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Legendary ‘zine Ben Is Dead turns 30: ‘We’re just gonna do it’
11.06.2018
09:20 am
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The fanzine Ben Is Dead was, and still is, a fucking LEGEND as far as ‘zines go so, interviewing founder Darby Romeo about her life and times was other-level-cool for me. Growing up in Los Angeles, certain things remain indelibly printed in my memory: driving by the enticing Anti-Club sign just before my mom got onto the 101 South, the sexy smell of leather jackets from rock shops on Hollywood Blvd, and this principle: comic book stores and coffee shops could be judged on quality based on whether you could find a copy of Ben Is Dead in their publications area. So therefore the mighty Bourgeois Pig, on Franklin Ave., rocked.

Ben Is Dead had collaborators from all walks of life, featured punk bands, performance artists and gender activists and didn’t believe that there was anything that couldn’t be talked about. It was an honest read and they had fun. Mostly run by women—and men who respected women—that, in itself, was something that my friends and I noticed. Ben Is Dead was a glowing engine that couldn’t be stopped—celebratory and wise-beyond-its-years, that ‘zine was a reflection of people, places and movements that were forces in and of themselves and could (and would) never be repeated again. It served as an unintentional documentary of life, art, culture and human existence in El Lay. And it was fucking cool, man.
 

Lorraine Mahru, left, one of Darby Romeo’s many Girl Fridays from Ben Is Dead, and Darby Romeo, right.
 
Ben is Dead’s founder, Darby Romeo briefly went to Pierce College, studying to be a graphic designer but quit school to get a job. She was temping and developing computer skills with the MacSE40 that she got from her father when she ended up temping as a secretary at Grey Advertising. She told the art director at Grey that she had graphic design training, and they ended up hiring her as an art director. I asked her about the beginnings of Ben Is Dead.

Darby Romeo: In the late 80s, I was already making $25/hr at Grey Advertising, and my only good friend there was this comic and the guy in the mailroom who sent out all the Ben Is Deads for free. But that’s basically what paid for Ben Is Dead. So I got the computer from my dad, I got this job at Grey, and that was it because you didn’t really make money on it [Ben Is Dead and ‘zines in general] you just spent money on it. So Grey Advertising kinda started Ben Is Dead. And the LA Times doesn’t really know this but they kinda helped us do our first issue for us! My dad would’ve hated that we did this but I kinda considered it to be like pro-bono and that they should be supporting zines, y’know? But I remember that this was right before the first issue came out and I was talking to someone at Flipside [another well-known and beloved LA punk-rock fanzine]  and I was like, “We’re gonna make 1000 issues!” or something like that and they [seemed unimpressed]. Cuz I didn’t know what I was doing! So someone from the LA Times snuck us in there at two in the morning and we printed another 1000 on the LA Times’ huge copy machines. So, thank you, LA Times! I don’t know what the statute of limitations on that is but, there’s a little known story!


How do you feel now that there is now a dedicated space at the UCLA Library Special Collections Punk Archive for the preservation and archiving of the entire Ben Is Dead collection?

Darby Romeo: I’m really thankful that this nerdy librarian lady came—what year did she come?—I think her name was Julie Graham, I can’t remember, but she would come over to the Ben Is Dead offices, I can’t remember the hook-up, but we would go through all the issues and I was looking at the archive and there were 78 boxes of ‘zines. We went through each one so that she could archive it. Like who would be that patient? We even archived the [letters to the editor] and included those, just knowing that there are people who are willing to do stuff like that—especially for ‘zines since they’re not online mostly, like 95% of the ‘zines are not online, and these libraries and people like her are vital! Having UCLA treasure these and keep them safe is amazing. So many of them are fading or falling apart or getting thrown away and in a few more decades those are going to be the only places besides your grandpa’s collection in the attic where you’re going to find them.

