Treasure!

Kirby and Mr. Bernd - photo from the Music Department Archives*

Music librarian Kirby with bust of Library donor Julius Bernd*

I started actively taking photos in the 1980s. I attended many classes at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, worked in a photo lab, and began a freelance business shooting anything from weddings, head shots for actors, and slides of artwork. The digital revolution came right as my oldest child was born.

I own boxes and boxes of negatives, including one from my mother, large format negatives from my beautiful Konica, and slides of my own artwork. My collection includes VHS tapes of performances I participated in over the years, Super-8 movies, digital video tapes, and over 100 short web-cam videos of my children as babies that I haven’t been able to view in years. On top of everything else, I saved thousands of photos from my old PC to an external hard drive, which is not compatible with my new MacBook.

I want to preserve it all! I want to see this stuff again! This is my life! HELP!

Luckily help is at hand.

Preservation Fair: Preserve Your Family Treasures

The Preservation Fair is a one-day public event where you can learn how to properly store and maintain your precious family keepsakes and treasures. Over 30 professional conservators, archivists, and librarians will be on hand to discuss your individual interests. Free demonstrations and lectures will be presented throughout the event.

Bring a family treasure for free basic conservation advice. One hand-carried item per visitor. No dollies or carts. No appraisals or valuations will be given.

The focus of the speakers at this event will be learning what can be done to preserve your paper and digital photos. Just what I need!!

The speakers:

Dr. Alison Langmead, Asst. Professor at the University of Pittsburgh will discuss the rationale for digital preservation and offer approaches to care for your family’s treasured digital documents.

Jim Burke, Adjunct Asst. Professor of Photography at Pittsburgh Filmmakers will talk about ways to preserve photographic images from all eras and about his work digitally restoring old and damaged photographs.

Exhibitors include conservators specializing in books, documents, paintings, textiles, houses, photographs and films. Historical Societies, Genealogical Societies, and vendors dealing in conservation and preservation supplies will also be represented.

Check this link to see a full list of exhibitors, speakers, and what to expect at the fair: Preservation Fair – Preserving Family Treasures

You can also check the Facebook page: Preservation Fair – Facebook Page

The Preservation Fair is the ongoing legacy of my favorite library school professor and graduate advisor, Bernadette Callery, who passed away in 2012. I was a student volunteer of hers at the 2009 Preservation Fair. The breadth of the expertise at the fair was quite impressive, as I am sure it will be at this year’s event.

Can’t make it?  Don’t worry!  Your librarians have created a few useful online guides to pertinent subjects:

Antiques & Collectibles – Identify and price your antiques with these print and online resources.  This will point you to specific guides like Antique Furniture and Saving Your Family Treasures.

Art Research Databases – Helpful tips for locating resources in print and online, and for learning about art.

Researching Your Art – Evaluation and Appraisal – Where did this come from? Who is this artist? Are they famous? and of course, how much is it worth?!?

Historic Preservation – Resources and organizations for preserving historic homes, buildings, etc.

Historical Societies & Commissions – Join a local group to learn about local history.

Biography & Genealogy – Genealogy resources.

Audio-Visual Resources in Pittsburgh – Vendors that convert film, video, photographs, and analog audio to digital (along with other guides).

-Joelle

P. S. I still print out my favorite digital photos just in case. Old habits die hard.

Changing the Bulbs - photo from the Music Department Archives*

Changing the light bulbs in the Music Department*

*Photos taken by Joelle

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My Man Jeeves

Back in my late teens / early twenties I became OBSESSED with all things British. Part of this had to do with me going off to college and broadening my horizons…but mostly it was because I was in DC and being an international school the dorms were equipped with international television…Oh the BBC of the late 90s…how I adored you. Suddenly, instead of watching reruns of 90210 late at night, I was able to “broaden my horizons'” with the likes of  Absolutely Fabulous, Keeping Up Appearances, and Are You Being Served?Most importantly I was introduced to the comic genius of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in Jeeves and Wooster. The show originally ran from 1990 to 93, but enjoyed re-runs when I was supposed to be in my three hour finite mathematics class…guess where I was most Monday afternoons?https://www.pinterest.com/pin/174866398002959963/

Of course the show opened up the writings of P.G. Wodehouse to me and left a deep impression on what dry wit and humor are really supposed to be about. Like all college students my interests eventually moved on to other authors but I have always kept a special place in my heart for Bertie Wooster and his man Jeeves.

