Friday, April 29, 2011

The Lotus Eaters - War Photographers

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli is on the Best Fiction of 2010 list on our APL Recommends. The title refers to the lotus eaters who, in the Odyssey, give Odysseus's men the narcotic fruit that makes them lose all desire to return home. In this Viet Nam war novel, the addiction is taking photographs, regardless of the risk, to expose the human toll inflicted by war. A few days after I finished reading the book, two award-winning war photographers, Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros died after being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Libya. The journalists had been near the front lines covering rebels who were trying to oust snipers in Misrata.

One of the Soli’s models for the photojournalists in the novel is the real-live photojournalist Dickey Chapelle, the first American female war correspondent to die in action. Dickey Chapelle was also the first journalist to report that American troops were actually in combat in Vietnam, not just advising. Chapelle in her 1962 book, What's a Woman Doing Here?, writes of her work as a correspondent: “They were stories, yes. Telling them fed me, yes. But their substance was not innocent. I had become an interpreter of violence.” She was killed in action by a landmine on November 4, 1965 at Chu Lai. In the rescue helicopter on the way to the base hospital, Dickey Chapelle looked into the face of a marine, "I guess it was bound to happen," she said.

Like Chapelle, Helen Adams, the female photojournalist in The Lotus Eaters, is ambivalent about her moral position as a war journalist. She wonders whether those who represent war — through reporting or photography — are doing anything but replicating the violence they depict. Does war journalism change public opinion, or does it lead, as one photojournalist in the novel asks, to “a steady loss of impact until violence becomes meaningless”? I have read about several photojouralists who have left the profession becasue of the danger, and gotten involved in humanitarian work in the same countries where they had taken photographs.

The Lotus Eaters is also a love story and a well researched exploration of Vietnam between 1963 and 1975.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Audubon, birds, and one expensive book

Yesterday was the birthday of John James Audubon. The French-American naturalist's name has become synonymous with conservation and birds. Audubon grew increasingly fascinated with birds throughout his youth in the Caribbean and France. This fascination blossomed upon his immigration to the United States. Settling in Kentucky, Audubon set about cataloging American birds. A skilled shot (how else could he get his subjects to hold still?) and an accomplished painter, Audubon's work has become the benchmark for ornithological painting. Cameras enable precise images of birds, but the richness of Audubon's paintings were groundbreaking then and beautiful still.

So beautiful (and rare) that Audubon's Birds of America sold at auction earlier this year for over $11 million, which firmly perches it as the most expensive printed book ever sold. The Austin Public Library does not own a copy of this edition. However! We do own an edition the Audubon Society published and cutely titled the Baby Elephant Folio. This folio includes all of Audubon's watercolors and essays and measures only slightly smaller than the $11 million version.The baby elephant folio does not checkout, but is worth a trip downtown.

Other writings and paintings by John James Audubon:

The Audubon Reader

Writings and Drawings

Another great resource is the National Audubon Society's online offering. This digital Birds of America provides a nice browsable counterpoint to APL's physical holdings.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Deadly Spin

Curious Orange and I are reading the same books. He was wandering around here with The Big Squeeze the other day, which I had just read, and then he blogged about it. On his post he lists There is Power in a Union, and I'd just returned that one, too, and Studs Terkel, whose book, Working, changed my life when I read it decades ago.

So if he doesn't already know about it, I bet Mr. Orange would be interested in another one I read recently, Deadly Spin, a book that talks about the public relations industry, its history, its mores (yes, the industry does have standards), and how the movers and shakers have used PR to misdirect our attention so that we waste our energy on trivialities instead of protecting ourselves from being robbed.

Remember the suffragettes? Neither do I, but I've seen the old photos. Remember hearing about how they (gasp!) smoked in public to announce that gender would no longer dictate their behavior? Well, the effort for the vote was real of course, but the smoking thing was a PR campaign cooked up by Edward Bernays, the inventor of 20th-century public relations, who had been hired by the American Tobacco Company to promote Lucky Strikes. Bernays called the project "Torches of Freedom". It was extremely successful, and we've been dealing with the fallout (lung cancer, pernicous public relations practices) since.

Even if you're a savvy consumer, I think you'd be gobsmacked by the story of public relations, although we should have seen it coming: Bernays' 1928 book, the one that describes his newly minted business model, is titled Propaganda.

Names of authors (click to enlarge):

Friday, April 22, 2011

Learning to Sleep

I'm usually a pretty good sleeper. Most of the time I can fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly for 8-9 hours straight. I'm also someone who seems to require a lot of sleep - my ideal is 9 hours a night and when I don't get it I walk around zombie-like making silly mistakes and running into things. But lately, I have been having trouble sleeping and I finally fully understand how frustrating this can be. My former good sleeping days are clearly an anomaly as the CDC recently announced that insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic in the U.S. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation found in a recent poll that 43% of Americans aged 13-64 say they rarely or never get a good night's sleep on weeknights. So, I'm much like most of you out there now, I suppose, groggily slogging through my day and contemplating curling up under my desk to nap.

My problem is not being able to fall asleep. I just lay there with my mind running a mile a minute. I've been reading up on sleep and how to overcome this bit of insomnia that has struck and it's led me to a few books here at Austin Public Library. I've read about relaxation techniques, acupuncture, exercise, and no caffeine or alcohol before bed, but I'm still trying to find the solution that works for me. Are there any sleep solutions out there that work for you? If not, maybe these resources below will be helpful:

How Sleep Works: National Sleep Foundation
This page links to a number of articles on sleeping including info on how much sleep people typically need (short answer: it can vary widely from individual to individual) and creating a good sleep environment.

Medline Plus: Sleep Disorders
This is a brief article with tons of links at the bottom directing to reputable sources on sleep disorders and strategies for getting a good night's rest.

Your Guide to Healthy Sleep
A nice little guide from the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute


The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Sleep Disorders

Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night's Sleep

I Can Make You Sleep: Overcome Insomnia Forever and Get the Best Rest of Your Life

The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night Well and Wake Up Happy
Parents usually have a hard time getting their babies to sleep. This is a very popular guide, but the method presented here is a bit different than the Ferber method outlined in one of the books below.

The Power of Rest: Why Sleep Alone is Not Enough: A 30-day Plan to Reset Your Body

Sleepmanual: Training Your Mind and Body to Achieve the Perfect Night's Sleep

Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems
This is the book by Richard Ferber outlining the Ferber method referred to above.

Sweet dreams!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

April is National Poetry Month!

National Poetry Month!

As someone who has been forced to read poems in archaic English and the dreaded (to me) concrete poem, I understand that reading poetry can be difficult. However, a friend of mine recently described poetry as "word magic" and I happen to think he's got a point. In fact, in writing this post I spend a chunk of the afternoon reading poetry and have been absolutely swooning over life. Poetry can do it all! Fit any mood! Express any feeling! Take you to any location! Check this out.

Would you like a brief, fun distraction from a long day? Try out Ogden Nash’s “The Ant”
The ant has made himself illustrious Through constant industry industrious. So what? Would you be calm and placid If you were full or formic acid?

Interested in word and phrase origins? By reading Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rhime of the Ancient Mariner” you find the source of the phrase, “Water, water, every where,/ Nor any drop to drink”
Poetry! Ta-da!

Perhaps you want to read a “classic” without being put to sleep. Why not try Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”? It’s about slaying a monster!

Do these options seem too cheerful for you? Perhaps you’d prefer something a big morose? Sylvia Plath is there for you.
“Soon, soon the flesh / the grave cave ate will be / At home on me”

Here are some other favorites of mine, my fellow librarians, and other “word magic” enthusiasts. (In roughly chronological order from newest to oldest).
For even more great poetry options, check out the National Poetry Month display on the third floor of Faulk Central Library!

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Big Squeeze

I read the below passage from a book entitled, The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker. The Leonard Cohen song, "Everybody Knows", just keeps playing in my head... "Since 1979, hourly earnings for 80 percent of American workers (those in private-sector, nonsupervisory jobs) have risen by just 1 percent, after inflation. The average hourly wage was $17.71 at the end of 2007. For male workers, the average wage has actually slid by 5 percent since 1979. Worker productivity, meanwhile, has climbed to 60 percent. If wages had kept pace with productivity, the average full-time worker would be earning $58,000 a year; $36,000 was the average in 2007. The nation's economic pie is growing, but corporations by and large have not given their worker's a bigger piece."


Friday, April 15, 2011

Frederick Wiseman

Since the time Frederick Wiseman produced the Cool World, his first work in 1967, the world of documentaries has not been the same. His style of documenting a story is what makes his movies unique works of art.

His documentaries do not have a narrator, nor interviews, nor voice-overs, nor fancy graphics guiding the viewer through the story. His goal has been to make films that portray the reality of what he sees in a very naturalistic way, being always fair to the story he is witnessing. His movies will give you the feeling that you are there, looking at what’s happening through a hole in the wall, or that you are observing all these events from a chair in the corner of a room.

Because of the absence of narration, his documentaries require more attention from viewers, but believe me, it is all worth it.

What about the subjects?? Well, his documentaries talk about health, legislation, arts, and anything in between. Austin Public Library has all of his works available for you to check out and enjoy. Go to our catalog, type his name and you will find his DVDs, or simply Ask a Librarian!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cold War Competition

The phrase—Cold War competition—brings to mind the arms race and nuclear proliferation, but the United States and the Soviet Union competed in many distinct fields. The Olympics provided opportunities to best each other in athletic competition and each country strove to bring home more medals than its sworn enemy. The cultural and scientific worlds provided other grand realms in which American and Soviet participants excelled. This week marks the anniversaries of two seminal moments in Cold War competition.

April 14, 1958
Van Cliburn, piano virtuoso and Texan, traveled to Moscow and won the inaugural Tchaikovsky Competition, defeating an international field including noted Soviet pianists. Van Cliburn received an eight minute standing ovation and when judges struggled with awarding the young American the prize, Nikita Khrushchev asked “Is he the best?...Then give him the prize.” Van Cliburn returned home to a hero’s welcome complete with a Manhattan ticker-tape parade. He subsequently has performed for every American president, including a performance for Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Fort Worth’s Van Cliburn International Piano Competition now serves as one of the world’s great musical competitions.

Van Cliburn

The Ivory Trade: Music and the Business of Music at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

Van Cliburn in Moscow

April 12, 1961
Yuri Gagarin, Soviet cosmonaut, became the first human in space. His spacecraft rocketed out of Earth’s gravitational pull and completed one orbit of our planet before returning to Soviet soil. The twenty-seven year-old became an international celebrity and was named a Hero of the Soviet Union, which was the highest honor in the Soviet Union. In celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Gagarin’s accomplishment, First Orbit, a film depicting what he would have seen throughout his orbit has been released. The beautiful images belie what must have been an exhilarating and terrifying mission.

Countdown: a History of Space Flight

The Superpower Space Race

Monday, April 11, 2011

As Time Goes By

One of my favorite movies when I was a kid was The Time Machine with Rod Taylor. The Morlocks were goofy, but I enjoyed the conundrum of traveling through time, you know, like in Star Trek episode #28, City on the Edge of Forever, when Kirk has to let Joan Collins get run over by a truck so that the nazis don't win the Second World War which would cause the Enterprise to disappear from overhead stranding the crew in front of the Giant Time Donut? (No, I do not live in my mother's basement.)

Rod Taylor's time machine was more charming than the Giant Donut, but that wasn't what I liked best about the movie. What I liked was the wall of clocks over the mantel in Rod's living room. I loved the noise of their collective ticking. I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to leave those wonderful ticking clocks and go anywhere else, particularly not back to those goofy Morlocks and our dim-bulb descendants, the Eloi.

So when I got old enough to spend my money foolishly, I bought a bunch of antique clocks. I have a Kienzle from Germany circa 1880; I have a cuckoo clock brought back from the Black Forest as a souvenir for my grandmother; I have a Western Union Naval Observatory clock--the first electric clock to wind itself; and I have an Atmos clock that runs on the temperature gradient. (I've had three or four more that I got rid of. Turns out old clocks are temperamental and expensive.) I could never afford to buy nor to take care of a wall full of clocks like Rod Taylor's, but I keep a few. And I keep them running because they tick so beautifully.

Books about clocks and time:

Author's name:

Friday, April 08, 2011

Green Smoothies

Every morning for the past two years I have greens for breakfast. Kale, chard, spinach, you name it. It's the most energizing way to start a day. A bit of exercise, a little morning news, and a large helping of arugula with pear and banana put into a blender and pureed to perfection. Purchasing books for the home economics section here at Faulk Central Library means I am constantly checking out and looking at the largest part of the section, cookbooks, which is how I stumbled across Green Smoothie Revolution by Victoria Boutenko. Boutenko, her husband, and three children had been diagnosed with a variety of potentially life-threatening illnesses and, frustrated by the limited options presented to them by doctors, turned to a raw food diet in an effort to heal. The entire family's health improved dramatically with this change including her son, Sergei, who completely overcame juvenile diabetes. As they learned to eat satisfying, tasty meals as raw foodists, Boutenko realized they were still missing significant nutrients, like those found in greens, and began adding them to smoothies, thus beginning her Green Smoothie Revolution.

The Boutenko's story certainly inspired me, but it also morphed my habit of just tossing a small handful of whatever greens I had lying around into my fruit smoothies into efforts to put as much as a full bunch of greens into them. I also learned some great new recipes and found that with a more powerful blender, I could put together some pretty amazing concoctions that were packed with nutrients and tasted wonderful. While Boutenako and others maintain that you retain more nutrients by blending rather than juicing, I've also developed an affection for green juices and have found a few books with some delightful recipes.

Start your day off right, drink your greens!

Raw Family
The website about Victoria Boutenko and two of her children Sergei and Valya Boutenko. Includes recipes!


Crazy Sexy Diet: Eat Your Veggies, Ignite Your Spark, and Live Like You Mean It by Kris Carr
This book is about much, much more than green smoothies and juices. It's an entire lifestyle change to a more alkaline and raw foods diet. Carr was diagnosed with terminal cancer at 31 and radically changed her diet and lifestyle to help get the cancer under control. We have her first books as well Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips and Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor.

Green For Life by Victoria Boutenko
This is Boutenko's first book about the nutritional power of greens including recipes for green smoothies.

Green Smoothies Diet: The Natural Program For Extraordinary Health by Robyn Openshaw

The Juicing Bible by Pat Crocker

Microgreens: A Guide to Growing Nutrient-Packed Greens by Eric Franks and Jasmine Richardson
An easy way to eat greens is to grow microgreens - they're surprisingly easy to grow and just as full of nutrients.

Raw Family Signature Dishes by Victoria Boutenko

Super-Charged Smoothies by Sara Corpening Whiteford and Mary Corpening Barber

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Grilling! Thrilling!

When I look at a calendar, the Midwesterner in me knows that we’re still months away from summer. But then I think about the temperature and the over-sized sunglasses I just bought and I realize that I’m, ahem, “not in Kansas anymore.” Happily, we’re still in that sweet spot before the brutality of summer’s heat and mosquitoes becomes too much to handle. This can mean many things. But one thing's for certain: It’s time to grill.

Here are a few promising cookbooks from our collection to help you on your grilling adventures!

If you’re trying to enjoy grilling weather while simultaneously preparing for swimsuit season, you might be interested in

And if you’re more interested in road trips than grilling you might consider checking out

There are many, many grilling cookbooks in our collection which you can find my searching the subject field for “barbecuing”. You’ll be well on your way to an enjoyable activity followed by a delicious outcome.

For other summertime suggestions you can revisit liblairian’s post Summer is Here.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Getting Connected with the Small Business Development Program

As the business reference librarian I try to do my best to make people who are interested in starting their own small business aware that they have places and people to turn to for advice and guidance. I buy resources, put together information guides, and partner with area organizations in an attempt at nuturing locally owned and operated businesses. One such organization is Austin's own Small Business Development Program. On staff are counselors armed with resources and expertise who are eager to personally help newly minted entrepreneurs achieve success. They are having their big annual networking event, Getting Connected, this coming Thursday at the Palmer Events Center. It's set to start at 3 p.m. and is completely free and open to the public.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Text the Austin Public Library

The Austin Public Library can now assist you via text. Our number is 522-8208. We do not charge a fee and will be happy to assist you with just about anything. Text number : (512) 337-4893 Hours: Monday-Thursday 11:00-8:00, Friday-Saturday 10:00-6:00 and Sunday Noon-6:00