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Space, the Final Frontier…

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

The first Friday in May was established as National Space Day in 1997.   Lockheed Martin set the day up as a one-day celebration of space and its wonders and to help students take more interest in science and what’s out there above us in space. It proved so popular that teachers and schools decided to celebrate it every year, and always on the first Friday in May.  This space day became more and more popular every year, especially with students who learned about space day in school.

The aim of creating Space Day was to promote STEM learning (science, technology, engineering and math) in schools, and many schools have special speakers or programs to celebrate space.  In recent years the focus was on getting girls interested in space technology and engineering.  Having more female astronauts has helped this interest grow!  In 2001, John Glenn, former astronaut and Senator, said we should change the title to International Space Day.   And the whole world was brought into celebrating Space Day.

Lucky for us, this year has brought us a Space weekend! Tomorrow is May 4th, which is Star Wars Day  (May the 4th be with you!!). May 5th is National Astronaut Day. May 5 was chosen for this annual day because May 5 was the day Alan Shepherd became the first American in space.  It was a brief flight, lasting around 15 minutes, but it was such a first for our nation.

How to Celebrate Space Weekend

  1. Enter the student art contest every year to create artwork that will become an astronaut special mission patch. The contest begins on May 5, 2019 and ends on Friday, July 20, 2019.  If you are an artist in grade k-12, you can enter this contest and maybe an astronaut will wear your patch in space!  There are 2 categories: grades K-6, and 7-12. There are other prizes, too.
  2. Come to the library and check out a movie like First Man, Apollo 13 or October Sky.
  3. Watch space documentaries on TV, rent from our library, or stream them.
  4. Go to a science museum – Why not the Adventure Science Center or Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory.
  5. Have an astronaut in space read a book to you.  Granted they are children’s books, but he does such a good job that everyone will enjoy it.  Scott Kelly read and recorded several books while he was in space.
  6. Check out the NASA website and find out something interesting
  7. Check out the B612 website – B612 is an organization that works towards protecting the Earth from asteroid impacts and informing and forwarding world-wide decision-making on planetary defense issues. The name of this website comes from The Little Prince, who lived on asteroid B62.

 

Fun Facts about NASA

  • NASA actually has an Office of Planetary Protection, just in case life is discovered out there on another planet.
  • NASA admitted to recording over the 1969 moon landing, in 2006!.  Luckily they weren’t the only organization recording the event.  Other organizations who did record the momentous event are restoring their recordings.
  • NASA will send you a text message whenever the International Space Station passes over your location.
  • Lonnie Johnson is a NASA scientist.  He also developed the Super Soaker water gun.
  • You may think NASA received a great deal of money from the US government budget.  Actually, they only receive $0.005 of every dollar.
  • The area code for the Kennedy Space center and surrounding area is 321.
  • When Skylab crashed in Australia in 1979, NASA was fined $400.00 for littering by the Australian government.
  • When the Space Shuttle components became outdates and near obsolete, NASA would buy spare parts from EBay and other similar sites.
  • There are others on the list.  Check it out yourself!

An Additional Item for Sky Viewing

The International Observe the Moon Night will be Saturday October 10.  This is a world-wide celebration of lunar science and exploration.  Every year one day is chosen; this celebration started in 2010.  This event occurs in September or October when the moon is in its first quarter.  The best viewing is usually during the time of dawn or dusk.  Even though we all would want to watch at the full moon, there is too much of a reflection of sunlight and it is too bright for human eyes (if you are using a telescope.) Read the rest of this entry

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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.

Sources:

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

Sources:

Women in Space and Their Firsts

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Valentina Tereshkova

This year marks the 50th anniversary of NASA’s moon landing.  As we start looking at the last fifty years of space exploration, we also want to celebrate the history of women in space as well.  According to NASA, by 2017 a total of 59 different women, including cosmonauts, astronauts, payload specialists, and foreign nationals, have flown in space. And seeing as history has recently provided us with a new first for women in space, let’s take a look at some of the previous ones. Granted, the history of women in space only reaches 50 years if we add in the accomplishments of the Soviet Union.

The first woman is space was a Russian.  Valentina Tereshkova was the pilot of the Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963 and she was 26 at the time of her flight.  She orbited the earth 48 times and manually brought the shop out of orbit.  She had been a textile worker and loved skydiving, which definitely helped her since the capsule was propelled into space by an intercontinental ballistic missile. (!)  And after returning to earth atmosphere, she ejected herself from the capsule and came down to earth using a parachute (her own parachute.)   Wow!

Sally Ride

Sally Ride became the first woman (and pilot) for the United States to fly in space. She chose space over a professional tennis career and went to space during space shuttle Challenger’s inaugural mission in 1983.  That’s a long time to wait for a woman to go to space!  Thankfully, Sally Ride was up to the challenge.

In 1984, Svetlana Savistkaya, was the first female to perform a spacewalk. She spent almost 4 hours cutting and welding metals outside the Salyut 7 space station.  She had a second record as well—this was her second mission, making her the first woman to go to space twice.

Mae Jemison was the first African American woman to go to space.  She had completed her medical degree and applied to NASA in 1983 and was asked to join in 1987, after serving in the Peace Corps.  She flew in 1992, working on bone cell research in space. She also holds 9 honorary doctorates!

Mae Jemison

Helen Patricia Sharman was the first woman to fly in space as a result of a newspaper ad for “Astronaut wanted – no experience necessary,” as well as the first British astronaut. The advertisement was for a private space programme called Project Juno, where a consortium was formed to raise money to pat the Soviet Union for a seat on a mission.  She stayed a week at Russia’s space station Mir in 1991.  She was also the first non-American, non-Soviet astronaut.

Chiaki Mukai, a physician, became the first Japanese woman to enter space as an astronaut with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.  She had two trips, in 1994 and 1998, which made her the first Japanese woman to travel to space twice; she also helped support the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Eileen Collins, a New York native, was a pilot at Vance Air Force Base before being assigned to the US Air Force Academy. In 1990, she was selected by NASA to become an astronaut, and became the first female Shuttle Pilot in 1995 on a mission that involved a rendezvous between Discovery and the Russian space station Mir.  She went on to become the first female commander of a US Spacecraft with Shuttle mission. She retired in 2006 after having completed four missions.

Chiaki Mukai

Anousheh Ansari is an Iranian-born American who had a background in aeronautical engineering and computer science.  She was able to train as a backup for the first spaceflight mission to the International Space Station (ISS), which was headed up by a private company.  In 2006, she was elevated to the prime crew, making her the first female space tourist.  She hopes to inspire everyone – especially young people, women, and young girls all over the world, and in Middle Eastern countries that do not provide women with the same opportunities as men – to not give up their dreams and to pursue them.

Karen Nyberg’s second mission was on the 50th anniversary of Valentina Tereskova’s first mission (2013).  Karen is considered the first American mother in space—(perhaps that might be mother of young children?) She is also training in deep-sea training and simulation exercise at the Aquarius underwater laboratory which hopes to prepare astronauts for missions to the moon and Mars.

Anousheh Ansari

Samantha Cristoforetti went to space in 2014 and returned to earth in 2015 and so is the most recent woman to have returned from space. She has a number of firsts, which is perfect for this list.  She is she the first Italian woman to have entered space as a part of the Futura mission to ISS. She also holds the record for longest single space flight by a woman–199 days and 16 hours–and the record for the longest uninterrupted flight by a European astronaut.

And finally, for the first time in history, an all female crew will perform a spacewalk at the International Space Station.  The crew will consist of astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch who will complete the walk on March 29, lead flight controller Jackie Kagey, and lead flight director Mary Lawrence.

P.S. – This year our Summer Reading Program theme is “A Universe of Stories” and we will be having programs about space, including movies and guest speakers and so much more.  Stay Tuned!!!


Further Reading:

  • Almost heaven: the story of women in space by Bettyann Holtzmann Kevles (629.45 KEV)
  • Galaxy girls: 50 amazing stories of women in space by Libby Jackson (YA 629.450092 JAC)
  • Hidden figures: the American dream and the untold story of the Black women mathematicians who helped win the space race by Margot Lee Shetterly (510.9252 SHE)
  • Rise of the rocket girls: the women who propelled us, from missiles to the moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt (269.4072 HOL)
  • Rocket girl: the story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s first female rocket scientist by George D. Morgan (B MORGAN)
  • The glass universe: how the ladies of the Harvard Observatory took the measure of the stars by Dava Sobel (522.1974 SOB)
  • When we left Earth: the NASA missions (DVD 629.45 WHE)
  • The Mercury 13: the untold story of thirteen American women and the dream of space flight by  Martha Ackmann (629.45 ACK)

Sources:

John Grisham Read-a-Likes

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

We all know the feeling.  You just finished a book you really liked and now you want to read a book just like it or at least comparable.  I know from experience that I am always so happy when there is another book in the series, and I can read something that feels the same.  But what do you do when the book is not part of a series??  How do you find something new to read??

Books Are Magic

Nancy Pearl (Big Library Guru)’s says that we like read-a-likes because we want a book just like the one we finished reading.  We want to recreate the pleasure and thrill of reading, the page-turning, the headlong rush to the end.  Perhaps it was the setting or what we learned.  Sometimes we can’t put a finger on it, but we know we want that feeling again.

Pearl goes on to say that most fiction is made up of four parts: story, character, setting and language.  She refers to these parts as doorways, and these doorways are larger or smaller, depending on the book and author.  So, when the story is the biggest part, readers call these page-turners, because they can’t put the book down.  When character is the biggest doorway, readers connect with the characters so much, they often feel like they’ve lost a good friend when they finish the book.  When the setting is the largest doorway, readers comment on how they felt as if they were there.  And most readers talk about how they savored the words when language is the largest doorway. Whatever it is, we want that experience again.

But let’s say you want to read more books similar to what John Grisham writes.  What’s the next step?  Libraries have many tricks when it comes to finding read-a-likes for our patrons.  We do have in-house bookmarks for broad categories, like mystery, romance and science fiction for additional suggestions of authors. We also have a database called Books & Authors, which gives you similar titles and authors based on what book you have just finished.

Book Browse, a for profit book review site, has people who actually read the books and suggest what books are similar to what author’s works.  Amazon may have an algorithm; Good Reads seems to rely on reviews and reviewers, but since they were acquired by Amazon, they might use the same algorithm.  But when you search Google for Grisham read-a-likes there are many possibilities.  Here are a few.

According to BookBub.com, here are some read-a-like authors:

  • Scott Turow
  • Lisa Scottoline
  • Michael Connelly
  • William Diehl
  • William Landay
  • Robert Dugoni
  • Robert Bailey
  • Adam Mitzner
  • Greg, Iles
  • John Lescroat,
  • Phillip Margolin
  • James Grippando

BookBrowse has these authors that they think write like John Grisham:

  • David Baldacci
  • Carnes
  • John Berendt
  • Robert Harris
  • Mary Higgins Clark
  • Phillip Margolin
  • Steve Martini
  • Kyle Mills
  • Michael Palmer

In this list from Williamsburg Public Library (in Virginia), women writers are also listed:

  • Scott Turow
  • Lisa Scottoline
  • Richard North Patterson
  • Phillip Margolin
  • Steve Martini
  • Greg Iles
  • Robert K. Tanenbaum
  • Dudley W. Buffa
  • John S. Martel
  • Jay Brandon
  • Kate Wilhelm
  • Peri O’Shaugnessy
  • Andrew Pyper
  • William Diehl
  • John T. Lescroart
  • William Coughlin
  • William Bernhardt

In case you are new to reading Grisham, here is a brief bio.  He was born in Arkansas in 1955, and like so many boys growing up, he wanted to be a baseball player.  He majored in accounting at Mississippi State and then went on to law school at Ole Miss.  After graduating in 1981, he practiced law until he was elected to the state House of Representatives.  He developed an interest in writing, taking three years to write his first novel – A Time to Kill, which was published in 1988. The Firm was his next book, which stayed on the “NYT Bestseller List” for over 40 weeks.  He sold the film rights, his career took off and he’s never looked back.  He generally writes a book a year but since he has written over 60 books, perhaps he published more often than once a year.  He also has a teen series featuring Theodore Boone, kid lawyer.

In an informative article from New York Times, here is his list of do’s and don’ts for writing fiction.

  1. DO WRITE A PAGE EVERY DAY

That’s about 200 words, or 1,000 words a week. Do that for two years and you’ll have a novel that’s long enough.

Nothing will happen until you are producing at least one page per day.

  1. DON’T WRITE THE FIRST SCENE UNTIL YOU KNOW THE LAST

This necessitates the use of a dreaded device commonly called an outline. Virtually all writers hate that word. I have yet to meet one
who admits to using an outline.

Plotting takes careful planning. Writers waste years pursuing stories that eventually don’t work.

  1. DO WRITE YOUR ONE PAGE EACH DAY AT THE SAME PLACE AND TIME

Early morning, lunch break, on the train, late at night — it doesn’t matter. Find the extra hour, go to the same place, shut the door.

No exceptions, no excuses.

  1. DON’T WRITE A PROLOGUE

Prologues are usually gimmicks to hook the reader. Avoid them. Plan your story (see No. 2) and start with Chapter 1.

  1. DO USE QUOTATION MARKS WITH DIALOGUE

Please do this. It’s rather basic.

  1. DON’T — KEEP A THESAURUS WITHIN REACHING DISTANCE

There are three types of words: (1) words we know; (2) words we should know; (3) words nobody knows. Forget those in the third category
and use restraint with those in the second.

A common mistake by fledgling authors is using jaw-breaking vocabulary. It’s frustrating and phony.

  1. DO READ EACH SENTENCE AT LEAST THREE TIMES IN SEARCH OF WORDS TO CUT

Most writers use too many words, and why not? We have unlimited space and few constraints.

  1. DON’T — INTRODUCE 20 CHARACTERS IN THE FIRST CHAPTER

Another rookie mistake. Your readers are eager to get started. Don’t bombard them with a barrage of names from four generations of the same family. Five names are enough to get started.


Sources:

Grandfather Frost

by Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden

The Russians got used to not celebrating Christmas during the Soviet years; they celebrated New Year’s Day just like we celebrate Christmas.  Luckily for them there was a legendary figure who fit the bill as a Santa Claus figure to help celebrate New Year, and now also Christmas.  He’s known as Grandfather Frost (definitely not to be confused with Frosty the Snowman).  In Russian, he’s called Ded Moroz, “d’ed” being Grandfather, “moroz” being frost.  He is often accompanied by his granddaughter, the Snow Maiden.  In Russian Snegurochka (just FIY – sneg is the Russian word for snow.)  And truly these are not modern figures made to help celebrate (and sell) a modern Christmas holiday.  They are ancient mythological figures.

Grandfather Frost predates Christianity.  In the pagan days, before the Russian tsar sent out envoys to compare the various religions in the area and chose the Greek Orthodox Church (choosing to differentiate their own version as Russian Orthodox), the peasants worshiped nature.  Frost and snow were very important in their lives, so they made a name for the frost lord.  He is a winter wizard who brought the frost and snow and he could be helpful if treated nicely, but vindictive if treated badly. Winter was a powerful figure in Russia; just look at what happened to both Napoleon and Hitler…

Troika

Frost is considered to be around 2,500 years old.  He usually wears a long red wool or fur robe and boots, but no belt.  He has a long bushy beard and sometimes wears a wreath of holly and sometimes a hat similar to our Santa Claus.  He has also been shown wearing a crown.  And he has powers.  He often carries a staff which he might use for magic spells and to help him walk through the snow drifts.  He doesn’t travel down chimneys either, he comes in through the front door.  He travels around in a troika; that’s a carriage driven by three horses (troika means three in Russian…). Even though there are caribou in some parts of Russia, they are not widespread enough for the legend of flying reindeer.  Though his troikas have been known to fly as well.

In 2002, a tradition was started between Finland and Russia where Father Christmas (or Santa Claus) crossed the border to greet Ded Moroz.  They hand out gifts to all, the crowd of children dance and then they all go inside and have fun.  We know that this Santa Summit was still taking place in 2016. Perhaps it still is.

The Snow Maiden is not as old a character as Grandfather Frost.  She first appeared in a collection of folktales published in the 1860s by Alexander Afanasyev.  He eventually collected three volumes of Russian folktales.  No one knows if the story of the snow maiden goes back further, though, since he was the first to collect the stories.  In her tale, she longs to be able to love her foster parents but has no heart since she is made of snow.  She is granted a heart by her mother and father but melts away as she joins other children jumping over the fire.  Grandfather Frost is considered her grandfather and the two of them bring joy and beauty to the snowy Russian winter.

Ded Moroz house in Veliky Ustyug

In 1998, the Moscow Mayor proposed to officially make Veliky Ustyug the residence of Ded Moroz,   The residence, which is a resort promoted as his estate, is a major tourist attraction.  The town also has a post office there that answers children’s mail to Ded Moroz.  Between 2003 and 2010, the post office in Veliky Ustyug received nearly 2,000,000 letters from all over Russia and worldwide.  On January 7, 2008, Vladimir Putin visited the estate for the Russian Orthodox Christmas Eve celebration.

