Monthly Archives: September 2011

It’s Creepy Crafts Time!

The leaves are changing colors, the temperature has dropped a few degrees, tomorrow is October first, and it’s time to start thinking about Halloween. Maybe you’re already in the holiday spirit, or some of  you might need a jump start. Either way, we invite you to join us Tuesday, October 4th, for this month’s Hands On Workshop – Creepy Crafts with Lynn. Local crafter Lynn Kropinak will instruct and inspire us in making a few Halloween themed items. It promises to be scary good fun!

HOW is a series of hands-on workshops for adults and teens. You will learn from skilled craftspeople. Dig in and try things out in a creative, supportive environment. Previous HOW programs have included Decoupage with Renée and Fermented Foods with Alyson. As you can see from the photos below, everyone has a good time. At these workshops, instead of sitting quietly, listening to a lecture, you participate in making your own projects. At the end of the evening, you take your project home. Hang it on the refrigerator, put on your mantle, or in case of the Fermented Foods program, eat your sauerkraut. Take some time out to learn to do something new or to rediscover  a favorite hobby. You’ll be glad you did!

Materials are provided. Registration is required. To register, fill out the form here, or call 412-622-3151 and ask for Julie or Melissa. We hope to spook you, I mean see you, on Tuesday!

-Melissa M.

Everybody's clipping at the Decoupage with Renee workshop that was held on June 7th.

Some of the decoupagers got creative with their cutting!


Chopping vegetables at the Fermented Foods with Alyson program on September 6th.

Everyone got to take a jar of sauerkraut home with them!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Reading Howard Aloud

I’m very excited about our upcoming Read To The People program occurring on Friday, October 14 through noon on Saturday, October 15 at Main Library in Oakland.   You can get all of the particulars here.  I signed up for the 3:00 AM graveyard shift, and the theme for that slot features horror.  Now, what does one read to an audience of library diehards at 3:00 AM?  How about Robert E. Howard!  Wait, you’re saying, isn’t he that “Conan” writer you’re always talking about?  Yes, but Howard also wrote some fine horror stories, and I intend to read one.

I’ll be reading from The Horror Stories Of Robert E. Howard, part of the amazing collection of Howard trade paperbacks published by Ballantine Books.   Depending on how much time I have and how long it takes to read, I’d like “The Horror from the Mound,” a tale set in Howard’s beloved Texas and set in the 1920’s (somewhere around the time it was written).  The Bran Mak Morn tale “Worms of the Earth” also graces this collection, and would be a fun one to share, but I think it is a bit too long for my allotted twenty minutes.

As a contemporary and friend of H. P. Lovecraft, Howard and he shared many story ideas, and although their writing styles differ pretty radically, they also shared a certain sensibility when it came to horror.  For both of them horror emanated from the alien, from forbidden things man was not meant to know.  Their troubled characters cross boundaries, ignore warnings, and meddle in the affairs of elder beings best left to slumber and dream of aeons when they once ruled the worlds of mankind.

So I will read “The Horror from the Mound” at 3:00 AM on Saturday morning, October 15 in the hopes that it will arouse a bit of healthy fear in the (hopefully)  large crowd of library diehards.

This all begs the question, if you had twenty minutes to read a horror story aloud, which one would you pick?



Filed under Uncategorized

Living History

We lived history this week. The Palestinian Authority, precursor to a government of Palestine, requested membership in the United Nations.  We may have glanced at it in the papers, perhaps saw it as a Yahoo News panel, or listenedto  or watched some commentary or interviews about it. What I wonder is how many of us outside of Israel and the West Bank understood its significance? President Abbas’s address to the General Assembly hasn’t been the only history we lived this week, this year, or even this decade. But outside of 9/11 and perhaps the election of Barack Obama as President, events don’t seem to stick to the ribs anymore.

