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Monday, May 16, 2016

#RPLDiscover: "Humans of New York: Stories" by Brandon Stanton

Review by Brett Peto
Public Services Assistant
Reference & Adult Services Department

Sometimes I read 400-page books, but not often, and they tend to take a month.

Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton, though, took two days.

Filled with candid color photos and even more candid and colorful stories, it's a compilation of Stanton's five years of walking the streets of New York and engaging strangers in conversations ranging from easy topics like fashion and humor to rich, personal subjects: ambitions, aspirations, mistakes, regrets, problems and solutions.

You may have seen the Facebook page Humans of New York (or HONY, as it's usually abbreviated) on the news or in the news. In the past two weeks, Stanton and his followers have raised over $1 million for cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

If that doesn't demonstrate the power of well-done social media to move people to action with a few photos and words, I'm not sure what does.

But it's because those photos and words provide such clear glimpses and insights and behind-the-scenes access into other human lives that Stanton and this book are so successful.

Take this hardworking woman's story:

After I finish my shift at the bakery, I start my shift at Starbucks. I work ninety-five hours per week at three different jobs. One of my sons graduated from Yale, and I have two more children in college. And when they finish, I want to go to college, too. I want to be a Big Boss. I'm a boss at the bakery right now, but just a little boss. I want to be a Big Boss.

It's the diversity of human perspective that makes this book and the continuing social media feeds remarkable. Stanton seems fearless, approaching people who may not look casually approachable but open their hearts and minds after a few minutes.

For example:

There are two books in America: one for the poor and one for the rich. The poor person does a crime and gets forty years. A rich person gets a slap on the wrist for the same crime. They say that the poor person doesn't want to work and the poor person just wants a handout. Well, I picked cotton until I was thirteen, left Alabama, and got my education on the streets of New York. I drove a long-distance truck all my life and never once drew welfare, never once took food stamps, either. I sent four kids to college. But they say all poor people do is sit around with a quart of beer. Look in this bag next to me. I've got three things in this bag next to me: a Red Bull, a Pepsi, and Drano, because my drain is clogged. But you see, even if I do everything right, I still have to play by the poor book.

I admire how Stanton presents these experiences without a whiff of judgment. There's no editorializing, no moralizing, no chastising his subjects for what they tell him. Which helps explain why they say what they do. It's refreshing in an age of instant opinions, first impressions, and too much outrage to find a book that lets people be who they are in full view.

I have very dreams. Much dreams. First, learn English.

This book encourages you to consider perspectives you might not have otherwise considered. It introduces you to people who may be like yourself, but probably aren't. It invites you to embrace the variety of life, encompassing all colors, ethnicities, faiths, cultures, genders, socioeconomic statuses, ages, sexual orientations, and more.

I'm glad I discovered this book, this page, this phenomenon. So many things are called eye-opening or life-changing, but Humans of New York: Stories is life-opening.

You can find our copy on the New Nonfiction shelf, 974.71 STA.

I'm going to be an inventor. I already have some good ideas. I had an idea for an electronic cigarette with a whatchamacallit in it that makes mist so you feel like you're smoking but you really aren't. And also a toothbrush where you put the toothpaste in the bottom and it comes out the top when you're brushing.

STANTON: Those are some good ideas. Anything else?

A fart gun.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Mike's Picks #5

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression

Iggy Pop, above all else, is a survivor.  No one expected Iggy to make it out of the 70s, when he was bouncing between mental institutions and rehabilitation centers.  His creative output since his heyday has been, to put it kindly, inconsistent.  When he was tearing it up with David Bowie and Lou Reed, people looked at the three and saw Iggy as the one with the biggest death wish.  Now it's 2016, Bowie and Reed and gone, along with most members of Iggy's original band, The Stooges, and countless other stars of the era.  But, despite insurmountable odds, Iggy is still with us.  Just as miraculous is that his new album is his best since the late 70s. 

