Monday, July 30, 2007

The Trap: selling out to stay afloat in winner-take-all America

The great thing about being a professional public librarian is that, while we are not overpaid like some people who work in professions, our souls are not sold out from under us either, and we have the psychic benefit of knowing we provide good public services to our community just like we intended to when we started work on our librarian Masters degrees.

In fact, most young people starting professional schooling have said that, from many years ago and still now in survey after survey, they very much want to find work that allows them to help their communities and to make the world a better place. However, in today’s economy, according to journalist Daniel Brook in his first full book,
The Trap: selling out to stay afloat in winner-take-all America, almost none can hold onto those ideals anymore because they are in so much debt starting out.

Their education costs far too much, they cannot afford housing when they are young, they cannot raise a family when their age would allow them the energy to do so, or if they do have children they can’t see them more than a few moments a week because they are working far too many long hours just to support them, and they cannot get health insurance to cover themselves or their families unless they “sell out” to become a “microserf” or corporate drone and work even harder with fewer and fewer retirement options if they ever get there.

One professor Brook interviewed said “most … students don’t take jobs in the hopes of getting fabulously rich. They do it to avoid the risk of being poor.”

Brook does a great job of putting everything in perspective, by tracing the problem’s historical roots from the conservative reaction to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal that made for a post-war middle class, that many people of my age grew up expecting to live in all our lives, to the Reagan era destruction of those ideals that, with the help of Clinton era corporatists, have led to the United States to levels of inequality and lack of social mobility so that there is no middle class anymore, and consequently, no sense of shared community purpose. In Manhattan, says Brook, the “income disparity is on par with Nambia, the most unequal country in the world, according to a recent UN Human Development report.”

With entrenched wealth calling the shots, official Washington has become a status quo maintenance machine perpetually privileging what is over what might be.”

He also argues that contrary to the mythical belief in removing taxes from the super wealthy to free up inventiveness, such a system constrains creativity at every turn and prevents all but those who have money from having time or energy to create anything socially beneficial, and especially constrains dissent. Anyone who has seen the documentary Sicko understands that universal health care is not the only social utility that America now needs to make it possible to live a decent life. Like other developed countries, Brook says, American college education should be free, work life adaptations need to be made so that people can raise children and not have to leave a profession to do so, and so that creative Americans can provide services to others. He says“14.7 percent of the European workforce is self employed compared with only 7.3 percent of Americans. American entrepreneurs are clearly being held back from pursuing their dreams.” Many things we take for granted should not be, he claims.

Brook’s first book is fascinating and deserves to be read and discussed by many. He adds a comparison to the ancient state of Athens, one of the first to remedy the social problem of too few controlling the destinies of the rest. “One of Athens’ great unleashed talents, the philosopher Aristotle discerned a connection between a society dominated by the middle class and political stability and justice. The rich and poor, he noted, were prone to criminality, (think Enron and the Crips), while the middle-class obeyed the laws. He concluded that a just and well-run state must be controlled by a middle-class majority.”

Pick it up. A great read. If you're young, use it to change the world before we, the last of the middle class knowledge philanthropists, get taken away.

This Week in Reading July 29 - August 4

Fascinating authors and events this week, but one author in particular is responsible for more young people reading than any other. Not that she needs more publicity but with the final volume of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows receiving more than three hundred requests at Glendale and Pasadena public libraries together, it is very nice that we get to celebrate J. K. Rowling's birth this week. Whereas in America she'd probably have had to work two jobs just to survive and wouldn't have any time left for writing, at least the welfare system in Britain allowed the young mother time to write out her inspired ideas and still care for her child. Worked out well for everyone, including the hundreds of people she probably created work for.

Rowling's book became an instant classic and zoomed to be the best selling series of all time making her the richest woman in the world but at the other end of the spectrum, born in the same week, is Herman Melville. Hardly anyone bought a copy when it came out and Melville died penniless after several other well respected novels, yet Moby Dick is considered by many to be THE greatest American novel. The story of literature falls somewhere in between.
This Week's Question: How does J. K. really pronounce her last name,as opposed to the way most newscasters in America have been pronouncing it?

Answer to Last Week's Question: One commentator left a very interesting answer. The Brave New World substance is "Soma. How close are we today? Ask Big Pharma!"

