Thursday, October 20, 2016

Chance's Corner: Ghostbusters Review

Boy, oh boy. Girl, oh girl. The new, gender-bending Ghostbusters really started off rough. A mansion tour guide spouts off several lame lines, and I'm as stone-faced as his tour group. One EVP fart and a gallon of ghost vomit later, and I'm still struggling to smile. All that hate circling the internet before the movie even came out seemed to have some merit.

Leslie Jones
However, somewhere along the way, Ghostbusters started to have a few moments - moments where I cracked a smile and some charm oozed. These moments were all mostly in the second act when the crew was assembled. Leslie Jones was probably my favorite of the crew, despite the tokenism of her character. Director Paul Feig wants to make a movie that promotes representation, but he stumbles into the very same pitfall he's trying to cover up. Why couldn't Leslie Jones be a scientist and Melissa McCarthy be a subway worker?

Also, Chris Hemsworth is a handsome, solidly-built devil (the movie beats you over the head with this fact), but his dumb blonde shtick was... dumb. Sure, Feig was using Hemsworth to lash out at a dumb blonde female stereotype, but he's lashing out in the wrong movie. Annie Potts and Sigourney Weaver represented strong, independent women in the original Ghostbusters, not women reduced to lame my cat/Mike Hat jokes.

Good grief, I started off complimenting the movie and ended up ranting. I might as well keep going. The villain is lame and underdeveloped, the obvious ad-libbing is truly dreadful, the Fall Out Boy version of the Ghostbusters theme is an abomination, and the climatic battle during the third act feels like it was just thrown together.

Whew, it sounds like I'm completely trashing it. Look, it's an okay movie, alright? Like I said, it has moments. That's all I can give it. 

Ghostbusters is now available at the Franklin County Library!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Poet's Perch : New Friends and Old Friends by Joseph Parry

New Friends and Old Friends

Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.
New-made friendships, like new wine,
Age will mellow and refine.
Friendships that have stood the test - 
Time and change - are surely best;
Brow may wrinkle, hair grow gray,
Friendship never knows decay.
For 'mid old friends, tried and true,
Once more we our youth renew.
But old friends, alas! may die,
New friends must their place supply.
Cherish friendship in your breast - 
New is good, but old is best;
Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold

Joseph Parry

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tom's Two Cents : Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett's new novel, "Commonwealth," is the story of two modern families in crisis--the result of a divorce in each family that affects six children.  Franny, the younger in one family, has just been christened when the novel begins, and Albee, the youngest of four in the other family, is yet to be born.  A stolen kiss and immediate electric shock (a bit dorky, it seems to me) between Franny's beautiful mother, Beverly, and Bert Cousins, an uninvited guest at the christening party, starts the whole ball rolling, but the story is much less about them or their respective spouses than it is about Cal, Holly, Jeanette, and Albee; Caroline and Franny.  In the best modern tradition, the story of the developing lives of these six children hops, skips, and jumps all over the place, as this old reader, anyway, tries desperately to keep them straight.

Actually Franny Keating carries the greater part of the story.  An engaging, yet perplexing law school dropout, she is a cocktail waitress in Chicago at the famous Palmer House, when she accidentally meets Leonard Posen, a famous author, and later begins an affair with him that more or less dominates the middle part of the book.  I say "more or less," because it seems to me that Patchett is quite determined not to linger too long over any one story line.  Just when one thinks she is finally focusing on one of her many possible protagonists, she is off to another, and usually somewhere in the confusing middle of their story.  Things get really complicated when some of the children marry and have children of their own, while others simply go off the beam, or, in one case, mysteriously die.

Patchett is too facile a writer to induce such a wandering plot accidentally, so I will conclude that it's her deliberate intention to do so, to express her dismay over how six children's lives are so affected by what appears to be a random, romantic moment in the lives of the father of one set and the mother of the other set.  At times both sets of children "hate" their parents, but not each other.  They are too caught up in the dynamics of trying to become one of those increasingly modern things: a "blended" family. 

This book is nothing like Patchett's "Bel Canto" or the more recent "State of Wonder."  We are forever in the less than exotic settings of the modern states of Virginia and California, where one can literally pick the oranges off the trees.  Oranges are, in fact, a predominant motif in the book, and a very prominent part of the dust jacket.  A symbol, you ask?  Certainly!  But I will leave it to you to figure that one out.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Chance's Corner: Hunt for the Wilderpeople Review

Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a bad egg. We're talking disobedience, stealing, spitting, running away, throwing rocks, kicking stuff, loitering and graffiti. No one seems to want to deal with him anymore, until Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her rugged husband, Hec (Sam Neill), take him in.

