Sunday, February 18, 2018

This week at the library...

All library branches

All branches of the Burbank Public Library are CLOSED for Presidents' Day. The library will reopen for regular hours at each branch on Tuesday.

Central Library, 12:00 noon


The club has read and will discuss Hillbilly Elegy, by J. D. Vance, an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of the country. Please pack a lunch and join the discussion. Email library staff at with any questions.

Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.


The club has read and will discuss IQ by Joe Ide, winner of the Anthony, Macavity, and Shamus Awards.

East Long Beach: The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood's high crime rate. Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered. But someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police can't or won't touch. They call him IQ. He's a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence.

Please email with any questions.

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

(not your mother's book club)

The club has read and will discuss Born A Crime, by Trevor Noah, the compelling, inspiring, and comical story of coming of age as a mixed-race child under apartheid in South Africa.


BABY STORYTIME (under 12 months):
Northwest Branch: Thursdays @ 10:00 a.m.

Registration is required. Please call 818 238-5640 to sign up. Winter Session ends on March 15, 2018. Songs, stories, and rhymes for children under 12 months.

Buena Vista Branch:
Tuesdays and Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m.
Buena Vista Branch Toddler Storytime is full. Our next session will be in Spring 2018. The Winter Session runs through March 13. 
Central Library: Fridays @ 10:00 a.m.

Northwest Branch: Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m.
Central Library: Thursdays @ 10:00 a.m.
Buena Vista Branch: Fridays @ 1:00 p.m. (Rhythm & Reading)

This Thursday, 6:00 p.m., Buena Vista Branch

For kids age 7 and under, with an adult. Come stretch with us and get a better night's sleep. Listen to stories, songs, and watch “Goodnight Gorilla,” a short movie. Wear your pajamas and bring a yoga mat, towel, or blanket.

Friday, February 16, 2018

What We're Reading: Revisiting the Aeneid

The Aeneid
by Virgil
translated by David Ferry

I’m not sure exactly what possessed me to read Virgil’s Aeneid again. I suppose it was because I didn’t remember much about it, or how I felt about it, from a previous reading years ago, and after all, this is one of the great epic poems of the Western literary tradition along with Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Spenser’s Faerie Queen, and Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Ferry’s translation is vivid and has impact, and I’m not going to forget the Aeneid this time around. And yet...I’m sorry I read it. This is the most blood-soaked, graphically detailed account of barbaric butchering I’ve ever come across. There is something not quite right, unsettling, about the lavish attention given to the gruesome details of ancient bloodletting and combat. The violence is so traumatizing that it distracts from any sense of meaning or poignancy I might have been able to find in the poem. In The Aeneid. death and glory are on intimate terms; in fact, they seem to be the same thing. The Aeneid is a narrative myth about the origins and virtues of Virgil’s Imperial Rome, and it is hard to think of any of the participants in this martial and heartless orgy as heroic or to view this past as one of glory. It only makes the modern reader imagine how terrifying it would have been to live under the Roman aegis.
Aeneas Flees Burning Troy. Aeneas picks up his father Anchises and flees the
ruins of Troy with his wife and son.  His wife, wouldn't you know it, got lost in
the confusion, her fate uncertain (painting by Fedrico Barocci, 1598).
Having no Latin, I’m not able to judge the translation as translation, and I’m left with the words in English and their efficacy as poetry. So I don’t know if it is the translation or Virgil, but I was often deflated by the epic similes that are a convention of classical verse, those elaborately extended attempts to describe the directly antecedent action by comparing it to some--most often a natural-- phenomenon that is supposed to give you an enhanced sense of what has just been described and to imbue it with a sort of power squared. Often in reading lines in the Aeneid the description itself seemed fully sufficient, only to be diminished by the comparison. Now, that may be the fault of the poetic translation, it may be just a poorly chosen simile, or nature and natural similes have lost their power for us. I’m not able to say. But I’m able to say I was not much impressed with the structure and arc of the poem, which seemed more episodic than integrated to me, only to end in a way that while perhaps appropriate seemed terribly abrupt. And I could not follow the relationship between the gods and the actions of mortals, which of course is probably not a new problem, but the task of literature, usually, is to make this existential conundrum less of a mystery, or at least present a more plausible theory of it, than the bewilderment I experienced here.

