Showing posts from June, 2007

Local teens create computer art and compete for cool prizes

The computer lab at the Birmingham Public Library will be the vortex of creative energy this July. Local teens are attending free classes at the Library to learn to create computer art for submission to a contest sponsored by the city of Hitachi, Japan and the Hitachi Corporation. Hitachi is Birmingham’s sister city in Japan. The classes will be taught by an art student from UAB over the course of four Saturdays in July. We look forward to seeing what these teens will create.

Stephen King’s trunk novel sees the light of day after 34 years

Any Stephen King fans out there who yearn to read something new of his from the time before he was a household name? Well, put down your well-worn copies of Carrie and The Stand and reserve King’s new book Blaze , written in 1973 and just published under his Richard Bachman pseudonym. Blaze is a part of King’s “trunk novels” (novels written early in a writer’s career that are deemed unpublishable), the others being Rage (1977), The Long Walk (1979), Roadwork (1981) and The Running Man (1982). Bachman’s Thinner was published in 1984 and The Regulators in 1996, on the same day that King’s Desperation arrived in bookstores. But as early as 1985 the cat was out of the bag when a clerk at a bookstore noted the similarities in writing styles and pulled a Hardy Boys sleuthing at the Library of Congress. Bachman died in 1985 from “cancer of the pseudonym.” And for all you cynics out there who think that King would publish his grocery list if he could make a profit, please note that

Book review: A Thousand Splendid Suns

" Learn this now and learn it well, my daughter: Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam.” There is a reason that Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns is garnering so much praise, and that is because it is a remarkable story. The book spans 30 years of Afghan history, beginning in the 1970’s with the Soviet invasion, through the successful Mujahideen resistance and the Afghan civil war, and ending with the rise and fall of the Taliban. The story is about two women who are worlds apart in terms of social status, education and self-worth. Mariam is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy businessman who lives in isolation in a countryside shack with her bitter mother; Laila is the beautiful golden-haired daughter of a teacher who expects to marry her childhood sweetheart and continue her education. The chapters are titled with their names as their stories evolve and their lives fatefully intersec

Birmingham Public Library Selected to Represent Nation’s Libraries in Washington

The Birmingham Public Library was selected—as one of twenty libraries nationwide—to demonstrate its community services to members of Congress on June 26 in Washington, D.C. Along with the New York Public Library, the Georgia Public Library System, and other libraries and advocacy groups, BPL will play an essential role in Library Day on the Hill , a day of campaigning to U.S. Congressional Representatives on Capitol Hill. As part of the American Library Association’s (ALA) 2007 annual conference in Washington this month, Library Day on the Hill will bring librarians and library supporters together to encourage members of Congress to provide for public, academic, school , and research libraries nationwide. BPL was chosen to represent public libraries by demonstrating its outstanding public service offerings: access to collections through technologies like downloadable audio books and educational software, programs that encourage young people to sign up for library cards, and free comp

Instant Messaging available for genealogy questions

Genealogists now have a new way to communicate with librarians at the Birmingham Public Library. With the library’s new Instant Messenger reference service , you may chat online with librarians for help with short, factual questions concerning family history or advice on what to do next in your genealogical research. The IM ready reference service is a cross between a telephone call and an e-mail. Similar to a phone call, your IM conversation will be in real-time and you will know someone is at the other end of the line. Resembling an e-mail, it will allow you to put your thoughts in writing, which comes in handy for keeping a record of your work or for displaying the proper spelling of personal and place names. Instant messaging is available Monday through Friday between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. Additional information is on the web at (originally posted 5/1/07)

Shatterer of Worlds

In the last three years at least a dozen new biographies of Albert Einstein have crossed my desk. This is only natural considering that 2005 was the century anniversary of his ‘miracle year’ when he published the three critical papers that would make up the theory of relativity. In the same time frame I’ve seen only half a dozen biographies of J. Robert Oppenheimer , father of the atomic bomb. I suppose less attention is natural. Einstein was the avuncular eccentric who discovered relativity, escaped the Nazis and warned President Roosevelt of the impending birth of nuclear weapons. (In fact, it was Einstein’s prescient letters to President Roosevelt that led to the creation of America’s nuclear program.) On the other hand, J. Robert Oppenheimer was the genius tasked with countering this threat to the free world, and transforming a theory into fact. He succeeded spectacularly overseeing the construction of the world’s first atom bomb in just two years. This success e

Movie review: Ofelia in Wonderland

A long time ago, in the underground realm, where there are no lies or pain, there lived a Princess who dreamed of the human world. She dreamed of blue skies, soft breeze, and sunshine. One day, eluding her keepers, the Princess escaped. Once outside, the brightness blinded her and erased every trace of the past from her memory. She forgot who she was and where she came from. Her body suffered cold, sickness, and pain. Eventually, she died. However, her father, the King, always knew that the Princess' soul would return, perhaps in another body, in another place, at another time. And he would wait for her, until he drew his last breath, until the world stopped turning... Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) arrive at their new home in the Spanish countryside. It is 1944 and Ofelia’s new stepfather is an army captain in Franco’s fascist regime. Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez) and his small army of men have set up camp to drive the remaining Resistance fighte

Stealing Your Life

For the last thirty years, Frank Abagnale has been a law-abiding citizen. Yet his unlawful past, recounted in his memoir that was later made into the film named " Catch Me If You Can ," gives him an insiders understanding of how crooks operate. This knowledge has led to a career as a consultant for the FBI and many large financial institutions in preventing frauds and scams. He is amazed at how easy identity theft is for the potential criminal. Abagnale refers to it as "a crook's dream come true." In Abagnale's latest book, " Stealing Your Life ," he gives readers an inside look at the various types of identity theft and how to reduce the likelihood of it. Considering the increasing number of identity theft victims in the U.S., protecting yourself using techniques like those described in Stealing Your Life are practically essential. Stealing Your Life is available for check out in book , audio CD , and Overdrive download formats.

Downtown library closed this weekend

The Central branch of the Birmingham Public Library will close for City Stages at 5 p.m. this Friday, June 15 and reopen Monday morning at 9 a.m. All other BPL branches will be open during their normally scheduled hours.

Children's book review: A very "peasing" book

This review will be short and sweet, just like the wonderful book Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal . The premise of Little Pea flips the old “children won’t eat their peas” parental complaint on its head. Here you have a family of peas whose littlest pea is bemoaning the fact that he’s required to eat five pieces of candy before he can eat his dessert: spinach. Little pea stalls as long as he can: "Five pieces?" he whined. "Five pieces," they chimed. He proceeds to express his distaste with “yuck,” “blech” and even the old Bronx cheer. But he’s a trooper and manages to force down the candy and everyone is relieved to know that they lived “hap-pea-ly ever after." A charming book that turns a childhood enemy into an ally in the food wars. Take a sneak peak inside Little Pea , courtesy of AmazonOnlineReader

Book Review: Alabama Moon

Moon Blake is the ten-year old narrator of a touching yet spirited tale of wilderness survival. Believe me, this kid’s a real survivor! Can you imagine living on your own at ten years old? Well, that’s exactly what Moon does. Early in the tale, we learn that Moon Blake and his father live together in the Alabama woods to avoid the government. Moon discovers that his father has been affected by past negative experiences with the government and has avoided society as a result. He teaches Moon to be completely independent, live off the land and be free. Moon and his father live in isolation. Then, life changes drastically for Moon. He must learn to cope with the death of his father which results from an injury. We also discover that his mother died when he was very young. Of course, coping with the loneliness is very difficult for Moon. He takes a small box of valuables left to him by his father and begins his bold journey to the wilds of Alaska . His father h

Andy Offutt Irwin coming to BPL

Andy Offutt Irwin , nationally acclaimed singer-songwriter, comedian, thespian and storyteller is coming to BPL June 11-June 14. Check our calendar of events for more information. Some people have inner-kids. Andy Offutt Irwin has an outer-kid. With a manic Silly Putty voice, astonishing mouth noises, and hilarious stories, he is equal parts mischievous school boy and the Marx Brothers, peppered with a touch of the Southern balladeer. Andy is one vibrantly odd bird, with feathers that tease, tickle and tug at the heart – And a whopper of a personality, which barely fits in most rooms. People are drawn to him like magnets to a refrigerator. And inside, it's all Mountain Dew and Jolt Cola.

Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham

Since we at the Birmingham Public Library and the Jefferson County Library Cooperative are fortunate enough to receive funding for programs and events throughout the year from The Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham , the BPL and JCLC staff attended the Cultural Allliance's press conference this morning to show our support. The press conference highlighted the economic impact of nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences in Jefferson County, Alabama. To read more about the economic impact, read the article published today by The Birmingham News . To see photos of the event, click here .

Baseball loses a fan

1922-2007 Mark Harris , author of Bang the Drum Slowly , died on May 30 from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. Born Mark Harris Finkelstein, Harris admitted that he was always at the center of his novels, whether he was disguised as a baseball player, poet or professor. Bang the Drum Slowly is Harris’ most famous novel, but many may not know that this is just one novel in a tetralogy that follows Henry Wiggins through his adventures as a big league baseball player. The series begins with The Southpaw (1953) and follows with Bang the Drum Slowly (1956), A Ticket for Seamstitch (1957) and It Looked Like For Ever (1979). Sports Illustrated included Bang the Drum Slowly in its top 100 sports books of all time. Bang the Drum Slowly was made into a movie in 1973. Starring Michael Moriarty as Henry Wiggins and Robert De Niro as Bruce Pearson, it was nominated for an Academy Award and won De Niro a New York Film Critics Circle Award for best supporting actor. Harris wrote

Ditch Google??

Yes, you have read it. I am seriously considering ditching Google and going for a more sophisticated search engine. Not to say that I am going to totally stop using Google but I have found another search engine that has impressed my socks off. This time last week I would have never given a thought to abandoning my old friend Google but times are ‘ achanging and even with technology we have to be subject to some change. What has prompted me to make such drastic measures? Or a better question would be what search engine has enticed me with their offerings that they bring. The answer is: Since last week has changed dramatically. It is better known as Ask3D this week. Don’t try to use that as your URL. The URL has remain the same. 3D does not mean that you need red and blue glasses to view it. The 3D stands for the three dimensions of searching—query expression, investigating results, and digging deeply into content. Before you had to visit three dif

DVD review: Helen Mirren rules

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" ~ Henry IV, Part II I’ve always admired the British stiff upper lip, until I watched The Queen and realized how the the upper lip thing could be taken to extremes. The Queen takes place in the week following Diana’s death in 1997. Queen Elizabeth (Helen Mirren) and her family are vacationing at Balmoral Castle when her secretary tells her that Diana has been in an accident. The queen, Philip (James Cromwell), the Queen Mum and Charles gather around the TV, some of them incensed that Diana is at it again. She was supposed to be in London, Phillip rages. The queen waves him aside with “Well, you know how she is.” When they learn of her death their thoughts immediately turn to the boys and how to best comfort and protect them. After all, Diana was stripped of HRH title and is no longer an official member of the Royal Family. The Spencers are in charge of her funeral. What’s it to do with them? And so begins a long week of missteps, mis