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Chris a page at the Hollywood Library says this about the documentary Room 237:

Have you ever watched a movie and thought "There might be more going on here"? Well here's a movie about some people who have read many amazing things into the subtleties of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.

The Sixth Gun Volume One Book coverThere were no undead in the wild wild west.  At least, not that we know of…Toss in six magical guns with unfathomable power, a world turned upside down, and a reluctant heroine and you’ve got the fatastically addictive graphic novel series, The Sixth Gun.

Not a graphic novel reader?  Well, pardner, maybe it’s about time you started. Combining the classic western genre with a touch of the supernatural and fantasy, The Sixth Gun has something for everyone.

Becky Montcrief is the reluctant heroine who inherited one of the pistols.  Not knowing the repercussions of picking up a gun, she’s thrust into the unforeseen adventure of fighting for her life. You see, once you pick the gun, it’s with you till death do you part.

Drake Sinclair is an enigma draped in black with a complicated past. Crossing his path means trouble from him or the folks on his tail. Will his past deeds catch up with his mission of atonement?

The other folks?  Their stories are even better.

Strap on your holster and get ready for the adventure of a life and an afterlife time…

For Hanna Lundmark, born in the forests of nineteenth century Sweden and abandoned in the Portugese owned colonial town of Lourenco Marques, what could be more alien than to wake up bleeding, in a hotel with a chimp named Carlos who wears a white waiter's coat and serves tea?  After the bare, bone chilling temperatures of her native Sweden, the African heat is overwhelming, blinding, suffocating. The bright colors are intimidatingly lush and foreign. And all the Africans! Is it true that they can't be trusted? That you have to lie to them and keep them from knowing too much or they will take advantage of white people?

Hannah feels uncomfortable and strange but when she slaps the black woman who saved her life and unjustly accuses her of lying, Hannah knows that she is no better than the powerful white Portuguese colonists who live there. Without  quite knowing how or why, Hannah realizes that something inside her is paralyzed, without words to make sense of what she feels and sees. It is then that she picks up an blank book discarded by her husband and begins to record everything that happens to her and to those around her.

Asked about the incredible detail of the book, author Henning Mankell says he found out about some remarkable tax records in the colonial archives of Maputo, capitol of Mozambique. At the end of the nineteenth century they show that a Swedish woman owned the biggest business in town - which was then called Lourenco Marques. After a few years she is no longer mentioned - she came from nowhere and vanished mysteriously. Who was she? What happened to her? Where did she go? Mankell couldn't quit thinking about her. So "based on what little we know and all that we don't know"  he imagined  a captivating story of prejudice and transformation that begins in the bleak forests of  Sweden and ends in the sun soaked continent of Africa. Read Henning Mankell's A Treacherous Paradise and you won't be able to quit thinking about her either.

When John Marshall discovered gold on the American River in 1848, he tried to keep it a secret.   California was still a territory with a population of about  157,000 and he knew if word got out about the discovery of gold, it would change everything.

The secret proved impossible to keep and  “gold fever” started the  biggest migration in U.S. history. Just a few years later more than 300,000 people moved to California with hopes of striking it rich,  fast-tracking the territory to statehood. Take a look at the maps, letters and images from this remarkable time.

Most of  miners were American, but news of the discovery spread around the world. People came from Europe, Australia, China and Latin America, creating one of the first multi-ethnic workforces in the world.   Experience the Gold Rush from a variety of perspectives with this game.

Miners from different backgrounds working side by side.

Though miners discovered more than 750,000 pounds of gold between 1848 and 1853, more business entrepreneurs than miners struck it rich!

For more information on the California Gold Rush,  just ask a librarian!

​A few years back my husband was working in the storybook-beautiful and cosmopolitan city of Prague, and I had the chance to visit. He explained to me that I should not pet dogs belonging to strangers and I should keep my voice down when on the subway or bus. And it was true, voices were hushed on public transportation. One of our Czech friends explained that people became very worried about eavesdropping during the Soviet Era, so privacy was essential. 

Tram in PragueWhile the Czech Republic had the Velvet Revolution in 1989, there and in so many other Eastern European countries souls and psyches were scarred by years of corruption. On the other hand, they and other Eastern Europeans are still working to build a new kind of country.

For more about post-Revolutionary Prague, and a chance to look into the life of an American expatriate, Aaron Hamburger’s ebook The View from Stalin’s Head is essential. For an inside glimpse from Romania, watch 12:08 East of Bucharest where sixteen years after their soft revolution, townspeople all claim to have taken part in the protests in the square. Too bad the actual TV footage shows otherwise! Moving to East Germany, the stories in Ingo Shulze’s Simple Stories are not simple--they criss cross to build an intriguing novel that shows that blackmail, for instance, and other unsavory parts of life still lingered after the Berlin Wall.

Are you trying to understand how maps work? Or maybe you need to find one for a school project? If so, this post will get you pointed in the right direction!

Maps Maps Maps is a great video introduction to the different types of maps, the symbols found on them, and latitude and longitude.Image of map

Have you ever looked at all those funny symbols on a map and wondered what they represent? Reading a Map is an activity that explains topographic maps, including legends (which describe the symbols on a map), and scale. Or at Adventure Island, you can practice finding items from the legend on the map.

What does Never Eat Soggy Waffles mean? It’s a phrase to help you remember the cardinal directions (north, east, south and west). Try this activity to help you master them.

If you need a map to use in a project, try National Geographic Map Maker One-Page Maps. Choose a country, check the items you’d like included on the map, and print! If you’re feeling a bit more creative, try Map Maker Interactive, where you can make a map of your very own. Choose to include features like climate zones, population density, or even volcanic eruptions! For maps of regions or entire continents, try the World Factbook.

The Lands and Peoples encyclopedia includes an electronic atlas with many kinds of specialized maps. You can find historical maps (on topics such as ancient cultures or U.S. expansion), exploration routes, time zones, and climate data. If you aren’t at the Multnomah County Library, you’ll need to log in to the encyclopedia with your library card number and PIN.

Still lost and in need of direction? Trying contacting a librarian for more help!

Doctor ZhivagoHere are two stories that (still) inspire my soul.

In 1965 everyone was talking about a new must-see movie. Everyone that is, except me. My mother wasn’t sure it was appropriate for a 6th grader. I didn’t know what it was about exactly, but the trailer made it look exotic and full of passion and set to a soundtrack that blew me away like a flurry of weightless snowflakes. Its name was exotic too - Dr. Zhivago. Imagine my surprise when my mother agreed to let me go see it with the rough and rowdy Hansen family from down the street. It was  the first time I was allowed to go to a movie without my parents. So it was on a night dark and blue, my heart bursting with anticipation, that I began a love affair with Russia.

Not long after that I picked up a copy of the book Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. I had never experienced poetry in a novel before. These poems  were like little stories themselves. As for the ending, it floored me: this wasn’t some contrived Romeo and Juliet tragedy; this was real life where true love doesn’t always win and many a good-hearted person dies.  Still what shines through is Dr. Zhivago's excitement and interest in life - harsh and tragic, but also achingly beautiful and exuberant. He says, "If you go near...a spark will light up the room and either kill you on the spot or electrify you for your whole life..." 

FAST FORWARD 40 YEARS...the year is now 2008.

I am reading about a new series on PBS Masterpiece Mystery. Kenneth Branaugh plays the lead, it takes place in Sweden and is based on a ‘wildly popular’  Wallander detective series by Swedish author Henning Mankell.  ‘Wildly popular’? I  consider myself a mystery connoisseur - why had I never heard of Wallander? In a frenzy I called the Woodstock brKurt Wallander PBS mysteryanch library.  Yes, they had it on the shelf, yes they would hold it for me.  Watching that first episode and reading Faceless Killers, the first book in the series, I fell headlong into a world stark and unkind, one so full of contrast and intolerance that it made my eyes ache. Enhanced by the sweet, melancholy theme music sung by Emily Barker, this was the story of detective Kurt Wallender, trying to solve a gruesome murder while also trying to connect with his elderly father and estranged daughter. But once again I couldn’t quit reading, couldn't quit listening, couldn’t quit watching the series over and over.

At one point, Wallender says, "These are our lives. And they're precarious. Miraculous. They're all we have". It made me wonder what is it inside me that lies dormant and asleep, waiting for just the right phrase or musical note or image to strike in a burst of fire and wake it up. It is hard to predict. All I can do is open my eyes and ears and heart. Tell you what I've found.  Maybe it is lying dormant, waiting inside you too.

We all know the scenario.   A few friends come over to visit, small talk fades, and everyone stares at one another in awkward silence.  Suddenly, the party erupts into excited cheers when someone suggests a game of “Thirst-Quench relay.”

“Four men or boys should be the runner in each of the competing teams for this, and they will have one girl partner.  She stands at the bottom of the lawn, with a tumbler and jug of water… but each runner when he reaches his team’s girl partner, must pause, and be fed by her with a tumbler full of water with a teaspoon.”  -- Games for Small Lawns by Sid G. Hedges

Sound like fun? No? Fine, be a spoil sport.   Maybe human croquet, tyre wrestling, or a good old fashioned shoe race is more your speed.  Books such as “Games for Small Lawns” offer a variety of entertaining options for your next social gathering.  The games are simple, require minimal equipment, and are guaranteed to turn the average party into something unforgettable.  After all, who doesn't’t love a good game of “nails”?

 

 

 

I have an embarrassing confession to make. For me, up until very recently, the name 'Biafra’ referred only to the former lead singer of the Dead Kennedys, Jello Biafra. I might have known it alluded to something larger, but I couldn’t have told you a thing about Biafra, the short-lived independent republic of Nigeria.  That only began to change when I picked up Half of a Yellow Sun by Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Image of book jacket: Half of a Yellow SunHalf of a Yellow Sun was published back in 2006 but I was led to it via Adichie’s 2013 novel, Americanah.  I was so struck by Americanah's mixture of humor, social commentary and a heart wrenching love story, that I immediately sought out Adichie's other novels.  I’m in good company on this Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie love train. Beyonce has famously sampled portions of Adichie’s TEDx talk on feminism for the remix of her song flawless; and the increased publicity Adichie has received, paired with her own sharp musings on everything from fashion to Nigeria's new anti-gay laws, is quickly making her a literary ‘it’ girl for a whole new audience.

July 2014 promises to finally bring the film adaptation of Half of a Yellow Sun to the United States.  The story unfolds in late 1960s Nigeria, when a series of military coups, and the violent persecution of the ethnic Igbo population, led to the secessionist state of Biafra.  Adichie tells this emotional story through the eyes of two wealthy Igbo sisters, a shy British expat and a thirteen year old peasant houseboy. These different perspectives give a vivid and personal portrayal of both the euphoria of independence and the heinous brutalities of the resulting civil war.

One more thing- The film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton. With no disrespect to the great acting accomplishments of Miss Newton, 2014 belongs to Chiwetel Ejiofor. The enormously talented British actor, born of Nigerian-Igbo parents, may not have taken home the Oscar this time around, but his powerful portrayal of Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave demonstrated what he is capable of as an actor. The world already knew Beyonce was flawless. Chimamanda and Chiwetel have since joined her.  I have high hopes that the movie adaptation of Half of a Yellow Sun will follow suit.  You have until July to read the book first- go!

The ReturnedLast week, I was immersed in zombies and honestly, I'm not really a zombie-loving-type person. Okay, I love Shaun of the Dead and when I was younger, I watched my share of The Night, Dawn, etc., of the Living Dead. But then I got older and people rising from the grave just became too creepy and scary for me. Then I found The Returned (Les Revenants). It's a French TV series that is amazing! It's like a beautiful French film only better because it's 8 episodes long! The basic premise is that random people have returned from the dead. I like to believe that it's pretty farfetched that the dead will come back to us in the same form they left, however The Returned seems a pretty realistic portrayal of how people might react. Some of the living view it all with disbelief or suspicion, hostility, joy, or as a sign from God. There are twists and turns throughout the season as the histories of the dead are revealed. There's a serial killer that returns, just to keep you on the edge of your seat. Mon dieu! And thankfully, there's going to be a second season. I can't wait! It's available on Netflix right now or you can add your name to the waiting list at MCL.

While I'm waiting for the second season, I might see what Resurrection, a new, heavily-hyped TV show is like. This show is loosely based on a teen The Returned bookbook called The Returned by Jason Mott (they changed the name of the show so that it wouldn't be confused with the French show). I zipped through this book in less than a day but I'm still thinking about it days later. In this version of the dead coming back, we see people (or some version of those people) appearing far from their homes. A huge bureaucracy has been set up to deal with the vast number of the returning dead. Some families want their loved ones back and some do not; some of the townsfolk are welcoming and some become openly hostile. It's a sweetly melancholy book and a page-turning thriller. I hope that the TV show, Resurrection, can pull it off.

And in the time between watching The Returned and Resurrection, try one of my favorite horror shows.

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