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James Ellroy’s obsessive and murderous world
01:21 pm



James Ellroy. Often writes. In. One. Word. Sentences. Sometimes two. It’s a style he developed when editing his novel White Jazz—the final volume of his famous (first) L.A. Quartet. He thought the manuscript too long—the action held back by unnecessary descriptive passages—so he slashed whole paragraphs and sentences to one-word blasts. The result was powerful, explosive, relentless—like being punched by a champion heavyweight, or poked in the chest by a speed freak keeping your attention focussed on his latest conspiracy theory.

Ellroy is the greatest living historical novelist/crime writer—historical novelist is how he describes himself—writing rich, complex novels—filled with multiple plot lines and characters—all held together, with Tolstoyan skill, in a single narrative.
Ellroy as a child pictured next to his mother in news report of her slaying.
If the past is a foreign country then Ellroy is a pioneer of that territory. He maps out America’s hidden criminal history—a dark foreboding underworld—which he situates between the twin poles of his personal obsession: the unsolved murder of his mother in 1958 and the slaying of Elizabeth Short, the “Black Dahlia,” whose tortured, brutalized and severed body was discovered in January 1947.
LA Times report on the ‘Black Dahlia’ murder, 1947.
These two murders underscore much of Ellroy’s life and fiction. He was just a ten-year-old kid when his mother was murdered by person or persons unknown. The trauma of this act led Ellroy into a world of petty crime, drug addiction and prison. He daydreamed and plotted and ran movies in his head where he saved a fantasy amalgam of his mother and Elizabeth Short from torturous demise. He knew his life was in free-fall—he was on a one-way ticket to the morgue. After a near fatal incident—a lung infection caused by his drug and alcohol addiction—Ellroy saved himself by writing crime fiction.

Last year, Ellroy published Perfidia—the first volume of his second L.A. Quartet—which follows (in real time) factual public and fictional private deeds across Los Angeles in the days around Pearl Harbor. Perfidia documents the racism and brutality of the cops and everyday Angelenos as Japanese-Americans are rounded-up and dumped in internment camps. It is a remarkable book, an adrenaline charged assault on America’s secret history and is arguably the best book he has written.

In 1994, Nicola Black made an astounding documentary on Ellroy called White Jazz that followed his quest to find his mother’s killer. If that had been available I’d have posted it here. Instead here is James Ellroy’s Feast of Death a BBC documentary form 2001 that covers similar ground but with the added bonus of a round table discussion on the Black Dahlia killing held in the Pacific Dining Car restaurant between Ellroy and a bunch of ex-cops and interested parties—including a briefly glimpsed Nick Nolte.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Ubu Sings Ubu’: Pere Ubu meets Alfred Jarry in absurdist pataphysical mash-up
12:52 pm



More than a century after it premiered, the play Ubu Roi by French playwright Alfred Jarry remains one of the most singularly brilliant accomplishments in the history of drama, a dizzyingly absurdist mashup of Macbeth and Hamlet and King Lear. Its influence in drama is too massive to be detailed here, but more interesting is its impact on rock music. Not only did David Thomas and company decide to name their new Cleveland band after the protagonist of Ubu Roi—that’s a gimme. But much more to the point, rock heroes as diverse as the Fall’s Mark E. Smith and Coil and Henry Cow have drawn inspiration from the manic adventures of the King of Poland-assassinating revolutionary.

Finally, a veteran of the NYC stage, Tony Torn, had the brilliant idea of staging a production of Ubu Roi that incorporates the songs of Pere Ubu. The project is called Ubu Sings Ubu. Why did it take more than 30 years for someone to do this?? Not surprisingly, the unsettling genius of David Thomas and that of Alfred Jarry fit together like a fish and a trampoline, to employ a suitably Dada-esque trope.

Today is Saturday, January 10, and if you are in the New York area, you can see Ubu Sings Ubu tomorrow and Monday (January 11 and 12) at the Slipper Room at 167 Orchard Street with the appropriately eerie start time of 11 pm. Tickets cost $22 at the door but you can pre-order tix for a cool eighteen smackers.

