Sunday, December 9, 2018

Staff Review: "Addicted to Outrage" by Glenn Beck

We live in divisive times, my friends. Recent polling data shows that a majority of Americans believe that American politics have reached a dangerous low point. It is easy to become outraged at nearly anything these days. We see or hear something that has been said or posted on the internet and, if the offender differs from us politically, we can easily work ourselves into a lather and express our virulent disagreement without really listening or trying to understand where that person is coming from or what they are trying to say. In his new book, Addicted to Outrage, Glenn Beck makes the case that we are just that.

With a background in talk radio and a television resume that includes a nightly show on both CNN and Fox News, Glenn Beck is a political commentator who is reasonable, educated, and often entertaining and enlightening. He is a conservative, but any liberal readers out there should not eschew this book due to a difference of politics. In fact, Beck wrote this book  in an attempt to bring individuals of disparate political beliefs together and to encourage diversity of thought and reasoned discourse. He is appropriately critical of both sides of the political spectrum (including his own past use of outrage to discredit opponents) and their reliance on outrage to push their agendas and inspire ire for the other side. Beck encourages Americans to truly listen to one another, do their own research, check their outrage at the door, and attempt to come together as a nation. 

In this book, Beck gets back to the basics in an examination of those three documents that set America apart from every other nation that has emerged on this planet: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. He asserts that these three documents continue to guarantee that which has made America the greatest country in the history of the world: liberty for the individual. Let's not squander that over the things that divide us; rather, let's have a real conversation, sans the mudslinging. Our politicians could learn a lot from this book.

Beck urges his readers, regardless or even in spite of political disagreement, to give these ideas a try. The author asserts that the American Experiment is too important to allow to fall into disrepair due to what often amount to petty differences. If, dear reader, you feel the same I recommend this book. The author's ideas just may help us overcome our addiction to outrage and begin to come together as Americans.

~Ryan, Circulation

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Baking Pan: Tree Shape

Do you have a holiday party coming up and you don't really want to bake anything fancy. Borrow the tree cake pan from the library, throw in some cinnamon rolls, bake for 14-17 minutes, frost and you have a festive holiday contribution.

This is a picture of the cake pan after I took out the rolls, I promise it was clean when I started the process. Before I put the cinnamon rolls in the pan I sprayed it with baking spray, the kind with flour, to make sure the rolls didn't stick. I used 2 standard packages of cinnamon rolls. If you make rolls from scratch, you are my hero.  


Fresh from the oven! I placed a cutting board on top of the pan, flipped it over and dumped the rolls out. I then put another cutting board on top and flipped the whole thing again so I could frost the tops of the rolls. Does it really matter which side of the roll you frost? Probably not, they taste great either way.

I frosted the rolls with the frosting that came with the package. I was going to get fancy and make red and green frosting, but I didn't have any food coloring on hand. You could add sprinkles to the white frosting to make it more festive as well. Since the trunk seemed to be falling off, I ate that part first. 

Carnegie-Stout Public Library has a lot of great baking pans available to borrow.

~Amy, Adult Services (not a baker). 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Staff Review: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

In sixth century England, a mist covers the land that clouds the past, leaving people with only their immediate memories. The Buried Giant, by the 2017 Nobel Prize winning author Kazuo Ishiguro, opens up with a distant landscape of rolling green hills, hazy skies, and humble dwellings. In this medieval village, we meet our protagonists, Axl and Beatrice. When they seem to have a faint memory of being parents, their quest to find their adult son drives the narrative.

A Saxon warrior and his apprentice escort the aging Briton couple as they travel through an England in which Britons recently made peace with nearby Saxon villages, though mistrust and danger are ever present. We encounter old enemies of the Saxons, Monks who may not be who they appear, and a few mythical beasts along the way—though the most looming threat may be what lies behind the mist.

As their journey is on foot, the story moves at a similar pace. Someone looking for high action may abort at this point. Although there are parts with action and suspense, they burn slowly. Someone interested in an atmospheric story full of symbolism and rooted in English lore may proceed. I felt I was walking with the characters—I suppose partly because I was walking while listening to the story—but also because the descriptive text and repetitive dialog had a certain rhythm I found immersive. The resonant voice of the audiobook narrator, David Horovitch, and his skill with dialects certainly played its part in pulling me in as well.

The repetition may be irksome to some. Axl constantly addresses his wife as Princess, which may be cute at first, but happens about every time he speaks to her. There’s also a key character Sir Guwayne, from English lore. How many times can he remind the characters that he fought by King Arthur’s side? The answer is, a lot. With all the repetition and little back-story, some may find the characters flat. Usually, I prefer complex characters, but Ishiguro has a way of revealing complexity by withholding details. The repetitive rhythm and the present-tense characters make them anybody, the stuff of myths. The repetition also has the eerie quality of mirroring our own behavior.

The moral questions the book raises are fascinating and perennial giving it the feel of a modern myth. Must we bury the past to make peace in the present? Or do we bravely bring the past to light and seek clarity to heal old wounds? Is our conception of self made from internally repetitive myths? These questions make the book one to ponder long after the last page.

