United States, or Uncle Sam??

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Most of us remember seeing the poster, somewhere, at some time stating that “Uncle Sam Wants You….”  Did you ever wonder why it is everywhere, and why this United States mascot is called Uncle Sam??  Prepare to be informed…

During the War of 1812, Sam Wilson (Marvel’s Falcon was aptly named), a meat packer in Troy, New York delivered meat for the soldiers fighting the battles of the war.  There was a directive from the government that all supplies sent to the troops be stamped with the name and location of the supplier.  He stamped the barrels with a U.S. which actually stood for United States.  Sam was locally called Uncle Sam; when the barrels were delivered to the troops, soldiers from Troy knew Sam Wilson and called him Uncle Sam to other soldiers.  Word spread and hearing the story, more and more soldiers began saying that the meat came from “Uncle Sam.”    The soldiers began calling themselves Uncle Sam’s soldiers.  By the end of the War of 1812, Uncle Sam was considered a new nickname for the United States.

Original design for the “Be Patriotic” poster by Paul Stahr, ca. 1917-18

The United States of America had also been called Columbia, shown as a classical Greek statue of a woman, sometimes holding a flag – dos the song “Columbia the Gem of the Ocean” ring any bells?  The name Columbia was based on Columbus, since he discovered America (but maybe not the first discoverer any more…)

So now we know how the name Uncle Sam became associated with our armed forces.  But what about the picture?  We have to go back earlier than you might think. Thomas Nast was the first artist to create a picture of Uncle Sam.  He’s the same artist who made Santa Claus into the character we see today.  He created his image in the 1870s and 80s, and then continued to refine the image; he was the first artists to give Sam a white goatee, top hat and a suit of stars and stripes.

We’re probably all familiar with the poster Uncle Sam Wants You!  Artist James Montgomery Flagg (truly, his last name is Flagg!) designed over 40 recruitment post for the United States as it entered World War I.  Flagg was under a deadline; he didn’t have enough time to find a model for the poster.  He looked in the mirror and used his own face for inspiration for Uncle Sam.  He had a long face, with bushy white eyebrow and full beard.  So he had the image he wanted for the poster.  Flagg also had illustrations in “Photoplay,” “McClure’s Magazine,” “Colliers Weekly,” “Ladies Home Journal,” “Saturday Evening Post” and “Harper’s Weekly.”

J. M. Flagg’s 1917 poster was based on the original British Lord Kitchener poster of three years earlier. It was used to recruit soldiers for both World War I and World War II. Flagg used a modified version of his own face for Uncle Sam,[1] and veteran Walter Botts provided the pose.

Now…, to find the message.  He remembered seeing a poster of Lord Kitchener, the British Secretary of War, asking the British to “Join Your Country’s Army – Lord Kitchener Wants YOU.”  Inspiration!  He created the poster with the soon to be iconic image of Uncle Sam with the caption Uncle Sam Wants You To Join the Army.  It was this image more than any other that set the appearance of Uncle Sam as the elderly man with white hair and a goatee wearing a white top hat with white stars on a blue band, a blue tail coat and red and white striped trousers, and his pointing finger.  Flagg’s Uncle Sam first appearance is generally believed to be on the cover of the magazine Leslie’s Weekly, on July 6, 1916.  Also on the cover was the title “What Are You Doing For Preparedness.”  A poster of the image was also created, using the now famous phrase I wan You for the US Army.  More than four million copies of this cover image were printed between 1917 and 1918.  When Flagg was asked to update his famous image, he hired Indianan veteran Walter Botts as a model.  Family lore has it that he was chosen because he had long arms, a long nose and extremely bushy eyebrows.

In 1961 the U.S. Congress recognized that Sam Wilson “Uncle Sam” as the progenitor of America’s national symbol.   Wilson died in 1854, and is buried in Troy, New York, which rightly calls itself “The Home of Uncle Sam.”

Read the rest of this entry

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So You Think You Can Write: The Everyman Answer to Your Potential Publishing Needs

By Shannon Owens, Reference Department

The Technology Age is upon us, ladies and gents! Anything you could ever desire is at your fingertips, rendering third parties nearly obsolete when it comes to food delivery (Seamless, Uber Eats) and retail shopping (Amazon, StitchFix). Now it’s extended into the wonderful world of publishing! ePubs and PDFs are part of our everyday vernacular, and self-publishing has become a rather commonplace alternative. You can see the draw: who needs to find a rare (and potentially expensive) agent at a major publishing house?

Who needs to have a 1,000 pound printing press stowed away in their basement? Why, nobody at all! In fact, being a member of our library gives you access to online software that allows you to publish your own book(s)!

Pressbooks allows you to create professional-quality EBook and print-ready files of your book in ePub, MOBI, and PDF formats. You can write and edit your books without any worry of coding or graphic design: neither is required here. Pressbooks has several themes and formats to choose from, but it won’t take any ownership over your newly minted masterpiece! Already started writing your book? They’ve got you covered there, too! You can copy and paste each chapter into the Pressbooks format or you can upload your entire document from Microsoft Word.

Here’s how to get started with Pressbooks:

  • Visit our library website here
  • Toggle over the eLibrary drop down link and click on Pressbooks Self-Publishing on the far right side of your screen
  • Click “Connect Via Your Local Library” (the big blue button in the middle) which will direct you to the BiblioBoard homepage
  • You’ll need to create a profile: click on “Get Started Now”

Now that you’ve knocked out the basics, it’s time to get down to business! You’ll be prompted to add your book information: title, pub date, cover, etc. Most of these data entry spaces are optional, so keep that in mind if you’re still unsure on the details of the book. The main BiblioBoard page allows you to edit data, organize chapters (Main Body), and create a preface (Front Matter) or bibliography (Back Matter), etc. This same page gives you the ability to choose from twenty themes to make your book aesthetically pleasing and uniquely you! When all is complete, every “I” dotted and every “T” crossed, you can export your latest work. Worried this may be difficult? Fear not, the export process involves one button! Can you guess what that button reads? Yep, “Export”…tough stuff, I tell you!

