Gods and Monsters

I am a sucker for packaging and formatting. Because of this, I am a sucker for Rockpool Publishing’s Supernatural Series. You may remember that in 2017 I reviewed “Witches and Wizards” by Lucy Cavendish, and in that review, I said, “This book is going to last, and better still it says, ‘The Supernatural Series Book One’ at the top. This hopefully means I can look forward to a shelf full of these attractive and interesting books.”

I now have two more attractive and interesting books from the series! These two have much in common with “Witches and Wizards”. Both are in the compact hardcover format that I loved with the previous book. Both have beautiful cover art and nice black and white illustrations throughout them. And both are big picture, general overviews, of subjects that could have books devoted to just one entry.

First up we have “Monsters and Creatures: Discover Beasts from Lore and Legends” by Gabiann Marin. This sucker discusses just about any creature you can think of! You’ll find well known creatures, like dragons, mermaids, werewolves, and centaurs. Marin also has loaded “Monsters and Creatures” with tons of lesser known creatures, such as kappas, pookas, kinnaris, and drop bears. (I would tell you about them, but shouldn’t you just buy the book?) At 196 pages it doesn’t go in depth with any of them, but “Monsters and Creatures” offers a great starting point.

The other book, “Gods and Goddesses: The Rise of Divine Mythologies”, also by Gabiann Marin, follows a similar format. Marin discusses deities with origins in Greece, Egypt, China, Rome, and more. However, she doesn’t just discuss deities of the past, but their existence in modern times. Again, it doesn’t go into great detail, but it’s a fabulous starting point.

If you’re looking to learn more about these books, visit here.

The Hidden History of Elves & Dwarfs

It’s no secret that I love me some Claude Lecouteux. Trust me when I say that his latest book, “The Hidden History of Elves & Dwarves: Avatars of Invisible Realms” showcases what he does best…. connecting the dots.

Whereas generally he uses his “gift for comparing cultures, for suddenly making an unexpected leap, but perfectly pertinent to the train of thought”, as Régis Boyer points out in the foreword. This time much of the focus is on the mystery of who is Auberon? By tracing this character’s existence in French, Norse, and Germanic tales we learn much about the difference and similarities of dwarfs and elves throughout time and cultures. What you come away with is that things back then were much more fluid, particularly in terms of physical appearance, than what you find in today’s Dungeons & Dragons books.

Of course, at the heart of every Lecouteux book is the eventual encroachment of Christianity and how it effects these original legends. As expected, the originals, if they remain are perverted versions of how they began their lives. Some also disappear, only to reappear in some new context. And if you’re like me, you sometimes try to revive the legend in its original context.

If you’re familiar with Lecouteux and like his work, this is one of his best. If you are not familiar with him, this is a great entry point.

You can learn more here.

The Little Book of Cat Magic Review & Giveaway

I’ve tried to write an introduction to this review several times. Each time I rambled on and next thing I knew there would be a full page of text and I wouldn’t have even given the title of the book! Let me sum up, and in doing so you’ll see why I was predisposed to endless rambling. I’ve known author Deborah Blake for around 10 years. In all those years Blake has always had somewhere between 4 to 6 cats. I adore Deborah Blake and refer to her as my “sister from another mister”, and I always adore Deborah’s cats (although her assorted cats have held me at varying levels of affection). I could write pages of amusing and/or sweet stories about Deborah and her cats, but I tried that, and it didn’t make for a very concise book review. I’ll just tell you that there is no better qualified writer to author “The Little Book of Cat Magic: Spells, Charms, and Tales” than Deborah Blake.

Many authors have cats, but not only has Blake always had multiple cats, but for a long stretch she had an honest-to-goodness black cat familiar that went by the name, Magic the Cat, Queen of the Universe. Magic was so influential that I even interviewed her once! When Blake writes about working magic for, and with, your cat you know she’s speaking from experience. “The Little Book of Cat Magic” truly encompasses all aspects of “cat”. The history of cats and tales (or tails, as I prefer) abound. Tips, and spells, about finding a cat, living with cats, and cat deities are discussed. There is a section about crafts and treats you can make for your cat. Also, The Magical Buffet gets name checked in the section about cat tarot decks! Just sayin’.

And I cannot end this review without mentioning that the interior illustrations by Alice Rosen are top notch. Adorable, whimsical, magical cat illustrations run throughout the entire text.

Honestly, “The Little Book of Cat Magic” is for anyone who loves cats.

You can learn more here.

Now for some exciting news, we’ve got a giveaway! As I said, I’m friends with Deborah, so the last time I visited her she loaded me up with goodies for a giveaway, AND Llewellyn sent me a copy too! That means that we’re going to have 2 winners!

Grand Prize: autographed copy of “The Little Book of Cat Magic”, a broom pen, a cute toy cat, and a book plate created by artist Elizabeth Alba!

Second Prize: a copy of “The Little Book of Cat Magic” and a book plate created by artist Elizabeth Alba!

This contest is open internationally, for people 18 years of age or older. We’re doing the Rafflecopter thing, so see the widget below. Contest ends at 11:59pm eastern Saturday, January 12th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fairies, Pookas, and Changelings

I’m just going to say it, I love Varla Ventura. At this point I’m pretty much down for whatever she’s got going on. You may remember that I loved her previous books “Among the Mermaids: Facts, Myths, and Enchantments from the Sirens of the Sea” and “Banshees, Werewolves, Vampires and Other Creatures of the Night: Facts, Fictions, and First-Hand Accounts”, and I’m happy to say she has added another one to her series of creature collections.

“Fairies, Pookas, and Changelings: A Complete Guide to the Wild and Wicked Enchanted Realm” is Ventura’s latest. This book is fantastic. The author’s enthusiasm for the subject matter is obvious as she relates assorted tales from folklore. I always love how she unearths the more obscure creatures for these books. In this one you’ll find fairies, pookas, and changelings (of course). You’ll also read about bonga, trolls, coblyns, brownies, and even Rumpelstiltskin! There’s even a section on methods for entering the fairy realm, an action the author does not advice taking lightly.

As always Ventura pulls no punches, letting the darkness around the edges of the fay be on full display. There will be no Disney fairies found in this book. However if you’re looking for an interesting guide to all the creatures the Wild has to offer, “Fairies, Pookas, and Changelings” is the book for you.

You can learn more here.

Creature Double Feature

Now that October, and Halloween, are behind us we can dig in and talk horror movies. Sure, you thought that because Hollywood’s traditional month of terror has passed that with it they took all the scary movies. Well I’m here to tell you that I’m not a fan of horror movies but two have been brought to my attention that look really cool and both of them are releasing in November. So take THAT October!


First up is “Late Phases”, written by Eric Stolze and directed by Adrian Garcia Bogliano.

Crescent Bay is not the ideal place to spend one’s golden years, especially since the once-idyllic retirement community has been beset by a series of deadly animal attacks from the ominous forest surrounding it. When grizzled war veteran Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici) is forced into moving there by his yuppie son Will (Ethan Embry), the residents immediately take offense to Ambrose’s abrasive personality. But that take-no-prisoners attitude may be just what Ambrose needs to survive as it becomes clear that the attacks are being caused by creatures that are neither animal nor man, and that the tight-knit community of Crescent Bay is hiding something truly sinister in its midst…

“Late Phases” opens in New York on November 21, 2014 with national expansion to follow.

The other is “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”, written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour.

Strange things are afoot in Bad City. The Iranian ghost town, home to prostitutes, junkies, pimps and other sordid souls, is a bastion of depravity and hopelessness where a lonely vampire stalks its most unsavory inhabitants.

Cinema’s first Iranian vampire western, Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature basks in the sheer pleasure of pulp. A joyful mash-up of genre, archetype, and iconography, its prolific influences span spaghetti westerns, graphic novels, horror films, and the Iranian New Wave. Amped by a mix of Iranian rock, techno, and Morricone-inspired riffs, its airy, anamorphic, black-and-white aesthetic and artfully drawn-out scenes combine the simmering tension of Sergio Leone with the weird surrealism of David Lynch.

“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” opens in New York and Los Angeles on November 21, 2014 with national expansion to follow.

Geek Month in Review: May 2014

By J.B. Sanders

May flowers!

Robo-snakes
Nothing else to add: robot snakes. With video and explanations. Creep factor 5!

How to Flood-proof Manhattan
Anyone else remember when this kind of thing seemed like science fiction? Yeah, me too. This time, especially after Hurricane Sandy, people are seriously talking about it.

Shipping Container Houses
Normally, when you hear that phrase, you picture stuff that is one step up from “shack” and many steps away from cool homes. Not so with the ones in this article. They look like something you see in Architectural Digest.

Concrete-Eating Robot
I know, it sounds like a bad scifi movie, or the name of a pulp novel from the ‘60s. Nope! It’s a robot, still in the design phase, which will disassemble a concrete building, breaking up the concrete into cement, sand and aggregate. All this is done right on the construction site, and it leaves the rebar naked and ready for re-use (or recycling). Pretty nifty!

Shell Grotto — Made by Who?
There’s a grotto in Kent, England, that is decorated with millions of seashells, 4.6 million to be precise. It was discovered in 1835 by some explorers, and when I say “discovered”, I mean it. No one knows who created the grotto, why the decorated it that way, or really much of anything else. It’s pretty snazzy, though.

Billion-User MMO Using VR? Yes, please!
So VR reviving tech company Oculus was recently purchased by Facebook. What are they going to do with all that money and computing power? Build an MMO that a billion simultaneous users can play, and since it’s Oculus, it’s going to be in VR. Sound like a scifi book you’ve read?

Self-Healing Plastic
Yup, it’s another step towards androids dreaming of electric sheep. Scientists have developed a polymer that has cappilaries, much like our own tissue, so that healing plastic will flow into and fill cracks.

Robot Hand and Arm Prosthetic Approved for Use
Cyber-enthusiasts rejoice! The FDA has approved the prosthetic for general use, after it was developed by DARPA. It’s capable of doing very fine manipulation, such as picking up an egg or zipping up a jacket.

Solar Roads
Sounds like a scifi novel, does’t it? This little company has devised hexagonal tiles that could be used instead of pavement, and the suckers are solar panels, generating power. They also have heating elements, so they can keep roads clear of snow and ice. And they have lights, so they can be used to create lines of light on the road, instead of paint. Going “holy crap!” yet? How about the designers estimate that if all 31,000 square miles of currently paved road was instead paved with their tiles, it would produce three times the electricity the entire country uses.

Better, much better video:

Largest Dinosaur Ever
Imagine something as big as 14 elephants. Or larger than several buses. HUGE.

Hover Bikes!
For real, even. There’s a company taking pre-orders for them. Not quite the flying cars of the 1950’s future, but close. So close!

The Sand Chart
In case you need a reference showing the approximate size of all the different kinds of grains of sand, here you are.

Oldest Living Things on Earth
It’s a photo book, travelogue, and text book, all in one. Photographer Rachel Sussman explores organisms, such as trees, lichen, fungi, and others, that surpass 2,000 years old. In fact, one of the organisms, a tree-root structure in Idaho, is over 80,000 years old.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:http://www.glenandtyler.com/

The Inner World of The Sacred World Oracle

I’m so happy! Why? Because I get to talk about “The Sacred World Oracle” which was created by Kris Waldherr. That name may sound familiar to long time Buffet readers because back in 2010 I reviewed Waldherr’s fantastic “Doomed Queens” playing cards deck and the “Ask the Queens Advice Deck”. Both were so beautiful, intelligent, and whimsical that when I saw “The Sacred World Oracle” I was eager to dive in.

Butterfly

Most of the art was adapted from Waldherr’s various books, particularly “Sacred Animals” and the accompanying calendar. The art of “The Sacred World Oracle” is beautiful and creates a magical landscape. This is definitely an oracle deck for those who feel an affinity with nature.

Dragon

The deck is comprised of 44 cards that are divided into 4 types: earth, air, fire, and water. Within each quadrant you’ll find animals (real, mythological, and folkloric). The included book provides you with meanings for these creatures. The book also includes a few spreads to try out. Of course my favorite thing is to draw a single card each morning and then see if the day lines up with the intentions set forth by the card.

Elephant

However you decide to use them, you should get “The Sacred World Oracle” and give them a try.

Salmon

Update I apparently misunderstood the about the art and text section of the booklet provided with the deck. There was a line that credited artists incorrectly that has now been deleted. ALL OF THE ART WAS DONE KRIS WALDHERR.

Creature Book Double Feature

When we interviewed Varla Ventura for the website, it was primarily in regards to her role as the curator for a line of ebooks for Red Wheel/Weiser Publishing. After reading her two latest books, “Among the Mermaids: Facts, Myths, and Enchantments from the Sirens of the Sea” and “Banshees, Werewolves, Vampires and Other Creatures of the Night: Facts, Fictions, and First-Hand Accounts”, I can safely say is curating is what Ventura does best.

In a paranormal landscape where it may feel like you’ve read every bit of trivia and tale about vampires and werewolves, Ventura manages to find fresh new takes on the subject matter. And let’s face it, how often does anyone talk about banshees? She even discusses a few other rarely touched upon creatures like Pookas and Changelings. The back of “Banshees, Werewolves, Vampires and Other Creatures of the Night” has a huge list of resources such as books, movies, and websites where you can learn more.

For as cool as that was, “Among the Mermaids” is, for me, a million times cooler. I have always been fascinated by mermaids and sirens. Other than a passage here or there in a paranormal or creature encyclopedia I had never found much reading about them. Then Varla Ventura comes along with “Among the Mermaids”, a whole book devoted to merrows, mermaids, and sirens. Again, Ventura finds legends and factoids that you’ll never find anywhere else! At the end, you not only find resources such as movies and books, but also shopping. Looking for mermaid art or jewelry? There are links for that! Looking for your very own, custom made mermaid tale? There are links for those too!

As I said at the start, curating is what Varla Ventura does best and the wonderful work she did with these two books proves it. Both books are filled with unique myths and facts that make these must haves for lovers of legend.

Geek Month in Review: April 2013

By JB Sanders

Spring!

Hagfish Slime — the New Silk?
Seriously, the hagfish (which is neither hag nor fish) is a bottom-feeding vertebrate that exudes a nasty slime when threatened. Scientists are exploring ways to duplicate the fibers that are part of this slime to create a pseudo-silk with more in common with spider silk than traditional silk. Such as being super-strong.

The Anti-Drone Hoodie
I see this thing and can only think: The Latest Fashion in Cult Robes. Every drone-avoiding cultist should have one.

How Far is it to Mars?
Handy website that graphically displays how far it is from Earth to Mars, although no information about whether they use an average distance or whether they’re savvy enough to calculate Mars’ position and update their info.

Decoding Our Dreams — Using Science!
Scientists have developed a program that helps decode images of brains taken while the subject is asleep. It isn’t exactly reading our minds via machines, but it’s interesting.

3D Camera with Range
Oh sure, 3D cameras — nothing new. Only this one uses lasers and has a range of 1km. Oh, and it’s not so good at human skin, so don’t worry that people are snapping your 3D picture from a thousand yards away.

Attack of the Magnetic Putty!
Take iron filings, silly putty and a rare-earth magnetic. Mix. Then film it using a time-lapse camera. Result: cool but kinda creepy.

The Cavern Underneath Manhattan
Ok, so really there are lots of caves under Manhattan, but here’s some photos of one under construction anyway.

