Fun at Foster's blog
It's difficult to think of a more perfect film for the holidays than MGM's 1944 Technicolor musical, Meet Me in St. Louis. Indeed the film, which chronicles a year in the life of an upper middle class family in turn of the century St. Louis, includes vivid evocations of two major American holidays.
The film was a breakthrough for the young Judy Garland, and though she balked at playing another ingénue role her portrayal of middle daughter Esther Smith turned out to be the performance that launched her into a variety of romantic adult roles. The film was also a landmark for the amazingly precocious performance of little Margaret O'Brien as the rowdy youngest daughter, Tootie.
The film is relatively plotless and is based on a series of episodic New Yorker short stories by Sally Benson. What makes it work is director Vincente Minnelli's obvious affection for the characters and his striking visual sense which evokes the period in all its Technicolor splendor.
|Judy Garland dances with the boy next door (Tom Drake).|
MGM constructed its famous St. Louis street for this film. The elaborate back lot set would appear in many later films but was demolished at the end of the studio era and is now a housing development down in Culver City.
Newcomer Lucille Bremer plays the humorously affected older sister, Rose, and Tom Drake is Esther's love interest, "The Boy Next Store," the object of one of the film's most durable new songs.
The score also includes several other classics, including one of the most elegiac holiday ballads ever written (but bear in mind the film was being made during the dark middle years of World War II).
|Margaret O'Brien and Judy Garland.|
The two-disc special edition DVD set includes a number of great extras, including a detailed "Making Of" documentary, a collection of Minnelli trailers, and an episode of the TV series adapted from the film.
My rekindled interest in meditation led me to seek out a vegetarian cookbook (thank you, John Landa, for your inspiration, the "Beginning Meditation” class at E.P. Foster Library!). I walked around the cookbook section of the library with my third eye wide open and spied a wonderful book entitled Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings by Edward Espe Brown.
Tomato Blessing and Radish Teachings is a combination of Zen philosophy, cooking, and a little bit of a life story tossed in for good measure, which makes it rate highly on my list of favorite cookbooks. The cookbook also contains a wide variety of simple vegetarian recipes, ranging from Drunken Cabbage to Mystery Bites!
Now to the cooking. With a still mind and a yearning for some simple, healthy food I proceeded to make Garbanzo Bean Stew with Spinach and Saffron. It's a simple stew to put together, and while my version ended up saffron free it was still very delicious. Be here now!
Check out the book at Foster Library, or put it on hold—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 relationship between a parent and child is unique in the influence it can have on the development of a young person, and often the parent is equally changed by this ever-evolving connection. The severing of this bond leads to significant emotional disruption regardless of which party does the leaving and why. For this reason, novels which deal with the loss of a parent or child speak to us in a powerful way, tapping into a deep empathy and a gut-wrenching fear. Some works also remind us that we can lose someone even if they don’t exactly go away, that there are circumstances which can separate us absolutely even from people we continue to see every day.
|Leaving Time (2014) is the latest novel by Jodi Picoult, and it centers on the main character’s loss of (and potential abandonment by) her mother. Jenna Metcalf lost her mother—a researcher at an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire—when she was three years old under complicated circumstances, and her father has been in a mental institution for many of the intervening years. Now thirteen years old, Jenna is ready to find answers and seeks out some unlikely allies to help her along. One is Serenity Jones, a formerly famous psychic investigator who has suffered a crisis of credibility; the other is Virgil Stanhope, who was the detective assigned to investigate her mother’s disappearance but who has now fallen into a destructive alcoholic pattern. It’s clear that Picoult did her homework with this novel; readers either love or hate (but mostly love) the amount of detail in the journal entries written by Jenna’s mother, Alice, whose work involved the grieving practices of elephants. Picoult uses the parallels between human and animal grief patterns to tease out revelations about love, loss, and death as Jenna and her partners approach the truth of what happened and realize what finally uncovering it will cost each of them.|
|Looking at the other side of the mother-daughter relationship we have Reconstructing Amelia (2013) by Kimberly McCreight. In her debut novel McCreight gives us Kate Baron, an attorney and single mother whose world is shattered by the apparent suicide of her daughter, Amelia. Despite the intense demands of her professional life Kate did her best not to completely neglect the needs of her daughter, but Amelia’s death nonetheless sends her into a spiral of grief and guilt—one that is interrupted when Kate receives a text message stating simply that Amelia did not in fact jump to her death. Determined to discover what really happened, Kate works closely with the officer in charge of the case to try and piece together the circumstances surrounding that fateful day. The narrative jumps between Kate and Amelia’s points of view, drawing also on a sampling of the teenager’s emails, text messages, and social media posts. Through this investigation Kate begins to learn who Amelia truly was and what she was dealing with—revelations which completely undermine her earlier belief in a picture-perfect daughter. Though many readers believe the novel’s plot pushes the boundaries of common sense at times, it has been generally well-received and is regarded as a compelling and moving read.|
