The Charles Bukowski Tapes by Barbet Schroeder


During the lengthy production of the film ‘Barfly,’ director Barbet Schroeder conducted a series of short interviews with the poet Charles Bukowski. This is the complete set of those interviews and comes in at nearly four hours. Observe Bukowski and see what you think of his style. He was an incredibly sensitive soul trying to be a boxer. He was also one of those people who when they speak you just can’t wait to hear what they might say next. A real page-turner of a person.

If you want to read a fascinating book about the time of making Barfly, read Bukowski’s novel, ‘Hollywood.’ He changes the names of all the people involved, but you can easily figure out who they are. It is the best book about making a movie I have ever read in my entire life – without exception.

Ray Bradbury Has Died at 91

It’s a sad day for writing and for science fiction. Legendary and iconic author Ray Bradbury has died at the age of 91. We should count ourselves fortunate that we had him for so many years, firing the imaginations of children and adults worldwide. I will never forget reading his ‘Martian Chronicles,’ ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ and ‘The Illustrated Man.’ I recently re-read 451 after many decades and thoroughly enjoyed it to the same extent that I had as a teenager. He was one of those writers more interested in the life of the imagination than in hard-core science fiction. He wrote not about the spaceship, but more about how one thought about a spaceship.
He provided much material for the movies, including the peculiar and not entirely successful Francois Truffaut adaptation of ‘Fahrenheit 451.’ He will be sorely missed and probably never equaled.
Here is a 1963 television documentary about Bradbury produced by David L. Wolper. It contains a film version of one of his short stories called ‘Dial Double Zero.’
Video found via Paul Gallagher at Dangerous Minds.

Glass Letter Boxes at Lunch by a Parking Lot in Los Angeles

I hated Steve Jobs. Now that he’s dead I like him better. Looked snotty to me, but he came up with some nice things. I’m using an iPad right now, trying to master the stiff-finger jabbing action in my lap with the thing leaning in front of a Greek salad on a greasy streaked patio tabletop out of the sun in a breeze that keeps flipping my napkins over and threatening to send them back toward the door from which my food came – delivered to a number on a stick. The number’s gone now. She must have taken it when she placed my trays in front of me. So far, the finger-jabbing is workable if not entirely productive. My problems with Steve Jobs notwithstanding, I dig this pad and carry it everywhere, even when I should know that it makes me look like – what do you call them – a goddamn geek. But I have too much face-breaker in me to ever be mistaken for a geek with an iPad. I annoy geeks because they sense the lout underneath the programmer.
So anyway or anywho as all the wannabe smarties like to say – if someone says anywho to you, just casually punch their front teeth out, understand? Even if it’s me. The use of the word indicates a fractured personality who wants to present itself as innocuous. Anyhow, there’s a thing about iPads and rear-facing cameras, filters, touch screens, Wifi connections, and trying to capture the moment or the under-moment of a place as surface-oriented and deeply mysterious as Los Angeles. You can’t let snobbery and distaste for a personality prevent you from diving into what you identify as bullshit for a nice swim in the same dirty water everyone else is so interested in. Sometimes, for the artist, immersion is essential. You can’t stand on the shoreline watching the swimmers, critiquing their bathing suits and lovely fat rolls. You’ve got to go in and swim around between their legs like a lingering shark looking for easy meat. You can still be a little separated as far as viewpoint, but you must try the water. That’s my theory behind the photo of the parking lot. It was taken on the move from parking spot to Panera Bread, then filtered up, framed and filtered again while trying to control the napkin traffic across my lunch. It’s a little like painting really. Despite the stupidity of the millions of photos uploaded to the hellish quagmire known as Instagram, the digital photo/filter combo just might be vastly superior to the instamatic toy point and shoots that it so cleverly imitates. You know, art’s a funny thing. It crops up in odd places. There’s that photographer – can’t remember his name now – maybe it was William Eggleston… don’t know… but any… who? Anyway, back in the seventies when galleries and museums – if there’s a difference – were all showing black and white photos as art… well this guy throws a bunch of color snapshots into a suitcase, travels to New York, walks into the Museum of Modern Art and demands a showing. He becomes one of the great photo artists of the 20th century and sets off the realization that color photographs can be shown as art. Everyone at the time of course really knew that, but they didn’t act as if they knew it. There’s a huge step in between.

Ray Bradbury on Writing

Ray Bradbury talks about the function of the writer in civilization and some of how he approaches his work. I often think this writer says stupid things and writes tepid uninspiring books for simple children. But there’s not much here for me to disagree with.


On Reading Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow – Part 1

Every word in Thomas Pynchon’s deranged dance macabre, ‘Gravity’s Rainbow,’ seems, like HTML, to link out to some other subject. The book seems for me to exist in-between worlds, barely attached to this one while trying desperately to connect us with another fuzzily glimpsed, just-hinted, vague world, suggested by pure chance connections between ideas and events here on a fractured and demented earth. I’m barely one hundred and sixty-five pages into this book and I’m reacting for it and against it in nearly equal measure. It’s a goddamn blast. It’s also a motherfucking bitch. Every page of it so far mentions some kind of rocket trajectory, launch pad, descent, explosion or blast of light. Everyone in the book seems to be living out one debauchery or another while all the time expecting to be blown away in bits, perhaps even looking forward to it. Death, for Pynchon, seems on the surface like fun. The book almost makes a mockery of dark humor, of dying. It’s as if Pynchon wants to give the finger straight into the yawning mouth of death’s favorite century.

Things I notice so far about the book: Rockets of course. Everywhere and in every mind of the characters. It’s all about predicting bomb hits and finding the rockets. People want to understand how one of the characters can possibly manage to have sex in various locations just prior to those spots being bombed into oblivion by German V-2 rockets. The books seethes with sexual excitement that’s a death-wish. I also notice that Pynchon is associating Hansel & Gretel, the forest and the witch’s oven with Germany and the events of World War II. The Holocaust is looming over this book on every page. There are constant mentions of cause and effect, how it operates and whether it might be possible to break out of its logic. Can a rocket attack be sensed before it even hits? Psychological early warning system. Brain radar. Statistical analysis for making predictions.

Imagine a missile one hears approaching only after it explodes. The reversal! A piece of time neatly snipped out…a few feet of film run backwards…the blast of the rocket, fallen faster than sound–then growing out of it the roar of its own fall, catching up to what’s already death and burning…a ghost in the sky…

Quite a few references to film in this book so far up to page one hundred and sixty-five.

What could be more paranoid than a constant worry about bomb rockets? The book seems like a grotesque exaggeration at first. But that’s the joke I think. It’s actually an understatement and proves paranoia to be the most well-placed and logical mental operation in a century during which people were dug into trenches and told to march toward each other like polite firing squads. A century in which men marched millions of people into gas chambers and pushed them through ovens. A century in which entire cities were blown off the face of the planet while the citizens were out shopping for groceries. Pynchon seems like an author who is not afraid of any of it. He’s like a guy laughing at the scene of a traffic accident. Or photographing it like Warhol did. And the book’s laugh-in-a-sort-of-half-shocked-way funny. Here’s a bit from a funny scene where a guy visits a nurse he wants to sleep with but must endure a lengthy sit-down with an older woman patient who wants to share her candy:

Under its tamarind glaze, the Mills bomb turns out to be luscious pepsin-flavored nougat, chock-full of tangy candied cubeb berries, and a chewy camphor-gum center. It is unspeakably awful. Slothrop’s head begins to reel with camphor fumes, his eyes are running, his tongue’s a hopeless holocaust. Cubeb? He used to smoke that stuff. “Poisoned…” he is able to croak.

“Show a little backbone,” advises Mrs. Quoad.

“Yes,” Darlene through tongue-softened sheets of caramel, “don’t you know there’s a war on? Here now love, open your mouth?”

It’s funny, no? But it should also set off sparks off recognition in your head that link up with gas chambers. You just can’t trust Pynchon to be genuinely funny. He’s watching you laugh and getting ready to slit your careless throat. No wonder Pynchon uses a secret identity. He’s dangerous. He seems slightly criminal. This guy loves conspiracies. He must have some really excellent ideas about who killed Kennedy. I mean he’d probably say Oswald did it, but it’s why Oswald thought he was doing that makes it interesting.

I love it when authors hide their identities. Pynchon has been effectively doing this for about fifty years now. This reminds me, as all secret identities do, of Batman.

Here’s my ancient and torn copy of a Batman giant issue from 1969. Down in the lower margin there I wrote ‘fuck.’ I’m not sure why I would have done something so charming to a Batman comic. I must have been practicing my favorite words or something. What does an old comic book have to do with Pynchon? I don’t really know but it seems to fit. In fact, comic artist Frank Miller did the cover for the recent Penguin edition of Gravity’s Rainbow. That’s the copy of the book in the first photograph above. Behind the book in that photo is a computer screen showing a drawing by artist Zak Smith who did a thing he called ‘Illustrations for Each Page of Gravity’s Rainbow.’ It’s been shown at the Whitney Museum and you can buy it in book form.

It’s strange how much I’m enjoying this book because I hated ‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce. I think Pynchon snagged some stuff from Joyce. He even resorts to script format for some portions of the book the way Joyce did. But I only like the first part of Ulysses which takes place on top of a tower and has a character shaving. I also enjoy the part about Bloom in the park watching the girl’s underpants. But that book suggests to me that Joyce was mentally ill. With Pynchon I get the feeling that the world and everyone in it is mentally ill.

There’s also a definite connection between Pynchon and William S. Burroughs. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the same person. But that’s impossible. They both like secret organizations of scientists or researchers though. They share this fascination with science gone crazy and used to control minds – populations. But Pynchon is a better writer – less concerned with gimmicks. His language is a constant beauty which is the great antidote to his hilariously murderous world view. His entertaining and wildly connecting sentences indicate to me that Thomas Pynchon is an optimist. But, as with Joyce, I find myself constantly shutting the book and wondering, ‘How did he do it?’ How for fuck’s name did this guy not only maintain a secret identity but accumulate so much esoteric knowledge in the late sixties so as to be able to jam-pack every single sentence in the bloody book with some reference or other to some event or other that no sane person would ever have heard of in a lifetime? What the hell is going on in this man’s mind that allowed him to achieve Google knowledge density in 1973?

For all the good it might do anyone, I’ll keep reading the book and make a few more posts about it. I tend to relate work like Pynchon’s to my own video work. It’s something to do with the density of thought and imagery. It’s always good to read solid evidence of someone being crazier than you are so that you can get down and work at your own stuff with a little less embarrassment.

Henry Miller Discusses Life, Love, Sex, Art, Writing, Jung and Enlightenment in His Bathroom


The great American writer, Henry Miller, walks into his bathroom in 1973 and talks about all the fascinating pictures on the walls. Here’s a guy who can kill zombies with his words. I’ve always considered him to be an antidote to the lifeless people one must engage with on a daily basis. The people who get into cars and make their way to offices, then return to relax with a television and cook at the barbecue built into the island on the patio. You can reconnect with life by reading Miller’s books. You can once again feel that the world is actually a place where art and passion exist. Miller excites imagination. He makes you want to live harder and better. Listen to him talk in his bathroom! Anyone who can be this fantastic in his bathroom has got something marvelous going on.  The film was shot and directed by Tom Schiller.