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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Leadership with a Twist

We’re updating our records on the books in our collection, and I’ve been spending a lot of time in the stacks lately as a result. This wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t have so many interesting books in our collection. Every other book, it seems, beckons with an interesting title or subject, and most of the time, I must fight the urge to pick it up and peek inside. Why? Because peeking turns into scanning, which evolves into perusing, which inevitably leads to full-blown reading if the subject and presentation are engaging enough (in my experience, they often are). If I gave in to my desires, I’d spend all my time reading, and I’d never get any real work done.

Every now and then, though, I cave and allow my curiosity to get the best of me. I come across a gem that I can’t pass up. This was exactly what happened when I stumbled upon a Star Trek book yesterday. I never even had half a chance of ignoring this book. See, I have this condition – I’m a Trekkie. I have a particularly aggressive form of the condition, and it’s at a very advanced stage. But I’m living with it, and I have it under control. Pretty much. Kind of.

As soon as I saw the words “star” and “trek” on the spine of the book, I knew I was done for. Initially, I thought it must be some Trek novel that somehow ended up between Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun and Leadership Lessons from the New York Fire Department. I plucked the Star Trek book from the shelf to see if it was something I’d read already. It most definitely was not something I’d read before. It wasn’t even a novel. It was Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It wasn’t out of place at all on this shelf; it fit right in, actually. Whoa.

You already know what happened next. I was beyond peeking. I scanned and perused, and the book is now on my desk with a bookmark tucked between pages 74 and 75. That’s how far I got before I remembered that I needed to write this blog post.

The further along I get in this book, the more I like it. Not only is it a meaningful commentary about leadership told via Star Trek, but I would also consider it a work of fanfiction. For those of you unfamiliar with fanfiction, it’s when fans write stories involving fictional characters, mostly from t.v. shows or films, but also from books, plays, and video games.

Do I write fanfiction? Yes (I know – I’m a nerd to the core), and apparently so do Wess Roberts and Bill Ross, the authors of Make It So. Roberts and Ross discuss multiple leadership themes by examining various episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation". The kicker is that the discussions of leadership and leadership qualities are derived from Roberts’s research but are presented through the eyes of Jean-Luc Picard, the captain of the Enterprise. The book is presented as a collection of entries from Picard’s personal journal. It’s supposed to form a type of leadership guidebook for future Starfleet Academy cadets, complete with chapter introductions “written” by a Starfleet Admiral who’s also the superintendent of the Academy.

Who would have ever thought I’d find fanfiction in the stacks? There’s no telling what else I could find!

Roberts, Wess and Bill Ross. Make it So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek: The Next Generation, New York: Pocket Books, 1995.

A Visual Hollingsworth

Can't get enough information about William Hollingsworth? Want to see some of his lyrical creations? Well look no further! (Perhaps look a bit further!)

Brown and Wet:

In the Alley:

Ah, The Mystery of a Southern Night:

The $31,725 painting, It Was Cloudy When Evalina Married:

I'll throw in one last Hollingsworth nugget as the frosting on the cake (or the oil on the canvas). Hollingsworth suffered some doubts as to whether he could become a successful artist practicing his vocation in his native state. Karl Wolfe, a good friend who was also a Jackson artist, gave Hollingsworth the following advice: "Why, Hollie, you don't have to go to New York or Chicago. You can paint out the window" (Welty 29). Hollingsworth continued to "paint out the window" by creating local scenes of Mississippi and portraits of Mississippians until his untimely death.

Welty, Eudora. On William Hollingsworth, Jr. University Press of Mississippi, 2002.

Gust and Vehicle: The Salad Story.

A few weeks ago I had occasion to think of Raggedy Ann Salad, a scary combination of peaches, celery sticks, cheese, and raisins that are arranged on a plate in the shape of a human. Human salad! My favorite! (I have enough of a problem with those bunny cake pans at Williams-Sonoma; someone is going to have to lop off bunny’s head, and I don’t want to be around when that happens.) Raggedy Ann Salad looks like this:

This extremely loose definition of salad got me thinking: what makes a salad? Can you put anything on a lettuce leaf and call it a salad? Are there salad rules? A salad society? A board of commissioners who gets to decide whether or not something is really a salad? (The answer to these last few questions is no, sadly. I would love to be on that board!) I hit the books to find out the origin of salad.

According to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, ancient Greeks were the first lettuce eaters, but it was the Romans who gave salad its name: “The Romans enjoyed a variety of dishes with raw vegetables similar to present-day salad ingredients, such as lettuce, endive, and cucumbers. Roman salad dressing was initially salt (sal) or brine—hence the derivation of the word ‘salad’—and a combination of olive oil and vinegar” (382).

The first book devoted to salad was John Evelyn’s Acetaria, published in 1699. (The encyclopedia gives no indication whether or not Raggedy Ann Salad was included.) Evelyn gives the first official definition of “sallet”: “a particular Compostion of certain Crude and fresh herbs, such as usually are, or may safely be eaten with some Acetous Juice, Oyl, Salt, &c. to give them a grateful Gust and Vehicle” (382). He also listed all the acceptable salad ingredients, which excluded fruit and meat.

Salad in America started out as a purely leafy green affair, but as mayonnaise made its way over from France, Americans got wise to the magic binding powers of mayo, and began their devotion to lobster, oyster, crab, turkey, and chicken salads. They also discovered that contrary to John Evelyn’s rules, you could do what you wanted to where salad was concerned. Frederick Saunders, in his Salads for the Solitary, described salad as “a delectable conglomerate of good things—meats, vegetables, --acids and sweets--, oils, sauces, and other condiments too numerous to detail” (383).

So apparently, it was this American fly-by-the-seat-of-your-salad-pants attitude that led us into the realm of Jell-o salads, frozen salads, and yes: even Raggedy Ann Salad. It seems that if you call it salad, it is so.

For lunch today, have a salad, why don’t you? I plan to have the very American “pizza salad,” myself.

Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Vol. 2. "Salads and Salad Dressings." Oxford, 2004. 382-385.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Jackson, MS, Art Central

This past Saturday, a group of friends and I hit the Mississippi Museum of Art in full force. They went to see the museum's newest exhibit, Jim Henson's Fantastic World, which they raved about the rest of the afternoon. (Be sure to check it out! It's open through March 14, 2010.) Being the budget-conscious librarian that I am, I decided to save the Jim Henson exhibit until next month and saw the (free) exhibition, The Mississippi Story.  I am always surprised by how large the museum actually is. It took me several hours to view just that collection!

My favorite Mississippi artist that I "discovered" was William Hollingsworth. He created hundreds of beautiful oil and watercolor paintings, in addition to drawings and sketches, in his short lifetime. I was struck by his biographical card, which stated that he died when he was only 34. When I got back to MLC, I quickly skimmed whatever I could find about this fascinating Mississippian, looking for clues. This is what I found.
  • Hollingsworth was born in Jackson, MS and spent the majority of his life here (Mississippi History Now). I find it noteworthy and laudable that he practiced his vocation here in his home state.
  • Hollingsworth's mother died when he was an infant and he was raised by his father and sister. He was extremely close to his father and was devastated by his death in June of 1943 (Mississippi History Now). Writing in his diary in 1944, Hollingsworth referred to him as "the one friend in all, the father-mother in one" (Hollingsworth 142.) What a beautiful sentiment to have about one's father!
  • Hollingsworth enlisted in the US Navy in 1942 but was discharged two weeks later due to "poor eyesight" (Welty 27).
  • Before each of his diary entries he recorded the daily headlines of World War II (Welty 27). I find this fascinating and yet slightly macabre.
  • Hollingsworth suffered from "profound depression" which was "worsened by drinking" (Welty 27).
  • Hollingsworth founded the Art Department at Millsaps College in 1942. He also taught there for several years. (AskArt)
  • According to Ask Art, a painting of his fetched $31,725 just last year.
  • His wife, Jane, opened a dressmaking business in their home in order that Hollingsworth would not have to take another 9-5 job and instead could work on his art (Mississippi History Now.)
  • He committed suicide August 1, 1944, (Hollingsworth 142). Possessing the ghoulish personality that I do, I attempted to discover his method, but to no avail.
I leave you with this remark about Hollingsworth from fellow artist and contemporary Karl Wolfe:
He seemed, unlike me, very calm and methodical while painting. So once while we were out in the field together I asked him if he was not excited by his subject matter. He replied, "Excited? I am so excited that I think my insides are going to shake out." Then I noticed as he painted how his bottom lip was trembling" (Welty 29).
I admire and enjoy that he loved his painting so much that it visibly moved him. If only he could have created even more extraordinary art.