Sugar Water Modeling Yellowstone
Scientists wanted to model the tectonic behavior of the vulcanism and other geologic movements of the area around Yellowstone and the Western US in general. So they got a huge tank and filled it with sugar water.

Actual Headline: “1913: When Hitler, Trotsky, Tito, Freud and Stalin all lived in the same place”
The freaky juxtaposition of history and some of the men who made it. And no, this isn’t some weird alternate history novel. This really was the case. They all lived in Vienna that year, right before WW1 kicked off. Oh, and add to that list the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Yup.

The Time Capsule Apartment
Wealthy woman leaves her Paris apartment just as the first rumblings of WWII break out. She went to the South of France, and continued to pay rent on the sealed apartment for the next 70 years, until she died at the age of 91. Her heirs discovered it, opened it and these pictures are of what they found there.

Anti-Gravity
Anti-matter, anti-gravity, CERN — this article has it all! You know it’s real science when no one says “we’ll have flying cars in 10 years!”.

Secret Tunnels of the Mafia
No, not a Weekly World News article — the Mafia in Sicily (and other parts of Italy) really do have secret tunnels, bunkers and various bolt-holes.

The Future of Roads is Special Paint
How about a road where the lines are painted in glow-in-the-dark paint? Or what if roads in the northern climes were painted with temperature-sensitive paint that glowed when covered in ice? (Black ice no more!) That’s the possible future of roads.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog: http://glenandtyler.blogspot.com

The $1,000,000 Hunt is On!

In an effort to highlight the proud histories of both Bigfoot and Olympia Beer in the Northwest, Olympia Beer has partnered with world-renowned Bigfoot experts at The Falcon Project to sponsor what may be one of the most comprehensive searches for Bigfoot ever conducted in North America. A grand prize of $1,000,000 will be paid to any person who finds “irrefutable evidence” of Bigfoot’s existence in compliance with the contest’s official rules. The yearlong contest launched April 9, 2013.

According to the contest rules, there is no set type or amount of “irrefutable evidence” required to establish proof of Bigfoot. All evidence presented must satisfy the three member judging panel convened by Olympia Beer and The Falcon Project. Evidence must include conclusive DNA evidence and visual proof of a live physical body. Visual proof of footprints, bone fragments, inconclusive skeletal remains or any other non-definitive evidence of Bigfoot will not suffice as “irrefutable evidence.” Any photo or video taken of Bigfoot is not sufficient to qualify as evidence in and of itself, but may be considered as supporting evidence. The awarding of any prize is subject to the official contest rules.

If Bigfoot’s existence is indeed proven through the contest, the grand prize winner will be paid in 40 yearly installments of $25,000. The annuity is being underwritten by SCA Promotions.

The Falcon Project is an organization that was convened to conduct the most in-depth search for Bigfoot ever conducted in North America. According to The Falcon Project, science tells us that a great North American Ape did exist at some point in the past, so the relevant question now is: “Does it still exist?” The Falcon Project is in the process of building a quiet, remote-controlled airship that will use thermal imaging technology to search Northwestern forests for evidence of Bigfoot. In support of its research, Olympia Beer has provided a $5,000 grant to The Falcon Project.

Similar to countless migratory and endangered species research programs, Olympia Beer and The Falcon project hope to conduct scientific observations of Bigfoot and then use the information collected to protect the species and preserve its way of life. Neither Olympia Beer nor The Falcon Project encourages or condones the attempted capture or containment of Bigfoot or any other form of wildlife. Any contest participant that demonstrates intent to harm Bigfoot or any other species will be disqualified from the contest, publicly shamed and referred to law enforcement officials.

More information about the contest can be found at www.olympiabigfoot.com, including news of participants’ progress, a map of recent Bigfoot sightings, live social media feeds and official contest rules. Participants can join the conversation by using the hashtag #Olympiabigfoot on Twitter and Tumblr, by following Olympia Beer’s Facebook page and by posing search-related questions to bigfootevidence@olympiabeer.com.

This article created from press release.