Tuesday, May 31, 2011

We're Open Again! Plus Movies

All six locations of the Des Moines Pubilc Library resume their regular hours today. Did you see any movies over the weekend?  Here are a few movies that opened on Memorial Day weekends over the years.  Return of the Jedi is one of them, but they can't all be instant classics!

How did Insomnia get in there?  It is a really good movie.  The rest are action packed, prepare to be entertained!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Closed for Memorial Day and a History Bit

All six locations of the Des Moines Public Library are closed today in observation of Memorial Day. 
"In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were either informal, not community-wide or one-time events."  "In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays."
So it's a very old holiday and a fairly new holiday.  Have a good one.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Closed Today and Birthday Cake

All six locations of the Des Moines Public Library are closed today through Monday for the Memorial Day holiday.  Today is a furlough day and staff will not be paid.  We re-open Tuesday, May 31, at our regular time. Today's fun generator: Birthday Cake.  Anything you want to say to the birthday boy/girl? Once you've established their age, that is.  Say it with frosting.  Everything sounds more cheerful in frosting!  But really, we want you to stay around a long long time.  Really.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Memorial Day Closures Starting Tomorrow, Plus Handy Book

All six locations of the Des Moines Public Library will be closed tomorrow, Friday the 27th, through Monday the 30th.  Friday is a furlough day and staff will not be paid for this day.  We re-open at our regular hours on Tuesday, May 31. Soooo, if you're the kind of guy/gal who likes to mess around with home-improvement projects over long weekends, here's a fun book: 75 tools every man needs, and how to use them like a pro.   (I apologize for the single-gender title.) Do you have a coping saw?  If one of your saws looks like a cheese cutter, maybe you do.  How many wrenches do you need?  Let me count the ways.  1. Adjustable Wrench.  2. Allen Wrench.  3. Combination Wrench.  4. Pipe Wrench.  5. Socket Wrench. Hah!   Betcha don't have all of them.  Then again, maybe everyone but me has all of them.  And knows what to do with them.  A tip of my cap to you members of the handy clan.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Read a Book! See a Movie!

Let the Right One In.  We've got the original book, the aforementioned Let the Right One In;  the Swedish movie version, Let the Right One In; and the American movie version, Let Me In.   So the whole Letting In genre is covered.  In a modern Swedish town 12-year-old Oskar meets a mysterious girl in his apartment complex's courtyard.  Eli is pretty, intelligent, only comes out at night and dresses oddly.  In below-freezing weather she wears a light shirt, no jacket. No shoes. Hmmmm.  Terrible things happen in town, and not just to poor Oskar who is viciously bullied in school.  People start dying and disappearing.  Hmmmm.   First I saw the Swedish movie which was gloomy (surprise!) elegant, beautifully acted and just a little vague.  Next I read the book which is gloomy, very well-written and focused.  Now I have to see the American version of the movie in order to complete my trifecta.  I highly recommend these works.  Yours truly is sick and tired of (Spoiler alert!  Like you didn't already know.) vampire books but these have a very fresh take.  Fresh and chilly.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Satchmo vs the British Invasion

Daniel Louis Armstrong.  Born in crushing poverty in 1900, he was no spring chicken when he bumped the unstoppable juggernaut that was the Beatles off the #1 spot on the charts.   With "Hello Dolly" no less!  "Can't Buy Me Love" just couldn't hack it.  "Dolly" may seem a bit staid but some of Armstrong's best work is chockfull of his improvised solos.  And even more of his songs have the best names! "Big Butter and Egg Man", "Struttin' with Some Barbecue", "Potato Head Blues", and that's just the tip of the hankie. "I'm a Ding Dong Daddy (From Dumas)", "Sittin' in the Sun Countin' My Money", "Gut Bucket Blues", "Gully Low Blues", and waaay before the Captain found Tennille, "Muskrat Ramble"! The man could do anything.  Even make us cry with his version of "Wonderful World".

