Thursday, May 30, 2013

"Thrilling Cities" by Ian Fleming

On the surface this looks like a typical travel guide by a famous author, but its more of a series of moody essays on various cities around the world.  And the title is misleading, in that the James Bond author Ian Fleming doesn't find a lot of these cities thrilling.  Some, for instance, New York City, he doesn't like at all.

Hong Kong is his favorite, in fact he seems to be in tuned with Asia in general - except for the sleeping arrangements in Tokyo, he likes the people and food very much in that area.  The enjoyment of the reading is knowing who Fleming is, and his take on the world circa early 1960's.  He meets up with interesting people through out his travels, such as Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward (who is also his neighbor in Jamaica) and a specific gangster by the name of Lucky Luciano in Naples.  Him, he seems to like a lot - and also they both agree that drugs should be legalized.

Each chapter is devoted to one city, but he goes on tangents that might strike some as 'god get back to your subject matter of that city!'  But I like this style of writing.  In a peculiar way it sort of reminds me of my book "Sparks-Tastic."  Nevertheless at the end of each chapter he makes recommendations for restaurants, nightclubs and hotels.  Without a doubt, probably the most boring part of the writing for him!  But on the other hand, what a weird and cool travel book.  Oh and the great illustrator Milton Glaser did the drawings for this book.

Milton Glaser's illustration for Los Angeles and Las Vegas

The UK Editions of "Thrilling Cities"

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"1,247" by Tosh Berman (Part 2)

City Lights review of Tosh Berman's "Sparks-Tastic"

A review from City Lights from Garrett Caples:

When I last wrote I was previewing Tosh Berman’s upcoming appearance at City Lights in support of his brand-new memoir, Sparks-Tastic: Twenty-One Nights with Sparks in London (A Barnacle Book, 2013). Given the exigencies of scheduling—copies wouldn’t arrive from the printer until the night of the reading—I didn’t have the chance to read the book beforehand, so I took the opportunity to quiz Tosh on its contents based on my own recently acquired knowledge of the band, combined with the experience of having caught the opening night of the US leg of their Two Hands, One Mouth tour only a week or so earlier. Anyway, Tosh gave his reading and killed it, and I longed to read the entire thing by the end. And I did and holy shit, is this a great book! Berman has done an enviable thing. In the casual guise of a pop cultural meditation—a memoir about attending Sparks’ recreation of their entire catalog, album by album, including bonus tracks as encores, over the course of 21 nights in London in 2008, culminating in the debut of their new album, Exotic Creatures of the Deep—he has written one of those great French memoirs of desire like Breton’s Nadja (1928), and the fact that the object of desire in this case is a pop group in no way diminishes or trivializes Sparks-Tastic as an example of such writing. Certainly I can relate to the intense adolescent identification with one’s favorite music, and the fact that Sparks continually evolves made the group something that carried over into Berman’s adulthood. Because they all live in L.A., Tosh eventually meets both Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks separately, by chance, and becomes their friend. Thus Sparks’ decision to spend the better part of a month in London playing their entire corpus triggers something like a mid-life crisis in Berman; he can’t afford to, but he must go, and he vows to write a book about the experience to give this irrational decision just the slightest sheen of rationality. But too this adds the burden of expectation in order to court the fear of failure, and in this he confronts the essential creative/psychological demon of his existence: being the son of a famous artist, Wallace Berman. Tosh negotiates all this with a light touch, and there’s a passage concerning his failed attempt to learn the hairdressing trade at his worried father’s insistence that’s both poignant and hysterical, and has little overt relation to Sparks; yet Sparks provide a constant parallel across the length of his life, even as other choice bands (The Doors, Them, The NY Dolls) make fleeting cameos.

Only Sparks could have provoked the crisis in him that results in this book.

In honor of Berman’s achievement, I conducted a second interview, where I probe some of his biases about the Sparks oeuvre as revealed by Sparks-Tastic and air some of my own ongoing obsessions with the group.

And you can read the rest of the interview here:

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Certain Ratio "Early"

Factory Records hit me hard as a young man in his super early 20's. Joy Division spoke to me at that age, and also the visuals were incredibly important as well. Ian Curtis was so haunted, it made my heart ache. But now, I can barely listen to their music. Not that I hate it, but more to the fact that the music doesn't speak for me anymore. I used it, it used me, and I was satisfied. Next!

For that label, and what a more lasting effect, is A Certain Ratio. The visuals of the band were even more striking to me than Joy Division. They had this sort of Lawrence of the Arabia without the robes look. Military baggy shorts, 1930's haircuts, thick boy scout or military socks that go up to the knee, and basically sort of look like British prisoners of war circa the early days of World War 2. And the music is …. dub jazz funk. It was like if Miles Davis started a British band in the late 70's. To me I think this was Factory Records head Tony Wilson's great discovery.

Early is the ultimate collection of all the early and hard to find singles by A Certain Ratio. The spacey dub effects and the self-obsessed funk makes this band the bad and slightly darker version of Joy Division's rock stance. If Ian and company looked up to Iggy, The Doors, and Velvets, then A Certain Ratio looked up to obscure funk singles and Miles electric music era. In many ways they perfectly complimented each other. But the lasting effect for me is A Certain Ratio.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"The Spectacle of Disintegration" by McKenzie Wark

McKenzie Wark wrote a fantastic book on the beginning and the middle part of the Situationist International in his first volume "The Beach Beneath the Street." Now we have the later years or if you want the death of the Situationist movement in his new book "The Spectacle of Disintegration.". In my opinion that's really not the case because I think the artwork, the writing, and political philosophy will stay fresh in our rather horror world.  Wark's last chapter in the book actually coveys that feeling via the Occupy movement and the nature of politics and culture in today's world. 

In brief chapters we get commentary on Guy Debord's later films as well as his intriguing interest in board games "Art of War" which he focused on towards the end of his life.  Also  his wife Alice Becker-Ho's deep interest in Gypsy language specially in the world of slang - where language is coded among the tribe. 

The gang is all here and Wark wraps up their world and work in a very readable manner.  Overall we have a wonderful group of thinkers that made an important mark on this world. May they wander and wonder forever.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Wonder While You Wander" by Tosh Berman Part One: Larkspur Images

Wallace Berman in Larkspur

Brigitte Bardot in Roger Vadim's "And God Created Woman"

The Lark Theater in Larkspur where I saw my first movie, which was "And God Created Woman"

John Reed in Larkspur (photo by Wallace Berman)

Semina Gallery in Larkspur (photo by Charles Brittin)
The above images are just a scrapbook for me while working on my memoir "Wonder While You Wander"  Thank you Nicki Wong for the title!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"The Edogawa Rampo Reader"

I feel like i have been waiting for this book for all of my life.  it has been a slow amount of time to get the Japanese writer Edogawa Rampo translated into English.  One of his collections of short stories have been in print for so many years - yet waiting for another title seemed endless.  Now we have at least three other books by Rampo, and I bought them all this year.

"The Edogawa Rampo Reader" is a much needed over-all look of his career.  The first half of this book is short stories and the second half are essays -mostly regarding the nature of the 'detective' story.  i only found one essay the most interesting and that's "The Horror Of Films" dealing with the nature and history of cinema.  It's a great piece on what was then a new medium.  He wrote it in 1926, and for a short essay it covers a lot of ground.  Basically all to do with being the viewer.

The short stories are all in the creepy mode that I love about Rampo's work.  It includes the story about a man who spends a lot of time in the attic where he spies on people down below, and also commits a murder.  The long introduction by Seth Jacobowitz is pretty perfect in capturing what is so essential about Rampo, his times, and the work itself.   A remarkable writer.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"Yes Is The Answer (And Other Prog-Rock Tales)" edited by Marc Weingarten and Tyson Cornell

I am pretty sure that I hate Prog music. The album covers, the dry ice (although to be honest they share some visuals with my beloved glam artists), the capes, the knee length boots for the gentlemen, and the god awful lyrics regarding the future, fantasy, and whatever. Its all a form of hell for me. The Editors Marc Weingarten and Tyson Cornell has put together what in theory would be either a torture test or at the very least a death day aimed at yours truly - an anthology focusing on the what I consider the horrors of Prog. And to be honest I love the book!

