Slavoj Žižek Names His Favorite Films from The Criterion Collection

Slavoj Žižek – the world’s most famous Sloven­ian, the “Elvis of cul­tur­al the­o­ry” – read­i­ly admits that he’s a big fan of movies. After all, there are few bet­ter ide­o­log­i­cal deliv­ery sys­tems out there than cin­e­ma and Žižek is fas­ci­nat­ed with ide­ol­o­gy. In his doc­u­men­tary The Pervert’s Guide to Ide­ol­o­gy, he pars­es some beloved favorites in unex­pect­ed ways. So Taxi Dri­ver is not only an unof­fi­cial remake of The Searchers but also echoes America’s recent for­eign pol­i­cy blun­ders in the Mid­dle East? Okay. So Titan­ic has par­al­lels with the Sovi­et pro­pa­gan­da movie The Fall of Berlin? Sure. Christo­pher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, at its heart, artic­u­lates some very cyn­i­cal notions of gov­ern­ment? Actu­al­ly, I sort of sus­pect­ed that one. Žižek’s ten­den­cy to make wild, sur­pris­ing rhetor­i­cal leaps and his pen­chant for drop­ping nods to pop cul­ture along­side ref­er­ences to Karl Marx and Jacques Lacan have turned him into that rarest of peo­ple – a celebri­ty philoso­pher.

Last fall, Žižek stopped by the office of The Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion where he rat­tled off some of his favorite movies from its library. His com­men­tary is inci­sive, fas­ci­nat­ing, occa­sion­al­ly flip and often fun­ny. As it turns out, Žižek is not a fan of Milan Kun­dera; he is one of the very few peo­ple out there who prefers Rober­to Rossellini’s late films over his ear­ly Ital­ian Neo-Real­ist mas­ter­pieces like Rome, Open City; and he end­ed up being a per­son­al inspi­ra­tion for Ang Lee’s film, The Ice Storm. You can watch him talk in the video above. Below is the film list, along with some choice quotes.

  • Trou­ble in Par­adise (1932) – dir. Ernst Lubitsch
    “It’s the best cri­tique of Cap­i­tal­ism.”
  • Sweet Smell of Suc­cess (1957) – dir. Alexan­der Mack­endrick
    “It’s a nice depic­tion of the cor­rup­tion of the Amer­i­can press.”
  • Pic­nic at Hang­ing Rock (1975) – dir. Peter Weir
    “I sim­ply like ear­ly Peter Weir movies. … It’s like his ver­sion of Stalk­er.”
  • Mur­mur of the Heart (1971)- dir. Louis Malle
    “It’s one of those nice gen­tle French movies where you have incest. Por­trayed as a nice secret between moth­er and son. I like this.”

  • The Joke (1969) – dir. Jaromil Jireš
    “The Joke is the first nov­el by Milan Kun­dera and I think it’s his only good nov­el. After that it all goes down.”
  • The Ice Storm (1997) – dir. Ang Lee
    “I have a per­son­al attach­ment to this film. When James Schamus was writ­ing the sce­nario, he told me he was read­ing a book of mine and that my the­o­ret­i­cal book was inspi­ra­tion [sic]. So it’s per­son­al rea­son but I also loved the movie.”
  • Great Expec­ta­tions (1946) dir. David Lean
    “I am sim­ply a great fan of Dick­ens.”
  • Rossellini’s His­to­ry Films (Box Set) — The Age of the Medici (1973), Carte­sius (1974), Blaise Pas­cal (1972)
    “Rossellini’s his­to­ry films, I pre­fer them. These late, long bor­ing TV movies. I think that the so-called great Rosselli­nis, for exam­ple Ger­man Year Zero and so on, they no longer real­ly work. I think this is the Rosselli­ni to be reha­bil­i­tat­ed.”
  • City Lights (1931) – dir. Char­lie Chap­lin
    “What is there to say? This is one of the great­est movies of all times.”
  • Carl Theodor Drey­er Box Set — Day of Wrath (1943), Ordet (1955), Gertrud (1964)
    “It’s more out of my love for Den­mark. It’s nice to know already in the ‘20s and ‘30s, Den­mark was already a cin­e­mat­ic super­pow­er.
  • Y Tu Mamá Tam­bién (2002) – dir. Alfon­so Cuáron
    “This is for obvi­ous per­son­al rea­son. I do the com­ment. [He did the DVD Com­men­tary for the movie] Although, I must say that my favorite Cuáron is Chil­dren of Men.”
  • Antichrist (2009) – dir. Lars Von Tri­er
    “I will prob­a­bly not like it, but I like Von Tri­er. It is sim­ply a part of a duty.”

Žižek goes on to say that he often­times enjoys the DVD com­men­tary of a movie more than the actu­al film. “I am a cor­rupt­ed the­o­rist. Screw the movie. I like to learn all around the movie.”

And below you can watch Žižek’s take on John Carpenter’s over­looked gem, and left­ist para­ble, They Live!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Good Cap­i­tal­ist Kar­ma: Zizek Ani­mat­ed

A Shirt­less Slavoj Žižek Explains the Pur­pose of Phi­los­o­phy from the Com­fort of His Bed

After a Tour of Slavoj Žižek’s Pad, You’ll Nev­er See Inte­ri­or Design in the Same Way

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.

Dominic West, Stephen Fry & Benedict Cumberbatch Read From a Guantánamo Prisoner’s Diary

For more than a decade, Mohame­dou Ould Slahi has remained locked up in Guan­tá­namo, despite nev­er being charged with a crime. He’s just one of many pris­on­ers trapped in a Kafkian state of legal lim­bo. Con­fined to a sin­gle cell, Slahi has writ­ten a haunt­ing, 466 page account of his expe­ri­ence. And, after years of lit­i­ga­tion, and some 2,500 redac­tions by the US gov­ern­ment, his diary is final­ly being pub­lished. You can read the declas­si­fied man­u­script online over at The Guardian. To get some con­text on the whole affair, you can watch a short doc­u­men­tary above, which fea­tures read­ings by Dominic West (McNul­ty in The Wire). Below, we have more read­ings by Stephen Fry, Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch and Col­in Firth. Yet more read­ings can be found on Sound­Cloud.

Stephen Fry


Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch


Col­in Firth

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How “America’s First Drug Czar” Waged War Against Billie Holiday and Other Jazz Legends

The U.S. government’s so-called “War on Drugs” pre­dates Richard Nixon’s coinage of the term in 1971 by many decades, though it is under his admin­is­tra­tion that it assumed its cur­rent scope and char­ac­ter. Before Wood­stock and Viet­nam, before the cre­ation of the DEA in 1973, the Fed­er­al Bureau of Narcotics—headed by “America’s first drug czar,” Com­mis­sion­er Har­ry J. Anslinger, from 1930 to 1962—waged its own war, at first pri­mar­i­ly on mar­i­jua­na, and, to a great degree, on jazz musi­cians and jazz cul­ture. Anslinger came to pow­er in the era of Reefer Mad­ness, the title of a rather ridicu­lous 1938 anti-drug film that has come to stand in for hyper­bol­ic anti-pot para­noia of the ’30s and ’40s more gen­er­al­ly. Much of that mad­ness was the Commissioner’s spe­cial cre­ation.

Like so much of the post-Nixon drug war, Anslinger staged his cam­paign as a moral cru­sade against cer­tain kinds of users: dis­si­dents, the coun­ter­cul­ture, and espe­cial­ly immi­grants and blacks. Accord­ing to Alexan­der Cockburn’s White­out: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press, Anslinger’s “first major cam­paign was to crim­i­nal­ize the drug com­mon­ly known as hemp. But Anslinger renamed it ‘mar­i­jua­na’ to asso­ciate it with Mex­i­can labor­ers,” and claimed that the drug “can arouse in blacks and His­pan­ics a state of men­ac­ing fury or homi­ci­dal attack.” Anslinger “became the prime shaper of Amer­i­can atti­tudes to drug addic­tion.” And like lat­er despis­ers of rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop, Anslinger’s hatred of jazz moti­vat­ed many of his tar­get­ed attacks.

Anslign­er linked mar­i­jua­na with jazz and per­se­cut­ed many black musi­cians, includ­ing Thelo­nious Monk, Dizzy Gille­spie and Duke Elling­ton. Louis Arm­strong was also arrest­ed on drug charges, and Anslinger made sure his name was smeared in the press. In Con­gress he tes­ti­fied that “[c]oloreds with big lips lure white women with jazz and mar­i­jua­na.”

“Mar­i­jua­na is tak­en by… musi­cians,” he told Con­gress in 1937, “And I’m not speak­ing about good musi­cians, but the jazz type.” Although the La Guardia Com­mit­tee would refute almost every­thing Anslinger tes­ti­fied to about the effects of smok­ing pot, the dam­age was already done. (Anslinger’s pros­e­cu­tion of jazz musi­cians, par­tic­u­lar­ly Louis Armstrong—paralleled that of anoth­er pow­er-mad, para­noid bureau­crat, J. Edgar Hoover.)

Anslinger did not sim­ply dis­like jazz. He feared it. “It sound­ed,” he wrote, “like the jun­gles in the dead of night.” In jazz, “unbe­liev­ably ancient inde­cent rites of the East Indies are res­ur­rect­ed.” And the lives of jazz musi­cians “reek of filth.” And yet, writes Johann Hari in his book Chas­ing the Scream (excerpt­ed in Politi­co), his cam­paign large­ly failed because of the jazz world’s “absolute sol­i­dar­i­ty” in oppo­si­tion to it. “In the end,” writes Hari, “the Trea­sury Depart­ment told Anslinger he was wast­ing his time.” And so, “he scaled down his focus until it set­tled like a laser on one sin­gle target—perhaps the great­est female jazz vocal­ist there ever was,” Bil­lie Hol­i­day.

Any­one with even the most cur­so­ry knowl­edge about Hol­i­day knows she had a drug prob­lem in des­per­ate need of treat­ment. And, of course, Hol­i­day was­n’t addict­ed to a rel­a­tive­ly harm­less sub­stance like mar­i­jua­na, but to hero­in, which—along with alco­hol abuse—eventually lead to her death. Yet, as Cock­burn writes, Anslinger had “hammer[ed] home his view that [drug addic­tion] was not… treat­able,” but “could only be sup­pressed by harsh crim­i­nal sanc­tions.” Accord­ing­ly, he “hunt­ed” Holiday—in Hari’s apt description—sending agents after her when he heard “whis­pers that she was using hero­in, and—after she flat­ly refused to be silent about racism.”

Recruit­ing a black agent, Jim­my Fletch­er, for the job, Anslinger began his attacks on Hol­i­day in 1939. Fletch­er shad­owed Hol­i­day for years, and became pro­tec­tive, even­tu­al­ly, “it seems,” writes Hari, “fall[ing] in love with her.” But Anslinger broke the case through Holliday’s vicious­ly abu­sive hus­band, Louis McK­ay, who agreed to inform on her—something no fel­low musi­cian would do. In May of 1947, Hol­i­day was arrest­ed and put on tri­al for pos­ses­sion of nar­cotics. “Sick and alone,” writes Het­tie Jones in Big Star Fallin’ Mama: Five Women in Black Music, “she signed away her right to a lawyer and no one advised her to do oth­er­wise.” Promised a “hos­pi­tal cure in return for a plea of guilty,” she was instead “con­vict­ed as a ‘crim­i­nal defen­dant,’ and a ‘wrong­do­er,’ and sen­tenced to a year and a day in the Fed­er­al Women’s Refor­ma­to­ry at Alder­son, West Vir­ginia.”

After her release, Hol­i­day was stripped of her cabaret license, restrict­ed from singing in “all the jazz clubs in the Unit­ed States… on the grounds,” writes Hari, “that lis­ten­ing to her might harm the morals of the pub­lic.” Two years after her first con­vic­tion, Anslinger recruit­ed anoth­er agent, a sadist named George White, who was all too hap­py take Hol­i­day down. He did so in 1949 at the Mark Twain Hotel in San Francisco—“one of the few places she could still perform”—arresting her with­out a war­rant and with what were very like­ly plant­ed drugs. White appar­ent­ly “had a long his­to­ry of plant­i­ng drugs on women” and “may well have been high when he bust­ed Bil­lie for get­ting high.” (See the declas­si­fied case against her here. Her man­ag­er John Levy is erro­neous­ly referred to as her “hus­band” and called “Joseph Levy.”)

A jury refused to con­vict, but Anslinger glo­ried in the toll his cam­paign had tak­en. “She had slipped from the peak of her fame,” he wrote, “her voice was crack­ing.” After her death in 1959, he wrote cal­lous­ly, “for her, there would be no more ‘Good Morn­ing Heartache.’” For her part, though Hol­i­day “didn’t blame Anslinger’s agents as indi­vid­u­als; she blamed the drug war,” writ­ing in her auto­bi­og­ra­phy, “Imag­ine if the gov­ern­ment chased sick peo­ple with dia­betes, put a tax on insulin and drove it into the black mar­ket… then sent them to jail…. We do prac­ti­cal­ly the same thing every day in the week to sick peo­ple hooked on drugs.”

Many jazz musi­cians, but espe­cial­ly Hol­i­day, paid dear­ly for Anslinger and the Fed­er­al Bureau of Nar­cotics’ “war on drugs.” Hari doc­u­ments the “race pan­ic” that under­lay most of Anslinger’s actions and the egre­gious dou­ble stan­dard he applied, includ­ing a “friend­ly chat” he had with Judy Gar­land over her hero­in addic­tion and kid gloves treat­ment of a “Wash­ing­ton soci­ety host­ess,” in con­trast to his relent­less pros­e­cu­tion of Hol­i­day. His per­se­cu­tion of Hol­l­i­day and oth­ers was accom­pa­nied by a pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign that demo­nized “the Negro pop­u­la­tion” as dan­ger­ous addicts. As Hari points out, Anslinger “did not cre­ate these under­ly­ing trends,” but he pro­mot­ed racist fic­tions and manip­u­lat­ed them to his advan­tage. And his sin­gling out of cul­tures and groups he per­son­al­ly dis­liked and feared as spe­cial tar­gets for vig­or­ous, prej­u­di­cial pros­e­cu­tion helped set the agen­da for anti-drug leg­is­la­tion and cul­tur­al atti­tudes in every decade since he decid­ed to go after jazz and Bil­lie Hol­i­day.

Har­i’s book, Chas­ing the Scream, is now avail­able on Ama­zon.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bil­lie Hol­i­day — The Life and Artistry of Lady Day: The Com­plete Film

Duke Ellington’s Sym­pho­ny in Black, Star­ring a 19-Year-old Bil­lie Hol­i­day

Curi­ous Alice — The 1971 Anti-Drug Movie Based on Alice in Won­der­land That Made Drugs Look Like Fun

Louis Arm­strong Plays His­toric Cold War Con­certs in East Berlin & Budapest (1965)

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

The Public Domain Project Makes 10,000 Film Clips, 64,000 Images & 100s of Audio Files Free to Use

Sure, we love the inter­net for how it makes freely avail­able so many cul­tur­al arti­facts. And sure, we also love the inter­net for how it allows us to dis­sem­i­nate our own work. But the inter­net gets the most inter­est­ing, I would sub­mit, when it makes freely avail­able cul­tur­al arti­facts with the express pur­pose of let­ting cre­ators use them in their own work — which we then all get to expe­ri­ence through the inter­net. The new Pub­lic Domain Project will soon become an impor­tant resource for many such cre­ators, offer­ing as it does “thou­sands of his­toric media files for your cre­ative projects, com­plete­ly free and made avail­able by Pond5,” an enti­ty that brands itself as “the world’s most vibrant mar­ket­place for cre­ativ­i­ty.”

trip to the moon public domain

So what can you find to use in the Pub­lic Domain Project? As of this writ­ing, it offers 9715 pieces of footage, 473 audio files, 64,535 images, and 121 3D mod­els. “The project includes dig­i­tal mod­els of NASA tools and satel­lites, Georges Méliès’ 1902 film, A Trip To The Moon, speech­es by polit­i­cal fig­ures like Win­ston Churchill and Mar­tin Luther King, Jr., record­ings of per­for­mances from com­posers like Beethoven, and a laid-back pic­ture of Pres­i­dent Oba­ma play­ing pool,” says a post at The Cre­ators Project explain­ing the site’s back­ground.

In the Pub­lic Domain Pro­jec­t’s expand­ing archives you will also find clips of every­thing, from rock­et launch­es to film of old New York to very, very ear­ly cat videos, to, of course, mush­room clouds. I imag­ine that some future Chris Mark­er could make cre­ative use of this stuff indeed, and if they need a score, they could use a con­cer­to for pizzi­ca­to and ten instru­ments, Chopin’s “Noc­turne in E Flat Major,” or maybe “John­ny Get Your Gun.” Alter­na­tive­ly, they could part out the very first doc­u­men­tary and use the Pub­lic Domain Pro­jec­t’s bits and pieces of Dzi­ga Ver­tov’s Man With a Movie Cam­eraWhat­ev­er you want to cre­ate, the usable pub­lic domain can only grow more fruit­ful, so you might as well get mix­ing, remix­ing, and shar­ing, as Pond5 puts it, right away. Vis­it The Pub­lic Domain Project here.

via The Cre­ators Project

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Kandin­sky, Mon­dri­an, Munch & Flem­ing Entered Pub­lic Domain in 2015 — But Welles, Achebe, and “Pur­ple Peo­ple Eater” Didn’t

Sher­lock Holmes Is Now in the Pub­lic Domain, Declares US Judge

The British Library Puts 1,000,000 Images into the Pub­lic Domain, Mak­ing Them Free to Reuse & Remix

A Cab­i­net of Curiosi­ties: Dis­cov­er The Pub­lic Domain Review’s New Book of Essays

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.

Jean Cocteau Delivers a Speech to the Year 2000 in 1962: “I Hope You Have Not Become Robots”

Jean Cocteau was a great many things to a great many people—writer, film­mak­er, painter, friend, and lover. In the lat­ter two cat­e­gories he could count among his acquain­tances such mod­ernist giants as Pablo Picas­so, Ken­neth Anger, Erik Satie, Mar­lene Diet­rich, Edith Piaf, Jean Marais, Mar­cel Proust, André Gide, and a num­ber of oth­er famous names. But Cocteau him­self had lit­tle use for fame and its blan­d­ish­ments. As you’ll see in the short film above, “Cocteau Address­es the Year 2000,” the great 20th cen­tu­ry artist con­sid­ered the many awards bestowed upon him naught but “tran­scen­dent pun­ish­ment.” What Cocteau cared for most was poet­ry; for him it was the “basis of all art, a ‘reli­gion with­out hope.’ ”

Cocteau began his career as a poet, pub­lish­ing his first col­lec­tion, Aladdin’s Lamp, at the age of 19. By 1963, at the age of 73, he had lived one of the rich­est artis­tic lives imag­in­able, trans­form­ing every genre he touched.

Decid­ing to leave one last arti­fact to pos­ter­i­ty, Cocteau sat down and record­ed the film above, a mes­sage to the year 2000, intend­ing it as a time cap­sule only to be opened in that year (though it was dis­cov­ered, and viewed a few years ear­li­er). Biog­ra­ph­er James S. Williams describes the doc­u­men­tary tes­ta­ment as “Cocteau’s final gift to his fel­low human beings.”

He reit­er­ates some of his long-stand­ing artis­tic themes and prin­ci­ples: death is a form of life; poet­ry is beyond time and a kind of supe­ri­or math­e­mat­ics; we are all a pro­ces­sion of oth­ers who inhab­it us; errors are the true expres­sion of an indi­vid­ual, and so on. The tone is at once spec­u­la­tive and uncom­pro­mis­ing…

Por­tray­ing him­self as “a liv­ing anachro­nism” in a “phan­tom-like state,” Cocteau, seat­ed before his own art­work, quotes St. Augus­tine, makes para­bles of events in his life, and address­es, pri­mar­i­ly, the youth of the future. The uses and mis­us­es of tech­nol­o­gy com­prise a cen­tral theme of his dis­course: “I cer­tain­ly hope that you have not become robots,” Cocteau says, “but on the con­trary that you have become very human­ized: that’s my hope.” The peo­ple of his time, he claims, “remain appren­tice robots.”

Among Cocteau’s con­cerns is the dom­i­nance of an “archi­tec­tur­al Esperan­to, which remains our time’s great mis­take.” By this phrase he means that “the same house is being built every­where and no atten­tion is paid to cli­mate, atmos­pher­i­cal con­di­tions or land­scape.” Whether we take this as a lit­er­al state­ment or a metaphor for social engi­neer­ing, or both, Cocteau sees the con­di­tion as one in which these monot­o­nous repeat­ing hous­es are “pris­ons which lock you up or bar­racks which fence you in.” The mod­ern con­di­tion, as he frames it, is one “strad­dling con­tra­dic­tions” between human­i­ty and machin­ery. Nonethe­less, he is impressed with sci­en­tif­ic advance­ment, a realm of “men who do extra­or­di­nary things.”

And yet, “the real man of genius,” for Cocteau, is the poet, and he hopes for us that the genius of poet­ry “hasn’t become some­thing like a shame­ful and con­ta­gious sick­ness against which you wish to be immu­nized.” He has very much more of inter­est to com­mu­ni­cate, about his own time, and his hopes for ours. Cocteau record­ed this trans­mis­sion from the past in August of 1963. On Octo­ber 11 of that same year, he died of a heart attack, sup­pos­ed­ly shocked to death by news of his friend Edith Piaf’s death that same day in the same man­ner.

His final film, and final com­mu­ni­ca­tion to a pub­lic yet to be born, accords with one of the great themes of his life’s work—“the tug of war between the old and the new and the para­dox­i­cal dis­par­i­ties that sur­face because of that ten­sion.” Should we attend to his mes­sages to our time, we may find that he antic­i­pat­ed many of our 21st cen­tu­ry dilem­mas between tech­nol­o­gy and human­i­ty, and between his­to­ry and myth. It’s inter­est­ing to imag­ine how we might describe our own age to a lat­er gen­er­a­tion, and, like Cocteau, what we might hope for them.

via Net­work Awe­some

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jean Cocteau’s Avante-Garde Film From 1930, The Blood of a Poet

The Post­cards That Picas­so Illus­trat­ed and Sent to Jean Cocteau, Apol­li­naire & Gertrude Stein

David Lynch Presents the His­to­ry of Sur­re­al­ist Film (1987)

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

Visit “Mariobatalivoice,” the Cooking Blog by Steve Albini, Musician & Record Producer


Image by Wiki­me­dia Com­mons by Freeko­rps

You know Steve Albi­ni as the pio­neer­ing founder and front­man of such dis­turb­ing post-hard­core punk bands as Big Black, Rape­man, and Shel­lac. You also know him as the in-demand pro­duc­er of albums by such excel­lent artists as the Pix­ies, Nir­vana, Cheap Trick, Mog­wai, The Dirty Three, The Breed­ers, P.J. Har­vey… the list goes ever on… Albini’s role as a producer—of bands both high pro­file and total­ly obscure—is leg­endary in rock cir­cles, as is his cur­mud­geon­li­ness, exact­ing per­son­al stan­dards, high­ly opin­ion­at­ed com­men­tary, and excep­tion­al musi­cal taste.

You may not know, how­ev­er, about Albini’s excep­tion­al culi­nary tastes, as doc­u­ment­ed on his food blog, “Mar­i­o­batal­ivoice: What I made Heather for din­ner.” Main­tained between 2011 and 2013, the run­ning com­men­tary chron­i­cles Albini’s attempts at dish­es such as “Li-hing-rubbed tor­pe­do with weird huau­zon­tle and diced pep­pers” and “aged short ribs with fen­nel on saf­fron pota­to puree.” From the looks of things, Albi­ni is a fine cook, as well as decent food photographer—if those are his pho­tos. His blog descrip­tion sug­gests they may be the work of Heather (that is, his wife, Heather Whin­na).

potato cashew pancakes

A pho­to of Saf­fron Pota­to Cashew Pan­cakes from mar­i­o­batal­ivoice.

Albini’s also a very enter­tain­ing writer. No sur­prise there, “as any­one who’s seen his back-in-the-day fanzine rants can attest,” wrote Tom Brei­han at Pitch­fork in 2011. Typ­i­cal­ly under­stat­ed and idio­syn­crat­ic, Albi­ni writes, “I don’t give quan­ti­ties or exact recipes because I eye­ball and taste every­thing like any­body who cooks a lot…. We’re not nin­jas. Also, some of this food may not turn out that great, so repli­cat­ing it would be point­less. I have also suc­cess­ful­ly cooked for our cats.” Nonethe­less, even with­out pro­por­tions and exact steps spelled out, “if you cook, you should be able to fig­ure out how to make any of these meals.”

The name, he tells us, “comes from the way I bring [Heather] food in bed and present it to her using an imi­ta­tion of Mario Batali’s voice from TV.” You’ll prob­a­bly find your own brand of pre­sen­ta­tion, but all of the dish­es look both chal­leng­ing and total­ly worth the effort. To read about Albini’s adven­tures in the culi­nary exot­ic, check out the archives of his now-dor­mant food blog here.

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Read Steve Albini’s Uncom­pro­mis­ing Pro­pos­al to Pro­duce Nirvana’s In Utero (1993)

An Awkward/NSFW Inter­view with Nir­vana Pro­duc­er Steve Albi­ni (Plus B‑52 Front­man Fred Schnei­der)

1967 Cook­book Fea­tures Recipes by the Rolling Stones, Simon & Gar­funkel, Bar­bra Streisand & More

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

Leo Tolstoy’s Masochistic Diary: I Am Guilty of “Sloth,” “Cowardice” & “Sissiness” (1851)


1850 was a tough year for Leo Tol­stoy. It was a time when his future suc­cess­es were impos­si­ble to see while his past fail­ures were all too obvi­ous. A few years pri­or, he had been thrown out of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Kazan. His teach­ers wrote him off as “both unable and unwill­ing to learn.” There­after, he went into a spi­ral of dis­so­lu­tion, first in St. Peters­burg and then in Moscow, where he drank, caroused and racked up some seri­ous gam­bling debts.

Yet Tol­stoy had ambi­tions beyond being just anoth­er debauched scion of the upper class. He strug­gled to improve him­self. So he start­ed a jour­nal in 1847 while recov­er­ing in a hos­pi­tal ward from vene­re­al dis­ease. Influ­enced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the future author of War and Peace sought to use the diary as a tool for self-explo­ration. For the first few years, he was an inter­mit­tent diarist. Then, in 1850, he took this tool to new lac­er­at­ing lev­els. Part psy­chother­a­py, part lit­er­ary explo­ration, part inquiry into the lim­its of nar­ra­tive and part straight up masochism, Tol­stoy set out to account for his every action dur­ing the day in what he called the “Jour­nal of Dai­ly Occu­pa­tions.”

He divid­ed his page into two columns. In “The Future” col­umn, he list­ed the things he planned to do the next day. In “The Past” col­umn, he judges him­self (harsh­ly) on how well he fol­lowed through on those plans, label­ing each one of his fail­ures with the appro­pri­ate sin – sloth, avarice etc. There was no col­umn for “The Present.”

You can see a selec­tion from his jour­nal, cour­tesy of schol­ar Iri­na Paper­no, who wrote a nice piece on Tol­stoy’s diary over at Salon. The diary entries below date from March, 1851:

24. Arose some­what late and read, but did not have time to write. Poiret came, I fenced, and did not send him away (sloth and cow­ardice). Ivanov came, I spoke with him for too long (cow­ardice). Koloshin (Sergei) came to drink vod­ka, I did not escort him out (cow­ardice). At Ozerov’s argued about noth­ing (habit of argu­ing) and did not talk about what I should have talked about (cow­ardice). Did not go to Beklemishev’s (weak­ness of ener­gy). Dur­ing gym­nas­tics did not walk the rope (cow­ardice), and did not do one thing because it hurt (sissiness).—At Gorchakov’s lied (lying). Went to the Novotroit­sk tav­ern (lack of fierté). At home did not study Eng­lish (insuf­fi­cient firm­ness). At the Volkon­skys’ was unnat­ur­al and dis­tract­ed, and stayed until one in the morn­ing (dis­tract­ed­ness, desire to show off, and weak­ness of char­ac­ter).

25. [This is a plan for the next day, the 25th, writ­ten on the 24th—I.P.] From 10 to 11 yesterday’s diary and to read. From 11 to 12—gymnastics. From 12 to 1—English. Bek­lem­i­shev and Bey­er from 1 to 2. From 2 to 4—on horse­back. From 4 to 6—dinner. From 6 to 8—to read. From 8 to 10—to write.—To trans­late some­thing from a for­eign lan­guage into Russ­ian to devel­op mem­o­ry and style.—To write today with all the impres­sions and thoughts it gives rise to.—25. Awoke late out of sloth. Wrote my diary and did gym­nas­tics, hur­ry­ing. Did not study Eng­lish out of sloth. With Begichev and with Islavin was vain. At Beklemishev’s was cow­ard­ly and lack of fierté. On Tver Boule­vard want­ed to show off. I did not walk on foot to the Kaly­mazh­nyi Dvor (sissi­ness). Rode with a desire to show off. For the same rea­son rode to Ozerov’s.—Did not return to Kaly­mazh­nyi, thought­less­ness. At the Gor­chakovs’ dis­sem­bled and did not call things by their names, fool­ing myself. Went to L’vov’s out of insuf­fi­cient ener­gy and the habit of doing noth­ing. Sat around at home out of absent­mind­ed­ness and read Werther inat­ten­tive­ly, hur­ry­ing.

26 [This is a plan for the next day, the 26th, writ­ten on the 25th—I.P.] To get up at 5. Until 10—to write the his­to­ry of this day. From 10 to 12—fencing and to read. From 12 to 1—English, and if some­thing inter­feres, then in the evening. From 1 to 3—walking, until 4—gymnastics. From 4 to 6, dinner—to read and write.— (46:55).

Tolstoy’s regime of self-improve­ment wasn’t restrict­ed to this pun­ish­ing dai­ly account­ing of fail­ures. He also kept a “Jour­nal for Weak­ness­es,” which tal­lied up all of his moral fail­ures, arranged in columns for lazi­ness, inde­ci­sion, sen­su­al­i­ty etc., not to men­tion a series of note­books for rules: “Rules for life,” “Rules for devel­op­ing will,” and “Rules for play­ing cards in Moscow until Jan­u­ary 1.”

One gets the sense that there’s a real oppor­tu­ni­ty for a line of Tol­stoy­an self-help books. Six Pil­lars of Self-Fla­gel­la­tion, per­haps? 7 Habits of High­ly Effec­tive Moral Fail­ures? The Pow­er of Spir­i­tu­al Angst?

Read more about Tol­stoy’s jour­nal­ing over at Salon.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Find great works by Tol­stoy in our col­lec­tion, 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices

Rare Record­ing: Leo Tol­stoy Reads From His Last Major Work in Four Lan­guages, 1909

Vin­tage Footage of Leo Tol­stoy: Video Cap­tures the Great Nov­el­ist Dur­ing His Final Days

The Com­plete Works of Leo Tol­stoy Online: New Archive Will Present 90 Vol­umes for Free (in Russ­ian)

Leo Tolstoy’s Fam­i­ly Recipe for Mac­a­roni and Cheese

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.

Haruki Murakami’s Advice Column (“Mr. Murakami’s Place”) Is Now Online: Read English Translations


Ear­li­er this month, the read­ing world thrilled to the news that Haru­ki Muraka­mi would, in a new col­umn on his offi­cial site, take on the role of agony uncle. I, for one, had to look up the term “agony uncle,” a term out of British Eng­lish, a lan­guage that sur­pris­es me even more often than does Murakami’s native Japan­ese. It means an advice colum­nist, or more specif­i­cal­ly an avun­cu­lar type of writer to whom read­ers can pour out their ago­nies.

Despite his rare pub­lic appear­ances and few first-per­son pieces avail­able in trans­la­tion, read­ers around the globe have sure­ly sensed the writer’s calm man­ner and sym­pa­thet­ic ear. And when he gives advice straight-up, as when he talks about what makes a good run­ner or writer (almost the same thing, to his mind) he does it with suc­cinct­ness and wis­dom. And so we have 村上さんのところ, or “Mr. Murakami’s Place,” where Muraka­mi will, over the next few months, briefly address all man­ner of read­er queries sub­mit­ted in Jan­u­ary.

(Which means that, if you have any­thing to ask him you’ve still got a few days left to do so. Though you’ll notice that the site appears almost entire­ly in Japan­ese, the Eng­lish-speak­ing Muraka­mi also answers ques­tions sub­mit­ted in that lan­guage; just con­sult James Smyth’s trans­la­tion of the ques­tion sub­mis­sion form if you want to go that route.)

“Do you think cats can under­stand how humans feel?” asks a fan named Vivian. “My cat Bobo ran away when she saw me cry­ing.” And despite, or because of, hav­ing spent a good deal of time ren­der­ing cats as lit­er­ary pres­ences, Muraka­mi feels a bit dubi­ous about the issue: “I sus­pect that either you or your cat is extreme­ly sen­si­tive. I have had many cats, but no cat has ever been so sym­pa­thet­ic. They were just as ego­is­tic as they could be.” “Do you have some places you always stay for a while?” asks a 20-year-old stu­dent. “An easy ques­tion. In the bed with some­one I love. Where else?”

Not only do the Japan­ese-lan­guage ques­tions and answers get slight­ly more expan­sive, they some­times even take the tra­di­tion­al advice-col­umn form. Take, for exam­ple, “On the Cusp of 30”:

30 is right around the cor­ner for me, but there isn’t a sin­gle thing that I feel like I’ve accom­plished.  When I was young, I thought to be an ‘adult’ must be so won­der­ful, but my cur­rent real­i­ty is so far away from what I imag­ined.  And when faced with that real­i­ty, I get very dis­heart­ened.  What should I do with myself?

(Jo & Maca, Female, 28)

I don’t mean to be rude, but I think “to be an ‘adult’ must be so won­der­ful,” is just wrong.  ‘Adult’ is noth­ing more than an emp­ty form.  What you fill that form with is your own respon­si­bil­i­ty.  Accom­plish­ments don’t come eas­i­ly.  When you start to fill your ‘adult’ form lit­tle by lit­tle, then every­thing will begin.  But 28 is not real­ly ‘adult.’  You’re only just begin­ning.

That trans­la­tion comes from an anony­mous trans­la­tor and Muraka­mi fan writ­ing their own Eng­lish com­pan­ion blog to the col­umn. It presents anoth­er urgent query from a des­per­ate read­er as fol­lows:

My wife quite fre­quent­ly belch­es right near the back of my head when she pass­es behind me.  When I say to her, “Stop burp­ing behind me all the time,” she says, “It’s not on pur­pose.  It just comes out.”  I don’t think I’m bring­ing it upon myself in any way.  Is there some­thing I can do to stop my wife’s belch­ing?

(ukuleleKazu, Male, 61, Self-Employed)

I hope you’ll par­don me for say­ing so, but I think belch­ing is far bet­ter than fart­ing. Per­haps you should think of it that way.

Muraka­mi has so far weighed in on such oth­er mat­ters of import as dis­ap­pear­ing cats [trans­la­tion], how to deal with ris­ing marathon times [trans­la­tion], his plans for fur­ther non-fic­tion writ­ing [trans­la­tion], what to do at age nine­teen [trans­la­tion], wan­ing libido [trans­la­tion], and his love of Ice­land [trans­la­tion]. Even if you don’t care about the nov­el­ist’s thoughts on these mat­ters, do take a look at the site and its abun­dance of bipedal cats and sheep, jazz albums, John­nie Walk­er fig­ures, and Yakult Swal­lows mem­o­ra­bil­ia — in any lan­guage, a Muraka­mi fan’s delight.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Lists the Three Essen­tial Qual­i­ties For All Seri­ous Nov­el­ists (And Run­ners)

A Pho­to­graph­ic Tour of Haru­ki Murakami’s Tokyo, Where Dream, Mem­o­ry, and Real­i­ty Meet

Haru­ki Murakami’s Pas­sion for Jazz: Dis­cov­er the Novelist’s Jazz Playlist, Jazz Essay & Jazz Bar

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Trans­lates The Great Gats­by, the Nov­el That Influ­enced Him Most

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.

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