Wednesday, September 26, 2012


The call number listed above is one of my favorite sections in this library right now. For those not initiated in the mystical art of Dewey book location, 741.5 refers to all things comic and graphic novel related. We've always had a decent selection of graphic novels, but over the past year or so it's really taken off. And the quality of the books is astounding.

Earlier today while scrolling through Susie Cagle's twitter posts (she's a graphic journalist out of Oakland), I saw a quote she posted by Josh Neufeld (who illustrated the wonderful Influencing Machine by Barbara Gladstone) stating "I think people are finally realizing that comics is a medium, not a genre." That's something that often gets lost in the inevitable justifications that usually follow the discussion of comic books with an audience that might not value comic books as a legitimate book due to its graphic nature. The term is no more descriptive of subject matter than "fiction" is. It gives you only a concept of how the story is to be told. In the case of comics, with words and pictures. Everything else is variable and wildly divergent in quality and content. Like any other book.

However, for those who want the "inevitable justifications" about the legitimacy of comics, may I refer you to Dylan Meconis' How Not to Write Comics Criticism. Not only does it help you avoid the pitfalls of being mealy mouthed when speaking about comics, it also makes you realize there is no point in being so. I wish I would have read this before I wrote about graphic novels a couple years ago. I think I even used the CAFKA cliche. How embarrassing.

So with not having to go over all that (again), I'd rather tell you about a few of the titles I've stumbled across lately. The first of which is Unterzakhn by Leela Corman. Beautifully illustrated in bold black and white drawings somewhat similar to Marjane Satrapi's art in Persepolis, Unterzakhn is the story of twin sisters Esther and Fanya Feinberg. Growing up in Lower East Side New York at the beginning of the 20th Century, the girls have few choices for the future other than marriage and children. Through chance encounters with other independent (and ethically flawed) women, both will circumvent that path.

Fanya finds eduction by an apprenticeship with the neighborhood "lady doctor." While this includes traditional book learning (something Fanya desires but her mother dismisses as needless), it also sends Fanya down the road of fighting for women's reproductive rights. At that point in time, it was not a highly regarded or even legal profession depending on how those rights manifested themselves.

Esther, on the other hand, is put to work assisting a local burlesque owner. At first this is just a matter of helping with costumes and the like, but later stems a career as a dancer and actress. Over time she becomes famous, yet the glamor she achieves does not come cheap.

The tale of the Feinbergs is not a heart warming coming of age. It's tragic and at times brutal. It's also an amazingly well crafted story showing the alienation women experienced (and experience) when they chose to step outside of roles expected of them.

Moving on to lighter fare, remember when the world financially tanked in 2008 and it seemed like everything was coming to an end? For a large portion of the population, that event pulled back the veil on something rarely considered by most of us: how the economy actually works. Often times the economy can feel like a force of nature, something that just exists which we can only weather through rather than control. Sometimes it's sunny and sometimes it's stormy. What can you do? But in truth it's a malleable and fallible construction crafted by human hands.  

Michael Goodwin's Economix (see what he did there?) is a good primer on how we got to this point. Starting from around the Enlightenment all the way up to present day, Goodwin describes the philosophical and practical concepts related to our modern capitalist economy. For better or worse.

Philosophy sounds like it would make a boring comic, right? Not so! The graphic format is the perfect way to parse down complex concepts (read Logicomix or Action Philosophers for great examples of this). Goodwin does an excellent job in keeping the text simple and conversational no matter how twisty the subject matter is. But it's Dan Burr's illustrations that make this comic so effective. The playful graphic vocabulary he creates is possibly the best distillation of economic concepts I've come across. I got a D in high school economics though, so take that with a grain of salt. 

Warning: if the name Milton Friedman brings warm fuzzies to your heart, this may not be your jam. If the name Milton Friedman makes you see red, you'll probably enjoy the Keynesian angle the author pursues. If none of the above makes a lick of sense to you, then this book was written for folks just like yourself. While Goodman does take a political stance at the end, he very clearly points out that is what he's doing so that you can make your own decision as to it's validity.

Not into economics or sad tales of poverty and despair (though I can't imagine why you wouldn't be)? Well, there are plenty of other options out there as well. If you haven't seen it yet, there's a large display of all our graphic novels up on the second floor. Feel free to browse through it and find something that suits your fancy... if that suits your fancy.
posted by jw

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

National Register to Vote Day - September 25, 2012

Today is National Register to Vote Day.  Be sure to register before October 22, 2012, so you can vote in the November 6th Presidential Election. In 2008, 6 million Americans did not vote because they did not know how to register or they missed their state's voter registration deadline, according to the US Census. In 2012, we want to make sure no American is left out. 

