Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Shakespeare on Screen

To the high school kids who moan & grown, "Why do we have to read Shakespeare?"

Trust us librarians.  There is a reason why that guy has been sticking around for 400+ years.  So here's bit of help.  Just pick a good film, watch it, interpret it in your own way!

I love films and I love Shakespeare.  I try to catch as many new productions on stage as well as on screen.  Some are great, some are so-so, and some you don't want to bother.  Here's a list of my film favorites.

Hamlet (1996)
Watch the one with Kenneth Branagh and a star-studded cast. Skip the Mel Gibson one (1990).  But my real favorite is the BBC production with Kevin Kline playing Hamlet (1990).  Kevin Kline, you say?  He is actually a great Shakespearean actor.  Bonus at the end.  Fortinbras is played by breathtakingly handsome Rufus Sewell (of Cold Comfort Farm).  I have seen him on stage, and it turns out that he can't act.  Maybe that's why he was playing Fortinbras.  Life is fair.

Merchant of Venice (2004)
To be precise, the film title was William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino in the lead role and Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes supporting.  Al Pacino makes a very good Shylock.

Coriolanus (2011)
Ralph Fiennes is Coriolanus in an unspecified contemporary civil war setting and Vanessa Redgrave takes a prize as the top-notch tiger mom.  You'll be glad she wasn't your mother.

Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Young Leonardo DiCaprio and young Claire Danes in modern Verona setting.  I grew up with very 60's Olivia Hussey's Juliet (1968) and still have a soft heart for it, but DiCaprio and Danes create some sparks together.  On the other hand, a recording on CD of this play with not-so-young Kenneth Branagh playing Romeo is very impressive. You can vividly imagine the young Romeo's agony in the temper tantrum he throws with tears and snot rolling on the floor in front of Friar Laurence. A must hear.

Henry V (1989)
Kenneth Branagh again.  Sorry, what can I say.  This one with Emma Thompson playing Princess Katherine when they were an item, and it shows.

Much Ado about Nothing (1993)
Emma Thompson, Michael Keaton, Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves?  Actually it works. Very entertaining.

Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)
Not the best I've seen but how can you pass up Kevin Kline playing Nick Bottom wooing the fairy queen Michelle Pfeiffer.  Christian Bale plays Demetrius and Dominic West (HBO's The Wire) plays Lysander. 

So what kind of a guy was Shakepeare?  No problem.  Watch Shakespeare in Love (1999), and you'll already feel like you know him. My head bows to film directors and actors.  Thank you.   

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Getting Around London

I had the privilege of hanging out in London for two separate weeks this year and I learned several lessons about the best way to get around, so I am passing them on to you.

The Tube, The Underground, the Subway, the Metro…call it what you like but that is the most efficient, cheapest and fastest way to make your way across London. First of all, get your Oyster Card (like a Metro Card) and then get a Tube Map called the Standard Tube Map which you need to study…and study some more.  I learned from an unfortunate experience that you should really, really, look at that map when you need to transfer, but the smartest advice is to ask. Londoners are lovely and very helpful and certainly proud of their city.

Walking: Central London isn’t very big. We walked from The Tower of London all the way along the Thames to The London Eye. The weather was good with lots of history along the way.  And a great way to learn about the city is the London Walks teaches you not only the history of that area but you also learn where “things” are. I remembered, from my first visit and London Walk, that Spitalfields is an open air market was in East London. I studied my little tube map and found my way with only a few questions asked, to my shopping destination! Yes, I was proud of myself!

Bicycling: London as in many other cities have joined the Bicycle Share Program Cycle-hire. Of course you really have to know where you are going and be aware that cars drive on the left (absolutely frightful!) so this is not for the faint of heart. However, it is easy and very inexpensive.  Perhaps for the younger set!

Rickshaw Drivers: After attending a wonderful cabaret show in Soho, which ended around 11:30 pm and we finally left at midnight, we attempted to find a taxi which seemed to be impossible. And when it started to rain, we were approached by a rickshaw driver who asked us where we were going. We said, Westminster is much too far, but he checked his little map and said no problem: 10 pounds per person. And we squeezed into the cab (where he put on a cover for us) and we were there in 20 minutes…with a story to tell! After all we were only 1 ½ miles away. More information from London Rickshaws.

