Monday, January 31, 2011

Gum Wall

Prague has its John Lennon Wall, but San Luis Obispo CA really classes it up.  Yes, the world-celebrated Wall 'O Gum can be found there.  And yes, I mean chewing gum.  And yes, it was chewed before its meticulous application to the wall.  Sound appealing?  The photo of the wall in "Ripley's believe it or not! Seeing is believing" didn't gag me, it mostly looks like lumps of saltwater taffy.  The inset however... people actually TASTE this chewed gum.  With their actual tongues! That inset is a photo of a licking.  The wall is in Bubblegum Alley and became a chewed chewing gum depository in the 1950's.  Imagine sampling a bit of gum first chomped in the year you were born.  No wait!  Don't! Imagine butterflies instead.

Ripley's believe it or not! Seeing is believing

Friday, January 28, 2011

Talk Like an Egyptian

Well not exactly but I couldn't resist the title.  It's Generator Day!  And you lucky things get to see how your name would look spelled out in hieroglyphs.  The author of the generator freely admits to fudging a bit, apparently some letters aren't represented by hieroglyphs.   So I wouldn't take my result to Ancient Civ because we're just having a laugh!  (I know, too much Ricky Gervais.)  The above is what happens when you type in 'Mary'.  We've got owl, vulture, the oval represents a mouth and the 2 green things are reeds.  So I'm thinking Mary means 'birds eat reeds'. Or not. Go get yourself a hieroglyphic handle!  It'll look good on your nameplate.
Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Alphabet Translator

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Antique Toys

Toys. They aren't guaranteed to make you happy - case in point, the young lady in the photo.  If you run across the term 'mint' when checking toy values it means "unplayed with, brand new, flawless'.  Is that not sad?  Some little guy had a toy that was to be looked at and don't touch that!  According to the 2010 edition of Schroeder's Collectible Toys, if the toy in the picture is a 'Horse on 4-Wheeled Platform' and she hadn't touched it the horse could be worth $350,000 today.  But she wouldn't be around to enjoy the money anyway.  So play away!
The caption of this photo was:  "Portrait of well dressed small girl with pull-along horse".  I'm guessing  Suri would find this little frock pathetic.  But it's clean!

Books for Toy Collectors
Graphic Source:  Powerhouse Museum Collection

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

And We're All So Grateful

January 26, 1875.  On this day George F. Green, of Kalamazoo Michigan no less, patented a thing that would have an enormous impact on my life.  The telephone?  The lightbulb?  The phonograph?  These are all wonderful things!  Fun, even.  No, on this dark day 136 years ago my nemesis was patented.  The electric dental drill.  owww.  Who knew it had been around this long?  The worst part - Novocaine didn't roll out until 1905.  However, in the interest of full disclosure I should mention that before Novocaine they used cocaine.  Effective but a reaaaaly bad idea.  To those who would point out that the dental drill has undoubtedly saved my teeth:  still, owww.

Chase's Calendar of  Events

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What to Watch?

Ever spend an hour or so wandering the DVD stacks, waiting for something to leap out, land in your arms and say "take me home, good-lookin"?  What you need are amusing, older movies that are likely on the shelf.  Good ones!  I personally recommend the following.  All are comedies, some knee-slapping, some more on the chucklesome side.  That would be your left side. Go ahead, tickle it.
 Local hero
Grosse pointe blank
A mighty wind
Keeping mum
Cold Comfort Farm
Office space

Monday, January 24, 2011

More Than the Lack of a P

So what is the difference between Pop Art and Op Art?  Since they arrived on the scene around the same time (1960's) I tend to get them mixed up.  Here's where I save you from a similar fate.  Pop Art is 'photo-realistic'.  It's Andy Warhol's soup cans and Roy Lichtenstein's jumbo comic panels.  Op Art is all about the optical illusions.  You know, the circle that seems to have 3 dimensions. Victor Vasarely and Bridget Riley are the leading lights.  (Some include Escher because his work is bursting with optical illusions, but Escher's creations were not exactly abstract.)  Just keep in mind 'optical illusion' equals Op Art.  You'll look so smart.  Glad I could have a part... in your education.  Anybody want a peanut?  (Alert!  Random Princess Bride allusion!)

Pop Art
Princess Bride

Friday, January 21, 2011

DIY Hair

Ever cut your own hair?  I cut my own bangs and sideburns because they'll be driving me crazy and I have to get rid of them NOW.  Recently the hair at the nape of my neck was bugging me so I hacked it off.  Now I'm not saying I recommend my methods.  If you're hankering to cut hair we have lots of books on haircutting at home.  Your spouse, child, sibling, passer-by could be the recipient of a brand-new 'do, courtesy of you.  I suggest getting their permission first.  But upon whom could you practice?  Maybe a Halloween wig would work, I think they're pretty cheap.  Hair cutting, cost cutting, all at the tips of your fingers.  Howdy doody.

Haircutting Books  You'll especially enjoy the one about yaks.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Stood in Bed

Everyone knows you're not supposed to stand on the bed.  It's not a bad as jumping but it will definitely get you in trouble.  So why would we use the expression "I should have stood in bed"?  No I shouldn't have.  Not only is standing in bed silly, it would quickly become tiring.  But this is one phrase we have an origin for!  Joe Jacobs was a well-known boxing manager in 1935. One day when he was sick, he got out of bed to go to a World Series baseball game. Jacobs watched the Detroit Tigers beat the Chicago Cubs and announced "I should have stood in bed".  Doesn't that just make you happy?  The idiosyncratic phrasing of Mr. Jacobs leaves us with that entertaining saying.

Source: Look 10/24/1961 p. 70b

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Da One and Only Da Vinci

Now that the Science Center has extended the stay of the "Da Vinci - The Genius" exhibit through March 20th, let's see if we have any books on the guy who defined the term Renaissance Man.  We do!  We have many books!  And here's a tip:  if you do a subject search for him put his first name first.  I know, libraries always use the last name of people when we categorize them, but not in Leonardo's case.  It's all part of the mystique. Or there's a cataloging rule to which I must admit utter ignorance. So I'm certain the first explanation wins.  We offer a lovely selection for both adults and children whether you are interested in his art or his science.  They have titles like Leonardo da Vinci, Leonardo, Leonardo's Machines, Da Vinci for Dummies (it puts the 'duh' in Da Vinci!).  Those books are branded like ... I was going to say some kind of cow but I'm pretty sure branding really hurts.  So I won't.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Turkey Trot Scandal

When I think of the Turkey Trot, which I seldom do, I envision adults in barns hopping around while holding hands.  Don't you?  Turns out that was not the case.  The Turkey Trot, along with other bird-themed dances, (chicken scratch and buzzard lope) forced communities into full Footloose mode!  Why?  Young people held each other close in these dances.  Because there was hopping involved, often on one foot.  Had to hold your partner fairly close so as to avoid the dreaded Catfish Flop.  (I made that last dance up.)  Adults were not happy with the touching and wiggling around involved. (Grinding, anyone?)  Teens were arrested and went to jail!  'Floor inspectors' patrolled the ballrooms, hunting down any and all dance violators!  This craze took place around the turn-of-the-century, 1900ish, so the ubiquitous Mr. Kevin Bacon's dancecapades were decades away.  Bet the Turkey Trot would make those '80's moves look smoooooth.

Panati's parade of fads, follies, and manias : the origins of our most cherished obsessions / Charles Panati

Monday, January 17, 2011

Closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

In observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day all 6 locations of the Des Moines Public Library are closed today.  We will open our regular hours tomorrow.

After several failed attempts to pass a bill declaring Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a holiday," In November 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill declaring that the third Monday of every January, beginning in 1986, would be celebrated as a national holiday, named Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  The first observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was January 20, 1986. Beginning in 2000, the day became an official national holiday in all fifty states."

Source:  "Reagan Signs into Law National Holiday." The Post-Standard (November 3, 1983).
as accessed through Biography in Context

Friday, January 14, 2011

We Have a New Director! Come See!