It wasn’t until a few days ago while I was shelving some audiobooks that I noticed a NEW (as in 2013, not 1920) title in the series…Jeeves and the Wedding Bells, an homage to P.G. Wodehouse by Sebastian Faulks. I was both ecstatic and apprehensive. Here was the chance to read something new about two of my favorite characters…but could it really ever live up to Wodehouse? I decided to grab the audiobook and just go for it, without even checking Goodreads (caution to the wind, my friends).

Faulks introduces the book by acknowledging that it was a huge undertaking to try and write Jeeves and Wooster. How can you ever match a classic? He didn’t want to impersonate Wodehouse’s writing, but he wanted to create something similar; a new tune that reminded you of a beloved classic hit. I think he was on the mark; I laughed at Faulks’s version of Wooster just as much as I did when first reading the Wodehouse books. The plot is convoluted, the conversations are dense and best of all, Bertie is up to his best scheming with Jeeves cleaning up after him.

If you are someone who has recently been obsessed with any of the hit TV shows about roughly the same time period making the rounds (Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, Mr. Selfridge, Grantchester or even Penny Dreadful) but have never read the original Wodehouse novels, then I say give them a go. And while you are at it, pick up the new Jeeves by Faulks. I promise, you will laugh.

–Natalie

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This Sick Beat (TM)

As CLP’s patent and trademark librarian, news items about these topics always catch my eye. Trademarks relating to popular culture are my favorite– did you know that Beyonce and Jay Z trademarked the name Blue Ivy? Recently Taylor Swift has been in the news for filing trademark applications for phrases from some of her songs, including “This Sick Beat” and “Could Show You Incredible Things.” Likewise, Katy Perry recently filed trademark applications for the “left shark” in her Superbowl performance.

Trademarks that make the news are often so crazy it might seem like you can easily get a trademark for anything! But in truth, most of us won’t be getting trademarks for the name of our first born, or sending cease and desist letters to someone after our Superbowl performance. This article does a really nice job of explaining why celebrities apply for trademarks on certain things, and why they may or may not be eligible.

As a Patent and Trademark Resource Center, we get lots of patent questions but far fewer trademark questions, for the simple reason that trademark law can be really tricky. But we’re still here to help! While we librarians can’t get into the nitty gritty of the law, we can help you start searching for trademarks, find forms or books about the trademark process, and find lawyers who are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

-Irene

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Citizen Rankine

As much as I love losing myself in a good story, I have to admit that my favorite books are the ones that send me out of the text and back into the world for further exploration. I read a lot of non-fiction, so I’ve developed the habit of keeping a notebook handy for scribbling down names to Google, URLs to explore, topics to research, and–perhaps inevitably–titles of additional books for the TBR list.

This hardly ever happens with a volume of poetry. Not because poetry doesn’t teach me things, but because the things poetry has to teach are usually personal and private. As I’ve recently learned, however, poetry can also be an interdisciplinary textbook; the class I’m currently taking could be called Civics 101, and the teacher is Claudia Rankine.

Image taken from The Hairsplitter - click through to read Jeremy Allen Hawkins's review of Citizen.

Image taken from The Hairsplitter – click through to read Jeremy Allen Hawkins’s review of Citizen.

Rankine is a poet, playwright, and scholar whose body of work demands not only private introspection, but also your full attention to and engagement with the world around you. Her epic prose poem Citizen, a 2014 National Book Award finalist,  is rooted firmly in current events, comparing them to and contrasting them with her own lived experience to create a ruthlessly honest exploration of black American citizenship in the 21st century. And if that were all it did, it would still be an amazing piece of work.

