Blogs: Adults

This past year I've become a downloadable audiobook super fan. I still love to read, but I also love to do and audiobooks free up your hands to do so much. For instance:

Knitting: The voice of the grumpy Swede in A Man Called Ove, with his laugh-out-loud rants against "whipper-snappers doing monkey business" proved the perfect companion as I worked (and then re-worked) a poncho called Ella from this book of Danish knits. 

Commuting: O.K. more of a "have to do" than a "love to do" but Hector Tobar's Deep Dark Down: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in A Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free , kept me anxiously looking forward to my work commute for weeks. And so what if I arrived at work a little weepy as the men were finally freed from the mine. I'm a sensitive person.

The only drawback to my audio habit thus far, is that I've developed a bit of a Veruca Salt syndrome. When I want an audiobook I want it now. I want it right now! Which is why I love Hoopla. With no waiting, I check out my book, download it and quickly get back to the business of doing.
 
Need a great listen while you get stuff done this holiday season? Or maybe you just want to relax your eyes and shelter your ears from that annoying battery-operating talking toy the grandparents bought for your kid?
 
Tune in to something off this list of 10 great audiobooks that you could be enjoying right now.

I love Christmas, but most of the things I love about it probably originated in the celebration of the solstice. Sure, I appreciate super-religious and very old carols (“Fall on your knees! O  hear the angel voices!”), but for me, really, it’s mostly about having a real tree in my living room that’s all covered in lights and sparkly things, and the fact that the world will begin, finally, slowly, to get lighter and lighter.

So I’m not a believer, but it was still an interesting time of year to listen to Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary, which focuses intensely on the story of one woman who just happens to be the mother of Jesus Christ. This short novel is narrated by Meryl Streep, who is a magnificent reader, and the experience of listening to it was vivid and intimate. This Mary is a person who has lived through real anguish and is unwilling to put up with any nonsense. The novel is set several years after the crucifixion, and she is being cared for, or perhaps held by, some of the disciples, men who are hard at work making Jesus into a myth. She has no patience for them. For their part, they want her to cooperate or else to just shut up. The human aspects of the story, which are everything to Mary, don't interest them at all.

I listened to this because I was charmed by the author's By the Book column in the New York Times. Tóibín's a voracious reader, and I liked the warmth, humor, and wide embrace of life that came through as he spoke about books he’s loved.

Here’s a list of audiobooks that, like this one, are read by extraordinary readers. I wish you all a season of glorious reading while these long winter nights and rainy days continue, and let me know if I can help with some suggestions.

In June of this year I brought home my first ever canine companion. My daughter named him SodaPop, and at one year old he is a bundle of energy. A bundle of energy who loves to go on long walks around the neighborhood. I’ve always enjoyed listening to audiobooks, but now that hour long walks are a regular part of my daily routine, audiobooks have become a necessity. When you are going for lengthy foggy morning and rainy evening strolls, the perfect companion is a good horror story. 
 
It audiobook coverStephen King’s It is a monstrous audiobook, both in length (clocking in at 45 hours long) and in the amount of chills that it is sure to give you. It is the story of a small town that has been haunted by an evil shapeshifting entity and the seven children who face this nameless horror. The narrator, Steven Weber, does a fantastic job of embodying the voices of each of the many characters in this horror classic; from young Ben Denbrough’s stutter and Trashmouth Tozier’s impersonations to the nightmareish voice of Pennywise. It will give you many hours (days) of entertainment...but when you are out walking in the rain, steer clear of the storm drains.
 
Heart-Shaped Box audiobook coverI can’t really talk about Stephen King without talking about his son, Joe Hill, another one of my favorite masters of horror. Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box centers around Judas Coyne, an aging death metal rock star and collector of the macabre. When Judas buys a suit that is said to be haunted by its recently deceased owner, he gets a lot more than what he paid for. Narrator Stephen Lang’s deep, somber voice is the perfect match for this spine tingling ghost story.
 
Here in the Pacific Northwest we have a few months of long, rainy days and nights ahead of us. May I recommend that you spend some time wandering around our fine city, bundled up and warm while listening to a chilling story. 

A college degree is one of the most expensive items you will ever buy. It can leave you in debt for years, so you want to be as smart as you can about your education. When you attend college, you are "buying" a college degree, much as you purchase other big-ticket items. So, you want to make sure you get your money's worth.

Barnard College

Figuring out what college is going to cost

The U.S. Department of Education has a useful website called College Scorecard. You supply information about the type of degree you are looking for and locations or regions that you are interested in, and you'll receive results that show the average annual cost of tuition and fees at each matching institution, the graduation rate, and the annual average salary of their graduates. It's a great website for getting an overview and comparing what different colleges cost.

Another great place to research college pricing and student aid is at The College Board website. There is a wide variety in prices charged by institutions of different types and in different parts of the country, so it can really pay to do your research.

Looking at online colleges? They can sometimes offer you more flexibility and easier access than traditional colleges. Check out Affordable Colleges Online to see, by state or by subject, which colleges offer affordable options. 

Be sure to add in what your room and board costs will be, including your meal plan, books and supplies, and other personal expenses

Your Personal Resources

Before you apply for student aid or scholarships, you'll need to figure out the amount of money that you and perhaps your parents can afford. Some parents choose to contribute and others believe that it is the student's responsibility to pay for college.

If you are saving for college, the State of Oregon offers the Oregon College Savings Plan which provides tax advantages. 

Federal Student Aid

If you plan to apply for aid, check and double-check the application deadlines. State and college aid may have earlier deadlines than federal aid. When you apply, you want to be in the first stack of applicants, not the last. You can check the federal and state application deadlines at www.fafsa.gov.

The first step to apply is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Financial aid experts recommend that all students fill out the FAFSA because it is used by colleges and grant-makers to figure out financial need. 

The fastest way to fill out the FAFSA is online at www.fafsa.ed.gov, but you can also get paper forms at all our public library branches: Just ask at a reference desk. Give yourself plenty of time to fill out the form. You'll need to have information about your financial situation and you or your parents' federal tax forms from the previous year at hand.

Using the information that you supply on the FAFSA, the financial aid office at your college will determine that amount of aid you may receive.

Ah, the slight autumnal chill in the air. The smell of apple pie wafting from the kitchen.The clouds and the greyness and the rain on the horizon. Yes, indeed, here in Portland, it's time to hunker down and watch some good shows.

The Affair coverWhat to watch, you ask?

Are you in the mood for deceit and mystery and sex and how distorted our memories can be? Try The Affair

Fortitude cover

 

Want to visit a bleak, desolate land of ice and snow? If you can suspend your sense of disbelief just a bit and want an intriguing story set in the Arctic Circle that’s filled with a completely bizarro mystery, pop Fortitude into your dvd player (the first half is the best part of it),

 

 

 

And then for a little lighter fare, an entertaining, series that stars the most splendid character, Miss Phryne Fisher wearing fabulous 1920s dresses, watch Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries cover

 

 

 

Need a few more shows to while away the winter with? Check out my list here. If you'd like even more suggestions, please ask me

 

Associates "Sulk"

 

"Your limitations are our every care"

The Associates (primarily singer Billy Mackenzie and multi-instrumentalist Alan Rankine) were a Scottish act, now identified as quintessentially "post-punk."   But there's no way any taxonomic indicator could ever contain or expand enough to encompass the sounds embedded in "Sulk." Leading with the shrill blast of "Arrogance Gave Him Up"'s racing drums and fluorescent synth stabs, the record defies expectation at every turn.  Predictably, Bowie genetic traces run rampant - but "Sulk" sidles into the outer territories of what "pop" might be/come, like an acid spill corroding the enervated gestures of everything else happening in 1982 (Bowie soul-boys, New Romantics, chart entryists, end-days disco).  The record is overflowing with ideas and impulses - gorgeous, but like a still life of a swamp, harboring all kinds of unknown and carbonized creatures, sensations, and pitfalls.

No album is ever fully outside its historical moment.  "Sulk" has "1980s" written all over its face - Thatcher-induced paranoia, the seemingly endless money-spouts pumping out of the pores of the culture industry, and a leashed but furious gnashing of the teeth at sex and desire's constraints.  And drugs of course.  Legend has it that Rankine and Mackenzie spent half of their 60,000 pound advance (massive for '82) on cocaine, clothing, cocaine, room service, cocaine, and inspired concepts like chocolate life-sized guitars for a Top of the Pops appearance.  Mackenzie's lyrics are ultimately impenetrable but necessarily so. These songs are howls from the edges of a self-enclosed world that Mackenzie knew would never be able to carve out new space quickly enough for escape.  

I'll end with Mackenzie's voice.  It moves everywhere at once, sometimes following the often unpredictable musical pathways but just as often birthing new songs within songs, burning like brush fires that we know will eventually (though we don't want them to) self-exhaust.  




I am not a hoarder!  So okay, my work desk might have goat’s paths and the 9 x 9 storage unit down the hall from my condo could use a good clear out, but still, I can let go of things!  In the new book Mess: One Man's Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act, I learned that hoarders really can’t give up anything. I, therefore, am merely a clutter bug and only at work.  My living quarters are actually quite neat.  Each room and piece of furniture can be used for its original purpose, and clothing, books, and craft supplies are not stacked up on every surface. 

This was so not true for Barry Yourgrau, the author of Mess.  His girlfriend, Cosima, was horrified when she finally arrived on his apartment doorstep some Mess book jacketyears after he had taken it over from her and gave him an ultimatum:  Clean it up or we’re breaking up!  Now Barry had a sweet gig – he worked in his own apartment, but actually lived at Cosima’s much nicer place where she regularly cooked gourmet meals for him.  Additionally, they traveled all over the world to foodie events for Cosima’s career.  He had plenty of reasons to clean up his act, but would he be motivated enough to actually get it done?

Follow Barry as he does his “researches” that include lots of reading, talking with organizing professionals and a psychiatrist, and visiting one of the most famous hoarders of all time. It’s the most fun book on organization (or lack of it) that I’ve ever read!

Here’s a list of further resources on clutter and hoarding, most of which Yourgrau refers to in Mess.

Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking book jacketHere are the top four reasons why I love Maangchi:
  1. Maangchi is a girl gamer - her handle means "hammer" in Korean.
  2. She's a good dresser.
  3. She's a YouTube and blogging star.
  4. Finally, she taught me everything that I know about Korean cooking!
Three years ago, Maangchi taught me how to make kimchi at home. Fast-forward to 2015: With Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking at my side, I made Korean fried chicken (dakgangjeong) and soft tofu stew (kimmchi-sundubu-jjigae). If you've never had it before, Korean fried chicken (KFC) is super crunchy, garlicky, and has a great sweet and spicy sauce. Unfortunately, you can't eat KFC everyday, but that's what soft tofu stew is for. The stew, which is made red and spicy by hot pepper powder, is full of onions, garlic, kimchi, silken tofu, and pork belly. Both dishes are comfort food at its best.
 
Other things that I've made in the past that are absolutely yummy include: kimchi fried rice (kimchi-bokkeumbap), LA kalbi (LA galbi), bok choy with miso (cheonggyeongchae doenjang-muchim), and stir fried potato glass noodles (japchae). All these recipes are highly recommended.
 
Although many of these recipes are available online, I encourage you to check out her book because it's a work of art. Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking is an excellent cookbook for people like me who get easily intimidated by complicated, unfamiliar foods. Stop running away from your true desires! Cook with Maangchi now.

Do you enjoy reading stories told from multiple perspectives in alternating chapters? Do you like your characters to surprise you, but still feel authentic? Are you more moved by a story with substance but also want it to be a page-turner?  
 
If you answered yes, then there's a good chance you'll enjoy three of my recent five-star reads. Each one shares all the traits mentioned, but the best part? Their similarities end there. Because, when I put down a book I love, I want another great book, but not the same great book. I want to be surprised by something new.
 
Book jacket: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna NorthThe Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North is fiction, but it reads like the true documentary of a controversial filmmaker. Sophie Stark's life unfolds in chapters told from the perspective of the people that were most affected by her and by her work. Never mind that the title gives away the ending; I got sucked in fast to this story and didn't dare look away for fear of missing a hint or clue as to where it all went wrong. Sophie Stark is not exactly likable, but as an outcast artist, who relies on images to express how she sees the world when words fail her, she was absolutely believable. If you love outsider stories or psychological fiction about art and creativity, don't pass this one up!
 
 
Book jacket: The Fair Fight by Anna FreemanI have a hard time imagining why anyone wouldn't want to read about female bare-knuckle boxers in 18th century England, so I'm baffled that The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman doesn't have holds on it. Told from the perspective of three characters who defy social class and convention in their own way, this is a great read for fans of richly-detailed historical fiction looking for unconventional characters. But what makes this book especially fun to read is the language. Filled with cullies, strumpers, and babbers, The Fair Fight is a brilliant, brash and brawling book that shoves you through a mass of foul smelling coats, out the back door of a Bristol tavern where you're left looking up at a young woman on a low wooden stage, petticoats pinned up to expose thick legs, stays loosened, bandaged fists raised, head high and eyes fixed, letting her opponent know, "I'll drive that breath out of you sonny." 
 
 
Book Jacket: All That Followed by Gabriel UrzaAll That Followed by Gabriel Urza begins with a terrorist act. The 2004 bombing of commuter trains in Madrid, stirs up painful memories in a small Basque town miles away. The truth behind the gossip whispered in the cafes of Muriga unfolds slowly, told in alternating voices by the town's residents: the lovely young widow of a murdered outsider politician, an American expat teacher with a dark past that binds him tightly to his adopted homeland, and the young radicalized Basque separatist, jailed for his part in a crime that should have never happened.
 
If you like fiction that brings to life newspaper headlines, this could be a book for you. If you like stories vividly set in small towns with complicated histories and nuanced characters with dark secrets that leave you questioning where to place blame; this might be a book for you. If you think you'd like a story where a character believes her donated "terrorist kidney" is talking to her, sharing images and smells from the donor's life, this is definitely a book for you!
 
Have you recently loved a book, but are still waiting to find your next great read? Tell me about it, I'd like to help!

A Collection of Essays book jacketYou’ve probably noticed that much of what is said does not actually say anything. Yes there are words, but they are vague enough to mean anything or nothing. George Orwell also noticed and he wrote an essay in 1945 called "Politics and the English Language". The problem, he says, is lazy writing which often is just a bunch of worn out phrases strung together. Orwell says when our writing is sloppy it is easier for us to have foolish thoughts. It also makes it possible to dance around an issue without committing ourselves. He calls for writing that is clear and concise, where we are aware of the meaning.

Give Orwell’s essays a try. You will be treated to some fine writing and great arguments. I hope you will enjoy his essays as much as I have. They should help you develop the critical tools needed to evaluate if what you are hearing or reading makes sense or is nonsense.

All Art is Propaganda and A Collection of Essays contain "Politics and the English Language" and are available at Multnomah County Library.

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