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Travel

Mar 21 2016

Vegas, Baby!

by Hope L

Ouvegasr recent trip to Sin City was so much fun.  But unlike 30 years ago, when I was busy scarfing up the bargain buffets up and down Las Vegas Blvd., sampling pounds of the product at a chocolates factory, and singing along with Barry Manilow (“Oh, Mandy!  Well you came and you gave without taa-king …”) at a show (well, it was the 80’s!), I found myself in a city totally changed – unrecognizable from where I last left my hard-earned dollars.

There is no such thing anymore as ‘cheap eats,’ free this or that (unless you are a very high roller) or kitschy cafes.  No, Vegas – save for The Fremont Street Experience and several of the quickie wedding chapels downtown – is now a fancy-shmantzy collection of hotels, convention venues, and high-end shopping meccas, with of course swank casinos sprinkled in the mix.

For example, we ate breakfast at the hotel where we stayed, The Venetian, and it would cost us $40 with no problem.  A steak dinner ran around $85 per person (plus sides and drinks!) one evening at a restaurant in the Venetian Restaurant Row. I had the fish stew which was $37, plus $12 if you wanted a  side dish of mashed potatoes, asparagus, etc.  It was a very tasty meal, but come on!

venhall

And, even though it was shocking that everything has changed, there was still a lot of smoking going on in Vegas!  I guess there is no such thing as a non-smoking establishment in a town nicknamed Sin City, where drinking, eating and gambling excessively are the order of the day.

Fortunately, though, out West there is so much to do and so many things to see, that one need not get bogged down in anything that is not to their  liking.  While we did mostly the casino/restaurant/shopping thing this time, there is a natural wonder (Grand Canyon National Park) and other worthwhile scenic wonders (Zion National Park, Death Valley, Hoover Dam) within driving distance from Las Vegas.  We went on a beautiful helicopter tour of Hoover Dam, and I swear the pilot (a petite blonde gal barely old enough to drive a car, let alone fly a helicopter) could’ve been my granddaughter!

Before going – even though I had lived in Arizona years ago and had traveled to all of these places – I consulted with some publications available at DCPL, one of my favorites being:  Fodor’s 2016 Las Vegas  by writers Jason Drago, Heidi Rinella, Susan Stapleton, Matt Villano, Mike Weatherford ; editor, Eric B. Wechter,  which was a good basic refresher on the area and more importantly, on the different types of gambling one might encounter and the strategies and odds on each; and Luck : understanding luck and improving the odds by Barrie Dolnick and Anthony H. Davidson.

After this trip, I now ‘understand’ that luck comes and goes!

And so … I had a lot of fun:  ate too much, gambled too much (and lost too much money), and shopped too much.  But Vegas is a place just made for going overboard.  And, “What happens in Vegas …”

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juneauI love Jon Krakauer’s books. For some reason I assumed that I had read them all, but then I stumbled upon Into the Wild, Krakauer’s book that tells the story of Christopher McCandless. And it turns out this is probably the author’s most famous one (especially after the 2007 movie of the same name, directed and produced by Sean Penn, which is also available at DCPL).

It’s eerie that I should discover and read this book right before my vacation to the very state where the real-life McCandless journey takes place: Alaska. No, I will not be going out “into the wild,” foraging for berries and sleeping on the ground, trying to eke out precious protein by catching small rodents, or wearing crampons and climbing with an ice ax along mountainous crevices. I will be cruising on an ocean liner in luxurious comfort, receiving massages and eating an abundance of tasty food–being waited on hand and foot like the naive and lazy adventurer that I am–for I am not really an adventurer but a shameless tourist. No doubt I will purchase souvenirs in Alaska that were actually made in China.

glacbayAs of writing this paragraph, I have now returned from my 9-day trip. It was beautiful, as you can see by the photos taken by yours truly, a wanna-be photographer with an iPhone. I can totally understand McCandless yearning to spend time in Alaska. But I would never be willing to “rough it” as he did. I did consider it quite rough, however, when our stateroom commode overflowed in the middle of the night and we had to call maintenance in at 3:30 a.m. I had to use my best wilderness survival tactic: I blamed my spouse.

And now, DCPL has added to its collection The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless, Christopher’s sister. Written almost 20 years after Krakauer’s book, Carine shines some light on her brother’s legendary adventure.

