Friday, June 16, 2017

Chance's Corner: Wonder Woman Review

WONDER WOMAN! All the world's waiting for you... Yes, we have been waiting, and you finally got the big screen adaptation that you deserve. 

Wonder Woman is the fourth installment of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) - a universe that (so far) connects the worlds of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman, and will soon lead into the granddaddy of all superhero films, Justice League. I've never read any Wonder Woman comics, and I've never actually seen the old television show starring Lynda Carter, but I have watched the re-runs of the cartoon Super Friends that started in 1973. In that show, Wonder Woman flew around in an invisible jet (she wasn't invisible, though), wielded the glowing Lasso of Truth, and was generally pretty cool. That's all I remember. So, it's pretty safe to say that I went into this film totally blind concerning the mythology behind Wonder Woman AKA Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta. 

Diana's (Gal Gadot) journey starts on a gorgeous, tropical island, where she is the only child amongst warrior women named the Amazons. The Amazons were created by Zeus to protect humankind from the blood lust of Ares, the God of War, and to serve as a bridge between humans and the gods. However, the will of man, and the will of Ares, proved to be too strong, and Zeus hid the Amazons away from the world. The Amazons continue to train, though, knowing Ares will eventually find them, but this time they have a secret weapon known as the Godkiller to defeat him once and for all. Diana longs to be the one of the warriors, and to wield the power of the Godkiller, but her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) forbids it. Diana's aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright), goes against her sister's wishes and trains Diana, anyways. 

Thank the gods she did, because a spy from the United States named Steve Trevor (Chris Pines) breaks through Zeus' protective barrier around the island and crashes into the sea. Diana saves Steve from drowning, and the world as she knows it is never the same. Steve tells the clueless Amazons about The Great War (WWI) and his mission to stop German General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and Dr. Poison (Elena Anya) from developing a deadlier form of mustard gas that would embolden Germany and stop all armistice negotiations. Diana instantly believes that Ludendorff is Ares in disguise and sets out to kill him to put an end to war forever. She finds out that it's a little more complicated than that, though. 

The DCEU has had its fair share of detractors, some calling Man of Steel "Meh of Steel", some saying Suicide Squad made them want to commit suicide, and other stupid stuff like that, but Wonder Woman is the first one I think everyone can agree is wonderful. It's also a landmark film because it features a leading female superhero. Yes, there was that Catwoman movie starring Halle Berry all those years ago, but it was universally rejected, and it's pretty well forgotten. There might have been an Elektra movie, too, but it's forgotten, as well. Wonder Woman will not be forgotten, though. DC has finally done everything right. There's sprinkles of good humor, perfect doses of action-packed set pieces (with slow-mo thrown in for good measure), gorgeous production design, and well-developed characters that make you feel.

There's a key scene in Wonder Woman, where Diana climbs out of a trench and bravely walks across No Man's Land, taking fire from the Germans, and allowing the Allied army to advance and liberate a village. Every hair on my body stood up on end at that moment, and tears welled-up in my eyes, because it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. It's everything Marvel's WWII adventure, Captain America: The First Avenger, could only dream to be - you know the comparison between those two films was going to come up sooner or later. On a side note, I really think Marvel should be taking notes now on how to present women in films, how to market them, and how to make female-led films in general, because... they're not doing that. Marvel only markets films starring a Chris, another Chris, and one more Chris for good luck. Ha!

I'll admit there has been some doubts in my mind about the future of the DCEU, but I have also been one of their biggest defenders. They've been taking risks, not restricting themselves to formula, and I greatly admire that. I'm glad they keep pressing forward, and if they keep moving in this direction, then we are in store for some great things.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Summer Reading 2017

We kicked off Summer Reading this week!  Our theme this year is "Build a Better World"!

Mrs. August read several books, and then the kids decorated aprons and hats according to what they want to be when they grow up.

Mrs. August figured out that she has been teaching summer reading for 16 years.  Mrs. Lisa is on her 14th year, and I (Julie) am on my 9th year.  It's crazy how fast time flies!

Summer Reading meets on Tuesdays at 9:30, 11:00, or 1:00.  See you there!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Friday, May 26, 2017

Tom's Two Cents : Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

It may come as a surprise to many of you that Boris Karloff didn't invent the monster Frankenstein.  That dubious honor goes to a nineteen year old British girl, whose name just happened to be Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, who in 1816, at a house party on Lake Geneva, created the character and the subsequent novel in a writing contest.  It seems it was raining, there was nothing to do (no TV at the Lakeside villa), a contest of sorts was proposed, and Frankenstein was born.  Others who just happened to be present included two of Britain's greatest Romantic poets, Percy Shelley and George Gordon, Lord Byron.

Not the least of Mary Shelley's accomplishments in "Frankenstein" is the number of voices in which she tells her story.  Indeed the "creature" himself is not named "Frankenstein", or named at all.  His creator is Dr. Victor Frankenstein, a native of the Republic of Genoa, and in later versions of the tale, the Creature assumes the name of his creator.  It is, in fact, Dr. Frankenstein who tells most of the story to the ship captain Robert Walton, who, in turn, is relating it by letter to his sister, a lady named Mrs. Saville, who lives in England.  Captain Walton himself starts on a sea adventure from St. Petersburg to discover the North Pole, in the process rescuing Dr. Frankenstein from an icy death.  If all this sounds too convoluted, it is an acceptable way in the early part of the 19th century to tell a story that otherwise would have appeared totally unbelievable: summed up in a couple of words: "science fiction" was born.

By now science fiction as a genre has come so far through its exploration of outer space and alien worlds that Mary Shelley's little parlor tale may seem outmoded indeed.  But it was the first, and the most influential, and characters like R2D2 might never have been created without it.  Shelley is more interested, however, in the "whys" of scientific/technological achievement than the "how's"--her ultimate question remains unresolved:  is Man in his eternal quest for knowledge, in his aspiration for greatness and power, ultimately any better off?  Her story is her answer, and despite its antique language, one worth reading and pondering.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Marvelous Monday! : Ice Cream!

Yesterday was our last meeting of Marvelous Monday until school starts again in the fall.  For the 2nd year in a row, we finished off the year by making ice cream!  We have two Ice Cream Balls.

They open at each end.  One end is for ice and salt.  The other is for ice cream mix.  Then we just keep the balls moving for 15 - 20 minutes until the ice cream hardens up.

Everyone agreed that the ice cream turned out great!  One of our patrons brought brownies to go with the ice cream and Sydney, our summer worker, brought chocolate syrup and sprinkles.  

Check back with us in the fall for the resumption of Marvelous Mondays!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Chance's Corner: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Review

Wow, it's been a long, long time since I've seen this. I'm talking about a time when I actually used to believe this was a sequel to Mary Poppins. Seriously, I was so mad that they had recast the role of Mary Poppins with Sally Ann Howes! Sure, admitting that makes me sound like an idiot, but my younger self could sense the Dick Van Dyke and Sherman Brothers (who wrote the music for Mary Poppins) connection. Now that I'm old enough to know better, I'm actually surprised by a completely different connection. James Bond. That's right! Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the book) was originally written by 007's creator, Ian Fleming. The film was also produced by Albert Broccoli, the long-time producer of the Bond franchise. The film also stars two Bond film legends, Desmond Llewelyn who played Q and Gert Fröbe who played Auric Goldfinger. Anna Quayle even starred in the non-canon Bond spoof Casino Royale. Crazy, huh?

The Child Catcher with his signature lollipops.

