How Tattoos, Powdered Wigs, and Uggs Have Made Us Who We Are

Be honest, how much time to do you spend on your looks in the morning? Do you have piercings or tattoos, or dyed hair? What does any of that say about you? You would be surprised how much things like that have changed over the years, or depending on where you are in the world. Hair styles, tattoos, piercings, and other body additions say something about you, and the culture you come from. And I don’t just mean those people who get their favorite bands tattooed on themselves. I mean real cultural tells, like how women in Europe refused to wear bangs in the Middle Ages, because they were considered manly and secretive. Or you can look at henna tattoos in India, with multiple meanings behind their elaborate patterns. Even simple things, like how long your hair is, or how much make-up you’re wearing, have years of history leading up to how much gel I put in my hair this morning. And yes, we DO have reference books about this, so let’s get reading!

                                 Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History

Yep. Entire book dedicated to hair. I do love the library’s Reference section. This book goes through the whole history of hair styles, and there is a lot more to hair than that time in the 90s when everyone thought that not washing your hair was really fab. Like how in the 1600s, hair was a major factor in the conflict between Puritans and Royalists in England that broke out into an all-out war (Our powdered wigs are WAY better than your stupid wigs!) In ancient Greece, women shaved all the hair on their body, except the head, but later on in the ancient world, body hair on a woman was seen as attractive. Sometimes, hairstyles are not exactly trends, as much as laws. In the Byzantine Empire, Emperor Theophilus made a law that all men had to have short hair, supposedly because he was bald and had a major case of hair envy. That’s just a few bits of trivia available here; maybe I’ve gotten you interested in finding out more from the book! Because no matter what culture or time period you come from, we can all bond over the fact that our hair never looks quite the way we want it to. Bad hair days have always been around.

          Feet and Footwear: A Cultural Encyclopedia
We go from the top of the body to the bottom in this reference book about…feet and footwear. Feet and shoes really take so much abuse, being the things that have to take the blunt of our weight, as well as dealing with whatever sidewalk terrors await us on the way to class. This book talks about modern shoes like Nikes or Candies, mostly about how they advertise, using celebrity endorsements in shoe wear. In modern culture, shoes are a status symbol, and having popular celebrities wear them makes them seem like higher status items. Hilariously, it also talks about Ugg boots, a super trendy shoe that literally is short for ‘ugly.’ They were originally used by Australian sheep herders, before surfers started wearing them for comfort, followed by the hipsters, and then the world (I can’t judge too harshly, I own a few pairs. I like the style, so don’t judge me either.) There is also information about not so funny things, like ancient Chinese foot binding (don’t Google pictures, it will haunt your dreams) and old-time foot amputation. With a saw and maybe a glass of booze to dull the pain. Ouch. So, take care of your feet and make good choices on your footwear, and I promise we will put away the saws.

                              Faces Around the World

When you look at a face, what do you see? This book, from the library’s ebrary Academic Complete collection, looks at faces. All kinds of them, like Catholics with forehead ashes on Ash Wednesday, masks in Mexico during the Day of the Dead, Bindis on Indian women, all things that need some cultural context before you can really understand them. There are also a LOT of facial tattoos pictured in the book. Some are culturally symbolic, meant to indicate power or wisdom, and some exist just because they look cool. Some are just a few colors and symbols, and others cover the whole face with symbolic lines and patterns. But it’s not all tattoos and funky masks. Did you know that freckles have been thought of as both beautiful and a mark of the devil throughout history? That uni-brows in Central Asia are considered so attractive that people add makeup to their brows to enhance them? That this ebook is full of tons more information? All those questions answered here!

So what’s the lesson here? That we should all be happy that forbidding body embellishment is officially out? Don’t have longer hair than your emperor? Or just that what we look like has always had a ton of cultural and historical relevance? There is a lot more to talk about with all this, so check out these books. Trust me, after you have seen a “sharpening stone”, you will never forget to thank the hair salon people ever again.  



Everyone loves a good research paper, right? Finding a topic, looking for references, getting all those fun publisher dates for your bibliography…you know the drill. I have written many a reference paper, and for a while, my research method consisted of doing a Google search and maybe checking Wikipedia. Eventually, I learned that there were much more effective ways to do research. Guess where this is going? Yes, we are going to another part of the library’s website! Specifically to CREDO Reference, an electronic database that allows you to look up any number of topics and titles, most of which are very research-paper friendly. As of today it has 615, yes, 615 full-text reference books that you can search through. Or if you’re just looking for something to do when you’re bored and want to read about propaganda during the French Revolution, then this is a dang good place to start.

One interesting CREDO title is Icons of American Popular Culture: From P.T. Barnum to Jennifer Lopez. Even though this title was published in 2010, I would argue that even then, Jennifer Lopez could no longer be called an “icon,” but don’t let the hilariously out of date title keep you away. It has long, well researched articles about historical figures like John F. Kennedy and Muhammad Ali, plus pop culture types like Michael Jordan. Yes, this is rather outdated (there is a real lack of awful reality stars here). When it comes to more historical figures, however, it does a good job of giving a basic overview without the fear of edit bandits you might have using Wikipedia (which most profs don’t want you to use anyway.) A lot of the articles are like that, to the point and full of reliable information. This is a great resource for those English 201 papers and CMST 101 speeches!

CREDO Reference also contains quite a few ebooks with pictures of art, and information on the paintings and why they exist. For instance, I came across a text entitled Pocket Guide: Myths and Legends which discusses the portrayal of fantastical characters in paintings and writings. It’s pretty amusing how many people in ye olde times wanted their portraits to make them look like gods or legendary heroes. Good to know the human ego knows no boundary of era. They also frequently used portraits for political purposes, portraying political types as heroes favored by the gods. A lot of the images featured here are from the Middle Ages or the Renaissance, but they are all based around myths from classical mythology. They had some pretty serious Greco-Roman nostalgia going on at the time, and the artwork definitely shows it. This is all pretty interesting, as I always like learning about the more mundane aspects of life back in the day, and it has pretty pictures- what a great combination!

But CREDO Reference also includes a lot of books and reference articles that just seem…random. For example, there is an entire ebook with people’s obituaries, going back to the 19th century (Great Lives: A Century in Obituaries). There’s a title detailing the history of the cow in the American economy (The American Economy: An Encyclopedia). There is another ebook with information on icons of southern music (The South), which just makes me feel like I want to write a blog all about that. What I’m trying to say is, these references are pretty cool. Even if you don’t happen to be scrambling around the internet for research, CREDO Reference still a fun place to go if you just want to learn about some cool topics. You may want to store them in your head for the NEXT research paper, because come on, we all know the next one is right around the corner. Oh, and don’t forget to try the Hargrave’s Communications Dictionary article on ‘corner frequency’. Yeah, that’s a mathematical term and not a hipster band from somewhere out West. Ah the things you learn in the library. And you can find CREDO Reference in the A-Z Databases list. 


Riding the Soul Train

February is Black History Month, a time when we consider the many contributions African Americans have made to American society. Now granted, I think we should remember those contributions pretty much all year round, but I guess it’s good to set aside a time to really focus on it. And now USI is getting into the spirit by bringing IU’s much acclaimed Gospel group IU Soul Revue to our campus on February 26 at 7pm in Carter Hall!  To celebrate, I dedicate this blog to some of the amazing things done in African American music. And if I have to spend all day rocking out to awesome gospel and blues songs to do that, so be it!

                 African American Music
African American music has taken many forms over the years. There is soul music, gospel, jazz, blues, and plenty more. If you’re interested, take a look at the book African American Music, which is about…well just guess. It takes us from folk music, to spirituals by  slaves, to the blues movement in New Orleans, to political music in the 1960s. It gives a lot of pictures and context, talking about what was going on historically, and how that affected the music being made. I have always loved the history of music, and especially music made from specific sub genres. But I’m biased, considering one of my favorite genres of music is the blues. Speaking of….

                              Nobody Knows Where the Blues Come From

This book is a quest to find the history of the blues. It describes the strange, colorful lives of blues singers, and it gives a strong analysis of blues lyrics and what they mean. The blues has long been music strongly influenced by oral traditions, with the iconic blues man being the lone traveler with a guitar, traveling back roads, singing about what he sees on his journey. This book looks at the blues movement in the West Indies and the roles of race and gender in blues music. It also explores how various tragedies and injustices have influenced the blues (well, after all, blues is not the most cheery name for a genre). Do they find the true origin of the blues in this book? Guess you will have to read it to find out!

African American GoodNews (Gospel) Music
Before the concert, you might want to do a little research on gospel music so that you’ll know all the right times to jump up and start cheering for the Lord. There is a long, rich tradition of African American gospel music in this country, and many people have pioneered this musical form. This book is mostly biographical information about gospel singers, with lots of pictures and information about them, going back to when everyone seemed to style their hair really high and wear a lot of suits. It’s a good book to use as a reference guide because it’s not about the genre so much as it is about the singers. This book even provides ways to cite information about them, the venues where they performed and the places where they recorded. It’s not the most lively book about gospel music we have, but it’s a good way to get familiar with the genre. And yes, laugh a bit as the pictures start to reach the 1980s near the end. Oh the ’80s, you even infected the word of God.

As you might have noticed, I really like blues music, always have. It’s a distinctly American, grass roots genre with a folk vibe, all things that I really dig. But this CD isn’t about history or what blues means to the greater culture. It’s just about the music. This CD features some of the best African American blues singers in history, with songs from Big Mama Thornton, B.B. King, and the legendary Billie Holiday, among others. Most of the tracks are older blues, going way back to the 1920s or 1930s, and it just seems very old-timey, but it’s so dang relavant. Blues music can be fun and it can be lively, but it is often known for its songs of pain, because, again, it’s even called the blues. Check out this CD from the Rice Library’s audio collection, and have a listen for yourself!

If this sounds interesting, come on out to the IU Soul Revue in Carter Hall at 7pm on February 26. Celebrate all the great music African American musicians have given America, and how much they have given to us all. Again, these are things you should do always, but February is as good a time as ever to blast some soul music in your car as it heats up.

And the Academy Award goes to…

It’s Oscar season baby! As a major movie geek, I absolutely love Oscar season. I love the speeches, the awkward banter at the podium, the outfits, the speculation, and, of course, the films. Of the nine movies up for Best Picture this year, I have seen eight of them (come on Amour, would a wide release be so much to ask?!) and I have to say, it’s been a pretty good year for movies. But we have plenty of places to read about the current nominees (TMZ anyone?) I want to look at some of the Oscar winners of yesteryear, the best actors, the best movies, the best writing, the best everything. And, as it so happens, we have several past winners right here in the library’s DVD section! So if you feel like getting pumped for the big show (I beg you Seth McFarland, let’s see more Ted and less last few seasons of Family Guy), check out some of these favorites from Oscars past!

                                  In the Heat of theNight
If you haven’t seen much of Sidney Poitier, look up some of his movies. This guy is classy. Sidney Poitier is an African American actor who made a lot of his most famous movies in the 1960s, and was the first African American to win a Best Actor Oscar in 1963 (Lilies of the Field), a time when, in many parts of the country, black people couldn’t even use the drinking fountain. In the Heat of the Night, which won Best Picture in 1967, is one of his most famous, telling the story of detective Virgil Tibbs from Philadelphia who, while traveling through a small Mississippi town, is accused of murder by racist cops during a heat wave. When they realize who he really is, he calls his bosses up north, who tell him to stick around to help find the real killer. It’s basically a murder mystery, but it’s more about simmering racial tensions that eventually come close to exploding, and how Tibbs has to navigate the territory, while still trying to solve the murder. The performances here are great, not just Poitier, but also Rod Steiger as the racist sheriff who is forced to work with Tibbs, and eventually come to respect him. Coming out in the 1960s, a time when race issues were exploding all over America, this movie was a big deal. Even without all the historical importance, it’s a dang good movie, with an excellent leading actor, and an all-time great tag line, “They call me MISTER Tibbs.”

                                                    No Country for Old Men

The Oscars have a bit of a reputation for picking movies that are “safe”, ones that are not controversial or too off-putting. While there is probably a little truth in that, it can’t be 100%. Case in point, no one could look at a movie like 2007’s Best Picture winner No Country for Old Men and call it “safe”. Written by Joel and Ethan Coen, it’s a very strange movie to become a mainstream hit. It’s a very dark, twisty modern day western about an aging lawman, a small-town Texan who wanders into a drug deal gone bad, a bag of stolen money, and Anton Chigurh, a monotoned, unstoppable hit man who seems to use his stupid haircut to distract people from that fact that he might be the personification of unstoppable killing power. Or death. Or chance. I don’t know, there’s a lot of symbolism in this movie, and a lot of ways to interpret what the movie is about. From a story  standpoint, this movie is bizarre. This movie is just so oddly structured, with long tracking scenes and major events happening off-screen; when the movie ends, it doesn’t end in a dramatic shoot out or a fight, like in most Westerns, it just ends… well, see it for yourself. Some people really hate this movie, but personally, I find it fascinating. It’s beautifully shot and acted, and it’s such an odd version of a modern western that even if you don’t like it, you will at least remember it. And that’s what an Academy Award winner should be above all: memorable.

I have always liked watching foreign films. I know some people aren’t into subtitles, but if the story is good enough, I don’t think it should matter. So I have always liked checking out the Best Foreign Film nominees and winners, and this is definitely an interesting one to try out. It’s a 2004 Spanish film, a winner of Best Foreign Film, about a mechanic who becomes quadriplegic after an accident, and his fight to be allowed to end his own life. While it discusses a lot of the implications and issues surrounding euthanasia, it’s really more a character piece about one man trying to end his life, while at the same time inspiring the people around him to live life to the fullest. I don’t know if it’s my favorite foreign movie winner, but I would say if you are interested in foreign films, or in the issues this movie talks about, this atmospheric film is as good a place to start as any.  
Since the Academy Awards began in 1927, we have had all kinds of films win the coveted Best Picture award. Silent films, westerns, weepy dramas, war movies, period pieces, even the occasional comedy (or dramedy). In all those, there must be something there to like, so if you can’t check out the current nominees, or the Academy Awards show on Febuary 24th, take a peek at the library’s DVDs of some earlier Best Picture flicks. I promise not a single awful remake or sequel in the bunch!

169 Million Pounds of Pistachios Were Consumed in 2010- Did You Eat Your Share?

Map of the United States
You know when you are watching a court room type of show? And the lawyer starts angrily quoting statistics in an attempt to back up their point and make a rousing closing argument that will sway the jury to their side with reason and righteous indignation? Well, those stats don’t just get pulled out of nowhere. And statistics are important to all sorts of people, not just crusading lawyers. Librarians, for one, use them all the time, in helping students with research and in helping faculty who are writing articles. Also, think of how many of your papers have the sentence “statistics say…” in them? When the library’s users need statistics on what is going on in the country, from employment to disease rates to natural resources to manufacturing, it’s good to know that the government is keeping track of all these things, and allowing the public to see them on demand, all in one place. Well, they used to anyway.
Since 1878, the U.S. Census Bureau had published in print and online, The Statistical Abstract of the United States, a summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States. It’s a resource where just about any statistic you could want about American life is pulled together, along with identification of the information’s source, and how up to date it is. However, that all changed in 2011, when budget cuts forced the Bureau to shut down the project, causing panic among many a librarian, researcher, and student trying desperately to get those last few sources into their paper. But there was hope! A company called ProQuest took over preparing the data sets, and are now in charge of the database, ProQuest Stastistical Abstract. And our library has not only connected it in our A-Z Database list, but has also bought the 2013 book edition of the Abstract, with a noticeably larger print size than when the government was putting it out. So what can you now find on this site? 100% of bloggers named Clare will now explain!

When you click on the ProQuest Statistical Abstract database, you can click on any topic you might want statistics on, and it will take you to a list of tables, allowing you to look up whatever you are interested in, and it even gives you the source of the information. And it’s not just the things you would automatically think of, like how many robberies there’ve been or how many people are employed, married, etc., it has things you wouldn’t even think of counting up. How much do you know about the fishing industry? Well, did you know that fishing in the USA has consistently gone up over the last few years, especially in the exports of tuna? Yes ladies and gentlemen. Learn about the amazing world of American Tuna! Oh, and other fun thing we are keeping track of? Hazardous waste! There is a whole chart discussing how much waste we have in the country, and just how toxic it all is. The part that grabs me is the category for  “miscellaneous toxic chemicals”. I really don’t know what that would be, but I am just going to assume they’re out there somewhere, giving some hapless kid superpowers or something. See all the cool, weird things you can learn? You can look at just about anything from deer season to major American theaters to auto parts. You can even get the APA and MLA citations for the data tables you use… I don’t even know if my parents would find those for me. So check it out, if you need information, or are just interested. You never know when you could need a statistic about the growing squirrel population in the Midwest. Or pistachio consumption.



For Science!

Science has done A LOT of great things for us. We’ve gone to outer space, we’ve found cures for various deadly diseases, we can take pictures of the bottom of the ocean from satellites in space, and we can watch YouTube videos of cute animals while we’re in an airplane! That rocks pretty hard. People have always been fascinated by the world around them, and science is a great way to learn more about it, even if you don’t happen to have a laboratory or a giant telescope on hand. What you do have however, is the library’s terrific science resource called Access Science! It’s one of the library’s academic databases found on the Databases A-Z list, focusing on various forms of scientific know-how, including biographies of famous scientists, animations, and academic reports on anything from agriculture to zoology. Even if you don’t take a lot of science classes, this website is fun to explore, and easy to navigate. I am not the most knowledgeable about science, but have always been interested in it, and I am very willing to learn, so let’s take a look around, and I’ll try to look at things besides dinosaurs.

Fine, I`ll get it out of the way. Dinosaurs! On the very front page, the Geological time scale is out front, listing the entire time scale of the Earth, including the eras of the Dinosaurs (there’s a picture of a dinosaur on the link to the scale because, really, that’s all we want to know about), giving a time scale as to when Jurassic Park was less of a Blockbuster, and more of typical Monday, but with less Jeff Goldblum. You can also learn more about my beloved dinosaurs by clicking on the Paleontology button on the Search Science section, and get articles on recent fossil discoveries, and find links to more information and pictures on recently discovered ancient creatures, like Acanthostega, an ancient reptilian animal that is not technically a dinosaur, but I am still counting it! Because everything is better with Dinosaurs! It’s been proven! By SCIENCE!

There are a TON of nifty things to find on this site. Interested in space? There are updates about the Kepler experiment, which is keeping tabs on what is going on in the outer realms of space. Plus animations! Need to use the Periodic Table for your chemistry class? It not only has a virtual table, but also lots of information about each element. Does DNA get you all excited? As it should? There’s an animated DNA strain right on the front page. Articles from respected scientists about archaeology, biology, medicine, psychology, anything you can think of, I bet this has information on. Its articles even have instructions about how to cite them right on the page! Aren’t scientists so thoughtful?

Even though I have usually been more of an arts/writing sort of person, I have also always loved learning about science. In ARTstor, we saw how some of the beautiful, creative things people can create, and in Access Science we see how people have discovered the beautiful, creative things that nature has given us, and that we have created though research and drive. Like I said, we are very curious by nature, and we desire to know more about the world around us, and this is a great place to learn more. Oh, and we like to use science to blow things up. And yes, you can see that on this site too. FOR SCIENCE!   P.S. It’s weird, but only two people can use this database at the same time. Be patient, one of them may take an experiment too far and then it’s your turn.  


Journey into ARTstor

You can find the strangest things on the USI library’s website. It’s like its own mini museum, without the overpriced gift shop. And if you look into one corner, you can click on the library’s own access to  lots of museums and art galleries! It’s the database called ARTstor (find it in the Databases A-Z list.)  And let me tell you, it gets pretty dang eclectic in there! Pottery and clothes and paintings and artifacts, they’re all here! It has things that are pretty, strange, from all over the world, all conveniently put together in a set of collections and displays according to time period, or theme. So I have now decided to have my own virtual art day, to bring you the coolest and strangest bits of art from around the world! Time to put on those hipster glasses and get moving!

                                                    Featured Collections

Right on the front page of the site, there’s a link showing ARTstor’s featured collections that usually have something to do with current events, or have seasonal themes. Or are just new stuff that someone wants to show off, I don’t know. Right now, some of these featured collections include a series of Tibetan and Buddhist art, contemporary architecture with lots of cool squiggles and circles, African art and masks, and Chinese works based around this Chinese New Year, the Year of the Snake. I love these pictures- there’s an amazing Asian style dress with a snake winding from collar to hem! I want it desperately. The collections are full of these cool things, and you should take a peek.

                                                         Favorite Pieces

No real theme here. There are just some parts of these collections that I really like and I want to talk about them! There are two pictures by Jerry Kearns in the visual art section called ‘Jack and Jill’,  one depicting a hot blonde woman standing on a cross looking thing, looking all cover girl hot, except she has robot legs and giant guns for arms and explosions are coming from behind her like she’s the  freaking Terminator. “Jack”  looks pretty much the same. I have no idea what it’s supposed to mean, but it’s awesome. Another piece that caught my eye is a strange horned helmet, from around 51 BC, that has two big horns sticking out of the sides. I know it has a purpose and all, but with its two big horns sticking out of it, and a bunch of fancy vines all over it, it looks like something Hagar the Horrible would wear to a garden party, it’s just great.

Clarence John Laughlin - Elegy for Moss LandThere are also some great paintings and photographs, including a lot of very strange old timey photographs, like one called Elegy for Moss Land, taken in 1941 by Clarence Laughlin, of what looks like the ghost of an old southern house in a bog while a woman…gives it offerings?  If I wanted to buy it online, it goes for over $6000! There’s even a ghost picture called Phantom Man from the Solitary House, also by Laughlin, which has a creepy blob of a person walking by a creepy Hollywood house. Right before that is a picture called Fairyland in Iron and Glass, that I just find so weirdly interesting. It has a slightly creepy but also whimsical quality to it. Also by the apparently awesome Laughlin, by the way. Not into the creepy? Try some other paintings, like a lovely one called Rainy Night, Etaples, which is a slightly impressionistic picture of a rainy street, by Indianapolis native William Edouard Scott.  Or, if you’re in that kind of mood, try Large Plane Trees which is very Van Gough. Mainly because it’s by him, so….logical. All this and more can be seen right here in the ARTstor collections! 

I really wish I had more space, because there are A LOT of fantastic things about here, like giant African tribal masks, and more old time photographs, murals from streets around the world-  there is a ton of art and history here, so give it a look. It’s good for history or humanities projects, art research, pictures for presentations, or just for fun. Adjust those hipster glasses and take a spin, I promise you won’t regret it.