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

July 2014

Jul 31 2014

Museum of the Missing

by Hope L

mus2The introduction to Simon Houpt’s book Museum of the Missing: A History of Art Theft begins with the heartbreaking true story:

“It may be the most haunting work of art in the world.

It has no canvas, no oil paint, no artist’s signature.  Official appraisals would say it is worthless.  It is just a single carved wood frame, the color of burnished gold, hanging on an easel draped in heavy brown fabric.  Until one late winter night in 1990, that frame held The Concert, one of only thirty-six known works by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer.  Like so many of Vermeer’s paintings, The Concert is famously enigmatic.  It quietly imposes itself on the viewer, insisting on contemplation.  And here, in the Dutch Room on the second floor of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, a wide-backed chair upholstered in light green Victorian fabric sits in front of the easel, courteously placed there so that a visitor might pause to reflect on the painting’s luminous beauty and the many secrets it holds.

But in 1990, when two thieves ransacked the museum during the city’s post-St. Patrick’s Day inebriated haze, plucking the Vermeer and twelve other treasures, including three Rembrandts and a Govaert Flinck from this same room, the greatest secret of The Concert became its location.  Now, if you go to the Gardner, you will see a heartbreaking tableau:  that chair staring up at the empty frame, as if in eternal contemplation of the loss.”

As noted on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum website, the stolen works include: “Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633),  A Lady and Gentleman in Black (1633) and a Self Portrait (1634), an etching on paper; Vermeer’s The Concert (1658–1660); and Govaert Flinck’s Landscape with an Obelisk (1638); and a Chinese vase or Ku, all taken from the Dutch Room on the second floor. Also stolen from the second floor were five works on paper by the Impressionist artist Edgar Degas and a finial from the top of a pole support for a Napoleonic silk flag, both from the Short Gallery. Edouard Manet’s Chez Tortoni (1878–1880) was taken from the Blue Room on the first floor.”

Chez

The approximately $500 million worth of art stolen from the Gardner is still an open case, and there is a $5 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the 13 pieces. The FBI maintains a dedicated webpage on the case.

The latter portion of Houpt’s book contains the Gallery of Missing Art, an assortment of artwork that has been stolen with a brief paragraph on each piece.  And of course, the color pictures of the stolen art are amazing.

There were two security guards on duty that night in 1990 at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (they were unscathed). I’m so glad I wasn’t one of them–the thieves duped the guards by dressing up as city policemen, stating that they were there for a call.

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Jul 23 2014

Flying Around Book Ops

by Jesse M

Late last year I posted a video of drone pilot Nate Bolt flying through the New York Public Library with his Phantom Quadcopter. The drone’s-eye view provided an interesting and unique perspective and so when I learned he had released another video exploring the library through the eyes of his drone, I was excited to watch it! This time, Nate takes us through BookOps, the massive book sorting center in Queens, New York, that provides material for the 150 branches of the New York and Brooklyn Public Libraries. As stated in the video, the book sorting machine depicted is the second largest in the world, sorting 33,000 items a day on average.

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Jul 21 2014

MILLION$ OF PROBLEM$

by Hope L

cashMost of us have wondered what it would be like to win a million dollars. Or several million. Maybe even hundreds of millions!  If you have ever bought (or even thought about buying) a lottery ticket, sent in a Publishers Clearinghouse entry, or gambled to strike it rich: take note.  You’ve been warned.

I picked up Edward Ugel’s Money for Nothing: One Man’s Journey Through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions from my DCPL branch, and amusedly began reading.  My smile quickly faded.

Apparently, the problem for many lottery winners with millions of dollars coming in is that it is never enough. And not coincidentally, a great deal of the winners are also problem gamblers. The author has changed the names and situations. He spent many years as a salesman and upper level manager of a lump-sum company that purchases lottery annuities from “lucky” lottery winners who are desperate for money–he knows quite a bit.

From the front jacket:

Ed met hundreds of lottery winners and saw up close the often hilarious, sometimes sad outcome when great wealth is dropped on ordinary people. Once lottery winners realized their “dream-come-true” multimillion jackpots were not all that they were cracked up to be, Ed would knock on their door, offering them the cash they wanted–and often desperately needed. This cash sometimes came at a high price, but winners were rarely in a position to walk the other way. As Ed learned, few of them had the financial savvy to keep up with the lottery-winner lifestyle. In fact, some just wanted their old lives back.

