In a Light Mood: ‘No Severed Bodies or Bloody Stumps’

'The Condition,' a new postcard from Cold Turkey Press [2014]

The front of this hallucinatory postcard, published by Cold Turkey Press in a limited edition of 36 copies, shows a collage by the late Norman Ogue Mustill. It is "Mustill in a light sorta mood, or so he thought," I wrote Ben Schot, Cold Turkey's distributor. "Light for him, anyway: no severed bodies or bloody stumps. He did not always ream out the human race. He had a feel for the vulnerability of pop culture, which he liked to satirize." When Cold Turkey's artist-publisher Gerard Bellaart asked for a paragraph to go with Mustill's collage, I … [Read more...]

‘Eating the Rich and Famous, or Celebrity Roadkill’

'Eating the Rich' by Heathcote Williams [Cold Turkey Press, 2014]

"Experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind; for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor." -- Thomas Jefferson, from his letters Words by Heathcote Williams. Montage and narration by Alan Cox. "I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that … [Read more...]

‘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...]

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...]

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...]

Centennial Conference on Life & Myth of William Burroughs

CLICK FOR CONFERENCE DETAILS.

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...]

Clayton Patterson on Jewish History of the Lower East Side

'Jews: A People's History of the Lower East Side'Edited by Clayton Patterson and Mareleyn Schneider [New York, 2012]

Nobody I know is better versed in the history of Manhattan's Lower East Side than Clayton Patterson. And I'd be willing to bet that nobody at all is more devoted to, or more articulate about, the history of the Jews who lived on the Lower East Side. He was interviewed a year ago -- Feb. 13, 2013, to be exact -- by Suzannah B. Troy, about the three massive volumes he edited on the subject. Because he's not Jewish and because the volumes are "a people's history," he says, there's a tendency to think that the account they offer is "incidental" … [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...]

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...]