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

Arts & Culture

Jul 27 2015

Fish with Benefits

by Rebekah B

go fish education center buildingAs the summer draws to a close, families may still be seeking out some educational opportunities to prepare kids for returning to school.

As many of you may know, DCPL offers a variety of attraction passes that include the Georgia State Parks Pass, the Zoo Atlanta DVD/Pass, and the Puppetry Arts Pass (not currently available, as the museum is in the process of expansion and renovation). The lesser known of these passes may be the Go Fish Pass. You may have visited Perry, GA, as I have, when taking your kids to an All-State Band audition. If not, the purpose of this post is to inform you about what there is to see and do in and around Perry and to make your visit to the Go Fish Center the focal point of a highly educational, fun, day trip, of interest to adults and to kids.

go fish center fishing simulatorThe pass for the Go Fish Education Center allows up to 4 people to enter free of charge. The Center is located in Perry, Georgia (click on the link to view the location on Google Maps), about a one-hour drive from Atlanta. At the Go Fish Education Center, regional species of freshwater fish as well as a variety of reptiles and aquatic wildlife are exhibited in aquariums, and a variety of wildlife conservation programs for all ages are included in the educational programming. Local Georgia habitats are also featured, and visitors can test their skills on hunting and fishing simulators as well as learn how fish are raised in a state-of-the-art hatchery. On the Go Fish web-site from 7 am to 8 pm daily, you can watch a live webcam broadcast of the fish swimming in the 15-foot-deep aquariums of the Piedmont Reservoir exhibit.

massee lane gardensBefore I first visited Perry, I asked some of my well-traveled book club friends what else we might do in and around Perry so we could make a day trip of the All-State Band auditions. My friend Betty, an avid gardener, advised us to visit the Massee Lane Gardens of the American Camellia Society, in Fort Valley, GA. The gardens are intimate, with a wide variety of camellias, of course, and brick paved shaded walkways dotted with mile markers and millstones, part of the collections of the originator of the gardens, Mr. David Strother. The plantings also include a rose garden and a small Japanese garden with water features as well as access to adjacent pecan groves.

andersonville cemeteryBetty also told us that the National Prisoner of War Museum is nearby, which is adjacent to the Andersonville Civil War historic site. The POW museum is also the acting visitor’s center for the park and is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm, closing only for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. The Camp Sumpter Military Prison was the largest confederate military prison during the Civil War, and of the nearly 45,000 Union soldiers imprisoned here, about 13,000 died due to highly insalubrious conditions. The museum visit is free of charge and the indoor collections include many fascinating and highly personal artifacts that document the lives of soldiers from a variety of conflicts in American history. Visitors can walk through the park, exploring reconstructions of parts of the Andersonville blockade as well as the Andersonville National Cemetery. According to the museum website, the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site is just 22 miles from Andersonville.

yoders restaurantIn addition to these great places to visit, Betty told me that she and her husband also enjoy dining at a local Amish-style restaurant and bakery near Montezuma, GA, which serves southern comfort style food and a variety of deserts, including shoofly pie.  We didn’t go to the restaurant, but it seemed like a nice cultural attraction.

Take advantage of the Go Fish pass to visit rural central Georgia. You may see, as I did, clumps of cotton bunched along the edges of the roadway. Not being a native Georgian or southerner, I had never seen cotton growing before…and at first, I wondered why there was so much trash along the road’s edge! The pecan groves and peach orchards are lovely to see as well.

 

 

 

{ 2 comments }

Jul 20 2015

National Merry-Go-Round Day

by Glenda

merry-go-roundOn July 25th we celebrate National Merry-Go-Round Day. This is an unofficial holiday–but it is fun to ride on merry-go-rounds, so let’s celebrate. The merry-go-round (or carousel) has an interesting history. In the 1100s during the Crusades, European soldiers watched the Turkish and Arabian horsemen compete in a game. The game, similar to jousting, was taken very seriously by its participants. The European onlookers began to refer to the game as “little war,” which is translated to “garosello” in Italian and “carosella.” This is how the word carousel is derived.

