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

December 2012

Dec 31 2012

What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

by Jnai W

Will you be spending New Year’s Eve with friends and family? Will you have a fun, raucous night on the town with your gang? Will you be spending the last few hours of 2012 at a traditional watch night church service? Perhaps you’ll be scrambling to take down your Christmas tree by the stroke of midnight—that was how my family spent a particularly memorable New Year’s Eve when we were youngsters, racing against the televised Times Square Ball Drop to fully dismantle our faithful old plastic Tanenbaum. (I can’t remember if we beat the clock or not but I do remember that it was a blast).  I’ll likely be spending this evening at home with friends and family, swapping New Year’s resolutions, finishing off the last of the Christmas goodies and singing “Auld Lang Syne” at the stroke of midnight.

What are you doing New Year’s Eve? However you spend the holiday be safe, be merry, stay classy and have a Happy New Year!

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Dec 28 2012

The Year in Pictures

by Jimmy L

Sometimes it’s hard to look back and remember everything that happened in the past year. But The Guardian has posted 19 beautiful photographs that sum it up pretty nicely, from the athletic feats at the Olympics to the election night moments in November. And this one, taken in Hoboken, New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy wrought its destruction:

Floods in Hoboken

A similar collection of iconic 2012 photographs is also up at the World Press Photo site. Dedicated to understanding the world through photojournalism, the site holds a yearly contest in several different categories including General News, People, Sports, Daily Life, Portraits, and many more. The following photo was the winner in the Nature category, and shows a desperate polar bear who has climbed up on a cliff face, trying (unsuccessfully) to feed on eggs from the nests of guillemots, in late July.

Cliff-climbing polar bear attempting to eat seabird eggs

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Dec 26 2012

Best in 2012

by Dea Anne M

As the year draws to a close, it’s no surprise to see “best of” lists appearing everywhere online. I’m always interested in these and sometimes even more interested in checking out the accompanying comments. Everyone it seems has an opinion about “the best” and many of us express our opinions on this topic with great, shall we say, energy. Here’s a roundup of some recent top reads lists.

NPR publishes several targeted lists each year. Lists for 2012 include:

The  New Yorker’s “Page-Turners” blog features favorites from regular contributors. Not all these picks are new books but the list is nonetheless thought-provoking.

On November 30th, the  New York Times published its 10 Best Books of 2012. Several of these titles are available from DCPL including:bodies

Fiction

Non-Fiction

Goodreads, the popular “social cataloging” website has announced its Choice Awards for 2012. Readers vote for the best books in a wide range of categories including Paranormal Fantasy, Food and Cookbooks, Graphic Novels and Poetry. Some top picks include the following—all available at DCPL.

[read the rest of this post…]

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Dec 20 2012

The Children

by Veronica W

Mine has been a seat of honor. For over twenty years I have been privileged to work with the little ones; from chubby-legged toddlers in Building Blocks to raucous teens in a library scavenger hunt. When they haven’t come to me, I have gone to them, in the schools and in the daycares. If you want an adrenaline high, stand in front of 30 upturned little faces and watch their glee as they roar like a lion or their wonder as a story unfolds.

Therefore, in the midst of the festivities of this holiday season and for the coming new year, I wish all parents and grandparents, all teachers, all caregivers and all who have a child to love, the joy of watching them grow up. For those of us who have only the memories to hold on to, may those memories gladden our hearts and bring us a measure of peace.

A song, written by Barry De Vorzon/Perry Botkin and recorded by the Carpenters in the 1980s, has always been very dear to my heart. May the words resonate with you as well.

Bless the beasts and the children
For in this world they have no voice, t
hey have no choice.
Bless the beasts and the children
For the world can never be, t
he world they see.
Light their way w
hen the darkness surrounds them
Give them love, l
et it shine all around them.
Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from the storm
Keep them safe, k
eep them warm
Light their way, w
hen the darkness surrounds them
Give them love, l
et it shine all around them.
Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from the storm
Keep them safe, k
eep them warm.
The children
The children
The children.

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Dec 19 2012

Trees of knowledge

by Jesse M

A couple of years ago I posted about the reference book Christmas tree erected by the staff of the library of Delta College in Michigan. Since that time, many other libraries as well as individuals have been inspired to created their own “trees of knowledge”, and for today’s post I’ve decided to showcase some of them for you.

To start with, here is a time lapse video from last year of a large book tree being assembled in the atrium of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center at the University of Nevada, Reno. The 9.5-foot tree (made up of pre-1950 National Union Catalog books) took three hours and 348 books to construct (take a look at this article for more details).

Here’s another tree, this one courtesy of the Boley Law Library at the Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark College, complete with lights!

But the trend isn’t limited to universities; individuals are also getting in on the fun. Check out these two beauties submitted to social news and entertainment website, reddit.

