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Sherlock Holmes recreated as police composite sketch
07.21.2014
06:04 am

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Art
Books

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Sherlock Holmes

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We all have a different image of Sherlock Holmes usually associated with the actor we first saw playing the great detective. For some it will be Bendedict Cumberbatch with his petulant manner and curly question-marked hair; or the intense white-faced Jeremy Brett and his quivering flared nostrils; or Peter Cushing forever toying with a prop; or better still the pipe-clenching good sportsmanship of Basil Rathbone, who was my celluloid introduction to Sherlock Holmes in the 1970s.

Of course, these are all variations on a theme and we have to go those timeless tales by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in particular the first full novel of Holmesian adventure A Study in Scarlet to find a description of the man himself:

His very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded; and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination.

But how would Holmes look if we were to make a modern composite police sketch based on this description?

Well, this is exactly what Brian Joseph Davis has done over at his The Composites web page, where he uses police sketch software to create composite portraits of famous literary figures.
 
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His Sherlock Holmes has a hint of Midge Ure from Ultravox circa early eighties mixed with thin lips of William S. Burroughs.
 
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Here you’ll also find Emma Bovary from Madame Bovary, Rochester from Jane Eyre, and Keith Talent from Martin Amis’ Money, who looks uncannily like the comic Jimmy Clitheroe.
 
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Even Humbert Humbert from Lolita (who looks a little like Alan Arkin meets an aging David Byrne).
 
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And Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby—though she lacks the fatal beauty of the character in the book.

I guess that’s my problem with these images—they all begin to look the same after a while, and the uniformity of design makes them drab, lifeless, like formulae for a human equation. Anyway, here’s Peter Cushing to breathe some life into Sherlock Holmes in this BBC production of A Study in Scarlet.
 

 
H/T Nerdcore

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Poking a Dead Frog: Mike Sacks’ conversations with today’‘s top comedy writers
07.15.2014
09:09 am

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Books

Tags:
comedy
Mike Sacks


The author at work. He looks really, really familiar somehow, doesn’t he?

Vanity Fair editor Mike Sacks’ new book of interviews, Poking a Dead Frog is a nearly 500 page volume featuring contributions from Amy Poehler, Patton Oswalt, Adam McKay and even Mel Brooks. There’s a fascinating interview with New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast. Daniel Clowes is in the book, WFMU’s Tom Scharpling is in there, too and so is Bob & Ray’s Bob Elliott. It’s essential reading for comedy lovers (as was its predecessor And Here’s the Kicker which featured interviews with the likes of Buck Henry, Stephen Merchant, Dick Cavett, Larry Gelbart, Merrill Markoe and even Marx Brothers writer Irving Brecher.)

Mike Sacks’ informed questions draw out these amazing talents on how to write funny and how to think funny. I interviewed the interviewer over email.

Dangerous Minds: When I was a kid, I used to check out Super 8 Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton films from the local library and watch them on my father’s movie projector. Then I discovered Monty Python, Beyond the Fringe, Woody Allen and Steve Martin and then soon after that, Lenny Bruce, Fernwood2Night and Firesign Theatre. When you were young, who were the performers that really got you into comedy in the first place?

Mike Sacks: Woody Allen, particularly in Play It Again, Sam, which I think is underrated. There are two scenes that I loved: Woody getting ready for the blind date, and Woody walking up to a woman in an outdoor restaurant area and ruining her salad. What’s sometimes forgotten is just how great Woody is at physical comedy. He wrote the movie but didn’t direct it; one of the few where this happened. But it’s almost ballet, the scenes are so beautiful.

But more than anyone, it was Letterman and Chris Elliott, when Chris was on the show. Bizarre, surreal, angry bits that I just loved and still do.

Did you start doing the interviews for a book or for another purpose?

Only for the book. These interviews are way too difficult to do for any other reason. They require upwards of 20 hours of research and then up to 20 hours of talking over the course of months, if not years. They take a lot of work and a lot of time. Now I do put together shorter interviews for various websites, but if they run this long and are this complicated, they’re only for books.

Wasn’t there a secondary motive of “I want to know what makes this person tick” or something like that? Napoleon Hill went around interviewing the titans of American capitalism and then distilled the essence of their collective wisdom in his Think and Grow Rich. I think you’re doing that for the titans of American humor.

Oh, I see what you mean. Yes, definitely. The whole purpose of both of these interview books was to have an excuse to talk with my favorite comedy writers. How did they get into the business? What are their main influences, both comedy and otherwise? What would they recommend young writers do and (just as importantly, if not more) what would they recommend young writers NOT do in order to achieve success? And what is even considered success?

When I was young, the field of comedy writing was a huge mystery to me. I had no idea how one became a comedy writer, and the idea fascinated me. To make a living writing jokes for Letterman or SNL, how in the hell does that happen? It seemed a lot more fun than the type of work I probably would have been doing if I stuck around Maryland.

