I like towers, roofs and cliffs - anywhere where I can get a birds-eye view. One of the most memorable views I have had is from the top of the dome on Florence’s Duomo, or more properly, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. This dome is there because of one man, Filippo Brunelleschi.
Having an impressive cathedral was one way that Florence wanted to show its importance and power. In 1296 they started on a new cathedral that was going to have the largest dome in the world. In 1418 the cathedral was finished except for the dome. The problem was no one knew how to build it. With a diameter of 143 feet it was too large for conventional building techniques. A competition was announced to find a design that would work. Fillippo Brunelleschi was one finalist and Lorenzo Ghiberti was the other. Ghiberti had beaten Brunelleschi years before in the competition to design the Cathedral’s Baptistery doors. Since then they were fierce rivals. The difference was that Ghiberti now had a solid reputation and Brunelleschi didn’t. Brunelleschi’s design was for a dome that would be self supporting while it was being built, but he would not divulge the details since he did not trust others not to steal his ideas. In the end Brunelleschi’s design was chosen, but since this was his first big project, the more experienced Ghiberti was assigned as his partner on the project. This greatly frustrated Brunelleschi who saw this as a lack of faith in his abilities and because it was his design, he was doing most of the work directing the construction of the dome. He finally got rid of Ghiberti by falling ill at a critical step in the building and while Brunelleschi was home sick everyone realized that Ghiberti had no idea how to build the dome.
The Duomo’s dome is still the largest in the world and you can read the whole fascinating story of the dome’s design and construction in Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King.
There is also an excellent children’s picture book Pippo the Fool by Tracey Fern that tells the story of Pippo Brunelleschi and his dome.
When you get to Florence, don’t forget to climb the dome.
I had just checked out Family Life by Akhil Sharma and thought I’d read a few pages over coffee before moving on to baking my pumpkin pie. A few pages in, I knew I had to see it through to the end.
Family Life is the story of the Mishras, who arrive from Delhi to settle in Queens in pursuit of a better life for their sons Ajay and Birju. Birju has just been accepted into the prestigious Bronx High School of Science when tragedy strikes, leaving Birju brain damaged. The focus of Family Life quickly shifts from achieving success in a foreign culture, to simply caring for Birju. Sharma’s novel is a story of being an outsider, but it’s also an extraordinarily perceptive story of being a family.
Family life is an excruciatingly honest book. It’s insightful, funny and messy. It’s tragic and hard to pull away from. It’s a lot like family.
This month Governor Kitzhaber proclaimed December 1, 2014 Rosa Parks Day in Oregon and encourages “all Oregonians to join in this observance.”
Why December 1st? On December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks was arrested for civil disobedience. Contrary to popular lore Parks was not an elderly woman that just happened to be in the right place at the right moment in history. Rosa Parks was a dedicated activist and served as secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus as the driver demanded, and city law required, her refusal sparked a bus boycott that captured the attention of the world and breathed new life into the Civil Rights Movement.
To learn more, take a look at a timeline of the events that followed in the wake of her arrest. Often called the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” read about the event in her words. The National Archives has more primary source data on it's website as well, including the police report and Rosa Parks’ fingerprint cards.
The History Channel also has video about Rosa Parks with information you might not already know.
Need more information? Check out the books below or ask a librarian.
Over thirty men and a woman and baby had to be fed on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Meriwether Lewis extensively planned what he would purchase in advance to supplement the meat they could hunt along the way. The food they packed onto the boats weighed thousands of pounds including the lifesaving portable soup.
If there was game to be hunted and killed, the Corps could eat a whole buffalo, an elk and a deer, or four deer in one day. Each person consumed between eight and nine pounds of meat per day! Meat was their main food source whenever available.
They also fished and caught salmon, trout, catfish and eulachon (smelt) which Lewis considered to be delicious. Another treat enjoyed by the Corps was beaver tail. Sometimes it was necessary to eat dogs and horses—in order to stay alive. Sacajawea was extremely helpful in identifying edible plants for the Corps.
