Blogs

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 Washington Post Fast Food Calorie Counter provides an interactive calorie counter for fast food restaurants. Select the items you want to eat then see how many total calories and grams of fat 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 find 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.

Ugh, Valentine's Day is the worst!

The only reason I look forward to this time of year is the flourishing of Valentine's chocolate and candy.  Because in Portlandia, eating seasonally applies to candy, too, right? Jelly beans and Peeps at Easter. Candy corn at Halloween. Best of all is the chalky goodness of Sweethearts, made by NECCO (New England Confectionery Company) since 1901. Maybe it's nostalgia for my New English youth.

But it also provides an annual zeitgeist check. Timeless messages like  "SOUL MATE" or "QT PIE" mix with fads like "FAX ME" or "TWEET". (Heads up - if you find "FAX ME", there's a good chance that bag is well past optimum freshness.)
"143". What the heck does that mean?
Wait, what's this? "LET'S READ"! Awesome!
According to NECCO's website, "in 2014, the longtime favorite “Let’s Read” also reappeared in the mix."

Yeah, "Let's read"!

Let's read Walt Whitman's yawps and H.P. Lovecraft and Batman comics and Mary Oliver's poetry.
Let's read Rumi's chickpea, Chuang Tzu's fish, Icelandic sagas.
Garcia Marquez, Garcia Lorca, cat detectives, dog detectives.
Zombie novels, Amish romance, Zombie-Amish Westerns.
Let's read zines like Librarian Cathy's own Sugar Needle.
Eduardo Galeano, Paco Ignacio Taibo, Italo Calvino, just to say their names!
Let's read blogs! Let's read on phones and laptops. Paperbacks on the bus, or audiobooks in the car!
Let's read magazines and newspapers while they still exist.
Dr. Seuss at bedtime, or breakfast, or whenever, really.
Let's read with friends, with family, alone, or alone in a crowd.

Let's read Dar Williams' lyrics to "What do you love more than love."
(Pizza! No, wait - beer! No, wait - pizza AND beer!)

Or Dead Milkmen's love letter to "Punk rock girl."

Oh, man, Valentine's Day is the best!

Our guest blogger is Eric, who talks about himself in third person: "Eric has been enjoying libraries since the '60s, man. In his 4th decade at MCL, he drives the library's tiniest truck, which some people still call The Bookmobile, for Adult Outreach. His favorite movie, if it existed outside his mind, would be "Batman vs Godzilla", with Chow Yun-Fat as Batman and Nicolas Cage as Godzilla. Co-directed by John Woo and Guillermo del Toro. Scored by David Byrne and performed by The Ukrainians featuring Yo-Yo Ma. The graphic novelization is written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Mike Allred.

Danielle is excited to read Legends, Icons & Rebels, a children's nonfiction book about the legends of music who change how we hear and feel about the world. 27 mini-biographies, playlists, and accompanying CDs will introduce a new generation to the Greats of music.

Danielle is a Youth Librarian at the Hollywood Library.

February is Black History Month and there are five exciting events happening at MCL to help celebrate.

Music and dance are important aspects of Black culture and there are many opportunities this month to experience traditional African dance. If you are in SE, head over to Midland Library and participate in the West African Dance series with Habiba. Students will learn the origin, technique, and purpose of the dances and corresponding rhythm. Featuring traditional African vocal music, call and response style songs, and drumming from Ghana, Senegal, and Guinea, classes begin this Thursday February 13, 2014 @3:30PM, and continue for five weeks. 

More interested in watching than participating? Visit Troutdale Library in East County, to see the Mathias Galley African Dance Ensemble on Sunday February 16, 2014 @ 2PM. Mathias will perform a ceremonial African flower dance that is used during weddings, births, and holidays. If you missed the amazing drumming from Shi Dah at the beginning of the month at Midland Library, you still have one more chance to catch them. The group will be drumming at Kenton Library on Saturday February 22, 2014 @ 3PM. Shi Dah performs Ghanaian drumming, dance, songs, and rhythms.

North Portland Library hosts a unique program from Portland based artist Damaris Webb for teens and adults that explores what is means to be black. "Box Marked Black" explores challenging questions: Is it the shade of your skin? The kink of your hair? Where you grew up? Is it learned? What is its language, both in the body and on the tongue? See the performance and join the conversation on Sunday February 23, 2014 @ 2PM. 

