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Posts Tagged ‘public library’

Mini Movie Reviews #2

August 9, 2012 10 comments

Chris Rock standing in front of a row of women at a hair salon.Good Hair
USA
2009
PG13
Documentary
Public Library
5 out of 5 stars

This is one documentary you need to believe the hype about.  Chris Rock decided to make it after his daughter (not even five years old yet) asked him why she doesn’t have good hair.  This documentary then looks at the world and culture of African-American hair.  It covers everything from perms to weaves to hair shows.  Chris Rock interviews famous and not famous people alike with a certain charm and intelligence that gets them to really open up.  I think the scene that best demonstrates the feel of the whole movie is when Chris Rock is interviewing a white male scientist about sodium hydroxide, which is the perm that African-Americans use to straighten their hair.  The scientist has just shown Chris how quickly sodium hydroxide eats through raw chicken, and Chris says, “You know black people put that on their hair.”  Horrified, the scientist says, “Really?! Why would they do that?!” Chris says, “To look like white people.” Epic. Silence. The documentary is smart, because it doesn’t run around blaming white people for this whole culture among African-Americans against natural hair.  It kind of blames everybody, and it does it in a witty, intelligent manner.

A werewolf face and a woman who looks dead.The Wolf Man
USA
1941
PG
Horror
Netflix
4 out of 5 stars

Another from the 100 Horror Movies To See Before You Die list I’ve been working my way through.  A wayward son of a British aristocrat comes home to hopefully reestablish himself in the little town.  He starts to pursue an engaged gal, but while doing so, gets bit by a wolf.  Naturally, he turns into a werewolf.  I think what’s the creepiest about this film is how the main character goes about pursuing the engaged girl.  He starts off by watching her through a window and then hitting on her in her father’s shop in possibly the creepiest manner ever.  She resists….at first.  But then doesn’t.  The whole film sort of feels like a judgment on both him for being a creeper and the engaged girl for being seduced by the bad boy instead of sticking with her nice, stable man.  Kind of a nice change of pace from more modern films, eh?  The special effects aren’t as good as some others from this same time period that I’ve watched, but they’re still fairly decent.  It’s a fun change of pace if you enjoy shapeshifters.  Also the “British accents” are pretty much nonexistent.

Pale, white-haired man sitting in a throne-like chair.The House Of Usher
USA
1960
Not Rated
Horror
Netflix
5 out of 5 stars

When this movie started, I thought it was going to be cheesy.  But I was very wrong.  It turns out that this is an adaptation of a Poe story, and it is completely frightening, even with outdated special effects.  Essentially, this guy wants to marry this girl, but her brother insists that the Ushers need to let the family die out.  He also claims the house itself is evil.  I won’t tell you what happens from there, but suffice to say the tension builds perfectly until you are on the edge of your seat for the climax.  Vincent Price plays the brother and let me tell you, he is a legend for a reason.  When I finished this one, I was actually nervous to go to bed. Which never happens to me.

PS There is a 2007 remake. Ignore it. Ignore it so hard.

Maccauley Culkin and Seth Green.Party Monster
USA
2003
R
Biography
Netflix
3 out of 5 stars

This is based on the true story of a murder during the 1980s ecstatic clubbing days (see what I did there?), which was written about in Disco Bloodbath by James St James.  (Btw, the memoir is almost impossible to find and hella expensive).  Anyway as for the movie. It’s very campy.  The absolute best part is seeing Macauley Culkin and Seth Green play two fabulous druggy gay men.  It’s campy but not over-the-top.  I mean, these clubbers really did act like this. They weren’t exaggerating.  But the plot is oddly told, jumping around perspectives and time and can be hard to keep up with.  Also the ultimate murder is told by a rat (a man in a giant rat suit).  So yeah.  It’s odd but fun.  Recommended to fans of Seth Green.