Many important Propositions will be decided on at this election too.  Hear nonpartisan information showing both sides arguments at a presentation next Tuesday, October 2, 2012 in the Cedar Room at Central Park Library.  Call (408) 615-2900 to sign up or if you have questions.

You can register online and check to see if you are registered here.

posted by mb

Otter 501 Documentary Film Screening

Join us on Sunday, September 30 at 2:00 p.m. in the Central Park Library Redwood Room to view the Otter 501 documentary film! Reserve a space for this free program at the Reference Desk or call (408) 615-2900. School-age children and adults are welcome. A description of the film follows.

A young woman finds a stranded baby sea otter on a windswept beach after a storm. Peering down at the damp, shivering fur ball, she grabs her cell phone and makes a call, setting in motion a story about the otter’s struggle for survival and humans’ efforts to protect an iconic species.

Combining documentary and dramatic narrative techniques, OTTER 501 chronicles the remarkable true story of an orphaned baby otter who was washed ashore on the Northern California coast when she was less than a week old. Rescued by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation Program, “501,” as she was called, became part of a groundbreaking surrogate program where she was introduced to an adoptive sea otter mother who reared her for months so she could develop the necessary skills to survive in the wild. Parallel to this remarkable tale of how 501 got a second chance at life is the story of young Katie, an aspiring marine biologist who discovers the orphaned otter and and becomes a volunteer at the Aquarium. Blending original footage and the tools of social media, OTTER 501 is a unique hybrid of fact and fiction that takes the traditional wildlife documentary into a new style of storytelling.

See the film’s press page to find out what folks are saying about OTTER 501!

posted by mb for jb

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Voting Information

Election Day 2012 is November 6th but many of you will be voting early (starting October 8), either at the Registrar of Voters in San Jose on Berger Drive or with a mail in ballot.  Yes, we are choosing a president for the next four years and many other elective offices.  Learn more about early voting information and locations at a Registrar of Voters Meet and Greet.

California Propositions
     There are eleven propositions for Californians to decide this time including budgeting and tax measures, ending the death penalty, and making changes to the 3 Strikes Law.  Learn more about them when you come to the free nonpartisan League of Women Voters presentation Tuesday, October 2 at 7:00 p.m. in the Cedar Room at Central Park Library.   Learn who is behind the measures, who opposes them and what each side is saying.  Can't make it on October 2nd but still want to hear the presentation?  See the League calendar.
     You can also read about the propositions on the Easy Voter Guide available here in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean or get printed copies at the library in early October. 

Be Sure to Vote
Register to Vote by Monday, October 22, 2012.  Find out your voting location here.  Mail in your ballot so it arrives before 8 p.m. November 6 or drop it off at these locations:  all election sites and more drop off locations

posted by mb

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Happy 225th Birthday Constitution!

The U.S. Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and ratified by conventions in eleven states.  It went into effect on March 4, 1789.  Read the Constitution here.

Come in the library and see the 2nd floor book display celebrating Constitution Week, September 17-24.   Constitution Week was initiated by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1955.  The Daughters of the American Revolution is a patriotic organization that encourages education and historic preservation in communities across America.  The Santa Clara Chapter of DAR participated in preparing this book display.

Read A More Perfect Union: The Creation of the U.S. Constitution here.  Read Questions & Answers Pertaining to the U.S. Constitution here.

Try these books:

Summer of 1787 by David O. Stewart 342.02 S84
The successful creation of the Constitution is a suspense story. The Summer of 1787 takes us into the sweltering room in which delegates struggled for four months to produce the flawed but enduring document that would define the nation -- then and now.

Plain, Honest Men by Richard Beeman 342.029 B41
From distinguished historian Richard Beeman comes a dramatic and engrossing account of the men who met in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787 to design a radically new form of government. Beeman takes readers behind the scenes and beyond the debate to show how the world's most enduring constitution was forged through conflict, compromise, and, eventually, fragile consensus during a time when many Americans feared that a combination of financial distress and civil unrest would doom the young nation's experiment in liberty

America's Constitution a biography by Akhil Reed Amar 342.029 A48
In America's Constitution, one of this era's most accomplished constitutional-law scholars, Akhil Reed Amar, gives a panoramic account of one of the world's great political texts. Incisive, entertaining, and occasionally controversial, this "biography" of America's framing document explains not only what the Constitution says but also why the Constitution says it.

posted by mb

Friday, September 14, 2012

Note for children's programs from September 17-21

The Central Park Library will be replacing an industrial air conditioning unit during the week of September 17 – 21, 2012.

