Sunday, August 31, 2014

This week at the library...

All branches of the Burbank Public Library will be CLOSED for LABOR DAY. See you on Tuesday!'s a busy week...but it's all on one night!


Ritz Banquet Hall at St. Leon's Cathedral
3325 N. Glenoaks Blvd.
6:00 p.m.
Silent Auction * Opportunity Drawings * Light Buffet * No Host Bar * Door Prizes
Tickets $25 per person, or $30 at the door
Call 818 238-5577
In support of Burbank Public Library Literacy Services!

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.
OPERA TALK, featuring Larry Verdugo
"La Traviata: The Lady of the Camellias from Life to Novel to Opera" is the topic of this month's multi-media presentation from LA Opera's Community Engagement Program. Door Prize compliments of the LA Opera.

Buena Vista Library, 7:00 p.m.
THE HISTORY AND LORE OF BURBANK... illustrated talk hosted by Mike McDaniel & Wes Clark,creators of Burbankia at From Nazi spies to Turkey Crossing, come enjoy an evening of fun facts about the people and places in Burbank! Receive a FREE collectible vintage Burbank Centennial Poster...while supplies last!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Trivia Challenge!

Have you bought your ticket(s) yet for the Trivia Challenge, hosted by Burbank Public Library as a fundraiser for our Literacy Department? No? That's a puzzler--why wouldn't you?

Perhaps you have never attended the Trivia Challenge before. Perhaps you don't know what to expect. Let us tell you all about it!

First of all, before the Trivia Challenge begins, you have the opportunity to enter to win some amazing items and experiences. There are Opportunity Drawings:

You buy a ticket for $1.00 or $5.00 each (depending on the size of the prize). There will be a bowl in front of each prize. You write your name and phone number on your ticket, and drop it in the bowl in front of the item you want to win. After intermission, a random ticket will be drawn for each item, and you need not be present to win! Among the $1.00 prizes are:
  • passes to Flappers Comedy Club
  • lunch at Tommy's
  • VIP passes to the Autrey Museum
  • a one-month membership pass to Curves
Among the $5.00 prizes are:
  • 42-inch LG LED TV
  • Kindle Fire
  • two iPad minis.
(You can buy five tickets for $20 for these items.)

There is the Silent Auction: The items are sitting out on tables, with a piece of paper and pencil in front of them. You write down your name and phone number, and an amount you would like to bid. Whoever has the highest bid written down on the paper after intermission will win that item. (So if you wrote down $1.50 and somebody else wrote down $5.00, that person will win. But you can keep going back to check and bid again!) Among the Silent Auction items are:
  • VIP Party (up to 20 people) at Jillian’s Universal CityWalk (including 2 bowling lanes for 2 hours)
  • Lunch and a Fire Station tour with the Burbank Fire Chief
  • Burbank Tennis Center 1-Year Membership
  • 1-Year Family Membership  (up to 4 people) at the Los Angeles Zoo
  • Personalized Burbank Street Sign
(These items have all been donated to the library for the Trivia event by local businesses or by the Friends of the Burbank Public Library! Aren't they wonderful?)

Then there is the Trivia Challenge itself! Imagine how exciting it will be to see teams from the following organizations battle it out for most knowledge of all subjects!

Zonta Club of Burbank / Momentous Insurance Brokerage / Assemblymember Mike Gatto / Burbank Noon Kiwanis / Three R’s / Burbank Chamber of Commerce / Cartoon Network / Woodbury University / Disney VoluntEARS / Dewey and the Decimals / BCEA / House of Secrets...and maybe more! [your organization here?]

All this, plus a light buffet and a no-host bar! What more could you ask for? How about supporting Literacy Services in Burbank? Teaching people how to read is a good reason in and of itself--combine it with a fun evening out and you're a winner!

Tickets are $25 each, or $30 at the door. For ticket information, please call 818 238-5577. If you want to sponsor a team, call that number as well!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What we're reading: Fictional autobiography

I picked up Chris Bohjalian's new book, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, read a few pages, put it down, and came back to it a few days later, because of a misunderstanding. At one point in the first chapter, the author refers to a part of Vermont as the "Northeast Kingdom," and since I had never heard anyone refer to it in this way, I mistakenly assumed that this was a dystopian novel set in the future when America had been broken up into kingdoms. Not so. Apparently this is a common nickname for a certain part of Vermont. I was reluctant to read yet another in the long line of dystopian tales (and as a teen librarian, I have read more than my fair share!), so I put it off; but the prose was powerful enough to tempt me to come back to it after I finished the other two books I was planning to read, and then I figured it out.

But in a weird way, this IS a dystopian novel, in the sense that it takes place in the wake of a disaster, and new lives have to be constructed. It is an immensely personal dystopian story, because it is about one 17-year-old girl who is the daughter of a Vermont nuclear power plant engineer. He gets the blame for a reactor meltdown that turns 30 square miles of the state into a radioactive wasteland (there are rumors that he was drunk at the time of the accident), and she experiences, pardon the pun, the fallout. Her mother also worked at the plant and was present when the explosion took place, so in one moment Emily becomes an orphan and is simultaneously homeless (forcibly evacuated from the contaminated zone), and notorious for being the daughter of the most hated people in Vermont. The book does not take place in the future: It is realistic, it is present-day, and it is chilling on many levels.