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Apr 10 2015

Live Like You’re Dying

by Camille B

A few weeks ago I happened to walk through a spider’s web right outside my back door. Huge and beautifully spun, Anansi was sitting smack-dab in the middle. My son turned to me and said, “Mom, can you imagine how long it took that spider to build that web, and you destroyed it in like, what, two seconds?”

Well! As much as I didn’t care for the guilt trip, it really started me thinking hard about my own life, and how very much like a spider’s web it is–the fragility, and how it can all just disappear in the blink of an eye. We work so hard every day to pay our bills and put food on the table for our families–sometimes placing our own hopes and dreams on hold for everyone else, until one day, just like that web, our lives are swept away and we never get a chance to do any of the things we longed to do. If someone were to call you up right now and tell you that tomorrow would be your last day here on earth, what would be some of the things you’d most regret never doing? I mean, apart from spending more time with loved ones, etc., what would be the one thing you’ve always wanted to do and haven’t done yet?

We save and plan and keep dreaming dreams that we never try to make happen. We put off taking that trip, or signing up for that Spanish class, learning to play the guitar or taking salsa lessons. You know? Things that have nothing at all to do with New Year’s resolutions–we want to do them just because. For those of you who’ve already planted your flag on Mount Everest, run with the bulls in Spain, or appeared as a contestant on American Idol, kudos to you! For the rest of us, let’s say we start reviewing that old bucket list again. Take it out from under the mattress where you hid it three years ago. There you go, dust it off and begin, no further delays; that spider probably thought he had until tomorrow too.

Sometimes things appear more achievable when we think about them futuristically, when they’re way off and not right there in our faces–but in terms of next week or a month from now, not so much. Some of us have a little more courage than others and simply go ahead and do it, so we can check it off our list. But, for a lot of us, it might not be that easy. We might need a little nudge (okay, a great big shove) in the right direction. If that’s the case with you, why not start with something on your list that’s simple.

Like me, I’ve never been to a play (I know, horrified gasps everywhere), but it’s always been something on my “I’ll Do It Some Day” list. Going to a play is more than doable–and I need to just go ahead and get it off my list already, right? For you, it might be traveling. Maybe you’ve always wanted to take that special trip somewhere and don’t know where to start, or even which country you’d like to visit. The naturally spontaneous at heart use strategies like dart throwing to select their destinations. They find a map, throw a dart, and wherever it lands, Voila, that’s where they go! For the not-so-spontaneous, there are great books at DCPL that can give you some ideas. For example:

Italy’s Best Trips: 38 Amazing Road Trips, written and researched by Paula Hardy, Duncan Garwood & Robert Landon Italy

The Best Place to Be Today: 365 Things to Do & the Perfect Day to Do Them, compiled and edited by Sarah Baxter

World’s Best Travel Experiences: 400 Extraordinary Places, foreword by Andrew McCarthy, with recollections by Bill Bryson, Anna Quindlen, and more

1,000 Places to See Before You Die, by Patricia Schultz

When travels take you to foreign destinations or distant shores, you’ll want to at least be able to ask for a bottle of their fine wine in the native tongue. I’m just saying, why, you may need to brush up on your foreign language skills. The Library can provide you with helpful information in this area as well, from learning the very basic everyday language that will enable you to survive your trip without accidentally saying something to land you in jail, to material that will help you become a bit more fluent and sophisticated in your speech (should you have to meet with the Ambassador). In particular, you might want to try our online resources Mango or TeLL Me More.

And, if there is absolutely no way you’re getting on a plane, that’s still not a problem because there are other options closer to home to choose from:

Hiking Georgia: A Guide to the State’s Greatest Hiking Adventures, by Donald W. Pfitzer and Jimmy Jacobs, with photography by Polly Dean

60 Hikes within 60 miles: Atlanta including Marietta, Lawrenceville, and Peachtree City, by Randy and Pam Golden

Road Biking Georgia: A Guide to the Greatest Bicycle Rides in Georgia, by John T. Trussell

Your bucket list includes all the things you’d like to do before kicking the proverbial bucket–maybe a goal, dream or experience you’d like to fulfill before the sun sets on your life. They can range from the simplest of things, like taking a cooking class, donating blood or volunteering at a soup kitchen–to ones that border on the line of outrageous, like skinny dipping, crashing a wedding or covering your entire car with post-it notes. The sky is the limit.

