Reviewed Elsewhere [Vol. 3, #15]

April 23, 2010


The Powells Books Review of
Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture
by Darrin Nordahl

America’s relationship with food is dysfunctional. Obesity, childhood malnourishment, fast-food addiction, E. coli and salmonella outbreaks — the list of problems is as familiar as it is dismaying. Though average Americans are fundamentally disconnected from the vast industrial networks that disgorge their daily meals, they were not always so removed from food production. Even after the United States converted from an agrarian to an industrial economy, there were periods when large numbers of the country’s citizens helped to grow the food they ate. During World War II, the public heeded the U.S. government’s call to raise “victory gardens” to ease the strain of supplying canned goods to overseas troops. In 1944, an estimated 20 million victory gardens yielded eight million tons of food.

In Public Produce, city designer Darrin Nordahl describes how towns and cities are working diligently to tap that spirit again and create civic cornucopias. He has more in mind than the occasional community garden. He wants the largest landlord in most cities — the municipal government — to expand the uses conceived of for public places beyond recreation and aesthetic pleasure to include farming.

Read the full review:

Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture
Darrin Nordahl.
Paperback: Isaland Press, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

THE NY TIMES Review of
the new animated movie

There is a lot to look at in “The Secret of Kells.” Nearly every frame of this 75-minute animated feature is dense with curlicued and cross-hatched patterns and figures. Your eye travels over Celtic crosses and through forest glades, studies architectural schematics and drinks in delicately washed landscapes. The human characters come in a variety of shapes and hues. Some are cute, some are sinister, some angular, some roly-poly. A few resemble science-fiction robots, while others look like pixies out of Japanese anime.

But you might take special notice of their hands, which are squared off and elongated in a way that suggests both crudeness and grace. These appendages are also large, appearing slightly out of proportion to the bodies, which makes sense given that the subject and method of this film is handicraft. “The Secret of Kells,” directed by Tomm Moore, concerns the Book of Kells, a medieval illuminated manuscript that ranks among the most important artifacts of Irish civilization. And it is only fitting that a movie concerned with the power and beauty of drawing — the almost sacred magic of color and line — should be so gorgeously and intricately drawn.

Read the full review:

Now playing in select US cities…