Happy Birthday J. R. Cash

He was the man in black.

He was the father of two talented children Rosanne Cash and John Carter Cash.

His first wife Vivian wrote a book about her time with him.

He left his first wife for a daughter of the Carter Family clan.

He was a devout but troubled Christian, bothered by addictions of many kinds.

He was given the name “J.R.” because his parents could not agree on a name, only on initials.

He met June Carter in 1968 and later she would help write the hit “Ring of Fire” and become his wife.

He was played in a movie by Joaquin Phoenix with Reese Witherspoon as his wife June.

He created an image of being an outlaw and although convicted of starting a forest fire his time in jail was pastoral – performing to prisoners in places like San QuentinFolsom and Osteraker Prisons.

His early recordings continue to be repackaged and reissued as yet another Best of Johnny Cash – but those early “boom-chicka-boom” freight train recordings are still fantastic.

With his wife June he fronted an eclectic television series – the Johnny Cash show, and later the Johnny Cash Christmas special.

After a period of indifference and troubles he was rejuvenated by Rick Rubin and produced a series of incredible recordings of covers and traditional songs in the series American Recordings.

He featured as a guest on the Simpsons,  the Muppets , and Dr Quinn Medicine Women, and you can listen to his authorized biography read by his friend Kris Kristofferson.

The posthumous American VI has just been released.

Happy birthday  Johnny Cash.

Forgotten Battalion of Brothers

The TV series Band of Brothers based on Stephen Ambrose’s book of that name faithfully recreated the stories of the surviving veterans of Easy Company (in full that’s “E company of the Second Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division”). Easy Company’s exploits are now legendary.

Other books soon followed giving further points of view including a couple about the company’s leader Dick Winters (Winters in his war memoirs has some interesting things to say about the television series). ‘The Filthy Thirteen’ jumped on the ‘Band’ band-wagon in 2003 with the story of a pathfinder unit of the 506th known for their ferocity and guts whose mission preceded everyone else’s. Yet Easy Company was just one small unit of the 506th and this well deserved attention makes one wonder where are the stories of the other 17 companies of the 506th Regiment?

Now at last we have a new book about the whole Third battalion of the 506th which hasn’t got the same level of attention until now. ‘Tonight we die as men: the untold story of the Third Battalion 506th parachute Infantry Regiment from Toccoa to D-Day’ by Ian Gardner and Roger Day captures far better than most books what actually happened when this battalion was dropped far from their planned drop zones often in very small, isolated, leaderless pockets.

Without any radio contact for the first three days, the high command assumed the whole battalion had been effectively wiped out and their objectives not gained (it has been called ‘The Forgotten Battalion’ ever since). It even reveals that the paratroopers were under orders not to engage the enemy until daylight.

I like the fact that the veterans interviewed for this book mention and acknowledge the presence and support recieved from and given to other units equally scattered in the drop. Intriguingly, one of the officers in the 3/506th whose account is used here was a Bobbie Rommel. Was he in any way related to the famous German Fieldmarshal Erwin Rommel? Read this book to find out.

Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center – a database for the informed

Let’s face it, we all love a good debate.

If you want to win the debating prize at school or those arguments around the dinner table, then this is the resource that will equip you. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center is the premier database covering today’s hottest social issues, from terrorism, endangered species, stem cell research, abortion to gun control.

Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center helps develop critical-thinking by bringing together a variety of information on social issues.  An excellent resource for those wishing to do in-depth investigations about major contentious topics for school, work, research or out of intellectual curiosity:

  • More than 9,100 pro and con viewpoint  articles                                              
  • Nearly 5,000 topic overviews
  • More than 300 primary source documents
  • More than 1,800 images and links to Google Image search
  • More than 140 full-text magazines, academic journals and newspapers
  • Nearly 6,000 statistical tables, charts and graphs

This database has a user-friendly interface that can be configured to different content levels – basic, intermediate and advanced to help users choose appropriate content for their abilities.

A translation feature also allows users to translate documents into Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Italian and simplified Chinese and Korean.

Access to this easy to use database is one of the many benefits of library membership. You can access Opposing Viewpoints and  many other useful databases  from home with your library card number and PIN, or at our community libraries!

Dead Dames – Barbara Pym 1913-1980

Vicars, curates, white elephant stalls and afternoon tea…..Barbara Pym’s novels are replete with dog collars, jumble and domestic details but they are also so very much more. Anne Tyler credits Pym with capturing ‘the heartbreaking silliness of everyday life’, and like Jane Austen, Barbara Pym delivers the everyday minutiae of small lives while simultaneously revealing concealed darkness and miseries.

Barbara wrote steadily throughout her life but there were two quite distinct periods to her published writing career. Her first novels came out between 1950-1961 and her last between 1977-1986 (several were published posthumously).

“The wilderness” years between 1961-1977 were when she went unpublished, An unsuitable attachment was rejected by her publisher Jonathan Cape for being too old fashioned and tame. Salvation came in in 1977 when the Times Literary Supplement asked critics to name the most underated authors of the last 75 years,  Pym’s name popped up twice with both poet Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil citing her.

Now in vogue, publishers were eager to publish Pym. Quartet in autumn, short-listed for the Booker prize, and The sweet dove died came out in 1977 and 1978 and her previous novels were re-printed and introduced to an American readership. Tragically Barbara Pym died of cancer on January 11th 1980 leaving her legacy of several quietly but brilliantly observed novels.