Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Election Year Reads

Here are a few timely new reads for this election year:

Selecting a President by Eleanor Clift & Matthew Spieler

"Selecting a President explains the nuts and bolts of our presidential electoral system while drawing on rich historical anecdotes from past campaigns. Among the world's many democracies, U.S. presidential elections are unique, where presidential contenders embark on a grueling, spectacular two-year journey that begins in Iowa and New Hampshire, and ends at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Modern presidential campaigns are a marked departure from the process envisioned by America's founders. Yet while they've evolved, many of the basic structures of our original electoral system remain in place--even as presidential elections have moved into the modern era with tools like Twitter and Facebook at their disposal--they must still compete in an election governed by rules and mechanisms conceived in the late eighteenth century. In this book, Clift and Spieler demonstrate that presidential campaigns are exciting, hugely important, disillusioning at times but also inspiring."-- Provided by publisher.

Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians by Robert W. Merry

"Merry examines how and why presidents succeed and fail by recounting the judgments of historians and comparing them to how the voters saw things." -- Provided by publisher.

Almost President: The Men who Lost the Race But Changed the Nation by Scott Farris

"Profiles 12 men who have run for the presidency and lost, but who, even in defeat, have had a greater impact on American history than many of those who have served as president." -- Provided by publisher.

The Candidate: What it Takes to Win, and Hold, the White House by Samuel L. Popkin

"Based on detailed analyses of the winners--and losers--of the last 60 years of presidential campaigns, Popkin explains how challengers get to the White House, how incumbents stay there for a second term, and how successors hold power for their party. He looks in particular at three campaigns--George H.W. Bush's muddled campaign for reelection in 1992, Al Gore's flawed campaign for the presidency in 2000, and Hillary Clinton's mismanaged effort to win the nomination in 2008--and uncovers the lessons that Ronald Reagan can teach future candidates about teamwork. Throughout, Popkin illuminates the intricacies of presidential campaigns--the small details and the big picture, the surprising mistakes and the predictable miscues--in a riveting account of what goes on inside a campaign and what makes one succeed while another fails." - Amazon.com

The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy

"Examines presidential power within the context of U.S. history and the ongoing relationships presidents and ex- presidents formed with one another." - Provided by publisher

These last ones are a bit older, but might still be on target today:

1920: The Year of the Six Presidents by David Pietrusza

"The presidential election of 1920 was among history’s most dramatic. Six once-and-future presidents-Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, and Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt-jockeyed for the White House. With voters choosing between Wilson’s League of Nations and Harding’s front-porch isolationism, the 1920 election shaped modern America. Women won the vote. Republicans outspent Democrats by 4 to 1, as voters witnessed the first extensive newsreel coverage, modern campaign advertising, and results broadcast on radio. America had become an urban nation: Automobiles, mass production, chain stores, and easy credit transformed the economy. 1920 paints a vivid portrait of America, beset by the Red Scare, jailed dissidents, Prohibition, smoke-filled rooms, bomb-throwing terrorists, and the Klan, gingerly crossing modernity’s threshold." - Amazon.com

Deciding the Next Decider: The 2008 Presidential Race in Rhyme by Calvin Trillin

"Deciding the Next Decider is an ongoing campaign narrative in verse interrupted regularly by other poems, such as a country tune about John Edwards called “Yes, I Know He’s a Mill Worker’s Son, But There’s Hollywood in That Hair” and a Sarah Palin song about her foreign policy credentials: “On a Clear Day, I See Vladivostok.” It covers Mitt Romney’s transformation (“Mitt Romney’s saying now he should have known / A stem cell’s just a human, not quite grown”), the speculation about whether Al Gore was trimming down to run (“Presumably, they looked for photo ops / To see what Gore was stuffing in his chops”), the slow-motion implosion of Hillary Clinton’s drive to the White House (“Some pundits wrote that Hil’s campaign might fare / A little better if Bill wasn’t there”), and the differing responses of Barack Obama and John McCain to the financial crisis (“Though coolness has its limitations, it’ll / Prevent comparisons with Chicken Little”)."  - Amazon.com

On the Campaign Trail: The Long Road of Presidential Politics, 1860-2004 edited by Douglas E. Schoen

