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Artificial Love: Klara and the Sun & Her

1 Sep

So often when we think of Robots in the future, it is of scenes like in the Matrix when they have taken over and controlling the world.  But what if the Robots could turn out to be the more compassionate ones?  Could there be a future that people form bonds not with each other, but with Robots or other forms of AI (Artificial Intelligence)?

Klara and the Sun

Though it was our pick for our August Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion, Klara and the Sun featuring a peak at AI in the future, is one of those books that will appeal to more than just Science Fiction fans; fans of literary fiction will also find a lot to enjoy. 

In the novel Klara is an AF or artificial friend.  She starts the novel in a store interacting with other AFs and the storeowner.  She is solar powered, and quickly picks up new information from those around her.  The story picks up as Klara is adopted by a sickly girl named Josie. 

There is something very simple about the way the novel is delivered from Klara’s limited childlike perspective and yet so much complexity is hinted at in the story that is going on in the wider world.  Klara despite being a robot often seems to have more compassion and sympathy than the humans in the novel. 

I was intrigued to hear what the book discussion group thought of the work and was pleased that they also had enjoyed the work a lot.  We had a great discussion about the future of AI and what it means for society.

Her

Before we discussed Klara and the Sun our book group watched the movie Her starring Joaquin Phoenix.  This was our first movie screening together since Covid and it was great to share a film again that tied to the book we had read this month. The movie was complimentary in that it also involved an artificial intelligence, in this case a Siri or Alexa like virtual personal assistant named Samantha voiced by Scarlett Johansson. 

Her won an academy award for Best Screen Play.  The group was less enthralled with Her than by Klara and the Sun, but we still had a lively discussion related to some topics it brought up.  Although in the case of Her it is a romantic relationship, rather than a friendship, between Theodore and Samantha, the movie touches on many of the same themes as the novel that are brought up about loneliness, humanity, and the place an AI might have in what has become a society centered on the hot new thing and disposability.

If you would like to join us for fun and friendly book discussions and screenings of great movies, sign up for the mailing list for our Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group by email hplwriters@gmail.com!  Our next book will be the first in my personal favorite Steampunk series, Soulless, by Gail Carriger.  Soulless is a delightful brew of gaslight fantasy, humor, and romance so check it out and let us know what you think!

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Services

LGBTQ Comedies through the Decades: Torch Song Trilogy, But I’m a Cheerleader, and GBF

18 Aug

August is LGBTQ Pride Month in Hoboken and as in June we have lots to celebrate as we look back on the struggles that have been overcome and the many accomplishments of the LGBTQ community.  For this post I wanted to look at three movies that use humor as a way to engage audiences, poke fun at stereotypes, and show the ridiculousness of certain theories/practices.

Torch Song Trilogy (1988)
Torch Song Trilogy is a comedy-drama adaption by Harvey Fierstein of his award winning play.  The film stars Fierstein, Anne Bancroft, and Matthew Broderick.  Torch Song Trilogy is set over three distinct time periods as it follows the life and loves of a witty NYC drag queen & torch song singer as he copes with his ex-lover, his mother and adjusting to life with his adoptive teenage son.  The film and play shed light on issues like gay adoption before they were commonly widely discussed.  Available to borrow from BCCLS Libraries.

In honor of Hoboken’s Pride Month, the Hoboken Public Library, will present a staged reading of the Tony Award-winning comedy/ drama on Saturday, August 28 at 3:00 pm.  The cast features Broadway, Film and TV actors Sidney Myer, Michael Stever, Logann Grayce and Hoboken’s own Florence Pape who will perform this funny and sometimes intense staged reading. Registration is required and seating is limited.

Also for Hoboken’s Pride, singer and musician Andrew Schwarz will present a solo concert titled “EltonJohnish” on Saturday, August 21 at 2:00 pm in the Church Square Park Gazebo.

But I’m a Cheerleader (2000)
Netflix recently came out with a documentary, Pray Away, about the “conversion therapy” movement, but for a fictionalized subversive take on the movement bridging the 90’s and 00’s,  there was But I’m a Cheerleader.  Popular teen, Megan (Natasha Lyonne) loves cheerleading, however, her parents are suspicious that despite Megan’s protests that she might be a lesbian.  They send her off to a summer camp that promises to have her acting more “straight.”  Of course things don’t go as planned when Megan meets the intriguing Graham played by Clea Duvall.  Although the film from 2000, is a lot of campy fun, there is a seriousness to the fact that real people were pushed into harmful “conversion therapy” which still persisted into the early millennium. Available to stream from Kanopy and on DVD and Blu-Ray from BCCLS Libraries.

GBF (2014)
GBF in the mid 10’s, sought to skewer stereotypes of what it means to be gay including the token gay best friend character that had sprung up over the years as the needed accessory for any fashionable straight woman.  Two gay NJ teens: Brent (Paul Iacono), who wants to be outed as a road to popularity and another Tanner (Michael J. Willett), who would prefer to stay closeted, find their roles reversed.  Coincidentally Natasha Lyonne also stars in the film as a teacher. Although LGBTQ rights have come a long way, high school and growing up are never easy.  In the spirit of Mean Girls and Clueless, GBF pokes fun at being both a modern gay and straight teen.  Available to stream from Hoopla.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Services

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