The Inventor: A Kanopy Documentary Review

If you’re looking for an interesting documentary to break through the quarantine boredom, why not utilize Kanopy? As Ben has mentioned in his most recent blog post, Kanopy is a great resource for any presently-affiliated  UM persons and completely free. So what better way to kill some time than by giving The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley a view? 


Directed by Alex Gibney, “The Inventor”, outlines the intense rise to success and chaotic decline of now inoperative health technology company Theranos. Theranos, the brainchild of Stanford drop-out Elizabeth Holmes, was touted as the answer to a world where big needles and diagnostic companies stand as the only way to efficiently collect and test blood samples. Created out of Holmes’ fear of needles, Theranos’ claim to fame was a machine called “The Edison”, or miniLab. From this machine, blood from a single finger prick could be collected in a vial called the “Nanotainer” (another Theranos creation), and run within The Edison. Theranos then claimed that they could produce a variety of results from this incredibly small sample; a feat only previously managed by industry standard blood tests. 

 

The problem was that Holmes kept many secrets as CEO and founder of Theranos. One of the biggest secrets was that her prized invention, The Edison, didn’t exactly work. Though, she wouldn’t tell any of her investors, or customers, that fact. 

 

“The Inventor” is a companion piece to John Carreyrou’s book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup  (which we have in the library for your reading pleasure). Carreyrou, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal was not the first to write about Theranos and its issues, but he wrote a comprehensive and explosive article that brought the nation’s attention to Holmes and her problematic promises. 

 

I won’t spoil all of the documentary for you, but do know that The Inventor: Our for Blood in Silicon Valley is an interesting, informative, and attention-grabbing documentary that illustrates how a billion dollar health tech corporation was able to go from notable to notorious in just a few short years. 

 

Watch it tonight on Kanopy, or check-out John Carreyrou’s book for an in-depth read. 

Kanopy Review: Robert Pattinson Double Feature!

Many of us currently find ourselves in our homes most of the day, if not all of it, working and attending class from home in the midst of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. It can be difficult to find things to do for entertainment without spending money on rental or subscription fees. However, if you are currently a student, staff, or faculty member at the University of Memphis, the streaming service Kanopy is offered without charge through our library’s databases. And it has some truly excellent choices on tap. So, if you are in need of a movie night, I aim to post several movie recommendations in the coming days that I hope you enjoy. (Also, if you are new to the blog, scroll back through some of my earlier Kanopy suggestions; I particularly enjoyed writing the Halloween Spooky Scary post!)

First up in this series is a Robert Pattinson double feature. Yes, the same Robert Pattinson that became famous because of that one Harry Potter movie and, more notably, the Twilight saga. If you haven’t watched a film starring him in a while, you are likely in for a surprise. He has developed from a teenage heart throb into one of the most interesting young actors working today. Pattinson has specialized in making under the radar independent films in recent years. Both of these features are on offer from the outstanding A24 movie studio, which specializes in making daring films outside of your typical blockbuster fare.

High Life

What could possibly go wrong with launching a group of death row inmates into deep space on a mysterious mission to find alternative energy sources by exploring a distant black hole? Answer: Everything. The film starts with Pattinson’s character taking care of a toddler on his own while struggling to keep a destitute spacecraft from falling apart. Things only get more bizarre from here, as the plot jumps around in time, a theme of the movie. One of the ‘crew’ holds strange fertility experiments with both the male and female prisoners on board. As the group hurtles further and further from Earth, it becomes an impossible struggle to maintain purpose and sanity. This film tackles a lot of deep philosophical issues, such as the value of life, what it means to be human in the worst of circumstances, and the morality of doing questionable things to further advance society. Not everything works here: some of my favorite scenes involve a central garden in the spacecraft that the crew tends to, but it is unclear if there is an environmental message that perhaps fell by the wayside. Either way, there are some beautiful visuals in this film, and the performances from Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, and Andre Benjamin (notable for being half of the music group Outkast) make this a thought-provoking watch.

