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The Public Library: Where All Your Resolutions Are Met

new-years-day-goalsOne of my favorite childhood memories is spending New Year’s Eve with my grandparents. They lived in Tuftonboro, New Hampshire, a spot overlooking Mt Shaw and surrounded by pine trees and heaps of snow in the winter. During this time, I remember a fire in the fireplace and the smell of Nana’s homemade fish chowder. Sometimes my family would stay up to watch the ball drop in New York City but more often we’d gather in the living room where each person would share what they were grateful for in the past year. It was a peaceful, reflective time.

Needless to say the calm often disappeared the next day when the mad scribblings of New Year’s resolutions began. Even now the difference between a goal and a resolution confound me. However, I found the clearest distinction between these two words on author Gretchen Rubin’s blog. She says: “You hit a goal, you achieve a goal. You keep a resolution.” In other words, if healthy living is your resolution, Pilates might be your goal.

After many, many years of struggling with my annual list of resolutions, I’ve come to a wonderful conclusion. This is big news, so listen up! All of your goals and resolutions can be met by the public library. “What’s that?” you say. “Did you go heavy on the eggnog?” “How can the library possibly help me fulfill my goals in 2017?”

Well, I’m glad you asked. Let us count the ways together.

1.    Perhaps you’ve been meaning to help others in your community but you aren’t sure where to begin. Did you know the Morrill Memorial Library has one of the twelve Literacy Affiliate programs in the State of Massachusetts? If you have the time and desire to help adult learners improve their literacy skills, the library has an opportunity for you. Likewise, our Outreach department has volunteers who deliver books and resources to patrons who are physically unable to get to the library.

2.    Are you hoping to read more this year? Well, how about that? The library happens to have books galore. But let’s get specific. Not only do we circulate the latest Best Sellers, but should you be too busy to enter our doors, we have a solution for you too. You can borrow books using OverDrive and Hoopla on your cellphone or tablet with your library card. And, if you don’t want to read alone, we have a variety of book clubs available for you to join.

3.    Need to shape up? Ah, that fateful word—exercise. I believe I heard a community sigh echo across the room. But let’s think about it in the broad sense of becoming healthier this year. You can accomplish this goal at your public library as well. We have exercise DVDs for the young, the mature and the restless. Everything from Kick Starting Your Metabolism to Cardio Kickboxing. We also have Pilates and Yoga, for the gentler souls.

4.    Then again, you may prefer to revamp your diet rather than twist your body into a variety of yoga contortions. We have a bevy of cookbooks for the occasion. My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl “follows the change of seasons as Reichl heals through the simple pleasures of cooking after the abrupt closing of Gourmet magazine.” Or try Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day by Leanne Brown. “If you’re living on a tight budget, Brown shows you how to maximize every ingredient and gives you tips on economical cooking methods; shopping and kitchen equipment; and much more.” And you can’t go wrong with Ree Drummond. Her book entitled The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime: Comfort Classics, Freezer Food, 16-minute Meals, and Other Delicious Ways to Solve Supper answers the question “What’s for Dinner?” with 125 simple recipes for the whole family.

5.    Want to stay in touch with family and friends but your social networking skills are a bit rusty? While we offer a variety of structured classes, you are welcome to sign up for individual technology assistance with our fabulous gurus. Some of the topics covered are help purchasing new technology, using a mobile device tablet, or Facebook and Twitter guidance.

6.    Who doesn’t want to add “Seeing the World” as a resolution for this year? The library has a whole travel section on our second floor. You can prepare for your trip ahead of time, without purchasing every single guide. And, speaking of travel, does your passport need updating? The Morrill Memorial Library is now an authorized US Passport Acceptance Facility. Several staff members have been trained to process passport applications. Book an appointment online, bring all your required paperwork and payment, and soon you will be all set to jet.

7.    Maybe you’d like to learn something new! We have workshops and lectures ready and waiting for you. Our Reference and Children’s departments create wonderful programs for all ages, including movie nights (with movie theater popcorn), expert speakers, and Learn to Knit classes. Maybe your child/grandchild can introduce you to a new board game (which you can now check out from the library) or to Queen Elsa when she visits.

