Showing posts from May, 2007

DVD review: Kee to the future

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe
~ Bruce Cockburn

It’s 2027 and Great Britain is the last refuge of a desperate mankind. Eighteen years ago humans became infertile for reasons that are unclear. This world without hope has fallen into chaos. The youngest members of society are revered for their special status and treated like rock stars. The recent murder of the youngest born has pushed society deeper into hopelessness and despair.

People are immigrating to Great Britain in droves, and upon arrival are detained in ghettos. In a world without leaders there are no rules and the immigrants are brutalized and executed at the whim of every jackboot guarding the camps.

Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is the Everyman whom we love to root for at the movies. What makes him so extraordinary is his ordinariness. He's clumsy and halting. He's terrified of every perilous situation in which he&#…

It's potty time!

No, that’s not a typo. It’s not party time but potty time at our house, although I will reserve the partying for after my son is potty trained. For toddlers about to enter preschool for the first time, a potty trained child is usually a requirement. The library has numerous instructional books and media to give you a helping hand during this difficult time.

Currently, my son Luke and I are enjoying Everyone Poops, originally published in Japan as part of a My Body Science series. The book is simplistically drawn and explains to young children that since everyone eats, everyone poops. And, trust me, you will see every possible example of this. The book contains drawings of a veritable Noah’s ark of animals and their own unique waste.

Perhaps your child would be more inclined to ditch those diapers if his heroes were potty training, too. Did you know that Caillou, Dora and several of the Muppets are also in training? Who knew?

Then there are the his & hers potty training books:

Once Upo…

9th Annual Alabama Bound a Success Thanks to Alabama Writers, Writing Groups and Funders!

The Birmingham Public Library’s 2007 Alabama Bound celebration of Alabama authors presented 19 authors with ties to Alabama and welcomed 1,439 visitors into the Central Library on April 14. Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama and One Mississippi, began the program by recalling his childhood in Alabama and how it influenced his most recent novel.

Following Childress, the Library presented two panels of local authors, all of whom have had books published in the last two years. The authors, who spoke and signed books after the conclusion of each panel discussion, included:

Hester Bass, So Many Houses (Children’s Easy Reader)
William Cobb, Hermit King (Short Stories)
Ruth Cook, Guests Behind the Barbed Wire (Non-Fiction – Alabama History, WW II)
Sylviane Diouf, Dreams of Africa in Alabama (Non-Fiction – Alabama History, Slavery)
Eric Flint, Grantville Gazette III (Science Fiction)
Charles Ghigna, Love Poems (Poetry)
Rubin Grant, Tales from Alabama Prep Football (Local Sports)
Tim Hollis, Bi…

Book review: Ask a Mexican!

Is there a question you're just burning to ask a Mexican? Come on, don't be shy. Well, how about you just ask Gustavo Arellano instead? He won't be offended. In fact, he just might end up offending you. And it's all in the name of cultural awareness and fun.

Arellano, a California native born to an illegal immigrant and a tomato canner, has seen the best and worst the Mexican and American cultures have to offer, and he's not afraid to tell it like it is.

The idea for Ask a Mexican! began with Arellano's editor at the OC Weekly newspaper, Will Swaim. Swaim asked him to explain the humor behind a Spanish-language billboard that showed a cross-eyed Mexican DJ wearing a Viking helmet. Swain noted that the Mexican looked like someone who would answer any questions about Mexicans without being offended. They decided to create a column that would field questions from the inquiring masses that Arellano would answer candidly and, at times, scorchingly.

Some sample Q&A&…

Lost in Mississippi

Alabama author Mark Childress has allowed us to experience all of the eccentricities, oddities and quirkiness that is characteristic of small town southern life.In his new book, One Mississippi, the reader experiences yet again those 1970’s memories of lime green and sky blue tuxedos, The Sonny & Cher Show, American Bandstand, Led Zeplin and drive-in movies.Some prom memories and experiences with adolescent cliques, we might prefer to forget.We view small town southern life through the eyes of two adolescent best friends, Daniel Musgrove and Tim Cousins.What a pair! From the dreaded adolescent cliques, to high school prom night, chores, zany high school teachers and odd family members; we relive our old high school memories.According to Daniel Musgrove, the story’s narrator, the family must transfer from Indiana to, of all places, Mississippi.The author uses characteristic dark humor to describe the journey experiences by Daniel and his family.The family watched as movers loaded …

The Magical History Tour Hits the Magic City

Seven years before Brown v. Board of Education, the case of Mendez v. Westminster created a precedent for desegregation in American schools. This landmark case was brought forth by a Hispanic family whose 3rd grade daughter, Sylvia Mendez, was banned from attending an all-white school in Westminster, California. Her family’s action and courage helped change the nation.