Sources:  Biography in Context
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories, 1890-1954

Monday, May 23, 2011

On Monday March 14th, 1949, the Eleanor Roosevelt raced through a whirlwind tour of Des Moines. Her schedule (deep breath): arrive in town at 3:30, broadcast on KRNT Radio at 4:30, dinner at the Des Moines club at 5:30, speak to an audience of over 4,000 people in the KRNT theater at 8:00, take the train for Chicago at 11:15. Boom!  The title of her speech: "The Successes and Failures of the United Nations".  I believe she would have been quite well-informed on this topic. Best part: Mrs. Roosevelt was interviewed by three students of Roosevelt High. These budding journalists were Janice Cowen, Harriet LaRue and Marilyn Meany.  I really don't know when she squeezed this in.  But can you imagine interviewing the legend that was ER while still in your teens? I'd be tempted to emblazon that on a plaque and wear it around my neck.  But that's just me.

Source:  Des Moines Tribune 3/14/1949 p.8
Des Moines Tribune 3/15/1949 p.4

Friday, May 20, 2011

Big Bertha Phrase

Big Bertha was the nickname for a long-range gun used by the Germans in WWI.  The nickname came from an actual person, Frau Bertha Krupp von Bohlen und Halback (whew),  who owned the Krupp steel works where they made the cannon.  What do you bet she was thinking 'I have all these names and which do they pick?  Bertha'. Even the plain old word 'gun' comes from a woman's name.  Gun is short for the Old Norse moniker Gunnhildr. Why?  Are guns like ships? In 1330 there was a catapult named Dame Gunnidda.  At least that sounds better than Big Bertha.  My dad had a golf club with the trade name Big Bertha.  I hear the golf club was named for the WWI howitzer. Is it just me, or is that stretching it?

Source:  I Hear America Talking page 403

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sky Pilot Phrase

Skyyyyyyyy Pilot!  I had no idea what this ditty by Eric Burdon and the Animals was about.  I just knew it was unhappy and a little trippy like most of their songs. Since 1891 hobos had referred to clergymen as 'sky pilots' in the sense that they guided their flocks to heaven.  By World War II a sky pilot was a military chaplain but the piloting now involved an airplane. An imaginary one.  To get them to heaven! 

Source:  I Hear America Talking p. 447
Graphic Source:  Florida State Parks

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Milk Train Phrase

I've heard 'milk run' in reference to a delivery route that's less than challenging.  Boring!  Milk train, on the other hand, has something to do with actual milk.  In 1853 any train with perishable cargo got the right of way on the rail lines. Fair enough. Around 1910 that condescension comes in to play.  At that point a milk train was a poky old thing that stopped at every single station to drop off and pick up milk cans.  You can see how this might be construed as dull. 

Source:  I Hear America Talking p.209

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Prairie Schooner Phrase

Wouldn't you like to ride on a prairie schooner?  Sounds like you'd just glide effortlessly through the Midwest.  In Iowa, 1841, the term referred to a stagecoach.  By the mid 1840's a prairie schooner was a covered wagon.  Get this - some covered wagons actually had sails to help them get along. So no hallucinating was involved.  Also the mass of grass on the prairies was often referred to as an ocean, hence prairie schooners, ships, and clippers.  Hard to imagine what Iowa must have looked like then.  I'm guessing gorgeous.

Source:  I Hear America Talking, p.107

Monday, May 16, 2011

Going Through a Phrase Week

This week on Random Acts of Information we examine common American phrases.  Why?  Because it's fun.  First up - 'blue lights'.  Quick, what comes to mind?  Does it start with a 'K' ?   This phrase has absolutely nothing to do with bargains. No siree.  During the Revolutionary War a group called the New England Federalists  remained loyal to the crown.  According to one Commodore Decature said Federalists used blue lights to warn British ships of impending attack. Soooo until about the 1850's 'blue lights' meant 'traitors'.  And it sounds so innocuous!

