Tag Archives: DVD

Murder Most Charming

The First Floor: New and Featured section of the Main library has a pretty epic graphic novel collection. That’s where I first came upon the works of Rick Geary, who writes and illustrates A Treasury of Victorian Murder and A Treasury of XXth Century Murder, two of the most delightful historical true crime series that’ll you’ll ever find (though to be fair, I’m not sure that he has a lot of competition in this arena).

I’ve read them all a few times, and always pounce on the new titles as soon as they come in. Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order.

beast

That is not a trustworthy mustache.

The Beast of Chicago: an Account of the Life and Crimes of Herman W. Mudgett, Known to the World as H.H. Holmes – This character may sound familiar to you. It’s because he’s the Devil in Erik Larson’s most excellent book, The Devil in the White City. If you want both murder and lengthy digressions about architecture, read Larson’s book. If you want to get right down to business, read Geary’s book instead – there’s more than enough historical detail in here to make it both educational and an exciting romp. For the best of both worlds, you should (of course) read both books. This one really helped me picture the events described in The Devil in the White City, because, well, pictures. There are excellent diagrams of Holmes’ bizarre mansion, illustrations of Chicago and the World’s Fair, and maps of Holmes’ final flight. Good stuff all around.

(Bonus: Here’s a DVD about architectin’, and here’s one about murderin’. Because I belong to the Film & Audio department and have to work this stuff in somewhere.)

The Borden Tragedy: a Memoir of the Infamous Double Murder at Fall River, Mass., 1892 – Before I read this book, all I knew about Lizzie Borden could be summarized as “Lizzie Borden took an axe, something something something.” But after reading just the title of this book, my Internal Borden Murder Fact Database instantly tripled in size! And once you crack open the covers, there’s even more good stuff – Borden’s mother wasn’t murdered, it was her stepmother. Borden’s father didn’t believe in hallways, so their house looked really weird (the floor plans are mighty confusing). Mrs. Borden died while cleaning the guest bedroom (19 blows), and Mr. Borden died while napping in the sitting room (10 blows). The back cover even lists the similarities between Lizzie’s case and that of the formerly illustrious O.J. Simpson.

that song

Copyright 1997 by Rick Geary!

Those two are pretty famous cases, like most of the titles in the series – there are books about the Lindbergh kidnapping, Jack the Ripper, and the assassinations of presidents Lincoln and Garfield, to name a few. But there are others – cases that were famous in their day but aren’t remembered now, like the murder of actor and director William Desmond Taylor, the trial of poisoner Madeline Smith, and the story of the Bender family, described below.

Hospitable looking, aren’t they?

The Saga of the Bloody Benders: the Infamous Homicidal Family of Labette County, Kansas – The Bender family (mother, father, son, and daughter) appeared in Kansas in 1870, purchased land near a local trail, and set up a small inn and grocery store to attract the business of people travelling west. Over the next three years or so travelers and locals alike started to disappear, usually after last visiting the Bender property. The family themselves vanished just when the townsfolk decided to start investigating – and then all sorts of things came to light: a missing man’s glasses, an odd assortment of hammers, a blood-soaked basement floor, and a collection of shallow graves. Ew.

If you enjoy true crime, unhappy books, Victorian history, cool illustrations, and gruesome facts, these are the books for you. Or if you have a slightly morbid reluctant reader (with strong nerves) in your home, introduce him (her/it/them) to Rick Geary. His books are educational, beautifully illustrated, and creepy good fun.

– Amy

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Veterans of the Format Wars

All that remains.

All that remains.

Once upon a time the Main library had over 3,000 movies* on VHS tape, but now we’re down to the last few stalwart survivors – less than fifty in all. Our remaining feature films on VHS (with one notable exception**) are movies that are no longer available on DVD, were never released on DVD, or are hard to find in any format. Here are a few highlights from this tiny collection, for your amusement.

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* For comparison, we now have over 9,000 movies on DVD – roughly 7,000 in English and 2,000 foreign films. That is amazing.

** The notable exception is a VHS copy of “Dial M for Murder.” Of course we have it on DVD, but this one brave tape has been checked out five hundred and eighty-nine times since 1993. It deserves a permanent home.

– Amy

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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.

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And then…

I bet today you thought, “Hey, I wonder what I can celebrate on this fine December day?”