And we’re working on putting ours online but you can’t trust online as much as you can trust an archive that isn’t going to get tossed. Libraries are so important. And it’s so funny because in creating Ben Is Dead, we created it before there was an Internet. There was no Internet to find a photo, there would be a whole long process to print a photo! So it was a whole different thing creating ‘zines back then and having them in a place where we don’t have to worry if the Internet goes down, they’ll always be there, y’know?
 

A “Retro Hell Party” complete with Hostess HoHos. Party people include: Darby (blue dress), Reverend Al Cacophony (in black), Noel Tolentino of Bunnyhop (wearing a McDonald’s Grimace party hat)
 
What’s the difference between analog and digital research and how important were libraries to the creation of Ben Is Dead?

Darby Romeo:: We used the libraries much more back then than people do now… I just remember how much time I would spend in the microfiche section. I loved microfiche! I loved just sitting there and looking for old stuff and just going into the basement of the downtown LA Library and that smell and the old bookstores. But the libraries were important and the photos from Ben Is Dead—a lot of them were because my friend ran the photo department of AP. He was the archivist, basically of AP, so he’d slip us a bunch—so thank you AP for supporting Ben Is Dead!
 

 
While BID had many striking qualities, one unique aspect was the way it platformed the symbiotic connection that LA punk rock has with local queer icons and performance artists like Ron Athey and Vaginal Davis. Tell me about the Sean deLear video tribute that will be playing at the 30th anniversary Ben Is Dead Festival.

Darby Romeo: Stuart [Swezey, from Amok Books] was going to show Desolation Center [but then it was unable to be shown] and he came up with this bright idea and it’s so awesome and so touching because everyone loved Seande [Sean deLear] and Seande was such an influence in the scene and was such a big part of Ben Is Dead and played one of my favorite shows at Al’s Bar during our “Gross” issue. I love chickens now so I feel awful but everything was gross—we had chicken feet in bowls at the bar, and I remember people were throwing them at Seande and he was throwing them back during his set with Glue. Yeah, he was really vital. And we were all really shocked when he passed last year and we are really honored that Stuart is going to put together a documentary about his life because he did some interviews with him just before he passed for Desolation Center and stuff, so that will be playing early on in the day at the Zine Fest on Saturday.
 

 
Tell me some of your wildest Ben Is Dead stories…

Darby Romeo: A crazy story? Probably when Kerin wanted to interview Anton LaVey. I mean, you grow up goth dancing at Phases and Odyssey [local LA dance clubs] and all but I’m not into the REAL darkside or whatever. So [Kerin] was planning with Anton and his wife at the time a Ben Is Dead interview and he really liked the magazine. It was supposed to be me and her going [up to San Francisco] for the interview but at the last minute I’m like: Um, I don’t wanna meet Satan, nope, uh uh, I’m not going up there, nope nope nope! So I call up [Germs drummer] Don Bolles and I tell him that he has to go up there and do the interview instead and I’m just like freaking the fuck out. I just tell him “Go with Kerin and do this interview. She wants to do this interview.” And he said, “Okay, cool.” And then Anton said, “Nope.” It was like he knew I was petrified! He could just sense it! He was like we’re not doing the interview without Darby. And I was like “Nooooo!”

So we get to his house and they sleep by day and are up all night so we get there at night and he has this old house and it just smelled like Europe. We go in and we’re in the waiting area and his wife—Blanche was her name—she has her new baby with her and she leaves the baby alone in the room with us! So we go and check the baby to see if there’s a 666 on top of its head. We really did! They were so sweet and nice but Anton would not allow me to record the interview and that was like the worst nightmare because now you have to take notes and remember everything!  The Anton LaVey interview was the only interview we ever did that we gave someone permission to approve. And the thing was, he didn’t ask for any changes, he just approved it!
  

 
So we go to his favorite restaurant—Olive Garden—and I’m still distraught, I remember begging them to let me use my tape recorder, I remember hiding it for a little bit at one point, I remember having it in the bathroom at one point talking into it, saying some of the stuff he’d already said, documenting it out of my mouth. Then we go back to the house and his other favorite thing was animal cookies—the frosted ones [Mother’s brand, pink and white with little sprinkles]. So we’re sitting there, he’s playing the organ, we’re eating animal cookies, and I’m trying to write notes and it’s going on all night because that’s their daytime because they sleep all day and I’m wishing that we still did drugs! But the piece came out great and he was happy and he was a really nice guy but I never ended up joining the Church of Satan or whatever. 

