Saturday, December 31, 2011

That 'bird in the hand' saying?

I made it up. No, seriously!
Flash forward a few centuries:

Is the uke having a comeback? (thanks to Nellie McKay!) What are YOU doing New Year's eve?

Friday, December 30, 2011


This excerpt is from the introduction to Bruce Davidson’s Subway, a collection of his photographs of New York City's mostly underground metropolis. A 25th anniversary edition has just been released by Aperture. 
"At first I photographed in black and white. After a while, however, I began to see a dimension of meaning that demanded a color consciousness. Color photography was not new for me—most of my commissioned work and all of my films have been done in color. But color in the subway was different. I found that the strobe light reflecting off the steel surfaces of the defaced subway cars created a new understanding of color. I had seen photographs of deep-sea fish thousands of fathoms below the ocean surface, glowing in total darkness once light had been applied. People in the subway, their flesh juxtaposed against the graffiti, the penetrating effect of the strobe light itself, and even the hollow darkness of the tunnels, inspired an aesthetic that goes unnoticed by passengers who are trapped underground, hiding behind masks, and closed off from each other…..
As I ventured out into various sections of the city on the different lines, I found that many of the trains emerged from underground. From the elevated tracks I could clearly see many of the neighborhoods that make up New York. Some areas of the city seen through subway windows look devastated and bombed out, with housing projects looming like impassive canyon walls. Still others were made up of neat family houses with fenced-in backyards. There were views of old ethnic neighborhoods, often with large ornate churches, reminiscent of picturesque hillside towns in other countries. The harbor docks, Statue of Liberty, and Manhattan skyline were all framed through the windows of the train."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Pulcinella that combines myriad art forms into one glorious entertainment

For both adults and kids surfeited with Nutcrackers—or even for people who ordinarily wouldn't be caught dead at a ballet—this fabulous Basel production of Stravinsky's Pulcinella fires on all cylinders. It's massively entertaining on all fronts: choreography, story, dancing, costumes, sets, characterizations. If you have even a smidgen of interest, do yourself a favor and try it out. I wish I could put up more lengthy extracts to give you a sample, but they've been removed from the bootleg Russian site I found them on. So take a chance and buy it from us!

The Ballets Russes in Pulcinella, directed by Diaghilev, with music by Igor Stravinsky, choreography by Leonid Massine and designs by Pablo Picasso. Photograph: Sasha/Getty Images 

Portrait of Stravinsky by Albert Gleizes, 1914

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"By the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract"

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.
"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I'll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract."
December 28 in The Bibliophile's Devotional: 365 Days of Literary Classics is devoted to the great sci fi writer Madeleine L'Engle, whose young adult fantasy A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by 26 publishers before it won the Newbery Medal in 1963. (We currently have five items by L'Engle, including a boxed set of the Wrinkle in Time quartet!) As part of various 50th anniversary celebrations of the book, Hope Larson's graphic novel rendition is due out next fall.
The author and her doll avatar, by Uneek Doll Designs
“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Can good books about healthy food get any better? Yes!

Exhibit A: Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, illustrated by the always appetizing illustrations of Maira Kalman. Here she talks about how she connected with the book.

Exhibit B: The interviews, essays, and catchy song recipes in The Recipe Project: A Delectable Extravaganza of Food and Music. Here's Mario Bataldi's "Spaghetti with 100 Sweet Tomatoes," complete with food puppets.

Our current cookery offerings are guaranteed to whet your appetite as well. The grassroots food movement, sustainable food, healthy food, delicious food (and wine)—we have it all! So what's your go-to cookbook?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Floozies, hoydens, & femmes fatales

One of the titles sums it up succinctly: Bad Sue. The denizens of Dames, Dolls and Delinquents: A Collector's Guide to Sexy Pulp Fiction Paperbacks are most decidedly not the kinds of girls you bring home to mama! These babes lurk in alleys, run riot in gangs, cavort in prisons, and are as likely to pull a stiletto on you as to bestow their favors. Hither and yon they linger lasciviously, their scanty clothing straining against their abundant curves, baring the requisite décolletage and ensuring maximum exposure of their "gams." 
There's so much that's fascinating here, from the names of the books (Miss Kinsey's Report; Tall, Blond, and Evil; Everybody Slept Here) to the piquant facts revealed about many of them. The model for the title at left, for example, was none other than the "notorious" Bettie Page. Fantasy author Marion Zimmer Bradley penned Twilight Lovers under a pseudonym (as did many of the pulp paperback writers and illustrators). Even though it was in a sleazy setting, I was intrigued to see cross-racial taboos challenged in Forbidden Fruit and Swingers in Danger. Many of the covers are quite striking and appealing aesthetically (e.g., A Dame Called Murder). There were many fine artists, and some of them were able to move on to more upscale work. The bottom line is transgression though. You wouldn't believe how many times the word "sin" appears in the titles. Or maybe you would!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Child's Christmas in Wales

"Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."
From an edition illustrated by Edward Ardizzon
 "But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards."  

Dylan Thomas's famous story is the apt December 25 selection for The Bibliophile's Devotional: 365 Days of Literary Classics. It began with a 1945 BBC talk called "Memories of Christmas," which Thomas expanded for an essay in Picture Post and later sold to Harper's Bazaar under the title 'A Child's Memories of a Christmas in Wales.' On a 1952 tour of America, he was visited at the Chelsea Hotel by two young women, Barbara Holdridge and Marianne Mantell, who were interested in recording authors reading their own work. Thomas agreed on a fee of $500 on the first 1,000 records and a 10 percent royalty thereafter; this was the auspicious birth of Caedmon Audio.

Friday, December 23, 2011

May comfort & joy be yours!

Two pricey literary artifacts pop up

All kinds of literary and artistic treasures seem to be materializing these days, from the new Leonardo I mentioned Monday to the putative portrait of Jane Austen discovered by the husband of Austen biographer Paula Byrne (left) to a teeny tiny manuscript by Charlotte Bronte recently bought at auction for $1.1 million by La Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits in Paris.

Anne, Emily & Charlotte by Branwell Bronte
The miniature booklet is one of six handwritten, "Young Men's Magazines" Bronte inscribed at age 14, when she and her siblings were vying with each other in creating fictional worlds. Set in "Glass Town," this 4,000-word, 19-page booklet surfaced from a private collection. One of its scenes prefigures the Jane Eyre episode in which  Rochester's mad wife tries to kill him by setting fire to the curtains in his bedroom. Bronte scholars and devotees are keenly anticipating a promised transcript from the Paris museum. The Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, whose bid couldn't quite cut the mustard, is understandably devastated because they own four of what was a series of six such booklets (the other is untraced). They believe the book is a national treasure that belongs in Bronte's home. Much critical study has been devoted to these cunningly wrought booklets, and they are one of the most popular exhibits at the museum. What do you think?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hallelujah Chorus & Academics Stylin'

Hoping you don't have "Hallelujah Chorus" flash mob burnout by now.... I really like this "Food Court" one.
One of our current titles is The Elements of Visual Style, the name of which adapts the classic Strunk & White text. In a bit of pedagogical hubris/humor, these two gents from Cornell U made this educational rap video to hammer home some key concepts! If you want to view it with the words, go here.

The Elements of Style from Jake Heller on Vimeo.

I'll leave you with this priceless image of a petite Mongolian girl tending her charges by Dutch photographer Jeroen Toirkens. It's from Nomad, his visual recording of the Northern Hemisphere's last living nomadic peoples, from Greenland to Turkey. His journey to create it took ten years.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Leonardo is big box office

Like the Met opera and its own National Theater, London's National Gallery is getting into the HD extravaganza game with a narrated, in-depth film of its recent sellout Leonardo da Vinci show. The theater venues have not yet been announced, but worldwide viewings will begin mid-February.
The exhibit, which is unlikely ever to be repeated, stars seven of the 15 Leonardo paintings known to have survived, including the recently rediscovered "Salvator Mundi." Can't wait!

Leonardo Live from Emily Baron on Vimeo.

In the meanwhile, Leonardo's notebooks can be on view in your very own home!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The forces of nature

Out of an estimated 1,500 active volcanoes around the world, ~50 erupt every year. Here are some shots of volcanic activity in 2011.
Lava pours from from a fissure just after daybreak and cascades out of sight into a deep crack near the town of Volcano, Hawaii, on March 6, 2011. Scientists monitored a new vent that has opened at the Kilauea volcano, sending lava shooting up to 65 feet high. (AP Photo/US Geological Survey)

An eruption of the Nyamulagira Volcano, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, late November 16, 2011. (Reuters/Kenny Katombe)

Lightning cuts through an ash cloud as Shinmoedake peak erupts, as seen from Takaharu Town Office, Miyazaki prefecture, Japan, on January 27, 2011. (Reuters/Takaharu Town Office/Handout)

Tungurahua Volcano throws incandescent rocks and lava into the sky, seen from the nearby town of Runtun, Ecuador, on December 4, 2011. (Pablo Cozzaglio/AFP/Getty Images)

You can view 32 more photos here. Has anyone been to a volcano or lived near one?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Treasures sought after or stumbled upon

Bronze vessel with five lion heads, probably used for burning incense
 Looking through Lost Treasures: The World's Great Riches Rediscovered reminded me of an unbelievably cool installation I found out about on The History Blog (which I highly recommend).  A collaborative project called Etruscanning 3D has digitized an Etruscan tomb from the 7th century BC, as well as all the artifacts that were removed from it, so that viewers can experience the site as it looked when it was first discovered in 1836.
"Within they found at least two burials in four chambers — a lavishly adorned woman of royal status in the end cell, ashes in a bronze funerary urn in the right chamber — and evidence of one more — a bronze bed in the antechamber next to a chariot indicating a warrior burial. They also found an amazing wealth of precious artifacts, elaborate furnishings, silverware, gilded and bronze vessels decorated with lions and griffins, and immense golden pectoral pieces and a golden disc fibula which had once covered the body of the princess."
This video shows what the interactive exhibit will be like.

 This is the fibula (i.e., a brooch or clasp):

"This breastplate [below] was worn by the deceased woman in the end cell who thus appeared to the amazed discoverers as literally covered in gold. It consists of a single laminated sheet shaped and decorated with embossed work with a series of 16 different punches. The decoration is divided into strips that follow the margins, going around the central emblem, and are characterized by the serial repetition of the same motif. Starting from the outer strip we see the following series of illustrations: broken line; grazing male ibex; winged lion; chimera with two protomes; pegasus; rear view of lion; grazing deer; woman in a tunic with a palm frond; winged lion, winged woman, lion. In the central emblem: semicircular decorations with overlapping spirals and stems, winged lions, women with palms and four male figures, each holding the front paws of a pair of rampant lions."—Vatican Museum website

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Revenge of the rejected

Don't get me wrong, I love New Yorker cartoons. Yet having seen more than a few published in the magazine that either weren't funny or were stupid/disgusting, I can sympathize with the frustrations vented in this satirical "group therapy" book trailer for The Best of the Rejection Collection.
Here are a few samples from the book:
In their defense, I must reveal that the New Yorker gets 500 cartoon submissions per week!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"The Radical Camera"

Jerome Liebling, "Butterfly Boy," 1949
There's a swell exhibit going on now at the Jewish Museum in New York called The Radical Camera: New York's Photo League, 1936-1951. According to museum's website, "Artists in the Photo League were known for capturing sharply revealing, compelling moments from everyday life. Their focus centered on New York City and its vibrant streets – a shoeshine boy, a brass band on a bustling corner, a crowded beach at Coney Island. Many of the images are beautiful, yet harbor strong social commentary on issues of class, child labor, and opportunity. The Radical Camera exhibition explores the fascinating blend of aesthetics and social activism at the heart of the Photo League." These are a sprinkling of the ~ 150 vintage photographs on display.
Lee Sievan, Salvation Army lassie in front of a Woolworth store. c1940

Ida Wyman “Spaghetti 25 Cents.” New York. 1945.

The League had a darkroom for printing, published a newsletter called Photo Notes, and offered a place to socialize. Its members included W. Eugene Smith, Weegee, Lisette Model, Berenice Abbott, Margaret Bourke-White, and Aaron Siskind. The League showed student work and had guest exhibitions by noted photographers Eugène Atget, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Edward Weston. Like their peers in the theater and film industries, the league suffered from the Red Scare: the Attorney General labeled it "subversive" and its members were blacklisted after a paid FBI informant accused it of being a front for communists.
Sid Grossman, Coney Island, 1947
The exhibition will travel next to the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH (April 19 – September 9, 2012); the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, CA (October 11, 2012 – January 21, 2013); and Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL (February 9 – April 21, 2013), so maybe you can catch it one of those places. The New York Times blog "Lens" has a good slide show if you'd like to see more images.
Which one's your favorite? I love the boy, but the girls vs. holy rollers in the Salvation Army one are so funny!