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‘The General Erection’: John Lennon reads from ‘A Spaniard in the Works’
08.18.2014
01:42 pm

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Amusing
Books
Heroes

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John Lennon
A Spaniard in the Works

lennonspaniardworks.jpg
 
John Lennon reads “The General Erection” from his second book of collected (nonsense) writing A Spaniard in the Works:

Azure orl gnome, Harrassed Wilsod won the General Erection with a very small marjorie over the Totchies. Thus pudding the Labouring Partly into powell after a large abcess. This he could not have done withoutspan the barking of thee Trade Onions, heady by Frenk Cunnings (who noun has a SAFE SEAT in Nuneating thank you and Fronk (only 62) Bowells hasn’t.)

This is Lennon’s version of the 1964 UK General Election, when Harold Wilson became Prime Minister with a very small…. you get the picture.

With his first book In My Own Write, Lennon had been feted as a modern Edward Lear with his nonsense tales and inventive Joycean puns. The book’s success saw Lennon invited to a Foyle’s Literary Lunch at the Dorchester Hotel, where he famously failed to deliver a speech only saying:

Er, thank you all very much, and God bless you.

Many (snobs) consider Lennon’s failure to entertain for his dinner as a dreadful snub, though of course it wasn’t—he had turned up expecting to eat, not speak.

As his then-wife Cynthia Lennon later explained in her memoir A Twist of Lennon, the happy couple had been out the night before and were very hungover when they arrived at the Dorchester:

We did our best to make ourselves presentable, but the bloodshot eyes and shaky hands were a bit of a giveaway. We told ourselves that the event would soon be over and we could go home to collapse.

What neither of us had realized was that the media would be there in force and that John was expected to make a speech. Doyens of the literary establishment rubbed shoulders with upmarket Lennon fans and everyone was waiting with bated breath to hear the words of the ‘intelligent’ Beatle.

As we were ushered through the lobby of the Dorchester, hordes of press and TV crews following us, I knew John wanted to turn and run, but we had to keep smiling. We couldn’t even see what was going on properly because neither of us was wearing our glasses.

When we walked into the enormous dining room hundreds of people stood up and applauded. We fumbled our way to our places and found we were at opposite ends of the top table, denied even the reassurance of squeezing hands. I was sitting between the Earl of Arran and pop singer Marty Wilde, who was almost as nervous as I was. I was terrified, until the earl put me at ease with a string of witty stories and friendly chat. I even began to enjoy myself - until we reached the last course and dozens of TV and press cameras were pointed in our direction. “What’s going on?” I whispered to the earl.

“I believe your husband is about to give a speech,” he whispered back, and politely averted his eyes from the horror written on my face. I looked at John and my heart went out to him. He was ashen and totally unprepared. Never lost for words in private, a public speech was beyond him - let alone to a crowd of literary top dogs, and especially with a hangover.

As John was introduced silence fell. The weight of expectation was enormous. John, more terrified than I’d ever seen him, got to his feet. He managed eight words, “Thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure,” then promptly sat down again. There was a stunned silence, followed by a few muted boos and a smattering of applause. The audience was disappointed, annoyed and indignant. Both John and I wished we were on another planet. John tried to make up for it by signing endless copies of the book afterward.

John’s Foyle’s “speech” went down in history as a typical Lennon gesture, a snub to the establishment from a pop star rebel, when it was anything but. He had panicked.

Undeterred, Lennon followed up In His Own Write with a second volume of comic nonsensical tales A Spaniard in the Works in 1965.

As Lennon explains in this seldom seen clip from the BBC’s Tonight program, he had always been a writer, long before he picked up a guitar or joined a band. His second reading is “The Wumberlog (or The Magic Dog)” which begins:

Whilst all the tow was sleepy
Crept a little boy from his bed
To fained the wondrous peoble
Wot lived when they were dead

The interviewer is Kenneth Allsop, and the interview was broadcast on June 18th, 1965.
 

 
A selection of Lennon’s drawings and poems after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Henry Miller reads from ‘Black Spring’
08.12.2014
07:18 am

Topics:
Books
Literature

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George Orwell
Henry Miller
Black Spring


 
Not a lot of writers ever attained a badass quotient as high as Henry Miller did in Paris in the 1930s. He was a Whitmanesque American novelist in the international center of high art, writing scandalous books about sex and having plenty of sex with Anaïs Nin. And unlike the works of the “hordes of shrieking poseurs” populating Montparnasse at the time (to quote Orwell from the essay linked below), his books are very good! They remain highly readable to this day, especially Tropic of Cancer. In 1976 Norman Mailer wrote a book about Henry Miller called Genius and Lust, in which he called Tropic of Cancer “one of the ten or twenty great novels of our century, a revolution in consciousness equal to The Sun Also Rises.”
 

