Blogs:

It’s raining (again) in PBioswaleortland today. When I’m not staffing an information desk at Central Library, I have a cubicle on Central’s fourth floor, directly under a skylight, and right now I can hear the rain pitter-pattering (actually it’s a little more than a pitter-patter at the moment) on the skylight. When I hear the rain, I think of Central’s eco-roof (also directly overhead) and the hard work that it is doing on a day like this.

Our eco-roof has a very important job: Instead of the rainwater running off the building and joining all the other runoff in a mad, gravity-inspired dash to the Willamette River – a dash that on very rainy days can overwhelm the wastewater-treatment system and cause nasty things to enter the Willamette without being treated – the Central eco-roof absorbs the rain in its planting pallets, reducing runoff by up to 70%. On top of that, it just looks nice!

Consider taking a tour of the eco-roof, viewing it from the windows of Central’s fifth floor.  Just click here, or type eco-roof tour into the search box on the home page. Come more than once … it changes with the seasons. 

The City of Portland’s Green Streets projects (pictured) operate in a similar way to our eco-roof. The rainwater runoff enters the plant-filled bioswales and collects there. Instead of racing into the sewer system, the water slowly filters into the soil, replenishing the groundwater. The plants themselves – like the plants on the eco-roof – filter many pollutants from the air and water.  Plus – it bears repeating -- they look nice!

Read more about green streets, eco-roofs, and the way cities are altering their built environments.  Green cities celebrate Earth Day every day.

Man has always dreamed of flight . . . okay, maybe that’s a cliché, but perhaps it’s because flying is now cramped coach seating, $3 bottled water, and endless TSA lines. It’s easy to forget the romance that was once associated with travel by air. Airplanes were symbols of modernity and often a source of wonder and deep emotional connections. While there are plenty of memoirs by pilots about the adventure of flying, there are also those that go beyond the technology and excitement and speak of flying as an emotional, transcendent experience. Perhaps best known for this kind of writing is Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, but I want to highlight some other equally enticing choices.

The Spirit of St. Louis book jacketCharles Lindberg’s The Spirit of St. Louis and his wife’s North to the Orient both describe flights of exploration. The first is about Charles’ solo flight from New York to Paris and allows the reader to experience the solitude of flying across the Atlantic. He reflects on life and the nature of flight. He writes, “There are periods when it seems I’m flying through all space, through all eternity” as he battles sleep, space, and time. His wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wrote her own account of flying with Charles in North to the Orient. She provides her own personal insight into the wonder of flying, but because she isn’t the pilot, she solely focused on the sensation of flying rather than the practice of piloting. The feeling of altitude, rushing wind, and speed is strikingly real.


A Bell P-39 Airacobra Whereas the Lindberghs captured the awe of flight, Edwards Park speaks of the relationship between man and machine in Nanette. Parks was a WWII fighter pilot and Nanette was his first fighter, a P-39 Airacobra. He writes, “the Airacobra was lazy and slovenly and given to vicious fits of temper. It was a sexy machine, and rotten. Nanette was like that, and I was a little queer for her.” Much more profane than the other books here (Park was a fighter pilot after all), he nevertheless makes very clear the personal connection one could have with an airplane. To him, Nanette had a soul, a personality, and an agenda that did not always match his own, and for that he loved her.North to the Orient book jacket

Anne Morrow Lindberg captured something of what draws me to these books in North to the Orient. “It is not in the flying alone, nor in the places alone, nor alone in time; but in a peculiar blending of all three, which resulted in a quality of magic—a quality that belongs to fairy tales.” Flying akin to magic, hmmm. . . I would have liked to experience that.

Listening to my genius nephew plan an outing with his friends (all Northwest born & bred):
Them: “Yeah a hike, let’s not waste such great weather!”  (60 degrees, partly cloudy?!)
Me: a desert child- freezing and feeling like a fish out of water. Then I remembered that according to science, a fish out of water was the first step on the evolutionary bridge to humanity. Hm-m-mn.  So welcome to my fish out of water favorites.

Fresh Off the Boat book jacketEddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat, is by the proprietor of Baohaus-the hot East Village hangout where, as stated on the book cover, “foodies, stoners, and students come to stuff their faces with delicious Taiwanese street food”. Jay Caspian Kang wraps it up nicely: “(He takes) the archetypes of the immigrant experience-food, family, and capitalism-and infuse(s) them with a new energy…” If you want a howl-out–loud memoir from a Chinese-speaking, hip-hop loving kid who grew up in Florida and landed in NYC, this is it.

And now for your viewing and listening pleasure: Joyful Noise starring Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton. Randy, failed NYC hipster, has no place to run but Pacashau, Georgia. Hiding out with his country-music loving grandma exposes him to A Joyful Noise-a win or go home gospel singing competition that is not long on brotherly love. As one MCL commenter noted, the storyline can be seen as predictable. OR, one might remember that first beings told stories around the campfire to entertain and pass on knowledge. Knowledge, my chirrens, needs to be replicable or it ain’t science. What’s it all about in the end except for the music? The Queen and Miz Dolly do deliver, along with a cast of talented others (shoutout to Andy Karl [Caleb]-scene stealer)!

So remember all you fish out of water: you’re needed for the evolution of the race because, to paraphrase Ben Franklin, “We had better learn to hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”

Many-Talented VolunteerPicture of Grace Ramstad

by Donna Childs

Grace is a mature, gracious, and responsible high school sophomore and multi-purpose volunteer at the Troutdale Library. A lover of books, Grace began as a Summer Reading volunteer before 9th grade, but she has greatly expanded that role since.  

The best relationships are often ones in which everyone benefits. Grace and Troutdale Library have that kind of relationship. With the end of summer, and Summer Reading, Grace searched for other ways to be involved, which led her to Storytime and Teen Council. In the words of librarian Deborah Gitlitz, Grace “quickly demonstrated such warmth, quick thinking, and ability that I recruited her to join the Teen Council, serve as Storytime Assistant at Pajama Time, and this year to serve as one of our Summer Reading Leaders.”   

Grace spends 10-15 hours a week helping to organize everything, keeping track of toys and prizes, doing data entry and anything else that needs doing. For Storytime, she leads activities, sets an example of good behavior, helps set up and put away props, books, chairs. To quote Deborah Gitlitz again, she is “an enormous help in helping kids to get involved and feel welcome... she can even make name tag interactions into literacy moments.” At Teen Council, she helps design activities to attract young readers, advises librarians, and serves as liaison between youth and library staff.  

Grace’s commitment to volunteerism doesn't end at the library. She is a member of her high school debate team, participating in meets with other schools, and is active in her school’s Future Business Leaders of America. One of five children (two older, a twin brother, and a younger sister) Grace has a full, active, and useful life, happily for her and for the Troutdale Library.

 

A Few Facts About Grace

Home library: Troutdale Library

Currently reading: Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand)

Most influential book: The Boxcar Children (Gertrude Chandler Warner)

Favorite book from childhood: The Boxcar Children 

A book that made you laugh or cry: The Fault in our Stars (John Green)

Favorite section of the library: The YA section

E-reader or paper book? Paper book

Favorite guilty reading pleasure: Corny romance books

Favorite place to read: On my couch

 

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

There are lots of good reasons to listen to audiobooks: They can get us through tasks that don’t require much brain power (exercise or folding laundry), they can allow us to read when our hands and eyes are busy (commuting), or they can provide new literary options for those whose comprehension might be beyond their reading skills (second language learners or younger readers).

Dreamers of the Day CD coverThese are all very well and good, but they really don’t have much to do with a story itself. One of the things I enjoy most about audiobooks is the opportunity to get inside someone else’s head. You could argue that this is the role of literature to begin with (unless you only like reading about people exactly like you!), but audiobooks offer a unique perspective: When I listen to a narrator read the story of a person who’s not like me, their authentic voice cuts through the white baby-boomer female that colors everything I read and allows me to really get that person. It could be an African American Iraq War vet trying to makThe Last Werewolf CD covere it as a P.I, a 14-year boy with impulse issues, an Ohio spinster on the fringes of post-World War I Middle East history, a werewolf with a serious case of ennui, or two people stuck in a very bad marriage.

For a good listen that might step beyond your experiences, try The Cut by George Pelecanos, narrated by Dion Graham; Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford, narrated by Nick Podehl; Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell, narrated by Ann Marie Lee; The Last Werewolf by Ian Duncan, narrated by Robin Sachs, or Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, narrated by Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne.

What worlds unlike yours have you explored with the aid of a fine narrator?

Imagine being granted the right to vote for the very first time, only to be turned away at the polls because you had no money to pay to vote! Until 1964 this was a common occurrence in many states. 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the 24th amendment. This amendment to the United States Constitution banned the use of "poll taxes" in federal elections, finally  clearing the way for broader voter participation.  These Virginia Union University students protest the poll tax back in 1950 in Richmond, VA.

Virginia Union University students protest the poll tax, Richmond, VA. Date: ca. 1950 Collection: L. Douglas Wilder Library, Virginia Union University.Back in 1917, the state of Louisiana charged a $1 poll tax  – that’s an equivalent of $20.09 by 2014 standards.

In addition to poll taxes, some states required literacy tests before voters were allowed to cast their votes. Such tests were often confusing and had nothing to do with the issues or candidates on the ballot. Here is a sample literacy test...

 

2014 also marks the 90th anniversary of the Indian Citizenship Act granting Native Americans all rights of citizenship, including the right to vote in federal elections.

To learn more about the Voting Rights Act, and the history of voting rights in the United States, take a look at this timeline created by the ACLU documenting major voting rights milestones from 1867 to the present.

And, for some basics about voting and elections, try this pbs kids site and make your own future voter card!

Portland’s newest bridge was officially named Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People today by TriMet, and I thought you might be interested in a little background on the familiar word "tilikum,”* and Chinuk Wawa, the language of which it is part.

definition of "tilixam" from the book Chinuk Wawa [click for a larger version]First, tilikum!

Here's a definition of the word from Chinuk Wawa: kakwa nsayka ulman-tilixam laska munk-kemteks nsakya - As our elders teach us to speak it, a Chinuk Wawa dictionary, grammar, and text for learners produced by the Chinuk Wawa Dictionary Project of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon.  This definition is supported by an etymological note, which gives the historical roots of the word.

Chinuk Wawa

Chinuk Wawa is a trade language, used historically by people from many different language traditions.  In the nineteenth and very early twentieth centuries, it was the lingua franca of Native people and foreigners all around the lower Columbia river area.  But although this language is no longer heard throughout our region as a part of the sound of everyday business, it is by no means lost. 

In addition to spearheading the Chinuk Wawa dictionary project, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde hosts a regular series of Chinuk Wawa language classes, which are free to all -- though my sense is that it is expected that learners will become teachers also, nurturing the language and sharing their experiences with it.  Classes take place in Portland as well as at Grand Ronde and in Eugene.  The teacher for the Portland classes, Eric Michael Bernando, also teaches a Chinuk Wawa class at Portland Community College.

definition of "tilacum," from The Chinook Book [click for a larger version]Older definitions of tilikum. . .

As I said, the library has many English / Chinuk Wawa dictionaries and glossaries.  Most are quite old, and these older dictionaries are all (so far as I can tell) written by non-Native scholars who learned the language as adults.  Therefore, their definitions may have the benefit of research done among fluent speakers from 100 years ago or more, but they don't have the authority of modern scholarship rooted in Native communities.  However, I do want to share one of these definitions with you, from The Chinook Book, by El Comancho (W.S. Phillips), published waaay back in 1913.  It's a fairly rich definition, with lots of examples of idiomatic usage.

 


* I've used the spelling "tilikum" throughout this post, because it's the spelling TriMet chose for the name of the new bridge.  As you can see, many different transliterations and spellings of this, and other Chinuk Wawa words have been used over time -- tilacum, tillikum, tilixam, and no doubt many others. 


 

cover image of sandra cisneros books

 
Jennifer, a page at Central Library, is reading The End of White World Supremacy: Four Speeches by Malcolm X. "Malcolm X was an interesting and brave person whose message is still relevant."
 

Music Online from Alexander Street Press is a streaming audio and video service available with your Multnomah County Library card. This massive collection features a wide variety musical types in recordings and video, all accessible through the Multnomah County Library catalog.

Additionally, you can sign up for a free download of music with your email address, an interesting random method for exploring music that you might not know. Sign up for classical music notices, world/folk music, or both; every two weeks there is something new, with notes about the recordings.

This week's free download from Classical Music Library is the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand by Maurice Ravel:
"When the talented Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein lost his right arm in the First World War, he devoted himself to playing with his left hand only. As a result, he commissioned a number of works from composers as varied as Korngold, Richard Strauss, Prokofiev, and Britten. In the late 1920s, he approached French composer Maurice Ravel. Written between 1929 and 1930, Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand is the best known of Wittgenstein's commissions. Ravel travelled to the United States in 1928, where he led a very successful concert tour. The influence of American music and jazz, especially the music of George Gershwin, whom Ravel visited with in New York, is much in evidence in the harmonies and syncopated rhythms. Wittgenstein himself premiered the work in 1932."  This recording is performed by the Orchestre Philharmonique des Pays de Loire, featuring pianist Abdel Rahman El Bacha." - from the description on Music Online.


At Central Library, you can find books that describe repertoire for specific instruments, useful for musicians who are looking for new works to play. The book Piano Music for One Hand is one of numerous books for just this type of piano music. Here is an excerpt from author Theodore Edel's description of this piece:
"One of Ravel's masterpieces and the absolue summit of the left-hand repertoire. It was written concurrently with the G major Concerto and nothing could be farther removed from its sparking Mozartean sound world than this dark and fateful music. Together the Concerti constitute the two poles of Ravel's persona; and they are his last compositions for the piano. This work is in one large ternary-form movement. The opening seems to rise out of the very depths of the orchestra, with the piano solo continuing the fateful mood. The extended middle section, in a driving 6/8, ranges from playfulness to savagery and incorporates a distinct jazz element."

- from Piano Music for One Hand, by Theodore Edel.
Central Library Art & Music Room Reference R- 786.2 E21p

Listening to this piece, I found it almost shocking how swiftly it moved from one affect to another, seemingly at the limits of joy and despair in a short work.

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