Still want more trees of knowledge? Take a gander at this round-up of book christmas trees from last year.

Happy Holidays from your friends at DCPLive!

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Dec 17 2012

Playlist Against Darkness

by Jnai W

As one may have gathered from any number of my blog posts on DCPLive, music is food for my soul, more than anything else. If I’m honest with myself music ministers more to me than an encouraging word, a psalm or even a hug from a loved one. I’m not exactly sure why that is.  Maybe listening to a song that someone else wrote is a filter through which I can pour my own emotions and connect to the world around me, if that makes sense. Wow, Sarah McLachlan must have been feeling how I’m feeling now when she wrote “Witness”. Maybe I’m not alone here.

I’ve got a list of songs that I come back to from time to time when I need comfort or space–away from the 24-hour news cycle, away from water cooler debates or living room repasts–to sort through my whirling emotions.  I’ve got a list of songs that carry me through dark times and speak to my heart in one way or another.  This list of songs is exhaustive so I’ve narrowed down to 3 of the top songs on my Playlist Against Darkness:

“Beware of Darkness” by George Harrison:  There is no shortage of brilliant and  timeless songs on the Quiet Beatles 1970 album All Things Must Pass.”My Sweet Lord”, a plaintive but hopeful cry for enlightenment from On High, was undeniably my favorite song on the album…until I heard “Beware of Darkness”. The lyrics warn of the pitfalls of bitterness, negativity and sadness (“it can hit you/ it can hurt you) . What I like about this song is that the lyrics which could have easily been admonishing and perhaps even trite, in the hands of a less-skilled writer and musician, are affirming and uplifting here. Sadness, when nursed and dwelt upon, can “make you sore/ and what is more/ that is not what you are here for”.

“All is Full of Love” by Bjork:  I’m a huge fan of the Icelandic idiosyncrasy named Bjork Gudmundsdottir. Her lyrics are honest, earnest and often sound as though they’ve been directly translated to English from her native tongue, adding a slight bit of quirkiness. Her voice is crystalline and magnificent. She wears swan-shaped dresses to the self-satisfied Academy Awards.  She’s also written this simple, elegant and brilliant song about opening one’s heart to love and light. “All is Full of Love” assures its listener that “you’ll be given love/ you’ll be taken care of/… you just have to trust it”.  Perhaps, dear Listener, you’ve shut the door or taken the phone off the hook too soon but love is out there and it’s everywhere. It’s a heartening message coming from a delightful source. If you’re not familiar with her work, treat yourself and check out her music from the Library.

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” as sung by Nina Simone: I’ve written at length in previous blog posts about my devotion to Nina Simone. There are a few works of hers that would fit nicely into any Playlist Against Darkness such as “Feelin’ Good”, “My Baby Just Cares For Me” and “To Be Young Gifted and Black”. But I happen to love Nina Simone’s version of this song, written by Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas. The lyrics are strong, challenging yet optimistic on their own but when combined with Simone’s passionate vocals and gospel piano, this song becomes an anthem for civil rights and for love in general. “I wish you could know/ how it feels to be me/ then you’d see and agree/ that every man should be free” appeals to its listener’s empathy and humanity, encouraging each and everyone to become a champion for equality and peace. It’s as timely a message now as it was during the era in which it was born.

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Dec 14 2012

Holiday Gimmes

by Veronica W

Teenagers are notoriously poor, especially around Christmas. Unless they have jobs, they have no real money to spend on gifts…mainly because they have spent it all on themselves prior to the holiday. My sisters and I were no exception. One year I asked one sister what she was getting me for Christmas. With eyebrows raised, she asked “What did I get you last year?”   “Nothing. Niente. Nada. ” I replied huffily.  “Three gifts? I gave you three gifts? Wow! Didn’t you like any of them?” By now she was starting to grin.  “Not really,” I shot back.  “Okay then,” she said, as she turned to walk away. “I’ll get them in another color this time.”

What is this compulsion that has us (okay, has me)  running around at 11:45 pm on Christmas Eve, throwing stainless steel, color coded meat tongs into a cart, as a gift for someone I don’t know well enough to know they’re serious vegans? My mother used to say, in answer to my outrage at a gift I didn’t appreciate, “What’s the problem? It’s not your birthday anyway.” Tell that to the friends in the television commercial who sit around a cozy fire, holding up hideous presents they just opened and laughingly, honestly confess to the giver that they are going to destroy them or throw them away.

With the advent of gift cards, giving should be a piece of cake.  They cover a range of tastes and interests, although they can be a tad impersonal. However there still will be insincere cries of joy on Christmas morning for the SpongeBob tie (my apologies to those who love their Sponge ties), the belly button brush or the supersized box of taffy for Granny and her new dentures. Is it really the thought that counts, even if those “thoughtful” people were behind me in the line at 11: 55 pm, waiting to buy the ugly snowman salt and pepper set, as a last ditch effort?

