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Data Guru

by Donna Childs

Picture of Peter Reader

Peter Reader has made a career of helping people find and use information. Information is only useful if it can be accessed and organized—and that’s where Peter comes in. Renaissance man, Peter grew up in Nome, Alaska, and majored in music in college. Music has been a lifelong love—he plays the accordion and sings with the Bach Cantata Choir. Peter lived in an Eskimo village and worked as a realtor. He started his 30-year career in Alaska and the continental US with the Bureau of Land Management and later moved into administration. He became fascinated with computers in the 60’s, long before the personal computer, and discovered that he loved programming. Among other things, he helped build a payroll system for Bonneville Power Administration. After retiring in 1994, he volunteered at his local NE Portland police precinct, building a database since they had none. This led to a dozen years of running his own consulting business. 


When he retired a second time, he approached the Multnomah County Library to offer his skills. June Bass, Program Manager in Volunteer Services, put him to work on the volunteer database containing hundreds of volunteers from all 19 library branches. For the past 7 years, Peter has worked two days a week on the volunteer database, transferring and tweaking information, creating reports, entering volunteer information, and deleting anything redundant or outdated. The library has substantially overhauled its database twice during these years, keeping Peter especially busy. In 2009 he received a county-wide volunteer award for his work with the new database. June Bass says, “I cannot imagine any volunteer program implementing a new database without a person like Peter...” Aptly named, Peter Reader is also an enthusiastic reader, especially of science fiction. He and his wife have a library of more than 2000 books, in addition to an extensive collection of classical music CDs.

A Few Facts About Peter

Home library: Albina Library

Currently reading: I just finished Rick Atkinson’s trilogy on World War II.

Most influential book: No one book, but Tolkien blew me away in the 60’s.

Favorite book from childhood: A Treasury of American Folklore, ed. by B.A. Botkin (I have used up four copies.)

A book that made you laugh or cry: H. Allen Smith—anything by him.

Favorite section of the library: Science fiction

E-reader or paper book? Paper 

Favorite place to read: In my room

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

Betsy a Library Assistant at the Hillsdale Library is reading Wild Tales: A Rock n' Roll Life by Graham Nash: "I like that he is narrating his own book and the stories behind the songs."

 

Pigsqueak plant (Bergenia cordifolia)Do you need to learn the parts of a flower?  For a start, look at this clear diagram provided by the American Museum of Natural History.  For more descriptions of the flower parts and what they do, investigate "The Great Plant Escape".

 

 

 

 

This interactive flower dissection activity will give you even more practice in sorting and labelling, then will test your knowledge of flower parts.  Once you're on this site, you can start the activity by clicking on OK in the "try this" box (it's not necessary to download).  To reach the quiz, click on "Label" after you've dissected the flower.  This activity includes clear, printable pictures with descriptions of what each flower part does.

Parts of a flower diagram

If you learn well under pressure, you should look at this timed quiz.  You'll notice that some diagrams, such as the one at this site, may include more terms than you'll see on other diagrams.  You can play this game by clicking on "start" (there's no need to download), then begin pointing and clicking to label the parts.  Try it out, and challenge yourself to keep shortening your time!

If you want more information, contact a librarian through your computer or at your local library. 

PDX pop now coverOnce upon a time, I went out to see bands play several times a week, I read Spin (remember Spin?) and I was on top of the local and national music scene. I had friends with encyclopedic music knowledge, and they lavished it on me. Now I’m old and I’m busy, and so are my friends who used to give me the heads up on music they thought I’d like. Babysitters are expensive, and I find that I like to be in my bed by midnight, book in hand. But although I’m not so interested in standing up in a club or music venue for hours and hours, I still love music. I’m especially always looking for new music to energize me as I take long walks around this city. There’s nothing like a new song I’m really into to get me up to the top of MountPDX pop now cover Tabor faster.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a CD in the library called PDX Pop Now! 2008, and I found that it was just one of a great annual series. PDX Pop Now is a local nonprofit whose mission is to celebrate local music. In 2004, they started having a music festival every year and releasing a CD of recorded music by the artists chosen for the festival. The music is wildly varied and the CDs don't really hang together as albums, but as a tool for finding something new to love right here in your own city, they are unbeatable. I found a band I’ll call Starf***er, who have three whole CDs of music to get me moving. I found Ioa’s song, called “The Boxcar Children”, which unites my love of kid’s literature and pop music ("Henry and Jesse lived under no rules at all in the little red boxcar..."). And there’s a rolicking song called “Let’s Ride” by Andy Combs and the Moth that always gets me up to the top of Mount Tabor really fast. This CD series might just add some excitement to your life as well.

It’s widely known that smoking tobacco is dangerous:  a major cause of lung cancer, chronic lung disease and premature death.  Not to mention bad breath. 

But what about e-cigarettes?  Since you are inhaling only nicotine vapor, they must be safer than tobacco cigarettes.  Right?

It’s actually unknown if e-cigarettes are safe.    Discovery Health has put together ten facts about e-cigarettes that question the safety of the devices.  For instance,  they go unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration and the side effects of inhaling pure nicotine have not been studied.  Despite the unknowns, double the number of teens tried e-cigarettes in 2013 than in 2012, according to the National Youth Tobacco study, summarized by the American Cancer Society.

What about hookahs?  Since hookahs are legal, social, infrequent, and the smoke passes through water, are they healthier than smoking regular tobacco or marijuana?  No, says the Centers for Disease Control.  But, like e-cigarettes, youth are using hookahs at increasing rates, alarming doctors.

This is a topic where I really needed to pay attention to reliable sources.  Though I found many videos extolling the benefits of hookahs and the safety of water pipe smoke, the source of this information was usually a guy filming a video in his garage.  Whenever you look for health or medical information, especially about drugs, think about the reliability of the source and the potential biases of the writer, video host, or organization.  For more on evaluating health information on the web, take a look at librarian Mary B.’s blog entry

As a child, my uncle Mike would pay me 25 cents to say ‘hello’. Once I said, ‘Hello Uncle Mike’ and got a fifty cent piece. I was an extraordinarily shy child, raised by an extraordinarily shy mother. It was a good partnership and suited me well, until I had my own child.  

My unabashedly sociablSoceity of timid souls bookjackete son liked to sit in other parent’s laps at library storytime. He chats up intoxicated passengers on airplanes and is absolutely confident that whomever sits near us at the neighborhood sushi house is dying to see his Lego minifigure collection. All of this sends me into a state of near panic. I’ve often felt that I ought to start a support group for shy and introverted parents of extroverted children. This was on my mind when I came across Polly Morland’s book The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to Be Brave.  

Polly Morland is a documentary filmmaker and this book reads exactly like the most captivating of documentaries. From meetings of anxiety-ridden concert musicians struggling to overcome stage fright in the 1940s, to interviews with modern military heroes and high line walkers,  Moreland explores the many different forms that bravery can take and how we define it as a society. What struck me most however, was the idea that some forms of bravery may be practiced and learned. I'm unlikely at this stage in my life to undergo training to fight a bull and let’s just forget about joining Toastmasters. Parenting however is one training I can't opt out of.  My uninhibited son is guaranteed to test my faltering social skills for the rest of my life. In doing so, he might just be training me to move one small step further from timid to brave.

Woman SneezingThe days are finally getting longer, but it is still pretty dark outside! This weather makes me wonder, “Am I getting enough Vitamin D?” “Should I be taking extra Vitamin C or zinc to ward off winter sniffles?”

The information we get about using vitamins and supplements and herbal remedies can be contradictory and confusing. Sometimes it’s difficult to determine if what we’re reading or viewing is an advertisement or a news item. However, there are trusted resources you can use to find information about vitamins and supplements.

The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) is part of the National Institutes of Health. ODS exists to help consumers like you find information about vitamins and dietary supplements, including botanicals. Visit the ODS website to find out what vitamins and supplements have been shown to help with certain health conditions and which have not. You can also find nutrient recommendations (how much of a particular nutrient you need) and fact sheets on many dietary supplements. The website also provides consumer protection information, like safety information and tips on spotting health fraud.

Another great source for information about dietary supplements, botanicals, vitamins, and other alternative or complementary medicine options is MedlinePlus. This website is the National Institutes of Health’s site for patients. Click the Drugs & Supplements button or use the search box to find information on a wide variety of drugs, supplements, and herbals.

MedlinePlus includes information like: what the research says, side effects and warnings, information about how an herb interacts with other medication, and more.

 

Dylan Thomas Caedmon Collection book jacketIt is a truism in the audiobook world that authors do not make the best narrators. Audiobooks have come a long way since Dylan Thomas sing-songed some of his poems in what is considered to be the first audiobook, produced in 1952 by Caedmon Records.

