An Epic Quest Coming Soon: The L.A. Odyssey Project

Since the 8th century BCE, Homer’s haunting epic poem, The Odyssey, has spoken to audiences about what it means to struggle and endure as human beings. The Greek poem follows the hero Odysseus on his action-packed journey home after fighting in the ten-year Trojan War. As he encounters numerous obstacles along the way—from one-eyed giants to fantastical enchantresses—Odysseus’ wife Penelope assumes the leadership of his kingdom in his absence, warding off pressure from suitors eager to assume his wealth and power. Meanwhile, her son Telemachus sets off on his own voyage of (self) discovery to determine the fate of his father.

Almost every reader has some kinship with the archetypal characters and situations that The Odyssey represents, and this October, the Library Foundation of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Public Library invite readers across the city to rethink one of literature’s classic and heroic stories: The Odyssey. Throughout the month, the Foundation and Library will present The L.A. Odyssey Project, a month-long city-wide quest to consider what Homer’s epic tale of adventure and endurance means to Los Angeles readers today.

The L.A. Odyssey Project will journey into each of the neighborhoods of Los Angeles to explore the intimate connections between literature, history, science and the humanities to understand The Odyssey in the light of living in Southern California today. “The grand themes of The Odyssey can be retold for every generation because they provide cautionary tales and inspiration in the face of extreme adversity,” explains Rebecca Rickman, the Executive Producer of the project. “The difficulties—both physical and metaphysical—of reintegration which Odysseus encounters on the journey and with his family and his community upon his return to Ithaca—bear an uncanny resemblance to the problems facing our own troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. We saw this parallel as a golden opportunity to demonstrate how narrow the gap is between the ancient past and the present.”

The multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary project will feature a range of ways for audiences to experience the ancient text. From epic bicycle rides, to the re-imagining of a classical Greek vase by artist Peter Shire (pictured above and below) depicting the tale of Odysseus in L.A., to a special look at Homer-inspired films, The L.A. Odyssey Project will offer contemporary audiences the chance to draw their own conclusions about the relevance of Homer in their lives.

Librarians across 15 branches of the Los Angeles Public Library system will envision over 70 events for patrons of all ages. From building Greek vases (pictured throughout this post) with 3D printers to an odyssey through space with Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists, from reading clubs for all ages to Cyclops puppet shows, library patrons across the Southland will have the opportunity to engage with the story like never before.

“From Venice to Eagle Rock, San Pedro to Sylmar, our patrons and library staff had such a great time exploring Moby Dick together as a community last year, that we are thrilled to do the same with The Odyssey,” said City Librarian John F. Szabo. “As the cultural hub of our city, the Los Angeles Public Library is the ideal place to rediscover and rethink classic and influential pieces of literature.”

In honor of the oral tradition that allowed Homer to capture the story in writing, the project will culminate on Saturday, October 25 with a seven-hour marathon recitation of the poem by the public at the Central Library. Learn more about this reading, and all the other events upon which you can embark during October at lfla.org/odyssey and stay tuned on this blog for more details.

Happy Birthday, Queen of the Angels!

Today we celebrate the anniversary of Los Angeles’ founding on September 4, 1781 of El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles, or “The Town of the Queen of the Angels.” To commemorate the birthday of our great city, we’re sharing a few “birthday” photos from the Los Angeles Public Library’s Photo Collection.

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Cleverly painted “I love LA” face at Olvera Street on the occasion of Los Angeles’ 214th birthday. Photo by Gary Leonard, 1995.

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“Mounted riders tomorrow will recreate the journey taken by the settlers who founded Los Angeles 200 years ago, on Sept. 4, 1781. City Hall will be the site of the city’s birthday festivities.” Photo by Paul Chinn, 1981.

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Spanish dancer Rosa Maria performs at the 193rd birthday party of the city of Los Angeles. Providing music is the Mexican Tipica Orchestra under the direction of Jose Gutierrez. Photo by Joe Messinger, 1974.

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Thousands march and thousands watch as city celebrates birthday. In foreground as the huge parade moves along Broadway is 72nd Army Band from Ft. MacArthur. Photo taken 1967.

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Unveiling a plaque at the statue of Felipe de Neve, a city founder, are, from left, Eduardo Toda; Consuelo de Bonzo; Frank King; Dr. Reynaldo Carreon Jr; Ernest Debs and Arnold Martinez. Plaque reads in part: At Mission San Gabriel, on Sept. 26, 1781, the governor of the Californias, Don Felipe de Neve, wrote and signed the order by which the Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Angeles de Porcincula was founded Sept. 4, 1781. Photo taken 1963.

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Rehearsing a dance number is Betty Ramirez who will take part in the “San Gabriel Mission Day” program of the Los Angeles centennial week celebration. Photo taken 1946.

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Retracing the path that the founding fathers took to start a city that has grown beyond their most grandiose dreams, riders and carriages are shown on the modern highway leading from San Gabriel to the Plaza for Los Angeles’ 160th birthday fiesta. Photo taken 1941.

For more great historic photos, browse the Los Angeles Public Library’s Photo Collection.

School’s In Session at the Los Angeles Public Library

Fall means back-to-school, but at the Los Angeles Public Library learning never ceases. From assisting students enrolled in summer classes with research and resources to advising students on their school reading lists, librarians just wrapped up a busy season, including motivating over 30,000 kids to crack the books through the Summer Reading Clubs. As part of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Summer of Learning,” kids across the city were given badges for taking part in educational programs like a game designing workshop live-streamed to several neighborhood libraries. Hitting the ground running, LAPL’s librarians are energized and ready with a full slate of programs and resources to help students have a successful new school year.

With the recent adoption of Common Core State Standards for schools in California, there’s a greater emphasis on digital learning than ever before, so many of the Library’s resources like Student Zones are evolving to address the changing needs of students. Offering computers, study tables and homework supplies, including access to free electronic resources, online tutoring, and free printouts, Student Zones provide a safe, focused place for kids to study after school. Supported by the Library Foundation, Student Zones at 10 neighborhood libraries will be newly renovated for the fall, and Student Zone Helpers will be added to 15 branches to assist kids with their homework and computer questions.

“Our Student Zone has proven to be an invaluable resource to students,” explains Justin Sugiyama, a Young Adult Librarian at Benjamin Franklin Branch. “In our community many families cannot afford computers or Internet access so there is a real need.” With students being tasked to use online resources, as well as become proficient with digital media, the need for technological support is ever-expanding. “Librarians in general are very tech savvy, love to teach, and can provide both students and teachers with instruction in the use of digital resources such as electronic journal databases and online catalogs,” says Sugiyama.

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Beyond helping students with current assignments, the Los Angeles Public Library is also committed to paving the path for lifelong learning. Made possible by generous donors of the Library Foundation, Student Smart offers full-length practice tests (SAT, PSAT, ACT), plus workshops and seminars to build study skills and prepare students for college. Recently, middle school students were invited to take part in a Student Smart College Motivational seminar at Central Library. “Only 5% of adults above age 25 in our community are college graduates,” says Sugiyama. “Hearing presentations and discussions on overcoming challenges from a panel of successful college graduates on the importance of higher education can make a real impact on young peoples lives here.”

Patsy Tuck, a librarian at the Eagle Rock Branch, is excited about the upcoming five-part SAT Preparation series as part of the Student Smart program, which is expanding from 5 branches to 12 for the 2014/2015 school year. “I’m always struck by the overwhelming positive reviews on surveys from teens,” says Tuck about Student Smart, which is the only program to offer free SAT prep in the entire city. Tuck believes the Library is a lifeline, “We are vital to the educational health of the City. I can see how we touch the lives of our patrons in a positive way on a daily basis,” Tuck says. “Our services are FREE to everyone in the City, we do not discriminate and we embrace our City’s diversity.”

Beyond free computer use and Wi-Fi, books, movies, and magazines, the Los Angeles Public Library offers a range of resources students need to succeed in school:

Full STEAM Ahead – Workshops and resources that spark kids’ interest in science and technology.

Live Homework Help – A free, online tutoring service for grades K to 12.

Student Smart – Full-length practice tests (SAT, PSAT, ACT), plus workshops and seminars to build study skills and get ready for college.

Student Zones – A place for kids to study and learn at the Library.

–Online homework resources and information like databases, word processing programs, and more.

Learn more about all of these programs at lapl.org/ya.

 

Looking Forward to Fall at ALOUD

September is right around the corner, and ALOUD will be back for its fall season to offer Angelenos the chance to engage with Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, MacArthur geniuses, international peace activists, groundbreaking filmmakers, and more. Here’s what you can look forward to this fall at the downtown historic Central Library with these 17 free public programs.

ALOUD kicks off with a bang on Tuesday, Sept. 9, as James Ellroy, one of America’s greatest living crime writers, sits down to discuss his newest novel, Perfidia. In conversation with Walter Kirn – author of his own recent riveting take on a Los Angeles cold case – Ellroy uncovers a corrupt Los Angeles of the 1940s.

On Monday, Sept. 15, naturalist Diane Ackerman discusses her optimistic new manifesto on the earth-shaking changes now affecting every part of our lives, and those of our fellow creatures, The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us. On Wednesday, Sept. 17, Kim Bancroft recounts the story of Heyday Books, a plucky small press with bid ideas, with founder Malcolm Margolin.

Pictured above, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow and award-winning author Jesmyn Ward take the stage to discuss their memoirs of a South still clouded by a troubled past on Thursday, Sept. 25.

On Tuesday, Sept. 30, in partnership with Ambulante California, ALOUD welcomes filmmakers Lourdes Grobet and Julianna Brannum with excerpts of their new documentaries illuminating indigenous stories on film.  And on Tuesday, Oct. 21, in collaboration with the Consulate General of Poland, ALOUD presents Polish Solidarity activist Adam Michnik and Cairo-based journalist Yasmine El Rashidi for a conversation about revolutions both velvet and violent.

On Thursday, Oct. 16, Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times journalist Héctor Tobar provides an astounding account of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped beneath thousands of feet of rock for a second-breaking 69 days.

In October, as part of The L.A. Odyssey Project, the Library Foundation’s month-long exploration of Homer’s epic poem, ALOUD presents: writers Zachary Mason (The Lost Books of the Odyssey) and Madeline Miller (The Song of Achilles) on Thursday, Oct. 2; and MacArthur Award-winning author David Finkel (Thank You for Your Service) and Professor Albert “Skip” Rizzo, Director for Medical Virtual Reality at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies – who has pioneered the use of virtual reality-based exposure therapy to treat veterans suffering from PTSD – on Tuesday, Oct. 28.

On Thursday, Oct. 23, poets Robin Coste Lewis and Claudia Rankine read from their work and discuss how poetry can become an active tool for rethinking race in America. And on Thursday, Oct. 30, bestselling author Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran) ponders the role of fiction in 21st century America with her new book, The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books.

KCRW Bookworm Michael Silverblatt interviews the great Marilynne Robinson about Lila: A Novel on Wednesday, Nov. 5. And the next night, ALOUD heads west to the Writers Guild Theater for “An Evening with Colm Toibin and Rachel Kushner.” During the special offsite program, Toibin (Nora Webster) and Kushner (The Flamethrowers) will read and discuss how they create characters that erupt off the page in novels where the political and the personal are locked in a deep and fascinating embrace.  This event is ticketed.

On Wednesday, Nov. 12, Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore reveals “The Secret History of Wonder Woman,” with the riveting true story about the making of the most popular female superhero of all time, illustrating a crucial history of twentieth century feminism.

On Thursday, Nov. 13, bestselling author Sarah Thornton (Seven Days in the Art World) discusses her research – how she rummaged through artists’ bank accounts, bedrooms, and studios and witnessed their crises and triumphs – for her new book, 33 Artists in 3 Acts.

And closing out the season on Thursday, Nov. 20, Pulitzer Prize winner Jack Miles, writer Reza Aslan (Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth), and Rabbi Sharon Brous consider the comprehensive new Norton Anthology of World Religions and whether or not religion can really be defined.

The entire ALOUD Fall 2014 calendar is now available at www.lfla.org/aloud where you can make free reservations to attend September events. All October programs will open for public reservations on Friday, September 5th and November programs will open for public reservations on Friday, October 3rd. Members may reserve now for all fall season programs by using their Member-only link.

Top image: Jesmyn Ward (credit: Tony Cook) and Charles M. Blow (credit: Beowulf Sheehan)

 

Lost & Found at the Movies: The Ever-Adaptable Buck Henry

Befitting our library setting, legendary writer, actor, and director Buck Henry will explore writing and the art of adaptation at the next installment of Lost & Found at the Movies, the Library Foundation’s new series on film culture with series curator John Nein. On Monday, August 25, the special program will take a look at rare renditions of Shakespeare and a handful of lesser-known, wildly imaginative adaptations and Henry’s own literary adaptions, including Catch-22, The Graduate (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award in 1968 for Best Adapted Screenplay), and To Die For.

The program will also explore Henry’s rich work as an actor that spans theater, film and television and includes The Steve Allen Show, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Eating Raoul, Grumpy Old Men, The Secret War of Henry Friggs, The Real Blonde, Short Cuts, Gloria and Milos Forman’s often overlooked masterpiece Taking Off. He even hosted NBC’s Saturday Night Live ten times, appearing first in 1976, and for the last time in 1980. Before we hear from Henry on the art of adaptation, here’s a few clips from some of his many roles–including part of the Library Foundation’s own 2013 project, What Every Happened to Moby Dick?.

Screenwriter, Catch 22

Screenwriter, What’s Up Doc?

Screenwriter, To Die For

Nominated for an Academy Award in 1979 for Best Director for Heaven Can Wait

One of his numerous turns on Saturday Night Live

Henry was he the co-creator (with Mel Brooks) of Get Smart, he recently played Tina Fey’s father on 30 Rock, and you can even check out an early role from his college days: a Dartmouth 1950 orientation video, My First Week at Dartmouth.

And of course, musical contributor to last year’s Moby Dick Project

 

For more information about attending this free event, visit our website.

Young Literati Summer Social Heats Up

The kids may be going back to school, but the summer is not over for the Young Literati. This Saturday, the Young Literati are invited to gather in Santa Monica for a proper send-off to the season of long sunsets and frosty cocktails.

Raising their glasses to this past year of incredible support for the Los Angeles Public Library, Members will also get a sneak peek of what’s on the horizon for this dedicated group of engaged and informed Angelenos who believe in and celebrate the principles that public libraries stand for—free and equal access to information and ideas that challenge and inspire. From live music to pop-up poetry, here’s a taste of what this special night will bring:

Performances by L.A.-based soul band John Macy and the Heavy Hand.

 

Pop-up poetry by the Poetry Society of Los Angeles, featuring personalized poetry composed on-the-spot by Young Literati Members.Madam Rose and Butless the ButlerMadam Rose and Butless the Butler from the Poetry Society of Los Angeles. Photo by Matt Miller.

 

Craft cocktails and sophisticated summer fare at the Wilshire Restaurant. Guests are welcome to stay for the restaurant’s nightclub after the party!

 

Click here to learn about becoming a Member of the Young Literati, and click here for more information about attending the Summer Social.

 

Machinations at the Library

Everyone loves the Los Angeles Public Library because it’s “free and open” to all, but what happens when artists are invited to creatively respond to the Library’s space and collection? Last Saturday night, ALOUD invited the Machine Project, one of L.A.’s most experimental and dynamic programming teams, to reimagine the Central Library. Doors opened at 8 PM after Library hours, and art enthusiasts spanned the block as if the historical library was holding its own downtown art walk. Crowds poured in to a bustling second floor—with music, dancing, drinks, and art installations flashing from every arm of the rotunda.

“Machine has presented public art at beaches, parking lots, museums, and sidewalks, but the architecture of the Library afforded us a whole new opportunity,” explains Mark Allen, the executive director of Machine Project. “I was greatly influenced by the crazy intersection of style forming and surrounding the rotunda space. From colonialist murals, 1990s meets Disneyworld, to abundant model train sets, the diversity of styles inspired a medley of performances working with the Library’s varying aesthetics. Everyone got to experience a night of wandering around the assorted architecture wondering what was going on, creating a sense of intrigue embodying the diverse aesthetic of the library itself.”

Here’s a look at some of the revampings that “freed” up our typical associations with card catalogs, stacks of books, and the hushed beauty of the marbled rotunda.

“Hallelujah Already”

Dancer Jmy James Kidd (pictured above) along with multi-instrumentalist and composer Tara Jane ONeil took center stage in the rotunda with a sound and dance improvisation inspired by a photograph of legendary choreographer Bella Lewitzky in the LAPL’s photo collection.

“Capsule Seance Projection”

Inspired by used books unearthed in a library book sale and featuring an omniscient head atop a stack of books, director Joel Fox created a site-specific video installation called “Capsule Seance Projection” in Children’s Literature.

“Shades of the Jeepneys Planet: Exploring the Known Unknown”

Jeepneys, named after colorful, iconic public transportation vehicles populating the Philippine islands, originating from discarded U.S. WWII army jeeps, capture the spirit of reinvention in their work to create other-worldly sounds, movements, and visuals, manifesting “electro Pinayism waves” that travel through space and time to heal and inspire love–here they landed in Teen ‘Scape where they pulsed over tables, bean bags, and computer stations.

“Untitled”

Artist and writer Jibade-Khalil Huffman crossed the concept of a card catalog with social media to make an interactive installation that invited guests to tweet questions throughout the night.

“No Further West: The Story of Los Angeles Union Station”

Last but not least, as part of this summer’s special exhibit “No Further West: The Story of Los Angeles Union Station,” train clubs set up spectacular model trains throughout the Getty Gallery that took audiences beyond your average train depot and into elaborate worlds of haunted houses and crop circles, weddings and funerals, and even a secret nightclub for the wild-at-heart. Learn more about upcoming model trains on display at Central Library.

All photos by Javier Guillen.

Lost & Found at the Movies Explores L.A.’s Greatest Roles

Los Angeles has been a “character” in countless films. On Thursday, July 24, the latest edition of Lost & Found at the Movies, the Library Foundation’s new series celebrating the art of cinema and the vitality of film culture, will explore the myriad ways L.A. has appeared in cinema —from the earliest images of the silent era, through the landscape of noir to visions of the future (with our rendition of a fireworks finale).

Series curator John Nein, along with special guests, film critic Kenneth Turan, and historian Marc Wanamaker, will tour iconic landmarks, long gone places, film classics and archival treasures that shine a light on the great diversity of L.A. As a background prop for the early silent films to the defining setting of “noir” classics, this program will explore what cinema reveals about this city and its communities. The program will also look at Los Angeles as it was documented in early non-fiction reels: rare films from UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Academy Film Archive.

A film historian, archivist and a native of Los Angeles, Marc Wanamaker will bring his expertise on the history of Los Angeles and the motion picture and television industries. Few people know the city as a location as well, which has served many of film seeking to recreate the locations of old. And Los Angeles Times’ and NPR’s Kenneth Turan will discuss some of his favorite L.A. films, including Bombshell (1933), Chinatown (1974), The Exiles (1961) and others – some of which appear in his new book Not to be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites From a Lifetime of Film. Take a sneak peek below from these movies to help set the stage for this upcoming retrospect on some of L.A.’s greatest roles.