Besides all the amazing realizations washing over me this time around, I was swept away by the "fantasmagorical" adventure unfolding on screen. I'm telling you, the Sherman Brothers really outdid themselves when they cooked up the songs for this one. Fast and slow, wacky and meaningful, each song is insanely catchy. The stellar choreography that accompanies the music also proves that Dick Van Dyke is a dancing machine. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang isn't without its faults, though. My main complaint is that it's rather indulgent in its length. It could actually be two films, one comprised of reality and the other running wild with fantasy. Another idiot moment for me is admitting that when I was a kid I thought the entire last half of the film actually happened - flying cars and all. Instead, it's all just part of a story that Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke) is telling his children to kill some time. Wow. If there's one thing that still stands true from when I was a kid, it's that my fear of the Child Catcher (Robert Helpmann) was not overblown. His lollipops will haunt my dreams forever.

If you'd like to re-visit this film, or experience it for the first time, you can find it here at the Franklin County Library!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Did you know? New Releases

We here at Franklin County Library work hard to keep our collection up to date.  We keep up with release dates for books and movies and order them in advance.  Often we get new items on the day they are released.

The first shelf of books you see when you come in the library is full of new releases.  Everything on that shelf is less than a year old, and may of them are very recent.  March and April were good months for new books coming out, so we added lots of new titles.

We have new books by Danielle Steel, Fredrik Backman, Jess Kidd, Catherine Coulter, and Anita Shreve among many others.

Chance keeps us informed of new movies and TV shows as they become available as well.  Our most recent movies are Gold, LaLa Land, Mean Dreams, Split, and Hidden Figures.  For kids, we have Sing, Lost & Found, and PJ Mask.  We have been slowly expanding our collection of TV shows.   We've recently added Endeavour, Home Fires, Doc Martin, Shades of Blue, and Chicago PD.

Come on in and check out some of these new releases.  Movies and books are FREE to check out at the library!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Tom's Two Cents: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

If you haven't heard of "Hamilton" by now, I would have to ask, "What world are you living in?"  The most successful Broadway musical in years, conceived and adapted by Lin Manuel Miranda, winner of multiple Tonys, "Hamilton" is now about to take to the road and will doubtless garner millions, if it hasn't already.  But the "Hamilton" I'm telling you about is the book it was based on, the 732 page biography of Alexander Hamilton by the eminent historian, Ron Chernow, published in 2005. 

When I say I've been reading this book on and off for at least ten years, I'm not exaggerating: it's gotten lost, mislaid, set aside deliberately for a shorter, quicker read, but I keep coming back to it, and now, only some 200 pages from the end, I'm certain I will finish it.  My meanderings have never been due to lack of interest, but I will say that this work is so full, so rich with detail, that it can hardly be digested in one continuous reading.  Like a multiple course dinner, it's better savored than gulped, and probably a rest between courses is even in order.

Alexander Hamilton has been given rather short shrift in American history, for a number of reasons.  First of all, he was born in Nevis in the Caribbean, under somewhat questionable circumstances, and only emigrated to the American Colonies as a young man.  During the Revolution he acquitted himself admirably, serving under General Washington himself, and becoming in effect one of Washington's most trusted advisors.  In the formation of the new government, he became Washington's first Secretary of the Treasury, and one of the most influential cabinet members in American history.  As such, he was subject to much criticism as a "Federalist" and a British sympathizer.  His conflicts with Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson became so monumental that in Washington's second term Jefferson left office and returned to the public scene only after he bested John Adams in his run for a second term.  Further, his sympathies with the notion of a strong, central government made him extremely unpopular with his Republican colleagues.  The genesis of our nation's conflict between two powerful political parties is clearly brought to life here.

That Hamilton came to a tragic end in a duel with Aaron Burr is generally known, but the events leading up to it are not.  Chernow is masterful in depicting these events and all others in Hamilton's life, making this work not only a significant slice of American history, but a thoroughly engrossing tale of the rise and fall of a great man.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Chance's Corner: Movie Time at the Library (April)

It's hard to believe that another month has passed, but it has, and our patrons were treated to two new movies!

Yes, someone caught wind of Zootopia. Yes, there's plenty of cliché. Yes, it may be more a matter of making money rather than producing substance, but once Sing gets through glossing over a countless melody of songs in the first act, most of them featured in the unappealing trailer, Sing really starts to shine.

In Sing, Matthew McConaughey plays a lovable koala named Buster Moon. He's ambitious, a little too ambitious, but he's no bumbling fool. Right now he's concerned about losing his beloved theater, a theater his father bought for him after working day after day after day washing cars. In an attempt to save the legacy of the theater, and not let his deceased father down, Buster cooks up an idea to host a singing competition where the winner will take home $1,000 - most of the money is coming from earthly possessions, such as Buster's watch. Unfortunately, his mostly-capable secretary, Miss Crawly (Garth Jennings) loses her glass eye while typing up the flyers and the eye hits the zero key two times too many. Everyone and their gazelle shows up to enter, including a gorilla named Johnny (Taron Egerton), a housewife pig named Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), and some K-pop foxes. Each character has a motive, some just want the recognition and others just want the money, but none of them try to undermine one another, which is refreshing.

Like I said, there's cliché, but Sing does take a few surprising routes. Buster could have been doing the singing competition just for his own financial gain, but instead he actually focuses on his work, recognizes talent and helps them reach their fullest potential, such as with the bashful elephant, Meena (Tori Kelly). Miss Crawly can actually teach how to play the piano, as well, instead of bluffing her way through it. She's useful for more than just comic relief. It's a miracle! Also, I loved him how Buster's best friend, Eddie (John C. Reilly) the sheep, is kind of spaced out, and yet he's still a great, caring and responsible friend. Who knew seeing a koala washing a car and a sheep drying the car to the tune of Nessun Dorma could be such an emotional experience?

Manchester by the Sea

By the sea, by the sea, by the miserable sea!

After a terrible accident costs him everything he holds dear, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) retreats to the dark recesses of depression and lives his life as a janitor until he gets the call he's been dreading for ten years. His brother, who was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, has died. Whether he likes it or not, Lee must return to his hometown, Manchester, to take care of his brother's funeral and his teenage nephew. He thinks it will only take a few days, but as his dark past collides with the possibility of a new future, winter begins to turn into spring and summer.

Honestly, I didn't really see or hear anything exceptional in Manchester by the Sea in terms of story. Some of the flashbacks actually confused rather than informed, especially the first one. Also, the dialogue is a hit or a miss. Most of the conversations just feel scripted instead of genuine. There were a few moments though that stood out to me, such as Patrick's (Lucas Hedges) panic attack, and Randi's (Michelle Williams) emotional apology to Lee. Sadly, Michelle Williams time is minimal in this film, but I'm glad she made the poster! What this film lacks in story, however, is made up by the performances, which leads right back to the two moments I just mentioned. Casey Affleck is the only one who took home an Oscar, though, and I guess it was deserved for his muted, stiff as a board performance.

If you missed them, both films are now available at the Franklin County Library. We hope to see you on the last Thursday and Friday of May at 1:30 PM to catch two new movies specially selected for your viewing pleasure!

Julie's Journal: Two Good Reads

Friday evening, I got home about 7:30, and I didn't leave my place again until it was time to come to work this morning.  That's what I call a good weekend!  I did get some chores and cooking done on Saturday, but yesterday, I spent the majority of the day catching up on my reading.

First, I was able to finish up The Death and Life of The Great Lakes, by Dan Egan.  European explorers first set eyes on the Great Lakes in about 1535.  They found what they thought was a freshwater sea that they hoped would lead to China.  The area was rich in wildlife and the lakes were teaming with fish.  It was perhaps inevitable that huge cities would grow up on the banks of the lakes. 

From the beginning modification of the lakes was a priority.  The largest modification, perhaps, are the canals, (the Erie Canal and the St. Lawrence Seaway) that allow shipping from the Atlantic.  The canals bypassed the natural barrier of the Niagara Falls, so that huge ships could make their way into the lakes and the ports of Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Toronto, and other cities.  Unfortunately, the ships were not just loaded with cargo.  Hitchhikers from the sea and other ports around the world were also brought into the previously isolated lakes.  The first of these was the sea lamprey.  An adaptive species, it is able to live in the freshwater of the lakes, and it found an abundant food source in the native trout.  In the 1930's, millions of pounds of native trout and whitefish were being harvested from the lake annually.  By the 50's that number was near zero, due entirely to the lamprey.  This was only the first ecological disaster to befall the lakes.  

The book details several more ecological disasters and resurgences, and more modern problems, such as huge demands for water to supply cities both near the lakes, and further away.  I was afraid this book would be political in nature, but it wasn't.  It was very informative and made me look at our water, and fish, supplies differently.  

My second read was One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline.  Chris Brennan is applying for a job as a high school government teacher and coach, but his name isn't really Chris Brennan, it's Curt Abbot, and he's not really a teacher.  He's looking for a young man to manipulate.  He zeros in on Raz, Jordan, and Evan.  Raz lost his father last year and his family is struggling to cope.  Jordan is the son of a single mother who works hard to support her son, but he lacks a father figure.  Evan is a spoiled rich kid, the child of a stay at home mom and an affluent oncology surgeon.  The book is divided into three parts labeled Step One, Step Two, and Step Three.  For most of Step One, the reader doesn't know what's going on or what Chris/Curt's motives are.  Things become much clearer in Step Two.  My only gripe with the story was that the ending seemed a little far fetched.  It didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of the story though.  It was a quick read that I was able to knock out in just a few hours.  

Both The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, and One Perfect Lie are available for checkout at Franklin County Library.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Photography Books

There have been several beautiful photography books published recently.  We brought several down from upstairs to display across from the front desk.

The pictures range from portraits to animals to landscapes.  They are gorgeous collections!

A new favorite is The Photo Ark by Joel Sartore.  The brilliant colors of the animals are accented perfectly against a solid black or solid white background.

All photography books are available for checkout today!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Poet's Perch : To the Not Impossible Him by Edna St. Vincent Millay

To the Not Impossible Him

How shall I know, unless I go
To Cairo and Cathay,
Whether or not this blessed spot 
Is blest in every way?

Now it may be, the flower for me
Is this beneath my nose;
How shall I tell, unless I smell
The Carthaginian rose?

The fabric of my faithful love
No power shall dim or ravel
Whilst I stay here, - but on, my dear,
If I should ever travel!

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Monday, April 10, 2017

Chance's Corner: Movie Time at the Library (March)

Did you miss the chance to enjoy a movie at the library? Sad! Here's what you missed:

Moana is a very cute film that follows the classic Disney formula we all know and love. The visuals are gorgeous and the story has heart. Choosing the scatter-brained rooster, Hei Hei, as Moana's sidekick over the absolutely adorable and competent pig, Pua, is the only real surprise here.
Despite my overall good impression, one question lingers: What has happened to the Disney musical? Out of the ten or so songs in Moana there were only two standouts - "How Far I'll Go" and "Shiny". I'm not just picking on Moana here. Frozen tossed songs out like candy, and only two were standouts, as well - "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" and the dead horse "Let It Go". I think Disney needs to focus on cultivating great, catchy songs to sprinkle throughout their future endeavors instead of pushing just one really bankable song, and I know they can do it!


Jackie is a study of grief, or more precisely, the feeling of grief. I mean, director Pablo Larraín really wants you to feel it. The cinematography is steeped in cold, somber tones. The reds and pinks of Jacqueline Kennedy's dresses almost come out looking pale. It looks like the film was shot entirely through an ice cube. Natalie Portman's performance is also rather cold, but that's perfectly in-line with Jackie's shell-shock. I don't think Jackie would have been half as interesting if Natalie wasn't involved. She practically nails Jackie's signature, elegant voice, but there were a few points where I felt she was slipping more into Marilyn Monroe territory.