Santa Claus made some inroads in Russia during the 1990s, but Russia’s resurgence has brought a renewed emphasis on the basic Slavic character of Ded Moroz.  The Russian Federation has even sponsored classes about Ded Moroz every December. People playing Ded Moroz and Snegurochka now typically make appearances at children’s parties during the winter holiday season, distributing presents and fighting off the wicked witch, Baba Yaga, who children are told wants to steal their gifts.

In November and December 2010, Ded Moroz was even one of the candidates in the running for consideration as a mascot for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

 


Further Reading:
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William the Conqueror Did WHAT?!?

William the Conqueror circa 1620 by unknown artist

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Rollo (not the candy) was a leader of a band of Vikings who invaded northern France and settled there in 918 A.D.   He was called Rollo the Walker, because he was said to have been too big to ride a horse (either too tall or too fat—it isn’t clear in the sagas). The area he settled, or took over, became the land of the Northmen which over time became the duchy of Normandy. Rollo is significant because he was the three times grandfather of William of Normandy who is known throughout history as William the Conqueror (aka, William the Bastard).

William’s father died when he was eight, and he instantly became the heir.  But he had to fight for his birthright since he was considered by most everyone as a bastard.  Luckily for William, he was very good at fighting and he won his place as the Duke of Normandy.  The English king, Edward the Confessor, had promised William the throne of England upon his death.  Perhaps he forgot this fact (or just ignored it) because he also promised the throne to Harold Godwinson (Harold the Saxon) as well.  Thus a contest for the throne of England was set. Harold was proclaimed king, and William decided to defend his right to the throne.

Family Tree of William’s Struggle for England

By a twist of fate, a Norwegian king, Harald Hardrada (the Ruthless) also decided to take England by force. He wasn’t promised the throne, though; his connection came from Harold Godwinson’s troublesome brother, Tostig (gasp! No nickname?).  He brought 300 ships and 11,000 Vikings to take the English throne.  They attacked at the north of England and managed to take the city of York.  Harold knew that William was going to attack as well but that would be at a different part of England, so what was Harold to do?  He decided to defend England against Harald Hardrada and his Vikings even knowing that William was close to sailing to attack from a different coast.  It turned out that William was delayed in his conquest of England because he was waiting for good winds to take him across the English Channel.  If the winds had turned good earlier, who know what would have happened (now that would be a good alternate history idea).

William the Conqueror and King Harold stained glass window in St Mary’s church, Battle.

Harold was successful in defeating the Viking forces at Stamford Bridge, but at great cost.  And since the Vikings had attacked England at the north end of the country,  the English under Harold Godwinson had to force-march ten miles a day for three weeks to get to the south of England and meet William.  They were mostly walking—most of the soldiers didn’t have horses, and given the distance, they made good time.  But they were exhausted when they got there, and they had to fight the next day.  No day of rest for them.  William and his Norman forces won the day; Harold was killed with an arrow through the eye; and history was made.  This was effectively the end of the English kings, and the beginning of Norman/French rule.  William continued to fight to consolidate his rule of England.  He fought other battles in 1068 against Harold Godwinson’s heirs and in 1069 the Danes attacked York, aided by revolting (what they did, not how they looked) English nobles.  He scorched the earth so badly after he won it was said that there was famine in the area for nine years.

And why was William conquering England so important? 

  • The Normans brought French language to England.  The rulers and the courts spoke French, and it was the official language of England for centuries.  In time it trickled down through the whole country and became closer to the language we know today.  The reason we can read Chaucer and other Middle English works is that they are not in Anglo-Saxon.
  • Many believe that the Normans won because they used stirrups when they rode to battle.  Stirrups hadn’t made it to the island of Britain yet and the Normans were using armored cavalry, 3000 strong!  When throwing spears and slashing from horseback, it is far easier to stay in the saddle with stirrups!
  • William ordered that a national census be done in 1086; the first census was called the Domesday Book.  He wanted to see what he had conquered.  It is still extant and can be looked at in the National Archives.  It is also available online and as a book.
  • Some sources believe that the legend of Robin Hood was actually born during the time of the Norman invasion under William, not under his 4th great grandson John.

Coronation of William the Conqueror

  • The Norman Invasion brought castles to England.  France invented the castle as a way to protect property and dominate the land, and the Normans built many stout and menacing castles in England to control England.  Many are still standing today.
  • Chivalry came to Great Britain with the Normans.  Imagine life without the romance of knights and their ladies; King Arthur would not have been such a great influence without this way of acting and living.
  • William banned the English slave trade.  He even sometimes freed slaves.  Some historians believe that 15% to 20% of the population was enslaved before the Invasion.  True, they brought in the feudal system with serfs, who were treated sometimes like slaves.  But they couldn’t be sold, except when the land was sold or traded hands.
  • William erected an abbey at the spot where Harold died, in remembrance and in penance.  Ruins of the abbey are still there, as is a town called Battle.  Normans erected other churches, cathedrals as well as castles.
  • The Battle of Hastings was recreated on a 230 feet long (and 20 inches wide) tapestry by the women of Bayeux, France (either nuns and/or women in William’s family).  It is the longest tapestry in existence.  It is known as the Bayeux Tapestry and is quite famous for the battle scenes, which are quite graphic.  If it was created by nuns, they knew battle…
  • Normans brought surnames to England as well.  Anglo-Saxons, similar to the Vikings, had a descriptive surname, like Luke the Fat or Marcus the butcher.
  • And finally, for the gross factor: William died in his French capital, Rouen.  He confessed his sins and distributed his treasure to the poor and to some of the churches in his realms.   It is believed that William was injured by a fall or perhaps from the pommel of his saddle (he was very heavy later in life).  In any case, it was an internal injury and swelled badly.  The priests had a hard time getting him into his stone sarcophagus, which was a little too short and not big enough for him, and had to push hard.  His wounds, having festered, burst from the corpse; it was a very quick burial after that… (ewwww…)
  • Still, all kings (and queens) in England after William were descended through him.  Some believe over 25% of the English population can trace their genealogy back through him.  And may Americans can also count him as an ancestor.  Justin Timberlake and Barack Obama are very distant cousins, both having lines back to William!

Further Reading: Read the rest of this entry

We’re Not Dead Yet!: Broadway Musicals in Revival

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Did you grown up singing along with the cast recording of Broadway musicals?   If you are of a certain age, perhaps you did.  My mother had many of them, and I enjoyed singing along, whenever I knew the words.  Home was so very far away from New York in those days, so the cast albums (I’m talking old 78s and 33 1/3s) were the closest you could get to the plays themselves.  This was before the internet, when many areas of the country only got three television channels.  This was before cable.  Yes, I am old.  But I always remember how much fun I had listening to the musicals.  And I know I am not alone.

So what musicals have been the most popular through the years, popular enough to keep bringing them back, that is?

1. Porgy and Bess (music by George Gershwin, book and lyrics by Ira Gershwin , based on the book by Dubose Heyward)**

Porgy and Bess premiered in 1935 on Broadway, and has been brought back to Broadway seven times!  Part of the popularity is the story and part, possibly the larger part, is the music by George and Ira Gershwin.  And it is the most revived musical on Broadway.

2. The Threepenny Opera (music by Kurt Weil, book and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht)

The Threepenny Opera premiered in 1933; it has been revived six times.  This play was adapted from the book The Beggar’s Opera written in 1728.  This musical may qualify as being from the oldest extant source!

3. Show Boat (music by Jerome Kern, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II)

Before Hammerstein teamed up with Richard Rodgers he was famous in his own right.  He just became more so in the famous partnership.  This musical has also been revived six times.  “Ol’ Man River” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” are always show stoppers.

4. Peter Pan (music by Mark Charlap and Jule Stine; book and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh)

Peter Pan is the fourth most restaged musical.  I’m sure you thought it would be on the list somewhere!  It’s a perennial favorite for all ages, and those of us old enough will remember that Mary Martin starred as Peter in the first show in 1954.  She was the mother of Larry Hagman who became a star in I Dream of Jeannie, and became a megastar in Dallas.

5. Guys and Dolls (music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Abe Burrows)

This musical premiered in 1950.  Some from younger generations may be surprised that Marlon Brando starred in the film adaptation, singing and dancing.  Nathan Lane starred in the 1992 revival.  I’m sure that was a good one.

6. Fiddler on the Roof (music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein)

Next is one you probably thought should have been higher up on the list.  The book was based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem, telling the story of the Jews living in the Soviet Union and how they lived there.  It first premiered in 1964 and was an immediate hit.  The movie was wonderful, too.

7. Carousel (music by Richard Rodgers, and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II)

Now we come to the famous pairing of Rodgers and Hammerstein.  This was the second play in their partnership.  Oklahoma was the first, and it changed the way musicals were written and performed.  Carousel only cemented their fame, and they were even nominated for a Tony award.

8. West Side Story (music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents)

West Side Story is the eighth most popular revival.  I’m surprised it’s not higher on the list.  But perhaps because it was based on one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays was what made it so popular (aka Romeo and Juliet).  You can’t go wrong with Shakespeare…  It premiered in 1957, and was so popular it came back to Broadway three years later.

9. Pal Joey (music by Richard Rodgers; book and lyrics by Lorenz Hart, based on the book by John O’Hara)

The character and stories from this musical were based on short stories by John O’Hara that appeared in the New Yorker; he later published these stories as a novel.  The play received mixed reviews from the critics, but ran for ten months, so it was popular.  Not smash hits like with Rodgers and Hammerstein…

10. Oklahoma (music by Richard Rodgers, and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II)

Speaking of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Oklahoma is the next most revised musical.  This one was the first by the duo.  This musical broke the mold.  The singing was part of the dialogue, not just song and dance numbers interspersed in between dialogue.


Some people in the business aren’t sure all of the old favorites should be revived.  Some of the shows continue stereotypes, while others deal with abuse or misogyny.  And what about the revivals taking away room for new musicals to come to town; others have concerns about this possibility too.

In a November New York times article, Georgia Stitt, a composer, lyricist and musician, posted this on social media last fall as the 2017 season was  being announced:

“With respect to the creatives who will be employed by these projects, I will say I’m concerned about a Broadway season that includes PRETTY WOMAN, CAROUSEL and MY FAIR LADY all at the same time.  In 2017 is the correct message really “women are there to be rescued?   It’s frustrating that the material people seem to want to throw their energy into is old properties where women have no agency, and then there is the real scarcity of women on the creative teams.”

–Georgia Stitt (@georgiastitt) November 22, 2017

Creative teams have sought to rework problematic classic musicals, either by changing wording (only possible with permission from the writers’ representatives), or by rethinking staging.

Critiques of My Fair Lady have focused not only on the show’s final exchange, but on the Pygmalion narrative itself.  “Oh gosh, it is very, very sexist,” Julie Andrews, who originated the role of Eliza on Broadway in 1956, told an interviewer last year. “Young women in particular will and should find it hard.”

Pretty Woman, which will be staged for the fall 2018 season, faces different challenges, as a new musical with no pre-existing book or score. It will have a production in Chicago this spring and is then scheduled to open on Broadway in August.

Some artists think that there are a few musicals that need to be revived.  What about Funny Girl, 1776, Titanic or A Funny thing Happened on the Way to the Forum?  Grand Hotel, anyone??

A few final words about musicals:  This year Love Never Dies will be shown in North America for the first time.  The sequel is set in New York, ten years after the ending of the Phantom of the Opera ends.  It started in Detroit and now is coming to TPAC.  And yes the music and lyrics are by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

** So what exactly do these musical terms mean? The music itself, often called the score, is often written by a different person than the person who writes the lyrics, (a.k.a. the words in the songs).  Think of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Then think of Andrew Lloyd Webber or Stephen Sondheim. Both of these men often wrote the words and music for their productions. The book is the words, the actual story of the musical, sometimes based on a book, as in Phantom of the Opera.

Sources:

Cinco de Mayo!

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Originally published May 5, 2017

In case you don’t know, Cinco de Mayo means the Fifth of May in Spanish.

Cinco de Mayo dancers in Washington DC

So sit down with a margarita, put on some mariachi music and read about this almost more American than Mexican holiday. (May 5 is often confused with the Mexican day of independence. The nation celebrates its Independence Day on September 16. On this date in 1810, Mexico won her independence from Spain.)

Cinco de Mayo does commemorate an historic event in the city of Puebla de Los Angeles in Mexico. President Benito Juarez sent a rag tag army of volunteers to meet the French army there. General Zaragoza led this army against the much-better supplied French army. The 4,000 man Mexican army defeated the 8,000 man French army on May 5, 1862. The French army was considered the best in the world at that time and defeating the French was a huge morale booster, and gave the beleaguered country a sense of unity and patriotism. The Mexicans lost 100 men in the battle, the French 500.

Anonymous, Batalla del 5 de mayo de 1862 (Battle of the 5th of May of 1862)

France returned next year with a much bigger army (30,000 soldiers) and a chip on its shoulder. This time France defeated Mexico, and ruled the country for three years. How did this all come about? When Juarez became president in 1861, Mexico was broke. They were still recovering from the Mexican-American war in the 1840s, when a defeated Mexico allowed the United States to annex Texas. The country had borrowed money from Spain, Britain and France to keep the country going, and was recovering from the defeat. It couldn’t afford to pay back the loans.

Spain and Britain negotiated with Mexico and settled the matter. France was in no mood to settle; they wanted more territory and decided to invade Mexico at the port city of Veracruz. France only ruled Mexico for three years, installing Maximillian I as king. The United States was able to help Mexico after the Civil War ended. With additional funds and arms, plus with the pressure on France from Prussia, France withdrew to protect closer borders. In June, 1867, President Benito Juarez became president again, and started pulling Mexico back together.

Interesting Facts about Cinco de Mayo:

  • Napoleon III, the emperor of France, had the idea to take over Mexico, and then send arms and men to help the Confederate Army. Not that he was pro-Southern, he just wanted the nation to continue to be divided and weak. Since this invasion, no foreign country has ever invaded any nation in the Americas.
  • Some historians believe that if it were not for the Mexican victory during the Battle of Puebla, the Confederates would have won the Civil War and changed the fate of the United States forever.
  • Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday in Mexico, and is not really celebrated outside of Puebla and a few other cities. In the United States, however, it is a huge holiday.
  • Photo taken by “The Republic”

    In and around Puebla, “Cinco de Mayo” is known as El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (the Day of Puebla Battle). And they celebrate with re-enactments and parades more than with tequila, margaritas and such.

  • May 5th was made more popular under Franklin Roosevelt, who established the “Good Neighbors policy” in the 1930s.
  • Americans eat nearly 81 million pounds of avocadoes on Cinco de Mayo every year, according to the California Avocado Commission.
  • Many cities in the United States celebrate Cinco de Mayo with weekend-long festivals, including Denver, Chicago, Portland and San Diego.
  • Los Angeles wins with the largest party (in the world!). It is called Fiesta Broadway. Many other countries enjoy this celebration as well. Even Vancouver, Canada has a big celebration, with a skydiving mariachi band!
  • Chandler, Arizona has a Chihuahua race on May 5!
  • Because we like to celebrate and drink tequila, the United States drinks more of this potent liquor than Mexico, where most tequila is made!
  • Enchiladas and tamales make up more the traditional dishes and as they take a bit of time to create and cook, it becomes a time for family togetherness.

Read the rest of this entry

Groundhog Day = Candlemas??

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Librarian

Originally published January 30, 2015ground-36436_1280

We all know about Groundhog Day on February 2, when a fuzzy animal is brought forth to predict the weather. How could we miss that huge celebration at Punxsutawney, when Phil, the groundhog (the official term is woodchuck –remember the tongue twister?), is brought out of his den and the crowd goes wild. If he sees his shadow, then winter will end sooner than later, but if he doesn’t see his shadow, that means 6 more weeks of winter. Of course, this weather forecast has never been that accurate…

And of course, many people fondly remember watching the movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell. It has become a “contemporary classic.”   In case you don’t remember, Phil (Bill Murray) gets stuck in a time loop on Groundhog Day, and only after he learns from his mistakes is he able to get back on track. In 2006, it was even added to the United States National Film Registry for being a culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant film.

So where does Candlemas fit in, you may ask?? This holy day is celebrated by Christians on February 2 to commemorate both the presentation of Jesus at the Temple and Jesus’ first entry into the Temple. Since Jesus is considered a “light-bringer,” the custom was to bless candles on this day as well, which is where we get the term Candlemas from. In pagan times, this day was also known as Imbolc (pronounced i-Molk), a festival marking the first day of Spring, which usually fell on February 2. Evidently spring came early in the Gaelic lands, and coincidentally (meaning it was probably a direct influence), this holy day was also used to predict the coming weather.

These poems, found in English and German, show how on Candlemas the weather could be forecast.

If Candle-mas Day is bright and clear,
There’ll be two winters in the year.

If Candle mas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.

If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

The German immigrants also brought with them the tradition of a hedgehog telling the spring forecast, but with no hedgehogs to be found, groundhogs were the closest animal they could find in the new world. And Pennsylvania has had many Germans settlers.

And now you know how Groundhog Day and Candlemas both have a place in American culture.

_____

7086949891_14db5ab9f5_bAn aside: The name Punxsutawney comes from the Lenape name for the location “ponksad-uteney” which means “the town of the sandflies.” The name woodchuck comes from the Indian legend of “Wojak, the groundhog” considered by them to be their underground ancestor.

 


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