~Ben, Adult Services

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Staff Review: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

When Ann Leckie said that fans of her Imperial Radch series would like The Murderbot Diaries, I made a mental note. When the first novella in The Murderbot Diaries, All Systems Red, won the 2017 Nebula Award for Best Novella, the Locus Award for Best Novella in 2018, and the Best Novella Hugo Award in 2018, I realized I needed to read this Right Now. Luckily, Carnegie-Stout Public Library owns this series in both print and eBook form, so I was able to pick up All Systems Red from the comfort of my couch at 10:00 p.m.

Murderbot is the creation of author Martha Wells, and Wells has created a character and world that resonates with who I am as a reader in 2018 in ways I never could've expected. It's always a magical experience when you meet the right book at the right time. If you too feel like life is a little too dark, your emotions are sometimes too overwhelming, and you enjoy a good old fashioned adventure in space (with just a hint of lone cowboy hero), maybe you'll love this series as much as I have.

Murderbot is the hero of this series, not that Murderbot has any interest in being a hero. All Murderbot wants is a bit of peace and quiet to enjoy its favorite shows (it is partial to soap operas). Unfortunately, Murderbot is an artificial construct combining robotics, energy weapons, and cloned human parts (including a human brain) known as a SecUnit. Muderbot is the property of a company that rents out SecUnits and other security devices to groups engaged in dangerous tasks like exploring new planets. Luckily, Murderbot had the skills to hack its governor module (the bit of software that makes it do what humans tell it to do), which means that it can enjoy its shows during the many, long boring stretches when no one needs it to provide security.

The series starts with Murderbot doing as little as possible while on loan to a group of scientists exploring a potential colony planet. Until things go wrong and Muderbot realizes that something or someone is out to kill its humans. Something that Murderbot is not prepared to have happen ever again (before Murderbot hacked its governor module it experienced some things that have left it traumatized).

I don't know if Wells plans to continue this series in the future, but I sincerely hope so. In the meantime, I'll just need to enjoy rereading the stories that are available.

-Sarah, adult services

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Bingeworthy TV: Star Trek Discovery

This might date me, but I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation with my family, and this was the series that was my gateway to all things science fiction. As a result, the larger Star Trek universe will always have a special magic for me.

This is why, when a local theater offered the chance to watch the live-stream of the first episode of Star Trek Discovery on the big screen, I was there. Because Star Trek is so much a part of my general knowledge, it's hard for me to judge how good of an entry point this series might be for a viewer brand new to the universe. I think you'll be okay if you know a few basic facts:
  • Humanity has joined with other alien planets to form the United Federation of Planets
  • Star Fleet is the Federation's science and exploration based space navy
  • Vulcans are alien members of the Federation who dislike emotions
  • Klingons are aliens who feel threatened by the Federation's growth

Discovery takes place within the original universe established by the 1960s TV series*, but is set before the events of that series. It's not quite a spoiler to say that the Federation is on the brink of war with the Klingons as that war kicks off in the first episode and remains a focus of the first season.

This series is a bit darker than you might expect for Star Trek. It's fairly violent and main characters don't escape the consequences of that trauma. I'm used to a sense of optimistic adventure in my Trek, so this bleaker tone was not an easy adjustment. Things felt a bit uneven as the series tried to find a balance between the serious and the lighthearted. Parents should also be aware that characters use real four-letter English swear words on occasion.

Discovery follows Michael Burnham, an exceptionally intelligent and driven human who was raised by Vulcans after her family was killed. Michael's choices in the early days of the war with the Klingons have disastrous consequences for her career and her self-esteem. Spoilers: she goes to future space jail, until she's sprung by the eccentric captain of the spaceship Discovery and given a second chance to help the Federation.

There are several interesting characters in Discovery, but I don't recommend that you get too attached to anyone as several don't survive the first season. This didn't stop me from enjoying the character of Cadet Sylvia Tully. She added that sense of fun that I enjoy so much in Star Trek to a series that was often far darker and more serious.

The first season is packed with twists and turns and I'm curious to see what the creators have planned for their second season.

~Sarah, adult services

*As opposed to the recent reboot series of films starring Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana, which is an alternate reality.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Bingeworthy TV: Kim's Convenience

When I find something that makes me smile, I just want to share it with everyone. This means that I've told pretty much every friend and family member I have about how great Kim's Convenience is.

Kim's Convenience is a Canadian comedy series focused on the Kim family and the convenience store that they own and live above. And yes, it is based on a real Toronto convenience store that you can visit in real life (a possible road trip I have really considered).

Mr. and Mrs. Kim immigrated to Canada from South Korea and are often referred to by the Korean terms Appa (dad) and Umma/Eomma (mom). Janet, their youngest child, lives at home while attending art school and working part-time in the store. Jung, their oldest, left home as a teenager after clashing with his parents and the law. He's since turned his life around and works at a local car rental, but is still estranged from his father.

There's plenty of inter-generational and intercultural conflict and confusion to explore, and the series does so with care and humor. The series also allows its characters to grow and change from episode to episode, which gives an overall lighthearted show depth.

~Sarah, adult services