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book review: The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones: Sound Opinions on the Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Rivalry

[Book Review]

The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones:
Sound Opinions on the Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Rivalry

Text by Jim deRogatis and Greg Kot
2010, Voyageur Press, Minneapolis, MN


Reviewed by Kent Manthie

Well Voyageur Press has done it again…This time the Minneapolis-based publishers of such memorable “coffee-table” books, such as the history-in-pictures-and-text of The Velvet Underground: A 30 Year Biography and a book on the life and the many phases and times of Neil Young in Long May You Run (both reviewed by myself in previous dispatches for Reviewer), have just published The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones: Sound Opinions on the Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Rivalry, veteran rock critics Jim deRogatis and Greg Kot.

These two writers at one time were the Siskel and Ebert of music criticism – that is, just as Siskel and Ebert were both film critics for competing newspapers – Ebert wrote for the Sun-Times, while Siskel penned his paean to those escapist movies that Joe Blue Collar would enjoy as much as Mary West End, for the staid Chicago Tribune. Well, those are, coincidentally, the same two newspapers that DeRogatis and Kot wrote (write?) for – Jim wrote for the Sun-Times while Kot wrote for the Tribune. I don’t know all that much about Greg Kot, I’m afraid, but I am quite familiar with DeRogatis’s name, having seen his byline appear in such magazines as SPIN and Esquire, but his days as a deadline-given rock critic are in his past. But I can tell you that Greg Kot has written some books, including Wilco: Learning How to Die and Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music. He’s also contributed to numerous articles and magazines. He also coaches youth basketball and has authored a book on the subject.

As far as Jim DeRogatis goes, since his gig at the Sun-Times he has written several biographies of luminaries in the rock loop, including bios of Lester Bangs, one on The Flaming Lips and a history of 4 decades of psychedelic music. He is also a full-time member of the English Department at Columbia College, Chicago.

In this book, the two focus in on one particular subject in each chapter and, while the book is filled with tons and tons of vivid photographs: concert posters, close-up snapshots, band promo pix and the odd candid shot here and there, they still have plenty of room to discuss, deconstruct and debate the finer points of the different aspects of the comparisons. On a few things they agree, in fact, they seem to agree on a lot of the “big picture” things, but when it comes to minutiae, trivialities and “perceived wisdom”, that’s when it gets interesting and you get to read each writer’s take on his perspective of what this or that album or song meant, or they’ll debate the importance of so-and-so to this or that. The great thing about this back-and-forth is that it isn’t merely two die-hard fans arguing about which one has the better band as an icon, but rather an in-depth deconstruction of many myths and frank discussions about how important this or that really was and then you get both Jim and Greg’s take on a given person or subject and then the other one will chime in to disagree and give his take on the thing at hand. So, it isn’t just a pissing contest, one actually comes away having learned a thing or two as well as being filled with the opinions of two rock critics who are also big fans. The varying opinions aren’t at all contradictory or confusing and they don’t lend themselves to clueless ones that would use their opinions and morph them into their own, no, the ideas expressed helps the average fan of either or both bands clarify for him or herself why it is they’re fans in the first place. I know for myself, that it evoked opinions of my own, stoked the fires of passion for my music and so, I didn’t come out of the book thinking that either Jim or Greg had “won” the argument – no, the winner is YOU – the reader, for it helps you to re-formulate your own opinions regarding the two bands that have, long ago, slipped into that mystical realm of legend and mythology.

There are also reams and reams of great photographs – both B & W shots from way, way back as well as vivid color shots of the steady metamorphosis of both bands, a changeling factor that was even more pronounced, for obvious reasons, in the long, storied career of the “World’s Best Rock & Roll Band”, which is why I say that these two great writers in their own right – were asked to write the “text” for this book – because, as you’ll see when you get the book – it’s dominated by the ubiquity of the photographs – promo shots, concert photos, backstage candid pics as well as both bands frolicking at play, at a party or some function and often with sexy women and other luminaries.

The whole book is a whirligig of visual and cerebral delight that you will treasure and just to make sure you take good care of that book, it has one of those “flip” pictures in the middle of the cover – you know, the kind that shows one picture when you hold it one way and when you turn it sideways or whatever, depending on the light, a different picture altogether shows up; in this case there is one picture of the young, matching suits-era Beatles in a B & W promo shot on one “plane” and on the other “plane” there is a color promo shot of the stones, all messy-looking, with their longish hair and Keith Richards wearing the coolest pair of shades ever! So be kind to it and the book will give you a lifetime of enjoyment.

