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As You Like It has a new home

We’ve recently redesigned our website and all of our blogs will now be an integral part of our new site (if you haven’t checked out One Book, Two Books, Old Books, New Books or Notes From the Underground, please make sure that you do!)

We will maintain this wordpress site as an archive but future posts will appear here.

Thank you for reading along with us over the years!  We hope you’ll make the move with us.

 

 

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We are constantly being warned about the food we eat and the beverages we drink.  Almost daily headlines warn of contaminated poultry, harmful additives in processed food, or dangerous levels of caffeine in energy drinks. Creative, deceptive advertising adds to our confusion — when is “natural” not natural?  Oreo-Thins, anyone?

Bone to PickAt least we can pay just as much attention to watchdogs of the food industry; those who look out for the consumer’s best interest and do their research. One such watchdog is Mark Bittman, the New York Times’ only columnist to cover the “food beat.” His latest book, A Bone to Pick, is a collection of columns from 2011-2014.  The contents can be treated like a buffet, sampled here and there, in no particular order.  The selections are thoughtful, enlightening, erudite, with touches of wit. They often produce “a-ha” moments or food for thought:

“It comes down to eat more fruit and vegetables and less junk and red meat.  But, most people don’t.”

“Rule of thumb: avoid anything that didn’t exist 100 years ago.  Eat a dried apricot (1 ingredient) rather than a fruit roll-up (13 ingredients, numbers 2, 3, and 4 of which are sugar of forms of added sugar.)”

“Food companies are well aware of the health crisis their products cause, and recognize that the situation is unsustainable.”

“When people cook their own food, they make better choices.  We should provide food education for children … and cooking classes for anyone who wants them.”

“Lawns are an attempt to dominate and homogenize nature. Gardens, however, are “constantly reminding us of the complexities and poetry of growing food and eating.”

Take a look at what you eat, how you shop, and what you order in restaurants.  Enjoy sampling A Bone to Pick, and read until you’re satisfied but not stuffed.

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William Faulkner!

William_Faulkner

image via Wikipedia

I’m gonna have to read more of this dude.  And not just because he’s got another Pulitzer win coming up in a decade or so of Pulitzers.  But because in about 35 pages of this first Pulitzer win of his from 1955, A Fable, he put to rest any real doubts I had about him as a writer I could appreciate.  Look, I read As I Lay Dying in college and that stream-of-consciousness stuff is not so much for me, and since that was the only Faulkner I had ever read I was worried that he might not have any range beyond achingly annoying, pseudo-insightful internal monologues.  I stand with anxiety assuaged.

I’m happy to think that my enjoyment and esteem of this novel, this “fable” would have made Faulkner very glad.  He seems to have considered it his masterpiece, though the world of critics has given it the status of only a “lesser novel” (and now I am driven to arrive at my own conclusions).  I suppose A Fable could be seen as a little pedantic, perhaps lacking some subtle element of humanity that exists in other works, and yet I found it so much less pretentious than his cluttered, jerky, unceasing stream-of-consciousness gimmick.  Again, sure, I could have gone in for shorter sentences, better antecedents, and less use of the word “myriad” in A Fable, but overall I was delighted to be holding such a work in my hands, absorbing its intellectual and visceral examination of war and power, belief and memory, all against the backdrop of one of the bloodiest, most miserable international conflicts the world has ever seen: WWI.

So, though I’ll clearly be avoiding As I Lay Dying (hopefully the stylistic exception and not the rule for Faulkner’s catalog) this post is really all about the good news of my new found hope in William.  I thought I might need some new or just some different eyes to be able to jump on the Bill Train, but I have found that the eyes I have are adequate, and I’ll be coming back to Bill.  He has shown me his soul and I have found it exceptional, even if a little vain.

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Calling all authors!

By guest blogger Stephanie

index.aspxThe Allen County Public Library is holding its annual Author Fair on Saturday, November 14th from 1 pm to 4 pm at its downtown location. This is a great opportunity to chat with readers and network with other area authors, as well as a chance to sell your books!! (Ten percent of all proceeds will be donated to the Friends of the Allen County Public Library)

Registration forms are available at all library locations, as well as on the ACPL web site. The deadline is September 30th for inclusion in publicity materials, and we encourage you to register early to reserve a spot. Once all spaces are filled, authors will be added to a wait list.

If you have questions, please contact Megan Bell or Trish Downey in the Readers’ Services department at 260-421-1235. We hope you can join us for this unique afternoon literary event!

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Pretending to be someone else is one of the best parts of mental youth. Some folks “grow out of it,” but others keep that fire alive as long as they can. Zombie walks through Fort Wayne are a good example; another is the GenCon gamers gathering in Indianapolis every summer. My wife and I spent two days there last week — along with maybe 50,000 other playful people. She and I were among the majority who tried to look normal while pretending to run railroads or be Mayan kings or whatnot, but we admired the hundreds of conventioneers who were determined to look unconventional.

IMG_1190The fellow in the photo was one of my favorites. He not only looked the part, but he was sacrificing for his art. His hooves were rigged in such a way that he was walking on the balls of his feet — with no heels! He was joined by pirates and bards and a creature whose upper body consisted of a large cardboard box painted grey and topped with lots of protruding eyeballs. I have no idea who she was supposed to be, but it didn’t matter. Go girl.

An oft-told anecdote about my own lack of imagination took place at the tiny 1974 GenCon in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I was there to play board games and when a guy walked up and urged me to take part in a new kind of game in which I could pretend to be an elf or a wizard, I quickly declined. Of course, he and his friends were playtesting the truly game-changing “Dungeons and Dragons,” and I lost out on bragging rights to be among them. Last week in Indy, the role players were a great multitude.

To me, the key titular phrase in Sarah Lynne Bowman’s The Functions of Role-Playing Games: How Participants Create Community, Solve Problems and Explore Identity is “explore identity.” That’s what’s going on to a small degree in many games, but the role-playing variety sparked by the success of D&D has given thousands of people a safe way to pretend to be something on the outside that they really want to be a little bit on the inside. In fact, I’ll create a bit of pop sociology right before your eyes and suggest that devoted role players have helped open psychological doors for much of the gender-role changes we’ve seen since D&D erupted. I just wish I’d gotten a picture of the blue-gowned, white-haired anime princess at GenCon — the one who still had his full brown beard.

 

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Flatlander advice

terminator1

image via Syndetics

I felt that the frenetic, hard-boiled prose in the opening pages of James Ramsey Ullman’s 1954 Near-Pulitzer (the last of the six for ’54!  Yay!), The Sands of Karakorum, was an interesting reflection of his subject matter and the times.  Set in China during the Communist revolution, in the far lung of that great conflict we call the Cold War, it was a time of perceived absolutes (East vs. West, i.e.); melodramatic speech-making; frenetic, hard-boiled, film noir prose, etc.  To Ullman’s credit he doesn’t continue long in this vein of propagandic pageantry, but soon ventures into the strange, near-fever-dream qualities of a pilgrimage across the great central wastes of Asia and a battle for humanity’s soul.

To Ullman, or at least to some of Ullman’s characters, man’s world is crumbling.  Communism is a failure, Christianity is a failure, mankind sits on the threshold of nuclear annihilation, and the only hope is in a leap of faith into and from the rubble of twentieth century institutions and their predecessors.  If Ullman had lived long enough to take in the many films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator I think he would have really gotten something out of them, though, perhaps, not what many of us come away with.  (Namely, an intense adrenaline rush.)

Things certainly did look grim through much of the central portion of Ullman’s life (Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China), it’s perhaps little wonder that he spent so much of his time climbing mountains (first Pulitzer-associated author I’m aware of that has “mountaineer” thrown in among his descriptive life roles) and getting away from and above it all.  If a book about that sort of thing (mountains, that is) sounds appealing to you, consider checking out Ullman’s 1945 book, The White Tower.  Sources say it might be his best.  If you’re more into the impending doom sort of stuff, check out this book, The Sands of Karakorum.  It’s quite a ride and mostly worth taking.  That said, perhaps you don’t find yourself with much time for reading.  Let me recommend a movie.  Summer 2015 has brought us a new Terminator movie, and though the reviews are less than congratulatory, with Arnold being back and all, well, we probably don’t have to abandon all hope yet.  A little adrenaline high to help take one’s mind off of things could do us all some good.  We’ve all got to find a way to get “away from it all” one way or another.  Not everyone has access to mountains.

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Why Mad Max matters

Mad_Max_-_Fury_RoadIf you haven’t kept up with the slew of summer movies, you may not understand why Mad Max: Fury Road stands out from any of the others.  The return of a well loved franchise?  Check.  A new actor cast in a familiar role?  Check.  Plenty of explosive action?  Check.  On paper, it may not look like it stands out from the crowd, but I contend that the way this film delivers its action is going to be an important watershed moment for action films going forward.  If other directors don’t take a cue from the masterful George Miller, it’s everyone’s loss.

Namib_Desert_Namibia(1)

While Mad Max: Fury Road presumably takes place in the Australian outback like the previous films, the sprawling sands of Namibia lend a landscape of utter barrenness to the proceedings.

In a sequel-driven business where there is pressure to start production on a new film as soon as positive box office reports start rolling in, George Miller had one rare luxury in putting together this latest Max film: time.  While the director worked during the 2000’s on the two animated Happy Feet films, his idea for a fourth Mad Max was nearly bubbling over on the back burner.  He started pre-production as far back as 1998, but when the September 11th attacks happened in 2001, the combination of a ballooning economy and restrictive travel conditions for the cast and crew to arrive in the Namibian desert caused a project on the verge of production to be shelved.  This may have been a blessing in disguise.  By the time production began in earnest, Miller had honed his idea of what each sequence would look like, due in no small part to his use of storyboarding, a technique he became familiar with in working with animators.  As he stated in an interview with Collider’s Christina Radish:

So, I worked with five really good storyboard artists.  We just sat in a big room and, instead of writing it down, we’d say, “Okay, this guy throws what we call a thunder stick at another car and there’s an explosion.”  You can write that, but exactly where the thunder stick is, where the car is and what the explosion looks like, it’s very hard to get those dimensions, so we’d draw it.  We ended up with about 3,500 panels.  It almost becomes equivalent to the number of shots in the movie. 

We can take two salient points from Miller’s words.  First, this film is just as bombastic as Miller’s matter-of-fact recollection of the process makes it sound.  Second, Miller is a fully realized filmmaker who realizes that to truly realize a (more…)

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