"An elated, victorious Truman brandishes a newspaper with the headline 'Dewey Defeats Truman'. Theodore Roosevelt galvanizes the crowd with a fiery stump speech. Richard Nixon wipes away sweat during his debate with a poised JFK. Against the backdrop of a towering flag, Reagan captivates crowds with his promise of a stronger, prouder America. Bill Clinton weaves a spell with his saxophone. Throughout American history, few events have commanded the undivided attention of the public the way presidential campaigns have. Now the enduring moments of inspiration, the humiliating gaffes, and the heartbreaking losses of these campaigns are captured in a historic collection of photographs from America's greatest photojournalists. From the divisive election of Abraham Lincoln to the opening salvos of the 2004 campaign, America's presidents -- and pretenders to the office -- come to life in these pages. These men embody not only the drama of their times, but also the great arc of American history. They are captured here in pivotal and telling campaign moments: on the stage and behind the scenes, on whistle-stop tours, at high-voltage conventions, and in head-to-head debates. Accompanied by political adviser Douglas E. Schoen's trenchant essays, the striking photographs in On the Campaign Trail offer a unique view of the moments that have united and divided us during the race for the presidency. A fascinating journey in words and images, this landmark collection brings home the drama, fanfare, and power of America's great national contest." - Amazon.com

Looking Forward to It, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the American Electoral Process by Stephen Elliott

"Stephen Elliott does not know what to think of American voters, this year's desperate and heated run for presidency, or the legitimacy of the political system. He doesn't know whether to love John Kerry or try to love Howard Dean or try, simply, to get excited about Politics. But what he does know is that most Americans are as confused, taxed and broken-hearted as he is. Looking Forward To It is the chronicle of one ordinary fellow's skeptical -- and hilarious -- journey through the election process. It is on the campaign trail that he will meet washed-out campaign managers, idealistic publicists, corrupt journalists, world-weary auditorium janitors, recovering drug addicts, and, of course, politicians. His report documents a journey into the center of 'the thing', our country, where Americans high and low come together to participate in the most profound gesture of democracy: the election." -- Amazon.com

Find more interesting election-year reads using a subject search of "Presidents - United States - Elections"!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

2 New & Noteworthy Sustainability Reads

The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines sustainability thusly: "Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations. Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment."  Here are two brand spanking new titles (& some older readalikes) that each, in its own way, tackles the issue of sustainability:

"A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist takes readers on a surprising tour of the world of garbage. Trash is America's largest export. Individually, we make more than four pounds a day, sixty-four tons across a lifetime. We make so much of it that trash dominates America's place in the global economy--now the most prized product made in the United States. In 2010, China's number-one export to the U.S. was computer equipment. America's two biggest exports were paper waste and scrap metal. Somehow, a country that once built things for the rest of the world has transformed itself into China's trash compactor. In Garbology, Edward Humes reveals what this world of trash looks like, how we got here, and what some families, communities, and other countries are doing to find a way back from a world of waste. Highlights include: Los Angeles's sixty-story garbage mountain, so big and bizarrely prominent that it has spawned its own climate, habitat, and tour business. The waste trackers of MIT, whose "smart trash" has exposed the secret life and dirty death of what we throw away. China's garbage queen, Zhang Yin, who started collecting scrap paper in the 1990s and turned it into a multibillion-dollar business exporting American trash to make Chinese products to sell back to Americans. Artisan Bea Johnson, whose family has found that generating less waste has translated into more money, less debt, and more leisure time. As Wal-Mart aims for zero-waste strategies and household recycling has become second nature, interest in trash has clearly reached new heights. From the quirky to the astounding, Garbology weighs in with remarkable true tales from the front lines of the war on waste. "-- Provided by publisher.


Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage by Heather Rogers

Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash by Elizabeth Royte

Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain's Chance Discovery Launched a Quest to Save the Oceans by Capt. Charles Moore with Cassandra Phillips

American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It) by Jonathan Bloom

Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile by Taras Grescoe

""I am proud to call myself a straphanger," writes Taras Grescoe. The perception of public transportation in America is often unflattering--a squalid last resort for those with one too many drunk-driving charges, too poor to afford insurance, or too decrepit to get behind the wheel of a car. Indeed, a century of auto-centric culture and city planning has left most of the country with public transportation that is underfunded, ill maintained, and ill conceived. But as the demand for petroleum is fast outpacing the world's supply, a revolution in transportation is under way. Grescoe explores the ascendance of the straphangers--the growing number of people who rely on public transportation to go about the business of their daily lives. On a journey that takes him around the world--from New York to Moscow, Paris, Copenhagen, Tokyo, Bogota, Phoenix, Portland, Vancouver, and Philadelphia--Grescoe profiles public transportation here and abroad, highlighting the people and ideas that may help undo the damage that car-centric planning has done to our cities and ient, affordable, and sustainable urban transportation--and better city living--for all"-- Provided by publisher.


Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities by Jeff Mapes

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt

Friday, July 27, 2012

Adventure Stories For Young Adults Of All Ages

Some of the best adventure fiction written today is published as being for "Young Adults", tweenagers and teenagers. These stories find an audience far beyond that age range, since everyone can appreciate a good story well told!

For classic "old-school" adventure with a modern twist it is hard to do better than Kenneth Oppel's Matt Cruse series.

The series starts off in grand midshipman style: Matt, in the crow's nest, spots a derelict vessel. Only the crow's nest is the observation dome on a zeppelin, and the derelict vessel is a ragged balloon carrying a dying man and a journal hinting at adventures to come...

Throw in a spunky and brilliant young woman, hair-raising peril, and - yes! - pirates, and you have page-turning stories with a steampunk twist that will have you wanting the next book in the series immediately.

Wonderful adventure stories for the whole family to read together.

The Matt Cruse series:

1. Airborn (2004)
2. Skybreaker (2005)
3. Starclimber (2009)

Kenneth Oppel also writes the popular Silverwing series, fantasy about an ancient rivalry between bats and owls.


The name James Bond has been synonymous with action adventure since Ian Fleming created the character in 1953. Fleming's fourteen books about the character have been the material for many popular movies, and several other authors have written further Bond adventures since Fleming's death.

Author Charlie Higson presents the Young Bond Adventures, revealing that young James had an adventurous life long before serving the Crown.

1. Silverfin (2005)
2. BloodFever (2006)
3. Double or Die (2007)
4. Hurricane Gold (2007)
5. By Royal Command (2008)

Danger Society: The Young Bond Dossier (2009)

It seems unlikely that an adventure story could start with the theft of a bag of sand. Unless the sand is very special sand, and the story is in the capable hands of Brandon Sanderson.

Even more unlikely is the name of the hero of the stories: Alcatraz Smedry, a 13-year-old boy with a knack for breaking things. And more unlikely yet are the villains of the piece: librarians! Evil librarians? Surely not!

But in Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians all manner of unlikely things seem possible, from Crystin Knights to Oculators. And in the rest of the Alcatraz Smedry series the adventures come fast and furious. And always unlikely.

The series is also something of a handbook for writing; Sanderson tells you just what he is going to do with the story and why, making a partner of the reader even as he develops the tale. And there's all sorts of wonky humor throughout.

Join Alcatraz, Grandpa Smedry (whose talent is arriving late), Alcatraz's cousin Sing (whose talent is falling down at the right moment), and Crystin Knight Bastille in a series of wild adventures that keep you guessing and gasping.

1. Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians (2007)
2. Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones (2008)
3. Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia (2009)
4. Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens (2010)

Brandon Sanderson also writes the Mistborn series, has written books in the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series, and has published the first book in the Stormlight Archive series.

Brandon Sanderson is scheduled to be the Guest of Honor at Bubonicon, Albuquerque's own annual science fiction and fantasy convention, August 24-26, 2012. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

2012 Summer Olympics

The 2012 Summer Olympic Games are upon us!  The Olympics run from July 27th - August 12th. Will you be following the action? What's your favorite event? We've collected some helpful links below for learning about the Olympic Games & keeping score, but perhaps you'd like to check out some Olympic-related items in addition to those?  Here are some of the most recent items in the library catalog!

For Kids

Discover the Summer Olympics with Cecile & Pepo (dvd)

A Passion for Victory: The Story of the Olympics in Ancient and Early Modern Times by Benson Bobrick

The Olympics: Scandals by Moira Butterfield

For Adults

How to Watch the Olympics: The Essential Guide to the Rules, Statistics, Heroes, and Zeroes of Every Sport by David Goldblatt and Johnny Acton

Showdown at Shepherd's Bush: The 1908 Olympic Marathon and the Three Runners who Launched a Sporting Craze by David Davis

How to be Like Women Athletes of Influence: Thirty-One Women at the Top of Their Game and How You Can Get There Too by Dana Pennett O'Neil and Pat Williams

The Olympics: Unforgettable Moments of the Games by Stephanie Peters [eBook only in our catalog]

Gold by Chris Cleave

Biographies of Athletes

Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu with Paul and Teri Williams

In the Water They Can't See You Cry: A Memoir by Amanda Beard ; with Rebecca Paley

Zero Regrets: Be Greater than Yesterday by Apolo Ohno with Alan Abrahamson

Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics by Jeremy Schaap

Just for Fun

Olympknits by Laura Long

For more items in the catalog, try a subject search of "Olympics".

Useful links:

London 2012 Olympics: Official Website & Mobile Apps for the London 2012 Summer Olympics. Live results, competition schedule, news, photos, videos, medal count, athlete bios.

Olympic.org: Official website of the Olympic movement

NBC Olympics: Coverage of the London 2012 Olympic Games from NBCOlympics.com includes live video, highlights, results, schedules, TV Listings, medals, news, photos, & more.

The 10 Oddest Former Olympic Events

Monday, July 23, 2012

Extraordinary Biographies

Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural by Jim Steinmeyer

It seems that every time you turn on the TV now there is a new show featuring someone hunting out the paranormal or the supernatural: ghost hunters, monster hunters, UFO hunters. But there was a time when such researches were far from everyday, and it took a special type of person to pursue the anomalous. 

Charles Fort (1874-1932) was so diligent in his studies of anomalous phenomena, and his findings were so remarkable, that he influenced generations of researchers to come and actually lent his name to the field. Researchers now speak of Fortean events - falls of frogs and fishes, levitation, unexplained disappearances, spontaneous fires, etc. - and refer to collections of reports of such phenomena as Forteana. A print magazine, The Fortean Times, has since 1991 offered monthly updates on such reports.

Jim Steinmeyer (a designer of equipment for professional stage magicians, and author of several biographies of famous magicians) has done an admirable job of pulling together a biography of Charles Fort. A man who spent much of his life in libraries poring over old journals, meticulously making notes of the things he found that did not fit any of the accepted scientific beliefs. Notes that he cross-referenced and filed in stacks of shoeboxes, to become the basis for Fort's four published books, Wild Talents, Lo!, New Lands and The Book of the Damned. Books that influenced many of the researchers into the paranormal who are active today.

One of the most remarkable things about Fort is that, while he gave his life to researching and recording unusual and fantastic events and sought always to find patterns that would somehow explain how they could be possible, he managed to avoid taking on any particular belief. He was a wry and wondering commentator on what he had collected, but never felt called upon to present or protect any one viewpoint - a far cry from many of the "objective" researchers active in the field.

Jim Steinmeyer's Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural offers not only a fascinating overview of the life of a fascinating man, but also gives the reader the flavor of the time Fort lived in, a time when scientific conclusions were being drawn fast and furious and the average person was often left struggling to catch up.

Related reading:

"Forteana" titles

Many people have heard of Edgar Cayce, mostly due to two popular biographies: Jess Stearn's Edgar Cayce: The Sleeping Prophet, and Thomas Sugrue's There Is A River. These biographies revealed to the world the extraordinary story of Cayce who, after being put into a trance by a traveling hypnotist, not only cured his own ailment but developed the ability to diagnose and suggest cures for other people. Cayce's fame grew, especially once he went beyond medical diagnoses and started speaking on a wide variety of subjects including, famously, Atlantis. Cayce (1877-1945) founded the Association for Research and Enlightenment, which to this day continues to study and disseminate the information contained within the "readings" that Cayce gave while in a trance (which practice led to his being called "The Sleeping Prophet").

But Sidney Kirkpatrick, in the more recent biography Edgar Cayce: An American Prophet, now reveals that the most remarkable stories about Cayce had long gone untold.

Kirkpatrick, given unprecedented access to Cayce materials over a period of seven years, shows that many extraordinary tales had been left out of the previous biographies, partly due to concern for the privacy of Cayce's relatives and partly due to the fear that the truth would not be believed.

It seems that Cayce not only provided diagnoses, past life histories, and predictions while in trance, but also experienced visions and paranormal events while awake. Fires of unexplained beginnings plagued his life. He had visitations from angels, and a lifelong involvement with "little folk" - fairies. (It also seems he had a longtime extramarital relationship with his assistant.)

One question people often ask about psychics is, "Why aren't they rich?" Kirkpatrick chronicles how Cayce, perennially short of funds for his Association, tried many times to make money with his powers but somehow only ended up adding to the problems in his life (even though some people around him grew wealthy using his insights).

Some of the newly-revealed information is so fantastic that the reader may occasionally wish that the author of the book was a bit more critical in his discussion of them. But for anyone familiar with Cayce the new information provides "the rest of the story", and for those just learning about this remarkable man this book will be a startling read. Cayce's fame arose during a time when folk traditions in medicine were being replaced by science-based practices, and Kirkpatrick's book helps place that time and conflict in perspective.

Edgar Cayce: An American Prophet examines not only the life of a remarkable and controversial man, but also a period in history when a belief in prophets was still strong.

Related reading:

There is a river : the story of Edgar Cayce / by Thomas Sugrue

Edgar Cayce, the sleeping prophet / Jess Stearn

We've all heard the stories: someone experiencing a violent accident or a critical surgery leaves their body, heads into a tunnel of light and meets dead family members. Sometimes they see angels or God; sometimes they see their whole life reviewed before them. But they come back into their bodies and live to tell of their experiences.

We've all heard those stories, that is, since 1977 and the publication of Raymond Moody's book Life After Life: The Investigation of a Phenomenon - Survival of Bodily Death. The book was a bestseller, and soon everyone was talking about "near-death experiences" (a term Moody coined) and TV comedians were joking about people heading into the light.

Moody's new book, Paranormal: My Life in Pursuit of the Afterlife, details not only the researches that lead to the publication of the earlier book but also Moody's pursuits since then, studies that have pushed his already extraordinary findings even further.

While Moody has resisted ever stating that his findings constitute proof of life after death (much to the consternation of those who think his researches represent exactly that), he does admit that many of his findings could be interpreted as being in support of the supernatural view. The near-death experience involves experiences out-of-body just as in many metaphysical disciplines, and during experimentation he encountered what seemed like people expressing memories of past lives.

A good scientist (with degrees in philosophy, psychology, and medicine), Moody examined these anomalous findings, with the particular intention of finding how such experiences might be used in the therapeutic setting. Many near-death experiencers had reported it was a life-changing event, usually for the better, and Moody wondered how such an experience could be induced short of taking subjects to the brink of death. (A brink with which he is familiar -- part of Moody's personal journey is to reveal in this autobiography his own struggles with depression and an attempt at suicide, the depression caused by a long-undiagnosed thyroid condition.)

To foster the altered states necessary for people to have visions of departed loved ones, Moody turned to the ancient practice of scrying: staring into a crystal ball, mirror, or pool of liquid to gain insight. Even though Moody had learned that scrying was a common practice in the ancient world, he was still startled at the results of his scientific studies - not only were most of the subjects able to "see" their lost loved ones, many people also reported that the person "came out of the mirror" and had conversations with them! Conversations that did indeed have therapeutic value.

Moody's work continues to challenge our understanding of dying, death, and the possibility of an afterlife, and Paranormal: My Life in the Pursuit of the Afterlife gives insight into the path of a scientist whose researches keep leading him into new, seemingly unscientific, territory.

Related reading:

Life after Life: The Investigation of a Phenomenon--Survival of Bodily Death by Raymond A. Moody, Jr

Life after Loss: Conquering Grief and Finding Hope by Raymond A. Moody, Jr. and Dianne Arcangel

The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death by Gary E. Schwartz with William L. Simon ; foreword by Deepak Chopra

Encyclopedia of Afterlife Beliefs and Phenomena  by James R.Lewis ; foreword by Raymond Moody

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Music of Africa

The International Collection is not just books, it's also music!  ABC Libraries' music selectors have added a plethora of international titles to the catalog recently, including increasing the selection of music from Africa.  I can't claim any expertise on the wide & varied array of music coming out of Africa, but here are some artists & genres represented in the catalog:


King Sunny Adé and his African Beats: they play "spacey, jamming sort of Juju, characterized by tight vocal harmonies, intricate guitar work, backed by traditional talking drums, percussion instruments, and even adding the unusual pedal steel guitar and accordian", according to the African Music Encyclopedia,

Musiques métisses: Le mandingue, empire de la musique - Mandingo music of Mali and Guinea

In the Heart of the Moon, Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabaté (Mali)

Soro, Salif Keita (Mali)

Angélique Kidjo: deemed "Africa's premier diva" by Time Magazine

Hugh Masekela: performed with Paul Simon on Graceland

Jive & Soul: The Best of Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens: South African mbaqanga supergroup in the 1960s-1990s

Danger, Lijadu Sisters:
The Lijadu Sisters, Taiwo and Kehinde Lijadu, are identical twin sisters from Nigeria who were an important music duet from the mid-1960s to the 1980s. They achieved success in Nigeria and had modest influence in the United States and Europe

Amadou & Mariam: musical duo from Mali

Desert Crossroads, Etran Finatawa: nomad's blues from Niger

Cesaria Evora: queen of the morna, a soulful genre sung in Creole-Portuguese

Rendez-vóus Barbès, Orchestre national de Barbès: a French group which plays a fusion of several genres from the Maghreb, such as the chaâbi, the raï, & the music of Gnawa.

Au Racines de la Mémoire, Kaluwo:  "Blues from the Sahel, African rumba, Congolese soukous… Aux Racines de la Memoire from Kaluwo takes us , taking us from the West Africa of Christophe Bégaud to the Central Africa of Marlène N’Garo, presents music that lively and full of warmth, on the border between traditional and modern," according to their press release.

Stars of Afropop: includes tracks by Zap Mama, Manu Dibango, Esther Wahome, Franco, Ricardo Lemvo and his group Makina Loca, and Hanitra.

Aksil, Élage Diouf - the artist was born in Senegal, but now lives in Canada.  His music reflects both his African heritage & his Canadian roots.
Afrobeat is a combination of traditional Yoruba music, jazz, highlife, funk and chanted vocals, fused with percussion and vocal styles, popularised in Africa in the 1970s.  Its main creator was the Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti, who gave it its name.  His son Femi Kuti continues to perform in this genre.

Chimurenga music is a Zimbabwean popular music genre coined and popularised by Thomas Mapfumo. Chimurenga is a Shona language word for struggle.

Mbalax (or Mbalakh) is the national popular dance music of Senegal and The Gambia. Mbalax is a fusion of popular Western music and dance such as jazz, soul, Latin, and rock blended with sabar, the traditional drumming and dance music of SenegalYoussou N'Dour helped to develop this style.


