Fun at Foster's blog
On a recent weekend I was in San Francisco to do a presentation at the Disney Family Museum and, after months of drought, it rained all weekend. Still, it was atmospheric and there is one landmark that retains its glamour and grandeur in all winds and weathers: the Golden Gate Bridge.
Though that weekend I was not able to get close to it, there is a magnificent view of bridge and bay from the second level of the museum (which is in the Presidio), a thrilling panorama to which I kept returning each day.
And every time I marveled at how such a superstructure was constructed in the first place. When I was back in Ventura, in one of the coincidences that sometimes mysteriously happen, I came across a fascinating documentary among E.P. Foster’s varied collection of DVDs. The “American Moments” disc, The Golden Gate Bridge, covers the raising of the structure from the initial planning stages (and there were many) through construction and opening day.
The 30-minute DVD features a brief introduction which leads into the main section, a vintage (and mostly unrestored) film which condenses the years of labor on one of the most challenging construction projects of the 20th century into about 25 minutes.
The film was produced by Bethlehem Steel, who supplied most of the steel for the bridge, and I was amazed to discover that much of it was produced in Steelton, Pennsylvania, a steel town a little south of Harrisburg, where I grew up (I remember seeing the frightening slag heaps at night, like waves of glowing lava, in the steel mills of Harrisburg).
|The steel mills of Harrisburg, PA, late 1940s. View from the State St. bridge, steel corporation sign in the background. The Steelton steel mills which produced steel for the Golden Gate were south of Harrisburg. KODACHROME photo by Ross J. Care.|
The Steelton steel was then shipped through the Panama Canal to SF where construction slowly began.
Inch by inch the two huge towers were raised and work on the suspensions and roadway began. Dizzying shots of men on girders, towers, and suspension cables alternated with views down into the turbulent waters of the bay.
The grainy, sometimes fuzzy black-and-white archival footage is also a vivid reminder of the early days of cinema itself, and has a ghostly “You Are There” quality. It’s in stark contrast to the sleek, iconic lines of the finally realized project, a still-Golden Gate that retains its sense of wonder to this day, even when partially shrouded in fog.
-Text and recent photos by Ross B. Care
The library recently received a large shipment of graphic novel titles for the adult collection, many of which I had the good fortune to read.
One of these titles was Fables Encyclopedia. Fans of this series by Bill Willingham will enjoy this look at all the characters that live in the Fables universe. Each listing tells you where that character appears in the series, the original source material they come from, and a comparison of the two. Throughout the book are insights from Willingham himself and Mark Buckingham, the artist.
I loved reading this book, not just because I’m a fan of the series, but because of the many different sources Willingham gets his material from. He pulls characters from European folk tales, the well-known Grimm’s fairy tales, nursery rhymes, even the Jungle Book and Oz stories. Some characters are his original creations, but they fit so well with the other, more well-known ones, you don’t even notice the difference.
If you’re concerned the encyclopedia will reveal too much before you’ve actually read the series, don’t worry. It gives just enough information without revealing too many of the details. Now, to be fair, I haven’t yet read the entire series, so there were some entries that did give a hint of things to come, but I don’t think it will ruin my enjoyment of the series. Even the brief synopses of all the volumes at the end of the book didn’t spoil anything for me.
I only wish I could have the book with me while I read the series, if anything, just to see where these characters come from. I have to give credit to Bill Willingham. He really does his homework and knows his stuff. There are characters from folk tales I’ve never even heard of before. This book is worth checking out for introducing new readers to the series, and discovering the original stories they came from.
Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess
Originally a draft created as part of National Novel Writing Month, Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants was published in 2006, and has since been quite well-received. The novel’s setting is a traveling circus during the Great Depression, and it is essentially a love story steeped in rich historical detail. Gruen manages to make the Depression a significant presence in the novel, more a character in its own right than a mere backdrop. As a result the reader truly gets a sense of the oppressive, constant dread driving the actions of the working men and women of the period, and from the start we see how drastically economic forces can shape a person’s destiny.
The story is told in flashback by Jacob Jankowski, presently 93 years old and living a life all but estranged from a family that no longer has much time for him. He spends his empty, unfulfilling days in a nursing home, in danger of never having anything to look forward to again—until the circus comes to town. Its presence invigorates Jacob, and he begins to recount his life as a young man who, waylaid by tragedy, took his chances hopping a circus train during one of the darkest periods of American history.
Gruen uses Jacob’s experiences to showcase an incredible juxtaposition of the wondrous spectacle put on by the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth and the often horrifying circumstances in which the laborers and performers—both human and animal—live. The Depression has fostered desperation and madness, encouraging opportunists who have managed to succeed only on the backs of those less fortunate, exploiting them when possible and discarding them otherwise. In the midst of all this, Jacob finds beauty—in the circus, the menagerie, and the animal trainer’s wife, Marlena. The development of this love triangle is the meat of the plot; at its heart,Water for Elephants is a very conventional—almost to the point of being predictable—romance that is elevated primarily by the care and detail put into its setting.
One might imagine that such a vibrant and compelling world would make the novel ripe for adaptation to film. However, the screen version of Water for Elephants—released in 2011—received mixed reviews. Of chief concern to many was the fact that Jacob and Marlena, played by Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon, had little chemistry on screen. This led to their romance having a very told-not-shown feel, particularly when viewed alongside the passionate performance given by Christoph Waltz, who plays Marlena’s husband. Unfortunately, the film plays up the love triangle at the expense of many of the supporting elements that made the book feel unique. What results is a relatively shallow and not-entirely-convincing love story. Despite this shortcoming, the film does a fair job of visually representing the shoddy grandeur of the Most Spectacular Show on Earth; as is true with the novel, the richness of the setting ends up being the film’s saving grace.
Water for Elephants is available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library in both book and audiobook form. The film is also available through the library; if it is not on the shelf at your local branch, you can request for it to be delivered to the branch of your choosing. In addition, you can borrow a digital copy of the novel from the Ventura County Library through OverDrive. OverDrive eBooks are available to download to a wide variety of devices, and will automatically be returned at the conclusion of your loan period. If you need assistance with setting up your device and account to borrow eBooks, check out the OverDrive help page, which links to a number of useful, device-specific articles and videos, or stop by the library.
Brought to life by Ronald Martin.
The New Persian Kitchen, by Louisa Shafia, made my foodie imagination run wild, filled with exotic recipes and interesting insights on ingredients used in Persian cooking. I was excited about delving into uncharted territory, the culinary delights of Persia, only to discover my once dodgy oven is now a completely non-functioning oven. The top burners don’t work either.
Big dilemma: do I make a Persian salad or sour plum pickles? I think not. But I did see a recipe for a date shake. I haven't had a date shake in quite a while, since my brief summer stay in Indio, California. The memory of the delicious date shake on that hot summer day came flooding back to me; the kebabs and other delicacies will have to wait till the oven is replaced.
The date shake recipe is your average milkshake recipe, except with yogurt. One powerful lesson learned was “don’t freeze bananas with the peel on,” unless you have a hammer handy. The “Dish” is in need of a tall, cool beverage, not a construction tool! I stuffed the ingredients into the blender and let it do its thing. Result: sweet, heavenly date shake!
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 Faceboook page and I’ll get cooking!
All skill levels are welcome to come by the Topping Room and strum, sing, and learn more about this amazing instrument. Don’t own a ukulele? Ask about borrowing one from the library!
The first session will be on Monday, March 10, from 7 to 10 p.m. Stay for as little or as much time as you’d like.
I know I’m dating myself, but when I was a young girl I used to watch The Bionic Woman with Lindsay Wagner. I’m not talking reruns, either, I mean when it originally aired. As a kid growing up in the seventies, Jamie Summers was a role model for me and other young girls. She showed us that we could be strong, independent, and more than just a pretty face.
Now, Jamie Summers is back and re-imagined for a new generation of young women, with the new release of The Bionic Woman, Volume 1: Mission Control. Jamie Summers seems tailor-made for this modern era of computers and cell phones. Along with her bionic arm, legs, and hearing, she also has the ability to change her appearance and access the internet without ever using an actual computer. The first half of the story deals with bionic parts being stolen from their living recipients and the black market that sells them to the wealthy. The second half involves female robot clones being used as soldiers and slaves, their blossoming sentience, and their fight for independence.
While there is some similarity to the Jamie Summers I grew up with, this current incarnation is definitely different. Her relationship with Steve Austin (the Six Million Dollar Man, for those who remember) is over; she has no memory of her previous life, and there are so many people trying to steal her technology that she neither has a real home nor a social life. In spite of that, Jamie is tough and determined. She does get roughed up a lot, but she proves to be a tough contender, and kicks some major butt. She still shows that a woman can be just as strong and capable as a man, and is as much of a role model today as she was when I was a little girl.
Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess
Stop by Foster to check out this exciting new community resource!
The American Library Association (ALA) announced the top books, video, and audio books for children and young adults—including the Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz awards.
2014 John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature:
“Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures,” written by Kate DiCamillo
Four Newbery Honor Books also were named:
“Doll Bones,” written by Holly Black
“The Year of Billy Miller,” written by Kevin Henkes
“One Came Home,” written by Amy Timberlake
“Paperboy,” written by Vince Vawter
2014 Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:
“Locomotive,” written and illustrated by Brian Floca
Three Caldecott Honor Books also were named:
“Journey,” written and illustrated by Aaron Becker
“Flora and the Flamingo,” written and illustrated by Molly Idle
“Mr. Wuffles!” written and illustrated by David Wiesner
2014 Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults:
“Midwinterblood,” written by Marcus Sedgwick
Four Printz Honor Books also were named:
“Eleanor & Park,” written by Rainbow Rowell
“Kingdom of Little Wounds,” written by Susann Cokal
“Maggot Moon,” written by Sally Gardner, illustrated by Julian Crouch
“Navigating Early,” written by Clare Vanderpool
This is just a partial list of award winners, for the complete list go to the American Library Association at www.ala.org.
Bread pudding—I’ve been itching to make some for ages. If you have the hankering to make bread pudding, there is one cookbook that I must recommend: Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking: 150 Delicious and Simple Recipes Anyone Can Master, by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. The cookbook is packed with some of the best recipes for Italian dishes. If I could add just one more Italian cookbook to my personal collection, this would be the one.
Once I saw the pear bread pudding recipe my indecisive mind was made up, pear bread pudding was to be created. I had no trouble rustling up the ingredients, except for the stale bread. We love bread in my household, it rarely gets stale. So, with a late afternoon trip to the supermarket, I secured my stale loaf of bread. Yeah! My plan was to serve the bread pudding on Sunday. It was a rare Saturday night when I wasn’t in demand at some exotic locale, so staying home and making bread pudding seemed to be quite reasonable.
|After cracking the eggs, whisking the heavy cream and whatnot, I placed the mixture into a baking dish and slid it into my very dodgy oven. With my oven it is guesswork, if 45 minutes of baking time is called for in the recipe it may take an hour, with lots of sneaking-a-peek through the oven window. The aroma of vanilla, one of the pudding’s ingredients, filled the kitchen—it was lovely. The downside of this lovely aroma was that it attracted my two very hungry nieces. Needless to say, that evening we consumed delicious pear bread pudding topped with whipped cream and a few red raspberries to boot. No bread pudding on Sunday…|
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 Faceboook page and I’ll get cooking.
When a popular book is first released it can be difficult to get your hands on a copy right away. The request lists for new best-sellers start growing early on, and can lead to weeks of waiting even when your local library has multiple copies to lend. Why not spend those weeks with yet another good book? If you know where to look, you can even find something that will whet your appetite for when that best-seller finds its way to you.
“Novelties” will provide reader’s advisory for those of you who are interested in new and popular fiction and non-fiction. The recommendations found here were obtained by using NoveList Plus, an online reader’s advisory resource that you can access through the Ventura County Library. If you have questions about using NoveList Plus or any of the other resources in our eLibrary, feel free to stop by and ask us about them!
This month we will look at The Goldfinch, the most recent work by Donna Tartt. Currently on top of the New York Times Best Seller List, the novel follows Theo Decker in the aftermath of a tragedy that robs him of his mother and leaves him in possession of a painting that he clings to as a reminder of her. From here Theo is thrust into a bleak reality where he is forced to grow up too quickly and take care of himself when no one else will. The book is about Theo’s struggle for survival, for physical and psychological well-being in a dreary, corrupt world, and about the uplifting and transformative power of art. Though it weighs in at over 700 pages, The Goldfinch is compellingly written; many readers have said they weren’t able to put it down!
|Among NoveList’s read-alikes for The Goldfinch is Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers. Like Tartt’s novel, this is a coming-of-age story, although in this case the main character is a young woman named Victoria. Like Theo, she has had a difficult childhood, having been abandoned by her parents and raised in a succession of foster homes. But while Theo is forced into the world by a traumatizing loss, Victoria is more a victim of neglect and indifference—she simply ages out of the system having no ties to friends or family. The Language of Flowers is about her gradually building a life for herself while learning to connect with others through shared passions and work toward healthy and lasting relationships.|
Another of The Goldfinch’s read-alikes is The Double Bind, by Chris Bohjalian. The novel follows Laurel Estabrook, who is suffering from post-traumatic stress resulting from an attack that occurred several years prior. Rather than focusing on just her case, however, Bohjalian has his protagonist delve into the life of another damaged soul—a mentally ill, alcoholic homeless man whose passing leaves Laurel with a box of photographs that point to a life that wasn’t always so harsh. By investigating this man and his mysterious connection to her past, Laurel works through her own trauma. Like the two novels above, The Double Bind deals heavily with the psychology of individuals who have been damaged in some way, and the difficulties they must face to find out what it means for them to be whole again.
The Goldfinch, The Language of Flowers, and The Double Bind are all available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library. You can access NoveList Plus from our eLibrary’s Reading Suggestions section. If the book you are interested in is not currently on the shelf at your branch, you can always request a copy either in-person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.
Prepared and presented by Ronald Martin.