My key problem with Jackie was the lack of a real story - the lack of depth. Yes, the story is that Jackie's in mourning, but we only scratch the surface of those feelings. What's her story? Who is the real Jackie other than the queen of Camelot? No answer is provided, and she seems to be more elusive than ever.

If either one of these films sounds like something you'd be interested in seeing, then you're in luck! Both films are now available at the Franklin County Library. Also, don't forget to join us every last Thursday and Friday of the month at 1:30 PM to get in on the movie fun!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Julie's Journal : Book Survey

You may  not be interested, but I found this survey on a bookish blog I read and decided to come up with my own answers.

1.  What book has been on your shelf the longest?  I'm at work and can't remember its title, but I have a book that I got at an author signing here in MV in about 1996.  It is about the Trail of Tears and the settling of the Oklahoma reservations.  There are possibly some children's books and books my grandmother gave me that are older, but I'm not sure.

2.  What is your current read, your last read, and the book you'll read next?  I'm currently reading Three Sisters, Three Queens, by Philippa Gregory.  My last read was A Dog's Journey, by W. Bruce Cameron, and my next read will probably be The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden.

3.  What book did everyone like, but you hated?  Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes.  I have STRONG feelings about this book.  If you ever want to know why I hated it, just ask and I'll be glad to tell you!

4.  What book do you keep telling yourself you'll read, but you probably won't?  I hope not any.  I've been planning to read Anna Karenina for a while, and keep putting it off, but I hope I get to it eventually.

5.  What book are you saving for retirement?  Well, maybe Anna Karenina from #4, but I hope not.

6.  Last page: read it first, or wait 'til the end?  I have a bad habit of reading the last page at some point when I'm a third of the way or less through a book.  I've messed up some books for myself that way, and I'm trying to quit doing it..

7.  Acknowledgement: Wast of paper and ink, or interesting aside?  I usually don't read it.  I think it would only be important to  me if I was mentioned in the acknowledgements!

8.  Which book character would you switch places with?  I don't know.  The most interesting book characters usually have a tragic backstory that I don't want.  Pippi Longstocking would have been a cool kid to change places with, but her mother was dead.  Ditto with Anne of Green Gables.  Most of the adult protagonists in books only go on adventures after they have lost their whole family or suffered some tragedy.  I think I'm content to read their stories, rather than live them, but if I did trade places with someone I'd want it to be someone with magical powers.

9.  Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life? (Place, time, person?)  Several of my favorite fantasy books remind me of Jr. High because I first discovered them during free reading time at school.

10.  Name a book that you acquired in an interesting way.  None really.  I've bought a lot of books.  My grandmother used to give me books.  Sometimes I ask for books as Christmas/Birthday presents.  I used to swap books with people online until the website I was using changed their terms of use and I didn't like the way it worked anymore.

11.  Have you ever given a book away for a special reason to a special person? I don't think so.

12.  Which book has been with you in the most places?  Anything that I had before I graduated high school has been with me in every place I've ever lived.  Mom and Dad's house, college dorms and houses, a couple of apartments as a newlywed, and two houses after that.

13.  Any "required reading" you hated in high school that wasn't so bad later?  There was lots of required reading that I hated, but most of it I still hate.  Lord of the Flies, Wuthering Heights, Shakespeare (I probably shouldn't admit that), and The Great Gatsby.

14.  Used or brand new?  Either, but I prefer new.

15.  Have you ever read a Dan Brown book?  No.

16.  Have you ever seen a movie you like more than the book?  The Help.

17.  Have you ever read a book that's made you hungry, cookbooks included?  Yes.  I like books with good descriptions of food.

18.  Who is the person whose book advice you'll always take?  My mom.  We have similar eclectic tastes in books.

19.  Is there a a book out of your comfort zone that you ended up loving?  Most books are in my comfort zone.  I read just about everything.

20.  What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through?  I have a hard time finishing books when I don't like any of the characters.