Monday, September 28, 2015

Buster Keaton's masterpiece, "The General"

The second free movie in our Make 'Em Laugh: Classic American Comedies series is one of the greatest American films ever made: Buster Keaton's 1926 masterpiece, The General, which will be shown this Thursday, October 2, at 6:00 p.m. in Memorial Hall.

The title of Keaton’s epic Civil War comedy refers to the name of Confederate railroad engineer Johnny Gray’s beloved steam engine, which he must recapture from a group of Union soldiers who have stolen it and are attempting to destroy the rails in Georgia. Based on a true incident from 1862 (which Walt Disney turned into The Great Locomotive Chase starring Fess Parker in 1956), The General was the highest ranked silent movie on the 10th anniversary edition of the American Film Institute's "100 Years ... 100 Movies" list at #18. Keaton’s masterpiece is one of the longest, most elaborate chases ever filmed, and its images have often been favorably compared to Matthew Brady’s Civil War photography.It's a truly amazing movie that should not be missed. And if you're somewhat iffy about watching a silent movie, consider the fact that when audiences are first introduced to a silent comedy by Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, or Harold Lloyd, they soon forget that it's silent (although there is a musical score) and in black-and-white, and they become totally caught up in the wonderful and inventive comedy.

A 1926 poster for Keaton's "The General"
Mark P. Hasskarl
Library Director

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Who's Who in the Library: Meet Erin Johnson

Erin Johnson as detective Sam Slayed
at our most recent Murder Mystery program
Erin Johnson was born and raised in New Milford, where most of her extended family still lives.

Erin earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, with a minor in oil painting, from the University of Hartford. Then, on a full scholarship, Erin earned her Masters of Philosophy in Medieval English Literature from the University of Oxford. She lived in England for two and a half years, studying, working in several Oxford University faculty offices, and fire performing with the Oxford Brooks Circus Skills Society.

When Erin returned home, she worked as a substitute teacher and para-educator in New Milford schools. In 2012, she started at the NMPL in circulation. In 2013, she moved to reference, and now she is our Digital Literacy Associate. She developed the NMPL’s digital literacy initiative by teaching computer classes, as well as coming up with programs to help patrons with such topics as e-books, e-audiobooks, and our new service hoopla (access to thousands of FREE movies, TV shows, music, and more!). Erin also started the volunteer program in which professionals volunteer their time to teach computer skills. Erin finds it very rewarding when patrons understand something for the first time. Erin loves learning and being able to share that experience with patrons.

She also loves to knit, sew, paint, and fix her car. She enjoys book binding and any kind of craft. Erin reads speculative fiction and recommends any books by Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, and the late, great Terry Pratchett, master of social satire.

Erin’s philosophy of life is: Every day is an opportunity to learn something new and, just as importantly, to have fun. So, feel free to come to NMPL, take a class with Erin, and have some fun!
Amy Berkun
Children's Services Associate
Reference/Information Services Associate

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

There's a new library eBook app coming

Erin Johnson
Digital Literacy Associate

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hey you with the dirty face! (1930 rules for library patrons)

Recently a copy of an old set of library patron rules of behavior has been making the rounds, and they're interesting - and humorous - enough to share.
They come from the Hyde Institute Library, located in the London Borough of Barnet, and were first published in 1930. Since the image might not be too readable, I'm listing all of the rules below as well.

     Strict rules, which have been approved by the Hertfordshire County Council, are to be imposed by the Hyde Institute Library, Barnet Vale.
     Enter the library if their faces are offensively dirty.
     Fall asleep on the tables.
     Eat their lunches whilst reading papers, books, &c.
     Smoke in the building.
     Leave their business cards behind.
     Make themselves a nuisance.
     Kick or damage the furniture.
     Bring dogs within the portals.
     Tell lies to the librarian.
     Enter when they are in an inebriated condition.
     If they have smallpox.
Don't you love that leaving a business card and having small pox are on the same list?!
In my nearly 39 years as a library director, I've had to deal with patrons who were breaking 9 out of these 11 rules; and sometimes a patron was guilty of 5 of them at the same time. The two exceptions? Dirty faces and smallpox; and if I had my 'druthers, I'd rather deal with a dirty face.

