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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Celebrating Mark Twain

"If books are not good company, where will I find it?" Mark Twain

 

Today is Mark Twain’s 176th birthday, and it’s a pleasure to remember this lively, witty American writer.  He is considered by many to be the father of American literature.  He brought us wonderful works like “The Innocents Abroad,” “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” and of course, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”  I can still remember reading the whitewashing scene from “Tom Sawyer” as a little girl and laughing uproariously at “Pudd’nhead Wilson.”   

He was born in Missouri as Samuel Langhorn Clemens, occasionally went by Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, and eventually became known as Mark Twain.  His birthplace featured prominently in his novels, and he spent several years as a river pilot after working as a printer’s apprentice.  He then traveled extensively and wrote for newspapers before beginning his career as an author.  His influence on American writing cannot be overemphasized.  Indeed, Ernest Hemingway said “all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.”  His works discussed slavery, class relations, Reconstruction and the Industrial Revolution.  The library has several of his books, so in honor of one of our country’s most preeminent authors, come and check one out today!

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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Those Brits Know How to Make a Miniseries

Does anyone doubt the ability of the BBC to make one fine film?  They’ve done it again and again – “Pride and Prejudice” (in my view, the best adaptation ever made), “Cranford,” “Wives & Daughters,” “Jane Eyre,” “Upstairs, Downstairs.”  I took advantage of the long weekend to watch one more – “Downton Abbey.”  And it was fantastic.  I actually had to pace myself to make it last longer.  I told myself I could only watch one episode a day.  This was about as successful as telling myself I could only have one roll at Thanksgiving dinner or buy one movie on Black Friday.  That is to say, it wasn’t, but I tried.  If you’ve not watched this series yet, I highly encourage you to run, yes run, to the library and check it out. 

Downton Abbey is the story of an aristocratic family, and it begins with the sinking of the Titanic, which throws all their lives into disarray as the question of who is to inherit the house, money, and title becomes unclear.  This is a time of change in England, with the question of the rights of servants and women up for debate.  All the characters wrestle with these changes in a different way – some resisting and some embracing.  It’s refreshing to see the master of the house as someone who is kind and merciful, which is evidenced in Lord Crawley’s interactions with his three daughters and his immense staff.  Unfortunately, not everyone is quite so kind, so there is quite a bit of plotting among the servants and sisters.  Everyone’s future is uncertain, not just because of the question about the entail, but because you know WWI is just right around the corner.  The film is beautifully shot, with wonderful views of the stunning house and grounds, not to mention the period clothing and jewelry.  You come to love and root for the characters, all of whom have their own flaws and complexities.  It’s hard to choose any favorites, though Maggie Smith, who plays Lord Crawley’s mother, steals the show whenever she appears on camera.  The second season will be released in February, so have no fear if you watch the first season and don’t get your fill.  There’s more to come!

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Hearts Full of Thanksgiving

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.  ~Thornton Wilder

Dear Azle,

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s natural that we all take a minute and consider those things for which we are grateful.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and working as one of your librarians for the past several months tops my list.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know you and your families, whether it was through one of our programs or just by talking to you in the library.  For every book and DVD we buy and program we plan, we try our best to keep you and your needs in mind.  The library wouldn’t exist without you!  Thank you for your support and your generosity. And thank you for letting us be a part of your lives.  

May this week bring you joy and peace as you spend time with your friends and families.  I’m looking forward to watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, making my mother’s rolls, and spending time with good friends.  And yes, I plan to spend a fair amount of time reading.  I have my eye on “American Heiress” by Daisy Goodwin and “Reamde” by Neal Stephenson.  So here’s to a week full of loved ones, good food, and some great books.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Meg     

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

On My Reading List

I’ve been stuck in the world of books that are more than 500 pages for the last several weeks.  This isn’t a bad place to be, but I’m looking forward to finishing something in the next few days.  I’ve chosen Stephen Greenblatt’s “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern,” which, incidentally, just won the National Book Award for non-fiction.  It’s the story of a man who, in 1417, rescues an old manuscript from oblivion, which turns out to be an ancient poem by Lucretius called “On the Nature of Things.”  According to Greenblatt, this manuscript would literally affect the thoughts, ideas, and writing of men and women centuries later, among them Galileo, Freud, Darwin, Einstein, and Jefferson.  The poem contained some dangerous ideas, especially for the time:  that the universe is made up of an infinite number of atoms, that one should embrace beauty and pleasure, and that it is a waste of time to fear one’s death.  Greenblatt calls the reemergence of this manuscript a “swerve” in history, meaning an anomolous departure from the way philosophy and popular thought at the time were headed.  It sounds like a fascinating read, and Greenblatt has already received stunning reviews of his work.  You can read the NY Times’ review of it here and decide if you’ll want to check it out next time you come to the library!

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Review of “The Good Wife”

Posted by Curren McLane, Library Director

In a time when political scandals seem to be ever prevalent, it’s not surprising that “The Good Wife” was created as a prime time drama. The first season starts nearly 8 months after a Chicago based State’s Attorney Peter Florrick (played by Chris Noth) was caught in a variety of scandals. However, what is refreshing about this series is it is shown from the point of view of Florrick’s wife, Alicia (played by Juliana Margulies). Enough time has passed since the scandals were revealed that Alicia’s heavy emotions of anger and sadness have subsided, and she is left trying to pick up the pieces of her life while her husband is in prison. To pay the bills and support her two teenage children, she takes a position as a lawyer at an esteemed law firm and does surprisingly well. Every episode revolves around one of the firm’s cases, while also continuing the story of Alicia’s personal life.   

What I enjoy most about Margulies’ portrayal of Alicia is her ability to remain level headed despite a highly stressful job and the difficulty of healing after her husband’s scandal. Yet we see hints of Alicia’s true feelings every so often by a coy turn of the mouth, or an expression in her eyes. These subtle revelations remind us that Alicia faces a sea of internal emotions despite a cool outward demeanor.

Other actors such as Archie Panjabi, Christine Barasnski and Alan Cumming give excellent performances, and the show is just interesting enough that as soon as one episode ends, you want to watch the next one. Fortunately, with season one available on DVD at the Azle Memorial Library, you don’t have to limit yourself to one episode at a time!

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

What’s Cookin’: Dips

Well, the time has come for another What’s Cookin’ class!  Last month we made bread; this month we’ll be demonstrating several dip recipes.  I really think this is the perfect time to talk about dips because don’t we all have about five holiday parties coming up?  And aren’t we all tired of the same old cheese ball and 7 layer bean dip (actually, I’m a sucker for that bean dip, but it’s time for something new).  I’ve been trying out some different dips, and I made one the other night called Cucumber and Radish Raita.  It had fresh dill and mint and ended up having a very nice, light, slightly tangy flavor.  It will go great with pita chips.  So be sure to join us this Monday, November 14th, at 2:00 p.m. in the library’s Community Room.  We’ll be demonstrating how to make several dips and of course trying them out at the end!  And as always, we’ll pass out recipes so you can take them home with you.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Who Was Steve Jobs?

I know I said I’d be reviewing “Lionheart,” and that could still happen in a week or two.  But once I saw the new Steve Jobs biography come in, I had to start reading it.  I have absolutely no willpower when it comes to shiny new books – I’m almost as bad in front of a stack of books as I am in front of a rack of shoes.  I.Just.Can’t.Say.No.  But as vices go, I don’t think it’s a particularly bad one to have.

This was a fascinating biography of a fascinating, very complex man.  I have long been a fan of Apple products, mostly thanks to my programmer brother.  But I didn’t know much about the man behind them.  Walter Isaacson treated his subject with compassion but unremitting honesty, often calling Jobs on his foibles and follies.  Jobs grew up among engineers in Silicon Valley in the 1960’s.  He was fascinated with electronics and computers ever since he was little, and it was clear early on that he was a brilliant kid.  He eventually befriended a young man, Stephen Wozniak, and together they created Apple, which shook up the computer industry.  Of course, Jobs was later ousted from that company and went on to do amazing things at Pixar, ensuring its place in animation history with such hits as “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo.”  He started another company, called NeXT, which didn’t do particularly well, and then returned to Apple, after it had foundered for several years without him. 

Say what you will about Jobs.  He was harsh, even cruel, to his employees.  He had different standards when it came to personal hygiene.  He was a narcissistic perfectionist who persisted in living in a “reality distortion field.”  He was also the genius who believed that “A players like to work with A players,” and he very successfully cultivated an environment where people regularly did what was considered to be impossible.  If Jobs wanted it done, it was done.  He had amazing foresight when it came to anticipating where the newest technological trends were going to go – for instance, he knew that Apple had to catch up in the area of digital music, which led to the development of the iPod.  The iPhone was created when Jobs had the foresight to realize mobile technology was the wave of the future. 

This book may not make Jobs come across as particularly likable, but it does show his remarkable achievements in a relatively short lifetime.  And there’s something fascinating about geniuses.  Can you be brilliant without being a little crazy, a little eccentric, a little unforgiving of people who are less brilliant than you?  Reading this book made me want to be a fly on the wall for just one of Jobs’ infamous brainstorming sessions.  Jobs may not have personally engineered all of the masterpieces to come out of Apple in the last decade, but his passion, foresight, and absolute obsession for perfection created a culture where those products could be envisioned and engineered and then embraced by a very large portion of the free world.

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

 
 
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