Kickstarter campaign for a living time capsule

Pause of the Clock posterAt the beginning of the year, I revealed my own personal favorite posts last year, one of which was my review of Queue Tips: Discovering Your Next Great Movie, a book by film enthusiast and writer Rob Christopher. This was the first book I was sent a copy of and asked to review for the site — by no less than the author himself! — so it holds a sentimental place in my heart (and my bookshelf). The book was published in 2012 by Huron Street Press, an imprint of the American Library Association.

I was also thrilled to learn recently from Rob that he has an exciting project in the works. He has launched a Kickstarter campaign to finish “Pause of the Clock,” a film he shot 20 years ago. It’s his quest to finish the film — a feature-length film which he wrote, produced, and directed. I love how he describes the film’s significance:

Pause of the Clock is not simply a souvenir—it’s a message from the past about how our society has changed in 20 years, while also exploring those things about us and our relationships that technology can’t touch. A living time capsule.

Such an intriguing project, and I’m happy to support him in this endeavor. Will you join me?

The Kickstarter campaign is open for another week, and you can read all about it here — as well as view an excerpt and a trailer — on his “Pause of the Clock” Kickstarter page.

POTC_40

Valentine’s Day round-up of reel librarian love

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I thought a round-up of reel librarian love was in order. Here are romance-themed posts from my blog archives that you might enjoy:


Reel librarians in love

round-up of films featuring reel librarians in love, including the appropriately named Love Story (1970).


A love song for a librarian

This post explores a few love songs inspired by librarians, including “Heaven Sent” by INXS (1992).


Romance and the reel librarian

A post lookin’ for love — or rather, romance films featuring reel librarians.


Love story analysis posts

I’ve also analyzed several love stories featuring reel librarians, in parts both major and minor, including:

 

Boston Blackie and the shushing librarian

In the 1946 film Boston Blackie and the Law, reformed thief Blackie performs a magic show in a women’s prison, and one of the inmates, Dinah, escapes during the “disappearing booth” trick. Turns out Dinah was a former magician’s assistant! D’oh!

First things first… who’s “Boston Blackie”? This film was one of the last in a series of films featuring “Boston Blackie,” a reformed crook who became an amateur detective. Jack Boyle started writing short stories about “Boston Blackie” in 1914, and the stories were published as a collection in 1919. There were a series of silent films as well as a series of popular talkies in the 1940s starring Chester Morris as Blackie. There was even a TV series in the 1950s! You can read all about it — and more! — here at the Boston Blackie website.

After Dinah’s disappearance at the prison, the police interrogate Blackie back at police headquarters, who manages to escape police custody. From a public phone booth, he then calls a friend and urges him to “drop everything and meet me at the Reading Room of the uptown public library. Right away.” The police find out and tail him there.

The library scene occurs 20 minutes into the film, and it looks like a typical reel library set. Complete with stereotypical “spinster librarian” in residence. (Sigh.)

Reel Librarians  |  Boston Blackie and the shushing librarian

In just a few seconds of screen time, we witness:

  • A female patron sneezing and incurring the immediate wrath of the librarian, who shushes her and points to the “Silence please” sign behind her
  • Blackie’s friend entering and shouting, “Hey, boss!” — and also receiving and immediate glare and shushing from the librarian
  • A close-up of the “Silence please” sign
  • A name placard for “Miss Burton,” the librarian
  • The librarian silently fussing at the friend to remove his hat
  • The librarian dropping a book off the high library counter and receiving a reciprocal shush and sign-pointing from Blackie’s friend, as comically illustrated below

Reel Librarians  |  Boston Blackie and the shushing librarian
Reel Librarians  |  Boston Blackie and the shushing librarian
Reel Librarians  |  Boston Blackie and the shushing librarian

And wow, does this librarian check off all the boxes for what a stereotypical spinster librarian looks like. It’s almost like a Halloween costume checklist:

√ bun
√ pince nez glasses on a chain
√ high-collared blouse
√ cardigan
√ sour expression

So why is Blackie at the public library? To research background about Dinah, and he finds a series of newspaper articles in a bound volume of newspapers. Blackie then proceeds to read the articles OUT LOUD to his friend — but somehow manages to escape the shushing wrath of Miss Burton, the reel librarian. Amazing, that movie magic! ;)

Reel Librarians  |  Boston Blackie and the shushing librarian

After reading up on Dinah — who turns out to have been involved in a robbery that netted $100,000 that was never recovered! — Blackie and his friend escape out a side door when two police detectives enter the library.

