Music on my mind

Music is a wonderful thing. We all like music at some level, and most of us have a favorite performer or style.  Currently at the library we have a bevy of new books focusing in on music that will make for delightful reads during this time of year when the weather keeps us inside for longer periods of time.  Let’s talk about three of them today.

The first book is “British Invasion: the crosscurrents of musical influence” by Simon Philo. Prior to the Beatles coming to America in February of 1964 there had only been two British acts to top the pop charts. Within the span of a couple of months the Beatles were accounting for more than half of all album sales in the United States. As with other musical genres that seemingly spring up overnight, once the Beatles had made it, the hunt was on for the next big thing in music. From 1964 to 1965, British acts accounted for half of all hit songs. The British Music Invasion was on. Thanks to the music of the Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, and the Hollies the musical landscape of Rock and Roll was changed forever. This book is a wonderful read for those who enjoy the music from this era and for those who want to learn more about the history of the bands and the songs put into the historical context of the day, both politically and in regards to the music of other musicians of the time.

The second book on my nightstand this past month was “Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s” by Tom Doyle. As the 70s were beginning the Beatles were ending. As one half of the successful songwriting team of Lennon and McCartney and a founding member of the Beatles, everyone was paying attention to what McCartney would do once the Beatles were over. Through many interviews with the author, the up and down times of McCartney throughout the 70s is told. We hear of McCartney’s feuds with former band mates, the history of the band Wings, and most interestingly the struggles of an artist to reinvent himself after being in one of the biggest musical groups of all time. A must read for anyone who loves the music of the Beatles, Wings, or Paul McCartney.

The third book I finished up this past month was “The Universal Tone: bringing my story to light” by Carlos Santana. Santana spent his entire childhood making music and playing in bands with his family and friends before his breakout performance at Woodstock brought him fully into the spotlight. This book is packed full of details about the artist and traces his career from his earliest beginnings playing in his father’s band, to Woodstock, and more recently the recording and release of the 8 time Grammy winning album “Supernatural”. For me the best parts are when he talks about meeting other famous guitarist and the photos of him playing with Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan. If you are a fan of Santana this is a must read.

There you have it. Lots of fun new music stuff to read about this winter. Not only do we have quite a few new biographies, but we also have a slew of new movies and audio-cassettes to help pass the time this winter. See you at the library.

Krakoom! Pow! Bang!

When I was a young boy there was nothing more that I enjoyed than going to the grocery store with my grandfather. Not because I was particularly fond of bargain shopping or squeezing melons. The reason was my grandpa would always buy me a comic or two from the comic rack if I managed to behave during the shopping trip. These trips started with the adventures of Richie Rich, Archie, and Casper the Friendly Ghost, and turned into a lifelong devotion to comics.

Of course, now that I am older and a librarian, I think a lot of people surmise that I read voraciously or only the finest in literature. I wish this was true, but to be honest I still read comics all the time. At least they call them graphic novels now. Makes me feel a bit older and a bit more mature. One thing that has definitely changed is the newfound acceptance and success crossover they have had in mainstream culture.

When I was a boy back in the 1970s, comic book heroes on television and in the movies where silly and corny. Those of us that remember the old Batman TV series or The Amazing Spiderman show can attest to that. The Incredible Hulk was Incredibly Hokey.

Flash forward thirty years and the landscape has completely changed. We now live in the age of the comic superhero. Leading the way is Marvel Comics. Even as a lifelong DC Comic devotee, I have to admit that Marvel has done a much better job with marketing and bringing the heroes from the comic page to the movie screen.

A book that speaks towards the awesomeness that has come into the library this week is “Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art.” This book collects all the brilliant covers that Marvel readers will remember throughout the years. Starting in 1938 with the Human Torch fighting evil and Captain America fighting Nazis (even before America went to war with Germany.) This wonderful book shows the covers in full size and takes us on a history of American Comics, from super teams, aliens, the troubled hero, and all points in between.

This past summer Marvel and movie fans were treated to the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy”. A couple of weeks ago the library put on the shelf the comic based on the movie that was based on the original comic. Yes, that happens nowadays. (Look for the movie to be available at the library in a few weeks.)

Another big movie to come out in the past few months from Marvel was “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” This movie centers on the character of Wolverine and his attempt to change the past to avoid the world becoming a dark, dreary place ruled by the Sentinels. This movie is already on the shelves at the library. Also available is the original comic, I mean, graphic novel of the same name. Hard to believe that the original story came out in 1980.

As if all of this awesomeness was not enough, we also have all the other Marvel movies and comics (graphic novels) that people have come to love: Marvel Avengers, X-Men, Spiderman, Thor, Captain America, and last but not least Iron Man.

So make a point of stopping into the library and enjoying the superheroes that you grew up with. No matter what age you are now.

2014 Kansas Notable Books

Each year the State Library of Kansas releases a list of Kansas Notable Books. The list is comprised of books of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry written by Kansas Authors or books that feature Kansas as a location or theme. This year’s collection of Notable Books has something for everyone, whether you enjoy poetry, cooking, mysteries, or history. The 2014 Kansas Notable Books entries are a great collection and like most past years, history books are featured prominently. Being a history buff, I am naturally attracted to those titles that talk about Kansas’s placement in the history of our country or those that focus on the history of this great state.

The main event in our state’s history thus far has centered on how our state was founded and how it entered into the union of the states. Would it be a free state or a slave state? This question has set the tone for our history.

Most of us are familiar with the border conflicts, skirmishes, and outright wars that precipitated the Civil War. In fact for those that live along the Kansas-Missouri border there still appears to be drawn an invisible line between the two states. Interestingly enough, this line not only manifests itself in sports such as the Border War when the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri play one another in sports, but this separation also exists in the academic study of the turbulent times prior to the Civil War.

One book that hopes to bring both academic sides of the border together to study this period in history is “Bleeding Kansas,Bleeding Missouri“. Full of well-researched and interesting information about the events leading up to the Civil war and the ramifications of those events after the Civil War, I find this book to be one that is well worth the read for those interested in digging a little deeper into the causes and personalities involved in the conflict. This book is maybe not where you want to start, but definitely a waypoint on gaining an understanding of those tumultuous times.

But now onto my favorite book from this year’s list. What would Kansas history and a study of Bleeding Kansas be without a book about John Brown? (Seriously. If you don’t know who John Brown is, please run to the library and find me. We need to talk.)

When I first read that there was a new John Brown book out, I was a bit hesitant. The history, and at times mythology, of the man has been exhaustively researched, written down, and memorized by everyone interested in the events leading up to the Civil War.

The Tie that Bound Us” by Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz breaks the mold for the discussion of John Brown and instead focuses in on the women that were in the background during most of his life and their lives  after his death. There was a reason John Brown could live such a wild life and stay alive long enough to make it to Harper’s Ferry on that fateful night in 1859. His wife, his children, and the dependents of his followers were responsible for not only caring for the men, but for also hiding and making sure that they could move around the country undetected. Telling elaborate backstories to elude suspicion and never knowing when or indeed if, they would ever see their husbands or fathers again. Much more than other books, we get a sense of John Brown the man. Harsh disciplinarian one moment, gentle and compassionate husband the next. Apart from the cause of abolition, his role as father and husband he took seriously and through the stories of the women in his life we take a fresh look at this important figure in Kansas History.

Stop by the library, either in person or online, to checkout some of the books that make up the 2014 Kansas Notable Books. They can be found on our website by going to:

For a more complete list of this year’s and previous year’s notable books visit the Notable Books page of the State Library of Kansas at:

Mayday over Wichita: the worst military aviation disaster in Kansas History

It always amuses me when people refer to Kansas as a “fly-over” state. Truth be told, you wouldn’t be able to fly-over this great state if it wasn’t for our state’s place in the aviation history of our country. Home to aviation pioneers such as Amelia Earhart from Atchison, KS as well as scores of aviation companies, most notably Boeing, Beechcraft, Cessna, the list goes on. Kansas has also served as a training ground for countless pilots for many generations, names lost to time, but forever in our hearts. Kansas also maintains a multitude of museums devoted to our unique placement in aviation history.  My two favorite museums happen to be the Air Combat Museum in Topeka, Kansas and Liberal’s very own Mid-America Air Museum. One feels the history as you walk around historic aircraft that helped to defend, protect, and shape our nation.

Sadly, to go with these triumphs in aviation, Kansas has had more than its fair share of tragedy. Most everyone knows of our loss of Amelia Earhart as she attempted a solo flight around the world in 1937, the 1931 plane crash in a Kansas wheat field that claimed the life of famed Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne, and in 1970 the crash that claimed the lives of players, coaches, and staff of the Wichita State University football team.

I have been familiar with this rich history for quite some time, but recently happened upon a book in the Liberal Memorial Library entitled “Mayday over Wichita: the worst military aviation disaster in Kansas history” by D.W. Carter, written in 2013 and published by the History Press. This story portrays the tragic crash of an Air Force KC-135 re-fueling tanker in Wichita, Kansas on January 16, 1965. Four minutes after take-off from McConnell Air Force Base the plane had gone off-course and was flying so low that many people could see the jet fuel spilling out of the back of the aircraft. Moments later it nose-dived into a heavily populated area, full of approximately 30,000 gallons of jet fuel.

The crash took place in a predominantly African-American neighborhood and killed all crewman onboard and approximately 30 people on the ground. Most of those who died on the ground were children. The tragedy struck quickly with no time for warnings, no time for crew members to escape, for those on the ground to run, there was nothing that could be done. For the crew, they were in a plane that had no ejection seats or personal parachutes. The thinking was that if something went wrong, there was literally no hope of surviving a crash. For those on the ground, moments were frozen in time as they attempted to start the car for the morning errands, make breakfast, or get out of the shower. For the witnesses, tragedy and horrific images they will never forget. Many first responders physically ill from the sight of the wreckage. Many in shock from the scene and the intensity from which it started and the quickness with which it ended.

Within 25 minutes emergency crews had control of the fire and begun the process of insuring the safety of all in the area. Wichita being an aviation town it was well-prepared to deal with the tragedy. In fact, just a week before they had a disaster meeting to discuss this very scenario. The book does a detailed job of walking the reader through all the possible scenarios that most probably led to the crash. The book also helps to dispel some rumors about the event that sprung up quickly in its aftermath.

I don’t want to give too much of this interesting story away, but needless to say the tragedy affected the community of Wichita for years to come. Slowly over the course of time, details have been forgotten and for the most part lost to the march of time. This is a fairly short book clocking in at about 158 pages. But those pages are rich with the history of Kansas and the story of aviation in Kansas.

The brave men, women, and families who were lost, or who remained after the event will forever live on in our hearts.

Next time you are in the library, check the shelves to see if this book is in. When you finish it, stop by my office and let’s chat about it.