Free Books @ the library!

In what some have called a daring and radical departure from the successful business models of Barnes & Noble, Netflix and iTunes, The Seattle Public Library is loaning books, DVDs and music free of charge to anyone with a library card. In a scheme well-calculated to take advantage of the image-of-seattle-library-book-return-courtesy-of-leffcurrent thrift craze (or cheap chic), Seattlites can browse from a vast collection of new, used and even rare materials at over twenty-five neighborhood locations, or via an extensive online catalog. Of course there’s a catch: you’ll have to return the items when you’re done, so that someone else can use them.

What will they think up next? Free coffee?

30,000 Years of Art: The Story of Human Creativity

30,000 Years of Art: The Story of Human Creativity Image source: Battle of San Romano http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Paolo_Uccello_035.jpgAcross Time and Space  inspires readers to think about art in a different way.  Accessible and not stuffy, this work looks chronologically across the centuries of art in a way that avoids the thematic conventions and classifications of the way we typically study art history.

This makes for a freeing and fun way to look at cross-cultural development. When the great painters of the Renaissance were at their peak, what was art like in other parts of the globe? Paolo Uccello’s iconic Battle of San Romano is opposite from representational Afghani art, both created within years of each other. This serendipity of comparison is part of the joy of the book. From a later era is the famous Jacques-Louis David painting of a proud and haughty Napoleon, astride a rearing charger as he crosses the Alps, across from a proud and haughty Persian shah, with scimitar and scepter. They are the same type of domineering personalities, mirroring each other but within their own culture. Similar delightful surprises wait upon each page turn.

This is a great browsing book but also literally a weighty tome, at over 12 pounds.  Pull up a sturdy table and a comfortable chair. Settle in and enjoy the tour.  ~ Carl

Gentrification and the Arts

Beautiful Things That Heaven BearsIf you have picked up this year’s Seattle Reads novel, The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu you’ve had a chance to get one novelist’s take on some of the issues and pressures that can fracture a community changing in the face of gentrification and immigration.

Facing similar issues, particularly those of gentrification pressures, local Capitol Hill artists, arts activists, neighbors and interested citizens are gathering at Seattle City Hall in April to discuss community concerns about rapidly diminishing affordable space for arts uses in the City’s core neighborhoods. Get details at:

Make Room for Art: Cultural Overlay Districts for Seattle
April 2, 5pm-6:30pm, Seattle City Hall

City Councilmembers will hear from Seattle residents, arts and entertainment venues and organizations, property owners, developers, and officials on how the Council might go about establishing an overlay district to offer incentives and controls in a specific area to encourage or preserve particular kinds of activities, spaces, and/or design. How can the city grow in a healthy balanced way that benefits all? This could be an exciting opportunity to add your voice as “A City Makes Herself.”

Book review: Phryne Fisher mysteries by Kerry Greenwood

phryne2.jpgI’ve never encountered a detective quite like Phryne (rhymes with “briny”) Fisher before – but now I’m totally smitten. Divinely elegant and stylish, this smart, confident woman turned her back on 1928 aristocracy to live independently in Australia. In one of my favorites, Murder in Montparnasse, Phryne steps in to help her friends Bert and Cec when their buddies start dying under under suspicious circumstances. She suspects that the men – and perhaps Phryne herself – unknowingly witnessed a crime in Paris ten years earlier during World War I.  Even though I was attracted to the Art Deco cover art in this series, I resisted these books for a solid year. I finally realized my reluctance is connected not to the story or the character, but to the embarrassing fact that I had absolutely no idea how to pronounce “Phryne.” Continue reading “Book review: Phryne Fisher mysteries by Kerry Greenwood”

Cool women, hot mysteries

curse-of-the-spellmans.jpgThe one thing these mysteries have in common: smart, independent, funny and resourceful women. These are today’s detectives — a little younger and a lot hipper than many of the sleuths you’ve met in long-running mystery series (you know, those series that have initials or numbers in their titles). If you’re looking for romantic suspense, look elsewhere. These women have crimes to solve.

Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
P.I. Izzy Spellman’s newest obsession is unraveling the secrets of her next door neighbor (a.k.a. Subject) whose landscape business is certainly a cover for darker intrigue. Witty and oh-so-cool in San Francisco. Get to know Izzy in The Spellman Files, the first book in the series.

Christietown by Susan Kandel
Cece Caruso, an L.A. biographer of famous mystery authors, stages a Miss Marple play that brings down the house — and the leading lady. Great authentic tie-ins to Agatha Christie (and her real-life 11-day disappearance), just like Kandel wove Dashiell Hammett and Nancy Drew’s legacy into her earlier mysteries.

Dead Ex by Harley Jane Kozak
Artist Wollie Shellie takes a silly job on a TV talk show called SoapDirt, and soon gets tangled in Continue reading “Cool women, hot mysteries”