Monthly Archives: September 2010

Dinosaurs and Indians?

Anybody remember that great series of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials from the 1980’s that used the slogan, “two great tastes that taste great together”?  Well, Dell Comics could have used that same catchy slogan in the 1950’s when they began publishing Turok, Son of Stone.  For kids of that era (and in the 1970’s when they were reprinted), what could be better than combining dinosaurs with Indians?

Of course, nowadays the preferred term is Native Americans, but back then, kids played “Cowboys and Indians”, and Turok and his younger friend Andar were a pair of displaced braves trapped in a subterranean world that time forgot!   This past year Dark Horse Comics collected the first five volumes of the Turok stories in gorgeous hardcovers, and we decided they should be part of our Graphic Series collection.  You can find them listed in the catalog here.

These stories exude a playful innocence that will seem refreshing amidst a lot of the ultra-violent superhero stuff that currently inhabits the market.  They generally follow a simple pattern with the two braves exploring the forgotten lands and encountering dangerous dinosaurs and cave men.  Sometimes these encounters are peaceful, but more often than not the pair need to break out their bows and knives and fight for their lives!  The stories also sometimes included “fact sheets” explaining what current-day science then knew about a given species of dinosaur or predatory mammal.

The artwork and colors are understated and quite beautiful in their simplicity.  Despite succumbing to some of the racial stereotypes of their era, the stories also showcase ethnically diverse protagonists that readers from any background can identify with.

Next year Dark Horse plans to reprint more of Dell’s action-oriented titles in the same hardcover format, and funding permitting, we’ll be there to add them to what has always been one of the country’s most extensive public library collection of graphic novels.


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The People’s University

As you probably know, the library is the place for lifelong learning.  No matter the topic, we keep you informed via our resources and programs. 

We are very pleased to announce a new lecture series that starts this Saturday, October 2, with a program that may be familiar to you.  If you have enjoyed attending our Armchair Travels program in the past, we hope you will be interested in this new series.  The People’s University will include informative travelogues – this Saturday’s will featured China’s Yangtze River and its beautiful gorges – as well as free lectures on history, the arts, community organizations, author visits and much, much more. 

The program will be held on Saturday afternoons at 3:00 PM in the Quiet Reading Room on the First Floor of the Main Library. Here is a schedule for the fall:

October 2
Armchair Travels: China’s Yangtze River

October 16:
Community Connection: The Peace Corps in Latin America

November 6:
Listening to Jazz

December 4:
Observations on Nazi Book Burnings and American Censorship

We hope you’ll come out for these free, enlightening, and edifying programs!


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We Don’t Know We Don’t Know: poems by Nick Lantz

In February 2002 at a Department of Defense news briefing, then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, made statements that became infamous for their abstract, almost poetic quality. The part that attracted the most attention was the following exchange between a reporter and Rumsfeld:

Question: Could I follow up, Mr. Secretary, on what you just said, please? In regard to Iraq weapons of mass destruction and terrorists, is there any evidence to indicate that Iraq has attempted to or is willing to supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction? Because there are reports that there is no evidence of a direct link between Baghdad and some of these terrorist organizations.

Rumsfeld: Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.

Eight years later, when the irony of that comment is more shocking than its initial obscurity, Rumsfeld’s words have partly inspired a powerful collection of poetry, We Don’t Know We Don’t Know by Nick LantzWe Don’t Know We Don’t Know is organized into four sections: Known Knowns, Known Unknowns, Unknown Unknowns and Unknown Knowns. Epigraphs from the press conference preface many of the poems. Even more We Don't Know We Don't Knowintriguing, however, is that the book draws equal inspiration from the works of Pliny the Elder, a Roman natural philosopher who died in the year 79 AD.

Any poem could collapse under the expectations of premises like these, but Lantz crafts his poems so skillfully that they catch you by surprise when they suddenly break your heart. Just try to read “Of the Parrat and other birds that can speake” and not feel sucker-punched.

Will There Be More Than One ‘Questioner’?” is composed entirely of questions posed to a would-be interrogator. As they relentlessly progress from tactics to the interrogator’s state of mind, the poem gathers momentum and emotional weight. The way this shapes the questioner’s character is reminiscent of Nick Flynn’s examination of culpability, terrorism and interrogation in his memoir The Ticking is the Bomb.

Lantz isn’t afraid to attempt such feats of bravado, but his tone is so restrained and grounded in detail that he pulls it off every time. He makes use of surprising techniques, like censoring lines in “Will There Be More Than One ‘Questioner’?” In another poem, “[                                ],” which begins,”Eve refuses to name the animals,” he uses blank spaces in the title and body of the poem to emphasize contrast ideas of sound, silence and naming.

Tricks like these would seem gimmicky if they didn’t work on so many levels. The poems consistently refer to knowing and not knowing. “______, For Which There Is No Translation,” lists a series of definitions impossible to articulate in a single term. We’re left to guess whether words exist in other languages to describe them. The poems often associate scientific, historical and personal images to achieve an element of strangeness. “Translation” works across time and experience, juxtaposing a lost boat in a fishing village and  “the bereaved man…seeing some small object / askew: half-flayed orange / left on the table.”

If, once you’ve finished We Don’t Know We Don’t Know, you can’t get enough of Nick Lantz, you’re in luck. We Don’t Know We Don’t Know is his first book, but this year he also published his second one, entitled The Lightning that Strikes the Neighbor’s House. What’s more, it’s an equally solid, compelling work. Here’s a video of Nick Lantz reading from that collection, with “The Year We Blew Up the Whale”:

Publishing two stellar  books of daredevil poetry in one year seems an unlikely feat for a writer. Maybe Nick Lantz knows something we don’t.



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The Farmer’s Handbook of Explosives

Just when I thought that I’d never find a classic old library book more entertaining than How to Be Happy While Single, the good people in Reference Services handed me this Dupont company gem – The Farmer’s Handbook of Explosives


It looks so harmless.

You won’t find it in our circulating collection or even in our catalog, because it’s one of those great old reference books that (gasp!) fell through the cracks – it doesn’t even have a barcode.

It’s pretty rare, too. According to WorldCat (the grand catalog of library catalogs), there are only two more known copies of this 1910 edition out there in libraryland. Of course, there could be others in private collections, or perhaps in your great-grandfather’s attic.

I didn’t read our copy from cover to cover, as it’s in serious need of preservation work. But I scanned a few pages and stopped to enjoy the lovely old photographs of explosions before returning the book to its caretakers.   

Remember, DON’T operate blasting machines half-heartedly. That’s sound advice in any age.  

 – Amy, still not writing about Film or Audio


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In Defense of the Medium

“Comics are not a genre; they’re a medium,” so says Douglas Wolk in his book, “Reading Comics”. They are instead, like prose, “…forms of expression that have few or no rules regarding their content other than the very broad ones imposed on them by their form”.

Sometimes, when I’m done with a really good comic, I feel the need to fall back on a line like that and defend the medium I so proudly read. Wolk admits that comics, or graphic novels, if you prefer to be fancy about it, have been given a bad reputation until recent years. Superheroes (not to say that that hasn’t been done right) and daily comics about giant dogs have all but spoilt a form that can express so much more. When reading a comic on break at work, my coworker kindly refers to my habit as quality time with “you and your cartoons”.

For an introduction to how comics can work, look no further than the works of the masters. Will Eisner, a genius vision, wrote three titles on how to draw and storyline. Stan Lee and Scott McCloud have also lent their minds to the art. Pretty much any comic by Spiegelman, Woodring, Barry, or Robinson is a call for readers to answer their creative calling.

I also highly recommend this anthology, or the annual collection of Best American Comics to peak an interest in the medium. And of course, the library is here to help, not only with the above mentioned artists and titles, but with the monthly comic group: “Out of the Gutter”. Find out what you may have been missing!

– Tony

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New Poetry Audio: The Academy of American Poets Audio Archive

I am happy to say that the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh  has acquired, with the generous funding of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Audio Archive on compact disc for the International Poetry Collection housed at the Main branch.   All items circulate for 3 weeks and this collection, coming as it does from one of our most esteemed poetry organizations, is an outstanding representation of contemporary poetry performance.

