Monthly Archives: September 2010

Plenty of Horns

Do you like books about music?  Check out Jasper Rees’ book A Devil to Play: One Man’s Year-Long Quest to Master the Orchestra’s Most Difficult Instrument.  Then come to the library on Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 6:00 p.m. for the first meeting of our second year of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Book Club.

Beforehand, you might also want to check out some music performed on “the orchestra’s most difficult instrument” (i.e., the horn) and I’ve prepared a list below.  To clarify, when talking about classical music, “horn” specifically means the coiled brass instrument also known as a French horn.  See the book cover at left and the picture at the bottom of the post.  The French invented it for hunting; the Germans made it an instrument for the orchestra.  It acquired valves in the early 19th century.  Be sure not to confuse it with the English horn, which is a kind of oboe.

Here are some recommended recordings of pieces for one, two, three and even four horns so you can surround your ears with the sound of wide-belled brass.

1 horn:

  • For an overview with spoken commentary of the repertoire that horn players auditioning for orchestras need to know, listen to Orchestral Excerpts for Horn by A. David Krehbiel.
  • Even though he was a violist, Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) always seemed to write well for brass.  His Sonate für Horn und Klavier from 1939 is an intimate way to hear the horn sing over piano accompaniment.

2 horns:

  • On this recording, the Virtuoso Horn Duo of Kristina Mascher and Kerry Turner play pieces composed for two horns and chamber orchestra by Haydn and his horn-playing contemporary Antonio Rosetti, plus an arrangement for 2 horns of a Vivaldi concerto, and a piece by Turner himself.
  • Baroque concertos were shorter in duration and utilized smaller ensembles than later classical and romantic era works.  Georg Philipp Telemann’s concertos for 2 horns and strings and continuo (TWV 52:D1 and TWV 52:D2) from the early 18th century exemplify concise craftsmanship.

3 horns:

  • Chôros No. 4 by Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) is scored for the unusual quartet of three horns plus trombone.  Its first half is ponderous, perhaps even menacing, while the last minute or so sounds more like a concert in the park.

4 horns:

  • One usually associates Schumann with works for solo piano, vocal and piano, his great piano concerto and his four symphonies.  But also worth hearing is his 1849 Konzertstück (concert piece) for four horns and orchestra.  Originally composed for two valveless and two modern horns, it’s a bridge between two eras of the instrument.
  • While it might not inspire Spanish-style dancing, Four-Horned Fandango by Mark-Anthony Turnage (1960- ) does have castanets accompanying the four horn soloists and, like a lot of contemporary classical music, gets better with repeated listens.

Interlochen music campers playing the horn.

To add one more to the list, though it wasn’t composed specifically for horn, Richard Strauss’s tone poem Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks) was the most used piece for horn players’ orchestra auditions according to Facing the Maestro.  So you know it will have some impressive parts for the instrument.  (And Strauss did also compose two concertos for horn.)

Last but not least, if you want to get really serious about horn music, use our French Horn Resources page.

– Tim








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The Smell of Fall

This past weekend I noticed a new yet familiar and comforting smell on the wind, one that occurs every year.  It’s the smell of leaves and crisp air, and it can only mean one thing:  fall is just around the corner.

The beginning of fall constitutes a few things.  For one, football season begins, and many of us spend Sunday rooting for our favorite team (go Steelers!).  We slowly exchange our short-sleeved shirts and sundresses for warmer attire.  We begin to think about pumpkins and butternut squash.  We wait for shorter days and longer nights.  For many of us, the fall season marks a transition between summer and winter.

As we anticipate (or dread) this transition, we can celebrate the season.  Here are some books and websites for fun fall thoughts.


The Miracle of Fall

A project of the University of Illinois Extension, this site aggregates fall festivals, fall foliage webcams, and much more.

The Foliage Network

Twice a week, from September through November, you can visit the network and get updated information on leaf color changes nationwide.


Fall is an excellent time to work on cooking skills!  Here are some cookbooks that incoroporate seasonal foods.

Autumn: From the Heart of the Home, Susan Branch.

Fall, Family and Friends, Gooseberry Patch.

Fall Notebook, Carolyne Roehm.

In Celebration of Autumn, Helen Thompson.

Adult Fiction

If fiction is your thing, here are some novels set in autumn that deal with life issues, love, and family.

Autumn Leaves, Victor McGlothin.

Cloud Nine, Luanne Rice.

Grace in Autumn, Lori Copeland.

The Lay of the Land, Richard Ford.

Speak of the Devil, Richard Hawke.

Children’s Books

Who doesn’t love children’s books?  Here are some items useful for teaching children all about the season.

Are You Ready For Fall?, Sheila Anderson.

By the Light of the Harvest Moon, Harriet Ziefert.

Leaf Trouble, Jonathan Emmett.

Now It’s Fall!, Jeanie Lee.

For fall fun outside the library, don’t forget about Fort Ligonier Days, The Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, The Three Rivers Film Festival, and RADical Days. These are just some of the many events that occur during the special three months known as fall.

–Melissa H.

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“Pittsburg Phil” and “Pittsburgh Phil”

Harry "Pittsburgh Phil" Strauss

Information is everywhere.  One of our primary sources of information at the library is our customers.  We learn things from them, a/k/a you, every day.

A few weeks back while on the desk in the Music, Film, and Audio Department, I received a call from one of our regulars who is a repository of information that crosses all disciplines.  When he calls, it is not infrequent that he might ask about a Broadway tune, a 70s TV series, a Puccini aria, a grade B 50s sci-fi classic, or any other multitudinous areas of inquiry.

On this particular occasion he mentioned running across a special on Borscht Belt comedians which touched on connections between the Catskill resorts and the Mob.  I ran the special down on Shalom TV.  It was hosted by the novelist Warren Adler with guest star comedian Stewie Stone. At the time (September 2008), Adler was promoting his new novel, Funny Boys, set in the Catskills and peopled with real-life characters.  Adler mentioned  a particularly vicious member of the infamous Murder Inc. gang, whose name was Harry Strauss, otherwise known as “Pittsburgh Phil.”   Though Adler called Strauss by the nickname, no explanation was given as to why Strauss was called “Pittsburgh Phil.”  Our customer wanted to know if we might have any ideas where he got the name since, evidently, Strauss was born in Brooklyn?

I told him I’d see what I could do.

I scoured the net.   I pored through encyclopedias of the crime and popular circulating titles, I called in books from various county libraries that might provide a clue.  I spoke to our notoriously astute Pennsylvania Department, the mavens of Pittsburgh history at the Main library, all to no avail. The sources all mentioned “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss.   Many volunteered the fact that Strauss had never even visited Pittsburgh.

None mentioned why the moniker, though two posited a thought.

The most information I found was in the 3rd edition of The Mafia Encyclopedia, an extensive, grisly, three page, double-columned entry entitled “Pittsburgh Phil (1908-1941) Murder Inc.’s premier hit man.”   Strauss was one mean, nasty character, who was tied to at least 100 victims (some estimates run over 500), more than the rest of the gang knocked off combined.  He killed any which way: knife, rope, gun, ice pick, all tools in Phil’s repertoire.   Most of the stories I learned of I dare not even recount, particularly the one about the corpse he sunk to the bottom of a lake tied to a slot machine.

In a somewhat eccentric twist, Phil was known as something of a dandy, always impeccably dressed in expensive suits.   Once during a lineup, NY Police Commissioner Lewis Valentine observed of Phil: “Look at him!  He’s the best dressed man in the room and he’s never worked a day in his life!”

Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss was finally taken down by possibly the most famous stool pigeon in mob history, fellow Murder Inc. member Abe (“Kid Twist”) Reles.  Reles, a ruthless, coldblooded killer himself, turned state’s evidence giving up enough to mark Strauss for the chair.  Unfortunately for him, he didn’t live long to tell about it.  His story is recounted in the book The Canary Sang But Couldn’t Fly, the title of which sums up Reles’s fall from a six story window while in police custody.

Still, source after source either ignored or outright admitted to not knowing why Strauss was called “Pittsburgh Phil,” aka “Big Harry” and “Pep.”   I found out that he made it on to the radar of arguably the greatest American crime writer of the 20th century, Raymond Chandler.  He was mentioned in this letter by Chandler to Hamish “Jamie” Hamilton and even gets a nod in the opening paragraph of Chapter 24 in Chandler’s classic novel The Long Goodbye. He even makes a lengthy appearance in Neil Kleid’s graphic novel Brownsville, pages 44 through 48.

To add to the conundrum, while researching Strauss I ran into another, previous “Pittsburg Phil.”  Here is the 2nd dapper lad:

Georg E. "Pittsburg Phil" Smith

George “Pittsburg (or “Pittsburgh”) Phil” E. Smith was a famous handicapper, so famous that a book of his system was put out after his death in 1905 (you’ll find some of his maxims here).  He was described as “the founding father of horseplayers.” Phil was said to be worth 5 million dollars at the time of his death.  He was born in Sewickley and lived in Pittsburg during the brief time period when we had shed our culminating “h” (1890-1911); in fact he lived two doors down from Daniel and Maggie Rooney, Art Rooney’s parents, as documented in the 2010 biography entitled Rooney: a Sporting Life.  He died four years before the birth of Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss, but his reputation lived on and on.  A sizable New  York Times obituary attests to his widespread fame.  Charles Bukowski wrote a piece on the horses called “Pittsburgh Phil & Co,” included in his collection South of No North. He remains one of the most famous gamblers and handicappers of all time and surely his name was a household word during Harry Struass’s heyday in the Murder Inc. gang, the 1920s.    The picture above shows him to be a well-turned out, fancy dresser.  For amazing pictures of Phil’s mausoleum gravesite, showing a life-sized statue decked out to the nines (complete with racing form), and still more information, check out the post on the thoroughbred racing history website, Colin’s Ghost.  In all this searching, we even discovered a novel based on the life of George E. Smith entitled, of course, Pittsburgh Phil.


The connection, still, seemed tenuous at best.  I could find nothing in writing, no proof that the mobster Harry Strauss was nicknamed after the gambler George E. Smith, though both were snappily attired.  I could only speculate.

Two sources ventured a guess at where Strauss got the nickname “Pittsburgh Phil,” though at first glance those guesses seemed diametrically opposed.   In Murder Inc.: the Story of “the Syndicate,” Burton Turkus and Sid Feder posit the following: “Harry Strauss was one of (the national crime cartel). They called him Big Harry and Pep and, mostly, the called him Pittsburgh Phil, because he was a dandy of the outfit.”  Indeed, Strauss was sharp dresser, as confirmed by Brooklyn native and comedian Alan King in his book, Name Dropping, but how does that connect with the name “Pittsburgh Phil?”  Could that one picture I saw of Smith be the connection?

The second source, Tough Jews by Rich Cohen, gives the following description of Strauss: “(In high school) they called him Big Harry – he really was very big.  Or Pep – he could be the kind of friendly that demanded a cute diminutive.  Or Pittsburgh Phil – it sounded tougher and more interesting than Big Harry or Pep.”

So, one source has him named “Pittsburgh Phil” because he was a dandy, the other because he was a tough guy.   Go figure.  Which is exactly what I’ve been trying to do.

Was it the sharp dressing that connected Strauss to Smith, two dandies in two unsavory professions?   Did Strauss have an undocumented passion for the horses, thus connecting him to the famous handicapper?    Calling a tough guy named Harry “Phil” just for its alliterative qualities is highly unlikely, to say the least.  It must have been a nickname he liked – it’s doubtful anyone would call him anything intentionally to make him cross.

I ran across one last curious bit of information which kept the fire burning.  On Google Books, I found a citation for “Pittsburgh Phil,” (Geo D. Smith) in the Brooklyn Citizen Almanac for the year 1894:

“Pittsburgh Phil,” (Geo D. Smith) purchases a residence in New York for $50,000.” [$1,220,000 in 2010]

Circumstantial evidence for a city, Brooklyn, whose population was just over 800,000 in the 1890s, that Phil’s reputation might spread locally?  Pittsburg Phil the handicapper already had a well-known reputation well beyond his hometown environs.  Having virtually moved to gangster Phil’s neighborhood certainly could only help the theory that the hood was named after the gambler.  It is hardly a stretch to think the criminal world would be particularly interested in one of the greatest handicappers of all time.

Though the mystery is hardly solved, narrowing it down to these two choices, with all the interesting circumstantial evidence, definitely made the ride worth taking.   Our customer sure thought so.  He liked the dandy theory of a couple of sharp dressed men sharing  a name if not a predilection.  And I kind of like that theory, too.   How about you?

And one last thing; I wonder, too, what Chandler and Bukowski might have thought.

- Don


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Today’s post is brought to you by the color yellow.

The truth of the matter is that I am obsessed with the color combination of blue and yellow.  It lifts my spirits, touches something deep inside me, and makes me happy.  However, I’ve already done a blue post, so now it’s yellow’s turn!

Dreaming in Yellow, by Flickr user Cesar R.

Yellow Wave, by Flickr user 8#X

Yellow Multitude, by Flickr user racineur

lemon on pink, by Flickr user Miss Muffin

We’ve got songs! Listen to Yellow Submarine, Big Yellow Taxi, Follow the Yellow Brick Road, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Yellow, Yellow Ledbetter, or Mellow Yellow.

We’ve got sickness!  Try Yellow Fever: A Deadly Disease Poised to Kill Again, by James L. Dickerson, or The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History, by Molly Caldwell Crosby.

How about bugsCeramics? A big, beautiful national park?  You can’t go wrong with a cookbook by Christopher Kimball, The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook.  And speaking of food, you can explore lemons or corn – or go bananas!

And speaking of going bananas, I think it’s time to end this post!


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Review: The Ticking is the Bomb by Nick Flynn

Nick Flynn’s moving second memoir, The Ticking is the Bomb is, at its simplest, a meditation on the shadow. In it, he focuses primarily on the idea of torture, combined with his apprehension about his pending fatherhood. As he explores these topics, however, the subjects include his past relationships, his family history (including his suicide mother and alcoholic, homeless father), and his own wrongdoings.

Flynn was one of several artists invited to witness accounts of ex-Abu Ghraib inmates, many of whom were tortured and depicted in the infamous photographs.  While Flynn makes clear that these brutal political and military acts appall him, his stance is far from righteous, as he imagines the humanity of both the tortured and the torturers.  This perspective makes the memoir bigger than his own life or a single political argument—it becomes a reflection on the nature of fear and its power and on personal culpability as a citizen and a human. Brief, potent chapters stack and overlap with expertise pacing and irresistible intrigue. Although Flynn analyzes his own troubled childhood, his tone is never self pitying or sentimental. Instead, his prose is clear and vibrant, interspersed with passages so poetic they are breath-taking, such as this one:

“Some mornings you wake up fully in your body, and you know this is all there is–the air, the shape your body makes in the air, your hand, the skin that covers your hand, the air that covers your skin, the light that fills the air, a few colors in the light, this one thought, this dream dissolving…. Sometimes, if you lay still, you can feel the air entering each cell, sometimes you can feel the blood in your lips. Sometimes, if you lay very still, you can feel the whole web tremble.”
— Nick Flynn, The Ticking Is the Bomb: A Memoir



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SilverDocs Part 3: Byrne-ing Down the House

Ride Rise Roar is a concert documentary based on David Byrne’s tour for Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.  The CD, released in 2008, was a collaboration between Byrne and Brian Eno.  The tour itself, however, featured music from that album and other Byrne/Eno collaborations.

The film chronicles Byrne’s process for putting the tour show together, including adding an unexpected element – modern dance.  The stage show features three dancers performing the choreography of Annie-B Parson and Noémie Lafrance.  The result: a charming, playful, and entertaining production.  I am a dance lover, so the concept appealed to me immediately, but what I most loved was how the work of the dancers impacted all of the other performers onstage, from making the stage equipment part of the choreography, to back-up singers and musicians (male and female) dancing in tutus.   Check out the trailer below and this Wired blog post for a longer review of the film.

While you’re waiting for Ride Rise Roar to become available at the library, why not enjoy some of the many other Byrne- related options we already have.

The Everything That Happens Will Happen Today tour was not Byrne’s first collaboration with dancers.  In 1983 he composed, produced, and performed the music for Twyla Tharp’s The Catherine Wheel.

We also have Jonathan Demme’s critically aclaimed 1984 documentary about the Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense.  David Byrne himself directed Ile Aiye (The House of Life) and True Stories. You can also borrow the music of the Talking Heads, or Byrne’s solo albums, compilations, or other productions.

Try one of our biographies if you are interested in reading more about David Byrne or the Talking Heads.  Or check out a book with artists’ interpretations of Talking Heads lyrics.  Finally, you may also enjoy the meandering observations and philosophical musings in Byrne’s book Bicycle Diaries.


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From the beginning

This week I slowly poured through Jonathan Franzen’s newest novel, “Freedom”. The reviews, the praise, the hype, it’s all well deserved – the book is a tribute to how a good story should unfold. However, at the same time, I was experiencing a kind of sadness as I got deeper into the book. This was the first Franzen novel I had read, and while it was a demonstration of an author at the peak of his talents, I couldn’t help but think I wish I could have seen how he developed into such a talent. That’s why I like to start at the ground floor – an author’s first work, where it all begins.

Would my opinion of Franzen be of any higher regard if I had read his first novel, “The Twenty-Seventh City” first? Then building up to“The Corrections” (National Book Award winner) into anticipation of “Freedom”? I’ll never know. Which is why when given the opportunity to read the new David Mitchell, I withdrew. Instead opting to read “Ghostwritten”, Mitchell’s first work, so that I may gather what kind of raw talent he had, and how those talents developed into a National Book Award and best seller lists for “Cloud Atlas”.

My favorites, however, are the authors I find when they are totally fresh. It’s hard work, attempting to stay on top of new authors, but it’s often incredibly rewarding. I mean, can you imagine how nice it must have been to have begun reading Vonnegut at “Player Piano”? Here are a few of my favorites, authors I will be watching develop for a long time.  

Vincent Lam: With “Bloodletting and Other Miraculous Cures”, a collection of short stories, this first time author who works as a doctor as his other job can seriously consider a career change.

Donald Ray Pollock: Pollock sounds like a man who has lived hard. Every character in “Knockemstiff” is downtrodden, beaten and mean. I wonder what other disgusting and vivid imagery this author can create, as the small town in this intertwining collection of short stories tries to get by on drugs and violence.

Patrick de Witt: Similar to Pollock’s work  (as well as first timer Rebecca Barry’s “Later, at the Bar”) de Witt’s first novel, “Ablutions: Notes for a Novel” , is stunning. This novel grabs hold and doesn’t let go until you are left at rock bottom with your narrator. Prostitutes, alcoholics, and criminals pepper a world of dealing, petty theft, and questionable motives.

The joys of reading an established author such as Franzen, Joyce Carol Oates or Philip Roth are well documented – as a reader it is rewarding to see an author flaunt their talents almost effortlessly. But may I recommend, for the sake of a challenge, taking on somebody new? I know I’m already looking forward to my next new author – I’m starting Tom Rachman’s “The Imperfectionists” – here’s hoping for a good start towards something great.

- Tony


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Ripping Through the Curtain

In my past life as a sociologist I studied ideas that exposed the true nature of human behavior. No one and no thing was held sacred; scratch beneath the surface of society’s conventions and you’ll see people as they really are. Later, as I began reading more widely, I realized that novelists were doing this long before sociologists.

Milan Kundera argues a similar point in The Curtainhis book of essays about the novel. Beginning with Don Quixote, he argues, novelists began to draw back the social “curtain” that hides the truths of life. It’s the duty of subsequent novelists to expose even more of what the curtain hides.

Here I recommend some of my favorite novels that, for me, did more than draw back the curtain — they ripped right through it:

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse – I could include the Hesse canon in this list, but for simplicity I decided to go with the Hesse standard. Siddhartha is a fictionalized account of the Buddha’s quest for enlightenment, and does a good job of introducing Hesse’s favorite themes of internal conflict and searching. Like the real Buddha’s journey, Siddhartha reveals the true nature of reality that hides behind the curtain of our worldly desires.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera – Naturally, Kundera’s best known work is a study of the truth behind the curtain, in this case the Iron Curtain. Indeed, in this and much of his other work, Kundera displays a preternatural understanding of men’s and women’s hearts and minds laid bare by the 20th century socialist political machine. 

Independent People by Halldor Laxness — I’ve bragged up Laxness’s World Light here before, so now I should mention his other great novel, Independent People. In this epic, an Icelandic farmer works hard to maintain his illusions of independence even as history conspires against him. Laxness is a master of lifting the curtain to reveal the often ridiculous nature of individual and social hubris.

The Lurker at the Threshold by H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth – Ah, the ultimate rending of the curtain, in this case literally as Yog Sothoth rips through the fabric of mankind’s silly reality. Lovecraftian horror is probably not quite what Kundera has in mind, but for me—and for many others, I think—Lovecraft and fellow Cthulhu Mythos writers like Derleth exposed how puny our presumptions truly are.

What books ripped through the curtain for you?


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Football Season: A Guide For The Unconvinced

Last night the Steelers played (and won) their final preseason game.  The 2010 season officially begins next Thursday night in New Orleans (home of last year’s Super Bowl winners), and the Steelers play their first game on Sunday, September 12.

If you live in Pittsburgh, you probably already knew that, whether you love football or hate it.  I used to hate it myself, although I doubt any of my current friends would believe me.  And while I still wholly respect people who try the sport and just can’t get excited, I do feel all Pittsburghers owe it to themselves to try.   If nothing else, it’s great for having small-talk at the ready, and will usually be relevant anywhere Yinzers congregate.

But I think this town’s love of its team goes deeper than that, and inspires a lot of real community goodwill.  Roll your eyes all you want, but there’s something special about being a citizen of Steeler Nation.  I have seen the most incongruous assortment of strangers striking up football-related conversations in the grocery store, on public transportation, and even at the doctor’s office.  And you really haven’t lived until you’ve joined a Super Bowl celebration in the streets of your neighborhood.  They are the strangest of riots, where everyone is overjoyed, (almost) nothing is vandalized, and the only traffic specifically came out to be disrupted.  It’s actually kind of awe-inspiring.  If you’re intrigued enough to find out what all the fuss is about, come down to the library, and we’ll show you around.

Don’t know the first thing?  Grab the latest edition of The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Understanding Football.  If you like a little humor with your learning, try The Armchair Quarterback Playbook: The Ultimate Guide to Watching Football.  And if you’re interested in the business aspects of the game, we also have Football Fortunes: The Business, Organization, and Strategy of the NFL.

Catch up on team lore with Abby Mendelson’s Official Team History. Delve into more obscure stories with Last Team Standing: How the Steelers and the Eagles– “The Steagles”– Saved Pro Football During World War II.  And if you’ve already heard that one, try Screamer: The Forgotten Voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers, described as “Joe Tucker’s broadcast history, adapted from his notes by his son Murray Tucker.”

For more about us crazy fans, check out Steeler Nation: A Pittsburgh Team, An American Phenomenon by Jim Wexell.  And if you’re only able to stomach so much black and gold, and want a broader and more rounded understanding of the local culture, try The Paris of Appalachia: Pittsburgh in the Twenty-First Century by local author Brian O’Neill.

If you’re ready to become one of those fans, we can help you out.  First, select some novelty music to impress your guests.  Start with the classic Super Steelers Fight Song (which is based on the Pennsylvania Polka).  Then familiarize yourself with all Ten Years of Here We Go: The Steelers Fight Song.  Once you’ve got those under control, you can mix things up with We’re Number One: The Super Steeler Disco.  Later in the year, you can add Christmas Carols for Pittsburgh Fans, by the Rabid Fans.

Then go for that authentic game-day flavor, with The Super Steeler Cookbook (which, incidentally, was produced by the Allegheny District Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in 1982) and The NFL Gameday Cookbook: 150 Recipes to Feed the Hungriest Fan From Preseason to the Super Bowl.

Of course, you’ll need something to keep you entertained the rest of the week.  Let me introduce you to the Pittsburgh Football Fan Sudoku Puzzle Book.   That’s right, we own a copy, but if you want to actually solve them you’ll have to get your own.  We’re keeping this one for the ages, in our non-circulating local history collection.

And if you still need proof you don’t have to understand the game to have fun, there’s even a picture book – Here We Go, Steelers! Here We Go! (See, there is literally something Steelers-related for everyone.)

OK, so maybe you’ve tried, but you still don’t care about football.   Good news!  A non-football-watching friend of mine tells me you still have a reason to get excited – one afternoon a week for roughly five months, the city is your playground!  There are no lines anywhere!  Just make sure you know when this week’s game will be played, and plan accordingly.  Imagine shopping in a practically empty store, or coming to the library and having your pick of parking spaces.  That’s an excellent reason to appreciate the Steelers, even if you never watch them play.



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Do You Love Your Librarian?

Book and reading glassesWell, apparently, enough people do to have a contest.  Every year the American Library Association, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the New York Times Company take nominations from the general public to recognize their favorite librarian.  The winners of the “I Love My Librarian” award receive a $5000 cash award, a plaque, and a $500 stipend to attend the awards ceremony in New York City.  Up to ten librarians are selected each year to receive this award. 

Not only do average library users love their librarians, authors do also.  Why else would so many make a librarian the main character of their books?  Love stories, mysteries, bildungsromans, erotic fiction, short stories, suspense . . . Librarians are everywhere!

Book Cover for American WifeAmerican Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld – A librarian becomes first lady. This is a story of survival, of marriage, and self, in the face of extraordinary circumstances.


Book Cover for BibliophiliaBibliophilia: A Novella and Stories by Michael Griffith – You’d never believe what goes on in a college library . . . or maybe you would!


Book Cover for Catalogue of DeathCatalogue of Death by Jo Dereske A prim and extremely proper librarian and her zany artist friend always find themselves in the middle of a mystery. Luckily, the handsome police chief is on their side.


Book Cover for Freak in the SheetsFreak in the Sheets: Chick-lit with a Twist by MadameK – Looking for something different and exciting in her life, a fun-loving librarian and her best friend decide to open a school to teach people how to pleasure themselves and others.


Book Cover for The LibrarianThe Librarian by Larry Beinhart – To earn a bit of extra money, a university librarian takes a job cataloging the library of a conservative political mover and shaker. When he stumbles upon information he shouldn’t have, he lands on Virginia’s Ten Most Wanted Criminals list.

Book Cover for Mad Bad and BlondeMad, Bad and Blonde by Cathie Linz – After being left at the altar, our intrepid librarian goes on her honeymoon to Italy alone. With fabulous Italian men around her, she doesn’t remain alone for long . . .


Book Cover for Open SeasonOpen Season by Linda Howard – When a bored middle-aged librarian transforms herself into a cougar, she witnesses a crime and gets more than she bargained for.

So, remember that award and feel free to nominate any one of the fabulous librarians here at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.  I’m sure they’d appreciate it.  I know I would!



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