During Medieval times, carousels were used as a training device for knights in battle. In the 1600s, a Frenchmen designed a device for training purposes for young competitors for participation in the carousel. The device was a carved horse that was suspended by chains from two arms that were attached to a central pole. The competitors trained while the horse moved up and down to simulate actually riding a horse.

In the 1800s, European immigrants brought the artistry of the carousel with them to America. The first patented carousel, which was called the “flying horses,” was given in Brooklyn; however, there is evidence of merry-g0-rounds being present in the U.S. five years earlier in Manhattan.

Later in the 19th century, merry-go-rounds were powered by steam and built on wooden platforms. By the end of the 19th century, carousels were converted to electric power–and during this time, fair grounds were popular. However, during WWII, the carousel fell out of popularity due to the lack of labor and supplies to make them. Merry-go-rounds or carousels did make a comeback, but they were never as popular as they were prior. But merry-go-rounds will live forever, or at least as long as there are children.

For more information, see the International Independent Showmen’s Museum website, or use your DCPL card to check out Art of the Carousel by Charlotte Dinger.

{ 3 comments }

Jun 19 2015

Art or Life?

by Rebekah B

Hello readers,

I love watching movies–the kind of movies which explore the dilemmas and dramas of human passions and desires. Cinema is an art form that, when well done, can fully engage our hearts and minds. When we get down to what brings meaning to our everyday lives, I think most of us would like to feel that by being in the world we have somehow served our families, friends, and co-workers by sharing some essential aspects of our own being. For the artist, the need to create meaning through art is more often than not a compulsion–a need more important than building family or career. We may ask ourselves the question: Which is more important–to live one’s life in a compassionate manner, adding value to the relationships we nurture at home and at work, or to isolate oneself to a certain degree from society in order to produce work that will allow future generations to continue to relate to the workings of our heart and mind, long after our personal death?

HumblingBirdmanA few recent (2014), somewhat literary films in our DCPL collection, I feel, illustrate this theme well. Birdman, written and directed by  Alejandro González Iñárritu and starring Michael Keaton, and The Humbling, directed by Barry Levinson, starring Al Pacino and based on the next to the last novel written by Philip Roth, both feature aging screen and stage actors struggling to remain relevant, to prove to themselves and to the world that they still possess the magical power that grabs the viewer by the emotions and reels them in. Both protagonists are terrified by a progressively tenuous relationship with reality, with friends and family. Yet their desires remain powerful, and they fight the demons of death and chaos as vigorously as they engage the remains of their personal genius in their art.

WhiplashWhiplash, written and directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, is, I feel, the most powerful of the three films. Teller plays a young and ambitious drummer enrolled in a New York City conservatory. In a telling moment, he squashes a budding relationship with a young woman to whom he is obviously attracted, feeling that his overriding desire to become a famous drummer will cause him to inevitably dissatisfy her–and that she, as an ordinary young woman, will never understand or be fulfilled by him. In his youthful arrogance, he somehow knows that his need to excel as a musician dominates any other desires. As we watch the scene, the painful question, “art or life?” is illustrated. In Whiplash, the relationship between Andrew, the young drummer, and his mentor, the verbally abusive and manipulative Fletcher, is intense and fascinating. Fletcher uses any means he deems necessary to bring to fruition the talent he sees in his young charges, and Andrew’s vulnerability and passion stir in the viewer an ambiguous desire to see him succeed.

In all of these films, the viewer experiences the angst-ridden desire of the artist to remain relevant as he ages, as well as our own fears about the loss of vitality. We share the struggle of the artist to straddle the fine line between his own vivid imagination and the demands of conventional reality. We observe the dedication and work required to develop and maintain the necessary craft which is the armature of any successful and compelling art form. Watching these films, we can experience with emotion the conflicts and difficulties caused in the artist’s personal life by his or her focus on an art form to the near exclusion of all other responsibilities and relationships. You could say that the artist is egocentric, a narcissist. And it is true to a certain degree. Art is an unforgiving mistress or master, requiring uncompromising devotion. As a mere human being, the artist is nearly always at the mercy of art itself.

{ 1 comment }

Jun 3 2015

National Yo-Yo Day

by Glenda

Yo-YoJune 6 is National Yo-Yo Day. It is thought that the yo-yo originated in China.  A painting from a Greek vase shows a boy playing with a yo-yo as far back as 500BC. In Ancient Greece, yo-yos were made of wood, metal, and terracotta, and they were often decorated with pictures of the gods.

In 1928, Pedro Flores, a Filipino immigrant to the United States, opened the Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara, California, after coining the term yo-yo. Flores later sold the Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company to Donald F. Duncan.  However National Yo-Yo Day is not in celebration of Pedro Flores, it is to celebrate Donald F. Duncan. The day is celebrating the commercial success that Duncan made of the Yo-Yo. (You can do a quick search in GALILEO to find more about the history of the yo-yo.)

If you love to yo-yo, get your yo-yo out and enjoy the day. If you are new to the yo-yo, or want to learn some new tricks, stop by your local library. DCPL has some materials for you on yo-yo tricks.

Awesome Yo-Yo Tricks by Shar Levine and Robert Bowden

Yo-Yo’s: Tricks to Amaze Your Friends by Ingrid Roper

Yo-Yo Tricks by Cynthia Klingel and Robert Noyed

 

{ 1 comment }

May 25 2015

Seriously Silly!

by Joseph M

Knuffle Bunny by Mo WillemsFans of best-selling children’s book author and illustrator Mo Willems may be interested in a new exhibition at the High Museum of Art. Seriously Silly! The art & whimsy of Mo Willems is a retrospective featuring over 100 works by the artist. It opened May 23 and will run through January 10, 2016. To find out more, see the event page on the High Museum website.

Whether you’re already a fan or if you just want to know what all the fuss is about, DCPL has a substantial collection of works by Mo Willems. Click here to take a look!

{ 1 comment }

Apr 17 2015

The Crowning Touch

by Dea Anne M

There was a time in this country when adults, both men and women, were 44.105.26_view3 0003considered not completely dressed for certain situations unless he or she was wearing a hat. Certainly, shopping and working in the city was one of these situations (and, for women, gloves were also an absolute necessity). Even college students were expected to wear hats at schools in urban areas. Church definitely required the wearing of hats and there were even special “cocktail” hats for women to wear to evening parties. The regular wearing of hats became outmoded during the 1960’s and never really took hold again. For good or ill, unless a hat is part of a work uniform or the occasional accessory worn for fun, hats are simply not a significant part of our sartorial lives. Although I would never advocate for the dressreturn of stringent dress codes, I feel that maybe we lost an opportunity for bringing beauty into our lives when we abandoned hats. And I’m not alone in this opinion. As Dr. Linda Przybyszewski points out in her book The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish (a current favorite of mine!), a received piece of wisdom from the pre-sixties dress experts was that a hat worked to bring the eye of the observer up to a woman’s face–the true communicator of her unique personality and spirit. “A well-chosen hat can flatter any face,” says Dr. Przybyszewski, and this is true. If you look at vintage photographs, it’s astonishing how well hats of all styles can frame a woman’s (or a man’s) face.

So what has changed? My theory is that because hats–apart from ball caps–aren’t worn anymore on a regular basis, it’s difficult for many of us to wear one without feeling as though we are wearing a costume. Wearing a hat well, and in a confident manner, requires a certain “swagger.” For example, Cookie Lyon–the character that Taraji Henson plays on Fox TV’s Empire–has swagger to spare, and the hats that she wears come off as essential parts of her beautiful (and expensive!) ensembles rather than as cartoonish or awkward.

