Care to join me in a spot of summer speed-reading?
This morning brought the announcement that The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood is the official pick for All Pikes Peak Reads 2012. The powerhouse author, famed for her engaging public appearances and devoted fan base, will be visiting Colorado Springs for the Sept. 14 kickoff of APPR.
Some readers will have already started hyperventilating with excitement at this point, while others (like me) will be casting their minds back to high school book reports on Atwood’s dystopian classic The Handmaid’s Tale. Sure, it was topical and preachy, but it was a blisteringly good story with lots of crunchy plot and themes that kept haunting us for weeks. Atwood has perfected her M.O. since then — her 2000 novel The Blind Assassin won the Man Booker Prize — but the experience remains much the same. Where Tale creates a dark thrill ride out of Reagan-era social politics, Flood tangles with our current vision of the apocalypse: environmental collapse.
In keeping with All Pikes Peak Reads criteria, The Year of the Flood combines broad appeal and easy readability for readers as young as 12, while incorporating themes relevant to the Pikes Peak region and a plot suitable for stage adaptation.
In true Atwood fashion, it also happens to be set in a little-too-near future in which human error has set off a cataclysmic disaster that has changed the fabric of life as we know it. For fans of a certain post-apocalyptic blockbuster novel-turned-film, that’s standard fare, but where Suzanne Collins titillates and terrifies, Atwood tends to prefer to galvanize and provoke.
Or put it a brighter way — she’s out to get us thinking and acting for positive change.
The Year of the Flood is tied to this year’s nonfiction and teen selections (see below) by the theme of survival, a more positive bookend to the annual PPLD Regional History Symposium’s theme of disaster.
The most compelling stories to come out of disaster are those of survival, says PPLD executive director Paula Miller. “And not only survival, but finding ways to thrive.”
For residents of the Pikes Peak region, Miller says, the biggest touchstone for these themes is the environment. “Sustainability has hit this community in a big way,” she said at the announcement ceremony this morning, where winners and sponsors of the city’s Sustainability Snapshot Contest, including SunShare, Old Town Bike Shop, Greener Corners and the Southern Colorado Clean Cities Coalition, were also honored.
As All Pikes Peak Reads takes off this fall, the library district will be partnering with several local environment- and sustainability-focused organizations, including the Trails and Open Space Coalition and the Pikes Peak Sustainable Business Network, to explore the ways local residents can thrive in caring for their community, as a community. A complete schedule of All Pikes Peak Reads 2012 events will be published this fall in the Indy and on PPLD’s website.
In the meantime, we’ll need all the head start we can get to digest Atwood’s 40-plus works of fiction, poetry and critique before she hits town in September. Grab your spot on the library holds list while you can!
2012 All Pikes Peak Reads
September 14 - October 31, 2012
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (teen selection)
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford (children's selection)
The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley (nonfiction selection)
From the land of wheat and the Wizard of Oz comes help from the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center in Hutchinson, Kan., in helping the Springs-based Space Foundation get its visitors center project off to a good start.
The Cosmosphere is loaning a collection of 1970s-era Soviet space artifacts, which will be displayed at its headquarters at 4425 Arrowswest Drive.
Since the foundation moved last year into the building, it's been gradually settling in and has a generous amount of space to dedicate to a visitors center and museum.
The Russian items will be on display for three years starting Aug. 1, after making an appearance at the National Space Symposium at The Broadmoor, which closed on Thursday.
On display will be one of the few Lunokhod lunar rovers ever to be displayed outside of the former Soviet Union; a half-scale model, constructed in the Soviet Union, of the Luna 16 Robotic Probe, the first robotic probe to land on the Moon and return a sample of lunar soil to Earth, and a prototype of a Sokol (Falcon) Space Suit-K, a pressure suit that was used for on-ground engineering and thermal vacuum tests during Soviet cosmonaut training.
The foundation said in a press release:
"Initially, we will place these three extraordinary artifacts, which the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center has so generously loaned to us, in our extended lobby area," said Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham. "Then, we'll move them into the El Pomar Space Gallery, as part of the first phase of development of our visitors center.
"We're particularly excited because these artifacts represent a rich part of space history that few Americans have been exposed to," he continued. "We are very pleased to be able to display some of the meaningful contributions the Soviet Union made to space exploration."
The Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center is a museum and educational facility in Hutchinson, Kan., that displays and restores spaceflight artifacts and offers educational programs and camps. It is one of only three museums to display flown spacecraft from Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, and it has the second-largest collection of flown Soviet and U.S. space artifacts in the world. In addition to being a destination, the Cosmosphere also sponsors traveling exhibits and loans artifacts to other museums and organizations. For more information, go to www.cosmo.org.
"These artifacts on display in our booth at the National Space Symposium are exemplary of the unique and inspiring collection accumulated during our 50-year history and housed at the Kansas Cosmosphere," said Richard Hollowell, interim president & CEO of the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center. "We are excited to continue our mission of honoring the past and inspiring the future of space exploration by sharing these fascinating artifacts with visitors to the Space Foundation through an annually renewable three-year loan agreement.
In a related development, industry leader Northrop Grumman Corp. has donated $375,000 to create a science center and teaching lab at the Space Foundation's headquarters.
The press release explains:
To be known as the Northrop Grumman Science Center, the facility will include a Science on a Sphere™ laboratory and a teaching facility that will be used for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programs for teachers and students and for community education outreach efforts.
The Northrop Grumman Science Center is the first major component of the Space Foundation's visitors center, which is under development at 4425 Arrowswest Drive in Colorado Springs, Colo. Construction will begin immediately and the new center is expected to open as early as this fall.
"This generous gift from Northrop Grumman makes it possible for the Space Foundation to realize our vision of an interactive destination for formal and informal public and private education - advancing STEM in the exciting context of space exploration, development and utilization," said Space Foundation Chief Executive Officer Elliot Pulham. "We envision a facility where children and adults can participate in highly interactive learning opportunities in multiple disciplines, including astronomy, physics, mathematics, geography, environmental sciences, planetary sciences and biology."
The Northrop Grumman Science Center will have both lecture and laboratory facilities that can be used for pre-kindergarten through graduate-level courses, educator professional development and educational multimedia events and presentations for the general public.
"Northrop Grumman is honored to partner with the Space Foundation to create this exciting new educational facility for the Rocky Mountain region that will help lead the next generation into space," said Gary Ervin, a corporate vice president of Northrop Grumman and president of the company's Aerospace Systems sector. "STEM education initiatives like this are critical for today's children to become tomorrow's leaders in space. They are the future stewards of our nation's leadership in technology to keep both our economy strong and our residents secure while advancing our understanding of the world around us."
The Center will extend the reach and capabilities of the Space Foundation's education enterprise, which offers space-themed, standards-based education programs to teachers and students. Programs include Space Across the Curriculum teacher professional development courses, STARS science enrichment programs for schools, New Horizons community programs that combine school-based education programs with community events and lectures, Audience with an Astronaut sessions for schools, school and youth tours of major space industry exhibits, including those at the National Space Symposium, lesson plans and teaching resources and a NASA Educator Resource Center.
Sending out congratulations to local author Barbara O'Neal on her nod from the Romance Writers of America for her 2011 novel, How to Bake a Perfect Life. It's been selected by RWA as a RITA finalist for novel with strong romantic elements.
You can find my January 2011 interview with O'Neal about the release of How to Bake a Perfect Life here; and, in tomorrow's Indy, you'll find a short review of her upcoming novel, The Garden of Happy Endings.
The RITA award winners will be announced July 28 at the RWA annual conference in California.
At the Prado in Spain, little cigarette-machine-like vendors dispensing thin books dot its numerous galleries. For a few Euros, little volumes in your language of choice pop out for an instant primer on the artist or period you’re touring. I fed my coins into the Velazquez vendor, largely to get a little souvenir image of his stunning portrait of the Infante Don Carlos (a life-changing painting, I promise).
The wee Velazquez book I still have, and it reminded me of the Denver Art Museum’s Companion to Spanish Colonial Art, a recently published guide to the DAM’s distinguished collection, housed on the north building’s fourth floor. Though more of a proper book — in line with its other recent publication, the fantastic Kress Collection catalogue by Angelica Daneo — this is a great beginner’s guide to all art Spanish Colonial.
... Which you can’t help but to love. On the one hand, it’s punchy, colorful and oh-so-dramatic. Yet those traits don’t relegate it to the telenovela of art history. Because there’s the other side, this artwork is the product of continental Spanish Conquest: Turquoise-green quetzal feathers mingling with the Baroque austerity of Spain, New World silver molded into Old World religions. Thousands of years of isolated histories clashing in a cultural supernova.
Art mirroring such a colossus is no easy feat to adequately explain, yet the author Donna Pierce does a great job for newbies. Aficionados will likely get less out of it, although I was pleased to find a great article at the end about Garden Party folding screens, products of cultural pollination from China and Japan. According to the book, the DAM possesses the only screen held in a museum in the U.S. There are about a dozen others known to exist, and they’re all in private collections. That means you can visit the real thing, just one hour from here.
Buy it here.
You want to know Storm Large. A Portland, Ore., rock legend, she’s tall, talented and inspiringly self-aware; in her brand-new memoir, Large describes her teenage years as a “turd in a punch bowl.” She was loud, obnoxious, slutty and druggy, and she’s the first to admit it.
I approached Crazy Enough as a book that would focus more on Large’s notorious stage presence and music career (I'd never heard of her, but she is most known for her appearance on Rock Star: Supernova), but this tome is about Large’s relationship with her mother, who spent most of her life struggling with mental and emotional problems. Clinically lonely and unhappy, Large’s mother drove her family away with years of hysterics, drug-addled hazes and hospital stays, convinced of one medical anomaly or another. Thus, Crazy Enough feels like it veers a bit once Large enters adulthood and escapes to the West Coast. While the first half of the book is rich with Large’s poignant memories and acerbic-yet-eloquent passages, the second half has a more wrap-up-y, overview approach.
Here, one of Large's expressive moments from an early chapter, when she recalls a mental institution where her mother stayed:
“I would hazard a guess that some of the people who were in charge back then are either behind bars or mopping up their own shit in a soggy cardboard box under a bridge somewhere in hell.
“… Sadville was a mental institution that looked exactly like you would expect a looney bin to look like had you only seen them depicted in horror films: a monolithic, gulag-type building with walls the color of yellowing chicken bone.”
You almost wish Large had held off for a while on writing this, to really pen all her memories. If her college days in Alphabet City and heroin era in San Francisco (where she calls herself “a loser among real addicts”) are any indicators, Large has plenty of stories to tell, and they deserve the full treatment. Maybe another memoir is in order.
And for more book reviews and coverage, click here.
Yesterday morning I heard an appalling statistic on the Willie and Val Show on KCCY-FM 96.9. According to its Nearly Impossible Trivia game, 50 percent of men and 60 percent of women have library cards, but rarely use them.
As someone who visits her public library at least once a week, often more, I couldn't fathom this. I mean, according to NPR, libraries might be the next pop-culture wave after cupcakes. (And who doesn't love cupcakes?)
The economics of a library is unbelievably in your favor. You get a card for free. You visit your library. Check out books, for free. Check out magazines, for free. Check out CDs and audio books and DVDs, for free. (Was it you who said you were getting rid of Netflix after it raised its prices?)
Seriously, people, why aren't you using your library cards? Hit up the Penrose Library branch of Pikes Peak Library District, and you can even pet a bunny or two in the children's section, for free. (And leave the poop clean-up to the librarians.)
If you needed one more reason to head to PPLD, this week the district kicked off its annual Adult Reading Program, "Novel Destinations."
If you're 18-plus and have a library card, now you get to read a book, for free, and win prizes for doing so. Here are all the details:
Pikes Peak Library District’s annual Adult Reading Program runs from January 9 - March 5! This year’s theme is Novel Destinations and is open to anyone age 18 and older with a PPLD library card. Novel Destinations runs through March 5 and adults can read any eight books of their choice. Books on CD, audiocassette, audiobook players, eBooks, and eAudiobooks count, too!
You can sign up now by clicking here!
Reading logs are available by clicking here or at any PPLD library, but feel free to keep track of the books you’ve read using any method you choose.
After you read your first four books, visit your nearest library to pick up your first prize. The program has great prizes this year from Shops at Briargate, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Louie’s Pizza, The Colorado Springs Flea Market, Chick-fil-A, and XS Threadz. Read four more books before March 5 and visit the library again for your second prize. And if you read eight books by the March 5 deadline, you’ll be entered for the grand prize drawing of a new Kindle eReader!
The best part is that Independent Records will be donating $1 for each CD received in order to help support All Pikes Peak Reads community outreach programs. (Note that CDs must be in good condition, with no missing inserts, so no cheating, OK?)
Face it, you'll never have time to list them all on eBay and then spend the rest of your life making trips to the post office. Plus, if you can't bear the idea of parting with all that music, go sign up at mog.com and, if there are any albums that you can't stream for free, just upload them to your computer.
Yes, it's a New Year's resolution you can actually keep. And you can feel good about helping save public libraries, that last bastion of democracy, before Doug Bruce figures out how to shut them down.
We reviewed a few more books this month than we could get into print, but wanted to make sure you heard about them, you know, in case you're still on the hunt for holiday gifts.
According to a press release sent today, the Pikes Peak Library District will purchase a building near the Chapel Hills Mall once occupied by MCI. The 112,883 square-foot building will now house PPLD's Information Technology Department, Community Engagement and Outreach Office, Finance Department, Human Resources Office, Collection Management, and the PPLD Foundation, all of which were located in other libraries throughout the district.
It will also house a Creative Computer Commons, "a prototype library facility that will provide information technology and electronic resources to the public," and like the other libraries it will offer community meeting space.
The building cost the library $3.75 million, which PPLD had already set aside, along with money for renovations and repairs.
The district plans a tentative opening at the end of 2012.
New Library Facility will Feature Creative Computer Commons and Increase Space Available for Patrons throughout District
Colorado Springs, Colo. (December 1, 2011) — At Pikes Peak Library District’s Board of Trustees Meeting on Tuesday, November 29, the Board voted to take action to purchase a facility adjacent to the Chapel Hills Mall. The facility was formerly occupied by MCI and is located at 1175 Chapel Hills Drive on the corner of Chapel Hills Drive and Jamboree Drive. The building is 112,883 square feet (a little less than twice the size of the East Library) and it has two loading docks. This purchase will increase the District’s total square footage by almost 50 percent without any new debt to the residents of El Paso County.
The preliminary contract price is $3.75 million, and it includes a 90-day (cancelable) grace period for PPLD to do the appropriate due diligence work. This equates to approximately $33 per square foot, which compares very favorably to an estimated cost to construct a new library facility of about $250 per square foot. A building of this size would have cost the District $28 million.
The District is using fund balance and the current operating budget to fund the purchase of this facility. There is no debt, and no taxpayer dollars will be used for interest expense. There will be some renovation and repair costs, and the District has money set aside in the budget to cover such costs.
This facility will ease the burden on other heavily used libraries by allowing the District’s Information Technology Department, Community Engagement and Outreach Office, Finance Department, Human Resources Office, Collection Management, and the PPLD Foundation to relocate, thus freeing up space at the East Library, Penrose Library, and the Knights of Columbus office building for other uses such as more space for the public.
The facility will also feature a Creative Computer Commons, a prototype library facility that will provide information technology and electronic resources to the public. Classes will ensure participants are comfortable with technology and have the skills needed in the current job market. Emerging technology will be available for hands-on use. It will offer both educational and entertaining programs and resources. Finally, like all library locations, it will become a community center for its area, with a meeting room, study space, and community partnerships.
“The Pikes Peak Library District is a vibrant entity in which the demand for services increases every year. This transaction will go a long way toward helping our staff meet the increasing needs of our citizens.” said PPLD Chief Finance Officer Michael Varnet.
The timeline for opening is still tentative, but the District hopes to have the new facility open by the end of 2012.
Tune into the Indy Minute — as seen on ABC affiliate KRDO News Channel 13 — each week for details on all the events that entertain and bring our community together. It's simulcast on KRDO News Radio 105.5 FM and 1240 AM.
It’s funny how people have a “type.” Especially when the type is weirdly obvious and/or specific. (I’m thinking Ron Swanson’s Tammys from Parks and Recreation.)
Artists have types, too, naturally. Peter Paul Rubens was into portly women, Michelangelo was into muscular men, and the English artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti had a thing for women with strong jaws, prominent features and heavy-lidded eyes.
That’s a topical way to get into Rossetti, but his art is so much more than striking women. Rossetti was a Victorian-era painter, poet, translator and co-founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (a school of thought related to art and literature). He was a high-profile figure during his own day, and even if his name isn't all that well-known now, his art is fairly popular.
Artwork like Rossetti’s is made for romantics. Not only because his main subject is beautiful women. His settings are flowery, medieval in landscape and style (think of the chivalrous stripe), and his themes vary from woman as idol to woman as devil.
These are simplifications, of course, but if you ever wanted to know more about this artist, look no further than Rossetti: Painter and Poet by J.B. Bullen. Even if Rossetti isn’t your immediate cup of tea, this book is no less fascinating. For one, Rossetti led an interesting, scandalous life, replete with passionate love affairs, fame and infamy, and drug addiction.
From Bullen’s website:
Bullen’s premise is that Rossetti was a courageous pioneer in the late-nineteenth-century world of evasion and repression. He dared to explore the hidden recesses of the mind and to claim that the libido was a driving force in human life. Both Rossetti’s art and his poetry were castigated for their "fleshliness" but Bullen maintains that in his painting and in his poetry Rossetti’s focus on the erotic life was a way of asserting the centrality of the sexual drive.
And one can easily trace his developments — and affairs — in his works. His passion for Elizabeth “Lizzie” Siddal, the woman who would later become his wife, burned hotly in the beginnings of their courtship, but waned as she took ill and his interests strayed. After her death by suicide, Rossetti painted her again, one result being “Beata Beatrix,” one of his best-known works, which portrays Lizzie in an allegory of death laced with a sense of mythical eroticism.
Other lovers, Fannie Cornforth and Jane Morris, held similar symbolic roles. Cornforth, the subject of the subversively lascivious “Bocca Baciata,” which graces the cover of the book, was his paragon of physical desire. The more severe Morris was an ideal of beauty.
Before relying more heavily on symbolism, Rossetti’s work was largely informed by such epics as Dante’s Divine Comedy and Sir Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. His portrayals of doomed lovers like Paolo and Francesca, and Lancelot and Guinevere are particularly intriguing for their glorious consummation in hell and guilty stolen moments, respectively.
Painter and Poet was published Oct. 11 and is available here.
Earlier this year, we covered the Denver Art Museum's show Cities of Splendor: A Journey Through Renaissance Italy, which was comprised largely of items from the museum's Kress Collection, a gift of 37 works from mid-14th century to mid-17th century Renaissance works.
In July, a catalog of the DAM's Kress Collection was published, written by Cities curator Angelica Daneo. Though the topic could be potentially quite dry, given its focus, it's truly a lovely and lively read, breaking down each painting or sculpture from the subject matter to the work's provenance.
Though it's true that enough versions of a Madonna and Child become tedious, Daneo assuages any boredom by pointing out the differences between, say, a Flemish Madonna and Child versus an Italian one. Or regale the reader with a tale about the artist's life. On an anecdotal note, I found that Daneo answered nearly every question I had in her write-ups, even touching on something so insignificant as a small, strange shape in a carving.
Yet this book is far from exhausting, despite how much research went into it. It's very manageable, both in size and length.
And whether or not it was intentional, I thought Daneo saved the best for last, with "Portrait of Don Diego Félix de Esquivel y Aldama" by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, one of the great Spanish artists.
"As his style progressed he gradually abandoned the severe Spanish style of composition and successfully experimented with richer tones and more elaborate settings," Daneo writes. She also includes this quote from Edmondo de Amicis:
"Now let us speak of Murillo in our gentlest tones. Velasquez is in art an eagle; Murillo an angel. One admires Velasquez and adores Murillo. By his canvases we know him as if he had lived among us. He was handsome, good, and virtuous ... He combines the truth of Velasquez, the vigor of Ribera, the harmonious transparency of Titian, and the brilliant vivacity of Rubens."
He Talks Mars / She Talks Venus is a slim, double-sided book of comics from the wildly successful British Tottering-By-Gently strip, which follows a dotty, middle-aged couple of leisure in the English countryside. Dicky and Daffy are a quaint enough pair, and the book is semi-entertaining, how I imagine Brits see The Lockhorns.
The strip is obviously not geared toward someone like me, though like anyone I can identify with the age-old communication gap between men and women, which is the linchpin of the enterprise. But there’s something ironic to the escapist simplicity of the stereotypical Dicky and Daffy, something that’s difficult to get your arms around when considering this book and its author.
Tottering’s creator Annie Tempest lost her 18-year-old son to a heroin overdose last May. Though it shouldn't matter, it does endear the characters who struggle with relative non-issues like making tea and growing old. We should all have such problems.
Tempest's son, Freddie McConnel had struggled with drug addiction for years, and kept a sensitive diary in which passages were published in the UK’s Daily Mail.
So unlike the commercialized and sheltered writings of his mother's topical business, McConnel's writing is poetic and vulnerable (as well both should be, you might suppose). One of the final passages in the moving article reads: "I have just moved to [a friend’s] flat, it’s lovely, it was less than five minutes before I was smoking skag in the bedroom. I feel lost, a passenger at an empty station.”
I'm not an expert as to what makes a good art book. Good writing, a thoughtful array of images and a top-notch print job usually do it for me. So keep that in mind as you read below.
The University of New Mexico Press sent us a copy of Elevated Perspective: The Paintings of Joellyn Duesberry, a gorgeous book printed in conjunction with the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's Duesberry exhibit by the same name. It's a beautiful volume, from the striking black-and-yellow cover, to the exquisitely printed images inside. It even includes a fold out to Duesberry's large-scale "Maine Bog Triptych."
The book's writing is similarly superb, with essays and interviews from FAC museum director Blake Milteer, NYC art critic and writer Karen Wilkin (whose articles in the Wall Street Journal are something to lust for) and even Duesberry herself, who shares deeply personal and articulate passages about her experiences and art career.
Here, Duesberry talks about the characteristic lack of horizons in her works:
"In 1969, I got rid of clouds and sky for the first time. I didn't want anything extraterrestrial to think about. I wanted to look down at the ground, understand it, comprehend it, join it, and merge with it in some way. And the way to that was to steal it, honestly, by painting.
"I love compressed space as a concept as well as a compositional element."
Elevated Perspective is available locally at Luma at the FAC, or online. The FAC's Duesberry show is on display only until Sept. 11. Two of Duesberry' large graveyard paintings will serve as backdrops for the FAC's 9/11 memorial play Lovers Leapt.
I hadn't read Suzanne Collins' run-away young adult novel, nor the other two in the trilogy at the time of the APPR announcement, but I have now, and I have to say I haven't had such a good read in a long time. (Perhaps since Harry Potter, actually ...) I can't wait to reread the entire series before the movie comes out in March 2012.
I encourage you to pick up the novel and join in on APPR. The official kick-off date is Sept. 10 at the What IF! festival, but there's no reason to wait.
And in the meantime, here's the very first movie trailer, released on MTV's Video Music Awards last night, to give you a taste of what's to come.