Tag Archives: Scott

Librarians Love Clubbing

Book clubbing. You didn’t think…? Well, never mind that. I am not as well read as I’d like to be. That’s a public confession. I read a lot of poetry and short fiction.

I am a slow reader. I am also a “rat” reader. Like a rat repeatedly following the same path through a maze, I read mostly in the same genres (poetry, sci-fi, and fantasy), and I re-read a lot of stuff. Hell, I read Dune once a year! Now that might be because I secretly want to produce, direct, and play in a community theater version of Dune, but that’s a post for another day. Still, if you know me, I have likely sized you up for a part in this epic, so don’t be surprised if one day you are called for a reading. Enough digressions!

I think librarians love running book clubs because they compel us to read outside of our personal comfort zones. That’s why I do. I just participated in a recent Smithfield Critics book club discussion about E. L. Doctorow’s World’s Fair. This incredibly warm and real fictionalized memoir of growing up in the New York City of the 1930s profoundly moved me. I feel like I have a new friend now. Without the structure of the book club, I would not have read any Doctorow.

Next up for me comes Maya Angelou and I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. I read this twenty-three years ago. Reading it again after doing so much living gives me a whole new perspective on it. I’ve read enough since then to recognize the lyrical quality of Ms. Angelou’s work, and I appreciate her accessible descriptions of life’s hardships through the eyes of a young African American girl. She makes it look easy, but writing good prose that transports the reader to that place and time is a challenge.

You can find an extensive listing of our book clubs on our web page here. If you look hard enough you should be able to find one that suits your location and areas of interest.

We offer book clubs for our patrons, but make no mistake, they do just as much good for us.


Dune-cover    I-Know-Why-The-Caged-Bird-SingsWorlds-Fair




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“It Is The Old Wound My King…”

Lancelot’s death scene ranks as my favorite moment in John Boorman’s amazing Excalibur. As he falls on the battlefield and Arthur goes to him, he utters the following: “It is the old wound my king. It has never healed.” The “old wound” he refers to is one he inflicted on himself after Arthur discovered his indiscretion with Guinevere. It’s a great clip and you can watch it here. The titular line occurs at around 1:37 or so. The moments after Lancelot’s death are pretty gory, so take care.

Some hurts don’t heal. At least not fast enough for our taste. I went hiking October 31st and fell four feet into a gully. A mild accident by my standards, but as I fell I braced my landing with my right arm at full extension. All 180 lbs. landed on that arm and sent a shock up into my right shoulder. It hasn’t been the same since. Of course I have made the decision to train through the injury, trying to work around it, but the healing has been slow. I have sought various resources in my quest for healing, so I thought I’d share some of them here.

I needed to first figure out what was wrong “in there”, so I looked for a source that might tell me. I found this one:

Everyday Sports Injuries from DK Publishing is a PDF title available through our eCLP resources tag. If you prefer the hard copy, find it here. It helped me realize I most likely have a soft tissue shoulder injury. Tendon inflammation (bursitis) caused by the shock of the fall.

I have also begun working regular yoga sessions into my weekly routines. Doing yoga increases flexibility and in my case, has helped to ease the throbbing pain of my shoulder injury. Because I like a bit of preparation before undertaking any new physical regimen, I checked out this book before starting yoga:

Anatomy, Stretching & Training for Yoga by Amy Auman is another title available through eCLP. Not really a title for reading cover to cover, I skimmed this resource and scouted out the sections on arms, shoulders, and the lower back–all potential problem areas for me.

While I did not start my search looking for eCLP resources, it kind of ended up shaking out that way! The final title I have to recommend comes from Rodney Yee, my new favorite yoga guru. Dude is seriously y-jacked, a term I have coined for people who are jacked as a result of doing a ton of yoga. Here it is:

Ultimate Power Yoga by Rodney Yee. This is not really a beginner’s yoga video, but it’s something I want to aspire to doing once I spend a little more time practicing with a more basic Yee title I’ve been using the last few weeks. Find the DVD version here.

I have not sought stronger medical remedies for the injury. I like to avoid drugs and cortisone shots. I found a book that agrees with me:

Whole Health: A Holistic Approach To Healing For The 21st Century by Mark Dana Mincolla. This book supports non-traditional, non-drug solutions to injuries.

These resources coupled with a bit of patience have allowed me to train through this lingering injury. As we get older, we realize pain will likely be a constant workout partner. Dealing with it sensibly will keep us on track, and allow us to live with those old wounds that never quite heal.

–Scott P.


Everyday-sports-cover Yee-video  Yoga-anatomy whole-health-cover

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2015 Reading Resolutions: Onward and Upward!

With another year of books under our belts, it’s time to look ahead. To bring the blogging year to a close, some Eleventh Stackers have chosen to share their reading resolutions for 2015. There’s nowhere to go, but up, and our team has aimed high — check it out!


Every time someone asks for a mystery recommendation, I cringe. Despite my love for serialized crime shows (Criminal Minds, Veronica Mars, Murder She Wrote…), I just have a hard time with the genre in book form. 2015 is the year I step up my game and have some titles in my back pocket for the next time I’m put on the spot. I have Anthony Hororwitz’s Moriarty on my list (I read The House of Silk last year for our Tuesday book club, and liked his take on Sherlock). And a regular patron suggested the Ian Rutledge series, by Charles Todd. Readers, if you have any must-reads, maybe some non-historicals that are maybe a bit John Grisham-y, please send ’em my way.


Unfinished business.

Unfinished business.

I’m going to finish some books in 2015. This year, for whatever reason, I’d get almost to the end of a book and stop reading it. It didn’t matter whether I liked the book or not: I just stopped. I don’t know if this is a sign of mental illness or a newly shortened attention span. Here is a sampling of the books I started, thoroughly enjoyed, and never finished. Feel free to tell me the endings.


In 2010 I started Stephen King’s It. “Started” being the key word here.  That book is thick, yo.  Maybe 2015 will be the year I finish it.  Or maybe I’ll focus on the classics that I missed out on for one reason or the other, like Animal Farm or Moby-Dick.  Maybe I’ll go back to the books of my childhood, like the Narnia books. Or, since I just started re-watching Gilmore Girls, maybe I’ll focus on a Rory Gilmore reading list.


I’ve never had much use for audio-books, but I recently discovered how much I like listening to them on long runs. So my reading resolution for 2015 is actually more of a listening resolution: to delve into the library’s collection of super-portable Playaways. I just started listening to Runner.


I plan to read some more Anne Sexton. I am also slowly re-reading all of the Song Of Ice And Fire novels using the eCLP format.

Leigh Anne

I like to play along with formal reading challenges, to make sure that I regularly step out of my favorite genres and formats to try a little bit of everything. Luckily the magical internet is filled with such opportunities, most of which I find via A Novel Challenge, a terrific blog that collects news and info about different reading games. Of course, I always load up on way too many challenges, and rarely finish any of them…but I sure do have a great time trying!

Here are some challenges I’ll be signing up for in 2015:

The Bookish 2015 TBR Reading Challenge. I have two bookcases at home filled with books I own that I haven’t read yet (I blame the Library, both for being so excellent and for fueling my book-buying habit). It’s getting a little bit out of hand, so I’ve decided to dive into those TBR shelves and decide whether to keep or regift what I’ve got.

It's not bragging if it's true.

It’s not bragging if it’s true.

Janet Ursel’s We Read Diverse Books Challenge. It’s no secret that the publishing  industry is still predominantly white, which means there are a lot of stories out there untold or overlooked. This bothers me both professionally and personally, so I’m on a constant mission to make sure my own reading and reviewing is as inclusive as possible. This challenge was inspired by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign of 2014.

The 2015 Ebook Reading Challenge. Ebooks are an important part of the reading landscape these days, and I really should be looking at more of them (Overdrive READ is my friend right now, until I finally decide which tablet I want). Ebooks are also sometimes challenging for me because of my vision impairments, but I’m hoping Consumer Reports , a little web sleuthing, and input from other users (maybe you?) will help me pick out the tablet with the best accessibility features. Thanks in advance!

The 2015 Graphic Novels & Manga Challenge. This one’s kind of a cheat, as I adore comics of all kinds. The problem is, I rarely make time to read them, mostly out of guilt because they’re so much fun and there are many other Terribly Serious Things I should be reading dontcha know. However, this means I missed a lot of good stuff in 2014, so I’ve decided to ditch the guilt and spend 2015 savoring the fine art of comics. Woohoo!

Four challenges is do-able, right?  I’ll report back regularly in upcoming blog posts.

Melissa F.

Browsing the historical fiction section

Browsing the historical fiction section

I’ve become a little too comfortable insofar as my reading habits go. On one hand, I don’t see any problem with this, since reading is something I do for fun and entertainment. Still, there’s something to be said for expanding one’s knowledge and horizons.

In 2015, I’m planning to do more of my reading from the World Fiction and Historical Fiction sections on the First Floor of CLP-Main. I’m not setting an actual numerical goal for this resolution, just challenging myself to read more from these areas (which I admittedly tend to overlook while perusing the new fiction, nonfiction, and short stories).  Your suggestions are most welcome.

And there you have it! Do you have any reading recommendations or advice for the Eleventh Stackers? Do you set yourself reading goals or just let the books fall where they may? Share the wisdom, leave a comment!


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Jack Gilbert, Anne Sexton, And The Lyricism Of Loss And Alienation

I read poetry like I eat dark chocolate. I go through spurts of wild consumption of the stuff, then I don’t touch it for weeks or longer. I spent most of 2014 erratically reading Jack Gilbert. The best thing to get if you want to start reading Mr. Gilbert is Collected Poems. His muscular, hard-hitting poems never fail to strike a chord inside of me. I feel like he speaks to me in a way few writers can. His harrowing descriptions of his experiences of loss and regret often leave my head spinning. Take this series of lines, wherein he writes of finding one of his wife’s black hairs around their home after she had passed away:

… A year later,

repotting Michiko’s avocado, I find

a long black hair tangled in the dirt.

Brutal. Real. Sad. Uplifting?

Jack Gilbert’s poems breathe with life even as they entertain the grim reality of death and loss. The very bleakness his sometimes dark and gritty poetry evokes acts as a light. How? He reminds us we are not alone. Others have walked this path of frailty, loneliness, and loss. If these tests are a tunnel, you can come out on the other side.

So how to unpack Anne Sexton? Like Mr. Gilbert, she’s a poet of exceeding honesty and skill. Her work combines a delicate, lyrical touch with hard-hitting language and themes. Her career was tragically cut short when she took her own life in 1974. I started seriously reading her stuff late this year. I knew of her, but I had not read much of her work until a friend quoted some lines from her for me. They are from the poem “Her Kind”, and they assert that inherent sense of otherness Ms. Sexton felt:

I have ridden in your cart, driver,

waved my nude arms at villages going by,

learning the last bright routes, survivor

where your flames still bite my thigh

and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.

A woman like that is not ashamed to die.

I have been her kind.

That’s the last stanza of three.

I approached Ms. Sexton’s work with some wariness and without making assumptions. I dug into a lot of CLP’s collection of criticism on her as I read more of her work. I used our literary databases too. They helped. As a man raised in a popular culture steeped in violence and misogyny, I approach the work of poets like Ms. Sexton with caution and care. I will not say that reading and studying her has made me better at understanding the challenges women face. It has served to broaden my perspective.

Jack Gilbert lived through his pain and loss and produced an amazing volume of poetry to catalog it all. Anne Sexton’s poetry explored themes of gender and alienation. She burned brightly for a short time, then left us too soon.

We’ll all write more about our “reading resolutions” for 2015 in tomorrow’s post, but I can rightly say now that Ms. Sexton’s work will be part of my 2015 must-read list.

Jack-Gilbert-cover Anne-Sexton-cover






–Scott P.


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“The Fantastic Four And Wolverine Are Dead, Jim”

Well, that’s what the late, great Deforest Kelly might say in the role of Bones, from Star Trek. In two recent and stunning moves, the cognoscenti at Marvel Comics killed Wolverine (a good thing if he would just stay dead) and cancelled august superhero title The Fantastic Four.  It will be hard for me to continue with this post and not seem like a curmudgeonly old man screaming for some snotty kids to get off the grass in his front yard. I will still try.

For a while in the early 2000s it seemed like every story-based decision Marvel made involved length of arc and fitness for inclusion into a trade. That’s what Library Journal would call a graphic novel. Stories, and the nature of storytelling in comics, changed because of this. The monthly comics became secondary to the collected work in the more popular and marketable graphic novel.

So be it. At least then Marvel (and DC) were still thinking in terms of the comic books themselves.

Then sometime after the very first Spider-Man movie killed it at the box office, Stan Lee’s long held dream of Marvel’s marriage to Hollywood and wider media came to pass. Sean Howe covers Stan’s Hollywood vision-quest in his amazing book, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. It’s now gotten to a point where even the mediocre Marvel movies make mad loot. That old adage that money ruins everything is not true. Money ruins most things.

While they will never admit it, the folks at Marvel “killed” Wolverine and cancelled Fantastic Four because both properties belong to rival movie studios. They might cite creative reasons, or the low sales of FF, but we should know better. Making these moves undercuts in some small way the creative impetus of rival studio Fox. For an awesome visual of exactly which studio owns each major Marvel superhero property, check here.

While I was born on a Tuesday, it was not last Tuesday. I know Wolverine will be back (dude, he’s the best there is at what he does, and what he does is sell comics). I also know FF will rise again. Comics are a business. They have been since the halcyon days of Timely. The business used to be about selling comics. Now it’s about pillaging them for the next movie script.