You’ll probably never think of Olive Garden in the same way again.

There were a lot of stories around the “Sex” issue too [Most issues of Ben Is Dead had themes: the “Gross” issue, the “Broke” issue, the “Black” aka “Death” issue.] That’s when we actually started selling it and when we realized that we had a lot of fans. Like Jon Spencer was like, “Your “Sex” issue really inspired the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion,” um, what? Okay. Then we interviewed Malcolm McLaren and gave him the “Sex” issue and the same technological issues that just devastated us every single day—our voicemail system would sometimes just eat our voicemails—our voicemail being our Ben Is Dead Hotline which was how you found out about shows every week. So he calls and in his British accent he says, “Darby, this is Malcolm McLaren, y’know that ‘Sex’ issue I just want to tell you…” and it gets cut off! Fuck! What about the “Sex” issue? I go into the voicemail place and tell them that I need this voicemail back, where is this voicemail, and I think I got three months free and that was it! 
 

 
Is it true that you promised Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran that you would find him a massage therapist?

Darby Romeo: I told him I would get him a masseuse and the one lady that I thought I hooked up cancelled! I had a couple Girl Fridays over the years, and Jessy, Jessica Jones, was one of them—so I was like “Jessy! I have to go over to Simon LeBon’s! Help me get dressed!” And I put that red velvet dress on and the Elvis Penis [a wig Darby nicknamed the Elvis Penis—it was huge and bouffant-style], she stuck flowers from the vase that we had that we had gotten from Mrs. Gooch’s [a local LA health food store] in my hair and I go and I get in the car and the wig is hitting the top of the car and I go and I drive over to the Beverly something—they always stayed there.

So I get there and I’m valeting the car and I didn’t even know at the time that you’re supposed to have a massage table, right? That would make sense? So I have sunglasses on, and the car guys are like what the fuck is this? And I think I had my Fluevogs on—yeah, my Fluevogs, it was tragic—with (of course) this bright red lipstick, and I go to Simon’s door, and I knock and he opens the door and he looks and I’m like [in fake European accent] “Hello, I’m your massage therapist,” and he looks at me and he’s like what the fuck is this? And he didn’t know what to do so he opened the door and he’s like, what the fuck? And he sees that I don’t have a massage table but I don’t know that that’s a thing.

I later go on to become a massage therapist—I’m now a licensed massage therapist, by the way—so I’m sitting there on the couch and he knows me but I’m all dressed up with the glasses and everything and we’re having this full on conversation and he’s just trying to figure out what to do with me. Like “Who sent you? Darby knows you? What are you…?” And after about ten minutes I just busted out laughing and told him, “I couldn’t get you a massage therapist, I’m sorry!” and the fucker made me massage him anyway! I’m in this velvet dress with this Elvis Penis wig, he takes off all of his clothes, puts a towel on the floor, lays there, and I’m like: I have no idea what to do so I’m just kinda mushing him and stuff? And I don’t even think I had massage oil? Anyway, he had a cute little butt and he was a very sweet guy but…he didn’t even tip me!
 

