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‘Mind Parasites’: The William S. Burroughs / Buzzcocks connection
02.05.2016
12:34 pm

Topics:
Literature
Music
Punk

Tags:
William S. Burroughs
Buzzcocks


 
A Burroughsian post for you all on the 102nd anniversary of William S. Burroughs’ birth…

“A Different Kind of Tension,” the antepenultimate song on the Buzzcocks’ album of the same name, can be hilarious or punishing, depending on the circumstances. Pete Shelley’s lyrics are a series of contradictory commands that alternate between your stereo speakers, coming faster and faster with each verse, and pretty soon, Shelley is simultaneously shouting “live” in your left ear and “die” in your right. On a lazy afternoon, it’s enough to make peach Cisco squirt from your nose, but in bumper-to-bumper traffic, you’re liable to start looking around for the Budd Dwyer exit.
 

 
Wikipedia claims that the song quotes William S. Burroughs, but that’s not quite right: it’s more a rewrite of Burroughs’ text than a quotation. Shelley, after all, is credited as the sole author of “A Different Kind of Tension,” whose lyrics are printed in parallel columns on the record’s three-color sleeve:

Wait here - Go there
Come in - Stay out
Be yourself - Be someone else
Obey the law - Break the law

Be ambitious - Be modest
Plan ahead - Be spontaneous
Decide for yourself - Listen to others
Save money - Spend money

Be good - Be evil
Be wise - Be foolish
Be safe - Be dangerous
Be satisfied - Be envious
Be honest - Be deceitful
Be faithful - Be perfidious
Be sane - Be mad
Be strong - Be weak
Be enigmatic - Be plain
Be aggressive - Be peaceful
Be brave - Be timid
Be humane - Be cruel
Be critical - Be appreciative
Be temperamental - Calm
Be sad - Be happy
Be normal - Be unusual

Stop - Go
Live - Die
Yes - No
Rebel - Submit
Right - Wrong
Sit down - Stand up
Create - Destroy
Accept - Reject
Talk - Silence
Speed up - Slow down
This way - That way
Right - Left
Present - Absent
Open - Closed
Entrance - Exit
Believe - Doubt

Truth - Lies
Escape - Meet
Love - Hate
Thank you - Flunk [actually “Fuck you”]
Clarify - Pollute
Simple - Complex
Nothing - Something
Stop - Go
Live - Die
Yes - No
Rebel - Submit
Right - Wrong
Sit down - Stand up
Create - Destroy
Accept - Reject
Talk - Silence


 

A 1969 review of The Mind Parasites by William “Borroughs” (larger)
 
The Buzzcocks had a thing for magazine reviews; they took their name from the last line of a review of the TV series Rock Follies (“Get a buzz, cock”), and, if memory serves, the phrase “a different kind of tension” itself comes from Jon Savage’s review of Love Bites in Sounds. For the sake of consistency, I’d like to think Shelley spotted Burroughs’ list of incompatible injunctions in the author’s 1969 review of Colin Wilson’s The Mind Parasites, which first ran in a New York underground newspaper called Rat and was reprinted that year in John Keel’s Anomaly. But Shelley is just as likely to have encountered Burroughs’ list in the CONTROL section of 1974’s The Job, or some other place Burroughs might have recontextualized these do’s and don’ts:

Stop. Go. Wait here. Go there. Come in. Stay out. Be a man. Be a woman. Be white. Be black. Live. Die. Yes. No. Do it now. Do it later. Be your real self. Be somebody else. Fight. Submit. Right. Wrong. Make a splendid impression. Make an awful impression. Sit down. Stand up. Take your hat off. Put your hat on. Create. Destroy. React. Ignore. Live now. Live in the past. Live in the future. Be ambitious. Be modest. Accept. Reject. Do more. Do less. Plan ahead. Be spontaneous. Decide for yourself. Listen to others. Talk. Be silent. Save money. Spend money. Speed up. Slow down. This way. That way. Right. Left. Present. Absent. Open. Closed. Up. Down. Enter. Exit. In. Out.

