The Center for Land Use Interpretation Newsletter

Book Reviews

Books New to the Shelves of the CLUI Library and Bookshop

A few months ago, we learned of the tragic and untimely death of a remarkable man named Charles Barile, a longtime friend of this organization, who contributed to this newsletter on occasion, and graced us with his charming presence at every single public event we held in Los Angeles. While still in shock after learning why we hadn’t seen him recently, we were told that he had honored us by considering the Center in his last will and testament: He had left us his library. Charles had far reaching interests, and many of the titles were signed by their authors (Charles worked in the entertainment industry and knew a lot of creative people). The majority of the books, we thought, would be better off in the hands of his loving family, or in more broadminded libraries or collections where they would be properly cared for. However, when it came to a few of his favorite subjects, there was some overlap with the CLUI library of land use. We now have a substantially augmented collection of books on aerospace technology and atomic history, to name a few subjects with a direct impact on the ground, in one way or another. Everytime we look up at a jet soaring into the sky above Edwards Air Force Base, or down into the radioactive waste tombs of the Southwestern desert, we will be reminded of Charles and his kindness to us.

Lots of Parking: Land Use in a Car Culture
John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle, Center for American Places/University of Virginia Press, 2004
A great title, a great subject, and a great book. Just the other day we were saying “why aren’t there more books about parking?” Well now there are.

Window Seat: Reading the Landscape from the Air
Gregory Dicum, Chronicle Books, 2004
Another one of those “Geez, we should have thought of that” titles. But there is room for more, as this is a very basic overview, and dwells much on reading the natural topographic features. We recommend that the author does a sequel: “Guide to Using Your GPS Receiver to Figure Out The Exact Location of the Places You See Out the Window of the Airplane.”

Houston Freeways: A Historical and Visual Journey
Erik Slotboom, 2003
One of the best publications to come out of any press in 2003 is this self-published textbook about the freeway system of the nation’s fourth largest city. The author, a Houstonian in his mid thirties, worked in the energy industry, then the software industry, started a website on Houston highways in 2000, and after being let go in the dotcom bust, set to work on this epic work of stunning clarity, modesty, and honesty.

The Lake Project
David Maisel, Nazraeli Press, 2004
A big square flat thin book, like we have come to expect from Nazraeli, with 77 images of the multicolored phantasmagoric swirls, ponds, puddles, pools, and piles of Owens Lake, as seen through the lens of David Maisel's camera, while flying above the lakebed. This work was featured as part of a digital projection in the CLUI exhibit Diversions and Dislocations: California’s Owens Valley.

Invisible Frontier: Exploring the Tunnels, Ruins, and Rooftops of Hidden New York
L.B. Deyo and David “Lefty” Leibowitz, Three Rivers Press, 2004
The overdressed hipsters behind the infiltrative Jinx Project discuss some of their urban and infrastructural spelunking and surmountings, as if they were doing us a favor, which they are, of course – saving the rest of us the trouble of having to climb on to the roof of the Tweed Courthouse and such. The value of the research, thoughtstyling, and ground-truthing inherent in the project would be a lot easier to ingest without the faux-secret-government-speak and the conquering attitude.

Killing Ground, John Huddleston
Center for American Places/Johns Hopkins, 2002
Historical images from the Civil War are juxtaposed with contemporary color photographs of the same places by the author. Not a rephotographic project, but rather a site selection project, where the images reveal the ghosts that lurk in everyday areas, the residential streets, strip malls, playing fields, parking lots, and places in between these places, that are now, still and will always be those same killing fields.

Face to Face with the Bomb: Nuclear Reality After the Cold War
Paul Shambroom, Center for American Places/Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003
Like Robert Del Tredici’s mid 1980’s books like At Work in the Field of the Bombs, this new book shows the state of the nuclear warfare landscape of the US today – in 2003. Big clear photos in vivid color, just as they should be. Another great book from the Center for American Places’ Creating the North American Landscape series, published by Johns Hopkins.

Delta Primer: A Field Guide to the California Delta
Jane Wolff, William Stout Publishers, 2003
This elusive and mysterious part of California is perfectly captured in this unusual publication, which presents the Delta as a set of playing cards, each describing a feature of the region for consideration.

The Vatican to Vegas: A History of Special Effects
Norman Klein, The New Press, 2004
Norman Klein’s new masterwork is a freefalling epic. The 73 pages of notes make for a bonus enumerated book within a book. Our only complaint about this book is the linearity of the format - it’s a book.

Ant Farm 1968-1978
Constance M. Lewallen and Steve Seid, University of California Press, 2004
Ant Farm somehow possessed the commendable post-hippie characteristics of activist pranksterism, mock corporeity, optimistic modernism, innovative design, and pragmatic utopianism, without seeming conflicted about it. This is the catalog of the retrospective of the work of Ant Farm that is currently traveling around the country.

Urban Forest: Images of Trees in the Human Landscape
David Paul Bayles, Sierra Club
Occasionally the Sierra Club puts out a real winner, like Dead Tech, or this one. The trees photographed in this book - contorted, pruned, truncated, and mutated - are absurd, humorous, tragic, resilient, dignified and heroic - living, incidental sculptures of characteristics we humans usually ascribe to ourselves.

Unknown Quantity
Paul Virilio, Thames & Hudson, 2004
Pictures and words of death and destruction from the French philosopher. A voyeuristic harangue that is totally savant and au courant.

Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory
Michael Christopher Carroll, William Morrow, 2004
The extremities of Long Island contain extremes of human behavior, pushed to the edge, but still, it seems, too close to everyone else. Just off Orient Point at the northeast tip is 840 acre Plum Island, a US Department of Agriculture animal disease research center which has been involved in bacterial and viral projects that are capable of escaping to the outside world, and may have done so already.

Waiting for the End of the World
Richard Ross, Princeton Architectural Press, 2004
The interiors of bomb shelters of the world are explored in this photo book, from the still maintained public shelters in Zurich to the de-radicalized Church Universal and Triumphant in Montana. One impression that lingers after reading this book is how small this underground world is, even though it is spread out around the globe.

Baja to Vancouver: The West Coast and Contemporary Art
CCA Wattis Institute, 2004
The catalog of the exhibit of the same name, which is now traveling up and down the coast, would have been great, except for that CLUI “essay” in the back.