Blog Archive

April 2012 Blogs

Friday, April 27, 2012

Gustavo Arellano's new book, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, celebrates food from places we might not expect - like Taco Bell - as Mexican food. While he started out as an “auténtico,” Arellano has come to the conclusion that there is no authentic Mexican cuisine. Arellano describes in delicious detail the cuisine that has migrated north across the Rio Grande. He believes that Mexican American food has become a movable fiesta of hybrid tastes and bold regional experiments that have rendered terms like "authenticity" meaningless. Mexican food is a big, inclusive kitchen, he says; all are welcome who add something to the melting pot. Arellano lays out the pre-Columbian origins of Mexican cooking, then traces the food's stateside arrival via exiled Mexican revolutionaries and itinerant "tamale men" street vendors. In the book, which is on the  APL Recommends 2012 Nonfiction list, he says that the taste for salsa doesn't really explode until the 1970s, and then in the 1980s it just goes crazy. Wrapped inside "Taco USA" is a bigger story about Mexican immigrants' struggles to assimilate. A longtime food writer, Arellano made his national reputation with ¡Ask a Mexican!, in which he supplies carefully researched, mildly ironic responses to both Mexican and non-Mexican readers' frequently clueless queries.

Mexican Food Milestones:




Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Need to learn Excel or Word before that next  job interview?  Or how to use the iPad you received as a gift?  Maybe you’re ready to create a website or start blogging, but need some tips to get started.  APL’s newest online resource Atomic Training can help with these and other computer learning needs.

Atomic Training provides on-demand software training and support tutorials.  The videos may be watched in sequence like a course, or watched individually to learn a specific part of a program.  Tutorials are available on software applications including Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and more.

Atomic Training is available to APL Cardholders via the Internet  anywhere, anytime.  It is available to everyone at any APL location. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

We have Bewick’s Wrens in our bird house this spring! Mom and dad are ferrying bugs to peeping chicks that will fledge in about a week. This is the second nest of native birds who have rented a house from us since we ditched the bird house that the sparrows (old-world invaders!) liked and replaced it with a house with a smaller entryway that sparrows can’t fit through. They tried, though. Before the slender wrens staked their claim, the fat sparrows wanted in. They’d stick their heads through the hole and wriggle and shove and flail their legs to get their bodies through. It was hilarious. They looked like Winnie the Pooh stuck in Rabbit’s front door.

Last summer we kissed our St. Augustine farewell because it wasn’t faring well. It was not possible to simultaneously water it sufficiently and obey the city’s water restrictions. This year our backyard is returning to a natural state, and we have more bugs and butterflies, more chattering squirrels, and more kinds of birds (and fewer non-native starlings and sparrows) than we had when our sprinkler-fed monoculture throve.  We’ve also taken the cap off our brick chimney so that swifts will nest in it in summer—and they do!

Check out our trial database, Birds of North America.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Italian, Korean, Russian, and English for  Mandarin speakers have been added to the Powerspeak online language learning resource.  

Monday, April 23, 2012
by: reference

One  type of music that I love listening to by serendipity is reggae.  I love the feeling I get when I walk into a store or restaurant playing some of Bob Marley's music, or listen to a car passing by with my favorite reggae song blasting out the window.  It’s that  “Oh yeah” moment when your soul  changes its mood in a snap, and the music takes you to a different place and time, away from the noise of the city or the noise inside your head.  

The beat of reggae music seems to say: relax, take it easy! The lyrics, however, are talking about oppression and poverty, a powerful mix for both soul and intellect. It can make you happy, sad, and give you hope all at the same time.

As we all know, the major exponent of reggae music was “Bob Marley and the Wailers” (I am sure there is a copy of “Legend” somewhere in your home or music player), but if you want to discover other wonderful reggae bands and singers, stop by the Faulk Central Library where we just revamped our reggae music collection. Some of the new CDs are:

Remember, we always welcome your suggestions, so click here if you have one.

Friday, April 20, 2012
by: reference

It is generally a very satisfying feeling to finish a book and then answer the question, “what did you think?” But after reading Craig Thompson’s newest graphic novel Habibi, I felt unable to really form a solid opinion about whether or not I liked it. This is almost certainly due, in part, to the hype the book received leading up to its release. Thompson is best known for his graphic novel Blankets which received buckets of praise when it was released and continues to be a core item in the genre. So sure, there’s the hype. But there were other things holding me back.

