Friday, August 10, 2007

O-Bon Festival, Japan (August 13-15, 2007)

O-bon (or Obon) is the Japanese "Festival of the Dead ... when the dead revisit the earth, according to Japanese Buddhist belief. Throughout Japan, in either July or August, depending on the area, religious rites and family reunions are held in memory of the dead." (Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary)

In honor of O-bon, listen to some Japanese music or watch some Japanese movies. We have classic films by Akira Kurosawa, such as Rashomon where the nature of truth and subjective reality are probed in a series of flashbacks from four viewpoints of a man's murder and the rape of his wife by a bandit in 11th century Japan. Or try a more recent movie by Hirokazu Koreeda, like After Life, a fantasy in which the newly deceased find themselves in a way station somewhere between Heaven and Earth. With the help of dedicated caseworkers, each soul is given three days to choose one cherished memory from his or her life to relive for eternity.

If you're into anime, we have lots of great Japanese animation ranging from the Matrix-like Ghost in the Shell to Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haku), the moving story of two orphans during World War II, to the work of Academy Award-winning animator Hayao Miyazaki.

We also have a variety of movies set in Japan, including the French film Hiroshima Mon Amour, in which a Japanese architect and a French actress engage in a brief, intense affair in Hiroshima as they attempt to deal with their personal memories of World War II or Lost in Translation about the unusual friendship that springs up between a middle-aged actor and the wife of a photographer in a Tokyo hotel bar. For action and sword-fighting, try The Last Samurai or Zatoichi. If you're looking for laughs, check out Tom Selleck in Mr. Baseball.

Or use the Mega Media Finder to try some of our other media materials about Japan, including:
  • Non-fiction videos

    • Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire is a PBS program that looks at the role of the samurai, the shogun, and geishas in Tokugawa Japan.

    • Yukio Mishima: Samurai Writer presents a portrait of the author as novelist, playwright, actor, and patriot of the extreme right, torn between Japanese tradition and westernization

    • Our Hiroshima combines the eyewitness account of Setsuko Nakamuro Thurlow, a campaigner for peace who was 13 when the atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima, with rare archival footage taken before and after the bombing

    • Toshiko Takaezu presents an introduction to the art and life of internationally-acclaimed potter Toshiko Takaezu, who creates work in the form of both functional and sculptural ceramics

    • Schools of Thought: Teaching Children in America and Japan looks at efforts in both the United States and Japan to balance creativity and discipline in education.

  • Three-dimensional artifacts, including kimonos and other clothing, dolls, musical instruments, an abacus, and a calligraphy set

  • Pictures, including many of various Japanese matsuri or festivals

Or use the Fiction & Literature Media Finder and select by original language or setting to read some:
If your knowledge of kanji is better than mine, you might even want to try some literature in the original Japanese.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 17th anniversary (July 26, 2007)

The Columbia Encyclopedia says that the Americans with Disabilities Act is a "U.S. civil-rights law, enacted 1990, that forbids discrimination of various sorts against persons with physical or mental handicaps. Its primary emphasis is on enabling these persons to enter the job market and remain employed, but it also outlaws most physical barriers in public accommodations, transportation, telecommunications, and government services." For an overview, watch the short film Nobody is Burning Wheelchairs that explains what the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is, explores attitudes toward people with disabilities, and shows that disabled persons can make contributions in mainstream society.

For more understanding of the experiences of people with disabilities, watch a movie or read a novel featuring characters with disabilities. Use the Movies & TV Programs (fiction video) Media Finder or the Fiction & Literature Media Finder and select "people with disabilities" from the type of character pulldown menu.

Movies (including many biopics)
  • The Miracle Worker dramatizes the story of the young Helen Keller, a blind, deaf, and mute girl who is isolated in her own world until Annie Sullivan, her teacher, leads her into awareness.

  • My Left Foot relates the story of Christy Brown who, with his mother's help, realized his creative potential and overcame his cerebral palsy to become an internationally-renowned painter and writer.

  • Ray profiles the life of the musician Ray Charles who became blind at age seven and whose mother insisted that he find his own way in life and not accept handouts.

