Wednesday, October 10, 2012
It was gratifying to see an article in last week’s Washington Post about how libraries have weathered bad times and are adapting to the digital future. So often in recent years, the stories in the press have been about libraries losing funds, closing, or becoming irrelevant. The first two were certainly true, but the last was often overblown and misinformed. Libraries like MCPL are still used heavily by the public, and also have made an effort to participate in social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to transcend the library walls. Most public libraries now provide access to downloadables such as e-Books and music, as well as provide a plethora of databases which offer articles and books that can be read on-line in the library or at home. Library users can study for exams and learn languages on their home computer with interactive software, as well as kick back with a book downloaded to an electronic device. Increasingly public libraries, academic libraries, state libraries, and national libraries all have been making their unique resources available online. An example of this is The New York Public Library's Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, which, with the aid of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), is busy transforming NYPL's historical paper map and atlas collections into a powerful digital resource. The Library of Congress, of course, has some amazing digital resources, as does The British Library.
During the cutbacks of recent years, I have often been heartened by the support for libraries that I have encountered on-line and in the press, and realize that there is an unyielding love for books that refuses to be denied. One lovely response to the closing of libraries is the guerilla movement of free mini libraries. Common sense dictates that these can’t really take the place of a well-run, government funded library, stocked with new materials by educated professionals, but the little boxes on poles that have popped up, made from repurposed mailboxes, doll houses, cranberry crates, and metal milk cartons, warm the heart. Want to see some or make your own? Visit the Little Free Library Website.
In England, a place hard hit by library closings, the iconic red telephone boxes once found all over the UK are being repurposed as libraries thanks to the effort of local communities and British Telecom.
Yes, people love their libraries and their books. They always have, as is evidenced by the amazing array of artwork that depicts people reading.
Books can be put to use in other forms of art, too, however. In Melbourne, Australia, a massive river of 10,000 discarded books donated by public libraries and collected by the Salvation Army, was created last June for the Light in Winter festival. Each book held small lights within its pages, creating a beautiful effect. On the final night of the installation, visitors were encouraged to take the books home with them.
In England, A Giant Labyrinth Constructed from 250,000 Books was created for the Cavalcade of Art projects surrounding the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
“The project was created by Brazilian artists Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo, in collaboration with production company Hungry Man. Inspired by the writer and educator JL Borges, the maze will form the shape of Borges’ unique fingerprint, covering over 500 square metres, with sections standing up to 2.5 metres high.”
Video by Christopher Jobson (Creative Commons permission)
All this shows that books and libraries are still important to people. The very last thing noted author Ray Bradbury ever wrote was about books and libraries.
Let’s hope that people will continue to treasure libraries, books, and freedom of information way into the future, or we may end up like this. How can we defend ourselves against the forces of evil without free access to shared cultural knowledge and the ability to interpret it?
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
I've always been fond of dragons and always been fond of elegant drawings. With the year of the dragon just beginning, I found three beautiful drawings of dragons to share with you. Click on the pictures to see them enlarged. These three are Ottoman Empire dragons from The age of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent
by Esin Atil.
To find more information and stories about dragons, click here on dragons.
To find fiction and non-fiction about the Ottoman empire, you can click here on Ottoman Empire.
To find books on how to draw dragons for yourself, particularly for younger readers, click here on drawing dragons.
For more on the year of the dragon and books and stories on dragons and the Chinese zodiac, click on Chinese zodiac.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Have you ever been in an art gallery and wondered what it would be like if the people in a painting could step from the frame and tell you their story? Or if the artist could explain his vision directly to you? This is exactly what happens in the new film by Polish director Lech Majewski, The Mill and the Cross, a living tableaux of Bruegel’s painting The Way to Calvary. Like all Bruegel’s work it is crowded with people, over 500 in all, and in the first scene of the film the artist walks among his subjects as they are costumed and posed. He talks with his aristocratic benefactor about the ideas and symbolism that he intends to communicate in the painting, what he means to say about his world. For though the scene is a traditional religious subject, Bruegel’s real subject is his own 16th century Flanders, suffering under Spanish rule and the cruelties of the Inquisition. He does not paint Roman soldiers leading Christ to Calvary, but red-coated Spanish horsemen leading a heretic to execution. The film follows the crowd of people out of the painting into the fullness of their lives at work and play and love, dancing and merriment going on in one corner while in another a mother mourns her tortured son. High above the people the windmill turns and grinds out the fates of all. The old wooden mill with its whooshing cloth covered sails and huge creaking interior gearwheels was painstakingly recreated for the film and is in some sense the central character. The Mill and the Cross casts a mesmerizing spell as it slowly unspools Bruegel’s vision of the human condition and his times. (The Mill and the Cross was shown at film festivals worldwide including Sundance. It is in limited release in theaters. The DVD is forthcoming).