Then a ninja tackled you on the street and you figured it out.

That’s right, today is the Annual Day of the Ninja.

Every December 5 the creators of the Ninja Burger website encourage people to “dress as ninja, engage in ninja-related activities, and spread information on ninja online.” The Day of the Ninja began in 2003 in response to the release of the Tom Cruise movie The Last Samurai, which apparently has some ninja fighting scenes.

Tom Cruise is totally believable as a Samurai Warrior. LOLZ.

And it’s world wide. Check out the French Day of the Ninja. Oh, those crazy Francs!

For no particular reason I could find, it has since morphed into an alternative to Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19.) In one article, this clash was referred to as the “familiar Pirates versus Ninja conflict.” There have even been some instances of ninjas protesting pirate festivals.

The closest explanation I found came from Know Your Meme.

Well, duh.

Before you do anything, visit the Iga-Rye Ninja Museum online for the history and origins of real ninja. Then find out if you are a ninja with this handy quiz. In the interest of full disclosure, it turns out I’m not ninja at all. Sadly, here are my results:

You are not a ninja. You are a vampire. You’ve got most of the elements of ninja-ness down pat, but you generally don’t get along well with others of your kind. And the whole blood drinking thing is, well… just ick. Dude, get a burger. Jeez.

Alas, I was not discouraged. Instead I found this: Become a Ninja in 7 easy steps

SuzyNinja

Instant Ninja. Me and Tom Cruise, warriors both.

Ninja stuff at the Library!

Ninjago

Ninja with Legos!

Ninja on Film

NinjaFilm

Ninja in Print

NinjaBook

Now please excuse me while I go “plague my co-workers with my ninja-ness.”

-suzy

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My Love Letter to the South Side

Did you know that the South Side has a beautiful, newly renovated library? And that it’s open for business? And that I get to work there? It’s the best!

Photo from the South Pittsburgh Reporter

I love my neighborhood. I love the energy of East Carson Street and the (relative) tranquility of the Slopes. I love that I have so many bars, restaurants, galleries, theaters, bike trails and parks in my backyard. We even have a new dog park, so my girl Ozzy is happy on the South Side, too!

You know who else loves the South Side? Rick Sebak. Check out his DVD South Side. Learn about Veronica’s Veil and what the heck a StepTrek is. Or check out Greetings from Pittsburgh: Neighborhood Narratives, an “omnibus film created by Pittsburgh filmmakers features nine short fictional films set in diverse Pittsburgh neighborhoods, linked together via short sequences of a bus traveling throughout city streets.”

Did you know there is a work of fiction specifically based on the South Side? Scotch and Holy Water : A Pittsburgh Story by Gini Sunner. It tells the story of three immigrant families (Irish, Jewish, and Polish) who all lived and had businesses on Carson Street during World War II.

For more serious fare, check out Pittsburgh’s South Side by Stuart Boehmig. It’s part of the excellent Images of America Series and includes information about the historic buildings, people and events in the early days of Carson Street. Or visit the amazing Pittsburgh Iron and Steel Heritage Collection online and check out old South Side photographs.

Here are some of my personal favorite South Side things. (Besides the library, of course.)

I eat here. And hereHere, too. Oh, and here. I eat and drink here. I met my husband here. Look at art. Here, too. Watch art. Watch movies. Buy a bike. Get your bike fixed. I buy shirts here. I buy jewelry here and clothes here. I get my hair cut here. I get beautified and massaged here. Get coffee. Get more coffee. Get even more coffee, because there’s never enough!

And always, always, ice cream and candy.

So come visit the new South Side library! I’m always happy to give the nickel tour. Ask me questions about the geo-thermal heating and cooling system and LEED certification; because I can answer them!

–suzy

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Filme Romanesti

Yes, Julia Roberts has a big, adorable smile. Of course there’s much to love about Brad Pitt’s eyes.  And beyond the gorgeous stars, there are explosions, fantastic effects, car chases, and even the occasional, glamorized peek into some forgotten corner of history. Hollywood movies have a lot to offer. But every so often, one gets a hankering for a different kind of movie. If you are feeling a little underwhelmed or restless when it comes to American movies, may I suggest filme romanesti?

