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What Does February mean to you? I prefer my Valentine’s day with a mix of romance and candy. Visually I am fascinated with candy: All the colors, shapes, sizes and then the textures. February 14th  is a parade of colors and images for me.

As an adult I get my husband nice chocolates and make him a love note. He returns the favor.

I have never had a secret admirer or a sweetheart send me a Valentine. I wished for it as a teen. I longed for a sweetheart and a heart locket.

My Dad though has sent me a valentine every year since someone broke my heart back in the nineties. Do you have a broken heart? My Librarian Heather has the perfect list for this called Divorce Support Group Reads.  

Maybe though you are a teen. And like me you are wishing for a sweetheart. Here’s a list for you of romantic love stories called Teen Romance.

Kleeman book cover
"A woman’s body never really belongs to herself. As an infant, my body was my mother’s, a detachable extension of her own, a digestive passage clamped and unclamped from her body. My parents would watch over it, watch over what went into and out of it, and as I grew up I would be expected to carry on their watching by myself. Then there was sex, and a succession of years in which I trawled my body along behind me like a drift net, hoping that I wouldn’t catch anything in it by accident, like a baby or a disease. I had kept myself free of these things only through clumsy accident and luck. At rare and specific moments when my body was truly my own, I never knew what to do with it."

What is a body and what is it for?  Something to be improved?  Something to be managed?  Something to be disciplined?  Something to be saved?  Something to be remodeled?  Something to set free?  Something to be destroyed?  Alexandra Kleeman's debut novel You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine does a remarkable job of tracking one young (presumably white) woman's body's movement in and through late capitalism.  As much as A - the novel's narrator - tries to escape or resolve her body's contradictions, all she can eventually do is document the various ways her body is seen and reflected.  At every turn, up against every potential escape route - roommate B who spends the first half of the book attemping to become A, boyfriend C who watches porn while they have sex so he might layer "fantasy upon reality upon fantasy," the mirrors she regularly consults for changes in her facial structure, the cult she later joins that prescribes a steady diet of nothing but Kandy Kakes - the possibly edible treats made of nothing ever alive hence nothing actually dead, and finally as a prop in a competitive dating show where real-life lovers test their knowledge of one another or face imposed and permanent separation - A inevitably finds herself simultaneously inside and outside her body, blurred lines never coalescing except in moments of extreme duress.
 
You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine is a surveillance report mapped and composed by the object of surveillance.  Utilizing anorexia as a kind of totalizing metaphor, the novel turns the commodification of bodies inside out but we end up precisely where we began.  Weird, paranoiac, and desperate, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine mines territories familiar to fans of DeLillo, Pynchon, and Philip K. Dick - an oddly recognizable and spooky map of our current historical moment  where bodies are necessarily quantifiable but ultimately weightless, until the threat of brutal hunger arrives with a sudden flash.

"Stand By Me (1986) is a great movie because  you can watch it fifty times in a row and never get tired of it. You can connect with the characters and laugh at the jokes. It’s an amazing coming of age movie that everyone can enjoy." - Hazel Spivey, Hollywood Teen Book Council

Stand By Me • Ben E. King

The Hollywood Teen Book Council got together to think about what books  these unforgettable characters would read if they were growing up today.

Gordie from Stand By Me

Gordie - Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt  

Sensitive, nice guy Gordie, much like Okay for Now’s Doug Swieteck, lives in the shadow of an older brother. Both find their support in the communities they create around them. They are both tender and tenacious, smart and strong, and have a writer’s heart.

Chris - Stand By Me
Great Gatsby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Who would be most likely to reinvent themselves but Chris? Smarter than he lets other see, and with a worldly understanding, we see him drawn to weightier novels full of symbolism. He would both resonate with the observant Nick Carraway as he does with Gordie, and identify with Jay Gatsby.

 

 

Teddy - Stand By Me
A Game of Thrones

Teddy - A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Fantasy is Teddy’s  genre all the way, and he would love the escapism of the Game of Thrones series. Full of abrasive characters, and unexpected resolutions will appeal to the often volatile Teddy.

Whales on Stilts
Vern  - Stand By Me

Vern - Whales on Stilts by M.T.Anderson

Of the group, Vern still has a foot in childhood, where the others are older than their years. He is often the butt of everyone’s joke, but is still a loyal friend. We think that something with a bit of wackiness and humor would appeal to his comic-loving side. A little fantasy, but still set in the current world.

 

Guild Theater - Portland photo
When you’re driving through the country, do you wonder what’s inside that neglected barn leaning in the distance? When you see a derelict car do you slow down and try to figure out the year, make and model? When passing through the “bad part of town” do you long to go into a boarded up movie theater that still advertises “This year’s Best Picture winner, D ncing wi h Wo ves” on the marquee?

If you answered yes to any of the above, then urban exploration—the act of visiting abandoned man-made places to document the experience—might be something you’d enjoy. Even though they may be called “urban explorers,” as you can see from this example, many of the places they visit may not be in a city. Man-made structures and artifacts are everywhere and have been abandoned everywhere.
Ruined Buick photo


There are some theories out there about why people are drawn to abandoned places, but I don’t know if I’m self-aware enough to pick any one reason that explains my own fascination. In the United States, Detroit has become the poster child for urban decay, but it certainly isn’t alone. Urban explorers have an entire globe to discover and there is an active web presence for those who are interested. It isn’t for everyone, however. These are dangerous places, for many reasons.

Maybe running a gauntlet of armed guards or crawling through a dank ruined building full of bugs and asbestos isn’t appealing. Fortunately, there are those who are not only interested in that sort of adventure but also want to share, so you can vicariously enjoy man-made ruins by visiting the library and checking out one of the great books on this list.

More Than 1000 Hours
Volunteer Shirley Bernstein

by Donna Childs

“Volunteer!” That’s Shirley Bernstein’s message for everyone who is able and interested. She believes that volunteering is good for older people because it gives them a way to get out, to interact with others, and to feel useful. For young people, it can be a way to test out a potential career.  

Shirley practices what she preaches: she has accrued more than 1000 hours at the Hillsdale Library. Twice a week, she sorts and alphabetizes children’s picture books and checks in holds for Hillsdale patrons. She sorts the picture books because that’s what needs doing, but she prefers the holds, because she finds out about new books this way.  

Shirley enjoys the freedom of volunteering: she can come in a little earlier or stay a little later, or even come in an extra day if there is a lot to do. But most of all, she likes being appreciated. When asked to name the best part of volunteering at Hillsdale, she replied, “They say ‘thank you’.”

Shirley has three sisters living in the Portland area, one of whom was a director at Store to Door,  a non-profit organization which delivers groceries for those who can’t shop for themselves. They take orders over the phone and deliver groceries, prescription medications, and household items to seniors and people with disabilities, filling more than 7000 orders annually, delivered by volunteers, one of whom is Shirley. She works there on Mondays and at Hillsdale on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She participates in activities at the Multnomah Arts Center on other days.

Shirley came to Portland in 2004 from Philadelphia. She worked at a hospital there for over 40 years in the mailroom and making deliveries to nurses’ stations. But after two of her sisters relocated to Portland for a job, Shirley decided to move here too. Now three of them are here, with another in Seattle, and a brother in Florida.  Shirley is happy with her useful and family-centered life in Portland.


A Few Facts About Shirley

 
Home library: Hillsdale Library
 
Currently reading: Take Six Girls: the Lives of the Mitford Sisters  by Laura Thompson
 
Favorite section to browse: Biographies
 
E-reader or paper books: Paper books
 
Favorite place to read: Living room sofa
 
Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.
 
 
 

Andy Ricker, the James Beard Award–winning chef behind Pok Pok, lets us know his favorite cookbooks, meals and his thoughts on the Portland food scene.

 

1. Do you have any favorite cookbooks, books or cooking blogs that have inspired you?

Picture of Andy Ricker

"Thai Food" by David Thompson; "The Joy of Cooking"; "The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating" by Fergus Henderson; "White Heat" by Marco Pierre White; "Cous Cous and Other Good Food" by Paula Wolfert.

 

2. What do enjoy most about the Portland food scene?

The dedication the chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, food makers and gatherers have to using local products of the highest quality and being in a community that supports this ethos.

 

3. List your top 2 favorite meals (of all time or even this week).

Last week in Phrae, Northern Thailand, I had an amazing meal of expertly made local food at a restaurant called Jin Sot. The owner is a ninja. A Tai Yai/Shan restaurant near my home here in Chiang Mai reopened after a long hiatus, during which time I was jonesing badly, and much to my relief, the food had not changed at all: delicious egg curry called Khai Oop being my favorite dish.

4. Do you have any library memories to share?
When I was a kid growing up in rural Vermont, we had no TV so reading was our entertainment. We would go to the town library (Jeffersonville) and check out as many books as were allowed per person and devour them over the week.

Inspired to try your hand at Thai cooking? Check out our booklist below for our favorite Thai cookbooks that you can check out from the library. If you are feeling particulary adventerous, try your hand at making the egg curry dish that Andy mentioned, Khai Oop.

 

DEQ map of Air Toxicity in Portland, OR

February 3, 2016, The Mercury recently reported findings of high levels of arsenic and cadmium in the air in SE Portland. Days later, the DEQ released a map that showed many areas throughout Portland to be affected.

If you are wondering, “Should I get tested for arsenic or cadmium poisoning?” this Portland Mercury article cites Dr. Gillian Beauchamp, a Toxicology Fellow at the Oregon Poison Center at OHSU, who offers advice.

A timely resource for updates on current action by Portland residents (meetings, information sharing, etc.) is the Facebook Public Group Inner SE Air Quality. Although the focus is SE Portland, there’s much information about air quality in other areas in the city being shared here too. Inner SE Air Quality is also sharing community-generated/created Google maps of cancers and serious illnessesa map for people that have tested for heavy metal exposure, and a map showing results of soil testing for heavy metals.  Check here for updates on community meetings you can attend. Neighbors for Clean Air Facebook page is another good resource.

If you are interested more broadly about air quality in Portland, check the ToxNet map. Use the Beta version and click on "zoom to a location" then enter an address to see emissions near you. If you click on "more" you can see the levels of toxins a facility reports. This doesn’t report these recent SE Portland findings.

There has been concern about a cancer cluster in SE Portland.  The Oregon Health Authority’s Cancer Registry researches possible clusters in communities. 

Questions? Call, text or email a librarian to get personalized help – or ask the librarian on duty the next time you're at the library.  We will do our best to find the right resource or service for you!

Are you a creative person who sometimes struggles with getting things done? Need some inspiration, or just another excuse to procrastinate? Here are 5 podcasts to prime your creative pump.

Michael Ian Black is best known as a comedian, but he's also an incredibly fine interviewer. In How to Be Amazing he talks to exceptional people about how they succeeded, how they've failed, and what they did about it. There are interviews with Baratunde Thurston, Amy Schumer and Nate Sliver, but perhaps the most revealing is with David Sedaris, who reveals a weird pastime and how much he earns. How much? You'll have to listen to find out.

Nora Young and the folks at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation explore new ideas in the world of technology on Spark. You'll be thinking, "I wish I had invented that!"

 

If you're looking for science-based inspiration, look no further than PRI's Science + Creativity where they explore mind-blowing topics like microbal video games, Occulus Rift, and cybernetic art.

 

 

 

 

Brian E. Young is a kind and encouraging voice, and he directs his comments especially to artists and designers in his podcast Uncanny Creativity.

 

 

Todd Henry's The Accidental Creative is all about process. He offers practical advice on implementing your best ideas, gaining traction, and conveying value.

 

Happy creating, and happy listening!

 

Learning a new language has multiple benefits: you can communicate with people at home and around the world, and at the same time you also exercise your brain.

Although scientific studies vary, there seems to be agreement that learning and speaking multiple languages is good for your gray matter. It may even delay the onset of dementia*. It will certainly improve your je ne sais quoi.

Here are a few of the language learning resources available to you from Multnomah County Library:

  • Mango Connect: This online app is easy to use and full of quick exercises for learning over 50 different languages. You move through lessons at your own pace, and you can spend a lot of time on it or just a little bit each day.
  • Language Exchanges: The library offers in-person language exchange programs in Chinese, French, Spanish, and Vietnamese. These events are intended for both English speakers and English learners. Half of the event is spent practicing in the non-English language, and the other half is spent practicing English. All levels are welcome! These programs are informal, fun, and a great way to meet people in your community.
  • Books: The library has lots of books (and audiobooks) for learning languages! The best way to find these is by asking a librarian - they will guide you to the books and resources that are perfect for you.

For even more language learning ideas, take a look at the library’s Language learning topic page. If someone you know is working on learning or improving their English, be sure to also check out the library’s Learn English webpage.

You’re never too old to learn something new!

*: For more information about the science of languages and the brain, read “Delaying Onset of Dementia: Are Two Languages Enough?” (2014) in the online journal Behavioural Neurology.

The Hidden Lives of the Presidents

Theodore Roosevelt wasn't just a president, he was also an explorer. Read about his harrowing journey down a tributary of the Amazon in Candice Millard's The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey.

Edna talks The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

Maile Meloy's The Apothecary combines the tension of cold war politics with science, and magic. It's a great read for teens and adults. What's not to love?

Portland is a crafty town, so it may not be surprising to learn that many of the people you interact with every day have a secret DIY identity. The barista you see every morning could have a side business making homemade cheese. Your server at your favorite restaurant might sell hand-drawn pet portraits at Last Thursday. And what about the library paraprofessional who helps you do your trusty research? Let me introduce our new DIY series MCL Makers, which highlights library staff throughout the system who make things in their spare time.

Our first MCL Maker is Programming Librarian Anne Tran. When she's not working at the library, Anne makes homemade soap and sells it at different farmer's markets and craft fairs. We thought we'd ask Anne a few questions about her craft. 

Picture of Anne's homemade soap

How long have you been making soap?

I've been handcrafting vegan and palm-oil free soap since 2011.

How did you learn to make soap?

I took a cold-process soapmaking class with my mother-in-law and was so intrigued by the process, I borrowed all the soapmaking books I could find.

Have you used any resources from the library to further develop your craft?

Besides the soapmaking books in our MCL collection, I am also an avid Interlibrary Loan user.

Have you taught others how to make soap or shared your skill in any way?

I talk about soap with my friends and family all the time! Maybe a tad too much.

What advice do you have for the new soapmaker just starting out?

My advice to a new soapmaker is to always borrow books from the library before buying them. It will save you money and let you really hone down on the ones you want. 

Find Out What's Available

Trinity college
It's never too early to start looking for scholarships. The best time of year to start looking is in the summer or early fall. This lets you find programs before their deadlines have passed, and gives you enough time to complete a well-planned application. Many scholarship programs require an essay and recommendations from teachers or other adults who know you, and these take time to prepare.  

There are many scholarships, grants, fellowships, internships and work-study jobs available. You'll likely encounter some common eligibility criteria. These include which state you live in, if you've performed military service, whether you have minority status or a particular nationality or ethnic background, a religious affliation, or if any of your family members belong to a national or local organization or civic association. If you fit the eligibility criteria, be sure to consider applying! 

Researching

The library is a great place to get started as you research scholarships. Whether you are looking for a scholarship in the humanities, the sciences, the social sciences, or sports, we can help you discover ways to find scholarship awards for higher education. 

The Scholarship Handbook is organized by common eligibility criteria. It lists scholarships based on which state you live in, whether you have performed military service, if you have minority status or come from a particular nationality or ethnic background, if you have a religious affliation, and whether any of your family members belong to a national or local organization or civic association. Each scholarship program is described by eligibility, basis for selection, application requirements, amount awarded, application deadline, and contact information.

 

"Billions of dollars in scholarships, grants and prizes." The Ultimate Scholarship Book organizes awards into categories such as humanities, social science, science and general. You don't need a perfect GPA or financial need to win a scholarship. There are plenty of awards that have none of these requirements.

 

 

College help for teens: More resources for financial aid, admissions, guides, and Study Abroad.

An Adventure Every Week
Volunteer Patrick Caplis

by Sarah Binns

Even after four years of Saturdays at the Kenton Library, Patrick Caplis doesn't know what awaits him in the library's classroom, when he comes to facilitate that week's Intercambio. Intercambio, which means “exchange” in Spanish, is a language exchange and experience class that brings together a diverse group to practice Spanish and English. Their dedicated leader, Patrick, has helped them create a community within the Kenton library. Says Lanel, one of the Kenton library staff, “He runs the show!”

While Kenton's Intercambio has been going on for some time, the sessions really took off when Patrick took the helm four years ago. His role is to “include people and give everyone a chance to participate,” he says. “There's an element of stupidity and humility” when stumbling through language learning, he adds, “so it's my job to be supportive of that.” Intercambio emphasizes language exchange, with 45 minutes devoted to Spanish and 45 minutes devoted to English. While the structure may be set, content is not: participants have wide-ranging conversations on topics pertinent to their lives. For example, one man brought in some paintings he liked and discussed them in Spanish. Another person prepared for his American citizenship test by reviewing civics in English with his classmates.

Patrick says he encourages the class to bring their interests to the table to vary the discussion, but he also enjoys an occasional game of Scrabble or Bananagrams, all in the name of learning, of course! “The classes are full of serendipity,” he says. “And it's a wonderful, interesting group of people who come from all over the English and Latin world.”  

Though he grew up in Detroit, Patrick moved to Portland in 1979 to attend the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM). A naturopathic doctor for years, he no longer practices but now teaches piano. He says he still enjoys facilitating Intercambio sessions, even after all this time. “We have a very simpático or warm-hearted group,” he says. “It's an adventure every week.”


 

A Few Facts About Patrick

 
Home library: Kenton Library
 
Currently reading: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
 
Favorite Spanish book: Cajas de Carton (Cardboard Boxes) by Francisco Jiménez, a series of semi-autobiographical stories about growing up as a migrant worker in California
 
Favorite book from childhood: Beautiful Joe by Marshall Saunders
 
A book that made you laugh or cry: Right now, Invisible Man, and since music is another passion, the opera La Bohème fits this category.
 
Favorite section to browse: Children's books
 
E-reader or paper books: Paper
 
Favorite place to read: In a rocking chair
 
Favorite opera: Elektra by Richard Strauss
 
Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

 

Hello. My name is Matt and I read mysteries.  

I never thought I’d be a mystery reader. It started off with the occasional Agatha Christie title to mix things up. A few years later,  I found myself reading a too cozy for comfort title involving a doughnut shop and recipes.  Things had gone too far. What kind of mystery reader was I? Was I one book away from entering the soft boiled world of J.B. Fletcher?

Luckily, the answer was right in front of me: gay detective novels.  In a literary world with limited LGBTQ characters, it’s exciting to find a likeable protagonist to identify with. Exploring the cast of gay detectives, I was surprised to find a collection of gentlemen larger than expected.

amuse bouche cover

Russell Quant is an everyman living in Saskatchewan. As a handsome rookie private detective in a small city, business can be slow. However, when it gets busy things quickly get out of hand.  His cases take him to exotic locales and always lead back to his Canadian home for a thrilling finale.  His love life is, uh, complicated and has it’s ups and downs.  A quirky cast of friends and family round out the series to keep things interesting.  Start with Amuse Bouche.

book cover rust on razor
What do Scott, a famous baseball pitcher and Tom, a dedicated school teacher have in common? For starters, a penchant for getting in over their heads when mystery comes a calling. The heart of these books is dark, gritty, and reflective of the era in which each of them is written. The series spans twenty years of great change within the LGBTQ community and doesn’t hold back.  Are there schmaltzty moments?  Sure, but reluctant detectives need love too.  Start with “A Simple Suburban Murder” via Interlibrary loan or “Rust on the Razor” available at Multnomah County Library.

These are my favorites of the bunch, but check any of them out.  Each of these mystery series have their own feel.  It’s what makes the genre so much fun to read.  Plus you never know if the perfect pie recipe is on the next page...

Soon after I moved to Portland in the mid-’90s, I was delighted to find myself living downstairs from one of my best friends from college. I’d bum smokes and we’d talk about our lives on our shared front porch and make each other laugh. I wasn’t laughing, though, when he told me one night that he frequently got stopped by police right in our neighborhood, for just being there. For walking down his own street-- because my friend was black. His words removed the veil, at least partially, from my eyes. I loved Portland. I still love Portland, with all the zeal of a transplant from an East Coast city. But my unalloyed love of my new city was possible partly because of my white privilege.

As I listened to the audiobook of Ta-Nahesi Coates Between the World and Me, I heard a vivid and very beautifully written description of what it's like to live in the world without that privilege, and especially, what it’s like to have a child who lives without it. The book takes the form of a letter written from the author to his son, a powerful choice, especially for a listener who happens to be a parent.

As my kids get older, I let them go off and explore the world on their own, and I calm my fears by telling myself that people are more likely to be kind and helpful than cruel and violent. When I hear news of terrible events, part of me is always surprised. How can this be? The world is such a benevolent place- to me.

Black, white or whatever, you should read this book if you’re an American.

If you’re looking for more excellent audiobooks read by their own authors, investigate this list.

Nick Bruel is an author, illustrator and cartoonist, and is known for his series of children's books, Bad Kitty. In his spare time, he collects PEZ dispensers and hangs out with his wife and his cat, Esmerelda.

Nick Bruel photo
[Scene: In front of the mirror, above the sink of a bathroom somewhere in Briarcliff Manor, NY]

Nick: The time is 5:13 am.  I’m standing here inside the downstairs bathroom of Nick Bruel, the world renowned children’s book author and illustrator, parkour master, Amway representative, and long standing member of the Flat Earth Society.  Good morning, Nick. Thank you for joining me here today.

Nick: You’re welcome.  I think.  Why am I here?

Nick: I’ve been tasked today to interview you to find out some of your favorite things…

Nick: Like what?  Ice cream?

Nick: Well, no, not precisely …

Nick: I like rum raisin. Haagen Dazs Rum Raisin ice cream. That’s my favorite.  Done?

Nick: No, not done. I was thinking more along the lines of … wait. You like rum raisin?  No one likes rum raisin.

Nick: I like rum raisin.

Nick: Since when?

Nick: Since always. It’s delicious, and I don’t have to defend myself. Are we done?

Nick: No! We’ve been tasked by the Multnomah County Library system in Portland to find out how you operate, to learn more about you by learning your favorite media.

Nick: Portland, Maine or Portland, Oregon?

Nick: Oregon.

Nick: Which is the one with all the street poetry, kombucha bars, and man buns?

Nick: Oregon.

[What follows is a long, uncomfortable silence.]

Nick: Sigh. Fine.

Nick: So, let’s start with your favorite movie.

Nick: My favorite movie of all time is a little known short film from Estonia called Man With A Broken Rainbow Of Love by the great director … excuse me … auteur Miloslav Krizkovenszvynzvz.  It tells the story of a poor but rich-in-spirit doorknob salesman who’s raising a family of marmosets in his garage while quietly succumbing to the ravages of an earlobe fungus over the course of 3 hours.  It’s an allegory of Stalinist Russia.

Nick: 3 hours?! I thought you said it was a short film?

Nick: The director’s cut takes 4 days to watch.

Nick: Well, actually, the library wants material that can be found in their collection.

Nick: Why?

Nick: Because this way people who read this can get to know you better while also promoting the library’s collection.

Nick: I see. So when people check out the same things I like from the library, they can feel like they’re ME?

Nick: Sort of.

Nick: They can pretend like they’re ME? The people of Oregon can go to the library and pretend to be Nick Bruel! That is beautiful. Just beautiful. Sniff.

Nick: Are … are you crying?

Nick: No. Shut up. I’m not crying. You’re crying!

[Audible scratching at the door]

Esmerelda: Meow?!  Meow?!

Nick: GO AWAY, ESME! I’m conducting an important interview! 

Esmerelda: Meow?!

Nick: No, you can’t use your litterbox now! I told you that I’m conducting an important interview! Go poop in the recycling or something!

Esmerelda: Hiss!

Nick: I HEARD THAT!  Where were we? Oh, right. Uh … so can you name a more conventional movie that you like?

Nick: Does the library have the films of Buster Keaton?

Nick: I’ll check. [Looks intensely at toothpaste tube] Yes!

Nick: Without a doubt, Buster Keaton was the first true master of comedy. I love Chaplin, but Buster Keaton’s work best exemplified how comedy and timing work hand in hand. He might be best known for his stunts, but Keaton’s true genius was in how he set up his jokes visually. To this day, there are film directors who borrow from Keaton and his visual style.

The General is considered his greatest film, but for anyone who needs an introduction to the great man, I would suggest starting with either College or Steamboat Bill, Jr. You can’t go wrong.

Nick: Okay! Great! Let’s move on to favorite music.

Nick: I like anything with cannons in it.

Nick: Cannons?

Nick: Sure. Cannons.

Nick: What music has cannons in it?

Nick: What music … are you kidding me?!  Haven’t you ever heard the 1812 Overture by Peter Tchaikavsky, you peasant?!

Nick: Oh, well, sure …

Nick: I’ll have you know that before degrading myself to this whole children’s book thing I do now, I had a promising career in place as a classical cannon player. I even studied at The Sarasota Online Cannon Conservatory And Clown College, which everyone knows has the most rigorous cannon certification process in the entire country! Even better than Yale’s!

Nick: Well, of course. Everyone knows that …

Nick: And I’d be playing the cannons to this day if not for that terrible day 12 years ago when I burnt my hand lighting the wick during rehearsals. Sniff. Sniff. My doctor says … sob … I’ll never be able to light another cannon wick again.

[Audible scratching at the door.]

Esmerelda: Meow?!

Nick: NOT NOW, ESME! I’M BUSY! JUST CROSS YOUR LEGS AND THINK OF THE DESERT!

Where were we?

Nick: Ummm … favorite book?

Nick: Well, I’m quite fond of the work of a blind, Inuit hermaphrodite named J.D. Salinger who …

Nick: Hang on!  J.D. Salinger was not a blind, Inuit hermaphrodite!

Nick: He wasn’t?

Nick: No. I understand that his eyesight was quite good.

Nick: My bad. Well, in any case, I’ve always liked how Salinger focuses on character development above all else.  I don’t think anyone can turn words on paper into the life story of a friend you grew up with like Salinger, and nothing exemplifies this better than 9 Stories, a collection of short stories he published in The New Yorker. A standout in this collection is “The Laughing Man” which tells the tale of a youth sports club bus driver from the point of view of one of his riders. It’s an amazing, multi-layered tale of friendship, young love, adventure, and the power of a creative spirit.  I read this book about once every 3-4 years to remind myself of what good writing looks like.

Nick: Never heard of it.

Nick: Well you should read it.

Nick: Maybe I will.  What about picture books?  Got a favorite picture book?

Nick: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  To me, it’s one of those rare books that transcends its purpose as a book.  It’s message of unconditional generosity is so important that I’ve held a theory … a belief, really … for a while now that if every single person on the planet Earth read “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, then there would be no war. It’s a theory that can never be prove, much less tested, but I stick to it anyway.

Nick: A lot of people don’t like this book. They think the tree is acting too much like a martyr and that the boy does nothing more than take advantage of him.

Nick: Yeah, well some people can go suck eggs. If you step back for a moment and just contemplate that this is a story about what it means to be a parent to a child who you love unconditionally, then the message becomes more clear. I can back this up, because I knew Shel Silverstein and once had a conversation with him on this very topic. He told me that of course this book was about parenting and that he loved watching people practically lose their minds over this book of his.

Nick: Did Shel Silverstein think people should go suck eggs over it?

Nick: No. But he was thinking it.

Nick: Well, Nick, I think that about wraps things up. I’d like to thank you for joining me here today.

Nick: It was my pleasure.

Nick: No, no! The pleasure was all mine!

Nick: Oh, well if you insist!

Nick: Ha, ha!

Nick: Ha, ha, ha!

[Audible scratching at door.]

Esmerelda:  MEOW!!  MEOW!!

Nick: OKAY! OKAY!  I’m opening the door! Jeez! Just light a match or something when you’re done this time. Sometimes I think you’re made out of eggs.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a neurological difference often characterized by difficulties with reading, writing and spelling.  It may run in the families and can not be “cured.” Individuals with this condition must learn coping strategies.

Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence. With the right instruction, almost all individuals with dyslexia can learn to read.  A multi-sensory, phonics based approach is often the best way to help kids learn to read. The Orton-Gillingham, Barton System and/or Lindamood-Bell programs are well known programs that work.

This great Ted-Ed talk provides an overview of dyslexia.

What should I look for?

Decoding Dyslexia offers these early signs of dyslexia:

  • Late speech (3 years or later)
  • Mixing up sounds in multi-syllable words (e.g. bisghetti, aminal, mazageen)
  • Inability to rhyme by age 4
  • Difficulty with substitutions, omissions and deletions
  • Unusual pencil grip
  • Difficulty remembering rote facts (months of the year, days of the week)
  • Confusion of left vs. right

Several organizations offer online self-assessment tools.  Take a look at the the Uncovering Dyslexia Topic Guide for suggested websites.

Dyslexia and low self-esteem

One of the biggest challenges of dyslexia is counteracting shame caused by teasing and misunderstanding.  Children are often teased because they can’t read as well as others.  Teachers may say things like “she’s a slow reader” in front of the child or parents.  Kids know what “slow” means and they often grow up believing they are “stupid” and/or “lazy.”

Headstrong Nation’s Learn the Facts wants you to know the facts, help your child recognize her/his strengths and weaknesses, learn how to talk about it with trusted friends and family and eventually, be comfortable sharing one’s real self with the world.

How the library can help

There are three valid types of reading: with your eyes (print & video), with your fingers (Braille) and with your ears (audiobooks).  For information about Braille books, contact the Talking Book and Braille Library at the Oregon State Library.  Multnomah County Library will help you find materials for reading with your eyes and ears.  

Audiobooks

Typically easier for someone with dyslexia, the library has thousands of audiobooks on CD and in downloadable formats for people who read with their ears.  Library information staff can help you find and use audiobooks.

DVD/Blu-ray

The library has thousands of DVDs, Blu-ray and downloadable films for people who read with eyes & ears.  Library information staff can help you find and use these media.

Programs

Occasionally, the library offers a Dyslexia 101 program, in cooperation with Decoding Dyslexia Oregon.  Check Events & Classes to find the next class.

Reading list

The topic guide Uncovering Dyslexia is available on the website and My MCL.

Dyslexia Assessment in Multnomah County

Here are a few of the many assessment and intervention providers in the County.

The Blosser Center - Accredited by the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators, the Blosser Center provides assessment, tutoring and teacher training.

Language Skills Therapy - Provides assessment and tutoring

New Leaves Clinic - Provides assessment and treatment in Hillsboro, Oregon

Northwest Reading Clinic - Provides assessment and intervention

PDX Reading Specialist, LLC​ - Provides assessment, tutoring, advocacy and professional development

My Librarian Darcee wearing her Esme tunic
If you’re a grown woman who craves a frock with a peacock on the shoulder and a gazelle peeking around the side waist, you’re probably just going to have to go ahead and sew it yourself.

Thanks to a new book by my favorite Swedish print designer, this is totally accomplishable in a single afternoon.  Lotta Jansdotter's Everyday Style, presents crazy simple patterns for functional clothing and accessories to carry you through the seasons. While the designs are drawn from her own personal style, Jansdotter encourages women to adapt these classic pieces to suit who they are. Straight away I loved the Esme tunic that can be shortened to a modish top or lengthened to a free-spirited kaftan. I’ve been collecting (hoarding) fabric with unusual prints for years and can’t wait to transform my stash into things I can actually wear and use.

If you love textiles, modern design and fuss-free sewing, check out Lotta Jansdotter and be inspired to make your own unique something.

 

magneto cover

 

Graphic novels, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways…

  • Your length is the perfect match for my commitment issues.
  • There’s so many choices, it’s difficult what to check out first.
  • You never cease to surprise me.

 

After catching up on Cullen Bunn’s Sixth Gun series, I looked for more of his work and discovered Magneto. It’s a short (four collected books) story following him as he explores a world of diminished power amid a strong legacy.

Not an X-Men aficionado?  Don't worry. Bunn successfully explores Magneto's inner workings in a way that doesn’t require a master’s degree from Marvel UniversityIn fact, it may just pull you in...

 

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