Tag Archives: Joelle

Oh, Yeah – That Guy

Do you know James Hong? Fionnula Flanagan? Surely, you know who Paul Dooley is! No? I bet if you click on their names, you will repeat the title of this post.

They are famous character actors. What would producers, directors and casting agents do without them? Between voice acting and lots of supporting parts in movies and TV shows, these people can rack up hundreds of credits.

There is a mighty fine line between who is thought of as a bona fide star and who might be typecast in supporting roles. Looks, of course, are a factor. An actor might be perfect for that one role that can pigeonhole him perpetually into other very similar roles. Some become identified so strongly with a specific character that it is hard to think of them as anyone else. There are those who become superstars along the way. Many switch back and forth during the course of their career. Look at Brian Dennehy or Ellen Burstyn for example.

Do you need a henchman? Vincent Schiavelli was your guy (RIP).

Need someone to play a scary bible-thumper? Beth Grant is the go-to.

How about someone’s mom? Try Vernee Watson.

Want a multi-talented actor who can be relied on for many types of parts? Here’s Keith David.

Maybe the role calls for a serious woman in charge. Get CCH Pounder.

What about an irresponsible or morally ambiguous schmuck with a secret soft spot? Call on Richard Kind. In fact, call on him for any goofball or if you need a great deadpan voice. He might steal the scene, though.

I have saved my favorite for last. If I became a character actor, I would aspire to play the types of parts that this actress fills – the eccentric woman, perhaps older, perhaps foreign born, definitely played for laughs: Carol Kane.

Just for fun, try to match up their names with their faces!





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We Want the Funk


Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Eleventh Stack are celebrating Black History Month by highlighting books, music and movies by African American Artists. We also have a ton of great events and programs for children, teens and adults. You can view all of our Black History Month posts here.

George Clinton – songwriter, impresario, music producer. I’ve seen him referred to as the “Count Basie of Funk.” The first thing I noticed about  Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t that Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You?, Clinton’s memoir (written with Ben Greenman), was that it was very readable and compelling. It is fun to see the stories behind the songs, and get to know George Clinton’s thoughtfulness, sincerity and intelligence. And his love of a good pun.

We want the funk.

bookcoverHe starts out by talking about the culture of his old neighborhood and what it meant to be black in the 50s when Motown dominated the scene. George Clinton took the paradigm of how R&B songs were created and recorded and funked it up. He gradually put together a collective of over 50 musicians who worked with him in two separate bands, Parliament and Funkadelic. The sheer volume of records that came out in the ’70s and ’80s speaks to the creative power of Clinton and his collaboration with Bootsy Collins, Eddie Hazel and the rest.

Give up the funk.

Funkadelic had funky psychedelic rock jams. The white groups from British Invasion days were playing the blues developed by black Americans. Black musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone turned around and started incorporating what was thought of as white rock. Clinton cites the influences of Hendrix, Sly, Bob Dylan, Cream and others for helping to gel the sounds and flavors of Funkadelic. They used no costumes or stage props. They played smaller venues, and the focus was on the hooks and jams.

Ow, we need the funk.

Parliament presented the “pop” side of funk, with freaky costumes, multi-layered instrumentals, driving and intense rhythms, its own mythology, and it was closer musically to James Brown. Parliament albums were put out on a second record label and aimed at a wider radio audience. The lyrics contained critiques of American culture wrapped in humor. Parliament performed long, wild concerts and used elaborate stage props. The Mothership would land on the stage with the band members inside. Its presence on stage meant that they had to treat the show like a well-rehearsed play. The size of the stage and touring crew, and the transportation needed to go from city to city, was the equivalent of a touring Broadway show.

We gotta have that funk.

Both bands featured the same cast of musicians. Clinton coalesced the separate entities in the 80s and toured as “George Clinton,” The P-Funk All-Stars, and a few splinter and side-groups. Legal troubles abounded with different factions vying for the rights, royalties, and residuals of the songs. Clinton places some of the blame over this tangle on his own drug use and the befuddlement it caused in him in his business dealings. He now has a much clearer outlook and is trying to regain the intellectual property rights to songs that he wrote. His good friend Sly Stone just won a similar lawsuit.

The legacy of P-Funk lives on in part with the thousands of sampled grooves by hip-hop artists. One of the appendices in the book has a “selected sampleography” of popular hip-hop songs and the P-Funk songs they came from.

