Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Great American Road Trip

The road trip is a defining part of the American psyche. There's a great set of articles in the July/August 2013 issue of Mental Floss called 4 Road Trips That Changed Everything. It features the miles covered by the 1960's Highwaymen art movement along Florida State Road A1A, Alice Huyler Ramsey's 1909 transcontinental drive from New York City to San Francisco, John Muir's 1,000-mile walk from Indianapolis to the Gulf of Mexico, and an illustrated guide to Lewis and Clark's historic expedition. Fascinating stuff!

I have keen memories of long family drives. We trekked from Des Plaines to California, Minnesota, New York, Washington DC, Tennessee, and Florida. As an adult, I have traveled Route 66, the Mother Road, as far as Oklahoma. My recall of those highways is visceral: the smell of sun-warmed asphalt, a haze of butterflies in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the vertiginous stretch of bridge across the Mississippi River, and endless billboards across the southeast calling us like sirens to "See Ruby Falls." So when I daydream about a getaway, real or imagined, the open road is nearly always a central theme. And either way the library has a rich well of resources available. We have guidebooks, DVDs, magazines, and memoirs to help you find that perfect drive. We also have novels and films to carry you away on a road trip of the mind, from Cormac McCarthy's The Road to National Lampoon's Vacation and everywhere in between. Chances are, your favorites are here waiting for you. For a good laugh, I highly recommend The Sure Thing.

What was your most memorable road trip? Or, for the armchair traveler, what would your ideal driving vacation be?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

For Music Obsessives and Bargain Lovers

The Beatles' "Yesterday" is one of the most recorded songs, and although I love it, I'm not particularly curious to hear other interpretations, which I fear might be saccharine. The song "On Broadway" is another matter. I can't get enough of it, and, fortunately for me, I can download multiple versions of it--to keep!--from Freegal, the library's free music download provider, available via our website.

The song, which has one of the catchiest opening riffs ever, and in which the singer dreams of making it on Broadway, has been interpreted by, among others, The Drifters, 80s synth pop singer Gary Numan ("Cars"), Sly and the Family Stone, Frank Sinatra, Neil Young, and Jennifer Hudson and Katharine McPhee (on the tv series Smash).

On Freegal I was able to download one of the earliest recordings--and my second favorite--by the girl group The Crystals. A haunting, atmospheric version that opens with just  piano, castanets, and (I think) a cornet, it swells to include strings as the small town heroine of the song sings: "I swear I'm gonna get there or I'll die." In this version, with the pathos of a Tennessee Williams play, you're not convinced the girl's going to make it to Broadway.

My favorite version is the jazz-inflected George Benson recording, which won a Grammy for best male R & B vocal performance and was used to impressive effect in the movie All That Jazz. (Younger viewers may remember an instrumental version from the Kevin Spacey movie American Beauty.) Benson has an amazing voice--in his lower register he sounds like a more sultry Stevie Wonder--and this is a triumphant rendition in which he tells the nay-sayers who insist he'll end up on a Greyhound bus for home: "But they're wrong, I know they are/'Cause I can play this here guitar." It also boasts an eerie synthesizer line that looms over and contrasts with Benson's joyous scat singing. (I'm not a fan of most scat singing, but  it sounds as natural as speech here, frequently doubling Benson's guitar lines.) Although this recording isn't available via Freegal, several of the libraries in our system have it on CD.

Among the many other versions available on Freegal are an awesome instrumental performance by the Tito Puente Latin Jazztette and Jennifer Hudson and Katharine McPhee's duet, a great showcase for Hudson's powerful voice and emotional range.

Whether you're into rock, rap, classical, or something else, you can often find multiple recordings of favorite songs and compositions on Freegal. Des Plaines card holders can download up to three songs a week, and they're yours to keep, to transfer to your iPod, etc. (Note to Windows users: if you have iTunes, after saving a Freegal song to your computer, search for the song via the Windows Start button and click on the song, after which it will show up in your iTunes library.)

Do you enjoy listening to multiple versions of a particular song? If so, which one?

Photo of George Benson: http://www.last.fm/music/George+Benson/+images/2779771

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Is the book always better than the film? You decide at Books to Film!

Whether you are a film buff or just looking for a great read before the summer is over (or both!), feel free to join us as we debut an exciting new Books to Film series here at Des Plaines Public Library on August 15th. Books to Film will start with a showing of a film, followed by a discussion about the movie and the book it is based on.

We will begin the discussion series with Dennis Lehane's psychological thriller Shutter Island. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels attempts to solve the mystery of a patient who escapes a fortress-like mental institution built on an isolated island. Daniels soon discovers the institution itself may be harboring dark secrets. Martin Scorsese adapted the book to the 2010 film Shutter Island, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Teddy Daniels. 

What critics have said about Lehane's Shutter Island:
"[Lehane] returns with another blistering page-turner"
                                                                                          - Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist
"My high concept definition of this fast-paced, brilliantly written and extremely disturbing book: Indiana Jones meets Dr. Who"
                                                                              - Beth Anderson, Rendezvous Review
"...carries an ending so shocking yet so faithful to what has come before, that it will go down as one of the most aesthetically right resolutions ever written"
                                                                                                            - Publishers Weekly
Light refreshments will be served during the discussion.Copies of the book are available at the Reader Services desk on the 3rd floor, but feel free to come enjoy the movie with or without the book.

Register at the Reader Services desk on the 3rd floor or online.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Man Astonished to Check Out Illinois Library Book While in Northeastern PA

- From our Mid-Atlantic office
Joel Sawyer, 36, was undertaking an unexpected road trip with no audiobook to listen to. Then an idea occurred to him at the interchange between the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstate 80: "I thought, I do have my tablet with me. Would it be possible to download an eaudiobook to it and listen to that on the way home?"

To find out, he pulled over into the parking lot of a fast food restaurant and used their wireless network to access the digital collection of the Des Plaines Public Library, linked from the eDPPL section of the library's website. Sawyer signed into the digital collection website (mymediamall.net for those keeping score at home) using his DPPL card and located a book he was interested in listening to. "Yeah, Inferno by Max Hastings. I figured I'm looking at 13 hours of driving, why not listen to an epic history of World War II, right?" Sawyer downloaded it and was on the road again in five minutes, the book speaking from his tablet.

Being able to check out a book three states from his home library was astounding to Sawyer, who stated that it was a mark of the 21st century. Overall, he was thrilled to now have a book to listen to on the long road trip, but there was a small drawback. "At first it was slow going because I needed to make adjustments to volume and other things, which meant I needed to pull over at a few exits. I wanted to be safe and responsible, you know?"