Shall I Compare Thee to a Blog Post?

It’s almost that time of year! No silly, not Spring! It’s almost time for poetry month! April is National Poetry Month, and as a huge poetry dork, I could not be more excited! If you’re interested in learning more about poetry before I start clogging my blog with poetry books, I have a great place for you. It’s, a great site for readers just getting interested in poetry, or for long time fans who want more works to look at. It also gives more information on National Poetry Month, and ways to get ready for it. Created by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, NPM is dedicated to celebrating poetry and its place in American society. Publishers, writers, schools, librarians, and fans all come together to spread their love of poetry with the world, and not just through pickup lines and Facebook statuses. Sounds cool right? Just click on the National Poetry Month link and it will show you the history of the event, frequently asked questions, and 30 ways to celebrate throughout April. You might read a poem while eating, put poetry in random places around your house to read, slip a poem in a letter or card to a friend, sidewalk chalk a poem, or attend a poetry reading. And those are just a few of them!
Poem In Your Pocket DayIf you want to find some good poetry, this website can help too- there are galleries and lists of poems to read, and authors to look at. Offerings range from classic pieces and authors, to more contemporary works. It also has specialties, like poems for teens, most popular poems, and poems for puppy dogs (alright, not really… but that would be cool). Even better, you can sign up for a “poem a day” email. Just put in your email address, and every day you get a new poem, some new, and some old, and some in between. Maybe even use one for the Poem in Your Pocket project, where poetry lovers carry around a favorite poem to share with friends and family, or post on Facebook. You can also share your poem selection on Twitter by using the hashtag  #pocketpoem. Any of this sound good? Stop by the website, and see what you can find. Even if you don’t consider yourself a poetry fan, I can guarantee you will find something you like, or at least get pointed in the right direction. And be prepared, because this is just the start of the poetic fun! And if you ask real nicely, I might actually attempt to write my own blog poem! Now, what rhymes with “grammar errors”…?


Spring Time for Hoosiers

So did you know that it’s Spring? Yeah I know, I keep forgetting too. But no matter what the weather is like, Spring is here, and so is Easter! Eggs, chocolate, bunnies, chocolate bunnies, the whole thing. And as usual, I am here to enhance all that holiday fun with books! Books with poetry, books with lessons, and books with bunny rabbits! Lots of bunny rabbits. So join me in hopping down the Bunny Trail (I’m sorry, just one Easter pun I promise!) as we look at some of the ways to celebrate Spring (especially if you’re a talking rabbit).

This is a classic Easter book written back in 1939, about a cute little rabbit who wants to be an Easter Bunny. Thankfully, she lives in a Rabbit society where there are snobby rich white rabbits with monocles and overconfident jackrabbits who mock little country bunnies when they aren’t being beaten in races with tortoises, and five Easter Bunnies who are chosen by the great Grandfather Bunny, who lives in the Palace of Easter Eggs. How people haven’t caught on to this magic rabbit society I`m not sure, but whatever. She wants to be an Easter Bunny, but she is both a hick country rabbit, and a girl, so that’s never going to happen. So she gets married and does what all rabbits do: has a million babies. Does her bunny army make her dreams impossible? This is a fun little story, and surprisingly modern, with its girl power motif, and message that being a Mom or being a simple country girl shouldn’t stop someone from living their dreams. It’s a fun little piece of late 30s fun, when even though the country was a mess, kids could still read about the magic Easter Bunny world, and the little bunny that could.

                                                                                     Dandelions by Eve Bunting

Did you ever read the Little House on the Prairie books? It was one of the first book series I ever read as a kid, and it sort of left me with a bit of a soft spot for covered wagon “prairie style” stories. There was something about the great expansive outdoors, and the little family trying to make it in the great outdoors as the grass blows in the wind and the great sun sets in the West. This might be why I liked Dandelions, a children’s picture book about a family moving out to the prairie and trying to survive. But what I really love are the pictures. It’s beautifully drawn, with lots of great colors and pictures of the prairie and the sun and flowers growing. To me, I always associate this sort of story with Spring. The fresh start, the flowers symbolically blooming on the prairie (this happens in A LOT of these sorts of stories), and the importance of the great outdoors. And if nothing else, it will give an appreciation of pretty colors, and your GPS (you could get really lost on those prairies.)

Walden  by Henry David Thoreau

So you might have read some of the things written by Thoreau in some English class, and you may or may not remember it. Thoreau was a 19th-century writer, naturalist, and philosopher who was really into nature and how being in the outdoors could help your emotional and political life. He wrote a lot of things in his life, on a TON of topics, but his favorite subject was nature, and his favorite thing was Walden Pond. Walden Pond is actually not a pond at all, but a pretty sizeable lake (much bigger than you would expect reading this book- I’ve been there, and I swear it’s huge) in Massachusetts where Thoreau lived alone in a cabin for a while. If you want to do some reading about the importance of nature, and the beauty of Spring, this is a good place to look. Thoreau’s writings are generally quite accessible, and he has a lot of interesting things to say about a variety of things, but I love his stuff about Spring on Walden Pond. To me, while it’s not exactly poetry, it’s pretty darn close. Nowadays, Walden Pond is a big tourist place with gift shops and a beach, but it’s still easy to find a nice quiet place to enjoy the outdoors. And that is kind of the point of Spring right? Just sit back, relax, and watch nature do its thing.

So, Spring time. I hear it still exists somewhere. Even if the weather out there right now might not scream Easter Bunnies or pretty flowers, we can at least look to books to think about a time of flowers blooming, and flood warnings on the Ohio. Whether you feel like kids’ books, or some philosophical rambling by a transcendentalist loner, there are plenty of books out there to cure that case of pre-Spring fever. Or at least spend some time questioning an Easter Bunny-based government while chilling at a pond that’s actually a lake. Oh, and from this blog’s title you thought I was going to write about basketball, didn’t you?



Rockin’ Movies, Marlon Brando, and Awkward Attempts at Film Adaptation and Censorship

All my life, I have loved movies. All sorts of them, from comedies to drama, from explosion-heavy action flicks to artsy foreign films, I can find something to like in pretty much any genre imaginable. I also love talking about movies. How the movies we create reflect the culture or place or time period they’re made in. At their best, films can teach us about ourselves and the world we live in, as well as transport us to somewhere else. Seriously, don’t let me corner you at a party; I can go on about films in a cultural and sociological context for hours (stay tuned for my epic post “America, Humanism, and Pop Art in the World of Michael Bay”). Turns out, there are lots of authors out there who love this stuff as much as I do, but they have credentials and talent and stuff. So check out some of these movie books in our Reference section, and see just how important film can be. Or at least, you can keep up with your hipster film major cousin at the next family reunion.

                                                Forbidden Films

I am not a fan of censorship. Are there movies that I think are disgusting, exploitative, and downright offensive? Oh yeah. But at the same time, people have the right to make them or watch them if they want to. It is a free country after all. And I feel like Forbidden Films backs this up. It details the histories of 125 movies that have been censored for various reasons, and by different people. Some of them, like the infamous Lolita (banned from multiple theaters and given a special SUPER hard R for being a movie about the pseudo- sexual relationship between an old guy and a young girl) are kind of understandable.  However, some of them are just baffling to me. Like, people trying to ban Schindler’s List for being “too disturbing, violent, and sexual”. Yeah, disturbing images in a movie about the Holocaust. Never could have seen that one coming. Or the mass protests by Christian groups about Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, a controversy that would have made more sense if the protests had happened AFTER anyone saw the movie, and realized half the stuff they were protesting wasn’t even in the film. If this sounds interesting, give this book a try, and make up your own mind. Plenty more great films are mentioned that someone, somewhere, wanted to keep from the rest of us.
                                                                      The Rock & Roll Film Encyclopedia

And speaking of people who hate censorship…rock & roll! Yes, movies and music have gone hand in hand for ages. Music in movies has been important ever since they were putting orchestras into silent movie theaters. And eventually, they started to make movies about that crazy new swing the kids are all grooving to: ROCK! This book lists a colorful variety of rock related movies, some about actual rock stars (The Doors, Sid and Nancy), musicals like Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Grease, and movies that have rock as a major element, like The Commitments, and American Graffiti. It gives some information about each film, and talks about the music that each one offers, and it’s a pretty diverse group. It describes classics like The Beatles’ ground breaking Hard Day’s Night, or the infamous Mariah Carey bomb Glitter (which not even the book’s writer can help but snark on); there’s something for everyone here. So if you love both the power of rock and the power of film, turn on your favorite Springsteen song and start reading!


                                                   Novels into Film

Remember that blog I wrote 100 years ago about adaptations? Turns out, we have a whole reference book about the magical world of book-to-movie adaptations! Where the previous book I described was about fusing music and movies, this is fusing movies with books. Like the other reference books, it lists movies from A to Z, flipping through a number of genres and time periods, as long as they are films that were once books. It came out in 2005, so it’s a bit out of date, but there are still plenty of movies to choose from. Even movies that people forgot were adaptations at all. Did you know The Godfather was a book first? Or Forrest Gump? This book discusses the differences and similarities between a novel and its film adaptation, as well as why certain changes were made in adapting the source material. Like, did you know that when Francis Ford Coppola was making Apocalypse Now, they had to almost entirely redo Marlon Brando’s villain role because he had gained so much weight? There are lots of stories and interesting facts like that in this book to entertain you, especially if you watch most adaptations screaming “WHY WOULD YOU CHANGE THAT?!?!”! Adaptations are not easy, but to learn how Hollywood does them, give this book a look (before it gets its own HBO series).

Like I said at the top, I love movies. And talking about movies. And writing about them. In fact, we have even more reference books about movies that I just didn’t have time to talk about here! There is a lot to say about all these subjects, and if you want to learn more, check these books out. If you love movies, books, music, or other issues surrounding those things, get reading. Or just wait until the film versions come out. With a funky indie soundtrack.



Living with Disabilities Through the Power of Rock (and other things)

In my other blog for Disability Awareness Month, we looked at scholarly material in book chapter form , with lots of facts and data about people around the world living with disabilities. They had some personal stories, but they were often short, and if you want to understand what life is actually like for people with disabilities, I feel like you should read full stories about them. There are great nonfiction and biographical stories out there, but at this library, some of the best accounts are in YA (Young Adult) fiction stories. Go figure. Maybe the reason these stories work so well is that none of them are really all about being disabled. Most of them are more coming-of-age stories that just happen to have main characters who are deaf or have cerebral palsy or something. Others are a bit more…dramatic. Which is the best approach to take? Judge for yourself!

                                       Five Flavors of Dumb  by Antony John

This is a coming-of-age story about a teen girl dealing with school, her family issues, and getting ready for college. She is also the manager of a teenage rock band (it’s set in Seattle, so of course) that she is pretty sure is a total mess. She can’t be 100 % sure though, considering she’s deaf. The book has two major storylines, one with the band (and her attempts to get five vastly different people to come together), and her story with her family, mostly with her troubled brother (who can hear) and her deaf baby sister, for whom her parents get cochlear implants so that she can hear. Oh, and her parents used money from her college fund to do this. Ouch. Our main character, Piper, is a likable protagonist, who is often pulled between the subculture of deaf Americans, and the more mainstream world of rock and roll.  Hardly a tragic victim, she’s a normal girl, with issues and flaws and humor, who just happens to be legally deaf. In fact, most of the book has nothing to do with her disability; it’s more about her relationships with her band and her family. It’s a relatively light story about hearing aids, family, and the power of her music helping a young woman grow up.


                                                                 Reaching for Sun   by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

This is less of a traditional story than the last one, mainly because the whole thing is told in poetry. But hold on, don’t let that scare you off! The poems, told in accessible free verse, are used to tell the story of Josie, a 7th grade girl who lives in an aging farmhouse with her grandmother and her well-meaning but nagging mother. She also has cerebral palsy, so she has trouble moving one side of her body, and saying certain words. She has trouble making friends, until she meets a new boy named Jordan, who she becomes friends with. It’s a lyrical sort of book, with the problems Josie has being tied up in metaphors and similes, often linking to gardening or nature, the settings where she feels most comfortable. Like the previous book, it’s not about feeling bad for the main character and her struggles, it’s just about a young girl living her life and trying to figure out her place in the world, while feeling self-conscious about what makes her different.


                                        Stuck in Neutral  by Terry Trueman

Remember how I said some of these books were more dramatic than the others? This is a big one. It’s told from the perspective of 14-year-old Shawn. He likes music and cars and girls, and is a normal teenage boy. Except one big thing. No one knows he likes these things, because he has very severe cerebral palsy from brain damage at birth, and can’t move, feed himself, or even talk. Everyone thinks that, in his head, he has the intellect of a 3 month old, when in actuality, he is highly intelligent, funny, and even optimistic. Oh, and he thinks that his father might be trying to kill him. Not because he hates him, but because he thinks he is constantly suffering. And there is nothing Shawn can do to stop him. It’s not an easy book, it talks about how families deal with children with severe disabilities, how society in general deals with them, and most of all, euthanasia. Look, I am not going to talk about who is right and who is wrong in this story, or about euthanasia, but man, this book will get to you. It’s a short read, but by the time you get to the last chapter, it packs a huge freaking punch.   

The point I am trying to make is that these books might not be true stories, but they very well could be. There are millions of people all around the world right now living with physical and mental disabilities, some extremely severe, others more manageable. Some of them might be into rock music, or gardening, or just imagining. While these are all Young Adult books, they have a lot to say to people of all ages, whether you have experience with disabilities or not.  

The Facts, Stories, and Myths of Disabilities

So, it turns out that March is not only National Women’s History month; it’s also National Disability Awareness Month. This means I get to write about more awareness related stuff! Anyway, the purpose is to share information about disabilities, be they physical or mental, to dispel stereotypes, and to learn how individual people have dealt with living with disabilities. In this blog, I am going to be looking at one book series, Disabilities:insights from across fields and around the world, that has three volumes, shelved in Reference on the first floor. And yes, I am going to be looking at all three of them, examining experiences, cultural issues and stigmas (pleasedon’t get your knowledge of mental illness from TV’s Law and Order), and the more practical and legal ways people deal with these issues. And no, I don’t think many people deal with them through being “inspirational” in a made for TV Hallmark movie. So let’s get started!

                                                    Disabilities (The Experience)

This first book is the most informational, defining what constitutes a “disability”, how they are caused, and what that means for individual people and society at large. Each chapter has a different author and a different topic, all somewhat based around information on specific types of disabilities. It ranges from “But Stroke Happens to Older People Doesn’t It?” a chapter about people in their 30s or 40s dealing with the physical and emotional aftermaths of suffering a stroke, to “Disability in Arab Societies”, a chapter about…people with disabilities in Arab societies. Both of these chapters combine general information as well as personal stories. If you’re reading this book for a paper, it also has lot of references at the end of each chapter, telling where the authors got all their information, as well as where to find more. As a start to this book series, it’s a good way to begin, laying out the groundwork for the later books that get into more details of the issues discussed. And it is a much better way to get information on normal people living with disabilities than whatever is being shown on some procedural this week.

                                       Disabilities (The Context)
 This book, while in the same series with the same themes, covers environmental, social, and cultural considerations. Where the first book was defining what exactly a disability is, this is more about how society reacts to them. Governments around the world have long struggled with how to help people with disabilities, and how much they can and should help. Or, how much people with disabilities even want help. In one chapter, called “Autonomy and Disability: A Quest for Quality of Life”, the author discusses how people with disabilities have fought to be treated like anyone else. It’s more about people with disabilities who want to be independent. More importantly, it asks how society can support people with various disabilities who want to live independently, especially children who want to learn to eventually function as adults. There is another chapter about a nurse who changes her whole perspective on research and disabilities when her brother is in a car accident and becomes brain damaged. It also provides a very harrowing look into what families go through when someone gets a brain injury, and how little support they receive in health care settings. Yeah, this book is not always super cheerful, to be honest. But, it’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be both informative, and personal. And this one is personal in ways that the last one was not.

Disabilities (Responses)

So this is the third in our trilogy, and the one that combines both the elements of the series, the personal stories and the facts. It is also the book that goes abroad a lot, looking at treating disabilities in elementary students in Greece, cancer related disabilities in Canada, and the increasing issues of disability in Sri Lanka, among many others. It’s mostly facts, but they’re woven into personal stories, which I think is an interesting way to talk about these issues. Plus, people don’t always think much about how different countries deal with disabilities, and it’s interesting seeing how different cultures have tried to deal with things. While the second book was about society, this one is more about political issues. It deals less with how society or individuals manage physical or mental issues, and more with how countries and governments deal with them. Some of the chapters are more like the first book, just lots of information, while some are more like the second, and are more personal. Which one is your preference? Doesn’t matter, because there are plenty of both!

All three of these books provide both information and personal stories about living with various disabilities. And with disabilities, it’s important (again, I feel like I keep repeating this)to talk about these things. People who have issues mentally and physically have long been unfairly stereotyped and overlooked, as either weak or “crazy”. The only way to for people to really get over that is to get information, and also to hear actual stories of real people who face these problems every day, and just live their lives, with turning into the killer of the week on CSI, or some awful inspirational Lifetime movie. The real life stories are much better, and rarely subject us to painful adult contemporary soundtracks.  

A Few of My Favorite Things

Do you have a favorite place in Rice Library? Besides Starbucks, of course. I’ve spent a lot of time here in the library, even before I worked here. I get WAY too distracted in my own apartment to do much in the way of homework, and this place has tons of computers and books and even more interesting distractions, so it’s an ideal building to find a place to actually try to accomplish things. And, honestly, when I first came to USI on a campus tour, one of the things that really sold me on the school was its big, fancy library. I don’t know if it’s normal to select your place of higher education partially based on how much you dig their sparkly new library, but it is kinda what I did! OK, so it opened in 2006 and isn’t so brand-new anymore…but you have to admit it’s impressive! Oh, and I came to USI for the excellent English program, competitive price range, growing campus, and friendly faculty and students, but the library was a big plus! And really, my love of this library has never really ended. Over my (many) years here, I have discovered a few places in particular that I just love, and now that I am about to graduate, I’ll share my thoughts on these places to read, places to relax, and just parts of the library that I really like. Think about what your favorite places are, while I show you some of mine!
                          The University Archives
When I think of a classic library (ancient books, wise and mysterious librarian, couple secret passageways) the Archives on the third floor are sort of a miniature version. Lots of old books, some on the rare side, and archival records, with old-timey looking chairs and tables. It has lots of collections as well, especially of USI and Evansville history, like an enormous collection of old USI yearbooks (yeah, we used to have yearbooks- go figure) and a display of USI articles and advertisements of the past. I just like looking at things there, smelling the old book smell (it’s a thing I swear), and just being there in the quiet. If you think you might fall asleep, just stare at the funky carpet to wake up. Yeah, a lot of people don’t really know about the Archives, so when you go its usually pretty quiet and peaceful. And one of these days, I swear I am going to find that secret passageway.
                                                                                     Browsing Periodicals Section
In the Periodical Browsing Section, the part of the library right by the newspapers and magazines, is another part of the library that I am pretty fond of. Whereas the University Archives are quiet and out of the way, the section on the first floor by the magazines, right near the Promised Land (Starbucks) is part of the library’s busiest, noisiest floor. Where The Archives are contained and cozy, this place is big and full of echoes because it’s open to the ceiling of the second floor. It’s got huge walls with big windows, so it’s filled with light and sounds. It also has the magazine racks, which have everything from Catholic Digest, Newsweek, or Rolling Stone, to the previously mentioned Ms. Magazine. It has lots of big, comfy chairs to sit in, and tables to study on. I just really like doing work here. It’s quiet (still a library) but also right on the main floor where the most is going on, so it’s not too out of the way. More importantly it also has that cool wooden staircase that goes up to the second floor, leading to a balcony at the top, where you can gaze down at the whole section and enjoy the pretty views, or just creep on people. It’s actually my favorite part of the section, so go to the top of the staircase and be prepared to creep.
                  Grand  Reading Room
Alright, you know that story I told in the beginning about coming to USI because I loved its library? And how I said I was kidding? Alright I was, but this place? This room? Honest to God this is a huge reason I started paying more attention to USI. You know on the second floor, that big blue room, with the giant walls, and big windows, that’s so dang quiet every time you open the door you feel like you’re smashing through a forest?  When I went on my fist campus tour, I looked through the windows on the third floor down into this room  (it’s a really cool view) and I was in love. Well, I was more in shock that a school had such a giant room for students to study in (I didn’t get out much apparently). But you know what? I still love this room. It’s so quiet it can almost be a little unsettling, but once you get used to it, it’s just very peaceful and easy to relax in. It’s also a great place to hear musicians or speakers, but mostly, I just find it incredibly tranquil. Yes it’s been years since that first visit, and my first look at the Rice Library, but dang it, I haven’t stopped loving this room, and when I leave, I still might have to sneak back just once to take one last look.
So, I am graduating in May. It’s a big deal, and I’m excited and all, but it also makes me look back at my time here. I have spent a TON of time in the library, and it’s weird to me that in a while, I won’t be here anymore. I won’t stand in line for ages at Starbucks, or scan through the archives, or read a magazine by the first floor windows, or study in a giant blue room. I’ll have moved on. And for all the long nights here studying, and all the times the printer has jammed or the study rooms are all being used by one guy on a laptop, I have had a lot of great memories here. So, explore the library, and make some great memories of your own, because trust me, it moves way faster than you think. Maybe you`ll find that secret passageway in the Archives that I know must be there.

Les MS!

Have you heard of Ms. Magazine? Some new blog, or fem crit book? Coming out in the wake of this whole War on Women thing we keep hearing about? Well, look back a little bit more. Ms. is a feminist magazine co-created by famous feminist Gloria Steinem in January 1972. The feminist movement had been going on for quite some time at that point, but there was a lot of work yet to be done. For the record, feminism is a collection of ideologies and movements that strive to create equal rights for women. It’s NOT about angry female liberal arts students burning their bras and screaming about “evil male patriarchal phallic symbols.” Just to get that out of the way. Anyway, Steinem and other like-minded feminists decided they wanted to create a magazine written by women, for women, about women’s issues. At first, publishers expected it to be a sort of proto HGTV/ Better Homes and Gardens sort of magazine, but boy were they wrong. The first issue sold out in just days, dealing with topical women’s issues like abortion, women getting less pay then men for doing the same work, lesbianism, and the general struggles of women (it also had Wonder Women on the cover, which is pretty cool). This was a huge deal, and the magazine stirred up both controversy and praise. And guess what? It’s still in print (and online) today!

While Ms. isn’t quite the force it was back in the 1970s, it’s currently trying to appeal more to young people, and figure out its relevance in today’s culture. In my opinion, its writers still seem like they have some important things to say. In the issues I’ve read (including the 40th Anniversary issue, which recreates the famous Wonder Woman cover), they have covered everything from domestic abuse, women involved the in Occupy Movement, women’s issues abroad, women voters, and yes, the War on Women. If you don’t know much about that…it’s a touchy subject for a lot of people, so I would encourage you to do your own research. Maybe grab an issue of Ms. Magazine? The articles are interesting and well written, and I like the variety of issues they discuss. It’s not all politics and social reform, there is also information about female writers, politicians, and tech geeks that are just fun and likable. And it doesn’t really fall into that unfortunate “all men are EVILLLLL” thing that seems to seep its way into some feminist discussions. At least, I didn’t notice anything in the stuff I read, and I have only read the very recent issues. Like with all things political, I can’t tell you what to think about its feminist/liberal tendencies, or really get into what I personally think about the issues discussed. Beyond, you know, women should be equal to men(which I REALLY hope most people already think) and they should have more representation in government and the media in general. And despite all the talk about equality, women STILL make only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. And domestic violence is really bad. Again, hope you just kinda know that. There, I talked about my personal political views on the internet. Come at me bro!
But for real, I haven’t read every issue, so I don’t know if I agree with every article ever written here. I don’t even know if I totally agree with every article I have actually read. But, I’m glad I read them. As I have said before, when it comes to political and social issues, we need to at least talk about them; even if you disagree, or the subjects are awkward to talk about, talk about them we must. I had heard vaguely of the magazine and its relevance in the 70s, but I was surprised to see how many of the issues they discussed then, still seemed fresh in these newer copies of the title. So, 40 years later, is Ms. Magazinestill relevant? I would say a very enthusiastic yes. Issues facing women are far from over, and neither is the importance of Ms. Find the latest copy in the library’s Browsing Periodicals area on 1st floor (and yes, they even have the 1972 issues!)