 
George Orwell’s extended 1940 essay “Inside the Whale” uses Miller’s works as a prism to make some trenchant observations about the modernist movement as a whole. His remarks on Black Spring are worth quoting here:
 

When I first opened Tropic of Cancer and saw that it was full of unprintable words, my immediate reaction was a refusal to be impressed. Most people’s would be the same, I believe. Nevertheless, after a lapse of time the atmosphere of the book, besides innumerable details, seemed to linger in my memory in a peculiar way. A year later Miller’s second book, Black Spring, was published. By this time Tropic of Cancer was much more vividly present in my mind than it had been when I first read it. My first feeling about Black Spring was that it showed a falling-off, and it is a fact that it has not the same unity as the other book. Yet after another year there were many passages in Black Spring that had also rooted themselves in my memory. Evidently these books are of the sort to leave a flavour behind them—books that “create a world of their own,” as the saying goes. The books that do this are not necessarily good books, they may be good bad books like Raffles or the Sherlock Holmes stories, or perverse and morbid books like Wuthering Heights or The House with the Green Shutters. But now and again there appears a novel which opens up a new world not by revealing what is strange, but by revealing what is familiar. The truly remarkable thing about Ulysses, for instance, is the commonplaceness of its material. Of course there is much more in Ulysses than this, because Joyce is a kind of poet and also an elephantine pedant, but his real achievement has been to get the familiar on to paper. He dared — for it is a matter of daring just as much as of technique — to expose the imbecilities of the inner mind, and in doing so he discovered an America which was under everybody’s nose. Here is a whole world of stuff which you supposed to be of its nature incommunicable, and somebody has managed to communicate it. The effect is to break down, at any rate momentarily, the solitude in which the human being lives. When you read certain passages in Ulysses you feel that Joyce’s mind and your mind are one, that he knows all about you though he has never heard your name, that there some world outside time and space in which you and he are together. And though he does not resemble Joyce in other ways, there is a touch of this quality in Henry Miller. Not everywhere, because his work is very uneven, and sometimes, especially in Black Spring, tends to slide away into more verbiage or into the squashy universe of the surrealists. But read him for five pages, ten pages, and you feel the peculiar relief that comes not so much from understanding as from being understood. “He knows all about me,” you feel; “he wrote this specially for me.” It is as though you could hear a voice speaking to you, a friendly American voice, with no humbug in it, no moral purpose, merely an implicit assumption that we are all alike. For the moment you have got away from the lies and simplifications, the stylized, marionette-like quality of ordinary fiction, even quite good fiction, and are dealing with the recognizable experiences of human beings.

 
Here’s Miller reading from “The Tailor Shop” from Black Spring:
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Hunter S. Thompson’s typical daily intake of drink ‘n’ drugs
08.07.2014
07:58 am

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Books
Drugs
Literature

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Hunter S. Thompson

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Hunter S. Thompson once said:

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.

If E. Jean Carroll’s biography Hunter: The Strange and Savage Life of Hunter S. Thompson is to be believed, then drink and drugs certainly did work for HST. Carroll begins her memoir with a list of Hunter’s daily intake of drink and drugs:

I have heard the biographers of Harry S. Truman, Catherine the Great, etc., etc., say they would give anything if their subjects were alive so they could ask them some questions. I, on the other hand, would give anything if my subject were dead.

He should be. Oh, yes. Look at his daily routine:

3:00 p.m. rise

3:05 Chivas Regal with the morning papers, Dunhills

3:45 cocaine

3:50 another glass of Chivas, Dunhill

4:05 first cup of coffee, Dunhill

4:15 cocaine

4:16 orange juice, Dunhill

4:30 cocaine

4:54 cocaine

5:05 cocaine

5:11 coffee, Dunhills

5:30 more ice in the Chivas

5:45 cocaine, etc., etc.

6:00 grass to take the edge off the day

7:05 Woody Creek Tavern for lunch-Heineken, two margaritas, coleslaw, a taco salad, a double order of fried onion rings, carrot cake, ice cream, a bean fritter, Dunhills, another Heineken, cocaine, and for the ride home, a snow cone (a glass of shredded ice over which is poured three or four jig­gers of Chivas.)

9:00 starts snorting cocaine seriously

10:00 drops acid

11:00 Chartreuse, cocaine, grass

11:30 cocaine, etc, etc.

12:00 midnight, Hunter S. Thompson is ready to write

12:05-6:00 a.m. Chartreuse, cocaine, grass, Chivas, coffee, Heineken, clove cigarettes, grapefruit, Dunhills, orange juice, gin, continuous pornographic movies.

6:00 the hot tub-champagne, Dove Bars, fettuccine Alfredo

8:00 Halcyon

8:20 sleep

Impressive. But as Hunter also said:

Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.

And who can argue with that?

Below the 1978 Omnibus documentary on Hunter S. Thompson.
 

 
H/T Open Culture

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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The Outsider: Colin Wilson’s Glass Cage
08.06.2014
02:01 pm

Topics:
Belief
Books
Thinkers

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Colin Wilson

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Colin Wilson, who died last December, produced a phenomenal number books during his lifetime. He wrote on such diverse subjects as criminality, the occult, philosophy, religion, the supernatural, biography and psychology. He also produced an impressive array of fiction ranging from the “Metaphysical Murder Mystery” to works of science fiction. In total over 150 books over almost sixty years of writing.

Yet, throughout all of this prolific output, Wilson developed his own unifying system of beliefs where (as understood by the central character in The Glass Cage):

...everything that happens is connected with everything else, so you have to try to get to the root of things to understand them, not just concentrate on minute particulars…

Colin Wilson was born in Leicester, England, in 1931. He left school at sixteen, taking up a variety of jobs, before marrying his first wife, becoming a father, separating, and then traveling around Europe. On return he developed the tentative idea for his first book The Outsider:

It struck me that I was in the position of so many of my favourite characters in fiction: Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov, Rilke’s Malte Laurids Brigge, the young writer in Hamsun’s Hunger: alone in my room, feeling totally cut off from the rest of society. It was not a position I relished… Yet an inner compulsion had forced me into this position of isolation. I began writing about it in my journal, trying to pin it down. And then, quite suddenly, I saw that I had the makings of a book. I turned to the back of my journal and wrote at the head of the page: ‘Notes for a book The Outsider in Literature’...

Wilson famously slept outside on Hampstead Heath while writing this book during the day at the British Library. When The Outsider was published in 1956, it launched the 24-year-old Wilson to international fame. However, his follow-up books were less well-recieved, and Wilson began to disseminate his ideas through a series of fictional crime novels starting with Ritual in the Dark in 1960.

In this mind-trip of interview with Jeffrey Mishlove for the program Thinking Allowed, Wilson explains how he has written on the same theme throughout his career. He cites an essay by Isaiah Berlin that explained how writers can be divided into two groups—foxes and hedgehogs:

The fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows just one thing. So, Shakespeare is a typical fox; Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are typical hedgehogs. I am a typical hedgehog—I know just one thing, and I repeat it over and over again. I’ve tried to approach it from different angles to make it look different but it is the same thing.

The “same thing” Wilson alludes to here is his world view of our inter-connectedness, which he expounded in his favorite novel The Glass Cage, which told the story of a William Blake-quoting serial killer to explain “the abuse of human potential.” This is part of the theme Wilson develops in this interview, where he suggests humans are 51% robot, and 49% essence, and it is only in moments of extremity that the essence takes over, allowing individuals to experience their potential.

Wilson’s books offer a greater understanding of the positive human existence. He was averse to the “negative” view of life promoted by such writers as Samuel Beckett or Jean-Paul Sartre and believed in a philosophy that would actively promote a positive engagement with life.

More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘My Name is New York’: NYC through the eyes of Woody Guthrie
08.01.2014
02:19 pm

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Books
History
Music

Tags:
New York
Woody Guthrie


 
For obvious reasons, it’s easy to think of the great American folksinger/songwriter Woody Guthrie as a lifelong hardscrabble dust bowl Okie, but the reality is, the man called New York City home for nearly three decades, from 1940 until his death in 1967.

Of course, that was at a time when lower Manhattan, especially Greenwich Village, was an urban bohemia, a haven and incubator for America’s artists and musicians. Those times are gone—I’m in NYC at least once a year, and every year, more and more of the Village looks like it’s been eaten by a strip mall. So it goes, but the character of what’s been lost there may be irreplaceable, as a startlingly rapid gentrification is eating into every once-affordable art enclave in that fabled city. I realize that the emergence of an arts district often heralds gentrification—I’ve long lived in such a neighborhood myself, and seen firsthand those kinds of changes, for better and worse—but from an outsider’s perspective, what’s been happening to NYC, especially the northern part of Brooklyn in the last several years, seems unusual and kind of alarming in speed and scope. So these photos of Woody Guthrie’s New York seem to me especially valuable documents. They’ll be part of a 3-disc audiobook set to be released in September, titled My Name is New York. A regular dead-trees edition, by Guthrie’s daughter Nora, has been available for a couple of years.
 

The Hotel Savoy-Plaza, 59th Street at 5th Avenue, Manhattan, at the southeast corner of Central Park. Guthrie lived here with Will Geer, an actor, activist and Communist who’d be blacklisted in the ‘50s, but would nonetheless go on to fame in the ‘70s as Grandpa on The Waltons. This is where the Apple Store is now.
 

Guthrie, rockin’ one out for the shoeshine guy.
 

Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie at Seeger’s wedding, 129 MacDougal Street, 1943. Currently an Italian restaurant, and for all I know it might have been one then, too.
 

Woody Guthrie in 1943, at McSorley’s Ale House, which still exists at 15 East 7th Street, Manhattan. Photo: Eric Schaal for Time Life. Used with permission from Getty Images. WGA.
 

31 East 21st Street, Manhattan, where Guthrie and Pete Seeger lived with sculptor Harold Ambellan in the ‘40s.
 

5 West 101st Street, Manhattan, right off Central Park West. Once Guthrie’s music started making him some money, he moved here, and sent for his wife and kids in Texas to join him. Frequent guests here included Alan Lomax, Lead Belly, Sonny Terry, and Burl Ives. The building is still there, but I’m assuming mere mortals can’t afford to live in it anymore.
 

Woody Guthrie performing in the New York City subway, 1943, a Bound for Glory publicity shot. Photo: Eric Schaal. WGA.
 

A Woody Guthrie paleo-selfie, from a subway photo booth, ca. 1945. WGA.

The audiobook set includes recorded interviews with, among others, Pete Seeger, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Bob Dylan, and totally unsurprisingly, Guthrie’s famous-in-his-own-right son, musician Arlo Guthrie. It’ll also include music, naturally, by Guthrie and others. Notably, one of the tracks is a home demo of the song that gives the package its name, “My Name Is New York.” Here are Guthrie’s typewritten lyrics, and the song itself.
 

 

 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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‘The Negro Motorist Green Book’: An eye-opening look at ‘traveling while black’ in postwar America


 
For some fascinating insights into the second half (roughly) of the pitiable era known as “Jim Crow,” the Negro Motorist Green Book is a positive trove of information. It was founded in 1936 by an African-American employee of the U.S. Postal Service named Victor H. Green, who realized that with the new availability of automobiles to a rising African-American middle class, travelers of his race increasingly required a guide to navigate the informal and treacherous logic of discrimination. The segregation of public transport made private ownership of motorcars highly attractive to the mobile African-American, and in addition there were increasing numbers of African-American athletes and entertainers who required to travel as a part of their work. George Schuyler put it well in 1930: “All Negroes who can do so purchase an automobile as soon as possible in order to be free of discomfort, discrimination, segregation and insult.”
 
Victor H. Green
Victor H. Green
 
In many parts of America white-run hotels, restaurants, and garages would refuse to serve African-Americans or fix their vehicles. Furthermore, while avoiding public transportation made sense, that did not shield African-American travelers from the ire of whites who might find an African-American with an automobile “uppity” or the like. In short, traveling around in America as an African-American was no joke (for many non-whites, it is still not a trifling matter today, however, the U.S. has seen some improvements in these areas in the last several decades). The purpose of the Green Book was to illustrate where African-Americans could safely travel and find food, entertainment (night clubs), lodging, and other services such as tailors.
 
Negros Barred
 
On the cover of the 1949 edition is a hopeful quotation from Mark Twain: “Travel Is Fatal to Prejudice.” The guide makes frequent reference to the necessarily incomplete quality of its information and repeatedly urges readers to inform hotels and restaurants about the Green Book so that the succeeding year’s information might become more complete. Here are a few lines from the introduction:
 

With the introduction of this travel guide in 1936, it has been our idea to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trips more enjoyable.

The Jewish press has long published information about places that are restricted and there are numerous publications that give the gentile whites all kinds of information. But during these long years of discrimination, before 1936 other guides have been published for the Negro, some are still published, but the majority have gone out of business for various reasons.

 
Negro Motorist Green Book
 
The guide is essentially not much more than a long list, organized by state, of businesses that will cater to African-Americans. An example from my current home city of Cleveland:
 
Cleveland Green Book
 
To read the entries for Cleveland and Staten Island and Providence, some of the places I’ve made my home, is to give these familiar landscapes an entirely new and menacing character.

The introduction ends with the following paragraph, which if you’re anything like me will tear your heart out in its simple, plaintive confidence that better days must be on the way:
 

There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment. But until that time comes we shall continue to publish this information for your convenience each year.

 
The Green Book lasted until the Civil Rights era, when ambitious new legislation passed by Congress made the book all but obsolete. We are sadly not in a country where African-Americans have “equal opportunities and privileges,” but we are closer to that goal—there is no Green Book today, after all (or maybe I just don’t know about it?). Someday, perhaps, the existence of the Green Book in the mid-20th century will not be perceived as a statement of the obvious—that the United States can be a very dangerous place for African-Americans—but rather as an outlandish artifact of long-outdated hatreds.

You can download the entire 1949 edition of the Negro Motorist Green Book here.

Here is a brief documentary about the Green Book:
 

 
via Map of the Week
 
Thank you Lawrence Daniel Caswell!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Rumpole’ novelist John Mortimer defends Sex Pistols in ‘Bollocks’ trial, 1977


 
Nothing represents the Sex Pistols’ ability to push buttons as well as the choice of the word “Bollocks” to appear in the title of their first record in 1977. Unquestionably vulgar in an in-your-face way, the word was nevertheless not obviously obscene, or “indecent,” to employ the legal terminology used at the time. It was offensive enough that Her Majesty’s Government sought to suppress the display of the word in public—but not offensive enough for that position to carry the day in court. “Bollocks” clearly has some relationship to the word “Balls,” but it’s not a 1:1 relationship—it’s a little like the word “freaking” to substitute for “fucking,” but better and more vivid. Bollocks to that! “Bullshit” would be an a close synonym for American English. It’s the perfectly rude Sex Pistols word.

On Saturday, November 5, 1977, a policewoman named Julie Dawn Storey spotted the Never Mind The Bollocks display in the window of the Virgin Records store in Nottingham. She went inside, confiscated a couple of albums, and informed shop manager Christopher Seale that the appearance of the word “Bollocks” in the display violated the 1899 Indecent Advertising Act. Then she arrested him. For the couple of weeks before the trial, nobody could risk the legality of the album’s name—shop owners were forced to sell the album under the table, and a Pistols’ expensive ad campaign appeared to go to waste because no publications would dare to run it. Naturally all of this had the effect of adding to the Pistols’ reputation as the most controversial band in Britain.
 
Christopher Seale
Christopher Seale and the Sex Pistols’ immortal album art
 
On November 24, 1977, the court convened to rule on the fate of the shop owner, Christopher Seale, and Virgin Records. Defending the Sex Pistols was a fusty-looking chap who didn’t look like he belonged on the same continent as the Sex Pistols, much less the same courtroom. His name was John Mortimer, and by the time of his death at the age of 85 in 2009, his status as one of the most beloved attorneys and novelists in British history would be rock-solid.

Before the “Bollocks” trial, Mortimer’s primary claim to fame as a lawyer was his work on obscenity cases. He successfully defended the publication in Britain of Hubert Selby Jr.‘s Last Exit in Brooklyn in 1968, and three years later lost a similar case involving the scandalous Danish book The Little Red Schoolbook. In 1976, he defended Gay News editor Denis Lemon for the crime of publishing James Kirkup’s poem “The Love that Dares to Speak its Name” against charges of blasphemous libel; Lemon lost the case but it was overturned on appeal.

Although he would achieve much greater fame later, Mortimer had already been a writer of fiction for some years, which may partially explain his interest in obscenity cases. In the 1960s he had written A Voyage Round My Father, an autobiographical play about his relationship with his blind father (also a barrister)—it was later made into a TV movie with Laurence Olivier and Alan Bates. With his wife, Mortimer also wrote the script for Otto Preminger’s 1965 movie Bunny Lake Is Missing. In 1975 Mortimer began his lengthy series of bestselling comic novels revolving around Horace Rumpole.

In 1978, just a year after the Pistols trial, Thames Television launched Rumpole of the Bailey, its immensely popular series about a rumpled—if you will—and principled barrister who defends his clients against the weight of the Crown with everything he’s got. Rumpole was portrayed by Leo McKern, who became synonymous with the role—although DM readers might know him better as the heavy in the Beatles movie Help!.
 
Mortimer and McKern
Mortimer and McKern, in costume as Rumpole
 
As odd a fit as it may seem, Mortimer obviously had impeccable bona fides on free speech cases, which in fact made him a perfect choice to defend the Sex Pistols in court. The website 20thcpunkarchives describes Mortimer’s strategy:
 

John Mortimer raised the question of why Seale was prosecuted for displaying the sleeve while the newspapers that used the same image as an illustration were not. Mortimer continued to outline the history of the term “Bollocks” tracing it back to roots in the Middle Ages. Mortimer continued by bringing in a Professor Kingsley, head of English Studies at local Nottingham University. Kingsley told the court that the term had been used from the year 1,000 to describe a small ball (or things of a similar shape) and that it has appeared in Medieval Bibles, veterinary books and literature through the ages. He also revealed (not surprisingly) that it also served as part of place names throughout the UK. Eyebrows were raised when Kingsley said that the term had been used to describe the clergy of the previous century. In that connotation it was used in a similar fashion as the word rubbish and used to describe a clergyman that spoke nonsense. The defense continued to intimate that perhaps the prosecution was not interested in decency of the word in question but instead were waging war against the band themselves. After making the case clear, the judiciary deliberated for twenty minutes and felt compelled to dismiss all charges against Seale. The Sex Pistols’ cover was ruled as “decent” and set a precedent that would protect other shop owners who displayed the cover.

 
Johnny Rotten had attended the trial wearing a safari hat. As he exited the courtroom, a reporter solicited his comment—I remember hearing about this line when I was in high school, and it tickles me now just as much as it did then. Rotten was quoted as saying:

“Great! Bollocks is legal. Bollocks! Bollocks! Bollocks!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘The Mind Benders’: The true story behind the cult classic psychological thriller

moviemindbenders.jpg
 
The writer James Kennaway was working as a publisher’s agent when he first heard talk of the sensory deprivation experiments carried out at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, during the early 1950s.

Kennaway’s job entailed traveling across England seeking out academics and scientists to contribute texts for Longmans catalog of books. The stories he heard at Oxford University were just idle chat shared over cups of milky tea or warm beer in pubs. Rumors someone had heard from somebody else that students were being paid to undergo a week of sensory deprivation—so far no one had succeeded. Though still an unpublished author, Kennaway knew he had found material for a very good story.

James Kennaway was born on 5 June 1928 in Auchterarder, Scotland.  His father was a successful lawyer, his mother a graduate of medicine. The younger of two children (his sister Hazel was born in 1925), Kennaway’s early childhood was one of tradition and privilege, with the expectation that he would one day follow in his father’s footsteps.

His childhood idyll ended when Kennaway’s father died in January 1941. Though at a preparatory school in Edinburgh, the twelve-year-old felt obliged to take up the role as “male head of the household.”  He suppressed his own emotional needs and began to write letters to his mother full of the advice and emotional support he felt his father would have given.

The untimely death made James feel that he too would die young, and this early trauma, together with the pressure he felt to succeed at school led to a fissure in his personality that would widen with age. Kennaway’s biographer, Trevor Royle described this gradual change of character as:

James was the sophisticate, Jim the “nasty wee Scot”. Later, he came to characterize the split as James the domesticated man constrained by society and Jim the artist who should be allowed any amount of license.

Or, as Kennaway later described it:

James et Jim, man and artist, wild boy and introvert.

At school “James” was the likable, eager-to-please pupil; while “Jim” was beginning his first thoughts towards a career as a writer—as Kennaway explained in a letter to his mother:

...I feel I have been granted with more than one talent; in such a life my talent of sympathy would shine but my other talents would lie buried. On my part I would get lazier and fatter every day. I might however do this at the same time as I write and really go in for writing, but I must learn more about the English language before I can write any stuff worth reading.

After school, Kennaway carried out his National Service in the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders before going up to Oxford to study Modern Greats (Politics, Philosophy and Economics or P.P.E.). It was here he met Susan Edmonds, whom he married in 1951.

After university, Kennaway worked for a publishing firm, and in his spare time, started work on his first novel Tunes of Glory.
 
tunesglorypos.jpg
 
Published in 1956, Tunes of Glory was the story of a psychological battle between bully Major Jock Sinclair and war-wounded Lieutenant Colonel Basil Barrow for control of over a peacetime battalion stationed in a Scottish army barracks. The story had been inspired by many of the people and events Kennaway encountered during his National Service.

Max Frisch noted in his novel Montauk that a writer only ever betrays himself; this is true for Kennaway who channeled the experiences of his life through the prism of his writing.

