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(The Duluth News Tribune, 15 April 1912)

Officials of the White Star Line have confirmed the sinking, during her maiden voyage, of the R.M.S. Titanic, the world’s largest symbol of man’s mortality and vulnerability.

First reports of the calamity were received Monday at the London telegraph office of the White Star Line, which owns the nautical archetype.

At 4:23 a.m. Greenwich Standard Time, the following message was received from the rescue ship Carpathia:

Titanic struck by icy representation of nature’s supremacy STOP insufficient lifeboats due to pompous certainty in man’s infallibility STOP Microcosm of larger society STOP

It is believed at this time that upwards of 1,500 passengers aboard the metaphor may have perished in the imperturbable liquid immensity that, irrespective of mankind’s congratulatory “progress”, blankets most of the globe in its awful dark silence. Seven hundred more passengers survived to objectify human insignificance in the face of the colossal placidity of the universe.

Among the prominent passengers ironically missing and believed perished are New York millionaire John Jacob Astor, mining tycoon Benjamin Guggenheim, railroad president Charles Melville Hays, and presidential military aide Major Archibald Butt, providing further example of man’s inability to cavort with God, no matter how wealthy or powerful he may be, as well as the vast indifference of the universe toward even the grandest of human achievement. Late word indicates, however, that the well-to-do and the privileged constitute a great majority of the living. It could not yet be determined whether this betokens a form of maritime social Darwinism or a particularly overt form of social injustice.

Although unconfirmed as of press-time, it is rumored that the Titanic was proceeding at a rapid pace through ice-berg-laden waters in order that her captain might flaunt the ship’s great speed, making all the more ironic the demise of this paramount symbol of man’s hubris.

An architect from the firm of Harland & Wolff, which constructed the great metaphor, was stunned and aggrieved by the significance of the tragic event.

“I spent the better part of two years re-drawing the marble on the grand staircase at the first-class entrance until it represented absolutely the right dimensions for showing off the daintily luxurious evening wear of the wives of the industrial millionaires. Now that staircase will provide an entrance only for the plankton, moss, and other marine life that inhabits the frigid North Atlantic seabed. I dare say that is ironic.”

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Campbell's Soup by Andy Warhol

(The New York Times, 24 January 1962)

Campbell’s Soup is drawing rave reviews from the world’s art critics, who hail the soup maker’s new “Tomato” soup “a brilliant post-modern commentary on the pervasiveness of consumerism in modern life”.

Art dealers from New York to Paris are bidding astronomical sums for the 12-ounce cans, normally priced at 33 cents. This week, a can at a Manhattan grocery store fetched $100,000.

According to New York art collector Bruno Waldstein, who paid $76,000 for a can at Sal’s Corner Grocery in Queens Friday: “This soup savagely lampoons the unwelcome, insidious intrusion of crass commercialism into our lives and modern popular culture. This is Campbell’s greatest work since Cream of Mushroom.”

The art originates from a small collective of artists calling themselves “The Campbell’s Canning Factory” in Gary, Indiana.

Campbell’s Soup CEO Herbert Leonard, 53, said he is mystified by the success of the can. “It’s just fucking soup,” he said.

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(The Grauniad, 28 November 1954)

Sir Ben Lockspeiser, addressing the Office Appliance and Business Equipment Trades Association in London yesterday, described some of the electronic devices now being used to perform elaborate clerical tasks in some of the larger business organisations. He suggested that the wider use of such devices could reduce the much-criticised disparity between office staffs and producers, and that their social and economic consequences in the business world might be as revolutionary as those which followed the invention of the typewriter and the consequent general employment of women in offices.

As an example, Sir Ben Lockspeiser said that some airlines now dealt with bookings automatically with the help of an electronic device whose “memory” consisted of a rapidly rotating magnetic drum on which all the relevant information was recorded in code. By calling up the computer the booking clerk in any office could tell an intending passenger in a matter of seconds whether or not there was a seat available for him on any particular aeroplane.

