Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Will Hodgkinson's "The Ballad of Britain"

Will Hodgkinson is currently my favorite music writer. I am a mega-fan of his "Guitar Man" and "Song Man." In this new book he travels around Britain to record traditional British folk music and its living artists. And like his other books, Hodgkinson is the main character in the narrative who sort of bumbles along his travels to reach his goal. So in many ways this is also a travel journal as well as a study on contemporary British folk. And its not a history book, but more of a journal of an on-going investigation of what is Folk Music and what it is in contemporary Britain. 

A man of great charm and wit, he sets himself up as an everyman, but his ambition sets him as someone special in my eyes. Enjoyable travel with interesting music on the side.

Expresso Bongo

A fascinating short story as well as a film starring the amazing Laurence Harvey and of course a young Cliff Richard.   Probably one of the great London Soho films.   Rock as a diagram to success (of sorts).

Jack Good

Jack Good, perhaps the inventor of Rock N' Roll TV.  He had a few British shows, but in America he created "Shindig."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Richard Stark's "Deadly Edge"

I am trying to review each Parker novel by Richard Stark as a separate entity, but alas, to me it is one big huge novel. Like Proust! One pretty much knows that each and every one of the Parker novels is a page-turner. I read a lot of his novels on the bus and almost consistently I miss my stop, due that my every sense is tied into the narrative. 
This one is slightly unusual, because the first part of the book is the heist of a rock n' roll show. Its 40 or so pages (which is a mega-section in Parker theme novel) of the actual robbery. But then afterwards someone is killing off the gang. And the violence in this novel is harsh and ugly. 
The beauty of the novel is how Parker reacts to the dangers he face. Which of course, is being totally professional and looking at the problem on a total technical level. "A" is killing each heist gang member, therefore I Parker must do this or not do this. And part of the fun is seeing a criminal mind against another criminal mind. Parker is not a sadist, but he is a cold blooded killer. His instinct is to survive. And this is in many ways a perfect crime novel.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thomas Bernhard's "My Prizes: An Accounting"

What one considers to be the greatest writer in the German language and here he is pooping on all the major (and not minor) prizes in Austria he had won. The total distain, and moments of clear thinking, with a touching tribute of sorts to an old professor of his - is quite entertaining. 
The beauty (if one can call it that) is his clear vision of a silly world getting sillier. Cynical on a hysterical level, he is also a writer where you can feel the weather and the moment of his narrative. His detail observation on clothing he chose for particular award presentations is humorous, especially with his Aunt being his companion on his many adventures to the stage to receive one award or another. 
And it is fascinating how he sees the awards system as just another crazy wrench in the system. The book is a small and compact version of one man's hell. But for the reader (and I suspect Bernhard) a great adventure in the nutty world of prize giving.

Friday, December 17, 2010

William Eggleston's "For Now"

A beauty of a book on so many (dreamy) levels. The color of his images are the first things that hit you when you open his book, but the the composition of the pictures are the one's that really gives it a narrative of sorts. And one is never sure how important it is to know Eggleston's life or that he came from the South. I think he treats all objects (people as well as even a coke bottle) is equally important in front of his camera. Some of the images are funny, some also has a tinge of some sort of mystical danger that can't be easily explained, but it is just a feeling that's out there. And that can be the viewer's imagination working over time. Nevertheless, I find the people that he photographs incredibly interesting. The women are beautiful, the kids (mostly his) are elegant, and the men are eccentric with twists of charm and mystery. Michael Almerlyda made the selections for this book. His take on his choices that these images are the B-Sides to the more well-known photographs of Eggleston. i like that thought, and it is also interesting that Eggleston is a piano player as well as a friend of Alex Chilton's parents - in fact I discovered Eggleston's work via Big Star 2 album. The book also has a great piece by Grail Marcus and Kristine McKenna's interview with Eggleston. Essential photo book plus more

"Correspondence" by Georges Bataille and Michel Leiris (Translated by Liz Heron)

A very interesting book that is not only a selected correspondence between the titans of kink and intellectual thought - Georges Bataille and Michel Leiris - but also some memoir writing from each writer about the other - in a sense. Bataille's journal is more personal and emotionally forward - where Leiris is cool and kind of logical. 

But the beauty of the book is the history of their friendship. In the 30's there were issues that looks like it will tear their relationship apart - but over time, it seemed to be forgotten. One of many many arguments and counter-arguments in the world of Andre Breton and his Surrealist group. 

And again, the book is not a straight ahead collection of letters between the two writers, there is also a very thoughtful afterword by Bernard Noel as well as countless footnotes focusing on various (some obscure) names that come in their correspondence. Well-researched and of course totally fascinating look into the passionate viewpoints of Bataille and Leiris.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

" ready steady go! " rolling stones special 1966 - (part 2 0f 3 ).

" ready steady go! " rolling stones special 1966 - (part 3 of 3 ).

The Letters of James Schuyler To Frank O'Hara

I am a fan of the little book that you can put in your pocket and it takes a day to read. And this book is the perfect design. Also it strikes me as the ultimate NYC book as well. Although James Schuyler wrote some of his letters to Frank O'Hara from Italy and other locations - it still smells like Manhattan. 

Perhaps my two favorite poets (was it something in the Manhattan water?) of that time - and although in book form the conversation is one -sided a bit (no O'Hara correspondence from his side) it does give a remarkable feel of its time in the early 1950's. Really, really nice and beautifully designed edition.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"The Seventh" by Richard Stark

In that neat style, "The Seventh" is not only No 7 in the Parker series, but also deals with 7 crooks sharing loot 7 ways and when someone outside the system screws up - how that seven becomes meaningless...well, till the end because nothing screws up for Parker on a permanent level. 

And that is the beauty of the Parker series. It reads like oatmeal every morning and you are always happy after the meal. It is sort of the perfect airplane read but without the guilt - because these books are superb. To review them as separate titles is almost pointless, because really, they're the same novel. Parker is a man with little emotion but highly professional. He is part of a group stealing something (and that something has really no importance) and the fun of the novels is watching how the heist falls apart. In other words the heist or crime always fail on the grand picture, although Parker sometimes wins in the end. 

So the novels are about how the failure happens, who screws up, who talks to the wrong person, and how they do their business. There are few surprises in the series which is why it is almost a trust-worthy no money back sure thing that you are getting your value out of these novels. 

So yeah, its almost genius like in how Donald Westlake (Richard Stark) writes these perfect narrations on an on-going basis. But alas, he does and we the reader are thankful in a world that is falling apart - at the very least we can expect another Parker novel that will again say "things are alright in the heist world."

JE SUIS SNOB makoto miura (僕はスノッブ/三浦信)

The influence of Boris Vian.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Astrid Kirchherr: A Retrospective

Astrid Kirchherr, is the Hamburg photographer/artist who photographed the (very) young Beatles. Also became a lover to both Klaus Voorman and the lost legendary beauty (and Beatle) Stu Sutcliffe. He is the one who left the band for the visual arts, but died in his early 20's. 

Kirchherr made a series of haunting portraits of the men in her life, and what we have here is the social world of John, George, Paul, Pete Best, Ringo, Klaus and Stu. She also brought in the French new wave St. Germain aesthetic to the guys. in other words she opened up their Liverpool world into even a bigger world. Short, but important time was spent in Hamburg playing in various rough and tuff music clubs - and with that a mixture of high art/aesthetics were the floor plans for the Beatles aesthetic take-over of the 1960's. 

The beauty of Kirchherr's work is being in the right place, right time, and the right subjects for his image taking. But she also knows a beautiful face, and knows how to light it and presented to the world. Remarkable talent. 

This is a catalog to her retrospective that took place in Liverpool, and it is both an important document of a time past, but also the great dynamics that were happening between mainland Europe and the Liverpool scene. Essential book for the Beatle lover, but even something more....

Rabbit's Moon | part 1

An early version of this classic film by Kenneth Anger. One of the greats.

