Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Some Like It Hot -- The next ARCLight Film!


Some Like It Hot is considered to be one of the greatest films ever made, and one of the funniest. Set in 1929, Joe and Jerry (played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon) are jazz musicians who witness a prohibition-era mob killing (inspired by the St. Valentine's Day Massacre). When they are discovered as witnesses to the crime and the mob sends out hitmen to "off" the duo, they dress like women and join an all-female jazz ensemble.  And hilarity ensues, especially when they both try to win the attention of Sugar Kane (played by Marilyn Monroe), the band's lead vocalist and ukulele player -- while trying to keep their identities hidden.

The film is critically acclaimed. Due to the themes, however, the film was made in 1958 outside of the "Hayes Code."  They Hayes Code was the prominent  self-censorship system that ruled Hollywood from the mid-30s to the late 60s.  The Hayes Code was strictly enforced for much of that time, and the filmmakers were afraid that the crossdressing displayed in the movie would be subject to censorship. The film was made anyway without approval.  And it became a hit.

This signaled the beginning of the end of the Hayes code. It would be replaced in 1968 by the ratings system that we have today.

This month we are proud to screen Some Like it Hot. Open to the public. 

Tuesday, December 14 at 7pm in the ARC.

Artist of the Month: Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915.  This month would have been his 106th birthday.

I have been a Sinatra fan all my life. I am not sure where that came from, though. Sure, Sinatra was played at my house as a kid. My grandparents often had big band music playing at their house, too. 

But it wasn't until college when I truly became a fan.  I even saw him in concert in 1991.

When I first started teaching, I tried to impart my love of Sinatra's music onto my students. I placed extra credit Frank Sinatra questions on every test and distributed Frank Sinatra extra credit tokens for good work.

Plus, I created the Frank Sinatra Detention Club. If a student got a detention, then they would have to listen to 30 minutes of Sinatra (and me, singing along). 

It was a slow news day in September of 1992. A reporter had contacted me a few days earlier because there was a blurb put in the school board minutes about my detention club. Little did I know that my Frank Sinatra Detention Club story was going to be front page news in Chicago Sun-Times. The following day: nationally on the front page of USA Today. Calls started coming in. The story was one the wire. I did interviews in Canada, Tokyo and other places. Jay Leno even made a joke about me on the Tonight Show. The joked bombed. 

This was my 15 minutes of fame. 

Photo by Rex Chapman, Chicago Sun-Times (1992)

I haven't given detentions in years. But the "Club" lives on in a radio program that I do for Vinyl Voyage Radio

Why Sinatra? That's a hard question to answer. There is a certain "coolness" about Sinatra. He was a product of his times, for sure.  And much of his persona would most certainly not be acceptable today. But as a singer, he was unparalleled. In fact, he approached songs first as poems. He first read them without the music, and then listened to the accompaniment. He couldn't read music, and so his approach was always centered on the emotion of the lyrics. And he had a way of bringing that out in the song itself.

As a fan, here are my TOP FIVE Sinatra tunes:

5. "The Wave"
This is just an all around groovy song that screams late 60s Bossa Nova. 

4. "McArthur Park"
This song is pretty stupid. Except when Sinatra does it. He cut out the corny "someone left the cake out in the rain" lyrics, and what is left is sublime.

3. "Summer Wind"
Best. Summer. Song. Ever. 

2. "One More for My Baby"
Sinatra was known, for much of his career, as a "saloon singer." And this is the best.

1. "Cycles"
Hands down, this is my favorite Sinatra tune. When he sings, "And Friday, I got fired" you can just feel it.

Check out our specially created Spotify Playlist.

Monday, December 6, 2021

ARCLight S01E6: Weasels, Blackouts and an Angel Named Clarence: A Conversation with John Jughead

John Jughead Pierson is, among other things, a musician, podcaster, actor and novelist. 

Plus, he is a 1985 Hersey graduate.

On this podcast, we sat down to talk with him about his novel, The Last Temptation of Clarence Odbody. This novel reimagines the classic holiday movie, It's a Wonderful Life.  What if the angel, Clarence, did not save George Bailey on that Christmas Eve many years ago?

We discuss how he came about to write such a novel and the difficulties in writing a novel based on a beloved holiday classic.

