Tuesday, January 26, 2010

One last chance for holiday romance

Believe it or not, we start hearing about upcoming Christmas novels starting in October, and we try to order them as soon as possible, so that we have time to get them out on the shelves for the holidays. Every year, however, there are always a few holiday-themed novels that show up long after everyone's Christmas tree has dried up. So before we bundle these latecomers off to our Offsite Storage to sit with all the other seasonal tales until next December, we're offering you one brief shot at them:
The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber is another gentle romance from the hugely popular author of the Cedar Cove and Blossom Street series.
Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham involves a mysterious stranger with a head injury, who insists that he is a patriot soldier fighting against the King of England. Can love spring up between two people with centuries of difference between them?
The Christmas Cookie Club is by Ann Pearlman. A dozen short stories of love and relationships, shared by the members of the Christmas Cookie Club, and interspersed with recipes and interesting trivia about cookie staples (flour, sugar, ginger, vanilla, etc).
So even if you've finally packed away the last of the wrapping paper, taken down the Christmas lights, and mailed off the last of your thank-you notes, you can still hold onto a little of that magical holiday feeling.....

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The weather gage

We're a nautical sort of folk here in Ketchikan, and anything to do with ships and the sea is very popular here at the library. One sterling example of this would be the Patrick O'Brian series featuring Captain Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. Originally begun in 1970 (the writing, not the story itself), this series of 20 books generally has 2-3 people at one time clipping their way through it. The companion volumes - A Sea of Words and Harbors and High Seas - are also quite popular. Therefore, I predict great interest in our newest book Fighting Techniques of Naval Warfare, 1190 BC ~ Present: strategy, weapons, commanders, and ships by Iain Dickie et al.
Paintings of famous naval engagements, nice line drawings of ships and equipment, and diagrams of ship placement and maneuvers all lend a good deal of visual interest to this book. Starting with the Battle of the Sea Peoples in 1190 BC (Ramses III prevents the invasion of Egypt by marauders from the Grecian and Mediterranean islands) and ending with the Battle of Midway in 1942, this book covers the evolution of ships and armaments. From galleys powered by slaves and armed by javelin-heaving marines to aircraft carriers and nuclear subs armed with missiles, we seem to have come a long way.
Interestingly, though, some of the basic components of naval warfare remained the same for centuries: the health of the men depended on how long they had been out of port, the speed of the vessel depended on how heavily fouled her bottom was, the weather gage was a major factor before the advent of steam power, and it's a hairbreadth's difference between crossing the T and breaking the line....
A must-read for fans of nautical fiction, naval tactics or military history.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Well-loved movies

I've never worked in a video store, so I don't know what kind of statistics they ordinarily rack up, but here at the public library we have been tabulating which of our VHS films have seen the most use (we figure that the tapes themselves are now used enough to need replacing, and the titles popular enough to justify a permanent place in the collection). The results may surprise you:

1. Being There, starring Peter Sellers. 522 checkouts
2. Hearts of the West, starring Andy Griffith. 507 checkouts
3. A Boy and His Dog, starring Don Johnson. 456 checkouts
4. The Big Easy, starring Ellen Barkin. 452 checkouts
5. Strictly Ballroom, starring Tara Morice. 448 checkouts
6. The Treasure of Sierra Madre, starring Humphrey Bogart. 444 checkouts
7. Dr. Strangelove, starring Peter Sellers. 441 checkouts
8. Pathfinder, starring Mikkel Gaup. 435 checkouts
9. The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn. 433 checkouts
10. Broadcast News, starring William Hurt. 430 checkouts

Alas, some of these titles (Pathfinder, for instance) are not currently available in DVD format. But some of these extremely popular films are now available for you to check out on DVD, so if your VHS player ended up at the landfill years ago, you can still enjoy a good flick.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sita sings the blues

Every once in a while we get a movie that is completely fascinating, but defies categorization. Sita Sings the Blues is an animated retelling of the classic Hindu epic, the Ramayana, with a soundtrack of 1920's jazz tunes.
It is a (kinda) love story between Rama and his wife Sita, who gets kidnapped by the evil Ramana. Rama turns out to be a weak, suspicious and unsupportive husband, despite Sita's enduring love for him. If you are interested in the ancient culture of India or Hindu legends, then this is a great film for you.
The story is retold through different layers of animation: Indonesian shadow puppets, modern comic-style characters (Rama and Sita look like something from a Cartoon Network show), digital animation reminiscent of video games, and images in the style of Mughal paintings. The visuals are a beautiful mash-up of ancient and modern, and if you are interested in art and animation this is a great film for you.
The soundtrack has some wonderful Indian hip-hop music, which gives the movie a slight Bollywood flavor (as do Sita's dance sequences), and it is also liberally sprinkled with 1920's jazz tunes from Annette Hanshaw. If you are a true music lover with diverse tastes and a good ear for a beat, this is a great film for you.
Layered over the entire story is a modern autobiographical parallel, in which a husband leaves his wife behind in San Francisco to work in India for a year, extends his stay in India, and when she leaves America to join him, sends her back home and terminates their marriage. If you like sad relationship films, this is a great film for you.
It's January in Ketchikan and everything is wet, cold and rotting. The TV networks are showing the same old reality garbage, Hollywood is churning out the same special-effects blockbusters, and this is the dullest time of the year. If you want an eye-popping dose of energy, beauty and color, this is a great film for you...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Not exactly a boon to productivity

Are you looking for a way to goof off during the day, but your employer's Internet filters won't let you surf YouTube? Why not slack off in a more hands-on fashion? Check out Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction: build implements of spitball warfare by John Austin. Whether you're a budding engineer, an inverterate tinkerer, a 10-year old boy or someone who hates to throw anything out, this book will suck up hours of your time.
Start out easy, with a bow-and-arrow made from a bendable plastic ruler, a rubber band and the cartridge of a ball-point pen. Work your way up to a crossbow of #2 pencils and rubber bands, and finish up with a paper-clip trebuchet. Make darts from the ends of old shoelaces, use deflated balloons and toilet-paper tubes to make a coin shooter, or a water bomb using a simple piece of paper.
The fact that the book starts with a long list of safety precautions (ear protection for making the minibombs, and eyeware protection for everything) will clue you in that this is not a book you hand to your 9-year old and walk away. This is an excellent introduction to physics and engineering with adult supervision, and what a totally cool way to bond with a kid that can't seem to let go of the DS (if you don't know what a DS is, consider yourself lucky to have dodged that parental bullet).
This is also a great gift idea for Father's Day.