8.    But wait! There’s more! Have you been meaning to find some of those relatives who may have fallen off of your family tree? We have several databases that could help you trace your roots. American Ancestors and Ancestry Library must be used at the library but Heritage Quest may be searched from home or a device with your library card. Also, Joe Petrie is our volunteer genealogist. You may schedule a one on one appointment with him for two hours and he will assist with your research using the online databases.
Isn’t that amazing? So many of your New Year’s resolutions can be found under the roof of your public library. In the words of Ray Bradbury, “Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.” What are you waiting for? Come check us out!

Nancy Ling is an Outreach Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Read her article in the January 5, 2017 issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.


One, Two, or Three Love Affairs to Remember

a-love-affair-to-remember-article-website-imageIt’s not the holidays for me without a Love Affair. The movie, that is. It might be the original 1939 black-and-white film. Love Affair. Or it could be the 1957 color remake, An Affair to Remember. Or perhaps it’s the1994 Love Affair, Warren Beatty-style. It’s that ending scene on Christmas Day in Terry McKay’s apartment that makes my holiday season a classic affair of the heart.

The original Love Affair released in 1939 was Director Leo McCarey’s first attempt at telling the story of a notorious playboy who falls deeply and surprisingly in love with a beautiful fellow cruise mate.  McCarey co-wrote this tale of a love affair between French painter and paramour, Michel Marnet and the beautiful Terry McKay. (This screenplay was written by Delmer Daves and Donald Ogden Stewart.)

McCarey had recently crossed the Atlantic himself, along with his wife on a cruise ship.  That voyage was inspiration for the film when he viewed the Statue of Liberty and skyline upon entering the New York harbor. The film was shot in glorious CinemaScope, its lovely photography of the luxurious ocean liner and wide-open ocean, impressing theatergoers. Michel Marnet is played by popular French actor Charles Boyer. Boyer is aloof, and a bit too serious, for my taste. Yet, his Michel Marnet character manages to woo glamorous and feisty Terry McKay, played by Academy Award nominee Irene Dunne. Unlike the actresses who played McKay in other versions of the film, Irene Dunne was also a singer. The song sung by children from the orphanage in the 1939 film (“Wishing”) was nominated for Best Original Song in 1940.  Of course, “Over the Rainbow” from the Wizard of Oz was also nominated and it won the award that year.

In 1957, Director McCarey, realizing the enormous success of one of the greatest romances of all time, decided to remake Love Affair. He had directed a big failure in 1952 (My Son John) and needed a sure win. And so, in An Affair to Remember, McCarey cast heart throb, British-American Cary Grant in the new version. Grant played opposite red-headed Deborah Kerr as Nick Ferrante.

Cary Grant was a charismatic and handsome playboy and he was the perfect man for his role in Affair to Remember. Grant was in the midst of his third marriage at the time of the film (eleven years from 1949 to 1962 to Betsy Drake) and that marriage actually lasted the longest of any of them.

Even today over 60 years later, An Affair to Remember is absolutely most film-lovers favorite version of the two versions of the film. Several obvious reasons are that Grant is more likeable and sensitive than Charles Boyer in the role of the uncatchable bachelor. Instead of a distant and suave Frenchman in the 1939 film, Cary’s character is both European and American and just a bit more vulnerable. Deborah Kerr as Terry McKay is still feisty and feminine, but the film is in glorious color, and highlights Kerr’s subtle creamsicle gown or bright 50s orange jacket.

McCarey included the same dialog in virtually every scene and it seems a direct replay from the original with Cary’s British accent substituting for Boyer’s French.

What really contributed to the 1957 film’s success, however, was its Academy Award-nominated theme song, “An Affair to Remember” or “Our Love Affair”. Not only is it sung by Vic Damone at the beginning of the film, but is also sung later in the film by Terry McKay, Deborah Kerr’s leading character. Interestingly, Deborah Kerr did not sing in the film but her voice was actually dubbed by Marnie Nixon. Nixon was also the lead character’s singing voice in the film versions of The King and I (Deborah Kerr), West Side Story (Natalie Wood), and My Fair Lady (Audrey Hepburn).

“Our Love Affair” became a jazz standard after its popularity in the film.

The critics don’t agree with me, but my favorite version of the film is the 1994 version, Love Affair, produced by Warren Beatty. The box office didn’t agree either; the 1994 Love Affair cost over $60,000,000 to make and only grossed $18,000,000 in theaters.

However, I think Beatty was perfectly cast. For over three decades of his life, and into his mid-50s, he was known as an insufferable romancer. He was so self-absorbed, in fact, that Carly Simon admitted in her autobiography (Boys in the Trees, 2015) that her cranky song “You’re So Vain” was written about three womanizing men, one of them Warren Beatty.