Another thing hard to stomach is the arrogance with which the lives of innocent animals are appropriated by all these pious humans trying to propitiate the gods, their lives stolen as they are offered as gifts and their hot and smoking entrails read in benighted divination. Another prejudice, I suppose, of a modern sensibility.

Aeneas Leaving Dido (a painting by Giovanni Romanelli, 1630
that you can see at the Norton Simon Museum).
Women, I suspect, would find the Aeneid utterly appalling, and rightly so. Aeneas enters into a romantic relationship with Dido the Queen of Carthage, and then abandons her and leaves her in ruins, all because he has a sense of the pious duty he has to found his own dynasty in the country of other people across the Mediterranean, whom he subdues by force of arms, claiming their lands and the daughter of the defeated dynasty as his new wife. All of the poignant moments in this book are between fathers and sons, the male scion being the only cause of love or fellow feeling, although we are given a passing glimpse of the story of the love between two soldiers. And Aeneas himself is uninteresting in his character or action, removed, it would seem, from any human qualities. You don’t believe for a moment he ever loved Dido. Dido, and Aeneas arch-enemy, Turnus, are more apt to seem human to us, more likely to elicit our sympathies.

Aeneas Conquers Turnus (a painting by Luca Giordano (1632-1705)

Aeneas and the Golden Bow. The Golden Bough was the ticket that
allowed Aeneas to visit his father in the underworld (an engraving
after Romana Romanelli, 17th Century)

It may be that I simply don’t understand the culture and world of an ancient civilization, and so have missed the greatness of this poem; that in my ignorance I have dismissed something that is in fact deeply moving as mere darkness and savagery, and that I have failed to see what is instructive or redeeming about it. But there is no introduction in this translation of the poem that puts anything into context for the reader, and there are no notes of any kind. I understand that the idea is to make the poem stand on its own as poetry, unencumbered by such a distracting apparatus. But the problem for the modern reader, it seems to me, is not about rendering the poetry of the lines, but what the poem is about, and that, to a modern sensibility, is deeply disturbing and at odds with our values and moral understanding. Most of us are not such men, in love with such blood lust, and have no ambition to be.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

What we're reading: Renaissance Man

Reviewed by LDU

Imagine if the world were blessed with someone who had the athletic skills of the NBA’s most talented player, LeBron James, and the mind of Neil deGrasse Tyson, the famously engaging astrophysicist and author. Now imagine if this same person had the legal knowledge of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the singing talent of Gwen Stefani.

No single person in history has ever exhibited such talent and expertise in so many diverse areas – with one exception. That exception is Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci.

Albert Einstein (imagine him sculpting like Michelangelo) once famously noted, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” If given a voice, Leonardo da Vinci would’ve likely said something like, “True, but curiosity is more important than imagination.”

Thankfully, this eternally curious man has been given a voice, in the form of Leonardo da Vinci, a biography written by Walter Isaacson, the bestselling author who has examined the lives of Steve Jobs, the aforementioned Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Kissinger.

This is literally “heavy” reading, folks. Although the material is easily digested, the book itself is about as dense as one of deGrasse Tyson’s black holes. Try reading a bestselling cinder block, and you’ll get the idea. Still, that’s a small price to pay for such a wonderful biography.

Isaacson emphasizes throughout that it was Leonardo’s insatiable curiosity that drove him to study and master so many things: painting and drawing (of course), hydrodynamics and hydraulics, weaponry, optics, anatomy and medical illustration, urban planning, botany, physics, mathematics...and so much more. Despite a lack of formal education, he not only learned so much about so many wide-ranging subjects, but his curiosity drove him to invent machines and scientific concepts that wouldn’t come to fruition for centuries.

For example, Leonardo discerned exactly how the heart’s aortic valve works: By observing and drawing how swirls share the same physical phenomena in nature – in water eddies, wind currents and curls of hair, all of which he drew and painted in exquisite detail – Leonardo concluded that the aorta’s sinus of Valsalva creates blood eddies that close a beating heart. His conclusion, based in part on numerous cadaver dissections, filled six pages of notebook text and included 20 drawings. Anatomists didn’t realize that Leonardo’s observation was correct for 450 years, in the 1960s. Stop for a moment and think about that: Leonardo discussed a phenomenon that wasn’t accepted by the medical community for four and a half centuries. And this is the same soul who painted Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.

Isaacson also emphasizes that Leonardo used his empirical genius to inform his art, and vice-versa. And readers learn an assortment of little-known details about the man and his life: Early in his career, Leonardo used his talents in theatrical productions to entertain heads of state and noblemen; many of his war machines were developed for the bloody handiwork of Cesare Borgia, one of the most brutal thugs and mass murderers in history; and his artistic contribution to Baptism of Christ so surpassed that of the work’s co-creator, his mentor Andrea del Verrocchio, the latter “never again picked up a paint brush,” according to a biographer from that period.

Leonardo da Vinci is a keeper. In lieu of that, you can borrow it for free – at your local library. Unfortunately, you eventually have to return it.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

This week at the library...

Central Library, 6:30 p.m.

Le Petit Cinema presents...
From filmmaker Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral) comes About Time: Tim’s father (Bill Nighy) tells his son that the men in his family have always had the ability to travel through time. Tim can’t change history, but he can change what happens and has happened in his own life—so he decides to make his world a better getting a girlfriend. Sadly, that turns out not to be as easy as you might think. 124 minutes / rated R

Buena Vista Branch, 6:30 p.m.

Twilight Cinema presents...
The starriest cast you may ever see sparkles as stories crisscross, collide and boomerang in this look at a day in the life of love. There's a proposal, flowers that didn't get sent, a big fat secret that's finally told, fights, kisses, wrong turns, right moves, and more. Whether new to or through with love, you'll fall in love with this 19-star, funny-side-up celebration of romance. 125 minutes / PG-13

Central Library 7:00 p.m.

The club has read and will discuss Cinder, by Melina Marchetta, a futuristic fairy tale in which Cinderella is a cyborg, the prince is about to become the emperor of China, and the villainess is the queen of the moon. This club is for registered teens only; to be included, please email

Central Library, 5:30 p.m.


Central Library, 6:30 p.m.

BPL Teen Services presents...
A screening of the iconic documentary that envisions the book James Baldwin never completed, a radical narration about race in America, using the writer’s original words. Alongside a flood of rich archival material, the film draws upon Baldwin’s notes on the lives and assassinations of his close friends Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. to explore and bring a fresh and radical perspective to the current racial narrative in America.

The screening will be followed by a discussion moderated by Brooklyne Gipson, who has a degree in History with a focus on African American Studies from UCLA, and is currently in the doctoral program at the USC Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism, where she is focusing on the intersections of race and digital technology.

All are welcome to attend this screening and participate in the discussion afterwards. Teens in grades 8-12 will be given priority seating. 93 minutes / rated PG-13

Proof of attendance will be provided (at the end of the program) for those teens who attend for extra credit.

Central Library, 2:00 p.m.

Friday Matinee presents...
The romantic duo from My Big Fat Greek Wedding reunites for an all-new love story. Genevieve, an independent single woman who owns a Brooklyn flower shop, has a strict philosophy on dating: Every relationship should last no more than 5 dates. When she meets restaurateur-next-door and all-around nice guy Greg, she still insists that their delicious courtship only continue to its inevitable end. 89 minutes / Rated PG-13 

Northwest Branch, 4:00 p.m.

The club meets once each month during the school year to read and talk about some great books. Sign up for the book club exclusively for 4th and 5th grade students! Call 818-238-5640 to be added to the list.

Central Library, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

LAST DAY TO TURN IN PHOTOS to the annual Friends of the Burbank Public Library Amateur Photo Contest! Your photos must be turned in at the Reference Desk inside Burbank Central Library before 6:00 p.m. (closing). Rules and entry forms are available at each library, or may be downloaded here.


Celebrate the Winter Olympics this week, with a special Nursery Rhyme Olympics at Storytime! Open to all, no signups required, in the Buena Vista meeting room. This program is geared to children under age 3.
Tuesday, 10:00 a.m.
Wednesday, 10:00 a.m.
Friday, 1:00 p.m.

Northwest Branch: Wednesday @ 10:00 a.m.
Central Library: Thursday @ 10:00 a.m.

BABY STORYTIME (under 12 months):
Northwest Branch: Thursdays @ 10:00 a.m.

Registration is required. Please call 818 238-5640 to sign up. Winter Session begins January 11 and ends on March 15, 2018. Songs, stories, and rhymes for children under 12 months.

Crafty Kids presents...
Central Library:
Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.

Stop by the second floor auditorium for a drop-in craft program where you can design your own valentine. All materials are provided and no registration is required.

Thursday, 6:30 p.m., Northwest Branch

Join us for a bilingual storytime with stories, songs, and rhymes in English and Spanish. There will be a short video at the end of the program. Vengan para una hora de cuentos bilingüe con cuentos, canciones, y rimas en inglés y español. Habrá un video corto al final del programa.

Central Library, 2:00 p.m.

A program for kids in grades K-5. Free reservations are required. Please call 818-238-5610.

Celebrate everything Dr. Seuss, with crafts, trivia, and bingo. We’ll end the program by watching animated videos of some Seuss stories.

Friday, February 09, 2018

What we're reading: An anticipated sequel

Many have by now read the popular book Me Before You, by JoJo Moyes, about the lower class girl living an ordinary and rather stultifying life, who first works for, then falls for the upper class guy who happens to be a quadriplegic. Both of their lives are transformed (and also derailed) by their relationship, and hankies are passed at the end. I'm sure some have also seen the movie.

Although the first book was wildly popular, the second book, After You, got fairly short shrift by some readers, who apparently didn't think that Louisa Clark was a compelling enough character to carry the story on her own. I differed with that opinion, and though my first judgment of the book was "adequate and somewhat endearing sequel that wasn't quite up to the first book," upon rereading it recently I revised my opinion upward. The thing I particularly enjoy about Moyes's books is her character development; she doesn't just flesh out her protagonist and other main folks, she makes sure to create a complete and usually quirky personality for everyone who appears for even a moment. The result is lively and specific interaction on every page.

I will say that the first third of the book bored me a little, and I was just about to opt out when a couple of new and unexpected characters showed up and put some pizzazz into the story. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit more than I initially expected.

The third book, Still Me, took Louisa out of her British background and environment and put her up against a new life in New York City, which finally gave her the chance to expand beyond Will Traynor, beyond the essentially small-town girl she remained in the second book, despite her travels and new relationships. It still, however, highlighted the gaping trench between the classes, with the difference that in New York City, it's all about the money. The glimpses of city life and how much it differs for the rich vs. the poor were intriguing, the ups and downs of romance were good, but where this author shines, again, is in the creation of her characters. Although they were all compelling, I particularly enjoyed the old lady Margot, and her pug dog.

If you liked the first but hated the second, you might enjoy the third. If you liked both books #1 and #2, then you definitely should get you some more Louisa Clark. And if you never got around to reading any of them, maybe you will want to give them a try!