What are you waiting for? Go get signed up and start writing (uh, well, typing) today! This program is absolutely free and one of the best resources for budding authors that our library has available. More questions? Check out Pressbooks’ YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/user/pressbooks


Sources:

Book List: Libraries Rock!

by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

School’s back in session for Williamson County, and we’re looking forward to a great school year for our awesome teachers and students. But it’s been a summer to remember, thanks in part to WCPL’s Summer Reading Program! The theme was “Libraries Rock!” and you all – adults, teens, and kids alike – seemed to have a great time with it.

Nearly 70 adult patrons participated in the program, and they read almost 400 books among them! We gave out about 120 prizes, including lots of books (of course) and gift cards donated by beloved local shops and restaurants.*

This post focuses on a display aimed at our adult patrons, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to our amazing teens and kids. One teen reader alone devoured 104 books throughout the summer! (Do we have a future writer here?) And 2,300 children throughout the Williamson County Public Library system participated by reading, reviewing, and attending events. I’m so impressed, y’all. (The teens’ and children’s departments also handed out tons of prizes.)

Recommended method for reading 104 books in a single summer.

Our main floor book display stayed up all summer. In keeping with the Summer Reading Program’s theme, we featured books about readers and rockers, libraries and lyrics, bookshelves and the blues and – well, you get the picture. If you didn’t have the chance to make it through all the intriguing titles, we’ve got the list right here for you to peruse at your leisure. After all, summer in Middle Tennessee really lasts through September, right?


Biography & Memoir

  • Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello (B COSTELLO)
  • Sing for Your Life: a story of race, music, and family by Daniel Bergner (B GREEN)
  • The World’s Strongest Librarian: a memoir of Tourette’s, faith, strength, and the power of family by Joshua Hanagarne (B HANAGARNE)
  • Waylon: tales of my outlaw dad by Terry Jennings (B JENNINGS)
  • It’s a Long Story: my life by Willie Nelson (B NELSON)
  • Stand up Straight and Sing! by Jessye Norman (B NORMAN)
  • Soul Serenade: rhythm, blues & coming of age through vinyl by Rashod Ollison (B OLLISON)
  • The Universal Tone by Carlos Santana (B SANTANA)
  • Turn Around Bright Eyes: the rituals of love and karaoke by Rob Sheffield (B SHEFFIELD)
  • More Room in a Broken Heart: the true adventures of Carly Simon by Stephen Davis (B SIMON)
  • M Train by Patti Smith (B SMITH)
  • Hank: the short life and long country road of Hank Williams by Mark Ribowsky (B WILLIAMS)

Fiction

  • The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom (F ALBOM)
  • Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie (F ALE)
  • A Pleasure to Burn: Fahrenheit 451 stories by Ray Bradbury (F BRA)
  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (F BRO)
  • Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (F CHA)
  • Tender: a novel by Mark Childress (F CHI)
  • The Archivist by Martha Cooley (F COO)
  • Last Train to Memphis by Elsa Cook (F COOK)
  • Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell (F COW)
  • Oh, Play That Thing by Roddy Doyle (F DOYLE)
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (F ECO)
  • The Geographer’s Library by Jon Fasman (F FAS)
  • The Camel Bookmobile by Marsha Hamilton (F HAM)
  • The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos (F HIJ)
  • High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (F HOR)
  • Open Season by Linda Howard (F HOW)
  • Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro (F ISH)
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (F KOSTOVA)
  • White Tears by Hari Kunzru (F KUNZRU)
  • The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai (F MAK)
  • The Librarian and the Spy by Susan Mann (F MANN)
  • Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann (F MAN)
  • Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey (F MCCAFFREY)
  • Amsterdam by Ian McEwan (F MCEWAN)
  • Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay (F MCKINLAY)
  • The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer (F MEL)
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (F NIF)
  • The Song Is You by Arthur Phillips (F PHI)
  • Never Mind the Pollacks by Neal Pollack (F POL)
  • Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx (F PRO)
  • Vivaldi’s Virgins by Barbara Quick (F QUI)
  • The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick (F QUICK)
  • Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia (F RACCULIA)
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz (F RUI)
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (F SETTERFIELD)
  • Rock Bottom by Michael Shilling (F SHI)
  • Say Goodbye: the Laurie Moss story by Lewis Shiner (F SHI)
  • The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler (F SWYLER)
  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (F THIEN)
  • Music & Silence by Rose Tremain (F TRE)

Nonfiction

  • This Book Is Overdue!: how librarians and cybrarians can save us all by Marilyn Johnson (020 JOH)
  • Letter to a future lover: marginalia, errata, secrets, inscriptions, and other ephemera found in libraries by Ander Monson (020.8 MON)
  • The Vanished Library: a wonder of the ancient world by Luciano Canfora (026.932 CAN)
  • Library: an unquiet history by Matthew Battles (027 BAT)
  • At home with books: how booklovers live with and care for their libraries by Estelle Ellis (027.1 ELL)
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel (027.4 MAN)
  • Part of Our Lives: a people’s history of the American public library by Wayne A. Wiegand (027.473 WIE)
  • America’s Library: the story of the Library of Congress, 1800-2000 by James Conaway (027.573 CON)
  • Running the Books: the adventures of an accidental prison librarian by Avi Steinberg (027.665092 STE)
  • Books that Build Character: a guide to teaching your child moral values through stories by William Kilpatrick (028.5 KIL)
  • The Books that Changed My Life: reflections by 100 authors, actors, musicians, and other remarkable people by Bethanne Patrick, ed. (028.9 BOO)
  • The Little Guide to Your Well-read Life by Steve Leveen (028.9 LEV)
  • Bibliotherapy: the girl’s guide to books for every phase of our lives by Nancy Peske and Beverly West (028.9 PES)
  • Remarkable Reads: 34 writers and their adventures in reading by J. Peder Zane, ed. (028.9 REM)
  • Unpacking My Library: writers and their books by Leah Price, ed. (028.9 UNP)
  • Honky-tonk Gospel: the story of sin and salvation in country music by Gene Edward Veith and Thomas L. Wilmeth (261.5 VEI)
  • Taboo Tunes: a history of banned bands & censored songs by Peter Blecha (303.376 BLE)
  • Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: a history of the hip-hop generation by Jeff Chang (306.484249 CHA)
  • Dewey: the small-town library cat who touched the world by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter (636.80929 MYR)
  • Beethoven’s Hair by Russell Martin (780 MAR)
  • And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Our Vinyl: the Jewish past as told by the records we have loved and lost by Roger Bennett and Josh Kun (780.89924073 BEN)
  • Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt (780.92 HAU)
  • Waking the Spirit: a musician’s journey healing body, mind, and soul by Andrew Schulman (780.92 SCH)
  • Beethoven’s Skull: dark, strange, and fascinating tales from the world of classical music and beyond by Tim Rayborn (780.922 RAY)
  • Children of the Stone: the power of music in a hard land by Sandy Tolan (780.95695309051 TOL)
  • Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: what pop music rivalries reveal about the meaning of life by Steven Hyden (781.64 HYD)
  • The Chitlin’ Circuit: and the road to rock ‘n’ roll by Preston Lauterbach (781.6408 LAU)
  • Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: five years in New York that changed music forever by Will Hermes (781.6409747 HER)
  • Pilgrimage to Dollywood: a country music road trip through Tennessee by Helen Morales (781.64209768 MOR)
  • Higher Ground: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the rise and fall of American soul by Craig Werner (781.644 WER)
  • The Book of Exodus: the making and meaning of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ album of the century by Vivien Goldman (781.646092 GOL)
  • Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth by Kim Cooper and David Smay, ed. (781.66 BUB)
  • Corn Flakes with John Lennon: and other tales from a rock ‘n’ roll life by Robert Hilburn (781.66092 HIL)
  • Language of the Spirit: an introduction to classical music by Jan Swafford (781.68 SWA)
  • Go down Moses: a celebration of the African-American spiritual by Richard Newman (782.25 NEW)
  • Shake It Up: great American writing on rock and pop from Elvis to Jay Z by Jonathan Letham and Kevin Dettmar, ed. (782.4216 SHA)
  • Dark Midnight When I Rise: the story of the Jubilee Singers, who introduced the world to the music of Black America by Andrew Ward (782.42162 WAR)
  • Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: the story of pop music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé by Bob Stanley (782.4216309 STA)
  • I Hate Myself and Want to Die: the 52 most depressing songs you’ve ever heard by Tom Reynolds (782.42164 REY)
  • Hard Rain: a Dylan commentary by Tim Riley (782.42164 RIL)
  • Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison: the making of a masterpiece by Michael Streissguth (782.421642092 STR)
  • Who Shot Ya?: an illustrated history of hip hop by Ernie Paniccioli (782.421649 PAN)
  • Songs in the Rough: from “Heartbreak Hotel” to “Rhythm nation” : rock’s greatest songs in first-draft form by Steven Bishop, ed. (782.42166 BIS)
  • The Beatles Lyrics: the stories behind the music, including the handwritten drafts of more than 100 classic Beatles songs by Hunter Davies, ed. (782.42166 DAV)
  • Alice Cooper, Golf Monster: a rock ‘n’ roller’s 12 steps to becoming a golf addict by Alice Cooper (782.42166092 COO)
  • Danny Boy: the beloved Irish ballad by Malachy McCourt (782.4309415 MACC)
  • The Soloist: a lost dream, an unlikely friendship, and the redemptive power of music by Steve Lopez (787.2092 LOP)
  • In the Stacks: short stories about libraries and librarians by Michael Cart, ed. (808.83 IN)
  • Leonard Cohen: poems and songs by Leonard Cohen (811 COH)

* Many thanks to our local sponsors, who provided prizes for our adult summer reading program:

  • Mafiaoza’s
  • Belvedere Commons of Franklin
  • Landmark Booksellers
  • Mellow Mushroom
  • Pueblo Real
  • McCreary’s Irish Pub
  • Frist Art Museum
  • Handy Hardware
  • Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant
  • Franklin Theatre
  • Schakolad
  • Nashville Pet Products

Superhero 101 Foundations in Super Hero History

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

Good morning class, and welcome to Superhero 101. With the massive surge of movies, books, and television about and starring spandex clad gladiators from the last century we cannot help but look back to the origins of the archetypal superhero. Most modern comic book enthusiasts think of comics and their associated heroes as falling into the eras of The Gold, Silver, Bronze and Modern ages, with the superhero archetype we all think of (i.e. Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain America) beginning in the Golden age. While I agree with the ages and their application in the history of comics, I believe the heroes go back so much farther. I would go even as far as to say that our older heroes are still as popular now as they were in their nascent era. So let us begin learning how the heroes of humanity’s past are the heroes of today’s children.

Okay, that’s what it would say at the top of the syllabus if there was a university crazy enough to give me carte blanche to design a course of my choosing. I’m not sure what department would end up with a course like that; history, literature, and anthropology all have good claims on the subject matter. (I’d probably choose anthropology.) I started to think about this back in 2005, when another set of books came out claiming to be the next Harry Potter. It was something to do with Mount Olympus in New York and some unfortunately named kid. Percy Jackson brought Greek mythology back to the American consciousness with a vengeance. I remarked to a coworker in the children’s department that it was like someone had mixed Dauliere’s mythology with comic books, and then I realized there was nothing to mix, that the original sequential pictures were drawn on the side of black-figure pottery. The more I thought about it, the further back I could push that genesis moment in drawn super heroes, back past Homer, beyond Gilgamesh, back to the paintings in Chauvet and Lascaux and the Löwenmensch. Those giant figures on cave walls and anthropomorphized animals showed a belief in a being better than an average human, a super man.

Gilgamesh Statue at Sydney University

The real origin we can trace the ideas back is to the stories that have come down to us along with artistic renderings. Gilgamesh is probably the earliest recorded super hero. He was stronger and braver and more cunning than an average person. This was because he was two thirds god (yeah, I can’t make the math on that work either), but he wasn’t a god himself. Even the Old Testament refers to a race of giants like Goliath, that were the children of fallen angels and human women, but they were not very heroic. Yet still that was the de facto origin story for most of the Stone Age and Classical Age heroes, some combination of divine ancestors mixed with human to make for an invulnerable hero (Achilles), a super strong one (Heracles), or some mix of characteristics (Theseus, Perseus, Etc. ). There are even examples of plain guys with nothing but their physical prowess and sharp wits like Batman, oh, sorry , I mean Odysseus. The superhero of today would fit fine in ancient Greece and Rome if he just swapped his tights and alien parents for a toga or chiton and a more deified lineage.

The medieval world and its dominating monotheistic religions brought an end to all this human/deity philandering. Heroes now were men and women who were blessed by God like Robin Hood, Pwyll of Dyfed, and King Arthur or sorcerers of sketchy origin like Merlin. Real life heroes began to be magnified to supernatural proportions. Joan of Arc, El Cid, Roland, Boadicea, and Charlemagne all have fantastic elements woven into their stories. Off in the cold north of Europe the Vikings still had the demigod heroes of the early sagas, but even these saw a Christianization as people adopted the religion but didn’t want to give up their old fireside stories. Hero tales are not the sole property of the west in the middle ages.  Sinbad the mariner was sailing the Arabian Sea while the brothers of the peach orchard, Guan Yu, Liu Pei, and Zhang Fei, were fighting to unite China.

Since the Medieval era, we have been going through our past for inspiration. There have been resurgences in interest over and over in the classical mythos as well as the Arthurian legends. Scholars debate the historicity of Troy and Camelot. Writers like Tennyson and Keats borrowed the themes for new works. It wasn’t until early last century that we began something new. Superman, Captain Marvel, Captain America and Wonder Woman each debuted and added new heroes to our mythology. This coincided with a rise in science fiction stories in the popular publishing world. Now we have science fiction retellings of the Odyssey, movies of Sinbad, video Games of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and graphic novels that tell the 4000 year old story of Gilgamesh and Troy. Children today are learning the same lessons as the kids of millennia past from the same characters.  We have made our own heroes but we have built them on a timeless framework that goes back to the beginning of humanity and we have brought along a best of collection of the heroes of the past.

 


Sources and Suggested Reading:

  • The History of Art by H. W. Janson (709 JAN)
  • Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman by  Marc Tyler Nobleman (J 741.5 NOB)
  • D’aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri D’Aulaire (J 292 DAU)
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh by Kent H. Dixon (892.1 DIX)
  • The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell (201.3 CAM)
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guangzhong (895.13 LUO)
  • The Song of Roland by Anonymous (YA 841.1 CHA)

 

How to Care for Your Book Hangover: An Intro to Readers’ Advisory Websites

by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

What Am I Going to Read Now??  We’ve all been there. After spending days – weeks –months! – devouring plotlines, falling in love with characters, forming a map of their world inside our heads, we all must reach The End. Closing a book after reading its last line can be bittersweet, to say the least. When you’ve exhausted your favorite author’s bibliography, pored through every volume of a series, or simply finished a Darn Good Book, you may find yourself in a Book Hangover.

How will you find “The One” among all these books?

That Darn Good Book can never – should never – be replaced in your heart. But you don’t have to suffer hopelessly through a Book Hangover. Assuage your pain by picking up another book. And not just any book: though millions of books are published each year, there are ways to increase your odds of finding love again. Friends, relatives, librarians, and critics can all be a great source of recommendations. And for the internet-connected book fiend, there’s another option: Readers’ Advisory Websites.

Despite the somewhat ominous phrasing (calling to mind the sternness of a Parental Advisory, or the anxiety of a Weather Advisory), a Readers’ Advisory Website (denoted here as “RAW”) can be a useful, entertaining tool. Essentially, a reader inputs preferences, and the RAW outputs suggestions. Those are the ones we’ll look at today. Review sites also fall under the umbrella of RAWs, so I’ll list some of those, too.

I had never used a Readers’ Advisory Website before researching them for this article, so I’m presenting them to you from a new user’s point of view. Here are my four picks.

Search Engines

Some RAWs are smarter than others. You don’t need a machine to tell you that you “might also enjoy” Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets if you liked Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. That’s accurate, but thoroughly unenlightening.

Best Results: Whichbook (https://www.whichbook.net/)

Perhaps the cleverest site I discovered is Whichbook. Its various search methods are fun to use and give spot-on results. Start by customizing your search with up to four criteria, adjustable on a sliding scale. (See screenshot.) You can also search by Character, Plot, and Setting; or get results by going to an author’s name, choosing a title, and clicking “Find similar books.”

The Whichbook team eschews bestseller lists in order to bring you curated selections you may not find elsewhere. All of their recommendations for me felt personally considered. I felt seen, known, loved – by a website!

Caveat: This site is based in the UK. I didn’t find some of the authors in our local library, but that’s what Inter-Library Loan requests are for.

Thorough Analysis: Allreaders (http://allreaders.com/)

Allreaders provides detailed reviews and a “specific, searchable breakdown of the plot, setting, character types, and style.” I enjoyed reading breakdowns of books I know. And I liked the layout of book recommendations “with storylines, themes & endings” similar to the book I searched for.

Allreaders’ Detailed Power Search (DPS) isn’t very pretty, but it gives so many options, some of them quite amusing. (Be sure you’re in the right genre first – here’s the link for Literature, and there are others.) I threw a lot of criteria into a search, requesting convoluted Plots & Themes, a unique Main Character, an elaborate Setting, and even a distinct Writing Style. DPS returned a long list of suggestions – some more intriguing than others. No suggestion matched every one of my crazy demands, of course. But if I were desperately seeking something new to read, I’d have fun browsing the results.

Easy Search: What Should I Read Next? (https://whatshouldireadnext.com)

If the minutiae of the first two search engines put you off, What Should I Read Next? may be the RAW for you. Simply type in an author or book you love. Results are tagged with keywords, so you can decide whether to follow up on the suggestions. You can click the keywords to find more books with the same tag. (One suggestion I got was tagged with “attempted assassination,” “cats,” and “time travel.” Now that’s a must-read!)

Fun Interface: Literature-Map (https://www.literature-map.com/)

Calling itself “The Tourist Map of Literature,” Literature-Map offers a unique visual approach. Enter your favorite writer’s name, and you’re rewarded with a clickable constellation of authors. “The closer two writers are,” claims Literature-Map, “the more likely someone will like both of them.” Searching for Jane Austen brought up a great variety of names to explore. I was impressed that David Sedaris, Harper Lee, and C. S. Lewis were among them, in addition to predictable results (Dickens, the Brontë sisters). Also included were Nicholas Sparks and Diana Gabaldon, so there’s truly a path for every taste.

Review Websites and Social Networks

Taking the time to browse review sites, you might stumble upon a fantastic book that otherwise lies outside of your field of vision. Here are some to check out.

  • The Book Report Network (https://tbrnetwork.com/) comprises “six editorial websites … organized … by demographic and … interest.” Adults, young adults, teens, and kids all have their own specialized sites; reading groups and graphic novel fans are also provided for.
  • Overbooked: The Next Chapter (http://overbooked.com/next-chapter/) looks at new releases, both eclectic and mainstream, to “encourage omnivorous reading.”
  • With YourNextRead (http://www.yournextread.com/us/), you can “discover and share” by searching for recommendations, browsing user lists, and customizing your own book map. (Registration required for some features.)
  • GoodReads (https://www.goodreads.com/) is a large social network of readers. Browse and create reviews and shelves (custom lists), add friends from Facebook, follow users with similar tastes, and even interact with authors who use the site. (Registration required for some features.)

That’s all from me. May your horizons broaden and your tastes refine. Have fun exploring! And check out the links below for even more RAWs not listed here.

 


Article Sources, and More RAW Suggestions

Collecting and Saving Seeds!

By Sharon Reily, Reference Departmentseed library

Late summer and autumn are not always the most beautiful and fruitful times for many of our plants. Our vegetable patches have stopped yielding and our flowers are faded and brown. But this is the perfect time to gather seeds you can use to start your gardens next year. Here are just a few benefits of collecting and saving seeds.

  • It’s fun!
  • It’s easy!
  • It’s economical! The price of a packet of seeds seems to increase every year. The seeds you collect from your garden are free.
  • You can share or exchange seeds with friends – a great inexpensive way to try new plants.
  • Your favorite plant may not be readily available at local nurseries, but if you save seeds you can continue to enjoy it in your garden year after year.
  • Many varieties of heirloom plants are lost over time. They actually become extinct! You can help preserve different heirloom plants by collecting, saving and replanting heirloom seeds.
  • By raising many generations of plants, you’ll be able to see how certain traits are passed on, and how you can select the qualities you want to bring out. Over time, you can even “customize” your plants to suit your backyard conditions and your tastes.
  • You can benefit your community. If you collect more vegetable seeds than you can use, which is likely, you can donate your surplus seeds to a community garden that gives free fruits and vegetables to needy families.

Collecting and saving seeds is an ancient tradition. For thousands of years, farmers collected and saved seeds to insure the next year’s harvest. They also studied the results of their plantings and then saved and sowed seeds from the best plants, fine-tuning the plants to meet their needs and match local growing environments. This selection led to a genetic diversity of crops adapted to many growing conditions and climates, and created a large base for our food supply.

While farmers and hobby gardeners collect and save seeds to plant and share, seed vaults or banks do just the opposite. From the beginnings of agriculture (possibly as early as 8000 B.C. in what is now Iraq), farmers understood their seeds needed protection from the weather and animals. Scientists have discovered evidence of seed banks in Iraq from as far back as 6750 B.C. Today, there are more than 1,500 seed banks around the world that hold a wide variety of seeds to preserve crop diversity and act as insurance against disease and natural and man-made disasters that might wipe out the world’s seed reserves. The best known is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, often called the “Doomsday Vault,” located in a remote frozen mountain in Norway. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a huge international project with the capacity to store 4.5 million varieties of crops for a maximum of 2.5 billion seeds. Currently, the Vault holds more than 860,000 samples, originating from almost every country in the world.

svalbard exteriorSvalbard Global Seed VaultSvalbard Global Seed Vault

Amid all the interest in preserving and sharing seeds, libraries around the country have started seed exchanges, and the Williamson County Public Library joined that movement in March of 2015. The first year of our seed exchange, we “checked out” (gave away) more than a thousand packets of flower, vegetable, fruit, and herb seeds. It was suggested – but not required – that those who participate in the program collect seeds from their gardens this fall and return a few of them to the Library in the spring so we can keep our seed exchange going. Go to WCPL Seed Exchange to find out how our seed exchange works and see a list of helpful resources on seed collecting.

If you want to learn more about harvesting your seeds, the Library is hosting a program on Collecting and Saving Seeds with UT/TSU Horticulture Extension Agent Amy Dismukes on Monday, September 17 at 1:30 pm. Registration is required, but the program is FREE and open to anyone who is interested in attending. Just call 615-595-1243 or click here to register.


Article Sources:

When The Toys Came To Life: A Non-Scary Blog

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

It’s ok to come in, Darling Reader.  There will be no mention here of Chucky, the murderous redheaded horror movie icon, or of any other scary incarnations of dolls (shudder) becoming sentient.  We’re only going to talk about the fun, charming toys that inexplicably develop intelligence and the ability to communicate.  If you are of the sort that finds it unbearably creepy to think about any toy becoming mobile and verbal, you might wish to bypass this blog and tune in to my next brilliant installment.  But if you’re brave enough, take my hand while I introduce you to a random assortment of toys who have something to say . . .

First up on our list (because you should know by now that I do what I want) is the magnificent, delightful, enchanting The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (J F DIC).  Edward Tulane is a gorgeous, arrogant china rabbit who lives in an enormous house, wears only the finest clothes, and feels that he should be admired by all for his singular beauty.  Anyone can see that Edward is headed for a heartbreak (nothing like the Winger song from the 1980s, but I couldn’t resist borrowing that particular turn of phrase.  Apologies, Kip.)  Through no fault of his own, Edward is sent on an odyssey in which he learns what it’s like to lose, yet to love and be loved again.  This is my very favorite of all of DiCamillo’s books, and one of my favorite children’s books; the lush, intricately detailed illustrations by award-winning artist Bagram Ibatoulline enhance Edward’s adventure so beautifully, and make this journey worth taking again and again.

Next on my list, and the reason for this month’s blog theme because of the cinematic release of Christopher Robin in August of this year, is Winnie-the-Pooh by Alan Alexander Milne (J F MILNE).  Winnie the Pooh, aka Pooh Bear, first appeared as Edward Bear in a poem in A.A. Milne’s1924 children’s verse book When We Were Very Young.  The first collection of stories about Pooh and his friends was Winnie-the-Pooh, published in October of 1926 and followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1928.  Milne named the character for a teddy bear owned by his son, Christopher Robin Milne, who was of course the inspiration for the character Christopher Robin.  Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger were also toys belonging to Christopher Robin Milne and were incorporated into A.A. Milne’s stories.  Owl and Rabbit were created from Milne’s imagination, and Gopher was later added in the Disney theatrical adaptation.  Are you having a day, Darling Reader?  Make yourself a nice cup of tea and get a “smackerel” of something like Pooh would, find a quiet place, and spend some quality time with Pooh and his wonderful friends, before you go see the new movie adaptation.