Saturday, July 28, 2007

AC/DC : maximum rock & roll

You know the library is a cool place when they have books like AC/DC : maximum rock & roll!

Authors ... well, music journalists, Murrary Engleheart and Arnaud Durieux write from personal experience with the band as well as information from more than 1300 interviews. This is the first complete story of AC/DC and includes trvia, anecdotes, answers to well known myths, and never-before-seen photos to create the ultimate portrait of the ultimate rock band.

AC/DC was started by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young in Sydney, Australia and debuted their first album in 1975. From the tragic death of frontman Bon Scott, through their height of popularity in the 1980s, up to an album in 2000 this book has it all. It includes a discography of albums, compilations, singles of interest, videos, and an index. This was one of the first major rock bands that I listened to in my youth (and still do) and their sound had a major impact on my music choices since then!

To make reading this massive book even more enjoyable don’t forget to check out Brand Library’s CD collection including several of AC/DC’s best albums!

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Library's Most Wanted Books - July

Curious to see the library's most popular titles? Here's a quick look at our most requested books this past month. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows continues to be the most requested book with over 290 holds. James Patterson takes the prize for not only publishing two books within a two month period but having both them end up on our list...and many other bestseller lists! The 6th Target has been popular all summer and is now joined by his newest book, The Quickie. But that's not all. He has a THIRD book on our list that hasn't even been published yet. It is titled You've Been Warned and will be released later this year on September 10th.

Click on the book cover images to find them in our library catalog. There you can read summaries and reviews, find other books by the same authors, or place a hold of your own!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Modernist Paradise : Niemeyer House, Boyd Collection

I was first introduced to this book while reading an issue of Vanity Fair -- not your usual source for book reviews but occasionally they do brief mentionings of art themed books. (I also found out about Picasso & Lump via Vanity Fair).

Modernist Paradise : Niemeyer House, Boyd Collection (Rizzoli, 2007) is a feast of modern art, architecture, furniture, objects, and interior design through almost 300 colored illustrations. The reader is invited into Michael and Gabrielle Boyd’s home -- the only North American residential design by Oscar Niemeyer (1907- ). The Boyds rescued this home, in Santa Monica, from demolition and completely restored it and it now also houses their extraordinary 20th century furniture, art and book collections.

The Boyds could have turned this masterpiece into a museum attraction but instead they live in modernist paradise!

The images of these modern masterpieces echo the characteristics of modernist design -- open plans, clean lines and strong construction -- and have the feel of looking at a movie set or flash back to a time that so briefly existed. If you can tear yourself away from the exceptional photographs by Tim Street Porter there is an introduction by Michael Webb and essays by Michael and Gabrielle Boyd. The featured designers include Gerrit Rietveld, Jean ProuvĂ©, Marcel Breuer and Arne Jacobsen but fans of Rudolph Schindler, Charles and Ray Eames, and Jean Arp will not be disappointed. And for the librarian in all of us this beautiful book also includes an excellent index with the artists’ names in bold -- you could not ask for more!

All of the artists names mentioned above and in bold are linked to other titles that can be found at Brand Library.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Picasso & Lump: A dachshund’s journey

How can you resist a book about one of the world’s most famous artists and a small dog? Taz, the Blog Dog, could not resist and he wants to make sure you all check out Picasso & Lump: a daschund's journey:
Lump, the diminutive and somewhat distracted fellow with the long ears over there on the artist's left, originally belonged to Picasso’s photojournalist friend, David Douglas Duncan (author and photographer for the book) but one day in 1957 the duo went to visit Picasso at his Villa La Californie and Lump never left! The dachshund and the artist were soon a part of each others lives and Lump made several appearances in Picasso’s works.

The book, with over a hundred images, is an insight into the daily life of Picasso at his home in Cannes including intimate pictures with Lump, contemplative moments in his studio, and quiet time with wife Jacqueline Roque, friends and family. Duncan’s elegant black and white photographs and personal captions let us see a side of Picasso that few have seen, and in showing how he related to our four-footed brethren, "humanizes" the artist. Naturally.
Reproductions from Picasso’s series based on Velazquez’s Las Meninas are also included and a joyful Lump is featured in several of these paintings. All you art fans and dog lovers, share my excitement about Picasso & Lump! -- Taz, Blog Dog.

Monday, July 23, 2007

This Week in Reading July 22 - 28

There are a few big name authors this week, two of them with the same very big name for adventure lovers, in fact. But the biggest Los Angeles name of all was born this week, Raymond Chandler, the creator of hardboiled detective Phillip Marlowe. Marlowe first appeared in stories, then novels by Chandler, and was played on screen in several famous movies, some of them scripted by Chandler.

From Contemporary Authors Online, available to Glendale Library cardholders through our Online Resources database called Biography Resource Center: Like Gardner and Hammett before him, Chandler drew on the irony of California's status as the Golden State and used the setting to suggest the beguiling and corruptive power of money in American life. Ultimately, Chandler presented a more provocative Los Angeles than had any of his predecessors. Nation contributor Thomas S. Reck called Chandler "the Los Angeles laureate," adding that "no city lends itself more to metaphor than Los Angeles, and no writer has risen to the implicit challenge better."

This Week's Question: What is the name of the of the substance or process that provides happiness in Aldous Huxley's 1932 classic Brave New World. To whom does it really provide happiness and how close are we to it today?

Answer to Last Week's Question: Hunter S. Thompson used factual interviews and personal experiences in a fictional setting thus driving his version of the truth wildly but insistently in a stronger fashion which was dubbed "gonzo journalism" by others. He later titled some of his own works The Gonzo Papers.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tempting Titles - Nonfiction - July (concluded)

Here are some more tempting titles our librarians have selected for the library recently. The books are either already in the system or on the way.

To get to the online catalog record, click on the image or the book title link. There you can place a hold request, see similar subjects or other books by the same author, read first chapters, reviews or summaries, and enlarge the image.

Dewey Decimal 700s

La Nilsson: My Life in Opera, by Birgit Nilsson

Nilsson's fame as one of the major international stars of the post-World War II opera scene makes this title essential. Her strong opinions surface in the face of quirky conductors, arrogant directors, and oblivious set designers. (Library Journal)

Rickles' Book, by Don Rickles

In classic show-biz memoir fashion, names are dropped with abandon: Robards and Newhart, Carson and Sinatra (the Chairman of the Board at his most imperious), some presidents and a pope; even Mr. Potato Head! (Kirkus Reviews)

Billy Joel: the biography, by Mark Bego

Bego wears his love for Joel's music on his sleeve, and his in-depth analysis of virtually every song in the musician's canon is enthusiastic, if a bit repetitive. (Kirkus Reviews)

Dewey Decimal 800s

Richard Lederer’s Literary Trivia by Richard Lederer

What fictional detective survived an attempted murder by his creator? (Sherlock Holmes) Who was the single mother, living on state benefits, whose wizardly series of novels has made her the richest writer in England? (J. K. Rowling) Which American poet composed and read a poem at John F. Kennedy's inauguration? (Robert Frost) Richard Lederer is the author of more than 3,000 books and articles about language. His syndicated column, "Looking at Language," appears in newspapers and magazines throughout the United States (Publisher's summary)

This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley

The process of writing a novel is like taking a journey by boat. You have to continually set yourself on course. If you get distracted or allow yourself to drift, you will never make it to the destination. It's not like highly defined train tracks or a highway; this is a path that you are creating, discovering. The journey is your narrative. Keep to it and there will be a tale told. (Book jacket)

Shakespeare the Thinker by A. D. Nuttall

Much recent historicist criticism has tended to "flatten" Shakespeare by confining him to the thought-cliches of his time, and this in turn has led to an implicitly patronizing view of him as unthinkingly racist, sexist, and so on. Nuttall shows us that, on the contrary, Shakespeare proves to be more intelligent and perceptive than his twenty-first-century readers. (Book jacket)

Fathers and Sons, the autobiography of a family by Alexander Waugh

Evelyn Waugh once wrote, "I have exhausted my capacity for finding objects of love. How does one exist without them?" Love, or the lack of it, is what this book by Alexander Waugh (Time), Evelyn's grandson, is all about. It is also about fathers and sons and four generations of Waugh writers. Arthur was a publisher and a writer. His sons, Alec and Evelyn, were both writers, with Evelyn the more critically acclaimed. Evelyn sired Auberon, a writer/journalist, who in turn begat Alexander, the current Waugh chronicler. (Library Journal)

Dewey Decimal 900s

The Republic of Pirates: being the true and surprising story of the Caribbean pirates and the man who brought them down by Collin Woodard

A fast-paced narrative that will be especially attractive to lovers of pirate lore and to vacationers who are Bahamas-bound. (Publishers Weekly)

Justinian’s Flea: plague, empire and the birth of Europe by William Rosen

Rosen offers mini-courses in microbiology, biochemistry; he explains how bacteria evolved to hitch rides on fleas, how fleas migrate to human hosts when the rat population crashes, how plague progresses and usually kills—though Justinian himself survived a bout with it. Subsequent chapters follow the plague around the Mediterranean and elsewhere, and each time, Rosen smoothly inserts relevant history—of the silk trade, of the rise of Islam, of the Romans in Britain, of the reasons the plague did not find a happy home in the desert. Rigorous, highly informative history written with passion, panache and an appealing bit of attitude. (Kirkus Reviews)

The Perfect Summer: England 1911, just before the storm by Juliet Nicolson

A best seller in Britain (and deservedly so), this quick, enjoyable read shows the inevitability of the decline of the aristocracy by blending serious history, quirky details, and an all-encompassing portrait of English society. (Library Journal)

Biographies - 92s

Backstage with Julia: my years with Julia Child by Nancy Verde Barr

The book's greatest strength lies in how Barr has captured the voice and personality of her friend and mentor; her stories about the woman, whether involving a stop for a hot dog at a roadside stand or the graceful way that Child handled mistakes, will enable readers to make a new connection to this larger-than-life figure who did so much to change the perception of food and cooking in America. (Library Journal)

The Remarkable Millard Fillmore: the unbelievable life of a forgotten president by George Pendle

In this lampoon of formal presidential biographies, Pendle claims to have been spurred on by the discovery in Africa of never-before-seen Fillmore journals, including letters and "napkin doodles." (Did paper napkins exist in 1850? Did doodling?) Pendle hits all the general chronological marks of Fillmore's life, but he fabricates the particulars in wildly imaginative fashion, complete with copious, addlepated footnotes that affirm the book's comic intent. (BookPage Reviews)

Perfect Spy: the incredible double life of Pham Xuan An, Time magazine reporter and Vietnamese Communist agent by Larry Berman

A fair-minded, consistently interesting attempt to unpack the "boxes within boxes in An's life" and a fascinating contribution to our understanding of America's defeat in Vietnam. (Kirkus Reviews)

Babies, and email and death, oh my!

I finished three books, all on disparately different topics, in the last several weeks. Now that my head's stopped spinning, allow me to share a few impressions.

The first was Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence, by Rebecca Walker. Ms. Walker is the daughter of the famous writer Alice Walker, she of The Color Purple fame. But just because she has celebrity author parentage doesn't mean she's a good author in her own right.

Although she is a competent wordsmith, Ms. Walker failed to capture the essence of why it is she so desperately wants a child. I was looking to understand this ambivalence, but instead got frustrated by the lack of explanations--why did she identify as a lesbian and then turn hetero to have a child? Why is her relationship with her mother fraught with so much tension and sadness? Why, ultimately, did she choose to be a mother? I don't have a clue and by the end of the book I didn't care. Not recommended.

Next up was a much more lighthearted (and satisfying) read. Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home, by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe. This slim volume is chock full of useful suggestions for giving and getting good email. You will learn about the six essential types of email, the "politics of the cc", and the ways in which we sabotage ourselves when we send email. The writers use a quick witted style and lots of examples of the right and wrong ways to use email. Recommended.

Finally, I just closed the cover on a book I had been looking forward to reading since I first read about it. Aftermath, Inc.: Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home, by Gil Reavill. While it didn't totally live up to expectations, it was still a good read.

Crime Writer, Gil Reavill, delves into the grisly and gruesome world of what's known as "bioremediation", which is basically the dirty but necessary business of cleaning up the body fluids, blood spatter and other human biomatter that is left at a crime scene or "decomp" after the body has been removed. Mostly familes, but sometimes businesses, contract with Aftermath, Inc. to have them clean up the messes that no one else either cannot or will not do.

It's a fascinating look into a business that not many people are familiar with. Throughout the book, Reavill shadows the Aftermath crew on jobs and explains the process of what such a job entails. I found the book engaging, although there were times in the latter chapters that the author strayed a bit too far in talking about his own history of seeing a dead body for the first time or laying out the pecadillos of serial killers throughout modern history. These things didn't add to the value of the book and got to be distracting. But overall, a good read if you have the stomach for it! Recommended.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tempting Titles - Nonfiction - July (continued)

Here are some more tempting titles our librarians have selected for the library recently. The books are either already in the system or on the way.

To get to the online catalog record, click on the image or the book title link. There you can place a hold request, see similar subjects or other books by the same author, read first chapters, reviews or summaries, and enlarge the image.

Dewey Decimal 400s

Lights, Camera, Spanish: pop in the movie, learn the language by Bill Van Patten, Michael J. Lesser, and Gregory D. Keating.

A film-based introductory Spanish program that integrates the feature-length film Sol y viento into the instructional and learning experience. "Imagine yourself in a world where a young man finds love thousands of miles away ... where a family's dream hangs in the shadow of a corporate takeover ... and you learn Spanish just by popping in this DVD. Rated E for everyone, Lights, Camera, Spanish! is a revolutionary, look-listen-and-learn approach specially created for you, the movie lover who wants a crash course in Spanish." (Publisher's summary)

When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It: the parts of speech for better or worse by Ben Yagoda.

Yagoda (The Sound on the Page) isn't trying to reinvent the style guide, just offering his personal tour of some of the English language's idiosyncrasies. Using the parts of speech as signposts, he charts an amiable path between those critics for whom any alterations to established grammar are hateful and those who believe whatever people use in speech is by default acceptable. Where many writing instructors rail against the use of adverbs, for example, he points out that they can be quite useful for conveying subtle relationships ordinary verbs can't describe. (Publishers Weekly)

Drawing on quotes from politicians, lyrics, movies, classic literature, and linguistic works, Yagoda also examines word history and differences between spoken and written language. Filled with humor and written in a casual tone. (Library Journal)

Dewey Decimal 500s

Why Size Matters: From Bacteria to Blue Whales by John Tyler Bonner

Bonner vividly illustrates how something apparently so simple as size is actually so fundamentally important. ... As this diminutive book describes with elegant simplicity, size is far more important than mere curiosity. (Choice)

Dewey Decimal 600s -

Happy Accidents: serendipity in modern medical breakthroughs by Morton A. Meyers

A character-rich account of the role of chance in scientific research.Meyers (Emeritus, Radiology and Internal Medicine/SUNY, Stony Brook) has collected dozens of stories, from Pasteur to present-day stem-cell researchers that show scientists looking for one thing, finding something entirely different and recognizing the potential of the unexpected discovery. A skilled storyteller, Meyers explains in layman's terms the science involved, whether it is a cardiovascular breakthrough, discovery of a hallucinogenic or a new antibiotic or antidepressant, or an advance in the understanding of ulcers or cancer. (Kirkus Reviews)

Otherwise Normal People: inside the thorny world of competitive rose gardening by Aurelia C. Scott

Investigative visits with some gung-ho rose-lovers, who reveal their methods, motivation and super-competitive ways. (Kirkus Reviews)

Tomatoes & mozzarella : 100 ways to enjoy this tantalizing twosome all year long by Hallie Harron and Shelley Sikora ; photographs by Richard Eskite.

The recipes in this attractive book are far more diverse than one might expect, ranging from a chopped version of the classic Caprese Salad to Stuffed Poblano Chiles with Tomato-Avocado Salsa to Rich Tomato Pot Pie. Harron, a chef and restaurant consultant who leads food and wine tours in France, and Sikora, co-owner of the Bobby McGee's restaurant chain, include their favorite combinations from a variety of cuisines, not only Italian. They also offer a brief introductory section that even explains how to make your own fresh mozzarella. (Library Journal)

Everyday pasta : favorite pasta recipes for every occasion by Giada De Laurentiis ; photographs by Victoria Pearson.

Bestselling author and Food Network star de Laurentiis presents a collection of 100 new recipes for the most popular and beloved of Italian foods and the delicious extras that make pasta a meal. (Publisher's summary)

How to cheat at cleaning: time-slashing techniques to cut corners and restore your sanity by Jeff Bredenberg

Part how-to bible and part liberating manifesto, this volume rewrites the housekeeping rules. Delivered in a swingy, conversational, irreverent style, this book is peppered with quick-read recurring boxes, including amusing anecdotes, easy cleaning formulas, great cleaning gear, cleaning emergencies, and how to eliminate dirt through design. (Publisher's summary)

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