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...]

By Burroughs Possessed >>>>>> Burroughs 101

Burroughs-Possessed [Gerard Bellaart, 2015]

Being a serious writer hardly means leading the life of a saint. In 1951, in Mexico City, long before the publication of Naked Lunch, which made him famous, William S. Burroughs accidentally shot and killed his common-law wife Joan Vollmer in a drunken stunt. He was trying to prove his marksmanship William Tell-style. Instead of hitting the glass placed on her head, he shot her square between the eyes. Gerard Bellaart's charcoal sketch captures Burroughs possessed by what he called "the Ugly Spirit."* * * * * “I am forced to the appalling … [Read more...]

In Memory: Carl Weissner, So Rudely Interrupted

Carl Weissner [Photo by Michael Montfort, 19XX, from 'Nachtmaschine']

Carl died unexpectedly three years ago today. On the first anniversary of his death, I posted a tribute from friends and others. Here's a photo from a trip he took to Marseille, where he was gathering impressions for a novel he wanted to write, which wasn't all that long before he died. His absence among us since then has not diminished, although the date of his departure has grown more distant. (Update below.) WEDNESDAY May 5 torrential rains, high seas, snow on the highway in the Massif Central! wind tearing at the awnings and you. … [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...]

Beckett But Not Beckett: ‘Being Human’

BEING HUMAN (credit-1)

It begins in blackness with whispers. Jumps to a face with eyes closed. The eyes open. Words form: "I was almost human. But then something went wrong. I was a human being. But then I became a victim. I was almost a human being but then I ran out of time." I wish I could embed the YouTube video here, but the embed function has been disabled. To see the video click the image. If "Being Human" brings to mind Billie Whitelaw doing Samuel Beckett’s “Not I,” there's nothing wrong with that. … [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...]

Consumer Poem for the Occasion: A Global Love Bomb

True Love in the Impossible Emporium

The wisdom of the words, the wit of the montage -- to say nothing of the pitch-perfect narration -- make "True Love in the Impossible Emporium" a media keeper for this holiday season and all the ones to come. Words by Heathcote Williams. Narration and montage by Alan Cox. The poem, which begins like this, is liable to cure the cynic in me: True Love in the Impossible Emporium Searching the aisles for the right kind of birdseed To feed my inner nightingale, I wandered the shelves of an outlandish store Filled with customers chasing … [Read more...]

But W.’s Name Is Missing From the List

This day should not pass without acknowledging the lead editorial in this morning's New York Times: Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses. It points out, among other things, that Any credible investigation should include former Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington; the former C.I.A. director George Tenet; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the Office of Legal Counsel lawyers who drafted what became known as the torture memos. It also points out that "many more names could be considered, including Jose … [Read more...]

Leonardo’s Notebooks: Seeing Him in His Drawings

Notebook Drawing of a Fetus [Leonardo da Vinci]

The opening of the new 3-D flick "Inside the Mind of Leonardo da Vinci" grabbed me right from the start and had nothing to do with its "stereoscopic" quality. We follow a librarian on a winding trail to the vault at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, Italy, where the drawings in Leonardo's notebook collection, the Codex Atlanticus, are kept. We watch as the vault is opened. The door to the vault could pass for a subterranean hatch to the center of the earth. It looks secure enough to muffle the explosion of a nuclear bomb. And when the ancient … [Read more...]

Art in Disguise: A Koons or Not a Koons?

A Koons or Not a Koons?

I see in a report from Paris that someone is threatening to sue Jeff Koons for copyright infringement over his depiction of a pig and seminude mannequin. Koons has been accused of infringment before, three times successfully. He has also accused others of copyright violation of his balloon dog. Here in New York I was walking across town the other day and took a photo of these gigantic holiday decorations opposite Radio City Music Hall. So what makes a Koons better than or different from this display, except that these baubles are not meant … [Read more...]