Monthly Archives: May 2009

Welcome to the ‘Burgh presidents, officials, dignitaries n’at!

Welcome to the ‘Burgh yinz dignitaries n’at! Pittsburgh will soon have the honor of playing host to the world’s most powerful leaders on September 24th and 25th!

According to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Pittsburgh was selected because it’s a great example of a region that has reinvented itself. “It’s an area that has seen its share of economic woes in the past, but because of foresight and investment is now renewed, giving birth to renewed industries that are creating the jobs of the future,” Gibbs said. “And I think the president believes it’d be a good place to highlight some of that stuff.”

This city has a lot of be proud of: its healthcare industry, libraries and educational institutions, robots and technology, pancakes, as well as green building initiatives. Pittsburgh boasts the largest certified “green” convention center in the world, awarded the Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) by the U.S. Green Building Council.  Pittsburgh is a natural choice. 

Congratulations yinz guys!


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Writer’s Block Party!

Are you working on your acceptance speech for Best Original Screenplay as we speak?  Is there a draft copy of the Next Great American Novel hidden away on your hard drive?  Do you secretly harbor Walter Mitty-esque fantasies about chucking your conventional career for the unpredictable, yet sometimes glamorous, world of freelance writing? Of course you do! You’ve got big dreams. You want fame!

Well, I hear fame costs…but the Carnegie Library’s collection of support materials for creative writers of all stripes can help you move a little closer to your goals, without a huge investment of start-up capital. Here’s a sample of the kinds of materials we provide:

We also make sure to keep copies of several key writers’ tools at the second floor reference desk.  These include the most recent editions of Writer’s Market, Poet’s Market*, and Literary Market Place. Why not treat yourself to an afternoon at the library doing research, and save your hard-earned cash for that congratulatory round of drinks you plan to buy when your brilliant screenplay finally gets picked up by a major media mogul?

Obviously we can’t guarantee you fame, fortune, or a seat next to David Hyde Pierce at the Tonys. We can, however, provide the tools and the atmosphere you’ll need to at least get going in the right direction.

Dream on, creative writers. We can’t wait to say we knew you when.

–Leigh Anne

*Fret not, folks – we’d love it if you’d come sit a spell, but if you absolutely can’t, we do carry circulating back issues of these publications. Just make sure to double-check contact information before you submit, lest your heartbreaking work of staggering genius go to an incorrect address.

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The Love Connection

Romance readers love series books. Favorite characters featured in one story will play supporting characters in the other tales. So, like life, the initial love affair continues on.

Summer is a good time for reading romance series. You can read them all in a row – a most satisfying venture!- or you can begin a series and pace them over a designated period without losing hold of the thread of the ongoing relationships. Many romance series are written as trilogies and published in quick sequence, but others continue on, year after year, like a healthy rose bush producing beautiful blossoms season after season.

Grandma Is Cutting Flowers And Red Roses In Garden Stock Image

After Lady Agatha tended her roses, she would visit the local library for more series romances...and a glimpse of Giles, the handsome librarian.

Whether historical (like the regency genre set from 1790 – 1820 when the Prince Regent of England, George IV, ruled as proxy to his father during the “madness” of George III), or contemporary, romances ever-satisfy by providing that necessary happy ending.

Historical and Regency Romances:

Stephanie Laurens’s Cynster novels: The devilishly handsome sons and other relations of Sebastian Cynster, the Duke of St. Ives and their fair ladies are chronicled over fifteen steamy Regency novels. Check out the latest, Temptation and Surrender, for a treasure hunt and an unexpected love affair in a rundown tavern.

Eloisa James’s Desperate Duchesses sextet: it’s four stories down, and two to go!  When the Duke Returns, Duchess By Night, An Affair Before Christmas, Desperate DuchessesThis Duchess of Mine (release date May 26, 2009), and A Duke of Her Own (series conclusion, release date July 28, 2009) are rich in the historical detail and quaint societal mores of the Georgian period.  Whether finding love or rekindling an old passion, playing chess or dueling for honor, these Dukes and Duchesses portray English aristocracy and its excesses with droll humor and breathless seduction.

Mary Balogh’s Huxtable series:  These Regency period stories chronicle the romances of three sisters, a brother and second cousin Constantine -who may or may not be a despicable rake and a cad. The sisters’ stories, all 2009 paperback publications are: At Last Comes Love (Margaret’s story),  First Comes Marriage (Vanessa’s story), Then Comes Seduction (Katherine’s story), and Seducing an Angel (Stephen’s story).