There are 39 volumes in the collection, including one three disc sampler set, which gives a good general overview.

– Don

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Confessions of a Yarn Addict

I recently started crocheting again after a 15 year hiatus.

Okay, I’ll be honest.  I had a brief fling with crocheting in high school, during which I made exactly one thing: a “dusty rose” pink afghan the size and texture of a trawling net.  I’m not sure why I stubbornly completed the specified number of rows, instead of calling it a day when it got ridiculous.  But I learned a valuable lesson about substituting hook sizes that I will never, ever forget.  (Yes, the afghan still exists, but has not seen the light of day since I wearily attached the last tassel.)

At any rate, I already knew my way around a skein of yarn and felt pretty confident about the basic stitches.  But I was still a little dubious from my afghan experience, and couldn’t really read a pattern, so the thought of making anything besides a rectangle (on any scale) was overwhelming.  So I did what I always do in such situations – I ransacked the nonfiction collection for advice.

Six months later, I can’t claim to be an expert in either crocheting itself, or the library’s crocheting collection, but at least I’m well past the pot-holder stage.  Here’s what I’ve read so far that’s helped me get started –

The Complete Book of Crochet Stitch Designs: 500 Classic & Original Patterns by Linda P. Schapper

This book is based on a fascinating concept – can the author collect or invent 500 unique stitch patterns with the same boring white yarn?  The photos and illustrations are helpful and understandable, making it a great stitch dictionary.  Unfortunately, you don’t get a lot of advice on what projects are best suited to your new skills.

Crochet From the Heart: Quick Projects for Generous Giving and Blankets, Hats, and Booties to Knit and Crochet by Kristin Spurkland.

The patterns in these books are nice enough to give away, but easy enough for a beginner to follow.  I learned how to make my first baby clothes from Spurkland, and I’m also planning a set of custom finger puppets based on her design.  Crochet From The Heart also includes a list of charities that accept handmade donations.

Lily Chin’s Crochet Tips & Tricks: Shortcuts and Techniques Every Crocheter Should Know

Some things should be obvious, and they’re just not – for example, joining two pieces together by the edges with a neat, flat seam.  Lily Chin solves this mystery, and other problems you didn’t even realize you had.  (She also has a knitting book, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

Amigurumi Two!  Crocheted Toys For Me and You and Baby Too
by Ana Paula Rímoli

There’s a toy airplane in this book that I can’t wait to make.  And if these patterns appeal to you, the author has several other good books on amigurumi (the Japanese word for small, cute stuffed toys).

Creepy Cute Crochet: Zombies, Ninjas, Robots, and More!
by Christen Haden

Amigurumi isn’t just for kids!  If you’re the kind of person that still collects action figures, loves awful movies, or spends a lot of time on the internet, there is guaranteed to be a project in here for you.

Of course, this is just a small fraction of what was on the library’s shelf, and there are a heap of other beautiful books I plan to read.  Also, since the newest and most exciting books are usually checked out at any given moment, there is another heap I haven’t even seen yet.  And as always, readers, I welcome your suggestions!


(PS – If you find yourself so excited about your new hobby that you just have to share it with someone, the library can help with that, too!  Crocheters are welcome at the Main library’s Carnegie Knits and Reads, and many branches host their own crafty groups.  And if you really can’t get to an existing group, you might be able to start your own.  Search the Events Calendar for “crafts,” or ask a librarian for more information.)

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They Say It’s Your Birthday!

Picture of a piece of birthday cake with a lit candle


Well, it’s my birthday too, yeah!  Actually, it’s not.  But if today is your birthday, you’re in good company.  How do I know?  Well, you see, we here at the Library have access to this marvelous book called Chase’s Calendar of Events.  It’s an annual publication that lists all major historic events, national this or that days, and famous people’s birthdays for every date of the year.  When we Eleventh Stack bloggers are stuck for a blog post topic (nahhhh, that never happens, right?), this is a great place for us to check for a timely, educational, and possibly entertaining subject.  I can honestly say that Chase’s is my favorite reference book of all time. 

