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Let’s Travel: Nuremberg

September 17, 2014

Kaiseburg Castle, Nuremberg Never in my life did I plan on traveling to Nuremberg. For one thing, as far as I knew, it was a relatively ordinary German town, remembered mostly for the Nuremberg Trials, a series of military tribunals held there by the Allied forces after World War II. For another thing, it’s hard for me, a Jew, to visit a place whose prominence is based on its Nazi past. Yet there I was, with a group of tourists who were brought there by their passion for travel, and who were kept together by Tunde, our energetic Hungarian tour director, and Giorgio, our Italian bus driver. It was an English-speaking tour, although we had two South-Korean young women, six Lebanese middle-aged women, a Filipino family with an adult son (all now living in California), a Brazilian and a Portuguese married to each other (now living in Florida), quite a few Brits (some born and raised there and some brought there from Greece or Spain by marriage or other verisimilitudes of life), lots of Australians (strangely, mostly of Italian descent), one former Russian (me) and several American couples – 47 people in all.

Making a wish at Beautiful FountainWe were traveling to Prague (our tour started in Munich), and Nuremberg was just a convenient place for our bus to stop and for us to have lunch in the center of this medieval Bavarian town. Tunde gave us a brief introduction to the city, and Giorgio dropped us off at the Old Town. At first, we walked around the ornate Beautiful Fountain (that is its actual name!), densely surrounded by tourists trying to reach two golden rings welded within the fountain’s iron fence. (A legend says that if you turn the “golden ring” and make a wish, it will come true.) Then we spent several minutes gazing at the prominent facade of the Church of Our Lady, whose mechanical clock comes to life every day at noon. Finally, we wandered up the street to the Kaiseburg Castle, one of the most important royal palaces in the Middle Ages.

There was no lack of cafes and restaurants anywhere, many spilling invitingly on the streets, offering beer, sausages and other German staples. Everything looked clean and appealing: the signs, the potted flowers on the window sills and the waitresses’ uniforms. After lunch, I thought briefly about visiting the Albrecht-Durer’s House, but our time in Nuremberg was up and soon we boarded our bus and moved on.

“That was a very cute town,” somebody said behind me.

“Sure,” I thought. “Today it is. But what was it in the past?”

Nuremberg first rose to prominence in the Middle Ages, as a key point on trade routes. The first big Jewish pogrom there took place in 1298. Some 700 people were killed, and a church and a city hall were built where they used to live. In the late Middle Ages, Nuremberg became known as a center of science, printing and invention. Albrecht Durer produced the first printed star charts there, Nicolaus Copernicus published the main part of his work and baroque composer Johann Pachelbel, native of Nuremberg, received his early musical education there.

In the 20th century, the reputation of Nuremberg changed dramatically. From 1927 to 1938, it served as a playground for Nazi Party conventions (the Nuremberg Rallies), and quite a few buildings were built there to accommodate them. After Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, these rallies became important propaganda events. At one of them Hitler passed the anti-Semitic laws, which took German citizenship away from all Jews. The pogrom of Kristallnacht, a precursor to Hitler’s Final Solution, was crueler in Nuremberg than anywhere else in Germany. (So far, Nuremberg city archives contain the names of 2,374 of Nuremberg’s Holocaust victims.)

During World War II, the city served as a site for military district headquarters and military production. Airplanes, submarines and tank engines were built there, with many factories using slave labor (a branch of Flossenburg concentration camp was there as well). After the war, Nuremberg was selected for conducting the International Military Tribunals (a choice based largely on the city’s importance for the Nazi party), where high-ranking Nazi officials, officers, doctors and judges were prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Nuremberg was heavily bombed during the war – a fact many tourists wouldn’t even know, since most of the city was rebuilt (with the exception of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds, which were left in ruins) and its prominent Medieval buildings reconstructed. Today, the city boasts Germany’s most famous Christmas market, the world’s largest toy fair, car races and many cultural events from folk festivals to classical open-air concerts. Tourists come here from all over the world, eager to inhale the medieval charm of the Old Town, try new foods and generally enjoy themselves.

Nuremberg is a city in one of Europe’s richest countries – the status Germany achieved not by conquering other nations and erasing whole populations from the face of the earth, but by implementing a good education system, supporting businesses, maintaining a stable political system and encouraging perfect work ethics. Ironic, isn’t it? So what was it all about: the fighting, the deaths and the suffering of so many? Was it just a fluke? A lesson to remember? If so, how long must we remember? Ten years, twenty, a hundred? And is remembering always a good thing? Centuries-old ethnic and religious conflicts still result in horrific events even now. How strange it must be to be a German tourist, since so many places still preserve the evidence of their country’s infamous past.

Not Nuremberg, though. There, everything is minimized. In fact, the first memorial to the Nuremberg Trials was not opened there until November 2010. Well, who can blame them for not willing to stir up the past? As they say, let sleeping dogs lie. It’s time to move on – as in fact we were, for our tour bus was already rolling along the pretty Bavarian landscape, carrying us to Prague.

