Tag Archives: history

The League of Extraordinarily Funny Women: 50 Trailblazers of Comedy by Sheila Moeschen

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The League of Extraordinarily Funny Women: 50 Trailblazers of Comedy by Sheila Moeschen

Moeschen, Sheila. The League of Extraordinarily Funny Women: 50 Trailblazers of Comedy. Running Press Adult, 2019. ISBN 978-0762466641 232 pp. $20

*****

I just finished binging The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, and have been wondering who she was based on and who her real-life influences were besides Lenny Bruce and Moms Mabley. While neither question is addressed in this collective biography, it was a nice transition from the the show.

Self-proclaimed comedy nerd Sheila Moeschen presents this browseable, humorous and highly readable overview of fifty famous female comics: their start, their breakout roles, their signature jokes, their often! acclaimed and award-winning work, their influences, and for some, their legacy. Ladies are grouped by ten in no particular order in each section: intellectual comics, character comics, controversial comics, misfit comics, and trailblazers. The book showcases Lucille Ball, Phyllis Diller and Moms Mabley; Gilda Radner, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy; Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler, among others.

Each section opens with an overview to introduce the category, and includes additional names that couldn’t included with full bios due to limited space. Icons are mixed in with up & comers. The cast of characters is refreshingly diverse by age, location, ethnicity, and sexuality. Best of all, while occasionally partners are identified, most of the bios focus on career only, and the merit of the woman’s achievement.

Moeschen is quick with a quip and funny in her own right, and so are YOU, evidenced by the YOU that is the last person listed in the book under the “Extra Extraordinaires” block that lists even more funny women in the final chapter, and the afterword reiterates to the reader no, really! YOU are funny, too!

No sources are cited, and a short, non-annotated reading list follows. A timeline and index are lacking, and would be helpful to include if there is indeed, a sequel.

History Comics: The National Parks by Falynn Koch

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History Comics: The National Parks by Falynn Koch

Koch, Falynn. History Comics: The National Parks. First Second, 2022. ISBN 978-1250265876 128 pp. $19.99

****

This comic panel format history is a fascinating look at the personalities (and egos) behind the creation of the National Park Service. An introduction from William Gwaitney, retired assistant regional director of the National Park Service, sets a passionate tone for the NPS in his introduction.

The book uses two characters, Bigfoot and a bald eagle, to represent the parks and the United States and frame the narrative. They introduce presidents and naturalists, legislators and business tycoons, and famous properties. They also define preservation versus conservation, where they are at odds and where they align.

The system evolved from a single park that straddled two states (Yellowstone) to include all federal parks: national monuments, recreation areas, military sites, urban parks, historic sites and natural wonders. The book also briefs on funding and management, environment and wildlife issues, and Mission 66 in 1966 to address visitor services (entrance fees, parking, and visitor centers).

Missing is coverage of the National Park System going rogue and actively resisting President Trump, the creation of @AltUSNatParkService and it’s 72.9K followers, and the government seeking to overturn laws and protections that keep the parks and their environments clean. Koch does not shy away from the reality of lands being stolen from indigenous peoples, or from dark and tragic parts of our history.

The art is cartoony with a subdued color palette. The characters are slightly caricatured which matches the fun and informal tone of the book. As each park is established, a name and date appear in the panel, culminating with a timeline that covers the establishments of all the parks, from 1851 to 2019. The book concludes with resources for further research (title and author, monographs only).

Informative and enjoyable, this just might inspire junior ranges or at least a road trip to visit your closest park!

White House Cookbook, Revised and Updated Centennial Edition by Tami Ross, Patti B Geil, F. L Gillette, and Hugo Ziemann

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White House Cookbook, Revised and Updated Centennial Edition by Tami Ross, Patti B Geil, F. L Gillette, and Hugo Ziemann

Ross, Tami and Patti B Geil, F. L Gillette, and Hugo Ziemann. White House Cookbook, Revised and Updated Centennial Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006. ISBN 978-0471347521 336 pp. $18.95

****

I used to bring my (ex)hubby t-shirts from my travels, but often they didn’t fit right–he’s too muscled for a large, but an extra-large swims on him. Then I started collecting shot glasses from my destinations, but we are running out room. He really doesn’t need/want chotchkies. So, I’ve started bringing him home cookbooks as souvenirs.

I got the White House Cookbook on one of my last trips to DC, and have paged through it once or twice. This weekend we moved all the cookbooks to a new bookcase that is upstairs, near the kitchen, instead of on the 2nd floor landing, and I paged through this one again while eating my tea & toast birthday breakfast.

I love food, menus, etiquette, history of food, and this revised & expanded edition nicely covers all of the above, with Hilary’s chocolate chip cookie recipe (she uses shortening), an essay on table manners fit for a state dinner, and a diagram of where to play each wineglass from sherry to burgandy (hint: sort of a cross shape).

The cookbook is traditionally arranged from beverages to desserts, with no cross referencing. Several menu examples from actual White House events are included. The modern recipes are much more specific in amounts and instructions. Each chapter is prefaced with sketched portraits of various first ladies; there are no other pictures. All modern recipes and most classic ones contain complete nutritional information, including starch, fat and protein exchanges.

There is actually a disclaimer at the beginning, in case thinking about healthy eating changes again, and the book puts this revision into context with an explanation of the evolution from pioneer diets and making everything from scratch to modern families and convenience foods. Many unique and original recipes have an updated “healthier” version that substitutes butter with low fat margarine and “Butter Buds” and whole eggs with “Egg substitute.” I’m sorry–I know I’m fat, but you know what, I’d SO much rather eat food with real eggs and butter than ingest chemical crap. If I make anything from this book, it will be using the original recipes. Except, maybe, for the squirrel pie from Cleveland era: no modern day revision on this classic, which is just as well, by me.

Hippie by Barry Miles

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Hippie by Barry Miles

Barry, Miles. Hippie. Union Square, 2005. ISBN 978-1402728730 384 pp. $

Is this a history of the 1960’s, a musical biography, or both? Can you really talk about one without the other? Apparently not. Hippie is a broad biography of an era that examines the clothes, the art, the politics, the bands, and the generation that tuned in, dropped out and changed the world in 1965-1971. Covering not just entertainment, Hippie is also a history of issues: women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights, and the right to gather peaceably.

Interviews with Ken Kesey, Abbie Hoffman and Bob Dylan paired with photos of ephemera yield primary source material about the counterculture of the times. The number one fact that sticks with me after reading it is that Dylan turned the Beatles onto hard drugs.

Although Woodstock is prominently featured, the book has a California-centric focus. It’s not big enough or colorful enough to be called a coffee-table book, about half of the 600 illustrations are in black and white. More for browsing, there are no page numbers, making this a difficult title for reports, although one could read the volume straight through or skim. Might make a nice gift for someone who lived through it but doesn’t remember it.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Bryson, Bill. A Short History of Nearly Everything. Crown, 2004. ISBN 978-0767908184 544 pp. $20

****

Thanks to April I’ve finally managed to log in properly so I can post. Really, I’m not computer illiterate–just having a few stupid days I guess. I’ve been on a non-fiction kick of late. Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything┬áis amazing. He has a wonderful way of interspersing the scientific with the anecdotal. You’ll be reading about the accomplishments of Newton and bust out laughing because of some bit he adds in about the man’s seriously odd behavior, like the fact that he once stuck a needle in his eye to see what would happen. I listened to it on audio first but had to re-read it in print because I felt I was missing too much. The book is huge, over 500 pages, but I am a fan of a lot of Bryson’s writing so I thought it was well worth the time it takes. Next up, all the new YA stuff that just came in today.

The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936 by Susan D. Bachrach

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The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936 by Susan D. Bachrach

Susan D. Bachrach. The Nazi Olympics: Berlin, 1936. Rebound by Sagebrush, 2002. ISBN 978-0613263504 pp. $

*****

The most striking feature about The Nazi Olympics is the layout. Photos from the Library of Congress, National Holocaust museum, and a variety of personal and corporate collections are nicely arranged. The illustrations emphasize that Nazi propaganda convinced participating countries that the 1936 Olympic Games were going to adhere to the Olympic code and be inclusive of all peoples and faiths.

Magazine covers, newspaper headlines, political cartoons, and pictures of segregated Nazi and Jewish sports clubs reinforce the point that Nazi ideology was (and still is) directly opposite the Olympic code, in spite of Hitler’s assurances to the contrary.
Occasionally, the graphics take over and result in a two page spread of captioned photos that detract from the text but in most cases, the captions are brief or enclosed in a separate boxed section of information. The writing is clear, but the subject matter is recommended for grades 6 and up.

Rachbach places the Olympics in perspective of the political upheaval and the Nazi dictatorship that ensued, rather than relating just a history of the Olympics, or a rundown on record breakers and medallists (these details are included, but always admirably within the historical context).

Rachbach not only focuses on the prejudice in Germany; she also informs the reader of the racism against African-Americans and anti-Semitism on the homefront. The coverage of boycotts (both potential and realized) of athletes and countries is excellent. The author notes the positives that came out of the Olympic games, such as the new record set by Jesse Owens, and the quality of the athletic facilities in Berlin.

Two appendices include a list of locations of the summer games from 1896-1936, and a list of participating countries in the 1936 Berlin games. The chronology, index, and suggestions for further reading were excellent. Although published to capture the audience of the 2000 Games, the 1936 Games are an interesting topic and will be a good resource for students studying the Holocaust who want to go beyond concentration camps and battles, or a tool for teaching about anti-Semitism and other prejudices.