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Friday, April 30, 2010

Please, No Boxing in the Library.

I know librarians are usually reserved folks, but I can’t wait to watch Floyd Mayweather, hopefully, beat the stuffing out Shane Mosley Saturday night. I can’t fully explain why, but I truly love boxing. I like the bragging, the showboating, the introductions. I love the managers, the pre and post fight interviews, and I love the violence or, even more, the anticipation of violence. But, more than anything, I love the characters in the sport. Boxing attracts huge personalities and, luckily for us, it also attracts some talented writers. If you need to get your bloodlust going, come down to MLC and find a book that gets you ready for fight night.

The book I recommend is The Best American Sports Writing of the Century, edited by David Halberstam. Halbertsam’s book covers many sports but devotes several excellent essays to boxing. One of the best is Norman Mailer’s Ego, first published in Time magazine. Mailer offers several great passages including this one explaining the physicality of the sport:

“There are languages other than words, languages of symbol and languages of nature. There are languages of the body. And prizefighting is one of them. There is no attempting to comprehend the prizefighter unless we are willing to recognize that he speaks with a command of the body which is as detached, subtle, and comprehensive in its intelligence as any exercise of mind by such social engineers as Herman Kahn or Henry Kissinger.”

I don’t even know who Herman Kahn is or was but I love that description! This is just a small example of how well Mailer is able to explain the sport’s complexities. Another excellent example comes from Tom Boswell’s essay, Pain. Boswell writes:

“But boxing never changes. One central truth lies at its heart and it never alters: pain is the most powerful and tangible force in life. The threat of torture, for instance, is stronger than the threat of death. Pain is priority. It may even be man’s strongest and most undeniable reality. And that is why the fight game stirs us, even as it repels us.”

Now, if that doesn’t get you ready for a good old fashioned bloodletting, I don’t know what will! If you’re a fight fan, or any sports fan, you can find Halberstam’s book and many more here at MLC. Who says bookworms can’t kick a little butt every now and then?

Halberstam, David (ed). The Best American Sports Writing of the Century. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999. p. 714 &457

Thursday, April 29, 2010

O Wikipedia!

Today I would like to wax poetic about the great, misunderstood Wikipedia. Is it reliable? Yes. Is it unreliable? Sometimes. Is it entertainment for the whole family? ALWAYS.

One reason Wikipedia gets a bad rap is that it’s written by the common folk. Anyone--including you--can add or edit articles on Wikipedia. You need no special qualifications to do so. As more and more people join in as writers, there is, of course, more room for abuse. However! Don’t let this deter you because there are several things about Wikipedia that are pretty great.

One: there are sources listed at the bottom of each entry (or there should be, anyway). I went to Wikipedia recently and clicked the “Random Article” button (this is super fun, especially for coming up with blog post topics). I landed on “Obstructing the field,” which apparently is a term relating to cricket (the sport, not the insect). If I were answering a reference question about cricket, I would NOT cite my source as Wikipedia. Instead, I’d scroll to the bottom of the page and see that the article has some external links, one being “The official rules of cricket” from the Marlyebone Cricket Club’s website (they have been the official “custodian” of the cricket laws since 1787). I would be much more comfortable using this as a source of information, but it’s possible I wouldn’t have found it without Wikipedia pointing me in the right direction.

Two: Many of the entries are on obscure items. While you could easily find a biography of George Washington in Wilson Biographies, History Reference Center, or a number of other databases on MAGNOLIA, you may run into trouble finding a biography on Jughead Jones of Archie Comics in those places. Have you ever wondered how much Jughead weighs? Wonder no longer: some Jughead aficionado claims that he is a trim 140 pounds. This is, for me, the magic of Wikipedia: someone who has obsessively read Archie comic books can share his knowledge with the world, and if he is wrong, then another Archie fan will log in and correct him.

Three: Wikipedia is an endless loop of entertainment. While this may not be the most helpful item reference-wise, Wikipedia often sucks me in. After I read the Jughead article, I had no choice but to read about Betty and Veronica too. (Did you know Betty has an older brother named Chick? Me either.)

This article about Wikipedia from the July 31, 2006 issue of The New Yorker, “Know It All,” is a great read, on top of being informative. MLC also has a copy of The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World’s Greatest Encyclopedia by Andrew Lih if you’re interested in checking it out (or getting it via ILL).

Feel free to leave juicy details about all of Archie's gang in the comments.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

E-Magnolia

If you’re currently looking for work, or trying to make yourself more marketable to employers, you should visit E-Magnolia.org. E-Magnolia is supported by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security with the goal of helping Mississippians obtain online degrees and certificates. The program offers certification in areas deemed critical to Mississippi’s workforce needs. Students can take classes relating to health care, information technology, construction, and office administration. All classes are available online and financial assistance is available for those who qualify. This is a really great service that only three other states are offering. It’s not often we can say that Mississippi is on the cutting edge of something so I’m hoping all residents will try to take advantage. Also, soon you’ll be able to reach E-Magnolia through our recession resources page. It is a great resource for Mississippians looking for work.
I promise this will be my last unemployment blog. A co-worker called me a “Debbie downer” the other day. That hurt.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Seeing is Believing (But Don’t Believe Everything that you See)

Last week marked the 98th anniversary of the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic. It struck an iceberg shortly before midnight on April 14, 1912.  Nearly three hours later in the wee hours of the morning, the Titanic slid beneath the water’s surface and crashed into the ocean floor 2 ½ miles below. Thanks to James Cameron, nearly everyone is aware of the basic facts surrounding the disaster. While Hollywood is great for introducing topics and events to viewers on a large scale, historical portrayals from tinsel town often omit many facts and are even blatantly inaccurate sometimes. On that note, here’s some trivia to help you flesh out your knowledge of what is often (debatably) considered history’s worst maritime disaster.


  • The Titanic was labeled unsinkable not by her builders or owners but by a shipbuilding journal.
  • The company that owned and operated the Titanic, White Star, still exists – sort of. White Star merged with rival Cunard in the 1930s. Cunard is still very much in business, operating as part of Carnival Corporation. Current Cunard ships include the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria.
  • After the sinking, many conspiracy theories concerning the Titanic popped up. One claims that the ship was deliberately sunk for insurance reasons. Another claims that the Titanic was switched with her sister ship, the Olympic, at some point. According to this theory, it was the Olympic that actually sank rather than the Titanic.

Some of the real stories of the Titanic rival anything that Hollywood writers could dream up. Take the story of Violet Jessop, for instance. She survived collisions onboard the Titanic and the Olympic, as well as their sister ship, the Britannic. Jessop was onboard the Olympic when the ship collided with the British warship H.M.S. Hawke off the Isle of Wight in 1911 (both ships survived); she survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912; and she escaped the sinking Britannic after it struck a mine off the Greek isle of Kea in 1916.

It’s important to keep in mind that the primary purpose of movies is to entertain (and make money, of course). Educating the audience is good, but it’s usually only a secondary goal. After all, Hollywood movies aren’t documentaries. What you see on the screen probably isn't the whole truth, and some of it may be complete fiction. If a topic really interests you, do a little research on it.  Try looking beyond the silver screen for facts to satisfy your curiosity and fortify your knowledge!

Jessop, Violet. Titanic Survivor: Memoirs of Violet Jessop, Stewardess. Charnwood, 1999.
Titanic Historical Society, www.titanic1.org
Encyclopedia Titanica, www.encyclopedia-titanica.org

Friday, April 16, 2010

David Foster Wallace's Dictionary; Sylvia Plath Audio.

Here are a couple of book-related links for your Friday.

This article from Slate lists all the words the late David Foster Wallace circled in his dictionary. As wordlovers (shouldn't there be a better word for this? I will consult the OED and get back to you), we found this fascinating.

The British Library just released audio of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes talking about their marriage. Again, this is fascinating! (We like the part where Plath talks about the cat.)

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Libraries in Mississippi? Inquiring Minds Want to Know.

A few minutes ago, I responded to a Meebo patron's question about the number of libraries in Mississippi. I'm not certain if our Meebo patron received my response, but just in case he or she didn't, here is the answer again:  We have 611 libraries in Mississippi. 

Here's a break down of the types of libraries:

Public Libraries: 234
Academic Libraries: 31 (16 4-year institutions; 15 2-year institutions)
High School Libraries: 346

If we missed each other before, Meebo patron, I hope this reaches you without incident!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

History’s Mysteries, Crimes, and Oddities

I’ve joined my colleagues in all weeding fun, and while I found the first set of books I tackled lackluster (fish farming isn’t really a favorite subject of mine), the set I’m currently working on has been absolutely enthralling. Right now, I’m working my way through a section containing books about American crime throughout history. One book I’ve found, A Pictorial History of American Crime, combines two of my favorite subjects: old photographs/illustrations and history. Before I even cracked this one open, I knew I’d be spending a little extra time with it. The book chronicles 50 of some of the most bizarre, shocking, and mysterious crimes to occur between 1849 and 1929, including:

- The story of a woman who conned millions from American banks by pretending to be the illegitimate daughter of wealthy businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie

- The tale of an heiress who went missing from 5th Avenue in broad daylight

- A stunning photograph of New York Mayor William J. Gaynor as he was shot by a disgruntled city employee in 1910.

One of the most surreal tales sounds more like a horror movie plot than reality. Between 1871 and 1873, the Bender family of Labette County, Kansas ran a roadside inn where they routinely murdered and robbed guests who stopped by seeking rest during a lengthy journey. In the Benders’ home, a canvas wall separated the dining area from the bedroom, and the Benders would have their guests sit with their backs to this wall. One of the family members would find an excuse to go to the bedroom. The absent family member, from behind the canvas wall, would smash a sledge hammer into the skull of the unsuspecting diner, killing him. The family would then drag the victim under the canvas into the bedroom, rob him, strip him, and drop him into the cellar through a trap door. Later, they would bury the body in the large pasture behind their house. Creepy, but true. These twisted acts continued until a man who was searching for his missing brother, discovered the graves.

Unfortunately, no one knows for sure what happened to the Benders. By the time the bodies were discovered on their property, they family had fled the area. One theory is that an angry posse found the family, killed them, and kept the murder-profits for themselves.

I wonder if anyone has written a book or made a movie about this, yet? I think Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, and Wes Craven could have a field day with this one.

Churchill, Allen. A Pictorial History of American Crime, 1849-1929. Holt, Rinehart and Winston: New York, 1969.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's The Season For Sneezing

  1. Vernal equinox come and gone? Check.
  2. Thick coating of yellow-green powder covering everything outside (and most everything inside)? Check.
  3. Sneezing, itchy eyes, sinus pressure, etc..., etc..., etc...? Check!
That's right, folks! It's pollen season again! About 60 million Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis every year (http://www.aaaai.org/) and I'm one of them. I came across a few granules of pollen knowledge in this great resource we have, Airborne Allergens: Something in the Air, that I think you need to know.
  • Pollen count is essentially how many individual grains of pollen can be found in one square meter of air in a 24-hour period. You can find your local pollen count at http://www.pollen.com/allergy-weather-forecast.asp and http://www.weather.com/activities/health/allergies/. Jackson's pollen count today is 10.8. Yes, that's high!
  • Ragweed pollen has been found up to 400 miles out to sea and as far as 2 miles up in the sky.
  • Did you know that "because pine pollen is heavy, it tends to fall straight down from the tree"? Because of this, "it doesn't scatter in the wind" and "rarely reaches human noses." It just makes a huge mess!
  • Just one little ragweed plant can produce one million grains of pollen in a day.
By the way, I'm one of the many who hopes and prays for rain so that it will wash away the pollen. According to Dr. Gailen Marshall, that spring cleaning only lasts about twelve hours before the pollen is back! Are you sure you want to go to the trouble of washing your car?!

http://www.aaaai.org/media/statistics/allergy-statistics.asp
http://www.mpbonline.org/content/allergy-season-0
US Department of Health and Human Services. Airborne Allergens: Something in the Air. National Institutes of Health, 2003.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Get Outside! (to read)

Is there anything better than taking a good book outside and enjoying this wonderful spring weather? I think not. Reading is the best way to soak up some Mississippi sun and pollen. If, though, you’re like me and always concerned about your delicate skin, you should consider picking up a book of short stories for a quick trip outside. And, wouldn’t you know it; the Mississippi Library Commission is the best place to find that perfect book. You can find stories by Eudora Welty, John Cheever, Tim O’Brien, Flannery O’Connor, and countless other famous and not so famous authors. We also have collection of subject specific short stories. Do you like science fiction stories, detective stories, ghost stories, or stories about growing up in the South? Well, we have books that feature each. We even have books that will help you write your own short story. So now you have no excuse. Check out a book this weekend and enjoy some lovely sunshine.