Saturday, April 21, 2018

"Artaud the MOMA" by Jacques Derrida; Translated by Peggy Kamuf & Edited/Afterward by Kaira M. Cabañas (Columbia University Press)

ISBN: 978-0-231-18167-9
Antonin Artaud, without a doubt, one of the fascinating figures out of French literature/drama.  Over the years, I have read pretty much everything by and on Artaud.  A very difficult subject matter because he's like a spirit than a human being.   Artaud, the artist/writer, is probably one of the most articulate individuals to describe the essence of his physical/psychological issues.  It seems everything he has done, even as an actor in films, is his porthole to his inner demons.  It's a fascinating match-up of having such a profound thinker like Jacques Derrida commenting on Artaud, his drawings, and also the relationship between having such an artist like Artaud, within the walls of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).  Which is the double-whammy in this book, because Derrida also questions the nature of a museum and what role it has in someone like Artaud. 

"Artaud the Moma," which is a pun or wordplay of Artaud's name for himself 'Mômo,' which is French slang for 'fool.'  Derrida's insightful, but a difficult reading of Artaud's drawings is a lecture he gave at MoMA in 1996 during the exhibition "Anton Artaud: Works on Paper."  I read this book in two settings, and it's only 94 pages long. Still, it's like listening to a great Be-Bop jazz musician tearing apart a traditional melody into little pieces, and then building it up again.   On the other hand, writing about Artaud's aesthetic and art is not a straightforward manner.  To write about such an artist one has to force themselves at the entrance of the gate, and work your way out to the backyard exit.  It's a fascinating journey, and Derrida's thoughts on Artaud's insanity as well as his superhuman effort to express himself, not only in the confines of his illness, but also in institutions such as mental hospitals, and there even museums. 



Chris Stamey Musician A Spy in the House of Loud on Tosh Talks





First of all, Chris Stamey, the songwriter, and performer is an essential listening experience. I first heard Chris Stamey when he had his band The Sneakers. I bought the 7" EP at Bomp Records in the San Fernando Valley sometime in 1977. I bought it because the song titles got my attention, for example, "Love's Like a Cuban Crisis" and "Non Sequitur." At the very least this band was literate and witty. Once at home, I became a life-long fan of The Sneakers. The next time, I was reading The New York Rocker, and I recognized the name, Chris Stamey when he started to work with Alex Chilton on his recordings during the post-punk years in New York City. Then like dominos falling, a series of independent records came out with Stamey's participation and solo singles and so forth.

For the majority of the readers here you may have heard his band The dB's, which for many were the ultimate in the power pop era of the very early 1980s. The thing with Stamey is one should never pigeon-hole him in one type of music social or aesthetic group. Besides his genius songwriting abilities, he also had ties in the experimental music world and had (or still has) a deep interest in Minimalist music, which comes through his own 'pop' material time-to-time. Stamey also served as a guest musician for numerous bands, as well as working as a record producer/arranger for others - still, when you associate with Stamey, you are on the side of his brilliance. "A Spy in the House of Loud: New York Songs and Stories" is a remarkable memoir focusing on his life in Manhattan and other parts of the New York state. Him being an observer as well as a participant in the CBGB's punk rock world, as well as the fascinating social world that was happening at that time.

There are plenty of reasons for reading "A Spy in the House of Loud," for example, it's another good personal account of life being a working or struggling musician in New York, as well as a practical how-to-do in that profession. Stamey puts great focus on what it's like working with brilliant musicians like Alex Chilton, Ray Davies (The Kinks), Big Star's Jody Stephens, Rayan Adams, Yo La Tengo, Richard Lloyd (Television, and another musician who wrote a fantastic memoir covering the same era and place), and R.E.M., among others. Although Stamey's work as an artist/songwriter is very melodic, he also has a sincere appreciation for the loud, the wild, and experimental - for instance, groups like the No-Wave band DNA. Stamey creative world is a broad landscape, and his memoir exposes the tensions between the music and the practical everyday existence of getting the dough together for making a record and touring life.

Stamey comes off in his book as a terrific guy, who cares about the music community and has a broadly educated response to music listening and music making. That said, I think Stamey's records and music is an essential listening experience. In other words, Stamey is the real deal. I'm a fan of his music. As well as this half-memoir and half-instructional book. - Tosh Berman, Tosh Talks

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"Tosh: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World" by Tosh Berman

The triumphs and tragedies of growing up as the son of a famous Beat artist.
Tosh is a memoir of growing up as the son of an enigmatic, much-admired, hermetic, and ruthlessly bohemian artist during the waning years of the Beat Generation and the heyday of hippie counterculture. A critical figure in the history of postwar American culture, Tosh Berman's father, Wallace Berman, was known as the "father of assemblage art," and was the creator of the legendary mail-art publication Semina. Wallace Berman and his wife, famed beauty and artist's muse Shirley Berman, raised Tosh between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and their home life was a heady atmosphere of art, music, and literature, with local and international luminaries regularly passing through.
Tosh’s unconventional childhood and peculiar journey to adulthood feature an array of famous characters, from George Herms and Marcel Duchamp, to Michael McClure and William S. Burroughs, to Dennis Hopper and Dean Stockwell, to the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, and Toni Basil.
Tosh takes an unflinching look at the triumphs and tragedies of his unusual upbringing by an artistic genius with all-too-human frailties, against a backdrop that includes The T.A.M.I. Show, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Easy Rider, and more. With a preface by actress/writer Amber Tamblyn (daughter of Wallace’s friend, actor Russ Tamblyn), Tosh is a self-portrait taken at the crossroads of popular culture and the avant-garde. The index of names included represents a who’s who of mid-century American—and international—culture.

Praise for Tosh:
"This book is sublime: vertiginous, melancholy, highly amusing!"—Johan Kugelberg, Boo-Hooray

Publisher City Lights Publishers

Format Paperback
Nb of pages 226 p. 
ISBN-10 0872867609
ISBN-13 9780872867604


Saturday, April 14, 2018

"20TH CENTURY BOY: Notebooks of the Seventies" by Duncan Hannah (Knopf)

ISBN: 9781524733391

Although a few years older than me, and the fact that we never met, until I had him sign his book at a public event, I feel somehow I know Duncan Hannah. I first discovered his artwork through Dennis Cooper's fantastic blog, and his paintings just spoke to me directly. First of all, I have a thing for illustrations from the mid-century, especially drawings from the various titles of the Hardy Boys, and somehow Hannah's work reminds me of that type of work. But done on a plane that's serious art but still humorous. In that blog I saw various photographs of Hannah, and it struck me as a dandy who lived in harsh circumstances, yet, kept his chin up and his hair marvelously cut. His sense of style and some of the artwork reminded me of this dandy art duo David McDermott and Peter McGough, who not only dressed from the past but also their artwork went back to the 1920s or even earlier. But their work has a contemporary edge, just like Hannah's paintings. I should have been surprised, but reading Hannah's book, he was or is a friend of McDermott.

Still, this is not imitation, but the meeting of the minds at work here. Hannah was born straight and foppish. It's in his nature and this is why his notebooks of the crazed 1970s in New York City is so thrilling. In essence, he has character, or I should say, if I were a movie producer, he has that "It" quality. The reason why I feel like I know or should know him is that it's uncanny we have the same taste in literature and music. I know, because he lists all his listening and reading material on a regular basis in this book. Which is not tedious to read, but essential to know, because his taste is very much what is Duncan Hannah. The fact he paints portraits of his literary and cinematic heroes is another self-expression. I suspect that these works are self-portraits more than anything else. And I say that not as a criticism, but as praise.

"Twentieth-Century Boy" is Hannah's journal, and it's not a memoir. It reads like one is experiencing these adventures at the instant it happened, and his reflection is only seconds or hours after the incident. Sexual in nature, and always curious about an adventure, Hannah from the very beginning had or still has high standards. His sexual fun is enticing, and a joy to read, but also his encounters with the great from Bryan Ferry to Bowie to Dali to Warhol to Debbie Harry, and beyond, to the various artists who lived and operated in Lower Manhattan during that era are excellent co-stars in his book.

What's surprising is that he very much led the life of a desperate alcoholic, yet, by his photographs, he didn't look drunk. He was always well-dressed and has an exceptional self-awareness. Perhaps he's blessed. Nevertheless, he's a hero of mine. I don't have a brother, but in my head, he's the older brother to look up to. Praise Duncan Hannah and his book "Twentieth-Century Boy."

Saturday, April 7, 2018

"A Spy in the House of Loud: New York Songs and Stories" by Chris Stamey (University of Texas Press)

ISBN: 978-1-4773-1622-1
 First of all, Chris Stamey, the songwriter, and performer is an essential listening experience.  I first heard Chris Stamey when he had his band The Sneakers. I bought the 7" EP at Bomp Records in the San Fernando Valley sometime in 1977.   I bought it because the song titles got my attention, for example, "Love's Like a Cuban Crisis" and "Non Sequitur."  At the very least this band was literate and witty.   Once at home, I became a life-long fan of The Sneakers.  The next time, I was reading The New York Rocker, and I recognized the name, Chris Stamey when he started to work with Alex Chilton on his recordings during the post-punk years in New York City.  Then like dominos falling, a series of independent records came out with Stamey's participation and solo singles and so forth. 

For the majority of the readers here you may have heard his band The dB's, which for many were the ultimate in the power pop era of the very early 1980s.  The thing with Stamey is one should never pigeon-hole him in one type of music social or aesthetic group.   Besides his genius songwriting abilities, he also had ties in the experimental music world and had (or still has) a deep interest in Minimalist music, which comes through his own 'pop' material time-to-time.  Stamey also served as a guest musician for numerous bands, as well as working as a record producer/arranger for others - still, when you associate with Stamey, you are on the side of his brilliance.   "A Spy in the House of Loud: New York Songs and Stories" is a remarkable memoir focusing on his life in Manhattan and other parts of the New York state. Him being an observer as well as a participant in the CBGB's punk rock world, as well as the fascinating social world that was happening at that time.  

There are plenty of reasons for reading "A Spy in the House of Loud," for example, it's another good personal account of life being a working or struggling musician in New York, as well as a practical how-to-do in that profession.   Stamey puts great focus on what it's like working with brilliant musicians like Alex Chilton, Ray Davies (The Kinks), Big Star's Jody Stephens, Rayan Adams, Yo La Tengo, Richard Lloyd (Television, and another musician who wrote a fantastic memoir covering the same era and place), and R.E.M., among others.   Although Stamey's work as an artist/songwriter is very melodic, he also has a sincere appreciation for the loud, the wild, and experimental - for instance, groups like the No-Wave band DNA.  Stamey creative world is a broad landscape, and his memoir exposes the tensions between the music and the practical everyday existence of getting the dough together for making a record and touring life. 

Stamey comes off in his book as a terrific guy, who cares about the music community and has a broadly educated response to music listening and music making.  That said, I think Stamey's records and music is an essential listening experience.   In other words, Stamey is the real deal.  I'm a fan of his music.  As well as this half-memoir and half-instructional book. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

Thom Andersen in conversation with William E. Jones for "Slow Writing" (Visible Press) at ARTBOOK @ Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles


I have been proudly hustling for this upcoming event at ARTBOOK @ Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles. It's coming up this Sunday at 4p.m. It's will be a chat between the great filmmaker and teacher Thom Andersen and artist/author/historian William E. Jones. The purpose is to promote Thom's excellent (and I mean really excellent) book of essays "Slow Writing" regarding film and the by-products of that culture. Bill is equally a fine thinker/conversationist and the two of them is like that daydream of people choosing dinner guests - either live or dead and it will be the greatest dinner conversation ever. Will, the daydream has come alive! These two would be my choice for the perfect dinner conversation. The event is free, and you get to visit the wonderful galleries that are Hauser & Wirth, as well as the fine restaurant/bar on the premise. A total win-win for a late Sunday afternoon get together. I can't recommend this highly enough. -Tosh Berman

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A Tokyo Romance by Ian Buruma on Tosh Talks





Over the years, and especially going back and forth from Japan, I have read many books by fellow Americans and some British citizens on their time spent in Japan. A lot of them are crap. The ones that stand out are the ones that wrote about Japanese cinema and literature. The girls or guys who went there to get a job as an English teacher are usually not that interesting, but alas, those who are devoted to a specific Japanese artist or thinker, then yes I very much enjoy that type of book. There are two writers that I love when they write about Japan - Donald Richie and the other fellow is Ian Buruma.

Buruma wrote a fascinating book called "Behind the Mask," which is an excellent book on some of the darker elements of Japanese literature and the arts. His new book "A Tokyo Romance: A Memoir" accounts for his time spent in Japan to study cinema, but mostly the theater arts of Kara Juro, an avant-garde playwright, with his theater group in Tokyo. Similar to temperament but not precisely in style as Terayama Suiji. Buruma knew both men, and it's his unique point-of-view, due that he was a foreigner, being involved with Kara's theater group. A lot of foreign writers have written about the oddness of one being part of Japanese society, or living in Japan, and finding it alienating. But then again I think that's the nature of the Western fellow or girl. We're raised to be apart than together, and therefore lies the situation of such countries in Asia and elsewhere.

What makes this book unique for me is that I share Buruma's interest in the Japanese arts, and spending time there as well, I can identify in what he writes about, in regards of living there and appreciating the same sort of artists/writers. Also, the book is full of fascinating figures, some know and some entirely new to me. Donald Richie is a writer I know quite well through his writings in various articles (mostly in the Japan Times) as well as reading his books on Japanese cinema. His Journals are without a doubt, the classic work by him. He is a guy who knew everyone from Ozu to Mishima, and also a gay man living in Tokyo. His insights into the Japanese culture, but also his somewhat detached views are excellent observations of life around him. In that sense, he reminds me of Paul Bowles' travel writing. Buruma shares the same interest as Richie, and is also, a fantastic prose writer. His commentary on Richie, who sort of led him through Tokyo when he first arrived, is a fascinating tour of the metropolis. The second personality of interest is the Actress Yamaguchi Yoshiko. She started her career during the war years making a propaganda film in China, where she was identified as a Chinese actress. But alas, no, she's Japanese and eventually went on to star in the American Film "House Of Bamboo" directed by Sam Fuller. The book doesn't mention it, but she was also married to the artist Isamu Noguchi. Yamaguchi eventually became a member of the Japanese parliament for 18 years and had a TV show where she focused on and interviewed such characters as Mao, Idi Amin, and Kim Il-sung.

"A Tokyo Romance" is a book full of fascinating people, and Buruma himself is interesting because he is also an individual who is half-Dutch and half-English, so he's very much a bi-cultural, or maybe at this point, since he lives in New York City now, a tri-cultural figure. With his background, he has an understanding of what it's like to be in a culture that is very singular in focus and design. A classic book on Japan, but also a rare text in English on the world of Terayama and Kara Juro.



-Tosh Berman

Sunday, April 1, 2018

"Late Fame" by Arthur Schnitzler / Translated by Alexander Starritt (NYRB)

ISBN: 978-1-68137-084-2
There are writers out there who make me feel that I'm wearing a bullseye sweatshirt, and through their writing/work, they make a direct hit on the bullseye.  The great Austrian author and playwright Arthur Schnitzler is one of the writers that get to me on a personal level on a consistent basis through his narratives.  Like Patricia Highsmith, Schnitzler had the ability to get in one's skin, and once placed there, you can't remove the rash.  Not saying he's like a disease, but more of a writer who can look at a system or a social group and understand their dynamics.  In that sense, he also reminds me of Fassbinder the filmmaker.  Still "Late Fame" is a very funny book on a serious subject matter of regret and how one is accepted into a social world. 

The main character is Eduard Saxberger, an office worker, who one time in his youth, wrote a book of poems "Wanderings" that was published and equally forgotten. Decades later, he eventually meets a young poet/writer who is a fan of this one book and invited Saxberger to be part of his (or their) literary group.  So, after an old man who once was a (failed) poet, has another chance into a literary world, seems promising, but alas, life has its many disappointments. 

Both a satire on literary groups in Vienna, as well as how one sees themselves as time goes marching by.  It's very much an older man's piece of literature, and now that I have reached a certain age, I really identify with some aspects of Saxberger's existence.  But don't we all?  

Thursday, March 29, 2018

"A Tokyo Romance: a Memoir" by Ian Buruma (Penguin Press)

ISBN: 978-1-101-98141-2

Over the years, and especially going back and forth from Japan, I have read many books by fellow Americans and some British citizens on their time spent in Japan.  A lot of them are crap.  The ones that stand out are the ones that wrote about Japanese cinema and literature.  The girls or guys who went there to get a job as an English teacher are usually not that interesting, but alas, those who are devoted to a specific Japanese artist or thinker, then yes I very much enjoy that type of book.  There are two writers that I love when they write about Japan - Donald Richie and the other fellow is Ian Buruma. 

Buruma wrote a fascinating book called "Behind the Mask," which is an excellent book on some of the darker elements of Japanese literature and the arts.  His new book "A Tokyo Romance: A Memoir" accounts for his time spent in Japan to study cinema, but mostly the theater arts of Kara Juro, an avant-garde playwright, with his theater group in Tokyo. Similar to temperament but not precisely in style as Terayama Suiji.  Buruma knew both men, and it's his unique point-of-view, due that he was a foreigner, being involved with Kara's theater group.   A lot of foreign writers have written about the oddness of one being part of Japanese society, or living in Japan, and finding it alienating.  But then again I think that's the nature of the Western fellow or girl.  We're raised to be apart than together, and therefore lies the situation of such countries in Asia and elsewhere. 

What makes this book unique for me is that I share Buruma's interest in the Japanese arts, and spending time there as well, I can identify in what he writes about, in regards of living there and appreciating the same sort of artists/writers.  Also, the book is full of fascinating figures, some know and some entirely new to me.  Donald Richie is a writer I know quite well through his writings in various articles (mostly in the Japan Times) as well as reading his books on Japanese cinema.  His Journals are without a doubt, the classic work by him.   He is a guy who knew everyone from Ozu to Mishima, and also a gay man living in Tokyo.   His insights into the Japanese culture, but also his somewhat detached views are excellent observations of life around him.  In that sense, he reminds me of Paul Bowles' travel writing.  Buruma shares the same interest as Richie, and is also, a fantastic prose writer.  His commentary on Richie, who sort of led him through Tokyo when he first arrived, is a fascinating tour of the metropolis.  The second personality of interest is the Actress Yamaguchi Yoshiko.  She started her career during the war years making a propaganda film in China, where she was identified as a Chinese actress.  But alas, no, she's Japanese and eventually went on to star in the American Film "House Of Bamboo" directed by Sam Fuller.  The book doesn't mention it, but she was also married to the artist Isamu Noguchi. Yamaguchi eventually became a member of the Japanese parliament for 18 years and had a TV show where she focused on and interviewed such characters as Mao, Idi Amin, and Kim Il-sung.  

"A Tokyo Romance" is a book full of fascinating people, and Buruma himself is interesting because he is also an individual who is half-Dutch and half-English, so he's very much a bi-cultural, or maybe at this point, since he lives in New York City now, a tri-cultural figure.  With his background, he has an understanding of what it's like to be in a culture that is very singular in focus and design.   A classic book on Japan, but also a rare text in English on the world of Terayama and Kara Juro.  

Writer Historian Rob Baker Regarding 20th Century London on Tosh Talks





o quote Noël Coward, from the back cover of Rob Baker's book "I don't know what London's coming to - the higher the buildings, the lower the morals." "High Buildings, Low Morals" is for me a classic book. I first discovered Baker's obsession on 20th Century London through his blog "Another Nickel in the Machine." Eventually using his blog as the source, he made two books. "Beautiful Idiots and Brilliant Lunatics" and this one "High Buildings, Low Morals." Both are excellent as well as his blog, and in my studies, the two best books on contemporary (20th century) London culture. Baker is amazing that his identity disappears and what comes up is the subject matter of his interest: the linage between London theater, social life, film and stage stars, and gangsters. These two books remind me of Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon," but the big difference is that Baker is a through historian in his approach to match the dots in that urban landscape. He has the genius to match individuals with a narrative that is much bigger than the figures because it's a web that holds the city together.

Here we get narratives about Noël Coward, Lord Boothby & Ronnie Kray, Tallulah Bankhead, Graham Greene, and obscure and entirely forgotten British stars like Billie Carleton, the Duchess of Argyll (an old porn scandal) and even Mussolini, among many others. Also reading this book, I get the full physical picture of London bombed during World War II, as well as the psychology of that cities population. It's an epic presentation and Baker has the genius to edit it in (or out) various stories that tell even a bigger picture. Historian on a brilliant level, I can't recommend his books too much. For anyone who is, of course, interested in London, but also how an urban city lives and moves - it's a fascinating series of tales, that is almost unbelievable, but yet, true.

For further reading, here is Rob Baker's website "Another Nickel in the Machine"
http://www.nickelinthemachine.com

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

"High Buildings, Low Morals: Another Sideways Look At Twentieth-Century London" by Rob Baker (Amberley)

ISBN: 9781445666259
To quote Noël Coward, from the back cover of Rob Baker's book "I don't know what London's coming to - the higher the buildings, the lower the morals."  "High Buildings, Low Morals" is for me a classic book.   I first discovered Baker's obsession on 20th Century London through his blog "Another Nickel in the Machine."  Eventually using his blog as the source, he made two books. "Beautiful Idiots and Brilliant Lunatics" and this one "High Buildings, Low Morals."  Both are excellent as well as his blog, and in my studies, the two best books on contemporary (20th century) London culture.  Baker is amazing that his identity disappears and what comes up is the subject matter of his interest: the linage between London theater, social life, film and stage stars, and gangsters.   These two books remind me of Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon," but the big difference is that Baker is a through historian in his approach to match the dots in that urban landscape.  He has the genius to match individuals with a narrative that is much bigger than the figures because it's a web that holds the city together. 

Here we get narratives about Noël Coward, Lord Boothby & Ronnie Kray, Tallulah Bankhead, Graham Greene, and obscure and entirely forgotten British stars like Billie Carleton, the Duchess of Argyll (an old porn scandal) and even Mussolini, among many others.  Also reading this book, I get the full physical picture of London bombed during World War II, as well as the psychology of that cities population.  It's an epic presentation and Baker has the genius to edit it in (or out) various stories that tell even a bigger picture.  Historian on a brilliant level, I can't recommend his books too much.  For anyone who is, of course, interested in London, but also how an urban city lives and moves - it's a fascinating series of tales, that is almost unbelievable, but yet, true. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

"How To Be A Brit" by George Mikes (illustrations by Nicolas Bentley) - (Penguin)

ISBN: 978-0-241-97500-8 Penguin

I'm attracted to the Penguin classic design book and when I saw "How To Be a Brit" at the Last Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles, it brought back memories of me going to used bookstores in London and finding old Penguin paperbacks from the 1940s.  That it has illustrations going through the entire book is an additional plus.  I didn't buy it.  Two weeks later I saw it at a Tokyo bookstore that has an English language section, and they had a stack of this title.  For sure, the perfect book for the foreigner visiting another country.  Still, I didn't buy it.  It wasn't until I got back from Japan that I went back to The Last Bookstore, to locate this damn book. I did and went to the library to get other titles by George Mikes.

I have a fascination with books by foreigners writing about another culture. Mikes originally came from Hungary and lived in London for most of his life.   In a sense, he became more British than the British, and on top of that, he knew there is a cultural difference between the British and everyone else.   Some of the commentaries are out-of-fashion, but for me, that's not a problem.  Even the subject matter is not that important to me.  What's important is Mikes' language and his funny observations that border on being stereotyping, but that's OK. 

"How To be a Brit" is actually three short books put together.  "How to be an Alien," How to be Inimitable, and "How to be Decadent," which sadly has no Sadian touches, but more with how the every day British treat themselves. Nicolas Bentley's illustrations throughout the book are charming, funny, and a reminder of Robert Benchley's world.  In fact, there are traces of Benchley in Mikes' work.  Both are the absurd humorists commenting on the everyday life of... well, people. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Jun Togawa Japanese Singer on Tosh Talks





Jun Togawa Japanese Singer on Tosh Talks

Togawa Jun (aka Jun Togawa) is an amazing and important music figure in underground Japanese Pop Music. An associate of Yellow Magic Orchestra's (YMO) Haroumi Hosono, and mostly releasing her albums on his label, Yen Records. Togawa was in a band called Guernica, with Composer Koji Ueno and artist/lyricist Keiichi Ohta, that brought up images of Pre-war Japan, a time that flirted with Western decadence. Togawa released a series of solo albums in the 1980s that to a Westerner sounds like a crazed combination of Sparks, French Yé-Yé, with a touch of Kate Bush. Most of her musical roots are in Japanese or Asian folk music, but she does acknowledge Serge Gainsbourg and even Rosie & The Originals' "Angel Baby." John Zorn and Jim O'Rourke are both fans, and you should be as well! - Tosh Berman, your host of "Tosh Talks"

To read my review of Jun Togawa's "Suki Suki Daisuki" go here:
http://toshberman.blogspot.com/2018/0...

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Amore Hirosuke Swing Dancing and Music on Tosh Talks





Amore Hirosuke Swing Dancing and Music on Tosh Talks

I have known Amore Hirosuke for over 25 years.  Amore is a graphic artist/fine artist as well as a master on the subject matter of Swing Dancing (Lindy Hop) as well as Swing Music. I interviewed the King of Swing in Tokyo, and we discussed Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson, Cab Calloway, Louis Prima,  Fats Waller, Slim & Slam, Gentle Forest Jazz Band (from Japan) and Duke Ellington.  Amore and his partner-in-crime Lulu Yoshida are magnificent dancers.   Tosh Berman, your host for "Tosh Talks."

Monday, March 5, 2018

March 6, 2018 (Tokyo) by Tosh Berman


March 6, 2018
I've been going back and forth to Tokyo for the past 29 years. What's odd is that I still don't know the city that well. Tokyo is not a noun but a verb. It's consistently moving and changing, with some practices and places not changing much at all, while other areas change drastically. The best way to learn to maneuver the Tokyo landscape is going by yourself. Having someone show you places is a must as well, but after that, I think one will learn more about this metropolis if you go and just wander without a thought in your head where you're going to or heading towards. 


One can literally spend all your time in one neighborhood and never get tired of it. If you are bored in Tokyo, then there is nothing that will save you. The entertainment, the shops, and the walking pleasures never stop. It is probably best for a sane mind is to be very focused on what you want to do in Tokyo. One can choose almost any subject of interest, and find it here in this city. I do go to the bookshops and record stores because that's a major interest in my life. On the other hand, if you're into food, the aesthetic taste never disappoints. People-watching is an art form as well. 


In a fashion, Tokyo reminds me of Los Angeles, not in its physical space but dealing with the city within a city. Each neighborhood or ward has a specific feel or aesthetic. Sometimes it's very age orientated - there are teenage places as well as locations for adults, and one can see that while walking down the street. Most of the streets don't have names, so finding places is a total mystery to me. One is consistently going back and forth on a small road to find that specific spot. It's very much part of the process. 


Yesterday I headed toward my home here, and at 7PM the subway and trains were packed. One should never go against the crowd but go with the flow of the people. I was pushed into the train and my body was physically connected to at least three people. I feel like I have taken over their bodies, and one feels like they're sharing the same breath as the other. It's neither bad or good, just a daily occurrence at a specific time when on the public transportation. I have a genius in locating areas that no one goes to, and therefore I get that privacy I adore so much. - Tosh Berman



Saturday, March 3, 2018

March 4, 2018 (Tokyo) by Tosh Berman

Jun Togawa
March 4, 2018 (Tokyo) by Tosh Berman



I spent a great deal of my time today at RECOfan in Shibuya.  Those who know me are quite aware that I’m addicted to vinyl record buying.  It’s an obsession that borders on a sexual disorder.   Before I left for Tokyo, I made a pledge that I wrote in my notebook that I would not purchase one album on this trip.  In fact, I will not even go to a record store.   After making this promise to myself, I felt right about it.   To eliminate an obsession or a passion cleans the soul.  I decided that what’s important to me is to make new friends here and be entirely devoted to listening and understanding my fellow human beings.   Everything went well until I arrived to meet a friend in Shibuya. 

I arranged a meeting at a location that is a distance, or at the very least; I thought it was,  from any record store, and it was at the Shibuya Beam that our get together was arranged.  I was supposed to meet him at the anime shop on the fifth floor, but another person in the elevator was going to the fourth floor.  As he left the elevator, I notice it was RECOfan, one of the more exceptional music stores in Shibuya.   Without thinking or even remembering my pledge, I got out of the lift. 



My friend is ordinarily late, so I thought there is no harm in just to look around.  As I searched in their new arrival section of used records, I found a copy of a Jun Togawa album that I have wanted for years.   The album is called 好き好き大好き, and it has been since the 1980s that I wanted this masterpiece, yet could never find it on vinyl.   I then remembered the pledge, but then thought ‘how can I possibly pass this up, and it’s only 1,900 yen 

As I held it in my hand, I started to feel guilty.  I was thinking of the luggage issue, as well as adding another item in my household, which apparently I have no room for.  Perhaps it’s best that I give the 1,900 yen to charity?  Then again, I thought that I could write a story about this album, and therefore it can be a tax write-off.   At that point, I have decided I was working, and then with my grip on the record, I went onward to my next purpose in life.  To find more albums.  



Around two hours later, I found a rare copy of Japan’s “Quiet Life” album.   What’s unique about this record is that Japan is a British band, and to buy a Japan album in Tokyo struck me as ironic, which will be put to good use in my story.   Overall I spent four hours in RECOfan, and I only purchased two albums, which I was proud of.  It meant that I’m not an addict, but a careful buyer or consumer.  Oddly enough I forgot about the meeting with my friend, and it was important because it was a job.  Nevertheless, life goes on, and as darkness approached the sky, I whistled a tune off 好き好き大好き and went back to my room in Meguro. 
- Tosh Berman

Friday, March 2, 2018

March 3, 2018 (Tokyo) by Tosh Berman


March 3, 2018, Tokyo

A dear friend of mine claims that jet-lag doesn’t exist.  Therefore I don’t have a reason for falling asleep in front of a bowl of miso soup.  What woke me up was the sound of the bowl breaking, and finding a piece of tofu on my eyebrow.   As I raised my head, I noticed other customers at this elegant restaurant was looking at me in such a manner as looking at a public drunk.  Speaking which, the sake glass remained unharmed to this mishap.   I do what I normally do in such situations by pretending nothing happened.  If one can do this with great conviction, you can get away with murder.  For example, President Trump uses this technique over and over again.   The idiots of the world stand significantly against embarrassment. 



I’m here in Tokyo to specifically write for a publication I work for which is Facebook.   They recently made changes in their format, due to Russian activity on their site.  From now on they will only hire professional writers to do the posts.  Which means they send me to foreign lands, as well as time-to-time write for individuals who use Facebook as a social platform.  There are countless people who are real, but they hire me to handle their posts.  So, I ask them if there are significant changes in their lives, which can mean a death in the family, moving from one location to another, or a new job, stuff like that.   It keeps me busy but the beauty of it with the power of the laptop I can pretty much do my occupation anywhere in the world unless someone pulls the plug out of this Internet thing. 

Tokyo is an exciting city due that they have buildings.  They have lots of buildings. Some even have windows where one can look at other buildings in their space.  As one can gather, some streets lead to these buildings, and some have front entrances.  Sometime today I’m going to enter one of these buildings to see what’s up. 

Meanwhile here are photos of me on Singapore airlines.  No seats were available, so I pretty much had to stand up in their small bathroom for 11 and a half hours.  The coach section is tight space wise, but if you occupy a bathroom, there is leg room and tiny room for a small hand-luggage.   The consistent knocking of the bathroom door gets annoying, but again, and like above, I just pretend nothing is happening.



Not able to speak a word of Japanese, except “ah-so,” which I understand can be even Chinese, but I’m not sure about that, is a stumbling block in business meetings as well as trying to find something to eat.  I have always read about how great their vending machines are, and I found a machine in an arcade. It is one of those claw things, where if you put a few hundred yen in the thingy-twiggy you can with some skill, grab food out of the closed-off section, which my understanding is to protect the food from outside germs.   I managed to get a piece of bread, and apparently, it doesn’t taste like any bread I have eaten before.  Still, when hungry, you have to keep your chin up and just pretend nothing happened. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Rod McKuen on Tosh Talks





Rod McKuen on Tosh Talks



The first show where I focus on an artist that I really don't care about, or do I?  Rod McKuen on the surface is the sort of figure that I never cared for, yet, as I dig deep into some aspects of his work, I'm interested in the connections he has between himself and Jacques Brel, David Bowie, the Beat Generation, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, Gregory Corso, and the whole fake "Beatnik"world, with respect to an early album by McKuen, "Beatsville."  The number one selling poet in the 1960s and 1970s, who wrote terrible poetry, is still, as one scratches on the surface, I find something of greatly interesting about his life.  Which shows, that all artists have some sort of spark that one may miss or not be aware of.  "Tosh Talks" Tosh Berman.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Les Rita Mitsouko and Catherine Ringer on Tosh Talks





Les Rita Mitsouko and their vocalist Catherine Ringer is magnificent. For me, probably the essential French pop music artists, along with Serge Gainsbourg and Edith Piaf.  The band is actually a duo consisting of Ringer and her late husband Fred Chichin.  Tony Visconti produced two of their albums "The No Comprendo" and "Marc & Robert," which also features Sparks (Ron Mael & Russell Mael).  Their first album was co-produced by the great German producer Conny Plank.   After Fred's tragic passing, Catherine made two solo albums "Ring n Roll" and the very recent "Chroniques et Fantaisies."   For me, Les Rita Mitsouko reminds me very much of Iggy Pop's "The Idiot."  There are traces of Sparks (of course) and T Rex in their sound, but still, Fred and Catherine were (are) a unique music force.  On "Tosh Talks" I chat about their brilliance and the French Rock world.  - Tosh Berman