Monday, May 21, 2007
I suppose it’s my negative nature, but I always imagined the philosopher/baseball player sighing when he made this pronouncement. In later life Yogi explained the apparent malapropism simply: “times change, life is short. Everything’s faster paced.”1 Evidently, he didn’t know the half of it. I recently started scanning the current predictions of a few futurists and found that hyper speed is a given; it’s the destination that’s in question.
The Singularity is near: when humans transcend biology by Ray Kurzweil may have been a bad starting place. At 652 pages this book is dense. And the science, or should I say the blending of scientific disciplines, is challenging. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for an explanation of why the ‘the future ain’t what it used to be’ Kurzweil has a theory for you. He posits in his “law of accelerating returns” that technological advancements have, and are, occurring at an exponential rate. In the year 2001, for example, readily available computing power equaled that of an insect brain; by 2010 he predicts computing power will equal that of a mouse. By 2023 we should all be able to buy a computer with the power of a human brain. (Do you program a spare brain, educate it, or train it?)
So why isn’t the book called the law of accelerating returns? See the sub-title. Kurzweil feels that the accelerating pace of technological advances will logically lead the human race to an enviable position. “Merging with our technology is the next stage in our evolution.” Yep, he’s talking about human cells enhanced with wireless communication and nano assemblers. That’s for starters. He’s also predicting that with GNR (genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics) we will create a world without hunger, aging or disease in less than a century. Now there’s the definition of too good to be true.
My first reaction was that we had misclassed this title; it must be science fiction. Then I remembered that this is the man who correctly predicted the date at which a computer would consistently beat a chess grandmaster. And his resume is more than good guesses. Kurzweil has a degree from MIT, is considered a forerunner of pattern recognition software and runs several successful businesses under the umbrella of Kurzweil Technologies. In other words, he’s not a fiction or tabloid writer; he’s a scientist with a sound track record.
My second reaction was that the material was way over my head and I needed Cliff Notes. The May 14, 2007 edition of Fortune magazine published a profile of Kurzweil and an analysis of some of his predictions. His exact net worth is unknown, but generally presumed to be in the millions. Microsoft officers have even been known to invest in his business ventures. (Fortune also published details of his diet, but let’s not go there. After all, geniuses are supposed to be eccentric.)
In 2004 Wired magazine interviewed one of Kurzweil’s colleagues, Bill Joy. Joy agrees with this picture of a world with ‘nano enhanced’ humans, but he doesn’t foresee anything resembling Eden. The article was entitled Why the future doesn’t need us. He predicts that GNR could be the next NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical.) “These technologies are fraught with ethical dilemmas and may threaten mankind’s continued existence. Referring specifically to enhanced humans Joy said, “These possibilities are all thus either undesirable or unachievable or both. The only realistic alternative I see is relinquishment…” He’s suggesting that we acknowledge that the disadvantages of these technologies greatly outweigh any advantages. I find it difficult to believe that any government or individual could shelf a technology with such promise regardless of the risks. Has mankind ever done this? Are we even capable of taking such a step? Well, maybe I’m just being negative.
I study nuclear science / I love my classes / I got a crazy teacher, he wears dark glasses/ Things are going great, and they’re only getting better / I’m doing all right, getting good grades / The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades, I gotta wear shades.
The rock group Timbuk3 consisted of Barbara and Pat K. MacDonald and …a boombox.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Sarah (Winslet) is a suburban outsider who, unlike the other playground moms, isn't afraid to approach the dreamy but long-absent father whom smitten housewives have taken to calling the "Prom King." Long days at the local community pool with their respective children soon find Sarah becoming acquainted with local husband and father Brad (Patrick Wilson) -- who seems to share in her seething discontentment with life in their quaint commuter town. An English literature major who never envisioned a fate as a soccer mom, Sarah has a growing dissatisfaction with her successful husband (Gregg Edelman) that parallels Brad's increasing frustration with his inability to pass the bar and connect with his wife, Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), a successful documentary filmmaker.
It's not long before the dejected pair is meeting for a series of illicit afternoon trysts as their unsuspecting spouses work and their children lie quietly napping. Meanwhile, after the community is riled by the return of a convicted sex offender (Jackie Earle Haley) who leaves the concerned parents scrambling to protect their young ones, an attempt made by Sarah and Brad to legitimize their clandestine relationship by dining together with their respective spouses begins to awaken Kathy's suspicions about the fidelity of her husband. (Synopis by Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide)
Reserve your copy today!
