A few weeks ago Entertainment Weekly published an issue listing what their writers considered the best movies, plays, TV shows, books, etc. Within the...moreA few weeks ago Entertainment Weekly published an issue listing what their writers considered the best movies, plays, TV shows, books, etc. Within their book section they listed their picks for the ten best graphic novels. So I went online to Abebooks and bought several and listed a few more on my Amazon wishlist. Chicken with Plums was the first to arrive in the mail.
First of all I am a sucker for woodcuts which many of the drawings appear to be. However, what makes this graphic novel great is the storytelling. The author masterfully weaves a wonderful story. The twists and turns are perfect. I loved it.(less)
I am quickly becoming a fan of graphic novels and this is a good one. The authors are twin brothers from Brazil who have been writing and illustrating...moreI am quickly becoming a fan of graphic novels and this is a good one. The authors are twin brothers from Brazil who have been writing and illustrating graphic novels for 15 years. The book follows Bras, the scion of a famous Brazilian author, who is trying to figure out what to do with his life. He turns out not to have fallen too far from the tree. His father gives him some advice about the important things in life. We meet his best friend Jorge, his hot ex-girlfriend, his sweet mom, adorable future wife and eventually his own son.
The story is somewhat non-linear. The authors keep reminding us that life is an accumulation of moments and the end often comes unexpectedly. The book is a memento mori. The illustrations are rich and incredibly detailed. I felt like I was following Bras through the real streets, cafes, offices and homes of Rio. Good book. (less)
Unprepared students are college students who are taking developmental (remedial) courses and are generally at a high-risk for dropping out. A former u...moreUnprepared students are college students who are taking developmental (remedial) courses and are generally at a high-risk for dropping out. A former unprepared student herself, the author has spent her career seeing students through the obstacles of college. She has a few useful gems to share.
One gem I appreciated was her description of the "illusion of competence." Students may often be convinced that they understand the material after listening to a lecture, especially a good one. They then may be convinced that there is no need to review the material or self-assess. Apparently underprepared students are especially vulnerable to this delusion.
One gem I liked her approach to individual study of vocabulary. She suggests a twist to the standard flash card technique with the term on one side and the definition on the other. She has her students make a simple drawing of the definition on the term side. The drawing must be their own and represent a personal take on the definition. For someone who teaches in a vocab-heavy discipline, I love this idea. I think it gives a student another nail onto which to hang a memory.
My favorite gem from her book is a tidbit added to the course syllabus. She suggests the instructor quantify the effect of individual study activities on the final grade. For example:
Reading assigned sections of the textbook: 20% Reviewing notes daily 20% Reviewing past quizzes 5%
and so on and so forth. It gives students, especially ones with few study skills, a guide on how to study and succeed in a course. This would those students who ask me "how do I study for your class?"(less)
In the past I have perused the graphic novel isle at Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million only to be overwhelmed by superheroes. I knew there were alt...moreIn the past I have perused the graphic novel isle at Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million only to be overwhelmed by superheroes. I knew there were alternatives but locating them seemed beyond me. The few graphic novels I had sort of brushed against were movies like Ghost World and Harvey Pekar's American Splendor. After seeing Harvey on Letterman off and on for years so one day I read one of his "slice of life" graphic novels. It was okay but he was so angry and seemed to dislike women so much it wasn't my cup of tea.
A few months ago I googled for a list of recommended graphic novels. I started with Alan's War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope which I absolutely loved. The second one I got off the list was Asterior Polyp. Fantastic! The story was great. The characters were wonderful. One thing that got me was the art. There are panels were I just swam in they were so well done. Since graphic novels are visual, just like movies and TV, they have montages. Hard to write a montage.
As soon I finished AP, I jumped onto Amazon and bought another one on the list. I am hooked!
