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

September 2014

Sep 30 2014

Banned Books Week 2014 Wrap-Up

by Jesse M

Out from Boneville coverLast week was Banned Books Week, and this year the focus was squarely on comic books and graphic novels. Charles Brownstein, Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, tells The Guardian:

Comics are one of the most commonly attacked kinds of books. They’re uniquely vulnerable to challenges because of the medium’s visual nature and because comics still carry a stigma of being low-value speech. Some challenges are brought against comics because a single page or panel can be taken out of context, while others come under attack because of the mistaken notion that all comics are for children.

This stigma Brownstein mentions is reflected on the list of the top 10 challenged titles of 2013; both the #1 and #10 spots are occupied by graphic novels.

The holder of the #1 spot is the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, which also occupied the top spot in 2012. Since I did a write-up of that series last year (see my blog post on that topic here) I decided to focus today’s post on the 10th book on the list, Jeff Smith’s award-winning series Bone.

Series author and illustrator Jeff Smith first began drawing the characters that would populate the pages of Bone when he was five years old. He began self-publishing the series in 1991 under his own company label, Cartoon Books, although eventually by 1995 the series was picked up by Image comics. Originally serialized in 55 irregularly released issues from 1991 to 2004, the story is now available across nine volumes (in addition to a number of spin-offs). The series is critically acclaimed and has won numerous awards (winning the Eisner and Harvey awards multiple times), which makes its position of #10 on the list of most challenged books quite puzzling. According to the American Library Association, the book was challenged by critics for three main reasons: political viewpoint, racism, and violence. Smith responds to the charges in an NPR article on the topic:

Smith doesn’t understand how anyone could find his books racist. As for political viewpoint, he says books should reflect a certain moral sensibility. And violence? Well, he says, it is a comic book.

Neil Gaiman, George R. R. Martin, and Weird Al Yankovic show their support for banned booksAnd that’s it for this year’s banned books week wrap-up. To conclude, I’d like to share this image of three of my favorite entertainers (parody musician “Weird” Al Yankovic, and fantasy authors Neil Gaiman and George R. R. Martin) showing their support for banned (comic) books. Until next year!

{ 0 comments }

Sep 22 2014

A Sad Goodbye

by Hope L

diva1“Can we talk?”

One of my all-time favorite icons passed away unexpectedly.  She was as active as ever. Still tossing her barbs out, she had just written a book, was starring in two television programs and a podcast, and was still delighting audiences including myself in her stand-up performances (I saw her three times, the latest this past February at Atlanta’s Symphony Hall), plus she was hawking her very successful QVC merchandise.  Her energy amazed me, and I had to keep reminding myself as we watched her recent performance that she was an octogenarian.

“I don’t exercise; if God had wanted me to bend over he would have put diamonds on the floor.”

Her jokes were often salty and politically incorrect, but her favorite target was definitely Joan Rivers. Her constant joking about her numerous plastic surgery procedures and gravity’s effect on her aging body, the fact that she was ugly (“Bow-wow!  Arf-Arf!”), or fat, or old…  And, of course, one must ALWAYS marry rich, no matter what:

“The problem with marrying for money is that you end up earning it.”

Now, arguably, much of what came out of Joan’s mouth is not appropriate to include here, and she was constantly garnering attention because of her politically incorrect or just plain crude statements.  I always thought she got a lot of flak, though, for saying things that male comedians could say with impunity.

“The first time I see a jogger smiling, I’ll consider it.”

When I find myself missing that catty chatter from my favorite comedienne, I can turn to one of the books written by Joan here at DCPL, her most recent being this year’s Diary of a Mad Diva.

“My mother kept asking ‘why can’t you be more like your sister?’ My sister had died at birth.”

I must admit that I have winced and even pouted at things she said at times during the all the years I’ve listened to Joan.  But, I know what Joan would say to me:

“Oh, GROW UP!!!”

Joan, you made me laugh until I cried.  You will be missed.

 

{ 0 comments }

Sep 19 2014

Eating Right…The Debate

by Dea Anne M

Battling a cold virus recently, and suffering defeat, brought me to wonder–can the way we choose to feed ourselves really help to keep us healthy? For myself,  when I feel the very first ticklings of a cold coming on I can sometimes fend it off by eating dishes heavily laced with garlic and ginger. Even just slurping up good old chicken soup can help. Sometimes. Maybe.