The book’s overwhelming success brought Kennaway more work as a writer: a commission to write an original screenplay. This became Violent Playground, which was filmed in 1957 with Stanley Baker, David McCallum, Anne Heywood and Peter Cushing. Its story of a juvenile delinquent holding a classroom of children to ransom was inspired by real siege in Terrazanno, Italy, when two brothers, armed with guns and dynamite, held ninety-nine pupils and three teachers to ransom. The brothers threatened to kill their hostages unless various demands were met. The siege ended after a teacher attacked and disarmed the brothers allowing the police to rescue the children. Kennaway followed the story in the papers, keeping numerous press clippings, and using the story for a key scene in his screenplay.
 
violentplaygrounddmcc.jpg
 
The following year, Kennaway was commissioned to write another film, this time he relied on the stories he had heard from academics at Oxford in the early 1950s.

The term “brainwashing” was first used by journalist (and CIA stooge) Edward Hunter in an article he wrote for the Miami News, 7th October 1950. Hunter used the term to bogusly describe why certain U.S. soldiers had allegedly co-operated with their captors during the Korean War. Simply put, Hunter was suggesting the Chinese had used various psychological techniques to create a false sense of friendship with which they could undermine, reprogram and brainwash American soldiers. This led to Western governments commencing their own brainwashing experiments.
 
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In June 1951, a secret meeting at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Montreal saw the launch of a CIA-funded, joint American-British-Canadian venture to fund studies “into the psychological factors causing the human mind to accept certain political beliefs aimed at determining means for combating communism and democracy” and “research into the means whereby an individual may be brought temporarily or perhaps permanently under the control of another.”

Dr. Donald Hebb of McGill University received a grant of $10,000 to examine the effects of sensory deprivation. Volunteers were paid to lie on a bed, cradled in a foam pillow (to block out external sounds), their arms wrapped in cardboard tubes (to limit movement and sensation), whilst wearing white opaque goggles. Without any external stimuli and only short breaks for testing, feeding and use of the toilet, the volunteers quickly began to hallucinate—seeing dots, colored lights, and faces. The experiments had disturbing affects on the volunteers with only a few managing to continue beyond two or three days—no one lasted the week.

The experiments progressed with the use of flotation tanks that became central to Kennaway’s screenplay.
 
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In an article “The Pathology of Boredom” published in Scientific American, one of Hebb’s associates wrote:

Most of the subjects had planned to think about their work: some intended to review their studies, some to plan term papers, and one thought he would organize a lecture he had to deliver. Nearly all of them reported that the most striking thing about the experience was that they were unable to think clearly about anything for any length of time and that their thought processes seemed to be affected in other ways.

It was also noted during these experiments that the volunteers were overly susceptible to external sensory stimulation—making them open to ideas or beliefs they may have once opposed. In A Question of Torture, professor Alfred McCoy of Madison University, noted that during Hebb’s experiments “the subject’s very identity had begun to disintegrate.”
 
More on James Kennaway’s ‘The Mind Benders’, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Cameron: Songs for the Witch Woman


 
Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art has announced the mounting of 91 artworks and ephemera relating to the life’s work of the eccentric LA bohemian legend Marjorie Cameron. The show goes up on October 11 at MOCA’s Pacific Design Center annex and will close on January 11, 2015. “Cameron: Songs for the Witch Woman” will feature paintings, drawings, sketchbooks, poetry and correspondence between Cameron and her husband rocket scientist/occultist Jack Parsons, and with the great mythologist Joseph Campbell.

In recent years Cameron’s work has begun to be reassessed by the art world, in part inspired by her close association with artists like Wallace Berman and George Herms, actor Dennis Hopper and underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger. As interest in their work increased, so has curiosity about the odd, flaming haired creature from Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome. Sadly much of her work was deliberately burned by the artist herself in the 50s and can only be glimpsed at in Curtis Harrington’s short cinematic portrait of Cameron, “Wormwood Star.” (See below)
 

 
The show will highlight the recent publication of Songs for the Witch Woman, an absolutely stunning coffee table art book / facsimile reproduction of Cameron’s drawings and watercolors along with Parsons’ metaphysical and occult poetry produced by Fulgur Esoterica. (The book was printed in a very limited edition, and is available now. If this seems like the kind of item that you would like to own—it’s a knockout, finely published at a very high quality—buy it now instead of waiting until next year when it’ll be selling for $500 on eBay. If you like this kind of thing, I’ll say it again, it’s particularly nice. There’s a beautifully composed foreword by the OTO’s WIlliam Breeze, who knew Cameron, to recommend it as well.)
 

 
The exhibition is being organized by guest curator Yael Lipschutz with MOCA’s senior curator Alma Ruiz along with the Cameron-Parsons Foundation. The museum will produce a full color catalogue with 75 illustrations for the exhibit.

Below, Curtis Harrington’s “Wormwood Star.” Heartbreaking to consider how many of these paintings are gone forever.
 

 
And speaking of Cameron, her biographer, Spencer Kansa sent me this curious piece of 60s experimental filmmaking that Cameron was involved with:

Za is an early-70s cinepoem by Elias Romero, the underground filmmaker, and one of the main pioneers of the liquid light shows that he began projecting in the late-50s in San Francisco and at Ben Shapiro’s Renaissance Club on the Sunset Strip. Za was filmed in Big Sur and features the movie actress Diane Varsi, portraying an alchemist cum poet. Varsi had already runaway from the superficiality of Hollywood by the time this was filmed, in order to pursue a more artistic and meaningful life. And, interestingly, the raggy dayglo outfits she wears in the film were created by Cameron, no less. Cameron and Elias were old friends by the time this film was made. He had been married to Cameron’s confidante, the poetess Aya. In Wormwood Star Aya admits that: “For years, Cameron never forgave me for splitting up with Elias.”

Watching it today, the film is, er, interesting. I guess back then it probably helped that most of its original viewers were heavily dosed-up.

 

 
Thank you Lyvia Filotico!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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The Hawkwind sci-fi trilogy
07.25.2014
07:45 am

Topics:
Books
Music

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Hawkwind
Michael Moorcock


 
There are lots of ways to have fun with Hawkwind albums, but one of the more wholesome is to pretend that the members of the band are real live outer space aliens. Weigh space anchor and hoist the star mizzen? Aye aye, Cap’n Brock! We were born to go! But if you find it hard to fantasize in this vein, there exist three official tie-in products that relate Hawkwind’s adventures in the far reaches of the cosmos.

In 1976, a sci-fi novel called The Time of the Hawklords appeared in the UK and US, crediting Michael Moorcock and Michael Butterworth as co-authors. Aside from Dik Mik, all your favorite members are there: Lemmy (“Count Motorhead”), Stacia (“the Earth Mother”), “Baron” Dave Brock, and Nik Turner (“the Thunder Rider”). Even Moorcock, who had collaborated with Hawkwind since the early 70s, plays a part in the story as “Moorlock the Acid Sorcerer.”

Moorcock immediately disowned the book, according to Carol Clerk’s band biography The Saga of Hawkwind: “While the saga was based on concepts of Moorcock’s, he vehemently denied being involved in the writing and fell out with the publishers.” Nevertheless, his famous name also featured prominently on the cover of the following year’s sequel, Queens of Deliria, which bore the lawyerly credit “by Michael Butterworth based on an idea by Michael Moorcock.”
 

 
The back cover of Deliria promised that the third volume of the trilogy, Ledge of Darkness, would be published in 1978. As it happened, Ledge of Darkness was not published until 1994, when it turned up as a graphic novel in Hawkwind’s scarce 25 Years On box set (not to be confused with the 1978 Hawklords album of the same name).

In the decade-plus that has passed since I purchased my copy of The Time of the Hawklords, I have never yet made it past this sentence on page eleven: “Next came Lord Rudolph the Black, most recent champion sworn to the ranks of the Company of the Hawk.” It seems better suited for bibliomancy than reading. Since the jacket copy on the back might be superior to the actual contents of the book, here it is in its entirety:

Rocking on The Edge of Time

From a ruined London on a burnt-out Earth, the Hawkwind group beams out its last, defiant concert. The Children of the Sun, the tattered remnants of the Hippies, gather to listen. But when the music ends, withdrawal symptoms begin—a dreadful, retching illness only the Hawkwind sound can allay.

This new malady may be more than debilitated mankind can withstand. Desperately the rock group begins research: first, with the few electronic instruments miraculously still intact; then with a book whose existence is an even greater miracle—an ancient, magical tome, The Saga of Doremi Fasol Latido, whose prophecies seem to be coming true.

And here’s the sales copy from Queens of Deliria:

Earth had already been devastated by the Death Generator.

Then the Red Queen meddled with the very laws of Time to advance her evil ambitions. She transmogrified the planet into a world stalked by decaying ghouls and policed by satanic Bulls, their amplifiers meting out the punishing music of Elton John.

Only the Hawklords could save the remnants of humanity – only the Hawklords could restore the forces of Good.

Their sole ally Elric the Indecisive; their sole weapon their music; they fought to the death with their awesome enemies, the macabre Queens of Deliria.

ROCK AND ROLL SCI-FI

This is the second volume in the trilogy which began with The Time of the Hawklords.

The final volume Ledge of Darkness will be published in 1978.

Below, the BBC’s excellent Hawkwind documentary. That’s Michael Moorcock seen in the still frame:

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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