The Art of Summer Reading

What’re you reading this summer?  I’ve broken down and treated myself to a box of books from Amazon.co.jp (thank goodness for online English book shopping) as my part of stimulating the economy XD  Here’s what should be arriving in a few days:

Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food”

Mark Bittman's cookbook - coming to me soon!

Mark Bittman's cookbook - coming to me soon!

I learned of Mark Bittman through another food blog and have come to respect his straight-forward, honest, down-to-earth, passionate approach to food and life through his blog, Bitten.  He’s written several cookbooks, all of which will one day be mine(!) but for the moment I’ve decided on the vegetarian cookbook to start with.  Bittman makes a great statement in his later book for “part-time veganism” where he asks people to think about eating vegan for 2 meals a day as a way to reduce their impact in the environment as well as their own bodies.

“You don’t eat any, or much, in the way of animal products or processed food during the day. At night you eat what you want,” he explains. “In some ways it’s stricter than veganism in that there’s no junk allowed. In others it’s easier — milk in coffee is acceptable, and breaking the rules occasionally is okay. The basic line is this: no matter how you do it, you [and the planet] will benefit if you eat a higher proportion of plants and a lower proportion of everything else.” ~Mark Bittman, Food Matters

Since I’ve come to Japan I’ve become 90% vegetarian at home anyway, so I’m looking forward to learning some new tricks of the trade.  All of his recipes have come out excellently.  I’m particularly fond of his simple take on palak paneer, an Indian spinach and cheese curry, in this case made with tofu.

“Dororo Vol. 1″ by Osamu Tezuka

Dororo vol. 1

Dororo vol. 1

Classic manga by the writer of Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion (among many others).  I saw the awesome movie that came out here in 2007 (you might have seen the trailer) and was hooked.  Basically, a warlord is losing a war badly and calls up a troupe of demons for help.  The demons promise to give him power to win the war, but in return they demand his body parts.  Of course it would be hard to rule a country without a body, so the warlord promises the body of his unborn child.  The child is born (without innards, arms, legs, ears, tongue, etc) and abandoned down a stream.  He’s picked up by essentially a mad scientist who creates replacements for the parts he’s missing – including some pretty awesome katana instead of hands.  The story follows him in his attempt to kill the demons who have taken his body parts and  reclaim them to become fully human.

Interestingly enough, this movie/manga also introduced me to Tuvan music, a kind of folk music from Tuval region, north of Mongolia and east of Russia.  It’s characterized by a kind of “throat singing” in which singers can harmonize with themselves.  The opening track in the movie is performed by Huun Huur Tu, one of the only internationally performing Tuvan groups.  You can see the first 2 minutes of the movie with the Tuvan song in this video:

“Pompeii: Life of a Roman Town” by Mary Beard

Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town

Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town

Pompeii explodes a number of myths – from the very date of the eruption, probably a few months later than usually thought; the hygiene of the baths which must have been hotbeds of germs; and the legendary number of brothels, most likely only one, to the massive death count which was probably less than ten per cent of the population. Street Life, Earning a Living: Baker, Banker and Garum Maker (who ran the city), The Pleasure of the Body: Food, Wine, Sex and Baths, these chapter headings give a surprising insight into the workings of a Roman town. At the Suburban Baths we go from communal bathing to hygiene to erotica. A fast-food joint on the Via dell’Abbondanza introduces food and drink and diets and street life. These are just a few of the strands that make up an extraordinary and involving portrait of an ancient town, its life and its continuing re-discovery, by Britain’s leading classicist.

Sounds riveting, but so often historical writers are as dry and dead as the objects they study (for example, Liza Dalby).  I hope her writing lives up to her research capabilities!

Sing to the Sky by Ayaka

Sing to the Sky - by Ayaka

Sing to the Sky - by Ayaka

Awesome CD by a smooth, talented Japanese singer.  A great way to ease into Japanese pop music.  Ayaka’s voice is extremely flexible and her laid-back easy rock style makes her CDs great to have on in the background any time of day.  Sadly she’s been recently diagnosed with Graves’ Disease (a kind of hyper-thyroidism) and her career has been put on hold for the moment.  Hopefully she’ll come back in the future with more albums for her fans!

Listen to my favorite of her songs, “手をつなごう” Let’s Hold Hands:

Lyrics here.

永遠ってコトバ あるのかな?
未来を想うと 怖くなるけど
ずっと ずっと 続く夢があるから
手をつなごう

Is there really such a thing as words that speak of eternity’s meaning?
When I think of the future, I begin to grow frightened but
Because it has always been a continuing dream through all this time…
Let us join hands and face tomorrow together.

~MS the Younger

The Art of Webcomics

I was browsing the web this afternoon when I was struck by the comic that had appeared in my inbox. Comics have come a damn long way since pen and paper!

A Look at Comics through Time:

Hokusai as father of modern manga? Matt Thorn’s take on “The History of Manga.

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