Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Radio Girls, by UCSC alumna Sarah-Jane Stratford

Coming June 14

Coming June 14

Summer is almost upon us, and we should all be starting our beach reading lists.  There is a book called Radio Girls that PopSugar recommends for Best 2016 Summer reading, and you should have it on your own list too. The book was written by UC Santa Cruz alumna Sarah-Jane Stratford, and it is one fantastic read.

Radio Girls is the best kind of historical fiction in that it tells a real story with real people, but from a fictional character’s point of view. I am not sure what I initially expected of this book, but it is definitely much more than I had imagined!

It covers part of the story of the beginning years of the BBC. As I read, I started googling the guest speakers they mentioned and found these very real people to be fascinating, but then I googled Hilda Matheson, a prominent character who works at the BBC in the book, and discovered she was a real person too. After discovering that most of the characters were real-life people, I realized this was actually a fairly true story told from a (fictional) assistant’s point of view. This upped my fascination level even higher than it was when I began the book.

I had never read a book that revolved around radio’s beginnings, and it really brought to light not only how much the world changed with that one invention, but how similar the change was then to these new internet days now. There was so much talk of the world becoming a smaller place, and how everyone with access to a radio could now get so much knowledge they had no access to before, and how it would help people who felt alone in the world. These are all things they say about the internet now. As far as we’ve come in the last 100 years, the radio also gave us a huge jump in technology and knowledge and connection with the world.

Sarah-Jane Stratford

Sarah-Jane Stratford

With this knowledge however comes the question of who will control the dissemination of that knowledge. BBC’s beginnings came at the same time as Women’s Suffrage in the UK, and those grumbling times are remarkably similar to today’s political atmosphere. Women’s Rights also meant loss of the men’s complete control of the world, and they certainly were not happy about it. World War I had just ended, governments were reorganizing, and businesses across borders were forming new alliances. The stock market crash in the US had just as great an effect across the Atlantic. There were at least two opposing views on each of these topics, and control of the BBC meant control of the information the world received.

In the middle of all this is young Maisie, our fictional heroine who lands a low-level job at the BBC hoping to find a husband, but instead finds a career and a new life plan. A life plan she could barely comprehend as it wasn’t even a possibility just a few years before. Along with Maisie comes a fictional storyline starring the BBC, Nestle and Siemens, and the Nazis. As Sarah-Jane Stratford mentions in the very informative Author’s Note, the actual storyline is fictional, but many of the events surrounding it are not, and many similar events were taking place.

Stratford earned a degree in History at UCSC and went on to obtain a Masters in Medieval History at the University of York in England. She wrote this book because of her fascination with Hilda Matheson from the BBC, and this fascination is transferred to the reader. She was an amazing, high-level career woman in times when there was no such thing, and she was a lesbian to boot. She is a fantastic role model to young women even in our own times.

And so is our young Maisie, who follows her dreams of being a reporter with various levels of success. But in Maisie’s case as it is always, it doesn’t matter how many times you fall down, it matters how many times you get back up. She takes her role as reporter very seriously, and even takes on some spy traits as she works to save free speech in the UK and retain women’s new rights as well.

This is an outstanding book that gets better and better as it goes along. I love that I learned so much, I love that I’ve developed a great interest in the amazing Hilda Matheson, and I really enjoyed the fictional plot. The fictional plot doesn’t get going until the second half, but spending the first half on Maisie’s moving up the ranks and learning about all the real-life changes that happened in those few short years was worth it all.

Sarah-Jane Stratford is also the author of two previous books, and has also written articles and essays for a range of publications, including The Guardian, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Marie-Claire, Bitch, Slate, Salon, Guernica, and BOMB.

Radio Girls will be released June 14. Many thanks to Penguin Books for an advance copy, this book is FIVE STARS without a doubt.

Director brings Craig Clevenger novel to Cinequest screens

Craig Clevenger is the San Franciscan author of The Contortionist’s Handbook and Dermaphoria.  Director Ross Clarke brings the film version of Dermaphoria to the big screen at Cinequest this week.

This is our interview with director Ross Clarke.

Ross Clarke, directing stars Joseph Morgan and Ron Perlman.

Ross Clarke, directing stars Joseph Morgan and Ron Perlman.

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of Dermaphoria, from concept to financing.

I had read Craig [Clevenger]’s first novel The Contortionist’s Handbook – loved it and was interested in it as a film but at the time Leonardo DiCaprio’s company had it. So I talked to Craig’s fantastic agent Jeff Aghassi and he told me Craig was about to publish his 2nd novel – he sent me a copy – I loved it so we went to see Craig in San Francisco and my producer Teryn Fogel persuaded him to take a chance on us – she’s very persuasive and a huge part of the film from start to finish. I wrote many drafts of the screenplay and financing was tough – it’s a tricky adaptation and a niche story but it has these fantastic characters and story and eventually we got 3 different people to back us from the US and the UK.

2Q: Dermaphoria has done quite well at other film festivals. Will you be less nervous now at Cinequest? Does this process ever get any easier?

Well we had a huge opening and response in London which is my home turf. But for this one it’s Craig’s home – he’s very well known and loved in the Bay Area – and in a way even though we reset Dermaphoria in New Orleans that town today has something of San Francisco or Venice Beach before gentrification took hold. So we hope it will be another home coming for the film. And then we move onto a New Orleans screening and later in the year a full release.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making Dermaphoria?

The whole thing was fantastic – I think meeting and getting to work with Ron Perlman, Walton Goggins, Craig, Kate Walsh and Joe Morgan (who worked his arse off in every scene and didn’t complain once). Ron and Walton are legends to me and they’re very generous and committed – they really owned it all. Discovering and understanding New Orleans was literally life changing. The city is magical and I wanted to put that on scree which I think we did. And all the crew there were spectacularly good and a lot of fun. The worst part was we shot in July and the heat almost killed me. It was brutal. It was a 19 day shoot and so we shot 30-35 set ups a day at 30 locations across the city. In hindsight that’s pretty stupid. But we did it but moving fast in that heat was tough for a pasty English guy. My DP was a legend – Pedro – a Uruguyan – the heat didn’t bother him – he kept us going.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

I think see this film if you love poetry and mystery and great acting. See it if you love New Orleans or if you’ve never been there see why you should. See it because Walton eats Craw fish like nobody else and Ron’s accent is fantastic. See it because Craig’s dialogue leaps off the page. See it because it’s visually an English / South American eye on a Southern American city and it’s beautiful. See it because it’s not trying to fit into a box and it wasn’t made by committee. It’s a real Indie art movie with an Indie spirit and I’m very proud of that.

5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won the Oscar for Dermaphoria. Give us your acceptance speech.

I’d just stumble and cry and thank a lot of people – and say really ? I still think Boyhood is a little better. And then I’d wonder if someone slipped them some Derma to loosen them all up to vote for us.

See DERMAPHORIA at Cinequest!
View the trailer!
Follow DERMAPHORIA on Facebook!
Read the Book!


The Photography of Modernist Cuisine with Nathan Myhrvold

It’s not a surprise that techies and geeks love our food, and the science behind food, the how and why and what if of cooking.

It is a bit of a surprise to find someone who has a gift for cooking and photography with a master’s degree in economics, as well as master’s degrees in geophysics and space physics and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from UCLA. Oh, and not only did he do post-doctoral work with Stephen Hawking at Cambridge University researching cosmology, quantum field theory in curved space-time, and quantum theories of gravitation, he served as the chief technology officer for Bill Gates at Microsoft. (This guy’s the geek of geeks).

Meet Nathan Myhrvold

Nathan retired from Microsoft in 1999 to found Intellectual Ventures and pursue several lifelong interests in photography, cooking, and food science. Later he founded The Cooking Lab and published a mammoth 5 volume 2,438 page set of photos and recipes and thoughts on the science of cooking called “Modernist Cuisine” that will knock your socks off. In it you’ll find stunning photography and scientific explanations of the cooking process, techniques and methods to achieve Modernist Cuisine.

But that’s not exactly what this post is about. This is about the show up right now at The Tech Museum of Innovation called The Photography of Modernist Cuisine. This morning I was lucky enough to join Tim Ritchie, president of The Tech Museum of Innovation and Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen (an avid foodie herself) and Nathan Myhrvold who spoke about his work and that passion for understanding food in ways we don’t normally see it.

The exhibit is over 75 large scale images that show us microscopic views of crystals of citric acid and what he calls “exploded parts diagrams” of a mushroom and swiss hamburger that took over 30 hours to prepare and takes after a drawing style popular in technical manuals and also favored by Leonardo Da Vinci.

As you go through the exhibit take time to read the descriptions which share the science but also the methods he use to achieve the shots. What appears to be a simple image on a steak is actually a composed panorama of 1,000 images stitched together to make every single millimeter sharp and clear. Another dish which seems to leap off the wall is uses a technique called “Focus stacking” where software is used to create highly dimensional photos with virtually no depth of field so every element is sharply defined and crisp.

All of the photos in this exhibit give you a new way to look at food. Whether familiar objects like a planted garden or cutaways of common household appliances, constructed images or micro views you’d never see on your own. It’s food porn at it’s finest.

