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Friday, December 21, 2007


Tomorrow is National Haiku Poetry Day. Haiku is a poetry form consisting of unrhymed verse with three lines. Traditionally, the three lines contain five, seven and five syllables, respectively, but many poems don’t follow that structure (such as the sample below). Haiku originated in Japan and usually has a seasonal reference. In the winter 2007 issue of Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry this haiku was written by Cathy Drinkwater Better:

sunset lake
a rabble of geese
lift off as one

A similar form of poetry consisting of three lines is senryu. The tone and subject matter of senryu poems are different from haiku. The focus of senryu poetry is human nature; senryu can be humorous, satirical or ironic. Samples of Senryu poetry can also be found in the Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry. This sample was written by Carol Raisfeld in the winter 2007 issue:

your attention, please!
who can fly this plane
and didn't have the fish?

Some people believe that haiku is a less intimidating, although more structured, type of poetry. Are you a poet at heart? Share one with us.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fairfax County Stories

As part of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the public was invited to submit original writings on local historic events over the past four centuries. A panel of judges selected the 30 essays included in the book Fairfax County Stories: 1607-2007. Topics range from “The Ghost of Keene Mill School” to “Nike Missiles in Fairfax County,” “Fairfax County’s Most Famous Duel,” and “Suffragists at the Occoquan Workhouse in Lorton.” Listen to an interview of two of the authors by Sam Clay, Director of the Fairfax County Public Library.

This historical anthology is available for $10 in paperback or $25 in hardback. It can be purchased in-person or by phone through the county’s Maps and Publications Center, Fairfax County Government Center, Suite 156, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax; 703-324-2974, TTY 711. Shipping and handling will be charged for books delivered by mail. The book can also be checked out at your local branch of the Fairfax County Public Library.

If you are interested in local history, the following materials are also available at the Fairfax County Public Library:

Fairfax County, Virginia: A History by Nan Netherton

Braddock’s True Gold: 20th Century Life in the Heart of Fairfax by Marion Meany

The Fairfax Family in Fairfax County: A Brief History by Kenton Kilmer

Official Records of the Colonial Period in Fairfax County, VA by the Historical Society of Fairfax County

Friday, December 14, 2007

The South Pole

Although a lot of focus is on the North Pole at this time of year, it was the South Pole that was discovered on December 14, 1911. Norwegian Roald Amundsen with four companions and 52 sled dogs located and visited the pole and returned safely to base camp.

The next explorers to the South Pole were led by British explorer Robert F. Scott. Scott and four companions met a tragic fate. Between the time Scott knew his death was inevitable but before he became too weak to write, Scott managed a last entry in his diary and 12 complete letters to family, friends and others. He wrote a message to the public which read, in part: “but for my own sake I do not regret this journey, which has shown that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another and meet death with as great a fortitude as ever in the past ... Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman … .”

These are the facts of the trip but, as always, there’s more to the stories. Some refer to Roald Amundsen’s last minute exploration of the pole as sneaky. He left without much fanfare, some say, in order to beat Scott to the pole. He did beat him by a mere month. Some say Scott made mistakes, and it was not just the blizzards that sealed his fate.

To read more about these two adventurers and other stories of Antarctic exploration you can read the following books:

Race to the South Pole by Roald Amundsen

The Last Great Quest: Captain Scott's Antarctic Sacrifice by Dr. Max Jones

Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen by David Thomson

The Coldest March: Scott's Fatal Antarctic Expedition by Susan Solomon

Do you have an opinion on these long ago explorers? Let us know.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Local Celebrity

An in-depth profile of local suspense writer, David Baldacci, appears in yesterday’s USA Today (“Author David Baldacci's Power Over the Pen is Absolute”). Baldacci is favorite reading for presidents; Bill Clinton even named The Simple Truth his favorite book of 1999. His books are crammed with Secret Service agents, CIA operatives and other types familiar to political Washington.

The author of 14 bestsellers, Baldacci’s newest suspense novel is Stone Cold, the third in his Camel Club series.

If you want to sample more of his work, try:

Absolute Power (1996)

Total Control (1997)

Saving Faith (1999)

Last Man Standing (2001)

Camel Club (2005)

Are you a Baldacci fan? Which is your favorite book?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Winter’s Snowfall

Wednesday’s snowfall here in Northern Virginia seemed appropriate for the season, and many people thought it was a nice touch for the holidays. If you are in search of some reading that evokes this special time of year, try these books:

This Year It Will Be Different by Maeve Binchy

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Gutterson

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Got any other books you like to read on cold and snowy winter nights? Let us know.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Disney’s Legacy

Tomorrow marks the 106th anniversary of the birth of one of the 20th century’s most celebrated animators and entrepreneurs - Walt Disney. From the release of the full-length animated film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1938 to the recent movie “Enchanted” Disney’s imaginative creations still capture our imagination more than 40 years after his death. For more on this creative and complex man, see:

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler

Inside Disney: The Incredible Story of Disney World and the Man Behind the Mouse by Eve Zibart

The Art of Walt Disney: From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdoms
by Christopher Finch

The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life by Steven Watts

Don’t Miss . . .Saturday, December 8, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.Sounds of the Season. Festive open house with musical performances and craft activities for children at the Centreville Regional Library, 14200 St. Germain Dr., 703-830-2223.

Saturday, December 8, 11 a.m.
Jamestown Colonial Fiddler. Michael McDonnell, a fiddler and historian with Hidden Oaks Nature Center, plays tunes from the Jamestown era at the George Mason Regional Library, 7001 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, 703-256-3800. Age 5 & up.

Sunday, December 9, noon – 3 p.m.
Season’s Serenade. A holiday open house featuring music and activities at the George Mason Regional Library, 7001 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, 703-256-3800.