What hath cable news and the Internet wrought?  Are we exposed to too much news (and not such newsworthy reporting) too often and too rapidly?  Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel seem to think so. In Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload, Kovach and Rosenstiel introduce us to the concept that we need to become our own editors if we are to make sense of the flood of news and information available to us today. In their words:

The real information gap in the 21st century is not who has access to the Internet and who does not. It is the gap between people who have the skills to create knowledge and those who are simply in a process of affirming preconceptions without growing and learning.

By its very expansiveness and pace, both the news and information in general readily overwhelm us. It isn’t necessarily numbing, but I find myself engaging in information triage everyday, so I don’t become info-numbed. Torkel Klingberg, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, has written that his research indicates our brains are just not “hardwired” enough to absorb and process the quantity of information they’re subject too. His work, The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory provides (very academically) the data and research used to reach that conclusion and some steps that can be taken to improve memory performance in light of both the volume of information we seek to assimilate, and age.

Going back to my premise about the news, coupled with absorbing it all—or not—is the additional task of prioritizing it. In the same week that Abu Mazen spoke to the UN, the US Congress failed to pass another interim spending bill, Moammar Quaddafi was or wasn’t in exile, nine Republican presidential hopefuls debated in Florida (Orlando no less, but I won’t go there,) and Overdrive announced that Kindle compatible e-books would now be available at public libraries. How do you rank these in importance and impact?

Finally, there is the crossover effect into the worlds of work and study, perhaps even into family life.  If it’s hard to assimilate it all, how much harder is it to organize and make sense of it, in order to make decisions?  That itself is a stand-alone subject. For our sakes, we need to be able to distinguish what is important from the 2nd and 3rd tier news/information without self-imploding or excessive hair pulling.

— Richard

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Dirty Little Secrets

My weekly childhood piano lesson was always a bizarre adventure.  My dad would drop me off at my teacher’s home, and, once admitted, I would follow Mrs. R. through a rabbit warren of stacked boxes and ceiling-high newspaper skyscrapers to the back room where the piano loomed, looking like a petulant god scowling down upon its puny worshippers.

This impression was heightened by the fact that said piano was flanked by piles upon piles of books, which wobbled as if one random sneeze would bring the whole works down on our heads.  More newspapers, more boxes, and heaps of random junk crowded the rehearsal space, leaving just enough room for me to squeeze in next to Mrs. R. on the bench and plunk my way through whatever piece I’d been practicing all week, politely ignoring the odd, stale smells baked into the house from years of old-world cooking.

Even after all these years, thinking about it gives me the wiggins.  While I’m certainly not the world’s greatest housekeeper, the thought of being a prisoner in my own home, held captive by my own stuff, is scary enough to motivate me into keeping clutter and mess to a minimum.  But what if you were a teenager trapped in a health hazard of a house, unable to invite your friends over lest they find out you lived in filth?  What if you weren’t allowed to throw anything away, and spent most of your time and energy planning for the day you could leave home for good?

Dirty Little SecretsThese questions are the heart of C.J. Omololu’s novel, Dirty Little Secrets. Lucy, the heroine,  has already changed schools once because her friends found out about her mom’s illness and its disgusting results.  Now she’s more invested than ever in keeping up the illusion of a normal life.  However, a horrible accident forces Lucy into the clean-up job from hell, a literal race against time before she ends up on the news as the freak of the week.  You’ll need a strong stomach to endure the vivid descriptions of things Lucy finds when she starts taking out the trash. I guarantee, though, that you’ll be fascinated by the care Omololu has put into this portrait of a dysfunctional family and the heartbreaking mental illness that holds its members–even the siblings who have technically “escaped”–in its thrall.

I literally could not put this book down until I reached the end, because I was dying to see how–or if–Lucy got herself out of her predicament.  Phrases like “shocking final chapter” have become cliches for a reason, but in this instance it’s true:  I never saw the last plot twist coming, and when I finally shut the book I had to take a couple of deep breaths because it was….just….thatcreepy.  I’m still shuddering, even as I type.  Just in case you were wondering why the rest of Lucy’s family didn’t do something to help her out, Omololu addresses those issues, too, demonstrating how families can become self-perpetuating dysfunctional systems instead of the warm, loving havens they are meant to be.

If you’re in a bit of a reading rut, can’t stop watching Hoarders, or are otherwise drawn to psychological horror, order yourself a copy of Dirty Little Secrets today.  And when you’ve finished, come track me down so we can talk about it.  I’ll be easy to find, as I’ll probably still be in my kitchen, washing the walls and scrubbing the floor.

–Leigh Anne

who will now move on to Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, at Tim’s suggestion


Filed under Uncategorized

E-books: a love story

As you may have already heard, you can now check out library books on your Kindle!  This means that library e-books are now available on most mobile devices and readers.  Great news for those of you who are already e-book fans.  Prefer print books?  I do too, but as resistant as I was to the e-book craze at first, I’ve grown to love them.  Here are a few reasons why:

  1. One word: vacation.  One of the hardest things about packing for me has always been narrowing down the books I’m going to take with me.  Invariably, I wind up being just in the mood for something that didn’t make the cut.  But I can check out ten e-books at a time from the library!  That’s a whole stack of books that I can stick in my carry on luggage.  Sweet. 
  2. (Mostly) instant gratification.  Although e-book popularity is growing steadily, sometimes a print copy of something that I really want to read isn’t on the shelf when I feel like reading it. I can often find it in e-book form, and even popular items that have holds on them often have a shorter hold list in e-book form.  Patience may be a virtue, but it’s not one of mine.
  3. An ever-growing list of available e-book titles.  I will admit, that at first I had some trouble finding books I felt like checking out in e-book format when there were so many more options in print.  Of course our print collection is still much larger, but the library is adding e-books to our holdings constantly, and the options are getting better all the time.  It’s been quite a while since I had trouble finding what I wanted.
  4. The portability!  This goes along with reason number one a little bit, but I’ve recently become completely immersed in George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, and those books are big!  Too big for lugging around on public transportation, if you ask me.  Maybe I could work on my arm muscles, but instead I prefer carrying around a more portable version of those behemoths. 

I think I will always prefer print books– the feel, the smell, a good paperback tucked into a beach bag- but I’ve definitely come to appreciate a few of the finer points of e-books.  I don’t even feel like too much of a traitor to the printed word.  If you’re new to e-books, the library is a great place to learn more about how to use your e-reader, or find lots of books to check out.


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Here Lie Frightening Strangers, Dark Secrets, Chilly Nights, Haunting Ghosts

From goulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night – Good Lord, deliver us!

The Cornish and West Country Litany, 1926

Autumn began this morning. I offer this collection of (mostly) recently published, seasonal novels to put you in the mood for darkening days and lengthening nights.     
Harwood, John
The Ghost Writer
By following clues in ghost stories written by his grandmother-which are included in the novel-a librarian works to piece together a crime his mother may have committed, and the past and present merge in a horrifying way.
Herbert, James
The Secret of Crickley Hall
This haunted house tale includes a kidnapped child, orphans, gloom, mist, and bumps in the night.
Kernochan, Sarah
Jane Was Here
Jane appears in a New England town minus her memory, yet she seems to know the place. Reincarnation might be at work as past and present collide.
Kiernan, Caitlin R.
The Red Tree
The Red Tree is the journal of a novelist who moves into an old house in Rhode Island in order to live alone and complete a novel. Her writing project is interrupted when she finds a manuscript in the basement that contains haunted legends of the red oak tree she can see from the kitchen window, and she becomes obsessed with the tree and its history.
O’Nan, Stewart
The Night Country
Ghosts haunt the survivors of a Halloween car crash in O’Nan’s evocative tale.
Rayne, Sarah
Property of a Lady
A fresh version of a classic ghost story, featuring a haunted house, recurring nightmares, and family secrets.
Simmons, Dan
History and horror overlap when Charles Dickens and his real-life friend and fellow novelist Wilkie Collins pursue a ghostly presence named Drood, the inspiration for Dickens’s last, uncompleted novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Stott, Rebecca
Time and space, past and present tangle in this ghostly thriller, which moves between Isaac Newton’s infatuation with alchemy, and the death of a Cambridge historian who was writing a study of suspicious circumstances surrounding Newton’s appointment as a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1667.
Waters, Sarah
The Little Stranger
A proud, poor family lives in a grand house with peeling wallpaper and creaking pipes. They become friends with an unmarried physician, who falls for the daughter and the house, though possibly both are haunted.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Reading Robert E. Howard: Is Conan a Lion or a Tiger or What?

Taking the advice of my fellow blogger, Scott, I am finally reading my first Conan book, The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian.

Why did I wait so long?  As one of the lyricists for a heavy metal band, I should long ago have been ripping off lines of Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) like this one:

…[he] drew back his mind from the nighted abysses where it had been questing… (p. 16)

If that language sounds a little excessive to you, then get a load of this.  In the short story “The Scarlet Citadel,” Howard so frequently assigns different characteristics to his protagonist that it becomes absurd:

“Who can take a man-eating tiger alive?” (p. 87)

“Take him up and fear not; the lion’s fangs are drawn.” (p. 87)

The kings reined in and gazed in awe at the fallen lion. (p. 87)

In one of these chariots lay Conan…weighted with chains, the tang of defeat in his mouth, the blind fury of a trapped tiger in his soul. (p. 88)

…his laughter sounded like the muttering of a rousing lion. (p. 89)

Conan’s laugh was like the deep short bark of a timber wolf. (p. 91)

…and Conan gave back the glare of a trapped wolf. (p. 95)

…gave Conan the name — Amra, the Lion — by which the Cimmerian had been known to the Kushites in his piratical days. (p. 96)

“Do you not remember the sack of Abombi, when your sea-wolves swarmed in?” (p. 96)

With a terrible curse Conan struck as a cobra strikes. (p. 97)

Conan paced the chamber like a caged lion. (p. 106)

With a lion-like roar the Cimmerian parried the whistling blade… (p. 110)

As a thunderbolt strikes, Conan struck, hurtling through the ranks by sheer power and velocity… (p. 116)

Lion, tiger, lion, tiger, wolf, wolf, snake, lightning, etc.  Whoa, that’s a lot of similes and metaphors.  It’s like Muhammad Ali saying, “Float like a butterfly, / Sting like a bee” and then a dozen other things.

But then again, this variegation is what makes Howard’s stories and Conan himself so darn fun.  The barbarian is sometimes a pirate, sometimes a mercenary, and sometimes a king.  The tales are set in any of the various kingdoms Howard invented (though, significantly, none  take place in Cimmeria and no other Cimmerians are ever written about).  Finally, one can’t expect a barbarian to have only one love interest so there are a number of female companions from slave girls to princesses to pirate queens.

Through it all, the language is gloriously excessive, the horrors of either savagery or civilization are laid bare, and the supernatural elements are exaggerated and over-excited.  In fact, one could say the same things about Howard’s friend, H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), another author that heavy metal lyricists like to imitate.

— Tim

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The big plan

Unless you are living under a rock (if so, I can hardly blame you), you are probably aware that the US and allies have been fighting a war in Afghanistan. October will mark the 10 year anniversary. CLP Main’s shelves are well stocked with books for any reader looking to expand their knowledge of the ongoing conflict past the nightly soundbites and short articles that are a now familiar part of daily life. I’ve read a good share myself but I have always felt a bit at sea when trying to grapple with some of the larger issues. I am not referring to the big debates, “good war” versus “bad war,” hegemony, imperialism, or the War on Terror and its implications.  Whichever side of the fence you are on, there exists scores of books to either buttress or challenge your dearly held beliefs. I am talking about some fundamental questions about the war itself that have always bothered me. What is the big plan? What is the goal? What does victory look like, and what is the plan to see it through?

Naturally, I found a lot of answers on the shelf at CLP. Hot off the press and waiting for you on the New Books shelf is Afghanistan: How the West Lost Its Way. The book is written by two English professors, Tim Bird and Alex Marshal. Both lecturers have long ties to the UK’s security establishment. Straight from the horses’ mouths comes a long, detailed outline of “the big plan” and its numerous changes and ultimate shortcomings. Anybody looking to understand what the US and allies have been trying to accomplish this last difficult decade needs to read this book. Currently I am searching for more titles along these lines. After all, you can’t read just one source or outlook on such an important topic.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands

In Nick Flynn’s newest poetry collection, The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands, he continues his examination of torture, specifically Abu Ghraib prison, that he began in his memoir The Ticking is the Bomb. While he still explores violence in humanity, this work takes a more elliptical approach. Poems quote Walt Whitman and pop lyrics, often achieving a song-like rhythm themselves as they speak in the voice of a soldier ordered to violently interrogate a prisoner. Distortion and disorientation dominate the syntax as Flynn fractures lines with enjambed breaks and punctuates with slashes, parentheses and spaces and uses obsessive repetition and serial questioning. He also uses the language of official documents to compelling effect in one poem that reveals only excerpts of non-redacted lines of detainee testimonies. The book’s central concern is the immediate relevance of state-sanctioned torture and acts of war to ordinary citizenry, but the framework used to examine culpability shifts constantly. From the body, to classical elements, to radio, to detainee interviews, to the satirized but urgent voice of a soldier addressing his silent “capt’n”, the scope of these contexts suggests that such violence and the responsibility for its existence is inescapable. In both form and subject matter, this troubling collection confronts questions of war, truth and patriotism in an era when those three themes arise and transform daily.


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Something Wicked this way comes

I am excited to see the upcoming stage production of Wicked at the Benedum Center. To prepare myself for the event, I checked out the CD and looked at the vocal selections.  And did you know that the composer Stephen Schwartz was a CMU grad?


Wicked is based on the Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, a very clever retelling of The Wizard of Oz from the point of view of the Wicked Witch of the West.

There are two sequels to this novel. Son of a Witch,

 and A Lion Among Men

There is a  fourth book in the series,

Out of Oz, which (witch?) is coming soon.


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, one of our culture’s favorite myths, was written in the year 1900 by L. Frank Baum. There are so many adaptations and permutations and derivatives of derivatives that, when looking up the title in our catalog, Baum’s original appears way down on the list.  Baum wrote thirteen other novels about the Land of Oz.…………..


There are other musical plays based on this tale (you knew this). The seminal 1939 film The Wizard of Oz itself has been revived as a play in London by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It includes all of the beloved old songs and a few new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The CD of the production is also on its way to our shelves.

Another is The Wiz (we have the movie, the CD, another CD, and vocal selections) which (witch?) happens to be the very first show I ever saw on Broadway or anywhere.  My grandparents took my sister and me to see it when I was 10. The thing I remember most about this show was that the woman playing Dorothy seemed a little too meek and soft-spoken for the seats we had, way way up in the cheapo section.

It just so happens that the last show that I went to see was an adaptation of another popular tale.  I dragged my husband to see Spamalot (CDvocal selections) based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, based on the Arthurian legends.


There is of course another popular musical based on this tale, Camelot (movie, CDvocal score, vocal selections). And while The Wizard of Oz goes back a mere 100 years or so, King Arthur and his associated legends have been making a splash since the late 5th and early 6th centuries.

Tallys in our catalog:

Based on Wizard of Oz = 250

Keywords “King Arthur” = 428

Keyword “Merlin” = 435

The Music Department has the vocal scores, vocal selections or both to most any musical you can think of, even some very obscure ones. We pride ourselves on this. We have revivals and revised editions as well. We have a large selection of musicals on CD, including London productions, Broadway original casts, and movies—sometimes three or four versions of the same show from different places.

Do you have a favorite modern myth that you would like to see as a musical?  (Star Wars, anyone? Batman? Conan?)



Filed under Uncategorized