Post Pop Depression could either be considered Iggy Pop's seventeenth solo album or the first album by Queens of the Arctic Stooges.  This is every bit a collaborative effort, with Josh Homme and Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders as a kind of mini super group backing Iggy.  This is nothing new for Pop, whose career highlights The Idiot and Lust For Life were done with David Bowie, or Homme, who has collaborated with PJ Harvey and put out a record with Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones as Them Crooked Vultures.  Here, Homme takes the roll of producer, guitarist, and is credited for much of the other instrumentation.  If you, like me, have been listening to Homme through Kyuss or QOTSA or Desert Sessions, you more of less know the formula for PPD.  Much of this album sounds similar to the last Queens album ...Like Clockwork mixed with little bits of "Berlin Trilogy" era David Bowie.  I am not denigrating the effort.  This is a case where the wheel does not need to be reinvented, Iggy has been making fantastic wheels for years, he knows what he's doing.  If you are familiar with these artists, don't expect some massive creative leap.  Simply expect to hear masters of their craft doing what they do best; gritty guitar rock by guys in leather jackets and jeans.

Songs like "American Valhala" and "Break Into Your Heart" have all the brashness and swagger of classic Iggy.  Unlike most singers whose voices "get weaker" with age, Pop's vocals only seem to have gotten better, less like fine wine, more like dried, smoked meat.  This older, gruffer version of Iggy Pop fits perfectly with the desert rock of Josh Homme, and this is displayed no better than on the track "Sunday."  With it's shoulder shrugging, Al Green/Bonnie Raitt on "Nick Of Time" back beat, it sticks out from the pack as the most memorable and hooky.  Close second would be the first single "Gardinia," with its hypnotic guitar and sleaze-ball lyrics.

Iggy Pop has stated that this will be his last album.  Who knows if that will really be the case, I never take musician retirements seriously, and something tells me we wont find retired Iggy sitting on his front porch knitting sweaters for too long.  If it is though, he has pulled off a rarity in rock music; a legacy act putting out great material at the tail end of a long career.  If this is his last at bat, it's good to see him go out on a home run.

Key Lyric:
Where is American Valhalla
Death is the pill that's hard to swallow
Is anybody in there?
And can I bring a friend?
I'm not the man with everything
I've nothing, but my name

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Mike's Picks #4

(No review this week.  I will return with a review of the new Iggy Pop album soon.  Until then, more pressing matters.)

There have been a lot of untimely deaths in the music world over the last few months.  For me personally, when Scott Weilend and Lemmy Kilmister died, it stung.  When David Bowie died, it was painful.  But the unexpected death of Prince has left me numb.

I'll try not to be long winded.  Prince is my favorite musician.  I'm not saying that as a reaction, I've been saying that for years.  If you know me long enough, you will hear me talk about Prince, it just happens.  To me, he IS American music in the last half century, all of it.  Rock, jazz, pop, hip-hop, soul, blues, disco, punk, electronic, funk, prog (maybe not country, unless there's some b-side I haven't heard) he mastered it all.  He accomplished everything an artist could ever wish to achieve, took risks, and stayed true to himself, even if it meant changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol to get out of a record contract, or releasing challenging music that his fan base couldn't stomach.  He never stopped being Prince.

Alright, I'm starting to get long winded.  Just listen to Forever In My Life, the last song off the first disc of Sign O' The Times.  It's the greatest love song of all time.  Listen to it on repeat.  I set up a shelf of Prince items in the music section of the library.


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Monday, April 11, 2016

Spring into April!

When you think April, you might think April Fools, better weather, blooming flowers, and fresh air.

But you should also think National Library Week, the seven-day nationwide celebration of library services, from public to academic to school libraries. Started in 1958, National Library Week occurs the second full week of April; this year's runs Sunday, April 10 through Saturday, April 16.

Yesterday (Sunday) marked the return of Food for Late Fees, an ever-popular program in which we forgive your late fees in exchange for non-perishable food items and household products. Each donated item will clear 50 cents in late fees. Donations will not be accepted in place of money for lost or damaged materials. Please, no glass or liquid-filled containers. Food for Late Fees runs now through Saturday, April 16.

Tuesday, April 12 is National Library Workers Day, a day for staff and patrons to recognize the individual contributions of all library workers.

To celebrate, the Reference and Adult Services Department is hosting a Book Lovers Luncheon, where patrons can enjoy a light luncheon followed by a round table discussion of books they've liked this year. Reference staff and patrons will introduce their favorites from the last 12 months. This program is currently full.

On Saturday, April 23, we're once again partnering with the Roselle Park District Garden Club to hold our very own Garden Day!

