Sometimes you have to admit you don’t know enough to give an opinion. For Appetites – A Cookbook, I asked food and wine critic, Andreas Rompel, for his review. In the past I’ve judged Anthony Bourdain’s memoirs from a literary point of view, no problem, and I’ve admired and enjoyed his writing, “…a poetic, stream-of-consciousness food-rap.” But this time, it’s about food and recipes – about which I know just about enough to not ruin scrambled eggs completely. It’s Bourdain’s first cookbook in ten years, and it’s a demonstration of his expertise. The man knows food – no doubt about that. Continue reading
Laura Ingalls Wilder – Pioneer Girl, the Annotated Biography by Pamela Smith Hill, et al
I grew up with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House books. I read them in Grade 5 for the first time, and my teacher made us do projects on the first book, Little House in the Big Woods. My family now calls our house our “little hoosie in the big woosie”. Silly, right, but we strongly identified with the Ingalls family. My Dad and I built a little log cabin out of sticks, with cotton wool for the smoke out the chimney and trees of styrofoam. Ever since then, I’ve read and re-read all of the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and those by Rose Wilder Lane, her daughter, in both Afrikaans and English. And like with Hergé’s Tintin books, I also collected books about the books. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books are now part of the history of American literature; a treasured part of world children’s literature, and in their own right, an enduring favourite for generations of readers. Continue reading
Welcome to Marwencol, by Mark Hogancamp and Chris Shellen
Mark Hogancamp is a celebrity – and for good reason. Obscure people who suddenly become famous are often famous for doing something of no great value. They have 15 minutes of fame and that’s it. Mark Hogancamp is the exception. He was simply doing something to deal with his recovery after being beaten almost to death in 2000. He built a little village that he calls “Marwencol”, that he says is frozen in time in World War II Belgium. And he makes all the characters in the village out of commercially produced military figurines, Barbie dolls, and movie action figures, creating their looks, clothes, equipment, everything to the finest detail. Then he photographs it all and tells stories about Marwencol, and the people living there. This little world he made outside his trailer, basically in the bare dirt, all painstakingly by hand. He is obviously a wonderful model maker, and a fine photographer. And this made him famous for good reason. Continue reading
For the New Year I engaged my brain to delve into some interesting new non-fiction. These are not obvious choices for coffee-table eye candy. One is a reference work on famous film quotes and the work of scriptwriters; another is on the art of Mark Hogancamp, called Welcome to Marwencol, and the third the original text of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, called Pioneer Girl – The Annotated Autobiography. All three are great finds and well worth ordering for yourself. Like me, you will probably go back time and again to reread and check specific parts. But of course, the devil is in the details. Controversy and historical obfuscation are part of each subject. (Continue on to Pioneer Girl; Continue on to Marwencol; Keep reading for All the Best Lines.) Continue reading
The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook
Considering the quality and quirkiness of books published by Quirk Books, I was expecting something very nice when I was asked to review The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. 1) I love mysteries and detective novels; 2) I love cookbooks and cooking and 3) How weird is the combination – culinary crimes? Killings in the kitchen? The book is a neat blend of both worlds – a cookbook with a murderous twist. It may be too pretty to live in my kitchen with the rest of the dog-eared, scribbled on and greasy-paged cookbooks, but until I decide to sacrifice it, it will make good reading on my fiction shelf. Want to know which are the favourite dishes of some of your favourite mystery writers? Read on.
Jane Austen Cover to Cover – 200 Years of Classic Covers, by Margaret C. Sullivan
(Quirk Books, Philadelphia, US, Nov, 2014)
Even if you know nothing about Jane Austen, never read one of her novels, and never seen a movie adaptation of them, you still have to admire the sheer depth and detail of the data collected in this book of Jane Austen covers. It is, frankly, eye-popping. Who’d have known? And who would’ve thought of doing this, other than Margaret Sullivan, a dedicated “Janeite” and consummate Austen collector and expert? Janeites, for those who don’t know, is the term used by devotees of Jane Austen to describe themselves, but it is also the term used to mock these “self-consciously idolatrous enthusiasts” for their passion for an England that is long gone.
Here’s a prezi for you – “Prezi HOTSHOT”, by Hedwyg van Groenendaal
Everyone who’s up-to-date with apps for business knows of Prezi, the cloud-based presentation software. (I can almost hear the howls of “No more death by PowerPoint!” in the background.) Prezi, which is short for “presentation” in Hungarian, is a giant forward leap in presentation technology: it allows users to display and navigate through information within a 2.5D or parallax 3D space on the Z-axis. There are no slides – there’s a “canvas”; no slide transitions, rather, zooming in, out and around. In short, what makes it radical also makes it tricky. You have to learn how to do it, same as most people did when they started using MicroSoft Office.
Some Technologically-Backward Bears, having just wandered out of their caves, might give it one horrified look and climb straight back to the comfort of PowerPoint. Others will be Brave Bears and get the hang of it and enjoy the good results, because, being so different, a prezi (referring to the presentation, not the program) has much more visual and emotional impact than traditional slides.
It’s been around since 2009, but lately, with better internet access and faster up-load ability, people who really care about how they come across are adding Prezi to their arsenal of presentation tools. Like all disruptive technologies, the main objective of the owners of Prezi would be to get past the early adopters and institutionalize the software as the “standard” to use. With some 40 million people using it now, it would be safe to say they’re getting there. But, like all newish apps, it has its ups and downs – the main one being that, like moving from a PC to a Mac, you need to make a massive mental shift to get into it. The buttons you’d want to click ain’t there. The stuff you want to type and pull in won’t work like you’re used to. The terminology is different.