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

June 2010

Jun 30 2010

Growing A Gardener

by Dea Anne M

For someone who grew up in a gardening family, I had remarkably little interest in plants or their products.  Sure, I loved strawberries and sliced tomatoes but I somehow didn’t consider these members of a realm which I regarded with suspicion (most fruits) mixed with dread (all vegetables).  Later, as a tween, I started to enjoy the products of my grandparents’ huge garden, but seeing a snake the summer I was eight scared me off of actually getting in there with a hoe and a bucket and learning anything. Then, of course, there was the danger of becoming dirty, or worse, sweaty. I expressed a similar disdain for the preparation and preservation of the harvest, and I scorned the nightly pea shelling marathons on my grandmother’s darkened screened porch. Though I yearned for the pleasures of family gossip and chat, I was wary of any activity that might be work cleverly disguised as fun.

Well, now I know better. I started shopping at farmers markets several years ago and experienced a revelation with my first taste of an heirloom tomato. At the back of my mind, a small voice said “Maybe you could grow something like this.” Over the next few years of enjoying fresh, beautiful tasting, local produce the voice persisted and a passionate vegetable gardener was born.

Gardening can be alternately rewarding and frustrating. Patience and persistence are essential. One piece of advice that you will hear over and over is to start small. Here are a few titles from DCPL that can help you succeed in doing just that.

Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardens by Barbara Pleasant provides well-illustrated and easy to follow instructions for (as promised) 24 different gardens, both conventional and off-beat. My favorite plan is small enough for one person to maintain easily, is designed to expand each year, and features vegetables grown directly in bags of soil. The growing medium enriches your existing soil and the ease of installation and care should make this garden an attractive option for those who’d rather not develop a relationship with a rototiller.

Because of sunlight issues in my yard (as in it doesn’t get enough), I do most of my gardening in containers on my back deck. A few years ago, I became a convert to “self watering pots” which are containers built with a sealed water reservoir at the bottom matched to an overflow spout. Results are so superior that now these containers are all that I use except for a few herbs that I grow in conventional pots. To this end, Incredible Vegetables From Self-Watering Containers by Edward C. Smith has been an invaluable resource. Beautifully illustrated, this book provides sensible, yet simple, information on preparing and tending your containers for maximum yield. This is a great beginning book for anyone who can’t, or doesn’t want to, garden in the ground.

Finally, if you’re convinced that food production is beyond you because you lack the huge yard space taken for granted by so many gardening books, let me recommend Fresh Food From Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting by R.J. Rupenthal. From growing herbs on a widow sill, to sprouting mushrooms in a cabinet, to using reflected light to grow vegetables on a tiny balcony, this book will provide instruction and inspiration to help you get started right away.

….and I guarantee that after tasting that first tomato, you won’t want to stop.


Jun 28 2010

The Zooniverse

by Jesse M

When I was younger, I had aspirations of making a career in science. Initially I was most fascinated by paleontology (the study of pre-historic life) but as I grew older I became more and more interested in the space sciences. Originally this manifested as the relatively common childhood desire to be an astronaut, though as time passed I realized it was unlikely that I would ever have the opportunity to become one. As the years progressed I maintained an interest in the space sciences and continued to consume related media on a casual basis, but my choice of courses in high school and college sent me on a career path in the social sciences rather than the astronomical fields I’d been interested in as a youth. These days, my enthusiasm for space science is mostly evidenced by my love of science fiction novels and short stories. Library work is very rewarding, but there isn’t much opportunity to advance the cause of science while on the job. Luckily for me, there is a website called Zooniverse which simultaneously satisfies the desire of amateur enthusiasts like myself to contribute in some fashion to the scientific community while also utilizing the power of crowdsourcing to assist scientists and researchers deal with the flood of incoming data they receive from astronomical instruments.

How does it work? Just head over to the site and check out the list of active projects (such as classifying galaxies or exploring the lunar surface). Select one that you’d like to participate in, watch the tutorial, and get started!


