Monday, May 6, 2013

Until we meet again...

Well, this is it. My last Rice Library blog. Since I graduated on Saturday May 4, it means that it’s time to hand over my blog to someone else. It’s been a great ride, doing blogs on everything from poems to money to kids’ books to roadside attractions. I hope that I have helped you to see what our entire library can offer you, and maybe pointed you in the direction of some new things. I know that I’ve learned a lot. I never knew that our archives had USI yearbooks dating from 1970 to the late 80s, I never knew that we had such a variety of fiction, and books about pop culture, and such a great collection of classic black and white movies. Maybe some of you found new things on your own, maybe you found the things that I did, I just hope that you at least looked around, because I promise, there are plenty of places to explore here! Thing have not changed all that much since I started writing the blog-  I still run on coffee, I still love tennis and cats on the internet and mint ice cream. But other things have changed. Looking back at my blogs, I can’t believe that I have already finished a semester here. It seems like just yesterday I was picking out which Facebook picture of myself to use in my first blog (in retrospect, maybe I would have picked one with a prettier background), and trying to figure out if I would actually have enough to say to fill up over a semester of library blogs.

Turns out, I still have way more to say, just not enough time to! There is so much to talk about here, but not enough blog space! But I'm not worried. Just because I'm graduating and moving on doesn’t mean that the blog is moving with me! Whoever my replacement is, I bet that they will do an even better job than I did (fewer spelling errors? Less obscure movie references?), and the blog shall go on! Still, I can’t lie and say that I won’t miss writing it. As excited as I am to be moving on, I have had some great times here in the library, and getting books somewhere else just won’t be the same. But, I am glad that I have had this opportunity, and I look forward to seeing what our next blogger comes up with! Maybe one day, I can come back and see you all again. So, for the last time, this is Clare Pratt, with your Library Blog, reminding you to keep on exploring, keep on learning, and keep on reading.   -- CP


Summer Time Reading List

Welcome to summer time! Barbeques, beaches, and lots of reading by the pool! But what to read? Well, as I near my final few days of school, I feel like it’s my job, no, my duty, to leave you with a few summer-themed books and stories. As much fun as summer is, and no matter how busy you might get, it’s always important to take some time to read. So try out a few  of our enjoyable titles, for some summer-themed fun in the sun, be it on a beach, by the pool, on your work break, or just on your back porch.

                                        Summer at Tiffany  by Marjorie Hart
What was the best summer you've ever had? Have you ever had a summer job? This book is the true story of two women’s best summer ever, and one of the coolest jobs ever: working at Tiffany & Company in New York City in 1945. Our heroine, Marjorie Hart, and her best friend Marty leave their sorority house at the University of Iowa to travel to the big city, after hearing from a friend that there are great jobs available. They more or less stumble into a glamorous job at Tiffany’s, becoming the first women to work on the sales floor. Marjorie writes about all the exciting people she meets, her romances, her friendship with Marty, and even being on Times Square when the end of WWII was announced. For all that the book is fun and light, there is still the background of the second World War, and it’s interesting to read about it from the point of view of two college girls on the home front. It’s a god look at NYC during what many people think of as its Golden Age, and a great story of how much fun can be had with a friend thanks to landing the perfect summer job.

             Turtle Summer   by Mary Alice Monroe
Turtles! They’re cute, their green, they’re slow! They’re turtles! This kids' book is all about those little baby turtles you see on TV, told through the point of view of a mom making a scrapbook for her daughter, with each section talking about how the big sea turtles lay their eggs, and how the baby turtles hatch and make their way to the ocean. Adorably so. It’s filled with pictures of shells and beaches and flowers and all kinds of fun summer stuff. Being around for a turtle hatching sounds like a great way to spend time at the beach, especially if you're a little kid. Kids and adorable sea turtles. Add in pictures of birds and starfish and beaches, and you have a great little summer book. It ends at night, when the baby sea turtles hatch, and crawl out into the ocean, ready to make their way in the world. The mom imagines being there again with her daughter, years from now, when these same turtles are grown so that they can lay their eggs, so that mother and daughter can have another great, turtle filled summer together.

Ready for a summer road trip? Love some rock and roll? Then check into this e-book, as you travel through North America, to find great (and odd) landmarks of rock and roll history. Head out to California and see the actual Burger Stand that The Beach Boys were singing about in "Fun Fun Fun", drive down to Georgia to see the first radio station to play music of the Godfather of Soul James Brown, then zip over to Texas to see visit the high school that inspired the classic 70s rock ode "Dazed and Confused", then head up East to drive down Springsteen's own Thunder Road. It's not all about Madison Square Garden and big studios, it's about the little places that have changed music history. It's a perfect companion to a music lover's road trip, plus a whole lot cheaper than Disney World.

