Sunday, 29 November 2009

Sunday November 29th, 2009 Saturday Night Live

Live from New York, it's Saturday night. With these words, on October 11, 1975, Saturday Night Live was launched and it is still part of the prime time lineup. Filmed live each week with a guest host and a featured musical group, it is known for its satire. The original cast included Jane Curtin, Chevy Chase, John Belushi and others. The show has spawned many cast members such as Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Dennis Miller and Thunder Bay's own Paul Shaffer. Here are some, but by all means not all of my favourite cast members.

Chevy Chase 1975-76

He was hired as a writer for the show, but also appeared before the camera, most notably as an anchor for the Weekend Update news segment. He left the show after only one year, for a career on the big screen. Of all his movies, my favourite would be a tossup between Caddyshack and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The library carries both of these movies, something to keep in mind if you're ever in need of a laugh.

Steve Martin

Although he was a guest 25 times and has hosted 14 times, he wasn't an actual cast member. He is probably best known for the skits he did with Dan Akroyd as two wild and crazy guys. The library carries several Steve Martin movies, such as Planes, Trains And Automobiles, in which he starred with John Candy. We also carry books he has written - Cruel Shoes, The Pleasure Of My Company and Shopgirl. I bet you didn't know he was an author.

Will Ferrell 1995-2002

Will played a host of characters such as George W. Bush, Alex Trebek and Craig, the Spartan Cheerleader. One of my favourite skits was Janet Reno's dance party, with Will in a blue dress, as Janet Reno. On her last day of office the real Janet Reno appeared as herself in a skit with Will. Will left in 2002 to pursue a film career. We carry movies starring Will such as Land Of The Lost and Talledega Nights.

Gilda Radner 1975-80

Gilda was one of the original cast members. She played many characters such as Lisa Loopner, Baba Wawa and Emily Litella.

Her struggle with cancer and death at an early age is chronicled in her book It's Always Something. She handled her illness with the same sense of humour, she used every day.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus 1982-85
Before she spent nine seasons as Elaine Benes on Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus was a cast member of SNL. She was the first female cast member to come back as a host.

The library carries some of the episodes of Seinfeld on dvd.

Mike Myers 1989-1995

One of many Canadians to star on Saturday Night Live was Mike Myers. While on SNL, he was known for skits such as Coffee Talk with Linda Richman. I get verklempt just thinking about it. He and Dana Carvey played the hosts of the local cable tv show, Wayne's World, which later spawned a motion picture. Mike is also the voice of my favourite ogre, Shrek. The library carries Shrek, Austin Powers, Wayne's World and other movies featuring Mike.

The show still keeps turning out great cast members that go on to movies or other television series, such as recent alumni Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. After all these years I still enjoy watching it, but sometimes I tape it and watch it the next day. I look forward to watching the next 35 seasons. Let’s see – that would make me…

Some of the information in this article was found in our own Virtual Collection in the Biography Resource Center. It's a good place to find information on SNL alumni, or anyone else for that matter. Remember the Virtual Collection is available to you 24 hours a day. The following sources were also used.

Source - Live From New York: An Uncensored History Of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller.

Source - The Internet Movie Database

Source - Saturday Night Live Web Site

Source –

Karen Craib is a Library Technicia

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Sunday November 22nd, 2009 A Lean, Green Christmas

Christmas is right around the corner, but not everyone is looking forward to it. The upcoming festive season is going to be a lean one for a lot of people. It’s also going to be a “green” one for many, as concern for our environment is growing. Your Library can help make your lean, green holiday season as magical as ever!

What can I give someone for a present if I have no money?

Give them the gift of your time. Your Library offers a wide variety of free programs for children and adults. Make a gift certificate with a promise to take a child to see a puppet show, story time or concert. Many people would welcome an invitation from a friend to attend an internet class or book club meeting together. The Library’s next newsletter, with listings of programs for January, February and March, will be delivered to all homes in the City during the week of December 13th. The Library’s Web site ( has a calendar of events under “What’s On”. You could also create a gift certificate to bring someone to the Library a few times a month, and help them find books, movies or music they enjoy.

