Monday, April 14, 2014

Newly Released Folklore Books

Books Written for the Folklore Heart

From children's fairy tales, to a country’s history, to the mythology of sacred water, folklore can help connect the dots between the past, present and the  future. Here are three folklore books to help inspire, teach, and unlock your imagination:

Little Lit: Folklore and Fairy Tale Funnies

From old favorites to new discoveries, Little Lit is full of folklore and fairy tales. Innovative cartoonists and renowned children's book artists from around the world visually render the magic of fairy tales through the wonder of comics. Horrible ogre queens, annoying magic pumpkins, and strangely hungry horses and more, unlock the enchanted folklore world. Link

The Folklore of Spain in the American Southwest: Traditional Spanish Folk Literature in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado

Written in the late 1930s, Aurelio M. Espinosa, New Mexico's pioneer folklorist, explores the folklore of Spain in the American Southwest. Through ground-breaking scholarly studies and collecting, Espinosa writes about sixteenth and seventeenth century Hispanic ballads, songs, poems, folktales and more in this captivating book. Link

Water from the Sacred Well is an illustrated exploration of the folklore and mythology of sacred water found throughout the world. Through personal exploration, archeology, folklore and ancient traditions, Gary Varner takes readers to surreal lakes, hot springs, and rivers in search of the spirit helpers, demons, faeries and more, in this fascinating book. Link

Want to know about folklore?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Still Raring to Go

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sack’s glowing resume speaks for itself, not that he needs it to stand out: best-selling author, physician, professor of neurology at New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, professor at the United Kingdom’s University of Warwick and a member of the clinical faculty of Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
At the ripe age of 80, this British-American who was born with a natural propensity for science, still feels like his life is about to begin. Born 9 July 1933, his life-long study and reactions of chemical elements has been intertwined with his happiness.
Having written several well-recognized books including Awakenings which was adapted into an Academy Award-nominated film starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro.  He also authored Musicophilia, The Mind's Eye, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife For  A Hat. His other credit include medical case studies of neurological disorders.
Sack reminisces upon his life with warm fondness and still has no plans of slowing down. If anything he has speed up. For example, he released Hallucinations (2012), an explanation of the inner workings of hallucinations, what they suggest about the brain’s workings, and their influence on art and culture.
Unquestionably, he is a modern day folk hero whose journey – still vibrant – touches the lives of many whether they know it or not.

Monday, March 31, 2014

April Hoaxes

Three Top Tricks

April Fools' Day, also known All Fools' Day is an April 1 folk custom that is recognized and celebrated in a variety of countries as a day when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other.
Historically, this day has its roots in the Roman festival of Hilaria which took place at the end of March and the Medieval Feast of Fools that occurred at the end of December.
According to the Museum of Hoaxes in San Diego some are more popular than others. Here are their top 3:

#1: The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest
On 1 April 1957, the respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in. Many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC diplomatically replied, "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."

#2: Sidd Finch
The April 1985 issue of Sports Illustrated contained a story about a new rookie pitcher who planned to play for the Mets. His name was Sidd Finch, and he could reportedly throw a baseball at 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy. This was 65 mph faster than the previous record. Surprisingly, Sidd Finch had never even played the game before. Instead, he had mastered the "art of the pitch" in a Tibetan monastery under the guidance of the "great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa." Mets fans celebrated their teams' amazing luck at having found such a gifted player, and they flooded Sports Illustrated with requests for more information. In reality this legendary player only existed in the imagination of the author of the article, George Plimpton, who left a clue in the sub-heading of the article: "He's a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd's deciding about yoga —and his future in baseball." The first letter of each of these words, taken together, spelled "H-a-p-p-y A-p-r-i-l F-o-o-l-s D-a-y — A-h F-i-b".

#3: Instant Color TV
In 1962 there was only one TV channel in Sweden, and it broadcast in black and white. But on 1 April 1962, the station's technical expert, Kjell Stensson, appeared on the news to announce that, thanks to a new technology, viewers could convert their existing sets to display color reception. All they had to do was pull a nylon stocking over their TV screen. Stensson proceeded to demonstrate the process. Thousands of people were taken in. Regular color broadcasts only commenced in Sweden on April 1, 1970.
Want more laughs? 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Frontier Superhero

 Davy Crockett 

Davy Crockett was more than just a frontiersman in a coonskin cap. He was a hunter,  a congressman, a defender of the Alamo, and a good family man. While many know him as a larger-than-life folk hero, the real life story of Davy Crockett is just as legendary as the fiction.

Born on August 17, 1786 in Tennessee, he was the fifth of nine children. At just 8-years-old he learned to shoot his first rifle. Unfortunately when it came to attending school,  Crockett was not at the top of his class.  According to, after only four days of attendance, he beat up the class bully. Afraid to face either punishment or revenge, he ran away from home and spent the next three years wandering and honing his skills as a woodsman. Thus, the king of the wild frontier was born.

After the War of 1812 broke out, Crockett signed up to be a scout in the militia and served until 1815. Born a natural leader, Crockett went on to become a three-time congressman. However, his political career ended in 1835 when he failed to get re-elected. Disillusioned with politics, he joined the fight in the Texas War of Independence, where he ultimately was killed at the Battle of the Alamo.

Davy Crockett was clearly an outstanding frontiersman, and a successful politician, but these attributes alone would not have earned him lasting fame. During his political campaigns, Crockett packaged himself as a larger-than-life frontiersman, using frontier lingo and tall stories to win votes.

