An Exciting Weekend With Dangerous Women

My idea of a good time is soaring through the air with night witches, galloping through the Old West with outlaws, tailing dangerous dames and femmes fatales, and otherwise cavorting with women you’d be crazy to cross. Luckily for me–and for you!–George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois have edited a spectacular collection of short stories called Dangerous Women,  featuring what are most commonly referred to today as “strong female characters,” though they are ever so much more than that.

Members of the Missouri University Shooting Club, 1934. Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons - click through to learn more.

Members of the Missouri University Shooting Club, 1934. Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons – click through to learn more.

I had fully intended to read one or two tales at a time to make the collection last longer, but the stories are just so great, I’ve been burning through them the way I normally polish off a bag of Fig Newtons after a long run (do not judge). So far I’ve been totally creeped out by Megan Abbott, highly amused by Joe R. Lansdale, stunned to silence by Brandon Sanderson, and treated to a whirlwind of genres from Western to noir. I’m even in possession of information that Jim Butcher fans who aren’t up-to-date on the Dresden files will be extremely excited to learn. And overall, I’m just plain delighted by the variety of genres produced by a greatest hits lineup of well-known folks–that make up the volume.

[In fact, the only thing that makes me sad about this anthology is that there are no writers of color featured in it. I fail to see how that could possibly have happened, given that authors like Nalo Hopkinson, Jewelle Gomez, and Natsuo Kirino (to name but a few of many) are alive and well, and creating dangerous women of their own. Luckily, there are other story collections to remedy this shortcoming, and I'd recommend you look into them.]

My favorite piece thus far in Dangerous Women addresses the fear of getting old with a twist of the fantastic. Megan Lindholm (better known to some as Robin Hobb) delivers the quietly brilliant “Neighbors,” the story of an aging woman named Sarah whose son is determined to put her in an assisted living facility. Sarah, who has lost her husband (to death), her brother (to Alzheimer’s disease) and her dog (to the mysterious fog that rolls into her yard every night) is determined to hold on to her house for as long as she can. But though her efforts have kept her children at bay thus far, she can’t hold out forever. Meanwhile, the fog–and the mysterious people Sarah sees coming and going inside of it–gets closer and closer to the house. Deeply moving and suspenseful, Lindholm’s story will have you rooting for Sarah all the way up to the surprising–but, under the circumstances, believable–ending.

So, if you’re looking for a series of hair-raising adventures featuring heroines–and villains–who could teach Buffy the Vampire Slayer a thing or two, I definitely recommend snuggling up for a weekend with Dangerous Women. Despite its one glaring flaw, it’s one of the most exciting collections I’ve picked up in a long time, and short story fans of all kinds will consider it a win.

–Leigh Anne


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“Everyone’s a Little Bit Irish…”

The saying goes that “Everyone is a little bit Irish on St. Paddy’s day.”  In my case it’s even a little bit true. I can claim a wee bit of Irish heritage several generations back. My great-great Irish grandfather had a daughter who married a Greek, who had a daughter who married a Greek, who had a son who married a Pittsburgher of Polish descent, who had a daughter – me. 

Maybe beyond the excuse to wear, drink and eat green things, this is a day in which people of various backgrounds can join together to help forget about a long cold winter and the hope to hurry spring along, or maybe it goes further – becoming a celebration of some sort of shared cultural heritage in order to feel like part of the group, even if it isn’t ancestrally one’s own.

Pittsburgh is an amazing city that sets a fine example of the American melting pot.  At the turn of the previous century, a huge wave of immigrants came to this country looking for a better opportunity than they had in the old one.  This immigrant wave helped to create some of the long standing Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Germans, Italians, Polish and Irish. They joined in the Pittsburghers already settled here claiming ancestry from these and other European and Middle Eastern countries, as well as those of African descent.

Another remarkable thing about Pittsburgh is that we don’t have to wait until the weekend surrounding the 17th of March every year, or for Kennywood to open its arms to the various ethnic and cultural groups during their summer celebrations, in order to appreciate our city’s diversity. There is a multitude of opportunities and experiences here in the city that are available to us year round, where we can savor those cultural groups who have helped to shape past, present and future Yinzers.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh offers a wide variety of reference and research opportunities through its website.  Along with the vast knowledge of our learned librarians and the expansive collection of materials within our many departments and locations, the Library provides access to information for anyone interested in this city’s vast ethnic heritage. And we are fortunate to have neighbors in the city of Pittsburgh that are able to supplement that experience. Visits to the Nationality Rooms in the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, or the Heinz History Center are musts for any resident or visitor to this city to help further understand and appreciate the many ingredients within Pittsburgh’s own melting pot.

The immigrant wave of the early 1900′s allowed for my  Irish, Greek and Polish grandparents to experience the multitude of opportunities for their growing families in this new world. This new millennium has made way for a new wave of immigrants of Asian, Middle-Eastern and Hispanic nationalities to add their talents and cultural uniqueness to this ever changing and growing mix. Today we celebrate our collective Irish heritage. Tomorrow, why not visit this city’s resources and discover one or more of the many other cultures that make up your own, and Pittsburgh’s, rich and diverse heritage.

-Maria J.


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One Book One Community: Colum McCann’s Gift to Pittsburgh and the World

Colum McCann - PAL 3-10-2014

Colum McCann, March 10, 2014

photo credit: Renee Rosensteel,

event photos generously provided by Renee Rosensteel and Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures

Colum McCann had us at hello.

“Happy to be here with yinz!” the National Book Award winning Irish author said, greeting the delighted sold-out crowd at Carnegie Music Hall in pitch-perfect Pittsburghese.

Colum McCann visited our city on March 10 as part of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures Ten Literary Evenings Monday Night Lecture Series, made possible by The Drue Heinz Trust. His lecture, underwritten by UPMC, also launched One Book One Community 2014, an initiative of the Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA).  (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is a sponsor of One Book One Community 2014.)

TransAtlantic, Colum McCann’s latest novel, is this year’s One Book One Community selection. It’s a fascinating novel about three interconnected journeys across the ocean, but also across time and history and generations.  The characters’ stories, like so many of our stories, are woven together.

“Every moment that we live in has been influenced by the past,” McCann said during his lecture. “Everything we do … matters to the future.”

Colum McCann 2 - PAL 3-10-2014

He was referring to TransAtlantic. But the magic of the evening was wrapped in stories about his childhood filled with books from a journalist father who traveled to America and who returned with the best for his young son, cultivating a “love of stories.” It was about  losing faith as a writer and regaining it through the “spectacular generosity of the Rooney family” who gave him “the oomph” to continue writing by awarding him the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 1994.

“I wouldn’t be here without them,” he stated.

Everything we do matters to the future.

It was about Pittsburgh – our beloved Pittsburgh, a city that Colum McCann had visited for the first time this Monday.

“I felt like I was stepping through parts of Dublin, parts of New York,” he observed. Earlier in the day, he’d spoken with students from Woodland Hills High School and he was impressed with how the youth reflected on the city.  You can learn so much about a place from talking and listening to a city’s children and young people, he said.

Everything we do matters to the future.

Indeed, we live in a city of bridges. Our everyday crossings over the Allegheny, the Ohio, and the Mon may seem more insignificant than transatlantic ones – although depending on the time of day, the weather, and the particular bridge, it may feel almost as long. Our everyday lives and actions don’t always seem historical, like they matter in the lives of others.

Everything we do matters to the future.

And especially here in Pittsburgh, our big small town, we are more connected than we ever imagined.

At the end of the evening, I stood in line, juggling my three Colum McCann books to be signed, my cell phone charged for a much-hoped for photo.  I chatted with the ladies behind me, one of whom held a copy of Dancer written in an unfamiliar language.

Igrac - Dancer in Russian

Someone had invited her to the lecture, asking her if she had ever heard of Colum McCann. I’m reading his book now, she had said.

