Friday, October 30, 2009

Great Plains Halloween

It's Halloween Eve! So we're going to do an extra link-filled post today, to make sure you're prepared for this wonderful holiday in an appropriately Great Plains fashion.

The Journal Star has local Halloween events both for families and for adult-types.

The only Nebraskan horror movie!

Finally: a few Great Plains ghost legends: Faceless Fred, ghosts of Neihardt Hall, and Omaha's Hummel Park.

Happy Haunting!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

PSR Halloween Book Club: Guide to the Ghosts of Lincoln

For this installment of PSR Book Club, we have a Halloween book! Alan Boye's A Guide to the Ghosts of Lincoln is a look at some of Lincoln, Nebraska's most thrilling ghost stories. It also happens to be the most-frequently stolen book at Lincoln City Libraries. I highly recommend checking it out (not stealing it!) so you can scare your friends with spine-tingling stories whilst impressing them with your knowledge of local history!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Haunted History of Lincoln

I am generally not a Holiday Person, but I love Halloween! I especially like ghost stories; they give you such a good sense of a community's history and culture.

Lincolnite Dale Bacon is another ghost story lover. He gives bus tours every year of Lincoln's haunted places. This year, he's come out with a ghost story DVD: A Haunted History of Lincoln: The Capitol City. Check out the Journal Star for an interview with Bacon about ghosts and his DVD. If you want a DVD of your own, email

Be sure to check back on Wednesday for some spine-tingling ghost stories from the Great Plains!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Discussion of Aaron Douglas at the Sheldon

Did you know that Aaron Douglas, the painter of the Harlem Renaissance, was from the Great Plains? He grew up in Topeka, Kansas, and went to school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. You can learn all about him at an upcoming discussion at the Sheldon on Tuesday. From the event description:
Director J. Daniel Veneciano will discuss artist Aaron Douglas, who graduated from the University of Nebraska. This program, part of UNL's Diversity Working Group talk series, will be held in Ethel S. Abbott Auditorium. It is free and the public is invited. Visitors who bring brown bag lunches may eat in the Sheldon boardroom after the talk.

When: October 27th 12:00 PM- 1:00 PM
Where: Sheldon Art Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The New Science of Fall Colors

It's looking very autumnal lately around here. All the leaves are turning color and falling. There are some especially cool trees on the UNL campus by Memorial Stadium that are bright scarlet! Pretty (and school-color appropriate)!

One thing I've noticed moving from Colorado to Nebraska is that Fall looks different here. I thought it was just the types of trees that made a difference, but Discovery has a photo gallery and article about the science of fall colors. It's a lot more complex than I thought! If you're interested in knowing why the Great Plains looks like it does in the fall, I'd check it out! (If you're not a science-type, I still recommend looking at the pictures; there are some very nice ones.)



Monday, October 19, 2009

The Emptied Prairie

If you've ever driven through the Midwest, you've probably noticed those old abandoned farmhouses and churches along the side of the highway. I always wonder why their former occupants took off and left their homes behind. Luckily, National Geographic is there with answers. They have an article and photo gallery on their website called "The Emptied Prairie" about ghost towns of North Dakota. (Some of the pictures are quite spooky and appropriate for Halloween time.)


Friday, October 16, 2009

Good Novels Don't Have to Be Hard Work

There was an interesting article by author Lev Grossman in the Wall Street Journal recently called "Good Novels Don't Have to Be Hard Work." Basically, Grossman says that compelling plots have in recent years been considered somewhat "low-brow," while high-class literature usually doesn't have suspenseful plotting. Grossman thinks plot is important, and that it's making a comeback.

An excerpt:

From a hieratic, hermetic art object the novel is blooming into something more casual and open: a literature of pleasure. The critics will have to catch up. This new breed of novel resists interpretation, but not the way the Modernists did. These books require a different set of tools, and a basic belief that plot and literary intelligence aren't mutually exclusive.

In fact the true postmodern novel is here, hiding in plain sight. We just haven't noticed it because we're looking in the wrong aisle. We were trained—by the Modernists, who else—to expect a literary revolution to be a revolution of the avant-garde: typographically altered, grammatically shattered, rhetorically obscure. Difficult, in a word. This is different. It's a revolution from below, up from the supermarket racks.

What do you think, readers? Is plot the next big thing? Do you prefer a suspenseful plot, or do you put more value on other aspects of the novel?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

PSR Book Club-- Great Plains: America's Lingering Wild

I discovered this book the last time I was at the wonderful Indigo Bridge Books in the Haymarket. (Sadly, I missed the book signing they did there a couple of weekends ago.) Great Plains: America's Lingering Wild by Michael Forsberg is a book of photography, essays, and maps chronicling the beauty of the Great Plains. I had a chance to look through it a little, and I can tell you that it's a really gorgeous book. And I'm not the only one who was impressed:

(via the Amazon page)
It takes a big book to portray such an immense, complex place, and this spacious volume, vividly introduced by poet Ted Kooser, fits the bill. Intrepid photographer Michael Forsberg presents breathtaking images of wide-open spaces and portraits of wildlife from bison to butterflies, bobcats to frogs. Historical geographer David Wishart contrasts the lives of the region's Native peoples with the deleterious impact of settlers, who plowed up the grasslands, sending countless species into decline and losing precious topsoil to wind erosion. Wildlife biologist, rancher, and writer Dan O'Brien-flinty, funny, and skeptical-dissects the mythology of the Great Plains, the `monumental hubris, greed, and lack of common sense' that led to its near destruction, and, on the upswing, today's bold restoration efforts. In all, a quintessential and crucial American story, powerfully told. -Booklist
You can learn more about the book and Michael Forsberg from this Journal Star article.

P.S. It looks like the book is on promotion right now on Amazon, if you're looking to buy your very own copy for the sale price.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Deepest Cave in the United States

There's a cool post up on about the deepest cave in the United States, located on the Great Plains in southeastern New Mexico. It's called Lechuguilla Cave and it wasn't even discovered until 1986! It is in the Carlsbad Caverns National Park, but you can't visit this particular cave. Only scientists and explorers can go in. However, you can take a tour without even getting out of your chair, because boingboing has posted this video of the cave from Planet Earth.


Friday, October 9, 2009

This American Life on Laura Ingalls Wilder

As part of the "The Book That Changed Your Life" episode, This American Life has a segment on Laura Ingalls Wilder books. The piece is by Meghan Daum, a New Yorker who moved to Nebraska partially because she fell in love with the idea of the Great Plains after reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's books.

Listen here!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Neatest Travel Website Ever!

Regular readers of the PSR blog might know that we at PSR have a deep love of roadside attractions, tourist traps, and other strange places on the Great Plains. And now we've discovered the best website ever for scouting out potential roadtrip destinations.

The Atlas Obscura describes itself as a "compendium of the world's wonders, curiosities, and esoterica." They have a huge database of interesting and strange places all over the globe. If you're looking for places close to home, you can use their interactive map to explore specific regions. The places range from the Shoe Tree of Middlegate, Nevada, to the Mystery Tomb of Trinidad and Tobago, to Madurodam, a tiny city in Holland.

Here's some of our favorite curious places on the Great Plains:
The Kansas Underground Salt Museum
Bishop's Castle

Do you know of any curious places that the Atlas Obscura missed? Let us know! We love making new discoveries about strange and interesting things on the Great Plains!

Monday, October 5, 2009

PSR Book Club: The Echo Maker

I was trawling through the New York Times book reviews, looking for something to read, when I came across their review of The Echo Maker by Richard Powers, which won the National Book Award and was a Pulitzer finalist. It's a novel that deals with neuroscience, family, and Sandhill Cranes. I couldn't believe I'd never heard of it before.

The novel follows Mark Schluter, who gets in a car accident outside of Kearney, NE. His sister Karin rushes to his side, but when Mark wakes up from his coma, he is convinced that Karin has been replaced by a look-alike sent to spy on him. Mark is diagnosed with Capgras Syndrome, and a neuroscientist is brought in to help him. Throughout, there is a strong sense of Great Plains as place. From the review:
What caused the accident, no one can say — the only witnesses are the sandhill cranes, half a million of them, who stop outside Kearney each year on their migratory journey. Ancient and silent, the birds “dance as they have since before this river started,” re-enacting their hard-wired ritual of departure and homecoming. That Powers will use these denizens of the natural world as feathered avatars of his human characters is a given; that he is able to tease out surprising resonances is part of his gift.
Check it out on Amazon
A very illuminating interview with the author about novels, cranes, and the Plains.

Friday, October 2, 2009

PSR Book Club: Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer (?!)

For this installment of PSR Book Club, we have a rather intruiging graphic novel by a writer close to home:
Van Jensen was born in Lewellen and attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (where he edited the Daily Nebraskan).

Jensen has written a book with a very strange title: Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer. In this graphic novel, Geppetto has been killed by vampires, and Pinocchio goes out looking for vengeance, using his growing wooden nose as a stake. According to reviewers, the book is "moody and gothic" with "moments of grim humor."

Watch the video trailer here.
Check out an interview with Van Jensen in the Lincoln Journal-Star.