1980s

The Dark Age of Animation

Scooby-do

From the mid-1950s to the late 1980s, the world of animation in the United States experienced a severe quality drought. Television animation was cheaply and quickly produced and loaded with errors. Feature-length animation experienced severe budget cuts, and the number of animated movies being released was drastically reduced. Cartoons that many generations grew up watching were made with “limited animation”—a style that utilized as few frames as possible, which resulted in choppy, simplified character motions.

Blockbuster’s End: What Its Closing Means to Movies

Blockbuster store closing

It won’t come as much of a shock to anyone in the Fredericksburg area since our last Blockbuster was closed years ago, but Blockbuster is now closing all remaining stores. The age of video rental as a for-profit business is officially over. It would seem to affect the library very little. After all, we still provide DVDs to our customers, don’t we?  And, yes, we will continue to add new DVDs, but the decline of Blockbuster and video rental as a business does have an impact because it changes the very nature of the product Hollywood puts out.

The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History by Jason Vuic

The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History by Jason Vuic

The Yugo was a small car made in the former nation of Yugoslavia that survives in the American consciousness as the ultimate automotive failure.  Poorly engineered, ugly, and cheap, it survived much longer as a punch line for comedians than it did as a vehicle on the roads.  The story of how this particular car became the most hated vehicle in the U.S. is a comedy of errors detailed in Jason Vuic’s book, The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History.  A bewildering array of capitalist hucksters and impoverished communists desperate for revenue collaborated to create the Yugo, and what could have been a great international relations victory of the Cold War was ruined the moment consumers and auto critics actually got to drive it. Vuic examines the many failures of the Yugo venture and the people involved with a keen journalistic eye and a razor-sharp wit, making this a great read for anyone interested in automotive history or 1980s nostalgia.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

In writing, and in life, it is incredibly difficult to deviate from the paths of least resistance. The established patterns seem so easy and inviting, and it takes amazing willpower and courage to do things a different way. As a writer, Jeffrey Eugenides gracefully avoids clichés and predictability. Both of his previous books, The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, are memorable and unnerving. In his latest novel, The Marriage Plot, Eugenides is not alone in his avoidance of formulaic archetypes. The characters themselves are engaged in a meta-struggle to reject obvious and seemingly inexorable fates.

The Marriage Plot follows the intertwined lives of three central characters: Madeleine Hanna, Mitchell Grammaticus, and Leonard Bankhead. The novel opens in 1982, on the chaotic day that is supposed to send the three of them, and the rest of the graduating class, careening into adulthood. The collective mood is characterized by anticipation: professors have pulled out their dusty robes; parents have loaded new film into their cameras. But things are not as simple or inspiring for the young people who are supposed to leave the university’s protective cloister and fend for themselves in an uncertain world. 

Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

If you’re in the mood for a harrowing reality check, Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death is the antidote to your craving. Postman’s revelatory book was initially published in the 1980s, but his exploration of America’s preoccupation with entertainment is still sharp and pertinent. And it has retained its power to make us re-think the role of technology in our everyday lives.

Throughout Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman questions how the content of our culture has been radically altered by the emergence of new media. As he states, “our notions of truth and our ideas of intelligence have changed as a result of new media displacing the old.” The assertion that cultural practices and technologies constantly influence and respond to one another might seem like a value neutral observation, but as Postman delves deeper into his analysis, it becomes obvious that he views the shift from the Age of Exposition (text-based communication) to the Age of Show Business (image-based communication) as a profoundly problematic and troubling phenomenon.

Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II

By George Weigel

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"Weigel explores new information about the Pope's role in some of the recent past's most stirring events, including the fall of communism; the Vatican/Israel negotiation of 1991-92; the collapse of the Philippine, Chilean, Nicaraguan, and Paraguayan dictatorships during the 1980s; and the epic papal visit to Cuba. Weigel also includes previously unpublished papal correspondence with Leonid Brezhnev, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Deng Xiaoping, and draws on hitherto unavailable autobiographical reminiscences by the Pope."

Also available on audio (abridged).

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The Corpse Had a Familiar Face: Covering Miami, America's Hottest Beat

By Edna Buchanan

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For eighteen years, Pulitzer Prize-winner Edna Buchanan had one of the most exciting, frightening, and heartbreaking jobs a newspaperwoman could have -- working the police beat for the Miami Herald. Having covered more crimes than most cops, Buchanan garnered a reputation as a savvy, gritty writer with a unique point of view and inimitable style. Now, back in print after many years, The Corpse Had a Familiar Face is her classic collection of true stories, as witnessed and reported by Buchanan herself. From cold-blooded murder, to violence in the heat of passion, to the everyday insanity of the city streets, Edna Buchanan reveals it all in her own trademark blend of compassionate reporting, hard-nosed investigation, and wry humor that has made her a legend in the world of journalism.

 

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Five Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History

By Helene Stapinski

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"As Stapinski writes, Jersey City was a tough place to grow up, except I didn't know any better. In this unforgettable memoir, Stapinski tells the heartbreaking yet often hilarious story of growing up among swindlers, bookies, and crooks. With deadpan humor and obvious affection, she comes clean with the outrageous tales that have swirled around her relatives for decades, and recounts the epic drama and comedy of living in a household in which petty crime was a way of life. The dinner Helene's mother put on the table (often prime rib, lobster tail, and fancy cakes) was usually swiped from the cold-storage company where Helene's father worked. The soap and toothpaste in the bathroom were lifted from the local Colgate factory. The books on the family's shelves were smuggled out of a book-binding company in Aunt Mary Ann's oversize girdle (or taken by Grandpa Beansie from the Free Public Library). Uncle Henry did a booming business as the neighborhood bookie, cousins did jail time, and Great-Aunt Katie, who liked to take a shot of whiskey each morning to clear her lungs, was a ward leader in the notorious Jersey City political machine.

"No backdrop could be more appropriate for the Stapinskis than Jersey City; a place known for its ties to the Mafia, industrial blight, and corrupt local officials, and the author ingeniously weaves the checkered history of her hometown throughout the book. Navigating a childhood of toxic waste and tough love, Stapinski tells an extraordinary tale that, unlike the swag of her childhood, is her very own."

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Action Figure! The Life and Times of Doonesbury's Uncle Duke

By G.B. Trudeau

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"...the definitive history of his adventures from 1970 to 1991.The perennial bad boy of American comics has always been a man of action: libelous action, irrational action, covert action, back-street action -- even when comatose, he has a certain flair. Duke is the man of a thousand vices, with almost as many pages to his resume. For 17 years, from Samoa to China to Panama to Kuwait, wherever serious mischief was being dealt, Duke has been a major figure. Action Figure! gives the Toasted One his due -- one vast, staggering flashback that tracks his careening career from Gonzo Journalist to Governor, Ambassador, Coach, Laetrile Farmer, Fugitive, and Zombie. No risk has been too great, no prospect too strange, to sway the man with nerves of steel from his random course."

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The Long Road to Baghdad: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy from the 1970s to the Present

By Lloyd C. Gardner

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"Lloyd Gardner's sweeping and authoritative narrative places the Iraq War in the context of U.S. foreign policy since Vietnam, casting the conflict as a chapter in a much broader story-in sharp contrast to the host of recent accounts, which focus almost exclusively on the decisions (and deceptions) in the months leading up to the invasion."

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