Who will like this one: Fans of weird sci-fi in the vein of Annihilation that feature slow burn character studies and nonlinear timelines.

Good Time

Second up in the Robert Pattinson double feature is this high-octane New York City crime thriller, a film that is essentially nonstop chaos. Pattinson plays Connie Nikas, a narcissistic petty criminal that convinces his brother Nick, who is developmentally disabled, to help him rob a bank. The caper, predictably, goes horribly wrong, with Nick being arrested, badly beaten in jail, and sent to a hospital under police guard. Connie spends the night that most of the plot covers desperately trying to scrounge up enough money to bail his brother out of jail, an attempt which morphs into trying fruitlessly to break him out of custody. It is easy to guess from the synopsis that this is a wild ride from start to finish. It seems intentionally left unclear what Connie’s motivations are throughout besides vague mentions of family strife involving the two brothers’ grandmother. However, the movie felt extremely real, with a constantly building tension as one thing after another descends into pandemonium. Late in the movie, Connie describes another character as being a drain on society, a burden to others; however, it is either the least or most self-aware moment his character displays, as he was essentially describing himself perfectly. His list of dirty deeds in the movie include: trying to manipulate his girlfriend into paying his brother’s bail; getting a teenager arrested who he had earlier tried to seduce; and sending a security guard at an amusement park to the hospital while trying to find a hidden stash of drug money. At one point, I thought, ‘At least he hasn’t gotten anyone killed yet.’ But, there was twenty minutes left in the movie, and I will just leave it at that.

Who will like this one: Fans of nonstop action and of gritty films that focus on realistic characters instead of caricatures of the classic movie criminal.

Viewer warning: Both of these movies are rated ‘R’ and contain adult themes that may be offensive to some, including violence and sexual content.

Celebrating Black History Month!

Benjamin Clanton and Meghan Campbell, Government Publications

There is no doubting that African Americans have played an integral role in the armed forces of the United States, from our nation’s inception up to the present day. They have served this country and put themselves in harm’s way to help preserve the ideals of freedom and liberty that have often been denied to them over the past two and a half centuries. Whether it be during the Revolutionary War to found the nation, the American Civil War to save the Union and end slavery, World War II to defeat fascism, or in the modern struggles to find equality and recognition for their contributions, African Americans have given everything possible, including the highest sacrifice, in the American armed forces. For example, recent decades have seen the rise of Colin Powell, the son of Jamaican immigrants, to the greatest heights of the United States military, which propelled him to becoming Secretary of State during the George W. Bush administration. We here in Government Publications would like to use this opportunity during Black History Month to highlight some of the resources in our collection that honor and examine the sterling history of African American military service.

Bonus link!

Frederick Douglass is truly one of the great historical figures of the United States. After escaping slavery, Douglass became one of the greatest champions of abolition and social justice in 19th century America. His autobiography is still considered one of the greatest works of American literature ever produced, invaluable in its condemnation of slavery as an institution. Here is a link exploring the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, D.C., preserved by the National Park Service. Please enjoy!

 

 

Happy Presidents’ Day!

The third Monday in February is traditionally known as Presidents’ Day here in the United States. It has morphed over the years since 1885, when the holiday became nationally recognized and was coined simply as Washington’s Birthday (George Washington’s birthday is on February 22, if you are curious). A movement in the 1960s successfully combined this observance with that of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12), and today the nation generally uses this holiday to celebrate the accomplishments of all U.S. presidents over the years. We here in the Government Publications department at the McWherter Library wanted to take a look at some of the resources available in our collections and online that will help you explore this historically relevant day!

Written by Meghan Campbell, Government Publications

February 17th is Presidents’ Day! What better way to celebrate this holiday than to share government resources about your favorite American leaders? Government Publications would like to share with you some local and online resources that are free and supremely easy to access to satisfy your curiosity!

Starting with our first president, the man, the myth, the legend: George Washington. Library of Congress has provided unique and quality access to a collection of papers that were written by Washington himself.  Unfortunately, you can’t read about how he chopped down a cherry tree, but you can read his personal correspondence, journals, and even take a peek at his school assignments.  If you’re seeking even more Washington related documents, you can always swing by Government Publications and browse our National Park Service documents and pamphlets about the Washington Monument, George Washington’s Birthplace, and many more!

If you’re really into popular presidents, you can dive deep into the life of Abraham Lincoln. Most famous as our leader during the Civil War, Lincoln has some interesting government documents of his own. Like George Washington, Lincoln has his own set of papers and manuscripts digitized by the Library of Congress; available to for free access online. Lincoln’s boyhood home, the Lincoln Memorial, and even where he was assassinated (Ford’s Theatre) are all sites that were prevalent in his lifetime and have been preserved by the National Park Service (NPS)! Some of the most notable work done by the NPS, is a collaboration with Google Arts and Culture, bringing the public an in-person view of other Lincoln-adjacent sites; such as Ford’s Theatre, Lincoln’s home, and his memorial in Washington D.C.

While there are plenty of resources on Presidents past, there are just as many on presidents of the (sort of recent) present.

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

Have you ever wondered what the leader of the free world actually does during their Presidency? If this is the case, a rich resource is the multivolume sets of the Public Papers of the Presidents. Published by the Office of the Federal Register, these sets contain remarks and papers of the sitting President released by the Office of the Press Secretary during that particular time period. The Government Publications department has physical copies of these important documents available to be viewed by the public, stretching from the administration of Barack Obama back to the administration of Herbert Hoover. (We also have The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt for that time period, but those were privately printed and not produced by the Office of the Federal Register.)

It is an invaluable resource to be able to view the remarks of American Presidents concerning events and trends during their administrations, along with other papers such as meetings with foreign leaders and remarks covering a myriad of appearances and events. It is also beneficial that the website of the Government Publishing Office (GPO) has made digitized copies of the Public Papers available to peruse at the click of a button. A wonderful compliment to this resource is a volume produced yearly in the Code of Federal Regulations titled “The President.” It contains copies of both proclamations and executive orders of the President over the course of the year covered. Being able to view all of these in one place allows a researcher or curiosity seeker the opportunity to truly see the many roles an American President must assume within our government.

Beyond the Government Publications department, McWherter Library also has a variety of Presidential biographies in the stacks available to history buffs. Here are a few to get you started:

If you want to learn more about American Presidents on this day or any other day, the resources are right at your fingertips here at the Ned.

 

Happy Benjamin Franklin Day!

GPO’s “Ben’s Guide” Ben!

On this day in 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin was born. Franklin was, and still remains as one of our nation’s most notable and foundational figures who contributed to the successes of America while it was in its infancy.   He was a renaissance man; an inventor who sought solutions to many problems, and chased great ideas all throughout his lifetime. Today is his 314th birthday, and as a tribute, Government Publications wanted to share a small offering of resources that reflect his own work, and talks about the man himself.

The Government Publishing Office (GPO), has used Ben’s likeness for quite some time in the form of “Ben’s Guides”. Found here, it’s a resource available to anyone, and it’s a great place to learn or refresh your memory of facts relating to the United States Government, with Franklin as your personal guide. Suitable for ages of all kind, Ben’s Guide makes for an eye-catching, and interactive resource for classrooms and personal use.

If a biography is what you’re looking for, Life of Franklin is another great resource to pour over for information about the personal life of the Founding Father.

One more fabulous resource is Poor Richard’s Almanack, written by Franklin himself. Gov. Pub’s very own Benjamin has his own words to share on this publication!

