Blues Guitar Legend Johnny Winter Shines Live on Danish TV (1970)

“Out of all the hopped-up Caucasians who turbocharged the blues in the late Sixties,” writes Rolling Stone, “Texas albino Johnny Winter was both the whitest and the fastest.” While brother Edgar hung a synthesizer around his neck and explored Southern rock’s outer weirdness, Johnny stuck closer to roots music, playing with blues greats like Mike Bloomfield, Junior Wells, and Muddy Waters (he produced three Grammy-winning Waters albums). Despite, or because of, his blues bona fides, Winter was always a stalwart in the rock scene. He played Woodstock, often covered Chuck Berry, Dylan, and The Rolling Stones, and released several albums with his own band.

Winter passed away Wednesday in his hotel room in Zurich at age 70. In tribute, we bring you the full performance above of Winter with his band on Danish TV in 1970. See Winter’s brilliant thumb-picking style on full display as he and the band rip through “Mama Talk to Your Daughter,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Be Careful With a Fool,” and “Mean Town Blues.” Want to learn some Johnny Winter magic? Check out this video guitar lesson with the man himself. And just below, see a trailer for a new Winter documentary, Johnny Winter: Down and Dirty, that premiered at SXSW this past March.

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


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What Goes Into Ramen Noodles, and What Happens When Ramen Noodles Go Into You

Here in South Korea, where I’ve stayed for about a month, I’ve noticed people eating quite a lot of instant ramen noodles. And not just out of those pre-packaged cups you pour hot water into, which we all remember from our student days. They put the stuff in everything, especially the dishes you least expect. They’ve made something of a national culinary art form of throwing instant ramen into various traditional stews and soups, thus significantly raising the status of that ultimate low-status food. But when we talk about ramen without the “instant” in front of it, it can suddenly take us straight into the realm of the gourmet: the Ivans and the Momofukus of the worlds, for instance. In the short video above, you can see what kind of highly non-instant process Sun Noodle, the supplier to those fine U.S.-based ramen houses and others, goes through to make a first-class product.

But why pay for the best when the cost of a single meal at Momofuku could buy all the instant ramen you’d ever need? Perhaps the project above from artist and TEDxManhattan video presenter Stefani Bardin will go some way to answering the question. In it, she uses a gastrointestinal camera pill to record what it looks inside our bodies when we eat “whole foods” — hibiscus Gatorade, pomegranate and cherry juice Gummi Bears, homemade chicken stock with handmade noodles — versus when we eat “processed foods” — blue Gatorade, regular Gummi Bears, and, yes, good old instant ramen. For a far more pleasant follow-up to that harrowing visual experience, revisit how to make instant ramen courtesy of Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki, which we featured last year. And if it gets you feeling ambitious, why not find some more challenging ramen recipes on Cookpad, the Japanese cooking site newly launched in English? Or do as the Koreans sometimes do and combine it with fish cake, eggs, and a slice of American cheese — if you can stomach it.

via Kottke

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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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The Sex Pistols Do Dallas: A Strange Concert from the Strangest Tour in History (January 10, 1978)

“Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious were both punched in the face by girl fans as the Sex Pistols performed today deep in the heart of Texas.” That was the lede for the English newspaper The Evening News covering the Pistol’s concert at The Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas, TX on January 10, 1978. It proved to be one of the strangest, most contentions shows in one of the strangest, most contentious tours in rock history. You can watch it above. All 37 minutes.

By the time of the concert, the Sex Pistols were already notorious in the U.K.  They had released a single – “God Save the Queen” – that called Britain’s head of state a fascist on the date of her Silver Jubilee. The single became a huge hit in spite of – or perhaps because of – it getting banned by the BBC. They famously hurled obscenities at a chat show host on live TV.  But to be fair, host Bill Grundy literally asked for it. “You’ve got another five seconds,” he told Johnny Rotten and company. “Say something outrageous.” They did.

Though the band started out as an elaborate Situationist-inspired performance art piece dreamed up by megalomaniac manager Malcolm McLaren, they evolved beyond just being a stunt.  Their music was loud, aggressive and gleefully nihilist with lines like “And I wanna be anarchist, I get pissed, destroy!” That music and that attitude touched some deep simmering well of cultural discontent — be it lower class frustrations, dissatisfaction with consumer culture or some darker primal urge to burn everything down. Their music resonated.

sex-pistols-merle-haggard

For their 1978 tour of the United States, McLaren wasn’t interested in building a fan base. He was interested in pissing people off. So the tour completely bypassed seemingly obvious tour stops, like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, in favor of places like Memphis, Tulsa and San Antonio – none of which were exactly hot beds for punk. A famous picture of the marquee of the Longhorn Balloon shows the Pistols listed alongside Merle Haggard, giving you a feel for just how weird this tour was. Prior to the concert, Sid Vicious confessed his fears to a reporter about playing in Dallas. “They killed Kennedy here and everybody has warned us that the people are crazy. I think there’s a real danger that this is the town where I am going to be blown away.” (Weird historical side note: The Longhorn Ballroom was owned for a spell by Jack Ruby, the guy who shot Lee Harvey Oswald.)

The police were also reportedly worried. The Dallas police department had a SWAT team ready just in case the show turned into a riot. It didn’t, but just barely. The audience was equally split between hardcore fans – for example, Lamar St. John, the woman who decked Sid Vicious in the nose, drove from Los Angeles to see the show – and skeptical locals who wanted to see what the fuss was all about. As one Dallas paper wrote, “most of the people last night came to see the people who came to see the Sex Pistols.”

As you can see from the video, Johnny Rotten, who spent much of the show looking like a tweaker in the throes of a demonic possession, wasted few opportunities to ridicule the audience. “I see that we have a whole section of the silent majority around there,” he sneered. As the band worked its way through the set list, culminating in a blistering rendition of “Anarchy in the U.K.,” the audience hurled beer cans, tomatoes, garbage and the occasional punch at the stage. It’s not clear if the people who were doing the throwing were fans or irate cowboys. Such is the world of punk. Sid Vicious, the band’s outrageous if utterly untalented bassist, jumped around on stage and occasionally contributed some atonal backing vocals. After the punch, he let his nose bleed and soon he was covered in blood. “The bass player rubbed blood over his face and chest,” wrote the Evening News, “so that he looked like a demented cannibal.”

“Sid was really fucked up. Really drunk,” recalled writer Nick Barbaro. “He played for a while without his guitar plugged in. He played for a while with a fish. I think somebody threw it up there, a bass or something. People seemed pissed at him. He’d spit on the audience; they’d spit on him. That’s what you did. There was this element of, ‘You paid to see us play?’”

Four days later, the band broke up. “This is no fun. No fun at all. Ever feel like you’ve been cheated?” Rotten wearily said on stage in San Francisco, the Sex Pistol’s final concert, before walking off stage and quitting the band. Vicious was dead a year later from a heroin overdose.

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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.


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Charles Bukowski Rails Against 9-to-5 Jobs in a Brutally Honest Letter (1986)

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Charles Bukowski—or “Hank” to his friends—assiduously cultivated a literary persona as a perennial drunken deadbeat. He mostly lived it too, but for a few odd jobs and a period of time, just over a decade, that he spent working for the United States Post Office, beginning in the early fifties as a fill-in letter carrier, then later for over a decade as a filing clerk. He found the work mind-numbing, soul-crushing, and any number of other adjectives one uses to describe repetitive and deeply unfulfilling labor. Actually, one needn’t supply a description—Bukowski has splendidly done so for us, both in his fiction and in the epistle below unearthed by Letters of Note.

In Bukowski’s first novel Post Office (1971), the writer of lowlife comedy and pathos builds in plenty of wish-fulfillment for his literary alter ego Henry Chinaski. Kyle Ryan at The Onion’s A.V. Club sums it up succinctly: “In Bukowski’s world, Chinaski is practically irresistible to women, despite his alcoholism, misogyny, and general crankiness.” In reality, to say that Bukowski found little solace in his work would be a gross understatement. But unlike most of his equally miserable co-workers, Bukowski got to retire early, at age 49, when, in 1969, Black Sparrow Press publisher John Martin offered him $100 a month for life on the condition that he quit his job and write full time.

Needless to say, he was thrilled, so much so that he penned the letter below fifteen years later, expressing his gratitude to Martin and describing, with characteristic brutal honesty, the life of the average wage slave. And though comparisons to slavery usually come as close to the level of absurd exaggeration as comparisons to Nazism, Bukowski’s portrait of the 9 to 5 life makes a very convincing case for what we might call the thesis of his letter: “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”

After reading his letter below, you may feel a great deal more sympathy, if you did not already, with Bukowski’s life choices. You may find yourself, in fact, re-evaluating your own.

8-12-86

Hello John:

Thanks for the good letter. I don’t think it hurts, sometimes, to remember where you came from. You know the places where I came from. Even the people who try to write about that or make films about it, they don’t get it right. They call it “9 to 5.” It’s never 9 to 5, there’s no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don’t take lunch. Then there’s OVERTIME and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place.

You know my old saying, “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.

As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?

Early on, when I was quite young and going from job to job I was foolish enough to sometimes speak to my fellow workers: “Hey, the boss can come in here at any moment and lay all of us off, just like that, don’t you realize that?”

They would just look at me. I was posing something that they didn’t want to enter their minds.

Now in industry, there are vast layoffs (steel mills dead, technical changes in other factors of the work place). They are layed off by the hundreds of thousands and their faces are stunned:

“I put in 35 years…”

“It ain’t right…”

“I don’t know what to do…”

They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn’t they? I figured the park bench was just as good or being a barfly was just as good. Why not get there first before they put me there? Why wait?

I just wrote in disgust against it all, it was a relief to get the shit out of my system. And now that I’m here, a so-called professional writer, after giving the first 50 years away, I’ve found out that there are other disgusts beyond the system.

I remember once, working as a packer in this lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: “I’ll never be free!”

One of the bosses was walking by (his name was Morrie) and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life.

So, the luck I finally had in getting out of those places, no matter how long it took, has given me a kind of joy, the jolly joy of the miracle. I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I’m gone) how I’ve come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die.

To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.

yr boy,

Hank

via Flavorwire

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


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Great Opening Lines of Fiction on Old School IBM Punch Cards

Call me Ishmael 2Looking to kill some time during the dog days of summer? Here’s one option that John Ptak came up with. On his intriguing blog, The History of Ideas, he writes: “Isn’t this great?  I bumped into a wonderful site called kloth.net that provides a free-to-all and unrestricted use of their punch card emulator. It was found while looking for dating ideas for an IBM 5081 card that I have that has programming information for the BINAC computer (ca. late 1940′s), and kloth.net had info on the history of IBM cards as well as the emulator–plus other stuff. Completely distracted from the BINAC quest, I created some cards using some great first lines of literature.  You can play too!”  I created two of my own, using The American Book Review’s list of 100 great opening lines.

I am an invisible man 2

What exactly is a punch card, our younger readers might rightly ask? An IBM web site tells us:

Perhaps the earliest icon of the Information Age was a simple punched card produced by IBM, commonly known as the “IBM card.” Measuring just 7- 3/8 inches by 3- 1/4 inches, the piece of smooth stock paper was unassuming, to be sure. But taken collectively, the IBM card [like the floppy disks that came later] held nearly all of the world’s known information for just under half a century—an impressive feat even by today’s measures. It rose to popularity during the Great Depression and quickly became a ubiquitous installment in the worlds of data processing and popular culture. What’s more, the punched card [see examples from Columbia University here] provided such a significant profit stream that it was instrumental to IBM’s rapid growth in the mid-twentieth century.

Now punch away….

via The Paris Review

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Hunter S. Thompson’s Conspiratorial 9/11 Interview: “The Public Version of the News is Never Really What Happened”

Having read almost everything the prolific Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas author Hunter S. Thompson ever wrote, I don’t know if I would call him paranoid, per se. Nor do I know if I would call him not paranoid. He certainly trusted no entity with power, especially not governments, and really especially not the United States government. So by the time September 11, 2001 came around, he had little goodwill to spare for any of the major players involved in its aftermath. “The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country,” he wrote in his September 12 ESPN column. “Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives. It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides.”

A year later, Australia’s ABC Radio National got Thompson’s assessment of the situation. Host Mick O’Regan opens the now famous interview above by asking how he thought the U.S. media had performed in the new post-9/11 reality. “‘Shamefully’ is a word that comes to mind,” responds Thompson. “American journalism I think has been cowed and intimidated by the massive flag-sucking, this patriotic orgy that the White House keeps whipping up. You know if you criticise the President it’s unpatriotic and there’s something wrong with you, you may be a terrorist.” And does he think 9/11 “worked in favor of the Bush Administration?” For Thompson’s full answer, blogger Scratchingdog tracked down the original recording of the interview, not the edited version actually aired on ABC, and heard this:

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And I have spent enough time on the inside of, well, in the White House and you know, campaigns and I’ve known enough people who do these things, think this way, to know that the public version of the news or whatever event, is never really what happened. And these people I think are willing to take that even further, so I don’t assume that I know the truth of what went on that day, and yeah, just looking around and looking for who had the motive, who had the opportunity, who had the equipment, who had the will. Yeah, these people were looting the treasury and they knew the economy was going into a spiral downward.

