Sunday, January 22, 2017

This week at the library...

MONDAY
Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

Documentary
EIGHT DAYS A WEEK
Academy Award-winner Ron Howard’s authorized and highly anticipated documentary feature film about The Beatles’ phenomenal early career. Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years is based on the first part of The Beatles’ career (1962-1966) – the period in which they toured and captured the world’s acclaim.

This film explores their inner workings – how they made decisions, created their music, and built their collective career together – while, exploring The Beatles’ extraordinary and unique musical gifts and their remarkable, complementary personalities. We see them from the days of The Cavern Club in Liverpool to their last concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1966.

106 minutes / not rated


TUESDAY
Central Library, 6:30 p.m.

COLORING ZONE for adults
Coloring offers a fun way to unwind and express creativity. We provide the colored pencils, crayons, and coloring pages, or you can bring your own! Stop in, sit down, relax, get creative, and HAVE FUN!



Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

FROM FIGHTING BOTS TO SPACE ROVERS
JPL robotics engineer Megan Richardson will present an illustrated talk exploring the built and imagined world of robots. The talk will give our audience a chance to learn a few basic principles of how robots work and the technology of familiar “everyday” robots. Ms. Richardson will explore common myths about robots and discuss the special requirements of robots built for space exploration. She will survey current robotics projects and possible future developments in the field of robotics. This event will feature a special live appearance by JPL’s little demonstration space rover, Rov-E.



Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

8+9 BOOK CLUB
The club has read and will discuss The Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. This club is for registered members only, and is full. To be placed on the waiting list, please email melliott@burbankca.gov.











WEDNESDAY
Central Library, 6:30 p.m.

MEETING: FRIENDS OF THE BURBANK PUBLIC LIBRARY


THURSDAY
Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

Family Night presents...
THE BEATBUDS
The BeatBuds® offer an interactive program designed to send your child on a wholesome musical journey. Using their own educationally based, catchy tunes as the foundation, they incorporate major and minor keys, rhythmic and melodic exploration, singing, dancing, and musical instruments.




CHILDREN'S PROGRAMMING THIS WEEK:

TODDLER STORYTIME
A story and song program for children ages one and two,
accompanied by an adult.
Tuesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Fridays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 11:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Registration is required to attend Toddler Storytime
at Buena Vista Branch.





PRESCHOOL STORYTIME
Stories and songs for children age three and up,
accompanied by an adult.

Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Northwest Branch
Thursdays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 1:00 p.m., Buena Vista Branch

BABY STORYTIME
Songs, stories, and rhymes for children under 12 months. Winter Session runs from January 19 to March 16, 2017.
This Thursday @ 10:00 a.m., Northwest Branch

SENSORY STORYTIME
Who: Any child who has difficulty sitting through a traditional storytime.
What: This is a small inclusive program of stories, songs, and activities that provides freedom to children with special needs, within a structured space.

Pre-registration is required: Limited to 10 children. A small group is what makes Sensory Storytime engaging for the children participating. Please call 818-238-5630.


Wednesday @ 12:00 noon,
Buena Vista Branch



Saturday, January 21, 2017

Robotics Event!



What is the difference between a robot and a cyborg and an android and an avatar? There are both fear and fantasy floating around about robots, and in popular imagination the lines are getting blurred concerning these different but seemingly associated technologies. Join us at the library for a special library STEM event on Tuesday, January 24 at 7:00 p.m. at the Buena Vista Branch of the Burbank Public Library.

JPL Robotics Engineer Megan Richardson will disambiguate things for you as she surveys the field of robotics in a talk that will feature some amazing clips of robots in action. She will explain some basic principles about what a robot is, why we build them, and how they work (vision and mobility) as she addresses some common myths. She will give an overview of current and possible future developments in the field of robotics, and talk a bit about how the technology developed for space is linked to new or anticipated technology advances in our daily living, like the self-driving cars that have been in the news recently.

Ms. Richardson’s specialty is designing and building robots for space exploration. She is currently working with the Curiosity Rover on Mars, leading a team at JPL that is trying to solve some recent problems with the drill mechanism. So you will get to learn something about the excitement and challenges of working in this field from someone with hands-on experience.

