Friday, October 30, 2009

Patrick Oberholtzer's Halloween recommendations

Good grief. This has been the "fall" week -- a surprising number of trees have gone more or less bare on campus, and dead leaves are everywhere. Add on to that the annoying mist that kept coming down for most of the early part of this week, the weird temperatures (vacillating between "comfortable" and "chilly"), and the sheer anticipation everyone seems to feel for Halloween -- tomorrow! -- and you've got a recipe for a decently atmospheric horror novel. Or, at the very least, a mildly-amusing early-'90s teen flick.

Another thing to be scared of: Surveys! We're in the process of performing an intensive assessment of how the Library is serving its patrons, and are asking people to fill out surveys, either online (look at the top of for the green text that'll include a link to our online survey) or on paper (ask the Service Desk). Because we're going deep on this one, the surveys -- both on the Internet and in print -- will change on a regular basis, so keep checking back! We've also put up signs around all of our computers reminding people to fill out a survey.

Now for the main event; thanks to Patrick Oberholtzer, we now have the last list of Halloween recommendations in hand. He's a well-read guy with diverse tastes, so be prepared for a mishmash.

First up, we have The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.

The haunting of Hill House is a major classic of horror literature. A paranormal investigator rents a huge, creepy old mansion, and invites some people to stay there in order to find scientific evidence of the supernatural. Unfortunately, he gets much, much more than he bargains for; the mansion is a member of that classic horror trope: Houses that are born bad. Everyone begins experiencing various supernatural events, but one woman encounters much more than the others, and ends up becoming possessed by the house itself. It's a very strange, very tense story.

Now, The lottery ... um, wow. It's not precisely a horror story in the traditional sense of the term, but ... well, I can't explain much more without giving away the ending; it's just that kind of story. It's about a town with a very interesting annual tradition. Let's leave it at that; just read it and you'll see what I mean.

The Complete Ghost Stories of M.R. James (via CLS from George Mason, as well as around the Web; a listing of the stories can be found at Wikipedia)
Relatively obscure, but it's a fantastic collection of both volumes of M.R. James' Ghost stories of an antiquary. Written around 1904, it's all fairly old-school horror, with the really scary stuff left to the imagination, as is the case with most of the really good examples of the genre. James wrote these stories specifically to be spoken aloud, which makes them even weirder to read. One bonus, incidentally, is that his stories are now public-domain (he died in 1936; the 70-year mark passed three years ago), and online versions can easily be found, even through the Wikipedia article linked above. James's stuff shares some characteristics with H.P. Lovecraft, one of the greatest and most well-known writers of American horror, although Lovecraft's scary stuff is much more explicit (heard of Cthulhu, the tentacle-faced monster that lies in the sunken city of R'lyeh, dreaming? Lovecraft sicked him up) and much weirder. Start with his classic, At the Mountains of Madness, and go from there. I plan to bring my own copy along when I check out the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad tomorrow.

The Shining by Stephen King
Both the book and the original movie. We don't have a copy of the book, but we definitely have the original version of the movie, which is, by the way, REALLY CREEPY. Most of the obvious scares seem kind of hokey, especially since it's been imitated and satirized since it came out in 1980, but the atmosphere is anything but dated.

Let's summarize before I go gushing about the "atmosphere." A writer with a wife, a son, and a drinking problem gets a job as the winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel, this huge, beautiful ski hotel in the mountains of Colorado. Winters are harsh and the snow is deep, meaning the hotel gets completely cut off from the outside world for six months every year. Since it's such a large, expensive building and the weather is so extreme, it requires almost constant upkeep, so a live-in caretaker for the winter months is necessary. Unfortunately, the hotel hasn't had very good luck with caretakers; the isolation tends to drive them a little nuts, sometimes with tragic results, as in the case of the last guy who brought his family and ended up massacring them all. Still, our main character cheerily dismisses all of this as "just what he needs" -- a quiet place to work.

Unfortunately, things turn out to be extremely unquiet. Turns out there are other things living at the hotel, thanks to -- and this is another thing that's been copied endlessly in the years since the book was published, including by Stephen King himself -- an Indian burial ground underneath the hotel. In general, the movie is incredibly creepy mostly because of the hotel itself; most of the shots set in the building are performed in such a way as to lend the hotel its own character, and more than one film critic has said the hotel is the main character. It's a great movie, although not for the squeamish.

Okay, folks. That's all for this week. Next week, we'll return to our regularly-scheduled programming. Enjoy your Halloween! Go nuts, but be safe.

Question of the Week
I've been in the Library a couple of times over the past week, and I noticed that Printer 1 is out of order, two computers can't print to anything, and that Printer 2 doesn't seem to work. What's going on?
Yes, it has certainly been a crazy week for our printers. First, Printer 1 will not be out of order for long; it's a simple problem that can be solved easily. Expect to see it up and running within the next few days.

As for those two computers, we've noticed that our public computers in general are experiencing unusually heavy demand, most often from people who are working on assignments and projects, some of which require a lot of printing for various reasons. This is fine, but students and faculty who just want to find a book or article quickly are having a hard time just getting to a computer at all. To that end, we've disconnected those two computers from our networked printers. The rest of our computers, including those in the Deaf Library Study Center in room 1220 and the lab in 1404, are still able to print just fine.

... Except, of course, for when the printer doesn't work. Yes, that happened this week, and yes, it was an inconvenience, for which we heartily apologize. Apparently, the software drivers installed on all of our computers for Printer 2 were updated recently, which led to some network-connectivity issues. ITS was kind enough to send one of their very capable people over to fix the problem on our end, and all computers (except for the two discussed above) should now be able to play nicely with Printer 2. Then, once the issue with Printer 1 has been addressed, things should return to something sort of resembling what passes for "normal" around here!

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