Of course, the place where hats can still rule the day is church–and nowhere crownsmore so than those churches that are traditionally and predominantly African-American. Hats are an indispensable part of the Sunday ensembles of many of the women who attend the churches. As Craig Marberry, one of the co-creators (along with Michael Cunningham) of Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats, writes in his introduction: “These captivating hats are not mere fashion accessories. Neither, despite their biblical roots, are they solely religious headgear. Church hats are a peculiar convergence of faith and fashion that keeps the Sabbath both holy and glamorous.” This book is well worth checking out for its wonderful black and white portraits of women in their hats. Each woman gives a short account of her own life in hats, and these stories are as engaging as the pictures. My favorites are elegant Ollie McDowell wearing her black portrait hat and beautiful Sandra Wright Wallington in her feather-trimmed and tiger-printed platter chapeau.

Are you interested in hats and their history? If so, check out The Hat: Trends and Traditions by Madeline Ginsburg. The book goes up only to the late 1980’s but it is an otherwise thorough history of the hat and its permutations–from the vintagehelmets and hair nets of Bronze Age Europe, to the extravagant, ornately trimmed bonnets and top hats of the early nineteenth century, to the elegant men’s trilby hat of the 1950’s. And for some really delicious looking women’s hats, look no further than Vintage Fashion Complete: Women’s Style in the Twentieth Century by Nicky Albrechtsen. This gorgeous, heavy volume, lavishly illustrated with color photographs, takes you through the decades of vintage from the 1920’s and beyond. The chapter on hats provides particularly stunning examples of the best of the milliner’s art. I particularly like the 60’s helmet made of bright green feathers that looks exactly like a Christmas tree and the 1930’s floral fantasies of Elsa Schiaparelli. Hat aficionado or no, this book is an absolute must for any lover of vintage fashion.

One of the most celebrated, and prolific, of American milliners was Sally Victor. Her pretty (sometimes wacky) hats were popular from the mid-1930’s through the late 1960’s. Here’s a link to the extensive collection of Sally Victor hats owned by the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For an example of her work, see the top of this post.

Do wear hats or wish you could? What is your hat style preference?

{ 3 comments }

Apr 6 2015

The Saddest Voice

by Hope L

KarenC

When I was a gullible little girl of about 7 or 8, my three older brothers would tell me that there were hundreds of people singing background in those songs we were listening to, and that’s why they sounded that way. I smile today because I totally believed my brothers. Sure, an occasional backup singer was used, but in actuality it was Karen and Richard Carpenter singing all those great songs. The magic sound was created by her producer-brother Richard, who also helped to write many of the songs they sung.

And Karen Carpenter had the saddest voice ever. She would have been 65 this past March 2. When I listen to her songs, especially hits like Rainy Days and Mondays, Say Goodbye to Love, For All We Know, and Solitaire, I still marvel at her beautiful voice and the sadness it evokes.

Karen Carpenter was an outstanding singer, but few people know that she was also an exceptional drummer. And by all accounts, she had a kooky sense of humor and a host of friends, not to mention fans, whom she touched during her short life. (She died of heart failure at age 32 on February 4, 1983.) Her voice graced at least a dozen albums, and she, together with her brother Richard, won two Grammy Awards and earned millions of dollars during a time when their squeaky clean image was the antithesis of what was considered “cool” or even “popular music.”

According to The Carpenters: The Untold Story, an Authorized Biography by Ray Coleman, Karen was “hiding” by playing behind the drums while singing in the early days of the act. It then became apparent that her powerhouse voice demanded that she be the star on stage, front and center. (We have a few music CDs by the Carpenters at DCPL, including the album Singles 1969-1981.)

This YouTube clip shows Karen in a variety of early performances behind her drums.

