Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How I learned to stop worrying and love (well, sort of) Wikipedia

Well, I don't exactly *love* it, but it can be a terrific resource for researching a lot of areas, especially popular culture. There are some topics that other conventional reference sources simply don't cover in that much detail, such as television programs and video games, among *many* others.

Certainly, the fact that anyone can edit the articles means that people with strong viewpoints on specific topics can and do use it as a platform for their agendas (see the Women in Islam article and the Scientology article, for example).

But as I mentioned above, it's a great resource for information on popular culture, as these very well-sourced and well written articles on the Montreal Screwjob incident (an event in professional wrestling in which the World Wrestling Federation defending champion was double crossed and lost his title) and the popular animal drama Meerkat Manor clearly demonstrate.

When using Wikipedia, it's always important to look at the discussion tab to help you assess the quality of the article, even if there are no obvious problems with it.

Avoid any articles with symbols like these in them:
This one shows that the article's neutrality is being assessed.

This one is used to signify a host of problems, including lack of citations or reading like a fan site.

Carleton College's library has created a guide to using Wikipedia that is very informative.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Reader, Revolutionary Road & Kate Winslet's awesomeness

This year's big Golden Globe winner was Kate Winslet. Interestingly, both of the roles she won for, Revolutionary Road (Best Actress) and The Reader (Best Supporting Actress), were in films that were adapted from books.

The Reader. Bernhard Schlink. Pantheon Books, 1997.

"Michael Berg, 15, is on his way home from high school in post-World War II Germany when he becomes ill and is befriended by a woman who takes him home. When he recovers from hepatitis many weeks later, he dutifully takes the 40-year-old Hanna flowers in appreciation, and the two become lovers. The relationship, at first purely physical, deepens when Hanna takes an interest in the young man's education, insisting that he study hard and attend classes. Soon, meetings take on a more meaningful routine in which after lovemaking Michael reads aloud from the German classics. There are hints of Hanna's darker side: one inexplicable moment of violence over a minor misunderstanding, and the fact that the boy knows nothing of her life other than that she collects tickets on the streetcar. Content with their arrangement, Michael is only too willing to overlook Hanna's secrets. She leaves the city abruptly and mysteriously, and he does not see her again until, as a law student, he sits in on her case when she is being tried as a Nazi criminal. Only then does it become clear that Hanna is illiterate and her inability to read and her false pride have contributed to her crime and will affect her sentencing. The theme of good versus evil and the question of moral responsibility are eloquently presented in this spare coming-of-age story that's sure to inspire questions and passionate discussion. " Jackie Gropman, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA.

Revolutionary Road. Richard Yates. Knopf. Reprint, 2000.

"So much nonsense has been written on suburban life and mores that it comes as a considerable shock to read a book by someone who seems to have his own ideas on the subject and who pursues them relentlessly to the bitter end," said Library Journal's reviewer (LJ 2/1/61) of this novel of unhappy life in the burbs. It is reminiscent of the popular film American Beauty in its depiction of white-collar life as fraught with discontent. Others have picked up on this theme since, but Yates remains a solid read.

Richard Ford has written a wonderful review of the book and its impact in the New York Times Book Review (2000).

The Reader is currently available at the GBS Library and Revolutionary Road will be arriving soon.