The raison d'être of this blog is to review quality books, music, photography and other content that is seldom brought to our attention by the mainstream media.

The title EV+1 is photographic jargon for Exposure Value plus 1: increasing exposure by one stop from the metered value. Photographers use exposure compensation in order to obtain a correct exposure, when the light meter's averaged reading would be incorrect. Like a photographer allowing an extra stop of light to reach the film, I hope to shed a little light on a few under-appreciated gems.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Flat Earth News by Nick Davies

This critique of British journalism reveals a news media that is in a far worse state than even well-informed people may suspect.

Murdoch wrested power from the unions concerned when News Corp bought The Times in the eighties. Those unions did need to lose some power, as readers may recall from Bill Bryson's account of working at The Times over that period, in 'Notes from a Small Island'. But profit has far overtaken information as the main consideration for his company - and for most of the news media. Staff cutbacks are profitable and the ranks of journalists have been decimated worldwide. Now, far fewer journalists need somehow to cover the same number of stories, leaving no time for fact-checking. The best-intentioned of journalists can seldom do the job they would like to do. Due to the resulting rush, press releases are merely regurgitated, adapted to house style. 

But media companies don't only want to have fewer journalists at the coal face; they want to be first as well. In the resulting rush (and one can't be both rushed and accurate in journalism) even the BBC allows its online journalists only five minutes per article.

I knew that the Daily Mail had a bad name, but the paper is worse than bad: it is systematically propagandist. If a journalist is working on a story and the editors find out that it's about a black person, the story is cancelled. (If the person in question is a criminal, I wonder: would it still be cancelled?) 

The Daily Mail systematically lies - and does so in a way calculated to stir up prejudice against minorities and disempowered sections of the community (such as asylum seekers). It also tells blatant lies about celebrities, many of whom have been awarded damages against the paper. 

If a complaint is upheld against The Daily Mail (fat chance, as the British press complaints authority upholds only .6% of complaints - yes, the decimal point is correct), it will publish a 'clarification' somewhere around p.68. Any such comment will never get the prominence of the original lie. It's a profitable way to operate, so that's what the paper does.

Piers Morgan (that paragon of integrity ... ho ho) said: 'The public is always right.' The Daily Mail is aimed at middle-class rednecks, so lies taylor-made for that market are what it writes.

The misinformed public of such newspapers is huge, with the result that such rags set a good chunk of the political agenda. Any government which places more importance on reelection than integrity (which seems to mean all governments), will cater to a constituency that uncritically soaks up 'flat earth news'.

A cynical and self-serving media creates a cynical, self-serving, ignorant and prejudiced public - a public to which cynical and self-serving governments in turn feel bound to cater.

With a news media like this, how can democracy not suffer?

We need a better media than this. I hope it's not this bad in New Zealand, but wouldn't know, as I get all my news from Radio NZ (which hopefully is at least honest, if under-resourced).

I can't recommend this book highly enough.

Publisher's description - excerpts:

'An award-winning reporter exposes falsehood, distortion and propaganda in the global media.'

'"Finally I was forced to admit that I work in a corrupted profession." When award-winning journalist Nick Davies decided to break Fleet Street's unwritten rule by investigating his own colleagues, he found that the business of truth had been slowly subverted by the mass production of ignorance.'

'Working with a network of off-the-record sources, Davies uncovered the story of the prestigious Sunday newspaper which allowed the CIA and MI6 to plant fiction in its columns; the daily newsroom where senior reporters casually refer to 'nig nogs' and where executives routinely reject stories about black people; the respected quality paper which was so desperate for scoops that it hired a conman to set up a front company to entrap senior political figures. He found papers supporting law and order while paying cash bribes to bent detectives and hiring private investigators to steal information....'

Monday, August 5, 2013

Chema Madoz

The work of Spanish photographer Chema Madoz is astounding. Every image reveals an inventive mind that thrives on visual incongruities and puns. His images instil a sense of wonder in the viewer; one is repeatedly left with the thought: how ever did he think of that?

A seemingly infinite imagination accompanied with a mastery of minimalist composition, seamless integration of unlikely elements and humour characterise his work. One repeatedly smiles at his wit and is awestruck by his anarchic flights of fantasy.

