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Marsh Mud Madness with Roger Day at Avondale Library, June 3

Mon, 06/02/2014 - 3:15pm

It's time to kick-off the summer with an explosive night of musical fun at the Avondale Regional Library. Grab your boots! Get your hat! And join us Tuesday, June 3, 6:30 p.m., as Roger Day, a two-time Parent's Choice Gold Award Winner, stomps in the mud...the marsh mud!


Roger Day: "I Love to Study Mud" from Chalkhill Productions on Vimeo.
Carla Perkins
Avondale Library

Book Review: The Count of Monte Cristo

Mon, 06/02/2014 - 11:15am
The Count of Monte Cristo
Alexandre Dumas

A literary classic and, happily, a wildly popular entertainment, The Count of Monte Cristo is an epic adventure like the author’s, Alexandre Dumas’, The Three Musketeers novels, but set in the contemporary France and Italy of the eighteen-thirties and forties just before the onset of the industrial revolution. This was an era when one traveled by sail and swift horses and depended on letters of introduction, when men fought duels with swords or pistols for the honor of their names and that of their families. The Count of Monte Cristo is the story of a man who comes to believe he is an instrument of divine justice and retribution.

Originally published in serial form and full of cliff-hangers, The Count of Monte Cristo is a page turner. The plot is as convoluted as an Indiana Jones movie and as pointless to summarize. However, Dumas demonstrates that a great author needs no computer animation to create vivid special effects. Strong emotions—horror, despair, heartbreak, terror, exaltation, love—in exotic locales are the hallmark of the romantic era, but as the Count’s revenge unfolds the story becomes a psychological thriller set in the mannered drawing rooms of the Parisian elite. One after another characters are drug down by their own flaws, their greed and ambition.

Like Victor Hugo, his exact contemporary, Dumas’s father was a Napoleonic general, the famous Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, to this day the highest ranking officer of color for a continental army. Readers of that time had the great English romantic poets—Keats, Tennyson, and Byron—on their shelves. Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame had been published ten years previously. Edgar Allen Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death and many of his other great stories were nearly contemporaneous, as was A Christmas Carol. Dickens was at the height of his powers. Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and the epic Moby Dick (Melville) would appear soon. Hugo, clearly influenced by The Count of Monte Cristo, was beginning work on Les Miserables. Jean Valjean, like the Count, wrestled with his conscience and God.

Readers of contemporary historical romances will find much to love in The Count of Monte Cristo. It is the great, great grandparent of the romance genre. Ladies swoon and broad-chested men declaim with melodramatic bravery. Dumas could weave a great yarn, but he endures because he was a great writer. No doubt Oscar Wilde cut his teeth on Dumas’s witty epigrams. This is a view into a lost world where men still called one another “Your Excellency” without irony, but, we care about The Count of Monte Cristo because we care about the mysterious Count.

Check it out.

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

Birmingham Public Library To Receive Prestigious Public Relations Award For Worldwide Celebration of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail’’

Mon, 06/02/2014 - 9:14am
    Archivists Jim Baggett and Catherine Oseas display the Birmingham
    jail and court dockets that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. signed.The Birmingham Public Library will receive a national library public relations award for its 2013 worldwide celebration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

The library received the John Cotton Dana Award, which honors outstanding and effective strategic communication campaigns that produce results. The Library Leadership and Management Association presents the award each year. This is the fourth time that BPL has won the award, which will be presented on June 29 during the American Library Association’s annual conference in Las Vegas. BPL was one of eight libraries from across the nation to win this year. Each library will receive $10,000 from the H.W. Wilson Foundation. The awards will be giving during a reception sponsored by Birmingham-based EBSCO.

Judges received 83 contest submissions. To see a list of all winners, please visit: https://johncottondana.nonprofitcms.org/awards/Page/winners2014.

BPL Director Renee Blalock said that while BPL employees Jim Baggett and Melinda Shelton lead this project, the whole library staff pitched in to not only make the program a reality but to also help promote it. “This award is a testimony to the power of commitment of all BPL staff in this effort,’’ she said, adding that this award is a tremendous honor for BPL and for Birmingham.

On April 16, 2013, 50 years to the day that King wrote the letter, 10,000 people from around the world read King’s letter aloud in public places. Several public readings were held in Birmingham locations, including the downtown library. Mayor William A. Bell Sr. kicked off the Birmingham public readings at BPL that morning. Because of the library’s strategic focus, strong research to identify key audiences and effective use of social media, readings took place in 33 states and in 20 countries, from South Africa to Iceland. U.S. Congresswoman Terri Sewell read an excerpt from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry’s students participated in their own public reading at Tulane University in New Orleans.

In Taiwan, elementary students studied King’s letter and shared their impressions. One child wrote: “You have a wonderful dream and tough mind.’’ Another child wrote: “You are so cool.’’

Birmingham Public Library head archivist Jim Baggett said that to his knowledge, he’s never known of people, on a single day around the world, to hold public readings of such a historical document, which King wrote to highlight the importance of nonviolent resistance in a segregated Birmingham.

“We wanted to share this experience with people around the globe because many people have never read the full text of King’s letter and many are unfamiliar with the history of how the letter came to be written and how the letter has served as an inspirational document to freedom fighters throughout the world,’’ Baggett said.

Established in 1946, the John Cotton Dana Award is the top national award for innovative library public relations and the most prestigious award presented by the American Library Association.

A list of participating locations for the public reading: http://www.bplonline.org/programs/1963/Letter.aspx

BPL’s Pinterest site has several photos from the public readings: http://www.pinterest.com/bplonline/letter-from-birmingham-jail-a-worldwide-celebratio/

Link to BPL readings: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bpl/8675305621/

Movie Review: The Shooting Party

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 8:00am
The Shooting Party
Directed by Alan Bridges



I recently re-watched The Shooting Party after about a 20-year gap. I’ve now seen it about four times altogether. I’m glad to say this is not one of those cases where the last time I’ve seen something was when I was young and the movie just doesn’t hold up anymore. If anything, I may like it more. I see new things in it as a middle-aged person, a sure sign of a film built to last.

Now with Downton Abbey the apparent standard for how the film/tv universe approaches how the English upper class deals with their servants and vice versa, you may want to know how The Shooting Party stacks up. To me, five minutes of The Shooting Party tells me more about these two classes in the early twentieth century than ten hours of Downton, and I like Downton a lot, never miss it. This is because Julian Fellowes isn’t nearly in the same league as Isabel Colegate, the author of the novel The Shooting Party is based on. (To be fair, Fellowes would probably be the first to agree with the last sentence.)

Fall 1913. An aristocratic party assembles at the estate of English aristocrat Sir Randolph Nettleby (James Mason). They talk, gossip, argue, play, dine and conduct affairs. And the men shoot birds every day. This is the old order about to crumble. Most of these people are emotionally repressed, cold, frustrated. Some are arrogant, racist, oblivious to any but their social sphere. Some are likeable. All are believably human.

A young boy spends much of the story looking for his missing pet duck, terrified that someone will shoot it for sport. We can see that he’s already being prepped for an adult life where he’ll shoot birds for sport and not give a thought to their pain. He’ll probably grow into such a man. Or will he? Like him, the women in the gathering express anger at the shooting, but almost all of the men dismiss their concerns. The pointlessness of bird-shooting subtly presages the pointlessness of shooting men which will happen in France the next year. But we know the men, almost without exception, will not question the carnage now or the infinitely greater carnage later.

John Gielgud plays Cornelius Cardew, a local pacifist who wanders around the country village trying and failing to win people over to his views, which of course are pro-bird. He blithely walks right in front of a row of shooting men. Sir Randolph confronts him but treats him with respect. The two quickly become familiar, and Cardew recommends his tract publisher to Sir Randolph, who has been wanting to publish a leaflet on the responsibilities of the landed gentry. Cardew says a sympathetic local man “of anarchistic views” gives him “good rates.” Surely this will be an appropriate publisher. Gielgud’s performance, as usual, is priceless-touching, sympathetic, finely nuanced, side-splitting.

Edward Fox’s Lord Hartlip is an uber-aristo, extremely arrogant, icy, mean. But there’s a scene where he beautifully plays a piece on a piano when he hopes no one is listening. This is one of many cases where, just as you’re deciding that a character is this type of person, the script (expertly adapted by Julian Bond) starts throwing you curves and you see that this figure is contradictory, well-rounded, surprising.

In all scenes the color is a bit bleached but not overmuch. This is one period piece that comes pre-aged. The music also well conveys the fragility and loss of the proceedings.

In the near-final scene, Lord Hartlip, in an action all but him will condemn as unsportsmanlike, desperately aims his rifle low so that he can up his score. By doing this, he accidentally shoots the gamekeeper Harker (Gordon Jackson, of Downton template Upstairs, Downstairs fame). Hartlip doesn’t even apologize-or talk to-the man, but Sir Randolph, his employer, holds him in his arms and prays with him. Everyone knows the man only has minutes to live. When Mason & Co. did the scene, a cast member recounted, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Audiences get misty too. Just before he expires, Harker croaks, “God save the British Empire.” You believe he believes it, and you almost believe it yourself, so convincingly is it played. Tom Harker, an avowed socialist and harsh critic of the upper classes, nevertheless affirms the basic faith of the land. Randolph’s decentness and even love speaks well of him; he is, after all, the only character who bemoans the uncaring decadence of his class. His action here shows how he lives out his responsibility in the great chain of class. In contrast to this, after Harker’s death, another toff who can’t understand why anyone’s worked up, says, “He was only a peasant.” Which makes his intended love appalled and say politely but firmly that she won’t meet him again as agreed.

The film ends with the shooting party walking over a field, heading back to the estate. Superimposed are the obits of most of the male characters, who will die (have died) in WWI in the following years. A narrator says that perhaps the ridiculous Cardew will have the last laugh.

This is not a depressing film, but it is partly a sad one, poignant and finely detailed far more than most. You feel the pleasure of a sadness that recognizes the loss of decaying ideals, charm, foolishness, ugliness, obliviousness. You care about these people, whether you like them or not, or whether you’re not sure what you think about them. That’s rare magic, and there’s some justice in the fact that the movie has become one of the most-praised British films ever, highly English and completely universal.

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department/North Avondale Library

Homewood Public Library Will Host Teen Poetry Workshop Until AC is Repaired at Central Library

Thu, 05/29/2014 - 9:46am
The free teen poetry workshop that is usually held at the Central Library will be held at the Homewood Public Library until Central's air conditioning unit can be fixed. The East Building of the Birmingham location reduced its hours to close at 12:00 noon. The move was necessary because of rising temperatures and a broken unit. As a result, the teen poetry workshop had to be moved. Homewood graciously agreed to host the event until repairs can be made.

The teen workshop will be held every Saturday from 2:00-4:00 p.m. It is free and open to all middle school and high school age teens. Real Life Poets, a non-profit creative writing organization, partners with the Birmingham Public Library to offer the workshop. Occasionally the workshop may be cancelled due to conflicts with other events. Contact John Paul Taylor of RLP to confirm the workshop is being held; the e-mail is johnpaul@reallifepoets.org and telephone is 205-585-8271. Please share with those who may have an interest.

The teen poetry workshop will return to the Birmingham location after repairs are made. Parts have been ordered for the air conditioner, and repairs will be scheduled once parts arrive.

This workshop is funded by a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.


June Programs for Adults at Springville Road Library

Thu, 05/29/2014 - 8:24am
 Novella Jackie May and Madeline Walters at a Quilting for Beginners class.It’s 10:00 a.m.…do you know where your parents are?

Maybe at the Springville Road Library for free Friday morning programs for adults.

Resume Workshop
Friday, June 6, 10:00 a.m.
Springville Road meeting room
When you submit an application or resume online a computer usually screens them to determine which applicants will be contacted for an interview. The trick is to know the keywords to use in your information to get you through that screening process. Crystal Jarvis of Creative Color Solutions will present a workshop geared specifically to choosing the right words to get your resume and applications out of the pack and noticed.

Springville Road Salon
Friday, June 13, 10:00 a.m.
Springville Road Adult Department
Our lively adult discussion group. Every generation from the Greatest Generation to the Baby Boomers and on through Gen X and Y has had plenty to say about the kids in the next group. "What's WRONG with these kids today?" has been a plaintive cry through the ages. Our discussion this month will talk about the differences (and similarities) of different generations.

Quilting for Beginners
Friday, June 20, 10:00 a.m. 
Springville Road meeting room 
Join Liz McCormick and other local quilters to learn and practice basic quilting techniques. Materials and supplies are provided, but you are welcome to bring some if you prefer your own things.

Springville Road Literary Society
Friday, June 27
A book group for people who don't want to read and discuss the same book. We'll talk about books and authors we've enjoyed and share our favorites with other interested readers. This is a great place to pick up answers to "What am I going to read next?"

All programs are free and open to all adults. Refreshments provided. Meet old and new friends and explore old and new interests. While you're in the library, sign up for Summer Reading to learn about more programs and for the chance to win prizes all summer long!

Kelly Laney
Springville Road Library

LBJ Launched the Great Society 50 Years Ago

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 9:55am
President Lyndon Johnson at the University of Michigan, where he delivered a commencement speech
six months after assuming office following President Kennedy's assassination.
As we focus our attention this Spring of 2014 on the challenges facing those graduating seniors who are taking part in college commencement exercises around the country, let us pause and consider a commencement that took place fifty years ago. This one occurred on May 22, 1964, at Michigan Stadium, one of the largest athletic venues in the world, on the campus of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. The speaker that day was a man whose political stature and ambition matched the physical surroundings, President Lyndon Johnson. I would assume that many present that day were harboring some feelings of sadness and regret because the person who had originally been invited to speak at the commencement was the late President John F. Kennedy. But, the events in Dallas exactly six months earlier, had, unfortunately, caused a change in plans. Although he was not known for his oratorical skills, the new President rose to the occasion and made the day memorable. In an address that lasted a little over eighteen minutes, Johnson, employing striking rhetoric and heroic allusions, seized the opportunity to lay out a domestic policy agenda he thought the United States should undertake during the 1960s. He called his agenda “The Great Society.”

Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, was the first U.S. President to use a catchphrase—“the Square Deal”—to describe his domestic program. Subsequently, however, such catchphrases became the purview of Democratic chief executives beginning with Woodrow Wilson’s “New Freedom,” followed by Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” Harry Truman’s “Fair Deal,” and the “New Frontier” of John F. Kennedy. Lyndon Johnson’s beloved mentor was FDR, and Johnson saw the “Great Society” as a fulfillment and advancement of Roosevelt’s progressive policies of the 1930s that sought to alleviate the harsh effects of a capricious, depressed economy. The words expressed by Johnson in the Ann Arbor speech, although inspiring, offered only a mere outline of the ideas he, and his aides, were developing to carry on Roosevelt’s legacy and assuage the problems they saw confronting America in the 60s. Speaking in broad terms, Johnson identified five such problems that day—poverty, race relations, urban decay, environmental degradation, and education opportunity.

No one who witnessed the speech could have foreseen the enormous energy that Johnson summoned within the next year to turn those broad ideas into practical policy measures. Throughout the rest of 1964 and into 1965 and 1966, the Johnson administration inundated Congress with a plethora of legislation aimed at bringing the federal government’s weight to bear on the social ills that were mentioned that day in Ann Arbor. What is so impressive about Johnson’s efforts in those years was that not only was he able to introduce such a significant amount of legislation, he was also successful in getting Congress to pass it. Among the major laws enacted by Congress during Johnson’s presidency were the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, the Food Stamp Act of 1964, the Wilderness Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the Social Security Act of 1965, the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1965, the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965, and the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1965.

Looking back on that time, one of the most striking aspects one sees of the “Great Society” was that, in contrast to other progressive policy agendas that came before it, LBJ’s efforts were aimed not just at creating greater opportunities for the nation’s underclass but also at protecting and improving the lives of the middle class as well. So, in addition to the many “War on Poverty” measures that were enacted, the era also witnessed the creation of programs and institutions whose purpose was to help promote the arts, culture, the natural and built environments, public safety, and the rights of the consumer. The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Public Radio, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are a few of the examples of the Great Society’s lasting legacy.

President Johnson’s speech can be read, viewed, and listened to at the websites of both the LBJ Presidential Library and the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. The text of that speech, and all other public statements made by President Johnson, can also be read in hard copy by consulting the multi-volume Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, which is housed in the Government Documents Department at the Birmingham Public Library.

For those wanting to read more about Lyndon Johnson and his presidency, there are numerous books available at the Birmingham Public Library and elsewhere in the JCLC system. Certainly the most comprehensive, but still unfinished, is Robert A. Caro’s multivolume, The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Historian Robert Dallek’s studies of Johnson’s life have also received critical acclaim, including Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960, Flawed Giant : Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973, and Lyndon B. Johnson : Portrait of a President. Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream is considered to be a classic portrait written by Doris Kearns Goodwin, who spent many hours interviewing the former president during the last years of his life. Irwin Unger’s The Best of Intentions: The Triumph and Failure of the Great Society Under Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon provides an interesting examination of the politics and policy concerns that shaped LBJ’s agenda.

Jim Murray
Business, Science & Technology Department
Central Library

Bards & Brews Open Mic Event To Be Held at Bessemer Library, June 6

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 9:41am
May's Bards & Brews event was held at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The Birmingham Public Library’s monthly Bards & Brews poetry performance and beer tasting will be held Friday, June 6, 2014, at the Bessemer Public Library. The open mic event will feature music at 6:30 p.m., with poetry starting at 7:00 pm. The beer tasting will be provided by the Druid City Brewing Company of Tuscaloosa, AL.

Brian “Voice Porter” Hawkins will emcee the event, which is free and open to the public. Attendees must be 18 years or older to attend, and 21 years or older to be served. IDs will be checked.

The July 11 Bards and Brews will be a Slam at the North Birmingham Regional Library of the Birmingham Public Library.

Bards & Brews, which is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, is usually held on the first Friday of the month at various locations around Birmingham. For more information call 205-226-3670, email hm@bham.lib.al.us or visit the Bards & Brews Facebook page.

Book Review: e. e. cummings: a life by Susan Cheever

Tue, 05/27/2014 - 1:14pm
e.e. cummings: a life
Susan Cheever

Susan Cheever begins this most recent exploration into Edward Estlin Cumming's life with a first-hand account of meeting the poet as a young student, successfully introducing and shaping the biography with her heart-felt and intimate view. The author is inspired by E.E., he gives her advice, and ultimately this interaction helps shape a small part of her life. That slightly-biased view of the verbally-acrobatic poet is a running thread throughout Cheever's new title. She handles Cummings' life and its relationships with deft, surgical sweetness, allowing the reader to delve quickly and easily into the read without being bogged down with scholastic prose.

The idyllic childhood which begat E.E. Cummings is fairly well-known. He was the eldest son of affluent and supportive parents in Cambridge, Massachusetts, growing up surrounded by books and in contact with the intellectuals in his neighborhood. The family split their time outside of the Boston professorial circle by staying on a farm in New Hampshire called Joy Farm, where the children were free to roam through nature with their family and beloved pets.

Harvard taught Cummings all the rules of prose and verse, which is an important point for a man who spent so much time breaking traditional poetic norm. He found his inspiration for bucking the system there at Harvard, a bastion of conservatism which fueled his aggression for large, rule-making bodies. This rebellion, and some would say anger, was as much a part of him as was his playful, childish side, both of which appear in his work. The early days of restriction, within the ivy-league system and from his tee-totaling minister father, gave the young Cummings something to rally against, and like a jazz improvisational musician, he learned the rules to gladly break them, creating his own brand of Modernist verse.

This fascinating literary figure finds himself in the heart of Greenwich Village dealing with his difficult life: his doomed two marriages, his ex-wife's abduction of his dear and only child Nancy Thayer, and his short but avant-garde stint in the military during WWI. E.E. Cummings's personal life would fall to pieces while he was critically acclaimed by the public. He turned his riotous life into verse and prose, and did so while creating what he hoped would be considered "New Art."

E.E. Cummings became notorious for lack of punctuation, verbs as nouns, sexual innuendos, and even anti-semitic commentary, and all of this history is examined in Cheever's newest biographical endeavor. e.e. cummings: a life is neither weighty nor outlandishly scholarly, but it is a wonderful, confidential take on a man misjudged for his childish and crazily-punctuated poetry.

Rachel Joiner
Arts/Literature/Sports
Central Library

Movie

Tue, 05/27/2014 - 8:18am
The Shooting Party
Directed by Alan Bridges


I recently re-watched The Shooting Party after about a 20-year gap. I’ve now seen it about four times altogether. I’m glad to say this is not one of those cases where the last time I’ve seen something was when I was young and the movie just doesn’t hold up anymore. If anything, I may like it more. I see new things in it as a middle-aged person, a sure sign of a film built to last.
Now with Downton Abbey the apparent standard for how the film/tv universe approaches how the English upper class deals with their servants and vice versa, you may want to know how The Shooting Party stacks up. To me, five minutes of The Shooting Party tells me more about these two classes in the early twentieth century than ten hours of Downton, and I like Downton a lot, never miss it. This is because Julian Fellowes isn’t nearly in the same league as Isabel Colegate, the author of the novel The Shooting Party is based on. (To be fair, Fellowes would probably be the first to agree with the last sentence.)
Fall 1913. An aristocratic party assembles at the estate of English aristocrat Sir Randolph Nettleby (James Mason). They talk, gossip, argue, play, dine and conduct affairs. And the men shoot birds every day. This is the old order about to crumble. Most of these people are emotionally repressed, cold, frustrated. Some are arrogant, racist, oblivious to any but their social sphere. Some are likeable. All are believable human.
A young boy spends much of the story looking for his missing pet duck, terrified that someone will shoot it for sport. We can see that he’s already being prepped for an adult life where he’ll shoot birds for sport and not give a thought to their pain. He’ll probably grow into such a man. Or will he? Like him, the women in the gathering express anger at the shooting, but almost all of the men dismiss their concerns. The pointlessness of bird-shooting subtly presages the pointlessness of shooting men which will happen in France the next year. But we know the men, almost without exception, will not question the carnage now or the infinitely greater carnage later.
John Gielgud plays Cornelius Cardew, a local pacifist who wanders around the country village trying and failing to win people over to his views, which of course are pro-bird. He blithely walks right in front of a row of shooting men. Sir Randolph confronts him but treats him with respect. The two quickly become familiar, and Cardew recommends his tract publisher to Sir Randolph, who has been wanting to publish a leaflet on the responsibilities of the landed gentry. Cardew says a sympathetic local man “of anarchistic views” gives him “good rates.” Surely this will be an appropriate publisher. Gielgud’s performance, as usual, is priceless-touching, sympathetic, finely nuanced, side-splitting.
Edward Fox’s Lord Hartlip is an uber-aristo, extremely arrogant, icy, mean. But there’s a scene where he beautifully plays a piece on a piano when he hopes no one is listening. This is one of many cases where, just as you’re deciding that a character is this type of person, the script (expertly adapted by Julian Bond) starts throwing you curves and you see that this figure is contradictory, well-rounded, surprising.
In all scenes the color is a bit bleached but not overmuch. This is one period piece that comes pre-aged. The music also well conveys the fragility and loss of the proceedings.
In the near-final scene, Lord Hartlip, in an action all but him will condemn as unsportsmanlike, desperately aims his rifle low so that he can up his score. By doing this, he accidentally shoots the gamekeeper Harker (Gordon Jackson, of Downton template Upstairs, Downstairs fame). Hartlip doesn’t even apologize-or talk to-the man, but Sir Randolph, his employer, holds him in his arms and prays with him. Everyone knows the man only has minutes to live. When Mason & Co. did the scene, a cast member recounted, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Audiences get misty too. Just before he expires, Harker croaks, “God save the British Empire.” You believe he believes it, and you almost believe it yourself, so convincingly is it played. Tom Harker, an avowed socialist and harsh critic of the upper classes, nevertheless affirms the basic faith of the land. Randolph’s decentness and even love speaks well of him; he is, after all, the only character who bemoans the uncaring decadence of his class. His action here shows how he lives out his responsibility in the great chain of class. In contrast to this, after Harker’s death, another toff who can’t understand why anyone’s worked up, says, “He was only a peasant.” Which makes his intended love appalled and say politely but firmly that she won’t meet him again as agreed.
The film ends with the shooting party walking over a field, heading back to the estate. Superimposed are the obits of most of the male characters, who will die (have died) in WW1 in the following years. A narrator says that perhaps the ridiculous Cardew will have the last laugh.
This is not a depressing film, but it is partly a sad one, poignant and finely detailed far more than most. You feel the pleasure of a sadness that recognizes the loss of decaying ideals, charm, foolishness, ugliness, obliviousness. You care about these people, whether you like them or not, or whether you’re not sure what you think about them. That’s rare magic, and there’s some justice in the fact that the movie has become one of the most-praised British films ever, highly English and completely universal.


Richard Grooms
Fiction Department/North Avondale

Children's Book Review: Howl's Moving Castle

Tue, 05/27/2014 - 8:17am
Howl's Moving Castle
Diana Wynne Jones

Sophie is the oldest of three sisters. Introverted and retiring, she is certain that in every story the eldest child is destined for abject averageness. When her father dies, her stepmother puts her to work in her father’s hat shop while her sisters (as expected) are sent off to find their fortunes in the world. Sophie embraces her role admirably until she unwittingly insults the wrong customer, The Witch of the Waste. The furious witch turns Sophie into a crone and Sophie is forced out of her bland existence to break the witch’s curse. Sophie becomes reckless in her old age and sneaks into the flying abode of a wizard reputed for stealing the souls of young girls. She makes a deal with Howl’s captive fire demon and installs herself as a maid in the floating castle. As an old woman, Sophie finds courage, stubbornness, and pluck that she never had as a young girl. She also finds that the supposedly vile Howl is not everything that the stories make him out to be.

If you’re looking for a perfect bedtime story or read-aloud, look no further. Howl’s Moving Castle is a fairytale like no other. It reads like a classic, even while it pokes fun at tropes in traditional fairy tales. It full of mystery, magic, and it contains a cast of wonderfully developed characters. The plot is engaging and yields one fantastical surprise after another.

This is technically a children’s fantasy title, but it is a great book for any lovers of fairy-tales or whimsy. It would even make a good bedtime story for kids who can’t read chapter books on their own yet. Hayao Miyazaki created a lovely animated film based on this title and while I would highly recommend it, read the book first. You won’t be disappointed.



Mollie McFarland
Springville Road Library

Memorial Day

Sun, 05/25/2014 - 7:47pm
 All locations of the Birmingham Public Library will be closed Monday, May 26, in observance of Memorial Day.

BPL to Participate in Family Fishing Rodeo at East Lake Park, June 7

Wed, 05/21/2014 - 1:00pm
The Birmingham Public Library will be one of several vendors to participate in the 17th Annual City of Birmingham Park and Recreation Family Fishing Rodeo on Saturday, June 7, from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. It will take place at East Lake Park.

The lake will be full of catfish, giving children an opportunity to try their hand at the "Biggest Fish Contest.'' There will also be free prizes, music and games, a chance to win a Regions Bank bicycle and a Walmart Fun Tent.

For more information call 254-2391.

How to Research Your Family Tree Workshop, May 27

Wed, 05/21/2014 - 8:42am
Baby Doe's Matchless Mine Restaurant, Juliette Watts, 1975
Birmingham Public Library Digital Collection/Birmingham Memory ProjectThe Birmingham Public Library's Southern History Department will present "How to Research Your Family Tree'' on Tuesday, May 27, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The free class will be held on the first floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place.

The class is ideal for beginners. No registration is required. The course will give attendees an idea of what's in the Southern History Collection, what's not, and also what's available in the library's archives and mircoforms departments to help with genealogy research. Go to http://tinyurl.com/genieintro for information on how to get started researching your family tree. 

For more information, call 226-3665.

25 Years of Moore Magic

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 3:10pm
Magician Larry Moore pulls tricks on an audience at Avondale Library.Longtime lover of libraries and advocate of reading Larry Moore—aka “The Magic Man”—has been sharing his special brand of magic with the Jefferson County Libraries for 25 years. He will be performing for adults, teens, and children in the Birmingham Public Library's Summer Reading Program. His first performance will be on June 2, 10:00 a.m., at Powderly Library. Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Larry and finding out what makes him do what he does.

Q: At what age did you become interested in the world of magic?
A: I became interested in performing magic at the age of seven when my aunt gave me a Marshall Brodien magic set for my birthday.

Q: Who was/is your mentor?
A: My mentor and teacher, although he never actually taught me magic, was Cousin Cliff Holman. He led by example. There is where I learned to pack it all in a briefcase and think simple but entertain first.

Q: What was the first trick you learned?
A: I went to a store called Tricks and Treats located inside the Century Plaza Mall. I purchased a trick called the Professor’s Nightmare (3 unequal lengths of rope magically become the same size and then go back to their original length). Also a thumb tip and a dove pan. I got rid of the dove pan 5 years later but still kept on performing the rope trick and using the thumb tip.

Q: What is your favorite trick to perform?
A: After all of these years I still enjoy performing the Professor’s Nightmare. If you have ever been to one my performances, I’m sure you have seen it.

Q: Do you remember when and where you did your first library program?
A: My first library performance was at the Graysville Public Library. Four years later I was asked to perform at one of the Jefferson County libraries and I have been going strong ever since.

Q: Why do you like performing at libraries?
A: 2014 marks my 25th year of working with the Jefferson County libraries. I have always enjoyed reading and if I can use my magic to instill that love in others, then I have accomplished much.

If you too have a passion for magic, check out some of our favorite books:

Magic Up Your Sleeve by Helaine Becker
Kids Make Magic: The Complete Guide to Becoming an Amazing Magician by Bob Friedhoffer
Smart Science Tricks by Martin Gardner
That’s Magic: 40 Foolproof Tricks to Delight, Amaze and Entertain by Richard Jordan
Card Tricks by Cynthia Kingel
Mind Magic by Ormond McGill
Experiments with Magic by Salvatore Tocci
Gimmicks and Card Tricks: Illusions for the Intermediate Magician by Paul Zenon
Simple Sleight-of-Hand: Card and Coin Tricks for the Beginning Magician by Paul Zenon

Carla Perkins
Avondale Library

Reduced Hours to Continue at the Downtown Birmingham Public Library Until Air Conditioner is Fixed

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 9:38am
The Birmingham Public Library’s Central location continues to find ways to serve patrons and accommodate employees as it deals with a broken air conditioner, which could take five more weeks to be repaired. Starting Saturday, May 10, the downtown location will be open on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and closed on Sundays until repairs can be made. The hours do not affect the system’s other 18 locations.

The downtown library operates two buildings—the East Building and the Linn-Henley Research Library. An air conditioning coil in the library’s main handler ruptured in January, reducing the air conditioner’s ability to cool both buildings. Some adjustments have been made to get cool air into the Linn-Henley building. Beginning Monday, May 12, the East Building will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, but Linn-Henley will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The City’s Public Works Department has been assisting library staff in correcting the problems. When the Birmingham City Council approved funding for repairs in March, specially-made parts to fit the unit were ordered.

Additional, temporary changes for the downtown location include:

  • Tinted cellophane has been placed on the East windows of the East Building to help reduce the heat.
  • Some employees have been temporarily assigned to other library locations.
  • All computer classes regularly held in the Regional Library Computer Center have been cancelled until further notice. Patrons are encouraged to check out computer classes at Springville Road and Five Points West libraries.
  • The Friends Bookstore will be open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
  • Gifts of a Wordsmith, a free adult poetry workshop held on the first Tuesday of the month from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., has been moved to Homewood Library, 1721 Oxmoor Road, until the air conditioner is fixed.
  • All downtown public computers will be available from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
  • The East Building will be open Monday – Saturday, 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.; the Linn-Henley Research Library will be open Monday – Friday, 8 :00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., and on Saturdays, 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Both buildings will be closed on Sundays.
  • With the East Building closing 12:00 p.m. on weekdays, patrons will still be able to pick up library holds and check them out from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m. at a desk on the first floor of Linn-Henley.

For hours and locations of other Birmingham libraries, please visit www.bplonline.org/locations/.

revised 5/9/2014
May 7, 2014 press release

Music Collection at the BPL

Sat, 05/17/2014 - 10:55am

Music-related materials are a significant part of the collection of the Arts, Literature, and Sports Department at BPL. Many in the music community in the Birmingham area may not know about all of our resources.

Scores - We have a large number of music scores, ranging from baroque and classical to show tunes, gospel, jazz, and pop. We also have over 50 hymnals from a variety of backgrounds. See our new scores here.

Books - We have a variety of resources including biographies of musicians and composers, and music instruction, as well as music history for a range of styles.

CDs and DVDs - We have thousands of CDs including several hundred Classical and Choral pieces, as well as gospel, inspirational, show tunes/soundtracks, country, pop/rock, world music, and blues/jazz. A listing of new CDs can be found here. We also have DVDs of operas and other performances.

Freegal (downloadable music) - Freegal, an online resource available through the library, offers millions of songs from ten thousand labels including the labels of Sony Music Entertainment. The Freegal Music Service files are DRM-FREE, Mp3 files that can be played on any device (including iPods). Even better, the downloaded music file is yours to keep with no due date and no expiration date. Check out the latest Freegal Newsletter.

Visit us on the second floor of the Central Library, or give us a call with your music related questions! We also have extensive collections on the visual arts, sports, poetry, drama, language, and much more!

Allie Graham
Arts, Literature, Sports
Central Library

John Legend, Pharrell Williams, Justin Timberlake: Top Music Downloads at BPL!

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 2:59pm
The hottest music downloads are from Freegal at Birmingham Public Library. Get up to THREE FREE SONGS every week with your Birmingham Public Library card. Freegal downloads never expire and are yours to keep for as long as you want.

Top Songs
"All Of Me" - John Legend"Happy" - Pharrell Williams"Not a Bad Thing" - Justin Timberlake"Praise You In This Storm" - Casting Crowns"Mary Mary" - Bruce Springsteen"We Are One (Ole Ola)" - Pitbull feat. Jennifer Lopez & Claudia Leitte

Top Albums
Regatta Mondatta - A Reggae Tribute To The PoliceLove In the Future - John LegendLifesong - Casting CrownsAmerican Beauty - Bruce SpringsteenThe Best of Candy DulferThe Very Best of The Stone Roses
Staff Pick of the Week

Echoes of the Outlaw Roadshow - Counting Crows
Freegal provides access to millions of free songs from thousands of music artists and labels.
To access Freegal, you must be a resident of the City of Birmingham with a valid, up-to-date Jefferson County library card.
Visit BPL Online today to start downloading free music!

Summer Reading 2014 Set to Spark Imagination with Science- and Technology-Themed Programs

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 2:10pm

Summer Reading 2014 registration is now open at all 19 locations of the Birmingham Public Library. Special programs will be held in June and July. However, students may read their Summer Reading books until school starts.

The goal of Summer Reading is to encourage children to read for pleasure and to read often. BPL will offer special programs and incentives to motivate patrons of all ages, from children to teenagers, to read what they enjoy. Parents, grandparents, and caregivers may also participate. Once children read the number of books in their set goal, they are eligible for rewards. Reading rewards range from admission tickets from McWane Science Center and Vulcan Park and Museum to scavenger hunt prizes from the Birmingham Zoo and Red Mountain Park’s zipline.

Themes have been created for children, teenagers, and adults. For example, this year’s children’s theme is "Fizz Boom Read." Several children’s programs will include science and technology. Students don't have to just read about science and technology. They may read about anything they choose. Thousands of readers are expected to participate this year. Magic shows, puppet shows, animals, movies, talent shows, fitness fun, story times, and more will be offered at the branches this summer.

Students, age 11-17, are also encouraged to sign up for a free tailgate party and football clinic with NFL star Jerricho Cotchery, a Birmingham native and graduate of Phillips High School. The teen tailgate party will be on June 27 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The location will be announced later. Registration is required and may be done at any BPL location. The Football Skills and Drills Clinic with Cotchery will be held on June 28 at Legion Field. The deadline to register for the clinic is June 11. A time for the clinic will be announced later.

Visit www.bplonline.org for more information. Also, contact your branch for specific details about programs at that location.

Inglenook Library's Grand Reopening Ceremony, May 22

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 1:36pm

After temporarily closing in fall 2013 for renovations, the Inglenook Branch Library will reopen on Thursday, May 22, with a grand reopening ceremony at 8:30 a.m. The address is 4100 40th Terrace N.

The renovations make the building not only compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but also showcase design concepts that capture the building’s fire house past and tout its important service as a neighborhood library.

The building was used as a firehouse from 1927 to 1978. In 1979, it was turned into a library. The library hasn’t seen a makeover since 1995, which is when a new roof, new carpet, a new heating and air conditioning system, and more were installed.

The 2013 renovations include:

  • Part of the building’s exterior and the circulation desk are wrapped in 100-year-old reclaimed long leaf pine from an Alabama timber mill
  • An updated Children’s Department with new window seats
  • A new heating and air conditioning system
  • A new parking lot
  • An updated computer area
  • Landscaping
  • A lower circulation counter to meet the needs of all patrons

Bricks surrounding interior columns were removed to open up space on the main floor. The bay window, which once served as the garage entrance for the fire truck, provides a panoramic view of new seating in a new patio area. A drop ceiling was removed to expose an overhead hose tower firefighters used to hang hoses to dry. Large amounts of sunlight now flow through new skylights in tower. A downstairs storage area was cleared out to make way for a staff break room. On the wall leading to the basement is a quote from Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero: “A library is an arsenal of liberty.’’ HOSKINS Architecture and CROSS BUILDING COMPANY handled the library project.

The Birmingham City Council approved $405,414 in library bond money to go toward renovations. The late Council President Maxine Herring Parker, whose district included Inglenook, was a big supporter of the funding and the library. She passed away on Nov. 12, 2013. Her son, Councilor William A. Parker, now represents her district. He is scheduled to attend the May 22 ceremony.

Birmingham Public Library leaders and board members, Birmingham Chief of Staff Erskine R. Faush, Jr. and Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Craig Witherspoon, are also slated to attend. Inglenook is one of 19 locations within the Birmingham Public Library system.