The cast includes Julie Atlas Muz, called “the quintessence of fabulousness” by the Gay City News, and the choreography is by Dan Safer, who also co-directed. Ubu Sings Ubu was, hilariously, adapted from a version of the original French text of Jarry’s Ubu Roi that was then zapped into Google Translate.

We discussed the production of Ubu Sings Ubu with its co-director and star, Tony Torn:

Dangerous Minds: Has Ubu Sings Ubu been performed before?

Tony Torn: Ubu Sings Ubu premiered at the Abrons Arts Center on the Lower East Side in Manhattan in April 2014.

I live in Cleveland, and Pere Ubu swings a pretty big dick around here. Have you ever been to Cleveland?

Yes, my good friend the poet and artist Julie Patton lives there! Cleveland rocks.

Aside from the name, what is the connection between Ubu Roi and Pere Ubu, to you?

I was an obsessive fan of Pere Ubu’s music in high school! I wore out my LP of The Modern Dance. I later discovered Alfred Jarry’s proto-surrealist masterpiece Ubu Roi by looking into the band’s influences. The idea to mash them up came 30 years ago, and it finally happened last year. The concept is … the songs of the band, Pere Ubu, done by the character, Pere Ubu. It’s a silly joke, but it’s proved to be very deep in its own way.

Obviously Pere Ubu took their name from Jarry. Is there any thematic content in the songs that relates to Ubu Roi?

It’s more a sharing of sensibilities than any explicit correlation, at least in the genius of David Thomas’ songwriting. Although it’s true that the hook in the song “The Modern Dance” is “Merdre, Merdre.” This of course is the famous first line of Jarry’s Ubu Roi, where the character of Pere Ubu says the french word for “shit” with an extra syllable added…. this caused riots when the play premiered in Paris in 1896! Young William Butler Yeats was in the audience, and famously wrote, “After us, the savage god.”

How hard was it to match up Pere Ubu’s song titles to the plot of Ubu Roi?

It was surprisingly easy! They don’t relate directly on a lyrical level, but emotionally and dramatically they work like gangbusters. Take the two songs we turned into duets between Pere and Mere Ubu. “Non-Alignment Pact” and “Heart Of Darkness” become incredibly powerful when they are performed as playing out a relationship. And “Final Solution” is a super heavy thing to sing as Ubu goes to war against the Russian king. It all seems to fit super well.

If you could add one song by someone other than Pere Ubu, what would that song be?

Nothing but Pere Ubu! I tried to add Minutemen songs in an early concept but it was all wrong. D. Boon’s songwriting is too intellectual for Ubu!

Here’s a music video of the Ubu Sings Ubu Band’s rendition of Pere Ubu’s “Life Stinks”:

More absurdity after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Paul Thomas Anderson: David Foster Wallace was ‘the first teacher I fell in love with’
01:39 pm



Two days ago Marc Maron’s WTF interview with Paul Thomas Anderson, who is promoting his new Thomas Pynchon adaptation Inherent Vice was posted, and buried in that interview is an intriguing tale about Anderson’s days as a student in a class taught by revered author David Foster Wallace. It turns out that Wallace spent a year as an adjunct professor at Emerson College, and that happened to be the same year that Anderson was there as a student, and Anderson happened to take one of Wallace’s classes, in which they apparently read Don Delillo’s classic postmodernist novel White Noise.

Here’s the relevant portion of the interview, which takes place around the 38th minute, lightly edited for readability:

Anderson: [Being at Emerson College] just felt like a drag. It didn’t really. … And I would have to say, that probably was just because I didn’t find a teacher that kind of spoke to me. The funny thing was, is when I was at Emerson for that year, David Foster Wallace, a great writer who was not known then, was my teacher. He was an English teacher.  And, it was the first teacher I fell in love with. And I never found anyone else like that at any other schools that I’ve been to, which makes me really reticent to talk shit about schools or anything else, because it’s just like anyplace, like if you could find a good teacher, man, I’m sure school would be great.

