Latin American and Hispanic Month Celebration

(Posted on behalf of Sarah) I once observed that no month needs a party like long dreary November. This is not yet November, but I tend to find the same principle can apply in October. The air gets colder, the nights start sooner and run longer, the days get a little greyer, and people start talking about vitamin D supplements and warm places. And because 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, it’s time to find something to celebrate.

Enter Latin American Heritage Month which runs throughout October under various names across the country. This is an opportunity to celebrate Latin American culture and learn more about the way Canada’s Latin American community shapes the fabric of our nation.

Broadly speaking (perhaps too broadly), Latin America is considered to be made up of countries in North, Central, and South America where Spanish and Portuguese prevail as colonial languages; and the largest Latin American Canadian communities are Mexican Canadians, Colombian Canadians, and Salvadoran Canadians.

CD cover of Oscar Lopez Flashback Any celebration starts with music, and there are many Latin American Canadian musicians to check out this month. Juno award winning Chilean-Canadian guitarist Oscar Lopez has been making music since the 1970’s. He started out doing rock covers before finding his niche in Latin-style acoustic and flamenco music, and winning awards for his beautiful instrumental work. He also teamed up with folk singer James Keelaghan to explore the place where Latin and Celtic music meet. Lopez’s Best of album Flashback is a lovely introduction to his work.

And in another part of the scene, you will find Toronto born country and roots artist Lindi Ortega.  whose music is influenced by her Mexican and Irish heritage as well as her experiences across Canada, and her time spent in Nashville. Her voice has been likened to Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. Her latest album, Liberty, is available on Hoopla.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg: No Truth Without Ruth

Book Cover of No Truth Without Ruth by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Nancy ZhangYou might have heard the news this past week of the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

You’ve probably heard of Ginsburg throughout the years (maybe when On the Basis of Sex came out, or the documentary RBG), but whether you have the Notorious RBG tattooed somewhere or you’ve really only heard of her name in passing, here are some books and movies for you to learn more about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her life, and her perseverance in her fight for women’s rights and equality in the United States.

Let’s start with No Truth Without Ruth by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Nancy Zhang, a beautifully illustrated children’s biography of Ruth’s life, from her early years to becoming Supreme Court Justice. This is a wonderful introduction to the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg for all ages, quite well paced, and I must say, the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous! After the biography, there is a handy timeline of her life, as well as an outline of the American court system, and a Top 10 RBG Career Highlights page. I know this is filed under our junior section, but I’d recommend it as an nice introduction to RBG to whet your appetite regardless of your age. Another junior title about RBG is I Dissent, by Debbie Levy, where Ginsburg “proves that disagreeing does not make you disagreeable!” (from Bibliocommons).

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Contemporary Star Trek: a gift that keeps on giving

2020 has turned out to be a surprisingly good year for the subset of nerds who call themselves (er, ourselves) Trekkies (or Trekkers, if you prefer). Star Trek has an unprecedented *three* current TV series right now!! Back in the ’90s we were lucky have two concurrent shows for a while (Deep Space Nine‘s run from 1993-1999 overlapped first with The Next Generation, and then with Voyager). But after Enterprise‘s run ended in 2005, we had… nothing.

Cover image for the Star Trek: Into Darkness DVDNext up was J.J. Abrams’ reboot, ‘Kelvin timeline’ movies, but movies aren’t TV series and let’s be honest, 21st century Trek fans are all about the binge-watching. With so much Trek back catalog, how could we not be?

Then in 2017 (twelve *years* after the last Trek series – a true miracle, honestly) we got Star Trek: Discovery!

Discovery brings a meaty mix of modern tv storytelling (the classic Treks, like most series of its time, followed a largely episodic, ‘alien-of-the-week’ format, while Discovery has a greater focus on larger, over-arching stories) and a good dose of Trekkish campiness (the ship’s drive is powered by mushrooms, y’all! Because why the heck not?)

Cover image from Star Trek: Discovery Season TwoDiscovery has not been uncontroverisal to long-time Trek fans, and (like every new series from The next Generation onward) has faced criticism of being “not real Trek”, (which, as best as I can tell, really means it doesn’t give viewers the same sense of nostalgia of watching the original series – or the 80s/90s series – and remembering the first time they watched it sitting in their childhood basement in their pyjamas). And listen, I get that the nostalgia is strong! Deep Space Nine and Voyager make up the regular background noise in my home, after all. But it’s also an impossible standard to hold new shows to, and we’d all find a lot more joy in life if we could let go of it.

In any case, Discovery has been successful despite the naysayers, and alongside J.J. Abrams alt-reboot, we can see a whole new generation of Trekkies being born – what great news!

Better yet, the success of Discovery has been a catalyst for CBS to green-light not one, not two, but three new Trek series, plus “at least” two more forthcoming.

This. Is. Huge.

And I’m particularly pleased about the range of new series – there seems to be something for everyone (er, everyone outside of the contingent that seems determined to hate all new Trek incarnations – bless their sad little hearts).

Cover image from the Short Treks DVDStar Trek: Short Treks

Short Treks started airing between the first two seasons of Discovery, and provided several stand-alone stories adding to the lore and backstories of Discovery and its crew. The second set of Short Treks serves as a teaser and primer for the new Star Trek: Picard . Overall, these short episodes are a pretty good place to start if you want to dip your toes in the waters of contemporary Trek.

Star Trek: Picard

Ok, although Picard is not yet available at VPL, it is probably the reason I really wanted to write this post. This is the series that truly brought out the fannish squees in me. The Next Generation was my main Trek jam as a kid, Picard is my captain, and the fact that Patrick Stewart said he only agreed to reprise the role because of how taken he was with the story? My anticipation was off the charts!

Cover image for the Star Trek: picard season 1 DVDPicard, like Discovery, follows the modern tv format of long-form storytelling, but the ethical quandary it explores (does synthetic life deserve the same rights as biological life, even if it’s existence may be a threat to all biological) is very classic Trek.

It’s an action-packed show, and some people were turned off by this, (and by the single occurrence of the f-word), but these aspects are well-balanced against a great deal of nostalgic fan-service as Picard’s adventure brings him back in touch with characters from The Next Generation (Riker and Troi) and other beloved (or be-hated) Trek characters (7 of 9!), and as the writers found a way to bring Brent Spiner into the show despite the past death of his major character Commander Data.

Poster image for Star Trek: Lower DecksStar Trek: Lower Decks

Finally, this year has brought us Star Trek: Lower Decks! It’s a new animated series, following characters in the ‘lower decks’ of a galaxy-class starship. It’s a cute premise, taking the focus off the command officers and putting it onto the everyday plebes keeping the ship running on a day-to-day basis, and the show has a wackiness lever never-before-seen in Trek, along with wall-to-wall references to the previous series.

As I write this post, the first season is currently airing on CBS All Access, so it isn’t available on DVD (or digitally) through the library yet, either.

All this, and even more yet to come! My sources at Wikipedia suggest that there are at least two additional Trek series in the works: an animated series subtitles Prodigy, and a new live-action prequel to the original series called Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which a promises a return to the episodic format of the earlier series, under the direction of none other than Jonathan Frakes (a.k.a. Commander William Riker)! Will the squees never cease?