Monthly Archives: April 2008

Robots and demons and schoolgirls, oh my!

How did you spend your weekend? I spent mine sitting in the one and only Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Manga Reading room at Tekkoshocon, our fair city’s one and only anime convention – you can read all about it at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Teen blog. Much thanks to Joseph for the lovely picture, to everyone who lent a hand, and to all of the busy readers who managed to eat 50 bags of corn chips but not get our books greasy, which is no mean feat.

So now that the convention is over, what better way to head off that dreaded anime/manga withdrawal  than by raiding the library’s collections? We’ve got all sorts of anime in Film & Audio, and the First Floor, Teen, and Children’s departments all have spiffy manga sections. And best of all, it’s free. But you knew that.


book jacket       book jacket       book jacket       book jacket       book jacket       book jacket

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Life on Mars

Life on Mars – an art show? The announcements are hot and heavy these days about the fact that “Life on Mars” is soon to open next door. In any other year, the announcements would be for the Carnegie International; this is the first time since 1896 that the Carnegie Museum of Art’s (CMA) international exhibition has been given a unique title.

So OK, another contemporary art exhibition that can provoke the “my-kid-could-do-that” thoughts, or can leave one wondering why in the world anyone would call this stuff art. On the other hand, think about going to the exhibition with your brain wide open ready to be shocked or startled – or occasionally soothed, believe it or not!

As a run up to the show itself, the exhibition’s website is a plunge right into the pool of increasing online inter-connectedness with the purpose of the website to get people talking before it opens. If this isn’t appealing, check out the history of the International both of its earliest years and, more pictorially, of its first 100 years albeit not online. The catalogs of the most recent exhibitions (1985, 1988, 1991, 1995, 1999/2000 and 2004/2005) all have insightful essays that unravel some of the mysteries one encounters in contemporary art. While the art collection is brimming with books about contemporary art and the search for meaning such as Art on the Edge and Over (Weintraub), there are other recent titles that focus on areas such as Bio Art, Destination Art, formlessness, convergences in art to name but a few. These are all fine if you are really eager to read more about contemporary art! If, however, you are not, and would rather explore the potential for a real life on Mars, check this out!


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Celebrating National Library Week

Did you know that it’s National Library Week? Yes, it’s true – a whole week to love your library even more than you usually do. May we recommend some ways to celebrate?

Do you remember the first time you fell in library love?  It happened to me as a pre-teen.  I was already a pretty serious library user, staggering to and from my house (uphill, both ways!) with armsful of books.  It was, however, the serendipitous discovery of The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death that made me the fine, upstanding individual I am today. Ten pages in, I realized that there was more on heaven and earth, Horatio, than I’d dreamed of in my philosophy.

I am, of course, a wee bit biased.  How did you get to know the library?  Tell the world by leaving us a comment, or sending us an e-mail.

–Leigh Anne

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Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

One week ago today was the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death.  In addition to being a leader of the civil rights movement, an anti-war activist, a tireless advocate of civil disobedience, and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King was also a noted speaker and an impassioned writer.  Despite the tragic occasion, it’s a good time to revisit some of King’s writings, listen to his speeches, or reflect on his life.  Below are a few places where you can find more information on Martin Luther King, Jr. 

 The African American Experience: This is one of our databases that can be accessed either within the library or remotely.  It contains full-text entries on notable African Americans and historical events.  Look here to find basic encyclopedia articles about King’s life, or to read some of his more famous writings, such as his Letter from Birmingham Jail.

American Radio Works: Go to this site to listen to a radio documentary about the last year of King’s life. 

American Rhetoric: This is a site that has mp3 files and the complete transcript of famous speeches.  Three different King speeches show up on their list of the Top 100 Speeches, with I Have a Dream ranking at number 1. 

Nobel Laureates: This link will take you to the list of Nobel Prize winners in all categories.  You can sort the list by year, category, first name, or last name.  Biographical information on all winners is available, or you can peruse the list of Nobel Peace Prize winners to see who won before and after King won the award in 1964.

At the library we quietly marked the occasion of King’s death by setting up a display of books in the second floor hallway, just outside the Reference Department.  Come in, browse the display, and take some books home with you. 


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No Shushing in this Library

Back in the ancient days of yore, libraries around the world were known as shushing zones.  That meant no talking above a whisper, no humming and certainly no music.  Perhaps my factitious tale of library history is slightly exaggerated, but it certainly can’t be argued that times have definitely changed. 

As part of Celebrate the Arts Sundays, the First Floor hosts the Sunday Afternoon Music Series the second Sunday of the month from 2:00 – 3:00 pm.  Despite its formal name, the series welcomes an array of performers that are just as diverse as the tastes of our patrons.  From chamber music to roots revival, there is something for everyone.  Performances usually take place in the Quiet Reading Room and warm weather even invites the opportunity for outdoor performances. 

