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

Television

VictHow many of you have watched the PBS series Victoria? This show is based on Queen Victoria of England. She was one of England’s longest reigning monarchs. At the library we have many opportunities to explore the various lives of women. Daisy Goodwin has, in her latest book Victoria, created a great a companion to the PBS program.

I find it so fascinating to read about another life. One that I will never experience. What is it like to be royal or a head of state? What constrictions does it place on one’s life? Can they truly have the freedom to marry who they choose or live where they want to?

 

Victoria became queen after her two uncles died with no heir. Her early life was spent at Kensington Palace. Where she often felt like a prisoner. Upon her uncle the King of England’s death she achieved the throne and her independence. What kind of monarch would she become? Who would her husband be?

Ms. Goodwin also introduces us to other characters such as: Lord Melbourne (Lord M), the Duchess of Kent, Sir John Conroy, King Leopold of Belgium, and Prince Albert. There are many others as well.

Readers will fly through the pages of the fabulous book on Victoria. The library has other books on Victoria listed here:

Victoria A Life by A.N. Wilson

We two: Victoria and Albert Rulers, Partners, Rivals by Gillian Gill

Queen Victoria At Home by Michael De-La-Noy

We also hYoung Elizabethave books that follow the lives of other monarchs of England who also are featured on current television shows, such as The Crown and The White Princess.  If you are not familiar with The Crown it follows the rise of Elizabeth II to the throne of England.  It also delves into the personal lives of the Queen and her family.  The White Princess on the other hand follows the conclusion of  the War of the Roses or the Cousins War.  It follows the perspective of the young princess Elizabeth of York.

 

Other titles include: 
Young Elizabeth: the Making of a Queen by Kate Wililams

Prince Philip: the turbulent early life of the man who married the Queen Elizabeth the Second by Philip Eade

 

The White Princess by Philippa GregoryPrincess of York

Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World by Alison Weir

Elizabeth of York, the mother of Henry VIII by Nancy Lenz Harvey

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Mar 20 2015

Devouring Downton

by Dea Anne M

Like many people (including some fellow bloggers), I have fallen under the spell of Downton Abbey, the PBS period drama. Through war and social upheavals; marriages, births and deaths; scandals and joys–I find the story of the Crawley family and the servants who work for them utterly irresistible. One aspect of the show I find particularly fascinating is the impeccable attention to detail that goes into the set designs and the costumes. Every aspect of the Crawley’s world seems rendered perfectly–including the routines of the household which, of course, feature many, many meals. I love watching scenes that take place at the many elaborate dinner parties as well as those of humbler meals shared by the servants. I think my favorite food-related sequences are the ones set in the Downton kitchens. I’m fascinated with the food that Mrs. Patmore and her staff prepare week after week, and I often wonder how everything appears so seamless. Well, this recent article in the New York Times makes it clear exactly how hard the show’s food stylist, the very talented Lisa Heathcote, works to guarantee the sleek appearance and historical accuracy of any scene involving food. Imagine cooking 60 chickens in one day! All in all, a very interesting article for of us Downton fans.

Can’t get enough of Downton Abbey? If so, you might want to explore these titles from DCPL.

edwardian

If you’d like to delve into some of the cooking of Edwardian Britain (the series begins slightly after), consider Recipes From An Edwardian Country House by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall, as well as The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines. Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book is charmingly written while the Baines book includes recipes for some very scrumptious looking dishes with cutesy names such as Tom Branson’s Colcannon and Lady Mary’s Crab yearCanapes. I can’t vouch for the authenticity of the recipes in either book, but they look like fun. You’ll find more recipes in A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes, which depicts life at Downton during the year 1924 and includes descriptions of family trips and festivities.

In the show, Cora Crawley, i.e. Lady Grantham, is an American heiress whose fortune is key toward allowing Downton Abbey to stay in the family. This story reflects the reality of many wealthy young American women during what’s known as The Gilded Age. They flocked to England to marry noblemen whose finances were in need of some shoring up–basically trading money for titles. Arguably, the most famous of these so called “Dollar Princesses” was Consuelo Vanderbilt who became the Duchess of Marlborough in 1895. Her marrymemoir, The Glitter and the Gold: The American Duchess–In her Own Words, originally published in 1953, has been reissued in paperback and promises to be a fascinating read.

You can read more of Cora’s story, and those of her sisters in this peculiar marriage market, in Gail MacColl’s and Carol Wallace’s book To Marry An English Lord. Gossipy and engaging, the book provides insight into the pleasures, and often pains, experienced by this unique group of women. And for the view from “downstairs,” don’t miss Minding the Manor: The Memoir of a 1930s English Kitchen Maid by Mollie Moran and Below Stairs by Margaret Powell, belowboth written by women who worked as kitchen maids in two of the great houses in the early twentieth century.