At first, Ricky is put off by Bella's eagerness and Hec's "reserved" nature, but with a little care and understanding it all seems to work out. However, as fate would have it, tragedy strikes, and Ricky's future with his new family is put in jeopardy. So Ricky does what he does best. He runs away. Okay, maybe he's not so good at it, especially in the New Zealand bush, but he just might make it back home with a little help from Uncle Hec.

Unfortunately, Paula (Rachel House) of child services is on their tail under the assumption that Hec has kidnapped Ricky. In her mind, she is the Terminator, and Ricky is Sarah Connor... from the first movie... before she could do chin-ups. Interesting outlook, but Paula fails to stop and ask herself if she is the Terminator sent to kill or save Sarah Connor.

Okay, that may sound a little kooky, but there is a genuine sense of style, substance and soul in Hunt for the Wilderpeople that I haven't seen in awhile. Director Taika Waititi pulls off perfect direction, characters, humor, quirkiness and emotional resonance. Although Sam Neill and Julian Dennison seem like an unlikely duo, they are truly phenomenal together. The generation gap between them collides and congeals in the New Zealand bush and creates a real gangsta's paradise.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is now available at the Franklin County Library!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

New E-books!

Our e-book collection is getting more use everyday!  Powered by Overdrive, we are part of a consortium with almost 70 other East Texas libraries.  Each library is required to purchase books at least once a year and we purchased 46 new titles last week.  We try to order a mix of books, so that we add things that will appeal to everybody.

This year we added several Goosebumps books for young readers including:

We also purchased a few Nora Roberts books for our romance lovers, including her most recent release:

We have been asked several times for cozy mysteries, so we added the Merry Muffin Mystery series.

We also look at what our patrons have on hold and try to order a few of those books, to reduce wait times.

And finally, we added a few non-fiction books to the collection.

If you have a request for a specific e-book that is not available in our collection, please let us know.  We will try to honor your request, if at all possible, the next time we purchase e-books.  Overdrive is a great resource for finding the books you most want to read, or listen to (the audiobook collection is huge).  FCL houses a physical collection of about 17,000 books, but our e-book collection numbers nearly 60,000 items!  Come in today and let us set up your device for checking out e-books!


Monday, September 26, 2016

Tom's Two Cents : Woman in Gold

The Franklin County Friends of the Library began its Fall Film Fest this past Thursday with the presentation of a BBC 2015 film, "Woman in Gold," starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds as Maria Altmann, an older California Jewish woman originally from Austria, and her family friend, Randy Schoenberg, an aspiring young lawyer with Austrian roots.  The film focuses on a Nazi art theft in 1939 during Hitler's occupation of Austria (the "Anschluss ") and its subsequent persecution of the Jews in Vienna in particular.  A poignant series of flashbacks tells both the early story of Maria's growing up years in a wealthy Jewish family in Vienna and her later story as its last surviving member in Pasadena, California, where she owns a ladies' shop.

Ostensibly this is a tale of Maria's attempts to retrieve her stolen art property, in particular a portrait of her Aunt Adele by the famous Austrian artist, Gustave Klimpt, hanging in the Belvedere Museum in Vienna.  She is aided and supported by a young American lawyer, whose grandfather was none other than the famous atonal composer, Arnold Schoenberg.  On a much deeper level, this is a story about family, loss, justice and retribution, all of these threads woven together into a series of legal suspense episodes of the "will-she," "won't-she" obtain justice type.  Like any good legal-suspense story, the movie keeps the viewer guessing almost to the end.  But it is also a true story.

With settings like Pasadena and Vienna, the film has a lot going for it from the beginning, but it is the authenticity of the flashback episodes, especially the intimate scenes of this cultured family in Vienna before the War, that make it work most successfully.  Helen Mirren is, as always, supremely in command of her role, and the interaction between her and Reynolds, both as friend, supporter and sometimes even antagonist, makes for a convincing personal conflict.  Also, among the seemingly endless films about World War II, and the Holocaust in particular, this is a different and more personal perspective.  Quality films of this type rarely make it to the Provinces, and we are especially lucky to have our local Library Friends sponsor such events.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Chance's Corner: The Conjuring 2 Review

It's nearly October, and I've got the itch for cooler weather and to be scared senseless. The weather keeps failing me, but we do have a few horror flicks here at the Franklin County Library - classics such as The Shining and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and even contemporary films like The Babadook and The Conjuring.

The Conjuring is based off one of the case files of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens are mainly known for their research into the house in Amityville. What house? Maybe you heard of The Amityville Horror? The Conjuring takes place before the Warrens went to Amityville, and revolves around a family being terrorized by the spirit of a witch in their new farmhouse. The events are said to be true. True or not, The Conjuring is one spooky and unnerving movie.

