Picture books!

Occasionally, I have to meet new people. Even more occasionally (thank goodness), I will meet a new person who, upon learning that I work at a library, will say some version of, “I like books – if they have pictures in them!” They will then look at me expectantly with an expression of inane smugness, waiting for a guffaw at their clever joke.

They don’t get the guffaw.

I actually do like books with pictures in them. One of the perks of working at a library is getting to see all the new books as they arrive, and new children’s books are the most exciting.

One of my favorite new books that came to us recently is I Am NOT A Chair! by Ross Burach. The story is about a giraffe named Giraffe who, on his first day in the jungle, keeps being mistaken by the other animals for a chair! Giraffe is not, in fact, a chair, but you’ll have to read the book yourself to see if he ever finds a voice to assert his place in the world.

Giraffe is not a chair
Yeah, right.

Now, if you’re a little over-analytic like I am, you might suppose that the other animals don’t recognize Giraffe for the giraffe that he is because the jungle is not his natural habitat. Luckily a quick online catalog search will turn up plenty of non-fiction books about giraffes to satisfy your need to be right. Libraries to the rescue!

Giraffe is a book
Oh my gosh. Look at that face.

Moving on, we have Escargot by Dashka Slater, a story about an arrogant a charming French snail on a mission to eat the salad at the end of the book, provided the salad meets Escargot’s distinguished culinary expectations. The plot moves along at a snail’s pace and is punctuated by solicitations for compliments from the self-obsessed self-confident title gastropod, but the character development and expressive illustrations will make it worth your time to read. I won’t entirely spoil the ending for you, but suffice it to say that Escargot’s gastronomic horizons are broadened.

Escargot salad
Hold the salt, please!

If Escargot whets your appetite, follow it up with one of the plentiful picture-laden cookbooks gracing our non-fiction shelves. Of particular interest might be Julia Childs’ Mastering the Art of French Cooking Patricia Wells’ Salad As A Meal, which has just enough salad recipes to make you feel healthy while flipping through its pages. (Feel free to skip straight to the bread chapter, though, and don’t forget about the perennially hungry public servants at your friendly local library when you’re handing out free samples!)

And here, because a book of poetry is really just the same as a book with pictures, I will end with a poem.

“It Was Early” by Mary Oliver

It was early,
which has always been my hour
to begin looking
at the world

and of course,
even in the darkness,
to begin
listening into it,

under the pines
where the owl lives
and sometimes calls out

as I walk by,
as he did
on this morning.
So many gifts!

What do they mean?
In the marshes
where the pink light
was just arriving

the mink
with his bristle tail
was stalking
the soft-eared mice,

and in the pines
the cones were heavy,
each one
ordained to open.

Sometimes I need
only to stand
wherever I am
to be blessed.

Little mink, let me watch you.
Little mice, run and run.
Dear pine cone, let me hold you
as you open.

The Truth is Out There: 13 Documentary Films

We watch movies for many reasons.  To laugh and to cry, to be amazed and to see things blow up. Mainly we watch them to be entertained. But some films can do more than just entertain us. They can also educate us, and show us the world in new ways.

Documentary films have been around ever since the movie industry started.  The process has been refined throughout the decades, and today some documentaries can see widespread theatrical release.

Documentaries differ from other nonfiction films, such as travelogues for instance, in that they inject some type of drama or opinion into them.  And that is something important to remember.  A documentary filmmaker is telling a story, even though the story is true, and they bring their own opinions and biases into the equation.  It is good practice to do some research after (or perhaps even beforehand)  to make sure you get the full story and relevant facts. To help with that I will not only link you to these docs in the library catalog, but also to any companion books and websites. Sometimes there will be a follow up or update available.


These lucky 13 documentaries come to you courtesy not just of me (and my wife) but also my wonderful coworkers here at the Macon County Public Library, Kristina and Erin.  They recommended many of these, and it is through their efforts that many of these films have been shown at the library.

Bag It (2010) DVD / Official movie website

“Paper or plastic” is not something we hear so much any more. These days it is just plastic. But should it be? That is what Jeb Berrier, the subject of this film, sets out to discover by deciding to stop using plastic grocery bags.  This decision is more profound than he thought it would be.

Coincidentally, I recently read a piece about plastic bags and what we know, and perhaps more importantly what we don’t know, about their effect on the environment.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008) DVD / Official movie website

In November of 2001 Andrew Bagby was murdered. His girlfriend was the chief suspect, but before she could be arrested she fled to Canada. While awaiting extradition it was revealed that she was pregnant with Bagby’s son. Bagby’s longtime friend, filmmaker Kurt Kuenne, decided to interview on film all of the friends and family members he could, so that this child (Zachary) would have something of his father while he grew up.