Of course, I can’t seem to make it through a single episode of Downton Abbey without sighing over some item of clothing worn by one of the show’s characters, and now that the action has moved into the 1920’s (one of my favorite fashion eras ever!) the pleasures are non-stop. If you, like me, love the show’s costuming and you plan to be in Asheville this spring, be sure to check out the more than 40 Downton costumes which will be on display at our country’s own stately home, the Biltmore Estate. It might be worth making a special trip just to see the scrumptious green silk dress that Lady Mary wore at Matthew’s first Downton dinner.

Do you like Downton Abbey? What aspect of the show pleases you most and do you have a favorite character?

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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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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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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.

 

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Mar 6 2014

Big night

by Dea Anne M

Made for Each Other by Bronwyn CosgraveWho doesn’t love the Academy Awards? I sure do. Each year, I eagerly await the  chance to experience once more the lavish spectacle, the breathless anticipation, the heartfelt acceptance speeches…

Ha, ha…just kidding! I watch it for the clothes. Truthfully, in recent years, I don’t watch the show at all (I just can’t stay up that late). Without fail though, I check the internet in the days following to see who wore what. I don’t care much for the snarkier “What was she thinking?” pictorials and usually ignore those, but I am drawn like the proverbial moth to the flame of each year’s fashion triumphs.

I know I’m not alone in my love for awards show fashion and if you share my interest and want to delve more deeply, DCPL has resources for you.

The Complete Book of Oscar Fashion: variety’s 75 years of glamour on the red carpet by Reeve Chace is as complete a compendium as one could wish of the subject (at least up to 2003). Page after page of snappily captioned photographs capture Oscar’s stellar fashion moments as well as some of the more startling (though no less famous) outfits.

Made for Each Other: fashion and the Academy Awards by Bronwyn Crosgrave is a detailed and well-illustrated account of Oscar fashion starting with the ceremony’s inception in 1929. It might be fair to say that this book gives us the “story behind the dress”, from the blue bias-cut gown Mary Pickford wore in 1929 to Nicole Kidman’s 1997 embroidered chartreuse  frock. Cosgrave devotes a major portion of the book to designer/ actress partnerships such as Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn, Edith Head and Grace Kelly, and Bob Mackie and Cher. Fascinating stuff!

Speaking of Edith Head, you might enjoy David Chierichetti’s Edith Head: the life and times of Hollywood’s celebrated costume designer. Arguably one of Hollywood’s most gifted costume designers, Head’s career spanned more than 50 years. She dressed dozens of actresses in as many classic films including:

Click the actresses names above to see fabulous examples of Head’s work!

Here’s a fun  infographic of every dress worn by every Best Actress winner from 1929 to 2013. You will note that some years are missing and these indicate years that the winning actress did not attend the awards ceremony. My favorites include Vivian Leigh’s simple floral dress from 1940, the blue satin gown worn by Grace Kelly in 1955 (designed by Edith Head!), the black and white vintage Valentino that Julia Roberts wore in 2001, and Reese Witherspoon’s Dior gown from 2006.

Of course, I realize that I’ve only touched on women’s fashion in this post. Part of that, I suppose, has to do with a definite media bias. After all, women’s formal fashion tends to allow a greater variation in color and style than that of men.  From time to time, a brave actor attempts his own bit of sartorial rebellion—usually to mixed responses.  Consider this year’s winning actors Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto in their matching white jackets. Some are saying yea and some nay. Call me old fashioned,  but I think that nothing beats the classic black tuxedo for elegance and style.

What are your favorite Oscar fashions?

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Jan 23 2014

Downton Abbey

by Joseph M

Downtown AbbeyOne of my favorite TV shows is the British period drama Downton Abbey. Airing in the US on PBS as part of the Masterpiece Classics series, Downton Abbey follows the lives of an aristocratic family in England during the early twentieth century. The show is currently in its fourth season, which began earlier this month, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting each new episode.

If you are interested in Downton Abbey but haven’t seen the previous installments, DCPL can help you catch up. The library owns the first three seasons on DVD; click here to see a catalog listing.

Seen all the seasons, but still can’t get enough? The library also has a selection of books related to Downton Abbey including books that provided inspiration for the series as well as books inspired by the series. Take a look by clicking here.

DCPL has also been screening the first season of Downton Abbey in January. It’s still not too late to attend the last of these screenings. On Tuesday, January 28, we will be showing Season One, Episode 7 at the Tucker-Reid H. Cofer Library, at 1:00 p.m.

