Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Books to Film - 2011 Award Winners

Read Charlotte Canelli's column in the March 3, 2012 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin or listen to the podcast on SoundCloud. Podcasts are archived on the Voices from the Library page of the library website. Charlotte Canelli is the Library Director of the Morrill Memorial Library.   From the Library - Books to Film: 2011 Award Winners by Charlotte Canelli

            I am, at times, a bit compulsive. I like to begin new projects and if it weren’t for my compulsive need to see them through, I might never complete them.  What might look to some as expansive enthusiasm is sometimes simply born of an impulse to plan.

            This year I took on Oscar a few weeks before the awards would be televised.  What began as a simple desire to see more than just a few of the Oscar-nominated movies ended in a manic last-minute adventure. In the end, I watched over nine movies in as many days and saw at least fourteen of the 2011 nominated films.

            Two of my favorite films of 2011 and nominated for Best Picture, “The Artist” and “Midnight in Paris”, were written as original screenplays.  Six of the other nine nominated for the grand award were adapted from stories originally written as books.

            There was much buzz about the film, “The Descendants” based on the book by Kaui Hart Hemmins. It is the fictional account of descendants of Hawaiian royalty, the King family.  Matthew King, played by George Clooney, attempts to parent his children, say goodbye to his wife and examine his marriage and life.  The movie is somehow a poignant portrayal of life and death, and a journey of marriage and family, extended and otherwise.

            Another much-anticipated film, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”, is based on the book of fiction by Jonathan Safran Foer. Nine-year old Oskar Schell loses his father in the World Trade Center attacks on 9-11.  Oskar’s deceased father is played by Tom Hanks; his mother by Sandra Bullock. Although it is the story about Oskar’s healing journey, I found the movie’s images of September 11 disturbing. During that tragedy in 2001 I had moved and hadn’t purchased cable service for my cable-ready television and only had viewing access to videos or DVDs. This self-imposed bubble was somewhat shattered by the film’s repeated images of the falling man. The story however, is sprinkled with enough humor, punning and wordplay to connect the heartbreaking story with powerful images of restoration and healing.

            I saw the film “The Help”, based on the book by Kathryn Stockett, in theaters last year.  It was a much-anticipated film after response to the book in 2009.  Having grown up in the 60s in the very liberal and very racially-diverse city of Berkeley, California, my experience was very far away from Mississippi. I never witnessed the type of discrimination Skeeter did as her life intersected with the lives of family maids, Abeline and Minny.  Even though my head knew the facts, my heart had been sheltered from that storm. I found the powerful story far more emotional on the big screen than on the pages in the book and I suspect that the audience around me held back or shed similar tears.

            One of my favorite nominated films of 2011 was “Moneyball” based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis (author of “The Blind Side” and “The Big Short”).  I actually thought Brad Pitt should have won the best-actor award for this film. I’ve never been a sportswoman but I can get caught up in a championship game or in the story of players struggling to beat the odds and I was entranced.  The New York Times writes that Lewis “could have made a fortune in business. Instead, he makes a fortune writing about it.”  “Moneyball” is about how games are won and teams are made – with players who are each a piece of that winning puzzle.

             “War Horse” is based on a 1982 children's novel by Michael Morpurgo.  It is the fictional account of an English boy, Albert, whose beloved horse, Joey, is sold to the British cavalry.  Joey is sent off to fight in France, Albert enlists and the movie chronicles the tragedies of the Great War.  We saw the film in the theater when we were looking for a family film.  I thought it was an amazing cinematic feat, much like “Saving Private Ryan”, a film about another war. Watching it, though, I was struck with the idiocy of war in a way that other films have not affected me. (15 million lives were lost in World War I.)   The book and movie are based upon real and tragic events and they end on a high note. While war and death are not exactly “family topics”, it is, after all, a Disney film.

             “Hugo” (based on the children’s book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick) is another cinematic spectacle.  The film won five big academy awards, including Best Cinematography. I dragged two girlfriends to see this movie on the Sunday afternoon hours before the Academy Awards were televised and we were all a bit dismayed to realize that it was in 3D.  That said, it only took a few moments after the majestic opening scenes for my eyes and head to adjust. I was most disappointed when I realized that the character played by Jude Law was killed off moments into the film when he tragically dies in a fire. I found that the film dragged in parts but the happy ending and the compelling mystery and visual effects were winners in my book.