Source: I Hear America Talking p.381

Friday, May 13, 2011

Play Keep Away

Been awhile since we've had a Friday Fun Generator! This one has definitely possibilities. It's called a Keep Out Sign generator, but since you can make it say anything you want ... I call it a Warning! sign generator, still I doubt Will Robinson will pay it any mind.  Short attention span, that boy.  But you have fun!
Keep Out Sign Generator

Thursday, May 12, 2011

National Women's Health Week 2011

Time to think about health, women!  Like we don't every day.  If nothing's aching or sneezing there are soo many helpful newspaper and magazine articles and pharmaceutical ads to remind us that we can break at any time.  So Health Week is just a good opportunity to take inventory of the basics - keeping tests and shots up to date, getting those moles looked at.  No panic needed.  Here's how the Spencer Hospital in Webb, Iowa is observing the week:
A Scavenger hunt!  Are these people inventive or what?  Both the employees and the general public get to play.  They go from department to department to take a gander at what's shaking in Women's Health - Bone Density, Sleep Center, and Agrisafe Departments for example.  Yeah, I know.  Agrisafe?  It has to do with skin care and safety supplies.  Not sure if farming is involved in any way.  Participants get a signature in each department they visit and their names are put in for a prize drawing.  It would be way more fun if they got to look for hidden stuff, but it is a hospital.  No touching.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

President Roosevelt's Train

In the 1930's apparently there was quite a to-do when a president's campaign train stops, even if nothing much happens. Saturday morning October 10 1936, President Roosevelt's train made a quick stop in Des Moines. About 50 people -100 milled around but they were quiet.  Here's an interesting tidbit.  A Mrs. Helena Hawkins from Red Oak Iowa who was at that time the Iowa Young Republicans national committeewoman boarded the train.  A little late as it happened but she made it.  Oh, and a 'dummy', presumably empty, car was situated between the locomotive and the president's car.  Why?   So the president's car avoided dirt and smoke. That's the kind of train it was.

Source:  Des Moines Tribune 10/10/1936 p. 3A

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Flower Says What?

A flower says plenty, according to The Language of Flowers by Kate Greenaway.  I tried to make a sentence but came closer to a conversation:

'Beware of excess', said the Saffron.
'My happiest days are past',  sighed the Meadow Saffron
'I share your sentiments', the Garden Daisy replied.

I thought flowers just symbolized abstracts like youth, purity, love.  But they are really quite specific.  A sprig of ivy with tendrils is 'assiduous to please', for pete's sake.  Seems like a lot of work for a poor little sprig.  But my favorite is the dew plant (pictured) which says, 'serenade'.  Who doesn't like a good serenade?  So don't step on that dandelion.  It's a rustic oracle and gosh knows what it could tell you.  Besides whether or not you like butter.

Graphic Source:  N. IT. Gallery

Monday, May 9, 2011

Murder Most Messy

Do you like your mysteries/thrillers gruesome?  Weird?  The kind that lots of people avoid like the plague?  (Which is in itself gruesome.)  There's a list for that! In our fabulous Reader's Pages. You know, these are not the easiest books to find.  Like pleasant mysteries?  Type in cozy. Boom! Interested in the mechanics of solving a crime?  Police procedural. Zap! Wackos who are intelligent and complex and realllly awful?  Hah!  That takes some searching.  The list is short but most of these authors have series, so they can keep you entertained for a quite while. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

I'll Have What She's Selling

Des Moines' Downtown Farmer's Market opens Saturday 7- noon!  Once again you can buy those rolls, that wine, the flowers that you pine for the rest of the year! Go on, go get it. And a belated Happy Cinco de Mayo!  Saturday from noon to 10 PM there is a Cinco de Mayo celebration in Valley Junction.  From noon to 10 PM!  See how well these two events go together?  All day fun.