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Jan 16 2014

Winter Olympics

by Glenda

Sochi 2014 OlympicsDid you know the Winter Olympics start February 7, 2014 and are being held in Sochi, Russia? When I think of the Winter Olympics I think of my favorite winter sport, which happens to be figure skating. I think of all the wonderful figure skaters that I have had the pleasure of watching compete in Winter Olympics past, skaters like Michelle Kwan, Kristy Yamaguchi and Tara Lipinski. I am so excited that the anticipation of the games has me wanting to go ice skating.

The Olympic Games will also allow us to watch sports that do not get a lot of media coverage like bobsledding and speed skating. Everytime I think of the Olympics either Winter or Summer, I always think back to Atlanta 1996. Yes, right here. I think back to Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic torch starting the Olympic Games.

If you would like to learn more about the Winter Olympics visit your local library and pick up a few books. Here are a few suggested titles:

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Jun 17 2013

ShareReads: Finishing the Hat

by Ken M

sharereads_intro_2013 If I could choose to be any Broadway composer of the 20th century, my choice would be Stephen Sondheim. While I love the music of Richard Rodgers, Fritz Loewe and any theater work Leonard Bernstein created for the stage, I’ve always felt that Sondheim’s art stands in a class by itself.

I recently reacquainted myself with his work by way of two recent books, Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made A Hat. I think these are the closest we’ll get to an autobiography or memoir from the man himself. In these books, he shares the wealth of knowledge gained in more than fifty years of writing for the stage. Finishing the Hat

Finishing the Hat takes you from the early show Saturday Night through 1981’s Merrily We Roll Along. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on West Side Story, which gives you the real dirt on who wrote what in the collaboration with Leonard Bernstein. I’m a big fan of Sweeney Todd, and I learned lots of new trivia from this chapter. I was surprised to find that Sondheim was always displeased by the last few lines of the Act 1 closing number, A Little Priest. He says he got it right, belatedly, for the movie version starring Johnny Depp. (By the way, if you only know that version, you really should see the television adaptation of the stage musical starring George Hearn and the marvelous, original Mrs. Lovett, Angela Landsbury.)

Look, I Made A Hat contains some of the shows I got to know first, including the Pulitzer Prize winning Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods. I’ve played for high school productions of the latter twice, so I was fascinated to learn that cast input solved a particular problem for Lapine and Sondheim. I won’t tell you what that was – you should read this to find out. You also get the full explanation of the creation of his most recent work, last named Road Show. This one had a particularly difficult evolution, and he effectively guides you through the complicated maze of what stayed, what went, and what was completely rewritten. In fact, both books contain lots of cut lyrics, observations and musings, as well as reproductions of neat documents like handwritten drafts with lots of discarded ideas. You’ll also learn why rhyme and precision are so important to him.

While the words are wonderful, his music is equally exquisite. Hearing makes the reading even more fun, and you can enjoy cast and tribute albums from the DCPL collection to enhance your reading. I do hope you spend a little time with Sondheim this summer, and I really must go now. I have a meat pie in the oven…

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Mar 27 2013

Best Free Reference Websites 2012

by Jesse M

Alphabits TV AdBack in 2009 I posted about the Reference and User Services Association’s (RUSA) list of the best free reference websites of the year. Since several years have elapsed, I decided to investigate the 2012 list to see what new and useful reference websites were being featured. Here were some standouts:

Fans of the popular television series Mad Men and nostalgia buffs generally may be interested in Adviews: A Digital Archive of Vintage Television Commercials. Access thousands of historic commercials created for clients or acquired by the D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles (DMB&B) advertising agency or its predecessor from a period ranging from the 1950s through the 1980s.

Art lovers rejoice! Google Art Project brings the art to you by linking to thousands of works of art across 30 institutions in the US and worldwide! Just choose a museum from the homepage and then use Street View technology to virtually explore the museum or click on specific works of art and zoom in to view them in high resolution.

Fans of truecrime books may enjoy browsing through The Vault, a repository of thousands of declassified FBI documents including memos, reports and other materials spanning several decades. While some words and passages have been redacted to protect identities or sensitive information, a plethora of dossiers are available on both well known and minor criminals as well as such notable figures as Steve Jobs, Elizabeth Taylor, George Steinbrenner and even the pop group the Monkees. Please note: Some material contained in this site may contain actions, words, or images of a graphic nature that may be offensive and/or emotionally disturbing. This material may not be suitable for all ages. Please view it with discretion.

And finally, a great resource for students, educators, and anyone interested in viewing country-by-country statistical data, the World Databank offers a wealth of statistics gleaned from databases maintained by the World Bank. World Development Indicators (WDI) provides data across many categories such as education, the environment, health, and poverty, while Global Development Finance (GDF) provides statistics about the economic and financial health of countries. The site is easy to use, just plug in the country or countries, the statistics of interest, and the years needed.

Want to see more reference sites from previous years? Check out the combined index of lists from 1999-2012.

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