Text Version      
Montgomery County Seal Montgomery County Seal
Home | Translate   Montgomery County Seal
Citizens ButtonGovernment ButtonBusinesses ButtonCulture & Leisure Button
Montgomery County Public Libraries

Contact Us | Home

catalog   MCPL webpages  

Weekly Shhhout-Out

Roaming librarians file dispatches from the world of information.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Czech, please!

view of town at hlubocka nad vltavou
In 2011, I spent two weeks in the Czech Republic. It was the first time I traveled outside the United States and my time in Czech was incredible! It is a beautiful country of forests, mountains and many small towns surrounding central squares that include ornate fountains and statues. Every other town seems to boast a spa (we did visit a beer spa, which sounds weird but ended up being one of my favorite parts of the entire trip!) and I swear that every few miles on the road are signs for castles like Kost Castle, built in the late 13th century and beautifully preserved (if stark), or estates like Hluboká ,originally built in the 13th century and looking more like a classic English-style castle and grounds than Czech-style after two extensive remodels.
Many tourists visit only Prague and its surrounding region, not surprising considering that you could spend a couple of weeks in Prague alone and still not have enough time to see all that the city has to offer. As a history lover, Prague fascinated me. It was very easy to stand in the heart of the old town and feel the ghostly brush of centuries swirling around us. We spent less than two days there and I wished there had been more time to absorb it all!
our lady before tyn seen from the astronomical clock tower in prague
Thanks to vivid memories of that visit, I now notice how much literature takes place in, mentions or is by someone from Prague or the Czech Republic. Reading through scenes set in Prague takes me back to those cobblestone streets and I get swept up in the story being told. “Armchair travel” is a wonderful way to visit (or revisit) places in the world that time or fortune or dangerous conditions prevent you from seeing. If you would like to “see” Prague or the Czech Republic this way, use the list below to begin your own journey or click here for a longer list of titles that relate to the people and places of the Czech Republic.
1: Learn a little of the language.
It was wonderful to be able to say “prosím” and “dekuji” (please and thank you), “ano” and “ne” (yes and no) and exchange the common greeting “Dobrý den” (good day) in Czech.  In fact, it was enough for some shopkeepers and Czech natives to think that I had a much better command of the language than is really the case! A mistake they quickly realized when my eyes would widen at their stream of Czech until they paused long enough for me to say “Nemluvím cesky” (I don’t speak Czech). You can learn key phrases from Mango Languages or Czech out (get it?) language learning audiobooks from your local branch.
cover image of kolya2: Hear the language and glimpse the dark Czech sense of humor in movies.
The Good Soldier Schweik is a Czech classic about a reluctant buffoon of a soldier in the army during World War I. (Think Gomer Pyle and you get the general idea.) In Kolya, which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, a down-on-his-luck but happy bachelor unexpectedly becomes guardian of a five year old boy who speaks only Russian and no Czech. Both films are in Czech with English subtitles. Follow this link to other Czech films in the MCPL collection.
3: Make (or dream of) travel plans.
Guidebooks are obviously great for planning, but you can also learn about a country just reading through them. Plus they are full of pictures! My mom was looking at one of our Czech travel guides and discovered a statue in Prague by provocative and famous Czech artist David Cerný that we sought out but never would have visited if not for the mention in the guidebook.
cover image of prague winter by madeline albright4: Read the history.
Prague in Black and Gold by Peter Demetz details the history of Prague from the myths of its founding through the twilight of World War II. Follow that with former Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s Prague Winter, her memoir of childhood years in Nazi occupied Prague, the aftermath World War II and the Communist ruled time span leading into the Cold War. Then let A Velvet Revolution: Vaclav Havel and the Fall of Communism by John Duberstein bring you through more recent Czech history and introduce you to the literary first President of the Czech Republic after Communism and the split from Slovakia. Which leads us to…
cover image of the trial by franz kafka5: Discover Czech authors.
 Vaclav Havel was a playwright and essayist before being elected President. MCPL has a few of his worksFranz Kafka may well be the most famous Czech author, notably for his human to cockroach story Metamorphosis, but did you know that another Czech author is credited for coining the term robot in a play written in 1920? Explore more Czech literature on the recommendation of super-librarian Nancy Pearl.
cover image of the book of blood and shadow by robin wasserman6. Let fiction be your guide.
My recent Czech obsession is directly a result of reading Robin Wasserman’s young adult novel The Book of Blood and Shadow. It is a Da Vinci Code style mystery featuring a group of friends who are trying to solve a centuries old mystery involving the interpretation of letters written from a young woman to her brother in Renaissance Prague. The friends travel to Prague, where much of the book’s action takes place, and I could picture many of the locations in my mind as I read. Complication by Isaac Adamson sounds eerie but interesting. The description from our catalog: combining a serial killer with a penchant for severed hands, a watch that runs backward and forward at the same time, cover image of complication by isaac adamsonan Eastern European gangster known only as Rumpelstiltskin and 16th century black magic, Complication follows young American Lee Holloway throughout Prague as he investigates the death of his brother. Click here for a more thorough listing of fiction set in Prague or the CzechRepublic.
CATEGORIES: Tina R. , Czech , Reader's Advisory , Travel
POSTED: 8:00:00 AM |

