Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs: celebrating the Beats in Paris

In the late 50s the Beat movement reached its high point, with Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs sharing rooms in a rundown hotel near the Seine. James Campbell visits a new exhibition at the Pompidou Centre and a pivotal moment in cultural history

If you want to read Jack Kerouacs novel On the Road in its original scroll form this summer, the place to go to is the Beat Generation exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. It will require more than one visit the 36.6m scroll is exhibited in its entire length across the central room, like the Bayeux Tapestry but while you are there you can also watch Robert Franks 30-minute film Pull My Daisy (1959), with Kerouacs voiceover, scrutinise the heavily revised typescript of Allen Ginsbergs poem Howl, dance to Harry Smiths experimental jazz films and relish the sight of numerous rare publications under glass, such as Gary Snyders Six Sections from Mountains and Rivers Without End and issues of the magazines Big Table and Kulchur.

Paris has acquired the habit of mounting major exhibitions on literary subjects Jean-Paul Sartre and Boris Vian have been at the Bibliothque Nationale in recent years, Jean Cocteau and Roland Barthes at the Pompidou but why the Beats, and why now? The idea is to show these freedoms, which were fought for then, and which are in danger of disappearing, says Philippe-Alain Michaud who has curated the show with assistance from the poet Jean-Jacques Lebel, translator of several Beat works into French, and Rani Singh of the Getty Research Institute. Michaud isnt disposed to make the case for a revival of interest, since France never paid much attention to Beat writing in the first place. We wanted to show the multimedia nature of the movement not just writing but painting and film as well and how the idea of travel was central to it.

Pull My Daisy, directed by Robert Frank

There is another good reason for bringing the Beats to Paris. More than Tangier, which often gets the credit, the French capital was where Beat production reached its high point, between 1957 and 1960. With the turn of the decade, what had been an underground movement rose to the surface and was exposed to damaging commercial light. The living quarters were a cheap hotel in rue Gt-le-Coeur, near the Seine. Known as the Hotel Rachou, after its owner, it has passed into legend as the Beat Hotel. Just a short walk away, across the Boulevard St Michel, was the office of the Olympia Press in rue St Sverin, the nearest thing to a house publisher for Beat writing in Europe. It was at the Beat Hotel in 1959 that the dishevelled routines of William S Burroughs were shuffled into some kind of shape by Ginsberg, Sinclair Beiles and others a random shape, according to Burroughs himself before being brought to the proprietor of Olympia, Maurice Girodias. Four or five weeks later, Naked Lunch, with a now rare dust jacket designed by the author and many misprints committed by non-English-reading compositors (fortunately, given the content), was in the few shops willing to stock it. The cut-up technique, which Burroughs used to produce his next two novels, The Soft Machine and The Ticket That Exploded also published by Olympia was accidentally revealed to his regular collaborator Brion Gysin at the Beat Hotel. Gysins original cut-up weapon, a Stanley knife, is on display, as is Burroughss vintage Underwood typewriter and an adding machine of the kind refined by his grandfather, also William S Burroughs, which brought the family status and wealth at the end of the 19th century. It was in Paris that Ginsberg began writing Kaddish, his greatest poem, and it was from here that Gregory Corso sent the poems for his collection Gasoline to City Lights Books in San Francisco. Hes probably the greatest poet in America, Ginsberg wrote in a preface, and hes starving in Europe. Starving at the Beat Hotel, to be precise, where Corso lived in a room almost too small to stand up in, as we see from one of the many photographs by the English photographer Harold Chapman.

Neal Cassady by Ettore Sottsass (1962)

Beat Generation does not claim the movement for Paris but it shows the importance of the city in the lives and works of several of its leading writers. Kerouac spent little time there, but for Ginsberg and others there was the excitement of gazing at the same cityscapes and dawdling in the same cafes as Henry Miller, a reluctant forbear, Jean Genet and Samuel Beckett. The work of all three was as yet unavailable in the US, but all were published by the Olympia Press, the literary importance of which has never got through to the French reading public.