The humblest piece of equipment in the photographer's kit is usually the imagination. A mind that can dream beyond the obvious, question the nature of things; a mind that is curious enough to look closely and to return to a subject repeatedly, evolving a philosophy of seeing and interpreting, refining a concept to conceive the most succinct way of representing an idea, has the qualities to produce a great body of work. Chema Madoz clearly has these qualities and so has achieved an originality and clarity of vision rarely seen.


Born in 1958, Madoz is based in Madrid. He studied in the photographic workshops of the Fine Arts Academy of Madrid and studied Art History at the Complutense University of Madrid, also undertaking photography courses at the Image Teaching Centre.

His first solo exhibition was in 1983. Since then, he has won several awards: the Kodak Spain Prize (1991), the National Photography Award (2000), the Higasikawa Overseas Photographer Prize from the Higasikawa PhotoFestival (Japan) (2000) and the PhotoEspaña Award (2000). He has been widely exhibited internationally and his work is held in many public collections such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Museo Marugame, Hirai, Japan; and Museo de Bellas Artes de Buenos Aires.

He has compiled several books (many available only in Spanish), but those on a budget wishing to have an introduction to his key images will be attracted to the small Chema Madoz Biblioteca Photobolsillo edition, priced at NZ$19.39 (including freight) at The Book Depository.

Chema Madoz website blogzine

All images © Chema Madoz.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Gwynne Dyer: Climate Wars podcast

Gwynne Dyer is an author, journalist, broadcaster and lecturer on international affairs, with a Ph.D. in Military and Middle Eastern History from the University of London.

This 2009 CBC radio series in three fifty-five minute episodes is an adaptation of Dyer's 2008 book Climate Warson the geopolitics of climate change.

The premise is that firstly, over the course of history, we have always populated to the limits set by our regional environments; secondly, when an environment's limitations threaten the survival of a community, we have always raided other communities before we have starved – for people will do anything in preference to watching their children die.

But this book and podcast are not based on alarmist theory: it is founded on the well-established scientific evidence for climate change. The science is laid out, along with the reasons for climate change denial. Case studies are then made of regions at risk and likely scenarios of resulting political breakdown and conflict. 

Over the next century, global warming will first destabilise regions that are resource-poor. Pakistan, for example, depends upon the Indus River, the world's largest contiguous river system, which first passes through India – which, by treaty, is entitled to not a proportion of this water, but a set volume. The Chinese Academy of Sciences has found that many Himalayan glaciers feeding such rivers are losing mass at a rate of 7% per year. Eventually, the failure of summer glacier melt will cause protracted droughts. As the flow diminishes, Pakistan's proportionate share of this water will decrease before India's share does – which will destabilise the region. But that's just Pakistan: in total, one to two billion people in the Asian and Subcontinent regions depend upon glacier-fed Himalayan rivers. Furthermore, grain production is now flat-lining – at a time when we are looking at world population peaking at another two billion people, around 2050.

Pressure from climate change will make mass migration inevitable; but the less environmentally-challenged migration destinations will be wanting to safeguard their viability, as crop yields shrink: India has already built a fence along the Bangladesh border. As a last resort, when faced with insurmountable environmental pressures, nations will prefer to risk war, over death. While our governments pay lip service to addressing the issue, military strategists in The Pentagon and around the world are assessing regional destabilisations that may arise from climate change.

Options for carbon-neutral energy are examined. Bio-deisel from marine algae looks promising, as it contains 30-60% oil and so is easily refined. Also promising is a report from MIT scientists that there is untapped geothermal energy, which could provide base load electricity in many regions which can find 200°C rocks 2km below ground level – hot enough to boil water. (Another potential energy source, the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor, which promises to be much safer and more practical than the prevalent Light Water Reactor, is unfortunately not mentioned.)

We are fortunate that this crisis has come about in an age when there are viable alternatives to fossil fuels; however, there remains a lack of political will to move away from them. The discussion of this inertia leaves one feeling pessimistic about crucial changes to our energy infrastructure being implemented in time to avoid tipping points – after which, getting the climate back on track will be much more difficult, or impossible. 

Whatever we do now, we are committed to another forty years of warming, due to the time lag between atmospheric composition and temperature. It is very likely that we will be left with geo-engineering as a necessity, in order to buy time; this could also lead to conflict. Devising fair strategies for all countries to reduce fossil fuel use is essential: 'contraction and convergence' is discussed, a strategy by which the rich countries, who produce most of the greenhouse gasses, reduce emissions faster than the developing countries.

This is the most comprehensive summary of climate change and its implications that I've heard – reinforcing the conclusion that now is the crucial time for our governments to embrace carbon-neutral energy. 

Only a groundswell of popular opinion will force the world's democracies to implement a transition away from fossil fuels: please encourage your friends to listen to this important series.

[Climate Wars podcast

Climate Wars book reviews

Gwynne Dyer is one of the few who are both courageous enough to tell the unvarnished truth, and have the background to understand, not misrepresent the inputs. This book does a superb job of detailing the emerging realities of Climate/Energy. These realities are not pretty. -- Dennis Bushnell, Chief Scientist, NASA    [Read more …

Friday, January 4, 2013

EV+1 news

Due to illness I've had to take a break from this blog for the last year, but I'm hoping to resume regular posting this year. 

Richard Smallfield

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Samsom Nacey Haines Trio: Open to Suggestions

I should preface this review with the embarrassing confession that I know more about the New York jazz scene than that of my own country. However, this prompts the comment that fans of accomplished guitar ensembles on the New York scene, such those of as Adam Rodgers, Gilad Hekselman or Steve Cardenas, will find a lot to admire about this trio.

Recorded in 2008, Open to Suggestions was the band's first release. Insightfully supported by the superb rhythm section of Ron Samsom on drums and Kevin Haines on bass, Dixon Nacey's improvisations weave logical paths around a repertoire consisting half of standards, the other half being compositions by the band members or other contemporary jazz musicians.

It is perhaps apt that the album opens with the tune All or Nothing At All, for Nacey gives his all - and delivers. Opening with broken chords* from an archtop guitar in the slightly muted tone usually favoured by jazz players, what unfolds is an ebullient solo: having stated the tune, he embarks on an expansive, mostly single-line improvisation (interspersed with block chords), in which he examines the tune's possibilities with a propulsive coherence, building in intensity with each chorus. Underpinning Nacey's playing is a meticulous and empathetic rhythm section; Haines's bass solo, which follows Nacey's, is possessed of the same intuition, vigour and precise rhythmic drive with which he supports the guitarist.

Another track that I'd like to single out for special comment is the gem of a title track, Open to Suggestions, composed by Ron Samsom; I don't think it's extravagant to describe it as a masterpiece of succinctness. Anyone with enough training can write a clever tune, but it takes native talent to write one that is haunting; Open to Suggestions is such a tune. The head and subsequent improvisations are logical developments springing from the four notes of the opening motif (flat 5th/5th/min 3rd/tonic), which follows a chordal introduction. Samsom's composition, followed by the solos from Nacey and Haines, is a mesmerising conversation between guitar, bass and drums.

Jim Hall famously had (or maybe still has) a notice inside his guitar case that said 'Make musical sense.' What else matters? This album's performances make sense, take the listener through a sampling of the tunes' possible twists and turns and resolve those journeys. Common denominators throughout are a deep empathy between the musicians, a very tight rhythm section (although Samsom is inclined to be slightly reserved), inspired improvisation from both Nacey and Haines and sublime recording quality.

If I am to be picky, there is just one track that bugged me: called Off Topic, it is an elegant 35 second fragment, begging to go somewhere. I don't know why these vignettes sometimes appear on otherwise superb albums. Mike Stern did a similar thing by including a short piece called Source on his classic album Standards (and other songs); in my opinion, it didn't fit in with the rest of that album's content and I'm a bit puzzled by the inclusion of Off Topic, here. Potentially possessing the same sort of beauty as the Evans/Davis composition Blue in Green, I hope it pops up again in a future album, fully realised.

These musicians have paid their dues with no compromise attitudes to excellence in studying and performing music. This album is the product of a desire to make music for the sake of making music; and years later, I believe it will be looked upon as a New Zealand jazz classic.

If, like the Samsom Nacey Haines Trio, you care about jazz or about New Zealand music, buy this album; it will reward you.

The CD is available online at Amplifier.

Dixon Nacey has a jazz guitar tuition site called Jazz Guitar Legend.

*The introduction reminded me of Rolf Yardemark's opening to the tune Family Man from the album Further Adventures in Guitarland, which is also worth checking out; available at the iTunes Store.)

Copyright © Richard Smallfield 2012

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Maurice Lye: Only God Can Make a Tree

If I were to choose one word to describe this book containing twenty-five examples of Maurice Lye's photography, it would be charm.

Maurice has stated: I enjoy and respect the many ways people create, beautify or arrange their surroundings, the passion, love and sometimes a bit of madness which goes into many of the subjects in this book. All the photographs were taken as the scene presented itself, nothing was manipulated or rearranged, the random coincidences are just as interesting. 1

He has described himself as a scavenger of images. One reason why I am so receptive to his work is that he sees things that I feel I would never have noticed, without his help. His exacting eye pays great attention to every detail of composition, all elements being deliberately and precisely placed within the frame.

The book's images, dating from 1979 to 2007, provide a sympathetic and sometimes humorous portrayal of New Zealand emblems found in suburbs and country towns. This is humble subject matter, but material that causes us to smile with immediate recognition; material captured with quiet affection, yet never lapsing into cliché or sentimentality.

The photos tend towards the minimalist (Holiday House, Arthur's Pass | 1979 – a detail of which is on the cover), the simplicity of the images lending a restrained beauty, which makes them all the more mesmerising. Subjects range from old South Island holiday houses, to a Santa Parade, a Vintage Machinery Show, a roadside bench, a concrete fawn and a Knitted Nativity shop window display.

Having seen this small, but enticing sample of Maurice's work from the last three decades, I'm hoping that another book will not be too far away.

Only God Can Make a Tree
can be bought from Maurice for $40 plus p&p and would make a great Christmas gift; he can be contacted via his website:, which displays an informative sampling of his work.

Photos: 1. Daisy, Kaikura | 2003; 2. Christmas parade, float, Christchurch | 1987. (Photos © Maurice Lye)

Copyright © Richard Smallfield 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Myra Melford and Tanya Kalmanovitch: Heart Mountain

The art of conversation is mostly about listening, whether conversing verbally or by playing notes. A fluent and empathetic conversation between viola and piano (or occasionally harmonium), mostly in the form of free improvisation, Heart Mountain is a rare album that stands apart from the crowd; one which stopped me in my tracks.

Although almost all of it is freely improvised, in terms of 'feel', it is often closer to avant-garde classical music than jazz. This is not a negative observation, however, for Heart Mountain transcends categorisation; it is simply  one of the most arresting performances I've heard – in any genre.

Tanya Kalmanovich's playing on this album has a mesmeric and fully-realised voice of its own. She is a widely acclaimed Canadian violist and violinist, classically trained at the Juilliard School of Music. Among her posts, she is Assistant Chair of the department of Creative Improvisation at Boston's New England Conservatory, as well as being an instructor at the Guildhall School in of Music in London. She has repeatedly visited India to study music and conduct research for her doctoral dissertation on jazz exotica.

Myra Melford, whose performances here display great sensitivity and technical facility, is a seasoned jazz pianist. She has over thirty recordings in her catalogue, in nineteen of which she is the leader or co-leader. She trained classically until her college years, when she developed an interest in improvised music and blended an avant-garde approach from studies with Henry Threadgill and Don Pullen, with her classical background. To these she added an Indian influence: in 2000, she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study North Indian music in Calcutta, which she undertook over 2000 and 2001. She has been on the faculty of music at U.C. Berkely since 2004.

All but one of the performances contained in Heart Mountain are free improvisations. The dialogues show a deep rapport between the two musicians; by turns hypnotic and unsettling, the music unfolds at the speed of thought as they feed off every scrap of an idea contributed by the other, each track unfolding a unique story.

Names were attached to the tracks afterwards; in some cases they are uncannily fitting: Into a Gunny Sack and Into the Kootenay River not only conveys the menace implied in the title but, as is pointed out in the excellent interview with Benny Lackner on the Brooklyn Jazz Underground Podcast, one passage of Myra's very effectively evokes  a terrifying ride upon torrents of water cascading over rapids.

This is an album that will not fade from memory over the years; an album to which I will regularly be returning – for me, one of the classics of improvised music.

Copyright © Richard Smallfield 2011