Fun at Foster's blog

We have a winner!

 

 

We really enjoyed putting on our Summer Reading for Adults program. We had so many entries, and so many winners! The grand prize winner was Christina, from Ventura.

Thank you to everyone who participated! We love our readers and we are already making plans for next year. We had many local businesses contribute prizes, and as always, we thank our Friends of the Library for sponsoring our events and contests. Happy reading!

 

THE POLITICS OF WAR: Absurdity and Economy

THE POLITICS OF WAR: Absurdity and Economy continued.

CATCH 22 by Joseph Heller

      “It was love at first sight”. This is one of those famous opening lines of a novel, if only because it is written about Yossarian, An Army Airforce B-25  bombadier, recovering from a battle wound while based at an island west of Italy in the Medetaranian. It is in reference to his surgeon, a man Yossarian has high respect for.

   There are many avant gaard comments and scenes within the book like this one, designed to both amuse and confuse. In fact, the novel is rife with paradox. For this is the way the U.S. Military is run, you see. The phrase, Catch 22 , is a military rule, the self-contradictory circular reasoning that, for example, prevents one from avoiding combat missions. And it is a general critique of beaurocratic operation and reasoning.

   Here then is basically the catch in Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. The character, Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and thus didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to.

     Catch-22 says, as one of the other characters would state, “that they have a right to do anything we can’t stop them from doing”. And it becomes illicitly used to maintain a profiteering enterprise by a grass roots elite, who can keep the Base in check with lots of recruits utilizing this Rule while fighting the Germans, especially when missions were added on to a Airman’s schedule, forcing him to stay at the Base longer than his rotation was meant to . The whole point of this was to profit from his pay by giving him shares in the syndicate run by Milo Minderbinder, the squadron’s mess officer. The war thus kind of loses sight to the grander sceme of those who would profit from it.

     Yossarian comes to realize that Catch-22 does not actually exist, but because the powers that be claim it does, and the world believes it does, it nevertheless has potent effects. Indeed, because it does not exist, there is no way for it to be repealed, undone, overthrown or denounced.

   Meanwhile, the syndicate, which is run like a communist/capitalist enterprise, feeds off its shareholders with product they are able to buy on the open market at a higher price but sell at a lower price to the airmen and still make a profit, because they are collecting money from the airmen’s pay for each share of stock they receive. Its kind of like a reverse Ponzi Scheme.

     Milo is one of the most complex figures in the novel, and the syndicate that he heads is one of its most elusive symbols. On the one hand, the syndicate gives Heller an opportunity to parody the economic activity of large-market capitalism. The extraordinary rationalization by which Milo is able to buy eggs for seven cents apiece and sell them for five cents apiece while still turning a profit is one of the most tortuously sublime moments in the novel. On the other hand, it can only be done through this Socialistic Collective.

     Yossarian comes to fear his commanding officers more than he fears the Germans attempting to shoot him down and he feels that "they" are "out to get him." Key among the reasons Yossarian fears his commanders more than the enemy is that as he flies more missions, Colonel Cathcart increases the number of required combat missions before a soldier may return home. He reaches the magic number only to have it retroactively raised. His paranoia is considered irrational by the Base psychiatrist. As he states, “The enemy is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on, and that includes Colonel Cathcart. And don't you forget that, because the longer you remember it, the longer you might live.”

   The lines become blurred as to who the enemy really is when Milo employs German airmen to bomb the encampment at  Pianosa because it will be profitable for the syndicate to do so. This predicament indicates a tension between traditional motives for violence and the modern economic machine, which seems to generate violence simply as another means to profit, quite independent of geographical or ideological constraints. Heller emphasizes the danger of profit seeking by portraying Milo without “evil intent." Milo’s actions are portrayed as the result of greed, not malice.

     This is one of the most hilarious novels to read because it is full of paradoxical pranks. Yossarian soon discovers that he is one of two men who are truly sane at his base. The other is a man named Orr he will not fly with, even though invited to on several occations, because the pilot has a tendency to crash land in the Mediterranean. They share a tent and both are considered to be crazy.

     Orr's motivation throughout, however, is to escape the squadron and the war. He plans to crash land in the sea and make his way to a neutral country where he can wait out the war (which he eventually does). He practices this goal by getting shot down every mission he flies, and so becomes an expert in crash landings, without losing a single crewman. But he is considered crazier than Yossarian because of it. Thus, Orr is the only character in the book who understood how to defeat the law of Catch 22.

     Yossarian, upon hearing that news, grabs an inflatable raft and paddles out into the Medeterranean to finally make his escape. One is left with a sense that there is more to the absurdity of war than just the violence and the killing. It includes a rationale of isolation, greed, sex, opportunism, victimization, abject fear and a growing inability to differentiate between good and evil, madness and sanity.

