Blogs at Amazon

Best Books

Blondie, 1970s New York, and Chris Stein's Heart of Glass

In the early 1970s, Chris Stein was a student at the School of Visual Arts in New York, spending his off-hours photographing the pre-Giuliani Big Apple of garbage strikes, murder, muggings, and a Midtown more S&M than M&M (see this Facebook page for some of that). That was also the NYC of the Warhol's Factory and the Velvet Underground, CBGB and the Ramones, Max's Kansas City and the New York Dolls. Et cetera. There Stein met a young singer/model/waitress named Deborah Harry, and--true to the spirit of the time and place--together played in a series of bands, the last of which, Blondie, made them quite a bit famous.

To mark the Blondie's 40th anniversary (40th!), Stein and Rizzoli have published Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk, a collection of Stein's photographs of the band, the scene, and--most frequently--Debbie Harry. Enjoy this excerpt from her introduction to the book, as well as a few of the images.

Chris Stein/Negative is a selection for Amazon.com's Best Books of 2014 in Entertainment.


Excerpt from "Voyeur," Deborah Harry's Introduction to Chris Stein/Negative

We started working together, Chris and I, in 1973. I sort of got used to seeing him with a camera, always taking pictures, so when he started shooting me, it wasn’t much of a shock really. After all, we were in the same group, the Stillettoes, and Chris had a casual ease with a camera that belied how well he knew his f-stops. I never felt comfortable in front of a camera and never liked seeing photos of myself. Chris’s sense of humor and easy, relaxed personality made me feel relaxed, too, and eventually, I started to like being shot by him, which has led to his photos of me being seen worldwide. There was an easy trust that I felt standing in front of his camera. I’ve watched him suggest to total strangers, without even actually speaking, that he’d like to take their pictures, and so I know he must have made them feel the same way. All of the experiences I had with Chris as his subject in those early days gave me a confidence that made it possible for me to do photo sessions with some of the world’s most famous photographers. Because of our personal relationship, I think, Chris’s pictures of me are the most real and unguarded and ultimately revealing.

Those days, and the nights at CBGB, were full of characters, and you will meet some of them in the following pages. I remember when we set up the enlarger in our apartment on West 17th Street. The kitchen was really large, and after developing the film, Chris would print then hang the photos under the skylight after a substantial amount of muttering and cursing. I’m sure some of the shots included in this book are from those same negatives. And I am sure you will enjoy seeing Chris’s photos and reading his comments about them—along with all his stories about the scene and the characters that have filled the frames of his camera lens.

 


Images from Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk

Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk
 
Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk
 
Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk
 
Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk
 
Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk
 
Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk
 
Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk
 

Mistakes Were Made. Dana Cowin Helps Us Fix Them.

MasteringMistakesKitchenI first became aware of Dana Cowin through my love affair with Top Chef where Cowin, the editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine, is a guest judge every season.  Then last fall came her first cookbook, Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen, which went on to become one of our picks for the Best Cookbooks of 2014

Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen is a collection of over 100 recipes that Cowin has become proficient in with the help of some of the best chefs in the country.  Having someone with such a high profile in the food world admit she's not a great cook is really inspiring and reassuring. And you can't beat the opportunity, through the pages of her book, to learn how to perfect simple recipes from people like Eric Ripert and David Chang.

When Dana Cowin was here in Seattle, Erin and I had lunch with her at a fantastic local restaurant, Sitka and Spruce.  Cowin is as lively and fun a person as you could want, and Erin and I had the best time talking to her about cooking, her book, Top Chef, and life in general while enjoying an amazing meal.  Below is a transcript of some of that conversation.


Seira Wilson: So, tell us what it's been like to have your first book published?

Dana Cowin: When your book is out in the world the amount of actual feedback from people is gigantic.  In the magazine world and the digital world--Instagram or blog posts--it's all different time frames, so you get feedback but it’s completely different. This may sound dumb but...I own a lot of cookbooks but I own them to read them. They go to bed with me, they travel with me, I sort of live through them but I don’t cook with them.  But people who buy cookbooks, the next day they're like, "I made this last night and tomorrow night I’m making this, and I’m having a week cooking through your book"--and I’m like, really?? [big smile].  It’s immediate feedback for something that I thought of as such a long term project, so it’s been really fun.

SW: What made you decide to write this book?

DC:  A couple of things:  I did wake up one day and say, "am I ever going to fix all these dumb mistakes I’m making in the kitchen?"  If I am, there’s no time like right now because all these chefs that could help me really are friends, and I’m beyond the point of being able to go to cooking school without being embarrassed.  Although I’ve just written a whole book of humiliations so not sure how that jibes, but that was my thinking--I should hang out with these chef friends of mine and learn something from them. I took recipes that I love and make all the time and learned specific and general lessons for them.  

So part of it was timing: it’s about time to learn to cook.  And then, once I realized I was going to do this for myself, I thought this would be so great to share.  I’m making mistakes on very simple recipes, so it's not like I would be doing an advanced book.  I’d be doing sort of a passionate food person and a beginner person book of recipes. The sharing part wasn’t hard but I did ask a couple people, am I an idiot?  Should I not be telling the entire world  that I don’t know how to cook?  And there were some people at Food & Wine that said, are you sure?  I obviously decided it wasn’t too embarrassing and in fact it turns out to be all kinds of good things.  It’s liberating, it’s educational, and I’m so much on a mission now to learn stuff.  At the end of the day, admitting you're making mistakes is one thing, but the learning from them is the fun part.

SW:  That's so satisfying when you make something and it doesn’t turn out well and you can figure out what went wrong and then do it again and have it work out. 

DC: A lot of chefs, when I told them I was making mistakes and asked them to help me, half of them said, "oh you’re just being hard on yourself" and half of them said, "yeah cooking is really difficult, it’s not always easy."

SW: How did you decide which chefs to work with for each recipe?

DC: The idea was that I would master these recipes, so I went to chefs that really are masters of whatever the heart of the recipe was.  So for example, Michael Symon to do meat, he’s so amazing with  meat, or Mario Batali on a baked pasta. Or Alex Guarnaschelli on anything French or Andrew Zimmern on Asian food.  Because of working with the chefs so much on the magazine, and eating at their restaurants, and calling them obsessively, I felt like I really understand what in their heart they cared the most about and where they would have the most experience to share.  And some of the things I thought, maybe there isn’t so much to teach here, but the chefs, because they do know their topics so deeply, they can go on for hours.  Like José Andrés--I was just trying to make a tomato bruschetta, which is really easy, and sometimes I’d be embarrassed to call and say, hey this is what I’m having a problem with.  But he transformed the bruschetta!  I mean, you end up with tomato jewels, and he told me to use sliced bread instead of the beautiful bread from the market.  He was transformative. Instead of saying, well you should spread the olive oil in a more even layer and be more careful when you toast-- which is sort of what I thought--no! he completely started over, from the beginning.  The bread-- you’re using the wrong bread; then the method--you’re using the wrong method; then the tomatoes-- here's a new way to do tomatoes.  So I had these three revelatory things on what I thought was the simplest recipe in the book. 

SW:  Do you have a favorite recipe that you’ve mastered as a result of working with the chefs.

DC:  There’s only one recipe in the book that I hadn’t tried before I began and it’s my favorite thing to eat in the whole world, which is fried chicken. I was really afraid of fried chicken, the bubbling oil... If you can imagine, someone who has trouble toasting bread--I can burn bread really easily--the idea of bubbling oil and chicken was really scary.  But it turns out the method that I use is a shallow fry, so you flip it, and it’s not scary at all.  So I feel like that was the biggest challenge because I was most afraid of it, but it turned out well and that was the greatest day. I love that I can actually now make fried chicken.

SW: How fun is it being a guest judge on Top Chef?

DC: It's so fun.  I love Top Chef for so many reasons...for one thing, getting exposed to all the cooking styles of all these different people.  I try to remember who’s who after I leave the set, because inevitably many of them--not all but many--go on to have really interesting careers.  Like, randomly, when I was on set judging whatever season Kristen Kish was on, I remember her dish so well--it really, really stood out among 20.  Sometimes I’m at the end and sometimes at the beginning [of the season], but it really stood out. I told myself: remember this girl, remember this girl.  And among the whole, she turned out to be so talented. 

EK: The creativity is always so stunning too, under pressure and the things they come up with.

DC: Yes, and the guest judges are often really fun.  I did a Top Chef Duels and I was at the table with Pink. How cool is that!?  So I’m sitting here with Pink--I’d read about her in New York magazine and I looked her up once I knew she would be there, but she’s amazing!  She really does love food, but she  was really delicate about offering her opinion because she’s surrounded by people who do nothing but talk about food all day.  But she had great insights and great humor.  And of course I love Gail Simmons, and Tom [Colicchio].  And wherever you travel is fun, they try to make it fun for the viewers and it’s fun for the guests.

DC: Actually, the last time I was here [in Seattle] was for Top Chef.  I love Renee Erickson, anything she does I think is so great.  And we have a bunch of Food & Wine best new chefs from Seattle that I’m very partial to, of course.  And Canlis, and Ethan Stowell, and Matt [Dillon, chef at Sitka and Spruce and past winner of Food & Wine's Best New Chef award], of course. 

We started talking about the bounty of good cookbooks that had come out or were about to release, including Dominique Ansel's gorgeous cookbook (also a Best of 2014 selection), Dominique Ansel: The Secret Recipes

DC: He’s the most creative chef in America and he applies it all to pastry.  And, he has a great backstory.  We did a piece on him for the magazine where I learned a bunch of this…so he grew up very poor and he ended up working for Fauchon, launching Fauchon in Russia, and certain things mystified him--like these women who would come to work at like 3:00 in the morning, which is when bakers come to work, but they’d come in full make-up and skimpy clothing and he was like, you guys, you’re working the line, you’re making pastry here, these clothes are not appropriate.  But it turned out they were hookers!

SW: Hooker slash baker?

DC: Yes, a new job hybrid we hadn’t heard of before: the hooker-baker.  He’s so well known for the cronut--a cross between a croissant and a doughnut and layers of something delicious in it as well, it’s not just pastry.  But everything he does is amazing. Everything.  It’s almost unfair that he’s so well known for one thing because he has so many other things that are so good.

EK:  Is the cronut everything they say?  Is it just amazing or?

DC: It is, it’s delicious. And I think it’s great to have that much of what my daughter would call "a thing.”

SW: What do you think is going to be the next “thing?”

DC: I think it’s the éclair.  Not in the cronut way, where it’s one person’s genius idea--I think that strikes about once every 5 years... So first it was the cupcake, then the doughnut tried but never really made it…now we think it’s going to be éclairs.

SW: Variations of the éclair?

DC: That’s it.  Because there’s so many amazing variations, you can fill it with anything.  It’s such a perfect delivery system for layers of cream and butter and pastry and something that’s slick and glossy and sweet on it.  It’s got a lot going on.

Dana Cowin also has a lot going on--traveling, eating, making our mouths water via her Twitter posts, and no doubt mastering more recipes.

Wild at Heart: The Dark Center of Tim Johnston's "Descent"

Descent2015 may be young, but Tim Johnston's Descent has positioned itself as an early frontrunner for year-end best-of  lists. The surprise bestseller's plot is straight-up thriller: On the eve of daughter Caitlin's departure for college, the Courtlands drive into the Rocky Mountains for one last true family vacation--with the parents Grant and Angel desperately hoping that the setting will repair their faltering marriage. But when Caitlin and her younger brother set out on a morning run, only Sean returns, and with a badly broken leg. Caitlin has disappeared into the mountains by way of a stranger's car.

The wilderness that was to be a place of new beginnings has  become a character of its own, looming over the family and alive with jagged spires and forbidding forest, accelerant to the family's terror, grief, and self-doubt. Johnston not only pulls off this transition, but elevates his story with believable characters, impeccable pacing, and prose that serves up palpable tension, as well as serving the book's literary aspirations. This all sounds a bit hyperbolic (mixed-metaphor-inspiring, even), but Descent is that good. 

Of course, this isn't the first tale to use Nature as a key player, so we asked author Johnston for his own list of books featuring wilderness as an active force.

 


Environment as Character: Five Essential Novels

by Tim Johnston


The Rocky Mountains are more than a kind of character in Descent; they are the book's essential and ruling antagonist. For the Courtlands, the book's four protagonists, the realization that the mountains are not the picturesque American playground they've driven up from the plains to enjoy, comes too late, and after their 18-year-old daughter vanishes, the family sees the Rockies for what they really are, which is the same boundless, pathless, godforsaken place into which a great number of Americans far hardier than themselves once vanished forever.  Thereafter this landscape becomes so much more than majestic, astounding, or even otherworldly; it become sinister.  It becomes a world of malicious intent, no less cruel or comprehensible from one day to the next.  

 

Deliverance

Deliverance by James Dickey

A wild Appalachian river pulses through this novel like the story's own jugular vein, but its finest passage is when Ed must climb above the river, in the darkness, on a sheer face of rock. With superhuman attention to detail, Dickey transforms Ed into a being a pure sensation, and transforms the reader into Ed. You do not breathe. You do not dare look down.

 
The Shipping News

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

Life-battered Quoyle washes up on the shores of Newfoundland and is marooned among a citizenry as hard and wind-scoured as the rock they call home. The image that stands out and represents both the outer and inner landscapes is the ancestral Quoyle homestead that is kept from being blown off its cliff into the sea by guy wires that cry like furies in the wind.

 
The Road

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Having once sent me, in Blood Meridian, into a 19th Century American West before it was transformed by expansionist violence and the industrial revolution, McCarthy now immerses me in an America far down the road of its self-destruction, a lightless, ash-buried, bone-chilling world that is by far the most desolate he's ever conjured—and yet also includes a single heartening, and heartbreaking, flame of love.

 
Plainsong

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Here is McCarthy's Wild West in the modern era, as arid and unforgiving as ever, but populated now by a less violent and somehow more resilient breed of American—in particular two old-as-Moses brothers who go out day after bitter day to tend to their cattle and who find themselves, all of the sudden, surrogate fathers to one young woman who needs shelter from the harsh world. The title evokes the spirit and the artistry of the book: Plainsong.

 
Islands in the Stream

Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway

The opening pages so beautifully evoke Thomas Hudson's house that the reader cannot miss that the description is really about the man himself, his heart and his soul as we find them at the novel's outset. Likewise, as Tom suffers heartbreaking loss, the novel moves into a harrowing tale of the hunt for German U-boats in the Florida Keys, and those waters come to represent the dangers that lurk beneath every human heart that dares to open itself to love.

 

 

Descent is a selection for Amazon.com's Best Books of the Month in Mystery, Thriller & Suspense.

 

From the Archives: Sonali Deraniyagala's Memoir of Surviving 2004's Tsunami

Sonali-Deraniyagala-Wave-credit-Ann-BillingsleyLast week marked the 10-year anniversary of the massive tsunami that roared across the Indian Ocean and devasted the coastlines of fourteen countries. One of the deadlist natural disasters in modern history, the tsunami took the lives of more than 230,000 people, including the parents, husband, and two children of Sonali Deraniyagala, who was vacationing with her family at a Sri Lankan beach resort.

Sonali's devastating account of the tsunami, Wave, was an Amazon Best of the Month "Spotlight" pick in March of 2013. It was also a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, and was selected as a 2013 Best Book of the Year by Amazon, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Newsday, People, and Goodreads. 

This post first appeared in March of 2013.

~

Memoir seems to be the theme of this month's Best Books of the Month list, which boasts an amazing collection of brave and deeply personal explorations. In fact, brave is the buzz word of the month, appearing in a few of our editors' reviews for March. These compelling first-person stories--all written by women, and mostly about overcoming hardship--include Sheryl Sandberg's bold and inspiring Lean In; Christa Parravani's "brave, raw, and ultimately uplifting" Her; and Emily Rapp's "magnificently written" The Still Point of the Turning World.

But the book that tops our list is the one that left many of us shaking our heads in awe, Sonali Deraniyagala's incredible Wave.

Some books unfold with obvious menace, suggesting, “This won’t end well.” Wave declares on page one--“the ocean looked a little closer”--this won’t even start well. But I’m urging you, dear reader, not to look away.

In an unblinking act of storytelling, Deraniyagala ruthlessly chronicles the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that horrifically snatched from her all that mattered. Throughout this fierce and furious book, I kept wondering how someone who lost so much could write about it with such power, economy and grace. At first, she shrieks and grieves openly, angrily; for years she remains stunned and staggered, shamed by “the outlandish truth of me.” Then, slowly, she allows herself to remember, sharing vivid glimpses of her past.

WaveWe see, hear, and smell two rowdy little boys, their brotherly scuffling, their muddy shoes and grass stains. By confronting and recreating moments that make us laugh and weep, we accept their absence and root for the author not to give up. As Deraniyagala's unthinkable loss becomes “distilled,” she finds herself “no longer cradled by shock.” She survives. And she does so by allowing herself to ache and to remember. By keeping the pain close, by embracing the unthinkable, she keeps alive her precious memories.

Difficult to describe, tricky to recommend, this is a bold and wondrous book. In a wounded voice that manages to convey the snide, sarcastic, funny, and fatalistic personality that survives beneath the suffering, Deraniyagala slowly pieces together the elements that represent the life--the lives--she lost. And she magically brings them back. For us, for her, for them. So brave, so beautiful, in these pages Deraniyagala’s family is brilliantly alive. And so is she. 

 

365 Days of Wonder to Start the New Year

365DaysWonderR.J. Palacio's Wonder is still one of my favorite books and continues to be discovered and cherished by kids and adults.  In the novel, Auggie's 5th grade English teacher, Mr. Browne, introduces the kids to precepts and tasks them with coming up with some of their own. 

In her companion book, 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne's Book of Precepts, Palacio includes a precept for every day of the year, some of which were submitted by Wonder readers, along with peeks at our favorite characters' lives after Wonder ends.  This seems like a fitting book to share as we step into 2015 and below are a few of the precepts you'll find within its pages.

If, like me, you can't help but want more of Auggie, Mr. Browne, and the wonder of Wonder, Palacio wrote The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story, a kindle short story that became one of our best-selling kindle children's books of 2014.  In 2015 we have another one to look forward to, titled Pluto: A Wonder Story (available February 10).   Here's hoping your new year starts off with books you already love and the joy of discovering new ones.

 

 

 


January 16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
November 29
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
July 9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
December 8

A Boat, a Whale & A Walrus Walk Into a...Conversation with Renee Erickson

BoatWhaleWalrusRenee Erickson has earned local and national accolades for her Seattle restaurants over the last couple of years and this fall penned her first cookbook which we promptly chose as a Best Cookbook of October and recently a Best Cookbook of 2014

A Boat, a Whale & A Walrus--named for three of her restaurants: Boat Street Cafe, The Whale Wins, and The Walrus and the Carpenter--is a collection of seasonal menus with personal stories, lots of extras (how-to make a nice cheese plate, favorite holiday wines, intros to local purveyors and family, etc.,), and absolutely gorgeous photographs. It's a cookbook you want to own yourself and also give to your favorite people.

Like the restaurants that inspired it, A Boat, a Whale & A Walrus is relaxed, friendly, and strikingly elegant.   I met up with Erickson a little while ago at The Whale Wins to talk about cooking, restaurants, and what's next.


Seira Wilson:  You own four restaurants and a food truck now, was it easier/less stressful to open the third and fourth restaurant vs. the first?

Renee Erickson: My life’s changed so dramatically since we opened Boat Street, even four years ago when we opened Walrus, that was the big push.  I think more mentally and emotionally because the business itself is packed with stress. 

It was hard to not be at Boat Street all the time, that was the biggest challenge, it was hard to let other people make decisions and be creative and do stuff, but at the end of the day it’s your name and reputation and so that was challenging. 

IMG_2329Then you get really emotionally attached to your guests and you miss them and want to see them and for a long time it was hard, I felt like I was disappointing everyone a little bit because I couldn’t be everywhere. But I think you just kind of get used to it over time. 

Opening two was hard, opening this one [Whale Wins] was much  harder--it’s easy to split your time between two places, but having a third was..for all of us, Jeremy (my business partner), Chad and I, we all were like "whoa" [laughs].  We opened up thinking we could do things the same as the other two but we couldn't so we've been building our infrastructure. With two [restaurants] one of us could be there all the time, but now we need to have people available to do all the things we did and help manage the behind the scenes stuff.

SW: What's a typical day for you?  Do you go to certain restaurants on certain days or..?

RE:  Historically I sort of had a schedule, but now with the book...and with Whale and Walrus there have been lots of photo shoots, stuff for magazines, and that takes priority over my schedule and kind of dictates where I am right now.   It's good, it's exciting, it's always different.  Now it's more that I feel like I'm letting my staff down if I'm not there enough.  We did a photo shoot for Art Culinaire, that was super exciting and stressful because it's sort of a fancy food magazine that I was like, "really? you want me in it?"  because the one that's out right now is all full of Thomas Keller, so I was really nervous and spent two long days getting everything ready and right but it was great, everything turned out really well.

SW: When does that come out? 

RE: April, their 114th issue, it’s all about oysters, so we did a lot of cool dishes. 

SW: It's been so amazing, Bon Appetit Best Restaurant...

RE: I know, two years in a row, it sort of blew my mind. I'm definitely surprised by it all. I've sort of been doing the same thing all along, but I think the timing, all the food mania, is now.

SW: Where do you go, or what do you make at home, at the end of a long night when you’re starving?

RE: If I go out after a long night it's Delancey.  At home, sardines--canned sardines.  Historically, probably cheese and crackers--whatever cheese is in the fridge, glass of wine. Or really plain pasta--something simple.  If it’s in the summer, tomato and basil, or whatever’s around.  Anchovies and chilies.  Love canned sardines.

ClamsSW: Do you have a favorite recipe from A Boat, a Whale & A Walrus?

RE: That’s hard--it’s like your favorite kid or something. It was so much fun. Things I eat the most?  The clams, something I crave and want to eat all the time [Manila Clams from the Sunday at Home chapter]. I love rice pudding, this one’s crazy delicious [Honeyed Rice Pudding Pots from the Lummi Island Spot Prawn Dinner chapter].  Doesn’t photograph well but…  And probably the Messy Spot Prawns.  Sort of last meal food would be the Spot Prawns and...the Côte de Bœuf with Anchovy Butter, which I love. 

SW: Was there anything you had to leave out, the hard cut?

RE: I feel like this was just scratching the surface of what I love, but when we made the outline for the book it was just super easy.  I thought about it for so long that eventually when I sat down with Jess and we thought about it organized by season then it became really obvious which recipes, or events, or menus had been important enough to not let anything else compete with them.  So that part  was really satisfying, to have it come together as a full plan.  It felt really satisfying and comfortable to know it came together easily, without a lot of torture over whether to include this or that.

SW: Do you want to write another cookbook?

RE: Yeah, I would want to do another one.  I think I’d probably like to do more seafood focused, a lot of oyster stuff, I think would be really fun.  Seafood and maybe more preserving stuff because we spend a lot of time doing that too.  Not together, but...you know [laughs]. 

Photos from The Whale Wins

Wine at The Whale Wins
Renee Erickson with A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus
Danny Clinch
Renee with parents Jim and Shirlee
Wine at The Whale Wins
Wine at The Whale Wins
Danny Clinch

Danny Clinch & the Majesty of Rock

If you love music, you've probably seen Danny Clinch's work. Over decades of work, he has photographed the likes of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Tupac, Tom Waits, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Iggy Pop, Jay-Z, and... the list goes on. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Spin, Rolling Stone, and the New Yorker, as well as on hundreds of album covers.

His new monograph, Danny Clinch: Still Moving, collectes more than 200 iconic photographs, personal anecdotes, and a foreword by Bruce Springsteen. Enjoy these images from the book, a selection for Amazon.com's Best Books of 2014 in Arts & Photography.

Danny Clinch also plays harmonica. See more at www.dannyclinch.com.

 


Images from Danny Clinch: Still Moving

 

Danny Clinch

Radiohead, 1994

 

Danny Clinch

Preservation Hall Jazz Band, 2010

 

Danny Clinch

Nas, 1993

 

Danny Clinch

Gregg Allman, 2010

 

Danny Clinch

Eddie Vedder & Neil Young, 2006

 

Danny Clinch

Bruce Springsteen, 2003

 

Danny Clinch

Chuck Berry, 2011

 

Danny Clinch

The Roots, 2011

 

Danny Clinch

Lucinda Williams, 2008

 

Danny Clinch

Arcade Fire, 2010

 

Danny Clinch

Camille Styles Holiday Party Idea: Cookies and Cocktails May Be Consumed

CamilleStylesEntertaining'Tis the season for holiday parties and who better than Camille Styles to offer some smart ideas for keeping it festive.  Styles has a very popular lifestyle blog and the author of a new book, Camille Styles Entertaining: Inspired Gatherings and Effortless Style (one of our Best of 2014 in Crafts, Home & Design).  

The book has party ideas for every season so we asked her to share one for the holidays.  As it happens, she wrote about hosting a Holiday Cookie Swap Party just as we finished 12 days of cookie recipes. Cookies and cocktails--I'm so there.


This cookie swap party is one of my favorite gatherings in my new book, Camille Styles Entertaining: Inspired Gatherings and Effortless Style. The book features fresh, inspirational party ideas for every season. Brimming with creative hors d'oeuvres and cocktail recipes, floral design tips, and inspiring table designs—it’s a guide to the simple details and creative shortcuts that make everyday moments feel special.

CamilleStylesCookieSwapIEvery December, my dear friend Myra throws an all-girls cookie swap (with strict instructions to leave the kids and husbands at home!), and we all gather at her house for an afternoon of great company, glasses of bubbly and, of course, way too many sweets! It’s a holiday tradition that all her guests have come to look forward to each holiday season, and this year, I decided to host my own sugar-fueled version.

Here’s the way my cookie swap works: each guest brings a big batch of their favorite homemade holiday cookies with recipe cards to pass around, and at the party, are given a “to-go” box in which they collect a sampling of everyone else’s signature treats. After a couple hours of mixing and mingling, the ladies leave with a box of two dozen or so different kinds of cookies to sample, and (if they’re feeling generous) share with family and friends! It’s a delicious, and slightly dangerous, way to kick off the holidays, and guests are guaranteed to discover a few new recipes that are destined to become family traditions. CamilleStylesCookieSwapIII

The Menu
This party is all about indulging: taste-testing lots of different cookies and saving healthy eating resolutions for the new year! Before everyone showed up, I set up a cookie buffet with a few of my family’s favorite cookies, then let guests add to the mix as they arrived with their creations. One of the great things about a display like this is that it can be completely prepared and set out before the party, allowing me to be hands-off and sip prosecco with my girl friends!

Get the look.
One of my favorite things about having a party around the holidays is that my house is already all decked out! Candles flickering on the mantle and greenery garlands in the entranceway already set the tone for a festive gathering, so all that’s left for me to do is setup the cookie buffet and adorn the table with pinecones and evergreen branches.

I approach designing the buffet just as I would any other focal decor element, considering the colors and proportions of the serving pieces, and using natural elements to add interest and fullness. When choosing serving pieces, I always look for ways to vary the levels of the different pieces — it gives a balanced feel, and it’s much easier for guests to reach the different platters on the table when they’re not all at the same height. For this display, I incorporated a beautiful mix of cake stands and tiered pieces — some new and some collected from thrift stores through the years — that literally elevate the cookies to an artistic display.

Copper and evergreen.
For the simplest, classic holiday look, we filled a vintage copper pitcher with loads of red Ilex berry branches and placed it on the center of the cookie buffet. Change the water and snip the bottom of the branches once a week, and this arrangement can last all the way through the holiday season!

When creating a vignette with flowers and natural elements, think in terms of three’s for the most pleasing arrangement. We combined a single stem peony, a cluster of festival bush branches in an aged copper vessel and a little grouping of pine cones that filled in any gaps. To finish the look, we laid down a “runner” made from cedar branches interspersed with pine.

CamilleStylesCookieSwapII

Better with Cocktails.
Create a festive atmosphere with a bubbly bar — champagne, prosecco or cava will do the trick just fine! Set out glasses so guests can help themselves, and place skewers of sugared cranberries nearby for the ultimate seasonal stir stick. To make them, boil equal parts sugar and water until sugar dissolves, then submerge cranberries in the simple syrup. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a cooling rack, and allow to dry for an hour. Roll cranberries in a shallow bowl filled with sugar to coat, then allow to dry completely.

Packing it all up.
It’s crucial that your guests have the right-sized vessel for toting home all their cookies… and it’s nice if it’s cuter than a ziploc baggie! I love to collect vintage Christmas tins at antiques stores throughout the year; they make a really special party favor that guests can use to pack up all their cookies. You can also find sturdy cardboard “to-go” boxes at restaurant supply stores - just line them with tissue paper and seal with a sticker or tie with twine. Give guests a couple sheets each of parchment paper to be used as liners between layers, protecting the more delicate cookies.

 

These Are the STAR WARS Books You're Looking For

So did you hear that there's a new Star Wars movie on the way? Chances are you know someone who's a little excited about it, if you're not excited about it enough yourself (soccer droids notwithstanding). If you can't wait till the A.D. 2015 premiere, a pair of titles released this fall will delight even the most fanatical devotees. Star Wars Costumes presents the original costumes of episodes IV, V, and VI, as well as previously unreleased sketches and photos (watch the book trailer and see this PDF for sample pages), while Star Wars Art: Posters collects artwork from all six Star Wars films, the Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and limited-edition prints.

Enjoy the forward to Star Wars Art: Posters and these sample images from the book.


Star Wars Art: PostersFOREWORD TO STAR WARS ART: POSTERS

by Drew Struzan

Something new and exciting entered our world with the release of Star Wars in 1977. Star Wars moved the world. It changed not only movies, but also how we view ourselves, our world, our future, our language, our fantasies, our dreams, and, yes, our art. It gave us catchphrases, such as “May the Force be with you,” “Let the Wookiee win,” “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” and (the ultimate) “Use the Force, Luke.”

For me, Star Wars was not only a grand subject to paint; it also brought me into association with George Lucas. It was the turning point in my career. I went from relative obscurity to being a real part of a phenomenon. At the time, films generally enjoyed an opening-weekend release, saw a short run of a week or so, and were gone. But Star Wars kept drawing crowds. The interest did not wane for months. As a result, Lucasfilm decided to refresh the look of its marketing with a new poster.

Here’s where I came in—well, not exactly.

Charles White III was commissioned to create this new poster. He was not, however, a portrait artist. Charlie had seen my work and decided to call me in as a collaborator. I painted the portraits, while he painted the hardware. Lucasfilm liked the artwork, but there was not enough space left open for the “billing block” (credits). Necessity being the mother of invention, we decided to enlarge the dimensions of the art to increase the open space and give the work an early-twentieth-century, wild-posted circus-style look. Charlie made the edges of the painting appear torn and aged. I painted a portrait of Obi-Wan that was layered “under” the edge. So it came about that it took the two of us to paint what would come to be known as the “Circus” poster for its throwback style. The poster also became the favorite of the Master, George Lucas, whom I still had not met.

It was not until 1991 that I finally encountered the Star Wars originator. At the time, I was working on the cover of his filmography The Creative Impulse. I had just finished the poster for Steven Spielberg’s movie Hook, which had recently wrapped, and the production department was throwing a huge party. The entire parking lot of Sony Pictures was covered with three giant tents and was loaded with bands, restaurants, arcade games, cookie carts, and all manner of distractions. It seemed as if everyone who was any¬one in Hollywood had been invited.

My wife and I, being pretty much out of our element, stood far to the back, watching the parade of stars pass by. Standing on the opposite side of the parade was another lone figure taking in the hoopla. My wife, Dylan, thought she recognized him from the portrait I was painting and urged me to go introduce myself. Reluctantly, I waded toward him through the crowd. “Hi, I’m Drew,” I said at the top of my lungs. “Hi, I’m George,” he replied at full volume, barely audible. That was all we could hear through the din. Smiling, I fought my way back to my wife. “Yup, it is George,” I said. My excitement was palpable.

Later we ran into some friends who screamed, “You’ll never guess who was just here, excited that he had finally met Drew Struzan.” So there you have it. We had met at last, and from that day forward we have spoken and collaborated on numerous occasions. Two quiet guys. Pleased to know and be known by each other.

How can I think about or recall Star Wars without thinking of George? Star Wars is George. His mind, imagination, drive, creativity, heart, and soul are best understood by knowing his work. He is a good man, always loyal and supportive. My grand blessing in life has been the opportunity to be a part of the Star Wars “family” and to have been known by this good fellow, George Lucas.

Skip to December 1997.

It is the holiday season. The phone rings. George is on the line. He says something to the effect that he is releasing Special Editions of the three Star Wars movies. He asks me to create one work of art for the poster. Am I astonished? Uh, well, yes. “I’d be honored,” I say. Well, maybe I didn’t say it just that way, but that’s what I felt—and then I stuck my presumptuous foot in my mouth: “Hold on... You have a grand opportunity here to do a triptych, three posters that will work together as one.” He says, “Good idea. How do you see it?”

I began to talk off the top of my head, describing what I imagined. As I recall, six designers from Lucasfilm were listening in on the conversation. They began sketching as I was explaining. Then they sent a fax that asked, “Something like these?” Yes. Good. OK. And from there, “it” began.

Good design is simple and to the point, not rendered or flourished. The movie renders the idea. My job is to summarize and simplify a film’s essence. I was given one week each to design, draw, and paint these three posters for three different films. Normally, this process takes at least a month per poster and involves comprehensive drawings that are subject to criticism, changes, and approvals even before the work goes to finish. Then the labor of love—brush to canvas. This was different.

The first piece had to be done by Christmas. The second piece was completed by New Year’s. The third piece, a week into the New Year. No holidays. No weekends. Little rest for a month. Add to that the fact that I was not able to paint the images side-by-side to match and balance them. As I finished one painting, it was delivered immediately to Lucasfilm. I had to work from memory to complete the next in the series. This is the life of an illustrator. Everything is always a big rush. Everything is always a deadline. The posters all hit their openings on schedule.

Voilà! And then there were three. I could finally rest. And then, a few years later, there were six. And all along the way, dozens of book covers, post¬age stamps, and special projects—thirty-five years’ worth of association with Star Wars.

When you look at my Star Wars works, you see my take on George’s creation. When I begin a project, I look for the thing that drove the creator to make his sacrifice. People spend years of their time and power trying to bring these worlds to fruition. For my part, I think hard on their expression. I feel my way through their heart and soul and try to capture that in a single image.

One thing I’ve learned recently is that we think we are beings of reason and that reason is our power, but we have to admit the heart is stronger than the mind. Our hearts are at the center of our power. We can be more than what we are if we just let the Force flow within us so that we are present in every waking hour. All you have to do is choose.

George’s vision has lasted nearly forty years. Star Wars is preparing to go for another round, offering a new generation of artists an opportunity to express their creative insight. I count it as an honor to have been granted the autonomy to circulate in the Star Wars orbit by its creator, to bring my talents to bear on this grand vision. I am not alone. This book is a testimony to the adage that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Though I write of my experiences in the Star Wars universe, I know that all the artists represented in this volume are stars in the fantastic universe of George Lucas. I believe their experiences are all much the same as mine. Enjoy their art, their hearts, and their dreams, and get carried away with me in their wonder and visions.

God bless you my friend, George Lucas. Thirty-seven years a blessing and counting.

“May the Force be with you.”

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

(C) 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. And TM. All Rights Reserved. Used Under Authorization

Best Children's Books of 2014

BOTY2014KidsCollageThis year there seemed to be as many great children's books in the first half of the year as the second, great news for all of us book lovers who didn't have to wait until the big fall books to find the gems.  Case in point, The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems--our top pick for 2014 that released in April--is hilarious whether you're 4 or 44. 

Deciding on the top 20 children's books is always difficult, but I won't complain about having so many beloved books to choose from over the course of 2014.  Below is a sampling of the Best Children's Books of 2014, the top five (of a total of 20) across all ages.  You can also see the top 20 for each category:

Top 5 Children's Books of 2014:

1. The Pigeon Needs a Bath! by Mo Willems (ages 3-5): A new book in the beloved Pigeon series, even the flies think the pigeon needs a good scrub.  Hilarity ensues as pigeon does everything he can think of to avoid a bath but when the inevitable happens, the pigeon is pleasantly surprised.

2. The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm (ages 9-12): The clever, funny, and uplifting story of 11-year-old Ellie, who is entering a new chapter of her life when her grumpy scientist grandfather ends up living with them under strange circumstances.  As Ellie discovers new friends and interests, she and her grandfather form a unique bond that results in the gift of possibility for both of them.

3. The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel (ages 9-12): Historical fiction for young readers at it best, The Boundless successfully mixes history, folklore, and imagination into a sweeping adventure story. Will and Maren's paths cross twice around the Boundless, a train of epic proportion.  Though they live very different lives, they are united in the face of the murderers, thieves, and deception aboard the train's inaugural run.  

4. The Heroes of Olympus Book Five: The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan (ages 9-12): The final book in the Heroes of Olympus series, Riordan brings his A-game to end the story of these Greek and Roman demigods' battle to save the world from Gaea's destructive force.  Action-packed adventure, witty characters, and suspense make this one a page-turner from beginning to end.

5. Leroy Ninker Saddles Up: Tales from Deckawoo Drive, Volume One by Kate DiCamillo (ages 6-8): Award winner Kate DiCamillo kicks off a new chapter book series with a character readers may remember from one of ther Mercy Watson books, Leroy Ninker.  A sweet and funny story about a would-be cowboy and the horse he loves, this is a great book for reluctant readers and young enthusiasts alike.

You can see all of our favorite chidlren's books of the year here.

Omnivoracious™ Contributors

January 2015

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31