Watch William S. Burroughs’ Ah Pook is Here as an Animated Film, with Music By John Cale

The work of William S. Burroughs can be by turns hilarious, opaque and profane – filled with images of drugs, insects and other oddities. Though it might be fascinating, if difficult, on the page, his work really comes alive when read aloud, preferably in Burroughs’s signature deadpan drawl. And if it’s accompanied by some trippy visuals, then, all the better.

The above video is exactly that. In 1994, animator Peter Hunt made this appropriately grotesque stop motion animated film, Ah Pook is Here, with audio taken from Burroughs’s 1990 album Dead City Radio. (You can read along to the video below.) John Cale provides the music. The winner of 10 international film awards, the short film has been archived in the Goethe Institut.

Ah Pook is Here started in 1970 as a collaboration with artist Malcolm McNeil. Originally it was slated to be a magazine comic strip but when the publication folded, Burroughs and McNeil decided to turn it into a book. Ah Pook is Here and Other Texts was finally published in 1979, though without McNeil’s illustrations. You can see them here.

When I become Death, Death is the seed from which I grow…

Itzama, spirit of early mist and showers.
Ixtaub, goddess of ropes and snares.
Ixchel, the spider web, catcher of morning dew.
Zooheekock, virgin fire patroness of infants.
Adziz, the master of cold.
Kockupocket, who works in fire.
Ixtahdoom, she who spits out precious stones.
Ixchunchan, the dangerous one.
Ah Pook, the destroyer.

Hiroshima, 1945, August 6, sixteen minutes past 8 AM.

Who really gave that order?

Answer: Control.

Answer: The Ugly American.

Answer: The instrument of Control.

Question: If Control’s control is absolute, why does Control need to control?

Answer: Control… needs time.

Question: Is Control controlled by its need to control?

Answer: Yes.

Why does Control need humans, as you call them?

Answer: Wait… wait! Time, a landing field. Death needs time like a junkie needs junk.

And what does Death need time for?

Answer: The answer is sooo simple. Death needs time for what it kills to grow in, for Ah Pook’s sake.

Death needs time for what it kills to grow in, for Ah Pook’s sweet sake, you stupid vulgar greedy ugly American death-sucker.

Death needs time for what it kills to grow in, for Ah Pook’s sweet sake, you stupid vulgar greedy ugly American death-sucker… Like this.

We have a new type of rule now. Not one man rule, or rule of aristocracy, or plutocracy, but of small groups elevated to positions of absolute power by random pressures and subject to political and economic factors that leave little room for decision. They are representatives of abstract forces who’ve reached power through surrender of self. The iron-willed dictator is a thing of the past. There will be no more Stalins, no more Hitlers. The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds are rulers by accident inept, frightened pilots at the controls of a vast machine they cannot understand, calling in experts to tell them which buttons to push.

You can find Ah Pook is Here in the Animation section of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow.


A Master List of 1,000 Free Courses From Top Universities: 30,000 Hours of Audio/Video Lectures

free courses online 1000

We reached a little milestone this week. Our big list of Free Online Courses now features 1,000 courses from top universities. Let's quickly break things down for you: The list lets you download audio & video lectures from schools like Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford and Harvard. Generally, the courses can be accessed via YouTube, iTunes or university web sites, and you can listen to the lectures anytime, anywhere. We didn't do a precise calculation, but there's probably about 30,000 hours of free audio & video lectures here. Enough to keep you busy for a long, long time.

Right now you’ll find 113 free philosophy courses, 78 free history courses, 100 free computer science courses, and 54 free physics courses in the collection, and that’s just beginning to scratch the surface. You can peruse sections covering Astronomy, Biology, BusinessChemistry, Economics, Engineering, Literature, Math, Political Science, Psychology and Religion.

Here are some highlights from the complete list of Free Online Courses. We've thrown a few unconventional/vintage courses in the mix just to keep things interesting.

The complete list of courses can be accessed here: 1,000 Free Online Courses from Top Universities

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1,000 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc. Learn 48 Languages Online for Free: Spanish, Chinese, English & More

Maya Angelou Reads “Still I Rise” and “On the Pulse of the Morning”

As we mourn Maya Angelou on the day after her death, it’s heartening to remember that she lived several more lifetimes than most in her 86 years, some filled with pain and struggle, some with great joy. While generally known as a poet, writer, teacher, actress, and activist, Angelou actually got her start in the public eye as a Calypso dancer and singer, even appearing in a film, Calypso Heat Wave and releasing an album, Miss Calypso, both in 1957. It’s said that Billie Holiday told Angelou in 1958, “you’re going to be famous but it won’t be for singing,” She was right of course, but Angelou retained the air of a performer as a reader of her work. Above, see her deliver an animated reading of her famous poem, “Still I Rise,” which references many of her past lives, including lines that seem to allude to her Miss Calypso days: “Does my sexiness upset you? / Does it come as a surprise / That I dance like I’ve got diamonds / At the meeting of my thighs?” The stanza is indicative of another quality among the many she enumerates, “sassiness.” But she begins the reading on a more sober note, with a statement about human resilience, the ability to get up and face the day, despite the fears we all live with. “Wherever that abides in a human being,” she says, “there is the nobleness of the human spirit.”

That resilience, the transcendence of painful personal and ancestral histories, was the great theme of Angelou’s work, whether in poems like “Still I Rise” or her revealing 1969 autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, also the title of a poem from her 1983 collection Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?. While the caged bird is a very personal symbol for Angelou, her poem “On the Pulse of the Morning,” which you can see her read above at Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration, speaks to the whole human species in elemental terms. Again she twines themes of transcending painful and bloody histories with those of the “nobleness of the human spirit.” The speaker of the poem is the earth itself, who addresses each of us as “a bordered country / Delicate and strangely made proud.” “History,” she writes in much-quoted lines from the poem’s ninth stanza, “despite its wrenching pain / Cannot be unlived, but if faced / With courage, need not be lived again.” For all the pain Angelou herself endured and faced with courage, it’s a sentiment she earned the right to proclaim. Her celebration of not only the particular African-American struggle, but also its part in the universal human struggle for dignity and purpose stands as her enduring legacy. She ends the poem where she begins her reading of “Still I Rise” above, with a call for us to treat each other with care and respect, to not be “wedded forever / To fear, yoked eternally / To brutishness”:

Here, on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, and into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope --
Good morning.

Both poems will be added to our collection, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

Stephen Hawking Reveals the Conditions That Could Lead to England’s Victory at The World Cup

Speaking at the Savoy Hotel in London, physicist Stephen Hawking told a crowd: "Ever since the dawn of civilisation, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable." "They have craved understanding of the underlying order in the world. The World Cup is no different." Using what he calls "General Logistic Regression Modelling," Hawking has studied the 45 World Cup matches the English soccer team has played since 1966 (the last time the team won the tournament), and he has identified the conditions that could lead England to another victory in the World Cup this summer. Wearing red uniforms, playing with a 4-3-3 formation, and having a European referee--they're historically a plus. So is playing in cooler temperatures, at lower altitudes, with kick off happening around 3pm. Hawking also reveals the best way to score in a penalty shootout. That's covered, too, in the video above.

via The Guardian

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Matthew Weiner on The Art of Writing Mad Men: The Paris Review Interview


This weekend, AMC aired episode 7 of Mad Men’s final season. The show will now take a break, until episodes 8-14 hit the airwaves early next year. Before you turn your attention elsewhere, you may want to spend some time with the Paris Review's big interview with Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men. The interview covers a lot of ground.

We learn that Weiner is a particular fan of John Cheever. "[W]ith John Cheever, I recognized myself in the voice of the narrator." "Cheever holds my attention more than any other writer. He is in every aspect of Mad Men, starting with the fact that Don lives in Ossining on Bullet Park Road." (Find the Paris Review’s 1976 interview with Cheever here.)

We also discover that Weiner studied poetry in college with Christopher Reeve’s father, Frank Reeve, and there were a couple of years when Weiner considered T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land "the most interesting thing in the world."

Then the conversation turns to Mad Men, where Weiner reveals what's at the heart of the show: "I’ve always said this is a show about becoming white. That’s the definition of success in America—becoming a WASP. A WASP male." "Don Draper knows he’s poor, very much in the model of [Lee] Iacocca or [Sam] Walton, who came out of the Great Depression, out of really humble beginnings. Or like Conrad Hilton, on the show. These men don’t take no for an answer, they build these big businesses, these empires, but really it’s all based on failure, insecurity, and an identity modeled on some abstract ideal of white power."

Weiner has lots more to say, including about his days writing for The Sopranos. Read the complete interview here.

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Read 9 Free Books By Noam Chomsky Online

Image by Andrew Rusk, via Wikimedia Commons

The gross and ever-increasing degree of economic inequality in the United States has become a phenomenon that even the country’s elites can no longer ignore since the explosive publication of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. The book’s highly technical marshaling of data speaks primarily to economists and secondarily to liberal policymakers. Piketty's calls for redistribution have lead to charges of “Marxism” from the other end of the political spectrum—due to some inevitable degree to the book's provocative title. Yet in the reckoning of actual Marxist Slavoj Žižek, the French economist is still “a good Keynsian” who believes that “capitalism is ultimately the only game in town.”  While the Marxist left may critique Piketty’s policy recommendations for their reliance on state capitalism, another fierce leftist thinker---Žižek’s sometime intellectual rival Noam Chomsky---might critique them for their acquiescence to state power.

Chomsky’s role as a public intellectual has placed him at the forefront of the left-anarchist fight against neoliberal political economy and the U.S. foreign and domestic policies that drive it. Whether those policies come from nominally liberal or conservative administrations, Chomsky asserts time and again that they ultimately serve the needs of elites at the expense of masses of people at home and abroad who pay the very dear cost of perpetual wars over resources and markets. In his 2013 book On Anarchism, Chomsky leaves little room for equivocation in his assessment of the role elites play in maintaining a state apparatus that suppresses popular movements:

If it is plausible that ideology will in general serve as a mask for self-interest, then it is a natural presumption that intellectuals, in interpreting history or formulating policy, will tend to adopt an elitist position, condemning popular movements and mass participation in decision making, and emphasizing rather the necessity for supervision by those who possess the knowledge and understanding that is required (so they claim) to manage society and control social change.

This excerpt is but one minute example of Chomsky's fiercely independent stance against abuse of power in all its forms and his tireless advocacy for popular social movements. As Henry Giroux writes in a recent assessment of Chomsky’s voluminous body of work, what his many diverse books share is “a luminous theoretical, political, and forensic analysis of the functioning of the current global power structure, new and old modes of oppressive authority, and the ways in which neoliberal economic and social policies have produced more savage forms of global domination and corporate sovereignty.” And while he can sound like a doomsayer, Chomsky's work also offers “the possibility of political and economic alternatives” and “a fresh language for a collective sense of agency and resistance.”

Today we offer a collection of Chomsky’s political books and interviews free to read online, courtesy of Znet. While these texts come from the 1990s, it’s surprising how fresh and relevant they still sound today. Chomsky’s granular parsing of economic, social, and military operations explains the engineering of the economic situation Piketty details, one ever more characterized by the title of a Chomsky interview, “The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many.” See links to nine books below. To read, click on links to either the “Content Overview” or “Table of Contents.” The books can also be found in our collection, 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.

Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies (1989): Based on the Massey Lectures, delivered in Canada in November 1988, Necessary Illusions argues that, far from performing a watchdog role, the "free press" serves the needs of those in power.

Deterring Democracy (1991): Chomsky details the major shift in global politics that has left the United States unchallenged as the preeminent military power even as its economic might has declined drastically in the face of competition from Germany and Japan. Deterring Democracy points to the potentially catastrophic consequences of this new imbalance, and reveals a world in which the United States exploits its advantage ruthlessly to enforce its national interests -- from Nicaragua to the Philippines, Panama to the Middle East.

Year 501: The Conquest Continues (1993): Analyzing Haiti, Latin America, Cuba, Indonesia, and even pockets of the Third World developing in the United States, Noam Chomsky draws parallels between the genocide of colonial times and the murder and exploitation associated with modern-day imperialism.

Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and U.S. Political Culture (1993)

What Uncle Sam Really Wants (1993): A brilliant distillation of the real motivations behind U.S. foreign policy, compiled from talks and interviews completed between 1986 and 1991, with particular attention to Central America. [Note: If you have problems accessing this text, you can read it via this PDF.]

The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many (1994): A fascinating state-of-the-world report from the man the New York Times called "arguably the most important intellectual alive."

Secrets, Lies and Democracy (1994): An interview with David Barsamian

Keeping the Rabble in Line (1994): Interviews with David Barsamian

Excerpts from Powers and Prospects: Reflections on Human Nature and the Social Order (1996): A scathing critique of orthodox views and government policy. See full text in pdf form here.

And for exponentially more Chomsky, see, which hosts well over a hundred of his topical articles from the Vietnam era to the present.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

Ernest Hemingway’s “Love Letter” to His “Dearest Kraut,” Marlene Dietrich (1955)


Click to enlarge

We think today of Ernest Hemingway as that most stylistically disciplined of writers, but it seems that, outside his published work and especially in his personal correspondence, he could cut pretty loose. One particularly vivid example has returned to public attention recently by appearing for sale on a site called a letter from Hemingway to legendary singer-actress Marlene Dietrich, dated August 28, 1955. "In the intimate, rambling and revealing letter," writes the Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Welsh, "Hemingway professes his love for Dietrich a number of times, though the two are said to have never consummated the relationship." He also, Welsh notes, "talks about staging one of her performances, in which he imagines her 'drunk and naked.'" The full letter, which spares no detail of this elaborate fantasy, runs as follows:

Dearest Kraut :

Thanks very much for the good long letter with the gen on what you found wrong. I don’t know anything about the theater but I don’t think it would occur to me, even, to have you introduced even to me with strains of La Vie En Rose. Poor peoples.

If I were staging it would probably have something novel like having you shot onto the stage, drunk, from a self-propelled minnenwerfer which would advance in from the street rolling over the customers. We would be playing “Land of Hope and Glory.” As you landed on the stage drunk and naked I would advance from the rear, or from your rear wearing evening clothes and would hurriedly strip off my evening clothes to cover you revealing the physique of Burt Lancaster Strongfort and announce that we were sorry that we did not know the lady was loaded. All this time the Thirty ton S/P/ Mortar would be bulldozing the customers as we break into the Abortion Scene from “Lakme.” This is a scene which is really Spine Tingling and I have just the spine for it. I play it with a Giant Rubber Whale called Captain Ahab and all the time we are working on you with pulmotors and raversed (sic) cleaners which blow my evening clothes off you. You are foaming at the mouth of course to show that we are really acting and we bottle the foam and sell it to any surviving customers. You are referred to in the contract as The Artist and I am just Captain Ahab. Fortunately I am crazed and I keep shouting “Fire One. Fire Two. Fire Three.” And don’t think we do not fire them. It is then that the Germ of the Mutiny is born in your disheveled brain.

But why should a great Artist-Captain like me invent so many for so few for only air-mail love on Sunday morning when I should be in church. Only for fun, I guess. Gentlemen, crank up your hearses.

Marlene, darling, I write stories but I have no grace for fucking them up for other mediums. It was hard enough for me to learn to write to be read by the human eye. I do not know how, nor do I care to know how to write to be read by parrots, monkeys, apes, baboons, nor actors.

I love you very much and I never wanted to get mixed in any business with you as I wrote you when this thing first was brought up. Neither of us has enough whore blood for that. Not but what I number many splendid whores amongst my best friends and certainly never, I hope, could be accused of anti-whoreism. Not only that but I was circumcised as a very early age.

Hope you have it good in California and Las Vegas. What I hear from the boys is that many people in La Vegas (sic) or three or four anyway of the mains are over-extended. This is very straightgen but everybody knows it if I know it although I have not told anyone what I’ve heard and don’t tell you. But watch all money ends. Some people would as soon have the publicity of making you look bad as of your expected and legitimate success. But that is the way everything is everywhere and no criticism of Nevada or anyone there. Cut this paragraph out of this letter and burn it if you want to keep the rest of the letter in case you thought any of it funny. I rely on you as a Kraut officer and gentlemen do this.

New Paragraph. I love you very much and wish you luck. Wish me some too. Book is on page 592. This week Thursday we start photography on fishing. Am in charge of fishing etc. and it is going to be difficult enough. With a bad back a little worse. The Artist is not here naturally. I only wrote the book but must do the work as well and have no stand-in. Up at 0450 knock off at I930. This goes on for I5 days.

I think you could say you and I have earned whatever dough the people let us keep.

So what. So Merdre. I love you as always.


"To him she was 'my little Kraut,' or 'daughter,' to her he was simply 'Papa' — and it was love at first sight when they met aboard a French ocean liner in 1934," writes The Guardian's Kate Connolly of the two icons' unusual relationship. "Hemingway and Dietrich started writing to each other when he was 50 and she was 47, remaining in close contact until the writer's suicide in 1961. But they never consummated their love, because of what Hemingway referred to as 'unsynchronised passion.'" A fan of both Hemingway and Dietrich could presumably desire nothing more than one of the original pieces of their correspondence, but this particular letter, with a starting price of $35,000, drew not a single bid — perhaps a sale, like the physical expression of the Old Man and the Sea author and "Lili Marleen" singer's love, fated never to happen.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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