Monday, May 30, 2011

Jaco Pastorius

A good friend of mine sent me some music by Jaco Pastorius a while back. I hadn't thought about him in quite some time. I immediately flashed-back to reading his 1987 obituary in Rolling Stone magazine. His is a familiar tale of great musical genius shadowed by mental illness and substance abuse. Mine is a tale of being too young and ignorant to appreciate his music. It was only after his death did I learn of his South Florida roots. He was living in a downtown Hollywood, FL apartment while I was maybe 10 miles away at Pasadena Lakes Elementary School. We frequented the same landmark Ft. Lauderdale, FL music store; Peaches Music and Video. Perhaps we passed eachother making our way in and out of the store...

Solo Work:
Word of Mouth
Pastorius Live in New York City
The Essential Jaco Pastorius

Weather Report Years:


Friday, May 27, 2011

Fire Season

The Texas Forest Service reports wildfires have scorched more than 2.2 million acres and more than 400 homes this year, and extremely critical fire conditions persist in Northwest and West Texas. Fires are also watched very closely in the national forests by the US Forest Service, but if a blaze is sparked by lightning, doesn't threaten communities, and isn't too intense, public lands managers can opt simply to monitor it. A new book, Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout, listed on APL REcommends- Nonfiction, captures Phillip connor's eighth summer as a fire lookout in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico.

A decade ago Philip Connors left work as an editor at the Wall Street Journal when he could not edit a 9/11 editorial that he objected to, and began working as one of the last fire lookouts in America. The U.S. Forest Service has decommissioned some 90 percent of its fire towers, but finds it less costly to staff a few hundred of its most remote towers than to put up drone aircraft. Spending nearly half the year in a 7' x 7' tower, 10,000 feet above sea level in the forest, Connors kept watch over one of the most fire-prone forests in the country. The landscape is rugged and roadless—it was the first region in the world to be officially placed off limits to industrial machines—and it gets hit by lightning more than 30,000 times per year.

During the fire season, April through August, Connors' schedule is 10 days on, four days off. A 5-mile hike and 80-mile drive separate him from a soft bed, a pool table and a cold beer. The monotony of the job is broken by the company of his dog, the occasional hiker, and visits from his wife.

A passage from the book:
I’m not about to tell two guys in leather chaps and cowboy hats about my very real and near-mystical hours of longing and nostalgia, alone in my little glass box, brooding over and exulting in my own mortality amid mountains silently magisterial in the late-day sun. Nor the hours of sitting and staring into the inscrutable heart of the desert, not thinking anything, not feeling anything.

Other books at APL that have been written by fire lookouts:
Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey
Danger on the Peaks: Poems by Gary Snyder
Young Men and Fire by Norman MacLean
The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Writing about Grief

Grief possesses an incredible ability to sharpen and obfuscate thought. One moment the world is seen with perfect clarity while the following moment the griever can feel untethered and rapidly losing any mooring in this world. Writing about grief becomes paradoxically easy and difficult. The ease stems from the manner in which words effortlessly fill the page. The difficulty arises with the realization that no amount of words will ever draw close enough to an adequate description. I am grateful for writers who have attempted to make sense of their unique grief. Grief is individually unique, yet one person’s experiences can reveal so much about us.

A good grief memoir tells us: This path has been walked before. Yes, you have yet to walk it and your footprints might not fit the prints already present, but a path does not become a path until many many people have trudged the same swatch of land.

These five memoirs capture the confusion, heartache, fear, and nascent hope of grief.

Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking (loss of her husband)

Philip Roth's Patrimony (loss of his father)

Meghan O'Rourke's The Long Goodbye (loss of her mother)

Joyce Carol Oates' A Widow's Story (loss of her husband)

C.S Lewis' A Grief Observed (loss of his wife)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Jon Ronson

Jon Ronson was on The Daily Show last week plugging his new book The Psychopath Test. He's the guy who wrote the book from which they made the movie The Men Who Stare at Goats. (Not a great movie, but you can't go far wrong gazing at George Clooney for 90 minutes over an Alamo Drafthouse pizza.) He and Jon Stewart were very funny together, so I checked out Them: Adventures with Extremists, in which Ronson describes hanging out with Klansmen, zealots, and conspiracy theorists, including Austin's own public-access celeb Alex Jones. Here's one of the funniest bits:

    Thom hunched his shoulders as he told his self-deprecating jokes. He is a friendly and cheerful man, with an amiable demeanor. Had he not been the Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, I'd have described him as having the humourous demeanor of a Manhattan nebbish. The door was open for me, many times, to say to him, "Oh, Thom! You're such a nebbish!" But that would have been a mistake. Still, it was surprising to find myself in a situation where I was toning down my Jewish character traits so as not to alienate a Ku Klux Klan leader who reminded me of Woody Allen.

We own the book The Men Who Stare at Goats (DVD link is above), but it's checked out, and you'll have to get behind me on the holds list. You can get Them, though; it's so funny and reads so fast that I finished it overnight and brought it right back. The Psychopath Test is on the way.

Jon Ronson (author's web site)

names of authors:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Maybe We Can Work It Out

As I eat this delicious, gooey brownie made by one of my fellow librarians, I am writing to you today about workout videos. A year or so ago I made a commitment to myself to get in better physical shape. My upper body strength was a joke and my ability to keep up on my bike was pitiful, so I knew it was time to start some strength training and build up my endurance. I've never been an athletic person and, generally speaking, sports don't really interest me. I also hate gyms. I feel like my workouts always start to get too repetitive and dull (running on the treadmill five days a week is a bore, in my opinion) and I resent having to pay someone for exercise. Lucky for me then that the library has a bunch of workout DVDs. What I usually do is check one out and test it at home; if I like it, I buy it and add it to my collection. My favorites are the Jillian Michaels workouts - they are really challenging, the exercises can be modified for different fitness levels, and a number of them can be done in 30 minutes (which I would normally think too short, but it's an intense 30 minutes).

There's really no beating being able to workout at home. I never have to leave my house to get a good workout and buying DVDs (and a few pieces of equipment: hand weights, exercise mat, resistance band, kettlebell) is quite a bit cheaper than paying for a gym membership. The convenience of it can't be beat and I haven't had more energy or looked this good since high school! I'm actually looking forward to wearing a swimsuit this summer and, I mean, how often do you get to say that?

6 Week Six-Pack
This is my current favorite. While it does focus on abs, really this is a whole body cardio workout.

30 Day Shred
This DVD turned me into a devoted Jillian Michaels fan. I don't really use it as much anymore because the workouts are so short (each one is a little over 20 minutes), but that does not mean they are not super intense. There are 3 workouts on 3 different levels and I definitely had to progress through it to finally build up to level 3. Great for when you're in a time crunch.

Denise Austin's 3 Week Boot Camp
Denise Austin is a bit too chipper for me most of the time. It also can be a challenge to follow her as her instructions are not always clear and the segway to the next move is often abrupt and not well prompted. With that said, though, this is the best Austin workout video I've ever done. Since Michaels arrived on the scene, Austin's workouts have gained in quality and challenge.

Personal Training with Jackie: Power Circuit Training
I don't know a thing about the show this lady is or was on, but this is a great workout. This is the most comparable to Michaels in terms of intensity.

Yoga Meltdown
This is Jillian's yoga workout and I really like it because she adds a carido element that makes it a bit more challenging (read: heart pounding) than your typical yoga workout.

*** There are tons more of these DVDs available for check out. A good way to pull up all of the DVDs we have is to go to FindIt, the online catalog, click on Advanced Search (2nd link from left), type "workout$" in the first box, and select "Videorecording on DVD" in the material format box. (Using the $ symbol is an example of truncation. It gets the catalog to search for both the word "workout" and "workouts"; this is a particularly effective strategy when searching for info on nursing, for example - type in "nurs$" and you'll receive results with the words "nurse", "nurses", and "nursing".)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

National Bike Month

Friday is national Bike to Work Day which gives you about two days to free your bicycle from your garage and get ready to ride! As a little extra enticement, various locations around town will be offering free food and drink to people riding their bikes to work! I don’t know about you, but being bribed (with tacos no less!) to do something good for me seems pretty awesome. You can read more about the event at Austin360 where you’ll also find the list of participating locations and a map.

If you and your bike aren’t feeling quite up to the challenge, or could use a little more inspiration, you might want to check out some of the following.

The Practical:

The Inspirational:
Happy Riding!

Monday, May 16, 2011

And now for something completely different!!!

Who doesn’t remember the Ministry of Silly Walks, the Dead Parrot and the Argument Clinic? If those titles don’t ring a bell, how about the Life of Brian, the Meaning of Life and the Holy Grail  (with of course the amazing scenes of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog and the Black Knight)?

Well, if you don’t know by now what I am talking about it means that right after reading this blog you have lots of homework to do.   We are talking about Monty Python (of course!) a   group of English comedians that started a new trend in how comedy on television was done during the last part of the 60s and beginning of the 70s.  Because of the innovation in the way comedy was delivered to their audience and also the topics of their work, they are considered some of the most influential humorists not only in the UK but also in the United States and maybe the world.

They are also known for their "significant contributions" to the English language.  One example of that is the inclusion of the term “Pythonesque” in the Oxford English Dictionary. Other famous words used in sketches or movies are:  nee, ping, gumbys, semprini, and burma.  If you are a Monty Python fan, you can think of many more!!

