Friday 29 December 2017

Dead Poets Society #62 William Burroughs: Fear and the Monkey

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Fear and the Monkey by William Burroughs

This text arranged in my New York loft, which is the converted locker room of an old YMCA. Guests have reported the presence of a ghost boy. So this is a Oui-Ja board poem taken from Dumb Instrument, a book of poems by Denton Welch, and spells and invocations from the Necronomicon, a highly secret magical text released in paperback. There is a pinch of Rimbaud, a dash of St-John Perse, an oblique reference to Toby Tyler with the Circus, and the death of his pet monkey.

Turgid itch and the perfume of death
On a whispering south wind
A smell of abyss and of nothingness
Dark Angel of the wanderers howls through the loft
With sick smelling sleep
Morning dream of a lost monkey
Born and muffled under old whimsies
With rose leaves in closed jars
Fear and the monkey
Sour taste of green fruit in the dawn
The air milky and spiced with the trade winds
White flesh was showing
His jeans were so old
Leg shadows by the sea
Morning light
On the sky light of a little shop
On the odor of cheap wine in the sailors' quarter
On the fountain sobbing in the police courtyards
On the statue of moldy stone
On the little boy whistling to stray dogs.
Wanderers cling to their fading home
A lost train whistle wan and muffled
In the loft night taste of water
Morning light on milky flesh
Turgid itch ghost hand
Sad as the death of monkeys
Thy father a falling star
Crystal bone into thin air
Night sky
Dispersal and emptiness.

Thursday 28 December 2017

Groucho Marx - a few fun facts

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None of this is new, of course, to the true Grouchophile or even to one who's a liar, but it's a bit of fun...

Groucho Marx: 10 things you might not know

Martin Chilton
The Daily Telegraph
19 August 2016

Groucho Marx, who died on August 19 1977, will be the subject of a biopic by Rob Zombie. Here, Martin Chilton picks 10 of the most intriguing facts about the great comedian.

The Italian director Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita, 8½) twice tried to get Groucho Marx to appear in his films, in Juliet of the Spirits in 1965 and four years later in Satyricon. Fellini went so far as to announce Marx in the cast alongside Mae West, but the comedian turned him down after releasing it would mean spending a whole year in Rome. Fellini had been a fan of the Marx Brothers films but wanted to hear Groucho's real speaking voice on film rather than the dubbed Italian version. The director remained a Groucho fan; he owned a T-shirt printed with Marx's famous quip Hello, I Must be Going (with "hello" on the front and "I must be going" on the back) and told one of the comedian's biographers: "I'll wear it only with nothing else on – not even my under-shorts". 

Groucho was a big baseball fan (The Dodgers rather than the New York Yankees, whom he loathed), so on a trip to England in June 1954 he was taken to see MCC play Cambridge University at Lord's. There was a small crowd and only sporadic applause. When he was approached by a spectator, he joked: "Are you the fella making all the noise?" He later said of cricket: "What a wonderful cure for insomnia. If you can't sleep here, you really need an analyst."
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There is some wonderful footage of Groucho playing Charlie Chaplin at tennis in 1937: which was also the year he suffered his most humiliating defeat. In August 1937, he was beaten 6-0, 6-0 by his 14-year-old son Arthur and spent the next three weeks having extensive lessons and practising at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club in Hollywood. He demanded a rematch and invited friends to watch. He lost the second contest 6-0, 6-0 again. Arthur, who died at the age of 89 in 2011, made his debut as a novelist in 1950 with The Ordeal of Willie Brown, drawn from his experiences as a top-ranked junior tennis player in the Thirties, when he had been coached by Fred Perry. Groucho "recommended that I tear it up," he later recalled. His father hated his next book, Life With Groucho, even more. Father and son stopped talking for many years and only communicated through lawyers.

Groucho, who was named Julius Henry Marx when he was born in 1891, went into vaudeville with his brothers as a child. It was there that he met lifelong friend WC Fields. He recalled: "WC Fields used to sit in the bushes in front of his house with a BB gun and shoot at people. One day he allowed me in his house, and he had a ladder there, and it led up to an attic, and in this attic he had $50,000 worth of whisky. Un-opened cases of whisky. And I said to him "Bill, what have you got that booze there for? We haven't had prohibition in 25 years.' He said: 'It may come back'."
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In 1972, Groucho told the late film critic Roger Ebert: "They say Allen got something from the Marx Brothers. He got nothing. Maybe 20 years ago, he might have been inspired. Today he's an original. The best, the funniest."

