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Stephen King: ‘I sleep with the lights on’
12.31.2014
11:35 am

Topics:
Books
Television

Tags:
horror
Stephen King

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I find it reassuring to know that Stephen King has sold over 350 million books—not because it’s a sales target young hopeful writers might choose to aspire to or because the earnings probably keep Mr. King in a lifestyle the vast majority of us can only ever dream of, but because this incredible number means that most of us have probably read at least one Stephen King novel or story—or at worst have seen one of the numerous films based on his work.

350 million in book sales make Stephen King an ice-breaker, a conversation starter, a shared interest that connects people with whom we may have thought there was no common bond. Unlike the pitfalls of talking about politics or religion or whether your team is going to win the league (of course they will!), talking about Stephen King, or rather talking about books, brings us together through a shared pleasure of reading.

I was late to Stephen King but quickly made up for the lost time and have now read everything he has ever published. And like the other 350 million I have remained one of his “Constant Readers” through all his seasons whether good or fair or poor.

I’ve often posited the suggestion that Stephen King should win the Nobel Prize for Literature, which may cause some to be aghast, but why not? He has created a gallery of memorable characters; has written some of the more imaginative stories of the past five decades; and perhaps most radically King’s tales of terror have encouraged people to read, which in turn has nudged his readers towards other authors, other books, other ideas. Who knows—maybe one day it will happen—and wouldn’t that be a positive endorsement of those 350 million + readers?

For a man who has terrorized many an imagination it may be comforting to hear that Mr. King himself sleeps with the lights on to keep monsters away, as he explains in this his first “up close and personal” TV interview with Henry Nevison for UMO (University of Maine Orono) in 1982.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘Can mice throw up?’: Before there was Google, there was the New York Public Library
12.30.2014
09:06 am

Topics:
Books
Media

Tags:
Google
New York Public Library
libraries


 
A few days ago, the New York Public Library uploaded an intriguing picture to its Instagram account. The picture was of a torn and tattered index card with a plaintive and yet hopeful message typed on it: “Is this the place where I ask questions I can’t get answers to?” It turns out that before the Internet significantly improved the process of resolving heretofore elusive questions of whether it was Bill Paxton or Bill Pullman who was the star of Spaceballs (answer: Pullman), a significant chunk of the job description of librarians, at least at the New York Public Library (NYPL), was slaking the well-nigh random curiosity of the public at large. They fielded questions in person but also over the telephone, and some of the questions that came up were recorded on index cards.

The purpose of NYPL’s Instagram post was to announce the inauguration of a new series of photos, to be posted every Monday, using the hashtag #letmelibrarianthatforyou:
 

We found an old recipe box while cleaning out a desk, and it was labeled “Interesting Reference Questions,” the contents of which ranged from total stumpers to funny mispronunciations. People came to the library for reference, but also for info on buying and selling, looking for inspiration, crafty project ideas, and even to find photos. In a world pre-Google, librarians weren’t just Wikipedia, they were people’s Craiglist, Pinterest, Etsy, and Instagram all rolled into one.


 
The series’ second installment was yesterday, and the card they chose was incredibly beguiling, so much so that I am forced to entertain the notion that someone was pranking the NYPL, way back in 1967:
 

Telephone call mid-afternoon New Year’s Day, 1967: Somewhat uncertain female voice: “I have two questions. The first is sort of an etiquette one. I went to a New Year’s Eve party and unexpectedly stayed over. I don’t really know the hosts. Ought I to send a thank-you note? Second. When you meet a fellow and you know he’s worth twenty-seven million dollars—because that’s what they told me, twenty-seven million, and you know his nationality, how do you find out his name?” CS 1/2/67

 

 
Shrewdly, the NYPL released a couple dozen questions to Gothamist—not the cards, just the questions—and they’re well worth a look. We’ve included the few pics of the index cards that have been released so far. Gothamist reports that “People still use an updated version of this, called Ask NYPL, and the library says they receive about 1,700 reference questions a month via chat, email, and phone.” (I have used “Ask NYPL” myself via chat, but to resolve a thorny research question about the NYPL’s holdings, not to find out about the cast of Spaceballs.) Reading the questions is a little like seeing what the Autocomplete function spits out when you type in “why is there a” on Google, only a bit more refined:
 

Are black widow spiders more harmful dead or alive?

Are Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates the same person?

Can NYPL recommend a good forger?

