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

December 2014

Dec 31 2014

Another One Bites the Dust!?

by Hope L

newyear3Well, another year has come and gone. And because of the New Year, but also because my birthday falls in a week or so, I usually take this time to reflect on my life and ask the tough questions: What am I doing?, Where am I going?, Has life passed me by?, and Should I clean out the basement?

I blogged some time back about how I was thinking of getting older since moving my parents to a retirement home. Actually, it was more of a WHEN DID I GET OLD??!!! meltdown, complete with commentary and suggestions by luminaries like Suzanne Somers and Dave Barry and specialists on memory and aging. I can’t remember what I said, but it could have involved a tantrum or a curse word or two.

Now though, I am sort of looking forward to the New Year. And I have some good news to report. Yes, straight from my current, regular-must-read, AARP: The Magazine (available at a number of DCPL branches–check with your local branch), I just discovered “The Good News About Bad Habits” in the Dec./Jan. Healthy You issue (p. 14).  Let me share some bad habits which can actually be good for you.

Habit #1: Having Coffee for Breakfast (just coffee) – Why it’s not so bad: Breakfast is vital–if you’re bailing hay. But if the most physically demanding thing you do is reboot your computer, you can get away with little or no breakfast. In fact, two new studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition find that missing this meal doesn’t affect weight, cholesterol or resting metabolism.

Habit #2: Obsessively Watching House of Cards (and I’m guilty of this) – Why it’s not so bad: Taking time to see what Frank and Claire Underwood are up to is not only OK, it can stimulate the brain as you keep up with the complex plot, notes pop culture expert Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad is Good for You.

Habit #3:  Occasionally Blowing Your Stack – Why it’s not so bad:  If you get steamed but never release it, you’re eventually going to blow like a shaken can of soda. Suppressing anger isn’t healthy, says Sandra Thomas, a professor at the University of Tennessee. A study she co-authored showed that older women who expressed their anger–albeit in healthier ways than blowing their top–had lower levels of the inflammatory markers that are linked to cardiovascular disease. (WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THIS YEARS AGO?!!)

Habit #4: Sharing Harmless Gossip – Why it’s not so bad: Sharing harmless gossip (You’ll never believe what Bob told Bill…) with friends or co-workers can build social bonds and boost some positive behaviors, according to a recent University of Michigan study.

“Habit #5:  Intending to Cut the Grass, but… zzzzz – Why it’s not so bad: Older adults who take a daily 30-minute nap get a much-needed midday pick-me-up without a trip to Starbucks, say experts at the National Sleep Foundation.

Well, by golly, I think I’ll follow this sage advice and hang onto some good, bad habits. And maybe next year I’ll clean out the basement…

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Rancho Mirage Holiday CardHere at DCPL we have an annual tradition of exchanging holiday cards between branches. Recently I learned that the tradition of libraries and librarians exchanging seasonal greeting cards is an old one. In this blog post from a couple of weeks ago, the Library History Buff shares a few holiday cards from his personal collection. He explains that some cards are sent by a library institution, others by the library director or other library administrator, and sometimes by a library’s staff collectively.

Happy Holidays from your friends at DCPL.

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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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