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Creative Writing 101 with Kurt Vonnegut
05.03.2011
08:31 pm
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Short, wry lecture by Kurt Vonnegut on the “simple shapes of stories.”
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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05.03.2011
08:31 pm
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Excellent documentary on Jean-Paul Sartre: ‘Human, All Too Human’ from 1999
04.22.2011
06:59 pm
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This documentary on Jean-Paul Sartre comes from the BBC documentary series Human, All Too Human,  which examined the development of Existentialism through the lives and work of three philosophers: Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Beginning with Sartre’s notion that he only ever felt “truly free” under the Nazi occupation of France, the film examines Sartre’s development as a writer and thinker, exploring the difficulties he faced and his often contrary and changing beliefs - what his biographer Ronald Hayman described in 1986, as Sartre’s “thinking against himself by what Marxists call contradictions in the situation.”

Hayman concluded in Writing Against: A Biography of Sartre:

“His influence is still enormous, but it cannot be analyzed because it cannot be isolated. Particles of Sartre are in the blood that flows through our brains; his ideas, his categories, his formulations, his style of thinking are still affecting us. Ripples are still spreading from pebbles he threw into the water…

“...A major part of Sartre’s achievement rests on his courage and obstinacy in asserting that we are what we make of ourselves.”

 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.22.2011
06:59 pm
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‘The Tillman Story’: Required viewing for anyone who gives a shit about the truth
04.22.2011
03:06 am
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Pat Tillman was killed, perhaps murdered, by “friendly fire” in Afghanistan seven years ago today.

“I’m Pat Tillman! I’m Pat fucking Tillman! Why are you shooting at me?”

With those livid last words, pro-football star and Army Ranger Patrick Daniel Tillman Jr.—who gave up a multimillion-dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals to serve his country and become the most famous enlisted man in Afghanistan—died in a fusillade of friendly fire on a rocky hillside near the Pakistani border. The bullets, coming at him from 40 yards away at a rate of 950 rounds per minute, were from a machine gun wielded by a member of his own platoon.

Update May 3: Was Pat Tillman killed in order to keep him quiet? General Wesley Clark thinks it’s a possibility. In a July 2007 interview with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, Clark had this to say about Tillman’s death:

If there’s even a hint that there was something like a homicide or a murder in this case, it should’ve been fully investigated and proved or disproved, and we don’t really know how far up- Was it the Secretary of Defense’s office? Was it the White House? Where did the idea that you shouldn’t give any indication of what happened to Tillman. ‘Just go ahead and go through with the burial ceremony. Give him the Silver Star.’ Where did that- where was that idea blessed? You can be sure that that idea did not originate or stop at the Two- or Three-Star level. That was- someone approved that all the way to the top, because Pat Tillman was a political symbol used by the administration when it suited their purposes.”

Tillman was an intelligent man who, when he realized that the war in Iraq was based on propaganda, deceit and lies, was prepared to return to the States as an outspoken critic of the war. Tillman had contacted Noam Chomsky to plan a joint anti-war statement and support John Kerry’s presidential election campaign. Radical for a soldier, to say the least, and an indication of just how fed up he had become with the path his country was taking in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In March of 2003, Tillman told his buddy Spc. Russell Baer, “You know, this war is so fucking illegal.” He urged his platoon to vote against Bush in the 2004 election. He had gone from being a political asset to the Bush administration to their worst nightmare. Certainly, it would be in the best interest of the war machine to have Tillman eliminated. 

In Amir Bar-Lev’s illuminating and heartbreaking The Tillman Story, we are confronted with the horrible truth of how our government manipulates its citizens and sacrifices its young in an effort to wage wars that are not only immoral but criminal.

Pat Tillman died for our sins—the sins of ignorance and blind allegiance to leaders who are nothing less than the embodiment of pure fucking evil. Will we be led into another pointless, endless war in Libya where once again the lines between the good guys and bad guys are so blurred that we don’t even know who to hate anymore? Maybe it’s time to hate ourselves for being weak-willed, spineless sheep. Maybe we deserve to be addressed in the same way that Pat Tillman’s father, Pat Sr., addressed the “investigators” involved in the cover-up of his son’s murder: “fuck you and yours.”

Watch the movie and then take your love for Tillman and your anger and do something with it. You can start by visiting the Pat Tillman Foundation’s website.
 

 
Parts two through seven after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Marc Campbell
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04.22.2011
03:06 am
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The Plot to Turn on the World: The Leary/Ginsberg Acid Conspiracy
04.21.2011
04:47 pm
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Over at his essential NeuroTribes blog, Steve Silberman—who knew poet Allen Ginsberg well for twenty years, and was his teaching assistant at the Naropa Institute in Colorado—interviews author Peter Conners about his new book White Hand Society: The Psychedelic Partnership of Timothy Leary & Allen Ginsberg, recently published by City Lights Books.

