Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Buddhist Third Class Junk Mail Oracle

I've been working on an indexing project of underground newspapers and magazines from 1963-1968.

A lot of the titles included one or more of the following terms: liberation, movement, militant, peace, and free/freedom. The most ubiquitous name was probably [Your Town/State/Country] Free Press.

But other titles were more literary, humorous and intriguing, including my favorite: The Buddhist Third Class Junk Mail Oracle.

As it turns out, TBTCJMC was one of the first underground papers in Cleveland, Ohio, founded by a poet, artist and alternative press publisher named d.a. levy. According to Wikipedia, Levy died in 1968 of a gunshot wound to the head. Given that it was 1968, some people think he was bumped off by the government for his radical views. Given that he was a poet, others think he just killed himself. No one really knows.

In 2003, Seven Stories Press (a contemporary "alternative" publisher) brought out The Buddhist Third Class Junkmail Oracle: the art and poetry of d.a. levy, a collection of Levy's creative work. It also includes "an investigative essay on Levy's life and mysterious death."

For those interested in actually perusing original copies of TBTCJMC, Cleveland State University Library has digitized them.

The underground papers of the 1960s, often student-run, were sort of the blogs of their day. Cheap, affordable printing was the hip technology of the day. I enjoyed strolling through the list of titles. Apart from the obviously political names (Liberation News Service), you see some of the cultural influences on the radical youth of that fascinating and vibrant time. It's an interesting mix of Greek mythology, romanticism, spirituality, Tolkien, William Morris, Lewis Carroll (a lot of Lewis Carroll) and, yes, marijuana.

Rat, from New York City. (Imagine that.)

I've left out well-known papers like The Berkeley Barb or The East Village Other. This is just a list of titles that caught my attention. Ones with asterisks after the name have Wikipedia explanations below. (The information may not be needed for people more literate than I am.)

If you're interested, The University of Connecticut Libraries have an online exhibit called "Voices from the Underground: Radical Protest and the Underground Press," which provided most of my images.

So here are some of the underground rags that radicals in the 1960s were reading and printing:

Astral Projection
Atlantis News
Black and Red
Black Cat
Blue Bus
Brown Shoes
The Buddhist Third Class Junk Mail Oracle
Buffalo Chip
Cuervo International
Deserted Times
Despite Everything
Free Pagan Press
Free Venice Beachhead
Free You
Fresh Air
Gandalf's Garden
Georgia Straight
Good Morning Teaspoon
Great Speckled Bird
Grinding Store
Hard Core
Huevos del plata
Iron Cage
The Great Speckled Bird, from Atlanta.

Looking GlassLoving Couch Press
Mega Middle Myth
Middle Earth
Miss Blanche
Mother of Voices
News from Nowhere
Old Mole
Open City
Oscar's Underground Ghetto Press
Other Other
Other Scenes
Our Daily Bread
Paper Highway
Protean Radish
Rabid One / Enrage
Raisin Bread
Ramparts Wall Poster
Ryce Street Fysh Markete

Old Mole, from Cambridge, MA.

ScimitarThe Screw
Seventy-Nine Cent Spread
Small Change
SomethingSon of Jabberwock
Speak Easy
The Sun Flower
Super Love
Swamp Erie Pipe Dream
Teaspoon & the Door
Ungarbled Word
Le Voyage
Weakly Citizen Harold
Where It's At
Wild Flowers
Yankee Refuge
Yarrow Stalks
Yellow Dog
Zig Zag

Argo: The ship on which Jason and the Argonauts sailed from Iolcus to retrieve the Golden Fleece.

Bandersnatch: A fictional creature mentioned in Lewis Carroll's poems Jabberwocky and The Hunting of the Snark. The form or size of the creature is not described, nor is it clear whether Bandersnatch is singular, like the Phoenix.

Sansculottes: Sans-culottes (French for "without knee-breeches") was a term created around 1790 - 1792 by the French aristocracy to describe the poorer members of the Third Estate, according to the dominant theory because they usually wore pantaloons (full-length trousers or pants) instead of the silk knee-breeches then in fashion. The term came to refer to the ill-clad and ill-equipped volunteers of the Revolutionary army during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars, but, above all, to the working class radicals of the Revolution. From this comes the now slightly archaic term sansculottism or sans-culottism, meaning extreme egalitarian republican principles.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Richard Wright (1943-2008)

Richard Wright, one of the founding members of Pink Floyd, died from cancer yesterday. He was 65.

Obituary and related articles at BBC.

Here's "Interstellar Overdrive," one of the numerous tunes that Wright co-wrote. From their 1967 debut album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

Say hello to Syd. . . .