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Art of the Pixel

I learned a new word the other day, “iPhoneography.”  I was searching online for information about digital photography apps when I discovered that there is a new, legitimate art form complete with its own star artists and international awards.  Taking photos with your iPhone (or any smartphone) and manipulating them with one or more of the hundreds of available apps is now the cutting edge in photography.  You can do everything imaginable with your photos from just enhancing them to look more professional to completely transforming them into watercolor paintings, pencil sketches, comic books, abstract images, and more.  The rules of the game are that you must take the photos with your phone and you can’t upload them to a computer and edit them with sophisticated programs like Photoshop; it must all be done on your phone or tablet.  It was nice to know that I, who can’t draw or paint a thing, can now call myself an “artist” for playing around with my iPad! 

I found just the information I was looking for in the library catalog, an E-Book entitled Create Great iPhone Photos: apps, tips, tricks, and effects by Allan Hoffman.  There are so many apps of such varying quality available that it saves a lot of time-consuming trial and error to follow an expert’s recommendations.  Next I tried a search of the library’s magazine database MasterFILE Premier.  I found only limited search results for the term ”iPhoneography” so I tried a more general search “phone and photography.”  This turned up 458 relevant articles, many from specialty photography magazines.  This is a good trick to use when researching any subject in the magazine databases.  I learned a great deal from these resources and was able to create far more successful photos.  Here are a couple of examples:


Golden Gate created with Aquarella

Golden Gate, created with Aquarella


Pond created with Haiku

Pond, created with Haiku


Of course photography isn’t the only art form you can pursue on a phone or tablet.  There are many drawing and painting apps for those who want to start with a blank slate rather than a photo.  Researching this topic I discovered that no less an artist than David Hockney is now producing works on his iPad.  Of the new technology he said: "Who wouldn't want one? Picasso or Van Gogh would have snapped one up."  In recent years Hockney moved from Los Angeles, inspiration for his famous swimming pool paintings, back to his native Yorkshire.  He began painting the local landscape on his iPad with the Brushes app.  At first he exhibited prints of these paintings, but in 2010 works he created on the iPad were exhibited on iPads at a Paris gallery.  He has even been caught in an iPhone video painting on his iPad in a coffee shop. 


View an online gallery of Hockney’s iPad art here. Learn more about Hockney’s work since his return to Yorkshire in a documentary film available from the library David Hockney: A Bigger Picture.  And for those of us not quite up to Hockney’s level, here is some advice on the best apps for aspiring artists.


Rita T.

Rita T.

CATEGORIES: Rita T. , Art , Computer Graphics
POSTED: 12:01:00 AM |

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

'Tuh beh oar nat tuh beh?'

A depiction of the dramatist at work in his study, by A.H. Payne.

When I was a child, I was fascinated with Shakespeare. (Yes, I suppose I was not an ordinary child.) I remember making up a play based on Romeo and Juliet when I was merely seven years old, enlisting my sister and some neighborhood girls to act it out. I had only read a brief summary in an ancient encyclopedia, and obviously didn’t know the full play because, somehow, a witch who lived in the basement got in there; and maybe I’d heard tell of a modern version called West Side Story, because the billiards table in the front room was commandeered as a prop. The stairs made a fine balcony, and I would call out through the banister railings  "Romeo, Romeo! Werefore art thou, Romeo?" (Because, of course, I thought that it meant where are you, not who are you.) Then Romeo, in the shape of my younger sister in a pageboy hairdo, would proclaim.“Here I am, Juliet. I’m off to kill the wicked witch." I'm sure my mother was dieing laughing in the other room.