|Our last title this month is 72 Hour Hold (2005) by Bebe Moore Campbell. Campbell introduces us to Keri, the owner of a small clothing store in Los Angeles, and her daughter Trina, who has graduated from high school and is poised to attend Brown University. In this case it’s not death but mental illness—specifically bipolar disorder—which separates mother and daughter. After receiving her diagnosis, Trina begins taking medication but soon slides into bad habits, including using illicit substances rather than her prescribed drugs to deal with her symptoms. Keri finds herself placing Trina on multiple 72-hour holds, which are the only recourse she has in a system that does not provide a comprehensive solution for long-term care. After seeing the establishment fail her daughter time and again, Keri starts looking into more radical alternatives and ultimately reaches out to a group whose methods fall outside of traditionally accepted practice. Campbell manages to portray Keri’s desperation and helplessness with heartbreaking accuracy as she struggles to balance her daughter’s needs with her own, and the novel has been highly praised for its exploration of issues relating to family, race, and the stigma of mental illness.|
Leaving Time, Reconstructing Amelia, and 72 Hour Hold are all available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library, and while Picoult’s novel has a bit of a waiting list, you can pick up one of the other two immediately. If the title you’re looking for isn’t on the shelf, you can request a copy from another branch using our online catalog or by calling the library. If you want more titles in this genre—or something completely different—visit NoveList Plus in the Reading Suggestions section of our eLibrary.
On Friday, December 19, E.P. Foster Library will host a Family Game Night for all ages!
Hosted by the Teen Activity Group (TAG), this event will feature games for the Nintendo Wii. In addition, there will be snacks and refreshments.
Stop by the Topping Room at 5:30 p.m. for fun, food, and friends at this free event!
Join us at E.P. Foster Library on Sunday, December 14, for the last of our scheduled talks on ethics, culture, and biotechnology.
GMO Label Legislation and the Court of Public Opinion is a free talk presented by Panda Kroll which will deal with how policy has changed due to public perception of GMOs.
The talk begins at 3 p.m. in the Topping Room. Stop by to learn more about this important health topic!
It isn’t very often that a movie lives up to the book it’s based upon. Films based on graphic novels often don’t fare much better. However, Snowpiercer not only lives up to the original, but surpasses it.
Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, Snowpiercer begins when the world as we know it ends. In an effort to combat global warming, a chemical is launched into the atmosphere, but instead of being the promised solution it creates a world frozen in ice and snow, a world where nothing survives. The only safe place left is one very long train.
Now, seventeen years later, the Snowpiercer, as the train is called, continues on its endless travels, never reaching a destination. Survivors have been separated into a class system, where the elite live in luxury and excess at the front of the train, while the poor struggle to survive in the back, living on rations called protein blocks (trust me, you wouldn’t want one). They are reminded to “know their place,” but a brave few decide to revolt, led by a young man named Curtis. They slowly make their way toward the front, one train car at a time. How they get there and what they find you’ll just have to see for yourself. There are some secrets to be revealed, but I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise at the end.
Snowpiercer, as directed by Bong Joon-ho, is really nothing short of amazing. He takes the story and makes it his own, without ever losing the spirit of the original material. Bong manages to create clever action sequences in very tight spaces, and what could have been claustrophobic sets actually feel quite open. From the cramped quarters of the tail section to the luxurious accommodations of the rich, each car is uniquely crafted and visually stunning. If you get a chance, watch the special features on this disc because they will give you some insight into how he filmed it. An alternate opening also sheds some light on the events before the film.
While the film follows the general premise of the book, there is one major difference. The film has a more hopeful ending, one that I actually prefer. Bong Joon-ho has created a film unlike anything you’ve seen before. I really enjoyed it, and you will too.
Language is a tricky thing. Say the wrong words and things start to unravel. Such is the theme of China Miéville’s Embassytown. It is the story of Avice Cho, a traveler from the “Out” who is returning to her childhood home on the planet Arieka.
Many sci-fi novels set on planets inhabited by things we don’t have words for use the main character as a stand-in for the audience, an outsider as unfamiliar with their surroundings as the reader. Miéville does not do that with Avice; instead the audience alone is thrown into an unfamiliar world. Avice is familiar with concepts like “The Immer,” a permanent universe with differing concepts of time and distance than those of the universe of Arieka and its capital, the titular Embassytown. She is also familiar with the “Ambassadors,” two people who speak with one mind but two voices in order to communicate with the insect-like Ariekei. These alien creatures can only understand the language spoken by the Ambassadors and have no concept of lying or falsehood.
So begins this novel about the search for truth, the definition of truth, and how separating truth from lies can upset the balance of things in ways you don’t expect. It’s an interesting take on language and the power of words, regardless of what is said, and an entertaining, quick read—and you find yourself catching up to Avice faster than you’d expect.
You can find Embassytown in the science fiction and fantasy collection at E.P. Foster Library, as well as at other Ventura County Library branches.
On Friday, December 5, CunninghamLegal and E.P. Foster Library will host a one-hour seminar on Medi-Cal and its role in long-term healthcare.
Presented by Stephen M. Wood, this seminar will cover tips and common mistakes made during the Medi-Cal qualification process, and can help you or someone you know make informed decisions about healthcare planning.
The seminar begins at 10 a.m. in the Topping Room. Stop by to learn more about this important topic!
On Wednesday, December 3, E.P. Foster Library will host a free meditation workshop led by John Landa.
Beginning Meditation: Silence, Stillness, and Comfort is open to all ages and skill levels. John Landa brings 20 years of experience and a fresh perspective to the practice of meditation.
The workshop begins at 6 p.m. in the Topping Room. Stop by if you're looking to de-stress for the holiday season, or if you're just curious and want to learn more!
A few months back Font to Film looked at Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars (1917) and discussed the idea of certain novels being thought of as un-filmable. Occasionally these sentiments come from avid fans who are worried about the treatment their favorite books will receive, but logistical questions can just as easily be the cause. For Burroughs’ sci-fi classic, the creatures and geography that he described were so fantastic that no one thought a film could do them justice. In other cases, skepticism related to adaptation stems from quite different concerns—for example, from the fact that the majority of a story’s plot involves one character on a small lifeboat drifting in the middle of the ocean.
|Canadian author Yann Martel wrote Life of Pi in 2001. The main character is Piscine Molitor Patel; his name is a reference to a famous swimming pool in Paris, but due to a quirk of pronunciation it exposes him to relentless teasing. As a result, he shortens it to simply “Pi,” which not only sticks but sets the tone for a novel built largely around the idea of how we can redefine our reality through our choices. Another glimpse of this theme comes through Pi’s decision to subscribe to multiple religions in his desire to know God, a move that others see as silly and potentially sacrilegious. For Pi, it’s simply about choosing a way to experience life and faith without imposing unnecessary limitations. The main plot begins when a ship carrying Pi and his family—along with a zoo’s worth of animals—sinks in a storm. The young boy winds up stranded on a life boat along with several non-human survivors; eventually, only Pi and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker remain. Their uneasy cohabitation tests Pi’s will to survive amid terrible physical and psychological challenges. The novel is framed as Pi’s retelling of the story later in life, and as the narrative edges more toward the fantastic his audience faces its own choice: whether to accept his version of events as the truth.|
|The film adaptation of Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee, came out in 2012. Pi is played by Irrfan Khan as an adult and by Suraj Sharma as a boy; the supporting cast includes Rafe Spall, Tabu, and Gérard Depardieu. Structurally the film is very similar to the novel, covering many of the salient points that occur prior to the storm before tackling the meat of the story. To convey Pi’s experience at sea Lee made use of a giant wave tank and a copious amount of CGI, which turned off a certain set of viewers who thought it appeared too artificial. This was not the general consensus, however, and the film and its effects were widely lauded; it saw great success in both China and India and won the 2012 Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Visual Effects. Because its plot and themes are relatively unchanged from those of the novel, the film manages to be both visually stunning and emotionally compelling, delivering an experience that few thought was possible—Suraj Sharma was, after all, essentially acting alone in a gigantic pool. In a time when many other CGI-driven projects deliver underwhelming results, the triumph of Life of Pi stands out as an example of what is possible when the conditions are right.|
E.P. Foster Library has copies of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi and Ang Lee’s film version available as part of the first-floor collection. Additionally, you can borrow a digital copy of either the eBook or eAudiobook through OverDrive, which can be accessed through the Ventura County eLibrary. If you would like more information about downloading eBooks through the library, contact the staff at any of our branches. If you don’t find the version that you’re looking for on the shelf you can request that a copy be sent to the branch of your choosing in person, over the phone, or through our online catalog.