If you are looking to do research in honor of Black History Month, be sure to access the Black Resources Collection at North Portland Library. The Collection offers more than 7,000 items—books, film, periodicals, music, and more—relating to the African American experience. One of the Collection’s special features is the Fisk University collection  which contains reprints from the Fisk University Library Negro Collection. These reprints are historical works written by and about African Americans between 1800 and 1930. Michael Powell of Powell’s Books donated these volumes.

Want history with a more local focus? Central Library presents “Who is York” on Sunday February 16, 2014 @ 2PM. York, slave to William Clark and comrade on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was an unofficial member of the Corps of Discovery, and has been omitted from many historical accounts of this journey.

At the library we see every day as an opportunity to celebrate Black history and the culture, and this happens weekly with our Black Storytime for children and their parents/caregivers. Join us Saturdays at North Portland library (10:30) or Midland Library (11:30)  as we sing, read, dance, and play!

 

Father of the Blues, An Autobiography, by W. C. Handy. Collier Books, Macmillan, c. 1941.

"In the meantime, I had occasion to recall my first experience with a talking machine. That had been back in Helena, Montana, in 1897. I had made a record with my minstrel band on an old cylinder machine, funny contraption, that old affair. To hear the recording you had to place two rubber tubes in your ears. Each record began with a spoken announcement much like the radio announcer's lines today. Before we played, the announcer spoke into a horn and said, "You will now hear Cotton Blossoms as played by Mahara's Minstrel Band on Edison records." After playing our number, each one of us was permitted to put the rubber tubes in his ears and thus listen to ourselves. Other music lovers who wished to hear the record had to pay five cents for the privilege." - from Father of the Blues, An Autobiography, by W. C. Handy. Collier Books, Macmillan, c. 1941. p. 179

William Christopher Handy was one of the earliest members of ASCAP, and self-published his compositions throughout his life, including a span of years up to 1921 in partnership with Harry Pace, a songwriter and music publisher. After he died in 1958, his family took over the Handy Bros. Music Company, maintained at present by his grandchildren: Handy Brothers Music Company. The version shown here of "The St. Louis Blues" was published in 1914, and sold at Meier and Frank in downtown Portland, that offered an entire department just of sheet music for local musicians.

On April 5, 2014, the Multnomah Youth Commission will hold the 3rd Annual Rob Ingram Youth Summit Against Violence at the Ambridge Event Center (1333 NE MLK Jr. Blvd).

Youth Summit Against Violence photo

The youth-planned, youth-led event will feature in-depth exploration of school, gang/police, and dating/sexual violence.

Multnomah County Library supports the summit's goals and has compiled these resources:

 

 

 

Parlor Games book jacketWelcome to our new blogger Carol, who says this about herself: I read widely and profusely, propelled by a natural curiosity about everything under the sun and the belief that for me there is no better place to be than living inside a good book.  I have deep love for all things fiction and could not imagine my life without any of the works of Nevil Shute, Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited or Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping, just to name a few.

It’s 1917 and May Dugas is on trial for extortion. Did she take the money? Well, May Dugas has been taking money all her life! From her early years working in a Chicago bordello to her financially rewarding marriage to a Dutch baron, May has earned her living being the arm candy of some very rich men. May is the ultimate social climber, blackmailer and seductress, skills she developed and utilized in the name of supporting her family. But despite all her scheming, May doesn't plan on the dogged determination of Reed Doherty, a Pinkerton detective who has tracked her across the globe, from Chicago to San Francisco, to Tokyo and London and parts in-between and finally to a Wisconsin courtroom where May must finally answer for her supposed crimes.

Based on an extraordinary true story, Portland writer Maryka Biaggio’s Parlor Games is a non-stop global chase, a thrill ride whose last stop isn’t revealed until the very last second. Cold-hearted grifter or resourceful family provider. When the gavel comes down in that courtroom, will May Dugas finally meet her match?

Sooner or Later coverSomewhere in the past few years Portland morphed from a Tonya (Harding) into a Nancy (Kerrigan) kind of town - from a scrappy backwater to a burgeoning condopolis full of fancy ice cream shops, artisan beard oil, and chic boutiques peddling faux lumberjack outfits. I kid, I kid... but believe it or not, touring bands often used to skip Portland, due to it being a grey, unfashionable spot with small audiences. There wasn’t much for young people to do here, and not much employment either, so they had to form their own bands, and make their own fun.

Which brings us to Sooner or Later, the new double album that collects the recordings of the Neo Boys. One of Portland’s most notable punk bands, they often played with the Wipers, and opened for X, Nico, and Television, among others. Their sound is a very early form of punk, not frenetic or thrashy at all - in fact, it’s very catchy and melodic, with guitar parts that go beyond the usual couple of power chords. The tracks are in chronological order, so be sure to listen past the first few to get a feeling for them at their most skilled - try “Give Me the Message” if you want to get hooked fast. And, oh yeah… despite the name, they weren’t boys at all - over ten years before the whole Riot Grrrl movement, these four young women, some in their late teens, were shaking up local music. They’re worth a listen if you’re interested in early punk, the history of Portland music, or women who rock.

To learn more about the Neo Boys, the Wipers, Poison Idea, and other Portland punk and underground bands, try some of the items on this list.

Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits bookcover

Dorothea Lange : a life beyond limits / Linda Gordon. London ; New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c2009.
A fascinating book of the stories behind Dorothea Lange's powerful photographs.
Scene 3, excerpt:
"We found our way in, slid in on the edges. The people who are garrulous and tell you everything, that's one kind of person, but the fellow who's hiding behind a tree, is the fellow that you'd better find out why. So often it's just sticking around, not swooping in and swooping out in a cloud of dust; sitting down on the ground with people, letting the children look at your camera with their dirty, grimy little hands, and putting their fingers on the lens, and you let them, because you know that if you will behave in a generous manner, you're very apt to receive it. I don't mean to say that I did that all the time, but I have done it, and I have asked for a drink of water and taken a long time to drink it, and have told everything about myself long before I asked any question. 'What are you doing here?' they'd say. 'What do you want to take pictures of us for?' I've taken a long time to explain, and as truthfully as I could. They knew that you are telling the truth."  - Dorothea Lange [p. 191-192]

Listen!

 

Stellar Blue Jay

Chirp chirp. Tweet. Awk! Caw, caw. Skree, skree, skree-chip!

   Blue Heron on a fence

Even in the city, birdsong is all around us. We call it “birdsong,” but why do they sing? Why do birds make those noises?

Well, why do people sing and make noise? Sometimes we sing for fun and from joy, and maybe birds do too. But a lot of the time we humans make sounds in order to communicate with each other. It turns out that birds are doing that, too. Other birds understand them. Sometimes other animals understand them, too!

I was amazed when I took a class at Metro and discovered that humans can learn to understand a little bit of bird language. It’s like there was a secret code going on all around me, and I never even noticed it. But now sometimes I can crack the code. I can tell when a mated pair of birds is telling each other “I’m over here -- I’m safe!” and “I’m over here -- Me too!” Sometimes the birds alert me that there is a predator nearby -- or that they are worried because I’m nearby.

Birds pay attention to everything going on around them. Paying attention to birds is a great way to get an insider’s view into some of the secrets of your local ecosystem.

Crow on Portland water fountian

Want to learn more about birds, their language or their place in our local ecosystem? Take a look at OPB’s Field Guide videos; visit a local park and take a walk with a naturalist; ask a librarian or check out some of the great books below.

Profile picture, ReadWomen2014When writer and artist Joanna Walsh created a set of women author bookmarks she was surprised by the positive response from friends. In a Buzzfeed article, "#ReadWomen2014 Aims To Bring Gender Equality To The Literary World" Walsh said, "the bookmarks were created because I’d been too lazy to send Christmas cards, and was shamed into it by the beautiful cards I was sent, especially by illustrator friends.” As her project gained fans, she went on to create a twitter hashtag, #ReadWomen2014, to promote a year of reading women authors.

Since Walsh published her original list, many people have added their own spin to #ReadWomen2014. Here at Multnomah County Library, we decided to make a list with a selection of Northwest women authors, and Laural, a librarian here, created a list of women who create comics. Whose on your list?

 

 

Judy is reading Fresh Off the Boat, a memoir by Eddie Huang, the founder of the popular East Village food shop Baohaus.

Judy is a Library Assistant at the Hollywood Library.

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