 

 
This isn’t quite “Choose life” from Trainspotting, if that’s what you’re thinking. Far from complaining about the modern world’s banality like Steve Martin’s Beat poet on Saturday Night Live (“Oh, Mr. Commuter! / Wash me not in your Mad Ave. paint-by-numbers soap…”), Burroughs was giving his readers detailed instructions in piercing the tedium of everyday life with “a technique for producing events and directing thought on a mass scale [that] is available to anyone with a portable tape recorder.” Burroughs goes on to explain in his Mind Parasites review how the “waking suggestion” technique of Dr. John Dent, whose apomorphine cure for heroin addiction he advocated, can be used for mind control:

These commands are constantly being imposed by the environment of modern life. If the suggestion tape contains the right phraseology, and listeners hear it in the right situation (while doing something else), they will be forced to obey the suggestion. It is like giving someone a sleeping pill, without his knowledge, and then suggesting sleep.

At the unconscious level, any contradictory suggestion produces a brief moment of disorientation, during which the suggestions take place. This is important to remember because this is something you can – in a pinch – employ yourself. (Con artists, spies, military strategists, and social climbers use such diversions to their advantage. Why can’t you?)

This moment of disorientation is not unknown to the human body, because contradictory suggestions are an integral function of human metabolism: “Sweat. Stop sweating. Salivate. Stop salivating. Pour adrenaline into the bloodstream. Counteract adrenaline with epinephrine.”

Since contradictory commands are enforced by the environment and the human body, contradictory commands are especially effective. All tape recording tricks are useful: speed up, slow down, overlay, run contradictory commands simultaneously, add superfluous “echo” recordings for large spaces, etc.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘N for Nonsense’: William S. Burroughs endorses Mr. Peanut for mayor, 1974
02.03.2016
01:04 pm

Topics:
Literature
Politics

Tags:
William S. Burroughs
Mr. Peanut


 
On November 20, 1974, the city of Vancouver held its civic election, which included the heart-palpitating race for alderman as well as positions on the parks board and the school board. The mayoral election was part of the slate that year, and that race included an unusual candidate who never uttered a single word, preferring the universal medium of tap dance for communication.

That candidate was Mr. Peanut, and wherever he went a group of young women called the “Peanettes” would sing “Peanuts from Heaven,” based on “Pennies from Heaven,” the Depression-era song by Arthur Johnston and Johnny Burke. The “Peanettes” would hold up letters like spectators at a sporting event spelling out P-E-A-N-U-T, which apparently was a mnemonic device for the following: “P for performance, E for elegance, A for art, N for nonsense, U for uniqueness, and T for talent.”
 

 
Mr. Peanut’s platform included a couple of sensible proposals, including putting a hiring freeze on government employees until the city’s population became larger, and a couple that were a bit less serious, like a system similar to a lending library for galoshes and umbrellas, which are only needed when it rains. He had a cumbersome slogan reminiscent of some 19th-century art movement, which ran “Life was politics in the last decade; life will be art in the next decade.”
 

 
Mr. Peanut was actually a Berlin-based performance artist named Vincent Trasov, who had adopted the corporate mascot as his persona a few years earlier. He had a spokesman named John Mitchell accompany him to all public events during the campaign to do his talking for him. The author of Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs, happened to visit Vancouver while the campaign was happening, so he gave Mr. Peanut his endorsement:
 

I would like to take this opportunity to endorse the candidacy of Mr. Peanut for mayor of Vancouver. Mr. Peanut is running on the art platform, and art is the creation of illusion. Since the inexorable logic of reality has created nothing but insolvable problems, it is now time for illusion to take over. And there can only be one illogical candidate—Mr. Peanut.

 
Joining Burroughs in endorsing Mr. Peanut was the mayor of Kansas City, a Democrat named Charles B. Wheeler Jr., who sent him a letter of support. Voters wishing to express their preference Mr. Peanut were obliged to select the candidate’s actual name from a list. “Vincent Trasov” received 2,685 votes out of 78,925 votes cast, netting him a 3.4% share of the vote, higher than Ralph Nader’s percentage in the 2000 election for president in the United States. Trasov/Peanut finished fourth, but it’s easy to imagine that if the words “Mr. Peanut” had been permitted to appear on the ballot, he might have garnered a few more points.
 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Californium’: Finally, the ultimate video game tribute to the worlds of Philip K. Dick
01.21.2016
01:42 pm

Topics:
Games
Literature
Science/Tech

Tags:
Philip K. Dick
Californium


 
When you go to the website for Californium, the first words you see are “If you find this world bad, you should see some of the others,” which is the title of a talk Philip K. Dick gave in France in 1977.

Californium is a game produced by Darjeeling and Nova Production, and published by ARTE, the Strasbourg-based French-German TV channel dedicated to the arts. It seems exceedingly likely that this game will prove to be the most sustained tribute to the works of Philip K. Dick in the video game idiom.

Both movies and video games have proven fertile settings for Dick’s apocalyptic visions, even if the path from book to final product has often been treacherous. From Blade Runner and Total Recall to The Adjustment Bureau, there seems to be no Dick work that can’t have its title changed on the way to becoming a major motion picture (okay, okay, Minority Report and A Scanner Darkly kept their original names, anyway). As for video games, John Saavedra argues that Eidos, makers of Deus Ex, might just be “Phillip K Dick’s greatest students.”
 

 
The tagline for the game is “Explore the worlds of Californium, a first person exploration game where you are a writer trapped into shifting realities. Will you find what’s behind the simulacra?” which puts us squarely in that familiar PKD “Got-here-30-years-before-The-Matrix” world in which every innocuous American surface is but cloak for a more terrifying reality.

For the position of as art director, the developers have chosen Olivier Bonhomme to help create the distinctive feel of a Philip K. Dick book.

Here’s the “synopsis” for the game:
 

Berkeley, 1967. You are Elvin Green, a writer whose career is not better than his sentimental life. Besides, the day starts badly : your wife Thea left you a break up letter. As for Eddy, your editor, he summons you : “you are a writer who does not write”—you should find yourself another editor. Your world is falling apart. Too much acid and cheap booze ? Too many sleepless nights stuck to your typewriter, powerless to tackle your first novel ? Your brain perceives a signal, the Theta—which seems connected to your collapsing emotional state—shows that there could be a way out: this world is unstable, you can extract yourself from it and thus access another reality! You have nothing to lose!

 
Californium is expected to be available for the PC in a few months.

Here’s a teaser video for the game followed by several mouth-watering screenshots:

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Incredibly detailed 3-D rendering of the book illustration that gave every kid nightmares


 
If you grew up with the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book series, you are well-aware of the nightmares generated by the creeptastic illustrations of Stephen Gammell. The popular series’ “tales of eerie horror and dark revenge” are brought to life by Gammell’s macabre and disturbing illustrations—which are indeed much more frightening than the stories themselves.
 

Illustrations by Gammell
 
Artist Michael Perry recently uploaded photos of a scuplture he designed that should be familiar to anyone traumatized by Gammell’s illustrations. It’s an intricate 3-D rendering of the bizarre and surreal cover from the first book in that series.
 

 

 
It was recently announced that Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is being developed as a film project by Guillermo del Toro. Perhaps Perry has a future with the production in bringing those terrifying illustrations to life?
 

 

 
More after the jump, including the baby from David Lynch’s ‘Eraserhead’...

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Charles Dickens & The Train of Death: The rail crash behind the classic ghost story ‘The Signal-Man’
01.15.2016
10:33 am

Topics:
Books
Literature
Occult
Television

Tags:
Charles Dickens
ghosts

BosignalB.jpg
 
In his later years, Charles Dickens often suffered from siderodromophobia—a fear of train travel—caused by his involvement in a railway crash in 1865. If you suffer from say, a fear of flying, then you will appreciate the dread Dickens sometimes endured when he traveled by train thereafter—panic, foreboding, white knuckle terror. His son later claimed that Dickens never fully recovered from the experience and he died exactly five years to the day of the accident.

The Staplehurst rail crash occurred at a viaduct on the South Eastern Railway linking London to the coastal town of Folkestone, at 3:13pm on June 9th, 1865. A section of rail track had been removed. The foreman in charge of replacing the track misread the train timetable—believing his crew had sufficient time to finish the job before the arrival of the next train. His mistake had tragic consequences.
 
001stapcrashtar.jpg
Illustration of the Staplehurst train wreck.
 
Apart from the trauma, the accident had serious implications for Dickens as he was accompanying his mistress Ellen Ternan and her mother to Folkestone where they were to catch a boat back to France.

Long before the 50-Mile Rule—which suggests one should never an affair with someone within a 50 mile radius of home—Dickens had been careful to keep the 27-year-old Ellen out of the public eye in France to avoid any possibility of discovery by his wife or by a prying press. The three were sitting in the first carriage when the train jumped the tracks and crashed over the side of a viaduct. Ten passengers were killed, 40 more were injured.
 
004stapcrasdic.jpg
Photograph of the accident.
 
Ensuring Ellen and her mother were safe, Dickens busied himself aiding the injured and the dying. He described the accident in a letter to his old schoolfriend Thomas Mitton on June 13th, 1865:

My dear Mitton,

I should have written to you yesterday or the day before, if I had been quite up to writing. I am a little shaken, not by the beating and dragging of the carriage in which I was, but by the hard work afterwards in getting out the dying and dead, which was most horrible.

I was in the only carriage that did not go over into the stream. It was caught upon the turn by some of the ruin of the bridge, and hung suspended and balanced in an apparently impossible manner. Two ladies were my fellow passengers; an old one, and a young one. This is exactly what passed: you may judge from it the precise length of the suspense. Suddenly we were off the rail and beating the ground as the car of a half emptied balloon might. The old lady cried out “My God!” and the young one screamed.

I caught hold of them both (the old lady sat opposite, and the young one on my left) and said: “We can’t help ourselves, but we can be quiet and composed. Pray don’t cry out.” The old lady immediately answered, “Thank you. Rely upon me. Upon my soul, I will be quiet.” The young lady said in a frantic way, “Let us join hands and die friends.” We were then all tilted down together in a corner of the carriage, and stopped. I said to them thereupon: “You may be sure nothing worse can happen. Our danger must be over. Will you remain here without stirring, while I get out of the window?” They both answered quite collectedly, “Yes,” and I got out without the least notion of what had happened.

Fortunately, I got out with great caution and stood upon the step. Looking down, I saw the bridge gone and nothing below me but the line of the rail. Some people in the two other compartments were madly trying to plunge out of the window, and had no idea there was an open swampy field 15 feet down below them and nothing else! The two guards (one with his face cut) were running up and down on the down side of the bridge (which was not torn up) quite wildly. I called out to them “Look at me. Do stop an instant and look at me, and tell me whether you don’t know me.” One of them answered, “We know you very well, Mr Dickens.” “Then,” I said, “my good fellow for God’s sake give me your key, and send one of those labourers here, and I’ll empty this carriage.”

We did it quite safely, by means of a plank or two and when it was done I saw all the rest of the train except the two baggage cars down in the stream. I got into the carriage again for my brandy flask, took off my travelling hat for a basin, climbed down the brickwork, and filled my hat with water. Suddenly I came upon a staggering man covered with blood (I think he must have been flung clean out of his carriage) with such a frightful cut across the skull that I couldn’t bear to look at him. I poured some water over his face, and gave him some to drink, and gave him some brandy, and laid him down on the grass, and he said, “I am gone”, and died afterwards.