Jun 25 2010

Oldies but Goodies…

by ShareReads

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it.  The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it.  The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading.  Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

As I Lay Dying coverThe classics never fail to challenge and satisfy my maturing reading habits.  I used to think teaching high school and college English classes had ruined me as a reader. I started looking at books for what they offered for class discussion and as examples of various fiction devices.  I critiqued structure and character development as well as use of setting while I read.  There were some years when I shifted to non-fiction because I could escape these distractions. But I never stopped returning to some of the classics.

Like some people I know who read Pride and Prejudice every year, I return to William Faulkner as my iconic Southern writer who captured aspects of the South, and the world universal, for those willing to bring the tolerance for ambiguity needed to read him. My favorite of his books is As I Lay Dying, which I read every few years as it is both short and layered (something I like because it reflects life as I see it). Over the years of my own life, I find reading it changes.  The book is the same, but I am different.  At least I see relationships, and understanding of duty, and the society which plants that “darn” road by our doors as different with each reading.

If you haven’t read much of Faulkner, I recommend this as a good first step. Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective as indicated by the chapter’s heading. The story starts with the mother dying in bed where she can hear one of her sons building her casket.  After she dies, the family sets out to bury her some distance away with “her folks”.  They travel by horse and mule, pulling a wagon with her casket.  They cross rivers, stay at friend’s and stranger’s homes, make important stops in town, and return, most of them, completely changed.

Are you reading books with shifts in perspective, with dynamically changing characters, that address the end of life?  If so, please share your responses and insights.

Thanks, and remember  you can avoid the heat by reading more….


Jun 23 2010

Future Sounds From The 20th Century

by Joseph M

One of the great things about working in a library is the constant stream of interesting media that I come across in the course of my day.  For example, I was shelving music CDs a few weeks ago and noticed one entitled Clara Rockmore’s Lost Theremin Album.  It just so happened that I was familiar with Rockmore, whose performance of “The Swan” appeared as a track on a mixtape given to me a few years back.  Intrigued by this tidbit, I took the CD home, loved it, and have been recommending it to people ever since.  But what, you might be asking, is a theremin?  As Wikipedia explains, a theremin is an early electronic musical instrument played without contact from the musician.  Named for its inventor, Leon Theremin, the device produces a unique, haunting sound.  Perhaps the world’s only theremin virtuoso, Clara Rockmore was deeply involved in the evolution of the instrument and helped to boost its legitimacy in the realm of classical music.  Here’s an example of the artist at work, courtesy of youtube:

Those interested in more information may want to check out Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey, a 1993 documentary on the instrument and related subjects.  Both the CD and the DVD are available in our catalog, along with other music CDs which utilize this fascinating and versatile piece of technology.


Jun 21 2010

You Have Such A Pretty Face

by Veronica W

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that “compliment” while growing up, I would be, at the very least, upper middle class.The well-intentioned (I think) speakers did not understand exactly what they were saying…or not saying. “You have such a pretty face but the rest of you is a mess!” I grew up with parents who would not let you leave the table until you had “cleaned” your plate. It didn’t matter if that plate held enough food to feed a longshoreman who was coming off a fast. “Waste not ,want not” was my mother’s mealtime mantra, along with the admonition to remember the starving children all over the world. (I couldn’t believe that even they wanted my Lima beans.)  My parents had lived through the Great Depression and there was a visceral satisfaction in being able to feed a family of nine. Consequently my six sisters and I have battled with weight for most of our lives, with varying degrees of success. Since society, explicitly or implicitly, condemns physical “abundance,” we have also battled with self image, once again with varying degrees of success.

While everyone wants to look good, young women are especially vulnerable to criticism of their appearance. They respond in different ways and their efforts to cope are chronicled in numerous books, both fiction and non-fiction. Some adopt a “take me or leave me” attitude, while others embark on a lose and gain and lose and gain and lose and gain cycle of frustration. Check out some of these books which deal, sometimes humorously, with the struggle. In the Young Adult fiction section, there’s Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee, Accidental Love by Gary Soto and Vintage Veronica by Erica Perl, among many others. Positive image advice can be found in books such as You’d Be So Pretty Ifby Dara Chadwick and You Have to Say I’m Pretty, You’re My Mother by Stephanie Pierson. If you want to find fashion tips for those who are amply endowed and want to hide or embellish it, check out Does This Make me Look Fat by Leah Feldon or Pretty Plus by Babe Hope. For pudgy preschoolers, there’s I Get So Hungry by Bebe Moore Campbell at one end and I Like Me by Nancy Carlson at the other end.