Can you tell me the thickness of a US Postage stamp with the glue on it? Answer: We cannot get this answer quickly. Perhaps try the Postal Service. Response: This is the Postal Service.

Does the Bible have a copyright?

What percentage of all bathtubs in the world are in the US?

What does it mean when you dream of being chased by an elephant?

What’s the difference between pig and pork?

Can mice throw up?

 

 

 

 
And, finally, one the Manhattanites especially will enjoy:
 

 
via Messy Nessy Chic
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Nick Cave’s handwritten dictionary
12.17.2014
08:56 am

Topics:
Art
Books
Music

Tags:
Nick Cave
lexicography


 
Few musicians are as word-drunk as Mr. Nick Cave from Warracknabeal, Australia, wouldn’t you agree? As a younger man Cave kept a journal in which he jotted down new words he wanted to remember and arranged them in alphabetical order. It’s definitely a good tip for writers starting out, you’re always learning, there’s always something to learn. Take notes endlessly and don’t waver!

A section from the A’s and a section from the M’s was made available a few years ago, words include AUTOCHTHON (“primitive or original inhabitant”) and MICTURITION (“morbid desire to pass water”). I’d dearly love to see the whole thing. I hope that will happen someday.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘The Magus’: Drawings of fallen angels, demons and the Antichrist from 1801
12.15.2014
06:28 am

Topics:
Books
Occult

Tags:
Francis Barrett
The Magus

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Francis Barrett’s pictures of fallen angels and demons remind me of a few recalcitrant boozers fleeing the bar on a Saturday night. The sketches were included in his book The Magus—a compendium of several esoteric books, most notably works by Cornelius Agrippa and Peter d’Abano—which was once considered a primary source for occult and ceremonial magic when it was first published in 1801. The book led to a revival of interest in spiritualism, magic and the occult and was a highly influential religious text on minds as diverse as Joseph Smith and his Church of Latter Day Saints, the Freemasons and occultist Eliphas Levi.

Published over two volumes, The Magus begins with an introduction to “Natural Magic” which Barrett described as “a comprehensive knowledge of all Nature”:

...by which we search out her secret and occult operations throughout her vast and spacious elaboratory; whereby we come to a knowledge of the component parts, qualities, virtues, and secrets of metals, stones, plants, and animals;

He goes on to discuss charms, amulets, “occult virtues,” and magic before giving a history and instruction on “alchymy” and the Philosopher’s Stone, and a long section on “The Celestial Intelligencer,” which primarily deals with talismanic magic. The second volume examines magnetism, the “Cabala” and ceremonial magic, the practice and composition of the “Magic Circle,” various rites and a word of warning to would-be adepts, before concluding with a brief history of key occultists—from Zoroaster to John Dee.

For those with an interest in such arcane writing, you can read the whole book here.
 
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More occult angels and demons, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Seeing ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ was one of the greatest experiences of Philip K. Dick’s life
12.10.2014
10:09 am

Topics:
Books
Movies

Tags:
David Bowie
Philip K. Dick


 
I have to admit that the first time I saw The Man Who Fell to Earth, back in the bad old days of pan-and-scan VHS, I was bewildered and bored. I don’t think I even made it to the part where Bowie takes off his human drag to reveal his true alien form. Now, it’s one of the very few movies I watch at least once a year, because it just gets weirder and more mysterious with every viewing. If you were at my place on these special occasions, you’d hear me asking questions like “Who is that guy who shows up twice without any explanation?” and “Hey, what happened to those genitals?”

Philip K. Dick loved the movie, too. He and his friend Kevin Jeter went to see it in the theater, just as in chapter nine of Dick’s novel VALIS, Dick’s alter ego, Horselover Fat, goes with his friend Kevin to see a movie called VALIS. The plot of the movie-within-the-book comes from Radio Free Albemuth, an abandoned early version of the novel VALIS, but the style of the movie comes from The Man Who Fell to Earth. Interviewer John Boonstra picked up on the connection in a 1981 interview:

The film VALIS inside the novel reminded me in its style of the film The Man Who Fell to Earth.

You got it. You got it. That’s where the idea came. It’s like Madame Bovary going to see Lucia—I remember that scene so well, how it crystallized all the nebulous things that were floating around in Madame Bovary’s mind. Now, that impressed me enormously.