African Music: A People's Art by Francis Bebey

For children:


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Route 66 Summerfest

Photo Courtesy of Open Threads

The Route 66 Summerfest is not an event to be missed here in Albuquerque. On July 21st from 2:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Central Avenue will be closed to traffic and open for fun festivities.

From Girard you can begin with the art and artisans market where many local artists will display their crafts and talents. Moving down to Wellesley, enjoy the kid’s zone and rock climbing wall. Animal Humane will provide puppy hydration stations throughout the festival including a pool party at Carlisle.

As you cross Carlisle from 1:00pm to 8:30pm you will find the Old Route 66 Car Show where over 100 classic cars will be on display. The car show finale begins at 8:30 with the 12th Annual Neon Cruise where the cars becomes mobile and will parade down Central for all to see.

Between Montclaire and Sierra explore local wines, craft beers and music at the Rt 66 Cork & Tap. Food artisans and street vendors will be present throughout the event to tame the appetites of event-goers.

Amid all these festivities, don’t forget about the music. The New Mexico Jazz Festival  will feature 3 stages, 23 acts, and over 135 artists.

So many great things await you at the Route 66 Summerfest. Don’t miss out!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Marvelous & Strange Stories

There are times when nothing but a short story will do.  I enjoy the form, & sometimes it's just the amount of reading I have time for (& doesn't leave you hanging like a chapter in a book might).  Also,  I think it's handy if you want to check out some new authors without committing to a big book.  With that in mind, here are my two latest finds, which I think might appeal to sci-fi/fantasy fans & those who are looking for the fiction in the Hunger Games style:

Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
Billed as "A collection of fourteen fantasy stories by well-known authors, set in the age of steam engines and featuring automatons, clockworks, calculating machines, and other marvels that never existed", this collection features stories by well known young adult authors such as Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Cory Doctorow, M.T. Anderson, & Garth Nix, alongside Dylan Horrocks, Ysabeau Wilce, & others.

Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black
This book marks my first encounter with a short story collection with something to prove:  it contains "twelve short stories by a variety of authors seek[ing] to answer the question of whether zombies are better than unicorns".  Libba Bray, Garth Nix, & Cassandra Clare are again featured here, with  Meg Cabot, Naomi Novik, Margo Lanagan, & others also contributing.

In a slightly darker vein, also consider:
The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
Contains a vast array of literary legends at their most peculiar, including William Gibson, George R. R. Martin, Stephen King, Angela Carter, Kelly Link, Franz Kafka, China Miéville, Clive Barker, Haruki Murakami, M. R. James, Neil Gaiman, Mervyn Peake, and Michael Chabon.

For diehard fans of Suzanne Collins, might we also recommend her earlier work, The Underland Chronicles?  Beginning with Gregor the Overlander, this series is the story of eleven-year-old Gregor and his two-year-old sister, who are pulled into a strange underground world. Their arrival triggers an epic battle involving men, bats, rats, cockroaches, and spiders while on a quest foretold by ancient prophecy.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mysteries Set in Japan

The intricate etiquette-driven society of Japan is an
effective setting for mystery stories, whether in the feudal past or the business-world present. 

I.J. Parker's Sugawara Akitada series is set in the 11th century:

"From the author of The Dragon Scroll comes an ingenious new novel of murder and malfeasance in ancient Japan, featuring the detective Sugawara Akitada. The son of reduced nobility forced to toil in the Ministry of Justice, Akitada is relieved when an old friend, Professor Hirata, asks him to investigate a friend's blackmail. Taking a post at the Imperial University, he is soon sidetracked from his primary case by the murder of a young girl and the mysterious disappearance of an old man - a disappearance that the Emperor himself declares a miracle. Rashomon Gate is a mystery of magnificent complexity and historical detail that will leave readers yearning for more." - from the book jacket, Rashomon Gate

The Sugawara Akitada series:

1. Rashomon Gate (2002)
2. The Hell Screen (2003)
3. The Dragon Scroll (2005)
4. Black Arrow (2006)
5. Island of Exiles (2007)
6. The Convict's Sword (2009)
7. The Fires of the Gods (2010)
8. The Masuda Affair (2011)
9. Death on an Autumn River (2011) (Kindle exclusive)

Dale Furutani's Matsuyama Kaze series is set in the Tokugawa period (1600-1868), and is rich with the samurai lore that makes Japanese history so distinctive.

Matsuyama Kaze is a ronin, a masterless samurai, seeking to honor the last order given to him by his old master. In the course of his travels, Kaze encounters mysteries that test him to the limit.

Richly atmospheric, filled with historically accurate detail, this series evokes the world of long-ago Japan and the often lonely life of an honor-bound warrior.

Dale Furutani's Matsuyama Kaze "Samurai" series:

1. Death at the Crossroads (1998)
2. The Jade Palace Vendetta (1999)
3. Kill the Shogun (2000)

Laura Joh Rowland's Sano Ichiro series is also set in feudal Japan during the 1600s.

Sano Ichiro is the shogun's sosakan-sama - "most honorable investigator of events, situations, and people" - and as such must interact with all levels of feudal Japanese culture.

1. Shinju (1994)
2. Bundori (1996)
3. The Way of the Traitor (1997)
4. The Concubine's Tattoo (1998)
5. The Samurai's Wife (2000)
6. Black Lotus (2001)
7. The Pillow Book of Lady Wisteria (2002)
8. The Dragon King's Palace (2003)
9. The Perfumed Sleeve (2004)
10. The Assassin's Touch (2005)
11. The Red Chrysanthemum (2006)
12. The Snow Empress (2007)
13. The Fire Kimono (2008)
14. The Cloud Pavilion (2009)
15. The Ronin's Mistress (2011)
16. The Incense Game (2012)

Moving up to present-day Tokyo:

Rei Shimura is a young Japanese-American English teacher living in Tokyo who stumbles upon mysteries while dealing in antiques! Rich with detail from the author's own experiences while living in Japan.

Sujata Massey's Rei Shimura series:

1. The Salaryman's Wife (1997)
2. Zen Attitude (1998)
3. The Flower Master (1999)
4. The Floating Girl (2000)
5. The Bride's Kimono (2001)
6. The Samurai's Daughter (2003)
7. The Pearl Diver (2004)
8. The Typhoon Lover (2005)
9. Girl in a Box (2006)
10. Shimura Trouble (2008)

 John Rain is a half-Japanese half-American assassin who works the mean streets of Tokyo.

The John Rain suspense thriller series by Barry Eisler:

1. Rain Fall (2002)
2. Hard Rain (2003)
     aka Blood from Blood
3. Rain Storm (2004)
     aka Choke Point
4. Killing Rain (2005)
     aka One Last Kill
5. The Last Assassin (2006)
6. Requiem for an Assassin (2007)
7. The Detachment (2011)

Other mysteries set in Japan:

Michael Crichton - Rising Sun
Keigo Higashino - The Devotion of Suspect X
Stephen Hunter - The 47th Samurai
Natsuo Kirino - Grotesque, Out
Don Lee - Country of Origin
James Melville - The Body Wore Brocade
Miyuki Miyabe - All She Was Worth, Shadow Family, The Devil's Whisper, The Sleeping Dragon
Fuminori Nakamura - The Thief
Asa Nonami - The Hunter
Arimasa Osawa - Shinjuku Shark
David Peace - Tokyo Year Zero
Soji Shimada - The Tokyo Zodiac Murders
Akimitsu Takagi - The Informer, Honeymoon To Nowhere, The Tattoo Murder Case
Peter Tasker - Buddha Kiss
Shuichi Yoshida - Villain

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lavender In the Village Festival

Living in the southwest means learning to utilize water in the most efficient way when we garden.  Obviously, desert plants that have grown in New Mexico for years are a good option, but there are lots of other plants that do well in our hot, dry climate, most especially ones that grow well in Mediterranean climates.  Among these plants is the very versatile, very useful lavender.

Lavender has had a long history as a useful plant.  It was one of the herbs found in the tombs of the Ancient Egyptians.  Hildegard von Bingen, the nun and herbalist, used lavender to cure migraines. Queen Victoria of England had a “lavender purveyor” who arranged fresh lavender around the castle daily.   Most recently lavender has been used in aromatherapy to cure insomnia.  It’s been used on insect bites and burns and as a disinfectant.  Fresh lavender is used in cooking, to make toiletries such as bubble bath,  and as a floral decoration.  Click here for many more ideas on how to use lavender this month.

On July 14 and July 15 Los Ranchos, Albuquerque will hold its annual Lavender in the Village Festival.  This festival, which features discussions and demonstrations, is a great way to learn more about growing and using lavender.  You can also buy or pick your own at the festival if you are not inclined to grow it yourself.  

Besides the lavender there will also be great shopping up and down Fourth Street, wine tours at Casa Rondena Winery, and the Los Ranchos Growers' Market on Saturday morning.  Parking and shuttle information is on the Los Ranchos website.  This festival offers a chance to explore Los Ranchos and discover some new stores and neighborhoods. 

If you wish to begin your education in lavender before heading off to the festival take a look at these titles from the library’s catalog:

The Lavender Cookbook by Sharon Shipley

Lavender Sweet Lavender by Judyth A. McLeod

The Unlikely Lavender Queen by Jeannie Ralston

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Two Views of the Wired Life

We live in a wired world. (And, increasingly, wireless.) Whether or not we embrace Internet-facilitated communications we are all affected by them, and are likely to be even more so in the near future. The books below offer thought-provoking discussions as to how the wired life is changing how we interact with information and each other.

