Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hidden DVDs

The holidays are winding down, and the cold days of winter are fast approaching. When it's too cold to get out, I've found the perfect way to while away the nights is to watch DVDs. Lately, I've been watching TV shows that were recommended to me by others. Several shows I'd never heard of because they had short runs and were cancelled before they could find an audience. So, here are some of my picks for under appreciated television shows that are available in DVD at the library.

Sports Night ran on ABC for two seasons and looked at the behind-the-scenes atmosphere of a late night television show similar to ESPN. Directed by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) and starring Felicity Huffman and Peter Krause, Sports Night sparkles with intelligent and witty dialogue. You don't have to be a sports fan to enjoy the antics, but it does deepen the enjoyment of the plots.

Jericho was recently cancelled after two seasons on CBS. Centered in the small Kansas town of Jericho, it asks the question of how would you survive if atomic bombs were dropped in key American cities. Since communication with the outside world is very limited, food distribution is halted and gasoline becomes a precious commodity in this new world, the citizens of Jericho must become self-reliant and pull together as a community in order to have a chance of survival. It almost seems like a modern day Western. The contrast between the visiting urban New Yorker and the rural citizens of Jericho makes you realize how dependent we are on modern conveniences.

Wonderfalls and Joan of Arcadia are two similar dramas. In Wonderfalls, Jaye is a twenty-something college graduate working at a gift shop in Niagara Falls when inanimate objects start talking to her. In Joan of Arcadia, Joan is a teenager new in town who begins getting visions from God. In both series, the action centers on whether they will do as directed to take specific actions in order to help others, and what happens when they ignore or don't correctly interpret what is expected of them. While both are humorous in the predicaments that happen, both also provoke some thought about how our actions can impact other people's behaviors.

These are just several of my favorites that when I reached the end of each of them, I wanted more! DVDs of television series are a fun way to try something that you may not have heard of before. It is also easy to get spoiled because all of the episodes are easily available and you don't have to wait for the next episodeto be televised. So, try something new this winter when it is too cold to venture outside.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Make Reading Part of Your Christmas Tradition

Christmas time is reading time as we celebrate the holidays each in our own way. Last December the Southeast Arlington Reading Group read the novel, Finding Noel, by Richard Paul Evans.
"When I was a boy, my mother told me that everyone comes into our lives for a reason. I'm not sure if I believe that's true. The thought of God weaving millions of lives together into a grand human tapestry seems a bit fatalistic to me. Still, as I look back at my life, it seems at times when such divinity is apparant. None is more obvious to me than that winter evening when I met a beautiful young woman named Macy and there ensued the extraordinary chain of events that encounter set in place. Of course such a theory carried to the extreme would mean that God sabotaged my car that night because, had my car's timing belt not broken at that precise moment, this story never would have happened. But it did, and my life was forever changed. Perhaps my mom was right. If God can align the planets, maybe He can do the same to our lives."
So begins the wonderful Christmas love story of two people Mark Smart and Macy Wood. Mark's mom recently was killed in a car accident and his relationship with his father is troubled. Macy can barely remember her birth parents and she would like to forget the family she was adopted by. All she has is a Christmas ornament with the name "Noel" on it. This was the only clue to the younger sister she barely remembers. This clue leads Mark and Macy on a journey of restoration of the past and of both their families.

In the Epilogue Mark brings completion to the story.
"There are stories, Christmas stories that are stored away like boxes of garlands and frosted glass ornaments, to be brought out and cherished each year. I've come to believe my story is a Christmas story. For it has forever changed the way I see Christmas. That season I learned perspective, for Joseph the carpenter and Stuart the auto mechanic both raised someone else's son. We don't know much about Joseph; the Bible tells us little. But I've gained a new respect for the man."
And he goes on to say that in the first Christmas story it was a story of searching. Mary and Joseph sought in Bethlehem a place to start their own family, the three wise men searched for the King of Kings, and "the shepherds sought a child in a place most familier to them: a manger." And that we search for the familiar every year when we experience the food and traditions of Christmas.

So this Christmas start the tradition of reading and make your own Christmas memories to revisit year after year. Join a reading group, read alone, read to and with your family during this Christmas time. The important thing is to read. It's your choice.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Movies from books: Winter Edition

I was browsing through my stacks this morning and found The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which I only knew as a Brad Pitt movie I was sure I didn't want to see. So I flipped open the book and found out that it was a reworking of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story from Tales of the Jazz Age. About an old man that ages in reverse, who starts out five feet eight inches tall and is forced by his father to play with a rattle--"whereupon the old man took it with a weary expression and could be heard jingling it obediently at intervals throughout the day." The short story looks so good that I can't wait to see the movie now. Other movies on my list after reading the book:

The movie: The Watchmen to be released 6 March 2009
The website: http://watchmenmovie.warnerbros.com
The book: graphic novel, The Watchmen by Alan Moore

The synopsis: The title of the graphic novel comes from the Latin quote "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" which is most often translated as "Who watches the watchmen?". For someone who usually thinks of graphic novels as "light reading" this particular one proved me wrong. In the Watchmen world, superheroes are reviled, in part because of their methods. While deconstructing the superhero ethos, Moore also manages to speak on such mundane topics as childhood trauma, depression, and spousal abuse. This graphic novel is not for children.

