Book review: Shed Chic: Outdoor Buildings for Work, Rest and Play

By , May 30, 2013

 Shed Chic: Outdoor Buildings for Work,  Rest and Play

By Sally Coulthard


Not just for tools and lawn mowers anymore, sheds are becoming an escape from the demands of modern life a place to relax, dream or play.  Sally Coulthard’s book Shed Chic showcases some fabulous sheds that are used for craft rooms, guesthouses, garden rooms and playhouses. This book is filled with great ideas and big beautiful color photographs to help inspire you to create anything from a single room windowed reading nook, to a gypsy caravan on wheels, to a miniature shed “village” for your chickens.


“Life along the back fence line has become infinitely more interesting.”






Before Zumba or CrossFit, There Was Physical Culture

By , May 26, 2013

The term “physical culture” refers to a movement promoting exercise and an active lifestyle that became especially popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  It is also the title of a fascinating magazine published from 1899 to 1955 by Bernarr McFadden (pictured below), a zealous proponent of physical fitness with an entrepreneurial spirit who was also considered the inventor of the “confession” magazine, making millions off of titles like True Story and True Detective Mysteries.

Physical Culture magazine represents McFadden’s ideas about nutrition and exercise (and his crusade against prudishness in American society) and was the first of the bodybuilding or fitness magazines.  Nashville Public Library owns the issues from 1913-1924.

This magazine focuses on a few main themes:

Strength training and exercise for men, women, and children.  Many of the current trends in exercise can be seen in these early magazines – training with kettle bells, medicine balls, or clubs for example.

Nutrition advice – some that seems a little wacky by today’s standards and some that sounds very modern (like eating raw foods).  McFadden was a huge proponent of fasting and there are even articles by writer Upton Sinclair, who followed McFadden’s fasting routine.

General health and wellness:  Where many of the magazines of the time ran ads promoting smoking as a healthy and enjoyable habit, Physical Culture featured ads and articles about how to break the tobacco habit. There are also articles about vitamins, eliminating the corset, and other methods (some more eccentric than others) of maintaining good health . 

Social Hygiene (to borrow a term from that era):  There are many articles about how to prevent and/or treat sexually transmitted diseases and also some fascinating and controversial features on genetics and birth control.  McFadden’s views on these topics (along with the propensity of the magazine to feature photos of scantily clad women, albeit in an athletic context) were a bit radical for the time and got him into legal trouble more than once.

I found this magazine so interesting and relevant, not just to fitness buffs who can get a glimpse of the beginnings of the exercise trends of today, but to anyone who might be curious about where our current ideas on healthy living, women’s involvement in sport, and even social concepts like marriage and family planning, may have begun.

If you’re interested in some current exercise trends that might have started in the pages of Physical Culture, check out these items from our collection:


Beautiful Books About Letters

By , May 23, 2013

True to the Letter: 800 Years of Remarkable Correspondence, Documents and Autographs

By Pedro Correa do Lago


In True to the Letter, Pedro Correa do Lago has put together an impressive collection of letters spanning 800 years.  The book flows together seamlessly, showcasing the letters of artists, scientists, royalty, actors, poets, musicians, writers, soldiers, philosophers and clergymen.

The letters are shown in their entirety, some are handwritten, some typed, some illustrated, and some even feature musical scores. Lago also includes a summary of the circumstance in which the letter was written providing a personal glimpse into the letter writer’s world.


Illustrated Letters: Artists and Writers Correspond

Edited by Roselyne de Ayala and Jean-Pierre Gueno


What makes this book so special is the incredible art work that adorns the letters’ pages; from simple doodles to miniature water color paintings, these letters are stunning and inspiring.



Both books are fabulous; one will make you want to write a letter, the other will make you want to illustrate it.


- Karen



Book Review: The Other Typist

By , May 16, 2013

The Other Typist

By Suzanne Rindell


The Other Typist is the most original book that I have read this spring, the plot twists and turns and you think you know who is good and who is bad….and who is ultimately going to die…..but you don’t… right up until the last page there is one surprise after another.

Fans of Robert Goolrick’s books will enjoy this highly atmospheric novel that plays on the human condition with characters that use cool, calculated manipulations and possess charm that masks their true intent.   The Other Typist is author Suzanne Rindell’s first novel.


The Other Typist will make you question if anyone is ever quite who you think they are.


- Karen



Music review: Scratch My Back by Peter Gabriel

By , May 7, 2013

Scratch My Back by Peter Gabriel

This is an excellent 2010 project that features Peter Gabriel – his voice at its  alternately measured and dramatic best – offering interpretations of a dozen great songs.  He’s backed on many tunes by the London Scratch Orchestra – heavy on strings and very clear bass.  Trust me – it works.  Others are mainly piano and voice – like the terrific take of  Randy Newman’s  “I think it’s Going To Rain Today.”

I like all the songs, from the opening  “Heroes”‘ and Paul Simon’s “Boy in a Bubble” (very unique version here) to the ending Radiohead instrumental fade out but I think it peaks for me with an emotionally involving trio of songs – “The Power of the Heart” by Lou Reed followed by “My Body is a Cage” (which makes Arcade Fire’s version seem tepid in comparison) to “The Book of Love.”    This is the centerpiece of this CD for me and is a great sequence.

I must admit I began listening to this CD on my way to a funeral of a dear friend and of course it resonates with me all the deeper for the associations these three songs have.  But I’ve listened to this work several times and really appreciate the way it builds  with the well thought out sequence of very good songs done with care and passion.

He has done these artists justice and I imagine having Peter Gabriel cover one of your songs is really a feather in your cap and very satisfying.  At some point, they are collectively supposed to return the favor so we’ll have to stay tuned. (There are certainly many gems to choose from on his first three solo releases alone…) But this half of the arrangement is really good and is hard to forget.


Book review: How Like An Angel

By , May 7, 2013

How Like An Angel, by Margaret Millar

How Like An Angel
by Margaret Millar

“It doesn’t look like much of a road.”

“It’s not supposed to. The people who live at the end of it don’t like to advertise the fact. Let’s just say they’re peculiar.”

So begins Margaret Millar’s 1962 novel How Like an Angel. The story concerns freshly penniless private eye Joe Quinn’s chance encounter with cult member Sister Blessing. Their brief interaction leads to a twisty missing persons case in the sunbaked, Californian oil town of Chicote. As written by Mrs. Millar, the central mystery and the path Quinn takes in his investigations would be interesting enough on their own. However, her creation of an isolated religious group that factors heavily into the plot gives this novel a unique feel and heightens the strangeness of the story.

Unlike her husband, Kenneth Millar (writing as Ross Macdonald), who is known primarily for his ‘Lew Archer’ series of hardboiled detective novels, Margaret’s mysteries rarely feature repeat protagonists. That really isn’t a drawback. As she demonstrates here with typically complex and realistic characters, she has a penchant for creating believable people.

But the real appeal of this particular author is her ability to combine this kind of characterization with masterfully plotted storylines of mystery and psychological suspense. The consistency with which she wields this talent places her firmly in the bittersweet category of the under-appreciated.

It’s high time any mystery lovers who haven’t yet experienced Margaret Millar’s grasp of the art form do so now. And why not start with this?

- Ben

Popmatic Podcast May 2013: Don’t Worry Wendy

By , May 4, 2013

The Popmatic crew bravely asks if a work about a work can be as good or better than the original work. Confused? So were we! Plus, what is tickling our fancy this month? We tell you that too.


The Shining

Room 237



Burden of Dreams

A Christmas Story


Castle by Richard Castle

Heat Wave by Richard Castle (first in the Nikki Heat series)

Storm Surge by Richard Castle (all three Derrick Storm novellas in one ebook)

Making Rumours by Ken Caillat & Steven Stiefel

Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington

Twenty Jazz Funk Greats by Throbbing Gristle

20 Jazz Funk Greats by Drew Daniel

33 1/3 series

Stone Reader

The Stones of Summer by Dow Mossman

Rob Ager‘s YouTube channels: robag88 & robag555

Kubrick Boxes directed by Jon Ronson

Colour Me Kubrick

Eyes Wide Open by Frederic Raphael


The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber

The Kane Show


Alex Cox Kickstarter for Bill the Galactic Hero film


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