Book review: The Simpsons Family history

By , December 19, 2014


The Simpsons family history: a celebration of television’s favorite family

The holidays are upon us and that means sharing this festive time with people you normally would not spend time with outside of a funeral home. Well, embrace the family spirit by taking a stroll down memory lane with a family we first met on the Tracy Ullman show 25 years ago. Yes, the long awaited Simpsons family history: a celebration of television’s favorite family can now be shared.

Did you know that Marge and Homer first met as children at Camp-See-A-Tree?

Did you know that Homer’s mother was a free-spirit that had to abandon him to avoid the feds? And that Mr. Burns is involved?!?!?!?

Did you know that while mired in sibling jealousy Bart tried to mail baby Lisa away?

These facts and many others are revealed in The Simpsons Family History.

Do yourself a favor and make sure you have a copy of this instant classic sitting prominently on the coffee table when the relatives arrive. The resulting Simpson discussions may be quite revealing…. Of course he relates to Moe! Gather the family around the internet and take one of hundreds, “Which Simpson are you?’ quizzes available. A holiday tradition is born.

“…and that is how you win an opium war”  -  Mr. Burns



Popmatic Podcast December 17th, 2014: Best Movies of the Year

By , December 17, 2014

Your holds queue just gained a few holiday pounds. These are best movies of the year. Could Bryan’s favorite movie of the year be Amanda’s least favorite of the year? You’ll have to listen to find out. Tell us your favorites in the comments.


The Lego Movie1) The Lego Movie
2) Veronica Mars
3) Frozen

Chef1) Chef
2) A Most Wanted Man
3) Nightcrawler

Maleficent1) Maleficent
2) The Congress
3) Jodorowsky’s Dune

We are the Best1) We Are the Best
2) Snowpiercer
3) Obvious Child

Grand Budapest Hotel1) The Grand Budapest Hotel
2) Under the Skin
3) Blue Ruin


Brief Encounters: Conversations, Magic Moments, and Assorted Hijinks by Dick Cavett

Text Me Merry Christmas” by Kristen Bell & Straight No Chaser

Holiday Wishes by Idina Menzel

Amanda’s holiday concert

Letterboxd – like GoodReads but for movies

Cutie and the Boxer

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three original 1974 version




Cat People

Captain American: Winter Soldier

Guardians of the Galaxy

A Field in England


Transcripts of the show are available upon request.

Book List: Who am I? A Book Cover Guessing Game

By , December 16, 2014

Click on the book cover to find the answers!



Mom has so many suitors
It’s hard to keep track.
Better to leave these shores
‘Til my dad gets back





You may know our dad
Or at least know his plan.
It’s all pretty sad
He made monster, not man.





You won’t know my name
For it”s clothed in the past
But hearing my claim
Know my bravery stands fast.





They’ll search through my trove
Of poems from my heart.
But will they know of the love
Inspiring my start?





I watch and deduce
Surprising them all.
Some call me the muse
Of criminal law.




As I peer down
At my love far below,
I laugh at his frown
And swing my hair low.



Magician or fairy,
A name means nothing.
But all must be wary
Else the death of a king.




They say that my face
Will launch many ships.
And none can erase
The fate of those trips.






Don’t ask me why
I need a son.
But my wives will die
Until I get one.




Booklist: Past, Present, and Future

By , December 15, 2014

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  -George Santayana

There’s no doubt about it, the past can be ugly, but Santayana’s right. And while this is easy enough to say, explaining the ugly to children can be especially tricky.

One ugly example of our country’s history is the sordid tale of race relations – an issue that has stepped into a national spotlight once again.  This is an issue that is a part of our past as well as our present, but we can work together to educate our children in order to move toward a more tolerant future.

Some historical perspective may be helpful in starting important conversations with your kids about present-day conditions. Fortunately, we have books for that:

Revolution, by Deborah WilesRevolution, by Deborah Wiles

Greenville, MS is segregated when the summer of 1964 rolls around, but many believe it’s time for that to end. Just as strong in their beliefs, are those who believe things are fine as they are.  Dubbed Freedom Summer, because volunteers from all over the U.S. were heading south to help black southerners register to vote, this was a time of unrest and change. In Revolution, Wiles weaves actual photos, quotes, and news clippings from this time with the characters’ poignant narratives. This is recommended for fifth through eighth graders.


Glory Be Glory Be, by Augusta Scattergood

Another story set in turbulent 1964 Mississippi, this particular tale follows 12-year-old Gloriana whose summers had previously been spent worry-free – pool, library, friends, repeat. When the city pool is suspiciously closed indefinitely “for repairs”, Glory realizes not everyone is fortunate enough to live her trouble-free existence. A great book for those in grades 3-6.



The Watsons go to Birmingham - 1963 The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis

A book praised as a Newbery Honor book, as well as a Corretta Scott King honor winner, The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 follows the lovable Watson family as they travel from Michigan to Birmingham, AL in the summer of 1963. The intention is to deliver their eldest son to the strict matriarch of the family for a summer of tough love; however the Watsons unwittingly descend upon the city at the time of the burning of a Baptist Church that acts as a catalyst for the Civil Rights movement in the American South. This book is recommended for grades 5 and older.


Freedom Summer

 Freedom Summer, by Deborah Wiles

An illustrated book about two friends – one white, one black – in the aftermath of the passage of The Civil Rights Act. Written for kids ages 4-8, this books makes the concept Freedom Summer accessible to all.


These books feature fictional characters living through true events, and may help start important conversations with your family.  They’re engrossing and transport the readers to another time – a time that empathetic readers may recognize as one not incredibly dissimilar to the world they know.

Book review: The Diary of a Provincial Lady

By , December 14, 2014

The Diary of a ProvinDiary of a Provincial Ladycial Lady

by E.M. Delafield

So, so hilarious. Written in the style of Bridget Jones’s Diary, but first published in 1931. For example, a discussion with her husband about a recent visit to their child’s school:

“Discover strong tendency to exchange with fellow-parents exactly the same remarks as last year, and the year before that.  Speak of this to Robert, who returns no answer.  Perhaps he is afraid of repeating himself?  This suggests Query: Does Robert, perhaps, take in what I say even when he makes no reply?”

This is my very favorite brand of humor, wry and biting about the trials of everyday life. I see myself reading this over and over again.

This was only available through Interlibrary Loan a few months ago, but the library has just acquired a single volume that also incorporates The Provincial Lady Goes Further, The Provincial Lady in America, and The Provincial Lady in Wartime.

Happy holiday reading!


Family Folk Tales: The Magic Book

By , December 13, 2014

The Magic Book – A boy tries to help his parents with magic, but what will happen when they forget his instructions?

Subscribe to Family Folk Tales

Book review: Deep

By , December 12, 2014

Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves
by James Nestor

In 2011, Journalist James Nestor was covering a freediving competition in Greece, when his editor at Outside Magazine called to check  in.  Nestor told him “freediving is like being in space, but it’s in water; like flying but you’re diving.  It’s the most…the worst…the best…the bloodiest.”  Nestor wrote his article without ever attempting a freedive himself.  But he soon began a journey all over the world speaking with people who freedive not only as a competitive sport, but as a way of life, a way to study and research creatures of the ocean and our negative effects upon them, and also as a means of meditation.

So what is freediving?  If you are a scuba diver, imagine leaving your oxygen tank behind, and diving down to depths of 100 feet below the surface.  If you think it impossible to survive, you are wrong.  Humans have been freediving for thousands of years, but freediving as a competitive sport is fairly new, and incredibly controversial.  In November of 2013, Nicholas Mevoli, a thirty-two year-old athlete from Brooklyn died shortly after completing a 236-foot no-fins dive.

After he covers the competition in Greece, Nestor goes to Japan to meet  an ancient culture of Japanese diving women called the Ama who gather sea urchins to sell to sushi restaurants.  He spends time on the French island of Reunion with  conservationist Fabrice Schnoller and Belgian freediver Fred Buyle to investigate the island’s man-eating shark problem.  (Spoiler – boats had been dumping loads of trash outside the port entrance, attracting bull sharks to the area…)  Nestor studies with some of the freediving greats (Eric Pinion, Hanli Prinsloo) so he can ultimately freedive with spermwhales off the northeast coast of Sri Lanka.  These are just a few of the experiences Nestor shares in his riveting, fascinating, and completely engrossing book.