My regular diet is fairly omnivorous and marked by ongoing attempts to get as many vegetables into it as I can. (I’m glad I like them!). But is there really an optimal diet for human beings? Leaving aside issues around unequal distribution of wealth and resources, industrial versus sustainable farming (which my fellow blogger Rebekah has written about quite admirably here), and the possible moral issues posed by the consumption of animals and their products, is there one correct way to eat in order to maintain health? As with so many things, there’s more than one opinion about this question and plenty of advocates for any stance that you can imagine. Let’s investigate some of these through resources available at DCPL. Be aware that some of these titles refer to weight loss, but I suspect that this marketing slant may come more from the publishers than the authors. The primary emphasis in these books seems to be the restoration, and maintenance, of optimal health through a “correct” diet.

First up is the Traditional Foods diet. This school of thought advocates a return to the diet of our ancestors and incorporates pasture-raised meats, wild fish, and organic fruits and vegetables along with whole grains. The idea is nourishingto eliminate from our diet all overly processed food and, basically, anything that–as Michael Pollan would say–our grandparents (or great grandparents!) wouldn’t recognize as food.  A typical meal of Traditional Foods will probably look a lot like your childhood Sunday dinner–that is, if you grew up as I did with a mother and grandmothers who cooked from scratch. Where the advocates of Traditional Foods may lose some people is with their emphasis on organ meats. That can be a hard sell if you didn’t grow up consuming them–as we don’t much in this country. An even more controversial aspect of Traditional Foods is its advocacy of raw milk consumption. The Food and Drug Administration warns that raw milk can pose serious health risks and retail availability of raw (i.e., unpasteurized) milk for nourished kitchenhuman consumption is strictly controlled in most states with many banning it altogether. Raw milk’s defenders argue that processed milk lacks key nutrients and helpful bacteria that keep people healthy.  In any case, the debate rages on. If you want to find out more about the Traditional Foods diet, you would do well to start with Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. This book is encyclopedic in scope and depth and includes not only many recipes, but also a vast amount of background information to help get you oriented. For an updated approach to the topic, check out Jennifer McGruther’s The Nourished Kitchen: Farm-to-Table Recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle. The author lives in the mountains of Colorado and her specific approach and choice of local ingredients will vary from what is available here and in other parts of the world. Regardless, the book is very informative and is packed with stunning photographs.

A subject of recent debate is the Paleo diet, which seems to have as many passionate detractors as defenders. The Plaeopersonal diet takes the idea of eating only what our ancestors ate even further back than the Traditional Foods diet does. Basically, if an ancient hunter-gather didn’t eat it, then you shouldn’t either. The diet guidelines call for meat, fish, non-starchy vegetables, berries, nuts, and seeds. A strict interpretation of the diet eliminates all grains, potatoes, and dairy products. The lack of processed food in the diet seems more than laudable, but the sometimes staggering quantities of animal protein might give some (including myself) pause. If you think the Paleo diet might be for you, pick up Your Personal Paleo Code: The 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life by Chris Kresser. Kresser’s approach is a bit less strict than some and his guidelines allow you to tailor your diet to include some grains and dairy. For a somewhat stricter interpretation of the Paleo approach, try The Primal Blueprint Cookbook by Mark Sisson with Jennifer Meier.

The central tenet of the Raw Foods diet is that any food cooked at 115 degrees or above has lost much of its nutritional value and may actually be harmful to consume. Advocates for this way of eating recommend raw, or minimally bradprocessed, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Some variations of the diet can include eggs, dairy products, fish, meat and some fermented foods like sauerkraut or kefir. The diet sounds great for those of us who adore fruit and vegetables. Less entrancing, at least to me, is the idea of consuming raw animal protein. I consider myself a relatively adventurous eater, but I have never summoned the courage to order steak tartare and I find the prospect of consuming sashimi without its usual pillow of rice more than a little daunting.  Still (and keeping in mind that most raw foodists do include a small percentage of cooked food in their diets) boosting our intake of vegetables and fruit is probably a good idea for most of us. If you’d like to try this approach, check out Brad’s Raw Made Easy: The Fast, Delicious aniWay to Lose Weight, Optimize Health, and Live Mostly in the Raw by Brad Gruno for an in-depth look at the thinking behind the diet and tips on using it successfully. Also popular with the Raw Food crowd are the books of Ani Phyo. Wellness coach and host of the popular YouTube show “Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen Show,” Phyo presents her take on the Raw Foods lifestyle in Ani’s Raw Food Essentials: Recipes and Techniques for Mastering the Art of Live Foods.

How do you eat for health? What are your thoughts about an optimal diet?

 

{ 1 comment }

Fales library special collections - Photo courtesty of Mal Booth

In many libraries, special collections is the name applied to materials housed in a separate unit with specialized security and user services. Though DCPL does not currently maintain a separate space for our special collection, we do house materials by and about DeKalb County and its citizens, DeKalb County governmental activities, and Georgia history and genealogy. You can learn more about some of DCPL’s special collection here.

Recently Mental Floss Magazine compiled a list of fifteen of the most interesting library special collections from around the country. Some of my favorites include The Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University and the DC Punk Archive, a work in progress under the auspices of the D.C. Public Library that will focus on the Washington D.C. punk rock scene from 1976 to the present day.

Check out the full list here.

{ 1 comment }

Sep 12 2014

Ready for Fresh AND Affordable

by Rebekah B

un climate summit 2014

At DCPL, if you haven’t already taken note, we have a wonderful collection of documentary films.  A lover of the cinema and an eternal student, I am always eager to check out new additions to our collection.

As world leaders calling for restoration of ecosystems prepare to convene at the United Nations Climate Summit this September 23rd in New York City, the largest people’s demonstration on climate change is also scheduled on the morning of September 21st. In the spirit of environmental awareness, I am trying to do my part to make our society, economy, and food/health-care more sustainable. Although I am unable to attend the NYC march, I can write, watch relevant movies, exercise, buy healthy local foods, recycle and re-use items instead of buying new, travel less…and much more!

Fresh_flyer

One of the films that I recently watched and found noteworthy from our DCPL collection is Fresh: New Thinking About What We’re Eating, produced and directed by Ana Sofia Joanes in 2009.  With an outlook intended to be as objective as possible while supporting the sustainability and local food movement, the film features visits to industrial or conventional farms and to sustainable organic farms and lightly touches upon the problem of food deserts.  The film also includes interviews with farmers from both ends of the spectrum, some of whom had begun their careers as conventional farmers, later converting to organic farming, as well as urban farmers, activists, and smaller businesses promoting locally produced foods.

By visually demonstrating and comparing the processes, output, economics, and attitudes of industrial and sustainable farming, I was able to observe for myself as well as to learn from the experiences of these Americans who have devoted their lives to farming, producing and distributing food.  There is a lushness and beauty to the farms where animals and humans share information about living in harmony with nature that is so harshly lacking in the feedlots and chicken farms, where the animals appear stressed, their coats and feathers dull or literally hen-pecked. Prior to watching this film, I did not realize that industrial farmers clip the beaks on their chickens and that pigs’ tails are trimmed.  Bored and frustrated, the animals often attack one another in close quarters, where they never see the light of day.

anajoanes

Organic farmer Joel Salatin of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia demonstrates how he pastures his herd of about 300 cows in fields in which over twenty different types of grasses and wild flowering plants flourish. Conventional farm feedlots group together thousands of animals in close quarters. As in nature, in which cows naturally move to different areas over the course of a day or week to graze, Joel rotates the cows (and pigs) to varied pasture lands from day to day.  Bringing in chickens to the pastures where the cows have grazed, the birds earn their keep by picking the fly larvae from the cow manure deposited throughout the field, allowing the cows to soon return and avoid infection by parasites.

Mr. Salatin explains that sustainable farms are much more efficient and clean than industrial farms.  The animals are healthy, yet they are given no medications, and the veterinarian is almost never needed.

russkremer5

Conventional farms produce huge amounts of pollution growing grain that does not feed people, but cows (who are by nature consumers of grasses). It is expensive to produce this grain, which requires huge amounts of water and enormous quantities of pesticides.  Groundwater and soil are polluted and depleted by this process, and the natural variety of grasses that would ordinarily populate and regenerate the soil is suppressed.  Feedlot animals are regularly injected with antibiotics and consume pesticides through the grain they eat.  Their feces accumulate in large quantities and cannot be recycled because of contamination by the drugs and pesticides.  Additional pollutants are created through the gases produced by the waste.  The continuous use of low-grade antibiotics causes bacteria to mutate, creating strains that are antibiotic resistant, affecting animals and humans alike and creating risk of untreatable infections. The meats produced by grain-fed cows and pigs are also unhealthy because of concentrations of pesticides, antibiotics, and omega 6 fats accumulating in the meat from the high carbohydrate diet.

ChickensInBatteryCageslg

Conventional farmers interviewed in the film complain that they have difficulty finding people to work all shifts in their plants, particularly in the processing areas, because of unhealthy conditions.  It becomes clear that going against nature is expensive, inefficient, unhealthy, unpleasant and sometimes life threatening to both people and animals.

Today, we face a quandary.  Large industrial farms receive federal government grants to raise grain that does not feed people.  These single crop farms threaten plant and animal diversity and are creating an environmental disaster.  By producing local food even in urban areas, we can lower the costs of creating sufficient, healthy, fresh foods and make them affordable and available to everyone in the country, including low income families in urban areas.  By watching this film, while already convinced of the necessity to make healthy and local foods available at reasonable cost to our entire population, regardless of socioeconomic status or geographic location, I feel the urgency to help people become more aware of the environmental consequences of conventional agriculture in this country.

industrial vs conventional farming

As consumers, the film notes that each purchase we make is a vote, a demonstration of each of our voices in the democratic process. By purchasing local foods, we are supporting the sustainable movement.  By supporting organic farms that produce quality products, we are supporting our economies and producing jobs in places where people enjoy their work and are well paid for the work they do.  Animals who are raised in accordance with the laws of nature are happier and healthier, and the interconnected process of sustainable farming ensures sufficient food for everyone at a lower cost with infinite benefits for all.  The rear panel of the jacket of a documentary new to DCPL, Fed Up, reads: “This generation will live shorter lives than their parents. By 2050, one out of every three Americans will have diabetes.”  If this is not a wake-up call to change your family’s eating and buying habits and to take action to change the American way of life for the better, I don’t know what is!

basket of veggies

Industrial agriculture and feedlots are responsible for the production of more greenhouse gases than the burning of fossil fuels, to the order of at least 18% (in 2008) according to Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  An Indian economist and vegetarian, Dr. Pachauri recommends a reduction in the consumption of meats as an important personal contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gases and the global warming effect.  Choosing to eat grass-fed organic meats or organic poultry is also a good choice. Whatever decisions you consciously make in this direction contribute to the return to balance of man’s relationship with nature.  Your stomach will thank you!

A selection of documentaries on sustainable living and health, the environment, and climate change in the DCPL collections:

Fed Up  2014

Hungry for Change 2012

Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic? 2010

Plastic Planet 2009

Burning the Future: Coal in America 2008

Carbon Nation  2011

Children of the Tsunami 2011

Garbage Warrior  2007

No Impact Man 2008

Food, Inc. 2008

Blue Gold World Water Wars 2008

Car of the Future 2008

Farmageddon 2011

It’s a Big Big World. The Earth Needs You: Recycling and Caring for the Environment 2007

Freeze, Freeze, Fry: Climate Past, Present, and Future  2007

The Science of Climate Change 2014

Sustainability in the 21st Century 2008

Tapped  2010

The Garden 2008

Fast Food Nation  2006

Business Advice for Organic Farmers 2012

{ 0 comments }

Sep 3 2014

Skillshare

by Jimmy L

DeKalb County Public Library is accepting applications to be a presenter in our Skillshare program. Skillshare brings together people willing to share their special knowledge and skills related to their hobbies or crafts with others through library-hosted workshops.

Many people think, “I have no skills to offer.” But, if you garden, create clothing, take great pictures, create short films, or are very knowledgeable in History or Art, you have lots to offer. If you have a skill and are willing to share, please submit an application by October 1, 2014, to participate as a presenter. Below is just a sampling of skills we are looking for:

Pickling and Home Canning • Making Homemade Baby Food • Rough and Ready Sewing Basics and Tailoring • Learn to Create Your Own Yarn • How to Plan and Enjoy a Multi-Day Bike Trip • Green Housecleaning • Producing a Documentary from Scratch • Natural Dying Techniques • Gardening • Basic Bike Maintenance • Glass Etching • Worm Composting • Make Your Own Butter

Skillshare @ DeKalb County Public Library presenters share their skills on a voluntary basis. Skillshare programs are free and open to the public. Applications can be submitted online, or pick up an application from your nearest library location today!

{ 0 comments }