Monthly Archives: September 2008

A Tribute to Paul Newman

Screen legend Paul Newman died Friday at the age of 83.  Tributes refer to Newman as a passionate, intellectual actor, humanitarian and nonprofit entrepreneur.  His Newman’s Own products have generated over $220 million in donations to various charities.  The New York Times has a number of essays and slide shows remembering the life and work of Paul Newman.

In addition to the complete list of titles the library owns, here’s a list of some of Newman’s most famous films:



 Cat on Hot Tin Roof

book jacket  Exodus



 Cool Hand Luke



 The Color of Money

 – Lisa


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How I learned to fear New York City.

In Leonard Bernstein’s musical “On the Town,” the visiting sailors sing Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s lyrics, “New York, New York / It’s a helluva town.”  Well, twenty-five years ago, my movie watching would perhaps inspire one to simply sing, “New York, New York / It’s a hell…”

The Warriors (1979)
Just as I thought, New York is full of gangs including ones dressed as baseball players, ones with girls with crimped hair, and the especially scary ones wearing striped shirts and overalls who ride roller skates. 

1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)
My mother is from the Bronx and she wouldn’t let me see this movie.  Obviously, she didn’t want me to see her childhood home taken over by various gangs including bikers, dancers, street hockey players, and more roller skaters. 

Escape from New York (1981)
In the 90s, New York City became a maximum security prison.  I mean, in this film, in the 90s, New York City became a maximum security prison.  Also in the film, cab drivers use Molotov cocktails to keep the “crazies” away.

C.H.U.D. (1984)
If you don’t know what the acronym C.H.U.D. stands for, you’ll sure be surprised when one comes up out of the sewer to attack you while you’re visiting New York.  See this movie to get the full story, though I will warn you that it’s got too much plot and not enough C.H.U.D.

I don’t know how many C.H.U.D. are in real-life NYC, but after watching all these films, I’m afraid to go there and find out.

— Tim


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Preserving the Harvest

Every season carries certain food associations. I never want summer’s abundance of sweet corn, peppers, beans, and tomatoes to end. Maybe that’s why early autumn makes me think of dill pickles, sauerkraut, chutney, and relish.

When I was a kid, every summer around Labor Day my family drove from western to eastern Washington state to load our car with peaches, pears, and cucumbers. Back home, we began our week long project of putting up jars of preserved produce. I fell under the spell of the kitchen haze, steam scented with dill and apple cider vinegar for the cukes, or burnt sugar if hot sugar syrup poured over peaches and pears dripped on the hot stove top.

My husband and his daughter also cherish a tradition of late summer canning. Their ritual includes recipes from a book that resides on this library’s shelves, The Joy of Pickling: 200 Flavor-Packed Recipes for All Kinds of Produce from Garden or Market. Since moving to Pittsburgh my husband and I have missed sharing in this glad preparation for the dark months ahead. With that in mind we made one of the highlights of our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest a Saturday pickling reunion. With The Joy of Pickling in hand, my husband, daughter, son-in-law and I set out for Seattle Tilth’s Harvest Fair Farmer’s Market. After perusing the bounty, we bought 18 ears of corn and 1 1/2 pounds each of green and yellow beans as the foundation for two pickle recipes.

The product of our kitchen labors included Zydeco Green Beans (page 110),

and Corn Relish (page 297).

If you’ve never canned food yourself, you might be curious about my enthusiasm. True, canning involves organization, special equipment, effort, and a lot of heat and steam. But the rewards include unique, savory treats to keep or give as gifts, knowledge of your winter foods’ origins, and creative satisfaction when your winter taste buds take a taste of late summer.

Sharing the work of canning with friends is the best way to get started. Call it a Pickling Party, or form a society of Puckery Produce Preservationists. The Joy of Pickling or another similar guide will provide the necessary theory of home canning, and step by step instructions for canning in general and pickling in particular. Another important resource is The USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning.

Here’s to you, successful home pickler convert!


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Emily Dickinson: 3 Poems Discussion Group


As mentioned in a previous post,  Main Library will be hosting a brand new discussion group beginning Thursday evening, October 9th, entitled 3 Poems By …Each session of the 3 Poems By … Poetry Discussion Group will concentrate on three representative works of a particular poet.  There will be a brief intro by one of the two moderators (Renée or Don), followed by a guided discussion of the 3 poems under consideration.  

Think of it as a book discussion group without the (whole) book, just 3 poems.

Up first is Emily Dickinson who, along with Walt Whitman, revolutionized American poetry by making it frankly personal and, again along with “Father” Walt, is one of the two most important American poets of the 19th century.  Dickinson herself was as enigmatic as her work; in that very real sense, her poetry reflects who she was.  However, the reader must be wary.  Dickinson herself famously cautioned, in a letter from July 1862, that the “I” or persona in her poems was “a supposed person.”   The critic Harold Bloom observed that when reading Dickinson “One’s mind had better be at its rare best” because there is much to be ferreted from the seemingly simplistic language and rhythmic meters of her considerable body of work. 