But Zachary never did grow up, as he was killed by his mother in a homicide/suicide. The film then became a documentary of the tragedy and a look at the (successful) efforts of Zachary’s grandparents to change the Canadian legal system so that something like this could not happen again. A powerful and moving story.

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010) DVD / Official movie website / A book of Banksy art

Street artist Banksy is famously famous now. In this film he tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a man obsessed with documenting his life. When Guetta meets up with his cousin, a street artist known as Invader, he turns he attention to this particular form of art, and begins doing some himself. The movie also features Shepard Fairey, who is well known for his iconic Barack Obama piece, amongst other things.

What is fascinating about this film is that in the end you are not quite sure how much is real and how much is a put on. Plus some people will watch this and see art within art within art, and others won’t think any of it is art at all. Like all great documentaries do, this movie inspires conversation. And no, you do not get to see Banksy’s face in it.

A Banksy piece in New Orleans.
A Banksy piece in New Orleans.

Good Hair (2009) DVD

Chris Rock talks about hair. While that is probably a good enough description to get you interested, I will expand on it. What he does here is look at the world of African-American hairstyles, primarily those of women. And he does so through a variety of interviews (including an appearance by Maya Angelou). A great example of how a seemingly simple topic can be made into something more.

Grey Gardens (1975/2006) DVD / Official movie website

Let’s roll it back old school here. In the early 1970s a story surfaced about the two Edith Beale’s, aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (!), who were living in a run down old mansion.  “Run down” is probably too gentle a phrase here.  The place was overrun by fleas and raccoons and lacked most basic amenities. In the film we see the efforts made to help the mother and daughter renovate and save their residence. Quite a different look at what one might call “American aristocracy”.

The filmmakers did a follow up in 2006, The Beales of Grey Gardens, and that one is also on DVD. It is also the first documentary ever to be made into a Broadway musical, and it was also adapted into a 2009 TV movie for HBO.

The estate circa 2009
The estate circa 2009

A Man Named Pearl (2006) DVD

Plants can also be art, as shown in this film about North Carolina’s own Pearl Fryar. Son of a sharecropper, Fryar took a liking to topiary, and taught himself how to do it. And by “taught himself” I mean he became an amazing artist at it. His garden is in Bishopville, South Carolina, and is free to visit. that being said, art like this deserves support, so if you do visit please leave a donation.

Man On Wire (2008) DVDTo Reach the Clouds (Petit’s autobiography)

In 1974 Philippe Petit did something a little out of the ordinary. He walked on a high-wire between the Twin Towers in New York City. And he did it unauthorized, leading to his arrest. The doc has all the details, including a reenactment and interviews with some of the people involved.

The story inspired a very well received children’s book in 2003, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, by Mordicai Gerstein, and is the basis for a new feature film, The Walk, out this fall, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and directed by Robert Zemeckis.

The Rape of Europa (2006) DVD / Book / Official movie website

World War II took a toll on many things, and one of those things was art. For years the Nazis collected and looted art from across Europe. This movie documents not just that but also the efforts of Allied forces to counter this, and looks at the actions, both good and bad, of art dealers all over the world. The recent feature film The Monuments Men loosely tells the same story.

Restrepo (2010) DVD

Sticking with the war theme, Restrepo is a film about the Afghanistan War, as documented by two journalists (Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington) who were embedded with a platoon of the US Army. The title comes from the name of a combat medic in the platoon who is killed in action. This is not a light and happy film, as it shows what these soldiers went through over the course of a year fighting in one of the deadliest areas of that country. It is a meaningful film.

Searching for Sugar Man (2012) DVD / Official movie website

Sixto Rodriguez was a succesful American musician. Not familiar with his music? Maybe that is because his success came chiefly in South Africa. Two fans from Cape Town decided to find out what had happened to Rodriguez, whom they knew little about except his music, and the result is this wonderful film.

Minor spoiler alert here: they do find Rodriguez, who was not dead as was rumored. After the documentary was released, the singer found a little more fame (and sales) both in the US and abroad.

The man himself, performing in 2014.
The man himself, performing in 2014.

Shakespeare Behind Bars (2005) DVD / Official movie website

Would you mind if I broke protocol and got up on my soapbox, just for a moment? I feel that our penal system is flawed, notably in that prisoners are dehumanized. Inmates are not adequately prepared to rejoin society, and that along with social stigma contributes to our high recidivism rates.

So I was already predisposed to like this film, and it did not disappoint. The Shakespeare Behind Bars program has been running for 20 years now, and it does just what the title says: prisoners put on an annual Shakespearean play for family members and fellow inmates. The film documents one such performance.

It is a little startling realizing that some of the participants have done horrific crimes, and some are not going to see the outside of prison again. But the core theme, and one that the SBB group stands behind, is of the innate goodness in humanity. Even though that is hard to see at times. The website has updates on the performers featured in the movie.

Trouble the Water (2008) DVD / Official movie website

Having spent much of my life in Florida, I am conversant with hurricanes. But Katrina was something different, which is what this film shows us. A mix of home video (including scenes from people trapped in an attic as flood waters rise), news footage, and more it is a compelling look at what the victims of the storm went through.

We get to see not only the weather itself but the lasting effects afterwards on people and places that maybe weren’t in the best shape before Mother Nature got nasty. It also features a killer soundtrack.

Waste Land (2010) DVD / Official movie website

Now if you are like me, whenever you make a trip to the dump or the recycling center and someone has left something of theirs out for the taking, you at least glance at it. I don’t think I have ever taken any of that stuff home, but it is like wired in us to at least take a quick look at it. So it is not surprising to know that some people do more than look. But in this film we are not seeing people who scavenge for their survival or scour for recyclables. We see people who do it for…art?

The largest land fill in the world is in Brazil, near Rio de Janeiro, and this is where our story takes us. A group of catadores there have turned some of what they find into art. Prized and auctionable art. It is quite a film, but don’t just take my word for it. Just look at this list of awards it received.

I don't think this is the right wasteland...
I don’t think this is the right wasteland…

Hopefully you will find some documentaries in this list that will teach, entertain, and maybe even inspire you. I have to go now. We have a new documentary on our DVR at home that needs watching. And please share your thoughts on these and recommend any good docs you know of in the comments below.

You can find a list of all the titles mentioned in the library catalog here:


Culture Club

By Amy

Despite how badly I want to make all the jokes, you won’t find any Boy George here! And I’m not just saying that to make you cry!

Italy Display

The Culture Club is a new program at Macon County Public Library. Parents of the some of the littlest library patrons mentioned that it would be great to have a group where kids could learn about the world and all the people in it. Culture Club was started at Macon County Public Library because YOU requested it!

Culture Club’s first destination was Italy: land of pizza and leaning
towers right? Eh… maybe just a little, but there’s so much more! Culture Club discussed not only Italy’s rich culinary history, but also delved into Italian art (children were able to see italian pottery and Murano glass in person!), architecture, language, history, and even economics.

Reading about Italy
Can’t catch a plane to Italy? Travel via book!

The group took a virtual tour of Pisa, Venice, Rome, and Pompeii.
Participants were treated to gelato, spaghetti, italian cookies, and more! Along with the presentation and good food, there were also several book recommendations for children wanting to do more exploring on their own and a crafts project where children constructed their own Leaning Tower of Pisa!

The Culture Club’s next meeting will be December 11 at 1pm. Next stop? France! Every month, the children will nominate a new place they’d like to visit and vote on their next destination.

Italian Cookie
Yummy Italian treats!
Crafting Italy
Children had great fun creating their own version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa (Torre pendente di Pisa)

Culture Club will meet every 2nd Wednesday of the month at 1pm in the children’s program room at Macon County Public Library. Everyone is encouraged to share things they have relating to the country of the month, so bring your favorite snacks, souvenirs, pictures, etc. You can call MCPL Youth Services at 828-524-3600 for more information. À bientôt, j’espère!

Strange on Our Shelves

Chris:  Bad Monkeys, by Matt Ruff, is unquestionably a weird book.  It is shaped weird, tall and narrow, with oddly rounded pages.  The cover is bright yellow and has an image of a monkey on the front that is reminiscent of an ink blot.  But if we were only concerned with the physical properties of it we wouldn’t call it weird.  We would refer to it as “striking” or “different”.  No, the cover merely reflects what is within.

Bad MonkeyAnd this novel is weird.  It tells the story of a young woman named Jane Charlotte who is receiving a psychiatric examination after having been arrested for murder.  She tells a tale of having been recruited to work for a secret organization, the titular Bad Monkeys, who eliminate persons who commit terrible crimes and avoid normal prosecution.  As her story goes on you can never quite get a handle on the truth.  The book does a wonderful job of putting forth implausible scenarios and having you, the reader, come to think of them as plausible.  Some stories have a twist ending.  This book has a twist on about every page.  Okay, that might be stretching it a bit, but good luck trying to keep up with it all.  This book will entertain you but don’t expect to understand it.

Christina:  Severance by Robert Butler is a book of short stories, but the weird factor here is that it is told from the perspective of recently severed heads. After Butler found out that a human head is believed to continue in a state of consciousness for one and a half minutes after decapitation, and that “in a heightened state of emotion, we speak at the rate of 160 words per minute,” he wrote these short pieces of fiction using 240 words. Some of these narratives from the recently decapitated are actual historical figures (John the Baptist, Anne Boylen), some are fictional or mythological (Medusa, the Lady of the Lake), and some not even human (a chicken). Also, since the subjects vary, so does the tone – a few of these stories are humorous, most heartbreaking, but all are intriguing.

Chris:  Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto, is a Japanese novel, first published in 1988 and translated to English in 1993.  What puts this book into this blog is a little hard to define.  Yes, naming a novel “Kitchen” and not putting recipes in it might seem odd, and Banana is hardly a typical Japanese name.  The book itself is short, really only a novella, and deals with a young woman coming to terms with the death of her grandmother.  That is pretty much the entirety of the plot.  So we end up with a short, plot-light book, dealing with a character that is most likely very different from ourselves.  And the weird thing is that in the end you do relate with the protagonist.  You understand her pain, her longing, her melancholy and her hope.  We used a quote from this book in the literary fortune cookies we had at our wedding reception:  “Truly happy memories always live on, shining. Over time, one by one, they come back to life.”  Somebody here at the library has taped that quote up onto the computer I happen to be typing this at.  And I think it epitomizes the big impact such a small story can have.  Which is kind of weird.

Christina:  Light Boxes by Shane Jones is a sort of surreal fairytale that is definitely weird. It’s about a town that’s terrorized by February, who steals their children, banishes flight of any kind,  and creates a nightmarish constant winter season.LB 1 It’s told from multiple points of view, and there’s a definite poetic aspect to it, even though the story gets confusing.light-boxes-2 You could almost say it’s not meant to be taken literally. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re looking for something different, it’s worth a look.

Chris:  Griffin and Sabine, by Nick Bantock.  Vocabulary test time: do you know what an epistolary novel is?  If not don’t feel bad.  I had to look it up as well.  (And for those of you who didn’t have to look it up, stop looking so smug.  We all have failings.  Come over to my house some time for a game of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit and you will experience failure.  Man, this is a weird blog.)  An epistolary novel is told through a series of documents.  In this case postcards and letters that Griffin and Sabine send each other.  They are truly star-crossed lovers, soul mates who never meet in person and only communicate through correspondence.  That in itself is odd enough, but the true weirdness comes from the way that you read these postcards and letters:  there are envelopes affixed to the pages of the books, and within them are the documents which you pull out to read.  It lends a nice visual and artistic angle to the book, more so than the standard illustrated novel.  A technique that seems more suited for children’s books takes on a new aspect when used for this adult story.  I do not believe you will find any other book quite like Griffin and Sabine in our fiction department.  Except for the many sequels.

Christina:  As for A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, the story itself isn’t weird at all; it’s actually a memoir of Eggers having to raise his younger brother after both their parents died of cancer. The way Eggers tells it, though, is very odd. It’s full of odd asides with the book becoming self-aware, noting the “bells and whistles” of the storytelling tactics. The intro even has a drawing of a stapler for no reason whatsoever:HBWSG

Chris:  The Princess Bride, by William Goldman.  Or, as the book cover says:  The Princess Bride, S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, The ‘good parts’ version, Abridged by William Goldman.  Phew.  For weirdness suffice it to say that there was no earlier book and no S. Morgenstern.  But you have to have more than a funky title to make it into this blog.  Goldman, who also wrote the screenplays for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men, spends the first part of the book talking about, well, writing the book and dealing with Hollywood types.  When he does move into the story itself, which is a top notch fantasy filled with rousing adventure, true love, and R.O.U.S.’s, he adds commentary that largely deals with the differences between this version and the original.  Although of course there was no original.  Which is weird.  What is original is the book, which is highly recommended.  The movie is pretty good as well.

Christina:  House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski takes the cake, though. It is the King of Weird Books, and odd storytelling. HoL is primarily about a strange house that seems to be changing and preying upon the people inside it, but it’s also about the relationship between Will Navidson and his long time partner, Karen Green. The book also focuses on Johnny Truant, an editor of a book about Navidson’s journey into the house, who seems to be losing his sanity while researching the House of Leaves.

house-of-leaves-sideways-typeHouse of Leaves uses every trick in the book (no pun intended) and then some. Every instance of the word “house” is written in blue text, the footnotes are so overwhelming that they take up more than one page, and in some instances, the text seems to literally drip and fall. Danielewski does this to create a sense of foreboding and claustrophobia, and it works beautifully. It’s a book that you won’t soon forget, if ever.

Chris:  Lexicon, by Max Berry.  As is evident from the title, this recent release deals with the power of words.  Specifically, the power of secret words that can be used to make people do things.  The story starts off right in the middle of the action, and hardly pauses to let you catch up.  At least not until the focus switches time and place.  This book does that a lot, going back and forth between characters and times.  Now what makes this book a bit weird, to me, is that it doesn’t fall into a standard genre.  I guess technically it is a thriller, but it reads very much like science fiction.  But it is not science fiction.  The power of the words is certainly not a stranger concept than many other books have, and the switching perspective is an effective technique in this book, but it is not like there is any actual time travelling going on.  In the end you have a book that is just not quite like the other books.  Which makes it kind of weird.

Christina:  420 Characters by Lou Beach is another short story collection with a twist. Each story is limited to 420 characters, like Facebook updates, but unlike most Facebook updates these stories have heart, depth, and imagination (I’m not really a fan of Facebook, can you tell?). Beach also has some pages of his bizarre art in this book like this piece:World-of-Men-C1-600x488

Christina:  Speaking of art, The Fate of the Artist by legendary graphic comic artist Eddie Campbell uses illustrations and photographs in this pseudo-autobiography, written as a memoir about an artist who has gone missing. Campbell uses everything from an “interview” with the artist’s daughter to a fake Sunday comic strip, making the story that much more intriguing and fun.Fate Artist

A list of all the titles mentioned in this blog post can be found here:


(Edited 11/20/14 to fix/replace broken links and to correct typos.)

The Voynich Manuscript

Voynich Manuscript

By Loretta

I love a good mystery – but not the kind written by Agatha Christie.  I prefer the kinds that exist in the world, many of them defying explanation.  And there are lots of them.  Sometime ago, I stumbled on one I hadn’t heard mentioned before, the Voynich Manuscript.  Of course, the first thing I did was ask Tracy, our ILL librarian, to please get me a book.  And, naturally, she found one!  (The Voynich Manuscipt : an Elegant Enigma by M. E. D’Imperio.) It was a facsimile edition, too, which meant I was looking at the document exactly as it had been written, which added a lot to the enjoyment for me.

I have always loved old manuscripts, not usually for the messages they contain, because I can’t speak Latin or any of the other manuscript languages.  For me, it’s more the idea that the thoughts and philosophies of an ancient time came down to us intact –  because the scribes felt honor-bound to do their work well.  I also love the “illuminations.”  For instance, the Insular Manuscripts, produced in monasteries in Great Britain during the Dark Ages (7th and 8th centuries) were lavishly decorated in a mixture of early Celtic and Anglo-Saxon styles. An example is this page from the Book of Kells.   Exacting work, in my view.

I can’t help thinking about the monks who created these manuscripts and the conditions under which they were produced.  Can you imagine what it was like to sit in a small scriptorium, if you were lucky, or in a small cell in the cloister or, more likely, in your own tiny cell and painstakingly copy word-for-word and illuminate an entire book?  And they did it time after time, through deprivation, cold, heat, damp, without electric lights, without pre-packaged paints, probably without even a comfortable place to sit.  If not for them, many of the books of western literature would not have survived.  (For more on this story, read Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization, part of his Hinges of History series.)

But that aside, the Voynich Manuscript is in a league of its own.  Named for the bookseller who bought it in 1912 (Wilfrid Voynich), experts agree it was created sometime in the mid-1400s.  But they don’t know where.  It contains 240 pages of plant drawings and writings, the like of which have never been seen.  Many, many attempts have been made to decipher the writing and identify the plants, but so far no one has succeeded very well with either.

The proof that it isn’t a recent fake comes from the line of owners:  Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (ca. 1600-1610), Rudolf II’s “Imperial Distiller,” Jacobus z Tepenecz (ca. 1610-1620), Bohemian alchemist Georg Baresch (ca. 1630-1645), and Johannes Marcus Marci of Cronland (ca. 1645-1665).  For the next few centuries, it moved around Europe in the possession of the Jesuits, until it was purchased by Wilfrid Voynich in 1912.  Voynich bequeathed it to his wife, Edith, who bequeathed it to Anne Nill, who sold it to H. P. Kraus in 1961.  In 1969 H. P. Kraus donated it to Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

So we know where it has been for the last four hundred years, but no one knows where it came from.  This web site offers as much as is known about its history and provenance, along with the drawings and writings.   Maybe you would like to try your hand at deciphering it.  I would recommend going to the nearest monastery, finding a small rock-lined room, lighting the tiny brazier in the wall recess (it is always damp in a rock-lined room), and settling back in your uncomfortable chair by an uncovered window with a cup of cold water.  That should be inspiration enough…  

A Harvest of Art

By Loretta

I don’t care who built them – I love crop circles.  They’re beautiful.  Period.

That said, though, I do not believe they were built, sometimes in an hour or even less, by someone with a treadle and two ropes – or even a few people with treadles and ropes.  Pull the other one; it’s got bells on it!

Take a look at this one.  Can you picture a team of men with treadles doing this in a few hours?  I can’t!    How about  this one?   Or maybe this?   Have you ever seen anything more intricate or precise?   When you consider that each stalk of grain is bent, not broken, it boggles the mind a little.

Some believe the circles are messages from other worlds, designed by aliens.  It’s possible, but if these civilizations are advanced enough to get here (they would have had to master time travel, teleportation, or have really long lives, in my opinion), you would think they could learn a few words of some Earth language.  Or at least some symbols we recognize, like No U-turn or Do Not Enter or Aliens Have the Right-of-Way.

And some folks call the circles a hoax. I have to giggle just a little over that one.  They’re obviously real.  I assume, though, that what people are saying is that they think the circles were made by humans masquerading as aliens. (????)  I would ask for proof, just like I would ask for proof from anyone who claimed aliens did make them.  It’s all just opinions and theories. They’re fun, but not much use in concrete-land.

I have read accounts of alleged military involvement in the circles’ creation, one of the clues being the number of “cooked” birds and small animals found in the circles.  It is thought the military is experimenting with masers (not lasers).  That sounds more plausible to me, but many think that is just a military red herring.

Regardless of their origin, the circles are some of the most beautiful pieces of art I’ve ever seen.  And, though there may have been duplications by now, for some time, they were all unique.

If you would like to see more of them, you might enjoy this short film by Brett Parrott.   It not only showcases some really beautiful examples, but also reveals their scope.  I think you’ll enjoy the diversity of design and craftsmanship.  (No I didn’t say spaceship.)

If you prefer your paranormal dished up by a handsome man, you can always check out the dvd,  Signs, with Mel Gibson.  I watched it once, but I can’t remember what happened.  I guess I was too busy looking at Mel.

Earth Friendly

By Faye

Do you like handmade crafts? Even though you know they are worth every cent of the price tag is it still more than you want to pay? Why not try your hand at creating beautiful crafts from recyclables.

Instead of taking cans, bottles, paper and even clothing to the landfill create artwork!

The Big Green Book of Recycled Crafts has over 100 earth friendly projects for you. For tips about earth friendly stitching check out the book by Betz White, Sewing Green or Resew : turn thrift-store finds into fabulous designs by Jenny Wilding Cardon.

I received an email that I would like to share. I remember so many of these and I guess that’s why it is a delight to read. I have tried to find the origin of it but cannot. The author is unknown.

  Subject: The green thing – and oh so true!

In the queue at the shop, the cashier told the older woman that she
should bring her own bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the

The woman apologized to him and explained, “We didn’t have the green
thing back in my day.”

The cashier responded, “That’s our problem today. The former generation
did not care enough to save our environment!”

He was right, that generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, they returned their milk bottles, lemonade bottles and beer
bottles to the shop. The shop sent them back to the plant to be washed
and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and
over. So they really were recycled. But they didn’t have the green
thing back in that customer’s day.

In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn’t have an escalator
in every shop and office building. They walked to the grocery shop and
didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two

But she was right. They didn’t have the green thing in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby’s nappies because they didn’t have the
throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling
machine burning up 220 volts – wind and solar power really did dry the
clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters,
not always brand-new clothing.

But that old lady is right; they didn’t have the green thing back in her

Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house – not a TV in every
room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a
screen the size of Wales . In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by
hand because they didn’t have electric machines to do everything for

When they packaged a fragile item to send in by post, they used a
screwed up old newspaper to cushion it, not polystyrene or plastic
bubble wrap.

Back then, they didn’t fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the
lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised by
working so they didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills
that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; they didn’t have the green thing back then.

They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty instead of using a cup
or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled
their writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and they
replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole
razor just because the blade got dull.

But they didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the tram or a bus and kids rode their bikes to
school or rode in the school bus instead of turning their mums into a
24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical socket in a room, not an
entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances.

And they didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed
from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest
Pizza Hut.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful the old
folks were just because they didn’t have the green thing back then?

Getting pictures, automagically!

By John

For those of us who use digital cameras and go through the throws of locating a cable to connect our camera or card readers to our computers to get at our photos and videos have something to rejoice about. There’s a company that’s been making memory cards with Wi-Fi capability built into it, called “Eye-Fi”.

It’s seems their product line has matured to a point where they continually receive great reviews. It seems like they plan on being around awhile with a release for the android OS and iOS (iPhone) devices. So, not only do they support PC and Mac with several online photos services (Picasa, Flickr, Photobucket, and about 40 more) they’re reaching out to the smartphones, tablets, and iPads as well.

Having read several reviews and information on the Eye-Fi website, I found there is one major prerequisite: You need a wireless network. Then you need you a camera that uses the SDHC memory card. A word of caution here! Although your camera may use a SDHC card, not all cameras are compatible with the Eye-Fi memory card. You can check that here. Well, considering I have a wireless network at home and a camera that uses the SDHC memory card, I decided to get one and take a chance. The only hesitation I had was the fact that my little Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W530 wasn’t listed in the compatibility list.

There are three versions available, the Connect X2 version with 4GB, the Explore X2 version with 8GB, and the Pro X2 version with 8GB and four different features. All three versions come with the online sharing feature, the Explore X2 version comes with the Geotagging feature and the Hot Spot Access (free for a year) feature, and the Pro X2 version comes with the Geotagging, the Hot Spot Access (free for a year) and the Ad Hoc Transfers features.

I opted for the Connect X2 and brought it home. Once I got back I sat down and read the setup instructions. Most times I usually don’t do that, but several of the reviews I read stated, “I encountered”, or “I had”, “no problems getting the photos following the setup instructions.” The package comes with the SDHC memory card and a card reader. Inserting the card reader into an available USB port I installed the Eye-Fi software called Eye-Fi Center. Once it finished the program it prompted me to remove the card reader, then remove the memory card from the card reader and insert it in my camera.

Once I had the memory card in the camera, Eye-Fi central wanted me to take a test photo. I took a picture, set the camera down and looked at the computer to read the next step when I noticed a little window in bottom right with DSC00022.jpg being loaded. My heart raced and I felt a big grin spread across my face as I watched the test picture appear in the window. Eye-Fi Central let me know that picture could stay at Eye-Fi (online) for up to 7 days and prompted me for a more permanent online photo service and I could email them from here. You can view Eye-Fi Center on the computer you installed it on or via the web at center.eye.fi.

During the setup process I had selected Picasa as my online photo and video service, so I went there to check the results of the upload.

Awesome! No more cables or card readers. In fact, although I purchase the Connect X2 I went ahead and upgraded it for the Hot Spot Access – an annual subscription of $29.99 is required. This allows me to use any wireless network away from my home (public or private) to upload my photos and videos. With plans to be out of the area on vacation coming up soon, I decided it was worth the investment. To me just having the card is worth the investment to get rid of carrying those dang cables and card readers where ever I went.

Resources For More Information

Available at our AC-Cashiers Community Library:

Wireless LANs end to end by Walter Bruce

Available at our Jackson County Public Library and Marianna Black Library

Digital photo madness! : 50 weird & wacky things to do with your digital camera by Thomas Gaines

Wireless SD Cards – Get a memory card that makes your camera wireless. Upload photos and videos wirelessly to your computer and to the web.


Horace Kephart – Writer, Outdoorsman, National Park Activist…Librarian?

By Jeff

This past weekend in Bryson City, the town celebrated the life of  Horace Kephart (1862-1931), who made Swain County his home away from home.  Kephart, for those who don’t know, was the writer of Our Southern Highlanders (1913) and Camping and Woodcraft (1918), two works that are, after nearly a century, still in print.  Kephart Days, as the celebration has been called for the past three years, features noted historians, outdoorsmen, musicians, a luncheon, “interpretive camping” (don’t ask me, I missed this one) and more.

Kephart, who was known as “Kep” to his local friends, was instrumental, along with photographer George Masa,  in getting the Great Smoky Mountains a name change – adding the words “National Park” to its title.  The struggles to create this national park has been documented in many places, but most recently in Ken Burns’ The National Parks: America’s Best Idea series (episode four) on PBS.

Though Kephart is now revered for his many accomplishments, I proudly remind folks (those who will listen) that before he was the “Dean of American Camping,” he had humble beginnings as an academic and LIBRARIAN.  To be honest, humble beginnings doesn’t really paint an accurate picture of his first profession, he was actually quite ambitious.  He was a librarian at both Cornell and Yale before accepting a position as the head the St. Louis Mercantile Library – a major American research library – in 1890 (all this before he reached the age of 30).