So, back to today’s birthdays.  Here’s a list of just some of the famous (and infamous) people born today.  If any of them strike your fancy, you know the library has books and/or DVDs available about or by them.

Ethan Coen (9/21/1957- ) – Ethan, along with his brother Joel, form the duo known in the movie world as the Coen Brothers.  Now, I can’t say that I always ‘get’ their movies.  I found the ending of A Serious Man to be a little abrupt.  But Hollywood loves them, as evidenced by 4 Oscars and countless other awards and nominations.

Dave Coulier (9/21/1959- ) – You know him, he’s that guy who lived in the basement on Full House.  He was supposed to be funny.  And Alanis Morissette wrote that song about him, maybe…

Fannie Flagg (9/21/1944- ) – This comedian and author is best known for her book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café and won an Academy Award for the movie screenplay she adapted from this.  She has a new book coming out in November 2010, so watch for it!

Larry Hagman (9/21/1931- ) – Who shot JR?  If you don’t know the answer to that, or even who JR is, you can check out our Dallas DVDs and other big and small screen productions in which Mr. Hagman has appeared.

Faith Hill (9/21/1967- ) – This multi-award winning American country singer is almost as famous for being married to Tim McGraw as she is for singing.

Chuck Jones (9/21/1912 – 2/22/2002) – You know him whether you think you do or not.  He’s the genius animator behind Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig, Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, etc.  The list of his characters goes on and on.  One of his works, What’s Opera Doc?, has even been inducted into the National Film Registry for being “among the most culturally, historically and aesthetically significant films of our time.” 

Stephen King (9/21/1947- ) – What do I even need to say about Mr. King?  If you haven’t heard of this horror author by now, I would say it’s time you came out from under the rock where you’ve been residing.  His latest novel, Under the Dome, comes in at a hefty 1074 pages and therefore can also be used as a step stool, car jack, or for crushing small animals and children.  (Not that I would ever advocate doing any of those things with a book!)

Ricki Lake (9/21/1968- ) – This actress and talk show host is usually best remembered for her numerous roles in John Waters films, most notably as Tracy in the 1988 adaptation of Hairspray.

Rob Morrow (9/21/1962- ) – I remember Rob from his days playing the doctor in the television show Northern Exposure.  (Which I personally think ‘jumped the shark’ during his final episode.)  But those of you who are younger probably best know him as the FBI agent brother on Numb3rs.

Bill Murray (9/21/1950- ) – “This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere. Former greenskeeper and now about to become the masters champion … He’s on his final hole. He’s about 455 yards away, he’s gonna hit about a 2 iron I think … IT’S IN THE HOLE!”  OK, so he’s done more than Caddyshack for sure (Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, etc), but who doesn’t love Caddyshack

Nicole Richie (9/21/1981- ) – Mostly known for being the best frenemy of Paris Hilton, she also has a famous father, Lionel Richie.  Fame in her own right has still eluded her…

H.G. Wells (9/21/1866 – 8/13/1946) – This is the well known Father of Science Fiction and author of the book War of the Worlds, which was famously turned into the radio broadcast by Orson Welles that caused widespread panic when it aired on Halloween night in 1938.  His novels and works of non-fiction spoke of a future that included robots, nuclear war, global warfare, and chemical weapons at a time when very few believed they were a real possibility. In the preface to the third edition (1941) of his book, War in the Air, Wells wrote “Again I ask the reader to note the warnings I gave in that year, twenty years ago. Is there anything to add to that preface now? Nothing except my epitaph. That, when the time comes, will manifestly have to be: ‘I told you so. You damned fools.’ ”  Enough said.

OK, so maybe you think a few of these people are not such good company, but you have to admit one thing about them all.  They have been entertaining at some point in time…

Oh, and Happy Birthday!

-Melissa M

P.S. Sorry if you hate that song and it’s now stuck in your head.  But I had to do it…


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The 2010 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

Every year, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is one of 150 libraries worldwide invited to nominate three titles for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.   We put together a team of librarians who live and breathe fiction and we come up with our own “longlist” of titles. 

This year’s winner is The Twin by Gerbrand Baker.  Here’s a summation, from the IMPAC website, of the novel:

When Helmer’s twin brother dies in a car accident, he is obliged to return to the small family farm. He resigns himself to taking over his brother’s role and spending the rest of his days ‘with his head under a cow’.  After his old, worn-out father has been transferred upstairs, Helmer sets about furnishing the rest of the house according to his own minimal preferences. The Twin is an ode to the platteland, the flat and bleak Dutch countryside with its ditches and its cows and its endless grey skies.

If this particular novel isn’t up your alley, we thought we would supply you with our “longlist” of suggested titles for best novel as suggested by our fiction team:

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker
Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
Big Machine by Victor LaValle
Brooklyn by Colin Tóibín
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James.
Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour
The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt
Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem
Far North by Marcel Theroux
The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
Homer and Langley by E. L. Doctorow
Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer
The Lacuna: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam
Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert
This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel


From this list we were “forced” to select three titles to nominate, as that was the maximum number for each library to submit.

Care to guess which three we picked?

– Don

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“Don’t Text, Don’t Chat – What Do You Do?”

If we do say so ourselves, it’s amazing how many different ways there are to contact the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh when you have a question, and we keep expanding our repetoire all the time.  Just in case you weren’t aware of the many ways you can reach us, here’s a quick overview of our contact services.

New for 2010:  Text Messaging

Out and about?  Going crazy because you can’t remember the name of that song, or how late we’re open on Saturdays?  If you’ve got a mobile phone, we’ve got you covered.  Every weekday you can text us at 66746.  Start your question with askCLP, and keep in mind that standard messaging rates will apply.

24/7 Assistance:  AskHere PA

Can’t sleep for lack of knowledge? Fret not.  Thanks to the AskHere PA live chat service, you can speak with an information professional at any time of the day or night.

If you prefer chat and have specific questions about your Carnegie Library account, try to contact us during normal operating hours.  If, however, you have a more general request, the sky is the limit, night and noon.  Bonus:  there’s also a link to AskHere PA in the library catalog.

Old Faithful:  E-mail Reference

Based on the number of e-mail messages we receive, many of you are already hip to the vast amount of knowledge you can obtain by sending a message to , but a gentle reminder never hurts.

Turnaround times can vary depending on the difficulty of the question, but we do our best to untangle your puzzles in 24-48 hours.  Don’t feel like opening up your e-mail client? Scroll down to the bottom of this page for the handy-dandy e-mail reference form.

One Ringy-Dingy:  412-622-3114

The Ready Reference staff serve as the initial point of contact for Main Library, so if you have a question and prefer to contact us by phone, you’ll want to memorize the 3114 extension.  Swift answers to simple questions are their specialty, but they’re also happy to refer you to the department that can help you best with more complicated queries.

Community Conversations

Last, but certainly not least, we have 19 library locations staffed by helpful, friendly professionals, and we would love to see you anytime during operating hours.  Stop by to read, use the internet, attend a program, or even just to talk to us about great books or current events.

As we’ve been pointing out all year, we need to see you up close and in person now more than ever as we begin our final round of Community Conversations, designed to gather input on how best to shape the future of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.  These meetings will be held at the following places and times:

Saturday, September 18 | 10 am – Noon
St. Catherine of Siena Church • 1915 Broadway Avenue, 15216
Across from CLP – Beechview

Saturday, September 18 | 2 – 4 pm
Providence Family Support Center • 3113 Brighton Road, 15212
At the intersection of Brighton Rd. and Schimmer St. , near CLP-Woods Run.

Sunday, September 19 | 2 – 4 pm
CLP – Squirrel Hill
5801 Forbes Avenue, 15217

Monday, September 20 | 6 – 8 pm
CLP – Downtown & Business
612 Smithfield Street, 15222

All are welcome!  To get an advance copy of the discussion guide, click here. To print and fill out the “I Will Help” survey in advance, click here. Both files open as .PDFs.

How do you prefer to use the library? Face to face? Via chat? Over the phone? We’re committed to answering your questions regardless of what format they come in, but we’re always curious about what works best for you.

–Leigh Anne
equally enamored of face-to-face and internet communciation

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