I’ve always had a thing for underdogs. Romania is one such underdog (as explained by MA in a previous eleventhstack post).  And the films that have been coming out of Romania in the past decade or so are turning this quiet Eastern European country from a cinema dark horse into a film force to be reckoned with. Story lines and cinematography trend toward the beautiful yet understated; screen writers and directors are patient and creative with dialogue. Also, Romanians maintain a wicked, sharp and dark sense of humor, which  shines through with gusto in many recent films. I’m a total sucker for a wicked, sharp and dark sense of humor.

I find my cure for the common movie, Romanian films, in the Music, Film & Audio department’s awesome foreign film collection. Some favorites are listed below, but I suggest browsing the entire collection at Main.

If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle

Photo courtesy of vreausafluier.ro

This  2010 tale of a Romanian juvenile detention center  focuses on Silviu, biding his time in an often brutal atmosphere until he can again care for his family. He is 18 and two weeks away from his release when he discovers his mother has come back to town. A few years earlier, Silviu’s crime of survival was committed to provide for himself and his younger brother. Despite having abandoning her children years ago, his mother wants to whisk off the little brother to Italy before Silviu’s release. Silviu was only able to endure prison by dreaming of being reunited with this little brother. Now helpless and locked away, he takes matters into his own hands.

The Way  I Spent the End of the World

Photo courtesy of sfarsitullumii.ro

In 1989 Bucharest, Eva (played by Dorotheea Petre, who won an award at Cannes for her performance) and her boyfriend accidentally break a bust of  dictator Ceausescu. Eva is sent to an alternative high school, while her boyfriend is spared punishment, due to his father’s connections to the communist party. The romance doesn’t last. Eva is furious, and plots to escape the country with a classmate. This doesn’t go unnoticed by her 7-year-old brother, Lalalilu. He loves his big sister,  and so Lalalilu and his friends devise a plan to kill the dictator to avenge his sister’s punishment. This movie is a tragicomedy with a big heart.

Police, Adjective

Photo courtesy of ifcfilms.com

A young police officer faces an ethical dilemma when he is asked by his superiors to go undercover and investigate a teen selling hash. Not only does Cristi believe that the crime is not so severe, but the government is about to change the laws to lessen the punishment for drugs. The police department could care less, and only wants Cristi to carry out orders, rather than question them. Police, Adjective is not the typical crime drama, as it avoids the typical good guy/bad guy dichotomy and instead examines individuals stuck in broken systems. In this sense, it could be recommended to fans of the The Wire.

The Death of Mr.  Lazarescu

Photo courtesy of tartanfilmsusa.com.

Perhaps the bleakest of these film recommendations, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is a dark comedy that doubles as a sharp criticism of Romania’s healthcare system. Mr. Lazarescu is a hapless widower with a fondness for wine, cats, and behaving cantankerously. When he encounters a bout of extreme pain, he calls for an ambulance. The ambulance arrives, hours later, and begins a journey across Bucharest, from hospital to hospital, and is rejected from each. Mr. Lazarescu’s pain increases throughout the hours-long trip, and the tension builds, with viewers left to wonder if he will get treated in time.

-Holly

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Stuff We’re Enjoying: Early Spring Edition

Summer weather arrived in Pittsburgh this past week, dramatically muscling spring weather out of the way with a flourish, flipping its ponytail over its shoulder and flopping down on a beach towel with a good book.  Your stalwart Eleventh Stack crew has done likewise; here are a few of the library materials we’re enjoying at the turn of the season.

Amy:

This book will mess you up.

I know that everyone and their grandmother is reading The Hunger Games right now, but I don’t feel that I need to, as I’ve already read Lord of the Flies, Battle Royale, and The Long Walk. As a matter of fact, I’m rereading The Long Walk for the fifth or sixth time right now. It’s a Stephen King short novel, written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, from back in the days before King started selling novels by the pound. Basically, every year one hundred teenage boys start at the Maine-Canada border and walk south until there is only one boy left. There are rules, of course. And penalties. And insanity. And death. If you read this one, you’ll never forget it.

Don:

Recently I visited some family in Illinois. One of the folks there is a big reader of sci-fi and fantasy, and so I waxed on to him over a couple of beers about a recent title, Embassytown, by China Miéville, that I thought one of the best science fiction titles in years.  He told me that I had to read The City and the City, another Miéville title he insisted was equally fantastic.

