Friday, January 29, 2016

Timehop Has Changed the Past and Future

     To say that social media has changed day-to-day life has become a cliche but the extent to which it is shaping how we see our past and future may still be understated. Everytime we post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, we are logging an entry into a digital journal that will linger online for untold years, even if we cease to use it. Timehop is a special app that holds an unprecedented power unique to the 21st century.

    Timehop is an app for smart phones that connects to a variety of social media sites and collects user’s posts and photos from that particular day of history. For instance, if you were to start a Timehop profile today, the app would link to your social media and show you what you shared on this day in history for every applicable year. In a way, Timehop is almost like a time capsule that you open everyday and updates automatically through the years.

   At first, Timehop may just seem like a novelty or fun trick but when used consistently and properly contemplated, it is apparent that Timehop grants a window into the past like nothing else has in history. Sure, there have always been journals and photo albums, but the volume and spontaneous nature of social media posts provides a much more authentic and less staged window to the past. The most miniscule moments in one’s social media history can lead to an intimate perspective on one’s past events and status.
   Timehop’s leverage is that, by and large, people haven’t seriously considered the staying power of social media until recently. In the first decade of the millennium, the internet and social media was still a wild west and, in general, users of social media may not have always considered the long-term effects and consequences of their posts. (For this reason, anyone who was active on social media or blogs at the time may want to run a Google search of themselves to see what is still out there floating around.) Personally, through Timehop I can tell from the tone and structure of my own earliest posts on Facebook and Twitter that I never thought I would see them or they would be relevant to me again.
 It is also interesting to note the synchronicity of dates in one’s history. On any given day, one might have half a dozen or more recollections on their Timehop, stretching back for years and years. While seeing the Christmas celebrations and holidays through the years is one thing, it is equally engaging to see the less scripted recurrences and habits that align more naturally.

  The other side of the coin is that while our social media profiles continue to endure, and we engage with our pasts in this refreshed way, there could be an influence from this new awareness on our present and future. Now when I post something online, I know that, (god willing) I will be seeing it a year from the day and onward into the future. It is impossible to quantify the extent to which this enlightenment may shape what we choose to share or even what we choose to do.

   Social media is still in its infancy and will only evolve and integrate into our lives further in the future. The sooner we recognize and appreciate its full potential and capability, the better equipped we are to master and best benefit from it. Perhaps when today is “five years ago today”, I will look back at this day in Timehop as the day I better came to appreciate how Timehop has changed the past and future.

Posted by Terry Pierson, Programming Technician

Monday, January 25, 2016

2016 Carnegie Award Winners

Congratulations to this year's Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence winners!  You can click in their titles below to request a copy.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong.

Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann
Sally Mann's luminous photographs of her three young children growing up on a rural Virginia farm and her evocative explorations of the southern landscape and mortality have become icons of modern art. Hold Still makes it clear that the fearlessness and clarity of vision she possesses as an artist are fully in evidence in her writing as well. In this riveting memoir, a unique interplay of narrative and image, Mann's abiding concerns---family, race, mortality, and the storied landscape of the American South---are revealed as almost genetically predetermined, written into her DNA by a colorful cast of characters who came before her.

Happy reading!

Posted by Kyla Waltermire, Branch Manager-Collinsville

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

10 Genre-Bending Books

More and more, books are crossing genres in difficult to categorize, yet very satisfying, ways.  Here are the top 10 best genre-bending books according to a recent article by Publishers Weekly. (Click on the titles to request a copy.)

If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino
"The plot of the book is that “you,” the reader, are reading Calvino’s new book when you discover your copy is incomplete. From here, the novel is split into two parts. Half the novel tells the story of you trying to solve a series of literary mysteries, while the interstitials each contain fictional first chapters of different novels, each in a different style from Western to mystery. The genres of these chapters bleed into the main plot, and all the pieces combine to form something exceedingly rare: a truly unique read."

Inter Ice Age 4 by Kobo Abe
"Kobo Abe’s 1950s novel about supercomputers, genetic engineering, and post-apocalyptic life feels amazingly current in 2015. In Japan, it is known as the first Japanese science fiction novel...But the novel quickly turns into a mystery as Katsumi is forced to shift away from predicting political events, and instead tries to predict the futures of a single person… who is suddenly murdered."

The Wilds by Julia Elliott
"[T]he stories here are simultaneously “literary” and “genre,” mixing gorgeous prose and complex characters with inventive takes on SF, fantasy, and horror tropes. What ties the collection together are the through-lines of Southern Gothic prose and social satire. If you’ve ever wondered what the gene-splicing of William Faulkner and Ursula K. Le Guin would produce, check out The Wilds."

Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
"The first half of the book, “Hardboiled Wonderland,” is a cyberpunk science fiction story narrated by a “Calcutec” human data processor. The other half, “End of the World,” takes place in a Kafkaesque fantasy realm where dreams can be read in glowing unicorn skulls. Explaining how these two worlds relate would be too much of a spoiler, so you’ll have to read it yourself to find out."

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson
"Carson’s starting points are fragments of a poem by the ancient Greek poet Stesichorus—which Carson translates in the text—concerning the winged red monster Geryon who Herakles (Hercules) kills during his famous labors. The book soon switches from scholarly study to a modern retelling of the myth with Geryon and Herakles becoming classmates and lovers in the modern day."

Gun, with Occasional Music by Johnathan Lethem
"Conrad Metcalf is hired by a man who says he is being framed for murder. The case leads Metcalf into a world of memory-suppressing drugs, genetically-engineered mob muscle, and Karma debit cards."

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
"Everyone knows here famous short story “The Lottery,” but far too few have read the truly amazing We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Part (anti) coming-of-age horror story, part gothic murder mystery, this novel also has one of the most compelling protagonists in American literature in the incomparable Merricat Blackwood."

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
"On its surface, The Martian Chronicles seems to fit squarely in the science fiction camp. But the loosely connected novel—really separate short stories that were later combined—has none of the world-building or serious examination of technology that we normally think of as SF...Instead, the underlying story of humanity’s invasion and colonization of Mars allows Bradbury to tell a wide variety of tales."

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
"This collection is indeed magical, mixing in vengeful witches, convenience-store zombies, time travel, haunted appliances, and more into a singular bewitching brew."

2666 by Robert Bolano
"Bolaño’s epic 900-page masterpiece is a dark but beautiful vortex that seems to suck all of the great Chilean author’s interests inside it. The novel is divided into five parts, each with different cast of (sometimes overlapping) characters. The first part examines the love triangle of three academics who are obsessed with the same reclusive author...By part five, the novel has become a nightmarish catalogue of human horror—part journalism and part Cormac McCarthy—describing the murder of countless women in Juárez, Mexico."

Happy reading!

Posted by Kyla Waltermire, Branch Manager-Collinsville

Friday, January 15, 2016

On This Day In...2008

On this day in 2008, actor Brad Renfro died of a heroin overdose at the age of 25. Renfro made his big screen debut at the age of 11 in the hit movie The Client and went on to star in over twenty films. Unfortunately, like many child stars, Renfro's professional success lead to tremendous chaos in his personal life. Brad's first arrest was for drug possession when he was 15 years old, and very quickly his criminal record began to grow as fast as his filmography. Most notoriously, Renfro was once arrested for attempting to steal a 45-foot yacht.

Key Library Checkouts (click on the title to request a copy):

Ghost World - Thora Birch dominates this film adaptation of Daniel Clowes' classic comic book. Renfro plays her convenience store working object of desire.

Sleepers - Based on the controversial bestseller by Lorenzo Carcaterra, this dark drama features Renfro as the young version of Brad Pitt's character.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Godzilla in America

Godzilla was first conceived by Tomoyuki Tanaka, a Japanese film producer for the Toho Co. film studio. The character was imagined to be Japan’s version of King Kong as well as a metaphor for the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War 2. In Japan, Godzilla is like Mickey Mouse here - iconic to the point of omnipotence. Godzilla’s success and prominence in America is symbolic of our post-war relationship with Japan. For more than fifty years now, the big guy has been stomping his way across the globe and into the hearts and minds of American audiences. 
Godzilla was introduced to America in 1956’s Godzilla, King of the Monsters. King of the Monsters was a heavily edited “Americanization” of Toho Co.’s 1954 Japanese film, Gojira. Not only was King of the Monsters dubbed into English but actor Raymond Burr, a Hollywood actor who had already worked with Alfred Hitchcock, was spliced into the film. Godzilla’s first appearance in America was noticeably lighter in tone and thematic quality than its Japanese source,which had served as a dark and serious reflection on the nuclear warfare that had decimated Japan just a decade earlier. 

For the next thirty years, Godzilla would drift towards being a novelty to American audiences. Aside from King Kong vs Godzilla, which was co-produced in a historical partnership with Universal and remains the most commercially successful in the franchise, most of the Godzilla films released in the sixties and seventies were regulated to drive-in theaters, double features, and late night showings in America. This era introduced Godzilla as a hero, was increasingly aimed at children, and saw diminishing production budgets take a toll on the quality and consistency of the films. The good guy Godzilla character started with 1964’s Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster. In all of the earlier films, Godzilla was still a villain, a dark opponent for more benevolent monsters like Mothra and King Kong. Through the late sixties and the seventies, Godzilla would transform into a full-fledged superhero, standing up for those smaller or more helpless than him and saving the world countless times.

In 1985 the franchise was rebooted to return the character to his roots as a menacing and destructive force of nature. In Godzilla 1985 he terrorizes Japan, pulverizes entire cities, and decimates military forces and civilian populations. The 1985 suit is one of the most evil and frightening of all of The Big G’s incarnations; he looks like a villain. The film received a large theatrical release and strong promotional push in America. In a way, it is the first in the series to really be made for American audiences. Raymond Burr even reprised his role from King of the Monsters, making the film a direct continuation from America’s origin story for the creature. 
Sony’s Godzilla (1998) was Hollywood’s first shot at the character and the results were disastrous. The film was maligned by fans for not capturing the spirit of the franchise. The mysterious reverence and sacred mythology established in the Japanese films was gone. Godzilla was neither an apocalyptic harbinger reflective of the danger of mankind’s ambitions or a wacky and beloved superhero caricature - he was just a dumb animal on the loose.  It was directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day), featured state-of-the-art special effects, and was heavily pushed by the studio with a robust marketing campaign. All in all, Godzilla 1998 could have been an okay giant monster movie but collapsed under the expectations of its name. Perhaps it should have been billed as a remake of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, the 1953 American film that partially inspired Godzilla in the first place.
 Godzilla 2000 was Toho’s attempt to capitalize on the marketing blitz provided by the 1998 film. After more than a decade of entries that were only available on VHS in the United States, 2000 was the first  Japanese Godzilla movie to receive a full American theatrical run and promotional campaign since Godzilla 1985 (and one of only a handful overall). Toho’s vision managed to compile the various meanings and personalities of the beast, with Godzilla starting the film as a destructive force but eventually saving the Earth from the evil space monster Orga. Godzilla 2000 is one of the stronger installments in the long running franchise but unfortunately it under performed with American audiences who probably had a bad taste in their mouth from the Sony film

Godzilla would again recluse to his home country through the remainder of what is known as the Millennium series until Toho announced that the character would be going on hiatus following 2004’s 50th anniversary tribute Godzilla Final Wars. For a few years The Big G would lay dormant, with some wondering if the character had outlived its significance while others proclaimed that it was only a matter of time until the money train came rolling into the station for such a famous and popular property. 

