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Norman Mailer: Stabbing your wife as an existential experiment
06.01.2013
11:17 am

Topics:
Crime
Literature

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In the years that followed the event, Norman Mailer seemed distinctly proud of having stabbed and nearly killed his second wife, Adele Morales, in 1960.

According to Mailer’s worldview of the late fifties and onward—most famously articulated in his 1959 essay “The White Negro”—the artificial had gained excessive ascendancy over the real in contemporary Western Civilization, the word over the deed, the feminine over the masculine and so on. Mailer offered the world his macho existentialism as a means of redress.

So long as Mailer advocated psychopathy, violence, and courage on the page alone, however—speaking daggers but using none—he would be tormented by the suspicion (and pursued by the insinuation) that he was the most laughable kind of hypocrite…

In the troubled weeks leading up to the stabbing the writer attended a seminar at Brown University, were he rambled on about about knives being “symbols of manhood.” He was also preparing his first attempt to become mayor of New York City, a candidacy that was to be pitched at the city’s criminalized and impoverished, along with its artists and radicals, on a platform of “existential” approaches to social problems—such as jousting tournaments (to be held in Central Park) for young offenders.

As part of this prospective campaign, Mailer was composing an open letter to Fidel Castro, in which he offered one of his more succinct formulations of his critique of US society: “in Cuba, hatred runs over into the love of blood; in America, all too few blows are struck into flesh. We kill the spirit here, we are experts at that. We use psychic bullets and kill each other cell by cell.”

Just as Mailer’s eccentric but perfectly sincere lurch for political power conceivably betrayed his contempt for being a purveyor of “psychic bullets” himself (a mere “man of letters”), his second marriage to Adele Morales was similarly entwined in this same conceptual web. Morales reportedly possessed an impressively sharp tongue, and was known to score freely in the course of their drunken bust-ups: interestingly, Mailer would later define this period of their relationship as “a series of psychic stabbings,” echoing, unconsciously or not, the language employed in his letter to Castro.

The actual stabbing occurred in the course of a party meant as a campaign launch for the mayoral bid. The writer and journalist George Plimpton, Mailer’s perennial wingman and de facto campaign manager, was told to contact various representatives from New York’s “power structure” and ensure their attendance. Predictably, none of them showed, leaving just the derelicts, cutthroats and bohemians the candidate could anyway call his own.

In a legendarily tetchy atmosphere, Mailer would take it upon himself to be his own least manageable guest, starting fights and at one point dividing everyone up on opposite sides of the room according to whether he considered them “for” or “against” him. Eventually he disappeared to look for real trouble, which he evidently succeeded in discovering, returning around four in the morning with a ripped shirt and a black eye.

According to Morales’ subsequent recollection, she greeted this reappearance in the following fashion:

Aja toro, aja! Come on, you little faggot, where’s your cojones – did your ugly whore of a mistress cut them off, you son of a bitch?”

Although there are differing reports of what Morales said, her own version certainly “pricks” the ears, courtesy of the (literally) cutting metaphor (“psychic stabbings,” again). Mailer, matching word and deed, un-prised his pen knife, approached his wife, and stabbed her in the back and upper abdomen, one of which, a thrust “near the heart” was three inches deep.

Morales was rushed downstairs to the neighboring apartment of novelist Doc Hume, where a doctor was called but no police, while she lay soaking a mattress in blood. 

Initially claiming to have “fallen on some glass,” she spent the following days in hospital, during which time her husband’s antics were quintessentially kooky. After being left to “sleep it off,” Mailer disappeared into the city, bobbing up to grandiosely lecture Adele’s surgeon on the likely dimensions of her wound, and then for an appearance on The Mike Wallace Show, where he continued to meditate on what was indubitably turning into his week’s big theme. “You see,” he informed the audience, back on his beloved topic the juvenile delinquent, “the knife’s his word, his manhood.”

