Thursday, July 31, 2008

Not a New Dance Craze

Chicago girls learning to play tennis, Austria style, circa 1912. Is the hand on the hip really necessary? Not to mention the posture. This seems worlds away from the intense muscularity of the Williams sisters. So the following book might be a fun read.
Game face : what does a female athlete look like?

Photo Courtesy
The Library of Congress

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Practice Tests Online!

The Des Moines Public Library has purchased a fabulous new testing database - Learning Express Library. Here's how you find it: go to our home page and click on Online Resources; next page click on View All Databases; click on LearningExpress Library Test Preparation, and you are ready to sign in. You will need to set up an account - just a user name and password of your choosing - whether you use the database in the library or from home. If you are accessing from home your Des Moines Public Library card number and PIN are also needed. Once you are in you can take practice tests for various civil service jobs, Nursing Assistant/Nurse Aide, GED, ASVAB, it's so exciting! Plus, if you have to stop in the middle of the test the database remembers where you are and you can start again right where you left off. Then there's the scoring and analysis of your results. Isn't that just the greatest? Say yes.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Where Babies Come From

Ah, if only it were this easy. Although apparently even this method isn't fun - they both look pretty grumpy. So what do you after the United States Postal Service deposits one of these on your doorstep? Guess what! We have books!

Complete baby and childcare / Miriam Stoppard

Confident baby care : what you need to know for the first year from America's most trusted nanny / Jo Frost

The complete idiot's guide to bringing up baby / by Signe Larson and Kevin Osborn.

Photo: Smithsonian Institute

Monday, July 28, 2008

Amazing Book - The Genius

Oh, The Genius by Jesse Kellerman. If you like complex, convoluted novels with action and meaning on several levels this is the novel for you. Especially if you like 'em a little weird. In a run-down apartment, art dealer Ethan Muller comes into possession of a massive work of art - reams and reams of copy paper covered with excruciatingly detailed drawings. The artist has disappeared. The pictures include drawings of the faces of five boys murdered decades ago. Everyone and everything is interconnected in unexpected ways. There are savory (or unsavory) flashbacks to the intimate lives of several generations of Muller's family that meld seamlessly into the plot. Man I'm looking forward to the author's next book. It's sot rare to find something this meaty in the thriller/mystery genre. I loved it! And now I'm spoiled. What's to read? Any suggestions?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Travel - I had to, why should you miss out?

There is nothing like a fish hatchery. Sure, you think "Why would I want to see that?" Then your parents drag you there in the 1960's and you see all kinds of different fish just swarming in their wooden confines. It was actually pretty cool. Rathbun Fish Hatchery is too new to be the one I saw, so I'll bet it's even more fun! Hey, you get to go through on an elevated walkway!! Plus it's Iowa’s largest warm water fish hatchery!!! Open year-round Monday through Friday, 7:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Small groups are self-guided. So run on over to 15053 Hatchery Pl, or call 641-647-2406 if you need more details. Don't make me escalate to 4 exclamation marks.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Travel - Muscatine

"What the heck is in that photo?", I hear you ask. And, "Why should I care?" You are looking at mussel shells and the blanks that have been punched out of them, ready to be made into lovely mother-of-pearl buttons. Before the day of the ubiquitous white plastic 4-hole circles, buttons galore were made out of this stuff. And where did these beauties come from? Muscatine! 'So that's where the Pearl Button Museum is", I hear you say. Do you always talk to yourself like this? There were 12 button factories in Muscatine, more than anywhere else in the U.S. In 1905 Muscatine produced over a billion buttons. But by the 1960's plastic moved in and it was all over. Stop in at the museum that celebrates the days when Muscatine was a button-producing behemoth. And get a good look at all the pretty buttons. 117 W 2nd St, Muscatine, IA 52761 (563) 263-1052

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Travel - Ida Grove

Are you a fan of castles? The prince and princess kind? So was Byron Godberson of Ida Grove. He turned any building he got his hands on into a castle. And since he was rolling in dough (from his marine and small farm equipment businesses), this turned out to be quite a few buildings. A mall, skating rink, newspaper office, ice cream shop, drugstore all got the Magic Kingdom treatment. The man's home has a moat, and drawbridge. Godberson was not only stylish, he was safe. The non-retail establishments are privately owned, so no tours, but you can still get an eyeful from outside!
More on the castles.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Travel - Storm Lake

Storm Lake Iowa has a rather unique attraction. Citizens obtained cuttings from famous trees. Who knew trees were famous? And after a few years growth the Living Heritage Tree Museum was public-ready. Some highlights: Little House on the Prairie Cottonwood. This tree is grown from a cutting of the cottonwood whose planting in DeSmet, South Dakota is detailed in "By the Shores of Silver Lake." Then there is the plant produced from the tree whose apple smacked Isaac Newton right on the bean. They have a tree descended from a willow tree that grew at the birthplace of Joan of Arc in Domremy Haute Marne, France. How do they even know this stuff? Who kept track of Isaac Newton's tree? And they have over 50 of these! Here is a link to the list of trees and a map. You can pick out just the ones that grab your interest. It's free, so you don't have to pay a dollar and a half just to see 'em.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Travel Week - Sac City

I understand many folks won't be traveling far this summer, unless it's by bicycle. So this week let's look at Iowa attractions you might not have considered - it'll keep you occupied until State Fair time arrives. Let's start with Sac City. Sure, they have an Aquatic Center and yes, it's the home of Porktoberfest,(October 2nd if you're interested) but there's more! The Chautauqua Building is one of only three in Iowa, now dedicated to the history of those traveling lecture series. And here is what you really want to see. The world's largest popcorn ball! Go straight to 420 E. Main St, and housed in a miniature red barn all it's own you'll see enough popcorn to produce nightmares in even the most courageous movie theater employee. What's not fun about that?

Friday, July 18, 2008

100th Anniversary of the State Library of Iowa

In 1908 the State Library and the Law Library of Iowa split to become the entities we know today. Most people remember the Ola Babcock building as the Old Historical Building, the one that had the airplane suspended in the middle. In 1910 the State Library moved in and began quietly working away. Here is one of their early accomplishments! Isn't the book 'caravan' a beaut? By 1927 the State Library's mission had expanded to include libraries across the state in addition to their original customers, state employees. The building was renovated a few years ago, you've got to go in and look around; even the elevator is gorgeous!
Photo details: Circa 1927. State Librarian Johnson Brigham at right.
Photo courtesy State Library of Iowa

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sophisticated Seventies

Ah, the 1970's, that period of elegance, class and restraint. Many of the styles have come back to visit - necklaces for guys, photo-print shirts and hip huggers. But there's nothing like the original. To refresh your memory as to just how garish the era was, check these out:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Apollo 11 Anniversary July 16 1969

Remember those heady days when we got all excited about Space Shots? And this was The Big One! Humans would actually touch the moon, that source of so much mythology. Maybe Schliemann finding Troy could compare. Maybe. The Eagle landed in the Sea of Tranquility at 4:18 p.m. EDT 1969. Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface at 10:56 p.m. EDT. This all happened a million years ago in American-Culture years. But I'm telling you it was a powerful moment. So why can't this post wait until July 2009, the event's 40th anniversary, I hear you say? Because I just found this really cool place on the Internet that has a copy of part of the flight plan for this mission. I couldn't understand a bit but it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. An artifact from a time when the nation stopped for a moment in proud astonishment. Can't wait for the next time.

Link to copy of flight plan

Apollo moon missions : the unsung heroes / Billy Watkins ;

In the shadow of the moon : a challenging journey to Tranquility, 1965-1969 / Francis French and Colin Burgess ;

After Sputnik : 50 years of the Space Age

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sheet Music Galore

Long known as a resource for fine arts, the Des Moines Public Library has a large collection of sheet music both in loose and bound form. Most are at the Central Library and all are cataloged for zippy retrieval. We even have the sheet music pictured here; it's really cool to see it in person. Because it's ooold. But the title in the catalog is just 'Katy'. Guess the cataloging at the time didn't know quite how to handle the K-K-K-Katy. Now it can breeze through Ukraina : [fotoalʹbom] / pod obshcheĭ redak︠t︡sieĭ. So what was so hard about K-K-K-Katy? Sheesh.

Graphic courtesy of :
NYPL Digital Gallery, The New York Public Library

Monday, July 14, 2008

Family Sagas

Ah, summer. Time to catch up on family sagas, books big enough to be a coffee table, yards and yards of reading soapy enough to soak in. For those of you who lean towards the genteel, there are all those generations chronicled by the likes of R. F. Delderfield or Mazo de la Roche (is that a great name or what?). Some of you prefer a little spice in your sagas, so Dorothy Dunnett and Colleen McCullough are your gals. We have an entire list of saga-writers on one of our “Suggestions from Librarians” pages. What, you think we spend every free minute reading A History of Time? We like fun books too.
To get to the list of Family Saga Authors, click here: Family Sagas

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Politicians Puzzle Answers

Tada! Wish there was a synonym for 'Answers' that starts with a 'P' but I got nothin'.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Politicians Puzzle

Since we've been deluged with political ads, political rallys, political phone calls since what - last fall - here's a little political puzzle. Hint: some of the politicians' names can be found spelled backwards. I'm afraid you'll have to print this off, I'm just not that smart! Answers tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Knock-your-eyes-out effects

Have you seen the trailer for Hellboy II? Wowee! The director, Guillermo del Toro, must have hired some of the same effects people he used for Pan's Labyrinth. More monsters than you can shake a stick at and many are like nothing you've seen before. Except for the villains in charge of the horde, who look like knock-offs of the Wraith from Stargate Atlantis. Then there's Hellboy himself, an interesting character who is not much better-looking than the monsters. The good guys are true to the graphic novel, so if you want to prepare yourself for the Hellboy-verse, or would just like to enjoy the books on their own merits, here are some titles. They have excellent art and story lines, especially Seed of Destruction.

Hellboy. Seed of destruction

Hellboy. [2], Wake the devil

Hellboy. Vol. 1, Weird tales

Hellboy : Weird tales. Volume two

Monday, July 7, 2008

Make your own catalog card

How fun is this? You can make your very own catalog card by going to the Catalog Card Generator. People as old as I am remember when the only way to find the books in the library was to look through these cards. Really! Hundreds of them. Printed - no, typed - on paper! Not that I'm nostalgic for those days. But you can make a card that says anything you want! Even someone not obsessed with libraries would enjoy that. Right? Tell me I'm not completely pathetic...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

WACs at Fort Des Moines

Fort Des Moines, in our very own Central Iowa, was a pivotal place in WWII training. It was the very first place to produce WACS (Women's Army Corps), and 72,000 troops were trained. The first female officers were commissioned here, 39 of whom were African-American. The impact was groundbreaking, to say the least. For science-fiction author James Tiptree Jr. - Alice B. Sheldon - the experience was transformational. She went on to have a career in the CIA, impossible without her training in Iowa. Fort Des Moines has wonderful museum, here is the website. But it is certainly worthwhile to make the trip in person. Books to read:

Fort Des Moines / Penelope A. LeFew-Blake.

My mother's fort : a photographic tribute to Fort Des Moines, first home of the Women's Army Corps / by Penelope A. Blake.

When the nation was in need : Blacks in the Women's Army Corps during World War II / by Martha S. Putney.

James Tiptree, Jr. : the double life of Alice B. Sheldon / Julie Phillips.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Troublesome Creek

Not another flood story, this DVD chronicles the struggle of an Iowa family to keep their farm despite the strain of the farm crisis of the 80's and 90's. It's an intimate yet clear-eyed portrait by a member of the family. The daughter, Jeanne Jordan, brings you the beauty of the farm, making it clear why the family would never want to leave. You see the anguish of the family as their treasured possessions are auctioned off, and the humor they use to ease their situation. Pretty powerful stuff.

Troublesome Creek

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Happy Birthday, George Sand!

She would have been 204 years old today. Probably she'd feel safe now publishing under her own name, Amandine Aurore Lucie Dupin, Baroness Dudevant. OK, maybe she would shorten it a bit. But it certainly would have eliminated any confusion with snarky actor George Sanders. She was the toast of Paris at the height of her fame, dressed like a man and wrote romances that idealized love. Her most famous love was Frederick Chopin! What a life. Read on.

Naked in the marketplace : the lives of George Sand / Benita Eisler

George Sand / Elizabeth Harlan

George Sand : a woman's life writ large / Belinda Jack