In November of 1966, the poet Allen Ginsberg made a modest proposal to a room full of Unitarian ministers in Boston. “Everybody who hears my voice try the chemical LSD at least once,” he intoned. “Then I prophecy we will all have seen some ray of glory or vastness beyond our conditioned social selves, beyond our government, beyond America even, that will unite us into a peaceful community.”

The poet had been experimenting with drugs since the 1940s as a way of achieving what his Beat Generation friends named the “New Vision,” methodically keeping lists of the ones he tried — morphine with William Burroughs, marijuana with fellow be-bop fans in jazz clubs, and eventually the psychedelic vine called ayahuasca with a curandero in Peru.

For Ginsberg, drugs were not merely an indulgence or form of intoxication; they were tools for investigating the nature of mind, to be employed in tandem with writing, an approach he called “the old yoga of poesy.” In 1959, he volunteered to become an experimental subject at Stanford University, where two psychologists who were secretly working for the CIA to develop mind-control drugs gave him LSD; listening to recordings of Wagner and Gertrude Stein in the lab, he decided that acid was “a very safe drug,” and decided that even his suburban poet father Louis might like to try it.

By the time he addressed the Unitarian ministers in Boston, Ginsberg had become convinced that psychedelics held promise as agents of transformative mystical experience that were available to anyone, particularly when combined with music and other art forms. In place of stiff, hollow religious observances in churches and synagogues, the poet proposed “naked bacchantes” in national parks, along with sacramental orgies at rock concerts, to call forth a new, locally-grown American spirituality that could unify a generation of Adamic longhairs and earth mothers alienated by war and turned off by the pious hypocrisy of their elders.

Ginsberg’s potent ally in this campaign was a psychology professor at Harvard named Timothy Leary, who would eventually become the most prominent public advocate for mass consumption of LSD, coining a meme that became the ubiquitous rallying cry of the nascent 20th-century religious movement as it proliferated on t-shirts, black-light posters, and neon buttons from the Day-Glo Haight-Ashbury to swinging London: Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.

Among those who took up the cause was the Beatles. John Lennon turned Leary’s woo-tastic mashups of The Tibetan Book of the Dead into one of the most profoundly strange, terrifying, and exhilarating tracks ever recorded: “Tomorrow Never Knows” on Revolver, which swooped in on a heart-stopping Ringo stutter-beat chased by clouds of infernal firebirds courtesy of backwards guitar and a tape loop of Paul McCartney laughing.

As the public faces of the psychedelic revolution, Ginsberg and Leary made a dynamic duo. The charming, boyish, Irish Harvard professor and the ecstatic, boldly gay, Hebraically-bearded Jersey bard became the de facto gurus of the movement they’d helped create — father figures for a generation of lysergic pilgrims who temporarily jettisoned their own fathers in their quest for renewable revelation.

By the close of the ’60s — which ominous stormclouds on the horizon in the form of violent debacles like Altamont, a Haight-Ashbury that had been taken over by speed freaks and the Mob, and Charles Manson’s crew of acid-addled zombie assassins — Ginsberg was already looking for more grounding and lasting forms of enlightenment, particularly in the form of Buddhist meditation.

The poet retained his counterculture cred until his death of liver cancer in 1997, but Leary didn’t fare as well. Subjected to obsessive persecution by government spooks like Watergate plumber G. Gordon Liddy, Leary launched a series of psychedelic communes that collapsed under the weight of their own ego-trips. Years of arrests, jail terms, spectacular escapes from prison aided by the Black Panthers, disturbing betrayals, and bizarre self-reinventions followed the brief season when the psych labs of Harvard seemed to give new birth to a new breed of American Transcendentalism that was as democratic as a test tube.

Read the interview at NeuroTribes.

Below, an early interview with Leary, before he started wearing the guru drag…
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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04.21.2011
04:47 pm
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The Fundamental Injustice That Is Poisoning the Nation
04.20.2011
10:16 pm
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A guest editorial courtesy of our super smart friend, Charles Hugh Smith. This essay is cross-posted from his essential Of Two Minds blog. Buy his book, Survival+

The guilty are powerful and free, the innocent burdened and oppressed: that is injustice.

There is a fundamental injustice that is poisoning the soul of the nation, and if it is not openly addressed then the nation will face the explosive consequences of institutionalized injustice.

Simply put, it is this: those responsible for the nation’s financial crisis and its catastrophic after-effects are not paying for the consequences of their actions—it is the innocent, those who were not responsible, who are paying the price.

You can call it whatever you want: the Anarchy of the Super-Rich (as per Paul Farrell), the Financial Power Elite, the financial Oligarchy, Plutocracy or Corporatocracy, or the unprecedented concentration of financial wealth and political power in a financialized post-industrial economy. Whatever you call it, we all know this class of financiers and its minions got away with high financial crimes.

Do the crime, do the time—unless it’s “white-collar” financial crime on a vast scale. Then you might pay a wrist-slap fine (a few million dollars from your treasure of embezzled hundreds of millions) and then you’re free to go on your merry way.

The after-effects are not just the losses which can be totalled on a calculator: the really catastrophic losses are to the foundations of democracy and the economy. Democracy has been subverted—oh please, spare us the happy-story propaganda about “reform” and “the system worked”—and the economy has been incentivized to favor poisonously addictive financialization and the shadow institutions of corruption, fraud, embezzlement, favoritism, collusion and misrepresentation of risk. This might be summarized as the protection of vested interests, engineered and overseen by the partnership of the ever more intrusive Central State and the nation’s Financial Power Elite.

The Central State, designed to protect the citizenry from an oppressive monarchy or Elite, now protects this Elite from the citizenry. That is how thoroughly the injustice has been institutionalized.

There is a second part to this fundamental injustice: look who will pay for the bailouts, guarantees and the interest on the borrowed trillions. Not the banks and bankers, to be sure. Who will pay? Those who the Central State can easily tap: taxpayers who earn most of their income from wages, and those politically weak players dependent on government payments.

Now that the bills of the bailout are coming due, the State isn’t going after GE for more taxes. Heavens no—if you try that, the Panzer Division of GE’s tax avoidance army would overrun you. No, the politically easy thing to do is raise taxes on wage earners and trim entitlements, because all the government needs to do is send down the orders and it is done: the taxes are withheld and the bennies trimmed.

To go after the Power Elite is just too difficult. They have the tax attorneys, the lobbyists, the campaign fundraisers, and all the rest.

The U.S. is just a third world kleptocracy on an Imperial scale. I explored the parallels with the Roman Empire in Survival+: the Elites increasingly avoided military service and taxation, the bedrock of Roman power, while the taxes on the middle class rose to such heights that this productive class was basically driven into serfdom. The bottom layer of State dependents was placated and made complicit with bread and circuses—yes, Rome had a vast “welfare state” and much of Rome’s population received free bread to keep them quiet and pliant.

That is of course a road to ruin: let the Elite plunder at will, protected by the Imperial Central State, tax the productive class to fund the armed forces and free bread, and then buy off the lower class with bread and circuses.

The only successful model of reconciliation and justice we have is the “truth commissions” in other post-oppression autocratic kleptocracies. In countries that were deeply divided and poisoned by institutionalized injustice and exploitation, the healing process requires a public, transparent “truth commission” in which the guilty are brought forth to confess their sins against the innocent and face the consequences of their actions.

If a society cannot rouse itself to cleanse the fundamental injustice at the heart of its institutions, then it is effectively choosing self-destruction.

So far, the U.S. is pursuing the Roman Imperial model with an institutional zeal unmatched since Rome’s fall.

Embedded institutional injustice has a price, a price which rises with every passing day of propaganda and prevarication. Some day the bill will come due and a terrible price paid in full. For those in power, the only concern is that it not be today or tomorrow.

Below, Charles Hugh Smith discusses his book Survival +
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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04.20.2011
10:16 pm
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Stefan Goldmann’s Everything Popular Is Wrong: Making It In Electronic Music Despite Democratization
04.15.2011
10:51 am
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Stefan Goldmann is an electronic musician based in Berlin, who specializes in minimal techno and who holds a residency at the city’s prestigious Panorama Bar. He’s also a pretty good writer. In this illuminating article for the website Little White Earbuds (translated from German) he explains the changes to music production and consumption over the last decade from the point of view of a small-scale, independent artist, specifically someone catering to a very niche taste.

Absurdly, the complete disappearance of economic barriers to distribution (offering a free download doesn’t cost more than the time to upload the file) hit the wallets of the “indies” first, stripping a substantial part of their income. This mostly affected the artists and the personnel around them: designers, engineers, studio musicians, promotion and label professionals, music journalists, et al. The mass of competition they encountered meant anyone with a limited marketing budget had a difficult time surviving in the market. With the same promotional tools available to almost anyone, they lost their efficiency.

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There’s this die-hard belief that income, at least for the musicians (but not for the professional environment), will come from the fees for live performances instead. But how do you get live performances in the first place? Well, press helps. The problem encountered there is that the media has adapted to the state of the music industry. In electronic music that means whoever succeeds in producing two singles may find himself covered by all relevant press and booked throughout the club circuit, just to be replaced by the next “lucky fool” (a term from stock speculation) about three months later. New artists get “pumped and dumped.” What about a year old break, a production that takes longer, or time for having a baby?

It’s not all doom and gloom—Goldmann has a surprisingly upbeat message for artists out there who are still dedicated to making and releasing music. I may not agree with everything he says in the article (or more specifically I may not feel it is wholly relevant to everyone) but the last few paragraphs and the post script almost read like a manifesto.

Highly individualized, lightly advertised work is way more attractive nowadays than consensus-style work, advertised to death (short, unsustainable hype is the most one can hope for there). People are starting to realize this. Many top labels stopped promoting their new singles for instance. It just appears in the shops and that’s it. It’s not unlikely that artists will increasingly lose their interest in having their output available all over and seek for a more intimate exchange with the audience. Why plaster the Internet with files? Who finds that valuable anymore?

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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04.15.2011
10:51 am
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Bob Herbert: ‘America has lost its way entirely’
03.28.2011
02:01 pm
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Sad to see that the great New York Times columnist Bob Herbert hung up his Opinion page soapbox yesterday. With Herbert’s departure and of course, Frank Rich leaving as well, the editorial page gravitas of The New York Times will be greatly diminished. How do you fill shoes like theirs? Herberts’s final piece, I gotta say is pretty heavy:

So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.

Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.

Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.

The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations. A college professor in Washington told me this week that graduates from his program were finding jobs, but they were not making very much money, certainly not enough to think about raising a family.

There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.

Americans behave as if this is somehow normal or acceptable. It shouldn’t be, and didn’t used to be. Through much of the post-World War II era, income distribution was far more equitable, with the top 10 percent of families accounting for just a third of average income growth, and the bottom 90 percent receiving two-thirds. That seems like ancient history now.

The current maldistribution of wealth is also scandalous. In 2009, the richest 5 percent claimed 63.5 percent of the nation’s wealth. The overwhelming majority, the bottom 80 percent, collectively held just 12.8 percent.

This inequality, in which an enormous segment of the population struggles while the fortunate few ride the gravy train, is a world-class recipe for social unrest. Downward mobility is an ever-shortening fuse leading to profound consequences.

You can read the entire essay “Losing Our Way” at The New York Times

In a note following his final weekly essay, Herbert, who is now 66, writes that he’s off to “expand my efforts on behalf of working people, the poor and others who are struggling in our society.” Few writers in America could convey the plight of the working poor in America to the readers of the New York Times—in a way that they can understand—the way that Herbert has for nearly two decades. Obviously the NY Times Opinion page is no small propaganda platform from which to advocate for the good of the common man and it’s a disappointment, as a longtime reader, that he’s leaving this post. Isn’t the great Bob Herbert more effective here than he could be anywhere else?

Herbert in his high profile role at the Times editorial department, along with Frank Rich, has been at the moral center of that great organization, In my lifetime, I’ve read enough words written by Bob Herbert that I am convinced—and have been for a long time—that he’s one of the smartest and wisest people in this country. Herbert has been such an important contributor to the American group mind for decades. I hope he’ll write again for the Times, and soon. His career has been one spent in service of a better America and his voice will really—really, desperately—be missed in the current era of such wild historical shit and upheaval. around the world. I will miss reading Bob Herbert and I salute him. He’s a good man.
 
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A great interview with Bob Herbert from The Progressive

Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.28.2011
02:01 pm
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1989 Brian Eno documentary: Imaginary Landscapes
03.26.2011
02:47 pm
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Here’s a 1989 documentary/ impressionistic portrait of DM patron saint Brian Eno that I’d never seen previously entitled Imaginary Landscapes: A Meditative Portrait. Featuring some great in-studio interviews and lots of er, imagery to go along with the ambient soundscapes and charmingly wobbly VHS artifacts, this has some nice moments. Besides, previously unseen/ unheard Eno documents are always welcome here.
 

 
Courtesy once more of Network Awesome

Posted by Brad Laner
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03.26.2011
02:47 pm
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Cats Quote Charlie Sheen
02.26.2011
01:21 pm
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Charlie Sheen should start a spoken word night… I’d be there. 

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More Charlie Sheen quotes after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Tara McGinley
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02.26.2011
01:21 pm
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Firesign Theatre: Duke of Madness Motors
02.23.2011
05:29 pm
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Peter Bergman and Firesign Theatre producer and archivist, Taylor Jessen, discuss the newly released box set of Firesign Theatre radio shows (1970-72), Duke of Madness Motors, featuring over 80 hours of MP3 audio on a DVD-ROM and a 108 page full-color book! Order your copy of Duke of Madness Motors today, because there are only 200 copies left and it’s unlikely to ever be reprinted.

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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02.23.2011
05:29 pm
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