by Maeve Clark on August 29th, 2014
I loved “Off the Leash: A Year at the Dog Park” by Matthew Gilbert. As a former dog park person and now a neighborhood dog walker, I found myself relating to so much of what Gilbert describes in his book. Everyone knows all of the dogs’ names and we refer to owners as Jack’s mom or Nellie’s mom. Eventually you get to know the other dog park peoples’ names and then their stories. Gilbert’s book is his story of his first year with Toby and how Toby helps him come out of his relatively introverted shell. Toby makes him make friendships with folks he would meet no where else but at the dog park. Gilbert, a television critic for The Boston Globe, wasn’t even a dog person until he and his husband, Tom, decided to get an absolutely gorgeous yellow Labrador puppy. Gilbert worked at home and soon learned that a puppy needed exercise, a lot of exercise, so much exercise that walking on the sidewalks just wasn’t enough for a very energetic puppy.
Gilbert, (actually Toby), finds Armory Park and then the dogs and their human companions at the park. At first he just lets Toby play and doesn’t interact with the others. But as anyone who goes to a dog park knows that if you come come to a park with a puppy others will be drawn to you like a magnet and want to talk. And talk leads to learning everyone’s names and eventually their stories. Gilbert aptly describes the dog park denizens, including an older gentleman, Saul, who doesn’t have a dog anymore but loves dogs and tries so hard to connect with the dogs and their owners. One of the most poignant parts of “Off the Leash” is when Saul no longer comes to the park. Saul was in the early states of Alzheimer’s and had a minor car accident and had to move in with his brother. The dog park people track down Saul’s brother and find out that he needs more care than his brother can give and that he is moved to a retirement home. There are other stories that tug at the heart. Stories of when a dog dies. The dog park family rallies around the companion and brings food and tells stories and witnesses with the bereaved about the loss.
At other times “Off the Leash” is laugh out loud funny; dog people have stories to tell and if you are at a park, you have time to hear their stories. You also learn who follows the rules, and who doesn’t, who joins in and who doesn’t, and how the dog park people use their dogs to express feelings they would never normally share with anyone else. Gilbert calls this sharing dog ventriloquism.
If you have a dog or had a dog or want a dog, you will enjoy “Off the Leash”. Your dog might too, Nellie did, I read numerous passages to her. She did not pass judgment, she is a dog, I did, I am am a dog park person.
by Maeve Clark on June 19th, 2014
How do you select the next book to read? For me it is often from reviews or blogs or when a cover catches my eye as I walk by or put a book out for display, but I think the best suggestions come from friends. I just finished Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant because a friend recommended it and it is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I was hesitant at first; Chast is the brilliant cartoonist for the New Yorker, but illustrated novels or memoirs are not my cup of tea.
Chast tells the story of her parents George and Elizabeth’s final years with drawings and photos. It is funny, laugh out loud funny – so funny that you want to find someone and read them the passage or show them the cartoon and have them laugh with you. It is also heartbreakingly poignant. Her parents have no desire to leave their Brooklyn apartment; their home since marriage. The home that Chast discovered had become through benign neglect a hoarders paradise and more and more unfit for her aged parents. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant is about escape and return, avoidance and confrontation, about coming face to face with the reality we are all growing older and that our parents will not live forever. And I really want to talk about it. Please read it and let’s chat.
by Maeve Clark on June 17th, 2014
Today and tomorrow, the Iowa City Municipal Airport will be a stop on the Air Race Classic race from Concord, California, to New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. More than 100 pilots on 52 teams of compete in the all-female air race. The Air Race Classic began in 1977 and is the longest-running air race for women pilots. It follows in the tradition of the All Women’s Transcontinental Air Race, which began in 1947, and the Women’s Air Derby, which began in 1929 because women pilots were barred from entering air races at that time. Iowa City was to be a stop in 2011 but bad weather forced the race to be rerouted. Amelia Earhart competed in that 1929 race along with 19 other women. I wonder how many of the pilots racing today had idolized Amelia Earhart as little girls. I know she was part of my fantasy life as a child.
The Iowa City Public Library has photographs of the Iowa City Municipal Airport dating back to 1922 in its Digital History Project . I looked through them hoping to find of a photograph of Amelia Earhart as I had read that she had flown into Iowa City. I couldn’t find her ever landing at the airport, but I did find that she had lectured at the University of Iowa on March 31, 1936. On April 1, 1936 The Daily Iowan reported on her speech – Her name is Amelia Earhart and not Mrs. Putnam, Amelia Earhart Putnam told newspapermen last night. Addressed as Mrs. Putnam, the woman flier smiling requested, “Call me Miss Earhart please.” “I am still Miss Earhart professionally,” she said, ” an my husband himself has never introduced me as Mr.s Putnam.”
