Monthly Archives: November 2012

Somebody’s Getting Married (not me)

Tomorrow, I’m attending the wedding of two friends from college (Two asides: 1. I’m at the same table as the professor I had for Philosophy. This is not a hardship – he’s awesome. 2. The wedding is loosely Neil Gaiman-themed. I love my nerdy friends.). They’re pretty great people and I’m excited for a fun day.

Between helping my sister plan her own a few years ago and just being a late 20-something lady with basic cable (Say Yes to the Dress and My Fair Wedding, anyone?), I have a mild fascination with wedding culture. Not necessarily for the crazy amounts of money folks spend, but that it is one of those very important life events that still follows specific social conventions and traditions.

If you’re planning a big day for yourself, or you just like to be an etiquette know-it-all, check out these planning books:

– Jess, who is humming this song


Filed under Uncategorized

One A Day

Sounds I expect to hear during December.

1. Bells.

2. “Oh Boy! What smells so good in the oven?”

3. Snow Blowers. (I hope not!)

4. Scrape of snow shovels. (I hope so!)

5. Tire chains.

6. Crows cawing as they gather at twilight.

7. Clinking radiators.

8. “Light one candle.”

9. A match striking.

10. An axe splitting fire wood.

11. A crackling fire.

12. Carol singing.

13. “Bah! Humbug!”

14. The squeak of snow under foot.

15. Hockey referee’s whistle (after the strike ends).

16. Champagne corks popping.

17. The same holiday song over and over again, at every grocery store, coffee shop, bank . . .

18. Postal and package delivery trucks stopping on my street.

19. My own footsteps taking me to the window to see if one of those trucks has a present for me!

20. “Attention shoppers!”

21. The lonely winter wail of a train horn passing through Panther Hollow.

22. “Hi Mom, we just landed. Can’t wait to see you!”

23. Wind.

24.  The hush after snowfall.

25. “Ho! Ho! Ho!”

26. Candles spitting.

27. Chattering teeth.

28. Campaign robo calls. (Wait — that was November!)

29. Skate blades on ice.

30. Roar of the crowd as the Steelers score!

31. “Happy New Year!”

Someone who really pays attention to sound is the Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer. In The Tuning of the World he writes about the soundscape throughout history, and explores and analyzes our present acoustic environment. A recent New York Times essay led me to a new book, The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind by Seth Horowitz, an auditory neuroscientist who handles very technical aspects of hearing and sound with humor and grace.



Filed under Uncategorized

A Night in Wilderland

In case you were wondering, librarians also freak out when our favorite books are made into movies.  We jump up and down; we scream,  and then maybe we worry over whether they will live up to our expectations.  We churn with anticipation.  We go and see them; we buy them for our collections of course; and we tell you all about what we think.  We even have programs to share our excitement with you!

We’ve shared Twilight, Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Perks of Being a Wallflower events, and now we are proud to add The Hobbit to this list.

On December 13th, from 8:30-10:30 PM we will hold a special, after hours event celebrating all things Middle-earth.  We hope you will drop by and celebrate with us before you hit the midnight release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Here are some of the fun activities you can expect:

  • Come dressed as your favorite character — prizes awarded for best costume
  • Compete in Tolkien Trivia
  • Make Hobbit Slippers
  • Play the Lord of the Ring Toss
  • Create Dwarvish Bookmarks
  • Ham it up in the Wilderland Photobooth
  • Try your hand at Eye of Sauron Treat Decorating

We hope to see you there!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

We have nothing to fear but fear itself. And bugs. And heights. And large bodies of water.

When I was a child, I had a recurring nightmare where my mom and I were on a bus, heading to a mall. The bus turns onto a bridge that’s right next to the mall and the bridge is riddled with potholes. Gigantic potholes which are probably called something else like large-dangerous-this-bridge-should-be-condemned-holes. I panic because I see that we’re going to fall through one of the holes and into the river. Sometimes, I would wake up screaming. I believe this nightmare (and if you’re a psychologist or dream interpreter, feel free to analyze me) is the reason I’m very wary when I drive over bridges. That and my possibly irrational fear of large bodies of water. You can’t see what’s going on down there! To me, the movie Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus isn’t just based on someone’s imagination; it’s a completely plausible event. Someday, a mega shark will battle a giant octopus and I’ll laugh at all of you and say, “I told you! We don’t know what’s going on down there! WE DON’T KNOW!”

