DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Dec 17 2014

Foxy Brown, She-ro

by Hope L

pamI’m not really a Twitter person, but when I joined Twitter and tried to use the doggone thing, I was surprised when a famous person, none other than Pam Grier–yes, THE  Pam Grier of Foxy Brown, Jackie Brown and most recently, The L Word (cable TV series) fame–started following me.

Now, there are probably those of you who have celebrities following your Twitter feed. I, on the other hand, am a complete social media novice, and when Pam Grier’s name popped up–well, I mean, with Foxy and Roger Corman and Richard Pryor and Freddie Prinze and Kareem, oh yeah, and more recently, Jackie Brown and Quentin Tarantino…

Being the Hollywood gadfly that I am, I went and checked out Foxy: My Life in Three Acts, by Pam Grier with Andrea Cagan, from my DCPL branch. It just confirmed what I already knew about Pam Grier/aka Foxy–she is one cool chica.

Now, I had watched her for a few years around the turn of the millennium in Showtime’s The L Word.  And of course a chick like Pam would play a character who could only drive a green vintage late 60′s/early 70′s vehicle (Chevelle? Impala?).  She couldn’t exactly drive around in a Subaru, now, could she?

As Pam explains:

“I had become one of the most recognizable female stars of the blaxploitation genre…  This movement of which I was such a prominent member was shadowing the women’s movement, where women were demanding equal rights to men in art, business, family, and all aspects of life.  My movies featured women claiming the right to fight back, which previously had been out of the question.”

You, GO, Girrrrl!

pam2Yes, the queen of Blaxploitation movies is not only cool, she has had one heckuva life so far. Highlights of her life include enduring and witnessing racial discrimination from all directions, like being in a church choir bus that was shot at in the middle of Watts during the historic riots of 1965;  and, just as she garnered her first job as an actress, meeting and dating the soon-to-be famous college basketball player Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr. (“Call me Lew” before he changed his name to Kareem Abdul Jabbar); and, upon prodding from Gloria Steinem, appearing on the cover of Ms. Magazine; AND, dating and loving two major comedians who would struggle with drug addiction (Freddie Prinze and Richard Pryor), and on and on.

Pam Grier did many of her own stunts, like riding the stunt horses and popping wheelies on motorcycles. She starred in movies with Paul Newman, Eartha Kitt, and had a role on the blockbuster TV miniseries RootsShe survived both cancer and the entertainment industry.

As I watched Jackie Brown the other night, I rooted for Jackie (Pam). In the end, I knew she would get revenge, the money, and the guy–if she wanted him.

Pam Grier defines the word SHE-RO. Plus, unlike me, she knows how to tweet and use Twitter.

 

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Dec 15 2014

Bill of Rights Day

by Glenda

Bill of Rights imageDid you know that December 15, 2014 is Bill of Rights Day?  The Bill of Rights includes our key amendments to the U. S. Constitution, and they protect our individual rights. States and individuals were concerned that the original Constitution did not protect individual rights. The Constitution was signed by the thirteen original states with the understanding that the Bill of Rights would be created, amending the new U.S. Constitution. On September 25, 1789 the first Congress of the United States proposed twelve amendments to the Constitution; however, only ten of the twelve were added to the Constitution on December 15, 1791.

Bill of Rights (summary)

Amendment #1:  Freedom of speech, press and religion.

Amendment #2:  The right to bear arms.

Amendment #3:  Protection of homeowners from quartering troops, except during war.

Amendment #4:  Rights and protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

Amendment #5:  Right of due process of law, protections against double jeopardy, self incrimination.

Amendment #6:  Rights of a speedy trial by jury of peers and rights of accused.

Amendment #7:  Rights of trial by jury in civil cases.

Amendment #8:  Protection from cruel and unusual punishment, excessive bail.

Amendment #9:  Protection of rights not specified in the Bill of Rights.

Amendment #10: State rights, power of the states.

The two amendments that did not pass were about the number of representatives to Congress and compensation to representatives.