DuPage County Master Gardeners from the University of Illinois Extension will be on hand in the library atrium to answer your toughest questions and make your thumb a little greener. Drop in any time 11A-1P! No registration required.

Once your life-sized garden is in better shape, learn about a miniature form of gardening: the Fairy Garden! At 1P, Jan Hanson of the DuPage County Master Gardeners will inspire you to create your own micro garden (inside and out) where gnomes, fairies, elves, and more can frolic. Registration is currently open.

Immediately following the presentation, make your own fairy garden at our (appropriately named) Create a Fairy Garden! program at 2P. Registration is currently full.

Maybe instead of a better garden, you're trying to create a better financial picture for yourself. Retirement could be on the horizon, or perhaps you're just starting your career and want to know the best early paths to take towards financial security later in life.

On Tuesday, April 26 at 7P, Joseph R. Book, a Certified Financial Planner from Itasca Bank & Trust Co., will present Retirement Planning 101—Money Smart Week®. Learn how to save for a better tomorrow, no matter your age or income. Registration is currently open.

You can register for these programs—and many others—by visiting our website, calling the Circulation Desk at 630.529.1641 ext. *222, or stopping in at 40 S. Park St., Roselle.

Spring into April with the Roselle Public Library District!

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

#RPLDiscover: "The Road to Little Dribbling" by Bill Bryson

I found my first Bill Bryson book totally by chance. It was at the Printers Row Lit Fest downtown a few years ago, on a display outside the tent of a bookstore I had never heard of before. That book was The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Bryson's autobiographical memoir about his childhood and adolescence in Des Moines, Iowa.

It was such a cohesive book—nearly perfect in its balance of humor, examination of American culture in the fifties, and the history of Des Moines—I knew I had discovered a special author.

My name is Brett Peto, and I'm one of the Public Services Assistants at the Roselle Public Library. You'll find me weekdays nights and weekends at the Library Cards desk (between Circulation and Reference).

I've been a lifelong reader and writer, and I'd like to share with you what I've discovered. It's gonna be mostly books, but a movie or audiobook may find its way in occasionally.

Disclaimer time: these posts are my opinion and don't necessarily represent the opinions of the Roselle Public Library District. The library is all about ensuring everyone has access to valuable information they can use in their daily lives, but sometimes the amount of information becomes overwhelming.

I want to help you discover new things you may not have considered, seen, or heard of before. I want to help you #RPLDiscover. I'll highlight only the stuff I like the most; I'm looking to recommend great items, not tear down ones I might personally dislike.

If any of this seems rambling, it may be because I'm momentarily channeling Bryson. He rambles in the most endearing, interesting ways, like a house guest who's already made breakfast by the time you're up.

Bryson knows his history. He's lived in Great Britain for twenty-plus years, and his affection for his adopted home is clear. No matter how much he may pick at the loose ends of British culture ("I have never assumed that anything is fun just because it looks like the English are enjoying themselves doing it," he says), it's always in a friendly, just-joking manner, where you can see him saying it with a wink, a nudge, and a sip of tea.

The premise—though it's not really followed, and the book is honestly better for it—is to travel something called the Bryson Line. He made it up himself: the longest straight line one can travel across Britain, from Bognor Regis in the south (known for George V's dismissal of Bugger Bognor to Cape Wrath in the north (where the ferry stops for the winter).

Bryson, of course, never follows his own line. It's more of a general direction than a strict instruction. He spends most of his time in the south of England, and I do wish he had written more on the north of Britain and on Scotland, both of which have long experienced tensions with the south over economic and cultural differences.

It's probably the book's biggest weakness.

But what's there is, to me, gold. He's picked up the British habit of self-deprecating humor. He's constantly entertaining, even when he's discussing Derwent Dam (something, he contends, would be on license plates and postcards if it were in Iowa, but in Britain it's just easily ignored) or holiday camps in East Anglia, and you get the sense Bryson genuinely cares for the future of Great Britain.

In Notes from a Small Island, Bryson's first jaunt through the country, he wasn't quite so concerned with political issues, but in Little Dribbling, the gloves come off. Americans may not have much of an opinion one way or the other, but he makes his cases well.

He sees Britain as one of the smallest places in the world packed with the most history, calculating that even if you visited one culturally important locale every week the rest of your life, you wouldn't come close to seeing a tenth of all the landscape has to offer. There's just too much to see, too much to do, and the British need to somehow preserve it all.

Of course they won't. They can't. There aren't enough resources on the island to save hundreds of thousands of artifacts, many of which are threatened by industrial and residential development.

But Bryson believes they should at least try.

"It's the world's largest park," he says of Great Britain. "It's the most perfect accidental garden."

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Mike's Picks #3

Savages - Adore Life
The ten songs on Savages' sophomore album Adore Life tackle the concept of love and all of it's soaring highs, crushing lows, and everything in between.  Love is not represented by a peace sign or a smiling face.  Love, as shown on the album cover, is a clenched fist; tense, aggressive and ready to strike at a moments notice.  On the opener, the scorching "The Answer," they come out swinging.  "If you don't love me/Don't love anybody" sings Jehnny Beth, over an avalanche of sound.  It sets the mood perfectly for what is to come.  "Love is the answer," according to Beth.  Later, on "T.I.W.Y.G." she sings "This is what you get when you mess with love" over squealing feedback and dance drums.  This is not your typical boy meets girl swooning love album.  Love here is equal parts filthy, lustful, and cynical, yet also powerful, passionate, and sensual.

All the aspects that made their debut, 2013's Silence Yourself, such an intriguing listen are still in tact.  They effortlessly combine the swagger of early Siouxsie and the Banshees and PJ Harvey, the angular, stabbing rhythms of Wire and Gang of Four, and the washed out, distorted guitars of Sonic Youth and Swans.  Despite having a style that takes plenty from the past, it all feels fresh.  It's the sound of a young band truly getting a foothold on their style, working out the kinks on a grand stage.

On the album's centerpiece, the brooding and gorgeous "Adore," Beth begs the question, "Is is human to adore life?"  The song ends with the repetition of "I adore life/Do you adore life?"  Despite all of love and life's trappings, the ups and downs, she sides with love, all the while questioning this decision and demanding an answer from the listener.

This is an album full of contradictions.  Equal parts disco and punk, masculine aggression and feminine sophistication, LOVE tattooed on the left hand and HATE on the right.  Savages have found comfort in the space between.  I highly suggest you give this album a shot.  Who knows, you may fall in love with it.

Key lyric:
If only I didn't care so much
For the feel of your cold, cold touch
In every bed I leave behind
Is it human to adore life?
I understand the urgency of life
In the distance there is truth which cuts like a knife
Maybe I will die maybe tomorrow so I need to say
I adore life
Do you adore life?

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Mike's Picks #2

Joanna Newsom - Divers
On her first album since 2010's Have One On Me, Joanna Newsom finds herself simultaneously returning to her roots while still taking risks and artistic leaps.  Since Have One On Me was a two hour, triple album, and it's predecessor Ys packed five songs into 55 minutes, the more traditional structure of Divers is a breath of fresh air (although I wouldn't complain too much if it were a three hour, quadruple album, B-side albums exist for a reason.)

Newsom blends her distinct style of Appalachian folk with a dynamic, almost Kate Bush-like sense of space.  Synthesizers, tape loops, piano and orchestral flourishes are all over this record, but the main stars are still her withered, scratchy vocals and, what sets her apart from practically everyone else in today's popular music scene, her skills as a harpist.  On the album's opener, "Anecdotes", a simple call and response riff between piano and harp gives way to the more grand, multi-instrumental style she has used over her more recent work, acting as a link between her past and present sound.

While many long time fans may find her new fame hard to swallow (in the time between albums, she had a role in the Paul Thomas Anderson film Inherent Vice and married SNL alum Andy Samberg) the music speaks for itself.  It may not be as raw as The Milk-Eyed Mender, as challenging as Ys, or as theatrical as Have One On Me, but all of those elements are here.  If I were to suggest a starting point for new listeners, it would be this album.

Key Lyric:
But inasmuch as that light is loaned,
insofar as we’ve borrowed bones,
must every debt now be repaid
in star-spotted, sickle-winged night raids,
while we sing to the garden, and we sing to the stars,
and we sing in the meantime,
wherever you are...

(Although this album is still on the new music shelf here at the library, it was released in October, so I don't expect it will be there for much longer.  Still, come to the library and give it a shot.  It's well worth your time.)

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