Sunday, March 31, 2013
Probably one of the most obsessive books ever. John Bengtson located every location Buster Keaton shot his films on, and re-photographed it, usually at the same angle or shot of the original film. So what we have is a book that is about Keaton and how he used real locations for his classic films, plus a visual history of Los Angeles, and what that location looks like now.
It's a stunning way of looking at space and what happens to that space. Strange enough a lot of the locations haven't changed, and some of course one would never recognize it in the film. This book is an extreme tour of a region via the eyes of Keaton and much later Mr. Bengston. The amount of work he did for this book is pretty much jaw-dropping 'wow.'
Saturday, March 30, 2013
I was near the front at this particular show. When in the end he threw his shirt into the audience, it seemed like the shirt was floating above me or over my head in slow motion. And then I look ahead of me and I saw a wall of good looking guys looking at the shirt (again in slow motion) and charging towards that shirt. Sadly, with a shoulder problem, for these youth to get to the shirt as it gently floated to the ground, they had to smash through me. It was painful. But a great show nevertheless.
A documentary on Billy Fury. Anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis knows I have a thing for Fury and his music. A good documentary for those who don't know him or his songs.
Thanks to Jane Danielle Garica for bringing this documentary to my attention.
Friday, March 29, 2013
PG Wodehouse's first crime novel or short story? Well, not exactly. But what it is (again and again) is Wodehouse's genius in conveying a small world and expanding that world to the reader in such a hysterical manner. I started reading this book on the plane trip to Los Angeles, and now just finished reading it. Even in my jet-lag position, I can see his world makes some sort of sense. But Wodehouse is such a brilliant writer. His sentence structures are incredible, and the way he just piles one narrative after another - really he must be the original figure for the screw-ball comedy. Boris Vian loved his work, and so do I!
The first time I read the name "Maki" was at a record store in Shibuya Tokyo. The cover of her album "Maki 2" drew me in. I knew by the graphics that the album was either folk, jazz, or somewhere in between. The third category is it.
Beautifully almost baroque/jazz like arrangements surround her earthy vocals. She sort of reminds me of Joni Mitchell, if she was more of a jazz singer, but I actually like Maki's take on that type of jazz much better than Mitchell's. Plus the fact that she is associated with the great playwright/filmmaker Shuji Terayama is a big plus for me as well. Without a doubt I am going to track down her other albums. This one I believe was recorded in the early 1970's. Hardcore Shinjuku pop culture!
One of the great joys of going to Tokyo is to go on the vinyl hunt, which for me is almost a Situationist walk around the city. The maps I bring with me to Tokyo is usually useless, because a lot of the streets don't have names. Also Tokyo is very much like a maze. It makes sense the longer you are there, but when you first get to town, it like "oh god, where, what, and why?"
I went to Reco Fan in Shibuya and found some great records. For whatever reason it seems (at least this trip to the store) an outlet for Joe Meek recordings on vinyl. It is here where I found my beloved vinyl copy of the Outlaws "Dream of the West" album.
Islington bound Meek takes his imagination out to the wild west and came up with this beauty of an album. His usual back-up band for Mike Berry recordings, Meek wrote all the songs on this album under the name of "Robert Duke." And on top of that he wrote the liner notes as well. Giving almost pulpy narratives on each track. I think the beauty of "Dream of the West" is that its not real, but comes from movie Westerns that Meek absorbed from his childhood and beyond. All the classic iconic images and sounds are on this album, but re-imagined by Joe Meek.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
COMING MAY 14TH FROM RARE BIRD BOOKS!
SPARKS-TASTIC: TWENTY-ONE NIGHTS IN LONDON WITH SPARKS
by Tosh Berman
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.
(A Barnacle Book)
Sunday, March 24, 2013
A pulpy version of Raymond Roussel's "Impressions of Africa." Rampo is the Japanese link between a boy's adventure narrative and kinky sex takes. Rampo's take on the benefits of the Panaorama and the Utopian narrative. Also a crime novel of sorts. A man takes on the identity of his rich dead brother and builds his perfect world on an island. Including nude mermaids/women, scented air, beautiful plants, and stunning landscapes. Probably the most anti-natural nature novel of all time. It's up there with Huysman's "Against Nature." The book makes interesting commentary on the nature of one's artistic vision over a specific landscape. But with Rampo (as usual) its a twisted and dark vision of what life can be made - and the sexual undertones are never far from the surface. A brilliant book. And for some reason, the translation of Rampo's name is spelled Ranpo. So, if you are in a bookstore, look up both spellings.
Rampo's semi-insane boy's adventure novel. A master villain matches wit and skills with the greatest detective and his young assistant who is 10 years old. Tokyo of the 30's is the landscape which can be compared to Fantomas' Paris. The world is about to end or be changed, and Rampo dances on the grave of Tokyo. Essential young adult literature.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Ah, such a perfect read while I am in Japan. I first heard the name "Edogawa Rampo" from my wife who told me that his writings would give me a certain amount of pleasure. And as usual (the wife is always right) she is correct. Rampo is a pen-name, and if you say it really quickly, you will see that the name is based on Edgar Allen Poe. Rampo's favorite writer, and truly his work is up there with the master. Except he's more pulpy, more lurid, more...out there.
Rampo is the master of the field that is called "Erotic-Grotesque" in Japan. A mixture of horror with sex. And his short novel "Moju" is a perfect example of that genre. The narrative is about a blind man who is obsessed with the gesture of touching woman with his 'skilled' hands, and then eventually killing them, and cutting them up in pieces. He also has a genius in displaying his 'work' either by making sculptures made by human parts, or displaying the corpse or part of the corpse in rather imaginative ways.
Rampo goes for the throat, and what makes him so unique is that he has these amazing set-pieces, that is a combination of creepy, funny, but always filtered through the eyes of an aesthetic soul. I can imagine his stories are not for everyone, but strange enough he has even written (god forbid!) 'young adult' adventures. A low-rent Tanizaki, but with the brilliance of a B-film genius. Rampo needs to be exposed to a larger readership in the West. Hopefully we'll see more of his titles translated into English.
Down below is the film version of the novel, directed by Yasuzo Masumura. Its a classic piece of Japanese cinema and I strongly recommend watching this film:
Monday, March 11, 2013
Friday, March 1, 2013
I never heard of Kurumatani before I picked this book up at the Downtown Kinokuniya Bookstore here in Los Angeles (excellent bookstore by the way). I wanted to read something new by a Japanese writer, and I didn't want to go down the thriller or horror route - which now seems to be new trend in contemporary translated-into-English Japanese literature.
"The Paradise Bird Tattoo" is very much of a quiet modern noir novel that deals with an individual who is slowly losing it in contemporary Japan. He's an office bee worker, where he gets no pleasure, and decides to go on to a world that has no beginning or ending. A vagrant of sorts. Most of the narrative takes place in a low-rent apartment building where the leading character gets involved with the neighbors. All either a little bit off or criminal minded.
Kurumatani captures the quiet despair of the little guy who is sort of floating on the tide of human waste and disappointment. While reading the book I thought of the films by Jim Jarmusch, because the characters float in and out of the narrative, while having one main figure staying there for the whole ride (narrative). There is also a touch of Kafka, but without the humor. Interesting writer, and I will keep him in mind for the future.