 
And of course I have to ask about I Hate Brenda…

Darby Romeo: The thing about I Hate Brenda—and people never got it right then and the only reason we did it—was that we were on the side of the victims. The victims were like security guards at clubs who were like, “God, we’re getting abused because she [actress Shannen Doherty who played “Brenda” on TV’s Beverly Hills 90210]  was at the door, yelling at us because she’s not on the list and she’d be like, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’” and we just kept getting these stories and different stories [of Doherty terrorizing people] from labels and people in the scene and they just kept coming to us and we had no plans on doing a newsletter… at the time the fax machine was like social media so we made our version of a flyer or our version of a meme and it had Brenda on it and it said “I wash my hair in Evian” which was her thing and we pretended it was the “I Hate Brenda Newsletter” and we sent it out to everyone and they were like, “Oh my God! When is the I Hate Brenda Newsletter coming out? Oh you gotta include this and you have to interview Eddie Vedder! Oh you have to do this and dadadada and this story and this happened to me and all this stuff!” and that’s how that ended up happening. It’s not like we were really going to do anything but yeah. And what’s kind of weird in the scheme of things is that we would all go to bars or knock on the neighbor’s fucking door just to watch 90210. We’d be working in the offices and there was some model next door and we’d bang on her door and say, “No, you have to let us in! 90210 is on!”
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Ariel Schudson
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11.06.2018
09:20 am
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‘Sonnet Youth’: Jeffrey Lewis pens poems based on Sonic Youth album tracks


 
A lot of people have written sonnets, but nobody in the English language is more associated with the form than William Shakespeare.

In 1609 Thomas Thorpe issued a quarto edition containing Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets. The first 126 sonnets are addressed to a young man, but the final subset of sonnets are mostly addressed to a “dark lady.” A fun fact that is not very well known is that not all of the sonnets are actually sonnets in the technical sense. The sonnet forms Shakespeare was using have 14 lines, but Sonnet 99 has 15 lines and Sonnet 126 has only 12 lines.

When Jeffrey Lewis noticed that the words “sonic” and “sonnet” have a certain acoustical similarity and went so far as to imagine a series of mini-zines called Sonnet Youth based on classic Sonic Youth albums, it followed naturally that he might write a Shakespearean sonnet for each track of the albums he chose to highlight. Lewis has been active as a comic book artist and musician since the late ‘90s and likes nothing more than to poke fun at his musical heroes in songs like “The History of The Fall” (which appeared on the comp Perverted by Mark E) and “Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror.” Since 2004 he has put out a self-published comic book called under the title Fuff.

On his website has put up three mini-zines for the Sonnet Youth versions of Confusion is Sex/Kill Yr Idols, Goo, Daydream Nation. The first two are a dollar apiece but Daydream Nation is two dollars.

As the website explains,
 

Each line is in iambic pentameter (the rhythm of “To BE or NOT to BE, that IS the QUEStion…”) and each poem is structured into the sonnet structure of three quatrains and a closing couplet.  Naturally there’s also accompanying illustrations by Jeffrey.

 
Here’s Lewis’ sonnetic version of the song “Kill Yr Idols”:
 

It fills me up with anger and depression
There’s more to art than being on a list now
So why still try to make a good impression
On any music critic, even Christgau?

Leave behind all former tags and titles
Slay them with your brutal sonic force
As Nietzsche said, you have to kill your idols. 
All uncertainty is intercourse  

Keep skepticism strong and un-suspending
Perhaps that’s what the message of this tune is
The world you knew is coming to an ending
So kill it and embrace the crazy newness.

And kill me also, if I get too preachy.
Treat no one sacred—me, Christgau or Nietzsche.

 
It may not be great poetry but it is a damn sonnet and it does engage intelligently with Sonic Youth’s work.

All of the zines obviously come with a great many doodles drawn by Lewis—Shakespeare is prominent in the reworked album covers.

Images from Lewis’ Sonnet Youth zines after the jump…...

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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10.15.2018
11:29 am
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William S. Burroughs’ time-traveling experimental flexi disc, ‘Abandoned Artifacts’
08.10.2018
07:04 am
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Talk Talk Vol. 3, No. 6, cover art by William S. Burroughs

The Lawrence, Kansas label Fresh Sounds had a long-standing relationship with William S. Burroughs. In ‘81, owner and proprietor Bill Rich introduced Burroughs to Fresh Sounds recording artists the Mortal Micronotz, to whom the author gave his song lyric about child-chewing, “Old Lady Sloan.” Burroughs later read his Civil War tale, “Death Fiend Guerrillas,” for a Fresh Sounds compilation, and he recorded his own interpretation of “Old Lady Sloan” for a 1995 Mortal Micronotz tribute album.

