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Author Archive for Bond Drager



Free people read freely; Dzhokhar doesn’t matter.

by Bond Drager on July 18th, 2013

By now many of us have seen the cover of the new issue of Rolling Stone magazine. It features a “selfie” photograph of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, an alleged perpetrator of the recent Boston Marathon bombings. Commenters on social media have described the magazine as giving Tsarnaev a rock star treatment. The photo could just as easily be of Julian Casablancas or even Jim Morrison. Just as I would guess Rolling Stone hoped, it’s provoking strong reactions in people which include calling the cover “shameful,” “disgusting,” and “tasteless.” Several retailers have opted not to sell or display the issue, notably CVS, Walgreens, and more locally, Hy-Vee.

This post isn’t meant to be a “Staff Picks” in the regular sense. I probably won’t personally read the article in Rolling Stone about Tsarnaev and how his life turned tragic. I’d rather give time and credence to the victims of the bombing and many other tragedies which go unnoticed by the media, or volunteering in my community in some way. I would, however, defend unconditionally the rights of every patron to have access to this material.

According to the Library Bill of Rights, (which Iowa City Public Library has adopted as policy) libraries have a responsibility to provide information and enlightenment, and based on this core belief, we attempt to challenge censorship. The businesses that are not selling this issue of Rolling Stone are private entities and as such are well within their rights to stock whatever they’d like on their shelves. I believe that as a library we have a greater responsibility to our patrons that compels us to make materials available even if a person or group may find them objectionable. Iowa City Public Library does not censor materials based on these objections and as such, this magazine is available as part of our collection.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had controversial material on our shelves. A recent cover of Newsweek that depicted protestors under a headline “Muslim Rage” raised some eyebrows. A trend in young adult books (especially those marketed to young girls) with material that many would deem inappropriate has brought up questions. The novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” always seems to come up in these conversations.

Libraries have historically been known for defending intellectual freedom and privacy issues. The American Library Association holds an annual event called “Banned Books Week” in which libraries nationwide celebrate the freedom to read materials that have been banned or challenged. Many are surprised to hear popular titles like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Hunger Games,” and “Brave New World” on the list of top banned or challenged materials.

These issues are certainly not limited to books. Recent revelations about the NSA and FBI have sparked debates about personal privacy, surveillance, and the transparency of information in the United States. Many library employees believe their role as champions of intellectual freedom is becoming more critically important as time passes and newer technologies are adopted. American Library Association policies “affirm that confidentiality is crucial to freedom of inquiry.” They also “affirm an ethical imperative to provide unrestricted access to information and to guard against impediments to open inquiries.” Protecting patron confidentiality is a critical part of library culture. Libraries are committed to supporting free speech and open access to information.

Here at Iowa City Public Library, we host the annual Carol Spaziani Intellectual Freedom Festival where we conduct panel discussions and show films related to these issues. Truthfully, attendance has been low in recent years. It is my sincere hope that with privacy, censorship, and access to information on peoples’ minds, we might begin a dialogue locally and increase participation. This year’s schedule will be released soon, but previous years’ events have included: a discussion of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and its impact on intellectual freedom, lectures on censorship, and a screening of the documentary “Barbershop Punk” which talks about internet service providers and access to information. I hope that if you have questions or concerns about these issues you will attend and participate this September.

Video staff picks with special guest John Kenyon of City of Literature

by Bond Drager on June 28th, 2013

Video Staff Picks: Travel Books with Kara

by Bond Drager on May 12th, 2013

Video Staff Picks: Celebrity Bios

by Bond Drager on April 26th, 2013

Staff Picks April 12, 2013

by Bond Drager on April 13th, 2013

Anne talks about Sebastian Junger’s book, War; Patty shows off a novel about high end art thieves and forgeries and a book about making cities walkable as they grow.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGa1p_ztM7I&w=360&h=275]

Video Staff Picks March 29, 2013

by Bond Drager on March 29th, 2013

Video Staff Picks – Mid-March 2013

by Bond Drager on March 15th, 2013
Video Staff Picks – Mid-March 2013 Cover Image

Check out these great recommendations!
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lR_t0OgX5KY&w=400&h=315]

Items mentioned include
Rififi
a film by Jules Dassin

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan

Safari: A Photicular Book
by Dan Kainen and Carol Kaufmann

Video Staff Picks – March 2013

by Bond Drager on March 5th, 2013
Video Staff Picks – March 2013 Cover Image

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgw0kKXdEyk&w=400&h=315]
This video features Susan Craig, Jason Paulios, Nick Twemlow, and Kara Logsden. Items mentioned include:
Cooking off the Clock by Elizabeth Falkner
Baking out Loud by Hedy Goldsmith
R.A.P. Music by Killer Mike
The Green Lake is Awake by Joseph Ceravalo
The Walnut Tree by Charles Todd

Bond’s Picks for new TV Drama on DVD

by Bond Drager on December 26th, 2012
Bond’s Picks for new TV Drama on DVD Cover Image

It’s never been a better time to be a TV junkie. In my humble opinion, the best shows of the moment are on cable. Fortunately you don’t have to sign a cable contract to check out some of these great series. A few of my personal favorites in the library’s DVD collection are Mad Men and Breaking Bad, which live on AMC; HBO has Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones, and Homeland is on Showtime.