Hey, look out! The Mothership has landed. This cultural icon is now permanently housed at the Smithsonian.

Here is a little factoid of special interest to us Pittsburghers: While trying to find a shortcut through Pennsylvania on an early tour, Clinton and his band freaked out when they ran into zombies! It was in fact the movie set of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.

Check out Parliament and Funkadelic on CD, on DVD or on Hoopla, and prepare to boogie.



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Baby’s on Fire


My first year of college, 1983, was a huge transitional year in my musical awareness. I worked at the university’s music library and I also became a DJ. At work, I was exposed to classical music for the first time, international music like Indian ragas, and contemporary composers like Steve Reich and Edgar Varese. At the radio station, I played music I was more familiar with at first, punk and prog rock were my staples, but I greatly expanded my repertoire every day. At home, I was obsessed with these four albums by Brian Eno:

jets Here Come the Warm Jets (1974)

tiger Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy) (1974)

Postcards for this Peking opera gave Eno the idea for the name.

green Another Green World (1975)

Here is a book detailing the album: Brian Eno’s Another Green World by Geeta Dayal.

befroe Before and After Science (1977)

Listening to them on Hoopla has brought me back to that time.

These albums are pop music and avant-garde at the same time. They contain driving rhythms and multi-textured aural qualities, with glam-rock sensibilities at times, ambient electronica at others. I hear direct influences of David Bowie and David Byrne. I also hear a unique set of songs similar to other music only in what has come after. The vocal timber is what I think draws me the most. Eno’s voice goes from almost sneeringly punk to decidedly New Wave. A frequent contributor to the albums is Robert Fripp, my favorite guitarist of the era.

I listened to these so often, they would be in the soundtrack to my college years if it were a movie, just like in this one: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

Brian Eno has been an influential record producer since the 1970s. His sonic stamp is present on the albums of The Talking Heads, U2, Coldplay, and many others. He was planning to collaborate on another project with his good friend David Bowie. It was Bowie’s recent death that prompted me to revisit these touchstones of my past.



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On Virtuosity

Nicolò Paganini (image taken from Wikipedia.org)

Niccolò Paganini (1819), by Ingres – image taken from Wikipedia.org

Attaining virtuoso status is elusive and exclusive; a virtuoso is someone who has achieved the highest level of technical skill on their instrument, while also attaining the height of musicality. Showmanship, charisma and innate ability factor in as well.

Nicolò (or Niccolò) Paganini (1782-1840), is considered by many to be the greatest violinist of all time. He was so amazing that his audiences thought he was demonic. It was rumored in his day that when he was six, his mother made a pact with the devil to trade his soul for a career as the greatest violinist in the world. He was once forced to publish letters from his mother to prove he had human parents. He would pull off stunts to show his astonishing ability, like severing strings on his violin so that they would break during a performance, then continuing to play on the remaining strings.

The Music Department at CLP – Main has a few different editions of the music score to one of his most famous compositions, a notoriously difficult series of pieces to play: 24 Caprices for Violin Solo, Op. 1, composed between 1805 to 1809. The Music Department routinely obtains various editions of music scores with different editors who have diverse takes on how to play the pieces. Below are examples of Caprice No.5 in A minor (Agitato). The little numbers above the notes are the fingers you are supposed to use. Other marks denote accents and other technical aspects of how it is to be played. Look closely and you can see each has subtle but distinct differences.

24 Caprices for Violin Solo, Opus 1. International edition 1973, edited by Ivan Galamian.

2-int ed

From the International edition

Twenty-four Caprices for the Violin. : [Op. 1] – G. Schirmer edition 1941, edited by Harold Berkley.

3 - schir

From the G. Schirmer edition

Just for reference, here is the same piece in Paganini’s own hand. He supposedly was able to play this using just one string.

24 [i.e. Ventiquattro] Capricci Op. 1 : per Violino : Facsimile Dell’autografo.

1 fac

From the facsimile edition

Now listen to them! One of the music streaming services that CLP offers is the “Classical Music Library” from Alexander Street Press. Follow the links for remote access here: http://carnegielibrary.org/eCLP/music/. There are 10 different recordings of the full 24 for solo violin. You can open each one in a different tab to compare and contrast the individual performances.

Who played it best? First of all, bravo on being able to play these at all, and being good enough to record them. Who am I to judge you? Just an active listener who knows what she likes. I am looking for artistry, tone, technical prowess and that je ne sais quoi.

Here are my three favorite:

Itzhak Perlman (Warner Music, 2005) recorded in 1972, Massimo Quarta (Chandos, 2005) recorded in 2002, and Marco Rogliano (Tactus, 2004) recorded in 2000.

Do you have aspirations to become a virtuoso on the violin? You have to start somewhere. Practice, practice, practice!



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They Didn’t Do the Monster Mash


Looking for some creepy and great music for the most wonderful time of the year (and by this I do mean Halloween)? Like all holiday music, the same songs over and over gets a little old. Here is a list that might deaden liven things up:

TV or Movie soundtracks. Think of a creepy TV show or movie — we most likely have the soundtrack.


elfAnything by Danny Elfmann

lostLost, composed by Michael Giacchino: relive the thrills!

Grimm Original Television Soundtrack: Music from Seasons One and Two, composed by Richard Marvin: suspenseful.

corCoraline Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, by Bruno Coulais: Eerie and lyrical. Performed mostly by the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra, along with a track by They Might Be Giants.

Soundtrack from Twin Peaks, by Angelo Badalamenti: dreamy and moody.

buffBuffy the Vampire Slayer, the Score, composed by Christophe Beck: orchestral, melancholic, very dark and surprisingly complex.

dracDracula, composed by Philip Glass, performed by the Kronos Quartet.

landGeorge A. Romero’s Land of the Dead Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Holy Guacamole, is this one scary! Use your judgment if playing this for kids. It is that scary. Another George A. Romero classic.

The Day the Earth Stood Still: Danger! Theremin ahead!earth

Sound Effects:

Sound effects recordings on CDs to create atmosphere. A must for any haunted house.


Mephisto & Co, performed by the Minnesota Orchestra; Eiji Oue, conductor. Features classical spooky hits like “Night on Bald Mountain” by Mussorgsky, “Baba Yaga” by Liadov and my favorite; “Danse macabre” by Saint-Saëns.

Chiller, performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra; Erich Kunzel, conductor. Classical classics and effective sound effects.

mannHalloween arrangements to a high-energy synthesizer beat by Mannheim Steamroller (which in itself might elicit a few “Nooooooooooooos!”)

danceDevil’s Dance, by Gil Shaham: violin and piano music including that wonderful “Transylvanian Lullaby” from Young Frankenstein 

maskFrom Behind the Unreasoning Mask: unsettling experimental music from composers Roger Reynolds, Paul Chihara, Chou Wên-Chung and Earl Kim.

mirMirage, by Elizabeth Brown: Here is a great little CD featuring the theremin (that scary sounding instrument that goes ooooweeeooo in sci-fi horror films.)

Circus Music: inherently creepy
misPlus, there’s always The Misfits.


PS. Don’t forget Hoopla! It’s got practically everything!

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Looking for my Anatevka*

The Marketplace

The Marketplace, Vitebsk, 1917 by Marc Chagall
Click through for source

Many Jews emigrated from the Russian Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to escape persecution from the Russian government. The parents of both of my grandfathers (all Jews) came from the same town: Vitebsk in Belarus. My four great-grandparents left about the same time as one of the most famous artists in the world, Marc Chagall.


Over Vitebsk, 1913 by Marc Chagall
Click through for source

Chagall painted many scenes inspired by his home town. He wrote an autobiography titled My Life filled with his fond memories of Vitabsk. I could get a feel for what life was like for my great-grandparents looking through Chagall’s eyes.

I wanted to get a historical perspective of the region, so I consulted one of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s social science databases: World History in Context. There were quite a lot of results to read. The town was decimated in WWII. The Jewish population was wiped out in 1941 by the occupying Nazis in a way typical of that time. Modern day Vitebsk calls itself “The City of Chagall” and is a tourist destination with art and music festivals.

I was then drawn into CLP’s genealogy databases, where I spent hours and hours looking up my ancestors. One of the more interesting and surprising things I learned is that I have an ancestral connection to Pittsburgh that predates my move here from New York to attend college. My great-grandfather was an iron worker who lived in Homestead in 1916, where his youngest child was born. His family, which included my grandfather, moved back to New York City by the 1920 census.

I can trace my roots from Vitabsk to New York City to Pittsburgh, then back to New York City, then back to Pittsburgh!

Find out details of your personal history with the aid of the databases from the Carnegie Library. Most of the databases have remote access, so you can view them at home with a valid library card.


*Fiddler on the Roof – Anatevka 


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Love Craft

wheel throwing

In exchange for watching a dog for a week this summer, I was given unlimited access to a pottery wheel. My friend was given the wheel as a gift, but neither of us has ever thrown pots before. Naturally, I turned to the library for assistance. I like to get both books and DVDs for tips and techniques.


My 10 year old daughter loves to create things with paper. She has come up with many amazing creations on her own. I brought her a few books this past month, and she was off and running (actually just cutting and pasting – no running with scissors!)

Here is one of the things she made! (Photo by author)

Here is one of the things she made! (Photo by author)

So what’s next? I want to take up knitting this winter. There is a huge selection to choose from! I find it’s easier sometimes to browse the shelves to get just what I want. My daughter likes to make puppets. I’ll get her some puppet making books for kids.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has lots of great instruction books and DVDs for all kinds of arts & crafts techniques, some especially for kids, and some for adults from beginners to advanced levels. Try a few!



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I’m in my spot, riveted to the book I am reading: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. I know it’s late, so I check the time: 4 AM?! Ugh. I wake up mid-morning (at least it’s a Sunday), do a brunch-thing with the kids, then sit down to “just read a few chapters.” I look up; it’s 3 PM already? I go grocery shopping, make dinner, then squeeze in a quick read before getting the kids ready for bed. Finally, I’m back to my spot for some more chapters…2 AM already?!

That’s how much I have been enjoying this book. Set at first in the near future, the Moon is blown apart by an unknown agent, and the humans on Earth have just two years to launch life boats into space before the surface of the planet becomes uninhabitable. 5,000 years later, it’s time to return. This book is richly detailed and beautifully written. Stephenson is not afraid to include advanced scientific concepts in psychology, physics and biology. He uses real-life modern technology as a starting point in many of the plot details. I enjoy a science fiction book that has a basis in real scientific facts.

I have a love/hate relationship with Neal Stephenson. I was blown away when I read the cyberpunk thriller Snow Crash, so much so that I purchased my own copy. The Diamond Age did not disappoint, with a thoroughly engaging young female protagonist. I didn’t like Cryptonomicon as much as I thought I would, a speculative fiction book about WWII, secret codes, conspiracy, sunken treasure and high-tech business. It became bogged down in the mathematics of cryptography, which I didn’t mind, but I stopped caring about the plot before the book came to an end. I got fed-up with Anathem about halfway through the book. The setting was a future world where monks held all of the scientific knowledge safe from the aggressively ignorant masses. The hyper-focus on the esoteric and convoluted narrative was a little much for me to keep in mind from reading to reading. I gave Quicksilver, the start of a massive trilogy called The Baroque Cycle, a 50 page tryout, but put it down. I was not prepared for such a huge undertaking (yet).

Stephenson’s plot visions are multi-layered. He focuses on the minutiae but keeps his eye on the whole world. His brilliance is evident in everything he writes. I feel that the books I did not like might be a failing of intellect on my part. Perhaps I am enjoying Seveneves so much because he is writing about something that I myself think a lot about.

What time is it? I think I have a few minutes to sneak in another chapter.



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Careful With That Axe, Eugene*

The Doof Warrior from Mad Max - Fury Road

The Doof Warrior from Mad Max: Fury Road.

I just went to see Mad Max: Fury Road at the theater. This is the type of movie I like to see big and loud. My favorite bit was the shredding guitar player, suspended on bungee cords, inciting his fellows to battle.

According to Urban Dictionary the definition of “shred” as applied to music is: [T]o play distorted electric lead guitar in a manner which is at once so extremely cogent and rapid that [the] listener experiences the sensation that the production of the sound should be impossible or nearly impossible.” This type of guitar playing could be applied to many genres of music, but it is most often associated with metal or prog rock.

Would you like to learn how to shred? The Music, Film & Audio Department is here to help!

shredShred Guitar: A Guide to Extreme Rock and Metal Lead Techniques by Greg Harrison.

What? Shred is not your thing? What about Surf Guitar?

Best of Surf Guitarsu.

Or how about Flamenco?

Flamenco Guitar Methodfla by Gerhard Graf-Martinez.

Is the Blues more your style?

How to Play Blues Guitar: The Basics & Beyond: Lessons & Tips from the Great Players.bl

Still no? Jazz guitar, maybe?

jaExploring Jazz Guitar: An Introduction to Jazz Harmony, Technique, and Improvisation by Phil Capone.

Slide Guitar? Basic Rock? Acoustic?

Well, I think you get the idea.


*the title of a Pink Floyd song


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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Nerdiest of Them All?

I wonder if Einstein knew his image would be everywhere.

I wonder if Einstein knew his image would be everywhere.

Or, if a being travels at the speed of light and looks in the mirror, what will he see*?

It will come as no surprise to readers of a library blog, that people who work in libraries are nerds and darn proud of it. I would postulate further that if you are reading a library blog post, there is a high degree of probability that you, dear reader, are a proud nerd as well. I will define a nerd as someone who is a collector of knowledge and an active seeker of satisfying that intellectual itch.

My favorite thing about libraries is that materials for satisfying your curiosity are readily available and free.

My current obsession is particle physics and quantum mechanics (oh, I see your eyes rolling right now.) I mentioned this to a fellow music librarian, and he quickly gave me a few suggestions, as he is interested in the same subject. Imagine my surprise and delight! Could he possibly be even nerdier than me?

I have a degree in Molecular Biology, obtained 30 years ago, so my background on this particular subject (get it?) was practically next to nil. I wanted to start at the very bottom, looking for accessible language for the lay person.

There is a lot of material to choose from here at CLP-Main. These were my initial selections:

Particle Physics for Non-Physicists : A Tour of the Microcosmos (audio book) –  a series of lectures given by Steven Pollock for the Teaching Company, and the place where I began. I listened to this in my car on my daily commute. It was an excellent introduction and allowed me to follow along with the other material I’m trying to wrap my head around.

The Particle at the End of the Universe by Sean Carroll. This is a very well written and often humorous book about particle accelerators, what makes them work, the physicists behind the theories and experiments, what a Higgs boson is, and how it (or something very much like it) was detectedparticle. I listened to this in my car, and instead of getting bogged down by details that I didn’t quite understand, I let the words just wash over me. This allowed me to get a bigger picture of this part of experimental physics, without throwing the book across the room in disgust. (I would never, never actually do this with any book.)

The equation E=mc2 is cited as the basis upon which all of the understanding of experimental and theoretical particle physics rests. I thought I’d like to get a better understanding of just how this works, and why it is true. I also really want to know if space explorers of the future will age at a slower rate than someone left behind on the earth (I mean, come on.) So, I moved on to Mr. Einstein.

big idea Einstein’s Big Idea. This Nova DVD didn’t really help me to understand the equation, but it did help elucidate the personalities of the scientists behind each of the components of the equation. I liked the way it highlighted female scientists that have made important contributions. This would be a good movie to show girls to encourage them to consider STEM fields.

relThe Meaning of Relativity by Albert Einstein. This slim little volume quickly moved over my head. I will try to tackle this when I have a better understanding of underlying principles.


An Illustrated Guide to Relativity by Tatsu Takeuchi. Simple illustrations and language that are essential to a visual learner like myself.

cosEinstein’s Cosmos : How Albert Einstein’s Vision Transformed our Understanding of Space and Time by Michio Kaku. An excellently written and eloquent book! I’ve only read the first three chapters, and I can already tell that this will be my favorite selection. Michio Kaku is himself quite fascinating.

On my pile:

futThe Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku. I think I’ll listen to the audio book while I’m reading Einstein’s Cosmos. In fact, I think I’ll consume all of his books. This will be my next quest.

quaQuantum Physics for Poets by Leon M. Lederman and Christopher T.  Hill. The authors are very prominent physicists. Lederman won a Nobel prize for discovering a few particles, and is the past director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Christopher T. Hill is the current director.


*This was Einstein’s question, not mine. Here is my simplistic answer based on my current understanding: Fermions (matter) do not behave like bosons (e.g., photons) and cannot travel with the velocity of the speed of light. If you are approaching the speed of light, the mirror is in the same frame of reference as you are, and you will be able to see yourself the same way as if you were standing on earth with a mirror in your hand. If you understand this, you are at a better starting point than I was. If you think I’m way off base, please comment below.


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