Saturday, December 29, 2018

"What it Means to Write about Art" by Jarrett Earnest (David Zwirner Books)

ISBN: 9781941701898
As a writer, I try to do these little exercises by writing a description of my office or other rooms in the house. It's difficult, but once you start thinking about a room or space, that has stuff in it, it becomes a self-portrait or a statement in itself. I can be abstract in my method, but I want the reader to know what it is like to be in my office. Also, I try to focus on every object that is placed in the room, and what it represents or how space is used around its surroundings. I can imagine writing about film or music, but the idea of writing criticism or observation on 'art,' is a mystery to me. For instance, how does one put in words about a Jackson Pollack painting? I can write about the process of making such a painting, but what it means to me as a viewer of that work? How does one put words or vocabulary together describing artworks? It is with great interest that I read Jarrett Earnest's collection of interviews with art critics on their craft and talent in describing, writing, and commenting on the visual art world. "What It Means to Write about Art" is a stunning collection, that makes me think of art criticism as a form in itself. 
For me, I find art criticism or writing tedious. I can never figure out why I find something so exciting as seeing an exhibition can be a chore to read, done by an art critic. I now realize that it's not the critics' fault, but more of me going into a foreign world, writing about something that is unexplainable and mysterious. On the other hand, when I look at an article written by a professor or sometimes a curator, I tend to think it's not as well written or enjoyable if a poet wrote it. Then some poets write art criticism, and that, I find fascinating. Eight out of thirty art critics are well-known poets in this collection. All thirty, are interesting people, with strong opinions, and the vocabulary and writing skills to back up their stance about an artist and their artwork. The poets especially are good, because I suspect that they look at writing as another form of sculpture, and therefore one medium or style works with the other quite well. 
Jarrett Earnest is a fantastic interviewer, and I can't imagine a better set of questions to these specific writers, regarding their origins as a critic as well as how they see their profession in the bigger landscape of the arts. All of them I believe are into the big discussion of art aesthetics and politics, and it's a very individual path that some of these writers take in their work. For instance, for some, politics is a big part of their writing, some it's the issue of queer studies and how it mixes in the culture that they write about. Or how race and the power structure plays in the world of the arts. Others are looking at art as a stand-alone object or piece that expresses an inner-world or expression of how to see things. Earnest doesn't seem to leave anyone out, and this is a fantastic volume of interviews, that not only focuses on the writing of the arts but also what makes a writer tick. 
Not everyone in this book I find utterly fascinating due to their writing or stance. But reading all the interviews, I find myself entertained, informed, and also admire that each one in their method can describe or make commentary on the visual arts, in such a manner that is a dialog as well as a pointed expression of opinion and passion. Earnest knows how to communicate with the subject matters here, and he comes off charming, and never dwells into 'art-speak' or art-talk' language. Some of the writers here write for specific art journals (like "October") while others write for massive publications like The New Yorker, The New York Times, WSJ, and so forth. As a writer, I find their advice and thoughts profound and having them comment on the nature of art criticism; it's an exciting relationship between observer and art object. 
I recommend "What it Means to Write About Art" to anyone who is interested in writing art criticism, but even more important for anyone who cares about writing as a medium to express themselves or thoughts on another medium such as art. A great book published by David Zwirner Books, who do excellent titles on and by art writers who write criticism. - Tosh Berman

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

TamTam Books at Alias Books East in Atwater Village

Alias Books East in Atwater Village has a selection of books published by TamTam Books.  

- Boris Vian's "Autumn in Peking"
- Boris Vian's "Red Grass" 
-Boris Vian's "To Hell With The Ugly"

& a book by Ron Mael and Russell Mael of the band Sparks.  "In The Words of Sparks: Selected Lyrics"  Edited by Ron and Russell, with a great introduction by Morrissey.  

And, also for sale is "Memory Before Action" text by Tosh Berman and art by Senon Williams.  Very limited and of course, very special.  All exclusively on sale at Alias Books East.  Located 3163 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, 90039.  For more information, here's their website:

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Flashback: Issue no. 4, Winter 2013

As mentioned in another post, I'm absolutely fascinated with the magazine "Flashback," which is edited by Richard Morton Jack, with good music journalists, especially Richie Unterberger.  The focus of the publication is Underground rock music from the late 1960s to the 1970s.   Reading "Flashback" is very much like being in a dark room with one light bulb, and no awareness of what's happening outside that room on a regular basis.  Life stopped around 1975 or so, and your only reference is obscure recordings by even more obscure artists.   For instance, the front cover is the band Trees, which I'm sure most of you never heard of them.  Nor have I, they're a British folk-orientated group that recorded for British Columbia Records, and made two albums in 1970.   33 pages, with no ads, but plenty of photos, documents, images of contracts, and various flyers for gigs, but insightful journalism on the band by David Biasotti.

In this day and age of Twitter and online publications, it's fascinating that there is a magazine like "Flashback" that is beautifully printed and designed, and obsessed with bands that fell through the cracks of fame and attention.  Each article on a band runs from 20 to 30 pages, and all are clearly written to be the last word on the subject.  Researched to a maximum level, only a music geek can appreciate.  For those who only have a passing interest in pop music history should move on to the current Rolling Stone or some other mass-market publication, because "Flashback" is a beautiful and endlessly informative love feast on music and artists that are important, but never got their fame or sales in the marketplace.

Issue number 4, besides the interesting piece on Trees, also has a long article on the band Mandrake Memorial, which of this date, I actually located their debut album (which is on its way).    From Philadelphia and they were very much part of the psychedelic scene in that city.  Also is a memoir by Beverly Martyn, a singer who worked with, and married John Martyn.  A harrowing account of her life with the horrifying John which is depressing, but good to hear she's still about making music (as of 2013, my issue here is old).

There's a great piece on exploitation albums from the late 1960s and early 70s that were a knock-off of major hits of the time, including music from the underground scene.  Anonymous musicians who recorded such albums as "Blow Your Mind," "Hair The 31 Flavors," "Light My Fire" by the Firebirds and so forth.   And to top it off there's an excellent and lengthy article on various obscure mono and stereo recordings and which ones are better.  And if you can even purchase such records from the psychedelic era without being pushed into the poor house.  The reviews are plentiful, and very in depth with a focus on CD Boxsets as well as on artists like Harry Nilsson (who is probably the most known figure in this magazine to a general audience).

Each issue, so far, has a feature on a British music publication, and here we "Go."  I never heard or seen this magazine before, but as a publisher, and a fan of music publications, I find it obsessively fascinating on all accounts.   "Flashback" are moments of perfection, and an incredible guide to music I would never be aware of, or ever being in their presence.  I got my issues from Forced Exposure.

Forced Exposure website:

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Sunday, November 18, 2018

A Short Story by Tosh Berman

I buy art like others buy blankets to keep them warm in a freezing night.  I figured if it gets too cold I can burn the painting for warmth.  Excellent investment for one's mental and physical health.  I went to a poster shop in Westwood where they sell 20th-century prints of famous paintings. It was here where I purchased a print of Caravaggio's "The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, originally painted sometime between 1601-1602, but the reprint made in 2004.  

The owner of the shop there at the time, Mr. Gagosian, had a wide selection of prints to buy, or even rent if one is on a budget.   I was taught at an early age never to rent or borrow and to purchase is the best policy.  Mr. Gagosian asked me what I was looking for. I told him that I wanted something that expressed the angst and worries of this sad century, but also something colorful to match the interiors of my living room.   He asked me what my budget is, and I told him that not to be concerned about budgeting and that I'm going to the boundaries of $50 to $100. 

He showed me a print of a painting by Edward Hopper, called "Chop Suey."   It's a very nice figurative painting of two women having a meal or chatting over a table, and there is a man and woman in conversation on the side of the painting.  The one thing that I found troublesome about the painting is the title.  "Chop Suey."  I didn't think the interior of the restaurant looks oriental.   And the other thing that bugs me is that one can see the signage outside the building saying 'Suey." Or to be exact, we can see the letters "U" and "E" clearly but we have to presume that the half of the "S" Is actually an "S."  And the "Y' could be easily a "V" in this painting.   I don't know why I'm focusing on the lettering of the side of the building, or perhaps what is a neon light - or even if the painting takes place in the evening.  The more I look at this painting I found it disturbing.  I asked Mr. Gagosian for a discount, due to the upsetting composition of the work.   It's initially $100, but I got it knocked down to $90.  

The other painting that caught my eye is a work by David Hockney.  "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)."  I prefer if the painting is called "Pool with Two Figures."   I don't think we need the word artist in the title. Since it's a painting by an artist, why put a focus on artist again.  It's a colorful painting of a young man, who's dressed nicely looking at another young man in a swimming pool.    At first, I thought the man in the pool drowned, and we're just looking at a floating body.  But I think the artist would have called the painting  "Pool with a Dead figure and Young Man" or something of that order.  Still, I love the mountain range in the picture, and the composition is excellent. Plainly worth the $100, but then Mr. Gagosian told me that this print would be $150.  To my surprise, he wouldn't go down from that price.  I then immediately walked out of the store, thinking he would stop me.  I turned around the corner and again, to my surprise, he didn't run after me. I then walked back into his shop, and he knew I would pay the full price of $150.   

Nevertheless, for a total of $240 (plus sales tax), I can bring two decent paintings back to my home.   I learned that one should never fret over art prices, and to do so will make you look or sound cheap.  The worth of art is something beyond currency.  Although the money of a Monopoly game does look good. 

- Tosh Berman

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Revisiting or Re-read of "Places of My Infancy" by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2038-5

I read this book in 2012, and recently re-read it, due that "Places of my Infancy: A Memory" very much influenced me on my memoir "Tosh: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World."   Both of our books are childhood memoirs, and what impressed me about Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's little book is that it is more about location, architecture, and things than people.   In my book, characters are essential, but what got me to keep on the page, to write, is actually the location of Beverly Glen and Topanga Canyon.  Lampedusa is an Italian or Sicilian aristocrat, and I often felt like I was a pauper prince.   Both of us grew up in extraordinary surroundings; him with the super wealthy, and yours truly in the bohemian world of the Beats and Hippies. 

When I purchased this book in New York City, six years ago, I was working on my memoir.  "Places of my Infancy" gave me the importance that character of the author and also the reflection of one's home, and how that affects the writer.   A significant book.  Down below is the original review I wrote for the Good Reads website:

Looking for a small book in size to read on the subway trips from Manhattan to Bushwick, I picked up the elegant Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's miniature memoir of his childhood "Places of My Infancy."  The most remarkable aspect of this book is that it's not about people.  It is about his home, or one should say estate in Italy during the turn of the Century.  