On the plus side, it is beautiful. Incredibly ornate illustrations literally fill every page of the book. Thompson clearly dislikes any white space in his work and has painstakingly filled his pages with beautiful, flowing images. There are entire pages comprised of repeating, hand-drawn designs that make me marvel at his skill (he’s often described as virtuosic). This impressive feat and my complete inability to fathom dedicating six years of my life to one project make me want to fall in love with everything about the book. But it doesn’t quite get me to love. Instead, I felt uncomfortable by the sexual violence and arguably gratuitous female nudity. And I felt overwhelmed by the number of agendas Thompson seemed to be pushing. Among other themes, Habibi addresses the similarities between Islam and Christianity, the lasting effect of sexual trauma, the shame of a sexual awakening, the ways in which First World nations exploit the resources of developing states, the importance of clean drinking water for health and prosperity, and very complex themes of love and motherhood. Trust me, very complex.

I was even lucky enough to discuss this book on Wednesday night with the Graphic Novel Book Club and I am still trying to answer the simple question: did I like it? In this case I think I’ll have to settle for not knowing. For appreciating the book for what it is and wishing it could have been more. If nothing else, it’s good to encounter a labor of love.

Take a look at Thompson’s books for yourself and see what you think.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012
by: reference

The 2012 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced yesterday. This year’s fiction winner?

No one.

That’s right, the selection committee chose not to award a fiction prize, which has raised unanswered questions. Is the committee’s decision an indictment of contemporary American fiction? Was the committee unable to agree on a title? And, why offer an annual prize then decide not to award it? Laura Miller served on the selection committee two years ago and provides insight into the process in her recent piece in Salon. Unless, a committee member breaks rank, we will not know the behind-the-scenes machinations.

The committee did present three finalists, although the prestige of finalist is certainly undercut by all being deemed insufficient for the win. I assure you all three novels are good and all three would have been worthy winners.

The 2012 Pulitzer finalists for fiction:

The Austin Public Library owns numerous copies of all three and judging by their demand, they are popular books in Austin, Texas.

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words." ~Edgar Allan Poe

Sometimes it's nice slow down and really enjoy a good poem. All the senses can be involved, and it can be breathtaking to get lost in the rhythm of the words and images. As you read, find meaning in form, question the implication of punctuation, and listen to the resonance evoked by sound. Most importantly, select a subject to suit your interests! We've listed some poetry books below that you might enjoy. And while you are online, check out the Library of Congress Poetry 180 site. A 180 poems were selected with high school students in mind.

If you have a poem you've written, or a favorite poem you'd like to read aloud, or you just want to listen to some poetry, check out Poetry in Many Voices at Recycled Reads on Friday, April 29 at 3:30 p.m.


Friday, April 13, 2012

A movie adaption of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas should be released in October. I am giving you plenty of notice so you will have time to read it. Out of all of Mitchell's five novels, Cloud Atlas is the most popular at APL. The movie which is being directed by The Wachowskis (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), is stuffed with a huge A-List cast including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Keith David, Hugh Grant and Susan Sarandon. "Cloud Atlas” is the name of a piece of music by the Japanese composer Toshi Ichiyanagi, who was Yoko Ono’s first husband. Mitchell bought the CD just because of that track’s beautiful title. The film and book follow six storylines ranging from the South Pacific in the 19th Century to California in the 1970s to a post-apocalyptic future. Cloud Atlas is a powerful and elegant novel because of Mitchell's understanding of the way we respond to the fundamental and primitive stories we tell about good and evil, love and destruction, beginnings and endings. Mitchelll said in an interview that one of his serial-repeating themes is "predacity" and in Cloud Atlas the big idea Mitchell is tackling is how the will to power compels the strong to subjugate the weak. Mitchell has earned high praise for all of his novels: Ghostwritten (1999) , Number9Dream (2001), Cloud Atlas (2004) , Black Swan Green (2006) and most recently, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (2010).  Ghostwritten tells nine independent stories that are in fact loosely interlinked, and is a masterpiece in storytelling. Number9Dream, which is about a boy searching for his father in Japan, has a title also based on a song, this time by Ono's 2nd husband, John Lennon. All five novels are ambitious, complex, imaginatively powerful, and beautifully written.  My favorite is Black Swan Green, which has the predacity theme, but less fantasy.The semi-autobiographical novel's thirteen chapters each represent one month—from January 1982 through January 1983—in the life of  a 13-year-old English boy who stammers as does Mitchell. His most recent novel, The Thousand Autums of Jacob de Zoet,  is an absorbing historical novel about a Dutch accountant in feudal Japan.  Mitchell knows Japan because at twenty-four he  fell in love with a Japanese woman and moved to Hiroshima. Six years later he published Ghostwritten. Perhaps you should read that one first, before Cloud Atlas.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Here are more favorite films from Terrazas Branch staff member, Aaron Parker.