(image found at

So, phobias. That’s what this post is about.

Let’s get mine out of the way. The fear of bridges or of crossing them is called gephyrophobia. The fear of water is called hydrophobia, though I guess my fear isn’t so much of water, but of the frightening, unknown creatures who may or may not exist in it. Entomophobia is the fear of insects and I don’t fear all insects, but I am not a fan of butterflies. Yes, butterflies. You don’t know where they’re going and they don’t seem to know either. They just flutter around all willy-nilly. It’s weird.

The fear of anything new, not the fear of the Keanu Reeves‘s character in The Matrix, is called neophobia.

Asymmetriphobia (fear of asymmetry) and symmetrophobia (fear of symmetry) both exist which might be fine with asymmetriphobes and not so fine with symmetrophobes.

Peladophobia is the fear of bald people.

But he’s so adorable!
(Photo found on

Amathophobia is the fear of dust. If my apartment could talk, it would tell you this is a fear I do not have.

Philemaphobia is the fear of kissing.

Stop it, you two. (Found at

The fear of speed is called tachophobia. No one would fear the movie “Speed” because it stars Keanu Reeves (if you pay attention, you’ll see that many things eventually come back to Keanu Reeves) and Sandra Bullock, two completely comforting people. “Speed 2“, maybe, but again, it has Sandra Bullock and the bonus that is Jason Patric.

If you’d like to overcome your phobias, here are some titles that might help:

Anxiety Free: Unravel Your Fears Before They Unravel You- Robert L. Leahy

Coping with Fears and Phobias: A Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding and Facing Your Anxieties- Warren Mansell

Face Your Fears: A Proven Plan to Beat Anxiety, Panic, Phobias, and Obsessions- David Tolin

Overcoming Fear of Heights: How to Conquer Acrophobia & Live a Life Without Limits- Martin M. Antony

Spiders: Learning to Love Them- Lynne Kelly

If you wouldn’t like to get over your phobias and instead want to stand next to me when the mega sharks fight the giant octupi, I’ll be around, fearfully crossing bridges and running away from butterflies.



Filed under Uncategorized

What’s next?

I’ve been late to the party when it comes to reading a lot of popular books, but when the book is one in a series that usually works to my advantage- no waiting for the next one to be written!  There are few things I love more than finding out that the book I’m enjoying is the first in a series, because that means I’ll have months of no thinking about what to read next.  Of course, half the series I fall for don’t have numbered titles, and trying to figure out the order of the books isn’t always intuitive.  The What’s Next Books in Series Database is basically my favorite website in the world at times like this, because all you need to do is type in the author’s name, or the book or series title, and it gives you a list (in order!) of all the books in the series.  Genius.  You can even just search for series in a particular genre, if you don’t have a book in mind but are looking for a new series to obsess over.

While I bide my time waiting for George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss to write the next book in their series, I’ve been immersed in the (fairly ridiculous, but also addictive) Outlander series.  However, I’m always looking for suggestions!



Filed under Uncategorized

Completely random book reviews.

Some blog posts have clever themes; others are just lists of cool things. This post is of that second kind. Please enjoy.


Abbott, EdwinFlatland: a Romance of Many Dimensions – This is my favorite book. It looks like a nice little fable about a two-dimensional world full of talking shapes, but it’s really a scathing criticism of Victorian society. Flatland is in the public domain now, so you can go get yourself a free ebook version. (Bonus: book on CD!)

Adams, DouglasThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Travel through space with Marvin the paranoid android and learn how you should react when someone calls you a “hoopy frood.” This may be the book that taught me how to be sarcastic. (Super Bonus Jackpot Bonanza: book on CD, ebook, original radio scripts, movie, television show!)

Cabot, MegAirhead – Average girl has brain transplant and wakes up in supermodel’s body. First in a trilogy, and yes, I’ve read them all. Don’t hate. It’s amusing fluff, despite the “only my boyfriend can help me now” crap that turns up now and then.

Dunn, MarkIbid – The fictional biography of a three-legged man told entirely in footnotes. What more can I possibly say? (Except perhaps that another of his books, Ella Minnow Pea, will do wonders for your vocabulary.)

Dutch, DanaRomance Without Tears – 50s comics about young women falling in love but not acting like morons or putting up with jerks. Amazing stuff.

