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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