But, stop the talking!! I am going to leave you with a small sample of Monty Python’s humor (I picked this one because it is short but there are better ones  :) ):

Hitler: My dog's got no nose!
Soldier: How does he smell?
Hitler: Awful!

If you want to watch some videos (or re-watch them) here are some ideas:

And for some reading (in case you haven’t memorized the scripts by now):

Friday, May 13, 2011

Feel Good Music - Gorillaz

Gorillaz, the "virtual band" of cartoon characters that was founded anonymously in 1998 by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, was both avant garde in its intentions and highly marketable. In a world of relentless self-serving publicity, it was refreshing to have musicians not be so concerned with celebrity. The band's music is a collaboration between various musicians; Albarn being the only permanent musical contributor. Their style is broadly alternative rock, but with a large number of other influences.

In 2004, the hip hop band De La Soul collaborated with Gorillaz on the single, Feel Good Inc. (De la Soul's album 3 Feet High and Rising, is being added to the Library of Congress' 2010 National Recording Registry.) They repeated the collaboration on the 2010 Gorillaz album, Plastic Beach, which has a song called Some Kind of Nature featuring Lou Reed that reminds you of Feel Good.

Gorillaz are now charging for their most recent album The Fall, which they released as a free download last Christmas . The Fall was made during Gorillaz's 2010 US tour, with Damon Albarn claiming it was recorded on an iPad. The group's fictional frontman, 2D, offered his thoughts on the The Fall. "It's mostly just me," he said, "something more gentle and just ... well ... it's just me and an iPad really mucking about ... trying out some stuff. Just looking at America and then tapping on the screen". Most of the song titles include an American city - it's like taking a musical road trip.

Blog note
- This blog reminds me of another one I wrote titled Dangermouse - I don't know if the attraction is to groups that bring together various types of musicians or have cartoon personae.

To find more music to listen to for free, and some music to download for free, see the Library's new Information Guide - Listening to and Downloading Music.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Creature of Habit

The world pigeonholed creatures of habit with a negative connotation. Creatures of habit do not experience the full spectrum of life. Creatures of habit sit alone with the familiar, the mundane. Creatures of habit don't explore. Not true.

I am a creature of habit. I discovered Oxford University Press' wonderful series Very Short Introductions and will be reading many of them. I'd like to read that stack.

The Austin Public Library owns over a hundred of these little jewels. Each one focuses on a particular topic and includes a brief yet incredibly rich introduction.

Case in point: With a nascent interest in Kierkegaard I wanted to know more about him and his theories, but had only limited interest in his oeuvre. So, I read Kierkegaard: a Very Short Introduction. I did the same with The Quakers: a Very Short Introduction. These little books provide a wonderful overview of a topic and often whet an appetite. Bolstered with a finer understanding, Kierkegaard's oeuvre looks less daunting.

The brilliance of these little gems resides in the time commitment. The following titles are all available in the series and are all topics that interest me but that I probably would not tackle if not for the availability in this series.

I look forward to reading the following:

Philosophy of Law
Medical Ethics
The Celts
The Russian Revolution
Continental Philisophy
The French Revolution
The European Union

We are all creatures of habit. Happy reading!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Early Texas Art

In April, I was fortunate enough to travel to Dallas to attend the Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art’s (CASETA) 9th Annual Symposium on Early Texas Art. The presentation topics ranged from the art of early landscape painters to the modernist movement of the 1940s through the 1960s. And yes, there was surprisingly a strong modernist art movement in Texas!

So what is early Texas art? According to CASETA, it is art created by artists who were born in and/or lived and worked in Texas through 40 years prior to the present date. There are so many people that do not realize Texas art has had such a varied and interesting history. When you think of Texas art you may think of cowboy and bluebonnet paintings, but don’t stop there - there was more! There were the regionalist depictions of industrial and rural life by a group of artists called the Dallas Nine. In Fort Worth, there was a group of modernists that would be later tagged with the name the Fort Worth Circle. And perhaps one of the most interesting groups was the artists that came to Austin to form and develop the Art Department at the University of Texas Austin in the 1940s like Everett Spruce, Seymour Fogel and William Lester. In my opinion, the power of Texas’ early art is its focus on the region’s unique and diverse landscape, people and culture. If you are interested in finding out about early Texas art, Austin Public Library provides many books about the art and artists. The following are just a few of the titles in the Library's collection:

Texas modern: the rediscovery of early Texas abstraction (1935-1965)

Texas: 150 works from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Intimate modernism: Fort Worth Circle artists in the 1940s

Black art in Houston: the Texas Southern University experience : presenting the art of Biggers, Simms and their students

Lone star regionalism: the Dallas Nine and their Circle, 1928-1945

Painting Texas history to 1900

Art for history's sake: the Texas collection of the Witte Museum

Friday, May 06, 2011

In Memory of Beverly Eckert

I listen to NPR's Morning Edition most days of the week and yesterday was no exception. Typically on Fridays, the program airs a story from its StoryCorps project, a massive oral history project in which the goal is to record the stories of American lives. StoryCorps just breaks me up most of the time; I fully expect to be brought to tears after hearing the featured story on Fridays and I'm usually prepared for it, but yesterday they caught me off guard because 1. it was Thursday not Friday, and 2. it was a particularly heart wrenching story from Beverly Eckert who lost her husband in one of the towers of the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001. Here I am getting ready for work practically bawling my eyes out as Eckert recounts the last phone conversation with her husband as he attempted to find a way out of the towers and eventually resigned himself to his fate. It was truly moving and sad and horrifying and beautiful all at once. It was also a reminder of the terror of that day and how it changed so many people's lives.

After the story was played, it was revealed that Eckert herself was killed in a plane crash, Colgan Air Flight 3407, in February of 2009. Turns out she had been a particularly vocal advocate for 9/11 victims and the search for truth and understanding of the tragedy. Rather than apply for compensation through the 9/11 fund, she sued government agencies and airlines for what she believed to be a significant security breach that was neither prevented or realized soon enough. She helped to found Voices of September 11th, an organization devoted to providing information and support to 9/11 families, influencing policy on 9/11 and terrorism generally, and commemorating 9/11 victims and family members by documenting their stories, and the 9/11 Family Steering Committee, a now defunct organization that called for an independent investigation of the 9/11 attacks.

In this time after Osama bin Laden's death, many are remembering 9/11 and the effect it had on our nation. While tragedies like Eckert's are abundant, it is also important to remember the time of national unity we experienced after the attacks. Much like Eckert wanted her former husband's death to have not been in vain, let's not allow bin Laden's death be in vain either by taking this opportunity to unite.


Beverly Eckert Biography and Related News Articles
From the New York Times, which did you know you could read for free via our Factiva database? Access it from home with your library card. Need help? Ask a Librarian!

Beverly Eckert's StoryCorps Audio Recording
Unless you are made of stone, you should have a box of tissues handy.

I really wanted to find out if Eckert's lawsuit is now defunct or what. I had a very difficult time locating this info and I think I would need access to one of LexisNexis' databases to figure it out. I attempted to search PACER, Public Access to Court Electronic Records, but you must wait for a user name and password to arrive via postal mail to even be able to use it!

Woman Rejects Sept. 11 Fund, Sues for Accountability
An NPR interview with Eckert about the lawsuit and her decision to reject the 9/11 fund.

DATABASES (i.e. stuff you can't find via Google)

Authoritative info on Eckert can be difficult to come by - check out our databases for ample news stories not available on the free internet. Factiva and MasterFILE Premier would be two great places to start for newspaper articles from tons of national and international newspapers (Factiva) and magazine articles (MasterFILE). All you need is your library card!


The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation
by Sid Jacobson
The report is much more palatable in comic format (but isn't everything?).

American Widow by Alissa Torres
A graphic novel about Torres's husband's death in the WTC attacks and the year after it in which their child was born.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
The story of a precocious young boy that lost his father on 9/11 exploring New York City looking for the lock to a key his dad left behind.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Lighting Out for the Territory

Spring, despite being my favorite season, has it kind of tough. For one, we expect the weather to be perfect all the time. But more difficult than high weather expectations, spring has a reputation for being a time of new beginnings and big changes. Sometimes spring just can’t handle the pressure and we’re forced to hit the road in search of our own opportunity and adventure.

If you’re not quite ready for a trip of your own, you might let someone else take the journey for you . . . by reading a book! Sure, a trip to Galveston can be fun but by reading Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles you can experience the trials and tribulations of exploring new planets! The protagonist in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando travels not only from country to country but also through time while experiencing life as both a man and a woman! Here are a few more travel stories to help you begin your journey!

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Dress

The Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress was elegant, regal, and--although I liked it--safe. I'm not suggesting that the neckline should have plunged into a push-up bra; I'm glad The Dress was modest. I hope that brides planning to sport inflated cantilevered cleavage learn from Kate's example that less is more and revisit their dressmakers. It is not always appropriate to look like a Kardashian.

No, the quiet refinement of The Dress was its best asset, no question. I think, though, that the design could have been amped up without sacrificing taste. As proof I offer Audrey Hepburn's Givenchy gown from the movie Funny Face.

Best. Wedding. Dress. Ever. And Kate Middleton has the figure for it, too. It would have to be altered to observe the conventions: lengthen sleeves and skirt, add train, replace bow with tiara, but after a few adjustments, Her Highness would have been dressed to suit tradition, but a bit less predictably and with a little more panache.

The fact that I write this as I wear a stretched-out 20-year-old tank top with paint spatters down the front does not diminish my point.

oversized coffee-table books with beautiful pictures of beautiful clothes:

author's name: