Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reading is sexy XLII

{image 'Robot Reading' by CarlosNCT} The themes of my reading lately seem to be mass consumerism, war, environmental degradation (see mass consumerism), people stranded waiting for their boat to come in and robots. I don't know why.

Also, I've left this too long and these books aren't as fresh in my mind, but here goes nothing.

36. White Noise by Don Delillo. I got the 25th Anniversary Edition (by Deluxe Classics - incidentally, one with a beautifully illustrated cover and elegant design), which I mention because it does stand up 25 years later. It does seem farsighted (with the exception perhaps of the state of air travel, which Delillo did not foresee) - our world is full of more and more noise. It's a great novel, though hard to categorize. Part academic satire, send up of consumerist society, Big Pharma, television, and government, part environmental warning, both poking fun at the modern 'blended' family while simultaneously gently portraying the relationships and love there, it is also about death, and our obsessions and fears. It follows a year of Prof. Jack Gladney's life (Chair, and inventor of 'Hitler Studies'! at The-College-on-the-Hill, despite ignorance of German). He's on his fourth wive Babette - who teaches breathing in church basements and has a morbid fear of death - with whom he's raising four of their various children and this and previous relationships. Everything from the Airborne Toxic Event to the mysterious drug Dylar manages to be both entertaining and provide insightful commentary on the state of our world. It is a great read.

37. the stone gods by Janette Winterson Before I read David Mitchell's The Cloud Atlas I would have said I had read nothing like it, but now I see parallels in the stone gods. Both are ultimately about how we use and use and use the earth's resources and each other. Both are set in multiple times and places, linked by a manuscript, including the future, and the south Pacific of two centuries past. Both involve robots and the distinctions between natural and created lifeforms. I think if I hadn't read The Cloud Atlas, I would be more impressed with the stone gods, but it is nonetheless an excellent novel, and one of the best I've seen from Winterson. Read it. There are love stories, explorers, space travel - with pirates, robots, literature, Robinson Crusoe, dinosaurs, Easter Island, dystopian future England, woven into an elegantly structured and thought-provoking cautionary tale. She clearly loves stories, but is concerned here with nothing less than the fate of the planet. (And I for one, appreciate that she bothers to be careful and clever with her planetary science).

38. In search of the English by Doris Lessing Lessing provides us with her memoir of moving to post-war England as a young, single mother, and trying to make a go, and to fit in and survive in a working-class neighbourhood. Lessing has a sharp mind, self-deprecating sense of humour, and can - and did - make even a memoir about her cats riveting. This book is no exception.

39. R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) by Karel Čapek Karel Čapek, Czech playwright, introduced the world to the word 'robot' in 1921 with this play, in which he imagines a world where robots have been invented to relieve man of labour. They are grown on a factory on a remote island, and appear to be just like people, but lack emotions. Helena, daughter of the President of some industrialized nation, visits the island with its small group of men and one woman (manager, engineer, physiologist, psychologist, managing director, clerk and maid) with the view of freeing the robots. She is unable to incite rebellion, as they have no emotions, and she falls for Domin, the General Manager. The play continues years further into the future when the robots have spread around the globe, to do all labour, and even work as soldiers, and the creation of 'national robots' foments more war. Human births decline (presumably inspiration for Children of Men). Eventually the now universal robots - slaves- of course, do rebel, and our human characters may be the last of their kind. However, the robots can do everything but reproduce on their own... This is a fascinating play - it is as much about industrialization and the dangers of nationalism (viewed by a far-sighted Czech in the 1920s, known for his fearless campaigns against both Nazism and Communism) as much as its science fiction subject. But it also hits upon the question of what is human, and under what criteria would a machine match a human.

40. Pictor's Metamorphoses by Hermann Hesse This is an odd collection of many 'sort of fairytales' spanning Hesse's entire life. There is, of course, mysticism, Germanic dwarfs, mermen, spirits, metamorphoses and also Mary. I was disappointed that the illustrations by the author, promised in the introduction, did not appear in my translation. I tend to believe that if an author wrote text and intended it to be part of an illustrated whole, that the illustrations are part of the whole. An interesting and unexpected read.

