Friday, March 27, 2015

4 Story Endings That Are Better Than The Story

With the final film in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy just out on DVD -- and the recent celebration of Tolkien Reading Day -- it got us thinking about story endings. Finding the perfect ending to a story can be a hard nut to crack, especially as many people would happily debate just what it is, exactly, that constitutes a "perfect ending" to their favorite shows and series.

Still, when a story wraps up on exactly the right note, it's a moment of satisfaction for the book-lover or film buff that has few equals. Read on to see four of our favorite, most powerful endings.

(Minor spoilers ahead.)

-- Fight Club (the film)

"Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate 
so we can buy stuff we don't need to impress people we don't like."

When Fight Club was first released, I went out of my way to avoid seeing it. A movie about a bunch of guys beating each other up didn't sound like my type of flick, to say the least. But then I was assigned the film as part of a college class syllabus, and I found myself stuck with watching Fight Club whether I wanted to or not.

There wasn't much to recommend it to my sensibilities, either, as I watched the Narrator (our unnamed main character) have his typical, materialistic, button-down life interrupted by Tyler Durden, a nihilistic anarchist who starts up underground "fight clubs" as a way to connect men back to real meanings in their lives. Of course, when you're convinced that there is no meaning, such a plan is bound to be twisted, and the Narrator is caught up in a plan of increasingly horrible and dangerous consequences.

That is, until the story's end, when we discover who Tyler Durden really is -- and what our Narrator can do to defeat him. With Tyler's message ultimately rejected and destroyed, our Narrator is free to live a new life with his gal-pal Marla -- "new life" being rather more literal than normal. Tyler's true identity was a sucker-punch of an ending that I never saw coming, and it gave me an appreciation for a film I thought I'd never even watch.

Request Fight Club from the Catalog

-- Star Trek: The Next Generation (the series)

"That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and 
studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence."

The last two seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation rarely reached the heights of excellent storytelling as seen in earlier episodes. But then came "All Good Things …," the two-parter series finale, in which Captain Picard is ordered to take the Enterprise to investigate an unusual spacial anomaly. Unfortunately, his orders are complicated when he abruptly finds himself time-jumping six years into the past (when the Enterprise was just about to undertake its first voyage) -- and some 25 years in the future, when he's retired and his crew has gone their separate ways. Splintered between three timelines, things look even worse for Picard with the return of Q, an all-powerful alien adversary who delights in picking on Picard whenever possible.

But this time, Q's motives seem to be about more than making things entertainingly difficult. In fact, Q is insisting that Picard is on the verge of making a decision that will wipe out all of humanity -- leaving Picard struggling to solve the puzzle across three different timelines before it's too late. What makes this episode so incredible, for me, is that the solution is unlocked for Picard in the same instant it's unlocked for the audience -- and it's a mind-blowing answer that could only work within the limitless bounds of the sci-fi genre.

It's worth mentioning that I'm not entirely alone in my assessment as to the power of this story. The two-parter earned the 1995 Hugo Award (given annually for the best science fiction and fantasy works and achievements of the previous year) for Best Dramatic Presentation.

Request Season 7 of Star Trek: The Next Generation from the Catalog

-- The Graduate (the film)

"One word: plastics."
"How exactly do you mean 'plastics,' sir?"

"Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?"  It's the most famous line of the classic 1967 film, but The Graduate is about so much more than a recent college grad falling under the spell of an older woman. Benjamin Braddock has spent the last four years slaving away to earn his college degree, but now that he's got it, he's at a loss to find his next step. Utterly confused as to what he ought to try next or what he wants to do with his life, he drifts without purpose -- ultimately finding himself in the arms of Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father's law partner.

As Benjamin continues to drift listlessly, his parents pressure him to ask out Elaine, the Robinsons' daughter. Ben does what he can to get out of it, but eventually finds himself all but forced to take Elaine out for the evening. Initially determined to be as terrible to her as possible (and, therefore, end any chances of a second date), Ben slowly begins to realize he actually likes her. Here, at last, is a person with whom he can be wholly himself.

Elaine feels the same -- at least until she finds out that Ben has been romantically involved with her own mother. Horrified, Elaine dumps Ben immediately, leaving Ben determined to reunite with Elaine -- a future with her being the only future he can see for himself.

