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Carol writes, "Phil and Kaja Foglio have recently launched the Kickstarter for the latest book in the Girl Genius graphic novel series, Girl Genius: The Beast of the Rails. (And they've already reached their basic funding goal!)"
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Blackstone has produced a new audiobook edition of Rapture of the Nerds, the gonzo post-Singularity novel Charlie Stross and I published in 2012, read by John Lee -- as with all my Downpour audio titles, it's DRM-free and available without territorial restrictions (tell your friends!).
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I reviewed this beautifully designed Minecraft boxed set of four hardcover handbooks in December. The price has since dropped to $14, which is a great deal.
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Top 100 (or insert random number here) books have been around for ages. They tend to make great coffee table books, but it takes something really special to start a conversation. Brett Weiss has done just that with his book The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987. Instead of just throwing together a full multiple-page spread with a few generic tidbits and “personal feelings,” this Top 100 book reads more along the line of a great educational text-book. I mean this with only the highest of compliments. With each game featured readers are given a surprisingly in-depth history lesson and a succinct explanation on just why it made this list. The book covers amazing pieces of video game history, some of which are new even to an aficionado like myself.
It is important to note that this isn’t the kind of book that typical gamers today might be expecting. As the book covers the early years of gaming (1977-1987 to be precise), most gamers weren’t even born yet – heck, some of their parents might not have even been born or gaming yet. This means you aren’t going to be seeing any Call of Duty of Mass Effect here. Rather, you’ll see the games that helped inspire the games that the youth are playing today. This text opens up a world that will no doubt be foreign to many, but one that is important and necessary to all gaming fans. It doesn’t matter your age – if you are a hardcore collector, or if you only have a passing interest in video games, The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987 will educate everyone on a much simpler time when making games was the wild west and full of limitless possibilities. – Jorge Luis
There is a certain novelty in trying to leaf through a book that is bigger and heavier than the coffee table it rests on. Thankfully, the hernia is worth it, with Marvel teaming up with Taschen and putting out a gorgeous repository of comic book history guided by Marvel Comics veteran, Roy Thomas. The book thankfully takes advantage of its massive size, reprinting iconic scenes from Marvel’s history in the original large format that artists draw their pages. This allows the reader to be able to enjoy the details hitherto not possible, especially for those images from older issues which suffered from poor production and printing processes. Definitely a purchase well worth it for anyone who is interested in seeing how much the company has changed over these past 75 years. However, you should be warned that the information within is so engrossing that loss of blood-flow to your legs may happen thanks to the mighty book’s weight! – Ahmed Bhuiyan
I’m a big fan of the nature artist Andy Goldsworthy. In his art he only uses found natural materials: leaves, twigs, flowers, icicles, dirt. From these natural bits he builds amazing temporary arrangements outdoors in the natural settings he finds the material. He photographs their brief existence as a new order and then lets the elements unravel them. For a moment, his fanciful designs capture some invisible spirit that is both completely wild and completely Andy Goldsworthy. Once you see one of his natural sculptures, they seem to be inevitable. A rainbow row of leaves sorted by color. Of course! You can’t forget them. Again and again he seems to summon archetypes – an icicle arch – that ought to occur in the wild. But we don’t see them until he unveils them. Goldsworthy is a prolific maker, with many books of his stunning works. If I had to select only one volume, I think his Collaboration with Nature has the best summary of his early work (up to 1990). I take these as visual poems. If they ring a bell in you, proceed to his later work.
Emma Campion, the cover designer of The Slanted Door: Modern Vietnamese Food is to be congratulated for her outstanding work. The contrast in texture between the gray flannel top and the smooth photographic bottom not only enhances the work visually, but also creates a contrast to the touch. The embossed titles further enhance the tactile experience. There are many cookbooks I like to read – a very few that inspire long study of food photography – but how many do I like to touch? Campion has gone beyond the boundaries of cookbook design to create a new sensory experience of the cookbook. She is a true innovator.
The interior design of the cookbook by Bullet Liongson, with its limited color palate, slightly desaturated color photos, black and whites, and cityscapes exemplifying a pervasive feeling of gray fog, suits the San Francisco bay-front location of The Slanted Door restaurant. The food photography may not pop, but it does blend into a cohesive whole. A food photographer myself, I am always interested in the photographers and techniques of food photography found in cookbooks. Photographer Ed Anderson, known for his work in My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz, has a gritty, masculine, street photojournalist style to his food shots and he is not afraid to show dirty pots and scuffed kitchen floors. His best work seems to be his beautiful landscapes and cityscapes of San Francisco.
As those of us who have written cookbooks for chefs and restaurants know, writing a cookbook is a full-time job and running a restaurant is a full-time job. No chef can do both and the wise ones, like Charles Phan, hire a specialist. Charles Phan made a good decision hiring Janny Hu. The recipes work and Hu successfully created a voice that I, for one, believe is that of Charles Phan. To sublimate one’s own personality and successfully translate that of Chef Phan’s into a voice is a true gift and Janny Hu has done well.
I began eating Vietnamese food in 1980 when the first Vietnamese restaurant opened in New Orleans to serve the some 20,000 Vietnamese located here after the fall of Saigon. I also included a number of Vietnamese restaurants in New Orleans Best Ethnic Restaurants, so I enjoyed exploring Charles Phan’s growth as a restaurateur and comparing it to what my local Vietnamese restaurant friends have done. Charles Phan primarily keeps to traditional Vietnamese dish preparation for his entrees and appetizers. A few of the dishes are more Vietnamese fusion than traditional Vietnamese and I find that they do not work as well as the traditional recipes which have had hundreds of years to develop a flavor profile. For desserts, Phan provides exquisite pastries in the tradition of the French occupation of Vietnam and forgoes the fruit-based desserts so often seen in local restaurants.
His two smartest moves as a restaurateur were to free himself from the tyranny of local soda distributors and his creation of a wine list and a spirits menu totally unrelated to Vietnam. Phan removed the soda guns from his restaurant – an action so without precedent in San Francisco restaurant history that the distributor was not sure what he meant. No well-known commercial sodas at The Slanted Door, rather hand squeezed juices, made to order and combined with small bottles of sparkling soda water in the tradition of Vietnamese soda chanh. Soda chanh, a combination of fresh squeezed lime juice, sugar and club soda, is one of my favorite drinks. Hiring an expert, wine wizard Mark Ellenbogen created the wine list for The Slanted Door. He found that low alcohol wines with some residual sugar and high acidity like a German Riesling worked with spicy Vietnamese dishes and concentrated on whites made from cool-weather grapes and reds with low tannin. For the spirits menu, the fresh squeezed juices of the non-alcoholic beverage menu was a natural springboard for fresh juice and homemade syrup based cocktails with an emphasis on tropical cocktails, extremely well done. The cocktail recipes include cute bits of info. One bit that I did not know is who drank the French 75 in the movie Casablanca. Read the book to find out.
Most impressive, however, is Charles Phan’s story of how he raised capital for his restaurants, avoided double-dealing landlords and used DIY skills to remodel and decorate his restaurants without the all too often amateur look resulting from DIY restaurant design. The Slanted Door provides a fascinating look into the evolution of a restaurant dynasty, some great recipes, some even better cocktail recipes and a romping fun read. If I were to be forced to find a drawback, it is that I would have enjoyed the book much more if I lived in San Francisco and knew Charles Phan personally – but there are always vacations. Traveling to San Francisco soon? Put this book on your to-read list and visit the restaurant while you are there. I know I will. – Ann Benoit
You could get into all sorts of mischief with a few stacks of prop money. $9 for a stack that looks like $10,000 worth of 100 dollar bills.
First off, this leash is incredibly comfortable to hold. You wouldn’t think so by looking at it but I have walked, run, skied and bushwhacked with it in every season and you hardly know it’s there. Part of it is the soft rubber coating on the handle but it’s mostly the moulded shape that snugs right into your palm.
Next, it is very strong. When my 65 lb male Samoyed goes after a squirrel, the half inch wide, spring loaded belt pays out until it reaches the end and whammo: full stop, no problem. I haven’t cracked the case to see how the end of the belt attaches to the reel but it has stood up to this punishment nearly every day for several years now. Of course, this also speaks to how the spring-loaded, stainless steel D clip is fastened to the dog end of the belt: it’s looped through, folded back and crimped with a plastic clamshell.
The leash has an elegant locking-mechanism that works reliably and intuitively by pushing a button with your thumb and then engaging a switch. This locks the belt at whatever length you want, and yep, it holds firm when charging dog meets end of leash. The belt is released just by pushing the switch again. Both setting and releasing the length are easy to do with one gloved hand.
When you run, walk or ski with your dog, the reel constantly pays out and retrieves slack (unless you’ve set the lock) so the belt rarely gets tangled the way other leashes can. This adjusts for both human arm swinging as well as for various dog movements. I sometimes clip the Flexi onto my belt, which frees up both hands for hiking or ski poles, or for carrying stuff.
Finally, it is almost completely silent. Impressive that in all seasons, with the belt getting wet, dirty and freezing, it has not developed the slightest squeak. -- Tam Stewart