Read more about the Bill of Rights at billofrightsinstitute.org.

The Bill of Rights is very important to every person in the Unites States. If you would like more information about the Bill of Rights visit your local library and check out a few books. Here are some suggestions:

The Bill of Rights: The First Ten Amendments of the Constitution by David L. Hudson

The Bill of Rights by Don Nardo

In Defense of Liberty: The Story of America’s Bill of Rights by Russell Freedman

A Kid’s Guide to America’s Bill of Rights: Curfews, Censorship and the 100-Pound Giant by Kathleen Krull

 

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Dec 12 2014

A World in Miniature

by Dea Anne M

Regular readers of this blog will already be aware of my fascination with small space living–or at least the idea of it. Related to this is my abiding love of dollhouses and their furnishings. From childhood, I have adored them, which doesn’t seem unusual–many young children like to create their own small worlds. Now I never had a “real” dollhouse like my friend Suzy Vass (three stories high and big enough for her Barbies!) but I did create my own on a bookshelf in my bedroom by cutting walls out of cardboard, decorating these with wrapping paper, and filling the rooms with furniture that I constructed from things lying around the house as well as the much more expensive manufactured pieces that I received for birthdays and Christmas. Most often the inhabitants were paper dolls that I’d colored and cut out to scale–and you can bet that such enterprises absorbed hours of my time.

I am also a big fan of museums and one of my favorites is the Art Institute of Chicago.  Here, you will find wonderful collections of textiles; European painting and sculpture; Asian, African and Native American art; Medieval and Renaissance armor and weapons, and one of the best collections of modern art anywhere. As well, the Institute boasts the Thorne Miniature Rooms collection which is a must see for any lover of dollhouses and miniatures. Narcissa Niblick Thorne was an artist who devoted most of her career to constructing miniature rooms fashioned on various historical interiors. Vivid and accurate in detail, the 68 rooms are stunning. Check them out here. And next time you are in Chicago, be sure to pay a visit to the Thorne Rooms yourself. It is well worth it. As a side note, Thorne never asked for or received payment for her rooms even though they were quite expensive to produce.

While you’re in Chicago, don’t miss another labor of love–Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, which is owned by the Museum of Science and Industry. Moore was a film star of the silent era who had loved dollhouses and miniatures throughout her life. As an adult, she decided to use her substantial financial resources and her influence as a major Hollywood star to commission the dollhouse of her dreams. The Fairy Castle is nearly nine feet square and exquisitely detailed–from the tiny copper pots in the kitchen to the wee harp in the bedroom of the Fairy Princess.

Other famous dollhouses include Queen Mary’s Doll House, which is on display at Windsor Castle in England, the Miniature White House now housed at the Presidents Hall of Fame in Clermont, Florida, and The Dolls’ House at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Would you like to do a little armchair tourism of some of these dollhouses? If so, check out these resources from DCPL:miniature

The White House in Miniature: Based on the White House Replica by John, Jan, and the Zweifel family by Gail Buckland

Miniature Rooms: The Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago by The Art Institute of Chicago

Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House by Mary Stewart-Wilson

For more interesting dollhouses, be sure not to miss The Ultimate Dolls’ House Book by Faith Eaton and The Miniature House also by Eaton. The first bookultimate features the beautiful photographs and informative text that the publisher, Dorling Kindersley, is known for. The second showcases several of the finest examples of miniature houses and rooms, including the Thorne Rooms and the Fairy Castle. Also included are exhaustive histories of each house and detailed photographs (although not as many color ones as I would have liked). Both these books are highly recommended to any lover of dollhouses.

Do you love dollhouses? What have been some of your favorites?

 

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Dec 8 2014

The Best Books of 2014

by Jesse M

The MartianLooking for something good to read? It’s that time of year again when organizations begin putting out their lists of the “best books” published over the past twelve months. Over the past week, lists have been released from NPR, Goodreads, and Publishers Weekly, among many others.

