What We’re Watching (and Rewatching)

I re-read and re-watch things all the time.  This is, I know, a shocking waste of time when you think of the new items that arrive at the library every week.  I really should be filling my time with new and exciting stories instead of going back over old ones but “I can’t help myself” which is a line that Greg Kinnear says to Meg Ryan in the movie You’ve got mail.  It’s a movie that I’ve watched so many times that even the minor conversations are mapped out in my head and I return to it and others whenever the mood strikes me.  It’s the same with re-reading favourite books.  If I hear an author on the radio, like a recent interview that Muriel Barbery did on the CBC, then I can put The elegance of the hedgehog on hold to read it again so that I can feel myself comfortably back in the world of Paloma, the concierge, and the glamour of a Paris apartment building.  If someone mentions Pride and Prejudice in conversation then I can walk over to the shelves and check it out before I leave work for the day.  It’s not that I don’t read new books at all; I feel the pull of the bright and shiny NEW stickers but there is something about re-reading or re-watching that I love.

 

With re-watching I don’t even have to sit down and re-watch; I can play a movie or tv series while I do the chores in the kitchen and poof, it’s like I’m playing a 1940s radio drama while I sort the laundry or file papers.  My father used to talk about listening to Amos ‘n’ Andy or Fibber McGee when he was young (it’s possible he might have called me ‘Fibber McGee’ when I was trying to talk my way out of something) and I can turn anything familiar into a radio play by just turning up the volume and hearing those voices tell me their story.  Especially with a particularly well written drama like one by Aaron Sorkin or Nora Ephron.  I feel like they are responsible for every great line on screen that I remember.  If it’s not You’ve got mail  I’ll usually choose When Harry met Sally.  There is really nothing like watching someone be wooed while singing music from Oklahoma.  Rogers and Hammerstein music is quintessentially romantic.  Everyone knows this.

        

Unless we are talking to someone who prefers… the clever lyrics and catchy music of Gilbert and Sullivan.  That would be Aaron Sorkin. If you type his name into our catalogue you will be watching the screen for hours and hours to catch up on all that he has written or produced.  To see references to the work of Gilbert and Sullivan you must watch The West Wing (season six is a sure bet for some great moments).  This late 1990s-early 2000s drama follows fictional American president Josiah Bartlett (played by Martin Sheen) and his staff (an incredible ensemble cast) through some of the most fantastic storylines based on their interpersonal relationships and the fascinating behind-the-scenes world of the White House.  It lasted seven seasons with Sorkin as the head writer on most of the first four and had multiple Golden Globe and Emmy awards for the entire run.  It’s a dream-come-true show that makes for great watching or re-watching and we have multiple copies of it on DVD here at the library.  If you feel like you have reached your limit on West Wing watching then I have splendid news for you because cast member Josh Malina recently began a podcast where he is sharing an episode-by-episode discussion of the show with excellent trivia, unique insight and special guests!  Here is a link to that website:  http://thewestwingweekly.com

I’d like to think that I’ll stop this habit of re-reading and re-watching but thinking about The West Wing makes me think about the film that Sorkin wrote just before The West Wing began production.  It was directed by Rob Reiner with his singular approach to humour and starred Michael Douglas as an American president who is falling in love with Annette Bening’s character.  It’s called The American President and shares many of the same qualities as The West Wing and I just love it.  Michael J. Fox is sensational in this movie and so very funny.  We have more than one copy of The American President here at WPL.  I think I’ll go see if there is one on the shelf.

 

 

– – Penny M.

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If You Liked A House in the Sky

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Spring 2016 Staff Picks

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What We’re Watching: I’ll Be Me

I felt so many things watching this DVD which follows singer Glen Campbell in concert after he publicly announced he was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

I felt sadness at the sometimes lost, befuddled look in his eyes, great respect for his bravery to go public with the news, and a real sense of joy and celebration in hearing his music again. (As I write this I have a couple of his songs running through my head, specifically “Galveston” and “Rhinestone Cowboy.”) Oh, and I laughed a lot too. The pop/country singer and his family display a wonderful sense of humour as they struggle to cope with the disease.

Glen Campbell initially planned a farewell tour of 5 weeks. But such was it’s success, it was extended to 150 concerts over 1 1/2 years. Somehow, because music was so deeply a part of him, he remained highly functioning on stage, even as he struggled with day to day life. But by his last performance, the Alzheimer’s was becoming painfully obvious. The film is made up of concert footage, life on the road, interviews with his family and friends, and snippets of his home life. I would really recommend I’ll be Me.

I got this DVD title from a great list of newer documentaries that WPL staff put together awhile back and was posted in this blog here. I consult the list from time to time when I am looking for something interesting to watch. You should check out the list too.

And also, should the mood strike you, the library has a number of Glen Campbell CD’s.

– – Penny D.

