Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Review: Churchill

Churchill by historian Paul Johnson is a biography of Winston Churchill that is a short, easy introduction to those wanting an overview of his life and accomplishments. It is far from an objective look, being high on praise and low on critique of the man. If you can look past the bias, it's an easy entertaining read.

I was familiar with the highlights of Churchill's time leading Britain during the second World War, but not of the rest of his career. Nor did I know much about his many accomplishments.

A few interesting bits:

  • Early in his career, Churchill seemed equal parts opportunist and bad-ass. Having only mediocre educational achievement, he sought to make a name for himself in the military. He sought out (through influence of his family) opportunities to throw himself into any fight in which the military was involved. As a result, he earned 8 medals while fighting in Cuba, India, Sudan, South Africa and then leading a battalion on the western front during WWI. By opportunist, I refer to the fact that he doubled as a correspondent through most of this time, earning money by writing columns and giving speeches about his military exploits.
  • He was a prolific writer, publishing over 15 million words in numerous books and articles. His work on the second world war won him the Nobel Prize in literature.
  • He showed some savvy as to the publishing business as well. e.g. Post WWII, he struck a deal with his successor as Prime Minister to give him exclusive access to all military documents and exclusive use of them under some set of conditions. This put him at a huge advantage over other historians, and given that  Roosevelt, Mussolini, and Hitler were all dead, he was the only western leader left to publish his account.
A good short read, but best taken with a grain of salt, given the author's bias.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Book Review: The Art of Living According to Joe Beef

Attending Montreal Game Summit recently, I had dinner with a number of developer friends, including Trapdoor's Ken Schachter who - among other skills - may be the best restaurant-connected industry figure.

Ken hooked us up with dinner at Joe Beef, which was a not-to-be-missed experience not for the faint-of-heart or faint-of-wallet. I won't go into the details here, but suffice it to say that I couldn't encounter the Foie Gras Double-Down and *not* order it. Oof. My arteries!

Anyhow, perhaps as a gesture of how we gushed over the food, or more likely how much we paid for it, we left with copies of the restaurant's book, The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts.

I went through the book over the weekend, and rather enjoyed it. I haven't cooked anything out of it, and I should note that most of the dishes aren't easy fare to tackle though I'll likely try my hand at a few. However, the recipe portions only make up a fraction of the book. There are also a really interesting series of pieces on the history of food in Montreal, backgrounders on different wines and liquors, a guide to interesting train journeys around Canada, and even guides on building your own smoker and building an urban garden.

Makes a fun coffee table if you are looking for something different, and if you like to cook and aren't worried about heart failure, then by all means pick it up.

The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts