‘America: How It Works’ by Heathcote Williams

The fierce dissidence of Williams's polemical poetry is as radical as Shelley’s. "America: How It Works" bears witness to the monster within "the most dangerous country in world history." Words by Heathcote Williams. Narration and montage by Alan Cox. The business of America is business, And it's number one business is war. It uses Hollywood to peddle its values To turn the world into its whore. But few of its citizens have the guts to say boo. Otherwise they'd be refusing to pay taxes. So, like their own media, they back war … [Read more...]

Remembering Norman Mailer, Sorta Policy Wonk

Norman Mailer [Chicago Sun-Times, 1984]

I'm no policy wonk on Russia and neither was Norman Mailer. But the crisis in the Ukraine and an article in today's New York Times about the impact of thinning ranks of Russia experts on U.S. policy reminded me of remarks Mailer once made about the former Soviet Union, as though he were an expert. It was back in 1984 and Mailer had come to Chicago. He looked at 61 not unlike a retired seadog, although there was nothing retiring about him. What hadn’t changed with age was his provocative charm. Although he was there to promote a new novel, he … [Read more...]

‘Clapping Music,’ Talking Music, and a ‘Mallet Quartet’

Steve Reich

Steve Reich has been called "our greatest living composer" by a New York Times critic. Was that hyperbole or just ink-stained enthusiasm? Listening to a performance of Reich's "Mallet Quartet" a few nights ago at the CUNY Graduate Center (followed by his conversation with New York magazine's music critic Justin Davidson), I understood why Reich was at least in the running. That's him in the baseball cap. … [Read more...]

Music for Organ, With Encore for Bosendorfer Pianos

Puck on the left, with Charlemagne Palestine

A friend of mine, Ben Schot, sent a photo he recently took of the Brooklyn-born minimalist composer and performance artist Charlemagne Palestine (born Chaim Moshe Tzadik Palestine, or Charles Martin) and his daughter Puck, a student at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague. "He used to live in Rotterdam for a couple of years in the '90s," Ben wrote. "We met then and have been in touch since. He lives in Belgium now but performs in Holland every now and then. I wanted Puck to meet him, after having introduced her to his work. [...] It was great … [Read more...]

Charley Plymell Tells and Shows in Strings of Emails

Poster for a recent appearance.

Charley Plymell's long, seemingly endless strings of emails are fascinating to read. He has known so many Beat writers and artists and has popped up in so many places with them that I can't help thinking of him -- half in wonder and half in disbelief -- as the Zelig of the Beat Generation. Unlike Zelig, however, he has actual evidence to support his many, many tales. There he is in snowy Cherry Valley, for example, displaying a painting by William Burroughs that Burroughs once gave him and his wife Pam. "We sold it over phone ... 3 grand," he … [Read more...]

SOS: An American Poet Is Waiting to Be Rescued

Somali Piracy Threat Map

Cody Maher, expat American poet and world traveler living in Heidelberg, writes in an email message that he was sitting around "watching countries go to the dogs feeding the people nothing but lies" when it occurred to him that "the only safe place one day might be international waters." This must have been before the Somali pirates stuck their noses in, but his poem makes more sense today than ever. INTERNATIONAL WATERS I wanted to run away to a country Where people weren't running to get out I arrived at one country And I was … [Read more...]

‘Burroughs in London’ by Heathcote Williams

Transatlantic Review 14

Now that the Burroughs centenary has moved into high gear -- marked by a massive new biography, a lecture series, a remastered movie, all kinds of performances, an art exhibition (more than one, actually), and what have you (including a major conference in Indiana, of all places, and an academic gathering planned for April in New York) -- it suddenly dawned on Heathcote Williams that he'd known the man on and off for more than half a century. 
I first met William Burroughs in 1963. I was working for the now-defunct literary magazine … [Read more...]