-Resident Philosopher Doug Taylor

The Hidden Treasures of Korean Art and Modern Korea

Please join us at Foster Library on August 2nd at 7:00 pm as we explore a different and fascinating culture.

Two documentary films focusing on Korea will be shown. The first film illustrates the artistic and cultural achievements of Korea's past, and the second shows Korea's industrial achievements since the Korean War.

A reenactment of a traditional Korean wedding will follow the screening. 

RSVP is preferred, please call 641-4414.

Anime Expo

While most people were having barbecues and waiting for fireworks on July 4th, I was attending the Anime Expo at the L.A. Convention Center. What is Anime Expo, you ask? Well, it’s a 4-day event, the largest convention of its kind in the U.S. To quote the website (www.anime-expo.org), “Popular large events include the Masquerade, Anime Music Video Contest, Concerts, Battle of the Bands, and the AX Fashion Show. Anime Expo is a 24-hour convention that offers late-night dances, all night video programming, tabletop gaming rooms, and open-mic Karaoke in the late evening/early morning hours. Many of the attendees cosplay while attending the convention, and there are many gatherings for fans of different anime and manga series.”

It’s very similar to the San Diego Comic-Con, but the focus is clearly on anime, manga, and gaming. This isn’t my first go-around with this particular convention, but the experience is never the same twice. Since I only went for one day, I stayed in the Exhibit Hall, which is where you’ll find booths selling everything you can think of: anime, manga, t-shirts, music, and other merchandise, lots of it. Walking around are people dressed in all kinds of cosplay characters from anime, manga, games, even a superhero or two. The costumes were very impressive, many handmade by the people themselves. (They do allow photographs, but please, always ask permission first.)

In the very front of the hall were big-name companies, like Funimation, VIZ Media, and Dark Horse Comics. On one side of the hall were well-known creators, writers, artists, and even voice actors, signing autographs. At one large booth, people were given the chance to try their hand at voice acting, reading lines for a scene from an anime. For those with more time, there were also workshops, panels, and even showings of popular anime, including Fruits Basket, Black Butler, and Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood (one of my favorites).

While the expo was certainly enjoyable, I should give fair warning. It does get crowded and hot. It took two and half hours just to get in and that was the pre-registration line. If you wish to brave the weather, be sure to bring water and an umbrella to protect yourself from the sun. I was wearing plenty of sunscreen and light clothing and I still came off with a nice sunburn on my head. That said, I still had a good time. I left with some new shirts (Yes!) and a book bag.  Some booths even had freebies.

There's lots to see and do at the Anime Expo. Registration has already started for next year’s event. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess
  

**photographs borrowed, not mine!

Writer's Series at Foster Library

Foster Library is proud to present a new series geared
towards writing and writers.
Read below for a brief overview of each talk!

8/25 at 5:00pm – Charles Freericks - Writing a Memoir 

Charles Freericks, author of the comedic memoir, "My Imaginary Friend Was Too Cool to Hang out With Me" speaks on how your own life may be the best grist for the mill for your writing - whether you choose to pen your memoirs or just to use autobiographical incidents for your characters in your fiction.

9/15 at 5:00pm – Doug Taylor – Fiction Writing Essentials

Mapping the novel from attention grabbing beginnings to a surprise ending, while building it with the use of dialogue, descriptive & action narrative and subplots . 

10/15 at 6:30pm – Craig Carey  - Writing your Adventure

Craig Carey took his hobby to the next level by writing about his adventures while hiking and backpacking the Southern Los Padres. Learn how to juggle a job, family, and writing in this informative seminar.

Past Events:

7/23 Elizabeth Alvarez - So, You Think You Want to PUBLISH a Book
Creating a publishing plan before, during and after finishing your written work. This is a practical overview, focusing on key questions to consider about the wide world of publishing platforms available today. 

Geocaching Library Style at Foster!

Saturday, 7/13 Geocaching Library Style from 1 pm - 3 pm at Foster Library

Geocaching is a free real-world outdoor treasure hunt. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using a smartphone or GPS and can then share their experiences online.

Come learn about geocaching while meeting experienced geocachers. You will also have the opportunity to:

  • Find geocaches nearby
  • Take part in related games and win prizes
  • Chat with others over light refreshments 
  • Go home with a mini starter kit

Call 648-2716 for more information. Event is free and open to the public.

