Going Whole Hog for the 'Complete Cow'

61s54HC3MHL._SX483_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

The Complete Cow: An Udderly Entertaining History of Dairy & Beef Cows of the World (1998) by Sara Rath

My brother and I used to joke about how easy it must have been for early man to hunt cows, and how grateful ancient people must have been for such an animal.

Imagine you're starving in the wilderness, gathering what fruit you can find, just barely getting by. Suddenly you turn a corner in the forest, and in a clearing you see a big fat sack of meat grazing in the grass. It turns its head to look at you, a wad of grass hanging from its slowly chewing mouth, and its blank, seemingly unthinking eyes blinking at you, only mildly intrigued at your presence. You think to yourself, "I just need a good-sized rock and I'll have meat for weeks!"

It wasn't until later that we remembered that cows were one of the few animals humans had domesticated. We looked it up and found that the cow's ancestor, the aurochs, actually packed a punch and would have taken some real effort to take down.

For instance, check out this aurochs fighting off a pack of hungry wolves like it ain't no thing.

Long_horned_european_wild_ox.jpg

Turns out, cows are tougher and smarter and smarter than we gave them credit for, being the suburbanites we were. Our image of a fat, dumb, lobotomized sack of meat was colored by the domesticated cows we had seen on TV, and that one time we visited an actual farm.

That being said, cows making their blank, bewildered faces still hold a certain place in my heart as charmingly goofy animals, somewhere in the realm of cats chasing laser pointers and dogs trying and succeeding at catching their own tails. So when I saw this coffee table book at the library, I jumped to look at pictures of their chubby bovine faces. I wasn't disappointed.

 Photo by  Bruce Fritz  in "The Complete Cow"

Photo by Bruce Fritz in "The Complete Cow"

I was also surprised to learn from Complete Cow that cows in the pasture have a social hierarchy within their herds. They're a bunch of regular "mean girls". They all have their own grazing "territory" in the field or at the trough. There's one cow at the top of the pecking order who can eat whenever and wherever she wants, and one sad-sack at the bottom who just has to wait her turn while all the more dominant cows eat at their leisure, sometimes waiting more than a half hour before eating anything. They'll push and shove to find their own spot, and if you're not willing to fight for your rank? Well, Gretchen Wieners will tell you what happens.

If you want a brilliantly bovine coffee table book in your life, this is the one to get! So if you want to browse the cows, and support this blog, buy it from the link below! Or just rent Mean Girls from the other link below! It's cheaper and it's a great movie!

 

Dowsing for Atlantis: The Art of Psychic Archaeology

Scan 1.jpeg

The Secret Vaults of Time: Psychic Archaeology and the Quest for Man's Beginnings (1976) by Stephan A. Schwartz

At first, I suspected that this was some kind of Psych novelization, where Shawn was posing as an archaeologist named Stephan Schwartz, and probably calling Gus something like "Babylonius Jones".

But no, this is a stone-cold serious book about psychic archaeology: the art of showy guesswork applied to long-dead people who can't disprove you with a dash of subconscious observation passed off as divination.

The synopsis of the book hails clairvoyance as not only valuable tool for archaeology, but as the only logical thing in an otherwise inexact science.

"Until recently, however, archaeology has been a somewhat inexact science relying for the most part on serendipitous finds and speculative theory. ... Automatic writing, ESP, and divining rods - these are the tools of a developing science: psychic archaeology."

Nevermind the fact that the job title "Psychic Archaeologist" sounds about as credible as "Dinosaur Psychologist".

From my perusal of this book, there are a couple questions I have that were sadly left unanswered:

1.  Is there a style guide somewhere that can tell me how to properly cite a ghostly monk in an academic paper?

Scan 23.jpeg

2.  When will this monk apparition leave my nightmares?

If you want to check out this book, click here, or maybe if you want a more recent, and quite frankly, more reliable book on history, try one of the following, and you'll also be helping out the blog!

Some Crazy Book About Gnomes

Scan 4.jpeg

Gnomes (1976) by Rien Poortvliet & Wil Huygen

A few months ago, I was wandering the aisles of Pioneer Book, a beautiful second-hand bookstore in Provo, Utah. This store is full-to-bursting with old books, new books and antique books, some going back to before the turn of the century.

As I meandered through the shelves, the spine of one book in particular caught my eye, so I picked it up. In that moment, my life forever changed. It was like a moment from some fantasy adventure movie from the 80's or 90's, where some kid finds himself in a library and pulls an old leatherbound tome from a shelf, blowing off the dust to discover that he's found a long-forgotten spellbook and goes on to use his newfound wizard powers to save the world from evil.

That fateful day, I walked out of the store with a Dutch cryptozoological field guide about the culture, anatomy, distinguishing characteristics of gnomes.