So, all things considered, three small dollops may be just enough.

The three poems we’ll be reading and discussing by Dickinson are:

  • There’s a certain Slant of light
  • After great pain a formal feeling comes
  • Because I could not stop for Death

Whether its subject is going out on a formal date with a very persuasive suitor, a near clinical description of the sheer weight and power of grief, or an early lyrical accounting of what might be taken for the very modern syndrome known as seasonal affective disorder, any of these three poems will not fail to astonish in either theme or execution.

Join us at Main Library on Thursday, October 9th from 7:30 to 8:30 in Classroom A in the Center for Museum Education, which is in the hallway of the rear entrance to the library.  Registration is requested, not required (it helps us to figure out how many chairs we need), so to register or further information please contact Renée (412 622-3151) or Don (412 622-3175) or drop us an email at


– Don

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I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock and Roll)

Actually, I didn’t, but I like that song

Some dear friends of mine are getting married in a couple of weeks.  As they get down to the wire with the details of their wedding, they are borrowing all kind of materials from the library, mostly CDs for dancing. 

We have so many things that can help with your wedding, whether it’s music for the ceremony, music for the reception, DVDs to help you with your first dance, DVDs to remind you that yours isn’t the only family that’s insane…  Here’s a sampling of items you might try:

And in honor of the fact that weddings these days seem to be about more, more, more, there’s more!  If twelve hours of Martha in the 4-disc Martha’s Complete Weddings isn’t enough, you can watch Bake Your Own Wedding Cake.  (Come on, people, I know I’m not the only one who wants to watch this even if I don’t have a wedding coming up!)  See what other people have done in Bravo’s 2002 reality series, Gay Weddings, or in Marriage Customs of the World: From Henna to Honeymoons, by George Monger. To find out what not to do, watch Sixteen Candles.

Finally, you may want to take a step back and look at weddings from a sociological perspective, perspective sometimes being a tough thing to hold on to while planning a wedding. Altared: Bridezillas, Bewilderment, Big Love, Breakups, and What Women Really Think About Contemporary Weddings is a collection of true stories, both touching and humorous, by writers that have caught the wedding bug.


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Happy Fall!

 Yesterday was the Autumnal Equinox, so HAPPY FALL, everyone!

Autumn turns Western PA into one of the most gorgeous places on the planet, and there are plenty of ways to celebrate the season, from special events related to Pittsburgh’s 250th birthday to statewide annual fesivals.

If you’re a gardener, you’re probably already harvesting tomatoes, other veggies and herbs and figuring out yummy ways to prepare, dry or preserve them.  Or maybe your garden is just getting started on its second wind.  Either way, if you’re lucky enough to have a surplus of sustenance, consider sharing the harvest by donating or getting involved with Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.  September is, after all, Hunger Action Month.

 If your engagement with autumn leans more towards the creative side, there are lots of crafty ways to honor fall.  You could create a seasonal journal, collage or craft with bright fall leaves or other natural materials, or photograph foliage on long walks in the newly cooled weather.  If you want to be both practical and fun, stop by Carnegie Knits and Reads for some rollicking, book-talking company while you knit or crochet yourself a fancy warm hat or scarf.

If none of these ideas ring your bell, you can always resort to the tried and true “curl-up-with-a-good-book-and-hot-cup-of-tea” approach to enjoying pretty much any weather.  We can help with the “good book” part (and, actually, the tea part, too).

However you decide to observe the new tilt of the earthly axis, I hope you enjoy it!


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Pittsburgh is so RAD!!!

Here is yet another reason to love living in Pittsburgh: RADical Days 2008 is beginning today and will go into the middle of October! Museums, theaters, galleries, zoos, outdoor adventure organizations, libraries, parks and cultural centers will be hosting free events open to everyone on selected days.

What is RAD? RAD stands for “Regional Asset District.” According to the website:

“The mission of RAD is to support and finance regional assets in the areas of libraries, parks and recreation, cultural, sports and civic facilities and programs. The District receives one-half of the proceeds from the 1% Allegheny County Sales and Use Tax and the other half is paid directly to the County and municipal governments by the State Treasurer.

Since 1995, the 1% County Sales tax paid by residents of and visitors to Allegheny County has resulted in a cumulative $1.97 billion investment in the region.”

This is an opportunity for the assets that benefit from your tax dollars to thank you with free admission! Get out there and enjoy a free concert by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, paddle around the Three Rivers Downtown, get free admission to the Carnegie Science Center, and much, much more.


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Things that make librarians sad


Here are a few things that your favorite librarians may find depressing, in no particular order.

A view of the Lecture Hall from behind the building.

A view of the Lecture Hall from behind the building on an obnoxiously lovely fall day. I had to go to work shortly after taking this picture.