Horror is a critically maligned genre in popular American cinema today and with good reason. I have to say I don't really enjoy horror movies. This particular emotion is one of the hardest to instill utilizing film as an intermediary. Horror can be good campy fun, but when was the last time a truly effective and innovative scary movie was made in the States (A fourth Scream anyone?). I can't think of one either (maybe The Shining). On the other hand, Japan has been on the leading edge of scary since pretty much forever. The ubiquitous creepy, black-haired (read: Japanese) child in all of those USA remakes and adaptations and now the popular trend from Japan is a bit of the ultra-violence, check that: a lot of the ultra-violence (e.g. Tokyo Gore Police), are examples of Japan leading the way. But of course all leaders inspire imitators, especially where there is money to be made. There are some artistic and integral contemporary films in this genre, much more than in the American melee, but the majority are still just more genre camp. Takashi Miike boldly stands out as one current auteur. The two movies from the shelves of the Terrazas Branch under review are both exemplars of Japan's rich history of kaidan (folk ghost story).


Onibaba is a yokai (supernatural monster) from Japanese folklore that has the appearance of a demonic gnarled old woman. The fillm Onibaba (1964) is a grim human ghost tale that takes place during a civil war. A mother and her daughter-in-law eke out a teneuous existence in a grass swamp by luring exhausted samurai to their death and then selling their armaments and armor. A local young man returns from the war and informs the mother that her son has died in battle. Surrendering to her mounting loneliness, the daughter-in-law begins a feverish affair with the young veteran. Mother fears that he will abscond with her indispensable partner in crime and already desperate times require even more desperate measures. With a dead samurai's fiendish demon mask, she starts to prey upon her daughter-in-law's fear of the supernatural in an effort to retain her. The only way for the film to end is wretchedly. Wtih a strong emotional core full of avarice, lust and wrath, Onibaba relies on the terror of the human heart rather than serial killer jump cuts. Stunningly shot in black and white with an intense feeling of claustrophobia, the movie is alternately lustful and icily cold. The cinematography makes great use of obscure angles and unsettling cuts to impart a sinister edge. At times eerily sublime and almost post-modernly abstract compositions make this movie an uncanny, yet resplendently macabre experience.

Empire Of Passion

Like Onibaba, Empire Of Passion (1978) draws on the human condition to frighten rather than chainsaw wielding geisha fembots (RoboGeisha, 2009). The story, based on an 1895 incident in rural Japan, centers on the illicit affair of a young man and an older married woman. The carnal and emotional obsession between the two drives them to murder her husband and dump his body in a well. Her husband's ghost begins to haunt the couple and even make appearances in the other villagers' dreams. The plot is none too innovative, but the driving force in this story is the doomed affair between the lovers and their inability to cope with their murderous transgression. The ghost of the husband does little to actively scare; just his mere presence is enough to send tremors of guilt and fear. It is more Tell-Tale Heart than Fall of the House of Usher. Like Onibaba, the only way to conclude this star-crossed entanglement is tragically. The skyward shot from inside the well has been paid homage in a number of movies like The Ring and Ju-on. The Japanese have always known how to tell a good ghost story and that is very evident in these two films. So be sure to stop by the Terrazas Branch for a good case of the "J-Creeps."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

We had a fantastic time last night at Adult Craft Night! Thanks to the many of you who joined us. For those of you who couldn't make it, we are happy to share the steps that we followed to sew our potholders/hot pads. Please find them below:

You will need: 2 pieces of fabric and 2 pieces of Insul-Bright insulation. The example we made is 8.5 x8.5 inches. Any size will do, last night many people opted to make circular potholders.