If you are interested in learning more about Horace Kephart and his accomplishments, many of his writings can be found in our libraries.  Also during the month of May, the Marianna Black Library’s display case will be filled with rare books (including a first edition print of Our Southern Highlanders) and artifacts (including Horace Kephart’s own Snake-stick).  And if you’re going to make a trip to Bryson City to see the display, you should also make the short trip from the library to the Bryson City cemetery to see Kephart’s grave (which identifies him as a “scholar, author and outdoorsman,” but misses the “L” word).

One last thing, and this is not Kephart related, if you are and artist or craftsperson or have a collection you’d like to see in one of our library display cases, please be sure to talk to your local librarian.  We are always looking for interesting pieces to display.

Changing Worlds

By Loretta

To me, paintings are windows to other worlds – worlds we would never get to visit except through the imaginations of the artists.  I love looking at their worlds, as I do at any new discovery.  And the longer I look, the more I find, usually. That’s the first reason I love painting.

Art takes many forms, painting being only one, and so far, I have enjoyed all of them, in one way or another.  I don’t like every example of art that I find.  But that is another great thing about art: it is completely subjective.  I don’t have to like it and neither does anyone else.  Art is an end unto itself. When it is finished, it has served its primary purpose.  Whether or not anyone likes it is irrelevant.  I know there are artists who hope that their work is appreciated, whose livelihood may depend on it being appreciated, but if that is the sum of what they hope to achieve, I would think something is missing.

Every piece of art has a story to tell.  I love the stories.  When I was young, I was in love with Pablo Picasso’s work.  This is Blue Guitar.   What is the story here, do you think?  It left me a bit unsettled, sad, and wondering.

Along the same time, I fell deeply in love with the Impressionists.  Their works were so colorful and alive, full of light and promise.   As I’ve aged, I find the abstracts are sometimes a bit too fractured for me (or maybe I’m too fractured for them), but my love of the Impressionists has never waned.

From the first time I saw his work, I have loved Claude Monet.  With his haystacks and water lilies and the famous Impression, Sunrise (1873), the seminal work which gave the art movement its name.

Impression Sunrise by Claude Monet

I wish I had been there.  And this one: The Cliff Walk, Pourville (1882) :

Cliff Walk by Claude Monet

I would rather have been on one of the boats, but watching from the cliff walk would have been very nice, too.

I feel the same about Pissarro.  Wouldn’t you love to stroll through this village?  (L’Hermitage, 1868).

And Gustave Caillebotte.  Isn’t this a beauty? It’s called Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877).

And, of course, there’s Alfred Sisley!  Here is Snow at Louvciennes, one of my all-time favorites.  Can you feel the cold?

Europe produced a number of great Impressionists, but so did America, artists like Theodore Robinson, Willard Metcalf, John Singer Sargent, and the phenomenal Childe Hassam, who shared with us life in New York City in the late 1800’s – early 1900’s.  Two of his many works are Rain Storm, Union Square (1890) and The Water Garden (1909): I think he did as well as his European counterparts, don’t you?

These are only a few examples, but they show us that history isn’t really dead.  We can, if only for the one moment the painting has captured, still find it in the works of these great artists who recorded the things that arrested their attention.  It’s amazing to me that we even get the opportunity to see their worlds, so many years after they are gone.  I love art for many reasons, but especially for the chance to see things as they once were, worlds away.

Here are a few more of my favorites, just for fun:

James McNeill Whistler : Nocturne in Black and Gold (1874)

Willard Metcalf: Cornish Hills

William Meritt Chase: A Friendly Call  (1895)

Frederick Childe Hassam:  The Flower Garden (1888)

Frederick Childe Hassam : Late Afternoon, Winter, New York (1900)

Frank Weston Benson: Rainy Day (1906)

 And these are some books you can explore at your local library:

Arthur, John.  Realists at Work.  It’s like looking at photographs, only more fun, because you know they aren’t.

Baumann, Gustave.  Nearer to Art.  There has never been another printmaker like this one.

Dean, Catherine.  Klimt.   Fantastical works of shadow and surprising bursts of gold that draw you in.

Hoopes, Donelson F.  The American Impressionists.   And more light.

Hopper, Edward.  Edward Hopper.  Vignettes pulled from everyday life.  I know these people.

Lloyd, Christopher.  Pissarro.  His world 150 years ago or so.

Ludwig, Coy.  Maxfield Parrish.  Wistful and charming – like a fairy tale.

Seckel, Al. Masters of Deception.  Smoke and mirrors and optical illusions.

Shone, Richard.  Sisley.   Includes one of my all-time favorites: Snow at Louvciennes.

Wineberg, H. Barbara.  Childe Hassam, American Impressionist. An amazingly talented chronicler.