Archive for October, 2009

Figaro, Figaro, Figggaaarrroooo

Sydney Opera House

If you’re like me, your only true exposure to opera was through cartoons.  One of my all-time favorites is “The Rabbit of Seville“, which featured Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd (I especially love the way Bugs “massages” Elmer’s head, and then builds a fruit salad on top!). I’ll also bet many of us could hum several tunes without realizing they’re actually opera. This month, dare yourself to try a little of one of the most misunderstood and underrated musical genres. Here’s a few items to get you started:

Try NPR’s Curious Listener’s Guide to Opera for a start. It offers a short history, an accessible list of tunes, and  just enough information on the plotlines to get you into trouble.  Other books for beginners include Opera for Dummies (which is a tad less serious) and Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera. For those of you with more experience, look into Getting Opera: A Guide for the Cultured but Confused or A Night at the Opera: An Irreverent Guide to the Plots, the Singers, the Composers, the Recordings. For a little art with your opera, check out Fantastic Opera by John Martinez. This is an illuminated book, with incredible pictures representing some of the most beloved operas.

Once you’ve got your feet wet, wade into our great classical music collection. Here are compilations to give you a taste of some of the most famous songs and performances:

Now you’re ready to dive into opera! Check out one of these classic operas on CD:

Congratulations! You have now become an amateur connoisseur of Opera. (See, it wasn’t so hard.) But in case you’re not ready to leave your new world just yet, here are a few more fun opera items:

FICTION – Novels that feature opera or singers:

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Gramercy Park by Paula Cohen

Puccini’s Ghosts by Morag Joss

Song of the Lark by Willa Cather


INTERNET – More opera resources:

Operabase – a database of opera performances through the years

Opera-Opera – plot summaries for most operas

Opera Glass – a compendium of all sorts of opera-related items from Stanford University

Get Out Your Horned Helmets…

The Viking Shipthe Vikings are coming! (And I’m not referring to the football team.) October 9 is considered Leif Ericson day; named after the Norse leader who was probably the first European to visit North America – about 500 years before the other guy who gets a national day this month. In honor of this, here are some interesting resources about Vikings, as well as a few fun, sometimes violent books of fiction. I mean, what’s the use of honoring a Viking without a little bloodshed for old times sake?



The Soul Thief, The Witches’ Kitchen, and Varanger by Cecelia Holland

The Whale Road by Robert Low

The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, Lords of the North, and Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell

Odinn’s Child by Time Severin

The Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay

The Beothuk Saga by Bernard Assiniwi

Devoted and Beguiled by Alice Borchardt

War of the Gods by Poul Anderson

Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton


Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga edited by William W. Fitzhugh and Elisabeth I. Ward

Encyclopedia of the Viking Age by John Haywood

The Vikings by Jonathan Wooding

Hagar the Horrible’s Very Nearly Complete Viking Handbook by Dik Browne with Christopher Browne

Vikings! by Magnus Magnusson


Erik the Viking

The Vikings in North America

Secret Voyages of the Vikings



PBS – The Vikings

Smithsonian – Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga

BBC History – Viking Quest (cool, interactive game – I’ve played it!)

Wikipedia – Viking Age

The Fall Classic and the Boys of Summer

Baseball playoffs gear up this week, leading to the ultimate prize: the World Series trophy. In the past, the second week in October was when the World Series took place – in fact, a number of memorable incidents occurred:

  • Oct 7, 1945 – A goat was removed from Wrigley field during Game 4 because of its odor. It’s owner claimed the the Chicago Cubs would not win – and they haven’t, thanks to the Billy Goat Curse.
  • Oct 8, 1956 – Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game during a World Series. (And one of only 18, ever.)
  • Oct 9, 1919 – The Cincinnati Reds “won” the World Series as a result of the Black Sox scandal.

In honor of all of the craziness, and because I’m a big fan, here are some great resources to celebrate the end of the season.


Autumn Glory: Baseball’s First World Series by Louis P. Masur

The Best Game Ever: Pirates vs. Yankees, October 13, 1960 by JimReisler

Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series by Eliot Asinof

The Fall Classic: The Definitive History of the World Series by Eric Enders

Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts, and Nerve Took a Team to the Top by Seth Mnookin

The First World Series and the Baseball Fanatics of 1903 by Roger I. Abrams

Fisk’s Homer, Willie’s Catch, and the Shot Heard Round the World: Classic Moments from Postseason Baseball, 1940-1966 by G. Richard McKelvey

The Gashouse Gang: How Dizzy Dean, Leo Durocher, Branch Rickey, Pepper Martin, and Their Colorful, Come-from-Behind Ball Club Won the World Series – and America’s Heart – During the Great Depression by John Heidenry

Mind Game: How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart, Won a World Series, and Created a New Blueprint for Winning edited by Stephen Goldman

Miracle Ball: My Hunt for the Shot Heard ‘Round the World by Brian Biegel

October, 1964 by David Halberstam

DVD: Eight Men Out

DVD: Fever Pitch


MLB’s World Series

Baseball Almanac’s World Series History

Ken Burns’ Baseball on PBS

“In the book of life, the answers aren’t in the back.” – Charlie Brown

Who knew almost 60 years ago, a little comic strip called Peanuts would turn into such a philosophical powerhouse? On October 2, 1950, Charles M. Schulz published the first of what would be almost 18,000 strips. Of course, the popularity of the comic inspired television specials, music, and even theater;  You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown even won two Tony awards. To this day, I cannot hear the theme song “Linus & Lucy” without smiling (and thinking of autumn!). Here are a few great resources celebrating this American icon:



A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition by Charles M. Schulz

A Charlie Brown Valentine by Charles M. Schulz

The Complete Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz (2 volumes published every year through 2016)

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, Snoopy by Charles M. Schulz

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz

Peanuts: A Golden Celebration: The Art and the Story of the World’s Best-Loved Comic Strip by Charles M. Schulz

Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis


A Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi

Jazz for Peanuts: A Retrospective of the Charlie Brown TV Themes by David Benoit

Joe Cool’s Blues by Wynton Marsalis

Linus and Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi by Vince Guaraldi

Snoopy! Original London Cast by Larry Grossman


Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

A Charlie Brown Christmas


Charles M. Schulz Museum

Peanuts (Wikipedia) (Official Peanuts Site)