Friday, July 29, 2011

Time Travel

You may have noted the news item this week regarding time travel. A group of researchers in Hong Kong recently conducted a study in which they believe they have demonstrated that a photon cannot travel faster than the speed of light. This finding indicates that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light meaning that traveling back in time would be impossible. For a long time, traveling faster than the speed of light was considered a possibility and, by extension, it was also possible that one could travel in time.

This discovery was a real bummer for me. I didn't have any big plans for traveling through time, but, like any sci-fi fan, I've always been enthused that this was a theoretical possibility. Despite the news, time travel cannot be ruled out completely. There's the possibility of wormholes, using black holes, and time dilation. No matter, I'm certain it will remain fodder for book, movie, and TV plotlines for years to come. Below are some time travel-related links for your inner-scientist and just for kicks:


Breaking the Time Barrier: The Race to Build the First Time Machine

How to Build a Time Machine

The New Time Travelers: A Journey to the Frontiers of Physics

Time Travel in Einstein's Universe: The Physical Possibilities of Travel Through Time

Time Traveler: A Scientist's Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality


Back to the Future: The Complete Trilogy

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

Doctor Who: The Complete First Series

Land of the Lost: The Complete First Season

Quantum Leap: The Complete First Season

Through the Wormhole: With Morgan Freeman

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bugs Bunny

71 years ago today, Bugs Bunny burst onto screens across America in an animated short called A Wild Hare. Mr. Bunny has delighted audiences young and old ever since. Did you know that Bugs Bunny is named for his animator, Ben "Bugs" Hardaway? He originally went by "Bugs's Bunny". And I bet you didn't know that Bugs won an Academy Award in 1959 for Best Animated Short Film Knighty Knight Bugs. You can find this and all sorts of useful (and useless!) information in one of our most popular databases, Encyclopedia Britannica.

While you're at it, check out some books and video on Bugs and the other characters of Looney Tunes too.

Bugs Bunny: 50 Years and Only One Grey Hare
Reading the rabbit : explorations in Warner Bros
The looney, looney, looney Bugs Bunny movie
Looney tunes golden collection. Vol. 2
Looney tunes golden collection. Vol. 3

But, in the meantime, watch an animated clip from the cartoon Fresh Hare, also downloaded from EB!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Latin Music U.S.A.

This past week I was watching the PBS Documentary series, Latin Music USA. The series attempts to chronicle the various periods of Latin music recorded by artists in the United States throughout the decades beginning in the 1930s. It also seeks to illuminate the influence this music has had on U.S. popular culture and other forms of music in this country. Represented are the beginnings of the introduction of Afro-Cuban rhythms into Jazz and bee-bop, the socially and sexually liberating Latin dance crazes of the Mambo and Cha Cha Cha, Chicano inspired rock n' roll, the explosive combination of conga drums and electric guitar blasted out over an audience of half a million people at Woodstock, the birth of Salsa in New York City heralded by Puerto Rican immigrants or Nuyoricans during the early 1970s, on through to more recent Latin dance styles such as Reggaeton. Below I've listed some artists that currently fascinate me. All are readily available via the Austin Public Library.

Fania All Stars:

Fania Recording:
El Barrio

Hector Lavoe:
El Cantante: The Originals (includes Che Che Cole; one of my all-time favorite songs)
El Cantante (movie based on Hector Lavoe's life starring Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez)

Ruben Blades:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler (July 23, 1888-1959) was an an oil executive who lost his job for drinking and carrying on with a secretary, then cleaned up to become one of the most enduring writers of detective fiction. When he published his first book he was 50. He had been writing pulp stories for detetective magazines when he got a book deal with Knopf. His first four novels were not bestsellers, but then a cheaper paperback printing of The Big Sleep was allowed, which sold a whopping 300,000 copies.

The hard-boiled detective Philip Marlowe and Chandler's take on Los Angeles have influenced generations of writers. His fans enjoy the complicated plots, but for the most part it's that first-person voice that hooks them. The witty, tough but tender voice of Chandler, disguised as Marlowe, is cadenced, surprisingly musical, and sets up a tension between a literary sensibility and the novel’s general air of depravity. Each page is riddled with quotable bits, lines you want to memorize and repeat to your friends.

From The Big Sleep - "What did it matter where you lay once you were dead?...You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that".

From Farewell My Lovely - "I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun."

From The Long Goodbye, when a beautiful woman walks into a bar and all the men stop to look at her: "It was like just after the conductor taps on his music stand and raises his arms and holds them poised."

