Craftivism Now!

Are you ready to be inspired? Like let’s go out and change the world right now, this minute, level of inspiration? Then pull up a chair because have I found the book for you and it is all about crafting. Yep, like needle and thread, yarn and bead, clay and paper crafting. The book is called “Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism” and it was edited by Betsy Greer, author of “Knitting for Good!: A Guide to Creating Personal, Social, and Political Change Stitch by Stitch” and she also runs the blog Craftivism.com.

What is craftivism? It’s a term for crafting that is motivated by social or political activism. Greer explains that “the creation of things by hand leads to a better understanding of democracy, because it reminds us that we have power.”

“Craftivism” is divided into four categories: Personal Threads, Refashioning Craft, Craft as a Political Mouthpiece, and Activating Communities. Personal Threads features personal approaches to craft including the concept of guerrilla kindness and some really badass cross-stitchers and quilters. Refashioning Craft discusses how you can use craft for clothing that can reflect beliefs by crafting resistance or making a statement such as a jewelry maker who creates in public and gives away the result. The next section, Craft as a Political Mouthpiece, includes the AIDS Quilt, a knitted mouse activist, the work of the Adithi collective, and more. Finally Activating Communities which shows how crafting can improve and empower communities be it by updated suffragette banners (there’s one for Robyn!) or making handmade basketball nets.

“Craftivism” is a fascinating look at art, politics, crafts, and fashion. The interviews and stories are inspiring and at times emotionally moving. You’re going to want this book and then get ready to get engaged.

Fun with Coloring Books!

I’ve always colored in coloring books, and as long as I can remember my mother has too. Right now, next to my computer, is a Hello Kitty coloring book that from time to time I color in. I’m not sure why we do it. But recently two different companies sent me coloring books to review and while using them I set myself to pondering why a 37 year-old woman still colors in coloring books.

Coloring does let you clear your mind. You need to concentrate, but not too hard. So it strikes a nice balance. It lets me be creative. Sadly I don’t know how to draw, so it gives me some of the satisfaction of an artist. Don’t laugh, it’s the closest thing I get to artistic expression. Unfortunately when coloring books are your creative medium, you’re generally stuck with Disney princesses and child safe versions of DC comic book characters. However these two coloring books showed me there are other options out there for grown up coloring book fans.

“The 1990s Coloring Book: All That and a Box of Crayons (Psych! Crayons Not Included.)” by James Grange is coloring book full of nostalgia and trivia. You can bust out a box of crayons and color the Taco Bell Chihuahua (Yo quiero Taco Bell!), pogs, George H.W. Bush throwing up on the Japanese Prime Minister, the “I Want to Believe” poster from Mulder’s office on the “X-Files”, and more!

Hypercolor This Tee

As you can see, I chose to do the Hypercolor page. The info shared is, “Introduced by Generra Sportswear Co. Inc. in 1991, the Hypercolor clothing line used fabrics dyed with thermochromic inks that would temporarily change colors when exposed to an increased temperature such as body heat. Pretty awesome, unless you had a sweat problem. Awkward!”

If that seems too silly to you, perhaps you’d be interested in “The Mandala Coloring Book: Inspire Creativity, Reduce Stress, and Bring Balance with 100 Mandala Coloring Pages” by Jim Gogarty. Just as the subtitle suggests, it has 100 mandalas for you to color, but it also has a nice introduction/how to use this book section. It discusses the meaning behind color choices and how you color.

Finest Colors Rose Art Can Provide

If you’re a coloring book fan, I hope you’ll give one of these, or both of these a try. They both have a lot to offer in their own distinct way. More importantly, if you haven’t colored in a coloring book since elementary school, I hope this post, and these books, inspire you to give it a go now. You’ll find that there is still satisfaction in coloring as an adult, and what else do you have to put up on your refrigerator?

Vanity Fair’s Hollywood Issue

Guess who is feeling fancy this February? This gal! And why? Because just like my heroes over at Go Fug Yourself, Vanity Fair sent me an advance image of the cover of Vanity Fair’s 20th anniversary Hollywood issue. Little did the classy folks at Vanity Fair realize how I was going to give my readers the short geek interpretation of their cover.