Soon I will be making a trip to Capitol Reef National Park in southern Utah. As a geology nut, I wanted to make the most of my adventure and research...moreSoon I will be making a trip to Capitol Reef National Park in southern Utah. As a geology nut, I wanted to make the most of my adventure and research the formations I would encounter. Though a thin volume, the photographs are breathtaking and the writing is clear and informative. If you are wondering why the park is called capitol reef (one of the rock spires looks like the capitol dome on most state houses and though a nautical term, reef refers to an impassable area). In addition, if you are a history buff, the book clues you in on the Freemont indians, early explorers, settlers (there is still a fruit orchard there), outlaws (Butch Cassidy)and uranium hunters. I'm now more excited to see it! (less)
I have come late to the graphic novel. I read American Splendor a few years back. I picked this one based on an internet top 25 list. I loved it. If y...moreI have come late to the graphic novel. I read American Splendor a few years back. I picked this one based on an internet top 25 list. I loved it. If you are thinking this is a big blood and guts account of WWII you will be disappointed. You will, however, be amazed by Alan's remarkable life. I can't wait to read more graphic novels from the list.(less)
I had recently watched a wonderful documentary about a NY couple who have spent their lives collecting art despite their small income (Dorothy and Her...moreI had recently watched a wonderful documentary about a NY couple who have spent their lives collecting art despite their small income (Dorothy and Herb Vogel). They collected "Minimal Art" and became friends with many well-known artists. I didn't know much about the minimal art movement so I bought this book. It has a short history of the genre and then shows examples of the artists and their works. I have seen many of their pieces in person in art museums. The book was very informative.(less)
I had seen a few illustrations from Dinotopia by the author previously but really had no idea how truly amazing his work is. Gurney takes you step by...moreI had seen a few illustrations from Dinotopia by the author previously but really had no idea how truly amazing his work is. Gurney takes you step by step through his process. I was under the misconception that artists and illustrators just sit down and draw worlds straight out of their heads. They don't. Gurney shows you all the intermediate steps from start to finish (e.g. thumbnails, color studies, models, maquettes, etc.).
He has also drawn beautiful illustrations for publications like National Geographic. His illustration of wool-bearing animals blows me away. The last section of the book is superb. He reveals a variety of useful techniques in composition (vignetting, windmilling, cut-aways, etc.). I was so impressed by this book, I ordered a copy for a very accomplished artist friend of mine. I am sure she will love it. (less)
I remember walking the halls of the English department as an undergrad at BYU and seeing framed posters of the great books of literature. I remember o...moreI remember walking the halls of the English department as an undergrad at BYU and seeing framed posters of the great books of literature. I remember one for Ulysses by James Joyce. It quoted Joyce saying he had put so many puzzles in the book people would be working on it for years to come. I was a little put off by it. Back in 1999, I happened upon a list of the best novels of the 20th Century compiled by the folks a the Modern Library. I set about trying to read as many as I could. Most of them were rather dull and I didn't get the point. A few years later I thought I would try number one on the list: Ulysses. I had a battle plan. I bought the teaching company course and would read a section and then watch the lecture. Unfortunately I got distracted and never made it past the first third of it.
Needless to say, reading the entire novel has been a goal. I joke and say it is my Everest. I don't know what inspired me to start reading it this summer. I found a cheap compilation of Joyce for my Kindle and so I thought I might tackle it again, this time without the teaching company lectures. Now there are some good things and bad things about reading Ulysses on a kindle. The bad thing is that you are never really sure what page you are on. During the six months it took me to read it I kept wondering how far I was. I do remember when I passed my previous stopping point. I knew that the story takes place during one day but as the day got later and later and Leopold was still wandering around Dublin I was getting worried. The good thing about reading it on a kindle is that you have a built in dictionary. Joyce is an erudite genius and his vocabulary is astounding. Most every page contained a word I had to look up. I was a lost soul however when Stephen Dedalus would keep spouting Latin and French phrases.
Throughout the book I kept wondering. Where is all the smut that got it banned? Joyce saved it for the ending. After Leopold, Molly Bloom takes over the narrative and she is awesome and bawdy. I must say the filth is rather tame for today's standards. I feel bad for those poor women back then. They seem smothered by 80 layers of clothing and constantly hit on by clueless bumbles.
One day I may finish the teaching company class on the novel. I expect I will probably get more out of it than I did just reading it straight. Would I rank it as the greatest novel of the 20th Century? I haven't a clue. It was long. There were some interesting parts. But I was glad when it ended. I'm back on nonfiction for awhile.(less)
A few years ago I read a book about the universe where the authors showed themselves watching the transit of venus through some fairly simple telescop...moreA few years ago I read a book about the universe where the authors showed themselves watching the transit of venus through some fairly simple telescopes. They mentioned that the event was fairly rare, only twice per century. I didn't realize and they didn't explain what the big deal was all about. It turns out that for astronomers the Transit of Venus is a really big historical deal. About 300 years ago Edmund Halley (yes, the comet guy) realized that by measuring the time it took Venus to pass in front of the Sun from distant spots in the northern and southern hemispheres we could calculate the distance between the Earth and the Sun and to top it all off we could also calculate all the distances from the Sun all the other planets in the solar system (thanks to Kepler).
The book is the story of how the newly international community of scientists cooperated and competed to measure the transit in 1761 and again in 1769. Well told, the book is loaded with stories of compelling characters, harrowing journeys, and visionary scientists and royals racing to measure the transit. The only complaint I had was the author doesn't explain the math. However, she does refer to some websites that take you through the calculations. Overall the book is fantastic! I highly recommend it! (less)
My favorite war movie is "A Bridge Too Far." Made in the late 70's, it starred everyone and their cat from both sides of the pond: Michael Caine, Robe...moreMy favorite war movie is "A Bridge Too Far." Made in the late 70's, it starred everyone and their cat from both sides of the pond: Michael Caine, Robert Redford, Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins, Elliot Gould. The list goes on and on. Even Sir Lawrence Olivier is in it.
What is not to love about the movie! The allies have this great plan to catch the Nazis by surprise and end the war by xmas. The movie recreates the largest airborne drop ever. Watching all those planes and gliders flying over the channel and into Holland. Paratroopers pour out of the planes and then all the rickety gliders crash landing in pastures. There is a huge column of british tanks racing up a single road to meet up with the airborne who are holding the bridges. The fighting is intense. The soundtrack is stirring, hopeful and inspiring. I whistle it often. I guess the reason I enjoy the movie is because the plan fails. It is all for nought. The decision to go is a classic example of daft hubris by the generals (Montegomery in particular)and obvious groupthink.
I read the book to see how well the movie stacks up. It is very close. There is just one event in the film that the writers made a little more dramatic in the movie. I am anxious to watch it again now that I know the bigger story. I would love to travel to Holland one day and travel the 64 miles that was fought over and visit the bridges and towns mentioned in the book.
I am going to take a break from reading about war for awhile. So much of war is absurd madness. I don't really get it. The best book on war I have ever read is Chris Hedges' "War is a (sic) thing that gives us meaning". I guess I read these books because I like the folly nature of war. After reading the Guns of August, Bloodlands, and The Crimean War, I have realized that Hollywood is pretty myopic about war movies (WWII western europe and a little pacific thrown in). Guns of August would make a spectacular series. Bloodlands would be incredibly hard to watch but would open a lot of eyes. The Crimean War would be a great subject for a film. I'm tired of men in tights. Show us some wicked, wild and insane history!(less)
I have a new hero: George Westinghouse. I didn't know a thing about him before reading this wonderful book. He was a remarkable man. I've been to Niag...moreI have a new hero: George Westinghouse. I didn't know a thing about him before reading this wonderful book. He was a remarkable man. I've been to Niagara falls but now I would like to go back just to see the Cathedral of Power.(less)
The first quarter of the book explains the chess game between Russia, England, France and the Ottoman Empire that started the war. The two year war it...moreThe first quarter of the book explains the chess game between Russia, England, France and the Ottoman Empire that started the war. The two year war itself was riddled with incompetency, terrible suffering and a completely unnecessary seige (trench warfare didn't begin in WWII). Great Book!(less)