I haven’t yet read any recently published books this year, so I’m hoping to rectify that by closing out 2014 with Andy Weir’s The Martian: A Novel, which I have heard described as a MacGyver story set on Mars. Weir initially had difficulty finding a publisher and began putting up the story for free in serial format on his website before eventually releasing a Kindle version at the request of his fans. The Kindle version (which is available through DCPL’s OverDrive collection) quickly rose to the top of Amazon’s list of best-selling science-fiction titles, where it sold 35,000 copies in three months, eventually attracting the interest of publishers. The book debuted on the New York Times Best Sellers list at number 12 in the hardcover fiction category, and a movie adaptation based on the story is slated for release in late 2015.

What were your favorite books published in 2014, and why? If you’re like me and haven’t read any yet, what books published this year are you most interested in?

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Dec 5 2014

The Ins and Outs of Modern Love (LOL)

by Rebekah B

Hello readers,

Have you ever struggled to understand how in our fast-paced global world people can allow themselves to become sufficiently vulnerable and open to engage in meaningful relationships with one another? Distracted by an ever-increasing array of technological gadgets created to supposedly promote ease of interaction, contemporary humans are often puzzled and frightened by the intricacies of intimacy. The uncertainty caused by a marketplace with too many choices accompanied by too few rules or guidelines make the navigation of the emotional waters of relationships especially treacherous.

Love Illuminated: Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject (With the Help of 50,000 Strangers) by Daniel Jones, editor of the New York Times column Modern Love, set out to write this book (which is more like a collection of essays) not with the goal to provide any definitive answers or formulas to solve the mystery of love, but rather to explore the many questions raised by the variety of changes in lifestyle that contemporary life poses. These life-styles range from the supposedly emotion-free and commitment-free hook-up popularized in college dorms to the over-the-top emotional connections via Skype or chat rooms with strangers one never meets face-to-face. Over a period of nearly ten years, Mr. Jones–happily married for at least 15 years himself–has received over 50,000 submissions from which he has selected the most compelling, having published in all around 350 columns.

This book is full of touchingly amusing personal anecdotes (including the author’s juvenile fascination with his brother’s pet rock). He quips with philosophical undertones: “…I’m often struck by the ‘Pet Rock’ quality of many on-line only relationships, which tend to thrive–as do many on-line activities–from the same combination of fantasy, convenience, and control that fueled my brief affair with my brother’s rock. What’s more, they especially seem to appeal to people who aren’t ready for, can’t find, or don’t want a real relationship, so having an intense connection via words and a screen is perfect, at least as long as the fling lasts, which in some cases can be years.”

For those of you who are single and who have ventured into the occasionally murky waters of online dating, you are probably well aware of the pen pal syndrome provoked by our semi-anonymous system of meeting others through the likes of Match.com, Plenty of Fish, OkCupid, J-Date, etc.  Who knew that the lost art of letter writing would be revived, alas often without the elegance (and attention to spelling and grammar) that may have been popular in centuries past? Can you stomach text talk introductions such as “How r u, lol? U r georgous!” (sic)? For the introvert or the socially-challenged, the internet can become a protective cocoon, but at the end of the day, when taking into account what authentic relationships between human beings truly involves, risk is necessary to provoke personal growth and to allow for true interaction with others.  Being exposed to a multitude of potential partners can be an illuminating experience, and for those with a sense of adventure and a taste for the metaphysical, self-awareness is just a click away.

The truth is that modern demographics and social and cultural structures have radically changed. Mr. Jones aptly points out that just fifty years ago, to meet a prospective partner would have involved choosing from a relatively limited pool of candidates. This also meant being less choosy–and probably also not feeling that the perfect person may always be just around the corner.  Modern dissatisfaction may also be paired with an inaccurate vision and awareness of self and an often less-than-realistic expectation of perfection that the ideal man or woman should embody.