Let’s go to the cover, shall we?

Here it is!

We’ve got Chiwetel Ejiofor all the way to the left. Surely he’s there for his performance in “12 Years a Slave”, but I don’t care even the slightest about that. For us Browncoats he’s The Operative in the film “Serenity”. The next handsome gent with Julia Roberts in his lap is Idris Elba. I’ve got to assume he’s on the cover for his portrayal of Nelson Mandela in “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”. However all of us geeks are excited to see him because he starred in, say it together now, “Luther”! Also, hubba hubba! Thanks to “Dallas Buyer Club’s” 6 Oscar nominations Jared Leto is front and center on the cover, and women of a center age know Jared Leto better as Jordan Catalano from “My So-Called Life”. Your band 30 Seconds to Mars can release as many albums as you want, and you can star in as many movies that you can get cast in, but you will always be freakin’ Jordan Catalano to us.

Lastly, standing in the middle like the glorious beacon of awesome that she is, Lupita Nyong’o. I know this actress entirely from her dazzling beauty and amazing fashion sense. In terms of Hollywood, kudos may be in order to her stylist. This is seriously sad, but it wasn’t until I looked her up on IMDB.com that I learned she was in “12 Years a Slave”. Until about 5 minutes ago I only knew Lupita Nyong’o for being a woman who can do no wrong when it comes to dressing for the red carpet. I had no idea why she was walking those carpets. This isn’t traditional geek, but it touches on my fashion geekness. (Did I mention my love for Go Fug Yourself?)

But wait! I’ve got a little something more. Not only was Vanity Fair kind enough to share their cover image but they also sent along a video of some behind the scene footage of the photo shoot! Getting to watch world famous photographer Annie Leibovitz work is a special treat. I’ve been a fan of hers since high school!

Consider this an early Valentine’s gift from Vanity Fair to Magical Buffet readers!

A Year at Stonehenge

A wonderful book showed up on my doorstep that transported me to the magical world of Stonehenge. With the holidays fast approaching I’m eager to share with all of you “A Year at Stonehenge” by James O. Davies with an introduction by Mike Pitts.

© English Heritage/James O. Davies 2013

For the last 23 years James O. Davies has been an architectural photographer for English Heritage. He has contributed to many books in that time and his work has been widely published and exhibited throughout the world. He is also a portrait photographer, having twice exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery. He has taken the official portrait of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Davies spent the last 5 years photographing Stonehenge at all times of day and night, and all through the seasons. He was given privileged access to the site so he built up an amazing portfolio. As you can see from the photos here.

© English Heritage/James O. Davies 2013

Amazing doesn’t do his work justice. Davies work with Stonehenge is mind blowing. Obviously I’ve always appreciated Stonehenge, how can you not? However I’m not sure I’ve ever truly seen the magic of Stonehenge until I received “A Year at Stonehenge”. Better still, Davies photos brought out the best in Mike Pitts who provided the introduction.

© English Heritage/James O. Davies 2013

Instead of getting someone to wax poetic about the beauty and magic of Stonehenge they wisely brought Mike Putts in to provide the introduction. Pitts is a well-known expert on the subject of Stonehenge being the author of “Hengeworld”. He began his career as an archaeologist and museum curator. He is now a freelance journalist specializing mainly in archaeology, while continuing to conduct original research at Stonehenge where he has directed excavations. In other words, he kind of knows his shit when it comes to Stonehenge.

© English Heritage/James O. Davies 2013

The pairing of these two makes “A Year at Stonehenge” a really special book.

I kick ass! Buy me!

Favorite Things 2012

As many of you know, it was established last year that I am the new Oprah, particularly when it comes to the task of favoriting things. That’s right, I said favoriting. That would be the act of naming something a favorite. Not just anyone can name something “favorite”, you know. Obviously I can, and last year I told Oprah to pack it in. Honestly, the fact that she did it again this year is a little wounding to my ego. However, I shall not let it keep me from doing the thing you’ve been waiting for all year….. announcing my Favorite Things of 2012!

Thanks to the folks at Skylight Press a favorite book of mine, and in my opinion an occult classic, got reprinted, “The Magical Battle of Britain”. Following Germany’s invasion of Poland, Dion Fortune, started a magical working by mail designed to stop Germany’s efforts to expand into Britain. “The Magical Battle of Britain” provides a rare glimpse into Fortune’s real world workings and a unique perspective of the war. “The Magical Battle of Britain” isn’t just a book that is owned, it is a book that is cherished.

Once Margaret Pearson Ph.D separated the core text from all its associated commentaries, she didn’t just have a nifty book about the I Ching on her hands, she had a revolution. “The Original I Ching: An Authentic Translation of the Book of Changes” shows an early China with an ungendered meaning of yin and powerful, authoritative women. Of course it also shows you how to work with the I Ching, and it does so in clear, easy to understand language. Any woman interested in learning more about the I Ching technique or history, or both, would do well to get “The Original I Ching”. In my mind, I view it as one of the great female empowerment works of the year.

I love it when things don’t conform to stereotypes. For instance, people talk about vegans as if they are walking killjoys. They’re gaunt hippies, reeking of incense, who live to hover over you and make you feel guilty about you and the “murders” you commit. (Which I already knew wasn’t true thanks to a few kick ass friends, but you know what I’m sayin’ people.) Thankfully there are folks like Brian Patton, aka “The Sexy Vegan” around to shake things up and step all over some of those lame, outdated stereotypes. Patton’s cookbook, “The Sexy Vegan Cookbook: Extraordinary Food from an Ordinary Dude”, is filled with good humor and recipes that can be enjoyed whether you’re a vegan or not. I just want to go on the record one more time that any man that can work even a single drop of rum into a breakfast recipe is all right in my book. (Sailor’s Oatmeal with Glazed Walnuts)

Again, I love to be surprised. When I had received a review copy of “Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth: An Introduction to Spiritual Ecology” by John Michael Greer I assumed I was in for a lot of the Earth has so much to teach us man. Instead what I found was one of the best introductions to the Western occult tradition in like, ever! I learned an important lesson about assuming from that book. Primarily that I don’t really have to admit to it in my book reviews!

He was on the list last year, he’s on the list this year. As long as Inner Traditions continues to publish his books here in the United States I imagine he will continue to show up on my favorites. He’s Claude Lecouteux and he’s written many of my favorite books, whether they’ve had the opportunity to show up on lists or not. Let’s focus on this year, shall we? This year we’re talking about “The Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses: From Pagan Folklore to Modern Manifestations.” Lecouteux is notoriously thorough and this book is no exception. You cannot discuss poltergeists or how people would rid themselves of poltergeists without first spending a chapter thoroughly pinning down the definition of poltergeist. Trust me, with Claude Lecouteux you’re in for an informative and entertaining ride with the subject matter.

I love tarot decks. I can’t imagine anyone who is interested in the occult that isn’t intrigued by the cards at least a little. Despite having only rudimentary knowledge and an utter lack of skill with tarot, I am fortunate enough to see plenty of tarot decks. I reviewed many this year and they were all so amazing, but there was one that spoke to me. I can’t fully explain, and maybe there are some tarot readers out there who can say this experience has happened to them, but this tarot deck just filled me with such awe and wonder it made want to work with it, right then, right that moment. It’s the “Ghosts & Spirits Tarot” by Lisa Hunt. Each card depicts a different spirit, ghost, or liaison between the earthly and spiritual realms from folklore and legend. The amount of research that went into the deck had to be dizzying. The artwork is beautiful and often brings a sense of light to darkened spirits. I loved the “Ghosts & Spirits Tarot” so much I bought a second deck signed by the creator/artist!

I was totally blown away by “Power Crystals: Spiritual and Magical Practices, Crystal Skulls, and Alien Technology” by John DeSalvo Ph.D This book has EVERYTHING you’d ever want to know about quartz, and as a fan of quartz that makes me happy. What it is, its history, how to care for it, its use in meditation, and more. Add to that a fascinating look at crystal skulls and you have a favorite of 2012. DeSalvo’s blend of science and spirituality appeals to both my skeptical brain and my seeker’s heart.

Joma Sipe’s occult bona fides are certainly in order. At fifteen he began studying Theosophy and the works of H.P. Blavatsky and Annie Besant, and from there Rudolf Steiner, P.D. Ouspensky and more. At seventeen Sipe got involved with a school called “The Gnostic Movement”. In his late twenties he practiced ritual and practical magic with another mystical school. Inspired by “Autobiography of a Yogi” Sipe traveled India learning about Hindu religion. At the same time he was reading Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”, which then led him to study “A Course in Miracles”. Sipe takes that knowledge and funnels it into amazing works of art. Making “Soul of Light: Works of Illumination” a beautiful, stunning favorite of 2012.

I don’t know about any of you, but every now and then throughout the course of my life I’ve considered setting up or rearranging my home with the assistance of a Feng Shui book. Then you go to a book store and start flipping through some books on the subject and it’s huge, overwhelming, utterly complex……I think you get the idea. Then I got a review copy of “Feng Shui Your Life” by Jayme Barrett. It’s exhilarating! Everything is easy to understand, you’re given simple changes you can make right away, and you’re not made to feel as if doom awaits you if you can’t (or opt not to) make every change in the book. “Feng Shui Your Life” makes you want to immediately stop what you’re doing and start working your way through the book. I’ve never had a book about Feng Shui inspire that before, have you?

This last favorite is such a surprise that no one even knows I’ve read it yet! We’re coming up on the end of the year and that’s why now is the PERFECT time to pick up a copy of “Everyday Witch Book of Rituals” by Deborah Blake. Blake’s book features rituals for new and full moons, Sabbats, Handfastings, Wiccanings, Eldering/Cronings, Passing Over, and Rebirthings. Of course Blake wouldn’t just give you raw rituals and call it a day. “Everyday Witch Book of Rituals” discusses why we do rituals, appropriate etiquette when doing group rituals, how to convert rituals from group to lone practitioner and back again and more! Also, don’t fear, Magic the Cat makes many appearances. With everything you need for a year of magical ritual, and Deborah Blake’s good humor, NOW is the time for “Everyday Witch Book of Rituals”! Seriously. Go!

And there you have it folks, after much agonizing, list making, and debate, these are The Magical Buffet’s Favorite Things of 2012. So now go out and finish your holiday shopping, or perhaps do a little shopping for you. Be sure to tell the shopkeepers Rebecca sent you!

Sipe’s Soul of Light

I got an interesting offer from Quest Books. Would I like to review “Soul of Light: Works of Illumination” by Joma Sipe. What makes this interesting is that essentially this is an art book. I like art, of course, but I couldn’t help but wonder, why on earth would Quest books think that The Magical Buffet or its readers would care about this particular art book? I shouldn’t have doubted them.

The works of Joma Sipe are inspired from a spiritual background that rivals some published authors. At fifteen he began studying Theosophy and the works of H.P. Blavatsky and Annie Besant, and from there Rudolf Steiner, P.D. Ouspensky and more. At seventeen Sipe got involved with a school called “The Gnostic Movement”. In his late twenties he practiced ritual and practical magic with another mystical school. Inspired by “Autobiography of a Yogi” Sipe traveled India learning about Hindu religion. At the same time he was reading Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”, which then led him to study “A Course in Miracles”. Indeed Joma Sipe is well versed on many matters of the occult and spirit.

Since he opted not to become an author, what does he do? Create art. Sipe says, “The intricate and elaborate process of creating each work includes the purpose of transmitting a message, although sometimes that message cannot be understood immediately. Each work disperses and concentrates the light that emanates from each line in the painting. This light represents Being and our deeper Essence, the deep heart of the energy from life that inhabits everything that exists. This energy seeks to break the barrier of the physical dimension to meld with the universal Energy that condenses, materializes, and takes form in each canvas.”

To create his pieces Sipe waits for inspiration, and then on canvas or black paper using gold or silver ink to draw out his designs. Once drawn he uses intuition, inner vision, and sensibility to decide what points on his painting he wishes to place crystals. Sipe uses both simple crystals that only reflect a white light and aurora boreal crystals that reflect in a rainbow of colors. Sometimes he’s inspired to use both gold and silver and/or both types of crystals. Lastly Sipe does what he calls the “illuminated work”. This is where he adds light and soft-color computer effects. That’s what makes his works have that otherworldly glow about them.

The book “Soul of Light” is simply beautiful. Many of the works are accompanied by poetry from the artist to provide a glimpse into his mind about the piece. The pages are entirely black which helps highlight the artwork. I don’t want to tell you what to do, but the holiday gift giving season is coming up and “Soul of Light” is a pretty awesome gift. It’s not the perfect gift for everyone on your list, but right now your looking at the sample art here (which our resized scans don’t do justice) and you already know someone who would like this. You know it, I know it, and the Amazon widget to the right knows it.

Licorne and Chakras

The Happy Couple from the Haunted Wood

The holiday gift giving season is well and truly behind us, so I feel totally safe in talking about this. Readers may remember that back in October 2011 Jim and I did a TON of shopping at Celebrate Samhain, and one of the things I bought was a small, beautiful Hanged Man from Mike Dolan at Haunted Wood Crafts. What I didn’t mention at the time is that Jim and I liked it so much that we decided to get tarot cards done for the bulk of our friends for the holidays!

It took a lot of time on our part. We made a list of everyone we wanted to give them to and then went through the Universal Waite Tarot (or Rider-Waite Tarot, or Smith-Waite Tarot, however you prefer) and “The Pictorial Key to the Tarot” by Arthur Edward Waite doing our best to attempt to pick out cards we felt best suited each person. It was difficult, but fun.

Of course things were simple when we contacted Mike through his online retail website, The Haunted Wood Online. The next thing we knew we had a big ol’ box of beautiful, framed pieces of wooden tarot art!

To complete the gift we made a small card to go with each frame that included keywords associated with the card, or a quote from “The Pictorial Key to the Tarot” that hopefully expressed why we thought that card suited the recipient. I think most everyone really enjoyed the gift.

Now Jim and I couldn’t get all those awesome looking cards done without getting some for ourselves too. What’s funny is, neither of us put any thought at all into the cards we chose. For some reason I’ve always like the Hanged Man, so I picked that one. I asked Jim what his favorite card was and he said The Magician, so I ordered that one for him. I didn’t ask him why, and I suspect, like me, he doesn’t have a specific reason for it. So here we are, the Hanged Man and The Magician. The happy couple.

The Hanged Man and The Magician

Perhaps any of my readers who are good with the tarot can tell me if there is any significance to a Magician and a Hanged Man hooking up. All I can tell you is, it seems to be working out pretty well.

If you’re interested in beautiful woodcrafts, I really can’t recommend Mike Dolan enough. You can check out his showcase of custom work at The Haunted Wood, and you can visit his online retail site at The Haunted Wood Online. (FYI, he has these adorable stick figure tarot coins that I love! That may be the next time I’m at an event he’s vending at.)

Tsai Chih Chung Speaks

A month or so a go I went to a book signing for the lovely ladies who wrote “Wicca: What’s the Real Deal?” because if you recall I quite liked the book. The signing was at a used book store in Rensselaer, NY called Good Buy Books so of course Jim and I had to do a little shopping, right? One of my finds that day was a book called “Zen Speaks: Shouts of Nothingness” by Tsai Chih Chung and translated by Brian Bruya. Little had I realized what level of awesomeness I had stumbled upon, for unbeknownst to me, I had picked up a little bit of Taiwanese art/publication history.

Tsai Chih Chung (C.C. Tsai, Cai Zhizhong) is an artist, an animator, a cartoonist. At the age of 15 he started his career in comics as an assistant at a cartoon company, and his career continued to blossom from there. However, it was when he decided that retelling some of the greatest stories and philosophies from Chinese history in an artistic comic format with more modern updated language that his work reached a global audience. When his first book of this kind, “Zhuangzi Speaks: The Music of Nature”, came out in Taiwan it was an immediate success. Soon four of Tsai’s books of this kind occupied the top four spots on the bestseller list, until other authors insisted that comic books no longer be included on lists with “serious literature”. (Sound familiar Gaiman?)

Needless to say, I love “Zen Speaks”. I’m no stranger to the mini Zen tale, having worn out the spine on my copy of “Zen Flesh, Zen Bones”, but Tsai Chih Chung’s art and perspective breath new life into many of these stories. And his art, his adorable, adorable, adorable monks, well, I love them populating my favorite tales.

Here is one of my favorites, “Carrying A Woman Across A River”.

Apparently at some point they did an animated version of Tsai Chih Chung’s work, because here is “Carrying A Woman Across A River”.

I thought the original art was better. And by better, I mean the original monks were cuter, and thusly, better.

Since I loved “Zen Speaks” so much my husband surprised me and for Hanukkah he got me copies of “Zhuangzi Speaks” The Music of Nature” and “Sunzi Speaks: The Art of War”. I’d love to tell you how they are, but I’ve only flipped through them, but haven’t read them yet. Here are my problems; one, I keep rereading “Zen Speaks”, two, when I finally convince myself to set aside “Zen Speaks” to start another one I freeze with indecision flipping through both books unable to decide which one to read next because they both look so good which leads to me rereading “Zen Speaks” again.

Tsai Chih Chung’s comics of the Chinese classics are not the easiest to come by, and are priced varyingly, but if you stumble across one somewhere, or happen to be poking around online and find one at an inexpensive price, I hope you consider giving it a try.

This is a video for the line of animated videos they’ve made based on the books. It’s in English and does give a little bit of an overview of the work.

You can also learn a little more about the artist at TSAI Gallery.

The Hatless Zatanna

Not too long ago while at our localish comic book store I saw not one, but two graphic novels for Zatanna on their shelves. Since my usual comic book store closed I’ve lost all connection with the comic book world. So while once I would have known new Zatanna comics were coming out, now I found out by being shocked at seeing two graphic novels on the shelf. Of course I bought them both.

For those of you unfamiliar with Zatanna, Wikipedia offers the nice summary of, “Zatanna Zatara is a fictional character in the DC Comics universe. Created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Murphy Anderson, Zatanna first appeared in Hawkman vol. 1 #4 (October–November 1964). The character, both a stage magician and a real magician like her father Giovanni “John” Zatara, is known for her involvement with the Justice League, her retconned childhood association with Batman, and her crossing of the Vertigo line with characters such as romantic partner John Constantine and protégé Timothy Hunter.”

I’ve always liked Zatanna. I was introduced to her when she popped up in assorted Vertigo comic titles, since Vertigo was my introduction to comic books in general. I’ve often made the argument that if Hollywood is looking for a female superhero to launch a franchise, they should forget such a divisive figure like Wonder Woman, and take a good long look at my girl Zatanna. She’s superhero enough for the Justice League, so that should be superhero enough for Hollywood. But let’s get back on track here…..

Unbeknownst to me at least two Zatanna graphic novels came out, “The Mistress of Magic” and Shades of the Past”. Had I missed more? My husband helpfully hopped onto to Amazon.com to see if there were more. The good news is, I hadn’t missed out on any others. However, while he was searching Amazon Jim had a Zatanna Halloween costume come up. He commented that it wasn’t too bad but then he noticed something, “Hey, it doesn’t come with a top hat!” I told him that had to be an error, you can’t be Zatanna without a black top hat. So he showed me.

The Hatless Official DC Zatanna Costume

What’s worse is that this is actually the official DC Comics Zatanna costume! And no black top hat! Even the official Playboy Magician costume comes with a black top hat!

Playboy gives their Magician a Black Top Hat!

Even this random Magician’s Assistant costume has a tiny black top hat with it! Full disclosure, I really kind of dig this costume.

It's not a full size Black Top Hat, but it's a Hat.

While ranting about Zatanna’s black top hat it struck me, I had really been under whelmed with the covers of both Zatanna graphic novels I had just purchased. Why? Could it be the lack of black top hat?

The Mistress of Magic - No Hat
Shades of the Past - Again, No Hat.

I just can’t help it, call me a snob, or old-fashioned, but it’s not like she has to have it on all the time, but when she’s a cover girl, when you’re recreating her iconic look, Zatanna has a black top hat.

Zatanna from Hawkman #4
Everyday Magic

Put the Needle on the Record

Because of my age, I came into the 1980s late. It was in high school when my finger nails turned blue, my skirts included clingy black shorts sticking out from under that you could see, and on days when I wasn’t wearing a Sandman t-shirt (I must have had 6 or 7 different ones) my shirts tended to be mesh, neon, or perhaps ripped to expose a shoulder. There I was at the beginning of the grunge era, most days looking like I was on my way to audition to be an extra in a Cover Girls or Salt-N-Pepa video. (Don’t you worry your pretty little heads, as Courtney Love happened some floral dresses and combats boots showed up in the wardrobe as well.) In high school when I purchased music singles they were in the cassette single format, also known as cassingles. I rarely gave their covers a second look. Cassingles were simply a means to an end, it was only the music that mattered. Perhaps that’s why I have such a romantic feeling about vinyl singles. There is a magic about that size and format. You can lose yourself in a vinyl cover in a way that cassette tapes never really allowed.

This brings us to what I’m calling “the bestest thing ever”, “Put the Needle on the Record: The 1980s at 45 Revolutions Per Minute” by Matthew Chojnacki. Let me first start with, that is a bad ass name for the book. I don’t know if it was the author or the publisher that came up with that, but whoever did deserves a big thumbs up! If you’re looking to discover the artistic nature of the eighties, look no further. Chojnacki has compiled over 250 vinyl single covers highlighting every musical and artistic corner of the decade. He presents covers together to show trends; the cover of Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” influencing Winger’s “Madalaine”, album sleeves in denim, the cover of La Toya Jackson’s “Heart Don’t Lie” being derived directly from Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”, covers that have the appearance of postcards, the work of Keith Haring, and more!

Kate Bush, Army Dreamers (Design John Carder Bush, 1980, EMI 5106, U.K.)
Dolly Parton, I Will Always Love You (Design Unknown, 1982, RCA 13260, U.S.)

“Two of music’s most distinguished vocalists and lyricists appear here in ‘autographed’ photos” – Matthew Chojnacki

But hold on folks, because “Put the Needle on the Record” isn’t just filled with beautiful images of vinyl single covers. Chojnacki interviewed loads of people involved with them. Artists, designers, musicians, and whoever else played a hand in the creation of the covers are featured throughout the book. Sometimes offering insight into how the art was created, other times revealing behind the scenes stories, and frequently explaining a meaning to the cover that you may not have seen before. And the whole thing is sandwiched between a great foreword from Jake Shears (of Scissor Sisters) and an equally stellar afterword from Nick Rhodes (of Duran Duran).

Madonna, Everybody (Illustration Lou Beach, Design Christine Sauers, 1982, Sire 29899 12, U.S.)
The Clash, This is England (Illustration Eddie King, 1985, CBS 6122, U.K.)

“Madonna’s ‘Everybody’ depicted New York’s Lower East Side/East Village, while ‘This is England’ portrayed a Brit city landscape.” – Matthew Chojnacki

“Put the Needle on the Record” is an art book beautiful enough to proudly set out on your coffee table that is loaded with enough thoughtful pop culture journalism to keep your friends on your sofa for far too long.