Friday, August 26, 2011

Fitness - Get Motivated and Get Moving!

"Our bodies are our gardens to which our wills are gardeners." ~William Shakespeare

Lately it seems like every day that I work at the Readers' Services desk, a patron asks me about exercise DVDs. Could it be that I am more aware of these requests because of my own recent fitness efforts, or are there really more of us reaching out to exercise regularly and improve our health? That I don't know, but I do know that the library can be as great a resource for your fitness plans as it has been for mine.

Using the library as my source for fitness materials has given me the opportunity to create a truly personalized plan because I can try out different recipes and workout styles, without spending a fortune on stuff that doesn't work for me. What does work? For me, workouts that make me feel good afterward and recipes that are both healthy and yummy are great motivators. And they are right here, ready to check out. Having all of the library's knowledge and inspiration at my fingertips has gone a long way toward helping me to create measurable results.

Books on nutrition and wellness, along with cookbooks that emphasize healthy foods, can be found on the fourth floor (look under the call numbers 612, 613, and 641.5) And on the third floor, we have workout DVDs (look under DVD 613.7), fitness and health magazines, and even Playaways - small digital audiobooks - geared toward walking and yoga. The shelves here are chock full of information, strategies and aids that can motivate anyone, at any level of fitness, to get up and go for it!

Click here for a list of my top 10 favorites. If you are so inspired, give some of them a try. Or come and check out our collections and find some favorites of your own. What motivates you to move?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summer 2011 Was Hot

Especially for documentaries. Maybe because I'm partial to the genre but I've noticed lots of reviews and previews this season. The Interrupters, Buck, Page One, Last Mountain, and Tabloid each different - each interesting.

The Interrupters is getting a lot of press as it being screened at the Gene Siskel Center this month. Homegrown in Chicago, this film by Steve James, the director of Hoop Dreams, and author Alex Kotlowitz, follows individuals and the group Ceasefire in their inspirational attempts to quell neighborhood and youth violence.

Buck is the story of a modern day horse-whisperer. Beautifully filmed and a magnet for horse lovers it is the story of the man who overcomes his abusive past and finds his calling.

Page One provides an insider view into the frenetic New York Times newsroom as it tries to evolve and stay solvent in this time of electronic and 24 hour news.

The coal industry and mountain top stripping are the subjects of The Last Mountain. In the same vein as An Inconvenient Truth and Food, Inc. , its goal to alert viewers of a problem before irreparable damage is done.

Tabloid breaks out of the pack with no overt message except that truth is stranger than fiction. Renown filmmaker Errol Morris brings us a fantastical story involving people on the fringe and the media tale of love and obsession.

Unfortunately, most of these are no longer in the theaters and the dvds are not yet available. Look for them in the library's collection by the end of the year.

In the meantime, consider these unique documentaries currently in our catalog.
5000 Miles From Home
Emergency Mine Rescue

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Magnificence of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Years ago, in my early teens and in thrall of all things New York, I just assumed the New York Philharmonic was considered the greatest orchestra in the country. My mother, a violin teacher and Chicago Symphony Orchestra subscriber since her music school days, set me straight.

"The Chicago Symphony's considered the greatest orchestra in the country."
"No. Really?"

I wondered if perhaps, as a longtime Chicago area resident and CSO attendee, she was biased. I wondered if this was an attempt to sell me on the merits of Chicago when I was intent on moving to NYC. In my defense, I was young, more knowledgeable about pianists than orchestras, biased in favor of all things New York, and, well, I was young.

Now, I haven't undertaken a comparative study of symphony orchestras--and I'm certainly not qualified to judge. Nor is there a World Series for orchestras. But after attending a number of CSO concerts over the years and listening to a lot of CDs, I do think my mother was right. And Gramophone Magazine, among others, is on her side. In 2008, the classical music magazine ranked the Chicago Symphony Orchestra number 5 on its list of Top 20 Orchestras, the highest ranked of any U.S. orchestra. (The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam was named number 1.)

But enough with the rankings; this isn't baseball. Just check out some of our Chicago Symphony Orchestra recordings and listen for yourself. And be grateful that you can listen to great music for free courtesy of your local library, and that you live in the vicinity of the greatness that is the CSO. Here are two CDs to start with.

The library owns the complete Beethoven Symphonies conducted by the late Sir Georg Solti. My favorite is the 3rd Symphony, with its soaring first movement. And there's a reason the 5th symphony is a classical music hit. Listen to all four movements--not just the famous first--to hear why. To experience the joy that is the 9th symphony, turn the volume up to 11 (but not in the library, seriously).

The CSO now has its own label, and in 2010 released Verdi's Messa da Requiem conducted by Riccardo Muti, the new music director of the CSO. According the interview with Muti that accompanies the CD, Muti feels that: "Verdi, like Mozart, was a composer who expressed the most essential feelings of mankind: love, hate, friendship, jealousy--everything that reflects our life, our way of being human. His music is the mirror of who we are." The composition begins so quietly you may think the CD isn't working. But listen carefully and stay tuned for an otherworldly listening experience.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Darkness Within (It's funny, right?)

There is something dark inside every human being--a twisted attraction the macabre. We cannot help but slow down ever so slightly as we pass a gnarled car wreck. We cannot help but congregate in large audiences around a structure which has caught fire and watch with morbid fixation as it burns to the ground. We live in a society of ambulance chasers and so many police-procedural television dramas which chronicle the deeds of the very worst sort of person.

There are a small number of people among us who have taken full possession of this innate human darkness. They are writers like Chuck Palanhiuk and Neil Gaiman. Their writing capitalizes on this gruesome enthusiasm we all (to some extent) secretly share. They cast it out into the open and poke it with a stick. The result is sometimes uncomfortable, and almost always hilarious.

I can personally recommend Jeanette Winterson with a great deal of genuine eagerness. Her writing is whimsical with an ethereal quality I've never before come across, particularly with consideration to the dark subject matter towards which she gravitates. I recently read Lighthousekeeping, which chronicles the life of an orphaned Scottish girl living in a small, antiquated seaside village. It narrates the obstacles facing she and her lopsided terrier Dogjim and their quest for survival (perhaps even happiness) despite the overwhelming odds.

Here are some other staff picks which explore the darker side of funny:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fiction vs Nonfiction

I just can't keep it straight anymore. What's true? What's not? They say the truth is stranger than fiction (but anyone who says that has never read Jonathan Carroll). I find it hard to tell which is which these days. What's the world coming to?

I was helping a patron today who was looking for book-groupy books. I showed her our book group section and started pointing out a few of my favorites. Then she said "Is there anything like Unbroken by Laura Hildebrand, I loved that book". I showed her the nonfiction books in our book group section. It's interesting that quite a few people have noticed that our Thursday evening book group choices this summer have all been nonfiction. We didn't plan it that way; it just happened. But it does seem like we are discussing more nonfiction lately.

One of my recent book group choices was Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls. It was a "true-life novel" whatever that means. It is a fictionalized biography of the author's grandmother. And it read like a biography (albeit a good one!). Walls' previous book was the bestseller The Glass Castle. It was a memoir about her unconventional upbringing with eccentric parents. And it read like a novel. There were dozens of those "it couldn't possibly be true" moments. Yet it is a memoir (nonfiction). Hmm.

I read more fiction than nonfiction. And I do like my nonfiction to read like a novel in most cases. I just don't know if I can tell the difference anymore.