Friday, March 18, 2011

Grimm's Fairy Tales

SUNY Ulster County Community College, as with many other colleges and universities across the country, has been trying to have a One Book/One College event each semester.  This is where a committee chooses a book which, ideally, everyone at the college reads and then meets to discuss in some meaningful way - sort of like a large book club.

Problem is, very few of the students and only a handful of faculty and staff actually appear to willingly want to read the books chosen.  Oh well.  I actually do read them since I read a lot (and a lot of different things) and I've also been a faculty presenter at each of the events.  In the past we've read Frankenstein (where I presented on the 1816 "year without a summer" after the 1815 eruption of Tambora and the time Mary Shelly wrote her novel because of the dreary weather in Switzerland that year), Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (where I presented on environmental racism - how we ship our waste electronics to India and China allowing children laborers to become exposed to toxic materials), and The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science (where I presented on how geologists know the age of the Earth).

This semester's book was Grimm's Fairy Tales - a book which I thought I knew but really didn't.

These are not fairy tales you want to read to your children.  A number of time while reading this book, I stopped myself and said "WTF?"  My Germanic ancestors were apparently a stupid and cruel people (kind of like many people today).  There's also absolutely no science in these books, not even a mention of anything Earth science related, and so when I was asked to think about presenting I at first drew a blank.

I finally figured out a topic relating my field, Earth science, to Grimm's.  I'll be talking about the relationship between dwarves and mining.  Snow White is a Grimm's story and we all know the Disneyfied version.  In Teutonic mythology, however, dwarves are not cute little guys, they're dark and dangerous folk who lust for precious metals and gems.

So, people will be presenting all week (March 21-25) from 1:00-2:00 pm in the Student Lounge at Ulster County Community CollegeHere's the schedule of talks (I'll be presenting on Tuesday).  While the college isn't advertising the event to the general public, people are always welcome to come to campus and attend these talks.

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