Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Birmingham Public Library, a Family Place Library, Presents 1-2-3 Play with Me

Playing with your baby is not only important for bonding but it is also an educational experience for your child. We are providing a special time and place for you to come to the public library and spend one-on-one time playing with your child. 1-2-3 Play with Me, a five week program, is for children birth through age 3 and their parents/caregivers. We will have toys, books, and art activities just for you and your child. Also, we have invited special guests from the community to join us each week to answer your questions about parenting.

Remember: You are your child’s first teacher. 1-2-3 Play with Me is an opportunity for you and your child to play and learn together. Visit Birmingham365 for the 1-2-3 Play with Me schedule for these Birmingham Public Library locations: Avondale, Central, Five Points West, Pratt City, and Springville Road.

1-2-3 Play with Me Schedule
Avondale Regional Branch Library
September 9-October 7
Every Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.

Central Library
October 13-November 10
Every Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.

Five Points West Reginal Branch Library
September 8-October 6
Every Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.

Pratt City Branch Library
October 14-November 18
Every Wednesday (except November 11) at 10:00 a.m.

Springville Road Regional Branch Library
October 8-November 12
Every Thursday (except October 15) at 10:00 a.m.

The Birmingham Public Library: Family Place Library is funded in part by a Community Project Grant from the Junior League of Birmingham in the impact area of education.

Popular Bards & Brews Takes Place September 4 at Ruffner Mountain

WHO: Birmingham Public Library (BPL)

WHAT: Bards & Brews Program for September 4, 2015

WHEN: Friday, September 4, 2015

WHERE: Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve’s Back Porch

TIME: Music by Bob Marston starts at 6:30 p.m. and poetry performances begin at 7:00 p.m.

ABOUT OUR PROGRAM: Birmingham Public Library’s (BPL) popular Bards & Brews poetry performance/beer tasting series takes place this Friday at Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve’s Back Porch. Usually held the first Friday of each month, the September event features beer provided by Back Forty Beer Company out of Gadsden and will be an open mic event. The program is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Admission is free and open to the public; however, attendees must be at least 18 to enter and 21 to participate—ID is required.

The October Bards & Brews will be a slam and it is scheduled in conjunction with the library’s annual Eat Drink Read Write (EDRW) Festival on Friday, October 9, 2015. Taking place the second Friday in October, this very special edition of EDRW takes place at BPL’s Central Library located at 2100 Park Place, Birmingham 35203. For more information, call 205-226-3670, e-mail hm@bham.lib.al.us, visit the Bards & Brews Facebook page or go to http://www.bplonline.org/programs/BardsBrews.aspx.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Helping Children Establish Good School Habits

School is back in session and children are adjusting to the hustle and bustle of school. Waking up early, doing homework, participating in extracurricular activities in addition to maintaining household chores and other ritualistic tasks can leave children exhausted and unmotivated; however, if managed properly, children will not only be prepared to complete the ever growing list of tasks, but will also have the zeal to complete them. Time management and organizational skills are crucial in juggling multiple tasks and if taught, children can learn how to effectively apply them throughout their lives. Below is a list of books available throughout the library system that will teach parents, caregivers, teachers, and even children themselves how to manage time and multiple tasks both effectively and efficiently while maintaining happiness. Happy Reading!

The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting That Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, Rebecca Jackson, Robert Pressman

Raising Happiness:10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents  by Christine Carter

Smart But Scattered: The Revolutionary "Executive Skills" Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare

Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings by Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD

School Made Easier: A Kid's Guide to Study Strategies and Anxiety-Busting Tools by Wendy L. Moss, PhD

Get Organized Without Losing It by Janet S. Fox

A Kid's Guide to Managing Time: A Children's Book about Using Time Efficiently and Effectively by Joy Wilt

Organize & Create Discipline by Justin Klosky

Karnecia Williams
Inglenook Branch Library

Matthew Mayes’ Layers of Meaning Series Going Home August 29

Hurry to the Central Library’s Fourth Floor Gallery by September 4 to view—or purchase!—intricate acrylic paintings bold in color, texture, and depth.

It’s your last chance to experience The Layers of Meaning: Paintings by Matthew Mayes, a showcase of work by popular local artist Matthew Mayes. The art gallery has been a success for Mayes, with many clients bringing home his kaleidoscopic pieces for their living rooms and businesses.

Mayes considers his vibrant array of paintings to be a study of color perception, definition, and composition.

“The viewer’s reality is based on how my artwork makes them feel,” Mayes said about his work. “Art should awaken your senses and test your boundaries between perception and reality. Either way, you are never wrong with what YOU see in art and how art makes YOU feel.”

Awaken your senses to Mayes’ colorful world and see what his artwork says to you.


Matthew Mayes

Born in Florence, Alabama, Matthew Mayes is a self-taught artist with over 12 years’ experience as a professional. He currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama, with his partner Brian and their son Noah.

Matthew began painting as a child after watching The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. He had 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 savior.

Concerning the process of creating art, Matthew states, “I allow natural ability combined with a trained eye to create. Without both, my art could not exist."

Matthew’s exhibits have appeared at popular local events like the Birmingham Art Crawl as well as out-of-state, from Michigan to Arizona and beyond. You can find his work featured at all I.O Metro locations.

Bethany Mitchell
Arts, Literature and Sports Department
Central Library

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Uku-Lending at Birmingham Public Library

Thanks to a generous donation of five ukuleles and their cases from Fretted Instruments of Homewood, the Avondale Library Youth Department is now circulating (lending) ukuleles! The ukulele has been described as a “hip” inexpensive instrument that is very easy to learn to play. While there are libraries in Alabama that host a ukulele club, Avondale is one of the first, if not the first, Alabama library that lends the instrument to their patrons; we are pioneers. In addition to being fun, recent research shows that playing a musical instrument improves concentration, memory, and focus—a benefit for all ages. If you would like more information on how you too can become part of the “Uku-Lending” craze, visit the Avondale Library today.

Carla Perkins
Avondale Regional Branch Library

Laughing through the Summer (or End of Summer) Blues

Laughter is the best medicine.

The oldest documented joke dates back to 1900 BCE. A Sumarian proverb a bit lost in translation, it still bares much resemblance to today's low-brow humor. Babylonians even had Yo Momma  jokes. Clearly, the need to giggle and tease is nothing new. Wordplay, irony, and sarcasm are found even in the Bible.

Comedic plays were common even in ancient Greece and comic books as we know them date back to the 19th century.

If you want to learn about the history of humor. We've got you covered.
A history of American graphic humor by William Murrell
Stop me if you've heard this : a history and philosophy of jokes by Jim Holt.
American humor : a study of the national character by Constance Rourke

If you're just in the mood for a laugh,  we've got that too. From records and writings of Jeff Foxworthy, Richard Pryor, Tina Fey, and George Carlin to National Lampoon, Peanuts, and Foxtrot, we have items to help you laugh away the summer (or end of summer) haze.

DVDs of stand up comics
Books on CD

Funny Reads
Humorous Fiction
Joke books

Allie Graham
Central Library
Arts, Literature, Sports

Monday, August 24, 2015

Five Points West Library's Fall Family Programming to Focus on Parent-Child Interaction

Fun with Play-Doh at 1-2-3 Play with Me, Five Points West Library, 2014

September will be here soon and so will our programs for children and families. On Thursday mornings beginning September 3 at 10:00 a.m., we will have our children's storytime programs. This program is for parents, children, and preschoolers, as well as day cares.

Our 1-2-3 Play with Me program will run this fall every Tuesday, September 8-October 6. This program is for children from birth to three years old accompanied by parents. This program has toys, blocks, books, songs, and art activities for children, and special visitors will be on hand to answer questions you may have about raising your child.

Beginning Tuesday, September 27, we will begin our Prime Time Family Reading Time program for families at 6:00 p.m. This is a special six-week program for families with children ranging from age three to 10. A light dinner is served and then the fun begins with storytellers, discussions, and crafts. Families must preregister for this program at the Five Points West Library or call us at 226-4017.

Several other BPL locations also offer 1-2-3 Play With Me programs.

Visit Birmingham365 for a list of more Five Points West Library and BPL systermwide programs.

