Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Leonard Bernstein - 1918-1990

This year marks the centenary celebration of Leonard Bernstein's birth.  He was born Louis Bernstein in Lawrence, Massachusetts on August 25, 2918 and died October 14, 1990 in New York City, New York at the age of 72.  He was a composer, conductor author, lecturer, and pianist.  According to music critic Donal Henahan, he was "one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history."

Bernstein was influenced by the composer Marc Blitzstein, conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos, composer Aaron Copland and conductor Fritz Reiner at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, who is said to have given Bernstein the only "A" grade he ever awarded.

In 1958, he began his tenure as conductor with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, after stepping in at the last moment for conductor Guido Cantelli, who died in an airplane crash.  At this time, he also began his series of fifty-three televised Young People's concerts for CBS.

Bernstein has been awarded Grammy Awards for Best Album for children, Best Orchestral Performance, Best Choral Performance, Best Opera Recording, Best Classical Vocal Performance, Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance, Best Classical Contemporary Composition, Best Classical Album, and Lifetime Achievement.  He also won a Tony Award for Best Musical.  He is a Gramophone Hall of Fame entrant, and a member of both the American Theater Hall of Fame, and the Television Hall of Fame.  In 2015 he was inducted into the Legacy Walk.  In 1990 he won the Japan Arts Association award for lifetime achievement.

His works include ballets, operas, musicals, incidental music and other theatre, film scores, orchestral, choral, chamber music, vocal music, and pianos music. Among his noteworthy are
On the Town (1944), Trouble in Tahiti (1952),
On the Waterfront (1954) Candide (1956), West Side Story (1957), MASS (1971) and A Quiet Place (1983). 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Scientists Are 'Spying On Whales' To Learn How They Eat, Talk And ... Walked?

Nick Pyenson's research has given us the answers to some of our biggest questions about whales. Nick's rich storytelling takes us to the cool halls deep inside the Smithsonian's priceless fossil collection, to the frigid fishing decks on Antarctic whaling stations, and to the blazing hot desert of Chile where scientists race against time to document the largest fossil whalebone site on earth. Spying on Whales is science writing at its best: an author who is an incredible, passionate writer, at the forefront of his field, on a topic that invokes deep fascination.

Whales are among the largest, most intelligent, deepest diving species to have ever lived on our planet. They evolved from land-roaming, dog-like creatures into animals that move like fish, breathe like us, can grow to 300,000 pounds, live 200 years and roam entire ocean basins. Whales fill us with terror, awe, and affection--yet we know hardly anything about them, and they only enter our awareness when they die, struck by a ship or stranded in the surf.
Why did it take whales over 50 million years to evolve to such big sizes, and how do they eat enough to stay that big? 
How did their ancestors return from land to the sea? 
Why do they beach themselves? 
What do their lives tell us about our oceans, and evolution as a whole? 
Importantly, in the sweepstakes of human-driven habitat and climate change, will whales survive?
The Smithsonian's star paleontologist Nick Pyenson's takes us to the ends of the earth and to the cutting edge of whale research in Spying on Whales to answer these questions and share intriguing facts about these amazing creatures.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Exile in 2018

One of the real treats of lifelong music listening is rediscovering the old favorites. One of the records (or, should I say CDs) that really put a good dent in my head this summer and caught me by surprise was Matador Records 25th Anniversary remastered reissue of Liz Phair's (now) classic EXILE IN GUYVILLE.  I picked up this set thinking I would listen a couple times, maybe let the nostalgia course through my veins a bit and then move along. What I hadn’t planned for and what actually HAPPENED left me dumbstruck by that fact that I'd completely forgotten how these songs were the soundtrack to my life in 1993, in two different record stores, and more importantly how well this record still holds up 25 years later. I was surprised, if not shocked, at how good it still sounded. Right on, right? Sure, there’s some nostalgia in there for the good times past but darn if this didn’t get under my skin again THIS summer, scored by great songs with emotional pull that still leaves a mark.

Originally released in 1993, EXILE is Phair’s song by song response to the Rolling Stone’s Exile on Main Street. Not sonically, per se, or even topically, but a deeply personal, feminist landmark of emotional brush clearing that’s continually included in countless lists, including Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest albums of all time and Pitchfork’s Top 100 albums of the 90s. If you’ve never heard Phair’s music before, here’s your point of entry. If you’ve haven’t listened in a LONG while, now's a great time to revisit.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Back to School Screening

So here we are again, almost time for back to school. This summer seemed to go faster than any other. While I hate to see the carefree days of summer leave, I am looking forward to the cooler weather and a more structured day. Here is a school-themed list of movies to check out to help you switch gears.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Dead Poet's Society
School of Rock
Sixteen Candles
Grease (inspired by a local high school)
Pretty in Pink
Easy A
Some Kind of Wonderful
Better Off Dead (takes me right back to my youth)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

From Russia with Love...or What's New in Spy Fiction

If you are intrigued by the world of spies but prefer to experience the dramatic twists and turns of their lives in novels rather than in the news headlines (!), these recent fiction titles  may be of interest to you.