There are plenty of recipes described in Expedition journals.Want to try your hand at paleocuisineology®? Check out these instructions for making pemmican or apple pudding.
I just finished Lila, Marilynne Robinson's third book set in the fictional midwestern town of Gilead. Gilead is the first, and is told from the point of view of John Ames, a Congregationalist pastor who is at the end of his life. To John, Lila is his much younger wife, a blessing, remarkable for her energy and her steadfast love.
The new book is told from Lila's point of view and takes place about eight years earlier. It was startling to see her show up in Gilead for the first time with nothing but a knife and emotional baggage from her dark and lonesome past. John Ames is one of my favorite characters ever. He's not perfect, but he's kind, patient and extraordinarily open to the universe. I was worried as I read this new book that Lila wouldn’t be able to love Ames the way I wanted her to. I read on, watching these two solitary people start to connect in spite of all the things that should keep them apart, differences in age, social standing and faith.
Robinson uses simple, specific language that is also quite sensual. Early in this book, there's a beautiful description of Lila washing her clothes in the river. Reading, I could smell the river and the soap, and I watched the clothes lose their shape in the water-- and in her words, it’s so vivid. Like Terrence Malick’s movies, like great music, like much of the best art, I find that reading Robinson’s writing makes me feel more awake in my own life. I have a feeling there’s going to be at least one more book by Robinson set in Gilead, and I will go back there with her gratefully.
Romeo the wolf loved to play with dogs. When he first appeared at Juneau’s Mendenhall Glacier Park, he reacted to dogs in a play bow--front paws flat on the ground, rear end up, and a mischievous tilt of the head. Romeo was an Alexander Archipelago wolf, a rare subspecies of the gray wolf. As Romeo gained doggy and human followers/friends, some people thought humans should be protected from Romeo, or vice versa, Romeo should be protected from humans. Writer and wildlife photographer Nick Jans recently wrote a moving yet scientific account of Romeo's interactions, and photographer John Hyde also published a stunning photo history. Both men and their dogs got to know Romeo intimately. Still, the question remains: Why did a wolf seek out dogs for play?
Sunny, a rescue dog of mysterious origins, appears in our My Librarian photo. The latest scientific thinking suggests that Sunny’s ancestors broke off from the gray wolf line of the Canidae family, with gray wolves and dogs diverging perhaps 300,000 years ago. The similarities and differences between the two animals is a rich subject. Nick Jans points out that while dogs and wolves at first glance look similar, the wolf has a straighter back and a stouter muzzle. Yet Sunny still howls at ambulances and odd cell phone ring tones, and would give anything to gulp down a raw, whole salmon.
To really understand what we know about what makes dogs, and sometimes wolves, tick, try some of Sunny's suggestions! She's got a non-fiction list written for the adult audience and some great novels and fun books about working dogs for elementary aged kids--although I would recommend both lists for everyone.
Or, how a holiday celebrating friends and family became an exercise in crass commercialism.
The confluence of Thanksgiving Day and the beginning of the holiday shopping season is pretty much a second-half-of-the-20th-century phenomenon, spurred by the burgeoning consumer economy that took off following the end of World War II. The Friday after Thanksgiving became “Black Friday” originally in 1961, coined by some disgruntled Philadelphia police officers who grew to hate the downtown traffic jams created by shoppers. It was only in the 1980s that the term took on a economic meaning: Success on this day sends retail businesses into the “black.” Big box retailers attract shoppers with deep discounts on popular gift items, discounts only available on Black Friday.
In this century, Black Friday just keeps creeping forward: 6 am on Friday morning, midnight on Friday morning, 8 pm on Thursday night, 5 pm on Thursday, to the absolute nadir (in this writer’s opinion) of 6 am on Thanksgiving morning. Kmart owns this dubious honor for 2013 and is repeating it this year. Of course, there’s a name for this: Brown Thursday or Gray Thursday.
Small Business Saturday
Using an if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em philosophy, smaller retailers gave into the Black Friday juggernaut in 2010, redirecting shoppers away from the big box stores by creating their own shopping “event,” Small Business Saturday. Sure, this event says, you’ll probably want to take advantage of those big sales at the big boxes, but -- while you’re still in the shopping zone -- wouldn’t you like to support a local business too? And many of these retailers (not all of them small businesses) can’t resist a poke at those open on Thanksgiving Day: We pride ourselves on letting our employees enjoy a day off with their families.
Portland, being Portland, has created its own version of Small Business Saturday: Little Boxes. Shoppers are gently encouraged to “welcome in the holiday season by discovering the quality and variety of Portland’s indie and local retail shopping scene.” Only in Portland do we have an “indie” shopping scene. Still, there are prizes.
Buy Nothing Day
A countermovement to Black Friday’s unfettered consumerism sprung up in the 1990s with Buy Nothing Day, created in Canada and spreading to the United States and elsewhere in the West over the past 20 years. Its founders encourage waggish bits of civil disobedience such as “whirl-mart” -- a conga line of empty shopping carts making its way through a mall or big box store (see video) -- and the “zombie walk” -- staggering through retail establishments with a blank stare.
For those of you who prefer to spend that Friday enjoying a roast turkey sandwich, some leftover pumpkin pie and a good book, here’s a reading list about shopping (or not) in America. And never fear, the library will be open!
Whether you are excited about having fresh eggs and milk and honey, or looking for a new pet that will also mow your lawn, backyard animals can be a wonderful addition to your home.
It can be tricky to figure out what is allowed in your neighborhood: How many ducks are too many? Can I have a pygmy goat and a peacock? Do my neighbors need to know about my hive? Is that a llama peering over my fence?
If you live in the city of Portland, the rules and regulations for keeping animals are enforced by Multnomah County Vector Control. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability maintains a site that lets you know which animals you can keep, when you need to apply for a permit, and what the requirements are to keep various animals. If you have questions, you can contact Vector Control at 503-988-3464.
Live in Fairview or Troutdale? Both Fairview and Troutdale enforce Multnomah County's Animal Codes; if you have questions, you can contact the Fairview Department of Planning Services at 503-674-6206 or the Troutdale Planning Division at 503-674-7228.
For Maywood Park, call 503-255-9805 or email email@example.com.
The rules for unincorporated Multnomah County are enforced by Multnomah County Vector Control. They can be contacted at 503-988-3464.
Once you know the rules and you’re ready to start planning, the library has a lot of resources available for you! Below is a list of books that can help you prepare for your new additions. You can also search the catalog for “domestic animals,” “urban agriculture,” “bee culture,” or the particular animal you are considering. And you can always contact us for help; librarians are standing by!
P.S. If your chickens seem destined for more than just pecking and laying, perhaps it’s time they learn more advanced skills.
After years of consuming cartoon images of the Wild West inhabitated by larger-than-life characters like Wyatt Earp, Ike Clanton and Doc Holladay, it's quite a feat to reverse the trend and present them as real people. That's exactly what Mary Doria Russell does in Doc, and her latest, Epitaph: A novel of the OK Corral. Russell is always meticulous in her research, and she tells much of the story from the perspective of women, and in particular Josephine Sarah Marcus, the common-law wife of Wyatt Earp.
What I love about a well-researched historical novel is how it piques my curiosity. With Epitaph, I was intrigued to learn more about Jospehine and how she carefully controlled the public perception of Wyatt Earp and what occurred during those 30 seconds, yes! ... 30 seconds! ... that would fuel the public imagination and affect perceptions about the 'wild west' that are still curled up like a sleeping rattlesnake in the shade of the American psyche.
And yes, it's true that I've just told you about a book that won't be out until March, 2015. But that gives you time to read Doc, Mary Doria Russell's intricate and beautifully crafted portrait of Doc Holladay. Then follow your curiosity where ever it leads in anticipation of Epitaph.
Artist, author, educator & performer, Turiya Autry has been bringing a bold strong voice to encourage social change across the nation for years. Whether directing youth programs, teaching, rocking the mic or working behind the scenes, Turiya encourages people to look more critically and lovingly upon the world around them. Her recently released collection of poetry, Roots, Reality & Rhyme, is a poetic journey that bridges the personal and political, the mythic and the real. Since childhood, reading remains one of Turiya’s favorite pastimes. “Books are the one thing I never get enough of in life! I’m glad that as an adult, I can stay up as late as I want reading without having to sneak a flashlight in my room, like I did when I was little.” Curious about poetry slam and the process of creating poetry? Join Turiya for an upcoming series of programs at the library.
Reading offered me a consistent escape hatch from the world. You mean to tell me, I can walk through a closet and end up in another place, where weeks only equal minutes passed and animals talk?! There’s such a thing as a tesseract? Literature helped me imagine endless wonders: other lands, realities and possibilities. Books also provided me with new perspectives, analysis and awareness on issues that mattered most to me. Narrowing it down to just a few wasn’t easy, but the ones I’ve selected are books that I’ve read multiple times and never seemed to grow tired of, whether in my youth, or present day.
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle, was one of the first fantasy/ sci-fi novels that I read. After racing through that story, I got my hands on everything else she wrote. The other novel I fell in love with early was Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell. I remember crying at one part every single time! The story is based on a true tale of a young girl being left behind on an island, when the rest of her people leave on ships with foreigners. Resilience and independence are fierce in this tale.
Hands down, the most influential book of poetry for me was Ntozake Shange’s, For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. The choreo-poem follows the varied tales of multiple women, represented by colors of the rainbow: from devastating tales of interpersonal violence to glorious declarations of love, accomplishment and fierceness in the face of it all. Her freedom from punctuation and capitalization had a strong impact on me as well. My choice to include very minimal punctuation and to use all lower case, in my book of poetry Roots, Reality & Rhyme, was definitely a homage to her influence.
Novels are my favorite way to spend time reading. Two of my all-time favorites are: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison and White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty. Both feature characters struggling to understand and grapple with their roots. Both stories also dig deep into a wide array of social dynamics: greed and capitalism, the power in a name and knowing one’s ancestors, relationships and the wide reaching effects of oppression on individuals and communities. The ensemble cast of vivid characters in both are powerfully written and fascinating to follow. Paul Beatty writes with a brilliant sarcasm and insight that holds no punches. Morrison’s style as an author is haunting and mesmerizing.
On the non-fiction front, I think everyone should read Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur and Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider. These two gems speak to the intersectionality of identity regarding gender, race, sexuality and class in very distinct ways. Regardless of how readers identify themselves, the writing of Assata Shakur and Audre Lourde challenges misconceptions of Black women and history by giving voice to our multi-dimensional reality. Through story, essays and poetry, they both share critical insights, history, struggles, joys and pains. Their writing asks the reader to carve out a space in their minds and hearts to value and empathize with the experiences and intellect of Black women.
My Librarian and our featured guest readers are made possible by a grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to The Library Foundation, a local non-profit dedicated to our library's leadership, innovation, and reach through private support.
You need a photo or an image for a project you’re working on. You need it fast. You don’t want to pay anything to anybody, or get sued for copyright violation. Luckily, there are a lot of sources on the Web for finding royalty-free images! (Royalty-free = you don’t have to pay any money to use it.) Here is a list of some of the best websites for finding these types of photos and images. Is there a website that you like to use? Add a comment and let us all know!
The creators of many of the images on these websites are giving up some of their copyright protection and allowing you to use their photos and artwork. However, they may have usage rules that they require you to follow: for example, they might ask you to attribute the creator of the image if you use it. (Attribution = including information, on your website or wherever you use the image, saying who made the image and where you found it.) Before you copy or use any image, it’s a good idea to look at the webpage for the image and check for usage or licensing rules. I’ve included links to the general usage rules for many of the websites in this list. Quick disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide advice regarding your legal rights. However, I can help find material that might assist you in your research, or help you learn how to contact a lawyer. Questions? Please ask!
Creative Commons Search - http://search.creativecommons.org: Creative Commons is an organization that creates standards for sharing content on the Web (photos, videos, writing, anything!) This webpage has buttons to search many different websites for images and other content that are free to use based on Creative Commons standards - choose a website and then type in your search. Searchable websites from this page include Flickr, Google Images, Wikimedia Commons, and more. Usage information is included on the bottom of the page, below the buttons for the different sites.
U.S. Government Images search - https://search.usa.gov/search/images?affiliate=usagov&query=: The USA.gov search engine lets you look for photos and images from the federal government. You can find photos of just about anything, from satellites to Socks the cat, with little or no usage restrictions. Most of the results take you to images located on the Flickr website: before you use the image for your own project, make sure to look for usage information on the image's Flickr page.
The Commons - http://www.flickr.com/commons: The Commons is a section of the photo-sharing website Flickr which provides access to images from public photography archives at museums and libraries around the world. It’s a great place to find historic photos, and everyone (including you!) is encouraged to add comments and tags to the images. The photos on this site have “no known copyright.”
Encyclopedia of Life - http://www.eol.org: this website’s mission is to “increase awareness and understanding of living nature,” and it includes information and images on all kinds of living creatures, from moths to amoebas to mollusks to monkeys. It includes many images, most of which are free to use as long as you attribute the source. Here is a usage statement for the site.
Morgue File - http://www.morguefile.com: a morgue file is “a place to keep post production materials for use of reference.” In other words, it is a place to store things. In this particular online morgue file, you can find many high resolution stock photos. Here is a usage statement for the site.
Openclipart - http://openclipart.org/: Unlike many websites which offer photos to use, this site has royalty-free clip art (clip art = little images and drawings ready to use in electronic documents). You can even register and submit your own clip-art for other people to use! Here is a usage policy for the site.
Are websites not your thing? Do you prefer books? Well, the library still has plenty of those. We have many books of illustrations and prints on all sorts of topics, most of them royalty-free. To find them, just do a subject search in the library catalog for “clip art.” You’ll find books with images of Victorian women’s fashion, birds, children’s book illustrations, fairies, and much more, many of them including CD-ROMs with computer files of all the images in the book. At the end of this blog post is a book list showing examples of the types of clip art books that the library owns.
If you still have trouble finding the images that you want, or if you have more questions about any of this, you know what to do: Ask a Librarian! We’ll be happy to talk more about it.
Images included in this post:
- Photo of a camera, by Rodrigo Senna from Brasília, DF, Brasil (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Photography.jpg
- Creative Commons logo, http://creativecommons.org/
- 19th century painting of an American schooner, courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/collection-search-result.html?accession=1991.144.1&pageNumber=1
- Children reading a wireless newspaper, http://www.flickr.com/photos/nationaalarchief/4193509648/
- Photo of a flower, http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/196907
- Scissors illustration, http://openclipart.org/detail/25380/scissors-half-open-icon-by-pitr-25380
The gift-giving season is a dilemma for many of us. We want to give meaningful gifts that result in exclamations of pleasure when they're opened, but that perfect gift can be elusive.
We're here to help: How about a book? As Neil Gaiman says, “Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. And it's much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world!” Yeah, what he said.
Still not sure what book to buy? We've got you covered with our attached gift guide for adults. You'll find suggestions for music fans, fashion aficionados, literature lovers, science geeks and more. Buying for kids and teens? We've got gift guides for them as well. If nothing here looks quite right, check out the My Librarian service -- just describe your loved one's tastes to get a personalized recommendation.
And remember, above all, books are easy to wrap.
Marriage is a journey; the best of them take a committed couple up to beautiful views and delightful romps at the sea. But sometimes planes are delayed and the food sucks and one person just wants to go back home. David Nicholls in his new book, Us, takes the reader on quite a ride in this marriage travelogue. Douglas Petersen, his wife, Connie, and their 17-year-old son, Albie, are about to embark on a month-long tour of European capitals. What could possibly go wrong? Well there's this, Connie has just woken her husband up to tell him she thinks their marriage “has run its course” and is thinking about leaving but no, let’s still go on this long trip to Europe together.
Nicholls takes us into a marriage - the beginnings, the middle, the roller coaster ride of it all. He makes it way more funny than our own marriages are. And he shows us the truth and the heartbreak and the hope we must hold on to in our families. It's totally worth taking a trip to Europe with the Petersen family on the pages of Us.
I know, right? Around this time of year there's a regular deluge, a barrage, a spate, a torrent even, of lists of best books. Everyone from The New York Times to the neighborhood newsletter will give you their top reading picks. But hey, the more the merrier. And after all, a big part of our business is books. Through the bookdrop, on the shelves, on display, not to mention the tips we get from our colleagues and you, dear patrons: we're positively marinating in book culture. All this is to say - hey, take a look at these superlative lists of the best books of 2014, from people in the know: Multnomah County Library staff. We love readers!
Have you ever wished you could spend a little bit of time working as a scientist? I have good news: you can do it, without having to quit anything you already do in your daily life, and without having to get an advanced degree. Scientists all over the world are enlisting regular folks to help them with big projects -- this kind of scientist-support volunteering is called citizen science.
There are so many different citizen science projects, there’s sure to be one that suits you! No matter your age, your occupation or vocation, or your level of education, there is a citizen science project you can help with. Here are a few of my favorites:
The annual Christmas Bird Count. Join a group of Portlanders to participate in the local arm of a nationwide bird census. This year, local bird-counters will be attempting to count every single bird within a 15-mile radius around Portland, on January 3, 2015.
Great Backyard Bird Count. Did you miss the Christmas Bird Count? Spend a little time in your backyard (or anywhere), and count the number and type of birds you see. This year’s count takes place February 13-16, 2015.
Portland Urban Coyote Project. When you see a coyote, report it to help scientists at the Portland Audubon Society and the Geography Department at Portland State University who are studying how coyotes have adapted to urban environments.
Project Budburst. Observe and record when plants produce leaves, buds, flowers, and fruit, to help the National Ecological Observatory Network understand more about how plants respond to climate changes.
WHALEfm. Look at spectrograms of whale songs, and match them with similar songs.
National Map Corps. Edit information about buildings and other data features for the United States Geological Survey’s National Map -- all in the form of “challenges” in which editors are asked to map, edit, and peer-review new additions to the map.
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network. Measure and map rain, snow and other precipitation, together with volunteers across the U.S. and Canada.
Do you want to see even more citizen science projects you might help out with? Take a peek at Smithsonian magazine’s huge directory of citizen science projects, NASA’s list of space-related citizen science projects, or the list of citizen science opportunities that center on the Oregon Coast and beyond from OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center.
Remember, you can talk to a librarian about your science questions (or any questions!) whenever you’re at the library in person -- just ask the librarian on duty. Or, call or email a librarian to get personalized help with via email, text, phone or chat.
Michael White: Renaissance Man
When bibliophiles crave a story, a library visit often meets that need. What Gresham book-lovers may not know is that some of the best stories at their local library are not contained in a book, but in the experiences of the computer lab volunteer, Michael White.
Michael's path to library volunteering doesn't hew to traditional tales of late-night novel reading or a passion for the library. Raised in Oregon farm country, Michael showed an early gusto for learning. He demonstrated drawing talent before he could talk and was fascinated by computer programming in high school. However, he suspended his education to join the army at 18, followed by the Oregon National Guard. After 25 years away from the Portland area Michael returned but faced homelessness, an experience not uncommon for veterans. (According to the 2013 United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, veterans comprise 11% of the Multnomah County homeless population.) “When I was homeless I used the Gresham Library wi-fi. One day I overheard that the computer lab wasn't available because there was no volunteer. My ears perked up and I said, ‘Well, I can be the volunteer in the computer lab.’”
Michael initially signed up for weekly two-hour shifts teaching everything from basic computer skills to building resumes. Described by Gresham Library staff as a “computer genius,” Michael developed a following among patrons. “You could say I got a bunch of customers,” he laughs. A recent high point was discovering that a woman he’d helped in her job search for six months had found employment.
Michael works two jobs while studying for a bachelor's degree in software development through University of Phoenix. He left his volunteer position in October after 210 hours of service. His next adventure leads him back to the library in a different capacity as he plans to read a “marathon” through each of the 120,000 books in the Gresham branch. Michael struck me as a renaissance man - in fact, he is also building his own video game, one he hopes will “bring soul back” to the experience. With his broad interests and skills he is sure to succeed.
A Few Facts About Michael
Home library: Gresham Library
Currently reading: An R.A. Salvatore series; also waiting on the next Game of Thrones installment
Most influential book: George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series. "[Martin] doesn’t focus on how awesome his characters are, he concentrates on their weaknesses and humanity, which makes them more believable.”
Favorite book from childhood: The Horseclans series by Robert Adams
Favorite section of the library: I’d head to the sci-fi or computer development section.
Favorite place to read: It depends upon what I'm reading. If I'm reading a novel for entertainment, I either lay on the couch or bed. If it's a software manual, I'm usually sitting at my desk with the book propped up…
Favorite video game: Baldur’s Gate or Ultima Online
Our guest blogger is Memo. Memo works at the Central Library. Besides reading history and literature about Latinos, workers, and immigrants, he enjoys re-reading the great literary works of nineteenth and twentieth-century realist writers.
It has been years since I last worked as a day worker. I was never a fan of day labor. I hated the idea, in part, because of the work itself. Day work was temporary, backbreaking, low-wage, and dead-end. But what I found most distasteful was the poor treatment I sometimes received.
Weeks after I read Dagoberto Gilb’s short story, “Cheap,” I found myself reflecting about my time as a day worker in California and Texas. Unable to answer questions that kept bringing me back to the time when I labored at the lower end of the service sector job market, I decided that it was time to check out Before the End, After the Beginning again, and re-read “Cheap.” I asked myself, 'What is it that brought me back to Gilb’s fictional world of immigrant day workers?' as I prepared to re-visit the short story, and continued to ask myself that question over and over as a re-read “Cheap.”
In one word: consciousness.
Carlos and Uriel—father and son characters employed by Luke’s Construction, the company the narrator uses to paint inside the house—are aware of who they are as workers hired for the day. They know that they don’t have much say in the hours they toil and in the wages Luke pays them. They don’t even express disaffection when Luke denies them their entitled noontime lunch hour. Instead, Carlos and Uriel stay silent while he tells them what they need to do for the day. They remain quiet, because they know that it is hopeless to protest. But once Luke departs to check another worksite, they consciously take control of the workday to regain their dignity.
I wasn’t happy or sad after I finished re-reading “Cheap,” even though some of the passages reminded me of my time as a day worker. At the same time, I felt sympathy and respect for Carlos and Uriel because of their tenacity. While both characters understood the limitations of day labor, their drive to finish the job in spite of the way Luke treated them said more about them than the job itself.
In the traditional sort of fantasy novel, the reader is shown a world where magic and blades rule the day. Science and technology are not a major part of the world. But as in the fairy tales and mythology from which fantasy borrows with heavy hand, as technology is discovered, magic and magical creatures are usually driven to the verge. (Although according to the urban fantasy subgenre, by the time the modern day rolls around magic has adapted just fine!). I just finished The Oversight by Charlie Fletcher which is an excellent example of this type of fantasy with an early modern time setting.
Once upon a time, The Oversight numbered in the hundreds and guarded the world from magic - the sort of magic that leaves the survivors wailing bewildered over their dead. Now there are only five left to guard against the dark things better unseen. A girl is brought to them by a disreputable sort who wants to sell her. Prone to screaming fits, she is thought mad but she also might be the start of rebuilding the Oversight. Or perhaps not. This is a very fast-paced tale and obviously the start of a trilogy at a minimum. The world shown is gritty and grim. You can all but smell the stink of the gutters in the city and see the wild spaces in the countryside shrink as they are fettered by iron rails and canals that also bind the fey things and drive them to madness. I couldn't put this book down and set aside everything else I had started to finish it. I'm going to snatch up book two the moment it's available.
P.S. Rachel really called it on Ancillary Justice being a wonderful novel in her earlier blog entry. I liked book two even better!