Sandra Robbie produced the Emmy-winning documentary based on the case and in conjunction with the Post Office’s Mendez stamp unveiling, she’s traveling the country in her Volkswagen van to commemorate the event. Dubbed “The Magical History Tour,” she and a group of others will visit the Five Points West Regional Library on May 31st from 1:30 p.m.- 2:30 p.m. They will unveil the stamp to the community and offer a screening of the documentary, “For All the Children/Para Todos Los Niños”, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Mendez v. Westminster case.

The Five Points West Branch of the Birmingham Public Library is the …

Dr. Leah Rawls Atkins to lecture at BPL

In celebration of Alabama Power Company's centennial anniversary, Dr. Leah Rawls Atkins authored the book Developed for the Service of Alabama: the centennial history of the Alabama Power Company, 1906-2006.

Join us this Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at noon in Central's auditorium where she will discuss her research and the history of Alabama Power Company.

This lecture is sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library and the Alabama Power Company. Funding is provided by the Alabama Power Company and is administered by The Center For the Arts and Humanities, College of Liberal Arts, Auburn University.

Millions of War Records Now Available

In remembrance of Memorial Day, has made available 90 million searchable war records free of charge from now until June 6, the anniversary of D-Day.

Ancestry’s expanded military collection contains all major wars and conflicts from American history, including the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.

According to the Associated Press,
" …spent $3 million to digitize the military records. It took nearly a year, including some 1,500 handwriting specialists racking up 270,000 hours to review the oldest records."After this free offer from Ancestry ends on June 6, you can still get access to these and other Ancestry database records at no cost by visiting our library. Birmingham Public Library provides access to the Ancestry database through it's public Internet computers in the Birmingham Public Library Southern History Department, the Five Points West Branch, the Springville Road Branch, the

Nonfiction pick of the week: The Dangerous Book for Boys

The bestselling book for every boy from eight to eighty, covering essential boyhood skills such as building tree houses, learning how to fish, finding true north, and even answering the age old question of what the big deal with girls is.

In this digital age there is still a place for knots, skimming stones and stories of incredible courage. This book recaptures Sunday afternoons, stimulates curiosity, and makes for great father-son activities. The brothers Conn and Hal have put together a wonderful collection of all things that make being young or young at heart fun—building go-carts and electromagnets, identifying insects and spiders, and flying the world's best paper airplanes.

The completely revised American Edition includes:

The Greatest Paper Airplane in the World
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
The Five Knots Every Boy Should Know
Building a Treehouse
Making a Bow and Arrow
Fishing Timers and Tripwires
Baseball's "Most Valuable Players"

BPL Wins First Place Award for MySpace

The Birmingham Public Library has received its second Be Innovative! Award from Innovative Interfaces, the company that markets the software used by the library to organize, order, process, and circulate all of its materials.

The winning entry “Social Networking at the Birmingham Public Library” demonstrated how the library uses to market library services and materials online.

Melinda Shelton, webmaster for the library, accepted the award for the Most Innovative Marketing of Millennium Products/Features at the 15th annual Innovative Users Group Conference in San Jose, California, on May 16, 2007.

Shelton designed and linked features from the Innovative Interfaces system to the library’s MySpace page to allow direct searching of the catalog, new materials lists, and other online content. MySpace members may also add the library’s catalog search box to their own MySpace pages.

The library won its first Be Innovative! award in 2004.

Innovative Interfaces is a leader in providing i…

Put Your Holds On Ice

Memorial Day weekend is upon us and kids are getting out of school for the summer. For millions of Americans, that means one thing: Vacation time!

What if the bestseller you are waiting for, say The River Knows by Amanda Quick, comes up on hold for you while you are on vacation? Missing your turn could be upsetting.

So, stay cool. Use the freeze hold function to save your place on the holds list while you are gone. If frozen, your hold will continue to move up the list for that title, but it will not be delivered until you unfreeze it. To freeze a hold, click on Your Record from the catalog page.Enter your name, library card number, and click Submit to log in.Click on the Requests (holds) link to view your holds.Chose the holds you would like to freeze by clicking in the box under freeze on the right (If there is not a box to check, you cannot freeze that hold for some reason such as your request is already on the hold shelf for you to pickup.)Click the "Update my list" button…

Get a Clue at BPL with Summer Reading 2007

Super sleuths and daring detectives are invited to join Get a Clue @ Your Library at the Birmingham Public Library. The 2007 Summer Reading Program is open to young people, preschool through young adult, with programs, prize drawings, story hours, a reading club, and more. Families are invited to join the Read-to-Me portion of the program. Registration for the Summer Reading Program begins on June 1. For more information visit us at The library welcomes children of all abilities.
All programs are free of charge.