The detectives are smoking cigars and talking loudly. And guess what happens? The librarian is LIVID at this spectacle — and even gets out of her chair to admonish the two detectives, up close and personal.

Reel Librarians  |  Boston Blackie and the shushing librarian

Miss Burton:  Young man, this is a library where people are trying to think.

Detective:  Lady, we ain’t here to think.

Miss Burton:  I can certainly believe that. Take off your hat and that thing in your mouth. [pointing to the cigar]

The two detectives do leave — but they also leave a trail of cigar smoke in their wake. This then makes the librarian sneeze — and she then causes a scene in the library! All of the patrons turn to stare at her, and she looks very embarrassed. She has tasted her own medicine — and it is bitter! ;)

Reel Librarians | Boston Blackie and the shushing librarian

Maudie Prickett is uncredited as Miss Burton, the reel librarian.

It is amusing to note how the librarian and the chief detective both look each other up and down in mutual disgust. Two worlds — and two worlds with their own set of rules! — colliding, to be sure. The entire library scene is played for laughs, and the humor is quite crude.

My husband’s reaction to this scene? “Are you pained by the portrayal? This just keeps getting harder, doesn’t it?” (Yes, it does at times. Sigh.)

I’ve categorized this film in the Class III category. The scene is quite short, only lasting about three minutes, but the portrayal of the reel librarian is quite memorable (if for all the wrong reasons).

The reel librarian in Boston Blackie and the Law doesn’t actually help in any way — Blackie does that himself — and her only function seems to be stamping books and shushing people. She is most definitely a Spinster Librarian character type, a minor character who is an uptight “old maid” and rule-monger who hoards information. She is all about the rules — and woe unto anyone who breaks those rules — even if it’s herself!

And finally, as I was taking screenshots, I (accidentally) managed to capture a great shot! The picture below is transitioning from the reel librarian pointing at the “Silence Please” sign in the library into a closeup of that sign. And the result perfectly sums up this reel librarian portrayal — as well as the Spinster Librarian character type in general:

Reel Librarians  |  Boston Blackie and the shushing librarian

Silence, please, as you enjoy that photo. ;)

Rating ‘The Librarians’

The TV spin-off series The Librarians finished up last week on TNT, with 10 episodes rounding out its first season. I’d earlier reviewed the premiere (the first two episodes), as seen here in this post. As I mentioned then:

I have a soft spot for “The Librarian” TV movies, which are admittedly cheesy, corny, and nerdy. They’re also fun. And that irrepressible, playful spirit all through the TV movies — lifelong learning is THE BEST, y’all! — also inhabits the spin-off series.

After watching the entire first season, I still stand by that first impression. Not every episode was great; in fact, the series as a whole was a little uneven in tone and focus. But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the series, and I looked forward to each new episode each week.

Logo of

What I loved:

  • The glimpses into the past of Jenkins, who manages the library annex. At first, the character seemed one-dimensional and stereotypical to me, but each episode provided a little more depth and gravitas to Jenkins, who continues to be a mysterious figure. Also, it helps that John Larroquette is so skilled at delivering wry line readings and throwing sideways shade.
  • The structure of the series and the links back to events and character traits throughout the series. Even the premiere harkened back to the original TV movies. The finale episode really paid off by referencing every episode before it. I love a series that rewards the fans who have paid attention throughout the season!
  • Variety and diversity of myths and legendary figures and artistic works
  • The chemistry of the lead cast, who all seemed comfortable with each other — there’s a sense of security for viewers to witness that kind of easy camaraderie
  • Great casting of guest actors, including Alicia Witt, Bruce Campbell, and Rene Auberjonois

What could use improvement:

  • The main villains, who still came across as quite thin and uninteresting. Criminal waste of actor Matt Frewer (who played “Max Headroom”).
  • Uneven pace and a few plots that seemingly went nowhere
  • Diversity of sets (Is that Slovakia? Looks like another Oregon forest to me! ;) ) and a special effects upgrade
  • Weak use of great guest actors
  • More use of Noah Wyle and library mainstays Jane Curtin and Bob Newhart

Rating each episode:

Here are the 10 episodes, in order of my personal favorites:

