Staff Choices

Posted by bpardue on 01/06/16
Pianist Paul Bley, 83, passed away this week. He leaves behind a jazz legacy of boundless progression and experimentation. After a fairly straightforward start to his recording career in 1953, he soon headed a trio that featured up-and-coming free jazz pioneers Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. In the 1960s, he was one of the first jazz musicians to use synthesizers. Later, he would champion such new artists as Jaco Pastorius and Pat Metheny. By the end of his career, he had over 150 albums to his name. There are numerous Bley albums available on Hoopla Digital. 
Here is an NPR report on Bley from 1/6/16:
Posted by Uncle Will on 01/06/16
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I'm just a big, old kid. So sue me. In 1960 I saw on TV for the first time Peter Pan - starring the late Mary Martin as Peter and Sir Cyril Ritchard as Capt. Hook. I was hooked.
I'm still scared that if I hang a foot or arm off the end of the bed, a crocodile is gonna snatch it off while I'm sleeping. To date I've seen just about any and every version of this classic tale and of course read the novel by J.M. Barrie. I was gonna pan outta viewing this latest film adaptation until I brought it home and thought, what the heck, I'd give it a try.
Pan explores an interesting angle. . .that Hook and Peter once were friends and not always aversaries. It stars Hugh Jackman, who I enjoy his work. It also has refreshing newcomer, the 13 year old, Levi Miller, in the title role. His expressive eyes only adds to his charm.  
Adding to the charm of this film is a score that is both lively and supportive. The CGI is okay. I liked the way the pirate ships float in space. Garrett Hedlun (of Friday Night Lights fame) shows some potential to play a more devious role in the obvious sequel.
It is rated PG and not that scary. I almost was able to let my arm drift off the bedside as I fell asleep the night I watched this film. Almost...
Posted by bpardue on 01/04/16
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As a New Jersey kid growing up in the 1970s, I loved soccer. I remember being completely thrilled when the New York Cosmos brought on the legendary Pele, immediately catapulting the then-struggling North American Soccer League (NASL) into the national spotlight and seemingly making soccer America's "next big thing." For the next several years, I thrived as a Cosmos fan (sorry Sting enthusiasts!) and completely bought into the idea that big-time soccer was soon to be a permanent fixture on prime-time TV. Of course, I knew nothing of the NASL's disastrous business model, and didn't realize that, when teams weren't drawing 30,000+ crowds for games against the Cosmos, they were lucky to be filling 15,000 seats in NFL stadiums.
Ian Penderleith's Rock & Roll Soccer gives us a good long glance at the NASL and considers what made it special (great international talent, a willingness to try and create a league based on attractive, fan-friendly soccer when European teams were becoming ever more defense-oriented) and what ultimately brought it down (excessive focus on the Cosmos, allowing for too much expansion too quickly, etc.).
The approach is thematic rather than sequential. Chapters focus on topics like "Pele vs. Eusebio" or "The NASL vs. Fifa and the world," with quite a bit of sidebar-like inserts to illustrate points. This means that the timeline jumps around a bit, but it still makes for a lively, entertaining read. There are plenty of colorful anecdotes about legendary players like Pele, Rodney Marsh, George Best and Giorgio Chinaglia, along with accounts from lesser-known American players, as well.
Ultimately, did the NASL help or hurt soccer's profile in the US? Is the current league, Major League Soccer, successfully managing expansion in a fashion that will avoid NASL's disastrous collapse? You can take either side, but the story of American soccer is certainly not complete without the NASL.
Posted by jdunc on 12/23/15
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“We make choices, big and small, every day of our lives, and those choices have consequences. Fate or not, our lives are still the results of our choices”.  Can one small choice really change the course of your life? In her latest novel, Taylor Jackson Reid explores the questions of fate, choices, and how they influence finding “the one”. Hannah Martin is going aimlessly through life, moving from place to place on a whim and can’t quite get her life together. She decides to return home to Los Angeles after an affair with a married man ends badly. On her first night home, while out with friends, she makes one choice that creates two vastly different lives and stories. Should she stay at the bar and rekindle a romance with an old high school boyfriend or should she leave with her best friend?  In alternating chapters, Sliding Doors style, Hannah’s life takes two vastly different directions.

The book itself is not about regret but focuses on the idea that life is what you make of it. It begs the question is there such a thing as fate? Does life end up the way it is supposed to be or are the series of choices you make have a greater influence? Fast-paced and at times humorous, you’ll want to rush to through it to see how the two stories end.
Posted by meyoung on 12/22/15
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Margaret Atwood does it again in this interesting sociological experiment of a book. Set in the near future, we first meet Stan and Charmaine down on their luck. Stan has lost his job and the couple had to sell their house. While living in their car, Charmaine is attempting to keep things together by working odd hours at a seedy bar where she first sees a commercial that promises an experience that will lower the unemployment rate and promises a comfortable life – to come and live at Consilience. If selected, the applicants are guaranteed a steady job, a home, transportation, and the life they’ve been missing out on.
There’s a catch. There’s always a catch. In order to sustain the society at Consilience, every other month will be spent in a prison while your “Alternates” live in your home. Everything seems to be going according to plan. Charmaine and Stan both have jobs that fit their skill set, both earn money, both have adequate transportation, both contribute to the prison life, and both are happy – for the most part. When both Charmaine and Stan become independently obsessed with their Alternates, things start to spiral.
With an Atwood book you really can’t go wrong.
Posted by bpardue on 12/18/15
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Jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty has built up an impressive discography. Now, he shows up on two very different collaborations. First, he teams up with former Yes vocalist Jon Anderson and a formidable group of session musicians to create the Kickstarter-funded Better Late Than Never. Ponty and Anderson contrubute a number of newly-composed songs, such as "One in the Rhythm of Hope," and there are a number of reworkings of Yes tunes ("And You And I," "Roundabout," etc.) and Ponty songs with added vocals ("Infinite Mirage--Soul Eternal"). Overall, the proceedings are more rock/fusion than jazz and are a nice listen for fans of either musician.
For the more jazz-minded fan, Ponty has also collaborated with legendary bassist Stanley Clarke and French guitarist Bireli Lagrene for the album D-Sringz. The album feels like a more modern version of Stephane Grappelli's and Django Reinhardts' Hot Club performances--everything swings and there are some fantastic takes on classics, such as Reinhardt's "Nuages" and Joe Zawinul's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" (most famously recorded by both Cannonball Adderly and The Buckinghams). The album is also available in hoopla.
Posted by BARB W on 12/18/15
Enter the world of surrealist Swiss artist H.R. Giger in the 2014 film, Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World. This work is a classic case of life imitating art, as his world on canvas is eerily similar to the one he inhabits.

I first became familiar with these mesmerizing works through some cover art that Giger did for Emerson, Lake and Palmer, a progressive rock group popular in the 1970’s. In the 1979 science fiction blockbuster film Alien, and the subsequent Alien films, we once again witness the far-reaching vision of Giger. The creature, the ship, and the entire landscape were developed from his visionary soul.

The story traces his life from early childhood and illuminates the inspiration and motivation that power his art. Images come to him in dreams, all related to his obsessions with birth, death and the feminine form. Giger passed away in 2014, but we are lucky that his work is on permanent display at the H.R. Giger Museum at Gruyères in Switzerland. And we are lucky indeed, to have this exceptional film as a tribute to his life.
Posted by Lucy S on 12/15/15
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Handwritten letters flutter out of old books donated by her grandmother, Dorothy, to the book store where Roberta works. These letters reveal details about her grandparents while simultaneously raising questions. Time is running short to find answers as her father is ailing and Dorothy is elderly. The story is told in the past and the present through the perspective of these two women. When Dorothy was a young woman she lived in rural England with her husband that became a loveless, childless marriage. When WWII began her husband left to fight. One day a downed Air Force plane near her home brought Dorothy to meet Jan, a Polish pilot and squadron leader. They soon became more than strangers. Until reading this I did not know how much Polish people, exiles from German-occupied Poland, contributed to the war efforts of the RAF in England.
Roberta’s relationships within the book store, her father and grandmother make up the modern day part of the story. She makes some poor decisions along the way and, unfortunately, I thought that the seriousness of the issues was treated a little lightly. Having said that I like how Roberta cares deeply for her family and continues to try to find out more about them. I found myself liking the narrative of Dorothy more, how her hardships and decisions shaped and affected those in her life. How different our lives could be if we weren’t compelled to act in haste and judgment.

If you enjoy a book that has a dual timeline, elements of historical fiction, and old-fashioned letters that advance a story you might consider reading Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase by British debut novelist Louise Walter.

Posted by Uncle Will on 12/04/15
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Wayward Pines is a suspense/thriller mini-series based on a 3-book series by Blake Crouch. I watched the DVD before I realized that the show was based on the books. The show was a little confusing and left me wanting more. Imagine my delight when I found that our library owned all 3 books. Needless to say, I checked them all out on 
the same day and read them with the speed of Flash, trying to get to the studio in time to make a cameo appearance on the set of Arrow.
Wayward Pines has a very good cast which includes two Academy Award winners (Melissa Leo and Terrence Howard) along with Matt Dillon, Juliette Lewis, Carla Gugino, and veteran character actor Toby Jones. The setting is a small town in Idaho that was "created" by a billionaire genius. Won't tell you any more. Don't want to spoil the surprises.  Won't even suggest what you should do first - read the books or view the DVD.
This mini-series has been compared to Twin Peaks (1990-1991). Both are quirky.  It basically comes down to what do you prefer:  a fine cup of coffee and a damn good piece of cheery pie or a double-scoop of rum raisin ice cream?
Posted by BARB W on 12/03/15
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Mariel Hemingway, granddaughter of the famed American author Ernest Hemingway, has created a profoundly personal account of life in this famous family in her memoir, Out Came the Sun: Overcoming the Legacy of Mental Illness, Addiction, and Suicide in My Family.

Mariel’s life was an odd seesaw of entitlement and dysfunction. Her famous grandfather killed himself only months before she was born, yet there were expectations placed on her as a “Hemingway.” Everyone in her family suffered from something: alcoholism, depression, mental illness.

Mariel became the superficial functional member of this very dysfunctional group. But being the peacemaker in a family like this was costly, and she developed her own set of problems; obsessive compulsive disorder that spawned numerous eating disorders.

The problems around her intensified, and as Mariel tried to build a film career, she also struggled to assist her family and buttress a difficult marriage. The beauty of this book is in the revelation that fame and fortune do not exclude people from pain and tragedy. The real story is how you rebuild your life and choose to live. This is an eloquently told story of survival and strength. Narrated by the author.
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