Monthly Archives: December 2012

Big Plans

At the start of each new year, like most people, I tend to make Big Plans. Because I’m a big reader, those plans often involve books.  Last year I resolved to keep a log of everything I read over the course of 2012 (didn’t happen). This year, I have a few specific books I’d like to read:

Daily Life in Ancient Rome: The People and the City at the Height of the Empire, by Jerome Carcopino: It struck me recently how little I know about history.  I’ve never been one for memorizing dates and places and names, but I would like to know more about world history.  I’ve always been much more intrigued by the ordinary people stuff of history rather than the big names, so this book looks like it should be perfect.

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, by William Blake: I was thinking of that line, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom” one day, and when I looked it up to find out what it was from, I discovered that it was one of the Proverbs of Hell from this work.  I love Blake, and I’m a little surprised that I’ve never read this book before.  Hopefully I’ll remedy that this year.

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris: Just in case you thought my last two books were a little too highbrow… I’m looking forward to the release of the newest Sookie Stackhouse book in May.  Even though I’ve been increasingly disappointed with the direction of the series, I’m too far in not to read this one (the moment it hits the shelves).

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris: Another release I can’t wait for!  Sadly, this won’t come out until April, but Sedaris is worth waiting for.  I’m not sure I’ve read another author who can so reliably make me collapse into giggles.  I’ll try and content myself with a few of his other books while I wait for this one.

What are you excited about reading in 2013?



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I’ve always liked rats and mice. I was indoctrinated young, raised on Disney, and Hollywood’s apparent pro-rodent agenda has completely brainwashed me. It’s a wonderful luxury when you think about it. I imagine in other places of the world rodents may directly threaten someone’s livelihood or cause horrible sanitation problems.

But I hit it big in cosmic roulette so I am free to enjoy the anthropomorphizing of the lowly rodent.

The library has a lot of cool stuff to help us get behind rats and mice.


Up first is a classic, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Real rat fans will call me a fink for not knowing about this book until recently. I had seen and loved the animated film adapted from this book, Secret of NIMH, but I had not known about the book until I happened upon it in the library. The movie made several large alterations from the original story. The book doesn’t have any magic stones and Nicodemus is not some sort of wizard in the original. All in all, the changes made it a more interesting read. I enjoyed the more realistic take of the book. Like a lot of great children’s literature, the book is very deep and makes an older reader ford some deep waters while grappling with issues of sentience and survival.

And the movie of course.


Dom DeLiuse kills as the crow Jeremy. The traditional animation is top notch but parents should be a little cautious. This film is a bit violent and maybe a little too scary for younger kids. The rats are really, really cool.


Brian Jacques is the undisputed king of rodent fiction. Beginning in 1986 with Redwall, Jacques has penned well over two dozen books set in a fantasy world stocked with talking mice, rats, badgers, etc…


David Petersen’s Mouse Guard combines some of the best elements of Jacques and O’Brien to create a darker fantasy world where the mice live in a constant state of siege. The illustrations are stunning. Petersen depicts nature and the seasons so well I can almost smell the dead leaves when reading the first collected volume of the series, Mouse Guard Fall 1152. If you only read one graphic novel about talking mice defending their homeland this year then this should be it. Seriously though, this book is awesome. There are some gorgeous panels depicting a desperate battle with mouse against crab.


Another fresh take on the genre is Robin JarvisThe Dark Portal. Set in the small and dark places of London’s underbelly, this novel features occult elements and some epic apocalyptic battles. The trilogy continues with The Crystal Prison and then finally, The Final Reckoning.

But I am terrified of rats and mice, you say.

CLP has that covered too.



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A Resolution to Tie Up Loose Ends

Every year, I always come up with New Year’s resolutions and goals for myself. As I was thinking about it this week, I realized that, for the very first time, I couldn’t think of anything new to accomplish in the new year that I wasn’t already doing. This is unusual for me as I always think of new ways to improve my life, my health, and my bank account.

