Tag Archives: burbank public library

Oculus, Facebook And Virtual Reality Book Author Set For Burbank Tech Talk Series

The recently released The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality will provide the backdrop for author Blake Harris and his conversation with tech entrepreneur Joe Chen, who was one of the first Oculus employees.

The discussion is presented in collaboration with the City of Burbank’s Tech Talk Series and will be held Thursday evening, February 28, at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library.

Harris’ book talks about “how a teenager, Palmer Luckey, invented a more immersive and affordable VR device while living and working in a trailer that was parked in the driveway of his parents’ house in Long Beach,” explained Burbank Librarian Hubert Kozak.

Luckey named the VR device the Oculus Rift and a bidding war ensued for the new, accessible and affordable technology. Ultimately, Oculus was bought by Facebook, which has since released a series of the VR devices.

Original artwork for “The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality” by Bob Al-Greene. (Image courtesy Harper Collins)

“Industries in the gaming community were the first to spot the potential and were wowed by the device, tech financiers wanted to get in on the action as well, and a few years later the company Luckey founded was bought by Facebook for over 2 billion dollars,” explained Kozak.

“Gamers were the first consumers, but the device resuscitated and then galvanized VR technology and applications.  VR is now being used in training simulations, medicine, therapies, virtual tours, all kinds of diagnostic applications and it’s use continues to expand.”

“This book is a look at how a new tech invention makes the journey from prototype to viable consumer product, a behind the scenes look at what it takes to do this, and it’s a story filled with a lot of drama and intrigue,” continued Kozak. “It follows a naive young tech inventor as he swims in the shark infested waters of big money and high stakes technology development.”

“Like most people who have tried a modern day virtual reality headset, my immediate thought after trying it for the first time was ‘Wow! I’ve just seen the future!'” commented Harris. “But, as we know, an exciting product doesn’t necessarily equal a successful product, so I was very interested in getting to know the folks behind the scenes at Oculus and looking at this story from a business standpoint – tracing the journey from idea to prototype to product.”

Author Blake Harris talks with tech entrepreneur Joe Chen at the Burbank Public Library about his book “The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality.” (Photo By Katie Warner, Courtesy Harper Collins.)

“That said, business stories can often be dry; so it was incredibly helpful to me as a writer to learn about (and then reveal to readers) the backstory and behind-the-scenes journey of Oculus founder, Palmer Luckey, whose rise from teenager dreamer to successful inventor/entrepreneur made for an incredible modern day ‘American Dream’ tale.”

“I like to write character-driven true life stories that can be accessible to anybody; meaning that even if you don’t know the first thing about VR, I still want the story to resonate with you,” Harris explained. “The key to that, I believe, is incredible access, and it took me about 14 months to gain the access from Oculus and Facebook to tell this story in the way that I had hoped.”

“That access began in February 2016 and continued until April 2018. So (spoiler alert!) Palmer Luckey was fired in the middle of that time; and, as readers will see, completely disrupted the story that I thought I was telling – but, in the end, made for a more interesting and urgent story (especially with how much of our digital lives are controlled by Facebook).”

“For the most part, I would say that the major players were forthcoming,” Harris also said. “Perhaps not so much initially at first; but, in the end, I spent 3.5 years working on this story and was able to develop a great rapport with many of those involved.”

“That said, I would note that after the unexpected firing of Palmer Luckey, many of the players who had been very forthright with me ended up changing their tune – either by speaking with me less; or, in some unfortunate cases, outright lying to me.”

Tech investor and entrepreneur Chen will interview Harris for the Burbank Tech Talk event. Chen has cofounded a new company, Anduril, with Luckey.

Image Courtesy Harper Collins

‘Throughout my writing the book, Joe was a constant source of inspiration, humor and fair-and-balanced perspective,” said Harris. “It also became clear to me, very early on, that Joe has a get-it-done-attitude that is so critical to helping a young startup thrive.”

What does Harris think of the current impact VR has had in the world and where does he see the technology going forward?

“I’ll be honest and say that when I started working on this book 3.5 years ago, I anticipated that virtual reality would be more successful than it is now,” Harris said. “Not by a lot – I always thought it would be a relatively slow adoption – but I thought there would still be strong hype for VR amongst consumers and increasing investment from content-makers.”

