Welsh photographer Philip Jones Griffiths is one of the reasons we don’t see videos of American “smart” bombs devastating Baghdad neighborhoods. His 1971 book of photographs, Vietnam, Inc., helped change the world’s notion of war forever and made Pentagon officials adamant about keeping the media away from any real action. Griffiths’ first retrospective, Dark Odyssey (New York: Aperture, 1996), is a collection of over 100 duotone photographs. In addition to Vietnam, Griffiths turns his gaze on the dark sides of the U.S., Wales, New Guinea, Japan, and others.
The publisher’s blurbs for Catch: A Discovery of America (Denver: MacMurray & Beck, 1996) aim a little high (“In Catch, we discover who we really are”), but the book, about the underrated pastime of playing catch, is a clever idea nevertheless. Colorado journalist Nick Hartshorn traversed the United States, talking with everyone from a hot dog salesman in Vermont to a gang member in Los Angeles to filmmaker Spike Lee in New York City. While the somewhat naive book never quite reaches its potential, Hartshorn’s enthusiasm for his subject is, well, catching.
Socialist punk-folk rocker Billy Bragg wears his new fatherhood well, and the incongruity between punk and dad is beautifully unsettling on William Bloke (New York: Elektra, 1996), his first release in five years. On “Brickbat,” he sings over a gorgeous cello figure, belying bitterness: “I used to want to plant bombs at the Last Night of the Proms. But now you’ll find me with the baby, in the bathroom.” The closest thing to a protest singer to emerge from the ’80s, Bragg returns to the lone guitar and busker’s amp sound of his early work on several tracks, mixing in a full horn section on others.
Just in time for an inauguration party, Diane Milliken’s bipartisan cookbook, Capitol Cuisine: Recipes From The Hill (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996), gathers the favorite recipes of current and former Beltway personalities and their spouses. From first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s now-infamous chocolate chip cookies to former first lady Nancy Reagan’s monkey bread, this collection is a gastronomic remedy for partisan bickering. Dietitians will no doubt draw their own conclusions about how Sen. Strom Thurmond’s miniature ham rolls have led to his longevity, but leave it to political analysts to chew on the true significance of former Sen. Bob Packwood’s pick: wild rice stew.