Maron: So why didn’t you stay?

Anderson: He left.

Maron: So you were there with him for a year?

Anderson: Yeah.

Maron: And you spent a lot of time with him?

Anderson: You know why I didn’t stay? And in that classic move, I thought, “Oh, I want to get to New York. That’s where I’m supposed to go. I’m supposed to go to NYU,” ‘cause it had this good rep and all that. … And, dummy that I am, I did it, and I got there and I thought, “Well, I don’t want to be here. I wish I was back in Boston, you know, taking English classes.”

Maron: Did you spend a lot of time with David Foster Wallace?

Anderson: No. Just in class.

Maron: Oh really? You weren’t one of those guys that after class was like, “Hey, can I talk to you?”

Anderson: No. Uh, I called him once. He was very generous with his phone number, he said “Call me if you got any questions.” I called him a couple times.

Maron: Yeah? What did you say?

Anderson: I ran a few ideas by him about a paper I was writing. I was writing a paper on Don Delillo’s White Noise.

Maron: “Hail of bullets!”

Anderson: And I came up with a couple of crazy ideas, I don’t remember how the conversation went but I just remember him being real generous at like, you know,  midnight the night before it was due.

Maron: Really? You were freaking out, all jacked up?

Anderson: [Laughing] Yeah, basically!

Maron: “I’m almost done, man!”

Anderson: It was like, I think I’d written a pretty good paper. It was like, cooking a pretty good dish and at the last minute just panicking—“I got to add some more shit on, on top of it.”

Maron: Or you missed the point, like “Aww, that’s what it’s about!”

Anderson: Right. Yeah. There was no cut-and-paste back then, if you typed it out, you were….

Maron: That book was a life-changer for me, man.

Anderson: Was it really?

Maron: Little bit.

Anderson: I’d love to go back and read it again.

Maron: I would too, actually.

As it happens, Wallace paid close attention to at least two of Anderson’s movies, Boogie Nights and Magnolia, without ever betraying any inkling that he had ever had contact with the director, which frankly seems a little odd. Wallace had a prodigious intellect, and even if Anderson were the most anonymous shnook Wallace had ever had as a student—which seems unlikely—if you’re on the phone multiple times with him discussing White Noise, when a movie as big as Boogie Nights comes out just six years later (Anderson’s debut film, Hard Eight, came out just five years later), you’d think it might make a more lasting impression in a mind as capacious as Wallace’s. Be that as it may, Wallace had strong opinions about Boogie Nights and Magnolia, opinions that track my own precisely: he was tremendously impressed by Boogie Nights and didn’t much care for Magnolia.

In Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, the biography of Wallace that came out after Wallace’s 2008 suicide, author D.T. Max reports the following: “When Boogie Nights came out in 1997, Wallace called Costello and told him the movie was exactly the story that he had been trying to write when they lived together in Somerville.” “Costello” here is Mark Costello, a close friend of Wallace’s with whom he co-wrote the bizarre 1990 book Signifying Rappers: Rap and Race in the Urban Present. About Anderson’s follow-up to Boogie Nights Wallace was a good deal grumpier; according to Max’s account, Wallace “hated the acclaimed Magnolia, which he found pretentious and hollow, ‘100% gradschoolish in a bad way.’”

It’s tempting to say that Anderson (whatever Wallace thought of Magnolia) is the only director who could ever successfully direct one of Wallace’s works, and so on. Anderson is such a gifted director that he would be the first choice for almost any writer’s works, whether it be Delillo, Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, J.D. Salinger. He has just completed the first Pynchon adaptation with a fair degree of success. Of course, there already exists a Wallace adaptation, John Krasinski’s 2009 movie Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. It happens that Jason Segel is attempting to portray Wallace himself in The End of the Tour, an adaptation of David Lipsky’s memoir about Wallace titled Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. Segel has come under fire for daring to attempt to play Wallace, which makes sense primarily insofar as it’s exceedingly difficult to capture an intelligence like Wallace’s onscreen, and Segel has mostly played dumb guys in his career.

