Friday, June 23, 2006

Radio Waves

Those of a certain age may remember "The Breakfast Club", Don McNeill’s popular early morning radio program. It debuted the third week of June in 1933 and ran for 35 years. Perhaps most memorable to kids who listened was the “Call to Breakfast”, announced every 15 minutes. McNeill invited listeners to get up and march around the breakfast table. Thousands of kids took the command seriously and strutted around the dining room.

At one time, the show was carried on 400 affiliate stations and tickets were as difficult to get as those of the “Tonight Show” are today. The hour-long show featured performers such as Fran Allison of "Kukla, Fran and Ollie", but the most popular feature was “Memory Time”, when McNeill read listeners’ letters and poems.

By the time the show went off the air in 1968, it had become a bit dated, but other radio variety shows would take its place, notably Garrison Keillor’s "Prairie Home Companion" on National Public Radio affiliates. Keillor’s show has been broadcasting since 1974 and is so popular among its audience that it was recently made into a film starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones.

Radio is changing, and what it will become is yet to be determined. Martha Stewart, Bob Dylan and NPR’s Bob Edwards are now on satellite radio, and formerly conventional radio stations have started offering Internet and digital high definition versions. But no matter how the shows reach listeners, there’s still an audience for radio. Check out:

Don McNeil and His Breakfast Club by John Doolittle (includes CD).

I Hid It Under the Sheets: Growing Up With Radio by Gerald Eskenazi.

And the Fans Roared: The Sports Broadcasts That Kept Us on the Edge of Our Seats by Joe Garner (includes two CDs narrated by Bob Costas).

Voices in the Purple Haze: Underground Radio and the Sixties by Michael Keith.

Sounds in the Air: The Golden Age of Radio by Norman Finkelstein.

A Prairie Home Commonplace Book: 25 Years on the Air With Garrison Keillor
edited by Marcia Pankake.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Summer Reading Program

On June 20, the Fairfax County Public Library launches its annual Summer Reading Program. It is one of more than 9,000 public library systems in the U.S. that encourage kids to read for pleasure during the summer. Last year more than 43,000 youngsters participated in our Summer Reading Program here in Fairfax.

Preschoolers to sixth graders read 15 books (or have the books read to them), and students in grades 7-12 read eight books. Kids can read any books they choose. If they need some suggestions to get started, they can pick up a copy of the library’s newsletter This Month. Here are some samples of the recommendations they can find there:

Preschool to 2nd Grade
The Great Tulip Trade by Beth Wagner Brust
The Best Seat in Second Grade by Katharine Kenah
If Not for the Cat: Haiku by Jack Prelutsky
Spiders! by Nicole Iorio

Grades 3-6
Reaching for the Moon by Buzz Aldrin
The Magician’s Boy by Susan Cooper
Captain Fact: Dinosaur Adventure by Knife
The Get Rich Quick Club by Dan Gutman

Keeper by Mal Peet
Plastic Man: On the Lam by Kyle Baker
Guys Write for Guys Read by Jon Scieszka
Clueless About Cars by Lisa Christensen

Jacqueline Kennedy may have said it best: “There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all." Encourage your kids to read this summer!

Friday, June 09, 2006

World Cup Fever

The world’s largest sporting event, the World Cup, launches today with 32 soccer teams and more than 700 players competing in 12 German cities over the next month. World Cup frenzy is so intense that the game has been credited with both starting and ending wars. The tournament is blamed for inciting the six-day Football War between Honduras and El Salvador in 1969, and ESPN claims the Côte d’Ivoire team forced the antagonists in that country’s civil war to declare a truce during qualifying matches in 1995. Even wives and girlfriends of the players, facing a month of lonely evenings, have set up their own Web site.

Known as soccer in the U.S. and football in the rest of the world, the history of the modern game dates to the early 1800s when efforts were made to standardize the rules used by famous English public schools. The first World Cup competition evolved when the 1932 Olympics planning committee decided not to include soccer in the Los Angeles games due to its lack of popularity in the U.S. The Federation Internationale de Football Association, the sport’s governing body, thus decided to organize the first world championship in Uruguay in 1930. Thirteen countries participated  seven from South America, four from Europe and two from North America.

This year’s World Cup boasts the largest number of first-time participants since 1930, as well as the only team from a non-existent country to compete. The Federation of Serbia and Montenegro team will play under a flag that no longer exists since the two nations recently split (2006 FIFA World Cup -- Wikipedia).

For more on the world’s most popular sport, check out:

Soccerhead: An Accidental Journey Into the Heart of the American Game by Jim Haner

White Angels: Beckham, Real Madrid and the New Football by John Carlin

How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globilization by Franklin Foer

National Pasttime: How Americans Play Baseball and the Rest of the World Plays Soccer by Stefan Szymanski

Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

Friday, June 02, 2006

Remembering Sgt. Pepper

Thirty-nine years ago this week, the Beatles released an album, "Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band that still tops Rolling Stone magazine’s "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list. The LP, which included tracks such as “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “With a Little Help From My Friends” was released June 1, 1967 in the United Kingdom after 700 hours of studio recording work.

The album was innovative in everything from its structure to its cover art. Created by Robert Fraser, the album art was designed by noted pop artist Peter Blake. The front cover consisted of cardboard cutouts of famous people surrounding the four Beatles in day-glo military outfits. It was the first LP to print the lyrics on the back cover. The album art also generated a number of parodies, including ones by Frank Zappa, the Simpsons and the Beatles album parody by the Rutles.

In 1988, the British magazine, New Musical Express, released "Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father", a benefit album with covers of all the original songs by groups such as Sonic Youth, Michelle Shocked and The Triffids.

For more on the Beatles and their artistry, check out some of the 40-odd books owned by the Fairfax County Public Library. Recent titles include:

The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz

Meet the Beatles: A Cultural History by Steven Stark

Yellow Submarine by Charlie Gardner

The Beatles Come To America by Martin Goldsmith

Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History by Devin McKinney

And for Beatles trivia experts, can you name the two figures removed from “Sgt. Pepper’s” cover art -– the first because he required a fee and the second because his appearance on the cover might offend record buyers in the U.S.?