Mooresville Public Library

Mooresville Public Library
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

MPL Book Trailer #92: Busy Elephants, by John Schindel & Martin Harvey

Who doesn't like elephants? These adorable, gentle giants are beautifully photographed in Busy Elephants, a new children's board book (release date: February 22, 2011) written by John Schindel and photographed by Martin Harvey (ISBN 9781582463834). Schindel has paired the photos with wonderful action verbs and rhymes that toddlers love during "readalouds." Our book trailer below gives the gist.

The book, which is one of the Busy Book series published by Tricycle Press, has a reading level of ages 4-8, but it is also appropriate for toddlers, as well as preschoolers and early elementary school readers.

William R. Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Historian & Reference Coordinator

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Precipitated Spirit Portraits

Psychic mediumship has become a more socially acceptable topic, at least for the popular media. Books, television programs, movies, and web sites devote considerable attention to the subject. Although scientific materialism, which discounts survival of bodily death, and so-called "mainstream" religions continue to disparage psychic phenomena, millions of people entertain at least a casual interest in the subject. Much of this criticism has been directed toward spiritualism, which became a religious movement over 150 years ago and has endured critics, many professing "the truth" of alternative faiths. Religions have a long history of sniping at one another, and, unfortunately, so does science, which itself can become a religion (commonly called scientism, which is a belief in certain scientific viewpoints as a matter of faith rather than veridical evidence). True science, of course, openly and objectively considers the facts based upon experiment and careful observation of data, regardless of preconceptions or prevalent theories.

Today is not unlike a century ago, when millions actively believed in survival of bodily death and communication with the departed. Then, as now, these pursuits were ridiculed by establishment science, with its reductionist, materialistic interpretation of life and death. Unlike today, however, the press ofyesteryear brutally attacked those inquiring into psychic phenomena. Only the most courageous scientists and investigators publicly studied the matter and published their results.

Two organizations that attracted some of the last two centuries' brightest minds were the British Society for Psychical Research and its American counterpart. Some of the most brilliant scientists of the period--Alfred Russel Wallace, Oliver Lodge, William Crookes, William Barrett, Camille Flammarion, Charles Richet, Cesare Lombroso, Gustave Geley, and William James, to name just a few of the intellectual cream-of-the-crop--investigated paranormal activities for decades, carefully scrutinizing the evidence, remaining skeptical but open-minded (for the most part), until, finally, after (it bears repeating) decades of intensive research, they were ultimately convinced of the reality and genuineness of the phenomena. Many academics, such as Frederic W. H. Myers, Richard Hodgson, and James Hyslop, as well as prominent authors, such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Hamlin Garland, and Maurice Maeterlinck, and other professionals, such as Vice-Admiral W. Usborne Moore, the Rev. William Stainton Moses, and the Rev. Charles L. Tweedale, devoted enormous time and energy to psychical research. They, too, reached favorable conclusions regarding the truth and authenticity of certain of the paranormal phenomena they encountered. Along the way, these researchers and many others also discovered fraud and were prompt to discredit charlatans; but all were equally prompt to admit that they had witnessed bona fide paranormal phenomena. This pioneering exploration of psychical science has been all but forgotten today, but anyone interested may easily ferret reprints of the fascinating original publications.

One expression of mediumistic power is the spontaneous production of paintings attributed to spirit forces. The Bangs sisters of Chicago were carefully studied by Vice-Admiral W. Usborne Moore, and he received convincing proof, under ideal test conditions, that portraits of deceased persons could be rapidly painted by "spirit forces" in the sisters' presence. Usborne Moore, who began his study totally skeptical, stated in his book, Glimpses of the Next State (London : Watts & Co., 1911), that fraud or collusion could be absolutely excluded as an explanation for the Bangs sisters' precipitated portraits, given his stringent precautions in place during the creation of the artwork.

The sisters' paintings were created at many places, including a Hoosier religious community, Camp Chesterfield (Chesterfield, Indiana), which is located in Madison County and appears on the National Register of Historic Places. Many Bangs precipitated spirit portraits are displayed there. A few of the paintings may be seen in The Bangs Sisters and Their Precipitated Spirit Portraits, originally compiled and written by Irene Swann (Chesterfield, Ind. : Hett Memorial Art Gallery & Museum, 1969, rev. 1991), a digital copy of which is available in our Evergreen Indiana online catalog (click the links under "electronic resources"). These paintings are well-crafted, tasteful representations of deceased persons, some of whom allegedly were the impetus behind the artwork.

To learn the mechanics of precipitated spirit painting, you should read Usborne Moore's book, or Precipitated Spirit Paintings, by Ron Nagy (Lakeville, Minn. : Galde Press, 2006). The color images included in Swann's and Nagy's books are striking and intriguing. Readers may decide for themselves as to the likely origins of the art, but it remains another of those interesting paranormal mysteries that are, if nothing else, fun to examine.

Karl C. B. Muilliwey, guest blogger

Paranormal investigator & author of Haunting at Sycamore Lake and Shelf Doll (see book trailers below)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Conan Doyle's Professor Challenger: The Sherlock Holmes of Science Adventure

Most readers know Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's great detective, Sherlock Holmes. Only true Conan Doyle enthusiasts have heard of Professor George Edward Challenger. Professor Challenger was to adventure tales what Sherlock Holmes was to mystery stories. Conan Doyle desired an imposing, dominating scientist (just as Holmes was larger-than-life in crime detection), and Challenger more than fit the bill. He was, in fact, a caricature of science, with exaggerated personality traits (physically imposing, obstinate, volatile, prone to violence, both verbal and physical, when faced with opposing opinions or woolly thinking) intermingled with standard scientific perspectives (coldly analytical, strictly deductive, observant, interested in only testable facts and verifiable sensory data). The character's name was a pun: the challenge to orthodox viewpoints that were no longer sustainable in light of new, compelling scientific evidence. But the professor could also be as dogmatic and mentally rigid as those he railed against. He was a collection of contradictions, which is why Conan Doyle found him interesting as his fictional lightning rod.

The Complete Professor Challenger Stories (Amsterdam: Fredonia Books, 2004) (ISBN 1410107507) is a compilation of Conan Doyle's novellas and short stories featuring the fiery scientist. In Challenger, Conan Doyle created a new type of adventure story--science adventure--which was not really science fiction but based on actual scientific theories and discoveries. (Obviously, however, there was fiction involved, since Conan Doyle was inventing the plots, characters, etc.) Jules Verne was first to present "science adventure" in fiction, but Verne's novels could better be classed as science fiction, although, frankly, that seems more semantic than descriptive, now that I've re-read the sentence.

The best known (and most popular) Challenger tale is The Lost World, which was adapted into at least two motion pictures (a 1925 silent film by First National Pictures, and Irwin Allen's 1960 production, which is the cornier of the two but still quite enjoyable for its time and intended audience of children and teenagers), as well as a (really corny) television program in 2001. Michael Crichton paid tribute to Conan Doyle's novella by naming his sequel to Jurassic Park after it. We have a book trailer that conveys some of the excitement of Conan Doyle's The Lost World.

The Lost World is arguably Conan Doyle's best Challenger story, but, far and away, his best "actual science" Challenger novella is The Land of Mist. Critics vilified Conan Doyle for this story, because he examines the scientific investigation of evidence supporting survival of bodily death. What irritated fans and foes alike was his presentation of spiritualism in the work. Having spent several decades carefully, objectively, and skeptically investigating spiritualistic claims, he came to the intellectual conclusion that spiritualism presented a valid hypothesis that was factually demonstrated. You would need to study the subject in depth to appreciate Conan Doyle's reasoning (I recommend his two volume The History of Spiritualism), but critics invariably suggest that Conan Doyle had gone soft in the head by studying the subject. Ad hominem arguments are typical when opponents of a particular idea find it difficult to undermine what are, to them, the undesirable facts presented, so they instead attack the messenger's character or integrity. Conan Doyle may have been a solid scientist and physician in everything else, but in this aspect, so his critics mused, he was plain nuts. Never mind the fact that Conan Doyle spent decades critically analyzing cases, trying valiantly to explain (or explain away) the evidence that would afford an ordinary, non-paranormal, non-survival interpretation. It was only after a crushing avalanche of proof amassed that he decided that spiritualistic phenomena were what they were purported to be.

The Land of Mist, then, is Conan Doyle's fictional attempt to communicate the scientific evidence collected in psychical research, both by spiritualists and by scientific bodies such as the British Society for Psychical Research (of which Conan Doyle was an early member and supporter, but from which he eventually parted company due to "entrenched ideologies"), the American Society for Psychical Research, the French Institut Métapsychique, and other organizations and individual researchers. Conan Doyle continually alludes to this research throughout the novella. He includes appendices that discuss, to some extent, his original source materials. As fictional "adventure science," the tale holds up surprisingly well, even if you are not well versed in the underlying research.

Some of the other Challenger stories have been characterized as bleak, even morbid, but Conan Doyle presented underlying themes (more or less explored) in much of his fiction, so one must read between the lines, as generations of English teachers have advised, to gather the author's meaning. (This puzzled me in grade school--there is only white space between the printed lines of text--so what was there to see? Kids, like adults, can be too literal sometimes.) Social attitudes and contemporaneous events influence writers, and Conan Doyle was no exception, so it should not be surprising to discover his occasional commentaries on what was happening in the world around him.

The Complete Professor Challenger Stories provide a hefty punch (much like the professor himself, in one of his more boisterous moods) of "science adventure" that will entertain and, possibly, enlighten.

William R. Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Historian & Reference Coordinator

Thursday, January 13, 2011

MPL Book Trailer #91: Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell

Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell, was first published in 1960 and received the Newbery Medal in 1961. The novel was inspired by the true story of Juana Maria (1803?-1853), whose Native American name is unknown. "The lone (or lost) woman of San Nicolas Island," Juana Maria was a member of the Nicoleño tribe. Her people were decimated in conflicts with Aleutian sea otter hunters under contract with the Russian-American Company. In 1835, the Santa Barbara Mission relocated the surviving tribal members to the mainland, but, somehow, Juana Maria was left behind. She lived alone on the island from 1835 to 1853, when she was rescued by George Nidever's expedition in late summer, 1853. She was taken to the Santa Barbara Mission but could not communicate in a language anyone there understood. She died seven weeks after being brought to the Mission.

Our book trailer below provides a brief summary of O'Dell's novel.

O'Dell successfully captured the solitary, isolated life that the heroine, Wonapalei, whose secret name was Karana, lived for so long. The author paints a vivid description of what Juana Maria's real life adventures might have been. It is an engaging book that a wide range of readers will enjoy. Although targeted toward children ages 9-12, it has also been a favorite of teenagers and adults alike.

If you've ever imagined running off to an island somewhere to live alone, you might reconsider after reading this book--at least if you had lived 175-200 years ago. It's no Gilligan's Island, to be sure; but, then, real life difficulties rarely get neatly resolved in 22 minutes of television air time (30 with commercials).

William R. Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Historian & Reference Coordinator

MPL Program Trailer #13B: Support Your Libraries (Cosmic Version)

We have tried another variation of our Support Your Libraries program trailer. This video features as its soundtrack "Cosmic Liturgy (Doctrine of a New Beginning)" from the music CD Andromeda by Daniel E. Buckley (2011). We hope you enjoy it.

This compares favorably to our previous two versions.

We hope you enjoy this (and all of our other) YouTube videos.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

One Year Anniversary for MPL YouTube Channel

Last Sunday (January 9, 2011) was the first anniversary for the MPL YouTube Channel. Much has been accomplished this past year. We have 138 videos uploaded, and as of today (January 11, 2011), total viewership has reached 22,746 (with visits to our YouTube Channel "home page" at 6,402). We have 23 subscribers around the world. These are modest numbers, to be sure--lots of folks have amassed much more impressive totals--but we are pleased with these results and look forward to continuing to provide what we hope are interesting book trailers, program trailers, music videos, and other videos promoting our library's services and activities.

It might be interesting to compare our first book trailer (immediately below) with our most recent book trailer (second one below).

I hope there has been some improvement in the video production.

Of our 138 videos, 136 feature the original musical compositions of the library's composer, Daniel E. Buckley. His music has elevated our videographically pedestrian efforts to artistic achievements. If you have enjoyed our work, we have Danny to thank for the lion's share.

One video that did not utilize Danny's music was our parody of Dynamite, a pop song by Taio Cruz. This is our most popular video and truly showcases the writing and directorial talents of Suzanne Walker, M.L.S., MPL Youth Services Librarian, and her co-director, Jaymi Edwards, MPL Early Literacy Specialist. A quartet of talented singers (from among our library staff) breathed life into Suzanne's superbly funny lyrics. The singers were Suzanne; Kate Meador, M.L.S., MPL Technical Services Librarian; Lori Becker, MPL Business Manager; and Meghan Adams, MPL Adult/Teen Programming Coordinator. If you have not yet seen this video, you're in for a treat, I don't mind saying.

Thanks to everyone who has watched our videos. We appreciate your support and feedback. We are excited at the prospects for the years ahead and invite you to join us in sharing this creative outlet.

William R. Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Historian & Reference Coordinator

P.S. What was the other of our uploaded videos that did not showcase an original Danny tune? The answer is among our YouTube videos (check out our playlists). Email me the answer (by no later than February 1, 2011), and you could win a free book from the Friends of MPL book sale room at the library! You must be able to come personally to the library to claim your prize. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Offer not valid where it is invalid.

Monday, January 10, 2011

MPL Book Trailer #90: Pioneer Cat, by William H. Hooks & Charles Robinson (Illustrator)

Pioneer Cat, written by William H. Hooks and illustrated by Charles Robinson (Random House Books for Young Readers, 64 pages, 1988) (ISBN 039482038X), is a children's book in the Stepping Stone Series. Our book trailer below gives a glimpse of the plot:

Nine-year-old Kate Purdy and her family leave St. Joseph, Missouri, bound for the Oregon Trail and westward migration. Kate finds a cat and decides to keep her. So the cat and her kittens become stowaways, for whom Kate and her new friend, Rosie, must secretly care. Along the journey, Kate and her new friends, both feline and human, and her family (as well as the other families traveling together) must overcome a staggering array of obstacles, hardships, setbacks, and surprises. The pioneers must learn to interact with Native Americans, in addition to wild animals and nature's most rugged, rigorous landscapes. It is truly an adventure like no other, and young readers will enjoy taking the trip vicariously with Kate and her companions.

School Library Journal recommends the book for readers ages 9-12, while Publisher's Weekly gauges the audience to be ages 8-10.

William R. Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Historian & Reference Coordinator

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Free MPL Bookmarks!

We are revising some of our free bookmarks today. Here are two that feature a couple of our blogs, like the one you're reading, actually. Click on each image to enlarge it, if you would like to print the bookmarks. To visit the blogs, just click the text hyperlinks above each image.

MPL Indiana Room Treasure Trove Blog

Cat's Eye View (@ MPL)

Thanks for following our blogs!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Reprising MPL Book Trailer #39: The Divine Life of Animals, by Ptolemy Tompkins

I just reprised a readers' advisory discussion on my Indiana Room blog, which I had intended to include on this blog instead. I forgot which blog I was logged into! It involved a local incident, however, so it could arguably fall within the purview of the Indiana Room blog.

In any event, I invite your readership of this column. Thanks for taking time to read it.

William R. Buckley
MPL Reference Coordinator & Indiana Room Historian

Sunday, January 2, 2011

MPL Book Trailer #89: The Lost World, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is best known today for his Sherlock Holmes stories, but he was a prolific author whose writings explored various genres, including mystery, adventure, science fiction, horror, the paranormal, and social commentary. (He wrote nonfiction, too, but that is a subject for a future blog.) One of his lesser known continuing characters was Professor Challenger, who for Doyle was the adventure/science fiction equivalent of Holmes. The Lost World, first published in 1912, was a popular Challenger novel, which our book trailer below highlights.

The Lost World offers everything: uncharted territories, prehistoric monsters, dangerous wilderness, ominous natives, and a menagerie of English scientists, explorers, journalists, and society thrill-seekers. The interactions between the primary characters are almost as interesting as the dramatic settings in which they struggle together to discover hidden truths to report to the world. (Doyle might be allegorical here, I just realized, having read much of his nonfiction work, but that, too, should wait for a future blog.) Doyle excelled in the adventure genre, and like his outstanding Holmes tales that set the stage for subsequent detective and mystery stories, The Lost World established the tone used by many later adventure authors and, especially, movie makers. It was no accident that the late Michael Crichton entitled his sequel to Jurassic Park after Doyle's novel (Crichton later wrote an introduction to a reissue of Doyle's Lost World).

Doyle wrote in that late 19th/early 20th century English style familiar to readers of H. G. Wells, and modern American audiences may need to read a few chapters to acclimate to the cadences. But the prose moves along briskly, and the novel reminds us that our imaginations, when fueled by a talented writer, offer excellent entertainment value.

William R. Buckley
MPL Reference Coordinator & Indiana Room Historian