In 1964, Groucho went to East Berlin with a group that included his radio show director Robert Dwan and his 16-year-old daughter Judith Dwan Hallet. They visited the village of Dornum, where his mother Minnie had been born. and discovered that all the Jewish graves there had been obliterated by the Nazis. Groucho hired a car with a chauffeur, and told the driver to take the group to the bunker where Adolf Hitler was said to have committed suicide. Wearing his trademark beret he climbed the debris and then launched himself, unsmiling, into a frenetic Charleston dance routine. The dance on Hitler's supposed grave lasted a couple of minutes. "Nobody applauded," Hallet recalled. "Nobody laughed."
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Chico was known for his piano playing (he led the Chico Marx Orchestra, which gave jazz guitarist Barney Kessel his start) and Harpo became the the most famous harp player since Nero. But Groucho loved the guitar. He would spend hours practising Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-Sharp Minor, and became friends with classical guitar star AndrĂ©s Segovia. He played guitar in one film, Horse Feathers (1932). In a rowboat, Groucho performs the film’s love theme Everyone Says I Love You for co-star Thelma Todd on a questionably tuned vintage Gibson L-5. Was he any good? Well, Thirties superstar Will Rogers said: "Groucho can play as good on the guitar as Harpo can on the harp, or Chico on the piano. But he never does. So he is really what I call an ideal musician; he can play, but doesn’t.”
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Groucho met the Beatles when they were in Los Angeles in 1964 and attended their celebrated Hollywood Bowl Concert. He also performed a song for Freddie Mercury and Queen in the Seventies. Groucho, who died on August 19 1977, at the age of 86, sang the band one of his songs, and they responded with 39, their skiffle-sci-fi song. Queen's albums A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races are named after Marx Brothers films.
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Groucho's one-liners ("I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member"; "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it"; "The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made.") would fill a book, but he was sometimes given the credit for quips he hadn't uttered. "I got $25 from Reader’s Digest for something I never said. I get credit all the time for things I never said," he remarked in 1974. But his off-the-cuff remarks to strangers were celebrated. Once in Montreal, a priest put out his hand and said: "I want to thank you for all the joy you've put into this world." Groucho shook his hand and shot back: "And I wanna thank you, for all the joy you've taken out of this world."

Groucho Marx was asked to write a morale-boosting letter to US troops stationed in Suriname in 1943, and in his missive to Corporal Jerone G Darrow, he said: "I don't want you to worry much about the 4-Fs back home – true, we have been deprived of a few things but nothing of any importance. We don't get much meat any more – the butcher shops have nothing in them but customers. Fortunately, I don't rely on the stores for my vegetables. Last spring I was smart enough to plant a Victory garden. So far, I have raised a family of moles, enough snails to keep a pre-French restaurant running for a century and a curious looking plant that I have been eating all summer under the impression that it was a vegetable. However, for the past few weeks, I've had difficulty in remaining awake and this morning I discovered that I had been munching on marijuana the whole month of July.

*Unfortunately, he did say yes to Otto Preminger...

Here's another one: photographer Garry Winogrand captured Grouch doing a back flip in New York:
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Except... it's entitled 'New York 1950s' by the New York Times, by which time our hero was 60, so I suspect it's an acrobatic impersonator. Note the trampoline at the bottom right.

Monday 25 December 2017

Friday Night Boy Cool #430 Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from all the FNB, past, present and future. Don't do anything we wouldn't do...

Saturday 23 December 2017

Dead Poets Society #61 Edgar Allan Poe: The Raven

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The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
’Tis the wind and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

Friday 22 December 2017

Donald Fagen discusses Walter Becker and the future of Steely Dan

Donald Fagen Discusses the Loss of Walter Becker and Steely Dan's Future
Fagen gives his first in-depth interview since Becker's September death to talk legacy, lawsuit in latest episode of Rolling Stone Music Now podcast

Rolling Stone
20 December 2017

In mid-December, Donald Fagen sat down in Sirius XM’s studios for an in-depth interview – his first since the September death of Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker – on the Rolling Stone Music Now podcast, hosted by Brian Hiatt. Here are some highlights from the conversation, which spanned the entire history of Steely Dan. To hear the entire discussion, see below or download and subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Fagen got to spend one last day with Becker in August. "When I heard he was really ill," he says, "I was on the road in, I think, Salina, Kansas, and I flew back. I had a day off and he was in his apartment in New York. And I was really glad that I went. I could see he was really struggling. When I put a chair next to the bed, he grabbed my hand. It was something he had never done ever before. And we had a great talk and, you know, he was listening to hard bop – his wife had put on Dexter Gordon records. He was very weak but he was still very funny. I'm really glad I had those hours."

