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Great stories so often remind us that success is boring. It is the wretched tale of miserable failure which captivates and holds our attention. Here is one story I recently found to be worthy of both watching and reading.
 
The Homesman book jacketThe Homesman by Glendon Swarthout is a spare and ruthless picture of sodbusting subsistance in the Nebraska Territory. The writing draws stark and vivid lines of life for five women on the frontier. After various brutalities drive four of the women into debilitating mental illnesses, Mary Bee Cuddy reluctantly volunteers to drive them back over the plains and across the Missouri River to a charitable churchwoman when none of the menfolk are up to the task. Knowing she will need help on the six-week journey, she rescues a claim jumper from hanging and presses him into service. George Briggs is a cipher and the trip is harrowing: they face hostile weather and deprivation and grueling monotony along with their own inner demons.
 
Mary Bee is an educated and relatively successful single teacher-turned-farmer who is increasingly desperate to marry. Her success is also her failure in that she proves to be stronger in body and spirit than most of the men who surround her. George Briggs, an army deserter, materializes as something of the equal that has thus far eluded her. 
 
A window demonstrating the fragility of their mission opens when a group of unknown and possibly hostile Indians appear on the horizon. They are a "ragtag bunch" possessed of coats and caps and rifles indicating they have, at some point, killed some U.S. Cavalry. There is a tense stand-off:
The Homesman dvd
     "They won't turn us loose," said Briggs. "I count four rifles. If they think we're worth it and come on down here, we're dead."
     Again the bugle blatted. Mary Bee got gooseflesh. Indians were what she had most feared.
     Briggs decided. "All right, I'll try to buy 'em off." He jumped down, fished inside his cowcoat, and handed her his heavy Colt's repeater. "If they come, don't fool with the rifle. Get inside the wagon as fast as you can and shoot the women. In the head. Then shoot yourself."
 
The feature film based on the novel stars Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank. Don't miss this movie. It is a reminder of the riches that lie buried, abandoned and forgotten, at the side of the road to success. 
 
The winners may ride into the sunset, but the losers hold the stories we remember.

Giving Help and HopeVolunteer Ronald Fabricante

by Sarah Binns

At Multnomah County Library, one easily meets people with diverse experiences and passions. Ronald Fabricante, Central Library's longtime computer lab assistant, is the embodiment of this. When I set up a meeting with Ronald he says he'll be easy to spot because he wears steampunk glasses with blue lenses, a great introduction to a man who is an experience connoisseur.

A lifelong learner, Ronald grew up reading, especially encyclopedias, in Manila in the Philippines, and moved to Oregon after graduating high school. Approximately 80 members of Ronald's extended family have moved here from the Philippines. His childhood in Manila inspired him to give back to the community in Portland. “I came from a poor family and a poor society,” he says. “I know what it's like to have nothing, so I want to help.”
Ronald started volunteering in the periodicals department, but moved to Central Library's computer lab over five years ago. Though working full time and studying for a computer science degree, he still helps patrons with technical questions and resume writing. “I love working there,” he says. “I've seen a lot of people who are discouraged, frustrated, for whom it's difficult to find work. I identify every resource I can for them. I'm happy to give them help and a glimmer of hope.”


Ronald Fabricante Quote: "I'm happy to give them help and a glimmer of hope."By now, Ronald's lab visitors know more about him beyond his work as a volunteer. Many of his regulars have become friends with whom he discusses art, books, and poetry. He prides himself in diverse activities that include film dates, watercolor painting, and weekly trips to write poetry at the Chinese Gardens, “a nexus of tranquility” as he says. He also speaks six languages, including Russian and Spanish. 


With all of his interests in technology and art, Ronald describes himself as both traditionalist and modernist. His interest in steampunk, a sci-fi/fantasy genre which combines 19th century technology with futurism, represents him: “I am connected to the past to learn and appreciate its continual relevance, but also look forward to a bright future.” When I ask if his steampunk glasses work, he replies with a laugh that they are functional. It's a fitting response for this technical engineer with the eye of an artist.

 

A Few Facts About Ronald

Home library: Central Library for browsing when volunteering, but most books come from Washington County Library system, nearer where he lives.
 
Currently reading: Wildwood. “I lamented when I finished Harry Potter and I've been looking for something to enjoy as much as I did that series.” 
 
Most influential book: The Da Vinci Code. “It's thought-provoking and has so many elements of fiction, history, religion, and travel.”
 
Favorite book from childhood: Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, novels by Filipino hero José Rizal, which expose the abuses of the Spanish colonizers in the late 19th century Philippines.
 
E-reader or paper? Both. Ronald uses an e-reader for textbooks but still loves the way a book feels!
 
Favorite place to read: Portland Art Museum and the Grotto. 
 
 
Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.
 
Signs that say Hope and Despair.When you are seeking help, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start. This is a selective list of social service organizations and places that offer housing, shelter, mental health counseling, escape from abusive situations and other basic needs for people who are homeless, jobless or going through personal transitions. If you have any questions or need assistance finding services, contact us and we'll be happy to help!


When in doubt, start here: 211info

211info is a comprehensive support hub for referrals to food, shelter, housing, foreclosure assistance, health care, and much more. Calls are confidential, anonymous and free. Certified Information and Referral Specialists assess the situation and refer callers using a locally managed database of over 4,200 programs in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Telephone interpreters are available for help in more than 150 languages. Dial 211 from any phone; text your zip code to 898211; send an email to help@211info.org; or search resources online.


Other resources:

Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare
Cascadia provides mental health counseling for people with psychiatric and substance use challenges.  They provide crisis intervention, addictions treatment, and housing services for people who are very low-income.  Their website includes addresses and phone numbers for services as well as links to additional resources outside of the area.
 
Multnomah County Mental Health & Addictions Services
Provides mental health services to adults, children and families. They serve Oregon Health Plan members as well as people who have no insurance or resources. Their Mental Health Call Center is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week; call 503-988-4888, 800-716-9769 (toll free) or 503-988-5866 (TTY). Clasping hands; link to Northwest Pilot Project.
 
Northwest Pilot Project
Provides housing and other supportive services for seniors ages 55 and older who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.  Find housing, transportation help, advocacy and referrals to other resources and services. NW Pilot Project recommends calling 503-227-5605 before coming in.

Outside In
Outside In is a community resource for homeless youth.  They provide health services, counseling and shelter, as well as programs and education.

Portland Women’s Crisis Line
Offers 24 hour telephone crisis counseling for victims of domestic and sexual violence; call 503-235-5333 or 888-235-5333.  The organization also offers support groups and direct service counseling for victims of domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse.

Rose City Resource
Street Roots publishes this very comprehensive online directory of services for people experiencing homelessness and poverty in  Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties.  It is continuously updated.
 
Smiling woman; link to Transition Projects website.Transition Projects
This organization can help with a variety of services including housing, showers, food box vouchers, clothing, laundry services, Tri-met tickets, information and referral and housing search assistance.

 

There is so much good teen fiction that I have quite a time (and only moderate interest in) actually getting to the grown-up stuff. Here are two stories I recently discovered and enjoyed.

Seraphina book jacketSeraphina by Rachel Hartman
I discovered Dungeons and Dragons at age 17, and I remember getting pretty excited when my brother told me "There are FOUR kinds of dragons!"  I'd read The Hobbit, The Reluctant Dragon, and a few Norse myths by then, so I knew that all dragons were not the same, but there being actual kinds of dragons was very new to me. Dragon taxonomy, if you will. Years and lots of fantasy later, this book gave me a similar thrill.
 
Among many very cool things about this book (a wry and honest main character, strange dream beings starting to talk back, a sackbut), it has dragons that, by virtue of their ability to assume human shape, can communicate on a level with the humans. But although they look like regular people, Hartman does a great job with keeping them very different. Dragons have a hard time understanding human emotions, so it's a bit like interacting with aliens, or animals, or gods. This had a nice amount of intrigue, a very observant prince, questions of loyalty, medieval music, saints and sayings for all occasions, and a bit of a look at discrimination and hatred.  Good stuff, and the first e-book I read for fun (because it was available and the printed one wasn't). 
 
 An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
I haven't quite finished this yet, but I'm thinking that I have a great recommendation for people who enjoyed reading The Hunger Games. This has some of the sameAn Ember in the Ashes book jacket themes - power vs. powerlessness, fate vs. choice, battle against friends, star-crossed love triangle. It's set in an empire reminiscent of ancient Rome, but this is not historical fiction. The magic of the desert pervades this story... ghuls, jinn, efrit... and yet it is mostly the tale of one young man expected to become a great leader, and of a young woman with nothing but a rebel pedigree, posing as a slave and struggling to save the last relative she has. The perspective changes back and forth between them with each chapter, and the pacing is used well to build suspense. It's on hold so I'll have to turn it in soon, but I'll finish this one quickly.

 

Lately I've been gravitating towards books that give me respite from working full time and going to school part-time. These are the books I've been loving lately:
 
Bee and Puppycat book jacketBee and PuppyCat by Natasha Allegri: Bee is a twentysomething woman who works for a temp agency fighting monsters with Puppycat in SPACE. It's a pastel dream just as gorgeous as the original cartoon.

Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One With the Universe by Yumi Sakugawa: Sakugawa takes you on a beautiful intergalactic journey where you deal with little and big things like petty annoyances, self-hatred, and anger. Surprisingly calming.The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl book jacket

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae: This is the funniest book I've read in a long time. I loved reading about her family, '90s culture, and the endless embarrassments. As a POC (person of color), this is the kind of voice I've been wishing wasn't so rare.
 
I hope you can find as much solace in these books as I do. What kinds of books help you keep cool when under stress?

Book jacket: Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter by Nina MacLaughlinWhen I was approaching 30, I left a job in Seattle and moved to Portland to become a woodworker.  I spent the last of my cashed out 401k on a table saw, hung my hand tools neatly on pegboard and slowly and with great discipline became a master carpenter.  Not true.  I spent about a month dressed in overalls, creating little more than sawdust before stopping to admire my tools with a self-congratulatory glass(es) of wine. And then I panicked and signed on with a temp agency to do mind-numbing office work.

Nina MacLaughlin carried out what I only fantasized about.  After spending much of her 20s working as a journalist in Boston she realized that somewhere along the line, the work that had once inspired her, had grown oppressive.  Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter is her memoir of what happened when she quit her desk job and traded in her cubicle and computer for a hammer, a tile saw and a 50lb bag of grout.

Picking up Hammer Head, I felt an immediate kinship and let’s face it- envy for MacLaughlin.  We share an enormous satisfaction in mastering a new tool and an appreciation for the unique history and warmth that radiates off of a freshly-sanded plank of wood. But by the end, it was her boss Mary that I fell in love with. It was Mary’s Craigslist ad: Carpenter’s Assistant: Women strongly encouraged to apply, that started MacLaughlin’s journey.  Not much of a talker, Mary offered only the simplest instruction and encouragement (“Be smarter than the tools”), but abundant patience and quiet humor. McLaughlin's inspiring memoir is as much about her own leap of faith towards meaningful work, as it is a love letter to her straight shooting and unflappable mentor.

Oh why weren’t you in Portland in 2001, Mary?

 

Check out this list for more memoirs that will inspire you to follow your bliss.

Do you love urban fantasy? I do. I love that the stories are set in the real world with an action paced plots and supernatural beings. I connect better with a story if it’s set in our modern world. And if there is humourous dialogue-you’ve got me. I become a devoted fan!

Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles series is at times so funny I can laugh for a full five minutes about a scene. The stories are pageturners with a mix of supernatural beings that are Nordic, Celtic, Native American, Roman or Greek gods. There are vampires, witches, and werewolves thrown in too.

The Iron Druid is Atticus Sullivan who lives in Tempe Arizona with his Irish Wolfhound, Oberon when we first meet him in book one Hounded. The fact that the story is set in Tempe Arizona makes me giggle. Because then it is a nod to sunny noir.

The humor I love best in the series is in the discussions between Oberon and Atticus. There’s comic relief and diversion when Oberon and Atticus discuss snacks like sausage when they are worried about an upcoming battle. If you like your supernatural action story with a side of humor then you might love Iron Druid Chronicles series. I do.

Multnomah County Library's Lucky Day service includes books for kids, teens and adults.  Lucky Day copies are available for spontaneous use and are not subject to hold queues.  Nobody can place holds on these items; it's first come, first served.  That means you might not have to wait at all for the most popular new titles!  You never know what you might find at your neighborhood library - it just might be your Lucky Day!

When the days get long and the house gets stuffy, Mother and two children smiling.there are lots of opportunities for you and your family to get out and be entertained without taxing your wallet!

Jump, climb, ride and play. Bring your kids to some structured and supervised playground programs all over the county. The City of Gresham and Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland are hosting field games, arts & crafts, free lunch and more with Summer Kids in the Park. Many Portland parks will also have organized sports, games, crafts and food with Playgrounds in the Park/Area de Juegos en el Parque. Safely bike and walk the streets of Portland all summer long during Sunday Parkways. Check out the variety of parks in Portland, Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview and Wood Village.

Saxafunky to symphonic. Enjoy live classical music performed by the Portland Festival Symphony and Chamber Music Northwest. The Portland Parks & Recreation summer concert series gives you opportunities to experience exuberant Baltic brass at Ventura Park, cumbia and salsa at Fernhill Park, Caribbean grooves at Kenton Park, and much, much more. Discover local music at Music on Main Street in downtown Portland. In Gresham, get down with the Music Mondays summer concert series. Cathedral Park Jazz Festival celebrates its 35th anniversary, while the Washington Park Summer Festival showcases opera, taiko drums, and soul. And don't miss all ages music festival PDX Pop Now!

Make a sLittle girl playing in splash pad.plash. Dive into free open swim hours at pools or run through some splash pads all around Portland. Cool down at the Gresham Children's Fountain or at one of Portland's four interactive fountains.

Pass the free popcorn. Big Hero 6 for the little ones, Field of Dreams for the grown-ups, The Princess Bride for everyone, not to mention Napoleon Dynamite, Captain America, Russian films, documentaries, and more; The Portland Parks & Recreation movie series has an outdoor movie for you!

All the world’s a stage. The Original Practice Shakespeare Festival will be performing The Merry Wives of Windsor, A Midsommer Night's Dreame, Richard III and other plays all over town, while Portland Actors Ensemble is presenting Macbeth and The Taming of the Shrew in multiple parks.

Get festive with your neighbors. There are so many free neighborhood celebrations in the summer months! Hang out at street fairs in Alberta, Belmont, Division/Clinton, Fremont, Gresham, Hawthorne, Lents, Mississippi and Multnomah Village. Experience art at the Gresham Arts Festival and Art in the Pearl; celebrate the LGBTQ and allied communities at the Portland Pride Festival and Parade; create green spaces at the Green Neighborhoods Festival; celebrate your and others' culture at India Festival and Festa Italiana. Two children, their pet rabbit, and a giant library card at the Portland Pride Festival.

Free meals. School is out, but that doesn’t mean kids stop being hungry. No child (ages 1-18) will be turned away from receiving free lunches at locations all over the area, including the wonderful Midland and Rockwood Libraries. Find a location in your neighborhood and check out some other food assistance resources.

But wait, there's more! 211info has a great list of low-cost summertime camps and activities. Most Portland Rose Festival events are free. Check out the Portland Parks & Recreation Summer Free For All website and the Metro calendar. See what's going on at your neighborhood library (always free!). Read the library's blog entries on free art and free museums. Check out the PDX Kids Calendar and the urbanMamas calendar to see what free events are coming up in the city. And don't forget to sign up for Summer Reading to earn books, toys, or coupons for local businesses. (Grown-ups, there's a summer reading program for you, too!)

cover image of alone in the kitchen with an eggplantFood is a lovely thing. Cooking and eating a meal can be one of the more pleasurable things in life, but if you're not sharing it with someone, it can feel like too much to bother. Though we are totally worth it, sometimes corners are cut and the end result can be a sad and pathetic excuse for a meal. Enter some hilarious accounts of What We Eat When We Eat Alone and other tomes like Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant. These are full of often innovative recipes that occasionally work and frequently don't.

Did you know there are cookbooks just for one? My personal favorite is by Judith Jones. The Pleasures of Cooking for One will have you cover image of the pleasures of cooking for onerediscovering the joys of cooking, without the drudgery of having to consume what you just made for the whole of next week's lunches and dinners.  

Are you on your way to being a famous chemist?  Then you need some examples of those who came before you!  Or do you just need to write a report on a scientist?  Well, we've got you covered for that too.

A great first stop is the Biography in Context database.  (If you're using this outside the library it will ask for your library card number and pin, so have those at the ready.)  You can search by name if you know who you want information on or click "Browse People" on the upper left and select "scientists" from the drop-down menu to explore your options.

Check out the booklist below for some more ideas!  Need more help?  That's what we're here for.  Contact a librarian to get what you need.

book coverCookbooks are inspiring. At first...

They are tomorrow’s mouth watering meal, a party spread that blows your guests away, and the leftovers you can't wait to dive into. However, good intentions pave a nice road and where it leads does not often end in dinner. Too often, grand culinary aspirations are set aside when the everyday interrupts best laid plans. Soon, tempting recipes morph into overdue fines and dinner is created from a sad game of refrigerator potpourri roullette. Sound familiar?

Enter Pati Jinich and her Mexican Table.  With easy recipes, accessible ingredients, and lighter takes on classic dishes, she has written a Mexican cookbook for the aspiring Diana Kennedy in all of us(until we have the time to tackle the decades of her genius). Repeatedly I’ve ventured back to Pati’s world for chicken a la trash(trust me, it’s a complete misnomer), black bean and plantain empanadas, simple salsas, and , green rice. They’re quick, easy for a weeknight, and delicious.

 

The Slants is the world’s first and only all-Asian American dance rock band. Our signature “Chinatown Dance Rock” has been featured by NPR, Conan O'Brien, HBO, and Time Magazine. We've performed at anime/comic conventions and schools; we've even performed inside a Multnomah County Library.

The band doesn’t shy away from our bold portrayal of Asian culture nor our love for geek culture and the arts: the “Misery” music video features footage from the steampunk martial arts Tai Chi epic; “You Make Me Alive” offers an ode to cosplay culture; and “Adopted” was a collaboration with high-flying aerial arts group, AWOL Dance Collective.

In honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, here is a list of our band-approved Asian and Asian American works:

China Dolls by Lisa See

Set in the late 1930’s, China Dolls follows the lives of several Chinese American women who face the harsh reality of living as Asian American entertainers in a Chinatown. It’s stirring, exciting, and informative.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8 Lee

It's no secret that The Slants loves food, especially Asian food. Not only do we regularly publish food guides and have active Yelp accounts, but we also film our culinary adventures while on tour as well. Lee’s book is a perfect example of the band’s quest for the very best food around the world while combining humor, history, and personal stories.

Tai Chi Zero and its sequel, Tai Chi Hero (DVD)

For the last several years, The Slants have been collaborating with the Tai Chi martial arts trilogy by releasing several music videos alongside the films. The films feature a hilarious comic book feel while combining steampunk accessories, the Chen style of the martial art t'ai chi ch'uan, and an all-star cast including Tony Leung, Angelbaby, and Shu Qi.

No-No Boy by John Okada

Considered one of the most important Asian American novels, No-No Boy tells the story of a Japanese American in the Pacific Northwest after the internment camps. It’s the very first Japanese American novel ever written and gives a deep, inside look at the meaning of identity.

Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang

This is the memoir that provided the inspiration behind the well-loved television series. Packed with even more personal stories, the book is darker and dives more deeply into issues of assimilation, drugs, 90’s hip-hop culture, and food. Though Huang himself is often surrounded in controversy for his statements, there’s no doubt that his memoir provides a refreshing, important, and honest look at Asian American identity.

Other books that band members enjoy while on the road:

Ken Shima (lead vocals):

The Odyssey by Homer

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

The Lord Of The Rings by JRR Tolkien

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

Tyler Chen (drums):

Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by Neil Postman

The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band by Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Mick Mars, Nikki Sixx, and Neil Strauss

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

Music Business Hacks: The Daily Habits of the Self-Made Musician by Simon Tam

Simon “Young” Tam (bass):

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Hi-Fidelity by Nick Hornby

The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker by Eric Liu

American Born Chinese by Gene Leun Yang

Scott Pilgrim (Vol1-6) by Bryan Lee O’Malley

For more great recommendations, customized to your tastes, try My Librarian.

I first met my husband, Neil, when we were both working about a hundred hours a week in a fish cannery in southeastern Alaska. When the salmon slowed down and we had some free time, we loved to explore the island’s beautiful scenery. I was always desperate for sun, but he liked to linger in the dark, damp parts of the forest-- looking for mushrooms. I thought this was completely weird at the time, but I’ve since been converted and we’ve found lots of mushrooms together. I love to eat them, but I also love how I experience nature more deeply, and perhaps in the way that human beings are meant to experience nature, when I'm intent on finding something out in the wild. The forest floor leaps into detail you don’t ordinarily see unless you’re looking for just the kind of moss and pine needles that chanterelles seem to prefer.

We harvested these on private property that belonged to a friend, so we were allowed to get this many.Morel season is happening on Mount Hood right now, people! Please be safe-- some mushrooms are deadly. It’s best to start with an experienced mushroom-hunter. But if you’re ready to do some research of your own, check out this list of books recommended by my husband. Neil has thoroughly investigated the library’s collection, so I thought I’d share the fruits of his research with you.

 

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? bookjacketMy mom is getting up there in years and my siblings and I are learning first hand that there are lots of issues to deal with when you have an aging parent. As a welcome respite from all of the seriousness of trying to help my mom live out her years as best as possible, I’ve read Roz Chast’s wrenchingly honest and painfully funny graphic memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant several times lately. But the book that is really helping me grapple with the issues of an aging parent is Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande.

Being Mortal bookjacketGawande, a surgeon, writer and public health researcher, explores how we make choices as we come near the end of our lives. He looks at the history, how our culture transitioned from caring for aged family members at home to putting them into nursing homes and assisted senior housing (and who knew that the first independent senior community was in Portland?). Gawande questions how modern medicine, which has been so successful in prolonging life, can also cause more suffering at the end of one's life. Wouldn’t it be better to help the elderly live out their lives in as comfortable and positive way as possible?

Or as Roz Chast says, "I wish that, at the end of life, when things were truly "done," there was something to look forward to. Something more pleasure-oriented. Perhaps opium, or heroin. So you became addicted. So what? All-you-can-eat ice cream parlors for the extremely aged. Big art picture books and music. Extreme palliative care, for when you've had it with everything else: the x-rays, the MRIs, the boring food, and the pills that don't do anything at all. Would that be so bad?"