As a salesman for The Firm, I got a crash course in the reality of what winning the lottery actually meant. Within a matter of days after my arrival, the myth of the lottery had been replaced with the surprising truth. Winning was, for a majority of winners, a tricky, overwhelming mess with obvious benefits and a multitude of hidden dangers.

…only after I became a manager did I appreciate the extent to which winners were pursued by both my industry and anyone else who could figure out a way to leech onto them–friends and family included.

This book has several sad stories about these “winners” who found that their piles of money went very quickly and that the world now–even and especially their friends and family–became interested in them only for financial gain.

It really gives credence to the old saying, “Be careful what you ask for because you might just get it.”

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Jul 18 2014

What Are You Hungry For?

by Rebekah B

hot pepper

Hello readers,

Deepak Chopra’s “not a diet book” What Are You Hungry For: The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Well-Being, and Lightness of Soul is, by consensus of Goodreads readers and reviewers, a common-sense holistic solution to weight loss.  Don’t eat when you are not hungry, learn new habits by re-training your brain and increased mindfulness, eat quality foods, get enough sleep and exercise, and find ways to self-fulfillment by doing satisfying work, maintain a positive attitude, and relish meaningful social connections.  Dr. Chopra recommends eating foods from all six taste groups as recommended by Ayurvedic tradition: sweet (includes grains and meats), salty, sour (acidic–citrus and fermented foods), bitter (green and yellow vegetables), astringent (tea, coffee, beans, apples, berries), and pungent (spicy). The variety of flavors inherently creates a balanced nutritional intake.  An appendix includes a variety of recipes utilizing the entire range of recommended flavors.

wayhf

What Are You Hungry For focuses primarily on personal commitments to change, which makes sense in that social revolution begins with our personal decisions and choices. This book is a helpfully refreshing holistic approach to health and diet.  I do appreciate how the author repeatedly insists that deprivation will never work when it comes to diet, as we are all ultimately best motivated by pleasure, and most of us are at least somewhat terrified by the shame of cellulite and the tantalizing guilt inspired by the likes of chocolate cake or ice cream sundaes.  Dr. Chopra shares comforting strategies on how to handle sugar cravings in the most gentle of manners. However, he does not seem to spend much effort discussing how our culture is devoted to keeping us unfulfilled and permanently dissatisfied…in order to stimulate the economy.  A lack of self-love is necessary for this process. The pressure to keep feeling guilty is very powerful and deeply seated.  This includes pushing individuals to neglect personal talents and desires from an early age, and to conform to social and economic expectations in choice of careers, in particular.

baby with spaghetti

While small children intuitively understand how to enjoy life by being playful and by being themselves, adult humans have been molded to conform to a certain mindset and sadly most often lose this ability early on in life. Adult life would be so much more enjoyable for all of us if each individual were embraced from the start as a unique and valuable asset, born with specific gifts, talents, body type, and personality quirks, then raised to be a responsible steward of these gifts. What might our world be like if our societies were built upon that simple principle: to support the need for each person to feel happy, energetic, and an active contributor to the group by being him or herself!  We organize our societies in a manner that is not balanced, and then we work hard to tease people into thinking that by buying a wide array of products and services we will become more attractive, successful, healthier, etc.

As Mr. Chopra explains in What Are You Hungry For, balance is a necessary and natural part of being alive. All of nature seeks balance and intuitively knows what to do to acquire this agreeable state of being. Fulfillment and balance are not quite the same thing. Balance can include suffering, loss, and grief. Achieving your individual destiny does not mean you will be happy or successful.  It just means that you will have led a life of meaning and purpose, using your individual skills, character, and integrity (or lack thereof) to fulfill your personal potential.

creating balance

Being human is not easy, nor is it always pleasant.  We all struggle with conflicting desires, and our personal wishes are not always in harmony with the group ethic or plan.  So how do we get to a place of peace, in spite of all of the complexity?  I do think that simplifying one’s life, as Dr. Chopra suggests, is a good start.  As more individuals begin to choose wanting less stuff and less confusion in their lives, it just might get easier to see the bigger picture.  We just might feel hungry when our bodies actually need nutrition.  With simplicity will hopefully come more time to enjoy real, flavorful and home-made meals, prepared lovingly with savory, locally grown ingredients.  Perhaps people will take the time to sit down together and delight in excellent conversation.  What feeds the heart and soul is meaning, connection, and beauty.  When we are disconnected from ourselves, from other humans, and from all of life, we lose balance, and we feel lost, alone, anxious.

picnic-in-provence-646

While Dr. Chopra discusses strategies to right the feelings of emptiness and to find balance in life and diet, I feel that a greater movement is necessary to help people feel connected, useful, and loved.  Food is often used by parents to reward children for good behavior, and food is also something that is readily available in order to reward ourselves when we feel lonely, drifting, sad, or without purpose.  Food does not abandon or betray us…most of the time.  It is comforting and an anchor in a busy, fast-paced world that often seems not to care.

The greater question that needs to be addressed is how to create a world that does care?  Our post-industrial global society has been built on the values of efficiency and profits (for a few), and it has largely neglected the well-being of most.  A turn-around in core values will be needed before the hunger of the first world will begin to be satisfied, and for a return to balance that we all instinctively crave.

Suggested reading on your path to fulfillment from our DCPL collections:

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, 2010

“Tony Hsieh–the widely admired CEO of online shoe retailer Zappos.com–explains how he created a unique culture and commitment and service that strives to improve the lives of its employees, customers, vendors, and backers. Even better, he shows how creating happiness and record results go hand in hand.” (book summary)

Survival of the Nicest: How Altruism Made Us Human and Why It Pays to Get Along by Stefan Klein, translated by David Dollenmayer, 2014

Klein synthesizes an extraordinary array of material: current research on genetics and the brain, economics, social psychology, behavioral and anthropological experiments, history, and modern culture. Ultimately, his groundbreaking findings lead him to a vexing question: If we’re really hard-wired to act for one another’s benefit, why aren’t we all getting along?

Klein believes we’ve learned to mistrust our generous instincts because success is so often attributed to selfish ambition. In Survival of the Nicest, he invites us to rethink what it means to be the ‘fittest’ as he shows how caring for others can protect us from loneliness and depression, make us happier and healthier, reward us economically, and even extend our lives.” (excerpt from description on Goodreads)

The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling by Dr. James Hillman, 1997

Plato and the Greeks called it ‘daimon,’ the Romans ‘genius,’ the Christians ‘guardian angel.’ Today we use the terms heart, spirit, and soul. To James Hillman, the acknowledged intellectual source for Thomas Moore’s bestselling sensation Care of the Soul, it is the central and guiding force of his utterly compelling ‘acorn theory’ in which each life is formed by a unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny, just as the mighty oak’s destiny is written in the tiny acorn.(excerpt from description on Goodreads)

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Jul 11 2014

Dictating Dinner

by Dea Anne M

We had our 4th of July celebration at my house on the Sunday after the holiday and invited several of our friends. The plan was to grill ribs and serve compatible side dishes with ice cream for dessert. Well, one of our guests “announced” that she would be bringing pasta salad. Now, it’s going to make me sound ungracious, but I’m embarrassed to say that gratitude was not my immediate reaction. When I’ve invited people over, I tend to want to control every aspect of the menu. I want to orchestrate the meal from beginning to end and I always have a precise idea of how I’ll do that. It’s very much an ego thing for me. I’m proud of my kitchen prowess and I’m afraid I don’t often want to share the spotlight. Wow, just writing that makes me wince a little bit–still I found myself muttering (to myself), “If I had wanted it to be a potluck, I would have said that’s what it was.” Then, it hit me–the point of the gathering was to relax with friends and enjoy each other’s company. Sure, I wanted the food to be good, but that wasn’t the main point of the gathering. A dinner doesn’t always have to be a virtuoso display (although sometimes you might need or want it to be) and sharing is a good thing. I actually enjoy potlucks too–although I haven’t entertained that way for a number of years.

…and I have been entertaining for a while. I started to wonder–how has entertaining changed through the decades? Perhaps the collection at DCPL would at least suggest some answers. Starting a few decades back, I present my own speculations forthwith.

The 1980’s are known in the popular mind as the Me Decade, a time of extravagance and over the top indulgence. To me, nothing reflects the spirit of the age better than Martha Stewart’s first book, Entertaining (1982).  That’s marthaMartha herself on the front jacket looking surprisingly demure in a high-necked, ruffled blouse. Inside, you’ll find ideas and menus for a variety of gatherings from a “Neoclassic Dinner for Eight to Ten,” to a “Clambake for Thirty,” to “The At-Home Wedding.” No potlucks for Martha! Here too, you’ll find Martha-style 80’s classics like snow peas individually stuffed with Boursin cheese (decoratively piped in, no less). These parties are obviously a lot of work–unapologetically so–and you probably won’t be doing all the cooking yourself (not to mention the serving). But maybe you want to do it all yourself and maybe you’re clean out of ideas for entertaining–not only at your country home in the Hamptons but also at your Manhattan townhouse and your Caribbean vacation rental. What a dilemma! Lucky for you, Lee Bailey’s Good Parties: Favorite Food, Tableware, Kitchen Equipment and More, to Make Entertaining a Breeze by Lee Bailey (1986) is here to help. You’ll not only find recipes for Sausage Baked Pasta and just about any vegetable puree you could ever hope to consume but also a game plan and suggestions (firm suggestions) on the proper serving ware for each menu. You’ll want to think twice about serving your Oven Fried Fish on anything other than Limoges porcelain.

Apparently, the 80’s just about did us in because by the 1990’s, not only had we become insanely busy–we were all absolutely exhausted as well. Or so one would runthink from such titles as Parties: Menus for Easy Good Times by Melanie Barnard and Brooke Dojny (1992) or Entertaining On the Run: Easy Menus for Faster Lives by Marlene Sorosky (1994). Barnard and Dojny’s book promises “no culinary one-upmanship” and provides menu suggestions for “When Time is Short” and really–wouldn’t that have applied to everyone? Sorosky’s book promises that her “Round Moon Japanese Box Supper” or the “Grilled Paella Party” will fit perfectly into our “speed of light lifestyles” and she assures us that we can all entertain, even while on the run, without running ourselves ragged at the same time. Good to know.

Style was the word of the hour for the early 2000’s and this consciousness is well reflected in entertaining guides from two still publishing magazines Esquire Eats: How to Feed Your Friends and Lovers: A Manual for Men by Francine Maroukian (2004) and InStyle Parties: The Complete Guide to Easy, Elegant Entertaining by the editors of InStyle (2006). “A man’s place is in the kitchen,” Moroukian declares on the back of her book, and as you read her very…er… authoritative text (authoritative as in “likely to be obeyed”), you realize that this isn’t merely a suggestion. Get into that kitchen guys and get cooking! Don’tinstyle worry though, no one is about to ask you to put those frilly little pants on your lamb chops. Instead, you’ll find such brawny fare as Double-Fired Porterhouse with Classic Steakhouse Rub and Southwestern Pork Tenderloin along with surprisingly practical cooking strategies and hosting tips. InStyle Parties presents perhaps a more “girlish” approach to entertaining. You’ll find menus here, of course, for a luau, an Oscars Party, Baby Shower and the like, but also copious information on flowers, wine, decor and, maybe best of all, full-page color photos of glamorous (and stylish!) celebrities hosting their own parties.

Moving into the latest decade, we might observe that simplicity in entertaining simpleis highly desirable. I guess I didn’t get that memo–but maybe I need to give it some thought. Seriously Simple Parties: Recipes, Menus & Advice for Effortless Entertaining by Diane Rossen Worthington (2012) promises to keep us in the kitchen as little as possible, and Cornelia Guest’s Simple Pleasures: Healthy Seasonal Cooking and Easy Entertaining by Cornelia Guest with Diane Reverand (2012) is a bit different in that it provides what looks like a practical, and delicious, guide to vegan entertaining. I’m not vegan but my thought on viewing this one was “Well, it’s about time!” Quite an elegant book too.

Fast. Easy. Effortless. Simple. All these seem to be the key words, the promise–spoken or otherwise–to selling an entertaining guide, and I find myself somewhat perversely imagining alternative titles. How about Kitchen Martyr: Parties that Will Keep You Away from Your Friends All Evening and Require Many Days’ Worth of Really Hard Work! Or maybe you’d like to see Exertion Entertaining: Menus that Prove, Once and for All, to Friends and Family that You Mean Business! Well, probably not. Anyway, while in no way desiring to recreate the “Martha decade” in my own entertaining, I’ll probably continue to go the more elaborate route with my dinner parties. Perhaps though, my barbeque experience will provide an ongoing lesson on letting go a little. Who knows, maybe I’ll throw an actual potluck sometime soon.

Do you favor potlucks over dinner parties? Holiday buffets? Maybe you like to meet friends at restaurants. What is your favorite way to entertain?

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Jul 9 2014

Expecto Patronum!

by Joseph M

Are you a fan of the Harry Potter series? Author J.K. Rowling has just released a new short story on Pottermore, a website which describes itself as “…the place to explore more of the magical world of Harry Potter than ever before and to discover exclusive new content from J.K. Rowling.” One of several original pieces about the fictional 2014 Quidditch World Cup posted to the site, the most recent work is written in the style of a gossip columnist discussing the reunion of several major characters from the Harry Potter series. You can read this new story online at today.com by clicking here. You can also access all of the new short stories by visiting the Pottermore website and signing up for a free account.

If you are interested in revisiting the previously published works in the Harry Potter universe, the library has plenty to offer. You can also peruse Rowling’s recent foray into non-magical adult fiction. Click here to see a catalog listing of related titles.

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Jul 7 2014

Rare Recordings of Famous Authors

by Jesse M

Recently the folks over at Mental Floss compiled a list of 19 rare recordings of famous authors. The list is a who’s who of 19th and 20th century literary celebrities, including Hemingway, Kerouac, Whitman, Steinbeck, and many more! You can listen to J.R.R. Tolkien speak Elvish, Langston Hughes read his poetry, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle talk about how he started writing Sherlock Holmes! Follow this link to check it out. Happy listening!

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Jul 3 2014

Celebrate Independence Day

by Glenda

usaflag_flying Our flag represents our independence and our unity as a nation. The flag of the United States of America has a wonderful history. The American flag is protected daily by men and women within the United States borders and overseas. Our flag even stands on the surface of the moon. Americans have fought to proudly display the flag of the United States of America, so raise your flag and celebrate. For more information about the flag of the United States of America visit your local library. Here are some books you may want to check out: Star-Spangled Banner: Our Nation and Its Flag by Margaret Sedeen, The First American Flag by Kathy Allen or What is the Story of Our Flag? by Janice Behrens.

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Jul 1 2014

Psycho Kitty!

by Hope L

catThings are crazy around our house.  Literally.  For years I have suspected that our aging orange tabby Autumn might be a candidate for the cat psychiatrist.  Then I read Psycho Kitty by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant (or, as she is listed on another book, “Feline Behaviorist”).  I learned a lot.

Now, although the author is talking about wool-sucking in the paragraph below, where the cat finds socks, blankets and assorted laundry to abscond with and knead and lick, Autumn actually steals any laundry within reach and slowly plods around meowing, Rawwwr…. rawwwr, while dragging said laundry. I had asked a vet a long time ago what it might mean. The vet told me that Autumn was pretending the laundry was her kitten and wanted to call our attention to what she was bringing us. (Btw, I have tried to get Autumn to then put the laundry in the hamper, to no avail.)

But Johnson-Bennett’s theory is premature weaning, which would make sense because I was given Little Autumn as a wee thing, so small I had to feed her baby formula with an eyedropper. (I was told Autumn’s mommy was hit by a car.)

“Many cat owners have seen it, heard it, and been driven nuts by it–wool sucking.  It’s the strange behavior some cats display that consists of sucking and kneading on anything from the corner of a blanket to the hair on an owner’s head.  This behavior is named wool sucking because many cats focus this activity strictly on wool or wool-like fabrics, such as blankets, sweaters, and socks.

…Wool sucking mimics nursing, including the milk tread, the kneading motion kittens do with their paws to stimulate release of milk from the queen.”

autumn3

Whatever the reason, Autumn is definitely a Psycho Kitty, to use the author’s apt title.  We have five animals (three cats, two dogs) and two humans–and Autumn is far and away the nuttiest in the household.  She hissed and growled at my partner Deb for the first few years of our nine years together.  Autumn still hisses and growls at our lone male kitty Butch, who loves to egg her on by playfully attacking her when he gets bored. When Autumn is sleeping or relaxing next to me on the bed, if I move and accidentally nudge her–or heaven forbid I move her out of my space–you guessed it, again with the growling and hissing. Some might call her cranky or crabby.

Okay. Obviously, I didn’t read Johnson-Bennett’s Think Like a Cat: How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat–NOT a Sour Puss. And, no, I didn’t arrange for quality play dates for my kitties with their peers or enroll them in tap or ballet.

The dragging and rawwwring is definitely in another class.  She will even do it backwards, and I imagine the beeping of the garbage truck as she slowly backs up with the t-shirt, washcloth or sock between her legs.

Now, do you think my firstborn, my sweet, black pedigree Persian, Bella (my favorite, can you guess?), would lower herself to such depths of aggravating and distasteful behavior?  I think not!  And she was raised in the same home as her sister Looney Tuna.

Bella

 

But, hey, I raised Autumn. I bonded with her with the eyedropper and the Similac and episodes of Nancy Grace.  But I bet I know what you’re thinking …

         Crazy Cat Lady, anybody?

 

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