While Love Illuminated explores the many facets of modern love–from online capers, open relationships, the naming challenges of blended and other politically correct families, the problem of maintaining passion in long-term relationships, to the dilemma of the office spouse–the author also delves into what makes long-term committed relationships possible, openly exposing his own marriage with self-deprecating humor to the magnifying lens of his own analysis.  He also explores the notions of destiny and the appeal of having a good relationship story that validates and makes meaningful a potential encounter.

Overall–while not a dating manual–this book is not only entertaining, it is also informative, personal, and a worthwhile read.

Other modern dating adventure stories:

How a Math Genius Hacked OKCupid [a dating site founded by Harvard mathematicians] to Find True Love, from Wired.com

Another perplexingly bizarre but also funny data-driven romance: Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match by Amy Webb, 2013

Other relevant reading (possibly for the less geeky) in our DCPL collections:

The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips are Telling Us by Sheril Kirshenbaum, 2011

How to Woo a Jew: The A Modern Jewish Guide to Dating and Mating by Tamar Kaspi, 2014

Dating After 50 for Dummies by Pepper Schwartz, 2014

The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating: A Novel by Carole Radziwill, 2013

Marriage Customs of the World: An Encyclopedia of Dating Customs and Wedding Traditions by George P. Monger, 2013 (reference, for use inside the library only)

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Dec 3 2014

Spirituality with a Heap of Humor

by Hope L

Anne2I feel like I have a new best friend.

When I saw that Anne Lamott had spoken for the Georgia Center for the Book about her new book Small Victories:  Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, I decided to look into some of her work.

Many of her quotes are so awesome, I’m placing a few throughout this post, like:

““Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”

First, I checked out an audiobook recording of Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, which I saw at my branch.  I put it in the CD player in my car and have been listening to it instead of the hateful talk radio I had been tuning into and which had fomented within me within me nothing but anger and frustration. (Plan B is also available in print at DCPL.)

Now, in Atlanta traffic, one does not need an added level of anger and frustration.  So Anne’s soothing voice has been a welcome addition to my commutes.

Hope is not about proving anything. It’s about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak sh*t anyone can throw at us.

When this Catholic girl (my name is Hope Anne Mary) heard Lamott tell her “Ham of God” story whilst I was cruising down Memorial Drive the other day, I almost lost control of my Toyota SUV.  “Why, the nerve of her! What sacrilege!” I thought initially.  But when I listened and learned the true meaning of her story, I chuckled to myself: “That Anne!”

Her spiritual tidbits, sandwiched in humor and irony, are a welcome oasis to the stress and often helpless feelings of our modern age.

“It’s good to do uncomfortable things. It’s weight training for life.”

Traveling Mercies:  Some Thoughts on Faith chronicles Lamott’s journeys though alcoholism, motherhood, and just plain life.  I listen to her talk about motherhood, and I think about some of my friends who have kids.  Anne writes that one of her friends had once said:

“My husband and I are either going to buy a dog or have a child.  We can’t decide whether to ruin our carpets or ruin our lives.”

In that case, I definitely decided to ruin my carpets by having loads of cats and dogs and no children.

Now, given that I believe myself to be on something of a spiritual journey, it sure is nice to have a friend like Anne Lamott along for the ride.

“The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.”

You’re right there, Anne.  And some good books.