Barbie Duz Her Thang in the New York Times, Oh Yeah

This Barbie Doll ad showed up in the New York Times this morning. Prominently positioned in the A-section on page 7. [Feb. 18, 2014]

I am a doll. And yet, I've always caused a bit of a stir, starting with my debut as a teenage fashion model in a swimsuit in 1959. My creation was met with skepticism and judgment. [...] Over time I've become an icon, and as with all icons, I've been pulled into the cultural conversation. "My god! The strenuous exertions of this copywriter sweating blood to extract meaning from airy plastic nothings made me quite breathless. Now Barbie is a feminist? 'If you buy our super de luxe and cutting-edgy version and peel off her cosmetic surgery... … [Read more...]

Two New Poster Cards from Cold Turkey Press

'An Iron Fish Rusts' by Malcolm Ritchie [Cold Turkey Press, 2014]

An Iron Fish Rusts up in the hills at this age now even my stick takes a rest * on a tarmac a single stone like aloneness * in the glen the silence of an echo waiting for sound * in the empty sky a crow crows the empty sound of a crow According to Dr. Philip Masonbar, noted pathologist and jetset raconteur, The Condition was originally described in 1895 by Sir Arthur Blonk. As an afterthought, Blonk said: "Going to decimate San Francisco? Then you must withhold the admission, or prepare to lay aside through strict … [Read more...]

When Excessive Rudeness Pays Off

Illustration by Claire Palmer

Something worth remembering ... The Buddha and the Pork Chop Apparently the Buddha met his end Thanks to an excessive degree of politeness. Though he was vegetarian, someone prepared him a meal And the Buddha felt obliged to eat what he’d been offered. Due to its being a bad pork chop, the Buddha died. Clearly Buddhists keen to follow the Buddha’s example But reluctant to share in his hapless fate Should be ruder – ‘Don’t you know what happens to people Who push shit to aspiring Buddhas? They get reincarnated As used … [Read more...]

Cody Maher: ‘Nightmare Entering the Country’

Border security is so much in the news these days that my staff of thousands was desperate for comic relief. Then this scenario came over the transom from Cody Maher. Bingo! A vaudevillian routine with foreign-born American security agents Passport ... yes I see, you away a long time, where you go? where I go? yes, where you go? you mean where have I been yeah, where you been? I been away away what? no, away where away what away where what's the difference, you back, what you doing back? I was born here you want a medal, Joey, … [Read more...]

‘The Intercept’ Launch: Whistleblowers Welcomed

the intercept staff(480)

This is not a Wanted! poster, but it might as well be. You can be sure these journalists are or will be targeted by intelligence officials. The Intercept is a whistleblowing enterprise created by Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Laura Poitras. The site was launched today by First Look Media. Our short-term mission is limited but critically important: to provide a platform and an editorial structure in which to aggressively report on the disclosures provided to us by our source, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. We decided to launch now … [Read more...]

Personal History: My Father Was a New York Cabbie

'An Angel Rides Disguised as Cabbie' by Gabriel Pressman [New York World Telegram & Sun, ca. 1952 -'53]

My father drove a cab at night. This was the early 1950s. A Brooklyn-born New Yorker, he knew the city's streets the way a junky knows his veins. I thought of him because of a headline in today's New York Times: American-Born Cabbies Are a Vanishing Breed in New York. Dad also knew doormen, theater managers, stage hands, bar owners, bartenders, and building superintendents. He was a walking-talking switchboard of high and low connections. He didn't want relatives to know he was driving a cab. It embarrassed him that his day job didn't pay the … [Read more...]

You Are There: Where Burroughs Once Lived in Mexico City

Cerrada de Medellin 37 (pan)

Continuing my immersion in Call Me Burroughs: A Life, the new biography by Barry Miles, I'm still marveling at the level of detail it offers. One small example: In a section called "Down Mexico Way," Miles writes that by the summer of 1950, ... Bill and Joan [Vollmer, his common-law wife] were living at Cerrada de Medellin 37, a third-floor flat at the rear of a run-down white apartment building in a small dead-end passage in Colonia Roma, behind the Sears Roebuck building. Jack [Kerouac] and Neal [Cassady] rented a cheap two-bedroom … [Read more...]