Emily's story, told in first person in a disjointed, random style that is completely expressive of the way a teen's mind might work in these circumstances, shows so clearly how one person can take initial impressions--perhaps erroneous ones--and build her whole life on them. It shows how teenagers can create a story from their self-involvement that may be largely untrue but that makes perfect sense in the light of their incomplete information. It highlights the tragedy of how young lives can just fall through the cracks of our society, and no one notices or cares, or if they do, it's not enough. It highlights the courage and also the chilling pragmatism that street kids have to adopt in order to survive.

It also shows (for me) that allowing any part of our energy strategy to rely on nuclear power is sheer insanity.

Finally, the book showcases the brilliance of Chris Bohjalian's prose, characterization, and storytelling skills. This is somehow the first book of his that I have read (which is surprising, considering he's written 18 others!), but it definitely won't be the last. And I hope that someone thinks to nominate Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands for the Alex Award this year--it's the perfect candidate. You can find it on the New Book Shelves at all three libraries.

Monday, August 25, 2014

This week at the library...

August 27

Buena Vista branch
7:00 p.m.

Coffee and Conversation, with…

Mr. Maitland-Lewis will discuss and sign his latest book, Botticelli's Bastard.

Art restorer Giovanni Fabrizzi is obsessed with an unsigned Renaissance portrait. He becomes convinced the painting could be the work of one of history's greatest artists, stolen during the greatest art heist in history--the Nazi plunder of European artwork during World War II. Using magical realism and historical fiction, the author weaves together centuries of conflict and conquest, familial bonds stretched and broken, the heartbreak associated with deeply felt losses through death and destruction, and the possibilities of redemption and reconciliation.

Books will be available for purchase, and the author will autograph.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What We're Reading: New History Scorpion’s Sting: Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War, by James Oakes

James Oakes's last book, Freedom National (which won the Lincoln Prize and was reviewed for this blog last year), was an important book that traced the legal demise of slavery in the United States. It gave the reader background about the legal precedents and natural law arguments that were the foundation of anti-slavery legal thought prior to the Civil War. In that book, Oakes's major focus was on the period of rapid change that occurred during the Civil War years, particularly as it pertained to emancipation and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. This is a much shorter book that in some ways feels like a prequel to Freedom National. The reader may get the sense that it is a miscellany of topics the author felt did not quite fit organically into that major work. But although the essay topics are various in The Scorpion’s Sting, Oakes has integrated them successfully into a cohesive narrative.

In this book, Oakes examines in greater detail the history of arguments that had been advanced over military emancipation, in particular the philosophical and treaty conflicts between the British and Americans that came about as a result of slaves seeking their freedom by fleeing to areas that were under military control by the British, in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812. There is an interesting analysis of John Quincy Adams's seemingly conflicting views on the subject over the years. The Seminole War in Florida also brought the issue of military emancipation into the national debate. Oakes argues that the revolutionary thing about Union emancipation was that, unlike the uses of emancipation in previous conflicts, it employed military emancipation not just as a weapon of war but as a means of ending slavery.

Oakes also reminds us, importantly, about the racial nature of American slavery and the implications this had on the political and legal debates surrounding both the enslaved and the status of hundreds of thousands of free blacks in America. Could a black man be a citizen in America? Because of the racial nature of American slavery, a defense of slavery had to offer more than just a justification that a man could be held in bondage as property. As Oakes writes, “To justify slavery then, it was not enough to defend the sanctity of property rights, you also had to explain why only black people should be treated as property.” Oakes makes the interesting suggestion that hardened Southern racial attitudes may have deprived the South of a military resource that might have saved the Confederacy. Historically, many societies that had a slave population offered manumission as a reward to slaves who would take up arms in the cause of their masters. The Confederacy could never bring itself to raise a force of black soliders by this means.  It decried the Union arming emancipated black men as soldiers.  Those soldiers played a crucial role in the Union victory.

The international community had a poor understanding of the
Constitutional constraints faced by anti-slavery activists, and
as a consequence thought that those against slavery in America
were not deeply committed to its abolition. Harriett Beecher Stowe
explained the Constitutional situation and the political strategy of
the anti-slavery movement in America to her British “sisters”
in an article she wrote for the January,1863 issue of the Atlantic Monthly.

