One of the topics of conversation between me and my colleagues recently has been the much-talked of proliferation of fake news stories this election cycle and the difficulty students (and adults) have telling fictional stories and real stories apart. Most recently, you may have read about a 12-state survey conducted by Stanford’s Graduate School of Education that found that students on all levels (college, high school, and middle schoool) displayed an unfortunate lack of ability to distinguish between true and false sources. [If you would like to read more about the study, click here for an executive summary].

The solution, the study concluded, was to teach students to evaluate sources like fact checkers would. For a list of tips on spotting fake news, check out this post from Factcheckers.org. As the post highlights, part of the problem is that fake news is now more sophisticated that the viral e-mails of 2008. Also great fact checking sites: Snopes.com and Politifact.com.

Librarians aren’t immune from fake news syndrome either and, as I’ve discovered, it can be difficult to track down quotes even from relatively well-known sources. For example, here’s a quote that I struggled to place:


Should be easy to find a quote from a famous actor about a movie [The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies] that he’s promoting, right? Think again. I hunted all over the ‘Net before I discovered that the source of the quote was an Empire magazine podcast. The quote itself appears at the 52:38 minute mark, almost at the very end of the podcast.


Thought everyone would enjoy this video that my colleague, Erin, put me on to. It’s from the University Library in Olsztyn, Poland.



“We just gave a ghost a nuke. We should probably run.”

                                                                            –Abby (Ghostbusters 2016)

I have shamefully neglected this blog, friends, but I’m back now and ready to rumble.

Just spent an excellent couple of hours watching two really great sf/f movies with surprisingly feminist subtexts. Be forewarned: plot developments are discussed so if YOU DON’T WANT ANY SPOILERS, READ NO FURTHER.

First up is the new Ghostbusters movie which is probably most famous for receiving a large amount of misogynist and racist hate mail before and after its release. Having watched it, all I can say is that the haters must be evil spirits who want to wreak havoc upon the earth because this is a great movie and easily three times better than the original which was, let’s face it, a raunchy ’80s locker room comedy.

In this version, the focus is on the relationship between two estranged former friends–physicist Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and paranormal investigator Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy). Erin is on the verge of her tenure review at Columbia when she is drawn back into Abby’s world of paranormal investigation by a desperate curator of a haunted mansion and a whole lot of ectoplasm. Out of work and on their own, Erin and her team must race against time to find out who or what is triggering a city-wide outbreak of ghostly activity. Kate McKinnon steals many scenes with her cool-yet-crazy turn as team engineer Holtzmann while Leslie Jones is local historian/subway worker-turned-ghostbuster Patty. Sprinkled through the movie are lots of great shoutouts to the first movie as well as cameos by the original cast.

What intrigued me the most, though, is the feminist thread that runs throughout the storyline. For example, a number of critics found the character of Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), the handsome yet thick-as-a-plank receptionist to be unrealistic. I, on the other hand, found it completely realistic. Kevin is the type of lousy assistant that the Ghostbusters team has to tolerate because as women they don’t have the leverage to hire someone better. I flashed immediately to two male student assistants I was once asked to find work for. Both of them bungled the simple jobs they were asked to do and both seemed to resent being corrected or given orders by women. Needless to say, I got rid of them as soon as I could.

Throughout the film, the Ghostbusters team receives constant flack because they are female with pretty much every sector of society questioning their competence, their honesty, and their sanity. As Abby puts it, “we get dumped on all the time.”  One of the underlying themes of Paul Feig’s movies is the power of female friendships and this is what the team relies on to get them through, save the day, and New York City.



“You cannot change the past, but you can learn from it.”

                                             —Time Himself (Through the Looking Glass)

Next up is Alice Through the Look Glass, another sequel that has unfairly received negative reviews. Again, I can’t understand it because this film is a beautiful, touching allegory. Bring your tissues because unless you have a clockwork heart, you will tear up.

When we last saw Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) at the end of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, she was sailing away on trading vessel bound for China, having chosen a life as a Company apprentice over marriage to the pompous Hamish. As Through the Looking Glass opens, three years later, we see Alice, now the captain of her father’s ship, returning triumphant to England.

But there’s no cheering crowd and congratulations for young Captain Kingsleigh. On the contrary, there’s trouble from every corner.  In the interval, old Lord Ascot, Alice’s father’s friend, has died and has been succeeded by the unpleasant Hamish who is out to exact vengeance on Alice for refusing him. Hamish has extorted Alice’s company shares from her mother, Helen Kingsleigh (Lindsay Duncan), and is now threatening to take the Kingsleigh family home unless Helen and Alice sign over her father’s ship.

Alice also receives a summons back to Wonderland where the Hatter’s wits seem to have finally turned: he insists that his family, the Hightop clan, is still alive despite them having all perished in the Red Queen’s coup. To save him, Alice must confront Time Himself (Sacha Baron Cohen) and travel back into the past. In doing so, we learn more about both the Hatter’s family and the relationship between the sister queens, Mirana and Iracebeth.

Through the Looking Glass also has a feminist thread running throughout its storyline. Again and again, Alice must assert herself against the obstacles both English and Wonderland society put in her way in order to do the right thing and to live her life freely. Alice, closer to her idealistic, unconventional father, has always clashed with her more traditional mother, Helen. Without giving too much away, it’s a pleasure to see these two start to learn from and respect other.





Okay, it’s not Halloween yet, but in every way that matters autumn has come to Arnor. The geese and cranes are migrating, the leaves have turned gold and are starting to fall, the evening darkness falls sooner and lasts longer, the harvest is starting to come in, the fog settles in until the sun burns it off ….In short, a perfect time to enjoy a few Halloween-related songs.

Starting us off is the theme song, “This is Halloween”,  from Tim Burton’s claymation musical Nightmare Before Christmas. The marching beat is particularly fun.


Following that is the mashup between the opening songs of “Hamilton” and “Sweeney Todd”. Yes, prepare yourself for “Hamiltodd”.

What, er, kills me about “Hamiltodd” is how much the cast of Hamilton enjoys rapping the story of Sweeney–and cutting throats.

Re: Caffeine Buzz

A couple of days  ago, I stopped by my neighborhood coffee shack in search of a refreshing beverage, only to find the barista and the shack under attack by winged marauders. A small swarm (about 10) honeybees–and yes, they seemed to be actual bees as opposed to wasps, hornets, or yellowjackets–had driven out the barista and were making free with the syrup bottles. Emboldened by the warm fall weather and probably look to lay in a little more sugar water for winter after a cool, rainy summer, the bees had developed a taste for the sweet stuff that only Torani Italian soda syrups could satisfy.

The barista told me that she had called upon her boss to disperse the horde. In what can only be described as a Guy Move, he showed up with–wait for it–a bright pink tennis racquet which he proceeded  to wave about at the bees. The customers found it hilarious and the bees probably did, too. After watching this ineffectual display for a bit, she told her boss to clear off and settled for keeping the window screens on the coffee shack closed as much as possible.

Nothing makes you feel as junior-high-jealous as when another woman has your man, even a man who totally didn’t know that he was yours to begin with.

Let’s be upfront here: Tom Hiddleston and I were never exclusive. I was always going to see other actors; he had his harem of female Twitter fans. We were true to each other in a communal, non-binding sort of way.

Then Tom had the nerve to fall for an actual available female just because she was bright, gifted, beautiful, and funny. Tom, you fool, how could you jeopardize all we had that way?

Now TayTay and I had a deal: she was welcome to date all the other singers and actors that I didn’t know and didn’t care about. All I asked was that she leave a few–ideally the British ones–for the rest of us. I can’t fault Taylor for crushing on Tom. I mean, the guy is tall, handsome, talented, and has a great sense of humor. Together Tom and Taylor could have produced a bevy of genetically perfect children, proving that America and Britain really do have a Special Relationship.

Still, even as I fantasized about pulling Taylor’s cute blond braids, I knew in my heart their love couldn’t last. Hint: any time the press comes up with a cutesy nickname for the couple *coughHiddleswiftcough* you know that the Relationship Apocalypse is nigh. And, sure enough, today the Internet and I received word that the duo is quits.

Welcome back to our virtual arms, Tom! And farewell, Taylor–player’s got to play, play, play. And we and the Internet are just going to shake it off, shake it off.


Re: Singer From Memphis

Gary Corby Singer From Memphis

No, Gary Corby’s latest historical mystery isn’t about Elvis, but strangely enough a king–or more precisely, a pharoah–is involved. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Both Nicodemus and Diotima find themselves up to their rears in alligators–both real and metaphorical–when Nicodemus signs on as tour guide to the scholar, Herodotus. Herodotus wants to write an account of the war going on between the rebelling Egyptians and their Persian overlords which means a fact-finding trip to the Egyptian war zone. Meanwhile, Inarus, leader of the Egyptian rebels, needs a good man for a delicate task and Pericles, Nicodemus’s boss, wants to discomfort Athen’s enemy, the Persian Empire.

It’s international intrigue and adventure on the high seas as Nicodemus, Diotima, and Herodotus find themselves in search of a pharoah’s buried treasure. Can they survive pirates, sandstorms, and Persian assassins long enough to succeed?

Another well-crafted and historically intriguing book in Corby’s Athenian Mystery series.