I saw The Man Who Fell to Earth and thought it was one of the finest films—not just science-fiction films, but one of the finest films I had ever seen. I thought it was incredibly original, incredibly provocative, rich in ideas, beautiful in texture, glorious in its overall conception. It was enigmatic. In no way is the film VALIS the plot and theme of The Man Who Fell to Earth, but the idea occurred to me that a science-fiction film, if well done, could be as rich a source of knowledge and information as anything we normally derive our knowledge and information from. The film tremendously impressed me; I just loved it. My use of the film VALIS is my homage to The Man Who Fell to Earth. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life to see that.

According to biographer Lawrence Sutin, Dick so loved the movie that after he saw it he began scrutinizing Bowie’s catalog for clues from VALIS, which, before it was the book or the movie-within-the-book, was one of Dick’s names for the extraterrestrial or supernatural entity he communicated with. VALIS (an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System) was the aspect of the Great Whatsit that took the form of a satellite and sent information in beams of pink light. (If you don’t know about Dick’s epiphanic episodes, check out R. Crumb’s comic “The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick,” or, if you’re really interested, try Dick’s Exegesis.) Sutin writes:

Phil loved [The Man Who Fell to Earth], and for a short time he and [Kevin] Jeter listened closely to Bowie albums, hoping to discern a sly pop sign from God/Valis/Zebra. No luck. But a failed experiment can be a useful plot device, and in Valis [Horselover] Fat and Kevin go to see a movie called Valis, which portrays the struggle between the Albemuth characters Nicholas Brady (who is zapped by the pink light force) and evil President Ferris Fremont. Fat gets in touch with rock star Eric Lampton and his wife, Linda, who both star in the film. Fat is convinced that they know about Valis—the Vast Active Living Intelligence System—and can rescue him from spiritual isolation.

In a 1982 interview with Boonstra—Dick’s last—the author says that he wanted Blade Runner (based on his Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) to live up to The Man Who Fell to Earth:

The thing I had in mind all of the time, from the beginning of it, was The Man Who Fell to Earth. This was the paradigm. That’s why I was so disappointed when I read the first Blade Runner screenplay, because it was the absolute antithesis of what was done in The Man Who Fell to Earth. In other words, it was a destruction of the novel. But now, it’s magic time. You read the screenplay and then you go to the novel, and it’s like they’re two halves to one meta-artwork, one meta-artifact. It’s just exciting.

Here’s an interesting interview with Dick from the 1977 science fiction festival in Metz, France, where he introduced his work-in-progress VALIS in the speech “If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others.”
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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What will Oprah make of this: ‘Color Purple’ author Alice Walker is a conspiracy theorist
12.09.2014
08:59 am

Topics:
Books

Tags:
David Icke
Lizard People
Alice Walker


Actual image from David Icke’s website.
 
It’s always kind of a bummer finding out an artist you like is an anti-vaxxer, Scientologist or Republican, even when you largely accept that artists tend be just as potentially delusional as the rest of population. There are some folks though, who really, really shock you with their beliefs—Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker (who is arguably a literary genius), for example, is a big fan of David Icke of “Lizard People control the world” fame, and not in some abstract or ironic “literary” way. While The Color Purple author attempts a bit of anti-literalism in her interpretation/defense of his work (probably to avoid being labelled a complete kook), it appears she buys in hard on the Lizard People line.

From her website:

Recently I’ve taken a few knocks for my liking of David Icke. Well, I can’t help liking him, he’s got cojones for days. Seen many of those lately not backed up by missiles and tanks? Actually and happily, yes, as more silenced people speak and folks on their knees rise, but he’s still special.* Anyway, last night it occurred to me what it is I like and I wanted to put it in one sentence: David Icke’s work is a feast for the imagination. That’s it. Take it or leave it, he is offering something extremely timely and useful. A completely new and different way to understand the world. And if you love mythology, as I do, you will have a fine time seeing how a new myth, with us in it (!) might be made. Though Icke isn’t talking about myth, but reality. Still, for some this will seem very far out, and way beyond the safety net of Joseph Campbell. Or even beyond the wild tales and fables of Greek and Hindu storytellers, my favorites for many years.

On the reptile issue, which seems to freak most people out, and while pondering the deep-rooted causes of the suffering of our people and our planet, I think: this paradise certainly didn’t get ruined by people who acted like the angels various religions have imposed on our thoughts: who else could those “angels” have been, but winged, highly technologically advanced, shape-shifting Reptilians from another galaxy? Ah, madness. Yes. Wonderful stuff.

