Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Home Retreat

My workmate recently wrote about it being hot out and retreating to a different place written about in a book. I couldn't agree more, but I despise closing that book and returning to the heat of my current surroundings. So, what my family does in this absolutely despicable heat is a little indoor home renovation. Last year we remodeled our bathroom, adding a much needed bathtub to our shower-only house. This year, we're adding a closet underneath our staircase to free up space in the coat closet and bedroom closet.

I checked out some books from the library before we tore anything up just to get some ideas of what we wanted everything to look like. Sometimes that's just the impetus to get you going...just look at pictures, make note of things you like and, more importantly, things you don't like. The library has a lot of books and magazines for you to look at; maybe by the end of the summer you'll have a fabulous retreat to enjoy all year long.

Here are a couple of new books:

Look around on the shelves in this call number area for more and while you're at it, check out some magazines too:

Monday, June 27, 2011

El Chopo

There is a place in Mexico City that becomes the epicenter of alternative youth culture every Saturday. It is a paradise for followers of the Goth, Punk, Ska, Emo, Reggae, Metal Head, and Skater subcultures. It is a market place where all the necessary costuming and paraphernalia associated with each genre is bought and sold. It is also a place where people can come together with shared interests and points of view. This place is called the Tianguis Cultural del Chopo or simply El Chopo. You can read a more detailed description of this place as well as other culturally rich venues and experiences in the recently published book, Down and Delirious in Mexico City. A similar book that also gives a studied personal insight into the dense variety to be found in perhaps the world's largest megalopolis is, First Stop in the New World: Mexico City the Capital of the 21st. Century. Both of these books have made me want to become less of a consumer of the culture of Mexico and Mexico City and more of a participant.

How El Chopo was made possible:
Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture

Friday, June 24, 2011

From the Closet to the Courtroom

Gay and Lesbian Pride Month is celebrated each year the month of June. The last Sunday in June is celebrated as Gay Pride Day and here in Austin there will be a fundraiser for Austin Pride at Esther’s Follies June 26.

A few days ago, the county’s largest bankruptcy court declared the law banning federal recognition of gay marriages unconstitutional. The decision issued by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Donovan was prompted by a joint bankruptcy protection filing by a Los Angeles gay couple legally married in 2008. US Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Donovan ruled that the law violated the Constitution's equal protection guarantee. The U.S. Trustee’s Office, an arm of Department of Justice that oversees bankruptcy cases, asked Donovan to dismiss the case on the grounds that DOMA (Defense of Marraige Act) barred the court from recognizing the couple’s marriage. Donovan declined to dismiss the case, saying the couple demonstrated that there is no valid governmental basis for DOMA. The ruling Monday was also signed by 19 other judges on the 24-member court in an unusually emphatic display of consensus.

The Library has some new books on the legal history of gay rights that will bring you up to date.

From the Closet to the Courtroom: Five LGBT Rights Lawsuits That Have Changed Our Nation

From Disgust to Humanity

Queer (in) Justice: the Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States

Making it Legal: A Guide to Same-Sex Marriage, Domestic Partnership & Civil Unions

See last year's posting for gay fiction titles.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hot. I need a break.

Austin is hot. I have no imminent vacation plans, thus little possibility of cooling off other than frequent trips to Barton Springs. I choose to live here so am hesitant to complain about the heat, but I certainly would like to escape it for awhile. Below are a few books that transported me somewhere pleasant upon first read and I plan to reread a few of them over the summer.

Eric Newby's A Small Place in Italy
details the renovation of his home and integration into his local village in 1960s Italy.

Anthony Doerr's Four Seasons in Rome
an insightful account of life in Rome with infant twins.

Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence
Mayle left advertising for a slower life in Provence

Chris Yates' How to Fish
Yates is the consummate idler: fishing, gardening, drinking tea, and enjoying life

Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast
Wondering Paris' avenues and side streets poor and content

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Wayback Machine

The results of the second bi-annual weeding contest, in which we award a prize for finding the most outdated library book, are in. The winning entry is The Official Guide to Outdoor Skating by Frank Simcoe, and yes, that is Mr. Simcoe on the cover.

As silly as he looks doing air splits in his polyester pants and sneaker skates, the book did not win for the photo. No, it won because Frank is not wearing a helmet. Since those carefree disco days, helmets have become standard equipment for wheeled sports, and we at APL endorse the advance of safety.

Second place went to Parenting in the '90s: A Comprehensive Guide for Greater Austin, which is full of helpful information... from 20 years ago. This is as close as we can get you to a ride in Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine. (See also this post on time travel.)

Here are more entries from the June 2011 contest.

Click the pictures to enlarge, and take another look at the 2010 contest. Our next contest wraps in December. Keep an eye on the blog!

Friday, June 17, 2011

I'm With the Band

I just read a gossipy page-turner of a book that I think makes it the perfect beach read: I'm With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela Des Barres. Des Barres was a teenager when Brit bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones were in their prime (late 60s-early 70s) and she was a huge fan. It started as a school girl crush on Paul McCartney that eventually morphed into a propensity to hang out outside of her fave rockers' houses and strutting up and down the Sunset Strip. Des Barres certainly epitomized the term "groupie", but she went from just being a young, pretty girl trying to get close to rock stars to one that had (often dramatic) relationships with the likes of Jimmy Page, Mick Jagger, and Keith Moon, just to name a few. Her bed-hopping with some of my all-time favorite rock artists really got going when Frank Zappa helped to form an all girl rock/performance art group that consisted of Des Barres and other avid groupies called the GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously). Zappa helped them put together an album and, while their career never really took off, it further enmeshed these ladies into the whole scene and helped set the stage for a number of Des Barres' future relationships.

As Des Barres and others would argue, though, the GTOs weren't just a bunch of groupies looking for fame. They truly loved the music and wanted to be a part of the lives of the (mostly) men that created it. Des Barres was some of the inspiration for the character Penny Lane from "Almost Famous" and, while they never referred to themselves as "Band-Aides", her and her friends definitely believed that they contributed to the music and were venerated and treated with a level of respect that I don't think you really find among the super fans and artists of today.

When I was in high school I was totally obsessed with the rock bands of the British invasion, Led Zeppelin in particular, and I always felt it a shame I wasn't born in a different era. This may be the full explanation of why I enjoyed this book despite some complaints regarding the writing style (it does read a bit like a 16 year-old's diary), but I feel pretty confident that if you enjoyed "Almost Famous", have an interest in this time period musically or otherwise, and/or just love celebrity gossip, you'll really dig this one.

Here are some additional books written by Des Barres and others that you may enjoy, if I'm With the Band piques your interest:

Dandelion: Memoir of a Free Spirit
Here's a memoir by Catherine James, another very famous groupie that appears in Des Barres' memoir and partied with all the big name musicians of the time

"Former Stones, Dylan Superfan Pamela Des Barres on 'Greatest Groupies'"
This is a link to an interview with Pamela Des Barres regarding her VH1 documentary that aired in December 2010 and includes a bit of info on the upcoming movie based on I'm With the Band

Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll's Legendary Neighborhood
Laurel Canyon is the famed LA neighborhood where a number of legendary musicians hung out and resided, including Pamela Des Barres at Frank Zappa's house

Let's Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies
In this title by Des Barres, she interviews famous groupies, so they can tell their stories

Rebel Heart: An American Rock 'n' Roll Journey
This is a memoir from another very famous groupie, Bebe Buell, mother of Liv Tyler, whose famous conquests include Steven Tyler, Elvis Costello, and Rod Stewart.

Take Another Little Piece of My Heart: A Groupie Grows Up
This is Des Barres' follow-up to I'm With the Band that picks up where the other left off

Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me
Not exactly a groupie, Pattie Boyd, the author of this memoir, was married to George Harrison and, later, Eric Clapton. The infamous songs "Something", "Layla", and "Wonderful Tonight" were all written for her.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


When I was a kid my family had a pretty meager VHS collection. We did, however, own a copy of Groundhog Day which I watched over and over again, sometimes trying to count the number of times Bill Murray has to experience the same day. (It’s impossible by the way).

For the most part, it’s easy to ignore the passage of time in movies and novels. Some take place over the course of months, years, decades or generations. But tomorrow we celebrate Bloomsday, a day set aside to honor James Joyce’s novel Ulysses and the novel's hero Leopold Bloom. Joyce's quintessential text journeys all over Dublin on June 16th as Bloom experiences a Homer-like odyssey. Ulysses doesn't make for the greatest beach read ever but here are other one-day novels which might interest you:

Monday, June 13, 2011

A book trailer???

It’s amazing, isn’t it?? We now have not only movie trailers but also book trailers as well.    Since I buy books in other languages for the Library, I’ve noticed that book trailers are more popular in European countries than in America.  Amazon France and Amazon Germany (especially) has had them for a quite a while.  There are trailers for almost every book they sell, and that’s how I got hooked on book trailers. 

The first one I remember enjoying was for Leopard by Jo Nesbø .   The composition, the colors, the simple way the author delivers the message and yet, the promise of a complex thriller made me really want to read this book. I had to wait though because it was not released in English until early this year but if you read German we have a copy available.  My second favorite trailer was for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. I am not a big fan of Jane Austen (sorry!) and I had no intention to read any of the Quirk Books with similar plots, but after seeing this trailer, gosh!! I really want to read this book now!  

I was curious to see if others were into book trailers like me and started asking around.   A friend of mine said:  Nope, I don’t want to see a book trailer because I want to create my own image of the characters, environment and so on. I don’t what anyone doing that for me.  Another friend said that he doesn’t fall under the spell of book trailers,  they don’t make him want to read a book. It seems that whether we like them or not, book trailers are here to stay!

