Quick Picks from CMCL

April 17, 2015

Checking In: Real Answers to Silly Hypotheticals

whatif“Q. From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hit the ground?

Q. If every human somehow simply disappeared from the face of the Earth, how long would it be before the last artificial light source would go out?

Q. What would happen if you made a periodic table out of cube-shaped bricks, where each brick was made of the corresponding element?” – Ponderables from What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

Everyone’s wondered at one time or another (usually late at night, after the credits have rolled on Sharknado vs. Godzilla) what would happen if the irresistible force met the immovable object. Not that question specifically – that one’s more philosophical than anything – but more fun stuff. Like how many arrows, fired 300-style, would it take to blot out the sun? (Answer: Way too many, particularly if it’s at high noon, as in the movie. Archer density and rate of fire mitigate against light reduction, unless it’s at dawn or dusk, when shadow elongation might just get the job done.) Or how many Yodas worth of Force energy would we need to ensure our energy independence? (Answer: Yoda generates a back-of-the-napkin 19.2kW of power to lift Luke’s X-wing off Dagobah. Each Yoda is worth roughly $2/hour at average electricity rates, so the world would need roughly a hundred million Yodas, also known as a green of Yodas.)

Both the aforementioned questions are explored and answered in Randall Munroe’s cheeky What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, full of meticulous research and the same droll stick figure art as in his webcomic xkcd. Many of the questions posed in What If? end hilariously and/or tragically. For example, nothing good happens when a baseball is pitched at 90% of the speed of light, from the point of view of the pitcher, batter, stadium or surrounding city, although Major League Baseball would at least be able to record the at-bat as “hit by pitch.”

So when you’re up at three AM, and you’re wondering which planet or moon other than Earth would have the most appropriate atmosphere for a Cessna to fly in (weirdly enough, turns out it’s the low gravity of Saturn’s moon Titan), rest assured that this book has your back, and so do we. Place a hold on it today, and please don’t try assembling a display of all the elements. You’d be in trouble long before you hit the transuranics!

-Patrick

April 10, 2015

Checking In: A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K Le Guin

Filed under: Checking In — Tags: , , , , , — Eric D @ 3:55 pm

Place a hold!“The isle of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards.”

So begins A Wizard of Earthsea, the first volume of the epic Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin. Ever heard of it? Forty years before the turrets and dungeons of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry ever existed, there was the island of Roke and its magnificent Great House- the wizard school of Earthsea where even the greatest wizards started their journeys as children and apprentices. The series is geared toward young adults, features a great deal of magic and mayhem and restoration, takes advantage of a really unique setting (an archipelago!) and its natural tendency to isolate and compartmentalize cultures, and includes a few of the absolute coolest dragons in literary existence. Even better, the author is an Oregonian! How could this book NOT deserve a read?

A Wizard of Earthsea follows who is perhaps the greatest of them all – a wizard named Ged, who began his life as a boy named Sparrowhawk and rose to become a both dragonlord and an Archmage, but not, of course, before making some really bad decisions and putting the entire world in peril.

In the first few chapters, you’ll see the same sort of “dormroom drama” that became so integral to Harry Potter and made even the scenes of everyday life at school feel real and interesting. Ged, who arrives at the school as a wizard of much power and potential but very little knowledge, enters into a grim rivalry with an older student, whose arrogance only feeds Ged’s ego and sense of superiority. This leads to… well, I suppose I ought to let you find out. Copies of this first novel, and its sequels, are readily available through WCCLS. Get your copy today!

April 7, 2015

Blurbs From the Branch: Nonfiction Ghost Story!

Filed under: Blurbs from the Branch, Books — Tags: , , , , , — Becca B @ 8:00 am

americanghostAmerican Ghost, by Hannah Nordhaus, is not your average ghost story. First of all, it’s nonfiction. Second, the aim of this book isn’t to creep readers out with extra spooky details. Instead, the book is about the author’s journey to learn about the life of her great-great-grandmother, Julia Staab, who is New Mexico’s most famous ghost. After hearing many stories about her ghostly ancestor, who supposedly haunts La Posada, a hotel in Santa Fe that used to be the family home, Nordhaus set out to find the truth behind the legend. Not only did she conduct more traditional genealogical research to learn the history of the Staab family, but even consulted psychics, ghost hunters, and a dowser to see if she could get in touch with her grandmother’s spirit. Nordhaus weaves both factual history, less factual legend, and her own research story together to make one very fascinating narrative. This is a must read for fans of both American history and the supernatural!

– Becca

April 6, 2015

Off the Shelf: Portland Noir

Photo: Old Town sign via Joe Wolf on flickr

Photo: Old Town sign via Joe Wolf from flickr

When you live in the best city in the world, why leave, even in a book? Our beloved Portland is a rich backdrop for mystery series, bizarre short stories, and even a zombie western.

Books and Series Set in Our Very Own P-Town

Sage Adair Mystery Series by S. L. Stonertimber beasts

With titles such as Dry Rot and Timber Beast, this captivating and well-researched series is set in 1902 Portland. It stars Sage Adair, a secret operative of the labor movement, and his multicultural cohorts.

Portland Noir edited by Kevin Sampsell

A bizarre and twisted short story collection featuring such things as coffee, rain, and murder!

Portlandtown: A Tale of the Oregon Wyldesportlandtown

Ghosts, horror, zombies, mud, and mayhem are loose in this supernatural western. Hijinks ensue.

Shirley Combs and Dr. Mary Watson Series by Sandra De Helen

Say “Shirley Combs” fast and get your first clue about this mystery series. The first of two volumes so far, The Hounding is a modern Portland-style retelling of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

~Librarian Robin

April 2, 2015

Checking In: The Fall, Starring Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan

Filed under: Info — Eric D @ 8:00 am

The FallJamie Dornan has been on the big screen lately, for better or for worse, as troubled titan Christian Grey in the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. However, Grey isn’t the first crazy he’s played- and, in fact, the last one is nearly guaranteed to give you more chills than our favorite power-obsessed billionaire. Enter The Fall, a crime drama starring Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan as a pair of hunters – Dornan as a serial killer hiding his violent other life from a wife and two children, and Anderson as the fearless investigator tasked with hunting him down. Their sparring match takes place across the troubled cityscape of Belfast, Ireland, and has to be one of the most compelling cat-and-mouse narratives I have ever seen.

Make no mistake, this series is not for the weak of constitution. It is intense and occasionally violent, and it goes deep down the rabbit hole that is Paul Spector’s life and obsessions. However, that very feature of the show (along with the bang-on, absolutely realistic police work) is one reason I find it to be so compelling – in the same way we are all fascinated with the Dexters and Hannibal Lecters of the world, The Fall gives the viewer insight into not only the personality and depravity of a murderer, but complicates it further by giving him a family, including children whom he genuinely appears to love and care for even as his secret life becomes harder and harder to conceal. On the other side of the coin, Anderson’s character is single, manipulative, domineering and uncompromising at many points in her drive to find the killer – some echoes, certainly, of Helen Mirren’s bulldog Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect. This juxtaposition of character and role, combined with excellent cinematography and storytelling, cultivates a complicated, intellectual drama that moves well beyond the procedural.

March 31, 2015

Blurbs From the Branch: Do You Like British Mysteries?

Filed under: Blurbs from the Branch, Books — Tags: , , , — Becca B @ 8:00 am

killernextdoorWell, I love them, and a good one I just read was Alex Marwood’s second novel, The Killer Next Door.  Alex Marwood is the pen name of a London journalist, whose first book, The Wicked Girls, was nominated for an Edgar Award.

The Killer Next door is set in a boarding house in London where most everybody keeps to themselves, and a few of them have some secrets. However, one of the residents has a big secret: he is a serial killer.  What makes this book interesting isn’t so much the mystery, but the character development.  You really get to know each of these characters.  They start out in the story as fellow borders who barely speak, and through the course of the story they come together, revealing their fractured lives to each other. The story takes some twists and turns to an ending I found very satisfying.  If you like creepy mysteries with great characters, then you should definitely add this to your list of books to read.

– Maura

March 30, 2015

Off the Shelf: An unusual advice book that might be useful

Filed under: Books, Off the Shelf — Tags: , , , , , — Mark @ 9:49 am
horrible person

Photo: book cover of You’re a Horrible Person, But I Like You

First of all, this blog post was supposed to be about gardening.  And while you should probably start thinking about your garden since it’s almost April, I really need to bring this new book to your attention.   You’re a Horrible Person But I Like You – The Believer Book of Advice is a pretty special book where  “Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis, Fred Armisen, Judd Apatow, & many more” offer answers to a variety of questions.  I think you’ll find an answer to something that has been on your mind but you haven’t figured out the right person to ask.  For example, here’s Rob Corddry’s response to someone considering becoming a bank robber.

Dear Rob:

They say bank heists are up this year.  Do you recommend a life of crime or what?

My best,

Parched in Houston

Dear Parched:

Bank crimes are up this year, but the word “heist” is down.  Keep beatin’ your gums like a palooka and you’ll be all fours and fives!  Keep on the sinker and you’ll be on the trolley like a hayburner”

I had to look all that stuff up but I got bored.  “Sinker” mean “doughnut.’  Yes, crime pays.

Rob.

And if this doesn’t convince you, there are many topics that might be relevant to your situation like, dating, transitioning after rehab, Weber grills, facial hair, the meaningless daily grind, unnamed phobias, cannabis, astronauts, and politics. -Wendy

March 26, 2015

Kid’s Corner: Celebrate “Respect Your Cat Day” with Cat Stories

Filed under: Kid's Corner — Tags: , , , , , — jennytf @ 12:48 pm

March 28 is “Respect Your Cat Day”.  If you have a cat, you already know that most every day is Respect Cat StoriesYour Cat Day – at least your cat thinks it is!  There are some famous felines in children’s books who have more than their fair share of “catitude.”  These titles are “purrfect” for sharing. –Ginny W.

Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin and James and Kimberly Dean: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes is the first in the series. He is a mellow fellow who always keeps his cool while movin’ and groovin’.   Pete has six picture books, several song books and early readers.  Check out Pete’s website too.

Rotten Ralph by Jack Gantos and Nicole Rubel: Ralph is the world champ at being a bad cat.  Ralph’s adventures in misbehavior are available in picture books and easy readers.  Do you like Ralph? Learn more about his creators, Jack Gantos and Nicole Rubel.

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel: Bad Kitty lives up to his name!  In his first story, big trouble ensues when his favorite food is all gone.  Big trouble, four times over.  This series has picture books for reading aloud and chapter books for newly independent readers. You can visit Bad Kitty’s website too.

Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton: Splat is more nervous than naughty.  Seymour, his pet mouse, comes along to give him courage.  Splat stars in picture books and early readers.  And of course, Splat has a webpage and a Splat app.

Skippyjon Jones by Judith Schachner: Skippyjon has a flair for the dramatic.  He sees himself as more than an ordinary Siamese cat.  He is El Skippito – Zorro on four legs.  The Skippyjon Jones series has picture books and beginning readers.  Skippyjon Jones is also on the web and Facebook.

Chester by Melanie Watt: Armed with a red marker, Chester is going to draw the story his way, no matter what author-illustrator Melanie Watt wants.  Lock up the crayons!  Chester returns in two more stories: Chester’s Back and Chester’s Masterpiece.

Yoko by Rosemary Wells: Yoko is a sweet and gentle cat who is starting school.  Her mother makes sushi for lunch box and her fellow students make fun of it.   A thoughtful teacher and a new friend help make things better.  There are six Yoko stories, each with a loving lesson for children.  If you like the Yoko stories, find out more about Rosemary Wells and her other books.

March 24, 2015

Blurbs From the Branch: This Year’s Printz Winner is Awesome!

I'll Give You the Sun coverJandy Smith’s second novel for teens, I’ll Give You the Sun, won the 2015 Printz Award for quality teen literature back in February. This book is kind of amazing. It tells the story of twins Noah and Jude at the ages of 13 and 16, Noah narrating their life at 13, and Jude at 16. Smith has done an excellent job of creating two very distinct voices for her characters; there’s never a question as to which one is talking at any given point. This is pretty unusual in a teen book. Also, I never once questioned anything these teens said. I believed that every word she put in their mouths was something they would say, which is another pretty incredible feat in a teen book. It’s impossible not to love these characters: sweet, confused, quirky Noah and his struggle to be true to himself, and feisty, broken, strong Jude, and her own struggle to be true to herself (and her family). I laughed, I cried (a lot), and mostly, I wanted to keep on reading! This is a must read!!

– Becca

March 23, 2015

Movie Monday: Ilo Ilo

Filed under: Info, Inside Scoop, Movies — Tags: — lauradebacle @ 8:15 am

Ilo IloWhen I was very young, a frequent form of entertainment for my family was simply a car ride around familiar streets in our little city or out in the rural farm lands of Columbia County. We all enjoyed this quiet time together and usually it culminated in a stop for ice cream or perhaps an impromptu visit at Grandma’s house, always a treat. Back then, people were less likely to retreat into their homes, pulling the drapes and shutting out the world. If our car ride took place after dark, we had mini-glimpses into the lives of our community members. It was fun to speculate on what those people were working on, playing at, or celebrating as we passed by their homes.

The film Ilo Ilo made me think of those brief glimpses that we sometimes get into the lives of people totally unrelated to us.  The film takes place in Singapore during the 1997 Asian financial crisis and follows the day-to-day concerns of the Lim family who are stressed and overwhelmed with their jobs, the trying behavior of their grade school aged son, Jiali, and the prospect of another baby on the way. The quality of the film draws the viewer in at a deep level, as though you’re an invisible entity following along with this family in their daily lives.

To bring some relief to their hectic household, the Lim’s hire Teresa, a Filipino immigrant, as a live-in maid and nanny for Jiali. As Teresa settles in with her employers and learns to navigate the newness of Singapore, her story also expresses an immediacy that is surprisingly intimate. Teresa struggles with Jiale’s impish escapades and eventually forms a unique bond with him. She becomes an important member of this harried family with a connection that is painful to break when the family’s life veers off in an uncertain direction.

The intimacy that Ilo Ilo conveys stems in large part from the fact that the story is based on the Director’s life experience.  Screenwriter/Director Anthony Chen and his younger brothers were among an entire generation of Singaporean children who were brought up by live-in maids while their hardworking parents spent long days and nights at work. Chen says, “The universal experience of children growing up with maids is one of having a ‘surrogate’ mother, a friend and a confidant. What is intriguing and never brought to light is the emotional inter-relations created, nurtured, cherished, and yet brutally taken away when circumstances change.”  Ilo Ilo brings this experience to life on film as evidenced by the standing ovation it received when it opened at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Grand Theater with the city-state’s President in the audience.

Winner of the Best First Feature Film Award in the Cannes Film Festival, Ilo Ilo was part of the line-up in Portland’s International Film Fest in 2014. This week, on Wednesday night, March 25th, Ilo Ilo is the featured selection of Cedar Mill Library’s monthly Film Club. Come and join us for the screening and stay for discussion afterwards. We begin at 6:15pm in the library’s 2nd floor community room.

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