Writers like Rick Moody, Joe Meno Beth Lisick, and others wrote fantastic essays on how Prog has entered and affected their lives. Most it seems for the better...or perhaps worst. Nevertheless all the pieces in this book are first-class works that actually makes one (like me for instance) give Prog a chance out there. in my case, as second-chance. 

There is one outstanding essay by Rodrigo Fresan that is probably the best piece i have ever read on Pink Floyd and... Stanley Kubrick. Brilliant even! I never heard of this writer, but I am now a fan due to his original observations on Kubrick's work as well as the world of Pink Floyd. Essential reading and the rest is pretty great as well. I strongly recommend this book because it was put together with a lot of love and respect for that genre of sound, as well as the terrific writing and thinking that went into this book. And for god sake, its Prog!

James Sallis' Review of Boris Vian's "Foam of the Daze" (L'écume des

A legend throughout Europe - French musician, translator of Raymond Chandler and seminal science fiction writer, poet, songwriter, novelist and screen actor - Boris Vian remains little known in the United States. Los Angeles-based TamTam Book aims to correct this, having published a paperback edition of Vian's landmark thriller "I Spit on Your Graves" in 2001 and now a new translation of his masterful "Foam of the Daze" (L'Ecume des jours"), with the first translation of "L'Automne à Pékin" to follow.
There have been two previous English translations of "Foam": Stanley Chapman's 1967 British edition, "Froth on the Daydream," and Jon Sturrock's U.S. version, "Mood Indigo," which appeared shortly thereafter. Chapman's is by far the superior, admirably transposing Vian's rhythms into English and finding equivalents for his multi-level puns and wordplay. But Brian Harper's hip new translation, edged toward the modern U.S. reader, may well become the standard.
This is a great novel, mind you. Though on its surface, the simplest of stories - Vian summed it up as "a man loves a woman, she falls ill, she dies" - beneath are a host of ambiguities, digressions, levels of meaning. Not quite beneath actually, for subtexts keep erupting to the surface. It is in many ways a novel built of eruptions.
Simply, then, this is a tale of two couples: Colin, a rich and rather superfluous man, and Chloe, a woman dying from a lily growing in her lung; Chick, whose life is ruined by his collecting of Jean-Sol Partre's books and memorabilia, and Alise, who tries to save Chick from himself by murdering Partre. As the lily grows in Chloe's lung, Colin does all he can to keep her alive. But her bed sinks closer to the ground and the room grows ever smaller. Because Colin has no money left to pay for burial, Chloe's coffin is simply thrown out the window.
In Vian's world, nothing is simple, nothing may be taken for granted. Because people they love have died, mice persuade diffident cats to kill them; bells detach themselves from doors to come and announce visitors; neckties rebel against being knotted; some broken windowpanes grow back overnight while others darken from breathing difficulties; a piano mixes cocktails to match the music being played upon it; armchairs and sausages must be calmed before use. When Colin puts Duke Ellington's "The Mood to Be Wooed" on the phonograph, the O's on the record label cause the corners of the room to become round.
In Vian's books, the world becomes ineluctably strange, the world as a child or a madman might see it. And that's the recipe for "Foam of the Daze," a novel with paradox at its heart, as critic David Meakin has observed: one part light-hearted fantasy, one part tragedy. Add wordplay and romance to taste. Your heart will be broken. You will be confused and confounded. You will laugh aloud. And at least for a time, however hard you try, your own world will refuse to be what you think it is.
Here is Colin in church after Chloe's death:
"Why did you have her die?" asked Colin.
Oh... said Jesus, drop the subject.
He looked for a more comfortable position on his nails.
She was so sweet, said Colin. Never was she bad, neither in thought, nor in action.
That has nothing to do with religion, mumbled Jesus, yawning. He shook his head a little to change the slant of his crown of thorns.
I don't see what we've done, said Colin, we don't deserve this.
He lowered his eyes... Jesus's chest was rising softly and regularly, his features breathed calm, his eyes had closed and Colin could hear a light purr of satisfaction coming from his nostrils, like a sated cat."
Vian died June 23, 1959, at 39 as he sat watching a film version of his thriller "I Spit on Your Graves." He'd neglected to take his heart medications that morning and as the first frames ticked by on screen, he is said to have uttered, "These guys are supposed to be American? My ass!" and collapsed.
Vian's was a short, very full, very strange ride, like that of his ever-youthful characters in "Foam of the Daze."
James Sallis, Los Angeles Times Book Review (Sunday, February 1, 2004).

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Access All Areas 21 Albums in 21Nights Sparks Pass

The English Subtitled "Mood Indigo" preview

Well, this is the first subtitled version of the preview I have come across (so far).  No official U.S. release date at this time.  Also a reminder that anyone who wants to read the English version of the  Boris Vian novel "L'écume des jours can do so with my press which published a beautiful translation by Brian Harper called "Foam of the Daze." The TamTam edition also comes with endnotes detailing specific aspecs of this novel with respect to Vian's life, etc.

Friday, May 3, 2013

My Office/Studio Space by Tosh Berman May 2013 (while working on my memoir)

Books dealing with Boris Vian and other TamTam Books subject matter

Close-up of my Boris Vian/Paris/Situationists books

The Original Gilles Verlant "Gainsbourg" plus other titles

Books plus some CD's.

CD's plus some DVD's

Books plus DVD's (mostly Godard films here)

File Cabinet plus blow-up of my Vian Manual of Saint-Germain des Prés cover

My writing desk working on my childhood memoir

Books of course

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"Ziggyology: A Brief History of Ziggy Stardust" by Simon Goddard

In my (very short?) life time, the one beautiful narrative in my life is the one called Ziggy Stardust. In what seemed like weeks the very first David Bowie album I bought "Hunky Dory" somehow turned into Ziggy. The moment it happened I felt the world was not exactly all right, but at least someone was fighting for our side. That little pipe bomb of vinyl was called "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars."

Simon Goddard's odd form of biography on the Bowie character is a must-read for the glam damaged fan. And that is something that i am. Like all great characters, the Ziggy motif has a lot of fingerprints on it, including those belonging to the great Vince Taylor and The Legendary Stardust Cowboy - both perhaps insane, but nevertheless the spark that started Bowie into another world of his making. That, plus Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" and "2001" laid out a future that Bowie felt was a perfect fit for his creation.

And what is Ziggy but the ultimate outsider re-sold as a rock n' roll star. Even Elvis seemed to come from another planet. Maybe Memphis is another part of the universe. Yeah Memphis, Tokyo and London. Outside our planet. Goddard traces the star steps from early Bowie to himself turning into Ziggy. I like this book a lot due that he lists all the Ziggy cultural influences that somewhat is even more interesting than Bowie himself. And I think the glam god would appreciate this.  

The Influences:  All The Young Dudes down below:

Vince Taylor

Legendary Stardust Cowboy

Alex from A Clockwork Orange

Iggy Pop (Stooge)

"Sparks-Tastic"' by Tosh Berman

ISBN: 9780983925583
Published by A Barnacle Book (Distribution by Publishers Group West)
Publication Date: May 14, 2013

In 2008, Tosh Berman--author and publisher of TamTam Books--got on a plane with a single motive: "Sparks Spectacular." It had been announced that the band Sparks would perform all twenty-one of their albums in a succession of twenty-one nights in London...a monumental experience for any Sparks fanatic. Part travel journal, part personal memoir, Berman takes us through the streets of London and Paris, observing both cities' history and culture through the eye of an obsessive Sparks fan's lens. Including album-by-album reviews of all twenty-one albums and beyond, "Sparks-Tastic" defines a place and time in music history that's too defining to be ignored.

On May 14, "Sparks-Tastic" will be officially released and one can get it on their favorite online shops as well as Independent bookstores through out the U.S.A and the U.K.  Also I imagine various music stores will be carrying this title as well.  And remember, if you can shop at your favorite neighborhood bookstore or music shop please do so.  They can more likely special order the book (just in case they don't have it in stock) and send it off to you.

And at the moment, Book Soup, Stories, Powell's Books, and City Lights have signed copies in their stock.  Do contact them (easily findable on the Internet) and they will mail it out to you.