Blogs:

D’wayne Edwards

 

Pensole Founder D'wayne Edwards Photo: bmeccommunity

When he's 17, he crushes the competition in a Reebok design competition. While attending college, he secures a job with L.A. Gear, an old-school footwear company. Every day he submits shoe drawings and a suggestion to hire him as a shoe designer. After submitting a total of 180 sketches, he’s offered a job as the youngest footwear designer in the industry at that time. Eventually, his hard work and determination land him a job at Nike as design director for brand Jordan. His designs sell more than $1 billion, he owns over 30 patents and designs shoes for some of the world’s top athletes, woosh! He decides to leave Nike and use his own money to start Pensole, a shoe design academy. And he’s right here in Portland!

Further Exploration: http://www.pensole.com/founder/

Available at Multnomah County Library: Footwear Design by Choklat, Aki

I am a philosophy professor and chair of the Philosophy Program at Southern Oregon University. Having been trained in both Indian and Western philosophy, my reading covers a wide spectrum. For the last several years I have become interested in issues in political philosophy, the role of scientific literacy in modern democracy, and issues at the interface between science and religion. I see reading as a walk I am taking with a friend while exploring a subject. Depending on the topic, the conversation can be calm or passionate. Either way, the dialogue almost always enriches my life. This has required me to buy a few more bookshelves.

Here are some reflections on a variety of books I have been reading. Please feel free to send me your questions and comments.

Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality by Danielle Allen

While there are thousands of volumes written about the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence from as many perspectives as one can imagine, the pages of Princeton philosopher Danielle Allen’s reading of the Declaration are filled with rigor and passion. Allen walks us through the document, helping us understand and appreciate the significance of various ideas and making a case the true freedom is not possible without equality. Each chapter is nicely organized in manageable lengths for easy reading.

I highly recommend reading the book, especially today as we are working through several social and political challenges.

What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael J. Sandel

In this book, Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel, author of the New York Times bestseller Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?, takes up some of the moral dilemmas we are encountering more and more in our society -- fighting wars, selling admission to colleges, drug testing -- and subjects them to moral scrutiny. Sandel argues that in the end, to separate markets and economics from morality “is not good for democracy, nor is it a satisfying way to live.”

The book is an excellent resource to get us thinking about the issues we face today. It also illustrates how philosophers go about doing philosophy.

Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False by Thomas Nagel

Is everything, including mind/consciousness, ultimately reducible to material/physical substance and process alone? Or is there something more to it? Philosophers and theologians have been debating this question for centuries, if not longer. Ever since the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859), the debate gained new life, especially with those who pushed to explain mental phenomena in terms of material processes.

In Mind and Cosmos, renowned philosopher Thomas Nagel, makes a provocative proposal that arguments to reduce mind/consciousness to a physical foundation is, as he puts it in the title, “…almost certainly false.” The book has given rise to some interesting and, in some circles, even acrimonious exchanges. In reviewing the book, the Harvard cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker wrote that Nagel’s thesis is the “…shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker.”

Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them by Joshua Greene

Human beings may be unique in facing moral dilemmas. While historically there have been answers galore as to how one ought to behave, modern cognitive science and neuroscience are challenging and offering new insights into what constitutes morality and where we get it. In fascinating book, Harvard social scientist Joshua Greene explores how the human brain processes morality, shaped by evolution and cultural forces. In this very accessible book, he offers a moral framework, to help us examine and inform our moral quandaries.

The book will be of interest to all those who are interested learning about how new sciences can and are shaping our sense of morality.

Exploring Happiness: From Aristotle to Brain Science by Sissela Bok

The Politics of Happiness: What Government Can Learn from the New Research on Well-Being by Derek Bok

The last few decades have seen increased interest, attention, and research focused on happiness, a fundamental human emotion. While philosophers have discussed the concept for centuries, new research is shedding fresh light on how happiness can enhance and shape our wellbeing in society. In Exploring Happiness, philosopher Sissela Bok offers a philosophical overview of happiness from Aristotle to what neuroscience is telling about this subject. In The Politics of Happiness, Derek Bok, former president of Harvard University, offers a broad survey of how new research on happiness can help us address some of our vexing social and economic problems. He touches on such challenges as income inequality, marriage and families, and quality of political leadership.

The Boks articulate a complex subject clearly and I recommend the books to anyone interested in understanding the present human condition, and perhaps why we need to rethink our approach to solving some of our personal, social, and political challenges.

Here are some other books on my bookshelf (outside of my professional reading):

Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life by Daniel Klein

The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O Wilson

Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris

For more reading recommendations customized for you, try the My Librarian service.  My Librarian and our featured guest readers are made possible by a grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to The Library Foundation, a local non-profit dedicated to our library's leadership, innovation, and reach through private support.

It’s a new year - have you checked your credit reports lately? There are three nationwide consumer credit agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and together they maintain the official website AnnualCreditReport.com which lets you check your credit report (or “credit file disclosure”) for each of these agencies once every 12 months, for no cost.

For more information and motivation, take a look at this credit score action plan from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

(Keep in mind that your credit report is different from your credit score, which is a number assigned by a credit agency. The Federal Reserve has a webpage which explains the difference.)

Once you’ve figured out your credit situation, the library has books which can help you learn how to control and repair your credit and debt. There are also a number of nonprofit agencies who provide free debt counseling:

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.

Wikipedia logo.Wikipedia, is a free encyclopedia with over 4 million articles in multiple languages, created by users all over the world. Can you trust all of them? Probably not, although this website can be great for finding a quick answer when you don't need the information to be 100%-guaranteed accurate.

Your professor or teacher might say that you can't use Wikipedia when you're writing a research paper - but this doesn't mean that it's not useful to you in your research. Many of the articles in Wikipedia have citations indicated throughout them, and a list of references at the end where the authors are claiming to have found their information. This doesn't prove that everything in the Wikipedia article is true - but if you find a fact that you need, you can use the citations and the list of references in the article to find out which source might have that fact. 

And if you need help finding any of the sources listed in your Wikipedia article, just ask a librarian and we can help!

Introduction: This, the final week of Black History Month, we focus on NOW!  The past several weeks featured African Americans, both dead and alive, who made significant contributions to American culture. Their ingenuity, creativity and dedication inform and influence how we live, NOW! The same inventiveness, originality and artistry continues today, as we will see in the lives of this week's features. And you don't have to go very far to find most of them. History is NOW! We live, NOW! We end this month's journey through Black history with a focus on NOW! Enjoy and engage.

Clarke Flowers

 

Portland Model Clarke Flowers Photo:

She’s beautiful and taking the fashion world by storm. Clarke Flowers proves you can pursue your dream while obtaining a college degree. Here’s the kicker: She didn’t start modeling until she was 18 years old! As winner of the 2014 Portland Fashion and Style award for Best Female Model, Flowers is versatile. She’s done editorial, glamour, lifestyle, swimwear, promotional and fashion, but her favorite is owning the runway. And good news: She’s right here in Portland. Although there are rumors of her relocating to Los Angeles. Where ever she goes, Portland has the distinguished honor of claiming her as our own.

Further Exploration: www.optionmodelandmedia.com

Available at Multnomah County Library: The Fashion Industry by Roman Espejo

 

Our Souls at Night jacketWhat's it like to be inside someone else's head, looking out? That's a nut technology has yet to crack. Luckily we have fiction. Everything I know about what it's like to be...a young gay man in a repressive society, an elderly woman looking back on her life, a Japanese man struggling with identity... and on... I learned from reading fiction. With each book, I push a little outside the known world of myself.

Kent Haruf was one of those writers who could take you directly into the experience of another. In language that is deceptively simple, he describes the emotional and often isolated lives of people living in the small towns and country of the west. He died in November of last year, and so sadly, there is nothing more to read except for his last book, Our Souls at Night.

Our Souls at Night recounts the story of two widowed people: Louis and Addie live a couple houses away from one another in a small town. They know each other to say hello at the grocery store, and of course, because it's a small town, they know the rough landscapes of each others' lives - how forty years ago, Louis had an affair; how Addie and her family lived through a tragic accident. Some believe that small towns have a stronger sense of community, but in fact, it's just as easy to be isolated and removed from life in a small place as it is in a large. Addie makes a decision to poke at this loneliness by inviting Louis to be her bed-mate, to come over each night and lie in the dark with her and talk. After some initial awkwardness, they settle into a quiet joy in their companionship. Their contentmet is shared out to Addie's grandson, who stays with her when her son's marriage begins to disintergrate. But the solace they find in one another will be tested by the bitterness and anger of others.

Haruf's story is heart-rending in its simplicity, and if you have older parents, it will challenge you to think about how aging, and loss, and the judgement of others affect our elders. And it will make you mourn for the loss of this great writer.

 

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.

Ben Arogundade

hoto of Ben Arogundade - Photo from www\.benarogundade\.com

We wrap up this week’s fashion theme with a book recommendation, author Ben Arogundade’s Black Beauty. As stated on Amazon:

“Through over 150 color and black and white photographs and an engaging, informed text, Black Beauty discusses the position of blacks within the beauty hierarchy of the West, as well as the kinds of work available to black models within the past century. Author Ben Arogundade also offers insight to the ways in which certain styles of black beauty have been promoted above others. In considering black icons and celebrities from Marcus Garvey, Josephine Baker, and Muhammad Ali to Billy Dee Williams, Grace Jones and Lauryn Hill, Black Beauty reveals the many differing images of those who have embodied black beauty in our culture. Portraits by Herb Ritts, Albert Watson, Richard Avedon, and other eminent photographers are included in this stunning compilation.”

Further Exploration:  http://www.arogundade.com/ben-arogundade-biography-bio-author-and-e-book-publisher-arogundade-books.html

Available at Multnomah County Library: Black Beauty by Arogundade, Ben

For those of us who love classical literature, Multnomah County Library is a great resource. There are Classics Pageturners book discussion groups at Hillsdale Library and Hollywood Library.  The book lists for those discussion series are below, and include the dates of the discussions in the annotations.  Following that are a series of lists of Western and non-Western literature from every era. For the rest of the Classics Pageturners 2014-2015 season, here is the schedule:

Hillsdale Library Classics Pageturners, second Saturdays, 3-5 pm

April 11, Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott

May 9, The Ambassadors, by Henry James

June 13, Tartuffe, by Molière

Hollywood Library Classics Pageturners, third Sundays, 2-4 pm

April 19, The Art of War, by Sunzi

May 17, The Second Sex, volume 1, by Simone de Beauvoir

June 21, The Second Sex, volume 2, by Simone de Beauvoir

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