Magazine Review: Haute Dish Spring 2016 edited by Debby Dathe
This pun-titled periodical is the thrice-yearly organ of Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It features the artistic (mostly photography) and literary talents of the students there. This issue is thin compared to most college literary magazines I’ve seen, and the written contributions short–the longest doesn’t quite make four pages.
Of the photographs, the one I enjoyed most is Debby Dathe’s “Apprehension”, showing a steep wooded staircase from a kitten’s point of view. Another good one is “Tulip” by Jeremiah Grafsgaard, a dew-sprinkled tulip blossom about to open; this is placed directly opposite the prose piece “Iselder” by Alyssa Kuglin, which is about recovering from trauma and has tulip imagery. The juxtaposition of these two pieces is easily the best editorial decision in the issue.
“The Student Body” by Debby Dathe (again!) struck a nerve with its tale of being chosen last in gym class. But my favorite of the prose pieces was “Evidence” by Gina Nelson, about a person being coached through how to make a screenshot,,,for disturbing reasons. There’s some poetry too, none of which stood out for me.
This magazine will be of most interest to students and alumni of MSU, and perhaps their family. But collectors who take the long view might consider these sorts of things as investments should one of the authors represented hit the big time so that their early student work becomes valuable.
Book Review: Curiosities of Literature by John Sutherland
This is a book of trivia, factoids and amusing stories about the world of literature. The author is a professor of English literature, so he knows his stuff. The book is organized by loose themes, beginning with food (both as featured in literature, and as eaten by authors.) There are bits on authors’ pen names, sales figures and famous deaths. After the index, there’s an essay on “the end of the book” where Mr. Sutherland muses whether the codex book as we know it will soon vanish, replaced by electronic media or even telepathic communication.
The illustrations are by Martin Rowson, who is in the old style of detailed editorial cartoons, and give a very British feel to the book. (The words are less obvious about it.)
Being relatively widely-read, I had run across many of the factoids before, but there were some I had no idea of, or had long forgotten (like the true fate of V.C. Andrews.) Mr. Sutherland makes no pretense of being neutral in his opinions–he’s particularly scathing about the Left Behind series. His writing is informative and readable; it might be worthwhile to look his more serious work up.
As with many other trivia and lists books, this is less something one would buy for themselves, and more something to buy as a present for a relative who loves reading. As such, it’s good value for money–but given that “mature themes” are discussed, I would not recommend it for readers below senior high school age.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway for the purpose of writing this review. No other compensation was offered or requested.
The subtitle of this book is “A Reinterpretation of the Ten Commandments for the New Millennium.” While a close look at what the classic rule set means to us in the 21st Century would certainly be a worthy project, it turns out that’s not the “New Millennium” the author is talking about. Instead, she means the spiritual New Millennium which has no fixed date, but represents humanity moving on from its current toxic ways into a better place.
What this results in is not so much a reinterpretation of the Ten Commandments, but using each of the commandments as a starting point for a riff on New Age philosophy. Alien wisdom, astrology, psychics, chakra energy and other such subjects are all mixed together in a stew of optimism and positive thinking. Those unfamiliar with every fringe movement out there might get confused when she uses the lingo without explanation as of course her main audience will get it. (For example, when she talks about being a “double Virgo” who dated an “Aries.”) She even uses the “10% of your brain” myth.
While the author has some good points about not letting toxic people drag you down with them, and finding the positive in any situation, they’re buried under multiple layers of dubious pseudo-philosophy and could be picked up from any number of more solid self-help books. Which is not to say that there aren’t some entertaining stories here about the author’s experiences in the New Age community.
The author at one point talks about her publisher and editor, but the book is self-published, and the spellchecker typos lead me to wonder about the editor’s existence or competence. The book was originally published in 1996, and this is an updated version from 2011. The most obvious revision is that one passage clearly was originally about the year 2000 (end of the Twentieth Century), but was patched to 2012 (end of the Mayan calendar cycle); the author wisely gives herself an out by saying that visible results might not arrive until 2017.
Not recommended for serious Bible scholars, or people who are triggered by heresy. Might be of some interest to New Age aficionados.
Last Wednesday, I went to an event titled “Bloggers Get Social”, which was held at a Davanni’s in Edina. Getting there was the first hurdle, as it started at 5 P.M. and I got off work at 4:30 several suburbs away. I found an express route that worked on paper, but when I got to the bus stop, discovered I’d left my paper with the route number and the address of the Davanni’s back in the office. Fortunately, I was able to work out which express bus out of the dozen that serve that stop it was by elimination.
Next problem: When I got on the bus, I discovered that there were no schedules for the route on the bus–I knew one of the cross-streets where I had to get off, but not the other. And everyone near me was firmly attached to their headphones except one lady who had no idea where that cross-street was. The good news was, it was the very first stop the express made in Edina, and the Davanni’s was clearly visible from the side of the bus I was on. I was there only about fifteen minutes late!
Of course, that meant that the other attendees had already clumped up into tight groups at tables, so I was at a loss at first. Good news, though, Davanni’s put on a nice spread for us, showcasing their variety of party foods. Their party room space is also very nice. https://www.davannis.com/location/edina/
The organizers of the social night were the folks from the MN Blogger Conference, which next meets at Concordia University in Saint Paul October 16th, 2016. http://www.mnbloggerconference.com/ After the owners of the Davanni’s gave a nice speech about the history of the restaurant and how their employees have helped build their menu over the years, a couple of other latecomers joined my table, and the organizers reminded everyone to switch tables every so often so that we would meet different people.
I still think I missed about half the bloggers there, but did manage to give out all the business cards with my blog info on them. Not everyone had cards, but I did manage to get some. In no particular order:
Faces of TBI: This site is about people who have suffered Traumatic Brain Injury, both survivors and those who have passed on. The author is Amy Zellner, writer of Life with a Traumatic Brain Injury: Finding the Road Back to Normal. Her most recent blog post is an appearance by Dr. Bennet Omalu (played by Will Smith in Concussion) coming up in Saint Louis Park, Minnesota. http://facesoftbi.com/an-evening-with-dr-bennet-omalu-minneapolis/
Stacie Sayz So: A lifestyle blogger, a lot of her posts seem to be about beauty products from an affordable perspective. But Stacie’s not just about product reviews! Her most recent post is photography tips to enhance those pictures that come with your blog posts (I mostly cheat and just scan the book cover.) http://www.staciesayzso.com/2016/02/how-i-stepped-up-my-camera-game-for-my.html
Kale & Ale: Another lifestyle blog, this one about healthy eating and drinking. Lots of recipes and gardening tips! The latest post by author Valerie Dennis is about her trip to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico and the nice places she found to eat there. http://kaleandale.com/2016/02/15/old-san-juan-puerto-rico/
Jen Jamar is a content strategist and social media manager, which is the kind of person I want to consult if I ever try to monetize this blog. (Read me now while there’s still no ads 🙂 Her latest post is about a recent social media management tool update that looks scary, but probably is nothing to panic about: http://www.jenjamar.com/yoast-3-0-1-heres-what-to-do-instead-of-freaking-out/
Donna Hup writes about small town Midwestern life: cooking, entertainment, travel and especially trucking! Her most recent post is about a…unique…charity run she participated in for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Lots of fun pictures! http://donnahup.com/my-first-cupids-undie-run/
Paul Lundquist doesn’t have a blog as such, but is an advertising and commericial photographer if you can afford to commission the best pictures of stuff for your blog. You can find a portfolio of his work at http://paullundquist.com/
I also remember a fellow doing something called Lifemap which will be a site that allows members to put pins in maps of places they’ve been and write about their experiences there. I don’t think it’s in full production yet.
Davanni’s handed out gift bags, which contained Davanni’s glasses and a do-it-yourself Valentine treat kit. Their regular dessert bars with small pots of frosting and sprinkles so you could customize them for your sweetie. Thanks, Davanni’s!
I got a ride back to the big city from a fellow who works for Blackeye Roasting, a cold press coffee brewer. He was giving out samples of their product. Alas, I don’t like the taste of coffee, but here’s their website anyway: http://www.blackeyeroasting.co/about/
Sadly, I got a raging cold the next day, and hadn’t felt up to writing about the experience till now.
Please visit some of these folks, and in the comments, mention your favorite blog that needs more visitors!
Manga Review: Vinland Saga, Book Two by Makoto Yukimura
To recap for those of you who haven’t read the review of Book One, Vinland Saga is set in the early 12th Century, the time of the Vikings. Our protagonist is Thorfinn, son of Thors, who serves in the war band of Askeladd. Askeladd murdered Thors, and Thorfinn serves the wily warrior for the sole purpose of one day getting revenge in a fair duel.
In this volume, the action shifts to the British Isles, and the war of King Sweyn Forkbeard against King Ethelred the Unready. While Ethelred himself has fled, the city of London stands fast, largely due to the presence of Thorkell the Tall on their side. Thorkell is a mighty man who hopes to perish in battle against a truly worthy foe, so that he might enter Valhalla with honor. He switched sides to fight against the Northmen, because they were the tougher opponents!
Askeladd sends the relatively tiny lad Thorfinn in to kill Thorkell, and although it doesn’t work, Thorkell is impressed enough to want to fight Thorfinn again. Sweyn decides to consolidate his rule over the rest of the country, and appoints his sickly son Canute (who’s the blond on the cover) to handle London’s siege.
Things don’t go as planned for just about everyone, and soon Askeladd’s band is in possession of Canute, and being chased by Thorkell’s warriors across the countryside. Askeladd is forced to resort to one of the aces up his sleeve, a shocking secret from his past.
There’s a bonus story about Thorfinn’s sister Ylva dealing with the loss of her brother and father, and a chapter of “For Our Farewell Is Near”, about a samurai dying of illness .
There’s plenty of action and violence in this volume, and Askeladd’s idea of “mercy” is a cruel one by modern standards. Some readers may also be turned off by the alcoholic priest who is not very good at explaining theology. And probably the real Canute wasn’t that pretty.
However, it’s got good art, interesting characters and a setting that appeals to me, so I recommend this to fans of Viking stories, and students of English history.