Downs-Jones Library

An Academic Library on the campus of Huston-Tillotson University.

Leave a comment

The Guns of August

Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1963, Barbara W. Tuchman’s The Guns of August is a compelling work of popular fiction that provides a highly detailed account of the first few months of World War I. Tuchman begins with an examination of the major world leaders in the months leading up to the outbreak of conflict in Belgium and Serbia. These leaders, most commonly of the kingly variety, are characterized as thoroughly 19th century figures adorned with regal accoutrements and ceremonial sabres that are about to clash in a uniquely 20th century form of warfare. Within this violent collision of the old world and the new, Tuchman highlights the strategies, plans, events and personalities that shape and define not only the outcomes of the war, but whose impact was felt throughout the remainder of the century.

It is not without irony that the war that set the stage for the Second World War would eventually become eclipsed by its younger brother in much of society’s consciousness.   Despite lacking some of the Hollywood flashiness of World War II, the Great War was an epic drama of both human achievement and suffering that deserves more attention than it is commonly given.   While The Guns of August is not the best general introduction to the topic nor is it the most up-to-date scholarship on the period, it does provide a deeply human examination of a world on the precipice of one of the greatest horrors and tragedies it has ever known.

Call Number: D530 .T8

Leave a comment

Finding Things (Again) in the Library

I was crazy about cats as a kid (I still am), and someone once gave me a book of animal stories, thus combining two of my great loves. It contained several stories by veterinarian and author James Herriot. I remember “Only One Woof”, about a dog that never barked – except once, at the sight of a brother he hadn’t seen in years, and “The Christmas Kitten”, in which a stray cat who occasionally sneaks into an inn to sit by the fire brings in, one winter night, a gift to the innkeeper… Sometime later, I reread both stories, and many others, in All Creatures Great and Small, the first volume of Herriot’s memoirs about being a country veterinarian in pre- and post-World War II Yorkshire, England.

And then I moved on and read other things, discovered science fiction and fantasy, and more or less forgot about nonfiction.

Recently I rediscovered All Creatures Great and Small in the stacks of the Downs-Jones Library, and resolved to reread it and the two sequels also on the shelf, All Things Bright and Beautiful and All Things Wise and Wonderful. The titles are taken from a popular English hymn.

There is a reason these books have hung on and remained popular and well known for so long: Herriot is an engaging and cunning writer who shows us lifelike and memorable characters both human and animal. He is in turn funny, depicting the antics and foibles of the people he works with, his partners and coworkers and their clients, as well as the personalities of the animals they bring him or call him out to see, and heartbreaking, for Herriot shows the failures as well as the successes with sensitivity and vivid regret. He also conveys an inspiring and breathtaking love for the land he works in despite cold and discomfort, and the animals he works to heal even when filthy, tired, injured, and ridiculed. His love for his work shines through his writing: Herriot can make hours of middle-of-the-night hands-on midwifing of a cow seem rewarding. He mixes stories of working with large farm animals with tales that will be familiar to anyone who has a cat or dog or knows anyone who treats their pets like family.

It is in the details that the stories show their age, but I can’t help reading that as showing how far we’ve come. At the time, veterinary medicine was a poorly understood and largely experimental science, surrounded by mythologies and rural legends; even over the course of the stories, Herriot praises developments and advances in animal medicine, and I do wonder what he’d think of the technologies and medicines in use today. I suspect he’d be thrilled. A common theme throughout the books is miscommunication and lack of information as Herriot and his coworkers range across Yorkshire. Today, everyone has a cell phone in their pocket; it is well worth being reminded that very few people have enjoyed the privilege of constant contact. And his continuing battle with a string of automobiles in various states of disrepair makes me, for one, very grateful for modern safety standards.

Herriot’s memoirs were turned into a British television series, also called All Creatures Great and Small, and the books are still in print today. Because each book is a collection of short stories that more or less stand alone (although many characters recur and develop over time), they’re easy to read even when you think you’re too busy to read, great for reading on the bus or before bed. Herriot’s books are justly considered classics, and I do recommend reading them.

All Creatures Great and Small can be found in the Downs-Jones Library at SF 613 H44 A28 1973x; All Things Bright and Beautiful at SF 613 H44 A283 1975x; and All Things Wise and Wonderful at SF 613 H44 A285.

Leave a comment


“This film reveals the shocking story of Jayson Blair, the most infamous serial plagiarist of our time, and how he unleashed the massive scandal that rocked The New York Times and the entire world of journalism. As an important chapter in the history of journalism, the Jayson Blair scandal is also a complex story about power, ethics, representation, race, and accountability in the mainstream media.”—INDEPENDENT LENS (PBS)



Leave a comment

Blacks and Whites – Together Through Hell

World War II is a compelling time in world history for a number of different reasons. An often overlooked area of interest is the participation of African Americans in the conflict. The Downs-Jones Library has several books on the subject that highlight the pivotal role that African Americans played in the war.

One such book of note is Blacks and Whites – Together through Hell (U. S. Marines in World War II) by Perry E. Fischer and Brooks E. Gray. First published in 1994, the book offers a firsthand account of the experiences of African American marines serving in World War II. The text includes many original photographs and covers both experiences of white and black soldiers in both basic training and battle. The book outlines many of the hardships experienced by soldiers of all ethnicities during the conflict, but it also provides further examples of the additional challenges, difficulties, and discrimination that African American soldiers faced throughout the period.

If you are interested in African American involvement in World War II, please stop by the library and a librarian can direct you to the relevant section of our collection. You can also check out our LibGuide on the subject here. The LibGuide offers an overview of the topic and will give you an excellent starting point for further research.


‘Alice’ in Latin

Have you ever done something pointless just for the joy of doing something utterly pointless? I know I have. I recall an incident from high school where, because we were studying Beowulf, my English teacher offered extra credit to anyone who wrote 25 lines or more of poetry in the meter and style of the epic Old English poem. I wrote, I think, about 250 lines (or about ten pages) of poem, laughed a bit, turned it in, and forgot about it.

Four years later I was very amused to hear from my younger brother that the same extra credit opportunity was now defined as no more than 25 lines of poetry, because, the teacher had remarked to him, your sister…

Of course, by then I’d lost the poem. (I never did manage to find it again, which I sort of regret.)

A similar spirit must have possessed Professor Emeritus Clive Harcourt Carruthers of McGill University, who in 1966 decided to translate “Alice Through the Looking Glass” into Latin, turning the beloved book into “Aliciae Per Speculum Transitus” by “Ludovici Carroll”, for no reason other than for “challenge and entertainment”.

He apparently also translated “Alice in Wonderland” into “Alicia in Terra Mirabili”, but the Downs-Jones Library does not have a copy. Since Latin is considered a dead language, with no native speakers and limited use (official documents and proclamations of the Catholic Church are still written in Latin), the book must be considered a curiosity – appropriately enough for a curious book.

The copy in the Downs-Jones Library – at PR 4611 .T5162 1966 – retains the original illustrations by Sir John Tenniel, although some of them have been slightly altered. For example, where the images of Tweedledum and Tweedledee (page 39) should have “Dum” and “Dee” on their lapels (the only difference between them), their collars now read “Pip” and “Sib” to reflect the translation of their names into “Pipilo et Sibilo”. For the reader’s convenience – if such a thing exists in a book rewritten in a dead or exclusively ecclesiastical language – a small glossary of Latin translations for unique or modern terms is included towards the back of the book.

If you were wondering, “Jabberwocky” is either “Taetriferox” or “Gabrobocchia”, as Carruthers translated the entire poem not once but twice (on pages 13 & 15, or 132-3).

And yes, the poems, despite their silliness, still rhyme and scan, although I don’t remember nearly enough of my high school Latin to attest to their accuracy.

Why did Carruthers write it? Because.

Why do we have a copy? Because! And because the fact that it exists – even if no one ever sits down and reads it as a novel – is hilarious.

Curiouser and curiouser, Alice would say!

Leave a comment

Embedding Videos in PowerPoint

At some point, you as a student will be asked to make and then present a PowerPoint presentation. You have probably already made a PowerPoint at least once. The program has been part of the Microsoft Office suite for a while, and despite becoming a cliché and facing challenges from rivals like Keynote and Prezi, it’s still around and it’s still a favorite among the people assigning presentations.

So your slides are ready to show, and you know your material.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have a short video included in your PowerPoint, without having to stop the presentation, minimize the program, cue up YouTube, play the video, and then reload the slides and try to get back to where you were without clicking through everything previous? Wouldn’t it be great if you could embed a video?

Lots of other people agree. That’s why you can embed a YouTube video clip in a PowerPoint presentation. Here’s how to do so in MS PowerPoint 2010, which is installed on the computers in the library. These instructions are for the PC computers, but the Mac computers should be similar – they also have the Office programs installed.

Find your video on YouTube.

Underneath the video frame, there are three options – Add to, Share, and More. Click on Share. Three more options are Share, Embed, and Email. Click on Embed. Highlight and copy the long string of code in the text box.

Here’s what the embed code from a video posted by Be HT, “#BlackLivesMatter Part 1: Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas”, looks like:

Your embed code should look like that. Hang on to it.

Load your PowerPoint presentation and make a new slide for the video. (You can move this slide around in your slide deck – the order your slides are in – later.) Up at the top of the screen, there are several options – File, in orange; Home; Insert; Design; Transitions; Animations; Slide Show; Review; and View. Click on Insert.

Far to the right on this new menu, there’s a box labeled “Media”. It contains a speaker, “Audio”, and a tape reel, “Video”. Click on the little arrow under Video. A new menu will give you three options. The one in the middle is “Video from Web Site”. Choose that one.

You get a new dialogue box that says “To insert a link to a video you’ve uploaded…” (It doesn’t matter if you weren’t the one to upload this video you found on YouTube earlier. This will still work.)

The area of the box you can type in says <Paste embed code here> in grey. Click on this area of the box. Then hit “Control-V” (Command-V, on a Mac) or switch the task bar at the top of the screen back to “Home”, where there’s a button to “Paste” – the big one, with the clipboard.

Click on Insert.

You will get a smallish, black box. Don’t Panic! This is correct. You can only view your embedded video when the slide show is running. (Now you can also resize the black box, if you want the video to be bigger.)

At this point, you have successfully embedded a video in PowerPoint.

To test the video, load the presentation. The task bar – that begins with File, and ends with View, but which might have some more options now – has a tab for Slide Show. Select “Slide Show”, and choose where to start your presentation: “From Beginning” or “From Current Slide”.

Or, hit F5.

When you get to the slide with the video, hit the Play button in the middle of the video frame. Your video is now part of your presentation and will play on demand!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.