Yet, in 1992, Beatty had finally settled down at the age of 55 with actress Annette Benning. She was cast as Terry McKay in his version of Love Affair, just as she seemingly had been in real life. Beatty and Benning have now been married 24 years (with three children.) In the film, when Beatty is perfectly believable when he says “You know, I’ve never been faithful to anyone in my whole life.”

The last version of Love Affair begins on a flight from New York to Sydney Australia. When the  plane goes down somewhere over the Pacific islands, Beatty and Benning, playing Mike Gambril and Terry McKay, are forced to board a Russian cruise ship in order to re-board a flight in Tahiti. The supporting actors who join them and wacky Russian crew make the film funny and bright for me. It is also Katherine Hepburn’s last film role film role at the age of 86 and she is wonderfully crabby. Kate Capshaw and Pierce Brosnan, play the love interests at home and the late Garry Shandling is particularly charming as Beatty’s agent.

It’s interesting to note that the screenwriters have named the lead actress Terry McKay in all three versions, whether played by Dunne, Kerr, or Benning; yet, her love affair is with Michel Marnet in 1939, Nick Ferrante in 1957, and Mike Gambril in 1994.

Whichever version of this film you love, the story has been enchanting us for nearly four decades and are worthy of a watch anytime during the year.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Charlotte’s column in the December 29, 2016 issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

virtual reality

What is Virtual Reality?

virtual realityYou may have seen commercials with people wearing thick black goggles, headphones, and tiny gloves. These people might look like they’re sitting on the couch, but they may be climbing a mountain, skiing, or fighting fake zombies.  They are immersed in virtual reality, a trending technology that allows you to participate in the world of the game you’re playing, experience a roller-coaster without waiting in line, or control the Mars rover.  According to Paul Szoldra with Business Insider, “It’s not just about video games. NASA is using virtual reality to control its Curiosity Rover on Mars right now. Hollywood filmmakers are toying with the possibility of telling stories in a virtual world no longer constrained by a static screen in a movie theater. And everyone from architects to medical professionals are adapting the technology for their own ends.”

An NPR article addresses the potential for using virtual reality (or VR) to help in cognitive behavioral therapy. Itsy, a Samsung Nordic Virtual Reality app, is meant to help significantly reduce spider fear in three hours. Developed by William Hamilton and tested in cooperation with psychologists at Stockholm University, Itsy takes techniques borrowed from cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, transports them into a gamelike VR environment, and introduces viewers to animated spiders that slowly become more realistic.


Virtual reality still has a long way to go before it becomes mainstream. The devices released this year by HTC, Facebook’s Oculus, Sony PlayStation and Google largely revolve around gaming, limiting their audience. In addition, most of the devices are expensive.

But the technology has made significant strides. It works smoothly, and the experiences are immersive and stunning. Apps released this year — like Tilt Brush , a 3-D painting tool for HTC’s Vive, or SuperHyberCube , which is like Tetris with a virtual-reality twist for PlayStation VR — demonstrated virtual reality’s tremendous potential.

Chen, B. X. (2016). Biggest tech failures and successes of 2016. New York Times.
King, B. J. (2016).
Szoldra, P. (2016). It’s nearly impossible to describe the mind-blowing experience of virtual reality.  Business Insider.


Comic Snob

comic-snob-article-image-1-e1481765005383When I was a kid, I did not read comic books. I didn’t know much about them, other than that occasionally my brother got to buy one at the grocery store, while I got the more sophisticated (I thought) YM or Seventeen magazines. I thought comic books were for boys, although that really never stopped me in other areas in my young life, like being the only girl on the baseball team. But the stories in comic books seemed silly and boring, and they always seemed to be about Superman or Batman or Archie.

Though my family did read – my Mom read romance or “fluff stuff” as she called it and my Dad loved political thrillers and sci-fi – like many 80s kids I wasn’t exposed to a lot of alternative media. Comics stayed in my mind as a thing for little boys, who perhaps used them as an entry point for reading more serious literature. My brother, who struggled with reading, probably colored and shaped this perception.

As a pre-Internet era kid, if you were not exposed to something in person by stumbling across it at the library or a friend’s house, you might never get access to it. Although I loved art and books, I mostly relied on friends for recommendations, and no one that I knew was into comics, so all I knew about them was the stuff I saw my brother reading. Until I went to college. Ah, college – when you finally find your people. My people are the art nerds, and many of these new friends were interested in reading and creating comics.

The first time I stepped into a comic book store I was vaguely embarrassed. I had seen comics that my college friends were reading and they seemed ’cool’ enough, but I couldn’t shake my lifelong opinion that they were really for kids and, maybe, immature adults. But from that first time in a whole store of comics, I saw how wrong I was.

There were people who had normal body types and weren’t superheroes! Women who weren’t just damsels in distress, gay and lesbian characters treated with humanity, people with white, black, and brown skin. Hand drawn art, digital art, watercolors, mixed media. Fiction and non-fiction. There was a variety I had no idea existed, and I have never been quite the same since this realization.

I love art and stories, and comics and graphic novels are just a marriage of the two. Sure, finding ones you like can be slightly trickier than picking up your average book. If you don’t like the art it can be hard to enjoy the story, or you may love the art and find the story dull. But art and words are the medium, and as I have discovered over many years of reading comics, any type of story can be told as a comic.

Yes – there are a lot of superhero comics and mostly, I am still not interested. But Ms. Marvel is now a young Muslim girl! And Squirrel Girl is a totally bonkers take on the genre! There are comics of every type. If you can write a book about it, then a comic equivalent can also be created.

In some cases, there are graphic reinterpretations of classic books. There are graphic versions of Shakespeare plays, the Odyssey, Beowulf, and Jane Austen novels. A Wrinkle in Time, Fahrenheit 451, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and even the Book of Genesis have all been adapted.

My favorite tend to be the autobiographical. Gabrielle Bell writes about the general ennui of life. Lucy Knisley’s books chronicle different periods, usually centered around travel, family and food. Lynda Barry is the master of showing us how awkward and confusing childhood can be. Jeffrey Brown tries to show us what being a shy, big-hearted, weird man trying to figure out love and how to navigate daily living feels like.

Children’s books are an obvious analogue – we are used to illustrations in children’s literature. There are early readers like Luke on the Loose by Harry Bliss, T-Ball Trouble by Cari Meister, and Stinky by Eleanor Davis. There are chapter books like the BabyMouse books by Jennifer Holm and the Lunch Lady books by Jarrett Krosoczka. Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson, Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi, and Bone by Jeff Smith are all popular graphic novels for kids. Raina Telgemeier, author of Smile, Sisters, Drama, Ghosts and new graphic editions of the Babysitter’s Club books are blockbusters of children’s literature!

History? Try “The March Trilogy” by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, which illustrates the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March and the history of the civil rights movement. Or “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi, about life in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. “Hip Hop Family Tree” by Ed Piskor is collection of stories that chronicle the history of hip-hop in the 70s and 80s. “Hark! A Vagrant!” by Kate Beaton (my absolute favorite humor/history comic collection ever) mainly focuses on European and North American history, but you can enjoy the jokes even if you have no idea who she is talking about!

Fantasy and Science Fiction? Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, is one of the top comics of the past few years. A space opera about star crossed lovers just trying to keep their family together, it has a lot of heart. Sandman by Neil Gaiman, is a classic that has a little bit of everything – mythology, folklore, and fairy tales – all bleeding into our reality. Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman is a cultural phenomenon, with its currently 26 volumes and a successful television adaptation. Rick Grimes and crew fight zombies, and even more deadly, other survivors in a post-apocalyptic landscape.

Science? Neurocomic by Hana Ros is an exploration of the functions of the human brain. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer, by Sydney Padua, is a thoroughly researched story of the collaboration between these two scientists. Radioactive, by Lauren Redniss, tells the story of Marie and Pierre Curie, and both their personal journeys and scientific work.

Cookbooks? Check out Lucy Knisley’s “Relish,” or “In the Kitchen with Alain Passard,” by Christophe Blain.
There is The Cartoon Guide to Statistics, a graphic explanation of health care reform, and books on weather, math, logic.
You get the point, as I did, after a long journey that really started by walking into a comic book store for the first time – there is just as much variety in the comic and graphic novel medium as there is for any other type of book. And if you can’t find something exactly of the topic you are looking for, someone is probably working on it.

Nicole Guerra-Coon is a part-time Children’s and Reference Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read Nicole’s column in the December 15th issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.


