Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Matte or Glossy?

Okay sometimes it just happens. A newspaper advice column appears before my eyes and the next thing I know I have read the whole thing. It happened to me last week as I read a rather poignant plea for help.The letter started Dear So and So, a few of my friends have told me I'm dull. What should I do?

Well, Ms. Advice Columnist took a very calm approach. Her first response was not "with friends like these who needs enemies." Instead she began a discussion of different personalities and how some of us have a matte finish and some have a glossy finish. And some of her best friends are in fact a little dull but they are good listeners, reliable and comforting.

This holiday season many gift givers are going to be evaluating ebook devices. You have seen the glossy tablets that are the life of the party. Pretty colors shining luminously from the screen, images swirling and gliding across the screen. These devices provide access to media of all types. But there is something to be said for the devices that are more single in purpose --- mainly to read a book. Typically these use e-ink and they mimic the traditional reading experience. The Amazon Kindle, the Barnes and Noble Simple Touch Nook are examples of ereaders that use this technology. They are less of an investment, sturdy and have a long battery life. They may look dull, but let's say they have a matte finish and could be a reader's best friend.

Want help researching an ereader? Talk to us at Readers Services. We have devices for you to practice with or checkout, and we'll walk you through the options to use library ebooks so you don't have to spend money getting ebooks. Also our Downloadable MyMediaMall walk in sessions can be helpful.
For more information call 847-376-2840.

CNET.com has handy reviews of devices as well.
Sony PRS-T1
Amazon Kindle
Barnes and Noble Simple Touch Nook
Complete CNET ereader list

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thank you

Different people use libraries for various purposes: locating a book before a long flight, discovering a new movie director, working on a term paper, learning a new language, researching a snow-blower purchase, viewing summer blockbusters now out on DVD, downloading ebooks, or re-reading an old favorite, among others. In many cases, we at the library are lucky enough to assist in these pursuits. During this season set aside to remind us of all that we are thankful for, I want to thank you, the Patrons of the Des Plaines Public Library, for letting us share your story.

The chance to interact with people, learning new things, hearing great stories, and understanding how people tick is a fundamental reason we are here at the desk, and one that is fulfilling for me as much as I hope it is for you. Any time you come to the library and need any kind of help, have any questions, or just want to say hello, stop by our desk: we'd love to talk with you! I wish all of you had the juiciest of turkeys, the tastiest of pumpkin pies and the happiest of family memories on Thanksgiving Day 2011. And most importantly, thank you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Making a List, Checkin It Twice

Gonna find out what book to read next. I know the holidays are here because I have more than 40 books on reserve. How did that happen? It's because in November and December all the "Best of" lists come out. I love the lists. Let all the smart people go and read everything and narrow it down so I only read the good stuff. Usually I find enough books to get me through a good portion of the following year. There are:

Tthe National Book Award and all the Finalists
The Man/Booker Prize Long List
The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2011
Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011
Amazon's Best of 2011
Publisher's Weekly
and Library Journal

Some of the (very good) books that I have read as a result of these lists are:

Nightwoods by Charles Frazier

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollack

I Want My Hat Back (a kids picture book, but it made my day, so much that I had to include it).

What were some of the best books you read in 2011?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dear Agony

"Into the nothing, faded and weary, I wont leave and let you fall behind. Live for the dying, Heaven hear me, I know we can make it out alive." That is one of my all time favorite lyrics from East Coast based outfit, Breaking Benjamin. The lyrics come from the song "Into the Nothing" from my favorite Benjamin album and latest release, Dear Agony. The album was released back in 2009 but I feel it deserves some recognition. This album takes on a more intimate and softer turn and is a genius album from start to finish. Their previous albums were more of a harder edge compared to this album but don't be disappointed for this album still promises to give you a rock punch. Personally this album is more on the alternative side whilst their older releases were more of a hard rock tone. Breaking Benjamin were formed back in 1998 in the quiet town of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The name Breaking Benjamin came from Lead Singer Ben Burnley's days as a solo performer. Ben performed a Nirvana cover and accidentally broke the venue owner's microphone, thus coming up with the name of the band, Breaking Benjamin. To this day Breaking Benjamin have released 4 studio albums and earlier this year released a greatest-hits album entitled Shallow Bay: The Best of Breaking Benjamin. Breaking Benjamin has had their share of band members and are currently a 2 person band due to the departure
of former members Aaron Fink and Mark Klepaski. Now Breaking Benjamin consists of founding member Ben Burnley and later member Chad Szeliga. Chad Szeliga also drums for the famous metal band, Black Label Society. Similar bands to Breaking Benjamin include Three Days Grace, Skillet, Trapt, Papa Roach, Seether, 3 Doors Down,
Crossfade, Shinedown, and Sick Puppies. To this day Breaking Benjamin have sold over 5 million albums in the US alone.

Dear Agony has been a very good listen for me. Since the day the album was released I fell in love with it and I always listen to the album while driving or on my break at
work, at a gathering, or pretty much whenever I feel like listening to it. The album contains 11 full length songs and are all lyrically motivating, emotional and inspirational.
Upon being released on iTunes, Dear Agony reached the top ten charts witihin days after its release. It is really hard to filter out my top 3 songs but personally the tracks,
"Anthem of the Angels", "Lights Out", and "Into the Nothing" would have to be my top 3 favorite tracks off the album. "Anthem of the Angels" is definitely more of a softer
emotional theme. Lyrics such as "Days go on forever, but i have not left your side. We can chase the dark together, if you go, then so will I", are very unique and touching.
After thinking for a while I think the song is trying to take a bit of a Religious direction. "Lights Out" is somewhat of a satisfying song for those of us who have to deal with
troublesome people and those who are always dragging us down. This song also is one of the more harder tracks off Dear Agony. "Now you want to take me down as if I even 
care. I am the monster in your head, and I thought you learned by now, it seems you haven't yet. I am the venom in your skin and now your life is broken." Lyrics such as 
that definitely prove why Breaking Benjamin has one of the most intelligent and creative lyrics. "Into the Nothing" also has one of the greatest lyrics. "Ill keep you inside. Where I lead you cannot follow. Straight into the light, as my breath grows still and shallow." That really says it all. It does not get more direct and inspirational than that. In the past I really did not appreciate lyrical analogies, themes or messages but this album has opened my eyes to see that an album not only can be good instrumentally, but also by creating ingenious lyrics. Lyrics are a huge theme in this album and pretty much in all of Breaking Benjamin's songs. They really mean their lyrics and always try to send out a postive message to their fans. 

I have seen Breakin Benjamin perform live on a few occasions and they also deliver outstanding performances. They really get the crowd jumping and into the music. The only complaint I have for the album is the fact that guitar solos are not present in any of the songs but that is pretty common in most alternative songs. They always play at least one cover of a famous song and have payed homage to musics greatest legends such as Johnny Cash, Pantera Guitarist Dimebag Darrell, Queen, Michael Jackson, Alice In Chains, Depeche Mode and Cyndi Lauper just to name a few. Chicago is one of Breaking Benjamin's favorite cities to play and according to Burnley, "Chicago has a place in my heart." Unfortunately all the good news has to come to a temporary stop due to the announcement of the band's indefinite hiatus. This is in response to lead man, Ben Burnley's illnesses. For the time being we will have to enjoy their current releases and no plans for a future album have been decided.Their fanbase is of a very intimate one and their fanbase is full of die hard people. I listened to them on occasion in the past along with my other music but after being exposed to this album, Breaking Benjamin stands out in my music collection. I will always be a fan of this group and to end with my own quote, "This album has a place in my heart."


Monday, November 14, 2011

What Would Beethoven Think OR Relax to the Classics

Would Beethoven be appalled that his compositions appear on CDs with cheesy titles and cheesier photographs like The Ultimate Relaxation Album II? After all, this was a man who believed: "Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman." He was a man of lofty aims who, in my opinion, took music to heights unmatched by anyone before or since. I cannot conceive of him sitting down at the piano to compose something merely "relaxing": he was after much more than that. And yet, I cannot deny that I feel at peace with the world, and yes, relaxed, when I listen to the sublime second movement of his 5th Piano Concerto, which appears on the Ultimate Relaxation Album II.

I was reminded of this wonderful side effect of some classical music--its ability to relax us and offer respite from the world--while reading There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz. Published in 1991, it's a portrait of two brothers growing up poor in Chicago's Henry Horner Homes, a dangerous public housing complex where mothers feared their children might not live to see 18. As depicted by the eloquent Kotlowitz, the younger brother, 9-year-old Pharoah, whose childhood is under threat from his surroundings, "clutched his childhood with the vigor of a tiger gripping his meat. He wouldn't let it go." He also "listened to classical music on the radio because, he said, it relaxed him."

Over the years, many have asked Kotlowitz what became of Pharoah and his older brother, whose lives he chronicled over a two-year period, and whose futures matter to readers before they've finished the second chapter. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune makes it plain that like many who grow up poor in violent surroundings, their lives have been difficult. But I hope that wherever Pharoah is, he continues to take solace in music, and that it brings him some peace.

Inspired by this moving book and by young Pharoah's appreciation of classical music, I updated a CD list I created a few years ago called Relax to the Classics. You can access the list here and then check out a little respite from the world yourself. And feel free to chime in with your favorite piece of music to relax to--classical or otherwise.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

War is Hell (and Sometimes Funny)

"Razzle dazzle!"
Veteran's Day is here! My dad is a former naval officer and Vietnam veteran. I'm sure his memory contains many war stories where stress and danger are central themes. But the war stories I grew up on had a very different flavor. Sitting around the dinner table long after the the meal was done, he would keep us in stitches with tales of hijinks and misadventure. He told stories about a destroyer running into a reef because no one wanted to wake the captain, about target practice with 5" guns versus one very lucky cow, and about an encounter between local law enforcement and a busload of drunken sailors. I was fascinated by this glimpse into his life before me, and I knew from an early age that military life can provide plenty of fodder for laughs.

This is a day set aside to honor the men and women who have fought, and continue to fight, to protect the rights and freedoms we enjoy in this country. I am proud of the service my father provided for his country, and try to remember to thank him for it each Veterans Day. Thank the veterans in your life by tickling their funny bone with a military comedy.

Click here for a list of DVDs filled with U. S. military-issue hilarity.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Book That Got Away

Book three was my favorite of the lot
We all have that book—the book to which all other books are compared. A book that made us feel a certain way, or changed our perspective on the world, or on life. Maybe a book that did all of the above. At the risk of drowning in my own juvenile, non-literary shame, I’m going to bite the bullet for the sake of journalistic integrity and admit that my “book” or “books” in this case are the Harry Potter Series.  I began reading them at the tender age of eleven and in spite of the fact that I read them so young, (or maybe…rather, quite probably, because of it), no book since has rekindled such a sense of wonder and excitement in me. There are millions of great books in the world just waiting to be discovered, but I can’t help but feel less than hopeful that any book will ever speak to me in the same way that Harry Potter did the very first time I read it. Even re-reading them as an adult I am left only with the strong memory of having marveled at those words so many years ago, laughed along with my favorite characters, and jumped at every unexpected plot-twist. It’s still a great series; really well-imagined, thoughtful, thorough, exciting, and funny. But when “that book” isn’t even as good as “that book” the second time around, what hope is there of finding a book that matches it? Of course this is a challenge that must be undertaken regardless of the odds.

When did you read "that book"?
During my childhood.
During my early adolescence.
In highschool.
In college.
As an adult.
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