The last third of the movie strikes many fans as romantic (or stalker-lite, depending on your perspective), as Ben tracks down Elaine before he loses her forever. But while the film has a nominally happy ending, the last shot suggests that these new adults are still as uncertain about their future as ever -- which is precisely the feeling that most new graduates can relate to best.

Request The Graduate from the Catalog

-- Secret Window, Secret Garden (the book)

"You know, the only thing that matters is the ending. 
It's the most important part of the story, the ending."

When writer Mort Rainey retreats to his summer home on Tashmore Lake, he's just trying to get a little peace of mind (and some fresh writing inspiration) in the aftermath of a messy divorce. So when John Shooter shows up on Mort's doorstep and accuses him of plagiarizing one of Shooter's stories, Mort finds himself with one too many problems to handle.

At least the fix to Shooter's accusation seems easy enough. All Mort has to do is prove he committed no such plagiarism. But when Shooter's insanity starts escalating, the stakes grow increasingly personal -- and Mort suddenly discovers there's no easy way out after all. Especially when Mort discovers that Shooter is not at all who he claimed to be.

I discovered this story on audiobook, and listened to the rip-roaring, nail-biting ending while driving home alone at night in the middle of a deserted country road. Rarely have I had a more terrifying -- or pleasing -- horror story experience. Don't miss it!

Request Secret Window, Secret Garden from the Catalog

-- Post by Ms. B 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

5 Favorite Moments on Downton Abbey

Once again it's that sad time of year where one season of Downton Abbey has finished and now we must wait nine more months to see the next season of Downton Abbey. And to top it off, there are rumors that season six may mark the end of this wonderful show. I know that it must come to an end one day, but I sure hope it's still a few years away.

While there are always lots of simultaneous story lines in Downton Abbey, here are a few of my favorite moments.

But beware, there are SPOILERS ahead!

1) Don't go Tom!

Tom Branson has come along way since his days as the chauffeur for the Crawley family. He is now a valuable member of the family whose opinion is often sought by Lord Grantham. Who would have thought that just a few seasons ago? Tom's late wife, Sybil, was always my favorite character on the show and when they killed her off during childbirth, I was crushed. Now that Tom is a single father he is trying to determine the best future for him and his daughter. Will that mean moving to America? I for one, sure hope he doesn't leave. After his brief romance with Miss Bunting, a local school teacher, some of the socialist firebrand that we saw in the first season was back. It was good to see that side of him again. I'd hate to see him go now.

2 ) Lady Edith's secret revealed

As usual, there weren't too many episodes where I did not utter the phrase "poor Edith" while watching Downton Abbey. In season five we are sure that Edith will finally have some happiness to only have her love, Michael Gregson, disappear in pre-world war II Germany. And to top it off, she discovers that she is pregnant. While she still struggles with feeling like the outcast in her family, she now realizes that she has something to fight for - her daughter Marigold. This being 1920s England, she can't acknowledge the child as her own, but now most of her family knows the secret and her daughter will now be a part of her life. And with the death of Michael, she has inherited his publishing business, which will make her an even more independent woman. So maybe next season I won't have to utter "poor Edith" anymore!

3) Lady Violet's scandalous past

Who would have thought that the Dowager Countess would have such a scandalous past? The discovery that she almost left her husband, the current Lord Grantham's father, for a married Russian prince when her children were very young was quite a surprise. Lady Violet is such a stickler for propriety, that her affair of the heart came out of left field for me. However, I did find it refreshing to see her as more than just the sour old granny with her wicked one-liners. This season we also got to see Violet's fear of losing Isobel Crawley as a companion and friend, when Isobel contemplates accepting Lord Merton's marriage proposal. After their many years of clashing ideas, it was nice to see that there is genuine affection between the two.

4) Daisy's continuing education

We've slowly seen cook's assistant Daisy, grow and mature over the years, but this year really put her on a path of personal growth. Daisy always showed a capacity for learning and for questioning the way things worked, but after meeting Miss Bunting she sees that with education her future can be whatever she makes of it. She doesn't have to work in the kitchen the rest of her life. Daisy has always been the voice of reason and now that she is learning more about the world, she is learning even more about herself. I can't wait to see where this takes her!

5) Mr. Carson's marriage proposal!

