Archives for posts with tag: history

What are you wearing? Plaid (tartan)? Paisley? How about stripes or polka dots? Perhaps a fleur-de-lis pin graces your lapel? Regardless, these motifs and patterns and more have fascinating associations and histories as told by Jude Stewart in his book Patternalia: An Unconventional History of Polka Dots, Stripes, Plaid, Camouflage, and Other Graphic Patterns.

In addition to content, the book itself is somewhat unconventional by design, both physically and stylistically. Titles found in the adult nonfiction collection tend to be large and heavy, whereas Patternalia is small and lightweight. Stylistically, Patternalia defies the typical beginning, middle, end formula for telling such stories. The text is dotted with cross-references so readers may develop an alternate storyline. It’s also embellished with quotes and bold graphics throughout.

Stewart starts us on our journey with a crash course in patterns and pattern lingo as well as an explanation of how our brains perceive “symmetry, orderliness, and simplicity”–basically, a pattern–and how we define and process this into what we see. He discusses ‘pareidolia,’ “the process of seeing imaginary forms, especially faces, in random stimuli,” such as outlets, and ‘apophenia,’ which is the perception of pattern where there is none, which may be either visual or conceptual. A conceptual example of apophenia is that of “gambler’s fallacy.”

Before we delve into particular patterns proper, we learn a bit about the history of patterns and the textile industry. The gist is that as production became increasingly industrialized, patterned textiles became cheaper, easily portable, and shareable across cultures. As patterns and patterned textiles crossed national borders, their meanings could change or evolve, such as with popular “African print” textiles. (Why? Read the book!)

As pattern and textile technology continued to advance, patterns were able to be printed directly onto textiles, which led to disposable fashions. Think Paper Caper dresses and such. Imagine wearing your clothes a few times and throwing them into the trash can rather than the laundry basket. These sorts of disposable fashions didn’t fall out of fashion until the rise of environmental consciousness. (Thank goodness for environmental consciousness!)  

But what about the patterns? I dare say we take them for granted, no doubt due to their ubiquitousness–they’re everywhere! Patterns hold histories and connotations, whether we realize it or not. Take polka dots, for example. According to Stewart, dots and spots–polka dots–gained popularity “from an extended craze for polka music” that overtook Europe in the mid-1800s. But in Medieval Europe, polka dots were reminiscent of disease and death. Specifically, syphilis, bubonic plague, measles, and more. Yet we enjoy polka dot patterns on an array of items, from notebooks to scrapbooking paper, t-shirts to bathing suits, bedding to curtains, and so on, without considering their history. Not to mention the parallel Stewart draws between dot art and activism–bravo!

Overall, Stewart’s Patternalia is as charming as it is interesting. My only criticism is that it ends rather abruptly, not unlike this review. As for the other patterns–plaid, paisley, stripes, fleur-de-lis, checkered, houndstooth, etc.–you’ll have to check it out for yourself. I leave you with this anonymous quote: “Even a small dot can stop a big sentence, but a few more dots can give a continuity…”

As always, happy reading.

Accidental PresidentSome of the most significant events in world history transpired in April through August of 1945. Germany’s surrender, the creation of the United Nations, the Potsdam Conference, the testing and use of the atomic bomb, and Japan’s surrender to end World War II all happened from April 12 – August 14, 1945 – the first 4 months of the Truman presidency.

A.J.  Blaine has penned a compelling chronicle of this time in The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World. This well-researched work takes the reader day by day through this momentous period but this is not a dry timeline of events. Blaine brings the events and people to life on the page and you feel as if you are in the room.

Blaine starts his narrative on April 12th which began as an ordinary day for Harry Truman. He rose at his normal early hour and took his walk before heading to his office in the Senate building. But this was no ordinary day and by nightfall he was sworn in as president and briefed on the secret weapon being developed, the atomic bomb. Stunned by the death of Franklin Roosevelt, many in the country wondered who Harry Truman is and would he be able to do the job. Truman himself said “I’m not big enough for this job”.

Before continuing with Truman’s presidency Blaine gives us an abbreviated biography. The author uses these pages to show us the qualifications and character Truman brought to the White House. He never went to college but he was well read and loved music. He was devoted to and loved Bess from the time he met her. In the Army during World War I he showed his ability as a leader but was unsuccessful in business. Even though he was elected with the help of Tom Pendergast (who ran Kansas City politics) Truman was honest in all his dealings as presiding judge in Jackson County.

He was elected to the U.S. Senate while Pendergast was still powerful and was dubbed the senator from Pendergast. But he won, to the surprise of many, a second term after Pendergast’s arrest and imprisonment. His committee to investigate waste and corruption in the national defense program saved money and brought him some national recognition.

Even though Truman wasn’t a complete unknown, the Democratic Party was stunned by his nomination as Vice-President for Roosevelt’s historic fourth term. He was a reluctant nominee but once nominated he campaigned tirelessly for the president.

Even though he was Roosevelt’s choice for VP he was not part of the inner circle and was not included in briefings or negotiations. On April 13th, his first full day as president, Truman began to learn the depth of what he did not know.

As Blaine recounts the next 123 days not every decision and meeting is detailed. Instead you get a sense of just how busy each day was and the amount of information Truman has to absorb from meetings and reports. Unlike Roosevelt, Truman’s cabinet meetings were for reporting and information. Following this meeting he would sometimes spend his whole morning in back to back 15 minute meetings.

During the first 2 weeks of the new administration, Roosevelt was buried, Nazi death camps were liberated, the United Nations conference began in San Francisco, Berlin fell, Mussolini was executed, Hitler committed suicide, and on President Truman’s 61st birthday, Germany surrendered.

The next weeks and months were more of the same with a deteriorating relationship with the Soviets, the war with Japan and the fulfilling of his official duties as president. The conference with Stalin and Churchill was to begin in July and the president wanted to be prepared. While determining what he believed was best for the U.S., Truman was aware of his obligation to honor both the agreements Roosevelt had made and the man himself.

The Potsdam Conference, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan’s unconditional surrender on August 14th ends this historic and pivotal 4 months.

The biographical information was an important part of the book but slowed the pace of the narrative. Once the countdown of days began however, this work was hard to put down. This fascinating look at what has to be one of the most difficult periods any president has faced, shows that the man who thought “he wasn’t big enough” greatly underestimated his abilities.

Do you like to get information and discover new things in a concise visually appealing way? You must be (or might want to be if you are not) a magazine reader.

Magazines, first published in the 17th century, were initially only for the rich. New methods of printing in the 1900s changed that and now they are a popular way for everyone to keep abreast of news, current trends and to be informed on just about anything.

Joplin Public Library has over 200 magazines and 20 newspapers available to users whenever the library is open.  Most of the magazines you can check out and take home to read.

The library has also offered users online magazine and newspaper articles for more than 15 years. These articles accessed through Ebscohost are indexed for easy research using keywords and can be used online anywhere with a library card number.  You can get lots of information but you can’t easily browse an issue.

About two years ago we added Flipster which lets you read a full issue of a magazine 24/7 using any internet-enabled device and your library card number. These full-page, full color issues give you access to some of the magazines you once had to visit the library to get and you can browse all you want.

Now we have another way for you to get magazines online using the same website you go to get ebooks, MoLib2Go.org.  Shared by a consortium of Missouri public libraries the site offers ebooks, audiobooks, and video.  Now some of the libraries are contributing to a shared collection of 138 magazines.

Unlike Flipster these magazines have to be checked out and downloaded to be viewed and they download to a Nook or Nook app.  But you find them in the same place you get your ebooks, you get to keep them longer, and the Nook app is easy to get and use.

Some of the titles are the same ones you’ll find in the library and/or on Flipster such as The Atlantic, National Geographic, Bloomberg Businessweek, Prevention, Better Homes and Gardens, and Reader’s Digest.  However many of the titles are new to our collection and cover a variety of interests.

If you like to read about the latest in health and fitness, you’ll find Shape, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, What Doctors Know, Amazing Wellness, and Oxygen.  Publications from associations are also available such AARP the Magazine, Weight Watchers Magazine and Arthritis Today.

I love perusing cookbooks and discovering new recipes and there are plenty of titles on food and cooking. I downloaded Allrecipes and am looking forward to viewing Cook’s Country, EveryDay with Rachel Ray, Taste of Home, Gluten-Free Living, and many others.

For those of you into crafts and hobbies look for Thread, Woodworker’s Journal, Hobby Farms, Bead & Button and Cloth Paper Scissors.  You will also find Do It Yourself, Family Handyman and House & Home among others.

With the election later this year many of us are taking more of an interest in current events and what is happening in the world. Newsweek, National Review, The Week, The Onion and mental_floss will keep you informed.

Lifestyle magazines are popular in our print collection and you will see several of those titles here – Redbook, Brides, O the Oprah Magazine, Country Living, and Reader’s Digest. In MoLib2Go you can also get American Cowboy, Guideposts, and More.

Another popular category is home and garden.  Look for Birds & Blooms, Dwell, HGTV Magazine, Country Gardens, and Elle Décor.  We also have several you can find in both print and online such as Good Housekeeping, House Beautiful, Midwest Living and Rodale’s Organic Life.

There are a lot more titles than I can list here like TV Guide Magazine, Air and Space Magazine, Guns and Ammo, Budget Travel, First for Women and Family Circle.  Go to MoLib2 Go and browse the titles.  You are sure to find something that interests you.

If you have any trouble with downloading or just want to be walked through the process first, call or come by the Reference Desk. We are happy to help.