Pianist Billy Taylor died yesterday at age 89, leaving a lasting legacy as America’s consummate jazz advocate.
Soon after getting his degree in Music Education, the Washington D.C.-raised Taylor became the house pianist at New York’s legendary Birdland, where he stayed throughout the ‘40s and ‘50s, playing with Bird, Dizzy and Miles and solidifying his role as a fixture and statesman in the city’s jazz scene.
But Taylor is perhaps best known as this country’s premier jazz educator, among the first to declare jazz “America’s classical music.” His long-running Jazzmobile project has produced concerts and educational programs throughout the American Eastern seaboard for 45 years.
Taylor was also the first to bring jazz thought and theory to mainstream American radio and TV. He was the jazz correspondent on CBS News Sunday Morning and on NPR.
But before all that, as the McCarthy era faded and Jim Crow was on its last gasp, Taylor was music director on an NBC show called The Subject is Jazz, which ran in 1958.
After the jump: Watch Nina Simone sing the Taylor-penned Civil Rights movement anthem “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free”…
“Naturally, love’s the most distant possibility”—Georges Bataille
Georges Bataille—the French academic and author of Story of the Eye, the pervy, transgressive erotic novel beloved by Susan Sontag, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida—was only interviewed on television one time, in 1958. It’s fairly easy to see why after viewing this clip! Seen here, Georges Bataille discusses his book Literature And Evil with interviewer Pierre Dumayet.
Why don’t I believe in God? No, no no, why do YOU believe in God? Surely the burden of proof is on the believer. You started all this. If I came up to you and said, “Why don’t you believe I can fly?” You’d say, “Why would I?” I’d reply, “Because it’s a matter of faith.” If I then said, “Prove I can’t fly. Prove I can’t fly see, see, you can’t prove it can you?” You’d probably either walk away, call security or throw me out of the window and shout, ‘’F—ing fly then you lunatic.”
This, is of course a spirituality issue, religion is a different matter. As an atheist, I see nothing “wrong” in believing in a god. I don’t think there is a god, but belief in him does no harm. If it helps you in any way, then that’s fine with me. It’s when belief starts infringing on other people’s rights when it worries me. I would never deny your right to believe in a god. I would just rather you didn’t kill people who believe in a different god, say. Or stone someone to death because your rulebook says their sexuality is immoral. It’s strange that anyone who believes that an all-powerful all-knowing, omniscient power responsible for everything that happens, would also want to judge and punish people for what they are. From what I can gather, pretty much the worst type of person you can be is an atheist. The first four commandments hammer this point home. There is a god, I’m him, no one else is, you’re not as good and don’t forget it. (Don’t murder anyone, doesn’t get a mention till number 6.)
When confronted with anyone who holds my lack of religious faith in such contempt, I say, “It’s the way God made me.”
A must-read article from The New York Times about brilliant, 70-year-old physicist Geoffrey West, who has found a way to crack the code of what happens when population density occurs. West, has, in essence, turned the concept of a “city” into an elegant mathematical formula:
After two years of analysis, West and Bettencourt discovered that all of these urban variables could be described by a few exquisitely simple equations. For example, if they know the population of a metropolitan area in a given country, they can estimate, with approximately 85 percent accuracy, its average income and the dimensions of its sewer system. These are the laws, they say, that automatically emerge whenever people “agglomerate,” cramming themselves into apartment buildings and subway cars. It doesn’t matter if the place is Manhattan or Manhattan, Kan.: the urban patterns remain the same. West isn’t shy about describing the magnitude of this accomplishment. “What we found are the constants that describe every city,” he says. “I can take these laws and make precise predictions about the number of violent crimes and the surface area of roads in a city in Japan with 200,000 people. I don’t know anything about this city or even where it is or its history, but I can tell you all about it. And the reason I can do that is because every city is really the same.” After a pause, as if reflecting on his hyperbole, West adds: “Look, we all know that every city is unique. That’s all we talk about when we talk about cities, those things that make New York different from L.A., or Tokyo different from Albuquerque. But focusing on those differences misses the point. Sure, there are differences, but different from what? We’ve found the what.”
It caused nausea and vomiting when first shown at the Cinephone, Oxford Street, in London. Some of the audience demanded their money back, others hurled abuse and shouted “That’s sick,” and ““Its disgusting.” This was the idea, as writer William Burroughs and producer, Antony Balch wanted to achieve a complete “disorientation of the senses.”
Balch had a hard-on for the weird, unusual and sometimes depraved. It was a predilection born from his love of horror films - one compounded when as a child he met his idol, Bela Lugosi, the olde Austro-Hungarian junkie, who was touring Britain with the stage show that had made him famous, Dracula. Film was a love affair that lasted all of Balch’s life.
He also had a knack of making friends with the right people at the right time. In Paris he met and hung out with the artist Brion Gysin and druggie, Glaswegian Beat writer, Alexander Trocchi, who was then writing porn and editing a literary mag called Merlin, along with the likes of Christopher Logue. Through them, Balch met the two men who changed his life, Burroughs and Kenneth Anger.
Anger helped Balch with his ambitions as a cinema distributor, getting him a copy of Todd Browning’s classic Freaks, which was banned the UK, at that time. Balch paid Anger back when he later released his apocalyptic Invocation of My Demon Brother as a support feature.
Burroughs offered Balch something different - the opportunity to collaborate and make their own films. This they did, first with Towers Open Fire, an accessible montage of Burroughs’ routines, recorded on a Grundig tape recorder, cut-up to Balch’s filmed and found images of a “crumbling society.” Put together stuff like this and the chattering classes will always take you seriously. But don’t doubt it, for it was good.
But it was their second collaboration, Cut Ups which for me is far more interesting and proved far more controversial. Cut Ups was originally intended as a documentary called Guerilla Conditions, and was filmed between 1961 and 1965 in Tangiers and Paris. It included some footage from Balch’s aborted attempt to film the unfilmable Naked Lunch. The finished material was collated and then conventionally edited - but the process didn’t stop there, no. For Balch divided the finshed film into four sections of equal length, and then...
Gary Valentine (birth name Gary Lachman) was a founding member of Blondie, playing bass with the group from 1975 to ‘77. He wrote one of the band’s defining songs ‘X Offender’ and one of their biggest hits, ‘(I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear’. He went on to form his own band The Know in 1978 and briefly played guitar with Iggy Pop in 1981.
Valentine became a dedicated writer in 1996 and published his first book ‘Turn Off Your Mind: The Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius’ in 2001. His memoir ‘New York Rocker: My Life in The Blank Generation’ is one of the few accounts of the NY punk scene that gets it right. Since then he’s published a series of books on the occult, philosophy, psychology, suicide and politics. In this interview with Cherry Red Records’ Iain McNay, Gary discusses his musical past and his life long interest in the inner workings of the human psyche.
‘The Man We Want To Hang’ is a film shot by Kenneth Anger documenting an exhibit of Aleister Crowley’s paintings at London’s October Gallery in April 1998. The score is by Liadov.
I was amazed when I found this video. I thought I’d seen all of Anger’s films, but I was wrong. While it’s neither the trippy spectacle or erotic fetishism one expects of Anger, it still has moments where you sense the Anger ‘touch’. But mostly Kenneth steps out of the way and let’s Crowley’s paintings take center stage.
‘The Man We Want To Hang’, the title of the film also the title of the notorious Sunday Express article which had denounced A.C. as the “Wickedest Man In The World.” The title is also a pun on art being hung on gallery walls, and a possible reference to The Hanged Man of the Tarot—who appears in the film a few times—although nothing jumped out at me as I looked over that entry in The Book of Thoth to back up that line of thought (but I’m sure those with well wore copies of 777 and The Book of Thoth and a knack for undoing and uncovering occult puzzles may have better luck that I did ...)
The art works themselves—drawn of the collections of Keith Richmond, Jimmy Page and the Ordo Templi Orientis International—depict a variety of subjects. Simple landscapes of mountains, volcanoes and sea, serpents and malevolent beings from some daemonic reality, portraits of individuals familiar to those versed in A.C.‘s biography—such as Gerald Yorke and various Scarlet Women—and self-portraits of A.C., some evoking grey aliens or Lam.
If this was the only output of an artist they would have at most been a curious and obscure art historical footnote, if even that. But when put into the context of A.C.‘s life they have more value.
Throughout his life A.C. expressed his higher nature in a multitude of ways. Poetry, painting, ritual magick, sexual athleticism, writing, mountaineering, exploring higher consciousness. While he was middling in such expressions as painting and poetry, his non-fictional magickal texts are genius, a Joyce or Fassbinder of occult and esoteric philosophy, and most of us would be extremely lucky to create a single work of genius over a lifetime, let alone a multi-volumed network of texts like A.C.‘s.
Aside from his texts of magickal philosophy and ritual his other great work of art was his life, which encompassed the lowliest degradations and the highest and holiest exalted states. The art works provide a visual accompaniment to it—the settings, the personalities, the extraordinary experiences.
They also provide a reminder of A.C.‘s role as a prototype of the type of current creative spirit, with his multiple means of expression (poetry, art, journalism, adept, etc.) a forerunner of the of the typical artist of today, who is just as likely to write a novel, play in a band, star in a porn, run a small business, blog, than lock themselves in one monolithic way of expressing creative currents.
He ran a preview of this social reality movie like all successful intelligence agents do.” Jason Lubyk
Update: resident Crowley expert R. Metzger has informed me that The Man We Want To Hang is available as part of the Anger boxsets that were released a few years back. Available here.
Metzger also directed me to a film that Anger did on Crowley’s paintings called The Brush Of Baphomet, which you can watch after the jump…
Philip K. Dick’s third wife Anne R. Dick has written “a biography dressed as a memoir” called The Search for Philip K. Dick which has just been published by San Francisco press Tachyon. Anne and Philip were married for only five years but it was a very vital period in Dick’s evolution as a writer. As poet Jack Spicer said in regards to his own Muse (and this could certainly apply to Dick) “the Martian kept rearranging the furniture in his head.” In Dick’s case, the Martian was moving at the speed of sound.
Any new book on Dick is an event as far as I’m concerned and this one looks to be a significant contribution to the understanding of one of America’s most underrated and least understood writers of major distinction.
The book, while refraining from literary analysis, is invaluable for Dick fans and scholars because it’s told by the one person he was close to at an important turning point in his career. He wrote or developed roughly a dozen novels during his time in west Marin, including “The Man in the High Castle” (1962), his only novel to win the Hugo Award, science fiction’s biggest prize.
The writer Jonathan Lethem, who included five novels from this period in the Library of America anthologies he edited of Dick’s essential works, calls it Dick’s most fruitful time.
“The river of his literary ambitions — his interest in ‘respectable’ literature — joins the river of his guilty, disreputable, explosively imaginative pulp writing,” Mr. Lethem said in a phone interview. “It’s the most important passage of his career — more masterpieces in a shorter period of time.”
Read the NY Times piece on The Search For Philip K. Dickhere. And to purchase it click here.
I’ve always thought highly of Christopher Hitchens even when I’ve disagreed with him. As he deals with his own mortality, I now find him not only brilliant and witty, I find him inspirational. In this interview broadcast the other night on Australian TV, Hitchens discusses living (and perhaps dying) with cancer and his evolution as a thinker. Even with death lurking over his shoulder, Hitchens displays an amazing clarity of mind and fearlessness - a warrior.