Hello Challenge Readers!
How is your month of Science reading going? I have to admit, I’m lagging a bit behind. The book I chose (Light From Other Stars by Erika Swyler) hasn’t completely grabbed my interest but it’s early yet and I’m going to keep reading. Some books just take time.
If you’re struggling to check off Science in this year’s Challenge, why not try a movie instead? Here are some good ones.
Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightly. Cracking the code the Germans used in World War II was vital to the success of Allies. Even after one of their Enigma machines was captured, untangling the complex code, which changed every day, was next to impossible, until the genius of Alan Turing finds the solution. Based on historical fact, this film is equal parts tense and heartbreaking.
Hidden Figures starring Octavia Spencer and Taraji P. Henson brings us the true story of the African-American women who were vital to the success of NASA and the space race. Struggling against prejudice – both because they were women and because they were African-American – they persevered with courage and stubbornness as well as having brilliant minds.
The Martian with Matt Damon. And exploratory team on Mars leaves Mark behind, believing he was killed in the sudden storm that has forced them to leave. Mark is very much alive and relatively well except, he’s alone on Mars with limited supplies and little hope for rescue. How he copes, using intelligence and ingenuity and sheer pluck makes for a tense and fascinating movie.
The Big Bang Theory television series. I have to admit, I started watching this series quite late in it’s run, but once I did I was hooked and it was easy to catch up with reruns on cable and DVDs from the library. Yes, it’s pretty silly and really, who in their right mind would ever want to live with Sheldon, but it also celebrates intelligence and education and the sciences. The characters all grow and mature over the course of the series (something that doesn’t always happen on tv) and they’re always good for a laugh. Bazinga!
Hello Fellow Whovians!
I am happy to report that the long wait is over – Doctor Who returns to BBC America on Saturday April 15! Hooray! This will be Peter Capaldi’s last season as the Doctor and Steven Moffat’s last season as the main writer and showrunner, plus there’s a new companion this season. Lots of changes coming for our favorite Time Lord!
Of course, change is nothing new for Doctor Who – the show is brilliant at reinventing itself season after season, changing to keep up with current tastes yet remaining essentially at its core the story of the Doctor, a survivor and explorer of the Universe, zipping around in his time traveling TARDIS (it’s bigger on the inside!), chased by Daleks and Cybermen. And who is not opposed to stopping and helping various aliens and cultures (and time periods) on his journey, always with a faithful companion or two in tow. There’s a lot of humor in this series, but there’s also a lot of depth and heart.
Doctor Who has been a mainstay of British television since it premiered in 1963. When the original Doctor, William Hartnell became ill and could no longer work, the producers came up with the idea of having the character “regenerate”, allowing a new actor to take over. This turned out to be a brilliant move, keeping the series running almost continuously since then and allowing each actor to bring his own interpretation and personality to the show. The show slipped in popularity, ending in 1989 but was revived 2005. It’s been embraced by old and new fans and is now enjoying some of it’s greatest popularity.
Interested in jumping aboard this crazy train? (It’s tons of fun) The library has DVDs of all of the series including the originals. I recommend that you start with the “modern” series by watching a season when a new Doctor is introduced – the Ninth Doctor (series 1), the Tenth Doctor (series 2), the Eleventh Doctor (series 5) or the Twelfth Doctor (series 8). This way you are introduced to the “rules” of this series at the same time as the new Doctor, who is just as confused and bewildered as you are as he adjusts to his new body and gets back his memories. There are also the Christmas episodes (a British Christmas is listening to the Queen’s Speech in the morning and watching the Doctor Who Christmas Special in the evening!) and the excellent 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor.
The library also has novelizations, graphic novels and fan guides. It’s a fandom that just keeps giving!
So, here’s a question that can set off endless debates: who’s your favorite Doctor? I love Ten (played by David Tennant and most people’s favorite) but Eleven (Matt Smith) is my favorite. (Actually, the TARDIS is my absolute favorite character!) Who is your favorite doctor? Favorite episode? (“Vincent and the Doctor” maybe, or “Blink”?) Favorite villan? (Weeping Angels? The Silence?) Join the conversation!
Landline is Rainbow Rowell’s second trip into adult relationships, following the release of Attachments. Having read two of her young adult books, I decided to give Landline a try, not knowing what I was getting myself into.
Landline begins by introducing readers to Georgie McCool. Georgie is a writer for a popular television sitcom. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Neal, and their two young daughters. On the outside, it looks like she has it all, but inside, Georgie knows that her marriage is in trouble. It’s not recent trouble, but something that seems to have been brewing under the surface for a long time.
Two days before she is supposed to leave with Neal and the kids to head to Omaha for Christmas, Georgie and her writing partner find themselves under a pile of work that has to be completed as soon as possible. As a result, she is unable to head to Omaha for Christmas, something she knows will anger Neal. He is upset, but instead of the family staying in Los Angeles with her, Neal packs up the kids and heads to Omaha anyway. This makes Georgie worry if she has finally done the one thing that will make her marriage break apart. Is her marriage broken? Has she ruined it?
Desperate to fix things, Georgie begins calling Neal. She never seems to be able to get a hold of him on his cell phone and her phone is always dead. Georgie digs a rotary phone out of her childhood bedroom’s closet and uses it to call Neal at his parents’ house. Their conversation is slightly off-kilter though and bothers Georgie. When she realizes why, she just can’t believe it. Georgie has found a way to talk to a past Neal. What she chooses to do with this will determine what happens in all of their lives.
This book is available in the following formats:
What, you’ve never heard of Galentine’s Day?! Why, it’s just the most wonderful holiday of the year! In the words of the infamous Leslie Knope:
“What’s Galentine’s Day? Oh, it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas. — Leslie Knope”
In case you’re still befuddled, check out the delightfully off-center comedy Parks and Recreation, led by the amazing Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, a perky, mid-level bureaucrat in the Parks department of fictional Pawnee, Indiana. A great ensemble cast, sharp and witty writing and characters that are both funny and real, this is a laugh-out-loud comedy with a big heart. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of watching Parks and Recreation, you’re in luck – the Davenport Library has all six seasons available on DVD (the seventh and final season of the series is running now with the final episode scheduled for February 24th – we’ll be getting that season on DVD as soon as it’s available) And the episode that introduces Galentine’s Day? Season 2, episode 16.
In case you’re wondering, Galentine’s Day has become real – you can buy Galentine’s Day cards for your BFFs and the internet and Pinterest are full of ideas for gifts and parties for your gal pals. And don’t worry guys – the celebrations are appropriate for you too! Friends are important no matter your gender.
Now go out there and celebrate your friends (preferably over breakfast)!
Food plays a very special role in Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s award-winning satire Portlandia – and the way Portlandia’s residents enjoy and talk about food are a huge part of the show’s personality. Fred, Carrie, and director Jonathan Krisel take you to the dishes that define the show, from cult-raised chicken to Stu’s stews, from pickled veggies to foraged green salads.
Complete with new full-color finished food shots and illustrations, and paired with humorous stories, head notes, and sidebars from the loveable food-obsessed Portlandia characters, The Portlandia Cook Book is a funny cookbook, with serious recipes, for people who want to bring Portlandia right into their kitchens. (description from publisher)
The form is so elemental, so basic, that we have difficulty imagining a time before it existed: a single set, fixed cameras, canned laughter, zany sidekicks, quirky family antics. Obsessively watched and critically ignored, sitcoms were a distraction, a gentle lullaby of a kinder, gentler America–until suddenly the artificial boundary between the world and television entertainment collapsed.
In Sitcom: a History in 24 Episodes we can watch the growth of the sitcom, following the path that leads from Lucy to The Phil Silvers Show; from The Dick Van Dyke Show to The Mary Tyler Moore Show; from M*A*S*H to Taxi; from Cheers to Roseanne; from Seinfeld to Curb Your Enthusiasm; and from The Larry Sanders Show to 30 Rock.
In twenty-four episodes, Sitcom surveys the history of the form, and functions as both a TV mixtape of fondly remembered shows that will guide us to notable series and larger trends, and a carefully curated guided tour through the history of one of our most treasured art forms. (description from publisher)
For sheer lighthearted sitcom fun, few shows can compete with The IT Crowd. It follows the well-known workplace sitcom format: in each episode, we see the three principal characters interacting in their shared office. As the IT staff of a large corporation, Jen, Moss, and Roy deal with the technological incompetence of their superiors, the ingratitude of their coworkers, and the everyday indignity of being a nerd. Jen is the head of the department, the “relationship manager,” despite having no knowledge about computers, for which Roy and Moss tease her relentlessly. Roy is a selfish, laid back, halfheartedly kind bloke; perpetually single but not bitter about it, his best friend and coworker Moss is very shy and considerably weirder than his friend. Moss is the type to obsessively count the staples in his stapler and email the authorities about a fire when he gets flustered and can’t reach them on the phone. Luckily, the socially adept Jen is there to smooth things over and keep the place running, but she isn’t without her own foibles; her ignorance has gotten her into hot water more than once, like when she believed Roy when he told her that “typing Google into Google can break the internet” and passed on this dire warning to the board of directors, or when she pretends to be a classical music expert to impress a date – only to have that date ring her up from the set of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” asking for her help on a classical music question.
For a lighthearted workplace comedy, The IT Crowd is in the running as my favorite. The episodes “The Haunting of Bill Crouse” (wherein Moss accidentally convinces the whole office that Jen has died), “Are We Not Men?” (the guys pretend to be soccer fans to make friends and end up accessories to a robbery), and “Italian for Beginners” (where Jen uses translation software to pretend she speaks Italian) are absolutely hilarious, and it was hard to stop that list at just three. Recommended for fans of The Office (British or American), Parks & Recreation, Spaced, Coupling, and Community.
Showtime’s critically acclaimed series Homeland stars Claire Danes as CIA counterterrorism agent Carrie Mathison, who has just received startling information from one of her contacts: an American POW has been turned. Months later, US Marine Nicholas Brody (played expertly by Damian Lewis) is found alive in Afghanistan after being presumed dead for eight years. Though his return is heralded as a great victory and he is touted as a war hero, Carrie is certain that he is working for al-Qaeda. She goes behind the back of her superiors, setting up illegal surveillance equipment in Brody’s house and monitoring him at all times, doggedly pursuing the truth at any cost.
I could give you a list a mile long of adjectives describing how great this show is (compelling, thrilling, captivating, mind-blowing, etc.), but nothing I can think of really does it justice. The acting, particularly Danes in her portrayal of a very zealous woman suffering from bipolar disorder, is absolutely superb. The story will grab ahold of you and not let you go, with twists and turns that constantly keep you guessing where Brody’s allegiance lies. I finished the entire first season of this show in about two days because I couldn’t stand to not be watching it. I highly recommend picking up a copy of this series, but make sure you plot out several hours of free time to watch it. Once you start, you won’t want to stop.
In case it wasn’t already obvious, the librarians who write for this blog LOVE A Song of Ice and Fire. We really can’t seem to stop writing about it. If you do too, these two brand new items are definitely worth a look:
Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones by Bryan Cogman: an in-depth look at the HBO series, with material from both the first and second season. Interviews of the cast, behind the scenes photography, stills from the show, family trees, interviews with production designers and costume designers and conceptual artists: everything you could really want. If you’ve combed the extra material on the DVD sets, most of this isn’t new, but it’s gorgeous anyway.
The Lands of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin: This brand new non-book is more than it appears: it’s a set of twelve full-color poster sized maps folded up and packaged in book shape. But when you unfold them, it’s a fantasy reader’s dream! Detailed, beautiful maps with tons of new information: before now, the exact parameters and proportions of Martin’s vast imagined world were not exactly defined. But now, NOW we finally know where the Dothraki sea sits in relation to the Red Waste; where the Shadow Lands and Asshai are; the layout of the canals of Braavos; and oh, behold the new details of the smoking ruins of Valyria!! It’s glorious, but a warning: if you are a show-watcher and not a book-reader, there are spoilers inside!
(And in case you’re just starting out, you can find the novels at many Rivershare libraries.)
Somehow I never got around to watching 1979’s Being There . A cultural touchstone at the time; it still holds up when you watch more than thirty years later. I was looking for movies set in Washington, D.C. and thought now was the time to watch this – thinking it would be a bit of a chore.
However, it is wonderfully absorbing. A certain calmness and serenity takes hold of you, the longer you watch it. Peter Sellers was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Chauncey Gardiner, (the character tries to communicate his name as, Chance the gardener and is mis-heard by a wealthy benefactor played by Shirley McLaine). Melvyn Douglas (who did win an Oscar) becomes very fond of Chauncey and imbues his simple statements about gardening and nature with metaphorical wisdom.
This is a beautifully made and acted film. Peter Sellers, in his last role, inhabits the character with a solemnity and simplicity that makes it a completely unique character. Chance/Chauncy’s only experience of the outside world was through television, and there are frequent clips of commercials and shows of the day. It’s really fun to see “Basketball Jones,” again.