What’s been overlooked in the apparent linkup between Anderson and Wallace is a key shared point of interest, that being the adult entertainment industry. Anderson’s breakthrough success, Boogie Nights, is an affectionate look at the porn industry of the 1970s, which in the movie is eventually usurped by the more cutthroat and impersonal video-based porn industry of the 1980s, mirroring a progression that happened in real life. Anderson grew up in the San Fernando Valley and has often told of his youthful adventures figuring out that certain houses in the neighborhood were being used for porno shoots. (The subject comes up in the WTF interview too.) Wallace also had a keen interest in the porn industry, writing a piece of reportage for Premiere magazine on the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in 1998. The article was hilariously written under the pseudonymous byline “Willem R. deGroot and Matt Rundlet”; the title of the piece was “Neither Adult Nor Entertainment.” It’s the first essay in Consider the Lobster, Wallace’s second collection of non-fiction works, although the title’s been changed to “Big Red Son.”

But the AVN story is just a small part of it. At one point, around the time he and Costello were working on the hip-hop book, Wallace, according to Max, spent a considerable amount of time trying to write a novel set in the pornography industry, one that never got finished:

Another nonconformist industry now caught his eye: the pornography business. Pornography fit well into Wallace’s ongoing areas of inquiry: it linked to advertising—the thing really being sold was the idea that we are all entitled to sexual pleasure, which in turn feeds the secondhand desire that Wallace saw at the root of the American malaise.

You can see this idea playing out in Wallace’s masterpiece Infinite Jest, in the “samizdat” that is so entertaining that its viewers lose interest in everything else and eventually die. In The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Costello (pretty hilariously) reported on Wallace’s research methods for the book as follows:

Wallace set timetables for his work, intricate as the Croton-on-Hudson local. Get up. Talk on phone with porn actress famous for giving screen blow jobs. Hang up. Ask: is the porn queen an actress? Look up actress in the OED. Actress: a female actor. Look up actor: one who acts in a drama. Surely a blow job is an act. OK then: is a blow job drama?

Not surprisingly, per Max, Wallace soon came to think that some “actual on-set knowledge might help.” It’s in this context that Wallace’s interest in Boogie Nights becomes more evident. According to Max, Wallace “came to think that what was needed was a reported piece on how the industry had changed as the so-called golden age of porn gave way to the era of inexpensive and inartistic video,” which is precisely the perspective that Anderson offered in his highly confident and knowing movie about porn.

Here’s The Dirk Diggler Story in full, the half-hour movie Anderson made in 1988 that many years later would become the core of Boogie Nights.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The man whose stocking expanded: The Fall’s Mark E. Smith reads Lovecraft. For Christmas.
10:28 am



They say music should be fun / like reading a story of love / but I wanna read a horror story.”

Readers, if this post seems disjointed and disordered—if I sometimes lose the eldritch thread that knits together the all-too-discrete patches of this bafflingly incoherent holiday quilt—it is because I am slowly going mad with terror as I write these words. You see, I’ve just watched Mark E. Smith read H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Colour out of Space,” filmed in 2007 as part of BBC Collective’s Christmas festivities. And indeed, what better way to celebrate the birth of our Lord?

If you haven’t read “The Colour out of Space,” it’s basically the same story as O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.” The main difference is that, instead of the woman selling her hair for a watch chain and the man selling his watch for some combs, there’s an extraterrestrial plague that kills the livestock, blights the crops, and drives everyone mad with terror. Merry Christmas! If you think about it, Mark E. Smith is kind of like Santa Claus, too, except instead of a bottomless sack of prezzies, he carries around a ruined stomach full of bile.

MES explained how he selected this festive text at the BBC Collective site:

I’ve been a fan of HP Lovecraft since I was about 17. I chose to read this story because it’s very unusual for him; it’s not like his other tales. They are usually about people who live underground, or threats to humanity - which I like as well - but The Colour Out Of Space is quite futuristic. He wrote it in 1927, which is weird.