Another book-to-movie-to-remake in this same vein is the Caldecott-winning book Jumanji by gifted storyteller and artist Chris Van Allsburg (J E VAN).  There are Judy and Peter, bored out of their little skulls and left completely unsupervised while their parents’ attend the opera, when they encounter a long, thin box that says JUMANJI, A JUNGLE ADVENTURE GAME, and also has an ominous, handwritten message taped to the box:  “Free game, fun for some but not for all.  P.S.  Read instructions carefully.”  There is an additional caveat in the game’s instructions, and apparently it’s a crucial one, since the writer of the note put it in all capital letters:  “VERY IMPORTANT:  ONCE A GAME OF JUMANJI IS STARTED IT WILL NOT BE OVER UNTIL ONE PLAYER REACHES THE GOLDEN CITY.”  Hilarity and highjinks ensue, and Judy and Peter survive the game just in time for their parents return home, with guests in tow.  They had a tremendous adventure that day with the game that became all too real, and learned a valuable lesson that day regarding the importance of reading the directions . . . but the sly, clever final paragraph of the book implies that young Danny and Walter, who are notorious for never listening to instructions, may not fare quite so well.

I often say that it’s a desperately sad irony that working in a library really cuts into one’s time for pleasure reading.  Hence, much time passes between my opportunities to read Beatrix Potter’s delightful, classic tales of little beasties, and I forget between readings about how charming and clever her stories are.  Such is the case with The Tale Of Two Bad Mice (J E POTTER).  “Once upon a time there was a very beautiful doll’s-house; it was red brick with white windows . . . it belonged to two Dolls called Lucinda and Jane .”  One fine morning while Lucinda and Jane were out of the red brick dollhouse for a spin in their perambulator, the aforementioned two bad mice, Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca, trashed the dollhouse out of frustration—they were hangry, to use a modern portmanteau—because they discovered that the appetizing delicacies on the dining room table were actually not edible.  Hunca Munca continued the rodents’ crime spree by absconding with a pillow, a baby’s cradle, and some of Lucinda’s clothes, and also some “useful pots and pans, and several other things.”  Reparations of a sort were later made by Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca for their vandalism and larceny, when he found a sixpence under the rug and stuffed it into one of the dolls’ stockings on Christmas Eve; and every morning before anybody is awake, she sweeps the Dollies’ house with her purloined broom.

Darling Reader, I’ve saved my favorite title for last.  I don’t remember exactly when a smart-mouthed, spiky-haired kid named Calvin and his very real stuffed tiger Hobbes entered my life.  I’m reasonably certain that it was not November of 1985, as I was a smart-mouthed, big-haired high school junior who was more concerned with my reflection in the driver’s-side mirror of my 1978 Camaro than with reflection on love, art, theology, mortality, public education, paleontology, environmentalism, and the repercussive effects of human free will.

Calvin and Hobbes was conceived by American cartoonist Bill Watterson and made its syndicated debut on November 18, 1985, and ran until December 31, 1995.  The strip follows the raucous antics and adventures of Calvin, a precocious six-year-old boy, and Hobbes, his quick-witted toy tiger.  The pair was named for 16th-century French theologian John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes, a 17th-century English philosopher.  Hobbes’ shifting duality is a defining theme of the strip:  to Calvin, he is always a live, anthropomorphic tiger; to all others (his parents, his archnemesis Susie Derkins, et. al.), he is merely an inanimate plush toy.  Darling Reader, if you have room in your existence for only one toy that comes to life, I beseech you to make it Hobbes.

That’s it for today, Darling Reader.  Tune in again next month for my meandering musings on literature and life.                                


Yeah, I did say there wouldn’t be any Chucky references in the blog . . . but I didn’t place any such restrictions on the appearance of his lovely bride Tiffany.  Also, any similarities between Tiffany and the author of this blog are purely coincidental, with the exception of the motorcycle jacket.

Ink, Paper, Action!

By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

Amidst Hollywood’s profusion of bigger-and-better sequels, nostalgic remakes, and “dark re-imaginings,” there’s a longer-standing trend: movies that are based on books. Some of these movies are so iconic – so visually spectacular – their worlds so complete – that audiences may be surprised to learn of any literary origins. (Think The Princess Bride, The Wizard of Oz, Trainspotting, Ready Player One, Mary Poppins, Die Hard…) Other adaptations are not quite so successful. (The Cat in the Hat, anyone?)

An early example of a book-to-film adaptation is a 1924 silent film called Greed, based on Frank Morris’s novel McTeague. The director’s vision led him to make a 9½ hour-long behemoth, but he was forced to cut it down to an “incoherent” two hours. (Most likely, the sentence, “The book is so much better than the movie,” was first uttered around this time.) Greed’s director, Erich Von Stroheim, had tried to be completely faithful to his source material. While that’s an admirable endeavor, it was the film’s downfall. (1)

These days, adapting a book for the big screen is an art form all its own. Just as a novel and a film are completely different mediums, so too are a novel and a screenplay. The team adapting the novel must remain true to the heart of the story. They must also choose which plot points to highlight or omit. Pacing often needs to change completely. Then there’s the daunting task of casting actors and creating worlds. Before any movie, these characters and places materialized inside thousands of readers’ imaginations. Entire fandoms wait in the wings, ready to adore or decry as soon as they glean tiny details from a promo trailer.

Like all art forms, there is going to be a lot of dreck. But there will be some shining examples, too. Gone with the Wind, Schindler’s List, Black Panther, To Kill a Mockingbird, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy – these are some groundbreaking, enduring favorites that all made their first homes on bedside tables and in bookshelves. Each is a good example of how a film can omit certain original details (Scarlett O’Hara originally had two children by other men; jolly old Tom Bombadil was axed from Middle Earth altogether) while still capturing the story’s essence. (2) Andre Dubus III, whose novel The House of Sand and Fog was adapted into a well-received movie, says, “I’m all for giving filmmakers their creative due. As long as [they’re] loyal to the spirit.” (3)

Here we see a couple breaking up due to
differing opinions
about The Shining.
(Probably.)

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, based on the Steven King novel, is an interesting case of adaptation. It manages to polarize opinions like few films do. (If you ask Google, “Do people love The Shining?” you’ll see what I mean!) For its acting and its atmosphere, for technical precision, powerful visuals, and downright scariness, film buffs and horror enthusiasts hold The Shining in a place of reverence. (4) But fans of the book say the movie falls terribly short. King accuses the film’s main character of having “absolutely no arc at all” – quite damning, coming from the author himself. (5)

So it seems that both works are well worth appreciating, but should never be compared. I wonder if that’s true of all adaptations. Writer Bernhard Schlink offers this perspective: “As an author, you can’t expect a movie to be an illustration of the book. If that’s what you hope for, you shouldn’t sell the rights.” (6)

It’s fraught with peril, this business of turning a book into a movie. So why bother? As it turns out, sourcing stories from books is actually quite low-risk – despite the possibility of alienating fans. A popular book turned into a movie “can rise above the noise [and] competition from the internet, video games, and Netflix,” explains Hawk Otsby, co-writer of Children of Men. (7) This is just another way in which we as consumers can get our fill of the familiar. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as there’s still room for original and independent films to be made.

The year may be halfway over, but there are several upcoming adaptations to look forward to. Maybe you’ve heard buzz about Mowgli (a darker remake of The Jungle Book), Bel Canto (based on the Ann Patchett novel of the same name), Ashes in the Snow (a wartime drama adapted from Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys; the title was changed for obvious reasons), or Mary, Queen of Scots (from John Guy’s lauded biography of Mary Stuart, which in the UK carries the wonderful title of My Heart Is My Own). (8, 9, 10, 11)

The faithfulness of these films to their source material remains to be seen. And honestly, I’m ambivalent. A badly-done movie won’t detract from a book I love; and a well-done movie might point me in the direction of an author I’ll adore. Creatives absolutely deserve to be recognized – and paid – for their good work. If it takes a movie to make a great writer famous, so be it!


Sources:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_adaptation
  2. https://gwenonichi.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/gone-with-the-wind-differences-between-the-book-and-the-movie/
  3. https://filmmakermagazine.com/58787-turning-a-book-into-a-movie-an-authors-perspective/#.WyrBX6IpW5I
  4. https://www.reddit.com/r/movies/comments/7mcpcw/what_is_the_deal_with_the_shining/drurpzs/
  5. https://deadline.com/2016/02/stephen-king-what-hollywood-owes-authors-when-their-books-become-films-q-a-the-dark-tower-the-shining-1201694691/
  6. https://ebookfriendly.com/books-and-movies-quotes/
  7. https://www.theverge.com/2017/1/26/14326356/hollywood-movie-book-adaptations-2017-expanse-game-of-thrones
  8. https://variety.com/2018/film/news/mowgli-jungle-book-1202786074/
  9. https://variety.com/2018/film/markets-festivals/bel-canto-with-julianne-moore-ken-watanabe-sells-to-screen-media-exclusive-1202800859/
  10. https://www.bookbub.com/blog/2017/12/26/book-adaptations-2018-movies
  11. https://variety.com/2018/film/news/saoirse-ronan-margot-robbie-mary-queen-of-scots-moved-1202758120/

Rockin’ Reads For Kids

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

In honor of this year’s summer reading “Libraries Rock” theme, here is a random assortment of rockin’ reads for the young, or young at heart.  In absolutely no discernable order:

Who Are The Rolling Stones? by Dana Meachen Rau  (J92 ROL)

Sanitized for your protection, this book chronicles the meteoric rise and unparalleled success, five decades later, of this author’s favorite band.  As this is a children’s book, none of the lurid details of the many (ahem) colorful incidents that earned The Stones their reputation as the bad boys of the British Invasion are present.  (Also worth reading in this engaging series of biographies for elementary and middle school-aged students:  Who Is Elton John?; Who Was Bob Marley? (to be published in June 2017);  Who Was Elvis Presley?;  Who Were The Beatles?; Who Was Michael Jackson?; and many more music-related titles.)

Jimi:  Sounds Like A Rainbow by Gary Golio and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (J92 HEN)

A beautifully written and illustrated story of the phenomenally talented musician James Marshall Hendrix, later known to the world as Jimi, who departed this earthly realm entirely too soon at the age of 27.  His legacy lives on through his music, and his influence continues to inspire and electrify fans of all ages.

Hello, I’m Johnny Cash by G. Neri and illustrated by A.G. Ford (J 92 CASH)

Those four simple words were how this man with the deep, soulful, often otherworldly voice would start his shows after “I Walk The Line” became the number one country song in America, and the anthem for how this once dirt-poor man from Arkansas wished to live his life.  Neri captures The Man in Black’s legend in free verse, and Ford’s lush, detailed paintings of the Southern backdrop of Cash’s life make this book one that will be enjoyed by children and adults alike.

Music Lab:  We Rock!  A Fun Family Guide For Exploring Rock Music History by Jason Hanley  (J 781.6609)

If an alien landed in your bedroom one night and tasked you with teaching him/her/it about Rock & Roll, it would be fortuitous if you had this sensational book close at hand.  Written by Jason Hanley, Ph.D., education director at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this book offers an introduction to some of the greatest songs in rock history, provides anecdotes about the artists and the social and historical events at the time the songs were written, and provides fun lab-style activities that begin with the basics of rock and move through the soul and punk genres, and then cover dance and new wave.  Best of all are the frozen-in-time photographs and the recommended set lists.  I totally have to throw the horns for this book. (Don’t know what that means?  Look it up.)

How The Beatles Changed The World by Martin W. Sandler  (J 782.4216 SAN)

When the Lads From Liverpool burst onto the music scene in the tumultuous decade known as The Sixties, they charmed and excited millions of fans the world over, and they ultimately transformed and transcended the rock genre.  This compendium of their rocketship ride to musical stardom contains hundreds of stunning photographs that capture the rich, beautiful history of The Beatles.

Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music That Changed The World by Robbie Robertson, Jim Guerinot, Sebastian Robertson and James Levine  (J 920 ROB)

Penned by 4 multitalented music industry veterans, this very cool volume would look right at home on anyone’s coffee table and includes 2 CDs with tracks from such legends as Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Marvin Gaye, and Hank Williams, to name just a few.  The book pays loving tribute to twenty-seven groundbreaking artists whose innovations and creations altered the music landscape for generations to come.

Strange Fruit:  Billie Holiday And The Power Of A Protest Song by Gary Golio (J 782.4216  GOL)

At the time of “Lady Day’s” death from liver and heart failure in 1959 at the age of 44, she was heralded as one of the greatest female vocalists and jazz singers of all time.  Her best-selling record and signature song “Strange Fruit” challenged the attitudes of racism in America and was an important milestone in what would become the civil rights movement.

What Was Woodstock? by Joan Holub  (J 781.6609 HOL)

Well, duh, Woodstock was the sweet little yellow bird who was Snoopy’s best friend.  Right?  Charles Schulz, creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip publicly acknowledged in several interviews during the 1970s that he named the bird after the music festival held at Max and MiriamYasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York, over three days in August of 1969.  (Artwork from the festival features a bird perched on the neck of a guitar.)  My favorite part of this clever little book is the page of “Sixties Slang.”  You dig?

Shake, Rattle & Roll:  The Founders of Rock & Roll by Holly George-Warren  (J 781.66 GEO)

A whimsically-illustrated introduction to 14 of rock & roll’s groundbreakers and earthshakers, such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, and more.  In the words of Chuck Berry:  “Hail, hail, rock & roll!”

Rock on with your bad selves, and happy reading–


As always, the opinions and viewpoints expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and in no way representative of WCPL, its employees, or their parents who may have shouted at them to “turn that infernal noise down!” at some point in their lives. To that end, you may have to speak up a bit when talking to the author, because she spent many hours next to a Marshall stack in her flaming youth, and last week.

Pinocchio Syndrome: AI, Robots, and Fear

Created by Yul Jorgensen aka deviantart artist FATBM

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

I and most people in their thirties and forties grew up in an interesting time when it comes to robots and Machine intelligence. Robots are the automated devices that build our manufactured goods, the programmed tools that weld, test, and gauge everything we use. They may even for a few lucky ones have been something we got to play with as kids in school robotics labs, programming multi jointed limbs and pincer grips to move small objects from one side of the table to the other. For me, they were the first peek into Machine language. This was not, however the only way I saw robots. They were also the shining metal sidekicks, the implacable companions, and often the comic relief of some of my favorite books, movies and television shows. I could go from watching a sci-fi film on Friday to playing with an old Unimate PUMA at the local community college’s Saturday kids program the next morning. I almost didn’t see them as even similar versions of the same thing. Now that I’m an adult however I can look back and see my old Saturday morning friend was the Homo Habilis to today’s Homo Erectus. We are still in the early days of robotic evolution, but the pace is quickening and the robot who wants to be a “real boy” could be just around the corner.

IBM 7090 computer and personnel from 1961

You can’t take a look forward and appreciate the amount of journey ahead without knowing how far you’ve come. True electronic computers go back to the old vacuum tube run models that took up the same space as an entire gymnasium and were programmed with punch cards. Then came central mainframes with dumb terminals, mini systems and finally the personal computer we know and love still. In that time we migrated through magnetic tape and cartridges, through the innumerable floppy discs and hard discs to the thumb and hard drives of today. The robots have changed a bit as well. Aside from the science fiction progression we’ve seen from the Lost in Space robot to…well…um… the Lost in Space robot (1965 and 2018 respectively) there has been a huge swing from the early mechanical arms to the more modern, and yet still 18-year-old, Asimo.

Pepper is a semi-humanoid robot, manufactured by SoftBank Robotics, designed to read emotions

The future of robots is heading down two main tracks, Humaniform[1] and non-traditional robots. The Humaniform robots are learning (more on that in bit) to respond to human emotion. In some cases they are working on mimicking facial expressions with plastic and servos. It is among this variety of robot that scientists are working on human like movement. The non-traditional types are just as surprising. Military vehicle=s and drones are where the largest strides are coming from. Self-guided autonomous devices are delivering supplies and personnel. Dangerous missions are being performed with pinpoint accuracy by computers that are learning to modify their tactics. They might not look like C3P0 but the military machines are where we see science fiction meeting reality. Let’s just hope it’s more Bicentennial Man and less Skynet.

Artificial, or machine, intelligence is a different story. Until today the general maxim for working with computers is that they do not make mistakes. They do only what we have programmed them to do. Any errors are really the fault of the programmer. Going into the future we may see computers that are capable of extrapolating their own options and acting outside of initial human programming. This artificial cognition has a lot of people excited, good excited and bad excited. Advances in computing ability are allowing for computer scientists to attack the problem of A.I. in many different ways. They are approaching the problem from the angles of symbolic learning and human brain simulation among several others.  They are also using the latest tools, networks to simulate neural pathways and statistical models to build decision making. One big question in artificial intelligence is the ability of man to create a moral structure for the A.I. brain to exist within. Many do not believe we can safely create a friendly A.I. with the level of knowledge we currently possess. That might explain why fiction has a lot more HAL 9000 clones than Commander Data.

Good vs Bad… who will win?

The real future that many of us hope for is one that brings these two things, artificial intelligence and robotics, together to make a robotic being that will help us forward. Like many of the advances we have seen our imaginations are directed by the stories we hear and see and read. Advances in both fields will lead to the point where a breakthrough occurs, and it will be sooner rather than later. The only questions left to ask are will it be a benevolent discovery and are we worried about if we can rather than focusing on if we should.

[1] The terms humaniform and non-traditional are ones that I have chosen. Humaniform is a term I have lifted directly from the work of Isaac Asimov.

Further Reading (and since it’s Friday the 13th, have 13 books):

  • I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (F ASIMOV)
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick (LP F DIC)
  • Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross (eBook)
  • The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia (eBook)
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson (F GIB)
  • Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson (F WIL)
  • “Silently and Very Fast” by Catherynne M. Valente (808.838762 MOR)
  • The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez (F MAR)
  • The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (F BAC)
  • Hyperion by Dan Simmons (F SIM)
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (F HEI)
  • Otherland by Tad Williams (F WIL)
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (F LECKIE)
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