Star Trek, the Next Generation: Hive

Among the recent arrivals in our graphic novel collection is a book for the Trekkie. Star Trek, the Next Generation: Hive is written by Brannon Braga, one of the writers and producers of the Next Gen series, so you know you’re in for a good story. He’s well-versed in the Star Trek universe and knows what he’s talking about.

Hive brings back one of the best and most persistent of the Star Trek villains: the Borg. Beginning in the 29th century, the universe has been totally assimilated by the Borg, and in command of it all is Locutus, formerly Captain Jean-Luc Picard. But Locutus isn’t happy (can a Borg even be happy?), and with all life now consumed by the Borg, things aren’t as fun as they used to be. As Locutus says, “We are without purpose.” Seeking to make things right, Locutus will have to change the past, about 500 years past to be exact. The story shifts back and forth between the 25th and 29th centuries, as Locutus/Picard seeks to save humanity and wipe out the Borg once and for all. Will he do it?

I’m not ashamed to admit I am a Trekkie, not a costume-wearing, philosophizing Trekkie, but I am a Trekkie. Star Trek has been a part of my life since I was six-years-old, watching the original series in reruns, and later, Star Trek: the Next Generation in high school. I never really got into the later series, but for fans of Star Trek Voyager, there is a familiar face in this graphic novel that people will recognize, one with a pivotal role that fits in nicely with the mythology of that series. It certainly answers a question or two at least. I’ll leave it to you, readers, to figure it out.

Whether you’re a Star Trek fan or not, I think you’ll find this an entertaining read, with a clever storyline and great illustrations. Check it out.

Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess

Blueberries for Sal!

A couple of days ago a wonderful E.P. Foster library customer posed an interesting question. “What is your favorite food related children’s book?” I would have to dig way back into my cranial pantry to figure this one out, then I remembered what was growing in garden and no, I do grow plants other than garlic. Blueberries, “Blueberries for Sal!”, I love blueberries and the book is a Caldecott winner, a pure delight to read. Immediately, I remembered the Greek yogurt housed in the refrigerator and the need to pair the blueberries with the yogurt and consume them. That’s what I did, yum! So, the question the “Dish” poses is, “What is your favorite food related children’s book?” It’s tough at first to think of one, but one will come to you, because we all know reading is so delicious. Please post your favorites in the comment boxes. ***** David’s Dish

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.

THE POLITICS OF WAR: Absurdity and Economy

THE POLITICS OF WAR: Absurdity and Economy

       Two novels about the displacement of war with political or economic motivation are THE SAND PEBBLES by Richard McKenna and CATCH 22, by Joseph Heller. One is a political portrait of early 20th Century gunship diplomacy in Indo China. The other is a farce about the absurdity of the Military Industrial Complex. Both are negative political commentaries about US interests abroad.

   Each of these novels was made into equally fine movies that were well received. But apart from their entertainment value, there are some interesting and serious points made about the socio-economic situation of the early and middle 20th Century. I will review The Sand Pebbles first and later in the month return to review Catch 22.

THE SAND PEBBLES by Richard McKenna

       Set in China on the eve of revolution in the 1920s, this novel tells the story of a U.S. Navy gunboat and her dedicated crew of the "Sand Pebbles." “ The San Pablo” is the actual name of the vessel, which was given over to the nickname “Sand Pebbles” by the crew. There are two interesting metaphors to be derived from these two names. The first is the idea of a boat with a Spanish name cruising the waters of the Yanktze River in China under the US flag. This symbolizes both a sense of world wide diplomacy as well as Nation Building . The nickname reflects an attitude of insignificance on the part of the Captain, who is brooding for naval action with a left over Spanish American War vessel.

    There is civil unrest in China, a result of several dominant foreign countries trying to bully the fragile nation into an alliance. War Lords are fighting each other, while a Nationalist Army has been created to stave off foreign interests and designs on China. This has the American Captain on edge and ready for a fight.

     The novel describes a life of boredom and then sudden battle action based on a desire to engage an inocuous threat, but the chief conflict is between the traditional western ideas which saw China in racist and imperialist terms and emerging nationalism.

    The protagonist, engine mechanic Jake Holman, is new to the boat and begins to teach his Chinese workers – he refuses to call them “coolies”– to master the ship’s machinery by understanding it, not just “monkey see, monkey do.” But this infuriates the Chief Cooley who feels his honor has been exsponged by the attitude of the Machinist Mate taking over.

     Holman is not well received by most of the crew as well, because of his compassion for the coolies who are treated like slaves by the rest. But they serve the ship well, being allowed to sleep aboard the vessel and given left over food scraps.

