Food Rules by Michael PollanBestselling author Michael Pollan’s latest book, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, is a quick read, but is not light on information for anyone that eats.  There are a lot of long and exhaustive books that don’t get to the point, especially when it comes to diet and health.  Pollan however gets right to practical advice and scientific information with this slim book of ideas that span the space of a small page.

He makes interesting points, 64 in fact.  I tend to enjoy reading about health, and honestly, I find that a lot of these kinds of books are not quick and easy, or the advice is simply not good.  Not since I read You on a Diet have I felt so satisfied with a health advice book.

A lot of this was not new to me, but I tend to try to stay up on health news.  Even still, I found a lot to take away myself.  Pollan is an expert on food and the food industry, and informs us without a gimmick of weight loss.  Yes, you will lose weight if you follow his advice, but it is about being informed.  Like his other books and talks, he also discusses what has happened with the food industry and American society to cause our issues with food.

One thing that I loved about this book is that it didn’t focus heavily on meat vs. vegetarianism, but it did comment on it.  It is difficult when a book does not take into account the different perspectives of the potential readers.  It is a wonderful way to dip your toes into understanding food, but even people already knowledgeable will enjoy Pollan’s quick tips.  This book is really a great little read for anyone interested in being more mindful and healthy about what they eat with realistic solutions.

On Wednesday, April 21, the highly talked about Academy Award Nominated documentary film Food Inc. will be shown on POV.  Robert Kenner’s film features Pollan and other experts on food.  They explore the fascinating topic of how our food is making us sick, and what we can do to make it better.  Check your local PBS station listings.  You can even get a one time e-mail reminder from PBS so you don’t forget.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

Because of this, PBS is featuring an excerpt from Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  Unlike Food Rules, The Omnivore’s Dilemma is not quick tips, but rather a discussion of how our food industry is run and how we got to this point.  This is not to say it won’t help you make smarter decisions.  Rather, Food Rules is the distilled advice of Pollan, but is hardly exhaustive of his knowledge.

Additional information:

Official website: Michael Pollan

Interview: Michael Pollan on Democracy Now! (VIDEO) — highly recommended

Excerpt (PBS): The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Excerpt (WorldCat/GoogleBooks): The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Additional websites:  Food, Inc. trailer on POV and Food, Inc. reminder

Official website: Food, Inc. documentary film

Find these items at a library near you! Don’t forget, this website’s official list of library items can also be found here or in our side bar by clicking on the WorldCat logo.

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan — There is also a GoogleBooks preview, which you can find on WorldCat by clicking under the image of the book cover.  Or, you can click here to be taken there directly.

Food Inc.

Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. documentary film


"Stranger than Fiction" is a Funny & Smart Film

Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) is writing her latest novel.  She has a case of writer’s block, and doesn’t know how to kill off her main character, lonely IRS agent Harold Crick (Will Ferrell).  Little does she know that Harold Crick is a real person.  He starts hearing a mysterious voice that narrates his life, and one day that voice states that Harold Crick will die.  With the help of Professor Jules Hibert (Dustin Hoffman), Harold tries to find out what story he is in so he can save himself.  Along the way he meets a smart, sassy, and beautiful woman that is being audited (Maggie Gyllenhaal) that he begins to fall for, and develops a friendship with his co-worker Dave (Tony Hale of Arrested Development).  For the first time in his lonely life Harold starts to live his life, all the while with the narrator and the knowledge of his impending death looming over him.

Will Ferrell as Harold Crick

Harold writes down tick marks into columns of what his story is “tragedy” or “comedy.”  We are left to wonder this ourselves.  With drama and laughter, we find a moving film that is quirky and fun, while deep and meaningful all the same.

The life of Harold Crick is not only narrated.  Graphics pop-up to accentuate how he lives his life measured out precisely.  But it is just when his life gains chaos that it starts to really make sense.  This is an intelligent film that speaks to the audience, not above the audience.  It is a sweet and touching and soulful film, with humor and brilliant awkwardness that reminds us “you’re never too old for space camp.”

This film was directed by Marc Forster.

More information:  Official website

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Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Librarians agree:  Alice in Wonderland in 3-D is well worth the money and the entire country has Alice on the brain.  On opening week I organized a group of librarians and library students to attend a screening of Tim Burton’s latest film in the relatively new Real-D.  While I am certain this film will be amazing either way, it is truly a masterpiece in 3-D.  Without giving in to creating shots blatantly for the use of 3-D, it still manages to take full advantage of this feature.