A Taste for Reading

It is remarkable how much of an impact the mention of food has on me when I’m reading. One of my earliest recollections of this comes from the childhood memory of reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Even as I judged the traitorous Edmund for selling out his family, and indeed all of Narnia, to the horrible White Witch simply for Turkish Delight, I was mindful of the magic it had over him. My sympathetic sweet tooth kicked in as I read about how he gobbled down a few pounds of the enchanted candy – each piece “sweet and light to the very center” – and washed it down with a sweet, foamy and creamy beverage he’d never tasted before that “warmed him right down to his toes.”

Yet if descriptions of delightful food in books have the power to inspire us to hunger then so, too, does the absence of food. I was lightheaded by literature-inspired hunger as I read Elie Wiesel’s Night, nearly overwhelmed by the notion of people wasting away from lack of nourishment. Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes described one starving boy’s yearning for a simple potato so dearly that I was never again able to take for granted what for me had been a somewhat ordinary staple food. His fixation on “floury white potatoes” was so constant that the three words formed a distinct phrase that echoes in my head to this day.

Even when food isn’t pivotal to the plot, it can greatly enhance a reading experience. Last year I read several books outside of my usual genre, for a readers’ advisory class. Gail Carriger’s Soulless was an interesting mix of vampires, werewolves and steampunk that invoked a fascination for treacle tart so conspicuous that one of my classmates was moved to bake treacle tarts for us to sample. In Love Letters by Beverly Lewis, the simple, hardworking Amish lifestyle takes center stage – and the amount of time spent describing cooking, baking and canning made me famished! If I’m honest the book also caused me to wonder if there isn’t something to the idea of a simpler life spent attending well to daily tasks like cooking, instead of our modern focus on convenience and reliance on prepared foods, but I digress. In lieu of packing up and moving to Amish country, I now devote more time to cooking homemade meals, and hope to start baking the occasional pie.

As I read Gina Wohlsdorf’s novel Security I was fascinated by a passage in which a chef reflects on the profile cherries, lamenting that it has “a volatility that the common mouth does not comprehend.”  He goes on to note that cinnamon will make the cherries in his recipe too sweet while liquor will make them overly spicy. In a fit of pique, the chef exclaims, “I get desperate, monsieur – I try vinegar!”

This rekindled a curiosity I’d had about the strange alchemy of flavor that certain ingredients produce when combined. I was inspired to hunt for books on this topic, and ended up with a counter full of cookbooks from the library selected mainly on the basis of their titles. Of these, many didn’t fully address my question about the whys and wherefores of flavor combinations, they simply offered up recipes to try.

Luckily, two of the books had just what I was after. The Flavor Bible (by Karen Page) was a standout. The entries in this encyclopedia-style compendium of foods state brief characteristics for each item, followed by a ranked list of ingredients that pair well with it. I will look forward to testing the suggestions in this kitchen reference book.

Similar in concept if not format was Niki Segnit’s The Flavor Thesaurus, which contains a paragraph entry for each ingredient pairing, together with suggested recipes and variations of key ingredients. Many entries contain historical information. As an inveterate browser of cookbooks simply for the joy of it, I’ll look forward to reading this one in depth.

Since I am a member of the group of people who enjoys paging through cookbooks as entertainment, not necessarily in preparation to make a meal, I was led to some lighter fare such as The Geeky Chef Cookbook: Unofficial Recipes from Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, and more. This is a fun little romp through creative (if not authentic) recipes such as one for the blue milk from Star Wars (spoiler alert: it’s not just made with milk and dye) or the lembas the travelers ate to keep hunger at bay on their journey in The Fellowship of the Ring. Each recipe is introduced by a paragraph full of pop culture references, there’s something for everyone.

Another title that caught my eye even though it was outside the scope of my search for information on flavor was What Einstein Told His Cook, an interesting compendium of over 100 science-based explanations and debunked myths for such wonderments as why we salt water before boiling pasta, or why recipes call for unsalted butter but then ask you to add salt. Although there is some practical information herein, this book is more for fun.

I realize that in order to satisfy my latest curiosity about flavor combinations, I will have to start testing them out. Yet I also admit that from the sublime to the silly, the cookbooks on my counter don’t just display a desire to learn how to cook. They suggest a love of books that showcase sustenance. You might say I have a taste for reading about food.

Kirstie David is a graduate intern at Morrill Memorial Library, currently enrolled in the Simmons College School of Library and Information Science.

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