La Biblioteca Pública Birmingham Lanza

Los súper detectives y los investigadores intrépidos están invitados a unirse a Busca una Pista en tu Biblioteca en la Biblioteca Pública Birmingham. El Programa de Lectura de verano 2007 está abierto a la gente joven, desde preescolares a jóvenes, con programas, premios, lecturas de historias, club de lectura y más. Las familias están invitadas a unirse a la sección “Léeme” del programa. La inscripción para el Programa de Lectura de Verano comienza en 1 de junio, 2007. Para más información, llame a la biblioteca por el teléfono 226-3600 o visite el sitio Web en La biblioteca le da la bienvenida a niños de todas las capacidades.
Todos los programas son gratuitos.

Audio book review: Late at night while you're sleepin' poison ivy comes a creepin' around

Four young Americans about to enter graduate school or begin new jobs back home are relaxing in Cancun, Mexico, soaking up too much sun and tequila. At their hotel they befriend a group of Greek men and a German. The German’s brother has gone missing after becoming smitten with a woman and following her to a Mayan archaeological dig in the jungle. The only clue to his whereabouts is a crudely drawn map to the ruins.

The Americans are up for a little adventure and decide to assist the German in his search. One of the Greeks tags along. It’s not long before they regret the trip and realize what a fatal mistake they’ve made, but by then it’s too late. There’s no turning back from what awaits them at the ruins. It is ancient, unrelenting, slow to reveal itself...and it won’t allow them to leave.

Language barrier is an underlying ominous theme in Scott Smith's The Ruins. The Americans have trouble communicating with the Greeks. They all have trouble communicating with the bus driver who …
The Future ain’t what it used to be.
Yogi Berra

I suppose it’s my negative nature, but I always imagined the philosopher/baseball player sighing when he made this pronouncement. In later life Yogi explained the apparent malapropism simply: “times change, life is short. Everything’s faster paced.”1 Evidently, he didn’t know the half of it. I recently started scanning the current predictions of a few futurists and found that hyper speed is a given; it’s the destination that’s in question.

The Singularity is near: when humans transcend biology by Ray Kurzweil may have been a bad starting place. At 652 pages this book is dense. And the science, or should I say the blending of scientific disciplines, is challenging. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for an explanation of why the ‘the future ain’t what it used to be’ Kurzweil has a theory for you. He posits in his “law of accelerating returns” that technological advancements have, and are, occurring at an exponential rate. In the year 2001, for …

DVD pick of the week: Little Children

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Todd Field teams with novelist Tom Perrotta to adapt Perrotta's acclaimed novel concerning the suburban malaise experienced by a handful of small-town individuals whose intersecting lives converge in a variety of surprising, and sometimes ominous, ways. Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly, and Patrick Wilson star in a cinematic adaptation that doesn't aim so much to simply reproduce the book for the screen as it does to re-imagine the written word by exploring new possibilities for the characters and situations originally presented in Perrotta's 2004 best-seller.

Sarah (Winslet) is a suburban outsider who, unlike the other playground moms, isn't afraid to approach the dreamy but long-absent father whom smitten housewives have taken to calling the "Prom King." Long days at the local community pool with their respective children soon find Sarah becoming acquainted with local husband and father Brad (Patrick Wilson) -- who seems to share in …

Fiction pick of the week: The Ministry of Special Cases

The long-awaited novel from Nathan Englander, author of For the Relief of Unbearable Urges. Englander’s wondrous and much-heralded collection of stories won the 2000 Pen/Malamud Award and was translated into more than a dozen languages.

From its unforgettable opening scene in the darkness of a forgotten cemetery in BuenosAires, The Ministry of Special Cases casts a powerful spell. In the heart of Argentina’s Dirty War, Kaddish Poznan struggles with a son who won’t accept him; strives for a wife who forever saves him; and spends his nights protecting the good name of a community that denies his existence--and denies a checkered history that only Kaddish holds dear. When the nightmare of the disappeared children brings the Poznan family to its knees, they are thrust into the unyielding corridors of the Ministry of Special Cases, the refuge of last resort.

Nathan Englander’s first novel is a timeless story of fathers and sons. In a world turned upside down, where the past and the future, t…

Nonfiction pick of the week: Reposition Yourself: Living Life Without Limits

In his latest book, Reposition Yourself, bestselling author T.D. Jakes shares insights that will help readers adjust to the many changes that life brings. This is a shrill wake-up call to take charge of your life now. Not only does it confront areas where subtle passivity or even poor choices may have stifled the reader's creativity, but it also instructs how to manage change and maximize life now. Using wisdom collected from his more than thirty years of counseling and working with everyday and high-profile people, Jakes covers financial, relational, and spiritual creativity and shows how adapting to transitional moments in your life is the path to an enriched existence filled with contentment at every stage.
Reposition Yourself offers reality-based plans for those seeking to make the years ahead even more productive. Jakes accepts the inevitability of change, teaching how to embrace and expect it rather than fear it. Mixing both sacred and secular insights, he shares a unique bl…

Children's Book Review: My Little Car (Mi Carrito) ~ Preschool-Gr 2

What an eye-pleasing book My Little Car(Mi Carrito) is. This is my son’s favorite book of the moment as it meets his current criteria: it’s colorful and it’s about a car.

Gary Soto’s My Little Car is the story of Teresa and the lowrider pedal car given to her as a birthday present by her Abuelito (grandfather). She lovingly takes care of her little car and enjoys driving around her neighborhood. She wins a trophy for her Bailelo skills (making her car dance) in a contest, outraces a dog and becomes the envy of the playground, all because of her special car.

But, alas, all things new must turn old, and Teresa eventually loses interest and becomes negligent. Her car is left out in the elements where it begins to rust, lose its flame stickers and become a target for the birds in the trees. It's even dented when Teresa’s father backs into it with his truck where it's carelessly parked in the driveway.

One day Teresa’s grandfather comes to visit and doesn’t even recognize the car. Ter…

Seasoned Performers at North Birmingham

The Seasoned Performers will present their newest one-act comedy play, Balancing Act on May 14 at 11 a.m. Please call North Birmingham at 226-4027 for additional information. Light refreshments will be served.

Umdabu Dance Company performs at Central

Thursday, May 17, 2007 at 6:30 p.m. the Umdabu Dance Company will perform under the trees in Central's atrium as a part of our BPL@Night series. We hope you will join us and watch this South African dance company present traditional South African culture through dance.

Book Pick of the Week: The Children of Hurin

The first complete book by J.R.R. Tolkien in three decades -- since the publication of The Silmarillion in 1977 -- The Children of Hurin reunites fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with Elves and Men, dragons and Dwarves, Eagles and Orcs. Presented for the first time as a complete, standalone story, this stirring narrative will appeal to casual fans and expert readers alike, returning them to the rich landscape and characters unique to Tolkien.

The Children of Hurin, begun in 1918, was one of three 'Great Tales' J.R.R. Tolkien worked on throughout his life, though he never realized his ambition to see it published. Though familiar to many fans from extracts and references within other Tolkien books, it has long been assumed that the story would forever remain an unfinished tale. Now reconstructed by Christopher Tolkien, painstakingly editing together the complete work from his father's many drafts, this book is the culmination of a tireless thirty-year endeavor by…

Genealogical Treasures Seminar June 9th

Dorothy Williams Potter, author of the award winning book, Passports of Southeastern Pioneers, will present a seminar titled "How to Locate Your Ancestors on the Southern Frontier."

Ms. Potter has presented lectures for the National Genealogical Conference of the States, she was editor of the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, a recipient of the Tennessee Historical Commission’s Certificate of Merit, and she has served as advisor, consultant and contributor to historical quarterlies and reviews.

Here are the details.

Saturday June 9, 2007
9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Registration 9 – 9:30 a.m.
Arrington Auditorium
Birmingham Public Library/Linn-Henley Building
2100 Park Place
Birmingham, AL 35203

Fee: $15.00 pre-registration, $20 on site registration
Please make checks payable to: Birmingham Public Library

To pre-register, send us your name, address, phone number and check and mail to:
Treasurers Workshop/Southern History Department
Birmingham Public Library/Linn-Henley Building

Book Review : The Woods

At the heart of this compelling thriller is the question of what really happened one night in the woods? Paul 'Cope' Copeland is still haunted by that tragic night in the woods when a murderer visited the summer camp and his sister disappeared.

Two decades later, Cope's intense prosecution of two affluent college frat boys is suddenly interrupted by events that casts doubt on the official story of what happened all those years ago. Has the truth remained buried? Are some still alive? Was this all the work of a serial murderer?

To find answers, Cope must muddle through layers of an increasingly dangerous and often perplexing investigation involving a serial killer, a guilt ridden hippy, fanatical private investigators, deceptive parents, and ex-KGB agents. Yet he is compelled by guilt to continue until the truth is revealed.

