Sunday, 29 January 2012

Sunday January 29th, 2012 Is the end nigh?

According to the positions of the stars on the morning of the spring equinox, the earth is coming to the end of the Age of Pisces, and the Age of Aquarius is dawning. It is the position of zodiacal constellations that indicates the ‘age’ that we are in. Each age lasts something like 2,150 years. There are 12 signs of the zodiac, which makes one cosmic year about 26,000 earth years.

These ages supposedly influence human beings and civilizations. The Age of Aquarius is thought to indicate that feminine, emotional and psychic energy will supersede masculine, mental and physical energy.

Although exact dates are debated, some writers insist that the beginning of the Aquarian age will be this coming December 21, 2012, the winter solstice. Based on the Sun’s altitude above the horizon, the solstice is determined when the altitude of the sun is lowest above horizon. This is the shortest day of the year, every year. This year’s winter solstice might be a special case, however, because of its association with Mayan star-gazing.

Mayan ‘astronomer-priests’ observed the stars and were apparently able to calculate the 26,000 year ‘great cycle’. This December 21, 2012 could be the end of a ‘great cycle’ and the beginning of a new cosmic year. So, the winter solstice of 2012 is special because, apparently, it marks a rare cosmic alignment, essentially a cosmic new year’s eve.

What does this all mean? Well, if you are an astronomer-priest, it is when one world ends and another one begins. But different writers offer different theories, explanations and perspectives.

Gregg Braden, author of Fractal Time: the Secret of 2012 and a New World Age, says that the Maya predicted the end of the current world age. He states that electro-magnetic variations throughout earth’s orbit will connect our spirits and emotions with the energy from the center of the galaxy.

Academic scholars Matthew Restall and Amara Solari, experts in Maya culture and colonial Mexican history, take an opposing stance. Together they wrote 2012 and the End of the World: the Western Roots of the Maya Apocalypse. They state that major misconception has to do with the interpretation of glyphs as a prediction of apocalypse or global catastrophe. The reading of the glyphs themselves is open to interpretation, depending on who does the work. The glyphs read something like, “The thirteenth calendrical cycle will end on the day 4 Ahau, the third of Uniiw, there will occur blackness (or spectacle) and the God of the Nine (Bolon Yookte’) will descend to the red (or be displayed in great investiture).” This god, Bolon Yookte’ has been loosely associated with war implements, but has also been associated with travel, especially movement through space and time.

A third category of 2012-scholars integrates the metaphysical new age philosophy with the practical, modern world. Daniel Pinchbeck, author of 2012: the Return of Queztalcoatl, insists that this coming winter solstice will not bring global disaster, but rather is an opportunity to renew our global social structure. Quetzalcoatl means “feathered serpent” and to Pinchbeck it is a metaphor for heaven and earth. In the context of 2012, the return of the feathered serpent means integrating the spiritual and scientific realms of our human civilization.

Ervin Laszlo, author of WorldShift 2012: Making Green Business, New Politics, and Higher Consciousness Work Together, believes that we humans must change our systems that we’ve created that no longer appropriately serve us. In other words, we must “replace the limited consciousness of our failing society with the holistic consciousness that is rooted in the Akashic field.”

Are we destined for catastrophe, or will we rise above our invisible limitations? Perhaps only time will tell.

Chris Waite

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Sunday January 22nd, 2012 Borrowing Library eBooks

The most popular questions at your Library this past month have been about eBooks. Chances are you or someone you know received an eBook reader, iPad or iPod touch for a holiday gift. In order to help you learn about borrowing eBooks from the Library we have a wealth of information available on our Web site.

Library eBooks are delivered to you from a Web site called OverDrive. OverDrive is service we share with a number of other Ontario public libraries. In addition to eBooks, OverDrive offers eAudiobooks and we are just getting in to music and video. The majority of the OverDrive collection is shared between all member libraries, but, we have been adding a local collection that only Thunder Bay Public Library card-holders can access.

You need your library card number (which starts with 293410...) and PIN to check out an eBook in OverDrive. If you don’t have a PIN simply stop by any Library location and the staff will be happy to help you set one up.

To get to OverDrive, go to the Library’s Web site (, and click on “OverDrive” under “QUICK LINKS”. At the top of that Web page you will see a rectangular graphic, which is the link to OverDrive.

Just below the link to OverDrive there are two helpful videos. The first one outlines the steps you need to take to download an eBook to an eBook reader, such as a Kobo, Sony or Nook. The second video demonstrates how to download Adobe Digital Editions, which is free software. The software acts as a bridge between OverDrive content and your eBook reader.

Basically, you download eBooks from OverDrive to Adobe Digital Editions, and then transfer them to your eBook reader. When your eBook reader is connected to your computer it will be listed in the Adobe Digital Editions menu. Simply drag the cover of the book you want to transfer to your eBook reader. The eBook actually is loaded on to your eBook reader after you disconnect it from your computer. To me, that is the magical part of the process!

If you have an iPad, iPod touch or Kobo Vox eBook reader, there are links to instruction sheets further down the page, which outline how to get the OverDrive App. On these devices you use the App, combined with a Wifi connection, to access OverDrive.

OverDrive itself has a great deal of helpful “help” resources as well. One of these is the “Device Resource Centre” which lists compatible and non-compatible devices. Some eBook readers, like the Kindle, are not currently compatible with OverDrive in Canada. OverDrive’s help resources may be found on the top of the right hand menu of any page in OverDrive.

Your Library’s Web site has an “OverDrive FAQ” page on which you can find answers to the most frequently asked questions about library eBooks. If you’re having a problem with eBooks, this is the place to look!

One of the FAQs outlines how to find eBooks that are available to be checked out. Typically there are about 2,000 eBooks available at any time. In order to find these titles, use the Advanced Search in OverDrive. In Advanced Search you can set the “Format” to “Adobe ePub eBook” and also select the “Only show titles with copies available” option. The results will be a list of eBooks you can browse through and check out.

OverDrive recently added a collection of copyright-free eBooks. This collection includes classics like Mrs. Beaton’s Book of Household Management, Tom Sawyer and an 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. Certainly some gems to explore! These copyright-free eBooks are not counted as part of OverDrive’s five-item check out limit, and, they can be kept by you forever after downloading. You can find this collection from the link near the bottom of the left-hand menu in OverDrive which says “Additional eBooks. Always Available.”

Joanna Aegard

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Sunday January 15th, 2012 National Hat Day

Unofficially, today is National Hat Day, the day dedicated to celebrating hats! Often National Hat Day is celebrated by wearing your favourite hat or by wearing many different hats throughout the day. But along with wearing all of your hats, why not head to the library to help with the festivities?

For the crafty knitters, the library has several books dedicated to making hats. Hat Heads: 1 Man + 2 Knitting Needles = 50 Fun Hat Designs by Trond Anfinnsen is a fun book. Anfinnsen taught himself how to knit then started making hats for everyone he knew; this book contains fifty of those hats, which are all made from the same basic pattern. For a more experienced knitter, why not give The Knit Hat Book: 25 Hats From Basic Shapes by Nickey Epstein a try? Epstein uses twenty five basic shapes, which she encourages you to modify and adapt to your own taste.

We also have books on the history of hats. Women's Headdress and Hairstyles in England from AD 600 to the Present Day by Georgine de Courtais gives a history of both hats and hairdressing for women. For a broader history, we have Hats: Status, Style, and Glamour by Colin McDowell. McDowell’s book looks at hats in terms of social status and rank. This is an excellent book with many pictures and great facts.

If you’re looking for a lighter read, why not check out The Red Hat Club and The Red Hat Club Rides Again, both by Haywood Smith. The club is made up of five middle aged women who wear purple and a red hat at their monthly meetings. When one of them discovers her husband is cheating on her, the five decide to get back at him. In the second book, the Red Hat Club reunites to save an old friend of theirs from addiction by kidnapping her and helping her through rehab. Both books are light and easy reads, the perfect celebration of middle-age and hats! But if the fictional adventures of the Red Hat Club don’t appeal to you, the library also has several books by the Red Hat Society including a cookbook. The Red Hat Society celebrates the real life stories of middle aged women.

If you’d prefer a mystery, we’ve got Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill. An old Volkswagen with two skeletons is unearthed, one of which is wearing a hat. Soon after a monk is found murdered as well, seemingly unrelated except he was also found wearing a hat. Now it’s up to crime reporter Jimm Juree to solve the case!

And of course, how can you celebrate National Hat Day without reading some Dr. Seuss? The Cat in the Hat is a classic story about the antics of a mischievous cat that comes to visit during a rainy day. For more of his antics, there’s also The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. If you’re looking for a story solely about hats, give The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins a try, also by Dr. Seuss. Bartholomew Cubbins tries to take off his hat as the king passes, only to find another hat on his head! The king enlists the aid of his court to remove the offensive hats from Bartholomew’s head once and for all!

From knitting, nonfiction, and fiction books on hats, the library has you covered!

Shauna Kosoris

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Sunday January 8th, 2012 Top Graphic Novels of 2011

My personal journey into the world of graphic novels and comics has continued throughout 2011, and I have discovered new titles and series that further convince me of this genre’s value and wide-ranging scope. Some of my very favourite reads this year have used both words and pictures to tell their funny, interesting, and immersive stories:

Hark, a Vagrant! by Kate Beaton can be found on any number of top 2011 lists, and for good reason. This book combines literary and historical references with pop culture and just plain hilarious observations. Whether “Dude Watchin’ with the Brontes,” mocking Canadian Heritage tv moments, attending “Flying School with Billy Bishop” or telling the story of “Stompin’ Tom Connors versus the Music Industry,” Beaton’s seemingly tossed-off doodles affectionately skewer her topics while showcasing her vast knowledge about Canada, world history and literature. You’ll never think about the Trudeaus in quite the same way again.

Scenes from an Impending Marriage by Adrian Tomine is a short memoir both in length and size. It begins with an engagement and ends with the characters eating burgers and fries on their wedding night. In between, Tomine wryly covers recognizable situations from seating charts to dancing lessons. This book is very slight, but packs a heavy emotional punch in its depiction of our cultural understandings of wedding traditions.

Binky Under Pressure and the other Binky titles by Ashley Spires are ostensibly meant for juvenile readers, but really are tailor-made for pet lovers. If you’ve ever wondered about strange cat behaviour, maybe your cat is in fact a Space Cat and completing re-certification challenges or recovering after a journey into perilous Outer Space. Chi’s Sweet Home by Konami Kanata is a similar series told from a cat’s perspective, but more realistic than Binky’s sometimes fantastic escapades. Chi’s story is told from kittenhood and all the challenges therein, including the discovery of a litterbox’s true purpose (not a fun sandbox, as Chi first expected) and we navigate a housecat’s life right along with him. Both Binky and Chi are lots of fun for kids and adults.

Bunny Drop by Yumi Unita has a premise could be the plot of a new sitcom: a single man takes on an adorable small girl and learns about the truly important things in life. Luckily, Bunny Drop manages to move beyond cliché and is a touching and sympathetic look at how we make our own families. Daikichi’s struggles to connect with Rin, sort out daycare, adjust his work hours and make other adjustments in his life as a single parent and father to a young girl are handled realistically in a way not always shown in most entertainment.

Mirror Mind by Tory Woollcott is an important story. Her memoir about her dyslexic childhood experience is as eye-opening as it is gut-wrenching. If you’ve ever struggled to understand how a learning disability impacts someone’s entire life, not only their school days, then Tory’s visual depictions will show you that world. Hopefully, her story is unique in terms of the horrific early scholastic experiences, but the struggle she faced as a child who learns differently is recognizable from everyone’s childhood.

Consider adding a graphic novel to your reading list in 2012. You might be pleasantly surprised
by how much story and heart a few scribbled pictures can contain.

Laura Prinselaar

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Monday January 2nd, 2012 The Best of 2011

It’s that time when we are overwhelmed by top ten lists of films and music albums produced in the past year. Each year, publications such as ‘Rolling Stone’ or ‘Entertainment Weekly’ magazine give its readers their opinion on the best and worst in movie and music culture. Although no top ten list is absolute, here is a taste of some of the best that can be found at Thunder Bay Public Library.

10. At number ten, the Red Hot Chili Peppers proved once again that they’re still one of the hippest bands around, with the album, I’m With You. The album contains some of their best work in years, with catchy tunes such as ‘The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie’, as well as mournful, serious songs like ‘Brendan’s Death Song’.

9. In Rango, Johnny Depp lent his voice to the most subversive animated film of the year. Although the target audience is younger viewers, the feature is equally as engaging for adults of any age.

8. Although the album The King Is Dead by the Decemberists was released in early January, it’s sound has resonated throughout the year. Known for their offbeat rock and storytelling style, the Decemberists have produced their most accomplished album yet. If you aren’t familiar, the first track, ‘Don’t Carry It All’, will surely attract you to this group.

7. 2011 has proven to be a great year for comedies. With sharp writing and inspired performances, Bridesmaids is nothing short of brilliant. The film successfully combines slapstick and gross-out humor, along with genuine moments of honesty about a woman’s attempt at planning her best friends wedding. As fellow bridesmaid Megan, Melissa McCarthy gives the years best comedic performance.

6. If there was any force to be reckoned with in 2011, then it was with Adele’s sophomore album, 21. With her powerful, gospel like voice, Adele delivered a break-up album unlike any other. I think its safe to predict that a Grammy award is awaiting ‘Rolling In The Deep’.

5. Many film enthusiasts believe that Woody Allen has long passed his prime, but with Midnight in Paris, the director showed that he still has some tricks up his sleeve. Owen Wilson plays the archetypal ‘Allen’ character, who travels to Paris. The most charming film of the year, ‘Midnight in Paris’ is ultimately a love letter to the city of romance.

4. Radiohead is one of the most ambitious bands around. With The King of Limbs, Radiohead once again dared to challenge their listeners and shock them with a radically different sound. This is an album that grows better with each listening.

3. The best adaptation of a book to the screen this year was Kathryn Stockett’s, The Help. The film centers on African American maids in 1960s Mississippi and how a woman helps them find their voice. The Help is a treasure, and as one of the maids, Viola Davis is worthy of an Academy Award.

2. If there was any album this year that caught my attention, it was Bon Iver’s self-titled album Bon Iver. Not only does it grab your attention, it holds it. Bon Iver is sometimes known for emotional vagueness and challenging lyrics. However, he redefines soft rock and brings it to new heights. He employs traditional as well as technological methods, such as ‘Auto-Tune’. I challenge anybody who won’t be swept away.

1. Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is unlike any film you will likely encounter any year. To describe this film with plot points would be a disservice. Albeit an often frustrating film, The Tree of Life examines the nature and purpose of mankind as well as the existence of God. A timeless piece of filmmaking, Malick has made a film that will stand the test of time. You mark my words.

Petar Vidjen