Saturday, July 31, 2010

And the winners are....

We held our Playaway drawing today, and the following people have won free lanyards for their Playaways.  Congratulations!

  • Patricia Booth
  • Cindy Craig
  • Barbara Guenther
  • Chad Martin
  • Janet Mason
  • Renee Meacham
  • Megan Mix
  • Judy Peihl
  • Brooke Ratzat
  • Robert St. Clair


For your viewing pleasure

I will start off with the disclaimer that I haven't seen this movie, and I haven't read the books.  But I would have to have been working with a bag over my head to have not noticed that Stieg Larsson's Milennium trilogy isn't the hottest thing since sliced bread.  For those of you who have eagerly devoured the final book - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - and are feeling bereft (the author died in 2004, before the publication of his wildly popular books) we have something to offer.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is now available on DVD, starring Michael Nyqvist as disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Noomi Rapace as the goth computer hacker Lisbeth Salander.  This Swedish production was Europe's highest grossing film of 2009, and the critics have raved about the performances.  If you have read the books, you know that the subject material is very dark and disturbing....this film does not pull any punches as far as unsettling content and images go, and it is rated R (read the label on the back for particulars).

Friday, July 30, 2010

Codeine Velvet Club

It actually took me 3-4 rounds with the new CD from Codeine Velvet Club before I took to it's overproduced sound.  It's not like I'm a big devotee of acoustic music, but there's a certain blurry feel to some of the tracks in this self-titled album.  Once I got used to it, though, I really fell in love with the fun retro sound which has a late '60s British feel to it (no surprise, since the band comes from Glasgow).  My favorite track - 'Little Sister' - has a rockin' grind to it, and an explosive sound that begs to be played in the car with the windows rolled down ('The Black Roses' has got a pounding beat also).  'Vanity Kills', which was the first single they released from the album, is a more laid-back, boozier sound.
All in all, this is an enjoyable album.  Too bad the duo of Jon Fratelli and Lou Hickey is breaking up already.  Grab this CD while you can.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Diplomacy? Fuhgeddaboudit!

How many times have you heard news about the stalled Mideast peace process, failed talks in Northern Ireland, or increasing tensions and thought to yourself "If we could only get these mealy-mouthed diplomats out of the way and sit down and talk like real people!".  Well, that's what Robert Egan thought, and in his new book Eating With the Enemy: how I waged peace with North Korea from my bbq shack in Hackensack, he explains how we went from being an ex-druggie high-school dropout to accompanying Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-PA) on a trip to North Korea to negotiate for the recovery of the captured Navy ship the U.S.S. Pueblo.
Egan's initial interest was in finding MIAs and POWs still in Vietnam, and during the early 1980's he began inviting the Vietnamese delegation to the U.N. over to eat at his restaurant, '"Cubby's".  He helped a Vietnamese official defect.  He testified before a Senate Select Committee about missing POWs.  The FBI began asking him questions.  And in 1993, when North Korea wanted to establish a back-door diplomatic channel to the White House, the phone rang at Cubby's.
This book reads a little like Tony Soprano meets Kim Jong Il, only without anyone getting whacked in an Italian restaurant.  On the one hand you can't help agreeing with Egan's idea that "why can't an ordinary guy have a solution to an extraordinary problem?".  But you also can't help feeling that he is in way over his head, and you won't be a bit surprised to find out that the U.S.S. Pueblo is still docked in the Taedong River.  This book is just crying out to be made into a movie, but as far as changing the way we deal with foreign countries?  Fuhgeddaboudit.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Leggo my LEGO