If it were up to Fagen, he would refer to the post-Becker touring incarnation of the band as "Donald Fagen and the Steely Dan Band." "I would actually prefer to call it Donald Fagen and the Steely Dan Band or something like that," he says, noting that promoters have so far insisted that he call it Steely Dan for commercial reasons. "That's an ongoing debate. To me, Steely Dan was just me and Walter, really – it was like a concept we had together."

Fagen had hoped to record another Steely Dan album – which would have been the first since 2003's Everything Must Go – but Becker wasn't interested. "Walter had some health problems," says Fagen, "and especially after 2011-12, I think just being ill for so long, he had a little bit of a personality change and he was much more isolated, and he kinda wasn't that interested in working on Steely Dan records anymore. It also might have to do with the specter of doing an album that would be on the same standard that we did previously. Maybe that scared him a little bit, or maybe he didn't have the energy. I did ask him once in a while if he wanted to do something – and he'd usually say, 'yeah, sure,' but then he wouldn't call me or whatever, so it was obvious that he lost some of the enthusiasm."

Fagen describes his lawsuit against Becker's estate as an effort to "defend" his original contract with his partner – which the estate has attempted to invalidate. "Decades ago," he says, "when we started the band, Walter and I had a contract, and it was really a simple thing that a lot of bands have – if someone resigns or is fired or dies, they sell their rock & roll stock back to the company. So we signed this thing and it ended up being that Walter and I were the remaining partners...50/50 partners, and the idea was that if somebody dies the other guy would essentially run the band and take control of the band, so we're just trying to defend that contract."

Download and subscribe to Rolling Stone Music Now on iTunes or Spotify, and tune in Fridays at 1 p.m. ET to hear the show broadcast live on Sirius XM'sVolume, channel 106.

Thursday 21 December 2017

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

Ron Elderly: -
Autumn Leaves
Tell Me

Da Elderly: -
You've Got A Friend
Heart Of Gold

The Elderly Brothers: -
When Will I Be Loved
Things We Said Today

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

York itself seemed very quiet on the walk from the bus stop to The Habit, via the Last Drop Inn and the Happy Valley for some excellent Chinese food. So it was quite a surprise that The Habit was busy with players and a very attentive audience. As well as a good selection of regular players, we were treated to a folky quartet: guitar, flutes/whistles, violin and squeezebox. Our host was promoting his new covers CD, but failed to play any of them, choosing instead to play a couple of original songs. Some potential players had to be turned away as we were full from about 10 o'clock - so the 3-song max rule was applied. Ron and I finished off with the only Christmas song of the evening, which we messed around with, giving our host a name check in the final verse to much amusement.

I shall miss next week's open mic as The Toon have to line up on the touchline to let Man City take shooting practice for 90 mins! In the meantime, a Merry Christmas to all Habit-goers and followers.

Tuesday 19 December 2017

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie - review

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You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie review – a poet and novelist’s memoir
Humour and anger combine in this story of the Native American experience

Lorraine Berry
The Guardian
Saturday 9 December 2017

Sherman Alexie has emerged as one of the US’s greatest writers. And because he has always written of the terrible beauty of Native American life with an honesty and humour that makes white people uncomfortable, his work has been deemed controversial. Alexie’s young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, has appeared near the top of annual US “banned books” lists. Each year, new challenges arise to his thinly veiled autobiography of his years growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in eastern Washington state.

In addition to his fiction, Alexie is also well known for his poetry. All told, he has written 26 books, and he wrote and co-produced the film Smoke Signals. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me is his long-awaited memoir. In it, he focuses much of the story on one particular year – the year in which his irascible mother, Lillian, died, but also the one in which he underwent brain surgery to remove a large tumour.

A native American, Sherman Alexie was raised on a reservation, where his family still live. Taught by Jesuits, he became a songwriter, comedian, poet and film-maker and was hailed as one of the best young American novelists. His work subverts ideas of the nobly suffering Indian and often presents the hard reality of urban life

Those who are familiar with his novels will relish the true-life stories behind some of his fiction; those who aren’t will find that his writing provides a powerful alternative to the stock figures of the mythological wild west – the brave cowboy and the stoic, noble Indian. At the centre of the book, though, is his relationship with his mother, a difficult, abusive woman who could perform acts of enormous maternal sacrifice on behalf of her children at the same time as treating them shockingly badly.

Alexie’s recounting of his mother’s death differs from standard grief memoirs, most of which are accounts of love or at least move towards reconciliation. He is angry at his mother, even after her death and despite his efforts to forgive. However, although he comes to realise that the reasons for her rages were understandable and even though he is now a parent himself, Alexie still resents the impact her rage had on him and his siblings.

The book is infused with laugh-out-loud humour. Some of the funniest moments are his writings about basketball, the game he made the centre of the drama ofThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. He also writes about the variation of the game of exchanging insults, “the dozens”, that Indians play among themselves, especially when wrestling over whose suffering has been worse. Other moments are more typical: that first phone call from the deceased’s phone, for example:
On the morning of her funeral, my phone rang. The Caller ID announced it was “MOM”. For a moment, I believed it was her calling from the afterlife so I pondered what I would say. And I decided I would go with, “Hey, Lillian, gotta say I’m impressed with your resurrection, but is it a Jesus thing or a zombie fling?”

It turns out, of course, that it’s his sister caling him from his mother’s house.

Alexie’s mother was Spokane while his father was a member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe. Both his parents were born into a world where the creature on which their tribes were reliant, and about which their holy stories were told, was the salmon – the magnificent fish whose five-year life cycle is the stuff of legend. Alexie writes about the salmon’s journey with characteristic wit.

I pointed out to an audience of 800 that salmon go on their epic journey from ocean into the insane mouths of rivers and up those rivers against the currents, over dams, dodging bears and fisherman – and a lot of those fishermen are Indians by the way – and then through and over and around trees and rocks and pollution and garbage – swimming hundreds, even thousands of miles – in order to fuck.

Alexie’s audience doesn’t find his crudeness all that funny, but he is correct: the salmon’s mythic journey is driven by the need to reproduce. “‘Salmon,’ I said, ‘are the most epicfuckers in the animal kingdom.’”

I have never forgotten sitting on rocks next to the shore of the Stillaguamish River, where the water was only a few inches deep at the edges. The water roared and tumbled over boulders in the centre of the river, but in the shallows I watched dozens of Coho salmon in their death throes after they had fulfilled their journeys. But on the Columbia River the series of dams created barriers that even the most motivated salmon were unable to pass. The Grand Coulee Dam was constructed in the 1930s.

“The Interior Salish, my people, had worshipped the wild salmon since our beginnings,” Alexie writes. “That sacred fish had been our primary source of physical and spiritual sustenance for thousands of years.” But over the course of five years following the dam’s construction, the salmon vanished. “My mother and father were members of the first generation of Interior Salish people who lived entirely without wild salmon. My mother and father, without wild salmon, were spiritual orphans.”

The loss of the salmon was just one of the great injustices in his parents’ lives. Alexie’s father drank himself to death, but his mother stopped drinking when Alexie was a boy. She made her living by making and selling quilts. Alexie recounts a time when, after the lights had been turned off because she couldn’t pay the electricity bill, his mother sewed in the dark non-stop until she had made a quilt that would earn enough to get the power turned back on. And while she did such things, he also recounts the night when, responding to his 10-year-old anger, she threw a full can of soda at him, hit him on the forehead and knocked him unconscious. And then left him there to sleep it off without seeking medical attention.

And yet, even as he writes about incidents such as this, he reflects on his mother’s life, and begins a new poem for her:

I want to reverse this earth
And give birth to my mother
Because I do not believe
That she was ever adored.

I want to mother the mother
Who often did not mother me.
I was mothered and adored
By mothers not my own,

And learned how to be adoring
By being adored.

Mothers and sons. Sons and mothers. Alexie’s memoir of his relationship with Lillian reflects the complicated love that many of us have for our parents. It is his gift to us, through his willingness to be honest without being vengeful, that those of us who have felt shut out of the grief memoirs in which parents and children had perfect relationships can read these pages and weep.

• You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie is published by Little, Brown.