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Nov 28 2014

A Nation’s Tastes

by Dea Anne M

thanksgivingtablesWho would have predicted, least of all the hardworking writers and editors of the New York Times, the level of outcry and (mostly good-humored) dismay that their November 18th article The United States of Thanksgiving would generate? The idea behind the article is that there are iconic holiday dishes unique to each state in the Union as well as Puerto Rico. (Click the image to the right for a larger version of the condensed visual overview.) Some selections make sense, such as Georgia’s Pecan Pie and Idaho’s Hasselback Potatoes with Garlic Paprika Oil. Others seem…well…questionable, like Nebraska’s Standing Rib Roast. But no selection has caused as much of an (albeit mild) uproar than the choice for Minnesota of Grape Salad. As writer David Tanis explains, this is a concoction made up of simply grapes, sour cream and brown sugar. Now that actually sounds pretty good to me, just not…Thanksgiving-ish (and no one could accuse me of being a culinary traditionalist). Responses to the choice, particularly from Minnesotans themselves, have been good-natured. Check out #grapegate for some of the outcry. Texas weighs in too, as in as this piece from the Austin360 food blog explaining that Texans don’t eat Turkey Tamales until after Thanksgiving. Perhaps the ultimate “take-down” of the Times article is Linda Holmes of NPR weighing in the next day. As Holmes, a former decade-long resident of Minnesota explains–with her usual dry wit–morel mushrooms or wild rice would more accurately reflect the culinary traditions of the Land of 10,000 Lakes. In any case, the public response was so quick and dramatic that the Public Editor for the New York Times issued a piece on November 20th that wryly characterized the original article as an “epic fail” and Tanis’s fellow NYT writer Kim Severson tweeted, “The great grape scandal of 2014! Headed to your state Thurs. Will personally apologize to every citizen.”

Of course, Thanksgiving 2014 has passed but you can always start thinking about next year. To help you out, make a note now about these resources from DCPL.

Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well by Sam Siftonthanksgiving

Choosing Sides: From Holidays to Everyday, 130 Delicious Recipes to Make the Meal by Tara Mataraza Desmond

Thanksgiving 101: Celebrate America’s Favorite Holiday with America’s Thanksgiving Expert by Rick Rodgers

The Healthy Hedonist Holidays: A Year of Multicultural, Vegetarian-Friendly Holiday Feasts by Myra Kornfeld

A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies by Ashley English

Of course, you may be like me and skip the turkey and pumpkin pie. This Thanksgiving just passed, I will have cooked what has now become my “traditional” meal which includes roasted duck, turnip gratin and chocolate mousse.

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Nov 21 2014

Color coding

by Dea Anne M

NPR has been running an intriguing series lately on the subject of color. The series is called “Color Decoded: Stories That Span the Spectrum” and it is well worth taking the time to check out. Stories include fun information about colors in the spectrum–you’ll learn here that brown is actually a low-intensity shade of orange and why a male visitor to China would be wise to avoid wearing a green hat. You’ll also find out why there are so few blue animals and consider if it might be time to “reappropriate” the color pink from the cultural forces that drive such phenomena as the Disney Princess Empire. Speaking of pink (and in case you’re curious), apparently pink was considered a “strong” color up until the twentieth century and much more appropriate for boys, whereas little girls were more often dressed in the “daintier” color blue. This is fascinating stuff and I urge you to take a moment or two to explore.

DCPL can also help you explore color and the many meanings that it can carry.

First, give a look to Life In Color: National Geographic Photographs. This gorgeous book is full of the high quality photography that the magazine is famous for. Separate chapters explore different manifestations of blue, green, orange, etc. The image of the alpine landscape of Alaska’s Denali National Park was stunning enough to take my breath away.language

Sumptuous photography also graces The Secret Language of Color: Science, Nature, History, Culture, Beauty of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Violet by Joann Eckstut and Arielle Eckstut. The authors explore, among other things, how animals use color for self-protection and the use of color in religion. This book is also full of interesting bits of color trivia. For example, you really do see the neighbor’s lawn across the street as greener than your own. (You’re too far away to see the imperfections, so the color appears more uniform and saturated.)

Remember good old pink and blue? Well, you might be interested in exploring Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave by Adam Alter and Blue: The History of a Color by Michael Pastoureau. The former takes its title from the result of studies done in the early 80′s, which showed that a blueparticular shade of bubble-gum pink had the effect of calming down aggressive prisoners. The rest of the book deals in other fascinating aspects of applied psychology. Equally interesting, Pastoureau’s book explores the evolution in depth of a particular color. Ancient Romans considered blue a vulgar color suitable only for Celtic barbarians. During the Middle Ages, blue became closely associated with the Virgin Mary. Of course today, blue has conquered the world via Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss whose 1873 invention–denim jeans–has become a nearly global uniform.

