Friday, September 30, 2011

Songs in My Head and at APL

APL has 4 new cds with songs that are stuck in my head, otherwise know as "ear worms." The list has the APL holdings and a link to listen to the song.

Black Dub cd
Black Dub website - Click video, then I Believe in You

Circuital cd
My Morning Jacket website - Find the videos, then click Holdin' on to Black Metal

Rome cd
Danger Mouse's Rose with a Broken Neck on the Rolling Stone website.

Torches cd
Foster the People website - Find the videos, click Pumped Up Kicks

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2011 Nobel Prize

The end of September finds us within days of the Swedish Academy’s announcement of its Nobel Prize winners. The announcement schedule is:

Monday, October 3rd: Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Tuesday, October 4th: Nobel Prize in Physics
Wednesday, October 5th: Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Friday, October 7th: Nobel Peace Prize
Monday, October 10th: Nobel Prize in Economics

The announcements can be viewed live. Traditionally the Nobel Prize in Literature does not receive a designated announcement. Instead, the Swedish Academy announces the prize sometime in the first half of October. I am unsure of the reason, but do enjoy the Christmas-morning-feel of waiting for the literature winner.

The following four American writers have been favorites the past few years:

Philip Roth
American Pastoral
Portnoy’s Complaint

Joyce Carol Oates

Cormac McCarthy
Blood Meridian
Child of God

Don DeLillo
White Noise

These three writers, coupled with the four American writers, comprise a general list of favorites:

The Pages of Day and Night
Transformations of the Lover

Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Wizard of the Crow
A Grain of Wheat

Haruki Murakami
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Norwegian Wood

The Syrian poet Adonis is a perennial favorite and with the Arab Spring gripping Syria, he seems professionally and politically positioned to win this year’s prize. If I were betting (and I am not, however, numerous betting houses throughout Europe offer odds) I would take Adonis. I’d like to see Cormac McCarthy win, but American writers have not fared well since Toni Morrison won in 1993. Here's to a week of Christmas-morning-anticipation.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Enjoy Your Freedom - Read a Banned Book!

The list looks like it's for a reading group with interesting, eclectic taste: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

Actually these are some of the books that were challenged, restricted, removed, or banned during the past year. In early September, a school board in Republic, Missouri voted 6-0 to place Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut and Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler in a restricted part of the high school library and allow only parents access to the books. The challenge was brought by a college professor who said the books were among titles that "teach principles contrary to Biblical morality and truth."

In past years, many of what we consider to be classic American novels have been banned - - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Call of the Wild by Jack London, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, and The Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

In the early part of the 20th century, books were censored from being bought or published. Today, it more often means a book has been challenged in a library setting, usually a school library. We have had books challenged at the Austin Public Library and we have a committee to respond to such challenges. According to the American Library Association, most challenges to books are motivated by a desire to protect children from "inappropriate" sexual content or "offensive" language, but some books are said to be "unsuited to any age group."

This week, we honor our freedom of choice, speech and the press with Banned Books Week. This annual event celebrates the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. It shows support for not only intellectual freedom, but also honors human beings' basic right to choose, to make individual decisions regarding what they read, which is not the case in many places. Iran's culture minister creates lists of harmful books to be banned. Titles ranging from the uncensored version of Plato's Symposium to Louis-Ferdinand Celine's Journey to the End of the Night, and works by James Joyce, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Kurt Vonnegut and Paulo Coelho have been banned in recent years.

The 30th annual Banned Books Week, sponsored by the ALA, booksellers, and publishers is Sept. 24th to Oct. 1st. Many of APL's locations will have displays of banned books. The Harry Ransom Center's exhibit, Banned, Burned, Seized, and Censored, which opened September 6 and goes through January 22, 2012, reveals how censorshop worked in America between WWI and WWII, letting writers, reformers, attorneys, and publishers speak for themselves, and illuminating the complex negotiations that occurred at the intersection of literature and "obscenity."

Friday, September 23, 2011

180° South

I've watched a beautiful documentary several times now called 180° South. It features a man named Jeff Johnson narrating a trip he takes to Patagonia, a region of Argentina and Chile. Johnson was inspired by two men, Yvon Chouinard and Douglas Tompkins, who took a similar trip to Patagonia in the late '60s. Following Johnson's travels you get to see some of the most gorgeous, untouched open country in existence. Johnson's narration reveals a person passionate about the environment and travel coupled with a wonderful fearlessness and sense of freedom. His passions are surfing and rock climbing, so the documentary is full of footage of some amazing surf and seemingly completely vertical, totally smooth mountains. Over the course of the documentary, you are introduced to Chouinard and Tompkins, two really amazing men. Chouinard is a famous outdoorsman who began the well-known clothing and outdoor supply company, Patagonia. Tompkins, also a famous outdoorsman, began The North Face and ESPRIT Clothing Company, but now he devotes his time and resources to buying up land in Patagonia in an effort to preserve the area. Tompkins and his wife Kris have conserved nearly 2 million acres of mostly grasslands in Patagonia.

