Author Archives: Tony

Dragons and Constructed Languages

The Dragon's Cave by Georg Janny, 1917

The Dragon’s Cave by Georg Janny, 1917

The earliest written work in any kind of the English language is Beowulf, which has a horrible, treasure-hoarding dragon in it. Because he was a philologist (expert and critic of written languages and language histories), and arguably the foremost scholar on Beowulf, J. R. R. Tolkien knew all about the dragon, and wrote a bunch of stories for his kids, which eventually mutated into a novel, The Hobbit. Beowulf‘s dragon is a creature of mindless animalistic greed and savagery, but Smaug, the dragon and central antagonist of The Hobbit, can talk. Imagine him voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. But if Bilbo Baggins can understand Smaug, and there isn’t any magic involved here, they share a common language, Fire-Drake and Hobbit. One of the reasons for J. R. R. Tolkien’s works’ staying power is that the world created for them is fully realized enough to bear up under questions like this. So, what language do Bilbo and Smaug share?

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth books, including The Hobbit, and all of the books in The Lord of the Rings, English is used as a stand-in for Westron, a hypothetical fictional language commonly spoken on Middle Earth. As a philologist, though, Tolkien created several full-fledged languages, and even language families and language histories (!!), to inhabit his fantasy universe. Elvish languages, such as Sindarin, are a language family, and have their own fictional history. In a very real way, The Lord of the Rings isn’t a fictional work with made-up languages in it, but rather Middle Earth’s fictional languages happen to be wrapped up in a pretty neat story.

The connection between dragons and artistic languages doesn’t stop there, however.

The main plot-line of the 2011 video game Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim revolves around dragons. Taking a step further still from Smaug’s command of Westron, not only do these dragons talk, but their language has the power to change reality. In this game, words spoken by someone who truly understands them become focused into a Thuum, or Shout, with different effects depending on the meaning of the words, from breathing fire, to knocking enemies backwards, to turning invisible, or revealing the presence of the undead. The acquisition of words in this language is pivotal to the gameplay in Skyrim. The developers of the game created Dovahzul as a complete artistic language to serve this purpose, and all of the dragons in the game speak the language as well. Over time, the language was expanded and fleshed out by the fanbase, and now Dovahzul is a full-fledged artistic language.

Brush up on your vocabulary and grammar here!

– Article by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch 

(Editor’s note: This article was originally posted on LFPL’s Teen Blog)

Friends of the Library Book Sales

Book Sales at a Glance – 2018 Calendar
In addition to weekend Book Sales, all branches offer in-house
sales on library book carts during regular hours
.

Book Sale, Shawnee Branch Library 
Sunday, September 9 & October 14, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
​2nd Sunday of every month
 

Drop by to check out some fantastic bargains in our wide selection of gently used books. Cash, credit or debit cards accepted. All proceeds benefit the Shawnee Friends of the Library.
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Book Sale, Main Library
​Saturday, September 15, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Sunday, September 16, 1:00 am – 4:00 pm
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Book Sale, Westport Branch Library
Saturday, September 15, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
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Book Sale, Western Branch Library
Saturday, October 13, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
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Heine Brothers is partnering with the Friends to collect gently used Children’s books. Drop off your books at any Heine Brothers’ cafe! Put them in the designated box or give them to the barista. Donated books will go to branch libraries, Little Free Libraries, new Habitat homes and other Friends’ projects. 
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Mary and Her Monsters

Location: Main Library

Date: Thursday, August 30, 6:30 p.m.

Celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publishing of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein—and Mary’s 221st birthday—with the one-woman show, “Mary and Her Monsters,” presented by Whitney Thornberry. Experience a poignant portrayal of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley‘s life before Frankenstein, her married life with Percy Bysshe Shelley, her inspirations for the book, and her life after publication.

Birthday cake and tea will be served.

RSVPs are requested.

Please call (502) 574-1623 to reserve your spot.

Digital Comic Books at LFPL

Do you like digital comic books (also known as e-comics)? Or would you like to give them a try but don’t want to have to pay for a subscription?

Well, true believer, LFPL is here for you!

Click on any of the following links to view the Library’s current selections:

(750)

Biblioboard‘s offerings are primarily comics of the Golden Age (1938-1954) and biographical works of artists and writers. There are also some interesting public domain works from before the Golden Age.

(79)

Overdrive‘s collection is primarily composed of modern, up to the minute comics from publishers such as BOOM! Studios, DC Comics, Image Comics, and Top Shelf Productions
(185)

RBdigital offers comics from Marvel Comics and IDW Publishing.

Btw, the numbers in parentheses are the total comic/graphic novel items available for each vendor as of this date. That’s over 1,000 comics you can browse on your home computer, smartphone, or other digital device!