The campaign against obesity, especially in children, is necessary and laudable, as long as it’s about health and not appearance. “You’ve lost weight!! You look wonderful!! (now that you don’t have to walk sideways to get through the door) could be replaced by “I see that you’ve lost some weight. How do you feel?”  I know, I know. Reality check. However if some misguided person now dares to say “pretty face” to me, I smile politely and say “Thank you. And the rest of me is very nice too.” By the way, Miss Manners does not approve of  making personal comments. Oh, but that’s the January 25th blog.


Jun 18 2010

Share Reads – Try A Local Author

by ShareReads

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it.  The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it.  The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading.  Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

Last week, DCPLive featured an interesting post about local, organic food. Part of the slow food movement involves buying food which is locally grown, thereby supporting local farmers. Considering this brought me to the notion that writers bring seeds of ideas to readers in much the same way that farmers grow vegetables. They keep returning to them over and over, nourishing them with patience and diligence until they’re ready for our consumption. No matter what you eat this summer, it’s the perfect time to enrich your reading diet by trying (and supporting) a local author.

We’re very fortunate that DeKalb County is the home of the Georgia Center for the Book. This organization has featured many Georgia authors in DeKalb libraries, including Terry Kay, Mary Kay Andrews, Karin Slaughter (who will be at the Decatur Library on July 1st), and Joshilyn Jackson (who will be at the Tucker-Reid H. Cofer Library on June 29th).

I’ve recently finished a wonderful new book by a local author who presented a GCFTB program back in May. David C. Tucker loves to write about movies and television, and his latest book, Lost Laughs of 50s and 60s Television: 30 Sitcoms That Faded Off Screen, is a wonderful tribute to some shows which got lost in the sands of TV history. Some actors featured in the book, like Harry Morgan (Colonel Potter on M.A.S.H.) Francis Bavier (Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show), or Marion Ross (Richie’s mom on Happy Days), are much better known for their other work. Other actors have been largely forgotten. That’s a shame, and you’ll enjoy reading about them too.

Since it’s hard to see these shows today, I’m grateful that Lost Laughs includes many photos. This is truly a user friendly book, containing an appendix charting the shows in chronological order (I mention this because the shows are presented alphabetically). You can read the book in chapter order, or mix it up in any way you choose. My three favorite shows are Angel, Mrs. G Goes to College, and Wendy and Me. I’ll pique your curiosity by telling you that Angel was created by the man who brought us I Love Lucy, and Wendy and Me featured George Burns.  It’s hard for me to imagine why these three didn’t last longer, but I’m sure you’ll have your own wish list once you’ve picked up this book.

If you’d like another actor fix, I also recommend David’s other books, The Women Who Made Television Funny, and Shirley Booth: a Biography and Career Record. There’s another good dose of wit and entertainment to be found between those covers.

So, do you have a favorite Georgia author? There’s a lot of great writing to celebrate, and some of it is being created right now at a computer keyboard near you!


Jun 16 2010

Rock-Docs N’Roll

by Jnai W

Now that summer is upon us, what could be better than rocking out and allowing one’s self to be moved by the power of music? I can’ t think of a better way to spend the summer. But, alas, concert tickets can be pricey, your kids don’t like it when you drag them to dingy, smoky rock clubs (You guys really shouldn’t be doing that, though. Don’t they have VRP reading to do?) and your eardrums really can’t take loud speakers and squealing guitars like they used to. But don’t worry. You can still get your rock on—enough to get your rocks off, even—at the Library. Well, actually, we’ll let you take them home first before you rock out (it’s still a library, of course). Here are some of my favorite DVDs to borrow from our Library of Rock:

Anvil The Story of Anvil: I was immediately struck by the cover photo of this DVD: two middle-aged Long Hairs striking extreme rocker poses beneath a curious critic’s blurb, hailing this film as “the greatest movie ever made about rock and roll”. I couldn’t resist so I had to check it out. It just so happens that Anvil is a venerated Canadian heavy metal band with a small but rabid fan base, average-joe day jobs, long-suffering families and, from what I gathered, bad luck all around. Either way, Lips, Robb and the crew continue to rock out and strive for the top of the charts. Their tenacity, their heart and their musical chops are awe-inspiring.

