Three Expats and One Reporter Explain It All For Us

In about five minutes, starting roughly 45 minutes into a conversation with NYT reporter David Carr, Edward Snowden explains why President Obama -- or for that matter any American president -- is captive to the intelligence community and what it means for democratic values. Carr leads him into the explanation by remarking that the Obama administration is "the worst administration in terms of transparency that I've ever covered. What I wonder about is -- you're kind of a spook -- did the spooks get to him? What happened?" David Carr … [Read more...]

Some Got Plenty and Some Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’

Illustration: Elena Caldera

Five years after the Wall Street crash of 1929, George Gershwin wrote what he called a “banjo song” for "Porgy and Bess." It turned into "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'" with lyrics by Edwin DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin. The second verse goes like this: De folks wid plenty o' plenty Got a lock on de door 'Fraid somebody's a-goin' to rob 'em While dey’s out a-makin' more What for? Heathcote Williams reminded me of the song when his poem Rich People was posted the other day by the International Times in London. His second verse goes like … [Read more...]

Burroughs Central This Is Not

My Adventures in Fugitive Literature [Granary Book, 2015] front cover

Anyone who thinks this blog is Burroughs Central has no idea. The fact is, I'm just skimming. The real Burroughs Central is RealityStudio, where the true aficionados congregate for deep postings by Jed Birmingham's Reports from the Bibliographic Bunker. For example, he recently made the case that le maître's cut-ups in the mimeo mags of the '60s are far more satisfying than the novels of his so-called cut-up trilogy (The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded, and Nova Express). Jed goes into great detail, brilliantly as usual, but his basic … [Read more...]

Kick That Habit? Bellaart Does Burroughs

Drawing of William Burroughs [Gerard Bellaart, 2014]

This pencil drawing of William S. Burroughs by Gerard Bellaart is one of two portraits. It's the introspective Burroughs. The other drawing, a charcoal sketch to be posted soon, catches Burroughs in a wholly different state of mind, as if possessed by the Ugly Spirit that Burroughs believed had dogged him throughout his life. The text on the card is an excerpt from "Incidental Intelligence" to be published in full in The Z Collection, a tryptich of portraits to include Godfrey Reggio and Norman Mailer. … [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...]

Posting a Cold Turkey Card While Paris Burns

JE M'AMUSE [Cold Turkey Press, 2015]

By way of explanation, I was occupied searching for word pattern. Found a rangy young man whose authority was roughly 50 words retyped in columns from the beginning more habit-forming than his life. He hunkered across the columns and typed them again. Undsoweiter ... And now for R. Crumb's pièce de résistance: … [Read more...]

‘Death in Paris’ Struck Prescient Note

'Death in Paris' by Carl Weissner

Apropos today's headline about the hacked U.S. CENTCOM Twitter Account . . . a friend was looking over our late amigo Carl Weissner's "Doomsday Lit" novel Death in Paris. Boy, is that title apt. Not to mention the chapter headings. How about this one? >im in ur base killin ur d00dz … [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...]

Incidental Intelligence: A Portrait of William Burroughs

Incidental-Intelligence

I once asked Nelson Algren what he thought of Naked Lunch. He grinned at me, as though he were being entertained by a wiseguy. I knew he had no love for the Beats. He had derided Jack Kerouac as a momma’s boy and dismissed Allen Ginsberg as a publicist. So his answer surprised me: “Burroughs wrote half of a good book.” He meant that as praise. What Algren liked were the horrific “routines” and their cosmic lineup of hilariously appalling characters. (Read more at IT: International Times) … [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...]

Last Call for the Burroughs Cut/Up Show

Burroughs Boo-Hooray

The materials in this centenary exhibition are drawn from Emory University's Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, a collection of rare books, chapbooks, little magazines, journals, broadsides, audio recordings, manuscripts, and visual art from all over the world. Assembled by collector Raymond Danowski over 25 years, the collection is thought to have been the largest poetry library in private hands until its arrival at Emory in 2004. … [Read more...]

Everyone Is Thinking About the Cops

Bad Cop [McFadden]

Aw gee! David Brooks says "not enough attention is being paid to the emotional and psychological challenges of being a cop." Such fragile flowers they are. I recall that William Burroughs gave it some thought back in 1968 when Flower Power was in bloom: “The people in power will not disappear voluntarily, giving flowers to the cops just isn't going to work. This thinking is fostered by the establishment; they like nothing better than love and nonviolence. The only way I like to see cops given flowers is in a flower pot from a high window." … [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...]

The Reviews Are In: How Many Tomatoes for ‘Algren’?

Nelson Algren (photo illustration from 'Algren')

I took a survey of viewers who saw "Algren," the new documentary that recently had its world premiere at the Chicago International Film Festival. Here's what they said: Reviewer #1: Really interesting and fast-paced. It gives me a great sense of the guy without being pious. I’m unsure about the kitschy style. The fast edits and fake newsreels and animations keep things lively -- but it’s tough to think they will age well. Maybe that’s not the point, though. Maybe the point is to repackage Algren for today and let it be the books that age … [Read more...]