And I am also a very big fan of libraries. I am always inspired by the dedication and generosity of the people who work there. My sister is a librarian and she once took me to the annual American Library Association. I was dazzled by the programs and displays.
So I was thrilled to hear that Walden Media is sponsoring a sweepstakes through March 31 to attend this year’s ALA conference in Chicago this July. And it was a very great pleasure to speak to two of the people involved, Chip Flaherty from Walden Media and Sarah Debrasky, the president of the ALA’s Young Adult Library Services Association.
Chip Flaherty spoke to me about Walden’s interest in the books that inspire their films.
This is yet another initiative that goes back to how Walden came about. We looked at the state of media years ago and really thought that educators – moms and dads or teachers and librarians, were an under-served audience. We thought it would be great to give them a tool to help get kids excited about reading.
The name Walden was inspired by Thoreau, who learned about the world around him in an unconventional way. We make faithful adaptations of quality books and put them on the screen. We hear a lot of great ideas from teachers and librarians. And we began to understand the challenges they face. Working with them is a natural progression of what we tried to do on the film side, to serve that under-served audience. They have the most important job in American, shaping the trajectory of children’s lives.
We thought by offering this sweepstakes it would give a librarian something they would not otherwise get to do, a chance to talk to colleagues to exchange ideas and make new contacts. And it frees up those budget resources to buy books and do other things.
It is so important. Teachers and librarians are always performing in front of 30 kids, trying to connect, always needing to engage. But it can be a lonely profession in terms of collegiality. It is important to attend the ALA meeting for collegial reflection, a chance to sit down and share experiences and get support.
We are very diligent about reminding kids that our films are based on great books. If kids connect to the story, it’s not a zero sum game. I would argue that it’s more immersive to have all of these formats. Any publishing house will tell you the best promotion for a book is a movie. We do what we can to support teachers and librarians on our website with lesson plans for our films. It’s almost a cyber-faculty lounge. If kids are engaged in the story they want to consume it in all formats.
Sarah Debrasky also emphasized the importance of the ALA conference.
The conference is a huge event; it really is the place to go if you’re a librarian. The best thing about it is you will come away excited about your profession, full of new ideas. Not everything gets put into a big program, some idea shares are less formal. There is something for everyone, programs, events, all very exciting. They get around 20,000 people.
As the incoming President, I am very excited about engaging the Young Adult Library Services Association community with more give and take back and forth, getting more members involved who can’t come to the conferences. We’ll also continue with our awards and booklists to help every young adult find just the right book.
In times of tight budgets one of the first things that gets cut is travel. It is wonderful that Walden is making it possible for a librarian to be there who might not otherwise get to come.
In my other job, I appeared on the Lehrer Newshour again last night talking about President Obama’s limits on executive compensation for the bailout financial services firms.
And I wrote a column about it for CNN.com, too.
I also got to complain about lobbyists who are trying to fight the limits on pay.
Now, back to the movies!
If you add up all the recent movies about ordinary-looking people who walk among us with special hidden powers, you might conclude that there are no normal people left. The accountant next door might be a secret mutant, time traveler, mythological character or cyborg, but he is rarely just an accountant.
“Push” is the latest in this genre, and director Paul McGuigan has learned from and built upon many of the films that have gone before. “Push” offers a whole bestiary of people born with special talents, including Movers, Shifters, Pushers, Sniffers, Bleeders and Watchers. Some of their talents are familiar– Watchers, for example, seem to be your standard clairvoyants. But others, such as Bleeders, are a little further off the beaten track: they scream at an ear shattering, brain-pulping pitch.
The mutants in Push are pursued by a nefarious government agency called “The Division” which wants to harness their powers and exploit them for military purposes. Those who are fortunate enough to avoid being locked up in a prison hospital and subjected to horrendous medical experiments go underground in remote locations in an effort to escape detection by the authorities. The movie opens as Nick Gant, a young boy with the telekinetic powers of a “Mover,” watches his father being murdered by agents of the Division. Gant’s father’s last desperate words to his son are a prediction that some day a girl in need of help will come to him with a flower. Years later, our hero has grown into a young man (Chris Evans) who is hiding out in Hong Kong to stay one step ahead of the agents who killed his father. Lo and behold, he is approached by a young girl with a flower, Cassie Holmes (Dakota Fanning) who is another type of mutant– a “Watcher” who draws pictures of the future, and the two are off and running on an adventure to find the secret suitcase and bring down the evil “Division.”
This movie is a fast moving, erratic combination of clever and cliche, of imaginative visuals and unbearably corny dialogue. There are innovative moments, such as a shoot-out in a restaurant between telekinetically manipulated guns hovering in the air, or a chase through a Hong Kong shop filled with huge fish tanks where the screams of “Bleeders” cause the fish in the tanks to burst into red blossoms. On the other hand, sometimes the lines of dialogue are so awful that the screaming of the Bleeders seems like a welcome relief.
One of the best parts is the backdrop of Hong Kong — old shops and winding streets with ancient musicians playing traditional instruments and house boats on the dock — which proves more interesting than some imaginary alien planet. It may be better than the average mutant-next-door movie, even if it doesn’t have any hidden special powers.
In honor of Black History Month, I am proud to post this wonderful tribute to Martin Luther King from Little Dizzy films. The song was written by Pat Boone the day he heard the news of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination. It features along with Pat Boone, singers Angie Whitney, Brenda Turner and Michael B. Sutton.