Monthly Archives: April 2019

La Llorona: The Weeping Woman

By Amy Shropshire, Reference Department

“La Llorona stories across cultures part 1 of 3,” The Chicano Gothic, Citedatthecrossroads.net,

There’s nothing like a good ghost story to send a tingle down the spine and a shock to the heart. For generations, people have been sitting around campfires telling tales of creeping creatures from the beyond, here to steal away innocent souls. One such creature is la Llorona, the weeping woman. The tales of her vary widely, histories blurring with the passage of time.

Her name was once Maria, they say. The stories that paint her the most innocent say that she danced and cavorted about town with her children left alone at home. They drowned in the river, from neglect or murder no one could say. Other tales say that she fell in love with a conquistador and had her children with him. After he spurned her to marry another woman she drowned her children in the river. The tales agree that she realized the wrong she’d done far too late and grieved the loss of her children until she wasted away or drowned herself in the river to follow her children to their graves. She was turned away from heaven, forced to wander the Earth endlessly searching for her dead children and mourning their loss.

Poster for the 1933 movie La Llorona

La Llorona is a boogeyman used to frighten children into behaving, a creature of myth and morbid imagination. She wanders the waterways at night, drawn to the damp and dark places where she and her children died. When her cries sound farthest away is when she is close enough to touch. With her wailing the only warning, her hands will snatch a child found alone at night and drag them to a watery grave. She also visits children who argue with their parents, trying to lure them out and into her clutches. A gaunt young woman, once beautiful but now shriveled and with sunken eyes, she wears either pure white or mourning black, depending on which tales you believe. She drags truant children away, drowning them in puddles and rivers alike.

This awful specter of Mexican legend has haunted the dreams of children since her story was quite different, when she resembled a vengeful Aztec goddess. She has inspired folk songs, plays, and countless movies, mostly in Mexico where the legends originate. In addition to frightening children, her story is used as a moral object lesson about responsible motherhood. Historians and anthropologists theorize that the figure of la Llorona descended from Aztec stories and slowly evolved, taking on more modern elements as the folktales change with the times. In modern times, she has been a long time movie monster on par with Count Dracula or Frankenstein’s monster.

La Llorona’s first film was in 1933, where she took on the mantle of vengeful spirit, murdering the wives and firstborn of a cursed family descended from the conquistadors. She continued the theme in 1960, terrorizing a family and attempting to murder an infant. Both films are simply called La Llorona. Multitudes of movies and plays capitalize on the legend of the weeping woman. She has made appearances in TV shows and even comic books. The newest film starring the specter is The Curse of La Llorona, which just came out in theaters.

Teachers are beginning to use folktales and legends such as la Llorona to encourage literacy development in increasingly multicultural classrooms. Story books about la Llorona are increasingly available in English and Spanish. Students are attracted to the familiar tales and encouraged to learn reading skills from these books. Despite the terrifying nature of la Llorona, children are drawn to her morbid tales. There’s no denying the appeal of a good ghost story and la Llorona is a spine chilling ghost.

Translation from video:

You were leaving the Temple one day, Llorona
When in passing I saw you
You wear a beautiful huipil*
That I though you were the Virgin Mary herself.

Ay my crying woman, Llorona
Llorona of blue sky
Even if it cost my life, llorona
I won’t stop loving you

They say I don’t feel pain, Llorona
Because they don’t see me mourn
There are dead ones who make no sound, Lllorona
And your sorrow is much greater

Ay my llorona, llorona
Llorona carry me to the river
Cover with your shawl, llorona
Because I’m dying of cold

*huipil- a blouse with embroidery and lace. Read the rest of this entry

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NO BUNNIES, NO CHICKS FOR EASTER!!

By Sharon Reily, Reference Department

Originally published March 23, 2018

You’ve all seen the ads that spring up [ha, ha] this time of year marketing cuddly bunnies and brightly-dyed baby chicks as wonderful Easter gifts for your children. If you’re thinking about buying one, DON’T DO IT!! Amy Mott, president of the Clover Patch Sanctuary, a rabbit and small animal rescue organization right here in Franklin, says “You wouldn’t give your child a reindeer for Christmas. Why would you give him a bunny or duck or chick for Easter??” Amen.  If you succumb to their fluffy cuteness, you’ll basically ruin the life of a living, breathing creature to provide a brief diversion for your child. A huge percentage of bunnies, chicks and ducklings given as Easter gifts are abandoned as soon as the novelty wears off. What happens to these unfortunate animals next is not a pretty picture.