Dracula in sepia.Dracula
USA
1931
Unrated
Horror
Netflix
5 out of 5 stars

This movie really doesn’t need much explanation.  It’s a classic (chosen for preservation) for good reason.  I have read Dracula, and I was flabbergasted at how good the adaptation was.  Modern film adaptations could learn a thing or two from this production.  Bela Lugosi as Dracula is still deliciously creepy, instilling chills.  Two cool things to know.  One, originally there was an epilogue in which the audience is told vampires are indeed real that has been forever lost so the ending does feel a bit abrupt (because it’s not actually the ending).  Also, the entire movie was shot simultaneously on the same sets in Spanish (with Latin* actors).

Cookbook Review: Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World by Gil Mars

June 12, 2012 1 comment

Fruits and vegetables with olive oil.Summary:
Just as the title implies, this is a collection of recipes from Jewish communities around the world that are suitable for vegetarians.

Review:
Vegans beware. When this says it’s a vegetarian cookbook, it really means it!  Almost every recipe is drenched in animal products, primarily dairy and eggs.

The Introduction explains the various food cultures that have sprung up in Jewish communities around the world, complete with maps and such.  This part was fascinating, although I felt that it was a bit too Old Wold focused.  I know for instance that there are strong Jewish cultures in Argentina and Brooklyn, but they are not included in the book.

After the Introduction is an explanation of vegetarian foods incorporated into Jewish holidays.  I found this part rather averagely done and skimmed over it.

The recipes are oddly divided up.  The chapters are: cheese and dairy spreads; pickles, marinated vegetables, and relishes; salads; soups; savory pastries; cooked vegetable dishes; vegetable stews; legumes; grains; dumplings and pasta; eggs; sauces and seasonings.  As you can tell, some of the recipes are put together based on the type of dish (salad, soup) and others based on the ingredients (eggs, legumes).  This makes the book appear disorganized.  Also the complete lack of dessert is sad.

Beyond the maps in the Introduction, there are no pictures.  Additionally, the recipes are mostly designed to serve 6 to 8.  I’m not sure what planet the author is from, but that is not a typical family sized meal in America.  I must admit, that I didn’t try any of the recipes because I couldn’t find a single one I wanted to try.  They are all completely swimming in cholesterol and insane food portion sizes.  Looking at the soups, which should presumably be a healthier option, the Persian Onion Soup on page 123 contains 3 eggs and the Hungarian Cream of Mushroom Soup on page 125 contains TWO CUPS of sour cream.  Similarly, almost all of the breads and pastries are fried.  My cholesterol practically spiked just looking at the cookbook.

Essentially, then, this book is a good introduction to Old World style Jewish food but ignores the healthier options that I know from experience exist in Jewish communities in the Americas.  It is difficult to enjoy the cookbook since there are no pictures or colors.  Additionally, all of the recipes are designed for 6 to 8 servings, which is a bit large for the typical American household.  Overall, then, I would recommend this book to those with a vested interest in Jewish culture and cuisine who can see past the dull layout and design of the cookbook.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

Buy It

National Library Week 2010!

Today is the start of National Library Week here in the US–a week to honor and recognize libraries for all of the awesomeness that they entail.  I thought I’d honor the week with a post about the important role libraries have played in my life.  I hope you all will chime in and do the same!

My parents didn’t have much money when I was little, and on top of that, my mother homeschooled my brother and I.  The bi-weekly trip to our local public library was completely an adventure.  I couldn’t believe that all these stacks and stacks of books were available for me to read!  Since we lived on a secluded road in backwoods Vermont, I didn’t get to see many other kids my age on a regular basis.  My brother was 5 years older than me, and all the other kids on the road were boys a bit older than me at least, so books became my friends.  When I was done with schoolwork, I’d run off to read.  When books were done, the scenes and characters became the back-drop for my play.  The only reason I was able to pursue reading so enthusiastically was because of the library.

When I reached high school, I was allowed to go to public school.  The library became a safe place for me to go and explore all these new ideas and worlds I was being exposed to.  Books that I took out from there and read led to me changing some very fundamental ideas I had held up until then.  I would not be the person I am today without that experience.  It was more than having access to the books.  It was knowing that I could take them out and read them without judgment from the librarians or fear that they would run and tell somebody what I was reading.

In university the library became my work study place of employment.  The library yet again was providing me access to books, both in the free form and in the money for textbooks form.  I couldn’t get over the whole working environment.  The librarians were, by and large, really cool!  They were hip and sympathetic to my sometimes overwhelming life as a first generation college student.  I was introduced to WorldCat and was amazed at my ability to hit the “Get It Now!” button and get nearly any item from other libraries in the US.  (I’m sure the inter-library loan department wasn’t quite of fond of my love of the Get It Now button as I was, haha).  The library was my go-to place to hang out with my friends, for quiet study, to work on a computer between classes (I didn’t have a laptop for most of college).  Almost all of my friends from university are sorted under a Goldfarb Library tab on Facebook.  It was yet again a safe place for me to live life and figure out what I think and who I am.  Needless to say, it’s also where I figured out that I wanted to be a librarian, and is it any wonder when I see what impact librarians have had on my life?

When I look back over my life, it’s easy to see that I wouldn’t be the person I am today at all without libraries.  I wouldn’t have been encouraged to explore, to make mistakes, to read new and sometimes crazy ideas (to make noise and surreptitiously have a slice of pizza with friends).  I can’t imagine anything else that could fill that place in my life.  For that reason, I am passionate about libraries in the 21st century.  They are relevant, because what else can provide all of that to a growing, changing, exploring person?  Libraries are a large part of what made me free to be me.

Creating a Library Culture That Encourages a Love of Learning

March 31, 2010 4 comments

I think most people in my generation who grew up with videogames and computer games know that learning can be fun.  I distinctly remember MathBlaster helping me learn how to multiply but hardly noticing that because I wanted to defeat the aliens.  However, should learning always be fun?  Has learning that isn’t fun flown the coop?  Is there a place for more tedious methods of learning?

I’ve been pondering this lately as libraries are places of learning.  The surrounding culture of the library–whether a town, university, hospital, business, etc…–needs to encourage and embrace learning for the library to get used at all.  Unfortunately, that is often not the case.  In today’s society, learning is often mocked.  It’s where we get the nerd jokes.  Even the First Lady has felt it is a large enough problem that she has spoken out about it.  So libraries are left with a conundrum: the surrounding culture doesn’t encourage learning.  We’re a learning institution.  How the heck do we get people in the doors?

This issue led to the movement to make libraries more fun, largely through the materials held and programming.  Materials now are much more likely to include popular books such as ones written by Heidi Pratt.  Programs include videogaming with games that aren’t educational.  For non-public libraries, some academic libraries have started offering a “fun” reading section with similar, non-educational books.  The movement is pretty universal across types of libraries.  This has led to a backlash though.  Some are stating that sure, people are coming in through the doors, but they aren’t learning anything.  We’re so focused on making patrons happy that we’ve stopped actually helping them improve their mental capacities at all.

I don’t think it’s an easy issue to address because a love of learning is largely something that is instilled in childhood.  Even someone who does love learning doesn’t always find it fun.  I don’t particularly enjoy reading the dense management articles for my graduate research paper, but I value what I learn from them.  I enjoy the fact that I know my knowledge of these management techniques will make me better at my job.

The problem is less a lack of a love of learning and more that a love for being entertained and instant gratification is drowning out the more subtle enjoyment that comes from expanding your mind.  It’s basic psychology.  A famous experiment was done with mice where if they pushed a button, it gave them an orgasm.  The mice repeatedly pushed the button, obsessively, ignoring the needs to eat and drink until they died.  They died from too much pleasure.  Life isn’t all about pleasure; we also need to work to survive.  If all libraries do is provide the pleasure button and not a food button, then we’re not actually helping our patrons are we?