Unfortunately, though, Karen Carpenter will be remembered first and foremost for her death and the introduction it gave the world to a disease called anorexia nervosa. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders, anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents. Other eating disorders include bulimia nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder (BED).

But  for me, when I hear the Carpenters’ music,  I think  iconic  70’s music–just begging for me to sing along.

{ 0 comments }

130411_dailyRituals_intro.jpg.CROP.multipart2-medium

Hello readers,

Have you ever wondered how famous writers, painters, musicians, sculptors, composers, scientists, filmmakers, poets, philosophers, or inventors actually go about the business of creating new art, ideas, books, concepts? As it turns out, there are as many ways to combat anxiety and to be productive as there are personalities. The main thing is to get the job done, and the majority of creative people rely on sometimes rigid routines in order to produce the desired quantity of work. Many creative people struggle with the act of creation, and I am well familiar with the art of procrastination and the anxiety that can surround the creative act. Each creative individual resolves his or her existential angst in a highly personal manner, and this book provides much insight (in minute detail) into this aspect of the creative process.

A truly fascinating book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, written by Mason Currey and published in 2013, is a compilation of descriptions of the work and life habits of 161 renowned individuals ranging from Jane Austen to Beethoven. A profile of more than three or four pages, and often much less, is devoted to each individual, and it would seem that channeling the compulsion to create requires for many not only devotion to art but also a dedication to rote habits. Details of eating habits, social activities, various idiosyncrasies, when, how, and where the artist worked, as well as routines involving physical exercise, are all explained in precise detail, many of which are amusing. For example, Thomas Wolfe, who measured 6’6″, would work standing up using the top of a refrigerator as his desk!

Each of these mini-biographies brings insight into the work and personalities of the likes of Franz Kafka, who struggled to find time to write between long shifts, with frequent overtime hours spent working in an insurance agency, and little privacy, as he shared a cramped apartment with numerous family members. His nightly writing rituals were preceded by ten minutes of exercise executed naked in front of an open window, followed by an hour-long, semi-solitary walk with a friend, such as Max Brodt, and dinner with his family…after all of which he would sit down to write at 10:30 or 11:00 p.m., working until well after midnight. The writing session would be followed by more physical exercise, followed by attempts to sleep, which were mostly thwarted by an overactive mind.

Some of the personalities in the book are quite eccentric, such as inventor Nikola Tesla, who worked regularly and compulsively from 10:30 each morning to 5:00 the following morning, and who had a variety of scripted rituals–such as taking his evening meals at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel where he dined in solitaire. Prior to each meal, Tesla would require that he be supplied with 18 freshly-pressed linen napkins with which he would clean the already spotless tableware. When his meal would arrive, he would also compulsively, mentally calculate the cubic contents of each dish, a habit developed in childhood that he pursued until the end of his life.

A common trait to many of these biographies of prolific creators seems to be the practice of regular physical exercise as well as the embracing of a regular work schedule, for some diurnal and others nocturnal. While some of the creative people profiled in this book needed to work a salaried job in order to pay the bills, others had financial means allowing them to create their own schedules. Some, such as Thomas Mann or Anthony Trollope, could work as little as three hours a day on their creative work, while others, including Philip Roth, would regularly produce eight or more hours per day of work. Roth eventually divorced and realized that the single life was more suited to his personality and literary habits, as he no longer felt constrained to keep a spouse or partner company in the evenings.

The image of the artist as a hedonist and substance abuser (of which there are many in this book–Jean-Paul Sartre or Toulouse Lautrec come to mind) who awaits the visit of a muse in order to find the inspiration to work is, however, a rarity among these productive individuals. Patricia Highsmith was one of the few who absolutely required that writing be pleasurable and would work only when inspiration struck. Apparently, habit and routine are by consensus a better way to channel the muse than simply waiting for her to knock at the studio door.