It’s just a few days before summer break, and that means extra free time. And what better way to spend that free time than with books; they're way cheaper than cable, especially if you get them from your library! Head out to the pool, and get reading about fun summer days. These are just a few examples of great books to read here, so let’s get reading as soon as possible. Celebrate the end of the year (and finals) by learning about summer jobs, turtles, and the general joys of summer time and summer reading!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: The JOB

Now that the semester is almost over, it’s time to start that summer job search! Or, even worse, you can be graduating and need to join the job market! The horror! Interviews, job searching, resumes, student loan repayments! Even if you're nervous about the job hunt, don’t worry. We have books to help you create a resume, use your various social networks to market yourself to future employers, and find the job that's perfect for you. I know the job market seems scary, but everyone needs to join it, and once you have, it’s not quite as bad as it sounds. Just do some research, be prepared, and you will be just wonderful! So prep that resume, dust off that fancy brief case, and get hunting!

Been told time and again that your social media use can hurt your future career prospects? Well, maybe those pictures of you doing jello shots off your neighbor’s stomach won’t do you many favors, but there is another way! This book shows how to use social media to find work, and make you look better. Every chapter focuses on utilizing a different aspect of social media, like using Facebook and Twitter to connect with future employers, and make yourself look more professional. You can create a good description of yourself and your abilities for employers to look at that will invite making connections. The book also talks a lot about LinkedIn, a site that connects the world's professionals to make them more productive and successful. When you join LinkedIn, you get access to people, jobs, news, updates, and insights that help you be great at what you do, so you can imagine how much that can be helpful. Don’t be afraid of social media, embrace it! You can even take a second to giggle about the inclusion of MySpace in all this. Oh MySpace, you are just so quaint.

            Resumes for the Rest of Us   By Arnold Boldt
Got your Facebook and Twitter cleaned up, your connections made, and your old MySpace page ignored? Time for that resume! Subtitled "Secrets from the Pros for Job Seekers with Unconventional Career Paths", this book specializes in people who face challenging job searches, like stay at home parents returning to work, people changing careers, and those with gaps in their work history. Each section deals with resume writing for specific groups of job-seekers. And I mean more than just making sure your grammar works out! It looks at the cover letter, the references, everything you need to make yourself sound good. It is also filled with general tips on how to make your resume sound better, no matter who you are or what you are exactly applying for. Resumes can be tricky, so give this a look, and see how much you can improve yours, and continue working to make yourself look good to employers! And don’t forget to double check that grammar.

                                 You Majored in What?   By Katharine Brooks
“So, what are you going to do with that major?”
A question that I, as an English major, have gotten plenty over the years. And I can imagine that I'm not the only one. Many a communication, art, and philosophy major has probably heard the same thing, and if you don’t have a plan right away to tell the questioner, then suddenly you’re wasting time on a “joke major” and should immediately run over towards the nearest business class. Heck, business majors hear it too! So does everyone really, under this idea that, when you pick a major, you have maybe three possible career paths, pre-ordained the second you sign your name on the sheet that  declared your major. But wait! This book takes a different attitude. It goes through a number of majors, and discusses the many ways you can use them to pursue a whole multitude of careers, and how to market yourself on those career paths. I like the style of this book, it's fun, likable, and easy to read. Plus, anyone willing to help a Liberal Arts major find a job outside of Barnes and Noble is OK by me!

Finding a job, especially in this economy, ain't exactly easy. When you’re in school, or have just graduated, you might feel rather overwhelmed. But you don’t need to panic. There are plenty of resources out there for you, including books like these. I've just talked about a few, but there are many more examples of books to help you use social media to market yourself to employers, write a great resume, and find a job that you love which will hopefully pay your Netflix bills. While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of job hunting, whether it is for a part time position, or a stepping stone to your future career, just don’t panic. Everyone has been there. So sit back, edit your Facebook page, work on that resume, and get searching, as you fondly remember when you had a MySpace page.   

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Summer of Books and Blockbusters

Yep, I'm talking about adaptations again. Look, I'm about to graduate, I love movies and books, and I'm running out of excuses to write about them, so just sit back and enjoy. Because the dry spell is ending! We are almost to summer blockbuster season! To me, the months of about January to April are something of a cinematic no man’s land. Oscar contenders are out of theaters, summer movies don’t start until May at the earliest, it’s the season of “meh”. Granted, there are usually a few good ones in the mix, but mostly it’s just a time when Scary Movie 5 can actually make a tiny bit of money. But now, summer is coming, with its great movies! Big! Splashy! Explosions! Last year’s summer was a major one (The Avengers, Dark Knight Rises, Ted) and this year hopes to give us even more. And several of the movies this year happen to be based on books! So let’s take a peek at some of the upcoming summer movie spectacular adaptations, and hope that they are more Lord of the Rings and less His Dark Materials. 
                               The Great Gatsby
The big one. One of the most famous books in American history is now going to become one of the biggest movies of the summer, with a big budget, all-star cast, and a pretty awesome trailer. For those who aren’t in the know, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is the definitive novel of the roaring 20s, a deconstruction of the American dream, and a romance story gone horribly wrong. It tells the story of Jay Gatsby, a wealthy and mysterious young man living in New York during the 1920s, who throws fabulous parties, but seems to have some dirt in his past. It’s told through the eyes of his neighbor Nick, our narrator, who gives us his perspective on the wealthy, debauched lives of the rich and powerful in the middle of the Jazz Age. One of my favorite books, this movie was just begging to be adapted into a modern day film, full of the dark secrets that lie behind the glitz and glamor of the fabulous people. This book was already adapted once in 1974, with Robert Redford as Gatsby, which was…alright. Not really bad, but not as great as this novel deserves. This upcoming film has a great cast (Leo DiCaprio in the title role is pretty inspired casting), a lot of hype, and an interesting director (Baz Luhrmann, who also made Moulin Rouge!) at the helm, so I am hoping that this movie will give one of my favorite books the treatment it deserves.
                                                      What Maisie Knew
Let’s take a break from the big budget, glitzy flicks, and look at a more quiet and indie minded one. What Maisie Knew is based on the 1897 book by Henry James (Daisy Miller, The Turn of the Screw), in which he showed his contempt for British society at the time through the eyes of a young, but perceptive child named Maisie, who is caught up in the divorce of her irresponsible parents. Like Gatsby, this book is very relevant to our contemporary era, despite being written years ago, with its themes of dysfunctional families, child welfare, and the importance of education and knowledge. So it makes sense that creators would update this story to be set in modern day Manhattan, with Julianne Moore and Alexander Skarsgard as the parents, which already gets me interested. It has a solid cast, classic (although not as well known) source material, and a lot of good buzz already-- plus I always like seeing little girls as main characters in dramas like these. If your eyes start hurting from all those blockbuster explosions, try out this movie as some substance for your summer.
                                 World War Z
I'll admit it. While we don’t actually have this book (but the local public library has plenty of copies), its film adaptation is coming out this summer, and I really want to talk about it. The novel by Max Brooks is a VERY different take on the zombie genre. The story actually takes place after the zombies have been more or less beaten back, and instead of focusing on action, it focuses on a UN worker traveling around the world, talking to all sorts of survivors of the zombie outbreaks, around a decade later. He talks to politicians, mercenaries, soldiers, civilians, loners, astronauts, anyone and everyone who has a story to tell. It’s all told through these interviews, showing what is, I think, the most realistic look at what would actually happen in the event of a zombie invasion, spanning the entire world. It’s a great book, one that would make a difficult, but really interesting adaptation. Get tons of great actors for short, individual vignettes, from the zombie fighting cowboy, to the Japanese fan boy turned ninja badass, to the Samoan warriors, to Nelson Mandela-- and just so many great stories, I can’t even talk about half of them. It’s scary, sad, but ultimately hopeful for the future of humanity. The movie I have seen in trailers and in press releases though…is not Brooks' World War Z. It looks like yet another action flick where Brad Pitt is the nice, heroic American white guy main character who is called in to save the day, but he just wants to get back to his generic wife and cute daughters, and it’s a race against time and blah blah blah. Ok, perhaps I'm being too harsh. I haven’t even seen the movie, and it could actually be really good. I hope it is, and Brad Pitt may actually be a solid choice as the main interviewer. But, from what I have seen, they have done the thing that all fans of books fear from adaptations: dumbed down an interesting story to please the Lowest Common Denominator. They made a movie that looks like every other mediocre movie that audiences will swallow up. I am an adaptation apologist, I know how much needs to be changed to make a story work, but you need to have SOMETHING from the original there! While I look at the first two movies here with optimism, I look at this one with worry. I hope the film can prove me wrong, but I rather doubt it.
Whew, needed to get that off my chest. But, in all honesty, I'm excited about this summer’s crop of movies. We have almost escaped the sad cloud of mediocre movie season, and gone right into the sun-kissed time of blockbusters, as well as the occasional quiet indie film that always pops up at some point. And if any of these movies, whether they turn out great or crash and burn, can inspire people to go check out the source materials, then all the better. Watch a movie, read a book, and celebrate summer.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dirt, Scandal and Biography: The TMZ of Library Science

Our society just loves talking about other people. Especially famous people. Every day as I drive around, I find myself twirling the radio dials only to find countless celebrity gossip reports. I flip around TV, and pass by TMZ and its various knock offs, and news shows where the biggest thing going on in the world is who Taylor Swift is breaking up with (and writing a song about) this week. Want to take a break from the Taylors and the Kardashians and whoever else bloggers wearing big scarves and hipster glasses are raving on about? Have I got a scoop for you! Our library has lots of biographical information and fun facts about both major figures, and less well known, but interesting people. We've got juice, gossip, and a whole lot of biographies! Because at TMZ, library style, we get our facts from credible sources and references, not from that drunk busboy in El Paso who swears he saw Nicki Minaj getting secretly married to George Clooney. And what I lack in hipster glasses, I make up for in occasional proper grammar. Scandalous!

Interested in who is considered important in 2012, enough to be added to the annual yearbook of Current Biography? Skip Wikipedia and just come here! CBY chronicles a wide variety of people from around the world who have been judged as influential in 2012. [And this is an annual series, with library holdings as far back as 1943!] If the person being profiled is an author, the yearbook gives not only their biographical information but also tells the reader about their best known books, about the reviews for those books, their influences, and the inevitable movie adaptation. Enough information is given on their personal lives to be interesting, but not so much that it starts to get slightly creepy. If you need up-to-date information about modern writers, artists, athletes, actors, politicians, and other such people, this is the yearbook for you. There are often people you might not have heard of, but when you read their biography, you want to learn more about them. Less Kardashians and more Nobel Prize winners and poet laureates! When you finish the 2012 edition, go back and take a look at some of the other years, and see how much you can find, no matter whether you’re doing research, or you just feel like learning more about the woman who first made a Frappuccino (a hero to us all)- give these books a look!

          Indiana Legends
Indiana is not exactly considered the pinnacle of stars and celebrities. We are pretty far from Hollywood out here, in the land of corn and basketball, and you might think that nobody from here would make much of a splash out there. Well, you’d be wrong! Turns out, our celebrity bloggers (OK, it's a book) have discovered a number of famous Hoosiers in the world, including actors, musicians, politicians, and the occasional crook. For example, did you know that Jim Davis, the guy who created our favorite lasagna loving, snarky cat Garfield, is from Fairmount Indiana, and based Garfield on some of the cats who lived in his barn as a kid? And, in an extra juicy bit of coincidence, Fairmount is also the hometown of silver screen icon James Dean, the poster boy for misunderstood youth in the 50s. His former biology teacher said Dean was “A normal kid I had in school, a normal kid I had in 4-H, who becomes….well who becomes James Dean!” After his tragic death at age 24, he became an icon to angry teens and nervous parents alike, and in Fairmount, he is still fondly remembered. Other Hoosiers to make it big have included President Benjamin Harrison, first female self-made millionaire Madame C.J. Walker, Michael Jackson and all his singing siblings, late show king David Letterman, and Evansville's own celebrity designer and Bosse H.S. graduate, Halston. Oh, and some skinny basketball guy named Larry Bird. But what does basketball possibly have to do with Indiana?

                 Biography in Context
And now we journey to the true gossip hub of the world: the internet! Biography in Context is found in the library's A-Z list of databases-browse around the site, and check out the various people discussed here. You see lots of categories, with lots of people listed, and a WHOLE lot of facts. Need to know who was an architect? Inventor? World explorer? Just read this with a snarky voice in your head, add a lot of hipsterisms, and you pretty much have any celebrity blog out there, but with a lot of violinists and less former Jersey Shore cast members. Scroll through, and see if you can find some people you know, and some people you should know. It has everyone from Greek poet Homer or actress Jane Lynch, to current president Barack Obama or astronaut Sally Ride, with facts about their lives and histories, but, sadly, little about their favorite clothes. But don’t worry, I'm sure there are websites for that too. Put them all together, and you'll have a great term paper!

Read all your celeb blogs already, and need some more? Want to learn more about some people who actually haven’t had a reality show, just to shake things up? Try out these biographical sources, whether you want to learn about people because of a project, or you’re just plain interested in knowing facts for the next Trivial Pursuit challenge. And if you want to wear some hipster glasses while doing it, who am I to stop you?

Brave New Virtual World

The internet seems to have saturated our days and our can’t go anywhere without checking in on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, or some other online thing, with Wi-Fi and internet connections everywhere. You can probably find Tweets from deep space at this point, or Snap Chats from the Mole People who live somewhere in the center of the Earth. But a lot of people get rather worried about this increased use of internet and social media. Facebook and Google are under constant scrutiny over privacy issues, with companies being accused of selling their users' personal information to advertising corporations. Employees are being fired for things they post on social media. People’s information and even their physical locations are constantly being tracked by their own social networking. It’s a brave new world that has such technology in it. And in the race to combat some of these issues, the American Library Association has christened May 1-7 as "Choose Privacy Week", one during which library users can enter the national discussion about privacy in the digital age. The campaign gives libraries the tools they need to help users make informed decisions about privacy. Now, I am clearly not anti-internet or anti-social media. I write a blog every day! I check my Facebook, Twitter, Snap chat, and Instagram accounts between classes. I probably use Google about seven times a day, 14 if I am writing a paper. Still, it’s important to remember to be careful about these things too. Putting too much of yourself online can be dangerous, and if any companies are getting a lot of power and information about you, it's best to be aware. Here are some of the library's titles about online privacy and other tech issues.
               Search and Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.  by Scot Cleland
Is it somewhat ironic to use Google to search for a book about why Google is evil? Or is it just sad? Either way, it’s something that author Scot Cleland would certainly want us to consider. This book is pretty much what the title says it is. It’s a heavily researched book about the dark side of our favorite quirky search engine, Google. Beyond the wacky college hijinks of its young creators and staff, its ever present helpfulness in finding anything under (and over and around) the sun, and its awesome seasonal logo changes (Doodles), Cleland feels that Google is actually abusing privacy, infringing basic human rights, and is using its influence to move forward its creators' political views, and eventually influence the world at large. I am of two minds about this book. On the one hand, Cleland makes a lot of good points. Google isn’t accountable to anyone, it does use A LOT of personal information in rather Big Brother-ish ways, and you could certainly argue that the searches it turns up have an angle. These are points that should really be discussed, and it can be a little scary just how much power this company has. On the other hand…Cleland apparently hates Google so much that he accuses them of trying to remake the world in the image of Google through manipulation, unethical politics, and general evilness. He makes them sound less like a bunch of IT guys and gals creating software, and more like the Legion of Doom creating another world domination plot that the Justice League needs to stop. So if you give this book a look, maybe follow it with something a little more balanced, that doesn’t seem to assume that Google headquarters have pools of lava underneath the floorboards.
                                                              Outrageous Invasions  by Robin D. Barnes
This book is less about privacy in our daily lives, and more about the obsession society has with the lives of the rich and famous, and their lack of privacy. The content ranges from court cases to tabloid headlines, talking about the issues of celebrity privacy, when too far is way too far, and why people are so obsessed with the lives of the rich and fabulous. In a time when the lives of ordinary people are out there for the entire world to see, the lives of famous people are often not just an open book, but a 3D pop-up book with graphs and two sequels. Barnes also talks about how this obsession has some rather disturbing implications, especially when it comes to racial issues, religion, and even children. The book also looks at the very nature of privacy, and what it means in the modern era. Just how plugged in to other people’s lives are we, and when is enough going to be enough?
                   The Offensive Internet  by Saul Levmore and Martha C. Nussbaum
I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the internet can a bit of a freak show. Just go to YouTube, read the comments, and you’ll see what I'm talking about. Nowadays, the net has something of a reputation for being a gathering place for random racial tirades, angry commenters, and various bits of nastiness. This book is full of essays about the dark side of internet freedom, from misogyny to chat rooms (called the “cyber cess pools”) to privacy issues; it covers all the icky unpleasantness of the internet. The big issue here is the idea of the internet as a market for free speech. It’s great that we have this platform to discuss our views and opinions, but on the other hand, is it also giving stupid, angry people a platform to say whatever they want without consequences? Is it worth it? Should we have more laws to govern the internet? Check out this book, and learn more about combating the online morons and angry Trolls that stalk the net.
The internet has, for better or worse, been one of the major factors in our modern world. Reading these books, it feels like there is a certain fear about the internet. Especially a fear about the loss of privacy and accountability. My opinion? The internet doesn’t have to be a terrifying cess pool of doom where evil corporations steal your information after hacking your email. This doesn’t have to be 1984. Just take the week to really double check your online life, make sure you’re covered on privacy, that you're being careful what you put online, and above all, be informed. Read books like these, read books that are more positive towards the net, whatever you want, just keep the information flowing. At the end of the day, I think that’s what the internet is supposed to be about.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Digital Public Library of America: Where the Sources Are!

Ever been working on a paper and you just can’t find a good history primary source? Library closed, and paper is due in a few hours? Don’t worry, there is a backup plan! Recently, various library leaders across the country came together to create a digital library, full to bursting with historical sources and references. And that website is the DPLA, The Digital Public Library of America. It is what it sounds like, more or less. Starting with over two million items, each with its own special story and significance, the Digital Public Library of America will now begin to assemble the riches of our country’s libraries, archives, and museums, and connect them with the public. They even have a few apps to go with it, allowing you to search for information anytime, anywhere! There are three major elements of the DPLA (at least according to the website).

·   First, an easy-to-use portal where anyone can access America’s collections and search through them using novel and powerful techniques, including by place and time.
·   Second, a sophisticated technical platform that will make those millions of items available in ways so that others can build creative and transformative applications upon them, such as smartphone apps that magically reveal the history around you.
·    Third, along with like-minded institutions and individuals the DPLA will seek innovative means to make more cultural and scientific content openly available, and it will advocate for a strong public option for reading and research in the twenty-first century.
It’s an easy website to use: just type in whatever you want to look for, and it will give you a good amount of information, just right there. There are also lots of nice pictures and information, so if you want to just look around for fun, I say give it a look. It’s brand new, having "opened" on April 19, so it will hopefully continue growing and getting new information, with more digital fun to be had. With everything going online these days, it makes sense that the next logical step is a full digital library run by libraries and librarians. Whether you need a source before class at 10:00 am, or you just have some spare time and want to learn about the history of baseball, give this website a browse. Head on over to and continue the digital revolution!



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fighting Finals with Films 2: The Big Chill

Feeling the end of year stress yet? Papers to write, books to read, projects that you knew about for months but are just now getting starting on?  It’s a busy time of year, tough on everyone, and it can feel like there’s no time for fun or relaxation.  The pre-finals season is a time of stress and occasional panic, but never fear, there's hope. Instead of dealing with stress by binging on chocolate and crying to yourself, check out some of these movies we have here at the library! They're fun, feel good, and funny, which will hopefully take your mind off your impending finals and the never ending list of things that need to be done by the end of the semester. They range from wacky foreign films, to iconic teen flicks, to family adventures, and they all have something to make you smile. So check these out, and take a break from those finals blues!
Looking for a sweet romantic comedy that everyone can like? Then give this 2001 French film a look, because trust me, there is a lot to look at! Amelie, a young, isolated waitress who grew up almost totally on her own due to her over- protective parents, eventually decides to break out of her shell and help people. Near the start of the movie, she finds an old box filled with childhood mementos, which she returns to its owner. The movie then follows her attempts at making the world around her better, and to find some happiness for herself, including possibly falling in love. The movie is bright, colorful, and has a light, whimsicalness to it, and seems to be set in a magical version of Paris filled with color, quirk, and a lot of cute clothes. It’s funny, sweet, and yes it has subtitles but don’t let that scare you off! No matter what language it’s in, this movie is enough to shake anyone out of the finals blues, with bright colors, lovable characters, and a story that encourages viewers to get out there and live life.

                                             Mean Girls
Oh yes. We have it. Mean Girls, the fountain of a thousand internet memes, is the movie that just about everybody of a certain generation can quote endlessly. But when was the last time you actually watched it? Well, now seems to be a perfect time. Mean Girls is the sharp, witty satire about high school politics, friendship, and cattiness. Cady, a former home school student who has lived in Africa for several years, is now going to a typical American high school. She soon becomes entangled with “The Plastics”, a trio of popular girls (ditsy Karen, neurotic Gretchen, and queen bee Regina) who rule the school with an iron heel. What follows is a hilarious tale of high school life, that is as funny as it is real. Anyone who went to high school has to remember some of the things seen here, like three way calling attacks, fake compliments, and the always complicated table seating in the cafeteria, with tables seeming more like warring nations than high school cliques. But it also has a great lesson about the importance of friendship, and the silliness of drama and backstabbing. So get your friends together and get watching. I promise, it’s still so very Fetch!

                                             Secondhand Lions
This 2003 film was somewhat overlooked when it first came out, but trust me when I say it’s worth a look. Set in the early 1960s, it tells the story of a young boy named Walter, who is dumped off by his irresponsible mother at the farm of his two eccentric uncles to spend the summer. From there, the movie sort of has two stories. One is how the boy bonds with his cranky, isolated uncles and comes to term with the fact that his mom is a crappy, crappy parent, and the other is the story of his uncles' past lives in World War I, in the French foreign legion, and his uncle Hub's romance with a Middle Eastern princess named Jasmine. Jasmine also shares the name with an old lion that the uncles buy from an old circus, with which Walter bonds (hence the title). It’s a sort of coming of age/family drama/period piece/adventure story/comedy, with a lot of laughs and heart. Plus it has Michael Caine playing a Texan! That’s pretty hard to beat.