With this in mind, libraries need to be careful to maintain a balance of pleasure and effort.  People attending a Rock Band evening, for instance, could be informed of books and materials the library holds that teach you to play a real guitar or real drums.  Conversely, in special libraries, there is often too little focus on fun learning.  A recent visiting lecturer to one of my classes who works in an engineering library showed us the engineering “toys” she has in her library.  Her library has lego’s and other materials lying around for the engineering students to play with as a study break and inspiration.  I immediately thought how awesome it would be if medical libraries had those anatomically correct dolls or skeletons or jello brain molds lying about.

As with most things, the key to learning as fun or learning as effort is maintaining a balance.  Librarians need to focus on how to naturally connect the two so that patrons on either side of the divide will make the connection and, hopefully, take a leap.

What Public Libraries Should Be

February 2, 2010 8 comments

There is a debate going on about what public libraries should be.  So far, the librarians seem to be presenting a near united front, repackaging the library as a social place.  A place filled with programs such as speed-dating, Rock Band night, rent a person events, and more.  A place where you can rent newly released movies and videogames.  A place where, “Books are being pushed to the side figuratively and literally.” (source)  The few detractors from this mindset are generally portrayed as old, crotchety patrons who just don’t understand the times.

Well, I am a young librarian, and I don’t like where public libraries are headed.  To be clear, when I say young, I’m 23 years old.  Additionally, although I spent one summer working in a public library, most of my experience is in academic and medical libraries.  However, I think this puts me in the semi-unique position of understanding some of what public librarians deal with, but also being a member of the general populace they are seeking to serve.

I’ve made some rumblings about how I don’t agree with certain aspects of this modernization of the library.  The response from other librarians is generally a truly puzzled, “What’s wrong with it?”

What’s wrong with it?  When did public libraries turn into community centers instead of centers for life-long learning?  In a democracy, it is vitally important that the populace seeks to self-educate, to question, to delve into matters themselves.  A key element of that is literacy, and of course it is important to draw reluctant people into literacy in creative ways.  To this end, I’m supportive of libraries containing genre fiction, romance novels, graphic novels, etc…  However, whatever happened to the materials that truly make people think?  I used to frequent the public library, but last year, I just got sick of the junk I was seeing in the “nonfiction” section.  Autobiographies of the most recent reality star and not a single one of Albert Einstein, for instance.

Public libraries are not only supposed to encourage literacy but also thought and learning.  True, deep thought about serious issues.  I remember stumbling upon a book in high school in my public library about the controversy surrounding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It presented a fair portrayal of multiple sides of the controversy, and I was floored to see such intelligent debate.  It made me think about the mores and ideals I was raised with, and questioning their own validity in much the same way.  This is the kind of experience literate patrons should be having at a public library, not digging through book after book about the last 20 years of pop culture and coming up empty-handed.  If I, a person trained in reference, can’t find thought-provoking books, what makes anyone think that untrained patrons will just happen to stumble upon them?

The public library is also supposed to be about equality.  Anyone who lives in the district can have a card and access the sources.  Now though we’re seeing libraries hosting various features that patrons must pay an additional fee to use.  An example of this is the Nevada libraries that now have Redbox vending machines.  Patrons must pay $1 a night, plus tax, to rent a DVD.  Some say this is fine, but I say, what about the homeless kids who come into this place that purports to support the idea that educating yourself is a right, only to see more things they can’t afford?  I’m sure it is disheartening, and it is contrary to the principles of a public library.

It sickens me to see the public library going from a place revered in the community as a place of literacy, learning, and equality to a bastion of the non-thinking, pop culture junk we’re fed by those who don’t want us to actually better ourselves.  You may as well be handing out Soma with the library cards, and if you don’t know what Soma is, try reading Brave New World.

Movie Review: Matilda (1996)

January 20, 2010 14 comments

Summary:
Matilda has the unfortunate luck of being a smart kid born to not only stupid, but annoying and neglectful, parents.  They leave her alone for extended periods of time at a young age, time she fills by reading books from the public library.  When she’s six and a half, her father finally sends her to a private school with a bully of a principal.  However, her sweet teacher tells her she’s special, and Matilda’s mind stretches to be even more powerful than she ever thought it could.

Review:
This movie sounds serious, but it’s actually quite funny.  Danny DeVito directs and acts–both as the narrator and Matilda’s father.  Rhea Perlman, known like DeVito for comedic roles, plays Matilda’s mother.  Matilda’s telekinetic abilities are played mainly for laughs, and she tends to use them in a child-like manner.

Matilda’s parents aren’t mean to their daughter on purpose; they  just don’t understand her.  They think it’s fun to watch terrible game shows on tv, and are offended when she says she’d rather read Moby Dick.  Matilda doesn’t hate them, but she also knows she doesn’t belong.

The message of the movie really is that family is what you make of it, not what you’re born into.  Matilda could have dumbed herself down to fit in with her family, but she doesn’t.  Her parents could have insisted that she belongs with them, but they don’t.  Sometimes people are born into the right family; sometimes they’re not, and there’s nothing wrong with fixing that.

If you want some giggles and a heartwarming message that doesn’t have a love interest for once, give Matilda a shot.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

Buy It

Library Advocacy and Promotion

October 6, 2009 2 comments

Libraries exist to serve specific populations but, contrary to popular belief, their demand for their local library is not guaranteed.  Without enouogh patrons and usage, a library will be closed down as undesire or irrelevant in its community.  This idea of advocating for and promoting the library in the community it serves has come up quite a bit lately both in my classes and at my job.  I like to think of advocating and promoting as the double-edged sword of keeping the library an important part of the community.

I took an online workshop for my job about advocating for your library in the community.  This essentially means garnering support for the value of the library to the community first from the people primarily responsible for keeping it open.  For medical libraries this is the hospital board of directors.  While public libraries must prove that the community utilizes  the library enough to justify the budget, medical and special libraries must additionally prove that they are not just a budget drain on the institution.  This means librarians must do things like compile statistics of usage, of what specific evidence-based medicine instances they helped with, of how much they are considered an asset in a teaching hospital, etc…

Advocacy goes beyond just statistics though, and I think this is the part many librarians could do better at.  Advocacy means being on friendly terms with both those responsible for keeping the library open and those utilizing the library.  Librarians can’t afford to be the hermit of the community.  If we are on a first-name basis with stakeholders we put a face on the library for them.  Additionally this gives us more informal opportunities to casually mention elements of the library.  The library becomes a facet of the stakeholder’s life instead of some budget-draining other.

Promoting the library is the other edge of making the library an important part of the community.  No librarian wants her library to be empty and devoid of patrons.  We got into the profession to help people find information.  In this age of ever-increasing amounts of information, not to mention types and methods of retrieval, this means we have far more eduating to do than before.  It used to be that a community knew to go to the library to get a book or to look at an encyclopedia.  Now we must outreach to our community to show all the non-conventional, non-traditional information resources we have to offer.

We can’t just limit ourselves to reaching out to those in our community who are already regular users.  They are the easy ones to reach with workshops, readings, etc… There are also the potential and lost users.  (Lost users are those who used to use the library but stopped).  There is some debate as to how exactly to go about this, and even if both groups should be pursued equally.  Obviously the answer to this is different for different library types.  In medical libraries potential users are generally new employees.  Including a brief blurb during orientation and in orientation packets about the library would certainly be a step in the right direction.  I would consider lost users in a medical library to be any employee employed at the institution for longer than six months who does not use the library, whether she once did or not.  For these people I would say there is probably some misconceptions about what exactly the library has to offer.  I admit I am at a bit of a loss as to how to reach these people.  We all know how quickly all-employee emails get deleted without being read.  However, I have faith that these people can be reached.  Maybe this goes back to the friendly librarian I was discussing earlier.  If she meets a lost user in the cafeteria and informs them she is one of the librarians, this could easily lead into a “what do you do all day?” conversation with the lost user.

Sometimes in all the hub-bub of economic downturn, budgets, and emerging technology advocacy and promotion get lost in the shuffle.  Libraries only exist because of the people in the community.  We need to remember that the main goal of a library is to help people and start humanizing the institution within our respective communities.