I would hazard a guess that the rest of Mailer’s week resembled that of the protagonist of his next novel (1965’s An American Dream), an existentialist, TV personality, and budding politician called Rojak who strangles his wife and then hits the town, fucking, fighting, boozing, and generally reaping the huge existential dividends supposedly sprung by his act of ultraviolence.

Morales, though, finally admitted the obvious to police, and Mailer was arrested and charged.

During the trial, Mailer showed especial concern that he not be sent to a mental hospital, since then future readers might feel entitled to consider him insane. “My pride,” he told the court, “is that I can explore areas of experience that other men are afraid of. I insist I am sane.” The stabbing, it seems, was primarily a literary act, a bizarre precursor to the great works of New Journalism Mailer would pen, and in the third person, later that decade—Armies of the Night and Miami and the Siege of Chicago.

Legally, incidentally, the consequences would prove mind-bogglingly mild. After being indicted by a grand jury in January 30, 1961, Mailer pleaded guilty, was put on probation, and received a suspended sentence in November—his lawyer arguing successfully that his client was working on a new book (An American Dream!) and so “could make a contribution to society.”

The presiding Judge Schweitzer also took account not only of Adele’s request for leniency—which she later attributed to what she considered her children’s best interests—but also Mailer’s impressive avowal to his probation officer that he had reduced his drinking “to a minimum”...
 

 
Below, in a clip from Norman Mailer: The American, Adele Morales tells the completely insane story of what happened that fateful night… “He was down in the street punching people. He didn’t know who he was. He didn’t know what his name was, he was so out of it. And it wasn’t just on booze, it was on drugs.”
 

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Discussion
The Musician from U.N.C.L.E.: Chill out with the music of David McCallum
05.29.2013
10:53 am

Topics:
Movies
Music
Superstar
Television

Tags:

mullaccmdivaddavid.jpg
 

David McCallum has long been a much-loved actor and TV icon. From his early days as the pin-up secret agent, Illya Kuryakin, acting alongside Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., through to the excellent Colditz, the wonderfully, bizarre Sapphire and Steel, The Invisible Man and now “Ducky” Mallard in today’s NCIS.

But what is perhaps less known about this talented actor, is the fact McCallum is a classically trained musician of the highest caliber, and for a long time the blonde-haired Glaswegian seriously considered a making his career in music, as he explained to 16 magazine back in 1966:

The wonder was that David ever became an actor at all—for he was trained to be a musician from the age of four, playing the oboe with classic clarity. An appreciation of music ran deep in the McCallum family. David’s father, a famous violinist and leader of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, was taught classical music at his mother’s knee.

The McCallums came from a little Scottish mining village, Kilsyth in Stirlingshire, where David’s paternal grandfather was the village grocer. It was a deeply religious community, and David’s grandmother hoped her son would learn the harp. But no one there could play the instrument, so young David Fotheringham McCallum was taught violin instead. And his own son, David Keith McCallum—born on September 19, 1933, at 24 Kersland Street, Glasgow—inherited this musical tradition.

When the family moved to Bracknell Gardens, Hampstead, in London, David went to University College School, and musical evenings became a feature of this childhood. He was taught violin and piano, but it was the oboe that he mastered. However, David secretly harbored a longing to become an actor, so when one of his uncles needed an oboe, David offered his—cheap!—and started out on his acting career. Though he laughingly calls the oboe “...an ill wind nobody blows good,” David still admits, “I always knew that I could turn to music if I failed as an actor.”

McCallum was given a recording contract, and between 1966 and 1968, released four albums on Capitol Records: Music…A Part Of Me, Music…A Bit More Of Me, Music…It’s Happening Now!, and McCallum. However, rather than singing his way through these discs McCallum, together with producer David Axelrod, created a blend of oboe, French horn, and strings with guitar and drums, for musical interpretations of hits of the day. These included “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”, “Downtown”, “Louie, Louie”, “I Can’t Control Myself” and his own compositions, “Far Away Blue”, “Isn’t It Wonderful?” and “It Won’t Be Wrong”.