From Red Wind - "There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Epic Poetry

If three-hundred page poems are not your cup of tea, this post might not be either. However, if you are not intimidated (or bored) by verse I would like to recommend a few of the world’s poetic treasures. An epic poem contains the plot, characters, and crises synonymous with a novel, but each element is presented in a cadence rarely found in a novel. Initially the cadence seems a distraction, but once internalized it lends itself to a distinct reading unique to long poetry.

These are three of my favorite epics:

Dante’s Divine Comedy
An imaginative depiction of a soul’s journey through hell, purgatory, and heaven

A heroic poem telling of Beowulf’s battles against three dragons and his fidelity to people in need

The Nibelungenlied
An adventurous tale of a warrior’s murder and his wife’s journey for revenge.

These are three epics I plan to read soon:

Derek Walcott’s Omeros
A reimagining of Greek epics set on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia coupled with the aftermath of British colonization

The Tale of Kieu
A young woman sacrifices herself to save her family. She suffers degradation after degradation, but continues to seek love.

Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass
A transcendental poem championing nature and man. Whitman allegedly wrote the poem after Emerson called for a poet to address the American spirit.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dick Cavett

Dick Cavett recently collected some of his New York Times columns and published them in a book called Talk Show. I read as far as Cavett's ill-informed essay about fat Americans ("Is Bigger Really Better?, " page 57) which, because I am a fat American, piqued my ire. So I put the book down to finally face my feelings about Dick.

I never liked him much, not even when I was skinny. Oh he was the hippest of the interviewers and he's chatted with some of the most fabulous people: John and Yoko, Katherine Hepburn, Groucho; and sometimes I would watch him when the show was new, but I have a dim memory of preferring Mannix, and until I read the first quarter of Talk Show, I had never stopped to wonder why.

Here's why: Cavett is so busy trying to be clever that he frequently doesn't respond to the person he's interviewing, which makes for halting conversation and maladroit replies that create tension, and that tension has been misconstrued (and I realize I'm the only one who thinks so) as scintillation. Watch the Hollywood Greats DVD and count the times that Groucho or Katherine Hepburn doesn't get the point Cavett is trying to make because it doesn't follow smoothly from what his guest just said; and count the times Cavett changes a subject instead of continuing with his guest's idea. Say whatever you like about Oprah; she's a conversationalist. She follows the thread and asks the next logical question.

So finally, after all these years, I own my discomfort with Dick Cavett, and my new understanding will save me hours because now I can skip the rest of his book and not watch his DVDs.

For those who like Cavett:

Talk Show
The Dick Cavett Show: Hollywood greats
The Dick Cavett Show: Rock icons
The Dick Cavett Show: Ray Charles collection
The Dick Cavett Show: John and Yoko collection

For those who prefer Mannix:

Mannix: the first season
Mannix: the second season
Mannix: the soundtrack

Friday, July 15, 2011

Jump On the Potter Bandwagon!

Well, many of the reviews are out and have spoiled the fun for me a bit, but I encourage you to ignore them completely and bask in the delight that is the final Harry Potter movie! I sometimes have the attitude of an old, crotchety lady and actively seek to ignore most pop culture phenomenon, but I was sucked into the Harry franchise a few years back and am long past the point of no return. Others disagree, but I've loved the movies and think they are, mostly, a fine representation of the books. The second Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 flicked off the screen, I have been twiddling my thumbs waiting for Part 2 and, clearly, so has the rest of America as it has already shattered records at the box offices. Now that the day has arrived I might actually try and wait for the crowds to dissipate before going to see it just to savor the last-time-I'll-be-anxious-waiting-for-a-HP-movie moment.

While it looks like a lot of our copies of the movies have been checked out (but, not all, so be sure to check FindIt), no doubt in anticipation of this day, we still have plenty of copies of the books available to relive your favorite Potter moments and lots of other books on all things Potter. Plus, check out some of the links I found that are pure fun:


Charmed Knits: Projects For Fans of Harry Potter

Harry, a History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon
A story of Harry Potter fandom

Harry Potter's Bookshelf: The Great Books Behind the Hogwarts Adventures
The books that inspired Rowling and the HP novels are discussed in this book

KDL What's Next Database
This is a database of series fiction. You can search by author, series name, or book title.

One Fine Potion: The Literary Magic of Harry Potter
Author Greg Garrett argues that Christians need not be alarmed by Harry Potter and insists that the values present in HP are many of the same values upheld by the Christian faith.

