Friday, October 31, 2014

Books read in October 2014

VACATION!  I had one.  I read  a lot.

This month's highlights:

Picture:  The Right Word, The Farmer and the Clown, Viva Frida.  (It was a good picture book month)

Middle Readers: Sisters

YA:  The Story of Owen, Firebug.  Both are really excellent quasi-fantasy-but-not-in-the-lame-way books. (Where She Went is good, but I've already read that)

Grownup Fiction: Work Song

Grownup Non:  In the American West, the Eugene Atget book.

Picture Books
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
Read for librarian book group
Picture book about the man who invented the Thesaurus.   Interesting story (did you know that the original versions of the Thesaurus weren't alphabetical? They were arranged by idea.) and really fabulous illustrations.  I love this author/illustrator team.

The Farmer and the Clown
Marla Frazee
 Read for librarian book group
Worldless picture book that I enjoyed, and even laughed aloud at one point.  Although I've had a song from Oklahoma stuck in my head for days now. (Territory folks should stick together, territory folks should all be pals...)

Digby O'Day in the Fast Lane
Read for librarian book group
Okay early reader.  I wasn't a fan of the woman being spoiled and liking pink, though I'm certain spoiled women who also like pink exist.

Best observation made by person in librarian book group:  I feel like someone pulled out the manuscript  from 1952 from the cushions in their couch and published it.

Viva Frida
Yuyi Morales
Read for librarian book group
Beautiful picture book.  One I finished and thought, "I might buy this."

Middle Readers
The Red Pencil
Andres Davis Pinkey
Read for librarian book group
Another tale told in free verse and yet another tale told in free verse that I found rather so-so.  None of the poems stood out on their own and I didn't find the story as told, compelling.  The story itself was quite compelling, but the writing didn't grab me.

Raina Talgemeier
Read for librarian book group
Graphic novel that accurately captures that particular form of trapped feeling one gets when one has to continue living with one's siblings, simply because they are siblings, even if they drive one crazy. Also great with portraying the awkwardness of transitions.

The Story of Owen
E.K. Johnston
Read for Mock Printz
You know what sold me?  The first two paragraphs.  Here they are, so you can read for yourself:

Before the Thorskard came to Trondheim, we didn't have a permanent dragon slayer.  When a dragon attacked, you had to petition town hall (assuming it wasn't on fire), and they would send to Toronto (assuming the phone lines weren't on fire) and Queen's Park would send out one of the government dragon slayers (assuming nothing in Toronto was on fire). By the time the dragon slayer arrived, anything not already lit on fire in the original attack would be, and whether the dragon was eventually slayed or not, we'd be stuck with reconstruction. Again.

Needless to say, when it was announced that Lottie Thorskard was moving to town permanently, it was like freaking Mardi Gras.

Do you need more than Canadian dragon slayers, witty commentary, and a lively tone?  How about a female narrator who is intensely musical and thinks in symphonic tones, but is rather stunted when it comes to friendships?  How about fun retelling of history through the alternate reality of carbon-eating dragons?  How about  savvy commentary on all sorts of modern phenomena?  How about life as the nephew of the most famous Dragon Slayer in Canada?  How about a title that doesn't really tell the whole truth of the story?

I've given you enough reasons to read this. Now go find a copy and read!

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ada Lavendar
Leslye Walton
Read for Mock Printz
I've read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and the joke that goes with that title is that in Dave Eggers's family they would always over exaggerate really mediocre things, lay the praise on thick.  Thus, a title mentioning both heartbreaking and genius was perceived by its own author to be a so-so piece of literature.

I do not think that Leslye Walton comes from the same school of thought.  I suspect that Walton thinks her book actually is full of the strange and beautiful sorrows of Ada Lavender.  However, what it is full of is a torpid plot that I don't think ever really got going, magical realism done very badly, strange jumps in POV that I can't figure out why they were ever acceptable.  Plus an eerily unfortunate plot device that is shared with a very popular Disney movie released just this year.

I don't often find myself reading first novels and thinking, "whew!  This is very much a first novel!" but this was one of those times.  Each page I read made me want more than ever for it to be the last page.  However, I was tasked with reading to the end and read to the end I did.

Dirty Wings
Sarah McCarry
 Read for librarian book group
I never could quite put my finger on what made me uncomfortable in this book.  Both main characters were interesting, sympathetic and well written.  The plot was solid, if nerve-wracking.  I'm not sure, but maybe the woo-woo aspects didn't work for me?

Interestingly, my copy of the book included the first chapter of the continuation of the story and I responded quite well to the switch in narrators.

Also, I'm not really seeing this is as retelling of Persephone.

Egg & Spoon
Gregory Maguire
Read for librarian book group
This book is a great example of an established author getting to do what no new author would be allowed to, namely natter on and on about things that are not vital to the plot.  His nattering, while well written, made this book a slog.  If moves were ever made about 13 year-old girls, this would make a fabulous film as the multitude of paragraphs of description could be absorbed by a few panning shots in each scene.  Fun story, fun growth of all, fun setting, just too much writing.  It was like being force-fed a delicious 10-layer cake.  A slice would have been quite satisfying enough.

Also, it didn't work for me that Baba Yaga made references to things both in the future (Cheerios, etc) and her many amusing asides to historical figures/events had me wondering just why, exactly, this was published as a children's book.

Isla and the Happily Ever After
Stephanie Perkins
I found the set up rather unbelievable (a US Senator sends his only son to an elite Paris boarding school for high school?) but enjoyable.  The Paris setting was very fun, the romance interesting and I though Perkins did a great job of capturing a very specific style of breakup.

Also, just so you don't go pronouncing the main character's name wrong like I did, it's Eye-la. It derives from the word Island.

Where She Went
Gayle Forman
Having reread If I Stay in preparation for the movie, I needed to even things out and read the sequel.   I sped through it when I read it for the first time a year ago, so it was good to go back and catch details.  I really liked how the second half of the two-book series fleshed out the first one and tied everything up in a very nice way.

Lish McBride
Read for librarian book group
Looking for a fun quick read with snortingly good humor sprinkled throughout?  Looking for an alternate world with fire starters and were-foxes and a dryad?  Looking for a magical mafia?  Looking for a quick and feisty plot?  This is your book.  It is a solidly really great read.

Grownup Fiction

Work Song
Ivan Doig
True confession time.  I've always stayed away from Ivan Doig because his last name made me think his books would be way too smart for me.  However, this came highly recommended by a book-reading friend (thanks Ben!) so I requested it from the library and opened the cover with much trepidation.

The verdict?  You shouldn't judge an author by his last name.  This was a fun story set in Butte Montana just after WWI.  It's full of all sorts of rollicking mining town details and has a gratifying plot that rolled right along.  I greatly enjoyed it and perhaps will be checking out more of Mr. Doig's work.  

Grownup NonFiction

In the American West
Richard Avedon
Very large photos (maybe 12" by 18" inches?) of run-of-the-mill people living the "the west" in the late 70s/early 80s.  Simple portraits, great details.  Apparently when the photos were first shown, there was general hue and cry of outrage that "those people" were not the true westerners.  But they are and he captured them well: drifters, carnies, ranchers, coal miners, farmers, teenagers, mental patients, waitresses, what have you.

A really excellent book.

In Focus: Eugene Atget. Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum
Gordon Baldwin
I enjoyed this "In Focus Series" because it used the very accessible format of putting the photo on one page and an analysis on the facing page.  I learned a lot about Atget, who was a great photographer of buildings in early 20th century Paris.  He created these photos to sell to designers, painters, anyone who needed photos of buildings.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Three sentence movie reviews: The Book of Life

There were many things to love about this movie:  the Mexican folk tale; the underworld; the fact it was incredibly pretty to look at.  However, I didn't see large sections of it, because I kept falling asleep, even though I didn't want to.  Chalk it up to the late start time and NOT the lack of interesting plot.

Cost:  $31.75 for myself, Matt, 3-D glasses, a bag of popcorn and a box of candy. (We were on vacation, so I rolled with it.)
Where watched:  Cornelius Cinemas

poster from:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

top songs that we should listen to (this took forever)

I love how so much information was squeezed on this tiny post-it note that a teacher had on her laptop, to remind her of the top songs that should be listened to.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

It's day 14,611

Here's what we sang:
(Who sang what is from my memory, which means it's probably not accurate)

All  // Star Spangled Banner // Cher (I previewed all four version and the Cher one was the winner)
Me // Flowers In Your Hair // The Lumineers
Matt // Personal Jesus // Depeche Mode 
Kelly // LIVIN' ON A PRAYER // Bon Jovi
Jimmy // Tie A Yellow Ribbon // Tony Orlando
Burt // The Letter // Joe Cocker
Someone // Sunshine Superman // Donovan
Jeff // The Witch Doctor // David Seville
Hafidha // I Don't Want To Be // Gavin DeGraw
Jeff  // My Sharona // The Knack
Ameena // Just A Girl // No Doubt
Deborah and me // Galileo // Indigo Girls
Allegra //  Don't Stop Believin'  // Journey
Andrew //  Touch Me // The Doors
MaryAnn & Me // Baby It's Cold Outside // Glee Cast
Matt & Tara // Shake It Off // Taylor Swift
Deobrah & ? // Jack And Diane // John Mellencamp
Chris // Folsom Prison Blues // Johnny Cash
Burt  // New Shoes // Paolo Nutini
Devon // Night Moves // Bob Seger
Olivia // Boogie Shoes // K.C. & The Sunshine Band
Tiffany & crew // Gettin' Jiggy Wit It // Will Smith
Tara and me // Danny's Song // Loggins & Messina
Mark // Taxi // Harry Chapin
Deborah, Burt (and everyone, really) // Bohemian Rhapsody // Queen
John // Wagon Wheel // Old Crow Medicine Show
MaryAnn // Strong Enough // Cher
Cindy & Me (sung like in high school) // You Shook Me All Night Long  // AC/DC
Someone // I Can't Go For That (No Can Do) // Hall & Oates
Tiffany & Tim //  Build Me Up Buttercup // The Foundations
Chris // Town Without Pity // Gene Pitney
Danielle, Deborah & Allegra // Jessie's Girl // Rick Springfield
Burt & Laurie // Endless Love // Lionel Richie & Diana Ross 
Devon  // In The Ghetto // Elvis Presley
Tiffany, Olivia, MaryAnn, Philip & Branka  // Wannabe // Spice Girls
Matt and Me // My Eyes // Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog
MaryAnn & Philip // The Girl Is Mine // Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney
Mark // Moondance // Van Morrison
Danielle & Deborah // Harper Valley P.T.A. // Jeannie C. Riley
Jeff Norton // One Week // Barenaked Ladies
Cindy // Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go // Wham! 
Allegra & ? // Don't Stop // Fleetwood Mac
Allegra, Matt, Tiffany & Olivia // Baby Got Back // Jonathan Coulton

Regular commenter Jan took a bunch of great photos.  Here is one that captures the flavor of the evening.  It's a moment in the excellent rendition of "Jessie's Girl" which had the best karaoke typo of the evening: "the point is mute" (moot).

Friday, October 24, 2014

Things have been happening at the City of Roses Motel site.

I haven't been able to take any pictures because it's become very dark in the morning, which is when I encounter this site.

But things have been happening!  First of all, they have removed a wall of shrubs that separated the house on the right from the motel site.  They also took out a tree in the back part of the lot and pulled down the ghetto palm growing on site.
Everything has been leveled (the kitty hangout depressions in the earth are gone) and gravel has been spread.
And the site has been wrapped in this.  I'm never sure if this is supposed to keep debris in, or keep prying eyes out.  Perhaps both.

My guess of what's coming?  Row houses.  Maybe 12 of them, with underground garages. Although the rental market is tight, so it also might be more units than you thought possible with no parking.

Early Birthday Wishes

Made by a student whose birthday is very near mine.

Actually, it's part of my personal credo not to.

Unless I am on the way to or coming home from a workout, workout gear is not for general out-and-aboutness.  Also not a fan of sneakers with wedge heels (why?) and track jackets made of silk and leather.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bicentennial Man

Part of the Ruby Oliver Film Festival.

A movie so lengthy I felt as though I had lived 200 years by the ending.  Full of Chris Columbus hallmarks like the bratty kid (for no discernible reason) and the overly intrusive maudlin score. It was an interesting selection as it was the first Robin Williams movie I watched after his death, and given that the bicentennial man wanted to end his life after a certain point.

Cost:  free from library
Where watched:  at home.

poster from:

I agree with Satchel

After finishing five 5k runs, I'm interested in running to food more than anything else.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Comparison Contrast two houses on Belmont Street.

Waiting for the #15 bus, I got to looking at these two houses located on Belmont just off Cesar Chavez.  They seem to be the same house and presumably built the same time, so I thought it would be fun to do a comparison.  Plus, I get to geek out with Portland Maps.

 This is 3921 & 3923 SE Belmont.  It was built in 1908 and is a duplex. It has 2,169 square feet.  Both residences in the duplex are owned by a couple with an address in another part of the city so this is presumably a rental.  The couple purchased the house in 2001 for (get ready to clutch your hearts, real estate hunters of today) $132,000.  Portland Maps tells me that it also sold in 1992 for $59,000 and in 1991 for $42,500. It's current assessed value is $198,500 and its market value is $273,700.  There are some fun historic permits on file for plumbing inspections.

 This is 3927 and 3939 SE Belmont.  It is owned by a couple who live in the house, though I assume they rent out the second unit.  It was built one year earlier, in 1907, and is a tiny bit bigger at 2,171 sq feet. The couple bought the house in 2003 for (again, get ready to clutch your hearts) $47,800. The type of sale is listed as Bargain Sale and Deed and I don't know if that's why it was such a steal, selling for so much less than its neighbor.  The historic permits on file list Albertsons, Inc. as the owner in 1965.

 The upper story: you can see the type of siding and the roof which I would characterize as in good condition.

This one has shingled siding and what I would guess is a new roof.

Second story.  It looks like the windows have been replaced with newer vinyl-style.  You can also see the "peak" of the porch is placed to the right on this house. 

This house still has the old aluminum frame windows and the "peak" is placed further to the left on this house.

Here, our house has an open porch, probably retaining the same style as it was built with.

This house has an enclosed porch, which I am not a fan of.  They seem less pleasant to hang out on and they tend to become a place to stack things. 

One thing that interested me was that both houses have heavy 60s/70s era doors that don't match the rest of the house.

Based on this, I assumed that both houses were owned by the same owner some time in their past. But no!  Was there a traveling door-to-door door salesman with an irresistible pitch?

The carved wood, the dark stain, the brass mail slot!  Does not match!!!

It looks like these steps have been scraped.  Perhaps they are getting ready for a new coat of paint?

The steps on this house are not as wide.

These columns look as though they've been renovated at some point.

I would bet these are original.
Thus ends our comparison/contrast.

Okay, so there is one thing I still like about the Oregonian.

After years of waiting, hoping, wishing and advocating, I get to read "Rhymes with Orange" every day!  Hilary Price regularly makes me laugh.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Librarian Book Group a bit overwhelming this month.

Librarian book group is on the right.  The probelm is the middle readers.  Usually they are very short books that I can whip through quickly but this month we've got a tome, Egg & Spoon, by the author of Wicked, an opus about a remote inn with mysterious visitors (Greenglass House) and a volume about a  boy who can talk to ravens.  (Gabriel Finley)  All of these are only marginally interesting to me and yet they go on and on.  I did just start the one with the flames on it (Firebug) and it's quite promising. It's YA, a teenaged firestarter with a boyfreind who smokes.  I'm down with that.  Thank goodness the books on the top and bottom of the pile can be read in 20 minutes.  Though The Farmer and the Clown has had the song "Territory Folk" in my head off and on all week long.)

On the left?  The final two of the 10 books to read for this year's Mock Printz.  They aren't due until January.

The end of Powell's 2, nee Powell's Technical Books

Once upon a time Powell's Technical Books was at the corner of NW Park and Couch in a big white brick building with a store cat named Fup. Time passed, Fup died of old age, things changed, Powell's Technical moved a few blocks north and became Powell's 2.  The white brick building was torn down to make way for student apartments and a coffee shop with incredibly slow service.  

Walking by today, I see that Powell's 2 has moved back to the mother ship, and so I bid goodbye to another piece in what was once an empire. Which will survive, of course, but in a different form than before.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Oregonian, you have got to be kidding me.

Just in case you don't want to out-click, I'll transcribe for you:

Thank you for being an angry and reluctant subscriber to The Oregonian.  We are sending you this sneaky postcard with many words to tell you that your subscription includes the newspapers published on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  These two newspapers are piled high with advertisements and have practically no news content to them.  We know that you, along with many other subscribers, grabs the three inch pile of ads and immediately transfers it to the recycling bin so you can get to the actual content of the paper which is, of course, news--not that we're doing much of that anymore.  And remember a few sentences ago when we said that the extra newspapers are included in your home delivery subscription. What we really mean is that we are actually going to charge you extra, three dollars (that's two dollars above the regular newsstand price) for the Thanksgiving Edition and one dollar (which is more than you pay for your weekday paper) for the Christmas one.  So be aware that your bill may come sooner than usual because of this.  If you've read this far and comprehended that we are completely screwing you over, please call our Customer Service Department where you can wait on hold for long periods of time before someone attempts to assist you.

Have a joyful Holiday Season, sucker.  
(We hope you will stop subscribing so we can claim circulation declines and forgo publishing altogether because we now pay our reporters based on how many "likes" and "pins" they get, not on their actual competence as a reporter. I mean really. The "free press" is so twentieth century.)

Your "friends" at the Oregonian.

Difficult to follow instructions.

I'm walking on the left-hand side of the street and the blue sign tells me to cross to the other side, because the sidewalk is closed.  But the other side of the street doesn't have any sidewalk access either. So I did what that guy is doing and walked in the road.  

I'm glad they are doing work on both the red brick building on the right and the one you can see on the left.  But I do need to walk on a sidewalk now and then.

Tree roots and concrete.

I've often wondered what they look like under the sidewalk, those tree roots.  Now I can see.

Amusing mail at work.

The Oregon Department of Education apparently has some alternative spelling of "Emerson" they find preferable.  I see this spelling a lot and I don't understand where it comes from as there is no famous "Emmerson".  Just old Ralph Waldo.  One "m".

This just made me laugh. 
Casting call: We need a buttoned-up type to look like a very annoyed librarian.  No botox. The more disappointed, the better.

(Note that I know a lot of librarians and they don't look like this at all.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Random Song: I Wanna Get Better

So catchy.  Good positive message.  Fun places for the melody to go.  Really good lines*, addictive back-up singer parts, excellent shredding-type guitar solo.  This video isn't the greatest, but it does give you the words.  There's another video with a plot and stuff, should you want that.

"Lost control when I panicked at the acid test."
"Because the love, the love, the love, the love, the love, the love that I gave, wasted on a nice face."
"Chase that feeling, of an eighteen year old ,who didn't know what loss was, now I'm a stranger."
"And I miss the days of a life still permanent, mourn the years before I got carried away"

Monday, October 13, 2014

Agreeing with the conservative columnist.

Hee!  I didn't realize the Governer's fiancee had so butchered the spelling of her name.

The rest of the column I didn't really go along with, but in the first sentence, Hovde and I are seeing eye-to-eye.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Requiem: Food processor.

Oh humble and hard-working food processor, I've had you since 2001.  You were my first appliance purchased after I moved to Portland.  And now your top has disintegrated, leaving me unable to convince you to grate the Fels-Naptha to make the laundry detergent.

I'm hoping I can purchase a replacement, because your motor is still running like a champ, so this may not be a final requiem.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Various things from the paper today.

From an article about getting your child off to college.

Here's what I remember of my college application process.  At some point, I went to the library and researched some schools to go to.  I also got a postcard in the mail for a women's college.  I sent away for more information.  The information arrived and I applied.  I asked my teachers for recommendations, I filled out the forms, I wrote and proofed the essay.  I got a money order for the application fee which I paid for out of my Pizza Hut earnings.  I got in.  I showed my parents the letter and asked if I could go.  They said yes.  I went.  I did not have SAT prep classes, (in fact, I did quite poorly on the SAT and then tried harder on the ACT) I did not have my parents reminding me of my various deadlines.  I wanted to go to school and I did what I had to do to go.  Do these children who need the post-its and reminders really want to go to college?  Maybe the college application process is the time to find out just how badly they want to go. By letting them do it themselves.

I don't think there really is such a thing as Poncho Perfect. 
(That said, I kind of like the purple one in the middle.)

Did Jeremy Renner really have a desk when he was in the middle of filming "The Avengers"?  Does it come standard in his trailer?  What else does he do at his desk during filming?
I guess maybe he could, but I think this is lazy writing, employing a cliche instead of using description.  Standards people.  Standards.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Three Sentence Movie Reviews: Gone Girl

This movie has not one, not two, but three meaty parts for women.* In another stunning turn of events, the gender equilibrium from the book was translated exactly, with no maximization of the male's story at the expense of the female's.  At two and a half hours, this still managed to be a roller coaster, even for me, who just read the book last month.

Where watched: St. Johns Cinema with Kelly
Cost:  $7.00

*I normally have to watch 20 movies to find three such well written and acted roles.

poster from:

So how do you fund your schools?

Here in the United States, we make children sell things in order to have fun things in their school.  No one wants to buy this crap, but they do, because who doesn't want to support the neighborhood children on a mission?  So there is then more crap in the world, and entire industries make money off this endeavor.  Enough to send a sample kit in the mail.  

I have an idea!  Why not fully fund our children's education?  Then no one would have to purchase things they don't want and the children wouldn't have to sell things.

I'm happy to say that the school at which I work does not do fundraiser of this nature.  That's one school down, and many, many more to go.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wrinkled newspaper.

It's weird, the way the paper arrives.  Rather than just stacking all the sections in the middle and folding once, there are various configurations of sections and often just the front page is wrapped around a stack of sections.  This leaves the front page rather wrinkled and strained. This was something that was never a problem, before the advent of the tabloid format.

Monday, October 6, 2014

That's right, Oregonian. You keep telling yourself you are doing a good thing.

Self-congratulatory pablum like this pisses me off.  I'd love to know where all the grumblers like me hang out so we could gripe together.

Oh wait, it's probably the Internet.  I'm already here.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Three sentence movie reviews: Ruby Sparks

This was recommended by Jeff, who noted my intense adoration of Zoe Kazan in What If, and I'm going to say straight off that I liked it.  I think it's incorrectly categorized as a romantic comedy as the darker premise has it headed straight for drama territory.* By the time it ended, I was angerly shoving it into that genre where men get to write all the movies and then was shocked to discover the author of this very interesting look at relationships was none other than female lead Zoe Kazan, which completely blew my mind and changed what I thought of the movie.**

Cost:  free from library
Where watched: at home.

*Note to people who decide these things:  Just because there is ROMANCE in a movie doesn't automatically make it a romantic comedy.  Even if there are funny and sweet parts to the movie.
**Which made me wonder how I would have responded to this movie had I known from the beginning a woman wrote it.

poster from:
I've got too much going on at the end of the year to give awards to posters of movies I've watched, but if I did, this would be a top finisher.  It correctly sums up this movie in an enticing way.

Three sentence movie reviews: Repo Man

Part of the Ruby Oliver Film Festival *

This has to be the most punk-rock movie I've ever seen as it refused to adhere to the conventional movie narrative.  Is it sci-fi, or action/adventure or biting social commentary?  It comes with a great soundtrack and will keep you interested.

Cost: free from library
Where watched:  at home.

*This movie is part of E. Lockheart's list of top 10 movies and I'd be interested to hear why she likes it.

poster from:
The amount of text on this poster is crazy!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

City of Roses Motel, six days in.

So far I've not been able to use the sidewalk for six days and all they have managed to do is drop a construction trailer and park this moving van.  I understand the construction trailer.  The moving van I'm less certain of its purpose.  It's an empty lot.