Category Archives: Articles

In Defense of Comics, pt. 5: Understanding Comics as a discussion tool

The biggest problem when discussing comics in an analytical way is determining just what they are. It is easier to talk about how they work than to come up with a solid definition, other than the old “I know a comic when I see it” one.  This is particularly true if you wish the definition to cover most (if not all) expressions of comics.

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, a classic work of the Comics Studies discipline, defined comics as:

“Juxtaposed pictoral and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer.”

In one of the Graphic Novel Discussion Group‘s meetings, McCloud’s definition elicited respect on one level but was hard to defend in toto when combined with some of his other assertions. For instance, his general assertion that writing (the act of inscribing thought in physical space) is distinctly non-pictorial in nature seems hard to defend considering there is a whole species of design – graphic design – that considers writing as a pictorial element (a.k.a. typography). Even within the comics industry, the position of “letterer” has been a long established one and the style of each letterer is often a strong consideration for the development of a particular work’s look.

McCloud violates his own rejection of a single panel as comic (which is asserted on pages 20-21 of Understanding Comics) on page 98 in the third and fourth panels. Granted, he hedges in the next two panels by differentiating between captions and word balloons but I think that’s because the narration is supposed to be framing the picture rather than a part of the world of the picture.  However, it is the introduction of speech and that speech takes time to happen that creates the sequential effect according to McCloud.
[Cartoon by Bil Keane (copyright holder King Features Syndicate), Fair Use]

So with Family Circus, it is clear that the words are actually speech that takes place in the world of the comic. Really, Bil Keane‘s quotes below the panel are just him avoiding using a word bubble. Maybe this is for sound commercial reasons (designated space on the page), for reasons of composition (to preserve the close-up shot feeling of the panel), or simply for reasons of style.

Further, McCloud misses that there is essentially an unbound panel of text next to the panel with obvious borders that has a picture. (At least) two panels = sequence, no? Here the mind moves from one kind of visual element (pictures) to another (type) and creates a connection, right? This would also apply to the sixth panel on p. 98 (if you ignore that there is no “gutter” – or gap – between the picture and the box with text).  His distinction that in-picture indication of sound introduces sound as an element and thus changes things doesn’t seem to add up as traditional forms of comics are a species of visual art.
During the discussion, I personally foundered when trying to separate the art of comics from other arts that use sequential methods/techniques. It’s not that I can’t get behind the idea that they are all just parts of “Art” or human communication – a position vigorously defended by a particular participant – but it seems like that kind of flattens out what makes comics differ(ent). Because when I talk about Watchmen, for instance, I don’t think it would be germane to bring in references to the methods of dance or sculpture or broadcast radio.

Part of it to me is that comics are the product of a particular technology, printing. And, as Marshall McLuhan wrote, “the medium is the message.” (1964) Because comics are creatures of print, our eye works a certain way, time is controlled more by how we read than by some static rate of delivery (such as television or radio), and a certain set of senses (sight and touch) are more dominant than others (smell, taste, and hearing).

I was especially flummoxed when asked about animation. My instinct is to treat animated works differently than more realistic film, to include them directly with comics. But animation is film and any distinction there is really just my own (or a general cultural) bias. They work by static broadcast, by use of light that is projected rather than ambient, and incorporate sound directly rather than by visual approximation (sound effect words, sound motion lines, etc.).

And what you would call Building Stories by Chris Ware?  Is it an architectural comic?  A comic box set?  An elaborate game with intricate pictures? A piece of conceptual art?

These distinctions seem a little silly on the surface but they do matter for no other reason than that of marketing. Being able to determine what to call something often guides the producer towards a target audience (and vice versa). If Building Stories is a work of architecture then it will be sold to schools of architecture and design. If it is just a  comic then it will be sold at places where comics are sold. If it is a game then it will be sold at gaming shops. And if it is a work of conceptual art, there might be an installation at some fine art gallery.

But back to Understanding Comics and the discussion it engendered.  One of the participants in this discussuion commented that he thought that McCloud was at his best when he was discussing the nuts and bolts of comic structure (e.g., explaining things such as conveyance of time via panels and the structuring of a story via panel placement) and also when explaining the artistic level of abstraction used to carry the story (e.g., highly detailed art for personal narratives versus pictographic expression for symbolic works). He thought that McCloud failed to really differentiate comics distinctly from visual art as a whole but that his presentation feels inspiring if one doesn’t dig too deeply, echoing an argument that Dylan Horrocks leveled at McCloud in his essay, “Inventing Comics.” (2001)

Horrocks feels that McCloud is writing more of a persuasion piece, which he deems a “polemic.” [As an aside, this feels like a mild misuse of the term as “polemic” tends to refer to a vigorous disputation of an argument rather than mounting a defense for – or presenting a supporting argument for – a position.] Further, that McCloud is trying to build a justification for comics as serious art, thereby uplifting the community of comic readers from their previous status as scruffy-looking nerf herders. Doing so comes by way of a definition (highlighted in red above) that excludes many other things that comics could be said to be without discussing why those exclusions make sense.

“Nation building,” as Horrocks calls this effort, seems kind of quaint nearly a quarter of century after the book’s first edition. In the intervening time, comics, comic nerds, and comic fans of all stripes have garnered the respect that McCloud was working towards. Comics are regular parts of academic studies and art galleries, and receive high-toned collections of previous works. Comic fans come from increasingly diverse backgrounds and feel no shame in hiding their passions. And comic industry insiders find that their work no longer traps them in the lower ends of the publishing industry.

And while I tend to like the basic idea, I also have felt the need to add a little meat to McCloud’s definition in this series of essays about comics by mentioning both cultural and historical factors that also have made comics what they are today. Even so, I feel like I am still very, very far off getting to just what makes a comic a comic. However, Understanding Comics did give our discussion a great starting place, and my sense of what a comic is was altered through that discussion. For that alone, I would recommend the book for anyone who wants to explore these questions.

Plus, it’s a fun read!


If you are interested in discussing these titles or other works of sequential art, please join LFPL’s Graphic Novel Discussion Group. Meetings are held at the Main Library on the second Monday of every month, starting at 6:00 PM.

At our next meeting (October 9th), we will be talking about Monster Comics!

Savour: Chocolate, En Garde!

“Chocolate knows no boundaries; speaks all languages; comes in all sizes; is woven through many cultures and disciplines … it impacts mood, health, and economics, and it is a part of our lives from early childhood through the elderly years.”   — Herman A. Berliner (Economist and Educator)  

In preparation for a chocolate tasting program, I delved into all things chocolate.  I traveled around the world, into laboratories and bakeries, and through a tour of the senses.  It was a dizzying, yet undeniably enlightening, journey.  I learned that this delightful treat has a colorful and sometimes dark history.  I learned chocolate is powerful force in the economies of several countries.  I learned that rainforests are vital to the continued existence of chocolate.   I learned that chocolate is science in action.  I learned that tasting chocolate uses all the senses.  There were many more nuanced lessons that I absorbed but couldn’t necessarily recall on demand.  This is how any search for knowledge works, at least for me.

I could pontificate upon the many things I’ve learned, but I much rather have a little fun.  Let me challenge you with a little chocolate trivia.

To check your answers you can read all the fabulous books featured below, or you can wait for the answers to be revealed in Savour: Chocolate Tasting, an explanation of how to use all five senses to find your best chocolate(s)….I, for one, can never be satisfied with only one type of chocolate.

Chocolate by Dom Ramsey

 

This book is by far the best all-in-one resource.  It has the nitty-gritty on the agriculture, geography, processing, selection, and tasting of chocolate.  As is the case with most DK books it is full of beautiful illustrations and well placed text.  This books saves the best for last with a section entitled ENJOY.  Enjoy is 49 pages of recipes and beautiful photos of the finished product you, the reader, can make at home.  And if the finished product doesn’t look like the beautiful picture, that’s okay.  In the end, it’s all about the chocolate.

Chocolate: Sweet Science and Dark Secrets of the World’s Favorite Treat by Kay Frydenborg

I have to confess the “dark secrets” made a bigger impact on me than the “sweet science.”  This book is weighted on either end by the history and future of chocolate.  The book opens on April 25, 1947 with four little boys who discover their beloved chocolate bars have risen from 5 cents to 8.  The boys organized a strike, and although it was ultimately unsuccessful, it drove home the point that “life without chocolate had become unthinkable.”  This rolls right into an August 1502 story about Columbus, in which he observes that the Native Americans he has seized are placing great importance on something he describes as “strange-looking almonds.”  What follows is a succinct but engaging narrative of the history and science of chocolate.  The book culminates in a segment titled Chocolate Rainforests and discusses how chocolate might help save Rainforests.

Chocolate: Riches from the Rainforest by Robert Burleigh

This next book, part of our children’s collection, is recommended for readers eight and older.  It has many of the elements of the previous two books, in a much more condensed fashion.  What makes this book stand out is the art and layout.  The book uses geometric shapes, rich colors and a blend of photos, historical artwork and nostalgic ads to keep the reader engaged.  Even the font is color coordinated and varied for impact.  My favorite factoid from this book is that chocolate has traveled from the North Pole to Outer Space and been present in both WWI and WWII as a necessary ration.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of books, rather the core of what was used for the Trivia in this blog and what was featured in our program last year.  Be sure to follow up for more great chocolate related reads in Savour: Chocolate Tasting.

Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power…it is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.” — Justus Von Liebig 1803-1873 (German Chemist)

Formats Available:  Book

Article by Angel, Bon Air Branch

Starting Your Own Book Club

Winter weather keeping you hibernating indoors waiting for spring? Fight cabin fever while you’re trying to stay toasty by forming your own book club. Book clubs are a great way to try out something new with your friends and share ideas

The Louisville Free Public Library has many Book Discussion Kits to choose from with a wide range of authors, genres, and topics. These kits have a longer check out time, so your group has plenty of time to read the book.  The kits also come with discussion questions to help guide you.

You can turn your book discussion into a party with a theme using decorations, costumes, and foods that reflect the story. The best part about book clubs is that you can express any opinion you would like to about a book.

There are many resources to help you find books for your club to read. Besides browsing the library’s catalog to see what book kits we carry, you can also turn to bestseller lists to see what’s currently popular or has been recently popular. The website Goodreads is an excellent source for book ideas. Many readers create lists of books on the site that you can search for by keywords, and they are often quite reliable. Goodreads is also a superb way to keep track of the books you’ve read and the ones you want to read.

An example of one of the book discussion kits the library carries for teens is Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. This book is written as journal entries from the point of view of Miranda, a sixteen year old who is struggling to survive after a meteor strikes the moon. This event causes worldwide disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and severe climate changes. How will she survive in a world with such an uncertain future?

Have your book club read the book to find out.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you don’t wish to start your own book discussion group, the Library has plenty!  You can check out listings of the various groups and their upcoming meetings by clicking here.

Article by Lynn, Westport

The Reading Without Walls Challenge

Gene Luen Yang, creator of works such as American Born Chinese, Boxers, and Saints was appointed National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature this year.  Every National Ambassador picks a platform and Yang chose his to be Reading Without Walls, which means exploring the world through books.

To put this into practice, Yang challenges readers in one of three ways.  He suggests the following:

RWW-Criteria

A further suggestion is that one should read a book that fits all three criteria for the most different reading and the most enriching experience.

Yang also encourages readers when they finish to take a photo of the book (or themselves and the the book) and post it on social media sites with the hashtag #ReadingWithoutWalls in order to inspire others to take the challenge.

Check out his podcast about the challenge.

Article by Tony, Main Library

Classic Adaptations: Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Liu Bei hears Zhuge Liang's plans for dividing the state, but contending for power.

“Should you wish to take the overlordship, you will yield the Heaven’s favor to Cao Cao in the north, and you will relinquish the Earth’s advantage to Sun Quan in the south. You, General, will hold the Human’s heart and complete the trinity.”

Remember, folks, it’s not spoilers if it happened almost two thousand years ago. In this episode of Classic Adaptations, we explore the work that represents the richest mother lode of adaptations I’ve found yet: the classic Chinese novel Romance of the Three KingdomsThere’s a lot of ground to cover here, so I’ll be moving pretty fast, but this is still a really long post.

Note: Chinese names have the form – Familyname Givenname – so that the first name is the family someone belongs to, and the second is their personal name. People who share a family name are, at least in theory, related by blood (or adoption) on their father’s side. There is also the courtesy name also called style, or zi, which was used when it would be impolite to use the given name.

Example: Zhao Yun, styled Zilong.

Is this confusing? Yes, but only for a little while, until you get used to it. The real headache is that some translations use different romanization schemes than others…

 

The History

The Three Kingdoms period followed on the collapse of the (Latter) Han Dynasty, and officially lasted from 220 to 280. Romance of the Three Kingdoms is historical fiction, itself an adaptation of folklore, in turn adapted from well-known history. We’re in for quadruple or even quintuple adaptations, with this classic!

History writing in Han Dynasty China (as in nearly all Chinese states) wasn’t a hobby for the educated, as it was in contemporaneous Rome, it was the foundation of any new regime. Official histories collected the previous dynasty’s paperwork, and stitched these records into a narrative, generally calculated to make the first Emperors of any government look as good as possible, and the last ones as bad and incompetent as possible, to justify not only the current regime, but also the structure of dynastic succession itself.

As to that succession, the one, overarching principle is that of the Mandate of Heaven. Unlike in Europe, where Kings and Emperors were considered God’s regents on Earth, if a previous Emperor had done a bad enough job to provoke natural disasters or uprisings that undermined the stability of the state, then he could be replaced. Anyone who successfully unseated the previous Emperor and united the other Chinese states became the next Emperor, preferably in a formal ceremony, in which the previous Emperor handed over power (and the Mandate of Heaven) to the new Emperor, establishing a new dynasty. A central concern, therefore, is from whom, and on what grounds, a dynasty claims succession of the Mandate of Heaven.

This political bias leads to some fascinating interactions, when this model for history is adapted to fiction. In an official history, someone loses the Mandate of Heaven because he’s incompetent and a bad guy, and the new ruler is, by default, a good guy, because that’s politically expedient for everybody. In fiction, someone’s a bad guy, because it makes a better story that way. Writing a Chinese historical fiction novel could get you into trouble, if you craft a villain out of the wrong person. In this context, it’s not touchiness to read an allegory for contemporary politics into historical narrative, it’s just common sense.

If you want to read more about the history behind this novel, and its many, many spin-offs, there’s actually a fan website that covers many of them, and provides timelines, and a who’s who section, including fan translations of the biographies in the Records of the Three Kingdoms – the official history of the era, written when the Jin Dynasty came to power.

 

The Classic

Romance of the Three Kingdoms

By Luo Guanzhong

Romance of the Three Kingdoms cover image

I own this book. It’s about 800 pages long. See that “Volume I”? You better believe there’s a second volume, just as fat as the first. The introduction is a single page that boils down to “if you have this book you know why you’re here.” I love that.

In all seriousness, though, this is a loooo-oooooo-oooonnng book, up there with Les MisérablesMost translations weigh in at around 2000 pages. Given that the plot spans a century, it goes by FAST, though. Characters can be introduced and killed off within a single paragraph. This isn’t a novel about a close study of individual psychologies, it’s about the grand sweep of history. No time for navel-gazing here. Or romance. If there’s a marriage, it’s about politics, or maybe it’s an assassination plot or honey trap. That’s not to say that the main characters aren’t well developed. It’s just that there’s a couple dozen of them. In a small miracle of storytelling economy, the author lets the actions of these characters speak for themselves, and leaves the rest to the reader’s inference.

Since Luo Guanzhong‘s 15th Century audience for the novel would have been very familiar with this history, he doesn’t change the major events, but rather paints the characters in a heroic or villainous light, to conform to his own era’s biases as to who was the most fit to rule, and often at odds with the official histories, which in turn, were biased in their own way. Five centuries have passed since the novel was written, and we, as readers from a different time, and half a world away, have our own filters to deal with. The choices the author makes, to adapt this history to his own time, and then the reader’s interpretations layered on top of it, mean that a story told primarily through actions develops complex and ambiguous outcomes in the reading – and this is where it gets really interesting.

EXAMPLE: Sun Jian

Qing Dynasty edition illustration of Sun Jian

Qing Dynasty illustration of Sun Jian with the Imperial Seal. Whether he even finds it – and what happens next – depends on the adaptation.

Sun Jian’s character, although not as obviously as some of the others, has been tinkered with by the authors of the novel. He did, apparently, fight a bunch of pirates when he was a teen (!!!). He did, according to his official biography, eventually become a general under Yuan Shu for the Han Dynasty against the tyrant, Dong Zhuo. His biography in the Records of the Three Kingdoms says nothing about the Imperial Seal. In the novel, however, one of his followers finds the seal in a ruined well, and gives it to Sun Jian, who lies to Yuan Shu about finding it (showing how power-hungry Yuan Shu is, and also how Sun Jian harbors ambitions of his own). The novel doesn’t mention that he restored the looted tombs in Luoyang, and also credits his killing of enemy officer Hua Xiong to another character (Guan Yu, incidentally, who got a massive heroism upgrade due to being literally ascended to godhood in the course of intervening centuries, as we will see).

Subtly, fiction molds real, complicated people into emotionally resonant roles in a story.

When the actions that define a character have gained, lost, or changed meaning across time and cultures, however, the real test of a story is how well it can weather such an unanticipated and cataclysmic journey. Romance of the Three Kingdoms succeeds spectacularly, telling a universal and deeply compelling tale, including heroic weeping into sleeves, baby tossing, and the odd incident of virtuous cannibalism.

 

The OTHER Adaptations

It’s hard to overstate just how significant Romance of the Three Kingdoms is in terms of how far it’s permeated the culture of China, and the East Asian cultural sphere in general. If you’ve so much as eaten in an American Chinese restaurant, I can just about guarantee you that you’ve seen a representation of at least one of the characters of the novel. Specifically, Guan Yu, who rocketed to the heights of apotheosis via a heroic treatment in the novel, several excellent Chinese opera suites, and Imperial patronage. The following are just a few of the many, many adaptations of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and each one is definitely worth a look, on its own, with unique perspectives, and takes on each character (who, by and large, were real, historical, living people).

  • Chinese Operas (Too many to count!)
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms (1994 TV series)
  • The Ravages of Time (2001 manhua – Chinese comic book – series)
  • Three Kingdoms 2010 (2010 TV series)
  • Red Cliff (2008 motion picture)
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms (video game series)
  • Dynasty Warrior(video game series)

 

Postscript:

Temporary Guan Gong shrine at the Umbrella Movement barricade.

By David290 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Above is a picture of the improvised Guan Yu temple at a roadblock during the Umbrella Movement protests in Hong Kong in 2014. Although often called a God of War, as if he were an analogue of Ares or Athena, Lord Guan is rather a god of brotherhood in a united cause, and self-improvement by reading literature. Really, there’s no better choice of patron deity for a (mostly) student protest movement.

Highlights of the above picture: under the oranges on the altar, hand-drawn angry chibi-style Lord Guan with an umbrella; to the right of that, a poster with the character model of Guan Yu from the Japanese video game Dynasty Warriors 5! In this image, we have history from the 3rd Century mutating into a novel which spawns a video game series centuries later in a different country, which ricochets back for religious and political use.

God of literacy in a library blog For The Win!

Guan Yu reading

By Fred Hsu on en.wikipedia (Photo taken and uploaded by user) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Article by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

Classic Adaptations: Hamlet

In this installment of the Classic Adaptations series, I seize the opportunity to rant about biological realism in cartoons. Also, it’s about Hamlet by William Shakespeare.

 

The Classic

Hamlet

By: Shakespeare

Hamlet cover art

You know this story, guys, come on. I’m dead certain you’ve seen at least one adaptation, too.

This particular edition is my favorite, with lots of annotations, and scholarly essays and such. You’ll probably need lots of annotations, too, to deal with Shakespeare unfiltered. Even then, most modern editions are kind enough to “correct” the spelling. You’ll probably also notice that Shakespeare’s language is pretty filthy. Hamlet‘s probably the filthiest of his plays, in terms of language, too. (Titus Andronicus is way more gratuitously violent and offensive to the modern tastes, though. There’s a reason it’s not often staged… if it were a movie, it would be NC-17 for Everything.) Let’s just say that “get thee to a nunnery” – in a Tudor (+ subsequent… “unrest”) England when Catholics vs Church of England was Serious Business of the highest order – doesn’t refer to a literal nunnery, and leave it at that. Basically everything Hamlet says, especially to Ophelia, is some form of bawdy innuendo, or just straight-up bawdy. If you haven’t read Shakespeare since high school, just remember: your English teachers may have taught you everything you know, but they didn’t necessarily teach you everything they know.

You know this story, though. Hamlet’s father’s ghost(?) says his brother murdered him. Hamlet (pretends to be insane? actually goes insane?) to lure his uncle, the new king, into a false sense of security, so he can investigate the crime, stall for time, and ultimately try to kill him. Everybody dies. The end.

Countless adaptations have been made of Hamlet, from stage productions to motion pictures, but we will be focusing on just one, in particular.

 

Adaptation

The Lion King

Lion King DVD cover art.

Hamlet cleaned up for kids, with cartoon lions, and a happy ending.

This is, seriously, one of the most successful movies of all time. You know that already. You’ve probably seen it already. Yes, it’s mostly Hamlet with lions. I saw it at a drive-in theater with my family as a kid. The scale was incredible. The animation was amazing. Nothing really matches how big and vibrant this movie feels to watch. They were also pretty gutsy about killing major characters off nearly on-screen. We owned this on VHS, and I saw it almost monthly, for a while, not the least because my brother also liked it.

Here’s the basic plot of The Lion King: Mufasa’s brother Scar kills him and takes over the pride, driving out his son, Simba (Hamlet), who fritters away his adolescence in an oasis with Pumbaa and Timon (Horatio, and Rosencrantz/Guildenstern). Simba sees an apparition(?) of his father which convinces him to return home to defeat his sinister uncle, and take back the pride. Conveniently, the hyenas kill Scar, so that the protagonist keeps his paws clean.

Even now, I’m fascinated by lions, and love animals in general. The Lion King is a great movie, but it definitely doesn’t have anything like realism, regarding its wildlife cast. Let’s learn a bit about lions, and what this can teach us about adaptations.

There’s a few very good reasons male lions don’t return to the pride of their birth, as Simba does. Lionesses remain with their mothers (like Nala does), generally, so that a lion pride is composed of related lionesses, who are all sisters, mothers, aunts, and sometimes grannies of each other. When male lions mature, they are driven out by the resident male. Sometimes, as seen in The Lion King, two or so related males form a “coalition” and work together to drive resident males from a pride, and take their place. On taking over the resident male position in a pride, male lions immediately massacre any cubs they can find. Cannibalism may or may not be involved, depending on how hungry they are.

Labeled picture of a lion pride.

Composition of a pride of lions.

If these were real lions, given the cub massacre, Simba and Nala have to be Mufasa and Scar’s children. They’re at least first cousins on their father’s side. And, given that lionesses are usually related, they’re probably double first cousins. We know they don’t have the same mother, but their father(s) are at least brothers, if not the same individual. Eugh. Don’t even get me started on spotted hyenas, either, although making Whoopi Goldberg the leader was a solid choice: they’re matriarchal. (And have a far more complex and sophisticated social life than lions, too. I could do a whole post on spotted hyenas alone.)

The Lion King isn’t really Hamlet with lions, then. It’s Hamlet – a very human story about a kingdom in distress, and a conflicted protagonist confronted with competing values and ethical systems – as played by emphatically make-believe lion-shaped cartoons.

Common Clownfish

Nature isn’t obliged to follow human expectations.

Did you know clownfish are protandrous sequential hermaphrodites? Now you do. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

In all seriousness, though, taking a look at stories adapted to a telling through animal actors gives us a unique chance to see the limitations and frameworks of our own society and point of view as a species. The advent of computer animation (and limitations of early rendering to perform best with smooth textures) led to a flurry of movies in the late 1990’s and 2000’s starring eusocial insects like bees and ants:

All of these movies portray these insects as if they were human-like societies, with a monarch, and equal sex ratios. But bees aren’t little fuzzy insect people. And there’s no such thing as a male worker honeybee.

Antz DVD cover art

Inaccuracies don’t necessarily make a movie bad.

Bee Movie DVD cover art.

Sometimes, a movie must be inaccurate to be comprehensible, let alone sympathetic and engaging.

I’d argue, though, that most people wouldn’t want to see a movie starring actual, realistic bees. A fantasy kingdom of people in ant suits is far more relate-able than the very real behaviors of honeybees.

Worker bee.

A mature worker bee, doing what she does best: collecting provisions for the hive, and pollinating flowers. Without bees, flowering plants produce no fruit or seeds. This is why you should care about bees.

Could you make a realistic version of The Lion King? As close as possible to “Hamlet With Lions”? Sure. But I doubt anyone would care what happens to Mufasa if they see him slaughtering and eating lion cubs.

P. S. – Support your local pollinators!

Article by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

Timeliness: Ten Books About Racism

OK, I’m going to get real for a moment.

A topic like racism is always difficult, most especially in print (in my opinion).  On one hand, you don’t want it to devolve into a screed because the topic is too important to let get lost in gobs of alienating rhetoric.  On the other, it is exactly that this topic is important that you don’t want to let the emotional import of it get lost in a dry examination, especially so in a time such as we currently face when some attempt to strip out emotion for their own purposes (be those reasons good, bad, or indifferent).

Let me be very clear.  Like it or not, racism exists.  It is a part of our daily existence whether we wish to consciously participate in it or not.  This last point, one’s conscious participation is the very bone – and also the bane – of contention in most debates.

So why not dig into the topic and see what you can learn?

Below are ten books that you can find in the library that can help you explore this topic*:

  1. Burning All Illusions: Writings from The Nation on Race, 1866-2002, edited by Paula J. Giddings
  2. A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki
  3. How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev
  4. A Promise and a Way of Life: White Antiracist Activism by Becky Thompson
  5. Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
  6. The Redneck Manifesto by Jim Goad
  7. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
  8. The Wall Between by Anne Braden
  9. White Awareness: Handbook for Anti-Racism Training by Judy Katz
  10. White Like Me: Reflections on Race From a Privileged Son by Tim Wise

*These selections are not meant to be the definitive statement on such a complicated social issue.

Of course, I welcome suggestions for additions to this list or for general comments on the topic as a whole.  If you wish to respond,  please click the “Leave a reply” link above.  Please remember that this forum is one that will not publish profanity, racially-charged slurs, personal attacks, or threats of any nature.

Article by Tony, Main Library

 

Will in the Ville: Celebrating All Things Shakespeare!

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Will in the Ville is a collaborative initiative—spearheaded by the Frazier History Museum, University of Louisville, and the Louisville Free Public Library—involving more than 45 arts, cultural, and educational organizations throughout Louisville and Southern Indiana. As part of the international commemoration of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, it aims to make Louisville a “city of Shakespeare.”

Shakespeare events begin in April and continue throughout 2016. The celebration culminates with the arrival of the national traveling exhibit, First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, on display at the Frazier History Museum from November 10–December 10, 2016. The exhibit—co-hosted by the Frazier, UofL, and LFPL—is made possible through a grant from the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Cincinnati Museum Center, and the American Library Association and is traveling to all 50 states. Louisville was selected as the representative site for the state of Kentucky.


Community Partners


frazierAbout the Frazier History Museum: The Frazier History Museum is located at 829 West Main Street on Louisville’s downtown “Museum Row.” This world-class museum provides a journey through more than 1,000 years of world and American history with ever-changing and interactive special exhibits, daily performances by costumed interpreters, and engaging programs and special events. The Frazier is open Monday–Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5:00 p.m. For more information, visit www.fraziermuseum.org.

UL_primary_CEHD_wbAbout University of Louisville: The University of Louisville is a state-supported research university located in Kentucky’s largest metropolitan area. It was a municipally supported public institution for many decades prior to joining the university system in 1970. The University has three campuses. The 287-acre Belknap Campus is three miles from downtown Louisville and houses seven of the university’s 12 colleges and schools. The Health Sciences Center is situated in downtown Louisville’s medical complex and houses the university’s health-related programs and the University of Louisville Hospital. The 243-acre Shelby Campus is located in eastern Jefferson County.

Library Logo color w white spaceAbout Louisville Free Public Library: The Louisville Free Public Library’s mission is to provide the people of Metro Louisville with the broadest possible access to knowledge and information and to support them in their pursuit of learning at all stages of life. LFPL is the largest library system in Kentucky, serving nearly 4 million visitors annually at our 18 locations and on the web at LFPL.org.

About Folger Shakespeare Library: Folger Shakespeare Library is a world-renowned center for scholarship, learning, culture, and the arts. It is home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection and a primary repository for rare materials from the early modern period (1500–1750). The Folger is an internationally recognized research library offering advanced scholarly programs in the humanities; an innovator in the preservation of rare materials; a national leader in how Shakespeare is taught in grades K–12; and an award-winning producer of cultural and arts programs—theatre, music, poetry, exhibits, lectures, and family programs.

Learn more at www.folger.edu

About Cincinnati Museum Center: Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) at Union Terminal is a nationally recognized institution and national historic landmark. Dedicated to sparking community dialogue, insight, and inspiration, CMC was awarded the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 2012. CMC is one of only 16 museums in the nation with both of these honors, making it a unique asset and a vital community resource. Union Terminal has been voted the nation’s 45th most important building by the American Institute of Architects. Organizations within CMC include the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children’s Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science, Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX® Theater, and Cincinnati History Library & Archives. Recognized by Forbes Traveler Magazine as the 17th most visited museum in the country, CMC welcomes more than one million visitors annually.

For more information, visit www.cincymuseum.org.

About the American Library Association: The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

ALA’s Public Programs Office provides leadership, resources, training, and networking opportunities that help thousands of librarians nationwide develop and host cultural programs for adult, young adult, and family audiences. The mission of the ALA Public Programs Office is to promote cultural programming as an essential part of library service in all types of libraries. Projects include book and film discussion series, literary and cultural programs featuring authors and artists, professional development opportunities, and traveling exhibitions. School, public, academic, and special libraries nationwide benefit from the office’s programming initiatives.

Additional information can be found at www.ala.org/programming.

About the National Endowment for the Humanities: Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.

Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.

Cozy Mysteries: What’s the Deal?