How does color affect you? What colors do you love?

 

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Nov 17 2014

America’s Most Hated Woman?

by Hope L

hair

This past June was the 50-year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling against school-sponsored prayer (Engel v. Vitale, June 25, 1962).

That’s probably why I saw the book America’s Most Hated Woman:  The Life and Gruesome Death of Madalyn Murray O’Hair  on a cart to be re-shelved recently at the library. Perhaps a student had to write a report, or interest was sparked around this landmark decision’s anniversary.

I had no idea, however, that the infamous atheist had been murdered.

Intrigued, I checked out the book and began to read about O’Hair. Considering the death threats, the vicious hate mail, the taunting of her two sons, and the sentiment of much of the church-going public around that time, this woman must have been one tough cookie.

The book examines Murray’s beginnings and the seeds that were sown early on that might have moved her to fight her lifelong battle against religion in American public schools and more. In this book and the other one I mention below,  she is often portrayed as obese, slovenly, loose, impulsive, alcoholic, and argumentative.  Indeed, I watched a few old interview clips of her online, and some of what she says in them is quite offensive and crude, even by today’s standards.

But I figured there had to be some likeable qualities there somewhere, too.  Evidently, Madalyn Murray studied law and flunked the bar but was by all accounts highly intelligent, if not socially refined or popular.  She was said to be an enthralling and engaging speaker, and indeed, was the very first person interviewed by Phil Donahue on his show in 1967.  The statements made by O’Hair during that first episode were so contentious that the audience was jumping up to ask questions to challenge her, and the previously seated Donahue had to grab a mic and go out into the audience, thus making television history and creating a new style of talk show with audience participation.

No, Madalyn Murray O’Hair was not popular.  The government was after  her (the IRS, FBI, CIA, Justice Dept.), organized religion in America was after her, the Pope was after her–even many in the different atheist factions were after her because of her attempts to capitalize on the movement.

In Ungodly:  The Passions, Torments, and Murder of Atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the front cover promises thus:

“… traces the self-anointed atheist high priestess from her public skirmishes with the law through her remarkable legal maneuverings and her schemes to siphon off enormous sums of money from the foundations she created.”

“… explains for the first time the full story of the kidnapping and murder of O’Hair, her son, and granddaughter–a gristly multiple murder masterminded by a genius ex-con who hoped to pocket nearly a million dollars’ worth of loot in a pitiless and cunning plot.”

It seems really ironic that Madalyn and her family were ultimately kidnapped and murdered by a former employee and fellow atheist rather than someone following through with one of the many vile and violent threats made by so-called “church-going” persons.

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Nov 12 2014

America Recycles Day

by Glenda

America RecyclesNovember 15, 2014 is America Recycles Day. Normally when we think of recycling, we think of taking our aluminum cans and plastic bottles to a recycling center or designated recycling place. However, recycling is so much more than that. When you donate clothes to various nonprofit agencies, you are recycling. Even when you donate old books to your local library, you are recycling because someone else is going to reuse your items. There are many other ways to recycle. You can make things with used materials–such as using old newspaper to make a piñata. If you would like to learn more about recycling, you may want to check out these books from DCPL:

Earth Friendly Crafts for Kids: 50 Awesome Things to Make with Recycled Stuff by Heather Smith with Joe Rhatigan

Recycled Craft Box: Sock Puppets, Cardboard Castles, Bottle Bugs and 37 More Earth-Friendly Projects & Activities You Can Create by Laura C. Martin

The Big Green Book of Recycled Crafts from editor-in-chief Susan White Sullivan and technical writer Lisa Lancaster

Beyond Recycling: A Re-User’s Guide – 336 Practical Tips: Save Money and Protect the Environment by Kathy Stein

Earth-Friendly Holidays: How to Make Fabulous Gifts and Decorations from Reusable Objects by George Pfiffner

 

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