New DVD Anticipation

I’m in a state of eager anticipation. I’m really excited about a couple of great new DVDs coming to the library soon.

Thing is, I am not good at waiting. I want those two DVDs, My Cousin Rachel and The Circle, here today—if not yesterday. So in the meantime, I’ve been reading the books the movies are based on.

I was a huge fan of English writer Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989) when I was a teenager and scarfed back all of her classics, including My Cousin Rachel. So I was really pleased when a movie version (starring Rachel Weisz and Sam Clafin) came out earlier this year.

WPL does not at present have the book version, but it is on order. However I have my own copy and am currently re-reading this classic novel of suspense.

My-Cousin-Rachel-2017-movie-posterMy Cousin Rachel (published in 1951) is about a young Englishman in Italy who meets and marries his distant cousin Rachel. The man falls mysteriously ill, believing he has been poisoned, and then dies. Rachel then goes back to his estate in Cornwall, England and meets his ward, who (a) finds himself falling in love with her and (b) also falling mysteriously ill. Has Rachel committed the crimes she is suspected of, or is she innocent?

I’m also waiting (none too patiently!) for the release of the DVD The Circle, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. It has quite a holds list. So if you are interested, better place that hold now!

I just recently read the book (published in 2013) by Dave Eggers. It’s about a young woman Mae Holland who lands her dream job at The Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company. At first everything about the organization seems perfect. But slowly questions start to creep in. Questions involving surveillance, privacy, collection of data (who is doing it and for what purpose) and authoritarianism. The Circle is a good read with lots to think about.

— Penny D.

Mary Tyler Moore Show


Who can turn the world on with her smile? And take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile….Why, Mary Tyler Moore— of course.

I’m so excited. WPL has just ordered all seven seasons of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I love that show! It is my all-time, favouritist TV show, ever. (Though unfortunately Mary Tyler Moore herself died in January.)

I’m looking forward to being reunited with the gang, who almost feel like old friends. In the TV newsroom, there’s Mary Richard’s boss, crusty Lou Grant; ego-maniac news anchor Ted Baxter; and good old dependable Murray Slaughter. In later seasons, Sue Ann Nivens (played by the incomparable Betty White) came on board and chased after Lou Grant every chance she got. In her home life, Mary’s best friend was the wonderfully wacky Rhoda Morgenstern (surely one of the greatest TV characters of all time).

For me, a lot of the appeal of the show is due to the Mary Richards character. She was young, single, pursuing an exciting career. Yet she always came across as a real person, as we saw plenty of insecurity and vulnerability in her.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was excellent in every regard. It was always so well written, so well acted and so very, very funny. It was awarded–let me see, quick Google check here–29 Emmys over its seven-year run.

The DVDs should be coming into the library soon. Yippee, time to celebrate. I know, I’ll  take off my hat and toss it up into the air—just like Mary.

– – Penny D.

Becoming Unbecoming

myfriend   ethel   becoming   secret

I’m not a huge graphic novel fan. They’re really not my thing.

To date, I have read two graphic novels. Yup, that’s a whole big two of them. I’ve previously read  Ethel & Ernest by Raymond Briggs which I found utterly charming. And also one recommended  by a former WPL staff person, My friend Dahmer, by Derf Backderf. The author knew the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in high school and writes a pretty interesting account of him.

So this brings me to my third graphic novel, Becoming unbecoming, by Una. It’s easy to say what it’s about—sexual violence against women—but it’s a lot harder to describe or categorize.

The author presents her own story of being sexually assaulted as a young girl and the varying emotions she felt. The Yorkshire Ripper also comes into the story, as he was at large at the same time and place where Una grew up (northern England in the 1970s).

Also thrown into the mix are stats on sexual violence, various musings and some pretty pointed questions (for instance, why does it take so many women to bring sexual assault charges against one man before they are believed. Yes, Bill Cosby, she’s talking about you.)

I really like the way Una ends the book. She does a drawing of each one of the Yorkshire Ripper’s 13 female victims, imagining what they would be doing now if still alive. All too often it seems we focus on the killer and forget the victims.

 Becoming Unbecoming is an interesting and powerful read. Hmm, maybe time to revise my opinion of graphic novels.