Deep is my top pick for nonfiction book of 2014.  I rarely want to re-read a book immediately after I finish it, but that’s just what I did.  There are many freediving videos on youtube, but if you take the time to watch just one, it should be the 2010 short film of French freediver Guillaume Nery called Free Fall which I’ll share below.


Book review: A Christmas Memory

By , December 11, 2014

capoteA Christmas Memory

By Truman Capote



When writer Truman Capote was a little boy, he lived for some years with his eccentric aunt, Miss Sook in rural Alabama. Truman considered Miss Sook to be his very best friend and this book was inspired by their time together. A Christmas Memory centers around one of Miss Sook’s favorite Christmas activities, making fruitcakes. High jinks ensue when Truman and Miss Sook set out to make 30 cakes in time for Christmas. A Christmas Memory is a warmhearted and charming tale that celebrates love and simple blessings.






P.S.       A Christmas Memory is available as a short story for adults, as a picture book for children and on DVD. You can read more about the adventures of Truman and Miss Sook in Capote’s short story collection entitled A Christmas Memory, One Christmas and The Thanksgiving Visitor.






Popmatic Podcast December 10th, 2014: Best Music of the Year

By , December 10, 2014

Future Islands SinglesThese are the tunes that rocked our world in 2014. No joke – there are pirate songs on this list! Arrrr! Luckily, special guest Sarah shows up to save us from Bryan’s terrible picks. Tune in, turn on, check out – its the best music of the year.


Amanda’s picks
1) G I R L by Pharrell Williams CD | Freegal
2) Mandatory Fun by Weird Al Yankovic
3) Pulses by Karmin

Bryan’s picks
1) Gay Dog Food by Mykki Blanco
2) Shaken-Up Versions by The Knife
3) Cliff Martinez’ film scores CD/DVD | Freegal | Hoopla

Crystal’s picks
1) Singles by Future Islands
2) Metamodern Sounds in Country Music by Sturgill Simpson CD | Freegal
3) Interstellar by Frankie Rose Freegal | Hoopla

Mike’s picks
1) “Rock Steady” by The Bloody Beetroots
2) 1916 by Motörhead CD | Freegal | Hoopla
3) “Veil of Tears” by Beats Antique Freegal | Hoopla

Sarah’s picks
1) Diamonds by Johnnyswim
2) After the Disco by Broken Bells CD | Freegal
3) Language & Perspective by Bad Suns


Amanda’s Holiday Concert at Main Library

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page

Badmen, Heroes, and Pirate Songs and Ballads by Dick Wilder

Horrible Bosses 2

Voices by Phantogram

Evil Friends by Portugal. The Man

Mikky Ekko


Transcripts of the show are available upon request.

DVD review: Chef

By , December 9, 2014


I have a secret guilty pleasure. I will watch any movie with John Leguizamo in it. From the Summer of Sam to Romeo + Juliet, Ice Age to ER, I always love his characters. They’re funny and smart and he usually leaves you wanting more.

So when I saw that he as going to be in a new movie, I was intrigued. And the fact that it was about a food truck? That just made it so much the better.

Jon Favreau actually wrote, directed, and starred in this movie. Favreau is the main chef at a struggling restaurant, who is not being allowed to explore his creative food talents by square boss Dustin Hoffman. Leguizamo is his sous chef and friend. After flipping out at a food blogger (played by the great Oliver Platt) in a video that goes ultraviral online, Favreau walks away from his head chef job in order to find his culinary voice.

While on a trip to Miami with his ex-wife and son to talk to his ex-wife’s ex-husband played by a manic Robert Downey, Jr. (did you follow that?), Favreau finds himself in possession of a run-down old food truck that he has no idea what to do with. With the assitance of his son and Leguizamo, who flies from California to Miami to work on the food truck with his old boss and friend, Favreau starts the road trip of a lifetime – selling Cuban sandwiches along the way as they drive El Jefe Cubanos from Miami to California.

I liked the aspects of the movie that were about the food truck, but the story had a lot of heart and a lot of humor. As one could expect, the life of a chef offers very little time for a solid family life, and the road trip was as much about building the relationship between father and son as it was about rebuilding a career.

My husband didn’t really want to watch this with me because I’ve made him watch the Food Network all the time, but he even admitted that it was a good movie. If you are looking for a good story, feel free to start here.

But I warn you, you will want a yummy Cuban sandwich afterwards. I’m just saying…

Happy watching…

Amanda :)



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