Tuesday, July 1, 2014

New Faculty Publications

The Neumann Library has acquired several books that can be seen in the library’s faculty author display. Assistant professor of sociology Stephen Cherry has written or co-edited two of them. The first is Faith, Family, and Filipino-American Community Life. Dr. Cherry spent six years exploring interviewing and surveying first-generation Filipino-Americans in Houston. He explored the roles between religion, specifically Roman Catholicism, family, and community play in the lives of new immigrants. In addition to exploring the effects of various forces on immigrants, Faith, Family, and Filipino-American Community Life examines how first-generation Filipino-Americans could reshape American Catholicism and are already affecting American public life.

Cherry’s second book is Global Religious Movements Across Borders: Sacred Service, which he co-edited with sociology professor Helen Rose Ebaugh of the University of Houston. This work discusses various topics regarding religion and society, among them proselytizing, migrations, diasporas, and social services. Global Religious Movements looks at a number of faiths worldwide and explores the crossroads of faith, society, and politics.
Associate professor of mathematics Jingjing Ma has published Lecture Notes on Algebraic Structure of Lattice-Ordered Rings. This work is designed for graduate and advanced undergraduate students who have never completed a general algebra course and for students who have some background in abstract algebra and are interested in lattice-ordered rings. It is primarily self-contained and contains 200 exercises to help students understand the concepts discussed in the book.

National Football League wide receiver DeSean Jackson and associate professor of political science William T. Hoston have co-written No Bullies in the Huddle, a children’s book about bullying. It deals with Cameron Mitchell, who moves from Philadelphia to Los Angeles with his family. Cameron is a football fan, and his favorite player is Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson. (Jackson now plays for the Washington Redskins.)  An older student who is jealous of Cameron’s athletic ability threatens to take his position on the football field. A friend of Cameron’s encourages him to confide in an adult.

Check ‘em out of the Neumann Library.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

LGBT National Pride Month 2014

President Obama has declared June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, saying his administration “stands alongside all those who fight for LGBT rights.” See the text of the LGBT Pride Month proclamation.

Come to the Neumann Library display area next to the Reference Consultation Desk to see a display of information and library materials related to LGBT National Pride Month. Learn about Frank Kameny, the 1969 Stonewall riots, and more. A selection of related books for checkout is available in a kiosk near the display, as well as a QR code to scan for a list of journal articles.


Friday, May 30, 2014

Multicultural Films at the Neumann: Twenty-First in an Ongoing Series

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From the earliest days of film, the United Kingdom has had a strong film industry. Directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Sir David Lean, and Sir Carol Reed have created classic films, while thespians such as Sir Alec Guinness, Robert Donat, and Sir Ben Kingsley have brought many a director’s vision to life. Many British films have been based on episodes from British history. Lawrence of Arabia is an example of this. The film is a loose retelling of the adventures of T.E. Lawrence, aka Lawrence of Arabia, during World War I. Lawrence was a British Army liaison officer to the Great Arab Revolt against the Turks, which Prince Feisal led. He participated in raids against the Turks and schemed to prevent the European domination of the Middle East that occurred after World War I. The film was Peter O’Toole’s breakout role and saw him get an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role. All told, Lawrence of Arabia received 10 nominations and seven statuettes, including those for Best Picture and Best Director. In 1999, the film finished third in a British Film Institute survey of the 100 greatest British films.

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Gandhi was based on the Indian independence movement, which Mohandas Gandhi. The film chronicles Gandhi’s career from his 1893 ejection from a train in South Africa for sitting in a first-class compartment as an Indian with a first-class ticket to his assassination in 1948. Among other events Included are the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919, in which British soldiers cornered and gunned down hundreds of nonviolent protesters; and the 1930 Salt March, in which Indians marched to the sea to produce salt to avoid the British salt tax and to protest the British salt monopoly; the granting of independence to India and Pakistan on August 15, 1947; and the violence that erupted afterward. The film made Sir Ben Kingsley world famous, and he won an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Gandhi. In addition, Gandhi won numerous international awards, including Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, the David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Film, and BAFTA Awards for Best Actor, Best Direction, and Best Film.
During the last quarter of the 18th century, Great Britain debated the abolition of slavery and the slave trade. In 1807, Parliament passed the Abolition Act, which abolished the slave trade. Amazing Grace is the story of William Wilberforce’s abolitionist work. Wilberforce was a philanthropist and a member of Parliament who crusaded against slavery and the slave trade. Wilberforce made allies such as John Newton, a former slave ship captain who experienced a moral awakening and became a priest; British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger; and Olaudah Equiano, a former slave who became an author. The film won a Christopher Award, an award given to salute media “that affirm the highest values of the human spirit,” to quote the The Christophers, the Christian inspirational group that gives the award.  

