The Lost/Animated Interview with Fidel Castro: If the Revolution Fails, Cuba Will be “Hell Itself” (1959)

“If this Rev­o­lu­tion falls, what we will have here in Cuba is a hell,” Fidel Cas­tro said in Havana in 1959. “Hell itself.”

Cas­tro was 32 when he made the procla­ma­tion dur­ing an inter­view record­ed just weeks after the over­throw of dic­ta­tor Ful­gen­cio Batista. The new Cuba was still tak­ing shape after the rev­o­lu­tion led by the 26th of July Move­ment. Cas­tro spoke exten­sive­ly about his vision for Cuba dur­ing a 35-minute inter­view with an Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist that has nev­er been heard pub­licly until now.

The inter­view was dis­cov­ered a few years ago when Lau­ra Gal­loway found a tape in her late grand­fa­ther’s archives that sim­ply said “Galloway/Castro.” Clark Hewitt Gal­loway was the intra-Amer­i­can affairs edi­tor for U.S. News and World Report. Gal­loway cov­ered Latin and South Amer­i­ca for the mag­a­zine after serv­ing in the same region with the U.S. Army Intel­li­gence corps dur­ing WWII. Blank on Blank’s new episode for its PBS series ani­mates the sto­ry behind the tape and a col­lec­tion of out­takes from the inter­view. Cas­tro talks about: why Che Gue­vara, Raul Cas­tro and the 26th of July Move­ment were not Com­mu­nist; and why Cuba had issues with the Amer­i­can pres­ence in the Guan­tanamo Naval Base and, specif­i­cal­ly, Amer­i­can sailors stir­ring up trou­ble while out on the town in Guan­tanamo.

Blank on Blank has also post­ed the entire 35-minute inter­view in Span­ish with the Eng­lish trans­la­tion by Sebas­t­ian Bet­ti. Dur­ing the full inter­view, Cas­tro goes into great detail about how the Cuban econ­o­my would be rebuilt and how the agrar­i­an reform plan would be put into effect. He dis­putes whether Amer­i­can inter­ests in Cuba would be nation­al­ized. And he down­plays the idea of being asked to be a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

The release of this unearthed inter­view comes as Cas­tro’s broth­er, Raul, just gave a lengthy speech about the demise of Cuban cul­ture and con­duct despite what the rev­o­lu­tion has brought to the coun­try.

This post was brought to you by David Ger­lach, the founder of Blank on Blank.

Guitar Stories: Mark Knopfler on the Six Guitars That Shaped His Career

When Dire Straits front­man Mark Knopfler was a kid grow­ing up in New­cas­tle-Upon-Tyne, Eng­land, he dreamed about get­ting his own gui­tar. “I remem­ber stand­ing out­side music stores with my nose pressed up against the glass, just star­ing at those elec­tric gui­tars,” he told Peo­ple mag­a­zine in 1985. “I used to smell Fend­er cat­a­logs, I want­ed one so bad.” Knopfler even­tu­al­ly talked his father into buy­ing him a Höfn­er Super Sol­id V2 gui­tar for £50. The only prob­lem was, it did­n’t come with an ampli­fi­er. “I did­n’t have the nerve to ask poor old dad for an amp,” Knopfler says in the doc­u­men­tary above. “I blew up the fam­i­ly radio in fair­ly short order.”

Knopfler tells the sto­ry of that first gui­tar and five oth­ers that shaped his career in this fas­ci­nat­ing 45-minute doc­u­men­tary that aired in Britain last Octo­ber on the Sky Arts tele­vi­sion chan­nel. Gui­tar Sto­ries: Mark Knopfler is host­ed by Knopfler’s friend and co-founder of Dire Straits, bassist John Ill­s­ley. The film offers a num­ber of insights into Knopfler’s music and the key instru­ments that influ­enced his evolv­ing style.

From the open­ing scenes at a music shop in New­castle’s Cen­tral Arcade, where the young Knopfler spent hours star­ing at gui­tars through win­dows, Ill­s­ley and Knopfler move on to the city of Leeds, where Knopfler once worked as a junior reporter for the York­shire Evening Post. There they meet up with his long­time friend and men­tor Steve Phillips, a mem­ber of Knopfler’s post-Dire Straits band The Not­ting Hill­bil­lies. An afi­ciona­do of the Delta Blues, Phillips intro­duced the young Knopfler to the dis­tinc­tive sound of  “res­onator” acoustic gui­tars.

Although it was­n’t the first res­onator gui­tar he ever owned, Knopfler choos­es as his sec­ond key gui­tar a 1937 Nation­al Style “O” gui­tar he bought from Phillips in 1978. The dis­tinc­tive nick­el-plat­ed brass gui­tar, with its palm tree etch­ings around the edges and on the back, was fea­tured on the cov­er of Dire Straits’ best­selling 1985 album Broth­ers in Armsand was used for some of the band’s best songs. At one point in the film, Knopfler picks up the Nation­al and demon­strates how he hit on the famous arpeg­gio lines in “Romeo and Juli­et,” from the Mak­ing Movies album, while exper­i­ment­ing with an open G tun­ing.

From Leeds, Ill­s­ley and Knopfler trav­el to the loca­tion of the orig­i­nal Path­way Stu­dios in Lon­don, where they record­ed their 1978 debut album, Dire Straits. Knopfler picks up his third key gui­tar, a 1961 Fend­er Stra­to­cast­er, and plays a few notes from the band’s break­through song, “Sul­tans of Swing.” The Stra­to­cast­er was the gui­tar Knopfler had always want­ed, but as his music pro­gressed he sought to diver­si­fy his sound. Knopfler’s fourth key gui­tar, which he played on Broth­ers in Arms, is a sun­burst 1958 Gib­son Les Paul. In one par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing moment in the film, Knopfler explains how he came up with the dis­tinc­tive gui­tar sound for the hit song “Mon­ey for Noth­ing” by play­ing the Les Paul through a sta­t­ic, part­ly depressed wah-wah ped­al.

While tour­ing with Dire Straits, Knopfler found it dif­fi­cult to con­stant­ly change back and forth between gui­tars, so he decid­ed to look for a sin­gle gui­tar that could pro­duce a vari­ety of sounds. To explain what hap­pened next, Knopfler and Ill­s­ley trav­el to the SoHo neigh­bor­hood of New York, where they pay a vis­it to Rudy’s Music on Broome Street and talk to the pro­pri­etor, Knopfler’s long­time friend Rudy Pen­sa, who has built cus­tom gui­tars since 1982. Knopfler and Pen­sa describe their col­lab­o­ra­tion on the design of Knopfler’s fifth key gui­tar, the Pen­sa MK‑1, which he played dur­ing his final years with Dire Straits.

The film ends with a vis­it to the Long Island work­shop of mas­ter luthi­er John Mon­teleone. In 2008 Mon­teleone built the sixth key gui­tar in Knopfler’s life, the acoustic “Isabel­la” arch­top, named after Knopfler’s eldest daugh­ter. Knopfler was so inspired by Mon­teleone’s crafts­man­ship that he wrote a song called “Mon­teleone” for his 2009 solo album, Get Lucky. The song speaks elo­quent­ly of Knopfler’s admi­ra­tion of Mon­teleone and, between the lines per­haps, of his life­long love affair with gui­tars:

via MetaFil­ter

Relat­ed con­tent:

Eric Clap­ton Tries Out Gui­tars at Home and Talks About the Bea­t­les, Cream, and His Musi­cal Roots

J.R.R. Tolkien Reads From The Two Towers, the Second Book of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Tolkien fans, tell me: were you dis­ap­point­ed with the first install­ment of Peter Jackson’s Hob­bit film tril­o­gy? Did you find it as lum­ber­ing and clum­sy as a trio of cock­ney trolls, or as ugly as a bug-eyed and be-wat­tled gob­lin king? Pin­ing away for the days when The Lord of the Rings films were the go-to pop-cul­ture fan­ta­sy references—before, say, Twi­light harshed that buzz? Well, I could rec­om­mend to you some of the fan-made films that stepped in to fill the LOTR void in recent years. There’s the not-very-good Born of Hope and the very much bet­ter The Hunt for Gol­lum. I’ve seen them both because, well…. I just need­ed to is all.

But there is anoth­er way. I know it’s per­verse, pos­si­bly sub­ver­sive, and maybe, just maybe, even dan­ger­ous. Turn off the com­put­er and open the books up again—your yel­lowed, crumbly paper­backs, your Barnes & Noble econ­o­my re-issue edi­tions (I won’t judge), hell, turn on the Kin­dle. Savor the lan­guages Tolkien invent­ed and the Eng­lish that he re-invent­ed, immerse your­self in a lit­er­ary world at once utter­ly fan­tas­tic and per­fect­ly moral­ly seri­ous. Do that, and your crav­ing for spec­ta­cle may van­ish, maybe replaced by a crav­ing for more Tolkien—like his retelling of events in the Norse Edda saga in his Leg­end of Sig­urd and Gudrun.

And while you’re read­ing up on that one, lis­ten to the audio above of Tolkien him­self read­ing from Chap­ter IV of The Two Tow­ers. The rich­ness of his Eng­lish voice makes me wish we had record­ings of him read­ing all three nov­els, but we must work with what we’ve got, and it is good. Enjoy.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dis­cov­er J.R.R. Tolkien’s Per­son­al Book Cov­er Designs for The Lord of the Rings Tril­o­gy

Lis­ten to J.R.R. Tolkien Read Poems from The Fel­low­ship of the Ring, in Elvish and Eng­lish (1952)

Lis­ten to J.R.R. Tolkien Read a Lengthy Excerpt from The Hob­bit (1952)

Down­load Eight Free Lec­tures on The Hob­bit by “The Tolkien Pro­fes­sor,” Corey Olsen

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


See What Happens When You Run Finnegans Wake Through a Spell Checker

Spell Check

Read­ing James Joyce’s Ulysses is no walk in the park. Why else would so many peo­ple false­ly claim to have read it. (See our post from last week, 20 Books Peo­ple Pre­tend to Read.) But Finnegans Wake is a whole ‘nother deal. Joyce’s final work is con­sid­ered one of the most dif­fi­cult works of fic­tion ever writ­ten, and con­trary to Ulysses, the nov­el “has some claim to be the least read major work of West­ern lit­er­a­ture,” accord­ing to Joyce schol­ar Lee Spink. Put sim­ply, peo­ple don’t even both­er read­ing … or pre­tend­ing to read … Finnegans Wake (unless, of course, they live in Chi­na, where the nov­el reached the #2 posi­tion on a Shang­hai best­seller list ear­li­er this year.)

But I digress: why don’t read­ers even give Finnegans Wake a shot? The illus­tra­tion above per­haps says it all. The web site has cre­at­ed a visu­al show­ing what hap­pens when you run a page of the nov­el through a spell check­er. It yields a lot of red, and then some more red. A fram­able print of this visu­al can be pur­chased at stamm­punct for $35.

Copies of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake can be down­loaded from our col­lec­tion of Free eBooks. And you can hear James Joyce read­ing ‘Anna Livia Plura­belle’ from Finnegans Wake here. It was record­ed in 1929.

via The Paris Review

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear James Joyce Read From his Epic Ulysses, 1924

Hen­ri Matisse Illus­trates 1935 Edi­tion of James Joyce’s Ulysses

Stephen Fry Explains His Love for James Joyce’s Ulysses

Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe Reads Joyce’s Ulysses at the Play­ground (1955)


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Spike Lee Shares His NYU Teaching List of 87 Essential Films Every Aspiring Director Should See

I’m sure you’ve heard by now: wealthy, suc­cess­ful film direc­tor Spike Lee hopes to fund his next film via a Kick­starter cam­paign. Yes, that’s right, he wants you to pay for his art. His cam­paign, per­haps need­less to say, is hard­ly pop­u­lar with the aver­age film fan, many of whom find it hard enough to scrounge up the sky­rock­et­ing prices of tick­ets these days. Lee has respond­ed to his crit­ics, but some­how I doubt his rea­son­ing will go over well.

But we’re not here to talk about alleged crowd­fund­ing abus­es (have at it in the com­ments if you must). Instead, today we have for you—in the tra­di­tion of our many posts on famous teach­ers’ syl­labi—one of Lee’s teach­ing tools in his role as an NYU pro­fes­sor. Where all of our pre­vi­ous posts have fea­tured read­ing lists, Lee’s is a list of films, which he hands out to all of the stu­dents who take his grad­u­ate class–not required view­ing, but rec­om­mend­ed as “essen­tial” for every aspir­ing direc­tor.

lee essential.jpg.CROP.article568-large

In the video at the top of the post, see Lee intro­duce the list of what he con­sid­ers, “the great­est films ever made.” “If you want to be a film­mak­er,” he says, “you should see these films.” The list, above and con­tin­ued below, includes some of the usu­al crit­i­cal favorites—Rashomon, Ver­ti­go, On the Water­front—and some pret­ty left field choic­es, like Mel Gibson’s Apoc­a­lyp­to.

Slate, which first pub­lished the list, notes the omis­sion of usu­al­ly revered direc­tors like Howard Hawks, John Ford, Fritz Lang, and Yasu­jirō Ozu as well as the paucity—or near non-existence—of female direc­tors (only one makes the list, the co-direc­tor of City of God). In addi­tion to pos­si­bly rant­i­ng about, or defend­ing, Lee’s use of Kick­starter, many of you may find your­selves quib­bling over, or defend­ing, his def­i­n­i­tion of “essen­tial.” And so, I say again, have at it, read­ers!

Note: When Spike orig­i­nal­ly released this list, many not­ed the lack of female film­mak­ers. Lee accept­ed that cri­tique and released an updat­ed list. Find it here.

lee essential 2.jpg.CROP.article568-large

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Spike Lee Got His First Big Break: From She’s Got­ta Have It to That Icon­ic Air Jor­dan Ad

David Fos­ter Wallace’s 1994 Syl­labus: How to Teach Seri­ous Lit­er­a­ture with Light­weight Books

W.H. Auden’s 1941 Lit­er­a­ture Syl­labus Asks Stu­dents to Read 32 Great Works, Cov­er­ing 6000 Pages

Allen Ginsberg’s “Celes­tial Home­work”: A Read­ing List for His Class “Lit­er­ary His­to­ry of the Beats”

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

Nobel Laureates Draw Playful Pictures of Their Discoveries

nobel soccer 3

As an arty, unath­let­ic only child in the 70s, I refused to buy into the idea that sci­ence could be fun. This despite a wealth of zip­py edu­ca­tion­al pro­gram­ming, and the efforts of at least two cute young teach­ers whose hands-on approach includ­ed throw­ing eggs off of a rail­road tres­tle, demol­ish­ing tooth­pick bridges and dip­ping things into liq­uid nitro­gen for the sheer plea­sure of see­ing them explode when they hit the wall. Nice try. As far as I was con­cerned, those dullsville black-and-white films from the ’50s embod­ied the sub­jec­t’s gen­er­al vibe far more hon­est­ly than any attempt to force it down our throats with a fash­ion­able Hon­ey­comb Kids-style spin.

Hav­ing by now met dozens of sci­en­tists and sci­ence enthu­si­asts who are left cold by the arts, I’m not ashamed to be plain­spo­ken here.  I cer­tain­ly don’t begrudge them their pas­sion, and appre­ci­ate it when they don’t belit­tle mine. Dif­fer­ent strokes, you know?

Still, it’s nice to stum­ble across com­mon ground and for me, pho­tog­ra­ph­er Volk­er Ste­gerfor’s Nobel lau­re­ate por­traits pro­vides acreage on the order of Jim Otta­viani and Leland Myrick­’s graph­ic biog­ra­phy of Richard Feyn­man. I may be hard pressed to artic­u­late what the peo­ple in the por­traits are famous for, but I appre­ci­ate their will­ing­ness to be a play by the artist’s rules. (By his esti­mate, the decline rate is some­where around 4. 29%)

Ste­gerfor’s method for cap­tur­ing big brained inno­va­tors in a light frame of mind resem­bles a well run exper­i­ment. His unsus­pect­ing spec­i­mens were appre­hend­ed at Ger­many’s annu­al Lin­dau Nobel Lau­re­ate Meet­ing. Thus secured, they were led one at a time into a tem­po­rary stu­dio where each was invit­ed to draw what­ev­er it was that had earned him or her the Nobel prize. The results weren’t much as art, but they’re unmis­tak­ably play­ful, bristling with arrows, excla­ma­tion points, smi­ley faces, and word bub­bles. The pho­tog­ra­ph­er let his sub­jects pick the pose, at which points things did become art.

I’m going to award 1996 Chem­istry lau­re­ate Sir Harold Kro­to Best in Show for his well war­rant­ed action pose. Appar­ent­ly, his dis­cov­ery’s mol­e­c­u­lar struc­ture looks like a soc­cer ball.

It’s not exact­ly Break­ing Bad, but it does bring Chem­istry alive for me as a sub­ject oth­ers might find enjoy­able in the empir­i­cal sense.

View a gallery of Volk­er Ste­gerfor’s Sketch­es of Sci­ence. If you’re real­ly into it, the Nobel Muse­um is herald­ing a trav­el­ing exhi­bi­tion of Ste­gerfor’s work with audio record­ings of the sci­en­tists on the sub­ject of their dis­cov­er­ies.

via The Smith­son­ian blog

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is slat­ed to direct the world’s first bio-his­tor­i­cal musi­cal in Novem­ber. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday


When William S. Burroughs Joined Scientology (and His 1971 Book Denouncing It)


Crash direc­tor Paul Hag­gis impressed us all when his defec­tion from the Church of Sci­en­tol­ogy became the sub­ject of “The Apos­tate,” a 2011 New York­er pro­file by Lawrence Wright. But Hag­gis’ high-pro­file depar­ture from the lav­ish if shad­owy house that L. Ron Hub­bard built had a notable prece­dent in William S. Bur­roughs’ Naked Sci­en­tol­ogy. The Naked Lunch author and Beat Lumi­nary pub­lished it after his own dis­il­lu­sion­ment with the orga­ni­za­tion of Sci­en­tol­ogy, though he retained his esteem for what he con­sid­ered their mind-improv­ing tech­niques. Book­tryst offers a brief sum­ma­ry of Bur­roughs’ intense flir­ta­tion with the Church and its teach­ings: his ini­tial attrac­tion “because of its promise to lib­er­ate the mind by clear­ing it of trau­mat­ic mem­o­ries that imped­ed per­son­al growth, and, by exten­sion, social progress and free­dom from social con­trol,” and his ulti­mate dis­ap­point­ment that, as biog­ra­ph­er Ted Mor­gan puts it, he “had hoped to find a method of per­son­al eman­ci­pa­tion and found instead anoth­er con­trol sys­tem.”

For a more in-depth look at what brought Bur­roughs into Sci­en­tol­ogy and what put him off of it, read Lee Kon­stan­ti­nou’s i09 post on the sub­ject. “Bur­roughs took Sci­en­tol­ogy quite seri­ous­ly indeed for the bet­ter part of a decade — dur­ing what was arguably his most artis­ti­cal­ly fer­tile peri­od,” Kon­stan­ti­nou writes. “Today, where so much atten­tion focus­es on the sci­ence fic­tion­al ori­gins of Sci­en­tol­ogy, it is easy to for­get how seem­ing­ly in har­mo­ny the Church was with a whole range of coun­ter­cul­tur­al, ‘New Age,’ and anti-psy­chi­atric prac­tices in the Six­ties.” He files Sci­en­tol­ogy with Bur­roughs’ oth­er “mind-expand­ing and mind-free­ing prac­tice,” includ­ing hal­lu­cino­gens, “Mayan cal­en­dri­cal mind con­trol sys­tems,” apo­mor­phine,  and his sig­na­ture “cut-up” texts. To hear all about it straight from Bur­roughs, read his 1970 Los Ange­les Free Press j’ac­cuse against Hub­bard and his “fas­cist” ten­den­cies, and the whole of Naked Sci­en­tol­ogy in PDF form.

via @SteveSilberman

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Com­mis­sion­er of Sew­ers: A 1991 Pro­file of Beat Writer William S. Bur­roughs

William S. Bur­roughs on the Art of Cut-up Writ­ing

William S. Bur­roughs’ Short Class on Cre­ative Read­ing

William S. Bur­roughs Reads His First Nov­el, Junky

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

Now I Know My LSD ABCs: A Trippy Animation of the Alphabet

Many inter­ests have spurred cre­ative alpha­bet col­lec­tions: New York City. Geek­dom. Food snob­bery. Child­hood calami­ty. And now?

Actu­al­ly, LSD ABC, defies neat cat­e­go­riza­tion. Beyond the fact that they’re both spelled out using let­ters, what could Dim Sum pos­si­bly have in com­mon with VHS? Not much pri­or serv­ing as inspi­ra­tional prompts for graph­ic design­ers Lau­rent & Françoise (oth­er­wise known as Lau­ra Sicouri and Kadavre Exquis). Now they’re 1/13th of a delight­ful­ly twist­ed ani­mat­ed whole, one of those dead­line-free pet projects that goes on to spawn a lim­it­ed edi­tion vinyl album.

The duo is prone to fetishiz­ing the anachro­nis­tic tech­nolo­gies of the recent past, in a man­ner slight­ly more ele­gant than come­di­ans Tim Hei­deck­er and Eric Ware­heim. They toss in a foot sim­i­lar to the one Ter­ry Gilliam used to such effect on Mon­ty Python. H and S are sub­ject­ed to the sort of indig­ni­ties Wile E. Coy­ote used to suf­fer at the hands of the Road Run­ner. It’s all tied togeth­er with AT&T Lab’s decid­ed­ly unnat­ur­al-sound­ing Nat­ur­al Voice text-to-speech nar­ra­tion.

While it’s dif­fi­cult to pick a favorite from such a mind bend­ing array, I’m going to have to go with P…for Pet Piano, natch. You?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch All of Ter­ry Gilliam’s Mon­ty Python Ani­ma­tions in a Row

Bauhaus, Mod­ernism & Oth­er Design Move­ments Explained by New Ani­mat­ed Video Series

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is stymied by the lack of Ys on cer­tain Euro­pean key­boards. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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