Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow Finally Gets Released as an Audio Book

gravitys rainbow audiobook

A quick heads up for Thomas Pynchon fans. Four decades after its publication, you can finally get Gravity’s Rainbow as an audio book -- possibly even as a free audio book.

According to The New York Times, "Since the mid-1980s, a George Guidall recording [of the 1973 novel] has been floating around, like some mythical lost rocket part — no one had heard it, but all Pynchon fans knew someone who knew someone who had — but in October a new version, authorized and rerecorded... — hit the stands."

The new release, which runs 40 hours and 1 minute, is also narrated by Guidall. It's available on (Hear an audio sample below.) And there's a way to get it for free. As we've mentioned before, Audible lets you download an audio book for free if you sign up for their 30-Day Free Trial. And even if you decide to cancel the trial, you can still keep the audio book and pay no money. That said, I dig Audible's subscription service, as I've spelled out before, precisely because you can get big long audio books for a really reasonable price.

Learn more about the Free Trial program here, and to get Gravity's Rainbow, simply click here and then click the "Try Audible Free" link on the right side of the page. NB: Audible is an subsidiary, and we're a member of their affiliate program.


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120 Artists Pick Their Top 10 Films in the Criterion Collection


Some of us get our education at film school. More of us get it from The Criterion Collection, that formidably cinephilic restorer, curator, and packager of classic motion pictures from every era. In addition to their elegant, supplementary material-rich home video releases — they've put them out on Laserdisc, on DVD, on Blu-ray, streaming over the internet, and will presumably continue to do so on whichever formats come next — they also do intriguing collaborations with the various cultural figures with whom they've worked, such as asking them to name their ten favorite Criterion releases. You may recall that, back in June, we featured actor, director, and 1990s "Indiewood" icon Steve Buscemi's Criterion top ten list, which included such choice pieces of film history as Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho, Franco-Dutch horror classic The Vanishing, and long-unreleased "faux-documentary" Symbiopsychotaxiplasm.

Of the many more lists offers, you can find this surprisingly classic-oriented one from Richard Linklater, maker of films like Slacker, the Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight trilogy, and this year's Boyhood (and another architect of Indiewood):

  1. Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky)
  2. Au hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson)
  3. The Flowers of St. Francis (Roberto Rossellini)
  4. Day of Wrath (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
  5. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu)
  6. The Last Temptation of Christ (Martin Scorsese)
  7. Unfaithfully Yours (Preston Sturges)
  8. Fanny and Alexander - The Television Version (Ingmar Bergman)
  9. Pickpocket (Robert Bresson)
  10. I Know Where I'm Going! (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger)

Or this one by four members of the New York no-wave rock band Sonic Youth, who turned the whole top-ten list concept up to twelve, giving their props to Ozu like Linkater and The Vanishing like Buscemi ("It gets veeerrry weird," adds guitarist Thurston Moore):

  1. Floating Weeds (Yasujiro Ozu)
  2. Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman)
  3. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainier Werner Fassbinder)
  4. Masculin féminin (Jean-Luc Godard)
  5. Double Suicide (Masahiro Shinoda)
  6. The Vanishing (George Sluizer)
  7. Mamma Roma (Pier Paolo Pasolini)
  8. Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus)
  9. Ace in the Hole (Billy Wilder)
  10. Night on Earth (Jim Jarmusch)
  11. Fat Girl (Catherine Breillat)
  12. Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick)

Or lists from vital creators who have more recently arrived on the scene, such as this one from Tiny Furniture director and Girls creator Lena Dunham, an inveterate fan of Agnès Varda (who "manages to be both deeply emotional and utterly in control of the technical elements of filmmaking [ ... ] that had seemed to me to be an impossible line to straddle, and she does it so beautifully"). She also makes room for Malick's Days of Heaven, (also a pick of Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon), two from Fassbinder (also a director of choice for Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo), and one from Bergman (who should make everyone's favorite-films lists, but also made Linklater's):

  1. Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold)
  2. Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick)
  3. Broadcast News (James L. Brooks)
  4. Weekend (Andrew Haigh)
  5. La Pointe Courte, Cléo from 5 to 7, Le bonheur, and Vagabond (Agnès Varda)
  6. The Marriage of Maria Braun and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainier Werner Fassbinder)
  7. Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir)
  8. Straw Dogs (Sam Peckinpah) and Dead Ringers (David Cronenberg)
  9. Through a Glass Darkly (Ingmar Bergman)
  10. The War Room (Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker)

D.A. Pennebaker, by the way, has his own Criterion top ten list, as do other filmmakers named here, like Andrew Haigh and Martin Scorsese. But this leaves me with one burning question: if directors like Ozu and Fassbinder had lived to see The Criterion Collection, which volumes would they have put on their own DVD shelves?

Enter the complete collection of Criterion Top Tens here.

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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.

Oh My God! Winston Churchill Received the First Ever Letter Containing “O.M.G.” (1917)

omg letter 1

Winston Churchill is one of those preposterously outsized historical figures who seemed to be in the middle of every major event. Even before, as Prime Minister, he steeled the resolve of his people and faced down the Third Reich juggernaut; even before he loudly warned of the Nazi menace before it was polite to do so; even before he was pilloried in the press for the disastrous Gallipoli invasion during WWI, Churchill was a famous and controversial figure. As a young cavalry officer, he left his post in India to report on the bloody colonial campaign in the Swat Valley in present-day Pakistan. His hugely popular articles pushed the military slang word “sniper” into popular use. During the second Boer War, Churchill was not only captured at gunpoint by future South African prime minister Louis Botha but he managed to successfully escape from his POW camp. And after being pushed out of the government following Gallipoli, he returned to the military as a Lieutenant Colonel and commanded a battalion of troops in France. He also won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 and was, as we've recently seen, a pretty good painter too.

Add to this one more triumph: he unwittingly had a hand in shaping the speech patterns of teenaged girls some 50 years after his death. Churchill was the recipient of a missive containing the first ever usage of the oft-texted acronym "O.M.G.". According to the Oxford English Dictionary, O.M.G.’s origins can be traced back to a letter to Churchill from Admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher, sent on September 9, 1917. After complaining about the state of affairs of the Navy during the war, Fisher closes with the following lame joke: “I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis – O.M.G. (Oh! My God!) – Shower it on the Admiralty!!”

Churchill’s relationship with Fisher was complex. While he was the First Lord of the Admiralty, Churchill brought Fisher out of retirement in 1911 to head the royal navy. Their relationship went south in 1915 following the failure of the Dardanelles campaign. Churchill was still roundly blamed mostly because of Fisher’s loud, public protestations. (In fact, had the naval officers pushed through the Dardanelles to Constantinople, as Churchill commanded, the war would have likely ended years earlier than it did.) Yet, much to his wife’s dismay, Churchill remained cordial enough with Fisher to exchange friendly notes.

The first online usage of O.M.G., by the way, came on a usenet forum about soap operas in 1994. Churchill does not appear to be connected to that instance.

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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. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.

Behold a Beautiful Archive of 10,000 Vintage Cameras at Collection Appareils


Digital photography has bestowed many gifts, and some few horrors: selfies, naturally, as well as even less dignified self-portraits, of the sort certain politicians send out; mass surveillance, as well as the ability of average citizens to produce important pieces of evidence and to document history; hard times for professional photographers, as well as the full democratization of the medium. What it has almost rendered obsolete is the mechanism that enabled photographic images in the first place. In place of cameras, we have smartphones, the hated Glass… maybe sometime in the future no external device at all. Given this trajectory, it’s entirely understandable that all sorts of people---steampunks, antiquarians, Luddites, analog fetishists, middle-age hipsters, etc.---would grow nostalgic not only for the cracked, striated monochrome patina of vintage photographs, but also for the boxes---large and small, simple and highly complicated—that produced them.

Argus A

And what wonderful boxes they were! Before the onslaught of identical, cheap consumer point-and-shoots and (gasp!) disposables, or the utilitarian bricks of professional gear, the camera was very often a work of art in its own right. Today, we bring you a sampling of these objets—elegant, intricate, streamlined, and downright adorable. These are but a tiny fraction of the vintage camera treasures you’ll find represented at Collection Appareils, an online reference of 10,000 analog cameras run by Sylvain Halgand, a Frenchman sorely afflicted with the “insidious disease” of collecting.

Witness at the top the Photosphere No. 1, manufactured by the Compagnie Francaise de Photographie in 1899---a truly beautiful artifact. No less stylish, but far more camera-like to our eyes, see the Argus A above. Made in the U.S. between 1936 and 1941, this may have been the most popular 35mm of all time. Though not as well known as the Leica A, “it’s a safe bet that Argus sold more cameras in their first twenty years than Leica has sold in their first 70 years.”

Gap Box

Above, we have the first “point and shoot,” the Gap Box 6x9, a curiously attractive device made in France in 1950. This camera “played a very important role by making photography accessible to the general public,” allowing “anyone to take pictures at the lowest price and in the most simple way.”

The Compass

Then there are the stylized and the streamlined. Just above, see a very fine machine called The Compass, manufactured by Swiss watchmaker Le Coultre between 1937 and 1940. And below, gaze upon the graceful Haneel Tri-Vision, made in Los Angeles in 1946.


Almost equally appealing in their design simplicity are the irresistibly cute miniature cameras, such as the “Mickey Mouse” below. Manufactured in Germany in 1958, these tiny things—despite the “copyright” notice on the lens—may have disappeared quickly “due to them not actually being sanctioned by the Disney Corporation.” They were, however, sold with a “large cardboard Mickey Mouse that ‘held’ the camera.”

Mickey Mouse

See also the Coronet Midget. Made in England in 1934, this 5-shilling camera “must be one of the most popular of all small cameras to collect.” The company marketed its own 6-exposure film for the Midget, which came in a choice of five colors.

Coronet Midget

Coronet Midget 2

From the couture to the high-tech to the quirky and inventive (like the Lark “Sardine Can” below), the French vintage camera archive makes available a visual history of the camera that may exist nowhere else. It is the history of an object that defined the 20th century, and that may fully disappear sometime soon in the 21st. And while we can spend several hours a day marveling over the products of these fine devices, it’s a rare treat to see the things themselves in such an astonishing variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and degrees of design ingenuity. Take some time to get acquainted with the evolution of the handheld camera before digital technology finally renders it extinct.

Lark Sardine

Via Laughing Squid/ Messy Nessy Chic/PetaPixel

Images courtesy of Collection Appareils.

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

Watch Dragnet’s 1967 LSD Episode: #85 on TV Guide’s List of the Greatest Episodes of All Time

Jack Webb’s seminal cop show Dragnetwhich first ran on television through most of the '50s, was known for its gritty realism. In every episode, the show's robotic, laconic lead, Detective Joe Friday, would navigate the seedy underworld and eventually get his man.

Though Dragnet rivaled only I Love Lucy in popularity, Webb pulled the plug on the series in 1959. But he couldn't stay away.  In January 1967, Webb launched a reboot of Dragnet. This time, Friday, quite possibly the squarest person on the planet, takes on youth culture. Case in point, the series’ inaugural show, which you can watch above, where Friday and his new partner Bill Gannon stumble upon that strange new societal scourge LSD. Incidentally, this is also the first episode of Dragnet to be shot in color. Make of that what you will.

When Friday and Gannon investigate a complaint about someone eating bark, they discover a teenager who painted his face Braveheart-style and is babbling about the pilot light at the center of the Earth. This is Blueboy AKA Benjamin Carver and clearly, he is tripping. He's also selling lousy acid to Marcia Brady look-alikes.

The show is a fascinating time capsule on a number of levels. First, this episode was made while LSD was still legal. (Acid was banned California in October 1966. Not long, one imagines, after the episode was shot.) Friday and Gannon shake their heads in frustration over their legal impotence, especially later when they discover Blueboy dead from an overdose. Just in case you didn’t get the show’s moral (drugs = bad) Webb lards the episode with terrifying facts about the drug. “LSD is so potent that a single pound of the preparation can turn every person in Los Angeles county into a total psychotic. The population of the county – seven million people.”

Media critic Michele Hilmes argues, however, that the show might just be speaking out of both sides of its mouth. To an older generation, Dragnet is a cop show preaching law and order. To the younger generation, Webb’s heavy-handedness crosses the line into parodic camp.

Jack Webb so embodied the role of Joe Friday that he all but became the LAPD in the popular imagination. When Webb died in 1982, he was buried with full police honors and his badge number, 714, was officially retired from the force. It’s curious that a cop so unrelentingly smug would become the paragon of LA’s finest.

Thom Andersen memorably summed up the series in his seminal essay film Los Angeles Plays Itself. “Dragnet admirably expressed the contempt the LAPD had for the law-abiding civilians it was pledged ‘to protect and to serve.’ It protected us from ourselves, and it served us despite our best efforts to make the job more difficult. … Friday’s heavy-handed irony never lets up. None of the witnesses or suspects he questions penetrates his wall of condescension. Of course, Dragnet isn’t a documentary portrait of the LAPD, and its detectives weren’t really like Joe Friday. What’s scary is that he represented the department’s ideal.”

According to Andrew Graham's Dragnet blogTV Guide voted this episode #85 on its list of the greatest TV episodes of all time.

via Neatorama

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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. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.

Bob Dylan’s Thanksgiving Radio Show: A Playlist of 18 Delectable Songs


Image by Rowland Scherman, via Wikimedia Commons

If you're looking for a soundtrack for Thanksgiving, you could do worse than to let Bob Dylan create it for you.

From May 2006 until April 2009, Dylan hosted the Theme Time Radio Hour, a weekly radio show on XM Satellite Radio. Each show revolved around a different theme (e.g., "Weather," "Drinking" or "Baseball"). But the episodes all had one thing in common -- they presented listeners with an eclectic mix of music, everything from LL Cool J and Chuck Berry, to They Might Be Giants, Billie Holiday, and Johnny Cash. Trying to describe the radio show, theater critic Terry Teachout wrote in The Wall Street Journal: "To listen to Theme Time Radio Hour is to rediscover the sense of musical adventure that old-fashioned disc jockeys with strongly individual personalities offered in the days before big-money stations pinned their fiscal hopes to the rigid Top 40-style playlists that took the fun out of radio."

Today we bring you Episode 30 of Season 1, "Thanksgiving Leftovers," which originally aired on November 22, 2006. The show features 18 songs, selected and introduced by Dylan. The songs (find a list below) aren't dishes cooked fresh. No, they're "leftovers" -- tunes that Dylan had hoped to squeeze into previous radio shows but never quite managed to do. Yet, together, they make for a pretty good meal. You can stream them all above. And if you like what you hear, head over to the Theme Time Radio Hour Archive, where they've apparently archived all 100 episodes, audio included.

  1. "Turkey In The Straw" -- Liberace (1952)
  2. "Hallelujah, I'm A Bum" — Harry McClintock (1926)
  3. "Let Me Play With Your Poodle" — Tampa Red & Big Maceo (1942)
  4. "Yard Dog" — Al Ferrier (1972)
  5. "The Turkey Hop" — The Robins with Johnny Otis Orchestra (1950)
  6. "Honeysuckle Rose" — Fats Waller (1934)
  7. "Twelve Red Roses" — Betty Harris (1966)
  8. "Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes" — Skeets McDonald (1952)
  9. "Them There Eyes" — Billie Holiday (1939)
  10. "Angel Eyes" — Jesse Belvin (1959)
  11. "Gunslingers" — Mighty Sparrow (1963)
  12. "Let's Be Friends" — Billy Wright (1955)
  13. "Whiskey Is The Devil (In Liquid Form)" — The Bailes Brothers (1947)
  14. "Teach Me Tonight" — Dinah Washington (1954)
  15. "Teacher Teacher" — Rockpile (1980)
  16. "Iodine In My Coffee" — Muddy Waters (1952)
  17. "You Eat Too Much" — Harold Burrage (1956)
  18. "Pie In The Sky" — Cisco Houston (1960)

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George Orwell’s Final Warning: Don’t Let This Nightmare Situation Happen. It Depends on You!

More than 60 years after his death and the closely preceding publication of his best-known novel 1984, we look to George Orwell as a kind of prophet of the ills of corporatism, socialism, authoritarianism, totalitarianism — any powerful -ism, essentially, in which we can find nasty, freedom-destroying implications. The BBC documentary Orwell: A Life in Pictures, which we featured a few years back, makes a point of highlighting Orwell's "warning" to what he saw as a fast corporatizing/socializing/authoriatarianizing/totalitarianizing world. In the film's final dramatized scene above (watch the complete film here), the re-created Orwell himself makes the following ominous prediction:

Allowing for the book, after all, being a parody, something like 1984 could actually happen. This is the direction the world is going in at the present time. In our world, there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. The sex instinct will be eradicated. We shall abolish the orgasm. There will be no loyalty except loyalty to the Party. But always there will be the intoxication of power. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who's helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever. The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: don't let it happen. It depends on you.

This fictionalized Orwell — much like the real Orwell — doesn't mince words. But as with most unminced words, these mask a more complicated reality. Though Orwell fans may find each individual piece of this speech recognizable, especially the bit about the boot and the face, the man himself never spoke it — not in this form, anyway.

It mixes documented statements of Orwell's with words from the text of 1984, and its dramatic closer ["Don't let it happen. It depends on you!"] comes, as writes Barnes and Noble's Steve King, from a post-publication press release directed by publisher Fredric Warburg toward readers who "had misinterpreted [Orwell's] aim, taking the novel as a criticism of the current British Labour Party, or of contemporary socialism in general." The quotation from the press release was "soon given the status of a last statement or deathbed appeal, given that Orwell was hospitalized at the time and dead six months later."

You can read more at, which provides a great deal of context on this press release, which runs, in full, as follows:

It has been suggested by some of the reviewers of Nineteen Eighty-Four that it is the author’s view that this, or something like this, is what will happen inside the next forty years in the Western world. This is not correct. I think that, allowing for the book being after all a parody, something like Nineteen Eighty-Four could happen. This is the direction in which the world is going at the present time, and the trend lies deep in the political, social and economic foundations of the contemporary world situation.

Specifically the danger lies in the structure imposed on Socialist and on Liberal capitalist communities by the necessity to prepare for total war with the U.S.S.R. and the new weapons, of which of course the atomic bomb is the most powerful and the most publicized. But danger lies also in the acceptance of a totalitarian outlook by intellectuals of all colours.

The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: Don’t let it happen. It depends on you.

George Orwell assumes that if such societies as he describes in Nineteen Eighty-Four come into being there will be several super states. This is fully dealt with in the relevant chapters of Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is also discussed from a different angle by James Burnham in The Managerial Revolution. These super states will naturally be in opposition to each other or (a novel point) will pretend to be much more in opposition than in fact they are. Two of the principal super states will obviously be the Anglo-American world and Eurasia. If these two great blocks line up as mortal enemies it is obvious that the Anglo-Americans will not take the name of their opponents and will not dramatize themselves on the scene of history as Communists. Thus they will have to find a new name for themselves. The name suggested in Nineteen Eighty-Four is of course Ingsoc, but in practice a wide range of choices is open. In the U.S.A. the phrase “Americanism” or “hundred per cent Americanism” is suitable and the qualifying adjective is as totalitarian as anyone could wish.

If there is a failure of nerve and the Labour party breaks down in its attempt to deal with the hard problems with which it will be faced, tougher types than the present Labour leaders will inevitably take over, drawn probably from the ranks of the Left, but not sharing the Liberal aspirations of those now in power. Members of the present British government, from Mr. Attlee and Sir Stafford Cripps down to Aneurin Bevan will never willingly sell the pass to the enemy, and in general the older men, nurtured in a Liberal tradition, are safe, but the younger generation is suspect and the seeds of totalitarian thought are probably widespread among them. It is invidious to mention names, but everyone could without difficulty think for himself of prominent English and American personalities whom the cap would fit.

Readers can still find plenty to quibble with in Orwell, but surely that counts as a point toward his status as an enduringly fascinating writer. The lesson, however much we may misinterpret its delivery — and indeed, how much Orwell himself may sometimes seem to misdeliver it — holds steady: don't let it happen. How not to let it happen, of course, remains a matter of active inquiry.

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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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