Hollingsworth, Jane, ed. Hollingsworth: The Man, the Artist, and His Work. University Press of Mississippi, 1981.
Welty, Eudora. On William Hollingsworth, Jr. University Press of Mississippi, 2002.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Right now at the Mississippi Library Commission we’re working on weeding through our collection. For all of you non-librarians out there, “weeding” basically means removing the books that are worn, outdated, or are otherwise not welcomed. This may seem like an easy task but it’s actually pretty difficult. Take for instance a book I found today; Melany Shapiro’s Bonanza: The Definitive Ponderosa Companion. Now, if we thought about this book practically, we may decide it needs to go. I mean, Bonanza was cancelled way back in 1972 and, to be fair, only a few diehard fans would call the show timeless. But, after reviewing Ms. Shapiro’s book I found it offered a good deal of useful information. Here are some things I learned about Bonanza.
Pernell Roberts (better known as Adam Cartwright) released a folk album titled “Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies.” Also, Mr. Robert hated Bonanza. He described Adam as “one-fourth of a character” (13) and demanded that his future TV wife be played by an African American. Surprisingly enough, NBC rejected this idea.
Like Mr. Roberts, Lorne Greene (Pa Cartwright) released several records with his most famous being Ponderosa Party Time which featured his TV sons. Mr. Greene also starred in other hit TV shows like Mission Galactica, Battlestar Galactica, and plain ole Galactica. He died of pneumonia in 1987. Tragically, he was still Canadian.
Bonanza featured several guest stars including Adam West, Gary Busey, Death Wish star Charles Bronson, and Lee Marvin. Also, Michael Landon met Victor French on Bonanza and the two later starred in the always popular Highway to Heaven series.
I’m sure you can see now how difficult it is to remove a book like this from our collection. What if I took this book off the shelf and a patron came by and wanted to know what the 363rd episode of Bonanza is about? Well, since we’re keeping this book you can happily learn that:
Episode 364 is called “The Weary Willies”.

“The Ponderosa becomes home for the Weary Willies, post Civil War drifters, much to the anger of the Virginia City folk. When Angie, an aristocrat’s daughter, becomes friendly with Billy, the Weary Willies’ leader, her father and boyfriend are furious. Angie is attacked, and Billy faces trial for attempted murder. Guest stars: Richard Thomas, Lee Purcell, Lonny Chapman, and Elisa Cook. Directed by Leo Penn." (147).

Shapiro, Melany. Bonanza: The Definitive Ponderosa Companion. Nipomo, CA: Cyclone Books, 1997.

Have Your Smelling Salts at the Ready.

You may find this shocking, but sometimes -- only on very rare occasions -- I like to look at things on the Internet...things that are not exactly library-related. When you get over the shock, visit some of the following websites, why don't you?

Letters of Note posts letters from famous people -- scans of the letters, plus transcripts in case of messy famous people handwriting. Letters are so personal that you can't help but learn something new when you read them. This one from David Bowie is one of my favorites.

Word Journal gives you handy definitions of words you probably haven't heard before. You'll have to go there to find out what "griffonage" is.

Missed Connections is a new favorite. Sophie Blackall reads the "missed connections" columns, where people post messages to people they felt a fleeting kinship with (usually on public transportation), then illustrates them.

