Wednesday, September 28, 2016

myth and legend

Things to look forward to in October:

Oct 18, 6:30pm – documentary on a famous haunting (strong language, scary images)
Oct 25, 6:30pm – next month’s Genre Reading Group will meet in Administration on the 2nd floor

GRG met last night and had a discussion of mythic proportions!  See what I did there?  Seriously, we discussed books and movies that deal with myth, legend, storytelling, etc.  It was a wide ranging discussion from conspiracy theories of human development to the prophecies of what humanity may be like in the future.  We talked about it all! (note: all book reviews come from Amazon or book jacket; DVD reviews from

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One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson
The summer of 1927 began with Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic. Meanwhile, Babe Ruth was closing in on the home run record. In Newark, New Jersey, Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly sat atop a flagpole for twelve days, and in Chicago, the gangster Al Capone was tightening his grip on bootlegging. The first true “talking picture,” Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, was filmed, forever changing the motion picture industry. 

All this and much, much more transpired in the year Americans attempted and accomplished outsized things—and when the twentieth century truly became the American century. One Summer transforms it all into narrative nonfiction of the highest order.

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Claymore & Kilt: Tales of Scottish Kings and Castles by Laclaire Alger (Sorche Nic Leodhas)
A delightful collection of stirring historical tales about Scottish kings, lairds, and chieftains from the time of King Fingal in 211 AD to King James VI in 1611 AD. Strong through these tales of love, battle, loyalty, misdeeds, and good deeds are the Scots’ unbending honor and steadfast sense of humor, colorfully captured by the author in her inimitable lilting style certain to charm readers.

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Where did "modern" civilization begin? What lies beneath the waves? Do myths describe interstellar impact? How'd they lift that stone? Was the Ark of the Covenant a mechanical device? Were there survivors of an Atlantean catastrophe? Who really discovered the "New" World? "Hidden history" continues to fascinate an ever wider audience. In this massive compendium, editor Preston Peet brings together an all-star cast of contributors to question established wisdom about the history of the world and its civilizations. Peet and anthology contributors guide us through exciting archaeological adventures and treasure hunts, ancient mysteries, lost or rediscovered technologies, and assorted "Forteana," using serious scientific studies and reports, scholarly research, and some plain old fringe material, as what is considered "fringe" today is often hard science tomorrow.

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A decade ago, French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin became obsessed by the centuries-old question: How was the Great Pyramid built? How, in a nation of farmers only recently emerged from the Stone Age, could such a massive, complex, and enduring structure have been envisioned and constructed?
Written by world-renowned Egyptologist Bob Brier in collaboration with Houdin, The Secret of the Great Pyramid moves deftly between the ancient and the modern, chronicling two equally fascinating interrelated histories. It is a remarkable account of the step-by-step planning and assembling of the magnificent edifice – the brainchild of an innovative genius, the Egyptian architect Hemienu, who imagined, organized, and oversaw a monumental construction project that took more than two decades to complete and that employed the services of hundreds of architects, mathematicians, boatbuilders, stonemasons, and metallurgists.

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Mary Magdalene was the woman healed of her possession by seven devils and was the first to see the risen Jesus on Easter Day. Was she also the reformed prostitute who washed Jesus's feet with her tears? Was she the sister of the raised Lazarus? Did she marry Jesus? And did she become a leader of the early churches, despite the opposition of Simon Peter (who later became the first pope)? For centuries Mary Magdalene has been shrouded in mystery, but in Beloved Disciple renowned scholar Robin Griffith-Jones cuts through the confusion to bring this extraordinary figure back to startling, fascinating life.

Griffith-Jones examines New Testament accounts, ancient Gnostic sources, such as the Gospel of Mary, as well as medieval and Renaissance accounts of Mary's life and travels in the years following her discovery of Jesus's empty tomb on Easter morning. Beloved Disciple addresses questions about Mary and Jesus that have long stirred passionate debate, exploring the roles and power of men and women in the early churches—issues that still haunt the Church.

Illustrated with some of the most beautiful images of this enigmatic figure ever produced, this book puts the tantalizing fragments of information we have of Mary back into their original context: the vital stories in which Mary plays a part. Beloved Disciple shows us Mary as a model of discipleship and, through the lens of her life, offers a fresh perspective on the New Testament gospels and the Gnostic stories, to reveal them as we have never seen them before.

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Never before in the history of medicine has mankind faced such hope and peril as those of us poised to embrace the radical medical technologies of today.

Eve Herold's Beyond Human examines the medical technologies taking shape at the nexus of computing, microelectronics, engineering, nanotechnology, cellular and gene therapies, and robotics. These technologies will dramatically transform our lives and allow us to live for hundreds of years. Yet, with these blessings come complicated practical and ethical issues, some of which we can predict, but many we cannot.

Beyond Human taps the minds of doctors, scientists, and engineers engaged in developing a host of new technologies while telling the stories of some of the patients courageously testing the radical new treatments about to come into the market.

Beyond Human asks the difficult questions of the scientists and bioethicists who seek to ensure that as our bodies and brains become ever more artificial, we hold onto our humanity. In this new world, will everyone have access to technological miracles, or will we end up living in a world of radical disparities? How will society accommodate life spans that extend into hundreds of years? Will we and our descendants be able to bring about the dream of a future liberated by technology, or will we end up merely serving the machines and devices that keep us healthy, smart, young, and alive?

GENERAL DISCUSSION – The Children of Men by P.D. James:  Told with P. D. James’s trademark suspense, insightful characterization, and riveting storytelling, The Children of Men is a story of a world with no children and no future. The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright, attractive woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England. She and her band of unlikely revolutionaries may just awaken his desire to live . . . and they may also hold the key to survival for the human race. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood:  In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies?  Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable.  Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now....Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

In this short talk,TED Fellow Sarah Parcak introduces the field of "space archaeology" — using satellite images to search for clues to the lost sites of past civilizations. 

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American Folklore and Legend by the editors of Reader’s Digest
An anthology of popular American stories, poems, songs, and lore that have become part of the folklore of the United States.

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Ain’t Nothing but a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry by Scott Reynolds Nelson and Marc Aronson
Who was the real John Henry? The story of this legendary African-American figure has come down to us in so many songs, stories, and plays, that the facts are often lost. Historian Scott Nelson brings John Henry alive for young readers in his personal quest for the true story of the man behind the myth. Nelson presents the famous folk song as a mystery to be unraveled, identifying the embedded clues within the lyrics, which he examines to uncover many surprising truths. He investigates the legend and reveals the real John Henry in this beautifully illustrated book.

Nelson’s narrative is multilayered, interweaving the story of the building of the railroads, the period of Reconstruction, folk tales, American mythology, and an exploration of the tradition of work songs and their evolution into blues and rock and roll. This is also the story of the author’s search for the flesh-and-blood man who became an American folk hero; Nelson gives a first-person account of how the historian works, showing history as a process of discovery. Readers rediscover an African-American folk hero. We meet John Henry, the man who worked for the railroad, driving steel spikes. When the railroad threatens to replace workers with a steam-powered hammer, John Henry bets that he can drive the beams into the ground faster than the machine. He wins the contest, but dies in the effort.  Nelson’s vibrant text, combined with archival images, brings a new perspective and focus to the life and times of this American legend.

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Curious Myths of the Middle Ages by Sabine Baring-Gould
First published in 1866, Curious Myths of the Middle Ages became a highly popular work and went through many editions. Edward Hardy has skillfully edited the original lengthy text into more concise form while carefully preserving Baring-Gould’s style and manner in the telling of these strange and compelling myths and legends that are so much a part of the Middle Ages. This edition is illustrated with numerous woodcuts by Albrecht Durer.

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Since its original publication by Little, Brown and Company in 1942, Edith Hamilton's Mythology has sold millions of copies throughout the world and established itself as a perennial bestseller in its various available formats. Mythology succeeds like no other book in bringing to life for the modern reader the Greek, Roman, and Norse myths and legends that are the keystone of Western culture - the stories of gods and heroes that have inspired human creativity from antiquity to the present.

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The justly famous Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch contains three volumes: The Age Of Fable -- The gods and goddesses of Greece and Rome, as well as the mythology of the Germanic tribes, England and the Near East; The Legend Of Charlemange -- Accounts of the reign of the first great French Emperor, his wars and conquests; and The Age Of Chivalry -- King Arthur and his court, Lancelot and Guenever, and the death of Arthur.

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Legend (DVD)
A peasant hero battles a demonic underworld prince who seeks to plunge the world into an ice age. When the evil prince captures a fair maiden, the hero rallies an army of elves to save her, and defeat his diabolical foe once and for all.

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This film is a '90s version of the classic Robin Hood story, with Kevin Costner starring as the good-guy thief. Costner is joined in his efforts against the murdering Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) by Morgan Freeman who plays a philosophizing Moor, and by Nick Brimble, who plays Little John (anything but little). After Robin barely survives a watery skirmish with Little John, the two become allies and Robin joins forces with Little John's band of robber thieves to overcome the evils of the dastardly Nottingham sheriff. 

GENERAL DISCUSSION – Willow (DVD):  Though Willow was one of director Ron Howard's few box-office disappointments, it definitely deserves a second look. At once an epic celebration and a gentle spoof of the sword-and-sorcery genre, the film concerns the efforts by little person Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) to protect a sacred infant from the machinations of a wicked queen (Jean Marsh). Incidentally, this is the film where co-star Val Kilmer met his future wife Joanne WhalleyLadyhawke (DVD):  In medieval France, a young, nebbishy pickpocket befriends a knight who has fallen under a strange curse. It is soon up to the pickpocket to help reunite the knight and his lady love and defeat the evil bishop behind the curse in this romantic fantasy film.

What are YOU reading/watching?

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