Unhappy Comedies

I’ve noticed a recent trend in sitcoms. Perhaps it’s nothing new, but an extra twist of lime has been added to the mix, metaphorically speaking. Here’s the 411 on the down low: Most of the characters in these comedies are not likable and the overall feeling generated by the shows is discomfort. Please, come with me to THE LAND OF UNHAPPY COMEDIES.

baskets

Our first stop is Bakersfield, CA. After flunking out of a prestigious French clown college, Chip Baskets is determined to fulfill his clowning dream. So, Baskets moves in with his less-than-supportive mother (played somewhat disturbingly by Louie Anderson) and takes a job as a rodeo clown. Chip’s only friend is Martha, an insurance agent who tolerates the poor treatment he heaps on her liberally. His twin brother Dale (mom’s favorite) is another source of irritation in Chip’s demoralizing life. And it’s a comedy! Don’t get me wrong, Baskets is a crazy good television program. It’s just not a happy viewing experience. Did I mention that it’s a comedy?

GettingOn

Moving approximately 135 miles to Long Beach, CA, we come to the Mount Palms Memorial Hospital where the dysfunctional denizens of Getting On help people who are ready to move on to their final reward. Meet head nurse Dawn Forchette, a woman who freely mixes her love life and job, failing miserably at both; nurse Didi Ortley, a compassionate and humane caregiver; Dr. Jenna James, who cares about nothing but her research, often at the patients’ cost; and supervising nurse Patsy De La Serda, a sexually ambiguous emotional wreck who puts a face on unhappiness. What better premise for a comedy? These characters frequently act with disregard for those around them, driven only by their own needs and desires. In Didi we have a reasonable person that most of us can relate to but the others are all toxic. The result is an uncomfortable but hilarious viewing experience.

LastMan

Our journey concludes in Tuscon and other ports of call. Humanity has been wiped out by a virus and Phil Miller is The Last Man On Earth. He travels the North American continent for two years looking for others but finds no one. As he sits in Tuscon contemplating ending it all, other survivors begin to arrive and we soon find out that Phil (who goes by his middle name, Tandy) is a real jerk with few redeeming qualities. After finding out that Carol will not have sex with him unless they get married, he (wait for it) marries her. But the bonds of wedlock do not keep him from flagrantly lusting after Melissa, who gradually falls in love with Todd, a shy and husky man who Tandy tries to kill in order to be with Melissa. Did I mention that it’s a comedy? The format of the show makes it simple for adventures to occur, with other survivors occasionally finding the group, some with evil intent, others not. As the show progresses, the group moves hither and yon, allowing for more variety in the storylines. No question, this is a great show, but the overall vibe is one of discomfort and shuddering. And it’s a comedy!

I enjoy all of these shows, but they leave me feeling a little bit dirty, a little disillusioned with humankind. Still, if you want to see superior writing, most excellent acting and clever plot twists, you could do worse than these unhappy comedies. Come on down to Everett Public Library and take one for a test drive. Mileage may vary.

Percy Jackson: Books to Movie

Let me just start this by saying Percy Jackson was my Harry Potter growing up. So when I heard that a movie was being made. I. Was. Elated. Before I go on, I do want to say that this is only my opinion and I would recommend you watch the movie with an open mind. After all, I’ve heard a lot of good reviews for the movie from people who haven’t read the book. So it can’t be all bad, even from my jaded mind.

So spoilers ahead for the books and the movie Percy Jackson & the Olympians.

First up in this review are the Things They got Wrong.

The directors of the movie seems to have looked at “The Prophesy” and then tossed it out the window. It is not mentioned at all throughout the movie nor is the Oracle of Delphi. To add insult to injury, the actors are way too old to be twelve like they were in the books.

Then comes the big Minotaur scene. Book Percy is devastated when his mom disappears believing her dead. It is referenced multiple times in the next couple of chapters about how sad he is. Movie Percy seems largely unaffected by his mom’s death.

Another thing that really bugged me in that scene was that the Minotaur didn’t return to dust. It was just a dead body. Never mentioned again, luckily, we don’t even get to see another monster die, aside from Auntie Em and that’s just another whole thing.

The next big scene that they royally messed up was the Capture the Flag Stream Fight. Clarisse doesn’t exist in the movie, so instead Annabeth fights Percy. She hurts him and then gloats about it. He doesn’t even get the floating Trident above his head. He was told that in like the first 15 minutes of being in Camp Half Blood by Chiron. Therefore ruining another great scene.

The worst scene in the entire movie is when Percy has to decide who gets a pearl. In the book he decides to save his friends, there by showing his fatal flaw, something every demigod has. Percy is cursed/blessed with how he will do anything to save his loved ones. This scene showed how hard it was to choose between his friends or his mom. In the movie, he leaves Grover behind in favor of saving his mom. Completely going against the book and undercutting what was a major decision.

On a personal note as well as the last con, there is no playing with Cerberus scene. Arguably one of the best scenes in the book.  So that’s a huge mark against the movie.

Now on to the Positives.

The visuals they did for dyslexia as well as for Olympus are quite nice. Olympus looks quite pretty actually.

One of the First scenes in the movie is a new one. It’s a conversation between Zeus and Poseidon talking. Zeus threatens Poseidon. Poseidon denies the theft. It’s kind of nice to have this little family discussion.

Riptide is handed over to Percy with the accompany lines “This will help protect you” “This is a pen… A pen”. Given in this scene he doesn’t know that it’s a sword, it is quite hilarious.

In the Lotus Flower Casino and Hotel, Movie Percy and pals are given some candy shaped like lotus blossoms. We are then treated to what looks like a drug swirly light show. Which is better than the book where they just get sucked into the magic video games.

Another great thing is that you don’t have to risk your money on a movie you might not like because it’s free at the Library!

All in all, from a book to movie standpoint, it didn’t do well.  I’ll probably never see it in a good light, but I hold the books close to my heart. It’s probably better if you watch the movie while having zero knowledge of the books, you will likely enjoy it more

I Want You to Read What They Don’t Want Us to Read

Holy cats, how did it get to be September already? Don’t ask me how, but we are definitely here! The good news is that we find ourselves looking at a new reading challenge. Read the book, post a photo of it with #everettreads, and be entered into a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card courtesy of the Friends of the Everett Public Library. Thanks, Friends! This month we’re going to read a book that was banned or challenged.

What is book banning, and what is the difference between banning a book and challenging one? I’ll let the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom explain:

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.  Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.

Have you heard me say lately that librarians and library staff are fierce protectors of intellectual freedom and your right to choose what you read? Because it’s true, and nowhere is this more obvious than when we talk about challenges to library materials in the attempt to prevent others from accessing them. You know–censorship.

Reasons for book challenges in 2018.

These are actual reasons why folks tried to have books banned last year.

Banned Books Week is September 22-28, 2019. However, we can get a jump start on this month’s EPL reading challenge by checking out the list of the most challenged books of 2018:

George by Alex Gino
Reasons: banned, challenged, and relocated because it was believed to encourage children to clear browser history and change their bodies using hormones, and for mentioning “dirty magazines,” describing male anatomy, “creating confusion,” and including a transgender character.

 

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ content, and for political and religious viewpoints.

 

 

Captain Underpants series written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: series was challenged because it was perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior, while Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot was challenged for including a same-sex couple.

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Reasons: banned and challenged because it was deemed “anti-cop,” and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references.

 

 

 

Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ characters and themes.

 

 

 

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Reasons: banned, challenged, and restricted for addressing teen suicide.

 

 

 

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Reasons: banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and certain illustrations.

 

 

Skippyjon Jones series written and illustrated by Judy Schachner
Reason: challenged for depicting stereotypes of Mexican culture.

 

 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: banned and challenged for sexual references, profanity, violence, gambling, and underage drinking, and for its religious viewpoint.

 

 

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten
Reason: challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content.

 

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Reason: challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content.

 

 

 

You’ll notice that the final two books on the list, This Day in June and Two Boys Kissing, were also burned. BURNED. It’s the twenty-first century and some folks are still so threatened by certain ideas that they will light books on FIRE. I’d say it’s unbelievable but I remember all too well this report of a 2018 book burning. This Day in June and Two Boys Kissing, in addition to Families, Families, Families! by Suzanne & Max Lang and Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino were checked out from an Iowa public library and burned. The person responsible recorded it all on video and posted it online as a “protest.”

Stories like that make my skin crawl.

If you tell me the “problems” with a book you’re just going to make me want to read it even more; double that if you tell me that certain illustrations are why you’re trying to prevent folks from reading it. I am absolutely going to read This One Summer.

What banned or challenged book are you going to read? You can tell me in the comments, or you can take it one step further and participate in the Dear Banned Author postcard writing campaign. Write a postcard (author mailing addresses listed here) or tweet an author of a banned/challenged/burned book. Let them know what the stories you read mean to you and show your support.

To all you authors of challenged, banned, and burned books: thank you.

Spot-Lit for September 2019

Spot-Lit consults the big four book trade journals (along with quite a variety of other sources) while pulling these monthly lists together, and it is pretty rare when all four give a starred review to a title. So imagine our surprise to see Booklist, Kirkus, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly all giving stars to: Quichotte by Salman Rushdie, The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz, and A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker!  Other stellar releases include new books by Margaret Atwood, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s (his first novel), Man Booker International Prize-winner László Krashnahorkai, and more.

Click here to see all of the titles below in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2019 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction | 2019 Debuts

Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?

Even though I’m a huge fan of Stephen King’s work (move over Annie Wilkes because I’m his number one fan), I’ll admit that sometimes I do skip one of his books when it gets published. There’s no real rhyme or reason to it. I’ll acknowledge the book and go about my life, knowing I’ll catch up to his latest and greatest at some point. But some of his novels I visit over and over again, like meeting an old friend for a cup of coffee to swap stories about the paths our lives have taken. Or with King’s books, those coffee catch-ups take the form of terrifying tales told by the light of a campfire.

In Gwendy’s Button Box, a novella crafted by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, it’s 1974 and 12 year old Gwendy Peterson likes to run up a set of cliffside stairs known as the Suicide Stairs. At the top of the stairs she can hear the summer sounds of pick up baseball games and kids on a playground. One day, a gentleman dressed in black calls to her from a bench. His name is Richard Farris and the neat black hat he wears will haunt her dreams for years to come.

Farris seems to know her mind and her desires. He gives her a wooden box inlaid with eight different colored buttons. He presses one button and dispenses a small chocolate candy. He tells her the chocolate will help her lose weight and stop kids from calling her names like Goodyear (as in the Goodyear Blimp). Gwendy takes the box with its buttons home and her life begins to change.

The chocolates do help her to lose weight. Another button, when pushed, dispenses old silver dollars. As she gets older, she knows the silver dollars are worth a lot of money and will be her ticket to be able to pay for college. Another button seems to help her parents to quit drinking and steer them away from an inevitable divorce. The other buttons tempt her and she knows, if pressed, a button might bring about something truly horrible.

Gwendy decides to try and experiment one day and presses a button that leaves her with an uneasy feeling. What happens next makes her terrified of the Button Box and the power it yields. But along with the evil that the box is capable of, the good it brings to Gwendy’s life is there as well.  She goes through high school making good grades and excelling at sports. She takes a couple of coins from the Button Box to a coin collector and finds out they are indeed valuable and will help her pay for a good college. She begins to worry about the box falling into the wrong hands and takes great pains to make sure it’s safe. But one day, a monster in human skin gets a hold of the box and Gwendy’s life takes another turn.

Gwendy’s Button Box is not only a chilling supernatural tale, but also a coming of age story about a young girl who doesn’t believe she’s special until she’s given a magical box equipped with buttons that shape not only who she is but her own destiny.

To all the kids out there who feel invisible and unremarkable, I hope you find your own Button Box that helps you become who you need to be. Just don’t, you know, press any of the buttons that might bring about the end of the world. I’m just saying….

Crew Expendable

Ah, the summer of 1979. If you were more than a gleam in your Mother’s eye, you might have noted the signing of the SALT II agreement, celebrated the Sonics wining the NBA championship or listened to Michael Jackson’s newly released album Off the Wall. If you were to ask my 11-year-old self what the most important event was, however, it would definitely be getting to see my first R-rated movie. After much cajoling on my part and vetting of the film by my parents, I was allowed to attend a viewing, with an appropriate adult of course, of the movie Alien. I still may not have fully recovered.

If you have seen the film (and if you haven’t: a. seriously?? and b. spoilers ahead) you know that there are many things that could leave an impression on a developing mind. The alien itself is a literal nightmare, its method of reproduction is grotesque to say the least, and a decapitated android admiring a ‘perfect organism’ while covered in milk/blood has a tendency to be disturbing. But no, my fevered preadolescent mind began quaking in fear because of…… air ducts.

Ridley Scott created a set so convincing that I felt I was trapped along with the crew in a cramped, grittily industrial and incredibly dark spaceship. When the camera slowly panned across a hallway, I was filled with dread even before the creature appeared. The final straw for me was when Dallas, played by Seattle’s own Tom Skerritt, crawled through the air ducts in a doomed effort to flush the alien into an airlock. As the device that is tracking him started to register two blips, I began slumping down in my seat getting ready to cover my eyes.

If you too are terrified by effective film set design, or just want to see a great movie again, now is a good time to check out Alien. Not only do we have the DVD at the library, but in honor of the 40th anniversary of the film’s release in the summer of 1979, it is being shown in actual theaters again and will be coming to Everett in October.

Now, if you would like to delve into the film a little deeper and learn all about its complicated creation story, the library has just purchased The Making of Alien by J.W. Rinzler. The book is an Alien aficionado’s dream containing new interviews with Ridley Scott and many others involved in the production, rarely seen photographs, and enough concept art of the Alien from H.R Giger to give you nightmares for weeks.

The story of the film’s journey from concept to creation is actually quite fascinating in its own right. It serves as an intriguing reflection of the shifting mores regarding gender (a female hero??), the creeping influence of commercialization (damn company!), and fear of automation (I can’t lie to you about your chances, but you have my sympathy). Either that, or I’ve seen the film way to many times.

Also, just let the cat go. Come on!

Did You Know? (Penal Colony Edition)

That penal comes from the Latin word for pain?

Poenalis means pain or penalty in Latin. The use of the word to mean “appointed as a place of punishment” began in the mid-19th century according to The Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories.

Turns out, there were penal colonies all over the world. Frequently the prisoner’s family was sent with them. It wasn’t like a prison term: serving your time and going home. Being sent to a penal colony typically meant being sent away for the rest of your life. It didn’t matter how petty or serious the crime happened to be. Many prisoners were sent away due to their political views.

Australia is one of the best known former penal colonies. A Commonwealth of Thieves: the Improbable Birth of Australia by historian/novelist Thomas Keneally talks about the beginnings of the penal colonies in Australia. This book is based on the personal journals and documents of those involved. England shipped their ‘criminals’ there, and just like that, England was rid of their ‘problems!’ The thousands of convicts’ journeys were just the beginning of their ordeal though, as they started new lives in this unknown land.

The House of the Dead: Siberian Exile Under the Tsars by Daniel Beer is a story of the Tsars and how they exiled prisoners to the Ural mountains of Siberia. It is also the tale of how these exiled unruly criminals became revolutionaries who would one day rule the Soviet Union.

Gould’s Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish by Richard Flanagan is a fictional story about William Buelow Gould being sentenced to life imprisonment at the Sarah Island penal colony in what is now Tasmania. William is a talented art forger and he begins painting pictures of fish to help the prison doctor get into The Royal Society. But the tales are as much about life on the island as they are about his art and the fish.

It can be devastating for a family that is left behind when a member of that family is in prison. The Night Dad Went to Jail by Melissa Higgins is a very useful book for young children with a parent in jail. They need to be reassured that it is not their fault and their parent still loves them. 65% of men in prisons are fathers and 75% of incarcerated women are mothers.

All of these penal colonies and jails are meant to punish. We know that positive discipline and boundaries are a much more desirable way to reap good behavior. Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World by Jill Rigby is full of wonderful anecdotes/scenarios demonstrating healthy ways to deal with tough situations when raising a child. Here at the library we have a wide array of parenting books to help you if you have specific discipline issues that you need to deal with. Hopefully, none of us will have to worry about our loved ones being put in jail!