Personal History: My Father Was a New York Cabbie

'An Angel Rides Disguised as Cabbie' by Gabriel Pressman [New York World Telegram & Sun, ca. 1952 -'53]

My father drove a cab at night. This was the early 1950s. A Brooklyn-born New Yorker, he knew the city's streets the way a junky knows his veins. I thought of him because of a headline in today's New York Times: American-Born Cabbies Are a Vanishing Breed in New York. Dad also knew doormen, theater managers, stage hands, bar owners, bartenders, and building superintendents. He was a walking-talking switchboard of high and low connections. He didn't want relatives to know he was driving a cab. It embarrassed him that his day job didn't pay the … [Read more...]

‘Omit Dead Ends’ … Yes, Please

'omit dead ends' © 2005 by Gerard Bellaart

At the urging of my staff of thousands, examples from Gerard Bellaart’s word-based series of artworks have been a continuing feature of recent blogposts. Other stenciled texts of his that have appeared so far include “Artaud Fragmentations,” “tric trac du ciel,” “Throws Up Words,” “ROT NOT,” and "No Mind Fits 5." There are more to come. … [Read more...]

Another Stenciled Text: ‘No Mind Fits 5′

'no mind fits 5' © 2005 by Gerard Bellaart

At the urging of my staff of thousands, examples from Gerard Bellaart’s word-based series of artworks have been a continuing feature of recent blogposts. The others so far have been “Artaud Fragmentations,” “tric trac du ciel,” “Throws Up Words,” and “ROT NOT.” There are more to come. Bellaart is a Dutch artist and writer now living in France. He creates etchings, drawings, paintings and monotypes of figures, landscapes, and still lifes, as well as works strictly from the imagination. He notes that he employs a variety of techniques & … [Read more...]

Orwell Was a Genius at Fiction Right From the Start

Orwell's house in Katha, Myanmar. [Photo: Aung Shine Oo for The New York Times]

Jane Perlez reminds us in this morning's New York Times of George Orwell's first novel, Burmese Days. Orwell is best known for his later novels, of course, the dystopian 1984 and the allegorical Animal Farm, which are remembered less for their impact as fiction than for their prescient warnings about the reality of a totalitarian future. But Burmese Days, published in 1934 and one of the most memorable novels I've ever read, shows that the guy was a genius at literary fiction from the very beginning. I emphasize literary. Although Perlez … [Read more...]

Still Hidden in Plain Sight, a Reminder of Old Times

Two news stories -- an "exclusive" in The Guardian ("Revealed: Pentagon's link to Iraqi torture centres") and a front-pager in The New York Times ("C.I.A.’s History Poses Hurdles for an Obama Nominee") -- are reminders that more than seven years ago Straight Up's staff of thousands was onto the story about the American strategy to (democratize) Salvadorize Iraq with death squads and torture chambers. Have a look at our blogpost "Hidden in Plain Sight" of Dec. 20, 2005. Today's tie-in to the top U.S. military brass, particularly to retired Gen. … [Read more...]

Democracy Now! Exclusive: Assange on WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning, Cypherpunks, Surveillance State

Julian Assange, speaking from the Ecuadorian embassy in London [Nov. 29, 2012]

"In his most extended interview in months, Julian Assange speaks from inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has been holed up for nearly six months. Assange vowed that WikiLeaks would persevere despite attacks against it. On Tuesday, the European Commission announced that the credit card company Visa did not break the European Union’s antitrust rules by blocking donations to WikiLeaks. 'Since the blockade was erected in December 2010, WikiLeaks has lost 95 percent of the donations that were attempted to be transferred to us over … [Read more...]

Teaming Burroughs & Mustill for Thanksgiving

Collages © 1967 by Norman O. Mustill, excerpted from 'Flypaper [Beach Books, 1967]

A Straight Up tradition continues. But this year William S. Burroughs's words of gratitude on Thanksgiving Day are posted with a couple of collages by Norman O. Mustill. That completes the package. 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 … [Read more...]

Astronomy Picture of the Day

'Uh Oh'

It's a breakfast doodle by Malcolm Mc Neill. He writes in an email, "If only ..." Mc Neill has two books coming out at the end of October from Fantagraphics Books: The Lost Art of Ah Pook Is Here: Images from the Graphic Novel and the memoir Observed While Falling: Bill Burroughs, Ah Pook, and Me. Check out the "overview" about OWF and any of the excerpts. This gives you a taste: Observed While Falling is the account of the Word-Image Novel Ah Pook Is Here, an idea conceived by writer WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS and artist MALCOLM MC NEILL … [Read more...]

Life in Turmoil, Life Out of Balance

If you can't get to the screening of Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi at Avery Fisher Hall (on Nov. 2 and 3 in New York), where Philip Glass's score for the film will be performed live by the New York Philharmonic and the Philip Glass Ensemble, or if you can get over there but can't afford to get in, screw it. You can watch the flick online for free (full screen, too). Music included, of course. There are five interruptions for one-minute ads, but you can skip each of them after five seconds. Postscript: As soon as I can get it scanned, I'll … [Read more...]

Is Occupy Wall Street All About the Signs?

Apparently not. I didn't know it, But Occupy Wall Street's most defining characteristics--its decentralized nature and its intensive process of participatory, consensus-based decision-making--are rooted in other precincts of academe and activism: in the scholarship of anarchism and, specifically, in an ethnography of central Madagascar. Yes, really. But you knew that. If you didn't, then go read Dan Barrett in The Chronicle of Higher Education on the intellectual roots of the Wall Street protest. Barrett writes: It was on this island nation off … [Read more...]

Jobs Loved Computers, of Course … and Bach

In 1989, Michael Lawrence filmed Steve Jobs for Memory & Imagination: New Pathways to the Library of Congress. "I remember very fondly every minute of the time I spent with him," Lawrence messages in an email. "I still have the NeXT coffee mug he gave me." "Like so many people around the world," he writes, "I have been thinking of him since his passing. I could not have made BACH & friends without his computers and software." A few years ago, Lawrence posted a clip of Jobs, excerpted from Memory & Imagination. "It has been viewed … [Read more...]

The Mind Sashays

The "vulgo:cynicism" of Carl Weissner's Die Abenteuer von Trashman -- his term for the humor of his latest book -- was already on display in last year's Manhattan Muffdiver. Both books, from Vienna-based Milena Verlag, are written in German. Although I read German desperately, like a beachcomber sifting sand on a bad day, even I could make out the tone. Vulgo-cynicism certainly describes the tone of the two books he wrote in English. I can read them, easily: The Braille Film, a Burroughsian cut-up text published decades ago in San … [Read more...]

A Book Clerk Who Was More Than a Clerk

Fifty-four years ago two undercover cops in San Francisco arrested a clerk at City Lights Bookstore for selling them an "obscene" book of poetry. The clerk was Shigeyoshi Murao. The book was Allen Ginsberg's Howl. Several months later, on October 3rd, a municipal court judge ruled that the book was protected by the First Amendment because it had "redeeming social importance." If not for the bust and the trial, Howl might never have become as important as it did, either culturally or literarily. More than a million copies are now in print. … [Read more...]

Quote of the Day

Samuel Beckett says: Wherever nauseated time has dropped a nice fat turd you will find our patriots, sniffing it up on all fours, their faces on fire. Glenn Greenwald says it like so: What's most amazing is that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government's new power to assassinate their fellow citizens -- [in this instance, Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Kahn] -- far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S. Government. … [Read more...]

A Maniac and His Muse

Susan Fleet -- trumpet player and feminist music historian -- set her first crime thriller, Absolution, in pre-Katrina New Orleans, where homicide detective Frank Renzi takes on a serial killer who preys on women. Fleet's new killer thriller, Diva, is subtitled "a novel of psychological suspense." That's an understatement. Renzi is back, now in post-Katrina New Orleans, pitted this time against a lethal stalker whose prey is a beautiful classical musician on the cusp of stardom. The psycho in Diva (paperback, Kindle, Nook) is not only a … [Read more...]

Not James Cagney

If you guessed Billie Whitelaw doing Samuel Beckett's "Not I," you get a Google star. Here's the complete version at UbuWeb (beginning at 2:51 on the counter), preceded by a short interview with Whitelaw. … [Read more...]

What a Day for the Obits

Today's three-fer . . . 1) Richard Hamilton, British Painter and a Creator of Pop Art, Dies at 89 2) Carl Oglesby, Antiwar Leader in 1960s, Dies at 76 3) John Calley, Hollywood Chief, Dies at 81 Taking the long view . . . Doncha just luuhv zat akzent? Postscript: Arman's epitaph -- Enfin Seul! -- puts it best. Well, almost. There's no topping Jack MacGowran reading from Beckett's Malone Dies: I shall soon be quite dead at last in spite of all. … [Read more...]