The lecture was at the Iowa Memorial Union and more than 1, 800 attended. How many women who heard Amelia Earhart that night went on to get a pilot’s license and how many of them flew in the Women’s Army Air Corp (WAAC) in World War II. Do you have a story of early Iowa City aviation or aviatrix history? The Iowa City Public Library would love to learn about it.
by Maeve Clark on May 28th, 2014
I really like to watch documentaries. Independent Lens, American Masters, POV are some of my favorite programs on PBS and the documentary track at film festivals is what I find myself not wanting to miss. I don’t know that I can even explain why I like them so much, but I do and when I watch ones that are really good, I like to talk about them. And I just watched two that were exceptional.
The first, “Twenty Feet From Stardom”, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2014. Director Morgan Neville takes us inside the world of backup singers and gives voice to those who sing behind the stars. Neville interviews backup singers Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Claudia Lennear, Tata Vega and Lisa Fischer about what it was like to sing with artists such as Joe Cocker, David Bowie, Tina Turner and the Rolling Stones. The singers tell their stories through interviews and clips from five decades of recording history.
The second, “Muscle Shoals“, explores the creative genius of Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios, one of two competing recording studios, (Muscle Shoals Sound is the other), in the small Alabama town of Muscle Shoals. Songs recorded at FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound include “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Mustang Sally,” “Tell Mama,” “I’ll Take You There,” “Patches,” “I Never Loved A Man the Way That I Loved You,” “Brown Sugar,” “Kodachrome,” “Freebird,” “Mainstreet.” Hall brought black and white musicians together in the segregated south beginning in 1961. Through interviews with Hall and recording greats, first-time director Greg Camalier chronicles the sound that formed the backdrop of much of the last half-century. Camalier weaves the beauty of the region with the magic of music made in this remote southern locale.
The Iowa City Public Library has a fantastic collection of documentaries. There are documentaries that will make you laugh, some that will make you weep, others that will make you angry. “Muscle Shoals” and “Twenty Feet from Stardom” made me sing out loud.
by Maeve Clark on May 17th, 2014
The Iowa City Public Library just added a fantastic new collection to the Digital History Project. Post Cards from Early Iowa City is a collection of 94 postcards from Bob Hibbs, one of Iowa City’s citizen historians. One of my favorite postcards from the collection is from 1910 and is of Klondike Bill and his team of eight dogs and a cart in front of the Pentacrest. Why was Klondike Bill in Iowa City with a team of dogs and where were they going?
I immediately googled Klondike Bill and found several of the Iowa City cards for sale on eBay, one for $99. The next hit was to a book by Iowa City author, Lyell Henry, Was This Heaven: A Self-Portrait of Iowa on Early Postcard. Henry writes that “When Klondike Bill, a colorful transcontinental itinerant, and his dog team reached Iowa City, a photographer snapped them standing next to the University of Iowa campus.” Well that was a start. I continued my search and found other postcards of Klondike Bill in other cities. One in Ortonville, Minnesota and another at the McKinley Monument in Colorado and another in Sioux Falls, South Dakota all with his team of dogs and a cart.
The next step of my search took me to newspapers of that time period. There were many stories of Klondike Bill passing through towns on his way east, but few with specifics. One article in the Escanaba Daily Press from January 12, 1912 in what must have been a wire story, tells of Klondike Bill arriving in Chicago on January 11, 1912 “with a combination of wagon and sleigh and seven dogs traveling from Nome, Alaska to Washington, D.C., on a wager… “Klondike Bill” refused to tell much of his trip, but said he would win considerable money if he reached the capital by a certain date, and added that he was several days ahead of his schedule. Another article from the El Paso Herald from January 26, 1912 sheds more light on Klondike Bill. We see Klondike Bill with what looks to be a very unhappy dog and learn that his name was William Buchanan and that the wager was for $100,000.00, a mighty sum for 1912. Also included is a photograph of his possible fiance, Miss Rose Maegerin.
But there the trail grew cold, at least for now.
by Maeve Clark on May 13th, 2014
East Iowa City? Really, there is an East Iowa City? Learn about the growth of the eastern part Iowa City and its early history as a manufacturing center during Irving B. Weber Days. Weber Days are held every May in honor of Iowa City’s unofficial historian, the late Irving B. Weber. Every Wednesday in May, the Library will host an event that delves into Iowa City’s history. This Wednesday, May 14 Dr. Thomas Schulein, another citizen historian, will share the story of East Iowa City at 7 p.m. in Meeting Room A. How East Iowa City Came to Be is one of the library’s WOW – Weber on Wednesday programs.
