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From Growing Orchids to Beer Tasting, Fun Adult Programs Are On Tap

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 9:33am
Photo by Alabama Orchid Society Adults looking for something fun and different to do on a weeknight, should check out what's brewing at the Birmingham Public Library.

  • Enjoy the perfect blend of poetry and free beer samples during the Birmingham Public Library's monthly Bards and Brews, Friday, Aug. 1 at Avondale Library, 509 40th St. South. It's from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Open Mic Night poet registration starts at 6:30 p.m. Avondale Brewery will be providing the beer. Call 226-3670 for more info. Attendees must be at least 18 to enter and at least 21 to be served. Free.
  • Check out artist Debra Riffe's "Every Line Tells a Story'' exhibit during the Birmingham Art Crawl on Thursday, Aug. 7, 5 to 9 p.m., at the Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place. Riffe will be one of several artists slated to display works at downtown Birmingham businesses on this night.
  • Learn how easy it is to care for orchids on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 6:30 - 8 p.m., at the Springville Road Library, 1224 Old Springville Road. Master gardener Richard Healy, who's a member of Alabama Orchid Society, will provide tips on which orchids do well in the Alabama environment and in your home. Free.

The progression of the written (and well-read) word

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 8:33pm
In the beginning information passed from one person to others through speech. Oral tradition was the only means of distributing information until the advent of visual communication, and continued for some time to be the primary means of sharing and preserving information. Cave paintings are usually recognized as the earliest form of visual communication, with the earliest known dating to 30,000 BC. More permanent visuals — carvings rather than paintings — developed shortly thereafter, with pictograms (the predecessor to hieroglyphics and cuneiform) developing by around 9000 BC. While logographic writing systems developed by around 5000 BC (Sumerian cuneiform is thought to have developed in the late 3000s), it wasn't until the late 2000s BC that we began seeing alphabetical written language as we know it today.

The spoken word, though notoriously unreliable, was still a primary option. Town criers served from antiquity through the early 20th century* as did broadsheet-style bulletins (such as the Acta Diurna), posted in prominent places,  which created an 'official' version of the news.

Similarly, the oldest written form of long-distance communication, the post, began with the Persian monarchs in the 6th century BC. The first formal postal system as we would recognize it, the Roman cursus publicus, began under Augustus as a means of communicating governmental business throughout the empire. To move information across greater distances, carrier pigeons (first known to be trained in Persia) were, according to the Roman statesman Frontinus, used by Julius Cæsar as messengers in his conquest of Gaul. The Greeks used pigeons during the Olympics, and pigeons were a common means of carrying information across great distances until the development of the telegraph in the 19th century, used by both business and military.

Our journey through the history of communications must now take a side trip to the printing press. Credited to Johannes Gutenberg, the movable-type printing press (c 1450 AD) almost doubled productivity from typographic block-printing, and greatly surpassed the efficiency of handwritten manuscripts. This innovation allowed not only for the quick and wide dissemination of materials, but also for ease in correcting future editions. Many credit the vast spread of the readings of Martin Luther — and the subsequent Protestant Reformation which changed the face of religion in the western world — to the printing press. This innovation also enabled information to spread widely and consistently and thus was the first enabler of mass communication.

This new era of communication increased literacy and empowered those outside the elite, in both church and political spheres. It also changed public expectations. The first publications that we would today recognize as newspapers† appeared in the late 16th and early 17th century, allowing the spread of detailed information to a greater number of people — whether for upright or selfish reasons.

By the mid-19th century the electric telegraph (as opposed to optical telegraphs such as smoke signals or reflected light) was used to transmit messages over long distances by wire. The commercial availability of both the system and service enabled intercontinental (first transatlantic and later to Australia) messages to be sent and read quickly. By 1902 there were cables circling the the world, bringing news, wedding announcements, death notices, and stock quotes to an eager public. Because of how it was used, the telegraph could be considered the first modern social network. The telephone added immediate voice to the benefits of the telegraph, and by the early 20th century, most homes in the western world had or had access to a telephone. The telephone, along with the radio (1895) added to the changing ways in which people interacted with information.

ARPANET, a precursor to the internet developed around 1970, was originally a text-only means of communication limited to those in select locations with special skills. Computers among specific corporations and universities were connected to share resources and information. As the internet became more widely available, Usenet newsgroups, which debuted in 1980 and are similar to modern bulletin boards or Reddit, gained popularity as ways to talk to people with similar interests. A side note: email was first introduced internally at MIT in 1965, and was widely commercially available by the late 1980s.

The World Wide Web (www) debuted in 1991. The arrival of the Mosaic graphical web browser (1993) - a predecessor to browsers like Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox - provided a means for the distribution of a variety of media, like pictures, video, and music.

As the internet has developed over the last twenty years, so have the ways in which we access it. Since the 1990s personal computers - desktop computers, such as those offered at BPL and later laptop computers - were most the common ways to access the internet. More recently, however tablets and cell phones have become popular ways to find information online. With these devices, apps, rather than the web, are becoming increasingly prevalent. E-books, Audio-books, and language learning software are even available through BPL and can be downloaded directly to your tablet, smartphone, or e-reader.

With information now retrievable via glasses and watches, who can imagine the ways in which we read words  might continue to change and grow.


*Although the functional use of the town crier ended by the early 20th century, there remain "offical town criers" in many municipalities, and there are several town crier guilds throughout North America. There are also numerous town crier competitions.

†A newspaper is dated, printed, published at regular intervals, and with a variety of news items.

Allie Graham
Arts, Literature, Sports
Central Library

How to Get Audiobooks for Your Summer Vacation

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 3:57pm

By Wade Kwon

I am a book junkie, and I am never going to rehab!

You can feed your habit easily, as I do, with audiobooks. I listen to them in the car and while walking. You can pick up a few for your summer roadtrips or flights.

The Birmingham Public Library, as well as the entire Public Libraries in Jefferson County
, make it very easy to get your hands and ears on the latest audiobooks.

Let me show you how you can get them, even when your local branch is closed.

The old-fashioned way

I love this method because I can get my favorite audiobooks at my nearest branch while out running errands. You can pick from any collection in the entire Jefferson County system.

1. Search the online catalog. This example shows a search for author Stephen King in three formats: compact discs, downloadable audiobooks and self-playing audiobooks.

2. If you prefer physical media such as CDs and self-playing audiobooks, click Request It. This allows you have the audiobook sent from the lending library to your preferred branch.

3. When notified, pick up your audiobook at your favorite location. The delivery usually takes a few days, longer if the title has a waiting list.

(If you prefer the downloadable version, click on the book title and follow the instructions. Not all books are available to all residents.)

The digital way

Sometimes, waiting for the library to open can seem like an eternity. But I can borrow audiobooks any time I want through the libraries' digital portal,

Even better, these audiobooks expire automatically. No more overdue fines if you forget (as I sometimes do).

1. Visit Sign in by entering your library card number.

2. Search for your favorite titles, authors or subjects, or browse by category. This site features ebooks, too. This example shows a search for author Stephen King in both ebooks and audiobooks.

Pro tip: On the left sidebar, click Filter Search by Audiobook to narrow down the list. And click Available Now to limit it to titles ready to check out.

3. Pick your audiobook and click Borrow, then click Download.

4. The file isn't the audiobook, but a small bookmark file for OverDrive software.Make sure to install the free app on your computer or phone. Open the file using the app to begin downloading the actual audiobook's MP3 files. OverDrive has custom instructions for all major computers and devices.

Pro tip: If you download the MP3 files to your computer, you can then transfer them to your phone, tablet or MP3 player, just as you would your music.

As you travel this summer, get lost in a great audiobook. A few clicks can bring you hours of entertainment and information. It's addictive!
Wade Kwon is a communications consultant in Birmingham. He's usually into three or four books at a time.

Library Assistance Available for Online High School Registration

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 11:41am

Beginning July 1st the Birmingham Board of Education initiated an online registration process for parents of high school students. They offered a training session which was attended by employees of the Birmingham Public Library. Since many people do not have computers or Internet access at home, the library is the perfect place for them to come to begin registering their high school students, though they will still need to contact the school to complete the process. An email address is required to register and library assistants are trained to help people set up a free account.

At Springville Road, patrons who need more than a few minutes of help can make a brief appointment with a library assistant who will help them log in, set up a password, and create an email account if they don’t already have one. This service is for people who do not know how to use a computer or who may be uncomfortable with the online registration process. Library assistants can direct, but they cannot enter data for the patron, so someone who can type must accompany the parent.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a Springville Road library assistant, please call 226-4083.

Kelly Laney
Springville Road Regional Branch Library 

I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie: Join BPL's YPs at Rogue Tavern July 24

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 7:55am
In an effort to provide additional funding for educational programs at the Birmingham Public Library, the library's Young Professionals will host a fundraiser on Thursday, July 24 at Rogue Tavern, 2312 Second Ave. North. It will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. Proceeds will help support library initiatives such as Summer Reading, teen poetry and early childhood computer stations.

What: I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie Fundraiser for the Birmingham Public Library

Why: To raise money to support ongoing programming at the Birmingham Public Library

When: Thursday, July 24 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Rogue Tavern, 2312 Second Ave. North

Price: $10

To buy tickets:

Silent auction: There will be a silent auction with items such as a Bose Bluetooth stereo, a mountain bike, a two-week boot camp training session, art, wine gift baskets, jewelry and more. The Trey Lewis Duo will perform. There will be food and beer specials during the event.  

Book Review: Lily Dale

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 2:26pm
By Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library

Lily Dale
By Christine Wicker

“Serving spirit” in Lily Dale doesn’t mean tending bar. It means forwarding messages from departed loved ones to the living. Lily Dale, New York is different. Only Spiritualists can buy houses here. This creates solidarity but depresses property values. Residents regularly report seeing ghosts strolling “the streets dressed in Victorian era clothes.” Just about anything goes in Lily Dale, at least in the broad confines of New Age thought. Well, almost. Once the leader of the Spiritualist Assembly was shut out of the annual meeting because he’d failed to pay his dues.

Lily Dale is grounded in many good ways. “Neighbors help one another. Old people are looked after…When someone falls sick, everybody knows it and helps. Children can play outside at night. There’s no crime to speak of.” And yet, Spiritualism dissuades its members from getting involved in politics. As a result, it’s much too other-worldly for most. Maybe that’s why the sewer never works well in the town.

Are these people weird? Scary? A friend asked me when I told him I was reading this book. No, dotty’s the best word.

Spiritualism once claimed anything from hundreds of thousands to millions in the U.S. Now there are about 400 very small churches. And if you look at the people who were captivated by it (for a wide range of reasons) William James, Jung, Edison, Houdini, Conan Doyle, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Upton Sinclair—you can see it had a great cultural life. James and Jung in particular are important to Christine Wicker, who keeps coming back to their ideas about how the mind can get into many modes and how the unconscious may be the explanation for the spirits.

Spiritualism was very big, but a series of fraud scandals reduced its numbers significantly. Today, happily, most members freely acknowledge their compromised past.

You read a book like Lily Dale for weird stuff. Wicker doesn’t disappoint. In one case, a spirit who looks like a man from the Homo Erectus period manifests itself. This might answer a question I had as a kid, “Are there cavemen in Heaven?” In another bit, a spirit announces it had been “a priest, an amoeba, a virus” by way of pulling rank on a living human. At a town meeting, one practitioner argues that just because a spirit guide says something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s profound. He admits that his guide often visits him while he’s on the toilet and once offered this advice: “Flush.” Another local goes to the doctor for a mental ailment. The doc asks him if he hears voices. He says,”Doc, where I live, I’m the only one who doesn’t.” You come in for weird and you get funny in the bargain.

While reading, I kept noticing the many similarities between Spiritualism and Shamanism. “Almost all the mediums suffered with chronic illnesses before taking up their gifts,” says the author. One medium writhes on the floor and hisses like a snake. Several locals encounter the spirit of an Andalusian stallion. A medium says no one needs to feel lonely because spirits are all around us. What may seem odd to modern Americans has been going on, more or less, since the Paleolithic Era. Everything old is new again. Wicker seems unaware of this. It would have added much depth to the book if she had been.

Christine Wicker is the former religion reporter for the Dallas Morning News. She keeps her feet firmly planted throughout her stay in the Dale. She allows herself reveries and gets transported several times. But she always comes back to a middle ground of skepticism mixed with openness and appreciation. She finds all kinds of inside dope, such as the fact that many mediums don’t allow their sessions taped because they’re afraid that false predictions may be used against them. Reach for the stars, but tether your camel. Wicker concludes that religion says that “people will be transformed into new beings. They aren’t. And faith sails right on.” This seems largely true. Harkening back to James and Jung, she asks, Can we know where the mind leaves off and the sprits start? No, says Wicker. She ends up in a space between belief and unbelief. I think this is a sensible choice. Many spend their lives there.

After all are said and done, people keep coming to the Dale. Most just want their fortunes told. They aren’t interested in talking to the dead. Lily Dale is highly readable, and very engrossing. Wise, witty and almost always well-informed, I recommend it to all on this side of the dark-or light-veil.

Children's Book Review: The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda (Ages 8-12)

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 1:13pm
By Mollie McFarland
Springville Road Library

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
Tom Angleberger

Dwight is the weirdest kid at in McQuarrie Middle School, but he doesn’t seem to care. Despite his low spot on the middle school food chain he shakes things up when he folds an origami Yoda finger puppet who starts giving out advice. The kids at school are confounded when the paper Yoda says some really insightful stuff while he is perched on Dwight’s finger. The real Dwight would have never thought of such clever solutions to his classmates’ problems. How could a finger puppet say such astute things? Is Dwight actually wise beyond his years or has the puppet somehow gained magical properties? In this title, a group of students work to put together case files to help them get to the truth of the matter as they investigate the mystery of Dwight and his paper Jedi.

