Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Summer TV Shows with a Book Tie-In

Wayward Pines, starring Matt Dillon, is adapted from a mystery/science fiction
trilogy by author 
Blake Crouch. 

I really enjoy movies that have a book or graphic novel tie-in, but then so do a lot of people. That’s why I decided to focus on television shows that have a book or graphic novel tie-in. TV shows are very accessible since many people have either local television channels, cable television, Netflix, or Hulu. This summer, while you are watching your favorite TV shows, visit Birmingham Public Library's website to access the catalog and reserve the book, e-book, or audiobook copy of the tie-in. I hope the rest of your summer will be filled with comedy, drama, fantasy, mystery, romance, non-fiction, and science fiction. Perhaps the following shows and their tie-ins will get you started.

Aquarius (NBC, 13-part series, and renewed for a second season) This series is loosely based on historical events in 1967 Los Angeles. David Duchovny stars as LAPD detective Sam Hodiak who is investigating the disappearance of a young woman named Emma. Emma, as it turns out, is staying with infamous Charles Manson and his family. If you want a nonfiction read about Charles Manson after watching this series, try the classic Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry available in book form or audiobook on CD.

The Last Ship (TNT, 13-part series, and renewed for a second season) Post-apocalyptic series in which a global pandemic has killed over 80% of the world’s population. The crew of the USS Nathan James is trying to find a cure. This series is based on a book with the same name by author William Brinkley.

Poldark (PBS Masterpiece Theater, Alabama Public Television) After fighting for the British in the American Revolution, Ross Poldark returns home to Cornwall to find his father dead, his fiancĂ©e married to his cousin, and his finances in ruin. If you’ve been following this series on Masterpiece Theater, you may want to check out the series of twelve books written by Winston Graham. This is the second BBC adaptation of Poldark; if you are interested in the books and both BBC series adaptations, filmed in 2015 and 1975, see what is available here.

Powers (PlayStation Network, 10-part series, and renewed for a second season) Based on the Powers graphic novels by Brian Michael Bendis, people with superhuman abilities are called “Powers” and live among normal humans. Once a well-known Power superstar, Detective Christian Walker’s powers have been taken from him and he now investigates crimes, committed by Powers, with his partner Deena Pilgrim.

Rizzoli & Isles (TNT, 13-part series, and renewed for a seventh season) For all of you who have watched the TV series, don’t forget that author Tess Gerritsen has written eleven Rizzoli & Isles novels. When you want more of the detective and medical examiner duo, please remember to check out these books.

TUT (Spike TV, three-part miniseries) This miniseries is a historical drama based on the life of Egyptian king Tutankhamun. I enjoyed this series but felt it was not as historically accurate as it could have been. This series can still be viewed on Spike TVs website. If you are interested in nonfiction, try these books about King Tutankhamun.

Wayward Pines (FOX, 10-part series) U.S. Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke, played by Matt Dillon, is stuck in small town Wayward Pines and can’t get out. There’s no communication with the outside world and trying to escape will get one executed. Wayward Pines is based on a trilogy of books: Pines, Wayward, and The Last Town by Blake Crouch.

Whispers (ABC, 13-part series) Childhood accidents that could appear random are investigated. The children involved in these “accidents” all claim to be communicating with an imaginary friend who gives rewards for playing games. Whisper is based on Ray Bradbury’s short story “Zero Hour” from The Illustrated Man. Also, reserve a copy of the book Chocky by John Wyndham if you are interested in the idea of childhood imaginary friends who can influence children for good or evil.

ZOO (CBS, 13-part series) I’ve been watching this series and it’s only on the fourth episode. So far, I’m really enjoying it and looking forward to upcoming episodes. Scientist Jackson Oz is concerned about the strange behavior being exhibited by animals around the world. He becomes part of an unofficial investigative team secretly funded by the French government. Zoo is based on a book with the same title written by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. It’s also available as a graphic novel, audiobook on CD, and downloadable e-book and audiobook.

