Monthly Archives: June 2011

Getting Started with Walter Braunfels

The millions dead and the countless lives ruined are enough reason to abhor the Nazis, but the suppression in the 1930s and 40s of music by certain composers adds even more to the long list of offenses.  In addition, critical tastes and trends also hurt the careers of composers considered old-fashioned.  So it’s heartening to hear the work of Walter Braunfels (1882-1954) being resurrected, albeit decades after the injustice and his death.  You can read about Braunfels’ story plus conductor Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony’s role in his revival in a recent New York Times article, a PSO blog, a Post-Gazette blog, and a Tribune Review concert preview.

In this blog post, though, I’m simply directing you to three recordings in the library’s collection where you can discover his music.

This fantastical opera based on a Aristophanes play was enormously popular in the 1920s and finally was revived in the 90s.  This release is part of the Entartete Musik series, a project on the Decca label to record and reawaken interest in music subdued by the Nazis.

This is the orchestral piece that Honeck excerpted to begin the PSO concerts of last weekend, the finale of their 2010-2011 season.  Hear the whole grand thing here.

Braunfels was born half-Jewish but Catholic in faith.  This sacred choral work was recorded by Manfred Honeck with a Swedish orchestra and choir.  Parts of it were performed in 2009 by the PSO.

Fans of Wagner, Mahler, Strauss, Korngold, and other German or Austrian post-romantic composers are especially encouraged to check these out.

– Tim

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A Slice from the Apple

Last Thursday’s sweltering heat radiated from the pavement and skyscrapers. We leaned into blasts of wind as we walked up The Bowery. I squinted against the head-on draft, touched my face and felt sand and grit. Clouds blackened the afternoon sky. My umbrella sat useless in my suitcase, many blocks away.

To avoid getting soaked, my husband and I stopped at a tea café on Rivington Street, on the lower east side of Manhattan. The menu offered 98 loose leaf teas. Though the Glee soundtrack was not my cup, the room was comfortably cool, the service friendly.

As clouds descended, we ordered hot tea (he), iced coffee (me), and a piece of vegan chocolate cake. The café occupied a small space a few feet below street level, the right height to watch after-work walkers step ankle deep into the gushing gutter.

The rain poured mercilessly outside. Inside, a table neighbor opened her library book, the same library book I brought with me on this little trip to the big apple. She was nearly finished reading Great House by Nicole Krauss. I was still on the first chapter. I waited until she paused for a sip of tea, then told her I had checked out a copy from the library too. What did she think of Great House? Had she read Krauss’s first novel, The History of Love? Did she love The History of Love as much as I did? Did Great House measure up?

The novel is divided into four sections, my fellow-reader explained, each narrated by a different character. She told me that part way through the second section she set the book aside for a few days, since she found the voice difficult. She expected that after finishing Great House she would recommend it, though The History of Love would remain one of her favorite books. “I’m definitely a fan of Krauss’s writing.”

I thanked her for sharing her reading experience. “You and I are alike,” she said. “I always want to ask people about what they’re reading, too.” She set her cup down and turned her attention back to Great House.

Outside, walkers closed umbrellas. The storm moved on.

—Julie

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now you’re cooking

We’ve certainly had our share of hot summer days lately, haven’t we?  This is the kind of weather that means two things:  farmer’s markets and farm shares (aka CSAs, Community Supported Agriculture).  And that means it’s time for all kinds of warm-weather food:

Salad as a MealSalad as a Meal: Healthy Main-Dish Salads for Every Season, by Patricia Wells:  I have two of this author’s other cookbooks, and she has wonderfully tasty, simple recipes.  …………………………………………………………………………………………………… …………………………………………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………………..

Cold SoupsCold Soups, by Linda Ziedrich: If you haven’t tried gazpacho yet, here’s your chance. Plus lots of other refreshing soup ideas! ……………………………………………………… …………………………………………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………….

Garde MangerGarde Manger: The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen, by Culinary Institute of America Staff: Pronounced “gahrd mahn-ZHAY,” this is a French term for the cold pantry where cold buffet dishes are prepared and other cold foods are stored. But that’s just the tip of the ice sculpture (another item sometimes created in the garde manger). This book starts with salads and cold soups, and includes cured and smoked foods, sausage, terrines and pâtés, cheese, condiments and other hors d’oeuvres.

Recipes from an Italian SummerRecipes from an Italian Summer, by Joel Meyerowitz and Andy Sewell:  Not only does this cookbook have recipes for all kinds of summer food, but it also contains beautiful photographs of the Italian countryside, along with a guide to summer food festivals if you’re ready for a trip.  ………………………………………………….  ……………………………. …………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The Perfect ScoopThe Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments, by David Lebovitz:  A former pastry chef at Chez Panisse gives us standard and not-so-standard recipes for the most wonderful food on the planet.

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Happy eating!

-Kaarin

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Miscellanea

I’ll admit it – my attention span overheats at about 80 degrees.  I’ve abandoned my latest crochet project, I’m not quite ready to commit to a 700+page post-apocalyptic horror novel, and I don’t even think I can sustain a narrative long enough to write this blog post.  So instead, here is a random sampler of things that have made it onto my radar.


The Last Apprentice – Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney

Thomas Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son, and his Mam’s always been special, too.  That’s why he’s been apprenticed to the local Spook, whose job it is to hunt down and deal with dark creatures.  One day, Thomas might just be the best Spook the County’s ever seen… if he can survive his training.  This series is in the children’s and teen collections, but appeals to the same broad range of ages as Harry Potter.

Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer by Van Jensen

Soon after the original story ended, vampires moved into the area and killed Gepetto.  Of course, nobody believed Pinocchio, so he took vengeance into his own hands, and became a vampire slayer. You see, to drive a stake through their hearts, all he had to do was lie…

Cats Are Weird: And More Observations by Jeffrey Brown

If cat things are your thing, you will thoroughly enjoy this graphic novel.  Then you’ll probably pass it around to all your friends who also like cat things.  You might even discuss it the next time you all get together.  Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Thank You Notes: 40 Handmade Ways To Show You’re Grateful by Jan Kelly

Sometimes, the inventory at the local drugstore fails to perfectly express your gratitude.  Consider designing a custom “Merci Bucket,” or  a thoughtful “Thanks A Latte” coffee card holder.

Ready, Set, Walk! Challenge

Once again, I’m participating in the neighborhood summer walking challenge.  You may be too late to get a free pedometer, but there’s a weekly drawing for all walkers, and a grand prize is awarded to whoever logs the most steps.


If you’re similarly distracted by the heat, why not drop by the Summer Reading Extravaganza this Sunday?  We’ll have plenty of activities and performances through which you can wander, outside as well as in the library (in case you find yourself needing a few minutes with the air conditioner and a cool beverage).

-Denise

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The Big To-Do

In the depths of winter, my ever-expanding “to-read” list is a monolith blocking the sun. When the skies clear and summer has finally arrived, it’s when that list begins to look less infinite. It is at this time an avid reader must form a plan and strike, because deep down the reader knows we will never read all we want to read, but we must believe we can, or else all is lost.

As I’m writing this, I’m looking at my past summer failures – my dog-eared, incomplete copies of Infinite Jest, Don Quixote mark the failures of a prideful youth (the past two summers). But it’s ok; it’s a lesson in humility. I will dust myself off and try again, but this summer is about reasonable expectations. A constant barrage of literature that will keep me engaged and not damage my momentum in crossing more off my list. As always, dear reader, I will let you know how I fare, and what turns I took along the way. Without further ado…

The Bad Guys Won – Jeff Pearlman

Back when baseball was gritty, salaries were low (George Foster making 2 million a year is considered blasphemous) and players had something to prove, the Mets showed New York they had more swagger, more talent, and more fun than any professional team has ever had before, or since. The story of the rise to stardom of the ‘86 Mets gives me hope in being a Pirates fan, but it also makes me wistful for an era of baseball I never knew.  Worth it alone for the early career hijinks of Lenny Dykstra (my favorite ballplayer).

Tom Sawyer; and, Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain

Confession time. I’ve never read “Huck Finn” (dodges slap in the face). I know the story, I know I’m supposed to love Twain (and as a rule I do) but I’ve never read one of the most important books in American history. I’m remedying that currently, and really, really regretting that I haven’t done so already. Making up for lost time feels good.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle/The Age of Wonder – Richard Holmes

Blame David Grann for this odd pairing, but it is through him I first became interested in Sherlock Holmes by reading his constant referrals to the detective in his stories (seriously, pick up a Grann article and you will see Sherlock).  For the first time I felt that I was missing something in not reading Conan Doyle’s significant work, and out of my debt to Grann I will read them all. (Note: Sherlock Tones is also one of the better nicknames ever given to me).

Evidently Sherlock leads to Richard Holmes, because of Grann’s mention of the British Royal Society in The Lost City of Z, I have been since enamored by the idea of a committee in which the celebration of art and discovery is listed as its sole purpose. This book has been on my list for ages itself, and I’m relishing the opportunity to tackle it under the summer sun.