This is a great story for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The book is split up between several different characters’ case files, so the book is chopped into short segments with a different voice narrating each event. There is also a generous supply of doodles that are sure to lure in kids who cling to journal and diary books. Though this book is set in a middle school, the reading level is geared more toward the elementary school crowd, which makes sense as fourth and fifth graders tend to be interested in reading about what life is like for older kids. There are instructions for how to fold your own paper Yoda in the back of the book, which is a lot of fun and a good introduction to origami. This is a series, so if you or your kids love the first one, there are already three more titles out there. This is a great summer read for avid and reluctant readers alike.

Check it out!

13th Annual Math & Science Day

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 10:10am

The Annual Math & Science Day conducted by Kwanzaa Year Round, Science for Kids Ministry, and hosted by the Five Points West Library, 4812 Avenue W, Birmingham, AL, will be held Saturday, July 26, 2014, 1:00-4:00 p.m., in the Main Auditorium. The emphasis this year will be on “Slave Science – African Contributions to Science Before Enslavement.”

The topic is based on studies compiled by historian Dr. Joseph E. Holloway in an article titled “African Contributions to American Culture.” His research documents Africans who helped establish rice growing, cattle raising, variolation (early vaccination), musical and architectural styles that were incorporated into American culture. Other specialties include metal working, midwifery, ship building, and navigation.

“Before the enslavement, Africans were closely observed for their various skills,” said Elinor Burks, one of the event’s planners. “Many skills Africans brought were not appreciated until several generations after their arrival in America.”

In addition to the historical emphasis, the math table will challenge students to solve Einstein’s puzzle using movable objects. The creativity table will let kids use their hands to make recycled objects from toilet tissue rolls as an example of protecting nature’s resources. The nutrition table will show young people how to create fun foods included in Japanese packed lunches called Bento, while learning about that ancient culture.

This event is free and designed for students ages 5 to 105. Parents must accompany all participants.

Children's Author and Storyteller Bil Lepp to Visit Selected Branches in August

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 8:35am

Famed storyteller and author Bil Lepp will appear at the Central Library on Wednesday, August 6, 6 p.m., and at the Springville Road Library on Thursday, August 7, 6:30 p.m. The events are free and open to the public. Lepp is the author of several books, both fiction and nonfiction. His latest release and first children's book is The King of Little Things, which won a 2013 Parents' Choice Gold Award.

"Bil Lepp became adept at spinning tales and exaggerating circumstances at an early age. A nationally renowned storyteller and five time champion of the West Virginia Liars’ Contest, Bil’s outrageous, humorous tall-tales and witty stories have earned the appreciation of listeners of all ages and from all walks of life. Though a champion liar, his stories often contain morsels of truth which shed light on universal themes. Audiences all across the country have been delighted by Bil’s mirthful tales and delightful insights into everyday life. Be it a hunting trip, a funeral, or a visit to the dentist, Bil can find the humor in any situation. Lepp explains that while his stories may not be completely true, they are always honest."

Learn more about Lepp at

Olivia E. Alison is the Birmingham Public Library’s New Director of Development

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 9:44am

Olivia E. Alison, a former museum educator and curator, has been hired to lead fundraising efforts at the Birmingham Public Library. As the library’s new director of development, she will plan and oversee all development and fundraising activities for the library, the Birmingham Public Library Foundation, and the Friends of the Birmingham Public Library. For the past seven years, she served as director of development at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

“I am delighted to be working with the Birmingham Public Library, which provides such invaluable services to our community and is a resource for education and enjoyment for all,’’ says Alison.

Alison is a native of Selma, Alabama. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware. She’s also attended the Getty Institute of Museum Management in Berkeley, California; the Williamsburg Development Institute in Williamsburg, Virginia, and the Institute for Planned Giving in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Alison has worked at the Smithsonian Institution, the National Gallery of Art, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Winterthur Museum and Gardens in Wilmington, Delaware, and the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia. During her museum career, she sought and gained support for educational projects, exhibitions, and renovations. She became a development professional when the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation of Williamsburg, Virginia, asked her to raise funds for its museums and libraries. She has also managed development operations and campaigns at Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia, at Old Salem Museums & Gardens in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

She is an architecture buff, an avid reader, a seasoned traveler, and a master gardener.