Taxis: London taxi drivers are a colorful and fascinating breed and an endless source of information, but, unless you really cannot get there any other way, it is expensive and often takes longer because of the terrible traffic. That’s my opinion. We were told about the UberTaxis and, much like the protests here in Washington, there was a protest by the taxi drivers in London as well. I have not yet tried that option, but many have.

Getting lost: Yes I have much experience there. And it actually helped me find places I wouldn’t have found otherwise. I finally downloaded a compass app onto my “mobile” and that really helped me when the GPS said, “Head North!"

Double Decker Buses: Often they are the perfect way to introduce you to London and there are several types of those as well: ones with full blown tours like Bus Tours or the hop on hop off method from Hop On Hop Off Tours.  And there are just regular buses that take you where you need to go on  London Buses.  You can use your Oyster Card for that too.

Guidebooks: Montgomery County Public Libraries has many guidebooks with all this information inside their colorful pages:
• Fodor's 2015 London - Caird, Jo,
• Fodor's 25 Best. London - Nicholson, Louise
• Rick Steves' London 2014 - Steves, Rick
• Pocket London: Top Sights - Filou, Emilie
And travel e-books that you can download to your e-reader.

Any way you want to explore London, I guarantee you will enjoy, learn, and want to return.

lisa n

Friday, October 10, 2014

Teens, Teens, They're Good for Your Heart!

2013-2014 MCPL Teen Advisory Group
Pardon the paraphrase of the classic rhyme about beans, but I couldn't resist!  I have written before about being blessed to work in a profession I love and to work with some really great people (both colleagues AND customers). Here’s another aspect of my job that I love:  working with teens. Yes, those very same teens that drive you crazy at home and make you think that there might be some methods of punishment from Colonial times that should be revived. Parents of Montgomery County, fear not! You are doing a great job of raising savvy and interesting young adults who love libraries and reading (among other things).  Serving teens at MCPL has been a focus of my work for the last few years as part of a committee that tries to find new and improved ways to reach this age group. This year, I am also helping to lead the MCPL Teen Advisory Group (usually referred to as TAG). The TAG this year has 36 teen members representing 19 high schools from all over Montgomery County (public and private) and 17 (out of 20) of our library branch communities. We have some great plans for developing more interaction between the library and the teen community and for hosting programs and events around the county. These teens also contribute content to the MCPL Teensite in the form of book, movie, music and theater reviews and original writing, drawings and photographs. Any teens who want to contribute content can do so by following the instructions on Teensite—they don’t have to be members of TAG!
TAG members with author Carl Hiaasen
TAG members got to interview author Carl Hiaasen
at Bethesda Library on October 7, 2014. 
While checking out Teensite, notice that there is a tab for Homework that provides access to our premium research databases and other resources that are useful for school assignments. Many reference materials are no longer available in print format so it can be very helpful to know, for example, that you can get to biographical information from Biography in Context any time of the day or night. (No more frustrating trips to the library 15 minutes before closing time on the night before the report is due!!) MCPL also offers many ways for teens to use or to get involved at the library. Teen programs are always happening in all branches throughout the county. (Check our online calendar of events for current listings. You can narrow down your searching by using the tools on the left side of the screen to limit by age group or library branch.) There are group study rooms in some branches that can be reserved by teens (or adults) to do group work. Teens can volunteer at the library for SSL hours or apply for a job as a Library Page.

Teens bring so much energy and enthusiasm to the library—for books, reading, learning, sharing, creating, changing the world, and lots of other things. Working with them keeps me feeling young at heart and it really is a pleasure to see them grow as citizens and as leaders of the future.

Tina R.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Aye or Nae to Scottish Mysteries?

Scotland has been much in the news lately with its ultimately unsuccessful attempt to break away from the United Kingdom.  There was suspense right up to the vote counting with polls showing a very close race between Aye and Nae, but in the end the Naes had it.  British Prime Minister David Cameron claimed the suspense had given him ulcers and undiplomatically revealed that the Queen “purred” down the phone with relief. At least now she won’t have to travel to a foreign country to visit her beloved Scottish retreat at Balmoral.

It just so happened that while Scotland occupied the headlines I was steeped in Scottish atmosphere in both my reading and viewing. I was watching the TV series Outlander based on the Diana Gabaldon novels, and reading a thriller by Peter May, a Scottish author previously unknown to me, that I picked up by chance in the library. Although I enjoy discovering new books by reading reviews and blogs, I think there is still a certain magic in just browsing the library shelves and happening upon a great reading experience. May’s dark portrait of the Outer Hebrides island of Lewis is a world away from Gabaldon’s romantic fantasy set in the “kilts and heather” Scotland of popular imagination. 

I’ve always found mysteries a good way to explore different cultures because the best authors write with a strong sense of place, enriching their plots with local color and customs. For instance, reading Ruth Rendell has kept me up to date with the cultural changes that have taken place in England since I left back in 1970. Here are some mystery series set in Scotland that together reflect the diversity of the country, from remote islands to tough urban neighborhoods.

Edinburgh detective Fin Macleod returns to the Outer Hebrides island of Lewis to help solve a murder. The investigation leads to secrets from his own past growing up in the isolated community. The dramatic centerpiece of the plot is the ancient tradition of sea bird hunting on a remote rock in the Atlantic. This is the first of a projected trilogy. The second, published this year, is The Lewis Man.

This is the latest entry in the Detective Inspector Alex Morrow series set in Glasgow, the gritty urban face of Scottish culture. Mina has written several series all set in her native city, the main stronghold of Scottish nationalist separatism. In this episode Morrow investigates an international arms dealer and a prominent lawyer who may have become entangled in money laundering. To read the series from the beginning start with Still Midnight.

The Hamish MacBeth series are the Scottish version of cozy mysteries, set in the Highlands village of Lochdubh where MacBeth is the local “bobby.” In this latest adventure the village police station is threatened with closure and MacBeth himself becomes a suspect in the murder of a visiting Inspector. To read the series from the beginning start with Death of a Gossip.

Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels are deservedly the best known Scottish mysteries. Set in and around Edinburgh they have earned the description “Tartan Noir.” Against the backdrop of the Scottish independence campaign, Rebus investigates a 30 year old cold case in which his team have been suspected of foul play. To read the series from the beginning start with Knots and Crosses.

So happy reading, cheers, or as the Scots would say "Slainte Mhath!"

Rita T.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Internet Archive - 500 Years Of Book Images You Can Use

The Internet Archive Book Images is a collection of more than 14 million images scanned from books that are in the public domain and spanning over 500 years.  They have just recently been uploaded to Flikr with a Creative Commons license, and are available for all of us to use.  Most of this project is the idea and work of Kalev Leetaru.  You can read more about what this archive covers and how it is being done at the Internet Archive Blog, or in the BBC article Millions of Historical Images Posted To Flickr.  The archive covers a vast variety of images including a huge library of medical books and archives. There is decorative art, including the first picture below.  There are images from accounts of travels, from art books, from books of stories, advertisements, engineering, natural history, all sorts of descriptive and technical texts, a true treasure trove of images.  Each image has a description and source listed with links.

If you need images, these are in the public domain and this is a good place to look The Internet Archive Book Images.

Above is a  decorative graphical flourish added to begin the display below.  There is an enormous variety of decorative art in this collection available to view and to use.

Above is Mrs. Amanda Smith, evangelist and world traveler, in 1893, from an account of her travels and works.  Her travels carried her across England, Scotland, Ireland, India, and Africa.
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In Australia, fish hatching boxes on a small stream, hatching Murray cod.  From an 1889 account of boy travelers, "adventures of two youths in a journey to the Sandwich, Marquesas, Society, Samoan and Feejee islands, and through the colonies of New Zealand, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania".
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A young woman of Tehuantepec in Mexico from "an account of the customs, characteristics, amusements, history and advancement of the Mexicans, and the development and resources of their country" in 1912.
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Illustration of the genus salpa from Johns Hopkins University Biological Laboratory.
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Illustration by a Tibetan artist from a story about jackals, a baboon, and a tiger, from a collection of Tibetan folk tales.
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Illustration from a book about the birds of the British Isles and their eggs.
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Image of a bookshelf from a book by the Pennsylvania-German Society, at the beginning of chapter 5, which discusses schools and educational institutions
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The above images barely scratch the surface of the range, depth, and variety of images available here. Keep in mind this archive includes a vast collection of historical medical texts and illustrations, and everything is in the public domain.  This is a resource just for browsing and entertainment, or to consult if you need images to illustrate some project.  Visit The Internet Archive Book Images.

Nell M.