His name is Greg Heid, recently of Covington Georgia.  I was going to compare the weather in Georgia to that of Iowa but I checked the forecast yesterday.  The high in Covington was predicted to be in the upper thirties. Yee-ha.  Better than 15-20 in Des Moines I'll grant you, but not the balmy 60's to 70's I'd expected.  We are throwing a reception for Mr. Heid today at the Central Library from 3:00-5:00!  Please stop in to say Hi! have a cookie, and welcome the new director to the Des Moines Public Library.  The weather may have it in for Greg Heid of Georgia, but we're glad he's here!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Like anyone who donates to worthy causes, I get buried in calendars.  But do any of them feature a redheaded pinup gal in a jewel-green gown, Barbie doll(tm) heels and full-metal bra, wielding a kind of freeze ray? Accompanied by the text:  "Dead was the machine god..."?  So I am forced to buy calendars, because really.  Let's see, how can I link this to the library?
Some books have been made into calendars!  I am sure you would enjoy reading these books. Apparently the calendar people did.
The Lord of the Rings.  (There were calendars before the movies came out.  I believe I have one from the 1970's.  Neener.)
1,000 Places to See Before You Die
Life's little instruction book / by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Under the Tuscan sun : at home in Italy / Frances Mayes.
Pride and prejudice and zombies :

For a look at Science Fiction Pulp illustration, try:  Frank Kelly Freas as he sees it

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Anyone who writes a blog, column, what have you is required by law to produce a blurb about New Year's resolutions. Will I violate this?  Certainly not.  So have you made any resolutions this year?  Me neither.  I don't make them for various reasons, one being that I can't remember them.  But I have great admiration for those of you who do make resolutions. It takes time and thought to choose resolutions then enormous effort to follow up.  Well, maybe I'll ...organize something!  But those 10 pounds?  Unless the fat-repo fairy shows up I'm afraid the 10 is my friend. 
Here are some books for those who wish to just enjoy being themselves.  None of them tell you to stop whining, get off your keister, just do it, etc.  Revolutionary!  As opposed to resolutionary!  Fun-ny.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tax Forms at Your Door

In the weeks to come, you may be referred to us for tax forms. We don't have 'em.  Not in any of our six locations. You can come in and use our computers. We'll get you to the site where you can find the forms online and then you can print them off!  At a mere $.10 per page.  BUT, did you know you can Order Tax Forms by Phone and have them mailed to your door! That still works!  Enjoy the comfort of your own home and let the papers come to you. 
To order forms:
From the Feds, dial 1-800-829-3676.
(The recording asks you choose a language, then will talk about downloading from the internet, but press 2 and you start the form-ordering process.)
From the State of Iowa, in the Des Moines area dial 281-3114.  (They'll mention online forms a couple times but press 2 and persevere!)
If you're calling from outside the Des Moines area dial (800) 367.3388.  It works the same as the above.
I personally tested these telephone numbers on January 7 and they worked.  So far so good.  Dial away!

There is more information on our Tax Pages.

Monday, January 10, 2011

bigger Bigger BIGGER smaller Bigger

We're talking about Des Moines's population.  I'll bet the residents in 1850 did not forsee that Des Moines would be so HUGE.  In comparison anyway.  And look at the dark decades of the 60's and 70's when the population dropped. Did we spring a leak in the direction of the suburbs?  Then the population increased in the 80's and 90's when Des Moines was fairly well hemmed in on all sides.  Statistics.  Can't understand them, can't make 'em up.  Well if we do we should stop that.  Here are so many statistics you can just wallow in them:
Population of the City of Des Moines:
1850     502
1860     3,965
1870     12,035
1880      22,408
1890     50,093
1900     62,139
1910     86,368
1920     126,468
1930     142,559
1940     159,819
1950     177,965
1960     208,982
1970     201,404
1980     191,003
1990     193,189
2000     198,682

Source:  Iowa Data Center. Total Population for Iowa's Incorporated Places: 1850-2000

Friday, January 7, 2011

She Really Liked Snow

And fairies?  Here are a few lines from poet Sara Teasdale's "Snow Song"

Fairy snow, fairy snow,
Blowing, blowing everywhere,
Would that I
Too, could fly
Lightly, lightly through the air.

Teasdale won the first ever Columbia Poetry Prize (later called the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry), in 1918.  Which means she won a Pulitzer before there were Pulitzers!  And isn't this just the most cheerful thought for winter?  BONUS: Can be sung to the tune of 'Pony Boy'.  If you drop the second lightly.  Which I did.  
For more:
The collected poems of Sara Teasdale.
Source: Contemporary Authors Online, 2001 as reprinted in Biography in Context

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Old TV with Very Physical Comedy

WHO-TV will "soon" be adding a new channel, "Antenna TV on 13.3".  Looks like they will air OLD TV shows.  Like my friend's favorite "The Three Stooges".  We discussed the classic moments that appear in many of the episodes: 
Curly (the bald one) lies on the floor and runs around in a circle while crying woo woo woo woo woo.  Curly leaps up and down in an 'I'm a horsey' manner and slaps his face from forehead to chin crying woo woo woo woo woo. (Curly's a little high on the bonkers meter.) There is always an argument and often Moe (bowl cut) will grab a Stooge's nose and slap it in a downward motion.  Apparently this hurts.
Curly also says 'Soitenly' in a loud but cheerful voice. (My friend had to research the spelling). And I almost forgot nyuck nyuck nyuck nyuuck nyuck!  And "Oh!  Wise Guy!"  As you can see Curly is a lexiconical force to reckon with.  Ah, Stooges.  They ain't pretty, but they're willing to fall down a lot.

Our collection of Three Stooges productions.  An embarrassment of riches.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fresh as a Lily

Lily Tomlin is one of my favorite comedians.  We used to play a record album of her act, sections of which  became part of our family repertoire.  Ahem:  an older couple has a long, repetitive discussion concerninng the merits of banana cake vs 'that choclit kind a cake'.  This is punctuated by their teenage daughter screaming 'Please stop talking about that caaaaake!'  Trust me, it's hysterical.  In the cake-free play The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe / by Jane Wagner Tomlin voices these rather eccentric concerns.
" I worry about reflective flea collars. Oh sure, drivers can see them glow in the dark.  But so can the fleas.".
" I have gained and lost the same ten pounds so many times over and over again my cellulite must have deja vu.".
" I worry whoever thought up the term 'quality control' thought if we didn't control it, it would get out of hand."
Someone has to puzzle out this stuff and I'm glad it is Lily.  She does it so well.

The search for signs of intelligent life in the universe / by Jane Wagner

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Utah What?

On January 4th, 1896 Utah became the 45th state of the U.S. of A. Utah is named for the Ute Indians of crossword puzzle fame.  Ute turns up way more than 'eft' which is some kind of amphibian baby.  Anyway, Ute means "people of the mountains", which makes sense because there are about a zillion mountains in Utah.  (According to the US Geologic Survey there is no definition of a mountain, or specified elevation. I checked.) The state emblem is a beehive.  I immediately pictured the sky-high coiffure, but it's the beehive with bees, silly.  The state motto is almost as short as the state's name:  Industry.  That's all they need.  What kind - doesn't matter.  All Industry all the time. But it does go with the bees, busy as they are.  Temperatures:  the coldest it has ever been was -69 degrees on February 1, 1969.  The lucky lucky place that enjoys this record?  Peter's Sink.  I thought it was a town, but it's an actual sinkhole. Now everyone will want to move there. 

Source:  Time Almanac with Information Please

Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 and We're All Open

Ah, I miss 1/1/11 already.  How quickly the days fly by.  Would you like some  words of wisdom to start your year out right?  Make your own!  Nobody knows you like you.
This poster generator takes some dinking but the results are pretty spectacular.  Have fun, fresh people!

Motivator: Create Your Own Motivational Posters