Beckett But Not Beckett: ‘Being Human’

BEING HUMAN (credit-1)

It begins in blackness with whispers. Jumps to a face with eyes closed. The eyes open. Words form: "I was almost human. But then something went wrong. I was a human being. But then I became a victim. I was almost a human being but then I ran out of time." I wish I could embed the YouTube video here, but the embed function has been disabled. To see the video click the image. If "Being Human" brings to mind Billie Whitelaw doing Samuel Beckett’s “Not I,” there's nothing wrong with that. … [Read more...]

About That Remarkable Surge for Charlie

Image by Elena Caldera

I've noticed that the "Je suis Charlie" phenomenon has come in for rightwing contempt. The argument goes that it's self-righteous to claim you stand with the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo when all you do is gather in the street and carry signs. There's some truth to that, especially when it comes to politicians. But I've ignored the argument precisely because of where it's coming from, yet wondered how to accomodate the jeers. Well, here's how. See this for a very useful point about the "mawkishness" of so many Charlies from an unimpeachable … [Read more...]

We Are All Charlie Now

je-suis-charlie

As many as 100,000 people gathered across France, according to Agence France-Presse. The crowds expressed their solidarity against the Charlie Hebdo attack. At least 35,000 Parisians, by one estimate, gathered at La Place de la République. They were silent at first, then began to sing: "Charlie! Charlie!" "We are Charlie!" "Free expression!" Cartoonists are having their say. Postscript: Jan. 12 -- Just to follow up ... yesterday more than a million people marched in Paris to show their support for freedom of expression. … [Read more...]

Consumer Poem for the Occasion: A Global Love Bomb

True Love in the Impossible Emporium

The wisdom of the words, the wit of the montage -- to say nothing of the pitch-perfect narration -- make "True Love in the Impossible Emporium" a media keeper for this holiday season and all the ones to come. Words by Heathcote Williams. Narration and montage by Alan Cox. The poem, which begins like this, is liable to cure the cynic in me: True Love in the Impossible Emporium Searching the aisles for the right kind of birdseed To feed my inner nightingale, I wandered the shelves of an outlandish store Filled with customers chasing … [Read more...]

Music Theater: ‘Street Scene for the Last Mad Soprano’

Abbie Conant as the Mad Soprano

This performance was recorded in Taos, New Mexico, in September 2014. The piece had its world premiere in Germany at Theater K-9, in Konstanz, in 1996. Abbie Conant, Soprano & Trombone / William Osborne, Music Text and Video From William Osborne's brief description: Imagine a singer living among the dumpsters behind the Met. Tomorrow is her big audition at the Opera House -- if only she could think of what to sing. She colors her world with opera excerpts, grandiose Swan Songs and wild escapades on her trombone -- but as she makes … [Read more...]

Dear Cannibals, Have a Sweet Thanksgiving

Our delicious Thanksgiving team of William S. Burroughs and Norman O. Mustill has been a happy pairing. It still is. But the Straight Up staff of thousands wanted to add a sweetener, something like cranberry sauce, to this year's celebration of gratitude. Here 'tiz: Words by Heathcote Williams, narration and montage by Alan Cox. … [Read more...]

‘Anatomy of Violence,’ a Prophetic Blast from the Past

An article in the Washington Post declares that the riots in Ferguson have been "the most significant explosions of racial frustration since the election of the nation’s first black president, and so Ferguson forced the country out of the fantasy that America had entered a 'post-racial' era." I'm not sure who really entertained that fantasy outside of the politicians and other public figures who needed to promote it and the pundits who were willing to go along with it. But Ferguson brought to mind this prophetic blast from the past -- a 1967 … [Read more...]

Monday Morning Quiz: Who Said That?

"Every once in a while, it's nice to be wrong about something." + Alan Dershowitz + Henry Kissinger + Dick Cheney + V.S. Naipaul + God + Click for the answer. But you get points for guessing it was The Albanian Idol of the BananaRepublic. … [Read more...]

More News from Paris: Huge Bookfair Opens Today

Offprint Paris (2014)

Offprint Paris at the Beaux-arts de Paris showcases publishers of art, photography, design, and experimental music labels. The 2014 edition features more than 130 publishers from nearly two dozen countries, an exhibition ("Disarming Design from Palestine"), and a variety of public discussions and signings. Special guests include Paul Soulellis (Library of the Printed Web), Mathieu Cénac (Jean Boîte Éditions), David Desrimais (Jean Boîte Éditions), and Tarek Issaoui (Rrose Editions), and art historian Mehdi Brit discussing his recent book … [Read more...]

Islamic Peace Warrior: Badshah Abdul Ghaffar Khan

Abdul Badshah Ghaffar Khan

Two years ago almost to the day I posted three parts of a six-part investigative poem, "Game of Drones: The Lord of the Drones and the White House Fly," by Heathcote Williams. The fifth part, which I didn't post, begins by declaring that "the spirit of Badsha Khan, the nonviolent soldier of Islam, still guides many Pashtuns." You don't usually hear about this "frontier Ghandi," a Pashtun Muslim who "preached nonviolence / To a violent culture," as Williams puts it in a new investigative poem. The man stood "six foot five inches tall, / … [Read more...]

A Message From My Orwellian Phone Carrier

Orwellian Message from Verizon

The email arrived with this message: "At Verizon Wireless your privacy is our priority." How nice. So I read on: "We're enhancing our Relevant Mobile Advertising program in a way that can help marketers reach you with messages ..." And here I thought privacy was defined as "the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people." I can opt out of their program by signing into the Verizon website with my password, which I don't have. Or I can phone, in which case I will be required to climb a phone tree. An … [Read more...]

Touring ‘Poetry Army’ Charts History of Radical Verse

A Poster for 'The Poetry Army' Tour in the U.K.

A posting by the Stop the War Coalition: From The Peasants’ Revolt to recent events at Tahrir Square, this incendiary performance celebrates radical verse in all its glory down through the centuries. The longstanding collaboration between poet Heathcote Williams and performer Roy Hutchins, encompassing such hits as Whale Nation and Autogeddon, continues as Hutchins combines forces with local actors, poets, and musicians to give voice to a host of radical writers, such as Shakespeare, Shelley, Ginsberg, Blake and Pussy Riot. Here's a … [Read more...]