However, the reader is challenged, at just about every turn, to go the extra mile, to look up that unfamiliar YouTube series, to track down the Situation videos (created by Rankine and her husband, photographer John Lucas) mentioned throughout the text. Whose quotation is that? What is this un-captioned photo all about? Who created the artwork featured here? You cannot, in good conscience, not look these things up as you read, and the resource list Rankine provides is only the beginning of inquiry. At least, for me: my own citizenship seemed to be at risk, considering how ignorant I was of some of Rankine’s references.

Image created by Letra Chueca Press for Reed College - click through for source page.

Image created by Letra Chueca Press for Reed College – click through for source page.

Educational as they are, however, the seven sections that make up Citizen are hardly didactic in the traditional sense. Straightforward narrations of events are broken up with passages of pure longing, in which the speaker reveals portions of her inner landscape, the one the external world hasn’t been able to touch:

Words work as release–well-oiled doors opening and closing between intention, gesture. A pulse in the neck, the shiftiness of the hands, an unconscious blink, the conversations you have with your eyes translate everything and nothing. What will be needed, what goes unfelt, unsaid–what has been duplicated, redacted here, redacted there, altered to hide or disguise–words encoding the bodies they cover. And despite everything, the body remains (69).

The language of poetry, Rankine seems to say here, is what makes it possible to be human, to achieve, despite obstacles, full citizenship.

If you’re the kind of reader who would like to try poetry, but is often put off by obtuse language and a lack of connection to reality, Citizen will serve as a breath of exhilarating air. If current events have made you twitchy lately, and you need a literary remedy that is both consolation and call to action, this, too, is your book. And if you’re honor-bound to read all award-nominated books, you should definitely move this poem up on your TBR list. There’s a waiting list at the moment, but if you hurry, you won’t have to wait too long for your choice of print or ebook.

Leigh Anne

anxiously awaiting the arrival of Rankine’s next book, Racial Imaginary (with Beth Loffreda).

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Director’s Cut: Pedro Almodovar

Penelope Cruz stars in Broken Embraces. Image from: www.rogerebert.com

Penelope Cruz stars in Broken Embraces. Image from: http://www.rogerebert.com

 

This is the first post in an ongoing series. I plan to blog once a month about a different director whose films are featured in our collection.

My first exposure to the Spanish director Pedro Almodovar happened when I was taking Spanish classes in high school. We were being forced to sit through another boring Spanish instructional video, when our kooky teacher confessed, “If you want to watch a good Spanish movie, check out a film called Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios. I can’t show it in class, because it’s kind of naughty, but you should rent it. Trust me. Just don’t tell your parents that I’m the one who told you to…”

Image from: theguardian.com

Image from: theguardian.com

As luck would have it, we had a pretty great video store in my small hometown, and they had a copy of this film on VHS–the title in English translates to Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988). I’m not sure I totally understood the film at the time, but it definitely left an impression on me.

All About My Mother. Imaged from slantmagazine.com

All About My Mother. Imaged from slantmagazine.com

Enough of an impression, that in the years that followed I’ve checked out almost all of Almodovar’s films, and he has become one of my favorite directors. Most of his films feature colorful sets, fantastic details, and larger-than-life characters—and his 1999 film All About My Mother does not disappoint on this front. The plot is pure melodrama so I won’t go into everything that happens, but in a nutshell: a grieving single mother, a pregnant HIV-positive nun, and a witty transgender prostitute form an unlikely family. There is also a fantastic monologue delivered late in the film about the literal cost (in dollars) of being an “authentic” woman.

talktoher

Talk to Her. Image from: gmanreviews.com

And boy does Almodovar love women. Most of his films focus on the lives of funny, strong, put-upon women and their various friends, families, enemies and lovers. And even though Talk to Her (2002) tells the story of two women lying in comas at the hospital (both tended to by the men who love them) these female personalities dominate the movie in flashbacks. I will warn the viewer though, while a lot of this film is beautiful and whimsical, there are some difficult passages involving bull-fighting and an (implied) moral transgression that might be hard for some to watch. However, if you’re not one to shy away from challenging films then this one should spark debate.

