Board Games — a great antidote to boredom!

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August is National Anti-boredom Month. What better time to ponder the definitely un-boring world of board games, right?

First of all, I have to confess, I am a board-gamer. An avid one. My husband and I have a collection of over 400 board games (more broadly referred to as tabletop games), ranging from 10 Days in Asia to Euphoria to Starfarers of Catan to Le Havre. I have a stash of games at my desk at the library, just in case there’s time for a quick game during lunch. At home we play dice games such as Phase 10 Dice and Can’t Stop at meals (food doesn’t wreak havoc on dice the way it would on cards). I’ve attended the annual GenCon gaming convention in Indianapolis several times (the largest game con in the U.S., celebrating its 50th anniversary this month), which attracts over 60,000 gamers from all over the U.S. and beyond.

So when I encounter books and films that feature, or even mention, tabletop games of one sort or another, I definitely perk up. And there are a lot of them out there! Here are just a few.

chess

Chess is perhaps the most famous tabletop game of all time. It has been featured in many books and films, including that memorable scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when Harry, Hermione, and Ron battle for their lives in a game of Wizard Chess; Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Chessmen of Mars in which the chessmen are live people, each piece taken being a duel to the death; Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass in which the whole book takes place on a county-sized chessboard, and Alice is a pawn who must make her way across the board to become Queen; and many more. If you’d like to find more such books to read, I suggest browsing through this generous annotated listing of some of the best chess-related fiction. Then there are the chess movies, including Searching for Bobby FischerQueen to PlayThe Luzhin Defence, and Queen of Katwe, among many others. Here’s one of many lists of ten of the best chess-related films.

go

Go is another enduring classic (it’s around 4,000 years old!), often considered to be the world’s most difficult game to master, and one that frequently appears in literature. Hikaru No Go is a popular 23-volume manga (graphic novel) series centered on the game. The Master of Go by Yasunari Kawabata is an exquisite novelization of an actual Go match which took place over the course of six months in the 1930s. The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa revolves around the game. And let’s not forget A Beautiful Mind, in which Go is also featured.

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More modern board games have been featured in books and films as well. Scrabble is one example. The children’s novel The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman is heavily focused on a school Scrabble competition (and also involves some students who would really like to cheat!). In the 1992 film SneakersScrabble tiles are used to help crack a code. The children’s book Games: A Tale of Two Bullies, in which a pair of middle-school bullies are forced to play games together every day in order to learn how to get along with each other, features a plethora of games including Scrabble as well as BattleshipConnect 4, and more.

There are films that bring a game to life. A memorable entry in this group is the 1985 film Cluewhich not only features all the characters from the popular board game, but offers three different endings (if you saw it in a movie theater, you had no idea which ending you would get — I remember that well!). A more recent game-to-film effort is Battleship, not the most successful film of 2012, but an opportunity for lovers of the 2-player tabletop game to see it come to life.

bridge

Card games certainly come in for their share of attention. Who could forget the cards featured in Alice in Wonderland? Many a scene is played out over a card table in 19th century literature, such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813), in which characters flirt and court over whistloovingt-un (an early version of blackjack), and commerce (a forerunner of poker); and Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (1811), which includes cassino and piquet. In Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel Cranford (1851-53), the ladies of the village spend many hours at card tables playing cribbagepreferenceombre, or quadrille. As genteel women, card playing is one acceptable way for them to fill their days.

One of the most popular twentieth-century card games is bridge, which pops up in many novels. Two books that feature bridge particularly prominently are Agatha Christie’s Cards on the Table, in which a bridge game is the key plot element as Poirot analyzes the characters of the players through their bridge-playing styles; and Louis Sachar’s young adult novel The Cardturner, a delightful tale of a teen who is catapulted wholeheartedly into the game of bridge by his ancient (also rich and dying) uncle.

Not all games are real. There are, in fact, a plethora of imaginary games that appear in fiction. A good example is Vaccination, a complicated card game played by the Leary family in Anne Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist (you can catch it in the film version as well). In the Star Wars series, the imaginary holographic board game Dejarik is played; particularly memorable to me is the scene from the ‘first’ Star Wars movie, now called Star Wars IV: A New Hope, in which Chewbacca and R2d2 play the game. M. T. Anderson’s The Game of Sunken Places is a children’s fantasy book in which the protagonists discover a game board (The Game of Sunken Places, of course) which triggers the game to begin in real life. They encounter all sorts of hazards and strange characters as they attempt to survive and thereby win the game.

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As if that wasn’t enough, some of those imaginary games in film and literature have inspired the creation of real-world games. For example, the film Jumanji (based on the picture book by Chris van Allsburg) revolves around a mysterious board game some children find in a park. The film spurred the creation of a children’s board game recreating (as much as possible) the fictional game. And William Sleator’s book Interstellar Pig, about a group of teens who become addicted to the imaginary game of that name, spawned the creation of a real Interstellar Pig game.

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There are many games that are based on books or movies. Lord of the Rings is a challenging cooperative board game based on the Tolkien books, in which each player is one of the hobbits, and everyone works together to try to destroy the ring before Sauron overcomes the ring-bearer (there are other games with Tolkien themes, but this one is the most true to the original story). Game of Thrones is an epic strategy/war game based on George R. R. Martin’s epic novel, where each player is vying for rule over the kingdom of Westeros. Eldritch Horror (formerly Arkham Horror) is a cooperative fantasy game based on the Cthulhu novels and stories by H.P. Lovecraft. Pillars of the Earth, involving the building of a great cathedral, and World Without End, tackling survival during the 100 Years War and the Black Plague, are board games based on Ken Follett historical fiction works (Pillars of the Earth and World Without End). Two of the Mystery Rummy card game series are based on famous fiction: Jekyll & Hyde, based on Robert Lewis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and Murders in the Rue Morgue, based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story. The card game Bottle Imp is based on the Robert Lewis Stevenson short story. And the list goes on. The gaming website boardgamegeek (the place to go for information of any sort about board games) lists over 1800 games based on novels.

With so many interesting game-related books and movies, and so many great games, the biggest question is which to read, watch, or play first! Queen of Katwe is on my viewing list for this week. How about you?

 

You’re Invited…

Jack the DipperSaturday November 2nd from 1pm-5pm Jack the Dipper will be donating 10% of ice cream sales to the FRL Reading Rover Bookmobile!

Bring your neighbors, friends, and family to enjoy an ice cream treat and an afternoon of fun in support of the Reading Rover!  Free face painting and children’s activities will be part of this event.  In addition, the Reading Rover will be open for tours.

Saturday, November 2 from 1pm-5pm

at

Jack the Dipper 

170 East Sylva Shopping Center

Sylva, North Carolina 28779

(828) 586-9441

View on Google Maps

But the festivities don’t end there! Stay a little later (6-7 p.m.) to experience the 1st Annual Jack the Dipper Ice Cream Eating Contest.  Western Carolina University students will compete for male and female ice cream eating champion bragging rights.  The contest is an additional fundraiser benefiting the Reading Rover.

Storytelling with Peggy Gibby
Storytelling with Peggy Gibby

Here are the results of Rover’s travels for the 2012-2013 school year:

  • 6,331 children experiencing Rover storytime
  • 582 storytime programs presented
  • 29 child care center visited monthly by the Rover
  • 9,290 library materials checked out for use in child care centers
  • Rover costs nearly $8,100 a month to operate.

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Why is a visit from Rover important?

  • Many area children do not have access to books and story time at home
  • Early exposure to books and reading provide vital pre-reading skills necessary to prepare children to read on their own.

Rover Patrons

 

What can you do to help?

Please join us for hand-dipped ice cream at Jack the Dipper in Sylva or use the Reading Rover Pledge Form (pdf) to make your contribution.

To help us carry out the Rover mission, please read to your young child at home! Regular reading at home helps prepare you child for school, along with a whole host of additional benefits!

Read more about the Reading Rover bookmobile (a cooperative project with Smart Start and Region A Partnership for Children) on our website: http://fontanalib.org/readingRover.htm

See previous posts about the Rover:

Fundraising Dinner at Bogart’s

It’s National Bookmobile Day! Hooray for the Reading Rover!

Walter White, Tony Soprano and Batman: A Look at Antiheroes

By Chris And Christina

The Antihero.  From classic Greek drama all the way up to Walter White the antihero is a time honored literary trope.  And one that is often misunderstood.  Today we are going to help you understand who is or isn’t an antihero, and talk about some of our favorites.  Of course our favorites tend to be from more contemporary sources, but there is nothing wrong with that.

Breaking Bad’s Walter White is a recent example, as is Dexter, Tony Soprano, and Severus Snape. What separates them from other notable heroic characters is that they exhibit characteristics or behaviors that are downright evil. They’re not the white knight in shining armor; they’re more apt to knock that guy off his horse and look awesome while doing it.

A family man.
A family man.

A common misconception is that if the good guy is the hero, the bad guy is the antihero, but that isn’t true.  That is a protagonist and antagonist.  An antihero is a protagonist, but in a way that might be unconventional or hard to see.  He may do bad things but for good reasons, or he may find that his motives are changing and he is becoming more of a standard hero.  Merriam-Webster:  a protagonist or notable figure who is conspicuously lacking in heroic qualities.  One way to judge if a character is an antihero or an antagonist is simply if you find yourself rooting for the character.  If you are he is more likely to be an antihero.

No serious blog post is complete without a flow chart!  Christina made this one herself.
No serious blog post is complete without a flow chart! Christina made this one herself.

And antiheroes don’t have to be villainous seeming types.  They might be unheroic in other ways, by being cowardly, or apathetic, or unsocial.  They may be undercover and therefore are hiding their heroic side.  Just like heroes come in manner flavors, so do antiheroes.

He doesn't look at all villainous, does he?
He doesn’t look at all villainous, does he?

As this website points out , the flawed grittiness of the character makes him more relatable than the special snowflake who is perfect at everything. Someone who is more honest with himself can be seen as more admirable, which can explain the popularity of characters like Han Solo and Gregory House. This sort of character goes beyond literature, TV, and movies, as wrestling personas like Stone Cold Steve Austin and CM Punk have become so popular that they have transcended the realm of professional wrestling.

Chillin'
Chillin’

Han Solo is an interesting study.  When we first encounter him in Star Wars he is certainly an antihero, one in the “loveable rogue” category.  He is an admitted smuggler, he calmly shoots the bounty hunter that accosts him, he has no qualms about blasting Imperial Stormtroopers, and he not only demands compensation for his help, he takes it and runs.  Not much about any of that is very heroic.  But starting with his triumphant return to help Luke Skywalker save the day at the end of the first film, we see him transform over the course of the next two movies into a bona fide hero.  He keeps his snarky edge throughout and it is only when we step back and examine the whole arc of his character that we realize how much he changes.

In some cases characters become antiheroes by not wanting to be heroes.  In the comic genius Discworld books, by Sir Terry Pratchett, the wizard Rincewind several times saves the day through his completely accidental heroics.  He is an inveterate coward, and his fleeing often causes a chain of events that proves beneficial.  Then there is Lisbeth Salander from the Millenium series.  She certainly does not aspire to be a hero.  She is very antisocial and would prefer to be left alone.  But when the villains get on her wrong side she rises to the occasion.   And then she uses their money to go back into the shadows and out of the spotlight.

Being an antihero can be a choice.  In The Catcher in the Rye Holden Caulfield acts like he wants to be the rebellious bad boy, but when presented with opportunities to cross the line he decides not to, and by saying “no” he does the heroic thing.  From a wildly different source we have Squall, the main protagonist in the Final Fantasy VIII video game.  He spends most of the first part of the game trying hard not to assume the mantle of hero, falling back on his catchphrase of “…whatever”.  He shares some of Holden’s affected apathy traits.  But when the time to be a hero truly arrives, you discover he is a just a teen worried about more loss in his life, albeit a teen with a gunblade and military training, and he transcends to true hero status.

Gunblades don't actually exist.  Sorry.
Gunblades don’t actually exist. Sorry.

Fantasy literature seems particularly fertile for antiheroes.  Two of my favorites are Elric of Melnibone (by Michael Moorcock) and Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever (by Stephen R. Donaldson).  They are both archetypal antiheroes, but are not at all alike.  Elric is the last Emperor of a cruel race, a sorcerer who makes pacts with dark lords and is dependent on a demon sword.  He causes the downfall of his Empire, earns the monikers Kinslayer and Womanslayer, and ultimately destroys the world.  Despite all of that he acts heroically and performs truly heroic deeds. He is a hero in spite of everything else.  When you mesh all the good with all the bad you end up with an antihero.

Thomas Covenant, on the other hand, is just a regular man, a writer from New England, who suddenly finds himself in another world where magic is real.  The people of this world view him as a new incarnation of a great hero, and expect him to be one.  But Covenant suffers from leprosy.  Even when the Land cures him, he cannot accept this new reality, and comes to be known as the Unbeliever.  A horrific crime he commits when newly healed only adds to his anguishing disbelief, and it takes several trips to this Land before he can make the switch from accidental hero to intentional one.  Meanwhile the reader spends several books raging at the main character to actually do something.

TV Tropes has a nice write up of antiheroes, pointing out that they are all over the spectrum as far as alignment goes. Entertainment Weekly goes as far as having a “Likeability Chart” for current TV characters:

The most famous example of an antihero might be Batman. He’s also the most human, lacking any superpowers or strengths (although he does have money and therefore an endless array of weapons and gadgets).

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I’m Batman. I don’t need pithy captions.

Batman has more in common with his enemies than other superheroes, as Batman himself is obsessive and hides behind an alter-ego, which serves as a grittier persona of a man hellbent on serving justice. In fact, this greatest foe, The Joker, often preys on this similarity and tries to push Batman into killing The Joker rather than just throw him into jail or Arkham Asylum. The good in Batman prevails, but it’s a constant struggle with him, and it’s fascinating to watch in all of the manifestations of this tragic hero.

We leave you with some of our favorite quotes from our favorite antiheroes. Feel free to let us know who we left out.

“Am I a bad guy? Absolutely! I don’t wear a white hat!” – CM Punk

“I take orders from just one person: me.” – Han Solo

“Criminals, by nature, are a cowardly and superstitious lot. To instill fear into their hearts, I became a bat. A monster in the night.” – Batman

“Once again, you astonish me with your gifts Potter. Gifts mere mortals could only dream of possessing. How grand it must be, to be the chosen one.” – Severus Snape

“It’s what we do.” – Daryl Dixon

“What happened to Gary Cooper? The strong, silent type. That was an American. He wasn’t in touch with his feelings. He just did what he had to do. See, what they didn’t know was once they got Gary Cooper in touch with his feelings that they wouldn’t be able to shut him up!” – Tony Soprano

“I am the one who knocks.” – Walter White

“Yes, but you see, you can run away from that, too. That’s the beauty of the system. Dead is only for once, but running away is forever.” – Rincewind

“The world I come from doesn’t allow anyone to live except on its own terms. Those terms– those terms contradict yours.” – Thomas Covenant

“I mean how do you know what you’re going to do till you do it? The answer is, you don’t.” – Holden Caulfield

“Keep in mind that I’m crazy, won’t you?” – Lisbeth Salander

“I don’t want to carry someone else’s burden.” – Squall Leonhart

Find a list of the titles mentioned in this blog here:

https://fontana.nccardinal.org/eg/opac/results?bookbag=22804;page=0;locg=155;depth=0

(Edited 11/20/14 to fix/replace broken links and to correct typos.)

Let it snow …

Treetops glisten

By Deb

Real snowflakes are made from snow crystals joining together.  Millions of little, light, airy snowflakes drift down to make ground-covering snow banks inches to feet high.  And every snowflake is different.  The person who is credited with discovering the variations in snowflakes was Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley (1865-1931).  Snowflake Bentley was a farmer whose hobby was photographing snowflakes.  In 1885 he became the first person to photograph an individual snowflake. In his studies of his snowflakes he discovered that no two that he photographed were alike.  Many of his photographs can be seen on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.  Currently, Kenneth G. Libbrecht, a professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), is considered the world’s leading photographer of snowflakes.  His photographs, as well as snow science and activities are available on his website, snowcrystals.com.

After the snowmen are built and the paper snowflakes are cut out and decorated, it’s a good time to settle down with a good book.  Time has listed their pick of the top 100 books since 1923.  And here is the New York Times list of top fiction from the last 25 years.  BBC did a readers’ poll to find the most

Driveway 12/25/10

beloved books, which include many tried and true favorites to curl up with on a snowy day.  Personally, I’d rather have the lists come to me, so I’ve signed up for the Library’s Next Reads newletters, which give me regular lists of book picks in my favorite subjects, delivered to myhome computer.  You can sign up on the link above, or browse the page for other reading lists.

(photos by Deb Lawley)

Anagrams

By Faye

Anagrams are a words or phrases made by rearranging the letters to make a new word or phrase. The board game “Scrabble” works the same way.  If you have never played this game, the rules (and just about everything else about the game) can be for here.    It is a great way to build thinking skills and have a lot of fun. I love to make a “bingo, which involves using all seven tiles to make a word and being able to place it on the board. This entitles you  to an extra 50 points. The player with the most points wins the game.

7-letter word
photo-Faye Bumgarner

Friends and I have formed a group, about a dozen now, that are Scrabble enthusiasts and when we get together may play well into the morning hours. We usually have three games, up to four people to a game, playing.

But I digress – back to anagrams.  Have you ever taken words or phrases like “Happy Thanksgiving” or “Merry Christmas” and tried to make as many words out of the letters that you can? This past weekend the group had several children that came with a parent to the games. One parent had brought along the new Autobiography of Mark Twain Volume 1. The children were challenged to take Mark Twain’s real name, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, and see how many words they could form. They totally rocked! Together they found 327 new words. How many can you find without using the computer?

For more information and help check out these two books at the library:

The encyclopedia of games by Burns, Brian.

Everything Scrabble by Edley, Joe.

Be sure and check out the new Autobiography of Mark Twain. Volume 1  This book presents  Mark Twain’s authentic and unsuppressed voice, brimming with humor, ideas, and opinions, and speaking clearly from the grave 100 years later as he intended.