Rabbit's Moon | part 2

Rabbit's Moon (Kenneth Anger, 1950) 1979

Kenneth Anger is without a doubt one of the great filmmakers. This is one of two versions of his classic "Rabbit's Moon." Also a classic lost pop song used as the soundtrack. Anger is also a genius in mixing music with image.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Serge Gainsbourg - New York USA (Akiwowo)

Serge Gainsbourg New York USA 1964

The Lost Rolling Stones Photographs: The Bob Donis Archive, 1964-1966

Classic never published photographs of Prime Rolling Stones during their 1964-1966 era. All images by their American tour manager at the time Bob Bonis. Not a professional photographer, yet he captured the vibe via his lens. And this is pre-dark Stones. This is The Stones when they were rockin' and the start of their brilliant music making.

Beautiful in a rough way, here's a band enjoying the life before it went insane. My favorite images in this book is of them with Jack Nitzsche the great music god and their brilliant visionarie Andrew Loog Oldham. Shot on Sunset Blvd, which at the time was the RCA building It was here where they recorded a lot of their classic 60's songs - Aftermath time. It's the last time.

"Ten Walks/Two Talks" by Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch

Inspired by Japanese poet Basho, Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch walk Manhattan as if it was a lost world in the 21st Century. Part of it is straight observations on life as it is in New York, and the second part is a conversation between the two writers as they take their grand walk via the urban landscape. A (very) small book, but also one that is great in meditating the relationship between writer(s) and his city. Keep the senses open and enjoy this walk with our hosts Cotner and Fitch.

"Boutique London: King's Road to Carnaby Street" by Richard Lester

Not an easy subject matter to find in book form, and it almost takes an obsessive (and surely I am) person to collect all things that are groovy London fashion in the height of the late 50's to the mid-1960's. Nevertheless this is a beautifully and fun design of a book regarding one of my favorite subject matters - The classic (by my term) London Boutique.

With vintage shopping maps to lead you to the shops in the Soho/Mayfair area of London to great images inside the boutique - which is actually a rare viewing, due that there is little visual records of the 1960's boutique. So this book is a must for anyone thinking of opening their own boutique or want to shoplift some ideas for the purpose of improving their retail work space.

The beauty of shops or boutiques is that they convey someone's idea of paradise. And when you put that in a retail landscape, it becomes a form of self-expression. Early Carnaby Street to me at a very young age served as sort of a Disneyland - a place that I think couldn't possibly exist. But alas, it did (past tense) and this book proves it did exist

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Richard Stark's "The Sour Lemon Score"

a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7358545-the-sour-lemon-score" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px">The Sour Lemon Score: A Parker NovelThe Sour Lemon Score: A Parker Novel by Richard Stark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So far, reading a Richard Stark book is a meditative practice of being with an object that is a form of perfection.   Lean, not a word wasted, and right to the point, the main character Parker has a Zen like intensity to his mission in life - robbery.

He also has a distate for those who don't follow the plan which is to rob and then share the loot.  "The Sour Lemon Score"" is about a loser who kills numerous people for a small amount of money and you eventually Parker will get back at this double-dealing creep in no time.  Because Parker is like a shark.  He's totally focused on getting what he agreed to get in the first place.  We the readers are interested in seeing the weak criminal get his just awards - but Parker is really only interested in getting what is owed to him  - which is a small amount of the money that was robbed in a bank.

Parker is not crazy, nor does he have a great deal of passion, but what he sees himself as is a total professional.  He takes pride in his work, yet he doesn't really judge other people.  He is only concerned about his actions in the affair.  He's loyal to a point that he will do his part in the job, but it is almost indifference when someone in the gang screws up.  That is their affair.  But for him he agreed to do crime to get a certain X amount of dollars and he won't take less then that.  If he agrees to share the loot, that is only what he wants.