“I could tell him that I came all the way from Serbia to have him sign my book,” she said, and we laughed. “Because it’s kind of true.”

Someone else said hello. The ladies resumed their conversation. I didn’t have a chance to hear her story. I wish that I had.

Upon seeing the book, Colum McCann was amazed. He had never seen that edition of Dancer … until that moment, right here in Pittsburgh.

I took in the electric symbolism of the moment: transatlantic crossings, connections.  “The world grows small around us, it seems.”  That’s what Colum McCann said to a sold-out Pittsburgh crowd moments before, and watching him sign that book, I felt and saw the absolute truth of his words.

Books really do have the power to connect the world.

~ Melissa F.

One Book One Community is an initiative of the Allegheny County Library Association. For details on how you, your book club or your organization can participate, stop by your local library or visit One Book One

More information about Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures can be found here.


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Autobiographical Soundtrack

Sometimes, the inspiration for your blog post comes from a Facebook meme/quiz thingy (technical term, yes?). I’m sure some of you have seen the one floating around that asks folks to list 20 favorite albums that have stayed with you in some way. The idea is to not over think it too much and just go with your gut. It’s a very Rob Gordon-High Fidelity exercise that yields some interesting results.

Here’s my list, many with notations. As you will see, middle school and college were both very formative to my music tastes. Somehow, my high school years were a weird black hole of ska compilation CDs, Top 40, and the classic rock hits that are burned in my brain forever, thanks to marching band. The late ’90s were weird, okay?

  1. DookieGreen Day - I was in sixth grade when this album hit the mainstream. It was one of the first CDs I bought on my own and blew open the doors to a whole new world known as punk.
  2. GracelandPaul Simon - This is one of the first records I remembering hearing in the house as a tiny person. “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” is still one of my favorite songs.
  3. For Emma, Forever AgoBon Iver
  4. Greatest HitsFleetwood Mac – The original instructions asked that you not include any greatest hits albums on your list (I think to prevent people from being lazy), but I’m going to blatantly cheat in the name of Stevie Nicks. Thanks to the green cassette tape that never left my mother’s car in the late ’80s, I was probably the only kid in first grade who knew the lyrics to “Rhiannon.”
  5. UnpluggedNirvana
  6. A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A ScarDashboard Confessional - I had a lot of feelings to work out in 2003.
  7. Whatever & Ever AmenBen Folds Five - Freshman year of high school. I bought the CD on a whim right before my first solo plane ride. I was off to Disney World with the aforementioned high school marching band for a grand adventure and fell hard for Ben Folds’s brand of nerdy piano rock. Happens to the best of us.
  8. PlansDeath Cab for Cutie
  9. Bleed AmericanJimmy Eat World - Honestly, Clarity might be a better album, but this one trumps for sentimental reasons. My freshman year of college was the fall of 2001 and Bleed American (then changed to a self-titled album at the 11th hour for understandable reasons) was an anchor that first semester away from home.
  10. Deja Entendu, Brand New – I remember catching part of the video for the track “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows” and scrambling to find more about this band. They’ve been a constant Top 5 favorite for more than ten years now.
  11. Room for SquaresJohn Mayer
  12. The Blue AlbumWeezer - I very much liked the “Buddy Holly” single when it was popular, but I didn’t fully commit to Weezer until college, right around their resurgence. While I love Pinkerton and The Green Album, I always come back to The Blue Album when I need a fix.
  13. Straylight Run, Straylight Run
  14. Romeo + Juliet soundtrack - Say what you will about Baz Luhrmann‘s movies, but the man is a genius when it comes to cultivating music for his films. As a twelve year old, this album was the perfect level of angst-y and served as an introduction to two bands that I still love, Radiohead and Garbage.
  15. Aeroplane Over the Sea,  Neutral Milk Hotel - I heard “Holland 1945″ covered live once upon a time and immediately needed to know everything about the original band. It all comes full-circle at the end of the month when Neutral Milk Hotel plays Pittsburgh.
  16. GraceJeff Buckley
  17. Tragic Kingdom, No Doubt – The first time I saw Gwen Stefani was performing on some MTV Spring Break special. I was knocked out by her confidence – I wanted to be her then and I still want to be her now.
  18. I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child,  Manchester Orchestra – I first encountered Manchester Orchestra when they opened for Brand New (see above) at the Cleveland House of Blues in 2007 (I still use the ticket stub as a bookmark). The library owns their last record, Simple Math and I highly recommend it.
  19. …is a Real BoySay Anything
  20. Brain Thrust Mastery, We Are Scientists – First time that I heard this band was the single “After Hours,” which was on the soundtrack for Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist. It was another immediate “I need everything they’ve ever made!” situation and Brain Thrust Mastery is still one of my favorite albums for long car trips.

Your turn – what albums would make your list?

- Jess


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I Resolve… to Swap Seeds!

In late 2013, I found myself drunk with possibility.  So long, stinky 2013!  It’s time for  a new year!   A new life!  I concocted about 100 new year’s resolutions.   Start rock climbing!  Paddle board all summer! Learn to kayak! Eat a ridiculously clean diet!  Plant and grow more food!  Read 52 books!  Purchase all clothes second hand! Fix up the bike and ride it everyday! Cook dinner at home every night! Remember every niece and nephew’s birthday! Be a better person!  Stop eating so much cheese! Have never-ending patience! Do more yoga! Train your dogs  to not act bananas!  Slow down! Quit caffeine!

You may have guessed that my list was a little too long and ambitious. The new year hit and I realized that I needed to manage my expectations.  Sadly, I can’t do it all.  Maybe I wouldn’t want to -  who wants a life without caffeine?  So, first step: whittle down the list to my priorities.  Second step: learn how to make things happen. I did what any linguistic learner would do. I read some helpful articles and blog posts about how to actually make resolutions work.  It’s all about systems and support, my friends!

I broke down my resolutions into manageable chunks, and have hacked away at them by asking for support and by creating systems that I can use to tweak my schedule. It’s almost spring, so  now the focus is on things I can do outside. I am going to build my gardening skills. Luckily, I work at the Library, which offers  a plethora of tools to do just that.  We have a great collection of gardening and cookbooks.  We also have actual gardens and a seed library.  And we have programs to help us become better, more sustainable gardeners.  On Saturday, March 15th, in collaboration with Grow Pittsburgh and Phipps Conservatory, we will offer our second annual Seed Swap.  This is a great way to get you motivated for the gardening season.  In addition to the actual swapping of seeds, there will be workshops. We’ll have a seed starting workshop at 12 pm and a seed saving workshop at 1pm next door in the Oversize Room.

So don’t get overwhelmed by resolutions or by the fear of finding a way to work gardening into your schedule.  All you must do is come to the library.  We have you covered with the support you need to become a great gardener.

Happy swapping!



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Lies, Damn Lies, and Librarians

You wouldn’t know the truth if it kicked you in the head. – Hitch

I sometimes wonder if the First Amendment should be conditional, though I’m not sure what the criteria or who the arbiter would be.  It can’t be based on education; too many supposedly educated people are horse’s patooties. It goes without saying that it cannot be left up to government at any level or to any party. So, even though I empathize with the Hamiltonians rather than the Jeffersonians, I’ll defer to Jefferson on this one.


Thomas Jefferson


Alexander Hamilton

Where did this originate from to throw my otherwise good nature off (the time is truly ripe for a baseball piece, isn’t it?) I’m sure many of you have online affinity or discussion groups you participate in or observe.  If you’re a Facebook user, you’re used to seeing someone’s snippet of an idea that may or may not convey a profound level of intellectual thought.  At any rate my friends (real and FB imaginary) and I float in that direction rather than posting inane pictures of our cats, dogs and other drooling pets. One of the things I try to do is to mix-up the choir a little bit. Where’s the fun in engaging in discourse if everyone has the same worldview? Ragging on the opposition in a unanimous voice has to get boring, doesn’t it? However, every so often something happens, or someone writes / posts something that leaves you honestly concluding “the zombie apocalypse would be a breath of fresh air.” (I was actually much harsher in an expletive laden sort of way.)  Here’s what was posted:

Saw this and a succession of commentary and my sense of what’s right & wrong went into skeptical overdrive.  Needless to say, using rather common Librarian superpowers (readily available to mere mortals, but don’t tell anyone,) I satisfied myself and some other well intentioned folk that former Fed chief Greenspan never said this, and never endorsed this kind of economic view in any forum.

What Alan Greenspan did do, in testimony before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs in 1997, was outline several of the reasons why inflation was still low to non-existent in the previous 3-4 year period.  Among the reasons he cited and the evidence provided were a recent history of longer union contracts, fewer labor-management conflicts and fewer workers moving between jobs.  He also concluded that the then current phenomena of worker insecurity needed to be further studied to find fully accurate causes.  I will say, he did it in florid and terribly dry fashion -

“The reluctance of workers to leave their jobs to seek other employment as the labor market tightened has provided further evidence of such concern, as has the tendency toward longer labor union contracts. For many decades, contracts rarely exceeded three years. Today, one can point to five- and six-year contracts–contracts that are commonly characterized by an emphasis on job security and that involve only modest wage increases. The low level of work stoppages of recent years also attests to concern about job security.”

The link above takes you to the catalog record for our holdings (on fiche) of the hearings that Chairman Greenspan appeared before, but you can also go one additional step to prove a point (and pass on the fiche.)

1. Testimony of Chairman Alan Greenspan; The Federal Reserve’s semiannual monetary policy report, Before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, U.S. Senate. February 26, 1997

2. Job Insecurity of Workers Is a Big Factor in Fed Policy By Louis Uchitelle -New York Times. February 27, 1997

We did this once before around here, only the subject was then Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and the accusation was that as Mayor of Wasilla, she had actively pursued the censoring of materials from the Wasilla Library.  A little legwork by library staff debunked that story too.  I am a firm believer in letting the honest facts speak for themselves, and letting people prove they aren’t worthy of my time or consideration by dint of their real sins, not the imagined ones.

- Richard

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Wrong Movie, or the Devil is in the Details

You wanted this one, right?

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of requests for the movie Frozen, which is apparently a Disney animated picture with some princesses and an Oscar-winning song and stuff. And that’s great! When people request things, that makes librarians feel needed. So thank you.

Unfortunately, Disney’s Frozen won’t be out on DVD until March 18th, so our customers have been accidentally requesting some less age-appropriate titles.


No princesses here.

Frozen, 1996: A young performance artist decides to make his own suicide his last work of art. On the longest day of the year, he melts a huge block of ice with his own body heat and dies of hypothermia. He calls this act of defiance an “ice burial.”

Frozen, 2010: A typical day on the slopes turns into a chilling nightmare for three snowboarders when they get stranded on the chairlift before their last run. As the ski patrol switches off the lights, they realize with growing panic that they’ve been left behind, dangling high off the ground with no way down.


That doesn’t look very heartwarming.

The Frozen, 2012: Emma and her boyfriend Mike take an ill-advised winter camping trip and are left to fight for their lives after a snowmobile accident leaves them stranded deep in the mountains. What begins as a struggle for survival against the harsh elements quickly turns into something far more chilling when the couple begins to glimpse a mysterious man who appears to be tracking them through the forest.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen customers confuse titles, though. Many years ago I received a complaint from a person who ordered Air Force One and received a lovely National Geographic special instead of an action-packed Harrison Ford romp.

The Same River Twice

I just wanted to use this picture on the library blog.

And apparently there’s a movie called Same River Twice (recommended by the Dove foundation) that is absolutely nothing like The Same River Twice (which features naked hippies). Oops.

So remember, before you place that hold – please check the publication date and read the summary first. Or you may end up confusing the heck out of your children.

- Amy


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