These will be followed next year with an as-yet-untitled tale of enigmatic cousin Constantine. Balogh has said she writes connected books because “…often three books are not enough. Four are better, but why not get greedy and go for five?”

Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick’s Arcane Society novels:  Bridging the gap between the present and the past, Krentz writes contemporary romances and her alter ego Quick provides historical love stories, both with a paranormal twist. 21st Century and late Victorian era detectives from the Jones and Jones Psychic Investigation Agency use a wide variety of unique psychic gifts to solve intriguing mysteries often related to the quest of members of the centuries-old Arcane Society to uncover the secret paranormal research of the society founder alchemist Sylvester Jones in the 1600s. The series begins with Second Sight, followed by White Lies, Sizzle and Burn, The Third Circle, Running Hot, and The Perfect Poison.

Contemporary Romance

Lisa Kleypas’s “Travis” trilogy:  Kleypas, a great Regency writer, has recently published a contemporary series. Wealthy Texas mogul Churchill Travis’s children, Gage, Haven and Jack are each featured in complex, bigger than life sagas: Sugar Daddy, Blue-Eyed Devil, and Smooth Talking Stranger.

Susan Wiggs’s Lakeshore Chronicle:  Following several generations of the Bellamy family and friends in the rural New York resort town Avalon, these intriguing tales focus on the good and bad decisions people make and how those choices can impact the next generation. Start with the first story and follow this series in order: Summer at Willow Lake, Dockside, The Winter Lodge, Snowfall at Willow Lake, and the recently published Fireside.

Robyn Carr’s satisfying Virgin River Series is set in the redwood forests of northern California. A group of buddies from the U. S.  Marines who have served in the Middle East have settled there to start their civilian lives and seek contentment in love and family. Each story stands strongly alone but, read together, they paint a portrait of a community of friends. Titles include: Virgin River, Shelter Mountain, Whispering Rock, A Virgin River Christmas, Second Chance Pass, Temptation Ridge, and Paradise Valley.

Linda Lael Miller’s Mojo Series:  Can former biker bar waitress Mojo Sheepshanks parlay her special talents for winning at Vegas and seeing dead people into a successful new career as a private investigator in Cave Creek, Arizona? Miller’s other series have focused on settling the west and contemporary ranch life, but this quirky contemporary series with a paranormal element is sure to amuse readers and frustrate hunky homicide cop Tucker Darrogh. Check out Deadly Gamble and Deadly Deceptions.

These should be more than enough to get you started, but the list of quality series romances, both historical and contemporary, goes on and on. For more suggestions, ask a librarian!



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Great Battles Remembered After Memorial Day

It seems fitting that Eleventh Stack’s first post after Memorial Day lists some great books that discuss and explore the most decisive battles in world history.


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A Quick Guide to Field Guides

I love spotting plants or birds that I’m not familiar with and using a field guide to identify them.  If you’ve never used a field guide before, though, it can be a little like opening up a Japanese dictionary and expecting it to make sense when you’ve never learned the language. Each guide has its own way of organizing and presenting information, so it can take some practice to really get comfortable using field guides.  However, there are a few things that they all have in common:

  • All field guides are organized by geographical location.  A guide to the birds of North America might break things down by region, a field guide to the birds of the Mid-Atlantic states might break things down even further by state, and a guide to the birds of Pennsylvania will probably break things down by county or more specific regions within the state. 
  • Field guides are organized in a hierarchical way that allows you to narrow down the possibilities by identifying certain characteristics.  For example, in a field guide to plants you might need to identify the general shape of the leaf, the smoothness of its edges, its color, the direction of the veins, and whether the leaves grow opposite to one another or alternate.  You’ll keep narrowing down the possibilities until you’ve found a match. 
  • Some field guides use biological taxonomy to narrow down the options while others put things in layman’s terms.  If you find a guide that doesn’t seem to make any sense, keep looking!  There’s probably another guide that uses terms you’re more comfortable with.
  • All field guides tell you exactly how to use them.  In the case of field guides, the “how to use this book” section is crucial.  It explains how the information is organized, gives an explanation of the key, and usually walks you through the steps you’ll need to follow to identify something. 

 CLP has lots of field guides, on everything from seashells to insects to reptiles. Some of the more famous guide series include the National Audobon Society Field Guides— which aren’t just about birds– and the Peterson Field Guides. Whatever you happen to be interested in, you’re likely to find a guide for it.


