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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

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 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.

Container Gardening - A Simple Way to Grow Flowers and Vegetables in Small Spaces

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 8:01am

This month's Wylam Branch Library program on container gardening was informative and fun. There are lots of books to help gardeners get ready for an easy way to grow vegetables and flowers. Container gardening enables gardeners to have much more control over their plants. Containers can be moved so that the gardener determines the sunlight, moisture, and temperature of their gardens. Container gardens are ideal for apartment dwellers.

Container Gardening: a Sunset Outdoor Design & Build Guide 
Get great ideas and expert advice on designing, planting, and caring for beautiful container gardens. Covers the basics of working with color, shape, and scale to create eye-catching compositions.

Container Garden Idea Book
The appeal of this book is visual. Over 300 photos of designs for gardens of all shapes and sizes.

Incredible Vegetables from Self-Watering Containers
Ideas on how to grow food and flowers when you don't have a backyard.

Small-Space Container Gardens : Transform your Balcony, Porch, or Patio with Fruits, Flowers, Foliage & Herbs
Lots of ideas on how to beautify a small balcony or porch.


Wed, 05/14/2014 - 1:58pm

As librarians, we have all had or will have parents who walk into the library searching for books for different levels of readers. There are many resources available in addition to our knowledge as librarians that will help us find the most appropriate books. One invaluable web resource that will enable librarians to complete this task in both an efficient and effective manner is called ABookandAHug. This website is well organized and categorized making searching for a book for different levels of readers simple.

The categories of ABookandAHug include all reading groups of children ranging from reluctant to advanced readers, genres ranging from Chick Lit to Paranormal, and even a category specifically for boys and girls. There is a plethora of categories on this site and creator, Barb Langridge who is also an independent children's bookseller and a children's specialist at a public library, created them all to simply get children excited about reading.

This website is available to the public and is an excellent resource to recommend to parents, educators, and even children. What an honor to have access to such an informative website free of charge. It’s only one click away. Check it out!

Karnecia Williams
Inglenook Library

No Rocking Chair for Me

Fri, 05/09/2014 - 5:30pm
Today’s seniors are vibrant, energetic, and enthusiastic about life. They embrace their age with grace and beauty. They are empowered with wisdom, approaches change without reservation—they are forward thinkers. Here are some books on technology, health, fitness, and lifestyle that may appeal to some seniors.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Using Your Computer—for Seniors
by Paul McFedries
"Over 38 percent of all seniors in the U.S. now use the Internet. This book covers the most popular activities seniors enjoy: Facebook, Google Search, and more."

iPad for the Older and Wiser: Get Up and Running with Apple iPad2 and the New iPad 
by Sean McManus
"The over-50 crowd is keeping up with technology like never before and they're eager to learn what the new iPad has to offer them. If you fall into that category, then this book is for you! Featuring an accessible, full-color interior, this new edition gets you up and running on the latest software release and features of the iPad and iPad Mini, in addition to iOS 6."

Computing for Seniors: In Easy Steps: Covers Windows 8 and Office 2013
by Sue Price
"Walks users through the ABCs of playing and storing music on their PCs; writing letters; surfing the web; buying and selling on eBay; sending and receiving email; playing games; installing anti-virus software; shopping safely on the internet; ordering groceries online; money management; transferring images from digital cameras and much more."

Advanced Style
by Ari Seth Cohen
“Advanced Style is Ari Seth Cohen's blog-based ode to the confidence, beauty, and fashion that can only be achieved through the experience of a life lived glamorously. It is a collection of street fashion unlike any seen before— focused on the over-60 set in the world's most stylish locales. The (mostly) ladies of Advanced Style are enjoying their later years with grace and panache, marching to the beat of their own drummer."

Job Hunting after 50 
by Carol A. Silvis
"Job Hunting After 50 will prepare you with a plan of action to carry out an effective job search to get the job you want. It covers self-assessment of skills and qualifications, preparing a resume for today's market, dressing with style, using technology to find a job, identifying common mistakes made by job seekers over 50 and how to avoid them, and interviewing skills."

Bombshell: Explosive Medical Secrets That Will Redefine Aging
by Suzanne Somers
“ Suzanne Somers. Dubbed a health pioneer by the Wall Street Journal and called "crazy smart" by Dr. Mehmet Oz, Suzanne Somers has repeatedly opened up new terrain to health seekers worldwide. And now, with Bombshell, she does it again. Acting like your personal medical detective, she has found the most advanced scientists, doctors, and health professionals and gotten them to share jaw-dropping advances that will stop deterioration and set you on the path to restoration and healthy longevity”.

Roadmap for the Rest of Your Life: Smart Choices about Money, Health, Work, Lifestyle—and Pursuing Your Dreams
by Bart Astor
“Where are you on the level of activity scale?—What are your goals for this stage in life?—Staying healthy for the rest of your life—All about health insurance—Making it last for the rest of your life—Transitioning from full-time work—What do you want to do with the rest of your life?—Transitioning what you own—Have "the talk" with your heirs—Home sweet home—Relationships with family and friends.”

Yolanda Hardy
Smithfield Library

New Teen and Kids Free eReading Sites

Thu, 05/08/2014 - 10:39am
Introduce your kids and teens to the friendly digital library experience provided by the Public Libraries In Jefferson County. The Public Libraries In Jefferson County has expanded its digital reading and listening services with two new digital collection websites, one just for kids and one just for teens. The main digital collection,, now has separate sites to provide safe and easy browsing experiences for kids and teens. These pages can be found at or

The Public Libraries in Jefferson County recognize the need to provide a safe environment for kids and teens to browse library materials. Just as the children’s and teens sections of a physical library are sectioned off, the same experience is now available on the county’s digital collection. These appealing and user-friendly pages contain eBooks and eAudiobooks. Browsing can be done by subject, reading level or interest level.

The Kids and Teen collection sites filter the overall digital collection to just show children or teen content, which gets kids and teens to the titles they want faster! These new services, powered by OverDrive, are free for users with a library card. Digital titles are available anytime, anywhere, and expire automatically, so no need to worry about late fees.

About OverDrive
OverDrive is a leading multichannel digital distributor of eBooks, digital audiobooks, music and video. We supply a secure lending platform for 22,000 libraries, schools and retailers worldwide with support for all major computers and devices, including iPhone®, iPad®, Nook®, Android™ phones and tablets, and Kindle® (U.S. only). OverDrive has been named to the EContent 100 as a company that matters most in the digital content industry and is a member of the 2012 Technology Fast 500. Founded in 1986, OverDrive is based in Cleveland.

May is National Inventor's Month

Thu, 05/08/2014 - 10:14am

“To invent, you have to have a good imagination and a pile of junk.” - Thomas EdisonThe first patent was issued July 31, 1790, by the newly-created Patent Board of the United States.  The Board referred to itself as the “Commissioners for the Promotion of Useful Arts.”  Its members were Henry Knox (Secretary of War), Thomas Jefferson (Secretary of State), and Edmund Randolph (Attorney General).*
 The number of patents issued currently by the United States Patent and Trademark Office has exceeded 8,700,000. 
 Some inventors of fairly recent electronic devices probably had a software program for assistance rather than a pile of parts on a table, but inventing is still inventing.
To look at the patents for some familiar electronic devices, use the links below, and click on "Images."
*From The Patent Office Pony:  A History of the Early Patent Office, 3rd Printing, Kenneth W. Dobyns, p. 23

Michelle Andrews and Liz Winn
Government Documents/Microforms

Smart Art Festival, May 17

Thu, 05/08/2014 - 10:14am
BPL will participate in the city's Smart Art Youth Arts Festival at Boutwell Auditorium on Saturday, May 17, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The free event was created to highlight the types of cultural arts events nonprofit organizations offer during the summer. BPL will promote summer reading, which will launch on May 12. Officials expect 300 to 500 children to attend Smart Art, which will feature a food truck food court, games, entertainment, and about 30 vendors, including BPL.

Stroke Awareness Month

Wed, 05/07/2014 - 9:41am

The month of May is National Stroke Awareness Month. According to the National Stroke Association ( ,“A stroke or 'brain attack' occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery (a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body) or a blood vessel (a tube through which the blood moves through the body) breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. When either of these things happen, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs.”

Strokes can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, race, or sex. Risk factors that increase the chances of a person having a stroke include high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and alcohol and tobacco use.

The best way to recognize the symptoms of a stroke are by using the FAST technique endorsed by the National Stroke Association. FAST is broken down as follows:

Ask the person to smile.
Does one side of the face droop?

Ask the person to raise both arms.
Does one arm drift downward?

Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase.
Is their speech slurred or strange?

If you observe any of these signs,
call 9-1-1 immediately.

High blood pressure is one of the leading indicators of a person’s risk of having a stroke. In honor of Stroke Awareness month, the Woodlawn Library is partnering with the Jefferson County Department of Health to provide free blood pressure checks on Friday, May 9, from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Qualified medical personnel will be available to talk to you about your blood pressure and to answer any stroke related questions that you may have.

Pamela Jessie
Woodlawn Library

A New Member of the Family

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 8:48pm
Last week at my cousin’s 70th birthday, I met a new family member, Chloe. She is a 10-week-old Corgi puppy. We were all enthralled by her vivacious personality and her good looks. She already knows how to “sit” and is being taught to obey other commands. This started me thinking about resources available at Birmingham Public Library on dog training and care.

ASPCA Complete Dog Care Manual 
Choosing a Dog: How to Choose and Care for a Dog
Complete Dog Care 
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Positive Dog Training 
The Dog Encyclopedia Consultant 
The Everything Dog Training and Tricks Book: All You Need to Turn Even the Most Mischievous Pooch into a Well-Behaved Pet 
Dog Training for Dummies 
Learning to Care for a Dog
Oh My Dog: How to Choose, train, Feed, Nurture, and Care for Your New Best Friend
Puppies for Dummies
Your Child's Dog: How to Help Your Kids Care for Their Pets

Everything You Should Know Series
Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan - The Complete Third Season
Dogs for Dummies
Training You to Train Your Dog
Your Pup, Trained Solid: The Ultimate Step-By-Step Dog Training System

ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)
The “Pet Care/Dog Care” page on ASPCA’s website is full of valuable information for dog owners. They cover everything from “disaster preparedness” to “what to do if you are allergic to your dog”. They also offer a six week online dog care course for $49.

Humane Society
This website has good tips and news reports about “dogs” and other pets and farm animals. They even have recipes for homemade dog treats.

Lucky Dog
I watch this show most Saturday mornings on CBS. If you’re looking for tips on how to train your dog or puppy, this show may help. It doesn’t hurt that all dogs on the show are shelter or rescue dogs. You can peruse the show archives and watch.

National Pet Week (May 4-10, 2014)
This website celebrates National Pet Week which is a part of National Pet Month (May 2014). These are some very good resources for pet owners and people who are considering pet ownership.

I hope these resources help you take care of and train your puppy or dog. I had no idea when I started this article that both National Pet Week and National Pet Month were in May. It’s a good time to remember our “…other family members” or consider getting “…another family member”.

Maya Jones
West End Library

Heather Lebischak Teaches Couponing Basics at Last MakingCents Program for April

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 8:38am

Make a commitment this spring to improve you financial literacy! To help in your endeavor, the Birmingham Public Library is offering several classes in April as part of its MakingCents program. All classes are free and open to the public.

Couponing Basics with Heather Lebischak
Date: Monday, April 28, 2014
Time: 11:00 a.m.
Place: North Birmingham 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.

The classes are part of a national grant program known as MakingCents: Resources to Help Your Money Grow and Smart investing@your library®, a partnership between the American Library Association and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

Build Your Own PC

Mon, 05/05/2014 - 9:59am

Is it time to upgrade your PC?  "As of April 8, 2014, support and updates for Windows XP are no longer available."  Does it take forever for programs to load on your machine?  Is it hard for you to find a PC that has the specific components you want?  How about building your own?

I know you may think it’s too complicated to build your own PC, but every PC has a few basic components:
  • Motherboard
  • Processor
  • Power Supply
  • Memory (RAM)
  • Hard Drive
  • Optical Drive (CD, DVD drive)
  • Operating System (e.g. Windows 8)
  • Video card (may be optional)
  • Case (Duh, unless you want dust on everything)
Online retailers such as and actually sell PC combos that come with everything you need to build a desktop PC, except the operating system. even features a video series which shows you step-by-step how to build a computer.  It is very straightforward and extremely helpful.  Keep in mind, though, building a computer is not like putting together a television stand with written instructions.  You will have to figure some things out on your own or seek help from another source like these videos.  

