PM Pick

Street World: Urban Art and Culture from Five Continents by Roger Gastman et al. [$35.00]

Karen Zarker

For those who see a thousand words in a single image, we recommend these two books:

Scrawled graffiti, crafted murals / bright ads in the windows of mom & pop stores, fake ads with real political commentary / sub-culture sleaze, pop culture sharp / fashions that last, fads that die / artists, assholes / sophisticated, down and low / serious danger, perceived fear / the quite silly, the deadly serious / the real thing, a riff on the real -- all the expressions of life, expressive life, seen at street level in a scene captured in the eyeball/camera lens of a paid pro, a perceptive amateur -- whatever -- an astute observer no matter her/his status, no matter her/his location in the world, only the perception and the things captured matter. This is a gorgeous montage of hundreds of single images capturing thousands of stories, diverse and unified, clashing and blending -- ignorant and aware, but the one with the lens knows. Those who get what I'm saying will 'get' this book. It's hefty. It's visual, it's emotional, with some astute text for context. The rest is up for interpretation. Just like life, lived. [Amazon]

Street Art and the War on Terror: How the World's Best Graffiti Artists Said NO to the Iraq War by Xavier Tapies [$35.00]

Graffiti of a political nature must be smart, pointed and fast -- fast for the artist is on the run, fast enough to get the message through at a glance, and prepared for a fast death, as the piece may not be standing / may be covered over before the end of the day. Street level political commentary, anti-Iraq war particularly, is captured throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and the Far East in these pages, and its poignant stuff. The criteria for the "World's Best Graffiti Artists" is not fame, although you'll find Banksy and his ilk among these pages, but the 'fastness' of the message, if you will, the power in the punch. Plenty of "unknown" artists' messages are included, here. Feel free to glance at the commentary for the works' locale, at the minimum, and ignore the editors' interpretation of an image for your own (again, I think the messages come through free and clear, without the static of such narration), or indulge in the brief commentary at your choosing. [Amazon]

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

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Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

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From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

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This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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