Monthly Archives: March 2009

Pittsburghers Sing to Spring, Pt. 2 — Jazz

Last year, I posted about the springtime sounds made by Pittsburgh classical musicians.  Now I’d like to guide you through this season with music by many talented jazz musicians from Pittsburgh.

Almost Spring

Start with “Almost Spring,” written by a Pittsburgh bass player named Mickey Bass and performed by pianist John Hicks.  Although he was born in Atlanta, Hicks played in Pittsburgher Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and is accompanied here by Pittsburghers Dwayne Dolphin on bass and Cecil Brooks III on drums.  The track appears on a tribute to Pittsburgher piano pioneer Earl “Fatha” Hines, one of Hicks’ many albums dedicated to Pittsburgh pianists: Sonny Clark, Erroll Garner, Billy Strayhorn, and Mary Lou Williams.  I hereby proclaim John Hicks as an honorary Pittsburgher.

Up Jumped Spring

Jump up and get Pittsburgh vibist Steve Nelson’s delightful recording of Freddie Hubbard’s “Up Jumped Spring.”

Spring is Here

Two of the most influential jazz pianists ever, Pittsburghers Ahmad Jamal and Erroll Garner,  recorded the Rodgers & Hart standard “Spring is Here.”  Check out Garner playing it solo and then listen to Jamal’s duet with bassist Israel Crosby to hear two different and equally masterful interpretations.

Memories of a Pure Spring

Garner and Jamal’s wistful playing could be followed by the somber “Memories of a Pure Spring” by trumpeter Dave Douglas.  He is accompanied by well-versed Pittsburgh accordionist Guy Klucevsek.

It Is Always Spring

Somber memories now give way to joy as Leon Thomas yodels and Pittsburgher Mary Lou Williams plays piano on “It Is Always Spring,” from Smithsonian Folkways Mary Lou’s Mass album.

But no matter the season, it is always the time to explore great Pittsburgh jazz.

— Tim

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We Need to Talk

 “When did ‘We need to talk’ . . . become a threat rather than a statement of fact?” asks Catherine Blyth in The Art of Conversation: A Guided Tour of a Neglected Pleasure. Other similar titles on CLP’s  shelves include Conversation: A History of the Declining Art by Stephen Miller, and John L. Locke’s The De-Voicing of Society: Why We Don’t Talk to Each Other Anymore.



Each of these authors explores how conversation differs from talk. A conversation is a two-way process in which the participants encourage and challenge each other to extend and refine their ideas. It means listening closely, asking questions, and showing respect for one’s partner in conversation. 

These books point out that television and computers significantly inhibit discourse. The popularity of social networking and cell phones may seem to offer hope for new forms of conversation, but, as Mr. Miller writes, the “forces sapping conversation seem stronger than the forces nourishing it.”

Ronald Carter, co-author of the Cambridge Grammar of English, said in an interview that “. . . we’re not such good listeners. That’s where the art of conversation is being lost. We transmit in short, sharp chunks, but don’t receive too well.” He sees hope for the future of conversation in reading groups, where “People meet informally . . . to discuss their ideas and feelings about books.”

CLP offers a variety of reading groups (which we call book groups or clubs), where conversation is practiced and encouraged. April’s schedule includes Dish: A Foodie Book Club, Bound Together Book Club (a CLP and Carnegie Museum of Art collaboration), and a batch of others.

Join the conversation.


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Say What?! Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day

Sometimes, life just has a way of all coming together, the perfect synchronicity of, say, a TGI Friday after a particularly grueling week in the trenches and a wonderfully bizarre celebration known as “Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day.”

Of course, you might be quick to point out that it’s also “International Mirth Month” or “National On-Hold Month” or that, in fact, this happens to be “National Protocol Officers Week” or that today is also the beginning of the annual four-day Schmeckfest.  And, yes, you would be right in noting any or all of those fine celebrations.   But if it’s Friday, after a particularly grueling week etc., it’s just got to be “Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day.”

There’s many a website out there (of course there are) to help you commemorate this distinguished holiday.  I’ve poked around a bit here and there, at those websites, in a few books and, even deep within my own not-nearly-repressed-enough memories and came up with some titles that might start you off to a weekend of healing and recuperation (unless you’re planning to head out to Schmeckfest).   Sit back, put the dogs up (or let them out, if you’re really in a novelty song mode), pop a favorite beverage, and contemplate the deep cultural resonance of the songs listed below.


If I Had a Nose Full of Nickels, I’d Sneeze Them All Atchoo!  (Lou Carter)

Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed (Kinky Friedman)

Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart (Johnny Cash)

Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off (Joe Nichols)

Being Drunk’s a Lot Like Loving You (Kenny Chesney)

Did I Shave My Legs for This? (Deanna Carter)

and in the ever-popular tradition of the country music reply song:

Did I Shave My Back for This? (Cledus T. Judd)

They Ain’t Makin Jews Like Jesus Anymore (Kinky Friedman)

White Trash Wedding (The Dixie Chicks)

Get Your Tongue Out of My Mouth ‘Cause I’m Kissin’ You Goodbye (John Denver)

It’s Hard to Kiss the Lips At Night That Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long (The Notorious Cherry Bombs)


You’ll notice that the title to the John Denver song was so good that Cynthia Heimel co-opted it for her collection of insightful, humorous essays on the ongoing tug-of-war between the sexes.  Click Denver’s name for a video performance of the song.

Finally, one song I’d like to add to this list of favorites from websites-in-the-know is decidedly old school, yet has a distinctly country twang to it, both in its ’tude and it’s performance.  A song as relevant today as it was 40 plus years ago: 

How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away (Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks).