Lynn Carpenter
Five Points West Regional Branch Library

Time Travel and Genealogy: A Match Made in Time

Back to FutureThe ability to travel through time has always fascinated people. Countless books, movies, and TV shows delight us with the stories of time travelers and their adventures, and I have to admit that if a plot involves time travel that I am more than likely to give a book, movie, or TV show a try. Here is one favorite from each of those categories:
  • Books: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is a perennial classic time travel book that first introduced to the concept of a time machine, which is a vehicle that allows us to travel through time. 
  • TV: Doctor Who is a British sci-fi series that has been running since 1963 and features the Doctor and his companions as they travel through time. 
  • Movies: Back to the Future is a trilogy of movies that involves time travel to the Old West, 1950s, 1980s, and the year 2015 (the future). The year 2015 has arrived, and some of the future depicted in this movie is reality. However, I still do not own a hover board. 
However, these fictitious characters are not real people and will always make it seem somewhat imaginary. What it you could travel through time and meet your own ancestors? What was life like from your great grandmother or your great great great (insert as many greats as needed) grandfather who fought in the American Revolution? If you have asked that question, you should attend What Time is It?: Putting Your Ancestors in Historical Context, which is part of our Beyond the Basics of Genealogy workshop series. In this workshop, you will travel through time with your ancestors to find what their lives may have been like and discover untapped sources. Locate contemporaries of your ancestor to determine what people and events defined their time. Plot creative timelines that can open new research possibilities, solve mysteries, and bring your ancestors to life!

Beyond the Basics of Genealogy: What Time Is It? Putting Your Ancestors in Historical Context will be held on August 29, 10:00 a.m., at the Central Library/Arrington Auditorium. Workshops  are free of charge, but registration is requested. To register, contact the Southern History Department of the Birmingham Public Library at 205-226-3665 or e-mail us at askgenlocal@bham.lib.al.us. The workshop will be held in the Arrington Auditorium (4th floor) of the Linn-Henley building.

Laura Gentry
Southern History Department
Birmingham Public Library

Friday, August 21, 2015

Book Review: Mr. Mercedes

Mr. Mercedes
Stephen King

It’s 2009. The economy’s tanked. In a nameless Midwestern city, job-seeking hopefuls are lined up outside the annual City Center job fair when a madman plows into the crowd with a stolen Mercedes Benz. Eight are killed, and dozens maimed by the time the death-car’s taillights vanish in the early morning fog. When the police find the vehicle hours later, it’s abandoned in a parking lot, and wiped clean of prints. As a final, creepy touch, the killer also left the clown mask he was wearing during the massacre on the driver’s seat. No one is ever caught.

Exactly one year after the massacre, newly retired detective Bill Hodges receives a letter from Mr. Mercedes, taunting him for being unable to crack the case. Given a new sense of purpose, Hodges sets to work trying to catch him. Covering points of view for both the killer and the detective, Mr. Mercedes chronicles the cat and mouse game they play that could result in yet another attack of unthinkable horror.

What can I say? No one can craft a story like King can, nor can they capture the feel of an era and use it to such maximum effect. A modern-day tribute to the detective genre, Mr. Mercedes combines good old-fashioned noir with creepiness, out-right horror, and that off-the-wall prose that King’s fans know and love him for. And while I can’t quite hail the ending as particularly strong or original, it certainly is one heck of a ride getting there! Recommended for fans of David Fincher's serial killer film, Seven.

Liz Winn
Microforms/Gov Docs
Central Library 

Springville Road Library Computer Lab to Close for Renovations, August 24-September 7

Springville Road Regional Branch Library will remain open, but our computer lab will be closed on Monday, August 24, and will reopen on Tuesday, September 8. The good news is that we’re getting a new floor for the computer lab; the bad news is that in order to do so we must close the lab to install it. There will still be three computers in the Youth Department and two in the Adult Department. We also have a 15-minute Express computer to insure quick access if all you need to do is check your e-mail.

Kelly Laney
Springville Road Regional Branch Library

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Southern History Book of the Month: Forth to the Mighty Conflict: Alabama and World War II

Forth to the Mighty Conflict: Alabama and World War II
Allen Cronenberg

This month marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Forth to the Mighty Conflict is an in-depth look at the role of Alabamians in the war which, according to Cronenberg, began as an essay that grew into a book:
Initially, it was conceived as an extended essay to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Alabama’s role in World War II . . . As the project matured, however, it became clear that the subject of Alabama’s role in World War II deserved more than a brief essay.
More, indeed. As I read through the table of contents, I was amazed at how many topics the author was able to cover about Alabamians in the war and how the war affected this state. Sample chapters include a look at Alabama’s military training facilities, prisoner of war camps such as the one in Aliceville, how the war affected the state’s industrial output, and Alabamians in the European and the Pacific campaigns. Any one of these chapters could have been the subject of a full-length book, yet Mighty Conflict is less than 200 pages long. It could easily be read in a day or two, but it is also a book that invites browsing. I had to smile a little over the passage reporting that "the single greatest complaint from POWs was Alabama’s climate, the humidity of which was even more debilitating than the heat."

How well we know. But this was one of only a few humorous moments in the book for me: other incidents like the story of Bert Bank, Tuscaloosa native and survivor of the Bataan Death March, are hideous examples of man’s inhumanity to man:
To supplement their meager allowances of rice and pig weed soup, the desperate prisoners ate dogs, cats, lizards, frogs, and virtually any other animal that had the misfortune of falling into their grasp . . . Bert Bank was one of the lucky ones. Death liberated nearly 300 Alabama prisoners from their ordeals.
Or there’s the story of Henry “Red” Irwin of Adamsville, who was on a mission over Tokyo when things went horribly wrong:  ". . . a phosphorous bomb . . . accidentally detonated inside the plane. Sergeant Irwin picked up the burning explosive and, although seriously injured and nearly blinded by the blast, managed to toss the device from the plane."

Irwin was badly burned and required numerous operations and skin grafts, but survived—and received the Congressional Medal of Honor.

World War II had what Cronenberg described as a “globalizing and educating effect on Alabamians,” as hundreds of men and women traveled around the nation and the world; in many ways it was another chorus of a song from the previous World War: “How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree)?” The exposure to other cultures and the educational opportunities available through the GI Bill brought about sweeping changes to the state, yet there were other forces at work that would not reach their full expression until the 1960s: "Increased opportunities in higher education had the most dramatic impact on black Alabamians. By 1950 there had been a 90 percent increase in the number of African Americans in the state with at least one year of college education."

Any survey of war’s effects on a population is certain to include stories of horror and heroism, and Forth to the Mighty Conflict has its share of both, but I think what I will carry away from this book is the memory of how many Alabamians worked and served well and honorably in that conflict.
For more on this topic:

World War II ended in 'wild reign of joy' at Birmingham V-J Day street party

Birmingham Rewound: This Month in History, August 1945

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department
Central Library

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Big Range of CDs at the Library

I’ve selected a spectrum of music CDs from Central Library’s Arts, Literature and Sports Department. These are ones I’ve checked out and/or own myself. Some I own because I was so impressed by the checkout experience. The library has a wide selection and that’s helped to broaden my horizons. If you want to explore America’s music or be a xenophile, the library’s a very good place to start.

Bali / recorded in Bali by David Lewiston, 1989Nonesuch was the first U.S. label that made world music records for the average listener, not just the specialist. This one, recorded in the '80s by David Lewiston, who did more than anyone to make Indonesian music accessible, is a very good modern recording with excellent performances from a good range of the island’s traditional music. There’s no faster music in the world than Balinese music (if you want a contrast, there’s nothing slower than dream-paced Javanese music). Like much traditional Indonesian music, Balinese music features tuned gong ensembles, which sound like nothing else on earth. To Western ears, the sounds on this record are otherworldly, timeless, and mysterious. But they can also be quite vigorous.

Buffalo Skinners / Woody Guthrie, 1999
This CD is part of a box set Smithsonian/Folkways issued that sums up the definitive work Guthrie and the label did together in the 1940s. When I started on this review, I couldn’t remember what a buffalo skinner was, but I was struck by "Go Tell Aunt Rhody," a bedtime song my grandmother sang to me when I was a child. Of course, Woody can’t do it as well as her, but I shouldn’t have expected the moon. It’s a rich take nonetheless. Listening to Guthrie is to connect with a now-vanished America of dust-ruined farms, hobos, rail riders, and the 19th century folk tradition and before. He does deliver the moon in places here.

Chinese Traditional and Contemporary Music / Wu Man & Ensemble, 1996
No, this isn’t the music you hear in your local Chinese restaurant. Nothing bland, cheesy, or background here. Wu Man, who’s appeared in Birmingham before, is one of the masters of the pipa, a plucked Chinese lute. Another instrument played here by the Ensemble is the erhu, a fiddle that you may have heard in Chinese movies when the director wanted to suggest loneliness, loss, or regret. There’s also the zheng, a zither and ancestor to the Japanese koto. Also: various reeds, including one with a kazoo-like sound. A good intro to the thousands-years-old Chinese tradition.