Lest you think I am Scrooge reborn and my sister’s miserly attitude has scarred me for life, please know that I love giving and receiving gifts. However, these days, I crave meaning in the giving and the getting.  At my advanced age, I have enough stuff; what touches me most are gifts of caring, time, creativity and sacrifice. (Did I mention that cookies, cakes, pies and other goodies are never despised?)  My granddaughter (remember, poor teenager) once gave me the gift of a leisurely, home style pedicure. Not only did I get a pedicure but I got genuine conversation, which I enjoyed and appreciated. If you have a teen, you know conversation can be rare and very costly. Also, it was doubly special because I know she isn’t all that fond of handling other people’s feet.

My gift to you is the suggestion that you read—or re-read—O’Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. If you become depressed with every garland or light you string up, with every foray into the mall; if you have sung as many stanzas of Jingle Bells as you can stand and even the mellow Nat King Cole’s Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire is starting to pall,  this incredible short story will rekindle the joy of this season. There are many other stories and movies that tell us that Jo, in Little Women, was wrong when she said “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.”  Look below and pick a favorite.

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Dec 12 2012

A short personal history of fruitcake

by Dea Anne M

Most of my childhood Christmas holidays were spent with my paternal grandparents and my large, boisterous clan on that side of the family. For us kids, most of the excitement revolved around waking up Christmas morning to see what Santa had left us then (as if we weren’t greedy enough) opening presents later in the morning. Christmas dinner was usually served around 2:00 pm and featured the eagerly anticipated turkey with cornbread dressing as well as my favorite glazed, baked ham. Having been reared mostly in the Northeast and Central Florida, I was unaccustomed to the country style cooking of the South. It was, shall we say, exotic. My mother, an excellent cook with an adventurous palate, usually prepared what she thought everyone would eat and by “everyone” I mean me and my even pickier younger brother. Christmas dinner green beans cooked just about forever with a piece of salt pork were more than acceptable but giblet gravy? Forget about it! Most alien of all perhaps was the once-a-year appearance of the edible substance known as fruitcake. In my grandmother’s house there were two kinds, “light cake” and “dark cake”, and neither one in any way suggested cake to me. First of all, they were loaf-shaped and bare of embellishment.  I knew good and well that a proper cake consisted of two or three round layers heavily frosted. Even worse were the weird red and green pieces studded throughout the cake which I now know were candied cherries. I’m sure I would have liked fruitcake just fine had I deigned to taste it, but there were always cookies and banana pudding both of which settled the dessert question just fine for us persnickety youngsters.

You may already know that Georgia boasts the Fruitcake Capitol of the World, Claxton GA, home of the Claxton Fruitcake Company but did you know that Corsicana TX can make the same claim as it is equally famous for the fruitcakes produced by the Collin Street Bakery? Fruitcake is by no means unique to the U.S. In the Bahamas, dried fruit and nuts are soaked in dark rum for up to 3 months and then more rum is poured on top of the baked cake while it’s still hot. That recipe wouldn’t have passed muster with my grandmother, a strict teetotaler, but everyone might have eaten more fruitcake if it had. Italians eat a highly spiced fruitcake at Christmas time called panforte. In Romania fruitcake goes by the name Cozonac, in Switzerland it’s Birnenbrot, and the people of  Trinidad enjoy a boozy confection called Black Cake which is similar to the  Bahamanian fruitcake.

If you bake fruitcake for the holidays, you likely already follow a trusted family recipe. If not, you could do worse than picking up a copy of  The All-American Christmas Cookbook: family favorites from every state by Georgia Orcutt and John Margolies and baking the “Fabulous Fruitcake.” Inspired by the fruitcake from the Collin Street Bakery (the actual recipe is apparently a closely guarded secret) it contains a wealth of dried fruit, nuts, and Calvados and looks pretty delicious to me. As promised by the title, the book features a holiday recipe from every state in the union (Georgia’s contribution is Cranberry-Pecan Chutney) and features adorable vintage illustrations. If the idea of Caribbean Black Cake appeals, you’ll find recipe in for it in Warm Bread and Honey Cake: home baking from around the world by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra. For a proper British fruitcake, check out Nigella Christmas: food, family, friends, festivities by Nigella Lawson. Lawson presents a really delicious looking “Incredibly Easy Chocolate Fruit Cake” as well as “Gorgeously Golden Fruitcake” which she describes as “the fruity blonde sister of the brunette temptress” (meaning the chocolate version). Anyway, both look wonderful and well worth baking plus the golden fruitcake is gluten free.