If, like Napoleon Hill, you had to narrow it down to the “universals” of how comedy works, what are the most glistening pearls of wisdom these folks offer on being funny and thinking funny?

I’m not sure anyone in this book really knows how comedy truly works. I mean, they know but they don’t know. And it’s almost as if they don’t want to know. To make someone laugh is a mysterious, almost magical skill. No one who’s unfunny can taught to be funny.  However, I do think that funny writers can be taught to be even funnier. But they have to teach themselves. No courses and no books (including mine) will teach them that. It has to come from within. With that said, there are some constants that can be seen among these successful writers. They were funny to begin with. They’ve worked very hard. And they’ve never stopped, even after “failures.”

Since the book concentrates on comedy writers, I won’t ask you to pick a favorite or anything, but in terms of stand-up comedians, who do you rate highest these days?

My favorite comedian might be Brian Regan. I think he’s an amazing performer and a great writer. And this is going to sound goofy, but he appeals to everyone of every age. Not easy. I think this, in particular, is an underrated skill. To use language that appeals just as much to a ten-year-old as to that of an 80-year-old. Very difficult to do, but he does it very well. His main focus is the stage, not TV or movies, and he’s just a master. If you can see him, I highly recommend it. From what I heard, Patton Oswalt, another amazing comedian, thinks of Brian Regan as being one of the best.

Who are you hoping to get for the next installment?

I have a “bucket list” of people I’d love to hoodwink into participating. I’d love if they said yes this time, but who knows? They do have better things to be doing. As far as specific names, let’s just say that I’d love to talk with the dude who produced the 1980s UPN sitcom Homeboys in Outer Space. Why not.

We’re email friends, never met in person. Do you ever get mistaken for Jon Hamm? You look just like him in your author photo…

Yes, all the time. It’s annoying but what can I do? I used to get mistaken for Jim J. Bullock but luckily I grew out of that phase. Seriously, Jon posed for three hours for free, in his underwear. Nice guy. Can’t imagine any other actor doing that. I love the dude. And if he ever wants me to pose nearly nude, he knows where to go…

Mike Sacks’ reddit AMA is here.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Happy Days’ created by David Mamet and other sitcoms we’d like to see

Happy Days created by David Mamet
 
I love these mind-bending title cards from some memorable TV series from four or five decades ago—I only wish there were more of them. They appear to be the Photoshop handiwork of Johnny Walker. To adapt a witticism of one of the commenters on the page I found this, it’s only a rumor that early drafts of David Mamet’s first play used the title Sexual Perversity in Milwaukee.

Delirious possibilities for other TV shows abound: how about Get Smart created by George Orwell? Or The Patty Duke Show created by Vladimir Nabokov? Gilligan’s Island created by Kurt Vonnegut? Saved by the Bell created by William Golding? Diff’rent Strokes created by Richard Wright?

Your turn!
 
I Dream of Jeannie created by Germaine Greer
 
Mork & Mindy created by Philip Roth
 
via Ken Levine’s blog

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ turned into an illustrated scroll
07.01.2014
06:09 am

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Art
Books

Tags:
Jack Kerouac
Paul Rogers

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Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road is currently being turned into a beautifully illustrated scroll by artist Paul Rogers.

Rogers is drawing one illustration for each page of the book, producing the work on one long scroll, just as Kerouac wrote his famous novel on one scroll of teletype paper—though he did it in “three coffee-soaked-benzedrine-fueled days.” .

A member of faculty at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, Rogers has painstakingly researched “cars, buses, roadside architecture, and old signs” to insure his drawings match Kerouac’s America of the late Forties and early Fifties.
 
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Rogers has also added extracts from Kerouac’s text which he hopes “makes the series feel like a journal and not a carefully planned out illustrated book, and it seems to capture some of the spirit of Kerouac’s ‘this-happened-then-this-then-this’ writing style.”

You can scroll through Paul Rogers’ illustrated version of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road here.
 
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Via Open Culture

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Naked lady perfectly blends into bookshelf
06.30.2014
12:02 pm

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Art
Books

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body painting


 
Sadly, there’s only a single image of this body-painted woman who blends in nicely with a bookshelf. Since books have already been done, I’d like see nude people with body paint blend in with their vinyl shelves.  That would be awesome. Has anyone done that yet? Veruschka maybe? I’ve given you task pro-body painters… now get to it!

Photograph by Bill Waldman. Body paint by Adam DuShole.

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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‘UnAmerica’: God doesn’t love America. Quite the reverse.
06.28.2014
08:47 am

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Books

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Momus


“Patriot” by Dimitri Drjuchin, 2014

Scottish songwriter/performer/blogger Momus, the cynical, sex-obsessed eyepatch-wearing, world-traveling postmodernist who gave the world such unforgettable ditties as “Coming in a Girl’s Mouth,” “Enlightenment” and “Welcome to My Show Trial” (which Grant Morrison told me is his favorite song of all time) is now an author.