If you are looking for a suspenseful summertime read, this riveting novel by Harlan Coben, bestselling author of Gone for Good and The Innocent, should b…

DVD Pick of the Week: Volver

Three generations of women survive the east wind, fire, insanity, superstition and even death by means of goodness, lies and boundless vitality.

They are Raimunda (Pénelope Cruz), who is married to an unemployed labourer and has a teenage daughter (Yohana Cobo); Sole (Lola Dueñas), her sister, who makes a living as a hairdresser; and the mother of both (Carmen Maura), who died in a fire along with her husband. This character appears first to her sister (Chus Lampreave) and then to Sole, although the people with whom she has some unresolved matters are Raimunda and her neighbour in the village, Agustina (Blanca Portillo).

Volver is not a surrealistic comedy although it may seem so at times. The living and the dead coexist without any discord, causing situations that are either hilarious or filled with a deep, genuine emotion. It's a film about the culture of death in my native La Mancha. The people there practice it with an admirable naturalness. The way in which the dead continue to…

Disaster preparedness

To care for Birmingham’s Treasures,
Library Plans for the Worst

April 20, 2007, Birmingham—Birmingham Public Library staff will participate in disaster preparedness training on May 9, using the recently-vacated West End Library for a real-to-life rehearsal.

Fifty staff members from all departments of the central and four regional libraries will arrive to their makeshift offices that morning as if they had arrived at the scene of a disaster. From there, they will be trained on how to communicate with staff members and patrons, salvage collections, and identify potential hazards during or after a disaster.

BPL has hired a consultant from the Southeastern Library Network (SOLINET), an Atlanta-based organization that provides training—from disaster preparedness to grant writing—to encourage Southeastern libraries to be among the best in the country.

The Birmingham Public Library is proactive in preparing for disasters, making it part of only 20% of collecting institutions nationwide that have …

The Little House Books: 75 years and still going strong

It was 75 years ago in April when Laura Ingalls Wilder published the first book in her Little House series, Little House in the Big Woods. The books chronicle Wilder’s life on the prairies of Missouri and Minnesota as she grows from a young pioneer girl into a young lady. Wilder died in 1957 at the age of 90 at the Rocky Ridge Farm she shared with her husband, Almanzo. Fans young and old still eagerly read her cherished books and visit the places Wilder made famous in them.

Did you know...?

Wilder helped her husband work their farm for 30 years before penning her first Little House book at age 60

Her first draft was a memoir titled Pioneer Girl that was turned down by publishers but it was suggested that she rewrite it as children's fiction

Little House in the Big Woods was so popular with children, they deluged Wilder and her publisher with letters begging for more books about the Ingalls family

She refused to adapt her stories for film for fear that Hollywood would sensationalize her…

Ray Bradbury awarded Pulitzer Special Citation

Ray Doulgas Bradbury became a full-time writer in 1943, when he discovered he could make a living submitting short stories to magazines. His first book was a collection of short stories titled Dark Carnival (1947).

The launch of Sputnik in 1957 and the gathering interest in exploring the New Frontier really got the ball rolling for Bradbury's foray into the science fiction field. Even after 64 years of prolific writing that includes 500 short stories, numerous novels, poetry, plays and essays, he is still best remembered for his science fiction novels The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man and Fahrenheit 451.

The Martian Chronicles (1950) is a book of linked stories that chronicle the exploration, expedition, invasion, colonization and eventual desertion of Mars. The Illustrated Man (1951) is a collection of 18 stories that touch on social topics such as racism, religion and warfare, each introduced by a tattooed man whose changing illustrations foretell the future if one stick…

Audio Book Review: Counter culture

I’ve been a fan of Steve Martin’s since I was 13-years-old. What impressed me about him back in the ‘70s was his silly ode to King Tut and his impressive balloon animal skills. My small hardback copy of Cruel Shoes survived three moves and even more spring cleanings. Later decades and a string of successful movies and books by Martin would allow me to see the intelligence behind the humor that is his trademark.

I recently listened to the audio book of Martin’s novella Shopgirl (2000). I’m wary of listening to an audio book read by the author. Most times it seems ego driven and the author doesn’t always do justice to the story. I suppose since Martin is an actor as well as a writer it worked in this case. He’s able to read his own words with the exact tone of pathos, sarcasm, humor or sadness that they call for.

Shopgirl is about a trio of Los Angelites: Mirabelle Buttersfield, who works a counter at Neiman’s, is several years past college age but still lives a student’s poor life, inclu…