Saturday, June 30, 2012

Five offbeat finds

1. Kirsty Mitchell's "Wonderland" series pays homage to her charismatic English-teacher mother who died of a brain tumor. More here.
2. The Romans typically painted their marble statues, so the austere aspect of the ones that have come down to us are misleading. The Digital Sculpture Project of the Virtual World Heritage Laboratory digitally replicated and colored this statue of the creepy emperor Caligula according to analysis of traces of paint. The AD 38-40 original belongs to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, VA.
3. The first sequence above shows footage of Annie Oakley taken by Edison, while the second is a re-enactment from PBS with cool photos (and the obligatory talking heads).
4. For eco-friendly, fair-trade shopping online, bookmark Ethical Ocean, a "social boutique with ethical goods from around the globe."
5. This cartoon is called "Winnie the Pooh and a Day of Concerns." So it's true the Russians are prone to melancholia!

How do you rank this vis à vis Disney and Milne? In any event, do check out our Winnie the Pooh gift box and cookbook!
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Friday, June 29, 2012

Final glimpses of the Cindy Sherman retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art

A photograph is a secret about a secret. 

The more it tells you the less you know.—Diane Arbus

When I was in New York earlier this month for the Book Expo, I stopped in at MOMA to take in the Cindy Sherman retrospective before it vanished. As it was Saturday, the throngs were milling, the docents were expounding, and stricken mothers were trying to explain to small fry some of the more outré aspects of Sherman's work.
While always depicting herself as a character, Sherman's photographs range from smallish black-and-white "untitled film stills" (above) to larger, color "film stills," to huge, canvas-like apparitions of flamboyant women coping with aging, grotesque clowns, and mordant parodies of Old Master paintings (below). I love to know your thoughts on any or all of these samples of Sherman's art.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers, Carolina chickadees, and Eastern bluebirds: what's in YOUR back yard?

Eastern bluebird (above) and great-crested flycatcher (below left); National Geographic

I'm struck by how many books we have about birds—pages and pages of them! The ones I covet at present are Birds of the World: 365 Days and Birdsong by the Seasons: A Year of Listening to Birds, but it's hard to be satiated. (I'll bet The Bird: A Natural History of Who Birds Are, Where They Came From, and How They Live would add greatly to one's storehouse of bird lore.) Birdwatching can be a consuming passion, as evidenced by the mainstream film The Big Year, in which the unholy trio of Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson compete to spot the rarest birds in the world (has anyone seen it?).
Besides their beauty, birds are alluring because they make music naturally. While trapped in the blighted landscape of "No Man's Land," the hero of Sebastian Faulks' war novel Birdsong has recurrent waking dreams in which he's back in the French countryside, hearing birds call to each other in the lush greenery. And of course Charlie Parker acquired the nickname "Bird" because of his wondrous, ecstatic flights on the saxophone.
Take this quick National Geographic quiz to test your knowledge of birds that might be lurking in your very own back yard. (I did abysmally. Guess I should stop looking at the pretty pictures and pay attention to the texts.) They also have a "backyard bird identifier" feature.
'Morning Song' by Carl Thompson
“The robin flew from his swinging spray of ivy on to the top of the wall and he opened his beak and sang a loud, lovely trill, merely to show off. Nothing in the world is quite as adorably lovely as a robin when he shows off - and they are nearly always doing it.”― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Audubon's robins

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Help pick our next Daedalus Books catalog cover!

This is the first time we've asked for our customers' input on design, and I'm psyched. Here's the announcement:
"We need your help choosing our Early Fall 2012 catalog cover! Please pick one favorite from each of our amazing artists, Tim Cook (; first three) and Steve McCracken (; next three), from the six draft sketches pictured. (Our artists will add color to the two covers that get the most votes.) Place your vote by leaving a comment as to which two covers you like the best. Voting ends 9 a.m., July 3 (EDT). We will share the winning designs in the upcoming weeks."

 Here are Steve's:
 Let the crowd sourcing begin!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The splendid chicken

Rooster and Hen with Chickens
According to an article in the June Smithsonian magazine, the now-ubiquitous chicken—a staple of most every cuisine—was first domesticated not for eating but for cockfighting and for religious rituals:
Until the advent of large-scale industrial production in the 20th century, the economic and nutritional contribution of chickens was modest. In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond listed chickens among the “small domestic mammals and domestic birds and insects” that have been useful to humanity but unlike the horse or the ox did little—outside of legends—to change the course of history. Nonetheless, the chicken has inspired contributions to culture, art, cuisine, science and religion over the millennia. Chickens were, and still are, a sacred animal in some cultures. The prodigious and ever-watchful hen was a worldwide symbol of nurturance and fertility. Eggs hung in Egyptian temples to ensure a bountiful river flood. The lusty rooster (a.k.a. cock) was a universal signifier of virility—but also, in the ancient Persian faith of Zoroastrianism, a benign spirit that crowed at dawn to herald a turning point in the cosmic struggle between darkness and light.
 Like so many birds, chickens can be fantastic works of nature's art. Behold these breeds from Tamara Staples' book The Fairest Fowl: Portraits of Championship Chickens.

This one looks like it's going to the opera!
Returning to the practical world, have you ever thought of raising chickens yourself? More and more people are doing it, and we have several books on the topic if you're interested. Or if you prefer to get your eggs and chicken parts from the grocery store, thank you very much, do browse our hand-picked selection of cookbooks for inspiration on how to snazz up your recipes.
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Monday, June 25, 2012

DIY delights: repurposing with flair

From espadrilles made from butter-soft blue jeans to fairy-tale dollhouse furniture made from champagne corks, these do-it-yourself projects bring joy and preserve resources in one fell swoop. More samples can be found here. And if you're into crafts, we've got books on projects ranging from primitive to fancy to self-sufficient to Native American!
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Sunday, June 24, 2012

World War II posters and drawings from Britain

These World War II posters and sketches from Britain's National Archives plunge us directly into their wartime experience, where the outcome was far from certain and daily life was rife with danger and privation. From a collection of 350 artworks newly digitized in high resolution (thanks to a grant from Wikimedia), their purpose was threefold:  propaganda, information, and morale boosting. This first group is of the "loose lips sink ships" ilk.
Among the inspirational images are depictions of food production and a drawing by Clive Uptton titled "War Effort: The will to win" that one can only gawp at. (I wonder where this was  disseminated?!)
Among the most artistic images are these intensely vivid and beautifully rendered scenes of battle.

This next grouping shows Princess Elizabeth, Churchill, and a member of the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS or "Wrens").

 Finally, these posters attempt to influence  behavior.

For actual "you are there" photographs of soldiers in various theaters during the war, have a look at The U.S. Army in World War II: The Stories Behind the Photos.