What would you like to learn about Iowa City history? Share your ideas with the library and help us plan Irving B. Weber Days for 2015.
by Maeve Clark on April 23rd, 2014
Happy 450, William Shakespeare! BBC America posted 45 everyday phrases either coined or popularized by William Shakespeare and then challenged readers to work five of the phrases into conversation today. I think I can easily use 10 if not more, how about you? In the not too distant past – researchers, students and readers of Shakespeare as well as reference librarians relied upon a concordance of Shakespeare’s dramatic works or poems to find which play or sonnet contained a word or phrase. While in our “brave new world” (The Tempest) Google makes finding quotes a snap, the library still retains a number of books on phrases, idioms and figures of speech in the Reference Collection. Titles such as A Hog on Ice and other Curious Expressions and Loanwords dictionary : a lexicon of more than 6,500 words and phrases encountered in English contexts show evidence of much use back when finding that special turn of phrase required using print resources.
Every summer I so look forward to Riverside Theatre in the Park’s presentation of at least one of Shakespeare’s plays. The venue is marvelous, (especially when it hasn’t been flooded out), the costuming and the sets are splendid, but for me what is best of all is the beauty of the language. I could, as Shakespeare so aptly put, listen “forever and a day” (As You Like It). If you would like to whet your appetite for Shakespeare this summer you will not want to miss, Theatre in the Park: Othello with Miriam Gilbert, on Thursday night, May 8 at 7 p.m. in Meeting Room A.
by Maeve Clark on April 11th, 2014
Have you heard about the security flaw named Heartbleed and have concerns whether your passwords are secure? The tech guys at Marketplace Morning Report had a very informative piece cautioning folks not to jump the gun on changing their passwords too soon.
Quick update on Heartbleed – you may have already received messages from social media sites you use or from companies where you shop online or your financial institution letting you know whether their sites are secure or if you need to change your password. If you have not and you would like some guidance on which sites were the most vulnerable and merit a password change Mashable.com contacted the most popular social, email, banking and commerce sites on the web and shared their responses.
by Maeve Clark on April 5th, 2014
One of the fun facts I learned from the Money Smart Week exhibit at the library is that dimes have 118 ridges or grooves and quarters have 119. But what the exhibit didn’t tell me was the reason for the ridges. So what’s a reference librarian to do? Find the answer, of course. I started at the United States Mint which lead me to the American Numismatic Association. The first thing I learned was the technical term for the ridges or grooves on coins is reeding. Before the introduction of reeding, small amounts of gold or silver from coins could be chiseled or shaved away and the precious metal sold again or remelted and made into another coin. (The slang usage of the world chisel may even derive from this ancient practice.) While quarters and dimes are no longer minted from silver, (with the exception of special collectable quarters), the ridges remain.
Come in a take a look at the exhibit – you will find it in the first floor gallery. You can explore the life cycle of currency, learn about the role of the Federal Reserve Bank and get your photo taken in $100 bill. What else can you learn during Money Smart Week? Preschoolers will have a visit from Ben Franklin for the 10:30 preschool story time Thursday morning, April 10. And if you want to know more about estate planning, the library has a program tailor made for you. Thursday evening, April 10, Thomas Gelman, attorney Phelan Tucker Muller Walker Tucker Gelman and John Chadima, Vice President and Trust Officer MidWestOne Bank offer Estate Planning 101: Basic Considerations.
by Maeve Clark on March 10th, 2014
The Iowa City Public Library has a remarkable collection of original art. Each fall the library holds the Art Purchase Prize contest and adds from six to ten original works to its circulating collection. The winning pieces are displayed during the months of January and February on the second floor of the library. I walk by that wall many times during the day and one piece in particular caught my attention this year – Perro Ovejero by Oscar Urizar. This black and white photograph captures a working dog and a flock of sheep. There is also a shepherd, though I didn’t notice him at first. It was the dog that grabbed my attention, then the sheep and the sky and finally the man.
Items in the Art Purchase Prize collection as well as the Art-to-Go collection of framed posters check out for two months at a time and each borrower can have two items. A number of libraries circulate framed art but very few loan original art. We are fortunate to live in Iowa City where so many talented artists reside. If you have not borrowed a piece or two from this marvelous special collection take some time to see what we have. Take a gallery walk through the collection on the walls near the fiction collection on the first floor I guarantee that you will find more than two works you will want to hang at home or at work.