : in Spanish and English
A reader in Latina feminist theology: religion and justice
Friday, November 11, 2011
But I am not yet ready to read the biography. There is something unsettling about reading intimate details of this immensely private man so soon after his death, especially about his last few months of illness. Friends who have read the book say it does not disappoint. It presents a man who has so many contradictions that your jaw drops, his charm and aggression, his eating disorders, his lack of hygiene, his abandonment of his first child just as he was placed for adoption. The library has lots of copies, but you will need to place a hold. Our new downloadable service doesn't have it yet, but you can download I, Steve, a 160-page collection of quotations by him.
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
While writing has the floor, I'd like to suggest three great books about writing.
Milan Kundera's The Art of the Novel
James Wood's How Fiction Works
Annie Dillard's The Writing Life
Monday, November 07, 2011
Twenty years from now, will historians write about OWS in the same vein as the great civil uprisings of the 20th century--Vietnam war protests, civil rights marches, women's- and gays'-rights demonstrations? Remind yourself how powerful the OWS method has been:
Why Not Every Man?: African Americans and Civil Disobedience
Confronting the War Machine
Civil Disobedience in Focus
The Power of Nonviolence
Walden and Civil Disobedience
Keep up with Occupy Austin
And here are puzzles! Author's names:
Thursday, November 03, 2011
I've loved writing for the blog and being a part of Austin Public Library. My colleagues, in particular, will be dearly missed. I may be biased, but I think Austin Public has some of the best reference librarians in the country and, if you don't believe me, you should utilize our Ask a Librarian service and find out.
I leave you all with a list of movies and TV shows that have some of my favorite goodbye scenes. Do you have a favorite I haven't listed here? (Please note that the YouTube clips provided may contain spoilers!)
This one doesn't really have a goodbye scene, but I just love the way the last scene wraps up the movie and the song is just perfect. Please note that some of the material is explicit. (YouTube clip)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
"Live long and prosper"
Wednesday, November 02, 2011
All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age
Driving with Plato
The Four Purposes of Life
How Plato and Pythagoras Can Save Your Life: The Ancient Greek Prescription for Health and Happiness
I Watch, Therefore I Am: from Socrates to Sartre, the Great Mysteries of Life as Explained through Howdy Doody, Marcia Brady, Homer Simpson, Don Draper, and Other TV Icons
The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True
The Philosophy Book
Philosophy on Tap: Pint-Sized Puzzles for the Pub Philosopher
The Soul of the Greeks: An Inquiry
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
We also have created a Philosophy Information Guide to answer more of you philosophical musings.
Monday, October 31, 2011
A short time ago my daughter fractured her elbow. She was simply running along and fell awkwardly on her arm. It was as simple and undramatic as that. However, the redundancy and costs associated with such a relatively minor injury were shocking. I went to an emergency care clinic hoping to avoid the exhorbitant cost of a trip to a hospital's Emergency Room. A pediatrician and nurse examined my daughter's arm, an x-ray technician took five or six images of her elbow, and a pediatric radiologist examined the images. All of these costly professionals agreed that I should take her to a hospital's Emergency Room to essentially start the process over again, which I dutifully did, only this time in a more costly facility involving yet more costly medical professionals.
Now, my daughter's arm is healed. The cast she wore is a charming momento in my closet. I am grateful. However, the total cost associated with this incident has really woken me up to the profound dangers of leaving such a societally crucial service open to market forces. I recently heard a story where a sales associate working at a big box retailer and making minimum wage, was facing a $5000 deductible. This means that she will be personally responsible to pay for the first $5000 of medical care she receives before her insurance company will even begin to consider paying for the remainder. The speed with which one can rack up a $5000 medical bill is dizzying. Suffice it to say, I am giving serious thought to my daughter not participating in organized sports of any kind and will double my efforts to remain healthy just to keep away from the untenable morass and quagmire we currently have in place.
You Can't Afford to Get Sick: Your Guide to Optimum Health and Health Care
Sick and Tired: How America's Health Care System Fails its Patients
Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans
Fresh Medicine: How to Fix Reform and Build a Sustainable Health Care System
Health Care Reform and American Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know
Flatlined: Resusitating American Medicine
Friday, October 28, 2011
The word "zombie" never appears in Colson Whitehead's post-apocalyptic story of a world decimated by a plague that turns humans into flesh-eaters. But the staggering, ravenous creatures that haunt the novel are unmistakably zombies, and Zone One (coming soon to APL) is an unmistakable contribution to an increasingly popular horror sub genre. When I search for zombies as a subject in the catalog, I get 276 titles.
Unlike vampires, werewolves, demons, witches, goblins and shapes-shifters, zombies can't be endowed with rich, complex personalities. But they can be used to point out the flaws, foibles and quirks in our society as in the TV show, The Walking Dead. You may find a certain monotony built into the genre: the flesh eaters advance, are repelled, advance again and are repelled again. Many zombie novels often read like plague narratives. You have to wonder whether our fascination with these hungry hordes has something to do with a general anxiety about the earth's dwindling resources: a sense that there are too many people out there, with too many urgent needs. Or perhaps they are tapping into our fear of weird, out of control viruses. Whatever it is, don't let the books make you as paranoid as the characters in the books.
Recommended Zombie Novels
Autumn by David Moody
Day by Day Armageddon by J L Bourne
Flesh Eaters by Joe McKinney
Flip This Zombie by Jesse Peterson
The Living Dead 2 by John Adams
Monster Island by David Wellington
The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology by Christopher Golden
The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell
Walking Dead: the Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman
World War Z by Max Brooks
Zombie, Ohio, a Tale of the Undead by Scott Kennemore