I just want to add that I have a hold on another graphic novel, Secret Path, by Gordon Downie (of the Tragically Hip) and Jeff Lemire. It’s a true, but unbearably sad, story about a 12-year-old native Canadian boy.

– – Penny D.

The Making of Donald Trump

makingofdonaldMy work colleague recently contributed  a post about the upcoming presidential inauguration. Here are my thoughts.

I cannot, for the life of me, understand how the American people elected Donald Trump as president. I am actively fearing and dreading his presidency.

For awhile I hoped there might be a kinder, gentler Donald underneath, but nothing he has said or done since the election has shown that to be the case.  Basically, I think we are up s*** creek without a paddle (don’t know if I’m allowed to say that, but I am anyway). My way of coping, or trying anyway,  is to read and stay informed.

First up, there are some books out there written by Donald Trump himself. Let me just say I have zero interest in reading them.

A recently published, new addition at the library is The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston. The author is a Pulitzer- prize winning investigative journalist who has been writing about Donald Trump for 30 years. He says his credo as an investigative journalist is, if your mother tells you she loves you, check it and then double check it. So I think his credentials are solid.

So what does Johnston have to say about Trump?

Nothing good, I’m afraid.  A lot of it we have already seen for ourselves (his striking back, hard, at anyone who crosses him, his skill at exploiting the media, his mindset which seems more akin to dictator than democrat).

Here’s something I was unaware of. Trump has a long history of  close association with criminals. Johnston describes this association  as “a vast assortment of con artists, swindlers, mobsters and mob associates, a major drug trafficker he went to bat for, and other unsavory characters.”  Deeply troubling connections in a man who will shortly be the President of the United States, I would say.

The reader also gets a detailed account of Trump’s history of  flouting regulations– and often getting away with it. Johnston’s account of Trump University is a good case in point. After numerous complaints, government officials in various states, including Florida, began investigating Trump University. At which point Donald Trump made  a large donation to the Florida attorney-general’s re-election campaign (as did Ivanka Trump). Then, poof—as if by magic– the attorney-general’s investigation into Trump University ceased. Yeah, money talks alright (and silences, too).

I feel like I should end this post on a positive note. Well, reading and generally staying informed is a valuable thing, especially considering Trump’s repeated attacks on the news media.

But the truth is I fear we are in for a rough ride ahead. I hope I’m proved wrong.

Penny D.

Wild Tales by Graham Nash

Wild Tales by Graham Nash

I love autobiographies.

It’s fascinating to get a glimpse into other people’s lives: the things they did and thought, the choices they made. And I found this one, Wild Tales by Graham Nash, to be so interesting. (In case the name doesn’t mean anything to you, Graham Nash was a founder of the 60’s band the Hollies and later became part of the supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash/Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.)

I liked hearing about Graham Nash’s childhood, as it was so different than mine. He grew up poor in the north of England. When he was just a kid, his dad went to prison for a year and then things were really, really tough.

I especially loved Nash’s stories about his time with the Hollies and CSN&Y. Did you know he met his future Hollies bandmate, Allan Clarke, at the age of 6 and they became instant best friends as they bonded over their love of singing and harmonizing together. How cool is that?

After leaving the Hollies in a less than classy way (told the record producer, didn’t tell his bandmates), Nash joined CS&N. What a crazy time that was! With rampant drug use and huge egos and clashes of all kinds, it’s a wonder they were able to record so much music and give so many concerts. Actually, it’s a wonder they are all alive and (so far as I know) fully functioning.

And then there is the music.

I had such fun rediscovering the Hollies. They made some great music!  Unfortunately none is available at WPL. I inquired why not and apparently their music is no longer available to purchase.

I’ve also been listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young for the first time. Is it me, or are these guys maybe a little over-rated? I found some of the music to be pretty sleep-inducing. Gorgeous harmonies, yes, but I’d say the music needs more bite to it. I’m sure there are people who would disagree, maybe vehemently. If so, you can check out the library’s selection of CSN&Y CDs, as well as individual albums by David Crosby and Neil Young.

– Penny D.

What We’re Watching: 1971

 Can citizens ever be justified in committing illegal actions against their government? How about if the government itself is acting illegally?

The movie 1971 looks at some of those questions. On March 8, 1971, a group of eight people broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Philadelphia) and stole every single document there.

 Up until then, they had participated in peaceful protests against the Viet Nam war, but decided it was time to up the ante. The stolen files showed that the FBI was behind a vast and illegal system of spying on and intimidating American citizens, an issue with plenty of relevance for us today. All hell broke loose when the files were sent to newspapers and published.

 The DVD re-enacts the, shall we say, liberation of the documents– a couple of last minute glitches in the plan made for some very anxious moments. It also interviews some of the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, as the group called themselves. It is interesting to hear what they thought at the time (in 1971) and also their reflections on it 40 odd years after the event. They certainly held deep convictions about trying to end the Viet Nam war. I have to admit to feeling a lot of respect for their point of view and their actions.

 All in all, very interesting viewing.

 N.B. There is a book at WPL on the same subject: The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI by Betty Medsger. I’ve just taken a look at it. Whoa, Nellie! Those people who stole the FBI files deserve a medal for service to their country! The extent of the FBI ‘s illegal activities, as documented in this book, is simply staggering.

– – Penny D.

William Shaw mysteries

              Image result for a song of the brokenhearted


She’s Leaving Home/The Kings of London/A Song for the Brokenhearted by William Shaw

Bloody brilliant.

That’s what I think of these three recent mysteries by William Shaw. And you do want to read them in order of their publication date (as above), as it’s very much an evolving plot line.

The books feature an odd couple: old school copper DS Cathal “Paddy” Breen and his new partner, brash and outspoken Helen Tozer.

The stories are set in London, England in the late 1960s, a time and place so vividly evoked that it becomes almost like a major character. So you get drug use and drug overdoses and drug busts. Groovy art dealers, “happenings,” and fans hanging round the Beatles’ Abbey Road recording studio.

Shaw also manages to introduce some tough subjects into his books. In She’s Leaving Home, part of the plot revolves around Biafra. If you are not sure what–or where– that is, then you should google it. It’s one of the great, largely forgotten tragedies of the twentieth century.

The third title, A Song for the Brokenhearted, neatly ties up the plot line. But I found it maybe a little less enjoyable than the other two. For one thing, a lot of the action takes place on an English farm, less exciting a location than London. Also, the violence was a little too graphic for my taste. That said, I still really enjoyed the book.

William Shaw is a British pop culture journalist. His writing is so sharp and spot-on. If he is writing any more Breen and Tozer books, I’ll be first on the list to read them.

– Penny D.

100 Nature Hot Spots

100  nature hot spots

Summer’s coming! (Or at least it’s supposed to be, but frankly I’m starting to wonder.)

So time to dream about and plan for summer vacations and outings. I’ve just checked out the book 100 Nature Hot Spots in Ontario by Chris Earley and Tracy C. Read and it’s jam packed with lots of cool places to visit.

I’m a nature fan, I think we should all be nature fans. It’s so beneficial—and healing, too — to take time out of our busy, stressful lives to immerse ourselves in nature. And we do our kids a huge favour when we introduce them to nature.

Some of the places listed in the book are favourites of mine. For instance, I love the Guelph arboretum. And there is something magical about Point Pelee, that long, long spit of land that narrows to a point. I’ve always wanted to visit Pelee Island as well, but haven’t made it yet (I’ll put in on a bucket list). Or a visit to the waterfalls in the Hamilton area (Felker’s Falls and Devil’s Punchbowl are listed in the book) makes for a great day’s outing. BTW, did you know there are about 100 waterfalls in the Hamilton area–amazing! I’ve also got a soft spot for the beaches of Prince Edward County (Sandbanks and Presqu’ile) as I grew up nearby.

But a couple of personal favourites didn’t make the cut. Like the Thousand Islands, a place that I absolutely love. And also Petroglyphs Provincial Park (near Peterborough) which has over 900 petroglyphs (First Nations rock carvings)–turtles, snakes, birds, humans and more. It is truly wondrous. (There is another Ontario site for petroglyphs that is listed in the book, though it has a much smaller number of them. That’s Bon Echo Provincial Park in eastern Ontario. I have seen those as well, they are well worth a look.)

So go ahead and have a look at this book. Then start planning some fun outings.

— Penny D.

Glen Campbell

campbellI 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.