Friday, March 30, 2012

Team Katniss

If you're reading this (and are, therefore, a person with internet access), I'm thinking you've heard something about The Hunger Games. News of this new film release has been obsessively reported in trailers, TV spots, interviews, magazines, websites, and more (you may even remember us mentioning it in a post from last January). Wherever you go, the Games have been impossible to miss.

That's pretty much in keeping with the original idea of the Games themselves, as presented in Suzanne Collins's popular young adult trilogy of novels. The books tells the story of Katniss, a sixteen-year-old girl living in post-apocalyptic America. Throughout the first novel, Katniss has one goal: to be the champion of the 74th annual Hunger Games, a contest run by the government and broadcast live (reality-TV style) to the population of the twelve Districts. (Viewing of the Games by the Districts' citizens is strictly mandatory.) How to win the Games? Simple: be the last person left alive.

The books have been best-sellers for several years -- but a best-selling novel doesn't always guarantee a box office blockbuster. For every Harry Potter or Twilight film franchise, there's failed attempts like The Golden Compass, Eragon, and A Series of Unfortunate Events. And yet, when it comes to The Hunger Games, something about the story has truly caught audiences -- and film critics -- on fire.

The movie opened to rave reviews, with critics praising the strong story, acting performances, and attention to detail given in the book-to-movie translation. And it's not just critics who are impressed. The debuting Hunger Games has smashed box office records, earning $19.74 million at its initial midnight showing alone (and making it the highest-grossing midnight release ever for a non-sequel film). Its final opening weekend pull was $152.5 million, making it the third-largest all-time opening weekend for a movie ever (behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and The Dark Knight). With a $78 million dollar budget, The Hunger Games had already made back its budget nearly twice over in a single weekend and is rapidly continuing to climb.

So if you've seen the movie and are looking to learn more about the world of The Hunger Games -- or, if you haven't yet made it to the theater -- check out some of the buzz surrounding what is already one of the biggest box office blockbusters of the year.

And may the odds be ever in your favor.

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)

-- The Hunger Games: The Official Website

-- Weekend Report: 'The Hunger Games' Devours $152.5 Million - One of many articles on the Games' records-smashing success.

-- Gary Ross Answers Reader Questions About ‘The Hunger Games’ - A New York Times-featured interview with the director of the film.

-- Watching ‘The Hunger Games’ Through a Racial Lens - The Washington Post on the unexpected racist backlash over the movie casting.

-- Hunger Games: Be Easter Now! - An op/ed from the Huffington Post exploring the spiritual truths behind The Hunger Games.

-- 'The Hunger Games' Fans Filling Up Lanes at Queens Archery Ranges - The stories are inspiring a popularity boom for an old-time hobby -- archery!

-- The Hunger Games Themes That Apply to Our World Today - Reality TV? Occupy Wallstreet? A look at how Collins's story may be a particularly timely one.

-- Suzanne Collins - The author's official website.

-- Katniss Everdeen of 'The Hunger Games' vs. Bella Swan of 'Twilight' - From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Which heroine would come out on top?

-- Post by Ms. B

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Birthday Biography: The Search for Spock

A very special Birthday Biography entry from two of the resident Trekkies on staff at MPL:

"My folks came to the U.S. as immigrants -- aliens -- and became citizens. I was born in Boston, a citizen, went to Hollywood and became an alien."
-- Leonard Nimoy

TRACY: I have to start with this fact -- I am a Trekkie and not ashamed to admit it! And while I haven't been a faithful fan of every incarnation of Star Trek, I have been a fan of the original series since the mid to late 70s. My older brothers, especially my brother Scott, were huge fans of the show, and I basically had no choice in watching it. But then, somehow, I found myself drawn into that world and those characters. When I was a young girl, my favorite character was Chekov. But as the years passed I came to love and appreciate Spock. He is one of the most interesting characters ever developed for television. The combination of Vulcan logic and human emotion is, as Spock himself would say, fascinating.

MS. B: Little-known fact, at least by me: Spock wasn't Nimoy's first acting role. He was only eight years old when he first began appearing in community theatre roles in his hometown of Boston. In the decade before his first Star Trek appearance, he featured in a variety of television and film spots, mostly in smaller roles, though he did play the title role in Kid Monk Baroni. (He also spent two years serving in the United States Army.)