Bill Rich also edited a magazine called Talk Talk, some of whose numbers came with Fresh Sounds flexi discs. One such issue was Vol. 3, No. 6, published in September ‘81, with cover art by WSB and, inside, a square, six-inch disc of the author reading from the first chapter of The Place of Dead Roads (page 10 in the Picador paperback)—or, more precisely, three Burroughses reading the same text at three different points in space and time. Abandoned Artifacts superimposes recordings from performances in Toronto, Chicago, and San Francisco, and it is downright spooky when they match in cadence and tone. Percussion by one Martin Olson juices the passage’s weird, incantatory power.

The interview with Burroughs from Talk Talk Vol. 3, No. 6 helps make sense of the title Abandoned Artifacts, especially if you don’t have The Place of Dead Roads handy:

Mr. B.: We are squandering time and time is running out. We must conceive of time as a resource. That is one of the concepts central to this book. Another is that people are living organisms as artifacts made for a purpose, not cosmic accidents, artifacts created for a purpose.

TT: What are some of the purposes?

Mr. B.: Space. Leaving the planet. We are here to go. This first chapter shows you the concept of living beings as artifacts which is developed much more in the rest of the book. Artifacts created for a purpose, just like arrowheads.

TT: Have you decided on a title?

Mr. B.: Oh, yes, Place of Dead Roads… The planet earth, place of dead roads, dead purposes.

Leaving the planet? Yes, please!
 
Have a listen after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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08.10.2018
07:04 am
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‘I went straight to Hell’: Philip K. Dick did NOT like LSD
08.03.2018
08:25 am
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‘The cross took the form of a crossbow, with Christ as the arrow…’
 
The interview with Philip K. Dick embedded below, recorded in Santa Ana on May 17, 1979, touches on many of the author’s experiences and obsessions—the combat his father saw in World War I, how he came to join the Episcopal Church (“My wife said if I didn’t, she’d bust my nose”), the dying rat who shook his faith, the coming of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s Omega Point, contemporary attitudes towards homosexuality, compulsory ROTC at the University of California, the time he got pancreatitis from using “bad street dope” cut with film developer, the constant threat posed by authoritarian movements—but I’ve cued it up to this vivid description of a bad, bad trip he had in 1964:

I only know of one time where I really took acid. That was Sandoz acid, a giant horse capsule that I got from the University of California, and a friend and I split it. And I don’t know, there must’ve been a whole milligram of it there. It was a gigantic thing, you know, we bought it for five dollars and took it home and we looked at it for a while—looked at it, we were all gonna split it up—and took that, and it was the greatest thing, I’ll tell you.

I went straight to Hell, is what happened. I found myself, you know, the landscape froze over, and there were huge boulders, and there was a deep thrumming, and it was the Day of Wrath, and God was judging me as a sinner, and this lasted for thousands of years and didn’t get any better. It just got worse and worse, and I was in terrible pain, I felt terrible physical pain, and all I could talk was in Latin. Most embarrassing, ‘cause the girl I was with thought I was doing it to annoy her, and I kept saying Libera me domine in die illa. You know, and Agnus dei qui tollis peccata mundi [...] and especially, Tremens factus sum ego et timeotimeo meaning “I’m afraid”—and I said Libera me, domine! Whining like some poor dog that’s been left out in the rain all night. Finally, the girl with me said “Oh, barf” and walked out of the room in disgust.

It was a little bit like when I rolled my VW. I mean, it was all very messy and strange. The only good part of it was when I looked in the refrigerator, and I hadn’t defrosted the refrigerator for a long time, and there was nothing in the freezer compartment. I looked in, and I saw this giant cavern with stalactites and stalagmites, and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Ashtray, with cigarette butts in it? Most horrible smell I’d ever smelled! But music sounded very beautiful.