After last season ending with Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes holding hands while navigating the waves at the seaside I was hoping for a romantic storyline for these two great characters. But as season five progressed I wasn't so sure if anything would transpire. I should have known better. This is Mr. Carson we are talking about here! Everything has to happen in a proper time and place for him. I should have also seen it coming when Carson suggested to Mrs. Hughes that they look into buying a small house that they could run as a bed and breakfast when they retire, but I admit, that kind of slipped by me. When Mrs. Hughes admits that she has no money to invest because of taking care of her invalid sister, Mr. Carson shows his true colors by admitting that he bought a house in both of their names admitting his feelings for her in this gesture. I think they are a sweet couple and it's lovely to see people of a "certain age" still getting to experience love and romance.

Season six can not come fast enough for me!

--Post by Tracy

Thursday, March 19, 2015


British fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett passed away last week at the age of 66. He was best known and loved for his Discworld series, which started life as a satirical spoof of the fantasy genre but went on to become a work of rich worldbuilding and unique storytelling in its own right. Consisting of over 40 books, the novels were clever, captivating, fresh, poignant -- and always, always funny.

As a massive fantasy fan, the Discworld books were breaths of fresh air to me in my high school and college days. They were fantasy novels that had something new, fascinating, and hilarious to say. It's been years since I've picked up a Discworld novel, but I still remember my fondness for the world and characters that Sir Terry created.

Here are a few of my favorites:

- The Color of Magic

Pratchett fans will often recommend that newcomers not pick up The Color of Magic, the first book in the Discworld series. Indeed, the novel has a much different flavor from future installments in the series, serving as more of a straight-up satire of the fantasy genre than a solid, standalone fantasy tale. Still, if, like me, you're well-versed in the tropes of epic fantasy, this is the satire for you.


By this, the seventh novel in Pratchett's series, the Discworld had become a unique fantasy realm in its own right. Pratchett still had fun shaking up his stories by drawing on a variety of tropes and influences, however, and here we get a story heavily influenced by Ancient Egyptian culture (and, to a lesser extent, the fairy tales of the Arabian Nights). Teppic is the young prince of Djelibeybi (sound it out, you Doctor Who fans) who has spent the last few years being educated … by the Assassins Guild. When he returns home to reclaim his throne, complications, as can be expected, ensue -- particularly involving the local pyramids, which are magically constructed to control the flow of Time itself.

- Maskerade

This eighteenth entry in the series features the Witches -- Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg -- and newcomer Agnes Nitt, who they hope to make their coven's new protege. But Agnes is off in the town of Lancre for a job at the local Opera House, and promptly finds herself in the middle of a story not so unlike The Phantom of the Opera ... (This one is extra-delightful if you're familiar with that musical; watch especially for Pratchett's take on Christine, who ends all of her sentences with double exclamation points.)

- Monstrous Regiment

Pratchett excelled in writing complex, relatable female characters. Here we're introduced to Polly Perks, who disguises herself as a man and enlists as a soldier to track down her brother (without him, she'll lose all claim on the family business). Luckily for Polly, she's fully accepted by her fellow soldiers -- but it turns out she's not the only one with a secret to hide.

The Last Hero: A Discworld Fable

Lavishly, beautifully illustrated by Paul Kidby, this Discworld novella stars my favorite character of the series. Rincewind is a wizard (well, actually a "WIZZARD," if his hat is anything to go by). He only knows one spell, and seems to spend the majority of his time running away from all the various people, things, and circumstances that are constantly conspiring to kill him. Reluctantly teaming up with Leonard of Quirm and Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson, Rincewind finds himself on a mission to stop a hoard of elderly barbarians from killing the gods themselves.

- Good Omens

The Apocalypse. Four Horsemen on motorcycles. A misplaced Antichrist (who is kind of fond of the human race). A book of prophecy. An angel and a demon who actually get along. All co-written with Neil Gaiman. It's not Discworld, but it's my favorite Pratchett novel all the same. Don't miss it.

- Interesting Times

… well. Maybe Good Omens is my second-favorite Pratchett read. This story probably takes the true top spot, as we follow Rincewind the Wizzard as he encounters Cohen the Barbarian, meets up with an old tourist friend, and gets involved in a rebellion against an empire being controlled by a villainous Grand Vizier (aren't they always villainous?). He's only on his unlikely mission because he's determined to earn back his title as a right and proper Wizard -- but with Fate and Luck literally playing a game for the rebellion's outcome, Rincewind's got his work cut out for him.

There is a curse. They say:
"May You Live In Interesting Times."

Browse the works of Terry Pratchett from the Catalog

- ARTICLE: Terry Pratchett's Discworld Might Be the Highest Form of Literature on the Planet

- ARTICLE: Neil Gaiman on Terry Pratchett

- ARTICLE: 50 Terry Pratchett quotes

-- Post by Ms. B 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Staff Recommendation #40: Psych

On the surface, comedy and murder mysteries are not two genres that seem tailor-made to compliment one another. But there's something about combining the serious with the silly that can make for fantastic storytelling, and if you want a prime example of that concept in action, look no further than the USA series Psych.

The show tells the story of Shawn Spencer, a guy whose freewheeling ways chafe against the rigorous lessons drilled in him by his father, a Santa Barbara police detective. Despite his determination to avoid following in his dad's footsteps, Shawn can't keep from using his own well-honed powers of observation to call in tips to the police for various unsolvable crimes. But when his astute observations seem a little too on the nose, Shawn finds himself a suspect in the very case he was trying to help solve. Panicking, Shawn blurts out the first thing he thinks of: he knows all these details because he's psychic.

It says something about the character that the police find it easier to believe that Shawn's psychic than to credit this irresponsible trickster with a natural affinity for crime solving. But then, that seems to suit Shawn just fine, as he finagles his way into becoming an official consultant to the Santa Barbara Police Department while also opening his own private psychic detective agency.

Roped in for the ride are Gus, his lifelong best pal who is reluctant (at least at first) to get involved in such shenanigans; and Shawn's dad, now retired, who is none too amused at his son's new profession. But Shawn needs all the help he can get to keep the truth from being discovered by Detectives Carlton Lassiter (who can't stand Shawn from the moment they meet) and Juliet O'Hara (who seems a little more inclined to give Shawn the benefit of the doubt). Luckily for Shawn, his sense of humor is as well-developed as his powers of observation, both being important skill sets when you're a fake psychic -- and a real detective.

The show ran eight seasons, making it a daunting task to know precisely where to begin. So if you'd like to start with a sampling, allow me to recommend a few of my favorite episodes:

- Tuesday the 17th (Season 3)

By the show's second episode, Psych had fun setting their mysteries in quirky places (a Civil War reenactment, a reality show set, and a comic book convention, to name but a few). But by Season Three, the show began to push the creative envelope, changing up not just the settings of the story, but the genre of the episodes themselves.

Tuesday the 17th is arguably the first episode where Psych blends its humorous procedural roots with another genre entirely -- in this case, horror movies. Shawn and Gus are called in to find a missing camp counselor at a closed summer camp, only to find themselves being stalked by a psychotic killer (in proper Friday the 13th fashion). The episode retains its signature humor as it plays and twists the tropes of the horror/slasher genre, which sets the stage for a recurrence of genre-bending episodes.

- Extradition: British Columbia (Season 4)

To make a mystery story work, you need a great detective -- but you also need a great villain. This episode introduces one of my favorites: Pierre Desperaux, an international art thief (played with great mischief and humor by Cary Elwes). Being a thief, rather than a murderer, Desperaux's more trickster than bad guy, and Shawn and Gus must decide exactly how far they can trust such a man. That is, when they're not working themselves out of the trouble that Desperaux continually manages to get them into.

- Dual Spires (Season 5)

Series star James Roday (who also wrote a fair few episodes of the show) is a huge fan of Twin Peaks and was the one to pitch the idea of a Psychified version of that show. The result was "Dual Spires," an episode which pays faithful homage to the David Lynch series while still telling an entertaining story in its own right.

Shawn and Gus travel to Duel Spires after receiving a mysterious email invitation to a local festival, only to find themselves trying to solve the mystery of "Who Killed Paula Merral?" ("Paula Marral" being an anagram of "Laura Palmer," of course.) The episode included seven of Twin Peaks' original cast members, including Ray Wise (Leland Palmer), Lenny Von Dohlen (Harold Smith), Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne), and Laura Palmer herself -- Sheryl Lee.

- Right Turn or Left for Dead (Season 7)

A long-running theme of the show was Shawn's ongoing struggle to decide whether or not he should (or could) come clean about his decidedly un-psychic abilities. When the fallout finally hits, things go … rather poorly.

I consistently enjoyed watching the show expand its storytelling techniques the longer it was on the air, but I was particularly impressed with this Season 7 episode, which employed a storytelling tactic rarely seen outside the realms of science fiction: a splintered timeline. As Shawn grapples with the sudden fallout of his exposed secret, an unexpected taxi ride leads him to discover a badly-injured woman by the side of the road -- a person in desperate need of his help.

But the scenario plays out in two timelines, and, in the other, Shawn's secret stays safe -- but there's no one to help the injured woman, whose eventual murder comes to Shawn's attention when he's called in to investigate. Lives are on the line in more than one sense, and the resulting story is one of the most unique episodes of a procedural I've ever seen -- and a creative look at the ways in which our choices have the most unexpected, and powerful, of consequences.

- The Yin/Yang Trilogy (Seasons 3-5)

Psych is not the only show to combine comedy with the mystery procedural, but, being chock-full of murder and mayhem, it generally keeps a sense of serious stakes beneath the show's fun and frivolity. In a handful of episodes, those high stakes come to the forefront -- as best exemplified in the three episodes centered on Mr. Yang, Santa Barbara's resident serial killer.

Serving as the season finales of seasons three through five, Shawn finds himself the focus of Mr. Yang's psychotic puzzle-games -- on an increasingly personal level, as Yang targets Shawn's friends and family alike. The darker subject material allowed the writers and actors to show us other sides of these characters, while giving added weight to what we already know about them. Plus, Mr. Yang ended up being not only one of my favorite Psych villains -- but one of my favorite fictional baddies of all time.

- A Nightmare on State Street (Season 8)

Written by James Roday, the penultimate episode of Psych is one of their all-time weirdest (I mean that as a high compliment). The episode has the unique distinction of being fan-chosen -- it was filmed after the script's synopsis won the most votes in an online contest pitting it against two other possible episodes.

The fans chose well. The episode sees Gus seeking "dream therapy" (the original title of the episode) for a series of recurring nightmares filled with zombies, monsters, and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre house. The story neatly interweaves with the episode's requisite mystery, but the murder Gus and Shawn are trying to solve takes a backseat to the more pressing problem of Gus's nightmares. Many of the scenes are shot in a style befitting a horror film -- it's one of the most artistically-done episodes of Psych's run, stylistically-speaking -- which intertwines brilliantly with Gus's struggles to come to terms with how rapidly his life and circumstances are changing around him.

Most shows find it difficult to address the emotional fallout of the major changes their characters face in a series finale, mostly because it's hard to explore the issues of a final episode when there are no more episodes to do so in. Psych solves this problem by devoting their next-to-last episode to that very fallout; when the final episode gives our characters a happy place on which to end their current story, the happiness feels earned as a result.

- The Musical

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scrubs, That '70s Show, Grey's Anatomy, Ally McBeal, Northern Exposure, Oz … Doing a musical episode has become something of a rite of passage for many television shows. For a show like Psych, which excels in satire and homages, it would almost have been odder if they hadn't done a musical episode at some point in their run.

Psych: The Musical was done as a standalone special, airing during the show's seventh season. The songs were written by showrunner Steve Franks (along with show composer Adam Cohen) and manage to both pay homage to Broadway musicals while also perfectly encapsulating the spirit of the show. (Not to mention, they're quite catchy.)

Read more about the musical here.

From the Catalog

Request Psych - Season One
Request Psych - Season Two
Request Psych - Season Three
Request Psych - Season Four
Request Psych - Season Five
Request Psych - Season Six
Request Psych - Season Seven
Request Psych - Season Eight

Request Psych - The Musical

Request the book Psych's Guide to Crime Fighting For the Totally Unqualified

-- Post by Ms. B 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

March Library Reads

The March Library Reads list is here and here are a few of the top picks from librarians!

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy: A Novel
by Rachel Joyce

“Miss Queenie Hennessy, who we met in Joyce’s first book, is in a hospice ruminating over her abundant life experiences. I loved the poignant passages and wise words peppered throughout. Readers of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry will enjoy this book. There’s no fast-paced plot or exciting twists–it’s just a simple, sweet story of a life well-lived.”

Andrienne Cruz, Azusa City Library, Azusa, CA

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
by Erik Larson

“In cinematic terms, this dramatic page-turner is Das Boot meets Titanic. Larson has a wonderful way of creating a very readable, accessible story of a time, place, and event. We get three sides of the global story–the U-boat commander, British Admiralty and President Wilson–but what really elevates this book are the affecting stories of individual crew and passengers.”

Robert Schnell, Queens Library, Jamaica, NY

Cat Out of Hell
by Lynne Truss

“Cats don’t live nine lives. They survive eight deaths. There’s something special about Roger, the cat, and it’s not that he can talk. Truss spins readers through a hauntingly, portentous tale. When my cat’s tail thrums, I’ll forever wonder what devilment will follow.”

Ann Williams, Tippecanoe County Public Library, Lafayette, IN

The Fifth Gospel: A Novel
by Ian Caldwell

“A murder on Vatican property begins this tale of religion, politics, and family. Two brothers, both priests, struggle to make sense of their friend’s murder. When one is accused, the other must go to extreme lengths to prove his brother’s innocence. Caldwell’s second novel is a book to savor. This is a heart-wrenching book you will want to read more than once.”

Elizabeth Kanouse, Denville Public Library, Denville, NJ

Where All Light Tends to Go
by David Joy

“This beautifully written novel juxtaposes the glory of the Appalachians against the despair of everyday life. Jacob McNeely recognizes his family’s brutality, but Maggie, the love of his life, gives him hope. Achingly told, the visceral prose will stay with readers long past the conclusion. Fans of the Southern fiction of Ron Rash and Wiley Cash will fall in love with this new voice.”

Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, NJ

--Post by Tracy

Friday, March 6, 2015

Live Long and Prosper

You'll remember that we folks at "New @ MPL" are lifelong Star Trek fans. So it probably comes as no surprise to hear that we were rather brokenhearted at the news that Leonard Nimoy -- the actor behind the half-human, half-alien character of Spock in Star Trek: The Original Series, had passed away at the age of 83.

We've talked quite a lot about the character of Spock, and about the career of Leonard Nimoy (which encompassed far more than simply Spock), elsewhere on this blog. So, instead of a tribute from us, we've rounded up a collection of some of the best articles, essays, and reflections on the life and times of Nimoy and the unforgettable sci-fi icon he played.

Leonard Nimoy, Spock of 'Star Trek,' Dies at 83 -- from the New York Times.

"In Spock, I finally found the best of both worlds: to be widely accepted in public approval and yet be able to continue to play the insulated alien through the Vulcan character."

Leonard Nimoy's 10 Greatest Spock Moments in Star Trek -- from the Nerdist.

"That's nearly fifty years [playing] one character, and I can’t think of another actor who had the opportunity Nimoy had, to take one character successfully through that many stages in life over so long a period of time."

The Jewish Roots of Leonard Nimoy and 'Live Long and Prosper' -- from the Washington Post

"The man who would play Spock saw the gesture as part of a blessing, and it never left him."

Mr. Spock and the Consolations of Solitude -- from NPR.

"What matters is surviving to get back to the ship and your friends and your life's work, and leaving orbit to explore strange new worlds."

12 Ways Leonard Nimoy Made Spock More Human Than the Rest of Us -- from CBS.

"Thank you, Leonard Nimoy. Because of you, Spock was more than half human in our hearts."

President Obama, J.J. Abrams Pay Tribute to Leonard Nimoy -- from Rolling Stone.

"It was only logical to greet him with the Vulcan salute, the universal sign for 'Live long and prosper.' And after 83 years on this planet -- and on his visits to many others -- it's clear Leonard Nimoy did just that."

The Touching Tribute to Leonard Nimoy From Space -- from the Washington Post.

"Despite the fact he worked in fiction, anyone who can inspire that many people to look into the sky and wonder has done something really important for mankind."

George Takei Says Leonard Nimoy Was 'The Most Human Person I've Ever Met' -- from EW.

"Leonard played an alien, but to me, he was the most human person I’ve ever met."

Leonard Nimoy Reads Ray Bradbury Stories from The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man (1975-76) -- from OpenCulture.

"In the mid-seventies, a pair of record albums came out that together offered a truly singular listening experience: the voice of Bradbury in the voice of Nimoy."

Leonard Nimoy's Final Tweet -- from Twitter.

