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When I was a little girl, Christmas was my favorite time of the year. I never really believed in Santa Claus, but I did believe in his magic. Who knew what wonderful treasure might appear under the Christmas Tree inside a sparkling wrapped parcel of paper? I mean, I knew what I put on my wish list, but how could I ever imagine that my uncles would get me all top ten 45rmp records from the Billboard List?

Then there was my Dad- his joy was to disguise our presents with funny shaped boxes or beans to make them rattle- hoping that my brotherand sisters and I would never guess what it was.  Even getting a pair of socks or underwear was exciting!

I feel that same eager expectation every time I walk in the library door.

 I know what books I are on my reading list and what music I like, but how could I imagine the dark-haired handsome man on a collection of CDs would turn out to be India’s King of Bollywood-Shah Rukh Khan?  

 Or that a shabby little grey paperback called Cover Her Face by P.D. James was disguised as the start  of my fascination with British mysteries?

Or that there was a graphic novel version of Crime and Punishment that was as stark, horrifying and redemptive as Dostoevsky?

I am a grown woman now but I still love Christmas and I still love that feeling of expectation when I walk through the library.  Who knows what hidden treasure is waiting there to be unwrapped and enjoyed?

 

 

The book Women in Clothes compiles 639 surveys of women. It’s a lofty goal that is wonderfully executed. 639 women weigh in on such topics as style or taste; when they feel most attractive, money, mothers, and many more topics. Interspersed are photos of collections of clothing, blotters, rings, socks, shoes, gum packages and 6 women wearing each other’s outfits-but wait there’s more!

I felt enlightened by the essay about when to wear a veil in Egypt. I felt bothered by how much one woman spent on clothes one month: 1858.07 dollars. Mostly, I was impressed by this interesting and wonderful book that has many details, opinions, and insight.  If you would like to get to know women or you are aching to hear more women’s voices: this is the book for you.

cover image of the life changing magic of tidying up
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up...this was the first book I finished reading in 2015. I am a very organized and tidy person by nature and so am not the intended reader, but just the same, I love reading about organizing and simplifying. Also while browsing the pages I saw the words: storage experts are hoarders and I knew that Marie Kondo and I would be fast friends.
 
The presentation is nice, small little hardback edition, nice to hold, sparks joy. This is the main theme of the book—you should only keep those things in your life that spark joy when you touch them, look at them, use them, think of them.  Wouldn't that be lovely to only have the things in your life that spark joy? She believes you can.
As a reader of these sorts of texts, I didn't come away with any new information, but if you like a good prompting to tidy, this is the one. 
 

WOWVolunteer Maureen Flynn

by Donna Childs

Most people have heard of Meals on Wheels, for whom volunteers deliver food to people who are homebound, but few know that Multnomah County Library has a program called Words on Wheels, through which volunteers deliver books, food for the mind and soul. One of those volunteers is Maureen Flynn, who brings library materials to two women who can’t get to a library.

Her “fantastic” women live in the same assisted living facility, but have different needs and ways of choosing books. One of them talks with Maureen about the kinds of books she likes—and those she does not—but seldom requests specific titles. Knowing her tastes, Maureen reads reviews and scans library shelves for titles she might like. The other woman does her own research and often gives Maureen lists of specific books she wants to read.  In both cases, Maureen talks with the women about the books and about their own interests and histories, and picks up and returns books to the Hollywood library for them.

Maureen goes to the assisted living facility almost weekly to be sure each woman has a good supply of books. She enjoys getting to know these women and has learned a lot from them.  In return, she is able to enhance their library experience, to pass on what she has learned about using the library.  

In addition to Words on Wheels, Maureen also volunteers at the Hollywood Library. She began four years ago, as an expired holds clerk, pulling and processing books people had requested, but did not ever pick up. She found it a great way to learn about good books and laughed that her pants pockets were usually full of scraps of paper with book titles. Now, she pulls holds on Mondays before the library opens, finding books, CDs and DVDs that patrons have requested. That way, she can search shelves without intruding on other patrons’ browsing.

An inveterate helper, Maureen also volunteers at her church, preferring behind the scenes tasks, such as sacristy and altar guild work.  Her helping has paid off in other ways: a former volunteer job at Providence Medical Center led her to a position there until she retired and began volunteering with the library.


A Few Facts About Maureen

Home library: Hollywood

Currently reading: Maya Lin’s "Boundaries"

Most influential book: Lately, it is "Mycelium Running" by Paul Stamets.

A book that made you laugh or cry: All the PG Wodehouse books

Favorite reading guilty pleasure: Murder mysteries

E-reader or paper? Paper, because it is tactile - it’s a life-long preference.

Favorite place to read: In summer, outside and in winter, indoors by a window

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

Zot book jacketI first discovered Scott McCloud via a friend's copy of his comic Zot!. McCloud is both writer and artist, and his style was simple yet full of detail. Zot! was a story of clashing alternate dimensions... the modern 80's of our world, and a sparkling, optimistic retro 'future' of 1965! Zot himself (Zachary Paleozogt) was a sixteen-year old hero (with rocket boots and ray gun) reminiscent of Flash Gordon. Enter Jenny Weaver, sensitive teen, and the reader's point of view character through the series. I loved the goofy stories that were unobtrusively filled with serious issues. The library has a Zot! collection available here.Understanding Comics book jacket

Some years later, I discovered that McCloud had been doing some deep thinking about what made comics work. What differentiates sequential art from a book, from a painting, from a movie? His thoughts appeared in Understanding Comics. As someone with a lifelong interest in comics, I avidly pored over this. Here we go backstage with a master who is able to explain... Why that angle? Why that viewpoint? Why this choice, not that?The Sculptor book jacket

I wondered idly what his work would be like after having written what amounted to (very cool) textbooks on the subject. Now I know. McCloud has just released The Sculptor. A young, struggling New York artist makes a deal with Death, offering up his life for 200 days of what amounts to an artistic 'superpower'. And then he falls in love. Now, with something to live for, he faces imminent mortality and the rollercoaster ride of new love. Combining tender and funny, fierce and serene, everyday with surreal, this is truly the work of a master of the graphic novel... and of storytelling.

Curious about censorship in Oregon?  Need to know what's been published in the local news?  The Intellectual Freedom Issues in Oregon: A News Database, may have what you need.  The database is the Oregon Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse's news clipping files, and is updated twice a year. The database includes news articles and editorials about intellectual freedom issues printed in Oregon newspapers over the past 65 years. The database can be searched by article title, newspaper name, date, city/location, name of challenged book or material, and organizations or individuals involved. After you have found what you want to read, contact the coordinator of the Oregon Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse, Katie Anderson, 503-378-2528 to request a complete text of the articles or editorials.  And if you have any trouble, don't forget to Ask a Librarian!

Big & Awesome Bridges of Portland and Vancouver book jacketBridges are one of the bonuses of living in Portland. Did you know there are 22 bridges over the Columbia and Willamette rivers in the Portland and Vancouver area? I love all of the different styles and types of bridges we have. Getting out of my car and seeing them from the river bank or a boat on the river adds to my enjoyment of them. The more I learn about our bridges the more interesting they become. It is easy to learn more about our bridges with Sharon Wood Wortman's great new book, Big & Awesome Bridges of Portland & Vancouver.

What makes this book special is that it is written for kids. It has lots of art and graphics as well as facts, bridge poems and interviews with bridge designers and workers. It includes the new Tilikum Crossing and Selwood bridges. Adults needn’t worry about this being a kids' book, there is plenty of information about the bridges. You also will learn about bridge building and design. There are even plans to build model bridges out of popsicle sticks that you can load test.

Sharon Wood Wortman also wrote The Portland Bridge Book. The first and second editions are illustrated with neat line drawings and the third edition, which came out in 2006, has photographs of the bridges. These books are also worth looking at, but they’re not as much fun as Big & Awesome Bridges. You can find out more about Portland’s bridges online at  Big & Awesome Bridges of Portland and Vancouver and at PDX Bridge Festival.

I recently got a Fitbit, a wonderful little device that tracks how much you walk, and I’ve become a little bit obsessed with seeing how many steps I can walk every single day. I’m not quite as obsessed as David Sedaris is about walking (or maybe it’s because I don’t have nine hours every day to devote to walking the way Sedaris says he does). I know that I’m somewhere on the obsessive-compulsive scale but I really do try not to let my slight ocd tendencies affect those around me (though my husband, when he’s washing the dishes as I’m hovering about in the kitchen cleaning up after him, might disagree with that last statement).

The Man Who Couldn't Stop bookjacketDavid Adam does suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder. For the past 20 years, he has had an irrational fear of contracting AIDS, and in an effort to understand this, he has written The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought. It’s my favorite kind of memoir - personal, poignant, heartbreaking stories of the author mixed with everything I’ve ever wanted to know about a bigger subject. This is an immensely down-to-earth, accessible book about a difficult subject. I came away with an understanding of the definition of OCD, the possible causes, the treatment of OCD and a huge amount of empathy for all those that lean towards obsessive- compulsive disorder.


