‘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...]

‘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...]

Centennial Conference on Life & Myth of William Burroughs


William S. Burroughs was born 100 years ago today. A centennial conference will be held at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York as part of a month-long WSB@100 Festival in April. The conference, sponsored by The Center for Humanities, "will explore the life and myth of one of the most innovative and influential twentieth-century American writers and artists." [You can expect] a series of talks and roundtables by editors, artists, and scholars on a range of issues from the problem of gender in Burroughs' work to his role in … [Read more...]

Whom Do You Believe? Clapper or Snowden?

The lineup: U.S. intelligence officials testified yesterday in an annual hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Clapper is the center figure. [Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP]

You won't see Edward Snowden being interviewed on American TV. But you will see the nation’s top intelligence official James R. Clapper Jr., who previously lied to Congress under oath about the existence of bulk data collection programs, all over the news accusing Snowden and unidentified "accomplices" of causing "grave damage to the country’s security." In "a scorching attack," as the New York Times characterized it this morning, Clapper assailed Snowden but "did not give specific examples to bolster his assessment about the damage Mr. … [Read more...]

Setting the Stage for Barry Miles’s ‘Call Me Burroughs’

'Call Me Burroughs -- A LIfe' by Barry Miles [TWELVE Books, 2014]

I asked Barry Miles, author of the newly published biography Call Me Burroughs: A Life, how he felt about the review he got in this week's New Yorker. "Delighted," he said, adding that he had only skimmed it and intended to give it a thorough read as soon as he had the time. Miles is on a hectic book tour, thanks to TWELVE, his publisher. He's right to be delighted because Peter Schjeldhal's review sets the stage for the book's reception. Despite his moralistic assessment of William S. Burroughs, life and literary product both, Schjeldhal … [Read more...]

What Martin Luther King Jr. Said About Jazz

Spike Wilner

Spike Wilner writes the electronic newsletter for Smalls Jazz Club, where he's the congenial manager and one of the owners. The newsletter is always informative. Never sinks to mere PR. Which makes it one of the best around. (Wilner doesn't just write the newsletter. He's a first-class jazz pianist. Click the photo or this link to hear him play. I'm particularly fond of Wilner's solo piano playing.) Anyway, it's fitting that on Martin Luther King Day, today's newsletter showed up in my email box with a recollection of what King had to … [Read more...]

Oxford: ‘An Old Hooker Past Her Sell-by Date’

Architectural design for the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.

The lede graf of Connie Bruck's story in the current New Yorker about the Ukraine-born billionaire Leonard Blavatnik caught my eye. Although her profile "The Billionaire's Playlist" focuses on "how an oligarch got into the American music business," the lede has plenty to say about the awful state of affairs at Oxford University. Knowing how the poet Heathcote Williams, who lives in Oxford, feels about the university he once attended, I sent him Bruck's lede. His reply was swift, pointing out that there has been a local protest campaign "to … [Read more...]

Ginsberg Does Indian Mantras on Sloow Tapes

'London Mantra' Sloow Tapes cassette [2014]

Speaking of Allen Ginsberg, I'm told a new Sloow Tapes cassette entitled "London Mantra" is about to be released. Bart de Paepe, producer of the indie label, writes, "It's a recording George Dowden made at his home in July 1973." The tape features "Ginsberg solo on his harmonium, singing Indian mantras and a few of his own songs." As I replied to de Paepe, "The truth is I've never been a fan of Allen's harmonium singing." One of Ginsberg's closest friends, William Burroughs, couldn't stand his off-key droning either. Which is being … [Read more...]

Amiri Baraka Has Died, a Remembrance

From VDRSVP#2 (enhanced with Amiri Baraka photo)

Amiri Baraka's obituary in the NY Times this morning mentioned his first contact with Allen Ginsberg. ...to whom, in the puckish spirit of the times, he had written a letter on toilet paper reading, “Are you for real?” (“I’m for real, but I’m tired of being Allen Ginsberg,” came the reply, on what, its recipient would note with amusement, was “a better piece of toilet paper.”) It reminded me that back in 1968, long after they'd connected, Ginsberg wrote up a dream he had about Baraka and sent it to me for a little magazine I was editing. … [Read more...]

In NYC: Catching Up With Peter Schumann
and the Bread and Puppet Theater

Celebrating 50 Years of the Bread and Puppet Theater. (Click for slide show.)

Peter Schumann: The Shatterer is the first solo museum exhibition of Bread and Puppet Theater founder and director Peter Schumann. The exhibition opened in November 2013 as part of the first season in the museum’s newly expanded galleries. It marks the 50th anniversary of the theater company and introduces New York audiences to a largely unseen body of work by one of the most independent, prolific, and complex artists of our time. -- Queens Museum … [Read more...]

He Had a Dream, But His Speech Was Hardly Noticed

From the Wall Street Journal [Aug. 27, 1963]

Given all the self-congratulation of the 50th anniversary celebration marking the historic significance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, you'd think its importance had been noted at the time, especially by the news media. Well, Jess Bravin has news for you. The day before King gave the speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the march on Washington, a news story in The Wall Street Journal, taking its cue from “Negro leaders” themselves, "questioned whether the march would make an impact," Bravin writes. And in … [Read more...]

Free Lynne Stewart: Save Her Life

Memorandum of Law filed 7-29-13 in support of Lynne Stewart’s release. CLICK TO READ FULL MEMORANDUM

UPDATES BELOW ... Back in 2005, when Lynne Stewart was prosecuted for aiding terrorists in her role as a civil rights defense attorney representing Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted in 1995 of plotting to blow up the United Nations building in New York, it was clear the feds were aiming to fry her. I wrote then: Americans less brave than Lynne Stewart -- which, frankly, means the rest of us -- are easily cowed. It doesn’t take much to scare the shit out of people. As William Burroughs once wrote, “anyone who can pick up a frying … [Read more...]

From a Townhouse to the Vasty Deep

James Bamford

Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep. Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them? Glendower: Why, I can teach you, cousin, to command the Devil Hotspur: And I can teach thee, coz, to shame the Devil By telling the truth. Tell truth and shame the Devil! -- Henry The Fourth, Part I Act 3, scene 1, 52–58 My favorite commentator on the NSA, James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory, Body of Secrets, and The Puzzle Palace, has a recap of the Edward Snowden scandal in The New York … [Read more...]

Queen of the Arms Trade

"Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is one of the world's richest women, worth £17 billion. Her investments in the arms trade include firms that produce the uranium used in depleted uranium (DU) shells. The deployment of these shells by the US military in its attack on the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004 is believed to be the cause of a huge increase in cases of cancer and birth defects." -- Stop the War Coalition Text by Heathcote Williams Editing and narration by Alan Cox … [Read more...]