This Is Spinal Tap: My brother, a rock n’ roll Yoda so to speak, introduced me to this, the rockingest and most hilarious faux-documentary about a fictitious metal band touring the world and generally living their rocker lifestyle “to eleven” (check it out if you don’t know what that means).

School of Rock: Okay, this one isn’t a documentary or a rockumentary (or even a mockumentary like the aforementioned Spinal Tap. But if you want to rock out while there are still kids in the room, this flick is still pretty awesome. You can watch as Jack Black introduces adorable prep schoolers to classic rock and introduces himself to Responsible Adulthood…in a roundabout, illegal field trip taking, identity thieving sort of way.

Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man: If you prefer to mellow out a bit with one of my all-time favorite singer-songwriters, here’s a great film tribute to the one and only Leonard Cohen.  Not only does this film celebrate the music and influence of Cohen but it also features incredible performances from the likes of Rufus Wainwright, U2 and, another artist I really love, Antony Hegarty.

Jimi Hendrix: What’s a rock and roll marathon without the late, great Jimi Hendrix? I really enjoyed this documentary featuring interviews with family, friends and admirers plus outstanding performance footage. To me, there’s nothing like gaining insight into the music you love by learning about the person who created it.


Jun 14 2010

You just gotta be there. . .

by Patricia D

You know, in these modern times genealogy as a hobby is  easy.  You have the census on-line through DCPL’s reference databases which contain Ancestry and Heritage Quest, both keyword searchable.  No more trips on the odd Friday off to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Southeastern branch. Thanks to Google Books and Heritage Quest you’ve got access to digitized county histories, most of which did not have indexes but are now keyword searchable.   Many counties now have their historical records on-line so the six to eight week ordeal of getting a death certificate is  a thing of the past.  As a hobby genealogy is now cheaper, quicker and a lot of it can be done from home.

So much can now be done from the comfort of an easy chair, a Wi-Fi equipped laptop balanced on your knees and a beverage of choice at your elbow, but there is still nothing as thrilling as being there.  When your fifth great-grandfather writes from 1869 that his  sister married a man named Erp, sometimes it takes driving  into Monmouth, Illinois, your car filled with the heavy, golden light of a late afternoon autumn sun,  for you to suddenly go, “Oh, snap!  Grandpa couldn’t spell!” because of course  Monmouth, Illinois is the birthplace of Wyatt Earp.  Yep,  they have a great  big sign right inside the city limits proclaiming it.  This puts a whole new spin on your research because you are suddenly not tracking down a faceless person who lived and died in upstate Illinois but someone whose sister married Wyatt Earp’s uncle.  You now know you are tied to a piece of Western mythology.  You are so overcome with this revelation you have to go sit in a diner, drinking coffee and eating very good butterscotch pie, wishing that you had paid more attention to Kurt Russell instead of Val Kilmer in Tombstone.  Because you are smart as well as friendly, you’ll talk to the folks around you and they will introduce you to one of the Earp descendants,  who just happens to be eating butterscotch pie with his grandson.   He will offer to send you scans of letters from your ancestor to his that the family has been keeping for over a hundred years, and then he will draw you a map to the private  cemetery where your folks, and his,  are buried.

So here’s my advice.  Use the books we have (929.1072 on the library shelves) to learn how to set up your record keeping and get started.  Use the DCPL databases to begin researching—Heritage Quest is available from home but due to licensing restrictions you have to be in the library to use Ancestry.  Do as much work as you can from the comfort of your armchair but make the time to visit the right courthouse, town or cemetery.  It’s the only way the facts become stories, and the whole point of genealogy is the stories.