How did bunnies, hot pink chicks and ducklings become associated with Easter anyway? One theory emphasizes the Easter Bunny’s pagan roots, especially the rabbit’s connection to Eostra, goddess of the spring and fertility. Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate. But according to Catholic Online, the tradition of the Easter Bunny has distinctly Christian origins. The ancient Greeks thought rabbits could reproduce as virgins, a belief that persisted until early medieval times, when the rabbit became associated with the Virgin Mary. In medieval manuscripts, rabbit images served as allegorical illustrations of her virginity. It is likely that German Protestants invented the myth of the Easter Bunny for their children. Even in earliest folklore, the Easter Bunny came as a judge, hiding decorated eggs for well-behaved children.

No matter how the connection with Easter originated, rabbits, chicks and ducklings have not benefited from the association. The Easter holiday seems to bring out the bunny, chick and duckling lovers in people. They think such animals are perfect “starter pets” to teach children responsibility. So they make an impulse buy and their child goes wild with joy for a day. Reality soon sets in as it dawns on parents that these animals are not the “low maintenance” pets they’d imagined.

According to National Geographic, vets and insurance companies consider rabbits exotic pets, so medical care can be more expensive than for a cat or dog. Rabbits need a lot of exercise and shouldn’t be stuck away in a cage. This means they need to learn to use a litterbox. They’re also prey animals and generally don’t like to be picked up by humans, whom they view as predators. The result is that children who want to cuddle with their baby bunny can be frustrated when it doesn’t respond the way they expect and they quickly lose interest. Many parents don’t realize that rabbits can live more than 10 years, a commitment comparable to adopting a dog or cat. When that once-adorable baby bunny matures at between three and six months old, it can become aggressive and even destructive. Male rabbits will also spray urine if not neutered. Proper exercise, litterbox training, and spaying or neutering curb the problem for most rabbits. But many impulse buyers don’t expect and can’t commit to that level of responsibility, and they scramble to surrender the animals.

These babies deserve forever homes, not to be discarded.

Rabbits are the third most popular pet in America after cats and dogs, but according to the Humane Society of the United States, they’re also the third most abandoned – and euthanized. It’s unclear exactly how many rabbits originally sold as Easter pets are abandoned each year. But rescuers in shelters all over the country report a spike in calls after Easter from people trying to unload their unwanted bunnies. Clover Patch Sanctuary’s Amy Mott estimates that “80-90% of our adoptable rabbits were once Easter gifts to children. We can judge that fairly well by the timing that they came into rescue.” Many more rabbits – possibly thousands – are abandoned outdoors, a cruel death sentence for these domesticated animals possessing no survival skills or instincts.

Left: excellent Easter gift. Right: bad Easter gift.

Chicks and ducklings don’t fare any better. At Easter, fuzzy brightly colored chicks and ducklings can be too cute to resist. To achieve the brilliant hues displayed by some chicks, a dye is actually injected into the incubating egg. Other chicks are sprayed with a fine mist of dye immediately after hatching. Farmers, hatcheries and others who dye chicks claim the process is harmless, but animal rights workers say the experience is stressful for the birds. In addition to the trauma of being dyed, the bright colored feathers help make them seem more like disposable toys than living animals. Many states ban the practice of dyeing and selling chicks. In Tennessee, it is a Class C misdemeanor to “sell, offer for sale, barter or give away baby chickens, ducklings or goslings of any age, or rabbits under two (2) months of age, as pets, toys, premiums or novelties, if those fowl or rabbits have been colored, dyed, stained or otherwise had their natural color changed.”

I’m adorable now, but will you still love me when I’m grown?

But non-dyed chicks and ducklings are still sold as Easter gifts, and like bunnies, they are not ideal beginning pets for children. They can be quite messy. They are extremely fragile and can die from overhandling or being dropped, especially in the first few days before the child’s excitement wanes. Chicks and ducks may also present hazards for children. They can scratch and peck with sharp talons and beaks, but worse, they may spread the bacterial disease Salmonella, which can be especially dangerous to children and the elderly. When the birds preen, they spread the bacteria all over their feathers. So it’s best to avoid contact with them, or at least wash hands thoroughly immediately after touching.

Many people who buy adorable Easter chicks and ducklings have no capacity or intention of caring for adult fowl. Like bunnies, the unwanted birds are often handed over to shelters where they may face euthanasia if they’re not adopted. When abandoned outdoors, they have no experience foraging or avoiding predators. Easter ducklings, many of which are byproducts of the food trade, can swim, but unlike wild ducks, they can’t fly and are vulnerable to temperature changes and make easy targets for predators. One Florida farmer who offers to take unwanted Easter pets does not hide the fact that he will use them for food. He offers to keep them happy while they’re alive, but in the end, he says, “we’re all part of the food chain.”

There are plenty of great alternatives to giving live animals as Easter gifts. Consider:

Animal friendly Easter gifts

  • Plush rabbits or chicks
  • Chocolate bunnies and candy birds and eggs
  • Books and games about bunnies, chicks and ducklings
  • A visit to a reputable, educational petting zoo
  • A birdhouse or feeder to attract wild birds
  • Bunny, chick or duckling figurines
  • Make a gift in your child’s name to a rabbit or small animal rescue organization

I’ll let Amy Mott from Clover Patch Sanctuary have the final word on bunnies, chicks and ducklings as Easter gifts: “There is never a reason to give a child a live animal as a present for Easter or any other holiday and/or birthday. Animals are not ‘things’ or objects. The only way to put the breeders out of business is to stop buying from them. The chain has to stop. In this day and age of information and compassion it’s really time to get on the ball with ending the antiquated practice of gifting animals to children. They have to learn from adults that all creatures great and small are worthy and special in God’s eyes.” That really says it all.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I am NOT saying that rabbits and poultry cannot be great pets for the right people in appropriate situations. Rabbits make wonderful pets for owners who understand their needs and are committed to caring for them their entire lives. A list of helpful books you can borrow at WCPL on raising rabbits is attached to this article. Visit the House Rabbit Society’s website, rabbit.org, to learn more about rabbit care. We’ve got an excellent resource – Clover Patch Sanctuary – right here in Franklin for anyone seriously interested in adding a rabbit to their family. Check out their website!
Raising backyard chickens is increasingly popular, and the library has some great books on the proper care and housing of chickens and other poultry. Within Franklin’s city limits, it is suggested that homeowners keep no more than four to six hens (no roosters). Check Franklin city codes for rules on housing, noise levels, and cleanliness. Be sure to consult your neighborhood’s homeowners association regulations for other restrictions regarding keeping backyard chickens.
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April 12: A Day in Space

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

April 12 is an important day in history, as least when it comes to space. There were 3 big space related events that all happened on the same day in different years.  The brilliant astronomer Galileo Galilei was convicted of heresy by the Catholic Church for saying the solar system is heliocentric, a.k.a. the Earth revolved around the Sun.  This meant that he was saying that the Earth was not the center of the universe, which was in direct contradiction to what the church believed.  The second big event was sending a human into space.  Yuri Gagarin was the first man (and human) ever to go into space.  And finally, the first NASA space shuttle was launched into space on April 12.

GALILEO

Galileo Galilei

In 1616, Galileo was called in by the Inquisition, not really to question what he was studying with his telescope, but to give him a warning. They were probably restating that the Catholic Church believed that the earth was the center of the universe, and that to state otherwise would get him in trouble.  He was allowed to continue to research, but not to publicly talk or publish about his heliocentric theory that was originated by Nicolaus Copernicus. However, in 1632, he published Dialogue on the Two World Systems, which compared the theory of earth-centric and heliocentric cosmological systems by three different scientists: one for an earth-centric cosmos, one for a heliocentric one and a third who was neutral. The side representing the sun-centered theory came out looking better and the Pope was not pleased.  On April 12 in 1633, Galileo was called in by the Holy Office so that he could be questioned with the hope that he would admit his guilt of heresy, but he never did.  He did confess that he was practicing his public speaking skills and perhaps went a little too far. In May, he was convicted of a strong suspicion of heresy, a lesser charge since he had made no confession.  Luckily for him, being such a public figure made it harder for more aggressive questioning by the Inquisition, as did his age and health.  Ultimately, his book was banned and he was sentenced to prison at home for the rest of his life.  Galileo’s science outlasted the Inquisition and we now recognize him as a famous scientist who helped make the theory that the earth revolved around the sun a scientific fact.

First Human in Space

Yuri Gagarin

In 1961, Yuri Gagarin was the first human to fly into space and orbit the earth aboard the Sputnik 1 (of course, less than a month later, the US sent up Alan Shepard).  Gagarin was a good choice for the USSR, being a test pilot and an industrial engineer.  The flight was eighty-nine minutes long, and reached an altitude of 187 miles.  According to history, he only made one communication with the ground control in Russia, stating that the flight was proceeding normally and that he was well.  He became an instant celebrity, just like Lindbergh was after he flew from New York to Paris.  He was given honors and streets were named after him all over Russia. The designer of the rocket was sent by Russia to Germany to study the V2 rocket the Nazis were using.  The United States captured the designer of the rocket, Wernher von Braun, but the Soviets captured paperwork and designs. And thus the Space Race began.

NASA Reaches Space

Space Shuttle Columbia

On April, 12, 1981, the Space Shuttle Columbia shot into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center.  It was the first space shuttle in history. The space shuttle was different from a rocket in that it landed like a plane instead of on the water, and it was the first reusable spacecraft.  It carried quite a few astronauts to space.  In February 2003, the Columbia burned up during re-entry over Texas in February 2003.  They found that a piece of foam insulation had broken off from one of the tanks and damaged the shuttle’s left wing.  That became part of the safety check in all future flights.  It made twenty-eight missions and was in space a little over 300 days.  Space shuttle Atlantis was the last shuttle to fly, landing in 2011.  For eight years, we have been ride sharing into space.  New frontiers are on the horizon from NASA or private companies.  It will be interesting to see what unfolds.

If you find this interesting, we’ll continue exploring the universe and space during our annual Summer Reading Program for Grown-Ups.  Take a look at some of our special events this summer:

  • An astronomy petting zoo on Thursday, May 23 – have you ever wanted to buy a telescope but didn’t know which one to get?  Come to his program and  narrow down your choices
  • On Tuesday, May 28, learn how real astronomy has found 13 astrological symbols.
  • On Saturday, June 15 we’ll be having a film festival of some of the best movies about space.  Stay tuned for titles!
  • On Saturday, July 20, we’ll be making a day of commemorating the 50th anniversary of NASA’s moon landing.  Movies, refreshments, lectures and more!!
  • On Tuesday, July 23, we’re offering a program about all the inventions NASA created for the space program that we use almost every day!
  • On Monday, July 15, come hear about how people in history used the stars and constellations.

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A World without Satellites

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

As Richard Hollingham said, “without satellites, the world would be a very different place, [since] the infrastructure we all rely on has become increasingly dependent on space technology.”  Satellites, of course, help us find directions on our smart phone, but they do so much more. They allow trans-oceanic communication; they keep track of weather; they give us warnings about tornadoes; they help our military track other military parties (and help other militaries track us); and they allow us to have television in remote areas with a satellite dish (dish network).

So what would happen if the satellites crashed or fell??  We could say goodbye to accurately predicting the weather, especially the storms and tornadoes.  Trans-oceanic communication would be in trouble.  AND we would no longer be able to us our cell phones for directions- we would have to rely on maps, and not the ones on the computer, such as Google maps—they rely on satellites as well.  We’re talking giant paper fold out maps.  People would have to come to the library to use old-fashioned atlases… (an aside: Did you know that our dependence on GPS (thank a satellite) is making us have more trouble figuring out where to go without them?  There are reports that our brains are not retaining this information and that may yet have effects on us. )

So if anything ever happens to the satellites (or just to your phone), Travel and Leisure shares some tips about navigating with a paper map, and without the mostly reliable GPS:

  • Check the orientation (look for the compass rose that denotes north – this way you will not get the map upside down
  • Check the scale – is the scale an inch to a mile or to 50 miles?  It truly will make a difference in the time needed to get to your destination
  • Take a look at the legend—this is a key to what is shown on the map.  Places like restaurants, bathrooms, toll roads, rivers and more can be shown, depending on the legend
  • Know how to use a compass (assuming you brought a compass along with you)
  • Check out the topographic maps, or sections.  These would show you where woods, steams, mountains and hills are along your route.  Sometimes even gas stations and camping grounds.

Richard Hollingham also provides a well-thought out possible future if satellites do fall from the sky in a scenario from the BBC.  After listening to several speakers on the subject, BBC Future shared this timeline with the world.  In the span of a day, severe disruptions would appear in our transpot, communications, power, and computer systems and governments would be struggling to cope.  The public order would start to break down, and that was just day one. Hollingham gives credit to Orson Welles as he describes what would happen as a sequence of events.

But what could take out the satellites? Science fiction authors have explored this scenario endlessly, and so have the armed forces.  Ignoring unlikely options such as alien invasions and time traveling egomaniacs, there are still several possible scenarios.  Satellites could be deliberately knocked out by enemy nations, but most experts think this would be self-defeating, since this could also harm other nation’s satellites as well.   A massive solar storm is always a possibility, which actually did happen in 1859 (the Carrington Event), but of course, we didn’t have anything in space then.  Then, there is the Kessler Syndrome; this one you might know more about.  This event was used in the movie Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.  A missile strike, an asteroid, or something else strikes a satellite, then that satellite hits another one and so on until most if not all of the satellites are inoperable or destroyed.  It could definitely happen.  There is so much space junk up in space that this is completely plausible.

So what are the problems with space trash?  Consider:  while there are around 1,000 functional satellites in space, there are more than twice as many derelict and decommissioned satellites. Some 34,000 objects larger than ten centimeters (!!) have been observed by radar or telescope. For objects between one and ten centimeters, that number jumps up to over half a million. Debris less than one centimeter in size exist in the millions. Actually, Earth is surrounded by a huge cloud of space junk.  Why is this a problem?  Isn’t space huge??  So why would a loose screw or a fleck of paint floating around in space be so dangerous? Because debris can travel at speeds of up to 17,500 miles per hour. Even something as small and soft as a paint fleck can damage spacecraft or satellites when moving at such velocities.  In fact, NASA has been forced to replace many space shuttle windows damaged by paint flecks. If a larger, ten-centimeter piece of space debris was to collide with something like the International Space Station, the damage would be potentially catastrophic.  Another problem is that space debris hitting other space debris create more debris, which create more debris, etc.

Space Debris surrounding Earth

Astrophysicist and former NASA scientist Donald Kessler predicted this exact phenomenon in 1978. Shortly thereafter, a fellow astrophysicist, John Gabbard, coined the term Kessler Syndrome to describe this cascading effect. According to Donald Kessler, it is possible that the debris cloud will eventually grow so large as to prevent future operations within Earth’s orbit. That would translate into a future without weather forecasts, telecom, satellite-assisted navigation, or research satellites.

But what proactive measures can be taken to reduce debris in Earth’s orbit?  Dr.Kessler has suggested that removing just five to ten inoperable satellites a year could halt the exponential growth of space debris. In recent years, a few plans have been suggested to proactively reduce space debris. For example, the Australian National University is developing a laser that can track, target, and destroy space debris. Likewise, the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) has partnered with a private company to develop a massive 700-meter long aluminum and steel net to sweep up space debris. Other plans call for solar sails and various types of capture mechanisms such as robotic arms and space sling shots.  Whatever is planned in the short or long time will take detailed planning and will be a long-term project.

Photo by Frerk Meyer

If you find this interesting, we’ll continue exploring the universe and space during our annual Summer Reading Program for Grown-Ups.  Take a look at some of our special events this summer:

  • An astronomy petting zoo on Thursday, May 23 – have you ever wanted to buy a telescope but didn’t know which one to get?  Come to his program and  narrow down your choices
  • On Saturday, June 15 we’ll be having a film festival of some of the best movies about space.  Stay tuned for titles!
  • On Saturday, July 6, we’ll be having a Cosmos marathon.  Wondering whether it will be hosted by Carl Sagan or Neil DeGrasse Tyson?  Make sure to sign up for our newsletter and check our website for more information.
  • On Saturday, July 20, we’ll be making a day of commemorating the 50th anniversary of NASA’s moon landing.  Movies, refreshments, lectures and more!!
  • On Tuesday, July 23, we’re offering a program about all the inventions NASA created for the space program that we use almost every day!
  • We will also have Dr. Billy Teets from Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory coming to talk and Dr. David Weintraub, a professor at Vanderbilt, will be talking about Life on Mars

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