Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Poem I Turn To: Actors and Directors Present Poetry That Inspires Them

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month, so here’s a last-minute offering: a review of The Poem I Turn To: Actors and Directors Present Poetry That Inspires Them, edited by poet Jason Shinder.

The Poem I Turn To: Actors and Directors Present Poetry That Inspires Them is an eclectic collection of the favorite poems of 42 entertainment figures, accompanied by their notes and commentary. The title is slightly misleading—the contributors include novelists, screenwriters, and producers, not just famous Hollywood names. The poetry selections range from well-known favorites to relatively unknown works, and the contributors' commentary features everything from pompous, name-dropping anecdotes to insightful literary analysis. Director Billy Luther's choice was perhaps the most memorable: rather than choosing an official, published work, he chose a fascinating poem written by the star of his documentary Miss Navajo, Navajo storyteller (and winner of the “Miss Navajo Nation” beauty pageant) Sunny Dooley.

The appeal of the commentary might vary, but the best part of The Poem I Turn To is the attached 30-track CD, which gives listeners the chance to hear poetry read by actors like Stacy Keach, Adam Arkin, and Holland Taylor. Recitation is becoming a lost art, and hearing poetry read by such gifted, beautifully-trained voices is a rare pleasure.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Anime fans take note:

VIZ Media has announced that they have partnered with the entertainment division of National CineMedia to present Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody. The film (accompanied by exclusive interviews with the director, producer and character designer) be shown in more than 300 theatres across the country on June 11 and 12.

According to VIZ's press release, "Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody begins as unidentified beings known as “Blanks” start popping up. They are soon followed by a Soul Reaper named Senna who makes them disappear. Puzzled by these unknown beings and the even more mysterious girl, Ichigo and Rukia set out to learn more, but uncover an evil plot when a menacing clan tries to kidnap Senna. Banished from the Soul Society long ago, the clan’s leader has sent sending the World of the Living and the Soul Society on a collision course, and Senna seems to be the key to his diabolical plot for revenge. Can Ichigo and his fellow Soul Reapers save the two worlds from annihilation?"

Bleach is one of those insanely famous anime series that I've never actually seen (it's in good company--I've never seen Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, or Gundam Wing, either), but I think I'm going to look up the series on Wikipedia and try to catch the movie. It's rare enough for any anime to turn up on the big screen... and there's got to be some reason Bleach has a bazillion fans, right?

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Just a reminder...

Don't forget, gentle readers, this upcoming Saturday is Free Comic Book Day, which means you're going to want to shop early and shop often!

Click here for more details--there's some good stuff this year, including a sneak preview of the upcoming Maximum Ride comic.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Books to inspire budding eco-geeks

Nonfiction books about the deterioration of the planet are great for inspiring nightmares about the melting polar ice caps, but the fiction aisle has something to offer, too. The following YA books are as entertaining as they are thought-provoking:

Ask your kids for their thoughts about these titles, and follow up on any questions or comments they might have. After all, if today's children are going to be stuck cleaning up the mess our planet has become, it's never too early to get 'em fired up on the subject.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Go Green: How To Build An Earth-Friendly Community, by Nancy H. Taylor

Nancy H. Taylor’s Go Green: How To Build an Earth-Friendly Community offers a concise, well-organized guide to a more sustainable lifestyle. Taylor examines everything from green building to locally-produced food, addressing her book to homeowners, students, businesspeople, and politicians. She explains the issues at stake, assesses their financial, environmental, and health impact, and then offers practical suggestions for future behavior. The book concludes with an extensive list of green products, books, websites, and organizations.

Go Green provides information for both minor and major lifestyle changes (the index alone covers everything from green skylights to environmentally-friendly burial options*). Unfortunately, its packaging is misleading. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the book is actually too cute. The cover art for Go Green is bright, funky, and graphic—it's eye-catching, but a poor match for the book’s earnestly instructive tone. This isn’t a coffee table book; it’s a succinct, methodical, insanely useful how-to guide for readers looking to reduce their environmental impact.

*Apparently, your cremated remains can be added to deteriorating reefs, thereby improving sea-life habitats! Who knew? Click here for more info.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cooking for a Small Planet

"Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."
-Albert Einstein

Some of us are vegetarians, some of us are flexitarians, and some of us will give up daily hamburgers with extra bacon only when they pry them out of our cold dead fingers, but most of us could probably get at least some use out of a great vegetarian cookbook. Whether you're shopping for a book that covers 100% of your dietary needs or just the occasional side dish, the following titles would make wonderful additions to any kitchen library:

1. Honest Pretzels, by Mollie Katzen

Honest Pretzels is a collection of 65 vegetarian recipes designed to be prepared by children ages eight and up. The well-organized (and delicious!) recipes feature Katzen's watercolor illustrations, as well as information on ingredients, equipment, and kitchen safety. Her "Button Cupcakes" are a perennial favorite.

2. Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables, by John Peterson and Angelic Organics

If you're interested in buying one of those farm-share boxes but you're worried about what you'd do with an entire crate of some random vegetable like, oh, rutabagas, worry no more! This book is organized seasonally by crop, so you can try anything from the "Rutabaga Waldorf Salad" to the "Savory-Sweet Rutabaga Pudding"*.

3. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison

If you like monster Joy of Cooking-style tomes, this is the cookbook for you. Recently re-released as a 10th Anniversary Edition, Madison's best-selling classic features more than 1,400 recipes, ranging from simple sandwiches to something called "Silky Mushroom Pâté with Scallion-Walnut Topping".

*Admittedly, I would never actually make something called "Savory-Sweet Rutabaga Pudding"... but I like having the option.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living, by Doug Fine

Hoping to reduce his carbon footprint, journalist Doug Fine purchased a sprawling ranch in New Mexico, along with a couple of goats, some solar panels and a truck that runs on vegetable oil. He then vowed to grow his own food, despite the fact that he had no farming, mechanical, or goat-keeping-related skills. These experiences provided the material for Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living, the half-horrifying, half-hilarious account of Fine’s first year as a green-living gentleman farmer.

I had some stylistic quibbles with Farewell, My Subaru (Fine never met a clunky political simile he didn’t like), but I was more concerned about the environmental impact of Fine’s lifestyle. Living on a ranch twenty-odd miles from the nearest town provides plenty of opportunities for survivalist hijinks, but it doesn’t seem all that green. Sure, Fine drives a car fueled by vegetable oil, but what about his girlfriend? His mail carrier? The Fed-Ex driver who brings him goat medicine? Shouldn’t he live closer to other people, thereby minimizing sprawl and lessening the environmental impact of the various automobiles that have to trek out to his place? Is his water coming from the rapidly vanishing Ogallala Aquifer? Most of us don’t need forty-one acres of remote ranchland to experience the life he describes—I can own chickens*, raise vegetables, and eat locally-grown food right here in my semi-urban neighborhood in Olympia, WA.

But while I might question the greenness of some of the decisions in Farewell, My Subaru, nobody could fault Fine's sincerity, enthusiasm, or work ethic. Fine’s determination to minimize his carbon footprint involved making more Earth-friendly choices in every aspect of his life—even when those choices came with slimy, labor-intensive, Chinese-food-scented consequences (like his veggie-oil-burning truck). I’m not about to go out there and recreate his experiment, but I’ll raise a glass of locally-grown hard cider to his success.

*Not that I’d want to, but it’s legal. I have no idea about goats, although I see various people in town have been using them for weed control.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Goin' Green

In honor of Earth Day tomorrow, the Wordcandy Staff is devoting this week to reviewing the coolest, most Earth-friendly books--everything from memoirs to cookbooks to straight-up fiction.

We're kicking things off with a link to Ex Libris Anonymous, a company that makes gorgeous blank journals out of recycled books. Each one of their journals is unique, filled with about 75 sheets of acid-free, quality sketching paper, features a few pages salvaged from the original text (cover pages, illustrations, library cards, inscriptions, or whatever), and is held together with a black plastic spiral.

They cost a very reasonable $13, and think about the extra mojo they'd give to that novel you've always meant to write. After all, if a book called The Triplets Sign Up can get published, don't you think that you could, too?

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Friday, April 18, 2008

A Church of Her Own: What Happens When a Woman Takes the Pulpit, by Sarah Sentilles

While women have been ordained by the Episcopal Church for decades, female clergy still struggle to achieve equality with their male counterparts. Armed with a master of divinity degree from Harvard University, author Sarah Sentilles has collected the experiences of several female ministers in A Church of Her Own: What Happens When a Woman Takes the Pulpit. Alternately inspiring and depressing, Sentilles’s book explores the obstacles and rewards facing today’s female ministers.

A Church of Her Own is passionate, moving… and frustratingly flawed. Rather than taking a journalistic approach, Sentilles’s book consists of personal accounts of the sexism encountered by female ministers. There is no indication that Sentilles bothered to actually verify these women’s stories. The book is full of lines like the following:

“Eve later learned that the church had targeted associate pastors for years, especially when the associates were women.”
Really? Where did Eve learn that her church targeted associate pastors? From whom did she learn it? Is there anyone willing to confirm it? Can she offer proof, or at least supporting testimony? Presenting these unsubstantiated statements as fact only serves to undermine the book’s impact.

I am 100% in favor of female clergy, and I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the stories in this book—but then, I’m not the person Sentilles needs to convince. If a reader opposed to female clergy picked up a copy of A Church of Their Own, there’s little chance it would change their opinion. The stories included in Sentilles’s book might be powerful, but they’re too poorly supported to do anything but preach to the converted.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Vampires, Witches, and Intergalactic Space Vixens: Part Two

Welcome to part two of our paranormal romance series, featuring reviews of the second installment of a young adult vampire series and a book about the exciting lives of New York succubae. Enjoy, dear readers!

Succubus in the City, by Nina Harper

Lily has been a succubus for three thousand years, and there are a lot of things to love about her job. Working for Satan has its perks: Lily is fabulously rich, thin, and beautiful, she can eat and wear whatever she wants, and she gets to spend eternity hanging out with her three demon BFFs. But all this hedonism comes at a price, and Lily’s getting a little tired of seducing revolting guys and delivering their souls to Hell. Just once, she’d like to have sex with somebody without waking up to a pile of ashes....

Succubus in the City has a lot going for it: succubae aren’t as clichéd as vampires or werewolves, the mystery subplot running throughout the book is absorbing, and Harper’s chatty, quip-filled style matches her subject matter beautifully. Unfortunately, it’s tough to get past the fact that Harper’s heroine is constantly killing people. Sure, Lily says she prefers to rid the world of truly evil men—abusers, molesters, etc—but most of the guys she sends to Hell just seem like selfish, unpleasant losers*. Lily spends ninety percent of the book acting like a normal young woman, so the handful of scenes featuring her having horrible sex with a random guy, obliterating him, and then vacuuming up his remains with her Dust Buster are disconcerting and, frankly, totally gross.

*There’s a scene where she picks up a pretentious, arrogant dork at a Werner Herzog movie. You’d think being a Herzog fan would be punishment enough.

Frostbite, by Richelle Mead

It’s winter break at St. Vladimir's Academy, but Guardian-in-training Rose Hathaway is not in a holiday mood. Lissa, Rose’s vampire best friend, has abandoned her for quality time with her new boyfriend, and a nearby attack has the school on high alert. Plus, none of the men in Rose’s life are behaving the way she wants them to: her friend Mason is crushing on her, her beloved tutor Dimitri is acting colder and more distant than ever, and there’s a new guy on the scene sending out some very strange signals. But when three students run away from the school’s holiday ski trip, Rose sets her personal troubles aside and follows them, determined to bring them back safely. Sadly, even Rose’s good intentions seem to have disastrous consequences, and she immediately finds herself neck-deep (and sinking!) in danger.

Frostbite is obviously part of a series: readers will have no idea what’s going on if they haven’t read 2007’s Vampire Academy, and all major plot resolutions are saved for future books. Still, this fast-paced novel offers plenty of violence, romantic intrigue*, and tantalizing character development, and fans of the series will be left eagerly awaiting the next installment.

*Seriously, the fanfic writers will be drooling.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Vampires, Witches, and Intergalactic Space Vixens: Part One

We’ve received a number of supernatural romance novels recently, featuring everything from witches to succubae to cat-people from space, so we’ll be posting four reviews over the next two days. Keep an eye out for these titles, romance fans...

50 Ways To Hex Your Lover, by Linda Wisdom

Jazz Tremaine is a centuries-old witch with a centuries-old problem: she can’t shake her feelings for Nikolai Gregorivich, the gorgeous vampire cop she’s had an off-and-on relationship with for three hundred years. Jazz would like nothing better than to be done with Nick forever (or so she tells herself), but when he shows up asking for her help with a serial killer case, she can’t resist getting involved again. Jazz and Nick’s investigation is alternately helped and hindered by an entertaining group of supernatural also-rans: Irma, the fussy, chain-smoking ghost who haunts Jazz’s vintage T-bird, Fluff and Puff, a pair of evil, funnel cake-eating bunny slippers, and Dweezil, Jazz’s sleazy boss, who’ll do anything—or make Jazz do anything—for a quick buck.

The romance featured in 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover isn’t particularly effective—it’s tough to get worked up over the problems of eternally young, beautiful, powerful people, particularly when much of their angst is due to their own pigheadedness—so most of the novel’s considerable charm comes from its supporting characters and Wisdom’s light, glib style. The main characters might be weak, but a few Harry Potter jokes, a taxi service for monsters, and a pair of sentient bunny slippers will carry a story a long way.

Slave: the Cat Star Chronicles, by Cheryl L. Brooks

Clever, fiercely independent Jacinth Rutland is an intergalactic trader on a rescue mission: she’s spent years looking for her kidnapped sister. Her search has lead her to a planet that automatically enslaves all women, so Jacinth decides to buy a slave of her very own—one she can trust to masquerade as her master. Her purchase, Cat, is the only known survivor from a world whose inhabitants were famed for their attractiveness and sensuality. Instantly dazzled by one another, the pair embark on a dangerous quest, hoping to avoid capture, find Jacinth’s sister, and avenge Cat’s home planet.

If you’re willing to check all notions about political correctness and good taste at the door, Brooks’s novel offers plenty of campy, X-rated fun. Unfortunately, the cover art for this novel is a huge missed opportunity. Instead of going for a conventional romance look, a cover like this—with, of course, the gender roles reversed*—would have been absolutely brilliant:

It would have solid a million copies! It’s past time for women to have some sci-fi pulp fiction of their very own, and Brooks’s deliciously silly, kinky, space opera of a novel would have suited a cover like this right down to the ground. However, the “Chronicles” bit in the title implies that this might be the start of a series, so at least we can hope for the future.

*Picture it: a handsome guy in a loincloth swoons at the feet of a huge, hulking alien, while a tough-looking space babe dressed up like Han Solo draws a gun in the background, ready to rescue him.... Come on, you know you’d want to read it.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Death and Taxes

I don't have much time today (I have to go pay my taxes, and something tells me that will involve waiting in a long, boring line), so I'm just posting a quick Tax Day book rec:

Before her death in 2000, Sarah Caudwell wrote four weird and witty mysteries featuring Professor Hilary Tamar, mentor to a group of British tax barristers. In addition to these books' basic awesomeness, they also feature cover art by the late, great Edward Gorey. They're a little hard to find, but they're fine books to read while you're queued up at the post office.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

My apologies for doubting you, Ms. Smith.

Apparently, author L.J. Smith actually meant it when she said that her publisher was re-releasing her Night World series. (Frankly, I'd filed that idea under "wishful thinking", seeing as re-printing the series would add to the pressure to finish it, which I was 95% certain was never gonna happen.) But it's okay, I can admit it when I'm wrong. The books are up on the Simon and Schuster web page, and will retail for $8.99--not a bad price, seeing as each book will contain three complete stories. Here's the updated cover art:

Does anybody else think the second girl looks like a goth version of Rory Gilmore?

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Where is the chihuahua?

My mother doesn't even like the title of this book (and I'm sure she's dreaded the time when I'm actually reading it, as I have a bad habit--inherited from her, by the way--of sharing every revolting tidbit I pick up), but I am so excited about this book I can't even tell you:

I love Marion Nestle. Nobody writes about food (or pet food) with as much coherency and competency as she does.

Click here for our review of Ms. Nestle's earlier book, What To Eat.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Majin Tantei Nōgami Neuro

I'm really enjoying the anime version of Yūsei Matsui's manga series Majin Tantei Nōgami Neuro. It's gory, and violent, and the artwork is totally creepy, and it only makes sense about every third episode, but I'm watching it raptly nonetheless.

Majin Tantei Nōgami Neuro is a mystery/horror series about a demon (Neuro) who feeds on mysteries. Having devoured all of the tasty mysteries in his own realm, Neuro goes to the human world to look for more. He sets up a detective agency and forces a human girl to pretend to be his boss. (He serves as her "assistant". I still don't understand why Neuro thinks the teenage girl is necessary--seeing as he can disguise himself as a human just fine--but I'm assuming that will be explained in future episodes.)

The manga version of Majin Tantei Nōgami Neuro isn't licensed, but readers with strong stomachs for gore and a high tolerance for confusion can find it via IRC. The anime version is available through CrunchyRoll and YouTube.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Most of my paperbacks are too worn for this, but...

Meg sent me this book storage idea:


The books are secured to the door with a contraption called a Sticklebook, and you can order one of your very own for around $30 (USD). According to their website, it works kind of like a kenzan (one of those pin-cushion-y flower-holder things used in Japanese flower arranging). One wonders if it might cause some damage, but it's certainly an eye-catching alternative to the standard bookshelf.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Peace, Part II

Below is an excerpt from Barry Miles's Peace: 50 Years of Protest, reprinted with permission. Click here for our review of Mr. Miles's book.

"In the new century the peace symbol has been evident worldwide in opposition to George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq. Many people felt that they were being lied to about the reasons for the war and remained unconvinced that Baghdad possessed weapons of mass destruction. On February 15, 2003, a coordinated day of antiwar protests was planned all around the world.

According to BBC News, between 6 and 10 million people too part in protests in about 800 cities in up to 60 countries. Some estimates put the figure as high as 30 million, others at 15. Europe was the center of the biggest protests; the one in Rome, for instance, involved approximately 3 million people and is listed in the 2004 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest antiwar rally ever held. The demonstration in London that day began with a march organized by the Stop the War Coalition, the CND, and the Muslim Association of Britain.

The 3.5-mile-long (5.6 km) march, displaying slogans (including the memorable "Make Tea Not War") with Holtom's ubiquitous peace symbol, was ordered to start early by the police, who were concerned by the crushing numbers already assembled. People arrived by bus and train from 250 cities and towns across Britain.

The police estimated that 750,000 people were on the march. Marchers made their way down Piccadilly chanting slogans, banging drums, and sounding horns. The final Hyde Park rally is thought to have involved close to 2 million people, the largest U.K. antiwar demonstration ever. They were addressed by ex-government minister Mo Mowlam, liberal democrat leader Charles Kennedy, London's mayor Ken Livingstone, former Member of Parliament Tony Benn, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, actress Vanessa Redgrave and, among others, playwright Harold Pinter, who described the United States as "a country run by a bunch of criminal lunatics with Tony Blair as a hired Christian thug." There were also large rallies in Glasgow and Belfast.

On March 14, 2003, 80 protesters from Direct Action to Stop the War (DASW) were arrested in the business district of San Francisco for taking part in a "direct action" against war in Iraq. Over 200 people assembled at dawn outside the old Pacific Stock Exchange, while some set up a blockade outside the financial trading floor. At the intersection of Bush and Montgomery streets, about 30 people sat in the street chanting, "We're blocking Bush!" and were arrested at 8:30 A.M. so that business could continue as usual. On March 21 more than 1,400 were arrested in San Francisco as protests against the U.S. invasion continued across the city.

People chained themselves together at street intersections, rallied in front of city hall, closed the San Francisco Federal Building, and blocked the Bay Bridge. More than 100 people were arrested blocking the entrance to the Bechtel Corporation, a major defense contractor, chanting "No business as usual, walkouts and refusal."

Internationally coordinated demonstrations occurred on March 19, 2003, in San Francisco, Rome, Bombay, Mexico City, Ankara, and Halifax, and on March 23, 2003, a quarter million marched in New York. Again, on April 12, 2003, more than half a million took to the streets of Rome, and a similar number in Spain. In Barcelona the protest took a unique form: At 10:00 every evening, people went out onto their balconies and beat on pots and pans for five minutes. The noise resounded throughout the city, with people on almost half of the balconies in some parts of town, particularly in the old section. There seemed to be few apartment blocks that didn't have a banner protesting the war, many flying Holtom's symbol.

At a protest in central Washington, Dustin Langley, a volunteer with the protest's sponsor, Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), voiced a common perception. "This is not about liberation, it's about the occupation of Iraq and the plundering of its natural resources."

One of the most respected critics of the war was the chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix, who concluded that Iraq was invaded for political reasons, not because it had any weapons of mass destruction (WMD). No credible evidence was ever found that Iraq possessed WMDs, and it is impossible to believe that Bush and Blair did not know it.

On April 9, 2003, 21 days after the war began, Blix said in an interview with the Spanish daily newspaper El Pais, "There is evidence that this war was planned well in advance. Sometimes this raises doubts about their attitude to the [weapons] inspections. I now believe that finding weapons of mass destruction has been relegated, I would say, to fourth place, which is why the United States and Britain are now waging war on Iraq. Today the main aim is to change the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein."

President Bush, he said, had told him in October 2002 that he supported the efforts by U.N. inspection teams to verify U.S. and British claims that Iraq was developing biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. But Blix also said that even back then "there were people within the Bush administration who were skeptical and who were working on engineering regime change."

By early March 2003, Blix added, hawks in both Washington and London had become impatient. It was possible that the United States and Britain did believe Iraq had WMDs, but given U.S. fabrication of evidence, that belief was doubtful. U.S. allegations, for example, that Iraq had attempted to buy uranium from Niger, were later proved to be false.

"You ask yourself a lot of questions when you see the things they did to try and demonstrate that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons, like the fake contract with Niger," Blix explained, adding. ''I'm very curious to see if they do find any [weapons]."

In any event, none was found, and it is extremely unlikely that any had ever existed. Blix said the war in Iraq was "a very high price to pay in terms of human lives and the destruction of a country" when any threat of weapons proliferation could have been contained by the U.N. inspections."
(Pages 239-246)

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Peace: 50 Years of Protest, by Barry Miles

Like many of the articles in National Geographic, Barry Miles's book Peace: 50 Years of Protest features a fascinating subject, overflows with amazing photographs, and appears to have been organized by an editor with acute ADD.

Peace traces the peace symbol from its birth (textile designer Gerald Holtom created it in 1958 as a symbol for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) to its current position as a worldwide cultural icon. Miles's text is accompanied by mini-articles on everything from Godzilla to Greenpeace, and is illustrated by arresting photographs featuring images ranging from the devastation of Hiroshima to the 2006 anti-Iraq War rallies in Budapest.

Miles's book would have benefited from a solid editing job. The book is poorly organized, the main text is frequently interrupted by pages' worth of unrelated material, and there are several totally incoherent sentences--and in a book as text-light and image-heavy as this one, a few screwed-up sentences really stand out. I read the following three times before giving up in despair (from page 122):

"Largely due to Mike Warnke, author of the discredited testimony The Satan Seller, something he either invented or took from a newsstand pulp book on magic and witchcraft has become a part of received knowledge for many Americans and remains so today."
Yep. Still a stumper.

But while its poor organization and editing (not to mention its non-existent bibliography) prevent it from becoming a serious educational resource, Miles's book has plenty to offer casual readers. A few confusing sentences aside, Peace: 50 Years of Protest is an interesting, enlightening, colorful look at the peace symbol's unique role in history and popular culture.

Check back tomorrow for an excerpt and photographs from Mr. Miles's book.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Sakura-Con 2008: The event itself...

I recently attended the first day of Sakura-Con 2008, a festival celebrating anime and manga held March 28th through the 30th at Seattle's Washington State Convention & Trade Center.

If there's a special heaven for anime geeks, it's bound to look a lot like Sakura-Con. In addition to anime showings, the event featured artists, exhibitors, gaming, industry panels, music videos, role playing, and lots and lots of cosplay, only about half of which appeared to be referencing a specific anime or manga.

In a brilliant marketing move, Sakura-Con is always held approximately six months from October, and one suspects that several of the attendees were there strictly because they just couldn't wait to show off their totally awesome Halloween costume ideas. In addition to dozens of Gothic Lolita, Bleach, and Pokémon-inspired ensembles, I also saw several Mario Bros., a few Nightmare Before Christmas outfits, and about fifteen Jack Sparrows. My favorite outfit belonged to a guy dressed up as Kyoya from Ouran High School Host Club, but the entire event was a celebration of creative fashion:

Note: Trust me, the costumes featured above are on the "tasteful and restrained" side. Despite the fact that it was SNOWING, the woman ahead of me in the coffee line was wearing nothing but a metal bikini and fishnet stockings, and she blended into the crowd in a way that I—who was dressed in a brown sweater and jeans—definitely did not.

Festival attendees were also given the opportunity to watch several live-action films, including Honey and Clover, Hula Girls and Love*Com, all from VIZ Pictures. I was pleased to see that the Love*Com movie poster attempted to emulate the intensely flushed cheeks that the author gives all her characters:

Tickets for Sakura-Con aren't cheap (and the costs go up even higher if you factor in travel expenses) but if you're a hardcore anime fan—or just somebody with a really great costume languishing in your closet—they're worth it. Because this event costs serious money, but the opportunity to dress up like this guy without having anyone ask you what it's like to star in Phantom of the Opera is priceless:

Sakura-Con 2009 will be held at the Convention Center April 10th-12th, 2009, so start thinking about those costume ideas now!

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Thursday, April 03, 2008


The fine people at Wiley Books (the publishers of the For Dummies books) have recently released manga-style editions of some of Shakespeare's best-known plays:

I fell into conversation with a Latin professor a few years ago, and he mentioned that in less than one hundred years most English speakers would require a full translation of Shakespeare's plays. I understand that this is due to the rapid evolution of the language, but I was pretty bummed out by his comment nonetheless. (Plus, the last few times I checked out the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, I couldn't help but notice that most of the attendees were approximately 1,000 years old--not a good sign for Shakespeare's coolness factor.) Hopefully, these fresh, creative adaptations of Shakespeare's plays will deepen young readers' appreciation for the original works!

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Now with pictures

Publishers Weekly recently interviewed fantasy author Terry Brooks, asking him several questions about his latest release, Dark Wraith of Shannara. Dark Wraith is the first book in Brooks's Shannara series to be released as a manga, and its official synopsis suggests that it might be a good jumping-in point for new readers. Here's the cover art and publisher's description:

"Possessing an awesome power he is only beginning to understand, young Jair Ohmsford must summon the devastating yet darkly seductive magic of the wishsong on a fateful mission to save his friends . . . and protect the future from the forces of evil.

If you’ve never ventured into the wondrous world of Shannara, consider this an ideal opportunity. Prepare to enter the breathtaking realm of the Four Lands, where beings both noble and sinister have quested and clashed, crossed swords in the names of darkness and light, and engaged in adventures rich with mystery and majesty."

I'm usually bored by epic fantasies (particularly the many, many titles featuring befuddled young men with "awesome power" wrestling with "devastating yet darkly seductive" magical forces), but a manga version might be more my speed....

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Gone but not (totally) forgotten

I spoke with some TOKYOPOP reps at SakuraCon (more on that soon), and took the opportunity to ask about Eric Wight's manga series My Dead Girlfriend, which debuted with much fanfare over a year ago and then immediately disappeared. According to the woman I spoke with, this series is NOT actually dead--it's just, uh, sleeping. Volume two will eventually appear, once they get some "complicated" licensing issues worked out!

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Persuasion: An Annotated Edition, edited by Robert...


February book club pick

Return of the Comic Gods


Useful cuteness

Do these cost actual money?


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