Vacation can take people to all kinds of new and interesting places.
Some people have a goal of visiting all 50 states and try to visit a new one each year or two. Some people have a bucket list of baseball stadiums they want to see or national parks they want to visit. I even know someone who loves to visit historic libraries that were built by Andrew Carnegie, and he goes to see them all across the country.
Some people are “genealogy tourists,” and they visit locations where they can conduct family research. They may visit cemeteries of their ancestors and make rubbings of headstones. They may drive hundreds of miles to scroll through microfilm at a small-town newspaper. They may also visit a library to pore over city directories, yearbooks and other archives.
The Norfolk Public Library often welcomes these traveling family researchers. Genealogists from as far away as Washington and Arizona have looked through the library’s materials, scouring for birth announcements, addresses and obituaries to complete their family trees.
Several years ago, the library worked with the Norfolk Daily News to get all the newspaper’s archives into a digital format that was easily searchable. The new digital archive was available in the library and greatly reduced searching time. Instead of scrolling through rolls of microfilm, the researcher simply had to type…
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Because this section is free of charge, community events are subject to run based on available space. Religion items are published on the Saturday church page. Email events to [email protected]
SPORTS REGISTRATION: Danville Parks and Recreation’s registration period for youth football and cheerleading is now open until Aug. 5. This season’s offerings are available for children ages 5-12. Flag football is for children ages 5-6, and tackle football is for children ages 7-12. Registration for football is $35, and registration for cheerleading is $40. Additional fees may apply. Sports officials are also needed. Those with relevant experience are encouraged to contact 434-799-5214. Those interested in registering for football and cheerleading may do so by calling 434-799-5214 or by signing up online at playdanvilleva.com.
TODAY, JULY 12
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SENIORS ON THE MOVE: The senior citizen’s program at the Cherrystone Missionary Baptist Association, 5551 Tom Fork Road, Ringgold, meets every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to play bingo and dominos. Also, there’s a computer awareness class from 10 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 2 p.m., senior exercise from noon to 12:20 p.m. with lunch served from 12:20 to 1 p.m. All seniors 60 years and older are welcome. For additional information, call Frances Garlin at 434-822-6453, Barbara Williams at 434-713-5271, and for computer awareness and exercise, Kathy B. Ramsey at 434-251-0379.
The streaming TV boom has led to a proliferation of prestige dramatic projects that, in an effort to become binge-watching sensations, expand their tales to unreasonable lengths. Adapted by J.P. Delaney from his own best-selling 2017 novel, The Girl Before falls squarely into that bloated-for-television category, taking a succinct thriller story and inflating it to such absurdly unwarranted lengths that any and all sense of suspense is sabotaged. What might have been a nifty 105-minute movie is thus instead a four-hour drag, stretched so thin that its raft of misdirections are plain for all to see, and its underlying emptiness is nearly impossible to ignore.
Co-produced by BBC One (which aired it in Dec. 2021), HBO Max’s The Girl Before (Feb. 10) concerns a unique house, the bonkers architect who built it, and the two women he allows to make it their home. Edward (David Oyelowo) has fashioned his latest creation as the creepiest residence in London. A minimalist modern prison, it boasts undecorated gray stone walls, an inner courtyard with a solitary tree, and no keys or light switches, since the place is governed by a sophisticated AI system known as Housekeeper that operates everything, surveils everyone, and collects constant user data to customize its performance as a round-the-clock assistant. It’s a domicile that looks like, and is about as warm and friendly as, a tomb—a fact that, later revelations will indicate, isn’t by accident.
If that weren’t ominous enough, Edward demands that, in exchange for living there rent-free, his carefully selected tenants must abide by his strict and overbearing rules, which include no magazines, no pictures, no clutter on the floor, and only enough clothes to fit inside a single closet. Residents are also required to answer routine Housekeeper questionnaires about their personal and psychological attitudes, and to allow for inspections to ensure that they’re following his parameters. Edward is, quite unmistakably, an awful weirdo whom no one would trust, and to whose demands no one would agree. Yet The Girl Before nonetheless presents two women who do just that: Emma (Jessica Plummer), the recent victim of a burglary who convinces her boyfriend Simon (Ben Hardy) to apply for the house because she’s desperate for a fresh start; and, three years later, Jane (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a single Londoner who similarly views Edward’s mausoleum as the sort of rigidly controlled environment she needs to get over the stillborn death of her daughter.
It’s instantly apparent that Edward has chosen first Emma, and then Jane, to occupy his cold, off-putting techno-abode because they look exactly like each other, just as it’s no surprise to learn that Edward is himself a widower. [Some spoilers follow] Did Edward’s wife also resemble Emma and Jane? Of course! And yet even after finding out such details, both women choose to not only go along with Edward’s game, but to enter into a relationship with him. That Edward likes his romance the way he likes his house—regulated by his own mechanical, stripped-down rules about dispatching any and all excessive encumbrances—is not a problem for either Emma or Jane, which is about as plausible as the idea that they’d be doing any of this in the first place.
“That Edward likes his romance the way he likes his house… is not a problem for either Emma or Jane, which is about as plausible as the idea that they’d be doing any of this in the first place.”
Via split screens, cross-cutting and copious shots of Mbatha-Raw and Plummer staring at their reflections, The Girl Before—helmed by director Lisa Brühlmann—gracelessly underlines its parallel-narrative structure. More frustrating than the ham-fisted way in which the show handles this mirror-image conceit, however, is its general hollowness. Whether it’s Emma and Jane’s attempts to wrestle with (and overcome) trauma, the malevolent privacy issues raised by Housekeeper, or the predatory nature of the men in both women’s lives, the series expends considerable energy on thematic concerns about which it has nothing to say, or cares to even seriously investigate. Over the course of four hours, this literary adaptation develops a variety of storytelling strands that it climactically exposes as mere window-dressing, intended to distract attention away from the mystery at its center.
As a dictatorial loon who wouldn’t be likable to any sane individual, Oyelowo winds up stuck playing the same forbidding note, while Mbatha-Raw and Plummer—the former faring better than the latter, thanks in part to a more active and empowered role—vacillate unconvincingly between being skeptical of their landlord-cum-lover and irrationally smitten with his repellent behavior. The Girl Before rather transparently telegraphs one of its twists and boasts a lackluster finale. Along the way, it coats itself in a familiar patina of prestige-TV menace, all gloomy orchestral music and silky pans through Edward’s crypt-like architectural wonder. Those gestures may lend this affair some aesthetic polish, but they can’t compensate for an overarching distension that throws every one of its shortcomings into sharp relief.