Blogs: Adults

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Sellers who insist on wire transfers for payment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can:

  • Learn how to protect yourself from scams and fraud.

  • Request written materials be mailed to you.

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

  • Sign up for the Scam Alert Network

  • Search BeInfORmed, a database of consumer complaints.

  • Ask questions about:

    • automobile sales

    • credit/debt

    • home repair

    • retail sales

    • services

    • internet sales

    • fraud

    • real estate

    • telemarketing

    • home solicitations

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

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

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

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star book jacketIn my search for something to read last weekend, nothing seemed quite right.  Then I happened upon my small collection of Paul Theroux books and I knew he was (no pun intended) just the ticket.  I’m a big fan of Mr. Theroux and have been saving Ghost Train to the Eastern Star for the right moment.  Ghost Train traces one of his earlier journeys documented originally in The Great Railway Bazaar.  That trip, which took place in 1973, chronicled Theroux’s mostly train journey from London across Europe and Asia, visiting India and Japan and returning west via the Trans-Siberian Railway.  Writers often travel in the footsteps of others but Theroux follows his own path, visiting old and new countries in order to see what has changed and what has remained the same.  Along the way he applies those same standards to himself.  

In Ghost Train, readers learn early on that Theroux’s previous trip took place under trying circumstances on the home front.  As the father of two young children he embarked on a long and seemingly pointless journey against his wife’s wishes.  While the trip brought him a measure of fortune and fame, his marriage never recovered.  In Ghost Train we find an older, more settled Theroux.  Without the family troubles to plague him, he traveled a second time with a more solid sense of home.  Theroux follows his earlier trip as closely as possible.  Politics prevented him from visiting countries like Iran and Afghanistan but this time he traveled through Georgia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan and visits Cambodia for the first time.  

Travel writing as a tale of adventure changed with the advent of air travel.  Travelers began to focus on the destination instead of the journey.  Theroux’s travel writing excels because it brings travel writing back to those earlier times.  For Theroux, the arrival, the departure and all that happens between the two are fodder for explanation.  He incorporates history without distracting from the narrative.  He frequently meets with local writers, in this case Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak in Istanbul, Arthur C. Clarke in Sri Lanka and Haruki Murakami in Japan.  He observes the conflicting economies in India, finding sadness at the overwhelming poverty while every rickshaw driver he sees is using a cell phone.  

Ultimately Theroux is a keen observer with a novelist’s heart.  Ghost Train is classic Theroux, peopled with interesting characters that bring shape and form to each trip.  Like his other works, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star allows the reader to sit alongside Mr. Theroux, watch over his shoulder and share the journey.  As with his other travels, the journey is well worth it.

I have a degree in history and, admittedly, can be something of a snob about it. If the facts aren’t right, well, I mumble under my breath and toss the book aside. Unfortunately, that eliminates a lot of popular history; work written for a broad audience. While often dramatic and exciting, these books can often be overly simplified or simply historically wrong. That means I read mostly dry, academic works that may satisfy my intellect but fail to stimulate the senses. There are exceptions, however.

Perhaps my favorite author of exciting, accurate history is James D. Hornfischer. His three books about the naval war in the Pacific possess more action and drama than most Hollywood films. His works focus on those moments during WWII when the outcome was less than certain and the Japanese had the advantage. This allows him to imbue the story with real peril. Hornfischer is especially adept at bringing any historic figure to life, whether a gunner’s mate or fleet admiral.

Last Stand of the Tin Can Soldiers book jacketLast Stand of the Tin Can Sailors focuses on one element within the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944. It tells the story of a group of small US warships that successfully fought off a much more powerful Japanese naval force that threatened the American landings in the Philippines but at a terrible cost. Few works highlight the bravery and sacrifice of men in battle more than this book.

Ship of Ghosts tells the story of the USS Houston, an American heavy cruiser. Stationed in the eastern Pacific in December 1941, theShip of Ghosts book jacket ship joined a motley assortment of other Allied vessels in a futile attempt to halt the Japanese advance through the East Indies.  When the Houston sank, most of her crew became POWs and endured unimaginable hardships. Few works capture the POW experience better than this book.

Neptune's InfernoNeptune’s Inferno, Hornfischer’s most ambitious work, tells the story of the naval campaign surrounding Guadalcanal in 1942-43. The U.S. Navy, still reeling from the losses at Pearl Harbor, suffered some of its greatest defeats ever, but ultimately broke the Japanese Navy and paved the way for Allied victory.  Few works demonstrate the uncertainty of victory in the war's early stages as graphically as this book.

So, if you’re leery of reading history but like great adventure stories, give James Hornfischer a try. I’m confident you’ll like what you find.

I’m struggling to find a term for this. I don’t think it’s metafiction (according to the online definitions I’ve found), but if it’s not that, then what do you call a novel where the author has taken as her/his fictional universe a fictional universe created by an earlier author?

Mr. Timothy book jacketLouis Bayard, in Mr. Timothy, and Lynn Shepherd, in The Solitary House, both clearly know (and love) their Charles Dickens, a master of 19th century plot, setting, and people. A Dickens universe is filled with vivid atmosphere and memorable characters, so why not borrow them for your novel? Bayard sets his novel 17 years after the events in A Christmas Carol, and features a Timothy Cratchit all grown up and the inheritor of E. Scrooge’s substantial estate.  No longer needing that crutch, Tim finds himself weighed down by the love and trust of his late benefactor.

Shepherd, on the other hand, opts for a mystery set slightly before the tumultuous events of Bleak House, where that novel’s villain, The Solitary House book jacketSir Edward Tulkinghorn, requests the assistance of private investigator/“thief-taker” Charles Maddox to determine who is threatening one of his clients.

In both novels, half the fun (for this reader) is anticipating and recognizing how the sort-of remembered details of the originals are incorporated into the homages. It doesn’t hurt that both authors happen to tell a rattling good story on their own.

In Bayard’s subsequent historical fiction, he has switched his settings to actual events and characters (Edgar Allan Poe at West Point, Theodore Roosevelt in the Amazon), while Shepherd has stayed with fiction (killing off a Jane Austen heroine, placing mysterious bite marks on the neck of her hero).

And, if you like your Downton Abbey served with a slice of cheerful snark, don’t miss Bayard’s recaps of each episode in the New York Times.

Glitched haptics. The klept. Homunculus parties. Disoriented yet? Like that feeling? If so, you should read The Peripheral, the new novel by William Gibson. Known in the past for cyberpunk, near-futurism, and epic,city-destroying battles with Neal Stephenson, here he tries his hand at that most tricky SF device: time travel. Or at least, something close to that.  Fear not - this is no stereotypical yarn: no one becomes his own grandpa, and no attempts to kill Hitler go horribly awry. And it’s even slyly humorous, if you pay attention (I loved the awkwardly romantic telepresence via Wheelie Boy… you’ll see).

The Peripheral book jacketFlynne Fisher lives in the near future, somewhere in the south in a house without running water. She makes a living playing video games for hire or doing shifts down at the 3D printing fab. Wilf Netherton is a publicist in London sometime after a mysterious event known as “The Jackpot” has occurred. In his time, genetic modification is rampant, nanobots scurry everywhere, and you can control live bodies with your mind. When Flynne covers a gaming shift for her brother (a former soldier suffering from the aformentioned glitched haptics) she sees something she shouldn’t have, something that will threaten her life and cause these two worlds to become forever entangled.

We’re talking neutron star density of the new here… It’s heady stuff, bewildering and alien at first, but that’s part of the pleasure. And yet, the more things change… well, you know what they say. Artspeak is just as cipherlike and nonsensical in the future as today, publicists are still hapless and gutless (sorry Wilf!), tattoos are still a thing, and unfortunately for most of us, the rich are still getting richer, a grim reality that even those in future can’t escape.

For more cyber thrillers and biotech chillers, try this list.

 

Her bookjacketThe 2015 books are starting to arrive and I zipped through my first psychological thriller of the new year. Harriet Lane’s Her sucked me right in with a deceptively ordinary story of two mothers (though if you prefer to read about parents who dote on their children, you'd best skip this book). What a fabulously entertaining, suspenseful, well-written book. The story centers on the build-up of revenge plotted by one of the characters towards the completely oblivious other.

Told in alternating chapters by the two main characters, the interplay of reality and perception is pretty chilling. It’s sort of The Bad Seed with middle aged women. Her is a story that builds from the misunderstandings and disappointments in our lives and the twist lies in the overlooking of those matters.

I’m ready to be pulled into more psychological suspense novels in the coming year; here are a few that I'm eagerly anticipating. I hope they turn out to be as unpredictable and surprising as Her.

"My sadness, my story, my wantoness, my skipping
My wish and my despair, my erasure, my plantation, my chocolate
My thoughtlessness, my gracelessness, my courage and my crying
My pockets, my homework
Like lions after slumber in unvanquishable number
Oh yeah."

"Oh how your flesh and blood became the word"

Cupid Psyche 85 album cover image

By 1985, Scritti Politti's Green Gartside had fully emerged from the peripheries of the UK's indie post-punk sleeper cells into quasi-global pop brilliance.  But appearances are often deceiving and although Cupid & Psyche '85 was a top 50 LP in the States, "Perfect Way" a number 11 US single, and Green a bonafide pop pin-up for 8 months or so, it's also well-known to many of Gartside's avid disciples that Cupid & Psyche '85 was meant to operate on multiple frequencies.

Cupid & Psyche '85 is celebrated as one of the UK's most successful manifestations of pop entryism and for a couple of months that year, it seemed as though Green's cherubic smirk was on the cover of every other teen/pop music magazine.  But long-time Scritti fans knew that Green's origins came out of the late 1970s UK student/squat scene - bravely committed to a radical and austere project of DIY collectives, demystification and music that rigorously confronted its own reasons for existing (see Scritti's Early collection).  Early song titles like "Hegemony," "Messthetics," and "Doubt Beat" presumably speak for themselves. After a (now mythic and perhaps exaggeratedly apocryphal) nervous breakdown, illness, and extended convalesence, Green turned his back on "the ghetto of the Independent scene" and focused his intelligence and acumen on doing music "properly" - which (hopefully) meant hits.  Cue "The 'Sweetest Girl'" - a mellifluous, almost vertiginous, incantation to the ghostly subject of millions of pop songs.  It was a major step forward and, while not the hit Green hoped for, it was a brilliant first shot into the pop citadel.

By 1983, Green/Scritti had signed with Virgin Records and relocated to NYC - where he began to construct the individual elements that would eventually constitute Cupid & Psyche '85.  First single "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)" rolled out in February 1984 and "Absolute,""Hypnotize," and "The Word Girl" followed - each single a carefully crafted, expensive, subtle dislocation of the norm.  Green never fully abandoned his commitment to rupture, to tracking the voids that fuel everyday emotions, the endless loops of logic that underpin our notions of "how things are."  His project attempted to embed deconstructive petroleum jelly in the dark recesses of "hyper-saccharine sweetness" with a strange bounce to the ounce.  He worked with some of the best, biggest, and priciest hit-makers in the industry and it all finally paid off in late 1985 when "Perfect Way" (only a moderate hit in the UK) nearly broke the US Top 10.

Of course this begged a major question for anyone invested in Green's purported project - when does pop entryism become tautology?  When a song - no matter how potentially subversive - transcends its origins of production to become, first and foremost, a glittering object - is
there still a project beyond entry into a value-commodity stream?  Reading interviews with Green circa 1983-85, it's clear that, despite his intial sense of excited purpose, he regularly wrestled with this contradiction.  And one might even argue that it ultimately did him in (as a pop star, at least).  Cupid & Psyche '85  was followed in 1988 by Provision - a modest commercial success, but tracked by many as an enervated doppelganger of C&P  85  (though "Boom! There She Was" is a classic Scritti hypno-pop white star). 

Green eventually "retired" from the music business, only to return in 1999 with Anomie & Bonhomie, a strange though compelling fission of guitar pop, airtight gloss and hip-hop, and then again in 2006 with the understated but gorgeous White Bread, Black Beer.
 

Scritti Politti - "Doubt Beat" (1979)

 

Scritti Politti - "The 'Sweetest Girl'" (1981)


 

Scritti Politti - "Lions After Slumber" (1982)

 

Scritti Politti - "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)" (1984)

 

Scritti Politti - "Perfect Way" (1985)



Scritti Politti - "Boom! There She Was" (1988)


Scritti Politti - "Umm" (1999)


Scritti Politti - "Boom Boom Bap" (2006)

 

Chester A. Arthur photoYou remember Chester A. Arthur, right? Twenty-first president of the United States. Served from 1881 until 1885 following the assassination of James Garfield. Not really? Don’t feel too bad -- you’re in good company.

Several years ago, I set out to memorize all 43 (now 44) presidents in order, along with the years they served. I thought it would be an interesting brain exercise and a great alternative to counting sheep when I couldn’t sleep. However, I soon found that if I neglected reviewing the list from time-to-time, I would forget some of the lesser known figures like Arthur, Taft and Pierce.

Now, this phenomenon of forgetting the presidents has actually been documented in two studies on cultural memory published in the journal Science and reported in the New York Times! The long and short of the studies is that most people can identify five or six recent presidents; the founding father presidents like Washington, Adams and Jefferson; and a small number who were at the helm during huge events in our nation’s history such as Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.Image of Presidential Seal

Maybe committing the list to memory isn’t important to you, but maybe you are interested in learning more about some of our chief executives through time. Here here are some great resources

 

Among Thieves

by John Clarkson

An intense crime thriller set in Brooklyn with tough characters and a page turning plot.  For fans of Lawrence Block and Lee Child.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James

by Emma Hooper

The story of eighty-three year old Etta who decides to walk across Canada to see the ocean. Along  the way she makes many friends who share their own life stories.  A poignant novel for literary fiction fans.

A Touch of Stardust

by Kate Alcott

A novel about the filming of Gone With the Wind and the budding love affair that happens between Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. Sure to be a hit with romance readers and fans of vintage Hollywood.

Dorothy Parker Drank Here

by Ellen Meister

Meister's second novel about the acid-tongued Dorothy Parker and her encounters with a down and out writer who has given up on life. Parker's classic wit and wisdom is sprinkled throughout. Enjoy!

Hell and Good Company: The Spanish Civil War and the World It Made

by Richard Rhodes

Rhodes, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, now presents the Spanish Civil War as a turning point for influencing military conflict in the 20th century. He discusses the new military weapons and strategies that emerged along with giving the perspectives of famous witnesses to the conflict such as Picasso and Hemingway.

Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story

by Michael Rosen

Rosen takes us though the history of the alphabet devoting a chapter to each one. He describes how we ended up with 26 in the first place, how we came to write them down, and what they really mean. Filled with interesting facts and told with humor, it is sure to appeal to language freaks.

Silence: the Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise

by Thich Nhat Hanh

One of the most beloved zen masters shares his wisdom on how to find happiness and inner peace by guiding our minds to cultivate calm and learn the power of silence.

 

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