Saturday, August 27, 2011

I'd Pass

On those nights when there is nothing to do, no one is returning your calls, and even the dog acts like she is doing you a favor by hanging out – it’s easy to start feeling a little down.  Maybe the feelings of isolation get you so bummed out that it’s all you can do to keep from polishing off a bottle of cheap cabernet and sending regrettable text messages to an ex (or something along those lines).  Well, when the blues set in, a constructive way to turn that frown upside-down would probably be to get a little exercise or do some volunteer work– but what I like to do instead, is ingest copious amounts of refined sugar and pop in a funny movie.  I tried my patented pick-me-up recently with the movie Hall Pass.  I almost immediately regretted not going the cheap-wine-and-embarrassing-text-message route.

There’s really no need to mince words about it – Hall Pass is a dud.  If I were able to get a friend on the phone, I’d describe the movie like this: (sigh) One of the Wilson brothers, the one with the broken nose, is married to Pam from The Office – and their marriage is a little rocky because she is dull and he is a libidinous man-child.   So to give him a chance to shake off some of his residual adolescence, she grants him a week off of marriage (is that what hall passes do?) and then the hilarity never ensues. 

It’s beyond me why they bothered hiring a comedic actress to play such a bore when there is perfectly tepid dishwater that could use the work.  Maybe it’s been decided that dude-centric inanity is only funny when mommy is around to disapprove.  But to be fair, the movie was really more of a buddy comedy than a marriage comedy (the BFF is played by SNL’s Jason Sudekis - who also, inexplicably, is granted a “Hall Pass”).  The film has a workable premise – watching grown men try to tomcat around a posh, suburban enclave, when clearly they have long been domesticated – but it comes off as a wannabe Old School.
There were some rosy elements to be appreciated in this stinker, foremost the soundtrack – which included the gravelly vocal stylings of one of my favorite bands, Deer Tick.  If you are unfamiliar with Deer Tick, they’re this great band out of Providence, RI (also the setting for the film) who last visited Lawrence in March.  When I saw them, the lead singer John McCauley was a huge mess – which actually kinda works for his bluesy-alt-country sound.  The band has a new album coming out in October, which I’m sure will find its way into the library collection – so that’s something to be excited about.

Come to think of it, if you’re willing to eat a jumbo bag of Twizzlers, everything feels like something to be excited about - except Hall Pass.
Ransom - Reference

Music you might also like:

Movies to watch instead:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Author Song Dedication: Sylvia Plath

Over on Facebook, we started posting song dedications to our favorite authors. This is a continuation of that series, where we'll have the chance to explain our dedications, and provide access to more information about the artists and authors. If you'd like to submit a song dedication for inclusion on the blog and Facebook, feel free to send it to us using the form located here.

The American poet and novelist, Sylvia Plath, is best known for her two collections of poetry, The Collossus and Other Poems and Ariel. However, The Bell Jar, originally published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas, gave readers a better look into the author's life with a semi-autobiographical account of a girl's feelings of isolation while suffering from a breakdown. By writing the novel, Plath said that she had intended to free herself from her past, but following a long struggle with depression and a marital separation, she ultimately committed suicide shortly after the publication of the book (Wikipedia).

The song I would choose to dedicate to Sylvia is "That I Would Be Good" from Alanis Morissette's 1998 album, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. After the huge success of Jagged Little Pill and an exhaustive world tour, Alanis struggled with where to go next, and even while recording her sophomore album, she experienced feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. In tears and approaching a breakdown while her house was full of guests, Alanis retreated to her closet and wrote the lyrics to this song, which intimately express those feelings.

Many famous artists have said they've received fan mail telling them they've saved lives through their lyrics. Though it's hard sometimes to fully understand depression, and even express or feel comfortable admitting to such dark emotions and feelings, I think Sylvia would have been able to relate to Alanis's lyrics. She may have even taken comfort in the fact that there was someone out there going through something similar. In sharing her story through poetry and novels, Sylvia also may have provided the world with one more personal story to relate to.

Click here to see other titles by Sylvia Plath available at LPL.

Click here to see other titles by Alanis Morissette available at LPL.

William - Reference

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Regrets, I've Had a Few

Regretsy: Where DIY Meets WTF by April Winchell

It's all right there, in the chapter entitled WTF: "Fish in a Squirrel Suit Taxidermy," "Phallic Chapstick Cozy," "Doll Heads in a Bowl of Brussels Sprouts." Or perhaps you'll enjoy "Bertha the Pregnant, Birthing, Nursing Sock Monkey," or the "You Pick Two: Serial Killer Pillows."

Set-off by just the right amount of acerbic text, these images, plunged straight from the deep, dark bowels of Etsy crafting hell, really speak for themselves. If you like the book, make sure you check out the blog at, which is still updated regularly and consistently jaw-dropping!

Rachel - Programs

Image: Google Books

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Some Kind of Wonder(ful)

There’s an old adage that for a person to really internalize a message, they need to hear about it from three different sources.  That’s what it took for me to pick up Wonder When You'll Miss Me by Amanda Davis and read it.  I’m so glad I did.

I first came across this title on a list of books with a circus setting – I love to read books about the circus life.  Then I saw it mentioned in the list of Alex Award winners – a prize given to adult books that will appeal to teen readers as well.  Finally, and tragically, I heard about Amanda Davis from her obituary – she died in a plane crash in the North Carolina mountains, along with her parents, who were flying her around the country on her book tour.

Amanda Davis was young and had published only one other work – a collection of short stories called Circling the Drain – but was highly regarded as both a writer and a human being, evidenced in her online memorial at McSweeney's.  It is truly a tragedy that Ms. Davis died so young – if her first novel is evidence of what was to come, we were in for some wonderful storytelling and fine writing.

Wonder When You’ll Miss Me is the story of Faith Duckle, who is fifteen and overweight when the novel opens.  Teenage cruelty and a brutal sexual assault lead her to an attempted suicide and rehab.  She returns to school 50 pounds lighter and ready to start over, but finds that nothing much has changed, including other’s perceptions of her.  Faith’s struggles to reconcile her desire to just “fit in” with her growing urge for retribution and revenge lead to more violence and ultimately her running off, renaming herself, and joining up with a traveling circus.  In the circus she finds work, family and the strength to face her former self and to reach new heights – both within herself and on the high-flying trapeze she learns to master.  Davis’s story is at once brutal and funny, dark and heartwarming – she was such a capable writer that you will find yourself both laughing and crying at Faith’s coming of age story.  Few novels can start with a horrific gang rape and end with a young woman’s hopeful transformation - and ring true with authenticity and honesty on every page in between. 

Hopefully, hearing about this book just once will be enough for you to pick it up and read it.  You’ll be glad you did.

Susan, LPL Marketing

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fresh Fruit

Lawrence Public Library now subscribes to Mango Languages, a fun and interactive language learning program. This database teaches pronunciation, conversation, grammar, vocabulary and cultural awareness. Many languages are available, including: Chinese, English, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese. Mango is so effective it’s used by many government agencies and the military.

Mango allows you to learn at your own pace and take a quiz to see how well you’re doing. Record your individual progress and continue where you stopped last time by creating your own profile. You may also choose to learn anonymously instead of creating a login. If you have a microphone and headphones you may use the voice comparison tool to match your accent to a native speaker. The translation tool allows you to enter any text and convert it into many different popular languages. Now learning another language is much easier than ever!

Access this new resource from Lawrence Public Library’s website by using the Research Databases link under Library Services on the left sidebar and scroll down to the Special Interest databases. If you are outside of the library, you will need to enter your library card number (without the spaces). If you are using a public computer at the library you do not need to enter this number. Your computer must have the latest version of Adobe Flash installed; this is free from Adobe’s website. A free Mango app is available for your iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad from iTunes.

Shirley - Reference

Canine Mind

Inside of a Dog: What dogs see, smell, and know by Alexandra Horowitz

As a dog owner, I enjoy reading books about dog training and behavior. Inside of a Dog is different from other books about dogs that I have read. It focuses on dog behavior from the dog's point of view. For example, a dog can hear things and smell things that people can't. This is going to affect how a dog perceives everything around it. The book also talks about dog ancestry, and how it is another factor in dog behavior. Something I found interesting, is that the author mentions that people tend to give dogs human characteristics, and the author feels that this is a mistake, because dogs don't have human feelings, they have dog feelings.

I enjoyed that Horowitz included anecdotes and examples of the psychology that she was talking about, because there are points when the book gets a little technical, and without the stories, I would have been lost at times as to what she was trying to say. I also liked that Horowitz explained why dogs display various behaviors (like why my dog loves to roll in things that smell unpleasant).

I would recommend this book to anyone who has read dog training and behavior books, and is looking for a different perspective.

Jenny R. - Reference