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Greatest Films of All Time: 101-200

"I don't try to guess what a million people will like. It's hard enough to know what I like."

John Huston

This is the fifth in a series of posts on my exploration of the world's Greatest Films of All Time. The initial post included an Introduction and Films 1-20. The other posts include Films 21-50, Films 51-100, and The Directors.

You can skip the following brief intro if you've already read the other posts.

Briefly, I researched and compiled 30 lists of Greatest Films from various sources around the globe, including critics such as Roger Ebert and Jonathan Rosenbaum; popular magazines like Time and Time Out (UK); films journals such as Sight & Sound, Cahiers du cinema, Kinovedcheskie Zapiski (Russia); and a range of Film Archives from countries like China, India, Ecuador, Israel, Greece, and Finland.

The 30 polls produced a total of 580 films. When films weren't ranked in the polls, I assigned a numeric value depending on the total number of films included (eg. 100 films = 20 points). So, the list I'm presenting is not a ranking of films I personally think are the greatest of all time. It's simply a reflection of results from across 30 polls voted on by hundreds of other people.

My quest was twofold: To see which works were considered the masterpieces of cinema from a variety of international sources, and to see if and how the perception of great films and great directors varied from one region of the world to another.

Films 101-200

Luis Buñuel's delicious and disturbing Exterminating Angel, ranked #177 and among my own 100 Favorite Films.

Since this list is pretty long, I'm not going to offer much comment. There were a few points of interest, however.

Several classic comedies from the 1930s and 1940s, which seemed ignored in the more serious-minded Top 100, show up in this list. Howard Hawks' two defining screwball classics appear: Bringing Up Baby (#112) and His Girl Friday (#155) , which may have the fastest-spoken dialog in cinema history. Wisecracking only for the initiated.

Ernst Lubitsch and Preston Sturges each notch two entries, the former with the delightful Trouble in Paradise (#118) and The Shop Around the Corner (#185), and the latter with the magnificent The Lady Eve (#119) and Sullivan's Travels (#185). The only Marx Brothers film in the Top 200, Duck Soup (#125), shows up. And two of my favorite comedies - George Cuckor's wonderful The Philadelphia Story (#144) and Frank Capra's It Happened One Night (#152) - deservedly make the list.

The first films from the 21st century appear: David Lynch's skewed riff on Sunset Blvd., Mulholland Drive (#173) and Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love (#188).

The famous British directing team of Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, who didn't have any films in the Top 100, wind up with four in this list: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (#109); A Matter of Life and Death (#113); Black Narcissus (#138), which I highly recommend; and The Red Shoes (#164).

Here's the full list:

101. (tie) Notti di Cabiria, Le [Nights of Cabiria] (1957) Federico Fellini 184.5
101. (tie) On the Waterfront (1954) Elia Kazan 184.5
103. Zangiku monogatari [Story of the Late Chrysanthemums] (1939) Kenji Mizoguchi 184
104. My Darling Clementine (1946) John Ford 181.5
105. Thiassos, O [Traveling Players] (1975) Theodoros Angelopoulos 178
106. (tie) Jazz Singer, The (1927) Alan Crosland 175
106. (tie) Olvidados, Los [The Young and the Damned] (1950) Luis Buñuel 175
108. Nashville (1975) Robert Altman 172.5
109. Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, The (1943) Michael Powel & Emeric Pressburger 170.5
110. Partie de Campagne [A Day in the Country] (1936) Jean Renoir 170
111. Pandora's Box (1928) G.W. Pabst 165
112. Bringing up Baby (1938) Howard Hawks 158.5
113. Matter Of Life And Death, A (1946) Michael Powel & Emeric Pressburger 157.5
114. King Kong (1933) Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack 154
115. Condamné à mort s'est échappé, Un, ou Le vent souffle où il veut [A Man Escaped] (1956) Robert Bresson 150.5
116. Journal d'un curé de campagne [Diary of a Country Priest] (1950) Robert Bresson 149
117. Sherlock Jr. (1924) Buster Keaton 147
118. Trouble in Paradise (1932) Ernst Lubitsch 145.5
119. Lady Eve, The (1941) Preston Sturges 143
120. Belle et la bête, La [Beauty and the Beast] (1946) Jean Cocteau 141
121. Battaglia di Algeri, La [The Battle of Algiers] (1965) Gillo Pontecorvo 138.5
122. Blaue Engel, Der [Blue Angel] (1930) Josef von Sternberg 135
123. (tie) Letzte Mann, Der [The Last Laugh] (1924) F.W. Murnau 130
123. (tie) Zemyla [Earth] (1930) Aleksandr Dovzhenko 130
125. Duck Soup (1933) Leo McCarey 128.5
126. Crowd , The (1928) King Vidor 128
127. Nanook of the North (1922) Robert Flaherty 127
128. (tie) Play Time (1967) Jacques Tati 125
128. (tie) Umberto D (1952) Vittorio De Sica 125
130. Maltese Falcon, The (1941) John Huston 120.5
131. Ran (1985) Akira Kurosawa 117.5
132. (tie) Great Dictator, The (1940) Charlie Chaplin 117
132. (tie) Jetée, La [The Jetty] (1962) Chris Marker 117

Chris Marker's 1962 science-fiction film La Jetée, a 28-minute work composed of still photographs. It served as the inspiration for Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys (1995).

134. (tie) Aparajito (1956) Satyajit Ray 115
134. (tie) Apur Sansa [The World of Apu] (1959) Satyajit Ray 115
136. Clockwork Orange, A (1971) Stanley Kubrick 108.5
137. Nuit et Brouillard [Night and Fog] (1955) Alain Resnais 107
138. (tie) Black Narcissus (1947) Michael Powel & Emeric Pressburger 106.5
138. (tie) Vredens dag [Day of Wrath] (1943) Carl Dreyer 106.5
140. (tie) Shoah (1985) Claude Lanzmann 105
140. (tie) Ukigumo [Floating Clouds] (1955) Mikio Naruse 105
140. (tie) Vampires, Les (1915-16) Louis Feuillade 105
143. Performance (1970) Nicholas Roeg 103
144. (tie) Jeanne Dielman 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) Chantal Ackerman 102
144. (tie) Philadelphia Story, The (1940) George Cukor 102
146. Treasure of Sierra Madre, The (1948) John Huston 101.5
147. Senso (1954) Luchino Visconti 101
148. (tie) Johnny Guitar (1954) Nicholas Ray 100
148. (tie) Stagecoach (1939) John Ford 100
148. (tie) Vivre sa vie [My Life to Live] (1962) Jean-Luc Godard 100
148. (tie) Wind, The (1928) Victor Sjöström 100
152. It Happened One Night (1934) Frank Capra 98.5
153. (tie) Monsieur Verdoux (1947) Charlie Chaplin 98
153. (tie) Star Wars (1977) George Lucas 98
155. His Girl Friday (1940) Howard Hawks 97.5
156. (tie) Foolish Wives (1922) Erich von Stroheim 95
156. (tie) Once Upon a Time in America (1983) Sergio Leone 95
158. Paisà [Paisan] (1946) Roberto Rossellini 93
159. Manhattan (1979) Woody Allen 92
160. Laura (1944) Otto Preminger 91
161. Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt [Berlin, Symphony of a City] (1927) Walter Ruttmann 90
162. (tie) Olympia, Parts 1 and 2 (1938) Leni Riefenstahl 89
162. (tie) Sweet Smell of Success, The (1957) Alexander Mackendrick 89
164. (tie) Vangelo secondo Matteo, Il [The Gospel According to Saint Matthew] (1964) Pier Paolo Pasolini 87.5
164. (tie) Red Shoes, The (1948) Michael Powel & Emeric Pressburger 87.5
166. Ukigusa [Floating Weeds] (1959) Yasujiro Ozu 85.5
167. (tie) Banshun [Late Spring] (1949) Yasujiro Ozu 85
167. (tie) Jalsaghar [The Music Room] (1958) Satyajit Ray 85
167. (tie) Oktyabr [October] (1927) Sergei M. Eisenstein 85
170. 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d'elle [2 or 3 Things I Know About Her] (1967) Jean-Luc Godard 83
171. Rocco e i suoi fratelli [Rocco and His Brothers] (1960) Luchino Visconti 82.5
172. Las hurdes [Land without Bread] (1932) Luis Buñuel 82
173. (tie) Charme discret de la bourgeoisie, Le [The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie] (1972) Luis Buñuel 81.5
173. (tie) Mulholland Dr. (2001) David Lynch 81.5
175. (tie) Piano, The (1993) Jane Campion 81
175. (tie) Sans Soleil [Sunless] (1983) Chris Marker 81
177. Ángel exterminador, El [Exterminating Angel] (1962) Luis Buñuel 80.5
178. (tie) Bonnie and Clyde (1967) Arthur Penn 80
178. (tie) Maman et la putain, La [The Mother and the Whore] (1973) Jean Eustache 80
178. (tie) Scarlet Empress, The (1934) Josef von Sternberg 80
181. Stalker (1979) Andrei Tarkovsky 79
182. (tie) Viskningar och rop [Cries and Whispers] (1972) Ingmar Bergman 78
182. (tie) Kaagaz Ke Phool [Paper Flowers] (1959) Guru Dutt 78
184. Nema-ye Nazdik [Close-Up] (1990) Abbas Kiarostami 77
185. Shop Around the Corner, The (1940) Ernst Lubitsch 76.5
186. Sullivan's Travels (1941) Preston Sturges 76
187. Do the Right Thing (1989) Spike Lee 75.5
188. Fa yeung nin wa [In The Mood For Love] (2000) Wong Kar Wai 75
189. (tie) Sayat Nova [Color of Pomegranates] (1968) Sergei Parajanov 75
189. (tie) Terra trema [The Earth Trembles] (1948) Luchino Visconti 75
191. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) Vincente Minnelli 73
192. (tie) Buono, il brutto, il cattivo., Il [The Good, the Bad and the Ugly] (1966) Sergio Leone 72
192. (tie) Mean Streets (1973) Martin Scorsese 72
192. (tie) Paths of Glory (1957) Stanley Kubrick 72
195. Brief Encounter (1945) David Lean 71.5
196. (tie) Barefoot Contessa, The (1954) Joseph Mankiewicz 71
196. (tie) Casque d'or (1952) Jacques Becker 71
196. (tie) Deer Hunter, The (1978) Michael Cimino 71
196. (tie) Moonfleet (1955) Fritz Lang 71
196. (tie) Plaisir, Le (1952) Max Ophüls 71
196. (tie) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) Walt Disney 71