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The Gentleman Recommends: B.J. Novak

September 15, 2014

Book cover for One More Thing by B.J. NovakB.J. Novak has been somewhat active: from his humble beginnings as the cad Ryan Howard, subject of the hit hundred-hours-long documentary “The Office,” to the trials associated with choosing his favorite initials and legally changing his name to them in a futile attempt to exercise his awful reputation, to writing a collection of stories that are good enough to almost make one forget how mean he was to Kelly and Jim, to being recommended by this blog post. It’s enough to make me of a mind to recline with a nice pastry and a warmed washcloth.

Consisting of 64 pieces, the collection opens with the long-awaited sequel to “The Tortoise and the Hare,” which finally puts that pompous tortoise in its place and updates the original’s creaky old moral, and closes with “Discussion Questions,” which will be a nice jumping off point for your book club or master’s thesis. In between we get a man dealing with the fame associated with returning a sex robot because it fell in love with him. We finally learn the truth about Elvis Presley’s death (and a little about ourselves!). Nelson Mandela gets roasted by Comedy Central and its usual cast of ribald hacks. A boy wins a cereal box sweepstakes only to be ruled ineligible because it turns out his real father is Kellogg’s CEO. A woman goes on a blind date with a warlord. In “No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg,” a man reaches heaven and enjoys a series of concerts performed by history’s greatest musicians until backstage access at a Frank Sinatra show reveals a different side of his grandmother. One story is called “Wikipedia Brown and the Case of the Missing Bicycle.”

If a book has 64 pieces and is still light enough for my dandy-ish arms to lug around from my fainting couches to the snack emporium to my sleep chamber to my eating pit, then many of the stories must be very brief indeed. To show you how my arms, weakened by a life of near-constant lounging, could possibly carry ANYTHING with 64 of something in it, I will reprint one story in its entirety:

Romance, Chapter One

“The cute one?”

“No, the other cute one.”

“Oh, she’s cute too.”

There are several pieces of this sort. There’s stuff here that will please fans of Internet sensation “The Onion,” and there is stuff that will make you hungry for other foods too. There is more than comedy and absurdity here, sometimes things get downright philosophical and/or sad, like when the lovelorn sex robot tries to keep her beloved in the room with her with the promise of needing to say just “one more thing.” Sometimes it’s sad and funny, like the absurd “Missed Connection” ad posted by someone who most definitely “connected” with the intended reader over the course of many hours.

Mr. Novak wrote a really nifty book, and I’m so excited to see what he does next that I’ve fainted twice in the course of typing this sentence and so will cut it short, as I’m nowhere near the appropriate furniture, before a third spell happens upon me.

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September Is Fall Hat Month – Time to Knit!

September 12, 2014

In the spirit of September, which if you didn’t know is Fall Hat Month, I’m going to share some of my favorite knitting books all about things that go on your head. So dig out some yarn and find a pair of matching knitting needles, because soon it’s going to be cold out, and you’ll want some fresh, fun hats to keep you warm.

Book cover for Hat HeadsMom, dad, brother, son, wife, daughter – it doesn’t matter. “Hat Heads” by Trond Anfinnsen  has something for everyone. There are many different hat designs to choose from in this book, so it’s hard to pick just one. I love the self-portrait page where Trond shows himself in all the different hats he’s made. My personal favorites are Hege’s hat and Silje’s hat. I love the contrast of colors in both these hats, and red happens to be my favorite color. Beware, you might end up checking this book out for a long time because you won’t be able to stop making hats!

Book cover for Knit Hats NowI know I like to have a variety of hats to pick from to wear with my winter jacket, and I’m sure many ladies are the same. “Knit Hats Now” features hats designed for women with a little fashionable twist to them. Don’t worry, “Knit Hats Now” has a level of difficulty category for each hat design, so if you’re like me and aren’t the most amazing knitter in the world, you can pick and choose from hats you know are within your capability to create. I love the texture of the Chocolate Dream hat, but my favorite is the first hat in the entire book, the Colors hat. I’ve already got some yarn set aside for this pattern.

Book cover for Baby BeaniesBaby Beanies” by Amanda Keeys is adorable. Babies = cute. Babies in hats = beyond cute. I can’t wait until I have a little niece or nephew to knit for. This book will definitely be the first I check out because these hats are just too adorable. “Baby Beanies” has a wide range of patterns, from simple little basic beanies to more complicated multicolored cone shaped hats. For me, though, the two cutest are the Pompom Bear hat and the Flour Sack hat.

We don’t own “Knitted Beanies and Slouchy Hats” by Diane Serviss yet, but we do have the book on order. I’m a little sad I have to wait to look at this book because I could use a good slouchy hat myself. Feel free to put this book on hold, though, if it interests you!

The library has a large collection of other knitting books. You might need to knit a scarf to go with your hat, so make sure to check out the knitting section in adult non-fiction at the call number 746.432. (And if you need a guide to navigate the Dewey Decimal System, just ask at a desk!)

 

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Jane Goodall: Champion of Chimps, Defender of the Earth, Rock Star

September 10, 2014

Book cover for Seeds of Hope by Jane GoodallJane Goodall is coming to town! In my circles, this is the biggest news since Bob Dylan did a show here ten years ago. Goodall will be speaking at Mizzou Arena on Wednesday, September 17. According to her website “She will…discuss the current threats facing the planet and her reasons for hope in these complex times.”