Reading this I reminded of "Against Nature" by Huysmann, but this is the real deal. At least through the eyes of an adult looking back at his life as a child.  Detailed architectural accounts of various rooms, including the dining room which has life-sized portraits of the owners (the first ones) eating their meals.  One would think why they would want a painting of themselves eating in a room where you actually take your meal?  But that's the charm of the super rich - if one could even use the word super in this category, it's more super-duper.

In his house, he had a theater that can hold 300 people, and his family would allow traveling theater people to do shows for the local citizens.  Some rich, but a lot were peasants.  Eventually, the theater became a movie theater. Lampedusa has a way to comment on changes that he remembers through his childhood.  

In the book, di Lampedusa admits that he is more attached to things than humans, and this is very much the tale of things - most cases the architecture of his home as a child, including detailed descriptions of rooms, furniture, etc.  But the truth (as he knows as well) that 'things' can tell a narrative better than a human at times.  Remarkable book.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

"Duchamp's Last Day" by Donald Shambroom (David Zwirner Books)

ISBN: 978-1-941701-87-4

If you are like me, a Marcel Duchamp fan, and one who almost purchases every book on this artist, you will need to read and own "Duchamp's Last Day" by Donald Shambroom.  It's a small book, beautifully published by David Zwirner that focuses on the last 24-hours of Duchamp on this planet on October 1, 1968.  His last day was pleasant.  He purchased some bricks for his very final and secret art project, as well as buying a book at a bookstore on Rue Saint-Germain des Pres.  He had a visit with his friend Georges Herbiet, a poet, and then later that night had dinner at Duchamp's apartment with Man Ray, his wife Juliet, Ms. Duchamp, Robert Abel, and his wife.   After dinner, Duchamp dies in the bathroom.   Ms. Duchamp calls a doctor and Man Ray to come over. Man Ray comes across with his camera equipment and takes the last photo of Duchamp.  A perfect evening!

In a sense, Shambroom discusses the thought that Duchamp's death is also a collaboration between Man Ray and the great artist.  And perhaps so, who knows, but this book is both respectful to the working habits of Duchamp and Man Ray, as well as a tribute to the Duchamp's personality and aesthetic.   I read it in my bathtub, and it's the perfect size for such a reading.  Buy, read, and enjoy. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Tosh on Tour for "Tosh: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World" 2019

Thursday, January 31, 2019 at 7pm 
San Francisco, CA: City Lights Bookstore

We are looking forward to celebrating TOSH, published by City Lights! Tosh Berman will be in conversation with Natalia Mount, Executive Director, Pro Arts Gallery, Oakland

Thursday, January 24, 2019 at 7:30pm 
Los Angeles, CA: Skylight Books

In conversation with actor Jason Schwartzman. Skylight is located at1 818 N Vermont Avenue. For more info: & 323-660-1175.

Friday February 1, 2019, 7pm 
Berkeley, CA: Moe's Bookstore

Moe's is located at 2476 Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. For more info contact Owen Hill  

Monday, February 4th, 7:30pm 
Portland, OR: Powell's on Hawthorne

Tosh Berman in conversation with Kevin Sampsell about his new book, Tosh: Growing Up In Wallace Berman's World.  Powell's on Hawthorne is located at 3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214. For more info contact:

Wednesday, February 13, 2019 at 7pm 
West Hollywood, CA: Book Soup

Book Soup is located at 8818 Sunset Blvd.  For more info contact Jen Ramos at

Tuesday Feb 19th, 7:30pm 
New York NY: Aeon Books

Aeon Books is located at 151 E Broadway New York, NY 10002. For more info 917 675 7523  &

Thursday, February 21st at 7pm 
Brooklyn, NY: McNally Jackson

Tosh Berman in conversation with Gillian McCain. McNally Jackson's Williamsburg store is located at 76 N 4th Street Brooklyn NY 11249.  For more info  718 387 0115 &

Saturday, February 23rd 3:00-5:00pm 
Long Island City, NY: ARTBOOK @ MoMA PS1 Bookstore

ARTBOOK @ MoMA PS1 Bookstore is located at 22-25 Jackson Ave (at 46th Ave.) Long Island City, NY 11101.  For questions about the event: T (718) 433-1088

Saturday, March 9th, 3-5pm 
Los Angeles, CA: ARTBOOK @Hauser & Wirth

Tosh Berman in conversation with Claudia Bohn-Spector. ARTBOOK @Hauser & Wirth is located at 917 East 3rd Street Los Angeles CA 90013. For more info 213-988-7413 or contact Lacy Soto

For more information, check out

Flashback: Issue 3, Spring 2013

As a music listener and a consumer, I'm fascinated with music culture.  Throughout my life I have purchased teen magazines like "16" to "KRLA Beat," to "Rolling Stone," and then, of course, the weekly British music newspapers like "Melody Maker" and New Music Express (NME).  As I got older, I became devoted to "MOJO" and "Uncut," which covers pop music from the past in an extensive manner.   I'm also a fan of "UGLY THINGS," which covers 1960s garage rock in a moment-by-moment detail.   I thought that was enough for my music-reading experience until I found myself with an issue of "FLASHBACK" Spring, 2013.

"FLASHBACK"s focus is on psychedelic rock/pop music culture of the 1960s and 1970s.  What makes the magazine unique is the intense focus on that subject matter, but also the number of pages it focuses on the artists on hand as well as the culture surrounding that band/artist.   The issue of "FLASHBACK"  I have is 208 pages, where 39, some fully illustrated with photos, or original reprints of that era, pages on the band Mighty Baby, who also is on the front cover of the magazine.   Now, if you are like me, who in the hell is Mighty Baby, and why do they warrant 39 pages (with no ads mind you)?   A band so obscure, that getting the original vinyl can cost anywhere from $246 to $674 for their debut album "Mighty Baby."  And according to Discogs, there are only five listings for sales for this album. So, it's a rarity.  "Flashback" is willing to put Mighty Baby on its cover than Syd Barrett, who has a significant article as well within and with 13 pages.