The best known McCallum tracks today are “The Edge,” which was sampled by Dr. Dre as the intro and riff to the track “The Next Episode,” and “House of Mirrors,” sampled by DJ Shadow for “Dark Days”.

 

“The Edge” - David McCallum
 

“House of Mirrors” - David McCallum
 

David McCallum introduces TnT Show with ‘Satisfaction, while Ron and Russell Mael (Sparks) watch from the audience
 
Bonus clips (with Nancy Sinatra) and tracks, after the jump!...
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Loudmouth: Before there was Glenn Beck, Breitbart or Sean Hannity there was Morton Downey Jr.
05.23.2013
09:25 am

Topics:
Idiocracy
Movies
Television

Tags:


 
If you’re much under the age of 35 you probably have no cultural memory of Morton Downey Jr. whatsoever, but he (and Joe Pyne, an earlier, slightly less-obnoxious pioneer of in-your-face television) is the very direct progenitor of the confrontational style of Fox News and reichwing talk radio we have today. The Morton Downey, Jr. Show was where the talkshow format merged with professional wrestling (and all that implies). After his example, the dam was burst forever on politeness and niceties in televised discourse. “Mort” was Network‘s Howard Beale come to life as a snarling, chain-smoking firebrand.

When The Morton Downey, Jr. Show first started airing in the New York metro area in 1987 on WWOR, the “super station” operating out of (not so) beautiful Secaucus, NJ, I was briefly into it, simply because I had never seen anything like it, or the shouting, spitting-mad, red-faced, veins-bulging lunatic who hosted it, not to mention his mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging Neanderthal audience! Oy vey.

Initially, at least, it was riveting, trainwreck TV, but I soon went from watching it most nights (if I was home, which was admittedly rare in those days) to only watching it when someone really kooky, like Lyndon LaRouche, say, was going to be on it. Eventually The Morton Downey, Jr. Show seemed like it was all Tawana Brawley, Curtis Sliwa, low rent porn girls and too-samey high-volume, spittle-flecked tirades against “pablum puking liberals.” All the time. After a while you kinda “got” it and the novelty wore off.
 

Ace Frehley, Joey Ramone and the Cycle Sluts from Hell join Mort on the set.

For a brief moment he was everywhere (The Today Show, playing himself in movies and on TV, People magazine, even scaling that true pinnacle of pop culture success: being parodied on SNL) but Downey’s star—and the ratings of his syndicated talkshow—crashed and burned pretty fast. I think the rest of America got sick of him as quickly as we New Yorkers did. All told his rise and fall took under two years. In 1990 Morton Downey Jr. filed for bankruptcy.

I didn’t really know that much about his life, but I found the new documentary about the angry father of trash TV, Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie directed by Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger to be absolutely engrossing. It’s a well-made, well-researched film that tries to figure out what made a freak of nature like this tick. There is no simple answer, as the film demonstrates.
 

 
Although he portrayed himself as the straight-talking spokesman for the proletariat, Downey was born into a wealthy show business family (his father was a very famous singer in the 30s and 40s, his aunt was famed Hollywood actress Joanne Bennett) who lived right next door to the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts (Downey Sr. was on the dais at JFK’s inauguration).

No, Morton Downey Jr. was no “Lonesome” Larry Rhodes, but he harbored a burning desire to become more famous than the domineering father he hated (“Daddy issues” evidentally loomed large in his life). He spent most of his career casting around for his niche, at first as a singer and songwriter (Dean Martin is seen praising a young Downey’s talents in a vintage clip) and then as a radio jock. Eventually he would be talent spotted by former MTV exec Bob Pittman, who wanted to do a “new” Joe Pyne type program.
 

 
His act was a shtick to a large extent, but Downey was also more or less true to his own (sometimes shifting) beliefs. Still his producers could feed him lines in pre-production meetings that he would parrot verbatim. Above all he was a showman, and during a break, he would often tell a guest he’d just insulted, spat upon and kicked off his show that they’d done a great job!

Mort’s talent for getting noticed deserted him about 18 months into his brief moment of fame and he was soon resorting to attention grabbing stunts like cutting his own hair and drawing a (backwards) swastika on his face in an airport bathroom, claiming that some skinheads roughed him up. That Downey was able to pass a polygraph test about the made-up incident and his far-out claims shows his capacity for self-deception.

Évocateur does a fine job getting near the bottom of what was obviously a bottomless pit of psychological misery (segments where Downey’s poetry is read aloud provide unexpected revelations of his self-loathing). If you remember the Loudmouth, or even if you don’t, without him there would be no Glenn Beck, no Molotov Mitchell, no Dana Loesch… it’s Mort’s prescient angry DNA that still informs rightwing media today and his influence seems likely to continue for the foreseeable future. With appearances by Beck, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Sally Jesse Raphael, Chris Elliott, Gloria Allred, Alan Dershowitz and Pat Buchanan. Downey’s friend and frequent sparring partner Al Sharpton appears in clips from the show, but he didn’t participate in the doc for reasons that will be quite obvious once you’ve seen it.

Downey was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1996 and had one of his lungs removed (but, true to form, not before he appeared on Larry King Live the very night prior to his surgery!). He died in in 2001.
 

 
Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
UB40: They weren’t always the Hootie & The Blowfish of reggae
05.22.2013
04:34 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:


Above, the hologram cover of UB44, their last good album

I thought I’d write a post sticking up for UB40—right after I duck from all the bottles whizzing past my head—and link to their insanely great Rockpalast gig from 1981.

Many of you reading this, especially most of the serious reggae fans among our audience, probably consider UB40 to be something akin to the Hootie of reggae, and to a certain extent, that’s a pretty fair assessment. What’s popular—UB40 are the most popular reggae group ever, selling over 70 million albums—isn’t necessarily any good, and frankly I personally don’t have any time for anything they’ve put out for three decades, BUT... they weren’t always known for turning out bland reggae for white folks. People with really good taste in music—even a lot of reggae heads—actually loved UB40 back then, as difficult as this might be to remember. Not to mention that they were much loved by Crass punks. Oh yes they were…

In the early 1980s, I lived in the South London area of Brixton, specifically off Railton Road, the so-called “Front Line,” in a neighborhood known at that time for rioting, anarchist squatters, and hundreds of out-of-work dreads, loitering, smoking three-paper joints, drinking, kicking soccer balls and openly selling weed on this huge concrete basketball court.

The above described scene was immortalized in the Eddie Grant songs “Living On the Front Line” and “Electric Avenue,” the latter being a street that crosses the former. If you were a white kid walking down Railton Road in 1983, you were more likely than one of the rastas to have your pockets searched by London police under the “suss laws.” It was simply assumed (with good reason) that if you were in that vicinity, then you were probably there buying some hash. It got to the point where I had to take the long walk home from the tube station to avoid an unpleasant interaction with the cops. I probably had to empty my pockets half a dozen times.

In any case, to set that scene, reggae in general, but UB40 in particular was normally what was heard being blasted out of the buzzing, blown-out speakers that my West Indian neighbors would so thoughtfully put in their windows. I’m telling you that they were as ubiquitous as those Cher or Kylie megahits were in gay neighborhoods. UB40 records were even played at blues parties. Their early singles and first three albums were an intrinsic part of the soundtrack of daily life in Brixton thirty years ago, as weird or as hard to believe as that might sound today.

UB40 were not, I repeat, not really regarded so much as a “pop” band then, but more like “heavy”—if somewhat doom-laden—socially-conscious, reverb-drenched psychedelic dubmeisters. The group’s name referred to the UB40 card then issued to the armies of unemployed who were “signing on” to collect benefit in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain (Their first album was called Singing Off). Indeed, their early material was dark and bleak, taking on topics like racism (”King” and “Tyler”), being nothing more than a number or a statistic to the government (”One in Ten”), famine (”Food For Thought,” the first single on a totally independent record label to crack the top 10 of the UK singles chart) and Thatcherism (”Madam Medusa”). They also came up with skankin’ stonkers like their smokin’ “Reefer Madness” instrumental and I’m sorry, but that song is simply fucking irresistible,  I don’t care how big of a rock snob you are.

If I am honest, I will tell you that although I knew that UB40 were a racially integrated reggae band, I’m sure I would have thought they were more than a little bit goofy had I known that a short-haired white guy was the front-man. Truth is, I had no idea that Ali Campbell wasn’t black. You certainly can’t tell from his voice and the decidedly minimalist album covers gave no hint at what they looked like—not that it was a secret, they were on TOTP, of course. Being white is hardly something to hold against the man or his music, my point is, to use George Michael’s phrase, you should listen without prejudice to the first three UB40 albums and you might hear something you really dig. There’s some great music hiding in plain sight that you probably missed out on because, well, it’s UB40.

I will say it again, there’s no Hootie factor whatsoever to early UB40. Hell, there’s not much indication at all of the shiny, happy crowd-pleasing direction they would take—a considerable U-turn creatively, to be sure—on their fourth album, the gazillion selling megahit, Labour of Love in 1983.

Below, a phenomenal 120-minute long set from Germany’s Rockpalast TV show dating back to 1981.

1. Present Arms
2. Tyler
3. King
4. Food For Thought
5. Earth Dies Screaming
6. Don’t Let It Pass You By
7. Lamb’s Bread
8. Silent Witness
9. Sardonicus
10 One In Ten
11 Madam Medusa
12 Don’t Slow Down
13 Dr. X
14 Burden Of Shame
15 Signing Off
 

 
Thanks Ryan Scott!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Giving Life Back To Music: Obligatory review of Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories’
05.20.2013
01:50 pm

Topics:
Dance
Music

Tags:


 
I can still remember where I was the first time I heard Daft Punk’s “Da Funk.” It was the summer of 1996 and my brother had taped a 1995-end-of-the-year-round-up show by Annie Nightingale off BBC Radio 1. Well, I say “first” but actually it was the second, as I had previously heard it in a dj mix, but at that point I had no way of knowing what it was. Thankfully Ms Nightingale was forthcoming with information, meaning I could track the tune down myself (in a shop and by word of mouth, remember the days?)

To say that “Da Funk” blew my mind is a bit of an under-statement. As a piece of music it referenced both the genres I was loving the most at the time, house music and hip-hop, but far from being some tawdry “hip-house” jam, “Da Funk” was the perfect summation of the best elements of both genres without compromising either. Everything about the record was perfect, including the feeling of “what the fuck was THAT?!” I got after hearing it. A year later Daft Punk released Homework, and it became the record that, more than any other, defined the late 90s for a whole generation of kids who were sick to death of grunge and Britpop and looking for something new and exciting that wasn’t about the past.

So there you have it. My Daft Punk background. I was there the first time round, and young enough for it to be absolutely MY thing. Does that make me an old fart now? Does that make my opinion on Random Access Memories, Daft Punk’s new album and the most hyped music product ever since the last most hyped music product ever, irrelevant?

Answer in the comments if you like, but to be honest, I don’t really care. Having grown up with Daft Punk, and had them make an immense influence on my own music production and song writing, I feel a personal connection to what they do that makes a review of their new album more than just another Internet commentariat bleating along with the herd (though I can’t stop anyone from shooting it down by calling it that).

So in as brief a nutshell as I can possibly put together, here is my review of Random Access Memories: potentially amazing production let down by really lacklustre songs. Now you know what I think. Feel free to ignore the rest of this piece if you want. For the rest of you, here are my gripes…

Daft Punk “Random Access Memories” full album stream:
 

 
Read the full review after the jump…

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
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