by Danielle Prostrollo
A new book to the library collection is The Strip by Stefan Al. Showcasing the history of the iconic American destination, breaking it down into eras, and delving deep into each casino and hotel’s story. There are photographs that show off each casino, increasingly taller, shinier, and extreme and Al’s writing put each of these casinos into the bigger context of Las Vegas history.
According to the Al, Las Vegas’ relationship with tourism began with a Wild West phase, resorts styled to look and feel like a frontier town before moving on to the post-War modernist. Innovations were made, such as placing a pool by the casino for leisurely lounging, only to be followed by leisurely gaming in the pool (as was the case at the Sands casino’s floating craps table). This transition was punctuated by the “Big Switch”, the multi-million dollar renovation of the Last Frontier resort into the New Frontier resort. The cowboy image was now in the rear view mirror and the space race was on.
Following this era of change the country, in a frenzy of atomic fever, leapt at the opportunity to partake in mushroom cloud-gazing. Las Vegas was in the right place for the public to make their pilgrimage for a chance to see atomic testing and the city did not waste that opportunity. Providing atomic cocktails and lunch menus, the resorts catered to their clientele. In the 1960s The Strip really started to gain height, with new casinos being built taller and taller. If there was any doubt that the frontier image of the dessert city was dead, this would certainly be it.
Building on the growth of the previous decades, the 1980s saw expansion into hyper-thematic resorts. Treasure Island, Excalibur, and the Luxor were all constructed during this “theme park”-like era. And from the extremes of giant castles and pirate ships, the strip pushed back toward the center focusing on equally enticing flights-of-fancy such as fake beaches, Venetian canals, and world landmarks. Taking the reader into present day, Al talks of the “star-chitect” trend. Recent casinos and resorts have relied on the name recognition of famous architects to bring notoriety and traffic to their destinations.
This book is a great read for anyone interested in American architecture, entertainment, or modern American history.
Find it at the Memorial Library or reserve it here
Check out some of our other recent book reviews here:
Unforgotten New York
Hope in the Dark
Filed under American Culture, American History, American Travel, Books
Tagged as America, American Culture, Architecture, book, book review, Casino, Casinos, entertainment, Las Vegas, The Strip
By Charlie Pritchard
A Small Hello From Middlebury
The concept of liberal arts education has only recently become something of a trend amongst British higher education institutions, having taken inspiration from American models, with currently 23 universities offering BA degrees in the subject. The liberal arts in the US however differs in encompassing an institutional ethos rather than focused specialised study. Many are eager to pounce upon this academic regimen with accusations of indulgent elitism over utilitarian value, and to a historical extent, such criticisms are well founded. After all, the Latin root liberalis was inextricable from the concept of nobility, and thus by implication, the liberal arts were subjects worthy only of patricians. Yet despite its isolation, hidden away between the sublime Green Mountains and the Adirondacks in Vermont, Middlebury College has an admirable worldly conscience. Its location instills a concentrated and committed work ethic amongst its student body, which while showing its rewards in university rankings, can take its toll. The curriculum workload is demanding, and yet in spite of its difficulties, its gift takes hold of your intellectual curiosity. Professors set questions provoking fascinating ethic-centred debate among the class with great encouragement with a real pleasure in seeing their students develop. Middlebury gives students time to decide their direction in life – there are many second year students who haven’t yet decided what they are majoring in. The freedom with which students can choose courses from across sciences, humanities and arts is something to be cherished – to my knowledge there is no institution in Britain which compares to such eclecticism.
Towns in Vermont are dominated by their churches. Some towns around Middlebury are worth visiting for their churches alone. The city of Burlington, about 50 miles from the Canadian border, is the closest thing you will get to a metropolis in Vermont. Lazing by the waterfront of Lake Champlain, the centre possesses a modesty combined with smart charm with more coffee shops you can shake a stick at and some great second-hand bookshops full of rare findings.
There are two drinks that keep New Englanders going – coffee and cider. They are serious about their coffee consumption, and with their coffee so cheap, it’s amazing they don’t explode. I remember sitting in a diner in Middlebury town and ordering a coffee for two dollars, and after ten minutes a waitress came round offering free refills. I’d never seen such generosity with coffee. I could almost hear my heart in my ears by the time I came out. Their cider, however, is something that British people might get confused about. New Englanders make a distinction between sweet cider and hard cider, the former being non-alcoholic and the latter being the ‘real stuff’ as it were. I admit my disappointment when college organised events would serve cider and finding that they were in fact only serving sweet cider (I’m missing alcohol, as you can probably tell).
But winter is here now, and I’m currently rejoicing in the hefty snowfall. Here’s some snaps.
Mead Chapel at Middlebury
Old Chapel at Middlebury
By Danielle Prostrollo
Recently, we held a Thanksgiving event at the library which included a taste of some classic flavors from the holiday dessert table. Now that Thanksgiving feasts are finished and everyone begins to prepare for the Christmas holidays, I wanted to point out some of the great recipes that were used for our event that can be easily made for any autumnal and winter get-together!
Classic Pumpkin pie from Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) is a stalwart at the dessert table. Paired with a bit of fresh whipped cream, it can’t be beat.
Similar to pumpkin pie, but a bit more mild tasting, BHG’s sweet potato pie is a similar custard-like pie for those who may prefer a more subdued flavor.
Tending more toward a winter-y flavor, a gingerbread loaf cake makes for lovely nibbles with a cup of coffee or tea. I made this loaf, minus the lemon drizzle, and people loved the spicy counter balance to the other sweeter offerings.
Another popular pie in America is a classic pecan pie. This isn’t a tidy bake, by any means. So, to recreate a similar flavor palette for easy eating, I served candied pecans made with a buttery sugar glaze.
I hope these classic American recipes help to get everyone into the holiday season, and use the inspiration to have their own wintery social hour with family and friends in this lead up to the Christmas holidays.
Happy (belated) Thanksgiving and Christmas season!
Filed under american food, Memorial Library, Public Events
Tagged as America, dessert, food, holidays, Pie, pumpkin, sweet potato, Thanksgiving, us holidays
By Danielle Prostrollo
To commemorate the Norwich Science Festival next week, I wanted to very quickly highlight one of America’s lesser-known scientific institutions in my own home state of South Dakota, the Sanford Lab Homestake.
The Homestake Mine By Detroit Publishing Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The South Dakota gold rush may be less famous than the one in California but its effects continue today. The Homestake Mine was, for many years, the largest continuously running gold mine in America. In total, the mine supplied over 50 million ounces of gold and silver. After its closure in 2001, negotiations to allow a permanent research space began and resulted in the Sanford Lab. The lab is home to a number of experiments from several disciplines but some of the most fascinating (in my opinion) focus on neutrino and dark matter research. These experiments are only possible because of the mine’s incredible depth and size.
The Homestake deposit was discovered in 1876 and bought up for $70,000 (roughly equal to $1.5M in today’s money) the following year by a small group of entrepreneurs (that included George Hearst – newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst’s father). They clearly knew the investment would pay off, but did they know the mine would become an important site for scientific advancement?
The following diagram illustrates the initial plans for the Homestake Mine and shows the incredible usefulness of the mine toward scientific discovery in many disciplines.
By Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation (NSF.gov news) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
To learn more about some of the science being studied at the Sanford Lab, South Dakota, or gold mining in America be sure to check out the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library, some suggestions to start out with:
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson
The Dakotas: A Guide to Unique Places, by Lisa Meyers McClintick
Gold Dust & Gun Smoke: tales of gold rush outlaws, gunfighters, lawmen and vigilantes, by John Boessenecker