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Robin Benson

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Le Corbusier: Secret Photographer
Le Corbusier: Secret Photographer
by Tim Benton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 24.77

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Le Corbusier's visual notes, 27 Sep 2013
Tim Benton has written an exhaustive overview of Le Corbusier's photography though as he says in the introduction Giuliano Gresleri's 1985 book reproduces six hundred photos when he found the negatives and contact prints in a library at La Chaux-de-Fonds. Benton's book has some overlap with Gresleri's but really considers different aspects of Jeanneret's creativity.

The book is in two parts: Jeanneret's photos from 1907 to 1919 and the second part looking at Le Corbusier's photography and short movies during 1936 to 1938. In the first section Benton suggests that Jeanneret made serious attempts to take professional architectural photos but by 1911 gave up on this idea and used his camera to take visual notes. He took hundreds of these though very few were published. The pages reproduce many of these as large thumbnails (and there are colour photos of the types of camera Jeanneret used and tables of technical detail about the models). Benton makes the point that to understand the photos you have to be aware of how these cameras functioned. The second part looks at Le Corbusier's more ambitious photo and movie output, he used a Siemens B 16mm for movies. You can see seven montages of this work accessible through QR patches placed at the start of several portfolio sections in the book.

Many of the thumbnails in the text are reproduced much larger in the thirteen portfolios of photos that follow each chapter. The earlier of those mostly feature architecture and landscapes. From 1936 they feature Le Corbusier's family, Europe and various trips overseas. The longest portfolio is forty-two pages of photos taken on the SS Conte Biancamano in August 1936 and rather than photograph passengers he concentrated of the ships machinery.

I thought it slightly unfortunate that all the portfolio sections (they take up half the book) are printed on black pages which overpowers the photos, so four stars. So many of them are grainy and with subdued tonal quality. The thumbnail versions, printed on white paper, have much more sparkle.

I thought Benton's final chapter: Conclusions, raised some interesting points. On page 403 he asks why take these photos seriously because they are mostly of mediocre quality. His explanation is that Le Corbusier used photography as a memoir of his personal and professional life and they offer a glimse at his psychology. Despite taking may hundreds of photos (and short movies) over his lifetime he preferred to regard them no more than visual notes and this explains why this aspect of his creativity is little known rather than his towering genius as an architect.

30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse in the Typografische Monatsblatter: TM RSI SGM 1960 - 90
30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse in the Typografische Monatsblatter: TM RSI SGM 1960 - 90
by Ecole Cantonale d'Art de Lausanne
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 29.25

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Swiss Look, 9 Sep 2013
This Swiss typography magazine had an influence far beyond its small circulation. Classed as a monthly, though there are only ten issues a year, the book looks in detail at the most interesting years of Typografische Monatsblatter (TM). Between 1960 and 1990 there were big editorial changes and a major shift in the industry from craftsman controlled lead setting to computer set type.

TM was a rather unusual magazine, founded in 1933 by a typesetters association it covered all aspects of the Swiss printing industry but also had a strong interest in design education. Many of the covers of TM, up to the late seventies, were designed by students and unusual for a magazine one designer would create all the covers for a year.

The magazine obviously considered at all aspects of the 'Swiss look' but Louise Paradis, the book's author, makes an interesting point in her Intro: the absence of Neue Haas Grotesk (Helvetica) on any TM cover, instead Univers was the dominant face. Typographer and teacher Emil Ruder designed ten, now famous, covers in 1961 with the name of the magazine in various sizes of Univers. The 'Swiss look' is actually in two parts depending on where designers worked: Basel or Zurich. Ruder from Basel favored Univers while Josef Muller-Brockmann and Hans Neuberg in Zurich used Helvetica (but before that Standard Medium and Bold). This was also the city where the influential magazine New Graphic Design originated and helped spread Swiss (Helvetica) design in Europe and America.

The book's five chapters look at all the editorial changes at TM and the way it covered technology and education in the Swiss print industry. Each starts with an essay followed by several pages of generously sized covers and spreads from the magazine. Eleven pages in the back of the book show all the covers from 1960 to 1990 in colour and thumbnail size. There are several fascinating pictorial pages, in colour, showing the way the magazine featured experimental design and typography in the eighties some time before the work of David Carson and Emigre magazine.

