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Flash Gordon movie posterYou know that one movie. Maybe you’ve loved this movie since you were a kid, so your love for the movie is based in part on a sense of nostalgia as well as the movie’s inherent awesomeness. That movie that you’ve seen dozens of times because anytime a friend says they haven’t seen it, you insist that they watch it with you.
 
For me that movie is the 1980 cult classic Flash Gordon. And yes, if you haven’t yet experienced the splendor that is Flash Gordon, I recommend that you make it your #1 movie watching priority. Based on the comic strip of the same name, Flash Gordon is over-the-top campy science fiction at its finest.
 
The movie opens with football star “Flash” Gordon and travel journalist Dale Arden boarding a small plane. During the flight red clouds suddenly block out the sun, and the pilots disappear. Of course this is all the work of Emperor Ming the Merciless who has declared that he will have a little fun with planet Earth before he destroys it. Flash and Dale crash land the plane into mad scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov’s greenhouse. Zarkov has built a rocketship that he tricks Flash and Dale into boarding, and with one quick scuffle and an accidental push of the launch button the trio are off to planet Mongo, home of Ming the Merciless. 
 
Flash Gordon’s wacky plot  isn’t the only thing that makes it a must watch movie. What also makes it such a cult favorite are the opulent costumes, the color saturated set, and the hilarious special effects. But wait, the topping on this decadent campy sci-fi cupcake...the soundtrack, composed and performed by Queen!  
 
 

Cathedral bookjacketI’ve never written a novel or a short story (unless you count the required writing course I took about a million years ago as a freshman in college) but in some ways, I think that it might be harder to write a short story than a full-fledged book. A short story has to suck you in immediately, tell a full plot in a small number of pages, and shoot you out at the end with a quick climactic pay-off. A great short story will stay with you forever. Raymond Carver’s "A Small Good Thing" with a young boy’s unpicked up bakery cake has been part of my very soul since I first read it years ago.

The past few months, I’ve read several collections of really amazing short stories. When I did a search in our catalog, I found that there have been a ton of short story booksSingle, Carefree, Mellow bookjacket published in the last couple of years; I checked a bunch out and found a bounty of vivid stories that I find myself still thinking about weeks after reading them. Kelly Link’s stories in Get in Trouble are a feast of surreal images that are also weirdly believable. Katherine Heiny writes about infidelity in her collection, Single, Carefree, Mellow, but she does it in a refreshingly nonjudgmental way. And then there are always my old favorites, Flannery O'Connor and Peter S. Beagle.

If you're in the mood for a short story or two or three, try one of these collections.

Waterfalls plunge through darkness, glowing white, blue, neon against the void. Mist rises from hidden pools, its tendrils reaching into nothingness. A wash of thundering infrasound, felt as much as heard, seems to be just at the edge of perception. You could get lost here, immersed deep within these cold curtains of light.

This is what it feels like when I look at the  mysterious and atmospheric paintings of Hiroshi Senju, one of Japan’s foremost contemporary artists. Besides waterfalls, he’s painted glaciers, lava, rock faces, and forests, all possessed of the same quiet radiance. I love the powerful delicacy of his images, how they hover between abstract and figurative, traditional and contemporary.

While at a distance his paintings may appear to be works of modern abstraction, a closer examination reveals that they are also representations of the natural world, created with pigment and mulberry paper. As such, they are a continuation of the long lineage of nihonga, or traditional Japanese painting, though not without some new twists, including paint that fluoresces in UV light! It’s really worth a look, at both the book Hiroshi Senju, and at his website.

Hiroshi Senju, by Rachel Baum, Michaël Amy.
Milan : Skira ; New York : Distributed in North America by Rizzoli, 2009

Central Library: 759.952 B3473h 2009

 

“I know there'll come a day
When you'll say that you don’t know me
And I know there'll come a time
When there’s nothing anybody owes me anymore

Locked in the attic again
Out of the shallow and into the deep end
I've got a wound I know will never end
Locked in the attic again”
-Meat Puppets, “Lost”

Meat Puppets II Album Cover
Meat Puppets II is one of those rare records that defies rock's all too static vocabulary.  The record emerged out of a particularly stagnant historical moment for independent music - 1984, though lauded as some kind of  golden age for the underground (think R.E.M.), more realistically represented a kind of cultural paralysis and retrenchment.  US indie rock was rediscovering the 60s, comfortably (and farcically) reiterating the corny gestures of "psychedelia" with none of the radical fury and desire to tear down the foundations.  At first listen, one might be tempted to slot Meat Puppets II into this very paradigm.  Pastoral/stoner free-association lyrics, noodly Grateful Dead-influenced guitars layered over a slightly accelerated cowpunk two-step - how obviously conservative can it get, right?  

The record is genuinely gorgeous in the way it expresses a sublime - almost gentle - awe in the face of natural space (the band were based out of Tempe Arizona). But what lifts Meat Puppets II from the everyday morass is the awkward hesitancy with which primary songwriter Curt Kirkwood gropes for new structures, new neuronal paths and logistical tracks that want to rupture the received moves and pantomimes of rock and roll's handbook.

Not that the songs are mind-blowing or necessarily destructive - Meat Puppets II doesn't begin to really approach the detourns of a Captain Beefheart or early Pere Ubu.  The music is surprisingly fragile and while one can't really call them unconfident, the songs tend to move as though they're always already entering new territory - watchful; but joyous too. It's no wonder Kurt Cobain found the record inescapably addictive - the record tracks (and promises) perpetual escape.  

Of course the band tightened the reins and future records abandoned the inventive hesitancy for an almost muscular assurance (culminating in 1994's boogie-drenched Too High To Die).  But MP II could never really be recuperated or reproduced - it was always a way out with no desire to actually get anywhere.







Mr. Mac and Me book jacketWhen a long-awaited book finally arrives, it’s hard not to place high expectations on its performance. So when I finally had a copy of Esther Freud’s latest book Mr. Mac and Me in my hot little hands, dreams of a great story, pristine writing and new lands to explore were circling above my head. As a fan of Esther Freud (see Hideous Kinky and The Sea House among others) I was not disappointed on any front.  

Freud’s latest tells the story of thirteen-year-old Thomas Maggs, who lives in the Suffolk coastal town of Walberswick under the watchful eyes of an overprotective mother and an unpredictable father. Thomas’s father runs the local pub and helps himself freely to the goods. Times are not good. Business is far from booming and World War I looms ahead. When not in school, Thomas spends his time helping out at the pub, assisting the local rope maker ply his trade and exploring the countryside. He is also a talented artist who frequently sketches ships and dreams of escaping by sea. His life is changed when  Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife Margaret move to town. The renowned architect of the Glasgow School of Art is down on his luck and hoping some restorative time at the seaside will change his fortunes. A quiet, contemplative relationship develops between Mackintosh and Thomas, an association that will be deeply affected when the war finally comes to town.

Freud’s family has its own history of life in Walberswick. Her paternal grandfather Ernest, also an architect, spent years living in the village and transforming local cottages with his Bauhaus-style designs. Her father, the painter Lucien Freud, spent time there as a child.  And Esther Freud herself owns a home there, her second in fact. The first house she purchased in Walberswick was the former pub, known in this book as the Blue Anchor.  

Freud, the author of eight novels, is an extraordinary writer. She particularly excels is her descriptions of the physical world. The village and its surroundings act as characters equally as important as Mr. Mackintosh or young Thomas Maggs. As Thomas and Mr. Mac and the others who populate Walberswick move towards their prescribed destinies, readers have the pleasure of witnessing the development of a relationship both strikingly subtle and completely life changing. Mr. Mac and Me is not the perfect read but it does exactly what I want a book to do for me:  introduces me to new people and new places and provides me with much appreciated and invaluable food for thought.

Postscript:  Sadly, a fire at the Glasgow School of Art in May of 2014 destroyed a portion of the school’s west wing which housed the Mackintosh Library.  The library is expected to reopen by 2018.

It's about the Americas.

Image result for bernice reagon

"From the Samba in Rio to the Lindy-hop in Harlem, cultural collisions have shaped the popular dances of today."

Why?

Because it is as homegrown as corn on the cob, baseball & plantains. Because we have an art that is original and unmistakeable.

Because it makes me feel good.

Now I am going to talk about music I know and grew up with. Not to diss anybody's else's version, just to acknowledge the love of my people who intended the music to sustain me and give me joy.

Start with: Amazing Grace: The Complete Recordings, Aretha Franklin

This is where the music began. Future information on how it grew and where it is forthcoming.

 

Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to be a good terrorist? Nobel Prize winner, Doris Lessing wondered that too. In December 1983, a bomb was set off in Harrod’s Department store in London.  The media said it looked like an amateur job.  When she read this, Lessing was curious: what is the difference between an amateur terrorist and a professional one?  And if you WERE an amateur, how did you get better?

 

The terrorists in this book are strictly small time, a group of 4-6 people thrown together by need and the desire to fit into something ‘big’ like the IRA or the Soviet Communist Party.

Except for the main character, Alice, who is telling the story.  Oh, Alice believes in the necessary destruction of society but until that happens she is busy cleaning up, making their squat livable, smoothing out relations with the ‘real’ communists living next door and cooking kettle after of kettle of her nourishing vegetable soup.  

But when bomb-making Jocelyn moves in, the focus shifts from theory to the practice.  As in  practice makes perfect. As in people injured, killed, even their own members. Each member of the group is now forced to evaluate just how ‘good’ they really want to be.

This book is a fascinating read because of the dead-pan realistic writing told through Alice- what she thinks , what she feels, what she denies.  Will she be able to live up to her ideals?  Does she have what it takes to be 'good'?

Happy National Poetry Month! Probably because "April is the cruellest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / Memory and desire, stirring / Dull roots with spring rain" we celebrate poetry in April. There are many ways to do this, but one of my favorite ways to have a poetry experience recently is to listen to readings and discussions on PennSound, a project of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing at University of Pennsylvania. This online resource is an archive of both new and historical recordings, an excellent podcast, and many other things as well. It's pretty amazing to be able to listen to a recent reading by one of my favorite poets, or listen to scholars and poets discussing a close reading of a poem, all while I'm doing the dishes or sweeping the floor at the end of the day. Just take a look at PennSound's authors page, and scan this enormous list for a poet you'd like to hear.

The library also has quite a few collections of poetry that you can listen to, either in audiobook CD form or downloadable or streaming audio! I recently discovered the Voice of the Poet series of audiobooks on CD, featuring poets reading their work; it includes a number of great American 20th century poets.

Happy listening!

Eilean Donan Castle, Lochalsh, Scotland. Photo by Dave Conner.I’ve been in Scotland twice, but the last time didn’t count as I was there for literally five minutes. Fortunately I’ll get to spend more time there this spring and I can’t wait.  Hiking! Pub crawling! Trading insults with my Scottish pal! It doesn’t get any better than that.  My departure date is still a wee while off, though, so I’ve had to settle for immersing myself in books, music and film to satisfy my impatient desire to be in Bonny Scotland.  If you, too, are longing for the land of whisky, thistles and tartan, try out some of the following:

Burns: Poems book jacketWhen I was in my teens and twenties, I used to fairly loathe poetry.  I either had no idea what it meant or thought it was mostly really soppy.  I guess I’ve mellowed some as I’ve aged because now I think that Robert Burns penned some really good verse.  There are many collections of his poems, but the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets edition claims to have the “most essential of the imHer Majesty, Mrs. Brown dvd covermortal poems and songs.” To hear some of his songs and poetry sung, check out There Was a Lad.  For a selection of bagpipe tunes (yes, there really is more than one piece that can be played on the bagpipes), check out Duncarron:  Scottish Pipes & Drums Untamed.

For some Highland eye candy (not to mention a yummy accent), there’s nothing better than Billy Connolly in Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown.  I was envious of Judy Dench for years after I saw that movie.  If you’re more interested in the beauty of Scotland found in nature, clap your peepers on Visions of Scotland.

