Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Thursday, Dec 17, 2009
Gig Posters - Clay Hayes - Quirk Books [$40.00]

Clay Hayes’ book is a collection of some of the finest posters from his website, Gigposters.com, an online community of designers and fans showcasing the incredible poster work being done around the world. Letterpress, screen printing, digital, and mash-ups of all forms do more than just advertise, they become art. The whole point is to grab someone’s attention. Hayes’ book is a design feat in itself. Each page is perforated and meant to detach, giving readers 101 mini-prints, making this a book one can literally deconstruct. This feature harkens back to the built-in disposability of posters which one hung on telephone poles, bar windows, or community bulletins boards. Gig posters are meant to be cherished. They’re the last great rock ‘n’ roll commodity, merchandise elevated above the commercial and into the artistic by the artists featured here and the others like them. Actually, they’ve always been art, and it’s the quality of the work, in everything from basic design down to the minute details, that makes these posters so amazing. And this book an amazing gift for any art or rock lover. And honestly, who doesn’t fall into at least one of those categories?


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Wednesday, Dec 16, 2009
Celebrating Peanuts: 60 Years - Charles Schulz [$75.00]

There have been several books about Schulz and Peanuts (as opposed to collections of the strips) over the years, early examples being 1965’s Gospel According to Peanuts, and 1975’s Peanuts Jubilee. Published a year before Shultz’s death, 1999’s A Golden Celebration featured running commentary by the master himself. With its similarly large format, decade-oriented organization sprinkled with trivia, that book could have been an inspiration for the newest addition to the canon of Peanuts appreciation: Celebrating Peanuts.


What can any new book bring to this already crowded subject? Surprisingly, a nostalgic sense of joy. This book wants the work taken seriously, focusing on two key aspects: Schulz as hard-working artist, and Peanuts as pop culture phenomenon.


It’s a single volume in a large hardcover format, accompanied by a slipcase. It doesn’t offer all of the comics, but it offers a heck of a lot. Celebrating Peanuts seems aimed at fans (at all levels of fanaticism) who want comprehensive and colorful overview of the entire run of Peanuts in a single volume.


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Wednesday, Dec 16, 2009
Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing - Holt [$14.00]

While Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing is true to its title, offering advice for writers for every step of the process, from generating topic ideas to effective proofreading tips, this is not merely a reference book for writers. Most of the information applies equally to our daily conversation, concisely clarifying routine language-related issues and tackling those little bits of linguistic friction that rub us the wrong way, or perhaps should rub us the wrong way.


The book also examines contemporary language concerns, such as the increased use of “woman” in place of “female”: Nancy Pelosi’s election as Speaker of the House had many news agencies reporting that she was “the first woman Speaker of the House”, a phrase that sounded both awkward and incorrect since one would never say, “the first man Speaker of the House”. Fortunately, Fogarty chimed in and settled the matter. (As long as the gender is being used as an adjective, it should be “female”.)


Whether you are buying for a grammar-phobe seeking guidance, or a writer seeking a fun reference manual for frustrating recurring questions, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing will likely satisfy.


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Wednesday, Dec 16, 2009
Grateful Dead Scrapbook - Edited by Ben Fong-Torres - Chronicle [$40.00]

In the summer of 2001, I went to MusicFest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where I saw Dark Star Ochestra perform (an authorized Grateful Dead tribute band). There I met my first Dead Head. He was a hippie with long, long hair, a scraggly beard and of course, he was smoking a joint. Watching him and his lady twirl around to the sounds of the Dead made me realize the difference between being a fan and being a fanatic. The Grateful Dead Scrapbook is a great gift for the Dead Head, the converted corporate hippie or Earth Mother (the fanatics). With pictures and interviews, this compilation takes the reader back to the time when the Dead were alive. But it also delivers just the right amount of nostalgia and obscurity to appeal to the granola-types that follow Phish around, save up for Burning Man, and spend their spare time at the disc-golfing course (the fans).


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Wednesday, Dec 16, 2009
Lost and Loster in Translation: Signspotting III - Doug Lansky - Perigee Trade [$10.95]

“Obese Individual’s Agony” states a sign indicating the start of a hike trail. Lost and Loster, the published version of signspotting.com, is great stocking stuffer for your co-worker who constantly emails you superfluous forwards of dogs wearing hats. Japan’s inherent politeness, for example, resulted in this translation of “No Smoking” sign: Building Asks A Smoked Visitor In The Outside Smoking Section That You Cannot Smoke In. Confusing mistranslations resulting in hilarity is the running theme of Lost and Loster. This clearly illustrates that real life really is better than fiction—nothing made-up could be this funny.


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