41. The Chess Machine by Robert Löhr, translated from German by Anthea Bell This is a sort of 'intellectual beach book' like the stories of Arturo Perez-Reverte. The Chess Machine, for those of you who aren't history of science, engineering and computing nerds, was an actual automaton, presented by Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen at the Austrian court in Vienna in 1770 - 'The Mechanical Turk'. Except, of course, it was a hoax. The fearsome Turk purported to play chess - invincibly of course. At the time automatons were popular and his rivals produced a mechanized statue which could write and a sort of robot duck (which waddled, ate and well, defecated) and the like. Kempelen however, promised to wow the court, and he succeed with his Turk, a machine which allegedly could think. The novel centres around Tibor, a devout war veteran and dwarf, making his living through chess, whom Kempelen rescues from a Venetian prison and recruits as the hidden brains of the Turk, hidden behind the gears and showy machinery. Reviewers seem to have taken this novel more seriously than I - citing 'psychological depth' and 'period detail'. I enjoyed the novel, but wonder whether, for instance the chapter wherein Tibor meets Mesmer and is 'magnetized' and enjoys a threesome with two masked noblewomen using Classical monikers, or the unlikely infatuation of the lusty Hungarian Baroness with the automaton, or the rather ham-fisted recurring image of plucked eyeballs, constitute 'psychological depth' or 'period detail'. However, it's certainly entertaining, and it has some basis in actual events.

42. The Exquisite Book by Julia Rothman, Jenny Volvovski and Matt Lamothe. The Exquisite Corpse, of course, is the surrealist game wherein a single body is drawn by three artists in three parts, who can only see a small portion of what came before. In The Exquisite Book the creators have enlisted a veritable who's who of contemporary art and illustration to create a whole book of connecting illustrations, in a series of themes, each continuing at least a horizon line into the next. Some artists blend virtually seamlessly, some pick up themes and subjects, some differ radically. The book is, of course, beautiful. It contains a foreword by the ubiquitous Dave Eggers, who by the way, can draw. There are also questions with and biographies of the artists. I'll enjoy returning to this often.

43. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell There's a reason the New York Times Book Review called Mitchell a genius. While I can intuit the sort of mind which could create such diverse and excellent novels as The Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet each is so distinct it seems he can write whatever he sets his mind to. There are themes I can recognize - bullying, integrity, slavery, drugging people into complacency, cultural clashes, exploration - but each novel is unique. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet is set in 1799 in the Dejima trading outpost of the Dutch East Indies company, next to Nagasaki Japan. Jacob de Zoet is a devout, resourceful if overly trusting young clerk, who enlisted with the VOC to try to earn enough money to satisfy the father of his fiancée and win her hand with 5 long years in the far east. He has been sent to clean up the rampant fraud on the tiny island, where the only foreigners allowed entry to the Shogun's Japan are essentially prisoner - allowed no further into the country, and stranded until they serve their terms. Jacob learns the price of his integrity. His life also changes when he meets the stunning, but disfigured midwife Orito Aibagawa, daughter of a respected samurai doctor, and student of the Dutch doctor Marinus. The book never ceased to amaze - somehow making life on Dejima, and the wider Japan under the shogunate, as well as a staggering plot very real, while weaving in many further stories. Wow.

{Series so far: books read, more books read, books read, books read continues, more books read, I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII,XIX, XX, XXI, XXII, XXIII XXIV, XXV, XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX, XXX, XXXI, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXIV, XXXV, XXXVI, XXXVII, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XL,XLI}

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

less terrifying than Krampus

A hilarious tale of Christmas horror by Ryan Iverson, inspired by Warner Herzog. {via bioephemera, via iO9}.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


minouette 042
minouette 044
minouette 046

minouette 014 I think the wee little Minouette plushies turned out pretty #%^@ adorable, if I do say so myself. The beige-with crazy contemporary print backing is going to Gasolinequeen in about 10 minutes. Shhh! It's a surprise. I'll put the other two, the purple one and the beige one, with the owl and pussycat backing in the shop soon. O! The little cat toes get me, even if Minouette looks like she's thinking, "Stop what you are doing this instant and feed me, or there will be serious reprocussions. Never underestimate a hungry cat." Minouette uses a lot of polysyllabic words. She's that sort of cat.

