If you know me personally, you'll know that my passion (and my profession) is theatre. So, when I find a review copy of a theatre-related book in oneIf you know me personally, you'll know that my passion (and my profession) is theatre. So, when I find a review copy of a theatre-related book in one of the catalogs that I get my books from, I am immediately interested. In this case I was doubly interested as I would have to admit to a very limited knowledge of Irish theatre and I'm always looking to expand my knowledge.
I am familiar with playwright Sean O'Casey, and like most students of a liberal arts schooling would tell you that O'Casey was the first Irish playwright to write about the working classes in Dublin. But perhaps we need a new modifier to this ... the first Irish playwright to write about the working classes in Dublin and to achieve world-wide recognition or fame for his work.
Author Elizabeth Mannion has spent time digging through the archives of the Abbey Theatre and provides the reader with a plethora of other playwrights and plays that were produced at the Abbey Theatre. While O'Casey is best known for Juno and the Paycock (1924) and The Plough and the Stars (1926), other writers, contemporaries and predecessors, were also writing and producing their works at the Abbey Theatre.
I definitely have come away with a list of playwrights whose work I am interested in reading. Perhaps the most intriguing for me is Matthew Brennan. Mannion writes:
Brennan is something of a ghost of Abbey history, marginalized in published Abbey history and the Abbey archives, and barely noticed by drama critics of the day. Apparently stereotypes about unintelligent "labouring" fathers, marriage-obsessed mothers and daughters, and meddling female neighbors were, as the September 6, 1922, Irish Times found, "true to type" that was acceptable on the national stage during this time. Even though the characterizations are overwhelmingly negative, none was commented on as such in the press reviews of the plays.
Though earlier Mannion writes (and quotes another source):
The 1922 comedies of Matthew Brennan -- The Young Man from Rathmines and A Leprechaun in the Tenement -- ... fall horribly flat by exemplifying "the problems with comic mediation of class disparity."
If this (learning a little about Matthew Brennan) were all I came away with after reading this book, that might be enough for me. But Brennan is just a very small portion of Mannion's research. Mannion's reports on a variety of writers and often synopsizes some of their plays, all in an effort to show that despite the accepted wisdom, O'Casey is not, perhaps the first playwright to write about the working class Irish. This in no way takes away from or diminishes O'Casey's work or his stature through history, it only suggests that there were others who may have opened the door a bit, and paved the way.
Anyone interested in theatre, theatre history, Irish history, or even just well-researched non-fiction should enjoy this book.
Looking for a good book? The Urban Plays of the Early Abbey Theatre by Elizabeth Mannion is an insightful look at a theatre institution and some of the lesser known playwrights who have worked there.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. ...more
This is, hands down, one of the best art books I have ever read.
From the stunning cover photo to the end of the acknowledgements, this book informs anThis is, hands down, one of the best art books I have ever read.
From the stunning cover photo to the end of the acknowledgements, this book informs and entertains and is rich with illustrations.
Author Victoria Finlay explores (and shares with us the results of her research) the history behind a variety of colors ... colors used primarily in painting. Who knew, or would have guessed, that there would be such rich history in the development of colors?
The book begins with a visit to the Lascaux Caves in France and only two pages in to the book and we're off on a remarkable journey:
French scientists took a tiny sample from the snout of the Great Bull. They found that some of the black was not just soot or charcoal but also contained a rare kind of manganese oxide called hausmannite. This can be made artificially by heating rocks that are rich with manganese, but the process requires temperatures of around 1650 degrees Fahrenheit, and it’s hard to see how prehistoric people could have generated that kind of heat from their open-pit fires. There could have been a local source we don’t know about anymore, but it is also possible that the Lascaux hausmannite came from the Pyrenees Mountains, 150 miles away.
Every color that Finlay explores has some interesting development -- just look at some of these chapter titles: "Mauve: Chemistry Project Gone Wrong"; "Prussian Blue: The Blue That Was Supposed to Be Red"; "Manganese Violet: Monet Goes Outside"; "Cadmium Yellow: Listening to Colors with Kandinsky." At the end of each chapter, I was eager to read on to see what I would learn next. Because you will learn something.
This is not a standard, dull history text-book about colors. This is a well researched, well written art book.
Finlay also uses a great many sidebars to complement the book, on topics such as "Pigments vs. Dyes" and "Red Ocher and Dying Stars" and "How We Perceive Colors" and so forth. These little capsule of knowledge are wonderful and often just the sort of trivia (if I may use that term without it being demeaning) that I enjoy.
The only downside to this book pertains specifically to my free digital edition. Some of the photographs in my copy are so badly pixellated that I couldn't make out the images. I would hope that this is fixed for any future digital release but really, this is the sort of book that you WANT to hold in your hands and to thumb through. You will want a physical copy of this book. I want a physical copy of this book. There are things in here that I intend to refer back to, whether for my painting or for my writing, or simply to refresh my memory.
Anyone interested in history or in art will want to have this book, and it's precisely the sort of book that, if sitting on a library (or home) shelf, will get picked up and thumbed through simply because it is so stunning.
Looking for a good book? The Brilliant History of Color in Art by Victoria Finlay is a stunningly beautiful book to look at and is packed, cover to cover, with interesting and sometimes unusual information about the development of colors throughout history, and is written in a very approachable style.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. ...more
This coffee-table styled book is rich with history, excitement, and chock-fThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.5 of 5
This coffee-table styled book is rich with history, excitement, and chock-full of enough photos to please any historian or gun-lover.
What is it about the outlaw, the criminal, that we are intrigued by the weapons that they favored? Is it simply that they made a name for themselves, using weapons and so those weapons identify them or speak to their manner of thinking and behaving? Perhaps the Souter's will follow this up with a "Guns of Lawmen" next.
We do romanticize the outlaw, and the longer-ago the outlaw lived, the more romantic the period in which s/he fought. I would have to admit that as the book progressed and we approached the period of Al Capone and his cronies, the outlaws lost their lustre to me. I was a little more sickened by the violence of these men, yet they were every bit as violent as those from the 'old west.'
Gerry and Janet Souter, authors of this book, do a very nice job providing history of the weapons and many, many beautiful photographs of often the original weapons being described, or at least a similar weapon from the manufacturer. It is fascinating to thumb through the book and compare the early pistols to the tommy guns of the prohibition era. I couldn't even begin to point out some of the weapons that were most interesting to me because regularly, as I turned each page, I came across something that was new and interesting to me. This book is as much an evolution of the handgun, from the 1800's to the middle of the 20th century.
There are sidebars provided liberally throughout the book, with sidebars sometimes running two or three pages in themselves, such as "Primer, Powder, and Bullet: An Ammunition Evolution" or "The Gun that Never Was: Stuart Lake's Gift to Western Fiction." These are nice little side essays on a related topic, connecting in some way to the particular chapter in the book.
The writing here could so easily be dry and so factual that it is dull. Fortunately this is not the case. The Souters make the history come alive and bring vivid excitement to each page. All history books should be written with such enthusiasm!
I came to this book, interested in the historical aspect, and got so much more than I was expecting (pleasantly so). I did wonder if I would enjoy it as I'm not a fan of romanticizing criminals or criminal behavior, but I don't think that happens here (there are a few photos of the outlaws herein after meeting a violent end).
I would definitely encourage anyone with an interest in history, weapons or weapon history, or even interested in reading about outlaws from days gone by, then I can't recommend this highly enough. I've poured over my digital edition more than once, zooming in on some of the wonderful photos, and I'd really like to hold a hard copy in my hands because this is precisely the sort of book you want to hold in your hands and flip through just to look at the pictures after you've read it cover to cover.
Looking for a good book? Guns of Outlaws by Gerry and Janet Souter is book full of history and captures the thrilling events of a variety of outlaws with great excitement. I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Fan Fiction seems to have become its own genre, with critical studies examiThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.0 of 5
Fan Fiction seems to have become its own genre, with critical studies examining the genre. This book, The Fan Fiction Studies Reader, edited by Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse is such an examination.
I have been familiar with 'fan fiction' since the late 1970's -- before it had a specific label as 'fan fiction.' My own introduction to the form was through the television show, Star Trek. Not surprisingly, the bulk of the articles in this book also deal with Star Trek related fiction. In some ways, that's a bit of a problem. Fan fiction has become so much larger than a bunch of Star Trek nerds writing about their favorite characters. It has become more than a means to write pornography using familiar characters. This book might have done itself a favor and labelled it "Volume 1" as there are clearly many more essays about a wide variety of media and characters that fans write about.
But...speaking specifically to this book, I will admit that I was enlightened and learned a few things. Granted, I'm not deeply ensconced in fan fiction myself (not since the late 80's), but I did learn what a Mary-Sue story is (and that I've never liked them).
The editors wrote (almost at length) between each essay, to set up the topic that the essay would address. Some of their comments were as enlightening as the included essay. In Part 3, "Fan Communities and Affect" they put in to writing something I've long felt was true:
...watching the Super Bowl or going to the theater or collecting stamps, all fannish activities in their own right. Yet fans of popular culture are often dismissed ... and media fans in particular are frequently represented as displaying unhealthy, obsessive, even pathological behavior....
I think that the internet and social media have changed this a bit ... when it's easy to find people who share the same passion as you, it's easier to feel comfortable expressing fannish behavior. Take a look at the growth of things like 'cosplay' as an example.
One aspect of fan fiction that is addressed, which I am aware of but have never been interested in reading, is what is called 'slash' fiction. This has typically been identified through Kirk/Spock (read "Kirk slash Spock") stories in which there is a sexual relationship between the two male figures (I hesitate to refer to it as a homosexual relationship for reasons identified in at least one of the essays). Kirk/Spock is not the only slash fiction in fan fiction. Another popular slash is Xenia/Gabrielle, and there are countless others as well.
While I've never been drawn to read this sort of fiction, it's a personal taste. I took issue with a comment in Chapter 9, "Future Men" by Constance Penley when she writes:
... The Trekkers have had to struggle mightily, however, to find the right language to deride and dismiss the slashers. After all, Trekdom is a culture that believes itself superior to the rest of the U.S. society in the strength of its allegiance to the values of democratic equality and tolerance for differences.
I can't help but wonder where this statement comes from. There are eleven footnotes in this article, but nothing to state where the generalization that Trekkers want to deride and dismiss 'slashers' comes from or where the data comes from to identify the statement that Trekkers believe themselves superior to the rest of U.S. society in any thing. She goes on to write:
The slash version of Star Trek threatens the Trekkers because it is not only sexually but politically scary, with its overt homoeroticism throwing into sharp relief the usually invisible homosocial underpinnings of Trekdom, the Federation, and U.S. culture.
I just don't understand how the author comes to these conclusions. Slash fiction has gotten a fair amount of attention because it's out of the ordinary (though with sexual fiction hitting the 'big time' [ie: Fifty Shades of Grey] it's no longer such a fringe element), and if there's a movement from within fandom against it, it's more likely because fans already get derided (see the first quote I used from the book) by non-fans and they (we) don't need to add to it for something they (we) don't participate in. "Threatened?" I don't think so. I can't say that I've ever met a Star Trek fan who was "threatened" by slash fiction (if they were even aware of it). I wouldn't deny that Trekkers make up as diverse a cross-section of individuals as any other fannish activity and that there could well be individuals who would react in such a way, but I truly can't believe that this generalization of Constance Penley's reflects a majority as her writing implies. This was really a remarkable, negative generalization.
On a positive note, I really appreciated Francesca Coppa's article "Writing Bodies in Space: Media Fan Fiction as Theatrical Performance." She writes and compares fandom to theatrical interests.
In theatre, there’s a value to revising the same text in order to explore different aspects and play out different behavioral strips; similarly, in television, we don’t mind tuning in week after week to see the same characters in entirely different stories. We don’t mind new versions of Hamlet the way we don’t mind new episodes of Star Trek. We don’t say, “Oh, Star Trek again? We had Star Trek last week!” We don’t mind if Kirk and Spock visit—as they did on the aired series—a planet based on Roman gladiator culture, or Native American culture, or America during the Great Depression. Most people happily watch televised repeats—identical replayings of dramatic action. How much more interesting would different performances of the same scripts be if the actors and directors explored the limitations of the text and tried to elicit different readings, different embodied meanings? And because fan fiction is an amateur production accountable to no market forces, it allows for radical reimaginings: plots, themes, and endings that would never be permitted on network television. One could imagine Star Trek by David Lynch, Star Trek by Stanley Kubrick, Star Trek by Woody Allen—and what I’m getting at here is that that’s what fan fiction is.
This actually sounds exciting, and gets to the root of fan fiction in a way that I hadn't thought about before. She begins her final paragraph (which concludes the book as well) with an almost perfect analogy:
I believe that fandom is community theatre in a mass media world; fandom is what happened to the culture of amateur dramatics. In the days before television, people often made theatre in their homes, for fun, and in fandom, we still make theatre together, for fun, except we cast the play from our televisions sets. Theatre—actual, three-dimensional theatre that moves bodies in space—is expensive and requires tremendous social capital...
I didn't agree with every essay in the book, and some I thought were perhaps a little dated, but over-all I really liked that there are critical essays on the genre of fan fiction (even if it is likened to community theatre) and I hope that there will be more, addressing a wider range of media fandom.
This book contains the following:
Acknowledgments Introduction: Why a Fan Fiction Studies Reader Now? Part 1. Fan Fiction as Literature 1. Henry Jenkins - "Textual Poachers" 2. Roberta Pearson - "It’s Always 1895: Sherlock Holmes in Cyberspace" 3. Cornel Sandvoss - "The Death of the Reader? Literary Theory and the Study of Texts in Popular Culture" Part 2. Fan Identity and Feminism 4. Joanna Russ - "Pornography by Women, for Women, with Love" 5. Patricia Frazer Lamb and Diane Veith - "Romantic Myth, Transcendence, and Star Trek Zines" 6. Sara Gwenllian Jones - "The Sex Lives of Cult Television Characters" Part 3. Fan Communities and Affect 7. Camille Bacon-Smith - "Training New Members" 8. Nicholas Abercrombie and Brian Longhurst - "Fans and Enthusiasts" 9. Constance Penley - "Future Men" Part 4. Fan Creativity and Performance 10. Kurt Lancaster - "Performing in Babylon Performing in Everyday Life" 11. Francesca Coppa - "Writing Bodies in Space: Media Fan Fiction as Theatrical Performance" Bibliography Permissions Index
Looking for a good book? The Fan Fiction Studies Reader is a worthy collection of critical essays on fan fiction; perfect for anyone interested in knowing more about what fan fiction is, as well as for those who are already reading such. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. ...more
I've often been attracted by hand-made jewelry, probably a result of my oldThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.0 of 5
I've often been attracted by hand-made jewelry, probably a result of my older brother having designed some rings back in the 1960's/1970's, and thought I might make a decent jewelry designer myself. When I saw this book, combining home-made jewelry with Steampunk stylings, I knew I had to check this out.
There are some very nice designs within and I do hope I can convince some of my jewelry-making-artisan friends to make some of this for me. I'm not much of a jewelry wearer any more, but some of these rings and brooches and stick-pins are so creative and unique, I can see myself wearing them on special occasions.
Aside from some really nice designs, I think that the best part of this book is the manual aspect, detailing the tools and materials needed and the "how to" work with the tools. Although I am simplifying this I felt that, I ... someone with passable knowledge of working with hand tools ... could actually make any of the pieces in this book if I was willing to try. This aspect...this ability to make the reader feel confident that this is all achievable is important in a book like this.
I can't say that I've ever looked at a jewelry-making book before, and I see now that Marthe Le Van has written a number of jewelry-making books. This provides me with more confidence that if I follow her advice, I'll come out with something that I could proudly wear.
My only 'complaint' would be that calling these designs "steampunk" was sometimes 'iffy.' There is definitely something steampunk-ish about many of the designs, but as interesting and nice as designs such as "Xylophone Pendant" or "Pillar Necklace & Earrings" are, they aren't really 'steampunk.'
Looking for a good book? Perhaps a small niche market, but Nuts & Bolts will appeal to anyone with an interest and rudimentary skills in jewelry making and steampunk designs. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. ...more
I believe that time and time again, artists have created some of the most tThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.5 of 5
I believe that time and time again, artists have created some of the most thought-provoking, moving art during times of war. Not just art as in paintings and drawings and sculpture, but all the arts … music, theatre, dance, etc. This is not a call for war so that we can produce significant works of art.
In conjunction with an exhibit, the Getty Research Institute has produced this book, Nothing but the Clouds Unchanged: Artist in World War I, which takes a look at the physical and psychological effects war has had on a variety of artists. The “war to end all wars” changed hundreds of thousands of lives and brought a whole new horror to the world, and the artists represented here shared that horror in the only way that each could.
Editors Gordon Hughes and Philipp Blom have separated the book into two parts so that we can experience the war through the eyes of the artists from both the Allied Powers and the Central Powers points of view. Each article is written by a different person and draws from the artists’ notes, letters, drawings, paintings, and comments from fellow soldiers. We learn (as much as is possible) how the war impacted these people and we get the bonus of seeing how they interpreted these reactions in their art. It’s a truly fascinating look at our society and our abominations.
Surprisingly, and somewhat embarrassingly, I was not familiar with most of these artists. In general, I think that I found the Central Powers artists to be the most moving, and typically dark and bleak. However, two artists with whom I was slightly familiar but couldn’t have told you much about were Georges Braque and Wyndham Lewis, part of the Allied Powers. They both caught my eye with their work and their stories.
There is a nice variety to the art and artists represented.
I have, for a very long time, been a fan of the dadaist/surrealist art movement (which came about as a result of WWI), and as such, have also been quite a fan of artist Max Ernst. Ernst is represented here, but I found it strange that, rather than some of his remarkable paintings, it is his collage/sculptures that are displayed (there is one painting [Towers] and three sculpture/collages included). Had I not already been familiar with Ernst, this book would have given me a completely different impression of him and his work. Which makes me wonder about some of the other artists. Does this book accurately reflect their work?
All in all, this is a wonderful look at history and war through the eyes of artists who are able to convey their concerns and fears through art.
The book is made up of the following:
Introduction by Thomas W. Gaehtgens “Forces Unbound: Art, Bodies, and Machines After 1914″ by Philipp Blom “‘In Dead Men Breath': The Afterlife of World Way I” by Gordon Hughes “André Masson: Into the ‘Humus Humaine'” by Charles Palermo “Fernand Léger: Objects, Abstraction, and The Aesthetics of Mud” by Daniel Marcus “Georges Braque: Artilleryman” by Karen K. Butler “Wyndham Lewis: ‘Art-War-Art'” by Leo Costello “‘In the Midst of the Strange Country': Paul Nash’s War Landscapes” by Anja Foerschner “Carlo Carrà’s Conscience” by David Mather “Otto Dix: War and Representation” by Matthew Biro “Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: An Inner War” by Thomas W. Gaehtgens “Killing ‘Max Ernst'” by Todd Cronan “George Grosz and World War I” by Timothy O. Benson “Käthe Kollwitz, The First World War, and Sacrifice” by Joan Weinstein “László Moholy-Nagy: Reconfiguring the Eye” by Joyce Tsai “Oskar Kokoschka: The Great War and Love Lost” by Beatrice von Borman “Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet and the Trauma of War” by Paul Monty Paret Appendix: Selected Cultural Figures Who Served in World War I by Hannah Fullgraf with Betsy Stepina Zinn
Looking for a good book? Nothing But the Clouds Unchanged is a book that will appeal to art and history students.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review....more
Few people would argue against the idea that the late 1960's/early 1970'sThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.75 of 5
Few people would argue against the idea that the late 1960's/early 1970's was a time of tremendous change in our music and our politics. Author Steve Millward picks one year, 1970, to highlight what was happening politically and socially in the music scene. While Millward does touch on events world-wide he focusses primarily on the United Kingdom and the United States.
In the US, Richard Nixon was still early in his presidency but feeling a lot of heat regarding Vietnam and Cambodia.
In music, things looked a little bleak. The Beatles were working individually, with each of them releasing a solo album in '70. Simon & Garfunkle, a duo that typified the folk scene, separated. And other big names didn't seem to have the endearing magic any more.
But just as you might expect, other musicians stepped up to fill the gaps and politics provided plenty of material for the social change called for in the songs.
I was a pre-teen in 1970 and while my interest in politics at the time was zero, music (pre Pandora, Spotify and the internet) was one of the few things I could relate to and claim as 'mine' (since my parents weren't very fond of it). Millward brought back many memories, but more importantly, showed me how the pieces of the music-scene jigsaw puzzle fit together. Motown found (or re-found) its voice and some of the big names that I followed for decades (James Taylor; Crosby, Stills, Nash [and Young]; Elton John) were emerging at this time.
The only political talk from the 70's that I could ever remember was about the Vietnam war (with a brother of draft age, this was a constant concern). I was unaware, until reading the book, of the political strife facing the UK, beginning with Prime Ministers who have been rated among the worst in British history.
I struggled with the book early on ... perhaps in part because I wasn't aware of the sort of book I was about to read ... but as I got further and further into it, the more I could sense the bigger picture and how it all fit together and I didn't want the book to end. If there were another book, for 1971, I'd have dived right in
Looking for a good book? Different Tracks is a non-fiction book that will appeal to fans of classic pop music, politics, sociology, and history. it is a fascinating look at our culture in 1970 through music and politics. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. ...more
I will admit that when I started this book, I was expecting it to be more of a coffee table style book, full of pictures, but it's not. While the book is lavishly illustrated, it is not in a coffee-table display sort of way.
Spectacular Rubens is very specifically about a special series of paintings (and tapestries) designed and painted by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) referred to as "The Triumph of the Eucharist."
I can't say that I'm particular familiar with Rubens. Like most who recognize the name, I know he tended to paint larger (or "plus-sized") women which has led to the term "Rubenesque" for chubby ladies. Beyond that, I couldn't tell you much (which is sad, considering my appreciation for art).
This book takes a detailed look at Rubens' plans and sketches for a series of six scenes painted on large panels. The paintings were also used as a design source for tapestries. We learn about the degradation of the paintings and the efforts taken to restore the works (highly detailed).
I learned something that wasn't a specific goal of the book ... I learned that I want to study Rubens more. That his sense of play and spectacle is as much of interest to me as his craftsmanship and artistry. I was completely enthralled with Rubens' concept of having cherub/angels holding up painted backdrops behind the characters of the paintings. Sometimes that backdrop would cascade off the stage and out of the picture. But it was almost as if Rubens was suggesting that he wasn't painting scenes of the Eucharist, but that he was recreating a staged recreation of the Eucharist. It is just the sort of thing I enjoy thinking about!
Spectacular Rubens is certainly targeted to a small, specific audience, but it is generally well written and well researched, and anyone looking to specific information about this particular work of Rubens will be very pleased.
Looking for a good book? This detailed look at the creation and restoration of artist Peter Paul Rubens' "The Triumph of the Eucharist" is worth reading for anyone interested in art and art restoration. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. ...more
I am always a little leery of "How to Draw ..." books, finding that most ofThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.5 of 5
I am always a little leery of "How to Draw ..." books, finding that most of them look good, and have step-by-step guides, but then make a big leap to the finished product, failing to explain some of the important means of detail.
This particular book is geared toward teachers and students and the simplicity of the instructions will prove beneficial to anyone who picks up this book. Each section of the book has topics to know (teach -- ie: Elements of Design: color, value, line, shape, form, texture and space); things to understand before proceeding; things to do with the lesson ("practice hatching, pointillism, texture, line, shape..."); an 'extra' thing to do for the more ambitious artists; and, perhaps the most important item (and something I rarely see) -- a vocabulary of the important terms and concepts for the section.
I will also admit that I was very pleased to see "shading" being explored very early in the book. This is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp and more difficult to practice, and yet it is often the difference-maker in seeing a drawing go from appearing 'flat' to fully realized.
Even so, I still felt a bit of a twinge when looking at the progress of some drawings as they began simply, took form, and then shading was added and it looked finished. So often the shading, or cross-hatching, of a drawing can be the most time-consuming part. I'd liked to have seen the progress of the shading in more of the examples. Take for example, this page on foreshortening:
The last part of the drawing is "Shade" -- as if it's just that easy to get to the final product! Fortunately, as I say, shading is addressed early in the book. Still...it does make it seem as though the easiest part is 'shading.'
Even so, this is one of the best examples of a how to draw book that I've ever come across. It should be the recommended text-book for every school art program, and it should energize any student (of any age) who wants to learn to draw better.
Looking for a good book? How to Draw Cool Stuff by Catherine V. Holmes is an excellent beginners guide to drawing, explaining and putting in to example, a number of valuable lessons, and it does so in a very well-organized manner. ...more
This book might better be called 'Zen and the Art of Photography' becauthis review was originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.5 of 5
This book might better be called 'Zen and the Art of Photography' because it seems to be a book geared more about how to find your zen through the use of photography, rather than 'meditation' in a more general sense.
There is very little writing within the book. Each chapter (twenty-eight of them) is only a page or two long and usually illustrated with the author's photography to help make his points.
Based on the title of the book, I was expecting to learn how to use my (amateur) photography skills to meditate or to find an inner peace. It didn't quite happen that way. The beginning of the book seemed to be more about the meditative qualities of a photograph -- how it affects the viewer -- rather than using the practice of photography as meditation.
The middle portion of the book seemed to be geared more to using meditation to find ways to take better photographs (note the description of the book in Goodreads even includes this sentence: "Hoffman shows how meditation can lead to the source of inspiration" which would be the opposite of what the title declares.
A couple of the chapters (remember, these are very short) discuss the methods of zen and zazen -- a form of meditation that requires emptying of the mind to find an inner peace. I'll be honest ... I was looking to this book to find that inner peace through photography, not by taking lessons in zen.
As we finally get to some tips to finding meditation through photography, author Hoffmann includes one very important note: "The technical aspects of this type of photography should be second nature to you before you attempt this type of photography." That's right, he suggests you should be a fairly accomplished photographer to achieve this (though, to be fair, he does go on to say you might want to work with the automatic functions of the camera to make it easier to "enter a meditative state of mind" -- but if it does make it easier, then why isn't that the focus from the start?)
Some of the photography is very nice and would be interesting to see in a gallery. Some of the photography made no impact on me at all, which was disappointing.
Overall, I was underwhelmed. I think Torsten Andreas Hoffmann has found a way to combine his love of Zen teachings and photography and that it has proved very valuable to him. Unfortunately, he hasn't quite found the right way to share that combination.
Looking for a good book? Photography as Meditation by Torsten Andreas Hoffmann tries to show how to use your creativity to find a peaceful 'zen' but lacks the right focus to get us there. This book was received free, in electronic form, from the publisher, through Edelweiss, for an honest review. ...more
Advertising and marketing has come a long way since the days of Mad Men. OThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.25 of 5
Advertising and marketing has come a long way since the days of Mad Men. Or at least, it should.
When there were three television networks, it made sense to spend good money to advertise on television – you were pretty much guaranteed a good audience to reach anyone in the United States. But today, the audience is much more global. The internet can put you in the homes of nearly anyone in a first or second world country. But with thousands of television channels available, how do you decide where to spend your money? More channels likely means fewer people watching each channel.
Well…one thing hasn’t changed so much. Word of mouth.
Through the use of examples from his business, Ted Wright explains the importance of word-of-mouth-marketing (WOMM), what to look for, and how to approach it. As he states in his introduction:
Word of mouth marketing has always existed. We’ve just found a better and more efficient way to do it by using a method that is both replicable and remarkably consistent. My hope is to share some of those secrets with you and help you get started on your own word of mouth program. … I promise you’ll walk away with a better understanding of how consumers today are driven by conversation – and how that can help you….¹
Wright lives up to this promise.
I don’t work for a major corporation, and I’ve not even dabbled in marketing, so some of this might already be common knowledge, but I found the book incredibly helpful and I will be putting in to practice many of the tips I’ve gotten from here to promote the small non-profit organization that I work with.
Wright explains the very basic needs for successful WOMM campaigns and how to follow-up with it. He also reminds the reader that many executives might balk because it’s out of the ‘ordinary’ or at least not what they’ve come to expect, but “Because of technology and the proliferation of brands, it’s a sampling culture that we live in. And we are never, ever going back.¹”
Regarding television advertising, Wright says:
This is one reason I sometimes refer to broadcast as the “heroin of business.” The first time you do it, you get this big bump in sales – a bump that exceeds what you invested. That’s a big thrill. But over time, the more you try to re-create that bump, the harder it gets. The increase in sales is rarely as dramatic as it was that first time. And further harshing your buzz is the fact that the media guys keep jacking up their rates on you. After a while, you realize you’re just chasing the dragon – a destructive and expensive habit.¹
I found this book quite easy to read and very informative. A lot of it seems to be common sense, but as is often the case, it sometimes takes a professional to remind us to use common sense.
Looking for a good book? If you are in any way looking to promote something – your self, your business, your favorite charity – then do yourself a favor and read Fizz: Harness the Power of Word of Mouth Marketing to Drive Brand Growth.
¹All quotes from an advance reader copy of the book and may not reflect the printed work.
I received this book free, from the publisher, through Netgalley, for an honest review. ...more
If you don't know who Joss Whedon is, you should. He is a prominent figureThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.0 of 5
If you don't know who Joss Whedon is, you should. He is a prominent figure across a number of different mass media outlets. Famous for creating the iconic Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie and television series, he has created a number of tv series' that have garnered much attention and praise (such as Firefly and Dollhouse and Agent's of S.H.I.E.L.D). He is also the force behind the blockbuster The Avenger's movies, but is also noted for his creation of the internet sensation, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Simply put, Joss Whedon is a creator whose works have probably caught your attention.
And...being someone who's work is much watched, it only follows that fans and critics of the work will discuss and dissect it and compile that work into scholarly books. This is that book.
Be aware that this is not light reading. This is academic, scholarly analysis of Whedon's work and how it relates to his other works and how it identifies Whedon the person. As it notes in the introduction, "Scholarly writing on Whedon has been produced at a faster rate than any other figure in television studies" and "There is more yet to say; there always will be more to say on Whedon, and that is one of the things that prove him to be an artist. Best of all, he has more to say: his revels are not ended."
I can easily see this book as a recommended text-book for a college course on media studies or even a course or segment of a course on Whedon's work. Much of the writing comes from academia professors ( PhD candidate in Film and Moving Image Studies; a Research Analyst at Georgia State University; a Professor of English; a JSD candidate at Columbia University; an Assistant Professor; a university English teacher; a Professor of English; an Associate Professor of English; a Professor Emeritus; etc etc etc). While these professors may be fans of Whedon's work, this is not your typical fan writing. This is writing coming from academics who often need to publish scholarly work on occasion to make their departments and their tenure, look good.
(I guess you can tell how I feel about this....)
I don't mind scholarly works. I like to stretch my brain a bit, but I think the way to judge such work is by how much I get out of it.
Despite its 461 pages, I came away with very little new insight or new appreciation for Whedon's work. The most valuable insight I got actually came from the book's introduction, "Much Ado about Whedon," as Rhonda V. Wilcox wrote about Whedon and music:
Like Shakespeare, Whedon is perfectly comfortable using music to enhance a character, deepen a theme, or even advance a plot. (Shakespeare planted a song about men as deceivers in the middle of Much Ado.) Probably the most famous instance of Whedon's musical work is the musical episode of Buffy for which he wrote both lyrics and melodies. He also wrote melody and lyrics for Firefly's theme song and melody for Shakespeare's Much Ado lyrics.
I would have liked to explore Whedon's musical expression a little more (though Ms. Wilcox does mention that there already exists two "full volumes of essays" devoted to Whedon's music).
Despite the rather awesome essay title "Hot Chicks with Super Powers: The Contested Feminism of Joss Whedon" by Lauren Schultz, I was mostly bored with this collection. I generously give it three stars because of the subject matter and because nothing is necessarily poorly written or weakly discussed ... it's just that nothing is dramatically revealed. I didn't really learn anything about Mr. Whedon or his works.
Looking for a good book? Anyone looking to critically study the works of the magnanimous television and film writer/director/creator/producer Joss Whedon, may want to explore the essays in Reading Joss Whedon - others may just want to watch a Buffy rerun. ...more
You probably wouldn't be reading this blog, or this review as posted on-liThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.25 of 5
You probably wouldn't be reading this blog, or this review as posted on-line, if you didn't know what 'spam' is, or if you only thought it was a canned meat-like food. And if you know what spam is, you probably find it annoying -- a clutter filling your email in-box -- but not necessarily dangerous. You would be wrong.
Brian Krebs, the cybersecurity expert who first reported the infamous security breach at Target®, is a journalist and blogger who has devoted himself to investigating and reporting on cyber security. In Spam Nation, he details the rise and fall of the world's leading spammers. Perhaps it's not too surprising (especially to anyone who has actually read through some spam) that the leading spammers are from the Russian Federation and neighboring states. What is surprising (at least to me) is how much of the spam is fueled by so few people; how a personal feud between the top two leading spammers brought about their own downfall; and how much money these criminals actually make.
For an example of the latter... Krebs reports that one leading cyber-criminal had his very expensive import car stolen and decided that because it was a vehicle that was considered to be highly valuable property he decided to by a different car (a BMW, I believe it was) rather than try to get the car returned. I can't imagine having the kind of money where you just buy a new vehicle (and a BMW or Mercedes) instead of trying to recover a stolen vehicle.
The book is incredibly interesting, but also more than a little technical. It likely wouldn't have mass appeal because too many people may find the computer jargon difficult to follow. On top of that, because of the nature of who the criminals are, it also reads a bit like Dostoevsky with a great many East Slavic language names. Keeping them straight was often a challenge, made more difficult by the fact that they often were referred to by their on-line nicknames, which sometimes changed.
Krebs, on the one hand, occasionally came across as arrogant and boastful -- making sure we know how much the spammers kept an eye on him because of what he could do -- but on the other hand, as we read through the book we learn that much of what he presents was gifted to him by insider sources, likely because of the feud.
The presentation of material felt a bit scattered, as though Krebs had so much he wanted to share but didn't know what to give us first. He is a good blogger and journalist, but putting information in a book-length format requires a different sort of thinking and planning. It might have been just as successful if he had simply published a collection of his blog posts.
Even so, I learned some things from this book, which is often more than I can hope for from a non-fiction title. I was more thana little shocked to learn that at one point in 2013, "nearly 70 percent of all email sent daily was unsolicited bulk email relayed via spam botnets" and that the cyber-jerks sending spam were sending approximately 85 BILLION junk/spam messages every DAY. Ouch.
I've come away with new knowledge and perhaps even a way to make myself a little better, and that's definitely worth something.
Looking for a good book? Spam Nation gives you a look inside the belly of the cyber-spamming beast, and you might not like what you see inside but the knowledge is a good thing to have. ...more
Nathan Sawaya's, The Art of the Brick, is a truly beautiful book.This review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 5.0 of 5
Nathan Sawaya's, The Art of the Brick, is a truly beautiful book.
Sawaya is an artist whose choice of media is the Lego®. You know...those little, bright-colored plastic bricks that kids (and kids-at-heart) play with? Yes...that is the medium for an incredible art form.
Sawaya's art is anything but childish. His ability to create form and movement with the solid squareness of the Lego® brick is remarkable, but it's the vision he has that makes the art. You need only look at the cover of the book, as depicted above in this review, to get a sense of what Sawaya does, but I promise that you'll want to look at more than this cover ... this is only the beginning!
How does one become a Lego® artist? Sawaya writes about this; from his leaving his job as an attorney to become an artist in a medium that wasn't recognized. He even had to battle with the Lego® company for a time (fortunately he had the background in law) to continue his work.
It is hard for me to pick a favorite work of art from this collection ... so many stand out as being quite exceptional ... but I would lean slightly in favor of "Red Dress" for its concept and realization.
As amazing as the work itself is (and it is amazing), it is fortunate that the photography captures the sculptures in ideal ways. This book owes much to these artists as well, and sadly their names only appear as an end note. Thanks to Jim Herrington, Erica Anne Photography, Dean West, Mitch Haddad, Suzanne Bauer, and Nelson Chenault for making Nathan Sawaya's art stand out!
But there is more to this book than fantastic brick sculptures photographed well! Nathan Sawaya writes about art, art in general and his specific art, very eloquently. It was almost like reading a book of artistic daily devotions. I didn't want the written parts to end, although I knew that when they did, it was to make way for the visual art.
I'm not sure that my rural area of the country will get the opportunity to see this art first hand and so I am grateful for this book.
Looking for a good book? The Art of the Brick is a book that every artist or art lover, should own. ...more
I've really come to appreciate Inhabit Media publishing for the variety ofThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.5 of 5
I've really come to appreciate Inhabit Media publishing for the variety of books on Inuit themes. I can't say that I've ever been particularly knowledgeable, or even, perhaps, interested in, the Inuit history. But I realize now that it's likely because it's just never been in front of me. Since sampling a few books, I've become very interested in these hearty people. Kenn Harper's book, In Those Days, is a collection of newspaper articles he's written which are generally brief biographies of a variety of Inuit people. Now the Inuit as a 'people' become individuals.
Harper's writing is very clean and quite readable, without being dumbed-down. I've chosen to follow Harper's blog, and the on-line newspaper that he writes for, based on my enjoyment of this book.
In Those Days features a number of interesting articles, my favorite of which was "Inuit at the World's Fair" in which an Inuit girl, Nancy Columbia was voted prettiest girl at the fair with 8,000 more votes than the runner-up.
But articles such as "Who Was Albert One-Eye?" and "An Inuit Boy in Scotland" and "Simon Gibbon: First Inuit Minister" and "In Memory of John Shiwak, Inuit Sniper" are also extremely interesting. In fact, there's not a bad story in the book and each mini-biography is well researched and presented.
This is a wonderful book that opens windows to let the world look in on the early days and lives of the Inuit people. Even if you've never heard of the Inuit or never thought you'd be interested in learning more about them, Kenn Harper will change your mind.
Looking for a good book? In Those Days is a collection of mini-biographies of some early Inuit people and is a book you want to read, even if you don't realize it yet. ...more
Anyone who has even the most rudimentary interest in the theatre will likeThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.5 of 5
Anyone who has even the most rudimentary interest in the theatre will like this book. Note that this is a paperback re-issue of the book originally published in 1998.
I've longed decided that theatre people, more than any other group of people or profession, live in the past. There are always stories to tell about things gone wrong or things gone extraordinarily right, and because we're often not sure what (or when) the next job is going to be, the jobs we have had are most of what we have to talk about. In many ways, that's precisely what we have here, except that those telling some of these theatre stories are people who have inside scoops on some of the most famous people and most famous shows in the history of Broadway.
Every story in here was new to me and every moment was interesting. Editors Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer have done an excellent job of gathering stories from some of the top names in the business and with only a few small exceptions, none of these stories had an air of superiority but were rather quite down-to-earth (this is not always the case when 'stars' tell stories from their early days).
This is a book every theatre geek should have on his or her shelf.
Looking for a good book? It Happened on Broadway is a delightful reflection on some of the early days of theatre's mecca, often told by those who made it happen....more
Handel's Messiah is quite possibly one of the most beautiful pieces of musiThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.0 of 5
Handel's Messiah is quite possibly one of the most beautiful pieces of music written, and surely the "Hallelujah Chorus" is easily recognizable. Author Albert L. Blackwell has written what I at first considered to be an apology of Handel's Messiah, but upon reflection, I am not sure that I've ever heard The Messiah criticized, and therefore 'apology' is probably not the correct term.
This is an Advent devotional, but with using the lyrics of The Messiah (which uses biblical verse for lyrics) as the starting point for reflection.
The devotional commentary is at times beautiful and reflective and precisely what you might look for in a devotional. At other times, it is dry -- too academic or clinical to be appreciated by the average reader.
Because this Advent devotional is based on a famous and familiar piece of music, I really wanted to listen to the sections that correlated with the reading.
This is not a devotional with the strongest theology that I've ever read, but because it's aimed at a large group of buyers from diverse Christian backgrounds, I suppose that is to be expected. This would not replace the devotionals I get through my church, but it could be a nice addition and a place to start conversation and careful reflection.
The layout in my kindle ARC version (through Netgalley -- thank you) was not particularly clean or efficient. I wold trust that this would get cleared up before publication.
Looking for a good book? For a somewhat generic Christian theology, this makes for a unique perspective for an Advent devotional by using Handel's Messiah as its source for reflection. ...more
Riveting! I sat down to read this in the morning and finished the book befoThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.0 of 5
Riveting! I sat down to read this in the morning and finished the book before bedtime.
It is absolutely amazing to me the temerity and lack of morals that some people have. This book explores and exposes those types of people.
The Setup is an appropriate title as there are multiple set-ups within. The first is the set-up that begins the unravelling of a personal kingdom. Chris Butler ran a Private Investigation business, but supposedly a business with a bit of a twist...his PI's were 'soccer moms.' So innovative was this idea that Butler was working on a television deal for a 'reality' show of his soccer-mom-PI's. They'd been featured in People magazine and guests on the Dr. Phil show, and had hoped to gain a little publicity from a Bay-area magazine Diablo. Butler invited Diablo writer, Pete Crooks to ride along on an actual sting. Everything went swimmingly. Perhaps too much so, as Crooks was first surprised at how quickly the action developed (there was no need to wait around all day with the hopes that something would happen); at the seeming lack of concern over being spotted; and the taking of the 'victim's' car by the client without a resolution.
Crooks' suspicions had him hesitant to write the personal interest story the Butler hoped would be good PR for his reality show.
Although there is the opportunity to write this like a true-crime mystery novel, Crooks take a more direct/reporter approach and lays out the facts as he sees it and he often falls into fortune more than actually 'uncovers' anything. An anonymous 'tip' comes to Crooks from someone within Butler's organization, and it is the constant insight from the insider that lays the foundation for a federal investigation.
Yes... a federal investigation. Not because Butler is possibly providing phony investigations for a television series, but because Butler has other, illegal dealings going on, which also include high-ranking police officers. Crooks is tossed into the middle of all this, but steps aside to let the lawmen do what they need to do, while the insider continues to inform to both the authorities and Crooks.
Crooks, early on, lays out his suspicion as to the 'insider' and repeats it a few times. Perhaps I've read too many fictional mystery books, but this immediately had me thinking that it would NOT be the person Crooks suspected. It was a bit disappointing that Crooks nailed it straight off.
But what is almost as interesting as Butler's sting and fall, is Crooks' relationship with the insider. Crooks lays it on just a little bit thick that he looked upon his informant almost as a friend (it was Crooks the insider went to for help finding a trustworthy law official) so that when the insider later 'bashes' Crooks' role in the set-up, Crooks can't help but be hurt. Crooks also carefully points out that the insider's motivations for doing the right thing are suspect and that the insider is barely 'better' than Butler and the bad cop.
Yes...I am not naming the 'insider.' No...it is not because I am avoiding 'spoilers' but because it is my impression is that the informant is a fame junkie and I don't think this person needs to have their name out there, searchable, any more than possible.
This is a fascinating book on many levels. From a study in human behavior to a modern mystery to an insider look at reality tv, this book has a lot in it and is easy to access.
Looking for a good book? The Setup is a non-fiction book that you will not want to put down....more
Sunrise Sunset is both a coffee-table book and an 'inspirational' book. PhThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.75 of 5
Sunrise Sunset is both a coffee-table book and an 'inspirational' book. Photographer/editor Kim Weiss pairs her photographs with poetry and reflections meant to capture the awe and gratitude of our lives.
There is much to like here, and this will certainly be treasured by many. I, however, was a bit underwhelmed.
Enjoying the beauty of a sunrise or sunset is not something I take for granted, and my children could tell tales of our being in a rush to get somewhere and I'll pull the car over to take the time to sit and enjoy a beautiful sky. But for the sake of a book, I felt that there was a 'sameness' to the bulk of the pictures. Before turning each page, I could predict where the horizon would be in the photo; where the water-line would end and the tips of trees might be; where the clouds would be in the sky; etc etc etc. There were some pictures that were breath-taking, but for a book that is essentially a photo-book, I was hoping for a few more. My favorites were those on pages 78 and 105, mostly because of how different they were from the others.
Were I to read this book in the intended manner ... a two-page spread a week ... I may not have felt the same-ness. Instead I read this book over the course of a week and the consistent appearance was very apparent.
The reflective writings were brief and touching and from a wide range of writers, from Reverends to Rabbis. I'm not one to read devotionals or brief inspirational writings, but I recognize their value to many readers and these seemed generally apt for the book (though occasionally I wondered at why something was chosen).
This is a nice book, and will see its s of readers, but it's not a book I can rave or recommend.
Looking for a good book? If you like coffee-table inspirational books, this is the just the sort you're looking for....more
I really like bathroom-reader type books, and that's what this is. MiscellThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.75 of 5
I really like bathroom-reader type books, and that's what this is. Miscellaneous information given in short, easy to read snapshots.
Young Mr. McBride and Mr. Nief made two mistakes with this book... first, not all of these seventy-four articles are obscure (as the title says), and second, these are not "forgotten" -- at least not to some of us who remember many of these.
But other than what I might consider a tad bit of a misleading title, this book is a wonderful glimpse at pop culture and history. While not everything here is forgotten or obscure, they certainly run the risk of being so, and McBride and Nief do well to remind us of these gems from our past.
The factual aspects appear well researched, but the attempts to be 'cute' or funny, particularly with the "Hypothetical Usage in a Sentence by the Old and Settled," which ends each section fall short. The "Hypothetical Usage" doesn't read as 'real' nor as funny and I would have been fine without it.
Looking for a good book? The Mindset List of the Obscure is good bathroom reading and a nice way to stay current with the past. ...more
This has an interesting premise ... the crossing of paths between Marconi, the famous inventor of the wireless, and Harvey Crippen, and infamous EngliThis has an interesting premise ... the crossing of paths between Marconi, the famous inventor of the wireless, and Harvey Crippen, and infamous English murderer. The means of their crossed paths is moderately interesting (spoiler hint: they don't actually meet one another). But to get to this moderately interesting point, we have to go through a complete, sensational biography of Guglielmo Marconi as well as a complete, sensational biography of Henry Crippen.
Note my use of the word "sensational."
I have noticed of late that an awful lot of non-fiction has been written with a sense of heightened (ie false) realism. (I noticed this in Bill O'Reilly's Killing Lincooln as well. The authors (in this case, Erik Larson, make presumptions about daily life and write husband/wife dialog as if it were true, although without recording devices at the times, certainly can't truly be presumed. Yes, someone may have made a statement about daily life, which the author then interprets, but it is NOT then completely non-fiction.
It is, however, more exciting to read.
This is slow going at times (I'm quite certain I would never have picked this up if I anticipated reading such a biography on Marconi, who, while driven, was also rather dull).
I can't exactly recommend this, but if you like True Crime stories, you may find this an interesting read....more
In our era of (what we consider to be) highly advanced forensics and crimiThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.75 of 5
In our era of (what we consider to be) highly advanced forensics and criminal investigations, it's sometimes difficult to remember that even in a relatively short time past, much of our modern forensics was still very much in its infancy. In Stolen From the Garden, author William Swanson reopens some old wounds by revisiting a kidnapping from 1972, a case in which modern forensics might very well have solved.
In July of 1972, Virginia Piper, wife of a prominent Minnesota banker, was abducted from her suburban Minnesota home. Aside from the audacity of a broad-daylight kidnapping, this was also notable for a number of reasons including the fact that it was one of the first kidnappings to seek a ransom payday of $1 million. It was also a case that the FBI (with dubious authority over the case) claims to have solved, but which much evidence (albeit some of it circumstantial) supports otherwise.
Swanson tries very hard to not comment personally on the case until near the end, when he admits his own opinions, based on his research. That research includes a great deal of information provided by one of the sons of Virginia Piper who had intended to write his own book, but for various reasons, including familial, chose not to do so. That information, including interviews with family members and others who were very close to the case, is invaluable.
It is a little difficult to write a review of the book without giving away too much of the information presented. Although most of the information herein is public information, Swanson tells the story smoothly and almost as though it were a mystery novel.
Among the most interesting facts of the case is that despite the fact that all the money ($20 bills) were logged and marked by the FBI, very little has turned up or accounted for since the ransom was paid.
This is a most beguiling, bewildering case.
Looking for a good book? Whether you're interested in True Crime, mystery stories, Minnesota history, or just a well-told story, Stolen From the Garden satisfies....more
In keeping with my Beatles reading, we have here another new book with theThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.0 of 5
In keeping with my Beatles reading, we have here another new book with the Fab Four as the subject. This one, Beatleness, by Candy Leonard, might actually be one of the more important books on the subject.
There are plenty of books that look at the beatles themselves and their music (deservedly so) and it seems that there isn't much new to be mined there. So much scrutiny has been made of every single word and note that these four men have produced that it seems unlikely that we can get much more from it. But what hasn't been fully explored, until recently, is the social atmosphere created around and by the Beatles.
Recently I reviewed The Beatles Are Here! which collected essays from a variety of sources (including, most interestingly, the girls pictured in a prominent photograph). This latest book, Beatleness, takes this one step further. Rather than essays by a select few, Candy Leonard interviews a cross-section of individuals and gets to the heart of the people who changed (or formed) a turbulent decade -- the fans.
Arguments can be made over the music of the Beatles and whether or not they were/are incredibly talented or mostly lucky (my personal feeling is 'talent'), but there are musicians and groups all over the world who have incredible talent and push the limits of conventional music, and so few of them get the attention that the Beatles received. Without the fans, the Beatles would never have achieved the status that they did, and the world wouldn't have changed the way that it did.
Of course it's not as simple as all that... the fans were affected by other issues (the assassination of JFK being just one issue) that led to the search for something new, and the Beatles' fit the bill. Candy Leonard's book takes a look at many of these things, ties so much of it together, always using the words of the fans themselves, to highlight the scene. One thing that struck be quite a bit was what I interpreted as a clear difference between the older fans, who grew up with the Beatles from the beginning, and the younger fans who gained their 'Beatleness' a little later (often through an older sibling). Their reactions and interpretations of the music and the era tended to be quite different.
I see this book as being incredibly valuable, particularly to anyone with an interest in sociology and human behavior and a study of the turbulent 60's/70's. The sociological aspects of the fans of the Beatles is a story much greater than a story about four pop musicians.
Looking for a good book? Beatleness, by Candy Leonard, is not a book about the Beatles, but an insightful, well-researched book about the fans of the Beatles and the cause/effect relationship with the Beatles and the troubling times of the 1960's....more
I feel a little duped by this book. Let me share with you the Goodreads opeThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.0 of 5
I feel a little duped by this book. Let me share with you the Goodreads opening description of the book:
Sharing the lessons he's learned from over forty years as a magician and family man, Lon Milo DuQuette reveals his unique point of view about magick--its ups and downs, ins and outs, and how his family and home are the foundation of his practice. Written in Lon's humorous style that makes learning and discovery a joy, Homemade Magick will show you that everyday life events are, in fact, true magical adventures.
This sounds like a delightful, personable biography of a magician. For me, and I suspect the vast majority of readers out there, a magician is someone who performs illusions. Penn & Teller, Harry Blackstone, Harry Anderson, Criss Angel, David Copperfield, etc.
No. This is a book by someone who practices what most in the world would consider the occult or the dark arts (though that is a misnomer). This is a book by a self-made magick-as-religion magus.
Despite very quickly realizing that this was not at all what I was expecting, I did my best to accept it for what it was and give it the benefit of the doubt and read it cover to cover. This is made more difficult because it's not a topic I'm personally interested in (though I like to think I have an open mind and am willing to 'listen' to anothers' beliefs).
As a biography, I'm not very impressed with the book. There's very little biography here, frankly. This is more of a 'how-to' book. DuQuette does talk a little personal history, but only when referencing how he came by some of his magick, but as a biography, explaining his childhood and how he came to be interested in the life of magick rites and rituals? Not so much.
As a 'how to' book - how to perform rites and rituals and come by certain 'powers' without a magus in your area to teach you - this is probably a little more helpful. For those interested in this particular lifestyle (and let's face it, it is almost more of a lifestyle than a religion) this should prove helpful. But I couldn't help but wonder how ... shall I say 'authentic' a rite or a ritual is when it is performed by someone using make-shift props and incantations that are spoken without proper inflections. How important are these props and rituals if such substitutions can be made? Are they needed more for the person delivering the rites, to give them a sense that there's another power at work, than they are for actual necessity?
Not being interested in learning how to perform 'magick,' I grew bored with the book. there really was more of this than there was 'biography' and what biography there was really felt a little depressing. While DuQuette seems perfectly happy with his life and proud of what he's accomplished (this is good! More people should have such pride) I couldn't shake the sense that a 'biography' by such a person seemed really unnecessary. I'm not sure what the target market is here, though clearly it isn't me.
Two stars to this book because it MAY be helpful to people who want to know more about how to live this life, but it's NOT a biography, it does NOT show "that everyday life events are, in fact, true magical adventures" and it is not particularly interesting.
Looking for a good book? For the very small target audience, those interested in learning occult how-to, this might prove interesting, but otherwise it's not particularly worthwhile....more
I am not vegetarian, but my daughter is. One of my sons has typically not wThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.0 of 5
I am not vegetarian, but my daughter is. One of my sons has typically not wanted to eat anything 'vegetarian' but because he's also a big Paul McCartney fan, and McCartney has been promoting 'Meatless Monday' he's been willing to have a vegetarian meal once a week.
Dina Cheney's Meatless All Day provides a very nice selection of vegetarian meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I will admit that I haven't made any of the lunch meals here, and only a couple of the breakfast meals.
Of the meals that I made, we found them all quite tasty. The vegetarian in the family would happily eat any of the meals a second time. The non-vegetarians...? Well, the meals were more-or-less eaten, but timidly, and nothing stood out as being a meal any of the family meat-eaters would request.
What I have found, and this is true for most vegetarian meals and not just Cheney's book, is that meat 'substitutes' don't satisfy. 'Meatballs' and 'burger patties' when made from nuts and other ingredients are pale imitations and to cover the lack of flavor in the meat itself they are often filled with spices to create a flavor not quite natural. I recognize that this may be a case where we meat-eaters are too familiar with a flavor, a taste, and eating something that pretends to be similar isn't likely going to live up to the original. That said, I still would try the spaghetti with white bean balls a second time.
Where I most appreciated the book was with meals that weren't imitations or substitutes for meat meals, but something unique. Stuffed Acorn Squash with Chickpeas and Moroccan Spices and Greek Stuffed Peppers with Lemon-Thyme Breadcrumbs are delicious dishes, as are many of the others within. But even with delicious meals, there is still a sense that spices are replacing natural flavor rather than complementing them. When this works the results are magnificent. When it doesn't work as well, the results are still delicious but a reminder of what isn't in the meal.
I live in a small town, and many of the ingredients were difficult to find. A half hour drive to a town with multiple co-ops and health food stores still didn't produce all the ingredients for some of the recipes. That did become a little problematic and worth noting for the home chefs looking to make recipes from this book.
Looking for a good book? Whether you are looking to supplement your meals with vegetarian alternatives or looking for new recipes for your meals, Meatless All Day by Dina Cheney is a very good choice. ...more
What a fantastic concept! Convince NASA/JPL to allow an average joe to sitThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.5 of 5
What a fantastic concept! Convince NASA/JPL to allow an average joe to sit in on the Phoenix Mars Mission; hanging out with all the brilliant minds (it is, after all, rocket science) and living on 'Mars time' just to be able to go home and write a book about it. Kudos to NASA/JPL for agreeing to it and for letting the visitor in on as many meetings as he apparently did attend. Shame on NASA/JPL for apparently not vetting author Andrew Kessler and making sure he would be able to write coherently and appropriately on the subject.
Kessler tries to be 'personable' with his writing, assuming his lack of science and technical knowledge will make what he has to say more approachable to the average reader. Unfortunately, his style, or 'voice,' comes across as juvenile and forced and frankly, out of place.
"The RAC (Robotic Arm Camera) is attached to the RA just above the scoop. The instrument provides close-up, full-frontal color images of the Martian surface close to the ground, under the lander, or anywhere the RA can go. Its got all kinds of filters and scientific attachments to capture and makes sense of extreme close-ups of dirt or whatever else Phoenix can dig up. I for one am hoping for a secret decoder ring."
A secret decoder ring. The author is sitting in a room with some of the brightest minds on the planet, who are about to reach out to a different planet, and all he can do is remind the reader how out of his league he is by 'hoping for a secret decoder ring.' I know he's just trying to be cute, or funny, but he's not. The information he's sharing is great. His secret hopes and wishes? Not so much.
Kessler has an opportunity many of us would like to have ... a backstage glimpse at NASA on a major project. When he relates the actual information as to what's happening and how the scientists at NASA deal with obstacles, then this is a remarkable book. When a glitch on the lander stops the progress of taking soil samples, we get to see these scientists as people, problem-solving and arguing. How they come to the decisions that they do, is what many of us want to know. It is this that keeps the reader interested. But when Kessler's 'fan boy' sensibilities kick in, he lacks a personal filter and he comes across as the teenage, excited fan.
Dara Sabahi, the chief engineer on the Phoenix project tells Kessler, "Documenting the mission will be very important for the future. ... I'm counting on this documentation. ... The more people can read about the mission process, the more we can learn about improving the process." Yet as the mission moved on, Kessler began to be excluded from some of the important meetings. I took this as a sign that the powers-that-be at NASA/JPL began to recognize that they weren't going to get the 'documentation' that they were hoping for.
I was hoping for an inside look at how NASA works. What I got was a long college essay on how someone spent their summer. I give this two and a half stars for the glimpses of the NASA machinations that we did get.
Looking for a good book? Martian Summer offers a behind-the-scenes look at the trials, successes, and struggles of a true NASA interplanetary mission but the book gets bogged down with the inexperienced writer's ability to let go of his 'fan boy' obsession and just share the story....more
I've read quite a few books on The Beatles lately. I'm glad to know that thThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. rated 4.5 of 5
I've read quite a few books on The Beatles lately. I'm glad to know that their music and their magic is still prompting people to seek out information on these musicians. This coffee-table-style book is a delightful summary of The Beatles ... who they were, how they came to be, how they came to be popular, and what happened to them.
Each of the Beatles' books I've read recently has had its own niche, from a detailed book on the albums and songs, to sociological effects on their influence to a generation. This particular book would be a summary of their career(s). A moderately thorough summary, to be sure, but a summary nonetheless.
Because The Beatles, their music, and books about them have been around for a while now, it is hard to say something new. I'm not well-versed in Beatlemania (I enjoy their music, a lot, but I haven't studied them) but I suspect that once the book is published there will be the ardent fans who've read everything commenting on what's 'accurate' and what's been published and where. For me, there was a little 'new' information.
I very much enjoyed the chapter on their years in Germany and the strong friendships they had formed at this time (Astrid, Klaus, Jürgen). Something that was addressed more in this book than any other Beatles book I've read is their philandering. One would expect that young men, musicians, would have a strong sexual appetite, but I've never heard much about this until now. We learn a little about the Hamburg red-light district and the different affairs that the men had, despite their marriages at times. I was not aware (and this is probably because I'm not typically a fan who needs to know every little detail) that Paul had paternity suits against him. It doesn't surprise me but, as I say, these bits of information have been well swept under the rug as far I am concerned.
The book even covers a chapter on each member of the Beatles after the break-up of the band. Their successes and failures. One moment is rather conspicuously missing -- the plagiarism lawsuit against Harrison. With as much detail as Hajeski has managed to include in the book I did expect to get a glimpse at how the lawsuit affected the former Beatle.
The book is filled with photos, making it very attractive as a coffee-table book. One would have to believe that there aren't too many photos of The Beatles that haven't already seen print somewhere, but it's nice to have them collected and arranged in this format.
My 17-year-old son has become quite a Beatles/McCartney fan and this is just the sort of book that he would find interesting. Hopefully this book will keep a new generation of music-lovers interested in one of the most famous rock/pop groups tio ever record.
Looking for a good book? The Beatles: Here, There and Everywhere is a fact and photo filled summary of four young men who, together, became pop culture icons and rock music legends....more
Mostly what I learned from this book is: 1) trying to explain quantum theorThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.0 of 5
Mostly what I learned from this book is: 1) trying to explain quantum theory in a graphic novel format doesn't actually make it any more understandable for someone like me, and 2) "Quantum theory cannot be explained. Physicists and mathematicians ... have admitted that it doesn't make sense." Number 2 is a sentence from the book.
Quantum Theory is a pretty tough topic. it IS after all, a theory, and one in which even some of our most brilliant scientific minds have disagreed on (Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein apparently battled [verbally] over the subject, each trying to disprove the other).
If I understand it, the theory essentially attempts to explain the motion of sub-atomic particles. Because the particles can not actually be measured or monitored individually, their movements and reactions are 'theorized' given different particulars.
I'm not a math guy, not by a long shot, so when I see things like "E = αf³exp(-ßf/T)" -- even in a graphic novel format -- I tend to start checking out.
Kudos to McEvoy and Zarate and the "Introducing" series for this format and for this attempt. I'm sad to admit that I'm not up to the challenge of learning about Quantum Theory.
Looking for a good book? Introducing Quantum Theory: A Graphic Guide does everything it can to make it understandable, but you still need to have some strong understanding of math and science to follow the principles of this theory that "cannot be explained." ...more
Having oftengravitated toward the water for rest and relaxation, I was intrigThis review originally published in LookingFora Good Book. Rated 4.0 of 5
Having often gravitated toward the water for rest and relaxation, I was intrigued by this book, offering "surprising science that shows how being near, in, on, or under water can make you happier, healthier. connected, and better at what you do."
It is very clear that author Nichols is very passionate about this subject and excited to share his scientific proof of his theories. I definitely got caught up in his enthusiasm.
Nichols explores all the aspects of water. From its uses in literature to medical therapy ... even its color and how that affects our perceptions ... it becomes clear that we have an intimate relationship and dependency with water. And the message beyond this is quite clear...given this relationship, we need to take much better care of this resource and source of comfort.
Sometimes, people such as myself, can feel a connection to something but not understand what, how, and why we have such a connection. This book goes to great lengths to help us understand why so many of us feel such a connection to water. We all have a 'blue mind' even if we aren't fully aware of it. I'm not sure how or why the timing worked out as it did, but I read this book (mostly because it was next in my queue) at the same time that my wife and I began earnest research on buying a lakefront home. Kismet? Or just our 'blue mind' at work?
While I really enjoyed and got excited over what Nichols shares with us - the book was often over-long, and included science that was at best fringe-worthy ... do we need scientific evidence that the color 'blue' is inspiring and relaxing to us? I understand that the book is called "Blue Mind" but it is about water, not the color blue.
His final chapter, about blue marbles, is very inspiring, and I'd love to attend a lecture given by Nichols. If everyone could read this book, or perhaps hear him speak, so many more people will come to appreciate the importance of water on our water planet.
Looking for a good book? Blue Mind is insightful, introspective, and important and well worth the read. ...more
Daily painting. What a concept! Writers hear it over and over again...writeThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.5 of 5
Daily painting. What a concept! Writers hear it over and over again...write every day. I heard it in college, I heard it in high school, I recall hearing my English teacher in middle school say it. And yet...I was an art student until my sophomore year of college and I can't EVER recall hearing any of my art teachers repeating the mantra to paint every day. There was the "always carry a sketch book with you in case you see something or come up with an idea" but never the same push to do the work daily.
Talking with my wife about it (I was about to go out and purchase some art supplies), I recognized myself in some of the 'traps' that artists get themselves in to. First of all, I always felt that I had to produce something that was wall-worthy or sellable. Why is this? I think it's because of the material investment. Good, even decent, painting supplies are not cheap. You can paint on anything, but watercolor paper will absorb the water the best and gesso'd board or linen will work better than some more common material for acrylics and oils. So...if I'm going to make the investment to buy better materials, I want to make the most of it. As a writer, sitting at my computer costs me not much but my time (I can use the computer for other things), and even when I worked on a typewriter or even long-hand, scrap paper and legal pads were fairly inexpensive.
So, the need (in my mind) to only produce great works has hampered me, as has my lack of finding subject matters. I know...funny. But fruit portraits (ie, still-life paintings) never really excited me. And since I was bent on making the 'perfect' painting, worthy of bringing in money, I had to have the 'perfect' subject as well. Kind of doomed to failure.
(Photo of my first painting attempt included here on blog site.)
In comes Carol Marine's book, Daily Painting: Paint Small and Often to Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Artist, and in her brief book she manages to address some of the common problems artists face (such as the above) and she gives some very basic painting lessons with technique tips, including how to set up a still life (as she points out, setting up a still life can potentially take more time than the painting. It's not just a matter of putting some things together.
(Photo of my second painting attempt included here on blog site.)
Marine does more than just give some technique and design tips, she goes on to explain how best to prepare the paintings for web use, how to take photos of the art,and also suggests some web site alternatives for marketing and selling paintings.
And if this weren't enough, Carol Marine's 'voice' throughout the book is very relaxed and conversational and you get the feeling that she's talking directly to YOU through the course of the book.
Make no mistake...a book, even as well written as this one, is not a truly suitable substitute for taking a class and getting personal attention from an instructor (many communities offer such art classes through a community education program), but this book is a really nice primer for the beginning artist.
Yes, this book has motivated me. I restocked up on some small painting panels and cards, re-supplied some paints, and in the two days since i finished this book, I've now done two small paintings (a watercolor and an acrylic [maybe tomorrow I'll try an oil]). Neither represent my best work, but I like the idea of painting every day and I will do my best to continue the practice. And why am I doing this? Because Carol Marine's book has inspired me, and what more can you ask of a book than to become inspired?
Looking for a good book? If you've ever thought about doing any painting but keep putting it off or struggle with what and how to go about it, then read Carol Marine's Daily Painting to get some tips and to become inspired....more