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

November 2014

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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Nov 10 2014

Remembering Tom Magliozzi (1937-2014)

by Jesse M

Ray and Tom Magliozzi

Last week, public radio lost one its most distinctive voices as Tom Magliozzi passed away due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease at age 77. Along with his brother Ray, Tom served as host of NPR’s long-running program Car Talk. Produced from 1977-2012, Car Talk was a show ostensibly focused on automobiles and automotive repair, although the Magliozzi’s (known on-air as “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers”) frequently peppered their advice with humor and the conversation often segued into tangents that sometimes had little to do with cars. A quote from Tom serves to illustrate this dynamic:

“Some guy I met said it’s amazing how we use cars on our show as an excuse to discuss everything in the world—energy, psychology, behavior, love, money, economics and finance. The cars themselves are boring as hell.”

Jokes, puns, and wisecracks were a big part of the Peabody award-winning show. From their self-deprecating humor (exemplified by their traditional closing statement at the end of the program: “Well, it’s happened again — you’ve wasted another perfectly good hour listening to Car Talk.”) to the punny fictional staff members referenced during the show’s ending credits, the brothers never wasted an opportunity to laugh. And their laughter was contagious; you couldn’t help but laugh along with them. Speaking of Tom, Doug Berman, longtime producer of Car Talk, remarked that “his laugh is the working definition of infectious laughter.”

Although the production of new episodes ended in 2012, Car Talk has continued to air on NPR affiliates nationwide and remains a top-rated program even in syndication. If you’re interested in listening to the program you can find stations and showtimes here or browse and download from the complete list of shows.

You can also get Car Talk related material from DCPL. Car Talk: Maternal Combustion – Calls about Moms and Cars is a collection of the brothers’ favorite clips about moms, while in Car of the Future: Engineering for the Environment, the brother’s turn an expert, comic eye on the promise and pitfalls of tomorrow’s auto tech.

Tom will be fondly remembered by his brother Ray and the staff of the show, who have written a touching obituary as well as compiled clips of some favorite “Tom moments.”If you have your own favorite memories of the show to share, you can do so via their Guest Book or leave a comment on this post.

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Nov 7 2014

The Thing with Feathers…

by Rebekah B

Hello readers,

murmurations1

Who among us has never envied a bird in flight? Our mysterious neighbors, many of them so well adapted to urban life, are a subject of endless fascination.

Noah Strycker’s book, The Thing With Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human, is a delightful read, chock full of fascinating historical, scientific, and personal observations about our feathered friends.

A bird lover from childhood, Strycker shares his sense of wonder and dedication to learning about birds of all types and origins in this lyrical and well-written book. Easy to read, The Thing With Feathers will fill you with admiration and inspire you, the reader, to raise your appreciation for large and small winged creatures, some of whom may inhabit your back yard.  From the repulsively mesmerizing visual and olfactory abilities of turkey vultures (who have cast iron immune systems) to the violently competitive and over-stressed hummingbirds, from the astounding navigation skills of homing pigeons, to the friendly curiosity of penguins, Strycker does not cease to fascinate.

murder of crows

Having observed over 2,500 species, the author has spent months at a time watching birds in a variety of remote locations, including the Ecuadorian Amazon, Cape Crozier, Antarctica, the Australian outback, the jungles of Costa Rica and Panama, the Galápagos Islands, and more. Each chapter of the book is devoted to a different type of bird, whether it be a parrot or snowy owl, detailing the author’s personal experiences with these creatures while demonstrating an impressive array of scientific research illustrating the prowess of each of these avian wonders.

To share with you just a small sample of this tribute to the native intelligence and personality of these birds and how this information is relevant to the nearly naked, or at least featherless bipedals that we are, here is a short excerpt from the introduction of this captivating book:

Some bird behaviors don’t apply to humans, and those are especially fascinating and exotic: a ‘sixth’ magnetic sense (see ‘Fly Away Home: How Pigeons Get Around’), flocks that operate as magnets (see ‘Spontaneous Order: The Curious Magnetism of Starling Flocks’), and the smelling power of turkey vultures (see ‘The Buzzard’s Nostrils: Sniffing Out a Turkey Vulture’s Talents’). It’s hard to imagine having such super-powers, though birds sometimes inspire us to try.

But if you look closely enough, many seemingly incredible bird feats have human counterparts, with interesting lessons. Cooperative nesting in fairy-wrens (see ‘Fairy Helpers: When Cooperation is Just a Game’) helps illustrate why humans are usually nice to one another. The dazzling speed of hummingbirds (see ‘Hummingbird Wars: Implications of Flight in the Fast Lane’) serves as a warning about our own quickening pace of life. Snowy Owls (see ‘Snow Flurries: Owls, Invasions, and Wanderlust’) confirm that not all who wander are lost. Even the domestic chicken (see ‘Seeing Red: When the Pecking Order Breaks Down’) has something to teach us about the natural pecking order.”

parliament of owls

The Thing With Feathers is full of humor, sensitive observations, scientific data, and a compelling vision of birds as intelligent and emotional beings with distinctive individual personalities as well as an amazingly varied capacity for survival.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading each page of this lighthearted yet serious book.

DCPL has two other fascinating books related to the topic of little known aspects of animal or plant intelligence, and how this relates to us as humans:

 Images above, from top: A murmuration of starlings, a murder of crows, parliament of owls

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