Tag Archives: books

Book Review: Stoned by Aja Raden

For the most part I really enjoyed this book. It’s a fun read with some excellent lines.* y648

 

I appreciate her efforts to clearly explain things as vastly different as the geological and biological processes that create gemstones and pearls, and different concepts of value to the psychology of want and envy and their roles both in marketing and the shaping of the political world.

  Continue reading

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Why Fit in When You Were Born to Stand Out?

Fantastic Green Eggs and Ham inspired manicure.

Fantastic Green Eggs and Ham inspired manicure.

While I was looking for Doctor Seuss themed craft ideas the past few weeks I kept stumbling on Seuss inspired manicures. I love nail polish. I can admire these wholeheartedly, but they are way out of my scope. Continue reading

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Bats on the Brain

Perhaps since I still had bats on the brain, I ran across a children’s/YA book on bats. It’s called The Bat Scientists. The author is Mary Carson and the photographer is Tom Uhlman.

 

I was really impressed with both its information and photography. The updated edition came out just this month and has the latest information on WNS and conservation.

 

Even though it’s a children’s book, it seems like a great quick introduction for adults and teenagers, and has materials in the back for further research.

 

A few facts from the book, some I knew, some were new to me.

 

Batty Facts

 

  • Bats aren’t blind-they see fairly well.
  • They aren’t going to get tangled in your hair-bats avoid people and fly too well to get in hair.
  • Bats are often called flying rats or mice, but they aren’t rodents. Some scientists think they’re primitive primate relatives.
  • They’re the only mammal capable of true flight. (As opposed to gliding.)
  • For their size, bats are the longest lived mammals on earth-even the small ones can live for 40 years! (With mammals generally the larger the size the longer the life span.)
  • Since people associate them with the short lived and fast breeding mouse, they assume bats work the same way, but bats breed very slowly-most have at most one offspring a year. The author quotes biologist Barbara French “One lost baby bat is a lost generation.”
  • Less than one half of one percent have rabies-they’re not crazy flying animals out to get you.

 

It also mentioned an interesting project I’d not heard about. The Bellamy Cave Project. Apparently Bellamy Cave in Tennessee is a major hibernation cave for the endangered gray bat. Last year the Nature Conservancy is mad a concrete cave nearby. The idea was that a concrete cave could be cleaned out and disinfected come spring, hopefully slowing the spread of WNS.

 

They had limited time last year and finished construction after hibernation started, but they did have a few guests. They’re hoping to see more visitors this year since the precast/prefabricated concrete cave will be ready and the proper temperature in time for hibernation season.

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Read!

A slightly late happy Banned Books Week!

Celebrate by reading books that cause a stir and make people think. I will admit that I didn’t care for a lot of the banned classics. Guilt. Guilt. Though if anything that makes me want to keep them in schools all the more–if I had to suffer through them then they should too! 😉

It’s amazing what will get a book challenged or banned. (I mean, Judy Blume, really? I grew up on those… And Bridge to Terabithia, basically for a sad ending?)

Check out Y.A. Love for a Banned Books Week Giveaway. We know the classics, but there are also a lot of excellent modern young adult books getting challenged what seems like every week. There’s also more information on banned reading over there, so swing by for a visit.

And check out this treasury of crafts inspired by banned books and authors.

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Lord, what fools these mortals be! Or Happy Maximum Tilt Day…

The image that first got me hooked on Arthur Rackham and his Shakespeare illustrations.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends
.

 

Puck’s speech from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 5, scene i

 

In honor of the summer solstice (and to pair with my previous Tempest post) I decided to be a little bit brave and post an old poem I wrote in college in response to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I don’t remember what the assignment was, but I chose to play with Titania’s character. I always felt kind of bad for her at the end of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. All she was trying to do was take charge of the child of an old retainer and yet her husband chose to make an absolute fool of her.

 

Titania’s Promise

(a response to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Malicious sprite, darkly dancing,

shadow cast under a quicksilver moon.

Oh yes, these shadows have offended.

Spiky foxgloves stand and hiss.

Whispering falsehood and deceit

from full, rainbow-spotted throats.

Beware, beware. Capricious Robin

plays with truth, and breaks his toys.

He knows his herbs and potions—

houndstongue and hellebore,

wolfsbane and rosemary,

the bitter bite of wormwood—

He serves his lord and master well.

He made me a fool before my court,

My ladies laughed behind their hands.

He bathed my eyes in purple poison—

made me love unwillingly

and waste my favors on a hairy beast.

My eyes were cleansed,

I see truly now.

Do they?

I can wait, I shall bide my time.

I can counterfeit a proper wife.

In their arrogance they believe,

that I, like some green willow,

would bend my will so easily.

Playful Puck, Oberon’s steward,

Robin not-so-Goodfellow,

though it take me centuries,

I will be avenged.

Like The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is believed to have been written to celebrate an important wedding and is a mostly original story. (The play within a play is based on Greek mythology, as are the names of the rulers.) The super short version of the story is “Mix-and-match couples in the woods near Athens.” as Shakespeare for Dummies puts it! It’s a play about many things but basically all the ways love messes with people’s heads.

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Something rich and strange

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell

Ariel’s song from The Tempest Act I, scene 2

Creepy, but beautiful images all the same. And the English-geek reason why I love using pearls and fossil coral elements together.

I finally found a copy of Rackham’s illustrated Tempest! I found a lead online in the wee hours of the morning and sped out on the hunt the next day. Found a great bookshop, oggled many books, picked up a few. I enjoy the old fairytale illustrators a great deal more than I do their contemporary storytellers… Hence the hunt for Shakespeare editions from those eras.

I read The Tempest my senior year in high school after my teacher vetoed every other option I’d put forward. (This was after we got into an argument over the meaning of Frankenstein- she insisted that I missed the point and that it was all about Shelley’s anxieties attending motherhood; I thought it was more a fear of science outpacing humanity’s ability to deal with it…)

I remember discussing the play with a woman while we were waiting in line at a book signing. She told me how it was sometimes considered a problem play, since it didn’t fall into the normal divisions of histories, tragedies and comedies. The Tempest is fantasy and romance with elements of tragedy and comedy as well.

It was fun my freshman year in college, because all of my English major friends were having serious issues with the play and I was able to help them. (And lend out my Shakespeare for Dummies book-those scorecards were useful.)

The Tempest is terribly quotable. You can practically trip over references to it. I’ve a print of the painting by Amy Brown called Something Rich and Strange, there’s a beautiful comic towards the end of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman using The Tempest as a chance for Shakespeare to look back at his life. Gaiman also uses it more subtly in his short story Sea Change.

“Those are pearls that were his eyes:” Pearls are one of the birthstones of June, so this part of the Tempest seemed particularly appropriate. Pearls are one of the few organic materials considered to be gems. They’re formed when something gets into a mollusk and it secrets a fluid called nacre to coat the irritant. The traditional example is a grain of sand, but more commonly pearls form around internal damage or parasites sucked in during the mollusk’s feeding. The more (and thinner) layers of slightly translucent nacre, the better the sheen and color of the pearl. Luster and iridescence are created by light breaking up as it goes through or bounces back on the layers of nacre. Most pearls nowadays are cultured, with large irritants being ‘seeded’ into species most likely to produce pearls. So they are yet one more thing that is quite beautiful, but a little creepy upon closer examination…

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Antiques, IDs, etc

-from Dulac's The Sleeping Beauty and other tales

I spent two days at Brimfield last week. Brimfield is a major antique show/flea market in the area. (Well, Brimfield is the town the show is located in…) It lasts for six days and is held three times a year. Thursday I brought two friends who’d never been before. They just didn’t understand the scale of the show when I tried to explain it. There’s a book, 1000 places to see before you die, and it describes 120 acre (divided into 23 fields) Brimfield show as the world series of flea markets.

We had fun looking at old clothing and vintage hats, got frightened by some truly disturbing mixes of doll parts and old tins, and searched for treasure. (Despite two days of looking I was sadly unable to find a pith helmet. I did find a really fun Edwardian bowler, but it was well out of my price range…) I’m glad both of my newbies found fun spoils to bring home. We lucked out on the weather. I’ve done the show in driving rain (Dyed my socks pink once when I put CVS bags over them under my sneakers to keep from getting too squishy…) and in brutally hot weather too. So clear if a bit dusty was a kind start.

One of the tents had vintage trims and lace as well as buttons and modern cameos with an old-fashioned feel. We unearthed some unusual ones too. Two of us split a package of carnelian colored cameos with a Wedgwood style look that are of the god Ganesha. I also picked up more modern cameos in black and bronze of an eastern style goddess.

Any idea who she is?

They were very eye-catching. I’ve yet to decide what to do with the Ganesh pieces. The black and bronze I figured out how to do a two-tone basket weave style wire wrap with a sneaked in swarovski crystal, and I’m pleased with how she looks, but I’m not sure who she is! She reminds me of portrayals I’ve seen of the goddess Kuan-yin, but I’m not as familiar with Eastern mythology as I ought to be, so if you recognize her please let me know!

My second day I got sad news and an old book. My favorite antique book and print dealer is retiring. I tried to explain to her husband that she couldn’t retire until she found me an Arthur Rackham illustrated copy of the Tempest, but he didn’t seem to find that a valid objection. I bought a (quite mangled and therefore something I could afford) copy of The Sleeping Beauty and other tales that had been illustrated by Edmund Dulac from about 1910. Dulac is another one of my favorite golden age illustrators. He used richer colors than Rackham, and had more of a pseudo-eastern flair, though I don’t always find his little creatures as much fun as I do with Rackham. But he also has such wonderful shapes and detail. I would love to get my hands on a copy of his 1909 Rubaiyat or his illustrations of Edgar Allen Poe’s works.

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