The Wonderful O, by James Thurber

Vulpes Libris

And so the locksmith became a lcksmith, and the bootmaker a btmaker, and people whispered like conspirators when they said the names.  Love’s Labours Lost and Mother Goose flattened out like a pricked balloon.  Books were bks and Robin Hood was Rbinhd.  Little Goody Two Shoes lost her Os and so did Goldilocks, and the former became a whisper, and the latter sounded like a key jiggled in a lck.  It was impossible to read “cockadoodledoo” aloud, and parents gave up reading to their children, and some gave up reading altogether…

The Wonderful O is the story of the people of Ooroo, who, colonised by the worst sort of moral monster (the pirates Black and Littlejack), are robbed of their Os.  Desolate and confused, they can no longer love, worship or adore; commerce, religion and public order are affected for the worse; and our heroine Andrea can be “a lass…

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Nico, Eno and John Cale in Berlin, 1974

Nico, Cale, EnoFrom the look on their faces, the Grepos guarding the East German side of Checkpoint Charlie had never seen anything like Brian Eno. This was October 5, 1974, and I seem to remember that Eno had dyed his long hair green. They looked askance at John Cale, too. But somehow they let the three of us through the barriers and barbed wire and past the lookout towers that marked the official crossing point in the Wall, enabling us to stroll up the Friedrichstrasse and turn right on to the Unter den Linden for a taste of the Cold War from the other side.

Nico couldn’t come with us. It was something to do with having a West German passport, but I don’t think she was at all upset. To her, Berlin was the city in which she had lived with her mother between 1940, when she was two years old, and 1954. The young Christa Päffgen had worked as a seamstress and a salesgirl…

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Songbird for Nelson Algren


Songbird for Nelson Algren

I’ve made more than a few tributes to  the great Chicago writer Nelson Algren.  His shadow looms large over how I see the city.  Algren, of course, is the steely realist who will not let us bullshit ourselves about who we are.  He is also the soft heart who  is full of the gambler’s optimism about who we could be.  He was a master of the gray; the good in the bad and the bad in the good.  He also leavened his often sad and tragic stories with wry humor.  He is also aware of Chicago’s propensity for eating its own.  He often remarked that Chicago could not “love you back” and went to his grave believing this.

Once a year I re-read Chicago: City on the Make and marvel at its sprawling and adventurous storytelling.  It still moves like a freight-train.  It is still a bitter pill and a…

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Charles Bukowski – “melancholia”

The Beat Patrol

the history of melancholia
includes all of us.
me, I writhe in dirty sheets
while staring at blue walls
and nothing.
I have gotten so used to melancholia
I greet it like an old
I will now do 15 minutes of grieving
for the lost redhead,
I tell the gods.
I do it and feel quite bad
quite sad,
then I rise
even though nothing
is solved.
that’s what I get for kicking
religion in the ass.
I should have kicked the redhead
in the ass
where her brains and her bread and
butter are
at …
but, no, I’ve felt sad
about everything:
the lost redhead was just another
smash in a lifelong
loss …
I listen to drums on the radio now
and grin.
there is something wrong with me
Charles Bukowski

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The Nazz – “Nazz Nazz” (1969)

The Beat Patrol

A PopMatters review from the early 2000s, by Jason Thompson, concerning Todd Rundgren’s first major band… 


The early years of Todd Rundgren’s career were no less inconspicuous than everything else he’s done down through the years. As a guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist for Philadelphia’s Nazz, Rundgren cut his chops on both sides of the studio glass, whipping out ferocious rockers while at the same time mastering the machines that recorded his band’s work. And while the Nazz set themselves up as superstars from the beginning, they never actually achieved nationwide success.

Their first LP Nazz spawned the semi-hits “Open My Eyes” and “Hello, It’s Me”, a tune that would be come Todd’s signature piece after he re-recorded it for his Something/Anything? solo masterpiece. The group’s second release Nazz Nazz has been derided by some rock guides as being too stuck in the psychedelia of 1967 (the album was…

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In Appreciation: The Incredible String Band

A Lifetime Is Required

isb-posterChristmas was approaching during my final year of high school.  One Saturday evening a group of my art-school-bound friends and I went off to a nearby college campus for a lab theater production .  (It was either Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape or a double bill of Terrence McNally’s Botticelli and Israel Horovitz’s RATS!; either way a good evening of theater.)  But the most memorable and important moment of the night came before the house lights even dimmed.

There was music playing over the PA system in the small theater, something that I didn’t recognize at all, but something exciting that pulled my attention away from my friends’ conversation.  Finally I asked if anyone knew what we were hearing, and Karen told me it was the Incredible String Band’s new album (it was Changing Horses, released in November 1969).  She owned a couple earlier records by them, and would be happy to…

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