Yet the greed of his criminal(s)  leads to a major downfall to their world.  Yet Parker rises over the damage and sees himself as just a worker getting what he deserves or worked for.   "The Sour Lemon Score" is another act of perfection in a world that is not perfect.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Frightened City - The Shadows

The beautiful Shadows. Even the name of the band brings a sense of magic to me. Hank Marvin is such an incredible guitar player. So underrated. And Jet Harris on bass. The name alone deserves a standing room clap.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"On Elegance While Sleeping" by Viscount Lascano Tegui

On Elegance While Sleeping (Argentinian Literature Series)On Elegance While Sleeping by Emilio Lascano Tegui
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With the title "On Elegance While Sleeping," of course I had to read it.   Its by a writer i never heard of before,  a man who is a total mystery to me.  Which added the appeal for me to pick on this book as well.

A sweet little tale of a murder-to-be via his diary.  But no, this is not a serial killer's rant and ravings, it is a highly beautifully written dreamy (in other words Surreal) observations on sexuality, family, and one's place in the 'outer' world.  Which in other words can be "dandy" world.

These two paragraphs i find beautiful:

"One day she wasn't among her friends, but still feeling the strange power of that fragile girl -destined to die far too early - her friends fell silent as they passed me, same as on all the other day, without the least self-consciousness.  Not a single one looked at me.  And I knew the truth.  Isabel was dying.

Having decided a few days later to inquire about her health, I installed myself again along the bend in the road,  where I soon heard a song coming down the way. The women from the factory of supersensitive telephone receivers had replaced their dead friend with a song."

A wonderful little book.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jacques Tardi's "The Extraordinary Adventures of ADELE BLANC-SEC

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-SecThe Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec by Jacques Tardi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacques Tardi, I think, is quite remarkable.  While everyone is singing the praises of other graphic novelists, Tardi is focused on having one foot in the past and the other foot in the contemporary world.   This is a very elegant edition of his two graphic novels which is part of a series called "The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec."  Both stories connect to each other in a 1930's style of serialization.  

Very pulpy, with Victorian overtones, but with a wit and a great sense of charm.  And I love Tardi's drawings.  Extremely detailed and a magnificent tribute to one of the main characters in the story - Paris.  Mysterious pathways, the always haunted vibe of Jardin des Plantes (I stayed across the street, its a scary place), and characters that are a mixture of criminals and heroes at the same time.  Love it.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Albert Cossery

Albert Cossery's "The Jokers"

A pal of Boris Vian's and a citizen of the Saint Germain-des-prés, Albert Cossery is a writer with a wicked sense of humor and has a deep understanding of human folly.  His novel "The Jokers" is about a group of revolutionaries (in Egypt?) who fight the power by showing noting but the highest respect for that power.  It is sort of a revolution via The Marx Brothers than anything else.

Also there is a joy in life that is actually revolutionary - and how they apply that in a political take-over or the removal of the Governor, is quite profound.  "The Jokers" has a light touch but the message against authority is clear, very enlightened, and a wonderful read.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"Shazam!" The Golden Age of the World's Mightest Mortal" by Chip Kidd

Shazam!: The Golden Age of the World's Mightiest MortalShazam!: The Golden Age of the World's Mightiest Mortal by Chip Kidd
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Chip Kidd is not only a great book designer but he's a man of great passion - with respect to comic book history.  But it is not only the history of a particular comic, it is also the history of the by-products of that work - meaning the cinema, the toys, and interesting enough, the clothing.  In his latest book he covers Captain Marvel.
Captain Marvel via the eyes of the 21st Century is a poor cousin to Superman - but alas, Captain Marvel is much more then that.  Young boy Billy Batson yells out the word "Shazam" and he becomes super hero Captain Marvel.  What boy would not want to have those powers!?!   And that is the inner-beauty of Captain Marvel connection to the youth at the time.
One also admires the beauty of the toys, the wrist watches (that can't break!), bean bags, and the Captain Marvel costume that was made for the Republic serial.   This book is more of a fetish object than anything else.  It drips with passion and beauty of the drawings and lettering of a classic comic.  Beautiful production job as well.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

David B. & Pierre Mac Orlan's "The Littlest Pirate King"

My interest in this graphic 'novel' is the author Pierre Mac Orlan. A hero to Guy Debord, Mac Orlan was the Bohemian's Bohemian. Although a major writer in France, there is very little English translations of his works that are out there in the world.