The major achievement of this short book, however, is Oakes's succinct and lucid account of the political strategy of the anti-slavery movement in America, providing proof that both sides of the divide clearly understood this strategy. It is embodied by the metaphor of the scorpion’s sting, the idea that a scorpion, girt by fire, will eventually sting itself and die. The wall of fire, or the encirclement of the slave South by a cordon of freedom, was the political strategy of the anti-slavery movement. It was based on an understanding that slavery in the South needed to expand in order to survive, and also needed the support of the Federal government. Keeping slavery out of the territories and demanding that the Federal government not provide support to what anti-slavery forces saw as a state-created institution would, it was believed, economically destroy and politically isolate slave power, ultimately resulting in the demise of slavery in America. Both anti-slavery and pro-slavery forces understood this. This was the “peaceful” alternative to war that the anti-slavery forces offered to what had become irreconcilable differences over slavery and its future in the United States. It was rejected in the summer and fall of 1860 by the slave states.

Oakes's exposition is deft, the historical evidence for his argument is well researched and brilliantly marshaled, and his thesis here is utterly convincing. This book is an essential primer for understanding the causes of the Civil War and the political events that followed in the wake of the declaration of hostilities. It is likely to become a college course classic.

Friday, August 22, 2014

What we're reading: Bolton continued

I blogged about two weeks ago on the subject of gothic mystery writer S. J. (Sharon) Bolton's stand-alone books, and was about to embark on her series featuring one detective. I have read all four books in the series now, and am happy to say that the excellence continues. I am sad to say that I have no more to look forward to until she publishes another...and since the last one is brand new, that will be awhile.

Jack the Ripper fans rejoice: In Now You See Me, Bolton has provided another copycat Ripper killer in London for you to puzzle over. This first in the Detective Lacey Flint series is a lot more than that, though, which is good, because I'm not so much a Ripper aficionado, so I only started this one because I am a Bolton fan. I'm glad I read it--not only is it the set-up for the series, but Bolton also brings back Dana Tulloch from her very first book, Sacrifice, and I had really liked that character. I love unexpected twists in my mysteries, and Bolton keeps them coming until the very last page. You could almost call her the master of the red herring. (In case you, like me, have wondered where that idiom came from: Modern linguistic research suggests that the term "red herring" was probably invented in 1807 by English polemicist William Cobbett, referring to one occasion on which he had supposedly used a kipper--a strong-smelling smoked fish--to divert hounds from chasing a hare. It thus came to mean using something to mislead or distract from the relevant or important issue.)

In Dead Scared, DC Lacey Flint is recruited by DI Mark Joesbury (from the undercover division) to enroll as a student at Oxford in order to ferret out why there has been a rash of unlikely suicides and whether that's all they are. Wow, this was an insane plot. I had a better idea whodunnit in this one, but it didn't matter--the whole thing was so wild that it kept me fascinated to the last page. All my favorite characters came back, including the two from stand-alone book #3, whose unsatisfactory lack of resolution to their relationship made me think they might turn up again.

In the United States, the next book in the series was published as Lost, but in the U.K. it's called Like This, For Ever. This one is a bit more disturbing, because it involves murdered kids--someone is luring them away, draining them of blood, and leaving them for the police to find. Some of it is from an 11-year-old boy's point of view, some of it from Lacey Flint's, who is out of work trying to recover from the traumatic events of the last case, and some from the team of detectives from previous books, and it's equally as well written and intriguing as all the rest. As before, red herrings abound, and as before, the ending surprises.

A Dark and Twisted Tide once again involves Lacey Flint in spite of herself. After her leave of absence, she has gone back to uniform instead of working as a detective, hoping to make a gradual return to the force. But quiet time is not to be... Only Lacey could be out swimming at high tide in the Thames River (a hobby she has taken up since moving onto a houseboat), only to discover a body floating in the river wrapped carefully in white burial cloths. Soon it becomes obvious that she didn't find it by accident, that once again someone is targeting her, trying to draw her into danger. So, being Lacey, she goes.

This one, I have to say, was a little weird in spots even for me--but I enjoyed it. Two problems I have with it: First, I think it's time for Bolton to take up a new story line with regard to Lacey--not every case can relate specifically to her. Second, the long-drawn-out non-courtship of Lacey and Detective Mark Joesbury can't be prolonged beyond a point, and I think we just hit that barrier as readers.

Even so...can't wait to read the next one. Please tell me there's a next one coming!

Monday, August 18, 2014

This week at the library...

It's the lull before the school year… librarians are on vacation following the end of Summer Reading Club, and it's a quiet week at the library. But we do have one fun program up our sleeves this week...

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.


Join Randy Carter for an irreverent survey of movies based on works of popular literature.

Tragic romance, adventure, World Wars, potboilers. westerns and literary classics are all fair game in an evening that is part "six degrees of separation" and part "trivia quiz." Find out what summer reads were optioned before their first hardcover edition hit the bookstores, and what surefire titles were somehow never produced.

Randy Carter has worked in the film and television industry for more than 25 years. A member of the Directors Guild of America (DGA), he has worked in all categories, including unit production manager, assistant director, and director. His credits include The Conversation, The Godfather Part II, Apocalypse Now, The Blues Brothers, Cheers, Seinfeld, and Becker. During the past year, he produced the indie feature LA Blues. He is currently Vice-President of the Alex Film Society, presenting classic films at the historic Alex Theatre in Glendale.