Sir Ben emphasised that electronic brains such as these had a doubly important role to play in modern business, but a notable obstacle to their wider use had hitherto been their expense and great size. A fully automatic general purpose electronic computer might contain as many as five thousand valves and require special ventilation to dissipate the heat generated. The germanium transistor, however, which had now emerged from the laboratory as a reliable commercial product, might change all this. It performed many of the functions of the radio valve, but was very much smaller and did away with filament heating.

Speaking of the vexatious problem of whether these elaborate electronic brains could really “think”, Sir Ben said that it was necessary to distinguish between routine thought – which a machine could often perform much more quickly and more reliably than the human brain – and creative thought, which lay outside the province of the machine.

(The Observer, 22 November 1964)

Irving Wardle defends William Burroughs’s hallucinatory 1959 novel and his divisive style of writing:

Opinion is already split so many ways over The Naked Lunch that it is worth stating William Burroughs’s claim to attention in fairly uncontroversial terms before reopening the argument.

First, after 15 years of drug addiction, he knows what he’s talking about; on the reporting level, his work has the authority of a war correspondent who has both lived in danger and done his homework.

Second, Burroughs is a real writer, a man with an instinct and respect for language, and whose energy finds a natural outlet in language. He can write good orthodox narrative when he wants to: no charlatan could have turned out the autobiographical Junkie. And even the notorious “cut-up” method that he practises today, shuffling the contents of the book like a pack of cards, leaves his narrative imagination intact. A naked man is trapped in an upstairs room with three murderous Arabs: “Pieces of murder falling slowly as opal chips through glycerine… Slower animal reactions allow him a full second to decide: straight through the window and down into the crowded street like a falling star and his wake of glass glittering in the sun… sustained a broken ankle and a chipped shoulder… clad in a diaphanous pink curtain, with a curtain-rod staff, hobbled away to the Commissariat de Police.”

Here Burroughs is applying the mandarin principle of leaving out whatever he finds boring. With writers such as Kerouac this yields floods of invertebrate telegraphese; but whatever The Naked Lunch may be, it is not spineless. Ugly as they are, its hallucinatory set-pieces are executed with obvious care, and its kaleidoscope fragments are as precise as sick cartoon captions (“With veins like that, Kid, I’d have myself a time,” whispers an old addict, fingering a boy’s arm). The cut-up method itself, with its swerving non sequiturs and incoherent sprays of dots, seems intended as a literary equivalent to those serialist compositions that allow the musicians to start and stop anywhere they like.

The key word in Burroughs’s own discussions of it is “intersection”, a term implying a good deal more than the interlocking of verbal material. Intersection points also represent transitions from one state of consciousness to another – like Pirandello’s changes between illusion and reality. In Burroughs, the change is from “junk time” to normal time, and he is aware that the moment of change is far more exciting than anything that happens once this change is established. But the final justification of the method is the material itself – a sequence of nightmare visions of a world in mutation, where genetic and social laws have broken down, and familiar outlines are melting away or merging together, like the cells of the book, in cancerous proliferation.

“I do not presume to impose ‘story’ ‘plot’ ‘continuity’,” Burroughs has said. “I am not an entertainer.” He is.

Couples attached to Baroque harnesses with artificial wings copulate in the air, screaming like magpies.
Aerialists ejaculate each other in space with one sure touch.
Equilibrists suck each other off deftly, balanced on perilous poles and chairs tilted over the void. A warm wind brings the smell of rivers and jungle from misty depths.
Boys by the hundred plummet through the roof, quivering and kicking at the end of ropes. The boys hang at different levels, some near the ceiling and others a few inches off the floor.
Sharp protein odor of semen fills the air. The guests run hands over twitching boys, suck their cocks, hang on their backs like vampires.
A horde of lust-mad American women rush in. Dripping cunts, from farm and dude ranch, factory, brothel, country club, penthouse and suburb, motel and yacht and cocktail bar, strip off riding clothes, ski togs, evening dresses, levis, tea gowns, print dresses, slacks, bathing suits and kimonos. They scream and yipe and howl, leap on the guests like bitch dogs in heat with rabies. They claw at the hanged boys shrieking: “You fairy! You bastard! Fuck me! Fuck me! Fuck me!”

(William S. Burroughs, The Naked Lunch)

(The Daily Telegraph, 31 October 1948)

Celebratory Gunfire in Syria and Jordan Welcomes State of Israel

After more than 2,000 years of wandering and persecution, including six million deaths at the hand of Nazi Germany, the Jewish people have finally established a homeland, Israel, a place of safety and peace nestled between Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.

“No longer will the Jewish race live in a constant state of fear and endangerment, its very existence threatened at every turn by outsiders,” said David Ben-Gurion, the new nation’s first Prime Minister, addressing a jubilant crowd at Jerusalem’s Western Wall. “Here in Israel, we are safe, far from those who seek to destroy us.”

For two millennia, the Jewish people have wandered without a home, facing an endless series of hostile enemies. With the establishment of a sovereign Jewish state in the stable heart of the Middle East, Israeli officials believe this 2,000-year ordeal has at last come to an end.

Mr. Ben-Gurion himself said that he looks forward to years of harmony and co-operation with Israel’s neighbouring states. “Last night, from my window, I could hear great explosions coming from the Gaza Strip. How wonderful of the Palestinian peoples there to celebrate our arrival with fireworks.”

In an official greeting to Israel yesterday, Egypt’s King Farouk issued the following statement: “Egypt does not and will not ever recognize the so-called state of Israel’s right to exist. Israel is a land built on Jewish lies and the spilled blood of countless Arabs.”

As a token of goodwill, the Syrian authorities presented Mr. Ben-Gurion with a burning Israeli flag and a telegram reading: “May you be swifly driven into the sea and drowned.”

Mr. Ben-Gurion said that without the need to defend itself from enemies, Israel will be free to spend tens of millions of pounds on domestic development that other nations would be forced to earmark for a defence budget. Military expenditures are expected to account for a mere two per cent of the country’s overall budget, as Israel will be a place of peace, not war.

Occupy Wall Street

(The New York Times, 17 October 1931)

Bank managers across the nation met Friday to establish new standard business hours to help cope with the country’s new financial needs. The new hours, effective immediately at most major U.S. banks, will be: Monday through Friday, closed; Saturday, closed; Sunday’s closure for holy-day observance will remain unchanged. The banks plan to return to their former hours in 1936, with notices of resumption to be delivered at that time.

“We apologize for any inconvenience our new hours might cause anyone, but we’re certain that with a little time, everyone will be able to make the adjustment,” said New Jersey Citizen Bank President Henry Frigger. “Thank you for your cooperation.”

The new hours were posted on Citizen Bank’s doors, alongside a poster decorated with a fanciful cartoon bear in a top hat and tails, and the words, “Please ‘bear’ with us!”.

“We ask that everyone please be patient through our schedule adjustment,” said smiling bank secretary Harriet Kincaid, as she pulled blinds to block the view of the crowds outside.

Other bank tellers and clerks hurried about Citizen Bank, putting dust covers over the furniture and office equipment, while some reinforced the windows and doors with nails, wooden planks, and steel caging.

Worried account-holders attempting to place telephone calls to the bank were greeted with an automated message in lieu of an operator’s voice. The message stated that, although the call was important to Citizen Bank, switchboard operators were unable to speak at that time. The message was followed by a recording of the popular tune “Yes, We Have No Bananas”.

While many may be inconvenienced by the change in hours, Mr. Frigger said plenty of customers may still be able to withdraw money in times of need. “If your last name is the same as mine or my wife’s before marriage, I may be able to make an appointment for you outside our normal business hours. Such customers should come round back and slip a request under the door.”

In the meantime, Mr. Frigger said bank staff will be”doing a lot of remodeling, painting the front lobby, and attempting to locate approximately $900,000 in cash.”

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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