Friday, August 31, 2007

Food glorious food

[A slight personal note: on Wednesday I wrote my 100th post for this blog! The 3-tier cake with which I celebrated was lovely, and the cascade of balloons falling from the ceiling over my desk was a nice touch.]
Do you like food? No, no, I mean do you really like food? Because if you are the type of person that enjoys cooking and culinary tradition so much that you even get a vicarious thrill reading about food, then we have the book for you: American Food Writing: an anthology with classic recipes edited by Molly O'Neill. O'Neill was the former food columnist for the New York Times and she has combed American history and literature to come up with over 100 essays and excerpts devoted to eating. Selections range from a description of making buffalo sausage in Meriwether Lewis' journal to instructions by Rex Stout (author of the Nero Wolfe mysteries) on how to make planked porterhouse steak. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Ogden Nash, Gertrude Stein and Langston Hughes are all here in this book, as are dozens of other writers, chefs and politicians (Thomas Jefferson's personal recipe for ice cream is on page 5). When you think about it, it's not really surprising that so many people have recorded their thoughts and feelings about food. Eating is our first pleasure after we are born, holidays and celebrations always include a special food, and lack of appetite is always taken as a sign of illness or depression. The book is sprinkled with recipes, but it is the writing that takes center stage here. There is nothing as pleasurable as spending time with someone who shares your passions, and with O'Neill's book foodies can commune with an entire history of fellow enthusiasts.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The rough-and-tumble world of museum curation

We've all (hopefully) been to an art museum before and gazed at centuries of paintings, sculpture and handicrafts. But how did all those things get into that one building? How does a museum acquire art, decide where to put it, how to light it, how to clean it, how to protect it, how to promote it, and when to remove it to storage? Danny Danziger explains the ins and outs of running a museum in his new book. And it's not just any museum, either. Museum: behind the scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art details the inner workings of the grand dame of American art museums. [I was fortunate enough to go there on a college field trip - Art History 101 - and it is a truly wonderful place. The Egyptian room was my favorite]. The nicest thing about this book is that it shows you what a collective effort is required and the wide range of people who are attracted to caring for the art of human civilization. Danziger interviews a cleaner and a plumber as well as the Director. There is a curator devoted especially to armor, and another for costumes. There is a florist who spends 5 hours a day just doing the flower arrangements for the Grand Hall. The common thing amongst all the people who work at the museum is their deep devotion to their job and their realization about the importance of providing access to the history, beauty, and stories that comprise Art. This is a fascinating book.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Spook Country

William Gibson has been a highly regarded literary science fiction writer since the publication of his first book - Neuromancer - over 20 years ago. In his ninth book he continues to provide the reader a combination of wonderful prose and inventive plot. Spook Country is set in the present day, rather than some bleak future, but it still involves the dark side of postmodern life and Gibson still incorporates high-tech gadgetry (some real, some imagined) into his story. His well-developed characters include an investigative journalist, a young man from a Cuban/Chinese crime family, a creepy computer programmer and a mysterious man named Brown. Their individual stories gradually intertwine and meet, with unusual consequences. Gibson has received warm reviews for this book, and specifically for his talented writing and his uncanny perception of modern culture and the burgeoning sense of distrust and paranoia in post 9/11 America. Don't worry if you're not a fan of science fiction. This book is so much more than that.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Come on in, the water's fine

For the last 8 months now, we have been offering a really fabulous service to our patrons: free audiobooks online. The service - called ListenAlaska - is provided by the same company that services the public libraries of New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, so this is top-flight stuff. It has taken a grant from the Alaska State Library, funding from the Friends of the Ketchikan Public Library, and the collected purchasing power of 13 Alaskan libraries to make this consortium system affordable, but it is worth it! We have been able to double the number of titles available to the people of Ketchikan, and these titles are available to you 24-7, even if you are traveling out of state. How cool is that?
But getting used to the system may seem a little daunting, especially since you have to download some software (it's free). So if you would like someone to walk you through the process, show you how to find books, see some cool shortcuts, and learn how to transfer your audiobook to a CD or mp3 player, then come to one of our Downloadable Tutorials. Tonight at 5:30 I will demonstrate how to use the ListenAlaska service and answer any questions you might have (well, not any - I don't know the capital of Botswana). More sessions will be held on September 11th and 25th, so mark your calendar and come see what all the hoopla is about.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Button, button, who's got the button?

Humans must be part magpie, because there is something irresistibly attractive about buttons. Tiny, shiny, brightly colored; there's nothing better than running your fingers through a big bucket of buttons (remember the button tin your grandmother had?). But what do you do with all of them? Well, Stephanie Bourgeois gives you 50 different ideas in A Passion for Buttons! The projects are all basically jewelry: necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and hair clips. Some of these projects are easy enough that my 5-year-old can do them (with a little parental assistance at the finish), whereas others require more time and manual dexterity. But the nice thing about them (and about buttons in general, I guess), is that the possibilities are endless. A different set of colors or textures, and you have a whole different product. And if you start off with buttons that are already little works of art in themselves (as opposed to whatever fell off your cuff last week), then the pieces you make can be quite impressive. The instructions are simple, with nice diagrams that demonstrate how to thread your string/tiger tail/wire through the button holes, a detailed list of all the tools and supplies that you will need, and nice color photos to help inspire you. So whether you're trying to dress up an outfit, recycle some beloved buttons, or find a way to occupy your kids on some rainy day, the projects in this book should fit the bill.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

New audiobooks

Last Tuesday you may have caught the NPR profile of author John Burdett, who takes readers into the seamy (and steamy) streets of Bangkok with his Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep series. His newest title in the series - Bangkok Haunts - is here on CD. Sonchai must investigate the death of a woman he once loved.
Another book you have probably heard a lot about lately is A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini. It has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 13 weeks now, and is currently occupying the top spot. It's a poignant story about the friendship between two women in Kabul.
If you're a quilter, we have two different quilting-themed stories for you. One is by Jennifer Chiaverini. A Quilter's Homecoming is the tenth installment in her popular Elm Creek Quilts series, and this time she creates a cozy story set in 1924 and enchants readers with a love story between Elizabeth Bergstrom and Henry Nelson. For a slightly different tone, try Tumbling Blocks by Earlene Fowler. The protagonist of Fowler's mystery series in Benni Harper, an ex-cowgirl and quilter. She has moved to a small town in California following the death of her husband, and is the curator of the local quilting museum. Her boss asks her to investigate the death of a local socialite (we call these kind of job requirements "other duties as assigned").
We have 6 more hot new titles on audio as well - a little something for everyone!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

One big damn hard slog

I had heard good things about One Big Damn Puzzler, by John Harding. It had received good reviews, and I like British authors, so when I opened it up and began reading I was expecting good things. I was not expecting to have to slog my way through sentences like "You is say he is rest for get rid of we so you is can talk". I'm all for acknowledging cultural diversity and for incorporating local patois in a novel, but I just don't have the strength for 500 pages of pidgin English.
If you would like to read a book about a Westerner attempting to adjust to life on a South Pacific atoll island, I recommend The Sex Lives of Cannibals: adrift in the Equatorial Pacific, by Maarten J. Troost. It has the self-deprecating humor and low-key tone one associates with British writers (although Troost is actually Dutch, but it's all one big European Union now, right?). You learn a lot about daily life on an atoll and the way the local inhabitants have cherry-picked various pieces of Western culture to incorporate into their lives. Oh yeah, and it's wicked funny.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Ministering to the truly lost

If you read the Ketchikan Daily News last weekend, you may remember seeing an article about writer Kate Braestrup. Married to a Maine state trooper, she found herself suddenly a widow when he was killed in an automobile accident. She decided to manage her grief by pursuing her husband's dream: become a minister. She is now the chaplain of the Maine Warden Service, and she offers comfort to those whose friends and family are the subjects of search-and-rescue missions.
We had a lot of trouble cataloging Here If You Need Me. On the one hand, it's a chronicle of how she dealt with her grief at her husband's death. O.K. - bereavement is 155.9. But then this book is also a memoir of being a minister and a discussion of God and faith. O.K. - Christian life is 248.4. But it's also full of stories about her experiences working with search and rescue teams. Well, search and rescue is 363.34.

It doesn't really matter where on the shelf we finally placed this book - there is a gripping story in these pages for a wide variety of readers.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Justinian's Flea

William Rosen - a former publishing executive - has written a book that is supposedly a chronicle of how an outbreak of bubonic plague created the political body of Europe. Justinian's Flea: plague, empire and the birth of Europe is actually much more than that. The first third concerns the breakdown of the monolithic Roman Empire ruled by a single powerful Emperor into multiple divisions under the influence of 'co-Caesars'. The focus of power eventually shifts from Rome to Constantinople, and the second part of the book explains the rise to power of one of the greatest rulers of all time: Justinian - the son of peasant farmers. Rosen goes in to great detail about Justinian's political brilliance, his ability to choose the right supporters, and his flair for playing the various Goth/Hun/Vandal tribes off one another. It's a well-rounded portrait of a visionary and fascinating individual. The biographical information about his wife, Theodora, is pretty juicy too. Not until the last third of the book does Rosen get to his thesis: that the decimation of Constantinople's population by bubonic plague led to the final collapse of the Roman Empire and an end to Mediterranean coast being the center of civilization. Into this power vacuum came the European tribes (with a new found political skill learned from the Romans) and the people of Arabia inspired by a new religious leader: Muhammad. This is a wonderful book, packed with information and displaying an easy, flowing narrative style. We also have this title in audio format, read by Barrett Whitener. And if you're inspired to immerse yourself more in Justinian's empire, I suggest the John the Eunuch mystery series by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer (6 volumes so far, and a lot of fun).

Fat, Forty and Fired

Nigel Marsh ran an advertising firm in Australia and seemed to have a reasonably successful life. Until he realizes that he has become insulated from his 4 young children, undergoes surgery for an anal fistula, and loses his job in a corporate merger. Standard fare for another 'middle-age man regains his personal values by becoming a stay-at-home-dad' book. Except: Nigel Marsh is very, very funny. And I identified with some of his less than stellar parenting moments. His description of dropping his two young boys off at school had me laughing so hard I was crying (I have a lot of empathy for anyone dealing with a 6-year old's sense of time). In addition to his increased involvement with his family, his goals of personal transformation extend to his overweight body and his drinking. Impending poverty, physical pain and alcoholism aren't the usual ingredients for a funny book, but Marsh seems to go through life with a mixture of slapstick comedy and wry observations. His kids aren't obnoxious, his wife isn't a shrew, and there is no underlying current of "Aren't I wonderful for turning my back on my career and helping to wash the dishes?". In fact, I give Marsh high points for realizing - eventually - why his wife doesn't want to thank him each time he gets the girls dressed for school. As a non-swimmer (I can keep myself alive in the water, barely), I also enjoyed his descriptions of training for the 2-mile Bondi to Bronte Ocean Swim. Since he could only swim half a pool length to begin with, there was plenty of room for improvement. This isn't War and Peace, and it's not a guide for changing your own lifestyle, but it's a fun read.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Madam President?

As we begin another interminable election season, the talk has once again begun to heat up about the electability of a female candidate and the possibility - Gasp! - of having a woman be President. (Food for thought: Pakistan elected a female leader 20 years ago). So what better time to read a biography of the first female presidential candidate. Nope, sorry, not Hilary. Our new biography is about Belva Lockwood, who became the first woman to run a full presidential campaign in 1884. Perhaps, if women had been allowed to vote, she might have come in second. Belva Lockwood: the woman who would be President, by Jill Norgren, tells a very interesting story. Originally a farmer's wife from upstate New York, Lockwood was widowed at an early age. Being a firm believer in female equality and the potential of women, she went to college and became a teacher. She eventually went on to become one of the first female attorneys in the United States, and in 1879 she broke another important barrier: she was the first female attorney to argue a case before the Supreme Court (Kaiser v. Stickney). How fitting that the foreword to this book be written by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. So if you're looking for some background information or interesting factoids for your next informal debate about female presidents, or if you're interested in learning more about an important - but overlooked - figure in women's history, then try out Norgren's book.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Slogan Contest Winner

The Run Has Begun!

Build a library....shape a community.

Well, there you have it - our contest slogan winner!! Congratulations to Maida Marksheffel and an anonymous entrant for coming up with a great slogan for our New Library Building Campaign. It emphasizes the importance of a library in a community, it's positive and proactive, and the fish theme adds a nice Ketchikan touch.
The winner of the drawing for a $50 gift certificate to A&P is Bonnie Paddock. Congratulations to our winners!
We had 125 slogans entered into the contest from 40 people, including some of our temporary visitors. The decision was difficult, as there were many great entries. In fact, the selection committee liked everybody's ideas so much, we will be showcasing them individually on our website over the coming months. It's nice to see what positive feelings people have for their library.
Thanks again to everyone for entering.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Chinese-American history

The history of the United States is peppered with instances of the white establishment behaving horribly towards a local minority group: Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, Japanese, Irish, etc. The 'Us' and 'Them' mentality is not a uniquely American phenomenon, but it's important that it be acknowledged. Jean Pfaelzer's new book - Driven Out: the forgotten war against Chinese Americans - chronicles the various waves of anti-Chinese sentiment that swept through the West in the second half of the 19th century. In her narrative she includes personal stories from a variety of individuals: a Tacoma merchant, a San Francisco wife and a Truckee woodcutter. She also chronicles the actions of the white men who led the purges and anti-Chinese riots and those who refused to surrender up their Chinese employees or who represented them in the courts. It is in the latter section of the book where Pfaelzer turns her book from a depressing story of prejudice and injustice into a story of determination and courage. The Chinese begin to fight back by using the law. They sued for reparations, demanded property rights and petitioned for access to education. They also armed themselves and refused to wear identification cards. In short, they fought tooth and nail for their right to be Americans. Pfaelzer has written a very interesting book about a part of history that is very rarely taught in our schools.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

How to Make Friends and Oppress People

In these days of conflict and terror, it's hard to imagine a time when travelers were able to use their citizenship as a talisman, rather than a target. But 100 years ago, not only did governments seem to regard British tourists as sacrosanct, but (inexplicably) the local population did as well. The Briton abroad might well get overcharged, but he was rarely in physical danger - except from the regional flora, fauna, and microbes. Therefore, the Victorians wandered through the world with an amazing mixture of reckless adventure and personal entitlement. Vic Darkwood highlights this in his new book How to Make Friends and Oppress People: classic travel advice for the gentleman adventurer. In typical British fashion, Darkwood takes a satirical approach, writing his 'instructional guidebook' as if he were a 19th century author, putting forth egocentric and xenophobic views in a deadpan manner and interspersing his narrative with quotes from actual travel guides of the period. Reading this book cover-to-cover is a little like watching 4 straight hours of Monty Python skits: the tone gets a little old after a while. It's best to take a break between chapters, so that the humor stays fresh. The funniest parts of the book, of course, are the actual excerpts and the travel advice they propose. Carrying a full-size inflatable rubber bathtub into the African bush is encouraged, as is trucking along a brass bedstead through India, or cases of wine and champagne. Well, sure, why not? You're not the one who is actually doing the carrying. The Victorian travel experts present unfavorable opinions of foreign beds, transport, hygiene, drinks, clothing and food with a consistent undercurrent of 'British is Best'. "The inns in the towns of the interior are with few exceptions filthy in the extreme, and destitute of everything which an Englishman regards as comfort...all appliances of the table of suspicious cleanliness, and cookery only to be stomached by those whose confidence equals their appetite". This, from a guidebook to Sicily, which is not exactly the back of beyond. The period illustrations may have been taken out of context, but they add to the overall humor of the book. This is a good read for anyone who enjoys traveling, or who feels justified in staying safely at home.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Island of the Lost

We have a new book that is actually a bit of a two-fer: Island of the Lost: shipwrecked at the edge of the world, by Joan Druett. On the surface, it is an interesting account of a couple of 19th century shipwrecks on Auckland Island (285 miles south of New Zealand). These shipwreck books are incredibly popular here, of course, perhaps because so many of us island folk have been in situations at one time or another when foundering seemed possible, if not likely. On a deeper level, this book is about human nature and individual response to tragic circumstance (heady stuff, indeed). There have been many times when people have judged accidents and disasters and the behavior of the people involved (the Donner party is a classic example), but it's always hard to separate circumstances from personal choices. Druett, however, presents us with a perfect case - two ships wrecked on the same island at the same time (although on different ends of the island, and ignorant of each others' presence). One crew survives, thrives and escapes. The other resorts to infighting and cannibalism. What made the difference? Read and find out.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Art of Scottish-American Cooking

Ordinarily, I don't put the words 'art' and 'Scottish cooking' together in a sentence without a negative (I can say this because my Irish ancestors were so renowned for their culinary finesse). But after thumbing through the recipes that Kay Shaw Nelson presents in her book The Art of Scottish-American Cooking, I'll have to admit that they all sound pretty tasty. Perhaps the American influence smooths out the rough influences of mutton, porridge and haggis - which I've actually tasted. Whatever the reason, this book is full of simple, filling food. There aren't a lot of exotic ingredients, the dishes don't require 3 days of preparation, and there's a good chance your kids will eat them (I don't make any promises for kipper pate, though). The 'Stuffed Smoked Salmon Eggs' took me aback, until I realized that they were eggs stuffed with smoked salmon. I had visions of trying to cram filling into roe. The American aspect of this book is far-ranging, from New England cod to Kansas meatloaf and Hawaiian fruit salad, and it blends well with Scottish classics such as bannock, rumbledethumps, collops, and atholl brose. Yumm, I'm hungry already!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Basketball Vagabond

Not every professional basketball player gets to be Michael Jordan (just as not every librarian gets to be Nancy Pearl), but you rarely hear about these low-key players. What's it like to be a professional athlete without a multi-million dollar contract and without being hounded for endorsements? Paul Shirley tells you exactly what it's like in his new book Can I Keep My Jersey: 11 teams, 5 countries, and 4 years in my life as a basketball vagabond. Having previously chronicled his experiences in an NBA blog and an ESPN column, he brings an easy, conversational style to this book. He clocked minutes in NBA games, but he also played in scrappy leagues in Greece and Russia. He talks about days on the road, of financial ups and downs, even of trying to squeeze his lanky frame into an Aeroflot bathroom. Shirley covers it all here: practices, laundry, warm-ups, contract negotiations, and try-outs - the daily grind of basketball. He manages to do so with self-deprecating humor and honest analysis of his chosen path through life (and of course, he always has his mechanical engineering degree to fall back on). A fun read for anyone who's dreamed of making the big time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A voice like warm rum

Every musical legend has a particular album that is considered to be their masterpiece, and for Jamaican-born Harry Belafonte, that album is Belafonte at Carnegie Hall. Recorded at two performances in April of 1959, this album is Belafonte at his best. His most popular songs - "Day O", "Matilda", "John Henry" and "Mama Look a Boo Boo" - are all on this album, is his voice is strong and rich. I heard this album many times growing up (my father is very partial to Harry Belafonte), and it is one of my favorites. Its only shortcoming is that it does not include a rendition of "Jump in the Line", a hip-shaking song that you probably remember from the 1988 film Beetlejuice. (However, we do have that particular song on another album here at the library). With all this beautiful sunny weather, what better time to open all the windows and crank up Harry's calypso beat?

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Cat in Art

Well, since yesterday was devoted to rats, it seems only reasonable to devote today's post to cats. And the theme of 'rat=bad, cat=good' seems to be reinforced when comparing the two books. Whereas yesterday's book (Rat: how the world's most notorious rodent clawed its way to the top) focused on human abhorrence of rats, today's book - The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi - shows the loving and respectful way in which cats are usually viewed. From the Greeks and Egyptians to Picasso and Warhol, cats have frequently appeared in the background of paintings, tapestries and mosaics. Zuffi goes through the chronology of the cat in art, showing how human attitudes towards cats have shifted slightly over time. Revered by the Egyptians as a goddess, cats become a representative of the Devil to medieval Christians, a symbol of sensuality, and finally a token of warmth and familial affection. Zuffi restricts his gaze primarily to Western art, unfortunately, but there are certainly a multitude of images to pore over. So, whether you are an art lover or a cat lover (or both!), this is a wonderful book to explore.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Many tributes have been written about the centuries-long relationship between humans and dogs, and humans and cats. But there's another long-present member of the human household who doesn't get such positive press: the rat. Finally, it's getting the attention it deserves in Rat: how the world's most notorious rodent clawed its way to the top, by Jerry Langton. Carrier of plague, consumer of crops, omen of evil, the rat has also been a pet, a food source and a tool of scientific breakthrough. The history of rat-human interactions is long and truly fascinating, and Langton does an excellent job of keeping the narrative humming along. The book is packed with all sorts of little nuggets of information, and while it may not make you embrace the rat, it will definitely give you a respect for its powers of adaptation and tenacity. And if you're looking to do some more reading on unpopular, vermin-like animals, you could also try Pigeons : the fascinating saga of the world's most revered and reviled bird by Andrew D. Blechman.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Botanical eye candy

We have another luscious book full of gorgeous pictures of truly impossible gardens. Gardens in Perspective, by Jerry Harpur, looks at gardens as art and architecture. He presents dozens of professionally-designed gardens, and analyzes their use of form, texture and color. The pictures range from the thoughtful structure of Japanese gardens to free-form washes of color in English cottage gardens to sculpted lawns and magnificent vistas. Fountains, bridges, pergolas, walkways, fences, and statuary: the accents in these gardens were all carefully selected and artfully placed by the designers, most of whom date from recent years, although some of the gardens were designed in the 18th and 19th centuries. There is not a garden in this book that I would not love to wander through, even the minimalist designs (and I don't generally like minimalism). There is even an entire chapter devoted to the idea of gardens as forms of art, with examples from such well-known names as Dale Chihuly, James Gibbs, and Nek Chand. I personally was inspired by the Bloedel moss garden on Bainbridge Island. Moss gardening? Hey, my lawn's halfway there already.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Patriotic songs

This probably would have been more timely about 6 weeks ago, but at least I can plant a seed for the next Independence Day. We have just added a disc to our CD collection titled A Patriot's Songbook. The selections span about 150 years of American music, and range from hymns (Amazing Grace) to folk songs (This Land is Your Land) to popular music (God Bless the USA). The songs and performers represent a wide range of political ideologies, but the common theme throughout the disc is a celebration of America. One important inclusion on this disc is the Armed Forces Medley, which combines the anthems of all 5 branches of the armed forces: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. We have frequently gotten requests for recordings of these anthems for use at various ceremonies and remembrances. There are some toe-tapping, stirring renditions on the disc from Kate Smith, Riders in the Sky, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Basically, this is a nice well-rounded selection of patriot music from great musicians, and should be a useful reference for anyone. It's a shame the producers didn't include Yankee Doodle Dandy, but that's a small quibble.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The cutest darn things

I don't have a dog, I was never big on stuffed animals, and I don't collect miniature figurines. So when I say that the tiny wool dogs in Fleece Dogs: a little bit of magic created with raw wool and a special needle are the cutest darn things I have ever seen, then you know they really are cute. The instructions are easy to follow, and illustrated with full-color pictures, and there are patterns for 20 different dog breeds. My favorite has to be the West Highland White Terrier, although the Husky is very nice also. The tools are simple: a felting needle, a needle cushion, carders, wire and cord, and the technique seems relatively easy, although a little time-intensive. The word 'fleece', which makes me think of Patagonia and REI, is actually the term for raw (uncarded) wool. These dogs can also be made with combings from your own dog, which would make the color matching a little easier. These little dogs would be perfect gifts for dog owners, and if you are looking for something to make for the next crafts fair, these would certainly be unique. If you like to do detail work and have deft fingers, then this might be the craft for you!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Dinner with Dad

I found Cameron Stracher's new book, Dinner With Dad: how I found my way back to the family table, much more enjoyable and interesting than I thought I would. I don't generally like books about returning to the simple life because they're usually written by people with enough disposable income to allow them to take a year off work, or cut back their hours, or hire an au pair. Those aren't realistic alternatives for most Americans. But Stracher manages to recount his journey to an improved family life - eating dinner with his family 5 days a week, and cooking for 3 of them - without sounding whiny or patronizing. The experiment does not go smoothly, and he describes his problems with humor and insight. His two young kids don't want to eat his cooking, preferring buttered noodles and hot dogs. His wife is not happy about having him suddenly underfoot when he begins working from home. And he becomes increasingly guilty about giving less than 100% to his two careers: law professor and legal advisor. It is all these elements that make this book so interesting on a variety of levels. This is a book for people dealing with the picky palates of young children. This is a book for people dealing with relationship strain after retirement. This is a book about the difficulties men face in putting family before work. And this is a book about culinary experimentation. In short, you might find you have far more in common with a lawyer living in a well-off suburb of New York than you might think.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Mr. Sex Appeal

I enjoy old movies, and I have certainly heard of the legendary Rudolph Valentino, whose death at the early age of 31 caused mass hysteria. I will confess that, based on the few short clips I have seen of his movies, I always thought of him as a bit of a joke. But then I sat down and watched The Sheik, which is the movie that made him famous.
Well, I can understand why women in 1923 were swooning all over him. Smoldering, sultry, sexy, I just can't come up with enough adjectives to describe what a riveting performer he was. The sets and the costumes are lush (although not historically accurate) and the music was carefully selected to replicate what probably would have been heard at the original showings (remember, this is a silent film). If you love romance, then you will love this movie. As an added bonus, this disc also comes with Son of the Sheik, the 1926 sequel in which Valentino plays both father and son (hubba hubba!!).

We're Back! (kinda)

Well, our router is still broken (we're waiting for parts to arrive in the mail, apparently), but we have come up with a little work-around, so we now have Internet access at the library, and can post again..
Unfortunately, our webpage is still down. If you would like to access our catalog, the link on this blog is working fine. Thanks for being so patient!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Technical Difficulties

As you may have guessed, if you've tried to access our webpage during the last 4 days, we are having a small technical crisis at the library. The power outage from last week fried our router, and we have been without Internet access at the library since then (I'm posting this from home). We have received the replacement router, and we are hoping to have it installed today. So, keep your fingers crossed that our Internet - and our webpage - has returned by tomorrow. Thanks for bearing with this....