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WOWVolunteer Maureen Flynn

by Donna Childs

Most people have heard of Meals on Wheels, for whom volunteers deliver food to people who are homebound, but few know that Multnomah County Library has a program called Words on Wheels, through which volunteers deliver books, food for the mind and soul. One of those volunteers is Maureen Flynn, who brings library materials to two women who can’t get to a library.

Her “fantastic” women live in the same assisted living facility, but have different needs and ways of choosing books. One of them talks with Maureen about the kinds of books she likes—and those she does not—but seldom requests specific titles. Knowing her tastes, Maureen reads reviews and scans library shelves for titles she might like. The other woman does her own research and often gives Maureen lists of specific books she wants to read.  In both cases, Maureen talks with the women about the books and about their own interests and histories, and picks up and returns books to the Hollywood library for them.

Maureen goes to the assisted living facility almost weekly to be sure each woman has a good supply of books. She enjoys getting to know these women and has learned a lot from them.  In return, she is able to enhance their library experience, to pass on what she has learned about using the library.  

In addition to Words on Wheels, Maureen also volunteers at the Hollywood Library. She began four years ago, as an expired holds clerk, pulling and processing books people had requested, but did not ever pick up. She found it a great way to learn about good books and laughed that her pants pockets were usually full of scraps of paper with book titles. Now, she pulls holds on Mondays before the library opens, finding books, CDs and DVDs that patrons have requested. That way, she can search shelves without intruding on other patrons’ browsing.

An inveterate helper, Maureen also volunteers at her church, preferring behind the scenes tasks, such as sacristy and altar guild work.  Her helping has paid off in other ways: a former volunteer job at Providence Medical Center led her to a position there until she retired and began volunteering with the library.


A Few Facts About Maureen

Home library: Hollywood

Currently reading: Maya Lin’s "Boundaries"

Most influential book: Lately, it is "Mycelium Running" by Paul Stamets.

A book that made you laugh or cry: All the PG Wodehouse books

Favorite reading guilty pleasure: Murder mysteries

E-reader or paper? Paper, because it is tactile - it’s a life-long preference.

Favorite place to read: In summer, outside and in winter, indoors by a window

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

Zot book jacketI first discovered Scott McCloud via a friend's copy of his comic Zot!. McCloud is both writer and artist, and his style was simple yet full of detail. Zot! was a story of clashing alternate dimensions... the modern 80's of our world, and a sparkling, optimistic retro 'future' of 1965! Zot himself (Zachary Paleozogt) was a sixteen-year old hero (with rocket boots and ray gun) reminiscent of Flash Gordon. Enter Jenny Weaver, sensitive teen, and the reader's point of view character through the series. I loved the goofy stories that were unobtrusively filled with serious issues. The library has a Zot! collection available here.Understanding Comics book jacket

Some years later, I discovered that McCloud had been doing some deep thinking about what made comics work. What differentiates sequential art from a book, from a painting, from a movie? His thoughts appeared in Understanding Comics. As someone with a lifelong interest in comics, I avidly pored over this. Here we go backstage with a master who is able to explain... Why that angle? Why that viewpoint? Why this choice, not that?The Sculptor book jacket

I wondered idly what his work would be like after having written what amounted to (very cool) textbooks on the subject. Now I know. McCloud has just released The Sculptor. A young, struggling New York artist makes a deal with Death, offering up his life for 200 days of what amounts to an artistic 'superpower'. And then he falls in love. Now, with something to live for, he faces imminent mortality and the rollercoaster ride of new love. Combining tender and funny, fierce and serene, everyday with surreal, this is truly the work of a master of the graphic novel... and of storytelling.

Curious about censorship in Oregon?  Need to know what's been published in the local news?  The Intellectual Freedom Issues in Oregon: A News Database, may have what you need.  The database is the Oregon Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse's news clipping files, and is updated twice a year. The database includes news articles and editorials about intellectual freedom issues printed in Oregon newspapers over the past 65 years. The database can be searched by article title, newspaper name, date, city/location, name of challenged book or material, and organizations or individuals involved. After you have found what you want to read, contact the coordinator of the Oregon Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse, Katie Anderson, 503-378-2528 to request a complete text of the articles or editorials.  And if you have any trouble, don't forget to Ask a Librarian!

Big & Awesome Bridges of Portland and Vancouver book jacketBridges are one of the bonuses of living in Portland. Did you know there are 22 bridges over the Columbia and Willamette rivers in the Portland and Vancouver area? I love all of the different styles and types of bridges we have. Getting out of my car and seeing them from the river bank or a boat on the river adds to my enjoyment of them. The more I learn about our bridges the more interesting they become. It is easy to learn more about our bridges with Sharon Wood Wortman's great new book, Big & Awesome Bridges of Portland & Vancouver.

What makes this book special is that it is written for kids. It has lots of art and graphics as well as facts, bridge poems and interviews with bridge designers and workers. It includes the new Tilikum Crossing and Selwood bridges. Adults needn’t worry about this being a kids' book, there is plenty of information about the bridges. You also will learn about bridge building and design. There are even plans to build model bridges out of popsicle sticks that you can load test.

Sharon Wood Wortman also wrote The Portland Bridge Book. The first and second editions are illustrated with neat line drawings and the third edition, which came out in 2006, has photographs of the bridges. These books are also worth looking at, but they’re not as much fun as Big & Awesome Bridges. You can find out more about Portland’s bridges online at  Big & Awesome Bridges of Portland and Vancouver and at PDX Bridge Festival.

I recently got a Fitbit, a wonderful little device that tracks how much you walk, and I’ve become a little bit obsessed with seeing how many steps I can walk every single day. I’m not quite as obsessed as David Sedaris is about walking (or maybe it’s because I don’t have nine hours every day to devote to walking the way Sedaris says he does). I know that I’m somewhere on the obsessive-compulsive scale but I really do try not to let my slight ocd tendencies affect those around me (though my husband, when he’s washing the dishes as I’m hovering about in the kitchen cleaning up after him, might disagree with that last statement).

The Man Who Couldn't Stop bookjacketDavid Adam does suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder. For the past 20 years, he has had an irrational fear of contracting AIDS, and in an effort to understand this, he has written The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought. It’s my favorite kind of memoir - personal, poignant, heartbreaking stories of the author mixed with everything I’ve ever wanted to know about a bigger subject. This is an immensely down-to-earth, accessible book about a difficult subject. I came away with an understanding of the definition of OCD, the possible causes, the treatment of OCD and a huge amount of empathy for all those that lean towards obsessive- compulsive disorder.


 

RisePlanetofApesDVDImage
The original 1968 Planet of the Apes attempted (somewhat clunkily in retrospect) to speak to the politics of its time - particularly the ongoing civil rights struggles in the US.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes - not so much remake as re-imagined prequel - more cannily embodies and plays out a more viscerally destructive politics:  the refusal of cooperation - and even love - in a world structurally predicated on species difference and exploitation.  Ape leader Caesar's incremental "NOs" finalize in a rejection of the possibility of love between masters (humans) and captors (apes) but this series of refusals also begins to construct a revolutionary solidarity among the apes.  

Director Rupert Wyatt does a nice job of projecting the film's human personalities as monochromatic 'types' (including James Franco's protagonist - perhaps the most sympathetic of the humans, but also perhaps the most capable of betrayal), while drawing out layers of personality, depth and passion in the apes (who - apart from Caesar - hardly speak).  The film's final battle along the Golden Gate Bridge is cinematically stunning but also politically inspired as a representation of strategic resistance.  Rise's release coincided with the summer 2011 UK riots and Occupy's global eruption was just around the corner.  Rise is certainly special in that it reflected and challenged its historical moment - but it is Caesar's equation of "home" with permanent revolution that underscores the truly radical power of the film.





 

Winnie book jacketI attribute the beginnings of my Anglophilia to two bears:  Winnie-the-Pooh and Paddington.  When I was a child, I loved Milne's stories and poems about Pooh and his Hundred Acre Wood friends, my mother's nickname for me was Roo, and we called snacks "smackerels". I knew that Winnie was based on a teddy bear owned by A.A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, but until recently, I didn’t know that the stuffed bear got his name from a real live one!  The “real” bear, Winnie (short for Winnipeg), was purchased at a Canadian train station by a veterinary surgeon serving in WWI.  The seller had shot the cub’s mother (not realizing she had a baby) and now didn’t know what to do with the young bear.  Fortunately, Harry Colebourn came to the cub’s rescue and thus began Winnie’s adventure.  You can read all about Winnie in a lovely new children’s book entitled Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh.  The watercolor illustrations are charming and evoke the era, and the endpapers have photos of Winnie, Harry, Milne and Christopher Robin (with his teddy bear). 

For other true stories about children’s literature, check out this list.

I am secure enough in my nerdiness to admit that I once owned a copy of that famous poster Fox Mulder had on the wall of his basement cubicle in the X-Files. The one with the spaceship and the words "I Want To Believe." (I also had Mulder and Scully action figures and a pet cockatiel who whistled the first measures of the show's theme song in an endless loop, but we don't need to go there.)
 
If you've never seen the show, all you need to know is that Mulder believes in aliens and Scully is Catholic. I gravitate to characters grappling with religion in any form because the complexity of human belief brings out the most compelling stories. (And if those stories involve government conspiracies and alien-human hybrids, all the better.) 
 
Religion can show us the very best and worst in human nature. It's sort of like a church basement potluck--the good and the terrible gathered together on one table, saints and serial killers ready to mingle like so much green jello salad and funeral potatoes.
 
A Song for Issy Bradley book jacketA Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray is the story of what is lost and found in the wake of the unexpected death of a child. When Claire loses her youngest child to a sudden illness, faith is also lost. The Bradley family revolves around their Mormon church membership but Issy's death cancels gravity. The orderly planetary orbits of each family member spin out of control in their own unique ways. Religion acts as both anchor and buoy as the family struggles with Claire's behavior in the midst of their own turbulent journeys. Can they catch her before the tide of her bottomless ocean of grief washes her permanently to sea?
 
What if you lived in seventh century Britain, caught between two belief systems? The power of the old gods is on the wane as the title character in Nicola Griffith's Hild manages to make her way as the seer of her uncle, Edwin of Northumbria, in a politicallHomeland dvd covery fractious time; Christianity is rising and war between small kingdoms is always on the horizon. The brutal and fascinating Anglo-Saxon world comes to life in this illuminating and painstakingly researched novel about the woman who eventually becomes St. Hilda of Whitby.
 
If you've not yet watched the television series Homeland, I will warn you now that it is addictive. It is a political thriller but what I found most fascinating in the first three seasons of the show is how the fate of one character and those around him is so directly tied to his religion--a faith missed by government surveillance and undetected by family and friends. It is faith that both saves and condemns, and faith that raises more questions than it answers.
 
The truth is out there.

The letter D in ornamental scripto you like beautiful scenery? Beer? Constant, simmering warfare? Then you need to visit Anglo-Saxon England!Cover of Hild by Nicola Griffith

I fell in love with this setting after reading Nicola Griffith’s recent novel, Hild. It follows the coming-of-age of a young girl named Hild, the seer to Edwin Overking, an Anglisc lord in the early 7th century. She is continually called upon to predict the future of her kingdom, with the constant threat of death should she ever guess wrong.

Hild is a beautifully written book, with characters that take up residence in your mind, but it was the setting that really blew me away. Anglo-Saxon England is a combination of cultures: there are the ruling Anglo-Saxons who began migrating from Germany and Denmark in the 4th centuries, but there are also the Irish, the Welsh, the Picts, and the Christian missionaries. There are ruins of the Roman civilization that had only recently spread across the island. The people speak multiple languages, and they worship multiple gods.

Of course I can’t actually visit England circa 1,400 years ago (although someday I would like to visit the land that it has become!) but there are plenty of books to take me there. Here are some of the best reads that I could find for booking a longship voyage back through time to the England of the Anglisc.

With spring just around the corner, my mind just naturally turns to two things -- birds and music!

Picture of Exotic birdsComposers have long been inspired by nature and probably nothing has provided more inspiration than the music of bird calls and songs. There are countless instances of the sounds of birds being imitated in music -- The forest bird in Wagner's Siegfried, The cry of the falcon in Richard Strauss' Die Frau ohne Schatten, or the cuckoo in Beethoven's sixth symphony, to name just a few. But what I'm talking about here are pieces that are completely about birds.

Like the birds that inspire the music, the pieces come in all shapes and sizes. They can be small, like El colibri (The hummingbird) -- written for solo guitar by the Argentine composer Julio Sagreras -- which runs just over a minute. They can be large like French composer Olivier Messiaen's Catalogue d'oiseaux -- a suite for piano which takes about 2 1/2 hours when played in its entirety. Or they can be moderate in size, like Italian composer Ottorino Respighi's The Birds (Gli uccelli) -- perhaps the most famous bird music of all time.

My personal favorite? It has to be Exotic Birds (Oiseaux exotiques) -- again by the bird-obsessed Olivier Messiaen. Written for chamber orchestra and running about 15 minutes in length, it's noisy, colorful, and chaotic -- pretty much what you might expect from a large gathering of winged creatures! You can get a good taste by watching the sampling in the video below.

And for recordings available from the library, check these out!

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