1. When you tell us how nice it is outside. Yes, we’d love to enjoy the day too, but someone has to be here to make sure you get all of those bestsellers and magazine articles, not to mention the ever-important headphones for the computers.
2. Books that are returned with sand trapped in their jackets. From a technical point of view, this is bad because the sand will damage the book’s cover. From a morale point of view, this is bad because the book got to go to the beach but we didn’t. This is especially depressing during the winter months.
3. The places that people leave things. One of my clerks once found a Naruto DVD in the second floor men’s toilet. Not just in the bathroom, mind you, but actually in the toilet. I think he should have earned hazardous duty pay for rescuing it (don’t worry, we threw out that one and ordered a replacement copy). 
No DVDs have been found in this particular toilet. But don't be getting any ideas.

No DVDs have been found in this particular toilet so far. Please don't get any ideas.

4. The things you use as scratch paper. I have a note from a customer written on the back of an opera ticket stub. No big deal, you say. But this particular ticket stub was entirely in Italian. Librarians don’t get to go to Italy very often, you know. Maybe if we presented it to the management as an outreach program?

5. Mysterious stains. More specifically, the coffee stain that we found on our new carpet the morning after it was installed. So from here on out, you’ll have to keep all of your Crazy Mocha treats down on the First Floor. We may lighten up a bit eventually, but that won’t be for another ten years or so.

6. When you say scary things on the phone. Today a customer told me that he was driving on (major highway) at (illegal speed) while talking to me, so he couldn’t get his library card out to tell me his number.  Please, call us later. The library has all sorts of nifty things to be sure, but it’s not worth risking your life.
That’s quite a list of downers, isn’t it? So how do you cheer up a depressed librarian? It’s really pretty simple: take care of your materials, return them on time, don’t put things in the toilet, and visit us often. We’d love to see you.
Or you could just take us to Italy….


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David Foster Wallace – two tributes

It’s hard to know what to say when a literary luminary leaves us far too soon.  Perhaps letting David Foster Wallace speak his own words is the better option.  The reading below was given at a celebration in honor of the 125th anniversary of Harper’s Magazine.

–Leigh Anne


One of the authors whose works I most admire died last Friday. In the New York Times obituary, Bruce Weber noted that David Foster Wallace wrote “. . . prodigiously observant, exuberantly plotted, grammatically and etymologically challenging, philosophically probing and culturally hyper-contemporary novels, stories and essays . . .” 

Upon learning of an author’s death, librarians often honor a writer by displaying a collection of his or her works. I checked our catalog, and every D.F.W. book we own was circulating. Here, then, is an electronic display of my favorite D.F.W. books.


Girl With Curious Hair



Infinite Jest




A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments



Consider the Lobster and Other Essays


Though published only on the internet, D.F.W.’s 2005 Kenyon College Commencement Address shines.

One more link — Harper’s Magazine has opened their D.F.W. archives for even non-subscribers to read D.F.W.’s contributions.


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Shelf Examination: Manga and Graphic Novels

Thanks to the success of graphic novels like Fun Home and Persepolis, more and more adults are discovering the power and pleasure of contemporary comics. Today’s Shelf Examination celebrates the renaissance in graphic literature for adults, featuring fiction and non-fiction titles that can entertain, inspire, or educate via the marriage of well-drawn images and thoughtful text.

The Series:  Essex County, Jeff Lemire.

Start With: Tales From the Farm.

The Plot:  Lemire populates a farming community in Southwestern Ontario with an assortment of quirky, yet dignified characters, each coping with life’s privations in her/his own style.  Tales From the Farm focuses on how adult role models help a young boy cope after his mother’s death.


The Memoir: Blue Pills, Frederick Peeters.

The Plot:  Peeters chronicles the delicate dance of creating a relationship with a woman and her son, both of whom have tested positive for HIV.  Images of the absurd and the magical weave through this touching, realistic story of love in a complicated world.

book jacket     book jacket  book jacket     book jacket

The Series: Old Boy, Garon Tsuchiya.

The Plot:  Goto wants some answers.  Why was he whisked away and imprisoned for ten years?  And why, suddenly, has he been released with no explanation?  Goto’s Kafkaesque search for the truth seemingly points to a teenage grudge, but can it really be that simple?


The Play: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare, adapted by Richard Appignanesi.

The Plot:  Lovers flee to the woods, fairies hold grudges and make mischief, and Appignanesi illuminates all with light, delicate depictions of the otherworldly creatures into whose domains the hapless humans have stumbled.  Includes eight pages of character introductions.

As usual, the quick picks offered in today’s post are just the tip of the iceberg.  And if you’ve spent this entire post scratching your head and saying, “Huh?,” we can help you there, too.  For graphic novel picks appropriate for kids and teens, please consult our fabulous, knowledgable colleagues in their respective departments.

What readerly goodness lurks within the heart of the stacks?  Shelf Examination knows!  See you next time.

–Leigh Anne

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