Keep checking in, too, as LFPL will continue to expand it’s digital comics collection.


If you are interested in learning how to make comics/graphic novels or other aspects of illustration and graphic design, check out these free classes you can take through Lynda.com.

(242 classes are available!)


To have access to all this great content, all you need is a valid library card number and to know your library card’s password. If you are not sure what your library card number or password are (or need a replacement), please stop by one of the 18 library locations and we’ll get you set up.

High Concept and Low Concept

Sometimes, if you’re discussing books that you read, games that you play, shows that you watch, music you listen to – basically any media you consume – you need some specialized ideas and terms to help you describe and discuss it. “It was great” or “It was bad” or “I thought it was OK” are all very well and good, but it’s so much more satisfying if you can also talk about WHY you liked/disliked something. If you want to win arguments and impress your friends, remember your ABCs – Always Backup Criticism.

Have examples, of course, of things you like or don’t and why. But, sometimes, you need some special vocabulary and ideas in order to help you with your critique. That means it’s time to add another idea to your toolbox: high vs. low concept. This is all about how much concept a work of art contains, not how good the concept is. Think of it as a matter of the amount the concept itself contributes to the total content of the work.

Jane Austen’s novels are generally low concept. The idea of the novels – that people in various economic circumstances need to get paired up (or not paired up, or not paired up the way they thought) – is nowhere near as important to the books as the interactions between the characters, which is why people read them. Here’s an example pie chart, based on a very precise and academic guesstimate:

There’s also works that split it pretty much right down the middle, generating interest in equal parts from the idea that drives them, as well as the execution of the plot and characters:

On the far end of the scale, there’s also works that are high concept – that get their interest mostly from the ideas that drive them. I can think of no better example than 18 Days (an adaptation of the Mahabharata), which breaks down about like this:

The library has the concept art book, if you want a look at the idea, but, sadly, they didn’t get full funding for the series as it was originally conceived. Instead, you can watch it in a few different languages on the Graphic India YouTube channel. Still pretty awesome, though.

Whatever the level of concept in your media, now you have a new way to talk about the things you love: is it high conceptlow concept, or a balance of the two?

Is This Guy for Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman by Box Brown

Andy Kaufman skirted the line between nonsense and reality in his performances where during his comedy career; he brought many unique characters to life.  Two of the most recognizable are Latka Gravas, a lovable kook on the TV series Taxi, and Foreign Man, a character he created for Saturday Night Live. Kaufman and his work  were immortalized in a film called Man on the Moon, where Jim Carrey portrayed him.. Author Box Brown has now brought Kaufman’s life to another generation in a biographical graphic novel, Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman.  

The novel follows his life beginning as child and his appreciation of performing arts, music and wrestling.  He enjoyed wrestling so much that he created parodies of his favorite stars bit of humor to the violent world of pro-wrestling. For a time, he put his dream of becoming a wrestler on hold while honing his showman skills with improvisational comedy and television appearances.  However, he felt this was not the direction in which he wanted to go. He finally jumped into the wrestling ring, putting on amazing acts and stirring up trouble along the way. His most notable appearance was the controversial debacle with former wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler.

Box Brown’s simplistic pencil drawings and limited color illustrations capture the story of a young man who was sensitive, thoughtful, and very funny. He uses traditional boxed-in scenes throughout the entire book which reads like an original comic strip. The nostalgic style draws (pun intended) you into the story, while moving swiftly through Kaufman’s short life.  Brown has made this book more than a biography of Kaufman by including footnotes about the world of professional wrestling without interrupting the flow of the story.  There is also an in-depth bibliography of references, websites, television episodes, and personal interviews, as well as a list of books by people in the wrestling industry.

If you enjoy this journey into the life of a comedian turned wrestler, check out Brown’s book about another famous wrestler, Andre the Giant.  

Format Available: Graphic Novel

Review by Micah, St Matthews Branch

The Great American Read

On April 20, 2018, PBS released a list of America’s 100 best-loved novels, chosen in support of The Great American Read, a new PBS series that celebrates the joy of reading.

Check out the full list of America’s 100 favorite novels, which were selected through a demographically representative national survey conducted by YouGovThe books that were chosen span five centuries, from Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes to Ghost by Jason Reynolds. Authors from 15 different countries are represented, with genres ranging from beloved children’s classics such as Charlotte’s Web by

E.B. White to modern best-sellers such as Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

The series began with a two-hour episode on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Over the following months, PBS will count down the books from 100 to 1. Americans are encouraged to vote for “America’s Most Beloved Book,” and results will be released on October 23, 2018.

Remember that LFPL’s Summer Reading is beginning and that many of these books are age appropriate for children and teens. They would be great selections for kids to read or to have read to them. For more information about the Summer Reading program or the 2018 Cultural Pass, stop your local library branch or call our JustAsk line at (502) 574-1611.

 

Lou Reed: A Life by Anthony DeCurtis

William Burroughs commented on Paul Bowles‘ autobiography, Without Stopping, saying it should have been, “Without Telling.” The opposite is true of this new bio on Lou Reed. It could be subtitled TMI.

Some called Lou names like The Prince of Darkness, Darth Vader of Rock, and those were the nice ones. His fans called him Lou. Andy Warhol called him Lulu. He called Warhol, Drella. A lot of people today don’t know who Lou Reed was (that’s fine…here is your shot to learn), or they confuse him with Lou Rawls (not cool). I call him the 2nd greatest songwriter ever, slightly behind Nobel Prize Winner Bob Dylan.

Lewis Allan Reed was born into an upper middleclass Jewish family on March 2, 1942. He was in Doo Wop and Rock groups as a teenager. He was on record by age 14, but his “true fame” wouldn’t come until after he finished College at Syracuse and had a lot of out of the norm personal experience. His parents had electroshock treatments performed on him, either because of his bisexuality (Lou’s version) or his according to his mother, doctors thought he may be schizophrenic.

Although, college was a dreadful experience for the non-conformist and drug user, Lou met someone there who changed his life. Delmore Schwartz was a renowned poet/professor on his way down. He had been a top poet in the 30’s but paranoia and speed had caught up with him by the 60’s. Of course, Lou chose him as a mentor. Schwartz would hold court at a little off campus bar and read James Joyce to his followers. Schwartz told Lou that if he ever “sold out” his talent as a writer, his ghost would haunt him. And it did to some degree.

After graduation in 1964 with a B.A. in English, Lou moved to NYC and became a songwriter for a small company called Pickwick, which produced cheap exploitation albums of the newest musical fads. He also made frequent trips into Harlem to buy heroin.

Lou and his fellow musicians wrote a song called, “The Ostrich,” that got some notice and airplay. It was recorded by studio musicians, so when a local TV station wanted the band (The Primitives) to perform, that had to search for a stage band quickly. One of the guys chosen was John Cale because he had long hair. Cale was an avant-garde classical musician from Wales. In time, the band evolved into The Velvet Underground. They played dives in NYC and got fired, but were discovered by Andy Warhol.

On July 11, 1966 Delmore dies. Lou was in the hospital for Hepatitis C and checked himself out to attend Delmore’s wake. So, in Warhol, Lou had found another 2nd father and genius to learn from. Andy is credited with producing the first Velvet Underground album. VU would go on to record 4 studio albums from 1967-1970, and go through many personnel changes (Lou was difficult to work with.) Lou fired Andy, but stayed friends until a later falling out.

Along the way Lou became a great guitarist noted for his use of distortion. When Lou left VU on August 23, 1970, he had had enough of the R&R business. VU had not been a financial success and they were only famous among the people living outside the mainstream. He had legal problems and was burned out on every level.

So he moved into his parent’s house and worked as a typist in his father’s business for $40 a week. Eventually he drifted back into his only true love. From 1972 to 2011, he released 22 solo albums, 13 live albums, and 16 compilation albums. He married 3 times to three distinct women. Lou was polysexual and experimented with various drugs, mainly speed, heroin, and alcohol. He was at times sweet and violent, and his songs reflect this. Some are soft and sensitive, others will offend most. In the end, after AA and laying off most drugs, Lou was mellow most of the time. Although reporters and critics were always fair game for him.

Lou died on a Sunday (Oct 27, 2013). One of his sweetest and most haunting songs was titled, Sunday Morning. For me, Lou had a good soul – wild, free, and full of anger as a young man. But in time, he would find some peace in the world.

A young writer named Vaclav Havel on a visit to the U.S. in 1968 bought the 2nd VU album. He would go on to lead the Velvet Revolution and become President of Czechoslovakia in 1989, and the First President of the Czech Republic. Lou interviewed him in 1990 and they became friends.

Lou was influential to many younger musicians and he could be called the Father of Punk, New Wave, Glam, and Alternative. All his albums are distinct. Read the book and listen to his albums! You’ll be glad you did.

Format Available: Large Type, Regular Type, eBook

Reviewed by Tom, Main Library

 

Before I Let You Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Kyra is dead. Kyra was Corey’s best friend. Corey will not let Death slip quietly away without answers and Death will not give them up without a fight.

Lost Creek, Alaska is a closed, tight knit community. You either belong or you don’t. Kyra and Corey were born in Lost, grew up together, and were best friends. But things change, businesses folded, times got harder, and Kyra began to have manic episodes. The good people of Lost didn’t just avoid Kyra, they feared her.

So, why after her death were they idolizing her? Her paintings were everywhere but the most disturbing was one of a girl floating under the ice, Kyra herself. Everyone said it was an accident but the painting suggested suicidal thoughts. Why hadn’t someone tried to get her help before she died?

Why hadn’t Corey answered Kyra’s letters more often? They had plans to leave Lost to go out into the world and do things. Kyra saw a therapist and took medication. When she had one of her episodes she painted beautifully, madly, and hated it. Corey wanted to study the stars, Kyra wanted to gather people’s stories, she loved life.

When Corey’s mom got a job outside of Lost, the family moved. Corey promised to keep in touch with Kyra, but the first year of college changed things again. She had room mates and friends that she could openly talk with and do things, so different from life in the closed up town of Lost. More and more, Kyra’s letters got pushed back in a drawer to be read and answered at a later time. Now Corey keeps asking herself why hadn’t she answered Kyra’s letters more often?

Now it was too late.

Everyone said Kyra’s death was inevitable, it was meant to be, that she had even predicted it. Corey didn’t believe any of it, Kyra had promised to wait for her to return to Lost. She hadn’t been there when Kyra needed her now she was determined to find out what happened.

We see Lost and its people through Corey’s eyes but Nijkamp draws the reader in with her words. You feel the cold and isolation of a town that has lost hope for the future and then latches on to a young girl they believe sees a brighter future for them. Corey and Kyra’s story is shared in alternating chapters that carry us back and forth in time. We learn of the girls’ friendship, their dreams of the future, the old spa they would escape to, their attempt to make more of their friendship, and meet some of the town’s people. Most of all you read of the love, disappointment, acceptance, and heartbreak that friendship can bring.

A suspenseful thriller of a mystery that tells the story of friendship, warts and all, from beyond the grave. It also a coming of age story where one girl grows up and the other lives on in memories. In the end, we see that everyone has a side of themselves they keep hidden, sometimes even from their selves.

Format Available: Book, eBook

Review by Katy, Shawnee Branch

 

Born to Run in the U.S.A.

What can anyone say about this album that probably hasn’t been said a million times before?  I mean, it is a transcendent slice of American rock ‘n’ roll that made rock ‘n’ roll fun again without losing any punch as to the stories it told. The album’s tales nearly burst from exuberance and hope. The young and disenfranchised protagonists still believe they will, as the title track puts it, “get out while [they’re] young,” and will enjoy themselves along the way.

Well, how about saying Born to Run is a forgotten classic?  This may strike many as a weird statement considering the long shadow that The Boss has extended over the American rock landscape in his 47 years (as the very first version of the E Street Band – known then as the Bruce Springsteen Band – was formed in 1971). Yet this characterization really is apropos because while familiar with individual tracks in some form, usually a live version, many haven’t listened to the original album at all or in the manner it was meant to be listened to at the time of its release.

In 1975, the full length album was meant to be a total experience, over and above any tunes that might get cut from it to play as singles. Often the album versions of songs varied in length or composition because the album was for the musician and lovers of music while the single was for the radio and the casual listener.  Further, there was no easy way to change the artist’s presentation of his or her music.

Tape recorders – which would have made it possible to reorder the album – were only just making headway in the market but had not yet become dominant as they would only a few years later when punk broke in the U.S.  Only DJ’s had the equipment to mix songs but these (just emerging) hip-hop techniques were still found only in the ghettos of New York City, cultivated by an audience that completely eschewed the kind of music Springsteen played. Singles – with their radio-friendly edits and B-sides – were about the only way to listen to an album in a different way other than to go to a concert.

What is so striking about Born to Run is that it feels like you are listening to a live band. No, not the kind of cheesy live albums with canned crowd noise that would make Kiss famous. Born to Run definitely has some studio polish with music business veterans Mike Appel and Jon Landau behind the boards but they so well capture the energy of the road-tested E Street band that this album seems as if it’s being played right in front of you, and by a much faster, louder band. After all, the album mostly sticks to mid-tempo songs!

So, no one in the 33 1/3 series – which I highly recommend for music fans with  time constraints – has written on Born to Run (yet). But Geoffrey Himes, music critic for a number of publications but particularly the Washington Post, did pen a really interesting look at the writing process and production of Springsteen’s 1984 classic, Born in the U.S.ABorn in the U.S.A., much like Born to Run, captures its own time period in a striking way. However, we find similar characters to those on Born to Run, years older and much more jaded, looking for some kind of recognition that their wild dreams of youth have been endangered by the economic shifts that struck American industry and towns in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

Review by Tony, Main Library