Fforde, JasperShades of Grey – In a society that’s short on spoons, social standing is based on the ability to see colors. Also, no one can see at night. That’s a big one. And sometimes the roads eat people. That’s kind of important, too. (Bonus: ebook!)

Higashino, KeigoSalvation of a Saint – A man with a plan is murdered by someone with an even bolder plan. One of a series about a detective and his physics professor pal that’s being translated into English. (Bonus: book on CD!)

Ozeki, RuthMy Year of Meats – A Japanese-American documentary maker finds herself producing a television show designed to sell American meats to Japanese housewives. Surreal and alarming.

Timm, Uwe The Invention of Curried Sausage – This one’s part war story, part messed-up love story, and part sausage story. It was published in Germany in the  late 90s, but it’s set in the late 80s and reaches back to the mid 40s. Sort of a time-travelling sausage frame narrative thing going on here.


Colquhoun, KateMurder in the First-Class Carriage – Quite possibly the most gentle book about a vicious beating that you’ll ever read – features an oddly boring Trans-Atlantic chase and an awful lot of information about hats. But it is chock-full of amusing British spellings.

Gonick, LarryThe Cartoon History of the Universe – It’s possible that you’ll learn more from this series than you did from all of your high school teachers combined. It’s also very funny.

Johnson, StevenThe Ghost Map – A little bit about medicine, a little bit about plumbing, and a lot about bodily fluids. Ew. But in a good way. Or at least in an educational way. (Bonus: book on CD, eaudio!)

Shirer, WilliamThe Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – On one hand, you’re learning about Hitler’s income taxes. On the other, the author keeps using the phrase “homo-sexual perverts.” But you could say that in 1960, when this book was first published. (Bonus: really long book on CD, eaudio!)

Summerscale, KateMrs. Robinson’s Disgrace – A good book, though not nearly as salacious as the title would lead you to believe. It’s more about Victorian intellectual life and the early days of British divorce courts. (Bonus: book on CD!)

– Amy, who apparently enjoys sarcasm, history, and fluffy teen fiction

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

At the Ballet

“Everything was beautiful at the ballet.
Graceful men lift lovely girls in white.
Everything was beautiful at the ballet.
I was happy… at the ballet.”
A Chorus Line, 1975

In 1973, when I was four years old, my mother enrolled me in ballet classes at Pamela’s School of Dance in Dearborn, Michigan. Little did I imagine that I would continue to study ballet for the next eleven years with classes twice a week, annual recitals, countless rehearsals, and membership in the local ballet company. During these years of training, I learned grace, practiced excellent posture, acquired a discipline for expressing and paying attention to my body, and gained a broad exposure to the performing arts of not only ballet but classical music as well. We even had a live pianist in the dance studio in those days long before MP3 players as we practiced our barre exercises!

Ballet was a big part of my world. The Turning Point was THE big ballet movie and Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gelsey Kirkland  and the dancers of American Ballet Theatre were our inspirations.  I even read novels about ballet.

Julia Erickson & corps de ballet of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, photo by Rich Sofranko

Today I am an avid balletomane and frequent attendee of live ballet performances. I am very fortunate to now live in Pittsburgh, home of the professional ballet company, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Since moving here in 2010, I’ve enjoyed The Nutcracker, Coppelia, and Giselle and I’ve already got my tickets to next April’s Cinderella–can you tell I prefer the classics?

While I never achieved the perfect turnout required to become a great ballerina, I still fondly remember the lights hot on my face, the thick heavy makeup, and the scratchy costumes whose sparkly sequins fluttered across the stage. But all that faded once the lights dimmed, the crowd hushed, and the music began…

The library has several ways for you to learn more about and enjoy ballet including books, DVDs, and magazines.



Filed under Uncategorized

WPA In Books and Movies

WPA Book Week poster culled from Google Image search

The history of the Works Progress Administration is a fascinating slice of the American experiment. For good and bad, better and worse, looking at this era is a fascinating glimpse at a specific moment in time. David Taylor’s book Soul of a People is a great look at the Writer’s Project of the WPA. Learning about how the WPA Guidebooks became a project of importance is both fascinating and worth knowing! Writing about every state and region of the USA, many now-well-known writers got their start in this project. His work is a great snapshot of the caliber of these writers involved in the WPA WP…including the likes of (but certainly not limited to) Zora Neal Hurston, Nelson Algren, Ralph Ellison and Louis L’Amour.