What you put on your list might seem mundane to others, but don’t let that deter you. Or, it might seem over the top, silly or even outrageous to others. Go ahead and do it anyway–if it’s not hurting anyone (and you’re not committing a felony), go for it. And hey, you might even get a few raised eyebrows along the way from the people who thought they knew you oh-so-well, but that’s okay, too. You’re doing this for you.

Below, I’ve listed twenty things that came up on the bucket lists of different people across the globe. I wouldn’t mind trying some of them myself; others simply stirred my curiosity, as I’m sure they will yours. There is also a cool website bucketlist.net where you can view pages and pages of entries of what others put down as their number ones. Some of them will surprise you and, who knows, some may even inspire you and change your life.

  • Run a marathon (for fun)
  • Make a world map of all the places you’ve been
  • Publish a story, article or poem
  • Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower
  • Go on a road trip with friends
  • Attend a Masquerade Ball
  • See the Seven Wonders of the World
  • Party with the Black Eyed Peas
  • Eat a hot dog on Times Square, NYC
  • Visit the Anne Frank House
  • Take a cruise
  • Fly first class
  • Ride a double decker bus in London
  • Knit and donate 100 scarves to the homeless
  • Attend a Dancing with the Stars show
  • See the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve
  • Ride a horse
  • See all fifty states in the U.S.A.
  • Volunteer at a hospice
  • Plant a tree and watch it grow through every season

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Aug 12 2014

Tiny Space, Big Life

by Dea Anne M

Many years ago–My grandfather has built a playhouse for the grandchildren to use when they come to visit. To say that I’m enchanted would be an understatement.  The charm of a space just my size is almost too much to take in. I begin to make plans to run away and live in the playhouse.

A number of years ago–A friend is visiting me in my new place. This friend happens to be a big guy, standing well over six feet, and he seems fidgety as we sit on my sofa and chat. Suddenly, he leaps up and cries, “This place is like a dollhouse! I’ve gotta’ get out of here!” As I close the door, I look around at my tiny apartment and smile.  I have a sense–which will prove itself over time–that this petite pad will be my favorite of many rental abodes.

Not so many years ago–I’m visiting the town of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard and I’m thrilled with the collection of “gingerbread cottages” surrounding the central pavilion of what became, through the 1880’s and beyond, a wildly popular site for Methodist camp meetings. These wee “Carpenter’s Gothic” style houses are painted in all the colors of a Crayola box, boast miniature balconies and front porches, and look exactly like the fairy tale houses of my childhood dreams.

I’ve never lost my fascination with scaled-down living spaces. Boat interiors, travel trailers, treehouses, cabins–I find them all thoroughly charming, especially when scrupulously organized. Indeed, small houses are something of an enthusiasm and dedicated choice for people who want to scale back, live more simply and spend less money. A woman I’ve known for years told me recently that she was planning on buying a house from the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, which offers ready-made houses to place on foundations or on wheels as well as a variety of house plans. Make no mistake, these houses are truly tiny. Yet small as they are, the Tumbleweed houses are appealing, as are those on offer from other companies such as Four Lights and Brevard Tiny House. Clever built-ins, sleeping and storage lofts, and comparatively spacious kitchens make these homes appear quite livable. Tumbleweed’s smallest rolling model, The Elm, measures a mere 117 square feet. A quick check of apartments available in Decatur shows studios averaging 550 square feet. Perhaps the smallest of these houses would be best for just one person, or maybe as a vacation home used primarily for sleeping and preparing food. Of course, the question of whether a space like this is right for you comes down to not how much room you really need, but how much “stuff” you have.

Another memory–We are going out for the evening and we stop to pick up a woman who is new to our group. She shows us into the room she rents in a communal house–architecturally distinguished and in need of repairs, as are so many houses in this college town. Kay’s room is enormous, with a soaring ceiling and a real fireplace. For me though, the most striking feature of the room is how it’s furnished. Wedged tight into a corner, is a twin bed, without a headboard, flanked by a folding metal chair on which sits an unshaded lamp. The rest of the space is taken up by rolling metal clothes racks. Each rack is crammed with clothing–dresses, blouses, skirts, coats of all cuts, colors, and styles. There are fur stoles, feather boas, kimonos, and even more exotic garments. There are shoes, arrayed like battalions, beneath each rack. It’s eye-boggling and, as so often happens when I’m startled, I can think of nothing remotely intelligent to say.

“Wow,” I finally stammer. “You sure have a lot of clothes.”