I hope you enjoy reading the books that inspired these television series. Enjoy the rest of your summer.

Maya Jones
West End Branch Library

Bards & Brews 8/7 Open Mic at Central

Bards & Brews Open Mic • August 7th  •  6:30-9pm
Central Library
2100 Park Place
Birmingham, AL 35223

Beer donated by Blue Pants Brewing • MC Voice Porter • Music by DanI 6:30-7
18+ to attend  • 21+ to drink •  ID required  Light Refreshments

Sign-up to perform begins at 6:30

Monday, August 03, 2015

Children's Book Review: Mockingbird (Ages 10 and Up)

Kathryn Erskine

The world can be a confusing place for a kid that’s about to start middle school, especially when they have Asperger syndrome. Caitlin has trouble understanding people in social situations. Many of us take it for granted when we effortlessly glean meaning from sarcasm, body language, and facial expressions. Despite her high intelligence and artistic talent, Caitlin has to rely on her big brother, Devon, to translate the people around her. He’s patient, kind, and gives great advice. When he’s killed in a school shooting, Caitlin doesn’t know where to turn to make sense of why this would happen. Why would a kid shoot her brother for no reason at all? How can she navigate the world around her when her only friend and confidante is absent?

From Caitlin’s first-person perspective, readers are present for the aftermath of a tragedy and the search for closure from Caitlin’s unique point of view. With all the hubbub surrounding the release of Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, I couldn’t help but contribute a book review for a children’s title inspired (loosely) by To Kill a Mockingbird. Caitlin and Devon’s favorite movie is To Kill a Mockingbird, and I thought I detected a few plot points corresponding to the story of Atticus, Scout, and Boo Radley. This book is poignant, funny, and enlightening. It’s a great way for kids and adults to submerge themselves in the mind of someone who views the world in a different way. I would recommend it for young and old, though I think the tragic subject matter and Caitlin’s sophisticated vocabulary would make this title challenging for kids younger than fourth grade. It’s a great reminder that the quirky kid on the bus or the eccentric man next door might have a vast intelligence and simply have an unconventional way of interpreting the world around them.

Mollie McFarland
Springville Road Regional Branch Library

Inglenook Branch Library Ends Summer Reading with a BANG!

Inglenook Branch Library’s superhero-themed summer reading program Every Hero Has a Story started with a POW! and ended with a BANG! Over 500 children, teens, and adults attended the 33 programs that the library hosted and the attendance is sure to rise for ensuing summer reading programs. Diverse programs, from Wii games to paint splattering, were provided for every age and interest. Reading interest for children skyrocketed when the Inglenook Neighborhood Association donated a Nextbook 7" Tablet for 3rd through 8th graders to be entered into a drawing to win each time they read 10 books.

Karnecia Williams
Inglenook Branch Library

National Watermelon Day

Every year on August 3, National Watermelon Day is celebrated in the United States. Watermelon is a vine-like flowering plant with a special kind of fruit referred to by botanists as a pepo, a berry which has many seeds, a thick rind and fleshy center. For many people (myself included), the watermelon is a favorite summertime snack that just happens to be 92% water and filled with yummy history and fun facts.

Although the Kalahari Desert of South Africa is believed to be the origin of the watermelon, it is the Egyptians who are credited with the first harvest. According to hieroglyphics found on walls in many ancient Egyptian buildings, the first watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago. Hieroglyphics also show watermelons being placed in the burial tombs of royalty as means of nourishment in the afterlife—talk about food fit for a king. Thanks to the merchant ships along the Mediterranean Sea, watermelons quickly spread throughout other countries. By the 10th century, the fruit had found its way to China, which is now the world’s largest producer of watermelon. By the 13th century, watermelon had spread through the remainder of Europe and the rest is history. Today watermelon exists in over 1200 varieties in 96 countries worldwide. You can find red, pink, white, and yellow melons in various shapes and sizes.