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The Kitchen House and Glory Over Everything

I am a huge fan of historical fiction.  Give me a great story set in long ago eras with capativating characters and I’m in heaven.  Some of the eras I’m especially drawn to are WWII and slavery – two very emotional, brutal and turbulent times where the worst of humanity is offset by the bravery and resilience of people struggling to survive. Fans of Historical Fiction set in the southern United States during the 19th century will be eager to get their hands on the upcoming, Glory Over Everything from Canadian-born author Kathleen Grissom. It is the sequel to her very popular historical fiction novel, The Kitchen House, which introduced readers to a host of memorable characters and due to its focus on slavery and indentured labour, touching and often emotional story lines. While you could read Glory Over Everything as a stand-alone I think readers will have a better understanding of where Jamie and some other characters are coming from if they read The Kitchen House first.  Personally, I loved reconnecting with some of my favourite characters from the first book.

The Kitchen House – With Glory Over Everything hitting shelves on April 5, 2016 readers still have time to read the first book to get acquainted with Belle, Jamie, Mama Mae, Lavinia and the rest of the characters.  For those who haven’t read The Kitchen House it’s a story told via two different points of view – Belle, a black slave and Lavinia, a young Irish indentured servant. Witnessing situations from these two very different viewpoints gives readers a better understanding of just how different life was back for white servants and black slaves.  The Kitchen House focuses more on Lavinia’s story as she tries to straddle two worlds – the white world and the world of the slaves in the kitchen house.  Grissom doesn’t hold back as she describes sometimes brutal descriptions of what slaves endured at the hands of their masters and also deals with different kinds of oppression – the powerlessness of women of all colours and the differences between families who seem to have it all (money, power, freedom) and slave families who appear to have nothing except each other. Grissom’s writing is vivid in its description of what life was like back in the late 18th century and evoked many different emotions in me from – shock, sadness, unconditional love, anger and joy. This book had it all.  Some scenes were so emotional that they were hard to read but the characters were varied and quite multidimensional and you quickly begin to care about them.

Glory Over Everything - I was recently given an advanced reading copy of Glory Over Everything and once again Grissom captivated me from beginning to end.  This sequel is definitely a page-turner and has Grissom’s signature captivating writing style and includes several characters from The Kitchen House.  It follows the life of Jamie Pyke as he tries to make a life in Philadelphia while hiding a secret that could destroy the life that he has built.  When someone to whom he owes a debt comes for his help Jamie realizes he must return to the south and face a very uncertain future with potentially dire consequences.  The story is told once again via multiple narrators and is a fast-paced read that not only focuses on race, slavery and the Underground Railroad but on family ties and how one’s upbringing can influence us throughout our lives.  With complex characters, a gripping plot and emotional scenes have made Glory Over Everything one of my favourite books of 2016.

 

Both of these books are filled with human endurance, strength, love, violence, betrayal, family loyalty, courage, trust and the power of hope.  That’s a whole lot of emotion all wrapped up into two books but Grissom is a master at writing gripping novels that leave her readers thinking of the characters long after the last page is turned.

– – Laurie P.

 

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What We’re Reading – Leonard: my 50-year friendship with a remarkable man

I was born at the right time to be a Star Trek fan.  When I was a kid it seemed like it was on TV all the time and even then I knew that Mr. Spock was something special.  It was puzzling to me that Kirk had command of the Enterprise when it was perfectly plain that he excelled at far fewer things than his Vulcan first officer.  You see, Spock was responsible for science while it looked to me like Kirk was in charge of looking dramatic and stomping around.  This was way before I attended my first Star Trek convention but I still knew that Mr. Spock had something special that Kirk could never have, the sheer talent that an actor like Leonard Nimoy could bring to a character, and you would never catch him stomping around.  Although the Original Series debuted in 1966 it has really never lost its hold on the collective imagination of the world and Leonard Nimoy continued to encourage massive crowds at every event he attended – even when forced to attend via Skype in his final years.

 

When Leonard Nimoy died in February of 2015 the grief and respect was instant (President Obama’s tweet @POTUS was perfection, I think) and everyone wanted to hear what his lifelong friend William Shatner would have to say.   When publishers announced that Shatner was writing a book I was thrilled – that would be a unique perspective.  A book with Kirk writing about Spock.  I knew that I wanted to get my hands on this book right away and find out what Kirk would have to say, even if it would not be as good as Spock writing about Kirk.  I placed my hold as soon as it was listed on the catalogue and then waited for it to arrive here at WPL.

 

Both William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy have written several books and we have many of them in the collection here at WPL.  Some of the books written by Shatner and Nimoy have been controversial as the actors struggled with the fame that came with being connected with a series that lasted just 3 seasons but seemed to tie them to Kirk and Spock for their entire career.  Shatner’s 1999 Get a life! referenced a Saturday Night Live sketch where he poked fun at the fans who attended conventions around the world and although Leonard Nimoy’s 1995 autobiography is titled I am Spock his first book was actually an attempt to distance himself from the character.  In Leonard: my fifty-year friendship with a remarkable man William Shatner has a chance to share some of his favourite memories of Leonard Nimoy again but he is doing so through the lens of having lost the man he considered his best friend and he has mellowed a bit.  You can tell that he feels that it’s a rare thing to have shared any friendship for that many decades and it has toned down his generally gregarious and frenzied tone.

 

It is fun to read the stories about the early days on set when they were struggling with details like how to get Spock’s Vulcan ears just right or how they would spend time setting up elaborate pranks for each other on the set.  I loved reading the about how they made the iconic sounds and special effects happen and it was shocking to hear about how they had to rush to get their scenes finished so quickly because the series had no respect from the studio – didn’t the studio realize they were filming legends?  This book is full of those fantastic behind-the-scenes stories but William Shatner has woven in personal histories of his own and Nimoy’s childhood and early years in Hollywood which makes this a wonderful memoir even without the Sci-Fi fun.  They shared a special bond  when they started off as struggling actors and then had to cope with a new of battle of what to do when you have success and then try to build the life that follows it.  After the end of the Star Trek television series they continued their friendship as they worked as directors, actors and producers on Star Trek projects and others.  When their marriages faltered or children’s lives needed more support each man helped the other through those difficulties and those are beautiful chapters to read; you see a side of William Shatner that you might not expect.

 

The actors who worked on bridge on the Original series experienced a situation unlike any other television program – possibly unlike any we’ll ever see again – and this intensity helped to forge an incredible bond for these two men that lasted throughout their lives.  There have been other popular television shows which continue on in syndication for years and capture the loyalty of fans but the endless fascination for the characters that he and Leonard Nimoy portrayed made them unique in their experience, occasionally very competitive, and he acknowledges this in the book.  The Kirk and Spock relationship has been discussed at length online and at conventions and I was so happy to read William Shatner’s book for an added perspective.  It was exciting to be a fly on the wall through everything that he shared about their time together and I know that Star Trek fans will already be on the holds list to read this but I think it is relevant to anyone who is interested in Hollywood history.  There is a lot to learn from a fifty-year friendship – especially when it is written about by the gregarious man who played Kirk.

 

– – Penny M.

 

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Hughes & Hill Win Canada Reads

clara-lawrence-winner620Olympian, Clara Hughes, successfully defended former One Book, One Community Waterloo Region author, Lawrence Hill’s latest offering to win the CBC’s Canada Reads 2016.

Hill’s book, The Illegal, is about a runner named Keita.

“Like every boy on the mountainous island of Zantoroland, running is all Keita’s ever wanted to do. In one of the poorest nations in the world, running means respect. Running means riches—until Keita is targeted for his father’s outspoken political views and discovers he must run for his family’s survival.

Fast moving and compelling, The Illegal casts a satirical eye on people who have turned their backs on undocumented refugees and urges us to consider the plight of the faceless, the unseen and the forgotten.” (synopsis courtesy of http://lawrencehill.com/)

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What We’re Reading – Good and Cheap : eat well on $4/day

 Good and Cheap: eat well on $4/day by Leanne Brown

Four dollars a day? You must be kidding! How can a person possibly manage on that??

Well, according to this book, it’s quite doable. You’re obviously not going to dine like a king, feasting on filet mignon and lobster tails. But the 100- plus recipes look varied, interesting, pretty easy to make and nutritious. Chorizo and White Bean Ragu, Cornmeal Encrusted Veggies and Black-eyed Peas and Collards are just some of the recipes that caught my eye. Even a few dessert options are offered.

Author Leanne Brown is a transplanted Albertan, now living in New York City. She writes in a lively, engaged manner and obviously has a great passion for food and for showing people how to cook on a strict budget. (BTW, $4 a day is not just some random figure the author picked out of a hat. That’s the amount you get if you are on food stamps in the U.S.).

Each recipe comes with a dollar amount per serving. (I’m just glad I didn’t have to do the mathematical calculations.) Take basic oatmeal, for instance. Brown figures it costs 15 cents per serving and gives a number of variations on it. Wow, that’s amazing!– a filling, nutritious meal for mere pennies. I’m a big oatmeal fan too, especially on cold winter mornings.

This is a great book. I think Leanne Brown has done a real service in showing people how to cook on a very limited budget.

– – Penny D.

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Spring 2016 Featured Titles

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Author Event: Robert Sawyer at U of W on March 15

Are you a science fiction fan? If yes, you won’t want to miss out on this wonderful author event with Robert Sawyer at the University of Waterloo on Tuesday, March 15th at 7 p.m. in QNC Room 0101.

 

Robert Sawyer is an accomplished science fiction and fantasy writer who has won numerous awards for his work. Sawyer will be discussing his latest book Quantum Night. In the book Sawyer explores the thin line between good and evil that every human being is capable of crossing. Featured in the book is Canada’s national synchrotron in Saskatoon where Sawyer was able to extensively research the nature of human consciousness.

Space is limited so please RSVP to reserve a seat for this free event.

https://uwaterloo.ca/events/events/robert-j-sawyer-author-event-quantum-night

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