Audiobooks in the 21st century are more performance than reading, and performance requires different skills than reading aloud. Hence the hesitation about having authors read their own works. At the same time, no one is more familiar with a book than its author, and familiarity can bring out aspects of a story that a professional narrator might overlook. Some authors are memorably bad (unnamed here, click through for a book you should NOT listen to!), but some are surprisingly good, even excellent. Here are a few authors I’d be glad to listen to again:Neverwhere book jacket

Neil Gaiman. Absolutely the best author/narrator, his quiet English accent and subtle characterizations make for an entertaining visit to a haunted graveyard (The Graveyard Book) to an alternate London (Neverwhere), or perhaps down at the end of the lane (I’m still waiting for this one!).

Khalid Hosseini. The author reads his debut novel, The Kite Runner, with a sensitivity and emotion that makes it clear that this is a very personal story.

Barbara Kingsolver. With exception of her early books, Kingsolver has read all her work since. Prodigal Summer (2000). Her gentle Southern-tinged voice, along with her clear identification with her female heroines, brings out the humor and pathos of their stories.

Susan OrRin Tin Tin book jacketlean. This writer narrates her most recent book, Rin Tin Tin, in a conversational fashion that makes the listener feel like she’s enjoying a chat with a friend who wants to impart some very interesting information.

Simon Winchester. This prolific master of narrative nonfiction is an excellent reader of his own work, as he delivers a hint of British reserve and irony, fused
with absolute authority and command of his subjects. I enjoyed Krakatoa.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention three author/narrators of books for young adults that are well worth listening to:
ShermThe Golden Compass book jacketan Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian is a revelation into the mind of his alter-ego, Arnold Spirit, Junior.

Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens is a hilarious romp.

Philip Pullman expertly guides the full-cast performances of the His Dark Materials trilogy. Don’t miss them!

It’s easy to find most of the audiobooks read by the author at MCL. At the Advanced Search page, type “read by the author” (use quotes) and click Search.

Violeta, Troudale's Bilingual Youth Librarian says this about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina:
I loved the occasional, seamless code switching between English and Spanish, and there were several times I had to put the book down to finish laughing about what I'd just read. And yet I've also had deep conversations with others about the themes of this book: cultural identity, mother-daughter relationships, and bullying.

 

​“What caLeopold von Kalckreuth - The Artist's Wife Reading in Bedn I do for you?” I ask my friend undergoing chemo. “Oh, just bring me a funny audiobook to distract me.” I used to arrive with stacks of them, but over time I’ve developed a list of greatest hits that work well for our recuperating loved ones. Some criteria: Not too embarrassing for one unrelated adult to read aloud to another, not too many worrying situations (why did I think that book with a scene where the author is interrogated by the protagonist was okay?), and of course, the kind of humor that makes for belly laughs. Some people claim that anything by David Sedaris will work, and there are plenty of those to choose from, but moving beyond that, here are my three greatest hits for the healing, or anyone wanting a laugh. 

​The story of the beleaguered corporate drop-out Samantha as she tries to fake her way through a live-in cook and cleaning job in Sophie Kinsella's The Undomestic Goddess has left men and women alike unable to stop laughing. Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods seems like it might be a macho mind over matter tale of a journey on the Appalachian trail but is instead a tale of absurd urban warriors. The humor and scenery together make a great distraction. Richard Peck’s look back at his Grandma in the 1930s is so funny because Grandma is not the usual grandma of memoirs. She ​exaggerates, connives, trespasses, and contrives to help the town underdogs outwit the establishment. While A Long Way from Chicago lives in the children’s section, it's a great read for adults. 

Here's Matthew, Branch Administrator at the Belmont Library. He's reading Charles Portis' The Dog of the South. He says that the blurb by Roy Blunt Jr. on the cover says it best: "Charles Portis could be Cormac McCarthy if he wanted to, but he'd rather be funny."

So IAn Inhabitant of Carcosa by Ambrose Bierce haven’t been this knee-deep into a tv show since The Sopranos ended and believe me you don’t want to know the withdrawals I had from that  North Jersey family.  Only four episodes into HBO’s new crime series True Detective, and I have regained faith in episodic storytelling. Inspired, I had to post a tribute to one of my personal literary heroes, Ambrose Bierce, the "Devil's Lexicographer," following dialogue I heard from characters in True Detective.  Suspects in the juicy crime story, interrogated by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, reference his story “An Inhabitant of Carcosa” as well as The King in Yellow, a collection of stories by Robert W. Chambers. This is the perfect segue to highlight these pioneers of early American weird fiction.  