{ 0 comments }

Feb 27 2015

Pi Anyone? This Year, It’s Epic!

by Rebekah B

keep_calm_its_pi_day_2015Hello readers,

I always look forward to March 14th, not because I am a math geek, but mostly because I love a good opportunity to be creative…and I also love a homemade pie!  Last year, I shared Pi Day with my coworkers at the Toco Hill branch, and I prepared a strawberry pie with a gluten-free almond crust, adapted from a recipe found in A Year of Pies.

This year’s Pi Day is especially remarkable because of this year’s date, making the first consecutive five digits of the mathematical constant Pi match the date of this holiday–which has been gaining in popularity in recent years. Adding to the excitement for the more precise (or more precisely nerdy) is the addition of the next five digits–or even six if you can bear it–by celebrating at 9:26:54 a.m. I found a wide array of t-shirts, mugs, and other celebratory Pi Day gear available online, advertising the once in a lifetime nature of this year’s event.

Larry Shaw

Pi Day was first inaugurated by physicist Larry Shaw, and the first recorded celebration was held at the Exploratorium–a science and discovery museum–in San Francisco in 1988, in which participants marched around the rounded space and consumed fruit pies.  Pi Day was later recognized by the House of Representatives on March 12, 2009, at which time a resolution for recognition of the event was passed (HRES 224).

pieday

The rituals involved in the observance of Pi Day vary by location, but include preparing or eating pies, throwing pies, and discussing the nature of Pi (the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter).  Many schools around the country hold contests to see which students are able to remember the largest number of consecutive digits of the commemorated constant.

MIT applicants receive decision letters that have been posted online on Pi Day at 6:28 p.m. to pay tribute to both Pi and Tau. (Pi is half of Tau.) In fact, Tau supporters are looking forward to celebrating Tau Day on June 28, 2031.  In Princeton, New Jersey, the Pi Day celebration coincides with Albert Einstein’s birthday.  Einstein lived and worked in Princeton for over 20 years, and the town adds Einstein Look-Alike contests to the traditional Pi Day rites.

Here are some books in the DCPL collection that will encourage you to celebrate and share some of the wondrous and uniquely comforting PIes in your life:

 

{ 0 comments }

Comic books have had a huge positive impact on my life. As a child of 7 or 8, I would visit the gas station at the edge of my neighborhood on a weekly basis to buy a couple of comics with my meager allowance earned by completing household chores. Pouring over these weekly purchases expanded my vocabulary, sharpened my reading comprehension skills, and whet my appetite for more. By the third grade I was reading at a level well above my peers, and though I eventually progressed to lengthier novels, I continued to read comic books regularly, all the way into high school. As such, I have a permanent place in my heart for comic books and was incredibly pleased and excited when movie adaptations of my favorite titles began to be released. The transition of those superheroes onto the big screen and into mainstream pop culture resulted in a whole new generation of fans. Sadly though, many of these new fans have never been exposed to the comic books that the films they’ve grown to love were adapted from.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Winter Soldier coverDCPL not only carries many of the recent superhero film adaptations, but frequently we also carry the corresponding print comic book titles in our Young Adult and Adult Graphic Novel collections. In many cases, the story ideas and even titles for the film adaptations were directly inspired by their print predecessors. A good example is the recently released Captain America: The Winter Soldier, much of which is based on the comic by Ed Brubaker of the same name. Others films may draw from their ancestral comic series more generally, although they’ll often contain allusions and references that old school fans will pick up and delight in. While there are far too many DVDs and comic series for me to enumerate on this blog, I’ve posted a sampling of some of the most recent films and some of the corresponding comics below. If you are interested in more titles from a particular superhero or superhero team, ask a librarian for assistance, or just try searching the catalog for yourself; both movies and comic books can typically be pulled up with a title search.

Essential X-men
You’ve seen the movie: X-Men: Days of Future Past

Now read the comic book!: Essential X-Men

 

You’ve seen the movie: Iron Man 3Invincible Iron Man

Now read the comic book!: Invincible Iron Man

{ 1 comment }