My younger brother and sister are much smarter than I am. They’ve always been, to my mind at any rate, more comfortable being themselves and experiencing new things than I am (and I’m pretty comfortable). Some of the things they discovered far before I did were movies by Hayao Miyazaki – for my purposes, namely Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.

Disney is responsible for the North American release of both these films, and so they’re available on one disc (each) with both Japanese + subtitles and dubbed.  Take my word for it – at least for your first viewing, watch with subtitles. Especially in Spirited Away, the English translation has robbed the movie of some of its poetry.  F’r’instance, as the young girl leaves her home with her family at the beginning of the story, in the Japanese she says she was given “farewell flowers”. The dubbed version sounds obnoxious and uses less beautiful language (Howl’s Moving Castle has remedied this, somewhat).

Spirited Away uses a fairy tale story to represent the rites of passage of this young girl…but it’s more than that. There’s a wonder in the movie’s depiction of things, including “real life” details: the family drives an Audi, trying to strike a balance between amusement and economy, and work. Unlike a fairy tale, work is her way out of the fairy tale, not the other way around. It’s about kindness, and selflessness, and, what I like best – about there being another world just beyond, there for whenever you need it. In that sense, it reminded me of a fine tradition of stories like Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz (although in that novel, the other world isn’t a dream at all), or a movie like Labyrinth.

Which is sort of convenient, because the first time we’re introduced to Howl, of Howl’s Moving Castle, all I could think of was how much he looks like David Bowie.  The story is more straightforward, perhaps, than that of Spirited Away: still about romance, kindness, personal responsibility. Sophie is one of the most beautiful, strong female characters I’ve seen in a long time, especially in movies.

But I think one of the best elements of both films is that, while there’s an amazing attention to detail in execution, the stories don’t feel the need to strain themselves with explication. Because they’re so well made, we’re expected to, at some point, begin taking them for their own sake, and not look for too much narrative consistency, or really for anything other than the joy and wonder of what’s onscreen.

“In Spite of Myself”

February 21, 2009

“In Spite of Myself”, I just finished reading Christopher Plummer’s memoir of the same name rather than reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest or learning French or any of the other things I was supposed to be doing with my time. If you’re into Canadian or British theatre or a vaguely threatening European character in any movies made in the last 60 years, this is the book for you.

The writing is a bit  uneven…it definitely is a memoir, in that regard, as Plummer’s tone shifts from chatty to sentimental, especially close to the end. But it’s all heartfelt, and smart, and I really enjoyed it.

I don’t often use this blog to more than hint at the profession I’m entering (and now, officially, with my first job offer! yay!), but I was at the Ontario Library Association’s annual conference this past weekend and it got me thinking about issues that might be of interest to people who aren’t library folk (then again, who isn’t?).

This was my second year attending the conference, and, as before, it was a great experience. Librarianship is a field dedicated to excellence, service, mentorship…no wonder so many of us feel so suited to it. There are always great sessions; last year I attended some on community informatics, the joys of discontinued children’s books, and a plenary address by Carl Honore “in praise of Slow”.

This year I was a conference volunteer, but I still got to attend a session on geodemography, hear the Lt.-Gov. of Ontario on accessibility, and, as a first at this conference, a mini-conference on professional development, with sessions on networking, resumes, interviewing, and a meet-the-employers session.

Which brings me to…networking. I’m quite an outgoing individual, if I do say so myself, on a regular basis. And this had made me wonder, because at networking-type events (you know, dinners with name-tags, etc), I felt myself much less at ease. This conference finally showed me why those two things could be true.

Very luckily, I came into the profession with the beginnings of a professional network in place: my mother works at a public library and her former and current colleagues have been very generous with their time, insight, and contacts.  I’m comfortable to a fault being in touch with them, and with others I’ve met through them – I communicate well, and regularly, when there’s something to discuss or work on, even with people I haven’t met.

This weekend showed me that the important factor to me and my comfort in the interaction is the organic nature of the contact: that it has a purpose, that it’s a natural progression of how we’re all working together. That it’s not, “I saw you at a cocktail party and we exchanged business cards”, but that “I worked with a colleague of yours on this,” or, “I read your article on this”…something with a basis in ongoing communication and contributions. It might begin at a networking event…but probably not.

At least, that’s as far as I can figure.

Because my mother works in a library, I’m pleased to help when I can with events, displays, and so on. And this time around, she and her colleagues are preparing a display for Freedom to Read Week, which is the end of February. I’m contributing a poster I received in the last issue of the OLA magazine, Access. And then she added a note: “And any banned books we could put on display.”

When I started to think about the request, I was more and more daunted and more and more saddened. My brother, when he picks these things up tonight, will be taking 2 full cloth bags of books, and those were just the ones I immediately knew and could find*:

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • The Da Vinci Code
  • Fight Club
  • God of Small Things
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • Ulysses
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • Beloved
  • Catcher in the Rye
  • The Color Purple
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (and James and the Giant Peach)
  • Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
  • Don Quixote
  • Fahrenheit 451 (of course!)
  • The Martian Chronicles
  • Tom Jones
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • Harry Potter
  • 1984
  • Shakespeare’s works, including King Lear, Hamlet, Twelfth Night
  • Oscar Wilde’s works, including The Happy Prince
  • La Morte d’Arthur
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books
  • The Odyssey
  • Slaughterhouse-Five
  • To Kill a Mockingbird

Another library colleague (see, I do network!) has as her email signature the quotation from Clare Booth Luce: “Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but, unlike charity, it should end there.” Something to remember this week in February, and all year round.

* and, for some reason, Where’s Waldo, although I don’t have a personal copy.