I’m writing my own book at the moment. It’s supposed to be my autobiography, but I’ve put a few short stories in it too. It’s out in April 2008. My stories are very much like Lovecraft’s actually. Everyone wants me to write about dark and doomy things, like my lyrics. But some of my stories are quite cheerful.


Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Charles Bukowski loathed potheads: ‘I like drunkards, man’
12:17 pm



Bukowski Bottles
Despite being a famously proud drunkard of monumental proportions, author/brawler Charles Bukowski didn’t have a lot of nice things to say about other forms of mind-altering pursuits, especially marijuana. The inebriated bard shares his thoughts on drug use in the interview below and it’s anything but your typical “just say no” statement. 

In a discussion that’s more about what you choose to say yes to, Bukowski unsurprisingly embraces alcohol as a life affirming “release of the dream” after a hard day’s work at a shitty job. Then, after categorically classifying himself as being anti-drug, Bukowski does a few impressions of pot smokers as space cadets and asserts that for otherwise intelligent people and even for casual tokers, “all mind circulation and all spirit has been cut off” once Mary Jane enters the picture. 

“Be an alcoholic. If you’ve gotta be anything, be an alcoholic” he says.

This is #10 of the 53 segments that comprise the cult classic The Charles Bukowski Tapes, a collection of short interviews with the writer, videotaped and assembled by Barbet Schroeder in the early 80s. The German director of Barfly shot about about 64 hours of footage during the three-year pre-production period of that film and the segments were culled from that. There are a variety of NSFW comments floating around in this one, so be warned.

Posted by Jason Schafer | Leave a comment
Robert Anton Wilson’s ‘punk’ album: ‘YOU’VE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR MINDS!!’
10:42 am



In many of Robert Anton Wilson’s books, the “about the author” page mentions that Wilson recorded a punk rock album called The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy. This is one of those records I would have given a tooth for in the pre-filesharing era. I’ve still never come across a physical copy of it, but a glance at the marketplace suggests it’s not as rare as it once seemed.

Recorded while Wilson was living in Ireland in the mid-‘80s—avoiding Reagan’s presidency, if memory serves—The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy is the first LP by Irish garage-psych rockers the Golden Horde. Wilson contributed vocals (spoken) to most of the songs, and he wrote the lyrics to “Black Flag” and “Lawrence Talbot Suite.” Unless you are a hardcore Nuggets person, it might take some imagination to hear this as “a punk rock record.” To me, the Golden Horde often sound like a less proficient Rezillos, which is a beautiful thing, but fans of the Queen Haters might be disappointed. These vinyl rips are not of the finest quality, though I doubt this LP was ever destined to deliver an audiophile experience.


“Black Flag” by the Golden Horde with Robert Anton Wilson:

And the rest of the LP:

The Chocolate Biscuit
Young and Happy
Communist for the FBI
Little U.F.O.
Lawrence Talbot Suite


Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Picasso’s poetry: Painting with words
09:53 am



Pablo Picasso’s first attempt at poetry was a brief thank you note to the poet Guillaume Apollinaire written in French sometime around 1906. Picasso did not take the craft seriously until 1935 when at the age of fifty-three he began writing poems almost every day until the summer of 1959. Picasso started writing at a moment of crisis when he claimed he had given up painting after his wife Olga Khokhlova had left him and a messy divorce seemed imminent. He began by daubing colors for words in a notebook before moving on to using words to sketch images.

His writing owed much to the influence of Apollinaire and the Surrealists, and he received considerable support from writers such as the Surrealist poets André Breton and Michel Leiris, the latter describing Picasso as:

“[A]n insatiable player with words ... [who, like] James Joyce ... in his Finnegans Wake, ... displayed an equal capacity to promote language as a real thing (one might say) . . . and to use it with as much dazzling liberty.”