Place the right side of the fabric so they face together. Insul-Bright has a matte side and a shiny metallic side. Place the two matte sides together (you want the metallic side on the outside because it should always face the hot item allowing it to reflect the energy/heat back to its source).

Sew around the edge of your hot pad, leaving a 2 inch opening in one corner. Sew around three sides of your hot pad, and along 2/3 of the fourth side. Leave a 2 inch opening in one corner. This is so you can turn it right side out.

For this example we sewed diagonal lines along your hot pad. However, you can do any sort of design you would like.

Here is a more geometric design.

Before you complete your diagonal lines, insert a loop of bias tape/ribbon into the 2 inch opening. Pin it in place and then finish sewing your diagonal lines. You will then sew around the perimeter of the hot pad.

Voila!  Hot Pad complete!

Our next Adult Craft Night will be held Monday May 14th from 6:30-8:30 at the Ruiz Library, 1600 Grove Blvd. We will be making Kitchen Herb Gardens!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012
by: reference

Bob Dylan said that he would never again write like he did when he was young; that wherever it is those great songs come from is inaccessible to him now. After reading a couple of tepid reviews of Springsteen’s new album, Wrecking Ball (without hearing it), I figured Bruce’s best work is behind him, too. His great anthems, "Born to Run", "Born in the USA", "She’s the One", were a product of youth, driven by hormones and proximity to struggle; and then I saw Bruce on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and had to reassess.

He’s still on top of it. He’s still writing memorable tunes and poetry that sharply describe the experience of the working class. How a 62-year-old millionaire can know what that is, I can’t say, but "Jack of All Trades" is proof that he does know it. Bruce still has access to wherever it is that kind of art comes from. 

We’ve recently reorganized our collection of recordings, so let us know if you need help navigating the music and movies on the first floor downtown.

Born to Run
The Essential Bruce Springsteen
We Shall Overcome: the Seeger Sessions
Thank You Notes by Jimmy Fallon

Monday, April 9, 2012

“Everyone had turned off their televisions to watch the meteor
shower flood midnight. Who named them Delta Aquarids? And
what names were sealed on the lips of grandparents who'd slipped
out of their disassembling bones, back onto resurrected horses,
roaming the cities where there were no longer cities but cleansing
wind threading the leaves?”  (“Petroglyph” from The Woman Who Fell from the Sky)

This excerpt is from “Petroglyph” by Joy Harjo, “a Native American [Muscogee or Creek tribe] poet and musician who has won international recognition with her highly spiritual poetry that nonetheless challenges stereotypes about Native American mysticism and eschews easy political correctness.”  More about her life and samples of her work can be found in Twentieth-Century American Poetry, a rich and diverse online resource from Chadwyck-Healey Literature Collections featuring over 50,000 poems and 300 poets, such as Adrienne Rich, Charles Bukowski, Langston Hughes, Patti Smith, E.E. Cummings, and Irving Feldman.  As April is National Poetry Month, we invite you to enjoy this electronic book available free to APL cardholders.

Friday, April 6, 2012
by: reference

One aspect of my job as a reference librarian is to complete “Reader’s Advisories” for library patrons. Basically, you can come to us, give us some idea of what you’ve enjoyed in the past and voila! We’ll come up with some titles for you. ‘Voila!’ might make it sound a bit too magical but you understand. I try to become familiar with a range of genres and authors but I have found that I avoid reading “IT” books. Sure, I read Harry Potter. But I’ve skipped the Twilight Series and the Hunger Games for now because most people have already heard of these books so there’s no need for a recommendation.

The same applied to George R.R. Martin’s series, A Song of Fire and Ice. I skipped all of the epic novels and settled for the show. The story and characters and spell-binding but it’s understandable that many readers would feel daunted by the page count. Luckily, readers have another option. Now, we can explore the amazing story of A Game of Thrones while also exploring a genre that might be new to many readers. Let me present to you A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel. The graphic novel version is written by Daniel Abraham – author of many original works of his own – and illustrated by Tommy Patterson. Let me just say, the book is beautiful. The illustrations are detailed and inviting and the story remains true to the novels (this I know from reviews of course). Take some time and check out Volume 1 and then join the novel readers in anxiously awaiting the next installment!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

This spring there is a new slacker film and a new slacker novel. The library has got the book, Flatscreen, but you will have to wait for the film, Jeff Who Lives at Home, to be released on dvd. The library has other slacker films and novels, and most of them are considered to be humorous works. What's so funny about slackers? Sometimes it takes people longer to figure things out.  Sometimes they encounter a world that doesn't really fit, or they have a hard time grasping the world as it is. Not because they're lazy, just because it doesn't make sense with their value system. Or they want something more than what's available for them.  Of course, if it's someone you care about, you worry what their future will be like, and hate to see them waste their talents.  When it's a character in a book or film, you can just enjoy the story.

Adam Wilson's Flatscreen, an unconventional coming-of-age story, is about a college dropout named Eli.  None of Eli's relationships with non-family members go beyond superficial. Even his family members are kept at arm's length. Eli longs for what all twenty-somethings long for—a sense of belonging, to be loved, but at the moment, films and TV life provide a bigger context for what is going on in his life.

More slacker novels:

Fallback Plan by Leigh Stein
Autobiographical novel about moving back home after graduation, told in the voice of Esther – who, like her author, is a former acting student.  Esther languishes in her parents' home, rereading books from her childhood, hoping to contract a chronic illness that will exempt her from life.

Grab onto Me Tightly As If I Knew the Way by Bryan Charles
Set in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1992, Charles wonderfully captures the moment when slacking became part of our culture.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Hornby's narrator is an early-thirtysomething English guy who runs a London record store. He sells albums recorded the old-fashioned way--on vinyl--and is having a tough time making other transitions as well, specifically adulthood.

Home Land by Sam Lipsyte
Lewis Miner works as a dishwasher in his father's catering business and makes his life's mission to write extremely candid letters to the alumni newsletter.

Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary Shteyngart
Vladimir Girshkin, a likeable Russian immigrant, searches for love, a decent job, and a credible self-identity, avoiding his suburban parents and their desire that he pursue the almighty dollar as proof of success.

Slacker films



Monday, April 2, 2012
by: reference

You won't find a copy of Bless Me Ultima in any school library within the Tucson, Arizona School District. The same holds true for titles such as The House on Mango Street, Like Water for Chocolate, or Drown. Administrative officials have deemed the contents of these works of fiction as being dangerous to the sovereignty of the United States because they may potentially incite racial solidarity among Mexican Americans irrespective of the fact that Junot Diaz, the author of Drown, is from the Dominican Republic. Such is the logic behind the decision to ban the aforementioned titles, as well as nearly one hundred other works of fiction and nonfiction that served as the basis of the curriculum for the Mexican American Studies program that had been offered at area high schools. In an attempt to subvert this legally sanctioned and thinly veiled racism, a group of volunteers calling themselves Librotraficantes (book smugglers) has organized a program to establish underground libraries and distribute the titles that were physically removed from public high school library shelves. The Austin Public Library chose Bless Me Ultima as our very first Mayor's Book Club choice.

Monday, April 2, 2012

April 15 is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Several youth books honor that milestone. There is everything from a beginning reader to a novel in verse which recreates  the action from the viewpoints of  John Jacob Astor, the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, Edward A. Smith the captain as well as the rats and the iceberg.

Remembering the Titanic --Pictures and text describe the disastrous sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and the discovery of its remains in 1985.








Story of the Titanic--Young readers will learn and discover how the ship was built and equipped, what kind of passengers and crew she carried, and what facilities she offered onboard. Learn how she struck an iceberg, why she sank so quickly, how many people were saved, and how many lives were lost.







Iceberg Right Ahead!--Recalls the excitement at the launching of the Titanic, the shock of its' rapid sinking with the loss of many lives, and the legal aftermath of the tragedy.








The Watch that Ends the Night--Recreates the 1912 sinking of the Titanic as observed by millionaire John Jacob Astor, a beautiful young Lebanese refugee finding first love, "Unsinkable" Molly Brown, Captain Smith, and others including the iceberg itself.








All Stations Distress--Provides the captivating story of this amazing vessel, the people who built it, and its tragic demise during its maiden voyage across the Atlantic as told through first-hand accounts and detailed illustrations of the events as they happened.

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