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Stop and Listen

The simple act of listening is easier said than done.  A recent opinion piece in the New York Times commented on the lost art of reading aloud, nostalgic for a time before the existence of recorded audio books, when people practiced reading aloud to each other as entertainment. 

Being read aloud to doesn’t have to be something adults do for children.  Nearly a year ago, blogger Julie wrote about what has now become our annual read aloud series.  Beginning this Friday, May 22, Eleventh Stack bloggers and other Carnegie Library staff will be reading aloud at Schenley Plaza for the Eleventh Stack Read Aloud Series.  We’ll be making an appearance with an essay, story or poem in hand this Friday as well as Friday June 19, July 24, August 28 and September 25.  We’ve chosen a theme for each month with May’s being mix-ups. 

I’ll be reading under the tent at Schenley Plaza this Friday starting at noon, along with blog contributors Bonnie and Jude.  Enjoy the simple act of listening and join us on your lunch hour as you listen to stories that will make you laugh, cry and think.

– Lisa

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An international experience without breaking the bank!

Currently everyone is feeling the stress of the economy.  The need for a gratifying distraction is paramount during these times, and although something exotic like an international getaway isn’t always feasible, a simulated experience is at your fingertips with the assistance of your local library.  Here are some options that give all the joys of learning about a culture without the hassles of waiting in long queues at the airport or locating lost luggage.

To truly experience a culture we need to look at several aspects:  language, entertainment, religion and food. Let’s use Thailand as our example:

  •   Language:   To  quench your curiosity, head to the Film and Audio Department and take a gander at the language learning CDs.  For Thailand I would use the  Berlitz Thai Travel Pack.  The CD contains the basic travel phrases while the book presents the unique  beauty of Thai script.
  •  Entertainment:  Make use of the ever-growing  foreign films and CD selections.  Born to Fight is an interesting Thai movie dealing with mystery and murder in a local village, and Radio Thailand: Transmissions from the Tropical Kingdom, gives an excellent feel for traditional Thai music.  
  • Religion and daily life: Take a look at Pure and Simple:  Teachings of a Thai Laywoman (then consider, perhaps, visiting the local Buddhist Center).  See also the beautiful photo book A Day in the Life of Thailand which has scenic pictures that help simulate the feeling of actually being there.
  • Food:   Nothing speaks more about a culture than what they use for daily nourishment.  For the brave I suggest that you lend your hand at cooking traditional foods yourself.  My favorite Thai cookbook is Quick and Easy Thai.  The majority of the ingredients are easily found in the Strip District and the instructions are easy to  follow. Feel like  going out?  I would steer you towards Thai Gourment in Bloomfield:  the atmosphere is traditional and the food is phenomenal!

 We live in an incredibly diverse city that provides a window to other cultures so take advantage of it!  Simply pick a country, look at what CLP  has to offer, add in what is available here in the city and take a holiday!  Go ahead, you’ve earned it!






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David Hyde Pierce: an Appreciation


Ludwig van Beethoven 1770-1827

On the final page of the May 2009 issue of Gramophone magazine, actor David Hyde Pierce (most well known as Niles on Frasier) writes about his early piano lessons and the classical music that has touched him throughout his life. I was pleased to see him mention that some of the recordings that inspired his love for Beethoven were done by the Pittsburgh Symphony under the baton of William Steinberg.

If David Hyde Pierce ever came to visit our library, I’d sit him down at one of our listening stations with our 8 LP set of Steinberg conducting the 9 Beethoven symphonies with the PSO. We would talk about the greatness of Beethoven. We would discuss how Pittsburgh has a world-class orchestra, well-documented on recordings and still going strong, including lots of performances of Beethoven’s works under the new leadership of Manfred Honeck. Then I would get very serious. I would look Mr. Pierce directly in the eye and tell him how great he was in the ridiculous comedy Wet Hot American Summer, how he looks good in a mustache in the film, how well he taught science to “the indoor kids” at summer camp, and how it is one of my all time favorite, funny movies.

— Tim

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Cows Take a Vacation

"Cows Take a Vacation" score

"Cows Take a Vacation" score

Every day’s a good day for round singing, but rounds shine when sung outdoors. If you’re planning a group event, a family reunion, neighborhood block party, or weekend campout, I’ve got a tip that will bring new life to the round tradition. There’s nothing wrong with “Row, row, row your boat,” but discovering new material is fun and good for the brain.    