About a month later, I got the galleys for Three Stigmata to read over, and I started reading the galleys, and I thought, “Oh dear, I can’t read these galleys. They’re too scary.” Because all the horrible things that I had written about in Three Stigmata seemed to have come true under acid. So I used to warn people then, that was ‘64, and I used to warn people against taking it. I begged people not to take it.

 

 
Dick put one of the characters in A Maze of Death through the same religious bummer, and he wrote about the ways the psychedelic experience resembled mental illness in two mid-sixties essays, “Drugs, Hallucinations, and the Quest for Reality” and “Schizophrenia & The Book of Changes.” The latter includes a passing reference to the eternity he spent in Hell one night:

Yes, friends, you, too, can suffer forever; simply take 150 mg [sic] of LSD—and enjoy! If not satisfied, simply mail in—but enough. Because after two thousand years under LSD, participating in the Day of Judgment, one probably will be rather apathetic to asking for one’s five dollars back.

Biographer Lawrence Sutin reports the eyewitness account of Dick’s friend Ray Nelson, who remembers the author “sweating, feeling isolated, reliving the life of a Roman gladiator, speaking in Latin and experiencing a spear thrust through his body.” Sutin also quotes this portion of a 1967 letter Dick wrote to Rich Brown, which discloses a few more details of the acid vision of God:

I perceived Him as a pulsing, furious, throbbing mass of vengeance-seeking authority, demanding an audit (like a sort of metaphysical IRS agent). Fortunately I was able to utter the right words [the “Libera me, Domine” quoted above], and hence got through it. I also saw Christ rise to heaven from the cross, and that was very interesting, too (the cross took the form of a crossbow, with Christ as the arrow; the crossbow launched him at terrific velocity—it happened very fast, once he had been placed in position).

Listen to what the man says, after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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08.03.2018
08:25 am
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The British neurologist who uses William S. Burroughs’ ideas to treat Parkinson’s disease


 
Though he never met William S. Burroughs, the British neurologist A.J. Lees credits the author as an important teacher in his recent book, Mentored by a Madman: The William S. Burroughs Experiment.

The expert in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases first encountered Burroughs on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. During the 1970s, after reading Naked Lunch, Lees began experimenting with apomorphine, the substance Burroughs advocated to cure junk addiction, as a treatment for symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

In 2013, again following Burroughs’ example, Lees traveled to the Amazon rainforest to take yagé, or ayahuasca. He told the Guardian that taking the drug “broke down certain rigid structures that were blocking innovations in Parkinson’s disease research.”

Lees has also used apomorphine and Brion Gysin and Burroughs’ Dreamachine to investigate visual hallucinations in Parkinson’s patients.

Below, in an interview at the Beat Hotel, Lees talks with Andrew Hussey about Mentored by a Madman. He’s also spoken about the book on Erik Davis’ Expanding Mind podcast and in a video for ACNR Journal
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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06.14.2018
07:08 am
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‘Europe after the Rain,’ classic documentary on Dada and Surrealism
05.03.2018
10:14 am
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‘Portrait of Andre Breton’ by Man Ray, c. 1930
 
Europe after the Rain, the Arts Council of Great Britain’s 1978 documentary on Dada and Surrealism, looks at the careers of André Breton, Tristan Tzara, Salvador Dalí, Antonin Artaud, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Kurt Schwitters, Yves Tanguy, John Heartfield, Giorgio de Chirico, Francis Picabia and René Magritte, among others. Sure, there are better ways to see these artists’ work than on YouTube, but this film is worth watching, because it makes both movements’ commitment to revolutionary left-wing politics explicit as few other surveys do.

Take this list from 1919, drawn up by Richard Huelsenbeck and Raoul Hausmann on behalf of the Dadaist Revolutionary Central Council:

Dadaism demands:

1) The international revolutionary union of all creative and intellectual men and women on the basis of radical Communism;
2) The introduction of progressive unemployment through comprehensive mechanization of every field of activity. Only by unemployment does it become possible for the individual to achieve certainty as to the truth of life and finally become accustomed to experience;
3) The immediate expropriation of property (socialization) and the communal feeding of all; further, the erection of cities of light, and gardens which will belong to society as a whole and prepare man for a state of freedom.

(The full manifesto goes on to demand free meals on Potsdamer Platz for “all creative and intellectual men and women,” the requisition of churches, “immediate organization of a Dadaist propaganda campaign with 150 circuses for the enlightenment of the proletariat,” and “immediate regulation of all sexual relations according to the views of international Dadaism through establishment of a Dadaist sexual center.”)
 

‘Europe after the Rain II’ by Max Ernst, 1940-1942
 
The movie is full of treasures: BBC interviews with Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp from the Sixties, a reading of Artaud’s “Address to the Dalai Lama,” an account of Freud’s meeting with Dalí. As usual in a film of this type, the attempts to dramatically recreate speeches by historical figures are embarrassing. I am not extra fond of the portrayal of Tzara as a supercilious toff. But the re-enactment of Breton’s dialogue with an official of the Parti communiste français is illuminating, and complements the other valuable material on the “Pope of Surrealism”: his work with shell-shocked soldiers in World War I, trials and expulsions of other Surrealists, collaboration with Leon Trotsky in Mexico, less-than-heroic contributions to the French Resistance, and study of the occult.

A VHS rip of the movie has been up on YouTube for some time, but this sharpened upload only recently appeared through the good offices of Manufacturing Intellect. It’s worth noting that the original VHS rip is nearly six minutes longer.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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05.03.2018
10:14 am
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William Blake Doc Martens are a thing
04.05.2018
09:09 am
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The William Blake 1460 (via Dr. Martens)
 

Mantles of despair girdles of bitter compunction shoes of indolence
Veils of ignorance covering from head to feet with a cold web

—William Blake, Vala, or the Four Zoas

Aw, nuts. I put on my brand-new mantle of despair, my vintage girdle of bitter compunction, and my $139 veil of ignorance with the Swarovski crystals in it, and here I am without any shoes of indolence to complete my ensemble. Like a schmuck! Like a sad, sorry schmuck.

That’s the kind of thing I used to find myself saying before Dr. Martens partnered with the Tate to print William Blake illustrations on their footwear. Now I have my choice of gnostic kicks for a night out.
 

The William Blake 1461 (via Dr. Martens)
 
There’s the demure three-holed shoe covered in “The House of Death,” which depicts Adam’s vision in Paradise Lost of every postlapsarian condition of suffering and disease. Or, if it’s more of a “Borstal Breakout” kind of evening, I can lace up the eight-holed boot of “Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils,” perfect for stomping poseurs outside the public house. Oooh, they’ll wish for a case of Old Nick’s sore boils when I’m finished!
 

 
I’m just kidding; I would never wear these…

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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04.05.2018
09:09 am
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Penderecki’s ‘The Devils of Loudun’ is the sleaziest, most depraved opera you’ll ever see


 
Obtaining the original cut of Ken Russell’s The Devils is still a royal pain in the ass. But it’s easy to see this gorgeous TV movie of Penderecki’s first opera, Die Teufel von Loudun, a 1969 studio production with the original cast, conductor and orchestra, subtitled in English.

Penderecki’s opera is based on the same stage play as Russell’s film: John Whiting’s adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun. All concern the real-life Satanic panic that gripped the French village of Loudun in 1632, when a whole house of Ursuline nuns was possessed by the devil, or so it was said, and their priest, Urbain Grandier, was burned at the stake for witchcraft.

Frank Zappa named the record of this production of Penderecki’s opera—in particular, the exorcism by enema in Act II—as one of his favorites in a 1975 interview with Let It Rock:

The Devils Of Loudon: Krzysztof Penderecki. Because it’s also an extremely well-produced album and I think it’s an excellent piece of dramatic music. And also because Tatiana Troyanos who plays the main nun sounds absolutely marvellous during the enema scene. The story is about a hunch-backed nun who’s possessed by the Devil and has to have an exorcism. The exorcism involves the nun being given a hot herbal enema. In live performance the exorcism takes place behind a screen and you hear Tatiana singing and screeching whilst an orchestra plays enema music. You also hear the Devil chuckling from inside the nun’s bowel.