The movie: Twilight in theatres now
The website: http://www.twilightthemovie.com
The book: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

The synopsis: Vampire stories have been around since 1047, but it wasn't until John Polidori's "The Vampyre" published in 1819, that vampires were brought to the English speaking world. The most unique aspect about Meyer's vampires is not the love story (although that is why teen girls read it), its the sparkly vampires. They can be awake during the day, but can't be in too much sunshine, lest the show their diamond skin to the world. Intended for young adults, this should be a fun and easy read for anyone interested in the subject.

The movie: City of Ember in theaters now
The website: http://www.cityofember.com
The book: City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The synopsis: If the last one was just for young adults but a good read for us adults, City of Ember is really just for kids. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't read it. As an adult, I appreciated the possibilities of this book about an underground city that doesn't understand its origins. They believe that Ember always was and that canned goods are the way that food comes. At one point Lina, the 12 year old protagonist, has a discussion with another character about what pineapple must have tasted like--the last can was eaten so long ago. The book and subsequent sequels make me pine for a version written for adults, but until then I can glean things from the books that I don't think children are able to, such as the underpinnings of what it would have taken for someone to create a city like Ember.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Resource Spotlight: Auto Repair Reference Center

Are you interested in performing routine maintenance on your car yourself, but aren't really sure where to start?

Are you an accomplished home mechanic, but need to track down a specific wiring diagram to finish up a tricky repair job?

Do you want to check to see if there have been any manufacturer's service bulletins on a used car you're considering purchasing?

Then take a look at the Auto Repair Reference Center, available from any internet-enabled computer with your Arlington Public Library Card!

Content includes:
• Approximately 31,660 vehicles, from 1945 to present
• Over 205,000 drawings and step-by-step photographs
• Approximately 75,000 technical service bulletins & recalls
• Over 130,000 enhanced wiring diagrams for easy viewing and printing
• Specifications & maintenance schedules
• Labor Time Guide & Estimator
• AutoIQ – Detailed content, full-motion video and animated technical diagrams
• Quick Tips – a complete guide to vehicle ownership & maintenance

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Reference question of the month: Judge a book by its what?

As a librarian, people of all kinds come to me and ask: what book should I read next? Often I give them Novelist or a subject guide on inspirational fiction, but not when people come in with assignments. Specifically, when there is not a specific book that they need to read but a book on a certain subject, say historical fiction, or asian recipes, or bears. In that case, I guide them to look with their eyes before they read one word. Now this is contrary to what I (and many others) were taught when they were young. And sure, I've found books that I was sure were chick lit only to find the were literary fiction, and I've found those that you were sure were historical but found out they were science fiction, but on the whole I can tell what a book is about based on the cover. Now this isn't to say that I won't like books with ugly covers, but what usually happens is I will read a book with a nice cover by the same author, then go and read his or her other works.

If you feel the same as me you may be inspired to read the following:

Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me
edited by Ben Karlin
I read this book before The Book Design Review named it one of the the top book covers of 2008. Its a series of essays written by the likes of Stephen Colbert, Bob Odenkirk, and Will Forte. If that sounds like a Comedy Central lineup, its because Karlin is a former executive producer of The Daily Show. My favorite essay is "Women are Never Too Young to Mess With Your Head", in which Larry Wilmore, who is currently serving as the "Senior Black Correspondent" on The Daily Show, describes his infant daughter's refusal to do anything but cry when her dad takes care of her, to the point where he has to hire a babysitter to watch her while he's there.

One Red Paperclip, or, How an ordinary man achieved his dreams with the help of a simple office supply
Kyle MacDonald
To be honest, I believe that I read this book after it was named by The Book Design Review as one of the top book covers of 2007. But it is still an amazing story. He blogged that he would trade a paperclip for anything. Someone offered a fish pen. The fish pen became a door knob, the door knob became a Coleman stove and so on and so forth until he got a whole house out of the deal! And checking on his website he is trading the house now!

Born Standing Up
Steve Martin
What struck me about this cover is not the almost bleakness of it, but the fact that the title of the book is almost a pun juxtaposed to the photo of him where he looks like he is falling down. In his interview on NPRs Fresh Air show, he conveyed how much of what he was doing when he first started stand up was not comedy, but more performance art. I think this cover conveys that.