The King’s Speech is based on King George VI’s struggle with his speech impediment and his attempt to establish his leadership after the abdication of his older brother, King Edward VIII. George, who is played by Colin Firth, seeks the assistance of Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush) in conquering a stammer that undermines his confidence. Logue struggles to help George master his impediment by attempting to discovering its psychological origins. In addition, he gives the king breath control and muscle relaxation exercises. The film received 12 Oscar nominations, winning for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Colin Firth), and Best Writing, Original Screenplay, as well as 87 other international awards.
In 1997, Princess Diana’s death created a crisis in Great Britain. The royal family, which had been insular, had to respond to demands that the family open itself to a modern public’s scrutiny. The Queen shows how the family and the British public debated whether Diana’s funeral would be a private matter or whether the public would get the farewell that it sought. Queen Elizabeth II, played by Dame Helen Mirren, won an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, while the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing, Best Writing, Original Screenplay, Best Achievement in Costume Design, and  Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score.  

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Some British films that deal with historical people and places deal with Ireland. My Left Foot deals with Christy Brown, the Irishman afflicted by cerebral palsy who overcame the disease by learning to use his one remaining extremity—his left foot—to become an artist and writer. Daniel Day-Lewis won the first of his three Oscars for his portrayal of Christy Brown, and Brenda Fricker took home a statuette for Best Supporting Actress. The film also received BAFTA Awards for Best Actor and Best Actor in a Supporting Role and a David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Producer.

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Many British films are adaptations of British novels and plays. Even with Shakespeare excluded, British literature is a rich source of material for films. One such adaptation is Howards End. The film, which was based or E.M. Forster’s eponymous novel, is about romance and culture clash. Margaret Schlegel, an intelligent, cultured, independent woman from an affluent, educated family, is drawn to Leonard Bast, a socially ambitious lower class man. Margaret must reconcile her feelings for Bast with her independence and her place in society. The film received eight Academy Award nominations and won for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Art Direction-Set Direction, and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published. In addition, Howards End  won the Cannes Film Festival’s 45th Anniversary Prize and the National Board of Review Awards for Best Film, Best Actress, and Best Director.

Pride and Prejudice is the latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel. The film, which stars Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy, is a romance about Bennett, who, on first impression, believes that she could never marry Darcy. As the two become better acquainted with each other, however, Bennett becomes attracted to her nemesis. The film, which had an outstanding cast that consisted of Dame Judi Dench, Knightly, Rosamund Pike, and Donald Sutherland, scored four Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Knightley) and  Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score (Dario Marianelli).

Sense and Sensibility is another adaptation of a Jane Austen novel that has been adapted to film more than once. The film is about Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, two sisters whose chances of marriage are hurt because their brother inherits most of their father’s estate when the father dies. Elinor is attracted to the wealthy Edward Ferrars, but his family ends the relationship. An attempt is made to match Elinor to the affluent Colonel Brandon, while Marianne is drawn to John Willoughby. The course of true love does not run smooth in the film, which received an Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published as well as National Board of Review Awards for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actress.
Many television adaptations of British’s literary works exist, particularly by the British Broadcast Corporation. Among these adaptations are Charles Dickens’s The Pickwick Papers, The Old Curiosity Shop, David Copperfield, and Little Dorrit; George Bernard Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple, Pygmalion, and Heartbreak House; Anthony Trollope’s The Barchester Chronicles; George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss; and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Check these and other British films out of the Neumann Library.

Friday, April 25, 2014

In Memoriam: Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927-2014)


Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1982,was one of the literary giants of the 20th century. He was a master of magical realism, a form of literature that combines the fantastic and the real, in tapping into Latin American history. Perhaps the most famous example of Marquez’s work is One Hundred Years of Solitude. The novel chronicles five generations of the Buendia family, the patriarch of which founded the town of Macondo on a South American river. The novel, which many view as Marquez’s masterpiece, made its author famous. Perhaps as many as 50 million copies have been  sold in dozen of languages. A 1999 poll conducted by the French newspaper Le Monde ranked One Hundred Years of Solitude among the best 100 novels of the 20th century.
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Autumn of the Patriarch was Marquez’s second novel. It deals with the twilight of the career of a Caribbean dictator, with its corruption and moral compromise. Marquez admitted to being influenced by Juan Vicente Gomez, the Venezuelan dictator, although at various times the novelist was exposed to Venezuelan strongman Marcos Perez Jimenez and Spanish tyrant Francisco Franco, among other dictators. The novel’s most important theme is the danger of autocracy. Autumn of the Patriarch disappointed some observers, who expected a repeat of One Hundred Years of Solitude. However, most of the work’s reviews were positive, and the novel won the PEN Translation Award.

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Chronicle of a Death Foretold is the story of Santiago Nasar. Nasar has deflowered Angela Vicario, and Pedro and Pablo Vicario, her twin brothers, have repeatedly announced that they will kill him. Nasar, however, does not learn of his would-be murderers’ plans. The novel was the subject of a motion picture and a Tony Award-nominated musical.  
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Love in the Time of Cholera is a romance. It is about a love triangle between Fermina Daza and the two men who love her, Florentino Ariza and Juvenal Urbino. In her youth, Fermina and Florentino love each other. However, her father forbids her to see him. He arranges a marriage to Urbino, a doctor. Florentino vows to remain a virgin, but he consoles himself with sexual encounters with other women while ensuring that Fermina does not find out.  Director Mike Newell helmed a screen adaptation of the novel that received a Golden Globe nomination. The film starred Javier Bardem and Benjamin Bratt, and Marquez is said to have yelled “Bravo!” at a screening.
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Marquez’s most controversial work might be The General in the Labyrinth. This novel focuses on Simon Bolivar, the liberator of five Latin American countries. As he prepares to go into exile in Europe, Bolivar is a shadow of his former self. He has deteriorated physically, and he is a reviled figure. As Bolivar travels down the Magdalene River, he revisits the memories of his youth. Because of Bolivar’s status in Latin America, The General in the Labyrinth was controversial there, although the novel did become a bestseller in the United States.
Other works of Marquez’s that can be found in the Neumann Library are Collected Stories, No One Writes to the Colonel, Living to Tell the Tale, and In Evil Hour. Check ‘em out of the Neumann Library.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Multicultural Films at the Neumann: Twentieth in an Ongoing Series

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Sweden’s filmmaking blossomed after World War II. The man whose name is synonymous with Swedish filmmaking, Ingmar Bergman, led the way. Nineteen fifty-seven was a golden year for the director, with Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal bursting into the world’s theaters. The former stars Alf Sjostrom, a director of the previous generation, and Bibi Andersson and concerns Sara, a nurse (Andersson) who cares for Isak Borg (Sjostrom), a widowed, retired doctor and professor. Borg comes to understand the emptiness of his life, while Sara’s personality fuses with Borg’s. The film won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, the Best European Film Award at the Bodil Awards, and the National Board of Review Award for the Best Foreign Film.

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The Seventh Seal  is one of the landmarks of world cinema. The film is a story about death, the meaning of life, and God. Antonius Block, played by 27-year-old Max von Sydow, is a world weary knight who has returned from the Crusades with his squire Jons. Death encounters Block, and the two agree that Block can live as long as he continues the game. The film, which has been parodied in films as different as Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, The Last Action Hero, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Love and Death, won a Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, the Spanish Cinema Writers Circle Awards for Best Foreign Film and Best Director, and the Sant Jordi Awards for Best Film and Best Foreign Director.
The Virgin Spring is another film that is based on the Middle Ages. It is set in 14th-century Sweden and deals with a couple whose daughter, a virgin, is raped and murdered by goat herders. The culprits ask for food and lodging from the parents, who exact revenge. This universal tale of revenge, religion, and justice won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, a Special Mention Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and Kinema Junpo Awards for the Best Foreign Language Film and the Best Foreign Language Director.
Many of Bergman’s films deal with with the tensions and rivalries within families. Cries and Whispers exemplifies this. This 1972 film is set in late 19th-century Sweden and centers around Agnes, one of three sisters. She is dying of cancer and her sisters Maria and Karin arrive at her mansion to be with her. Anna, Agnes’s maid, cares for Agnes and has a rapport with her. The relationship between Agnes on the one hand, and Maria and Karin on the other is distant. As Agnes’s end nears, resentment, jealousy, and anger between the three sisters boils over. The film received five Academy Award nominations and won for Best Cinematography. In addition, Cries and Whispers was named the Best Foreign Language Film from the National Board of Review and Best Film by the New York Film Critics Circle.

Fanny and Alexander, Bergman’s penultimate film, is another example of a family being less than a refuge to some or all of its members. Fanny and Alexander Ekdahl have pleasant, comfortable lives with their parents Oskar and Emilie, who are the director and the leading lady of the local theater. Oskar’s death changes everything. Emilie marries the local bishop and moves them into his chancery. The children’s lives become grim and forbidding, and the film is about the resolution of this situation. On its release, Fanny and Alexander was critically acclaimed and received four Academy Award nominations, winning four for Best Foreign Language Film, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Costume Design, among other international awards.
Alf Sjoberg was a Swedish director from the generation before Bergman’s. An example of his work is Miss Julie. This film is an adaptation of a play by August Strindberg. When her engagement falls through, Julie falls in love with  Jean, a servant. Because a romance between the two will never be accepted in their society, they plan to flee to Switzerland. The film, which, like the play, deals with issues of sex and class, won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Check ‘em out of the Neumann Library.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Multicultural Films at the Neumann: Nineteenth in an Ongoing Series

Although Spain has made films since cinema’s birth, the Spanish film industry did not begin to become a major player in the film world until the end of the Fascist dictatorship in 1975. At that point, the generation of Spaniards who matured under the dictatorship made films on subjects that had been taboo. Pedro Almodovar led the way. Transvestites, homosexuals, and prostitutes people his films, and convoluted plots abound. Among the Almodovar films that the Neumann Library has are Matador, Law of Desire, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, The Flower of My Secret, Live Flesh, All About My Mother, Talk to Her, Bad Education, and Volver.

In 1968, Ramon Sampedro, a Spanish fisherman and writer, became a quadriplegic in a diving accident. He spent the next 30 years fighting for his right to die, taking his case through Spain’s courts and the European Commission on Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. His story is that of The Sea Inside. The film chronicles his battle to die, and it also spotlights his relationship with two women, whom he inspires. The Sea Inside won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and 61 other international awards, including  the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, the David di Donatello Award for Best European Film, the Goya for Best Film, and the National Board of Review Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In addition, Javier Bardem, who played Sampedro, received nine Best Actor Awards for his performance, including the European Film Award for Best Actor, the Goya for Best Leading Actor, and the Venice Film Festival’s Volpi Cup.

El Bola (The Pellet) is a film about family. Pablo, or El Bola, is a 12-year-old boy whose father is abusive. Pablo becomes emotionally distant until he meets another boy who has a caring father. The film won Goyas for Best Film, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, and Best New Artist.

The Grandfather deals with illegitimacy as well as love and honor. Count Albrit is an aristocrat who, on learning of his son’s death, returns to Spain after living for years in the United States. He meets his two granddaughters, but he learns that his son did not father one of them. The count must determine which of the girls will be his heir. The Grandfather received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as four Cinema Writers Circle Awards (Spain) and a Goya for Best Leading Actor.

The world of prostitution is explored by Princesas. The film centers around Zule and Caye, two Madrid streetwalkers. They meet when Zule underbids Caye for a customer, but the pair’s friendship begins when Caye finds Zule beaten in her apartment. Each prostitute is a lifeline for the other, and the two dream of a better life. The film won Goyas for Best Film, Best New Actress, and Best Original Song, as well as Spanish Actors Union awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Actor in a Minor Role.   

The Spanish Civil War and the dictatorship that followed are Spain’s national trauma. Filmmakers and other artists have chronicled this era. One film that does so is Butterfly. It deals with Mancho, a boy in a small town. He is shy when he starts school, but his teacher, Don Gregorio, takes him under his wing and befriends his family. Civil war erupts, however, and the friendship between Don Gregorio and Mancho’s family is tested. Butterfly won a Goya for Best Adapted Screenplay as well as the National Board of Review Award as one of the top foreign films for the year 2000 and the Cleveland International Film Festival’s Best Film Award.
Pan’s Labyrinth approaches the Spanish Civil War from the point of view of fantasy. It is the story of Ofelia, a young girl with a vivid imagination. She and her pregnant mother Carmen Vidal go to live with Captain Vidal, the father of Carmen’s unborn child. Captain Vidal is a sadistic man who hunts down the rebels who fight the fascists. One night, Ofelia meets a fairy who takes her to a fawn in a labyrinth. The fawn tells Ofelia that she is a princess from an underground kingdom and that her father awaits her. To see him again, however, Ofelia must perform three dangerous tasks. Pan’s Labyrinth was an international sensation that received three Academy Awards (Best Cinematography, Best Achievement in Art Direction, and Best Achievement in Makeup), as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, three BAFTA Awards, eight Ariels, and six Goyas.

Check ‘em out of the Neumann Library.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Texas Voters Guide available in Neumann Library

The Voters Guide, published by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Texas, is now available in the Neumann Library. All candidates for statewide office are covered in this issue, along with registration deadlines for the March 4 election.  In addition, the guide has information about Texas photo ID requirements and exceptions, and details of provisional voting, authorized by the Federal Help America Vote Act of 2002.