Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Timeless and Inspiring ideas

Life in the information age has its drawbacks, that's for sure.  Although most of us would never want to go back to a time without our smartphones, internet, or just that glorious freedom of the ability to access anything that interests us.  An incredible drawback to that is the overwhelming everyday exposure to information.  Regardless of where we are or what is happening in the world, life as we know it is constantly on update...updating status, newsreels, Twitter feeds, or even just the overwhelming process of keeping up with what's new.  Be it music, movies, books, blogs...yes anything, there is always something new coming.  In this saturation of new media in whatever format, we get a bit lost.  More importantly, however, we don't retain a lot of that information exposure.  Few things out there, however great they may be, stand the test of time in that their message or importance stay with us over time.  
The ones that do, the classics, have to be something special.  It is our great pleasure this winter to present to you just one such item.  Joseph Campbell, a literature professor at Sarah Lawrence, began publishing his writings on mythology in the 1950's.  Each volume that he wrote jumped to the forefront of its class, garnering him much acclaim and prestige.  In 1988, year after his death, PBS aired a six part mini-series featuring interviews between Campbell and Bill Moyers in which Campbell discusses the themes and mythos that prevail through all of his writings called The Power of Myth.  This series took the world by storm, sharing the incredible and practical insights of Joseph Campbell as he compares present day cultural events and icons with mythology and religion.  
What is astounding about Campbell's work is that is has proven its timelessness.  Today, his work is still the authority on humanity and the roles that we each play.  Sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, historians, and literary scholars alike still reference his work.  The Power of Myth is still being shown around the world, its ideals and references still current and applicable.  
Because this is such a timeless, classic series relevant to each and every one of you, I would like to invite you to come and watch The Power of Myth, in its entirety, or in part if that's all you can make it to, with us.  The Library is hosting a three night event watching and discussing the ideas presented during the Bill Moyers / Joseph Campbell interviews.  Please come, bring a friend or five, and join in.
Each night is guaranteed to be chocked full of ideas and thoughts that will stay with you.  We look forward to seeing you there.
And just because it's worth saying, here's a favorite quote from Joseph Campbell:
"Life has no meaning.  Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life.  It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer."


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Starting the term off right

With the start of the new term/new year, I wanted to send out some cheer and encouragement to take a moment today and think about what you are thankful for.  And…if you feel like sharing, you can email me back, post your thoughts on our Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest pages, or even better, add a card to our Gratefulness board.  There is one up in Barber Hall outside of the Math Lab as well as one up in the Library. 
For the cheer I promised, here’s a compilation of the student/staff responses that came in last term.  There’s some great ones so take a moment and scroll around our collage and read them all. 

We would love to have you all participate in the project as often as you would like.  Here's how:
- visit us in the Library and write a note and leave it on our Gratefulness board.
- email us a thought or pic from your phone of what you are thankful for.
- Post your thought, pick, or comment on our Facebook page, or Gratefulness Project Board on Pinterest, or here on the blog.
- Tweet what you are thankful for @LibraryTvcc #gratitudechallenge

Sunday, January 4, 2015

At the end of the day...

Last year, about this time, a student came up to me in that harried, frazzled, and overly stressed manner that so many students have during the last two weeks of the term and said that she was exhausted, totally drained mentally, had one more final and then was done for the term.  She wanted a book, any book, to take home for the holiday break.  And like most during this time of the term, she was looking for something very entertaining, distracting, and not at all serious.  I sent her home with one book that I was sure would do the trick.  Come the first of January, this student returned the book to the Library with heartfelt thanks gushing from her.  Her conclusion...that this book was the perfect blend of heart, drama, laughter, and tears.  Further, she said that from then on she would make it a habit to check out this particular author or a similar one every final's week. 