That’s the end of life I want for my mom and everyone else when they get old and reading Being Mortal is helping me figure out how to help my mom get exactly that as she lives out her life.

Utopias Book Cover"Art can cease being a report about sensations and become a direct organization of more advanced sensations. The point is to produce ourselves rather than things that enslave us."
- Guy Debord, from "Theses on Cultural Revolution"

Art has always served a precarious role when it comes to a radical and transformative politics.  Too often, even the most apparently revolutionary art ends up recuperated as market or museum-piece.  MIT Press' elegant 2009 collection Utopias assembles an historically broad (though almost exclusively western) swath of manifestoes, interventions and proscriptions toward utopian and revolutionary transformation.  Editor Richard Noble's introduction situates the power of these texts in their lurch toward a revolutionary horizon (that which is yet to come).  And while the collection is certainly an excellent introduction to many essential and revelatory broadsides and critiques, Noble can't help but find himself stuck in this ultimately unsatisfactory impasse, resulting in toothless assertions like "[the] utopian impulse is implicit in all art-making, at least in so far as one thinks that art addresses itself to the basic project of making the world better."

Nonetheless, the book itself is a formidable archive (ahem) of revolutionary texts (with the occasional negative dystopic warning - like snippets of Orwell's 1984).  Kicking off with an excerpt from Thomas More's Utopia and closing with a 2008 interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Adam Phillips, Utopias provides all kinds of known and unknown pleasures.  However, the collection - like Noble's introduction - reproduces the same cul-de-sac the bulk of the excerpts rail against.  At the end of the day, Utopias is another attractive museum catalog, producing weak whispers and disavowed reminders of something far more scandalous, unattractive and untameable.

As supplement and tonic, I'll close with a sentence from an excellent piece on Occupy and art from 2012, co-written by Jaleh Mansoor, Daniel Marcus and Daniel Spaulding:

"Art’s usefulness in these times is a matter less of its prefiguring a coming order, or even negating the present one, than of its openness to the materiality of our social existence and the means of providing for it."

Of course, much of how and when this works is up to us.
 

laptopAt your Multnomah County Libraries, you can find a wide array of free computer classes - from computer labs where you can get extra assistance to e-book and e-reader classes to office productivity skills, like spreadsheets and word processing.  Here are some other great options:

  • Free Geek - Free Geek offers a range of educational opportunities including hands-on experiences in their Build and Adoption Programs as well as a wide variety of desk-based learning in their classroom.
  • Portland Community College (PCC) - offers a wide variety of computer and IT courses, tailored to fit your situation - find out more about their computer education programs
  • Mt Hood Community College (MHCC) - for East County residents, MHCC offers many in-person and online computer classes through their Community Education program
  • Portland Parks & Recreation - offers basic computer and Internet classes for senior

When my sons were in grade school I used to buy special  birthday cake candles.  The  kind that immediately re-light after they’ve been blown out. I got a bigger kick out of them than the kids!   I still love the uncertainty of  these candles.  Will they relight or won’t they?  All my life candles blown out stay that way - but not these candles.  They come back on.

I love the surprise, the appearance  that it is somehow defying the laws of nature.

I look for that kind of surprise in books too.  Those rare books that surprise me with their unpredictability, their innovative writing style or ideas.  A book that leaves me breathless.

On the outside I get up,  go to work, cook dinner, make conversation- but on the inside the ideas of that book have lit up my mind and just when I think I have let go of one idea, whoosh- another pops up burning brighter than the first.

 

Depths by Henning Mankell  was one such book.  I loved his Wallander mystery series, plus several of his stand alone novels.  But when I saw Depths I was reluctant to pick it up.               

 The book jacket,  two shades of gloomy gray,  and the blurb on the inside cover about a Swedish military officer who is hired  to sound out the depths of the ocean bottom  around the Swedish archipelagos, was dreary and uninteresting.  But one day  I was so starved for  something different to read, I opened to the first page.

 Whoosh... it opens with a woman escaping from an insane asylum on a dark rain-swept night, remembering as if in a dream- once she had a husband…..Swedish Naval officer Lars Tobiasson-Svartmann, a  

man whose  compartmentalized emotions threaten to drown him….Whoosh- he sleeps with his sounding equipment like a security blanket to calm his anxieties….Whoosh….physically he sounds the depths of the ocean but emotionally he is sounding himself...Whoosh….he finds a solitary woman living on one of the archipelagos-Whoosh…..400 pages later I come to the surface, like a fish, gasping for air.

 If you live for unexpected, the amazement of realizing that you are about to be lit up with unforeseen wonder, read Depths by Henning Makell.  Whoosh…                                         

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

 

 

Three dozen Head Start preschoolers loudly proclaim in unison, “1-2-3, we are awesome!”Markham Head Start self portraits

The refrain was a fitting recognition of the hard work of these young artists, who contributed Andy Warhol-style self portraits to an art show at Capitol Hill Library in Southwest Portland. On May 5 the children gathered with families, teachers and supporters to show off their colorful art.

“When I first saw these self portraits, I was blown away,” said Neighborhood House Executive Director Rick Nitti. “They create a reflection of self and an expression of self esteem. This partnership with the library is fantastic.”

Markham Head Start self portraitsThe event was the brainchild of teachers at Neighborhood House’s Markham Head Start Classroom in partnership with Capitol Hill Library staff to engage children and families with the library as preparations for summer begin.

After proudly showcasing their work, the students joined Capitol Hill’s youth librarian, Natasha Forrester, for an interactive reading of Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh and sang a song about friendship with lyrics in English, Spanish, Somali and Swahili.

Each month, library staff (including Natasha or Suad Mohamed, a Somali-speaking library assistant) visit Markham Head Start classrooms to delight children with stories, songs and crafts. It’s part of Multnomah County Library’s mission to support and serve educators, children and families beyond the walls of the library. Many of the Head Start program’s students are Somali immigrants, and Capitol Hill Library is the first in Multnomah County to feature a Somali-speaking staff member. Suad leads the Somali Family Time program at Capitol Hill and she also selects books in Somali for Central, Midland and Rockwood libraries.

The partnership, one of many between the library and nonprofit agencies across Multnomah County, serves multiple purposes. It helps new immigrants become familiar with the services of the library in their native language and become comfortable in a setting that can help contribute to their success throughout their education and later in life.

“This is special,” said Head Start Program Director Nancy Perin. “It’s such a diverse, multicultural group and bringing them all together at the library, it’s special.”
The exhibition is expected to last through May 15.Markham Head Start self portraits

Space Tourism ArtworkFor many of us, the most imposing barrier to joining the growing ranks of space tourists has been cost. When Dennis Tito made his eight-day flight back in 2001, you could get in on a ride for around $20 million. That was the going rate for about the first six years before the price inevitably began to skyrocket to its current rate of roughly $40 million. But you know what’s been holding me back? The lack of coffee. Well, not just any coffee -- I’m talking espresso. How do you get a truly great cup of espresso while you’re circling the globe in a weightlessness condition?Espresso in space photo

Well, after reading Wednesday’s New York Times, I learned that that great hurdle has now been cleared. Samantha Cristoforetti, who also happens to be the first Italian woman to travel in space, just became the first person to successfully brew and enjoy an authentic Italian-style espresso in space.

Two developments made this feat possible: The 44-pound ISSpresso machine and the microgravity coffee cup. The fact that the machine weighs 44 pounds really isn’t a problem in space and the cup allows astronauts and space tourists to enjoy their drink pretty much as they would back on Earth.

So what’s holding me back now? Well … I’m still saving for that ticket and hoping that increased ridership will bring down the cost!

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