Seeing this film reminded me of one of my favorite books, Headlong by Michael Frayn, a novel that is also inspired by Bruegel’s work. It’s a suspenseful and comic combination of art history lesson and art heist caper. Two young academics, Martin Clay and his wife Julia, move to the English countryside where they hope to concentrate on their studies. But distraction soon appears when they visit a local couple living in genteel poverty in a dilapidated mansion. Martin sees what he believes is a long missing Bruegel painting being used as a fire screen. He embarks on an obsessive dual mission to prove the painting is indeed a genuine Bruegel, and to separate it from its oblivious owners and make his fortune. In alternating chapters we follow Martin’s research into Bruegel and the progress of his madcap scheme. It is a measure of Frayn’s skill that the chapters on symbolism in Bruegel’s work are as suspenseful as the ill fated plot to steal the painting. This is a great read with appeal for art lovers, book clubs, and anyone who enjoys good writing and an out of the ordinary story.
When I read Headlong I also checked out a book of Bruegel’s paintings to refer to as they were discussed in the novel. There are many more novel/art pairings to enjoy like the bestselling Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier/Vermeer, Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland/Renoir, and Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman/Mary Cassatt. For more ideas search the library catalog for the words or phrase “art and fiction” or “artists and fiction.” You can limit the search results to Item Category 2 “Adult” for a more focused list. And if you can’t get enough of Bruegel, there is also a novel based on his life, As Above, So Below by Rudy Rucker. So during these cold winter months forget trekking to a museum to enjoy art, just pull up a chair to the fire and let the paintings speak for themselves.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
May is jam-packed with festivals and outdoor events for the whole family.
The first full weekend in May is the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival in nearby Howard County.
My husband calls this “The best free show in the state of Maryland”, and he doesn’t even particularly like sheep! Their web page gives you an idea of what's going on, but you may want to read
Wool by Annabelle Dixon to the children before setting out. Or Judith MacKenzie's Intentional Spinner for an adult's eye view of the process.
Why don't you check out the Bethesda Fine Arts Festival on the following weekend?
All kinds of art and fine crafts will be on display and for sale, as well as free entertainment. Does it make you want to try your hand at making art? Read David Sammiguel's Complete Guide...or try ArtStarts with your children.
For the third weekend, you don't need to go far. Gaithersburg is hosting its second annual Book Festival http://www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org/ with authors and activities for all.
How about making a book of your own?
If you are an author in search of a publisher, the 808 location in our reference collections hold lots of ‘Writer’s Market’ –type guides. They will tell you how and where to find a publisher, editor or agent.
But what about actually making your own book? Shades of Inkheart! Try McCarthy's Making Books by Hand .
Or, for a look into the actual mind (or brain) of a writer, examine Alice Flaherty’s The Midnight Disease for a look at the process of writing (or not) as viewed by a neurologist.
You can make books with the kids, too. Susan Kapuchinski Gaylord teaches book arts for children and shares her wealth of knowledge through text, pictures and video. http://www.makingbooks.com/freeprojects.shtml
Or read together:
The young author’s do-it-yourself book by Guthrie, Bentley & Arnsteen Or Making Books that fly, fold, wrap, hide, pop up, twist and turn by Gwen Diehn; two great viewpoints on what it takes to 'make a book'.
The last weekend in May is Memorial Day, of course. Since we have three days, why not go a bit farther afield? Chestertown, just across the Bay, commemorates and re-enacts a great moment in Maryland’s Colonial era – The Chester Town Tea Party. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chestertown_Tea_Party
Every year on this weekend Chestertown hosts thousands of visitors to stroll, eat, drink and cheer. There are races to view or enter (including a raft race!) crafts to buy and a re-enactment of a famous ‘tea party’ that may or may not have happened in 1774.
For more great astonishing information about America in its infancy, check out the Library of Congress.
Phew! Festivals can be exhausting! Gotta rest up before I start my Summer Reading!
Montgomery County Public Libraries