The Owl and the Pussycat (pillow)

Owl & pussycat pillow
Owl & pussycat pillow reverse

The owl and the pussycat: The owl, asking, "Who?" is blockprinted in black on purple cotton. The pussycat is a block print of my namesake, Minouette (the cat) and the French slogan, 'Méfiez-vous de la contrefaçon!' Inspired by a peculiar but endearing vintage French ad, you might translate the slogan as 'Accept no substitutes' if you wanted to be snappy, but it is more like, 'Be suspicious of counterfeits!' The front also features a swath of pin-striped burgundy wool and dark blue faux-bois print cotton with an ampersand '&' printed in white with a vintage letterpress letter.

On the reverse, however, the owl and the pussycat appear much more relaxed. The owl serenades the pussycat, as they sail beneath the benign moon, on a very sweet print fabric. This is combined with a stripe of a great, colourful print, block printed with the minouette flowers and tentacles label.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Samiya the cat pillow

Also, there will be more cats!

minouette 031

Meet Samiya:
minouette 030minouette 036

I'm glad to use that crazy vintage fabric, which looks like some sort of acid-fueled labyrinth. I think it works. I also embroidered Samiya's eyes. I've been thinking about embroidery of late.

Don't forget: butterflies are the new pirates.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Collective

natural history all
Check out this post and others, on The Collective blog, showing some of the beautiful things to be found during our 12 day show at Triangle gallery. (38 Abell St., off Queen W, just east of Dufferin)

A Hidden Place Opening!

Do join us, tonight, at 1254ART, if you are in Toronto!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010


minouette ♥ hearts!

Thank you very much to everyone who has ♥ed my shop.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Copenhagen Interpretation

SNiels Bohr portrait detailo, I was a little dismayed surprised that my post about my Bohr block print did not get any comments, but it occured to me that perhaps I shouldn't casually mention the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, without an explanation. Maybe, there was simply too many words, of a foreign, quantum mechanical nature. I do tend to the verbose at times.* So, I've found you a puppet show to make it all clear. The production values are terrible, but that's part of the charm. That, and the role of the German Sheppard. Some scientists I know had mixed feelings about casting a Bichon Frise as Einstein, but I feel that the genius of Paul Ehrenfest as a hedgehog makes up for that. Plus, he does make a good case for Wolfgang Pauli as a gargoyle.

The Bohr-Einstein Debates, With Puppets from Chad Orzel on Vimeo.

(via Science Blogs)

*I went and quoted Rutherford, after all. He went around saying things like, "Physics is the only real science. The rest are just stamp collecting," which is not a good way to make friends in other disciplines.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Niels Bohr Block Print

Niels Bohr portrait 4

This is a block printed portrait of Danish physicist Niels Bohr (1885-1962), subject of the Mad Scientists of Etsy's November Challenge. Bohr is an obvious choice - the Nobel laureate not only was one of the central figures of 20th century quantum mechanics, godfather of the Copenhagen interpretation, he was known for his generousity, open-mindedness, and clear ethics (which cannot convincingly be said of all of his contemporaries). He advocated sharing knowledge and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. He was also known for taking long walks and thinking out-loud. I often wondered about what Mrs. Bohr thought, faced with his incessant rambling on the interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Niels Bohr portrait detail
One of his most famous contributions to quantum mechanics was the Bohr-Rutherford model of the atom. In the print, Bohr is shown in front of the Bohr model of the Hydrogen atom (all the concentric circles are actually at the appropriate spacing, proportional to the n the orbit number squared*). Physicist knew that the atoms were neutral, and yet positive charge was highly localized, in what we now know as the nucleus, from the Rutherford Gold-Foil Experiment. As is traditional in science, this experiment isn't named after those who performed it (Geiger - yes, as in Geiger counter - and Marsden) but after their supervisor, Lord Ernest Rutherford of Nelson. They shot alpha particles (Helium nuclei: 2 protons and 2 neutrons, but all they knew was that they were small and had charge +2) at a very thin sheet of gold foil. Gold can be pounded into sheets which are scarcely a few atoms thick. Anyway, some of the alpha particles bounced right back, which Rutherford famously described thus,
It was quite the most incredible event that has ever happened to me in my life. It was almost as incredible as if you fired a 15-inch shell at a piece of tissue paper and it came back and hit you. On consideration, I realized that this scattering backward must be the result of a single collision, and when I made calculations I saw that it was impossible to get anything of that order of magnitude unless you took a system in which the greater part of the mass of the atom was concentrated in a minute nucleus. It was then that I had the idea of an atom with a minute massive center, carrying a charge.[2]

So Rutherford proposed his model of the atom by making analogy to the solar system. He postulated that the positive nucleus is like the sun, with negative electrons orbiting like planets. This model seems to have reasonated with the public (and you still see absurb, outdated images to symbolize atomic physics, with a dot and various elipses around it) - but it's wrong. You see, it suffers from ...wait for it... spiral death! Physicists are a melodramatic bunch. You see, accelerating charges, like electrons going in circles, give off light, hence loose energy, so would be expected to spiral into the nucleus and annihilate.
Niels Bohr portraits drying

Bohr proposed that the orbits of electrons were somewhat like planetary orbits (though circular, and at specific quantized distances). To explain how orbitting charged electrons didn't lose energy he stipulated that perhaps they simply weren't allowed anywhere but the specific orbits. They could lower their energy state if excited by falling to a lower orbit, giving off a specific photon of a specific colour related to the specific, quantized, difference between energy levels. This also explained how the spectra of gases had distinct, thin, spectral lines. I've illustrated this with the Balmer series - because it is composed of lines which are visible to the eye (H-alpha is red and caused by a jump from the 3rd to 2nd orbit; H-beta is cyan and caused by a jump from the 4th to 2nd orbit; H-gamma is indigo and caused by a jump from the 5th to 2nd orbit; and H-delta is violet and caused by a jump from the 6th to 2nd orbit). I've shown both the quantum jumps (squigelly arrows - squigelly lines are traditional for photons) and by the line spectrum below Bohr.

This is a first edition print (one of eight) on Japanese kozo (mulberry) paper, (12.5" by 17").

*The fact that I needed to make my concentric circles at appropriately spaced radii (and the line spectra are at the right spacing too, of course) probably reflects on my sanity in some way, but you know, how can I resist the Bohr Hydrogen atom? I mean one can actually solve it analytically from first principles! How cool is that? Even though, in theory, one ought to be able to continue with this logic and derive all of chemistry as a simple application of quantum mechanics, it very rapidly becomes too complicated and we must rely on computers.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Art Show: A Hidden Place


I (Ele, aka minouette) am very excited to be taking part in this art show, along with Ron Caddigan (aka Cyclops And Owl), Chris O'Brien, Reynardin and Faunalia! There will be music by Synap and Romantis. There will be cupcakes by Adorable Portable Cakes. These are some extremely talented people, and dear friends. The show A Hidden Place at is at 1254Art. I can promise you unicorns, narwhals and dinosaurs. Where else are you going to find that? Please join us for the Opening!

Place: 1254Art, 1254 Dundas St. W (at Dovercourt)
Time: December 3rd, 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Info: The show can be viewed throughout December, by appointment.
Please contact ahiddenplace '@'

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Collective

Check out the artists and artisans at The Collective, a gathering of creative artists and artisans for 12 days in December, from December 2 to December 14, 2010 at Triangle Gallery, 38 Abell St., Toronto, Ontario - including pillows, stuffed animals, ornaments and other crafts from things from secret minouette places.

Trans-Canada Etsy Team 12 Days of Christmas

things from secret minouette places and team mates from the Trans-Canada Etsy Team are having our annual 12 Days of Christmas Sale. Check the team blog to find all the participating shops' deals on offer. Shops include:
minouette, RJCharms, MyHandboundBooks, Pixel8ed, bnazar, mythicalmatters, TooAquarius, stringmealong, motivatedmotion, PenelopeKuhn, prairiepeasant, prairiethreads, rikrak, ellecools, paisleybaby, and the TCET shop.

Join us over the next 11 days as the participating shops share some of their favorite things about Christmas.

And, now for the most exciting part of this event!! We once again have a fabulous prize package filled to brimming with exciting gifts from all the shops listed above.
There are two ways to win:
1) Make a purchase from any of the shops above and for every $10 spent per shop, you will receive a ballot.
2) Write a letter to Santa, telling him which item/s from our shops you would like to find under your tree this year. Just type it into our team blog's comments.

We will draw for the prize on Dec 5th.

Remember to check back daily for lots more fun. And thank you for visiting with us today.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

for R.

I love stop motion from chloe fleury on Vimeo.

Also, did you know about British WWI & WWII re-enactors? "In this series titled Re-Enactors , British photographer Jim Naughten has beautifully documented some of the people {and their very accurate costumes} who choose to spend their weekends recreating various battles and drills from the First and Second World War. " (via the Jealous Curator)

more ornaments!

Today I bring you a really logical series: Rabbit, Garlic, Rhinoceros, Zebras.

rabbit ornamentgarlic ornaments 005rhinornament 023Burchell over Chevy's zebras

I'd better make some more rhinos. That one sold immediately.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Silver & Red Mega Holiday Giveaway

There's a great big give-away, just in time for the holidays, hosted by the lovely rikrak on the the rikrak studio blog. Prizes include my Radiolarians lino block print. You should check it out! Because she's such a sweetie, participants like me can enter to win prize packs without any of their products, so I'm going to enter. You should too!

Radiolarians - close up

some things, for a hidden place

Arctic wold & narwhal semaphor
Unicorn Amongst Umbrellas III
dinosaur portrait
dinosaur portrait
dinosaur portrait

Photos by RJH. I've been running a framing sweatshop of one today.

Right, now I'm off to eat cake.

more block printed ornaments

We had a mini photo shoot yesterday. All photos by RJH.

nesting doll ornaments
fly agaric ornament
radiolarian ornaments
snowflake ornament set
monarch butterfly ornament
blue whale ornament

Apart from the matrioshka (Russian nesting dolls), I like to think of this as the 'Natural History Collection'. We've got microorganisms, fungi, insects, mammals and crystals. I plan more moons and mammals, and maybe, a bumblebee or two. You can find them all here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


large snowflake ornament

I thought I'd make some snowflake ornaments.

I hope this pretty thing helps me face my dreaded teleconference *shudder* today. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lion & Lioness Pillow

lion & lioness pillow on blue

This pillow features blockprinted fabric, with a portrait of a lion and lioness in the tall grass. I was inspired to carve the lino block by a photograph my mother took in the Ngorongoro conservation area in Tanzania. It is called, "The Watchers, Ngorongoro". The photo gives the strong impression the lions are watching the people back.

The front of the pillow is a patchwork with a contemporary paisley fabric in grass green and teal, with a blue faux-bois print. The reverse is a pale green corduroy with a stripe of vintage floral fabric. The pillow is 15.5" by 11.5" (or 39 cm by 31 cm).

lion & lioness pillow  back

closeup- lion & paisley

Monday, November 8, 2010

Reading is sexy XLI

{image: painting by Tamara de Lempicka}
30. Solo by Rana Dasgupta I selected this book because it won the Commonwealth Writers' prize and likely because of the rave review by Salman Rushdie. I don't really see why it received these. It is well-written, and yet not marvelous, not different, and it feels like the author keeps his readers at arm's length. The are in fact some interesting characters, and sporadically compelling situations, but I never entirely cared about any of them. It was a bit of 'wandering characters in search of a plot'. He started with interesting ingredients; a Bulgarian centenarian, Ulrich, reviews his life and its worth, trains, blindness, chemistry (but, despite the reviews on the back, and one glorious scene where Ulrich makes an analog, burning flame frequency analyzer of music, there is little real love of science here - anyone can allude to Einstein now and again, particularly if they don't really tie the science to anything), crossroads, war, failed marriage, Communism and oppression, youth rebellion, death and isolation, and yet, I not sure why I should care. The second half of the book, the blind Ulrich invents three more characters, so we get three more lives to follow: Boris, the orphaned violinist trained by gypsies, with endless creativity, like the son Ulrich lost or the self he might have been, and the siblings Khatuna, the Georgian gangster moll, determined never to be poor and needy and helpless like her mother, and Irakli, poet, iconoclast yet unhappy and insecure. These people are interesting, though scenes feel clichéd. We move from the former soviet bloc to New York city. The Georgian dancing, or Bulgarian music never really felt real to me. It feel like self-conscious exoticism. Perhaps a meditation on failure isn't supposed to make me care about its characters. Perhaps I expected too much. Probably. The ingredients of this novel are excellent; I just failed to care.

31. Clandestine in Chile by Gabriel García Márquez. García Márquez started his life as a reporter and in Clandestine in Chile he is acting somewhere between novelist and reporter, closer to reporter. Based on 14 hours of interviews with exiled Chilean film maker Miguel Littín, who risked his life in 1985 to return in disguise to General Pinochet's Chile to make a documentary about life in the dictatorship. The story is written in the first person, which makes the reportage feel more novelistic. It's fascinating to read how Littín struggled with his disguise as Uruguayan business, his self rejecting the foreign persona and rebelling to be true to himself, despite the perceived danger. We read how he felt when he could pass friends or family members on the street without being recognized. With the help of the underground, he employed three film crews from three different nations, each pretending to be shooting something else (a nature documentary, a commercial, a documentary about the architect of the presidential palace) to gather a "105,000-foot donkey's tail of film" to pin on Pinochet. The story of his experience, twelve years prior, of Pinochet's coup, and his arbitrary escape, because he happened to meet a soldier who was a film enthusiast who recognized him, was harrowing. The story of his clandestine time making his film was a bit more peculiar - the danger is never clear, that late in the game - but compelling. I was particularly fond of the upper class grandmother whom he works with, who discovered that actually, her talents had been wasted in her staid and conservative life, and that she should have been a spy and a revolutionary. The idiosyncratic introduction by Francisco Goldman, putting the author, subject and larger politics into perspective was interesting, though it almost skewered the lot of them. A very intriguing book.

32. 500 Handmade Books - Inspiring Interpretations of a Timeless Form If you love books like I do, you should buy this one. The introduction and discussion of the selection process is food for thought. What makes a book? What 'rules' can be broken, which ones cannot? The collection, and the information about the books is very well curated. You can see the thinking behind it; comparisons and contrasts, without a lot of wordy justifications. They let the photos (and captions) speak for themselves. The publisher, Lark Books, does not list an author, but I think that the credit lies with Steve Miller, a bookbinder who juried the collection.

33. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. Really, you must all start reading David Mitchell if you are not yet doing so. His writing makes me think about what it is to be a person. Black Swan Green is the story of a 13-year-old clandestine poet, Jason Taylor, growing up in a sleepy village in Worcestershire in Thatcher's England, in 1982. Jason has a stutter, which he personifies to himself as Hangman, which he strives to hide from schoolyard bullies. The voice inside his head, which is needling and self-critical, voicing the pressure to conform with his peers, is the Unborn Twin. He is clever enough to hide his intelligence, his writing, and his speech impediment from his peers. The society of adolescents in which he lives is so very real - the complex social ranking, the bullying, the way in which they hoodwink adults. It places the reader right back in that world. His parents' marriage is unraveling. His older sister calls him 'Thing'. The people around him are caught up in the Falklands, or local strife about Gypsies camping. A certain Madame Eva van Outryve de Crommelynck ties the novel subtly to Cloud Atlas. The novel is beautiful, compelling and real.

34. How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers. This collection of short stories is compelling and inventive, as one would expect. Some stories are strange, some simple slices of reality, some seem straightforward and yet are not. I feel that he takes on voices well: stories narrated by women, and even one narrated by a dog, are believable. This is a good collection.

As a Canadian, I was annoyed by the offhand comment that faced with genocide in Rwanda the UN sends in "15 Belgians" because General Roméo Dallaire, Commander of the UN forces there, is the sort of person who makes me proud to be Canadian. Though, I think I should learn not to be irked by offhand comments which are really examples of hyperbole in fiction, for heaven's sake.

35. The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. It seems that Chabon found a book called Say It in Yiddish, published in the 1950s and wrote a controversial, ironic essay 'Guidebook to a Land of Ghosts'. He could not envision a place where Yiddish would be the lingua franca, post-WWII, but he did not realize that in the 50s, despite the fact that Israel selected Hebrew and moved away from Yiddish, as official language, that it remained so common that the guidebook was both useful and popular. He alluded to a little known suggestion in 1940, that European Jewish refugees could be moved to Alaska, and imagined briefly what it would be like to have a Yiddish speaking 'country' of the Frozen Chosen. He received a fair amount of flack for his article, so he decided to take it one step further and wrote a novel. On the surface, the novel is an alternate history: what if the state of Israel had not succeeded, and millions of Jewish refugees had in fact been living in the Yiddish-speaking Federal District of Sitka for sixty years. The District is scheduled to revert to Alaskan control. The setting is marvelous - the combination of Jewish and Alaskan Native culture, the Yiddish language, the Pacific Northwest landscape, the sense of impending doom. In this setting walks Meyer Landsman, a star detective down on his luck - his life and marriage have fallen apart and his whole world is ending. He wakes up one morning at his rooming-house style hotel to find one of his fellow tenants, a one-time chess prodigy and possible former 'black hat' Orthodox, has been murdered in his bed. He cannot ignore this case, in his own home, so to speak, so despite the order to start closing down cases prior to Reversion, he becomes embroiled. The hardboiled detective story is rife with full characters, from his partner and cousin, half-Native 'yid' Berko, an outsider to both communities, his ex-wife Bina, the newly installed police chief, a good cop with uncontrollable curly red hair who carries her life in one giant, leather tote, down to minor characters like the Fillipino donut-man/informer. This is a story of life, death, the reality of relationships, love, the tragedy of families, land, Messiah and magic, refugees, religion and politics. It's great.

Also, the design of my paperback, put out by Harper's Perennial, in black, red, white and turquoise, combining Native imagery, Jewish symbols, chess and stylized cityscapes and guns, is excellent.

36. White Noise by Don Delillo. I've just started my 25th-Anniversary Edition, and it's hard to put down.

{Series so far: books read, more books read, books read, books read continues, more books read, I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII,XIX, XX, XXI, XXII, XXIII XXIV, XXV, XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX, XXX, XXXI, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXIV, XXXV, XXXVI, XXXVII, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XL}

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Poppies detail
lower poppies

A group of poppies is illustrated in this original first edition linocut print, with chine collé. The poppies are printed in black ink on white and red Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper. Each sheet is 32 cm high by 24 cm wide (12.5" by 9.5") with a deckle edge. The first edition is limited to eight prints. It's a very graphic print in red, black and white.

The Trans-Canada Etsy Team selected the theme 'Red for Remembrance' for the month of November. I thought I would be direct about it and illustrate some poppies. They are beautiful, laden with symbolism and very graphic in red and black.