And right he was. The basic plot has a noir feel: a dead body is found, a hard-boiled Eastern European detective is investigating. But there’s a twist. The city where the murder takes place (Besz) happens to share contiguous space with another, just barely visible, city (Ul Qoman), where a different population and a very different–though related–language is spoken. And, oh yeah, where the murderer perhaps came from. I’ve just started this one and once again  Miéville is pushing–literally, this time–the boundaries of speculative fiction.

It seems I ought to go to Peoria more often.

Jess:

The following two CDs have been in heavy rotation during my daily commute:

The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 and Beyond. First things first: contemporary country music mostly makes my brain hurt. However, for some inexplicable reason, I love the current wave of bluegrass/folk-alt-country stuff that’s out there (Avett Brothers, anyone?). Thankfully the music producers went that route for most of this soundtrack, which fits the tone of Katniss and Peeta’s District 12 perfectly. I especially like the tracks from Neko Case (“Nothing to Remember”) and Kid Cudi (“The Rule and the Killer”).

Say Anything’s Anarchy, My Dear. I’ve always admired SA leader and primary lyricist, Max Bemis, for his smart, brutally honest songwriting. Though he’s mellowed a bit with age and marriage, he’s still telling it like it is. Standout tracks include “Overbiter,” which includes backing vocals from his wife, Sherri DuPree of the band Eisley, and describes their long-distance courtship; “Admit it Again,” a sequel of sorts to the “Admit It!!!” track on the …Is A Real Boy album (completely worth tracking down to dissect the lyrics); and the title track, “Anarchy, My Dear,” an almost ballad-y ode to rebellion.

Leigh Anne:

I’d like to be able to tell you I’m reading something incredibly literate, deliciously witty, or professionally advantageous. However, I am forced to confess that, in this unseasonable heat, the best I can do is leaf through magazines. Super Girl Scout Niece #1 was selling subscriptions, and I’m a huge fan of The Girl Scouts, so I’m happily parked in front of a fan with Oprah, yoga, and some warm-weather recipe ideas.

Maria:

In the Basement of the Ivory Tower: Confessions of an Accidental Academic, by Professor X. This eye-opening and provocative treatise caught my eye in a review journal. It’s an expansion of an article originally published in The Atlantic magazine, and deals with the unprepared students colleges recruit and the status and treatment of professors (especially adjunct professors like the author), with a bit of the author’s life story mixed in. I was intrigued because the author is an English professor, and he writes extremely well, so the book is interesting, illuminating, and readable. He writes anonymously because he’s worried he’ll lose his job.

Suzy:

For my birthday I received a Kindle Fire from my awesome husband , who always buys me things I think I don’t want until I get them. To my eternal (but not blushing) chagrin, the first thing I did was purchase the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy from Amazon. In case you live under a rock, Fifty Shades is a self-published “erotic BDSM” e-book by a little-known British author named E. L. James. I zipped through Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker in two days. I was ready to run out and buy some grey ties and an Audi.

For over a week now I’ve malingered on the final book, Fifty Shades Freed. I have simply stopped caring about the characters, the story, and the sex. The controversy surrounding this book reminds me of a quote from Fear of Flying author Erica Jong: “My reaction to porn films is as follows: after the first ten minutes, I want to go home and screw. After the first twenty minutes, I never want to screw again as long as I live.”

Tara:

Sublime Frequencies re-issues strange and wonderful music from all over the world, everything from Bollywood steel guitar to what’s playing on the radio in Morocco. It’s perfect music to listen to while cooking or porch-sitting, and we have quite a few albums available for check-out here at the library.

I’ve also just watched a recently re-released gem on DVD called A Thousand Clowns. Fans of films about eccentric and lovable iconoclasts (and the films of Wes Anderson) should check this one out immediately.

Tim:

I’m not enjoying this “nice” weather because it’s disturbing to have 80 degree weather in mid-March.  And you know what else doesn’t like it?  Spinach.  Or radishes.  Or any of the other cool weather crops that only grow well when temperatures are in the 60s and 70s.

So I’ll be forced to enjoy such books as The Gardener’s Weather Bible: How to Predict and Prepare for Garden Success in Any Kind of Weather by Sally Roth or The Weather-resilient Garden : a Defensive Approach to Planning & Landscaping by Charles W.G. Smith.

Your turn.  Hot enough for you?  What are you reading / watching / listening to this spring?

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