Goodall is best known for her studies of chimpanzees. She was 26 when Louis Leakey sent her to Tanzania to begin her research in 1960. Authorities in the area expressed resistance to the idea of a young woman traveling alone on this project, so her mother accompanied her for the first few months. Goodall made several new discoveries about chimps. The most remarkable was the fact that they create and use tools. She made it her mission to educate humanity about the fascinating creatures who are so similar to us in some ways, and in the process she became one of the most widely recognized scientists in the world. In 1977 she founded the Jane Goodall Institute to “protect chimpanzees and their habitats.”

Over the years her focus has expanded to other animals, to plants and to the world environment as a whole, including her own species. Roots and Shoots is a youth-led program affiliated with the Jane Goodall Institute. It encourages young people to become involved in solving problems within their own communities.

If you can’t make it to the lecture, we have plenty of Goodall goodness here for you at the library. Check out some of the following materials:

Among the Wild Chimpanzees.” This DVD from “National Geographic” shows us two decades worth of Goodall’s work among these amazing primates.

Hope for Animals and Their World.” In this book Goodall provides evidence that we can save endangered species by highlighting conservation efforts that have made a positive difference.

Seeds of Hope” discusses the roles of plants in the world and humanity’s relationship with the flora around us.

Jane Goodall,” a 2008 biography by Meg Greene, provides background on Goodall’s childhood, career and personal life.

Our catalog list will direct you to even more titles about Goodall and wildlife conservation.

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Remembering Joan Rivers

September 8, 2014

Book cover for I Hate Everyone by Joan RiversShe was sassy, opinionated, brash, self-deprecating, raunchy, offensive and funny. Joan Rivers passed away last week at the age of 81, and her death has left me thinking about both her signature brand of stand-up and the female comedians who have followed in her wake. Her daughter, Melissa Rivers, said in a statement, “My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.” Here are some books from Rivers and her cohort to help us fulfill that wish.

We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy” by Yael Kohen.
This oral history presents more than 150 interviews from America’s most prominent comediennes (and the writers, producers, nightclub owners, and colleagues who revolved around them) to piece together the revolution that happened to (and by) women in American comedy. Kohen traces the careers and achievements of comediennes – including Rivers – and challenges opinions about why women cannot be effective comedic entertainers.

I Hate Everyone – Starting With Me” by Joan Rivers
Read this with a cocktail in hand. Rivers humorously lashes out at the people, places and things she loathes, including ugly children, dating rituals, First Ladies, funerals, hypocrites, overrated historical figures, Hollywood and lousy restaurants.

Enter Talking” by Joan Rivers
Joan Rivers describes her bitter and bizarre rise to stardom, from her earliest memories that she belonged onstage, through her independent struggle in Manhattan, to the evolution of her one-person show and the winning of public and critical acclaim.

Book cover for The Bedwetter by Sarah SilvermanThe Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee” by Sarah Silverman
Comedian Silverman’s memoir mixes showbiz moments with the more serious subject of her teenage bout with depression as well as stories of her childhood and adolescence.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns)” by Mindy Kaling
The writer and actress best known as Kelly Kapoor on “The Office” shares observations on topics ranging from favorite male archetypes and her hatred of dieting to her relationship with her mother and the haphazard creative process in the “Office” writers’ room.

Seriously, I’m Kidding” by Ellen DeGeneres
For those who like their humor to be cleaner than what Rivers delivers. The stand-up comedian, television host, bestselling author and actress candidly discusses her personal life and professional career and describes what it was like to become a judge on “American Idol.”

Editor’s note: book descriptions adapted from publishers’ marketing text.

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Reader Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

September 5, 2014

Editor’s note: This review was submitted by a library patron during the 2014 Adult Summer Reading program. We will continue to periodically share some of these reviews throughout the year.

Book cover for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty SmithA Tree Grows in Brooklyn” is about life, family and resilience in the early 1900s (In Brooklyn). Despite the departure in time and location from my present existence, it resonated with me. Smith’s character development was rich and truthful. Characters were not portrayed as foes or heroines, just people. It’s nice to read something without an overt slant or agenda or predictable plot.

Three words that describe this book: genuine, rich, fulfilling

You might want to pick this book up if: you love people and how they interact. This is a story of resilience.

-Anonymous

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Stan Lee Wants You to Get a Library Card

September 3, 2014

National Library Card Sign-up Month Poster featuring Stan LeeSeptember is the National Library Card Month (chaired this year by comic creator Stan Lee), and libraries across the country want you to know that one of the most important back-to-school supplies is a library card. It’s also the cheapest (i.e., free), and getting your hands on one doesn’t require fighting the hoards at a big box store.

Since this is a library blog, I’m preaching to the choir here. You, dear reader, already have a library card. (If you know someone who doesn’t, encourage them to apply for one in person or online.) But did you know the range of tools and materials you have access to with that card? Not only can you get books, but your library card is also your ticket for free access to:

Mr. Lee says it best: “The smartest card in my wallet? It’s a library card.”

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