Fun at Foster's blog
A car backfiring, a loud yell, maybe a deliberate act of sabotage, or possibly Clara Oswald from Doctor Who have caused massive failures in creating this dish: soufflé. Yes, soufflé, long regarded as the one of the trickiest concoctions to prepare in the foodie world. The “Dish” decided to confront this recipe head on.
I perused the stacks at E.P. Foster Library and came up with the ultimate recipe for macaroni soufflé. I chose the recipe from Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese, by Stephanie Stiavetti. Win, lose, or flopping soufflé, the “Dish” would present the results to his hungry readers.
In preparation, I meditated for about five minutes; this cleared all flopping-soufflé thoughts from my mind, and I then headed speedily for the kitchen. Most of the ingredients I had on hand, but the cheeses required for this recipe were quite dear. Fortunately, I had ramekins from my madly successful molten chocolate babycakes, so the cost of this preparation would not put me in the poorhouse.
|The soufflé-making commenced. Things were going wonderfully. I peeked at the soufflé through the glass window in the oven door; a gorgeous, puffy soufflé was in formation. Suddenly, my neighbor pulled into his driveway with his radio blaring one of my favorite songs—“Low Rider”—with no shortage of window-rattling bass. I mean, I love that song, but just not now, with my delicate soufflé forming. So, with “Low Rider” blasting, the windows shaking, and me sweating bullets worried about my precious soufflé, the door slams. I’m not sure who slammed the door, but I felt the third strike coming. I crept up to the oven door, slowly opened it and what appeared before my eye was the most beautiful macaroni soufflé I have ever seen in my life. No third strike; success in spite of all the obstacles!|
As a side note, we have the CD album Anthology 1970-1994, by War with the song “Low Rider,” and we have the album Evolutionary by War, which also includes “Low Rider,” available through Hoopla Digital. Take a little trip and see…
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.
When Font to Film looked at Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, we saw that a successful film can be produced even when the source material is less than a full-length novel. This month we follow that concept even further by examining William Steig’s Shrek! (1990), a slim picture book that served as the inspiration for the 2001 DreamWorks film that spawned a decade’s worth of sequels, with the last one, Shrek Forever After, being released in 2010. Despite the widespread success of the Shrek franchise—which includes spin-off movies, video games, and even comic books adaptations—many viewers remain unaware of its humble origins.
|Readers might be more familiar with some of Steig’s other works, such as the Caldecott Medal-winning Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (1970) or Doctor De Soto (1982), which won him a 1983 National Book Award. Shrek! is a relatively simple tale, following an ogre’s journey from his swamp home as he leaves his parents to experience the world. He encounters a witch who delivers a prophecy, telling Shrek that he will meet a stupendously ugly princess who will be his bride. As he heads off to meet this destiny he encounters a peasant, a dragon, a talking donkey, and an armored knight, each of whom either helps or hinders him somewhat on his way. In the end, Shrek and the princess find each other and live “horribly ever after.” The main hook for the story seems to be the value reversal—embraced by the narrator and Shrek himself—whereby traditionally negative terms (such as “ugly” and “horrible”) instead hold a positive connotation. Thus, while Shrek's behaviors and physical characteristics are terrifying to those around him, he finds those same traits comforting and even attractive in others. Though overshadowed by Steig’s other works, Shrek! was named the best children’s book of the year by Publishers Weekly and the School Library Journal.|
|The 2001 film version of Shrek, directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, also played with the idea of relative beauty and societal norms, albeit in a more nuanced way. And while it imports some characters similar to those in the book—including the talking donkey and the dragon—it is otherwise radically different. For starters, all of the characters are greatly fleshed out, with Mike Myers providing the voice of Shrek and Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow in supporting roles. The movie is heavy on referential humor, poking fun not just at fairy tale clichés but filmmaking tropes in general. The story still begins with Shrek forced to leave his swamp, but includes an entirely new main plot built around the beautiful Princess Fiona and her arranged marriage to main antagonist Lord Farquaad. Themes of persecution, isolation, and inner and outer beauty are artfully addressed all while maintaining the movie’s overall comedic tone. Shrek was a huge financial and critical success, winning the first ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and proving to be an incredible feather in DreamWorks’ hat.|
William Steig’s Shrek! is available to borrow as part of E.P. Foster Library’s children’s picture book collection on the second floor of the library. Adamson and Jenson’s film version can also be found on the second floor, in the children’s DVD area. If you are interested in the book, the movie, or any of the various sequels, stop by the library or place a request either over the phone or through our online catalog. If Foster doesn’t have the title you want, you can always request that it be brought in from another branch!
On Saturday, October 18, CAPS TV will be presenting a workshop at E.P. Foster Library.
This event will center on creating movies from start to finish. You will have the chance to learn the basics of recording and editing your own videos!
No reservations are required for this free event, which begins at 9 a.m. in the Topping Room. Stop by if you've ever wanted to learn more about filmmaking!
“Attend the song of Deathface Ginny, and how she came to be
A wraith of rage for men who’d cage and harm what should be set free.
It all began when the Mason man took Beauty for his bride.
He quick turned a fool and made her a jewel in the crown of his glittering pride.”
Thus begins the intriguing tale of Pretty Deadly. A pair of unusual characters come to an unnamed town to perform their tale of Beauty, Death, and their daughter, Deathface Ginny. One is a blind man, who plays more than just the part of storyteller in this strange tale. The other is a young girl dressed in a cloak of vulture feathers, with one blue eye and one brown, who is the key to Death’s undoing. To say any more would spoil the story, but let me just say that by the time they meet up with Ginny, and eventually Death himself, questions will be answered.
Pretty Deadly is what you get when you cross a western with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. It’s something akin to a paranormal western, a distant cousin perhaps. There’s just no easier way to describe this book. That’s not to say that I didn’t like it, because I did, immensely. It’s smartly conceived and unique in the western genre. I love how each main character has a part to play, and a secret identity waiting to be discovered. It’s all cleverly brought together by the end.
Pretty Deadly is a worthwhile read, but definitely for adults. It’s a well-thought-out story that’s not to be missed.
When I was growing up the movie distribution situation was such that once a film had played its first run in the downtown and neighborhood theaters it was pretty much gone forever. There were a few re-issues of certified classics but generally the avid (i.e., obsessed) fan was left hanging with only memories of his vanished film favorite (today I still can hardly believe it when I see a VHS copy of FANTASIA for 50 cents in the Foster book store!).
That’s one reason I am constantly amazed at the accessibility of movies today. So sometimes I find it interesting just to choose films about which I know absolutely nothing.
Here are a few DVD surprises I’ve come across recently.
Wreckers (2011): Benedict Cumberbatch is so all over the place these days (Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness, August: Osage County, 12 Years A Slave) it’s surprising to find him in a small indie film from an emerging British director/writer. This somewhat enigmatic film deals with a young married couple starting out in a country cottage in rural England. Their bucolic idyll is interrupted by the return of the repressed, in this case the husband’s disturbed brother, and complications, of course, ensue.
In her first feature, director/writer Dictynna Hood infuses the slight plot with visually beautiful images of the English (Norfolk) countryside, and in that respect and in the emotionally-intense, conflicted relationships the film reminded me of a modernized Thomas Hardy. A lyrical score adds to the mysterious impact, as do the rural accents and a very muffled sound mix which makes the dialogue sometimes incomprehensible. And be warned, there are no subtitles.
Mako Mermaids (2013): This was a real wild card, an Australian young adult series about mermaids interacting with a “land guy” who has accidentally acquired merpeople powers and occasionally turns into a merman himself. How the trio of mermaids, each a distinctive personality, deal with the situation on land keeps the plot interesting and amusing.
An attractive cast and rather good special effects and underwater location (Gold Coast, Queensland) cinematography create a colorful fusion of reality and fantasy. A cool techno/pop score, sometimes suggestive of the tiki exotica of Les Baxter—and in stereo—and a few tween-friendly pop tunes (one of the mermaids sings) add to the bubbly appeal. BTW, Mermaids is a spin-off of another show, H20: Just Add Water.
Ice Soldiers (2013): A kind of retread of the 1950s classic The Thing, but in this case the trio of hunky blond “things” are not aliens but genetically-enhanced Russian soldiers bent on invading Cold War America. After they trash a remote arctic outpost and escape we skip ahead several decades and they’rrree back, with predictable results.
It’s a low-key but fairly engrossing thriller with some striking wide-screen cinematography of the frozen landscapes (shot in Ontario, Canada). As one review put it, “Don’t take it too seriously and you will enjoy being entertained by Ice Soldiers.”
Retro Ross, Foster
E. P. Foster Library will be closed again today, 10/4. Avenue Library is open from 10-3! The California Condors event will still take place at 5:00 in the Topping Room.
E.P. Foster Library is closed today, 10/3, due to extreme heat.
Avenue Library will be open to the public from 11-5 to serve the Ventura community. Please call the library at 643-6393 if you have any questions.
This event will focus on lightweight backpacking techniques, and will include tips and stories from Soini. Questions are welcome, so come prepared!
This talk is free and open to the public. It all starts in the Topping Room at 5 p.m. Whether you're an avid hiker or just curious about how to get started, we'd love to see you there!
|Dune has been hailed as the “first planetary ecology novel on a grand scale.” It is a tale of political corruption, the fight for limited resources, and the fight for territory—but on an interstellar level. In a universe where powerful families rule entire planets, young Paul Atreides is made a duke too soon after the assassination of his father, and now must keep control of the planet Arrakis. It is a hostile planet, a desert filled with deadly sandworms where water is a precious resource to be guarded and fought over. It is also the only planet where one can find a powerful drug called Spice. Spice gives people increased power over their own bodies and minds, and is itself the catalyst for interstellar travel. In order to hold Arrakis, Paul must gain the loyalty of the native Freman people, tribesman that have learned the desert’s ways, adapting their bodies while searching for a way to bring plants and water to life around them. The Freman find their messiah in Paul, sparking a jihad against those who would try to take Arrakis. Paul is caught in a spiral of religious fervor he can’t control, and comes up against some of the most fearsome fighters the universe has ever seen.|
I’ve read Dune many times over the years and am always struck by the fact that even though Herbert wrote it in 1965, it doesn’t feel dated at all. Deep down it is really about many people coming together to solve planetary problems in ways that benefit them all, as well as the need to cease their fighting over territory and resources as it benefits no one in the long run. It is a thinly-veiled argument against an addiction to one resource and the thought that having that resource makes you powerful. In a time of serious drought and war around the world, it makes you stop and think. This is what makes the sci-fi and fantasy genres so memorable and amazing to me: how writers take us to fantastical places but still manage to ground us in situations we can relate to.
Dune is part of E.P. Foster Library’s Science Fiction collection, and can also be found in our catalog.
See you, Space Cowboy,
On Friday, October 3, at 8 a.m., Foster will host a talk on software testing for small teams.
On Saturday, October 4, at 10 a.m., the Friends of the Library will be discussing Michael Ondaatje's The Cat's Table.
All of these events will take place in the Topping Room. Check out E.P. Foster Library's location page for more info!