9/11 conspiracy theorists have made much of this response and other Thompsonian analysis found in the unedited interview, going so far as to suggest that maybe — just maybe — the writer died three years later of something other than suicide. Given Thompson’s compulsion to speak truth to power, and sometimes to wave firearms around in front of it, any fan of his work can’t help but harshly scrutinize, and often pre-emptively dismiss, any and all “official stories” they happen to hear. We’ll never know whether Thompson would have approved of the “9/11 Truth” movement in the forms it has taken today, but they do share his spirit of creative distrust. And perhaps a touch of paranoia gave his writing its distinctive verve. Nobody moves into what they unfailingly describe as a “fortified compound,” after all, without at least a little bit of it.

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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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The Ramones, a New Punk Band, Play One of Their Very First Shows at CBGB (1974)

“Ramones Reunion Nearly Complete,” announced The Onion just about ten years ago, after the death of the band’s guitarist Johnny Ramone. His bandmates Joey and Dee Dee Ramone had each taken their leave of this mortal coil a few years before, and now, with the passing of drummer Tommy Ramone, all the group’s original members have gone to that big CBGB in the sky. In the video above, you can see the Ramones playing at the small CBGB down here on Earth — way down here on Earth, given the setting of downtown Manhattan in 1974. That year alone, after the revelation they brought about after first taking the stage in their bangs, ripped jeans, and black leather jackets on August 16, they played the now-historic rock club no fewer than 74 times. Show length averaged about seventeen minutes, which means this video, at just seven minutes, includes quite a few songs. The setlist includes “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement,” and “Judy Is a Punk.”

This performance happened on September 15, 1974, six months after their debut at Performance Studios in March of that year. They wouldn’t sign a recording contract until late the next year, but they would do it because the wife of Sire Records co-founder Seymour Stein saw them at CBGB. Though the Ramones always prided themselves on the rawness of their sound, this show catches them at a moment when, though they’d already armed themselves with looks and the attitude that made them instant icons, they still had to feel their way through exactly what this “punk rock” thing would turn into. You can see their music taking an even clearer, more distilled form in the 1977 CBGB set we featured last year. They may have lived fast, the Ramones, but they played even faster. Could they have done it without the borderline-unpunklike skill of their drummer?

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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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5 Wonderfully Long Literary Sentences by Samuel Beckett, Virginia Woolf, F. Scott Fitzgerald & Other Masters of the Run-On

TheFaulknerPortable

Despite its occasional use in spoken monologue, the Very Long Literary Sentence properly exists in the mind (hence “stream-of-consciousness”), since the most wordy of literary exhalations would exhaust the lungs’ capacity. Molly Bloom’s 36-page, two-sentence run-on soliloquy at the close of Joyce’s Ulysses takes place entirely in her thoughts. Faulkner’s longest sentence—smack in the middle of Absalom, Absalom! —unspools in Quentin Compson’s tortured, silent ruminations. According to a 1983 Guinness Book of Records, this monster once qualified as literature’s longest at 1,288 words, but that record has long been surpassed, in English at least, by Jonathan Coe’s The Rotter’s Club, which ends with a 33-page-long, 13,955 word sentence. Czech and Polish novelists have written book-length sentences since the sixties, and French writer Mathias Énard puts them all to shame with a one-sentence novel 517 pages long, though its status is “compromised by 23 chapter breaks that alleviate eye strain,” writes Ed Park in the New York Times. Like Faulkner’s glorious run-ons, Jacob Silverman describes Énard’s one-sentence Zone as transmuting “the horrific into something sublime.”

Are these literary stunts kin to Philippe Petit’s highwire challenges—undertaken for the thrill and just to show they can be done? Park sees the “The Very Long Sentence” in more philosophical terms, as “a futile hedge against separation, an unwillingness to part from loved ones, the world, life itself.” Perhaps this is why the very long sentence seems most expressive of life at its fullest and most expansive. Below, we bring you five long literary sentences culled from various sources on the subject. These are, of course, not the “5 longest,” nor the “5 best,” nor any other superlative. They are simply five fine examples of The Very Long Sentence in literature. Enjoy reading and re-reading them, and please leave your favorite Very Long Sentence in the comments.

At The New Yorker‘s “Book Club,” Jon Michaud points us toward this long sentence, from Samuel Beckett’s Watt. We find the title character, “an obsessively rational servant,” attempting to “see a pattern in how his master, Mr. Knott, rearranges the furniture.”

Thus it was not rare to find, on the Sunday, the tallboy on its feet by the fire, and the dressing table on its head by the bed, and the night-stool on its face by the door, and the washand-stand on its back by the window; and, on the Monday, the tallboy on its back by the bed, and the dressing table on its face by the door, and the night-stool on its back by the window and the washand-stand on its feet by the fire; and on the Tuesday…

Here, writes Michaud, the long sentence conveys “a desperate attempt to nail down all the possibilities in a given situation, to keep the world under control by enumerating it.”

The next example, from Poynter, achieves a very different effect. Instead of listing concrete objects, the sentence below from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby opens up into a series of abstract phrases.

Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

Chosen by The American Scholar editors as one of the “ten best sentences,” the passage, writes Roy Peter Clark, achieves quite a feat: “Long sentences don’t usually hold together under the weight of abstractions, but this one sets a clear path to the most important phrase, planted firmly at the end, ‘his capacity for wonder.’”

Jane Wong at Tin House’s blog “The Open Bar” quotes the hypnotic sentence below from Jamaica Kincaid’s “The Letter from Home.”

I milked the cows, I churned the butter, I stored the cheese, I baked the bread, I brewed the tea, I washed the clothes, I dressed the children; the cat meowed, the dog barked, the horse neighed, the mouse squeaked, the fly buzzed, the goldfish living in a bowl stretched its jaws; the door banged shut, the stairs creaked, the fridge hummed, the curtains billowed up, the pot boiled, the gas hissed through the stove, the tree branches heavy with snow crashed against the roof; my heart beat loudly thud! thud!, tiny beads of water grew folds, I shed my skin…

Kincaid’s sentences, Wong writes, “have the ability to simultaneously suspend and propel the reader. We trust her semi-colons and follow until we are surprised to find the period. We stand on that rock of a period—with water all around us, and ask: how did we get here?”

The blog Paperback Writer brings us the “puzzle” below from notorious long-sentence-writer Virginia Woolf’s essay “On Being Ill”:

Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to view, what precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers a little rise of temperature reveals, what ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us by the act of sickness, how we go down into the pit of death and feel the water of annihilation close above our heads and wake thinking to find ourselves in the presence of the angels and harpers when we have a tooth out and come to the surface in the dentist’s arm-chair and confuse his “Rinse the Mouth —- rinse the mouth” with the greeting of the Deity stooping from the floor of Heaven to welcome us – when we think of this, as we are frequently forced to think of it, it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.

Blogger Rebecca quotes Woolf as a challenge to her readers to become better writers. “This sentence is not something to be feared,” she writes, “it is something to be embraced.”

Finally, from The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, we have the very Molly Bloom-like sentence below from John Updike’s Rabbit, Run:

But then they were married (she felt awful about being pregnant before but Harry had been talking about marriage for a while and anyway laughed when she told him in early February about missing her period and said Great she was terribly frightened and he said Great and lifted her put his arms around under her bottom and lifted her like you would a child he could be so wonderful when you didn’t expect it in a way it seemed important that you didn’t expect it there was so much nice in him she couldn’t explain to anybody she had been so frightened about being pregnant and he made her be proud) they were married after her missing her second period in March and she was still little clumsy dark-complected Janice Springer and her husband was a conceited lunk who wasn’t good for anything in the world Daddy said and the feeling of being alone would melt a little with a little drink.

Sentences like these, writes Barnes & Noble blogger Hanna McGrath, “demand something from the reader: patience.” That may be so, but they reward that patience with delight for those who love language too rich for the pinched limitations of workaday grammar and syntax.

Related Content:

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


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James Franco’s Short Student Film Features Michael Shannon Playing a Necrophile (NSFW)

It’s entirely possible that James Franco has a doppelganger. Or maybe access to some alien space/time bending technology. Otherwise, I really can’t figure out how Franco manages to do all the things he does. On top of starring in movies like Milk, Spring Breakers and Pineapple Express and getting nominated for an Academy Award for 127 Hours, Franco is also a published novelist and poet, an artist and, as an odd performance art routine, a guest on General Hospital. He received an MFA in writing from Columbia, and is currently a PhD student in English at Yale.

And, of course, he’s a film director. His first feature was an adaptation of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and his second directorial effort, which comes out next month, is based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel Child of God. Clearly, Franco is not interested in making light-hearted family fare. Yet perhaps his darkest, most disturbing movie is Herbert White, a short he did while a film student at NYU. (Oh yeah, he went there too.) You can watch it above. Warning: while not graphic, it probably is NSFW.

Based on a poem by Frank Bidart, Herbert White is a glimpse into the life of a dedicated family man and secret necrophile. The film stars Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon, and Franco lets him do what he does best – look pensive, haunted and like he’s on the brink of committing an unspeakable act. If you’ve seen his powerhouse performance in Jeff Nichol’s Take Shelter, you know what I mean. The movie is shot in an understated, elliptical sort of way that slowly gets under your skin. This is particularly the case in the film’s climatic scene, shot in one single take, where Shannon circles his intended victim while he argues with himself over whether or not to succumb to his dark urges. It is deeply unnerving.

In an interview with Vice — he finds the time to be a regular correspondent for that uber-cool publication too, by the way – he talks about that scene.

I thought Herbert’s struggle with himself would be best captured if we didn’t cut away from him. The racing around the block along with Michael’s screeches and curses (ad-libbed) adds to the depiction of the inner struggle. We shot it three times, racing around the block. I was in the back with my DP. We were both pinching each other because the scene was so intense.

Franco was so moved by the experience of directing the movie that he published a book of poems about the experience (of course) called Directing Herbert White. You can watch him read some of those poems below.

You can find Herbert White added to our collection, 675 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

via NoFilmSchool

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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.

 


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Watch The Hire: 8 Short Films Shot for BMW by John Woo, Ang Lee & Other Popular Filmmakers (2002)

If there’s ever a Mad Men: The Next Generation, count on a 40-ish Sally Draper to psych a conference room full of BMW execs out of the tried-and-true formula for luxury automobile ads in favor of a groundbreaking, nightmarish, pre-YouTube web series.

As fictional scenarios go, it’s about as likely as having the Hardest Working Man in Show Business James Brown place a winner-take-all bet with the devil (Gary Oldman) that his driver Clive Owen can out-drag perennial movie bad guy Danny Trejo. (In other words, very likely.)

The prize?

Another 50 years of hip-shaking, leg-splitting soul for the Godfather of.

Can’t wait for the soon-to-be released James Brown biopic to find out who wins?

Check out “Beat the Devil,” above, the final installment of BMW Films’ 8-episode series, The Hire. One of the new millennium’s earliest examples of branded content, each frenetic segment found Owen’s nameless driver going up against a roster of big name guest stars, including Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Marilyn Manson, and an uncredited, pee-soaked Madonna. (You heard me.)

Brown’s episode, directed by the late Tony Scott, quickly ventures into David Lynch territory. Oldman’s Prince of Darkness gets laughs with a prop fluorescent tube and striped suspender tights, but the scene’s not without menace. (Recall Dean Stockwell lip-synching Candy Colored Clown in Blue Velvet…)

The dialogue calls to mind Jim Jarmusch‘s blunt snap.

Devil: Stick your face in the hole!

James Brown: My face?

Devil: Stick it in the hole!

James Brown: My face?

Devil: Face in the hole!

James Brown: My face?

Devil: Face in the- oh, shit!”

Elsewhere, Brown’s line delivery gets a boost from same-language subtitles, without which one could easily mishear his concerns about aging as an unexpected, late-in-life racial identification switch. (Say it loud, I’m Asian and proud?)

If the clip above leaves you hungry for more, the complete BMW series, featuring the testosterone-rich work of such high octane directors as John Frankenheimer, Guy Ritchie, and John Woo is available on the playlist below. 

You can find The Hire added to our collection, 675 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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Ayun Halliday is an author, homeschooler and the Chief Primatologist of The East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday


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