Then I stumbled over a lady lying on her back against a little pollard tree, with the blood streaming over her face (which was lead colour) in a number of distinct little streams from the head. I asked her if she could swallow a little brandy, and she just nodded, and I gave her some and left her for somebody else. The next time I passed her, she was dead.

 
002dickcrastap.jpg
Front cover of ‘London Illustrated’ showing Dickens tending to the injured.
 
The accident caused Dickens to lose his voice for two weeks, and he was often visibly panicked on train journeys after that—on one occasion hurling himself to the floor of the carriage convinced another crash was about to take place. However, he was not a man to waste his own experience—no matter how painful—and he used the events in his ghost story The Signal-Man—one of literature’s most famous supernatural tales.

The Signal-Man tells the story of an encounter with a signalman who tells the unnamed narrator of his haunting by ghostly premonitions prior to a series of train accidents. The story formed part of Dickens’ Mugby Junction series of stories. It is a subtle and beautifully told tale, and was adapted by the BBC in 1976 for Ghost Story, starring Denholm Elliott and Bernard Lloyd. Elliott is perfect as the man haunted by a ghostly visitor, whose message he tries to understand.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Beatlebone’: The witty cult novel of the year imagines John Lennon living in Ireland, 1978
12.17.2015
03:27 pm

Topics:
Literature
Music

Tags:
John Lennon
Kevin Barry


 
If you ask me, the most audacious and amusing novel of the year is Beatlebone, by Irish novelist Kevin Barry. Beatlebone posits a charged confrontation between a world-weary John Lennon and the mostly quaint but also hippie-activated Irish countryside of 1978, two years before Lennon’s actual slaying at the hands of Mark David Chapman. In the novel, the fictionalized Lennon, having grown tired of baking bread on the Upper West Side at the age of 37, is eager to find some solitude on a remote property he owns called Dorinish Island, which is located off the western shores of Ireland. (The reader is informed several times that the locals would call it “Durn-ish” Island.)

Lennon plops himself on the shores of Clew Bay with the stated intention of making it to his island, where he intends to spend a dose of time in utter solitude. Lending the proceedings some drama, a phalanx of journalists is said to be in hot pursuit. Lennon is placed in the care of an older local fellow named Cornelius O’Grady, a marvelous creation who seems to embody all of the despondent, hard-drinking wisdom of rural Irish life. After the matron at Lennon’s first hotel sells him out to the local scribes, O’Grady takes him back to his place, which shortly leads to a raucous visit to the local pub, known as the Highwood, where he drunkenly abandons his disguise of “Kenneth” and takes to the stage, and a local hotel said to be populated with “your own style of people precisely” (this turns out to be a trio of intervention-addicted hippies). 
 

Novelist Kevin Barry
 
Tropes from Lennon’s previous life crowd his mind until the events in Ireland unloosen him a bit. He is annoyed that The Muppet Show keeps pestering him to make an appearance (Elton John was on just the other week, and he was “superb, John,” notes Cornelius) and obsessed with the inscrutable opening lines of Kate Bush’s then-new “Wuthering Heights.” He cheekily names a local pooch “Brian Wilson.” Eventually the pop culture references drop away, and eventually Lennon hits upon a new musical concept that bears the same title as the book—we even get a glimpse of the session, as preserved on “the Great Lost Beatlebone Tape.”

Barry interrupts the novel in order to explain some of the real-life basis for the novel and his site-specific researches. John and Yoko actually did own Dorinish Island, they paid £1,550 for it in 1967 and even spent time there before turning it over to hippie squatter par excellence Sid Rawle and his followers for a couple of years, an intriguing interlude that ended abruptly when the island’s supply tent burned down. Furthermore, a major scene of the novel takes place at the Amethyst Hotel, which is also a real place. And so forth.

Barry’s writing is unabashedly poetic, frequently taking on a purple, word-drunk quality. At times the prose is arranged linearly down the page, like poetry, and at other junctures the text is rendered in pure dialogue, like a play. Beatlebone honorably merits the signifier “Joycean.” Here is a brief snippet, chosen almost at random:
 

A street gang of sheep appear—like teddy boys bedraggled in rain, dequiffed in mist—and Cornelius bamps the hooter—like teddy boys on a forlorn Saturday in the north of England, 1957—and the sheep explode in all directions and John can see the fat pinks of their tongues.

Mutton army, he says.

 
The sense of liberties gleefully taken provides Beatlebone with its engine. A world-famous and beloved rock star (soon to be assassinated) evading notice and disappearing into the stalwart Irish countryside—none of it works nearly as well if the main character was, say, Bucky Wunderlick, the fictional rock star of Don DeLillo’s 1973 novel Great Jones Street—because it’s John fucking Lennon, we are able to fill in the blanks so much more readily. Barry does a very good job of recapitulating Lennon’s distinctively reedy vocal patterns, although in all honesty he probably makes him a bit too garrulous (and Ir-ish), but then again, what novelist would be capable of nailing this? The high-wire act is part of the nervy fun of reading Beatlebone.
 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Dante’s nine levels of Hell, LEGO style
12.10.2015
11:07 am

Topics:
Literature
Pop Culture

Tags:
LEGO
Dante


 
Spotted in the Telegraph: Mihai Marius Mihu’s interesting LEGO re-creations of the nine levels of Hell as presented in Dante’s Inferno from The Divine Comedy, written in the 14th century.

Curiously, Mihu disavows any first-hand understanding of Dante’s work, saying: “I didn’t read the Divine Comedy, only the small descriptions of the circles I found on the websites. I didn’t want to be much influenced by the original descriptions because I wanted to give a whole new fresh approach for each circle. I thought more about the significance of titles and from then on it was only my imagination.” The nine LEGO panels seem pretty good to me, but I suspect a Dante scholar might have a few quibbles.

Click on any of the images to get a larger view.
 

I. LIMBO: “A place of monotony, here the souls are punished to wander in restless existence while they moan helplessly in echoes between the ruins of a temple.”
 

II. LUST: “Surrounded by erotic representations, those overcome by lust are forced to watch and experience disgusting things, ultimately being condemned to drown in the menstrual river.”
 

III. GLUTTONY: “The circle itself is a living abomination, a hellish digestive system revealing horrific faces with mouths ready to devour the gluttons over and over for eternity.”
 

IV. GREED: “This pompous place is reserved for the punishment of the greedy ones.”
 

V. ANGER: “In this depressing place the souls are trapped in the swamp, they can’t move and they cannot manifest their frustration which is making them even more angry.”
 

VI. HERESY: “The giant demon watches closely over his fire pit, dwarfing the damned that are dragging the new arrivals in the boiling lava. Those who committed the greatest sins against God are getting a special treatment inside the temple where they are doomed to burn for eternity in the scorching flames.”
 

VII. VIOLENCE: “A place of intense torture where the horrific screams of the damned are eternally accompanied by the hellish beats of drums.”
 

VIII. FRAUD: “In Fraud the Demons enjoy altering the shape of souls, this is how they feed.”
 

IX. TREACHERY: “Lucifer lies here chained by the Angelic Seal which keeps him captive in the frozen environment.”
 
via Coilhouse
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Sex, Politics and Religion: The making of Ken Russell’s ‘The Devils’

0devilrussel0.jpg
 
The great film director Ken Russell once remarked that if he had been born in Italy and called, say, “Russellini” then critics would have thrown bouquets at his feet. He was correct as Russell’s worst critics were generally slow-witted, myopic beasts, lacking in imagination and untrustworthy in their judgement.

Take for example the critic Alexander Walker who once dismissed Russell’s masterpiece The Devils as:

...the masturbatory fantasies of a Roman Catholic boyhood.

Walker was being petty and spiteful. He was also badly misinformed. Russell was not born a Catholic, he became one in his twenties and was lapsed by the time he made The Devils. More damningly, if Walker had taken a moment to make himself cognisant with Russell’s source material—a successful West End play by John Whiting commissioned by Sir Peter Hall for the Royal Shakespeare Company or its precursor the non-fiction book The Devils of Loudon by Aldous Huxley—then he would have realised Russell’s film was based on historical fact and his so-called excesses were very tame compared to the recorded events. However, Walker’s waspish comments became his claim to fame—especially after he was royally slapped by Russell with a rolled-up copy of his review on a TV chat show in 1971—Russell later said he wished it had been an iron bar rather than a newspaper.
 
0kenolliered.jpg
Oliver Reed as Grandier and Vanessa Redgrave as Sister Jeanne rehearse under the watchful eye of Ken Russell.
 
The Devils is the story of a priest named Urbain Grandier and his battle against the ambitions of Church and State to eradicate the independence of the French town of Loudon. In a bid to have this troublesome priest silenced, Grandier was tried for sorcery after a confession was brutally extracted from a nun, Sister Jeanne, who claimed he was an emissary of the Devil. Grandier was acquitted of all charges but a second show trial found him guilty and he was tortured and burnt at the stake. Russell described Grandier’s case as “the first well-documented political trial in history.”

There were others, of course, going back to Christ, but this had a particularly modern ring to it which appealed to me. He was also like many of my heroic characters…great despite himself. Most of the people in my films are taken by surprise, like [the dancer] Isadora Duncan and [the composer] Delius. They’re out of step with their times and their society, but nevertheless manage to produce rather extraordinary changes in attitude and events. This was exactly Grandier’s situation. He was a minor priest who was used as a fall guy in a political conflict, who lost his life and his battle but won the war.

After that they [the Church and State] couldn’t go on doing what they were doing in quite the same way, and around that time [1634] the Church did begin to lose its power. Twenty years later no one could have been burned as a witch in France. The people of Loudon realised too late that this man they knew so well simply couldn’t have been guilty of the things he was charged with, and if they hadn’t been so bemused by the naked nun sideshow that was going on and the business and prosperity it brought to the town, they’d have realised it sooner. So the fall guy achieved as much in the end as if he had been a saint. And to me that’s just what he is.

Though Russell was on a high after his international success with the Oscar-winning Women in Love (1969) starring Glenda Jackson, Alan Bates, Oliver Reed and Jennie Linden, and The Music Lovers (1970) a flamboyant biopic on the life of Tchaikovsky with Richard Chamberlain and Glenda Jackson, he had found it difficult to find a backer for The Devils. Original producers United Artists pulled out, leaving Russell “out on a limb: having written a script and commissioned set designs from Derek Jarman and costume designs from Shirley Russell.

It would have been a disaster to scrap all that work. Bob Solo, the producer, who had spent years getting the rights to Huxley’s book and Whiting’s play started looking around for another backer, but it took four months of offering the package before Warner Brothers agreed to have a go.

Russell’s script was considered too long and cuts were made. He had originally made Sister Jeanne the focus of his story, following the nun through her involvement in Grandier’s execution to her career as a star:

I suppose it’s the film that turned out most like I wanted it to, though I would have liked to carry the story further to show what happened to [Cardinal] Richelieu and Sister Jeanne. At the end de Laubardemont says “You’re stuck in this convent for life”, but as soon as he’d gone Jeanne set about getting out because her brief moment of notoriety had whetted her appetite for more. So she gouged a couple of holes in her hands and pretended she had the stigmata, saw ‘visions’ and, with the help of Sister Agnes, gulled some old priest into thinking she was the greatest lady since the Virgin Mary.

So she and Agnes went on a jaunt all over France and were hailed with as much fervour as show biz personalities and pop stars are received today. In Paris 30,000 people assembled outside of her hotel just in the chance of getting a glimpse of her. She became very friendly with Richelieu, the King and Queen wined and dined her, she had a grand old time. When she died—I particularly wanted to include this scene—they cut off her head and put it in a glass casket and stuck it on the altar in her own convent. People came on their knees from miles around to pay her homage.

 
More from Ken Russell and ‘The Devils’ including special documentary, photospread and Oliver Reed interview, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘We Should All Be Feminists’ manifesto to be distributed to every 16-year-old in Sweden
12.03.2015
01:50 pm

Topics:
Feminism
Literature

Tags:
feminism
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


 
Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is primarily known for three highly regarded novels: Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and, most recently, Americanah. In 2013, the same year that Americanah was published, a TED Talk by Adichie about the difficulties—and importance—of being a feminist in Nigeria became a minor internet sensation, amassing over 2.3 million views as of this writing.

Adichie has adapted the address into a tidy 64-page book called We Should All Be Feminists. As she explains, her introduction to the term feminist came when her friend Okoloma called her a feminist in “the same tone with which a person would say, ‘You’re a supporter of terrorism.’”

In Sweden, where a translation of the book was released on December 1, several organizations have joined forces to distribute Adichie’s book to every 16-year-old in the country.
 

 
The Swedish Women’s Lobby, together with publishing company Albert Bonniers Förlag, the UN Association of Sweden, and several other partner groups, announced on Tuesday that it would ensure that a free copy of the book finds its way to every second-grade high school student in Sweden. Already more than 100,000 copies of the book have been distributed; the Swedish Women’s Lobby also plans to distribute discussion guidelines to teachers in a few weeks.

According to Quartz, Clara Berglund, chair of the advocacy group, said in a statement that “this is the book that I wish all of my male classmates would have read when I was 16.” Adichie’s book, she said, will be “a gift to ourselves and future generations.”

At the group’s Tuesday press conference in Stockholm announcing the project, Adichie greeted Swedish high school students via video:
 

For me, feminism is about justice. I’m a feminist because I want to live in a world that is more just. I’m a feminist because I want to live in a world where a woman is never told that she can or cannot—or should or should not—do anything because she’s a woman. I want to live in a world where men and women are happier, where they’re not constrained by gender roles. I want to live in a world where men and women are truly equal, and that’s why I’m a feminist.

 
Interestingly, two weeks ago I was in a hostel on the southeastern coast of South Africa, and while there I was able to sample a small taste of Adichie’s popularity in Sweden: on the hostel’s “give a book, take a book” shelf was a copy of Adichie’s Americanah—I was looking for something to read and would eagerly have snapped it up, were the copy on the shelf not in Swedish!

Here’s the TED Talk that started it all:
 

 
via Internet Magic
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
William Burroughs’ ‘Thanksgiving Prayer’—now more than ever!
11.26.2015
09:08 am

Topics:
Literature

Tags:
William Burroughs
Thanksgiving prayer


 
“A Thanksgiving Prayer” by William Burroughs was written 30 years ago and it is as relevant now as the day Burroughs put it to paper. AIDS, the war on drugs, cops killing Blacks, homophobia, Big Brother…If anything, it’s gotten worse.

So what is there to be thankful for? The right to talk about it.

To John Dillinger and hope he is still alive.
Thanksgiving Day November 28 1986

Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts.
Thanks for a continent to despoil and poison.
Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger.
Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin leaving the carcasses to rot.
Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.
Thanks for the American dream,
To vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through.
Thanks for the KKK.
For n*gger-killin’ lawmen, feelin’ their notches.
For decent church-goin’ women, with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.
Thanks for “Kill a Queer for Christ” stickers.
Thanks for laboratory AIDS.
Thanks for Prohibition and the war against drugs.
Thanks for a country where nobody’s allowed to mind their own business.
Thanks for a nation of finks.
Yes, thanks for all the memories—all right let’s see your arms!
You always were a headache and you always were a bore.
Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
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