 

RisePlanetofApesDVDImage
The original 1968 Planet of the Apes attempted (somewhat clunkily in retrospect) to speak to the politics of its time - particularly the ongoing civil rights struggles in the US.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes - not so much remake as re-imagined prequel - more cannily embodies and plays out a more viscerally destructive politics:  the refusal of cooperation - and even love - in a world structurally predicated on species difference and exploitation.  Ape leader Caesar's incremental "NOs" finalize in a rejection of the possibility of love between masters (humans) and captors (apes) but this series of refusals also begins to construct a revolutionary solidarity among the apes.  

Director Rupert Wyatt does a nice job of projecting the film's human personalities as monochromatic 'types' (including James Franco's protagonist - perhaps the most sympathetic of the humans, but also perhaps the most capable of betrayal), while drawing out layers of personality, depth and passion in the apes (who - apart from Caesar - hardly speak).  The film's final battle along the Golden Gate Bridge is cinematically stunning but also politically inspired as a representation of strategic resistance.  Rise's release coincided with the summer 2011 UK riots and Occupy's global eruption was just around the corner.  Rise is certainly special in that it reflected and challenged its historical moment - but it is Caesar's equation of "home" with permanent revolution that underscores the truly radical power of the film.





 
I am secure enough in my nerdiness to admit that I once owned a copy of that famous poster Fox Mulder had on the wall of his basement cubicle in the X-Files. The one with the spaceship and the words "I Want To Believe." (I also had Mulder and Scully action figures and a pet cockatiel who whistled the first measures of the show's theme song in an endless loop, but we don't need to go there.)
 
If you've never seen the show, all you need to know is that Mulder believes in aliens and Scully is Catholic. I gravitate to characters grappling with religion in any form because the complexity of human belief brings out the most compelling stories. (And if those stories involve government conspiracies and alien-human hybrids, all the better.) 
 
Religion can show us the very best and worst in human nature. It's sort of like a church basement potluck--the good and the terrible gathered together on one table, saints and serial killers ready to mingle like so much green jello salad and funeral potatoes.
 
A Song for Issy Bradley book jacketA Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray is the story of what is lost and found in the wake of the unexpected death of a child. When Claire loses her youngest child to a sudden illness, faith is also lost. The Bradley family revolves around their Mormon church membership but Issy's death cancels gravity. The orderly planetary orbits of each family member spin out of control in their own unique ways. Religion acts as both anchor and buoy as the family struggles with Claire's behavior in the midst of their own turbulent journeys. Can they catch her before the tide of her bottomless ocean of grief washes her permanently to sea?
 
What if you lived in seventh century Britain, caught between two belief systems? The power of the old gods is on the wane as the title character in Nicola Griffith's Hild manages to make her way as the seer of her uncle, Edwin of Northumbria, in a politicallHomeland dvd covery fractious time; Christianity is rising and war between small kingdoms is always on the horizon. The brutal and fascinating Anglo-Saxon world comes to life in this illuminating and painstakingly researched novel about the woman who eventually becomes St. Hilda of Whitby.
 
If you've not yet watched the television series Homeland, I will warn you now that it is addictive. It is a political thriller but what I found most fascinating in the first three seasons of the show is how the fate of one character and those around him is so directly tied to his religion--a faith missed by government surveillance and undetected by family and friends. It is faith that both saves and condemns, and faith that raises more questions than it answers.
 
The truth is out there.

The letter D in ornamental scripto you like beautiful scenery? Beer? Constant, simmering warfare? Then you need to visit Anglo-Saxon England!Cover of Hild by Nicola Griffith

I fell in love with this setting after reading Nicola Griffith’s recent novel, Hild. It follows the coming-of-age of a young girl named Hild, the seer to Edwin Overking, an Anglisc lord in the early 7th century. She is continually called upon to predict the future of her kingdom, with the constant threat of death should she ever guess wrong.

Hild is a beautifully written book, with characters that take up residence in your mind, but it was the setting that really blew me away. Anglo-Saxon England is a combination of cultures: there are the ruling Anglo-Saxons who began migrating from Germany and Denmark in the 4th centuries, but there are also the Irish, the Welsh, the Picts, and the Christian missionaries. There are ruins of the Roman civilization that had only recently spread across the island. The people speak multiple languages, and they worship multiple gods.

Of course I can’t actually visit England circa 1,400 years ago (although someday I would like to visit the land that it has become!) but there are plenty of books to take me there. Here are some of the best reads that I could find for booking a longship voyage back through time to the England of the Anglisc.

With spring just around the corner, my mind just naturally turns to two things -- birds and music!

Picture of Exotic birdsComposers have long been inspired by nature and probably nothing has provided more inspiration than the music of bird calls and songs. There are countless instances of the sounds of birds being imitated in music -- The forest bird in Wagner's Siegfried, The cry of the falcon in Richard Strauss' Die Frau ohne Schatten, or the cuckoo in Beethoven's sixth symphony, to name just a few. But what I'm talking about here are pieces that are completely about birds.

Like the birds that inspire the music, the pieces come in all shapes and sizes. They can be small, like El colibri (The hummingbird) -- written for solo guitar by the Argentine composer Julio Sagreras -- which runs just over a minute. They can be large like French composer Olivier Messiaen's Catalogue d'oiseaux -- a suite for piano which takes about 2 1/2 hours when played in its entirety. Or they can be moderate in size, like Italian composer Ottorino Respighi's The Birds (Gli uccelli) -- perhaps the most famous bird music of all time.

My personal favorite? It has to be Exotic Birds (Oiseaux exotiques) -- again by the bird-obsessed Olivier Messiaen. Written for chamber orchestra and running about 15 minutes in length, it's noisy, colorful, and chaotic -- pretty much what you might expect from a large gathering of winged creatures! You can get a good taste by watching the sampling in the video below.

And for recordings available from the library, check these out!

support groupsAs some smart person once observed, looking for work is work, darn hard work.  And the pay stinks.  It's a process full of frustration and disappointment, which makes keeping the focus and motivation necessary for a good outcome difficult.  But you don't have to go it alone.  The Portland/Multnomah County area is full of people in the same boat as you, willing and able to offer their comradery, support and advice to help you through these trying times.  I recently sat in on one such group, the Job Finders Support Group, which meets at the Capitol Hill branch, noon to 3pm every Friday.  I was greeted warmly by a bunch of very together people who were happy to share their experiences with job applications, networking events, social media, the latest job search-related apps, company research, interview strategies - in short, they were on top of all different aspects of the job search game and very encouraging and supportive of each other.  It is facilitated by local author Cleon Cox and he lists many other local support groups and other job seeking resources on his website.  Another source of support in the east county area is the Job Seekers Support Group which meets at Gresham Library at 1:30pm on Tuesdays. Finally, an option in your job search arsonal is the job fair, where employers vie for the attention of prospective employees like you - the State of Oregon website lists job fairs and events in the area

Need help finding more job resources? Let us help!

Call out to all you Conspiracy Theorists (yes, all y'all on the down low too). Here's a great follow-up to Santa Olivia by Jacquelyn Carey.

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!

Imagine a world where a spell of forgetfulness sits like a fog over everything, rendering the past incomprehensible; where an ancient knight in rusted armour swears to defeat a dragon; where two people set out on a quest through a country divided by clan loyalties and war.

The surprise is that I am not talking about George R.R. Martin or Tolkien, but Kazuo Ishiguro, the author of The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go.

Ishiguro sets The Buried Giant in an age of decline. The idealistic reign of King Arthur is a distant memory and chivalry is, if not dead, then mostly gone. An elderly couple makes their way across a ravaged landscape on a quest to reclaim something important but long forgotten. Though Axl and Beatrice are old, they are naive, having subsisted in a hovel in the ground with their fellow villagers for as far back as they can remember, which is not very far. Their journey is one of children in a strange world, wide-eyed at the ways of outsiders. As they travel, bits and pieces of their past lives come back to them. These memories fortify them sometimes, and burden them at others.

Ishiguro has crafted an odd and beautiful combination of adventure and psychological drama. It's also a study of love, forgetfulness and forgiveness, companionship and death. It's Joseph Campbell's the hero's journey redone in a totally unexpected way. This book will very likely find its way to my top picks for 2015.

 tips

The Oregon Department of Justice Financial Fraud/Consumer Protection Section offers these  top ten consumer tips to protect yourself and your family:

1. Become educated. Informed consumers are smart consumers. Visit oregonconsumer.gov to learn more about consumer protection in general, and visit onguardonline.gov to learn how to be safe, secure and responsible online.

2. Join the Scam Alert Network. Sign up online at oregonconsumer.gov to be notified of new scams, fraud and other consumer threats.

3. Reduce junk mail. Call 1-888- 567-8688 or register online at optoutprescreen.com to reduce offers of credit and insurance. You can also opt out of receiving unsolicited mail from many other companies by registering with the Mail Preference Service online at dmachoice.org and paying $1.

4. Check out the business before you buy. Call the Oregon Department of Justice at 1-877-877-9392 or search Be InfORmed, an online database at oregonconsumer.gov, to research complaints and resolutions. You should also confirm the business’s physical address and phone number in case you have questions or problems.

5. Reduce telemarketing calls. The National Do Not Call Registry allows you to block most telemarketers, who should not call your number once it has been on the registry for 31 days. If they do, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Register online at donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222 from the number you want to register.

6. Understand that wiring money is like sending cash. Con artists often insist that people wire money, especially overseas, because it’s nearly impossible to reverse the transaction or trace the money. Do not wire money to:

• Someone who claims he or she wants to hire you.

• Sellers who insist on wire transfers for payment.

• Someone who claims to be a relative or friend in trouble and wants to keep it a secret from the family.

7. Order your free annual credit report. Visit annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228 to order a free credit report and review it for errors.

8. Read the fine print. Read contracts in full and make sure you understand the terms before you sign. Be suspicious of promises made by salespersons that differ from the written terms and make sure you get a copy of the signed contract for your files.

9. Sleep on it. Sales pitches that offer discounts if you “sign now” are often scams. Legitimate businesses will usually give you the same deal later.

10. Report fraud. If you think you have been a victim of fraud, call the Oregon Department of Justice at 1-877-877-9392 and request a complaint form be mailed to you or visit tinyurl.com/ORcomplaintform to file a complaint online.

Stay informed and stay safe--and share these tips with family, neighbors, and friends across the state to help them become smarter consumers as well.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Contributed by Jenny W. with the help of the Oregon Department of Justice.

Click here for "Don't be a victim--prevent financial fraud! (Part 1)

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum says, “Every year, thieves and con artists cheat thousands of Oregonians out of their hard-earned money and valuable personal information. I need your help to stop the fraud before it starts and alert others so they can avoid becoming victims.”

Fortunately, the Oregon Department of Justice can help us become savvy consumers. Check the website at www.oregonconsumer.gov, or call the Consumer Hotline 1-877-9392, or e-mail help@oregonconsumer.gov.

You can:

  • Learn how to protect yourself from scams and fraud.

  • Request written materials be mailed to you.

  • Ask a question about a business or learn how to file a complaint against one.

  • Sign up for the Scam Alert Network

  • Search BeInfORmed, a database of consumer complaints.

  • Ask questions about:

    • automobile sales

    • credit/debt

    • home repair

    • retail sales

    • services

    • internet sales

    • fraud

    • real estate

    • telemarketing

    • home solicitations

Stay informed and stay safe--and share these tips with family, neighbors, and friends across the state to help them become smarter consumers as well.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Contributed by Jenny W. with the help of the Oregon Department of Justice.

Click here for "Don't be a victim--prevent financial fraud! (Part 2)

Black History Month: More Than Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. This marks the end of our month long journey of learning and exploration. We hope you enjoyed and learned facts about Black History Month that you didn't previously know. Thank you for joining us!

Aasha Benton

February 28, 2015

Painting by Aasha Benton

Aasha's story goes a bit like this. She graduates from college in 2012 and moves back to her hometown right here in Portland, Oregon. She discovers a love for art. So, she begins to paint. Taking inspiration from various periods in Black history and soul music, she creates incredible, yet simple, works. Her paintings are fun, colorful, serious and obtainable. Best of all? You can check them out here!

Further Exploration: http://artbyaasha.tumblr.com/

Available at Multnomah County Library: http://multcolib.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1299586068

 

 

Do you stay up at night wondering how much longer the North Korean government can survive or how much their average citizen knows about the world beyond their borders? I do.

It’s not that it's unusual for my reading habits to snowball into mini research projects. The perfect puff pastry, Mormon fundamentalism, abstract expressionists- they’ve all occupied months of my life. But who would want to read deeply about a loathsome totalitarian state with an abhorrent human rights record and a comically absurd dynasty of dictators?  Well I would for one and certainly I'm not alone. Whether you're interested in global issues, survivor stories or political satire that crosses over into reality, when it comes to North Korea, there are countless avenues to explore.

If like me, you're curious to understand what life is like in one of the world's most closed off countries, start with Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick.  Her book follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years, providing an extraordinarily comprehensive view of the country and a great meshing of politics and history with moving personal stories.  It also happens to come highly recommended by David Sedaris.

Looking for a little more insight into the Kim family regime? Check out A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress and A Young Dictator’s Rise to Power. It's a first book by film producer Paul Fischer and among the most suspenseful true life thrillers I’ve ever read.  Long as it is, the title only begins to suggest the unbelievable journey this surreal story takes you on. 

Curious to know more? Check out this list for more recommended books and documentaries to further your understanding of North Korea.

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