Gael Garcia Bernal in Bad Education. Image from: nytimes.com

Gael Garcia Bernal in Bad Education. Image from: nytimes.com

With his next film Bad Education (2004), Almodovar made the lives of men the central focus of his narrative, and cast a young Gael Garcia Bernal as his femme fatale. The set up is simple: two childhood friends are re-united, but one of them may not be who he says he is. From there things spiral out into a meta-fictional murder mystery, with a darker tone than in his three previous films.

Volver. Image from: rogerebert.com

Volver. Image from: rogerebert.com

Volver (2006) is probably my favorite of his films to date. While Almodovar’s films tend to swing wildly between comedy/farce and melodrama/tragedy, Volver somehow hits the sweet spot right in the middle of all four genres, with an added dose of magical realism. It’s a total joy to watch, which is really saying something since the story touches on murder, adultery, incest, malignant tumors, ghosts, and Penelope Cruz’s derriere. But maybe that’s the magic of Pedro Almodovar’s films? He’s able to take dark themes and surround them with bright colors, warm characters, and screwball humor—and really, is there anything better than that?

If you’re interested in giving this director a try, we have a dozen different films for you to choose from (Broken Embraces is another personal favorite) and we also have a documentary and books on his work.

So how about you, dear reader? Are you a fan of Pedro Almodovar, or do you have a director you’re particularly fond of?

Happy viewing,

Tara

PS – About a year ago I revisited Women on the Verge… with a friend who was in that same Spanish class, and it’s still a super fun movie. I can also see why it would not have been an appropriate film for us to watch in class.

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Women in World War II: Rosie the Riveter and Beyond

girlsofatomiccityI recently finished reading The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan. It is a fascinating look into a town that never existed on any map but had a HUGE influence on the outcome of World War II. Although not all of the residents were women, of course, the story is told through the lives of several different ladies who found themselves at this historic place. These women varied in the amount of education they had received, their race, marital status and part of the country they were from, but all of them contributed to output that Oak Ridge was designed to create – enriched uranium for use in the first atomic bombs, including the ones dropped on Japan in August of 1945.

As I was reading this book, it reminded me of another I had read a few years ago about the North Platte Canteen in Nebraska, also during World War II. Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen by Bob Greene tells the story of a very small town that was on the major railway line almost all U.S. troops used during their transport from basic training to deployment. Onceonceuponatown the people in the town realized who was passing through their area, they made sure that no matter what time of the day or night, each and every train would be met with smiling faces and food. This town used its rationing coupons, not for themselves, but to help scared soldiers – many away from home for the first time – feel appreciated and loved. Every single train had a birthday celebration, complete with a cake. Many soldiers remembered their stop in North Platte decades later, even though it may only have lasted ten minutes. By the time the war was over, the North Platte Canteen had taken care of over 6 million soldiers. That’s just staggering for a town of about 12,000 people. Once again, not everyone in North Platte who helped at the canteen was female, but we all know who was baking those cakes and making the sandwiches.

This all got me to thinking about the various roles women played in World War II, both in and out of the military. For Women’s History Month 2015, consider finding out more about how the “fairer sex” contributed to the winning of the war, both at home and abroad. Here are a few items that might be of interest…

Books:
bandsofsistersBands of Sisters: U.S. Women’s Military Bands during World War II by Jill M. Sullivan – I bet you knew that there were/are military bands. But did you know that in World War II all of the branches of the military had their own women’s band as well? They were used to support troop morale and to recruit women to the armed services. In some cities they were greeted warmly and given keys to the city. In other places, they were unjustly run out of town. The music biz is never an easy one!

Beyond Rosie the Riveter: Women of World War II in American Popular Graphic Art by Donna B. Knaff – During World War II, women were encouraged to take on jobs that were normally reserved for men. Propaganda posters at the time, such as Rosie the Riveter, certainly reflected this idea. However at the same time, women were being encouraged through the same media to not lose their femininity. This contrast makes for a thought-provoking study.

Bitter Fruit: African American Women in World War II edited by Maureen Honey – This is a collection of poetry, essays and photographs compiling the history and the contributions of African American women in World War II. Although they were largely left out of the propaganda and recruitment posters, these women participated in every aspect of the war and home front that their white counterparts did. These writings, many not seen since their original publication, show the lives of women of color and you can see the roots of the civil rights movement within the stories.

fromcoverallsFrom Coveralls to Zoot Suits: The Lives of Mexican American Women on the World War II Home Front by Elizabeth R. Escobedo – If you thought finding the voices of African American women and their experiences during this time period was difficult, imagine the lack of information about Latino women. This book does a nice job identifying how they contributed to the war effort, while still needing to combat the prejudices of the nation they were serving. I especially liked getting to see some of the bilingual wartime propaganda posters.

Good Girls, Good Food, Good Fun: The Story of USO Hostesses during World War II by Meghan K. Winchell – Servicemen relied on the USO to provide them with a recreational outlet and some sense of normalcy during World War II. However, the recruitment process for the hostesses was biased. It served to reinforce stereotypes of the working class, as well as women of color. The military felt that if they exposed soldiers to “good” girls, they wouldn’t feel the need to seek out the “bad” ones. How the women excluded from participating made their inroads to volunteering and what those who were selected for the USO thought about life within its social constraints provides interesting reading.

Our Mother’s War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II by Emily Yellin – This book all began when the author found a journal and letters her mother had written while serving with the Red Cross in the Pacific. It is a good overview of many of the roles women played during World War II – wives and mothers at home, entertainers, WACs and WAVES in the military, spies, politicians, and even those who worked for the enemy.

winningWinning My Wings: A Woman Airforce Service Pilot in World War II by Marion Stegeman Hodgson – Marion was one of the first women trained to fly military aircraft with the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs).  The WASPs flew airplanes stateside to test their repairs or deliver new aircraft to the airmen who would then fly them into combat. It was a dangerous job, as Marion recounts in her letters to the wounded Marine pilot she eventually marries after the war.

Women Against the Good War: Conscientious Objection and Gender on the American Home Front, 1941-1947 by Rachel Waltner Goossen – For those who objected to the war, there were still opportunities to be of service. Many women, often with religious anti-war beliefs, joined the Civilian Public Service to do forestry work, disaster relief training, or to work in hospitals stateside. This organized pacifist culture had some benefits for those who wanted to contribute something of a humanitarian nature during wartime. But they were more often met with prejudice because of their convictions, and some found it hard to find employment once the war was over as veterans were coming back to the workforce.

Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue by Kathryn J. Atwood – This contains stories of women from many countries, but the United States is well represented. I wanted to make sure something that explained the secret side of the war was on this list. Included within, you will find Virginia Hall – once considered the most dangerous Allied agent in France, Muriel Phillips –a Jewish nurse at a tent hospital in France during the Battle of the Bulge and Marlene Dietrich – who entertained the troops as part of the USO, while also involved in an OSS propaganda campaign aimed toward the German troops.

womenwhowroteThe Women Who Wrote the War by Nancy Caldwell Sorel – We know it takes bravery to be a soldier, but imagine the guts needed to be the first person inside a recently freed concentration camp, just BEFORE the rescuing troops enter. Now picture that person as a woman, because for the camp at Dachau in southern Germany, it was. The women journalists and photographers who were sent oversees to cover World War II were amazing and inspiring, as are their stories.

View of women Marines carrying out the repair and reconditioning of fighting airplanes during World War II, 1940s. (Photo by US Marine Corps/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

View of women Marines carrying out the repair and reconditioning of fighting airplanes during World War II, 1940s. (Photo by US Marine Corps/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

DVDs:
topsecretTop Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II produced & directed by LeAnn Erickson; written by Cynthia Baughman – This is the story of six of the women mathematicians originally recruited by the Army to be human computers tabulating ballistics trajectories. Once the first electronic computer was created (ENIAC), they needed people to program it. These six women were those people. They never received recognition for their absolutely vital role in the winning of World War II, nor for their pioneering work in the field of electronic computers. That’s a crime as far as I’m concerned.

Women in World War II: 13 Films Featuring America’s Secret Weapon courtesy of the National Archives of the United States – This is a collection of actual wartime propaganda short films. Their purpose was to encourage women to join the war supporting industries, as well as to convince both sexes that women were actually up to any and all of the tasks formally done exclusively by men. Highlights include “Women of Steel”, the one narrated by Katherine Hepburn, and getting to see Eleanor Roosevelt in living color.

Soon arrving in Hawaii, women Marine Reserves stand to for evening colors at Pearl Harbor, during World War II, 1940s. (Photo by US Marine Corps/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

Soon after arriving in Hawaii, women Marine Reserves stand to for evening colors at Pearl Harbor, during World War II, 1940s. (Photo by US Marine Corps/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

And One Government Document:
Breaking Codes, Breaking Barriers: The WACs of the Signal Security Agency World War II courtesy of Karen Kovach, History Office, Office of the Chief of Staff, US Army Intelligence and Security Command – World War II ushered in an era where women were needed in military service in far greater numbers than ever before in American history and for a wider range of occupations. This slim volume belies the importance of the job of the women contained within. They were tasked with breaking the encryption of the enemies’ messages. By doing so, they saved countless lives.  Especially poignant is the quote about the day of the bomb drop from the WAC assigned to monitor Hiroshima, “I came on to my trick and started tuning to my assigned frequencies. I was copying Hiroshima, it was one of my stations, but I couldn’t find it. I’m saying to myself, ‘what the heck is the matter?’ I’m dialing all around, searching all over the place trying to pick it up, trying to locate the signal. There was nothing there.”

-Melissa M.

P.S. Did you notice the interesting thing about almost all of the authors in this list? They are all female. Huh. Women writing about women’s history. What an idea!

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I can’t believe I’m watching this again.

If I stumble across any of these movies I’ll inevitably end up watching the whole darn thing, whether I want to or not. Day wasted? Check. But somehow I don’t mind.

Andromeda StrainThe Andromeda Strain –  Somehow my parents thought that a Cold War era movie about biological terrors from outer space was suitable viewing for a child under ten – maybe that’s why I don’t trust monkeys or airlocks or lasers. This movie was on a lot when I was a kid, but it’s harder to come by nowadays. Fortunately, it’s available at your local library!

bookcover06Blazing Saddles – It’s my favorite movie, what else can I say? Lots, apparently. Every time I see Blazing Saddles (oooh, Blu-Ray version!) I invariably end up singing “The French Mistake” for the next week and a half. Warning: clip contains saucy language and slapstick violence. (Unfortunately, it ends before you get to see Hitler in a pie fight. I’m not kidding.)

Cradle 2 the GraveCradle 2 the Grave – Jet Li is entered into a convenient MMA tournament by Roseanne’s husband, people disguise themselves as exterminators to break into office buildings, an adorable moppet is kidnapped – and there’s also something about some black diamonds that can be used to power superweapons? And isn’t that the Chairman from Iron Chef America? If you need more reasons to watch (or not to watch), check out this scathing review from the Chicago Tribune.

Crank 2Crank 2: High Voltage – I don’t know the names of any characters that Jason Statham plays. It’s just, “You know that movie where Jason Statham has to keep running around or he’ll die? No, not that one, the other one.” This is the other one. It has a weird-but-memorable Godzilla battle in it, and other things that I probably shouldn’t mention in a library blog. Let’s just say that the TV version is usually heavily edited. (Note: research tells me that the character’s name is Chev Chelios. Huh.)

bookcover07Coming to America – If you need to show anyone what the 80s really looked like, just make them watch this movie (if you’re about my age, you’ll probably see your family’s living room furniture at some point). Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall play eight different characters between them (which is awesome) and James Earl Jones yells at people (which is also awesome).

bookcover08The Shawshank Redemption – Once when I was sick I kept falling asleep and waking up during different parts of a Shawshank Redemption marathon. It was one of the most confusing days of my life. If you want to sound all snooty, you can tell people that it’s based on the Stephen King novella “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” but don’t be surprised if nobody cares. Anyway, Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman? Can’t beat that.

bookcover09Transporter 3 – “No, this is the one where Jason Statham drives really fast. There’s a French guy, and there’s a woman who really needs to wash her face. No, not the spiky blond woman. I think that was Transporter 2.” Which leads us to the question: does it matter that all Jason Statham movies are pretty much the same? I say no. Not at all.

– Amy E., backing away from the remote

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