Showing posts with label Art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Art. Show all posts

Friday, November 2, 2018

Collage Workshop for Kids by Shannon Merenstein

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Not to be confused with College Workshop for kids (which I just made up), this is collage workshop aimed at a young audience! Kids love to do this kind of thing and it was interesting to me because I've been toying with an idea of doing a collage episode of my Little Rattuses series (which I'll then of course have to photograph since I'm not going to create a score of original collage books to sell! LOL! So while you never always know where you'll get good ideas and tips - which is why it's a good idea to read lots and keep your eyes open, you do now, because this book is full of them!

The book contains everything you need to know - the supplies you'll have to bring yourself! But once you have them, this book will tell you - and your kids - in easy, illustrated steps how to turn them into some pretty cool collages that any young child would be thrilled by and proud of. You can create anything in collage, and make it look pretty darned real by choosing the right materials, and once you get the bug, you can move on to creating your own entirely original collages. I commend this book as a fun adventure which will teach kids to be creative and leave them with some nice art skills and a wealth of confidence. Plus who knows - maybe a new hobby, too? Or even a career!

How to Think Like an Absolute Genius by Philippe Brasseur, Virginie Berthemetv

Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I have to say up front that I wasn't impressed by this book. For one reason it was overwhelmingly white male - as though there are so few examples of other genders and ethnicities that the author couldn't find them. I call bullshit on that. He simply didn't look, and instead of finding a diversity of modern cutting-edge exemplars, it seems he took the lazy route and fell back on historical figures.

The book is divided into three sections, the first, 'Be Curious', is all white males. The second, 'Be Imaginative', is all white males. The third, 'Be Determined', is all white males save two token people: Martin Luther King and Agatha Christie, but what is the point of being determined if authors determinedly exclude you in books like this? Each individual section had up to half-a-dozen 'also-ran' names listed, but again these were overwhelmingly white men - around sixty of them, and white women - around forty, with a literal handful men and women of color. This book needs to be shunned on that basis alone. I'm surprised the publisher allowed it to be published like this in this day and age.

Even with the white folks, the author talked only about the positive, like every one of these people was a paragon. He never brought up anything negative about his heroes, such as that Einstein made a major blunder in his calculations precisely because he did not have the courage of his convictions, or about Charlie Chaplin's predilection for juvenile females, or America's darling Edison (barf), who cruelly electrocuted animals for no other reason than to try to 'prove' that his rival Tesla's AC power transmission system was dangerous and Edison's own limp DC current was the only intelligent way to go. Guess who won?

Edison was not a genius. A genius does not blindly try out hundreds of filaments to figure out how to make a light work. In fact Edison wasn't actually the one who tried all those - he had his more than likely underpaid workforce do all the work. Maybe that was his genius: getting others to labor for him while he took all the credit? But the real genius was the guy who invented the light bulb before Edison 'did': Sir Joseph Wilson Swan. Can we not find better inspiration and better, more diverse people to seek to emulate than these? I refuse to believe we cannot.

The short response to this title is: No, you can't teach someone to be a genius. The problem is that part of it is nature, which is really hard to change unless you become the scientist who does figure out how to change that. The other part though, is nurture and it's highly malleable, especially in young children.

In short you can encourage people to think in ways that might lead to important insights and inventions, but just as with a horse being led to water, you can only do so much. That doesn't mean you can't be inspired by those who have gone before, but it's a lot easier to be inspired by someone who is in some way like you, and the majority of people on this planet are not white males - they're half female and largely non-white! I cannot commend this book at all. It's entirely wrong-headed, unless the author really only wants white male children to be moved by it.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Anna at the Art Museum by Hazel Hutchins, Gail Herbert, Lil Crump

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was an amusing and entertaining Canadian production written by Hutchins and Herbert. It's also educational story for young children, with an enterprising young main character who is on a trip to the art museum and is not onboard with this idea at all!

She's bored in the foyer before they even start looking at these classical paintings and sculptures, and she's constantly finding herself getting berated by the security guard for being too noisy, or for touching the exhibits, or for eating in the museum. It's enough to make her scream (and I really enjoyed the page featuring Edvard Munch's Der Schrei der Natur) but then something changes and Anna gets to see a little of the inner workings of the museum.

For me this was a bit of a stretch that this would bring about a magical change, but art is in fact magical so I let that slide without any problem. Now Anna sees art in a new way and relates it to nature and everything is sweet! Finally she appreciates these things she's been seeing, but not really seeing before, on the walls all around her.

Lil Crump's artwork is amazing and skillful and if that doesn't win over a kid then I don't know what will! Her depiction of the actual classical paintings is wonderful. She definitely beats my parodies in The Very Fine-Art Rattuses so if I had a hat, I'd take it off to her! I think this book was wonderful. It teaches a valuable lesson and makes for some fine entertainment. One of the real joys of this book is that Anna is not only depicted as a person of color, but as part of a mixed race family, and this is very rare in children's books, so the story is to be commended on that score too. Now that I've commended it, I can recommend it as a worthy read!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Essential Art History by Paul Duro, Michael Greenhalgh

Rating: WORTHY!

Now back to some books I can get behind! I recently published the sixth in my own Little Rattuses series for children and insane adults like myself. Titled The Very Fine-Art Rattuses, the book aimed at teaching a smattering of fine art to young children. Arts are all too often forgotten in our ridiculous addiction to sports in the USA, and it's important not to lose them or lose sight of them, especially in young children! A book like this, while not itself aimed at children, is useful for anyone who wants to know more, or, like me, seeks to include art in a novel, and make it look like they know what they're talking about! Now you know my secret! I don't paper over the cracks, I paint over them!

This three-hundred-some page paperback is a literal A-Z of art terminology, a virtual encyclopedia of everything from Abbozzo (not to be confused with a bozo) to Zola, Émile (not to be confused with a bozo). I recommend this for anyone who wants a handy art book to hand, but note that this book is text only - it carries zero illustrations. This book may know a lot about art, but it doesn't show what it's like! This may strike you as odd, but it would be ten times as thick if it had illustrated the terminology, and imagery is all over the Internet these days anyway for reference purposes. I recommend it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Night Dragon by Naomi Howarth

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I recently favorably reviewed this artist's book Tug of War. I had slightly mixed feelings about that, but this book is not so much an order of magnitude greater, as it is in a different universe. It's a pure pleasure to read.

For some reason, this book did not want to download from Net Galley, but I'm glad I persisted. After three attempts it finally came down - dragons are like that! - and it turned out to be one of the most gorgeously-illustrated children's books I've ever read.

The cover looks like it's lit with neon lights, and the interior is one breathtaking image after another. Maud is a rainbow joy especially when compared with the earth tomes of the other dragons. I read this in my iPad, but out of curiosity I downloaded it to my iPhone too, and it still looked good on there although the text is too small to read without stretching the image on the screen, but the pictures are worth having in your pocket!

Maud is a very shy night dragon and while her four colleagues (they're not really friends) launch every evening to spew out soot and darken the sun for night time, Maud sits and dreams. Her only true friend is the mouse who urges her to fly, but Maud is shy.

One afternoon the other four dragons have a party - Maud isn't invited it needles to say - and afterwards the others are so sleepy that they fail to awaken to start the night. It's all up to Maud! It turns out that Maud really isn't like the other dragons after all. Instead of sooty, dark sunsets, she breathes out the most fiery orange, startling yellow, deep red, heliotrope, and gold sunsets you ever saw. She flies all around the world delivering this brilliant bounty of beauty, and finally comes into her own - as any artist will given sufficient encouragement and support!

I loved this book and I recommend it as a worthy read for children young and old.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Drawing Cute with Katie Cook by Katie Cook

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This book is an awesome introduction to illustrating, aimed at younger children. And even adults for that matter who might want to get into the fun business of creating a cute children's book. I had never heard of Katie Cook, but despite looking barely older than a teen herself, she's a mature illustrator who has worked on a variety of projects for, for example, Marvel comics and on My Little Pony, so she's well-known in the business for her illustration skills.

She should also be known for her writing skills since she's also a writer and her comments throughout this book were hilarious and it was worth reading it just for those. The illustrations are really the cherry on top though, because in a handful of steps she shows how to create a bewildering variety of images of animals (would that be bewilderbeasts?), assorted inanimate objects, sports and hobbies, and food - which seems to be a special favorite of hers despite her trim figure. Maybe Cook isn't just a name?!

The steps are easy. As she says, if you can draw a potato, you can draw anything, and anything and everything populates these pages. The chapters cover Animals, Foodstuff, Hobbies and Sports, Holidays and Seasons, and Handy-Dandy Objects. There's getting on for a hundred thirty pages of illustration, and each page contains about two things to draw, including domestic and wild animals, flying and swimming animals, cute and scary animals, and even fantasy animals. And insects and arachnids are animals, remember, no matter how much you might want to dissociate yourself from that end of the family.

There are cakes and ice creams, teapots and milk cartons, pineapples and avocados. You'll like her grapes a bunch! When you see her apples you'll say "Core!" Drawing peppers will no doubt ring a bell. The broccoli looks very cubby, but it's with the sandwiches that you'll earn your bread. Okay, enough pun-ishment! There are also kayaks and racquets*, knitting and football, jigsaws and books - enough to keep you busy making variations on a theme until before long, you're launching into your own original drawings in short-order Cook style! (Okay, I lied about the puns).

I really liked this, the drawings are good and simple enough for anyone to follow and create your own. The results are very cute, just as the title promises. The supporting text is, well, supportive, and funny, and this book makes for a great gift! If there's one thing we really do need, it's a lot more talented illustrators, especially of cute, and from a diverse background. This book is a great way to encourage that and I recommend it.

*Isn't racquet a weird word? Seriously? Who would even think up a word like that? Just sayin'.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Imagine a World by Rob Gonsalves

Rating: WORTHY!

This is volume four in a series. I have not seen the others, but if this is anything like the previous three were, then it's an epic series and an awesome book to give to a child. The only problem with it is that it is not very ethnically diverse.

Each page consists of a large double page image, all of them done in the manner of Maurits Escher. If you're familiar with his work, you will know the kind of thing to expect here, but this is aimed at younger set, and will definitely draw children in so much that they might not wonder why a person with a wonderfully diverse name like Rob Gonsalves doesn't incorporate more of it into his illustrations. Among the author's influences were Dali, Escher, and Magritte. I recommend this for the artwork.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Why Cats Paint by Heather Busch, Burton Silver

Rating: WORTHY!

I'm not a big cat fan, that is, I am not a big fan of cats, but when I saw this book I had to take a look at it. My conclusion is that either these two authors are either high amongst the most tongue-in-cheek authors ever, or they're dangerously delusional. I shall be charitable and go with the first of those options, mainly because I share their evident opinion that the art world is just as bad as the fashion world for being puffed-up, vacuous, and ridiculous.

Seen in that light, this book, subtitled "A theory of feline aesthetics" is brilliant, and I salute the authors. The tone is pitch perfect, the images gorgeous, and the overall effect hilarious. Cats are not the only animals that paint. By 'paint' I mean daub a surface with color. Chimpanzees and elephants do it, rhinos and meerkats (Google's idiot spell checker wanted to change that latter to 'marketeers' LOL!), raccoons and pigs, goats and lemurs, parrots, and even seals, and not just at Easter (or estrus)!

Employing the word 'paint' suggests a purpose. Do they have a purpose? Clearly it attracts them, but what exactly is going on in their sub-human brains remains to be seen. Something does however compel animals to daub the paint, yet no one can possibly know what's going on in the animals' mind, except, of course, these two authors who deliberate over it and quote references, and have a high old time extolling both art and artist!

I recommend this not only because it's intriguing that animals do this, but because of the images of the artists, which are charming and adorable, and also the art itself, which is inspiring for anyone who, like me, who all to often thinks he can neither paint nor draw. I recommend the book as a coffee table book, a reading book and a guaranteed conversation-starter.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Ghost Of Gaudí by El Torres, Jesús Alonso Iglesias

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a Net Galley offering which was in the 'Read Now' category. That Category can be a mixed bag, but I have found some real gems there, and this was another one - an award winning comic which seems to have been sadly under-served primarily because it was not an American comic. Or maybe people simply have not heard of Antoni Gaudí, architect of the Sagrada Família, the most-visited monument in Spain?

So what was refreshing about this was that it was not set in the USA. Sometimes I think writers in the USA forget there is an entire planet out there, most of which isn't USA. This was set in Barcelona, so not only did we get to visit somewhere that was well off the beaten path (in terms of story settings we commonly see in graphic novels in the US), but also which told an engaging and intriguing story.

In Barcelona, murder victims begin showing up and a problematic investigator is having trouble convincing people that the murders are somehow tied to the architectural creations of Gaudí. As he tries his best to track down the perp on his side, a woman who saves an old man from being hit by a vehicle in the street and becomes injured herself, finds she is somehow now involved in these crimes. Did she save Gaudí's ghost? Is there even a ghost? If not, what was her experience all about, and who is committing these crimes - and why?

The story is just the right length, with just the right amount of freakishness and normality to blend into a great story set in a beautiful-looking city. The artwork is wonderful, and I really enjoyed this. I recommend it as a worthy read.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Park Bench by Christophe Chabouté

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I had never heard of Christophe Chabouté, but after "reading" Park Bench, I am a fan! I put reading in quotes because there's nothing to read! It's all art, all pictures, no interpretation necessary - a truly international work in some senses (see caveat in penultimate paragraph). Almost all the action takes place around the titular public seat in a park. Just by watching this one locale through the lens that the author provides us, we see a microcosm of life.

We see people who use the bench and we see those who don't even see the bench. We see friendship and antagonism, love and abuse, and a persistent dog which is determined to claim this territory for its own! I particularly loved the scene in the snow where we don't even see the dog - only its footprints.

That's the genius of this. At first, when I started to look through it, I kept wondering if this was it, and then I realized it's not only it; it's everything. Naturally, the first impression is that speech is missing, but that's intentional. The one thing that was truly missing is the sense of the passage of time. I don't know if that was intentional or not.

Yes, we see the occasional season now and then, but do we see years? Are we meant to? That's the only explanation for the remarkable phenomenon which slipped right by me, mesmerized as I was by the images, until the author hit me over the head with it at the end!

I loved this, I thought it was brilliant, amusing, engaging, and really, really well done. The artwork is exquisite and detailed, and evocative. The French cop actually looked so French it rather removed it from its cosmopolitan flavor for those few frames, but everyone else could have been anywhere else - anywhere that's largely white and western that is, because there were few people of color visiting this park. That, I think, was an omission, but no doubt there are parks like this. Donald Trump probably lives near one.

But I am not going to quibble over that when the rest of it was so perfect. Not this time. I recommend this.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Rogues' Gallery by Philip Hook

Rating: WORTHY!

This was an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher!

It was also a fascinating study of art dealership over the centuries (yes, centuries!), focusing on some of the main characters of the last two or three hundred years, and their modi operandi. It's also, in parallel, a study of greed, avarice and capitalism at its worst. I found it engrossing, and was pleased to see that one of my pet peeves about scholarly works like this: that they have margins far too wide, and text lines far too widely-spaced, and are thereby abusive to trees, circumvented in this case, because the margins were not ridiculously wide and the text was quite finely spaced, so you see? It can be done! Kudos to the author and publisher for achieving this.

Of course, none of that matters if the book is only to be released as an ebook, but usually these works are not, so this is important. In fact, one of only two complaints I might make is that this book it did not work as an ebook because it was in PDF format which is not ebook-friendly unless you read it on a reasonably large tablet or on a laptop or desktop computer.

On a smart phone, the text is far too small to read comfortably, and if you try to "stretch" the screen to enlarge it, it takes forever to get the fit right, and then you can't swipe to the next screen without reducing the text again! It was a real irritation. Another issue was that the PDF format did not lend itself to reading in "night mode" wherein the screen colors are inverted so the text is white and the page is black.

This is actually my preferred mode to read, and it's a great way to save energy (by reducing battery use so recharges are required less frequently), but it doesn't work with this because what happens is that the screen colors are quite literally inverted - not just the text, but also the images, so instead of looking at gray-scale photographs of people or art works, you're looking at photographic negatives. I think publishers have a long way to go before they can say they're in the ebook book business - and have that claim sound intelligent!

The other complaint I originally had was circumvented in one away but exacerbated in another! It was initially to be that the biggest problem with the book was that, for a work which talks about paintings, it was curiously lacking in pictures of them! In fact there are pictures, and in color, but they are set together in the middle of the book rather than appearing close to the text that references them. Again this is because the book as designed as a print book, not as an ebook.

There are also pictures of some of the characters brought to life here, but these are in gray-scale imagery. When I also saw a couple of pictures in that format too, I had feared this was all I would get, and not even at their best because of the lack of color, but I need not have worried because between pages 160 and 177 there is satisfaction to be had. It only served to leave me wanting more though.

If there is to be an ebook version of this, then it would have been a real joy to have had links directly in the text to an online source for color images of the paintings which are discussed. This would be a perfect use of an ebook, especially since I am also greedy when it comes to wanting to see everything that's talked about. Again this leads me to believe this was produced solely with thought to the print market and not to the electronic market, which begs the question as to why the review copy is being distributed in electronic from? It made little sense to me and did no justice to either the print version or to the e-version if there ever is to be one. But I have to blame the publisher, rather than the writer, for this! it did make me decide not to request any books of this nature for review in future. I don't think it's possible to adequately review a book designed for print by means of an electronic version of it when it contains art work as this one does.

But let's look at the writing because to me, that's typically far more important than anything else. This book focuses on the last four or five hundred years, becoming more detailed as we get into the twentieth century, but it reaches even as far back as ancient Grecian times, so it is very wide-ranging.

Art dealing is nothing new, but those dealers from yesteryear can scarcely have imagined the kinds of sums that modern art dealers routinely deal in, not when a dealer sells a picture in the USA and immediately claims $300 is the highest price that will ever be paid for a painting in America! LOL! Even in Victorian times, there were large sums of money exchanging hands in one direction as paintings moved in the other. Some of these characters, such as Joe Duveen, were both notorious and well-liked, others were merely notorious. For at least one character, his love of his partner's wife evidently exceeded his love of art, and this queered his pitch in a serious way in time.

Another dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, who almost single-handedly brought Impressionist works into the spotlight when no one else gave them the time of day was an intriguing guy. The names of the people he personally knew are impressive: Degas, Monet, Manet, Pissaro, Renoir, and so on. It's pretty odd to think someone knew all of those guys and such a relationship would be a lot harder to have today, when artists names are not so legendary as those past masters.

There are controversial issues discussed here, too, such as how maligned should be those art dealers who dealt with the Nazis? On the one hand, they rescued paintings that would probably have been destroyed, since the Nazis considered them deviant. On the other hand, those who rescued the paintings by buying them from the Nazi art dealers (and others), were helping to fund that evil cult even as they preserved the paintings. Were they good or bad or were they, like the pictures of the people featured in this book - in a gray area?!

The author makes some fascinating observations and interesting points, and he's not afraid to ask awkward questions about dealers or about dealing in general. Does it really make it better to say that pictures are sources and placed rather bought or sold, for example?! It may rob the transaction of its 'filthy lucre' connotations, but does it really sanitize those transactions?

I should probably say before I close out this review, that I'm not widely knowledgeable about art, nor do I consider myself even remotely an expert on the topic. I'm not an artist either, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate a book like this or learn something from it.

So while I can very much enjoy works of art, I can also see both sides of this world - the appreciative side, and the cynical side. What I think is that art is a very personal thing, and its most personal for all of course, for to the artist. Anyone beyond that artist who talks about art is doing it purely from their own perspective, not from any objective and authoritative position. Anyone who wants a laugh at the expense of art critics (not the same as dealers per se, but definitely in a parallel line of "business", they should look up Pierre Brassau in wikipedia.

On a related note, When we have a director of a state museum of art, Katja Schneider, mistaking a painting done by a chimpanzee, for a work by the artist Ernst Nay, it serves only to highlight how very personal a world this is, and sometimes i honestly have to wonder if any of these people really have a clue what they're talking about!

That Impressionism, which is today renowned, had to be kick-started against opposition for example, poses questions about what is art, who determines this, how the quality of one picture over another is to be honestly and fairly judged, and how some works get to become all but priceless, whereas others which to someone like me, seem every much the same, cannot even command a price. This book helped with some of those questions (it comes down to trust as often as it does dissimulation it would seem!), but it also raised others, and that's fine with me; ideal in fact!

Overall, I do recommend this for anyone interested in art and art history. It makes for an engrossing insight into the past, and into the world of the dealer, As well as into artists and dealers themselves, and the shifting, often contentious, yet at other times endearing and heartwarming relationship between them, and into people struggling to make a living, and those with more money than sense!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Trick of the Eye by Silke Vry

Rating: WORTHY!

There's not much to say about this book with a poetic title except that it's an awesome example of illusion and inventive art. Subtitled 'Art and Illusion', the book demonstrates handsomely that deceptive imagery in art is not anything new: it's been done for years - centuries, even.

This book has some eighty pages of examples from works by people like Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Robert Campin, Salvador Dali, MC Escher, Hubert and Jan van Eyck, Lucas Furtenagel, Vince van Gogh, Hans Holbein, Samuel van Hoogstraten, René Magritte, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Andrea Pozzo, George Seurat, Jan Vermeer, Paolo Veronese, and Leonardo da Vinci as well as a host of more modern artists, including Banksy.

It covers not only works of art, but also objects, including the Acropolis of Athens, and offers some do-it-yourself illusions in the end pages. I recommend this for anyone who enjoys illusions and art

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Art of Atari by Tim Lapetino

Rating: WORTHY!

I was really pleased with this book, for which advance review copy, I thank the publisher!

I don't see this as being widely or wildly popular, but it will definitely appeal to anyone who's ever had an interest in Atari. I never owned one of their gaming boxes, but I am familiar with their computers, particularly the 520 ST which was quite the sensation in some computer circles, although the sensation quickly died.

I found it odd that this computer was not featured in the book, but the book focused nearly exclusively on games and on Artari's heyday, and in particular on the artwork accompanying the games, featured either on the box or in the manual. The artwork on the computer screen was abysmal by today's standards, but it was successful in its time because no-one knew any better, and it was the best that computers could do until Commodore came along with its wildly successful 64.

The artwork on the boxes and manuals though, was another world. It served the purpose of course, of firing up the imagination of kids (young and old) who evidently didn't care about the huge discrepancy between the resolution of the art on the box and the blocky 8-bit game that came inside! That discrepancy isn't mentioned in the book, but the art is given the adulation it deserves. There are interviews with the people who did the work, along with a potted history of Atari and the company's spectacular growth and subsequent fall into financial difficulties and obscurity even as the distinctive logo lived on.

The artist profiles include such names as Marc Erikson, Rick Guidice, Steve Hendricks, Terry Hoff, James Kelly, and Cliff Spohn. Usually in something like this it seems to be all white guys, but that wasn't the case here, interestingly enough. There were guys of Asian ancestry such as Hiro Kimura, and Warren Chang, and also several girls involved in these various enterprises, including one who was an engineer. Go engineering girls! Names such as Sharon Ashton, Susan Jaekel and Evelyn Seto are deservedly celebrated along with the unnamed woman who banned a highly questionable illustration for Atari's Haunted House Game!

As for the artwork itself, it's remarkable in how consistently strong it is, as well as consistently varied! I loved it and envied it. I think this book works as a trip down memory lane, as a coffee table art book, and as a history of a corporation that really brought a change to people's lives in the field of leisure activity as well as in corporate culture. It may surprise you to learn that Steve Jobs once worked at Atari. No kidding!

And what of the games? There are too many to list, but all the old favorites are here: Air-Sea battle, Breakout, Centipede, Donkey Kong, E.T., Food Fight, Galaga, Home Run, Indy 500, Joust, Krull, Mario Brothers, Night Driver, Oscar's Trash Race, Pac-Man, Qix, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Space invaders, Tetris, Ultra PONG,Video Pinball, Wizards, and Yars' Revenge, along with mentions of some unreleased games such as Dukes of Hazzard. One thing which particularly interested me was the story of the Atari burial at Alamogordo. I'd seen a documentary about this ( Atari: Game Over.), and it was fun to read the article.

I really liked this book, and I recommend it. It comes with a foreword, an afterword, end notes, and an extensive index. There's an article here (or at least there was when I first blogged this!) which will give you a feel for the work. Game on!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Evo by Jurian Moller

Rating: WARTY!

Evo is one continuous page, concertina folded, depicting the path of life from the earliest wiggling notochord through to modern humans. It's very expensive and teaches nothing, but if you like dramatic works of art, then this one is for you, I guess! You can get a sneak peek at I can't recommend this unless you have to have everything to do with evolution or unless you really like expensive coffee table books!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Leonardo da Vinci 14 Classic Images in 3-D

Title: Leonardo da Vinci 14 Classic Images in 3-D
Rating: WORTHY!

  • A skull from Anatomical Manuscipt B
  • A rib cage from Anatomical Studies of the Human Skeleton
  • Arm musculature form Studies of the Arm
  • Vitruvian Man
  • Sketches for detail from an altar piece for the Florentine Church
  • Portait of Lisa del Giacondo
  • The Last Supper
  • The Virgin and Child with St Anne
  • Cecilia Gallerani (Lady With an Ermine)
  • Treadwheel with Four Crossbows
  • Vertically Standing Bird's Winged Flying Machine
  • Giant Crossbow and War Machine
  • Studies for a Building on a Centralized Plan
  • Archimedes Screw and Water Wheel

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Art of 5TH Cell by Joe Tringal and Edison Yan

Title: The Art of 5TH Cell
Artist: Joe Tringali
Artist: Edison Yan
Publisher: Udon Entertainment
Rating: WORTHY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often reward aplenty!

In my sweet innocence, I was totally unaware of what this actually was when I requested to read what I thought was a graphic novel - maybe about graffiti artists(!). I didn't know that it was merely artwork from a video game developer named 5th Cell! Oops! My kids, of course, immediately related to it and enjoyed the sample images I showed them (which appear in my blog). At least one of them would probably be happy as a lark were he to end up in a career like the one which Joe Tringal or Edison Yan made for themselves!

5th cell is a decade-old company which has developed games like Mini Poccha, SEAL Team 6 (which actually doesn't exist in real life!) and Siege, working under license, but which then moved on to developing their own games, including the innovative Drawn to Life which is a game where the player can draw their own hero and world on the Nintendo DS touch-pad.

This book is a sampler of the artwork which 5th Cell created for their games - from characters to environments to weapons, to animals, and so on, and while I can appreciate the artwork, for me it wasn't enough. Whether you like it, hate it or adore it, the artwork is static and flat. What I would have liked to have seen, and what I had hoped for (once I realized what this was!), was some text to go along with the art: maybe some details - even brief ones - about how this art was translated into a dynamic video game. How they created their games, how they got the ideas, There is none of that. All we get is page after page after page of these characters in rank and file, and scenes, and oodles of weapons, which really isn't that interesting after the first few pages! Not to me anyway.

If you're a die-hard fan of 5th Cell's art and/or their video games, then this might well be your dream graphic book, but I see no enduring value to it otherwise, not as it is, and I can't recommend this as a worthy read since there's really nothing to read, and honestly not all that much to look at.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Drawing Amanda by Stephanie Feuer

Title: Drawing Amanda
Author: Stephanie Feuer
Publisher: Hipsomedia
Rating: WORTHY!

Ably illustrated by SY Lee

I like that the title of the novel has two meanings here. It reminds me of my own novel Tears in Time, which can be understood in two different ways.

Michael 'Inky' Kahn missed a chance at art school, where all his friends went, because he became a chronic slacker after his father died. Now he has a chance to sign-up with a video-game start-up and get in on the ground floor designing a new online game. The interface is creepy, but Inky is young, naïve, and foolish, and still grieving over the death of his father eighteen months before. He doesn’t think twice. He doesn’t even think once.

Inky has a best friend still remaining at the New York international school which he attends, but his friend simply doesn't work for me. "Rungs" (an abbreviation of his long Thai family name) is too much. I found myself asking why didn’t this author make the Asian the main character instead of the trope YAWASP which we get - a trope augmented by a clichéd 'foreign' and 'cool' friend? The sad attempt to have Rungs speak in hip abbreviations is a fail, too, especially since each time he uses one, it’s followed by an immediate translation which is just an admission that this isn't working. It looks stupid and amateur.

That aside, the plot was different. The online game is, of course a complete fraud. It's merely a front for a psycho to get his hands on teen-aged girls, but I don’t get why he chooses online gaming, which is typically not the purview of young girls. Yes, they do play games, but they tend not to favor the same games which boys do, and this premise is that the game is in development - it’s not actually up and running - so why would teenage girls (as opposed to boys) flock to this site? It makes no sense.

Having said that, the story and writing in general wasn't too bad at all, and the female love interest here, Amanda Valdez Bates, who is also disaffected, but for reasons different from Inky's, does show up at this site and starts interacting with the psycho guy. She also begins interacting with Inky at school, so the story was quite nicely woven at this point. Inky starts sending sketches to the guy "Woody" behind the Megaland game, and one of these is of Amanda. Inky doesn't realize that he's putting his new acquaintance directly into harm's way by using her as his muse.

That's all I'm telling you! I liked this despite those issues I described, because it was in general, well written, it contained a scattering of artwork to fit the story (this is not a graphic novel, just a novel with some graphics!), which was unusual and appreciated, and apart from the ridiculous best friend which Inky had, the characters were decently fleshed out and believable. I liked the premise and the novel overall, so I recommend this one.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Ink by Amanda Sun

Title: Ink
Author: Amanda Sun
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I have neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" ebook, supplied by Net Galley! I will be reviewing others of this nature in future and will note which ones those are in the review.

Please note that I am not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration of any kind for this review. Since this is a new novel, I don't feel comfortable going into anywhere near as much detail over it as I have with the older books I've been reviewing, so this is shorter, but most probably still be more detailed than you'll usually find elsewhere!

Yes, I'm reading a Harlequin book! The shame! The book looked really interesting from the information on Netgalley. I guess I learned my lesson! I should have been suspicious when I saw that the illustration on the cover looks suspiciously like the author! Oh, and good luck (or look, maybe in this case?) trying to find this novel on the Harlequin Teen web site. I don't know if they're embarrassed by this novel, or if they simply have the worst search engine ever, but this book isn't to be found on their web site, and neither is Amanda Sun, so what she's gushing thanks to them for is somewhat of a mystery. And if anyone can explain what "...the incredible detail they've paid to INK." means exactly, I'd appreciate it. Is that a direct translation from the Japanese?!

That's not the only time that the English language runs away with her. Check out these examples:

"He rested a hand on my shoulder and it sent a jolt through my body to feel his fingers closing around me, to feel the warmth of the pads of his fingertips." The warmth of the pads of his fingertips?

At one point after Katie and Tomo are rescued, having been kidnapped by the Yakuza and rescued by a Kami employing ink snakes, Katie is concerned about the propriety of closing the doors to the castle in the park?! Honestly?

Here's a classic: "We lay there clinging to each other, knowing the world would tilt if we let go, that without each other, everything would fall out of balance." (Drama llama much, Katie?!)

What? Yes, I'm snarky! Amanda Sun had done everything right: she'd taken the story out of the USA and set it in Japan and she'd introduced a supernatural mystery. It’s always a fun thing to bring in new culture, and new experiences, but then after all of this, she had to invite along the standard bad-boy-hot-guy, whose hair is seriously in danger of impaling his eyeballs, and have him clashing with the fem protag from the off?

Why start this out in such a great way only to bury it under a liberal slathering of Trope du Ya (which is ironically and poetically reminiscent of the liters of ink in which Yuu Tomohito's himself seems to be drowning!)? Here's a sample: "He looked over at me and grinned, the breeze twisting his spiky hair in and out of his deep brown eyes. I almost melted on the spot." I detest book burning, but honestly if the books were like this, I could actually understand the Nazi passion for immolating them.

I'm really hoping right now that we can get a decent story out of this. The premise was great. I even put up with the absurdly overdone drama of the magical cherry blossom picnic, but to have Katie Greene, the sixteen-year-old fem pro act like an airhead, limp rag, thirteen-year-old was too much. Has she no self-respect? And what’s with the melodramatic agonizing over how her life is so tragic because of this horrible pressure which she apparently suffers from living in a great foreign nation layered in history, learning a new and fascinating culture, along with a new, sweet, and elegant language? It's a bit much, frankly, and Will Smith's son already did it in The Karate Kid. but at least I learned a few things from this novel. There's a glossary in the back which taught me that Che Guevara, in Japan, would be known as Dammit Guevara! That's worth knowing, but I was disturbed by the similarity of Suki, which means "I like you" and Tsuki, which means a hit to the throat. There's too much room for confusion there!

But back to our story in progress. For Katie to obsess over this Tomo guy to the point of quite literally stalking him when everything she knows about him is bad, and not just bad, but abusively bad (even as she contemplates how shallow she is!) endeared me neither to the tale nor to her! Tomo-Boy has cruelly ditched his girlfriend, he's apparently got another girl pregnant, he badly cut-up his best friend several years ago and then fled to avoid punishment, and he's a bully.

Whether all these things turned out to be exactly what they immediately appeared to be or not, is immaterial: the fact is that this is what she knows about him at that point, yet she's still stupid enough to follow him around, trilling like a love-struck guinea pig. If we had a male protag tailing a girl around like that, spying on her, it would rightly be perceived as creepy at best and threatening at worst, so why is it perfectly permissible for a female to act like this? Has she no decency Ms. Sun? Has she at last, no sense of decency?

I had an early wish that the supernatural aspects of Ink would rescue the unnatural aspects! It was the only reason I was pressing on with this, but it got no better. It wasn't all as bad as the lack of continuity between page 98 where her aunt needed the bike (which she had loaned to Katie so she could stalk the bad guy into the worst areas of the town) for Monday, but on Monday on page 99, Katie still has the bike! So was her aunt taken for a ride, or was Katie just recycling?!

Katie uses the bike on more than one occasion to stalk Tomohito, and into some dangerous locales in the town (that's where she sees him bullying another guy on behalf of his friend, so naturally she falls in love with him). What a blind, clueless, loser Katie is! She has no (intelligent) reason whatsoever for liking him (especially not with those grotesque spikes of hair sticking painfully in his eyeballs like cocktail sticks into silverskin onions...). Since she's seen drawings done by him actually move on the page (and off it!), she has to know that there's something distinctly weird going on with him, or there's something distinctly delusional going on with her, which means she should definitely not be making potentially dangerous decisions about whom she should hang with! But he's hot and has spikes of hair in his eyeballs, so what's not to like?!

So finally milady doth stalk too much methinks and ends up being abducted (that is, having her abs re-routed through a system of ducts, along with the rest of her body) to a Yakuza hang-out, where, of course, the Yakuza hang out. Is 'Yakuza' like sheep - both the singular and the plural? I'd ask them but I'm a bit sheepish. I think it's a verb: Ya, Yak, Yaku, Yakuz, Yakuza, Yowzer! Anyway, they fail, of course, to abduct her phone from her, and she calls a friend to help, but wouldn't you know it, she accidentally calls the other guy in her triangle (and you thought it was her five! Wrong! It's always a three in YA), who Juns to her aid revealing that he is also a Kami (with the emphasis on khasi), and he busts her loose before loosening her bust no doubt. I must admit, this little twist did pick things up a bit, but I fear this story is too far gone for a rescue of this nature to save it.

In the end I did make it to the end, but it was nothing but an annoying pain in the neck and I'm now officially and permanently done with this series of paper novels. Life is too short to waste it on this limp of an effort. If you feel you must pursue this novel yourself, you do it at your own risk!

One thing you might do to entertain yourself (if you get bored with the number of times she talks about Tomo's hair banging into his eyes), is to consider how many times Sun uses keitai (which is nothing but the Japanese word for cell phone!) in place of simply using 'cell phone'. She behaves as though keitai is something fundamentally different or magically special, but there's no intelligent or logical reason to use it. If there's no English equivalent for the word then by all means use it, but to employ it for pretentious reasons only, is a big turn off to me.

You can survive the excruciation of reading this if you imagine keitai to be a euphemism for something sexual. This made the novel far more entertaining, and was the only reason I got through the last one hundred pages! Here are some examples:

  • When my keitai chimed, I grabbed for it gratefully.
  • In my bathroom, I took out my keitai…
  • I’d forgotten to put my keitai in manner mode…
  • I closed my keitai and shoved it back in my bag.
  • He pulled out his keitai…
  • His palm opened slowly and the keitai dropped to the floor...
  • Then his keitai rang again, spewing rainbow colors across the floor.
  • Okay, I said, pulling out my keitai…
  • My keitai beeped with his info.
  • A buzzing noise sounded in my purse. My keitai.
  • I sat down with a bowl of shrimp chips and flipped open my keitai.
  • You could try his keitai.
  • The sound of my keitai beeping woke me the next morning. I rubbed my eyes until they turned red.
  • …although he hadn't tried my keitai yet…
  • I screamed at my brain to think. My keitai.
  • The ink and blood dripped off my wrist and onto my keitai.
  • Tomo, I said, flipping my keitai open and closed again…
  • I grabbed the keitai putting it beside his face, then breathed out in relief.
  • I lifted the keitai out of my pocked and saw him hunched over in the dim light.
  • Are you okay, he said, and my keitai blinked out.
  • My keitai went off in the middle of the night.
  • How phallic is this: Then he pulled out his keitai, the little kendo warrior swinging back and forth on his phone strap!