Learn more about Lost & Found at the Movies: LA on Film.

Globetrotting with the LAPL’s Travel Poster Collection

Summer is the season of travel. Whether you are planning an exotic international trip or a laidback SoCal staycation, the Los Angeles Public Library’s Travel Poster Collection will inspire anyone wanting to get away. We’ve selected a few of the beautiful historical posters housed in the International Languages Department and Rare Books at Central Library. The artwork finely demonstrates the sensibilities of 1920s and 1930s Art Deco and early Futurism, and showcases some of the wonderful treasures of one of Los Angeles’s greatest cultural destinations–the Library.

Bermuda


 

L’ete Sur La Cote D’azure


 

Japanese Government Railways


 

Mexican Tourist Association


 

Sevilla, Fiestas de Primavera 1930, Semana Santa Feria En El Recinto De La Exposicion Ibero – Americana


Romances in Egypt, Created by M. Azmy

Learn more about the LAPL’s Visual Collections here.

Illuminating the Parallels Between Us and Animals

We love animals—they can be furry, fun, expressive…and moody, just like us!

If you’ve ever wondered what your pet was thinking, you’ve probably compared your pet’s feelings to human emotions. The authors of the upcoming ALOUD program “Not Uniquely Human: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health” show us just how  much we can in fact learn from such comparisons.


On July 10th, ALOUD convenes author Laurel Braitman (Animal Madness), Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers (Zoobiquity) for a conversation on the vast commonalities between human and animal mental and physical health. From an anxiety ridden dog who jumped out of a window to performance anxiety among thoroughbred horses, the authors will share poignant and entertaining examples from their personal experiences and outside research that illuminates the parallels between us and the animal world.

Laurel Braitman, author and science historian, delves into the uncanny similarities between the species in her new book Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves. Braitman’s anthropological background prompted her to closely observe the compulsive behavior of her new Bernese Mountain Dog, and to then realize that something was indeed very wrong. This discovery took Braitman down a path of realization that nonhuman animals can suffer from the same mental illnesses that humans do:

“Every animal with a mind has the capacity to lose hold of it from time to time. Sometimes the trigger is abuse or mistreatment, but not always. I’ve come across depressed and anxious gorillas, compulsive horses, rats, donkeys, and seals, obsessive parrots, self-harming dolphins, and dogs with dementia, many of whom share their exhibits, homes, or habitats with other creatures who don’t suffer from the same problems. …There is plenty of abnormal behavior in the animal world, captive, domestic, and wild, and plenty of evidence of recovery; you simply need to know where and how to find it.”

Using evidence from veterinary sciences, medical and mental health professionals, Darwin’s historical accounts, zoo keepers, animal handlers, pet owners and more, Animal Madness proves that animals of all species may suffer from similar mental disorders, and that if we use our understanding of mental and emotional issues in humans, we might be able to better help animals suffering from similar conditions.

Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers, authors of Zoobiquity, also champion the similarities between humans and animals by focusing on some surprising physical health problems that can arise across species. Cardiologist Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz began looking within the animal kingdom for examples of health issues she saw in her human patients, and was shocked to find many parallels that could be used as beneficial comparisons in diagnosing humans: bears struggling with obesity, monkeys developing heart failure, and chimpanzees fainting when stressed or dehydrated. Each case the authors encountered reinforced their belief that human and animal doctors should be working together in order to find, share and improve upon solutions to pan-species health problems.

These books argue that instead of treating humans and animals separately, we can better help ourselves and our animal friends by fostering a greater understanding of the animal kingdom and incorporating this knowledge into our daily lives and health care system.

Join in the discussion on July 10th to hear the unique and quirky stories of the characters that make up these two fascinating reads.

“Every creature in the world is like a book and a picture, to us, and a mirror.” –Alain de Lille, c. 1200 (from Animal Madness)

All photos above from the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.