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Opening Reception for Artist Starr Weems on March 2 at Central Library

Wed, 02/26/2014 - 10:00am
Starr Weems is a dreamer.

And that’s OK because Weems creates watercolor works that blend reality with the fanciful world of dreams.

“(My) vibrant colors mingle and overlap, creating a magical feeling that reflects my thoughts on spirituality and the enjoyment of life,’’ says Weems, who uses transparent watercolor, poured in layers over masking fluid to build high contrast images that are bathed in light. One look and you’d think you were floating right along with the images.

Solstice by Starr WeemsAn opening reception for Illuminations in Poured Color: Paintings by Starr Weems will be held on Sunday, March 2, 3:00-5:00 p.m., in the Fourth Floor Boardroom. There are 34 pieces in the exhibit. Most are for sale. The Athens resident will showcase her pieces February 27-April 11, 2014, in the Fourth Floor Gallery of the Central Library.

On Sunday, March 30, Weems will present a free class to show how she uses her unique “pouring’’ technique to achieve her dreamlike images. The class will be held 2:30-3:30 p.m. in the library’s Fourth Floor Boardroom. The workshop is for ages 14 and older. Seating is limited. Call 205-226-3670 to register.

Weems, who teaches art and Spanish to students at Ardmore High School in Limestone County, says some of her best painting ideas come from her two children, Kharma and Rio. “A lot of my paintings have to do with childhood and childhood themes,’’ she says. “Sometimes when I see them play, it reminds me of things that I did as a kid, and I incorporate them into my paintings. I have paintings of fireflies in jars, I have one of my little girl blowing bubbles and one of dandelions blowing away.’’

Don’t tell Weems it doesn’t pay to be a dreamer. “I just finished 80 illustrations for a dream expert. She will use them for a set of dream interpretation cards,’’ Weems says. “She said when she saw my work, they reminded her of dreams.’’

Weems says she’s always been interested in dreams and it comes out in her work. “If you don’t have that opportunity to let your mind wonder, you can’t come up with something new,’’ she says.

For more information about Weems, visit her website at www.starrweems.com.

Event Details:
Starr Weems exhibit, February 27-April 11, during library hours, Fourth Floor Gallery, Central Library

Opening reception, Sunday, March 2, 3:00-5:00 p.m., Fourth Floor Boardroom, Central Library

Free Starr Weems watercolor workshop, Sunday, March 30, 2:30-5:30 p.m., second floor Story Castle, Birmingham Public Library. Call 205-226-3670 to reserve a spot.

Get Up Close and Personal with Birmingham Artist Amy Pleasant, February 25

Tue, 02/25/2014 - 9:35am
Ever wonder how an artist decides to paint this or that?

Birmingham artist Amy Pleasant will discuss the creative process on Tuesday, February 25, 6:00-7:00 p.m., during a free lecture at the Central Library. During her “On the Table’’ conversation , attendees will be able to ask questions and hold works by Pleasant while sitting around a table in the library’s first floor conference room. The goal is that attendees become as immersed in the art work as they would a book.

“There is a lot of mystery involved with the idea of the artist in the studio,’’ says Pleasant. “…this will open up that mystery and make it available to all who are present.’’

“The project will also be a way for me to share my process and how the source material for a lot of my work comes from the books in this very library.’’

Pleasant received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. She has held solo exhibitions at the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, the Jeff Bailey Gallery in New York, in Stockholm, Sweden, and several other locations.

The lecture is being held in collaboration with The Drawing Center of New York. Pleasant is a member of The Drawing Center’s Viewing Program artist registry, which offers emerging artists the opportunity to include their work in a curated artist registry that is consulted by a wide variety of arts professionals. The Viewing Program allows artists to show their works outside of a conventional exhibition space.

For more information, call the library at 205-226-3670.


Remembering the Holocaust Series Scheduled for Wednesdays in March at Central Library

Mon, 02/24/2014 - 2:39pm
Click to enlarge
The Birmingham Public Library is marking its ten-year partnership with the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center in presenting Remembering the Holocaust, presentations by Birmingham residents  sharing their experiences and perspectives. The programs are held every Wednesday in March at noon in the Arrington Auditorium of the Central Library and are free and open to the public.

Natural Hair

Mon, 02/24/2014 - 12:49pm
For the last few years, a growing trend among women of color has been the movement to go natural. Going natural refers to the process of going without using damaging chemicals in your hair to achieve a straight, or “relaxed” look to your hair. Many women are rejecting the long established norm of processing your hair and have embraced the “natural” texture of their hair, removing chemicals from their hair regime, and growing their hair into its natural state. The thing that holds back many women of color from making the transition to natural is information. There is a lack of reliable information for women when it comes to their naturally curly, kinky, coily hair. Birmingham Public Library has several books that can be checked out so that patrons that want a better understanding of what having natural hair requires or are interested in making the transition themselves can read. Included are several well-respected websites known for providing reliable hair care information. Any of these sites will help you to become a part of a growing hair care community of naturalistas.

Books
7 Steps to Healthy Natural Hair: Written for Black Women by Black Women

Better Than Good Hair: The Curly Girl Guide to Healthy, Gorgeous Natural Hair!

The Black Hair Care Revolution: A Simple Pocket Guide to Growing & Maintaining Healthy Natural & Permed Hair

Hair Rules!: The Ultimate Hair-Care Guide for Women with Kinky, Curly, or Wavy Hair

Kinki Kreations: A Parents' Guide to Natural Black Hair Care for Kids

Nice Dreads: Hair Care Basics and Inspiration for Colored Girls Who've Considered Locking Their Hair

Textured Tresses: The Ultimate Guide To Maintaining and Styling Natural Hair

Thank God I'm Natural: The Ultimate Guide To Caring For And Maintaining Natural Hair

Websites
NaturallyCurly.com
www.naturallycurly.com
NaturallyCurly.com is usually the first website that a curly girl visits for inspiration. There is a wealth of information including articles, a how-to section, blogs, photos; product reviews recommended books, and a hair forum. In the hair forum, gals (and guys, too) discuss everything about hair, including recipes, going shampoo-less, and news related to curly hair.

Black Girl with Long Hair
http://bglhonline.com
Black Girl with Long Hair is an inspirational website for naturals and transitioners who need to see other ladies in the real world who wear their hair naturally. There is a hair care, skin care, and product section, along with a hair gallery for you to see how others style their hair. There's also a salon section that lists natural hair salons by state.

Black Hair Media Hair Forum
http://blackhairmedia.com/
Black Hair Media is all about black hair care, regardless of whether it’s relaxed, natural, weaved, braided, pressed, texturized, etc. It gives any woman of color an outlet to speak out on anything relating to hair care. It's divided into sub-forums based on whatever your interest in hair care may be.

Curly Nikki
www.curlynikki.com
Curly Nikki is the go to site for natural hair therapy. Its natural haired host, Curly Nikki is a licensed psychotherapist and has personal experience when it comes to loving one's natural hair texture. Curly Nikki always keeps the world of the natural curly girl up-to-date with news related to hair and new products are set to make a debut in stores. Curly Nikki also has a hair forum and always encourages naturals, transitioners, and relaxed ladies to comment on anything that may relate to them.

The Natural Haven
http://thenaturalhaven.blogspot.com
Probably one the most unique natural care sites on the web is The Natural Haven. The force behind this site is a scientist from the United Kingdom that does actual tests and research of the various natural hair care products that are available on the market. She answers readers' questions and gives a scientific source on everything from sulfates to deep conditioning.

Pam Jessie
Woodlawn Library

MakingCents Financial Programs Scheduled at Selected Branches in February and March

Thu, 02/20/2014 - 4:53pm


The Birmingham Public Library is offering four money management classes in February and March. All classes are free and open to the public.

Program: Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit, and the Era of Predatory Lenders
Date: Monday, February 24, 2014
Time: 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Place: Avondale Library

The Avondale Public Library will host a screening of Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders. This feature length documentary from 2006 takes a journey deep inside the American style of consumer debt, where things seem fine as long as the minimum monthly payment arrives on time. Shocking and incisive, it paints a picture of a national nightmare, which is all too real for most.

Program: Estate Planning with Joe Strickland
Date: Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Place: Springville Road Library

If you do not adequately prepare your estate, your family may suffer undue pressure and expense because of court proceedings. You can avoid all this by planning ahead. Please join us at the Springville Road Library to hear local attorney, Joe Strickland, explain the best ways to protect your assets and your loved ones. His one hour presentation covers Last Wills and Testaments, Durable Powers of Attorney, and Advance Directives for Health Care.

Program: Couponing Basics with Heather Lebischak
Date: Monday, March 10, 2014
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Place: Springville Road Library

If you're interested in couponing but aren't sure how to get started, this program is for you! Super couponer, Heather Lebischak, will go over the basic couponing rules and then show the participants how to put those rules into practice, without having to invest significant amounts of time in it. Heather will discuss various stores coupon policies, how to organize your coupons, and how to guarantee you are using your coupons to ensure the greatest savings.

Program: Financial Concerns of Senior Women with Dr. Stephanie Yates
Date: Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Time: 10:30 a.m.
Place: Five Points West Library

Because, statistically, women are living longer than men, economic challenges which face older Americans are most often the challenges faced by women. This seminar is designed specifically for senior women who are recently widowed or divorced and handling family finances for the first time. Emphasis will be placed on identifying and describing the variety of savings and retirement vehicles that are available for older women.

These programs are part of the MakingCents: Resources to Help Your Money Grow and Smart investing@your library® series, a partnership between the American Library Association and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

March 2014 RLCC Computer Classes Available

Thu, 02/20/2014 - 4:23pm
Registration is now open for staff and the public for the March 2014 Regional Library Computer Center classes. All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) of the Central (downtown) LibraryPRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED FOR ALL CLASSES.Among classes offered are:To register for classes, you may:

  • Visit the Computer Commons department at the Central Library and obtain a copy of the class schedule. Fill it out and return to a Computer Commons staff.
  • Register online through the RLCC website. Please allow 2 to 4 business days for registration confirmation.
Space is limited for each class, and registration does not guarantee you a space. If you register for a class, please make all efforts to attend. Repeated “no shows” could affect your registration eligibility for future classes. If you register for a class and cannot attend, call Public Computer Services at (205) 226-3680 or 226-3681 as soon as possible.Please pay close attention to the class times. No one will be admitted after 5 minutes past the time class is scheduled to start.Classes are provided by the Birmingham Public Library.

Book Review: Pamela

Thu, 02/20/2014 - 2:12pm
Pamela
Samuel Richardson

The Readers' Advisory Roundtable for February had to be cancelled this month due to inclement weather, but members still submitted book reviews. I chose to review Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, by Samuel Richardson, published in 1740. This books is in two volumes, and is set in a rural county in England in the middle of the 18th century.

The heroine is Pamela, a young girl from a poor but honest family, who has been brought in as maid-servant to a gentlewoman. She is renowned for her beauty and lovely disposition, and as Volume 1 opens, her mistress is expiring and with her dying words begs her son, Mr. B____ to “….take care of my Pamela”. Did I mention the girl was beautiful? Before too long, it becomes evident that Mr. B___ has some ideas about taking care of Pamela that would not be approved by his mum. Luckily, this young innocent has been brought up to value her virtue and she leads Mr. B____ through such a determined defense of it that he eventually gives up and marries her. Her travails are horrible (by 18th century standards), but throughout them all she is drawn to her “master” and when he finally gives up his cad card, she has fallen deeply in love, they marry, raise a flock of children, and she is accepted and rewarded for her perfect character.

One of the interesting things is that this novel is written almost entirely in an exchange of letters, diary entries, and requested writings of the honorable Pamela, and this gives readers an unusual insight into the thoughts of 18th century gentry. History buffs will find the details surprising and fascinating (or at least I did). Pamela is a virtuous, laudable, entirely admirable heroine, beloved by all, and good in every way. In the real world, and certainly in our own time, she would be an unbearable goody-goody, but it’s nice to think that true goodness was truly esteemed at some point in history. On the other hand, Henry Fielding’s Shamela was published (1741) as a parody and was Fielding’s first widely known work. If the two volumes of Pamela don’t sate your appetite for the morals (and lack thereof) of the 1700’s, read Richardson’s Clarissa, about a young lady who is tricked and kidnapped by a hardened libertine to both their detriments. Neither of these works is in the Fifty Shades of Grey genre, which is why they have remained continuously in print and enjoyable over the centuries.

‘Nuf said.

Kelly Laney
Springville Road Library

Illuminations in Poured Color: Paintings by Starr Weems

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 2:44pm
February 27 – April 11, 2014, Fourth Floor Gallery, Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park PlaceOpening reception Sunday March 2, 3;00 to 5:00 p.m., Boardroom, Fourth FloorFree workshop Sunday, March 30, 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., Storycastle, Second Floor. Registration required; call 226-3670.
The work of Alabama artist Starr Weems will be on display from February 27 to April 11, 2014 in the Fourth Floor Gallery of the Central Library. The opening reception for the exhibit will be held on Sunday, March 2 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. in the Boardroom on the Fourth Floor. 
Starry Night“I enjoy making art that represents the collision of reality and the fanciful world of dreams. My preferred medium is transparent watercolor, poured in layers over drawing gum. I create high-contrast images that are bathed in light. Vibrant colors mingle and overlap, creating a magical feeling that reflects my thoughts on spirituality and the enjoyment of life. ”
Weems enjoys designing colorful, dreamlike paintings with watercolor. She works using an unusual process which consists of layering drawing gum and transparent color to build high-contrast images. She has had shows at Kentuck Museum, Lowe Mill and Huntsville Public Library's Atrium gallery. Her work has been featured in numerous publications and exhibits throughout the Southeast. She makes use of her M.Ed. from Auburn by teaching art and foreign language to the creative and intelligent teenagers of Ardmore High School. She gets her best ideas from her children, Kharma and Rio. Visit her at www.StarrWeems.com or connect with her on Facebook at Starr Weems Fine Art.
On Sunday, March 30 from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., Weems will teach the method of watercolor pouring that she uses to create her artwork. The workshop will be held in the storycastle on the second floor of the Central Library. The class is free, but registration is required. Call 226-3670 to reserve your spot.

9-1-1 Emergency, How May I Help You?

Tue, 02/18/2014 - 4:25pm

Due to a family funeral, I recently made a trip to my parents’ hometown Haleyville, Alabama. Haleyville is a small town in the northwest quadrant of Alabama. Although it may not be a major metropolis, its proud history includes something many of us take for granted: being the home of 9-1-1.

In 1968 B.W. Gallagher, President of Alabama Telephone Company, was inspired by an article he read in The Wall Street Journal. The article stated that the president of AT&T, which was the major telephone carrier at the time, and the Federal Communications Commission were announcing 9-1-1 to be the nationwide emergency number. Gallagher wanted to make the Alabama Telephone Company the first to implement the new 9-1-1 system—it was his competitive spirit. Gallagher consulted with Robert Fitzgerald, inside plant manager for the Alabama Telephone Company, who examined schematics of the company’s 27 exchanges. Fitzgerald suggested Haleyville because its existing equipment was best suited to be quickly converted to receive 9-1-1 calls. In less than a week Fitzgerald designed and installed the first 9-1-1 system. Haleyville introduced the nation’s first 9-1-1 system, which was located at the police station.

On February 16, 1968, Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite made the first call from Haleyville’s city hall. It was answered by Congressman Tom Bevill on a bright red telephone. While the official red 9-1-1 telephone now resides in a museum in Haleyville, a duplicate phone is still in use today. Happy 46th Birthday, 9-1-1!

Carla Perkins
Avondale Library

Book Review: In the Blood

Tue, 02/18/2014 - 11:36am


In the Blood by Lisa Unger is an addictive read that will keep one reading into the night. Even while finishing it, one still wonders what secrets might be revealed before the ending.
In this book, we meet Lana Granger who's about to graduate from the University in a little place called the Hollows in upstate New York. As she realizes that she is about to become an adult, she takes a job to prepare herself. Her job is takes care of an eleven-year-old boy named Luke. Luke is an extremely troubled and manipulative child. Soon a mental contest begins between the two in the form of a scavenger hunt. At the same time Lana's best friend disappears. Lana continues lying at all cost to prevent her biggest secret from being revealed. Only Lana is not the only one who knows her secret, and the other person can’t wait for the truth to come out.
Barbara HuttoYouth  DepartmentCentral Library

Reception for Local Artist Joyce E. Brooks at Central Library, February 18

Mon, 02/17/2014 - 5:17pm
Joyce BrooksIn 2008, everything was rush, rush, rush for Joyce E. Brooks until a breast cancer diagnosis forced her to step back and reevaluate how she managed her time.

No longer would she let days full of demanding work deadlines, carrying take out food home to her family and long work hours run her. She had to take control.

In 2009, she was declared cancer-free and wrote a book about how to overcome stress. In the 2010, she discovered her ability to paint. With paintbrush in hand, she found her peace.

Now, she’s sharing that “peace’’ with others through an exhibit on the first floor of the Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place. Release of the Inner Artist will be up through March 29. It features landscapes, folk art, and abstracts.

On Tuesday, February 18 from 5:00-7:00 p.m., Brooks will have a reception and sign copies of her book, Self-Inflicted Overload: Five Steps to Achieving Work-Life Balance and Becoming Your Very Best. Her books and paintings will be for sale.

She’ll give a brief talk about the importance of having a balanced life and how she set the reset button in her life. Painting played a big role in that.

Brooks is married to Birmingham Fire Chief Ivor Brooks, is a mother of four, a grandmother to one, and is an active member of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

For more information about Brooks, an electrical engineer now running her own consulting firm, visit www.bplonline.org or www.joyceebrooks.com.

Get Up Close and Personal with Artist Amy Pleasant

Mon, 02/17/2014 - 4:47pm
Where do artists get their inspiration? For Birmingham artist Amy Pleasant, she often gets inspired by materials at this library.

On Tuesday, February 25 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m., Pleasant will be in the First Floor Conference Room at the Central Library and talk about her drawings to interested visitors thus giving them an opportunity to engage with the artist one on one and interact with works of art in an intimate way. It will provide an “open studio” environment in the library, which allows for open discussion and hands-on experience. The visitors will be able to hold the drawings as they would a book. There are not many opportunities for people to interact with artists and artworks in this way, and a deeper understanding can occur because of the ability to talk to an artist while standing in front of the works and also by looking at original works of art, not reproductions.

 “The project will be a way for me to share my process and how the source material for a lot of my work comes from the books in this very library. I would like to have available alongside my work the books that I refer to on a regular basis. This will also demonstrate the connection between the library and the studio,” states Pleasant. “The museum or gallery experience is very different and most of the public may feel outside of the cultural dialog in Birmingham… I feel this event could create a sense of connectedness with the community. There is a lot of mystery involved with the idea of the artist in the studio and this will open up that mystery and make it available to all who are present.”

 Pleasant is a member of the Viewing Program artist registry at The Drawing Center, New York. Established in 1977, the Viewing Program offers emerging artists around the world the opportunity to include their work in a curated artist registry that is consulted by a wide variety of arts professionals: curators, gallerists, and collectors. The Drawing Center suggests the program On the Table to the members of the Viewing Program as an opportunity for artists to show work outside of conventional exhibition spaces.

Pleasant received a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from The Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, PA. She has held solo exhibitions at various locations including Jeff Bailey Gallery, NY, The Birmingham Museum of Art, The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, and The University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her work has been included in group exhibitions in venues such as The Hunter Museum of American Art, The Weatherspoon Museum of Art, The National Museum for Women in the Arts, The Mobile Museum of Art, and The U.S. Embassy, Prague, Czech Republic. Pleasant’s work has been reviewed in publications such as Art in America, Art Papers, The Commercial Appeal and artforum.com. She currently lives and works in Birmingham, Alabama and is represented by Jeff Bailey Gallery, NYC and whitespace gallery in Atlanta, GA.

Amy Pleasant--On the Table--in Collaboration with The Drawing Center, NYCTuesday, February 25, 2014, 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place
First Floor Conference RoomFor more information, call 226-3670.

Lois Wilson Exhibit Ends Its Run at BPL on February 21

Mon, 02/17/2014 - 3:56pm

The exhibit Ladies, Gentlemen and Bazards: The Art of Lois Wilson will be on display in the Central Library's Fourth Floor Gallery through Friday, February 21, 2014. Featuring a little known Alabama artist who died in 1980, the exhibit focuses on Wilson’s “found art” where she used wood that she scavenged from demolition sites, parts of furniture that she disassembled, old brushes, ironing boards, toilet seats, and left over food for coloring to take the trash that other people discarded and create art. The art illustrates the issues that were important to Wilson: environmentalism and conservation, racism, spiritualism, the needs of the aged and homeless, and the emptiness of modern American materialism.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information contact Jim Baggett at jbaggett@bham.lib.al.us or 205-226-3631.

Hey Jack, Help Me Transition to Reading Chapter Books!

Mon, 02/17/2014 - 11:27am

Do you have or know a child who is transitioning to reading chapter books? Well, if you do the Birmingham Public Library has just the series for you. Sally Rippin, the author of the Hey Jack series, has creatively and successfully combined context and comprehension in the series making the transition to chapter books smoother for young readers.

Each book in the Hey Jack series, which is a spin off to the Billy B. Brown series, is narrated by young Jack himself and presents young readers with identifiable plots, humor, and a variety of emotions. His encounters are similar to those that children his age experience, and though he is a boy, his encounters are relatable to girls as well. Jack even demonstrates alternative ways to handle situations that result in positive outcomes and that may help a young reader facing a similar issue. Each book contains only three chapters with no more than 50 pages providing young readers with a great sense of accomplishment after finishing book. The illustrations are simple, but do an excellent job in reiterating comprehension and providing accurate imagery.
The Hey Jack series is a wonderful way to introduce children to chapter books and has the potential of even winning over reluctant readers. Get young readers excited about their reading journey. Check it out!

Hey Jack! Books
The Circus Lesson 
The Bumpy Ride Ride 
The Worse Sleepover 
The Robot Blues
The Winning Goal
The Scary Solo
The Worry Monster
The New Friend
The Crazy Cousins

Karnecia Williams
Inglnook Library

BPL To Open at 11.00 A.M. February 13

Thu, 02/13/2014 - 8:39am
All Birmingham Public Library locations will open to the public at 11:00 a.m.

BPL Closed February 12

Tue, 02/11/2014 - 9:51pm
All locations of the Birmingham Public Library will be closed on Wednesday, February 12, due to the ongoing threat of inclement weather.

The DSM-5 Arrivest at BPL

Tue, 02/11/2014 - 11:00am
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, better known as DSM-5, is the 2013 update to the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) classification and diagnostic tool. In the US, it is the universal standard for all psychiatric disorder diagnoses. Treatments, as well as payment by insurance providers are determined by their DSM classification.

It replaces the DSM–IV, which was published in 2000. Some of the notable changes to the DSM-5 are the removal of Asperger syndrome and autism as distinctive disorders and their combination with several other disorders under the new title, Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The DSM-5 chapter on anxiety disorder no longer includes obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) (which is included with the obsessive-compulsive and related disorders), or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute stress disorder (which is included with the trauma- and stressor-related disorders).

If you would like to use this extremely important reference, the Five Points West Regional Library owns a copy. It is not for checkout, but may be photocopied. We also still have the DMS-IV. Please drop by the Information desk if you are interested.

Lorraine Walker
Five Points West Library

BPL Closing at 5:00 P.M. on February 10

Mon, 02/10/2014 - 5:31pm
All locations of the Birmingham Public Library will close at 5:00 p.m. today due to the threat of inclement weather.

Movie Review: Picnic at Hanging Rock

Mon, 02/10/2014 - 3:44pm


In the year 1900, a girls’ high school in an underpopulated area in Australia goes for a rare outing, a picnic, to be held at Hanging Rock, halfway into the bush. While there, four girls start to climb the Rock to the top. They disappear. The school panics. A search, with police and bloodhounds, is conducted. It’s unsuccessful. After a couple more days, two teenage boys do their own search. They discover and rescue one of the girls, now near death. The found girl remembers nothing of the trek up the Rock. The other girls haze her, accusing her of mischief, murder. Is she holding back information? The school, and community near it, emotionally implodes. The rigid principal (who in profile is a dead ringer for Tenniel’s Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland) loses it and starts to drink. One young woman, who had been in love with Miranda, one of the missing girls, becomes inconsolable, and disconnects. Flashbacks of Miranda climbing the Rock suggest an angel ascending into the beyond. Time passes. Hanging Rock becomes a makeshift tourist spot.

This sublime movie, directed by Peter Weir, was based on a novel of the same name by Joan Lindsay. The author would never say whether or not the novel was based on a true story.

Virtually everything works here. Directing, cast performances, cinematography, script, music- all conspire to create a mood and a story that is near perfect. Take music, for instance. Zamfir’s panpipes (which would go on to blight so much in the later seventies and eighties) are perfectly lean and sparse in the movie. They illustrate, and heighten, the heat of the outback and the mystery. Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto’s slow movement, with its lyrical, meditative and upward-moving progression, greatly enhances the girls’ progress up the Rock. Camerawork expertly conveys the harshness of the land and the cloistered nature of the school.

There are several qualities in Picnic that bring to mind Forster’s A Passage To India, aside from the obvious Europeans maladjusting to the colonies setting. That novel’s Adela Quested is overwhelmed by the Marabar Caves, especially their overpowering echo. Picnic’s girls are apparently swallowed up by Hanging Rock, and the soundtrack features at crucial points the sound of a gigantic boulder rolling by, which is more or less how Forster described the sound in Adela’s troubled head. There is also a moment, on the trip to the Rock, when a teacher, noting the extreme age of same, states that, by comparison, human lives are insubstantial, even meaningless. This recalls Passage’s Mrs. Moore who, also disturbed by the Marabar Caves, exclaims that life may have no meaning. I don’t want to go on too much about this; you certainly don’t need to have read A Passage To India to fall under the spell of Picnic at Hanging Rock. A more direct ancestor to the movie may be Deliverance, which came out a couple of years before and which dealt in similar themes of innocence lost, mourning and the implacability of nature. Michael, dressed in the English manner with top hat and kid gloves (could anything be less appropriate for the bush?), co-leads the second search for the girls and ends up ragged, almost mad. Nature will not be denied.

What did happen? Were the girls kidnapped? Murdered? Did they fall down a hidden crevice? Were supernatural forces involved? We don’t know. Sarah, the girl in love with Miranda, recalls her saying, before they left for the picnic, “I won’t be here much longer.” How much should we read into this? Does it matter? There is something powerfully eldritch and numinous about Picnic At Hanging Rock. A mixture of wonder, dread, frustration and helplessness fills the movie.

The cicadas buzz. The panpipes play. The sun beats down. The clocks in the school tick. The questions continue to come, but no answers do. It brings to mind the Bob Dylan lyric: “Nothing was delivered/ And I tell this truth to you/ Not out of spite or anger/ But simply because it’s true…”

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library

Pratt City Branch Library Reopens - A Look Inside

Mon, 02/10/2014 - 11:25am


The Pratt City Library, which was destroyed in an April 27, 2011 tornado, has been rebuilt and will reopen on Feb. 10 at 10 a.m. Mayor William A. Bell, Sr., Birmingham Public Library Director Renee Blalock and several others are slated to speak during the grand reopening ceremony.