Mark P. Hasskarl
Library Director

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"Born to Run" turns 40

Forty years ago today, August 25, 1975,  Bruce Springsteen's classic album, Born to Run, was released. His third album began the transition of "The Boss" from promising singer-songwriter to rock legend. Considered a masterpiece by many rock critics and fans alike (in its 2012 listing of the 500 greatest albums of all time, Rolling Stone ranked it #18), this eight-song cycle about American struggles and dreams solidified Springsteen's sound. Its success also placed Springsteen on the covers of both Time and Newsweek in the same week (October 27, 1975), which was a huge deal at the time, something that normally happened only with politicians.
In Time, Jay Cocks praised Springsteen, while the Newsweek article took a cynical look at the "next Dylan" hype that haunted Springsteen after the release of his first two albums and lasted until his breakthrough. In a rave review for Rolling Stone magazine, Greil Marcus wrote that Springsteen “enhances romanticized American themes with his majestic sound, ideal style of rock and roll, evocative lyrics, and an impassioned delivery that defines what is a ‘magnificent’ album: It is the drama that counts; the stories Springsteen is telling are nothing new, though no one has ever told them better or made them matter more."
The library owns nine of Bruce's albums, plus one biography, so The Boss is well- represented here on this anniversary date. Congratulations, Mr. Springsteen!
Mark P. Hasskarl
Library Director

Monday, August 10, 2015

Read Any Good Books Lately #2 - Go Set a Watchman

After 55 years, Harper Lee has finally published her second novel, Go Set a Watchman. Although its plot is a sequel to her first novel, the beloved classic To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), it was actually written first. Along with huge best-selling success, its publication has come with several controversies.
Among them are the questions as to when it was discovered, and whether Ms. Lee, who at 89 has suffered hearing and vision losses as the result of a stroke, had actually approved its publication. There have been several contradictory stories about the former question, and Ms. Lee herself has said she approved of the earlier book’s belated appearance.
What is consistent among the various stories, however, is that Ms. Lee submitted her manuscript to publishers in the summer of 1957. Her editor, very wisely, asked her to rewrite Watchman and focus on its main character, Jean Louise Finch, a 26-year-old woman returning to her home in small-town Alabama in the 1950s, as a young girl in the 1930s. The result after two years of revising and rewriting, was To Kill a Mockingbird.
I must admit that I was reluctant to read Watchman, since Mockingbird is one of only a handful of books that I’ve read multiple times in my life that weren’t high school or college assignments. The book critic for Entertainment Weekly, for example, gave the book a D+ and said if you love To Kill a Mockingbird and Atticus Finch, don’t read Go Set a Watchman.
So how do I reconcile Watchman’s Atticus, who spouts such racist statements as “Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters?” or “Honey, you do not seem to understand that the Negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people,” with Mockingbird’s Atticus, who brilliantly but unsuccessfully defended a young Black man accused of raping a poor, young white woman?
Lee’s earlier book probably accurately reflects the way many Southerners reacted to the nascent civil rights movement in the 1950’s. Most of Jean Louise’s family members and her long-time boyfriend Hank (who didn’t make it into Mockingbird) think like Atticus and see the NAACP as a negative influence on the poor, gullible Negroes of their community.
But I’ll take the Atticus of Mockingbird, thank you, the character he became when Lee rewrote her first effort. Although there are some lyrical moments in Watchman, Lee wrote a vastly improved book in Mockingbird. The primary focus on the prejudice against and segregation of African-Americans in the South in the 1950s was lessened somewhat in Mockingbird, although it’s still present, of course, in the trial of Tom Robinson. What was greatly expanded and deepened was the story of the Finch children, Scout and Jem, and their inevitable loss of innocence.
Whereas Jean Louise is the conscience in Watchman, Atticus Finch plays that part in Mockingbird. He passes on his ideals of fairness and equality, his love of justice, and his wisdom to his children; and it is these qualities which he instilled in Scout as a young girl that make her grieve so much in Go Set a Watchman.
Fortunately, Harper Lee knew how to change and vastly improve her first book, and also fortunately, while reading Go Set a Watchman was an interesting experience, it did not detract from my love of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Mark P. Hasskarl
Library Director