February 29, 2008

Book Review: Drama City by George Pelecanos

If you take some elements of the tale Romeo and Juliet and set it in the contemporary urban setting of Washington, DC, you get Drama City. Lorenzo Brown is a reformed drug dealer out on parole, trying to make a new life for himself. His current job is to investigate dogs that may be mistreated or receiving negligent care. He does this job with a sense of purpose, righting the wrongs of his fellow man toward animals. We see Lorenzo as a gentle soul with nerves of steel. He is tough when he needs to be tough, retaining the street smarts he attained at the hands of his former "boy," Nigel.

Rachel Lopez is Lorenzo's parole officer, a job she does with an equal amount of purpose and kindness. She is not easy with her offenders, but she treats them with respect. Most of them respect her right back. By night, Rachel goes out drinking in the bars, initiating one night stands that give her temporary satisfaction. By day, she works her job and attends addict support groups.

We travel around the streets with Lorenzo and Rachel in alternating chapters. All seems well until a member of Nigel's street gang makes an error of judgment and unknowingly starts a turf war. The turf war will test Lorenzo's resolve to stay away from the people and life of his past. Ms. Lopez gets swept up in the madness, as well. Can these two lost souls, trying to escape from their past, find a way to heal in Drama City?

I loved this book. The author uses his two protagonists as duel heroes, working to gentle dogs and reformed criminals. The criminals and dogs are subtly and sometimes not so subtly compared to one another. Both creatures are trying to cope with life in the only way they know how. Be warned, this is not a book for the faint of heart. The language is raw and gritty.

February 20, 2008

Library Program: Anti-Valentines Day Masquerade Ball

Head on over to The Card Catalog of Creativity to see pictures and read the scoop on our latest teen event. Many librarians did an Anti-Valentines Day event, but the idea to make it a masquerade ball was an original one by Dark Librarian. The extent of the decorations was outstanding. Take a look.

The picture above is of my makeup job for the ball. I fixed my eyes like I had been beaten up at a prom. I wore a white fancy dress and had my hair done, plus the eye makeup.

If you want to see the pictures I took of this event, click here.

Just a Few Movie Tidbits

I don't see a need to write a full review about any of these, so I am just giving you a movie buzz appetizer.

There Will be Blood
This is a movie about a guy who is greedy and selfish and cruel. He drills for oil and wants to get as rich as possible. Why would you want to see this movie? Because Daniel Day Lewis plays the title character. He immerses himself in roles. I didn't particularly like this movie but Daniel Day is mesmerizing in just about anything. The ending will either make you puke or cheer, depending on your philosophy on life.

What an awesome film. I have missed seeing a good old fashioned monster movie. I was thoroughly involved from start to finish. It was suspenseful, and there was no torture porn. Yay! By now, most people know what it's about so I won't waste your time with the details. Just go now. My only complaint is it should have ended a little sooner than it did. One interesting thing to me was that even though this movie was a short 85 minutes, it felt like longer. I felt like I had been in that theater for hours. And it was awesome.

Jumper is about a guy who can teleport wherever he wants instantly. It started out good but lost its momentum with the sappy love story. The saving grace in this film is Jamie Bell, who plays Griffin, another jumper encountered partway through the movie. He brings humor and that badass pizazz to the movie. He's the kind of guy you want to take home as a family pet. He could amuse you when things got drab.

February 19, 2008

The Cybils Winner for Middle Grade Fiction is . . .

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban won the Middle Grade fiction Cybils award. This funny, heartwarming story is about a girl who thinks life will be forever beautiful if she could only get a piano and become a famous concert pianist.

For a full list of Cybils winners, click here.

February 14, 2008

Movie Review: Judgment at Nuremberg and Beyond

Although Judgment at Nuremberg was made back in 1961, the questions raised in this film are as relevant today as they were back then. The movie is a fictionalized account of a real trial that took place in 1947. Judges that helped send Jews, liberals, and other "undesirables" to their deaths inside Nazi Germany concentration camps were put on trial for their part.

The names in the film are different than the true people involved. For more on the real trials, click here. The film focuses on the trials from the perspective of the head of the US tribunal in charge of the trial, Chief Judge Dan Haywood, played by Spencer Tracey. Haywood and 2 other charges have the heavy responsibility of trying and sentencing 4 German judges. Public interest in this trial was high, as you can imagine. The whole world seems to be watching what Haywood and his tribunal will do. Will they go easy on these men who at one time would have been considered colleagues? Will they really let them have it? Can they really blame the judges for carrying out their duties? Many Americans wanted the whole of Germany to suffer for the pain caused.

About half the film takes place in the courtroom. The other scenes, which are just as powerful, involve Haywood experiencing Germany as a tourist might. He walks around town. He makes friends with the natives. He listens to the music. Although his face remains passive most of the time, you can almost hear him asking the same questions others were asking and are still asking today: How could this have happened? How did Hitler gain control of the whole country? Were the Nazi people not fathers and husbands, too? Would I ever be capable of such evil?

I highly recommend this film. I have seen many films dealing with the Holocaust, but none that deal with this aspect of the story.

About the same time that I was watching the movie, I happened to be listening to The Kite Runner on audiobook. I couldn't help reflecting on some similar things that happened when the Nazis and the Taliban came to power. In both places, a country had been devastated by war. A powerful group came in, unified everyone together, and game people pride. In The Kite Runner, a Afghan man admits to Amir that they cheered when the Taliban entered the town. They wanted an end to the war and suffering. The German judge describes something similar in Judgment. Let me ask you, dear reader, is anyone immune from the pull from this phenomenon? Are Germans or Afghans just genetically evil? They were humans with the capacity for great good or evil. Just as you are. Just as I am.

We must always be careful that we don't let fear be the driving force behind what choices we make in how we will cope with a situation. I think fear clearly lead to both things. I'm not talking about Hitler or Osama or the extremists who took advantage of that fear to cause evil. But the average man, I believe, does not wake up wanting to torture someone.

Judgment at Nuremberg will get thinking about these issues. It's a movie I won't forget for awhile.

February 11, 2008

Listen to Teens Speak About Books Live

Wish you could have heard the BBYA session at ALA at Midwinter but missed it? Want to hear teens speaking about their favorite books? My buttons are a bustin'. Right now I am listening live to teens from my library (Eva Perry) talk via webcast about their Mock Printz picks. They are joined by university students from NC State, as well. They programs lasts until 6 pm. Click here to access the webcast. If you miss it, it looks like you can access the archives here. This is a videocast. You have to view using Real Player. These girls are my patrons, members of my Teen Advisory Board. They speak so eloquently and passionately about these titles.

February 06, 2008

Teen Tech Week: Tune In @ Your Library

One of the YALSA's fabulous nationwide initiatives is coming up in just about a month now: Teen Tech Week! Teen Tech Week is aimed at parents, teens, educators, and other concerned adults. The published purpose is to make sure that teens are competent users of technology. But to me, it's also a celebration and an indication of how far librarians are willing to go to relate to teens. It used to be that libraries were all about the books.

Smart folks realized not a moment too soon that our job wasn't books but all types of information. We need to be THE place teens (and other age groups) can go to for the latest and greatest. This includes technology. Why should a teen listen to a librarian who doesn't know what an XBOX is or an iphone? Think of the library as a mental Wal-Mart. What if Wal-Mart had decided long ago they wouldn't stock or sell televisions. It wouldn't take customers long to find where those televisions could be found and switch their shopping habits to said new place. If, on the other hand, Wal-Mart advertised those televisions even before they came out and had informed "experts" talking these up to their customers, Wal-Mart would be known as THE place to buy televisions. If the library is to continue to be the mental Wal-Mart of the world, we must must must keep up with the times. This includes keeping up with technology.

An onward we go! This year's theme is Tune In @ Your Library. As with most themes, it can mean many things but the focus is music and sound. The celebration lasts from March 2-8, 2008.

Want to celebrate this at your library but not sure where to start? Here's the Teen Tech Week website. Want some ideas as how to celebrate TTW? Go to the YALSA program idea section. Want more ideas or to share your own? Visit the TTW Wiki! There are also a couple of contests teens can enter.

At my library, we are doing an internet safety workshop for parents and either a CD exchange or a duct tape ipod cover craft. Our library system is doing a scavenger hunt. Teens will have to answer questions by using our catalog, website, blog, and databases to find answers to 8 questions, 2 for each day. On day 5, teens will have to use all the week's answers to solve a word jumble. Winners from days 1-4 will win either an Ipod shuffle or Ipod classic. The big winner from day 5 will win an XBOX 360. Prizes were donated by our Friends of the Library and SavageGeek, Inc. It's very cool.

May the technology begin!

February 05, 2008

Free Pancake Day

Tuesday, February 12th is Free Pancake Day at IHOPs all over the country. Come in between 7 am and 10 pm that day to get a free short stack of pancakes (one per person). This is a fundraiser for the Children's Miracle Network. They will want you to donate to the cause when you get your pancakes. Click here for details and to find an IHOP nearest you.

Facebook a Permanent Record

My co-worker sent me this link in an email. This is uber-creepy to me. I have read other similar articles before. The articles I read before combined to make one huge bell that rings: "What you post on the internet can haunt you forever."

We all know that we shouldn't put anything on Facebook or Myspace that could damage our image. Think of it as your resume. I have heard of employers looking at these profiles to find out who their potential employee is.

Now they are taking it a step further and using this information to deny medical coverage to people. In this case, the court is demanding that this girl turn over information from her MySpace page to prove that her eating disorder is not caused by biological causes. The insurer can then refuse to pay for treatment for her eating disorder. Well, duh, whoever said eating disorders were genetic?

Be aware; be very aware and afraid.