-KM

The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones: Sound Opinions on the Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Rivalry
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book review… Last Stop: A Survivor’s Tale

O[New Book Review]

Last Stop: A Survivor’s Tale

by Nelson Valez and Tommy McInnis, on Amazon.com, Xlibris.com

Reviewed by Reviewer Rob

This book’s about a real story of real people doing an important job in a real city, “The City.” New York is an amazing place. Nowhere else can you get the full spectrum of the human experience combined in one strip of real estate. There are larger, more populated metro centers, but none with the range of citizenry. Tommy McInnis and Nelson Valez worked the unkind streets of NYC assisting its most vulnerable and unlucky, the homeless. McInnis, now an EMT, was an MTA Connections outreach worker and Valez was an NYPD Transit Police Officer working the Homeless Outreach Unit. This book, written in the gritty street parlance of the town that fans of Law And Order have come to love, documents their story. It’s good to see a the tale told from this perspective. McInnis was once homeless but turned his fortune around. Too many people glance past the forgotten of society. It’s easy to say they live that way because they want to, that they deserve to because they choose that lifestyle due to drugs, alcohol or negative mental temperament. The homeless here in San Diego are a growing section of the community, with whole families sent curbside because of corrupt lending practices in the real estate mortgage industry. Here the homeless come west if they’re close to the coast. Interstate 10 dead ends at the beach and then it’s “OK, everyone off the bus, last stop!” This book provides at least one person’s answer to the question, “Where do you go from there?” [Xlibris.com] RR

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Finally – a funny AND intelligent book worth reading

Smashed, Squashed, Splattered, Chewed, Chunked and Spewed
A Novel by Lance Carbuncle
(Self-published, ©2007)
Reviewed by Kent Manthie

Smashed, Squashed, Splattered, Chewed, Chunked and Spewed

For those of you who’ve been keeping up on the world of hip, urbane and witty “underground” novels and the people who write them, you are right, I am going backwards: I reviewed Lance Carbuncle’s latest, most recent novel, Grundish and Askew a year or so back; then shortly after that he sent me his first novel to check out and write up something on it if I could. After finishing off the few books I was reading, juggling, so to speak, through them, usually parts of one in the daytime, another one in the evening and then some more of the third right before I go to sleep on a regular evening.
Reading Lance’s first novel, with the extraordinarily verbose title: Smashed, Squashed, Splattered, Chewed, Chunked and Spewed, I didn’t have a chance to let any other books get in the way because it was so compelling – well, that and it wasn’t too long either: it runs an easy 266 pages.
So, I saw it sitting there one early evening, then I picked it up to, at the very least, skim through it and see if anything interesting popped out at me, not really knowing what I was going to do with it. What happened instead was, I ended up liking what I was reading so I just kept on going to find out what happens next – and, then the next thing and the next thing and so on, et cetera, and the next thing I notice, I’m already past page 179 and I was still going and kept at it for a while longer until I finished it and it was worth it.
Just as in his latest work, Grundish and Askew it is loaded with hilarious descriptions, observances and also I found so many little lines of dialogue – snippets, if you will – taken from Blue Velvet (“Don’t you fuckin’ look at me…” “Heineken?! Fuck that shit, PABST BLUE RIBBON!” and “one thing I can’t stand is warm fuckin’ beer”); having seen that film about 20 times I instantly recognized it the first time he used one of them, the “Heineken-Pabst” thing. That was pretty cool, I thought. I wonder if anyone else will recognize those lines too. Anyway a little later into the book, he does some more of that kind of thing – I guess you could think of it as “sampling” – like they do in hip-hop/rap and so on. It’d be the same thing, but it’d be silent and used as a literary device not a rap song. There were little snippets of song lyrics and lots and lots of American pop-culture “stuff” throughout.
The main gist of the story is that the first-person style gives us a personal narration of what’s going on, blow-by-blow…account of what’s going on and adds a personal touch to the story and its action. Incidentally – and I had to go back and flip through the book again to double-check, but…- we never do find out the name of the protagonist, since, for one thing, it’s written in first-person narrative style, as I mentioned. Besides the unnamed narrator, though, there is a cavalcade of characters throughout the book where one pops up here, another one pops up there and so forth, which is normal, since the main characters are basically on the road or on the run for the duration of the book. It all takes place between a small town in Ohio, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida and he, at least – the narrator – has to get back to some small town to “get his soul back” – that he sold, a la Bart Simpson, by writing “so-and so’s soul” on it in exchange for getting laid. But, it turns out that he actually did lose his soul and his beloved dog, Idjit Galoot, a 15-year old Bassett Hound, a breed that, according to our narrator, normally live until about age 12, so this dog’s pretty old. The way Idjit is described doesn’t make him sound all that endearing, but I guess it was still a loyal and good dog to have, plus he’d had it all his life anyway, so it was like his best friend almost. Anyway his mom was rushing him to get the rented moving van that was packed with stuff (including their dead stuffed dad, but you’ll have to read the book for more on that) and when he couldn’t find the dog his mom said she’d get him and bring him down with her. But – oops! – Idjit never does come back or make it back or whatever, but he and the guy’s dead dad both keep appearing in dreams of his, guiding him on his “journey” which ends up being a wild, almost Blues-Brothers-ish wild ride that includes all sorts of interesting people – and featured a lot of greats in cameos, but the similarity ends in that want they’re wanted for is something that was a totally freak accident but made worse by the discovery of what the hitchhiker left in his car when our narrator got a little spooked and ditched the guy at some rest stop but forgot his backpack – uh-oh…but, again, for more you’ll just have to buy the book!
S.S.S.C.C.&S is, bottom line, a very funny “road” book – a de facto adventure, an accidental joyride up through a hurricane in South Florida back up north to first get his “soul” back from the girl he “sold” it to because, his dog was such a loyal pet that it even let his master use his own “chi” to live on until he could get his own soul back and all that was spending up his good dog. Then he had to back and get his dog. Throughout all of it there is a whole hell of a lot more going on in between; it’s a series of veritable freakshows, one after the other, that sidetrack or distract our hero from his mission. He manages to be lucky in that he has some good friends and relatives who help him out and he manages to beat the hurricane out of South Florida, just barely eking out of there on a now-banned all-terrain-cycle (ATC), a three wheeled monster with big behemoth-like tires that got him through a lot of stuff that a regular car wouldn’t have been able to do – drive through ditches, off-roading, et cetera.
It certainly is a great escape for a day or day & ½, depending on how long you spend reading at any given time. As mentioned, it is a very funny book; an irreverent trek through a storm-ravaged (and beyond) wilderness of rednecks and white trash that turn out to be friend and sometimes kin and the people he seems to be with all the time like to party. A lot. So the escapades and the incidents and trips, stops and starts all make for a great plot and it is filled in with lots of interesting ways of looking at things and there are even footnotes, lining the bottom of some pages; they’re not documenting anything or using it to give credit for a quote, like a typical academic text; instead they are there to supplement certain ideas or to buttress arguments, show precedents for certain odd things and other colorful, fun factoids that were not all that important to go into the main text itself, but yet, they’re a unique thing for fiction, a cool literary device and, as the author mentions in his foreword, one can either get into the notes or, if they get in the way of the continuity of the story, you can skip them altogether. Don’t skip this book, though – it is truly a delight and would probably make a good comedy flick -there are plenty of walk on “scenes” that would be perfect for lots of cameo appearances by all kinds of celebrities.
-KM

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Hellenistic

Art Nudes/Female Figure Studies

Beauty & the Art Of The Nude

I’m going to be posting more nudes, well, “art photos” and “female figure studies,” as they’re sometimes called. There’s eventually going to be password-protected galleries for paying members. That’s the plan. 🙂

I’ve officially started with one of this fine model pictured, and posted it on our index page last night. So we’ll see how that goes.

Reviewer will still be a music and entertainment magazine/website. But let’s give credit where credit’s due here. Beautiful girls are so much a part of art and music, don’t you agree?

You may read a bit more about this particular photo in my blog HERE.

~Reviewer Rob


Click the pic for greater resolution.

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new books: HEART OF DARKNESS as a graphic novel

“Method? What method?”

from guardian.co.uk/books

By Sam Jones

In the 108 years since it was published, Joseph Conrad’s colonial fable Heart of Darkness has infected TS Eliot, been excoriated for racism by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe and transplanted to Vietnam by Francis Ford Coppola.

Now the book has been reinterpreted as a graphic novel in whose monochrome pages Conrad’s exploration of power, greed and madness plays out as disturbingly as ever.

Catherine Anyango, whose drawings are peppered with David Zane Mairowitz’s adaptation of the text, had her doubts about tackling the Polish-born novelist’s most famous work.

Those reservations had more to do with the original medium than the enduring controversy over Conrad’s views or the familiarity of Heart of Darkness.

“I wasn’t sure initially if it was a good subject for a graphic novel as the writing is so dense and the style of it is partly what attracts me to the book,” she said.

“As I knew we couldn’t keep most of the text in, I tried to make the drawings very rich in detail and texture so that immersive feeling you get, especially when he describes the river and the jungle, was carried across.”

Anyango was determined not to allow the horror of the book’s subject matter to overwhelm her drawings. “I wanted to draw the reader in with seductive imagery, and then show them that even in the most beautiful of settings, terrible things can happen.”

There was also Coppola’s 1979 epic to contend with.

“I was too terrified to watch Apocalypse Now,” the Kenyan-Swedish artist said. “Partly because I didn’t want to end up with any similar visuals and also I had been warned that something nasty happens to a cow … [but] Apocalypse Now is huge and well, apocalyptic, but Heart of Darkness is a much quieter story.”

Anyango, who grew up in Kenya where she went to a British school, wanted to steer a course that was as true as possible to the original so that her version did not sink under the weight of too much intellectual baggage.

Below, the original novella. Above-right, cover of the new graphic novel/interpretation.


“When I was dealing with the book, I was focused solely on the particular events of the Congo, rather than colonialism in general,” she said. “I wasn’t trying to tell the history of colonialism either, but to situate this particular narrative in a way that people might ask: what on earth was the attitude of that time that these things could happen?”

To reinforce the geographical and historical immediacy of Conrad’s tale, the graphic novel is interspersed with excerpts from The Congo Diary – the journal Conrad kept of his 1890 voyage up the river.

Anyango’s research also led her to the story of a man from a village in the Upper Congo called Nsala. She came across a photograph of him sat on a step contemplating the hand and foot of his daughter, which had been cut off by guards sent to his village by the Anglo Belgian India Rubber Company. The men, ordered to attack Nsala’s village for failing to provide the company with enough rubber, devoured his wife and daughter, leaving only the child’s hand and foot.

“I put him on one page, and similar portraits on others, so the Congolese characters have resonance at least for me, even if they remain stereotyped because of the existing narrative,” she said.

In her efforts to ensure the authenticity of the uniforms she drew — the protagonist, Marlow, is given a cap with a prominent Belgian lion badge — Anyango was shocked to discover how markedly Belgian perceptions of the occupation of Congo still vary.

For some, it is a shameful episode in the country’s history, while others still view it as a benign experience despite the evidence uncovered by recent histories such as Adam Hochschild’s 1998 book, King Leopold’s Ghost, which laid bare the barbarism inflicted on Congo.

The artist found that Belgium’s colonial deeds “seem to have vanished into history, with the [country’s] education system not dwelling on anything but positive aspects of the colonial rule”.

That may not be not wholly surprising: at her school in Nairobi, Anyango did not learn about Britain’s colonies.

It is this creeping colonial amnesia — not to mention a catalogue of recent and current events — which, she argues, give Heart of Darkness both its relevance and its universality.

“It’s about the idea of entitlement; [how] through the ages we enforce our feelings of entitlement in whatever way that age will allow — from Leopold II owning the Congo as a private possession to the corporations involved with blood diamonds. The effects of entitlement have not so much gone out of fashion as out of sight.”

Dr Keith Carabine, who teaches literature at the University of Kent and chairs the Joseph Conrad Society, agrees that Kurtz, the ivory trader whose misplaced idealism has putrefied into savagery and madness, has become an archetypal figure.

Heart of Darkness is the most important book in the last 100-plus years not because it’s the best, but because it anticipated how 20th century leaders with visions of bringing light and creating new models for humans beings – Hitler, Lenin, Pol Pot, Mao – all ended up,” he said. “When disappointed by the response of the very groups they wanted to save or help or transform, they, like Kurtz, wish to (and actually do, of course) ‘exterminate all the brutes!'”

Of the Edwardian novella’s continuing relevance, Carabine is unequivocal. “If Bush and Cheney and the neocons had read Heart of Darkness and understood it, they would not have invaded Iraq under the absurd utopian illusion that the Iraqis were gagging for democracy.”

Image panel from the new graphic novel interpretation of HEART OF DARKNESS.