I became more familiar with Shakespeare as I made my way through my father’s Oxford Book of English Verse, and tackled several yellowing paperback plays left over from his University years. When I was ten, I created a two-person play for my best friend and me to act out in class. I played a girl who is practicing lines from Hamlet, and my best friend comes upon me and thinks I’ve got mad. She hides behind a curtain and makes shocked comments in sotto voce about what I’m saying. I really don’t remember what she said in response to me spouting “Get thee too a nunnery,” but our teacher thought it was hilarious and had us present it to the whole school.

I admit that most of the time I had no idea what was going on in the plays, but I struggled through anyway, because of the wonderful strange words. Words like bodikin, drumble, frampold, and gleek. I would read them out loud to relish them and use my imagination to make up what they meant. I was probably totally mispronouncing them. But, you know what? According to a video I just watched, so was everybody else, even famous actors like Sir Laurence Olivier, because the way people spoke back then wasn’t like the posh, upper class diction that modern audiences associate with Shakespeare.


According to linguist David Crystal and his son, actor Ben Crystal, the English language in Shakespeare’s day sounded more like the pronunciations that survives in British regional dialects and the colonial remnants in American and Australian speech. How do they know? They have reconstructed the Original Pronunciation (OP) by using the spelling of the time, glossaries produced by those contemporary with Shakespeare, and clues to what words should rhyme from the structure of verses. With my Bristolian accent of those days, I was probably closer to the original than Olivier. The Original Pronunciation story has been picked up by newspapers and radio, and more and more OP productions are being staged.

The Original Pronunciation website states:

“The present-day movement to perform works in OP began in 2004, when David Crystal collaborated with Shakespeare’s Globe in an OP production of Romeo and Juliet. This was so successful that the following year the Globe mounted a production of Troilus and Cressida in OP. Subsequent interest from American enthusiasts led to OP Shakespeare events in New York, Virginia, and Kansas, ranging from evenings of extracts to full productions. As only a handful of works have so farbeen performed in OP, interest is growing worldwide to explore the insights that the approach can provide.”

The performance of plays in OP brings to light rhymes, puns and rhythms that have been missed by modern audiences and scholars. It enriches performances, enhances understanding and, oddly, makes the plays skim by faster. You can listen to examples on-line.

Of course, you can find the complete works of Shakespeare on-line--texts and analysis. But if you prefer to hold a book in your hand, for works on Shakespeare in MCPL, visit the first Dewey decimal number I ever memorized—822.33 There you can find scholarly works as well as the plays and poems themselves. In the children’s room you can find some lovely retellings of the stories, none of which contain a billiards table. Also, there are many works of fiction for all ages set in Shakespeare’s day. We have movies and sound recordings related to Shakespeare in the library for you to enjoy, but nothing in Original Pronunciation as yet. Give it time.

If you feel like making a field trip to another library, however, visit the Folger Shakespeare Library downtown to enjoy their exhibits or a live performance. I expect they can tell you all you want to know about Original Pronunciation.

AnnetteKAnnette K


CATEGORIES: Annette K. , Shakespeare , Language
POSTED: 11:35:00 AM |

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

September Is Library Card Sign Up Month! See What Libraries Are Doing!

Libraries have a lot to offer you and libraries need your support.  Join your library!  If you don't already have a library card, sign up today!  Your library is constantly adapting to serve your community. Open-site.org has prepared the following graphic showing what libraries do and the challenges we face.  Click on the image below to view in a larger format.

future of libraries

  A 2010 infographic by the non-profit Online Computer Library Center had a few other nice stats:

  • More libraries (12 000) provided free Wi-Fi than Starbucks (11 000)
  • Libraries lent out almost as many movies (2.1 million) as Netflix (2.1 million)
  • Libraries were more popular (1.4 billion visits) than movie theatres (1.3 billion tickets)
CATEGORIES: Technology , Libraries , Nell M.
POSTED: 12:03:00 AM |
Montgomery County Public Libraries
Montgomery County Public Libraries

Library Policies | Friends of the Library | Library Board | Library Jobs | Contact Us

Last edited: 11/6/2007