Films ranked 101-200 that show up in my own list of Favorite 100 Films: Bringing Up Baby (#112), The Maltese Falcon (#130), Ran (#131), The Philadelphia Story (#144), It Happened One Night (#152), His Girl Friday (#155), Manhattan (#159), and The Exterminating Angel (#177).

I'd be curious, once again, to know some of your own experiences with these films. And which ones would you put in your own Top 100?

Until the next reel. . .

Monday, September 08, 2008

Gimme Some Truth

A request from John Schertzer that I'm more than happy to oblige.

One of my favorite John Lennon songs, with George Harrison on lead guitar.

Has anything changed much since 1972? Tricky Dick was Richard Nixon, now it's Dick Cheney. The uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics and the neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians remain the same.

All I know is that Lennon's anger and yearning for truth in the midst of an absurd and corrupt environment resonates just as much now as it did 36 years ago.

I'm sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

I've had enough of reading things
By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

No short-haired, yellow-bellied, son of tricky dicky
Is gonna mother hubbard soft soap me
With just a pocketful of hope
Money for dope
Money for rope

No short-haired, yellow-bellied, son of tricky dicky
Is gonna mother hubbard soft soap me
With just a pocketful of soap
Money for dope
Money for rope

I'm sick to death of seeing things
From tight-lipped, condescending, mamas little chauvinists
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth now

I've had enough of watching scenes
With schizophrenic, ego-centric, paranoiac, prima-donnas
All I want is the truth now
Just gimme some truth

No short-haired, yellow-bellied, son of tricky dicky
Is gonna mother hubbard soft soap me
With just a pocketful of soap
Its money for dope
Money for rope

Ah, I'm sick to death of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites
All I want is the truth now
Just gimme some truth now

I've had enough of reading things
By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians
All I want is the truth now
Just gimme some truth now
All I want is the truth now
Just gimme some truth now
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Excerpts from The Abyss

The eternal silence of these infinite spaces fills me with dread.
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)


Is the stair here?
Where's the stair?
'The stair's right there,
But it goes nowhere."

And the abyss? the abyss?
'The abyss you can't miss:
It's right where you are--
A step down the stair.'

* * *


I have been spoken to variously
But heard little.
My inward witness is dismayed
By my unguarded mouth.
I have taken, too often, the dangerous path,
The vague, the arid,
Neither in nor out of this life.

* * *

Be with me Whitman, maker of catalogues:
For the world invades me again,
And once more the tongues begin babbling. . . .

* * *


Too much reality can be dazzle, a surfeit;
Too close immediacy an exhaustion. . . .

So the abyss--
The slippery cold heights,
After the blinding misery,
The climbing, the endless turning. . . .

* * *


In this, my half-rest,
Knowing slows for a moment,
And not-knowing enters, silent. . . .

Do we move towards God, or merely another condition?
By the salt waves I hear a river's undersong,
In a place of mottled clouds, a thin mist morning and evening.
I rock between dark and dark,
My soul nearly my own,
My dead selves singing.
And I embrace this calm--

From "The Abyss"
Theodore Roethke