“I do.” Kay says. She assures me that all these clothes represent years of work spent scouting the country for thrift-shop treasures and vintage finds. “People offer to buy clothes from me all the time,” she tells me. Kay gives me a wistful smile.  “But I could never part with a single thing. I think of each garment as a special friend.”

And maybe that’s all the space we need–enough for our friends.

Are you interested in exploring smaller and/or alternative living spaces? If so, check out these offerings from DCPL.little

A Little House of My Own: 47 Grand Designs for 47 Tiny Houses by Les Walker includes a lavishly illustrated chapter on my beloved Martha’s Vineyard cottages. Here, also you’ll find the “refugee shacks” built to house people after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, a Caribbean “chattel house,” and numerous vacation homes, artist studios and the like. All in all, an intriguing collection.

If you dream of a small place at the lake or ocean or a tiny cabin in the woods, be sure to check out Homes homesfrom Home: Inventive Small Spaces from Chic Shacks to Cabins and Caravans by Vinny Lee. My favorite is the Vintage Beach Hut but you’ll find plenty of inspiration and fun in abodes like The Tin House and the amazing Italian Island Cave. There are even houses made out of metal shipping containers!

A lot of us had a treehouse when we were kids, or had a friend who did, but have you ever considered an adult treehouse? Check out The Treehouse Book by Peter and Judy Nelson with David Larkin. Most of treehousethese structures aren’t living quarters as such but tend to function mainly as work or recreational spaces, or as alternative sleeping spaces in good weather. A stunning exception is the multi-level treehouse built by William Scott Scurlock. During the 1990’s, Scurlock robbed more than 15 banks in the Northwest before his suicide in 1996. Something of a dreamer, Scurlock’s treehouse was apparently his pet project and he lived in it off and on while he added to it year after year. For a treehouse, the structure is downright palatial and includes picture windows, a sundeck with shower, and functioning plumbing.

To many of us, the epitome of mobile compact living is the Airstream trailer. Airstream Living by Bruce Littlefield and Simon Brown will fill you in on the history and lore of this classic of American design. Sometime in the 1920’s, airstreamWally Bynum invented a prototype of the Airstream simply because he was a man who loved camping–and he had a wife who refused to camp without access to a proper kitchen. Bynum continued to fine tune his design through the years. In 1936 (following the introduction of the alloy “Duraluminum”), he introduced the Airstream Clipper and a legend was launched. The rest of this beautifully photographed book introduces you to a wide variety of Airstreams and their happy owners. Some of the trailers function as bases for parties–either slumber or cocktail. Some are beautifully decorated (often in retro styles) living spaces. There is an Airstream restaurant/bar, a sound studio, and even an Airstream motel! Money magazine included the Airstream in its list of “99 Things That, Yes, Americans Make the Best,” and with its sleek design and cozy yet efficient interiors, it’s easy to see why.

Do you long for a simpler, smaller space? Maybe you want a home you can travel in. What is your small space dream?

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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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cafecroissantmini

Multiple magazine articles, both scholarly and popular extoll the benefits of bilingualism or multilingualism for the health and efficiency of the human brain.  It is said that those who learn multiple languages from birth are less likely, for example, to develop early onset Alzheimer’s disease…if the disease does appear, it is more likely to be delayed proportionately to the fluency and depth of understanding attained in a second language.  Foreign languages are promoted as a means to make your child (or self) appear more sophisticated and cognitively advanced, leading parents to believe their child will become a front running contender for advanced educational programs, degrees, and be more competitive in the job markets of the future.  Of course, certain languages are considered more useful than others, depending on where you live in the world.  In a not so distant past, it was believed that learning a second language could cause developmental delays, but this is no longer the current consensus.

From my readings, I often gather that an overlying assumption motivates parents’ wishes for their children to learn foreign languages: that it makes their minds more logical and mathematical, and therefore better prepared for our technical and information age.   While I understand these arguments, some of which seem plausible and worthy, I have my own reasons for defending and promoting multi-lingualism.  To learn a new language means to learn to understand and assimilate a new culture.  Culture includes body language and unspoken assumptions about time, proximity, morality, justice, love and how affection is demonstrated or withheld, diet, and so much more.  Simply learning grammatical constructs, while being great gymnastics for the rational mind, is only a small part of the benefits of bilingualism.