       An incident involving British gunboats leads to the Captain ordering the crew not to fire on, or return fire from the Chinese, to avoid diplomatic incidents. He is not happy with those orders and wants to engage the Chinese. But, The San Pablo is stuck in port at Changsha for the winter due to low water levels. It must deal with increasingly hostile crowds surrounding it in numerous smaller boats. The Captain fears a possible mutiny. Frenchy (the only friend of Holman) has saved a Chinese woman, Maily from prostitution by paying her debts. He marries her and sneaks off the ship regularly, after shore leave has been revoked.But he dies of  hypothermia one night. Holman searches for him and finds Maily sitting stunned by Frenchy's corpse.  The Chinese nationalists burst in, beat up Holman, and drag Maily away.

      Holman returns to the ship. The next day, several Chinese float out to the San Pablo in small boats and demand the "murderer" Holman be turned over to them. Apparently, the nationalists killed Maily and blamed Holman, trying to provoke an incident. Holman informs the Captain what really happened. When the Chinese demand for Holman is refused, they blockade the San Pablo. The American crew fears for their safety and demand that Holman surrender to the Chinese against the Captain's orders. Order is not restored until the Captain fires across the bow of one of the Chinese junks.

       When spring arrives, the ship is ordered back to the coast but the captain defies those orders and steams up the Yanktze to rescue a Christian Mission which has been blockaded by the Nationalists. It is directed under false pretense by the ambitious captain. A boom of junks tied together with heavy rope await the vessel .On board are several Nationalist soldiers. A fire fight breaks out and a battle ensues. The blockade is broken and the ship steams on toward the mission at China Light. The captain knows that the missionary will refuse his help but he insists.

       The climax is a depiction of false pride in a captain who is single minded in his quest for glory and patriotic inertia. The crew pays for it with the loss of several soldiers and the missionary, himself, who is fired upon by the Nationalists, even though he waves a document renouncing his British Citizenship and all citizenships. Even Holman is killed not understanding the deeper ramifications of the action at China Light.

   “What happened?” he asks plaintively, nursing his fatal wound.”What the hell happened?” he states again as he lays next to his mortally wounded captain. The collateral damage in this final metaphorical scene is a toll taken out of unneccessary political pride. It depicts the wrecklessness of Imperial Nations over others.

Resident Philosopher Doug Taylor

THE PHYSICS AND SOCIAL CONSCIENCE OF SCIENCE FICTION continued.

Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury

   451 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature at which books burn. This is the physics of heat and entropy. And this is a tale of censorship and defiance. “The system was simple”, Bradbury begins his story.  “Books were for burning along with the houses in which they were hidden”.

     Burning books is the central premise upon which the story unfolds. Guy Montag is a firefighter. However, in this day and age, firefighting has taken on a whole different meaning. Guy is charged with the socio-political responsibility of burning books wherever they may be found. There are still all the lights and sirens that we associate with being a firefighter — they even have a pole to slide down on — but now, when the fire engine pulls up outside your door, it is met with trepidation not relief. Whereas water used to be the fluid of salvation, kerosene has become the liquid of suppression. Guy goes about his duties with the typical verve that a firefighter must have and he never thinks twice about lighting a match to save people from themselves. That is, until a new neighbor moves in next door to him.

      “Have you ever read any of the books that you burn?” The neighbor asks him. “Of course not,” he returns. “Books are illegal”. But such begins a change in the man. One that causes him to question what he is doing. It infuriates his boss and worries his wife who persists that he watch “the people in the wall” referring to huge television screens placed into the wall. Of course, the shows on television are antiseptic and shallow. They are meant to be, because keeping the flock ignorant means that you can control their minds and behavior. It is quite Orwellian.

     Media consumption is an underlying theme and it smacks of the silly mindlessness of so many TV programs today. What better way to control information than by not allowing it to disseminate freely. Instead, give the people what they want, harmless, shallow mindlessness. Part of what makes this story seem real is that Bradbury has connected his story with our current media trends.  

        Nothing is ever mentioned about the totalitarian government that has decreed these laws about books. It is simply “understood”. This is because Bradbury doesn’t want his characters striking back at the Regime politically. He wants them making self discovery choices that transcend the socio-political turmoil that this society reflects. Choices that cause Guy Montag to find a secret society of people who choose a book and then memorize it, taking on the name of the title as their own to preserve the book from the fiery Gates of Hell.

     This is the way you fight the Unseen Monster, with defiance. The Regime IS the true “monster from the Id” in Bradbury’s book. And like the creature in Forbidden Planet, it is illusory and unnatural. It can be defeated, but not in any conventional way. Both situations in these books are confrontational. They must supply a moral paradigm. And they became that way because of the misuse of science.

Resident Philosopher - Doug Taylor

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