In 1952, he had a part in the B movie-serial Zombies of the Stratosphere -- a science-fiction serial serving as a surprising bit of foreshadowing into the future role that would make Nimoy a pop culture icon.

MS. B: The first episode of Star Trek aired on Thursday, September 8, 1966, receiving mixed reviews but promising ratings. The episode shown that evening was "Where No Man Has Gone Before," and it was actually the second pilot episode to be produced. The first, then-unaired pilot was entitled "The Cage," and had featured Jeffrey Hunter in the role of Captain Christopher Pike. For "Where No Man Has Gone Before," Pike and his crew were replaced with Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, and Chekhov -- but one character survived from the original pilot to the replacement pilot: Leonard Nimoy's Spock.

Nimoy would appear in all 80 episodes of Star Trek (the only actor to do so), and if the show was cancelled after three seasons due to low ratings, the effect of Spock and the rest of the Enterprise crew on pop culture should not be underestimated. Finding new audiences in syndication, Star Trek became popular enough to permit first an animated series during the seventies, and then a big screen relaunch. Nimoy would feature in all six of the original Trek films, which were released from 1979 through 1991; he'd reprise his role again with a cameo appearance as Spock in J.J. Abrams's recent reboot.

TRACY: I actually was discovering the original series at just the right time, because in 1979, Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out. Now, I know it was not a very good movie, but without that film there wouldn't have been any more movies -- let alone Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and all of the other incarnations of Star Trek. My personal favorite of the Star Trek films is Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. While Leonard Nimoy is not in the film all that much, the essence of Spock is all through the film. After Spock's death at the end of The Wrath of Khan, we see our old friends steal the USS Enterprise to go in search of Spock's body on a far-off planet -- and they must return to Vulcan in order to save Spock with the help of Dr. McCoy. To me, this film shows the devotion and friendship that exists between all of the crew, but especially between Kirk and Spock.

MS. B: I never caught the original Star Trek series in syndication -- I'm a Trekkie thanks to growing up on the adventures of a different Enterprise crew in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Happily for all Trek fans, however, Nimoy's portrayal of the character of Spock wasn't limited to the original Enterprise. In a fifth-season two-part episode of Next Generation, Nimoy reprised his role as Spock once again, the character now serving as an ambassador of the Federation. But such is the prevalence of the original characters in our pop-culture consciousness that, even before seeing that episode, I'd known who Spock was long before seeing his guest-starring appearance.

I've only recently started watching the original series episodes (I just finished the one with the infamous salt monster) -- but I've seen a few of the movies. In particular, I was captivated by The Wrath of Khan, which features Spock (now a Starfleet Captain) teaming up with Admiral Kirk and the rest of the original crew. They're after the genetically enhanced tyrant (and all-around crackpot) Khan Noonien Singh -- who, in a nice continuity nod, is a villain who was originally featured in the TV show's first season. Khan has it out for Kirk and spends the film trying to get his hands on a MacGuffin known as the Genesis Device, intending to destroy a few planets and kill Kirk while he's at it. By the the end of the film, the villain is defeated -- but the Enterprise is in danger and the engines are down. Spock steps in to save the day, repairing the starship's engines but getting a lethal dose of radiation poisoning in the process. It says something about Star Trek's knack for portraying emotion and relationships, underneath all the sci-fi bells and whistles, that the ending had me tearing up even though I was not yet a fan of the original series.

Once Star Trek hooks you, you're hooked. The love of the fans for the Enterprise and its crew -- and for the character of Spock -- has, often as not, bled into obsession for many viewers over the years. People's determination to equate Nimoy with his Star Trek character would eventually lead Nimoy to title his biography I Am Not Spock. But his long years of association with the character seemed to eventually return in him a kind of affection for the character after all -- enough so that, when he released a second biography in 1995, this one was entitled I Am Spock.

TRACY: About a month ago, I decided to start watching the show Fringe, starting with season one on DVD. Imagine my surprise when Leonard Nimoy's name was listed in the opening credits of the season finale! He plays the character of Dr. William Bell, a renowned scientist who is an old friend of Dr. Walter Bishop, one of the main characters of the show. While he's only been in a few episodes through the first two seasons, he plays a very pivotal role in the story arc of Fringe. As much as I love the character of Spock, it has been so much fun watching Mr. Nimoy playing a different character. I can only hope he will be in more episodes.

Even though I've been lucky enough to attend a few Star Trek conventions over the years, I never made it to one where Mr. Nimoy was in attendance. The closest I ever got to seeing him was about 20 years ago, when Mark Lenard, who played Spock's father Sarek, made an appearance at a convention I attended right here in Monroeville at the Palace Inn. If you can't see Spock, seeing Sarek is the next best thing!

MS. B: Meanwhile, as a major fan of the television series The Big Bang Theory, I am eagerly awaiting this Thursday's episode, in which Leonard Nimoy will be making a guest appearance on the show. The Big Bang Theory is a show that's all about celebrating your Inner Dork, and Star Trek and Spock himself have been referenced on more than one occasion. (Check out a clip from an earlier episode of The Big Bang Theory at the end of our entry, in which Sheldon Cooper is given a very unexpected Christmas present from his neighbor and sometimes-pal, Penny.)

Leonard Nimoy has been quoted saying he's considering retiring from acting -- not an unreasonable decision should he make it, since he turned 81 yesterday! But he doesn't seem ready to stop acting just yet ... and, regardless of when he stops, he'll hardly be forgotten. His performance as the character of Spock made an immeasurable impact on television, science fiction, and pop culture itself. The duality of a coldly logical and rational character -- whose half-human side will never truly let him escape his emotions (which, of course, is all for the better) -- has a resonance for most fans that will hardly lessen over time.

Whether you're a Trekkie or not, you know Spock -- making this beloved character a true icon who will continue to live long and prosper for generations to come.

"Spock is definitely one of my best friends. When I put on those ears, it's not like just another day. When I become Spock, that day becomes something special."
-- Leonard Nimoy

-- Post by Tracy and Ms. B

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Evan Karelitz

Evan Karelitz
Marketing/PR/Webmaster: 2002-2012

We at Monroeville Public Library are deeply saddened to announce the passing of one of our staff members, Evan Karelitz. Evan had been a part of the Library since 2002, serving as MPL's Webmaster and our go-to "tech support," as well as performing PR and marketing duties.

Evan was loved by staff and patrons alike and will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Birthday Biography: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

I grew up in the glory days of children's television on PBS: Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and, of course, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. All three of these shows were very important to me and I have fond memories of all of them. But if I had to choose one as a favorite, it would be Mr. Rogers'. There was something so magical, yet so real, about the show. Of course, at the time, I had no idea that what Fred Rogers had created was so unique in children's television. All I knew was that he wanted to be my friend and my neighbor! Also, at the time, I had no idea that, while he wasn't exactly my next door neighbor, he only lived about 30 minutes away in Pittsburgh!

Fred McFeely Rogers was born February 20, 1928 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. His own childhood was often a lonely time for him. He was overweight, sickly, and suffered from allergies, which led his mother to discourage him from venturing outdoors. Fred used this time to learn music and use his imagination by playing with puppets. But the best times of his childhood were spent with his grandfather, Fred McFeely, who encouraged him to explore the outside world. The most important lesson young Fred learned from his grandfather was how special he thought his grandson was. His grandfather told him one day, "There's only one person in the world like you. And I happen to like you just the way you are."  Years later, this would ultimately be the basis for Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

After high school, Fred Rogers attended Dartmouth College for one year. He then transferred to Rollins College in Florida, where he graduated, in 1951, with a degree in music composition -- and met his future wife, Joanne. His next stop was New York City and the new world of television, where he worked as a production assistant for NBC. Two years later, he moved back to Western Pennsylvania and helped to create WQED in Pittsburgh. There he would go on to create Children's Corner, with Josie Carey. This is where he would develop many of the puppet characters we know and love from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, like King Friday and Daniel Striped Tiger.

In 1962, Fred moved to Toronto to work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) where he created a show called Misterogers. He stayed there for two years before returning to Pittsburgh and WQED, where he would eventually incorporate these 15-minute episodes into a 30-minute show called Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Initially, the show was shown only in Pittsburgh, but in 1967 the show received major financial support from Sears-Roebuck Foundation, which allowed it to be available for PBS stations all across the country.

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood would go on to run for over 30 years. During that time, Fred Rogers touched the lives of countless young children. He achieved this by speaking directly to the children watching at home and never speaking down to them. For those of us who watched him, he was a comforting presence in our lives. Every day, we knew he would walk through that door, asking us to be his neighbor, changing into his cardigan and sneakers and spending time with us. We learned about ourselves and about the world through Fred's thoughtful and simple way. We knew it was time for Make Believe when the trolley would show up. It was such a wonderful world with King Friday, Queen Sara, Daniel Striped Tiger, X the Owl, Lady Elaine, and many others. And we loved seeing Mr. Rogers's real neighbors, like Mr. McFeely, Chef Brockett, and Handyman Negri.

In 2000, Fred decided to stop making new episodes, although repeats continued for many years on several PBS stations. The last new show aired in August 2001.

Fred Rogers passed away on February 27, 2003, from stomach cancer. His wife Joanne, and their two sons, James and John, survived him. Although he will be greatly missed by his family and legions of fans, I don't think he will ever be forgotten for his contributions to children's television and to the lives of children everywhere.

For more on Fred Rogers:

Accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 24th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards (make sure you have a hanky!)

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood - a website maintained by PBS for the show.

Fred Rogers: America's Favorite Neighbor - A three-hour documentary, narrated by Pittsburgh's own Michael Keaton.

Speedy Delivery - Tells the story of how David Newell (Mr. McFeely) works to keep the legacy of Fred Rogers alive.

And here are a few special books by and about Fred Rogers:

You Are Special: Words of Wisdom For All Ages From a Beloved Neighbor by Fred Rogers

Life's Journeys According to Mister Rogers: Things to Remember Along the Way by Fred Rogers

I'm Proud of You: My Friendship With Fred Rogers by Tim Madigan

Mister Rogers: Good Neighbor to America's Children by JoAnn DiFranco

Parenting advice from Fred Rogers:

The Mister Rogers Parenting Book: Helping to Understand Your Young Child

Mister Rogers' Plan & Play Book: Hundreds of Preschool Activities for Parents & Child Care Providers

Many Ways to Say I Love You: Wisdom for Parents and Children From Mister Rogers

-- Post by Tracy

Friday, March 16, 2012

Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History

"Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History." It was the slogan my college's History club chose for our t-shirts during my senior year. What I didn't realize was that this nifty little phrase can be traced back to an article written by author and history professor Laurel Ulrich (who would later use her original quote to title one of her books).

Before I knew where the phrase had come from, however, I liked it. It's been a long-standing complaint that a lot of our traditional historical studies tend to focus on male figures from history -- but it only took a few history courses in college for me to realize there's more than a few fascinating women who have, indeed, made history.

To celebrate Women's History Month, here's a look at seven (technically nine!) of my personal favorite female historical figures:

- Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire
Georgiana was not only a duchess. She was also a British political activist in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, in an era when women were still a century away from even gaining the vote. She used her well-known wit and charm to champion the causes of the Whig political party, even while balancing her family life -- and accumulating gambling debts! (Georgiana is also great-great-great-great-aunt to Diana, Princess of Wales.)

Read Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman.

- Margaret Brown
Known as the "Unsinkable Molly Brown," Margaret Brown is famous for having survived the wrecking of the Titanic. But her life of adventure hardly stopped there. She spent years working as an activist for children's and women's rights, defended the rights of unions and immigrants, and even considered running for political office.

Read Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth by Kristen Iversen.

- Helen Keller (and Annie Sullivan)
Helen Keller was not born blind and deaf. But, at 19 months of age, she contracted an illness which, even after her recovery, left her unable to see or hear for the rest of her life. What that illness did not do was rob her of her ability to communicate -- thanks to Annie Sullivan.

Sullivan, a young teacher who suffered herself from poor eyesight, taught seven-year-old Helen sign language, opening up the world of words to her pupil. Keller would go on to be an accomplished student, author, and activist. I've admired Helen and her Teacher for years; their unique story and lives makes them seem both larger-than-life -- as well as still being real, and relatable, people.

Read Helen and Teacher: the Story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy by Joseph P. Lash.

- Anne Bonny and Mary Read
You may recall that I'm something of a pirate fan. Jack Sparrow may win out as my favorite fictional pirate, but when it comes to the real thing, Anne Bonny and Mary Read are unquestionably at the top of my list. Anne Bonny was a teenage runaway in Nassau when she met a former pirate by the name of "Calico" Jack Rackham. It wasn't long before Rackham was back on the account -- with Bonny sailing alongside him as one of the crew.

Against all odds, one of the prizes that Rackham and his crew attacked was a Dutch ship containing a career sailor by the name of Michael Read. Except that Michael was really Mary -- a woman who had spent the better part of her life disguised as a man (first as a soldier and then, later, a sailor). Bonny soon discovered that one of her fellow sailors was a woman, and the two became fast friends. (The rest of the crew only gradually learned the truth about Read.)

When the pirates' ship was eventually captured by the authorities, it was only Read and Bonny (with one other fellow sailor) who remained on deck to fight. The pirates were put on trial, although Read and Bonny were given a stay of execution. Mary Read died in prison -- but to this day, no one is quite sure of what happened to Anne Bonny.

Read a historical novel based on the real-life exploits of Bonny and Read in The Only Life That Mattered: The Short and Merry Lives of Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Calico Jack Rackam by James L. Nelson.

- Harriet Tubman
I've admired Harriet Tubman ever since being assigned a report on her life during grade school. Born into slavery in Maryland during the 1820s, Tubman eventually escaped to Pennsylvania by using the North Star as a compass point. She reached Philadelphia only to make her way back to Maryland in order to rescue others. It was not her first trip back. After rescuing first her sister (and her sister's two children), then her brother and two friends, she would continue to escort others to safety along the Underground Railroad -- making nearly 20 trips in all (including the rescue of her 70-year-old parents).

Tubman developed a variety of techniques to evade capture. Tubman was once was standing close enough to a group of men to overhear them reading aloud from a wanted poster -- her poster! The poster stated that Tubman was illiterate, so she quickly picked up a book and opened it, pretending to read. The ploy worked, and the men passed her by.

She would eventually leading over 300 people to freedom. Her work continued into the Civil War, when she aided the North as a nurse, a cook ... and even a spy.

Read Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero by Kate Clifford Larson.

- Emily Dickinson
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Emily Dickinson was born in Massachusetts in 1830. Known now as one of the formative poets in American literature, only 11 of her poems were published in her lifetime. She wrote nearly 1,800.

Thought of as something of a recluse, it's true that Dickinson rarely left her family home in adulthood. She did, however, rely on her family for company, as well as engaging in extensive correspondence with a variety of people. Despite her solitude, her poems are known for their deep inspiration -- and even, occasionally, their happiness.

Read from the works of Emily Dickinson.

- Cleopatra VII
The last pharaoh of Egypt, Cleopatra VII (yes, there were seven other royals to share her name before her!) was a descendant of the Ptolemaic dynasty -- a family that was originally from Greece. Cleopatra first ruled Egypt alongside her brother, but eventually she became the sole ruler (though she was not Egypt's only female king). Remembered now as history's most beautiful woman (and the girlfriend of guys like Julius Caesar and Mark Antony) -- Cleopatra was far more than a pretty face. (In fact, some evidence suggests she may not have been nearly as beautiful as she's remembered, although she's said to have had a gorgeous speaking voice.) She was an accomplished ruler and politician, who spent her lifetime fighting to keep her empire and her dynasty secure.

Read Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff.

-- Post by Ms. B

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Birthday Biography: Walking on the Sun

"Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics. I can assure you that mine are still greater."

I took a cultural history class in college that included a section on Albert Einstein, focusing in particular on his life, and on his best-known contribution to science: the theory of relativity.

The class was a seminar being co-taught by three professors -- from the physics, theology, and history departments. I vividly remember a day when the physics and theology professors got into a heated debate over a particular aspect of special relativity, which the physics professor was illustrating to the class with the example of solar flares.

"Let's say that Person A is standing on the sun -- and somehow not instantly burned to a crisp -- and Person B is standing on the Earth. They are both observing the sun when there's an eruption on the sun's surface at 12:00 P.M. But the sun is far enough away from Earth that the sun's light takes eight and a half minutes to travel to Earth. So, while Person A sees the explosion take place at 12:00 P.M., that same explosion won't actually take place until 12:08 for Person B."

"So when does the explosion actually happen, then?" pipes up the theology professor. "The explosion actually takes place at 12:00 P.M., right?"

"Only to Person A. To Person B, it takes place at 12:08."

"But when does it actually happen?"

"Well. It's -- it's relative."

The argument hardly ended there, but you get the idea. After all, the theory of relativity -- like all of Einstein's revolutions to the science of physics -- can be a little rough to wrap your mind around.

"When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute - and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity."

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany. (Which, by happy coincidence, is also Pi Day!) The common belief that Einstein flunked math as a child isn't true, but neither was he a prodigy -- in fact, Einstein didn't start speaking fluently until age nine. And yet, when it came to science, he'd already found a strong draw towards the mystery of nature; he was only five when he started wondering about the invisible force directing a compass needle. He was 12 when he first started studying Euclidean geometry, excelling in both differential and integral calculus at the age of 16.

His secondary education ended not because he was flunking math but because his "poor behavior" got him expelled! Einstein hated school life and was known for having a rebellious streak in him. He failed an entrance examination into the Federal Institute of Technology (FIT) in Zurich, and so he detoured to the catonal school in Aarau, Switzerland. His diploma from the catonal school earned him automatic acceptance into the FIT. It was at FIT that he realized his passion was not strictly for mathematics, but rather in the fields of experimental and theoretical physics.

In 1900, Einstein passed his diploma examination at the FIT, but he wasn't offered a university assistantship from any of his professors. He spent several years working in a patent office in Bern, Switzerland, marrying Mileva Maric (a former Zurich classmate); they eventually had two sons. At age 26, Einstein was able to finish the requirements for his doctoral degree and began writing the first of his many innovative scientific papers.

"Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the life-long attempt to acquire it."

First lecturing at the University of Bern, Einstein would be made an associate professor to the University of Zurich -- only to soon be appointed a full professor at the German University in Prague, and then a full professor at the FIT. In 1913, Einstein accepted a research professorship at the University of Berlin. He left for Germany, though his wife and sons remained behind (he and his wife would later divorce).

Einstein was an extensive world traveler. He was given an honorary visiting professorship at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, and during 1921-1922 he toured with Chaim Weizmann, the future president of Israel, to promote the cause of Zionism. (Einstein, both German and Jewish, was quickly rebuked by Germany for his actions, causing Einstein to eventually resign from the Prussian Academy of Science in 1933.)

Einstein also made several trips to the California Institute of Technology, and in 1933 -- the same year as his resignation from the Prussian Academy of Science -- he accepted a position at the new Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton.

In 1939, Einstein signed a famous letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, urging Roosevelt to contact physicists who were working on the discoveries and possibilities of a new type of bomb based on the chain-reaction properties of uranium. But Einstein, a lifelong pacifist, would later be horrified with the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, and with his part in urging the U.S. government to look into the initial technology. "Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb," he said later in an interview, "I never would have lifted a finger."

After the death of Chaim Weizmann in 1952, Einstein was offered the presidency of Israel. He declined, thinking himself not experienced enough with politics to accept such a position. Einstein continued his work in physics until nearly the end of his life. He died on April 18, 1955, in Princeton, New Jersey.

"Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile."

When reading up on Albert Einstein, you don't have to be a physicist to appreciate his wit, wisdom, and his contribution to the study of science. Check out these links and reads to find out more about the world's most famous physicist.

More on Einstein:

- Albert Einstein: The Official Website!

- Princeton University: Celebrating Einstein's Birthday on Pi Day

- Chain Reaction: From Einstein to the Atomic Bomb - Discover Magazine

- Einstein: Imagine and Impact - The American Institute of Physics

- The Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem - Includes a lengthy biography, lists of resources, and links to Einstein for kids!

- Einstein's Big Idea: The Story Behind the World's Most Famous Equation - All about E=mc2

- Memorable Albert Einstein Quotes

Books by Einstein @ your Library

Books About Einstein @ your Library

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."

-- Post by Ms. B

Monday, March 12, 2012

Girl Scouts Celebrate 100 Years!

A long time ago I was a Brownie. For the most part I really enjoyed it, although I think it was mostly because we made crafts! At the time I had no idea that I was part of an organization so widespread and ingrained in the life of so many young girls in this country. Today there are 2.3 million girls involved and  over 50 million American women participated in Girl Scouts in their youth. 

The first Girl Scouts meeting was held on March 12, 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low. At that time, the group was known as American Girl Guides. The following year the group's name was changed to Girl Scouts. 

Juliette, or Daisy to her family, was from a very prominent family in Savannah. After the death of her husband in 1905, Juliette returned to Georgia from England, where she had been living for several years. She was searching for something useful to do with her life when, at the end of 1911, she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boys Scouts and Girl Guides. This turned out to be exactly what she was looking for. 

The Girl Scouts, led by Juliette's vision, aimed to help girls of all backgrounds and abilities find their calling in life. She wanted these young women to know more than just how to keep a house. She encouraged these girls to follow their interest in the arts, sciences or even business. The Girl Scouts also included girls with disabilities, when most other organizations kept them out. Juliette, who had many physical challenges of her own, never let them stop her from a full life and she wanted the same for other young girls. 

So, while you are buying those Girl Scout Cookies from your neighbor or from the group selling cookies at your local grocery store, don't forget that your purchase is helping to support today's young women to become better people and better citizens.

For some additional reading, check out these titles:

And if you get a chance to visit Savannah make sure to stop by and visit the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace.

-- Post by Tracy

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

National Craft Month

According to the Craft and Hobby Association, over 56% of American households are making crafts. My household is one of those! I've been making different kinds of crafts for over 20 years; many of them, I have taught myself how to do. When I was in high school I started sewing, and kept up with that well into my 20s. While I was in college, I picked up counted cross stitch and crocheting. And then in my 30s, I started scrapbooking. Sewing and crocheting fall by the wayside much more often than the others, although I still enjoy doing them. Of them all, though, cross stitch is my favorite craft. Most of the items I have created, I have given away to friends and family. The most recent was a cross stitch done to commemorate the birth of my great niece. It took me longer than I had planned, but I was very happy with the outcome.

For those of us who enjoy doing crafts, we all have different reasons for doing them -- but I think that most of us do it because we find it relaxing. And for many of us, it's a way to be creative and make something out of nothing. Even if we are following someone else's pattern, we still have the power to make it into anything we want.

So in the spirit of National Craft Month, why not take up a new hobby or pick up one you used to do?  Below are some websites and books to help you get started!

Here are just a few of the books available through the library for a variety of crafting interests:

The BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook by Nora Abousteit with Allison Kelly

Teach Yourself Visually Crochet by Cecily Keim and Kim B. Werker

Crocheting For Dummies by Karen Manthey

Quilting Step by Step by Maggi Gordon

Scrapbook Workshop: The Best Techniques From Your Favorite Scrapbook Bloggers edited by May Flaum

Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts by the Editors of Martha Stewart Living

Just Duct Tape It by Patti Wallenfang

This is just a small sample of the books available throughout the Allegheny County Library System. If you don't see what interests you here, simply go to The Catalog and do a Subject search on your favorite craft.

General Websites for information and ideas:

Martha Stewart Crafts - The queen of just about everything craft-related, her site offers a lot of interesting project ideas.

DIY Network - Crafting - DIY Network is usually associated with DIY remodeling projects, but they also have shows about crafting. The site includes links to many projects.

Craftster - This is an online community where people share hip, off-beat, crafty do-it-yourself projects.

Sewing - Here you will find free projects for sewing and other crafts along with Learn to Sew articles.

Dollar Store Crafts - Like making something out of those great dollar store finds? Then this is the site for you. It's filled with projects of all different types and for all kinds of budgets.

All About Crochet - This site has links to a lot of patterns, videos, and instructions for beginners.

Crochet Pattern Central - An online directory with links to thousands of free crochet patterns and tutorials. There are also sister sites for Knitting, Cross Stitch, Tatting and Embroidery.