[read the rest of this post…]

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Oct 11 2013

Bill Bryson

by Jesse M

Although the majority of my reading material tends to be fiction, I like to mix it up every once in a while with a good nonfiction book, and in today’s post I’ll talk about one of my go-to non-fiction authors, Bill Bryson.

Bryson writes on a number of topics, ranging from science, history, and etymology, but he is perhaps best known for his travel writing (he has actually been mentioned before on this blog in that context). Whatever his topic of choice, Bryson thoroughly explores the subject with his trademark wit and humor, using a writing style that is easy and pleasant to read (and listen to as well; he even narrates many of his own audiobooks!).

Interested readers can find the majority of Bryson’s output in the DCPL catalog, but if you’re new to his work, allow me to recommend some of my favorites:

A walk in the woods coverA Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering the Appalachian Trail describes his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail, interspersed with discussions of matters relating to the trail’s history, and the surrounding sociology, ecology, trees, plants, animals and people. It is as much a book of personal discovery as it is an exploration of the Appalachian Trail, and it is hard to say which aspect of the book I enjoyed more.

In a sunburned country cover In a Sunburned Country, written in a similar style to A Walk in the Woods, details his travels by car and rail throughout Australia, with asides concerning the history, geography and ecology of the country, along with his wry impressions of the life, culture and amenities (or lack thereof) in each locality. This book has the distinction of being the funniest that I’ve read by him, which is saying something since all of his work is quite humorous.

A Short History of Nearly Everything coverA Short History of Nearly Everything deviates from the travel guide style of the previous two books, instead focusing on the history of scientific discovery and an exploration of the individuals who made the discoveries. In this fashion he covers a variety of topics including chemistry, geology, astronomy, and particle physics, moving through scientific history from the Big Bang to the discovery of quantum mechanics. The book has won multiple awards, claiming the Aventis prize in 2004 for best general science book and the Descartes Prize the following year for science communication.

At home coverAt Home: A Short History of Private Life is a history of domestic life told through a tour of Bryson’s Norfolk home, a former rectory in rural England. The book covers topics of the commerce, architecture, technology and geography that have shaped homes into what they are today, showing how each room has figured in the evolution of private life. Possibly my favorite of Bryson’s many works, this is a must read for anyone interested in the fascinating history of everyday things whose existence most of us take for granted. To get an idea of the breadth of what the book covers, take a look at the wikipedia page.

One Summer coverBryson has recently published a new book, titled One Summer: America, 1927, which examines the events and personalities of the summer of 1927, a momentous season that begins in May with Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight and ends with Babe Ruth hitting his then-record-setting 60th home run on the last day of September, amongst many other notable events. Bryson will actually be in Decatur this evening (Friday, October 11 2013, 7:00 pm—9:00 pm) at First Baptist Church Decatur as part of the Georgia Center for the Book’s Festival of Writers series to promote the new book. For more details visit this page.

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Aug 30 2013

Quirky and Unique Libraries

by Rebekah B

FreeLibraryCollageHello readers,

As an idealist living in a world or at least a culture that often seems to focus on self-aggrandizement, celebrity, and greed, it is nice to know that many people devote themselves to the propagation of kindness, art, and knowledge.  In this post, I decided to explore improbable libraries, from the very modest to the more ambitious ventures.

Photos, top left, clockwise: Mobile library in Pakistan, Free Little Library in Avondale Estates (my photo), Re-purposed newspaper vending machine on Desmond Drive in Decatur (my photo), Impromptu library in a Moscow park

A year or so ago, a former co-worker sent me a link to the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project for 2012.  For a modest fee, you can order a sketchbook, and for a supplement, pay for the digitization of said sketchbook, allowing viewers around the world to peruse your personal pages.  Otherwise, the undigitized volume goes onto the shelves of the Brooklyn Art Library, where anyone can visit, procure a library card, and sit down and enjoy original works of art and writing at no cost!  The Brooklyn Art Library is a private venture and is not part of the New York Public Library system.

Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project

The arthouse coop was started in 2006 by two Atlantans, Steven Peterman, a printmaker, and Shane Zucker, a web developer.  The duo then moved the project to Brooklyn, NY – first to Red Hook and later to Williamsburg, in 2010.  Libraries live in the imaginations of the creative, and the Sketchbook Project allows amateur and professional artists from around the world to fill the 32 blank pages of a small book that will join the shelves and mobile library of the Brooklyn Art Library.  The mobile unit travels around the world with parts of its collection each year, making stops in various cities around the United States and around the globe. This past summer you may have spied their bus at the Goat Farm in Atlanta.