Search the JCLC catalog for the movies of Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly and Patrick Wilson.
Tom Perrotta is the author of four books, The Wishbones, Election, Joe College and Little Children. Election was also made into a feature film and stars Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick.
The Official Movie Website for Little Children
Monday, May 14, 2007
From its unforgettable opening scene in the darkness of a forgotten cemetery in Buenos Aires, The Ministry of Special Cases casts a powerful spell. In the heart of Argentina’s Dirty War, Kaddish Poznan struggles with a son who won’t accept him; strives for a wife who forever saves him; and spends his nights protecting the good name of a community that denies his existence--and denies a checkered history that only Kaddish holds dear. When the nightmare of the disappeared children brings the Poznan family to its knees, they are thrust into the unyielding corridors of the Ministry of Special Cases, the refuge of last resort.
Nathan Englander’s first novel is a timeless story of fathers and sons. In a world turned upside down, where the past and the future, the nature of truth itself, all take shape according to a corrupt government’s whims, one man--one spectacularly hopeless man--fights to overcome his history and his name, and, if for only once in his life, to put things right. Here again are all the marvelous qualities for which Englander’s first book was immediately beloved: his exuberant wit and invention, his cosmic sense of the absurd, his genius for balancing joyfulness and despair. Through the devastation of a single family, Englander captures, indelibly, the grief of a nation. The Ministry of Special Cases, like Englander’s stories before it, is a celebration of our humanity, in all its weakness, and--despite that--hope. (Book description by Knopf)
Reserve your copy today!
Search our databases for articles, reviews and information on Nathan Englander (library card required)
This new book is without question a makeover for the soul. It gives you permission to succeed and the how-to's necessary to position yourself for the limitless potential that comes from making minor adjustments in your thinking and plans. Jakes believes there is nothing more important than your next decision. Before you make another choice, this is a must-read! (Book description by Atria Publishing)
Reserve your copy today!
Search the JCLC catalog for T. D. Jakes' audios, DVDs and books
The Official Website of T. D. Jakes
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Gary Soto’s My Little Car is the story of Teresa and the lowrider pedal car given to her as a birthday present by her Abuelito (grandfather). She lovingly takes care of her little car and enjoys driving around her neighborhood. She wins a trophy for her Bailelo skills (making her car dance) in a contest, outraces a dog and becomes the envy of the playground, all because of her special car.
But, alas, all things new must turn old, and Teresa eventually loses interest and becomes negligent. Her car is left out in the elements where it begins to rust, lose its flame stickers and become a target for the birds in the trees. It's even dented when Teresa’s father backs into it with his truck where it's carelessly parked in the driveway.
One day Teresa’s grandfather comes to visit and doesn’t even recognize the car. Teresa sadly admits “Es mi carrito.” Grandfather exclaims that the car looks as old and rundown as he. Teresa and her little sister Pumpkin rush to their grandfather’s defense, and Teresa is shamed into realizing that things should be cherished long after the new wears off, be they people or toys.
Pam Paparone’s illustrations bring the Chicano neighborhood to life, in the bright colors and décor of the houses and in the urban street scenes alive with the faces of its people.
My Little Car is an excellent introduction to the Mexican language and culture for young children.
Search the JCLC catalog for Soto's works
Search our databases for articles and information on Gary Soto (library card required)
The Official Website of Gary Soto
Friday, May 11, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007 at 6:30 p.m. the Umdabu Dance Company will perform under the trees in Central's atrium as a part of our BPL@Night series. We hope you will join us and watch this South African dance company present traditional South African culture through dance.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
The Children of Hurin, begun in 1918, was one of three 'Great Tales' J.R.R. Tolkien worked on throughout his life, though he never realized his ambition to see it published. Though familiar to many fans from extracts and references within other Tolkien books, it has long been assumed that the story would forever remain an unfinished tale. Now reconstructed by Christopher Tolkien, painstakingly editing together the complete work from his father's many drafts, this book is the culmination of a tireless thirty-year endeavor by him to bring J.R.R.Tolkien's vast body of unpublished work to a wide audience.
Having drawn the distinctive maps for the original The Lord of the Rings more than 50 years ago, Christopher has also created a detailed new map for this book. In addition, it will include a jacket and color paintings by Alan Lee, illustrator of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Centenary Edition and Academy Award-winning designer of the film trilogy. (Book description by Houghton Mifflin.)
Search the JCLC catalog for Tolkien's works
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Ms. Potter has presented lectures for the National Genealogical Conference of the States, she was editor of the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, a recipient of the Tennessee Historical Commission’s Certificate of Merit, and she has served as advisor, consultant and contributor to historical quarterlies and reviews.
Here are the details.
Saturday June 9, 2007
9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Registration 9 – 9:30 a.m.
Birmingham Public Library/Linn-Henley Building
2100 Park Place
Birmingham, AL 35203
Fee: $15.00 pre-registration, $20 on site registration
Please make checks payable to: Birmingham Public Library
To pre-register, send us your name, address, phone number and check and mail to:
Treasurers Workshop/Southern History Department
Birmingham Public Library/Linn-Henley Building
2100 Park Place
Birmingham, AL 35203
For more information call us at (205) 226-3665.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Two decades later, Cope's intense prosecution of two affluent college frat boys is suddenly interrupted by events that casts doubt on the official story of what happened all those years ago. Has the truth remained buried? Are some still alive? Was this all the work of a serial murderer?
To find answers, Cope must muddle through layers of an increasingly dangerous and often perplexing investigation involving a serial killer, a guilt ridden hippy, fanatical private investigators, deceptive parents, and ex-KGB agents. Yet he is compelled by guilt to continue until the truth is revealed.
If you are looking for a suspenseful summertime read, this riveting novel by Harlan Coben, bestselling author of Gone for Good and The Innocent, should be on your short list.
Reserve a copy of The Woods now in hardback, book-on-CD, or audio download.
They are Raimunda (Pénelope Cruz), who is married to an unemployed labourer and has a teenage daughter (Yohana Cobo); Sole (Lola Dueñas), her sister, who makes a living as a hairdresser; and the mother of both (Carmen Maura), who died in a fire along with her husband. This character appears first to her sister (Chus Lampreave) and then to Sole, although the people with whom she has some unresolved matters are Raimunda and her neighbour in the village, Agustina (Blanca Portillo).
Volver is not a surrealistic comedy although it may seem so at times. The living and the dead coexist without any discord, causing situations that are either hilarious or filled with a deep, genuine emotion. It's a film about the culture of death in my native La Mancha. The people there practice it with an admirable naturalness. The way in which the dead continue to be present in their lives, the richness and humanity of their rites mean that the dead never die.Volver destroys all the clichés about "black" Spain and offers a Spain that is as real as it is the opposite. A Spain that is white, spontaneous, funny, intrepid, supportive and fair. (Synopsis by Sony Picture Classics)
Search the JCLC catalog for Penelope Cruz's movies.
Library Plans for the Worst
April 20, 2007, Birmingham—Birmingham Public Library staff will participate in disaster preparedness training on May 9, using the recently-vacated West End Library for a real-to-life rehearsal.
Fifty staff members from all departments of the central and four regional libraries will arrive to their makeshift offices that morning as if they had arrived at the scene of a disaster. From there, they will be trained on how to communicate with staff members and patrons, salvage collections, and identify potential hazards during or after a disaster.
BPL has hired a consultant from the Southeastern Library Network (SOLINET), an Atlanta-based organization that provides training—from disaster preparedness to grant writing—to encourage Southeastern libraries to be among the best in the country.
The Birmingham Public Library is proactive in preparing for disasters, making it part of only 20% of collecting institutions nationwide that have an emergency plan with staff trained to respond appropriately. This number comes from a study conducted by Heritage Preservation, a national nonprofit group that advocates for the country’s collecting institutions—libraries, archives, and museums.
According to the three-year study, Heritage Preservation found that American institutions hold more than 4.8 billion artifacts—including 1.7 billion rare and unique books, periodicals, and scrapbooks; 700 million photographs; and 48 million historic objects—yet less than 30% of these institutions have staff who are trained in case their collections are harmed. The Birmingham Public Library holds—in addition to nearly 900,000 books, CDs and DVDs—several million historic documents, more than 400,000 photographs, nearly 10,000 rare books, and 4,000 maps. “Many of our materials are irreplaceable,” said Yvonne Crumpler, Head of the Southern History Department. “They are books and documents that have been cherished by Birmingham residents for decades.”
The study concluded that, in order for Americans to preserve their collections for future generations, institutions must provide safe conditions for their collections, develop an emergency plan, and assign responsibility for collections care to staff members. The Birmingham Public Library has an ongoing commitment to protect Birmingham’s treasures by focusing to all three of these objectives.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Did you know...?
The Little House series:
Little House in the Big Woods (1932)
Farmer Boy (1933)
Little House on the Prairie (1935)
On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937)
By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939)
The Long Winter (1940)
Little Town on the Prairie (1941)
These Happy Golden Years ( 1943)
The First Four Years (1971)
Search our databases for articles and information on Laura Ingalls Wilder (library card required)
Friday, May 04, 2007
The launch of Sputnik in 1957 and the gathering interest in exploring the New Frontier really got the ball rolling for Bradbury's foray into the science fiction field. Even after 64 years of prolific writing that includes 500 short stories, numerous novels, poetry, plays and essays, he is still best remembered for his science fiction novels The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man and Fahrenheit 451.
The Martian Chronicles (1950) is a book of linked stories that chronicle the exploration, expedition, invasion, colonization and eventual desertion of Mars. The Illustrated Man (1951) is a collection of 18 stories that touch on social topics such as racism, religion and warfare, each introduced by a tattooed man whose changing illustrations foretell the future if one sticks around long enough. Fahrenheit 451 (1953) is a dark story about an anti-intellectual society that discourages independent thinking and forbids reading. The fire department exists to set fire to books and libraries. Guy Montag, a reformed fireman, joins a nomadic clan of booklovers who memorize pieces of civilization’s greatest literature, awaiting the day when they are able to transfer the words onto paper without fear of death.
The Pulitzer Special Citation recognizes an artist’s lifetime achievement. Bradbury, who started writing stories on butcher paper as a child, is still going strong at 87. It is easy to see how Bradbury fit the bill.
Search the JCLC catalog for Bradbury's works
Visit the library's Biography Resource Center for a complete listing of Bradbury's achievements (library card is required)
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
I recently listened to the audio book of Martin’s novella Shopgirl (2000). I’m wary of listening to an audio book read by the author. Most times it seems ego driven and the author doesn’t always do justice to the story. I suppose since Martin is an actor as well as a writer it worked in this case. He’s able to read his own words with the exact tone of pathos, sarcasm, humor or sadness that they call for.
Shopgirl is about a trio of Los Angelites: Mirabelle Buttersfield, who works a counter at Neiman’s, is several years past college age but still lives a student’s poor life, including owning the requisite cheap futon that folds her guests into impossible yoga positions; Jeremy Kraft, a Mirabelle admirer who is sure he could be The One, if only he had the money and social skills to do it; and Ray Porter, a 50-something Seattle millionaire who has a penchant for shopgirls who live on budgets. Mirabelle’s two suitors don’t suit her at all. What’s a poor girl to do?
I’m somewhat jaded by romance stories because I think I know how they'll end, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Shopgirl was made into a movie in 2005, and stars Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman and Steve Martin as Mirabelle, Jeremy and Ray, respectively.
Search the JCLC catalog for Steve Martin's audios, books and movies
The Compleat Steve
Monday, April 30, 2007
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Hold It! Do not leave finding a copy up to chance.
Reserving, by placing a hold, is the fastest way to get the library material you want. The hold puts you on a waiting list for the item. Once the item becomes available, you will be notified so that you can pick it up. You will get an e-mail if you have given us your e-mail address. Otherwise, you will get an automated phone notification.
Holds can be placed on almost any book, DVD, or audio book the library has, even on soon to be released titles in our catalog like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
There are many options for placing holds on the library material you want.
- You can join the Best Sellers Club, our program to provide quick access to new releases from best selling authors. Click here to sign up.
- You can ask the library staff to place the hold for you during your next visit to the Library.
- You can call the Library and ask the staff to reserve items for you.
- You can even place a hold on library materials yourself from our catalog.
If you are a do-it-yourselfer, here is how Mr. Vila would place holds using our catalog:
Vila connects to our website at www.bplonline.org which he considers the best thing since “Signature Series” power tools. Clicking on the catalog link along the bottom of the page, he chooses title and types in his search for “The New Yankee workshop kids' stuff” by Norm Abram. Vila scans the search results to select the book he wants. Once found, he clicks on the blue reserve item button at the top of the screen.