Fiction for the Fourth

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 3:45pm
Most people have big plans for the Fourth of July.  Some will cook out or go eat barbecue at a restaurant.  Baseball fans may head to Regions Field to watch the Birmingham Barons take on the Tennessee Smokies.  Many will attend Thunder on the Mountain or safely shoot off fireworks in approved locations under adult supervision.  Another option is to reflect on the history of Independence Day.  Consider taking a journey into the past through these historical novels about the American Revolution.  Descriptions are from the publisher.
The Fort by Bernard Cornwell

While the major fighting of the war moves to the south in the summer of 1779, a British force of fewer than a thousand Scottish infantry sails to the desolate and fog-bound coast of New England.  In response, Massachusetts sends a fleet of more than forty vessels and some one thousand infantrymen to "captivate, kill or destroy" the foreign invaders.  But ineptitude and irresolution lead to a mortifying defeat--and have stunning repercussions for two men on opposite sides: an untested eighteen-year-old Scottish lieutenant named John Moore and a Boston silversmith and patriot named Paul Revere.

The Glorious Cause by Jeff Shaara

It was never a war in which the outcome was obvious. Despite their spirit and stamina, the colonists were outmanned and outfought by the brazen British army. General George Washington found his troops trounced in the battles of Brooklyn and Manhattan and retreated toward Pennsylvania. With the future of the colonies at its lowest ebb, Washington made his most fateful decision: to cross the Delaware River and attack the enemy. The stunning victory at Trenton began a saga of victory and defeat that concluded with the British surrender at Yorktown, a moment that changed the history of the world.

Redcoat by Bernard Cornwell

It is autumn 1777, and the cradle of liberty, Philadelphia, has fallen to the British. Yet the true battle has only just begun.  On both sides, loyalties are tested and families torn asunder. The young Redcoat Sam Gilpin has seen his brother die. Now he must choose between duty to a distant king and the call of his own conscience. And for the men and women of the prosperous Becket family, the Revolution brings bitter conflict between those loyal to the crown and those with dreams of liberty. Soon, across the fields of ice and blood in a place called Valley Forge, history will be rewritten, changing the lives and fortunes of these men and women forever.

Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara

In 1770, England’s peacekeeping mission ignites into the Boston Massacre. The senseless killing of civilians leads to a tumultuous trial in which lawyer John Adams must defend the very enemy who has assaulted and abused the laws he holds sacred.  The taut courtroom drama soon broadens into a stunning epic of war as King George III leads a reckless and corrupt government in London toward the escalating abuse of his colonies. Outraged by the increasing loss of their liberties, an extraordinary gathering of America’s most inspiring characters confronts the British presence with the ideals that will change history.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 11:49am
President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (AP Photo)
On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law what was the most comprehensive civil rights bill up to that time. The bill, Public Law 88-352, is known commonly as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It mandated that persons would not be discriminated against based on color, race, national origin, religion, or sex.

The legislation was first proposed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, but political wrangling delayed its passage for some time. After House approval in February, voting in the Senate was held back by a 75-day filibuster led by conservatives who vehemently opposed the law (primarily Southern Democrats). It finally passed the Senate by a vote of 73 to 27 on June 19 and was approved in its final form on July 2.

The Civil Rights Act contains eleven titles. Three more well-known of them are as follows, in brief:

Title II, Injunctive Relief Against Discrimination in Places of Public Accommodation – Title II gives equal access to public facilities, such as lodgings, restaurants, theaters, stadiums, lunch counters, and gas stations.

Title IV, Desegregation of Public Education – “The assignment of students to public schools and within such schools without regard to their race, color, religion, or national origin, but ‘desegregation’ shall not mean the assignment of students to public schools in order to overcome racial imbalance. “

Title VII, Equal Employment Opportunity – Employers cannot fail or refuse to hire or fire persons or place limits on them that would deny them opportunities for employment based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Also, employment agencies cannot refuse to refer persons for employment. This is the only title in which “sex” is used as a qualifier. It also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC is required to submit a report to the President each year detailing its activities investigating complaints on “unlawful employment practices.”
Other titles deal with creation of the Civil Rights Commission (Title V) and Non-Discrimination in Federally Assisted Programs (Title VI). The more comprehensive Voting Rights Act would become law the next year, on August 6, 1965.

In a radio and television address to the nation on July 2 before signing the bill, President Johnson explained the purpose of the law, which was that after years of inequality for black Americans, The Civil Rights Act would establish equal rights for all Americans:

“It does not restrict the freedom of any American…It does not give special treatment to any citizen…Its purpose is not to punish. Its purpose is not to divide, but to end divisions-- divisions which have all lasted too long…Its purpose is to promote a more abiding commitment to freedom, a more constant pursuit of justice, and a deeper respect for human dignity.”

Suggested Websites
Government Printing Office: - This is a digitized version of the original document.

Library of Congress: – Enter “Civil Rights Act 1964” to search the site.

Transcript of Civil Rights Act (1964): is located within the “100 Milestone
Documents” link.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom exhibition opens in Fall 2014 at the Library
of Congress.

Michelle Andrews
Government Documents Department
Central Library

Birmingham Public Library Closed July 4

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 8:43am
All Birmingham Public Library locations will be closed Friday, July 4. The Birmingham Public Library wishes everyone a safe and fun Independence Day.

Bards & Brews Travels to North Birmingham Library for a Poetry SLAM, July 11

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 7:58am
A performer at the May B&B event at Botanical Gardens.
Bards & Brews Facebook page
The Birmingham Public Library presents the Bards and Brews Summer Poetry Slam on Friday, July 11, at the North Birmingham Regional Library.. The July edition of the monthly poetry performance and beer tasting event will feature beer sampling courtesy of Good People Brewing Company with live music beginning at 6:30 p.m., and poetry performances starting at 7 p.m. Prizes awarded are $200 for first place and $100 for second place; $5 gets you in the competition.

Brian “Voice Porter” Hawkins, the emcee for the evening, is a full-time performance artist and poetry slam events director; he has hosted On Stage at the Carver at the Carver Theater, the longest running poetry open mic in Birmingham (almost 10 years running).

The event is free and open to the public. Attendees must be 18 years or older to attend, and 21 years or older to be served. IDs will be checked.

The August 1 Bards and Brews Open Mic will take place at the Avondale Regional Library.

For more information, call 205-226-3670 or email

Bards & Brews, which is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, is typically held on the first Friday of the month at various locations around Birmingham. Visit the Bards & Brews Facebook page for more information.

Movie Review: Stranger Than Paradise

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 1:53pm

Stranger Than Paradise
Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Stranger Than Paradise ignited the 1984 New York Film Festival. No one had seen anything quite like it. Made with leftover film stock, it was bottom-low budget, black and white, deadpan beyond all reckoning, and side-splitting. Well, side-splitting for some. The first time I saw it was like visiting a foreign country, even though it was shot in the United States. NYC, Cleveland and Florida never looked so otherworldly. The two main characters, Willie and Eddie, had so immersed themselves in retro I thought for a few minutes this was a period movie set in the fifties. Willie, a Hungarian who’s lived in New York for years, hangs out with friend Eddie. Cousin Eva, over Willie’s protestations, comes to stay with him. Willie grudgingly introduces her to America. Eddie visits but Willie protects Eve from him and quarantines her from New York. Eva tries to civilize Willie, to no avail. She has a few molecules more ambition than either Willie or Eddie. She goes to her Aunt Lottie in Cleveland (a hilarious turn by Cecillia Stark). The two men visit her, then split with her for Florida. They drift, Willie and Eddie gamble, nothing gets resolved. They piddle. They do stuff, they wander aimlessly, and fecklessness has never been more entertaining.

The deadpan dialogue is a treat. It’s deadpan as a way of living, deadpan as protection from reality, deadpan because who cares, deadpan as transcendence. Here is a typical scene:

Willie: You’re sure you don’t want a TV dinner?
Eva: Yes. I’m not hungry. Why is it called TV dinner?
Willie: Um… You’re supposed to eat it while you watch TV. Television.
Eva: I know what a TV is. Where does that meat come from?
Willie: What do you mean?
Eva: What does that meat come from?
Willie: I guess it comes from a cow.
Eva: From a cow? It doesn’t even look like meat.
Willie: Eva, stop bugging me, will you? You know, this is the way we eat in America. I got my potatoes. I got my vegetables. I got my dessert, and I don’t even have to wash the dishes.

Of course, these are words on the page. In the movie it’s on the stage, and brilliant done. But if you find this even a bit funny, you’ll probably find the film hilarious, maybe a revelation. I’ve seen it at least eight times, and I still laugh at it. Many scenes get better with age. Like it? Here’s a bit more:

Eddie: You know, last year before I met your cousin, I never knew you were from Hungary or Budapest or any of those places.
Willie: So what?
Eddie: I thought you were an American.
Willie: Hey, I’m as American as you are.
{Silence. They begin driving into Cleveland.]
Eddie: Does Cleveland look a little like, uh, Budapest?
Willie: Eddie, shut up.

I’ve either convinced you by now or not. There probably aren’t any fence-sitters. Take a leap of faith, if you need to, and give it a shot. The skewed life awaits.

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library

Calling All Children and Teens! Looking for a Good Book to Read This Summer?

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 8:20am
Summer is a time children and teens can choose to read whatever they like. A bonus is the reading they do in the summer helps them retain what they have learned over the past school year. The Children and Teen Choice Awards sponsored by the Children's Book Council  are chosen by children and teens themselves. They were announced March 14 in New York.

There was a controversy this year when Rush Limbaugh’s Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans made the list for Author of the Year and won. The award is for popularity. Limbaugh was able to promote the purchase of and voting for his book on his show. Your child will have to read it for himself or herself to decide if it is truly a winner.

Book of the Year, kindergarten through second gradeWinner: The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Finalists:Alphabet Trucks by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Ryan O'RourkeChamelia and the New Kid in Class by Ethan LongMustache Baby by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Joy AngBear and Bee by Sergio Ruzzier

Book of the Year, third through fourth gradeWinner: Bugs in My Hair! by David Shannon
Finalists:Bean Dog and Nugget: The Ball by Charise Mericle HarperCougar: A Cat With Many Names by Stephen PersonThe Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Bagram IbatoullinePancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant's Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh

Book of the Year, fifth through sixth gradeWinner: Myths Busted! : Just When You Thought You Knew What You Knew -- by Emily Krieger, illustrated by Tom Nick Cocotos
Finalists:Hokey Pokey by Jerry SpinelliPrince Puggly of Spud by Robert Paul WestonLawless: Book 1 by Jeffrey SalaneBattling Boy by Paul Pope

Book of the Year, teensWinner: Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Finalists:Clockwork Princess by Cassandra ClareEleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellSmoke by Ellen HopkinsThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Illustrator of the YearWinner: Grace Lee, Sofia the First: The FloatingPalace
Finalists:Victoria Kann, EmeraldaliciousAnna Dewdney, Llama Llama and the Bully GoatJames Dean, Pete the Cat: The Wheels on the BusOliver Jeffers, The Day the Crayons Quit

Author of the YearWinner: Rush Limbaugh, Rush Revere and the BravePilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans
Finalists:Veronica Roth, AllegiantRachel Renee Russell, Dork Diaries 6: Tales From ANot-So-Happy HeartbreakerRick Riordan, The House of HadesJeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck

NFL's Jerricho Cotchery to Visit 5 Points West Library before Teen Tailgate Party

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 8:17am

Jerricho Cotchery will visit Five Points West Library at 9:30 am on Friday, June 26th, the morning before BPL's Teen Tailgate Party

All those who “Score Big” are invited to a FREE Teen Tailgate Party at Birmingham Public Library on June 27, 2014. The celebration will take place on the first floor of the Central Library, located at 2100 Park Place, from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. There will be music, dancing, photo-ops with Jerricho, food, and lots of fun. Tickets are required and are available at all BPL locations.

Here's how to become an active participants in the “Score Big” component of the “Spark a Reaction” summer reading program. Seven points are necessary to qualify. Youth may score points by registering for the program (1 point), reading an entire magazine (3 points), and reading an entire book (6 points). “Score Big” registration forms are available at all Birmingham Public Library locations.

The Birmingham Public Library is excited to host “Score Big”with the Cotchery Foundation. Jerricho Cotchery, one of Birmingham’s native sons, has teamed up with the Library to host yet another amazing series of events for the 2014 Teen Summer Reading Program, “Spark a Reaction.”

Born in 1982, Cotchery grew up to be an incredible athlete. He excelled at Phillips High School in Birmingham and attended North Carolina State University. The New York Jets drafted him in 2004, the Pittsburgh Steelers added him to their roster in 2010, and this year he will join the Carolina Panthers. For his career, he has compiled 437 receptions for 5,558 yards. In layman’s terms, he’s “the man” and the library is lucky to partner with him.

Named for the famous Biblical city, Jerricho is deeply committed to his faith and to community outreach. He was moved to start the Cotchery Foundation in January 2007 as a result of his own personal memories and experiences growing up. He and his foundation have set out to “show that anyone can do extraordinary things if they have the desire and passion.” Cotchery has made it his mission to show that any individual can make a significant difference in the lives of others.

Friends Bookstore to Reopen June 23 with a $10 Bag Sale!

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 10:06am
On Monday, June 23, 2014, the Friends Bookstore will re-open for regular hours: Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

As a reward for your patience, we are offering the $10/ bag sale for ONE WEEK ONLY (thru Sat, Jun 23).

The bookstore will be closed on Sundays until after Labor Day, and will be closed July 4-6 for the Independence Day holiday.

Come in and have an ice coffee or tea while you browse the shelves. At this time the store is overstocked and you may take advantage of tremendous savings during our $10 bag sale.

Children's Summer Reading Programs Scheduled for June and July

Tue, 06/24/2014 - 2:34pm

For a list of all Summer Reading programs, visit the Library Events Calendar.

Do You Hear What I Hear? - Join Alabama 4-H and their cast of kid-friendly critters as they present the sounds animals make and why. We say Fizz, Boom, Read…they say Chirp, Squeak, Ribbit!

North Birmingham – June 25 – 10:30 a.m.
Woodlawn – June 26 – 10 a.m.
Eastwood – June 27 – 10:45 a.m.
Wylam – July 1 – 10 a.m.
Pratt City – July 8 – 10 a.m.
Ensley – July 9 – 1 p.m.
Central – July 15 – 10:30 a.m.

The Fizz, Boom, Zap, Wow Super Science Show - Kids will be mesmerized with this exciting and educational exploration of science. They will learn about atoms, molecules, and matter. The show is full of experiments to impress and everyone is guaranteed a hair-raising good time. This program is truly booming with explosions, crazy chemistry, and volts and jolts. It will be a blast!

Ensley – June 25 – 1 p.m.
West End – June 26 – 11 a.m.
Inglenook – June 27 – 9:30 a.m.
Powderly – June 30 – 10 a.m.
Titusville – July 1 – 10:30 a.m.
Central – July 8 – 10:30 a.m.
North Birmingham – July 9 – 10:30 a.m.
Pratt City – July 10 – 10 a.m.
Springville Road – July 16 – 10 a.m.

Radical Reactions – Fizz, Bang…Wow! 
Young scientists will experience fizzing foam, colorful concoctions, and many more science-filled surprises from the McWane Science Center.

Springville Road – June 25 – 10 a.m.
Smithfield – July 9 – 10 a.m.
East Lake – July 10 – 10 a.m.
Powderly – July 14 – 10 a.m.
Five Points West – July 15 – 10 a.m.
East Ensley – July 22 – 1 p.m.
Ensley – July 23 – 1 p.m.
Inglenook – July 25 – 9:30 a.m.

The Magic of Larry Moore – First you see it, now you don’t. Join Larry Moore for a program of senseless magic where the impossible becomes possible and the unbelievable—it will blow your mind!

Pratt City – June 26 – 10 a.m.
Smithfield – July 2 – 10 a.m.
Inglenook – July 14 – 1 p.m.
North Avondale – July 15 – 1 p.m.
East Lake - July 15 – 10 a.m.
Ensley – July 16 – 1 p.m.
Southside – July 18 – 9:30 a.m.

May the Force Be With You – Did you know that centrifugal force is a part of hula hooping? Be a member of the Centrifugal Force Club (CFC) as you listen to some tunes and learn how to move and groove with your hoop. The library is a circle of fun when the hoops start turning.

Avondale – June 25 – 2 p.m.
Inglenook – June 26 – 10 a.m.

Fizz, Boom, Read with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute – Heritage Alive! is a series of 45 minute programs designed by the (BCRI) to engage young learners with interactive activities that include reading, creative dramatics, music, along with arts and crafts. This program’s main aim is to help young students build strong character traits.

Pratt City – July 1 – 10 a.m.
Wylam – July 8 – 10 a.m.
East Ensley – July 15 – 10 a.m.

Book Review: The Infinities

Tue, 06/24/2014 - 8:00am
The Infinities
John Banville

“I find the pagan world of the Greeks highly appealing, and wish we could regain their state of innocence and sophistication. Bring back the old gods, I say.” John Banville in the Review.

In his latest novel, The Infinities, John Banville, who won the Booker Prize for his previous novel The Sea, does indeed conjure up the Greek Gods in a British country home, Edwardian era, sort of. Adam Godley (note the name), the family patriarch is dying. It’s his death day, and his family has come round, as have the Gods. Hermes, we soon learn, is our actually omniscient narrator. He, Zeus and Pan, as Gods do, have their way, lustily, with the gathered humans, but with fine British manners. They wreak havoc, but, are oh so respectful. They’re never noticeably intrusive.

Authors conjure up gods and elves and vampires and Martians as a way to find a foothold outside the human race, to view humanity through the eyes of other beings. For example, we have Hermes' thoughts (in Banville’s elegant prose) as he, in disguise, makes moves on the housekeeper:

“I had put on the look—earnest, awkward, annoyed—that Duffy seems always to adopt in Miss Blount’s presence. The annoyance springs from that resentment all mortal men feel towards those to whom they are attracted. I imagine even the brow of Peleus’s son Achilles must have on occasion have darkened when lover-boy Patroclus came clanking into his tent for the umpteenth time.”

The Infinities is an odd book, intermingling the narratives and compelling interests of the Gods and the Godley family in an offhand way, but in just as offhand a way, readers come to realize they are reading science fiction, as well. The Infinities, it seems, takes place in an alternate universe, with slightly altered physical laws and history, as old Adam Godley knows, dreaming away on his deathbed.

We are long accustomed to omniscient narrators. In fact it is refreshing to have a narrator who is frankly so—and has some discreet lusty fun along the way. And the novel unfolds over a day. But The Infinities, is, at heart, a vaguely Edwardian (post-car, pre-radio), British country house novel, familiar, but refreshed, by Banville’s playfulness and arch wit.

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library