Friday, October 02, 2015

Scholar in the House

Librarian Phillip Fitzsimmons has published a chapter in  C.S Lewis and The Inklings: Reflections on Faith, Imagination and Modern Technology (2015)The Inklings, an informal literary discussion group associated with the University of Oxford included J.R.R. Tolkien and the philosopher Owen Barfield.  The book is a collection of essays exploring the literacy legacy of this group and their insights on the rapid change that modern technology has wrought on our collective imaginations. 

We are very pleased to have one of our Librarians included in this area of recent scholarship and wish him much success in his future endeavors. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Dystopian Literature: A Different World View

Dystopian novels have been around since the 18th century, and they continue to be extremely popular in the 21st century. These novels are often written in the aftermath of a disaster.  The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, The Maze Runner series by James Dashner, and the Divergent series by Veronica Roth were all released in the aftermath of the September 11th bombings.   Films made from these books have increased their popularity.
A dystopian atmosphere finds characters in an imaginary and off-balance setting where they experience many difficulties that are hard to work through and where the overall tone is one of fear with little hope for an improved existence.  Those who live in a dystopian society find that there is little freedom of choice along with fear of the future and the possibility of terrible events they may be expected to face. 
Some of the characteristics that are common in the dystopian world include:  an unconventional setting that is an integral part of the story; powerful leaders who rule rigidly by enforcing a strict order that does not allow for deviation; likeable protagonists who are facing difficulties that have been shaped by their
environment and the situations they must encounter; and a conclusion that implies that the dire circumstances that are part of the plot will not cease when the books ends.
Books such as Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and 1984 by George Orwell are a few of the titles that are available for you to check out at the Al Harris Library.  If you are interested in learning more, take a look at the glass display case near the doors to the library to see these books and movies.

[Surveillance camera image courtesy of crystalRyu.]

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Musk Reads: Tesla Founder's Favorite Books

Elon Musk is a billionaire American Entrepreneur and Businessman. He is the founder of SpaceX, Zip2, PayPal, and Tesla Motors. In 2013, Musk was named the Fortune Businessperson of the year and in 2014 was awarded the World Technology Award in the categories of Energy and Space given by the World Technology Network.

When asked where he learned how to build rockets, he simply replied: I read books…

Business Insider has compiled a list of 9 books thatElon Musk thinks everyone should read. They range from the classic works of J.R.R. Tolkien to the latest research on Artificial Intelligence. The billionaire entrepreneur, who helped privatize space travel and envisions a world of clean energy, is also lifelong reader.  

Come by the Al Harris Library and check out his list of books, they’re here waiting for you to read. 

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Gone But Not Forgotten

Not all authors live to see worldwide fame.  Indeed, sometimes the works published after the author’s death exceed the number produced while still alive.  Striking examples are J.R.R. Tolkien (d. 1973) and C.S. Lewis (d. 1963).  Each author’s name includes approximately 30 new published titles, and the numbers continue to grow.  Tolkien’s latest, The Story of Kullervo was released in Britain during August 2015.  Lewis’s The Collected Poems of C. S. Lewis: A Critical Edition was released in January 2015. 

With fewer titles, other notable examples are David Foster Wallace (d. 2008) who has four posthumous titles including his latest, David Foster Reader published in 2014.  Stieg Larson (d. 2004) is known for his international bestselling Millennium Trilogy which was published 2005-2007.  Ralph Ellison (d. 1994) most famous for Invisible Man (1952) had five books published after his death ending with Three Days Before the Shooting... in 2010.  John Kennedy Toole (d. 1969) has two published works, the award-winning Confederacy of Dunces (1980) followed by The Neon Bible (1989). Both titles were published after his death.

Other authors with posthumously published books include Kurt Vonnegut (d. 2007), Douglas Adams (d. 2001), Robert A. Heinlein (d. 1988), Anne Frank (d. 1945), and Virginia Woolf (d. 1941). See the book display showcasing authors who are gone but not forgotten on the first floor of the Al Harris Library.  All books displayed are available for check out.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Step Right Up: The Story of Wild West Shows and Performers

While the type of entertainment changes, people’s enjoyment never does.  During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Wild West shows were a favorite entertainment of Americans.  These shows were similar to a combination of today’s rodeos and circuses, and many people from around the globe took part in them.
The most famous Wild West showman was William F. Cody.  Better known as Buffalo Bill, Cody was born in Iowa in 1846.  He had many occupations throughout his life including scout for the United States military, buffalo hunter, and stage performer.  In 1883, Buffalo Bill rode into the limelight with his Wild West show, a show that traveled across the United States and later to Europe.
Another show owner was Gordon William Lillie.  Born during 1860 in Illinois, he eventually worked at the Pawnee Agency in Indian Territory where he received his nickname, Pawnee Bill.  During the early 1880s, Pawnee Bill and several Pawnees joined Buffalo Bill’s show.  While the show was in Philadelphia, Pawnee Bill met his wife, May Manning.  Not long after they married, the couple started their own show. Based upon the show’s success, they were eventually able to build their dream home near the town of Pawnee, Oklahoma.

Another show with ties to Oklahoma was that of the 101 Ranch.  During the late 19th century, George W. Miller established the 101 near Ponca City, Oklahoma. As one of the largest ranches in the area, it became an excellent training ground for Miller’s 101 Ranch Real Wild West Show. 
            Many Native Americans participated in Wild West shows.  A Hunkpapa Lakota named Sitting Bull, of Battle of Little Bighorn fame, traveled with Buffalo Bill’s show.  Another notable Native American of Wild West show fame was Iron Tail of the Oglala Lakota; Iron Tail was also the model for the Native American on the “buffalo nickel” which was minted by the U.S. Treasury from 1913-38 and is still in circulation today.
            Showmanship was not just a man’s business, but a woman’s occupation as well.  One of the most famous Wild West show women was Annie Oakley.  Oakley was a sharpshooter who shot targets with skilled accuracy.  While this talented woman often toured with Buffalo Bill’s show, she also traveled with Pawnee Bill’s show during his opening season.  Another important cowgirl was May Lillie, Pawnee Bill’s wife.  She toured many years with her husband’s show as a sharpshooter and horsewoman.  Many cowgirls, female sharpshooters, and equestrian riders were also participants in the shows.
            It was not only Americans who performed in these shows.  Performers included Arab acrobats and “Russian Cossacks,” who were actually from the European country of Georgia.  These international performers rode horses and danced in the arena.  Sometimes men from various countries would line up and race around the arena to prove who the better horseman was. 

The Wild West shows not only brought the Wild West to eastern United States cities and Europe, but they also took the world to the Wild West through these exciting performances featuring a variety of performers and performance styles.  

            See the book display about Wild West shows on the first floor of the Al Harris Library.  All books on the display are available for checkout.  Grab a book, sit back, and read about the world of entertainment during the great days of the Wild West shows.  

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Robin Williams

Robin Williams began his career as a stand-up comedian and evolved into a surprisingly nuanced, Academy Award-winning actor. He was a master at imbuing his performances with a wild inventiveness and a manic energy that was contagious, outrageous and deeply felt. An American original, Robin Williams left behind a legacy of TV and film work that generations of fans grew up knowing, trusting and laughing along with; his talent is something that many of us will continue to love and share.

The Al Harris Library is proud to showcase a number of his films, both dramatic and comedic, with all our patrons. Come by the library and see what Robin has to say. 

Monday, May 04, 2015

Technology and Tomorrow

Predicting the future can be difficult, but there is no doubt that often what is science fiction in one era is everyday reality only a couple of generations later.

The comic strip Dick Tracy introduced the wrist radio in 1946 (later upgraded to a wrist TV-phone), and the 1966 TV series Star Trek had Star Fleet using handheld communicators.  Both ideas seemed far-fetched to the average person, but those comic and TV fans have lived to see both inventions become available as Smartwatches and cell phones at the nearest mall.

Back to the Future II was set in 2015 and featured a hoverboard as a teen’s plaything.  Since the movie came out in 1989, garage tinkerers and serious scientists have been working on making a skateboard move without wheels.  Last fall, a prototype hoverboard based on magnetic levitation was demonstrated.

Technology is transforming the way we learn as well.  From smart classrooms to digital books, today’s college students are accessing knowledge in ways that were science fiction when their parents went to school.  Just a few of these transformative technologies are:  Canvas, ebooks, massive open online courses known as MOOCs, iPhones, and various types of social media.

Where will technology take us next?    For more on emerging technologies see the book display Technology and Tomorrow on the first floor of the  Al Harris Library.   The books are available for checkout.