Work! Culled from Google Image search

Susan Quinn delivers the goods on much of the drama in the WPA in her readable and gripping Furious Improvisation. This book touches on some really fascinating elements of the Project at the time, including the controversial play “Haiti.” There is also some noteworthy discussion of the visual arts including the mural works done at the time (think Diego Rivera). In addition, there is a solid discussion of the Federal Writer’s Project play called Cradle Will Rock.

A fantastic film adaptation of the goings on of this period are captured brilliantly in the 1999 film (by the same name noted above!) Cradle Will Rock, directed by Tim Robbins and starring Hank Azaria, Ruben Blades, John and Jane Cusack, Bill Murray and John Turturro. This movie is really entertaining, from the comedic tension between the bourgeoisie and the organizers and workers, to the serious social critique, back to the hilarious depiction of the stage production of the play at hand.

And, yes, dear Eleventh Stack blog reader, these are all available through your very own CLP. Check them out!

WPA Poster culled from Google Image search

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Thankful Reading

Tis the season to be thankful! Maybe you already have a list going of things to be thankful for. Maybe you’ve been posting your 30 Days of Thanks on your social networking site of choice. But rest assured, there’s something else to be thankful for that you just haven’t remembered yet.

Here’s a selection of items from the library to stimulate your thankful muscle.

Prayers of ThanksHelp, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott

Ways to Give ThanksA Grateful Heart: 365 Ways to Give Thanks at Mealtime by edited by M.J. Ryan

Thanks for Our PastGiving Thanks: And More Stories to Celebrate American Heritage (DVD)

Fictional ThanksThanks for the Memories by Cecelia Ahern

Thanks for WritersThanks, but This Isn’t for Us: A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing Is Being Rejected by Jessica Page Morrell

Kids Can Be Thankful Too (Or Not!) – Thanks a Lot, Emily Post! by Jennifer LaRue Huget

How to Be ThankfulThe Gift of Thanks: The Roots and Rituals of Gratitude by Margaret Visser

Thanks to a PresidentThanks and Have Fun Running the Country: Kids’ Letters to President Obama edited by Jory John

Thanks for HealthThanks to My Wife … I Just Had a Rectal Exam: Answers to Questions All Men Should Be Asking Their Doctor by Robert Corish

Thanks for Relationships Gone Wrong & Right – Thanks for Nothing, Nick Maxwell by Debbie Carbin

Thanks for What History Has Taught UsThanks for the Memories: Love, Sex, and World War II by Jane Mersky Leder

Thanks to Our MilitaryA Million Thanks: My Campaign to Send One Million Letters to Our Troops by Shauna Fleming

Thanks for FoodGiving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie by Kathleen Curtin, Sandra L. Oliver, and the Plimoth Plantation

Thanks for MusicNo Thanks!: The ’70s Punk Rebellion (CD)

I hope everyone has a happy, safe, and fun Thanksgiving holiday.

Thankfully Yours,
Melissa M.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Seeing the Lights

Tonight is Light Up Night in Pittsburgh!  Our Downtown & Business branch will be hosting the Library Open House on Light Up Night! This event includes crafts for kids, a silent auction, light refreshments, holiday music, door prizes, and plenty of good cheer!  Now is that time of year when folks begin to think about decorating for the holidays.  In the spirit of aiding this sometimes thankless task, here are a few items that might provide some decorating inspiration!

The Big Book Of Holiday Paper Crafts / [editor-in-chief, Jennifer Schaerer]

Green Christmas : How To Have A Joyous, Eco-Friendly Holiday Season / Jennifer Basye Sander and Peter Sander with Anne Basye

The Hanukkah Book / Mae Shafter Rockland

Have Yourself A Very Vintage Christmas : Crafts, Decorating Tips, And Recipes, 1920s-1960s / Susan Waggoner ; photographs by Jeff Elkins

Kwanzaa Crafts / Carol Gnojewski

Upcycling Celebrations : A Use-What-You-Have Guide To Decorating, Gift-giving & Entertaining / by Danny Seo ; photographs by Laura Moss

Have a great weekend, and if you have time tonight, stop by the Downtown & Business library for some holiday fun!


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized