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Monday, December 17, 2012

Brilliant Novel by John Banville

Whatever it is that makes Irish writers great is in full force here.  Highly recommended book!  More info on this, Banville's 18th novel, at Wikipedia.  Can't wait to read more novels by this brilliant wordsmith. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Teen Angst

It's tough to be a teen, as evidenced from the above photo, taken by E.A. Autrey in the 1960s, of me during my angst driven years.  Fortunately my circumstances were such (strong family support system, educated, creative parents with meaningful lives, a lot of good luck), I eventually got over my youthful anxieties.  Not so poor Krystal Weedon in J.K. Rowling's excellent book The Casual Vacancy.  Rowling paints a bleak picture that sucks you in then throws you out feeling faintly sick at heart.  The only decent character in her book dies on page 5.  Most of the adults are seriously flawed and the teens Krystal, Andrew, Stuart and Sukhvinder bear the brunt of the deficiencies of their parents.  But, as is the case in real life, the worst fate happens to those from the wrong side of the tracks.  The Casual Vacancy reminds me of another brilliantly written and tragic book by Elizabeth George, the 2006 novel What Came Before He Shot Her.  In that case it's a pre-teen boy from the wrong neighborhood whose life goes off the rails.  For anyone looking for light entertainment, you won't find it here.  But for great writing, plotting, character development and a taste of the true tragedy of life, you can't find better than these two books.  Hopefully the fate of their characters is not yours!

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Great Animal Orchestra

Just finished Bernie Krause's fantastic book "The Great Animal Orchestra - Finding the Origins of Music in the World's Wild Places."  Lots of fun anecdotes about recording the world's vanishing wild soundscapes and some sad relevations about how our world is changing for the worse.  For all those plugged in to their iphones or ipads, pull them out of your ears and listen to the natural sounds around you before they are all gone.  Highly recommended!  Nice book review in The Telegraph.

Amazon list of Bernie Krause soundtracks (I have some, I need more):  Click here
Sound links via Naturesounds.org:  Click here
Contact Bernie Krause or listen to cool and calming sound efx at Wildsanctuary.com:  Click here
World forum for Acoustic Ecology:  Click here
The Cornell lab of Ornithology:  Click here
The British Library wildlife sounds:  Click here

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Chester Arnold at Catharine Clark

Not to be missed:  New show of Chester Arnold art 
November 3, 2012 to December 22, 2012 at the Catharine Clark Gallery in SF

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

From Conrad to Coppola to Vargas Llosa

The Dream of the Celt opened my eyes to bad behavior in the Belgian Congo and that behavior's impact on the movie Apocalypse Now.  In the book, Mario Vargas Llosa's flawed hero Roger Casement meets Joseph Conrad.  As noted by The New York Times Review of Books , about prior books on Roger Casement, "For a number of weeks the two men shared a room. Conrad found inspiration at that time for Heart of Darkness; Casement was beginning on the road toward becoming a hero, a martyr, and a traitor."   Had Conrad not written his famous novel, it is doubtful John Milius and Francis Ford Coppola would have sent Captain Willard off to Cambodia and the world would have been without a great film, based on a great book, based on an awful incident in history.  That history is well worth reading in Mario Vargas Llosa's terrific novel.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Swerve

Though I rarely read non fiction, this book is well worth making an exception. Fabulous read!
More info at Amazon.com

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Anne Perry's Dorchester Terarce

An engaging Victorian crime novel set in London in 1896, "Dorchester Terrace" puts some flesh on the political situation in Europe prior to the start of World War I in 1914.  I intended to do many things today, but the only thing I did do was finish this book, which I couldn't put down.  Recommended!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Jo Nesbo "The Leopard"

One good thing about being sick is having more time to read, and there's nothing so fine as a great Scandinavian mystery.  Jo Nesbo's Inspector Harry Hole novel, set in Norway, is a great read!  Highly recommended!  The additional benefit of immersing oneself in a thrilling adventure that unfolds in the cold and snow, while sitting outside on a perfect, sunny California day, means the persistent cold germs no longer seem so bad.  More info on the author is on his official website HERE

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Robert Bolano 2666

Thank heavens for librarians, without whom I would never have discovered the fabulous novel by the, now deceased, Chilean author Roberto Bolano.  Wikipedia has a good write up on him as does The NewYorker.  Well worth reading!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Starting to Love History

It only took 60+ years for me to start to like history.  Since a middle grade teacher threw my history test in the "circular file," accusing me of cheating (which was not true), I began a nearly lifelong disinterest in the subject.  But, that is finally at an end!  I am happy now to discover there is a whole new fascinating world out there to immerse myself in.   I'm currently loving Hilary Mantel's latest book "Bring Up The Bodies," about Henry VIII and the English Tudors.  I am not alone.  The Telegraph gives the book a great review here.  Given my prior lack of interest in history, I was confused how England got from Henry VIII to the current Queen, Elizabeth, and found this official website of British Royalty a great help.

What's of most interest to me in this book, outside of the great writing, is how clearly history tends to repeat itself.  Here is Hilary's description of why Parliament, in the early 16th century, won't vote for laws that help the poor (page 204-205):  "In March, Parliament knocks back his (Cromwell's) new poor law.  It was too much for the Commons to digest, that rich men might have some duty to the poor, that if you get fat, as gentlemen of England do, on the wool trade, you have some responsibility to the men turned off the land, the labourers without labour, the sowers without a field.  England needs roads, forts, harbours, bridges.  Men need work.  It's a shame to see them begging their bread, when honest labour could keep the realm secure.  Can we not put them together, the hands and the task?  But Parliament cannot see how it is the state's job to create work.  Are not these matters in God's hands, and is not poverty and dereliction part of his eternal order?  To everything there is a season:  a time to starve and a time to thieve.  If rain falls for six months solid and rots the rain in the fields, there must be providence in it; for God knows his trade.   It is an outrage to the rich and enterprising, to suggest that they should pay an income tax, only to put bread in the mouths of the workshy.  And if Secretary Cromwell argues that famine provokes criminality:  well, are there not hangmen enough?"  Excellent stuff!!  I highly recommend the book.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Annie's Annuals Nursery

One of the greatest local nurseries in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

San Francisco Art Markt 2012

Lots of great art at the Art Mrkt.  Here are some of my favorites:

Photographs (like the one above) by Alfred Seiland
Encaustic paintings by Alicia Tormey
Works on paper by Frank Stella (scroll down on this link to the Faaris Car blog post)
Paintings by Timothy Cummings, (especially one titled "Floralia," which is not visible on the Catharine Clark Gallery website - gallery, also, of my art teacher Chester Arnold's work)
A lot of photographers represented by the Modernbook Gallery (especially Tom Chambers, Jamie Baldridge and Sara Friedlander)
Some great sculpture and paintings by the late, great Viola Frey from the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in NY
Some beautiful photocopy collage from the late, great Bruce Conner
and last, but not least, C. Antieau and Jason Holley's art from the Red Truck Gallery in New Orleans (especially C.'s "Ghost of Birds")

All in all, worth the trip to the Concourse Exhibition Center in SF this weekend!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Charles Burns - Fabulous Off-Kilter Cartoonist

I confess I love Charles Burns' weird comic art.  The piece above is a B&W version of the cover from "Black Hole" comic magazine No. 4 posted on the blog Accidental Mysteries.  I have most, if not all, of Burns' comics still (there aren't very many).  And, I loved the work he did in 1991 for the ballet "The Hard Nut," commissioned by choreographer Mark Morris (a funny take on Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker").  Burns has worked with some of my favorite comic book publishers:  Kitchen Sink Press and Fantagraphics Books.    I met Charles Burns once at one of San Diego's Comic Conventions.  He was nice and seemed much more normal than one would expect from his art.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Robert Ryman - artist

Recent artist discovery via my art class.  The more technique I learn, the more I'm impressed by art I wouldn't have looked at twice before.  Robert Ryman's fabulous paintings are a prime example of a new appreciation for art that looks simple but isn't.  Artwork from MoMA

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Matt Taylor Architect/Designer

Cool Lego Swirl Lamp available at Etsy.    Of course I might be biased.  Full disclosure:  Matt is my very talented son-in-law!