Ken Russell’s ending is quite special, of course, but Penderecki’s is no less terrifying. Cardinal Richelieu’s boys pull a reverse Wicker Man. Get ready to feel deeply uneasy!
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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03.23.2018
08:07 am
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William S. Burroughs on the cut-up technique and meeting Samuel Beckett & Bob Dylan
03.22.2018
09:35 am
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“It’s the stink of death, citizens!” (Photo by Peter Hujar)

This hour-long BBC Radio special opens with “Old Lady Sloan,” the Mortal Micronotz’ interpretation of a Burroughs lyric about a happy pedophage, a record the host, John Walters, borrowed from John Peel for the occasion. If the program starts out sounding like a clip-show tribute to Burroughs’ cultural influence, it’s more than that. Aside from a chat with future WSB biographer Barry Miles (identified only by his surname), a little music, and Burroughs’ performances of the now-classic routines “The Do-Rights” and “The Wild Fruits,” the broadcast is given over to Walters’ lengthy interview with the author, champion of apomorphine, and devotee of the Ancient Ones.

Burroughs tells Walters about his years in England, and meeting Samuel Beckett and Bob Dylan; he observes that certain American politicians boast of their ignorance and stupidity. His (camp, I think) misogyny has softened by ‘82. What really sets the interview apart, though, is Walters’ enthusiasm, his openness, his willingness to risk sounding uncool. Here he is grappling with the implications of the cut-up technique:

Walters: What always attracted me when I first heard about that—I suppose, a lot of students at the time—it seemed to introduce a random effect, a found work, do you know what I mean? I wonder if it was so random as all that.

Burroughs: Well, how random is random? Uh…

Walters: Well, let’s put it like this. I was in a pub in Charlotte Street, of all places, in Soho, and a mate of mine had read Nova Express—this was ‘64, ‘65—was talking about this, “You must buy this book,” and started to try and explain to me his interpretation of cut-up and fold-in techniques, which he probably got wrong. And I couldn’t remember the name of the book when I got outside, and then an Express Dairy van from the Express Dairies came by, and I thought, “Express, Nova Express!” And I thought, “That’s what he’s trying to tell us. Random events can have a hidden meaning. We can get messages.” But I don’t think that’s what you see in it, is it?

Burroughs: Oh, exactly. Exactly what I see in it. These juxtapositions between what you’re thinking, if you’re walking down the street, and what you see, that was exactly what I was introducing. You see, life is a cut-up. Every time you walk down the street or look out the window, your consciousness is cut by random factors, and then you begin to realize that they’re not so random, that this is saying something to you.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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03.22.2018
09:35 am
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Paul Bowles’ recipe for a Moroccan love charm
03.19.2018
09:46 am
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Paul Bowles in Fez, 1947

Paul Bowles’ contribution to The Artists’ & Writers’ Cookbook appeared under “Jams, Jellies and Confections,” opposite Robert Graves’ recipe for Sevillian yellow plum conserve. In it, Bowles explained how the people of Fez make one of his favorite treats: majoun keddane, a kind of jam that requires some dates, figs, walnuts, honey, spices, butter, and wheat, and at least two pounds of cannabis.

Embedded in this recipe was another, for an even more exotic and labor-intensive Moroccan dish called Beid El Beita F’kerr El Hmar. This was a kind of breakfast recipe said to bestow magical powers:

Buy an egg. Find a dead donkey, and the first night lodge the egg in its anus. The second night the egg must be put into a mousehole on top of a Moslem tomb. The third night it must be wrapped in a handkerchief and tied around the chest of the person desiring to perform the magic. The following day it must be given for breakfast, prepared in any fashion, to the other individual, who, immediately upon eating it, discovers that the bestower is necessary for his happiness. (Or her happiness; the sex of the two people seems to have nothing to do with the charm’s efficacy.)

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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03.19.2018
09:46 am
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