Fun at Foster's blog

Jade’s Sci-Fi & Fantasy Minute: “Embassytown,” by China Miéville

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.


Medi-Cal Seminar @ Foster

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!

Beginning Meditation @ Foster

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!

Font to Film: “Life of Pi”

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.

 

Rescued by Ronald Martin.

TAG's Teen Gift Drive 2014

Are you looking for a way to give more this holiday season? Consider contributing to our TAG group's Teen Gift Drive!

Gift donations received by December 19, 2014, will be distributed to teens from low-income homes, foster homes, or who are facing other hardships, such as homelessness.

Donations can be dropped off at the Avenue, E.P. Foster, and Saticoy branches. For more information, contact the library at (805) 648-2716 or (805) 647-5736 and ask for Jane Middleton or Star Soto.

Laser-Cut Holiday Decorations @ Foster

On Tuesday, December 2, there will be a demonstration of the Ventura County Library's laser cutter and engraver at E.P. Foster Library!

At this event we will use the laser to cut out holiday ornaments so that you all can see what this technology is capable of. Come prepared with any questions you may have about materials or projects you have in mind.

It all starts at 5 p.m. in the Topping Room. Come see what's going on with the Ventura County Library's makerspace!

Over the River and through the Woods, SoCal Style

This week many of us are preparing to celebrate a uniquely American holiday: Thanksgiving. Many of us will stay home and make the traditional turkey with stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Others have adapted alternative menus to suit their own dietary preferences, and may not serve turkey or stuffing.
For all those who celebrate the holiday at home, there are probably just as many who travel to celebrate with their families. The day before Thanksgiving has become one of the busiest travel days of the year, and there are those of us who travel on Thanksgiving Day itself—although our mode of transportation is very different from that of our forefathers. In Southern California, we often don’t even have cold weather at this time of year. We would need to travel to higher elevations to encounter conditions that would allow a horse-drawn sleigh.
While we generally try to focus on the positive aspects of the holiday, it can be easy to get drawn into the chaotic Black Friday madness. At times like that, it might be helpful to remind ourselves about those less fortunate than us and to show kindness to others as part of our celebration. Contribute to your local food bank, donate to a charity, or give time to a cause close to your heart. Give something of yourself and you may find that you have a great deal more for which to be grateful.

Foster Library has books about Thanksgiving and generosity that you may find interesting and informative, as well as holiday cookbooks to help you plan the perfect meal.

 

Resident Photographer Aleta A. Rodriguez (roast turkey photo provided by Amber Rodriguez)

Genuine Talent

In his prime period, circa The Sixth Sense (1999) and A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), young Haley Joel Osment seemed something like the Meryl Streep of child actors—that is, possessed of the ability to inhabit a role with an intensity and realism that was almost uncanny.

After Secondhand Lions (2003), however, he was mostly seen (or heard) in a variety of TV series and voice-overs for animated films and video games. But following the Spielberg epic, A.I., he also had an unusual and highly dramatic role in a little-known WWII drama, Edges of the Lord (2001).

Edges of the Lord: Willem DaFoe & Children

Edges was shot in Poland and co-starred Willem Dafoe (as a Catholic priest) and a mostly European cast. It apparently never received an American distribution until it was released on DVD around 2003.

Osment plays a 12-year-old Polish-Jewish boy who is sent to the country to elude the Nazis by living with a Roman Catholic family. At first he experiences the expected tension as an outsider among the other village children, but he is eventually accepted. Much of the film explores the impact of the war (and religious influences) from the perspective of this varied group of youngsters.

This unusual take on WWII is further enhanced by the contrast between the beautiful country setting and the horrific intrusion of German soldiers, with nightmarish scenes of concentration camp trains passing by the village at night.

Strangely enough, in perusing various reviews and comments on the Internet Movie Database I found that European critics mostly dismissed the film while American viewers, many fans of Osment, loved it. Personally, I found it an extremely powerful work with amazing performances from Osment and an ensemble of other young actors.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence: Jude Law, Haley Joel Osment, and Teddy in Rouge City

I was also mainly interested in Edges because of Osment, whom I found amazing in Artificial Intelligence, the only Steven Spielberg film which I find truly fascinating. In it Osment plays a prototype robot child who is accepted and then rejected by a human married couple. The film, which was originally a Stanley Kubrick project, is also a variation on the story of Pinocchio (with a robotic teddy bear filling in for Jiminy Cricket) as the abandoned David (Osment) goes on his quest to become a “real boy.”

Though I also find it problematic on several levels, A.I. has some of the most fantastic (and fantastically disturbing) imagery I’ve ever experienced in a contemporary film. Unforgettable, state-of-the-art CGI effects include a journey to Rouge City, the film’s perverse Pleasure Island, and a climax in an inundated New York City.

Haley at his most intense: A.I.

But still, what one comes away with from A.I. is the remarkable performance of Osment, quite an accomplishment given the glitz, dazzle, and (melo)drama of much of the film.

A more mature Haley Joel has just made of comeback of sorts in the comedy Sex Ed (2014). Though it seems a somewhat-desperate attempt to move into “regular guy” mode from his previous hyper-intense roles, this unique actor already has several incredible films under his belt, and I wish him the best.

Haley Joel Osment today: Sex Ed

His major films (including Edges of the Lord) are available on DVD through the Ventura County Library. A.I. is in a special edition two-disc set with lots of extra features.

 

Ross Care

David's Dish: Homemade Tortillas

I’ve been wanting to make tortillas for quite some time. After dining at a friend’s house and tasting their homemade tortillas, I knew I would prepare tortillas in my own kitchen in the near future.

By chance I stumbled upon a children’s book, Honest Pretzels and 64 Other Amazing Recipes for Cooks Ages 8 & Up, by Mollie Katzen. Luckily enough it contained a recipe for tortillas, so tortillas would be made. Mollie Katzen has authored some amazing cookbooks; she has been a favorite of mine for years.

Flour, water, and salt was all the recipe called for. "What, no manteca?" I was quite puzzled about the simplicity of the recipe, but Mollie had never steered me wrong in the past. 

The directions were accompanied by lovely illustrations that would be quite appealing for even the youngest chefs—with adult supervision, of course. In no time I was dropping the tortillas into the frying pan, watching them bubble, and sliding them onto my tortilla towel.

I added cheese to one in the pan, let it melt, and slid it onto a plate. With a dab of salsa and some green chili, it became a delicious snack, not unlike what Señor Coyote tasted in The Runaway Tortilla, by Eric A. Kimmel. Make tortillas, not war; give a children’s book a try; and don’t trust a coyote.

 

***** 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: “Personal,” by Lee Child

Though some of the greatest works of literature are one-of-a-kind, there is something to be said for titles that are more serial in nature. Sometimes all you want to do as a reader is return to the same great characters time and time again, to see them in a new setting, making new friends (and enemies), and overcoming new challenges. While the occasional trilogy is common enough, some authors really go for broke, and their most well-known creations can persist across decades. This month, Novelties will focus on the latest installment of one of these popular long-running franchises: Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series.

Personal (2014) is the 19th of Child’s books to feature Jack Reacher, a former member of the US Army’s military police. Reacher is a drifter who travels the country taking on odd-jobs and dangerous tasks, occasionally with the goal of helping someone in need and sometimes by virtue of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s a big man who excels at hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship and brings a cold, calculating mentality to bear when threatened. In 2012 Child’s earlier novel One Shot (2005) was adapted into the film Jack Reacher starring Tom Cruise, bringing this popular character to the big screen. In Personal, Reacher is approached when a talented sniper attempts to take out the president of France (ultimately failing to do so). Because the two have a history dating back to Reacher’s days as an MP, he and novice CIA agent Casey Nice must locate the would-be assassin and bring him in. Their search takes them through the US and France and finally to London, where they must spar with members of the criminal underworld while each deals with the ghosts of their respective pasts. Though Personal is regarded as a strong link in the series, readers unfamiliar with Reacher are advised to start with one of Child’s earlier volumes.
Andrew Gross published Personal read-alike The Dark Tide in 2008, kicking off a series featuring Connecticut detective Ty Hauck. Gross has a history of collaborating with fiction icon James Patterson; The Dark Tide is his second novel written on his own, following 2007’s The Blue Zone, and many believe it represents a significant improvement in his craft. Hauck becomes involved in the plot while investigating a tenuous connection between a hit-and-run case and a bombing in Grand Central Station that shreds a train and claims hedge fund manager Charles Friedman as one of its victims. This brings Hauck into contact with Karen Friedman, the late Charles’ widow, who finds herself harassed by men digging into her deceased husband’s affairs. As Karen learns more about Charles’ shady business practices she and Hauck begin to develop a personal relationship that only strengthens their need to protect each other as nefarious forces close in. Though some readers found the romance angle distracting, others have praised Gross for pulling off such a mix of compelling sentimentality and fast-paced action, and while the plot includes twists that might be a bit predictable, The Dark Tide has been generally well-received.
Our third title is Plum Island (1997) by Nelson DeMille. This book introduces us to John Corey, a homicide detective with the New York City Police Department, as he convalesces after being wounded in the line of duty. Recovering in his uncle’s house in Southold, a township in Long Island, he is called upon by a friend who works in local law enforcement to consult on a double murder that has rocked the quiet community. But Corey soon finds that what looks like a simple—if disturbing—crime is actually far more complicated, involving the offshore research lab Plum Island, where the victims worked. It seems that there may be a connection between the killings and the volatile compounds being studied at Plum Island—or, even more outlandishly, the rumored existence of buried treasure dating back to the ancient history of the region. The resulting plot is an interesting mix of crime drama, medical mystery, and pirate lore that by all accounts succeeds at being just as amazing as it sounds. In addition, DeMille’s wisecracking, witty, and sarcastic Corey keeps the reader engaged with brilliantly delivered bits of comic dialogue and wry commentary.

You can borrow a copy of Personal, The Dark Tide, and Plum Island at E.P. Foster Library, as well as at several of our other branches. For more read-alikes or to search for something from a different genre, check out NoveList Plus in the Reading Suggestions section of our eLibrary. If you’re looking for a title that isn’t on the shelf at your branch, you can make a request for a copy in person, over the phone, or online through the Ventura County Library catalog.

 

Pursued by Ronald Martin.

Syndicate content