Learn about your credit score at Mentor Public Library

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Your credit score is important.

It can have an impact on finding employment, buying insurance, and purchasing or renting a home or car.

It can affect college students who are looking for loans and prevent seniors from qualifying for a reverse mortgage at retirement.

And a lot of people still don’t understand what their credit score is or how to improve it.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Mentor Public Library is hosting a free presentation on understanding your FICO credit score at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25, at its Main Branch.

The speaker will be Bob Houston, a retired credit counselor and credit report reviewer. He has helped hundreds of people improve their credit score in order to purchase a home or start a business.

Patrons can also win a free prize just for attending the program. There will be four drawings, one for each: “Building Wealth” by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; “Building a Better Credit Report” by the Federal Trade Commission; “It’s Not What You Make, It’s How You Spend” by Gary Vosick; and “The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Financial Success,” also by Gary Vosick.

The program is free and open to everyone. People can register for the event on our website or by calling Mentor Public Library at 440-255-8811 ext. 216.

The talk is sponsored by Ohio Saves in partnership with the Ohio State University Extension Service.

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Mardi Gras! New Orleans in Music, Movies, Books & More

It's Mardi Gras time!

It’s Mardi Gras time!

It’s Fat Tuesday and that means Mardi Gras!

And New Orleans may not be the only city that throws a party before Ash Wednesday, but we would be remiss if we missed this chance to highlight all the music, movies, books, plays, documentaries and even cuisine that wouldn’t exist without The Big Easy.

So we present 10 items from our collection that either are from New Orleans artists or use the city as a setting.

1. Treme

Though it was created by David Simon, Treme is so much more than The Wire set in New Orleans. However, the two shows have this in common: Their settings are also their lead characters. For four seasons, Simon and his crew depicted the people of New Orleans—Mardi Gras Indians, musicians, chefs, human rights lawyers and more—trying to rebuild their city after Hurricane Katrina.

With its focus on music, cuisine and local culture, Treme is the best show about New Orleans—give or take Frank’s Place.

2. Louis Armstrong

You cannot, cannot talk about the city of New Orleans without talking about the music. This is where jazz was born! And, yes, Louis Armstrong gets his name in the header, because he’s the greatest. But we could just as easily spend hours talking about (and listening to) Dr. John, Trombone Shorty, Fats Domino or Jelly Roll Morton.

You can download more songs from New Orleans’ finest on Freegal or stream their albums on Hoopla, both of which are free to use with a Mentor Public Library card.

3. When the Levees Broke

Spike Lee is at his best when he has something to say, and one of the most important topics he has ever tackled is New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. This documentary examines the tragedy through the eyes of the storm’s survivors.

For another auteur’s take on Katrina, read Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun.

4. My New Orleans: 200 of my favorite recipes and stories from my hometown by John Besh

Crawfish and rice! Chanterelles! Gumbo! What to cook for Mardi Gras or Reveillon—the best of the city’s cuisine from a chef who grew up with it.

Also, for our younger chefs, may we recommend Tiana’s Cookbook: Recipes for Kids.

5. Princess & the Frog

Speaking of Princess Tiana… Disney steeps this classic fairy tale in a southern sensibility. Don’t just borrow the movie; get the soundtrack too for when your kids inevitably have the songs stuck in their heads.

6. Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

It’s difficult to describe Toole’s singular novel in a single word or phrase. Picaresque? A comedy of errors? Let’s just call it a classic. Confederacy follows Ignatius J. Reilly—an overstuffed cocktail of intellect, buffoonery and free-floating hostility—as he pinballs against the colorful characters of New Orleans.

A manipulative hot dog vendor? A costumed detective? An ambivalent pants magnate? The French Quarter’s dandiest dandy? All fodder for Reilly’s jaundiced rants.

7. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

New Orleans’ heat, headiness and Gothic architecture provide the perfect backdrop for Rice’s horror story.

8. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Whether we’re talking about the play or any of the movie versionsStreetcar just wouldn’t be the same if you moved it to New York, San Diego or anywhere beside New Orleans.

9. Gumbo Tales: Finding my Place at the New Orleans Table by Sara Roahen

Roahen was a stranger in a strange land when she moved from Wisconsin to New Orleans, and she figured the best way to learn her new hometown was by taste. Follow Roahen through po-boys and pho, Sazerac and braciolone. Then plan your own culinary excursion to The Big Easy.

10. Gambit

After the Channing Tatum movie comes out, he’s going to be everyone’s favorite X-Man. So get ahead of the curve and read all about the kinetic mutant from Nolia.

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The Civil War at Mentor Public Library

An expert from the James A. Garfield National Historic Site will talk about the Battle of Chancellorsville this Thursday at Mentor Public Library.

An expert from the James A. Garfield National Historic Site will talk about the Battle of Chancellorsville this Thursday at Mentor Public Library.

Mentor Public Library has not one but two programs dedicated to the Civil War this week at its Main Branch.

At noon on Wednesday (and in honor of Black History Month), you can learn all about Frederick Douglass.

Hear how he went from being an escaped slave to the most famous Afro-American in the United States.

Then, at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, we’re talking about the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Learn how President Lincoln’s newest general, Fightin’ Joe Hooker, fared against Robert E. Lee. (Hint: Not well.)

Both talks are free and open to the public.

The speakers are rangers or park volunteers from James A. Garfield National Historic Site—which also holds a wealth of information on the Civil War where President Garfield served as a brigadier general.

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The Novels, Movies & Poetry of China for Chinese New Year

Best-of-ChinaIn the spirit of our Civil Rights list for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we present 10 of the best novels, movies and poetry collections from China for Chinese New Year.

As with all subjective lists, we must begin with disclaimers. One, China is enormous and has been creating art for more than 5,000 years; so, yes, it’s excruciating to whittle a list like this down to 10 items. We’re going to miss some favorites, some excruciating how-can-you-not-mention-them favorites, so please consider this an introduction as opposed to an exhaustive overview.

Two, Chinese New Year is by no means limited to China. Macau, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and more celebrate Lunar New Years and/or Spring Festivals this time of year. Each deserve their list, but it’s foolhardy enough to try to tackle 5,000 years of Chinese history in a single post—as we mentioned in the first disclaimer—so those will have to wait until a later day.

With these caveats out of the way, it’s time to celebrate the Year of the Monkey! Wear red, bribe the Kitchen God, and enjoy the art of the Middle Kingdom!

1. The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China by Lu Xun

It’s futile to point to a single writer and try to frame him or her as China’s best writer; but, whomever you think it may be, Lu Xun is in the discussion. He is to Beijing as Gabriel Garcia Marquez is to Colombia or Naguib Mahfouz is to Egypt. He’s their laureate. He was among a group of authors who created modern Chinese literature—embracing its cultural history while criticizing some of its outdated traditions.

His short stories, including “Diary of a Madman,” “The Divorce” and “The Real Story of Ah-Q,” juggle humor, sadness and keen observation. If you want, his complete short stories are also available as an ebook.

2. Dream of a Red Chamber (also known as The Story of The Stone) by Cao Xueqin

From one of China’s greatest modern writers to one of its greatest classic authors. Dream was written in the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty, and it follows the dynasty’s demise through the fortunes of one family and doomed romance of first cousins, Precious Jade and Blue-Black Jade.

This sprawling monsterpiece is more than 1,000 pages in some translations, so you may opt for an abridged version. But if you catch a good translation, it pairs fascinating myth and history with memorable characters. Cao brings readers into an open world where even a third concubine’s servant is granted her own agency.

3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

You rolled your eyes, didn’t you? Everybody knows Crouching Tiger, you thought, even my uncle who doesn’t know his Ang Lee from his Christopher Lee.

Yeah, Crouching Tiger is one of those non-American films everyone knows, but it’s also one of the greatest examples of the wuxia (translation: martial hero) genre ever, which reaches all the way back beyond Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three KingdomsIf you enjoyed Crouching Tiger, you may also enjoy other wuxia films like HeroHouse of Flying Daggers and, yes, even Kung Fu Panda.

4. Farewell, My Concubine

But Chinese film is so much more than Kung Fu. It can be tragedy, history and love; or, in the case of Farewell, My Concubine, all three.

The film follows two Beijing opera actors, Cheng Dieyi and Duan Xiaolou, from childhood to death. If their story doesn’t break your heart, it’s because you never had one.

Concubine is similar to Dream of the Red Chamber in that it uses a personal relationship as a macrocosm to tell the story of the nation; in Concubine‘s case, the troubled (understatement) decades of the Cultural Revolution.

5. China’s Bravest Girl: The Legend of Hua Mu Lan by Wang Xing Chu

You know the story of Mulan, the woman who disguised herself as a man to defend her family’s honor.Read the story as the Chinese tell it.

6. Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian

Xingjian won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2000. He enjoyed some popularity in China but ran afoul of the government. He eventually moved to France and criticized his homeland’s government. It responded by banning all of his work.

Before leaving for Europe, Xingjian was diagnosed with lung cancer, the disease that killed his father, and told he was going to die. He didn’t die. He didn’t even have cancer. The doctor misdiagnosed him. With a new lease on life, Xingjian spent 10 months traveling along the Yangtze River. He, then, used that experience to write Soul Mountain.

Soul Mountain is an autobiography-novel-travel writing or in Xingjian’s own words: “You’ve slapped together travel notes, moralistic ramblings, feelings, notes, jottings, untheoretical discussions, unfable-like fables, copied out some folk songs, added some legend-like nonsense of your own invention, and are calling it fiction!”

7. 300 Tang Poems

I should not have come this far without discussing Chinese poetry. For much of its history, Chinese prose was subordinate to Chinese poetry; and the poetry was particularly sublime during the Tang Dynasty.

And you don’t need a doctorate in poetry or Chinese history to understand what has made this poetry worth preserving. The poems of Li Bai, Du Fu, Wang Wei and more can be appreciated immediately but reward re-reading too.

8. The Analects by Confucius, Mencius, Tao Te Ching & Chuang Tzu

It’s difficult to find western analogues for these classics, which provided the basis for Confucianism, Neo-Confucianism and Taoism. They aren’t quite religious texts, and it’s limiting to compare them only philosophical or political texts. In short, these books try to provide the guidelines for how to lead a good life.

While not all of their writings may apply unequivocally to this time and place, there’s still plenty of worthwhile advice to be gleaned from them.

9. According to What? by Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei isn’t just one of the most important living Chinese artists, he’s one of the most important living artists anywhere. According to What? features more than 40 pieces from over the last 20 years—everything from photos of the Olympic stadium in Beijing to assemblies of thousands of porcelain river crabs (a metaphor for the Chinese government’s censorship) to a selfie Ai took as he was being arrested by Chinese police.

You can also check out Ai’s documentary, Never Sorry.

10. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

This last inclusion is different than the others, because Yang was born in California. But Yang’s work is still Chinese art (as well as American art,) and that doesn’t change just because he’s from the diaspora as opposed to the mainland.

Pretty much all of Yang’s graphic novels are amazing, but American Born Chinese is special. It uses myth, wit and racial stereotypes to tell the stories of monkey king Hanuman and of a second-generation Chinese immigrant trying to fit into America. And you’ll never guess how those parallel stories end up intersecting.

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A dozen awesome Nova documentaries you can watch with Hoopla

Get the best of NOVA for free with Hoopla and your Mentor Public Library card.

Get the best of NOVA for free with Hoopla and your Mentor Public Library card.

We’ve talked about Hoopla before. It’s a cool digital service we offer that lets you stream music, TV shows and movies anywhere and at any time for free with your Mentor Public Library card.

It also has an awesome collection of NOVA documentaries; so if you’re interested in physics, history, space, dinosaurs—pretty much anything—you could be learning about it right now.

Here are some of our favorites.

1. Bigger than T-Rex

Almost a century ago, paleontologists found the first tantalizing hints of a monster even bigger than Tyrannosaurus Rex, perhaps the largest predator ever to walk the Earth: spectacular fossil bones from a dinosaur dubbed Spinosaurus. But the fossils were completely destroyed during a World War II Allied bombing raid, leaving only drawings, lots of questions, and a mystery. Learn about Spinosaurus—the dinosaur that waited 70 million years (and then another century) to be discovered.

If you like that, then watch: Arctic Dinosaurs and Last Extinction: Megabeasts’ Sudden Death.

2. Dogs Decoded

New research is revealing what dog lovers have suspected all along: Dogs have an uncanny ability to read and respond to human emotions. Humans, in turn, respond to dogs with the same hormone responsible for bonding mothers to their babies. How did this incredible relationship between humans and dogs come to be?

If you like that, then watch: How Smart Are Animals?

3. Ghosts of Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is the most famous archeological ruin in the Western hemisphere and an iconic symbol of the power and engineering prowess of the Inca. NOVA joins a new generation of archeologists as they probe areas of Machu Picchu that haven’t been touched since the time of the Incas and unearth burials of the people who built the sacred site.

If you like that, then watch: Cracking the Maya Code, Emperor’s Ghost Army, and Riddles of the Sphinx.

4. Deadliest Volcanoes

From Japan’s Mount Fuji to the “Sleeping Giant” submerged beneath Naples to the Yellowstone “Supervolcano” in the United States, NOVA travels with scientists from around the world who are at work on these sites, attempting to discover how likely these volcanoes are to erupt, when it might happen, and exactly how deadly they could prove to be.

If you like this, then watch: Killer Landslides and Hunt for the Supertwister.

5. Doctors’ Diaries

In 1987, NOVA’s cameras began rolling to chronicle the lives of seven young, bright medical students embarking on the longest and most rigorous endeavor in higher education: the years-long journey to become a doctor. From their first days at Harvard Medical School to the present day, none of them could have predicted what it would take, personally and professionally.

If you like this, then watch: Vaccines – Calling the Shots.

6. Is There Life on Mars?

This NOVA showcases the latest scientific results from the Mars Rovers and NASA’s Phoenix probe, which are poised to reveal provocative new clues in the tantalizing search for water and life on the Red Planet.

If you like this, then watch: Can We Make It to Mars?

7. Bible’s Buried Secrets

Go on a scientific journey to the beginnings of modern religion, and dig into both the Bible and the history of the Israelites through the artifacts they left behind. This powerful exploration of science, scripture, and scholarship examines the most pressing issues in biblical archaeology.

If you like this, then watch: The Bible Unearthed.

8. Fabric of our Cosmos

From the passenger seat of a New York cab driving near the speed of light to a pool hall where billiard tables do fantastical things, Brian Greene reveals space as a dynamic fabric that can stretch, twist, warp and ripple under the influence of gravity. Space, far from being empty, is filled with some of the deepest mysteries of our times.

If you like this, then watch: Physics and our Universe.

9. First Air War

By World War I’s end, the essential blueprint of the modern fighter aircraft had emerged: it was now an efficient killing machine that limited the average life expectancy of a front line pilot to just a few weeks. To trace the story of this astonishingly rapid technological revolution, NOVA takes viewers inside The Vintage Aviator, a team of New Zealand-based aviation buffs dedicated to bringing back classic WWI fighters.

If you like this, then watch: Rise of the Drones and Bombing Hitler’s Dams.

10. Ape Genius

The great apes—which include chimps, orangutans, gorillas and bonobos—seem to have rich emotional lives similar to our own. But just how smart are these animals? A new generation of investigators is revealing the secret mental lives of great apes, and our evolutionary next-of-kin are turning out to be far smarter than most experts ever imagined.

If you like this, then watch: Becoming Human.

11. Why Planes Vanish

NOVA tells the inside story of the search for Flight MH370 and meets the key players from all corners of the globe who have spent months searching for the lost plane. How easy is it to make a plane disappear? Or can new technology guarantee that in the future, nothing will ever be ‘lost’ again?

If you like this, then watch: Ben Franklin’s Balloon.

12. Judgment Day: Intelligent Design

One of the latest battles in the war over evolution took place in a tiny town of Dover in eastern Pennsylvania. In 2004, the local school board ordered science teachers to read to their high school biology students a statement that suggested there is an alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution. The science teachers refused to comply with the order, and alarmed parents filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the school board of violating the separation of church and state. Suddenly, the small town of Dover was torn apart by controversy, pitting neighbor against neighbor

If you like this, then watch: What Darwin Never Knew.

If you want to watch any of these videos but don’t know how to use Hoopla, you can check out this video tutorial that one of our librarians made.

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