Why, you may be wondering.  What is so amazing about this particular book?  Based on her comments and many other Library patrons' over the years, here's what I think.  At the end of the day, when you and I go home, we have a virtual mountain of information, stresses, worries, trials, to-do lists, and so much more to keep track of, juggle, to deal with.  And each time we get through something, get past a hurdle, complete something like the term's worth of course work, just because we are done, those stresses do not just fall away.  We carry the stress of that period with us.  It takes something to let it go, to release that pent up emotion and anxiety.  One of the easiest ways is to lose ourselves in a good story.  Whether it is a book, a movie, or chatting with a friend, we connect our emotions with someone's story and are able to feel, cry, and laugh at their life mishaps while releasing some of our own stresses.  The very best books will pull you in with an interesting story and then before you know what's happening, you are emotionally and personally invested.  The best surprise you at the end and leave you feeling satisfied.  Your stress is released, your emotions are balanced, and you are able to breathe that deeply contented sigh when you turn the last page.  You know the sigh, the one that says to your spirit, life is okay.  You are going to make it.  You can now return to your life with a new perspective and outlook.  Can a book really do all of that?   Of course it can. 
The book that sparked this whole thought process is one of our featured author of the month.  Kristin Hannah, who has been writing best-sellers for years, will not disappoint.  Every book of Hannah's that I've read or sent home with one of you has garnered the same response.  Great.  Wonderful.  Fully contented sighs of satisfaction.  There are no series.  There or no plot lines or characters to follow and keep track of.  Really, any book you pick up will take you on a journey through a life that will leave you surprised, delighted, and glad you took the chance on it. 
We recommend any and all Kristin Hannah books.  Here's a couple of our favorites.
Fly Away Home - Once, a long time ago, I walked down a night-darkened road called Firefly Lane, all alone, on the worst night of my life, and I found a kindred spirit. That was our beginning. More than thirty years ago. TullyandKate. You and me against the world. Best friends forever. But stories end, don’t they? You lose the people you love and you have to find a way to go on. . . .(from book jacket).
Winter Garden - I was so delighted and surprised with this book and the end left me absolutely mesmerized with Hannah and her ability to tell a story.  Don't believe me?  Check out what she has to say about this book.

And finally, we cannot hardly wait for her new book, The Nightingale which comes out in a month.  After reading a preview copy of this book over the summer, I guarantee if you like Hannah's works or just a really great story, this one may be my favorite of her so far.  Sign up now to be the first to read it when it comes out! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Stories that can't wait to see

As the film industry is gearing up for the holiday and coming awards season, new movies are hitting the theaters weekly.  There are a few that we are very excited; movies that tell a story worth telling.
Here's a preview of what's coming up and the books that you can read to get you prepared.
The Theory of Everything - If you have yet to see this trailer, watch it.  This movie is the first to really tell the story of Stephen Hawking, brilliant scientists extraordinaire.  It follows his life and relationship with his wife before and after being diagnosed with a debilitating illness that has left him wheelchair bound and unable to use much more than his mind.  Hawking, despite his physical challenges, has changed the

Foxcatcher - This is an incredible story, both disturbing and fascinating.  The movie follows the 1988 Olympics US wrestling competitors.....  And if that wasn't enough to intrigue you, this movie stars Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, Vanessa Redgrave, and Mark Ruffalo.  Yes, we know, there's little more to say after hearing this crazy line-up of stars.  It is going to be incredible.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed came out in print just over two years ago.  Since its publication, this book has not left the NY Times Bestseller list, and for good reason.  It is brilliant, moving, insightful, and a book for everyone.  After the death of her mother and collapse of her marriage, Strayed decides her life needs something...direction, focus, major change, so at the age of 26 and desperate for something new, she packs whatever she thinks she will need and heads to the start of the Pacific Crest Trail.  Encountering elements, animal life, and human experiences she was unprepared for, during the journey through California and Oregon, she finds answers.  She finds truth.  And she shares every bit of this adventure with her readers in the raw, brutally honest way only Strayed can.  The film of this adventure, with Reese Witherspoon playing the part of Strayed, comes out in a few weeks.  So you have plenty of time to check out the book first.

The Imitation Game - coming out soon starring the incomparable Benedict Cumberbatch is the story of genius British codebreaker/writer Alan Turing.  Turing created what today we call the enigma code, but did so ...   based on Alan Hodge's book Alan Turing: the enigma will capture you from the first few pages and sweep you away into another era and the life of a man who overcame more than most of us can imagine and changed his life.