In fact, the man once called “the most famous unknown in pop” has actually got three novels under his belt and the latest, UnAmerica makes four. Already a big fan of his music, I enjoyed it immensely. It makes sense that a musical purveyor of witty wordplay like Momus would get into the novel business.

From the press release:

The nation is in the iron claw of capitalism, Christianity’s basic principles are flouted daily, the South has won the Civil War, slavery is widespread, exploitation rampant, and God—now working as a janitor at Tastee Freez with late-onset Alzheimer’s—is rapidly losing the plot. In an effort to obliterate his botched creation from memory, the fallen divinity recruits retail worker Brad Power to enlist a crew of twelve for a seafaring adventure. The mission? To uninvent America.   

It’s never too late, apparently, for an act of creative destruction.

UnAmerica is published by Penny Ante Editions as part of their “Success and Failure Series”.

Chapter One

It’s a sunny afternoon during the month of Hekatombaion. Wild pear trees—glabrous, their leaves cordate, nearly orbicular, their nuts oval—are coming into flower. I’m headed eastbound on Tupperway Drive. I make an illegal U-turn at the Boone Hill United Methodist Church and am soon pulling my Dodge Custer into the Tastee Freez car park.

Inside the restaurant I’m ushered to a booth where I order a Hot Fudge Sundae with a large side of fries.

This is not the sort of food I normally eat, or even like very much, to be honest.  I prefer to picnic alone in the middle of a field somewhere, with a pot of raspberry jam, two slices of crisp bread, a hard-boiled egg, and some unsugared tea in a Thermos flask.

The wind might rustle in the willows, rabbits might graze in the boskiness of a hedgerow, and John Constable would probably be standing at an easel nearby, whistling as he smears flecks of Cremnitz white from a soft metal tube into a lowering and turbulent paint sky.

After lunch I will push my bicycle over the recently-ploughed sod, casting a lustful yet repressed eye at a handsome farm labourer stripped to the waist, and cycle to the nearest village, where I will seek out junk shops selling bric-a-brac, or perhaps stumble on a serendipitous church fete.

“Brad?”

The frail, fussy voice takes me by surprise; an old man dressed like a janitor emerges from a utilities closet.

“Brad, thank you for coming. I know that many people would assume this was a hoax. You have shown yourself to be a true believer.”

“Uh, great to meet you!”

God’s handshake isn’t particularly firm. His foreign accent, darting brown eyes, swarthy complexion and cheap nylon janitor’s uniform make him look like an illegal kitchen worker from the Middle East.

“Now Brad”, says God, “you’re going to have to make allowances for me. I have late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.”

“I’m very sorry to hear that!”

“Yes, it’s my cross to bear, so to speak. I’ve totally forgotten how to create things. Do you know what my main project is right now, Brad?”

“I wouldn’t presume to guess or know, sir!”

“I want to uninvent America, a nation I have come to despise.”

This is surprising.

“Why do you despise America?”

God knits his brows.

“Because Americans have lost touch with everything important. They’ve become fat, greedy, selfish pigs.”

God explains how little he was impressed by the mass extermination of indigenous peoples, the triumph of the slave-driving South over the Yankees during the Civil War, and the Confederate States of America’s use of nuclear weapons against civilian populations in Britain during the Second World War.

“That sounds fair enough”, I observe. “I’m a secret British sympathiser myself.”

My sundae and fries arrives. God is talking about the Hutterites; how they were the only Americans to have followed his injunction in the Acts of the Apostles to pool their possessions, sell all their goods and distribute them according to need.

“And you know what they got for this, Brad? They were called communists, jailed, beaten up, killed. The states started passing laws forbidding them to buy more land. They had to move to Canada.”

“Brad, Americans have become the opposite of everything I intended humans, and especially Christians, to become. If I still could, I’d smash this nation to potsherds, or flood the entire continental basin from sea to shining sea.”

God becomes suddenly businesslike.

“I am seeking a faithful servant to recreate in reverse the voyage of Saint Brendan, dearly beloved to me. Do you know much about him?”

Nibbling on a french fry, I confess that I don’t know anything about Saint Brendan.

God explains that the monk set off from Ireland in the early 6th century, inspired by a holy man called Mernoke, who had discovered a magical land beyond the western horizon where every herb was full of blossom and every tree full of fruit. This, says God, was Eden, or Tir na nÓg, the earthly paradise where death and disease were unknown. Brendan set off in a coracle with twelve hand-picked associates, hoping to discover this land. After seven years of paddling from island to island, he succeeded.

God shakes some hundreds-and-thousands onto the surface of my fudge sundae. Calm, epic music punctuated by the cries of sea birds fills the air.  We crane over the glass and seem to be zooming in on a tiny boat crossing an ocean of whipped cream.

The Irish discovered America, says God. But the earthly paradise has become an unparadise. The whole situation has to be reversed. America has to be undiscovered. People need to turn their backs on all it stands for. People need to learn about—and learn from—the rest of the world.

Now it’s the rest of the world that needs to become the shining example, the Tir na nÓg, the Shangri-La, the Golden Fleece.

“You, Brad, and your twelve hand-picked companions must learn—and teach the world—how to become as unAmerican as possible. That is my final wish, and my last command. Do you accept the challenge?”

What can I say?

UnAmerica is published by Penny Ante Editions as part of their “Success and Failure Series.”

If you don’t like reading, Momus explains what UnAmerica is all about and then reads the first chapter in a quite passable American accent in the video below.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground’: The best book yet on the dawn of punk rock

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Early band shot of Blondie

In the now long line of endless punk rock history cash-in books being pumped out from every corner of the world it’s shocking to find the one book that’s not like the others. Paul Zone’s Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground published by Glitterati Inc. is a coffee table book brimming with amazing, unseen photos and the life story of Paul and his brothers Miki Zone and Mandy Zone and their bands The Fast and later, Man 2 Man. What makes this book different is its author and the time frame it takes place in.

There was a short moment when everything was happening at once, no one knew or cared and the only band that had an audience or a record deal was the New York Dolls. As early as 1974 Patti Smith was playing, as was Television, Wayne County, Suicide and Blondie. The Ramones were starting to play at CBGB (opening for a drag show that starred Tomata du Plenty later of Screamers fame), KISS was pretty much in this same scene playing to about five people with many bands like The Planets And Paul’s brothers The Fast were playing alongside of them. At one point, sub-culturally speaking, all the cards were thrown up in the air and no one knew where they were going to land. It was a very small group of friends almost all of whom would, in a few short years, become icons of pop culture,
 
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Johnny Thunders, early 70’s

At the time, Paul Zone was very young. Too young to be in a band, but not too young to see a band or be snuck into the back room at Max’s Kansas City. And not too young to document this exciting time in his life by photographing everything. There are very few photos of this period when punk rock was actually occurring in the midst of the glitter rock scene. When the up and down escalators of rock ‘n’ roll infinity met and EVERYONE was hungry on the way up AND on the way down. There was change in the air, excitement and confusion.

Seeing Alan Vega of Suicide performing in a loft in 1973 with a huge blonde wig and a gold painted face is unbelievable. The years the photos in the book span are 1971 to 1978. Most are snapshots of friends hanging out when everyone was still on the starting line. The Fast were one of the more popular of these bands who let their new friends Blondie and The Ramones open for them in small New York clubs.

Early photos of The Fast show them amazingly in full glitter regalia with KISS-like make up (Miki Zone has a heart painted over one eye, etc.) but this was before KISS! There are a few photos of icons of the time like Alice Cooper (watching cartoons in his hotel room), Marc Bolan, The Stooges, etc. (a good one of KISS with about three people in the audience, as mentioned above). Most are of friends just hanging out, having a ball, not knowing or caring about the future and without that dividing line in music history called “punk rock.” It is truly a treasure to see something this rare, and even better, 99% of these photos have never been seen before.
 
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Wayne County long before becoming Jayne County

By 1976 Paul Zone was old enough to join his brothers and became the lead singer of the version of The Fast that made records. Sadly due to poor management decisions The Fast got left behind that first punk wave and watched as almost all of their buddies become some of the most famous faces in music history. How amazing that all of these people were friends just hanging out, broke and creative going to see each other play, talking shit and influencing each other in ways they didn’t even realize?
 
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Joey Ramone eating dessert at Paul Zone’s parents house at 5 am

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Linda Ramone, future design icon Anna Sui, Nick Berlin and me, Howie Pyro (The Blessed) at Coney Island 1978

After a few years of struggling, The Fast trimmed down to just brothers Miki and Paul Zone and some early electronic equipment. They finally let go of the name The Fast and became Man to Man, one of the first Hi-NRG electro dance music groups, recording with the likes of Bobby Orlando and Man Parrish. They had huge hits worldwide and here in dance clubs like “Male Stripper” and “Energy Is Eurobeat,”
 
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Suicide’s Alan Vega, early 70’s

This book is three quarters a photo book and one quarter autobiography, cutting to the point and perfect for this modern, short attention span world. It is packed with so much amazing first hand information in such a short amount of text that no one will be disappointed. Playground was co-written by Jake Austen of Roctober Magazine, with a foreword by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie. The book is available here
 
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If you are in the Los Angeles area this Saturday, June 28th, there will be a book release party and photo exhibit (with many of these photos printed HUGE) at Lethal Amounts Gallery at 8 pm.
 

Posted by Howie Pyro | Discussion
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‘Bin Laden may not exist’: Did Thomas Pynchon give this 9/11 interview to Japan’s Playboy… or not?
06.20.2014
08:29 am

Topics:
Books
History
Media

Tags:
Thomas Pynchon
Osama bin Laden

Pynchon & Bin Laden
 
Novelist Thomas Pynchon has a slightly overstated reputation as a literary recluse. After three ambitious novels between 1963 and 1973—the last of which, Gravity’s Rainbow, has a pretty strong claim as the best and most important U.S. novel written after 1970—Pynchon took a break from publishing new work that lasted 17 years. There are only a handful of existing photographs of Pynchon, and they’re all grainy black-and-white shots from early in his life. Despite living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for many years, not many people know what he looks like.

But he’s no J.D. Salinger. Since 1997 he’s published four novels; measured by number of pages, his post-1997 output must far outstrip the three novels and handful of short stories that established his reputation. He pops up here and there, lending liner notes to Nobody’s Cool, an album by the indie rock band Lotion, or Spiked!, a collection of tunes by Spike Jones, whom Pynchon has cited as a key influence on his work.

Pynchon’s cult of personality is strong enough that the question of his extra-fictional writings is no casual matter. So when a brief piece by Pynchon pops up in, of all places, the Japanese edition of Playboy a few months after 9/11 urging readers to regard Osama bin Laden as a “symbol,” that’s the kind of thing that sets the Pynchon obsessives to speculating. There’s not any obvious reason to believe that the article was faked, save Pynchon’s track record of pranks and the unlikely venue. It’s just barely mysterious enough that you might see it referred to as Pynchon’s “interview about bin Laden”—complete with skeptical quotation marks. Its very existence is a bit of a puzzle.
 
Japanese Playboy
 
The item exists, for English readers, in translation only, one executed by the diligent “Naoki” of the Pynchon-L newsgroup. It’s important that the piece is billed as an “interview,” because only that would explain the relatively pedestrian quality of the words. (Try to imagine James Joyce translated into Japanese and back into English again. The original text and the outcome might not be all that similar.) The text does seem tolerably Pynchonian. He remarks that he’s afraid to use the subway; there’s more about anthrax than you would find in a remembrance of 9/11 written today; he says that he can’t trust the New York Times anymore; he discusses the anomic qualities of the CNN newscasters.

Most interesting is his plea to stop taking Osama bin Laden so seriously. It’s one of those insights that’s obviously correct but also functionally useless: we were always going to take Osama bin Laden very seriously. As he says, “Even if the United States succeeds in killing him that would mean that there are still 19 bin Ladens left. Even if there is only one, there are probably many people who would take his place once they kill bin Laden. ... If we look at this from a different point-of-view, we should look at bin Laden as a symbol rather than a man. Bin Laden may not even exist.

Here’s Naoki’s translation of the “interview,” with a few typos corrected:
 

Most News Is Propaganda. Bin Laden May Not Exist.

All people who live in New York today have been talking about recently is whether they have been to the site of the World Trade Center. This is because it has become a “trendy” topic. Personally, I still cannot find myself wanting to go see the site.

The main thing that has changed in my life-style recently is the fact that I do not ride the subway anymore. Before, I got on the subway wherever I went but today, I never ride the subway in fear of biological weapons. After all, there was the case with the Tokyo Sarin Gas. I believe that the damage that can be caused by the biological weapon called anthrax is increasing and we are in a situation where someone could use biological weapons at any time.

The media station that is consistently giving reports on this terrorist case is CNN. Because everybody watches CNN, it would be safe to say that the news being watched by all of the citizens is the same. However, it is dangerous when people start to believe that what they see is real news.

For the television stations this kind of situation should be a great chance to express their individuality. However, the only thing the newscasters do is read the news in a monotonous voice or when the news comes on during the report, all they do is spit out the words they receive. In any case, they talk with the mere intention of filling up the time they have on air.

The adjective “affect less” best fits the way the newscasters talk. It is a way of expression that has no connection to the human being and no emotional power at all. I deprecate this way of expression. If you listen closely to those words, it doesn’t sound like real news. It sounds more like propaganda.

Talking of propaganda, what changed the most due to the terrorist incident is The New York Times. Until recently, I would wake up an hour early to go buy this newspaper but now, there it isn’t even worth the time to sit down and read it. Even before I place my hips in the seat, I am already finished reading it by flipping through the pages. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that there is hardly any useful news. It is mostly propaganda.

The news on how there are more antibiotics to anthrax other than cipro was a little useful, but that kind of useful news has become a rarity. The New York Times is usually known to be the most reliable source of media when doing research on something that happened twenty to thirty years ago. However, that is no longer the case. The most reliable newspaper that is read by educated people today is probably England’s The Guardian. Everyone is reading it on the internet. I also believe that a lot of the information coming out of the White House is also propaganda.

The problem is that common people cannot make a distinction between news and propaganda. On the contrary, the news sent out from Israel is extremely reliable.

In any case, once a war happens, the war for media becomes a great significance and even the newspapers that look decent at first glance, you can no longer trust. About a hundred years ago, the man who started publishing the Daily Mile said the following: “News is something somebody wants to suppress. Everything else is propaganda.”

Therefore, all information that can be obtained without difficult coverage, even though it may be from the White House, you can think of as propaganda.

Bin Laden should be looked upon as a symbol

The United States has always had a tendency to look for an enemy. It is a country that cannot stand not having one. Even for this terrorist incident, it is already determined that the villain behind all of this is bin Laden, but in reality they are saying that because they cannot stand not doing so. I believe that bin Laden is someone’s clown for a rodeo.

Although my thoughts are always paranoid, I believe that I’m the only one who feels this way. It is said that NSA is on a lookout for him but I think that like an onion, new layers will be discovered. No matter how I look at the situation, it doesn’t seem like bin Laden is doing this independently. The only impression that I get is that he is some kind of star actor.

Honestly speaking, we cannot even tell if the face that comes out on television and on the newspapers is his real face. I remember someone saying right after the terrorist incident, “Come on, you want bin Laden? We’ll give you 20 of him.” Even if the United States succeeds in killing him that would mean that there are still 19 bin Ladens left. Even if there is only one, there are probably many people who would take his place once they kill bin Laden.

If we look at this from a different point-of-view, we should look at bin Laden as a symbol rather than a man. Bin Laden may not even exist.

The other day when I was surfing the net, it said that the punishment that suits bin Laden the best is to catch him alive, bring him to a hospital, give him a transexual operation, and send him back to Afghanistan. He would then understand the disservice done to the women in Afghanistan.

We cannot forget that many of bin Laden’s brothers were partners with George Bush Jr. for the purpose of oil ventures in the past. The doctor who is known to be at bin Laden’s side at all times was a member of the group who killed Sadat. When that assassination happened, Egypt became involved and there must have been people who fled to Afghanistan.

What is often said is that it is the United State’s wealth that is the cause of the terrorists’ hatred. I can understand their feelings well. When I see a wealthy person, I instinctively feel anger deep in my stomach. If you think about how Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, it is only natural for them to feel hatred toward the wealthy United States. They have no other choice but to detest them.

Even if the United States stops their support for Israel, I don’t think that everything will become peaceful. However, from their point-of-view this is the origin of all Israel’s mistakes.

On a final note, if I were to vigorously invest in something right now, I would invest in the tobacco industry. After that incident, people who had stopped smoking before have started it again.

 

On the Pynchon Wiki, two presumably well-informed commenters offer their opinion that the bin Laden piece is authentic. The reasoning of commenter “Bleakhaus” is fairly persuasive.
 

I for one am inclined to believe its authenticity. It expresses many of Pynchon’s longest- and deepest-held thoughts:

Paranoia - afraid to ride subway.
Extended thoughts on his distrust of news media - mentions CNN in particular (same station that tracked him down at one point).
He suggests that he used to like the New York Times - in fact, he wrote numerous articles for the Times.
Bin Laden as a symbol - 9/11 is treated symbolically in Against the Day.
sense of humor - consistent with Pynchon’s sense of humor in Against the Day.
The Playboy Japan article also quoted John Updike, Thomas Friedman and others. It would be odd that a bogus Pynchon interview would end up mixed in with those legitimate interviews.
Hating the rich - a very strong theme in Against the Day.

Finally, like Pynchon’s Simpsons appearance, the whole thing is just too unusual to be invented. Playboy Japan, of all things?

 

Obviously, 9/11 is an ideal subject for a writer who plumbed the subject of paranoia so thoroughly in The Crying of Lot 49 and Gravity’s Rainbow. What “Bleakhaus” couldn’t have known when he or she wrote this is that, while Against the Day (2006) may touch on 9/11 symbolically, his 2013 book Bleeding Edge deals with it literally—it’s part of the book’s plot.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Susan Sontag in a bear suit is probably more incriminating than Susan Sontag’s FBI file
06.19.2014
11:34 am

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Susan Sontag


Obviously one of Sontag’s espionage-related disguises
 
Writer and intellectual Susan Sontag is usually remembered more for her cultural criticism than for her political activism., Although I eventually grew to find her pretentious as hell, I can honestly say her “Notes on ‘Camp’” may have validated my dirtbag tastes early on. Her anti-Vietnam War activism was actually fairly tame, but combined with a characteristically sober article she wrote on Vietnam for Esquire, her lefty resume earned her an FBI file.

It appears however, that the Bureau was seriously grasping at straws in trying to assess her threat to national security. A New York intellectual protesting the war in the 1960s? Columbia teach-ins? Signing petitions? International travel?!? Even the Esquire essay, “Trip to Hanoi” is hardly an impassioned call for revolution, but rather a reserved account of her own experience mired in (arguably egotistical and naval-gazing) self-reflection. Though more radical anti-war activists like Students for a Democratic Society were present, Sontag states plainly in the piece that, “I was a writer and Vietnam was ‘material.’”
 

 
The FBI never questioned Sontag, saying in the file that “an attempt to interview her could result in embarrassment to the Bureau.” I have to agree with that one. Fear of intellectuals is one thing, but it’s easy to imagine what sort of New Yorker article Sontag would have penned should the FBI have tried to recruit her! Furthermore, Susan Sontag was never more threatening than a fountain pen and the FBI should definitely be embarrassed to have ever “feared” her in any way. Below is a sampling from Sontag’s FBI file of her notorious political activities:

Records of the New York City Police Department reflect that during Anti-Draft Activities, December 4-8, 1967, in New York City, Susan Sontag, white female, born January 16, 1933. and a resident of 346 Riverside Drive, New York City, was arrested on December 5, 1967, on a charge of disorderly conduct. The records further reflect that Sontag is single, a citizen of the United States and is a writer by occupation.

On March 7, 1968, the records of the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Bureau of Special Services, were reviewed by Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) August J. Micek, and no information pertaining to the subject was reflected.

On February 21, 1966, a source who has furnished reliable information in the past advised that Susan Sontag attended a “Read-In For Peace In Vietnam” held at Town Han, 123 West 43rd Street, New York on February 20, 1966.

The “New York Post” of November 18, 1967, reflected that Susan Sontag spoke at a program “From Dissent To Resistance” at a Vietnam Teach-In at Columbia University in November, 1967.

The’Village Voice” of January 18, 1968 on page 11, column 1 reflected that Susan Sontag signed a scroll pledging to counsel aid and abet any young man who wished to refuse the draft.

The’New York Times” of January 31, 1968, reflected that Susan Sontag signed a protest advertisement in the New York Times concerning the surtax. The advertisement was sponsored by the “Writers and Editors War Tax.”

During March and April, 1968, informants cognizant of some Communist activities in the New York City area were contacted and could furnish no information concerning the subject.

As an added bonus, I’ve added my absolute favorite video of Sontag, in which she claims unfamiliarity with the work of notorious libertarian feminist troll, Camille Paglia. (Paglia is incensed beyond belief.) Susan Sontag did not lead revolutions, she destroyed your composure with passive-aggressive barbs.
 

 
Via The Hairpin

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Screwed in Times Square with Josh Alan Friedman


 
Vanity Fair’s Mike Sacks is one of the world’s great comedy nerds and he’s got the published bona fides to prove it. Funny in his own right (his book of comic essays, Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason had me laughing out loud on nearly every single page) Mike’s proven himself incredibly adept at getting top humor writers to open up about what they do and how they do it. His 2009 collection, And Here’s the Kicker featured interviews with the likes of Buck Henry, Stephen Merchant, Dick Cavett, Larry Gelbart, Merrill Markoe and even Marx Brothers writer Irving Brecher (which floored me, because I am fascinated by the man who Groucho called “the wickedest wit of the West”). The book is filled with gem after gem of good advice on how to write funny and how to think funny. If you are at all interested in the craft of comedy, it’s an absolutely indispensable book.

In just a few short days, Mike’s new book of interviews, Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers will arrive (June 24 to be exact) and this nearly 500 page volume features contributions from Amy Poehler, Patton Oswalt, Adam McKay and even the great Mel Brooks. The Irving Brecher equivalent for me—there had to be a Brecher this time, too, of course or the reader would be disappointed—well, he got several Brechers this go round (I’m talking about other unexpected leftfield participants, to be clear). There’s a fascinating interview with New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, for starters. He’s also got Daniel Clowes, WFMU’s Tom Scharpling and Bob & Ray’s Bob Elliott. That’s some pretty rarified company, right? But that’s what you’ll find here. [As an aside fellow comedy buffs, my beloved pal Philip Proctor of the Firesign Theatre once told me that his extremely distinct comedic delivery was more influenced by Bob & Ray than anyone else. Once you know that, it provides a fascinating lens with which to view Phil’s contribution to “the Beatles of comedy.”]

One of the interviews that was cut for space from Poking a Dead Frog was a conversation with Josh Alan Friedman, co-creator with his brother Drew (the one who draws) of the all-time, until the end of time classic Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Purely Coincidental and on his own of the classic in a different way anthology of his Screw magazine essays on the 42nd Street milieu, Tales of Times Square. To say that I am a big, huge, unabashed fan of those books is no exaggeration. I even gave out copies of Tales of Times Square for Christmas presents back when Times Square was still a sleaze pit. I found a stack at The Strand bookstore and bought all of them. I put plastic wrappers on my own copy of the first edition and it sits in a place of pride on the bookshelves behind me as I type this. When Mike offered us the opportunity to run the Josh Alan Friedman interview on Dangerous Minds, I was only too happy to accept.
 

Josh Alan Friedman, right, with his brother illustrator Drew Friedman, late 1970s

Mike Sacks: When I first asked if you were willing to be interviewed, you said that you “find nothing funny about anything, anyone, anywhere, at any time.”

Josh Alan Friedman: That might have been off-the-cuff, but there’s a kernel of truth in there. Most of the time, what strikes me as funny doesn’t strike others as funny. And vice versa.

When did you publish your first cartoon with your brother Drew? What year was this?

It was in 1978, but we had been recording reel-to-reel audio sketches and doing comic strips for ourselves over the years. I would kind of write and produce, Drew did voices and illustrations. We never thought about publishing or releasing them.

Drew began to draw constantly. He would draw his teachers naked on school desks. When I went to visit him during his freshman year at Boston University, the public walls of the entire dormitory floor were densely illustrated. Maybe I imagined this, but I seem to remember finding him upside down, like Michaelangelo laboring under the chapel. He spent months doing this, and although the frat boys loved it, Drew hadn’t been to class in months. So I wanted to focus the poor boy’s talent on something, and I began writing heavily researched, detailed comix scripts.

What was that first published comic called?

“The Andy Griffith Show.” It ran in Raw Magazine. Drew illustrated the entire script very quickly. I loved how it looked. I said, “This is an amazing piece of work you’ve just done here,” and he told me he could do better. He ripped up that first version and then re-drew it—that’s the version that now exists. When I saw how startling the strip looked after the second pass, I knew we were onto something exciting.

To this day, the “Andy Griffith Show” comic strip remains slightly shocking. It features a black man wandering into Mayberry, North Carolina, and getting lynched by Sheriff Taylor and some other locals. This was not your typical misty-eyed look back at small-town life in the 1960s.

That cartoon has since been reprinted many times—and we caught a lot of flak at first. Certain people accused us of being racists.

If anything, you were mocking the nostalgia that surrounds a time and place that was anything but happy and perfect—at least for many people.

Yes, of course. I wanted to provoke the heady sensation of fear, and also get some laughs. That, to me, was—and still is—a potent combination. The so-called comic nightmare. It’s like mixing whiskey with barbiturates. It becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Over the years readers have told me that they can’t remember whether they actually read some of our cartoons or dreamed them. People have asked, “I might have been dreaming, but did you once work on a comic strip about such and such?”

You were writing about television shows and celebrities that no one else seemed to care about in the late ’70s, early ’80s.

I’ll confess that during childhood I never realized I Love Lucy was supposed to be a situation comedy. I thought it was a drama about the misadventures of this poor New York City housewife, which happened to have a surreal laugh track that made no sense. Years later, I was stunned to learn it was considered comedy.

I was always riveted by the lower depths of show business and sub-celebrities, maybe as an alternative to the dumbing down of American culture. The common man had higher standards in, say, the 1940s. And Drew’s fascination went even deeper, as he depicted fantasies of Rondo Hatton, the acromegaly-cursed actor who starred in several freak horror flicks in the ’30s and ’40s. And, of course, Tor Johnson, the giant wrestler turned actor, from Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space [1959], who practically became Drew’s alter ego.

There was something about The Three Stooges, after their stock had taken a dive in the ’70s, that became more compelling than ever—even deeper than when we were children. Three short, ugly, but really beautiful, middle-aged Jews who slept in the same bed together, refused to separate, yet beat and maimed each other senselessly without end. It almost ceased being comedy, but you couldn’t stop watching. 
 

 
What fascinated you about sub-celebrities at the nadir of their careers?

If I were to speculate, I would say that worship of America’s celebrity culture was becoming a mental illness without a name. It was the sickness of celebrity. It’s only gotten worse: the false icons, the obsession with celebrity over substance. It demeans all of humanity. It’s terribly unhealthy. So why not take it a quantum step lower—to its natural resolution—and worship Ed Wood, Joe Franklin, Wayne Newton, or Joey Heatherton, a Rat Pack–era actress in the ’60s? Or serial killers posing with celebrities?

When Drew and I were doing this in the late ’70s and ’80s, there was no Internet. Information about old shows and movies and celebrities were difficult to come by back then. Now there are hundreds of websites devoted to The Three Stooges or The Andy Griffith Show or Rondo Hatton. You can now look up [the actress and model] Joey Heatherton’s name and immediately find that her first husband, the football player Lance Rentzel, was arrested in 1970 for exposing himself to a child. Or that Wayne Newton once threatened to beat the shit out of Johnny Carson for telling jokes about Wayne being effeminate.

You had to search out arcane clippings’ files in local libraries or newspaper morgues back then. For years, I kept accumulating photos and news clips on numerous subjects like Newton, Joey Heatherton or Frank Sinatra, Jr.

More of Mike Sacks’ interview with Josh Alan Friedman after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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