After entering his name and library card numbers in the appropriate boxes, he clicks on submit. Since the Avondale Branch is convenient for him, Vila chooses Avondale from the location selection dropdown menu and clicks submit.
As his computer screen reports that his request will be delivered to the selected Birmingham Public Library location when it is available, he thinks what a quick easy complete solution this is.
If Vila wanted to place multiple items on hold at once he could have used our handy shopping cart feature.
If you need any assistance with this process, a staff member would be happy to assist you in placing your holds.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
“It was a squid of colossal dimensions, fully eight meters long. It was traveling backward with tremendous speed in the same direction as the Nautilus. It gazed with enormous, staring eyes that were tinted sea green. Its eight arms (or more accurately, feet) were rooted in its head, which has earned these animals the name cephalopod; its arms stretched a distance twice the length of its body and were writhing like the serpentine hair of the Furies.”
From 20,000 leagues under the sea by Jules Verne
I have to confess that I’ve always had mixed feelings about coffee table books. On the one hand, these oversized books usually have lush, never before seen photographs that leave me dreaming about whatever topic the book covers. But on the other hand, these tomes frequently have an exorbitant price tag. After spending an hour with my new, expensive book, I walk away wondering why I spent $45.00 on the book equivalent of Whitman chocolates when I could have consumed two or three steak dinners for the same price.
That was then, this is now. I recently purchased a book of photographs that is absolutely unbelievable. The Deep: the Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss by Claire Nouvian is a book of photographs that has me reconsidering my stance on coffee table books and will you leave you breathless.
Thanks to new submersibles capable of searching down to six miles, photographer Claire Nouvian was able to photograph deep sea creatures in their natural environments. Though natural is hardly the word to describe these environments. These marine animals exist in a depth of the ocean untouched by light of any type. The nearly flat floors of the Arctic Ocean and the Monterey Canyon are occasionally interrupted by submerged mountains, hydrothermal vents, underwater volcanoes and whale carcasses.
The fish that occupy this habitat are just as otherworldly. Many of the creatures use a bioluminescence that renders them either angelically beautifully or frighteningly surreal. Others use bizarre appendages to hunt and wander through the eternal darkness, and all seem to have alarming names like viperfish, cutthroat eel, spookfish or vampire squid from hell. (No, I’m not making up that last one. You’ll understand when you see it.)
This is not simply a stunning photography book; Nouvian has included 15 essays written by leading deep sea biologist who shed some light on the mysteries of the deep. But only some. “5% of the seafloor has been mapped, and scientists estimate that there are between 10 million and 30 million species in the 'vasty' deep.”
This coffee table book is not only a full meal, but a new, exotic dish that words simply can not describe. Click on the link below, and then choose GALLERY to view some of the 220 color photographs.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Deen writes like she speaks, which means the pages are dotted with double negatives, “ain’ts” and lazily dropped “g’s” from the end of almost every gerund. It almost feels like one isn’t so much reading a book as enjoying a Monday morning kaffeeklatsch around Deen’s kitchen table.
I’m fond of steel magnolias, and Deen earns this respected southern title. It’s all here: her parents' early deaths; her verbally abusive first marriage; her struggles as she's forced to raise her sons in poverty; the launch of her successful The Bag Lady catering business; the opening of her famous restaurant The Lady & Sons in downtown Savannah; the hilarious first meeting of her soul mate and future husband; and her quick rise to fame on the Food Network.
Deen shares fond family memories that center around their love of food and tradition. Her natural talent as a cook has earned her fame and riches. Her own success in the food industry allowed her sons to have careers in the restaurant and TV business. She couldn’t even resist including favorite family recipes in her autobiography. So, maybe it is all about the cookin’.
I’ll leave this review with comedienne Sara Schaefer’s take on the perfect Paula Deen recipe:
Butter, for greasing pan
2 cups butter
1 ½ cups butter oil
1/4 cup butter juice
3 cups all-purpose butter
1 teaspoon baking butter
3 cups peeled and finely chopped butter
1 cup shredded butter
1 pinch butter, for taste
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Generously grease a tube pan. For the cake: In a large bowl, combine the butter, butter oil, butter juice, and baking butter; and mix well. Fold butter, butter and butter into batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bathe in it until you go into cardiac arrest.
Search the JCLC catalog for Paula Deen's cookbooks
The Official Website of Paula Deen
Paula's Home Cooking and Paula's Party pages at Food Network