From the cover you may surmise that this is a kids book. But you would be wrong in thinking so. No, this is a full-on treatise on all things "gnome" that reads less like a fantasy book, and more like a detailed 212-page notebook that Charles Darwin might have compiled if he studied gnomes instead of Galapagos tortoises.

If you want an idea of just how detailed this book gets, take a look at this page, which shows the gnome's geographic distribution across Europe:

 (Not Pictured: Mordor)

(Not Pictured: Mordor)

Or how about this pervy little gnome and his glee at telling you about the gnome reproductive cycle:

 Don't Look at me like that, you little creep!

Don't Look at me like that, you little creep!

Oh yeah, I neglected to mention. This is not a book aimed at kids. At least not kids with American sensibilities. First and foremost, this is a coffee-table book with some beautiful artistry, to be viewed with maturity and a dry sense of European humor. The above image illustrates the humor I'm talking about ("In the literature everyone remains scrupulously silent on the subject.")

But based on the above image alone, you may guess that you'd be in for some explicit stuff. That is not the case. Everything in this book is in good taste, but my only caveat would be that a couple images may require you to file this art somewhere in your brain next to Michelangelo's David or Botticelli's Birth of Venus. That's all I'll say on the matter.

What about the fact that gnomes apparently keep mice as dog-like pets?

 Above: one of the cutest things I've ever seen.

Above: one of the cutest things I've ever seen.

Or that gnomes spend more time in the restroom than I do, and decorate their toilets like little thrones?

 Give them a smart phone and they might never leave that room.

Give them a smart phone and they might never leave that room.

Scan 10.jpeg

This book book was truly a find, filled with beautiful paintings, elegant penmanship, and imaginative world-building in textbook-style format. Frankly, I was only a little surprised to find that this book had somewhat of a cult following when I looked it up on Goodreads. I highly suggest it if any of the images or descriptions above piqued your interest. 

 

If you simply must get your hands on this book, please support this blog and buy it from the link below! The art is magnificent to look at, and the book makes a great conversation piece.

 

Mystery Novel Bundle #1 : Dessert Edition

Even though they belong to a relatively young genre, mystery stories are a popular and prolific form of modern literature. If your public library divides the fiction section into genres, you'll probably find that the "mystery" section is one of the largest, just behind the enormous "romance" section, which might as well have its own wing at this point.

With so much sheer volume, the mystery genre can become heavily subdivided, reaching such specificity that you can almost literally find a mystery novel for any reader's taste. Some of these can be deadly serious, and some, like those in the "cozy mystery" subgenre, are lighthearted romps with a goofy theme, barely 200 pages, meant to be easily digestible over the course of a weekend vacation.

However you feel about the latter variety of mystery novel, their ultra-specific subject matter and pun-heavy titles make excellent fodder for this blog, and seeing as there are so many of them in the world, I have no choice but to make them a series of their own. So without further adieu, I now present the first of many Mystery Novel Bundles: Dessert Edition!

death lies applepies.jpg

Death, Lies and Apple Pies (1998) by Valerie S. Malmont

In a world where every character has an overthought, pretentious name (our heroine is a novelist named Tori Miracle, and her boyfriend's name is--no joke--Garnet Gochenauer), we find ourselves in the midst of the Old Fashioned Apple Butter Festival in Pennsylvania Amish Country where Ms. Miracle is serving as a celebrity judge of the apple pie contest.

As the genre would imply, murder breaks out and Tori and Garnet (would their couple-name be "Tornet"?) set to work exposing a culprit, who, as the synopsis states, has a "recipe for murder!"

Though the book itself isn't really my cup of tea, I'm generally a fan of a book cover that can make an apple core look like a spooky skull, so it at least has that going for it.

Kneading to Die (2013) by Liz Mugavero

Forced puns ahoy!

Not contented to just be a baking-themed or pet-themed mystery series, both of which there are many, the Pawsitively Organic series grabs hold of the "quirky" knob and dials it up to 11, becoming a series about Kristan "Stan" Connor, a baker who makes organic treats for dogs and cats...who also solves mysteries!

In this, the first of the series, Stan starts her new bakery in a small Connecticut town called Frog Ledge, pleasing the many pet-owning customers, but running afoul of the town vet, Dr. Carole Morganwick, a proponent of "old school" pet medicine who is wary of the organic pet food craze.

When Stan's own cat gets sick, she pays a visit to the vet, only to find her dead and buried under a pile of kibble. Worse yet, Stan is the main culprit in the murder investigation. If Stan can solve the mystery and find the actual killer, she can get herself off the hook for murder and continue bringing organic treats to the good cats and dogs of Frog Ledge, Connecticut.

I'm happy to live in a world where a novel like this can exist. Even if I don't read it, it gives me hope and creative inspiration to know that something this hyper-specific can be a success. Makes me want to get to work own novel, DinoVamp vs. Ninja Spider.

dinovamp v spiderninja.jpg

(A work in progress)

Latte Trouble (2005) by Cleo Coyle

lattetrouble.jpg

Did I mention that this genre just loves puns?