The Conjuring 2 recently came out on DVD, and knowing how good the original movie was, I was very excited to see what comes next. This time the Warrens are investigating another famous case, the Enfield Poltergeist, which is claimed to be one of the most well-documented hauntings in history. 

Amityville House
In the prologue, the movie opens with the camera pulling back from a seemingly peaceful view, through a pane of glass, to reveal a pair of infamous quarter-moon windows. Nothing happens, but an instant chill sets in. I just knew this was going to be good... and then it wasn't.

Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) roams the haunted halls of 112 Ocean Drive, Amityville, and claims to have seen Hell (more of a personal hell, as it turns out), but all I saw was lackluster scares. Something's wrong when you can't make the house in Amityville scary.

Then the movie moves on to the Enfield case. The ball really doesn't start rolling until much later when the poltergeist starts to verbalize in his signature growl. The plot hits all the highlights of the  Enfield case - the policewoman witnessing the chair move, the possession shown on television, the photos of the girls being tossed about in their rooms, Janet bending spoons, and so on and so forth. This all actually happened, whether real or conjured up.

Is she jumping? Or is she being tossed around? 

That's what I really like about The Conjuring 2. The Warrens don't march into the house and immediately start to cleanse it. They are skeptical throughout, pointing out that the girls were probably just jumping off their beds in the photos. I also enjoy the human aspect of the story, like Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) just strumming the guitar and singing Elvis for the kids to alleviate their terror. Moments like that really set this series apart from other horror films.

What did I not like about this film? The Crooked Man, whether claymation or not, is absurd. I laughed! Every time he showed up I was completely taken out of the experience. The Demon Nun is very scary, but uh... the purpose was? There was just too many manifestations that really had nothing to do with the "true" haunting.

I think the real problem is that this film had too big of a budget - it's actually double the budget of The Conjuring. The simple scares of the original are amplified to dizzying (and unscary) heights. I've seen a crucifix turn upside down many times, maybe on not such a large scale, but still... The whole final confrontation is just overblown and uninspired (and never happened).

I was very disappointed by this film, so I guess I'm missing out on the cooler weather and being scared senseless. Tragic.

The Conjuring 2 is now available at the Franklin County Library.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Poet's Perch : Loyalty by Berton Braley


He may be six kinds of a liar,
He may be ten kinds of a fool,
He may be a wicked highflyer
Beyond any reason or rule;
There may be a shadow above him
Of ruin and woes to impend,
And I may not respect, but I love him,
Because - well, because he's my friend.

I know he has faults by the billion,
But his faults are a portion of him;
I know that his record's vermilion,
And he's far from the sweet Seraphim;
But he's always been square with yours truly,
Ready to give or to lend,
And if he is wild and unruly,
I like him - because he's my friend.

I criticize him but I do it
In just a frank, comradely key,
And back-biting gossips will rue it
If ever they knock him to me!
I never make diagrams of him,
No maps of his soul have I penned;
I don't analyze - I just love him,
Because - well, because he's my friend.

Berton Braley

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Marvelous Monday Returns!

After a hiatus for Summer Reading, we resumed Marvelous Monday this week.  We kicked things off by making a hoop glider.  Similar to a paper airplane, a hoop glider is made from a straw, an index card, and some tape.

Come next Monday at 4:15 and see what new project we get into!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Chance's Corner: The Birds Review

Flocks of birds swarmed Capitola, California in 1961 and hurled themselves into people's homes (puked a bit, too), which caused quite a panic. Alfred Hitchcock caught wind of their plight, read Daphne du Maurier's shocking novelette, and was inspired to create The Birds.

The Birds starts with shrill squawks and caws - the only soundtrack composer Bernard Herrmann helped curate for this film. Other than a little ditty on the piano and a haunting a cappella children's melody, there are no violins to punctuate the horror. Just the sounds of ravenous birds.

Most of The Birds is filled with build-up and character development. Hitchcock doesn't just toss Tippi Hedren & Company into the fray - he eases them into it - until the tension is almost palpable. The crows slowly converging at the school playground is one of the most iconic and frightening scenes in film history. The last act plays out a little like George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead - birds pecking away at boarded windows and doors - Tippi & Co sitting in the darkness, and seeking comfort in tight corners.

The only drawback to The Birds is its resolution - or lack thereof. What lies beyond the bend in the road? Why did the birds go cuckoo? Hitchcock didn't know the answer. And no one in Capitola, California knew, either, until decades later. The birds had ingested domoic acid, which is produced by red algae. The birds just simply lost their minds and died.

