This past weekend I finished reading Sebastian Junger’s new book War — which along with the accompanying documentary Restrepo (directed by both Junger and photojournalist Tim Hetherington) — documents one U.S. Army platoon’s entire 15 month deployment to Afghanistan’s Korangal valley, one of the most dangerous places in the world. Rather than focusing on the politics of the War in Afghanistan, both War and Restrepo center on the soldiers on the front lines. The book and film are a sobering look at the everyday GIs that are out there in the shit; dividing their mountainous existence between boredom, firefights, reinforcing their post and dealing with the local Afghans. I highly recommend both the book and the film, which each provide a poignant perspective on the war in Afghanistan, and at the same time manage to avoid the pitfalls of the typical modern war documentary. [Restrepo / War]
Another book I need to buy from Taschen is Roadside America by John Margolies. Similar in style to Los Angeles, and very obviously my type of vibe, the book covers everything from “main Street signs, movie theaters, gas stations, fast food restaurants, motels, roadside attractions, miniature golf courses, dinosaurs, giant figures and animals, and fantasy coastal resorts.” You know who else would love this book? Mr. Aaron Draplin.
Some great imagery from Roadside America is below. Enjoy.
The Taschen New York store is directly across the street from my office and sometimes when I need to clear my head I’ll trot over there to flip through some of their beautiful books and drift off into another world. After I posted the old Kodachromes of L.A., a few people pointed me in the direction of Los Angeles, Portrait of a City and I was immediately sucked in to the amazing photography of an amazing city.
The Trad in his infinite knowledge of interesting things points us to one of the most entertaining reads the Sunday Book Review has ever offered up. The gem of an essay is on Minnesota native and epic hook and bullet purveyor George Herter. The titles of Herter’s books alone make me love the guy. The archive includes: “How to Get Out of the Rat Race and Live on $10 a Month,” the popular “Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices” and my personal favorite “How to Live With a Bitch.”
My friend Rob in LA recently sent me a cool gift set of classic books in the shape of cigarette packs. The cleverly designed reading materials were produced by Tank Magazine and are aptly dubbed Tank Books. The set will make a great gift and won’t even cause cancer, unless you read them in front of the microwave that is.
The New York Times City Room blog (and the omnipresent Sewell Chan) have a nice feature and interview with artist / photographer Paul Lacy about his new photography book of independent Brooklyn storefronts. New York is fortunate to have so many independent shops and restaurants. It is something that makes me love living here. The chains have gained a lot of ground, but the independent, family owned merchants are the inspiring and unique places that make New York special. Anyone that has been to B&H can attest. My own little collection of storefronts can be seen here.
Below: images from Lacy’s book.
I posses a natural tendency to be a very curious person. I want to know what makes the world work. My curiosities extend to include the root causes of historical events and social movements. Out of the many topics that I am interested in, there are a few random subjects that for some reason I am completely infatuated with. Some of the most random subjects are things like commercial aviation, Richard Nixon, the 1960s, hydraulic equipment, world war two and strangely enough, the inner-city crack epidemic of the 1980s and 90s. Recently the book Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh piqued my interest. The author recounts his fascinating past as a University of Chicago graduate student doing research at the notorious Robert Taylor Homes during the crack-fueled days of the 1990s. Over the seven years Venkatesh spent with the people of the housing project, he managed to earn the trust of a mid-level gang leader that ran the crack trade in and around Robert Taylor. This unprecedented access to the inner-workings of one of the largest housing developments in the country gave Venkatesh admission to a hidden world of crime, poverty and government corruption. The author goes to great length to painstakingly detail the economics of the crack game and the black-market hustle that takes place all over inner-city America. Sudhir Venkatesh first gained recognition for his contributions to Stephen Dubner’s book Freakonomics.
“Sudhir Venkatesh was born with two abnormalities,” says Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner, “an overdeveloped curiosity and an underdeveloped sense of fear. A lot of writing about the poor tends to reduce living, breathing, joking, struggling, sensual, moral human beings to dupes who are shoved about by invisible forces. This book … shows, day by day and dollar by dollar, how the crack dealers, tenant leaders … cops, and Venkatesh himself tried to construct a good life out of substandard materials.”