The only way we will change the outcome of our global predicament is to change our understanding of what we have considered “reality.” Change the tall tales of yesteryear that have always stymied and confused us. I am beyond weary, and most of the planet is, of the old explanations for our wretched plight as humans and the “wisdom” hidden in enforced doctrines that are supposed to “enlighten” us. You know: virgin births, life after death in the same body, the making of the planet and maybe the whole universe in a week by someone who looks surprisingly like the white man oppressing you, the blackness of humans being a curse, the required obedience of slaves to their masters, the making of woman out of a rib, the silence required of this same rib-fashioned woman in any gathering of the Holy (all male by definition) and so on.

In the video below I really like the attitude of the young interviewer with his cap turned backwards. That’s it. Keep an open mind. Change the habits, the hats, the mind-set, the conversation, by any means necessary. We now are being alerted, some of us, (more noticias from cojones-rich Edward Snowden) to the probability of solar flares on the sun sending us all up, fairly soon, in the prophesied “fire next time.” I don’t know about you, but I want to face this denouement, if it comes in my lifetime, having considered all the possibilities of how such a lovely (but apparently not unlimited) time on earth, as we have had (many of us, despite various deceptions, sufferings, and struggles) came to be. David Icke’s work can be very helpful here.

*For instance: Julian Assange, Bradley/Chelsea Manning, Tim DeChristopher and all those striking and marching and speaking out for a just world and a livable life. Shout out especially to the hunger strikers in all the prisons,especially Guantanamo and Pelican Bay, and to my brave and brilliant sister, Cynthia McKinney!

We are change
David Icke on his new tv station
The People’s Voice
A bit of bloody uplift!  David Icke is starting a new television/internet station that promises to offer news we can use.

For the unaware, Cynthia McKinney is a six-term Congresswoman for the Democrats and 2008 Green Party nominee for President. She is also a 9/11 Truther who compares Truthers to Civil Rights activists, and her father (also a politician) once explained the inevitable failure of his daughter’s campaign with, “Jews have bought everybody ... J-E-W-S.”

What will Oprah think???
 
Via Alice Walker

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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The marvelous cover art of the early ‘Star Trek’ comic books


 
Poor Gold Key Comics. Despite their stewardship of tons of familiar titles, they always ranked a tier (or three) below the A-list. While Marvel and DC had all the high-octane superhero star power, Gold Key largely got by on licensing properties from other media. They did comic book tie-ins with Hanna-Barbera, Warner Brothers, and Disney cartoons, and brought TV shows like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Twilight Zone, H.R. Pufnstuf (!!!), Dark Shadows and Star Trek to the comics racks. Amusingly, some of their tie-in comics outlived by years the original TV series’ upon which they were based, but the company’s fortunes waned throughout the 1970s, and after they lost the lucrative Trek license to Marvel in 1979—just months before that franchise’s cinema revival—their days were numbered. Gold Key was done for by the mid 1980s.

But though they were never the heaviest hitters, Gold Key weren’t wanting for talent. A young Frank Miller’s first pro gig was illustrating a story in The Twilight Zone, and ‘60s-‘80s sitcom deity Garry Marshall wrote scripts for some of their titles. And they had cover painter George Wilson. It’s is beyond frustrating how difficult biographical data on Wilson is to come by. Despite being as prolific as he was accomplished, he has no Wikipedia entry, and searches for his work are complicated by the existence of a pulp novel cover illustrator by the same extremely common name. But his obscurity—and I get that he was basically a jobber, but still—does nothing to diminish his gifts, and it’s just all kindsa wrong that as yet there’s been no big, lavish, coffee-table book collecting his work. He produced incredible numbers of vivid, exciting, superbly designed, impeccably rendered, ridiculously fun cover paintings for Gold Key’s sci-fi, adventure, and horror titles, including many for Star Trek. A lot of the covers that weren’t by Wilson were thrown-together photo illustrations. We suspect you’ll agree that these are far preferable.
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Double-O-Heaven: Behind the scenes of 25 James Bond films

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When it all began: ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, Sean Connery, Ian Fleming and Harry Saltzman discuss filming ‘Dr. No,’ 1962.
 
Noël Coward told his friend Ian Fleming to get on and “write his bloody book,” as he had been talking about it for too bloody long. Fleming had a good idea of what he wanted to write and why he wanted to do it, but he did not get round to writing his first James Bond novel Casino Royale until 1952. His reasons for writing were complex—he wanted to prove he could do it as his brother was a highly acclaimed travel writer, while his future wife and their close friends were part of a glittering and dreadfully snobbish literary set; and Fleming liked the money being a successful writer might bring, though he did claim he wrote for pleasure and only published for money.

Fleming later rather disingenuously described his books as “the pillow fantasies of an adolescent mind,” which belied the truth that his fictions were well written, stylish and contained the structure most thriller writers would imitate over the succeeding decades. He was an assiduous worker writing 2,000 words a day—a hard discipline he had learned from his time as a journalist, which had also taught him the importance of economy in descriptive writing:

“If you interrupt the writing of fast narrative with too much introspection and self-criticism, you will be lucky to write five hundred words a day.”

When Casino Royale was first published in 1953, it was rightly praised by readers and critics alike, with the poet John Betjeman astutely pointing out that Fleming had “discovered the secret of narrative art.” The following year saw the publication of Live and Let Die, then Moonraker in 1955 and Diamonds Are Forever in 1956. After the overwhelming critical success of his first Bond novel, the literati were quick to turn on Fleming and damn his books as pornographic, unhealthy and obsessed with sadomasochism. However, he did have his supporters, key among which were Raymond Chandler, who considered Fleming as a “most forceful and driving” thriller writer, while Noël Coward correctly stated that Fleming’s books would outlive the literary critics and their weighty tomes.

Fleming was never of robust health, and after being mauled by the snobbish reviewers, he decided to put his all into his next book, 1957’s From Russia With Love, setting Bond up with a fateful and near fatal confrontation with SMERSH Colonel Rosa Klebb and her hired assassin the psychopathic serial killer Red Grant. It was a winning roll of the dice especially once President John F. Kennedy said From Russia With Love was one of his favorite novels, which quickly established Fleming as major writer on both sides of the Atlantic.

With greater success in America, Fleming’s books were soon the source of much consideration from Hollywood—but this proved to be false bonhomie and an excess of hot air. Eventually, film producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli formed a company with a former circus performer and intelligence agent, Harry Saltzman, who had bought the rights to all of Fleming’s books (except Casino Royale) called EON—“Everything or Nothing.” The pair decided to film Dr. No and began considering potential actors for the role of Bond. Fleming wanted the likes of Cary Grant or David Niven, but Broccoli and Saltzman held out for a little known Scottish actor called Sean Connery. At first, Fleming was none too happy, but after being told by a close female friend that Connery had “it” he decided to agree on having the former milkman, body builder and coffin polisher star as James Bond.

The success of the Bond films was far greater than either Fleming, Broccoli or Saltzman had considered, spanning six decades and six different actors in the title role—from the first film Dr. No in 1962, to the recent announcement of next year’s release of the 24th official Bond movie Spectre, it is difficult to imagine a time when there won’t be a new James Bond movie on the horizon.

While everyone has their own favorite James Bond—usually the actor they first saw in the role—this selection of stills shows the diverse nature of Bond from 25 different official and unofficial (the comic Casino Royale (1967) and Connery’s reprise in Never Say Never Again) 007 movies and the incredibly durability of Ian Fleming’s creation.
 
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‘Dr. No’ (1962)
 
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‘From Russia With Love’ (1963)
 
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‘Goldfinger’ (1964)
 
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‘Thunderball’ (1965)
 
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‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967)
 
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‘Casino Royale’ (1967)
 
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‘On Her Majesty’s Setvice Service’ (1969)
 
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‘Diamonds Are Forever’ (1971)
 
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‘Live and Let Die’ (1973)
 
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‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ (1974)
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Obama is Nixon in ‘BUMF,’ cartoonist Joe Sacco’s wail of geopolitical despair
12.03.2014
10:16 am

Topics:
Art
Books
Politics

Tags:
Joe Sacco


 
In his essay about Jonathan Swift, George Orwell refers to “the irresponsible violence of the powerless,” a quotation prompted by recent publication of BUMF, Vol. 1, a surreal, undisciplined, ecstatically offensive bit of political satire by Joe Sacco.

Sacco has made his name as a cartoonist-journalist of sorts; his two best-known books, Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde, are first-person accounts of geopolitical atrocity on a massive scale. His staggering 2013 work The Great War was a 24-foot (and wordless) tapestry, for want of a better term, about the carnage of the Somme that had the emotional impact of, say, a collaborative effort between R. Crumb and Hieronymus Bosch.
 

 
BUMF is roughly what one would expect from someone who had been thinking about the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Bosnia, and World War I for way too long. Unlike his other works, BUMF is a pure flight of fancy, a surreal and gleefully anachronistic Mobius strip-style narrative in which a World War I colonel might breezily cite Garfield and discuss Sacco’s own Eisner-winning career. BUMF is a delirious exercise in mashup, working in references to 9/11, the Kaiser, “Bunga Bunga,” drone strikes, Nixon’s enemies list, the street execution of Nguyễn Văn Lém in Vietnam, Abu Ghraib, black sites, the Checkers speech, “Mission Accomplished,” the NSA, and whatever other outrage happened to cross Sacco’s field of vision. It’s completely undisciplined, but that’s part of the point, it’s just as irresponsible as Jonathan Swift was. And Sacco’s unearthly skills as a draftsman haven’t abandoned him either. If anything, BUMF reminds me of the surreal vignettes of the Firesign Theatre.
 

 
Sacco usually inserts his somewhat Steve Albini-like self into his works, and BUMF is no exception; given the punk rock subject matter of Sacco’s 2006 But I Like It, the Albini comparison may be more apt than is initially apparent. Sacco is nothing if not a self-consciously “pencil-necked” left-wing artiste type filled with more than the usual amount of righteous rage. BUMF is a scabrous howl from Sacco’s political id. The plot that occupies the first chunk of the book has to do with the aforementioned British colonel, named “Singo-Jingo,” and his (apparently successful) plan to “bugger” the German Kaiser Wilhelm as a way of bringing the unceasing butchery of the Great War to an end.

R. Fiore at the Comics Journal put it well when he wrote that BUMF expressed “the helplessness of what you might call the genuine left to transfer its revulsion at targeted killing and government metadata collection to the general public.” BUMF may be fueled by impotent rage at the atrocities of 1914 (the Somme) and 1994 (Bosnia), but the proximate cause for the anger in BUMF are above all the disappointments of the current occupant of the White House. A central trope of the narrative is that of deceased and disgraced President Nixon waking up in the body of Obama; while Sacco takes aim at George W. Bush as well, the underlying point seems to be that all presidents, no matter how liberal or idealistic, are Nixons in the end. Obama has left Gitmo in place, did nothing to stop the information-gathering of the NSA, and has approved the use of drones to murder even (in theory) American citizens under the right circumstances.

If nothing else, BUMF is the ideal holiday gift for your favorite unruly political crank.
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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William S. Burroughs buys a parrot, 1963


 
Today’s adventure in obscure video centers around an innocuous 85-second film shot by Antony Balch called William Buys a Parrot. In the movie, the “William” is William S. Burroughs and the parrot is actually a cockatoo. It’s in color and has no audio track—it resembles a home movie to some extent but it’s just a shade more orchestrated than that, although it might just have been something shot to test a new camera. In William Buys a Parrot we see Burroughs, wearing a white suit and a dark brown fedora, approach a door in some exotic desert setting—either Gibraltar or Tangier, it seems. He raps on the door knocker, a man from inside comes out and they chat for a moment or two. Cut to a some kind of a coastal veranda, where Burroughs confronts the bird. Then the fellow comes out and the two men sit at the table and enjoy an adult beverage. The last third of the movie is the bird jumping around in his cage with Burroughs in the background. End of movie.
 

Burroughs and Balch in ‘Tony and Bill
 
In Wising Up the Marks: The Amodern William Burroughs, Timothy S. Murphy has this to say about the movie:
 

William Buys a Parrot demonstrates that even when silence eliminates the specific word—the external word of mundane narrative interaction that is susceptible to technical reproduction and animal mimicry—it leaves intact the general, generic, internal Word—the structural Word of addictive subjectivity that allows the viewer to provide her own narration for this film.

 
Well… sure... Why not? To me, though, it just looks like a famous writer buying a bird and enjoying some daytime spirits with a chum…

William Buys a Parrot was probably shot in 1963, but edited in 1982 by Genesis P-Orridge who is said to have rescued it and many other films from a trash dumpster after Antony Balch’s death (including Balch’s other collaborations with Burroughs and painter Brion Gysin and some prints of Kenneth Anger’s films).
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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