Showing posts from January, 2015

Book Review: Fire in the Sea: Bioluminescence & Henry Compton's Art of the Deep

Fire in the Sea: Bioluminescence & Henry Compton's Art of the Deep
David A. McKee

‘“What else can you tell me about him?” Unfortunately, not a whole lot.”’ This seems a pitiful way to begin a story, let alone tell the story of a man’s hidden passion, but Fire in the Sea: Bioluminescence & Henry Compton's Art of the Deep by David A. McKee succeeds by focusing on the passion and not the man.

Henry Compton began his professional life as a marine biologist, one of the first in the country, working for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department from the late 1960s to the early 1970s. He was posted aboard the research vessel Western Gulf stationed in Rockport, Texas, and tasked with collecting deep sea samples from the Gulf of Mexico. Compton literally dragged the ocean floor with a heavy net, searching for life forms never before seen. This was dangerous work. “Pulling nets at great depths required large cables and winches under a lot of strain and tension.” However, the West…

Book Review: Revival

Stephen King

In the 1960s, young Jamie Morton becomes friends with Rev. Charles Jacobs, the new Methodist minister in the little town of Harlowe, Maine. Rev. Jacobs is no ordinary reverend. He has a rather fascinating hobby—the study of electricity and its applications, which he carries out in his garage. In addition to tinkering with electronics and building a mechanical model town, one of his more impressive achievements is using low voltage electricity to heal Jamie’s brother, who lost his voice in an accident. But, alas, Rev. Jacobs can’t heal everything. Soon after he heals Jamie’s brother, he gets word that his wife and son have both been killed in a horrific car accident. In response, he angrily denounces God and religion to his mortified congregation, and consequently loses both his job and his place in the community. After he leaves town, Jamie Morton fears he will never see his friend again, but Fate, it seems, has other plans. Throughout the rest of Jamie’s life, the …

Bryce Speed’s Float the Earth: From the Artist’s Perspective

"Remember that there is always someone, somewhere, that is more passionate and working harder than you are right now. Strive to be that person."
These are the humbling words of Bryce Speed, feature artist in BPL’s first art exhibit of 2015. Twenty paintings of a variety of mixed mediums—from an acrylic/oil/fabric to a graphite/acrylic/ gouache /watercolor—make up Speed’s Float the Earth: The Paintings of Bryce Speed. Patrons can view the exhibit at the Central Library’s 4th Floor Gallery until it floats away on February 27.

For me, Night Deluge X (Tornado) was the most striking of Speed’s pieces in the exhibit, the one I couldn't seem to move away from. A 24x32 acrylic/gouache/pencil/gesso on paper, the oppressive dark swirls sent my thoughts immediately back to the tornadoes that devastated Alabama in 2011. But was this just my own interpretation? Bryce Speed kindly (and eloquently) divulged his take on art, his inspirations, and more.

Bethany: What inspired the making …

Black History Month at BPL

The Birmingham Public Library will present more than 60 events to help celebrate Black History Month in 2015. All events are free.

Theatrical productions, movie screenings, art projects, and more are scheduled, as well as black history trivia games, story times, and genealogy workshops. Some of the highlights include:

The Local Authors Expo and Book Fair, where more than 100 authors will present and sell their works on Saturday, February 7, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Author Marie A. Sutton will discuss her new book, The A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham: A Civil Rights Landmark. The hotel is an historic landmark that served as a major meeting location for leaders of the civil rights movement. The Birmingham City Council recently voted to approve $10 million to help redevelop the motel, which closed in the 1980s.

On Thursday, February 12, at the Smithfield Library at 10:00 a.m., Birmingham foot soldiers Gwendolyn Sanders-Gamble and Janice Kelsey will present a copy of a New York Fire D…

What I Learned from Nancy Drew, Part 2

Buzz Kill
Beth Fantaskey
Read by Erin Moon

I just listened to a new audiobook by an author who must have read as many Nancy Drew books as I have: Beth Fantaskey. In her new book, Buzz Kill, Millie Ostermeyer is a non-conformist, full of spunk and determination. A reporter for the high school paper, whose editor is obnoxiously superior, Millie is investigating a story when she discovers a body. Like a modern day Nancy Drew, she is on the case. But this is much more than a well done mystery whose Nancy Drew tie-ins really work. When Millie and Chase, an aloof new boy, team up to solve the mystery, they slowly begin to deal with difficult life problems of their own.

Millie’s mother had read her Nancy Drew books as she was dying from cancer and that makes Nancy special to Millie. When Millie asks herself, “WWNDD?” (What would Nancy Drew Do?), mud- covered Millie realizes Nancy would never be anything but perfect, which Millie would never be. Millie compares her life with her widowe…

Local Authors Expo and Book Fair Scheduled for Saturday, February 7, at Central Library

Discover a new writer or learn what it takes to write a good book at the Local Authors Expo and Book Fair, Saturday, February 7, from 9:00 3:00 p.m., at the Central Library. The event is free.

Authors will be selling books on a variety of topics: from mystery, romance, and Birmingham history to food, children's stories, and biographies. A 2015 calendar featuring notable Birmingham residents will be available.

There will also be two workshops on how to write books and get them published.

At 10:00 a.m., Birmingham attorney, author, and blogger Keith Lee of the Hamer Law Group will discuss everything from copyright and trademark to what pitfalls to avoid in publishing or self-publishing a book. He has written one book and is in the process of writing a second book. He writes a weekly column for Above the Law, the most popular legal blog in America.

At 1:00 p.m., Marie A. Sutton will discuss what it takes to write about history and how to make it interesting. Marie recently wr…

National Chocolate Cake Day

January 27 has to be one of the best days of the year. Why? you ask. Well it’s not because it’s pay-day or even my birthday; January 27 is Chocolate Cake Day! Chocolate Cake Day is a day meant for chocolate lovers all over the world. Your three main objectives for this day are to bake a chocolate cake, decorate a chocolate cake, and eat a chocolate cake. If you don’t have time to make a cake from scratch, a boxed cake mix will do. But if you find yourself not having time to make a chocolate cake from scratch or a boxed cake mix, don’t hesitate to run to your local bakery. It doesn't matter where you get your chocolate cake, just make sure you do!

Young Chocolate Cake lovers, after celebrating the day with a slice of cake and a glass of milk, have fun reading some of our favorite books about…CHOCOLATE CAKE!

The Cake by Dorothee De Monfreid
The Just Desserts Club by by Johanna Hurwitz
Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael Kaplan
Scaredy Mouseby Alan MacDonald
Cool Cakes &am…

Focus on Databases

As noted before on this blog, there are no laws, rules, or regulations stating that anything put on the Internet has to be correct, valid, current, or scholarly. ANYBODY can put ANYTHING on the Internet! This is why some teachers tell their classes that they cannot use the Internet for resources—it prevents them from going to Google or Wikipedia and coming up with questionable research. Now here’s the good news: The Internet, used wisely, can be an awesome source for research. The key is to know where to look.

That’s where library databases come into play. The database links from the Birmingham Public Library homepage connect you to sources that have been checked for accuracy, validity, and currency. Some of these databases are links to external websites, like CIA World Factbook or Medlineplus, but most of them are subscriptions your library pays for that would cost you money if you accessed them outside of the library portal. In other words, your library card gives you ac…

Southern History Department's Book of the Month: The Lady of Godey’s: Sarah Josepha Hale

The Lady of Godey’s: Sarah Josepha Hale
Ruth E. Finley

What do all of the following have in common?

Thanksgiving as a national holiday
Vassar College
Public playgrounds
The historical preservation of Mount Vernon
“Mary Had A Little Lamb”
Women’s magazines

The answer: Sarah Josepha Hale.

She is perhaps best known for her tenure as editor of the 19th century magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book—an accomplishment in itself—but she also championed the establishment of Thanksgiving as a national holiday, helped found Vassar College, lobbied for public playgrounds for children, assisted with the movement to preserve Mount Vernon as a historic residence, and wrote “Mary Had A Little Lamb” in addition to many other works. And even this list falls far short of summarizing the numerous claims to fame in her remarkable life.

Widowed in 1822, Hale turned first to writing in an attempt to earn her living, and after the success of her novel Northwood she was offered a position as editor of what would at fi…

Registration Open for February RLCC Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the February 2015 Regional Library Computer Center classes. All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) of the Central (downtown) LibraryPRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED FOR ALL CLASSES.

To register for a class: (Please note that registration does not necessarily guarantee you a spot in the class. Please call to confirm.)
Complete name, address and phone information. PLEASE PRINT.Place a check mark in the check box next to the class(es) you would like to attend.Return the entire form to a staff person in the Public Computer Services department.You may also send an email to or use the online form to register.

Book Review: Unruly Places

Unruly Places
Alastair Bonnett

The subtitle gives you an idea of the intriguing contents ahead: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies. Not only intriguing, but marvelous, pointed, surprising. I’ve read more in the nonfiction travel genre than in any other, so much so that I long ago found it hard to discover truly new areas of the globe. This book, which is more or less in the travel category, walloped me good. The most jaded geography-lover can find an abundance of very interesting material here. I don’t know how many of these 40-odd places Bonnett (an academic geographer) actually went to, but his library work has paid off in spades. If you think you know the world, this book is proof you don’t.

The section titles go further than the subtitle in organizing the stray threads, lone wolves and anomalies: “No Man’s Lands,” “Dead Cities,” “Enclosures and Breakaway Nations,” “Floating Islands,” and so on. It only took reading a few of these chapters, though, to re…

It’s the Year of the Sheep—Get Knitting!

This year is the Year of the Sheep, according to the Chinese Zodiac. So what better time to take up knitting or to upgrade your knitting skills? Practicing crafts such as knitting, crocheting, and quilting not only produces unique items that can’t be found in  stores; it also enhances mental, emotional, and physical health. And these claims aren't just anecdotal—scientific research shows that crafting can lead to a sound body and mind.

Knitting has been enjoying a resurgence in recent years. Carrie Barron, a psychiatrist with the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and herself a knitter, believes the popularity of knitting may be a response to the rise of technology, much like the arts and craft movement followed the industrial revolution. And she thinks that knitting may well be the antidote to many of the stresses brought on by modern life.

So here are some good reasons to pick up the needles:

1)Elevates mood and alleviates depression. In a 2013 survey of 3,500 knitters…

NFL Championship Weekend


Arts and Crafts for Senior Adults at the Library

Do you ever wonder how effective your senior adult arts and crafts programs are? Do you ever wonder if you are fulfilling the library’s mission or is this just another program that’s filling a gap for this age group?

Well, there is more to arts and crafts for seniors than just the arts and crafts that are being made. According to recent findings, exercising the brain is as important to keeping the brain alert and strong as physical exercise is important to keeping the body strong and able.

Here are ten benefits of arts and crafts programming for senior adults:

Provides a form of nonverbal communication and expressionHelps to reduce stress, fear, and anxietyEnriches relationships and encourages socializationEncourages playfulness and a sense of humorReduces boredomImproves emotional and physical healthNurtures a sense of self and renewed self-esteemRestores and motivates muscle memoryEvokes new opportunities for connecting with othersImproves cognition and focuses attention

Ideal art…

The Battle of New Orleans

The Battle of New Orleans, fought on January 8, 1815, was the last significant battle of the War of 1812. Other events during the war include the Battle of Horseshoe Bend; the burning of Washington, D.C.; and the Battle of Fort McHenry (the inspiration for "The Star Spangled Banner"). Besides the smashing of the British army in only one-half hour, the Battle of New Orleans is probably most notable because the commanders did not know that the war was already over.

The British and their Native American allies had been moving south toward the Gulf of Mexico. The expectation was that they would head for New Orleans to capture it. General Andrew Jackson, assisted by the pirate Jean Lafitte, moved to the city and waited for the British army, led by General Edward Pakenham. The British suffered more than 2,000 casualties; the Americans had 71.

Unknown to Jackson due to slow communications, a peace treaty between Britain and the United States had been signed on December 24, 1814,…

12th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture to Feature Author Randall Jimerson, January 22

On Thursday, January 22, the Birmingham Public Library will host the 12th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Arrington Auditorium of the Central Library. The speaker is author Randall Jimerson, whose white northern family moved to Birmingham in 1961 and fought for civil rights. The day of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963, Jimerson's father saved several pieces of twisted metal and melted glass from the blast. His family donated some of the pieces to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Jimerson details his time in Birmingham in the book Shattered Glass in Birmingham: My Family's Fight for Civil Rights, 1961-1964, which offers a ground-level view of prejudice, discrimination, violence, and courage. He will also sign and sell copies of his book. For more information on the book, please visit:

For more information on the Randall Jimerson program, contact…

In January 1965, Crimson Tide’s Namath Began Transformation into “Broadway Joe”

On January 2, 1965, Joe Namath, star quarterback of the Alabama Crimson Tide, signed a contract to play professional football with the AFL’s New York Jets. Certainly, numerous other college players from around the country were signing contracts with AFL and NFL teams as that new year began, but Namath’s was indeed unique. The terms of the deal were astonishing for the time—a three year, no-cut, no-trade agreement that was valued at $427,000, and which included a brand new Lincoln Continental convertible that was custom painted New York Jets green. The 400K figure was not only the largest in the history of professional football; it was, by far, the most money ever paid to an individual in a team sport. By comparison, the average salary that year in the AFL was somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000. Even Major League Baseball legend Mickey Mantle, the New York Yankee’s 3-time MVP award winner, made only $100,000 in 1964.

The reason for Namath’s big contract could only be partially …

Book Review: The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man

The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man
W. Bruce Cameron

This fiction title by Bruce Cameron—author of 8 Simples Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter (which was made into a series for ABC television), A Dog's Purpose, and other novels featuring dogs, either incidentally or centrally—is a fun and enjoyable read. Cameron does a new take on the plot of The Lovely Bones, with a murder victim providing part of the narrative from beyond the grave. But in this tale, the ghostly presence and observations of the murder victim can be heard by ex-con and former college football standout Ruddy McCann.

McCann, trying to rebuild his life after a tragic car accident sent him to prison, is an ordinary guy just trying to get along. By day (and night) he works as a repo man in the small town of Kalkaska, Michigan. But one day he hears a voice, seemingly recalled from a dream, that helps him in a tough spot. A couple of coincidences (or perhaps a touch of karma) allow him to attempt to right a wrong …