In past years, I’ve made resolutions to eat better; now I’m vegan. Or to live with less; check. To exercise daily; double check. To save more money; triple check.

But there is something that’s really important and something that only someone who is practical (and getting older!) like myself would think about: making arrangements with an attorney to set up a revocable living trust, a durable power of attorney for health care,  and a financial power of attorney. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a very long time and, since this is a lean year for resolutions anyway, this one seems easily achievable.

Here are a few very helpful books I’m consulting:


Protect and Enhance Your Estate: Definitive Strategies for Estate and Wealth Planning by Robert Esperti


Living Trusts for Everyone: Why a Will is Not the Way to Avoid Probate, Protect Heirs, and Settle Estates by Ronald Sharp


Suze Orman’s The Ultimate Protection Portfolio by Suze Orman

How about you? Resolutions, anyone?

~Maria, who wishes everyone a very happy and healthy 2013!


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The hopeful, heartbreakingly beautiful, glorious writing of Eduardo Galeano

Eduardo Galeano is often described as “one of Latin America’s most distinguished writers.” That may be true. He IS an award-winning author, and his work has been translated into over twenty-eight languages. What I DO, however, know about Eduardo Galeano’s writing is that it comes about as close to sanctified as I’ve ever read. His style is accessible, yet rich and complex.



What’s more, Galeano has the ability to break me down, deconstruct and dismantle me, and then rebuild me all in the same paragraph. His work tends to explore the connectivity of different people and different groups. Galeano’s writing faces the insanity and brutality that can exist in the world, and looks back with realism that shines through with a hope that fills the heart and a beauty that is at once blinding and eye-opening.


Whether Galeano is writing about politics and social justice, interpersonal relationships, or soccer, his writing is emotive, expressive and touching. Do yourself a favor and check out this fantastic writer. And, yes, dear Eleventh Stack blog reader, these are all available through your very own CLP. Check them out!

galeano mirrors



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Best Books N’At: 2012 Edition

Can you handle one more “best of” list this holiday season? We think you can!

The Eleventh Stack tally of favorites differs from other “best” lists in that we don’t limit ourselves to books published in 2012. “New to us” books are welcome on our list because an excellent book doesn’t stop being excellent just because it’s no longer in the public eye (after a certain amount of time has passed, we call those books “classics”). We also don’t limit our format choices, either; while many of us chose to write about books, you will also find movies and music on this list. We can tell from our stats dashboard that you enjoy our music and film reviews as much as you do our literary explorations, so consider their inclusion here a holiday bonus.

Here’s what your favorite lit-savvy pop culture Pittsburgh library mavens appreciated most in 2012:


My head turned into a smiley face because I was so happy.

In my music world, the Kills have my body, Wild Flag has my spirit, and Kathleen Edwards has my soul. Kathleen is the only one who put out an album this year (the Kills’ newest, Blood Pressures, came out in 2011; so did Wild Flag’s eponymous album. They were both excellent and I highly recommend them.) Kathleen’s music is in that hard-to-define alt-country-pop-rock world and while Voyageur, her 2012 release, is less alt-country and more pop, but you won’t mistake it for a Katy Perry or Pink album. Even though it’s musically a bit of a departure from her previous albums (Failer, Back to Me, and Asking for Flowers), lyrically, it’s the same Kathleen. She is not one for dancing around an emotion. She writes songs that make you want to jump and yell and curl up on the couch and cry. She divorced in 2011 and many of the songs on Voyageur deal with that in a very honest way that can leave you heartbroken, but also hopeful. She’ll be playing here in February and she’s worth seeing live. I saw her earlier this year (that’s me and her in the photo) and it was one of the best nights of my life.