Although I did not pay for the digitization of my first contribution to the Sketchbook Project, I do receive an email notification each time someone looks at my book.  Each sketchbook is cataloged and has a barcode sticker on the rear panel, just like a “normal” library book.  Currently, I am awaiting my new blank book – this time containing lined pages for the “fiction project.”  Two hundred fifty writers around the world can submit their illustrated stories before the November 2013 deadline.

Front CoverSketchbookProjectThe front cover of my 2012 Sketchbook Project submission (photo, right)

We all have seen or visited unusual libraries, and each is a tribute to the creative energy and generosity of those who founded these libraries, however large or small.  When I lived in Baltimore, The Book Thing supplied free books to those hungry for knowledge, and it continues to do so to this day.  Run entirely as a nonprofit and stocked by donations, the owner makes a lean living gleaning the more valuable donations to provide capital to keep the “store” running. Sponsors also provide funding.

book-thing-baltimore

The Book Thing (original location), Baltimore, MD

Train stations, coffee shops, motels, public parks are all places where impromptu libraries may appear.  In Avondale Estates, near the community swimming pool and tennis club, there is a small windowed case on a pole containing children’s picture books that are free for the taking.  I found two of the photos (included at the top) on a French language Facebook page titled “Improbables Libraries, Improbables Bibliothèques.” A reader living in Moscow posted the picture of the small box on a tree, labeled “Library” in Russian, mentioning that this type of impromptu book exchange is a frequent sight in public parks in Russia. The other photo borrowed from this page depicts an artisanal mobile library in Pakistan.  After questioning patrons and co-workers, I found that there are several Free Little Libraries in Decatur, including the one pictured above off Clairmont, another in Oakhurst Village, as well as a geocache location in Hahn Woods.  Here’s another link about Free Little Libraries in our area.

Other unusual libraries that I have visited include the amazing Cabinet des dessins at the Musée du Louvre.  Although not open to the general public, with special permission, you can enter this beautiful room and handle original artist sketchbooks and drawings.  The Bibliothèque Forney in Paris, housed in a beautiful medieval building, contains a rare collection of items on the themes of art and architecture.  A patron told me that his favorite is the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC.  Below is a picture of their impressive reading room.

FSL Interior: Old RR with First Folios in foreground 2000

What is your favorite library?  Have you thought about creating your own?

 

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Aug 23 2013

Vacation Time? You are Booked!

by Dea Anne M

When my former carpool buddy Fran, told me about the Library Hotel in New York City, you can only imagine the level of my excitement. The hotel’s location at 299 Madison Avenue puts it near two of Manhattan’s bestNY Public known structures, the main branch of the New York Public Library (photo, right) and Grand Central Terminal. The Library Hotel boasts 60 rooms and, most thrillingly, each floor is themed with one of the ten major Dewey Decimal classifications. Not only that, each room’s theme reflects a subcategory or genre within that classification. For example, room 800.005 is Fairy Tales, while room 300.004 is World Culture. Needless to say, spending a night at the Library Hotel is on my “must do” list for the future and, after looking at the rates, I have to say that one night, and one night only, is probably going to have to be it. I don’t know about you, but the nine-year-old in me can’t wait to stay in room 500.005 (Dinosaurs)!

Are you interested in staying somewhere that reflects your love of books and reading? If so, consider these unique hotels.

Inn BoonsBoro in Boonsboro, MD, is a boutique hotel with just eight rooms butprincess the owner, Nora Roberts (yes, that Nora Roberts), has taken special care to make each of those rooms special. Seven of the rooms are named for famous literary romantic couples and feature details themed to those specific stories. The Nick and Nora, for example, highlights Art Deco decor in keeping with the Prohibition Era setting of Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man. The Jane and Rochester has both a massive wooden canopy bed and a “fainting” couch – just the thing that Jane might have encountered in Jane Eyre. My favorite of the rooms, the Westley and Buttercup, (from William Goldman’s The Princess Bride) features a fireplace, a copper tub and an enormous “princess” chair.

Should you find yourself planning a trip to Russia, and you happen to be a fan of Russian literature, you might consider staying at least one night at the Radisson Sonya Hotel. Each of this gorgeous hotel’s 173 rooms features designcrime details inspired by Dostoyevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment. Closer to home, the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Nye Beach, OR, is very much a hotel for readers. Each one of the rooms is named for a famous writer, the dining room is called Table of Content, and there are no TVs, radios, or phones in the rooms. Also, there is no WiFi, but for a serious booklover this looks like a beautiful and elegant place to stay. The hotel is named for Sylvia Beach, the American expatriate and bookseller who owned and operated the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris between the World Wars.

Finally, for a truly unique experience (if you happen to be traveling inhobbit Romania) check out the House of Dracula hotel. Maybe you can re-read Bram Stoker’s Dracula while you’re there. If you are lucky enough to be heading for New Zealand, you might consider a stay at the adorable Hobbit Motel. The rooms are, of course, inspired by the Shire homes described in J.R.R. Tolkien’s  The Hobbit. The motel is part of Woodlyn Park in Waitomo where you can also sleep in a train, a plane, or a boat.

DCPL has two interesting looking books about hotels/motels in itsmotel collection. Home Away From Home: Motels in America by John Margolies is a visual compendium of quirky American roadside culture. The Hotel: A Week in the Life of the Plaza by Sonny Kleinfield is an in-depth study of the workings and character of Manhattan’s famed landmark hotel, and home of Kay Thompson’s Eloise, The Plaza.

While researching this post, I discovered that in 2003, OCLC (owners of the Dewey Decimal Classification system) sued the Library Hotel’s owners. Later, the parties reached an agreement that has enabled the hotel to continue using the system as its theme.

What is your most unusual or memorable hotel or motel experience?

 

 

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Aug 14 2013

Documenting Life in Film

by Rebekah B

Au Palais du Louxor, cinema ParisGrowing up, I only saw three movies in the theater.  I specifically remember which ones: Bernard and Bianca, E.T., and The Meaning of Life (Monty Python). This rarity sparked a desire and love for film in me, and when I moved to Paris at age 19 to go to art school, I quickly became addicted to the cinematic arts. Paris is an amazing city for film, with hundreds of theaters, large and small, including some very unusual theaters. Every day, you can see movies made in every country, projected for the most part in V.O. (original version, with subtitles). The photo to the right was taken by my former teacher and photographer, Lesly Hamilton, at the Louxor, Palais du Cinema in the 10th arrondissement, quartier Barbes.  The Louxor was built in 1921 and is famous for its elaborate Egyptian style mosaics.  Recently entirely renovated, it re-opened in April of this year. Click on the links if you would like to see more photos.

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Documentary films are a genre that many people enjoy.  The fairly recent phenomenon of reality shows of which the documentary might be called the avatar, shows evidence for humanity’s thirst for real experiences.  One patron at the library confided to me that documentaries are her “best reality shows.” She also said that when ill in the hospital, documentaries on the themes of veteran’s rights, the state of health care, and other social welfare related issues helped her to keep up with continuing education requirements in her field as a social worker.

Vision is the primary sense with which we humans perceive our world, and culture helps us to understand ourselves and to relate to one another.  As global economics, world travel, and social media have extended everyday communication far beyond the borders of the familiar, it is important for all of us to be informed about how to better our world and to know more about cultures beyond our own.  It is the unique privilege of humans to witness life, and if we are truly paying attention and homage to our surroundings, to create works of art that reflect what we see.

Documentary films are a wonderful way to catch a glimpse of how others experience life in places and circumstances very different from our own, as well as to improve awareness about issues that are immediately important to our everyday lives.  Many festivals around the world celebrate documentary film, from Atlanta to Helsinki, Amsterdam to  Beijing.  Every continent – even Oceania – is represented.

I have discovered many wonderful, thought-provoking, and entertaining documentaries within the DCPL collection.  Perusing IMDB’s top 100 documentaries since 2000, I found several that I too had watched and loved, some that I know we have in our collections but have not yet seen, and yet others that are not available through DCPL. While each of us enjoys life through the particular filter created by our temperament and interests, documentaries on every possible subject can be found—from art to politics, environmental issues, animal rights, health, unsolved crimes, history, quirky personal stories, theater, education, music, travel, fashion…

Here is my own top ten.  Hope you explore the 650 plus films in the DCPL documentary collection (excluding tele-films) and find your own favorites. Each title is connected by hyperlink to either the title in our library catalog, or (if we don’t have it,) official movie website.

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