Friday, January 30, 2009

Do not Meddle in the Affairs of Authors

Gather round for a tale of a brush with fame just a few degrees removed from yours truly. It happened a long, long time ago in a previous century! My friend, a librarian, has a brother who was also a librarian in a Midwestern State that is not Iowa but shall remain unnamed. Said brother - let’s call him Ned - was charged with coordinating author visits at his Midwestern Library. On one such occasion the author was Nevada Barr. Ned and Nevada did not hit it off. I wouldn’t go so far as to use the word ‘detested’ but suffice it to say they were glad to part company at the end of Ms. Barr’s stay. So glad that Ms. Barr might have been heard to mention that she would write Ned into a novel and let’s just say Ned would not come off as a peach of a guy. Ever read Blind Descent? I don’t want to give anything away, but the person whose name sounds like a character from the Flintstones - or a place in New Jersey - may have his origins in a Midwestern Library. True story? I know his sister. Now you have to read it, don't you?

Blind descent / Nevada Barr.

Many many other Nevada Barr titles

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Not the Same Old Dry (ha!) Science Discovery

According to Archaeology magazine, Jan/Feb2009, Vol. 62 Issue 1, here is one of the top discoveries of 2008: they found 14,300-year-old coprolites in Paisley Cave, Oregon, as evidence of human colonization of North America before the Clovis people. (Are you with me so far?) It is reported that due to a new technique for isolating genetic samples, researchers were able to extract human DNA from the coprolites. OK, I had to look it up but coprolites are apparently really really old samples of, how shall we put it, poo! Yep, they are getting DNA from stuff the producers of which had no idea would be of any value whatsoever. Makes you proud to be a primate. For more information you can read Franklin Avenue Library's copies of Archaeology.

Graphic Source: Commons

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chinese New Year! Yippee!

The Year of the Ox. So if you were born in 1973, 1961, 1949, the babies born in 4707 will join you in all your pulchritude. You share the qualities of patience, kindness, conservatism and stubbornness. Interesting combination in an infant. Might be good for the pets, some potential trouble for parents. The InfoPlease Almanac states that "Those born in ox years tend to be painters, engineers, and architects." Hide the crayons. All our books about the Chinese New Year are for children, except this one. The title kind of gives away the fact that this baby is for adults. Read: less fun, more elegant. Beautiful, in fact - in a mere 30 pages. Chinese New Year festivals : a picturesque monograph of the rites, ceremonies and observances in relation thereto Thereto! These people are not kidding around. Enjoy the New Year!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

World War II Anniversary

On January 27th 1945, the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviet Army. About 6,000 prisoners were released, 95% of whom were Jewish. It's easy to forget these horrors, isn't it? Just a quiet reminder. We have a wide selection of books on the concentration camps, here are a few specifically about Auschwitz.

Auschwitz : a new history / Laurence Rees.

People in Auschwitz / Hermann Langbein

Love carried me home : women surviving Auschwitz / [reported by] Joy Erlichman Miller.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Fabulous Farmer

Science Fiction author Philip Jose Farmer was born on this day in 1918. He's probably best known for his Riverworld series which posits that everyone is reborn after death and in the same place at the same time - on a planet completely encircled by a river. Hence the whole Riverworld thing. You meet Samuel Clemens, Alice Liddell Hargreaves (the model for Wonderland's Alice), and Cyrano de Bergerac! Farmer solves the language problem by having everyone speak Esperanto - a convenience engineered by the same aliens who resurrected everyone. These may be the only books you ever read to feature that tongue. Although of course they're just written in regular English. You don't actually have to read in Esperanto. So, whew. The first 3 books in the series are considered essential, here they are in order:

Friday, January 23, 2009

He was the King

Well, I did it again. I missed Elvis Presley's birthday, which was January 8th. Actually I'm more of a Beatles girl, but I did go to an Elvis Concert. Once I told this to a friend, and she literally said, "You did not!". Well, I did so. It was in Ames in the early 70's, and my sister and I were not too excited about it. Get this - Elvis had a comedian open for him. Just like Vegas. Unfortunately we did not see slim Elvis, we saw barely-moving-Elvis, who wandered on stage to the strains of Also Sprach Zarathustra. I have never before or since seen so many beehive hairdos. On women made of nothing but sinew who were apparently held together by product. So I have reason to remember Elvis' birthday. Celebrate it late by checking out a few tunes:

Can't help falling in love the Hollywood hits /
by Presley, Elvis, 1935-1977., Jordanaires (Musical group)

The essential Elvis Presley
by Presley, Elvis, 1935-1977.

Great country songs
by Presley, Elvis, 1935-1977.

Peace in the valley the complete gospel recordings /
by Presley, Elvis, 1935-1977.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

And Now for Something Excessively Cheerful

I ran across a Shel Silverstein poem the other day and it reminded me how much I enjoy them. He wrote The Giving Tree and collaborated on plays with David Mamet (and how did that work), but his books of poetry, A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends, are the treasures as far as I'm concerned. Just the thing if you've got the winter blues. Here is a sample:

Bear In There by Shel Silverstein
There's a Polar Bear
In our Frigidaire--
He likes it 'cause it's cold in there.
With his seat in the meat
And his face in the fish
And his big hairy paws
In the buttery dish

For more see:
Our collection of Mr. Silverstein's works.

You're welcome.

Biographical Source: Biography Resource Center

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Andrew Wyeth No More

Andrew Wyeth died last Friday. He was 91. At his first gallery showing , when he was 20, all his paintings sold in 2 days. His most famous painting, Christina's World broadcasts yearning so strongly it would be painful to look at if it were not so lovely. We have a fine selection of sources for both his work and life. Take a look.

A search of our catalog using Wyeth, Andrew as the Subject.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

"For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we've been told that we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people. Yes we can."
New Hampshire Primary January 8, 2008

Happy Inauguration Day

Photo Courtesy Gerry Rowland. Taken 10/31/08 in Des Moines, Iowa, Gateway Park

Monday, January 19, 2009

Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart."
Oslo, Norway, December 11, 1964.—Nobel Lecture by The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., p. 1 (1964).

Source: Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989
Graphic Source:Public Domain Clip Art
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, all six buildings of the Des Moines Public Library are closed today.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Did you even know this had a name?

Mondegreen. Apparently when author Sylvia Wright was a child she heard the song snippet 'laid him on the green' as 'Lady Mondegreen'. The American Heritage® Dictionary defines a mondregreen thus: "A series of words that result from the mishearing or misinterpretation of a statement or song lyric." See, I'm not even making this up. The Who's song I'm Free contains the lyric 'And freedom tastes of reality'. I was sure they were singing 'I'm free of the chains of reality'. And when Carly Simon was singing about that vain guy and mentioned clouds in my coffee, I heard grounds in my coffee. I still think my way makes more sense. One mondregreen is so famous it became the title of an Ed McBain novel. Guess which one!

If you scroll down on this web page you'll see a list of some nifty mondegreens: Fun with Words

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Funny, You Should Ask

I was looking for something funny to read and a friend of mine suggested Laurie Notaro's books. Notaro has a series chronicling her many uncomfortable and sometimes disgusting exploits. Ordinarily I'm not a huge fan of scatological humor - and it's not all in that vein - but by golly, she can write comically about incidents that are completely horrifying. If they should happen to me, that is. Most of the trouble she brings on herself, hence the series heading 'Idiot Girl'. The Christmas volume has a story concerning her father's 'trouserly dishabille' that had me in tears. My husband wanted me to read it to him since it was so darn funny but I could only get it out in little gasps because I was guffawing so hard I couldn't breathe. So if you are looking for a little humor that is adult and juvenile at the same time, you can't go wrong with an Idiot Girl.

The Idiot Girls' Action Adventure Club

An idiot girl's Christmas : true tales from the top of the naughty list

The idiot girl and the flaming tantrum of death

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Kayaking - Just the Thing for Iowa Winter Sports

Did you know there's more than one kind of kayak? More that one kind of kayaking? You've got your ocean kayak, your two-person kayak, your sit-on-top kayak. Isn't kayak just a fun word? kayak kayak kayak. Kayaking is a good activity for people who'd like to get out on the water but don't want to have to trailer heavy boats. Many kayaks are lightweight enough that one person can easily load them on the top of their car. With the right kind of rack you can even get two kayaks on the top of one car! And now I see they have some kind of sliding-down-the-snowy-hill-in-a-kayak event in the Des Moines Winter Games. Who knew the things were so versatile? You can even do river kayaying in the winter. For more information about kayaks' warm-weather use (sigh. warm.) you could read these books:
Kayaking made easy : a manual for beginners with tips for the experienced
Basic kayaking : all the skills and gear you need to get started
Paddling Iowa : 96 great trips by canoe and kayak

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Des Moines Postcards - History Through Mail

Did you see on the home page that old postcards of Des Moines are now viewable online? You are gonna love them! Many are beautiful, but even the plainer postcards provide an amazing glimpse into Des Moines' past. Here's a lovely postcard of the Coliseum, the landmark that burned down in 1949. If you visit the Des Moines Public Library Postcard Collection you can also see the side of the postcard used for writing. And if you have incredible eyesight and a background in graphology you might even be able to read the message! I could make out a few words, mostly 'I' and 'the'. Not getting the gist. But you might.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Not Your Ordinary Lizard

Scientists have found a new lizard species in the Galapagos! And that sucker is big, striped, and pinky-colored. Not to mention, um, unattractive. How is it that these keen observers have missed a big pink lizard all these years? Well, it was actually spotted in the 1980's but was not determined to be a new species until now. It might have been a frivolous version of one of the garden-variety lizards. You just don't know. For more information on the other denizens of the Galapagos, read:
The Galápagos Islands / Pierre Constant

Source: Weekend All Things Considered (NPR); 01/10/2009 as accessed through Ebscohost

Friday, January 9, 2009

Goodbye Donald Westlake

Last Thursday Donald Westlake died. Do you have any idea how much real estate that man owns in libraries? Westlake wrote 90 books. 90. He had to write some under pseudonyms because the publishers preferred to put out only one title per author per year. Westlake's stories are complex, speedy, twisty-turny thrillers. If you pick up one written under his pseudonym Richard Stark, you've got yourself a book that features Parker, a cold protagonist who doesn't care whom he hurts. Not your light fluffy stuff. If you're looking for the funny, try books featuring John Dortmunder and his partner Andy Kelp. John and Andy are a little on the hapless side. Westlake's newest novel, Get Real, will be published in July 2009. 75 and still writing. Sigh. Up until last Thursday.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Healthy Cooking Week - We are not kidding.

This book does not even pretend to be fun. ChefMD's big book of culinary medicine : a food lover's road map to losing weight, preventing disease, and getting really healthy Culinary medicine. Should this even qualify as a cookbook, you ask? Today it does. Some of the chapter headings show promise! Who doesn't want to be a Kitchen Physician? The Science of Satiety could be interesting. As long as I can eat something tasty in order to reach the desired state of nicely, but not too, full. I really like this lively little chapter title: What Do You Eat for That? Might have made me nervous, except that the author is an actual doctor. Dr. John La Puma was the first physician to teach cooking and nutrition in a U.S. medical school. Plus he is a professionally trained chef. Take that! Literally!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Healthy Cooking Week - It's in our Jeans

You know Jean Carper, the woman in the Sunday supplement who tells you which foods to eat for a brighter, better you? She writes cookbooks! Who knew! Jean is stocked to the gills with nutrition information and we are just lucky that she shares her vast expertise with us in the form of Jean Carper's complete healthy cookbook : a comprehensive, science-based nutrition guide with more than 200 delicious recipes. Note that it's science-based. Not to impugn other health food guides written by people who had good luck eating nothing but, say, cassava beans. But Ms. Carper was senior medical correspondent for CNN, and is a nationally-known authority in the field of nutrition. So no matter what else these recipes are, by golly they are healthy.

Monday, January 5, 2009

You knew it was coming...Healthy Cooking Week

There's no avoiding it. We have eaten like maniacs for the last 2 months, bolstering the 'cheese food product' industry for yet another year. Cheese in a can - pure genius. Now even our taste buds are starting to think, "Hmmm, salad, was it nice and fresh with crunchiness?". I think our systems are calling out for fiber in hopes of flushing out the grease. So this week we will suggest easy, fun books to help you cook food that's good for you! And no, that last sentence was not a complete oxymoron.

Cooking healthy with a pressure cooker : a Healthy Exchanges cookbook Men might like this too! There is that slight element of danger with a pressure cooker, not everyone can handle it. Are you thrill seekers hooked yet? I think this is the best I can do in the extreme cooking department. Be careful anyway.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Healthy Meals for People Who Don't Cook

That's what I've been looking for anyway.  You know what I find?  Books for people who don't want to cook, who don't like to cook, who don't know how to cook.  OK the last one applies to me, but it's not the point.  This isn't about what I like or want. I don't cook. Apparently this is not of interest to the cookbook industry.  They seem to think if you use a slow cooker it doesn't count as cooking. I don't have the vaguest idea how to use a crockpot. It's cooking!  I'll have to settle for books aimed at the reluctant/unskilled kitchen-appliance-user.  Here's a link to a list of books found under the subject Quick and easy cookery.  Now I hate to use the word liar... let's just say I don't think 'easy' applies to all of them.  But One-dish meals : over 200 all-new, all-in-one recipes may have possibilities.  Unless you want to cook for me?  No?  Can't blame you.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Kitten with a Clip

Ah, by now you all know that Eartha Kitt is no longer among us. There was no one like her - the sultry stance, the eyes that dared you to do anything but bore her. And where did that clipped diction come from? She sang as if she were biting off the end of each word as sharply and cleanly as the wild cats she was often compared to. That voice. Was it Edith Piaf with an attitude? No matter, she was mesmerizing. And you just know whatever Santa Baby brought was not enough. She'll always want (and deserve) more.

Fittingly, the book we have about her is entitled Rejuvenate! It's Never Too Late!
Graphic: eLibrary Getty Images

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year Happiness

For those of you who follow the Gregorian Calendar, anyway. All six buildings of the Des Moines Public Library will be closed today. But we'll be thinking of you fondly. See you tomorrow!

Graphic Source: Dover Sampler