Finally, I can’t leave the subject of cake without mentioning two of my favorite cake-centric books (although fruitcake doesn’t make an appearance in either). One is Vintage Cakes: timeless recipes for cupcakes, flips, rolls, layer, angel, bundt, chiffon, and icebox cakes for today’s sweet tooth by Julie Richardson. This book features beautiful photographs and boasts a truly impressive array of delicious sounding cake recipes. Just reading about such creations as  Lovelight Chocolate Chiffon Cake, Blackout Cake, and Watergate Cake with Impeachment Frosting make me want to get out my mixing bowls and beaters right now. Also highly recommended is The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn. I’d be the first person to admit that I can be a bit of a snob when it comes to mixes and culinary short cuts but Byrn really understands what she’s doing. I know people who swear by this book and always produce cakes both beautiful and delicious. Allow me to recommend the Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting. This spectacular cake is one that my mother pulls out for special occasions and, for a strawberry lover like me, it comes close to cake heaven. Be sure not miss Chocolate from the the Cake Mix Doctor and The Cake Mix Doctor Returns! also by Byrn.

What’s your opinion on fruitcake? Do you have a beloved recipe?

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Dec 10 2012

Festival for the Souls of Dead Whales

by Amanda L

If you look at one of those calendars that mention all of the festivals and celebrations within a particular month, today is the Festival for the Souls of Dead Whales. I was so intrigued about what that day was about that I went off searching for information on the Internet and found an online article from the National Geographic. The author of the article, Hillary Mayell tried to research the importance of this festival to the Inuits of Alaska. Although she could not find where this festival is still celebrated, she talked to some Inuits and found that there are several celebrations throughout the year that give thanks for the whales gift to the Inuit people. According to this article, sixty to seventy percent of the northern Inuit diet is whale. Today there is limited whaling available in order to preserve the species.

I have always been intrigued by the historical whaling industry. I think my first love came from the whale song performed by the Limeliters:

I read Moby Dick when I was in middle school. Even though I did not really understand the whole story, it furthered my fascination with whaling. Finally, when I was in high school my father received a handwritten journal from a distant relative who served on a whaling ship in the 1800s. I poured through that journal until I had to reluctantly give it back. Not only was it about whaling, but it was a personal account written by a relative. What better way to bring history alive?

The Library has a book about the historical commercial whale trade titled, On the Northwest: commercial whaling in the Pacific Northwest, 1790-1967. Another general history on the whaling industry is Men and Whales. There is even a book about African-Americans and the whaling industry titled Black Hands, White Sails: the story of  African American whalers.

Besides Moby Dick there are several stories about whaling. The Widow’s War by Sally Gunning tells the tale of Lyddie Berry who lost her husband in a whaling accident. She becomes dependent upon her son in-law who tries to take everything she and her husband have acquired. The Journal of Brian Doyle: a greenhorn on an Alaskan whaling ship by Jim Murphy is told in journal form about fourteen year-old Brian Doyle’s trip from San Francisco to a whaling ship in the Arctic and the many adventures he experiences.

Even though this festival is not observed in Alaska anymore, it is a great time to remember and learn about our history.

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Dec 7 2012

The Gift of Song

by Jnai W

My favorite thing about the holidays is the festive seasonal music. While I’ve become pleasantly acquainted with Wham!’s “Last Christmas” and Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time” over the years (thanks to B98.5’s standard holiday rotation) my heart belongs to the sacred songs and traditional Christmas caroles. This holiday season my biggest Christmas wish is to be wandering around the mall as a Christmas flash mob of carols and hymns erupts around me.

Have you witnessed one of these, Reader? The closest I’ve ever come is viewing a YouTube clip of an especially thrilling flash mob from two years ago in a Redondo Beach mall.  I have to say I was intrigued and spent half an hour online searching for more clips of talented vocalists in public places bursting into song, like a Rodgers and Hammerstein production come to life (minus fleet-footed choreography).  While these fits of musical merriment may or may not be completely spontaneous, they are incredibly fascinating. The best part of a flash mob, especially one that boasts holiday songs, is the reaction of unsuspecting passersby swept up in rousing choruses of “O Come Let Us Adore Him” and “O Holy Night”. The expressions of bemusement, accompanied by the clicking, tapping and raising of smartphones, soon give way to mallgoers chiming in, clapping along or gazing wistfully at the flash mob singers.

The beauty of the lyrics, the nostalgia of being gathered together with others in song—even for just five out of the ninety minutes devoted to gift shopping and errands—is undeniable and vital at a time of year that’s subsumed by hustle and bustle, hurry and worry.

I will attempt to embed this blog post with my favorite flash mob clip. I hope this makes you smile as much as it has made me.

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