Please note:

• The preschool story-time program scheduled for 10:30AM on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 has been cancelled for public safety considerations

• From 10:00 – 11:00AM on Tuesday, September 18, 2012, there will be no public access to the children’s area, the teen area, and the entire west-side of the 2nd floor

• The parking lot on the east side of the Library will be closed to the public from September 17 – 21; it will be used as a staging area for equipment, tools, and vendors

• The street will be open to through traffic

The Library apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause.

~ ac

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Hollow Man for the King

In a recent review of Jonathan Tropper's book "One Last Thing Before I Go", Ron Charles proclaims it to belong to the "Whiny Man" category of literature.What is Whiny Man literature? It's a schlubby little corner of the publishing market in which sad-sack George Constanza types endlessly bemoan their past failures while setting themselves up for new ones. Again. And again. And again. And... again.

They fail at their jobs. They fail at their marriages. They've failed their children. Their bodies are failing them. The only thing they haven't failed at is failure, but were they to really make a conscious go at it, they might succeed (thereby failing).

But that's okay because, as the adage states, failure builds character, right? Not exactly. The authors indeed use failure to build their characters. But it's a monolithic architecture of ineptitude they construct to place upon these weak, fleshy foundations. The failure doesn't make them stronger or more resilient. It just further defeats and deflates them. When the end of the book arrives, it's a relief. Like getting off a plane when you've spent the last five hours seated next to a depressive bore.

As you might guess, I'm not a fan.

So I was supremely bummed out to find that Dave Eggers' new book, A Hologram for the King, is a Whiny Man book. Well, that's not exactly fair. It's a political allegory dressed as a Whiny Man book. Or perhaps it's a Whiny Man book masquerading as a political allegory. Depends at which way you want to squint at it. Regardless, I was hoping for much more from Eggers.

The premise is that an American consultant goes to Saudi Arabia in order to try to get a contract for an IT company to wire a yet to be constructed city. The consultant, Alan Clay, has spent most of his life working in the bicycle industry (as an executive of Schwinn specifically) making things cheaper and more efficient by moving production overseas. He did so until the American bicycle industry pretty much collapsed and he found himself out of work. Oops. If he can land this deal, it would be his redemption and hopefully get him out of the crushing debt he's accumulated by other ill-fated ventures.

But there's a hitch. King Abdulla is a busy man and cannot guarantee his presence at any given time. They must wait until he arrives. It could be days, weeks, or months. So Alan and his three barely fleshed out young IT staffers (who spend 90% of their cameo time asleep or with heads buried in their laptops) show up to a tent in the desert every morning in the hopes that the King will arrive. When he does, they will give him a whiz bang presentation of American ingenuity in the form of a live holographic meeting with a London based representative of their company. The King will be impressed with their inventiveness and give them the contract. And all Alan's problems will be solved. Or they would could they get a good wi-fi signal out in the tent.

Instead of having a forward moving plot, we get a bunch of navel gazing from Alan while he waits. Guilt ridden reminiscences of being complicit in the weakening of American industry. Anxiety about telling his daughter he won't be able to finish paying for he education since he's broke. Not so fond memories of his crazy, free spirit of an ex-wife. And to cap it all, a worrisome lump on his neck he is sure is cancer.

Occasionally we get some respite from this pity fest in the form of Yousef, Alan's wise cracking cab driver. In comparison to Yousef, the other characters surrounding Alan to prop up this story seem drab and dim. When the two of them are in the car talking back and forth, it feels like the narrative builds momentum. It also feels like Eggers is having fun. Finally.

I'd like to point out that this is not a bad book. In fact, the style of Eggers' writing carries you along no matter how deary the subject. The problem with the book stems largely from matters of expectation. I expect Eggers, on account of his past work, to give the characters heart. Humanity. Oddly, it seems to lack in this book. Alan felt as if he were a cross stitch of "important issues". Not a real person. He was a necessary, but sloppy tool to address the larger topics.

The main focus seems to be documenting a moment of a collapsing middle class. Alan is a wreck because the world he knew, the world that once valued his contribution, is unraveling. The economic sweet spot that the middle class once represented (careers instead of patchworks of jobs, home ownership, marriage, college bound kids, a financial margin of error) has been whittled away. Manufacturing jobs and other such industries have dried up in the wake of globalization (among other things) leading to unemployment or underemployment. The housing market went absolutely haywire in 2008 stripping people of homes or at least the stability of what owning a home represented. Divorce is about as common as marriage. College prices have skyrocketed, but job prospects after college have flatlined. Most people are in a terminal state of debt. Even America's powerhouse status has shifted. All of this troubles Alan as he sits waiting for the King. It's a lot to be insecure about. It's a lot to whine about. And so he does.

But he doesn't do much else. Except wait, worry and hope for things to get better. And perhaps that's the message. Or perhaps that's the provocation. Is it a resilient stoicism we are suppose to find in Alan or a pathetic resignation? Is this befuddled middle age man suppose to represent us as a culture or serve as a warning of what we could be? Had I cared more about Alan, had he felt more real, I would probably find that question more troubling.
posted by jw

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Teens: Get Ready for the SAT and ACT Exams!

Prepare for the upcoming SAT and ACT Exams by checking out our latest SAT and ACT exam resources in print and electronic formats. Here are a few recommended titles:

Peterson's SAT 2013*Peterson's Master the SAT 2013 by Peterson's
This book provides a wealth of strategies and helps students prepare for the SAT with extensive reviews and nine full-length practice tests--including three on the provided CD--to help sharpen math, writing, and critical reading skills.

12 practice tests for the SATSAT 2013: Strategies, Practice, and Review by Kaplan, Inc.
Get ready for the SAT by taking 9 practice SAT tests covering math, writing, and critical reading skills. This book contains detailed answer explanations for each exam question, a parent's guide to college admission testing and useful chapter summaries to help guide the student through the book.

official study guide for all SAT subject testsThe Official Study Guide for all SAT Subject Tests by The College Board
Planning to take one of the SAT Subject Exams? Then check out this substantial study guide, which contains exam tips, strategies and practice tests for all SAT subject exams.

Cracking the ACTCracking the ACT by Geof Martz
Cracking the ACT contains proven techniques from the test prep experts. Two full-length practice tests in the book and exclusive free access to an additional practice test online will help prepare ACT test takers.

ACT : strategies, practice, and reviewACT: Strategies, Practice, and Review by Kaplan, Inc.
This is a substantial guide for students preparing for the ACT exam. Includes exam tips and strategies, a diagnostic quiz with personalized feedback, and two practice tests.

ACT or SAT? : choosing the right exam for you
ACT or SAT?: Choosing the right exam for you. by The Princeton Review
This useful book will help you decide which college entrance exam to take - the SAT or the ACT exam. Make an informed decision by learning the differences and advantages of each exam.

Attend free PSAT Practice Test and Review sessions hosted by Kaplan on the following days and times:

Saturday, September 8

Monday, September 17
630pm - 730pm at Central Park Main Library

Spaces are limited. To register for these events, please call 408-615-2916 or visit the Youth Services Desk.

Take free online SAT or ACT practice exams by accessing LearningExpress Library or Brainfuse (library card is required for home access):

 Note: First time users will need to create an account.

 LearningExpress Library
 Note: First time users will need to create an account.

Feel free to ask a Youth Services librarian at your library if you have any questions about the SAT or ACT exam preparation resources. Good luck!
posted by pn

Be an Informed Voter! Impartial Proposition Information

Join us for an impartial analysis of 11 propositions on the ballot for the November 6, 2012, election.  Representatives from Cupertino's League of Women Voters will present on the following issues:
  • Two competing state tax plans
  • Changing the state to a two-year budget
  • Closing a business tax loophole
  • Several law enforcement propositions
  • Ban on political contributions by payroll deduction
  • Automobile insurance rate proposition
  • Labeling genetically engineered food
  • State Senate redistricting proposition.
League members will tell the effect the proposition will have if enacted and who supporters and opponents of the measures are and what they have to say.  Questions will be answered to the best of their abilities.

Cedar Room, Central Park Library, 2635 Homestead Rd., Santa Clara, CA 95051
Call (408) 615-2900 to sign up.

posted by mb