Staff Recommendation: The Toaster Project: or, A Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch

Have you ever looked at a simple machine or object and figured, given the right materials, you could make one? If you have, where do you think you would even get those materials? In The Toaster Project, Thomas Thwaites sets out to make, you guessed it, a toaster, completely from scratch. This small book is divided into sections based on the materials needed and how Thwaites sets out to acquire them, from pouring a gooey potato concoction into hand-carved molds to make a kind of plastic, to digging for iron ore. There are even correspondences with different experts who charitably (and with varying levels of enthusiasm) try to help Thwaites with his seemingly ridiculous goal.

I first picked up The Toaster Project in college to pass some time. It’s a pretty short read and, in my opinion, interesting enough that you can get through it in one sitting. It’s ended up really sticking with me, and when I saw it in our collection I knew I had to pick it up again. I think what I love about it is that the book and the project are at once self-contained and expansive. There’s something satisfying about getting from one end of the book to the other, seeing the initial conception of the idea and the journey all the way to the final strange-looking, mildly-functional toaster. Thwaites set out to make something and then made it, and that’s that. But the book also brings up broader questions about industry, the environment, the human experience, and more. Where do your things really come from? How long do they take to make and how long do they last? How separated are we from the production of the things around us? And what even is a toaster?

If you’re interested in those kinds of questions, or just in design, fabrication, sculpture, industry, environmentalism, or really any number of various related topics, I suggest giving this book a try. Aside from the project itself, the writing in the book is honest, funny, and just the right amount of self-deprecating. And if you’re interested in Thwaites’ work, you should also check out another of his well known projects, GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday from Being Human.

Find The Toaster Project at Greenfield Library, call # NK1447.6.T49 A35 2011

~Recommended by Kait Sanchez, Music Library Circulation Assistant 

Staff Recommendation – David Bowie Made Me Gay

Newly arrived at the UArts Music Library, David Bowie Made Me Gay, by Darryl W. Bullock, is a chronicle of the past century of the extraordinary contributions to the world of music made by people in the LGBTQ community.  Bullock covers several historical time periods, mostly focusing on countries within the Anglosphere. Taking us through the drag parties of the 1920-30s Pansy Craze era, the underground LGBTQ life of the WWII and post-war period, the liberation of the post-Stonewall era, to the ongoing fight for acceptance in American society, Bullock paints the development of LGBTQ music within its own community and larger society.  The growth and enrichment of musical genres such as blues, jazz, pop, and rock flow through the narratives. More than Bowie himself, notable artists portrayed include Freddie Mercury, Elton John, Leslie Gore, Boy George, and George Michael. We recommend this book for anyone with a curious desire to learn more about LGBTQ history, music, and culture.

David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music, ML3470 .B85 2017  

 

 

 

 

 

– Mike Romano, Circulation Assistant, Music Library

Staff Recommendation: Princess Mononoke

Released in 1999 and holding a 94% audience approval rating, this Miyazaki film was hailed as “The ‘Star Wars’ of animated features!” by the New York Post. Princess Mononoke brings together the world of the spiritual and the realities of man. Similar to Pan’s Labyrinth, and Miyazaki’s later movie Spirited Away, this film exists in a world where fantasy and reality push against each other as humans seek to destroy the old ways to make way for new.

At the center of the story is a young man named Ashitaka, who makes his way to a mining village after being cursed by a dying animal god.  There he meets Lady Eboshi, whose desire to acquire more iron for the village has put her in direct conflict with the nature gods that inhabit the land nearby who are lead by Princess Mononoke, a human girl raised by the wolf god. As his curse spreads, Ashitaka seeks to find a balance between these two opposing forces before both are destroyed by their own short sightedness.

This incredible film asks the questions; ‘Can Man and Nature coexist?’ ‘Is it possible to stand in the middle of conflict, or must we choose sides?’ ‘Who is really the villain?’ ‘Is there a place for those who are different?’With beautiful animation and subtle storytelling, Hayao Miyazaki asks us to come to our own conclusions through the actions of Ashitaka, Lady Eboshi and Princess Mononoke.

You can find this DVD at the Greenfield Library, stop by the circulation desk and ask for call # GD1475

~ Recommended by Lauralee Martin, Greenfield Library Work Study Assistant

Staff Recommendation: Jazz Italian Style, from its Origins in New Orleans to Fascist Italy and Sinatra

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Taking readers on a transatlantic musical journey, Jazz Italian Style explores how jazz permeated Italian culture, both through Italian immigration to the USA, and through the post-WWI introduction of jazz to the peninsula itself.  Jazz, an African-American innovation in music, evolved a distinctive Italian offshoot by the 1930s, due to the works of Italian-Americans on one side of the Atlantic as well as mostly northern Italians on the other side. Italian jazz musicians on both sides of the Atlantic would then in turn influence one another. The resulting distinctive style of jazz  became associated with Italian fascism and was even supported by Mussolini as an expression of national pride. Despite this dark co-optation, the style lives on today and is cherished by many around the world. This book will give you an appreciation for names of musicians such as Nick LaRocca and Gorni Kramer, and a unique picture of how this particular Italian style of jazz influenced the world of music.

This book is available at the UArts Music Library, call # ML3509.I85 C44 2017.

Mike Romano – Circulation Assistant, UArts Libraries

Staff Recommendation – The Artists Way

Do you ever feel creatively blocked, a feeling like all the color and life is lost from your artwork or craft? The Artists Way, by Julia Cameron, is a guidebook designed as a course in creative artistic recovery. Each section of the book describes practices, mindsets, and techniques for creative people, all of which build upon each other, to guide the reader into a more authentic artistic expression. The course is 12 weeks long. The aims include overcoming creative blocks and self-destructive beliefs, while building creative relationships, gaining confidence, and re-connecting to what she believes are the spiritual underpinnings of the creative drive.

In my opinion, this book is a valuable read, even if one does not pursue the entire 12 week course. The various practices described within it encourage one to be more mindful and creative on a consistent basis. For example, the practice of writing a full page of thoughts every morning, described in one chapter early on, can have the effect of bringing one face to face with what is going on the their life, paving the way for action. I recommend this book to anyone with an open mind who feels the need to re-connect to their creative self, whether you want to dive into a full-on course, or could use a few well placed pointers.

The Artists Way is available in the Greenfield Library open stacks at BF408 .C175 1992.

Mike Romano, Music Library Circulation Assistant