People love talking about the weather and this has certainly been the winter to do it. Epic storms in the East and droughts all over the West have been top stories nearly every day of the New Year. A lot of us had fun frolicking in our own mini-snowstorm earlier this month.
Usually, talking about the weather is considered polite conversation, a nice respite from politics and religion, or celebrity gossip. Of course, this isn’t always the case. As the drought seems to be subsiding (fingers-crossed) for us in the Pacific Northwest, California has little hope in sight and the gloves have come off.
California is the main character in this sweeping epic, often the villain tormenting its neighbors. Other times, it is the victim of graft, its fragile ecosystems exploited by schemers and boosters. In riveting detail, the book recounts the long-held rivalry between the Bureau of Reclamation (Department of Interior) and the Army Corps of Engineers, the true story behind the movie Chinatown (Reisner’s recounting wins), Los Angeles’ plan to redirect the Columbia River, and many more fascinating and eye-opening chapters in the water wars of the west.
But wait! Here’s a plethora of books you could read in tandem, each one an exciting foray into water, the west, and/or land use planning (it’s all the rage with the kids these days).
I've been a fan of Kalman's work ever since I came across Ooh-la-la (Max in Love). The book, admittedly written for kids, tells the story of the poet dog Max, who goes to Paris, gains enlightenment and falls in love. At one point he is awakened by "a k-k-k-k-knocking" and into his hotel room enters "a long mustache followed by a man". The words 'long mustache' form the thing itself curled under the Parisian waiter's nose.
MY sister and I go to Israel during the short, furious, the world-is-doomed war. For a wedding. Because you CANNOT postpone weddings in DARK TIMES - especially in dark times. Who knows when the light will come on again. Are things normal? I don't know. Does life go on? YES.
Through her pictures and words, Kalman captures what is essential about life. So think about it next time you feel like a little storytime.
Find more of Maira Kalman's art here.
March is Women’s History month and what better way to celebrate than learning more about the pioneering women from this great state? Three women you cannot ignore when doing any research are Lola Green Baldwin, Beatrice Morrow Cannady, and Abigail Scott Duniway.
On April 1, 1908, forty-eighty-year-old Lola Greene Baldwin became the first woman sworn in to perform public service for Portland, becoming a full time paid policewoman. She was put in charge of the new Women’s Protective Division and crusaded for the moral and physical welfare of young, single working women. Visit OPB to view a video about her. Oregon State University Press has an introduction online to the book Municipal Mother about Baldwin.
Beatrice Morrow Cannady was a renowned civil rights activist in early twentieth-century Oregon. She was editor of the Advocate, the state's largest, and at times the only, African American newspaper. View the OPB special to learn more about the numerous efforts Cannady launched to defend the civil rights of the African Americans in the state. Black Past, an online reference to Black History, features an excerpt from a book about Cannady.
Abigail Scott Duniway was Oregon's strongest voice for the cause of Women's suffrage. OPB has a film about her, as well as a piece on the Oregon Suffragist movement. Duniway was a true pioneer, known for her tireless efforts for women’s suffrage and women’s rights and as one of relatively few female newspaper editors and publishers of her time. The library resource Biography in Context has a biography of Duniway and a helpful resource list for more in depth research.
The Oregon Encyclopedia and Oregon History Project are a combined resource, searchable together or separately here, have detailed information and photos about these women and many more female pioneers in Oregon's history. The combined resource is a great online tool for learning about Oregon's past and the people who shaped the state.
If you want to explore this topic more, or if you have questions, simply Ask a Librarian! We’re happy to help.
Football is my fave, but the start of spring training hearkens the eventual arrival of flowers, leaves on the trees, and blue (well, here in Portland, occasionally blue) skies. One of my most loved summer activities is taking in an MLB game or several, even though this east coast girl now has to travel outside of Portland to do so. Why do I love a baseball game? The pace is relaxed, the people watching is spectacular, and hopefully the play is on par. I mean, what could be better? Summer in all its glory captured in one evening.
Recreating this baseball mindset can be tough during the dark days of winter, but it is oh-so-rewarding when I can conjure up a June double header in December. How do I do it? You can find me hosting a tailgate party right after the new year, no matter if it's raining (or in this year's case, snowing!) on the grill and grill master. My reading selections also tend to skew towards all things baseball. I dig out my Pittsburgh Pirates jersey, and the Pittsburgh Steelers jersey is sent to the basement until fall. Pour myself a cold one, settle in for a few night's baseball reading, a few hours viewing of Ken Burn's Baseball, and I am ready for opening day! Say hi if you see me in Seattle this summer, I'll be the girl in the black and gold among the sea of blue Mariners fans.
Pardon my polite silence. I am not a plane talker.
On a recent trip to the midwest, the airport newstand held little interest and other entertainment options were exhausted.
Luckily, I remembered to look at Overdrive via my smartphone available through Multnomah County Library. Ten minutes later I’d downloaded David Rakoff’s Glass Half Empty
Boarding the plane with earbuds in place, I smiled politely at my neighbor and escaped into Mr. Rakoff's soothing voice.
If you’re interested in learning more about e-books look here or ask us in person. We're happy to help.
Maybe I'd even tell you about it when we're 30,000 ft in the air... Then again, let's wait till we've landed.
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.
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 sociabl
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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 is a Library Assistant at the Gresham Library.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 a Youth Librarian at the Hollywood Library.
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.