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Blog Posts by Subject: Popular Culture

Can You Smell The Dairy Air? Stereotypes, Statistics, and Milk

I recently had two French couchsurfers stay with me. I went downstairs to find the guy in the kitchen rummaging through my refrigerator. I asked him what he was looking for. He said milk. I said I don't have milk... well... just almond milk. He said to not have milk was un-American.

I don't even know what that means.

So this exchange got me to thinking. Are there stereotypes of America that I am unaware of? I know from speaking to other couchsurfers that the general stereotype of an American is that of the loud, 

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Magic, a Fantasy... Plus Some Sources

[Note: The following is an imaginative work of fiction. For some decidedly non-fiction resources for your own fantastic feats, see below.]

The opening article in the 1836 edition of the Magician's Yearly Trust, published then by a British organization of the same name, entitled "On performing magic in the most frozen parts of the world" caught my eye. It was the word "frozen" in the title that made me wonder what the article really was about. So I began reading the article and learned that there was a small group of professional 

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Dolly Birds and Dandies: Swinging London in Film

Teenagers in London's Carnaby Street. Wikimedia CommonsPost-WWII London, by the mid-to-late 1960s, was reimagining, rebuilding and rearranging. Its economy was strong, and nearly 30% of its population was aged 15-34. With these factors in play, and with that undefinable "something" that brings creativity and zest to a location for however brief a time, London emerged as the style capital of the world, its youth culture arising from the heady influences of new music and street 

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The 9 Lives of Catwoman

Judging from the teasers, Batman: The Dark Knight Rises promises to be another must-see summer movie, not least for the anticipation of Anne Hathaway's being cast as Catwoman. Anne has some impressive spandex to fill, however, against such feline luminaries as Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, and and Michelle Pfeiffer, each with her own brand of Gotham catitude. Check out our treasury of vintage images of Catwomen from NYPL's Billy Rose Theatre Division and then take a sec and scratch your vote for 

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The British (and Irish) Boys of Summer: A Summer Reading List inspired by One Direction

I started summer 2012 seeing One Direction, not once but TWICE in concert! Let me just say this: they were AWESOME! I could go on and on (and on, just ask my friends) about my favorite four British boys and one Irish boy, but I won’t. I could talk loads about Harry’s accent, Niall’s laugh and Louis’s trousers but I will stop myself and instead mention that NYPL has bought their journal memoir Dare to Dream! As we ... Read More ›

Wonderfully Odd Movies

My favorite stories are the ones about the ordinary people who, while going about their daily lives, encounter strange and/or inexplicable events. How they behave in the midst of weirdness is more interesting than the phenomenon itself. I've always been a sucker for a well-told vampire tale. (Sorry!) Or an off-center ghost story or strange-baby story... Here, in no particular order, are a few of my favorite, wonderfully odd movies.   Ricky, a film by Francois Ozon based on Rose Tremain's short ... Read More ›

King of Jazz? Paul Whiteman and Hollywood's Rave Revues

Join us on Tuesday afternoon for a screening of King of Jazz (Universal, 1930) at LPA. Hollywood's Rave Revues is a film series programmed by John Calhoun in conjunction with the exhibition The Great American Revue, across the lobby in the Vincent Astor 

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"Titanic": Fifteen Years Later

It has been 15 years since James Cameron’s film Titanic took the world by storm! Titanic is one of the top grossing films of all time, and this month, the film comes back to the big screen in 3D.

This film captivated audiences from all around the world with the story of two individuals (

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My Heart Will Go On: Stories from the RMS Titanic, Truth and Fiction

In the late hours of April 14th, 1912 and the early morning hours of April 15th, about 85 years before a dying Leo DiCaprio urged a freezing Kate Winslet to live, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sunk into the icy waters of the North Atlantic. In a matter of hours this “unsinkable” ship was on the bottom of the ocean and only 712 out of its 2,208 passengers would survive.  Since the news of the sinking first got out up to the present day, on the100th anniversary of the tragedy, there have been hundreds of stories about those who died, those who survived 

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April in the Reader's Den: "You Know Nothing of My Work!" by Douglas Coupland, Week 2

A meme, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is defined as "an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture." Memes these days spread like wildfire. Everything from celebrity gossip to socio-political movements jump from one mind to the next seemingly faster than the speed of light with the ease of electronic communications. This was Marshall McLuhan's modern vision, though his thought processes were extrapolated from historical roots.

Jenny HolzerThe subject of McLuhan's 

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Terence McKenna and the Logos

Terence Kemp McKenna, by Entropath, Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes naked Sometimes mad Now the scholar Now the fool Thus they appear on earth: The free men. — Hindu verse from Avadhoota Gita

Terence McKenna (November 16, 1946 – April 3, 2000), America's most beloved psychonaut, bard, ethnobotanist, folk hero, and freewheeling philosopher, rose to fame in the 

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Transmissions from the Timothy Leary Papers: Welcome!

Welcome to Transmissions... where I'll update the public on the processing of the Timothy Leary Papers, held by The New York Public Library.

High school portrait, front page of The Classical Recorder, 4 June 1937I look forward to sharing the experience of arranging and describing the collection of Timothy Francis Leary, an American psychologist and Harvard professor who, through his studies regarding the use of psilocybin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD-25), 

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When They Trod the Boards: "Star Trek" Edition

STAR TREK. The Musical! OK, not really, but even Mr. Spock would find fascinating what we dug up in the Library's Billy Rose Theatre Division about the original Star Trek actors before they went stellar. Who knew that Nichelle Nichols sizzled in the local cabaret scene before taking up her earpiece on the starship Enterprise? Or that George Takei was an activist (OK, not surprising), or that William Shatner, of Shatner's World; We Just Live in It..., first 

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Waiting for "Downton Abbey"

Updated February 2012! Do the names Lord Grantham, Mr. Carson, and Lady Violet mean anything to you? Can you discuss at length the love story of Mary and Matthew? Does the word week-end, bring to mind Maggie Smith’s impeccably-timed line delivery? If so, then you are a Downton-ite... or is it Downton-head? Whatever the case may be, it means that you are a fan of the ITV/Masterpiece Theater drama Downton Abbey. First airing on PBS in January 2011, this British series depicts 

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Dance Your Face Off!: A Party Music Playlist

So it’s been a mild winter and maybe snow has only just fallen, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still imagine ourselves in a tropical paradise: sipping fruity drinks and dancing our faces off! But what thump, thump, techno beats would we be dancing to underneath the stars? Luckily, I have just returned from Mexico where I was doing just that, and here’s what the DJs were spinning:

 Wepa — Gloria Estefan

From her dance album 

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The Future, the 1960s, and the Allen Room

Though there’s very little chance, apparently, of accurately predicting the future, it seems we’re hardwired to try.  History, reason, and desire seem to be the main tools in this quixotic venture. It helps if you don’t go too far, as The Economist does. But for longer visions, the results are often, in hindsight, hilarious.

I don’t think that will accurately describe tomorrow’s lecture,

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Horrors! Another Quiz...

[Today's guest blogger is brought to you courtesy of E. C. Comics Tales From the Crypt.]

Hello, kiddies!

Welcome to The New York Public Li-bury!

Heh-heh-heh!

Surprised to find me as your guest flogger? I suppose, if you looked hard enough, you'd find all sorts of things buried in the Library's hacks. "But can he write?" you ask. Well, I am good at de-composing!

For all you skullers and hackademics out there, I would like to present another quivering collection of 

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Ghost Light: Illuminating Our City's Theaters: RKO Coliseum

A thing of beauty is a joy forever... — Keats

(quoted in opening night program, B. S. Moss' Coliseum Theatre, 1920)

The end of 2011 also brought the quiet demise of the last movie theater in WashingtonHeights, Coliseum Cinemas. Known to most residents as the RKO Coliseum, the large theater, occupying the entire corner of 181st and Broadway, has been a fixture of the neighborhood for over 90 years. As the community now debates the future of the Coliseum 

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Music: Express Yourself @ NYPL

Music is the language that we all understand. Whether it be rock, opera, jazz or hip-hop, it's all music if it causes you to tap your foot, sing along, or makes you feel emotions you can't explain. I don't really know of anyone who doesn't enjoy some type of music. Lately, I must confess, I've been listening to corny Christmas tunes like Dominck The Donkey and Alvin and the Chipmunk's "Christmas Hula Hoop" song. But now that "Auld Lang Syne" and "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" have been put away until next December 31, it's time to reflect on the best 

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The Times We Had: Old Hollywood Memoirs

Hollywood, 1923, Library of Congress PAN US GEOG - California no. 272

In the late 1800s Harvey Wilcox and his wife Daeida purchased 160 acres in the rolling California hills for a housing subdivision. They called it Hollywood. In 1911 the first filmmakers arrived from New Jersey; in Hollywood they could shoot outdoors without electrical lighting for over 100 days each year. Others from the east coast soon followed, coming not only for the sunny climate but to escape the clutches of the Motion Pictures Patents 

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