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...]

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...]

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...]

Above the Wintry Fields

The poem "A Murmuration of Starlings" is by Heathcote Williams, the narration by Alan Cox. After a visit to the Wordsworths in the Lake District, Coleridge caught a glimpse from his stagecoach Of a gigantic flock of birds as it swooped, rose then fell Above the frozen, wintry fields of a passing farm. It was November 1799 and he described the phenomenon As “a vision” in his Journal, then detailed the way This “vast flight” drove along “like smoke, and expanded Then condensed”, then continually shifted shape. First he saw the … [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...]

‘The Red Dagger’ by Heathcote Williams

The Red Dagger

London's symbol for the hub of global finance in the City (Shown on the city's flag to convey heraldic grandeur) Comes from a blood-soaked dagger that killed the rebel, Wat Tyler, For Tyler had challenged London on behalf of the poor. The dagger survives and is on display at Fishmonger's Hall In the City's secretive ministate within a state And, like a trophy, its red silhouette is on the City's coat-of-arms As if Tyler's murder were something to celebrate. But the hundred thousand marching on London in 1381 Were serfs objecting to … [Read more...]

‘Aletheia,’ a Work-in-Progress

'Aletheia,' a chamber music theater work performed by Abbie Conant, with a score by William Osborne.

Abbie Conant performs as Aletheia. The score is by William Osborne. "Aletheia" is chamber music theater work about a musician in a dressing room preparing to perform for a gala benefit for an opera house that is taking place in the courtyard below her window. Though excited at first, she can't bring herself to go down and perform. As her sense of isolation increases, she becomes, in a sense, her own choir. Her voice splits into the harmonies of several voices that accompany her into a new level of being. -- William Osborne … [Read more...]

A Thanksgiving Team: Burroughs & Mustill, Redux


A Straight Up tradition continues. William S. Burroughs's words of gratitude on Thanksgiving Day paired with a couple of collages by Norman O. Mustill. Look and listen. It's delish . . . Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts — thanks for a Continent to despoil and poison — thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger — thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin leaving the carcasses to rot — thanks for bounties on … [Read more...]

Gay ‘Kit’ Marlowe: Poet, Spy, Elizabethan Proto-punk

'Killing Kit,' a new play by Heathcote Williams, is about the short life and murder of Christopher Marlowe.

UPDATE BELOW: Jan. 10 -- “Killing Kit” will get a “first rehearsed reading” next month, on Feb. 12, in London at The Cockpit. FURTHER UPDATE: Feb. 15 -- The reading came off well, I'm told. Somebody in The Cockpit audience tweeted: "Beautiful, meaty, dangerous Elizabethan play for today's Elizabethans. Real writing. Great night." I've heard that Mike Figgis did some filming, and he's cooking up a video. Am awaiting further word. Heathcote Williams's play-in-progress, "Killing Kit," has yet to be given a workshop reading, much less staged in … [Read more...]

Two Poe Shows — One at the Morgan, One on Paper

Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) Providence, R.I. : Masury and Hartshorn, 1848

Not being a Poe man myself, I asked a friend who happens to be an avid Poe man, how he would describe him. His reply -- "The best writer, the best bad writer, America ever produced" -- was pretty much a capsule preview of Charles McGrath's excellent feature in this morning's NY Times about the new show, "Edgar Allan Poe: Terror of the Soul," at the Morgan Library & Museum, which comes, McGrath notes, "about 100 years too late to do his reputation much good." When Poe was finally admitted to the canon of respectable writers, in the second … [Read more...]

Heathcote Williams: ‘My Dad and My Uncle’

Royal Artillery gun crews and Howitzers WWI at Lydd [Bill Hyde collection].

Words by Heathcote Williams. Narration and montage by Alan Cox. Written upon learning that WWI centenary Remembrance plans are to be given £50 million by the UK government.-- BBC News, 11 October 2012 My Dad and my Uncle were in World War One. At least they were in it, but not in it: Conscripted but never committed. My Dad was called up in 1915, And then run over by a field gun In an army camp at Lydd marsh in Kent, So he never actually made it Across the Channel to fight. His pelvis and both legs were crushed, In his first … [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...]