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December 18th, 2008

SOHO JOURNAL REVIEWS: PART 1.

by Mr. Norman Maine

Addictionary: Brave New Words
By Jim Banister
Illustrated By Robert Hanson
Published By Harry N. Abrams Inc.
US $12.95
160 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-8109-7269-8

We all invent words and coin phrases; it’s how language evolves. Taken from the popular website by the same name, Addictionary: Brave New Words collects the best of these “new words” into this handy volume, organized into categories (including technology, politics, dating, sports, religion, and medicine) and cleverly illustrated throughout.

Everyone knows a “dumpegator,” a person who delegates huge tasks ten minutes before they are due; many have encountered people who suffer from “algoreaphobia,” an irrational fear of the former presidential candidate—no better time for a word like that huh? A select few have reached “beervana,” the blissful state of oblivion brought on through copious consumption of malted hops; while others might be unrealistically proportioned, or “dolluptuous.”

A great gift for any wordsmith, Addictionary is on the cutting edge of the English language, staking claims on new linguistic territory with an arch blend of the sharply intellectual and the sublimely silly. This is also perfect if you want to try and get away with a few extra points in Scrabble!

Greg Lynn Form
Edited by Greg Lynn and Mark Rappolt; Contributions by J.G. Ballard, Jeffrey Kipnis and Bruce Sterling
Format: Hardcover
US Price: $55.00
CAN Price: $71.00
ISBN: 978-0-8478-3102-9 (0-
8478-3102-7)
Publisher: Rizzoli

Greg Lynn is one of the most thought provoking, exciting and provocative architects working today. Lynn has redefined how designers and architects use computers as a medium, thus creating powerful work in an ever-growing field that marries state of the art technology, contemporary arts, and a futuristic, almost science fiction-like aesthetic with architectural form. At the very core of the on-going debates about the role of digital design in architecture and design, his works masterfully meld cutting edge technology and intricate workmanship, driven by modeling software from the film and aerospace industries.

Included in this wonderful book are contributions from theorists, architects, artists, and futurists like Sylvia Lavin, Ben van Berkel, and Caroline Bos of UN Studio, J.G. Ballard, and Tom Friedman, among others. Greg Lynn Form offers a window into Lynn’s methods and techniques, theoretical positions, and career trajectory.

Rather than a retrospective of Lynn’s career, this book is thought-provoking and forwardlooking. We have come to expect a standard of excellence from Rizzoli and they again live up to the expectations. The thought and care that goes into all Rizzoli books is on display here. The paper, printing, design and overall execution of this book make it as much a work of art as the buildings it describes.

Brand Upon The Brain
DVD
2006
99 minutes
Black & White/Color
Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0

In the weird and wonderfully super-cinematic world of Canadian cult filmmaker Guy Maddin, personal memory collides with movie lore for a radical sensory overload. This eerie excursion into the Gothic recesses of Maddin’s mad, imaginary childhood is a silent, black-and-white comic science-fiction nightmare set in a lighthouse on grim Black Notch Island, where fictional protagonist Guy Maddin was raised by an iron-fisted, puritanical mother. Originally mounted as a theatrical event (accompanied by live orchestra, Foley artists, and assorted narrators), Brand upon the Brain! is an irreverent, delirious trip into the mind of one of current cinema’s true eccentrics.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
New high-definition digital transfer.

Narration tracks by Isabella Rossellini, Laurie Anderson, John Ashbery, Guy Maddin, Louis Negin, and Eli Wallach.

97 Percent True, a new documentary featuring interviews with the director and his collaborators.

Two new short films directed by Maddin exclusively for this release: It’s My Mother’s Birthday Today and Footsteps.

A new essay by film critic Dennis Lim.

Bumping Into Geniuses: My Life Inside The Rock And Roll Business
By Danny Goldberg
Gotham Books
US $26.00
305 pages
ISBN 978-1-592-40370-7

If the music business is truly the land of giants, then the land has been ruled by a select few for decades—and the giants don’t come much bigger than Danny Goldberg. This veteran of the music industry grants an all-access pass to the world of rock and roll, with mesmerizing stories of thirty-five years spent working with legends, from Led Zeppelin to Stevie Nicks to Nirvana.

Danny Goldberg has been a hugely influential figure in the world of rock and roll. Starting out at Billboard compiling charts for the industry bible, Goldberg then went on to do PR for Led Zeppelin and launch Stevie Nicks’s solo career at the height of Fleetwood Mac’s fame. He eventually managed the career of Nirvana, became the CEO of Warner Brother Records (overseeing Warner, Electra and Atlantic Records) and in one way or another has assisted in the careers of the greatest rock stars in the last thirty years.

In Bumping into Geniuses, Goldberg shares his stories about the artists who represent a broad and powerful portion of the real estate of the rock and roll kingdom: Patti Smith, Warren Zevon, Bruce Springsteen, KISS, Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, Hole, Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt, Steve Earle, Led Zeppelin, and more.

But there’s much more to his story than just his vast and varied career. The book also examines the industry itself, a business that is neither the romantic vehicle for self-expression that its most naive fans imagined, nor the purely crass money machine depicted by its most cynical critics. It is complex and chaotic—a mixture of art and commerce, idealism and selfishness—yet sometimes, rock’s most gifted and influential musicians were able to transcend it all.

For anyone interested in the business of rock and roll, or simply the mores and temperaments of the musicians themselves, Bumping into Geniuses is an incredible insider’s tale told by the ultimate insider. The one thing this book does lack is a photo section. Certainly Goldberg has a massive archive of pictures of himself with everyone from ABBA to ZZ Top; where are they? Honestly, I’d be really pissed off about this if the book wasn’t so completely interesting, but still, a few pics would have been nice.

Million Dollar Les Paul: In Search Of The Most Valuable Guitar In The World
By Tony Bacon
JAWBONE PRESS
US $19.95
288 pages
ISBN 978-1-906002-14-5

When you imagine a guitar God, he, (or she, but mainly he) is holding what…a Les Paul guitar. Symbol of rock, the power chord, weapon of choice for the best of the best, the coolest of the cool: Mick Ronson, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Slash, and let’s not forget Ace Frehley’s Les Paul that launched rockets! What is it that makes this guitar so cool? Is it the way the light bounces off its perfectly polished finish, the way it hangs, or is it that unmistakable, thick crunch it makes that separates it from the Stratocaster or the Gibson SG, both amazing instruments that somehow lack the mystique of the Les Paul?

In 1958 Gibson introduced an electric guitar called the Les Paul Standard, a solid body electric with mahogany body, two pickups, and a three-color sunburst maple top, priced at $280. About 1,500 were made before production ceased in 1960 of what was, at the time, a not-particularly successful model. But when guitar heroes such as Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page began to use the Les Paul in the 1960s, the legend of the ‘burst’ began. The guitars became among the most desirable ever made, and to buy one now you’d be looking to pay about ten times the original price.

So how did that happen? Who are the musicians who play these hallowed instruments and who are the collectors who’ll pay hundreds of thousands for them? And is there actually a one million dollar Les Paul? Through a series of interviews with players, collectors, guitar-makers, dealers, and others, leading guitar historian Tony Bacon mulled over these questions, and, in Million Dollar Les Paul, he offers some answers. This is a unique book, combining some fine investigative journalism, very interesting music history, and a dash of guitar geekiness in a mystical quest to uncover the secrets of this hidden world of musical instruments– a world where science and superstition meet, and where the dusty case under the bed just might turn out to hold the guitar equivalent of the Holy Grail…or at least an unsmoked half a joint!

Historic Photos Of Brooklyn
TURNER Publishing
$39.95 US
ISBN 978-1-596-524-345

Brooklyn, a magical name, both fantasy and enigma. Yet despite its (fading) reputation of big city Mobsters (replaced by hipsters), Brooklyn consists of provincial, suburban neighborhoods and beautiful parks, much like a giant small town. For over 300 years, Brooklyn suffered growing pains; but throughout, it offered hospitality, jobs, and recreation, as the photographs in this volume show. Millions crossed the East River and worked hard to build a city, and Brooklyn’s image grew and took hold: the sounds of the streets and factories, the heroism, the loyalty, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Historic Photos of Brooklyn shows how Brooklyn’s pride has traveled from decade to decade, and with this continuity, how Brooklyn has matured, building farmhouses, frame houses, skyscrapers, classrooms, brownstones, libraries, mom and pop stores, department stores, restaurants, theaters, ships, elevated trains, airplanes. Today’s residents carry on a tradition started centuries ago and highlighted in Historic Photos of Brooklyn. Another beautiful entree into the beautiful photographs collection of books from Turner. Well researched, and as usual the print quality is exceptional.

Notable Moments of Women In Music
By Jay Warner
Foreward By Melissa Etheridge
Published By Hal Leonard
US $19.95
456 pages
ISBN 978-1-4234-2951-7

Successful, pioneering, groundbreaking, famous, and infamous—these are some of the traits of the many women who have shaped music history in modern times. Sharing a wealth of knowledge from his years of experience working in the music industry, the author reveals hundreds and hundreds of facts about the women who have shaped music as we know it today.

Author and Grammy winning music publisher Jay Warner’s in-depth research provides an exciting history of the influence woman have had on music, and it clearly illustrates that the Madonnas, Christinas and Beyonces of our time—while talented—may not be as groundbreaking as the myspace generation might think. This amazing book is presented in a clear and concise calendar format, starting in 1873 and ending in April 2008. The book also includes some really nice black and white photos and a few lines of insight from some of today’s brightest…”The best part [of being a star] is the fans, like, loving you—and the free clothes…Sundance is weird. The movies are weird– you actually have to think about them when you watch them…I always like performing overseas. Like Canada”–Britney Spears. If that’s not enough to make you want to run out and buy this, I don’t know what is! Actually, Miss Spears’ words of wisdom aside, this really is an excellent read–fast, fun and very interesting.

Robert Therrien
Written by Norman Bryson and Margit Rowell
Publisher: Rizzoli
US Price: $75.00
CAN Price: $86.00
ISBN: 978-0-8478-3164-7 (0- 8478-3164-7)

The creative genius that is Robert Therrien lives in Los Angeles and his work is celebrated in major museum collections around the world. Therrien is known primarily as a sculptor, although he is also a painter, printmaker and photographer. Author Norman Bryson is a Professor in the Department of Visual Arts, University of California San Diego. As art historian and theorist, Bryson has published widely in the areas of eighteenth-century art history, critical theory, and contemporary art. Margit Rowell retired as chief curator of drawing at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2002, and has published several books of contemporary art.

What makes Therrien so very special is that he has the ability—the gift really—to take ordinary objects and make them unfamiliar and almost new (not an easy task when dealing with something as simple as a chair). He removes functionality to reveal the metaphoric associations in objects. Notable works include his series of monumental tables and chairs, giant-sized stacks of pots, plates and bowls, and fifteen-foot fake beards hanging on their stands, among other works. Expertly photographed, with an insightful interview by Bryson, this is the first major book to examine Therrien’s unique body of work. Planned to coincide with the exhibition of Therrien’s sculptures in May 2008 at Gagosian Gallery in New York City, this volume is a must for anyone interested in almost any form of contemporary art.

Salo, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom
DVD
1975
112 minutes
Color
Dolby Digital Mono 1.0
Italian

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s notorious and final film, Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, has been called nauseating, shocking, depraved, and pornographic–and all with just cause. This movie is so far over the top that whatever the top is can’t be seen anymore. This is one of those films that truly separates itself from being just a movie. This is film as art in its purest form, a perfect example of a director wanting to do something new, different and original and achieving their goal. That always starts with the best of intentions, but somewhere along the way things get compromised and you usually end up with Pretty Woman or American Beauty. This was not the case with Pasolini because Salo is honestly and most definitely a masterpiece. The controversial poet, novelist, and filmmaker’s transposition of the Marquis de Sade’s 18th-century opus of torture and degradation to 1944 Fascist Italy remains one of the most passionately debated films of all time, a thought-provoking inquiry into the political, social, and sexual dynamics that define the world we live in.

SPECIAL EDITION DOUBLE-DISC SET FEATURES:

New, restored high-definition digital transfer.

“Salo”: Yesterday and Today, a 33-minute documentary featuring interviews with director Pier Paolo Pasolini, actor-filmmaker Jean-Claude Biette, and Pasolini friend Nineto Davoli.
Fade to Black, a 23- minute documentary featuring directors Bernardo Bertolucci, Catherine Breillat, and John Maybury, as well as scholar David Forgacs.

The End of “Salo”, a 40-minute documentary about the film’s production.

New interviews with set designer Dante Ferretti and director and film scholar Jean-Pierre Gorin.

Optional English dubbed soundtrack.

Theatrical trailer.

A booklet featuring new essays by Neil Bartlett, Catherine Breillat, Naomi Greene, Sam Rohdie, Roberto Chiesi, and Gary Indiana, and excerpts from Gideon Bachmann’s on-set diary.

So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star: The Byrds Day-By-Day, 1965-1973
By Christopher Hjort
Jawbone Press
US $29.95
336 pages

In 1965 The Byrds had a worldwide smash with Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man, opened for The Rolling Stones in the US, hung out with The Beatles, undertook a disastrous tour of Great Britain, and capped the year with a second US chart-topper, Turn! Turn! Turn!.

Over the next few years they released the groundbreaking Eight Miles High single and a clutch of classic albums, enduring regular line-up changes that would have been the end of most bands but instead fuelled leader Roger McGuinn’s innate capacity for reinvention. With hindsight, The Byrds was one of the 60’s most influential bands. After virtually inventing folk-rock they pioneered psychedelia and country- rock, and were also the first guitar rock band to use synthesizers. Their influence endures in the mainstream rock of R.E.M. and Tom Petty, a multitude of jangly indie bands from the last 25 years, and just about every alt. country and Americana act on the scene.

Now, The Byrds story is unravelled, as it happened, day-by-day, in So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star. From the band’s formation and breakthrough hit in 1965 to the brief reunion of the original line-up in 1972/1973, this book is the most compelling and complete account of The Byrds ever published. Drawing on hundreds of lost and previously undiscovered sources, not to mention a wealth of previously unseen photos, it is a gripping chronicle of the life and times of this seminal band. This is really one of the finest books ever compiled on a rock band. It’s extraordinarily well-designed and is also laid out in a calendar format, which makes it very easy to read. The design and fonts used hold your interest as much as the smart writing does. Author Christopher Hjort is not only a well respected rock historian and author of the great Strange Brew: Eric Clapton & The British Blues Boom 1965-1970, but his love and knowledge of graphic design and typography make this already excellent book a little more special. Well done!

Tracey Ullman: State of the Union
DVD
Eagle Media
Produced by SHOWTIME
US $26.99
150 minutes

Tracey Ullman shot to international fame in the early days of the FOX network. Back then we were treated to an insane number of crazy characters created by Ms. Ullman, delivered tirelessly week after week. It should also be noted that The Tracey Ullman Show was the birthplace of The Simpsons. Those familiar with the comedian’s style already know her bitingly acerbic aesthetic, her penchant for characterization, her blatant disregard for societal norms and her overall anything-goes mentality.

Back then, Ullman was still a citizen of the United Kingdom. A lot has changed and she’s now one of us, a lazy American. And now that she is one of us she has set aside (temporarily we hope) the kooky Korean woman, the gun loving Texas housewife, Horny Turkish cabbie and a slew of others. This time around she has set her laser-like sights on the likes of Cameron Diaz, Renee Zellwegger, Helen Mirren, David Beckham and many others unlucky enough to encounter her pinpricks of satire.

The over 30 minutes of bonus features include blooper and out-take reels, screen tests with Tracey’s unique commentaries, a “Making Of” featurette, and extra material not seen in the show, including deleted scenes. I could never understand why this woman isn’t a bigger star; she’s a huge talent and this is a must have for all lovers of comedy.

The New York Nocturne: The City After Dark In Literature, Painting, and Photography, 1850-1950
William Chapman Sharpe
Princeton University Press
$35 US
456 pages
29 color plates, 117 half tones
ISBN 98-0-691-13324-9

How many times have you walked home really, really late at night—and I don’t mean 11:30, I mean 3:30 or 4:00am? Do you remember walking down the street on a night where it’s just as hot as it could be, where a warm breeze moves the trees but not the air, or a night when it just lightly drizzles, not had enough for you to get a cab, or maybe it was one of those nights when it was just chilly enough for it to snow but still warm enough to walk, you look up and the snow flakes are backlit by a street light. How magical New York is at night; the city is a little more quiet, midtown is empty except for a few trucks barreling down an empty avenue, the skyscrapers are illuminating the haze of the city, and the creatures of the night inhabit the doorways and 24 hour coffee shops, while those who struck out in a bar or club walk silently alone. Weather you grew up here or moved here like a lot of us, those are moments that still surprise you and make you grateful as you take all of this in and think to your self, wow, I live in New York City…how cool!

There are those better equipped to relay what I’m trying to say here and those thoughts and images are put across in this, my favorite book of the year.

New York Nocturne
is a chronicle in words, photographs and paintings of New York City at night, from gas light to electric street lights. This book captures everything from the quiet romance of the city in the famous Edward Steichen photograph “Flatiron” to gruesome images of death captured by Weegee to the quiet desperation of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. Others featured are Georgia O’Keefe, James Abbot McNeil Whistler, Alfred Stieglitz, Joesph Stella and Faith Reingold—the list goes on and on, but you get the picture.

Although this is a book about New York City, it’s also a book about artists, writers and photographers who were drawn to and inspired by the evolution of the illumination of the city and all that it brought about. The social and cultural changes that light brought about are examined here and strung together magnificently by author William Chapman Sharpe who uses stories, poetry, and magnificent art in all mediums to illustrate the changing times from the 1800’s to 1950. It’s just so well thought out and executed; the art and photography are brilliantly reproduced—the color plates are especially handled with great care and one can see that the author has taken pain-staking pride in his research and efforts. We say well done to William Chapman Sharpe and his publishers at Princeton.

If I have one complaint about this book, and this is minimal mind you, it’s the size. It’s shaped like a textbook and at 7×10″ it feels like one as well. It would have been a little better served in my opinion had it been a larger format, but as I said, that’s the tiniest of complaints. I sincerely meant what I wrote earlier–this is my very favorite book of the year, and I see and read a lot of books from wonderful, thoughtful, artistic publishers. It’s a great gift for anyone who loves New York City, great for an art lover or just a collector of truly excellent literature. It’s great for everyone!

ZZ Top: Live From Texas
Eagle Records
CD

The bearded trio are back with this CD soundtrack of their first ever live concert DVD, and it’s GREAT! They rock as much as they ever did and this is a must own for any ZZ fan or just fans of fun, loud, good time rock and roll.

New Kids On The Block
The Block
Legacy/Columbia
CD

You know ’em, You love ’em, you can’t live without them. New Kids on The Block are back with their first new music in 14 years. This is the deluxe version of the Block CD. It comes with 4 extra songs and a fold out poster booklet. They were the originals and they are still the very best.

We also like…Martha Wainwright’s CD, I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too on ZOE Records. Come Together: A Night Of John Lennons Words & Music, is a great 9/11 tribute DVD from Eaglerock Entertainment. Eaglerock Entertainment’s DVD Down The Tracks: The Music That Influenced Led Zeppelin, featuring the music Of Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Son House, Bukka White, Davey Graham and more, is another must have for lovers of classic rock and the blues masters who inspired them.

Filed Under: Articles | Arts & Leisure | Commentary | New York

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