If you want to learn a bit more about this “new” trend, you can read or listen to the  NPR story “Honoring and Poking fun at Book Trailers.

If you want to know what happened at the Mobie Awards 2011, (yes, there are awards for the best and worst book trailers!), view the list of winners here.  

Have fun!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Phan Thi Kim Phuc

So it goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. I often dismiss this maxim. A thousand words written by a talented writer may easily surpass an image. A thousand words rumbling around in my brain, disambiguating, can reveal a depth of truth deeper than any image. For me, word trumps image. I’ve stubbornly dug my heels into the dirt: words win.

Then an image dilates my pupils and I stand corrected, awestruck by the indescribable emotion of an image. One particular image that trumps any mountain of words, is the 1972 Pulitzer winning photograph of nine-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc. That photograph was taken June 8, 1972 shortly after Kim’s village was bombed and napalm burned her clothing from her body. This photograph made Kim a vivid victim of war to the international community and a propaganda symbol for the Vietnamese government. She now resides in Ontario and leads a remarkable life. Denise Chong’s The Girl in the Picture: the Story of Kim Phuc, the Photograph, and the Vietnam War tells Kim’s story.

Other books that discuss children and war:

The Life We Were Given: Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam

And Still Peace Did Not Come: a Memoir of Reconciliation

Clara’s War: One Girl’s Story of Survival

Hidden Children of the Holocaust

Courageous Journey: Walking the Lost Boys’ Path from Sudan to America

Monday, June 06, 2011

Meet the Author

Psst! Want to hear some juicy Hollywood gossip? Meet the screenwriter and author, Michael B. Druxman, on Saturday, June 18, from 2 to 4 p.m., on the second floor of the downtown library, and join us for a discussion of his memoir, My Forty-Five Years in Hollywood ... and How I Escaped Alive. A book signing will follow.

Druxman chased his dreams to Hollywood and made most of them come true. Starting out with no show-business contacts, he created a successful career as a publicist, playwright, screenwriter, director, and Hollywood historian. His memoir is filled with stories of his encounters with Jimmy Durante and Elvis Presley, Jack Lemmon and Cary Grant, the cast of the hit television series Dallas, legendary producer Roger Corman, and with lessons learned from Hollywood's rich and famous.

Druxman retired to Austin a couple of years ago, but still works on screenplays and other writing projects occasionally. His screenwriting credits include such notable films as Cheyenne Warrior with Kelly Preston, Dillinger and Capone starring Martin Sheen and F. Murray Abraham, and The Doorway with Roy Scheider, which he also directed. Druxman has published 13 books since 1974, including

  • My Forty-Five Years in Hollywood ... and How I Escaped Alive
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

  • Cheyenne Warrior
  • How to Write a Story...Any Story
  • The Musical: From Broadway to Hollywood
  • One Good Film Deserves Another
  • Charlton Heston
  • Make It Again Sam

    • This event is free and open to the public. For more information please call 512-974-7400 or visit

      Friday, June 03, 2011

      Art for the Digital Public

      The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) recently opened its doors to the digital public, providing free access to high-resolution images of the museum’s rich encyclopedic collection. Visitors to the library ( can download the images free of charge and without any restrictions on use. The Image Library opens with 2,000 public domain images (out of a collection of 100.000 artworks), representing a broad range of LACMA’s collections, including Egyptian, Decorative Arts and Design, Latin American, Chinese and Korean, European Painting and Sculpture, and many more.

      You can view and donwload a Pissarro landscape; a 1704 still life of wild strawberries by the Dutch painter Adriaen Coorte; and gold earrings from the fifth to the seventh century. But the current selection is only a start, and the digital collection will grow. The fact that users could potentially take the images and make t-shirts or potholders adorned with a work does not bother the director. "It's negligible in the long run," Mr. Govan said. "My view is that it's better to get the images out there so people will want to come and see the real thing." Each work in the library comes with identifying information and a link to its listing on the museum's online collections, where further information can be found.

      You can find this resource for free images along with others using APL's Image Locator Information Guide.

      Wednesday, June 01, 2011

      The Spelling Buzz

      The thrill of victory! The agony of defeat! The pressure is on while countless pairs of eyes watch. Surprisingly, this is not another basketball blog from me. This is the Scripps National Spelling Bee which starts in (from this moment) 1 day and 5 hours.

      Chances are you had the opportunity (or misfortune) to compete in a spelling bee at some point in your life. You may or may not want to relive those potentially painful memories. For me, I just could not get the “i before e” rule down when I was asked to spell ‘field.’ Luckily, my spelling has improved slightly since second grade.

      As NPR's Morning Edition pointed out this morning, English, coming as it does from so many different language sources, keeps you guessing when it comes to spelling. The good news is that the library is here to help!

      Tools to help improve your spelling

      Interesting reads on the spelling challenges presented by the English language.

      Or, sit back and let other people do the spelling for you in these movies.