Ben Franklin’s Literary Legacy
Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

Benjamin Franklin, along with other historical giants such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton, is often considered one of our nation’s more important Founding Fathers. Continue reading

Book Review: There There by Tommy Orange

Tommy Orange

Though a work of fiction, Tommy Orange’s debut novel, There There, is steeped in history. And not just one kind. Entire chapters deal directly with the history of Native peoples in the Americas and their largely tragic encounters with European colonizers. It can be argued that the entire book, set in modern day, permeates with the centuries old theme of searching for identity in the face of cultural destruction. On a different level, it also explores the private histories that shape the everyday actions of all people. Orange expertly weaves together numerous personal stories into one greater tale, one where the individuals he follows, all with at least some Native lineage, make their way towards a sprawling powwow event in Oakland, California. And like much of the history that Orange touches upon throughout the novel, this book turns into a tragedy by the final pages. However, like in all tales, there are moments of beauty and sadness and humor that give the novel its soul. Individuals are the driving force of being human, and that is no different here. Eventually, these vignettes all come crashing together to create a complex story where multiple strands eventually connect into a heartbreaking tapestry.

Orange’s technique of highlighting a wide variety of characters proves to be both the strength and weakness of There There. The ones that hit truly hit. They make you feel both the huge theme of the Native American experience in the United States, particularly the one born in urban areas, while also exploring the pain that is both common and unique to all of us.  A young man named Edwin Black was one of my favorites. In his first featured vignette, he is awkward, overweight, and self-isolated, totally unsure of where he fits in the world. Which brings up a question: what is it like to feel ostracized within a larger group that is already largely excluded from the society it exists in? Eventually, though, his arc transforms into one of cautious hopefulness. He becomes deeply involved in the planning of the powwow and contacts the man he believes to be his father through his mom’s Facebook account. Another character that helps bring true emotional depth to the book is that of a woman named Jacquie Red Feather. Her devastating story of family strife, abandonment, and alcoholism is perhaps the most powerful among several worthy contenders. A speech she gives at an AA meeting led by the long-disappeared father of her first child perfectly encapsulates the struggles felt throughout the novel, those of regret and tenuous optimism for the future. Continue reading

Dissertation Writers Retreat

Are you a late-stage dissertation writer? Attend this free, week-long retreat focusing on both strategies for completing and how to plan for life after the dissertation.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday will include workshops and presentations; free lunch and childcare will be provided. CWC consultants will be available to assist with any writing questions, and librarians will be available for research assistance. Register at bit.ly/dwr2020 by December 14 to reserve free childcare provided by the Lipman Early Learning and Research Center, catered lunch, coffee, tea, and breakfast snacks, and study room. Monday and Friday, enjoy quiet space devoted to writing.

Questions? Contact Michael Harris at mwhrris2@memphis.edu.

Below is a tentative retreat schedule:

Continue reading

Lambuth Library News: November 2019

Written by Lisa Reilly, Lambuth Campus Librarian: 

What’s New 

Just in time for the upcoming holiday breaks, we have introduced a new Leisure Reading collection to the Lambuth Library. The collection includes best-selling, hot-off-the-presses fiction and non-fiction hardcover books ready for you to check-out!

Some popular titles include: 

All these and more can be checked out at the Lambuth Library or through Interlibrary Loan! 

Upcoming Lambuth Library Events: 

December 2-4 Come and Go During Library Hours: Maker Monthly Borrowed Bows – Take a few minutes to refresh between study sessions by making a holiday bow out of a colorful recycled magazine page. Materials will be available for you to use anytime during library hours! 

December 9 from 10:30AM-12:30PM: Therapy Dogs Visit – Exams got you down? Several therapy dogs will be available at the Lambuth Library ready to offer you comfort, relieve your stress, and bring you joy! 

Resource Highlight of the Month 

The Lambuth Library Study Rooms have been popular this semester. There are four study rooms to accommodate groups of 2-6 students. However, larger groups may request the rooms by contacting the campus librarian. Students, reserve a study room by visiting the Lambuth Library website and selecting the “Study Rooms” link!