Jun 11 2010

ShareReads: Beat the Reaper

by ShareReads

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it.  The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it.  The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading.  Remember posting a response also counts  as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program!

Yesterday I started reading Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell.  It’s a comic thriller and a quick, humorous read so far (albeit I’m only 52 pages in).  It’s a simple story of identity, medicine and the mob.  Dr. Peter Brown is an intern at a down and out hospital in Manhattan.  Pietro Brnwna, aka “Bearclaw”, is a mobster hit man.  Nicholas LoBrutto, aka Eddy Squillante, checks into the deluxe wing of the hospital after feeling not so well.  When Dr. Brown does his rounds and walks into Mr. LoBrutto’s room, both are in for some bad news.  Dr. Brown is here to deliver the news that Mr. LoBrutto has a nasty form of cancer.  Mr. LoBrutto is convinced that Dr. Brown is Mr. Brnwna.  One way or the other it looks like Mr. LoBrutto is going to die, but what will get to him first – the big C or the Bearclaw?  Is Dr. Brown really Brnwna?  These are the questions that are keeping me turning the pages, plus Bazell’s insider medical perspective is hyping up my hypochondriac side.

So, it may be totally obvious that I really am only starting the book, which may be making you wonder, “Why is she writing this post?”  Well, it came highly recommended by one of my patron friends, which automatically tickled my interest (and, why you should definitely share the books you enjoy with us on ShareReads, because we really do take your recommendations to heart and read them).  Beat the Reaper is also the June selection for Pub Fiction, DCPL’s not so traditional book discussion group.  And, since I’ve mentioned it (shamelessly inserting self serving plug), Pub Fiction is our effort to take the librarians out of the library and to share books, fellowship, drinks and perspective with other like minded folk.  If this sounds good and you would like to join us, we meet on the third Thursday of every month at 7 pm at Kavarna in Decatur.

What, dear patrons, do you think we should read next?  What books have you read that caused you to crave lively conversation?  I hope that you’ll consider reading Beat the Reaper and joining the Pub Fictioneers on June 17.  If you want to get a head start on July’s selection, we’ll be reading and noshing on The Absurdistan.  And, by all means, toot the horn of your own book discussion group too!


Jun 10 2010

Local, Organic, and Slow

by Jimmy L

Do you know where your food comes from?  Neither did I, until a couple of months ago; I used to buy food from the big supermarkets.  But, partially fueled by books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and movies like Food, Inc., there has been a recent surge of interest in this question of where our food comes from, and what chemicals have been put into it.  I’ve not read or seen these books or documentaries myself, as I have a huge fear of finding out all the horribly true facts that I’m totally happy ignoring.  However, I’ve started going to local organic farmers markets, which are cropping up all over the place.  Even if you didn’t care where your food comes from, it’s still a refreshing experience attending these markets.  Each farmer sells you his or her veggies, fruit, meat, milk, eggs, pastries and/or cheeses themselves.  I find it especially reassuring that each of my dozen eggs is of a different size and shape, which is the way it should be!  And they taste much better than grocery store bought eggs.  Also, I know that my vegetables are freshly harvested from Georgia clay often within the last 24 hours, instead of being trucked across the country from who knows where.  Here are some of the local organic farmers markets that I’m aware of.  If you know of any others in or around DeKalb County, please share with us in the comments section…

  • Decatur Farmers Market – there is one every Wednesday at the corner of Church and Commerce from 4pm to 7pm (Winter hours are 3pm to 6pm).  There’s also one run by the same people on Saturdays, from 9am to Noon across the street from Chic-Fil-A on N. McDonough.
  • East Lake Farmers Market – Saturdays from 9am to 1pm at the corner of Hosea L. Williams Dr SE & 2nd Ave SE.
  • East Atlanta Village Farmers Market – Thursdays 4pm to 8pm May thru November at 1231 Glenwood Ave (Village Hardware)

More books and movies about eating locally grown organic food that I haven’t read: