Mooresville Public Library

Mooresville Public Library
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Saturday, July 31, 2010

MPL Music Video #4: The White River, by Danny Buckley

Today's music video installment highlights "The White River," from the instrumental music CD Through Abstract Eyes, by Danny Buckley.


MPL Video Productions
MPL Readers' Advisory
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us

Friday, July 30, 2010

MPL Music Video #3: L'Arbre Fleur de Cerisier by Danny Buckley

Here is another of our music videos featuring the instrumental music CD Through Abstract Eyes, by Danny Buckley. In this piece (track #3 from the album), the world traveller, who is suffering from degenerative myopia, visits the lands of cherry blossom trees.


This video was created using iMovie software (Mac), and so the credit sequence is shorter than for our videos using Windows Movie Maker software. To assure proper attribution for the images used in this video, here are the credits:

IMAGES used in the video above courtesy of WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

"Stretching Black Cat ... & Cherry Blossom Trees" © 2009 by Hisashi.

"Cherry Blossoms Tree" © 2007 by Shayan (Sbn1984).

"Row of Cherry Blossom Trees in ... Hirakata-shi, Osaka, Japan" © 2007 by Masahiro Nishiguchi.

"Cherry Blossom Tree Near Bulguksa" © 2009 by Myllissa.

"Cherry Tree Blossoms" © 2006 by Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"Yoshino Cherry" © 2009 by Nicu Buculei.

"Street Blossoming Cherry Trees, Yakushidai" © 2010 by NRRH.

"The Astral Sleep" © 1998 by Jeroen van Valkenburg.

"Yoshitsune & Benkei ..." (1885) by Yoshitashi Tsukioka.

"Girl With Cherry Blossoms" (c. 1890) by Tiffany Glass & Decorating Co.

"Hirosaki Castle" (1935) by Yoshida Hiroshi.

"Three Courtesans Stroll Amidst Cherry Blossoms" (1797-1803) by Utamaro (Brooklyn Museum Online Collection).

"Cherry Blossom Viewing at Gotenyama Hill" (1791-1797) by Eishi Chobunsai (Brooklyn Museum Online Collection).


We hope you enjoy both the video and the music. Your feedback and comments are welcome and appreciated.

MPL Video Productions
MPL Readers' Advisory
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Three Afterlife Books by Reliable Authors

When I was about three years old, my mother ushered my brother and me next door to visit a dying neighbor one last time before she passed. My recollection of the event remains vivid, although I no longer recall the neighbor's name. There was a strange odor as we entered her bedroom. A crucifix was nailed to the wall above the bed. Our neighbor was calm, apparently free of pain, and remarkably lucid. (She was not medicated; our mother had assured us that she was not "sick" in the sense of having a contagious illness but instead was dying naturally from old age.) Our neighbor's voice was kind and reassuring as she told my brother and me to be good children. Her face actually appeared to glow; this was clearly visible, as the room was darkened by down-turned window shades. I can see her face in my mind as I write these words.

My brother and I had been terrified when we approached our neighbor's deathbed. My mother had only said that she was dying and wanted to say goodbye. We were afraid that death's hand might grab us, too, so we were frightened. Seeing and listening to our neighbor, however, calmed us. The feeling I recall was one I now recognize as awe. She was at peace with dying, and she was certain, I now know, that, although her body would soon be still, she would be traveling on a new journey beyond her body.

That clearly was not obvious to my brother and me, however. We had never seen a dying person before, and soon thereafter she passed. All we knew was that we were never going to see her again in the only way we knew her--in a physical body. But, as she lay dying, she was obviously unconcerned about her physical body's fate. She absolutely knew exactly what was happening to her. But how could she have been so certain?

Personal experience is a persuasive teacher, but it is less convincing when vicariously acquired. There are thousands of books written about death and the afterlife, many of which, sadly, are drivel. Fortunately, some were written by scientifically trained, objective, open-minded, honest, and, above all, methodically thorough psychical researchers, such as Sir Oliver Lodge, the British physicist who developed wireless telegraphy, and Rev. C. Drayton Thomas, an English Methodist minister. In addition, there were books written by purported psychic mediums that experts in psychical research considered trustworthy. One such work was prepared by Anthony Borgia.



Lodge, Thomas, and Borgia each earned solid reputations for honesty, and their integrity is beyond reproach. Accordingly, we may rely upon the factual accuracy of the information reported, even if we question its interpretations. Lodge was, first and foremost, a scientist, and Thomas, too, had extensive scientific knowledge to buttress his ecclesiastical training. Both had spent decades researching psychics, mediums, and the paranormal, working with the best and brightest of their generations. Lodge and Thomas were initially skeptics who discounted psychical matters as religious artifacts until both were convinced of survival of bodily death through extensive, rigorous research and an enormous mass of accumulated evidence.

Lodge purportedly received communications through psychic mediums from his deceased son, Raymond, who was killed during World War I. Thomas included dozens of alleged after-death communications in his works (also delivered via psychic mediums), and Borgia, himself a psychic medium, said that he received communications from his old friend and priest, Monsignor Tobert Hugh Benson (1871-1914). There are many similarities between their messages--instantaneous travel by thought, the ability to shape afterlife reality by generating thought forms, the existence of spiritual spheres, or "heavens," based upon levels of spiritual development, and the uplifting spiritual nature of the evolution of souls, among many other details--but perhaps the most intriguing, and troubling, description of life after death from these deceased correspondents is the apparent physicality of the realms they inhabit and its resemblance to earthly characteristics. This aspect of their descriptions has brought considerable ridicule from all quarters, including those who believe in an afterlife but have preconceptions about its immaterial, ghostly nature. But Lodge, Thomas, and Borgia are our reporters here; they are telling us exactly the information they received. Whether or not it is accurate and is truly originating from the deceased persons purported to be communicating is for readers to decide for themselves.

If you are interested in such questions, these three books offer exquisitely well written accounts carefully accumulated by scrupulous, precise investigators. They provide a wealth of detail and are genuinely interesting. If we may trust their sources, they apparently contain first-hand information, which, as we know from our own experiences, can be as reliable as any available evidence. Readers may lack the certainty of the communicators, of course, but that is inevitable. How can we be sure about things that we have never experienced for ourselves? Assurance requires considerable evidence, and these books contribute to the nearly two hundred years of modern psychical research. Still, we may ultimately need to wait for personal experience to be certain. When that day comes, perhaps I'll see my old neighbor again, and I can ask her. I hope she would smile and say, "You see, there was nothing to fear; and you've been a good boy, for the most part, after all."

Bill Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Librarian
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us

Sunday, July 25, 2010

MPL Music Video #2: Les Amateurs de Peinture & Painted Lovers on the Island by Danny Buckley

We continue our series of music videos with "Les Amateurs de Peinture" and "The Painted Lovers on the Island," tracks 2 and 14 from the instrumental music CD Through Abstract Eyes, by Danny Buckley.




These two pieces share musical themes, although "The Painted Lovers on the Island" was abridged in the video above due to the video's length. As a result, viewers missed the intriguing middle measures in "Painted Lovers..." that distinguish it from "Les Amateurs de Peinture."

What is the story line's connection between the two songs? "Les Amateurs de Peinture" ("The Amateur Painters") are, in fact, the painted lovers. This is an example of creator and creation melding into a united perspective. The amateur painters become the "painted lovers" they create and are themselves created by their imaginations.

Each of the 24 pieces that comprise Through Abstract Eyes creates a musical rendition of the central character's perspective, a world traveller suffering from degenerative myopia. Because the traveller's vision is perpetually blurred, he sees the world through abstract eyes, as if it were a series of impressionist paintings. The composer explores the traveller's joys and sorrows as he encounters the many wonders of the world in which he travels, experiencing them from a different viewpoint than most of us share. (As an aside, we note that, CD liner notes notwithstanding, the world traveller could just as easily be female as male.)

The paintings we used in this video cover centuries of styles, only a few of which are impressionist. We chose this approach to demonstrate that shared love from various perspectives (including the myopic viewpoint of the world traveller) conveys a central theme, which one may readily perceive by studying the figures in the art work, as well as by listening to the album's two pieces used for the video soundtrack. It is our way of returning to the merging of painters and paintings that is the heart of "Les Amateurs de Peinture" and "The Painted Lovers on the Island."

MPL Video Productions
MPL Readers Advisory
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us



Friday, July 23, 2010

MPL Music Videos: "The Ocean," by Danny Buckley

Our new YouTube channel series, MPL Music Videos, features original musical compositions created by our patrons and staff. Our first music video is "The Ocean," from the instrumental music CD Through Abstract Eyes (2010), by Danny Buckley. Danny volunteers his talents to serve as the composer at Mooresville Public Library, and his original musical compositions grace all of the library's videos.



MPL Readers Advisory
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us

Monday, July 19, 2010

MPL Book Trailer Playlists: Top Ten Book Trailers

The top ten book trailers (based on number of viewers) from our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/mpl46158) are shown below. Click the left and right arrows on the sides of the box to navigate between the videos available on this playlist. Click the center arrow button to play the desired video.



Bill Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Librarian
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us

Sunday, July 18, 2010

MPL Book Trailer Playlists: Children's & Young Adults

Our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/mpl46158) offers playlists for convenient viewing. One playlist features our book trailers for children's and young adult titles. Click the left and right arrows on the box below to navigate the videos available on this playlist. Click the center arrow button to play the desired video.



Bill Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Librarian
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us


Friday, July 16, 2010

MPL Book Trailer Playlists: Science, Medical, and Health

Our Science, Medical, and Health YouTube playlist highlights our book trailers featuring works in these areas. Click the left and right arrows on the sides of the box below to navigate between the videos available on this playlist.



Visit our YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/mpl46158

Bill Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Librarian
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us

Thursday, July 15, 2010

MPL Book Trailer Playlists: Paranormal & Supernatural

Our YouTube Channel (http://www.youtube.com/mpl46158) includes playlists for convenient viewing. One of our book trailer playlists features books about the paranormal and the supernatural. These include books that delve into many strange and wondrous subjects, such as:
  • Ghosts and haunted places
  • Psychometry
  • Clairvoyance
  • Telepathy
  • Survival of bodily death (afterlife, or future life)
  • Out-of-the-body experiences (OBEs) and near-death experiences (NDEs)
  • Psychokinesis (or telekinesis)
  • and many other intriguing paranormal or supernatural information
To navigate the window below, click the arrows on the left and right sides of the box, and this will scroll the videos that are included in this playlist. Click the center "play" button to watch desired videos.



Bill Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Librarian
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Question From Germany About Our Video Soundtracks

Recently, we received a message from Germany on our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/mpl46158) asking about our video soundtracks. The viewer was a fan of the movie Where the Lilies Bloom and had watched our book trailer, which is embedded below.



All of our video soundtracks are original musical compositions written by Daniel E. Buckley, a 2010 graduate of Millikin University (Decatur, Illinois). Danny holds a B.A. in music business and plans to complete a master's degree in music composition. He serves as a volunteer composer for Mooresville Public Library. As of this posting, he has released five instrumental music CDs of his work.

Check out our other YouTube videos to hear Danny's fine music. We are grateful that he has volunteered his talents to assist us in promoting literacy and reading, as well as providing a talent showcase for Mooresville, Indiana (and surrounding area) residents. Danny himself appears in one of our "local talent" YouTube videos (see below), and a public performance of one of his original musical compositions is also included there (see further below).








MPL Readers Advisory
wecare@mooresville.lib.in.us

MPL Book Trailer #60: Paddle Indiana, by Alan McPherson

Alan McPherson's Paddle Indiana: An Access Guide to Canoeing & Kayaking Indiana's Lakes & Streams (Bloomington, IN: Water Publishing Co., 2000) is an excellent pathfinder for anyone interested in negotiating Hoosier waterways by canoe or kayak.



Join our pioneering ancestors in traveling Hoosier lakes, rivers, and streams. It's a great way to learn about Indiana's riparian ecosystems, and it's a lot of fun to boot.

Bill Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Librarian
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

MPL Book Trailer #59: A Scattered Life, by Karen McQuestion

Karen McQuestion is an American success story in the Horatio Alger tradition. (Horatio Alger, Jr. [1832-1899], wrote "rags to riches" novels, which were hugely popular in 19th century America.) Her novel A Scattered Life, first released for Amazon.com Kindle last year, is the first self-published book to be optioned for a motion picture. How many authors have an opportunity to see their written words adapted for the silver screen? That's a pretty exclusive club, and it speaks volumes of the author's considerable writing ability.

McQuestion is a "regular Jane" type of person, in that she is unpretentious and focuses upon family, friends, and everyday, middle American concerns like mortgage payments, improved diet, and generally making ends meet. She is, however, different than the rest of us in one significant way: she can write extremely well. Karen has been favorably compared to such literary luminaries as Anne Tyler, Jodi Picoult, and Alice Munro. That is high praise indeed; but what is even more impressive is that she achieved literary fame (and, if there is any justice in the world, fortune) without subjugating herself to the world of "big-time" publishing. Like the hard-working characters of Alger's novels, who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to become financially successful, McQuestion wrote extensively and, through sheer determination, persevered until she had a truly democratic, American opportunity: she self-published her work for Amazon.com and its Kindle digital reader. The public response was quick and extraordinarily positive.

As with any American success story, an author, especially one who is self-published, must be talented, of course, and s/he must write something that people will spend time and money to read. Self-publishing does not, in and of itself, assure popular or financial rewards. One need only look at the number of disreputable "vanity press" establishments to recognize that battalions of wannabe writers are slumped over their computers, waiting to be plucked and exploited as they are seduced by the prospect of seeing themselves "in print." McQuestion escaped this trap by carefully choosing her publishing vehicle and also by maintaining a solid foundation of quality in her work. Her books are well-written, to be sure, but she also manages to capture readers' interest by weaving entertaining, engaging fiction and non-fiction to which readers may readily relate.

On August 10, 2010, AmazonEncore, the publishing branch of Amazon.com, will release an unabridged paperback edition of A Scattered Life. Our book trailer below summarizes a few key plot points:




A more professional (and, frankly, much better than ours) book trailer, which is embedded below, is also available on YouTube:



Enjoy the humor, family dynamics, and realistic characterizations McQuestion portrays in her novel. She is a gifted storyteller.

To see our book trailer featuring Karen McQuestion's popular children's book Celia and the Fairies (2010), click the embedded video below:



Visit Karen McQuestion's website at http://www.karenmcquestion.com/




Bill Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Librarian
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us

Monday, July 12, 2010

MPL Book Trailer #58: Evicted!, by Anthony Bjorklund

Human-created environmental disasters such as the one currently filling the Gulf of Mexico with oil are, sadly, nothing new. I remember the Santa Monica oil spill, which began January 28, 1969 and lasted a mere eight days, dumping roughly 100,000 barrels of oil into the Pacific and polluting about 100 miles of California coastline when an uncontrolled blowout occurred on a Union Oil offshore platform. (Compared to the current BP gusher, this was a drop in the bucket.)

Some argue that this event provided the impetus for the creation and celebration of Earth Day, but its origins may be traced to 1962 when Senator Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day, suggested to President John F. Kennedy (and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy) to undertake a national tour to place environmental protection in the national political limelight. Kennedy began a five-day, eleven-state conservation tour in September, 1963, but this only minimally raised public consciousness about widespread pollution. It was a start, however, and Earth Day finally emerged on April 22, 1970.

There were other voices in the wilderness calling for environmental protection. Perhaps the most famous was Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring, first published in September 1962, was the clarion call that inspired a generation of environmentalists concerned with human destruction of the earth's ecosystems through reckless use and disposal of pollutants. A bevy of environmental protection legislation eventually followed, culminating with the creation in 1970 of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as landmark federal legislation such as the Clean Air Act (1970) and Clean Water Act (1972).

I was inspired by the environmental protection movement. As a news magazine editor in 1973, I featured Earth Day as one of our April cover stories. A decade later, I secured the top grade in the environmental law course at Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington. I planned to become an environmental law attorney, and my first published law review article (which appeared just as I was graduating) focused upon natural resources (wildlife, sort of--the Wild, Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, a federal law protecting feral horses and burros on federal lands). (In case anyone is curious, I became a corporate lawyer--legal jobs were hard to find in 1983, especially in environmental protection--and never had an opportunity to practice environmental law.)

Nearly thirty years later, environmental destruction has become an even more serious problem. But voices continue to be heard from the wilderness. Anthony Bjorklund decided to present some of these environmental issues in a humorous format, since it is sometimes easier to capture attention by being funny instead of preachy. His book, Evicted! A Quirky Environmental Science Fiction Humor Story About Man's Eviction From the Earth, is available through Amazon.com. Our book trailer below summarizes the plot:


Bjorklund definitely has an environmental message lurking beneath his science fiction veneer, but humor is first and foremost his vehicle. Like Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), Bjorklund's use of wit is simultaneously engaging and disarming. The environmental message seeps through almost unnoticed because the reader is having so much fun. Writers often utilize science fiction and humor to discuss serious social issues (e.g., Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five). Kurt Vonnegut was a major influence on Douglas Adams, who likewise clearly impressed Anthony Bjorklund. Rounding out this "six degrees of separation," my father-in-law (graduated 1942) attended Shortridge High School (Indianapolis, Indiana) simultaneously with Vonnegut (graduated 1940). As for me, I like each of these authors (and my father-in-law, who, by the way, wrote a compelling memoir about his World War II experiences).

Enjoy Bjorklund's humorous presentation of serious environmental issues. Watch for the underlying message, and take heed, but laugh, too, at his quirky characterizations, dialogue, and descriptions.

Bill Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Librarian
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us





Saturday, July 10, 2010

MPL Book Trailer #57: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Although scholars debate whether or not Robert Louis Stevenson actually burned his original manuscript following his wife's critique, it is likely that Mrs. Stevenson's suggestion that the author reframe the novella as an allegory rather than as a straightforward story was indeed influential in the rewriting and editing of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Stevenson's stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, recalled that Stevenson wrote the first draft in no more than three days, and the rewriting (after the purported burning of the first draft) took between three to six days. It was an amazing feat of literary productivity for any author.

The plot to Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde has become such an integral part of the Western cultural consciousness that one hardly need outline the basic dynamics between the title characters. Does anyone not know the relationship between Jekyll and Hyde? Presumably, our book trailer below does not "let any cats out of the bag" in its introductory sequence.



Summarizing the plot beyond our book trailer also seems unnecessary. Most people know the central idea of the work without actually having read it, and knowing the minute details of Stevenson's story will probably not entice modern readers to peruse it. Follow horror master Stephen King's suggestion: Find a copy of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde at your public library, read the first 25 pages or so, and you will either be completely hooked or you will send it on its way for someone else to enjoy. (King was speaking generally about any book, and he probably advised people to buy copies, but the recommendation holds true especially for Stevenson, who was particularly adept at grabbing--and holding--a reader's attention.)

Stevenson dreamt what he called a "fine bogey tale," which he subsequently commemorated to paper as the inherent battle between good and evil that raged in the human condition. Stevenson was fascinated by this dichotomy; he wondered what would happen if, while attempting to banish the evil portion of human nature (and thereby free human goodness to work wonders unfettered by a dark side), science might unleash a greater evil upon the world. This theme echoed a pessimism in Victorian England (and throughout Western Europe) during the second half of the 19th century, when there was suspicion that science was becoming too morally ambivalent (or, worse, morally bankrupt). Proponents of science, of course, were quick to note that, thanks to scientific research, there was an enormous progression of knowledge and its application to material productivity and the accumulation of wealth, which, in Western thinking, was sufficient justification for almost anything. Most of the pessimists, it should be noted, were not anti-science; rather, they felt that science should be imbued with a clear moral compass to ensure that, in the name of "progress," scientific abominations would not be born. Anyone familiar with the history of scientific innovation will note how quickly such discoveries can be distorted to promote unsavory objectives (e.g., devices that kill with increased efficiency during wartime).

Whether Stevenson was caught up in this Victorian debate over the merits of morality-free scientific ventures is itself subject to academic disagreement. The novella has been dissected by over a century of scholars, each seeking a new angle to which to attach his or her name. Obviously, Stevenson was intrigued by the psychological considerations of a split personality, and he must have been aware of the Victorian hypocrisy that mandated "proper," socially acceptable public behavior from subjects of the Realm while ignoring private indiscretions and debasements. I'm no expert, but I suspect that, in the final analysis, Stevenson's primary objective was to tell his "fine bogey tale." Creepy stories are fun to read, and Stevenson might have been satisfied with giving his readers a bit of a fright.

The book certainly struck a chord with Stevenson's audience. In the first six months following its publication in 1886, the novella sold over 40,000 copies, which was hugely successful for that time. The work served as the impetus for a plethora of adaptations and imitations. During the 20th century, there were over 123 motion pictures based on the story, perhaps the most famous of which starred John Barrymore (1920), Fredric March (1931), and Spencer Tracy (1941). Modern comic book aficionados should easily recognize the Jekyll/Hyde characterization in such fare as "Two-Face" from Batman and "Bruce Banner and The Incredible Hulk" from Marvel Comics. Comedian Jerry Lewis grafted Jekyll/Hyde onto his film The Nutty Professor (1963) and gave the tale a wacky turn. Any Star Wars fan, too, would clearly appreciate Stevenson as an inspirational source for George Lucas' masterpiece.

There is a reason English teachers require students to read classic literature. One should discover the true origins of legendary characters that have been appropriated by subsequent entertainers, sometimes in bizarre variations--take a peek at the graphic novel (begun in 1999) or movie (2003) versions of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, for example--to realize their unvarnished authenticity that their creators intended. In any event, reading Stevenson is a treat--especially when compared to other 19th century authors, whose language is sometimes difficult for modern readers to negotiate--and you should treat yourself occasionally to "a fine bogey tale."

Bill Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Librarian
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us



Thursday, July 8, 2010

MPL Book Trailer Playlist: Help Yourself

Another of our YouTube channel playlists features book trailers about "self-help" and "do-it-yourself" types of materials. Click the arrows on the right and left sides of the embedded graphic below to navigate between the videos in this playlist.



Bill Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Librarian
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

MPL Book Trailer Playlist: Social Commentary

Our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/mpl46158) has a variety of playlists. One includes our videos for social commentary books. To see these book trailers, use the left and right arrow buttons on the embedded image below (to navigate between the videos included in this playlist).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

MPL Recommended Read: Not So Dumb: the Life & Career of Marie Wilson, by Charles Tranberg

Ever hear a "dumb blonde" joke?

The formula follows predictable lines: There's an unintelligent blonde woman, usually physically attractive (by society's shallow standards) . . . some situation sets the stage for the joke, and then . . . the punch line. ("Dumb blonde" jokes are 99.9 percent about females.) I call this type of humor "civil rights jokes," because they always focus upon some superficial, stereotypical characteristic of a particular classification of people--in this case, the female gender--and make fun of that group. "Dumb blonde" jokes attack women, just as racial, ethnic, religious, "old age," and sexual orientation jokes target their victims based on skin color, race, nationality, religion, age, or sexual preference. They are inherently mean-spirited, ignorant, demeaning, and undignified. But they continue to proliferate in everyday humor.

Why "dumb blondes"? Why not brunettes or redheads? And why beautiful women? We look to 20th century cinema and entertainment for our answer. Not too long ago, the television program Friends (1994-2004) enjoyed enormous popularity. One of its main characters was Phoebe Buffay, played by Lisa Kudrow. Phoebe was a flaky, ditsy, "air-headed," but quite pretty, blonde. Two decades earlier, Suzanne Somers portrayed Chrissy Snow, another ditsy, "air-headed," "drop-dead gorgeous" blonde, for the first five seasons of the television situation comedy Three's Company (1977-1984). About ten years before that, Goldie Hawn played a "spaced-out cute blonde hippie chick" on the television series Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1967-1973). It is important to note that each of these actresses is extremely intelligent. People sometimes forget that actors are pretending to be characters on screen and stage.

It is interesting to note that two of these beautiful "dumb blondes" enjoyed huge success on enormously popular television programs during the late 1960s and early 1970s (Laugh-In) and the late 1970s (Three's Company) when the women's rights movement and the Equal Rights Amendment were becoming mainstream sociopolitical agendas. This is paradoxical; one would think that "dumb blondes" would have been dismissed as passé during this time. Why were these characters embraced by millions of television viewers? The answer lies in these characters' fundamental goodness. Hawn, Somers, and, later, Kudrow each played their empty-headed females with "hearts of gold." Each was innocent, kind, thoughtful, untarnished by cynicism, and, above all, a dependable friend. You could count on these women to be there when you needed them. They were not self-absorbed; rather, they thought of friends and loved ones first, when they thought at all (which was the joke). This is why their characters were so popular. Although they were physically attractive by society's "skin-deep" assessments, female viewers found them non-threatening and appealing, because of their honorable good natures. Heterosexual male viewers ogled them, of course, but they also found these TV blondes non-threatening because these female characters were simple-minded. (In my experience, many men find intelligent women, especially those considered pretty, to be extremely threatening.) So the "dumb blonde" stereotype was perpetuated, much to the chagrin of feminists, who, rightly so, consider "dumb blondes" (or "dumb women" stereotypes generally) to be major setbacks in the continued struggle for equal rights for women. (An illustration of the stereotype's continued vitality was driven home when, a few years ago, my daughter, a natural blonde who is extremely bright, referred to a momentary mental lapse as one of her "blonde moments.")

We need to go further back in entertainment history, however, to uncover the roots of the "dumb blonde." Most well known was Marilyn Monroe's "dumb blonde," through which her 1950s cinematic portrayals thrust her into superstardom. Monroe's blondes also seemed "true blue," good-natured gals who, although "bombshell" beautiful, were moderately acceptable to female movie goers who were only mildly threatened by her sexual magnetism. There was also Judy Holliday's Oscar-winning performance as Emma "Billie" Dawn, a politician's "dumb blonde" love interest in the 1950 movie Born Yesterday. Holliday's character, however, only seemed unintelligent; she was naive, but she was really quite bright, as demonstrated throughout the film alongside her tutor, Paul Verrall, played by William Holden.

But Marilyn and Judy were not the first to establish themselves as experts in "dumb blonde" portrayals on the silver screen. In the late 1930s through the 1950s, there was Marie Wilson.

Marie Wilson? Never heard of her? For an introduction, read Not So Dumb: the Life and Career of Marie Wilson, by Charles Tranberg (Albany, GA : BearManor Media, 2006) (ISBN 1-59393-049-6).


Our book trailer (video) elaborates.

MPL Book Trailer #234

In his biography of Marie Wilson (1916-1972), author Charles Tranberg painted a compelling portrait of an intelligent, determined actress who saw a niche in which she could excel as well as, and better than, most contemporary actresses. Just as her successors would do, Marie established herself as the prototypical "dumb blonde": her characters were gorgeous, naive, and ditzy, but they were also gold-hearted, sweet, innocent, kind, and dependable. She began her cinematic career playing "gun molls" opposite gangsters. She reached near-stardom playing opposite such famous film actors as James Cagney (Boy Meets Girl, 1938). In the 1940s, she became a household name playing Irma Peterson, an "airheaded blonde bombshell," on the radio serial My Friend Irma, which became a popular television series (1947-1954) and spawned two motion pictures, both of which launched the comedy careers of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. Wilson's "dumb blondes" were amazingly convincing because they seemed genuine. Although Judy Holliday's performance in Born Yesterday was unquestionably brilliant, there are times when her screen presence is purely an affectation; in other words, you can tell she's acting. With Marie Wilson, you couldn't tell she was acting; instead, she seemed fresh, real, and completely believable. If she had been cast in either the stage or screen versions of Born Yesterday, perhaps she might have received an Academy Award nomination for best actress (and won).

One of the tragedies of American entertainment is that talented people are often forgotten rather quickly after their screen success fades. Some readers of this blog may never have heard of some of the actresses (and actors, for that matter) I've named. That's a shame. These were gifted performers who deserve a look for reasons beyond their physical "sex appeal." You probably won't find too many of Marie Wilson's movies or television shows on DVD today, but keep your eyes peeled. Watch her if you get the chance. Enjoy her beauty--I certainly would--but also marvel at her performance skill. She, more than any other actress, is responsible for the "dumb blonde" persona, which so many later actresses employed so successfully to establish their own careers and fame. That's more of an accomplishment than one might think.


Bill Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Librarian
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us







Sunday, July 4, 2010

MPL Book Trailer #56: Dewey the Library Cat, by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter

Our book trailer below highlights Dewey the Library Cat: a True Story, by Vicki Myron, with Bret Witter (1st ed., New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2010). There are several books about Dewey Readmore Books, who was "resident cat" at Spencer (Iowa) Public Library (1988-2006). (I'm tempted to call him the feline in residence, much like an author or musician in residence in an academic setting.) This book is targeted toward the juvenile audience--ages 9-12, I would say, based on its vocabulary--but adults should peruse it as well.


Visit Spencer Public Library's website (http://www.spencerlibrary.com/dewey.shtml) to learn more about Dewey Readmore Books. They offer for sale some really cute postcards with Dewey promoting literacy and reading.

According to the Iron Frog Productions website (http://www.ironfrog.com/catsmap.html), there are currently 301 library felines worldwide, of which 42 are purportedly permanent residents. The site reports that there have been 808 known library cats around the world. Why have cats living in modern libraries? Read the book. It's as simple as that.

Throughout history, cats have enjoyed homes in libraries. This may sound strange to modern readers, but these cats earned their keep just like their counterparts in granaries--they caught mice and rats. These rodents would infiltrate libraries to eat the leather-bound books and spine glues, which were manufactured from animal remains, or to build nests in quiet, warm environments safely removed from the elements. Having a cat on the premises was an inexpensive and efficient rodent extermination system, and, as a bonus, the cats were desirable company for the clerics (and, later, professional librarians) responsible for bibliographical collections and archives.

Dewey's story is heart-warming and endearing, as one would anticipate--these types of books typically pull the heartstrings. Myron and Witter's version is ideally suited for preteens because it focuses upon Dewey and omits the extraneous digressions that constitute a sizable portion of the adult-oriented Dewey book that made him (and Spencer Public Library, and the town of Spencer, Iowa) world-famous. The book's tone is sweet, loving, kind, and, above all, friendly, which were Dewey's chief characteristics. It will brighten your day, so adults, as well as children, should read it.

Visit the Iron Frog website (http://www.ironfrog.com/catsmap.html) to see which libraries in your area have felines in residence. No "library cat-alog" is complete without one! (There--I made the obligatory joke. You may now sigh in relief.)


Bill Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Librarian
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us

Saturday, July 3, 2010

MPL Book Trailer #55: Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne

Jules Verne and H. G. Wells are generally considered the "fathers of science fiction," but Verne should clearly wear the mantle, since he was writing science fantasy stories a full 30 years before Wells; in fact, A Journey to the Centre of the Earth was first published in 1864, which was two years before Wells' birth. Although Wells became more famous and popular in his day than Verne (Wells was one of the top selling authors in the world in the early 20th century), Verne's science fiction was more closely based on actual scientific developments. For example, A Journey to the Centre of the Earth relied heavily upon the geological discoveries explained in two of Charles Lyell's books, Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man (1863) and Principles of Geology (1830-33).

Verne prided himself upon writing true to then-current scientific opinion based on the best available evidence. He criticized Wells' science-related novels for being outlandishly fantastic. For instance, Verne complained that Wells' The First Men in the Moon (1901) contained ridiculous pseudo-scientific ideas, such as the anti-gravity substance applied to the spacecraft. If this substance really existed, fumed Verne, why hasn't it been discovered? Wells was more conciliatory. While praising Verne's ability to predict authentic scientific innovations, Wells admitted that his sci-fi novels had the veneer of science, but, upon a moment's reflection, one would see that his inventions were convenient plot devices that bore little resemblance to reality. Wells was more interested in social commentary in his science fiction, so he considered such trifles to be of passing consequence. Verne took his science much more seriously, considering it the foundation of the story.

Of course, both authors filled their works with amazing fantasy elements to captivate the reader. Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth sounds remarkably similar to the "hollow earth" theory, which has long been discounted as utterly unreal. But both writers definitely foresaw future scientific trends. Certainly, Verne's stories carried considerable predictive value, as his books suggested many scientific discoveries and inventions, most notably the submarine in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870). But Wells, too, predicted several scientific developments--airships, tank warfare, even nuclear weapons--so both were visionary in terms of anticipating scientific "progress."

Both Verne and Wells were wonderfully descriptive in their writing. Their plots were intriguing and imaginative, and 19th century (and early 20th century) readers could readily identify with their characters. But Verne should be honored as the progenitor of the science fiction genre, which Wells popularized worldwide a generation later.

Our book trailer featuring Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne, is embedded below. It should afford sufficient plot summary to tell you what to expect from the book.


The original English title translation was A Journey to the Centre of the Earth. The novel was first published as part of Verne's Voyages Extraordinaires series (1863-1910). Modern editions and motion pictures have shortened the title to Journey to the Center of the Earth (with the Americanized spelling). The original French title was Voyage au Centre de la Terre. The French name for the main character was Otto Lidenbrock, which has been translated in various spellings (e.g., Liedenbrock), and a common English translation changed his name to Professor Von Hardwigg. The book has been republished in countless editions since its first appearance in 1864 and was the subject of a motion picture adaptation in 1959 and 2008, to name the two most popular and successful film versions.

A library patron once told me that classic literature is simply comprised of "old books nobody reads anymore." I read all of Verne's science fiction as an adult, although most of my friends had read it in junior high school or before. A great novel remains a worthwhile read because of its power to convey a compelling tale. That is why Jules Verne's books will continue to be read by anyone who appreciates the power of imagination.


Bill Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Librarian
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us

Thursday, July 1, 2010

MPL Book Trailer Playlist: Romance & Drama

Another of our playlists on our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/mpl46158) features book trailers in the romance and drama genres. To navigate through the video selections on the playlist below, click the left and right arrows on each side of the embedded window.





Bill Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Librarian
billb@mooresville.lib.in.us