Mad Men is polarizing – people seem to either love it or hate it. If you’re not familiar with the show, it follows an ad executive at a firm in Manhattan starting in the late fifties and moving into the sixties. Jon Hamm gets a lot of praise for his portrayal of the main character, a mysterious guy with a lot of secrets in his past. The supporting cast is great as well – and there is humor to be found in some of the side plots. In its most recent season it has grown beyond rediscovering the novelties of bygone eras to a full exploration of character, ethics, and morality. In my opinion, it’s one of the only shows on television that is truly attempting to address women’s and racial issues head on. Though its setting is the sixties, Mad Men somehow feels thoroughly modern in its approach. It’s a serious show, but if you’re willing to invest, it pays dividends. ICPL has all five seasons in the catalog. Season six is scheduled to air sometime in 2013.

For those who like a little more action, I’d suggest Breaking Bad. This show is a great combo – impressive characters and writing along with great action and plot twists. The best part of the show is Bryan Cranston. It’s hard not to want to watch everything this guy does. He plays a high school chemistry teacher who finds out he has cancer, then convinces a former student (Aaron Paul) to help him get into the meth business. If you have any issues with violence and gore, you should probably move on. This is addictive television at its best. The library has seasons one through four on DVD. Season five began airing in the fall of this year, and the series will conclude in summer 2013 with its final episodes.

If you like Downton Abbey and Goodfellas, you’ll love Boardwalk Empire. ICPL has the first two seasons in the DVD catalog (Season three just finished airing this month). HBO spent eighteen million dollars on just the pilot episode, which included Martin Scorsese as its director. I watched for the wonderful period costumes and production design; I stayed for the characters and stories of gangsters and politics in prohibition-era New Jersey.

When I watched the first episode of Game of Thrones, I was hooked. Full confession: I’ve never read any of the books, but I’m a big fan of the show. I do have difficulty keeping track of the many characters and locations in the series (an interesting novelty has the title sequence over a map of the world in which the story takes place, much like you would see at the beginning of a novel). The show follows several kingdoms on fictional continents with lots of fantastical elements thrown in. Game of Thrones is doing some of the most creative and whimsical TV around. We have season one on DVD, and season two’s DVD will be released in February 2013, just about a month before season three begins airing.

Homeland is a show that’s just hitting the radar for a lot of people. It has won a slew of awards this year. Like Breaking Bad, it’s quite addictive. This one is a political thriller following a CIA agent who may or may not be mentally ill following a recently returned POW who may or may not be an agent of Al Qaeda. It’s very twisty turny and really good. The library has season one of this series on DVD, and season two just finished airing.

I hope you’ll stop in and check out all our great TV dramas on DVD!

The Passion of Joan of Arc (La passion de Jeanne d’Arc)

by Bond Drager on August 20th, 2012
The Passion of Joan of Arc (La passion de Jeanne d’Arc) Cover Image

Carl Theodor Dreyer’s “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is at once terrifying and beautiful. Critics have pointed out that one could pause the film at any frame and find herself staring at a work of art.
The film has had a rocky journey to modern audiences. The original print was lost to fire shortly after its premiere, and though Dreyer attempted to recut the film from outtakes, the filmmakers believed the original cut to be lost. Then, the second negative was lost to yet another fire. Over the decades, many corrupted versions of the film were circulated, but none quite the same as the original. In a stranger than fiction turn of events, a nearly complete print of the Danish version of the film was discovered in 1981 in the janitor’s closet of a mental institution in Oslo, Norway. This print was restored, and the Criterion Collection version we have today is believed to be very close to the filmmakers’ intended vision.
The film tells the story of Joan of Arc after she’s captured by the British, and subsequently interrogated and tortured. The story is told through close ups of faces, and high contrast photography creates a dark, disturbing mood. As one blogger notes, “the 180 degree rule is not just broken, but flung down and danced upon. The result is disorienting and a little exhausting.”
Though this was Renee Maria Falconetti’s only prominent film role, she definitely left her mark; she plays Joan with a passion and grace that have been called “the finest performance ever recorded on film.”
A discussion of the film must also mention the wonderful score that Criterion has included with their DVD version. It is Richard Einhorn’s “Voices of Light,” an original opera inspired by the film. It compliments the intensity of Dreyer’s images beautifully, and enhances the viewer’s experience.
Personally, I recommend watching it on the largest screen possible with the volume set to loud. It’s the kind of film that washes over you. If you like films that are beautiful, full of emotion, and guaranteed to make you think, then this is one you can’t miss.