This exhibit is open at The Tech from June 25 to Sept 1 and there are two special “After Hours” events planned. After Hours is the monthly evening event where adults 21 and older enjoy science, technology, entertainment, and cocktails together with their friends, and this summer there will be some special menus and themes designed to coincide with the new exhibit.

Get your tickets here:
July After Hours – Independence Day – Spirit of America
Thursday, July 3, 2014
7 p.m. – midnight

$10 / $5 for members
Buy tickets
August After Hours – Hawaiian Night Luau
Thursday, August 7, 2014
7 p.m. – midnight

$10 / $5 for members
Buy tickets

By the way, look for Modernist Cuisine recipes and videos on the website, you can get an interactive eBook in the Modernist Cuisine at Home App from the iTunes store for free in the Lite Version or buy the full version and learn about the techniques and methods of Modernist Cuisine demonstrated. Learn how to cook salmon sous vide in your kitchen sink!

Stephen Elliott at SJSU this week – You’re invited!

The Adderall Diaries

It appears we’re a little short on posts here at Metblogs, but never fear, I’m here to bring some excitement to your lives.  Er, I’m here to tell you about someone who will bring you some excitement to your lives…  Anyway…

Author/Director Stephen Elliott will be at San Jose State University tonight for a book reading and Q&A, and tomorrow will be screening his new film (about the porn industry – oh yeah, I have your attention now!) at the university on Wednesday evening.

Stephen Elliott is the author of seven books including the memoir The Adderall Diaries, which was named best book of the year in Time Out New York, and a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book of 2009; the novel Happy Baby; and the erotica collection My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up. In January 2009 he founded The Rumpus, now the most popular online-only literary magazine. In 2011, he directed his first feature film, About Cherry.

Co-sponsored by The Rumpus and the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center

November 13, 7pm: Reading and Book Signing, MLK Library Room 225/229
November 14, 8pm: Screening of About Cherry, SJSU, Sweeney Hall Room 100

Photo by Katherine Emery

Note: About Cherry is Rated R. It contains nudity, drug use, and adult situations which may make some viewers uncomfortable. A preview may be seen here.

The screening on November 14 will be immediately followed by a panel discussion featuring writer/director Stephen Elliott, Dr. Tanya Bakhru (Women’s Studies), and Professor Harry Mathias (TV, Radio, Film & Theater).

I was able to speak with him for an hour this afternoon and found him utterly charming, intelligent, and quietly charismatic.  Don’t miss this great opportunity to not only see a great new film (starring James Franco and Heather Graham) but to speak to a fascinating, multi-talented creator of art.

Library on a stick

I just spotted this in front of a home on the 500 block of Arleta Avenue in the Burbank neighborhood of central San Jose. Inside were a couple of dozen books available for borrowing — mostly children’s books and thrillers. What a fantastic idea.

It turns out this Little Free Library is part of a national movement; but so far it is the only Little Free Library in the south bay to register on the national website.

I’d love to see more of these pop up around town.

Prop 8 Ban on Gay Marriage Unconstitutional – Torn Apart the Novel

Saying that “Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California,” the U.S. 9th Circuit Court has ruled that limiting marriage to a man and woman was in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

In her novel, “Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law”, local San Jose author Judy Rickard reveals her personal story. I was not aware of the impact that U.S.immigration and federal marriage laws had on the lives of gay couples.

Torn Apart – Website and Blog

“Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law” – amazon


San Jose: Local (Northern California) author Michelle Richmond will discuss her book – The Year of Fog.

As an avid reader I appreciate an author who can captivate my thoughts, and Michelle’s writings linger in my mind.

The Year of Fog is set in the San Francisco Bay Area. On her site there is a Google Fog Map.


She will discuss her book and answer questions from the audience.

9:30 a.m. Coffee Social
9:45 a.m. Presentation

St. Elizabeth’s Day Home, 950 St. Elizabeth Drive, San Jose 95126

$20.00 Donation (Help families with tuition)
Call Kathy Giovanola, (408) 264-9920 for reservations

Images of America: Silicon Valley

Images of America: Silicon Valley This recent (2009) addition to Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series covers a huge segment of local history, roughly from Victorian times to the present day. Like other books in the series, it presents local history through historical documentary photographs.

Author Sam Shueh emphasizes the transformation of the Valley of Heart’s Delight into Silicon Valley, showing the earliest introductions of technology and industry to the area. Coverage ranges from the founding of Stanford University and the Lick Observatory to the development of 40 Gigabyte per second optical transmitters at Intel. Several pages and more than a dozen really fantastic photos cover the days when Moffett Field was a US Navy airship base.

This is possibly the most ambitious of the Images of America books I’ve seen, both because of its broad scope and because of the substantial and informative captions provided for the photographs. Despite its breadth, the book mostly maintains its focus on the development of the region as a technology center with only a few odd digressions. One example being four pages and eight photos devoted to the development of one lot on the corner of Stevens Creek and De Anza Boulevards from a nondescript general merchandise and farm supply store to a nondescript bank office; it’s a sequence that could have been saved for another book focused on Cupertino history.

If there is one substantial defect in the book, it is that the editing is somewhere in the range between amateurish and abysmal, or possibly simply nonexistent. Despite the relatively small amount of text, typos, misstatements, and clumsy wordings average about one per page. While I’m glad to have the book and all its historical photos in any form, it would only have taken a couple of hours of editing to make a real improvement in the text presentation.

This is a fascinating book to read, and I recommend it to anyone interested in local history. But because of the shoddy editing its hard to say it would make a good gift.

Images of America: Silicon Valley is available from your local bookstore or directly from Arcadia Publishing.

Remembering the Mid-Century by the Bay

The cover of Heather M. David's book, Mid-Century by the Bay.

Heather M. David's Mid-Century by the Bay captures the style of the 50's and 60's.

When we think about historic architecture in the Bay Area, we often think of our very oldest structures, like the Spanish Missions, the Peralta Adobe, or possibly Victorian and early 20th-century buildings like the Hotel Sainte Claire. Heather M. David’s recent book, Mid-Century by the Bay, shows how post World War II architecture also makes a contribution to our urban landscape, and ought to be celebrated (and preserved) alongside earlier styles.

Heather M. David, though she isn’t a trained architect or designer, has plenty of background for writing this book. She grew up in the North and South Bays, and was fascinated with modern architecture since she had her first “crush” on the Wells Fargo bank branch building on Fourth Street in San Rafael. More recently, she has been a board member of the Preservation Action Council of San Jose, and helped organize the San Jose Modern Tour for DOCOMOMO. When I met her she made a point to recommend these organizations and their work to preserve modern and other historical architectural resources in the bay area.

Mid-Century by the Bay tours the entire Bay Area, with side trips to the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa Napa Valley and the Nut Tree in Vacaville, but because of the rapid growth in the South Bay at the time many of the treasures are here in our area. The book uses words and pictures (lots of pictures) to highlight some of the most daring and inventive architecture you’ll find in the region. David shows how everyday locations like bank branches and water company offices were designed with a flair for “experimentation and creative expression”. Other sections describe workplaces like IBM’s Almaden Valley campus and playgrounds for young (Happy Hollow) and old (Trader Vic’s, home of the original Mai Tai cocktail).

The former Sunnyvale First National Bank looks as much like a space ship as a financial institution.

My personal favorites are the most outrageous of those space-age designs, known as googie architecture, that really celebrate the optimistic future-looking view of the mid-century. These include the hexagonal aerial “control tower” suite of the Hillsdale Inn in San Mateo, or the Lyon’s Coffee Shop in San Bruno.

The book isn’t solely focused on architecture. David told me she wanted to “visually transport people back in time”, to capture the experience of life in the 50’s or 60’s. To do that she includes images from the printed “ephemera” of the period, like the matchbooks that bowling alleys (and many other businesses) provided to their smoking patrons, and brochures for attractions like Golden Gate Fields and Tanforan horse racing tracks. The graphic designs and colors from these enthusiastic advertisements really capture the feel of a different time.

The book is self-published, but, having taken a year off from her job to complete it, the author settled for nothing less than the highest quality in producing it. To help polish the book, David hired a professional editor and a designer who was able to capture the mid-century style in the book design. She had the book printed by a printer who specializes in high-quality products like museum exhibit catalogs. The book was recently recommended in the Metro’s holiday gift guide, and I can wholeheartedly agree that it would make a great gift for anyone interested in modern design or local history.

You can purchase Mid-Century by the Bay directly from the author’s website, Design Within Reach in San Francisco, or the Antiques Colony in San Jose.

Photos courtesy of Heather M. David.

Mike Huckabee in San Jose December 2nd

Mike Huckabee will be in San Jose to sign copies of his Christmas books.

* Can’t Wait Till Christmas

* A Simple Christmas ~ Twelve Stories That Celebrate the True Holiday Spirit.

Thursday, December 2 at Noon

Almaden Costco

5301 Almaden Expressway, San Jose – 95118

Note: For Costco members only.

Mike Huckabee – facebook

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