Artist and writer Roland Penrose said Picasso’s wrote word paintings where language was used as a painter used colors, can be seen in this poem:

...the blue memory borders white in her very blue eyes and piece of indigo of sky of silver the white white traverse cobalt the white paper that the blue ink tears out blueish its ultramarine descends that white enjoys blue repose agitated in the dark green wall green that writes its pleasure pale green rain that swims yellow green…

At first, Picasso kept his writing secret, but slowly began sending long letters and poems to his friends as his confidence grew and he developed his own distinct voice and style. His writing was mainly stream of consciousness, unpunctuated word association with startling juxtaposition of images and at times an obsession with sex, death and excrement. Picasso wrote hundreds of poems concluding with The Burial of the Count of Orgaz in 1959, and two plays Le Désir attrapé par la queue (1941), which was performed by Picasso, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, under the direction of Albert Camus, and Les Quatre Petites Filles (1949). This is just a small selection culled from The Burial of the Count of Orgaz and Other Poems.

15 august XXXV

i am now here in the nest where the lamb and the bear—the lion and the zebra—the
wolf and the panther—the fox, the winter and the summer weasel—the mole and the
chinchilla—the rabbit and the sable weave in silence above an abandoned staircase
after the party has washed the week and wrung out the handkerchief raining a
perfume that wanders in search of its shape in a sad afternoon that has so many
reasons to stretch into the oil blue of a silk duvet the corner of his eye rips drowning in
shreds the landscape he sighed in the place where the beehive yearns to form its ice

17 august XXXV

a cup of coffee courts the aroma everlasting
that corrupts the wing shaking a harmonium
caressing her timid white flesh as
kisses breeze through the window
fill the room with goldfinch words fluttering
in the ear soundless and singing
and laughing crazy trills through his veins

8-9 november XXXV

jacket of
electric light bulbs
sewn with finest
invented by the bull

10 november XXXV

on the dining room table above a colossal carpet color of dry blood the ashtray
packed with butt-ends looked just like a little death’s head that stuck out its tongue at
me today this very night november tenth a quarter after ten by now which with three
more should make eleven by the clock which then will strike the hour

12 november XXXV

Young girl correctly dressed in a beige coat with violet facings 150.000 – 300 – 22 – 95
centimes a madapolam combination checked and adjusted with an allusion to
hermine fur 143 – 60 – 32 a brassiere the open edges of the wound held separated by
hand pulleys making the sign of the cross perfumed with cheese (Reblochon) 1300 –
75 – 03 – 49 – 317.000 – 25 centimes openings up to date added on every second day
set into the skin by shivers kept awake by the mortal silence of the color lure genre
Lola of Valence 103 plus the languorous looks 310 – 313 plus 300.000 – 80 francs –
15 centimes for a forgotten glance on the dresser – penalties incurred during the game
– throw of the discus between the legs by a succession of facts which for no reason at
all succeeded in making themselves a nest and in some cases transforming themselves
into the reasoned image of the cup 380 – 11 plus expenses but the so academic draw-
ing model for all of history from his birth until this morning doesn’t cry even if one
steps on the finger that points to the exit but spits out his nosegay with the drinking
glass only the smell organized in regiments and parading by flag up front only if the
tickling of desire doesn’t discover the auspicious place to transform the sardine into a
shark the shopping list gets longer only from that moment on without the inevitable
stop at the table at lunch time to be able to write while sitting in the middle of so
many mixed hyperboles with the cheese and the tomato

14 november XXXV

Eugenia fragrant
little chapel of
clothed in

15 november XXXV

when the bull — opens the gateway of the horse’s belly – with his horn — and sticks
his snout out to the edge — listen in the deepest of all deepest holds — and with saint
lucy’s eyes — to the sounds of moving vans —tight packed with picadors on ponies —
cast off by a black horse — and escaping now and rising like a butterfly — the
mangled belly of the mare — a little white horse — sees inside the conduit which sings
as the blood dances trickling from a faucet in her breast — a circus horse — stands upright
on his feet rear end decked out with blue and silver — white and blue feathers set on
top atop his head — between his two ears — and a pair of hands applauding —
plucks his eyes out from in front – the team of mules that block his sight — that
bounce and drag — his guts along the sand — and screws the eye of the photographer
— somewhere above the banquet table — and pulls the wire out — a little at a time —
into the out of doors — and winds it in a ball — then draws a likeness of his face so
beautiful — onto a silver plaque — that spatters — clenched fist — clean — the sun

24-28 november XXXV

tongue of fire fans the face inside the flute the cup
that singing nibbles the blue knife wound
lightly lightly
seated in the toro’s eye
inscribed inside its head adorned with jasmines
waiting for the veil to swell
the crystal fragment
wind wrapped in fold of cape two-handled sword
caresses gushing
handing bread out to the blind man and the lilac colored dove
its wickedness crammed tight against the burning lemon’s lips
with horn contorted
spooking the cathedral with its farewell gestures
swooning in his arms without an olé
a glance that blows apart the morning radio
that in its kisses photographs a bedbug sun
sucks out the fragrance from the dying hour
and moves across a page in flight
it tears the flowers into shreds and carries them away tucked in between a sighing
and fear that still can smile
a knife that jumps for joy
right now this very day left floating in whatever way it wants to
this exact and necessary moment
at the summit of the well
a cry rose-colored
for the hand that casts it down
a little act of christian love

10 october XXXVI

flesh decomposing in its miserable shagreen accordion squeezing the love-torn
body rapidly spinning the wool bleeding so in the despairing place in
the crown of thorns nest of twigs at the sound of the tambourine awakened
by the miserable memory left by the vomit that smells of jasmine
glued to the back of the eye wearing cafe tables as sashes wrapped round her
neck sounding the alarm reproducing her image in all the mirrors
with all the blows struck on the cheeks of her bells the tralalala of the
tralalalettes biting the rainbow’s neck the bra of the tempest caught
in a snare now whistles between the comb’s teeth and twists in her hands
the mirror asleep on her breast abandoned to its fate

comical alphabet letter stitched on hot coal drunk from wineskin hand
distance color deleted from the list of mortals sinks claws in the
saving copper of forehead against stone if life cooks great banquet hall
feasts of cabbage smell on its knees in a corner his stew of hopes sing
Carmen sing and you Cleopatra and mice on the big fishermen’s bodies lined up
on the bank of the canal under the table open to the lie the chairs around
it rise and attach themselves to the walls of the director’s office of the
young villa Marie-Rose waiting for the frog to lick clean the hours that make
the fabric of her pretty umbrella sticky and if the weather is clear
listen to the crack when in my chest breaks the perfume of the
stick the arrow painted on the fan tossed on the bed the luminous alarmed panther
sheen of her regard with an electric aroma a most disagreeable noise
spreading a dreadful odor of stars crushed underfoot

2 july 38

drop by
pale blue
the claws of
green almond
on the rose

This selection of Picasso’s poetry, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz and Other Poems, is available as a sampler from Ubu here. Below the complete three part documentary Picasso: Magic, Sex & Death presented by Picasso’s biographer John Richardson from 2001.

Via Ubu.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
James Baldwin asks ‘How are white Americans so sure they are white?’
12:52 pm



In 1963, James Baldwin wrote two essays that examined the role of race and racism in the history of America. Published in The New Yorker, Baldwin’s first essay, written in the form of a letter to his fourteen-year-old nephew on the 100th anniversary of Emancipation explained “the crux of [his] dispute with [his] country”:

You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits to your ambition were thus expected to be settled. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence. You were expected to make peace with mediocrity.

Baldwin developed his historical and political analysis in his second essay in which he described his own experience of religion, criticising both Christianity and Islam as being culpable in maintaining ethnic division and oppression—where the white oppressors had attempted to destroy black men and women:

...the truth about the black man, as a historical entity and as a human being, has been hidden from him, deliberately and cruelly; the power of the white world is threatened whenever a black man refuses to accept the white world’s definitions. So every attempt is made to cut the black man down—not only was made yesterday but is made today.

Baldwin’s essays proved so popular and influential they were collected and published book form as The Fire Next Time later the same year. This book placed Baldwin as one of the major figures in the American civil rights movement of the 1960s, and as one of the greatest public intellectuals of the twentieth century.

In 1968, along with comedian and activist Dick Gregory, James Baldwin gave a talk at the West Indian Student Center in London, where he and Gregory discussed the American black experience in relation to the Afro-Caribbean experience in Britain. The seminar was documented by a young filmmaker Horace Ové, who filmed the proceedings and later edited the footage into a documentary called Baldwin’s Nigger (1969).  Though there is nothing special in the way in which Ové filmed the meeting (mainly in a flat, news-report style), it is the content of what each participant said, in particular Baldwin, that makes Ové‘s film so important, as he had fortunately captured an important debate and conversation between Baldwin, Gregory and the audience about ethnicity, identity, politics and racism at a crucial moment in world history.

Baldwin began by talking about a visit to the British Museum where he got in conversation with a West Indian man who asked the writer where he was from.

I told him I was from Harlem. That answer didn’t satisfy him…
“Yes,” he said “But man, but where were you born?”
And I began to get it.
“Well,” I said, “My mother was born in Maryland, my father was born in New Orleans, I was born in New York.”
He said, “But before that where were you born?”
And I had to say, “I don’t know.”

Baldwin went onto explain why he doesn’t know—for his ancestral entry into America was by a “bill of sale, which stops you from going any further.”

But Baldwin wasn’t interested in just offering personal historical context of the black American experience, he also asked provocative and difficult questions about white ethnicity and the complex relationship between all Americans:

White men lynched negroes knowing them to be their sons. White women watched men being lynched knowing them to be their lovers… How are white Americans so sure they are white?

The point is racism damages everyone.

In light of the institutionalised racism exposed by the Michael Brown fiasco in Ferguson, the killing of Eric Garner in New York and the rise of racist and xenophobic politics across Europe and the Middle East, Horace Ové‘s film of James Baldwin and Dick Gregory is necessary viewing.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
William S. Burroughs buys a parrot, 1963
11:51 am



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 | Leave a comment
Awful things: Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli publishes his photographs in book of seedy haiku
09:47 am




She placed the barrel
under her chin and smiled big
quick, take a picture

Amid the flurry of renewed Afghan Whigs activity over the last couple of years (their new album, Do to the Beast is 100% worthy of the band’s legacy, in case you wondered), an altogether different project by that band’s singer Greg Dulli is attracting notice. Dulli’s contributed his photographic work to illustrate I Apologize in Advance for the Awful Things Im Gonna Do, a book of haiku (you read that right) written by former Cat Butt/Dwarves member (you read that right, too) Danny Bland. Bland and Dulli aren’t the only figures from independent music involved in I Apologize… Calligraphy was contributed by X vocalist Exene Cervenka, the book was designed by Camper van Beethoven/Monks of Doom’s Victor Krummenacher, and it’s been published by Sub Pop, the record label that introduced Cat Butt and Afghan Whigs to the world.

I hid the razors
you bought, you sucked the pills from
my throat, quid pro quo

Though they all strictly adhere to haiku’s typical 5-7-5 syllable count, Bland’s haiku are far from traditional—not only do they not take nature as their subject, these poems are just downright raw and seedy. His debut novel, last year’s In Case We Die, was a junkie fable of porn, bad relationships, and damaged humanity, and his haiku hit all the same notes, often with a brutal sense of humor.

I paged my sponsor,
I paged my dealer, then I
waited; heads or tails

While Dulli’s lyrics can often revolve around similar themes of wastedness, obsession, and human relationships gone horrifically wrong, his photographs don’t particularly strike those chords. The most engaging shots seem intended to evoke moods or represent emotional states, concealing as much about reality as they reveal. (The least interesting images just straight up look like they could have been culled from a random art student’s Instagram account, but thankfully there’s not a whole lot of that.) Dulli talked a bit about his photographic work in an interview with the Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger:

I think a picture presents itself. For me, photography and songwriting both seem to start with a strange inspiration. I don’t necessarily go around looking for photographs, I wait to find them. [Pauses] It’s hard to quantify it exactly. Catching a picture is the same kind of spirit as catching a song. You hear a melody in your head, you start to interact with it—that’s what photography is to me.


Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
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