(Visual) Notes on Culture
Book Review - LONDON: PORTRAIT OF A CITY
London: Portrait of a City
Phaidon, 1999 (New Edition)
Photos by Matthew Weinreb
Commentary by Ben Weinreb
(This review refers to the softcover, smaller, newer version of Weinreb's London Architecture: Features and Facades
London is a city of famous architecture. Each year, the city's tourist industries produce "new" calenders, posters, and postcards that endlessly re-use the same images of the same buildings. London: Portrait of a City
has pictures from some of these sites, though with a difference. Matthew Weinreb has a genius for detail - he is able to take buildings that we have seen countless times in textbooks and transform them into works of alien beauty. By defamiliarizing and abstracting the small, neglected, and marginalized, Weinreb gives us a new lease on this ancient city. His level of detail and eye for the hidden makes this essential for those who appreciate architectural photography as an art and craft.
Ben Weinreb provides insightful, though limited, commentary on his son Matthew's photos. The book is arranged around architectural elements and motifs, though (at times) seems a little haphazard. Thankfully, the text is accompanied by a "further reading" list which really delves into the scholarship behind the buildings. London has been destroyed and rebuilt so many times that it has a rich, storied past, though that history is better served elsewhere.
Phaidon uses fine quality page stocks and presents an attractive, affordable, and vibrant book, but the binding could use a little bit of work. My copy started separating after one read-through, making this a poor book for constant reference. Further, its small size does not exactly make for coffee-table elegance.
In place of this work, I'd recommend London Perceived
by V.S. Pritchett with photographs by Evelyn Hofer - here, the reader is rewarded with poetic cultural commentary and slightly unsynchroized (though dialectically suggestive) pictures of the city.
I do not normally frequent Slashdot
, but this
managed to capture my imagination. Given the chance, clearance, and choice, which items currently under copyright could be liberated for the benefit of all? The possibilities are vast - just look at the number of comments that follow the post - but some programs seem better than others.
One sad fact is that some of the most important pieces of intellectual property would be hard-pressed to end up free for all. It is hard to imagine James Joyce's estate giving up its lucrative stake in Finnegan's Wake
. If the possibilities were limitless, I'd probably go the most philanthropic route and find the items of most widespread importance. This would include films like Citizen Kane
, the likenesses of Picasso's cubist paintings, substantial academic texts, and seminal recordings (essential capturings of symphonies and albums of iconic stature like Miles Davis' Kind of Blue).
But since these things are bonafide money-makers, they would probably end up costing considerably more than the $100 million endowment.
Perhaps most practical would be effcient schematics that could be freely distributed to the Third World. I'd still like to find a way to free some cultural objects.
In the end, I would probably just purchase the rights to a bunch of books that I like (Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilization
, Philip K. Dick's Man in the High Castle
, etc) and make them free.
'Tis the Season...
...for horror movie marathons!
Cinema 16 founder Amos Vogel often spoke of the dialectical (or dialogical) power of film programming. Just as film components (shots, scenes) could be rhytmically alternated to create aesthetic effects, so too could whole films. For example, programming Vertov's Man with the Movie Camera
just before Antonioni's Blowup
does something to each film...the former seems like more of a form-based dissection of mechanically-aided looking, while Blowup
seems downright allegorical. Thus, our seasonal horror movie marathons - which readily lend themselves to such viewing habits, both because of their length and owing to their historical niche as "B" films or as just another clunker for the drive-in - can be enriched with some thoughtful programming.
A few obvious suggestions. If working through a series or auteur's catalog, make sure that you do it chronologically the first time, given the choice. It is very interesting to go out-of-order thereafter. Watch Orson Welles' catalog backward and learn why devolution is such a problematic word. Don't wear yourself out, either: be as alert, caffinated, or drunk as need be to retain and make connections (I guess one cannot be too drunk).
I've hand-picked some possible marathons, for your consideration.
Horror films about horror films (in various orders): Scream (1996), Return to Horror High (1987), Peeping Tom (1960)
Forgotten slashers: Cutting Class (1989), Sleepaway Camp III (1989), Cherry Falls (2000)
Zombie-mash: Return of the Living Dead Part III (1993), Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974), White Zombie (1932)