Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cary Grant versus Clark Gable...

                                 ...a refined ruckus

Recently, a few patrons have recommended that we create a classic movie section within our DVDs. Of course, with classic movies come movie stars. Everyone has their favorite. I certainly have mine -- Cary Grant combined smooth charm, wit, and physical slapstick in a way that I find irresistible. And he was a versatile performer, too. North by Northwest is a masterpiece of suspense. Before the Wayans brothers in White Chicks and Guy Pierce in The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert there was Cary Grant  in I Was a Male War Bride. And my favorite comedy of all time is Arsenic and Old Lace. I highly recommend it. Just in time for Halloween, it's a spooky lark starring -- of course -- Cary Grant as a hapless newlywed, with Raymond Massey as a Boris Karloff look-alike and Peter Lorre as his criminal side-kick. Throw in two maiden aunts poisoning lonely old men and an uncle who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt burying cholera victims in the Suez Canal, conveniently located in their basement. What could be funnier?

On the other hand, I've heard that Clark Gable could hold his own pretty well as a leading man. It Happened One Night is the romantic comedy from which all others can be judged. He was impressive in Mutiny on the Bounty and downright smoldering and unforgettable in Gone with the Wind.

A friend and I have discussed this a bit and, man to man, we're not sure who would win, Grant or Gable. Gable certainly comes off as tougher than Grant, a scrapper with more street smarts. But Grant is agile and crafty, and he always manages to come out ahead. Who would you bring home for a movie night?

Or maybe you'd prefer to stay in with Vivien Leigh, Claudette Colbert, Katharine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, or Humphrey Bogart. To find your favorite in our catalog, just enter their name and add "and DVD" (e.g. - Cary Grant and DVD) to see which of their films we have available. Then pass me the popcorn please.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Oooh Scary

I don't generally read a lot of scary books. I tend to like fiction that is more realistic, so things like monsters, vampire, zombies, and lawn mowers that come to life don't really work for me. But every October I try to read something scary. And there are scary books out there that terrify me. The best I have ever read was Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. It was awesome. And every horror book I have read since has tried to scare me that much, and so far none have.

This October my scary book of the month is Those Across the River. It's the first novel by Christopher Buelman. And though not as scary as Silence of the Lambs, I am enjoying it nearly as much. It is a carefully woven story that brings in history, atmosphere and interesting characters together in a chillingly satisfying novel. In 1935, Frank Nichols moves his wife Dora to Georgia to research a book on his Grandfather who was the last slaveholder to let go of his slaves after the emancipation. Upon arriving Frank is warned not to cross the river, but that is where the plantation resided.

I don't want to give too much away. But if you like a scary story mixed with some interesting history, this is a great read.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Animal Instinct

I am a peaceful inhabitant of this world. I bear no ill-will towards any other creature with whom I share our earthly dwelling. One might say of me (and be very nearly correct) that I wouldn't even hurt a fly. As it happens, I have recently been cohabiting with a cricket of somewhat questionable character. Despite having never solicited my orthopteric room-mate, I made a sincere effort to accommodate him; even as he chirped endlessly through six straight nights. Even, in fact, as he mercilessly kept me awake in a week when I was stricken both with illness and with an abundance early morning appointments. I left him in peace, not once seeking him out, but rather allowing him to enjoy the warmth and safety of my home--it is, after all, in my nature to be hospitable to a stranger in need, and also not to kill bugs because I don't want to get their slimy guts on my shoes. I am somewhat ashamed to admit, though, that on one particular night, my tiny house-guest got the better of my patience. He had decided to make a home of the space beneath my dresser (which sits immediately to one side of my bed). Not only had he violated my personal sleeping space, but he also made a shockingly loud job of it with a countdown to less than five hours before I had to be up for work. As soon as the lights were out and sleep was nigh upon me, my insect friend began to whir--it was a whir akin to that of a gas-powered, professional-grade chainsaw. I knew in that moment that he had gone too far, and I was up in an instant (the instant after I waited twenty minutes to see if he would stop). I dashed towards the lights and flipped them on, turning towards the dresser in a blind rage. I began to tear out the drawers in a what can only be called a righteous and justified fury. I stalked my query with the stealth and determination of a jungle cat. As I ripped out the last drawer I paused, tense with anticipation, my ears ringing with the pounding of my heart and the echo of his battle-cry. The air was stagnant and as quiet as a bedroom at three o'clock in the morning where no cricket lives.

For a moment I wondered--could this really be right? He was only a defenseless animal seeking shelter from the cold...and I didn't see him. Perhaps this was a sign that I was meant to leave the poor creature in peace? In the stillness of the moment it had taken me to return to my pacifistic philosophical roots the cricket chirped again and my skin crawled with the indignity of it; the knave was taunting me. He was here. I could sense him--I flung aside an errant sock and came face-to-face with the brutish monster who had so flippantly violated my home and terrorized my sleepless nights, haunting the visions of my half-awake mind. "You!" I croaked, hoarse with the cold from which I had been totally unable to recover thanks to a seven-night-concert-series featuring the illustrious Jiminy. He was so very small. Half the size of the eraser you might find at the end of a number-two pencil. The tiniest little black bug you might ever see. As our eyes met across the field of battle I knew in that moment that I had won my triumph. I raised my arm up with all of the deliberateness of well-earned vindication and rained swift justice down upon him. In other words I smashed him with a tissue box. Such was the blow that neither the bug nor the box survived.

I left his tiny smushed corpse exactly where he had expired; I proposed to myself that it would be a monument to my victory as well as to all peace-loving humans who seek only to protect their own homes against ruthless invaders. I left it also as a warning to any future would-be hostile cricket-colonists. I am optimistic that the very kind Ms. Eleanor J. Greene McBean (master poop-smeller, shoe-chewer, and bug-eater extraordinaire) will dispose of the remains promptly and discreetly as is her usual way.

That being said, isn't it amazing how loud a cricket can be despite it's itty-bitty size? If you're interested in learning the mechanics of that phenomenon, you might look into the numerous books in the library's collection which detail the physiology of insects. The 500's section on the fourth floor includes books on a plethora of different members of the animal kingdom from poop-smellers like Ellie to fiends like Jimminy to natural-born hunters like me (or panthers or mountain lions if you prefer).

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Coming Soon on DVD!

The summer blockbusters will soon be surfacing on DVD! Place a hold today on these popular movies:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Beautiful Mosaic or Tossed Salad?

Years ago, I worked in a Manhattan library where my immediate co-workers included young people from Sri Lanka, Cameroon, and Honduras. Ever the ham, I bemoaned what I saw as my bland origins--I grew up in Illinois.

"Where were your ancestors from?" asked my supervisor.
I rattled off the different countries.
"So you're a mutt!" he teased.
"I prefer to think of myself as a beautiful mosaic!" I spread out my arms and tilted my chin for effect. (Did I mention that I'm a ham?)

"Beautiful mosaic" was an expression frequently used by New York City's then Mayor, David Dinkins, to characterize the magnificent diversity of New York City. Other metaphors for diversity over the years have included melting pot, patchwork quilt, and the understandably little used tossed salad.

I confess that my favorite of the four is mosaic, though perhaps I'm impartial since the Des Plaines Public Library is a proud participant in a program known as the Suburban Mosaic. Founded in 2004, the Suburban Mosaic is a community-wide reading program that seeks to foster cultural understanding through literature. Every year, representatives from schools, libraries and other organizations in suburban Cook and Lake counties come together to select three to five books, each at a different reading level, that embody the Suburban Mosaic's vision: "To reach a deeper understanding of the various cultures that make up the suburbs of Cook and Lake County, Illinois, in order to reduce prejudice, racism and the systemic marginalization of populations."

This year's selections include the books Say Hello! by Rachel Isadora, for pre-schoolers, and Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, for adults and high-schoolers. To learn more about the Suburban Mosaic, stop by the Readers' Services desk to pick up a brochure or check out the Suburban Mosaic website.

Which term do you feel best conveys our country's--or our community's--diversity? Melting pot, mosaic, patchwork quilt, tossed salad or something else?