National Media Museum

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My 3 Favorite Indie Movies From 2010

Why did I wait until now to recommend these fine movies?  Because by now they don't have a waiting list.  Yeah, this is not my first time at the rodeo.
Ondine: You've got your Colin Farrell, a potential Selkie (a woman who was a seal, not Colin), a spunky yet not-too-cute little girl. Check. Lousy home life for the spunky one, some kind of mysterious danger for the Selkie, and poor old Colin is just plain tired. But it's good!  Really!  For a semi-gritty movie it has nice Irish atmosphere.
Secret of Kells:  Oh my gosh, the animation!  The plot: a threatened invasion and magical salvation at an Irish monastery in the Middle Ages. Whatever.  Go for the visuals alone. Much of the design is based on the illuminated Book of Kells, gorgeous!  You figured that out all ready?  OK, but did I mention it's not computer-animated?  Glorious 2-d, baby. Wallow in it.
Cairo Time:  A leisurely tale of two adults whose friendship blossoms towards romance in a beautiful, exotic city.  This was of course before the uprising so the movie has the luxury of showing you just the best of Cairo.  Bonus: Who knew the weedy little doctor from Deep Space 9 would grow up to be so dreamy and elegant? I swear he even got taller.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Son of How to Get a Des Moines Public Library Card

1. Be a resident of Iowa. Through the State Open Access program almost all Iowans are eligible for a Des Moines Public Library card. Staff can tell you if you live in one of the very few places that aren't eligible.
2. Show up at any one of our 6 locations.
3. Show us photo ID and something with your current name and address. If your photo ID all ready has your current name and address that's all you need. Bingo! If your ID isn't up-to-date, a bill, checkbook, or a piece of first class canceled mail with your name and current address on it will do.
4. We'll get you set up with a card and you can check out the same day! Yay!
5. Let us know as soon as possible if you lose your card or if it is stolen. You do not want other people using your card, because you are the responsible party if someone else checks out with it. Once you've notified us we will set the card 'Lost' and it can never be used again. Finis.

So get a card! Check out books, CDs, use the internet, just go nuts.  You'll love it!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Otzi the Iceman

And he's not even a supervillian.  I'd forgotten all about the man they found in the ice in an Italian glacier in September 1991.  I mean I thought it was cool but did not realize that the amount of information he offered was amazing!  For one thing they figured he was 45-50 years old.  I thought people didn't live that long at the time.  What did they have 5,300 years ago in Europe?  Unleavend bread, which was found (CSI-like) in his stomach, part of his last meal.   Tame sheep - they could tell from his coat.  And maybe snow shoes!  Otzi had a sort of frame made of wood with him and they originally thought it was for some kind of backpack.  But since he was out in the frozen wilderness, snowshoes would make sense. He even had an axe with a copper head!  Pretty well outfitted for a guy from 5,000 years ago.  No wonder he lived to be 45.

Source: dig, May/Jun2006, Vol. 8 Issue 5, p12-13, 2p
As accessed through EBSCOHost

Monday, May 2, 2011

Whose Long Walk?

You may be familiar with the book The Long Walk, about an escape from a Siberian prison camp a thousand miles from nowhere. Now there's the movie The Way Back, based on said book .  Over the years there have been questions about the account. Did it even happen?  Did it happen, but to someone other than Slavomir Rawicz?  Or was it actually Witold GliƄski who made the walk? There was no proof, no documents, no corroborating witnesses (too much Law & Order) to Slawicz's tale.  Linda Willis has documents. We're talking piles and piles of them, almost hoarder-sized.  She contacted an enormous number of people to get at what truth can be found concerning this arduous escape.  Willis has read documents that prove Rawicz was not where he said he was during the pertinent time period. Aha! If you have questions about this story Willis she can't answer them all but her protracted chase after the truth is in itself quite a story.

Looking for Mr. Smith : seeking the truth behind The long walk, the greatest survival story ever told / Linda Willis
The way back [DVD]