Friday, November 06, 2015

Ending or Beginning: World War I

           The year was 1914; the place was Sarajevo, Bosnia.  The event that occurred in late June—the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria—led to the outbreak of a war that involved many nations of the world.  Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Central Powers making up the Ottoman Empire were in conflict with the Allied Powers that included Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy and Japan.  The Allies were joined by the United States in 1917.

            Why did the United States enter this conflict that involved moving abroad to fight on foreign soil? Based upon events that occurred in 1915 and 1916 which involved violations of international law and warnings that were made to German authorities, U.S. President Wilson went to Congress and asked for permission to go to war. Wilson stated in his address to Congress, “The world must be made safe for democracy.”  War was officially declared by Congress on April 6, 1917.  Because the nation was not prepared for participating in combat, American soldiers were not deployed to France until 1918.  The two million American soldiers who were sent to France played a vital role in the final six months of the war.  Because their numbers were significant and they were not worn out from years of intense combat, they made a tremendous difference when fighting an exhausted and battle-worn enemy force.

            During the four years of what is known as the Great War, battlefield advances included the use of trench warfare and the introduction of modern weaponry including machine guns, tanks, and chemical weapons. As a result, the casualties were many.

            By the end of the war, approximately eighty-five million soldiers had been killed while twenty-one million more were wounded.  During the six months that American soldiers fought, fifty-three thousand died on the battlefield.  Around half of that number of troops died in the concluding battle of the war, the Meuse-Argonne.  Fighting ended on November 11, 1918, the day which became Armistice Day and is now Veterans’ Day.

The so-called war to end all wars ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. This event began another chapter in world history because the wounds that brought on war were not healed, and as a result, another world conflict would begin within the next twenty years.

            To learn more about the Great War, the battles, the locations, and the involvement of the United States and other nations, take a look at the books here on the display as well as others in the Al Harris Library.  All are available for you to check out and enjoy.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Mything in Action

Every fictional book, regardless of subject matter, invites the reader to step into an alternate reality.  Sometimes, however, that otherworld is so powerfully depicted, so wondrously realized, that writers and readers have been pleasurably lost in fantasy for a life-time.  Some insist on bringing that alternate reality into the real world by incorporating it into society’s universal mythology.

That is the purpose of the genre of modern literature known as mythopoeia, a 20th Century word for an old tradition, popularized by J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and others, continues to embrace readers. 

The Mythopoeic Society, the preeminent organization promoting the genre, describes mythopoeia “as literature that creates a new and transformative mythology, or incorporates and transforms existing mythological material. …This type of work, at its best, should also inspire the reader to examine the importance of mythology in his or her own spiritual, moral, and creative development.”

Some of the best known practitioners of the mythopoeia are:

•    William Blake, who used The Bible, Dante, and mysticism in painting and poetry presenting an invented mythology that was critical of technology and materialism.
•    H.P. Lovecraft, who used New England folk tales about black magic and monsters and created stories about sleeping monsters who will awaken, after centuries, to mankind’s doom.
•    J.R.R. Tolkien, who used Northern European cultures and a love for inventing languages to create the myth cycle of Middle-earth known as The Silmarillion that culminated in  The Lord of the Rings.
•    C.S. Lewis, who used Christianity and a blend of European fantasy creatures in his Space Trilogy and the Narnia series.
•    Ursula K. Le Guin, who uses a background of modern languages, world literature, and popular  fantasy to create stories showing the intricacies of alternative beings and the consequences of wizardry.
•    Neil Gaiman, who uses a background in classic and popular literature to create adult and juvenile literature that includes mythic beings living in the contemporary world.
•    Terry Pratchett, who used fantasy literature, world mythology, and British humor to create a wide-reaching and intricately plotted parody of the fantasy genre in more than 40 novels.

See the book display showcasing works of mythopoeic literature on the first floor of the Al Harris Library.  All books displayed are available for check out.
Accept the call to explore what J.R.R. Tolkien termed the “perilous realms” of fantasy.  But, reader, beware, you may find yourself mything in action.

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.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Ken Burns: The American Story

American director and producer of documentary films, Ken Burns, is known for this style of using archival footage and photographs to tell stories about events that have influenced our lives.  His style of storytelling has educated millions of people by providing a compelling way of relating America’s history.  For excellent background information about Burns and his work, visit Ken Burns America.

From his first documentary shown in 1981 about the Brooklyn Bridge to the present time, Burns’ work has appeared on PBS. All of his film titles are available for viewing through the Al Harris Library.  Many of the DVD sets are located on the display and are available for check out.  Additionally, all of Burns’ titles are available to stream through one of our video databases:  Kanopy, Films on Demand, and VAST: Academic Video Online.  Follow these links to the streaming databases.

In addition to the titles that are part of his collected works, a new three-part film titled CANCER: The Emperor of All Maladies airs Monday March 30 through Wednesday April 1.  The series relates the comprehensive story of cancer, from its first description in an ancient Egyptian scroll to the laboratories of modern research institutions of the present. This six-hour film interweaves a sweeping historical narrative with stories about contemporary patients, and an investigation into the latest scientific breakthroughs that may have brought us, at long last, within sight of lasting cures.

The title of this documentary series is based upon an award-winning book of the same name written by cancer physician and researcher, Siddhartha Mukherjee.  The Emperor of All Maladies and all of the books that are located on the display in the Al Harris Library are available for you to check out.  Take a look and see all of the learning opportunities that are available for you through the work of Ken Burns.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Soldiers and Settlers, Cowboys and Lawmen: African Americans and the American West

There are many people who feel that history is just a bunch of boring facts, but this is far from the truth. For example, the history of the American West is not just facts about the past, but rather stories about individuals who really existed.  Among the people who lived in the West were African Americans who worked in a variety of occupations as they attempted to survive.

Some African Americans entered the West as soldiers.  These troops became known as Buffalo Soldiers. Though black soldiers often faced prejudice, they served their country with pride.  Despite the barrier of racism, their courage was recognized by their commanding officers and even the U.S. Congress.  
Just as important as the Buffalo Soldiers were the African Americans who settled on the land.  Some of them were farmers while others owned businesses.  Their perseverance helped them prevail while facing prejudice and the harshness of the land.

African Americans sometimes worked as lawmen to bring fugitives to justice.  One of the most famous of these lawmen was Deputy United States Marshal Bass Reeves.  A former slave, his law career took him throughout Indian Territory to what later became the state of Oklahoma.

Perhaps the most famous icons of the American West were the cowboys.  Both African American men and women worked in this profession.  One cowboy named Bill Pickett worked for the 101 Ranch in the early twentieth century.  He was famous for his skill at steer wrestling, also known as bulldogging.  Rodeo cowboys still perform this skill today, though without Pickett's twist.

Like other people in the American West, African Americans laughed, cried, fought, worked, and died.  They made unique contributions and sacrifices that helped create a better country for themselves, their descendants, and all Americans.  Visit the Al Harris Library and see the book display about African Americans in the American West.  If you see a book you want to read, please check it out at the circulation desk.  Pick up a book and read and remember the lives of these individuals.

Monday, January 19, 2015

"Oops! ...I Did It Again": New Year's Resolutions and How to Keep from Making the Same Mistakes

The pop song "Oops! ...I Did It Again" makes reference to a hurtful habit in personal relationships.  There are many things from different parts of our lives that cause each of us to say the phrase with regret. 

The New Year is a time to take stock of the previous year's achievements, disappointments, and hopes,  to consider personal changes to make during the upcoming year.  Resolutions are a common part of that change-making process.  Typical goals involve losing weight and getting fit; advancing in academics or career; overcoming addictions to alcohol, substances, or gambling; and making changes toward improving relationships.

Though change is difficult it can be achieved.  SWOSU libraries have many books to assist with behavior changes that can lead to a better quality of life.  They are about each of the topics listed above or about the principles for change as described in  Change Anything and Influencer by Kerry Patterson.  See the book display, providing ideas and techniques for success throughout the year, on the first floor of the Al Harris Library.  The books are available for check out.  Make 2015 a year in which you say "Oops! ...I Did It Again" fewer times.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Mystery Novels for the New Year

     Why do readers love mystery?  Do they love the thrill of the chase, saving the damsel in distress, or catching the bad guy?  The answer is probably all three.  When reading a mystery novel, the reader is thrown into a world that is full of danger and suspense.  The reader is given the same clues as the characters in the novels, and the reader has to put the clues together just like the hero/detective in the story to figure out who is the suspect or scoundrel.

     At the end of the novel, we readers have saved the damsel in distress and caught the villain without ever stepping outside our own front doors. 

Humphrey Bogart stars
in this Sam Spade mystery
Video  791.4372 M2615
Sherlock, Season 3
Video  791.45 S5527

     If you are interested in catching a fictional villain, check out some of these great novels, movies, and television shows that are available at the Al Harris Library.  To get you started, here are examples from the three different areas. 

Book by Robert Galbraith
 aka JK Rowling
823 R8847c