Resolutions and Remembrance

January is traditionally the month to make resolutions, and to remember the past year.  In Roman mythology there was a god named Janus who represented beginnings and endings.  The month of January was named for him.  He is depicted as having two faces.  One face is to look to the future and the other is to gaze upon the past.  As we start this new year, we are going to remember some of the people we lost in 2016 along with giving some suggestions for resolutions for 2017.

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A statue depicting Janus

  • 2016 was a tough year in terms of losses.  In January alone we lost over 20 notable individuals including David Bowie and Alan Rickman.  February saw the passing of literary legend Harper Lee.  I personally remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird in the 9th grade.  Former first lady Nancy Reagan passed away at age 94.  Country fans mourned the loss of Merle Haggard in early April.  Just a few weeks later the State of Minnesota mourned the loss of our beloved Prince.  Landmarks all over the city (including Metro State) were lit in shades of purple.  In May, we lost another Beastie Boy when John Berry lost his fight with dementia.  June took boxing’s greatest legend, Muhammad Ali, and Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, from us.  Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor passed away July 2 at age 87.  In August we lost R2-D2  and Willy Wonka when Kenny Baker  and Gene Wilder both passed away.  The LGBTQ community lost a member upon Alexis Arquette’s death in early September and the golf community lost legend Arnold Palmer in late September.  Actor Michael Massee died in October.  November 7th was a hard day, Janet Reno and Leonard Cohen both died that day.  December went out with a bang taking real life astronaut John Glenn and Star Wars princess Leia, Carrie Fisher along with George Michael and Debbie Reynolds.  For a more thorough list of people we lost in 2016 check out wikipedia.

Now lets take a peek through Janus’ other face and look to the new year.  Everyone makes resolutions for the new year.  According to Dictionary.com one of the definitions of a resolution is as follows:

n. the act of resolving or determining upon an action, course of action,method, procedure, etc.

If you haven’t chosen any resolutions for this year we have a few suggestions.

  1. No more fake news.  Check your sources every time you read and re-post.  If you need help telling the difference check out our Fact or Faked blog from November.
  2. Read more!  Whether you have your own books-to-read list or you are picking from Time magazines top 100 (or some other list) get that nose into a few more books this year.  Reading to your kids (if you have kids) is a great way to get them into books too.
  3. Play more games.  Did you know gaming is good for you?  Check out this TED talk by game designer Jane McGonigal and come out to our 3rd Tuesday gaming nights at Metro State Library for bonus points.
  4. Make more time for yourself.  Taking time for you is an important part of mental, emotional, and physical health.  Whether you prefer hitting the gym or meditation, make a little more “me time” in your schedule.  Check out our blog about de-stressing for suggested relaxing activities.
  5. Learn a new language.  Pick a language you’ve always wanted to understand and commit to learning it.  There are lots of free language learning websites out there.  Check out Duolingo, Openculture, and LearnALanguage for a start.  You can also check out your local community ed. flyer for classes in things like sign language.

Hopefully 2017 will bring you joy, knowledge, and perspective in life.  Good luck with those resolutions and remember that a stumbling is not the same as failing.  Get up and keep going.

About the Author

Mallory Kroschel is a Information Commons Specialist at Metropolitan State University Library.

Winter Reads

Need something to cozy up by the fire with this winter break?  Check out our specially selected collection of winter reads.  Our staff has combed through their favorite winter break books to bring you this collection of hot chocolate and fuzzy slipper worthy reads.

A Man In Full by Thomas Wolfe.

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Cover of A Man in Full from Wikipedia.com

“Set in the racially mixed city of Atlanta Georgia during the mid to late 90’s, A Man in Full tells the stories of Charles Croker, once a college football star, now a late-middle-aged Atlanta conglomerate king whose outsize ego has at last hit up against reality, Conrad Hensley, idealistic young father of two, star Georgia Tech running back Fareek “the Cannon” Fanon, and upscale black lawyer Roger White II who is asked to represent Fanon in the accused date-rape of the daughter of a pillar of the white establishment. A Man in Full will keep you intrigued with networks of illegal Asian immigrants crisscrossing the continent, daily life behind bars, shady real estate syndicates, and the cast-off first wives of the corporate elite.” from Tom Wolfe’s website.  Grab a blanket and a cup of tea before you tuck into this book.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

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Cover of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo from Amazon.com

A mystery/thriller set in Sweden in the winter.  If you decide you like it, there are two more books in the original series and a fourth book that is an offshoot of the original three.  Bundle up and grab a nip of something a little stronger to get in the mood for this book.

“I’ve had many enemies over the years. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s never engage in a fight you’re sure to lose. On the other hand, never let anyone who has insulted you get away with it. Bide your time and strike back when you’re in a position of strength—even if you no longer need to strike back.” – Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Mitten by Jan Brett and The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

Two great picture books for cold winter days, The Mitten and The Snowy day are sure become winter read favorites.  One tells the tale of chilly animals that are trying to make space for everyone to keep warm, while the other tells of a boy out for a snowy adventure in the city.  These are great stories to read aloud to little ones or just to yourself while you’re cuddled up with blankets and hot cocoa.

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Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak.

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Cover of Doctor Zhivago from Amazon.com

During the turbulent times surrounding the Bolshevik Revolution, Yuri Zhivago struggles to retain personal agency, but is ensnared in political machinations beyond his control. Throughout his life, Yuri is entranced by Lara, eventually choosing her over his wife and children before ultimately losing Lara as well. Though bleaker than the classic film, the novel is just as memorable.

East by Edith Pattou.

Written for young adults, East retells the Norwegian folktale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” combined with elements of “Beauty and the Beast”. In East, a mysterious polar bear promises Rose health and good fortune for her family if she leaves them behind to travel with him through deepest winter to a ice castle in the wilderness.

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen.

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Cover of Winterdance from Wikipedia.com

Gary Paulsen’s great adventures in northern Minnesota learning how to run sled dogs and ultimately running the Iditarod twice in Alaska are just as exciting as any of the stories he pens for kids and funnier than one might expect.

The Chronology of Water: A Memoir by Lidia Yuknavitch.

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Cover of The Chronology of Water from NPR.org

“This is not your mother’s memoir. Lifelong swimmer and Olympic hopeful Lidia Yuknavitch accepts a college swimming scholarship in Texas in order to escape an abusive father and an alcoholic, suicidal mother. After losing her scholarship to drugs and alcohol, Lidia moves to Eugene and enrolls in the University of Oregon, where she is accepted by Ken Kesey to become one of 13 graduate students who collaboratively write the novel, Caverns, with him. Drugs and alcohol continue to flow along with bisexual promiscuity and the discovery of S&M helps ease Lidia’s demons. Ultimately Lidia’s career as a writer and teacher combined with the love of her husband and son replace the earlier chaos that was her life.” from hawthornebooks.com.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

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Cover of The Name of the Wind from patrickrothfuss.com

“Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen.

The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature.” – Goodreads

If you are searching for something to keep your brain sharp amidst the warm fuzzies above, here is a book for you.

ADHD Nation: Children, Doctors, Big Pharma, and the Making of an American Epidemic by Alan Schwarz.

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Cover of ADHD Nation from Amazon.com

“In ADHD Nation, Alan Schwarz examines the roots and the rise of this cultural and medical phenomenon: The father of ADHD, Dr. Keith Conners, spends fifty years advocating drugs like Ritalin before realizing his role in what he now calls “a national disaster of dangerous proportions”; a troubled young girl and a studious teenage boy get entangled in the growing ADHD machine and take medications that backfire horribly; and big Pharma egregiously over-promotes the disorder and earns billions from the mishandling of children (and now adults).

While demonstrating that ADHD is real and can be medicated when appropriate, Schwarz sounds a long-overdue alarm and urges America to address this growing national health crisis.” – from Simon and Schuster.

A Man in Full recommended by Nancy Kerr, Circulation Technician.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo recommended by Dylan Haris, Library Technician.
The Mitten and The Snowy Day recommended by Mallory Kroschel, Information Commons Specialist.
Doctor Zhivago, East, and Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod recommended by Martha Hardy, Librarian.
The Chronology of Water: A Memoir by Lidia Yuknavitch recommended by Chia Vang, Student Worker.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and ADHD Nation: Children, Doctors, Big Pharma, and the Making of an American Epidemic by Alan Schwarz recommended by Katherine Gerwig, Information Commons Specialist.

Fact or Faked: Tools for Spotting Fake News

Before the election the issue of fake news was on few peoples’ radar. Since the election it has become clear that fake news sites are out there, their content is shared widely, and they create an environment where it is nearly impossible to tell fact from fiction.

62% of Americans get at least some news from social media. While Facebook and Google are looking into how they can limit the reach and impact of fake news sites you are still likely to come across news stories with very little basis in fact. Or unbelievable headlines that don’t describe the story they are linked with (click-bait).

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Here are a few things you can do to keep the spread of fake news down to a minimum:

Fact-check. The most time-consuming of the suggested actions but also the most effective. With some practice it becomes easier to identify fake news. Here are some things to look for:

  1. Does the article’s headline evoke an emotional response? Click-bait sites use headlines with strong language and information that seems unbelievable.
  2. When a headline makes you question its veracity, read the article. Does the article cite sources? Are those sources reliable? Click on a few links in the article. Do those links take you to reputable sites with news that corroborates the other article?
  3. Are other media outlets reporting the same story? Typically, when something big and unbelievable happens more than one media outlet will pick up on it. Whether liberal or conservative the same story will appear but with a different spin.
  4. Use sites like FactCheck.org, Politi-Fact, and Snopes.com. Liking one or two of these sites on Facebook and adjusting the settings on them so you see them first is a helpful way to aid you in spotting fake news.

Don’t share articles you haven’t read. At some point we’ve all shared an article based solely on the headline. This can spread misinformation and fuel fake news sites. For anything you think you want to share, at least click into the article and take a quick skim.

Politely call out articles you know are untrue or click-bait. When you spot a friend or acquaintance posting an article from a fake news site, politely engage with them and let them know the article is fake. I have seen this done in some very respectful ways on people’s pages. If you don’t want to make your request public, you can always message them.

When sharing a satirical article describe it as such. Misinformation and fake news is also spread through misunderstanding of the type of media outlet that is producing it. An article from The Onion may have a very convincing headline and be taken as real news to those who aren’t familiar with it. I must say there have been times I have done a double-take on one of their posts.

Banned Books Week

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Banned Books Week starts Sunday September 25th 2016 and runs all the way through October 1st 2016. Banned Book Week was started to celebrate the freedom of reading.

The St. Paul Public library and the Metro State library will be hosting a banned author book signing on Saturday October 1st from 3-5 pm.  Noted local authors including Pete Hautman, Phyllis root, and Marion Dane Bauer will sign copies of their books that have at one time been challenged or banned.  Authors will also answer questions about their experiences with censorship.  Their books will also be available for purchase.

These are their books.

Pete Hautman wrote Godless, a young adult novel in which the main character invents his own religion after becoming frustrated with his fathers Catholicism.  The book was removed from summer reading lists at Oxford  High School in Mississippi after complaints about the books perceived anti-religious themes.

The book Big Momma Makes the World by Phyillis Root was challenged in 2013 by North Elementary School in Longview Texas.  The book was deemed offensive to religious sensitivities and end ended up being restricted.

On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer is the only book out of these three that was challenged and retained.  In Iowa it was challenged due to profanity and vulgarity.  In Pennsylvania parents disliked its “depressing” subject matter.

In addition to these three books,  at least 11,300 others have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association. (ALA)  Here are some of the most popular books that have been challenged over the years.

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One of the most well-written books, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, is centered around racism based in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama.

The Lord of the Rings, a fictional book, was banned because of its fantastical adventures, and what the book stood for. Even if this book did not mention God or any other religious beliefs it struck controversy.

One of the most popular contemporary series, Harry Potter, was banned due to the fact that it was based on witchcraft. The rule-breaking children in the series setting a bad example for the children who read these books was a concern as well. These books were banned not only in the United States but also in the United Kingdom.

Beloved, written by Toni Morrison, was one of the few books banned because of the sexual content in the book, violence, etc. This powerful novel was based on the true story of a real slave who had to make a life or death decision.

Many of the books that people challenged were considered offensive in one way or another.  The ALA states that “Often challenges are motivated by a desire to protect children from ‘inappropriate’ sexual content or ‘offensive’ language.”  The top reasons listed for challenging materials as reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom are as follows:

  1. the material was considered to be “sexually explicit”
  2. the material contained “offensive language”
  3. the materials was “unsuited to any age group”

For more information about banned books check out the Banned and Challenged Books section of the ALA website.

Star Wars: The Magic of Myth by Miles Cabana

With the next chapter of the Star Wars saga fast approaching, this timeless epic is reigniting the passion of Star Wars fans both past and present and offering a new generation of fans a chance to experience the magic so many of us grew up with. In anticipation of the new Star Wars release, I have created a book display that pays tribute to the Star Wars saga as depicted in the History Channel’s episode “Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed.”

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As a modern epic, the Star Wars saga takes the viewer on a cosmic journey imbedded within classic literature, mythology, history, and religion. Star Wars is based on what is known in classic literature and mythology as the hero’s journey, which is seen in classic tales such as King Arthur, Perseus, and Hercules. Within this motif, the hero usually starts out naïve and innocent and is eventually called to action to perform a great feat that seems nearly impossible. Sometimes the hero may have powers they do not yet know about and they are usually given a special weapon or weapons by a mentor to aid them on their quest. Throughout their adventure, the hero will also make unlikely friends that assist them as the hero is forced to prove their mettle through the completion of a series of difficult tasks. However, in the end, the hero must ultimately face their calling alone.

While Star Wars certainly embraces the motif of the hero’s journey, it also draws on other aspects of classic literature such as the “looming father figure” in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Moreover, the father and son conflict between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader is very similar to how Zeus fights with his father in Greek mythology. We also see connections to Paradise Lost with the Luciferian fall of Anakin Skywalker from good to evil. This fall from grace leads to the creation of the Emperor’s evil Frankenstein-like monster in the form of Darth Vader. Star Wars even references classic literature such as the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid several times over throughout the saga.

The one-two punch of classic literature and myth in Star Wars is enough to get any fan excited. However, George Lucas doesn’t stop there; he also turns to history to spice up the movie. When it comes to the Empire’s Imperial troops, Lucas directly calls them stormtroopers, which is a clear parallel to the feared Nazi “stormtroopers” of World War II. Lucas also uses lessons from history in politics when depicting the destruction of the Galactic Senate and the formation of the Galactic Empire. The fall of democracy and the rise of a dictatorship through the use of “emergency powers” is another direct reference to the Nazis and how Hitler took over Germany. This depiction of the destruction of democracy also harkens back to the reign of Julius Caesar and how he dissolved the Roman senate to consolidate power in himself as the gold-like Emperor of Rome. Furthermore, Lucas uses the history of the Roman Colosseum games in his scenes with the pod races and the execution of prisoners in the great arena.

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Star Wars also touches on religion with its representation of the force. The force is the living energy that gives Jedi and Sith their power. The force is very similar to what is known in Buddhism as chi. To master the force, the Jedi and Sith must undergo very strict mental and physical training similar to Buddhist monks. This strict form of mental and physical training allows the Jedi and Sith to reach what would be considered zen in Buddhism. Once the student has reached this state, they have full command of the force (their chi). The Jedi and Sith also abide by a warrior code of honor that is very similar to the Japanese Samurai code of Bushido.

I hope this blog post has been enlightening and that people have a chance to more deeply explore some of the literature embedded in Star Wars. To see a visual of some of the connections to these disciplines made in Star Wars, please come visit the book display on the second floor of the library. The display will be featured until the end of December.

Don’t forget to stop by the Library for the Star Wars Party, 2 – 4 on Saturday, December 12th.

May the force be with you…

“Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed.” Narrator: Robert Cotworthy. The History Channel. Prometheus Entertainment. DVD. 2007.


About the Author

miles

 

Miles Cabana is a Library Helpdesk Assistant at Metropolitan State University.

Dressing Up for Halloween by Allison Cole

Halloween is that magical time of year where you get to be someone completely different, without having to worry about things like identity fraud or law suits. We have set up a spooktacular display on the second floor of the library to help you get into the spirit. Curl up with a good read and escape into a magical work or simply watch a few eerie films to get a good costume idea!

Want to go on a magical journey? Browse these titles:

Seeking costume inspiration? Check out these films:

Speaking of literary and film inspired costumes – we will be having a social media costume contest for Metro students from October 15 – October 31, 2015 that you can get the scoop on here.

About the Author

Allison

Allison Cole is a Library Helpdesk Assistant at Metropolitan State University.

Summer’s End by Martha Hardy

School is back in session for grown up students and little kids, too. The humidity is gone and the first leaves are turning colors. Maybe you already feel nostalgic for the State Fair? Check out these books from the Metro State Library about Minnesota fairs, farms, and food.

Minnesota Fairs

Book cover of Minnesota State Fair: An Illustrated History Book cover image of Minnesota County Fairs: Kids, Cows, Carnies, and Chow Book cover of Seed Queen: The Story of Crop Art and the Amazing Lillian Colton

Minnesota Farms

Book cover image of Hit by a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn The Chronicle of a Family The Haymakers: A Chronicle of Five Farm Families

Minnesota Food

Book cover of Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories, and Recipes from the Upper Midwest Book cover of A Cook's Tour of Minnesota Book cover of The Minnesota Ethinic Food Book

About the Author

Martha


Martha Hardy is a Reference & Instruction Librarian and Associate Professor at Metropolitan State University.