Oh man, you guys. I love September so much. It’s my favorite month. And yes, my birthday is in September, but I love it for so many more reasons than that! September has some of the best weather of the year: still warm enough for shorts and tees, but not stupid hot, September is back to school time, which is getting more and more nostalgic the longer I’m away from school, and September has a whole bunch of great events too! Click READ MORE to find out what’s up!
August 29th is More Herbs, Less Salt Day! Herbs are fantastic, guys. Herbs are what takes food from drab to fab, they’re the saving grace of such bland things as potatoes and quinoa, they are, in short, food’s reason for living.
Where would that healthy grilled chicken be without a little rub of rosemary? Blahsville, that’s where. And those cute little new potatoes? Without some chives or some parsley, you may as well be eating balls of paste. And of course, though it’s not quite universally loved, who can forget the culinary might of cilantro in a salsa or a chutney?
More Herbs, Less Salt Day is a day to remember both the risks of over-salting one’s food and the pleasures of using fresh herbs in one’s cooking (and eating.) Seriously, is there anything that can make you feel more like a real chef than adding a pinch of fresh oregano to a simmering dish? There is not.
So for real, get you some herbs, make some food, and enjoy the delicious and complex flavors that only herbs can provide. Salt is great, but in the end it just makes things salty. Herbs are way more useful.
It’s National Farmer’s Market Week, city slickers! When I was a kid, my mom used to take us to the Farmer’s Market in the parking lot of the Pittsburgh Zoo and it was one of the best parts of the summer. I didn’t really appreciate the local produce then, but man did I love the sno-cones. There was this great vendor with one of those totally bitchin’ ice shaving machines and all these great flavored syrups like Piña Colada and mango and stuff. It ruled.
There’s no FM in the zoo parking lot anymore, but there are plenty of them around Pittsburgh during the spring/summer/fall, and the FM is the very best place to get fruits, vegetables, and a bunch of other delicious foodstuffs. My favorites to get recently are fresh baked breads, whole barbecued chickens, and there’s this berry farmer who makes these fantastic berry-flavored syrups that go great in lemonade and on ice cream and stuff.
Sno-cones, breads, and syrups, though, all pale in comparison to freshly picked corn on the cob. There may indeed be no better summer food than fresh corn. It’s great just shucked and boiled, it’s fantastic grilled, and it’s amazing cut off the cob and cooked with olive oil and fresh Poblano peppers. (Also available at FMs!)
Pretty much what I’m saying here is that the Farmer’s Market is absolutely the place to go for fresh summer foods. There’s at least one somewhere in Pittsburgh every day except Saturday for the rest of the summer and into the fall. Find out exactly where/when here! I’ll see you there!
Well, friends, we got through the hectic, crazy fun that was July and now it’s time to settle in for the long, hot haul that is August. Just kidding, it’s still summer and that means more fun! Sure, it feels like you’re swimming through molten lava each time you walk outside, but that’s part of summer’s charm! Or whatever. Anyway, there’s plenty of great stuff happening at KU during August, so click READ MORE to find out what!
Peter Rabbit, as you may know, is the most famous character of the wonderful children’s author Beatrix Potter. (Whose birthday is July 28th!) When I was a kid, there were several film adaptations of Beatrix Potter’s works that I loved to watch over and over and over. They, along with the Disney movie Dumbo and the cartoon Charlotte’s Web, were a hugely formative part of my childhood. They were instrumental in giving me a love of nature and animals that endures to this day.
Peter Rabbit was a rebel. His mom was all, “Don’t go in Mr. McGregor’s garden or he will literally eat you like some sort of fairy tale monster only he’s real.” But Peter was like, “Yeah, whatever!” And he raided that garden righteously. It was so metal. Then he had to escape the garden when Mr. McGregor happened to see and chase him and he barely got away! AND, having lost his waistcoat (a rabbit in a waistcoat?!) and shoes and contracted a cold from hiding in a watering can, Peter was sent to bed with no supper and just a dose of Chamomile tea. Whew.
So yes, Peter probably could have avoided all that unpleasantness by simply listening to his mother, but sometimes you just have to let people make their own mistakes. And eat delicious carrots.
Beatrix Potter was pretty rad too. She was a shrewd businesswoman, patenting a Peter Rabbit doll shortly after the book became such a huge hit and buying a ton of farmland in the north of England over the course of her life (which she donated to the National Trust and later much of it became the Lake District National Park) and just generally being a boss. Plus her name was Beatrix which rules. So happy birthday, Beatrix! <3!
The life of a comic book nerd is not easy. Misunderstood, dismissed, and much maligned, the graphic novel/comic medium is in reality just as complex and varied as is traditional fiction, it just happens to include freakin’ awesome illustrations. If you’re someone who has, in the past, dismissed comics because you thought they were all about superheroes with onomatopoetic sound effects like ‘biff’ or if you’re someone who’s never even considered diving into the rich and wonderful world of the graphic novel, give these books a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Batman, R.I.P.: What it’s about: Batman, obviously. He dies in this one! (Maybe…)
Why you should read it: Batman R.I.P. is pretty much the culmination of Grant Morrison’s (aka, the Leo Tolstoy of graphic novels) work with the Batman character. It’s huge, complex, and challenging. Not your run of the mill superhero comic.
Lucifer: What it’s about: Yes, that Lucifer. In the DC universe, the character of Lucifer appears in many stories, most notably in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, which is where the stand alone Lucifer series got its start.
Why you should read it: Sorry, did I not mention the part where it’s about the devil and that the stand alone series is a spin-off from Sandman. Additionally, because re-vamps of the traditional devil character are fascinating. And finally because Lucifer is just an incredibly cool character. He’s got it going on, is what I’m saying.
The Filth: What it’s about: A weird, crazy romp through post-modern interpretations of the status quo!
Why you should read it: Another piece from the genius mind of Grant Morrison, The Filth is one of those things that you just have to see to believe. If you’re into media that looks at the line between appropriate and inappropriate and then promptly obliterates it, The Filth is for you.
John Constantine: Hellblazer: What it’s about: One of DC’s longest running characters, antihero magician, chain-smoker, and pro-level snark factory John Constantine and all his supernatural adventures.
Why you should read it: It’s a fantastic exploration of the humanist antihero. If misanthropes who are committed to doing something good are your thing, look up my man John.
Saga of the Swamp Thing: What it’s about: Pretty self-explanatory, actually. He’s a Thing. That lives in a Swamp. Loves plants and the environment and stuff.
Why you should read it: Self-explanatorability notwithstanding, it’s actually really cool! A global environmentally aware comic book character is a fabulous protagonist. For real.
A Game of Thrones: I don’t need to tell you what it’s about because you’ve probably seen the show. I hope.
Why you should read it: Again, feel like I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but I will say that the graphic novelization of ASOIAF is like a really incredible mash-up of the show and the books, which is baller.
100 Bullets: What it’s about: It’s basically everything fantastic about noir, pulp, and revenge thrillers all rolled into one stylized, metaphor-rich creation.
Why you should read it: See above. It’s like the breakfast burrito of the crime story world.
Ok, yes. Ventriloquists’ Dummies frequently are extremely creepy. Being a ventriloquist, though, is really cool. Did you know ventriloquism (Yeah, try typing it in less than three seconds. Go ahead, I’ll wait.) was considered a form of prophecy in ancient Greece and Rome? The oracle at Delphi was a ventriloquist. Except she didn’t use a puppet, I guess?
ANYWAY, the third week of July (7/13 — 7/19 this year) is National Ventriloquism Week and that’s pretty awesome. Ventriloquy, dummy-creepiness notwithstanding, is a really impressive performing art. Plus, on the non-creepy end of things, there are adorable puppets like Lambchop and Blue-eyed Goose!
So enjoy these videos, and get your puppet on during National Ventriloquism Week!
Full disclosure: As you can tell from the title, I personally have not yet read any of these books. I recommend them to you based purely on the fact that I want to read them (and the great reviews. Obviously.)
The Story-Telling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall: “Like the magnificent storytellers past and present who furnish him here with examples and inspiration, Jonathan Gottschall takes a timely and fascinating but possibly forbidding subject — the new brain science and what it can tell us about the human story-making impulse — and makes of it an extraordinary and absorbing intellectual narrative. The scrupulous synthesis of art and science here is masterful; the real-world stakes high; the rewards for the reader numerous, exhilarating, mind-expanding.” —Terry Castle, Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities, Stanford University
“This is a work of popular philosophy and social theory written by an obviously brilliant undergraduate teacher. The gift for the example is everywhere. A punchy line appears on almost every page.” -The San Francisco Chronicle
American Artisanal by Rebecca Gray: “We love this book; we had been parceling it out in chapter-sized bits at bedtime but we raced through at the end. Read this! It’s fascinating and inspiring. Who knows — you may be the next American artisan.” -Faith Durand
“If you’re remotely interested in food — either cooking it or eating it — then American Artisanal ought to be your guide. Anytime Becky Gray gets around cooking, trust me: something magical is going to happen.” -Winston Groom
The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie: First of all, every person should want to read this book based purely on the fact that it was written by contemporary polymath Hugh Laurie. Any foray of his into different genres has piqued my interest. Also: “This is a genuinely witty and sophisticated entertainment.” - Christopher Buckley in the NY Times Book Review
“The Gun Seller is fast, topical, wry, suspenseful, hilarious, witty, surprising, ridiculous, and pretty wonderful.
And you don’t need a permit to buy it…A delightful novel.” — The Washington Post Book Review
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: Yes, I’m a little tardy to the party on this one, but I do intend to get to it eventually.
“Green writes books for young adults, but his voice is so compulsively readable that it defies categorization. He writes for youth, rather than to them, and the difference is palpable.” — Rachel Syme, NPR Books
“This is a book that breaks your heart—not by wearing it down, but by making it bigger until it bursts.” —The Atlantic
City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers: I’ll be honest, I mostly just want to read this book because of the title and the fact that the cover art is a structure built of books. But the reviews are good as well.
“Moers’ creative mind is like J. K. Rowling’s on Ecstasy” — Detroit Evening News
“A yarn of drollery, deeper meaning and sheer lunacy” - Rolling Stone
Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis: This one I want to read because I love love love the movie. And since books are generally better than movie versions…
“I reread and study Auntie Mame like a hilarious, glamorous bible where, among other wise lessons, one learns that true sophistication and innocence are two halves of the same glittering coin.” –Charles Busch, author of The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife and Vampire Lesbians of Sodom
“Auntie Mame is a unique literary achievement a brilliant novel disguised as a lightweight piece of fluff. Every page sparkles with wit, style and though Mame would cringe at the thought high moral purpose. Let’s hope Patrick Dennis is finally recognized for what he is: One of the great comedic writers of the 20th century.” –Robert Plunket, author of Love Junkie