I don't know the origins of "The Littlest Pirate King" except I have to presume that the narrative was written sometime in the early or mid-20th Century, and recently turned into a graphic novel by David B., who I know nothing about. But beyond that this is a wonderful little story about dead pirates who are somewhere between being a ghost and nowhere. All they do is float on their death ship from sea to sea. They can't even get enjoyment of killing another boat load of people, I due that they're dead - and therefore that's it. All they have is their memories. 

But alas, they find a living and healthy baby from a shipwreck and therefore they become sort of parents to this child. A splendid book and hopefully an introduction to the mysterious (at least to me) Pierre Mac Orlan.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Shadows - Wonderful Land

The Shadows - FBI (Live Crackerjack 1961)

"Mozipedia: The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and The Smiths" by Simon Goddard

Mozipedia: The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and The SmithsMozipedia: The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and The Smiths by Simon Goddard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Totally fascinating and perhaps even perfect.   The book is basically Morrissey culture as an encyclopedia and what is great is that you don't even have to like Morrissey to enjoy the book.  Of course the author Simon Goddard goes through every Smiths/Morrissey song or album, but more important focuses on Morrissey's influences on his work.

On one level this could be the ultimate biography on Morrissey, but the the great thing about it is that its about the singer's work and what one gets from his music/lyrics.  Favorite films, songs, and people are represented with a small bio - and it is truly a remarkable feat in getting in someone's head and how that person or artwork influenced the artist.

And Morrissey is the perfect artist for this type of book.  He's a walking open book with respect to his love for British or European culture - its books, its music, its films and for certain social groupings that also fascinated Morrissey through out the years.

If you are going to get one book on Morrissey - this is it.  And again if you are not a fan, but just interested in one's particular taste in pop culture - this is an incredible reference book for the purpose of exploring Morrissey's bookcase, record collection and films for future enjoyment.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Lettrisme, letterism, letrismo, poesia sonora

Lemaitre-Maurice Le-film-est-deja-commence(1951) part2

Thierry Jonquet's "MYGALE"

a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/918645.Mygale" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px">Mygale (City Lights Noir, 4)Mygale by Thierry Jonquet
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great 'making you pay' story that reminds me of Franju's "Eyes Without a Face."  It has that slightly surreal horror aspect to it.  And many years later I am in Paris and looking for something to read in English, I found Joquet's "Tarantula."  I purchased it and once I got on the plane i  realized it was the British edition of "Mygale."  So that was a disappointing moment.  But alas I re-read the book.

Its a masterpiece!  As I mentioned it does have that Franju horror aspect, but it is also a very nasty revenge story.  Almost on the surreal level of violence and behavior.  I have read that Pedro Amodovar is doing a film on this - and I can him doing it campy.  But alas it is truly a horror story.  A great noir horror thriller.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Blue Women Art - Yves Klein (1962)

"Yves the Provocateur: Yves Klein and Twentieth-Century Art"

Yves the Provocateur: Yves Klein and Twentieth-Century ArtYves the Provocateur: Yves Klein and Twentieth-Century Art by Thomas McEvilley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Remarkable biography (with some analysis of his work) on the artist Yves Klein.  A man who knew no bounds or restrictions.  A dandy as much as a black-belt Judo fanatic.  A man who jumped from a second or was it a third floor without fear.  A spoiled brat with great talent.  A man who had a temper problem which he tried to contain, and probably caused him his fatal heart problems.   Nevertheless I am always attracted to artists who have an amazing ego.  Does that affect their work?  Yes, but Klein was a different type of animal.  Totally on the go and extremely restless he had to explore the 'void' knowing that there is no end or maybe beginning.  This is not a large book, but an important and very much a readable study on this great French figure of the arts.

Yves Klein you rule!

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Lord Berner's Dresden"

DresdenDresden by Lord Gerald Hugh Tyrwitt-Wilson Berners
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A perfect little memoir of a particular time and place.  Lord Berners trip to Germany and his observations on the people, the culture and place in the early 20th Century.  Berners often thought of as a lunatic eccentric is a writer of great talent.  Mostly  known (if even that) as a British composer, was a remarkable writer of great wit and sense.   I highly recommend his "Collected Fantasies" but alas this 120 something page memoir is magnificent due to its focus on a particular time - and his comment regarding what Germany became is border line heart-breaking.  But this is a man trying to figure out what makes the German citizen tick - and more important his place in this particular culture.

His love of Nietzsche was a total head scratcher to the average German  - and that perplexed Berners to no end.  Often hysterical, this is a superb book.

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

"The Gilt Kid" by James Curtis

The Gilt KidThe Gilt Kid by James Curtis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If not only a remarkable noir (and it is) "The Gilt Kid" is an important document of a certain type of crime underground life in London 1930's.   London is almost a character in itself in this novel, along with our anti-hero The Gilt Kid, called that because he's blonde.

A habit criminal who specializes in breaking into London flats and offices to steal, is sort of on an existential course between desire and living day-by-day.   He's lonely but can't articulate his world via language, but by action he sees each day as an adventure of sorts - but alas, a very limited adventure.  He basically can't see his future more than a few days at a time.

There is a Marxist bent in the story, because The Gilt Kid struggles with reading "Capital" but with little understanding, but he sort of gets the drift of it.  The classic aspect of the book is the focus on the side characters that he meets up on the streets of Soho.  Hardcore slang, lots of smoking and drinking milkey tea - along with the occasional brandy and various beers.  Its a dead-end street, but a road that is still colorful and kind of beautiful in a depressing way.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Anna Summa's "The Beautiful & The Damned"

The Beautiful & The DamnedThe Beautiful & The Damned by Kristine McKenna
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ah my youth.  I appreciate it now that I am rotting in old age.  But alas, the memory of what I was is very similar to what I am.    Ann Summa is a photographer who was at the right time (late 1970's to early 1980's) right place (Los Angeles) , and the right subject matter - contemporary punk era rock musicians.   Exene of X is for sure the star of the book, but lurking in the pages are images of the Underrated Screamers, The Alleycats, and various individuals who made up the punk scene in those beautiful days.

And no, I am not in the book, but alas I was in the audience for a lot of the shows that are represented by the likes of John Lydon (Rotten) and others.  Turning the pages of this beautiful designed book I almost fall into the past - but alas the future is bright and the present is not so bad.   I am happy that i was there, but now, equally happy here.

Some in the book are now gone, but not forgotten.  And like the character in the Cornell Woolrich novel who smashes his watch to remember a certain time to stand still ..... this book allows one to visit their past - and for those who don't share this past, at the very least its a group of beautiful portraits caught by the skills of Anna Summa.

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lord Berners (1883-1950): Composer, Writer, PainterLord Berners (1883-1950): Composer, Writer, Painter by Peter Dickinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the world out there, Lord Berners is known as a classic British eccentric, and second for his composed music.  I only know him through his memoirs and short fiction, which is remarkable.  He was also a painter of some talent, but the works strikes me a little too Sunday school painting.  But any man that has his horse in his living room is ok with me.  He also color dyed the feathers of the local pigeons around his home - which is about the size of New Jersey.  In other words he was rich, really rich, and did what we wanted to do.  For instance he liked to be driven though the local village while he wore a series of masks.

Often compared to Erik Satie (for the eccentricity as well for his music) Berners is one of those classic figures in Pre-world war 2 England.  Surrounded by servants and witty people (Cecil Beaton, Constance Lambert, etc) and a very close relationship with Diana Mitford, better known as Diana Mosley aka as Hitler's close friend.

Peter Dickinson has put together an equally eccentric book on Berners.  Mostly consist of interviews with people who knew Berners (for instance Diana Mosley - a fascinating interview) and it is interesting how one story is told through various individuals.  For instance did he have lunch with Hitler?  Some say yes, but Mosley says it didn't happen.  But people want to believe it happened!

Also interesting in this volume you get Berners record collection at the time of his death, and a list of music sheets he owned as well.  The book is almost like a Peter Greenaway obsessive piece of work.   What I found interesting is that most of his friends didn't really care for his writing as much as for his music.  But even that, they think of his work as "light."  Only the great contemporary British composer Gavin Bryars sees Berners as a subversive artist - and I think that is a correct way of looking at his work.   So as the majority  in this book sort of poo poo his writing, I totally disagree with that critical thought.

Lord Berners is an interesting composer, a so-so painter and a magnificent writer.  That's Tosh's opinion at the very least!

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Fantomas - Kino on Video

Fantomas - Kino on Video

One of the great films of all time. Kino did a great job in over-all design for the 3-DVD set.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tony Duvert's "Diary of an innocent"

Diary of an Innocent (Semiotext(e) / Native Agents)Diary of an Innocent by Tony Duvert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first heard the name Tony Duvert on Dennis Cooper's great (and on going) blog, and was intrigued that he was a French writer (my obsession) and wrote about sexuality that many will feel questionable. "Diary of an Innocent" reads like a sex diary, rant, social theory, and a feverish dream all at once. The back cover liner notes says 'novel' but I wonder if it is - but that's not the issue of the book. What the book is about is a man who enjoys gay sex with various young boys in what may be somewhere in North Africa. It is also a social critique on the nature of passion and how it plays itself out in the 'mainstream' world.

Towards the end of the book he writes about heterosexuality as an outlaw fringe group lurking in the shadows of homosexual world that is both funny and quite insightful in how structure rules the world. In another one of his books (which I haven't read) "Good Sex Illustrated" he attacks the fact that a child's sex is conditioned and controlled by the structure of family and state - and are taught not to for fulfil their sexuality or desires. So through the eyes of Duvert, Western sexuality is part of a system that these kids are pooped out to fill out a role that family, state, and whoever wants to control.

"Diary of an Innocent" is a complex and very frank book about sexuality and how that plays out in a very constructed culture and society

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gerard Malanga: Screen Tests, Portraits, Nudes 1964-1996Gerard Malanga: Screen Tests, Portraits, Nudes 1964-1996 by Ben Maddow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Any book that has a portrait of my Dad in it is ok with me. But lets say it didn't have that portrait, this is still a remarkable (and inexpensive) volume of Gerard Malanga's remarkable photo portraits. Gerard, a poet as well as Andy Warhol's right-hand man during the golden Factory years has a great eye and this book mixes with the pop star (including the famous Iggy nude portrait) and various poets/writers as well as artists. A must-own really!

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular HeadSyd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head by Rob Chapman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My heart sank when I heard the news in 2006 that Syd Barrett passed away. Yet for many he has been dead since the early 1970's. Overall he left one Pink Floyd album and two solo albums - plus various singles - and all I think are quite magnificent.

Anyone who loves the rock mythology knows the Syd Barrett legend. Man burned out by LSD, and became a total eccentric recluse - which is basically true, but the important aspect of him is not his life really, but his music. And that, according the author (and I agree)is not caused by his mental problems or madness.

Barrett was a man who knew what he was doing. Insane, perhaps, but there was logic behind his insanity. The author Rob Chapman pretty much poo poos over all the legendary stories about Barrett, like he tried to stop a jet from taking off as if he was causally calling for a cab, or mixing pills & hair cream for his hairdo for a tv appearance and other such tall tales.

I think one of the appealing aspects of this book is Chapman has such a strong love for Barrett's work - that he gets upset regarding the half-truths, the no-truths, and just basic silly gossip. So, perhaps this is the first biography of the man who is not honored for his 'eccentricity' but for his skills as a songwriter and performer.

Chapman does a good job in interviewing old chums of Syd as well as interviewing Barrett's sister. A great rock bio on a truly great genius. Even though it lasted for only a little while.

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"Max's Kansas City: Art, Glamour, Rock and Roll"

Max's Kansas City: Art, Glamour, Rock and RollMax's Kansas City: Art, Glamour, Rock and Roll by Steven Kasher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For those who are either too young, or have a total lack of social/art/music history of New York City' finest moments - then the book is for you. For those of you who have been to Max's Kansas City, then this is a family album of sorts. For me, I never been there. But the bar/restaurant/club is sort of like a kids' fantasy of Disneyland if they haven't been there.

Before Facebook, Goodreads (ha ha) - the place to be was Max's. Andy Warhol and company ruled the back room, legendary rock artists performed on its stage, and the decadence (i.e. fun) was going strong from table to table. Looking at this book one realizes that that Max's Kansas City was a place of special moments, and those moments will never come back. The criss-crossing of everything that's great in pop culture met up at that hang-out. Drag artists meets famous visual artists meets punk rock stars meets the down and out meets, etc. A snapshot of underground society meeting uptown folks, where anything seems possible. But of course it could never last forever. At least there is this book to keep the fantasy and memories alive.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Paul Du Noyer's "In The City: A Celebration of London Music"

In the City: A Celebration of London MusicIn the City: A Celebration of London Music by Paul Du Noyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The title says it all! Remarkable history of London music from the 15th Century through Gilbert and Sullivan to Noel Coward to ....Blur and beyond. Paul Du Noyer was (or still is?) a writer for MOJO, and his book comes off as a good magazine read. Which to anyone sounds "oh oh" but in this case it is a total delight. Mojo has been a consistent well-written journal on music for the past ten years or so - and the writers who work or edit for that magazine are very talented.

Paul Du Noyer takes a difficult and long subject and makes it bite-like segments to tell a narrative what makes London based music so unique. Also the importance of street musicians through out its history is a plus for that culture as well as strange enough the World War 2 era - during and the post-war period as well.

Noel Coward documented the (gay) aesthetic from the 1920's Pretty Things to the support of British morale during the blitz - and is a remarkable pop artist. Also being London, the subject matter of class plays it big in London pop music. Anthony Newley was one of the first Cockney pop singers who convey the depths of songwriting craft as a writer and as a performer. Bowie was influenced by Newley as well as by Syd Barrett with respect that both writers expressed themselves via using their British accents and writing about subjects close to home. A lot of pop was an imitation of American singers at the time. But Newley in the 60's pushed a rather strong British sound to his mainstream pop.

Also another figure of interest is Lionel Bart, who wrote the musical "Oliver" and Tommy Steele's first rock 'n roll record "Rock With The Caveman." Jewish, gay and a bridge between the West side musical and the world of London rock. There are so many fascinating figures in this book: Andrew Loog Oldham, Simon Napier-Bell, Brian Epstein, Vince Taylor, and plenty of obscure artists from the 20's and the 19th Century.

So yeah, this is a really amazing book and its fascinating way of looking at London via the pop song of the last four or five centuries.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

The High Numbers at the Railway Hotel, 1964.

Ground zero or right there or yeah this is perfect moment. But here it is ladies and gentlemen. The perfect modastic moment.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gil J Wolman's "Art"

Gil J Wolman's "I Am Immortal and Alive" by Frederic Acquaviva

Remarkable find in my very own bookstore! Gil J. Wolman was a member of the Letterist International and an associate of the Situationist International -till Guy Debord decided to eliminate him from the group. According to this catalog no one is really sure why that happened. It seems like Wolman was liked by everyone - and that alone may have pissed Debord off!

Nevertheless, and beyond his social activities with various European 20th Century art movements, Wolman made some remarkable art. Mostly collages that he termed "Scotch (after the tape) Art and works with various forms of text. "I am Immortal and Alive" is a catalog to a show that is now taking place in Barcelona. If it is like this catalog, then the show has to be a real beauty as well as a document on a fascinating artist and his time and placement in contemporary art.