  • In the Japanese samurai movie Zatoichi, a nomadic, blind masseur and gambler wanders into a town and befriends a pair of geishas. Soon Zatoichi reveals that behind his humble facade, he is a master swordsman who can hold his own with criminals and gang members.

Novels range from John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon to Dean Koontz' One Door Away from Heaven. We have children's fiction, too.

Other media materials about the ADA and the experiences of the disabled (select "disability studies" from the selected interdisciplinary studies pulldown menu on the Mega Media Finder) include:

Nonfiction videos
  • The Ten Commandments of Communicating with People with Disabilities

  • HBO's Without Pity: A Film about Abilities features a cross section of disabled Americans who live full, productive lives despite their disabilities. Narrated by Christopher Reeve.

  • A Little History Worth Knowing traces the history of people with disabilities, including historical discrimination and the movement for civil rights for people with disabilities in the United States. Reviews stereotypes, media images, and the effect of today's technology on people's ability to work and live independently.

  • Designing for Accessibility: An Overview of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design presents the requirements of the ADA standards for physical and communications accessibility in public buildings and commercial, state, and local government facilities by topic for architects and other.

  • In the Land of the Deaf explores deaf life and culture in France and the growing controversy involving "curing" deafness. Includes portraits of a charismatic sign language teacher and a woman treated as mentally ill because her hearing problem was misdiagnosed.

  • Vital Signs: Crip Culture Talks Back is a documentary about a national disability arts community that explores disability as the experience of a politically disenfranchised constituency. Consists of interviews and clips of performance pieces from a variety of artistic formats including: performance art, fiction, poetry, stand-up comedy, drama, personal anecdotes, and scholarly research.

  • Dancing from the Inside Out: Three Stories from AXIS Dance Troupe tells the stories of three dancers from the Axis Dance Troupe who became injured and what it means to them to be able to express themselves through dance with the use of wheelchairs.


Software, including RSS: Ready, Set, Sign for learning American Sign Language (ASL).

Dolls and puppets with various disabilities to help children better understand and relate to people with disabilities

We also have many materials for the blind and visually-impaired (choose "materials for the blind and visually-impaired" under the specific materials menu on the Mega Media Finder), including audio-described videos (where onscreen action is narrated during gaps in the original dialog) and other materials, including games (such as Monopoly and scrabble), tactile maps, and Braille rulers and writing slates. For the deaf and hearing-impaired we have many videos with closed-captioning.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May 2007)

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, why not watch a movie about Asian or Pacific Islander Americans, such as ABCD, about two young Indian Americans who run up against their mother's plans for traditional, arranged marriages or Come See the Paradise, a love story set against the background of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II?

Or read some fiction about the Asian American experience, like Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club or Chang-rae Lee's Native Speaker about the emotional struggles of a young Korean American man in New York City. We have kids' books, too.

We also have non-fiction videos about Asian Americans. Watch the Bill Moyers' specials on Becoming American, the Chinese Experience or check out Journey of Honor to follow a group of Japanese American veterans from Hawaii and their families on a reunion trip to Italy in the spring of 2000. There are a couple of U.S. government-produced videos of films about the internment of Japanese Americans in the World War II Historical Film Collection. All the films in this collection are also available online via Ball State's Digital Media Repository.

Check out some of our pictures and posters of Asian Americans. Or maybe you'd be interested in a family of Asian American puppets, primary sources on The Asian-American Experience on CD-ROM, or a multicultural educational board game called The cultural bag! Asian American.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Staff Picks: Music Collection (April 2007)


Here are my top 5 in no particular order.

  • Bernard Herrmann: The Day the Earth Stood Still (CD 15779)

  • Franz Waxman: Bride of Frankenstein (CD 16619)

  • The Day the Earth Stood Still and Bride of Frankenstein are two film scores that still inspire me to this day.

  • Brain in a Box (CD 11661): Brain In A Box is a fantastic collection of sci-fi/horror movie and television themes packaged with horror and sci-fi themed rock/pop music and lounge music. It contains so many classics that I love from the golden age of horror.

  • Surfin’ Hits (CD 10953): Surfin’ Hits is yet another compilation of some of the most favored acts in classic surf music. It is great music from an era when cars looked like rocket ships and horror movies were at some of their best!

  • Björk: Vespertine (CD 15094): Björk’s album Vespertine is a great mix of her more accessible music paired with her more experimental leanings.
All five albums are very different, but all are fantastic music that has a spirit all their own.

  • Les Misérables (CD 5807, can be paired with Ed Res VHS 2657 [the 1935 film adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel]): made a wondrous impact on modern culture with beautiful heart wrenching ballads. My favorite is "On My Own."

  • HITCHCOCK Master of Mayhem, conducted by Lalo Schifrin (CD 7218): wide variety of musical styles, uses music to influence the atmosphere and storylines in his amazing films! [More Hitchcock soundtracks]

  • Ray Original Motion Picture Score (CD 16391, can be paired with the movie, Ed Res DVD 1391): beautifully arranged and composed by Craig Armstrong. Each intense recording illustrates a picture of what it was like to live in Ray Charles’ shoes, I feel as though I am right there as I listen.

  • Dan Fogelberg: Greatest Hits (CD 7741): A soulful blend of 70's and early 80's heartfelt vocal harmonies, my favorite is "Same Old Lang Syne."

  • A Perfect Circle: Mer de Noms (CD 12815): My alternative rock selection, great to listen to in your car on the way to work or when you are just chillin' at home!

  • The Breakfast Club Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (CD 10843, can be paired with the movie, Ed Res DVD 1305): This brings me back to good ole 1985!! It’s a must have!

  • Michael Bublé (CD 16088): Very much like a young Sinatra, Bublé is an unbelievable big band/jazz singer, It's Time features covers of the Beatles and Ray Charles songs. The song "Home" leaves me smiling; his voice is soothing and warm. Perfect for all ages!!!

  • Walk The Line Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (CD 16090, can be paired with the movie, Ed Res DVD 2182): The story of the musical legend Johnny Cash, enough said!

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas (CD 15397, can be paired with the TV special, Ed Res VHS 11129): Christmas in the Spring! This soundtrack recording of the CBS television special brings everyone's inner child to life!


Some of the box sets would be good to recommend. Most of the ones with interesting boxes or extended guides are popular music but there are a few classical ones. Here are some examples:

These are all from different genres but the artwork and information in the box add a bit of history and interest to the CDs


  • Brahms: The Four Symphonies, Tragic Overture, Variations on a theme by Haydn. Performed by Kurt Sanderling and the Dresden Staatskapelle (CD 10720): Of the many recordings of these pieces, these are my favorites. Sanderling manages to combine attention to detail (many inner parts that are buried on other recordings are audible here) with a strong sense of line and steady forward motion. When these recordings were made in 1972, the Dresden Staatskapelle still had the sound typical of German orchestras earlier in the century. Now that orchestras all over the world sound increasingly alike, it's good to hear again the distinctive sound of this ensemble.

  • Wagner: Die Meistersinger (CD 13638): Recorded commercially for Deutsche Grammophon in 1967, this recording was not released until the early 1990s. Whatever the reasons for the long delay, this is the most strongly cast recording of this opera: Thomas Stewart, Sandor Konya, Gundula Janowitz, Rafael Kubelik/Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

  • Dawn Upshaw sings Vernon Duke (CD 6482 or 8502): One of the forgotten composers of the American musical, Vernon Duke never had a long-running, hit show during his career, but many of his individual songs retain their appeal, as this collection demonstrates.

  • Django Reinhardt: The Classic Early Recordings in Chronological Order (CD 11228): This 5 CD set documents the rise in the 1930s of Reinhardt, a great jazz guitarist, and his group, the Quintette du Hot Club de France, one of the first important jazz ensembles to develop outside the U.S. The group featured an unusual combination of violin, three guitars, and double bass.

  • Dave Brubeck: Time Signatures, a Career Retrospective (CD 12929): This 4 CD set is a comprehensive overview of Brubeck's career from the 1940s to the early 1990s.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

ANZAC Day, Australia + New Zealand (April 25, 2007)

"ANZAC Day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as ANZACs, and the pride they soon took in that name endures to this day." (

To honor ANZAC Day, why not watch a film from Australia, like Rabbit-Proof Fence, which tells how, in 1931, three half-Aboriginal children from Western Australia, who had been taken from their mothers, set out on an epic journey home, traveling 1,500 miles on foot with no food or water as they followed the fence that has been build across the nation to stem an over-population of rabbits. You might also like Breaker Morant, in which an Australian soldier in 1901 South Africa during the Boer War is ordered to oversee the execution of a prisoner who turns out to be a German missionary and is court-martialed for it. The Proposition is an Australian Western set in the outback of the 1880s, where an outlaw is presented with an impossible proposition by local law enforcement.

Or watch a movie from New Zealand, such as Whale Rider, the story of Pai, an 11-year-old girl in a patriarchal Maori tribe, who believes she is destined to be the new chief. And don't forget to check out the work of the famous kiwi director Peter Jackson.

Kick back with some music from Australia and New Zealand. Waltzing Matilda is the quintessential Australian song. We also have the children's book and a claymation short in which a chorus of animated clay animals from the Australian bush sing the famous Australian folk song.

From the Mega Media Finder, check out some pictures of Australia (click on zoology under categories to the right of the results to find lots of pictures of animals, like koalas, platypuses, or kangaroos) or New Zealand. We also have a few 3-dimensional artifacts, like these Maori dolls and these boomerangs.

Learn more about Australia or New Zealand from some non-fiction videos, like Aboriginal Art: Past, Present and Future and Te Maori: A Celebration of the People and their Art.

Looking for something to read? We have children's stories and adult fiction set in Australia, as well as children's stories and adult fiction set in New Zealand. Why not try something by Australian Nobel laureate Patrick White? Or something by the well-known author Katherine Mansfield, who was born in New Zealand.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Astronomy Day (April 21, 2007)

Though e.e. cummings once said, "Listen: there's a hell of a good universe next door; let's go" (One Times One), it's not that easy for most of us. Since we seem to be stuck here, why not learn a bit more about our universe? The Ball State University Planetarium is having the last of its Visitor's Guide to the Universe (For the Cosmically Challenged) sessions on Celestial Hotspots to Visit this Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21.

Or how about starting with some interesting resources from Ball State University Libraries?
...and we even have telescopes available for check out for your next night of star-gazing!

PS Kevin at the Science-Health Science Library also has a nice post on his blog about some resources for would-be star-gazers.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

National Poetry Month (April 2007)

April is National Poetry Month. As the Academy of American Poets notes, T.S. Eliot said, "April is the cruelest month" and with this recent weather I can believe it.

If you're interested in enjoying some poetry, you might try the Fiction & Literature Media Finder. You can combine checking the poetry box with various kinds of searches. For example, you can select original language of literature from the pull-down menu to find Spanish or ancient Greek poetry, as well as poems originally in Swahili or Welsh. If you'd like to read non-English poetry in the original, use the in original language list instead. Challenge yourself by reading some French poetry in French or German poetry in German.

You can also combine poetry with different genres to find things like war poetry (or choose World War I under time for poems about the Great War). Or try one of the great epic poems from Gilgamesh or the Iliad to Beowulf or the Mahabharata.

If you limit to youth under audience, you can find children's poetry in various genres, such as humorous poetry (including the inimitable Shel Silverstein).

To find poetry you can listen to, use the format limiter for audiobooks. From the Videos (All) Media Finder, you can find a few poetry readings on video--if you like the Beats, why not check out Allen Ginsberg? We also have a few film adaptations of poems.

Or just check poetry and type your favorite poet's name in the search box. A few I fancy include e. e. cummings, Rilke and the haiku poet Basho.

If you'd like to read poetry online, we also provide access to a selection of poetry via our subscription to LitFinder.

For media to help you learn more about poetry and poets, try the Mega Media Finder. Among other things, we have many videos, a few CD-ROMs, and a variety of pictures and posters.

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