For those not familiar with Bierce’s life, he was a versatile man known for a sharp, sarcastic tongue and deadly with the inkwell. He fought for the Union in the Civil War, an experience that generated his Tales of Soldiers, eerie pieces that begin as war stories and end up nails of psychological terror. This all sounds quite gruesome, and much of it is, but another Bierce trademark, black humor, always finds its way into his work. He wrote with this sardonic style and in fine retrospection, it defined him.

During his time in San Francisco William Randolph Hearst gave him his own column, Prattle, which sustained his journalism career and earned him the nickname “Bitter Bierce.” He lived in London briefly with Twain and Bret Harte and his mysterious disappearance in Mexico while chasing Pancho Villa was a fitting ‘end’ to his Wild West, accomplished life.  However, it was his stories of horror and the supernatural, many written with different narrative devices unknown in literature at the time, that would establish a diverse legacy of an important American genre initiated by Poe, Hawthorne, Irving, and Charles Brockden Brown.  Yellow Sign, Yellow King, Carcosa, Bierce, Chambers, LovecraftGhosts, werewolves, Confederates, zombies, the unknown, or agoraphobia, Bierce wrote it all.  

“An Inhabitant of Carcosa” and other Bierce stories influenced Robert W. Chambers, a successful romance novelist whose stories in The King in Yellow  tell of a cosmic terror controlling our world through an infamous play that spells doom for anyone who reads it.  This in turn would eventually inspire H.P. Lovecraft, who called “The Yellow Sign” ‘altogether one of the greatest weird tales ever written,’ in his Cthulhu mythos and dreaded Necronomicon. Each generation inspired the next, but Chambers and especially Bierce were integral to the timeline of American horror fiction.  Their stories are still fresh and it’s comforting to see their presence in 2014, even on television. Buy the ticket, take the ride: early American weird fiction

 

Larry recently discovered Anna Kavan's Asylum Pieces and really enjoyed it. Ice was her final book. Published in 1967 it's described as "a surrealistic dream-novel set in an unrecognizable world padded by ice and snow, run by a secret government, invaded by aggressors, and threatened with nuclear destruction."

Larry is a Library Assistant at the Gresham Library.

What if all those times you're waiting around you exercised instead? 

We need exercise! To stay healthy, reduce stress and maintain a healthy weight, it’s important for kids to exercise one hour a day. Yup, scientists have discovered too much sitting can actually kill you in seven different ways. Since computer and TV screen time means you’re sitting a lot, break up your viewing time with some fun moves that make you active.

But how about using your screen time to  improve your moves? There’s lots of online videos made to get you moving. This kids’ twenty minute dance and fitness workout is like having your own fitness instructor bring the class right into your home. Put together basketball moves for a ten minute recess break. Or how about a reggae  or a hip hop instant recess?  A twenty minute yoga stretch break can make you feel refreshed. Workout with a friend or exercise with your family. Quit eating gummy bears and get silly with the gummy bear dance instead. Or go crazy and just dance like nobody’s watching.


More questions about exercise?  Contact a librarian to be sure you get what you need.

3 eggs =18 gummi bears =1 glass of milk= 200 calories.This is 200 Calories is a fun video that compares what 200 calories of different foods looks like. It also talks about what a calorie is, and why calories aren’t the only thing to consider in planning a healthy diet.

What Does 200 Calories Look Like? is a poster that compares visually 200 calories of more foods.

Wondering how many calories are in your favorite drink? This look at calories in drinks compares calories in soft drinks, juices and coffee drinks. Don't forget, serving size matters!

The Fast Food Nutrition Calculator lets you calculate the nutrition of meals at fast food restaurants. Select the items you want to eat then see how many total calories, grams of fat, and could it be? - vitamins -  are hiding inside your favorite meal.

Need more help?  Contact a librarian to be sure you get what you need.

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This video explores the integral role horses played in Nez Perce history and how they relate to the tribe’s culture today.


When researching Native Americans of Oregon, the Oregon Blue Book provides a good introduction to Oregon tribes, and has information on current tribal leaders and the economy of the tribe, plus an overview of the tribe’s history and culture.

Native Languages of Americas provides information about the original inhabitants of Oregon and includes a map of where they were located.

The Northwest Portland Area Health Board provides history and geographical information for the nine tribes that make up its membership.

The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians provides information about Oregon tribes and a list of links to their websites, plus information about natural resources, economic development and tribal government for the Cow Creek Band.

Access Genealogy contains an overview of the history Oregon tribes, and links to many tribes' individual websites.

You can also search the library’s catalog, or do an online search for a tribe’s name. Many tribes have their own websites, which contain current information about tribal affairs, and might also include historical material.

If you still need more help, contact a librarian to be sure you get what you need.

Our guest blogger is Rod, who says this about himself: "Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by history and technology. Instead of reading juvenile literature, I read my father’s military history and aviation books. Somehow, those interests morphed into science fiction as a teen. I guess I liked the technology that didn’t exist yet . . . Today, I read a lot of history because I teach it part-time and not as much fiction as I would like."

I was a teenager in the 1980s and had a morbid fascination with nuclear war. Honestly, I was certain that my short life would end with a brief, brilliant flash followed by radioactive oblivion. That was my realistic understanding of what would likely happen, but I also enjoyed reading the many novels and watching the many films that came out during the Cold War depicting what life would be like in the aftermath of World War III. While many were flimsy background for some sort of monster tale, there were also those that made a serious effort to imagine what the world would look like if the Cold War turned hot. If you have similarly “fond” memories, maybe you’ll find something on this list worth checking out.

On the On the Beach bookjacketBeach by Neville Shute This is both a great novel and film. The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. have destroyed each other in a nuclear holocaust. The Northern Hemisphere is a radioactive wasteland and the fallout is slowly moving south. Those living in Australia are faced with the certainty of death. This includes the crew of the USS Scorpion, an American submarine. As the Scorpion prepares to voyage north to investigate an unexpected radio signal, the men and women who have survived contemplate how to spend their final days.

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
Sleepy Fort Repose, Florida is untouched by the bombs but suffers nonetheless. Cut off from the rest of the U.S., the town falls back on the resources it can gather from the countryside and scrounge from the mechanized world they can no longer support. It is an ultimately hopeful take on the subject.

A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
This one starts many years after a nuclear war brought an end to modern civilization. A group of Catholic monks in the American desert seek to preserve as much of the world’s knowledge as possible. The story follows the same monastic order over the centuries as a new technological civilization reemerges only to be faced, in the end, with the same threat of nuclear annihilation.

Dr. Blood bookjacketDr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb by Philip K. Dick
Most people blame Bruno Bluthgeld, a physicist, for destroying the world, so he goes into hiding and seeks psychiatric help for his overwhelming feelings of guilt. This is complicated, however, as he believes he has magical powers. He is just one of the many survivors who have, or may have, telekinetic abilities. It isn’t always clear what is real and what the characters imagine to be real. Regardless, it does not stop them from engaging in the same selfish behavior they practiced before the world exploded. Like so many Phillip K. Dick novels, this one has a strong surrealist slant with elements of the absurd.

Testament
This is a powerful, understated film about a family trying to cope with the aftermath of a nuclear war. Carol Wetherly lives in a typical suburban city. When the war occurs, her husband is away and she doesn’t know if he is alive or dead. She tries to keep her family together as her neighbors slowly succumb to radiation and despair. This is a grim movie that, similar to On the Beach, makes no effort to sugar coat the likely fate of those who did not perish directly in the war. Despite that, it is still very compelling.

The Wild Shore  by Kim Stanley Robinson
A small fishing village has grown up along the California coast in what was Orange County. The older residents remember the world before the war, but their stories are just that, stories,to the succeeding generations. The residents try to be self-sufficient but must scavenge from the ruins at times. While there are those who would like to recreate a technological society, powerful forces work to prevent a resurgent America.

Beyond Armageddon edited by Walter M. Miller, Jr. and Martin H. Greenberg
This is a collection of 21 short stories that imagine a variety of different post-nuclear war futures. There is a mix of well-known and obscure tales collected here. Perhaps best known is Harlan Ellison's "A Boy and His Dog" which was made into a movie starring a very young Don Johnson in 1975. Like most compilations, the quality isn’t uniform but I found all of them to be worth the time.

Postman bookjacketThe Postman by David Brin
This is a great novel and, well, judge the movie for yourself. Gordon Krantz is something of an idealist in a world ten years after a limited nuclear exchange. While making his way to the Pacific Northwest as a modern minstrel, he stumbles upon an abandoned postal vehicle with the unlucky postman inside. To stay warm he takes the deceased occupant’s jacket and, suddenly, those he meets see him as a symbol of hope, a fact he cultivates for his own benefit. This becomes problematic when he finds another group in Corvallis, Oregon with their own secrets. Ultimately, they must all work together to resist an invasion from the south led by a seemingly unstoppable army.

The Last Ship by William Brinkley
USS Nathan James, an American guided missile destroyer on patrol when World War III erupts, finds itself alone at sea after the spasm of nuclear annihilation has eliminated any safe port. After encountering a Soviet nuclear submarine, the two agree to cooperate in their efforts to survive. Maintaining morale and the chain of command become serious problems as the American crew seeks a refuge in the vast Pacific Ocean. Will they succeed? Will the crew destroy themselves? Will the Soviets prove to be reliable allies?

The IRS is now accepting tax returns until April 15, and the tax software choices for e-filing are numerous.  Have you asked yourself, “Aren’t they all the same?”  If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the choices, here are several web sites that compare features of various tax software products to help make an informed decision of where to turn next. 

Reviews.com has gathered a list of 19 online tax software products and chose 6 leading products to review based on 67 features.  They also include a discussion on which online tax software features matter the most, and why?  TaxSoftware.net has reviewed their top 5 online tax software products, comparing the costs and benefits of each.  top10taxsoftware.com lists their selections for the Top 10 Best Tax Software products, along with informative articles like “10 Tips for Choosing Tax Software”.

There are many other web sites that provide information and reviews for online tax software, but the sites mentioned above can be a great starting place.  I found them to be very helpful guides to making a decision on which product to use, and hope you do to!

Happy Tax Season!

Wild bookjacketThe comedian Steven Wright said, "everywhere is walking distance if you have the time." The line makes me smile, but it makes me wistful too. If only I had the time to go on a long, long walk, one without an agenda or an end point.

Walking embeds the walker in the pace and life of the world, while at the same time providing respite from the cares and worries that are sometimes attached to our home or workplace. Baudelaire used the word "flaneur" to describe the person who explores the world by walking: "For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world." (Charles Baudelaire: The Painter of Modern Life, De Capo Press, 1964)

Short walks can be enjoyable, but if you're hankering to take off for weeks on end, here are some titles to try, and a longer list, to boot. (Sorry! Couldn't resist.)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is the story of a man in early retirement who has the uneasy sense that he has made nothing of his life. Then one day he receives a letter from an old friend who is dying, and who wants to thank him for his kindness. Harold writes a letter of condolence, but when he goes to mail it, he's struck with the sense that nothing will do but to deliver the letter by hand. And so he sets off on a journey of several hundred miles, with only the clothes on his back. As he walks he reflects on the events that shaped his life.

If you'd rather read a true account, there are a number that are engaging and informative to boot. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed and A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson cover both edges of the country and are equally compelling stories of the kind of change that a long walk will effect. The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, by Robert Macfarlane details the author's effort to become more intimately acquainted with his country by starting at his home in Cambridge, England and following the old roads and ancient tracks that crisscross his country.

Happy reading, and happy trails.

I love the screwball, slapstick, fast-talking romantic comedies of the first half of the 20th Century. Wild dream sequences? Triangles? Ridiculous misunderstandings? Yes please!

The Miracle of Morgans Creek poster

I’m slowly working my way through a perhaps-too-academic study of the genre, Romantic Comedy in Hollywood from Lubitsch to Sturges by James Harvey. It relates what I always suspected: the best directors of the era felt duty-bound to “get really dirty jokes into [their] script or picture, and to get away with them.”

Lubitsch and Sturges were probably the all-time champions of this sneaky ribaldry. The 1944 New York Times review of the wartime comedy The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek begins by marvelling that Sturges got its “irrepressible impudence” past the Hays office, and, after relating the bold content of the film, concludes that “he made the film so innocently amusing, so full of candor, that no one could take offense.”

What might this bold content be? Betty Hutton plays Trudy Kockenlocker (that's right, Kockenlocker), who goes out for a night on the town to support the troops and gets hit on the head, then gets married. The next day she can't remember the name of the soldier who she got hitched to. And she's pregnant.

So, in less coy terms, this is a frothy 1944 comedy about a small town girl who gets drunk and knocked up. The performances are excellent, with Eddie Bracken and William Demarest rounding out the cast as Hutton’s hapless paramour and harried father, respectively.

We own The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek in our streaming video service Hoopla. So while we don’t have the DVD, you can watch it right this second. New to Hoopla? Check out our Getting started page.

And for more in sophisticated risqué viewing, from the falling of walls of Jericho between Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable to the wholesome sexiness of Doris Day bottling ketchup, take a look at the list Romantic comedies with a double dash of sass.

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