How to choose a ripe melon:
  1. Look the watermelon over. You are looking for a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free from bruises, cuts, or dents.
  2. Lift it up. The watermelon should be heavy for its size; most of the weight is water.
  3. Turn it over. The underside of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.

Although National Watermelon Day is not recognized as a true national holiday, which literally requires an act of Congress, it is a fun day to celebrate by eating a slice and reading a book.

Some good watermelon reads:
Watermelon Day by Kathi Appelt
The Berenstain Bears and the Missing Watermelon Money by Stan Berenstain
The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli

Carla Perkins
Avondale Regional Branch Library

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Southern History Book of the Month: Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman
Harper Lee

Well, Harper Lee is back—though for millions of readers like me, she never left. Ever since my first reading of To Kill a Mockingbird I’ve daydreamed about what other work she might give us and could never quite resign myself to her status as a “one good novel” writer. When the news broke about Go Set a Watchman I cautiously filed it under the heading Too Good to Be True until the story was confirmed and a publication date was set.

Warning: I’ve tried to keep this post free of major spoilers, but if you want to read the novel without knowing anything in advance, then proceed at your own risk!

Jean Louise “Scout” Finch is on the train from New York, headed to Maycomb, Alabama, for her annual visit home. Not two pages into the novel, she manages to get herself folded into the wall inside the pull-down bed and has to be rescued by the porter—a scene that made me grin, but also kept resonating with me throughout the story as she returns to small-town society and tries to cope with its confinements and constraints. Some things remain the same, such as the continued pressure from her Aunt Alexandra to behave more like a “lady” and Scout’s iron-willed determination to do nothing of the sort: "Atticus raised his eyebrows in warning. He watched his daughter’s daemon rise and dominate her . . . When she looked thus, only God and Robert Browning knew what she was likely to say."

Other things, however, have shifted dramatically. This is the 1950s, the beginning of major social changes in the South, and even in rural Maycomb there are heated discussions about racial tensions, the NAACP, and the White Citizens’ Council. If Watchman was indeed an early treatment of Mockingbird, it’s easy to understand why a publisher would have been wary of it in the early 1960s and would have handled the manuscript like an unexploded bomb.

The point of view in Watchman is third person instead of first, so we are not so locked into Scout’s thoughts in this novel as in Mockingbird, but we are certainly near enough to feel her anguish as everything she had taken for granted seems to be changing—even her beloved father Atticus, who has always been the pole star for her conscience:
She did not stand alone, but what stood behind her, the most potent moral force in her life, was the love of her father. She never questioned it, never thought about it . . . she never realized what made her dig in her feet and stand firm whenever she did was her father; that whatever was decent and of good report in her character was put there by her father . . . 
But since this is a novel by Harper Lee, Watchman has its share of humor as well. One thing that will stay with me from this first read is the sort of anecdotal wit and one-liners that I might hear at some of my own family gatherings:
The Finch doorbell was a mystical instrument; it was possible to tell the state of mind of whoever pushed it.

Reverend Moorehead was a tall sad man with a stoop and a tendency to give his sermons startling titles (Would You Speak to Jesus If You Met Him on the Street? Reverend Moorehead doubted that you could even if you wanted to, because Jesus probably spoke Aramaic.)

Alexandra declared that Aaron Stein was the greediest boy she had ever seen, that he ate fourteen ears of corn at his Menopause. 
In this story as in Mockingbird, Harper Lee has that gift for narrative that keeps you turning page after page to see what will happen next, even if what is happening takes place inside her protagonist’s mind. I look forward to re-reading Watchman after the dust has settled a bit to see how it will strike me then. But these are only my impressions from a first reading. To form your own impressions, visit your library and go place a hold for Go Set a Watchman.

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department
Central Library

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Get Prizes for Something You're Already Doing!

After helping a patron locate a book she wanted, I asked if she’d like to sign up for Summer Reading for adults. “Oh, no! I’m too busy!” Other patrons have answered the same question with “Isn’t that just for children?” or “What books do I have to read?” I hope to clear up what Summer Reading is all about and why everybody should sign up at their local library!