And then there is of course, Unbroken - Rather than tell you all about it, I'll let you read what the author has to say about her book (captured from Amazon's author page).
"Eight years ago, an old man told me a story that took my breath away. His name was Louie Zamperini, and from the day I first spoke to him, his almost incomprehensibly dramatic life was my obsession.
It was a horse--the subject of my first book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend--who led me to Louie. As I researched the Depression-era racehorse, I kept coming across stories about Louie, a 1930s track star who endured an amazing odyssey in World War II. I knew only a little about him then, but I couldn’t shake him from my mind. After I finished Seabiscuit, I tracked Louie down, called him and asked about his life. For the next hour, he had me transfixed.
Growing up in California in the 1920s, Louie was a hellraiser, stealing everything edible that he could carry, staging elaborate pranks, getting in fistfights, and bedeviling the local police. But as a teenager, he emerged as one of the greatest runners America had ever seen, competing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he put on a sensational performance, crossed paths with Hitler, and stole a German flag right off the Reich Chancellery. He was preparing for the 1940 Olympics, and closing in on the fabled four-minute mile, when World War II began. Louie joined the Army Air Corps, becoming a bombardier. Stationed on Oahu, he survived harrowing combat, including an epic air battle that ended when his plane crash-landed, some six hundred holes in its fuselage and half the crew seriously wounded.
On a May afternoon in 1943, Louie took off on a search mission for a lost plane. Somewhere over the Pacific, the engines on his bomber failed. The plane plummeted into the sea, leaving Louie and two other men stranded on a tiny raft. Drifting for weeks and thousands of miles, they endured starvation and desperate thirst, sharks that leapt aboard the raft, trying to drag them off, a machine-gun attack from a Japanese bomber, and a typhoon with waves some forty feet high. At last, they spotted an island. As they rowed toward it, unbeknownst to them, a Japanese military boat was lurking nearby. Louie’s journey had only just begun.
That first conversation with Louie was a pivot point in my life. Fascinated by his experiences, and the mystery of how a man could overcome so much, I began a seven-year journey through his story. I found it in diaries, letters and unpublished memoirs; in the memories of his family and friends, fellow Olympians, former American airmen and Japanese veterans; in forgotten papers in archives as far-flung as Oslo and Canberra. Along the way, there were staggering surprises, and Louie’s unlikely, inspiring story came alive for me. It is a tale of daring, defiance, persistence, ingenuity, and the ferocious will of a man who refused to be broken.
The culmination of my journey is my new book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I hope you are as spellbound by Louie’s life as I am."
This is a fabulous read, well recommended by the Library staff.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A night you won't want to miss

What a movie should do…
A good movie should make you smile, laugh, cry, distract you, entertain you.  Every film does this on some level.  The good ones, the great ones, do more than that.  They give you something to take with you.  Sometimes this is because they have moved you, disturbed you, or taught you a lesson.  Sometimes it is because they have left you with a moment that you dream about, that you ponder, that you keep coming back to.  And then there are the ones that tell us important stories, stories that we need to know, stories that make a difference.  They are stories of real and everyday people who are amazing or have gone through events in their lives that are more intense and incredible than you or I have had to deal with but somehow still teach us something about who we are and how to survive our own stories, our own struggles.  Last year, one of the best films Hollywood produced did all of that.

Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, and Stellan Skarsgård star in 2014’s historical film The Railway Man.  This film is based on the true life story of a British soldier who served during WWII.  Firth and Skarsgård served in a unit that surrendered during the Fall of Saigon.  British soldiers surrendered under the belief that they would be treated humanely.  However, the Japanese army used those men to build their railway in one of the most brutal treatment of POWs in history.  The Railway Man tells the story of these men, who years later are trying to live their lives.  They survived war, they lived through hell, and now have to learn how to come to terms with the everyday. Firth thinks he has this down until he meets Kidman and finds his life turned upside down.  He must confront and deal with his past before he has a hope for a future. 

This is a movie about war.  It’s a movie about love.  But, it is about much more.  Today, our culture has become quite familiar with the term PTSD, but what it does, how to deal with it, and its long term consequences are very intangible to most.  This movie looks at the aftershocks of war in one of the most beautifully crafted films we’ve seen in a long while.  The story of healing and raw courage is inspiring and moving, to say the least.  This is a film that you will not want to miss.  It will remind you of the difference between surviving and getting through life and actually living.

Come join us for a free screening of The Railway Man Wednesday, November 19th at 7 p.m. in the TVCC Science Center.  Come.  Bring a friend.  Everyone is welcome.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Art of being thankful

The last couple of years have seen an influx of talk, books, videos, blogs, and service projects all centered around the idea of taking the time to be thankful, to acknowledge aloud or in writing what you are grateful for.  The month of November is often considered the month where we acknowledge our thankfulness.  So, I want to share a little bit with you about thankfulness.

In 2008, the book titled The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch took the world by storm.  In the broader world of academia, universities often ask well-known and respected professors to give a "last lecture"...basically, it is meant for them to share what they would with students if it is the last chance they have before death to speak.  These lectures are typically very thought-provoking and challenge the audience with profound questions.  Pausch did not give a typical lecture.  Instead, he spoke about living life now and to the fullest.  His advice is fun and witty while still teaching his audience some things he learned about life.  Prior to giving this lecture, Pausch learned that he had a terminal illness and died a couple of months after the lecture. The lecture was then recorded in a book and published.  The wisdom Pausch shares in this speech has touched and changed lives dramatically. 

One statement he made was, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand”.  He proposes that it is the way you live your life that is important.  It is how we connect with others that truly matters.  “Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.” Pausch is right.  It is a simple thing, and yet it is an act acknowledging something good in yourself, your day, or someone else.  There is power in that. 

In 2010, corporate executive John Kralick's life was falling apart.  He was miserable, depressed, and struggling in a life that many of us strive for.  Kralick embarked on a campaign of gratefulness.  His book, 365 Thank Yous: the year a simple act of gratitude changed my life, chronicles a year of writing thank you notes to someone each day.  These notes were for big and small things, but each was an acknowledgement of something that someone else had done or just for who they were.  This practice changed his life. 

These are just two of many examples of how the act of saying Thank You or sharing what you are grateful for shifts and changes one's outlook on life, success, and overall happiness.  Last year, the Library launched our first ever Gratefulness Project where we created a space for you to write each day what you were thankful for.  The student/faculty/staff response was phenomenal and overwhelmingly exceeded our expectations.  We received hundreds of responses in the one month that we ran this for.  This year, we wanted to see how much more we can do.  So, we are launching this November, a year-long gratefulness project.  We will be putting together your responses and sharing the project with campus in hopes of encouraging each other in this campaign.  We would love to have you all participate in the project as often as you would like.  Here's how:
- visit us in the Library and write a note and leave it on our Gratefulness board.
- email us a thought or pic from your phone of what you are thankful for.
- Post your thought, pick, or comment on our Facebook page, or Gratefulness Project Board on Pinterest, or here on the blog. 
- Tweet what you are thankful for @LibraryTvcc #gratitudechallenge

We are excited to see what you do with this project this year.
And one last thought from Randy Pausch...

“It's not about how to achieve your dreams, it's about how to lead your life, ... If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you.”

Friday, October 31, 2014


This word, bullying, has become a very common phrase that we hear socially, in the news, in classrooms, and across our social media platforms.  But what does bullying mean to you?
This is an important question.  The problem that happens is once a term is used and repeated often, it loses its value when we hear it.  All too often I have heard students here or parents in the community comment on how there aren't really bullies any more, that some kids should toughen up, or witnessed shrugs disregarding the issue.  Next week on campus, we are exploring what this word really means and who it affects. 
The effects of bullying are much more relevant to you today than you might imagine.  Please join us for two free community events this  week that will be eye-opening and conversation starting.

On Monday night, November 3rd, at 7 p.m. in the Science Building, the Library will be showing a special screening of the documentary Bully.  This award winning and highly controversial film is both moving and disturbing.  It follows the lives of some children, chronicling the aftermath of bullying from the perspective of victims, the bully, teachers, parents, and administrators.  It is an important film and well worth watching.

On Thursday night, TVCC Student Activities is hosting R.J. White, from AMC's Breaking Bad, in another free community event.  White will discuss his life before and after the show, what it was like to grow up with a physical disability, and how bullying affected him in a special presentation called Breaking Boundaries.  This event will be in the Weese Building at 7:30 p.m. on the 6th of November.

This is an issue that is important, relevant, and these are both events that you will not want to miss.