            Other films released in 2011 and based on fiction or non-fiction were “My Week with Marilyn” based on two books written by British director/producer Colin Clark; “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson; “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte; “Albert Nobbs” based on the Irish short story, “A Storyteller’s Holiday” by George Moore; “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by JK Rowling; “Drive” by James Sallis; “We Need to Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver; “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen; “The Big Year” by Mark Obmascik; “One Day” by David Nicholls; “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” by John LeCarre; and “The Lincoln Lawyer” by Michael Connelly.

            If you would like to reserve any of these titles in book or film version please call the Reference or Information desks of the library, 781-799-0200 or reserve them in the Minuteman Library catalog.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

eBooks In the Library

Read Brian Samek's column in the February 24, 2012 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin or listen to the podcast on SoundCloud. Podcasts are archived on the Voices from the Library page of the library website. Brian is the Technology Librarian of the Morrill Memorial Library. eBooks in the Library by Brian Samek

In 1996 the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) told the Girl Scouts that it would have to pay for using copyrighted music at its summer camps. The Wall Street Journal reported that the penalty for singing any of ASCAP's 4million songs could be $5000 and six days in jail. These songs include "Puff the Magic Dragon," "God Bless America," and “Happy Birthday.”
Yes, even "Happy Birthday" is copyrighted,and any public performance of the song--say,at a children's event at the Norwood Library--requires permission from the rights-holder and the payment of royalties.
The law here seems extreme. The composer, Mildred Hill, died nearly a hundred years ago. Singing her song at your house isn't stealing from her,and it seems obvious that singing it anywhere else isn't stealing either. Indeed, in an article about the song George Washington University Law professor Robert Brauneis argues that although it brings in $2 million dollars a year, "it is almost certainly no longer under copyright" because the rights-holder didn't follow proper procedures and the lyricist is unknown.
Yet the music industry has a case for copyright. In a 2010 review of the literature, PeterTschmuck analyzed 22 studies of the effects of file sharing. Although the results are "ambiguous and full of contradictions,"14 of the 22 studies found that file sharing led to a decline in music revenues. This isn't the whole picture though. One study found that although the record companies may lose, bands which play concerts may in fact benefit; although their album sales decline, the increase in ticket sales more than makes up for the loss in royalties because royalties are a small fraction of their income.
In his book Free Culture, available at theNorwood Library, Lawrence Lessig argues that copyright can impede innovation.He explains, for example, how "The film industry of Hollywood was built by fleeing pirates. Creators and directors migrated from the East Coast to California in the early twentieth century in part to escape controls that patents granted the inventor of filmmaking,Thomas Edison . .. California was remote enough from Edison's reach that filmmakers could pirate his inventions without fear of the law." Under the East Coast copyright regime, Lessig argues, Hollywood would have been impossible. Piracy created our filmi ndustry.
Then, like today, the problem is not that there is a conspiracy of consumers to steal content. Instead the challenge comes from new technology. Take Downton Abbey, for instance. The show airs in the U.K. months before it airs in theU.S. A Salon.com journalist admitted to watching a pirated British version because he didn't want to wait for PBS. "PBS is free anyway! Who loses?" With services like Netflix and Spotify--more important, with consumers willing to pay for services like Netflix and Spotify, there is little excuse for producers being behind the technology curve. If you have content and users willing to pay for that content, it's time to embrace new methods of distribution.
Unfortunately, eBook publishers aren't quite there yet. Libraries want eBooks but can't get them.
In my eReader class two weeks ago, I showed our patrons how to download library eBooks for their eReaders. Downloading an eBook for the Kindle is seamless. After checking the book out from our online catalog at overdrive.minlib.net, you are redirected to the Amazon website. Click "Get library book,"and if you have a newer version of the Kindle and an Internet connection, the Kindle will download the book automatically.
Unfortunately, of the big six publishers, only Random House offers unrestricted access to eBooks to libraries. HarperCollins only allows 26 checkouts. Hachette,Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan don't offer eBooks to libraries at all. Penguin recently rescinded its contract with OverDrive, the most popular library eBook vendor.
Concern about OverDrive's relationship with Amazon is driven by several factors. Penguin seems uncomfortable with patrons going through Amazon's website, giving Amazon the ability to advertise other products. And Alison Lazarus, President of Sales at Macmillan, told Library Journal that she was concerned that borrowing might become"frictionless," that is, too easy.
What this misses, however, is that borrowing eBooks from the library almost always entails more friction than buying them. Most books in our OverDrive catalog are checked out. The more popular have long waiting lists.The Girl with theDragon Tattoo, for example, has more than a hundred patrons on the waiting list. The main way libraries have for reducing friction for their users is to purchase more eBooks. The tremendous interest in eBooks in Norwood has proven to us that buying eBooks is worthwhile for our patrons. Publishers stand to profit from distributing eBooks to libraries.
It's clear that copyright gives media companies too much power. Rather than being spurred to innovate, they can instead dig in their heels and continue to use old business models. Relying on onerous copyright restrictions to make it more difficult for library patrons to access eBooks will hurt consumers, authors, and publishers. The big six publishers are understandably concerned about being remunerated in an era of rampant online piracy, but librarians are worried that a failure to innovate could permanently prevent libraries from participating in the eBook market.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Magically Healing Through Reading

Read Charlotte Canelli's column in the February 17, 2012 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin or listen to the podcast on SoundCloud. Podcasts are archived on the Voices from the Library page of the library website. Charlotte Canelli is the Library Director of the Morrill Memorial Library.

            In a column several years ago (October 23, 2009, “A Year of Living, Literally”), I wrote about Nina Sankovitch, the blogger/writer/reader who made a vow in 2008 to read one book every day for 365 days.

            I wrote that I found Sankovitch a wee bit crazy and I also confessed that I was extremely jealous of all the ‘time’ she apparently had on her hands to read all day long.

            I gave her credit, however, for true commitment when I discovered that her quest was born of an emotional need to work through the grief of a sister lost to cancer and to heal during a year of reading. I also learned that she had four children (all boys, ages 7 through 15) and during that “magical” year she still managed to be a mother, a wife, a blogger and a friend.

            When I wrote my column, Sankovitch’s journey was nearing its end.  A few days later and at the end of that year she had read 365 books - one every single day.

            I’ve been told many times over the past thirty years that the loss of a child is the cruelest loss. I know that loss and so does my husband.   I am convinced, however, that no death is crueler than another. Losing a child, losing a parent, a wife, a husband, a brother, a sister or a beloved member of any family when it seems unfair is still that. Unfair and profoundly difficult. Death leaves entire families hurting.

            This is the devastating loss and bewildering pain that Sankovitch experienced when her eldest sister, Anne-Marie, passed away from bile-duct cancer in May 2005. “Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading” (2011) is Nina Sankovitch’s account of her year of working through her grief by reading those 365 books.  It is a testament to sisterly love.  It is a proof of an amazing commitment that Sankovitch declared for herself. It is also a wonderfully woven narration of the books she read and how they healed her.

            Three years after her sister died, Sankovitch was still bewildered and angry about the death. Life seemed unfair.  When she and her husband left for a weekend of rest and relaxation in the summer of 2008,  Sankovitch spent one lovely day reading while her husband took a windsurfing workshop. He arrived back much later than they had expected.  Nina was amazed that in a relaxed, unhurried and uninterrupted state she finished all four-hundred pages of “Dracula” by Bram Stoker. It was that next day that she told her husband of her intent to read a book a day for a year.

            Understandably, her husband was skeptical and so were her parents and most of her friends. The rules were that each book must be one she had never read before and an author could not be represented more than once in the year. The project also included posting a review of one book each day online. 

            Nina visited her library often to read or choose more books.  Each time she took home an armload of books, most were less than 400 pages long. The list (it is included at the end of the book and online) is impressive. Most were written by well-known authors and many were lesser-known works.

            In “Tolstoy and the Purple Chair”, Nina describes the depth of her relationship with her sister and how much Anne Marie would have liked each book. Anne Marie was wise and loving, older and aggravating. Throughout the book, Sankovitch admits that as a child she at times disliked, feared, respected and revered Anne Marie. As an adult she mainly adored her.

            Some of the most intriguing elements of the book are of the Sankovitch family’s history.  Memories of family trips, recollections of her parents’ former lives as Polish and Belarus immigrants, and stories of sisterly squabbles and angst are sprinkled throughout.  So are poignant memories of sisterly-love, parental wisdom and incredible loss.

            Every chapter of “Tolstoy and the Purple Chair” was compelling and enlightening to me and I found myself sometimes chuckling, sometimes overwhelmed with understanding. Sankovitch, an attorney, was raising her children and not working when she made the decision to read for a year.  She readily admits that she could not have done both.  As it was, she cut corners at home, assigning chores to her sons for the first time. Family time, however, was sacrosanct and Sankovitch spent her time once school was out through the bedtime hour attending to her family. It was often only after 9 pm that she sunk into her purple chair in a corner of her study to read under a good light.

            An understanding and supportive husband was, of course, a huge piece of the success of the year of reading.  Nina would carve out time to drop her husband, Jack, off at the train station near their Connecticut home for his trip to the city each day and she would sometimes race to the station to pick him up before dinner.  Yet, night after night he helped out with homework and smiled in disbelief that his wife was working her way through her goal.

            On the cover of the book, author Thrity Umrigar praises “Tolstoy and the Purple Chair” and declares that the memoir “reminds us of the most primal function of literature – to heal, to nurture, and to connect us to our truest selves.”  Sankovitch healed and her book and her work of literature nurtured me.  I have no doubt that in sharing her journey, many of its readers will connect to their truest selves.

            If you would like to reserve this book, or its large print version, please call the Reference or Information desks of the library, 781-799-0200.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Madoff Affair: A Personal Tragedy

Read Charlotte Canelli's column in the February 10, 2012 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin or listen to the podcast on SoundCloud. Podcasts are archived on the Voices from the Library page of the library website. Charlotte Canelli is the Library Director of the Morrill Memorial Library. From the Library: The Bernie Madoff Tragedy by Charlotte Canelli
           There are times when personal tragedies catch us in a net of disbelief, rage or compassion.  Tragedy, like reality, is sometimes not dissimilar to passing a car wreck on the side of the road and willing oneself not to look. Yet, something hard to watch is also something hard to turn away from.

            Perhaps watching the ‘car wrecks' from the sidelines is even more compelling today in the era of television.  We began broadcasting game shows like The Dating Game in the 70s and MTV’s Real World in the 90s.  Today we have The Bachelor.  Jersey Shore.  The Kardashians.

 They can be hard to watch but often too hard to turn away from. Ratings for reality shows have gone through the roof around the world.

            Personal tragedies often fascinate and puzzle us. Compelling personal accounts of loss or downfall often appeal to our compassion, our curiosity and our ire. The story of the Bernie Madoff family is one of them.

            It wasn’t long after Madoff’s confession amazed, enraged, confounded and shocked the world that books were published about the ruin and misfortune of a his family. “The Story of Bernard L. Madoff, The Man Who Swindled the World” by Deborah and Gerald Strober was rushed to print in early 2009, just months after Madoff’s own sons called authorities on December 10, 2008. 

            Immediately after the Ponzi scheme was revealed, Alexandra Penney began blogging her personal experience as “The Bag Lady Papers” in December 2008.  Penney, a graduate of Smith College, a published author and an editor of Self Magazine, Penney made quite a bit of money in the 80s and 90s and a family friend recommended that she invest it with Bernie Madoff. We all know the end of that story.  Overnight, Penney was broke.  Her blog became the book “Bag Lady Papers: The Priceless Experience of Losing It All” (February 2010) and is part rant, part confession, part therapy. It is also a story of tragedy and triumph as Ms. Penney navigated through the experience of losing everything, expressing her sometimes childish anger at Madoff and the Wall Street rules that allowed it all to happen.  

            Adding to the farce, of course, was the story of “family-man” Bernie’s 16-year affair with Sheryl Weinstein.  “Madoff’s Other Secret: Love, Money, Bernie and Me” (July 2009), is Weinstein’s account, published in the summer of 2009, only seven months after Madoff’s Ponzi scheme came crashing down. At first, many in the family chalked the book up to the fantasy and get-rich book scheme of Weinstein.  Today many believe the details of the sordid affair, a pitfall of egos and wallets large enough to get people into trouble.

            A senior writer at the New York Times, Diana B. Henriques covered the Madoff affair as it broke in December 2008 through the attempts to recover some of the lost billions for the innocent families who had invested their life savings with Bernie.  “Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust” was published in April of 2011 and describes the scandal from inside the financial world to inside the personal disasters of fractured families. 

            Of course, there were people who never believed Bernie Madoff’s luck with money early on.  Erin Arvedlund and Harry Markopolos were two of them.  Essays, exposes and insistence on investigation fell on deaf ears for over a decade and those frustrating versions are recounted in “Too Good to Be True: The Rise and Fall of Bernie Madoff “(June 2009) by Erin Arvedlund and “No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller “(December 2009) by Harry Markopolos.

Many people in the world were caught up in disbelief when Bernie Madoff was proved to be a swindler, a hoax and a fraud.  Certainly, he caught his family by surprise.  Central to the tragedy of the Madoff family, was the crushing disappointment of the Madoff sons, Andrew and Mark.

             Published nearly simultaneously, “Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family” (2011) by Laurie Sandell and “The End of Normal: A Wife’s Anguish, A Widow’s New Life” (2011) by Stephanie Madoff Mack tell a nearly identical story but from two different viewpoints. 

The Madoff had two sons, Mark and Andrew. Both sons graduated from college to jobs in the Madoff firm and a career in a somewhat separate, somewhat connected firm that operated several floors above the Bernie Madoff Ponzi operation   “Truth and Consequences” explains the story from the younger brother, Andrew Madoff’s, point of view.  Author Sandell chronicles the personal versions of Andrew and his girlfriend, Catherine and Bernie Madoff’s wife, Ruth.  Their story sometimes conflicts with that of Stephanie Mack just as impressions of Bernie Madoff conflicted with the real man behind the mask.

            Stephanie Madoff Mack was married to Mark, the eldest son of Bernie and Ruth Madoff. On the second anniversary of Bernie Madoff’s arrest, Mark tragically took his own life leaving his wife and four children from two marriages. The accusations and pressure of living with his father’s crimes weighed so heavily that Mark Madoff could no longer bear it.  Believing that he and his younger brother did the right thing in turning in their father, Mark could not believe it when they were accused for an opulent lifestyle supported by Madoff money from the day they were born.  . 

            Stephanie Madoff’s story, “The End of Normal” is a heartfelt chronicle is Mark’s story.  Like Alexandra Penney’s “Bag Lady Papers” the details of a lifestyle replete with expansive apartments in Manhattan, beach-front vacation homes around the world and unlimited credit accounts can be a bit nauseating. Most of the have-nots, or middle class, know a world very different than Penney’s and Mack’s.

Victims of Bernard Madoff’s financial crimes and schemes involved all of his close friends and all members of his family.  They are stories of the realities of personal tragedy.   

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Library Lover's Month

Norma Logan is the Literacy Volunteer Coordinator at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin. 

From the Library - Library Lover's Month by Norma Logan and read by Charlotte Canelli
February is upon us. The festivities of the holiday season are distant memories, and we are facing the second month of the New Year thinking of hearts and flowers for Valentine’s Day. However, there is something else to celebrate in February, and that is Library Lovers’ Month! If you are already a Library Lover, come celebrate your passion, but if you are not, come visit us and discover all the great and free things that adults and children can do and see at your library in 2012.

Come get a library card if you don’t have one. It will open many doors for you.

It will allow you to use the library computers, and get on the many databases on the Morrill Memorial Library website (www.norwoodlibrary.org). If you prefer to bring your own laptop, you can connect to the internet for free. You can even sign up for a beginner level computer class or get museum passes for reduced entrance rates.

Come support Library programs. Become a Literacy Volunteer and help someone learn to speak, read or write English better, or be an Outreach Volunteer and deliver books to shut-ins. If you know someone who may need help speaking or reading English, send them to the library for free English tutoring. Join the Friends of the Library, and be involved in helping the library prosper.

Come to the library with your children or grandchildren and involve them in story times. For a $15 donation,you can even celebrate a child’s birthday by choosing a newly ordered book on a cart, and having the child’s name and birth date put on a bookplate inside the book.

Come be entertained with Monday night at the movies, or learn something new at an educational program sponsored by the library. Come play in the Adult Scrabble Club on Tuesday evenings. Children in grades 3-8 can play in the Kids Scrabble Club.

If you can’t get to the library, did you know that
• you can download electronic books on that new Kindle or Nook you got for the holidays?
• you can visit the library’s website (www.norwoodlibrary.org), and explore the databases with your library card at home?
• Norwood residents unable to get to the library because of special needs, illness or disability can have personal delivery of reading materials?

The library is here to serve your needs. In this time of budget cuts and financial worries, don’t let the library be taken for granted. Encourage your elected town officials to support the library and its needs. This is the time to acknowledge the value of libraries and to work to assure that our libraries will continue to serve.

In the words of Salman Rushdie, “If knowledge is power, then the public library system gives that power to anyone who wants it.”