Friday, October 28, 2011

My Look Back: 1957

The Edsel Lineup
 Photo by Frank Scherschel from the LIFE Photo Archive
It's time to look back at 1957 (in keeping with my last post of the movie Desk Set which was released in 1957).  So what better way to remember 1957 than with the Ford Edsel and E-Day, which took place on September 4, 1957.  I mean they even tried to give away 1,000 ponies to children to try and get families on board the Edsel bandwagon (it didn't work).  I guess it was just a big oversell that had set way too high expectations and in the end the car was unimpressive, poorly designed and not of high quality.  Bummer, because it is actually kind of a good looking car.  Here are some other events that all took place in 1957:
  • The Brooklyn Dodgers move to Los Angeles, California and the New York Giants to San Francisco, California
  • Leave it to Beaver and the original The Price is Right premiere on television
  • Toyota begins exporting the Land Cruiser and Crown to the United States
  • The laser is invented by Gordon Gould
  • Elvis Presley purchases what will become Graceland
  • American Bandstand premieres
  • The average monthly rent is $90 dollars
  • The New York City trolley car service ceases to operate
  • Gloria Estefan, Frank Miller, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sid Vicious, Siouxsie Sioux, and Matt Lauer are born
Using ponies to bring families into an Edsel dealership 
Photo by Stan Wayman from the LIFE Photo Archive

Take a look at this commercial for the Edsel too.
It actually showcased many features that were unknown to other cars, like a remote trunk release, shifting from the steering wheel (the electric "Teletouch" drive feature) and a speedometer that would flash red when you were above the safe maximum speed that you would pre-set.  So why was this poor design I wonder??

Friday, October 21, 2011

Movie Review: Desk Set, 1957

Photo from the AMC TV Blog
The holidays are coming, the holidays are coming, the holidays are coming!! Well, according to the weather here in California, it still feels like summer, but I still say the holidays are coming because realistically there are only 64 days until Christmas and Targé already has ornaments and holiday cards on their shelves.  

In the spirit of the holidays I'm posting my movie review for Desk Set (1957) starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, directed by Walter Lang.  I love this movie not only because it is a great film with the right mix of romance and comedy, as well as charm and nostalgia, but I also love it because it is about librarians and it is set during the holidays.  Never mind all the great acting, I mean c'mon, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, as well as Gig Young and Joan Blondell!  The story centers on Katharine Hepburn as Bunny Watson and Spencer Tracy as Richard Sumner.  Bunny is head librarian of the reference department of the Federal Broadcasting Network.  When news hits that a computer will be integrated into the department, everyone assumes that they are being replaced, especially when Richard Sumner breezes in and makes it seem like it is no big deal (he is not supposed to say anything definitive about it).  This leads to some witty dialogue and great writing in the film, especially between Hepburn and Tracy.  Once the machine is in place everyone gets a pink slip, so of course their suspicions were true! But it was just a glitch and even the president of the company received one. 

When you think about it, the story is kind of ahead of its time.  Richard Sumner is trying to replace a living and breathing librarian with an electronic machine that spits out answers (sort of like the internet).  But as we have learned, not everything can come from a whirring, processing machine.  Yes, we can read books on a tablet and yes search engines can research people and places for us, but libraries are still places where you can freely browse books, magazines, newspapers, journals, and the like.  You can also attend lectures, cooking demonstrations, story times, book club meetings and even watch classic movies like Desk Set.  So it's nice to know that movies like these remind us that nothing is meant to be infallible and that the human connection is still the best medium to explore the world (in this librarian's opinion).

Here are a few bits of trivia about the film, as well as a Desk Set movie trailer from YouTube.
  • The role of Bunny Watson is based on the real librarian that built up the research library at CBS.
  • The movie is adapted from the Broadway play, which opened in 1955 and held 296 performances.
  • The machine in the movie is called "EMARAC", which stands for Electromagnetic Memory and Research Arithmetical Calculator.  It is based on the actual first general purpose electronic computer, ENIAC, whose slogan was "Making machines do more, so that man can do less".
  • The sound effects that were created specifically to depict the EMARAC were re-used in several future films, including Fantastic Voyage (1966).

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Review: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

MacAdam/Cage, 2003; 518 pages; ISBN  1596921536
My Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

It took me forever and a day to get through this, but I did, and I'm glad. First off I was confused half the time just trying to figure out which Henry was time traveling, if he was going to the past or to the future, and if there were two of him walking around. The little date and age notations the author included were helpful, but also confusing because sometimes I would go back and see what had already happened to find out if there were clues given to foreshadow what was happening in the present (confusing, I know). The story centers around Henry, a time traveling librarian who meets Clare when she is just a little girl on one of his time travels.  The way he travels is not really up to Henry and this affects the relationship he has with Clare.  But nonetheless both of them love each other and accept the time traveling as inevitable and expected.  There are subplots and minor characters, but I can't possibly explain what else goes on in the story - it is something that you just have to experience as a reader. 

Since I knew of the movie (but hadn't watched it yet when I read the book), and the actors who portrayed Clare and Henry, I couldn't really separate their images from the characters as I read the book. This proved to be OK though once I watched the film (which I did right after I finished the book). I thought the film was cast really well, and although many key components were missing from the film's storyline, I thought they did a great job of capturing the novel on screen. I really enjoyed the love story aspect of Clare and Henry's story and all the twists that appeared. I cried near the end and thought it was so unfair that they didn't get a longer time together. I enjoyed this one much more than Her Fearful Symmetry, see my review for that one hereThe Time Traveler's Wife is not a book to read beach side with a strawberry daiquiri by your side, but more like a book to read on a rainy night in cuddled up to a fire and sipping on some Earl Grey tea.  There really isn't anything else I've read that compares to this book.

Here's the movie trailer (have your tissues ready)

Photo: From website

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: Birds of Paradise by Kathy Handley

*Congrats to ChocoLibrarian for winning this giveaway. Thanks everyone*

Turns out my last giveaway wasn't the last one of the year because luckily I got the opportunity to read the recently published book Birds of Paradise by Kathy Handley and I am also giving away a copy of it to one very lucky reader (see giveaway details at the end of this blog post to enter).  Also, see the entire Blog Tour schedule on the Women on Writing website: Kathy Handley, author of Birds of Paradise, launches her blog tour.
Photo from
In Birds of Paradise, the story centers around the family of Joe-Mack, his wife Gloria and their two daughters Jen and Amy, and then it radiates out from there after Joe-Mack discovers that his wife is being unfaithful to him.  Joe-Mack then decides to leave with no real plan in sight.  Before he knows it eleven years have passed and he is now a truck driver making trips all over the west coast.  On one of those trips he picks up a hitchhiker named Freddie who is on his way to Hollywood from Vegas.  Joe-Mack takes a liking to him because he is reminded of his two daughters since Freddie is about their age.  Before they part ways, Joe-Mack gives Freddie his cell phone number, in case he ever needs it.  Cut to Starlet, a newly arrived runaway that dreams of making it big in Hollywood.  Starlet soon meets a plethora of characters, including another runaway, a hooker, and Freddie.  By now Freddie is going by the name Vegas and the two fall in love.  The twist is that Starlet is actually Joe-Mack's eldest daughter Jen and she has left her mother Gloria and her new sleazy boyfriend Ralph back home worried to death (well, Ralph isn't worried, just probably sorry he didn't get the chance to make a move on Jen).  This cast of runaways, homeless youths, and streetwalkers is definitely not a good mix to ensure a pleasant plot line, and before you know it there are pimps involved and a shooting.  I believe this part of the story is drawn from the author's family and her own experiences working with young kids in L.A. (see author's note in the back for more information as well as the blog post on the Women on Writing website).

Overall I liked the book but I felt that some things were unnecessary.  The amount of runaways could have been reduced to tighten up the plot and explore more of their characters.  Also, the names were a bit on the cheesy side (Joe-Mack = mack trucks, Starlet = Hollywood starlet, Vegas = just sounds like that Vic Vegas guy from the Food Network, and Frenchy = well, that one is just unnecessary period).  The language between the characters was not always natural sounding too.  I did enjoy the imagery the author used to describe scenes and locations though, which gave the story some lushness and appeal.  I could really see her skills in poetry enlightened in these parts of the story.  Birds of Paradise I think achieves the goal of giving new perspective to runaways and those that have been displaced by life's circumstances and for that I commend the author.

Now for the giveaway!  
To enter, please leave a comment on this blog post with your e-mail address and your answer to this question: Besides the home you live in, where else do you feel "at home"?  
For an extra entry tweet about this book using the hashtag #BirdsParadise and leave the link here as well.  The last day to enter is October 23rd, 2011 and the winner will be announced right here on this post on Thursday, October 27th, 2011.  Good luck!!

*Note: If you purchase this book, the proceeds will go to organizations that sponsor activities for children with cerebral palsy.  Thank you to WOW! Women on Writing for hosting this blog tour and giveaway.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail No. 10

Photo from
So far I've been taking a lot of classic drinks and re-working them, or introducing new cocktails with ingredients based on the books that they are being paired with.  With this installment of the read-a-book, sip-a-cocktail series I'm taking one of my tried and true drinks and applying it to this month's book selection, which is the first in the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, Dead Until Dark.  The series is also the basis for the HBO show True Blood (of which I am a fan of from the very beginning, even before I read this book), so you could say this is my version of a Tru Blood drink as well.  I'm simply calling it a Bloody Sangria.  Inevitably after I make a batch of this sangria I always get asked for the recipe, and I'm including the original one here, but believe me, you could vary the ingredients any way you like to suit your taste or your pantry. This would also be a great drink to serve at an upcoming Halloween soirée
Bloody Sangria
1 bottle of Spiced rum (any brand)
1 cup of Simple syrup
3 cups of Orange juice
3 cups of Lemon lime soda (or a clear, fruit flavored soda)
1 1 1/2 liter bottle of Blackberry merlot (like Arbor Mist)
1 1/2 cups of fresh fruit (like grapes, sliced peaches, sliced apples, cherries, etc...)
1 Orange and one lemon, thinly sliced
How to:  In a large pitcher, or better yet a 1 1/2 gallon beverage dispenser, pour rum, simple syrup and fruit and let it sit for at least 3 hours.  Right before serving the sangria, add ice, orange juice, soda, merlot and the sliced orange and lemon.  Stir well and dispense (and I always add some of the fruit to each person's drink, since the whole point of letting it sit with the rum is for it to absorb some of the rum's flavor).