Four Last Songs, Six Orchestral Songs / Richard Strauss, 1983I first heard one of the Four while watching the opening credits of the movie Wild At Heart. I knew I had to hear it again and own it, so struck was I by the sound. Later I heard David Bowie’s a big fan of these songs. They’re all here and sung by Jessye Norman, and you’re not going to get a better performance than the one by her. These opulent, late-Romantic pieces for voice and orchestra are evocative in the sense that you can never get to the bottom of them. Listen and know what it is to be fully engaged in this world with its longing, sorrow and wonder and at the same time utterly leave that world. Engagement and transcendence—a potent combination.

Eine Alpensinfonie / Richard Strauss, 1989
The first time I heard this piece I fell asleep and dreamed I was in the high mountains. It works well when you’re awake, too. Feeling like you’re there is part of the point, of course, in this Alp symphony. Like the last Strauss entry, this record will transport you to another world, a world your imagination and desire will be able to create. It’s fairly easy to write about this, but it’s very hard for a composer to initiate that process. Strauss could do that and the Cleveland Orchestra is more than up to the challenge.

Symphonien nos. 35-41 / Mozart, 1995
Mozart’s late symphonies are pinnacles of Western art and the last two, 40 and 41, stand tallest among them. Each of these works suggests whole worlds, with dance, tragedy, foreboding, joy, and transcendence at play. Fearless exploration was what Mozart was doing in these compositions and they point directly to the Romantic era. I’ve been listening to these symphonies since high school and I know I’ll never tire of them; always hear new things in them. Bohm and the Berliners' take on them is top-level music.

Goldberg Variations / Bach, 2000
Glenn Gould is the most famous interpreter of these solo piano pieces, but I think Rosalyn Tureck is equally good. I have a friend who was lucky to get to attend a seminar under Tureck and he agrees with the assessment of one critic that she was the High Priestess of Bach. I have no issue with that title. In her hands these lithe pieces shine with a haunting radiance. Bach was at his stately and universal best in the Goldberg Variations and, as Bach offered up everything he wrote to the Almighty, you can easily hear that this is music worthy of God. More to my needs, it’s music that never fails to make me feel like there is something worth living for.

Gagaku: Ancient Japanese Court and Dance Music / The Imperial Court, [1994?]
Gagaku is the oldest form of Japanese classical music and it has older roots in China. Like so many things the Japanese have adopted from China, it has become quintessentially Japanese. Originally it was formal imperial court music, but Japan no longer has anything like that kind of court. Instead of mostly suggesting the eternality of the court, it now mostly suggests to me the eternal itself, worlds beyond our world, not surprising when you learn that gagaku is associated with Buddhism. If you want to leave this world behind without actually dying, listening to gagaku is a good way of doing it.

Creation’s Journey: Native American Music / presented by the National Museum of the American Indian, 1999
This one’s here partly because it’s so hard to find good American Indian music on CD. Too much is New Age or some watered-down dreck and that’s a shame considering that the real stuff should be a valued part of every American’s heritage. The problem is one of access. This is the best intro I’ve ever heard. It has a good cross section of music, with many tribes and regions in evidence. Solid, fine performances abound and there’s not a weak track on it. It was a lot for the museum to take on, but they did it on one CD as well as anyone could’ve reasonably hoped for.

West Meets East: The Historic Shankar / Menuhin Sessions, 1999
Back in the sixties, before there was even the term "world music," Ravi Shankar, India’s premier sitar player, and Western classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin started recording these pieces. They bridged the two classical worlds and thus made a good way into India’s art heritage for those who might otherwise find it inaccessible. Unlike so many fusion attempts, it actually works because it doesn’t do any dumbing-down or homogenizing.

Rain Dogs / Tom Waits, 1985
According to Tom Waits, rain dogs are dogs that’ve been through a big rain and have lost their scent and are therefore left rootless and wandering. The subjects of these tunes are their human equivalent. This record was made after Waits jettisoned his fifties beatnik musical style and adopted Kurt Weill and Harry Partch as guiding lights. It made his music more original and interesting and quirky. There’s Tom himself on the cover, washed up onto the arms of some understanding woman.

Richard Grooms
Fiction/Government Documents Departments
Central Library