In 2010, Toho confirmed that they were working in-tangent with Legendary/Warner Bros. on a blockbuster reboot of the franchise. It wasn’t until two years later that the first teaser trailer was revealed and fans immediately embraced it. It was clear that this big-budget Hollywood Godzilla was going to be true to the franchise’s roots. Soon a blitz of merchandise and advertising, from books and toys to commercials and viral campaigns, heralded the return of the world’s most famous monster.

Godzilla (2014) was a critical and commercial success, obliterating any negative residue from the 1998 film the same way The Big G demolishes skyscrapers. The film primarily draws from the heroic mythology of the character. Godzilla is a protagonist - the “savior of our city.” There are still remnants and references to his unpredictable and destructive nature, and the design ranks among the most imposing and awe-inspiring of any in the canon, but overall he is as much of a good guy now as he has ever been. For most diehard G-Fans, it was the best of both worlds and a dream-come-true to see The King of Monsters back on the big screen in all of his monumental glory, portrayed with the respect he deserves. 

This is just the beginning of a new legacy for Godzilla in America. There are already two sequels being planned (including a new King Kong vs Godzilla) and the stream of associated media and merchandise is relentless. Godzilla has already cemented his oversized foot print on American pop culture and his rampage isn’t going to end anytime soon. 

Posted by Terry Pierson, Programming Technician

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Top Religion and Spirituality Books of 2015

Booklist, which is a free online and print magazine you can pick every month at our main desk, recently shared their top 10 religion and spirituality books of 2015.  Learn more about the top picks below, and check them out from the library by clicking on the titles!

Augustine: Conversions to Confessions by Robin Lane Fox
Fox’s richly detailed narrative takes readers beyond Augustine’s conversion through 11 years of further transformations. Exceptionally insightful.

Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World by Tim Whitmarsh
Whitmarsh traces a lineage of unbelievers among the ancient Greeks that includes the historian Thucydides, the philosopher Democritus, and the poet Diagoras of Melos. An intriguing look at early atheists.

The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope by Austen Ivereigh
Although there are many books on Pope Francis, consider this presentational biography, which draws upon his early writing and public statements, as well as the testimony of friends and associates, as the cornerstone of any Francis collection.

How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian: Struggling with Divine Violence from Genesis through Revelation by John Dominic Crossan
In this substantial but accessible book, Crossan, an expert on the historical Jesus, urges readers to note the history and cultural background against which biblical events occurred and proposes viewing the nonviolent Jesus movement—and not some apocalyptic bloodbath—as Christian centrality.

The Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling by Carole Satyamurti
An indelible epic that dramatizes the implications of dharma—Hinduism’s moral and religious laws—this version of the Mahabharata is an exquisitely lucid and involving retelling.

Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence by Jonathan Sacks
Sacks embraces religion as the pathway to peace but understands that violence in scripture is disturbing. He digs deep into the Hebrew Bible, finding both a universal justice between all peoples and a profound sense of God’s particularizing love for diverse communities.

One Islam, Many Muslim Worlds: Spirituality, Identity, and Resistance across Islamic Lands by Raymond William Baker
Extremists dominate the headlines, but Baker believes it’s Islamic centrists who are forging Islam’s future. This thoughtful survey provides a much-needed counterweight to dehumanizing caricatures of Islam.

Our Promised Land: Faith and Militant Zionism in Israeli Settlements by Charles Selengut
In this invaluable resource, the author examines Yesha, the movement to reestablish Jewish control of all of biblical Israel by resettlement.

Paradise Now: The Story of American Utopianism by Chris Jennings
A lively yet thoughtful look at utopian communities whose members thought they could bring heaven to earth.

Uncovered: How I Left Hasidic Life and Finally Came Home by Leah Lax
In large part to escape her dysfunctional family, Lax becomes a Hasidic Jew; then, after years in a marriage and seven children, she realizes she is gay, forcing her to make some heartbreaking decisions. An insightful and honest memoir.

Happy reading!

Posted by Kyla Waltermire, Branch Manager-Collinsville