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

Find a Wealth of Information in a Few Clicks with Gale eBooks on GVRL

Gale eBooks on GVRL are a one-stop shopping for all of your ready reference needs! Let’s look at an example.

Here’s a familiar scenario: an ENGL 1020 student is writing a paper about Bill Gates. They are only allowed one internet source, and need book sources. What a perfect use of GVRL!  Sure, the database is accessed via the Internet, but the sources themselves are books. Glorious, full-text reference books!

A GVRL search returns two of the full-text reference books; both of the volumes have entries for Bill Gates. The student is skeptical – the entries looks like an internet print-off and they are worried that their teacher won’t believe that it really, truly, is from a book. No worries, just click on the “View PDF” link at the top of the Bill Gates entry and the screen changes to look like the entry from the print edition, just as if the student had photo-copied the page from the book itself.

There is even a “Listen” button. Press the triangle “Play” button and listen to the entry read by a computerized voice. It’s a nice voice – not overly robotic and with excellent pronunciation (not like your incomprehensible caller ID announcer; more like a real, human voice!) It is even possible to translate articles into a variety of languages, making this a truly accessible resource. You can even download the MP3 to listen to an article offline.

Now, would the student like a citation of this source? Of course they would! Click on “Citation Tools” on the right side of the screen and choose from MLA or APA styles. You can even save the citation to one of a number of online options like RefWorks.

The student doesn’t have to check out this eBook or any eBooks. They can access University Libraries’ full Gale eBooks collection through our website, or download the “Gale eBooks” Google Chrome app. After their first login with UofM credentials, they can authenticate and login with his Google account credentials. Once logged in with Google, they can save articles or article highlights directly to Google Drive for future use.

Check out the variety of reference books available to you through Gale eBooks on GVRL. This database is an extremely practical and relevant and accessible to you 24/7.

Exploring Government Publications for Native American Heritage Month

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, we here at Government Publications wanted to take some time to showcase a few documents pertaining to Native American culture. All of these items are currently available for check-out and can be found here in McWherter Library in the Government Publications department!

Written by Benjamin Clanton:

  1. The Smithsonian Institute and the Handbook of North American Indians

The Smithsonian Institute has provided a rich variety of resources that would be helpful in the historical and anthropological study of Native American tribes in North America. Perhaps the best example of their work is the Handbook of North American Indians, a multivolume encyclopedia covering a myriad of topics and fields of study. Spearheaded by ethnologist and anthropologist William Sturtevant, this proposed 20 volume work began publication in 1978 as a hope to replace other outdated studies. Sadly, the project has yet to reach completion, due largely to the combination of funding issues and the death of Sturtevant in 2007. Nonetheless, this exhaustive synthesis of Native American studies is an impressive collaboration between renowned historians, anthropologists, and linguists, among others. Growing up in Mississippi, I have always had an interest in the tribes of the Southeast such as the Choctaw, Creek, and Cherokee; this made Volume 14 on North America’s Southeast region of special interest. Like the other volumes exploring specific regions, it does a wonderful job covering studies on prehistory up to modern day, while also discussing the progression of research on Native American studies over the years. Other volumes dedicate themselves to general topics such as languages, contemporary society, and the complex history of Indian-white relations. Though incomplete overall, the individual volumes that are accessible would provide a wonderful complementary piece or starting point for Native American research of almost any kind.

Continue reading

Donate to the Mid-South LGBTQ+ Archive

If you’re interested in contributing to making this project happen, donate to the MomentUM project today! The project funding ends December 4, 2019.

On October 31, 1969, Memphis hosted an event that would forever change the LGBTQ community in our city. Against the backdrop of the Guild Theatre, Bill Kendall organized a revolutionary revel where men dressed as women, women dressed in costume, and everyone gathered to celebrate the art of pageantry and camp. The result was the first public drag show and pageant that Memphis had ever seen: The Miss Memphis Review.

In the 1960s, Memphis city ordinances criminalized same sex dancing, cross dressing, and acts of “vulgar character.” So Kendall strategically chose Halloween, the one night a year where a celebration of gender bending wouldn’t run afoul of these laws. When the crowds arrived at the theatre, they were dressed in costumes as well as formal finery. It was clear that this was going to be a historic event.

Fifty years later, Memphis remembers this event. The Guild and Miss Memphis will be the subject of a historical marker at the Evergreen Theatre on Halloween 2019, the first of its kind in the city. What remains of that late night in 1969 are a few photographs, oral histories that have not yet been captured, and reels of film in critical need of preservation. The Mid-South LGBTQ+ Archive seeks funds to digitize and archivally preserve the audiovisual material from that historic Halloween night. This footage stands to tell the story of what has been called “Memphis’ Stonewall” by community historian, Vincent Astor.

To date, this footage is the oldest of its kind in Memphis and The Mid-South LGBTQ+ Archive wants to make it the cornerstone of how Pride began in the Mid-South. We want our community’s trust to tell the story of all LGBTQ+ persons that call the Mid-South home. Contributions for this project will go to preserve and digitize this and similar film footage and to continue to grow the archive to include a spectrum of narratives that make up the LGBTQ+ community.

Digital Exhibit: Enslaved People in the Southeast

Read the news announcement, and visit the digital exhibit.

From the digital exhibit’s website:

The Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL) announces a new digital exhibit created and curated by the ASERL Special Collections Interest Group. This collaborative online exhibit recognizes the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans sold into bondage in the English Colonies. This date, in 1619, is regarded as the beginning of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in North America.

The exhibit documents the history of the enslaved in the Southeast and includes material related to the many varied aspects of enslavement, including paper documents and records as well as images. These provide valuable information about the entire infrastructure and system of enslavement as well as the individual and group experiences of enslaved people. Items submitted include photos, letters, bills of sale, emancipation documents, insurance and taxation documents, and maps indicating segregation zones. The exhibit will also explore the legacies of slavery by including documents and images related to convict lease labor and Jim Crow in the 20th century.

Designed to illustrate the social complexity as well as the economic and human impact of the American ‘peculiar institution,’ in all its ugliness, these materials can guide the researchers in accurately depicting the institution of slavery in the Southeastern United States. The goal is to learn from our past and make our resources available to students, researchers, other institutions, and the public.”

The University of Memphis’ University Libraries Special Collections selected and provided materials contributing to this digital exhibit.