Summer Reading encourages everyone to read. Babies can be signed up and have books read to them. Toddlers can read picture books. Older children can read chapter books. Teens and adults can choose anything they like to read (e-books and audiobooks count for everyone, too). Libraries want families to read, to be aware of all the materials and programs at their local libraries, and to become part of the library community.

That’s why librarians plan programs to entertain and inform patrons of all ages. For younger
readers there are goals to be met to qualify for prizes, and the more books they read, the more prizes they can win. For older readers, every book read increases their chances of winning a prize incentive. The books don’t have to be any specific title and they don’t even have to be library books—it can be anything you like. So, if you read at all, you should sign up for Summer Reading and put your name in the hat to win prizes for what you're already doing.

There are also programs, and most libraries offer door prizes for adult or teen attendees. The programs are all related to different themes so we don’t just offer the same things over and over. This year’s Adult Summer Reading theme is Escape the Ordinary and programs offered explore ways of escaping your routines. Teen Summer Reading’s theme is Unmask and, along with the children’s Every Hero Has a Story theme, the programs involve superheroes. You’ll have fun and learn something that you didn’t know before, meet new people, and find out what’s going on in your neighborhood. Best of all, these programs are FREE!

There’s lots going on all year round at your local library, so when you’re looking for something fun to do or you need to know the right answer to a question, or you’re bored or the kids need a change of scenery and you really don’t want to spend any money, check out your library. Every item checked out (including downloadables) strengthens your local library. Our collections are kind of like muscles—the more they’re used, the stronger they become—so please give them lots of exercise by taking some items home with you!

Although Summer Reading started in June and is well under way, some locations are still having programs through July. Take a look at Birmingham Public Library's list of activities on Birmingham365 to see what's scheduled through the summer and beyond. And children and teen participants in the summer reading program may continue reading and logging their books to win prizes through August 5. For the adult summer reading participants, keep reading as many books as you can because on August 7 and 14, grand prize winners will be drawn from all the summer reading entries. For more information on Summer Reading for all ages, visit our website and Birmingham Public Library's Adult Summer Reading's Facebook page.

Kelly Laney
Springville Road Regional Branch Library

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Some Library Services Never Close

As the weather has warmed up, I’ve noticed more and more patrons hanging out in the library’s parking lot after the building has closed for the day. They are on their phones and tablets, taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi service that each Birmingham Public Library branch offers. I’ve even seen people take out a lawn chair and get really comfortable while searching the Internet. It made me start to think about how Birmingham Public Library offers services to our patrons, even when we’re not open during business hours.

We have our catalog, which allows patrons to search for materials, put a hold request on them, and pick up that item at any location that they wish to. Have a paper that’s coming due tomorrow and you’re still looking for research? Enjoy access to one of our many databases available to you day or night as long as you have a library card. Got a new favorite song that you want to hear all the time? Download the song to your phone or device via Freegal. Your library card opens up a world of resources to you and most of these are available at any time that’s convenient to you.

Pamela Jessie
Woodlawn Branch Library

Friday, July 17, 2015

No Yard? No Problem! Container Gardening Is the Way to Go

Have you ever wanted beautiful plants in the summer but dislike the heat and outdoors? One solution is to begin your gardening journey by creating container gardens. They provide flowers, fresh vegetables, and herbs as well as providing an attractive landscape. Whether your space is tight, you don’t have time, or you’re new to gardening, container gardening is simple and will add an attractive feature to any environment.

Listed below are library resources and websites to assist you in planting your container garden.

Container Gardening: A Sunset Outdoor Design & Build Guide
Tips for Container Gardening: 300 Great Ideas for Growing Flowers, Vegetables & Herbs
Better Homes and Gardens Complete Guide to Container Gardening
Plant by Numbers: 50 Houseplant Combinations to Decorate Your Space
Continuous Container Gardens 

Better Homes and Gardens
Southern Living

Yolanda Hardy
Smithfield Branch Library

Pick Up Some Popcorn along with Your Entertainment at the Powderly Branch Library

What a great idea! Movie, book, and popcorn combo packs available for checkout
at the 
Powderly Library. 

There are a lot of good movies out this summer and the theaters are packed each and every night. But don't forget about the library when you're thinking about the evening's entertainment. The Birmingham Public Library is offering some of the hottest new DVD releases of the year. On the list are the extremely popular Fifty Shades of Grey to the humorous Hot Tub Time Machine 2. My personal favorites, though, are the action movies which include Kingsman: The Secret ServiceRun All Night, and The Equalizer.

If you’re out in the Powderly area and need a good movie/book combination and wouldn't mind a free pack of popcorn, please pay us a visit. Our combo packages are fantastic and will be well worth your time. Make it a movie night!

New and Upcoming DVD Releases
American Sniper
Black or White

Boy Next Door

Fifty Shades of Grey 
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Run All Night

Still Alice
Wedding Ringer
More new DVDs

Hugh Hardy
Powderly Branch Library

15th Annual Math and Science Day, July 25

The 15th Annual Math and Science Fun Day will be held Saturday, July 25, 2015, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., at the Five Points West Regional Branch Library. This year’s theme is Science Then! Science Now! which will trace how science concepts have changed over the centuries and how these changes affect our society and the world.

The program is free to all ages and allows youngsters to get involved in kid-friendly, scientifically based, hands-on activities. The event will feature knowledgeable and fun presenters. Parents are encouraged to remain with their children.

Families will explore household products with magical properties, examine the origin of motion pictures, view early telephones, trace how automobiles demanded the invention of the traffic light, and get the inside scoop on motorcycle engines. Participants will have the opportunity to weave a yarn craft and compare it with spun nylon products, design their own amazing Styrofoam millinery, examine why the Stetson hat was popular in the Wild West, and learn the value of the stethoscope in diagnosing pneumonia. Additional activities include constructing a dinosaur and mathematically planning a garden.

“Man’s first science was agriculture. Growing your food brought humans from being nomadic to being farmers” concludes Dr. Preston Scarber, an educator and respected Birmingham-area materials engineer. “Man’s second science was astronomy, which allowed study of the sun, moon and planets and their relationship to planting and weather.”

“We love to see our children learn and get involved. Nothing is more exciting than seeing the human mind enjoy learning,” according to retired educators and organizers of the event, Winfield and Elinor Burks. For more information, contact the Burks at 205-786-3731 (h) or 205-515-9462 (c) or winfieldburks13@gmail.com.

Meet Local Artist Matthew Mayes at the Opening Reception for Layers of Meaning Exhibit

The opening reception for Birmingham artist Matthews Mayes' exhibit, Layers of Meaning: Paintings by Matthew Mayes, will be held on Sunday, July 19, 2015, 2:30-5:00 p.m., in the Central Library's Boardroom adjacent to the Fourth Floor Gallery. The exhibit will be on display through September 4, 2015.

Born in Florence, Alabama, Matthew Mayes is self-taught with over 12 years of experience as a professional artist. He currently resides in Birmingham with his partner Brian and their son Noah. Mayes began painting as a child after watching the television program Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. Mayes experienced a number of stints with hospitalization and home schooling due to illness and needed an outlet for his creativity—art was his answer and it gave his life meaning

"Once, I believed that love, food, and music were the core passions that transcended all race, creed, and color. Now, I know that art encompasses all," he states. Regarding his creative process, Mayes observes, "I allow natural ability combined with a trained eye to create. Without both, my art could not exist."

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Back By Individual Demand

Now is a time when, not only is it hard to see many movies once, it’s hard to get through movie trailers. But there are rare movies that are worth seeing many times, movies that it’s hard, if not impossible, to exhaust. Here’s a few. The cast of dozens who follow this column will know, but if you’re new to this, each entry is followed by an estimate of how many times I’ve seen the movie. And roll…

Kwaidan (1965) - Not a movie, but four. Four short films on supernatural themes based on the Japanese folktales collected by Lafcadio Hearn. All are powerful and resonant, but the standout is Hoichi The Earless, in which a monk-musician is commanded by ghosts to sing of the deeds they committed when they were human. Hoichi’s fellow monks paint scriptures all over his body to protect him from ghostly harm, but fail to include his ears. The ghosts appear ritualistically and frequently, but they never lose their quality of otherness and strangeness. In A Cup Of Tea, a man drinks another person’s soul and lives to regret it. Masaki Koboyashi’s masterful direction of the tales ensures that their weird and disturbing nature is always realized in striking imagery which arises organically from the material. Here the supernatural is captured in ways that are never gratuitous and therefore highly effective. The supernatural has never been more beautiful than it is in Kwaidan. That is part of why it entraps its victims. 3 times.

Gandhi (1982) - Director Richard Attenborough spent most of his life trying to make a film about the founder of modern India. That he succeeded is almost miraculous. Almost no one wanted such a film, and he was assured by nearly everyone that it would be a money loser. It took him decades to raise the money. That it became a critical and commercial onslaught is one of the many ironies of Gandhi. Gandhi, the man who made MLK, and therefore modern Birmingham and America possible, thought of himself as a scoundrel. and that’s why he had such patience with British oppressors and unreliable fellow Indians. The film is part of a small handful of movies that limn spirituality in a credible manner, avoiding sentimentality, overreach and hagiography. When I saw it in its initial theatrical release, the audience—men, women, children—gasped and cried in near-unison. It was an extremely powerful and cathartic experience. Some militantly secular (or militantly cynical) critics have gone on record gainsaying Gandhi but it has outlasted them, quietly perching on British best movies lists. That Gandhi was played brilliantly by a half-British, half-Gujarati (Ben Kingsley) is something that I think Mohandas Gandhi, who appreciated irony, would have appreciated. Kingsley’s portrayal is, by turns, knowing, serene, cantankerous, and grounded; it’s always believable. One of the most indelible roles in film history, it really is one for the ages. It’s British epic filmmaking in the grand manner, but not lacking in intimacy. British epic film—now there’s an extinct category for you. About 10 times.

Mommie Dearest (1981) - From the sublime to the ridiculous. Well, sort of. Another biopic, but one that unwittingly became a camp cause celebre. Faye Dunaway’s portrayal of Joan Crawford is hilarious and shocking, but after quite a few viewings, its darker moments do add a counterpoint to her Himalayan over-the-top lead performance. I’m not trying to give much gravitas to this shock-horror extravaganza, but fair is fair. John Waters, who knows a thing or two about camp, admits in the commentary track that Dunaway’s really is an amazing performance. Except for the rosebush scene (“Tina—bring me the axe!”). Though Dunaway-as-Crawford has been parodied by legions, there are a couple of scenes in Mommie Dearest that are so dark that they’d make even a jaded drag queen blink. Dunaway isn’t everything, though. Diana Scarwid as Crawford’s adopted daughter is the very picture of cowed codependency. A signal performance. The gestalt of Hollywood as fake, empty, and glitz-dead is very effectively, even damningly, conveyed. Cringe-worthiness never had it so good, but there’s more going on here than that. At least some of the time. Hamlet’s flaws make it stronger, and, though Mommie Dearest sure enough ain’t no Hamlet, it does have enough contradictions, odd resonances, and a dark sensibility that it is…No, not great. Not something that won’t embarrass you. Just compelling. And interesting. And reckless and potent and fun. How many movies can you say that about? It’s just too bad it destroyed Faye Dunaway’s career. No, she isn’t on the commentary track. Around 6 times.

Richard Grooms
Fiction/Government Documents Departments
Central Library