TrailoftheSpellmansPicking my favorite book of the year was a tough thing to do because I read a lot of excellent ones. It came down to the graphic novel, Building Stories by Chris Ware and Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz. In the end, I went with Lisa Lutz (though, please read Building Stories. It made me worry about a bee; that’s how good it is.) Trail of the Spellmans is the fifth in Lutz’s Spellman books so you should read the first four (The Spellman Files, Curse of the Spellmans, Revenge of the Spellmans, The Spellmans Strike Again) before you read this one. The series is about a family of private investigators who sometimes use their investigative skills against each other. What I adore about this series is that while it’s funny, it also has heart. Lutz has created a family who clearly loves each other, but doesn’t always show it in appropriate ways.

Photo source:

Photo source:

The movies Netflix usually recommends for me fall into categories like “Critically-acclaimed Quirky Independent Movies” or “Visually-striking Emotional French-Language Movies” or “Understated Comedies” so it might be surprising to them (it?) that my favorite movie of 2012 was Warrior. This came out in 2011, but I saw it this year and cried; for some reason, sports movies reduce me to a sobbing mess. Rudy, Rocky IV, RedbeltWhip It, and now Warrior. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about two estranged brothers, one a former Marine, the other a schoolteacher, who for differing reasons, take part in a mixed-martial arts tournament and end up battling each other for the top prize. It stars Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, and Nick Nolte and is worth your time and Kleenex.


fullbodyburdenKristen Iversen’s memoir, Full Body Burden: Growing up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats (also available as a book on CD), is really two stories in one. On a personal level, it’s the tale of a crazy dysfunctional family headed by an alcoholic father that goes through an awful lot of pets (and cars – drunk father even causes an accident that breaks young Kristen’s neck, something she doesn’t learn about until years later). On the nuclear side of things, there’s the history of Rocky Flats, a plant that used to manufacture plutonium triggers for atomic bombs (they somehow managed to lose a few TONS of plutonium in the air ducts and survive a few fires that should have destroyed large portions of Colorado). So yeah, disturbing and illuminating. (If you want to learn more about Rocky Flats, check out the documentary Dark Circle.)


220px-Channel_ORANGEFrank Ocean is an R&B/Soul genius, who came from seemingly out of nowhere and blew my mind in 2012 with Channel Orange.  His huge, weird, gorgeous, Wizard-of-Oz-referencing single, “Thinkin Bout You” shows vocal range, song-writing talent and the rare ability to bring a tear to Beyonce’s eye.  I think I listened to this song 100 times in a row.  Channel Orange contains many songs worth more than one spin.   “Pink Matter” and “Bad Religion” are also must listens.  And to be fair,  Frank Ocean didn’t really come from out of nowhere, he came from New Orleans by way of Odd Future.  He’s nominated for 6 grammys, so get a hold of the CD now, before he wins them all and the holds list goes through the roof.


I love fairy tales: not the happily ever after, princesses being saved by princes type, but the darker stories that the Grimm brothers immortalized.  Graham Joyce’s novel Some Kind of Fairy Tale is about a woman who appears on her family’s doorstep twenty years after her mysterious disappearance and appears not to have aged at all in the interim.  Her perplexing explanation– that she was spirited away to fairy land– would seem delusional, but as the story unfolds details emerge that make it hard for even her fiercest critics to continue doubting her.  The story itself is dark and intriguing, and the writing is wonderfully done.

Another book in a similar vein is almost too obvious to mention, but I will anyway because I loved this one too: Philip Pullman’s Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version.  I love Pullman, I love the Brothers Grimm, and this book is a great marriage of both.  The simple retellings are gruesome enough to win the Grimm brothers’ approval, and the notes at the end of each tale about its origins are a great addition for those of us who like that kind of thing.


 Grave Mercy may best be explained as “Alias set in the Middle Ages…”  But instead of the great Sidney Bristow, we have Ismae, an assassin trained at the convent (yes, convent) of Saint Mortain – otherwise known as the god of death. Set in the French duchy of Brittany, Ismae escapes her awful father and even worse arranged marriage after her husband-to-be discovers the red scar across her back, a sign that she had been sired by Saint Mortain himself. She soon finds herself settling in with the sisters of the convent, learning to kill those who have been marked for death by her patron saint. A few training montages and a successful field test later, Ismae is assigned to help the very handsome and very mysterious Gavriel Duval protect his half-sister, the duchess. There’s lots of court intrigue, questions about Ismae’s own beliefs, and ultimately, the future of a kingdom hangs in the balance.

This is a young adult novel that manages to successfully flirt with the notion of being an adult book, especially in how author Robin LaFevers handles the historical aspects. The convent of Saint Mortain was likely based – at least the location – on the Abbaye Blanche, in Mortain, France. She incorporates a number of real people, such as Anne of Brittany and her court, while balancing the myths and legends of these “daughters of Death.” The second book in this series is out in the spring and I can’t wait.

Leigh Anne

I have a teensy–and by “teensy” I mean “massive”–authorcrush on Cheryl Strayed, and I am not ashamed.

It started with Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, which I picked up solely because Oprah chose it for her book club, only to be blown away by talent and surprise. Wild is a sucker-punch to the soul by way of the gut, a wrenching memoir about the excruciating grief of losing a parent, and the hard-fought recovery from that grief, by way of an extremely long walk. Vision quests and pilgrimages have been rites of passage for many cultures for ages, and Strayed shows you how that theme is still relevant to the 21st-century heroine’s journey. Enthusiastically recommended for anyone coping with great loss, or who has survived it (and really, that’s everybody, no?).

Wild certainly could have stood alone as my favorite book of the year, but then I found out that Strayed is also the genius behind Dear Sugar, the internet advice column that reads like Dan Savage and Anne Lamott’s  literary love child. Tiny Beautiful Things, a selective collection of various Dear Sugar columns, is an instruction manual on how to be a fearless, compassionate bad-ass, and is guaranteed to knock you on your behind, then extend a loving hand to pick you back up again. No topic is taboo in Sugar’s world, and her willingness to share her own mistakes and character flaws gives her advice heft and weight: you know you should do what Strayed tells you to do, because she’s not just preaching it–she’s lived it. And yet, her advice is always delivered in such a way that you believe she has your best interests at heart, and really cares about whether or not you succeed. That’s no mean feat; you can’t fake that. After you read the library copy, buy this book. In fact, buy two: one for yourself, and one for somebody you love enough to give the gift of radical honesty.


Detroit: A Biography, Scott Martelle. As a Motown girl born and bred, I snatched this one right up. I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, but it was entertaining and enlightening (and still managed to make me feel homesick). From the history of the Motor City as a French trading post to Indian warfare and through the explosive growth of the auto industry to its nasty and tragic race history, this book is the story of a city’s failures, hopes, and dreams, and of the resilient spirit of its people. Of local interest: the last chapter (“Pittsburgh: A Different Case”) is all about Pittsburgh’s resurgence after its decline, and the lessons learned that Detroit can hopefully implement.


My hands-down favorite book I read this year was Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles. You know how every year you read one book that you recommend to everyone you see? This is mine. If I haven’t told you about this wonderful piece of fiction yet, it’s because you haven’t seen me or my staff picks. So I’m sorry to be redundant, but I still think about this book almost daily. The prose was vivid. The dialog, witty and sharp. I found myself picturing the whole novel in my head as I was reading it. It was like my own personal moving picture. Rules of Civility was everything I want a book to be.


This kid will kill you.

This kid will kill you.

Little Star, John Ajvide Lindqvist. There is something alarming going on in Sweden. Lack of sunlight, possibly? Too much salted herring? Frostbite? Whatever is going on, every single book I’ve read from the Land of the Midnight Sun has been unbelievably dark and twisted. And awesome. In fact, my favorite book in 2012 is from heir apparent to Stephen King, John Ajvide Lindqvist. Lindqvist , best known as the author of Let the Right One In (Swedish movie and U.S. movie,) is redefining the horror genre. Yet the book I love best is his first “non-supernatural” novel. Little Star, released in English in October, definitely has elements of the supernatural, but ultimately it’s about alienation, bullying, fame and teenage angst. Because nothing says Happy Holidays like a gang of murderous teen girls.