Well it also seems to love double-duty heroes, like Clare Cosi, a brilliant coffee shop owner who also happens to solve murder mysteries on the side.

In this, the third installment of the Coffeehouse Mystery series, it's Fashion Week in New York (Wow, I am SOOO not the target audience for this book) and Cosi finds herself trying to vindicate one of her trusted employees when a distinguished guest keels over in the cafe from a cyanide-laced latte. Though to be fair, I imagine if the coffee was any good, the caffeine content would be high enough to wake the dead anyway, thus negating the deadly poisons inside. 

Another interesting feature of this book, as advertised on the cover, is that it contains recipes. Recipes. In a murder myster novel.  Let's just hope none of them include cyanide.

To get your mystery fix and support this blog, click one of the links below and grab yourself a book today!

Footfall (1985)

1762114.jpg

Every generation, a sci-fi novel comes along that revolutionizes the genre, influencing the way we discuss similar stories for years to come. I think it's pretty safe to say that this was not one of those times, despite the cover blurb's presumptive assertion that this is "probably the finest novel of alien invasion ever written."

After all, when was the last time you read an alien-invasion story that featured a race of extraterrestrials in the form of hyper-intelligent, human-sized elephants with two trunks? Never? I thought as much.

Basically, what you see on the tin is what you get. Alien pachyderms from Alpha Centauri attack Earth, prompting humanity to join forces to repel the invaders, and it's treated quite earnestly by the writers, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, big shots in the sci-fi world. But notwithstanding the ridiculousness of that premise, I wouldn't suggest that you throw this book to the ground and trample it beneath your round, meaty hooves.

Though it was received somewhat lukewarm and doesn't have a large fanbase, I will say that this book has an interesting story to tell in its own right. If you're at all intrigued by the image of an evil elephant wielding a blaster gun in one of its prehensile trunks, looking around the corner with a hand mirror in an action-movie-style standoff, you'll probably enjoy this tome. If you want to see a different approach to the alien invasion story in which the enemy doesn't have the typical "pack" mentality that invaders tend to be characterized with, but rather a "herd" mentality (meaning they don't fight merely to eradicate, eat, or enslave their enemies, but to establish dominance and incorporate the remaining losers into the winning herd) then this is your book.

Suggested sequel title if Niven and Pournelle ever get around to it: "Revenge of the Herd: An Elephant Never Forgets".

To read Footfall for yourself and support this blog, buy the ebook below!

The Great Granny Crochet Book (1979)

Scan 5.jpeg

Remember that disgusting sweater your great-grandmother knit for you that your mom forced you to wear because "Gammie won't be around forever! Can't you just do this for her?"

Well, odds are, the pattern for that unholy technicolor nightmare coat came from this book.

In the late 1970s, the American School of Needlework released this gem full of creative projects for the "granny square" crochet method.

If you ever pick up this tome, use caution and protective gear, because, as evidenced by the giant "radioactive" symbol on the cover model's sweater, the patterns in this book are known by the state of California to cause reproductive harm, specifically because no one will ever date you while wearing any of it.

Scan 12.jpeg

Exhibit A: The above page, showcasing the aptly titled "Giant Floor Ball", an oversized hacky sack with no discernible purpose other than allowing 70's gals to wistfully lean against it and ponder their own dreadful taste in decor.

Scan 14.jpeg

Exhibit B: This young Davy Jones lookalike posing luxuriously with his no-name soda (perhaps a 7up?) on a guacamole-colored shag carpet. If you want a visual representation of the 1970's nauseating color palette, you couldn't do much better than this image, with its abundance of greens, browns, and yellows, highlighting the most horrific shades and hues of each. All that's missing are some muted oranges and purples and you've got yourself groovy hangout to blast Abba records and debate heady topics like: Who has the most epic mustache?

burt20reynolds.jpg

Burt Reynolds. The answer is always Burt Reynolds.

Scan 11.jpeg

Exhibit C: Everyone's favorite homemade toy, "Stitchy the Sucky Robot" made out of Granny's recycled afghan. It's one of those well-meaning toys that try for something butch, but can't escape the fact that they were knitted by Grandma. The kid has to be grateful for the gift because Grandma put so much effort into this toy and it shows, but the other kids on the playground don't care about that. All they see is Mr. Sensitive and his soft toy that tries too hard and misses the point of the testosterone-fueled play-things of the era. This kid is somewhat lucky he's in the late 70's and not the mid 80's because if he brought this monstrosity over to his friend's house to play Transformers, he would surely be laughed out of the second grade.

If you're in the market for a more modern book of crochet and you want to support this blog, buy one of the books below!