The end of the semester is tough. Trust me, I know. I have seen a lot of them. But you don’t have to be miserable about it all the time. If you just need to de-stress, watching a movie can be a great way to do it, whether it’s with friends, family, or just in the comfort of your own room. So whether you feel like whimsy, snarkyness, or circus animals, the library has something out there for you among its hundreds of DVDs!  And if you want to binge on just a little chocolate, I won’t tell.

Scavenger Hunts, Road Tripping, and Zombie Fighting: Money Management for College Students

You know what really sucks about trying to be a grown up? Money. Making money, keeping money, and trying to be smart about your money management. Personally, that’s one of the things that I had trouble with when I first started college. I would freak out if I didn’t have money to buy a DVD, but still have enough in my budget to go out to eat three days a week; I was not the best financial planner. Being away from home, maybe with a credit card, it can be hard for a lot of students to figure out the best ways to both spend, and save money. And when you leave college, and realize that the looming threat of student loans has finally caught up with you? I know that I'm going to be thinking nostalgically about my biggest stress being a ten page paper due in two hours.  Luckily, there is help! There is a nationwide program called Money Smart Week, a public awareness program dedicated to helping people better manage their money. Throughout the week of April 20-27, a number of financial institutions are putting on free seminars and activities throughout the country, and online! Interested? Join the Money Smart Hunt PhotoScavenger Hunt, a nationwide photojournalistic game, with tasks requiring participants to demonstrate their financial savvy. How do you play? Simply head to the Apps store on iTunes or the Android Market, and download the free Scavenger Hunt with Friends app, create a user name and password, and search “Money Smart Hunt”. Then check out the list of items, and begin uploading pics of yourself completing each task. Know what the best part of money is? Winning it! The prizes include a $600 Apple gift card for 1st place, a $100 Visa gift card for second place, and $50 Visa gift card for third. So get downloading and hunting right now. And after that, check out these great books to help you be a savvier spender- no more pop tart dinners ever again!
              Zombie Economics: Lisa Desjardins and Rick Emerson
Zombies are all the rage right now. So are zombie survival plans, where people debate on how they would survive if the dead started rising up and eating everyone (or just attempting a Thriller style dance routine). On TV, in movies, on T shirts, everyone seems to have a plan. But if you have a zombie plan, do you also have time to do silly things like making a financial plan? This book manages to combine zombie killing and financial planning, showing how fighting a zombie invasion is surprisingly similar to fighting for financial security. It's detailed plan shows how to pay your bills, get your career on track, cut costs, and keep from getting distracted and spending excess money, among other things. It alternates between that and a tale of a zombie survivor, where the narrator (you) must fight through an endless horde of zombies to eventually survive. The tale of zombies is interwoven with financial tips that relate to what’s going on in the story. It’s easy to read, fun, and perfect for any student (or recent grad) that has detailed plans on what to do in event of zombie attack posted on their wall, but still isn’t sure where to send their car payments. And most importantly, it reminds the reader that no matter how many zombies (bills) stack up, you just have to remember one thing: you will survive.

                                     Financial Planning for Your First Job: Matthew Brandeburg
As a soon-to-be college graduate, I have a very big problem that must be dealt with: what am I going to do with years’ worth of USI t-shirts?! Oh, and where can I find my first job, and how can I manage my finances in the real world? Little things like that. For that, I can turn to books like this one, which give helpful and professional lessons in managing debt, finding a good insurance plan, and planning for the future. Looking to invest some money? There’s help for that. Having trouble building a portfolio? Advice on that. Deciding where to live, how much to spend, or measuring financial risk? All right here. It’s quick, clean and to the point, jumping from issue to issue, and has plenty of information for anyone, recent grad or not, who is entering the “real world”.  Read this book, and get ready to become master of your financial destiny! And as for the shirt thing, let me know if you think of something. Please.
                                  Starting Out: Ruth J. Mills
. Still feeling a little shaky about the prospect of heading out on your own? There is more help to come! This online book will give readers more tips and tricks on how to get your life on track, especially right after leaving college. Set as a sort of financial road trip, the book speeds around from finding a place to live, establish a budget, and even how to discuss finances and plans with a future spouse. It also offers “postcards”, true stories of people trying to navigate the stressful, crazy world of finance, and how they succeed. It also details what happens when you hit “road block” and “toll booths” and other financial trouble spots, and how you can escape them. Finances are hard, and sometimes you feel like it’s a long, endless road with no exit in sight, just a bunch of sketchy looking gas stations and an old Waffle House off the interstate. But with a travel guide like this one, finances can be like a highway you want to ride all night long, not a highway to hell.

