Blogs:

Kenneth Doswell

BettyJean Couture owner Kenneth Doswell Photo: Oregonlive

Kenneth Doswell is the owner of Bettyjeancouture. He made personal history in 2014 when he received his first national fashion award, Designer of the Year at New York’s Full Figured Fashion week. He only designs for women.  Doswell’s designs are a fashion work of art combining nostalgia with contemporary elements.  He ignores trends and creates beautiful, longlasting fashion.  For most, he is a well kept secret.  If truth be told, Doswell entered the fashion scene at 8 years of age. He designs and creates clothing for leading women. The beauty of it all, his clothes are affordable and he’s right here in Portland!

Further Exploration: http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/06/north_portlands_kenneth_doswel.html

Available at Multnomah County Library: Michelle Obama, First Lady of Fashion and Style by Swimmer, Susan

 

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.

Deena Pierott

 

iUrban founder Deena Pierott Photo: nten\.org

In 2011, Deena Pierott starts iUrban Teen with a focus on introducing, supporting and propelling students in the vast areas of technology. Specifically, iUrban aims to increase technology participation in male Black, Latino and Native American teens. Through interactive summits, tours, trainings and a hands-on approach, iUrban garners national attention. In 2013, Pierott is recognized as a Champion of Change for Technology Inclusion at the White House. More good news: iUrban is right here in Portland!

Further Exploration: http://iurbanteen.org/

Available at Multnomah County Library: African American Firsts in Science and Technology by Webster, Raymond B.

The Golden Cage follows the journey of three Guatemalan teenagers as they attempt to illegally cross the dangerous Mexico-US border in pursuit of the American dream. This movie has a variety of elements that make it stand out. The film addresses a social reality with a vigorous narrative and a cinematographic freshness.

Crossing the Mexican border to the USA is a controversial topic and there have been books, documentaries and other art that portrays the narrative of this crude reality. The Golden Cage is different in that it presents documentary elements and uses real-life participants; at times you can feel a special connection and compassion for the protagonists. The director Diego Quemada-Diez, who also wrote the screenplay, never imagined that this production would earn him and his cast one of the most recognized awards in the world at the Cannes Film Festival in the category  of “Un Certain Regard”. Quemada-Diez spent 10 years compiling testimonials and creating the content of the story. He found three talented non-professional actors after casting around 3,000 people.  A girl disguising herself as a boy opens up the story, and short dialogues emerge in a neutral tone at times without expressions. The dialogues all have something in common -- “dreams of gold”.  Find more stories of border crossings and uncertain futures here.
 

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/dwayne-edwards/

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.

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.

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 contentment 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

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