Who Is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht
New York City, 1962. Vera Kelly is struggling to make rent and blend into the underground gay scene in Greenwich Village. She's working night shifts at a radio station when her quick wits, sharp tongue, and technical skills get her noticed by a recruiter for the CIA. Next thing she knows she's in Argentina, tasked with wiretapping a congressman and infiltrating a group of student activists in Buenos Aires. As Vera becomes more and more enmeshed with the young radicals, the fragile local government begins to split at the seams. When a betrayal leaves her stranded in the wake of a coup, Vera learns the Cold War makes for strange and unexpected bedfellows, and she's forced to take extreme measures to save herself.

The Deceivers by Alex Berenson
In the wake of a fatal incident in Dallas that may have been staged to look like a terrorist attack, former CIA agent John Wells is dispatched to Colombia to collect information from an old asset, a mission involving an audacious Russian plot that proves to be the most deadly of his career. By the Edgar Award-winning author of The Faithful Spy. 

The Kremlin's Candidate by Jason Matthews
Overhearing a Kremlin plot to install a spy in a high intelligence position so that the Russians can identify CIA assets in Moscow, Dominika launches a desperate mole hunt, only to be exposed and arrested before recklessly immersing herself in Kremlin palace intrigues in the hopes of stealing as much information as possible before her time runs out.
This is the third book in the Dominika Egorova and Nathaniel Nash trilogy. Start with Red Sparrow and follow it with Palace of Treason.

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland
A dedicated CIA counterintelligence analyst assigned to uncover the leaders of Russian sleeper cells in the United States stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents before facing an impossible choice that tests her loyalties to the agency and her own family. 

A Divided Spy by Charles Cumming
Former MI6 officer Thomas Kell takes the law into his own hands when an unexpected chance at revenge compels him to track a top Russian spy in possession of a terrifying secret, only to find himself embroiled in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse. By the best-selling author of The Trinity Six.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Labor Day, Ken Burns and American History

Labor Day and the labor movement grew out of the need to protect the common interest of American workers. Organized labor unions fought for better wages, reasonable hours, and safer working conditions. The movement also led efforts to stop child labor, give health benefits and provide aid to injured or retired workers.
On the occasion of the coming Labor Day weekend, my thoughts turn to other defining times in the history of America from political and economic struggles to its national pastime and musical history. Who better to lead us on such an explorative journey of American history than Ken Burns, American filmmaker known for his style of using archival footage and photographs in stunning documentary films. His documentaries have earned two Academy Award nominations and have won several Emmy Awards, among other honors. His widely known documentary series include the America collection, history classics, and war series. Fortunately, the Glenview Public Library owns many of them for your viewing pleasure on the upcoming three day weekend. The following are just some of them:

The Vietnam War (2017)
Watch the story about one of the most consequential, divisive, and controversial events in American history.
Jackie Robinson (2016)
The story of an American icon whose battle for first class citizenship for African Americans transcends sports.
The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (2014)
Three family members that redefined the relationship America had with their government and with each other.
The Address (2014)
Uncovers how President Lincoln's historic words motivate and engage students over 150 years later'
The Central Park Five (2012)
Story about five black and Latino teenagers whose lives were upended by a miscarriage of justice.
The Dust Bowl (2012)
A chronicle of the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history that nearly decimated wheat supply.
Prohibition (2011)
Tells the story of the rise, rule, and fall of the 18th Amendment and the era it encompassed.
The National Parks: America's Best Idea (2009)
This film features those willing to devote themselves to saving land that they loved and practicing democracy.
Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip (2003)
Defying what was thought to be impossible, Dr. Jackson drives cross country for the first time ever.
Jazz (2001)
America's greatest original art form is celebrated in this portrait of the roots for improvisational music.
Not For Ourselves Alone: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (1999)
The little-known story of two women who led the fight to win the most basic civil rights for all American women.
Baseball (1994)
A series that examines nearly 200 years of American history through the prism of our national sport.
The Civil War (1990)
It was the most horrible, necessary, intimate, acrimonious, mean-spirited and heroic conflict of the nation.
The Statue of Liberty (1985)
Examines the nature of freedom and the statue's significance within American life.

There are many others so come visit the AV room at GPL and discover some others for yourself this Labor Day weekend.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Great Reads for Your Book Club

Looking for great novels for your book group? Try one of my favorite websites for book clubs ReadingGroupGuides. This website offers hundreds of reading guides in all genres including nonfiction titles. It has tips on how to start a book club, how to select a book, and how to run your book club. It even has fun contests to enter. Every year it publishes a list of "most requested guides" and I've chosen a few of my favorites from their list.

Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
News of the World by Paulette Hiles
Piece of the World by Christina Kline Baker