What attracts me to this particular issue is its obsession with their subject matter.  Syd Barrett is the only artist that is represented in this issue that I know of, and all the other pages are devoted to artists that I may have heard of in passing or none at all.  Speaking which, the Barrett article is excellent. It's an interview with the late Malcolm Jones, who was part of the Harvest label and produced half of the "Madcap Laughs," Syd's first solo album.  His insight into the making of the album gives me additional pleasure in hearing it again.  Then again, maybe I should track down Mighty Baby as well?

The beauty of FLASHBACK is their intense method of covering their music and bands/artists in a full reporting style.   Nothing is half-done, and they are not weary of putting many pages together talking about Mighty Baby and others.  As a casual reader of this issue, I couldn't put it down. I found Mighty Baby's history fascinating as well as on the other obscure bands such as San Francisco's The Common People, who within its 23 pages covers their career as well as being a bizarre rip-off of Moby Grape.  There is also a tremendous 23-page article on rock biographies/memoirs that is equally fascinating.  And an article (10-pages) on an obscure weekly music newspaper "Top Pops" which eventually became "Music Now."

Before I even got half-way through this issue, that I went online and ordered every back issue that is still in print.  I feel such obsession needs to be supported by another obsessive fellow (yours truly).

For more info on FLASHBACK and other issues:

Saturday, November 10, 2018


Tosh Berman on GROWING UP IN WALLACE BERMAN'S WORLD!: Hello everyone! I talked with Tosh Berman, an influential and beloved member of the Los Angeles literary scene, on his new book entitled, Tosh: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World. This book is a masterful story of growing up as the son of the well-known artist Wallace Berman, who is often referred to as the creator of Assemblage Art and was a beloved figure in the early 'beatnik' or hippie scene in California. Tosh recounts his unique childhood and talks openly about the cavalcade of luminaries that visited his home, his father's influence in the art world, and the impact of Wallace's untimely death on the young Tosh.  Tosh: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World is published by City Lights books, and is a beautifully written, honest, and endearing memoir of a unique upbringing. The book will be available on Amazon and directly from the publisher. You can learn more about Tosh's book, and Tosh himself, here: Thank you, and enjoy the show!

Friday, November 2, 2018

BOOKS: How & Why with Tosh Berman, Mary Dean, Eddie Ruscha & Senon Williams. Nov. 3rd

"Places of My Infancy" by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (New Directions)

Looking for a small book in size to read on the subway trips from Manhattan to Bushwick, I picked up the elegant Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's miniature memoir of his childhood "Places of My Infancy." The most remarkable aspect of this book is that it's not about people. It is about his home, or one should say estate in Italy during the turn of the Century.

Reading this I reminded of "Against Nature" by Huysmann, but this is the real deal. At least through the eyes of an adult looking back at his life as a child. Detailed architectural accounts of various rooms, including the dining room which has life-sized portraits of the owners (the first ones) eating their meals. One would think why they would want a painting of themselves eating in a room where you actually take your meal? But that's the charm of the super rich - if one could even use the word super in this category, it's more super-duper.

In his house, he had a theater that can hold 300 people, and his family would allow traveling theater people to do shows for the local citizens. Some rich, but a lot were peasants. Eventually, the theater became a movie theater. Di Lampedusa has a way to comment on changes that he remembers through his childhood.

In the book, di Lampedusa admits that he is more attached to things than humans, and this is very much the tale of things - most cases the architecture of his home as a child, including detailed descriptions of rooms, furniture, etc. But the truth (as he knows as well) that 'things' can tell a narrative better than a human at times. Remarkable book.

"Places of My Infancy" is an influence on my childhood/teenage memoir "Tosh" (City Lights Publications).   Focusing on my youth, I realize, after reading this book, that placement or the landscape is equally as important as the characters that are in my book.  I read "Places of My Infancy" in 2012, as I was writing my many drafts of "Tosh."   An essential book for me as a writer.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Tosh, Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World

Tosh, Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World

If you wish to purchase my book "Tosh: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World"  by pre-ordering it, you can do so on this City Lights page. Just follow the link above.   The consumer will be notified when the book is released as well as getting a 30% discount off the retail cost of $16.95.  As an author, I like to support the publisher as well as the indie-bookshops in real locations, as well as some of the hipper-retail locations on the web.  Thank you in advance - Tosh Berman

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Wallace Berman Curator Sophie Dannenmuller on Tosh Talks

Wallace Berman Curator Sophie Dannenmuller on Tosh Talks

Sophie Dannenmuller is an expert on my father the artist Wallace Berman as well as curating three Berman exhibitions at the Galerie Frank Elbaz in Paris. The current show that is up now (until October 11, 2018) is called "Visual Music." It focuses on the connection between Wallace's visual sensibility and his love of music, that is very much part of his art. Sophie and I talk in great detail about Berman's art, as well as the culture surrounding Wallace, such as the Beat Generation, and figures like Jack Kerouac, Allen 
Ginsberg, William Burroughs and so forth. I'm very happy how this conversation turned out, and I think one who has an interest in the Beat Artists and beyond, will find this fascinating. Your host Tosh Berman, Tosh Talks.

The painting behind us is by the artist Jean-Francois Le Merrer.

Monday, September 24, 2018

"Wallace Berman: Visual Music" by Sophie Dannenmüller (Frank Elbaz Gallery)

For those who are interested, you can obtain the catalog to my dad's (Wallace Berman) show at the Galerie Frank Elbaz website. It's a limited edition with a beautiful essay by Sophie Dannenmüller who also curated the exhibition.  Get it here:

Sunday, September 23, 2018

September 23, 2018 / Tosh's Diary (Paris/Los Angeles)

September 23, 2018

The flight was somewhere between 10 and 11 hours long, and it was boring as hell. The service on the airline Air France was outstanding.  But there were delays at the airport, and the plane took off about an hour late. The Charles DeGaulle airport is enormous of course, but one of the interesting aspects of its architecture is the wooden ceilings.  At LAX Bradley terminal I feel we are in a series of confined spaces, but the vastness of the boarding gate in Paris is immense, and it actually becomes a vanishing point when you look in the front of you.   

As one gets to their seat, you are confronted by a lack of space, but I’m mentally prepared for that. I brought two books with me for the reading.  The main book is Alexander Trocchi’s “Cain’s Book” which I purchased in a bookstore in Paris called the Red Wheelbarrow.   Across from the Lexingburg Gardens.  As far as I know, or at least on this trip, I came upon four English language bookstores. All were good.  Any John Calder publication is a good book.  It’s the British version of Grove Press or the sister or brother of that excellent publishing house.  Calder had an extraordinary vision as a publisher.  I still haven’t finished the book, and every time I feel sleepy, I try to close my eyes to drift off to sleep.

Nevertheless, sleep is impossible for me on a plane.  My sense of travel is being at a location. I don’t actually like the physical aspect of traveling.  I hate luggage.  I really don’t like airports. I loathe going through security.  And I generally don’t enjoy the ride to or from the airport.  I love being at my destination.  But the compromise to get to that direction of the destination is a horror show for me.  I envy fictional characters like James Bond, or Tom Cruise in “Mission Impossible,” where there is a subtitle that says “Berlin,” and therefore you know the main character is there in that city.  I too want to travel in such a manner where a subtitle shows up under my body, and I’m immediately at that location.  You never see Bond buying a plane ticket or waiting at the airport. Nor is he busy making sure he has a European wall plug for his laptop computer.  The one groovy thing I do have is that I rent a portable wi-fi set.  I discovered this when I went to Japan, and in that country, there is not that many ‘hot spots’ for internet use.   Carrying this small pocket-sized wi-fi is a dream.  The battery lasts for six hours, so one should turn it off when not in use. Other then that, it’s perfect. 

We got back home around 10 PM, and I drank a few glasses of wine, checked my e-mail, and tried to feel like I was back home in Los Angeles.  My brain was here, but my body thought it was still walking on Germain-des-Prés. I have a hard time with jet-lag.  Forcing the body and mind to be in one place is a problem for me.  I heard one should just drink water on the jet, but of course, I drank wine.  It’s free on international flights!  Still, I don’t think I can ever beat this feeling of being displaced in time and space.  I got up early and went to work at ARTBOOK (917 E 3RD Street, Los Angeles 90013) to take images for me to write about - and then I walked around Downtown Los Angeles.  It still feels like I was in Paris.  Even though I was walking down Spring Street, I felt the next corner will be rue Oberkampf in the 11th arrondissement.  Which by the way is named after Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf, an 18th-century German-born French industrialist. He invented the first machine for printing wallpaper.  

Lun*na and I went to the Tony Berlant opening at the Kohn Gallery (North Highland Avenue, Los Angeles 90038) and the dinner afterward at Michael and Caroline’s home for the artist.  The show is pretty great.  Tony’s work is basically collaged with images printed on metal, or tin, and put together by steel brads, which gives the art a multi-textural feel.  Some are flat pieces while others are sculptures.  Also, I really like the works that are horizontal when placed on the wall.   They stick out so one can see both sides of the artwork.  So, in a sense, they are sculptural, but flat as well.  Interesting combination. I made a note to myself to come back to the exhibition to spend more time with the art. 
 Tosh Berman

Friday, September 21, 2018

Chris Curtis and Board Games on Tosh Talks

Chris Curtis is a great friend of mine, and someone I admire, due to being a great human being, but also his taste which is very articulate and refined to a perfect point in his ability to express what he likes and why.  His current passion is board games, which is a subject I knew nothing about.  After watching this show the viewer will be fascinated with the board games history, and it's cultural importance in society.   We discuss my favorite childhood games that came from TV shows from the 60s and beyond, but Chris gets into the nitty-gritty of the gaming world.  - Tosh Berman, your host for Tosh Talks.

September 20/21, 2018 (Paris)

September 20/21, 2018

We just got back from Paris.  Yesterday we spent the day at Passage des Panoramas (11 Boulevard Montmartre).  This is the arcade that Walter Benjamin wrote about in his major (unfinished) book "Arcade Project."  What's interesting about this arcade is that it opened in 1800, and its the first role model or attempt to make an indoor shopping center in an urban area, in other words, a city.  Paris in 1800 was dirty streets that were not friendly to the retail space, due to the lack of electricity and their various plumbing problems, where citizens would throw their shit and piss on the streets.  The Passage des Panoramas is the oldest covered shopping area in Paris.   Going there was a moving experience for me.