The Birds is available at the Franklin County Library!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Square Triangle Circle Squiggle

Here's a quick quiz:  From the following shapes, pick the one that you like best.

Picked your shape?  Good.  You've just taken a personality test!  

The library staff took this quiz yesterday.  I won't tell you who's who - you'll have to figure that out for yourself - but we have on staff one square, one triangle, one squiggle, and one circle-y squiggle.
So what does it mean?

A square is someone data driven and structure oriented.  They like routines, rules, and stability.  They prefer to work alone and need expectations to be clearly spelled out.  They are very organized.
A triangle is someone who is focused on the bottom line.  They don't need to know all the details, but do want to know the "why."  They are impatient, confident, and decisive.  They hate meetings. 
A circle is fun-loving, social, and good at communication.  They are caregivers and peacemakers.  They can over commit and have a hard time saying no.  They like people.
A squiggle is a creative visionary.  They are enthusiastic and like to try new things.  They are easily bored and have difficulty with completion.  They are spontaneous.   

Why is this important?  In an office as small as ours, personality conflicts can become a big deal.  Understanding why our coworkers' minds work the way they do can go a long way to keeping irritations at a minimum.   Each of us bring different strengths to the job, too, and we can learn to use all the different assets we have at our disposal.

I took this quiz and the analysis from  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Julie's Journal : Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I was in college when I first discovered Harry Potter, or rather when my dad handed me the first two books and told me to read them.  I, like most of the rest of the world, was immediately hooked.  Over the next few years I read each new book on the day it was released, watched the movies, and introduced my friends to Harry Potter.  When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released it marked the end of a marvelous adventure.

However, in the last year or so, Harry Potter fans were excited to learn that a play, set in the world of Harry Potter, was going to be produced in London.  On July 31st, Harry's birthday, the script was released to the public.  Reviews of the script were mixed, and because of that I began reading it with a little trepidation.

Harry Potter is now middle-aged and struggling with the demands of parenthood and a career in the Ministry of Magic as the Head of Magical Law Enforcement.  The play begins with Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, and Draco seeing their kids off on the Hogwart's Express for the beginning of another school year.  Harry's middle son, Albus Severus, is nervous about which house he will be sorted into.  We get to see Albus sorted, (I'm not going to tell you which house he ends up in!) and then we quickly skip ahead to the beginning of his fourth year.  

Albus overhears Amos Diggory begging Harry to use a recently confiscated time-turner to return to the Tri-Wizard tournament and save Cedric.  (See Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for the story of the Tri-Wizard tournament.)  Harry refuses the request, of course, but Albus, eavesdropping on the conversation, decides to try and right this wrong.  Albus and his friend Scorpious set off on a series of adventures, and in the process very nearly doom the entire wizarding world.

I thoroughly enjoyed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  The script formatting took some getting used to, but made for a quick read.  I enjoyed seeing Harry as an adult, just trying to live a normal life.  Due to the limitations of the play format, Albus and Scorpious are the only kids whose characters were fully developed.  I would love to see the personalities of Harry and Ginny and Hermione and Ron's other children in the future.  I hope J.K. Rowling is not done with the Harry Potter world just yet.

Should Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ever come to a stage near here, I would love to see it!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Chance's Corner: Apocalypse Now Review

On August 15, 1979, Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece Apocalypse Now hit theaters and has remained on the world's conscience ever since.

Adapted from Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now is an odyssey into Hell - a journey to the darkest recesses of the human psyche. Army Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen) takes this journey with a ragtag crew deep into the Vietnamese jungle, along the river, with the goal of killing Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) - an all-star military man who has gone off the grid and set himself up as a god amongst the Montagnard tribe.

And what's Hell without its colorful inhabitants? Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall) is a surfing maniac who loves the smell of napalm in the morning (I'm sure at anytime, honestly). A photojournalist (Dennis Hopper) is a little spaced out in the jungle. The devil himself, Kurtz, is a domineering figure who hides in the shadows and mutters bone-chilling ideals and beliefs (most, if not all, improvised by Brando).

After all these years, I finally sat down and watched this film (on it's 37th anniversary). I've been avoiding it because war films are not usually my cup of tea, and I also believe some films are better appreciated (and understood) at certain ages. I'm glad I finally gave Apocalypse Now a chance. It is an experience. Within its filmstrips is the greatest (and darkest) magic cinema has ever produced (and it was a hell of a production). Director Francis Ford Coppola once said that his film isn't about Vietnam. It is Vietnam. I'll take it one step further. This isn't a war film. This is war. And this is the closest glimpse of war I ever want to see.

Apocalypse Now Redux is now available to rent at the Franklin County Library!