The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works


Harry Potter (Scholastic)
Tons of games here for kids or the kid in you

Harry Potter: A Look Back
Get a 5 minute recap of all of the Harry Potter movies

Harry Potter Spells
You can get this app on your iPhone (or iPad). You get to pick your wand, try on the sorting hat, and practice spells

Parseltongue Translator
Get any 150 character message translated into parseltongue

Most have probably heard of this by now, but J.K. Rowling has created Pottermore, which will be a sort of digital enhancement of the Harry Potter stories. You can watch a video of the announcement by Rowling from here.

What's Your Patronus?
Find out what your patronus is. Mine is a cat, just like Dolores Umbridge. You see? I truly am a crotchety old lady!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Lightning struck many times on the night of July 13, 1977 and the city of New York went dark. Where were you on that night? Thankfully, I wasn't anywhere near New York City; I was a wee child at home in Austin with my parents, my sister was not even a month old. I read "for the 25 hours it lasted, it stopped commerce, stymied transportation, blackened the night, sheltered the lawless, turned high rises into prisons, made water a luxury and air conditioning a nostalgic memory" (Newsweek, July 25, 1977). Can you imagine what that must have been like? It must have been exhilarating exciting and frightening. This would be a spot in history that many people remember just what they were doing when it when the towers fell or when JFK was shot. In fact, if you read the comments in the New York Times 30th anniversary article about it, you'll see that many people do.

Very similar to the weather we're having in Austin now, New York City was living in just as sweltering heat. The thermostat hit 93 in the city that day, add in the over 1000 arson fires, and you can say it was mighty hot. In addition to the looting, fires, and general debauchery, the city was reeling in fear of the Son of Sam murderer. David Berkowitz was arrested in August, just after the blackout occurred. Now imagine that, it's pitch black out, there are fires all over the city, thousands of people are in chaotic disarray and there's a murderer on the loose. Yikes.

Here's a few items to get your imagination running on these conditions.

Heat: Juliane Fry's The Encyclopedia of Weather and Climate Change: a Complete Visual Guide
Blackouts: David Nye's When the Lights Went Out: a History of Blackouts in America
Son of Sam: Spike Lee's Summer of Sam

Monday, July 11, 2011

Je ne regrette rien!

Bastille Day is now just 4 days away which got me thinking about one of the most amazing French artists of all time:  Edith Piaf.

Like any other famous artist, her life is full of mystery and myth. The place where she was born is still not clear, and when she died some people say that her last husband took her dead body to Paris to make people believe she died in the city that witnessed her transformation into an icon of French culture .

You probably know her work from two songs: “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien"  (gosh, no one sings this song like her!) and “La Vie en Rose”, which is included in the list of  Grammy Hall of Fame Awards.   Her repertoire, however, is immense and there are many, many beautiful songs that are not so popular.  One of her famous quotes is:   “I want to make people cry even when they don't understand my words”,  and she definitively achieved that. 

If you want to learn more about Edith Piaf, the library has lots of material to offer:




Friday, July 08, 2011

Armchair Travel to France

France also has a national holiday with fireworks and parades in July. Bastille Day, celebrated on July 14th, commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789. By the late 18th century Bastille was little used as a prison and was scheduled to be demolished. The fortress had come to be associated in the minds of the people with the harsh rule of the Bourbon monarchy. During the unrest of 1789, a mob approached the Bastille to demand the arms and ammunition stored there, and, when the force guarding the structure resisted, the attackers captured the prison, releasing the seven prisoners held there. The taking of the Bastille signaled the beginning of the French Revolution.

This summer there are so many books published about the French - French living, French charm, French cinema, French history, walks in Paris, train rides in France, Americans in France, and of course, the language.

La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life by Elaine Sciolino: Sciolino attempts to demystify the art.
French Cinema by Charles Dazin: Key personalities and episodes in the history of French cinema.
Paris to the Past: Traveling Through French History by Train by Ina Caro: Twenty-five one-day train trips from central Paris.
The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris by John Baxter: The Paris of Hemingway, Stein and Fitzgerald.
When the World Spoke French by Marc Fumaroli: Portraits of foreigners (from Catherine the Great to Benjamin Franklin) who conversed and corresponded in French.
To Burgundy and Back Again: A Tale of Wine, France, and Brotherhood by Roy Cloud: Two brothers get a true taste of the wine import market.
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, 1830-1900 by David McCullough: The lives and experiences of Americans drawn to Paris a century before Hemingway & Co. called it their home.

And new novels about France:

Beneath a Starlet Sky by Amanda Goldberg
Enough About Love by Herve Le Tellier
French Leave by Anna Gavalda
Hector and the Secrets of Love by Francois Lelord
Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila Matas
The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynn Sheene
Madame Tussaud: a Novel of the French Revolution by Michele Moran
The Paris Wife by Paula Mclain
The Philosopher's Kiss by Peter Prange
The Provence Cure for the Broken-hearted by Bridget Asher

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

July 6th, 1946: an odd trinity

July 6th, 1946 saw the birth of a disparate trinity: George W. Bush, Peter Singer, and Sylvester Stallone. I cannot think of an odder group of men. Imagine that dinner table: an American president, an ethics philosopher noted for his advocacy of animal liberation, and Rocky. Opposites sometimes do attract, so perhaps that dinner would be a rollicking good time. My money is on an awkward meal followed quickly by departures.

Below are books and DVDs starring our dinner quests.

George W. Bush
Decision Points

Peter Singer
The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty
The President of Good & Evil: the Ethics of George W. Bush
Animal Liberation

Sylvester Stallone

Rocky II
First Blood

Until today I did not know that Peter Singer wrote a book about George W. Bush. Maybe a more lively dinner party than I expected.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Swimmin' Holes

I was going to write about the fireworks ban this year, but that's depressing. Then, because at my house we're switching to hardwood charcoal from pressed briquettes (better environmentally and recipe-wise, too), I was going to discuss grilling cookbooks and techniques, but that's still all about fire, and this 4th Texas has too much fire.

What we don't have enough of is water. Cool, clear water. The kind you find in Barton Springs and Deep Eddy and Krause Springs and Hamilton Pool (clockwise from upper left), although there's more of it when it rains. (Remember when it used to rain?) So pay attention to the fire marshall this 4th: let the birds make a nest in your barbecue, pack a basket with fried chicken cooked safely in your kitchen, and head for a puddle of water, if you can find one and get close to it. Here's the city's list of neighborhood pools: COA Parks and Rec, and here's Splash Across Texas, a book about Texas swimming holes (a bit out of date: 1999).

Friday, July 01, 2011

My New York Diary

I'm a fan of Julie Doucet, a French-Canadian underground comix artist, whose My New York Diary I picked up on a whim one day and promptly came home and devoured. It's a short graphic novel in which she recounts a brief period when she was living in New York City. She depicts her time in art school, deals with two kind of crazy boyfriends, and suffers from seizures at one point to name just a few of the personal moments in her life she chronicles with a wonderful humor and frankness.

I'm also a fan of Michel Gondry's. I loved Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in particular, but I'll watch anything he does. So I was delighted to find that Doucet and Gondry collaborated recently on a sort of mini-movie and book titled My New New York Diary. Gondry apparently contacted Doucet and asked if she wanted to collaborate on making a movie and the process of them working together essentially becomes the (20 minute) movie. The DVD is in the back of the book which is a collection of sketches Doucet did for the movie. The result? A magic little film that is funny and sweet and a really cool merge of two distinct artistic styles. If you're a fan of either Doucet or Gondry, you just like autobiographical comics/graphic novels, and/or you finally want to see a bit of Gondry's famed style, I think you'll want to check it out.

Austin Public Library has a bunch of Doucet's other books and, of course, many of Gondry's films:

BOOKS (Doucet):

365 Days
This is a collection of collage, diary, and comic drawings from a year in the life of Doucet.

A visual book filled with drawings, collages, and paintings. A sort of work of art infused with Doucet's humor.

My Most Secret Desire
This is a highly entertaining book in which Doucet recounts some of what I would assume are her more bizarre dreams. Some are a bit grizzly, so consider yourself forewarned.

MOVIES (Gondry)

Be Kind Rewind

Dave Chappelle's Block Party

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Blu-ray!)
Did you know that APL has a small, but excellent collection of Blu-ray movies? Search FindIt, the library catalog, by typing "blu-ray" into the search box and you can browse the collection.

The Green Hornet
I haven't felt very motivated to see this movie, but I did not know until writing this post that Gondry directed it, so my mind has changed...

This is a sort of 3-in-1 movie with three different directors each directing their own segment all set in Tokyo.

Gondry does some amazing music videos and here's an excellent collection of them and a few other gems.