Many readers more than likely assume that all mysteries are the same.  That’s not true mysteries are as unique as their fiction counterparts.  There’s the classic detective story, the traditional suspense, as well as the murder mystery, the police drama just to name a few.

Then there’s the cozy mystery subgenre, which is a whole different type of mystery.  Think Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote.  Don’t let that fool you – these aren’t your grandmother’s mysteries.

Jessica-Fletcher

Another way to look at cozy mysteries is basically that they are Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys for grownups.  So if you loved those series as a kid and want to continue reading similar books but know that you don’t want to read kids’ books as an adult then cozy mysteries are the perfect alternative to getting caught reading adult books.

The main character in a cozy mystery – the mystery solver – just happens to be an average citizen with no police, or detective experience.  Many times they work to so solve the mystery because the local law enforcement is incompetent or they are a family member or friend have been accused of the crime, and they want to clear themselves or some else as quickly as possible.

There is a cozy mystery out there for just about any reading taste. Cozy mysteries have a cast of characters though on average it tends to be heroines.  They can have any type of career, the following of which are but to name a few:

There are quite a few cozies that feature librarians as the hero or heroine, such as the Library Lover’s Mystery series by Jenn McKinlay.  There’s even a series or two that have a cat helping to solve a mystery, the Cat in the Stacks series by Miranda James and the Lighthouse Library Mystery series by Eva Gates.

There’s a cozy mysteries for every reading type, and there’s one for you.  If you’re not sure where to start just stop in at any library and the reference staff will help find the right cozy for you.

Article by Carissa, Main Library

Beat Cabin Fever

Now that the weather’s actually acting like winter after a gray and soggy December, Cabin Fever is starting to set in, but spring won’t be here for a few months. Here’s four things you can do to beat cabin fever, and get yourself through to the spring thaw.

Get Organized

Don’t wait for spring cleaning to get organized, channel all that squirrelly energy you have right now into getting your living space in shape. Ditch the stuff you don’t need. Tidy up the things you do need. Do just a little bit a day, and feel productive and smug. Smugly productive.

Seriously, though. This book is better than any 10 books on "cleaning" out there. I mean, for real, get ORGANIZED.

Seriously, though. This book is better than any 10 books on “cleaning” out there. I mean, for real, get ORGANIZED.

Make checklists, and post them where you have to deal with them – physically touch them – every day. I post mine on a whiteboard with my daily schedule on it above my wall calendar, and put active checklists on top of my laptop. There are apps for this sort of thing, too, with reminders, and checklists, but those are easily disabled, or ignored. I’m talking about changing your behavior. A physical checklist forces you to deal with it.

Think about processes: “what do I do with and in my space?” Analyse behaviors: “why do these behaviors happen, and how can they be improved?” When dealing with an item while cleaning, don’t think “what should I do with this?” think “Triage.” If it’s DOA, ditch it.

Learn a New Skill

Your library is stuffed with books that can teach new skills, from the ground up.

You like snuggly scarves and warm mittens, and fuzzy sweaters. Everybody does.

crochet

Learn to crochet and make some.

afghans

Make an entire afghan.

amigurumi

Make stuffed animals.

Make cozies for things. Make cozies for everything. If you don’t have a couch-side holster for your remote controls, you should make one. Your exercise bike doesn’t have a drink rest? Make one. That’s what you can do with a new skill: use it in creative ways to improve your life. Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to pay people to maintain your computer for you? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could alter the couch to match the walls? Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to get someone in to patch that hole in the drywall?

Fix Things

You won’t want to find out why the bathtub drains slowly when it’s April and sunny. Get in there right now with a pipe snake and fix it. If you don’t know how, then learn how:

dare to repair

You’ll feel better.

I dragged a wad of hair out of the bathtub drainpipe once that was the size and weight of a sodden guinea pig. I should have sold it to a circus. Fixing it felt GREAT. (And probably saved a truckload of money, which felt even better.) Fix everything you can indoors while the weather’s bad, and there will be less to deal with later. The more organized you are, and the more skills you have, the more time and effort and money you can save. Get organized now, and fix small problems before they become big ones. It’s easier that way.

(I’m not lazy: I prefer “efficient.”)

Make Plans

Plans give you something to look forward to, to work toward. They’re the best kind of leverage out of the depths of the mid-winter dumps.

Plan a garden.

Plan a garden.

Plan a road trip.

Plan a road trip.

Make any kind of long-term, complex plan you want. It’s even better, if you make it with friends. They’ll keep you to it. You know what goes great with complex, long-term plans? Organization and checklists.

Article by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch