Hunter S. Thompson, Existentialist Life Coach, Gives Tips for Finding Meaning in Life

At first blush, Hunter S. Thompson might be the last person you would want to ask for advice. After all, his daily routine involved copious amounts of cocaine, LSD and Chivas Regal. He once raked a neighbor’s house with gunfire. And he once almost accidentally blew up Johnny Depp. Yet beneath his gonzo persona lay a man who thought deeply and often about the meaning of it all. He was someone who spent a lifetime staring into the abyss.

So in 1958, before he became a counter-culture icon, before he even started writing professionally, Thompson wrote a long letter about some of the big questions in life to his friend, Hume Logan, who was in the throes of an existential crisis.

While the first couple of paragraphs warns against the dangers of seeking advice, Hunter then expounds at length on some deep, and surprisingly level-headed truths. Below are a few pearls of wisdom:

  • Whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this!
  • You might also try something called Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre. These are merely suggestions. If you’re genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you’re doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.)
  • To put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. We do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.
  • Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN— and here is the essence of all I’ve said— you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.
  • Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know— is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.

The letter was published in the 2013 book, Letters of Note. You can read it in its entirety below.

April 22, 1958
57 Perry Street
New York City

Dear Hume,

You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal— to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.

I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles … ” (Shakespeare)

And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect— between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.

But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he’s not after the “big rock candy mountain,” the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?

The answer— and, in a sense, the tragedy of life— is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.

So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?

The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all, or not with tangible goals, anyway. It would take reams of paper to develop this subject to fulfillment. God only knows how many books have been written on “the meaning of man” and that sort of thing, and god only knows how many people have pondered the subject. (I use the term “god only knows” purely as an expression.) There’s very little sense in my trying to give it up to you in the proverbial nutshell, because I’m the first to admit my absolute lack of qualifications for reducing the meaning of life to one or two paragraphs.

I’m going to steer clear of the word “existentialism,” but you might keep it in mind as a key of sorts. You might also try something called Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre. These are merely suggestions. If you’re genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you’re doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.) But back to the answer. As I said, to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.

But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors— but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires— including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.

As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).

In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life— the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN— and here is the essence of all I’ve said— you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.

Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ve lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn’t any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.

So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”

And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know— is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.

If I don’t call this to a halt, I’m going to find myself writing a book. I hope it’s not as confusing as it looks at first glance. Keep in mind, of course, that this is MY WAY of looking at things. I happen to think that it’s pretty generally applicable, but you may not. Each of us has to create our own credo— this merely happens to be mine.

If any part of it doesn’t seem to make sense, by all means call it to my attention. I’m not trying to send you out “on the road” in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that— no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.

And that’s it for now. Until I hear from you again, I remain,

your friend,

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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.

Michel Gondry’s Finest Music Videos for Björk, Radiohead & More: The Last of the Music Video Gods

We didn’t realize it at the time, but Michel Gondry was one of the last great music video directors, creating mini-epics just before the music industry collapsed, budgets disappeared, and now your cousin with a Canon 7D is following his friend’s band around in a field and putting *that* up on Vimeo. Maybe Gondry too saw the writing on the wall, because, by the beginning of the ‘aughts, he was inching his way into Hollywood, first with Human Nature and then striking paydirt with the Charlie Kaufman-scripted Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of the best French films ever made that wasn’t French (apart from the director).

But in the twilight of music videos, Gondry’s best work combined new technology with the homemade, DIY aesthetic. His interest in fractals, mathematics, and logical paradoxes and loops went into the mix. As did his interest in the machinery and artifice of movie making. And as did his romantic, autobiographical side. What follows is a small selection of some of his best, most complex music videos.

Gondry directed several videos for Björk, starting with “Human Behavior,” her first solo single, but 1997’s “Bachelorette” (top) goes beyond playful into heartbreaking. A riff on an infinitely recursive poem, a story that is about the telling of itself, the video finds Björk discovering a book in the woods that begins to write itself. As she finds a publisher, gains success, and sees the book turned into a musical, the story is told again, and then again, a play within a play within a play. But each version is analog, not digital, and loses something in the process, and the forest creeps back in to claim its work.

Similarly, in this video for The Chemical Brothers’ song “Let Forever Be” (1999) Gondry sets up two worlds, one on digital video, where our heroine attempts to wake up and go to work at a department store; and another shot on film, where the girl’s numerous doppelgängers parody her struggle and her grip on sanity through choreographed dance numbers. This illustrates a familiar Gondry equation: If A and B, then A+B equals freakout madness time. The colorbars of video production loom nearby to further the idea of irreality, and a cheesy VideoToaster-style effect rescues us at the end.

As far as we know, Radiohead’s “Knives Out” (2001) has nothing to do with hospitals, but Gondry took this cannibalistic song and made one of his most personal videos. Here Thom Yorke stands in for the director, as Gondry offers a mea culpa about a relationship that went past its expiration date, when his girlfriend developed an illness and he couldn’t bear to break up with her. All of that is laid out, in sad, fever-dream detail, in this single-take video that features a lot of his obsessions: toys, television, loops, and a shuffling of symbols and motifs. Look for Gondry’s son briefly playing on the floor.

And finally:

Not to go out with a sour note, here’s Gondry’s adventurous 1994 video for the swallowed-by-history Lucas. “Lucas with the Lid Off” is one of Gondry’s first one-take masterpieces that shows how the magic is made while still being magical. (The current kings of single-take music videos, OK Go, owe their success to Gondry.) It’s also a video that tries to give each sampled loop its own element within the video, looking forward to his work for Daft Punk (“Around the World”) and The Chemical Brothers (“Star Guitar”).

Gondry continues to make videos–he made one last year for Metronomy’s “Love Letters,” but his attention is really elsewhere. Enjoy these gems from his classic era.

Note: Gondry’s 1988 short animated film, Jazzmosphere, an exploration of jazz and images, has been added to our collection, 700 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills and/or watch his films here.

A Playlist of 172 Songs from Wes Anderson Soundtracks: From Bottle Rocket to The Grand Budapest Hotel

life aquatic

So much of the writing done about the films of Wes Anderson focuses on their visuals — and with good cause. We’ve featured pieces on everything from the design of their settings to the symmetry of their shots to their quotation of other movies. You can’t talk about the aesthetic distinctiveness of Anderson’s work unless you talk about its visual distinctiveness, but you also miss out on a lot if you focus solely on that. We mustn’t forget the importance of sound in all of this, and specifically the importance of music.

Casual Anderson fans might here think of one kind of music before all others: the British Invasion. The Creation’s “Making Time” in Rushmore, the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” in The Royal Tenenbaums, and, to take the concept in as Andersonian a direction as possible, Portuguese-language covers of David Bowie songs in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Yet Anderson’s projects have made use of quite a few other musical traditions besides, as you’ll already know if you remember the jazz-scored short version of Bottle Rocket we featured a couple years ago.

But getting the clearest sense of the music might require temporarily separating it from the movies. To that end, we offer you “From Bottle Rocket to The Grand Budapest Hotel,” a Spotify playlist by Michael Park bringing together 172 of the songs included in Anderson’s eight features so far, coming to over nine and a half hours of immaculately curated, 20th century counterculture-rooted music, from not just the Stones and Bowie-via-Seu Jorge but Horace Silver, the Kinks, the Vince Guaraldi Trio, Elliott Smith, Yves Montand, Nick Drake, and the Velvet Underground. (To listen, you need only download and register for Spotify.)

While you listen, why not read through Oscar Rickett’s Vice interview with Anderson’s music supervisor Randall Poster? “Wes always talks about how those guys would wear coats and ties on the cover of their records but that the music was so aggressive and rebellious,” says Poster of the director’s lasting penchant for the British Invasion. “I think that corresponded to [Rushmore protagonist] Max Fischer because he was this kid who, underneath it all, was looking to break through. The music speaks to his character, who is out of time with the world, and I think that’s a running theme in our movies and you can see it with M. Gustave in Grand Budapest Hotel, who is holding on to a more mannered, genteel era.” And what current works of art have expressed genteel rebellion, or rebellious gentility, so well as Anderson’s?

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema 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.

Download Pink Floyd’s 1975 Comic Book Program for The Dark Side of the Moon Tour

Pink Floyd Comic 1
For all their serious brooding and biting digs at the establishment, the members of Pink Floyd were not above having a little fun with their image. Take this 1975 comic book, created by their record cover designer Storm Thorgerson’s company Hipgnosis for the Dark Side of the Moon tour. A “Super, All-Action Official Music Programme for Boys and Girls,” the 15-page oddity—pitched, writes Dangerous Minds, “somewhere halfway between ‘professional promotional item’ and ‘schoolboy’s notebook scribbling’”—includes several short comic stories: Roger (“Rog”) Waters is an “ace goal-scorer” for the “Grantchester Rovers” football club. Floyd drummer Nick Mason becomes “Captain Mason, R.N.,” a “courageous and smart” WWII naval hero, and David Gilmour gets cast as stunt cyclist “Dave Derring.” The juiciest part goes to keyboardist Richard Wright, whose salacious exploits as high roller “Rich Right” complete the proto-Heavy Metal vibe of the whole thing.

Floyd Comic 2

Perhaps most fun is a silly questionnaire called “Life Lines” that asks each band member about such trivia as age, weight, height, “philosophical beliefs,” “sexual proclivities,” “political leanings,” and “musical hates.” Most of the answers are of the flippant, smartass variety, but I think they’re all sincere when they name their favorite movies: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, The Seventh Seal, Cool Hand Luke, and El Topo. I’ll let you figure out who chose which one. (Click the image above, then click again, to enlarge.) The penultimate page includes the lyrics to three new songs the band was working on at the time and playing live during the Dark Side of the Moon Tour: “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” and two unreleased tracks, “Raving and Drooling” and “Gotta Be Crazy”—which later turned into “Sheep” and “Dogs,” respectively, on the Animals album.

Pink Floyd Comic 3

The comic takes the goofiness of Beatlemania-like merch to a much farther out place—somewhere “beyond the 3rd Bardo.” One member of the International Roger Waters Fanclub, who kept his program comic book for decades after seeing the Dark Side show in San Francisco, writes “I was so wasted on acid at the show, I don’t know how I held on to anything.” Hipgnosis, and Floyd, surely knew their audience. You can download the whole thing here, in high resolution images. (Click through and then scroll to the bottom of the page.) See much more Pink Floyd tour memorabilia at the fansite

via Dangerous Minds

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

Two Short Films on Coffee and Cigarettes from Jim Jarmusch & Paul Thomas Anderson

When American society relinquished cigarettes, American cinema lost one of its most dramatic visual devices. You still see smoking in the movies, but its meaning has changed. “A cigarette wasn’t always a statement,” wrote David Sedaris when he himself kicked the habit. “Back when I started, you could still smoke at work, even if you worked in a hospital where kids with no legs were hooked up to machines. If a character smoked on a TV show, it did not necessarily mean that he was weak or evil. It was like seeing someone who wore a striped tie or parted his hair on the left — a detail, but not a telling one.”

These two short films show American auteurs keeping the cinematic centrality of the cigarette alive well after its heyday had ended. At the top of the post, you can watch Jim Jarmusch’s 1986 short Coffee and Cigarettes, which stars Steven Wright and Roberto Benigni sitting down for and talking about those very same consumables. It began a long-term project that culminated in Jarmusch’s 2003 feature of the same name, which comprises eleven such coffee- and cigarette-centric short films (one of them featuring Iggy Pop and Tom Waits, another featuring Bill Mur) shot over those eighteen years.

While one might naturally have met a friend specifically to enjoy caffeine and nicotine in the mid-1980s, a decade later the situation had changed: only in America’s seedier corners could you even find a coffee-serving establishment to smoke in. Paul Thomas Anderson used this very setting to begin his career with Cigarettes and Coffee above. Eschewing film school, he gathered up his college fund, some gambling winnings, his girlfriend’s credit card, and various other bits and pieces of funding in order to commit this short story to film.

It worked: Cigarettes and Coffee scored Anderson an invitation to the Sundance Filmmakers Lab, a setting that allowed him to adapt the short into his feature debut Hard Eight. Like Cigarettes and CoffeeHard Eight stars Philip Baker Hall, a favorite actor of Anderson’s that he went on to use in both Boogie Nights and Magnolia. Thematically, this tale of a group of low-living but in their own ways hard-striving characters all connected by a $20 bill presages the themes that, in his pictures of higher and higher profile, he continues to work with today.

And can it be an accident that Anderson has, in the main, set his films in past eras that not only accepted smoking, but expected it? Jarmusch, for his part, seems to prefer milieus at increasing distance from our everyday experience, amid urban samurai, assassins in foreign lands, immortal vampires in Detroit, that sort of thing. So if these filmmakers want to keep using smoking, they have ways. I just hope coffee doesn’t fall out of style. That would bring about a world that, as a filmgoer and a human being, I doubt I’d be prepared to live in.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema 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.

Hear The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” With a Re-Discovered George Harrison Solo

George Harrison “never thought he was any good” as a guitarist, says his son Dhani, and so “he focused on touch and control… not hitting any off notes, not making strings buzz, not playing anything that would jar you.” Harrison himself put it this way, in typically self-effacing, mystical fashion: “I play the notes you never hear.” Of course, as most every thoughtful guitar player will tell you, these are exactly the makings of a good—and in Harrison’s case, great—guitarist. A dime a dozen are players who can play speed runs and flashy solos, who have learned every lick from their favorite songs and can re-produce them exactly. But it’s the sensitivity—the personal “touch and control” over the instrument—that matters most, and that can make a player’s tone impossible to duplicate. Harrison’s playing, Dhani says, “is the reason no one can really cover the Beatles faithfully…. At some point there’s going to be a George Harrison solo, and that solo is usually perfect.”

I would certainly say that is the case with the guitar solo in “Here Comes the Sun.” Oh, you’ve never heard it? That’s because the song, as it was originally released on 1969’s Abbey Road didn’t have one. For whatever reason, George Martin decided to leave it out, and the song, we might agree, is perfect without it. But the solo—rediscovered by Martin and Dhani Harrison—is also perfect. You can hear a version of the song with the solo restored at the top of the post, courtesy of Youtube user Kanaal van DutchDounpour. And above, see Dhani, Martin, and Martin’s son Giles rediscovering the solo, which Martin had forgotten about, while playing around with the master tracks of the song in 2012. (The second video first appeared on our site that same year.) At 1:01, the solo suddenly appears. Martin leans in and listens attentively and Dhani says, “It’s totally different to anything I’ve ever heard.” It’s unmistakable Harrison, the “liquid quality” Jayson Greene identified in a Pitchfork appreciation, more evocative of “a zither, a clarinet—something more delicate, nuanced and lyrical than an electric guitar.”

Impossible, I’d say, to duplicate. Even the younger Harrison—perhaps the most faithful interpreter of George’s music—finds himself fudging his father’s solos when covering his songs, playing his own instead. Harrison, says Tom Petty, always had a way of “finding the right thing to play. That was part of the Beatles magic.” He may not be remembered as the most virtuoso of guitarists, he may not have thought much of his own playing, but no one has ever played like him, before or since. See Harrison play an acoustic rendition of “Here Comes the Sun”—sans solo—above at the concert for Bangladesh.