“Since the release of the major VR headers in 2016 (Oculus, HTC and Sony), the excitement and momentum around this technology has certainly slowed down. But I’m still very bullish about the long-term impact of virtual reality.”

“I believe it’ll still take 5-10 years to really reach a mainstream crowd, but in the meantime I think it’ll continue to do well with gamers and, in the interim, I think there will be great value in using VR for training simulations in the enterprise space (as well as, hopefully, the education space),” he added.

The Burbank Tech Talks Series is composed of networking events, speaker summits and series, including a Pitch Fest, explained Marissa Minor, Economic Development Analyst with the Community Development Department.

“Fostering the entrepreneurial community is a key component of our City’s Economic Development strategy as we seek to attract and engage new thinkers and innovators in Burbank,” she said. “The Burbank Tech Talk Series is one way that we support this innovative and growing community.”

Joe Chen, co-founder of Anduril, interviews Blake Harris at the Burbank Public Library on Thursday, February 28. (Photo Courtesy Anduril)

“Our goal is to ensure that our companies can compete in today’s marketplace, and we are hopeful that events like the Burbank Tech Talks will continue to provide businesses with insight and networking opportunities for the future,” Minor also said.

Harris and Chen discuss The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality on Thursday, February 28, at 7:00 p.m.

The Buena Vista Branch of the Burbank Public Library is located at 300 N. Buena Vista Street in Burbank. The program is free to the public and plenty of free parking is available on site.

“The Contest” Author Discusses Tumultuous 1968 Presidential Campaign

Author Michael Schumacher talks about the tumultuous 1968 Presidential campaign, detailed in his newly-release book The Contest: The 1968 Presidential Election and the War for America’s Soul, at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library on Wednesday evening, October 17.

“Readers might notice similarities between the 1968 and 2016 elections.,” commented Schumacher. “Both were very contentious. Both were extremely close when the final vote was tallied. The divisions within the country were deep and disturbing.”

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Eugene McCarthy’s victory in the Oregon primary placed him back in contention for the Democratic nomination—but his loss to Robert Kennedy in California and RFK’s assassination in Los Angeles all but ended his hopes. (Photo Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society)

“Richard Nixon’s victory in 1968 signaled the end of the end of liberal politics dating back to Roosevelt, which later led to a much stronger turn to the right with Reagan. Many years passed between then and now, obviously, but this book might address the old saying that the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

“In 1968, the country was divided over the Vietnam War and these divisions eventually led to Johnson’s refusal to run for reelection; today, we’re fighting in Afghanistan, in a conflict that’s lasted longer than Vietnam,” Schumacher added. “George Wallace’s push for segregation and the organized xenohobia we’re seeing today… In 1968, law and order was a hotly debated topic, as it is today.”

“The question: what did we learn?”

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In the lead-up to the election, Richard Nixon’s rigorously constructed campaign helped him erase his loser image among voters. (Courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

“Two generations have grown up since 1968, and many of the events of that year are either unknown or barely known,” he continued. “These readers might find the book interesting in its reporting of history. Older readers will look back and remember.”

“I was 18 years old in 1968, and I was extremely interested in politics,” Schumacher also said. “I was amazed at how much I learned when researching the events reported in this book. Perhaps it will have that effect on others.”

1968 was a year when a lot of young people first got involved in the political process, said Burbank Librarian Hubert Kozak, who organized The Contest author event. “It was a time of greater activism and engagement in national affairs for all Americans than had occurred for some time.”

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A powerful speaker, Hubert Humphrey combined dramatic messages with a homespun delivery that contributed a human touch to his speeches. (Photo Courtesy of the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library)

“A lot of people thought they could make a difference, that their engagement in the process mattered,” Kozak added. “It was also a time when those running for office and those voting for them believed that a life in politics and public service could be an honorable profession.”

“For me what 1968 said is that you have got to be involved if you want democracy to work, and that decent and talented people need to engage in the process and be willing to serve. I know it seems like a lot to ask these days, but it just doesn’t seem that anything gets better by disengagement and withdrawal.”

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Tired McCarthy youth. Pundits generally conceded the youth, intellectual, and suburban vote to Eugene McCarthy, but his popularity extended well beyond that. A grassroots candidate running in open opposition to the Vietnam War, he appealed to voters who were seeking an alternative to the old ways of government. (Photo Courtesy of the Minnesota Libraries, Special Collections and Rare Books)

“I thought that the 1968 election, which took place at a time when there were also deep divisions in the county, might have something to say about how we might deal with things in our own contentious times,” Kozak said. “My hope is this will be a helpful and, maybe even in some ways, a healing event, one that might occasion some civic minded thought and discussion.”

The Contest program begins at 7:00 p.m. After the presentation and discussion, the author will sign books, which will be available for purchase. The Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library is located at 300 N. Buena Vista Street in Burbank. Plenty of free parking is available on site.

Burbank Library Program Looks At New Orion Deep Space Vessel

NASA plans to put people on Mars in the 2030s with the Orion deep space vessel and Lockheed Martin Orion Integration Engineer Chris Nie will talk about the first missions of the Orion spacecraft, planned for 2019, at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library on Wednesday, September 12.

“The talk will focus on giving a background of the major systems of the Orion spacecraft including its Launch Abort System, Crew Module and Service Module, as well as the first two missions for NASA’s human spaceflight architecture, subsequently called Exploration Mission-1 (an uncrewed test flight of the Orion spacecraft) and Exploration Mission-2 (the first crewed mission of Orion and will take humans farther from Earth than ever before),” explained Nie.

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Orion display at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Libary. (Photo Courtesy Burbank Public Library)

“The aspect of the program I contribute to is the Environmental Control and Life Support Subsystem (or ECLSS for short) which is responsible for providing a livable environment for the crew in space and to keep them happy and healthy during their mission.”

“Designed to navigate, communicate and operate in a deep space environment, Orion will travel thousands of miles beyond the Moon, farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown,” commented Burbank Librarian Hubert Kozak. “It will eventually be used to return humans to the moon where an orbiting space platform will be built for the launch of future missions to Mars.”

“I wanted to do this event because Lockheed was such an important part of this community for so many years,” added Kozak. “There are many people still living in Burbank who were a part of building this company – who are a part of its tradition of innovation and technological achievement – and I thought they might like to see what the company they helped to build (now Lockheed Martin) is doing now. And it’s pretty exciting. Orion is central to the future of human space flight.”

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Orion. (Image Courtesy NASA/Lockheed Martin)

“Chris is a young engineer who is doing this program for us because he is interested in inspiring youth to pursue careers in science and engineering. We hope to have a lot of students in our audience for this event.”

“The Orion program is incredibly exciting to work on for two main reasons; the folks I work with at NASA and Lockheed Martin are phenomenally talented and continuously provide me with challenges and opportunities to grow as an engineer, and secondly because nothing is more exciting to me than pushing the boundaries of the exploration of our solar system,” said Nie.

A graduate of the University of Colorado, Boulder, with a Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering and a focus in Bioastronautics, Nie has been named one of Aviation Week’s Twenty20s as a rising leader in Aerospace and Defense. For his work in STEM outreach, he has received the President’s Volunteer Service Award several times.

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(Graphic Courtesy Burbank Public Library)

“I am very grateful to Hubert Kozak and the Burbank Library for giving us the opportunity to share our excitement and passion for the Orion program and human spaceflight,” he also said. “One of my favorite things about working in the space exploration field is that it has the power to bring people from all backgrounds together, this includes the public.”

“It is not just four crew members that will orbit the moon on Exploration Mission-2, the public is, and will be, a part of the mission.”

More information on the Orion deep space program can be found on NASA’s website here. The free presentation at the Burbank Public Library begins at 7:00 p.m. Plenty of free parking is available at the library, which is located at 300 N. Buena Vista Street.

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The Marshall Space Flight Center loaned a model of the SLS (Space Launch System), the big rocket that will put Orion into space. It’s part of the display at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Libary. (Photo Courtesy Burbank Public Library)

Iconic Figure Harvey Milk Is Subject Of Burbank Library Presentation

Distinguished historian and author Lillian Faderman reads from her most recent book, Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death at the Buena Vista Branch of the Burbank Public Library on Thursday evening, May 31.

“His impact and achievements seem so improbable from what was an inauspicious beginning (he actually worked on Wall Street in 1964 and got up early to hand out campaign literature for Barry Goldwater!),” commented Librarian Hubert Kozak. “This is a book in the Yale Jewish Lives series, and Faderman connects Milk’s Jewish upbringing to his ideals and activism.”

“Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death” author and distinguished historian Lillian Faderman talks about her most recent book at the Buena Vista Branch of the Burbank Public Library. (Image Courtesy Yale University Press)

“But I guess for me what is most interesting about this story is not that, or even that he led a gay movement, but rather the details Faderman gives about how he created a constituency and organized a community to claim political power.”

“This portrait of grass roots American democracy in action I thought was timely and made me hopeful about the chance for marginalized people to have their voices heard, that it is possible,” added Kozak.

“I wrote about Harvey Milk in my 2015 book, The Gay Revolution-but I had room in that huge history, which spanned the years 1948-2015, to spend only about a dozen pages on what made Harvey Milk such an iconic figure,” explained Faderman.

“But in my research and interviews for The Gay Revolution I had discovered so many wonderful, important things about his life that no one had yet written about.”

“So I was thrilled when Yale University Press came to me to ask if I could write a biography of him for Yale’s “Jewish Lives” series. (It took me 10 seconds to say “I’d love to!”) I wanted to create for the reader the Harvey that I came to know through my research—a man who was quite flawed and yet so touching in his desire to do good.”

“I came to see him as genuinely lovable because he was so capable of love-not just on a personal level and not just for his own “tribe,” but love for all those who were in need because they were poor or lost or suffered from prejudice or discrimination.”

“I was constantly being surprised by his personal letters,” commented Faderman. “They showed a man of such tender, romantic feelings. I think he kept wanting to re-do the difficult relationship he had with his own father, and to make it ‘come out right’ with the young men who were his lovers.”

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Harvey (center), a numbers cruncher on Wall Street, c. 1964 (Courtesy of Harvey Milk-Scott Smith Collection, San Francisco Public Library)

“Yet sadly, despite his determination to make it ‘come out right,’ to give them his attention and his deep love, he failed because he was so caught up in wanting to accomplish great things and serve the public. Inevitably, his partners never felt they were getting enough of him.”

Faderman sees the complexities of Milk’s life and his various “lives” as something the public in general does not know about the iconic figure.

“He was a man of vast contradictions. I subtitled my book The Lives and Death of Harvey Milk because there were many different ‘Harveys’ before he finally became the iconic leader that the public knows,” she says. “He was a passionate opera lover from the time he was eleven years old, but he was also a jock in high school and college. (He played football, baseball, basketball. He ran track and was on the wrestling team. He was the sports writer for his college paper. In the Navy he was a deep-sea diver and trained sailors in diving.)”

harvey milk

In college, Harvey played football, soccer, volleyball, and basketball; and he competed in wrestling and track (Courtesy of Harvey Milk-Scott Smith Collection, San Francisco Public Library)

“At one point in his life he became a buttoned-down high school teacher. Then he became a securities analyst on Wall Street. Then he became a hippie, a gofer for a Broadway director and an actor. Then he became a small businessman.”

“Through all of these different iterations of Harvey Milk, he was learning new skills,” Faderman continues. “All those skills came together in the last five years of his life to create the Harvey Milk that the world knows best: he began running for office and finally succeeded in winning election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which made him the first out gay man to hold a significant political office.”

Milk was shot and murdered in 1978 by another, homophobic, Supervisor at the age of 48. He was included on Time‘s list of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century in 1999.

The author will sign books after the presentation, and copies of Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death will be available for purchase on site. The program begins at 7:00 p.m. The Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library is located at 300 N. Buena Vista Street in Burbank. Plenty of free parking is available.

James Webb Space Telescope Program Slated At Burbank Library

The Burbank Public Library holds a program about “The James Webb Space Telescope: Seeing the End of the Dark Age” on Wednesday evening, May 2. Salem Emara, a JPL volunteer and active member of the NASA JPL Solar System Ambassadors Program, will give the presentation.

Emara will also hold a live demonstration of infrared technology, which is the wavelength the James Webb Space Telescope is designed to pick up.

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James Webb Space Telescope (Photo Courtesy NASA)

“I don’t think most people today understand that they are living in a great age of discovery, one as great, if not greater, than the geographical Age of Exploration of the 15th thorough 18th centuries,” commented Burbank Librarian Hubert Kozak. “That’s why I wanted to bring this event to the library.”

“Our exploration of the universe will bring us new knowledge that will – as much as did that former age – challenge our ideas about who we are, what our place is in the universe and what the future of our species might be.”

James Webb Space Telescope (Photo Courtesy NASA)

“We continue to learn, at an accelerating rate, new things about the cosmos, not only about its scope and what it contains, but about its history and how it works,” he also said. “The discoveries that will come from The James Webb Space Telescope are going to add a significant chapter to that unfolding story.”

“It is expected that it will work like a time machine, looking back 13.5 billion years, to capture the first light in the universe after the Big Bang, and that we will discover how stars and planets and galaxies were formed.”

James Webb Space Telescope (Photo Courtesy NASA)

Some of the testing and assembly of the JWST is being done by Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach.

Currently, the telescope, which is touted as the scientific successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, is scheduled for a May 2020 launch. More information can be found about the project on NASA’s site.

“While I suppose the main story about the James Webb Space Telescope is that of what we hope to discover with it, I can’t help but be impressed with what an amazing feat of innovative engineering it is as well,” added Kozak. “That’s why I think we’re lucky at this stage of the project to be getting an overview by an engineer rather than an astrophysicist, someone who can give us details about how the telescope will do its work.”

James Webb Space Telescope (Photo Courtesy NASA)

“In reading about the telescope, you come to realize that building something like this is a project that is incredibly complex. It is a monumental job of both design and assembly, of coordinating and integrating all the components produced by a vast number of individuals and many companies, so that the telescope can be safely launched and deployed and can achieve its purpose.”

The free program begins at 7:00 p.m. at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library, located at 300 N. Buena Vista Street. Plenty of free parking is available on site.

James Webb Space Telescope (Photo Courtesy NASA)

 

Mystery Author J.A. Jance Brings “Duel To The Death” To Burbank

Best-selling mystery author J.A. Jance makes her only Southern California appearance at the Buena Vista Branch of the Burbank Public Library this Sunday, March 25. Jance will be on hand to talk about her latest book, Duel to the Death, and answer questions from the audience.

Duel to the Death continues the story begun in Man Overboard, featuring Jance’s ex-broadcast journalist-turned-private investigator, Ali Reynolds.

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Author J.A. Jance appears at the Buena Vista Branch of the Burbank Public Library. (Photo By Mary Ann Halpin Studios; Image Courtesy Simon And Schuster)

For Man Overboard, I had an Artificial Intelligence created by a computer genius who also happened to be a serial killer,” explained Jance. “Unsurprisingly, an AI created by a bad guy is bound to be a bit problematic.”

“At the end of Man Overboard, it looked as though the AI, known as Frigg, had also reached the end of the line, but it turns out she’s back in Duel to the Death,” she went on to say. “The question is, can she change her ways or is Frigg as dangerous as ever?”

“The Burbank Public Library is very excited to host a book signing and discussion with bestselling and award-winning author J.A. Jance,” commented Louise Paziak, a mystery enthusiast and former staff member of the Burbank Public Library who will introduce Jance on Sunday.

“And what a perfect time for the event during Women’s History Month!”

“Ms. Jance is one of those pioneering women authors who began introducing female private investigators during the breakthrough 1980s,” continued Paziak.

“Jance’s latest Ali Reynolds thriller, Duel to the Death, is the thirteenth in the series and deals with topics ripped from the news.”

Author J.A. Jance appears in Burbank to talk about the thirteenth book in the Ali Reynolds series. (Image Courtesy Simon And Schuster)

“The fast-paced story line explores the effects of the advances of computer technology on society. The mix of Artificial Intelligence, drug cartels and cryptocurrency (bitcoins) with good old-fashioned murder will make Duel to the Death impossible to put down.”

“Burbank has a very robust mystery fan base, so it’s always a real treat to meet a favorite author,” Paziak added.

“The Burbank Library was enthusiastic about hosting an event, and I’m always happy to have the opportunity to partner with one of that increasingly rare breed – the independent bookstore,” Jance said.

For someone who wasn’t allowed in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Arizona in 1964, it’s especially gratifying to be out in public talking about book number 56!” she added.

The program begins at 2:00 p.m. Jance will sign copies of her books, which will be available for purchase on site through a partnership with Flintridge Books.

The Buena Vista Branch of the Burbank Public Library is located at 300 N. Buena Vista Street in Burbank. Plentiful free parking is available on site. For more information on the author, visit her website. More information on the Burbank Public Library can be found here.

“Casablanca” Director Michael Curtiz To Be Discussed In Buena Vista Library Program

Author Alan Rode discusses his latest book Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film with Warner Bros. Studios Senior Vice President George Feltenstein on Tuesday evening, January 23, at the Buena Vista Library.

Rode and Feltenstein will converse about Academy-Award winning director Curtiz, the auteur of Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy and White Christmas, who spent 27 years directing nearly 100 films for Warner Bros. Studios.

They will talk about the director’s career, with a focus on Casablanca. The January 23 event also coincides with the 75th anniversary of the national release of the film.

“I’m very much looking forward to the presentation about Michael Curtiz at the Burbank Library,” commented Rode. “It is a personal thrill for me to be interviewed by George Feltenstein who is one of my heroes for all he has done to make Warner Bros. vast film library available to the public.”

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The “Casablanca” shoot was an anxious time for both of the two stars and the director (Photo Courtesy of the Lucas family).

“No other film director is more identified with the brand of a movie studio than Curtiz at Warner Bros.,” added Rode. “His classic films including Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Mildred Pierce and White Christmas remain revered, but the man himself is either forgotten or relegated to an anecdotal stereotype.”

Michael Curtiz; A Life in Film sets the record straight on Curtiz’s life and career with a great deal of heretofore unpublished information and details.”

An archivist from Warner Bros. will set up some props from Casablanca for the presentation, including a reproduction of Sam’s piano, a screen from Rick’s Café and some other items that appeared in the film or were related to its production, explained Burbank Librarian and event coordinator Hubert Kozak.

Curtiz observes a shot of James Cagney and Ann Sheridan in “Angels with Dirty Faces “(1938). (Photo Courtesy of the Lucas family)

“Michael Curtiz’s years as a director spanned the early years of Hollywood and the studio system of making movies, so Alan Rode’s book is not only a wonderful portrait of the director and his work, but a reader is going to learn a great deal about how movies during this period were made, and particularly how they were made at Warner Bros. here in Burbank,” commented Kozak.

“Rode shows you how technology and social issues impacted the nature of filmmaking, but most of all you learn that making movies is a tough business, the clash of egos and artists, the relentless pressures to stay on top and turn out box office hits, and the sad arc and poignant denouement of many careers in an industry that for all the glamor, was tough and often unforgiving.”

“I was impressed with the prodigious research and mastery of his subject in Rode’s book, but what impresses me most is it’s utter integrity. And by that I mean something more than simply a ‘balanced’ portrait of Curtiz, where you hear pros and cons from various people he worked with in his life.”

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Director Michael Curtiz and cinematographer Sol Polito line up a crane shot during the production of “The Sea Wolf” (1941) on Warner’s massive Stage 21. (Photo Courtesy of the Lucas family).

“This is not an ambiguous portrait. There is a point of view. Rode doesn’t pull any punches, but gives you the facts as he has found them that show you the best and worst of the man. It’s a cold eyed approach that makes you feel you are in the hands of a narrator whose criticisms and praise can be trusted in equal measure,” Kozak continued. “In spite of the man’s foibles and failings, the reader is lead to recognize and understand Curtiz’s extraordinary skills and achievements in the development of movie making.”

“This is our second collaboration in the last year with Warner Bros.,” he added. “All of us here at the Burbank Public Library appreciate the willingness they have shown to help us develop these kinds of events for our patrons, many of whom have worked for Warner Bros. and the entertainment industry, and all who appreciate this kind of look back at the proud heritage of their community and its important contributions to our national culture.”

“Michael Curtiz and the Making of Casablanca” begins at 7:00 p.m. in the auditorium of the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library on Tuesday, January 23. Plenty of free parking is available on site. The author will be available to sign books for purchase after the program. The program is free to the public.

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A quartet of “Casablanca “winners: a sleepy Michael Curtiz, Jack Warner (talking as usual), Hal Wallis (with his Thalberg Award), one of the events hosts, Jack Benny, and the screenwriter Howard Koch (Photo Courtesy of Alan Rode collection.)

 

Author Discusses Dynamic Take On Resurrection Of Woolly Mammoth

Woolly mammoths and the science to bring them back from extinction will be the focus of the Burbank Public Library’s upcoming author presentation. Ben Mezrich talks about his nonfiction book Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creatures at the Buena Vista Branch Library on Wednesday, July 19.

Woolly tells the true story of a group of young scientists at Harvard University, under the guidance of famed geneticist Dr. George Church, sequencing DNA from a frozen woolly mammoth found in the Arctic circle. The scientists have been splicing elements of that DNA into the DNA of a modern elephant in hopes of producing viable embryos.

More than just a tale of genetics, Woolly also focuses on Russian scientist Sergey Zimov and his son Nikita’s Pleistocene Park, a nature reserve in northeastern Siberia. They are testing the hypothesis that over hunting, not climate change, was responsible for the extinction of wildlife and the disappearance of grasslands at the end of the Pleistocene era.

The reserve is populated with Pleistocene-era animals such as bison, yak, reindeer and Yakut horses and could be a home for future woolly mammoths.

“At this moment, three ancient, prehistoric woolly mammoth genes have been brought back to life in Asian Elephant cells,” explained Mezrick. “Although it’s impossible to say for sure, the first woolly mammoth could be born as early as 3-5 years from now, although it depends on a lot of factors. The science is here now.”

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Woolly mammoth at La Brea Tar Pits. (Photo Courtesy Hubert Kozak)

Mezrich is the author of 18 books, including several New York Times best-sellers. His book, Accidental Billionaires, was made into the movie The Social NetworkBringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions was turned into the movie 21.

Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creatures was published July 4, and is already in pre-production with Marty Bowen (Twilight, Maze Runner) at 20th Century Fox. Oscar Sharp is writing and directing and plans are for camera work to begin in winter.

“I think the reasons for bringing back the woolly mammoth are a big part of the story; this isn’t Jurassic Park, Church and his team aren’t building an amusement park,” commented Mezrich.

“The goal is to save the environment from a ticking time bomb represented by the melting permafrost at the ring of the world; to bring back a species that we made extinct, in order to fix the environment- it’s a karmic good that’s also an out of the box way of approaching our relationship with nature.”

Mezrich begins his presentation on the book at 7:00 p.m. and will hold a Q & A and sign books afterwards.

Burbank Public Library Apollo 8 Program Features Author Talk

Author Jeffrey Kluger discusses his new book Apollo 8:  The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon with space historian Amy Teitel at the Buena Vista Branch of the Burbank Public Library on Wednesday, May 24, at 7:00 p.m.

“As the years have gone by, and as the history of man in space has been recalled, Apollo 8 is coming to be recognized as a defining moment for man in space,” commented Librarian Hubert Kozak, who put together the program for the Burbank Public Library.

“It was the first time humans left the orbit of earth and ventured into deep space, the first time men left the gravitational pull of the earth and found themselves pulled by the gravity of another celestial body. It was the first time humans saw with their own eyes the other side of the moon.”

The astronauts on the mission, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders, put the Apollo 8 Command Service Module into orbit around the moon and studied and took photographs of the surface for potential landing sites for a future mission.

A photo taken by Anders from the other side of the moon, Earthrise,” became one of the iconic photos of the 20th century.

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“Earthrise” was taken in 1968 during the Apollo 8 mission. (Photo Courtesy Astronaut William Anders, NASA)

“Apollo 8 was an improvised mission, one that was moved up in NASA’s schedule of Apollo flights in its quest to land a man on the moon,” added Kozak. “Kluger explains how this was prompted by the space race with the Russians, a part of the U.S. Russian rivalry in the Cold War.”

“The mission was riskier and more daring than we knew at the time. When the Apollo 8 mission to the moon was planned, no crew had flown in the Apollo space capsule. The year before, three astronauts, Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, had been killed in a fire in the Apollo capsule during ground tests.”

“The Saturn V rocket that would lift the astronauts into space had never put men into space before, and its last unmanned test had been unsatisfactory and engineering adjustments had to be made.”

Kluger interviewed Borman, Lovell and Anders, along with their families, for the book and tells a story that is dramatic, occasionally dark and often humorous.

“This is an inspirational story,” Kozak also said. “The Apollo 8 mission came at another time of deep division in our country, at the close of 1968, a very troubled year in our history with the war in Vietnam, deep racial divisions and widespread political unrest and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.”

“And yet on Christmas eve in late December, the nation was focused on a national triumph, and the largest worldwide audience in television history tuned in to watch men talk to them from the moon and recite the moving opening passages from the Book of Genesis.”

The Apollo 8 program is the first in the Summer Reading Club series for adults, but everyone is welcome to attend the free event. Books will be available for purchase and Kluger will sign books for interested patrons.

A senior writer at Time magazine, Kluger also co-wrote Lost Moon with astronaut Lovell, which Ron Howard made into the film Apollo 13, about man’s first landing on the moon.

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Authors Discuss Burbank Farming Past, Present And Future

The co-authors of From Cows to Concrete: The Rise and Fall of Farming in Los Angeles, Rachel Surls and Judith Gerber, present an illustrated tour of Burbank farming and Southern California’s forgotten history as an agriculture center at the Buena Vista Library on Wednesday, May 3.

“Long before Los Angeles County was the nation’s largest urban center, it was the country’s agricultural heartland, producing an abundance of grain, fruit, vegetables, milk and much more,” explained Surls. “With a special focus on Burbank and surrounding areas, we’ll trace this history from pre-colonial times to the present, including how post WWII development paved over the area’s farm bounty.”

“We’ll show some amazing images from Burbank’s past that will spark discussion about how the current passion for gardening, farmers markets and local food not only ties in with local history, but may also inform the future,” she added.

“Human population has grown from 2 billion to 7.5 billion in the past 100 years and we have an enormous appetite,” commented Kreigh Hampel, Recycling Coordinator for the City of Burbank’s Public Works Department. “By understanding the history of food, water and development, we can better understand the world’s need for secure local food systems.”

“Rachael Surls and Judith Gerber have uncovered L.A.’s agricultural history using their wise insights in urban agriculture, food policy and community gardens,” Hampel also said. “If you think Los Angeles is a food desert, you’ll be delighted to know about the rising focus on healthy soils, local food councils and urban agriculture.”

The library became interested in hosting Surls and Gerber’s presentation on Burbank farming and Southland agricultural history after Amy Hammes from the Burbank Recycle Center showed the film Just Eat It in 2016, explained Librarian Hubert Kozak.

Just Eat It is a documentary about the waste in the food production system from farm to retail to individual households.

“We were surprised by the large audience for this event,” added Kozak. “They asked a lot of questions. It became apparent that this issue resonates not only with consumers and food lovers but also with an entire local network in the community of people concerned about environmental issues and sustainable urban living, including those who are a part of the current urban farming movement.”

From Cows to Concrete makes some of these same connections as it reviews the history of farming in Los Angeles.

“Like all history, it shows us that we have options,” Kozak said. “And among the history programs we do at the library, the ones we like best are those that tell a local story that connects older and younger generations living in this community.”

“Many of us remember growing up in Los Angeles and living in areas that were still in transition from farmlands to suburbia, areas still dotted with open fields and orchards,” he added. “Younger people growing up in this area today just have no idea that the area they lived in was ever anything else, or that life could be lived any other way, and it is important to the decisions they make about their future to know this is not so.”

The illustrated tour of From Cows to Concrete begins at 7:00 p.m. and is free to the public.