l. In celebration of Women’s History Month, here are a few portraits by the one and only Joan Baez, who turned 80 in January. I didn’t realize she was such an accomplished painter till I began following her on FB last year — initially for the music videos she posted as the pandemic raged on. It was wonderful seeing her singing in her kitchen!
Then she began sharing pieces from her first solo exhibition, “Mischief Makers,” featuring “risk-taking visionaries who have brought about social change through nonviolent action.”
Her debut album in 1960 was basically my introduction to folk music and activism. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I always marvel at multi-talented creatives who thrive on a cross fertilization of genres.
In addition to Joan, musicians I admire who also paint include Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, Patti Smith, Grace Slick, Ronnie Wood, Ringo Starr, Cat Stevens, Miles Davis, and John Mellencamp.
See more Mischief Makers as well as portraits of Friends and Icons at Joan Baez Art. I like all the little backstories for each painting. You can also purchase prints or catalogs there.
2. New Book Alert: Officially out today, March 2, 2021, is Ann McCallum Staats’s latest title in Chicago Review Press’s Women of Power series, THRILL SEEKERS: 15 Remarkable Women in Extreme Sports (2021).
What is the allure of the extreme? Who are the women who seek out and excel at sports outside the conventional, such as cave diving, wingsuit flying, or Formula 1 racing? This collection of female adventure dynamos is as fascinating as it is empowering. Thrill Seekers introduces readers to a diverse and fascinating selection of women whose determination, grit, and courage have propelled each of them into a life far from the sidelines. Each chapter introduces readers to modern role models and leaders, change-makers who opt into a life of risk—but one of astonishing rewards. Their stories inspire young people to approach life with the same bold resolve.
You may remember we previously featured Ann’s Eat Your Homework books here, and more recently mentioned Women Heroes of the US Army (Chicago Review Press, 2019), in which she included a chapter about my mother’s military service during WWII.
I’m looking forward to reading this new one, since I know so little about women in extreme sports. Such an interesting theme and I’m all for female empowerment in any form. 🙂
3. Heads up, Jane Austen fans: Are you sitting in your pretty parlor, alone and distressed for lack of a dashing beau? Perhaps you should consider Marrying Mr. Darcy: The Pride and Prejudice Card Game:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that lovers of Pride and Prejudice want to marry Mr. Darcy. Marrying Mr. Darcy is a strategy card game where players are one of the female characters from Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. Players work to improve themselves and attract the attention of the available Suitors. The ladies do this by attending Events and improving their Characters, but advantage can be gained by the use of Cunning. All of their efforts are in hopes of marrying well and becoming the most satisfied character at the end of the game!
This strategy card game is for 2-6 players, ages 12+, and does not require familiarity with the novel (though obviously, if you’ve read it, you’ll likely enjoy the game even more).
Here’s a video overview with game designer Erika Svanoe:
Sounds like a pleasant enough diversion in the presence of polite company, especially if you fancy escaping to the early 19th century for about an hour. A fun way to build character and sharpen your skills at attracting suitors. Of course this game would be just the thing if you’re hosting a tea party. Now, where did I put my bonnet?
4. Speaking of polite company, perhaps you’re in the mood for a little formalist poetry by Missouri poet and educator Randal A. Burd, Jr. Check out his second collection, Memoirs of a Witness Tree (Kelsay Books, 2020):
Randal Burd has produced what is easily one of the top five poetry books (in fact, one of the top five English language books) of the year. He offers up a treasure trove of exquisitely crafted jewels unearthed from the vacuous wasteland of modern life. Each poem glistens perfectly with accessible language, sumptuous rhymes, and enchanting meter. The jewels are varied, coming in a variety of meaningful and relatable topics, from the Civil War to human rights in China to getting lost in a forest to being a father. The intricately inlaid and gilded, yet never gaudy, chest that brings them all together is a sincere grasp of beauty and a refreshing sense of decency that make this a work of perennial value. Bravo, Mr. Burd.
— Evan Mantyk, President of The Society of Classical Poets
There are 43 poems in this book, most of them sonnets. The introductory poem, “Humblest Apologies,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Randal has granted me permission to share it with you here:
HUMBLEST APOLOGIES Too personal a thought to be laid bare, A naked truth now shrouded in cheap rhyme. No less profound to stand the test of time Than those the masters once saw fit to share. Why should a random stranger deem to care? Expression via sonnet is a crime -- To use such an archaic paradigm And then expect one's talent to compare. Consider, then, emotions found within And surely found throughout humanity Have meant enough to someone such as me To risk unwanted feelings of chagrin. And thus, with ample warning, pray begin To reassess conventionality.
This takes me back to grad school, when I did an extensive study of Shakespeare’s procreation sonnets. Good times!
Randal has also published poetry in numerous online and print journals, and is currently editor of the online poetry journal Sparks of Calliope. I’m looking forward to sharpening my intellect. 🙂
5. Feeling a little peckish? I thought so. By now, you’ve more than perfected that lean hungry look. 🙂
Take your pick of banana penguins, avocado otters, strawberry cows or watermelon angels. Sine, mother of three and Instagram sensation (350K+ followers), loves to play with her food!
Maybe it’s all those googly eyes or strategically placed M&Ms. All I know is that her culinary creations ooze with personality. Too cute to eat? Probably. Fun to look at? Definitely.
My question is: how does someone with three kids even have the time to make all these whimsical, adorable, amusing foodie characters?
Safe to assume parenting has taught her a lot of patience, judging by all the intricate cutting, carving, slicing, chopping. Only one potential problem: will her kids grow up refusing to eat anything that isn’t actually looking at them? 😀
See more of Sine’s fruit and veggie masterpieces at her Instagram. So clever!
6. Woof Woof! Something to bark about: a doggone adorable picture book about the new White House canine residents: Champ and Major: First Dogs, by Joy McCullough and Sheyda Abvabi Best (Dial BFYR, 2020):
Champ and Major’s dad, Joe Biden, just got a really important job: He’s going to be the new president of the United States! Champ is excited to go back to the White House–he got to visit it when his dad was the vice president, before the family adopted Major, and he knows about all the important work that happens there. Major is going to be one of the first rescue dogs to live in the White House, and Champ can’t wait to show his little brother around. Soon, Champ and Major will be in their new home, and they’re going to bring a lot of fun with them!
Isn’t it wonderful to have pets in the White House again? Something I’ve always believed: you can’t trust anyone who doesn’t like animals. Dogs, in particular, can sniff out the nasties and fakes in a heartbeat. I trust their instincts.
I imagine Champ and Major will cheer everyone up and provide the new President and First Lady with lots of love, comfort and fun in their new digs. They might even advise the President on tricky foreign paw-licy matters. Hot diggity!
7. Ooh-la-la! J’adore Jacques Pépin! I’ve always admired his storied career as a brilliant chef, but I also love his paintings. Wanted to point you to his online shop, where you can purchase acrylic and oil originals, limited edition signed prints (framed or unframed), and menu prints.
In addition to new limited edition prints, he recently added a set of 8 boxed notecards, and they’re all chickens (this seems to be one of his favorite subjects)! See his chicken gallery here. Definitely something to crow about. 😀
He’s now 85 years old, has been cooking for over 60 years, and painting sporadically for about half a century. Painting is a fun pastime for him, something he does only when he feels like it. I like how he continues to paint the menus of every dinner party he hosts, asking the guests to sign them. Fabulous idea; what a great way to preserve fond memories!
Just because I love his French accent, and never get tired of listening to him talk about anything at all, here’s a short video of him describing how cooking and painting are similar when it comes to gathering ingredients (love the way he pronounces “painting”). 🙂
See more of his work at The Artistry of Jacques Pépin. A portion of all sales from the site supports culinary education and sustainability.
8. New Book Alert! Just released February 9: No Buddy Like a Book by Allan Wolf and Brianne Farley (Candlewick, 2021):
Calling readers and daydreamers, word mavens and lovers of adventure! This celebration of the power of books is a rallying cry for letting imaginations soar.
We learn important stuff from books.
We learn to speak and think.
We learn why icebergs stay afloat . . .
and why Titanics sink.
Have you ever wanted to climb to the top of Everest with one hand behind your back? Kiss a crocodile all by yourself on the Nile River? How about learning how to bottle moonlight, or track a distant star? There are endless things to discover and whole universes to explore simply by reading a book. But books are only smears of ink without the reader’s mind to give their letters meaning and bring them to life. With a rollicking, rhyming text and delightful artwork, poet and storyteller Allan Wolf and illustrator Brianne Farley remind us that books, no matter how they may be consumed, give readers of every background an opportunity to expand their world and spark their imagination. With infectious enthusiasm, No Buddy Like a Book offers an ode to the wonders of language—written, spoken, and everything in between.
Doesn’t this one sound good? A book extolling the pleasures and virtues of books! You probably know Allan from his awesome poetry books and verse novels, or maybe you’ve been lucky enough to enjoy one of his live performances. No Buddy Like a Book is his first picture book, the text of which Allan has recited for many educators and students to wide acclaim.
The book has already received a coveted **starred review** from Kirkus, who said, “The trope of opening a book that reveals ideas, excitement, and new experiences within has been explored before, but Wolf’s interpretation feels refreshed by both catchy rhymes and a cast of characters diverse in race, gender, age, and ability. A sweet reminder of the worlds held within books and our power to play in them.”
Congratulations, Allan and Brianne!
9. To top everything off, a recent find: British contemporary folk artist Julie Arkell. I first stumbled upon a photo of her textile art — wristwatches!! Love love love them!
Come to learn she’s one of England’s best recognized folk artists; her quirky, whimsical style is so distinctive. She works in papier-mâché and mixed media. Especially cool is how she stitches scraps of poems or words on her creatures. Love how she uses vintage fabrics, found objects, and hand-knitted accessories. She’s inspired by old toys, stories, paintings, and folk art, creating pieces that evoke nostalgia and brim with singular charm and British humor.
Enjoy this video of Julie discussing her work.
Have you ever considered stitching postcards? Interesting, no?
You can find some of Julie’s pieces for sale at Loop in London. Cheers!
Finally, to play us out, another new discovery: Austin Brown. Just happened to stumble upon this beautiful rendition of “Unchained Melody” recently. Austin is the lead tenor for the country music a cappella group, Home Free (also new to me).
Since the pandemic, he’s also been doing some solo projects, releasing his first single last summer. Nothing more beautiful than voice and guitar. Not actually a “blue song,” but Austin and guitarist Steven Martinez are sitting in blue chairs (does that count)? 🙂 Plus, they’re both so easy on the eyes . . . Enjoy!
Fun side note: This song reminds me of my Dad, not because he used to sing it, but because he loved to tell the story of how I stood on a chair in a local coffee shop when I was about 3 years old and sang the entire song a cappella, earning cheers and applause from the other customers.
KEEP A SONG IN YOUR HEART
READ GOOD BOOKS
EAT GOOD FOOD
BUILD BACK WITH BLUE
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