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Posts Tagged ‘Kurt Vonnegut

“Symbols can be so beautiful, sometimes”*…

 

McDonalds

 

One of Northern Europe’s arguably most distinctive exports is “slow TV”: real-time recordings of train journeys, ferry crossings or the migration of reindeer, which regularly draw record audiences.

Among perhaps the most successful — and least exciting — examples of that genre is the live stream of a McDonald’s cheeseburger with fries. At its peak, it drew 2 million viewers a month. The only element on the screen that moves, however, is the time display.

The burger looks the same way, hour after hour.

As of this week, it has looked like that for 10 years.

Purchased hours before the corporation pulled out of the country in 2009, in the wake of Iceland’s devastating financial crisis, the last surviving McDonald’s burger has become much more than a burger. To some, it stands for the greed and excessive capitalism that “created an economic collapse that was so bad that even McDonald’s had to close down,” said Hjörtur Smárason, 43, who purchased the fateful burger in 2009. To others, the eerily fresh look of the 10-year-old meal has served as a warning against the excessive consumption of fast food…

A symbol for our times: “The cautionary political tale of Iceland’s last McDonald’s burger that simply won’t rot, even after 10 years.”

* Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

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As we muse of the messages in our meals, we might send gloriously-written birthday greetings to today’s epigramist, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.; he was born on this date in 1922.  In a career spanning over 50 years, Vonnegut published fourteen novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five works of non-fiction, with further collections being published after his death. He is probably best known for his darkly-satirical, best-selling 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five.

Vonnegut called George Orwell his favorite writer, and admitted that he tried to emulate Orwell– “I like his concern for the poor, I like his socialism, I like his simplicity”– though early in his career Vonnegut decided to model his style after Henry David Thoreau, who wrote as if from the perspective of a child.  And of course, Vonnegut’s life and work are resonant with Mark Twain and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. 

Author Josip Novakovich marveled that “The ease with which he writes is sheerly masterly, Mozartian.”  The Los Angeles Times suggested that Vonnegut will “rightly be remembered as a darkly humorous social critic and the premier novelist of the counterculture“; The New York Times agreed, calling Vonnegut the “counterculture’s novelist.”

220px-Kurt_Vonnegut_1972 source

 

 

 

 

Written by LW

November 11, 2019 at 1:01 am

“I think an interview, properly considered, should be an investigation”*…

 

Kurt Vonnegut wrote novels, of course, but also short stories, essays, and — briefly, suitably late in his career — correspondence from the afterlife. He did that last gig in 1998, composing for broadcast on the formidable WNYC, by undergoing a series of what he called “controlled near-death experiences” orchestrated, so he claimed, by “Dr. Jack Kevorkian and the facilities of a Huntsville, Texas execution chamber.” These made possible “more than one hundred visits to Heaven and my returning to life to tell the tale,” or rather, to tell the tales of the more permanently deceased with whom he’d sat down for a chat.

Vonnegut’s roster of afterlife interviewees included personages he personally admired such as Eugene Debs (listen), Isaac Newton (listen), and Clarence Darrow (listen), as well as historical villains like James Earl Ray (listen) and Adolf Hitler (listen). Other of the dead with whom he spoke, while they may not qualify as household names, nevertheless went to the grave with some sort of achievement under their belts: Olestra inventor Fred H. Mattson, for instance, or John Wesley Joyce, owner of the famed Greenwich Village literary watering hole The Lion’s Head. Only the Slaughterhouse-Five author’s courageous and impossible reportage has saved the names of a few, like that of retired construction worker Salvatore Biagini, from total obscurity…

Hear Kurt Vonnegut Visit the Afterlife & Interview Dead Historical Figures: Isaac Newton, Adolf Hitler, Eugene Debs & More (Audio, 1998)

* Errol Morris

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As we take the guided tour down memory lane, we might recall that it was on this date in 1926 that Buster’s Keaton’s masterpiece, The General, was released (in the U.S.; for reasons lost in the wastes of time, it was released 5 weeks earlier in Japan).  Keaton starred in and co-directed the film, which was a based on a true story from the American Civil War (adapted from the memoir The Great Locomotive Chase by William Pittenger).  A financial disappointment at the time, it’s now widely-considered one of the finest motion pictures ever made.

 source

 

Written by LW

February 5, 2017 at 1:01 am

Doodle-doodle-do…

Sometimes in moments of distraction; sometimes, idleness…  we all do it: doodle.  Lest one feel at all self-conscious about it, our friends at Flavorwire have collected “Idle Doodles by Famous Authors“…

Notes on tango, Jorge Luis Borges (via  Notre Dame University)

Borges’ self-portrait (after he went blind)

Readers can find the casual jottings of Sylvia Plath, Kurt Vonnegut, Franz Kafka, Vladimir Nabakov, David Foster Wallace, and others at “Idle Doodles by Famous Authors.”

As we refill our pens, we might recall that it was on this date in 1888 that Walt Whitman put marginalia to a different use: he sent a sheet of inked emendations to the editors of The Riverside Literature Series No. 32 calling attention to mistakes in their recently-printed version of his poem, “O Captain! My Captain!” “Somehow you have got a couple of bad perversions in ‘O Captain,'” he wrote. “I send you a corrected sheet.”

source: Library of Congress

So it goes…

From the same folks who brought one the afore-featured  Mark Twain Motivational Posters, Sloshspot, a set of encouraging broadsheets featuring the wisdom of Kurt Vonnegut.

With thanks to our buddies, the celebrated curators at Blogadilla (“The Tijuana of the Internet”).

As we pull up our socks, we might recall that it was on this date in 1937, in Busman’s Honeymoon, that Dorothy Sayers’ detective Lord Peter Wimsey finally married Harriet Vane, the mystery writer he had pursued through several novels.  Even Bunter was relieved.

source

 

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