Entries Tagged 'Books' ↓

Harvey Pekar, 1939-2010

Harvey Pekar, above, the renowned comics writer whose life’s own banalities formed his narratives, died from prostate cancer, Monday, at the age of 70.

A mainstay and elder of the underground comics movement, Pekar was an oft and early collaborator with artist Robert Crumb. Yet the Ohio native worked as a Veterans Administration hospital file clerk most, if not all, of his adult life.

It was only after retiring in 2001, that his American Splendor series—turned into a 2003 film starring Paul Giamatti as Pekar—brought him mainstream fame and acclamation.

I met Pekar at our WBAI studios on Wall St. in 2006, when he was promoting his latest American Splendor book, Ego & Hubris: The Michael Malice Story, right, with its namesake subject, the contrary blogger and founder of Overheard in New York.

The late Harvey Pekar, and Michael Malice, are the guests today on this rebroadcasted edition of my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, July 16th, at 2 pm ET.

You can hear their ideas by tuning in at 2 pm ET. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

Wish You Were Here.

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The disappearing landscape is an issue in all communities, and the question of how to preserve the visual character of towns, cities and rural areas is always pressing.

This is even the case in Havana, Cuba’s capital and largest city, where political and economic isolation have compelled Cubans to retain the use of structures longer than many urban centers might.

Yet Havana is, indeed, changing. It’s a turn that Cathryn Griffith, in her new book, Havana Revisited: An Architectural Heritage, covers through an unusual technique of matching early 20th century postacards, bought primarily through the internet, to modern-day views, like these of Cuba’s famed Centro Gallago, above. Through this unusual technique, Griffith not only documents the historical form of the island’s architectural heritage, but creates a template for how communities may, perhaps, preserve that tradition in any place.

Cathryn Griffith is a guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, April 16, at 2 pm ET.

screen31But first we’ll speak with Peter Pennoyer and Anne Walker. Pennoyer is the principal partner of Peter Pennoyer Architects and chairman of the Institute for Classical Architecture and Classical America. Walker holds a degree in historic preservation from Columbia University, and has co-authored three books with Pennoyer. Their newest, The Architecture of Grosvenor Atterbury, tells the story the late 19th / early 20th century architect whose classical forms, resistant to modernist trends developing in Europe and other places, led to some of the most beautiful structures of his era. Many are well-preserved, even now, and commissions like these stone barns for the Rockefeller family, right, or his design of New York City’s Forest Hills Gardens, continue to delight and inspire.

You can hear Peter Pennoyer’s, Anne Walker’s, and Cathryn Griffith’s ideas by tuning in at 2 pm ET. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

How I’d Like To Fly the Friendly Skies.

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This week, Miramar, FL-based Spirit Airlines announced that, beginning in August, passengers would be charged up to $45 per bag, not to check luggage, but to carry it onto the plane.

Their foul money grab puts a cherry on top of what airline passengers have known, seemingly, for a generation: Unless you’re rollin’ solo, above, flying is the pits.

Not from outside the plane, however. It’s in that world, where flying’s grace and beauty is palpable, that aerial photographer Erik Hildebrandt reigns.

erikHildebrandt, right, has released over half a dozen books of his work through his own company, Cleared Hot Media, Inc. (The title is a military expression meaning one has permission to engage a target.) These include Anytime, Baby: Hail and Farewell to the U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcat and his Front Row Center: Inside the Great American Air Show series, now up to four volumes.

Erik Hildebrandt is the guest today on this rebroadcast from my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, April 9, at 2 pm ET. During our talk, we discussed the process of making pictures, how airplanes are built, the notion of warfare and the reasons for it, and more.

As well, in a few weeks, in a never-before-aired, upcoming piece, I’ll talk to him about his work as a self-publisher, that being an increasingly meaningful preoccupation in this era of media independence.

You can learn more about his work by visiting his Vulture’s Row web site, or by tuning in today at 2 pm ET. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

“No Hell Below Us, Above Us, Only Sky.”

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Reportedly, John Lennon was actually not an atheist, as many think, but instead a person strongly against organized religion. However, the opening lyrics to his 1971 classic, “Imagine,” above, have often been cited as a straightforward summary of the nontheistic conceit. The lyrics urge human beings to conceive a world in which our species ha rid itself of the divisiveness faith often seems to drive, coming together in peace, instead, through mutually shared need, common destiny, and brotherhood.

