Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Election Year Humor, not an oxymoron

"The good news is, we're ahead in the polls. The bad news is that the election isn't tomorrow."
Who said that during which campaign season? It was George W. Bush in 2004, according to A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House by Charles Osgood (p. 217.) The CBS correspondent has gathered gaffes and funny remarks from American presidential campaigns from 1948 - 2004.
Other funny comments:
Apparently Joe Biden isn't the first long-winded vice-presidential candidate. Barry Goldwater remarked about Hubert Humphrey, "Hubert has been clocked at 275 words a minute with gusts up to 340." Humphrey's wife Muriel told her husband, "Hubert, a speech, to be immortal, doesn't have to be eternal." (p.86)
Of course, famous verbal bungler Dan Quayle provides lots of great gaffes, "Republicans understand the importance of the bondage between parent and child," (p. 159). Quayle also clarified an election year problem, "A low turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls," (p. 160). Glad we cleared that up.
George H.W. Bush was often accused of being dull, to which he responded, "What's wrong with being a boring kind of guy?" (p. 168). Before his debate with opponent Michael Dukakis, Bush asked, "Is this the time to unleash our one-liners?" (p.162)
Election years see the publication of many political biographies, exposes and analyses. Osgood's book provides light browsing for primary- and convention-weary citizens.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I think I understand what you thought you said

Or is it, I think I understand what you meant to say but what you said wasn't what you meant? According to a google search the quote in a slightly different form comes from Robert McCloskey who wrote and illustrated Make Way for Ducklings.
What made me think of this quote, however it goes, is that answering questions at the Reference Desk often fall into the category of, for lack of a better word, huh?
Case in point, quite often people ask for a book with a title and author that don't seem to exist and then say they just read the review in the New York Times Book Review. Usually I feel so flummoxed about not remembering what was in the latest NYT Book Review that I run over to grab said issue off the "stick." (What are those things called and aren't they weird?) But it turns out that people often confuse the title of the review and the review's author with the author and title being reviewed. Are you following here? I think the NYT should do something about this so patrons wouldn't feel silly and I wouldn't feel guilty. (Clarifying example: a review of Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey might be called Ducks Cause Traffic Problems in Boston, reviewed by Clack McQuack. You see how confusing that would be?)

Speaking of a perfect world, made exactly to my specifications, all of my book groups would be reading the same book at the same time. For one group I am reading Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth which is due to be discussed online sometime in September. I put off reading it until I could borrow a copy from a neighbor because I'm still pretty far down on the holds list at BHPL. The other day, peering out the tiny window of my front door, I noticed the screen door was ajar a bit. Upon opening the door I found Follet's mighty tome leaning against the screen and pushing the door outward. Not a good sign when you've only got a couple weeks to read a book. I leaned down to retrieve the book and it landed with a thump on the front porch. Nine hundred and something pages worth of resounding thump.

Related links:
Make Way for Ducklings parade in Boston with children dressed as ducks.
The World's Largest Book, no it's not Pillars of the Earth, it just seems that way.
Sculpture of Mother Duck and her ducklings in the Boston Common.
Why students should not pull an "all nighter" to study (or even to read Pillars of the Earth) a video of Mo Rocca at UNC
Wikipedia explains Gothic architecture
Wikipedia explains Pillars of the Earth in much less time than it takes to read it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Frog Relieved Plainfield Avenue Construction Finished

The road construction on Plainfield Avenue near the library is finished. The staff parked on nearby streets or at the Church of the Little Flower on Hamilton Avenue during the construction. That's the big Little Flower, not the little Little Flower on Plainfield Avenue next to the library. There is a woodland path from the little LF to the big LF that crosses swampy areas and has a bridge over a stream at one point. Deer and other wildlife can be spotted by observant walkers. In fact it's hard not to observe deer as they graze in herds on the Church campus.
While walking from through the woods one day, there was a lady holding back a boxer on a leash. The boxer was straining over the embankment, looking intently into a boggy patch with a pipe sticking out of the water where a small green frog sat stone still. The dog owner told me the frog is there every day and her boxer likes to investigate. I never would have noticed the tiny critter if it hadn't been that chance encounter with the dog and his owner. And if it hadn't been for road construction, I wouldn't have been walking through the woods at that time of day. So the inconvenience of August road work had a positive side to it: frog serendipity.
Click here for local photographer, J. Gilbert's, N.J. wildlife photos on Flickr, including many of the common green frog.

The Caliph's House by Tahir Shah

The Caliph's House, a year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah tells the story of the author's move from the safety of rainy England to a ramshackle old house in sunny Casablanca. He, his wife and two young children endure the chaos of house renovation, the unfamiliar customs of a new country and the vagaries of Moroccan workman for the year that it takes to transform the house from an abandoned wreck to a home of great beauty. Click here to see the finished results.
Readers who enjoy travel memoirs with exotic locales, or who liked Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence and similar titles, will enjoy this family's adventure. A good choice for book groups who like to eat at ethnic restaurants to discuss books. Couscous recommended all around.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Patron Calls Library While Appliance Shopping; Road Repairs; and a Bear Wearing a Hardhat

This morning a BHPL patron called the Reference Desk from a local appliance store asking if we could find a review of a washing machine she was looking at. She told us that the item was not reviewed in Consumer Reports which the store had on hand. We found two customer reviews in and read them to her over the phone. Usually we search EBSCO periodical database for reviews in other periodicals when Consumer Reports does not have a review, but since time was of the essence, the internet seemed the way to go for this question.
We have been receiving more questions by phone since the road in front of the library is being repaved. Surprisingly, roadblocks have not deterred many intrepid BHPL patrons. I'm not advocating barreling through roadblocks to get a good book, but it does make us feel needed and provides anecdotal evidence of how valued library services are to people.
Re: roadblocks, Union County has a really cute webpage called Road Construction Update hosted by U.C. Bear, a hardhat-wearing cartoon bear. Just click on the little road cone on the county map to find out the status of any specific road project. Who would have thunk? Road repairs are inconvenient but U.C. Bear makes them bearable. (aargh.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Best Agatha Christie Mysteries to Read

I've tried reading Agatha Christie mysteries over the years and with the exception of Ten Little Indians, I didn't like the books very much. That has now changed. Someone donated a pile of Christie paperbacks to the library a couple of months ago and I took them home to read them to see if they should be added to the collection or at least to our paperback exchange shelf. Whoever you are out there that left these biblio-babies in a basket on the library doorstep, thank you. I now have a new addiction. I plod through the books I have to read for book groups or feel I ought to read, spurred on by the thought that another Christie mystery will be my reward when I finish.
This is the list of what I've read so far with very brief annotations. I recommend all these titles. I have a hunch that Christie's later works may often tend to be too wordy and precious, so don't start with those. Start with books written in the 1920's through early 1950's. I also think I might prefer Miss Marple to Hercule Poirot, but I haven't read enough to be sure and that is purely a subjective comment. Christie's books that have neither of her famous detectives can be quite engrossing too, so give those a try.
My List so far...
Sad Cypress, (1940) a woman on trial for the murder of her rival, Poirot investigates. Christie does trials well.
Destination Unknown, (1954) a cold-war spy story set in Casablanca and North Africa, sort of James Bondish in having a secret location for top scientists who have disappeared and are being tracked by British Intelligence.
The Hollow, (1946) Poirot and the staged murder of a doctor. Classic country house murder.
Third Girl, (1966) set in the 1960's, Poirot and flaky friend/amateur detective, Mrs. Oliver solve a murder. This book was close to being too wordy and meandering for me; Mrs. Oliver particularly is a bit too fluff-headed for my tastes, but try it anyway.
Crooked House, (1949) Greek millionaire is murdered in the sprawling family home.
The Sittaford Mystery, (1931) a seance in a remote house on the moors predicts a murder.Really nice, spooky atmosphere provided by Dartmoor landscape.
The Mystery of the Blue Train, (1928) Poirot solves a murder on a French train to Nice. Stolen rubies make this a classic jewel caper.
What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw, (1957) Miss Marple's friend sees a murder on a passing train. No one believes her until Miss Marple comes to the rescue.

Agatha Christie, a reader's companion by Vanessa Wagstaff and Stephen Poole is the BHPL book about Christie's works that I consulted to review the plots.