As scary as finances can be for people just starting out, there is help! With Money Smart Week, people who are actually good at this financial stuff are trying to help us figure all this out, and are even willing to give us prizes for it! And there are authors, professors, and other real grownups out there writing books to help people like me get it together, and figure out how to balance student loans and their Netflics account. So play a scavenger hunt, create a zombie plan, plan a road trip, and get working on that pile of bills sitting on your desk. Just remember: You will survive.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Life and Times (and Stress) of the Modern Student

Well folks, the semester is drawing to an end. That means it’s time for dreams of barbeques and swimming pools, but before that, we have to make it through endless papers, tests, presentations, and all the other fun that school gives us right before the semester ends. I can’t help but notice that students are already becoming a bit frayed around the edges, myself included. Every end of the semester, the stress starts to get to people, piling up and up until you’re just about to explode into a cloud of Wikipedia and Red Bull. But, as a soon-to-be graduating senior, I have to reflect on all this. How does this keep happening? Why do we keep putting up with this craziness? I decided to look at some books ABOUT college life, and how all this stress keeps happening. After checking these titles out for good info, I got some ideas on ways to finally defeat that end of the semester panic.
                                    How to Win at College: Cal Newport
There are many books out there for students just getting started, or for those who are having a rough patch in college later on. Newport's book is easy to read, and has a wide variety of topics. Granted, the book came out in 2005, so it is a little bit dated (not one Instagram reference? For shame!), but the advice itself is still perfectly good. Each chapter focuses on a different college strategy, focusing on both big tips, like being willing to drop bad classes, and making safe decisions involving alcohol, to small day to day tips, like making your bed to feel more organized, and learning a new joke every day to keep your spirits up. There are 75 tips in this series, all taken from graduating students, and almost all of them are ones I can very much recommend. The very last tip is to have no regrets, and I feel like if you can make it through college with no (or at least few) regrets, you have done pretty darn well.
                                           The Secrets of College Success: Lynn Jacobs and Jeremy Hyman  
If you’re interested in more about how college works, and why we have so much stress, check out this online book that can give you up to date information about life in college! OK, you’re already in college, but still! The thing about undergraduate life that seems to really stress people out is how everything seems to pile up near the end. All the homework due, all the tests happening, every extracurricular is wrapping up this year’s work and planning for next year, trying to get summer plans situated(or in my case, graduation plans)-- it can all be so overwhelming. To combat this, this book strongly suggests spreading deadlines out as much as possible, not allowing everything to happen at once. I like that particular advice, and a lot of the other things about this book. Published in 2010, it's more up to date, and its style is easy to read while still sounding intelligent. If you want more information about college life, and ways to plan for next year, give this book a read!
                 Millennials Go to College: Neil Howe and William Strauss
Millennials, for the record, are our older siblings and us. The generation that was born beginning around 1982 and where that ends sort of shifts around, but it probably ends around….the mid-to-late 90s? I don’t know, no one seems to be able to tell for sure. But it covers most traditional students in college right now, and from what I read, the millennials are presenting something of a challenge. For one thing, we are crazy overworked. This generation of teens and 20- somethings are very work driven, constantly trying to get the edge, and be “the best”. That pressure can make the already stressful world of college into even more of a mine field of late nights and eye twitching. This book discusses the traits of many Millennials, and how they learn and function. I like this book, and I do think it is more fiar to this generation than a lot of other writers seem to be. It discusses the  two things common to complaints about our generation (entitled, obsessed with tech) and the good things (more tolerant, hardworking), and how they affect our time in college. Published in 2007, this book is a little dated (apparently Facebook was a hot new thing when this book came out), but its points are legit. It can give more answers as to why we are just so dang stressed.

Having fun ripping your hair out and banging your head against the wall? Well, don’t worry, you are not alone! Stress this time of the year is perfectly normal, and at least it means you care enough to get stressed. Look at these books, and see how many students are going through the same thing  you are! And it's not new to this generation- imagine your mom typing her 20-page poli sci paper on a typewriter, no delete key, no insert key, no automatic header function......This is my final end of semester here at USI, so I know what I am talking about when I say that it’s really not so bad to be stressed.  It's normal, and while it's inevitable, you can try to control it because  school is important and all that and it’s  worth it in the end. Want to know ways to beat the stress? Tune in next time to find out!