Don't be afraid of the name: Sexy People posts funny Olan Mills-esque portraits of people from the past. Like this gal:

Fancy Fast Food makes me gag a little, but it's still pretty fascinating. These people buy regular old fast food, then transform it into new food using no new ingredients. Click here to see how a meal from Steak 'n Shake ended up as beef stroganoff.

If there's anything you've recently found that you want to share, leave a comment for us!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Far Cry from the Hotty Toddy Potty

The water is flowing again at most homes and businesses in Jackson, but it was a different story a week ago. This time last week, I was here at work dreading the prospect of having to use a porta-potty. We were open for business for much of last week, and like every other place around here, we were without water. The solution? Portable toilets and hand sanitizer.

I’ve never used a porta-potty, not even the Hotty Toddy Potty at Ole Miss. I didn’t have to use one last week, so I feel like I dodged a bullet. Everything I’ve ever heard about porta-potties (except the Hotty Toddy Potty, of course) has been bad. My mother never let me or my sisters use them when we were little. And whenever the subject of porta-potties comes up in conversations with others, someone always mentions how gross they are. One of the things that had the biggest impact on my attitude toward chemical toilets was the movie North Country with Charlize Theron. There’s a scene where Theron’s character is inside a porta-potty when her co-workers, a bunch of jerks, tip it over. She crawls out covered in the contents of the potty, some of the vilest nastiness you can imagine. Seriously, it was one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen in a movie, and it sealed the fate of my porta-potty attitude.

Being the history nerd that I am, the whole water crisis made me think about how people survived before indoor plumbing was the norm. My parents have told me about their experiences with outhouses, but it should come as no surprised to you that I’ve never actually used one. Dottie Booth, the author of Nature Calls: The History, Lore, and Charm of Outhouses, is part of a movement to preserve existing outhouses and a make a record of these disappearing structures. New ones are no longer being built because of environmental issues, so this movement seeks to preserve the history of outhouses so that they aren’t forgotten after the bulldozers have done their job.

While charming isn’t quite the word I’d use to describe an outhouse, I can definitely understand the urge to study them and at least record their existence for history’s sake. Booth incorporates the memories of former outhouse users throughout the book, which was one of the best aspects of the book for me. One user, Betty, told of how she felt that something was watching her one night when she was in the outhouse. When her husband took a flashlight out there to investigate, he discovered a big raccoon inside! (11)

Booth’s book is loaded with history. In one section, she discusses the predecessors to toilet paper as we know it today, which didn’t come along until the early 1880s. People used all kinds of soft materials, including dress patterns, newspapers, mail-order catalogs (before they were printed on glossy paper), and even corn cobs (thank goodness for Charmin). (27)

And then there are the rules. Oh yes – there are rules to using an outhouse, at least according to Booth. Here are some highlights from the long list:

- Don’t shoot animals in the privy.

- Taco, refried beans, sauerkraut, and herring eaters, use neighbor’s privy.

- Knock twice for emergency, and if you hear someone running on the path, get out quickly. (16)

Note: That third rule may not apply if the outhouse is a two-seater (or three- or four-seater).

After doing a little research and thinking it over, I realized that porta-potties would probably be considered a luxury compared to what people had to deal with in the old days. A porta-potty would probably seem fancy to a person whose only bathroom was an outhouse. Even so, I’ll still avoid them like the plague (unless I absolutely have no choice).

Booth, Dottie. Nature Calls: The History, Lore, and Charm of Outhouses. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 1998.

North Country, Warner Brothers, 2005

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Attention! Calling All Poets Laureate!

While we were on our extended Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, one of our Meebo patrons asked for information on Mississippi's State Poets Laureate. Mississippi's first poet laureate was appointed by Governor Ross Barnett in 1963. Life-time appointments are now made by the legislature. These are Mississippi's poets laureate:

Maude Willard Leet Prenshaw 1963-1971
Louise Moss Montgomery 1973-January 1978
Winifred Hamrick Farrar July 31, 1978-present
Be sure to go to the Library of Congress's state poets laureate pages for more information on these Mississippi poets. Last but not least, we managed to dig up a mention of a 19th century poet laureate. According to Mississippi Scenes: Notes on Literature and History, Samuel Newton Berryhill was "recognized as Poet Laureate of the State" (23) when his Backwoods Poems was published in 1878.
Howell, Elmo. Mississippi Scenes: Notes on Literature and History. Memphis, TN: E. Howell, 1992. Print.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Don't Flush!

Life in Jackson, Mississippi has been a bit dirty the last few days. If you don't live in the area, be sure to catch up on the latest dealing with our bursting water main problem! I am happy to report that my water has almost returned to its normal clear and sparkling self. (I'd put it at a beige right now.) The biggest inconvenience for me involves the toilet. Mine is still down for the count!

By the way, have you ever thought about how many words there are out there for the facilities? Americans use the restroom, the john, the washroom, the bathroom, the can, the powder room, and the comfort station. The British, on the other hand, prefer to visit the toilet, the lavatory, the WC (water closet), the loo, the bog, or the karzy (Allen).

It turns out that many of our pipes here in Jackson are made of cast-iron. While they make repairs on over one hundred water main breaks, our work crews will slowly replace these old pipes. Did you know that cast-iron pipes were used for the first time at Versailles? They were not in general use because the weight of carriages passing caused them to burst (Daumas 455). This little problem was fixed later on!

It also seems that Jackson is not alone in its colorful water. the period from 1855 to 1860 the water supplies of large cities continued to be of dubious quality. London's was reputed to be the worst-even after filtration it retained a yellowish color. Paris water was taken from the Seine at Chaillot, downstream from the river. Water from this source was 'heavily saturated with loathsome matter' (Herve Mangon) (Daumas 458).
I have never had "loathsome matter" in my water. Really, we're not doing half bad!

Daumas, Maurice, ed. A History of Technology and Invention: Progress through the Ages, volume 3. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1979. Print.
"toilet" Pocket Fowler's Modern English Usage. Ed. Robert Allen. Oxford University Press, 2008. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Mississippi Library Commission. 13 January 2010.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Vroom, Vroom

My husband and I are currently in the process of shopping for a new car. Shopping is supposed to be fun. You get to go out and look at lots of shiny new things, while repeatedly whispering “ooh” and “ahh” over the course of the day. At first, shopping for a car was like this when we began our hunt two months ago on a Carmax lot. We now spend our evenings pouring over carmaker websites and sifting through owner reviews on sites like, and we spend our weekends trekking across car lots. Car shopping starts out so simple and innocent and fun, but then the process grows like wild kudzu until it consumes all your free time. You’re elated once you think you’ve finally found “The Car” – then a spate of bad reviews from current or former owners sends you scrambling again.

Basically, shopping for a car has become a giant research project. Lucky for me, we have several resources in our collection and the Library Commission that can help me navigate this jungle. From what I’ve found, it looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me.

One of the first books to catch my eye was The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Cars by Lisa Murr Chapman. It’s aimed at female car owners and buyers, but really the information is good for members of both genders, so guys, don’t let the title drive you away (hee hee, pun intended). I skipped chapter one, which covers the basics of how to fill your gas tank and check your tire pressure, and headed straight for Part IV of the book, which deals with buying and/or selling a car.  I zeroed in on the section “How to Decide Which Car is Really Right for You.”

See, I’ve been driving the same car for nearly 10 years, a 1997 Ford Escort, and consequently, I’m easily impressed by everything new cars have to offer. This is an example of how my visits to the car lot have gone thus far:

Me: (after test driving one of these new models) Hmm, it’s got a smooth ride and great gas mileage, but my music is important to me. I don’t know if I can get by without a cassette deck to play my iPod through.

Car Salesman: Well, this model comes equipped with an auxiliary jack. All you need is a cord to connect your device to the vehicles sound system (flashes slick car salesman grin)

Me: (eyes wide) Really? Cool! Where do I sign?

I’m impressed by everything, from cruise control to tilting/telescopic steering wheels and seats with height adjustment, which is a blessing for those of us who are vertically-challenged. (I’ve spent the last decade sitting on a pillow just so I could see over my steering wheel).