We also discuss the various other things he has done since graduating Hersey:

He formed the influential punk band, Screeching Weasel in 1986. After leaving Weasel in 2006, he formed Even in Blackouts and currently put out an album with the Mitochondriacs.

He performed with the Neo Futurists and could be seen for over a decade in Chicago's longest-running play, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.

He has played the wizard Ollivander in the wand shop at Universal Studios, Tokyo.

He learned puppetry from a group that had trained with Jim Henson.

He wrote two novels: Weasels in a Box and The Last Temptation of Clarence Odbody We have a couple of copies of The Last Temptation of Clarence Odbody in the ARC.

He hosts a podcast called Jughead's Basement, where he interviews prominent musicians.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Music Matters - Music of the Native American Music Awards

The new episode of Music Matters is available, featuring winners of Native American Music Awards. This show features a wide variety of music. From pop and rock, to hip hop and country, to gospel and traditional, the Native American Music Awards represents a cross-section of the diversity found in contemporary music of First Nation peoples.

The Native American Music Awards were founded in 1998 to highlight and celebrate the music of contemporary Native musicians, artists and bands. This playlist on Music Matters has a wide variety of music, including tracks from Jim Boyd, Redbone, Twin Flames, Joanne Shenandoah and many, many more.

Join us for this special episode, and then head on over to the NAMA website to dive further into the wonderful world Native music.

Listen below, or on our Mixcloud channel.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Harold and Maude -- TONIGHT -- 7pm

 Why come to see Harold and Maude? This trailer has three great reasons:

Harold and Maude was released in 1971. When it was released, people didn't know how to take the film. After all, it is essentially a love story between two people nearly 50 years apart in age. I remember renting it on VHS in high school in the 80s, and was really taken with its dark humor. By that time, public opinion had changed and Harold and Maude was considered a classic. 

Despite all of its darkness, there is a tremendous amount of heart in Harold and Maude. Ruth Gordon is a treasure. And the soundtrack from Cat Stevens is a classic.

The film screens as part of our ARCLight Film Series, bringing you classic films, cult films and films of cultural significance. Harold and Maude definitely fits that bill.

The screening starts at 7pm. I will briefly introduce the film, talking about its historical place and a little about director Hal Ashby. Then, stay for a discussion.

See you in the ARC!

Sunday, November 7, 2021

The ARCLight Podcast Explores Native history on the Next Episode

You ever wonder what is was like here before there was Arlington Heights, or Chicago for that matter? On the new episode of the ARCLight Podcast, Joe Podlasek, the founder and CEO of Trickster Cultural Center, talks about Native history and reminds us that Indigenous people are not just found in history, but continue to impact the region and country today. This area is home to the largest population of Native people outside of traditional Tribal lands. And the Trickster Cultural Center aims to raise awareness and place indigenous people rightfully in the present.

Listen to the episode below or in your favorite podcast app.

This short video is an introduction to the Trickster Cultural Center. Stop down and take a look at the ARC display case to see more videos from Trickster.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Harold and Maude at the ARCLight November 9

When it was released in 1971, Harold and Maude received mixed reviews and low box office attendance. People thought the film was weird. And a little too dark.

However, within a decade--with the film getting a second life on VHS tape--attitudes changed. By the 80s, Harold and Maude was an acclaimed masterpiece.  

Harold and Maude tells the story of two people, separated by over 50 years, making a connection. Harold, played by Burt Cort, is a morose young man, obsessed with death. Maude, played brilliantly by Ruth Gordon, is a nearly 80 year-old woman who meets Harold at a funeral. Her attitude and love of life is infectious, and Harold catches it and is changed. 

Today, the film is critically acclaimed. Mark Caro, critic in Chicago, recently wrote about Harold and Maude in the New York Times.  "I’m sorry, "Harold and Maude,” for denying you for so long," he writes.  "You’re my favorite movie once again." 

We will be screening Harold and Maude on Tuesday, November 9 for the ARCLight Film Series. 