Nicholas Carr wrote an article that was featured on the cover of Atlantic magazine, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" That July 2008 article generated much discussion and even some controversy, and enough interest that Carr expanded upon the article to produce the 2010 book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing To Our Brains.

In the article and the book Carr describes how he became aware of a problem in his life: he was rarely if ever finishing a book that he had started to read. At first he chalked it up to getting older. But once he started comparing notes with friends and colleagues he began to see a pattern. No one of his friends, it seemed, was finishing longer works. In fact, everyone seemed to have increasingly brief interactions with print materials. And with media in general. Just about everyone was sampling the information flow around them in quick sips rather than long drinks.

 "Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words," says Carr. "Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski."

Carr did research and came to a disturbing conclusion: not only is the way we interact with information changing,  the Internet is changing our brains. Due to "brain plasticity" (the more we do something, the more our brain "muscles up" to perform that action), we are actually rewiring our brains to have a broad and light association with information -- "the shallows" referred to in the title of the book.

Citing recent research, the author discusses how the very nature of the Internet encourages a shallow interaction with information regardless of the content. (Shades of McLuhan's "The medium is the message.") For example: studies show that when hypertext links are present in a text, the reader's retention of the concepts in the text is reduced -- the mere presence of the options to link outward reduces focus upon the material at hand.

The sheer volume of information presented to us is also discussed, how this may be a distraction from a deep linear channel of thought and how this ever-increasing volume makes filtering and critical thinking skills ever more important.

Thought- and discussion-provoking, The Shallows helps us examine how the recent rapid changes in electronic communication may be changing how we interact with the world in ways far beyond what we already recognize.

Some quotes from the book:

"With the exception of alphabets and number systems, the Net may well be the single most powerful mind-altering technology that has ever come into general use."

"It's possible to think deeply while surfing the Net, just as it's possible to think shallowly while reading a book, but that's not the type of thinking the technology encourages and rewards."

"The Net's interactivity gives us powerful new tools for finding information, expressing ourselves, and conversing with others. It also turns us into lab rats constantly pressing levers to get tiny pellets of social or intellectual nourishment."

Nicholas Carr's article in Atlantic Magazine
Nicholas Carr's The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google

Whereas Nicholas Carr suggests that we should examine, discuss, and sometimes even challenge how we utilize Internet-facilitated communications, Michael Chorost suggests that we should take such techologies to their polar extreme: a blending of implanted machine and human to optimize our connection to the information flow, and through that, our connections with each other.

In World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humans, Machines and the Internet  (2011) Chorost discusses the technologies that might make such an integration possible, ways to make our interaction with information technologies seamless and intuitive. He also examines the goal of "telempathy" -- not telepathy, an exact mind-to-mind transfer of thoughts or information, but rather a (network-facilitated) telempathic understanding of what other humans are feeling or focusing upon:

"An implanted device would have to do much more than a BlackBerry. It would have to let people be effortlessly aware of what their friends and colleagues are doing. It would have to let them know what their friends are seeing and feeling, thus enabling much richer forms of communication. And people should be able to walk down the street savoring the richness of the world while also being aware, in the background of their minds, of the ceaseless hum of their friends' ideas and experiences."

Chorost (who has microchips implanted in his brain to allow him to hear more clearly) understands that this "ceaseless hum" may not seem attractive to everyone. But since he views such a machine-human integration as being increasingly inevitable, he feels it is vital to discuss the permutations of such an integration and how it will affect individuality, privacy, and society. As a vehicle for this discussion he takes a very personal trip through his comfort zone of personal space and human interaction, in parallel with his examination of the developing technologies.

Whether attractive or repulsive, the idea of a World Wide Mind is sure to generate discussion as we consider the possibilities rushing upon us.

Some quotes from the book:

"There is nothing new about the fear that technology is harming human interaction. People philosophized and worried about telegraphs and telephones in very much the same way that people now philosophize and worry about the Internet. ... The debate about technology's effect on social interaction has been around so long that it is essentially technology-independent. I see it as being about the tension between conflicting desires for autonomy and community. On the one hand we want to be autonomous, and seek space and privacy. On the other hand we want to be known and loved, and seek intimacy and community. These desires are in constant conflict. By constantly introducing new ways to be alone and together, technology keeps renewing the conflict. The conflict endures through the millennia; only the specific technologies change. Rather than try to resolve the conflict, I want to transcend it by introducing a new perspective."

"True communication, deep communication, empathic communication, always requires [a] rich information exchange in both directions. It has to exist between one person and another, but we can't stop there; it also has to exist between humans and machines..."