Fun at Foster's blog

Library LAB: Makeshop @ Foster

On Tuesday, January 6, the Ventura County Library LAB will host a Makeshop event at E.P. Foster Library!

Participants in this activity will be using a simple chemical reaction to create a bouncing ball. Come see how science can be exciting and fun for everyone!

This free event begins at 5 p.m. and will take place on the second floor of the library. We hope to see you there, and stay tuned for information on additional Makeshop events through February and March!

OCLC Downtime

All OCLC services will be unavailable from 9:01 p.m. on January 2, 2015, to 12 p.m. (noon) on January 3, 2015 (approximately 15 hours). During this time, OCLC will be applying technology upgrades to their services to increase performance and reliability.

While this down time will not affect most Ventura County Library eResources, WorldShare—the system used for placing interlibrary loan requests—will not be available during this time. We apologize for the inconvenience, and thank you for your patience!

Font to Film: “L.A. Confidential”

Atmosphere is a tricky element to work with in fiction; it can be tough for an author to convey the proper mix of setting and tone that will put the reader in the right frame of mind for a story. One might think that filmmakers have it easier, being able to use audio and visual themes to communicate more directly to a viewer’s senses. In neither case, however, is creating a compelling atmosphere an easy task, and when adapting a story from one medium to another there is the added challenge of making sure that whatever atmosphere existed in the original survives the transition. Success in this endeavor can mean the difference between a faithful adaptation and one that is merely a pale imitation of the source material.

Fans of crime fiction tend to agree that James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential (1990) is a staple of the genre. The third installment of Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet series, this noir-inspired novel has a sprawling and epic feel even as a standalone, with a maze of plots spanning nearly a decade and three protagonists heading up alternating chapters as the story unfolds. Beginning with a police brutality scandal that sets up the relationship between LAPD officers Edmund Exley, Bud White, and Jack Vincennes, the focus soon shifts to an event that proves central to everything that follows: a multiple homicide at the Nite Owl coffee shop. The personalities of the officers are masterfully developed as the novel progresses; Exley, White, and Vincennes possess mixtures of ambition, calculation, and aggression that manifest themselves differently as each works the case according to his own style. As the investigation into the Nite Owl proceeds it reveals to each of them a piece of a greater puzzle: a grand conspiracy involving pornography, prostitution, drugs, organized crime, and brutally sadistic murder. During the novel’s initial reception Ellroy was highly praised for his stripped-down style and his ability to manage so many plot lines while maintaining a coherent and compelling storyline.
For those who saw director Curtis Hanson’s film version of L.A. Confidential (1997) before reading the book, the scope of the novel is quite a surprise. While the central plot elements are maintained a great deal of side action—including entire subplots relating to other characters and at least one significant bit of backstory—is removed. The timeline is condensed as well; no longer are we dealing with an eight-year marathon but a fast-paced drama that culminates in a series of quick—and startling—reveals. The personal and professional differences between Exley, White, and Vincennes (played by Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, and Kevin Spacey) are still crucial to the story, but all of them are portrayed as much simpler characters; their compromises and moral failings are nowhere near as dark as in Ellroy’s original. As a result, the film’s protagonists are ones you can cheer for without reservation, something which was definitely not the case—no doubt by design—in the novel. While several key events play out differently in the book, Hanson makes good use of those parts he has selected to tell a stunning and engrossing tale that captures the neo-noir feel of the book almost perfectly. Overall the film was incredibly well-received; L.A. Confidential was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won two: Best Supporting Actress (Kim Basinger) and Best Adapted Screenplay.

James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential is available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library as part of the adult mystery collection on the first floor; the library also carries a number of his other titles in the mystery and general fiction sections. Hanson’s film adaptation is housed at the Ventura County Library’s central services location and can be requested through our online catalog. If the copy that you’re after isn’t available at your local branch, you can call the library or go online to place a hold and have the item sent to you at the branch of your choosing.


Investigated by Ronald Martin.

The Poinsettia City by the Sea

Poinsettias have become a popular symbol of the holiday season, but did you know that Ventura was once known as the “Poinsettia City”? At one time, poinsettias were such an important local crop that the city once known as “Palm City” changed its nickname to “Poinsettia City by the Sea.”
The poinsettia is a plant native to Mexico. The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye and as a medicine to reduce fevers. In the Aztec language—Nahuatl—the plant is called Cuetlaxochitl (from cuetlatl, residue, and xochitl, flower), meaning “flower that grows in residue or soil.” Its current popular English name derives from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico who introduced the plant into the United States in 1825.

While there are few poinsettia growers left in the area, there are still place names in the city that are a reminder of this once blooming industry. Poinsettia Pavilion sits on Foothill Road overlooking the city that gave it its name, there is Poinsettia Elementary School, and the Chamber of Commerce gives out its Poinsettia Awards annually to recognize the deeds and good actions of businesses, organizations, and individuals in Ventura.

If you would like to find our more, E.P. Foster Library has information about poinsettias, as well as historical information about the City of Ventura.

Resident Photographer Aleta A. Rodriguez

“Meet Me in St. Louis”

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.

Retro Ross

David's Dish: Garbanzo Bean Stew

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!


*****David's Dish

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!

Novelties: “Leaving Time,” by Jodi Picoult

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.


Written by Ronald Martin.

Family Game Night @ Foster

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!

GMO Labeling and Public Opinion @ Foster

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.

The film and the graphic novel are both available through the Ventura County Library. Which one is your favorite?


Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess

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