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...]

Two New Poster Cards from Cold Turkey Press

'An Iron Fish Rusts' by Malcolm Ritchie [Cold Turkey Press, 2014]

An Iron Fish Rusts up in the hills at this age now even my stick takes a rest * on a tarmac a single stone like aloneness * in the glen the silence of an echo waiting for sound * in the empty sky a crow crows the empty sound of a crow According to Dr. Philip Masonbar, noted pathologist and jetset raconteur, The Condition was originally described in 1895 by Sir Arthur Blonk. As an afterthought, Blonk said: "Going to decimate San Francisco? Then you must withhold the admission, or prepare to lay aside through strict … [Read more...]

When Excessive Rudeness Pays Off

Illustration by Claire Palmer

Something worth remembering ... The Buddha and the Pork Chop Apparently the Buddha met his end Thanks to an excessive degree of politeness. Though he was vegetarian, someone prepared him a meal And the Buddha felt obliged to eat what he’d been offered. Due to its being a bad pork chop, the Buddha died. Clearly Buddhists keen to follow the Buddha’s example But reluctant to share in his hapless fate Should be ruder – ‘Don’t you know what happens to people Who push shit to aspiring Buddhas? They get reincarnated As used … [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...]

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...]

You Are There: Where Burroughs Once Lived in Mexico City

Cerrada de Medellin 37 (pan)

Continuing my immersion in Call Me Burroughs: A Life, the new biography by Barry Miles, I'm still marveling at the level of detail it offers. One small example: In a section called "Down Mexico Way," Miles writes that by the summer of 1950, ... Bill and Joan [Vollmer, his common-law wife] were living at Cerrada de Medellin 37, a third-floor flat at the rear of a run-down white apartment building in a small dead-end passage in Colonia Roma, behind the Sears Roebuck building. Jack [Kerouac] and Neal [Cassady] rented a cheap two-bedroom … [Read more...]

Centennial Conference on Life & Myth of William Burroughs


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...]

Setting the Stage for Barry Miles’s ‘Call Me Burroughs’

'Call Me Burroughs -- A LIfe' by Barry Miles [TWELVE Books, 2014]

I asked Barry Miles, author of the newly published biography Call Me Burroughs: A Life, how he felt about the review he got in this week's New Yorker. "Delighted," he said, adding that he had only skimmed it and intended to give it a thorough read as soon as he had the time. Miles is on a hectic book tour, thanks to TWELVE, his publisher. He's right to be delighted because Peter Schjeldhal's review sets the stage for the book's reception. Despite his moralistic assessment of William S. Burroughs, life and literary product both, Schjeldhal … [Read more...]

Beautiful Hand-Made Paper Gems from Hanuman Books

Willem de Kooning's Collected Writings [Hanuman Books, 1988]. This is a 1990 second printing.

Earlier this month my staff of thousands put up a blogpost about Willem de Kooning's appreciation of the early analytical Cubist paintings by Braque. Soon after that Gerard Bellaart sent me an excerpt he scanned from the de Kooning essay "What Abstract Art Means to Me" describing the attraction to Cubism. The essay had been reprinted in Collected Writings by Hanuman Books, and Bellaart asked the publisher (Raymond Foye) to send me a copy. (Foye and Francesco Clemente co-founded Hanuman in 1986.) When the book showed up, I was startled to see … [Read more...]