Fun at Foster's blog
Most people with even a passing interest in science fiction will have heard of Isaac Asimov, a writer responsible for hundreds of books and who created a compellingly intricate fictional universe in which he explores complex cultural issues and delves into the mystery of what it means to be human. He accomplishes the latter primarily through his treatment of robots and artificial intelligence, using synthetic life forms as an effective foil for organic ones. An effective example of this dynamic is The Positronic Man, a 1992 novel co-written by Asimov and Robert Silverberg and based on a 1976 novella by Asimov titled The Bicentennial Man. The 1999 film Bicentennial Man, starring Robin Williams, is based on both of these works, and all three deal heavily with the theme of emergent humanity.
The Positronic Man is Andrew Martin, who begins his existence as a standard model of household robot, designed to perform various service tasks for the family to which he is assigned. However, it quickly becomes apparent to Andrew’s owners that he is something more than a robot of the sort that exists in Asimov’s universe. He displays a spark of creativity and potential for distinctly non-robotic thinking, traits which excite some of the humans around him and deeply trouble others. As the novel progresses, Andrew himself gains an understanding of his unique nature—and along with it a motivation to forge his own destiny free of the restrictions, both social and technological, which govern his fellow machines. His adoption of the name Andrew (derived from his serial number, NDR-113) ends up having been the first of many increasingly significant steps he takes along the continuum linking robot and human.
The novel presents Andrew’s situation, with all of its paradoxes and intricacies, in a precise and almost technical manner. As a result, it reads almost like an essay on the definition of humanity, with various characters arguing whether or not a machine can truly be said to be alive. Every stumbling block Andrew encounters, from attempting to gain legal recognition of his freedom to wearing clothes for the first time, addresses a small piece of the puzzle that is sentience. Many readers have felt that this leaves the novel feeling coldly clinical in its approach, lacking an emotional punch that one would think would be central to a work dealing with our shared humanity.
Enter Robin Williams, who plays Andrew in Bicentennial Man. The movie addresses the same issues as the book, but the approach is substantially different. While many of the climactic conflicts in the book take place in courtrooms, those in the movie are at weddings and in deathbed conversations. The emotional elements are pushed to the foreground, arguably at the expense of some of the more complex philosophical issues. The performances of the film’s actors, particularly Sam Neill and Oliver Platt, give a somewhat different answer to the question of what makes us human than was found in the book. Unfortunately, many moviegoers found that the film went too far in this direction; Bicentennial Man had a somewhat cool reception, and is generally regarded as having failed to meet the potential of its source material. Nonetheless, it is a heartwarming story in its own right, and worth viewing if for no other reason than to contrast it with Asimov’s version.
The Positronic Man is available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library, as is Bicentennial Man. Please note that both of the previous links will connect you to our new catalog, which has many exciting new search features that can help you find whatever materials you are looking for. If you would like assistance with navigating the new catalog, feel free to call or stop by the library, and remember that you can still access the classic catalog and use it to search the Ventura County Library’s holdings.
Carefully assembled by Ronald Martin.
Americans spend over sixty billion dollars annually on their pets. The average household spends about $500 a year on pets that range from cats, dogs, and rabbits to exotic birds and reptiles.
With all the time, money, and love we lavish on our pets, it’s important to know how to care for them. Foster Library has many books on cats, dogs, and pets in general to assist you in choosing the best pets for your family and to help you learn how to care for them after you bring them into your home.
Resident Photographer Aleta A. Rodriguez
Jhumpa Lahiri’s first novel, The Namesake, tells the story of an Indian couple who, joined in an arranged marriage, begin their lives together as new immigrants in America. Their journey begins steeped in the alienation and culture shock that the two encounter as they settle in and begin building a home and family. The novel is ultimately a multigenerational saga, devoting itself first to the young couple, then to their experiences as young parents, their relationship with their American-born children who become teenagers immersed in contemporary culture, and finally the lives of those children as they grow into adulthood themselves.
Lahiri manages to create an engaging narrative which explores the nature of identity both in terms of the ways our cultures shape us and the impact of our names themselves on who we will eventually become. She also captures the ever-present sense of separateness felt by many immigrants with respect to their new countries and children with respect to parents who seem to be from another world—because, in many ways, they are. Her second-generational protagonist, Gogol (arguably the novel’s main character—Lahiri is herself the child of immigrant parents), struggles to build an identity that distances himself from his parents’ world despite having no guarantees of acceptance from the one he is growing up in.
The Namesake, originally published in 2003, was made into a film that was released in 2006. On the one hand, it seemed like a given that Lahiri’s follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning Interpreter of Maladies would receive this treatment, although, as one reviewer pointed out, the book has a pace to it which seems too meandering for the screen (in his words, “Not enough happens. Hardly anything happens”). Additionally, the breadth and complexity of both the themes and characters make a conversion to film a risky proposition. Nonetheless, the film, starring Kal Penn as Gogol and Irrfan Khan and Tabu as his parents, was a critical and commercial success, keeping close to the events of the book and bringing many of its most poignant scenes to life faithfully and with striking, even heart-wrenching emotionality. It must be said, however, that there is a sense of brevity about the film that, particularly when compared with the novel, might leave one feeling it ought to have been several hours longer.
The book The Namesake is available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library, as is Interpreter of Maladies, a collection of short stories. The film is also available through the Ventura County Library system; if it is not at your local branch, you can use the “Request Item” option to have it sent to the branch of your choice. The book review mentioned above, originally published in The Kenyon Review, is available through Literature Resource Center, which can be accessed remotely by Ventura County library card holders through our eLibrary.
Thoughtfully prepared by Ronald Martin.
Freegal is our music database. You can download 3 free songs a week and you get to keep them! Do I need to repeat that? 3 free songs a week. And they are good songs! I use several apps to discover new music and I'm always pumped when I find something FREE on Freegal. I just wanted to share what I have been listening to lately courtesy of Ventura County Libraries.
1. Josh Ritter - I like his style. Simple, clear and to the point. I really like the song "Wait for love (You know you will)." He has such a nice voice and his lyrics, while sappy at times, are really sweet.
2. Passion Pit - "Sleepyhead" isn't my typical style, but I dig it. I listen to it while I workout and it just makes me feel like I can conquer the world. Ok, maybe that's extreme but it's a fun listen.
3. The Civil Wars - "Poison and Wine" is deep, beautiful and soothing. I just want to listen with a big glass of wine while reading a book in front of a fire. If you don't know The Civil Wars, you should. They aren't making music anymore, but what they did make is good!
Freegal does have a Droid app and an Apple app. It's so easy: download the app, find the library and type in your library card number. No passwords or log-ins! Let there be rejoicing in the streets of Ventura.
What about you? What have you found on Freegal?
The Governor of California has recently declared a state of drought emergency for the state. Locally, Lake Casitas shows sad evidence of the extended lack of rain.
The first image was taken in April of 2006. The second image was taken this past Saturday, January 19, 2014. You can see the stark difference between the two images. As residents of Ventura, we all need to do our part to conserve water while we are in this emergency. Foster Library can help with materials on water conservation as well as books about native plants.
Resident Photographer Aleta Rodriguez
Two Dudes, One Pan: Maximum Flavor from a Minimalist Kitchen, by Jon Shook, is a great cookbook for those of us that are trying to get the most out of the kitchenware we already own. I made two of the recipes from the book, a chicken dish and a pasta dish, both very tasty and uncomplicated to prepare. The great thing is they both were prepared with just one pan and required very little clean-up. The book provides information for those on a limited budget and short on time to make high-quality food that’s delicious. To be honest, I’ll probably purchase this book for myself. Great job Dudes!
Check out the book at Foster Library, or put a hold on it - we will send it to you!
If there are any cookbooks in Foster Library’s collection that you would like me to try out, please leave the title on our Facebook page and I’ll get cooking.
Jeffrey Brown has done it again. The author of Darth Vader and Son has continued his love of all things Star Wars with Jedi Academy. It’s the story of Roan Novachez, a young boy living on Tatooine, with dreams of attending Pilot Academy Middle School. Instead, he gets an invitation from none other than Yoda himself to attend Jedi Academy. Soon, Roan is millions of miles away on Coruscant, learning how to be a Jedi with other promising students.
Told through journal entries, holomail, and funny observations, Jedi Academy is an amusing and familiar tale of a boy’s first year in middle school. There are class bullies, school sweethearts, and favorite teachers. It has everything you would expect to encounter going through school—except for the Jedi part, of course. Young Roan makes new friends, attends the school dance, takes field trips to other planets, and participates in the science fair, all while learning how to use the Force.
It’s a charming tale that can be enjoyed by all, whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not.
-Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess
A new preschool storytime is starting on Wednesday mornings at 10:30!
Remember to cast your vote for this year’s Newbery & Caldecott winners. The American Library Association will announce the winners during their 2014 Winter Conference on January 27. Let’s see how our choices compare to theirs!
Top nominations so far for the Newbery Award are Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Libraryby Chris Grabenstein and The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata. For the Caldecot, Jo MacDonald Hiked in the Woods, written by Mary Quattlebaum and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant, and Inside Outside, written and illustrated by Lizi Boyd.
The Boys and Girls Club of Ventura will have their Annual Art Contest entries on display from January 8 to January 22 on the second floor of the library. Judging and a small reception will be held on Thursday, January 9, at 6:30 p.m.
Teens Teaching Tech will have two sessions this month to help patrons who might have received new electronic gadgets over the holidays. These sessions will be held on January 11 and January 18 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on the second floor of the Library.
Congratulations to our Teen Activity Group for being recognized by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors for their Teens for Teens gift drive this year! They did an awesome job collecting teen gifts for local teens in foster homes. This group is made up of middle- and high-school students and meets on the first and third Thursdays of the month at 4:00 p.m.