The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

This book holds a special place in the “Ask Tony if he’s read this fantasy book series” contest. I can’t tell you how many people told me about this book (okay it was three!) – it is praised on high by fans of Herbert and Tolkien alike. Clearly, these people know how to get my attention, as I don’t read much beyond those two “fantasy” authors, unless you count Douglas Adams, who I think gets his own category of awesome. Anyhow, Rothfuss seems like a guy to read and cheer for, he envisioned The Kingkiller Chronicle series and was soundly rejected for years before winning the attention and success he has since earned. So I’ll be reading this before Game of Thrones after all.

I’m sure, as is the case with any plans, that the books may change and I may run out of time like any other season, but I’m looking forward to this next month of reading as if I have a sense of organization. How about you, dear reader? Anything I should add to the list, or would you care to share your own?

- Tony

P.S. – The title of this post is inspired by the Drive-By Truckers. Perfect summer music if I ever heard it.

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Go Outside!

Author's photo, McConnells Mill State Park, Slippery Rock Gorge

It’s that time of year again that I wait for all winter long—being outside! As soon as the weather warms up, I move almost all of my everyday activities outdoors: dining, reading, and yoga. And before I moved to Chatham Village, I even sometimes played my flute outside! As I walk around my co-op every evening, I’m always amazed that I seem to be the only one enjoying the quiet, the beauty, the cool night air while everyone else seems to be inside.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has lots of great ideas for outdoor living, whether you enjoy gardening, camping, or bird watching. And don’t forget about the library’s great stash of beach reads for your next vacation, home or away.

Author's photo, Downtown Pittsburgh from Mount Washington

The need to be outside is important for everyone’s health and well-being.

Ever since I’ve been a little girl, when my mother ordered my brother and I to “go outside!” I’ve been doing just that, and I’ve been hard-pressed to come back inside. That is, until the mosquitoes start biting.

~Maria

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Two Wheels in Film

“Ever bike? Now that’s something that makes life worth living!…Oh, to just grip your handlebars and lay down to it, and go ripping and tearing through the streets and road, over railroad tracks and bridges, threading crowds…and wondering all the time when you’re going to smash up. Well, now, that’s something!” Jack London

I have recently been inspired to give up the car & bus in exchange for the bike, the logical argument being that it’s 1) cheaper, 2) better for the environment, and 3) better for my health. Bikes are also pretty fun, something that’s easy to forget when you haven’t ridden one in a while. Of course, switching from car to bike is a big change, and sometimes a little extra inspiration is needed, which is where Robert Penn’s It’s All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels comes in. In this delightful little book, bike enthusiast Penn takes us on a journey to assemble the perfect bike, and while doing so explores the history, science, and culture of the bike. One thing that struck me while reading this book is just how ingenious and elegant an invention the bicycle was and still is. The first bicycles were being ridden by the masses in the late 1800s, leading to independence and mobility (particularly for women). By the end of this book I was a convert—an amateur bicycle enthusiast ready to get back on two wheels.

Of course, the library carries all sorts of books about the bicycle—books on bike culture, history, repair, and even fiction centering largely on the will to pedal. We also have movies about biking, and I’ve gathered a few of my favorites for your perusal here:………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

 Bicycle Thief

 In this film, the bike is not simply a means of transportation—it is an opportunity for work and economic improvement. Unemployed family man Antonio Ricci finds a job that requires a bike, but then has his bike stolen on his first day of work. Major bummer. He then spends the greater part of the movie searching with his son for the stolen bicycle. A beautiful film, but kind of a downer.

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Breaking Away

Dave wants to be an Italian bicycle racer someday—his only problem being that he’s not Italian. With the help of his three working-class best friends, Dave takes on the college kids in a final bike race not to be missed. And of course, there’s also that great truck racing scene set to Italian classical music. Ciao, papa.

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Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
Words fail me—this is one of my all-time favorite movies. It was a favorite with me and my brothers growing up (“Tell ‘em Large Marge sent ya!”), and it’s held up surprisingly well. This was Tim Burton’s first feature film, and the sets and costumes are a delight, along with the music score by Danny Elfman. And then there’s that bike.

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Quicksilver

This movie is kind of corny, but it’s pretty enjoyable to watch Kevin Bacon zip around on a bike in 1980s San Francisco. After losing his hotshot stock market job, Bacon takes a job as a bike messenger. He hangs out with wacky coworkers, gets involved in some low-level intrigue, and like, totally grows as a person.

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Triplets of Belleville

Madame Souza and her beloved pooch Bruno team up with the Belleville Sisters—an aged song-and-dance team from the days of Fred Astaire—to rescue her grandson who was kidnapped during the Tour de France. Lots of bicycle racing, and lots of wonderful music. Essential viewing for all ages.…………………………………………………………..

And of course, who could forget this classic moment in cinematic history?

Bike safely,
Tara

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Manly Adventure Awaits You!

In my last Nelson-riddled post, I mentioned Nelson DeMille as a fine example of the made-up genre of Manly Adventure.1 I’ve never been big on Manly Adventure2 myself (though I admit to reading a great deal of Tom Clancy in my bored and car-less youth), but like any good librarian I can go on and on about stuff that I’ve never read or watched – we call it reader’s advisory. There’s a fancy librarian term for you.

So what makes a Manly Adventure? How about super spies, dramatic explosions, wily terrorists, corrupt governments, high-speed chases, drug lords, conspiracy theories, double agents, chemical and biological weapons, and noble public servants fighting for their country?

                   

Note for Manly Authors: Make sure your name will make a good logo (see Griffin and Martini).

                   

Note for Manly Authors: You don’t have to stop writing after you die (see Ludlum and O’Brian).

                   

Note for Manly Authors: Once you’re famous enough, you can get other people to do the work for you (see Clancy and Cussler).

                   

Note for Manly Authors: Not sure what to put on your book jacket? Try an American flag or some fancy landmark (see Berry and Tanenbaum).

So if you’re too out of shape to join the army, too nearsighted to be a fighter pilot, or your past is too colorful to allow you to run for public office, try a little Manly Adventure instead.

- Amy

1 Apparently Men’s Fiction is the accepted term for these books. Sigh.

2 You don’t have to be manly, a man, or even a bored pre-teen with no driver’s license to enjoy Manly Adventure. Anyone can read Manly Adventure. You want it? We got it. You want something else? We’ll find you something else. That’s what libraries are for.

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Don’t Touch My Tomatoes

Today is Josephine Baker’s birthday. Most people only know her in this way:

But she was so much more. Born into poverty in racially divided St. Louis in 1906, Ms. Baker was homeless and living on the street by the time she was in her early teens. She was discovered dancing on a street corner, which lead to her roles in New York and Paris musical revues. In addition to being a talented dancer, Ms. Baker was an actress, singer and muse to several artists and authors, World War II spy for the French Resistance, mother who adopted children from other countries (before it was fashionable), friend to dictators and princes alike, civil rights activist, and recipient of the Legion d’Honneur. She was elegant and graceful until the very end.

If you would like to learn more about this fascinating woman, the library has these to offer:

And I have to mention this last one (even though it is a reference book that you must look at in the library and can’t check out), because it has the most beautiful full-color lithographs of Ms. Baker and fellow performers in their Paris revue…



Live life with abandon, the way Josephine Baker did.
–Melissa M.

P.S. Just in case you were wondering about the title, “Don’t Touch My Tomatoes” was one of the more popular songs recorded by Ms. Baker in the English language.

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ePub Format Would Have Suited Poe

I’ve been utilizing my Kobo eReader to check out and read some of the great classics available on CLP’s Overdrive platform.  For folks who haven’t explored it, Overdrive offers books in a number of electronic formats, including the ePub format most commonly utilized by non-Kindle (Amazon) eReaders.

You can do a nifty, targeted search that will limit to just “classics”  in the ePub format on Overdrive.  That’s how I found this lovely little collection of Poe material featuring some of his most famous tales (“Masque of the Red Death, “The Raven”, and “The Cask of Amontialldo”).   Here’s a shot of the eBook “cover”:

The more I think about it, the more I believe Edgar Allen Poe would have loved the ePub format.  As the country’s first real “magaziner,” he was a tireless self-promoter and really tried very hard to make a living at being both a publisher and a writer.  A format like ePub would have allowed him to go right at his core audience, breaking his work into mini-collections for sale and distribution.  And could you imagine some of the crossover marketing deals a modern-day Poe could have negotiated for himself?

Woman to Starbucks Barista: “Yes, I’d like a tall Cask of Amontialldo with extra room.”

Barista: “Do you want whole or skim milk with that?”

Alas, Poe died penniless, a victim of a reading public that did not fully appreciate his genius until he was gone.

His work lives on beyond the printed word, a testament to his talent and tenacity.

–Scott

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