– Don


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Sandal season is coming!

A couple of warmer days and a shopping trip with a friend have brought into my life a new, glorious pair of robin’s egg blue, strappy, high-heeled sandals. They’re patent leather, so they’re shiny, and they have a bit of a platform heel made of a cork-like material that has silver sparklies in it. I will probably only be able to wear them for about 20 minutes at a time, but they are quite fun to look at!

The truth of the matter is that I love to look at shoes! Fortunately, I don’t have to buy them in order to do so… once again, the library saves me! Check out any one of these wonderful books for an inexpensive, pain-free way to enjoy the remarkable and fabulous world of footwear.

The Art of the Shoe The Art of the Shoe, by Marie-Josephe Bossan

Manolo Blahnik Drawings Manolo Blahník Drawings

The Seductive Shoe The Seductive Shoe: Four Centuries of Fashion Footwear, by Jonathan Walford

Shoes: The Complete Sourcebook Shoes: The Complete Sourcebook, by John Peacock

Shoes: A History from Sandals to Sneakers Shoes: A History from Sandals to Sneakers

Things a Woman Should Know About Shoes Things a Woman Should Know About Shoes, by Karen Homer

Walking Dreams Walking Dreams: Salvatore Ferragamo, 1898-1960

I like knowing that I have good company in Andy Warhol, who also shared my fondness for footwear.  Did he get that from his mother, Julia Warhola?  Find out tonight at the Main library in Oakland!


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Persepolis book discussion

We’ve got plenty of fantastic book groups here at CLP, but this month we’re  trying something new: a graphic novel book discussion. 

This Sunday, March 29th at 3:00 pm, join us for a discussion of Marjane Satrapi‘s renowned two-part graphic novel memoir, Persepolis.  In the books, Satrapi describes her experience as a rebellious girl growing  up in Iran and moving to Europe alone during periods of war and political upheval.  The result is an honest tale that emphasizes the impact war and tyranny can have on individual lives.  The international success of the recently adapted film version speaks to the universal nature of her story.

As a super special added bonus (librarians are fond of those), attendees to the book discussion can enter a drawing to win tickets to Satrapi’s appearance in The Drue Heinz Lectures series on Monday, March 30th at 7:30 pm in the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland.  For a great writeup of the lecture and its details, you can also check here.





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Welcome to the World!, or, How to Experience Exotic Lands for Free

I love travelling to new places—not so much to sightsee, but to sociologically deconstruct how other people live. It’s fun to find out what strange (to me) things people do and then attempt to discover why it’s done that way. It’s also a good way to analyze why I do weird things. 

Travelling is very expensive, and the easiest–and cheapest—way for me to spy on other peoples’ cultures and histories—and even perhaps their innermost thoughts—is to read fiction and nonfiction by their authors. In our library, we have a whole section called “World Fiction” that is comprised of new books translated from other languages. 

Here are some of our brand-spanking-new World Fiction titles:

Laish: A Novel by Aharon Appelfeld from Hebrew (Romania)
Wandering Stars by Sholem Aleichem from Yiddish (Russia)
Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada from German (Germany)
The Housekeeper and the Professor: A Novel by Yoko Ogawa from Japanese (Japan)
The Possession by Annie Ernaux from French (France)
The Virgin of Solitude by Taghi Modarresi from Persian (Iran)
Tokyo Fiancée by Amelie Nothomb  from French (Japan)
Karnak Café by Naguib Mahfouz  from Arabic (Egypt)

Another way to immerse yourself in another culture is to attend our language clubs and cultural programs. This month we have hosted 23 programs related to cultures and languages. We kick off our new Japanese for Beginners program tonight, the fourth Tuesday of the month, which begins at 6 pm in the Center for Museum Education—Classroom A. This class is open to anyone interested in learning Japanese and about Japanese culture. Do you already know Japanese?  Come to our Japanese Conversation Club, which occurs at 6 pm on the second and third Tuesday of each month in the large print room.



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Myth, Understood

Every day I talk to people who are looking for facts and answers.  Libraries have lots of resources and services for factual questions, and I love showing people how to use them!

It’s only fair to point out, though, that libraries also house questions:  the big ones, about life, the universe, and everything.  And while librarians can’t tell you who to vote for, what deity to worship, or how to handle your in-laws, we can give you lots of information about such topics so you can make the best decisions for yourself.

If that sounds somewhat less than reassuring, take comfort in the fact that human beings have been trying to make sense of shenanigans on our crazy little blue planet for thousands of years. Religion, science and philosophy are three useful theoretical frameworks for this kind of exploration, but I’ve always been kind of partial to mythology as a way of searching for meaning. By examining the legends and archetypes of bygone days, you can learn a lot about storytelling, problem-solving, and meaning-making, three human functions that aren’t going away anytime soon.  

Here are just a few of the many books on mythology that you can borrow from the Carnegie Library:

A lot of people, myself included, first get hooked on mythology via the classic texts by Hamilton, Bulfinch, Campbell, or Frazer, and you can’t go wrong starting with any one of them.  If you can’t get to the library right away, you might want to look at The Encyclopedia Mythica, a great internet resource that’s organized by geographic region; it also contains a section on Arthurian legends and an image gallery, among other research goodies.  Once you find something interesting there, you can do a catalog search to see what, if any, materials the library has on your myth/legend/hero(ine)/archetype of choice.

By now it should be obvious that when you say “myth,” the Carnegie Library says “Yes!” Mythology can be pretty heady stuff, though, so if you start to get overwhelmed, you might want to kick back and ponder The Meaning of Life instead.

Happy questing,

–Leigh Anne

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