34367Is such a reality possible, however, without the deference that a belief in God, arguably, compels? In his new book, Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe, Harvard humanist chaplain Greg M. Epstein, right, takes the position that such an atheistic vision can be a reality.

With a focus on the positive, he highlights humanity’s potential for goodness and the ways in which Humanists lead lives of purpose and compassion. Humanism can offer the sense of community we want and often need in good times and bad, as we celebrate marriages and the birth of our children, and as we care for those who are elderly or sick. In short, Humanism teaches us that we can lead good and moral lives without supernaturalism, without higher powers…without God.

Greg M. Epstein the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, March 26, at 2 pm ET.

You can hear his ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

Tammy Wynette’s Wail of Woe.

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Even in country songcraft, where beers are consistently diluted with tears, the late Tammy Wynette, above, had a penchant for melancholy–like a rural Mary J. Blige–that was both supreme and legendary.

As was her voice. Describing a stage performance of her hit recording, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” biographer Jimmy McDonough notes,

31When she gets to the chorus, Wynette [right] belts out the words with the force of an air-raid siren, yet barely bats an eyelash. There’s zero body language—the drama’s all in the voice. She doesn’t act out the song or punch her fist in the air; in fact, she barely moves an inch. Tammy the statue. Until a Tinseltown choreographer teaches her some questionable dance steps in the mid-eighties, Wynette will remain frozen onstage. The anti-style of Tammy’s wax-figure performances absolutely mystified Dolly Parton. “I could not believe that all of that voice and all that sound was comin’ out of a person standin’ totally still. I’d think, ‘How is she doin’ that?’ It seems like you’d have to lean into your body or bow down into it or somethin’ to get all of that out. I’ve never seen anything like it to this day. I was in awe of her. I thought she had one of the greatest voices of all time.”

06Virginia Wynette Pugh (1942-1998) did have one of the the most sonorous instruments in the history of popular music. Her classic, “Stand By Your Man,” below, may be the best known example of her gift. Yet she lived a life of drama that exceeded even her most poignant records. She was married five times, including a tempestuous relationship with country superstar George Jones, right; suffered almost continuous, acute discomfort from nearly thirty surgeries; was addicted to painkillers; and died at the age of 55, reportedly looking years older.

1000071158lIn his book on her life, Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen, writer Jimmy McDonough, right, who has also profiled rock legend Neil Young and filmmaker Russ Meyer, plumbs the depths of her artistry, her sadness, and her demons.

Few recording artists achieve the kind of success Tammy Wynette did. In total, she had more than twenty number one hits, several of which she’d co-written. Tammy was the first country artist to go platinum, and her total sales now loom somewhere past the thirty-million mark. If there is one person who her musicians and producers compare her to, it is Elvis. … Tammy sings of cheating husbands, suffering wives, kids’ lives wrecked by divorce. The down and dirty stuff that grinds us all down on a daily basis. If you’re a woman, she could be singing your life. If you are a man, she might be compelling for darker reasons. Wynette sings of love in a rather disturbing fashion. Her music ain’t for sissies.

Jimmy McDonough is the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, March 19, at 2 pm ET.

You can hear his ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

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Don’t Stand So Close To Me.

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A site about “Architectural Conjecture, Urban Speculation, [and] Landscape Futures” certainly seems to promise heady distraction, and Geoff Manaugh’s BLDGBLOG delivers by the Liebherr T 282B-full.

Up since July 2004, BLDGBLOG totes a range of diversions almost as wide as Manaugh’s obviously fertile mind: Ice floes (and interplanetary atmospherics); automobile test tracks; odd, old synthesizers; hell; and designing the long-term storage of nuclear waste. Every post delights with inquisitive, nimble writing and typically dreamy images, and his The BLDGBLOG Book—which compiles dozens of his best pieces—makes the whole enterprise fit on your shelf.

Now, in a new exhibit at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City, Manaugh and co-curator Nicola Twilley (Edible Geography) turn their focus on another underaddressed, little-grapsed element of the human landscape. As states the page for Landscapes of Quarantine, which opens March 10th,

At its most basic, quarantine is a strategy of separation and containment—the creation of a hygienic boundary between two or more things, for the purpose of protecting one from exposure to the other. It is a spatial response to suspicion, threat, and uncertainty. From Chernobyl’s Zone of Exclusion and the artificial quarantine islands of the New York archipelago to camp beds set up to house HIV-positive Haitian refugees detained at Guantánamo and the modified Airstream trailer from within which Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins once waved at President Nixon [above], the landscapes of quarantine are various, mutable, and often unexpected.

Geoff Manaugh is a contributing editor at Wired UK and former senior editor of Dwell magazine. He’s also the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, March 5, at 2 pm ET.

You can hear this provocative ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

The School of Hard Knocks.

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“A Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give. When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great risk of biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will have greater respect for Afro-American life.”

paula-giddings-headshotToday’s broadcast continues my discussion with scholar Paula Giddings, right, author of When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. This time, we’re talking about about her latest book, Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching. (Part 1 aired on January 1st. That’s Ida B. Wells-Barnett, above, in a 1930 photo, taken the year before she died at 68. For a picture of her when she was not yet 30, follow this link to our January 1 post.)

Giddings and I resume our conversation, speaking on, among other subjects, Wells-Barnett’s success in politically organizing Chicago; an effort, the author holds, whose branches, leaves, and fruit reach to the White House today.

Then, our conversation took a turn, and during the second part of today’s broadcast—the last 20 minutes—we spoke about the life of the Black scholar, especially the female Black scholar.

It was frank and insightful, and it naturally rose out of the issues we were addressing the moment before. So, it was the best kind of digression one can have with a guest.

Paula J. Giddings is the Elizabeth A. Woodson 1922 Professor in Afro-American Studies at Smith College, and the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, January 22, at 2 pm ET.

You’ll hear it by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

Justice’s Drum Major Still Leads.

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Most are familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. image, above, his sonorous voice, and with many of his speeches.

Bu few, perhaps, know that King was a published author who wrote six books during his lifetime: Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (1958), The Measure of a Man (1959), Strength to Love (1963), Why We Can’t Wait (1964), Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), and The Trumpet of Conscience, published in 1968, the year he was assassinated.

All of these works are available on Amazon.com, and can provide us with a deeper, more profound appreciation for and understanding of Dr. King’s ideas and great legacy.

Why not commit to reading more of what he said, himself, in his own hand? It would be another way to honor the man who led the march we still walk.

The Dream of the Blue People.

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avatar-james-cameron-interviewjpg-670a6289770f7c9e_largeThroughout his career, writer/director James Cameron, right, has pushed an insistent, technologically-demanding style of filmmaking seemingly up a cliff. From seeing Star Wars, as a 22-year-old truck driver in his native Canada, to becoming creator of the highest-grossing film in history—1997′s $1.8 billion Titanic—he has taken hold of the film industry by sheer force of will. Meanwhile, with each advancing step, the creator has fought off naysayers and second-guessers, each expecting his next outrageous vision to be his final folly.

With the release of his latest work, Avatar, above, however, Cameron has shattered expectations, as well as creative and financial barriers, to make what is, after five weeks, already the second-highest-grossing film in history, with eyes on its older sister’s No. 1 position.

116347_keegan_rebeccaWho is James Cameron, and what makes him the man and artist he is? In her new book, The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron, author Rebecca Keegan, right, works to get inside his life and thinking. By interviewing Cameron, his family, and his numerous collaborators, the journalist gives a detailed, never-before-seen picture of this remarkable, often confounding auteur; the drive behind the driver, so to speak.

Rebecca Keegan is the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, January 15, at 2 pm ET.

That conversation, though, will be preceeded by a discussion of the crisis in Haiti. This week’s devastating 7.0 earthquake, which killed an estimated 45-50,000 people, deepens the woes of the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation. We’ll examine the disaster, and the forces at work, globally, that keep the country in its troubled state.

You can hear Rebecca Keegan’s thoughts, and others, by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

UPDATE: These are links to the Haiti pieces from which I read during today’s NONFICTION broadcast:

Why We Are Partly Responsible for the Mess that is Haiti by Thomas Fleming

Haiti: the land where children eat mud by Alex von Tunzelmann

Also recommended:

Catastrophe in Haiti by Ashley Smith

Why Are the Media Jumping All Over Harry Reid When Bill Cinton’s Comments Are More Offensive?

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What, exactly, is so controversial about U.S. Senate majority leader Harry Reid’s comments about Obama?

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