Posts from 18th May 2005

May 05

Taschen’s Worst Book Ever

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 515 views

I’m a big fan of Taschen, and own quite a lot of their art books. Most of them are excellent. I saw a fat Taschen book on Japanese comics, entitled Manga, at a reduced price, so thought it would be good. It runs to nearly 600 pages, and there’s a free DVD with interviews and lots of cover images. There are lots of pics of comic pages in the book, and the writer Amano Masanao knows lots of facts about them. After that it’s all downhill.

The comic pages, as far as I can tell, are as originally printed. No translations, no reversals, nothing telling you what stories they are from. Comics aren’t images to be glanced at and admired, they are sequences to be read. A clue as to how to read them would help.

Worse is the format – two pages of pics (very occasionally four) and about a sixth of a page of text for each of 135 artists. I can’t work out what order they are in. There’s no index. Even a giant like Osamu Tezuka, who undoubtedly has whole books about him, gets the same few lines. There’s no context for these artists, no history, no sense of order or priority or weight.

The worst thing is the writing, so let’s also shame editor Julius Wiedemann here. His brief intro has gibberish like claiming that after the Meiji restoration, manga became as popular as western comics. Since the Meiji restoration predates western comics by decades, this makes no sense at all. But once the handover to Masanao happens it gets breathtakingly worse. Here’s a few lines from his fourth item:

“Mouretsou A Tarou” drew the hot-blooded and manly view of the world centering on the good boys of influence who perform a greengrocery, and also induced a noted character, such as NYAROME of a cat.

Magnificent. Would any publisher put out a book on Japanese (or any other kind of) painting by running the text through babelfish?


Popular22 comments • 2,680 views

#208, 22nd January 1966

About the only thing in this compact, well-tailored song that I don’t like are the occasional whoops and cries in the background. Everything else is precisely right: what’s so impressive about this record is how finely balanced its elements are. (Yet another working definition of ‘good pop’, that.) The pace is galloping but not so fast that the vocals can’t stretch out a little, their hint of languor reminding us who’s in control in this chase. Steve Winwood shows what a meaty singer he is without overplaying the fact beyond the needs of the song. There are handclaps that soften the shock of the fuzz guitar, which slices neatly into the track and leaves before we’ve had enough of it.

Tor! Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger

TMFDPost a comment • 295 views

I knew I was the target market for this book by page 10, “have you ever wondered why TSV Munich have 1860 as a suffix when the German game didn’t get off the ground until the 1890s?” It’s precisely the sort of thing I have pondered on and off for about 25 years.

The GDR has its own fascinating chapter. The notion that success would reflect well on the regional Communist officials led to whole teams being uprooted in the dead of night. You need a decent Berlin team? Bring that one from Dresden over. Stasi informers were everywhere; in the stands, on the bench, playing the holding role in midfield. East Germany first crossed swords with their neighbouring capitalist dogs in the 1974 World Cup, beating them 1-0. They heroically defended this record by refusing a rematch. East Germany sounds awful and amazing and it was only, like, just over there.

Excellent stuff, published by the WSC people with a new updated paperback edition.

Mike’s Pop Pilgrimages No.6 – An Empty Bench in Soho Square

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 281 views

I didn’t realise how much I liked Kirsty MacColl’s music until she died.

I sometimes feel sad listening to her voice, it carries weariness even in the happy songs. An anthology released earlier this year captures it well, all the heartbreak and make-ups and curious diversions. She wrote so many good songs about herself and when her own life dulled, she covered others wisely. There was also a period as the 80’s flipped to 90’s when every single record in the charts featured Kirsty on backing vocals.

I loved the Tracy Ullman version of her first single, the way the guitars chimed and the baaaaayyyyyyybe yell that could shatter glass at fifty paces. I remember sitting in a school girlfriend’s garden and kissing her enthusiastically as this record soared from an upstairs window. Her parents were in the kitchen and I thought it prescient, they don’t know about us. I also didn’t know she had glandular fever and kissed my way to a fortnight off school.

And so it’s Soho Square where I find myself. One of those windy days when the sun is dancing through the clouds and you’re forever taking layers off, then hastily replacing them. Grey skies then shocking sunlight and where is my brolly? The pigeons shiver in the naked breeze she wrote in the song, Soho Square. Maybe, but they also poo on the bench to your memory. A shiny plaque gives the years of her life. She was just 41.

Kirsty’s bench was free so I sat down and munched through three veggie sausage rolls. Soho Square was buzzing with life; office workers quickstepping to the tube, twitching nutters with hands glued to dark beer tins. Everyone else was Japanese. I threw the end of my sausage roll onto the grass and started a pigeon riot.

I thought of Kirsty and that early kiss to her song, then all those years when I never really paid attention until a pub conversation with a friend in late 2000. “What about Kirsty MacColl, then?” I didn’t know what he meant, but the look on his face told me she was dead. And she died the most un-rock’n’roll of deaths.

The Justice Campaign for accountability for her death

Anthology track listing and reviews

The Oakdale Arms, Hermitage Road

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 487 views

It is rather lovely to have an real ale bouzer almost on one’s doorstep, especially one as nice as the Oakdale. It’s a good size pub, with two big rooms, so I’ve never really felt crowded in there, although at the beer festival a couple of months ago it was pretty busy. It has a really comfortable feel to it, as well as pool tables, darts competitions and a pretty good juker (of which more later). A small group of us tootled down on Saturday night and worked pretty comprehensively through the beers on tap. I understand the Oakdale is the only pub in London that sells Milton beers, including the darkdark stout of NERO, which makes guinness taste like soda water, it’s so deep and bitterchocolatey and [drools]… There were several other beers of darkness about including a very quaffable Mild (did you know it’s “wild about mild” month?) and the rather disturbing Vindolanda (another Milton one I think) which, as Liz correctly pointed out, tasted an awful lot like soy sauce, but not in a bad way…

So overall a top north London bouzer, however, towards the end of the evening I put my quid into the juker and selected my five tracks from the somewhat rock-based, but reasonably wide-ranging selection. As the helium-voiced strains started up “when I was young, seemed that life was so wonderful…” the track was abruptly cut off before Sheffield Dave could even get started, “NO SCOOTER IN THIS PUB!” shouted the landlord much to our dismay. “His pub, his rules” maybe, but why have it on the juker then?

Our Finest Hour

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 440 views

It’s Eurovision time again! There are a host of blogs celebrating this, and I’m sure some of them are putting MP3s up. For the next three days, we’ll jump the bandwagon, today offering Britain’s best-ever entry:

Bardo – One Step Further

It was the glorious new pop dawn of 1982, and Royaume-Uni was top of the Eurovision world following the skirt-hurling performance of Bucks Fizz. How to follow that? By pulling out all possible stops and submitting a hyper-propulsive pop blockbuster, full of the colour, surprise and drama that “Making Your Mind Up” – loveable as it was – had lacked. And what happened? Second place behind Nicole’s “A Little Peace”. Catastrophe! The heart went out of Britain’s Eurovision efforts after Bardo, with slapdashery and cynicism taking hold. This is as good as it gets.

Popular ’65

FT + Popular/16 comments • 1,388 views

I give a mark out of 10 to each track. These polls are for you to select any tracks that you would have given 6 or more to (by whatever criteria you fancy!)

Number One Hits Of 1965: Which Would You Have Given 6 Or More?

View Results

Poll closes: No Expiry

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