Left for dead in the woods, Theres is rescued (if you can call it that) by D-List musician and wife beater Lennart Cederström.  Upon discovering her perfect pitch, Cederström makes the (odd) decision to hide her in his basement and raise a perfect singing machine. By the time Theres is a teenager, she is eerily beautiful with a spooky stare, and clearly has no concept of right or wrong. When events takes a gruesome turn (with a drill) she ends up in Stockholm with her “brother” Jerry, one of the many adults in her life who treat her like a commodity. After appearing on the Swedish American Idol, Theres hooks up with the overweight, bullied Theresa and together they make a chilling duo. They create a gang of alienated, disenfranchised teenage girls who are fiercely devoted only to one another, to the point of torture and murder. Twisted and grisly, Little Star is a compelling and horrifying tale of the suffering of modern living with an equally compelling and horrifying cast of characters.

Oh, and you’ll never listen to ABBA the same again.


My Heart is an Idiot by Davy Rothbart
This was one of the most enjoyable essay collections I’ve read in a while. Mr. Rothbart is something of a good-hearted raconteur, willing to try anything at least once for the sake of a good story. I dare you to read the second essay in this collection, entitled “Human Snowball,” and not walk away grinning from ear-to-ear—which is quite an accomplishment when you consider that it’s a story about riding around wintery Buffalo, NY in a stolen van.

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
This is something of a genre mash-up. At its heart it’s a mystery novel, shaded with classic noir hues, but there’s an intriguing twist–the world is about to end in approximately six months. With an asteroid plummeting towards earth’s surface, Detective Hank Palace has to wrestle with the ultimate existential dilemma: what’s the point in solving a murder if everyone is going to end up dead anyways? This is a quick, fun read (and hopefully the first in a trilogy), with many uncanny speculations about what a pre-apocalyptic USA might look like.

Have you tried any of these? Have favorites of your own? Get the conversational ball rolling in the comments below.

The Eleventh Stack bloggers wish you a holiday season filled with harmony, good food, and safe travel conditions. After a short posting break, we will resume our regular publishing schedule on December 26th.


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what is this i don’t even

Last month I replaced most of our worn and damaged TV series box sets – now the Main library has scads of new DVDs, including The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Desperate Housewives, Fingersmith (man, does that one circulate), M*A*S*H, Prime Suspect, The Sopranos, and the original* Upstairs Downstairs.

New!     New!     New and sexy!     New!

When I replace DVDs, I always inspect the old discs before I send them to their final resting places (final resting places can vary, you see – but that’s all boring and technical). Anyway, this is what I found inside the second season of Upstairs Downstairs.

what is this i don’t even

Someone, somewhere, at some time, put a sticker on disc F. A sticker that’s exactly the same as what’s beneath it (note: please don’t do this).

Obviously, I had to share my confusion with my coworkers – most of them sat very still for a few moments, blinking slowly in sad puzzlement before finally turning to me with a slightly pained expression in their eyes that begged, “Why? But why?” as if their very hearts would break if I could not unravel this mystery for them.

We have our theories, of course – though they involve library trade secrets, so I can’t share them with you here. You’ll have to work it out on your own (or you can just check out Fingersmith instead).

– Amy

* There’s a 2010 version, as well.

Leave a comment

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Presents You Can Open Early: Zinio and Freegal

We are as pleased as punch to present two new digital library services that will rock your world!

That’s not hyperbole. Although librarians remain staunch defenders of the printed word (think Nicholson Baker, but cuter), we also love digital tools that extend the library’s reach beyond its walls, and we actively seek out new products and services that will help you experience the library better (just another one of those invisible tasks we’re up to all day).  This month the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh debuted two new eCLP services that expand our magazine and music offerings in fun ways; here’s a peek at what they are and how they work.


What it is: A collection of 300 magazine titles that you can read on your desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone (huray for apps!). The collection covers a broad range of topics including cooking, news/current events, fitness, gaming, crafts, and tattoos (yes, really).

Who can use it: Library cardholders in good standing from any Allegheny County library.

How you sign up: First-time Zinio users should visit the eNewsstand page to start the sign-up process and choose which titles they’d like to read.

When you’ll receive your magazines: After you’ve created your library and Zinio accounts, and subscribed to your titles, you’ll receive a new e-mail from Zinio every time there’s a new issue of your magazines (so, monthly for monthlies, weekly for weeklies, etc.).

Where to get help: The Zinio User Guide and video tutorial can both walk you through sign-up and service use, or you can ask a helpful library worker.

Why you won’t see all your favorite publications: Much as with e-books, some magazine publishers are reluctant to sell digital content to libraries. The library’s subscription includes as much available content as we could provide.

Things to Watch Out For: The two-step sign-up process can be confusing if you’re not used to registering for online services, so please take advantage of the help features. Also, Zinio has magazine subscriptions for sale that are not part of the library’s collection, so if you ever see prices or requests for payment information, that means the title is not part of the CLP subscription.

The bottom line: If you don’t mind a little set-up work on the front end, Zinio is a great way to sample new magazines risk-free. I personally love the high quality of the scanned images, and the ability to tweak certain screen features for readability. Most publications even let you print pages, if you’re so inclined. Recommended for people who love to read magazines, but don’t always have time to come hang out in the library.

Fluffy loves reading Audubon Magazine on Zinio. Spotted at VentureBeat

Fluffy loves reading Audubon Magazine on Zinio. Spotted at VentureBeat


What it is: A free and legal (see what they did there?) way to get your hands on over 3 million songs, including the entire Sony Music catalog.

Who can use it: Anybody with a card in good standing from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

How you sign up: Visit the eCLP Music page and log in with your library card number and PIN. That’s it!

Where to find music: Freegal’s landing page offers a variety of browsing options, including “Featured Albums,” “Recent Downloads,” “Genres” (from a capella to zydeco!), “A-Z Artist Browsing”, and “The National Top 100.” Looking for something specific? You can do a simple search from the main page, or select Advanced Search for more detailed options.

When you’ll hit your download limit: Freegal allows library users to download a total of 3 songs per week. In an age of instant gratification, that might seem maddening, but remember: your music doesn’t cost you a penny, and there’s no pesky DRM to deal with either (some things are worth waiting for).

Where to get help: There’s an extensive FAQ that covers everything from transferring music to iTunes or Windows Media Player, downloading to your desktop, and using the Freegal app, should you so desire. As ever, your friendly neighborhood library workers will be happy to help.

Why you can’t find your favorite artist: Only certain record labels have agreed to work with Freegal. You can keep current with their latest offerings by checking out the “News” section while you’re logged in.

Things to watch out for: If a song has been covered by a tribute band, you might find that version in Freegal along with the original – double-check to make sure a song is really what you want before you use up a download. Also, advanced searches are far more precise than simple ones, so if you’re really jonesing for a specific tune, hit the advanced search first.

The bottom line: Search quirks and delayed gratification issues aside, Freegal is a terrific way to beef up your music library. The range of available genres is eclectic enough to suit every mood, and I’m pleasantly surprised by how many popular artists and songs I’m finding, too.

Ehrmegerd, The Mountain Goats are on Freegal! Still shot of an animated .gif

Ehrmegerd, The Mountain Goats are on Freegal! Still shot of an animated .gif

We hope you like your library gifts, and that you’ll not only open them early, but use them often! If you’ve tried the services, and have questions or other feedback, please leave a comment.

–Leigh Anne


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A Tale of Two Barrys

Antiwar protest, 1967

Antiwar protest, 1967

If you ask people about the 60s, the responses and images they conjure up tend to be of hippies, anti-war protests, the counter culture, free love and rock n roll. Certainly other images (and memories) come to mind, the civil rights movement, The King and Kennedy killings, urban riots and even positive things like the Mercury and Gemini programs, the Beatles and the rest of the British Invasion, the Mazeroski home run, and two events that left an indelible mark on me – the Apollo 11 lunar mission and the Miracle Mets winning the 1969 World Series.  But that’s for a different piece.  This one’s about music.

Joan Baez & Bob Dylan

Joan Baez & Bob Dylan

What we learn, what we remember or think we remember is often subject to wishful thinking and maybe prevailing attitudes. My musical 1960s were shaped by 3 older brothers, their collection of LPs and 45s, and the 77 WABC radio DJ “Cousin Brucie” (Bruce Morrow, who by the way is still broadcasting on Sirius Satellite Radio).  I have to tell you, it wasn’t all about Elvis, hot-rods, lovesick teens, lovesick teens on the beach, or the mop-topped British.

Album Cover, Eve of DestructionMy brothers’ had two records (it’s collective because I couldn’t tell you who owned which ones) which struck me even then as not being like the others. They didn’t fall into the regular pattern of performances by the Ronettes, Jay and the Americans or The Four Seasons.  These two LPs came out 6 months apart and each said something definitive about the period. Eve of Destruction by Barry McGuire was released in July 1965 and went to No.1 on Billboard in the last week of September. Ballads of the Green Berets by Sgt. Barry Sadler was released in January 1966 and went to No.1 in three weeks, and was the Billboard no.1 single for 1966.

McGuire’s “Eve” was angry, in your face and harsh; it didn’t leave room for very much hope.  On the one hand it captured the realities of the day, though not the mood.  That would come later.  It certainly didn’t have much in common with other songs of the day.   Needless to say that “establishment” response to Eve of Destruction wasn’t positive, being banned on several US stations, and even on the BBC.    

The eastern world, it is exploding
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’
You’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’
You don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re totin’
And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin’

But you tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve
Of destruction.

At the other end, Sadler’s Ballads of the Green Berets (the title single is “Ballad of the Green Berets” ) was straightforward, sung in a very personal style, and quietly patriotic.  It was about the soldiers but not about the war itself.

Fighting soldiers from the sky
Fearless men who jump and die
Men who mean just what they say
The brave men of the Green Beret

Silver wings upon their chest
These are men, America’s best
One hundred men will test today
But only three win the Green Beret

The album’s place on the charts and its content benefit Album Cover, Ballads of the Green Beretsfrom having been released in 1965-66 rather than later on. I have to wonder if it had been written 2-3 years later whether RCA could have released it, and if it wouldn’t have had some of the same anger McGuire has, but from a different perspective.  At first glance the lyrics to “Ballad of the Green Beret” may seem kitschy, but remember the influences are still the Righteous Brothers and The Lettermen, and the Green Berets felt they’d responded to JFK’s appeal of “What you can do for your country”.

Talk about a juxtaposition.  “Eve of Destruction” has always stuck with me because it was so stark and honest.  I can even draw a line from McGuire to Neil Young’s 1970 ode to the Kent State shootings – Ohio, another no-punches-pulled song.  In the Sadler album, there’s a song titled “I’m a Lucky One” about a soldier who’s finished his tour and is about to go home.  In it he reminisces about his friends and perhaps what shortly lies ahead in the American collective memory.  They come to him in a dream and appeal to him as the survivor – “…Tell them about us Sadler, don’t let us die in vain.”

– Richard 


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Uncle Sam’s Greatest Hits

I think anyone who spends a decent amount of time around books- be it your career or a hobby- has come across a bizarre title here and there.  As CLP’s government documents librarian, I sometimes wonder if I don’t see more unusal titles than most, though.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Cooking Up Solutions: Cleaning Up With Lasagna

Elder Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation: Are We Doing Enough?: If you have to ask, you’re not doing it right.

A Winning Combination: Wild Horses and Prison Inmates: If that’s not a winning combo, I don’t know what is.

Let’s Use TV!: In which the U.S. Department of Education gets really excited about television!

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Shipping High-Level Nuclear Waste: All you ever wanted to know about your nuclear shipping needs.

This is Ann…She Drinks Blood!: If the title alone didn’t sell you, the fact that Dr. Seuss did the illustrations just might.

Hawaiian Duck’s Future Threatened by Feral Mallards: If zombies weren’t enough to worry about, now we have to think about feral ducks too!

Of course, once you take a look at the documents themselves, you discover information on malaria prevention, how to prevent elder abuse, or tips for using television as a classroom tool.  In fact, it’s usually titles like A Study of Lunar Research Flights, Volume I that hide the truly bizarre stories, like this study that Carl Sagan contributed to which examined the feasibility of blowing up the moon in the 1950s.  Thank goodness that one was reconsidered.

Most of the titles in CLP’s government documents collection tend toward the more mundane; our collection is a good place to look if you need Census information, Congressional hearings, or background on various countries from the CIA’s World Factbook.  Digging through SuDoc numbers and documents that are, these days, often born digital can be daunting so don’t hesitate to stop at the reference desk to ask a librarian for help!


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Three For Tolkien

With The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey now in theaters, many folks, including myself, are enjoying a renewed interest in J.R.R. Tolkien’s seminal works of fantasy fiction, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  While these two stories, normally covering four total books and something like 1400 pages, provide a lot to chew on, Tolkien’s world and its rich tapestry of language, magic, and song will likely leave you wanting more.

Dozens of authors have written extensively on Middle-Earth and its denizens, but today I offer three of my personal favorites, in order of descending importance–by my own reckoning, at least!

Unfin_Tales_cov  Unfinished Tales Of Númenor and Middle-Earth  by J. R. R. Tolkien — Who better to deliver the scoop on the behind the scenes events of Middle-Earth than the man himself?  This stuff comes from J.R.R. Tolkien’s copious notes, edited and arranged by his son, Christopher, and includes fascinating essays and tidbits that further illuminate Middle-Earth and its inhabitants.  For example, did you know that Cirdan the Shipwright gave Gandalf Narya, one of the three Elven Rings of power because he felt it would help ease his many trials? Did you know that Grima Wormtongue was waylaid by the Nine Ringwraiths on his way from Edoras to Orthanc, and forced by torture and threat to disclose all he knew of Saruman’s schemes and the location of the Shire?  Learn this and more in Unfinished Tales–it’s like watching the deleted scenes from Tolkien’s best work!

Comp_Tolk_Comp_covThe Complete Tolkien Companion by J.E.A. Tyler — This encyclopedic dictionary of all things Tolkien will prove an invaluable resource to anyone interested in a deeper understanding of the complex workings of Middle-Earth.  Do you always confuse Minas Morgul (Sauron’s house) with Minas Tirith (Denethor’s house)?  Can’t explain the difference between the Mouth of Sauron (a really evil diplomat) and the Mouths of Anduin (one of Middle-Earth’s mightiest rivers)?  Can’t remember that Khazad (Dwarves) speak Khuzdul (the secret Dwarven tongue)?  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, Mr. Tyler’s book is the resource for you!

Realms_of_Tolkien_cover Realms of Tolkien: Images Of Middle-Earth — This amazing book showcases artwork from the widely acknowledged visual masters of Tolkien’s world: John Howe, Allen Lee, and Ted Naismith.  While this book also features the art of a number of other amazing talents, the “big three” of Tolkien calendar artists provides the main course in this feast for the eyes.

Plenty more has been written about Mr. Tolkien and his fantasy world. It’s influenced generations of sci-fi and fantasy fans, and likely will go on doing so into the far future.  Frodo lives!



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