I never realized I was a LEGO geek (or an AFOL - Adult Fan Of LEGO) until I picked up Jonathan Bender's book LEGO: a love story.  I'm not hard-core about it.  I've never been to a LEGO convention or to LEGOLAND, and I don't have a separate room in my house where I build and store models.
But I never got rid of the sets I had as a kid, and I continued to keep buying small sets even before I had kids of my own (and therefore a socially acceptable excuse for buying plastic blocks).  And after reading through Bender's book and his interviews with AFOLs, I realize that I share some of their basic tenents:
  1. For a while, LEGO became much too focused on specialized sets whose blocks weren't useful for anything else.
  2. The true beauty of LEGO lies in making your own creations, not following a rigid set of construction diagrams.
  3. MEGA Blox suck.
So if you can remember spending hours of your childhood sitting on your bedroom floor with a multi-hued assortment of little plastic blocks spread out around you as you built houses, cars, planes, boats, cities and worlds.....then you will feel a fond glow as you read LEGO: a love story.  And chances are, you'll probably feel compelled to go out and pick up a new set of blocks.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More from Heather Lende

Haines author Heather Lende has just released a follow-up to her very successful book If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: news from small-town Alaska.  Just before the publication of that first book, just as she was about to launch her book tour, just as her daughter was about to graduate from college, she was hit by a truck and medevaced to Seattle.
Her second book - Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs: family, friendships and faith in small-town Alaska - deals with the aftermath of that tragedy.  She looks back at all the ways that her friends and neighbors helped her through that difficult period and what it means to live in a small community where tragedies and success are not anonymous; events affect real people with names your know and faces you recognize.
We can understand that in Ketchikan, even though we're about 5x bigger than Lende's hometown of Haines.  We see the donation cans in grocery stores and restaurants, helping out someone who's been diagnosed with cancer.  We hold spaghetti feeds to raise money for people who have been burned out of their home.  We donate money to kids whose father died in a boating accident. 
It's one of the things I think about when tourists ask "Do you live here all year long?"

Friday, July 16, 2010

A grown-up romance

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson, is a lovely, sweet story.  Widowed Major Pettigrew (retired) is still trying to absorb the news that his brother has just died when shopkeeper Mrs. Jasmina Ali - also widowed - comes by to pick up the newspaper money.  The unlikely pair strike up a friendship bolstered by a mutual love of literature and a mutual sympathy about dealing with relatives.  In the Major's case, it's a shallow son and a materialistic sister-in-law.  In Mrs. Ali's case, it is the conservative members of her late husband's family and their assumption that she will hand over control of the shop to her nephew and go back to Pakistan.
As we watch the Major struggle with his instinct to hide his new friendship from the judgmental residents of Edgecombe St. Mary, Simonson lightens up the serious thread of racism and class prejudice with a lot of dry humor.  The Major and Mrs. Ali are such sympathetic characters - even with their faults - that you can't help keeping your fingers crossed that they will be able to rise above the petty expectations of their families and neighbors.
In fact, many of the characters seem to be struggling against other people's expectations.  An illegitimate child, a woman on the brink of spinsterhood, a career woman who wants a family, and a young man caught between piety and love; all these people flesh out the story and make Major Pettigrew's Last Stand a very enjoyable romantic tale about starting over.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

True tales of the sea

Nautical nonfiction is always popular in Ketchikan, and we have three new books about exciting true adventures on the waves.
Seaworthy: a swordboat captain returns to the sea is by Linda Greenlaw, who featured prominently in Sebastian Junger's fabulous book The Perfect Storm.  Greenlaw has become a well-received author herself, with 2 novels, a cookbook and 3 nonfiction books about commercial fishing under her belt.  Her latest tells about her experiences returning to swordboat fishing, her run-in with the Canadian coast guard and her subsequent prosecution for illegal fishing off the Grand Banks.  Mostly, it's a tale familiar to all commercial fisherman:  barely breaking even at the end of the day.
Seized: a sea captain's adventures battling scoundrels and pirates while recovering stolen ships in the world's most troubled waters is by Max Hardberger.  If you like Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novels, you will really enjoy this account of real-life covert operations, bribery, smuggling, terrorists and hostile governments.  Each time Hardberger goes on a mission to recover a seized ship, he faces the potential of injury, imprisonment or death.  Beat that, Dirk
War Beneath the Waves: a true story of courage and leadership aboard a World War II submarine by Don Keith follows the struggles of the USS Billfish as it is subjected to a 15-hour Japanese depth charge attack off the coast of Borneo.  With both the captain and two senior officers incapacitated, diving officer Charlie Rush takes command of the sub and helps to extricate the sub and crew from a perilous situation.  Rush was eventually awarded the Navy Cross for his actions - read why.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

You think that's tough?

So, if someone were to say to you that they were going to take a bike trip around the world, you would probably be pretty impressed.  That's a big trip, with rough conditions and remote locations.  But what if they were going to do that trip without a GPS?   Or a cell phone?  Or a VISA card?  What if they were riding a 40-pound, 1890's-era Singer Safety bike?
In 1892, cycling pioneer and amateur photographer Frank Lenz began a 20,000 mile journey around the world that he would chronicle for Outing magazine.  Two years later, as he approached the 'home stretch' through Europe, he disappeared in Turkey.  Outing sent William Sachtleben and Thomas Allen on his trail.  In 344 days, they completed their historic trip around the globe, and helped bring to light Lenz's tragic fate.
David Herlihy recounts these amazing adventures and captures the excitement of the early years of cycling in his new book The Lost Cyclist: the epic tale of an American adventurer and his mysterious disappearance.  And we thought cycling the Al-Can highway was a huge trek.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A darn good story

I don't usually blog about Reference books, because you can't check them out and take them home, so why tempt you?   But I'm making an exception here, since the book in question is so interesting and useful it's a shame not to let everyone know about it.
Exploring Alaska & British Columbia by Stephen E. Hilson is actually a reprint of a 1997 follow-up to his first historical reference atlas: Exploring Puget Sound & British Columbia (which we've had in the Reference collection since it's publication in 1975).  These are NOT nautical atlases for navigation purposes, although Hilson did use actual 1970's-era NOAA and CHS charts as the 'backdrop' for his information.  Instead, these pages are full of little historical tidbits:  old gold mines, village sites, plane crashes, shipwrecks, canneries, etc.
Looking over this atlas is a little like sailing around Southeast with your old grandfather, as he points out things that used to be.  'On Oct. 26, 1947 a Pan Am DC-4 crashed on Tamgas Mt and all 18 people aboard died' .   Or, 'There's a natural soda spring just at the head of Ella Creek that gets exposed at half tide'.  Or 'Over there is where Scotty Johnstone had his fox farm. His boats all sank in the winter of '29, and he had to eat Christmas candy and fox food to survive until someone from Ketchikan came over to check on him'.
So if you're looking for a little historical information about the area, if you're in search of old mines or canneries, if you had a relative who had a fox farm but you're not sure where (apparently, our area was just awash in fox farms), or if you're just planning on taking the boat out to do a little exploring and you're looking for points of interest....then copy off a couple of pages and take them along on your trip.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Beautiful covers

I really like cover albums, because it's one way to judge the quality of a song.  Does it stand up to reinterpretation, new instruments, new tempo, a new generation?  Stardust is a timeless song; I'm a Barbie Girl, not so much.
Of course, this test relies on the cover version being an actual reinterpretation and not some tired rehash of the same arrangement that ends up sounding almost exactly like the original.  We have two new examples of really excellent cover albums:  Dark Hope by opera star Renee Fleming and Interpretations: the British rock songbook by blues artist Bettye LaVette.
Fleming avoids the mistake of turning rock songs into arias.  Her voice is rich and brilliant, but she doesn't overshadow the lyrics on songs from bands such as Muse, Death Cab for Cutie, Tears for Fears and Band of Horses.  Her cover of Leonard Cohen's ubiquitous song Hallelujah is beautiful (although I still prefer Jeff Buckley's version).  This is a very enjoyable album.
LaVette's album really demonstrates how much a song can be stretched, as she brings a bluesy feel to classic songs from The Beatles, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin.  This isn't that dramatic a concept, as the British Invasion got much of it's inspiration from American rock and blues of the 1950's.....but she still makes it sound fabulous.  The first track alone - a totally funky rendition of The Word by The Beatles - sells this album.  And unlike many CDs, I actually found the liner notes for this one quite interesting.