I have great admiration for Walter Benjamin's writing, as well as his interest in culture and city-living.  He openly admired Charles Baudelaire not only for his poetry but also his appreciation for the aesthetic and nature of a city (Paris).   Passage des Panoramas was invented for the sole purpose of shopping, which one comes to think of it, a somewhat original 19th century thought.  But why is it fascinating now?

Well, for one, I'm a consumer.  I can't help it. Without a doubt, it's an addiction of great importance to me, as a person, and writer.  I'm sure those who read my posts have a good indication that I love records and books.  But I also have a deep secretive (even to myself) love for other's childhood culture.  For instance, I'm fascinated with TinTin, yet though I have to admit I'm not French or Belgium (the home of TinTin).  There was a tote bag we saw through the window that seemed to me to be a perfect purchase, but alas, the store was closed.  I find the independent stores in Paris a mystery due to their hours. Some are open from 1 pm to 6 pm, and I get the impression that they don't want to change their lives too much due to the success of the tourist demand.  Still, I'm amazed at the beauty of a culture that's expressed in a retail shop.  People tend to not to look up to the retail place as something as important as a museum.   Often I think it is even more critical, because there are people who open shops that are devoted to the past, and they do so with great passion.  When I go into a good shop, I feel obsession, love, sensuality, and pleasure.  I feel this when I enter the Passage des Panoramas

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

September 18, 2018

September 18, 2018

A dream trip to Paris is more poignant when you develop back pain.  Le French Chair does not fit the needs of my body, and therefore there is some suffering involved on this trip.  Oddly enough I'm not complaining because I'm happy here in Paris.  Still, I plan to go to the bookshop at Pompidou Centre, which is less than a mile from my headquarters.  A beautiful walk, but now the stroll will add a certain amount of awkwardness and pain.

Yesterday in a higher state of pain I walked down Rue Vieille du Temple, which is the street for independent fashion boutiques, bistros/cafes, restaurants, and specialty shops of all sorts.  The stores around the Louvre are crap, but here on the road, it is nothing but refined chicness and beautiful fashion. 

One of the stores I admire greatly is Au Petit Bonheur la Chance (13 rue Saint-Paul 75004) which is an antique store, but focusing on 20th-century pop culture items and objects from one's youth.  This perfectly named store is jam-packed with sewing material, notebooks from another era/generation, and most movingly a whole section of photographs taken of family trips and get-togethers.  Why these photos are not in some family's collection is a tad depressing, but also has an emotional charge when you look through these images.  I found a box of 7" 45 rpm singles that included a Jacques Dutronc record, but alas, I have the same copy at home.  So its a shop full of French toys from the 1950s, old fabric, napkins, statuettes, old playing cards, games, and old retail signs plus postcards from another time and era.  The shop is very much a second-hand store, but beautifully curated with real soul and feeling.  A very charming way of going into the past, but alas, it is not my past, but the history of someone of my age, who is French.  

As I struggled toward home (here in Paris), I went to Muji France to purchase two striped shirts - both cost under $40, and as anyone who knows me personally, I have a sizeable striped shirt collection.  The best high-quality shop for strip shirts and shoes is St. James, which is a traditional French clothing company and the ground zero for striped shirts and sweaters.  I suspect that me and perhaps hardcore TinTin (although not French technically) fans will see this spot as a shrine.  I do treat the store in such a manner, but alas, the clothing here is beyond my budget, which is basically between a few euros and entirely broke.  But to walk into this small shop and breath in the strip shirt inventory is as good as sex.  I would give you the address, but I don't want any outsiders coming here!  Although with the help of Google you will find it quickly enough. 

I was going to have dinner out, but instead, my wife went to the Pharmache de la Place Republique to get a can of cream for my aching back, and therefore we had Chinese food-to-go in our petite rented apartment.   All holidays have a sense of tragedy, and you need that to appreciate the good things that one experiences on a trip to another land. 
- Tosh Berman

Monday, September 17, 2018

"My Life in the Theatre de la Huchette" by Tosh Berman (Paris)

Not too many people know this, but besides being a publisher (TamTam Books) and writer ("Sparks-Tastic, "The Plum in Mr. Blum's Pudding," and the upcoming memoir "Tosh"), I'm also a movie actor.  I did a cameo in Anna Biller's "Viva," in which I had a line, or to be more exact just one word "precious," and the role of 'Boy' in Andy Warhol's "Tarzan and Jane Regained Sort Of..."   Also, I had starring roles in various films by Relah Eckstein.   Now, due to financial issues, I have decided to become an actor for the stage, and not just any stage, but The Théâtre de la Huchette in the Latin Quarter in Paris. 

The theater is located at 23 rue de la Huchette, and since 1957 they have been presenting a double-bill of "The Lesson" and "The Bad Soprano" by Eugène Ionesco.   The playwright has the knack to convey the absurdity of life in such a manner that articulates my view of the world.  Therefore I went to the Huchette theater and told them I'm willing to work for nothing if they give me a role in the production.  They asked if I can speak French, and I said "NO."  I told them it would be faithful to the playwright's concern if I were an actor that couldn't express myself in another language.  But the rub is that Ionesco such an exact type of writer, that language, of course, is essential. But the fact that I couldn't deliver his lines in such a manner means that the director has to up his game by presenting me in such a production.  Every night I have to learn m lines in French and to remind you, dear readers, it's two plays I'm doing every night.   I do all my lines in French of course, but it has a California accent attached to it, that caused my director to winch whenever he hears me recite the lines. 