  1. TIE:  The premiere, “And the Crown of King Arthur,” (1.1) and the finale, “And the Loom of Fate” (1.10). Each was strengthened by the other. The finale referenced the premiere and the entire series, which provided more gravitas (to both the plot and the characters), while the premiere episode gained points in setting the tone and overall structure, which were reinforced by the finale. Bonus points for Jane Curtin and Bob Newhart reprising their roles in the premiere!
  2. “And the Heart of Darkness” (1.8). An episode set in a haunted house. Sounds stereotypical, but the tone and storyline of the haunted house was truly chilling — and original! Loved the scene in which Jenkins ran through the cataloged list of haunted houses. The series excelled at little throwaway moments like that.
  3. “And the Fables of Doom” (1.6). An absolute delight of an episode, which involved fairy tale characters coming to life in a small town — and going on attack! Such clever twists on traditional fairy tales. Bonus points for featuring another major librarian character, played by Rene Auberjonois, plus the climax is set in the town’s public library.
  4. “And the City of Light” (1.9). Another episode that seemed to start out as one thing but ended up in a highly original place — involving the legacy of Nikola Tesla, no less! Touching emotional connection between series regular Christian Kane and guest actor Haley Webb, who functions as the town’s archivist.
  5. “And the Sword in the Stone” (1.2). The second episode and one that cemented the structure of the librarians-in-training. Expect tears for the “sword in the stone” of the title.
  6. “And the Apple of Discord” (1.5). Flynn returns in this episode that features dragons who have been awoken and start wreaking havoc around the world. (As dragons are wont to do.) Eye-rolling special effects — or lack thereof. The highlight is the scene demonstrating just how dangerous Cassandra’s skills can be.
  7. “And the Horns of a Dilemma” (1.3). Standard episode that provided a twist on the labyrinth and the Minotaur myth. It earned points for how it updated the concept of the labyrinth, but lost points for its cheesy portrayal of the Minotaur in various guises.
  8. “And Santa’s Midnight Run” (1.4). I soooooo wanted to love this Christmas-themed episode — Santa gets kidnapped! — and Bruce Campbell as Santa is an absolute hoot. However, the pace really lagged in the second half of the episode, and the ending was particularly cringe-worthy.
  9. “And the Rule of Three” (1.7). An episode set at a science fair and a mash-up of science and magic. Brilliant casting of Alicia Witt, but once again, they didn’t know how to make the best use of what they had. Lame story and confusing ending.

Last but not least, my favorite line from the series, which was cleverly remixed in the finale:

I’m offering you a life of mystery and adventure. More than that, I’m offering you an opportunity to make a difference. Save the world every week.

Until next week, then… :)

Review of ‘A House of Light and Stone’ and author Q+A

Cover of 'A House of Light & Stone'At the end of last year, I was quite excited when author E.J. Runyon asked me to review her debut novel, A House of Light and Stone. She piqued my interest when she said that a librarian had a prominent role in the book. :)

The novel, set in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, is revealed through the clear-eyed gaze of a young girl named Duffy (short for “Defoe”).

Growing up is never easy, but for young Duffy Chavez, whose childhood is anything but innocent, the journey is particularly painful.

Swimming against the tides of her troubled family as well as her own cultural identity, she struggles with the cards she has been dealt. Buoyed up by the belief of a select few, she strives to achieve the kind of self-knowledge that comes so naturally to the ‘real girls’ all around her. As gaps in the narrative begin to fill, and the truth surrounding Duffy’s birth is unearthed, her determination to succeed is rendered all the more astounding.

E.J. sent me an e-book version — my first book to read on my laptop’s Kindle app! I have to admit, it took me a while to get used to e-book reading. The format kept throwing me off. But once I got over that — and changed the settings to more closely resemble a regular book, as seen below — I found myself getting into Duffy’s story.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot of e-book version of 'A House of Light & Stone'

It is a YA novel in the sense that Duffy, the protagonist, is a young adult. The themes, however, transcend age or audience limitations, and I found myself harkening back to my own childhood and memories as I read Duffy’s story. Yes, I cried at certain parts. I definitely can identify with the “curse of responsibility” placed on Duffy’s young shoulders. The writing is sensitive, as befitting the plot of a young girl’s quest to discover herself. This kind of novel depends hugely on how much the reader can identify or empathize with the main character, and I found Duffy endlessly interesting, a character who drew me in while also not revealing all of herself all at once.

And yes, there is indeed a librarian in the book! Duffy signs up for a summer writing course at a local public library, led by young adult librarian Miss Patricia. There are also interesting library bits here and there throughout the book that reveal, I believe, the author’s insight into library organization and structure, as well as a personal love of libraries. That made me smile. :D

Front entrance of Robert Louis Stevenson Branch Library

Robert Louis Stevenson Branch Library – Los Angeles Public Library system

The public library branch is the Robert Louis Stevenson Branch Library, and yes, it is indeed a branch library of the Los Angeles Public Library system, located in the Boyle Heights area — the same setting as the book.

I wrote down questions as I read through the book, as I thought it would be fun to include a little author Q+A with this review. I’m so glad E.J. Runyon was up for it!


Q: The details of the Robert Louis Stevenson Branch Library felt too detailed NOT to be real. Was this your public library while growing up? If not, have you been there?

A:  I’d lived in 7 different houses by age 10, and the city of Boyle Heights was indeed where this one was, so I’ve used what I know in my writing. And I did walk and find many books there with my sister.

But it was only one of several that could be called my ‘Childhood library’. School libraries held just as big a pull for me.


Q:  I loved Duffy’s sentiment that “I thought never being without books should definitely be on my Best Life list.” Are libraries (public OR personal) included in your own Best Life list?

A:  Most definitely. Aside for those childhood libraries, before my Freshman year, I worked my first Summer work experience job in my high school library. From there I spent time working at the Public Library in town for a few semesters while in HS. And during my community college days (in my 40’s) I worked in the campus library, again as a work experience student.


Q:  Have libraries or librarians been a personal influence in your life as a writer and/or editor?

A:  Libraries, and the librarians in them, run all though my existence. I know the spaces and character traits well. Possibly why I added that element into the novel. There have been several, some I still remember by name and location, some I’ve not. I used to read the bound volumes of ‘Reader’s Guide to Periodic Literature’ like they were novels. So I was ‘using what you know’, in my storytelling.


Q:  Do you share Duffy’s and Joanna’s opinion that “we both disagreed with the Deweys about putting Buildings there [in the 700s Arts call number section].” (That made me laugh, especially after watching a recent episode of ‘The Librarians’ TV show, in which the librarian-in-training who is an art expert complained that “Architecture is just art we live in. Why doesn’t anybody get that?”)

A:  Well, when you list the other subsections, you do have to admit, that both the 710s and 720s do stand out from the others. Though I can’t see any other slot to move them to.

[Editor’s note:  Click here to browse the Dewey Decimal classification system in the 700s]


Q:  Was Miss Patricia based on any real-life librarian in your life?

A:  Not literally, not taking one person and adding her to my novel. But I did have librarians who did matter hugely in my life. Specifically at age 6/7 at Eastman Ave Elementary School, and as a teen in those early work opportunities. The Character’s name and her long red hair came from a very dear friend who passed away.


Q:  Do you see Miss Patricia — a librarian and educator — as a positive role model?

A:  It was important to me to make sure none of these adult characters were singularly positive or negative, which is why things go so swimmingly then so awry in Miss Patricia’s arc. If you notice, that’s pretty much my M.O. with most of the adults here.

In the mid-1960s so many younger folks were giving back to the kids in the areas where this book is set. So for that, yes, she’s a positive character as drawn.

But, she doesn’t always do things in the best possible way and that’s my writer’s option of deeper writing; by using the more minor characters as real folks with their own agendas, rather than only using their ups and downs as stepping stones to get Duffy going along her own path within the story.

This is Duffy’s story, first and foremost, but hopefully, it’s a broader painting of a time and a world, and I’ve succeeded in populating it in realistic ways.


As a reader — and a librarian — I believe E.J. Runyon did succeed, indeed, with populating her debut novel with characters and details in realistic ways. A huge thanks to E.J. for asking me to read and review her book!

If you, dear reader, are interested in reading more about A House of Light and Stone, please visit E.J.’s personal site here at http://ej-runyon.com/. The book is available in Kindle or paperback editions through Amazon.com here at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NQ8NG8G?d. And finally, click here for another review and author interview.

A promise to a reel librarian

Every Christmas holiday, my husband and I have a tradition of binge-watching a movie- or TV-series marathon. In past years, we’ve gone through the Harry Potter movies (that took us two days to complete), Star WarsSupermanThe Thin Man series, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and so on. This year, after having watched Die Hard (1988) and Love Actually (2003) after Thanksgiving, we chose Alan Rickman as our theme for this holiday’s movie marathon. As we left it pretty late, we selected whichever Alan Rickman movies were available to us through our own personal collection, HuluPlus (we have a subscription), and our local public library.

Reel Librarians  |  DVDs of Alan Rickman movies

One of those movies was the 2013 period film A Promise, based on Stefan Zweig’s novel Journey Into the Past. The plotline — as well as the resulting film — is pretty straightforward. Set in 1912 in Germany, a young, hard-working man gains the trust and confidence of an older businessman — and then falls in love with the older man’s wife. Believe me, it sounds a lot racier than the result.

It stars Richard Madden as the young man, engineer Friedrich Zeitz; Alan Rickman as businessman Karl Hoffmeister — sporting an awesome mustache; and Rebecca Hall as his wife, Lotte. One online review summed up the film this way:  “A Promise is an overwrought bodice-ripper that forgets to rip bodices.”

Friedrich, a poor young man who has graduated first in his engineering class, earns Karl Hoffmeister’s confidence through his work ethic and intelligence. Friedrich also reveals that he felt education was his only chance in life.

Much to my surprise while watching the film, A Promise includes a brief library scene. Very brief. As in 15 seconds brief.

A quarter-hour into the film, we see Friedrich in a library, his table piled high with books. He is poring over a book entitled Mexico and a map. [This makes sense later when Friedrich advises Karl to invest in a mine in Mexico. Friedrich is then the one sent to Mexico as the company’s project manager.]

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshots from 'A Promise' (2013)

While Friedrich makes notes, a male librarian slowly makes his way down the row of tables and deposits a couple of books on Friedrich’s table.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshots from 'A Promise' (2013)

How do we know he’s a librarian? Because he’s wheeling a book cart, of course! (See also my posts for City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s GoldRicochetand Chances Are, among others.)

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshots from 'A Promise' (2013)

An Information Provider, for sure, and one of the most minimal ones at that, ending up in the Class IV category of films. (It didn’t surprise me that the librarian is uncredited.) Amazing that the screen time for the reel librarian in this film is about the same as for the reel librarian in WarGames — but what a difference of significance and importance between the two reel librarian portrayals!

What I did like about this scene is that it underscores Friedrich’s commitment to education and lifelong learning — and how he obviously associates the library with that education, as well. :)


By the way, if you’re interested, here are the movies we watched during our Alan Rickman marathon — a mixture of movies we had seen before along with a few new to us:

  • Two episodes of The Barchester Chronicles (1982)
  • Robin Hood:  Prince of Thieves (1991)
  • Sense & Sensibility (1995)
  • Dark Harbor (1998)
  • Dogma (1999)
  • Gambit (2012)
  • A Promise (2013)

Although the qualities of the movies varied widely, we did come away with a renewed appreciation of Rickman’s immense acting talents!

2014: Reel Librarians in review

Happy 2015! The WordPress stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for Reel Librarians, so here’s a quick look back.

Here’s an excerpt from the annual report:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 33,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete 2014 report, which includes much more. And if you’re interested, click here for the 2013 report and here for the 2012 report.

Most popular posts of 2014:

The most popular posts last year were actually all published the year before, which the WordPress stats helpers choose to interpret as “Your writing has staying power!” ;)The Killing Kind vs. The Attic” post (published Oct. 23, 2013) was far and away the most popular post with over 2,500 views in 2014.

Here are the most popular posts of 2014 of those actually written and published last year:

My personal favorite posts of 2014:

I always find it an interesting exercise to take a look back and identify my own personal favorite posts of the year. Reminds me of why I dedicate so much of my spare time to this blog! Last year, I chose a personal favorite from each month; this year, I’ll keep thing simpler by choosing my top 5 favorite posts from 2014:

  • WarGames and research (Dec. 31, 2014):  My most recent post and final post of 2014 — and one of my absolute faves! This one surprised me, as I really didn’t expect much at all out of the few seconds of screen time of this film’s reel librarian — and yet the research montage scene was so layered and interesting.
  • The Lindgren trilogy (July 23, 2014):  This post finished up a series of posts I had written about the librarian in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, comparing LINDGREN the archives librarian character from the 2005 book, the 2009 Swedish film version, and the 2011 American film version.
  • Enough, said the librarian (Feb. 25, 2014):  An unexpected reel librarian portrayal in James Gandolfini’s last major film role in Enough Said. I also enjoyed researching what a “digital archivist” was.
  • Pride and Prejudice and librarians (Feb. 28, 2014):  Hello, Jane Austen — reason enough to enjoy this post. But I also enjoyed digging into the reasons why the Mr. Collins character in this 1940 film adaptation was changed from a clergyman to a librarian. I’d also like to think I was channeling Jane Austen to release some of my snark in this post. ;)
  • Review of ‘Queue Tips: Discovering Your Next Great Movie’ (Jan. 21, 2014):  This was a fun post to write, as well as a fun book to read. This was the first book I was sent a copy of and asked to review for the site — by no less than the author himself, Rob Christopher! — so it holds a sentimental place in my heart — and my bookshelf. :D

If you haven’t caught up on these reader (and personal) faves, enjoy! I’ll be back next week with another film analysis post to start off the new year!