This Sunday, the series features classical guitarist Chris Anderson.  Anderson describes his approach as balancing “pieces at the core of the classical guitar’s repertoire with others that are rarely heard.” 

Sunday Afternoon Music Summer Series

Circuits of Steel
Sunday, May 11, 2008
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Rick Gribenas, Margaret Cox, Steve Boyle and tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE are four artists representing the Circuits of Steel compilation series, which showcases Pittsburgh’s electronic/experimental music scene. Expect sounds far beyond conventional boundaries.
July 13th, 2008
Resonance is a world fusion ensemble made up of five musicians: three percussionists, guitar and bass.  They use the distinct sound of the steel drum to draw audiences into their compelling mix of Caribbean jazz and global fusion music.

Jennie Snyder
August 10th, 2008
Jennie Snyder, a rural Pennsylvania native, performs her mountain-flavored roots originals in the vein of Gillian Welch, Buddie and Julie Miller, and Hazel Dickens.  She is currently at work on her first solo record.


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The Sound of Music, literally.

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

The library is a great place for both research and recreation and I love it when the two are combined.  Case in point, I recently watched the movie musical The Sound of Music again and naturally wondered how much the movie differed from the true story of the Trapp family. 

In this article, an archivist (and archivists and librarians are kissin’ cousins) discusses the Trapp family story and shows a bunch of primary source documents related to their immigration to the U.S. 

In our vast suite of research databases, under the category of Biography, is the Biography Resource Center which has a few biographies of Maria von Trapp.

And if you really want to get in depth and read a whole book, you can read Maria’s Story of the Trapp Family Singers and their further adventures.   Or you can read about patriarch Georg’s Austrian navy stories.

If all the true stories are too much, there’s a companion book for those who just can’t get enough of the movie.

Also, because we buy almost every musical we can get our hands on, we have compact discs of the original soundtrack, the original and new Broadway casts, the original and new London casts, and so on. Or hear the Trapp Family themselves!

Finally, just for fun, read this Vanity Fair interview to find out about how much Julie Andrews dislikes her own nose.

- Tim

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Tubeless Living

In this country, nothing occupies more of our leisure time activity than watching television. More often than not, we choose TV viewing over every other recreational activity available: socializing, participating in sports, playing games, reading, and thinking. The Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society measured the national TV viewing average at 2 hours per day. According to the TV ratings company, Nielsen Media Research, the average is 4 ½ hours per day. Nielsen measured individual viewer primetime consumption at one hour and 11 minutes. Even if that’s the only time you watch, one week’s worth of primetime viewing adds up to more than eight hours.

Here’s an alternative to watching the tele. This year’s “Turn Off Your TV Week” is April 21-27. If you’re reading this on the day of posting, you have two weeks to plan your free time. Choosing alternative activities during those prime evening hours creates the possibility for prime experience. What have you wished you had time for? Haven’t thought about it? Instead of watching a cooking show, cook dinner. Instead of watching a travel documentary, walk through Frick Park. Instead of watching Jay Leno, read Stephen Potter. Instead of getting to know a TV family, have a conversation with a neighbor.

Ready? Start planning!

For further inspiration, both practical and fanciful, click these links:

A radical list of things to do in the form of a poem by Wendell Berry, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.”

Miranda July’s Learning to Love You More is a web site of project assignments. Two examples are Assignment #63 Make an encouraging banner and Assignment #45 Reread your favorite book from fifth grade.

White Dot, an international campaign against television, offers lots of reasons for pulling the TV plug.

Titles available at CLP for further reading:

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community

Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television

The More You Watch, the Less You Know: News Wars – (Sub)Merged Hopes – Media Adventures

The Plug-in Drug: Television, Computers and Family Life

Television and the Quality of Life: How Viewing Shapes Everyday Experience

– Julie


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National Poetry Month and the Writer’s Almanac

For most folks, there is little discernable irony in the fact that April is National Poetry Month and that the second most famous quotation regarding April is: “April is the cruelest month,” by T. S. Eliot. In fact, if there is any irony, one might describe it with the delightful, if cliche-ish, modifier “delicious.”

Why, oh why, is poetry perceived as so very difficult? Perhaps, to start out with, consider how it is taught. Or, to be a tad more precise, how it is not taught. A poem is treated as an artifact, a piece of history, a vessel laden with symbology, an elite conundrum solvable only in the aerie realms of academe, instead of a method of communicating from one human being (the poet) to another (the listener/reader).

Yes, poetry is mysterious, but not in and of itself; life, too, is mysterious and that is what the best poetry reflects. Though there are many folks who claim to know the meaning of life, for most of the rest of us it is an unsolvable riddle. In this sense, a poem is not an answer; a poem is a rephrasing of the question. In fact, for my money, the bottom line for all good poetry is the constant rephrasing of this very question. If this is truly the case, then what is it that makes poetry so different from prose?

One essential difference is language and I would describe the language of poetry as a more visceral, more emotional language than prose. Poetry is less literal, more figurative in its construction and execution. And, for me, poetry is most important precisely because it addresses the mystery of life in an intuitive, “non-rational” way. In a very real sense, what it means is beside the point.

As I’m sure you’re sensing, this particular entry could go on and on; suffice it to say that there are two very good books, both with the same title, that examine this idea in depth and I highly recommend them both: one is by Molly Peacock, the other by Edward Hirsch.

The very best poems speak with both clarity and resonance about life’s big issues: love, faith, death, and the ever elusive meaning of it all. One of the single best points of entry into poetry is the website The Writer’s Almanac. Part of National Public Radio, The Writer’s Almanac is a daily compendium of important literary and historical facts and anniversaries, hosted by Garrison Keillor. Each day, at the end of a short podcast (5 minutes), a single poem is featured that is at once accessible and resonant. It is a delightful, inquisitive way to be introduced to great poetry, both contemporary and classic, via reading, radio, or podcast. Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, Gary Snyder, Jane Kenyon, Billy Collins, Barbara Hamby, Louis McKee, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti have all been featured in recent weeks. Listening for just a week is intriguing; it also can be addictive.

It most certainly is a fine way to commemorate National Poetry Month.


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Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Work We Go

Once the clocks changed last month, I suddenly realized that it was going to be time to go back to Two Wheels, Not Four on my daily commute.  Biking is my method of choice for getting to and from work every day, as long as the weather cooperates for me; and for a city as hilly as Pittsburgh, there are a heck of a lot of us out there with our helmets on and the breeze in our faces.  Bike Pittsburgh and Free Ride are just two advocacy organizations that can help you get on this carbon-footprint-free, healthy, economical bandwagon, by offering safe riding tips, a DIY repair shop with expert help, and low-cost bikes.

Of course, another alternative to car commuting is walking.  Did you know that Pittsburgh was ranked among the top 10 most walkable cities in the U.S.?  In my mind, that fact combines perfectly with our status in the top 10 most literate cities — walk and read at the same time!!  Use one of our eAudio services, or if you don’t have an mp3 player, borrow a playaway!  Gone are the days of an extra pound of equipment and multiple CDs per book, although if you really are stuck with the car commute, we have plenty of those, as well.  (It doesn’t particularly relate to commuting, but you can calculate your neighborhood’s walkability at

One more obvious choice in car-free commuting is public transportation, again with the distinct advantage of being able to get in some quality reading time.  But there are other options as well, which you can learn about at, a website for commuters and employers by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission

So whether you cycle, hoof it, bus, carpool, or drive, just remember to watch out for each other and be safe!


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Mad River, Boneshaker, Red Sugar

My favorite poet Jan Beatty just released her newest book Red Sugar last week, and I am so excited.  While the library’s copy of Red Sugar hasn’t hit our shelves yet, you can certainly tide yourself over with one of Beatty’s earlier collections of gritty, fierce Pittsburgh poetry.  Mad River (1995) includes the poem “My Father Teaches Me to Dream.” Boneshaker (2002) includes poems with titles like “After Therapy, I Dream of Keith Richards & the Failure of Language” and “The Waitress Angels Speak to Me in a Vision.”  Her poetry addresses topics like longing, class and sexuality through poems about waitressing, music, her steelworker father, or challenges of growing up female.  Poems in these collections witness a troubled veteran’s public outburst, recount a conversation between grocery store checkout girls and narrate an encounter with one of William Blake’s angels at a peepshow.  Whether the subject matter is difficult or the musings transcendent, the verse never strays far from exploring immediate, visceral experiences of the body.

If you enjoy these books, then mark your calendar to hear Jan Beatty read at the Main library for the Sunday Poetry & Reading Series, our free monthly reading series that occurs every third Sunday of the month from 2 to 3 pm.  It’s part of our Celebrate the Arts Sundays  program series, which showcases musicians, world artists, writers, films and visual artists every week.

Jan Beatty will read in the Sunday Poetry & Reading Series on October 19th with another terrific local writer and poet, Tess Barry.  Don’t worry, I’ll remind you when the date approaches.  Until then,  more academic, experimental and spoken-word Pittsburgh poets and writers will grace our microphone every month.  Come lend an ear! 

Sunday Poetry & Reading Series 

Sunday, April 20, 2008
Ed Steck and Brandon Som

Ed Steck is a human being and enjoys science fiction. He encourages the DIY ethics of printing one’s own writing.
Brandon Som works for a local bookseller and has taught writing at the University of Pittsburgh, Chatham College, and NYU.

Sunday, May 18, 2008
Terrance Hayes

Terrance Hayes is the author of Hip Logic, Wind in a Box and Muscular Music and has been the recipient of many honors and awards. He teaches creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University.

If you’d like to receive monthly announcements of upcoming library events, you can subscribe to our enewsletters.


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