Category Archives: Books

Moving Pictures

A spectrum of boundary-crossing music photography

 Danny Clinch_Still Moving

Danny Clinch:

Still Moving

By Danny Clinch

Hardcover, 296 pages, $50 (Abrams)

 

Clinch, a preeminent music photographer and Grammy Award-nominated documentary film director, has used his camera to chronicle a spectrum of popular performers in both explosive performances and during reflective private moments for Rolling Stone, SPIN, Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ and other publications. This handsome collection of his work—with a title taken from a Willie Nelson song and featuring powerful portraits as well as more photojournalistic, fly-on-the-wall shots of a Who’s Who of boundary-crossing rock, country, blues, hip-hop and soul performers—is a visual feast for music lovers of all kinds.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Cool Cat Daddy

Sammy Davis Jr. bio has daughter’s personal touch

SammyCVR1_Layout 1

Sammy Davis Jr.—A Personal Journey With My Father

By Tracey Davis

Hardcover, 208 pages, $30 (Running Press)

Fans of the Rat Pack will enjoy this poignant, personal memoir, accompanied by a wealth of rare photos, from Davis’ only daughter with Swedish actress May Britt, who traces her father’s remarkable life and career at home and in Hollywood across six decades, in more than 20 movies, on more than 40 record albums, in seven Broadway shows—and in millions of American living rooms as a black entertainer on TV who broke the “color barrier” for many others who would follow. It’s often hard to define “cool,” but Sammy Davis Jr., baby, he had it, in every way, from every angle. He was it.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Musical History Tour

How 50 instruments shaped the development of modern music

 The History of Music in 50 Instruments

The History of Music in 50 Instruments

By Philip Wilkinson

Hardcover, 224 pages, $29.95 (Firefly Books)

 

Strike up the band! This informative, generously illustrated guided tour of musical history looks at 50 orchestra instruments and how they each contributed to the march of musical time—the spread of the lute from the Middle East throughout Europe during the Renaissance; the importance of the organ in cathedrals and churches; the versatility of the “exotic,” jingly-jangly tambourine; the role in the drum and the piccolo in the military; saxophones as the backbone of jazz. It’s a treasury of facts about composers, musicians and compositions and—of course—the instruments that made it all possible.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Java Juiced

A wide-ranging look at “our daily habit” and its effects

Caffeinated 

Caffeinated

By Murray Carpenter

Hardcover, 270 pages (Hudson Street Press)

 

Had your fix today—your caffeine fix? The most popular drug in America is the completely unregulated one that we get in our coffee, teas, colas, chocolate and even some pain relievers. This well-researched, wide-ranging look at “how our daily habit helps, hooks and hurts us”—by a writer for NPR, The New York Times and Wired—is compelling, comprehensive, insightful and more than a little bit scary. Read it and you’ll probably never sip that morning cup of java so nonchalantly again.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

 

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Not-So-Simpler Times

Re-examining the era of James Dean, ‘Ozzie & Harriet,’ & ‘I Love Lucy’

The Forgotten Fifties_cover

The Forgotten Fifties

By James Conaway

Hardcover, 224 pages, $45 (Skira Rizzoli)

From the pages and archives of LOOK magazine, a publication that defined the Fifties in images and words, comes this handsome photographic celebration of the complicated, often contradictory era that transformed America’s identity through an unprecedented confluence of socio-economics, culture and politics at the end of World War II. With 200 color and black and white photos, it’s a chronological museum of memories charting the ups and downs of a nation as it finds its way through the often mixed signals of Ozzie and Harriet and I Love Lucy, John F. Kennedy, James Dean, Disneyland, suburban prosperity, urban slums and other touchstones from an era that wasn’t quite as simple as it might seem.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Come Fly With Me

America takes wing in dishy social history of commercial air travel

 Jet Set

Jet Set

By William Stadiem

Hardcover, 368 pages, $28 (Ballantine Books)

Fly the friendly skies in this rip-roaring social history of America taking wing in the late 1950s and early ’60s, as commercial airline travel became a commodity for “ordinary” people along with movie stars, moguls and glamorous, globetrotting trendsetters. Smart, sexy and full of dishy detail, it’s like a real-life Mad Men in the air, peopled with characters from all walks of history and pop culture, including eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes, hotel magnate Conrad Hilton, budget-travel icon Arthur Frommer, and dozens of others who helped create the irresistible allure of the “jet set.”

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Go, Dog, Go

Examining the long tale of the hot dog wiener

Man Bites Dog

Man Bites Dog

By Bruce Kraig & Patty Carroll

Softcover, 200 pages, $19.95 (Rowman Publishing)

Summer is the season for hot dogs, and so it’s perfect time to check out this book going deep into the world of the wiener, exploring just how those humble little links grew up to become such powerful icons of all-American culture. The author, a respected “hot dog scholar,” examines franks from one end to the other, looking at their history and lore, the places where they’re sold, the people who market them from stands and pushcarts, and the simple, mouth-stretching pleasures they’ve always promised. Rich with information as well as color photos, it also includes 25 pages of recipes and suggested toppings.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Incomplete Pass

True-story faith-based football drama falls short of goal line

Alexander Ludwig;Jim Caviezel;Matthew Daddario;Jessie T Usher

When The Game Stands Tall

Starring Jim Caviezel, Laura Dern and Michael Chiklis

Directed by Thomas Carter

PG

When the Game Stands Tall revolves around the record-setting 12-year, 151-game winning streak of the Concord, Calif., De La Salle High School football team, whose feat remains unrivaled in American sports.

As such, it’s not exactly an underdog tale: De La Salle’s Spartans were champions, kings, on top of the world in 2003. Instead, we see how they rebounded from a couple of major setbacks, including a tragedy involving one of their teammates, and what happened when they eventually encountered a team they couldn’t beat.

Alexander Ludwig;Jessie T UsherBut still, it’s a bit hard to feel too sorry for a bunch of California teens at a well-off, suburban school that won every game they played for more than a decade.

So director Thomas Carter, in his adaptation of Neil Hayes’ 2004 book, focuses his attention on the team’s soft-spoken coach, Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) and his message to his players: Football isn’t just about football—it’s about unity, family and teamwork.

Coach Lad is also the school’s religion teacher, and he likes to toss Bible verses in with his tractor-tire workouts, blocking drills and tackle plays. The movie’s numerous other faith references and subtle sermonizing—most of it synched to sweeping, syrupy music to underscore the moment—will no doubt appease churchgoers.

Caviezel will be familiar to many viewers from his current starring role on TV’s Person of Interest, and many will also remember that he played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s bloody Passion of the Christ (2004). As Ladouceur, he’s also somewhat Christ-like, a pious figure who encourages his players to not “exalt” themselves.

Jim CaviezelJudging from the end-credit video clips, Caviezel plays his role very close to the low-key temperament of the real-life coach. But his performance is so pious and so low-key, it almost feels like he’s standing on the sidelines of the movie in which he’s supposed to be starring. Caviezel makes the coach seem he’s carved out of a big block of grim, sacred wood.

Laura Dern plays his wife, and Michael Chiklis is his assistant coach. Thank goodness both are around to bring some zing to the party. Clancy Brown plays an overbearing father of a star player, but the script almost pushes him into clichéd-villain territory.

The actual football scenes have the crunch and wallop of realism, thanks to veteran Hollywood sports stunt coordinator Allan Graf, cinematographer Michael Lohmann and a squad of college-player stand-ins.

But the movie struggles to find its dramatic center, or even a real message. It puts several ideas in play—the coach’s regrets, his newer players’ hubris, what it means to be “men”—without ever really following through on any of them. And what does the phrase “When the Game Stands Tall” mean, anyway? Instead, the film settles for a soft, mushy kind of feel-good uplift that moviegoers have seen many times before, more powerfully and more potently.

And in a movie about a game being about something supposedly more than football, it comes down to a yet another big finish in yet another a big game that lets you know that, hey, at least in Hollywood, it’s mostly still about football, after all.

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Of Pens & Pigskins

A roundup of great writing & great writers on football

 Football_Great Writing

Football

Edited by John Schulian

Hardcover, 486 pages, $30 (The Library of America)

 

Half a century of legendary players, iconic moments and classic games come alive again in this collection of more than 40 magazine articles and book excerpts. Standouts include a selection from H.G. Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights; Frank Deford’s profile of Johnny Unitas; Michael Lewis on NFL kickers, the least respected players on the field; Bryan Curtis’ piece on Texas Youth Football; Roy Blount Jr. writing about his 40-year love affair with the Pittsburgh Steelers; George Plimpton’s first-person account of what it’s like to play as a Detroit Lion from his book Paper Tiger, plus many more insights, perspectives and observations sure to please any diehard pigskin fan.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Courting the King

Ginger Alden tells of life as Elvis Presley’s fiancé

Elvis and GingerElvis and Ginger

By Ginger Alden

Hardcover, 400 pages, $26.95, $10.99 Kindle edition (Berkley)

Much has been written about the late, great Elvis Presley, but none of it—until now—by the woman who was his last love, his fiancé at the time of his death, the 20-year-old native Memphis, Tenn., beauty who captured his heart and became a part of his home and his entourage for nine months, up until the fateful day she discovered his unresponsive body in the bathroom. Brimming with details and dish, this fascinating tale of Alden and the King’s courtship and life together, told against a backdrop of the final arc of Presley’s superstardom as it fell apart inside his claustrophobic castle walls, is one Presley fans have been waiting for—and about as “inside” as it gets.

 —Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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