Can you help me make some gifts?

The Christmas Lovers Handbook by Lasley F. Gober includes a very helpful chapter called “Making Merry: Handcrafting a Merry Christmas.” As Gober notes: “You don’t have to be an artist, a highly-skilled craftsman, or even a graduate of a six-week night course to know how to create something yourself, something you might even be proud of.” This book includes step-by-step instructions for sculptures, candle-making, papier-mache and much more.

Do you have any tips for wrapping presents?

Wrap giant-size gifts in a paper Christmas tablecloth. It’s less expensive and easier to work with than several sheets of wrapping paper. A flat bed sheet can also be used. Use old maps, calendars, photos from magazines, as a substitute for holiday wrap. Plain brown paper with a raffia ribbon and sprig of a fir tree looks nice as well. (source: Christmas Short-Cuts by Adeline Rosemire)

Does the Library have any Christmas movies?

YES! We have all your Christmas favourites on DVD, and even some on VHS. My personal favourite, A Christmas Story, tells the tale of nine year old Ralphie, whose hearts desire is a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot, Range Model Air Rifle. This movie is a heartwarming glimpse in to family life in the 1940s. Other perennial favourites we have include It’s a Wonderful Life, Scrooge (both the 1935 version and the Muppets’ version!), Holiday Inn, Miracle on 34th Street and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Save money by borrowing videos from the Library instead of renting them – at Christmas and throughout the year.

Kick of your lean, green holiday season by attending the free Jim n’ I concert at the Mary J.L. Black Library at 2:30 pm on Saturday December 5th.

Joanna Aegard, Head of Virtual Library Services

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sunday November 15th, 2009 Misleading Statements

Misleading statements are frequently made. A strongly worded statement in a crowded room will often be accepted as truth, even when the speaker may not be sure of his facts. We all are guilty of saying things that are misleading, incorrect, or flawed. Here are some commonly told myth-leading phrases, that you may have said yourself.

“Everyone has to stay out of poison ivy.”

Poison ivy isn’t a poison or an ivy. It is an allergen that affects some people causing severe itching and swelling. Roughly half of the world’s population is allergic to poison ivy. Poison ivy is not a true ivy, it is a member of the cashew family. To learn more, read Magill’s Encyclopedia of Science: Plant Life.

“Beware of toxic chemicals.”

By itself, this is a meaningless phrase. Many chemicals are both safe and toxic, it is dependent on the quantity, strength and how that chemical combines with others. Take aspirin for example. In small doses, it can be used to treat a heart attack, but an overdose in a child can cause death. Does this make it a toxic chemical or a valuable medicine? Read more about chemicals and health in An Apple a Day by Joe Schwarcz.

Neil Armstrong when he stepped out onto the moon surface said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

This quote is missing one small word which was erased by the static of the transmission, one word that changes the meaning of the quote. Armstrong insisted that he had said “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Newspapers of the time printed the correction, but he is misquoted to this day. For other misquotes, check out They Never Said It by Paul Boller and John George.

“Canadians are better at saving money than Americans.”

While this may once have been true, as Canadians have become wealthier, they have developed an instinct to spend. According to Canadian statistics, since 2007 Canadians are saving less money than the Americans. We can no longer think of ourselves as the more frugal country. To study more on Canadian- American relations, read American Myths: What Canadians think they know about the United States edited by Rudyard Griffiths.

“The human brain is fixed by age 3.”

While it is true that babies’ brains make synapses at a furious rate until about age 10 months, the brain actually grows and changes thoughout life. During the teen years and early 20’s, a crucial part of the process is pruning those synapses to make them work faster. This is the stage in life when humans begin to think in high-level abstractions and systems. So keep learning and growing your brain, search in our Virtual Collection through articles on neurology such as “7 Brain Myths” from Toronto Star writer Alanna Mitchell.

“Have you heard that bananas imported from the Caribbean are contaminated with necrotizing faciitis, a bacteria that consumes human flesh?”

If you have, don’t repeat it, because you will be passing along another urban legend. These stories can be humourous, intriguing, bizarre or disgusting, they surface from time to time and are repeated endlessly. Read The Baby on the Car Roof and The Cat in the Dryer both by Thomas J. Craughwell, you will chuckle at your own gullibility!

“Sebastian Cabot was the first explorer to reach Hudson’s Bay in the search for the Northwest Passage."

The truth of this statement is still under question. Sebastian’s father, John Cabot, made a voyage to North America in 1497 and claimed the whole continent for England. By the mid 1550s any record of John Cabot’s travels or writings had disappeared. Similarly, when Sebastian Cabot traveled in 1508, he left no original documents, there are only fragments of the account in seventeen documents. These are third or fourth hand accounts of his travels. Some people believe that Sebastian’s accounts of his journey are totally fictional and that he never left England at all. To learn more about the history of the discoverers, read Great Exploration Hoaxes by David Roberts.

This week’s column is submitted by Roberta Casella, Librarian

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Sunday November 8th, 2009 Mythical Creatures

Do you ever think about mythical creatures? Ever wonder what’s real or not real? Have you ever seen a mermaid, a silkie, the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny? I know the bunny leaves tracks some times. Here are a few novels that feature these characters.

Tooth Fairy

Remember the Tooth Fairy? Why does she stop coming after you reach a certain age? You’d think the older you get the more value each lost tooth would have. In The Tooth Fairy by Joyce Graham, Sam and his friends were enjoying childhood in a small town in England. One night after putting a tooth under his pillow, Sam awoke cold and stiff to an open window and a strange smell in his room. Feeling fearful he sat up in bed only to see a figure crouched behind a chair. It was the Tooth Fairy and this one was complete with beady eyes, sharp teeth and a potty mouth. Was she real? Sam was the only one that could see or hear her. Over the years she became a fixture in his life, and could be male or female, cuddly or cruel. This book won a British Fantasy Award for best novel. After reading it you might be glad the Tooth Fairy no longer visits you. Or does she?


Alice Hoffman has written an enchanting tale about mermaids, titled Aquamarine. On the brink of being teenagers, Claire and Hailey have one last summer together before Claire moves to Florida. Following a summer storm, they go to the Capri Beach Club the next morning to find the swimming pool filled with jellyfish and seaweed. But there’s an even bigger surprise lurking in the pool, it’s a mermaid. Her name is Aquamarine and she’s not happy to be there. And as always happens with mermaids, she falls for the handsome boy who runs the gift shop. As she grows weaker in the burning sun the girls strive to save her. In exchange for just one evening with the gift shop boy, she promises to go back to sea. The girls dress her in a long dress and take her in a wheelchair to meet him. By the next morning she is in love. Will she go back to sea before it’s too late? This story is aimed at a 10 to 14 year old audience, but that doesn’t mean you might not enjoy it too.

Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny was always a favourite of mine. Sadly the bunny stopped coming the year I turned 40 and my father passed away. Cue The Easter Bunny by Liz Evans sounds like a British version of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum. Private eye work is slow for Grace Smith and out of desperation she takes a job with the local tourist board. Dressed as the Easter Bunny she hands out promotional items. Then things start hopping (notice the pun) and she ends up with two cases. One client is receiving death threats and the other is a cold case involving the disappearance of a 14 year old girl. Featuring a cast of colourful characters it sounds like a fun novel. It’s the sixth in a series featuring Grace Smith. Previous titles may be available through our Interlibrary Loan department.


Water Steps by A. LaFaye is the story of an 11 year old girl named Kyna, who was orphaned at the age of 3 when her family drowned in a boating mishap during a storm. She was rescued by an Irish couple named Mem and Pep. This water loving pair adopted her and tried to help her overcome her fear of drowning. One summer they rented a cabin on Lake Champlain. Here Kyna and a new friend sought out the mythical silkies that he believed lived in the lake. A silkie is a shape-shifting seal that comes to the aid of people in trouble in the water. That summer reveals more than she could imagine. If you would like to read this book you can request it through our inter-library loan service.

Well that’s a few books to help stimulate your fertile imagination. I hope you enjoy reading them. As to whether or not the characters are real – you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Karen Craib is a Library Technician

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Sunday November 1st, 2009 Pumpkins

Pumpkins! As sometimes happens, I found myself scrambling for a topic for this column when suddenly it struck me, pumpkins were clearly the answer. Whether carving them for jack-o’-lanterns or baking them in pies pumpkins are an integral part of autumn. Their rich orange colour and the changing leaves on the trees let us know summer is over and winter is on its way.

I searched our library catalogue for books about pumpkins and the range was fantastic. There are lots of children’s books (as one would expect), but also cookbooks, books on pumpkin carving, and even a novel with the word pumpkin in the title. Today being the day after Hallowe’en I thought it was a good time to look at pumpkins and jack-o’-lanterns.

I turned to our Virtual Collection as a starting point and there I found reference to the story of Jack. Did you know that the story of Jack is that of a man who was denied entry to both Heaven and Hell? He was a disreputable fellow who tricked the devil out of his soul, but because of his character was not allowed entry to Heaven. Pumpkins were not traditionally used in the carved lanterns, but they are much easier to carve. The culinary aspects can be traced to the festival of Samhain celebrated by the Celtic peoples of the British Isles and Northern France. Samhain is a traditional feast day celebrating the Fall Harvest. Not surprisingly, the foods harvested at this time of year play a central role in the celebration. Bonfires are also integral as they provide light and warmth as we transition to the darkest time of year.

Cookbooks specifically focused on pumpkins in our library collection are:

Pumpkin: A Super Food For all 12 Months of the Year by DeeDee Stovel

Pumpkin & Squash by Elaine Elliot

Pumpkin Companion by Elizabeth Brabb

Pumpkins & Squashes by Caroline Boisset

Would you believe that at this time of year I couldn’t get my hands on any of these books? It seems everyone is out cooking with pumpkins and luckily I can turn to online resources for ideas. Lately I’ve been tempted by the idea of pumpkin risotto as friends rave about it and I want to try more savoury pumpkin dishes.

And if you’re more interested in carving jack-o’-lanterns than cooking pumpkins check out:

Extreme Pumpkin Carving: 20 Designs from Frightful to Fabulous by Vic Hood and Jack A. Williams

Pumpkin Carving by Ed Palmer

How to Carve Pumpkins for Great Results: 20 Traditional and Contemporary Designs for Pumpkin Carving

Extreme Pumpkins II: Take Back Hallowe’en and Freak out a Few More Neighbors by Tom Nardone

I had “Extreme Pumpkin Carving” sitting on my desk inspiring me whilst writing this article and some of the carvings are truly artistic. They look more like woodcarvings than vegetables! This book covers some of the history of All Hallow’s Day (November 1st) and Samhain. The carving of pumpkins comes from the Samhain tradition of carving gourds and turnips and lighting them with candles or coals to guide deceased loved ones. It also tells the story of Jack in more detail and has information on pumpkin selection.

In addition we have many children’s books about pumpkins and jack-o’-lanterns. Some staff favourites include:

Perfect Pumpkin Pie by Denys Cazet

Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper

Jeb Scarecrow’s Pumpkin Patch by Jana Dillon

This is Not a Pumpkin by Bob Staake

I admit to being partial to books about cooked pumpkins, because they’re so good to eat! I hope these selections have piqued your interest and lead you to our bountiful collection. I wish you all a very happy Samhain!

Ruth Hamlin-Douglas, Children's and Youth Services Librarian