Knitting Help - Provides free videos to learn how to knit

Happy Crafting!

-- Post by Tracy

Friday, March 2, 2012

Daydream Believer

You know the song. And, if you're anything like me, you've had it stuck in your head since Wednesday.

When I found out that Davy Jones had died, I thought of Dave Barry's column on the death of Richard Berry (the man who wrote the song "Louis, Louis" -- one of Barry's all-time favorite songs). Barry wrote that finding out about Richard Berry made him realize that he'd "never get to thank somebody for something." As a relatively recently-converted fan of the Monkees, I'm pretty sure I know what Barry meant.

Davy Jones was born on December 30, 1945, in Manchester, England. His acting career began with a role on Coronation Street (a popular British soap opera) when Jones was just eleven. His teen years were spent not on the screen or stage but training to be a jockey -- a passion he would soon abandon professionally but would continue to pursue as a hobby throughout his life. In his later teen years he'd return to the theater, earning a Tony nomination for his portrayal of the Artful Dodger in a Broadway production of the musical Oliver!

But of course, it was his appearance in a new television series -- alongside Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, and Micky Dolenz -- that would earn Jones everlasting fame. A comedy about a fictional rock band meant to emulate the Beatles, The Monkees debuted in September 1966 -- earning two Emmy awards, fantastic ratings, and a real musical career for its stars.

The Monkees released their first number one hits with a version of Neil Diamond's "I'm a Believer" and the song "Last Train to Clarksville." Other successes soon followed, including "Little Bit Me, Little Bit You," "Pleasant Valley Sunday" -- and "Daydream Believer" (my personal favorite), for which Jones performed lead vocals.

After the show -- and the band -- split up, Jones continued singing, releasing a solo album in 1971. He also continued acting, appearing memorably in an episode of The Brady Bunch as the teenage heartthrob dream date of Marsha Brady for her high school prom.

The Monkees would enjoy a resurgence of popularity in the 80s, when reruns of their television show on MTV brought renewed interest to the band. The Monkees (sometimes minus Nesmith, sometimes not) would come back together to release new albums and tour. Jones would continue to act in plays and make cameo appearances in television shows, release albums and tour solo, and even train and ride racehorses (he won his first race in England in 1996, riding his horse, Digpast). Plans were being made for another Monkees reunion tour when Jones passed away on February 29 at the age of 66.

Despite being a child of the 80s (and having an undying love for Bon Jovi), most of the music I listened to when I was growing up was the music my parents listened to: the Golden Oldies. (I knew all the words to "Chantilly Lace" and "American Pie" but couldn't have named more than one or two titles from the New Kids on the Block's discography.)

So I always knew, and enjoyed, songs like "I'm a Believer" and "Last Train to Clarksville," sure. But it wasn't until college -- when a pal of mine introduced me to lesser-known songs like "Daily Nightly" and "Auntie’s Municipal Court" (not to mention Michael Nesmith's solo work) -- that I began to really "get" the appeal of the Monkee's music. I've been a big fan ever since.

The Monkees, particularly in their early years, often received some flak for being a "gimmick," an artificial band put together for a television show who just got lucky. But when you listen to their albums, it's not hard to see the real reason why the band got so popular and kept coming back: because the music's fun, funny, and good.

Apparently Davy Jones and Peter Tork were discussing the possibility of another concert tour when Jones passed away. I would have loved a chance to see them on tour, and could kick myself for not making an effort to see one of their previous concerts. It would have been wonderful to see them live -- particular Davy himself, who was known for being good-natured and quick-witted on the stage and with his fans.

I never got the chance before, so I'll say it now: thanks for the music, Mr. Jones.

- Davy Jones Obituary: New York Times

- Obituary: USA Today

- Davy Jones Biography:

- Davy Jones Bio: Davy Jones Official Site

- When Davy Jones Met Marcia Brady: Remembering the Monkee’s Appearance on ‘The Brady Bunch': The Washington Post

- Davy Jones Video Tribute

- A Message From Davy Jones's Family: Jones Blog

- Michael Nesmith remembers Davy Jones: Michael Nesmith's Facebook page

- Davy Jones' Amiable Manner Resonated With Fans: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

-- Post by Ms. B