"A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.  LLAP"

Request Star Trek: The Original Series: Season One from the Catalog

Request Star Trek: The Original Series: Season Two from the Catalog

Request Star Trek: The Original Series: Season Three from the Catalog

Request a Nimoy-narrated documentary from the Catalog

Request his autobiography, I Am Spock, from the Catalog

-- Post by Tracy and Ms. B

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Laugh and the World Laughs With You

In celebration of comedian Eddie Izzard's recent birthday (February 7), we're here to offer you a highly subjective list of a few of our favorite comedians. Let them tell you a little bit about themselves -- in their own words:

-- Mike Birbiglia

"Growing up, I was discouraged from telling personal stories about insignificant things. Like, I wouldn't make the soccer team, and my father would say, 'Don't tell anyone.' And I would say, 'They're gonna know when they show up to the games and I'm not on the team and I'm crying."

Mike Birbiglia's comedy has appeared several times on NPR, and his Sleepwalk With Me story -- in which he recounts the time he sleepwalked his way out of a two-story hotel window -- went on to become a best-selling book, as well as a film. He also runs an online blog, My Secret Public Journal, where you can read his humor essays and stay up-to-date on upcoming shows.

You can hear his sleepwalking story on NPR's website.

"I wake up at 4:30 am to jump on a plane, which is that part of the morning before the earth even exists. Before they've even programmed the Matrix. You walk out of your apartment and the road isn't even there. You walk out of your house, and there's just a guy with a laptop who yells, 'We need a road, stat!' 'How 'bout a building, Tank!'"

Request What I Should Have Said Was Nothing from the Catalog

-- Ellen DeGeneres

"All we have is the here and now. That's why procrastination feels so right. Procrastinate now; don't put it off!"

Before her long-running daytime talk show and acting career, Ellen Degeneres started out as a stand-up comedian. She gained acclaim for her observational humor in the early 80s, appearing on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson in 1986 (Carson reportedly likened her to Bob Newhart). She's hosted the Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys, won 13 Emmys and 14 People's Choice Awards -- and voiced the forgetful fish Dory in Pixar's classic animated film Finding Nemo.

"Have you ever heard somebody sing some lyrics that you've never sung before, and you realize you've never sung the right words in that song? You hear them, and all of a sudden you say to yourself, 'Life in the Fast Lane?' That's what they're saying right there? You think, Why have I been singing 'wipe in the vaseline?'  How many people have heard me sing 'wipe in the vaseline?' I am an idiot."

Request Ellen DeGeneres: Here and Now from the Catalog

-- Eddie Izzard

"It's the cutting edge of politics in a very extraordinarily boring way."

Born in England, Eddie Izzard's comedy incorporates world history, politics, religion, languages, and film study into his comedy (I was first introduced to his stand-up when a college linguistics professor showed us a few clips from Izzard's shows). But when your Henry VIII sounds like Sean Connery and you've got Death Star Stormtroopers sipping tea and waving flags, the resultant show is anything but dry. Izzard's humor effortlessly juxtaposes the everyday with the truly quirky, and the result is wholly unique.

"We stole countries! That's how you build an empire. We stole countries, with the cunning use of flags. Just sail halfway around the world, stick a flag in. 'I claim India for Britain.' And they're going, 'You can't claim us; we live here! There's five hundred million of us!' - 'Do you have a flag?' - 'We don't need a bloody flag, this is our country!' - 'No flag, no country! You can't have one. That's the rules that I've just made up!'"

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-- Louis C.K.

"People on planes are the worst. They get off the plane, they come to your house, and they tell you about their whole flight experience. 'That was the worst day of my life!  I had to sit on the runway for forty minutes!'  For forty minutes?  Oh, my God, really?  What happened then??  Did you fly through the air, like a bird, incredibly?  Did you soar into the clouds, impossibly?  Did you partake in the miracle of human flight, and then land softly on giant tires that you couldn't even conceive how they put air in them??  How dare you! Complaining about flying! 'I had to pay for my sandwich --' YOU'RE FLYING!  You're sitting in a chair in the sky!  You're like a Greek myth right now!!  [You think] air travel is too slow?  [It's] New York to California in six hours!  That used to take thirty years!"

Combining his self-deprecating humor with his observations on modern society, Louis C.K. manages to make us laugh at our own shortcomings, as well. Releasing his annual stand-up shows on his website,, he is also the creator, head writer, and star of the hit FX series Louis. 

"So then my doctor's like, 'Well, okay. How far into a meal do you typically realize you're full and stop eating?' And I'm like -- 'I don't stop eating when I'm full. The meal isn't over when I'm full. The meal is over when I hate myself.'"

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-- Post by Ms. B