(Note: some readers have pointed out that the solo at the top of the post sounds out of tune. We do not doubt that it is George Harrison’s playing, but it has been edited and possibly even sped up to match the final mastered recording. This is not a professional remix, but only a rough recreation of what the song might have sounded like had the lost solo been included.)

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

Watch Veterans of The US Civil War Demonstrate the Dreaded Rebel Yell (1930)

“It was the ugliest sound that any mortal ever heard—even a mortal exhausted and unnerved by two days of hard fighting, without sleep, without rest, without food and without hope.”

- Ambrose Bierce,  “A Little of Chickamauga” (1898)


“…a shrill ringing scream with a touch of the Indian war-whoop in it .”

- London Times reporter William Howard Russell (1861)


“…a foxhunt yip mixed up with sort of a banshee squall.”

- Historian Shelby Foote (1990)

 The secessionist battle cry has long captivated Civil War scholars. A fixture of literature as well as eyewitness accounts, its actual sound was a matter of conjecture. It lent itself to colorful description. Phonetic renderings could not hope to reproduce the chilling effect:

“Yee-aay-ee!”  -Margaret Mitchell

“Wah-Who-Eeee!”  -Chester Goolrick

“Rrrrrr-yahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip!” -H. Allen Smith

Of course, the Rebel Yell is far from the only sound to have struck a note of dread during The Civil War. Hoofbeats, the crackle of flames, a white voice commanding you to leave your hiding place…

By the time the harmless-looking grandpas in the archival footage above donned their old uniforms to demonstrate the yell, the war had been over for sixty-five years.

There’s a clear sense of occasion. The old fellows’ pipes are impressive, though one begins to understand why there was never consensus regarding the actual sound of the thing.

Linguist Allen Walker Read concluded that the yell—aka the “Pibroch of the Confederacy,” a vocal legacy of blue painted Celtic warriors facing down the Roman army—was a stress-related, full body response. Ergo, any hollering done after 1865 was a facsimile.

At least one veteran agreed. In Ken Burn’s Civil War documentary, Shelby Foote recalled how one of them refused to oblige eager listeners at a society dinner, claiming he could only execute it at a run, and certainly not with “a mouth full of false teeth and a belly full of food.”

(An assertion several legions of grey coated reenactors clearly do not support.)

My 14-year-old son was greatly amused by the coyote-like ululations of the old gents. The variety of interpretations only heightened his enjoyment. Their proud demonstration is undeniably reminiscent of  Patrick Stewart’s take on the regional variations of mooing British cows.

I had to remind my boy that this was once a serious thing. To quote Henry “Dr. Livingston, I Presume” Stanley, who participated in the Battle of Shiloh as a 21-year-old enlistee on the Southern side:

It drove all sanity and order from among us. It served the double purpose of relieving pent-up feelings, and transmitting encouragement along the attacking line. I rejoiced in the shouting like the rest. It reminded me that there were about four hundred companies like the Dixie Greys, who shared our feelings. Most of us, engrossed with the musket-work, had forgotten the fact; but the wave after wave of human voices, louder than all other battle-sounds together, penetrated to every sense, and stimulated our energies to the utmost.

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

The New Yorker Presents: Watch the 30 Minute Pilot of the New Docu-Series from The New Yorker

Note: Anyone with an Amazon account (at least in the US) can watch this pilot in HD for free here.

This week, The New Yorker officially celebrates its 90th anniversary with an expanded edition that revisits its many accomplishments since it first printed copies on February 21, 1925. Led by David Remnick, only the magazine’s fifth editor, The New Yorker has a rich past. But it has a future to consider too. Recently, the magazine launched the pilot of The New Yorker Presents — a “docu-series” that brings The New Yorker aesthetic to film. The 30-minute pilot (above, and also free on Amazon here) “features a doc from Oscar winner Jonathan Demme based on Rachel Aviv’s article ‘A Very Valuable Reputation,’ writer Ariel Levy interviewing artist Marina Abramovic, a sketch from Simon Rich and Alan Cumming, poetry read by Andrew Garfield, and cartoons by Emily Flake.”

If you like what you see, you’re in luck. The show, produced by Amazon Studios, has been greenlit for a full season. According to Real Screen, the new episodes will debut exclusively on Amazon Prime’s video-on-demand service in the U.S., UK and Germany later this year. When the episodes are out, we’ll let you know.

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Read the Lost Sherlock Holmes Story That Was Just Discovered in an Attic in Scotland


In November, we presented for you a quick way to download The Complete Sherlock Holmes — not knowing that, a few months later, a lost Sherlock Holmes story, seemingly attributed to Arthur Conan Doyle, would be discovered in an attic in Scotland.

The story, The Guardian writes, was “part of a pamphlet printed in 1903 to raise money to restore a bridge in the Scottish border town of Selkirk.” Discovered by the historian Walter Elliot, the tale entitled “Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, By Deduction, the Brig Bazaar” can be read below, thanks to Vulture.

In 2013, a US judge ruled that Sherlock Holmes stories now belonged in the public domain. The same would appear to hold true for this happily discovered, 1300-word story. You can find more Sherlock Holmes stories in our collection of Free eBooks.

“Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, By Deduction, the Brig Bazaar”

We’ve had enough of old romancists and the men of travel” said the Editor, as he blue-pencilled his copy, and made arrangements for the great Saturday edition of the Bazaar Book. “We want something up-to-date. Why not have a word from ‘Sherlock Holmes?'”

Editors have only to speak and it is done, at least, they think so. “Sherlock Holmes!” As well talk of interviewing the Man in the Moon. But it does not do to tell Editors all that you think. I had no objections whatever, I assured the Editor, to buttonhole “Sherlock Holmes,” but to do so I should have to go to London.

“London!” scornfully sniffed the Great Man. “And you profess to be a journalist? Have you never heard of the telegraph, the telephone, or the phonograh? Go to London! And are you not aware that all journalists are supposed to be qualified members of the Institute of Fiction, and to be qualified to make use of the Faculty of Imagination? By the use of the latter men have been interviewed, who were hundreds of miles away; some have been ‘interviewed’ without either knowledge or consent. See that you have a topical article ready for the press for Saturday. Good day.”

I was dismissed and had to find copy by hook or by crook. Well, the Faculty of Imagination might be worth a trial.

The familiar house in Sloan Street met my bewildered gaze. The door was shut, the blinds drawn. I entered; doors are no barrier to one who uses the Faculty of Imagination. The soft light from an electric bulb flooded the room. “Sherlock Holmes” sits by the side of the table; Dr Watson is on his feet about to leave for the night. Sherlock Holmes, as has lately been shown by a prominent journal, is a pronounced Free Trader. Dr. Watson is a mild Protectionist, who would take his gruelling behind a Martello tower, as Lord Goschen wittily put it, but not “lying down!” The twain had just finished a stiff argument on Fiscal policy. Holmes loq—

“And when shall I see you again, Watson? The inquiry into the ‘Mysteries of the Secret Cabinet’ will be continued in Edinburgh on Saturday. Do you mind a run down to Scotland? You would get some capital data which you might turn to good account later.”

“I am very sorry,” replied Dr Watson, “I should have liked to have gone with you, but a prior engagement prevents me. I will, however, have the pleasure of being in kindly Scottish company that day. I, also, am going to Scotland.”

“Ah! Then you are going to the Border country at that time?”

“How do you know that?”

“My dear Watson, it’s all a matter of deduction.”

“Will you explain?”

“Well, when a man becomes absorbed in a certain theme, the murder will out some day. In many discussions you and I have on the fiscal question from time to time I have not failed to notice that you have taken up an attitude antagonistic to a certain school of thought, and on several occasions you have commented on the passing of “so-called’ reforms, as you describe them, which you say were not the result of a spontaneous movement from or by the people, but solely due to the pressure of the Manchester School of politicians appealing to the mob. One of these allusions you made a peculiar reference to ‘Huz an’ Mainchester’ who had ‘turned the world upside down.’ The word ‘Huz’ stuck to me, but after consulting many authors without learning anything as to the source of the word, I one day in reading a provincial paper noticed the same expression, which the writer said was descriptive of the way Hawick people looked at the progress of Reform. ‘Huz an’ Mainchester’ led the way. So, thought I, Watson has a knowledge of Hawick. I was still further confirmed in this idea by hearing you in several absent moments crooning a weird song of the Norwegian God Thor. Again I made enquires, and writing to a friend in the South country I procured a copy of ‘Teribus.’ So, I reasoned, so — there’s something in the air! What attraction has Hawick for Watson?”

“Wonderful,” Watson said, “and —”

“Yes, and when you characterised the action of the German Government in seeking to hamper Canadian trade by raising her tariff wall against her, as a case of ‘Sour Plums,’ and again in a drawing room asked a mutual lady friend to sing you that fine old song, ‘Braw, braw lads,’ I was curious enough to look up the old ballad, and finding it had reference to a small town near to Hawick, I began to see a ray of daylight. Hawick had a place in your mind; likewise so had Galashiels — so much was apparent. The question to be decided was why?”

“So far so good. And—”

“Later still the plot deepened. Why, when I was retailing to you the steps that led up to the arrest of the Norwood builder by the impression of his thumb, I found a very great surprise that you were not listening at all to my reasoning, but were lilting a very sweet – a very sweet tune, Watson – ‘The Flowers of the Forest;’ then I in turn consulted an authority on the subject, and found that that lovely if tragic song had a special reference to Selkirk. And you remember, Watson, how very enthusiastic you grew all of a sudden on the subject of Common-Ridings, and how much you studied the history of James IV., with special reference to Flodden Field. All these things speak, Watson, to the orderly brain of a thinker. Hawick, Galashiels, and Selkirk. What did the combination mean? I felt I must solve the problem, Watson; so that night when you left me, after we had discussed the “Tragedy of a Divided House,” I ordered in a ton of tobacco, wrapped my cloak about me, and spent the night in thought. When you came round in the morning the problem was solved. I could not on the accumulative evidence but come to the conclusion that you contemplated another Parliamentary contest. Watson, you have the Border Burghs in your eye!”

“In my heart, Holmes,” said Watson.

“And where do you travel to on Saturday, Watson?”

“I am going to Selkirk; I have an engagement there to open a Bazaar.”

“Is it in aide of a Bridge, Watson?”

“Yes,’ replied Watson in surprise; “but how do you know? I have never mentioned the matter to you.”

“By word, no; but by your action you have revealed the bent of your mind.”


“Let me explain. A week ago you came round to my rooms and asked for a look at ‘Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome.’ (You know I admire Macaulay’s works, and have a full set.) That volume, after a casual look at, you took with you. When you returned it a day or two later I noticed it was marked with a slip of paper at the ‘Lay of Horatius,’ and I detected a faint pencil mark on the slip noting that the closing stanza was very appropriate. As you know, Watson, the lay is all descriptive of the keeping of a bridge. Let me remind you how nicely you would perorate —

When the goodman mends his armour
And trims his helmet’s plume,
When the goodwife’s shuttle merrily
Goes flashing through the loom,
With weeping and with laughter.
Still the story told —
How well Horatius kept the bridge,
In the brave days of old.

Could I, being mortal, help thinking you were bent on some such exploit yourself?”

“Very true!”

“Well, goodbye, Watson; shall be glad of your company after Saturday. Remember Horatius’ words when you go to Border Burghs: ‘How can man die better than facing fearful odds.’ But there, these words are only illustrations. Safe journey, and success to the Brig!”

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