Thus becoming the epitome of the rough, unwashed, dangerous West of Jacksonian America. Rediscovered by Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s, motion pictures and TV have immortalized him as a frontier superhero for the twentieth-century.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Modern Day Folk Heroine

North Bay Black Chamber of Commerce Celebrates
Business Woman of the Year:
Anne DeClouette
5:30-7:30, Friday March 21 1011 2nd Street, Santa Rosa, CA

The North Bay Black Chamber of Commerce announces the recipient of this year’s Business Woman of the Year award is Anne DeClouette, Dean of Business and Professional Studies at Santa Rosa Junior College. The award will be presented at the chamber’s free Women’s History Month celebration held Friday, March 21, 5:30-7:30 pm at A Taste of Sonoma Wine Baskets located at 1011 2nd Street, Santa Rosa.

Anne DeClouette moved to Santa Rosa from the Oklahoma City area last July to become the Dean of Business and Professional Studies at Santa Rosa Junior College. As a business educator, she has worked as faculty and an administrator at all levels in higher education. Before becoming an educator, Anne worked in financial analysis at Fortune 500 companies, to name a few: General Motors, Exxon, Texas Instruments and Honeywell and has lived all over the south, central and western United States. She's been married over 20 years to her college sweetheart and they have two sons.

“It is a privilege to honor the work Ms. DeClouette has done in this community. We are also looking forward to sharing this event with the public,” said Letitia Hanke-Ryzhkov, president, North Bay Black Chamber of Commerce. NBBCC is comprised of local business owners, potential business owners, professional and business partners and alliances dedicated to promoting, supporting and enhancing all businesses, in particular black-owned businesses. This is accomplished through various network venues and forming partnerships and alliances with business entities offering business contracts and various business opportunities.

The evening is hosted by chamber member Kimberly Zander, owner of A Taste of Sonoma Wine Baskets. For more information, call 888.846.5155 or visit

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Stepping Closer to Ancient Literature

One Scroll at a Time

Ancient Greek and Latin literature is hard to come by. However in Herculaneum, Italy an entire library from the ancient Mediterranean was recently discovered. Thousands of years ago, in 79 AD, Herculaneum, on the Bay of Naples, was a vacation spot for many of Rome’s top families during the hot Italian summers. This relaxing spot was also a place where Rome’s richest engaged in cultural one-upmanship. The most loyal was politician and father-in-law of Julius Caesar, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, who even built a luxurious seaside villa.

When Piso’s villa was excavated in the 18th Century it was found to hold over 80 sculptures of the highest quality. The luxurious villa, known as the Villa of the Papyri, also contains the only library to survive from the classical world. The library contains about 2,000 scrolls, which were nearly destroyed due to the catastrophe in 79 AD. The scrolls took another hard beating in the 18th Century, when excavators and treasure hunters mistook them for lumps of charcoal and burnt logs and burned them as torches. Once they realized what they were challenges included unrolling them, keeping them in one piece, and reading them. Within the last 15 years, this luck changed when scientists from Brigham Young University in Utah examined the papyrus using infrared light. Deep in the infrared range they were able to see the contrast between paper and ink. It was finally possible to read some of the readings. In 2008, further advances revealed detail of the scrolls that even included different handwritings.

Although the scrolls have not all been unrolled, what has been discovered has mostly been Greek material. The major discovery is Philosopher Epicurus’s text On Nature. Many of the texts that have emerged so far are believed to have been written by a follower of Epicurus, the philosopher and poet Philodemus of Gadara. The extensive search has lead classic’s professor at New York University, David Sider, to believe that Piso’s villa was not only vacation home, but Philosdemus’s own working library. Piso was Philodemus’s patron.

Many of the scrolls originally recovered have yet to be read due to the tedious task of unrolling and translating. Italian authorities are also reluctant to permit further excavation, due to the new residents who live in Ercolano which was built on top of Herculaneum.

We only have guesses of what these scrolls originally were, however, with continued research professors and scientists hope to discover more great works of classical literature.

Check out fun and unique places to store your classical literature here.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

March Madness Sports Folk Lore

March Madness Lore

March Madness is a basketball championship that is held each spring in the United States. 68 college teams participate in this fast paced elimination tournament that was created in 1939 by Phog Allen, a Kansas coach. With most of the games held in March, it has become one of this country’s most prominent sporting events.

Overall, sports are competitive games that have their roots in specific communities of origin. As community folklore many of them have been modified to suit their new environment. For example bowling which can be traced back to ancient Egypt. By the 14th century it had become popular in England. In Italy the same game of rolling a ball and knocking down pins was known as bocci. 

Now, back to basketball. It was developed in 1891 by Dr. James Naismith who was charged with creating a new indoor sports activity. According to NBC.Com, the activity was designed as a physical education class at the international YMCA training school in Massachusetts. Originally the hoop was a peach basket that hung ten feet above the floor. 

In general, folklore sports are a very vibrant category of folklore; always present in most cultures it is a physical example of several key social values: sportsmanship, ability to compete and working with others as a team.

All sports also produce sports heroes, men and women who achieve through skill and applied determination a standard of excellence. These athletes represent the best of the best, so to speak. In turn these figures become folk heroes/heroines; people who are admired for their talents and leadership. Because many athletes come from adverse circumstances, they also represent what is possible for others who may also be in less than fortunate circumstances. They also serve as a rally cry for people who might not otherwise not come together as a larger community; one that can provide hometown, statewide and/or national pride.

An interesting twist in our American cultural values is the addition of wealth as success that many sports folk heroes/heroines gain during their careers. Unfortunately, sports fans can, and often do, forget about the other values that contribute to being a sports folk hero/heroine.  It will be very interesting to see how sports as an element of community folklore continues to evolve.

Here are some basketball folk heroes/heroines: