Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"On Paris" by Ernest Hemingway

An iconic writer writing about an iconic city at an iconic time of history.  But nevertheless this is not an essential book by Ernest Hemingway, but an interesting one because he captures the world of Paris in a series of snapshots.  For some, the political history will be obscure, but one does feel the excitement of living in a foreign land at that time.

The mixture of French politics, cultural news, and daily life is a nice mixture for this book.   All the pieces are actual articles that he wrote for a Canadian paper - and some are very short, and then there are others that are two or three pages long.  For me the main strength of the book is when he covers the daily life of a Parisian.  For whatever reasons I was charmed about the lack of good manners of Parisians on public transportations, such as the bus.  Also he politely rages against the American visitor or tourist in Paris.  It sort of reminds me of the boring issue of 'hipsters' in a community.  Everything stays the same except for architecture, decay, and wars.

Monday, July 22, 2013

"Nilsson: The Life of a Siinger-Songwriter" by Alyn Shipton

Harry Nilsson is a fascinating music artist. For me, he was someone that was around, but never the focus on any scene. On one hand he had direct contact with The Beatles (who admired Harry's work greatly as well as a friend) and on the other he was very much in tuned with the pop music market. In one way he can be seen as the bridge between music underground and music 'overground. He was very much the professional music songwriter and yet on his solo recordings took great chances. And I think now because he did took those chances, he is much and greatly admired. 

Born in Bushwick Brooklyn (one would think there should be a stature of him at the Bushwick station) from a troubled family came a songwriter who wrote incredibly moving songs about the bonding of friendship and parent & child. "Me And My Arrow" is without a doubt one of the great songs about a human and his dog. And as they about the milkman whistling a tune, I do the same for this song whenever I take a walk around the neighborhood. That song works on so many levels. Alyn Shipton's biography captures the essense of this talented man, who it seems was loved by his friends and family, but had .... a hard life of sorts. With respect to drinking, that seems to me close to the glory years of Errol Flynn and WC Fields.  Him, Ringo, Keith Moon, and others... being in the same room with them doesn't sound like it was good for one's health, but nevertheless a lot of fun. The fact that one meets Harry for lunch usually means they get back home about two days later, is all part of his incredible personality and sense of fun and wonder. 

It is unusual for Oxford to do a biography on a contemporary music figure, but this is a superb book. A must for all Nilsson fans of course, but also for the causal curious music geek who wants to know what it was like to be in the center of the pop world during the late 1960's and '70's. The later years are kind of sad, but without a doubt he was a remarkable figure in American music as well as iconic in his stance as the ultimate party boy. But in the end one is left with the albums, and that is a great journey to go on. Make sure you have this book as you take that trip...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tosh Berman in the Current Issue of L.A. Record (Regarding "Sparks-Tastic" and other subject Matters)

Once there is an illustration of one's self, I feel I made the big time. Illustration by Amy Hagemeier for L.A. Record, which by the way has a fantastic interview with yours truly regarding "Sparks-Tastic" and other subject matters.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"Castaways of the Image Planet" by Geoffrey O'Brien

I can't think of anything more enjoyable than reading a collection of essays by Geoffrey O'Brien. As a writer, I look up to him, because it seems he has it all. Good taste, good job (he's the editor-in-chief of the Library of America) and a lover or observer of pop culture. "Castaways of the Image Planet is mostly about film, but I feel he goes beyond that medium to write about culture that has spawn from the film aesthetic. 

His commentary on Bing Crosby, The Marx Brothers, Mike Leigh, and Japanese Manga comics are my favorite in this collection. And again he's a guy who knows a lot, and can articulate the essence of his subject matters. I recommend this book to anyone who likes to read film criticism, but also how a writer approaches his subject matter. So in one word, great.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Mod: A Very British Style" by Richard Weight

Bodley Head Isbn: 9780224073912

The cover and title is basically a magnet and it pulled me in right away. But as I read it there are two mistakes that really bothered me.  One is claiming that Boris Vian was married to Juliette Gréco (he wasn't) and that the Beatles met Elvis at Graceland (they didn't meet there).  The author Richard Weight is a historian, so this is a major mistake on his part or his research assistants.  So as you can gather, "Mod" is the history of that cult, but it goes beyond Mod to what the author feels is their influence on future cultural movements.   I think the book at this point over extends the subject matter or loses the object of desire that is Mod, when focusing on almost every music and youth movement in the U.K. after the golden era of Mod.

When he writes of the original Mod figures of the 60's and before that decade, its very interesting. But he wonders off the beaten path to write about the entire history of British pop culture.   Mod to me was a very unique movement at a very specific time.  It would have been much more interesting if he just focused on that world and nothing else.  Also the author seems distant to his subject matter.  I got the feeling that he isn't really into music or culture - more of a historian looking at his subject matter.   There are other great books out there on the subject matter of Mod, but this one isn't part of that pack.

It doesn't have the colorful appreciation from someone like Andrew Loog Oldham, or even the wit and charm of Simon Napier-Bell.  Mod is a big subject matter, and hopefully there will be more books in the near future.   But this is a very dry history on a fascinating world.  At its best it can serve as an introduction and hopefully the reader will do their own research to track down authors, personalities, and other book titles.  His suggested reading on Mod Culture is good, but not large enough, which is ironic because this book is pretty hefty in the page and text department.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

"Wonder While You Wander" by Tosh Berman Part Two: Loree Fox, Wallace Berman, Tempo Music Store

Wallace Berman and Loree Foxx in the Front of Tempo Music Shop on Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles

Interior of Tempo Music Shop on Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles

Artwork by Wallace Berman (age 16 or 17) for Dial Records, Los Angeles

Loree Foxx Photo by Wallace Berman

Loree Fox by Wallace Berman
I'm currently working on a childhood memoir "Wonder While You Wander," and this serves me as a scrapbook of ideas/images/etc.  

Thursday, July 4, 2013