Once you build your own PC, you will spend all your free time thinking of ways to enhance and upgrade it.  You will become addicted to websites that sell computer components and eagerly await the sales flyers and newsletters you receive through e-mail.  Every time you see something faster, cooler, and more powerful, you will have to talk yourself out of buying it to upgrade your PC.  It may just be me, but I know there’s at least one other person out there.
Keep in mind, while you’re building your PC, that if it gets a good dose of static electricity from your body, it will fry your motherboard like bacon.  The simplest solution is to make a little hat out of aluminum foil.  Wait, that's to keep the aliens from hearing my thoughts.  Anyway, just be careful.  I was very reluctant to build my own PC, but once I did, I couldn’t believe I had waited so long.  I'd like to thank my mentor who received a lot of phone calls during my project.

Free Comic Book Day at Central Library

Thu, 05/01/2014 - 4:00pm

Central Library's Youth Department will distribute free children's comic books on Saturday, May 3, 1:00-5:00 p.m., as part of Free Comic Book Day. The American Library Association is providing the comic books, courtesy of Diamond Comic Distributors. One comic book per child. Supplies available while they last. For more information call 226-3655.

"This event is another way to make reading fun, especially for children having trouble with words. Through comic books, children can get information from the pictures. The pictures can help them understand the words. This is just one more way we can encourage reading," says Barbara Hutto, a librarian in the Youth Department.

Homewood Library Will Host Gifts of a Wordsmith, Starting May 6

Thu, 05/01/2014 - 1:01pm

Starting Tuesday, May 6, the free monthly adult poetry workshop that is usually held at the downtown Birmingham Public Library will be held at the Homewood Public Library until the Birmingham location's air conditioning unit can be fixed. This week, the Birmingham location reduced its hours to close at 5 p.m. The move was necessary because of rising spring temperatures and a broken unit. As a result, the evening poetry workshop known as Gifts of a Wordsmith had to be moved. Homewood agreed to host the event until repairs can made.

Gifts of a Wordsmith will be held on the first Tuesday of the month from 6 to 8 p.m. It is free and open to the public. The Homewood Public Library is located at 1721 Oxmoor Road in Homewood. Real Life Poets partners with the Birmingham Public Library to offer the workshop.

Gifts of a Wordsmith will return to the Birmingham location after repairs are made. The downtown location could have reduced hours for up to seven weeks. Parts have been ordered for the air conditioner. Repairs will be scheduled once parts arrive.

Film Noir

Wed, 04/30/2014 - 5:28pm
Night of the Hunter Film noir is a subgenre of American cinema that emerged during the Second World War and peaked during the late forties and early fifties.  French critics bestowed this label upon this subgenre when hundreds of American films flooded European theaters after the war.   The French were unable to see American films during their occupation by Germany and were clearly taken aback by the transformation they saw in Hollywood.

Hollywood’s happy-go-lucky westerns and musicals were seemingly replaced overnight by a steady supply of dark films in which down-on-their-luck men and women struggled for their lives, loves, and the pursuit of happiness.   Perhaps the most striking difference between pre- and post-war American cinema was that these struggles often ended in failure.

Film noir can be translated as ‘dark cinema’ though it literally means ‘black cinema.’  These films are distinguished visually by a strong reliance upon chiaroscuro lighting as well as unbalanced frame compositions and dramatically by characters with consistently poor decision making skills.  Most noir films were low budget productions, though there were several major Hollywood features with that are exemplary for the classic period of film noir.  (Almost all films made after 1960 are considered neo-noir, another subgenre that would require a separate blog entry to discuss.)

Kiss Me DeadlyMost critics and film enthusiasts associate noir with crime films -- and it is true that many noir pictures take place in crime filled environs.  However, noir has never strictly been limited to crime films.  These films have always featured elements of melodrama, mystery, and even horror.  Noir films spliced elements of these various genres together in order to explore the emotional instabilities and violent natures of their characters.

For my money, many of the best noir films are the ones that have placed an emphasis on dark and twisted tales of romance.  Here are a few of my favorites noirs with an emphasis on tangled affairs of the heart:

Gilda (directed by Charles Vidor; starring Rita Hayworth, George Macready, and Glenn Ford)

Gilda tells the story of down-on-his-luck gambler Johnny Farrell (Ford) who begins working for German casino owner Ballin Mundson (Macready) in Buenos Aires during the height of the Second World War. The story becomes complicated once Mundson returns from a business trip with his new bride, Gilda (Hayworth), and it is immediately obvious that Farrell and Gilda have a shared past as well as a vicious hatred for each other.  At this point, the film turns into something of a sado-masochistic love triangle -- a highly unusual concept for a major Hollywood production.  This will always be the film for which Rita Hayworth is best remembered due to several iconic moments including her famous “striptease” performance of ‘Put the Blame on Mame.’  It is one of my favorite films and one of the best introductions to film noir.

Naked Kiss (directed by Samuel Fuller; starring Constance Towers)

Legendary filmmaker Samuel Fuller had a penchant for peeling back the outer layers of the American dream to reveal the hidden wounds that mar the American landscape.  Fuller was most famous for films such as Pickup on South Street and Forty Guns as well as his use of a starter pistol to declare “Action!” when behind the camera.  In Naked Kiss, Constance Towers plays a call girl that starts her life anew in a small town.  She finds work as a nurse for children with disabilities in a hospital and soon falls in love with the town’s most eligible bachelor.  Of course things are not quite as they seem in this town and Kelly finds that the love of her life has a dark and twisted history of his own.

Gun Crazy (directed Joseph H. Lewis; starring John Dall and Peggy Cummins)

A gun-obsessed Army sniper named Barton Tare (Dall) returns home from the war and falls in love with a carnival worker named Annie Starr (Cummins) who performs in an Annie Oakley-styled sharpshooting show.  Their mutual love for guns leads to a violent encounter with Annie's former flame and soon spirals into an out of control crime spree.  The film features one of the greatest single-take bank robbery sequences of all time (see clip below) as well as some unusually suggestive gunplay.  Worth viewing.

Out of the Past (directed by Jacque Tourneur; starring Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, and Jane Greer)

This was one of Robert Mitchum's best performances and features the actor as a private detective named Jeff who is hired to track down Kathie (Greer) the mistress of a high level gangster (Douglas).  Kathie has run off to Mexico with $40,000 that belongs her former lover and has a habit of leaving a trail of dead men in her wake.  This is a film that has everything you could ask for in a film noir - double and triple crosses, a true noir femme fatale, a snide crime boss with charming henchman, and a hero that has found himself caught in a mire of greed and lust.

All of the above films are available through the library catalog; however, if film noir piques an interest in you there are many more great films available through the library, Netflix, and Hulu. Some great film noir titles to take a look at include: Pickup on South Street, Phenix City Story, Night of the Hunter, The Big Heat, Kiss Me Deadly, The Third Man, Kiss of Death, Rififi, and The Devil Thumbs A Ride.

Book Review: The Graduate

Wed, 04/30/2014 - 11:59am
The Graduate
Charles Webb

More favorite movies. More novels they were based on. An ongoing pastime. It dawned on me: I’ve never read The Graduate, the book the movie of the same name sprang from. Copyright 1963. If we knew then what we know now, we could’ve read it and seen the Fifties dying and the Sixties coming into view. But we couldn’t have, and that’s why it’s interesting. This is a novel, and novels don’t signal change the way, say, manifestos do. But The Graduate did get good critical notices and it sold extremely well, so people were paying attention to it, just not the way they would have in, maybe, 1966. Most readers probably liked it chiefly because it reads very easy.

Ben Braddock comes home to L.A. after a stellar college tour back east. He’s achieved as much as anyone his age probably can, but it means nothing to him. His parents try to persuade him he’s at the top and that he should go to grad school, but Ben sees that as more of the same rut. Mrs. Robinson, Ben’s dad’s law partner’s wife and close family friend, invites Ben to have an affair with her. He takes her up on it, but this provides no meaning for him, either. But he does fall in love with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter Elaine, and this turns up the drama exponentially. Ben’s reckless and self-destructive, but he has his eye on something more. He wants to extract himself from the artificial gravity world he and everyone he knows seems to live in, a life of blankness well-illustrated by the flat dialogue, questions that usually end in periods and thoughtless statements that often come across to the reader as a strange species of gallows humor. Ben wants to be an awake human being, a very tall order, maybe impossible, worth risking all for. This is at heart a story of an existential crisis, but it’s a very wrenching and funny one. These days, Ben’s highest yearnings wouldn't seem nearly so odd. They’re something…common?

Sometimes I’m impossibly sanguine.

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library