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Wednesday, Dec 9, 2009
Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress – Candacy A. Taylor – ILR Press [$19.95]

When you’re a kid, diners mean chocolate malts and french fries. When you’re in high school they mean cigarettes and coffee. When you’re in college – they’re a vital part of the hangover cure, a comforting place to nurse your headache. And through all this is the waitress keeping you, and everyone else in the place, in line. Photographer Candacy A. Taylor traversed the country documenting these women’s stories. With the changing history of America in the background, this is a great gift for the nostalgic type. Aspiring photographers would enjoy this book as a solid example of journalistic photography, and your favorite diner waitress would certainly appreciate this book as a holiday tip, if you were feeling so inclined.


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Monday, Dec 7, 2009
Jazz – Gary Giddins and Scott DeVeaux – W.W. Norton [$39.95]

There’s no shortage of jazz histories on the shelves of university libraries or the more finely stocked book superstores, but Giddins and DeVeaux have come at their broad subject with something of a unique approach that blends musicology and historiography into a compelling book that will teach readers a bit of music theory while enhancing their listening pleasure of all styles of this American musical creation. The result is a unique blend of history and in-depth guided music appreciation that will shed new light on all genres of jazz, especially for the novice, but even the seasoned listener might discover new shades in their favorite musical form after digesting this tome.


AMAZON


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Monday, Dec 7, 2009
Girldrive: Criss-Crossing America, Redefining Feminism - Nona Willis Aronowitz & Emma Bee Bernstein - Seal [$19.95]

Feminism is a very loaded word. Girldrive attempts, through photography, reporting and booze, to deconstruct the word and find out what it means to be a woman. “eing a feminist is not ignoring the fact that if you’re a woman you experience things in a certain way, no matter what,” says one of Nona and Emma’s subjects. An inspired gift for any budding feminist or new college student. Without being preachy, this book explores and reveals both America and American women.


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Tuesday, Dec 1, 2009
The Food of a Younger Land – Mark Kurlansky – Riverhead Books [$27.95]

In this era of factory produced food, mammoth corporate chain restaurants, and the overall reliance on poor quality fast and frozen food, a counter food movement focused on the local, organic and sustainable has been gaining more steam every day. That’s hardly surprising. Many of us seem to realize something vital is missing in our basic culinary lives and much of that boils down to simplicity, tradition and uniqueness. There was actually a time in the recent past when Americans enjoyed locally grown vegetables, filled their tables with meat from animals raised according to ethical traditions, and shopped each day for the fresh items needed for the day’s meals.


Mark Kurlansky , who previously wrote the fabulous food histories Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World and Salt: A World History, now offers up a portrait of the US “before the national highway system, before the chain restaurants, and before frozen food, when the nation’s food was seasonal, and traditional.” You see, back during the Depression, FDR’s Works Progress Administration employed scores of writers and a number of those writers were sent out into the field to record American cooking and eating habits. The result is a documentary time capsule, capturing this moment of social history right before it was about to change forever in the period of post-war prosperity that saw the birth of mass food production and the TV dinner. Kurlansky brings together many of these writings to paint a portrait of a gloriously un-homogenized America.


AMAZON


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Tuesday, Dec 1, 2009
44 Days: Iran and the Remaking of the World – ed. Robert Pledge and Jacques Menasche – National Geographic [$50]

When you think about it, the legacy of the Iranian elections last year isn’t going to be anything that actually happened in Iran. The thing we’re all going to remember about that election is how profoundly it demonstrated the power of Twitter. One of the biggest selling points of Twitter at the time was that it was “the only way” to get information out of the country.  Reading 44 Days: Iran and the Remaking of the World you learn that during the Iranian revolution, photographer David Burnett had to smuggle his film out of the country by going to the airport and searching for “pigeons” who might be willing to carry it to Paris where they handed it off to a correspondent. The photographs still made it out, but their journey required physical, not digital ingenuity.


44 Days is an annotated compilation of the photographs he took during that time. The book chronicles the last days of the Shah’s rule, the protests and bloodshed that followed and the return of Ayatollah Khomenini. The photographs are accompanied by Burnett’s journal-like descriptions of each experience. Essentially, it’s a compilation of his Twitter stream, except, there was no Twitter. He writes objectively about the political situation, the emotions of the crowd and his own investigative journey. Burnett also writes about the relationship of the press to the government, and to the protesters.


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