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Monday, September 30, 2013

Seeing Is Reading

Remember learning how to read? Cast your memory back to first grade: sounding out letters and forming them into words--C+A+T = CAT.  It was thrilling when everything slid into place. Reading now, as an adult, turns out to be a completely different experience. We don't read from left to right (or right to left, depending on the language). According to one of our new books, Weird-O-Pedia: The Ultimate Book of Surprising, Strange, and Incredibly Bizarre Facts About (Supposedly) Ordinary Things, we read letters in "short chunks simultaneously." The author states:
In tests where subjects were shown words quickly, then asked what they had seen, they had just as much trouble identifying the first letter of the word as the last. When they were given more time, readers became more accurate on all the letters, leading researchers to conclude that the letters were processed simultaneously" (111). 
Although this makes sense, I'd never thought about it like this before! Weird-O-Pedia, a devotion to nuggets of information, has quirky and fun information on all sorts of ordinary topics like sweat (women sweat less readily than men, 84) to airplanes (boarding planes at random actually goes faster than boarding in groups from back to front, 133) to sneezes...

Which brings me to one of my favorite nuggets in the book: Have you ever had the overwhelming urge to sneeze after you've glanced at the sun? (I have!) Enterprising scientists have studied the phenomenon and given it a name. It's called Autosomal Cholinergic Helio-Opthalmic Outburst. Bless you! 
Palmer, Alex. Weird-O-Pedia: The Ultimate Book of Surprising, Strange, and Incredibly Bizarre Facts About (Supposedly) Ordinary Things. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing, 2012. Print.

Monday, September 23, 2013

And The Winner Is...

I've been pawing through a book I found hidden in the stacks a few days ago. The title makes it sound like the most lascivious and licentious book ever written - Simon's Book of World Sexual Records - but it's actually filled with fascinating facts. Here are a few!

Inverbervie Graveyard
Simon bestowed the award of Most Bizarre Love Charm to an old Irish legend. In order to make this fetching amulet, a young girl was to visit a graveyard and find a corpse buried for nine days. Then, this crafty lady needed to "cut from the body a narrow strip of skin extending from the top of the head down to the extremity of one foot." Have you ever seen someone peel a peach or an apple in one continuous strip? It's kind of hard to do! "They then tried to knot the length of dead skin round the arm or leg of a sleeping lover and to remove it before he awoke" (86). So in ancient Ireland, your choices were a dead skin strip or flirting. You know, whichever you found to be an easier, more appealing task.

Symbol for The New York Society
for the Suppression of Vice
The Most Vigorous Prude Award went to Anthony Comstock.
His group, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, helped usher in (between 1873 and 1882) "700 arrests, 333 sentences of imprisonment totalling 155 years and 13 days, fines totalling $65,256, and the seizure of 27,856 lb. of obscene books and 64,836 articles for immoral use, of rubber, etc" (180). I just wonder how many books would equal the weight of 27,856 pounds.

Fanny Hill
by John Cleland
Simon judged that The Most Famous Erotic Novel (before Shades of Grey, of course) was
Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. The author, Henry Cleland sold it for 20 guineas in 1749. The bookseller who bought it is said to have made £ 10,000 for the story of a young, innocent girl who falls into a life of prostitution. The book has been censored and banned worldwide (357).

Last, but certainly not least, is The Society in Which the Human Kiss is Least Practiced. The Thonga people (aka Tsonga) in extreme southeast Africa do not practice mouth-to-mouth kissing. Apparently, upon seeing this type of kiss for the first time, someone remarked, "Look at them-they eat each other's saliva and dirt" (107).

A book can hold so much more than its title or subject matter promises to its reader. Take a chance--open a book!

Simons, G. L. Simon's Book of World Sexual Records. New York: Bell Publishing Company, 1975. Print.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Greenville, MS - On The Cutting Edge

Back in the late 1880s, Greenville, MS had quite the impressive school system. Mr. Eli E. Bass, the School Superintendent for Greenville City Schools, was fond of anything new and innovative. Due to his influence, Greenville Schools can claim:

  • the 1st science laboratories in Mississippi schools (1888)
  • the 1st high school library in Mississippi schools (1889/1890)
  • the 1st class to graduate from a Mississippi high school (1890)
  • the 1st health and physical education department in Mississippi schools (1899)
  • the 1st public school system in the Mississippi accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (1902)
  • the 1st public kindergarten in Mississippi schools (1905)
  • the 1st public school music department in Mississippi schools (1905)
  • the 1st art department in Mississippi schools (1905)
Here's a fun side nugget: between 1925 and 1955, a Mrs. Carolyn Metcalfe Badow modernized the card catalog system by typing the information from over 3,500 handwritten cards onto new cards. That's a lot of typing, but I'm sure everything was much more orderly and legible after that!

Gaston, Mable. "GHS: Mississippi's Oldest School Library." Mississippi Library News 37.1 March, 1973: 29-30. Print.
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