My position is not without hypocrisy. I saw Guardians Of The Galaxy five times. I will content myself with cherry-picking the Marvel and DC movies I like.

Meanwhile, I need to go see my grief counselor; Wolverine is dead after all.

–Scott P.

FF-Essentials-1 Marvel-Untold-cover Ess-Wolverine-1


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CLP Gets To Work


Friday, November 7th featured CLP’s first ever installment of Show Your Work, a partnership between the public library and local entrepreneurs and innovators in the fields of commerce, art, and technology. This amazing event, held at our East Liberty branch, included over fifty attendees and featured four presentations from local innovators in various fields. These folks gave five minute lightning talks about their current projects and then took questions and feedback from the audience and an esteemed panel of experts.

The presenters included:

  • Todd Medema — CMU alum and serial entrepreneur working on a new way to view the passage of time
  • Shannon Miller — co-founder and Chief Gift Officer at giftbug
  • Alexandra Oliver — creator of the Collective Archive project to document and archive Pittsburgh culture
  • Allison Plummer & Ethan Plummer — creators of the Sentinel Box bicycle safety mapping device

The panelists included:

  • Nick End — entrepreneur and leadership team member at Shoefitr
  • Rabih Helou — co-founder of the coworking space at The Beauty Shoppe
  • Chris Millard — Program Coordinator at AlphaLab Gear

Part cocktail party and part networking session, Show Your Work represents the first of a new type of programming venture for CLP. We saw a need for more common space where Pittsburgh innovators could meet up and share their energy and ideas. As we move forward into 2015, we’ll continue to address that need with more Show Your Work events and with our new Work Nights series of programs.

Debuting at the South Side branch Thursday, December 12 from 5:00 PM – 12:00 AM (yes, that’s right, the library will be open until midnight), CLP Work Nights will offer entrepreneurs and innovators a clean, well lighted space with amenities like free wi-fi, photocopies, coffee, and snacks. While these comforts are all good things, the atmosphere a Work Night offers is what really counts. A gathering of like-minded innovators carries a special energy all its own, and we hope folks can harness that creative power to drive their own projects to completion.

Programs like Show Your Work and Work Nights allow us to further our mission as a community facilitator and economic incubator. We measure the impact of our service in the success stories our patrons tell us. As the new year dawns think about joining us for these special new programs. Work nights. Then tell us about it.

–Scott P.

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“New” Pulp Conjures Familiar Feelings

Graphic novel (re: comic book) fans seeking something other than standard superhero fare need look no further than two new titles from publisher Image Comics.

Five Ghosts from writer Frank Barbiere  and artist Chris Mooneyham details the exploits of explorer, thief, and bon vivant Fabian Gray. Set in the 1930s, Gray inhabits a world much like the one Indiana Jones made famous, but tinged with even more supernatural power. Gray himself is a haunted man. Cursed by the presence of the fabled Dream Stones embedded in his chest, he possesses the ability to call upon the powers of five “literary” ghosts. This quintet includes the archer (Robin Hood), the swordsman (Musashi), the detective (Sherlock Holmes), the vampire (Count Dracula), and the wizard (Merlin).

Gray and his cohorts face off against threats both magical and mundane, from possessed tribesmen to murderous pirates, and of course, Nazis–I hate those guys!   Mr. Barbiere weaves plenty of cool literary references into the stories, and Mr. Mooneyham’s moody, gorgeous artwork looks like a cross between Mike Mignola and Howard Chaykin.

Start by reading Five Ghosts: The Haunting Of Fabian Gray (that’s volume one); then read Five Ghosts: Lost Coastlines (that’s volume two).

If Five Ghosts inhabits the realms of Indiana Jones and King Solomon’s Mines, Black Science takes its lead from the sort of retro-raygun sci-fi seen in Flash Gordon and DC Comics Adam Strange. Don’t think that these more innocent antecedents make Black Science light or frivolous. Writer Rick Remender and artists Mateo Scalera and Dean White inject plenty of darkness into Black Science. Lead character and rogue scientist Grant McKay uses proscribed experiments to punch his way into a forbidden dimension of madness and chaos.

He and his intrepid crew encounter a host of horrors as they journey through worlds undreamed in search of a way home.

As I have grown more and more disenchanted with modern superhero fare, I take comfort in titles like these. They have a spirit and sense of fun that “modern” Marvel comics lack. If you dig pulp, check these titles out!

–Scott P.

Black-Sci-cov  Five-ghosts-cov1 Five-Ghost-cov


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