It's interesting to note that Ionesco is Romanian, and French is his second language, which is the language he wrote his plays in.  So in that sense, I feel we have something in common. I told that to the director, and he agreed that I was on to something.  "The Bald Soprano" in my mind is about language and communication.  Therefore since Ionesco wrote it in a second language, and I don't speak proper French makes this production the essential version of the play. 

I often have dreams where I'm either in a public space or at a party with friends, and I'm naked.   Everyone else is dressed, but for some reason, I either lost my clothes or forgot to put them on before leaving home.  The thing is no one says anything about my nakedness. Acting in these two one-act plays, I have that feeling, but I'm awake and aware of what is in front of me.   Which are embarrassment and shame.   My role model for acting is Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther films directed by Blake Edwards.   If I speak fast enough with a strong fake French accent, I may get away with the performance.  Hopefully, the audience, and especially the theater critics will see it as an absurd performance in a highly ridiculous pair of plays. 

Tonight is opening night, and as I walk from the 3rd arrondissement to the 5th I try not to think of the pain in my stomach, but also I realize that I forgot my lines.  My immediate reaction is to run away from the theater.  Still, as a professional, and as a representation of an American, with the 'go-for-it-spirit' I enter the backstage of the theater to face my fate. 

- Tosh Berman, Paris, September 17, 2018

Saturday, September 15, 2018

September 15, 2018 (Paris)

September 15, 2018

People often asked me why I write when I'm on a trip, or especially in a city like Paris?   For me, my brain moves slowly, which causes my reactions to being slow as well.  I'm one of those fellows that morning means one thing, a few hours of reflection.  Without the meditation, my life is meaningless, and therefore I have a great need to write.  

Travel writing serves many purposes.  Recommendations to where to shop, to see, or eat, but what interests me the most is how aware I'm of my surroundings.   When I wake up, and I look out the window, I see the rooftops of various Paris buildings.  I have the urge to leap out of the window and hop from one rooftop after another, like my spiritual hero Fantômas.  Alas, I have a fear of heights, which stops me from doing such a practice.

Nevertheless, I do take the elevator down to the street level and leave the building in that sort of manner.   The lift itself is small.   Not that long ago we invited my Japanese relative to our place here in Paris, and even she commented that this is the smallest elevator ever, and that's a compliment of sorts for anyone who spent time in Japan.  There is Tokyo small, and then there's Paris tiny.   I often think of the substantial men walking around the city and how they can fit into a typical Parisian elevator. 

Today is Oscar Wilde day.  Lun*na and I decided to visit his tomb which is located in Père Lachaise Cemetery.  In the past, I have tried to locate his grave by using a tourist map or two, but consistently got lost, and never found the location.  This time, with the miracle of the smartphone, I can find the blasted tomb.   I'm not the type of guy who has heroes, but Oscar Wilde is a different breed of the icon for me.  Ever since I was a young teenager, I have been drawn to his life and writings.   I remember that I even had photographs of Wilde up in my bedroom wall.   The reason why I looked up to him in such a manner is mostly due to his 'outlaw' image and his sexuality.   He seemed to be a man born in the 19th century, but very much a 20th-century figure, or dare I say it, a 21st-century man.  When my memory was good, I used to quote his quotations to whoever would hang out with me. I was apparently an Oscar Wilde bore.

As one approaches Père Lachaise from the south, you are consistently waking uphill, and following my phone map to the Oscar destination is quite a hike.  Once I reached there, I'm surprised that the tomb is not more prominent.   My vision of the burial site is that it was a block-long, but alas, the nature of the tomb looks lonely and a worthy subject matter for a Smiths song.  Still, the monument by British sculptor Jacob Epstein is magnificent.  One's impression is that it's an art deco piece, but  I think that's simplifying the design.  Wilde died in 1900, and Epstein built the tomb in 1914.  It was commissioned by Wilde's literary executor Robert Ross and paid anonymously, but over time the donor was revealed to be Helen Carew.  Ironically there were some during that era that wished that the statue was homoerotica, but Epstein chose Wilde's poem "The Sphinx" as the inspiration for his work.  

Epstein did most of his work in England, and then transported the tomb to Paris, but had trouble going through customs.   On the French side, they refused to see it as a work of art, and customs charged an import duty of 120 pounds, due to its material, which was paid by Ross.   The sculpture had testicles but was covered by plaster by an unknown figure on the French side of the world.   As a compromise, Epstein made a bronze butterfly to cover up the testicles, but that too was altered or stolen by famed poet and occultist Aleister Crowley.   Weeks after discovering the removal of the butterfly, Epstein by chance meets up with Crowley at a Paris cafe, where the occultist had the bronze butterfly around his neck, wearing it like a necklace.  Crowley told Epstein that his work is now on display as he intended. 

Epstein had a successful and long career as an artist, and his eldest daughter, Kathleen, was married to the British painter Lucian Freud, who did numerous portraits of her.  Her nick-name is Kitty, and the painting "Portrait of Kitty" is a classic work by Freud. 

Looking at the tomb today I feel overwhelmed, almost starstruck seeing such a monument to such a great figure like Oscar Wilde.  What I like about the work is that it does reflect on Wilde, but not in an obvious manner.  I feel it has a life of its own.  It's interesting to note that they put a glass wall around the tomb because of the damage caused over the years by fans.  There are many lipstick lips on the grave which gives it an erotic edge.  

- Tosh Berman 

Friday, September 14, 2018

September 14, 2018 (Paris)

September 14, 2018

Although I'm working on a writing project in Paris, I feel weird staying inside my Airbnb apartment,  while there's Paris life outside my window.  I feel like a child who is forced to stay in their bedroom, and you can hear voices outside, and see people eating, but you have to remain in your space due that you are a naughty child.  The truth is I'm a terrible child.  I'm 64 years old, and still, mainly a 4-year old.   I'm so in-tuned to my childhood feelings, that being an adult makes me feel like a foreigner in my aging body.   I sit here typing away, yet I have one eye on the computer screen, and the other is looking outside my little window showing the roof-top view of the world. I sat here and finally wrote one sentence.  That, I feel was enough work for the day, and admittedly I need to go out and investigate the outside world. 

When I left the building, I didn't have a clue what direction to go, or if I was going anywhere specific.  By my animalistic instinct, I headed toward rue Vieille du Temple going south.   My dad's art dealer lives near the area, so I remember the neighborhood.  The Marais is an old Jewish district in Paris, and it's a mixture of boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, gay/lesbian culture, and a touch of middle-Eastern life as well.  One of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris, due to the mixture of tourist and citizen.  One of the fantastic things about Paris is that it's a place of immigrants of all sorts, and in a sense, it is still Paris, that is in one's imagination.  Café La Perle is famous to me, for the sole reason that a renowned French designer was kicked out of there for saying racist stuff to the fellow citizens of that bar/cafe.  I wasn't there when it happened, so I wouldn't know what is real or not true.  Although I suspect that the incident did happen as reported by the press and witnesses.  

I kept going down South and made sure I stayed on the street because I didn't want to get lost or lose my sense of direction.  At this point, I knew I wanted to go to the Left Bank and visit Saint Michel, a street that brings me a lot of good memories.  As I walked, I came upon La Chaumiere en I'lle (4 rue Jean du Bellay, 75004 Paris) and decided to go there to have lunch. I ordered a glass of red wine and a plate of penne with tomato sauce.  Not an exciting dish by any means, but something simple gave me great pleasure.  Bread came with the meal (of course, we're in Paris) and the joy I received from dipping my bread into the sauce also reminded me of my childhood.  As a kid, I loved dipping something into something.  Especially when you can eat it as well.   I sat there as I ate and I took out my notebook to write poetry.    The only thing that I came up with:  "Penne Red/Penne bad/Penne went insane."  Not Rimbaud, but still, a mediocre Tosh.   The meal put me in a bright mood, as I paid my bill and headed toward the Norte Dame.  

The one thing I enjoy about the structure that is the Norte Dame are the sculptures of demons looking down at you.   I feel that this is a demon within yours truly.  I know they are a spirit or a symbol to protect the building, but me being me, I take it personally.  I look up, and I feel this is my "Picture of Dorian Gray" moment.  My body is here, but my spirit is within those demons that look over Paris.   With that thought in mind, I headed toward Shakespeare and Company, an all-English bookstore that is located 37 rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris.   I've been here many times in the last 30 years or so, and it is always a special place within my heart.   The question is "why?"  For one, it's a great bookstore within a fantastic architectural space.  One feels like they are going into a cave.  The other thing I like about the store is that in their rare book annex they are displaying in the window a copy of "Narcotica," a book of poems by "Beat"/Surrealist poet Phillip Lamantia, and perhaps his translation of Artaud's writings as well.  The cover of the book is designed/photographed by my father, Wallace Berman.   I haven't seen a copy of this book since I was a child.   They were charging 400 Euros for "Narcotica."  I went inside the bookstore and asked them if their rare book annex was open or what their hours are.  They told me that the person who runs the space is on vacation and will not be back until next week.

On the other hand, since I last been here, Shakespeare & Company opened up a cafe.   While I was there, I notice that a lot of British and American tourists were in the store, as well as a student wanting to sell her books - which she had both French and English titles. Other then that, I couldn't find anything I wanted at the store.  I was slightly disappointed that they didn't have any of my Boris Vian titles (TamTam Books) in stock at the time I was there.  Nor any books by Tosh Berman.   Still, it was nice that my dad was represented in their store (sort of). 

I have heard of Crocodisc records, but never been there, until now. I found it on my phone map and went directly there from Shakespeare and Company.  Crocodisc (40/42 Rue des Écoles, 75005 Paris) is a fantastic used vinyl record store that is tightly packed with goodies.  What is it about French record stores and having their albums so packed so tightly?  Nevertheless, I found vinyl copies of recordings that I have been looking for a while now.  They are two albums by Jean-Claude Vannier, and an obscure record by Gérard Manset called "Le Train du Soir."  There's a song here on this album that is a French-rock-pop masterpiece "Les Loops."  You can find it on YouTube.   The gentlemen who work here are very helpful.   When I asked if they have any albums by Jean-Claude Vannier, he thought I said "John Coltrane."  Which shows you how horrible my pronunciation of French words.   A great record store!

I walked on Rue des Ecoles to Saint Michel, and I (again) by instinct walked into Gilbert Joseph (26 Boulevard Saint-Michel, 75006 Paris), which is a bookstore as well as a music store.  I found a vinyl copy of Jacques Dutronc's "Gentleman Cambrioleur," a recent reissue, but originally came out in 1975.  Here on this album, he worked with Serge Gainsbourg.  I have been searching for this album as well.   For today's shopping a perfect score of 100%.  

As I headed back to our apartment, I went shopping for laundry soap and two bananas.   As soon as I dropped my packages, I took Lun*na out to a sushi restaurant nearby our Paris home.   

- Tosh Berman