What I love about this documentary is that it does not have a blatant envioronmental message. It's really about one man's travels and his thoughts along the way. The beauty he sees is in real danger largely because of increasing development and he definitely addresses it, but I never felt there was any kind of agenda in mind. The reason I've watched it so many times is really for the scenery - I often put it on in the background as I make dinner and allow myself to be transported to the gorgeous country I hope to see with my own eyes someday. Also, it has an excellent soundtrack including songs by Andrew Bird and Modest Mouse.

Read more about Patagonia (the place as well as the company) here at the library!

Dusk on the Campo: A Journey in Patagonia

Enduring Patagonia

In Patagonia

Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman
Written by Yvon Chouinard

Patagonia: Nature's Last Frontier

Solitude: Seeking Wisdom in Extremes: A Year Alone in the Patagonia Wilderness

Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin
Famous for his book In Patagonia in which he documents his travels, this is a collection of Chatwin's letters.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Looking for a Job?

As reference librarians here at the Central location of the Austin Public Library, we help countless people every week find a job. We help people write their resumes. We help people decipher the maze of applying online. We help people learn new skills for this very competitive job market. We help guide people to the many available resources on job searching. And finally, we love it when people come back to us and tell us that the help we gave them helped them land a new job.

If you're out there in blog land, scouring the Internet for job resources, search no more. The reference librarians have created four very lenghthy information guides to help you fetter out the mountains of career paths you can choose, uncover the hidden job market, find those job listings, write an excellent resume, and excel at the interviews you're going to land.

We know getting a job should be as easy as filling out a job application, going in for an interview and getting the job. But, it's not. You need to read everything you can, learn the ins and outs of your choosen career path, and shine among often hundreds of job applicants. Read through the following information guides, I would be surprised if they didn't help.

Jobs Information Guides
: Career Guidance
: Hidden Job Market
: Job Searching
: Resumes, Cover Letters, Interviews

If all of this reading is overwhelming to you and all you have is a simple question, come to one of our job labs here at the Central Library. We have them every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 3:00-4:00 on the 2nd floor. Friendly librarians and volunteers will help you with such details as traversing those online applications all the way to learning how to insert formulas in MS Excel. You have a question? We'll have an answer. If we can't find the answer, we'll find someone who can.

Good luck and don't forget to write a thank you note after your interview!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Filter Bubble

I recently read Eli Pariser's new book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You. This was an informative read regarding privacy on the Internet and the types of information companies are actively collecting about your behavior online. Basically, major Internet companies, such as Google and Facebook, are looking very closely at your every click and diligently recording the info in an effort to personalize their site specifically to you. For example, when you do a Google search and start clicking away at the results, Google installs a cookie in your browser so that it may track what you're clicking on and what you're doing online. If you seemed more inclined to click on a right-leaning political website, for example, Google takes note and the next time you run a search the results displayed will include more right-leaning websites similar to the one you clicked on. If you have an account with them and are regularly logged in during your searches and activities, Google learns even more about you.

Pariser points out many problems with Internet companies using this practice and two in particular really stood out to me. First of all, you regularly have Internet companies looking over your shoulder as you browse, collecting (sometimes intimate) information about you. As a librarian, I find this assault on individual privacy alarming, particularly as a clear way to opt out of this level of data collection is not readily apparent to those that do not have an account with the Internet site or search engine they are using. When I discuss issues with Internet privacy with others I often hear back, "Oh well, if you're not doing anything illegal, what's to worry about?" Plenty, in my opinion. Information on how you behave, legally or otherwise, can always be manipulated or edited to reflect poorly on you. We see this everyday in the news. Though most of us are not newsworthy figures, I still feel that we are not immune from the manipulation of private information by various entities and/or individuals for their own professional or personal gain as most terms of agreement are vague on how the information they collect may be used. Further still, there are virtually no laws that pertain to Internet privacy, so, as of now, the information we give to Internet companies so freely could be used in a wide variety of ways that are potentially detrimental or inflammatory.

But, for me, this is not the worst of it. The reason the info is being collected on you in the first place is so Internet companies can improve and personalize their services. This sounds like a good thing, but, as mentioned above, Google is filtering your search results. Rather than a search engine that shows you a wide variety of websites from a wide variety of perspectives, you're seeing websites based on what you've already demonstrated to Google that you like through your previous clicks. With the rise in popularity of the Internet, many people, myself included, touted what a great tool it would be to bring democracy, change, and exposure to fresh perspectives to people around the world. Instead, the major Internet companies that are major players in the future development of the Internet are bringing you exactly what they believe you want to see. Eli Pariser argues that this allows for people to get caught in feedback loops that continually validate their own perspectives and sense of the world without any chance of exposure to something new or something in conflict with what you already believe.

This is a smartly argued book that raises some great questions on the future of the Internet. Will we allow major corporations to make the rules, or are we going to stand up for our own rights online and our vision of the Internet as tool for democracy? This is only one of many great books on the topic, so read up and speak out!

Access Controlled: The Shaping of Power, Rights, and Rule in Cyberspace

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry)

The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing To Our Brains

Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Crying of Lot 49

For years I have wondered what the title Crying of Lot 49 written by Thomas Pynchon in 1966 referred to. So I finally checked the book out from Faulk Central to discover that the phrase is also the last line of the novel. The story is about a conspiracy to subvert the US postal system, and the main protagonist, Oedipa Mass, is a suburban housewife who becomes aware that there may be more to life than her sterile mode of existence. The novel is full of absurdist names, metaphors, freaky characters, allusions, cultural symbols, and terms overloaded with confusing meanings. The crying refers to the auctioneer's voice and lot 49 is the collection of stamps being auctioned. But the stamps may also be crying a message, but I am not re-reading the book to figure it out.

Below is an example of Pychon's writing, and the passage still resonates today since the government reported this week that more than 46 million Americans are living under the government’s official poverty line, which is the highest number in the 52 years the Census Bureau has recorded such data.

Yet at least he had believed in the cars, maybe to excess: how could he not, seeing people poorer than him come in...bring with them the most godawful of trade-ins: motorized, metal extensions of themselves, of their families and what their whole lives must be like, out there so naked for anybody, a stranger like himself, to look at...inside smelling hopeless of children, of supermarket booze, or two, sometimes three generations of cigarette smokers, or only of dust--and when the cars were swept out you had to look at the actual residue of these lives, and there was no way of telling what things had been truly refused ...or had simply (perhaps tragically) been lost: clipped coupons promising savings of 5 or 10¢, trading stamps, pink flyers advertising specials at the market, butts, tooth-shy combs, help-wanted ads, Yellow Pages torn from the phone book, rags of old underwear or dresses that already were period costumes, for wiping your own breath off the inside of a windshield with so you could see whatever it was, a movie, a woman or car you coveted, a cop who might pull you over just for drill, all the bits and pieces coated uniformly, like a salad of despair, in a grey dressing of ash, condensed exhaust, dust, body wastes--it nauseated him to look, but he had to look.

My favorite passage in the book is a conversation between Oedipa Maas and her psychiatrist, Dr. Hilarius.

“I came," she said, "hoping you could talk me out of a fantasy."
Cherish it!" cried Hilarious, fiercely. "What else do any of you have? Hold it tightly by it's little tentacle, don't let the Freudians coax it away or the pharmacists poison it out of you. Whatever it is, hold it dear, for when you lose it you go over by that much to the others. You begin to cease to be".

The Crying of Lot 49
is one of the titles on APL Recommends Cult Classics list.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Trying hard to do...

"The tree on the mountain height is its own enemy.
The grease that feeds the light devours itself.
The cinnamon tree is edible: so it is cut down!
The lacquer tree is profitable: they maim it.
Every man knows how useful it is to be useful.

No one seems to know
How useful it is to be useless."

-Chuang Tzu

In January I resolved to read less. My intention being that if I read less I would have more time for other activities. Realizing I already had plenty of time for other activities and that what I truly lacked was time for idleness, I further resolved to do nothing. Good and proper nothingness: Sitting on my porch, walking, thinking, trying not to think. Being an inveterate reader, I couldn’t possibly just begin this new course. I had to read about doing nothing first. Below are a few books that provided further encouragement to do nothing:

The Way of Chuang Tzu (beautiful meditations on simplicity, humor, and contentment)
How to be Idle (Tom Hodgkinson's goal: convince folks of the merits of idleness)
Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness (great essays on simple pleasures)
Candide (Candide does everything before reaching a place and state where he can do nothing).

Months later I still love a good book about nothing, but I've also become more comfortable with nothingness. The fall seems a fitting time to really hone the craft of doing nothing.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Happy Belated Labor Day

For those of you still laboring, and those who wish you were, and those who’ve quit looking, books and movies about labor unions, which are still legal as I write:

Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Movement
The forgotten workers of the fields -- The education of Cesar Chavez -- The community organizers -- Creating a union for farm workers -- The Delano grape strike and the great march to Sacramento

Dark Harbor: The War for the New York Waterfront
Case studies of New York stevedores and organized crime.

There is Power in a Union
The epic story of labor in America, beginning with the Pullman train strike.

Taylor Chain: A Decade of Union Democracy and Collective Bargaining
A movie about a strike in a small factory in Indiana and how both the workers and management want things to get better.

Why Unions Matter
Engaging examples of unions improving democracy.

State of the Unions
How labor can strengthen the middle class, improve our economy, and regain political influence.

Femininity in Flight: A History of Flight Attendants
A 2007 book about unions and stewardesses that should circulate more frequently after that new TV show, Pan Am, starts airing this fall.

Mobsters, Unions, and Feds
The title says it all: labor racketeering in New York City, and organized labor's response to organized crime.

Friday, September 09, 2011


Tomorrow, the GLBT community in Austin will be celebrating Gay Pride.  

Recently, I learned by serendipity about the death of Rudolf Brazda, one of the few survivors of Nazi concentration camps where he and other gay men had to wear a pink triangle attached to their uniforms denoting their sexual orientation.  That pink triangle made them a target for brutality, abuse and object of “scientific” experimentation. 

When I read about Brazda, I felt that I was the only person in the world who didn’t know about these atrocities. Then I jumped ahead in time to 1969 and started reading more in depth about the Stonewall riots in New York City. I learned about the before and after and how the protests changed the vision and rights of the GLTB community in this country.

Maybe because I have all this information fresh in my mind right now or maybe because of the love I have for my amazing friends in the GLBT community, that I am more excited than usual about this celebration in Austin.  If you want to get in the mood for this important event, here’s a list of movies in the Austin Public Library collection that might help you:
Tomorrow, go out, celebrate and be proud!  Ah!! Don’t forget to read our two previous blog posts: From the Closet to the Courtroom  and  Gay Pride Month Book Lists.

*Thanks to JB for helping with the selection of titles for this post.  

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Not Your Normal Kitchen

I just finished Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly and I must say, I enjoyed it thoroughly. I've been watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations for a couple of years and I am very jealous of his travels and eating. However, he'll eat anything and everything. He's admitted so in his book and in his blog. I, for one, would not even dare go where he has gone, food-wise. I do not like liver. I would never eat an eyeball, no matter how much sauce you put on it. And I do not like a lot of fish. But that's why I don't have a wildly, popular tv show and he does. His happy-to-eat-everything additude all began with oysters when he was a young boy on a family trip to France. I wish I could be this open to trying new foods, I suppose it could be my squeamish American mind that prevents me from doing so.

Anthony Bourdain has written many books, but I think the next one I want to read is:
No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach
Have you read any of Bourdain's works? You know he's written some fiction too.

Another chef, Andrew Zimmern, takes it just a bit farther. He has a show called Bizarre Foods where he samples food from all over the world. Not just everyday, run-of-the-mill food, he eats everything from bugs and rodents to eyeballs and guts. And there's a lot in between. Reviewing Bizarre Foods for the New York Times, Susan Stewart commented, "By taking an anthropological approach to food, Mr. Zimmern broadens his subject, conveying a vivid sense of place and serious appreciation for social and culinary diversity." Serious appreciation indeed.

If you have a strong stomach and want to check out Zimmern's show, get it from the library:
Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, Collection 1
Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, Collection 2

Zimmern just came out with a new book too, you should take a look:
Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre World of Food: Brains, Bugs, & Blood Sausage

Monday, September 05, 2011

Diego Rivera: The Complete Murals

There is a magical book that the library recently acquired. I am tempted to not blog about it for fear of the physical damage that may occur. I haven't actually weighed it, but I would venture to guess it must weigh upwards of forty pounds. I carry it around hoisted on my shoulder like a basket filled with a heavy load. Diego Rivera: The Complete Murals is a tome in the truest sense of the word. Inside it are lush, fold-out color plates of the super-human murals designed and executed by the Mexican artist. The book also serves as an encyclopedic catalog detailing the artist's life, world travels, and paintings and drawings completed prior to the development of his mature, most well known style.

More titles featuring Diego Rivera's work and life:

Friday, September 02, 2011

Taking Advantage

Without intending to, I have recently read four novels where teachers or bosses have had a "consensual" sexual relationship with a teenage girl. The stories go beyond the specific relationship to illuminate the fraught relationships among friends, families, and entire communities. All four books are cleverly constructed and very well written.

The Adults by Alison Espach
Covert affair, while inappropriate, not to say illegal, seems to be mutual, but Emily is 15 and the English teacher is 25. This secret life reinforces Emily's separation from the adults who most disappoint her.

Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
A single mother and her teenage daughter, Amy, live an isolated life in New England until the intrusion into the life of Amy by her math teacher.

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
One of the three storylines in this identity thriller concerns Lucy Lattimore who runs off after her high school graduation with her history teacher.

The Good Parents by Joan London
Maya has moved from Western Australia to Melbourne where she finds a job in an office, and before she knows what is happening she begins an affair with her much older boss. When her parents travel to Melobourne to visit, she has disapperared.