Free and open to the public. Screening starts at 7pm in room 124F.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Artist of the Month: Jim Boyd


I first became acquainted with the music of  Jim Boyd when I saw the 1998 film, Smoke Signals. He contributed three songs to the soundtrack, and I was  immediately drawn to his voice, which to me seemed to have not just intensity, but an emotional fragility as well.  This is particularly true with "A Million Miles Away," which remains one of my favorite songs:

When I see you read by the candlelight
I wonder if you'll hurt your eyes
Some people like happy endings
But I've always liked a surprise
And I've got a map here in my pocket
That shows where Lucifer fell
Ya I'll fall from Heaven
If you guide me through Hell

From that point on, I purchased every available album produced by Boyd. This was not easy, because Native artists are not necessarily carried by major suppliers or played on mainstream media outlets, even though someone like Boyd had the potential to reach a much larger audience, as his music is American music, plain and simple.  Although he often sings about Native issues, his music spans rock, singer-songwriter and country.

Jim Boyd was a member of Arrow Lakes Band of  the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington. He even had been elected Chairman of the Colville Tribes before his untimely death in 2016.  

Jim Boyd was not only a solo artist, but had also performed with several bands, such as Greywolf and Winterhawk. Over the course of his career, he had won seven "Nammies" (Native American Music Awards) and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. He also appeared in several films.

This month, we are highlighting the work of Jim Boyd. Listen to the Spotify playlist I created, showcasing some of my favorite songs. 

My top 5:  

5) "Reservation Blues"
4) "My Heart Drops But I'm Proud"
3) "Ichelium"
2) "Filtered Ways"
1) "A Million Miles Away" (I particularly like the acoustic version that appears on the Smoke Signals soundtrack. The one in the Spotify playlist is a more electrified version from his album, First Come, Last Served)

It is Native American Heritage Month. In the ARC, we have a selection of books available that inform and amplify Native voices. We will also be producing a special episode of Music Matters that will highlight Native American Music Awards Winners.

And yes, you'll hear Jim Boyd there, too.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Native American Heritage Month

It is Native American History Month, and the ARC is celebrating in several ways.

First of all, check out our book selections that highlight Native American voices. These books span from non-fiction to fiction, poetry and graphic novels.

You can browse the collection through our catalog or view these books in a downloadable pdf.

This month, we are featuring the music of Jim Boyd, our artist of the month. His music can be streamed via our Spotify playlist.

On an upcoming episode of the ARCLight Podcast, we sit down with Joe Podlasek, the founder fo the Trickster Cultural Center in Schaumburg. He talks with us about the work the center does in raising awareness of Native issues. We also touch on the people who lived in the area before European settlement.

Finally, listen for the new episode of Music Matters, which will feature artists who have won Native American Music Awards, or "Nammies" as they are know. Coming soon!

Friday, October 29, 2021

Just in time for Halloween -- a Special Episode about Godzilla

On the last episode of the ARCLight Podcast, we sat down with filmmaker and Hersey grad Jordan Graves. We talked about Hersey, his career and his favorite movie franchise, Godzilla.  We couldn't fit it all in the last episode, so here we are: a special bonus episode of the ARCLight Podcast.

This episode is all about Godzilla. 

Jordan is a wealth of knowledge about the history and significance of the franchise.  Just in time for Halloween. If you are looking to stream a bunch of Godzilla films, most of them can be found on HBOMax.

Click here to go to Jordan's website.  Listen to the podcast below, on Spotify or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Here are the trailers for all of the must-see Godzilla movies on Jordan's "best" list:

Monday, October 25, 2021

Books and Music on the Next Episode of Music Matters

You ever read a book that reminds you of a song, or vice versa? This week, members of Hersey's Book Club play the songs that they think best accompanies their favorite books. 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Introducing Music Matters

The ARC is now producing music shows!  Music Matters is a show devoted to music. Every episode features students and staff from Hersey High School, spinning their favorite songs and discussing the music that they play.

Two episodes are available on Mixcloud.

E02: Hersey Homecoming Special, 2021

Join Hersey staff members who are also graduates spin the songs that remind them of their time at Hersey. Featuring Mr. Gunther, Mr. Kuehn, Dr. Doman, Ms. Blazek, Ms. Mabry, Mr. White, Mr. Walton and many more!

E01: The Top 10 Songs from 1968, the year Hersey Opened

Hersey's librarian, Bruce Janu, counts down the top 10 songs of 1968, the year Hersey opened.

Listen on Mixcloud or click below:

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

ARCLight Podcast -- S1E03 -- Jordan Graves

Jordan Graves graduated from Hersey High School in 2013. After completing a film for his Contemporary American Texts class, he decided to major in film.  Since then, he has made numerous films wearing many filmmaker hats -- editor, producer, writer, director and actor. Plus, he co-founded a production company called Talus Films.

On this episode of the ARCLight Podcast, Jordan discusses filmmaking and his career.

Listen now, anywhere you get your podcasts.

Below, you will find the film Jordan submitted for the final project for CAT class in 2013. It was submitted to the Chicagoland Student Film Festival, where it won Best Narrative Film.  It is called Ruin.

Monday, October 4, 2021

ARCLight Film Series -- GODZILLA, 1954

 The ARCLight Film Series opens on October 12 with a showing of the original 1954 film, Godzilla.

This new film series brings classic films, cult films and films of cultural significance to a wider audience. Open to the public, the ARCLight screens every month on the 2nd Tuesday at 7pm in the John Hersey Room (124F) of the Academic Resource Center. A short intro to the film will be given, with a discussion immediately following the screening for anyone wanting to stay.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Banned Books Week, 2021

Banned Books Week was started by the American Library Association in 1982 as a means to fight censorship and raise awareness of the effort to censor, challenge or ban books in public spaces such as schools and libraries. 

This year, the ALA theme for Banned Books Week is "Books Unite Us, Censorship Divides Us."

Of course, books have always caused controversy.  Book challenges, book burnings, library destructions punctuate our past.

Galileo was threatened with death for a book he wrote. 

Controversial books in the past, like The Call of the Wild and The Grapes of Wrath are now considered classics.

And some classics are now considered controversial, like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby (To be fair, The Great Gatsby was controversial when it was published, gained classic status, and is still often challenged).

Topics contained in books make some people uneasy. But does that mean that they should not be read?

Over at Common Sense Media, author Regan McMahon argues that kids should read "banned" books. The argument is simple: it fosters critical thinking and discussion.

District 214 has not been without controversy regarding books. Back in 2006, a school board member wanted to remove several books from school reading lists. At a board meeting, hundreds of students from District 214 schools rose and spoke in the defense of those books.

The books were not removed.

This week in the Academic Resource Center, we have on display several books that have been challenged and/or banned at one time or another. There are quotes and newspaper articles that shine light on the issues.

And if you want, check one of these books out and celebrate your right to read.

You may get a button!

Monday, September 13, 2021

ARCLight Podcast S01E02: A Conversation about John Hersey With Lesley M. M. Blume

Author Lesley M. M. Blume has a deep admiration for John Hersey. Her book, Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed it to the World is a fascinating behind-the-scenes account about how John Hersey wrote Hiroshima. 

"When I came across Hersey's story, " she states, "it just seemed to me the purest example of journalistic integrity and journalistic effectiveness that one could possibly find."

On August 10, just days after the 76th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, and just days before the 75th anniversary of the publishing of Hiroshima in the pages of The New Yorker Magazine, I sat down with Lesley Blume to discuss her book, John Hersey and the legacy of Hiroshima. It was a great conversation.

Listen  to the new episode of the ARCLight Podcast today featuring that conversation, and check out the display case outside the ARC. There, you will find an original newspaper from 1945, plus the rare edition of The New Yorker magazine discussed in the podcast.

Listen to the podcast on Spotify, ApplePodcasts, Google Podcasts -- or anywhere you listen to your podcasts. You can also listen below.

Check out the displays outside the ARC, which includes an original newspaper from August 7, 1945 and the rare New Yorker discussed in the podcast. We are featuring books about John Hersey and Hiroshima this month in the ARC. Check it out.

Friday, September 10, 2021

The Power of a Face

I am not good with names. After teaching for 30 years, names drift in and out. 

But faces I never forget.

This week, we are remembering 9/11 and the sacrifices that many have made over the last 20 years.

As part of this commemoration, the Hersey ARC was privileged to host the exhibit “Portrait of a Soldier.” The exhibit features the faces and names of all the service men and women from Illinois killed in action since 2001.

On Tuesday, we were in the ARC attaching the banners to the ceiling so that students and staff could view the exhibit prior to our “Meaning of Service” Assembly with Governor Quinn, Gold Star Families and First Responders on Friday.

And I saw a face. 

A face I hadn’t seen in years.

And there he was, in a beautiful hand-drawn picture. A face among hundreds.

And it hit me in the gut. 

Will Newgard was a student I had some twenty years ago. He was killed in action in Iraq on December 26, 2006. I think I knew that…but names are harder for me to visualize.

I saw a face. And it hit me in the gut.

It was Will’s smile that stood out. The artist Cameron Schilling captured the mischievous smile that was Will Newgard.

It was the kid I remembered.

Staring at me.

A face among hundreds.

And it hit me in the gut. 

And that is the power of this exhibit. Although hand drawn in graphite, these faces are real. 

They are a powerful reminder of the sacrifice made by hundreds of men and women over the last 20 years.

The exhibit began in 2004 when Cameron Schilling, then a student at Eastern Illinois University, drew a picture of his friend who had been killed in Iraq. He dedicated himself to draw the portrait of every service member from Illinois killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In 2004, Pat Quinn was Lt. Governor and discovered what Cameron was doing. Together, they created the "Portrait of a Soldier" exhibit. Today, it has the names and faces of over 300 people. 

Since its inception, the "Portrait of a Soldier" exhibit has traveled the state. It was at Hersey for several days.

Next, it is at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library.  The library is hosting several events over the next week, including a discussion with the artists behind the faces.

A special thanks to Governor Quinn, his staff, the Gold Star Families and Salute, Inc. for bringing these faces to Hersey High School.

Without them, I wouldn't have truly seen Will Newgard.

But now, I will never forget.

To see the assembly with Governor Quinn, the Gold Star Families and First Responders, click here.


Sunday, September 5, 2021

"Race Music" and the Beginning of Rock and Roll

Last month we highlighted Elvis Presley. He may have been the “King of Rock and Roll,” but in no way did he invent the music. In fact, he merely copied the music that had been invented and played in the Black community for years.
Not to diminish the importance of Elvis, though. He would eventually develop his own style. But more importantly, he introduced Rock and Roll to a whole new audience.

Billboard, January 1, 1949 Public Domain

Like Blues and Jazz before it, Rock and Roll music was developed by Black musicians in Black communities. But it was not known as Rock and Roll, however. It was, at the time, called “rhythm and blues,” or “R & B.” Which, according to Little Richard, stood for “real Black.”

To White America, however, it was called “Race Music.” Major record labels refused to record it. White-owned establishments did not put the music in their juke boxes. White performers did not record the music, either. At least, not yet.

This was a pattern that had played out in the Jazz world, too. Early Jazz, which was developed in New Orleans, was also described as “race music.” There was an attempt to segregate music in a segregated America. The first recorded Jazz recorded was made by White musicians in 1917, even though the music had been around for over a decade and developed by the likes of Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, and others.

Before Elvis, Rock and Roll music came from many artists and was born from jazz, blues, boogie-woogie and doo-wop. Adding electrified guitars, and a back-beat, this new style was developed by artists such as Ike Turner, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino and others. It wouldn’t have a name until 1954, when a Cleveland DJ called it “rock and roll.” Alan Freed worked the midnight show at Cleveland’s WJW radio station. And he did something that no one else was doing at the time: playing songs by original Black artists—not the cover versions by White artists that were being played on other radio stations.

White kids began clamoring for this music. Record labels became more open to recording Black artists. 

And then, in 1954, a young White kid walked into Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee and plopped down some cash to record a song. By 1956, he would be the most famous singer in America, if not the world.
Music has the ability to bring people together---and that has been the history of popular music in America. Music has broken down barriers. White kids danced to this music that adults called “race music.” They did it in 1917, throughout the 20s and 30s, and again with this new music in the early 50s. At concerts by Black artists, White kids and Black kids danced together, in spite of segregation norms. In the Jim Crow South, this was alarming. Attempts were made to ban the music.

But the music just grew in popularity.

It was these kids – Black and White – who grew up on early rock and roll who would, a decade later, engage in sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, and ride through the South on busses, purposefully breaking segregation laws.

The Civil Rights Movement and Rock and Roll have a connection – a connection tethered to the stands of music, played first in Black communities, transmitted through the airwaves, first in Cleveland and then New York, and then exploded in light and sound on national television.

That is Rock and Roll.

The first rock and roll record.
It is generally accepted that the first rock and roll song was released in 1951. It was called “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats. The song was written by Ike Turner. You can find it on our playlist, along with other early rock and roll songs.



For more information about the early history of Rock and Roll Music:

"Race, Hegemony, and the Birth of Rock & Roll" by  Paul Linden. Journal of the
Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association Volume 12, Number 1 (2012)

History of Rock and Roll: Episode 2 "Good Rockin' Tonight" (1995)

"Will the creator of modern music please stand up?" by Alex Petridis. The Guardian (2004)

"Elvis Rocks. But He's Not the First" by Christopher John Farley Time Magazine (July 06, 2004)

Are you wondering why "Black" and "White" are capitalized in this article?  This discussion goes all the way back to the 1920s in regard to how we discuss race in writing. The Center for the Study of Social Policy has a great explanation and I decided to follow their guidance when writing about issues concerning race. Check out the article here.


This article was written by Bruce Janu, the head librarian at Hersey High School. He was a history teacher for 30 years and taught about the history of popular music in both history and sociology classes, most notably the history of Jazz and Rock and Roll. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Post on the Summer Reading Wall -- Win Dairy Queen!

We hope everyone had a great summer! Did you read? Let us know. Come down to the ARC to fill out your Summer Reading Card and post it on the wall -- Teak Godzilla or Team Kong. Then, we will randomly choose several cards in our Dairy Queen raffle!  Come down today!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Charlie Watts, 1941 - 2021

Charlie Watts was more than just the drummer for the Rolling Stones. He was a man of many genres. The Rolling Stones, of course, were rooted in Blues music. That was what brought Mick Jagger and Keith Richards together to form the band in the first place.

Charlie Watts worked in advertising at the time and had a degree in artistic design. 

And he loved Jazz music.

Poiseon Bild & Text (press photo by a photographer of the consulting company
Poiseon AG in St. Gallen, Switzerland)), CC BY 2.0 
via Wikimedia Commons
His addition to the Rolling Stones line-up was what gave the band their unique sound. Always on the back beat, Charlie Watts' drum kit was never extensive. Unlike other rock and roll drummers, Charlie kept his equipment simple.

Yet nothing he did was simple.

Charlie Watts was, arguably, the best drummer in rock and roll.

Stones' guitarist Ron Wood said it best in 2003:  “Charlie’s the engine. And we don’t go anywhere without the engine.”

He wasn't your typical rock and roll star, though. He shunned the spotlight.  He avoided groupies and, unlike others in the business, remained faithful to his wife for 57 years.

When he wasn't recording with the Stones, Charlie Watts played what he loved: Jazz music. 

He was also notoriously eccentric. He loved his suits and clothes. He also loved cars---but didn't drive. Sometimes he would be found just sitting in some of the classic cars he collected--going nowhere, but relishing the car itself.

Charlie Watts was 80 years old when he died in London on August 24, 2021.

Over the years, I have grown more in awe of the Rolling Stones. They often call themselves the "Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World."

True or not, it was Charlie Watts, sitting in the back behind a drum kit, that made the Stones who they are.

Below is a special ARC Spotify playlist featuring Charlie Watts -- both with the Stones and on his own.  Plus, a list of articles if you would like to learn more about him.

"Charlie Watts: the calm, brilliant eye of the Rolling Stones’ rock’n’roll storm" by Alexis Petridis via The Guardian

"No One Impressed Charlie Watts, Not Even the Stones" by Rob Sheffield via Rolling Stone

"Charlie Watts: The subtle magnificence of the Rolling Stones' drummer" By Mark Savage via BBC

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

ARCLight Podcast: S1E01 "A Librarian's Confession"

The new episode of the ARCLight Podcast is now available! In this season opener, Hersey's new librarian, Bruce Janu, recounts a time when he was a student at Hersey. In 1986, he took a book from the library and ended up keeping it for 35 years.

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Check out the ARC display case. There you will find the infamous book that was missing for 35 years. Plus, you can read an article about the Jack the Ripper killings from an original September 1888 issue of The London Times.  This month, we are featuring books about Victorian London --- check them out in the ARC.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Artist of the Month: Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley, 1958
Uncredited, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Forty-four years ago, on August 16, 1977 Elvis Presley was found dead in his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee.

Elvis got his start in 1956 and became a sensation after appearing on several televisions shows, most notably The Milton Berle Show in April, The Steve Allen Show in July and The Ed Sullivan Show in October. Each time he appeared on TV, the ratings for the shows shot up. He was censored because many thought the way he danced was obscene.  He became known as "Elvis the Pelvis" and on subsequent shows, he was only filmed from the waste up. The police chief of San Diego announced that if Elvis ever performed in his city, he would have him arrested for disorderly conduct.

Elvis in 1973
RCA Records, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Over the course of his career, Elvis moved from a teenage rock star to a movie star to a unique, Vegas-style performer, complete with elaborate sequined jumpsuits and big pork-chop sideburns. He had many names, such as "The Memphis Flash," "The Tiger" and the "Hillbilly Cat." He surround himself with a group of loyalists that became known as the Memphis Mafia. Their motto was "TCB" -- "Taking Care of Business."

Most people know him as "The King of Rock and Roll." 

Consequently, many tend to think that Elvis was the first to perform rock and roll. That is not true.

Elvis was important in the history of pop culture, though. What he did was introduce rock and roll to white audiences.

Rock and roll music was first created and performed by black artists, such as Ike Turner, Big Mama Thornton (who was the original singer of "Hound Dog"), Chuck Berry, Little Richard and more. In fact, Elvis got famous singing the songs first recorded by black musicians.

But, like much of the country, music was segregated as well. Music performed by black artists was called "Race music," and it didn't filter much into white America.

Until Elvis, that is. His appearances on television in 1956 introduced white kids to rock and roll, and white kids began listening to not just Elvis Presley, but the black artists who had created rock and roll in the first place.

It is not a coincidence that this is the same time the modern Civil Rights Movement began. 

This month we are featuring the music of Elvis Presley.  Check out our Spotify playlist and you can listen to some of his early classics, such as "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock," and "All Shook Up." Plus, some of his later masterpieces such as "Suspicious Minds" and "Kentucky Rain." Plus, many movie songs as well.

Next month, we will feature those black artists who created rock and roll music. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 2, 2021

Summer Reading Book #6: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Alright. I've said this before. And I will say it again. This may be my favorite book so far this summer. (Sorry Pride)

To be honest, I haven’t read too many books like this---a book written in verse. And I loved how it looked on the page. I loved the cadence of it. It “sounded” good in my head, if that makes sense. 

The Poet X is the story of Xiomara Batista, the daughter of Dominican immigrants. She lives in Harlem in a cramped apartment with her parents and twin brother, Xavier. She finds refuge in her poetry, and keeps her thoughts and poems secret in a journal. 

Her poetry reveals a sensitivity and vulnerability that is absent from her tough exterior: 

The other girls call me conceited. Ho. Thot. Fast. 
When your body takes up more room than your voice 
you are always the target of well-aimed rumors, 
which is why I let my knuckles talk for me. 
Which is why I learned to shrug when my name was replaced 
    by insults. 
I’ve forced my skin to be as thick as I am. 

X has a hard time living up to the expectations of her mother, and always seems to be the one who is getting in trouble, whether it is over chores, school or boys. “You sure ain’t an easy one,” her mother always reminds her. She recognizes the double standards that exist in the way she is treated versus the often hands-off approach her parents take towards her brother, who she refers to simply as “Twin.” 

But poetry is her life, and when she starts 10th grade her English teacher, Ms. Galiano, not only says her name right on the first try, but also recognizes her talent for poetry. Soon Xiomara has joined the poetry club, and her world opens up. 

Of course, there is a love interest she tries to keep secret. She also learns that Twin has a secret of his own. Xiomara also is in confirmation class, but does not share her mother’s devotion to religion. Xiomara questions her religion and provides thoughtful and authentic critiques of the purpose of religion that I found extremely compelling, especially for a “YA” novel. And, as a result, a conflict with her mother soon explodes. 
But through it all, she has her poetry. And shines on stage at an open mic night. 

The resolution may come too quickly. And things may be wrapped up too cleanly, but Xiomara is a force to be reckoned with. Her voice through the verse is what makes this book so engaging. It is a quick read, and I loved being in her world and her thoughts. 
The Poet X is available in the ARC.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Summer Reading Book #5 -- "This One Summer" by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

The first graphic novel I ever read was Maus back when I was in high school. I had read comics for years, and at the time, I didn’t see much difference between a “comic book” and a “graphic novel.” In fact, many “graphic novels” are collections of comics. My favorite was The Dark Knight book collections and, in 1994, The Crow. Man, I loved The Crow.

Unlike during my time in high school, graphic novels today tend to be made as graphic novels from the start; they are not collected comic books. This One Summer is such a book.

On first glance, the artwork is simple, and done in a single color. But the simplicity at first glance is misleading: the artwork is stunningly detailed and full of emotion. I found myself staring into the  panels, absorbing the composition and its elements.

And, like all good graphic novels, the illustrations by Jillian Tamaki in This One Summer fully compliments the story written by her collaborator and cousin Mariko Tamaki.

This One Summer tells the story Rose, an only child who has been spending the summers in a cottage with her parents at Awago Beach since she was a little girl. This summer is different, however. Her parents aren’t getting along, and whatever it is that is causing problems is palpable. Plus, she is no longer a little girl. She is on the cusp of being a teenager, and is trying to figure out herself and her place in the world.

Also spending the summer at a neighboring cottage is her long-time friend, Windy. Windy is younger than Rose, and at times Rose becomes annoyed by Windy’s more child-like behavior. Nevertheless, they take trips to the only store in town to buy candy and rent retro horror movies, like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. And, for some reason, Rose becomes very interested in one of the teenage boys who works at the store and becomes obsessed with his personal problems.

The book moves very fast --- much like summer does. In fact, it has that summer feel, especially to a kid. And I assume the book would bring some nostalgia to both teenagers and adults. It did for me. However, I wasn’t so much interested in the storyline involving the teenage boy, but was drawn to the relationship that Rose has with her parents. And the realization as to what is causing their discord is gut-wrenching.

The book ends rather abruptly, and soon Rose and Windy are saying goodbye. Nothing seems resolved satisfactorily. But that is how summer ends, right?

Although this is not a book I would have picked up on my own, This One Summer was a great book -- a perfect book for remembering summers past, when summer was a magical time.

But it also perfectly captures that period in everyone’s life when trying to figure things out took more time and contemplation; a time when we begin to realize that things are never as simple as we had thought.  I felt for both Rose and Windy, remembering the tinges of growing up that often accompanied that awkward time before high school.

This One Summer is available in the ARC. Check it out.


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Summer Reading Book #4 -- Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Okay, this may be my favorite book so far this summer.

Pride is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Instead of early 19th century England, this version is set in modern-day Brooklyn; the neighborhood of Bushwick, to be exact. The protagonist is 17-year-old Zuri Benitez. She has four sisters and lives in a cramped apartment with her parents, in a building owned by Madrina, a self-proclaimed SanterĂ­a priestess from San Juan who often advises on issues of love, fortune and future from her smoky basement.

Zuri is fiercely proud of her Dominican and Haitian roots. She is proud of her neighborhood. She has her eyes on going to Howard University.

She is also a poet, and the narrative is punctuation with her poems about Bushwick, her sisters, and life in the “hood.”

She is also feisty and quick to judge, often pushing others away before knowing them. Her tough exterior, though, hides a fear of change and the unknown. This makes her very suspicious of the “bougie” family that has bought and renovated the “mini-mansion” across the street. 

Although there is something about Darius Darcy, the boy her age who now lives in that house and who goes to a private high school in Manhattan, she can’t help but to dislike him from the start. 

That, of course, will change.

This is a book about love, of course. But, like the book from which it draws inspiration, Pride is also about class and culture. As a teacher of sociology, I was drawn to the subtext. Above anything else, this is a book about gentrification. And if I were still teaching sociology, I would use it in class.

The opening paragraph sets the stage for this subtext:

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood, where it’s a little bit broken and a little bit forgotten, the first thing they wanna do is clean it up. But it’s not just the junky stuff they’ll get rid of. People can be thrown away too, like last night’s trash left out on the sidewalks or pushed to the edge of wherever all broken things go. What these rich people don’t always know is that broken and forgotten neighborhoods were first built out of love.

It took me a bit to warm up to Zuri, though, and I found her relationship with Darius to be the least interesting part of the book. The strength of the book rests in Zuri’s attachment to her community and family. The conversations she has are authentic, as are her relationships with her sisters. A discussion she has with her father near the end is particularly touching. 

And when she takes a trip to D.C. to tour Howard University on her own and timidly takes the stage at an open mic night to read her poetry in a bookstore near campus, her independence and hope for her future explodes from the page in a truly believable fashion. That may have been my favorite scene in the entire book and, from that point on, Zuri had me rooting for her all the way. 

If you are not traveling anywhere this summer, why not take a trip to Brooklyn? Pride is a quick read and is available in the ARC and on the SORA app as well.