The library is committed to encouraging young people to consider careers in science, technology, and engineering, and in particular we want to show young women that there is a place for them in these fields, that they can pursue their interests in these subjects and make creative and important contributions the way Ms. Richardson is doing. The library hosted a program last year on the Rise of the Rocket Girls, a book that featured the women at JPL who had worked behind the scenes on the vital calculations for the space program, and there is much current interest in the women who did the mathematics and computing for the space program in Florida during that same period as featured in the popular current film Hidden Figures.

Ms. Richardson will be bringing along a special guest to this event: NASA’s little demonstration space rover Rov-E, who we understand will do a few tricks involving audience participation. It should be an informative and fun evening. All the library’s public events are free to the public; we think this one is going to be popular, so you might want to arrive a bit early!

Please note that students who attend this program for extra credit will be given a proof of attendance sheet at the end of the program.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Best of 2016: True Crime Documentaries




Reviewed by Diane M.,
Circulation/Technical Services clerk






This year, perhaps because I was so drawn into the dramatization of the O.J Simpson trial with American Crime Story: The People Versus O.J. Simpson, I found myself watching several other true crime stories. Several of the documentaries I watched were quite interesting.

Murder on a Sunday Morning was the 2001 Academy Award for Best Documentary. The film follows the story of Brenton Butler, who was a 15-year-old African American boy who was accused of the murder of Mary-Ann Stephens on May 7, 2000, outside her hotel in front of her husband. I enjoy courtroom dramas, and this documentary is a gripping inside look into the workings of the legal system. Patrick McGuiness is the public defender who is assigned to Brenton’s case, and he and his partner are dedicated to exposing the truth of it.

After enjoying this film, I realized that the same director--Jean-Xavier de Lestrade--had done a long-form documentary on the high–profile murder case of Michael Peterson, who was accused of killing his wife. The Staircase unfolds over the course of eight episodes; it is fascinating to see the filmmakers get access to the accused. The crew was inside the Peterson house and inside the courtroom, and I felt like I was getting a first-hand look at all of the twists and turns that happened along the way. I felt like I was getting to know this man, who seems so nice and personable. Could this family man really be a cold-blooded killer?

Lastly, another long-form documentary that I found fascinating is the more recently produced The Jinx. This is a stranger-than-fiction look into the life and crimes of the very wealthy Robert Durst. Interestingly, I had years ago watched a dramatization on Robert Durst called All Good Things, which had a great cast (Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst), but I did not find it interesting. The Jinx, however, is a six-part documentary by Andrew Jarecki that I found gripping. Again, like in The Staircase, the filmmaker was given complete access to the subject and as the twists and turns unravel (Durst is a suspect in three separate killings during his lifetime) I found myself binge-watching the entire documentary.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Best of 2016: Issue novel/thriller




Reviewed by Chris R.,
supervising librarian



After taking a break from John Grisham for a few years, I picked up Gray Mountain, and I was glad I did. A page-turner, it’s the story of a New York lawyer, Samantha Kofer, victim of the 2008 Wall Street meltdown, who goes to Appalachia to intern in order to keep her benefits (health and a bit of her paycheck). She interns for a legal aid clinic that represents a lot of coal miners with black lung fighting for their benefits against big coal companies. Enter Donovan, the nephew of the clinic’s chief lawyer. Donovan is collecting evidence (some legal, some not so legal) that will shut down coal.

A good story, and Grisham does his homework. Recently, coal was in the real news--strains of black lung stronger than what have been seen before, and numbers of victims many times higher than what has been previously reported, plus the destruction of land and water sources. I felt I could be on a real jury based on what I read in Gray Mountain.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

This week at the library...

MONDAY

All branches of Burbank Public Library are CLOSED on Monday in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We reopen on Tuesday for regular hours.






TUESDAY
Central Library, 12:00 noon

BROWN BAG BOOK CLUB
The club will meet to discuss Girl in Translation, by Jean Kwok. All are welcome to attend.


Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

SCENE OF THE CRIME BOOK CLUB
The club will meet to discuss The Spellman Files, by Lisa Lutz. Please join us!