Larry Polansky, composer, performer, music professor at Dartmouth, and master of many more musical activities, tends a growing garden of rounds on a simple web page, accessible to everyone. Rounds by other people,” as of May 9, 2009, holds the musical scores of 120 rounds. A click of the title, and you’ll be face to screen with printable music for favorites such as “Cows Take a Vacation,” “Round Pittsburgh,” “Breakfast  Round” (third of three on the page), and “Ze Wudka,” which features the lyrics

Should ve drink ze wudka after dinner?

No! No! No, ve’ll drink it before!

I am full of duck,

My potato’s stuck,

But life is good!

I am so full!

and is just right for singing before eating (and drinking). Don’t miss the tiny note at the bottom of Larry’s round page: (if you want a free little book of all these rounds, email me or frog peak–lp)



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Three Poets, One Moon, and the Ancient Rites of Spring



In a recent post about Mary Oliver’s new book, Evidence, I quoted her poem, “Li Po and the Moon.” In one way, it was an unusual subject for her; in another, it was just a different approach to one of her dominant themes, nature.

So, imagine my surprise when I picked up the much anticipated (at least by me) new volume of poems by Jack Gilbert, entitled The Dance Most of All, to discover the following:


Winter In The Night Fields
I was getting water tonight
off guard when I saw the moon
in my bucket and was tempted
by those Chinese poets
and their immaculate pain.

Two poems in the same year in new books by two of my favorite poets, both alluding to the famed Chinese poet, Li Po (Li Bai).   I mentioned the famous story of Li Po’s death in the Oliver posting; as it’s told, in a drunken reverie, Li Po tried to grasp the moon’s reflection in the water, fell in and drowned. 

I wasn’t sure what to make of this mutual admiration for the same esteemed Chinese poet: coincidence, synchronicity, collusion?  No matter.  It was enough for me to seek out Li Po and dip my big toe in the reflection that is his body of work.

Perhaps I’d even stir it up a bit to see if that moon, temporarily gone, might just reappear again.

li po selectIn The Selected Poems of Li Po, translated by David Hinton, Hinton confirms that “Li Po died as the legend says he died: out drunk in a boat, he fell into a river and drowned trying to embrace the moon.”  Here’s a poem by Li Po himself, which at once captures his spirit and seems to foresee his own demise:


Drinking In Moonlight

I sit with my wine jar
among flowers
blossoming trees

no one to drink with

well, there’s the moon

I raise my cup
and ask him to join me
bringing my shadow
making us three

but the moon doesn’t seem to be drinking
and my shadow just creeps around behind me.

still, we’re companions tonight
me, the moon, and the shadow
we’re observing
the rites of spring

I sing
and the moon rocks back and forth

I dance
and my shadow
weaves and tumbles with me

we celebrate for awhile
then go our own ways, drunk

may we meet again someday
in the white river of stars
Li Po
translated by David Young


Li Po was a member of a group of Chinese scholars known as “The Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup,” famous for, among other things, their prodigious admiration of alcohol.  Along with his friend and fellow poet, Tu Fu (Du Fu), Li Po is one of the most revered Chinese poets in history.  Over 1000  poems have been attributed to Li Po, suffused as they are with a love of nature, a Taoist philosophy,  and a romantic ennui that not only reminds the modern reader of Wordworth, Coleridge, and other Romantics, but resonates emphatically for poets as seemingly disparate as Mary Oliver and Jack Gilbert.  

Here are some collections of his work, coupled as they often are with the work of his friend, Tu Fu, and their fellow Tang era poets:


Bright Moon, Perching Bird: Poems by Li Po and Tu Fu
Li Po and Tu Fu, selected and translated by Arthur Cooper
Facing the Moon: Poems of Li Bai and Du Fu
The Selected Poems of Li Po, translated by David Hinton
Three Chinese Poets: Wang Wei, Li Bai, and Du Fu
I Hear My Gate Slam : Chinese Poets Meeting and Parting
Five Tang  Poets, translated by David Young          


Now that spring has grudgingly arrived in our frequently overcast hometown,  some clear evening why not experience a little moon viewing of your own, following the ancient Chinese and Japanese traditions?  But if you’re moved to try to take the moon in your arms, reach for the one in the sky and not the one reflected in any of our majestic bodies of water.

And, oh, careful with that wine, my lyrical friend!

– Don


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