The book's design and production is first class (as one would expect from Lars Muller) and the contents will interest anyone working with typography and graphic design. It would certainly be a worthwhile addition to any design school library.

Does the Richness of the Few Benefit Us All?
Does the Richness of the Few Benefit Us All?
by Zygmunt Bauman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.19

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Who wants to be rich anyway?, 2 Sep 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For a thin book on the premise that we'll all be better off if the rich get richer I found Bauman's book hard going. Not that I agree with the premise and who does apart from the rich, politicos on the right and captains of industry and commerce. Bauman's style of writing is anything but lucid, with sentences like:

'The endemically divisive effects of the 'policy of deregulation' belong among the most closely guarded official secrets, however; in scripts officially composed for public consumption, deregulation is presented as the royal road to the well-being of all; while GNP statistics, ostensibly measuring the ups and downs of the 'total wealth' of the nation and identified with the nation's well-being, keep silent about the way in which that wealth is distributed'.
'And no wonder: the incurably asymmetrical model of the subject-object relation, once taken over and recycled by the consumer market in the likeness of the client-commodity pattern, shows itself to be singularly unfit to guide and service a human togetherness and interaction in which we all play, simultaneously or intermittently, the subject's and object's role.

The first chapter is an overview of our financially unequal world with stats like: the twenty richest people in the world have resources equal to those of the billion poorest people. I felt, though, that Bauman didn't make clear the differences in wealth. There are those who inherited wealth and those who shrewdly invested wealth, both grow richer all the time. At the other end of the wealth spectrum are those in the finance industry or company chief executives who get rewarded for failure because of legally enforceable contracts, without the legal system these failures wouldn't get a bean.

Chapter three explores four theories which are expanded in the rest of the book. They are: Economic growth; Perpetually rising consumption; Inequality of humans is natural; Rivalry. The first two are obvious enough though rising consumption (or shopping) requires disposable income but aren't we all (apart from the rich) supposed to be getting poorer? It's Bauman's analysis of the last two that meander on for about half the book and I felt that he didn't really come to any particular conclusions that would help a reader understand the book's title.

America's Right: Anti-Establishment Conservatism from Goldwater to the Tea Party
America's Right: Anti-Establishment Conservatism from Goldwater to the Tea Party
by Robert B. Horwitz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely on the right track, 16 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
If you want to know, as I did, how the ultra-conservatives, religious right and Tea (Taxed Enough Already) Party folk became a significant force in American politics and life Horwitz's book is the one to read. He pulls together the various strands of Right thinking historically but in detail from the 50s and 60s right up to the present.

Central to his analysis is the belief by the Right in American Exceptionalism: the United States is the embodiment of God's gift of freedom and constitutes the greatest earthly force for good the world has known; the universal nature of American values accompany US military ventures abroad and that war was the preferred means to defeat America's external enemies. With this in mind it certainly explains the US's political adventures around the world in the last few decades.

I thought Horwitz's chapter on the Tea Party a very succinct review of their ideology and character. Strong in the mid-west with predominantly aging white males, a dislike of intellectuals and the government though I was surprised to read that the party is in favour of government entitlements like Social Security and Medicare but for themselves: the deserving and responsible.

Considering the book is only 210 pages (but with another 70 for Notes and Index) I think the author packs in a huge amount of fascinating detail and nicely his style of writing is mostly jargon free making the book a stimulating read.

Zyliss Egg Slicer and Wedger
Zyliss Egg Slicer and Wedger
Price: 12.49

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cut above the others, 7 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Looking at the egg slicers and prices on offer from Amazon this Zyliss seems to be a near top-of-the-range product. Well made and I liked the small round rubber pads on the bottom to stop it sliding on a kitchen surface. Needless to say it works efficiently, very much like our existing slicer made by Zeal (at about two thirds of the price) but it doesn't have an egg piercer like the Zyliss. The Zeal does have one advantage: no actual bottom so it can be washed easily under a tap.

The Zyliss is made to last and could hardly be improved on so I doubt our household will be getting another slicer in the next decade or so.

Shock Doctrine [DVD] [2009] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Shock Doctrine [DVD] [2009] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Michael Winterbottom
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: 10.18

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shock doctrine of documentary making, 16 July 2013
This is a visual mess. Like so many attempts at visually explaining an abstract idea the makers have to rely on what footage is available and their budget. This is just seventy-eight minutes of newsreel riots and wars letting up occasionally to show some talking-head politicos captured at a news conference. I often wonder when watching this sort of material just how technically poor a bit of film can be before film-makers say 'We can't use this' but it it seems that quick editing and added sound effects can redeem anything.

Fortunately the background narration and Naomi Klein's appearance on the lecture circuit pull so much of her book into perspective. The big disappointment for me was not confronting these 'crony capitalism' guys for an explanation on why there was so much failure with their policies around the world.

You could read a good chunk of her fascinating book in the time it takes to watch this visually dull documentary.

The Book On Free Software - Vol 1
The Book On Free Software - Vol 1
Price: 6.70

2.0 out of 5 stars Free for who?, 5 July 2013
I thought this was a reasonable attempt at explaining the various types of free software but I can't work out who it is aimed at. The author goes into great detail about software like Linux Ubuntu, MySQL, Project Libre, Dia which really mostly applies to professional users rather home-based ones but if you are using a pc professionally the cost of proprietary software is mostly tax deductable and their cost is anyway built into any pricing structure an individual or small company might charge for their services.

For the home pc user who probably bought a bundled pc much of the book's contents won't be of much relevance. Firefox is an obvious browser choice as is Mozilla's email service: Thunderbird. The author chooses Scribus as a good freebie for desk top publishing but I've always felt that is rather daunting for the home user, a better choice could be PagePlus Starter Edition which is much more user friendly (and actually the PagePlus package is incredibly cheap for what the software delivers).

Apart from not being clear who 'Free software' is aimed at I found other problems with the title. There are no screen shots to back up what the text is saying. For example, a lot of space is devoted to the Dia software which creates charts and diagrams, a quick search on Wikipedia pulled up Dia's main window where it is easy to see how versatile it is (for free software). Screen shots of the other software mentioned would have saved a lot of text. The author is clearly no writer, the style is very amateurish and longwinded. This is always a problem with self-publishing, the text never gets anywhere near a sub-editor who would knock the writing into an everyday conversational style that is easy to read, even the technical stuff.

If I came across anything technical in the book that I didn't quite follow I checked it with Wikipedia, only to find that a lot of what is here is there too...and obviously free.

Dan Dare: Spacefleet Operations Manual (Owner's Workshop Manual) (Haynes Owners' Workshop Manuals)
Dan Dare: Spacefleet Operations Manual (Owner's Workshop Manual) (Haynes Owners' Workshop Manuals)
by Rod Barzilay
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.89

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A glance back to the future, 23 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Chaps of a certain age will remember April 14, 1950 when the first edition of the Eagle blasted off with the galactic adventures of Dan Dare. Now everytime I see the first issue cover reproduced somewhere I glance down to the bottom left corner to the see the Kingfisher zooming away from the headquarters of the Interplanet Space Fleet and I'm back in 1950 (with a few coupons for something or other still left in my ration book).

The book is stuffed full of cutaways (I suppose it was a bit unrealistic to expect them all to be colour) of spacecraft from Dan's adventures over past decades. The illustrator Graham Bleathman has done a brilliant job creating these vehicles and a really nice touch is that they not super slick digital images as you would expect from, say, Daniel Simon but sort of up-to-date contemporary versions of those great Eagle centre-spread cutaways. All of them have numbers and captions explaining what everything does, there must be several hundred of these throughout the book.

Apart from the cutaways there are plenty of pages covering what's going on in space: Treen craft; alien identification; hand weapons, Space Fleet equipment; space stations; commercial craft (including one with pin-up nose art) and near the front of the book a couple of spreads with mug shots of the twenty-five leading characters, including Digby's aunt Anastasia.

Overall a lovely bit of nostalgia for those of a certain age.

***LOOK AT SOME INSIDE PAGES by clicking 'customer images' under the cover.

Lester Beall: Space, Time & Content (Graphic Design Archives Chapbook Series, 1)
Lester Beall: Space, Time & Content (Graphic Design Archives Chapbook Series, 1)
by R. Roger Remington
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars A brief intro..., 23 May 2013
This 2003 book on Lester Beall was the first in the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Graphic Design Archives. The second, in 2005, was about Cipe Pineles and I thought both were rather lightweight introductions to these two prominent designers (the fourth book, from 2010, on Alvin Lustig was a much more substantial title).

Roger Remington, a professor at RIT, had already written the definitive book about Beall in 1996 (Lester Beall: Trailblazer of American Graphic Design) and this book is a precis of his earlier book. With only thirty-six pages and less than twenty-five print reproductions this can only be regarded as the briefest of introductions to one of the leading mid-century designers. The visual contents are taken from the Beall's work in the RIT archive. They include experimental photography, ads, magazine spreads and posters. Unfortunately there are only three examples of the remarkable poster series (eighteen in all) he designed in 1937, 1939 and 1947 for the Rural Electrification Administration. None of his corporate identity manual work for Connecticut General, Titeflex or MacMillan Bloedel is shown either.

The four books in this graphic design series (the third was devoted to Will Burtin) are all the same size (7.5 by 7.5 inches) and now that RIT has an extensive collection of designer archives from the thirties onward the books could build up into the valuable index of American design creativity.

Color Rush: American Color Photography from Stieglitz to Sherman
Color Rush: American Color Photography from Stieglitz to Sherman
by Katherine A. Bussard
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 30.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Colour check, 19 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
'Color rush' is one of those books that was co-published with a museum coinciding with an exhibition. The show at the Milwaukee Art Museum ended in May but this lovely book will most likely be the standard history of American colour photography. It follows the same format as Kevin Moore's 'Starburst' book (another exhibition title from 2010 at the Cincinnati Art Museum) with essays in the front of the book followed a portfolio of work from relevant photographers.

I thought the two essays in 'Color rush' were first class. Katherine Bussard covers the history and Lisa Hostetler looks at the nature of colour work. Both writers cover it all: early colour; Hollywood; newspapers; Kodak; advertising; magazines (National Geographic, Life and Vogue) and many individual photographers. The acceptance of colour as art took some time as Hostetler says on page twenty-one: 'Thus in the documentary era -- the 1930s and early '40s -- monochrome photograph's association was with reality and truth, while colour photography was usually associated with superfluous fantasy and commercial extravagance'. Bussard makes an interesting point about the 1976 MoMA Eggleston exhibition that is generally assumed to kick-start the creative interest in colour because in the same year Ernst Haas, Jay Maisel and Pete Turner started the Space Gallery, and the George Eastman House, Corcoran Gallery, Images Gallery, Zabriskie Gallery all had serious exhibitions of colour work. She says of the MoMA exhibition: 'It should instead be understood as one of many separate instances in which artistic practice embraced the hybridity that had long characterized colour photography'.

One of the strengths of the book is the excellent portfolio section, mostly showing the work of individuals but nicely there are photo sections looking at the remarkable advertising work of Nickolas Muray (including two stunning photos of models sitting around a swimming pool from 1931) and Victor Keppler, magazine photography by Anton Bruehl, Victor Keppler, Louise Dahl-Wolfe. Kodak gets six pages, FSA six and Life magazine eight. Thirty-four photographers are included in the rest of the book each having a short biographic essay to go with their work (mostly two to five shots). The back pages have a useful twelve page photography timeline, glossary, exhibition checklist and index.

Aperture have done a lovely job with the book's production using a silky matt art paper for the 250 screen printing. Someone had a bright idea of putting all the many footnotes on the same page to avoid the tedious (and annoying) turning to back pages to check out a reference.

'Color rush' delivers with two excellent essays and two hundred beautifully printed photos.

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