THURSDAY
Central Library, 6:30 p.m.

ZENTANGLE
A Creative Class for Adults

A zentangle is a doodle gone wild! Specifically, a zentangle is beautifully intricate patterns, repeated. Follow patterns, or invent your own. You do not have to be an artist to have fun doing this. Researchers have found that this mindful doodling helps relieve tension and quiet anxiety. Join us for a relaxing evening. Supplies are provided. Please sign up by calling 818 238-5580.




Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

GENRE-X BOOK CLUB
(not your mother's book club)
Genre-X is a book club for Millennials and Gen-Xers to hang out, drink coffee, and read short, interesting books. The club will meet to discuss So You've Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson.







FRIDAY
Central Library, 2:00 p.m.


Friday Matinee presents...
FLORENCE FOSTER-JENKINS
A British-French film set in 1940s New York, the film is based on the true story of the legendary New York heiress and socialite (Meryl Streep) who obsessively pursued her dream of becoming a great singer. The voice she heard in her head was beautiful, but to everyone else it was hilariously awful. Her husband and manager, St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), an aristocratic English actor, was determined to protect his beloved Florence from the truth.
110 minutes / Rated PG-13


CHILDREN'S PROGRAMMING THIS WEEK:

TODDLER STORYTIME
A story and song program for children ages one and two,
accompanied by an adult.
Tuesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Fridays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 11:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Registration is required to attend Toddler Storytime
at Buena Vista Branch.

PRESCHOOL STORYTIME
Stories and songs for children age three and up,
accompanied by an adult.

Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Northwest Branch
Thursdays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 1:00 p.m., Buena Vista Branch

BABY STORYTIME
Songs, stories, and rhymes for children under 12 months. Winter Session runs from January 19 to March 16, 2017.
This Thursday @ 10:00 a.m., Northwest Branch


MUSIC AND MOVEMENT
FOR PRESCHOOLERS and their families
Join us for a fun introduction to movement, coordination, rhythm, and dance! We'll be dancing using shaker eggs and scarves, and listening to music.
Saturday @ 10:15 a.m., Central Library




Friday, January 13, 2017

What We're Reading: Remembering Pearl Harbor








Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness,
by Craig Nelson
and
Countdown to Pearl Harbor: The Twelve Days to the Attack,
by Steve Twomey

Two new books were published this fall for the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the event that drew the United States into World War II. Over the years, the admonition to “Remember Pearl Harbor!” has had a changing meaning in our national psyche. In the years immediately following the Japanese attack, it was a slogan used to encourage recruitment and rally public support for the war effort. It was a call for repayment and revenge for what was seen as a vicious sneak attack, one perpetrated by a race that was morally unprincipled and dishonorable. The racism associated with the attack—and it was mutual—justified “total warfare,” as John Dower explored in his award-winning book,
War Without Mercy.

In later years, the call to remember Pearl Harbor had a less immediate and more abstracted meaning; we were to remember Pearl Harbor as a symbol of the need for perpetual vigilance and military preparedness. Pearl Harbor, a single event that involved an enormous loss of life, was also memorialized as a symbol of the sacrifice made by all those who serve their country. And there has always been, both during and after the war, a persistent allegation of conspiracy about Pearl Harbor—an astonishing one when you think about its implications—the allegation that Franklin Roosevelt and his administration wanted the United States to enter World War II and manipulated events in such a way that Japan would strike out, that they in fact knew Pearl Harbor was going to happen and let it happen as a casus belli. For some, that alleged perfidy, has been what we should remember about Pearl Harbor. It is a construction of events that both of these new books discredit.


Franklin Roosevelt asks Congress for a Declaration of War
against Japan, December 8, 1941.
As Pearl Harbor fades from living memory, our national remembrance of Pearl Harbor seems to be going through yet another subtle change. In remarks last week at ceremonies at Pearl Harbor, both Japanese Prime Minister Abe and President Obama centered on the theme of reconciliation, on Pearl Harbor as representative of an enmity and bitterness that both nations worked to overcome. Obama referred to Abe’s attendance at the ceremony as an “historic gesture that speaks to the power of reconciliation and the alliance between the American and Japanese peoples, a reminder that even the deepest wounds of war can give way to friendship and lasting peace.”

These two new books revisit Pearl Harbor not as a symbol of enmity reconciled but rather to remind us of what actually happened there on December 7, 1941 and why it happened. They are companionable books—you will learn something from reading both. The most memorable part of Nelson’s book is the recreation of the attack itself, and the focus of Twomey’s book is the lead-up to the attack and his attempt to explain the various misreadings, miscues, and errors of judgement that left the U.S. Fleet vulnerable to attack. Most Americans today are largely uninformed about these subjects, and these books remind us about how horrendous was the loss and explore the important things we might learn from the story of how it happened.

The U.S.S. Arizona on fire and sinking. 1,177 U.S. servicemen were killed on
the
Arizona, almost half of the total of lives lost at Pearl Harbor.

The battleship West Virginia sinking. A boat looks for survivors
who jumped into the flaming, oil-covered sea.

Craig Nelson’s book, Pearl Harbor from Infamy to Greatness, perhaps suffers, paradoxically, from its virtues and ambition. The ambition seems to have been to produce the most comprehensive account of Pearl Harbor, from the diplomatic prelude to matters of military dispositions and intelligence to accounts of the attack itself, to “greatness,” which seems to be composed of an account of the Doolittle raid on Tokyo in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and to a very truncated account of the U.S. Naval operations that followed in the Pacific. Why the author felt the need to present a synopsis of the entire history of the naval warfare that followed, in what of necessity would have to be an abbreviated form, is a little perplexing. The scope of this book is just too large, and someone inexpert about the topics—and the military minutiae of craft, ordnance, and protocols—cannot hope to command all of the details of fact and event. Misinterpretations and errors are bound to occur. Considered analysis of actions and events and the significance of the facts reported are likely to suffer as well, in the drive to present every detail. The parts of this book have too much an assembled rather than an integrated feel, as if they were the products of wholly discrete episodes of research and writing.

Nelson wants to put us in the shoes of those who experienced the attack. He weaves together the accounts of various eyewitnesses into a dramatic and visceral narrative. The uneasy feeling comes not from a doubt that it all produces a realistic portrait of the horrors and suffering that soldiers and sailors experienced during the attack, but that for the sake of literary drama and impact some license may have been taken. He tries to tie together the memoirs of specific Japanese pilots to the accounts of sailors on the very same ships the Japanese pilots are attacking at the time; it seems almost too neat a device and arouses suspicion. Some of the author’s descriptions of the horror are over the top, images constructed to elicit a gut response. The reader feels a bit manipulated. The various eyewitness accounts appear to have all been used without any skepticism or discernment, and some of them feel apocryphal or embellished.

For all these caveats, however, the general understanding of events presented here is sound, the “impression” we get feels authentic, and the wealth of details and anecdotes make this interesting reading. There are some photographs in the book, but they feel perfunctory, a compilation of what might be readily found, rather than choices carefully chosen to illustrate or supplement the text.

Steve Twomey’s Countdown to Pearl Harbor: The Twelve Days to the Attack, is not so much about what happened at Pearl Harbor but rather about how it could happen. That is, of course, the great question that has occupied so much of American history about Pearl Harbor, resulting in numerous inquiries during and after the war and endless speculation ever after. In spite of what conspiracy theorists have to say, there is no simple answer. And perhaps that is the major thing to take from Pearl Harbor, that the unexpected is, well, unexpected and that there is a complex of reasons why a catastrophe of this sort was considered unthinkable and, if thought of, improbable.

Twomey’s presentation of the facts is measured and disciplined, and his understanding and analysis of events is sound. We are lead in a reasoned and logical narrative to a compelling identification of the vital errors, a summation that makes clear the many things that went wrong and resulted in catastrophe. It turns out—much like the mysteries where we discover that it was not the butler who did it, but rather the entire cast of suspects—that there is plenty of blame to go around. Twomey is not afraid to apportion it. He presents a list of problems that all contributed to the fatal cascade: problems in military culture, command, and communication, and deficiencies in civilian leadership and sharing of vital information. And he reminds us that it was not that a Japanese attack was not expected as Japanese and American diplomacy failed. It was just not expected at Pearl Harbor, for a lot of plausible reasons. 


Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto planned the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was killed
in 1943 when intelligence intercepts allowed
U.S. pilots to find and shoot down his plane.


Pearl Harbor represented a failure of military imagination and an underestimation of the enemy. It was an unprecedented attack by a huge air fleet, thousands of miles from home, made possible by the use of aircraft carriers. It represented in scale and innovation a development that forever changed naval warfare. The nature and power of such an attack was not imagined by the defenders at Oahu, any more than they imagined that the Japanese could solve the problems of refueling for the long sea journey, remain undetected in their approach, or make torpedoes effective weapons in the shallow waters of Pearl Harbor. Much of this assessment was rooted too in racist attitudes that denigrated Japanese military competency and technical ingenuity. The cultural gulf between the two countries was a critical factor when it came to determining likely behavior and the calculation of risk. That the Japanese would undertake a war with the United States that they knew they could not, in the end, win, was to the Americans, who did not understand the compelling forces in Japanese culture, an irrational decision, one made against reasonable odds, a gamble they did not think the Japanese would take.

The Americans did not understand Japanese strategy. The long odds for the Japanese were that they could seize the territory and natural resources they needed to obtain in Southeast Asia and the East Indies before the United States was able to effectively respondto get back on its feet in the Pacificand then negotiate favorable terms for a cessation of hostilities, from a position of strength. Americans did not understand that the Japanese would not want to have the U.S. Fleet on their flank; severely damaging the fleet at Pearl Harbor would buy them the time they needed to consolidate the simultaneous conquests they planned in the East Indies and Southeast Asia.

Twomey has an interesting analysis of the intelligence picture as well. We have in hindsight, in an age of better intelligence, assumed that the Americans knew more than they did. What they knew was largely incomplete and inconclusive. He also looks at the interaction between Japanese war preparation and diplomacy in these last days (to get the most in-depth understanding of what motivated Japanese decision making and diplomacy during this critical period see Japan 1941by Eri Hotta, previously reviewed for this blog). 

  
The best feature of Twomey’s remarkably good study of the events leading up to the attack, however, and something that is perhaps unique, is that he gives us character studies of the principal actors involved and then shows us how character affected perspective and action. Perhaps this is what we are to learn and what it would do us well to remember about Pearl Harbor: that we are fallible human beings, unable at times to comprehend each other, creatures with a much vaunted but in fact quite limited ability to manage the complexities of our social and political actions or to accurately anticipate the future, holding in our hands weapons of astounding violence.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Best of 2016: Mysteries






Reviewed by Melliott,
teen librarian




Since I have already reviewed these books here on the blog, I will keep comments brief and provide a link to the original reviews. Here are my five-star mysteries of 2016:

The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad #6),
by Tana French

I am never disappointed by Tana French. If you like a detailed, literary approach to mystery (and enjoy learning more about the specifically Irish experience), she's your writer too.

A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny

This series has gotten stronger and more beguiling with every book that Penny writes. I wish that I could find the little town of Three Pines (somewhere about an hour outside of Montreal), settle in at the bistro with its delectable menu and comforting hot beverages, and have the opportunity to make friends with all the interesting people who live there. Except, maybe, for Ruth.

A Banquet of Consequences, by Elizabeth George

After what I considered a few somewhat lackluster volumes, George is back on her game with this one. It's intricate and suspenseful, and also puts some meat on the bones of heretofore peripheral characters. A good one.

When Falcons Fall (Sebastian St. Cyr #11),
by C. S. Harris

No one else that I know of is keeping alive the Regency mystery the way Harris has done in this series. This one is particularly enlightening as to Sebastian's past, Hero's character, and an interesting chapter in English history. I also liked that the murder victim was a sketch artist (although I would have liked it better if someone else had been the victim and she had lived to draw some more!).



As you can see from this list, I am a fan of a particular kind of mystery--sequential, clever, literary, and apparently set on my family's continent of origin (the British Isles)! If all those things appeal to you, try one or more of these series.