Saturday, May 31, 2008

Starlight Parade

The Starlight Parade kicked off the annual Portland Rose Festival- over a week long celebration that included the Waterfront Village (a sort of carnival with rides and food booths), a fireworks display, Fleet Week, and the Grand Floral Parade.

I wasn't exactly sure what it was but someone described it as Portland's version of Disneyland's Main Street Electrical Parade. I was definitely curious and it had an interesting name. Many streets in downtown were closed off and spectators had set up camp on the sidewalks since that afternoon.

I found a spot by Central Library at about 8pm. Kids were enjoying themselves- running around, playing with light sabers and eating cotton candy- while the grown ups kept watch and talked amongst themselves. There was a sense of excitement and community all around.

It started with the Starlight Run- a marathon that runs the entire parade's route of 3.1 miles. At first I was wondering why some of the runners were dressed up as Dr. Seuss characters, clowns and why one guy was wearing a huge cardboard cutout of the Brady Bunch board with him taking the father's square. Apparently, it was also a costume contest for individuals and groups. The run was for all ages with kids running on their own, being pushed in strollers or riding on the shoulders of a parent. It looked really fun and something I'd like to do next year- sans wearing a costume.

As I was in a corner, part of the fun was seeing how the big vehicles would maneuver the sharp turn without running anyone over. Then there were those people who kept trying to cross the streets in the midst of a procession. I wondered where the homeless people went as there weren't any offensive smells.

Then there was the actual parade of lit-up decked-out vehicles, floats of various businesses and local clubs and associations, and high school marching bands and cheerleaders.

It didn't end until a little after 11pm. I'm sure the parade would have run smoother had it not been for the MAX trains that crossed the route. The weather actually held out (meaning it didn't rain) although a little on the chilly side. It was my first time watching a parade in its entirety and it was definitely interesting.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Mark Twain

I watched a film on Samuel Clemens a.k.a. Mark Twain. It was directed by Ken Burns who has made a name for himself with other acclaimed documentaries, most recently "The War". Told through photographs and Twain's own words with insights from scholars and writers, it was an enjoyable way to learn about someone who I was only familiar with through having read a couple of his books- "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"- as a schoolboy.

Mark Twain became a hugely celebrated public figure for his incredible way with words, using them not only to make people laugh- which he did so successfully- but also to explore/expose certain faults of American society. His private life was full of one heartbreaking loss after another and a rollercoaster ride of triumphs and failures. I was just in awe of the way he lived his life and the talent- especially his wit- that I can only wish to fraction of. He was an amazing man and I think deserves all the praise he gets. I will definitely be reading more of his works.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Library Events

Libraries are one of my favorite places in the world- as a reader, naturally, and as a saver. They have the reputation of being these ancient stuffy buildings with out of date books and stern librarians waiting around corners ready to "shoosh" you with the slightest noise from your lips. But that's not the case anymore. Not only do libraries have the latest releases in books and a whole array of reference materials but they also have the most recent DVD's and CD's ready for check out. They also provide computers with internet access and rooms to hold meetings and special events.

Central Library is one such library. I have already written about how beautiful and interesting it is architecturally but I have been lucky enough as well to check out a few of their programs and exhibits.

The library held a Portland Opera preview of "Aida". Opera isn't my type of music at all and it was for lack of anything else to do that day and with a bit of curiosity that I decided to check it out. I was glad I did for I had a surprisingly wonderful time learning a little history about operas- Verdi's in particular as he created "Aida"- and listening to wonderful performances. I was surprised how his music was familiar in that its been used many times in movies, TV and other media. It was amazing how powerful the voices were and incredible the effect it had on the audience, including myself.

Central Library also holds monthly exhibits in its Collins Gallery. In April, it was the Tears of Joy Theatre's 35th celebration of its puppets and masks. I particularly liked the Pinocchio, Aladdin, Greek mythology, and Arabian Nights displays. I was amazed by the craftsmanship and detail that was put into each one.

May's exhibit is dedicated to Pierre Lecure, a French poet who made beautiful books with the help of printmakers and other artists to showcase his work. I've always loved books but it was usually the words that captivated me so it was incredible to see the books themselves as part of the art. There were about 40 books in display. Different textures of paper were used ranging from rare Mexican bark and airy China paper. Each book had its own unique style and design and housed in different materials like woodcuts and in an ultra light balsa wood box. Often times the poetry themselves would complement the colorful collage of pastel paper or mirror the etchings made on the opposite page creating a sense of movement with the words. The opening reception on May 6th talked about Lecure and his works and offered refreshments not only of cookies, vegetables, cheese and crackers but also of very filling wraps.

I am looking forward to future events Central Library will be holding. The ones I mentioned were just what I've taken part in but it has also had swing dance lessons, writing workshops, computer and language classes just to name a few- and all for free. I think one of the smartest things anyone can do is to get a library card and take advantage of everything it has to offer.