I should take notes from W. James Bragg’s book In the Driver’s Seat: The New Car Buyer’s Negotiating Bible. Bragg breaks down the shopping and buying process, step by step, and arms shoppers with strategies they can use to save money and headaches. Especially relevant (for me at least), is the advice he gives in chapter four about maintain emotional detachment at dealerships: “Heavy breathing should be reserved for more appropriate occasions. In car stores it leads only to heavy payments” (15).

No more gushing in the presence of the dealers. Got it. But I can still gush all I want in private. (That moon roof and that remote start feature are sooo nice …)
Bragg, W. James. In the Driver’s Seat: The New Car Buyer’s Negotiating Bible. Random House, 1993.
Chapman, Lisa Murr. The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Cars. Bantam, 1995.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I'm A Quitter!

I started smoking almost seventeen years ago. This New Year's Day, I applied my brand-new, on-sale, store-brand nicotine patch and placed myself on the merry road to healthier living. Now on Day Six of my smoke-free life, I have to say that breathing freely is extremely satisfying. (I could have cheerfully murdered someone for a cigarette, however, the night my car got a flat tire!) I was delighted to discover the following smoking nugget in Cat Flaps and Mousetraps: The Origins of Objects in our Daily Lives.
The first observations of smoking were made in 1492 by Rodrigo de Jerez while on Christopher Columbus's expedition to the Americas. To him, natives appeared to be drinking smoke from something shaped like a 'musket formed of paper'. Rodrigo indulged in a puff or two of tobacco that had been wrapped in palm. However, when he returned to Spain he was imprisoned for having scared people with the smoke that poured from his nose and mouth! He served a seven-year sentence, and when he got out of jail smoking pipes and cigars had become common in Spain (5).
You must admit that having to smoke outside because of restaurant bans is nothing compared to seven years in the slammer!

Learning to live without an addiction is certainly difficult. One of our faithful readers left this thoughtful advice as a response to my last post:
Elisabeth, in your effort in quitting I recommend you call the Tobacco Quitline, 1-800-Quit Now. My wife is a counselor over there and using a program like theirs (or some others) is statistically shown to really help improve the odds of quitting effectively. -BSquared
The Tobacco Quit Line in Mississippi is an excellent smoking cessation tool. Be sure to visit their website to learn more about the hazards of smoking and how to implement a program that will work for you. I must admit that my favorite nugget on their website is the list of chemicals found in cigarette smoke.

So informative yet frightening to learn that I've been adding gas chamber poison to the environment!

Another comment appears to have been written by a staunch smoking supporter:
Although the anti-smoking lobby has been highly successful at waging a jihad on those of us who continue to smoke, I believe the public has lost sight of some of the many advantages of smoking. Nicotine has been proven to boost short-term memory, and even more importantly, numerous medical studies indicate that smokers are less likely to suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Just Google it to verify. And for those of you who want to feel good about smoking despite its social taboo, I recommend watching the indisputable masterpiece Casablanca to see the proper ways to look cool while smoking. -Bandit
I've never been a huge fan of Casablanca, but I have always been partial to the way Rod Serling strode out at the beginnings of The Twilight Zone. With the utmost gravity, he would deliver a line or two, and then take a drag off his Viceroy in a move guaranteed to kill as many alveoli as possible. Very cool! Very sexy! As for the supposed positive effects attributed to smoking, I invite you to read a list of short and long term (detrimental) effects of of smoking on My short-term memory is starting to suffer, but my sense of smell has already begun to improve. I can smell all you smokers now!

I think Bandit would appreciate this lovely sentiment expressed by Fran Lebowitz in Drinking, Smoking & Screwing: "Smoking is, if not my life, then at least my hobby. I love to smoke. Smoking is fun. Smoking is cool" (192).

I miss you smoking, I do, but I think I miss my alveoli more!
Nickles, Sara. Drinking, Smoking & Screwing: Great Writers on Good Times. Chronicle Books, 1994.
Oliver, Harry. Cat Flaps and Mousetraps: The Origins of Objects in our Daily Lives. Metro Publishing, 2007.
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