This is clearly Tim Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland.  For one Alice is older, and the film takes a much darker tone than the classic Disney animation (is anyone really surprised that this film might be too much for young children) and there are many twists and surprises along the way.  That said, it does not lose the sense of Wonderland for older fans of early imaginings of Lewis Carroll’s work.  I am certain that fans of Tin Man will be delighted to see this incarnation of Alice in Wonderland.  I know I am.

I was a bit nervous that it would be too Mad-Hatter-centric.  It was not, however.  The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) did play a large role and I understand why Disney would throw their money behind the star.  However, I felt the advertising for the film overshadowed the other amazing performances, none so much as Alice (Mia Wasikowska).  She is perfect as 19 year old Alice, who is expected to accept the marriage proposal of Hamish (Leo Bill), but thankfully gets distracted by a silly white rabbit.  It is not surprising that Tim Burton also cast Helena Bonham Carter in her role as The Red Queen, but it is not just favoritism.  Ms. Carter is amazing as the large headed and violent queen.  Anne Hathaway is no less brilliant as the flighty and hilarious White Queen.  Of course, the best part of the movie are the amazing creatures and world Burton and his team has created:  the White Rabbit, the March Hare, the Red Queen’s frogs, the Caterpillar, and the Cheshire Cat!  My favorite moment being when he is kneading (as cats do).  Lovely!

Fans of this film also might like to check out The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.  It has a very similar dark take and I am excited to reread the original to compare. In this first in a series of books, we learn that Alice is from Wonderland.  She was heir to the thrown until her aunt, the Red Queen, waged war against her family to cease control of Wonderland.  Alice escapes Red, her army of card soldiers, and an assassin with the help of her friends (including a Mad Hatter that is a skilled fighter himself), but she is cast out from Wonderland lost and alone.  Another related book that is on my to-read list was recommended to me by Laura Rancani.  She recently wrote about the historical fiction Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin, so please visit her website for the full review.

In related news, to celebrate the release of the film, I visited the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where there was an exhibit of rare Lewis Carroll items including original photographs taken by the author (my personal favorite), games owned and/or invented by him, books, and memorabilia.  They also held a tea party for children and had games that Lewis invented that visitors could try out.  I was very bummed out to have had to miss out on tea, but I was late for a very important date!  Still, I managed to quickly snap a few photos for your viewing pleasure.


PenelopePenelope is a modern fairytale which redefines the genre for a new millennium.  Unlike the traditional princess tale, this modern reimagining features the strong princess, a contemporary setting, and a prince that is not exactly in shining armor.  While fans of Enchanted and Ella Enchanted will likely love this tale, I prefer Penelope for the positive body image storyline, which is a great change for young women.  This is an untraditional fairytale love story about learning to love yourself no matter what your short-comings may be.

Penelope (Christina Ricci) is born into a high-society family.  The world should be at her feet, but she due to a strange curse on her family, she is born with a face like a pig (and no, it can’t be fixed with plastic surgery).  The only thing that can reverse it is for a blue-blood to accept her as one of their own.  Her parents fake her death and keep her hidden away to protect her from tabloid reporters, specifically one named Lemon (Peter Dinklage) that almost got a picture of Penelope as a baby.   Once she is old enough, her mother (Catherine O’Hara) arranges to use a match-making service dealing only with high-society clients.  The suitors all come for the sizable dowry, but run once they see her.

Penelope & MaxEverything changes when she meets Max (James McAvoy); a handsome, charming, and down on his luck gambler.  He is hired to get a picture of the “hideous pig faced girl,” but Max and Penelope fall in love.  Our unlikely couple are a wonderful match, but when the truth is revealed, Max leaves and it devastates our heroine.

Heartbroken, Penelope strikes out on her own for the first time in her life.  Along the way to finding herself, Penelope makes friends including a spunky bike messenger (Reese Witherspoon), and she learns to love herself.  She is able to really live for the first time in her life.

This story is an amazing example of a modern, likable princess that does not fit the traditional mold.  I cannot recommend this film enough.  The breathtaking beauty of the shots and amazing use of color is reason enough, but when combined by the moving, yet hilarious, story of this young woman you have a film that will stand the test of time.

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Marie Antoinette

Sofia Coppola’s genius as a filmmaker is showcased in her film Marie Antoinette; a masterpiece that blends popular music, historic locations, and a story thick with the luxury and loneliness of Versailles.  Based loosely on the life of Marie Antoinette (Queen of France), the film (written and directed by Coppola) takes a sympathetic look at one of history’s favorite villainesses.  Coppola takes on the task of making a bio-pic that isn’t just another film set in the past, while also not intruding on the story with modernity.  She succeeds with a film that captures both the time period and the timelessness of her desperation, drunken rock star youth, and utter loneliness.  Criticism has come from the lack of historical context or accuracy, but this is not a documentary.  Rather it is a piece of art about a lonely girl.

Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette

Kirsten Dunst dazzels as the young royal.  The film is completely from Marie’s perspective, and Dunst does not disappoint with her subtle portrayal of the Dauphine of France.  Most of the film is told without words and Dunst is able to fit into the role convincingly.  She plays Marie as a teenager, which is what she was when she arrived in France and married King Louis XVI.  She is lonely, given to excess, and tries to woo her husband (knowing full well that everything depends on that).  There is no mistaking the pressure on Marie Antoinette to produce an heir to the thrown; her loneliness, her desperation to “inspire” her husband, her diversions in drink and shoping, and her desire to fit in with the catty crowd in the royal court are all perfectly portrayed by Dunst.

King Louis XVI & Marie AntoinetteJason Schwartzman is a wonderful choice as her husband King Louis XVI.  He is totally sexually uninterested in Marie Antoinette.  He would much rather make keys than make love to his wife (much to the dismay of the young woman, who clearly is not secure in her position without a male child).  Schwartzman is refreshing as a nerdy sort of king, with a good heart, versus a confident and sexually aggressive royal that blames his wife.  Rather, Schwartzman is just completely disinterested.  He tries to be kind, but it is clear that this is dysfunctional for both parties.

Obviously, what sets this film apart is the use of modern music such as Adam and the Ants, the Cure, Bow Wow Wow, and the Strokes instead of strictly period music.  Personally I was skeptical that I would even like this film due to the music.  Not that I don’t enjoy it, but making it work in this type of film is a huge challenge.  I was pleasantly surprised to find myself so deeply invested in the story, the visuals, and the sounds that it was not at all jarring for me when modern music was included and furthermore it added a sweet layer of the contemporary to the entire film.

However, it is also the visual splendor of the film that takes your breath away.  In making this film, it must be nice to be have Coppola connections.  They had unprecedented access to Versailles.  You cannot buy sets as lavash as the real thing.  There is no comparison.  If you want to see more, watch the special features (including the making-of and a humorous “Cribs with Louis XVI”).  Additionally, the costumes are divine.  It is not surprising that the film won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.

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As as side note, you now can receive emails when there are new posts on Librarians are Weird (check the side bar).  Additionally, all items that are available from libraries that participate in WorldCat will be listed together.  You can click on the WorldCat icon in the sidebar to find our complete list or in each individual post you can still find links to “Find this item at a library near you!”  If you have a WorldCat account you can even follow the Librarians are Weird list.  This has been done in a further attempt to make your life even easier!


**As Neil predicted, the video is no longer available.  However, it was wonderful of Mr. Gaiman to share with us the link to his latest creative endeavor!  I hope it is available from Sky soon.**

Happy New Year!  When my friend, and fellow librarian, Jennifer Lu’Becke sent me this link to Neil Gaiman’s short film Statuesque I knew I had to share it with you fine folks.

Statuesque is the tale of a man that falls in love with a living statue.  It is a beautiful story told completely without words.  I certainly have a soft spot for both Neil Gaiman and for the short movie format.  Here is an excellent example how a story can be told in less than ten minutes, with no dialog, and can be more amazing than most full-length films currently being produced and sold to the public.  Also, I am slightly biased in my affection for this piece since it is similar to a script I wrote years ago that never got around to producing.  Perhaps I will have to tweak it a bit and give it a go in 2010.

Bravo, Neil!  You have done it again!  Cheers to you all and here is to a new decade and plenty more librarian geeky goodness!


Ah! The air smells of pumpkin and wet leaves.  It is time for Halloween parties!  So, what to watch at these parties.  Well, there are some great choices for movies to watch this weekend.  Specifically some movies led themselves well to being on in the background.  This will be very brief!  Eep!

Black & White Classics


This film is easily the scariest movie I have seen…ever.  That is especially impressive considering that the first time I saw it was on a big screen with a bunch of other people.

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die

Doctor take future wife on a trip.  Car wreck.  Severed head.  Saves head.  Doctor looks at strip clubs for new body to attach to head.

Night of the Living Dead

You know the drill.  Zombies, zombies, everywhere!  Assortment of people try to hold off zombies.  Good stuff.  **Watch the Entire Movie Online — Click Here**

Devil’s Night Favorites

The Crow

Eric Draven and his girlfriend Shelley are murdered on Devil’s Night.  Eric comes back a year later to exact revenge/justice.  One of the best movies ever (and surely will get an actual real review soon).

The Exorcist

Did these people on The Paranormal Hour learn nothing from The Exorcist.  Little girl plays with a talking board and becomes possessed.  Priest tries to save girl.  Apparently, a guy I know was an extra sitting under one of the trees.


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