Monday, July 20, 2009

Kings Highway #45, 7/18/09

Hey, I'm back! In the same month to boot. I had a neat opportunity here, as I had finished reading Dune (for the third time) and still wanted more sci-fi nerdy goodness courtesy of Frank Herbert, so I checked which BPL branches would have copies of the second book in the series, which I have never read. And then it turned out that there was one in the Kings Highway branch, which up until recently (June 11, 2009 to be precise) had been closed for renovations! For like the past two years! Plus my new home in Kensington is much closer to that area now, and Saturday was a perfect day, so I got on my bike and rode over there.

Branch: Kings Highway
Location: 2115 Ocean Ave. (nr. Kings Highway)
Transport: bicycle
Item: Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
Date: Saturday, July 18, 2009

The new branch is crazy! It does away with the traditional look of the "Brooklyn Public Library" signs on the front of the building (which are generally dark green, and in Helvetica I believe) and goes from some crazy modern thing! In orange and silver! WHAAAAA???

Anyway, it was a very nice, modern branch, though the building still looked like it came out of the '70s (or 1953, according to the site). There were three floors, one for very young children, one for grade school children, and one for adolescents and adults. There also seemed to be a wide variety of activities for parents and children to participate in. Oh and a good foreign language area as well.

One qualm I had, and something that to me completely defied explanation. I biked to the library, and when I'm locking up my bike my hands often get greasy, dirty, etc. So I was waiting to use the bathroom, but first I asked at the desk if there was a key (there was) and was told that someone already had it (i.e., they were in the bathroom already). Ok, no problem, washing my hands wasn't urgent, so I waited. Then when the door finally opened (it took so long, I assumed it was an old man, but it was some teenager) I went in to find a typical public bathroom, with a sink area, a toilet stall, a urinal, and even a freaking baby-changing table. It wasn't a one person bathroom. Why the hell was I waiting outside it to wash my hands? They just renovated this place, so why did they leave the door with an automatic lock? Ok, so crazy people use public libraries, maybe you cant just leave the bathrooms open to all. SO WHY NOT JUST HAVE THE ONE TOILET??

Ok, rant over. Obviously it's no big deal, just...kinda lame. But overall, nice branch. The book so far is good...well, definitely not bad. But Dune is just SO good that it's hard to reach that level of quality, and so far this book isn't really. Hopefully it'll improve. Oh, also, I still can't find my camera, so that pictures! Woo! Here they are:

They kinda made it into a cyborg. An inanimate cyborg.

Action pose!

Bow down to the monolith lest you be destroyed by it!

Now open! Woohoo!

And that's the story of King's Highway. Truly a highway of the kings. All the kings. Seeya soon!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Eastern Parkway #37, 1/30/09

Well, I did it. Three branches in one month. Unfortunately, it took me almost six months to blog about it. But what can you do! This is gonna be a short entry, because I barely remember this visit. Luckily the pictures still exist. Maybe they can jog my memory!

A lot has happened since my last entry. I've been to England and Ireland (among other places). I've moved into a new place in Kensington. I've settled into my new job at NYU, working as an adjunct cataloger at the Tamiment Library. I finished library school -- Master of Library Science! Wooooo!! Oh, and baseball season started up and is now half over. Good stuff! On to business.

Wait, almost forgot. Items from previous visit. Let's see, what were they...oh, right. Well the Philip K. Dick book In Milton Lumky Territory was very good, but also very depressing. And unfortunately, all the innovation in Dick's science fiction writing sorta disappears when he goes for the naturalistic novels. It's a shame, because he always wanted to be taken seriously for them, but they just aren't as good. And that Astro Boy DVD may as well have been a bootleg, but the cartoons were fun. Unfortunately, often times that had only one part of a two-part story. Lame!

In other news, I just finished re-reading Dune, and it's still totally amazing. So good, it makes me wanna watch the movie and read the sequel! Maybe. Now on to business for real.

Branch: Eastern Parkway
Location: 1044 Eastern Pkwy. at Schenectady Ave.
Transport: don't remember, 4 train I think
Item: The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2008, edited by Dave Eggers, with an introduction by Judy Blume
Date: Friday, January 30, 2009

There isn't much to say here after six months. My current roommate Dave used to live on Eastern Parkway. It's a wide, tree lined street. I just sneezed on my computer. The book was ok but not great. I renewed it until May and still got fines on it (now paid). The Judy Blume introduction was funny. The George Saunders essay about Bill Clinton was interesting, though I never finished it. Hopefully there wasn't some twist ending where he's some kind of lizard person. Better entry next time, I promise. Assuming I ever find my camera that is. Pictures:

Yeah, it's a corner branch.

Eastern Parkway in January.

The imposing edifice!

Door. Identification.

Well that's it for now. At this point I know better than to make any promises regarding further branch visits. But if by some bizarre chance you're still checking this, six months after the last new post, why would you stop now? There are only a few branches left!!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Saratoga #57, 1/15/09

New president! How about that! I honestly wasn't sure we'd ever be able to say former President Bush (you know, about the younger one) but we made it. We did it TOGETHER. Other things that happened: me going to a library just a week after I went to a different library! I know, right? What are the odds? I'm sure I'll jinx it just by even suggesting it, but there's an outside chance I could make three branches this month, which hasn't happened in over a year (September of Aught-Seven). Yeah, those were the glory days...*sigh*. Anyway, it's time to look ahead to the future, in which I have a sweet handlebar mustache, and have visited the Saratoga Branch.

Branch: Saratoga
Location: 8 Thomas S. Boyland St. at Macon St.
Transport: R train to DeKalb Ave.; B26 to Broadway & Halsey
Items: In Milton Lumky Territory by Philip K. Dick; Astro Boy - Greatest Astro Adventures (DVD)
Date: Thursday, January 15, 2009

So, Saratoga. I could've taken the F to the J but that would've required going through Manhattan, and sometimes I like taking the bus anyway. Also, I hadn't read the graphic novel and I wanted to finish it on the way and I figured the bus would give me more time. Plus it was snowing and pretty. In any case, Northwest Passage was excellent. I really like the semi-cartoonish art style, and the way Chantler uses his panels to tell the story. And the story itself was the best kind of historical fiction: plenty of detail but not bogged down in it, with a strong emotional core that makes us care about the characters and their ultimate fates. Turns out it's only the first collection in a larger series (the number one was covered by the library label) so I will definitely be checking out later volumes when they come out.

The library itself is very nice. It's another Carnegie library, built in 1908, but it's been renovated three times since then. It has an excellent selection and atmosphere. Not too far from the Macon Branch I visited last week, it has a similar presence and clientele (and only slightly more confusing layout). One notable feature that I didn't get to explore was the garden, apparently designed by the Horticultural Society of New York. Luckily someone left a door open to the back, so I did get some quick pictures of it! And continuing a long standing trend, a gentleman standing outside the library as I was on my way in asked if I had been taking his picture. I told him I was just taking a picture of the library, and he said he was relieved. I'm not really sure why people have such a strong aversion to people they don't know taking their pictures. I mean, I wouldn't care for it either. I'm just wondering why specifically it bothers everyone so much.

As for the items, In Milton Lumky Territory is one of Philip K. Dick's many unpublished naturalistic novels that are finally coming into print. I'm excited to read it, as it is supposed to be one of the better ones, up there with Confessions of a Crap Artist, which I read years ago and enjoyed a great deal. As for the Astro Boy collection, I knew it was an iconic Japanese cartoon and figured I was missing out, but apparently this DVD is not a very good edition. According to amazon reviewers, two of the stories on it are part ones of two-parters (without the part twos), and the sound has also been altered. But, for someone new to the series who didn't have to pay for the DVD, I am not too bothered by these issues. I've watched a few episodes so far, my favorite being "Robio and Robiette," a faithful retelling of the classic Romeo and Juliet story with robots and car races. But, you know, it definitely captures the original tone. No happy ending!

That is all for tonight as fighting off this cold has me tired and incoherent. But I'll be back soon! Maybe even before February! Pictures:

New day.


I took this one to replace the one with the gentleman in it. Probably wasn't necessary.

Me, peeking out a door where I shouldn't be to get a snapshot of the garden!

and the garden from the sidewalk. I'll have to go back and see it when the weather gets warm and it opens up.

I almost forgot: this has nothing to do with libraries, but I recently went to Staten Island and wandered around at night in the snow, and it was a lot of fun. Comic stores, fast food joints, big parks, a mall (apparently)...this place has it all! It was cold on the ferry, but pretty and well worth it. Also free! And there are cool fish tanks in the terminal. Check it out sometime!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Macon #47, 1/08/09

Ah, it's 2009, finally. Not that 2008 was all that bad...I mean...except for the beginning of the end of Western civilization. What do you want, things change! It's hard to believe this blog started back at the end of 2006. It's been a part of my life for so long, and now, as I'm nearing the end of library school, I'm nearing the end of this project as well. I never expected this blog to get popular - and it hasn't - but thanks a lot to everyone who still checks it despite my extremely erratic update schedule. Ok, enough sentiment for tonight. So, I went to a library last Thursday. It was a delightful branch out in the heard of Bed-Stuy, on Lewis Avenue. I am speaking of none other than the Macon Branch.

Branch: Macon
Location: 361 Lewis Ave. at Macon St.
Transport: F train to Jay St.; A train to Utica Ave.
Items: Northwest Passage: The Annotated Collection by Scott Chantler; The Essential Bessie Smith (CD); The African Queen (DVD)
Date: Thursday, January 8, 2009

The last couple weeks have been very busy for me, though I haven't been working or in school or doing anything "traditionally time-consuming" like that. I went out to Indiana with my brother for the holidays to visit my mom and stepdad, where there was much merrymaking, eating, bowling, and CD purchasing. I watched The Prestige for the first time, and I must say, watch it if you haven't yet; it is probably even better than a Batman vs. Wolverine movie would've been. Also David Bowie=Tesla, can't miss. Then I came back to New York just in time to receive my distinguished British guests Alex and Lenny, the latter of whom accompanied me on this library journey! No, I didn't force her, she wanted to. Wait, that sounded bad.

Anyway, when I think of Bed-Stuy, I usually picture the parts where various friends of mine have lived: somewhat run-down, not much in the way of stores or restaurants except bodegas, and cops in riot gear that will search you if you ride your bike two car lengths on the sidewalk up to your apartment. Well, things are clearly changing, at least in this area, and hopefully not just because of gentrification. There were a number of nice stores on Lewis Avenue, including Brownstone Books and the delightfully named Bread Stuy. There was a nice little park right off the subway, and the library itself was teeming with patrons of all ages. It was apparently renovated from 2006-2008, partially to add the African American Heritage Center, a large wonderful room filled with material on African American history and culture. It was definitely one of the nicest branches I've been to yet, and there aren't many left to visit.

I knew very little about Bessie Smith before I got the CD. Two disc set, actually. I still don't but I have listened to it, and it is some really soulful, amazing blues. I get the sense that two discs isn't really enough to encapsulate her career, but I am really enjoying it. The African Queen is excellent. I'm not the hugest Humphrey Bogart fan, and I don't go out of my way to watch old movies just because they're "classics," but this is a really excellent movie. Lauren Bacall fits the role perfectly, and I really identified with Bogie's character, even if he is in a situation unlike any I'll ever be in. The main reason I got the movie, oddly enough, is that it was on this list the Onion A.V. Club made about great movies that have never had a Region 1 DVD release. I read the article, and then a week later I went to the library only to see an African Queen DVD, with all the writing in both English and Chinese, looking back at me. I checked it out (using the somewhat buggy self checkout system that most of the libraries have now for some reason) and lo and behold, it's a Region 0 (all region) DVD. So, the A.V. Club was technically right, but in spirit, wrong. Also they new redesign is terrible. Anyway, awesome movie! I haven't read Northwest Passage yet, but it looks to be an excellent historical graphic novel intended for young adults. In other words, perfect for me.

I'm pretty exhausted from all this not working since I left my lass job (I miss you Housing Works!) but tomorrow I start my new job cataloging at NYU! Woo-hoo! Soon I'll be tired all over again. But the brainless, working and studying too much kind, as opposed to the weird, anxious, "aren't i supposed to be doing something!?" kind. Yeah. Ok, it's probably picture time now.

The approach.

Lenny gives this branch two thumbs up!!

There it is.

A cool church nearby.

So that's it 'til next time. Except for one thing. This has nothing to do with libraries (in my case) but I just finished reading an amazing book of critical essays by George Orwell, All Art Is Propaganda. Each one made me see things in a way I never had before, they were depressing (mostly) but also uplifting (at times), and the cover doesn't look at all like amazon has it. Ok, I'm off! My first paying library job ever starts tomorrow. I've come a long way from the unemployed 40 drinking days. On paper, I mean.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Canarsie #34, 12/3/08

Books. Can't live with 'em, can't, wait a minute. So, it's December. Which explains why it's 64 degrees and rainy outside. There's been some cold days, though, lemme tell ya. Also my crappy ikea bedframe finally fell apart so I took the advice of the internet and made a bed out of boxes. It actually works surprisingly day and counting. I also got a sweet new laptop, so, win some lose some. So, I read that Ralph Bakshi book from last time. Well, maybe read is a strong word for it. I looked at all the awesome pictures, and I read my fair share of it. At least half. I also went out and downloaded on of the movies the book talked about after I finished it (Coonskin) because it doesn't seem to be readily available on DVD. Haven't watched it yet, but I'm looking forward to it. Anyway, there is of course a new library to talk about: the Canarsie Branch!

Branch: Canarsie
Location: 1580 Rockaway Pkwy. at Ave. J
Transport: F train to Bay Parkway, B6 bus to Flatlands Ave. & Rockaway
Items: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand; The Underground Railroad by Charles L. Blockson; Lush Life by Richard Price
Date: Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Let's be clear here, I am not planning to read all of these books. I am not a Randian zombie, I'm still the same enraged weirdo you've all come to know. I had a preservation project for my class, and the first two books I took out this time were damaged and I thought I might write about them. Ok, moving on. How did I get to Canarsie? Well, you may remember in my last entry long, long ago that I wanted to get the book Lush Life by Richard Price (which has since been picked as one of The Economist's best books of the year! Woo!) but I couldn't, because the copy at Stone Avenue was missing. Well, I looked up other branches that had it, and Canarsie was one of 'em. The branch is right near the last stop on the L train, but I didn't really feel like taking the L, so I went further into South Brooklyn before getting a bus up that way. I got to see a few neighborhoods I hadn't been through, which was pretty neat. Anyway.

The library itself was very nice. I got there around when school lets out, and the atmosphere was of a bustling (but quiet) community center. There were kids reading, sleeping, hanging out, even a couple playing a Magic: the Gathering type card game. I didn't even know any of them still existed. The selection was good and the librarians were helpful: I attempted to use the auto-checkout kiosk and couldn't quite get my barcode swiping speed right, so a very nice woman came over and helped. I realize this makes me sound like an idiot, but it was hard, trust me. The other interesting interaction I had was with a woman in the vestibule when I first came in. I don't know whether or not she was a librarian, but she had seen me taking pictures of the library and she asked me why I was doing it. I told her no reason (or just because, or some other dumb answer like that) and she somewhat forcefully told me I couldn't take pictures inside the library, which I acknowledged. I wonder if my big crazy beard makes people more uneasy? Well, it's not the first time people have been weird about my picture-taking, but the other times it was just that they didn't want to be in the pictures. The neighborhood was also nice. I figured it would be somewhat similar to the part of Brownsville I was in last time: fairly bleak, empty, whatever. But as usual I was wrong. Canarsie was nice, with some pretty houses and a normal assortment of bodegas, delis, etc. I took some pictures of the neighborhood as well.

Lush Life was really excellent. The fact that I read a 450-page book in a week after haign just finished the monstrous 2666 (which was excellent, just somewhat soul-crushing) is a testament to how gripping it was. A former writer for The Wire and longtime crime novelist, Richard Price has a wonderful way of combining action, procedural cop stuff, and characters' interactions and thoughts into a fascinating book. His dialogue is some of the best I've ever read. This is just an excellent book, and to top it all off, it takes place on the Lower East Side (in 2003) so if you live in New York you can picture all of the corners where it takes place. Which I found really fun. So, hopefully I can top this book next time, but I kinda doubt it. The jury's still out on whether I will visit another branch before the end of the year, but I hope so. In any case, it is now (approximately) the two year anniversary of me starting this blog! How cool is that! I may have slowed down some since those unemployed days, but my goal of visiting every branch is definitely in sight. Only nine to go. Pics:

The Verrazano Bridge behind a large cemetery at Bay Parkway.

There it is!

Easy access!


This was a cool house a few doors down from the library.

And, here we have a house of worship of some kind.

So that's it. Nice day for a library stroll, it was. Since I've finished my book maybe I'll be back in the next couple weeks. That would be nice, right?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stone Avenue #26, 10/22/08

Just before the month ends, here I am with a new post. It was a somewhat chill but still pleasant day last Wednesday, and I had already renewed my items from my last trip once, and the computer wouldn't do it again, because my new library card wasn't updated in the system. I didn't want any more fines, had the day off etc. etc., so I figured it was about time for another trip. I looked up a book that the Village Voice recently mentioned favorably as a portrait of gritty New York, the way it used to be (Lush Life by Richard Price), picked a library that had it and that I hadn't been to, and before I knew it, I was off to the comic store. It was Wednesday, after all. But after that I went to the Stone Avenue Branch!

Branch: Stone Avenue
Location: 581 Mother Gaston Boulevard
Transport (from comic store): L to Sutter St.
Item: Unfiltered: The Complete Ralph Bakshi (The Force Behind Fritz the Cat, Mighty Mouse, Cool World, and The Lord of the Rings) by John M. Gibson and Chris McDonnell
Date: Wednesday, October 22, 2008

This will be a pretty short entry, because I already talked about the books I got last time in that entry, and because I have to pack for my trip to L.A. tomorrow. (woo!!) Stone Avenue started out life in 1914 as the Brownsville Children's Library, the first public library devoted to children in the whole world. It was all decorated with excellent wooden carvings, like rabbit's heads on the benches, and had a decidedly pleasant, childlike atmosphere. There's even a big fake fireplace in it, though perhaps it functioned at one time. There are countless children's programs every week, and it was on the whole one of the nicest branches I've been to. The librarian was very helpful when I couldn't find the book, though she was unable to find it either. I kept circling around looking for something more portable, but my eye kept coming back to the huge Ralph Bakshi book (he made many famous cartoons, a counter-culture icon, look him up!) which I eventually selected.

I always get a bit neurotic going into the supposedly "bad" parts of Brooklyn like Brownsville, but as usual my fears were unjustified. Although I did have to walk through many blocks of projects to get to the library, and the neighborhood seemed a bit depressing as a result, the library building really stands out as a pleasant one in an otherwise very static neighborhood. I got to see a bit more of the area on my way out, since I had to get the 3 train to head back to my part of Brooklyn, and the area underneath the elevated tracks was a bit nicer (but you can't trust me, I'm kind of a sucker for elevated train tracks).

I had to get my library card all fixed up, and then pay my fines, which involved a few minor gaffes I mean problems, I didn't inadvertently insult the librarian or anything. Maybe they weren't gaffes then. I blame the 24-hour news networks. In any event, it's all taken care of, I don't owe the library any money, I even got a Snapple and everything so you know I'm legit.

If anything else happened, I sure don't remember it. Pics:




Yeah, that's all. Told you it would be short. Now don't forget to get out there and vote! Sometime between now and Tuesday! Make it happen! Hooray democracy! See ya'll next month when we have a new president(-elect). Whew.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sheepshead Bay #56, 9/3/08

Library time is at hand! It's like the saying goes...another month, another library! It doesn't, you say? No, no, I'm pretty sure it does. I went to this one...let's see...almost two weeks ago? Hopefully I can remember a few key details. Firstly, the book I took out from the last branch, Sentimental, Heartbroken Rednecks. It wasn't exactly what I expected; it was divided into three parts, the first being short stories, the second being essays, and the third seemingly autobiographical anecdotes. It was all very good, right up my alley, and I suppose anyone's who likes short stories and/or the South. The stories had a very immediate feel, and when reading them I really felt as though I had experienced the events that were taking place. The one story in which the narrator described his mushroom use was particularly well-written; it didn't sink into stereotypes, but instead tried to replicate an experience in language that transcends language more than most others. There was even an essay about my favorite short story writer from the South, Breece D'J Pancake. All in all a strong collection that I would recommend to pretty much everybody.

So, that finished, I hopped on my bike, down Ocean Parkway's wonderful bike path, and ultimately turned just before reaching Coney Island, to find the Sheepshead Bay Branch.

Branch: Sheepshead Bay
Location: 2636 E.14th St. at Ave. Z, between Sheepshead Bay Rd. and Shore Pkwy.
Transport: bike!
Items: Project X by Jim Shepard; Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age edited by Ariel Schrag
Date: Wednesday, September 3, 2008

It was nice being in the vicinity of Coney Island so close to Astroland's last weekend in operation (and I went back that Friday night to experience it one last time). I always enjoy that part of Brooklyn, as it's a nice bike ride to get out there, the sea breeze is in the air, and it's got a nice isolated, small town (well, maybe mid-size city) feel. The library itself was wonderful; a nice group of patrons, friendly librarians, good selection, well laid out, I'm pretty sure it even smelled nice. Well, I honestly don't remember that...maybe it's time to start taking notes.

The two best things that happened were as follows. First, it's absurd now how long ago this was because at this point I've basically lost all hope, but there were three or four older ladies talking about the most vile, despicable gathering ever to befoul my beloved Twin Cities: you may know it as the RNC. They weren't very loud, so I listened for a while, as I couldn't tell which side they supported. I figured it out when one of them said, "Did you hear Lieberman's speech? I thought I would throw up!" Put a smile on my face, which subsequent poll numbers have almost completely removed.

The other thing: getting a new library card. It's all green and whatnot! Comes in a little case with a foldout map of all the branches! Whaaaaaa!!! Of course, I basically had my old bar code number memorized, but it's a small price to pay. I asked the librarian why they had new cards, and she answered something to the effect of they have nothing better to do. I said they could pay you guys (the librarians) more, and she just rolled her eyes. Yeah, it was pretty damn funny.

The books? Well of course I've read them both now, but I'll just give a brief run-through now because...let's face it, I'm tired. Project X was an excellent, if disturbing and nearly hopeless look at two middle-schoolers who are picked on beyond any reasonable degree. The book does seem realistic, and the characterizations are excellent, but on the whole I enjoyed Jim Shepard's short stories more. Stuck In the Middle is a comic book anthology of stories in which the protagonists are in - yep - middle school. Most are funny, some are depressing, others happy. Overall, just as realistic as Project X, and definitely more hopeful, but not as gripping. Project X actually made me miss my subway stop on the way to work one morning, though, so there you go. Why am I reading all these books about kids anyway? Damn kids. No respect these days!

Pictures, as always:




Oh yeah, and this awesome sign for a lawyer! Mostly in Cyrillic! All right!

Ok, that's it, I'm gonna go watch some more Pete and Pete Season 3. Bye!