For two lovely books of travel, read H.V. Morton’s classic In Search of Scotland and Scotland: The Place of Visions by Jan Morris. Morton is one of my favorite travel writers – his humor and storytelling prowess make reading about his adventures in his native Britain and elsewhere a true pleasure.  If you just want to look at gorgeous photos of Scotland, check out Morris’s book, but really, read the text as well!  Morris is a keen observer and a wonderful writer.

So get out your kilt, pour a wee dram and settle in with a book, cd or dvd.  You’ll be away to Scotland in no time at all! 

cover image of anne sexton love poems

There was no doctor in the Corps of Discovery. Instead, Meriwether Lewis trained under the most famous of 18th century physicians, Benjamin Rush. He then created a list and purchased his supply of medical drugs and surgical instruments for the journey.

Photo of 18th Century Medical Chest

The accidents and ailments recorded in members' journals are extensive and varied.

It is astonishing to think that only one person died on the Expedition—most likely of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix. 

Sergeant Floyd

 

 

Cover of Game of Thrones: The Complete Fourth Season DVDYou may have heard of a television series called Game of Thrones. You may know that it is an adaptation of a fantasy series by George R. R. Martin. But what you might not know is that one of the show’s executive producers and writers, David Benioff, is a fantastic writer in his own right.

Cover of City of ThievesI first learned of Benioff when I read his 2008 novel, City of Thieves. It is set in the Russian city of Leningrad, under siege during World War II. The residents of that city are struggling for their survival and their sanity as they undergo bombing, crime and starvation. Young Lev Beniov (purportedly the author’s grandfather) is thrown in jail for looting, at which point he and his cellmate get pressed into service for a powerful colonel in the military. Their mission, in this city where a stale crust of bread is a prize? Find a dozen eggs for the colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. The book is shocking and horrific, and it’s funny, and it’s even sweet in a very rough-around-the-edges kind of way. It’s really just fantastic.

Before that book, there was Benioff’s When the Nines Roll Over & Other Stories and his first book, The 25th Hour. That debut novel was notable enough to get turned into a film directed by Spike Lee and starring Edward Norton.

I sure do love Game of Thrones, and I feel sad to think that the show will finally, someday (probably) come to an end. But on the other hand, maybe it will mean more time for Mr. Benioff to write us some more fabulous books. Who knows, maybe his next one will be a fantasy...

I don’t know about you but I love music! I didn’t want to start with the often repeated phrase “music is a universal language” but inevitably I have to. We have such a diversity of genres, styles, authors, singers and countries offering us so many listening options. The more we’re exposed to other musical tastes and preferences the more our taste is refined over the time -- as with tasting food for the very first time -- you have to try it again and get familiar with the variety of flavors. 

We all connect directly with the language of music, even if it is in a language different than our own - we all connect directly with the language of music. I want to invite you to explore more pop music in Spanish with my list, but before I send you there, you can take the time to watch these videos. Enjoy!

 

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!

Mug shot of B. Traven a.k.a. Ret Marut (Otto Feige) after his arrest in London, 1923When reading The Man Who Could Fly and other stories  by Rudolfo Anaya, a famous Chicano writer, I came across the name B. Traven. He was a German/American writer who inspired one of Anaya's stories entitled “B. Traven is Alive and Well in Cuernavaca.”  I couldn’t wait to know more about this intriguing character.  

B. Traven (1890-1969) is considered one of the most international literary mysteries of the twentieth century, because he refused personal data to publishers. Author of 12 fiction novels and several short stories, most of his books were originally written in German and were first published in Germany.  His real name, date place of birth and nationality are still begin questioned, which makes me think that he might be hiding his identity on purpose to gain more public attention or as a kind of strategic marketing maybe?

I became a bit obsessed with trying to know more about Traven. My quest began with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre a book that was adapted to a film of the same name. The film won an Academy Award in 1948; another of his remarkable works is The Death Ship”: The story of an American Sailor  written in German and then translated into 12 languages including English. Both books led to him to international popularity.

It’s estimated that he used at least twenty seven aliases and many researchers are convinced that he is more than one person.

It’s amazing how books connect us with other important events and characters. I started by reading a Chicano writer and followed my curiousity to learn about B. Traven. Something else I found out going through this journey is that Macario, one of my favorite movies ever, was adapted from a short story by B. Traven --  or whoever the real person was. 

The Last Bookaneer

by Matthew Pearl

An historical thriller about literary pirates who would steal manuscripts and publish them without the authors' consent. By the author of The Dante Club.

Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance

by Christopher McDougall

The author of Born to Run tells about the ancient and modern techniques for endurance and natural movement that allowed Greek soldiers to run for hours.

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History

by Cynthia Barnett

A science writer tells the history of the most crucial element on earth describing the downpours that filled the oceans billions of years ago to the megastorms of today.

The Job: True Tales from the Life of a New York City Cop

by Steve Osborne

The author, a familiar storyteller on NPR's The Moth, now presents his touching and humorous tales from 20 years as a lieutenant in the Big Apple.

Target Tokyo: Jimmy Doolittle and the Raid That Avenged Pearl Harbor

by James M. Scott

A re-telling of the daring attack on Tokyo in the dark days after Pearl Harbor. Includes records and photographs never before published.

The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives

by Stephen Buchmann

The author describes the role flowers play in the production of our food, spices, medicines, and perfumes while bringing us joy and happiness.

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen

by Mary Norris

New Yorker's editor of grammar and usage relates her experiences with famous authors while humorously advising on the tools of her trade.

Capital Dames: The Civil War and Women of Washington, 1848-1868

by Cokie Roberts

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Washington was turned into a massive Union army camp. Roberts tells the stories of the  of women who joined in the cause working as nurses, sanitation workers, supply organizers and more.

 

 

Black River bookjacketThough I don't read a lot of typical Westerns, I love authors who experiment with the form. I enjoy Mary Doria Russell's approach to iconic stories of the Wild West (Doc and Epitaph) and I've always appreciated how Kent Haruf could take the stoic and hard-bitten cowboy out of history and place him in the modern world - in his stories set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado.

Sadly, Kent Haruf died in the fall. But according to Ron Charles of Washington Post's Book World, with Black River, S.E. Hulse is poised to take up Haruf's torch. As a Haruf fan mourning the loss of an author who could capture a depth of character in just a few lines of dialogue, I immediately placed Black River on hold. I tried not to see the very young looking author photo on the back - how could she possibly write with the gravitas of Haruf?

I'm glad I didn't let my biases stop me. Black River is a beautifully taut and painful story of an embattled man who has lost everything. After the death of his wife, Wes Carver returns to the small Montana town where they met. At a time when he should be mending his troubled relationship with his stepson, he is instead intent on one thing - preventing the parole of a man Wes guarded years before while working at the local prison - a man who took something essential from Wes.

There are authors who can keep you emotionallly attached to a character even as you're mentally exhorting him to take another course of action. S.E. Hulse seems to have that knack. I hope you enjoy Black River as much as I did.

You face a lot of challenges when you are transitioning back into the community. The library can help you find resources to help you deal with those challenges and get back on your feet. Londer Learning Center teacher shares a poster; link to Londer Learning Center.

You are not alone.

MercyCorps Northwest’s Reentry Transition Center provides a variety of services, including helping with immediate needs like clothing, meals, and access to phones and Internet. The center also helps ex-offenders work towards long term goals of education, employment and driver’s license reinstatement.

Londer Learning Center is the only adult education program in Oregon working exclusively with adults in transition from jail, prison and treatment programs. They offer GED classes, job search assistance, and apprenticeship preparation for construction trades and connections to apprentice training programs like Constructing Hope. SE Works also has several programs for community members leaving jail or prison who are looking to re-enter the workforce or improve their job skills.

Pathfinders of Oregon program Parenting Inside Out has been specifically designed to provide support for parents who are on parole and probation.

For other social services, contact 211info.org by dialing 211 or texting your zip code to 898211 to start a live conversation.

Your library card gives you access to so much.

Take advantage of free computer classes, assistance for job seekers, personal finance information, and resources for parents, not to mention books, ebooks, movies, and audio on any subject you can imagine. And you can always contact a helpful librarian with any question -- even if you don't have a library card, we're glad to help you!
 

Photograph of a young boy arranging fabric in preparation to sew.I love making anything with my hands. So when my six-year-old son asks, “Can we make me an Ant-Man costume?”, my answer is always going to be an enthusiastic, “Yeah we can!”

There was a time when I would take control of these projects.  I’d Google images of Ant-Man, obsess about the right fabric and approach, until I found myself sitting at the sewing machine alone, while my son had long since moved on to his Legos.

Now I understand that my job is to dump a bag of fabric out on the table and as my son says, “Just stop freaking out so much about it.”  Sure, I help with the sewing machine.  He drives the pedal and I keep my fingers out of the way and try not to sweat the fact that the bobbin tension is completely out of whack.  

Our new laissez-faire family craft time doesn’t mean I’ve stopped seeking out fresh ideas and inspiration for projects.  Martha Stewart’s Favorite Crafts for Kids offers a bonanza of ideas for kids and parents.  I just make sure to check my inner Martha when it’s time to get gluing.

Side by Side by Tsia Carson is a great resource for matching projects that parents and kids can do separately but together.  One particularly endearing kid-project involves embroidering a leaf.  This is a woman who knows about managing expectations!

And when I just want to be inspired, blogger and illustrator Merrilee Liddiard’s Playful is so Anthropologie-beautiful I could weep.  But then I’ll get over it, enjoy watching my son dart about in what only started out as an Ant-Man costume, and “just stop freaking out so much about it.”

Close-up image of microfilm in a microfilm reader.Microfilm & microfilm readers

Microfilm is photographic film used to record miniaturized images on sheets or reels. Often these are images of pages from newspapers and magazines. The reels of film use less space than the original items (for example, 50 years of Sports Illustrated on film takes up the same space as 1 year of the paper magazine, and the boxes of microfilm can fit in one small drawer). To read the microscopic images on film, you use a microfilm reader which enlarges them for you.

Central Library has recently added two brand-new digital microfilm readers. These readers offer many new options for editing and saving images from microfilm, including the ability to crop, enhance images and add notes. The two new readers are located in the Periodicals room at Central Library, and older microfilm readers are available in the Literature & History room. 

Digital microfilm machines at Central Library.So, what kinds of magazines and newspapers does the library have on microfilm?

All sorts! Here is a selection of historic gems that we have available at Central Library for your micro-perusing:

  • The Black Panther, 1968 to 1980
  • Harper’s, 1963-2013
  • Macworld, 1984 to 2005
  • Reader’s Digest, 1922 to 2013
  • TV Guide, 1953 to 1994
  • and many, many more!

In addition to national publications like the ones listed above, Central Library also has a large collection of local newspapers on microfilm, including the Oregon Journal, The Oregonian, The Portland Telegram and the Willamette Week. For more information about searching in local newspapers, take a look at the blog post “Research with historical Portland newspapers, beyond the Oregonian.”

Microfilm readers are also located at the Gresham, North Portland, and Sellwood libraries. These locations have smaller collections of microfilm materials which are specific to their communities: The Gresham Outlook, The Sellwood Bee and (at North Portland Library) many local African-American periodicals like The Skanner, The Portland Observer and The Newspaper.

Newspaper article about the Grateful DeadA couple of notes before you begin your micro-searching:

  1. When you use microfilm, it is like browsing through a big stack of newspapers or magazines arranged by date. If you don’t know the exact date for the article that you are seeking, you might need to use an index (usually this index is a book or an online resource) to look it up.
  2. Some magazines and newspapers are only available on microfilm at the library, but many are also available through the library’s online databases. These databases can sometimes be a better choice for your searching.

Remember, you can always Ask a Librarian and we will be happy to help you find the information or articles that you need!

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