The Hotel Rachou has long since been converted into a four-star hotel Singh says she was forbidden to take a group inside recently while leading a Beat walk but visitors to the Pompidou will have their imaginations primed by an installation structured on contemporary pictures of Burroughs in his dismal room, some by Chapman, others by the Life magazine photographer Loomis Dean. There is a replica of the sagging brass bed with a bare light bulb above and reproductions of Burroughss pictures on the wall. All that is missing is a stuffed dummy of the cadaverous figure himself, staring into the abyss of total need, Burroughss term for heroin addiction. Mme Rachou, who enjoyed the company of the local gendarmerie as well as of beatniks, is no longer around to explain why she admitted these eccentric types one tenant filled his room up with straw while refusing entry to a more ordinary sort of tourist. Her genial presence is visible in some of Chapmans photographs, while those of the bar at the Beat Hotel give a vivid impression of Left Bank life in the 50s.

Michaud faces a harder task in presenting the shadowy side of the Beat soul, though he is well aware of it. Freedom isnt always fun. There was madness and criminality in the Beat family genes: Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs had all seen the insides of psychiatric hospitals by the age of 30. Corso got his higher education in prison. Burroughs shot his common-law wife in the head during a game of William Tell in Mexico. At the Beat Hotel, Gysin disliked Ginsberg for his hold over Burroughs. The latter, oscillating between addiction and withdrawal, veered towards paranoia, while aching from his obsessive love for Ginsberg. In San Francisco, Neal Cassadys girlfriend Natalie Jackson threw herself from the top of a building. Elise Cowen, one of Ginsbergs admirers, killed herself while he was in Bombay in 1962. Always felt revulsion for the death smell in her hair, he wrote to Corso.

Le Roi Jones and his Family (1964) by Bob Thompson; 1964; Oil on canvas; 36 3/8 x 48 1/2 in. (92.4 x 123.2 cm); Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966 Beat Generation Photograph: Joseph H Hirshhorn/Lee Stalsworth

In recent years, there has been interest in the women of the Beat generation, but Singh, who worked with Ginsberg and is an expert on the films of Harry Smith, admits that it was mainly the guys. The shows richly illustrated catalogue contains her interview with Joanne Kyger, whose Collected Poems was published in 2007 and who studied Zen Buddhism in Japan in the 1960s with her then-husband Gary Snyder. The catalogue also has archive interviews conducted by the Beat historian Barry Miles with Burroughs, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Michael McClure (all translated from English into French). While the Beats might have done a lot to create greater acceptance of homosexuality, the liberalising ideals of feminism didnt move them. Pull My Daisy is more than just a guys film; it is downright misogynistic (though not in the brutal manner of Burroughs at his worst). Ginsberg, Corso and others play themselves, while the pop artist Larry Rivers takes the Cassady role (Milo) with Delphine Seyrig as his long-suffering wife, based on Carolyn Cassady. Shell get over it, Kerouacs voiceover assures viewers, as the weeping wife is abandoned to household drudgery while the guys are back where they want to be, in freedoms playground. As for the influence of black style on the Ivy League-educated Beats leading to the birth of the white negro, to use Norman Mailers expression there are references in the show to the San Francisco poet Bob Kaufman and to LeRoi Jones. In the mid-60s, Jones buried his old Beat self in Greenwich Village, leaving behind his Jewish wife Hettie (herself a poet and childrens writer), and resurrected himself in Newark, New Jersey, as Amiri Baraka, black nationalist militant and antisemite (I got the extermination blues, jewboys/ I got the Hitler syndrome figured). There is a striking oil painting of LeRoi Jones and his family by Bob Thompson, and the typescript of Joness Poem to be Read at Bob Thompsons Funeral (1966). The bridge spanning the divided American culture is supposed to be jazz, of which there is no shortage in the exhibitions air.

One of the more pleasant surprises in store for visitors is the interest in visual arts on the part of the writers. Ginsberg was a talented photographer. Always conscious of the epoch-making nature of the Beat enterprise Lawrence Ferlinghetti, among others, has accused him of inventing the entire thing he kept a pictorial record until his death in 1997. Several of his carefully preserved pictures, with hand-written captions, are exhibited. There are also photographs by Burroughs, including some of his room at the Beat Hotel, and many examples of his script-and-image collage work. Paintings by Kerouac are on display, as well as a portrait of him by Larry Rivers and a lively drawing of Burroughs by Corso. One of the scoops for the curators is a 1.8m manuscript poem by Corso, probably made at the Beat Hotel: There is no more SAFETY Protection/ There is only DANGER/ and it leans against the final/ lampost gobbling/ St Tropez SHOES. There are paintings and collages by more recognised artists such as Wallace Berman, Julian Beck and Alfred Leslie. Among the best of the visual exhibits is Gysins imposing assemblage of hieroglyphics, Calligraphie.

Calligraphie (1960) by Brion Gysin Photograph: Jonathan Greet

The foundation myth is travel. Kerouac wrote urgently about the need to go go go, and here is a rare opportunity to see the manuscript of one of the few books in the western canon that imitates the means of going the On the Road scroll, the book as a road, paved in paper. It is therefore suitable that Michaud has arranged his exhibits according to location. Not only New York, San Francisco, Paris, the exhibitions subtitle, but Mexico, Tangier and the far east. London, a city skulking under a grey cloud in the 1950s, barely features. Burroughs chose to live in Mayfair in the 1960s and early 70s but, as Jean-Jacques Lebel says, that was because he could be anonymous there.

Today, Paris is the city glancing nervously at threatening skies. The continual explorations of freedom its literary culture has given rise to, from Rimbaud and Apollinaire to Camus and Vian have been a source of inspiration to artists the world over. As I wandered through the Pompidou, I found myself thinking that the artistic-intellectual crisis in Paris was being talked about long before the present political one, and wondering how the two might be linked. Burroughs would have read the answer to the question between the cut-up lines. Meanwhile, it is heartening to know that a mad dash for freedom which set off from Columbia University 75 years ago is being celebrated in the dimmed City of Light this summer.

James Campbell is the author of Paris Interzone and This Is the Beat Generation: New York, San Francisco, Paris. Beat Generation is at Centre Pompidou, Paris, until 3 October.

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‘Am I still a feminist if I watch porn?’ Meet Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the British Lena Dunham

Shes filthy-minded, desperate for connection and masturbates to Barack Obama while she watches the news BBC3s new sitcom has a heroine who will chime with twentysomethings everywhere

A neatly dressed girl is sitting alone in a cafe, wondering aloud about the size of her arsehole. She spent the previous night with a man friend, drunkenly exploring certain sexual possibilities, and now is concerned that she might be unusually accommodating. This is the scene that kickstarts Fleabag, Phoebe Waller-Bridges new BBC3 comedy about the pains and perils of the twentysomething experience. As well as creating the show, she plays the title role, a character who, while happy to reveal her most intimate details, never divulges her real name.

Fleabag, as she is known, is a young woman who lives in London, runs a cafe with her only friend, attends feminist lectures with her sister, and has recently split up with her boyfriend. Dead mother, cold father, smiling assassin for a stepmum: she doesnt sound like shed be much fun on paper. But under the tightly buttoned trenchcoat and tidily asymmetric hair is a porn-addled, grief-stricken mess seeking some sort of connection. If you spent your 20s sleeping with randoms and not taking care of your heart, youll recognise her instantly.

The end credits reveal that most of the supporting cast arent afforded proper names either, instead called things like Bus Rodent or Arsehole Guy. She doesnt name anybody, explains Waller-Bridge over a peppermint tea in a different London cafe. Its one of those Edison-bulbed places with low lights and high benches; her tea is actually a glass stuffed with soggy mint leaves that flop out over the brim. She doesnt imbue anyone with anything more than how she sees them, she adds.

This antihero cares only about herself, lives alone (people in sitcoms can afford to do this in London), masturbates to Obama on the news, and employs duplicity almost constantly to project the image she wants others to have of her. She is full of questions and devoid of answers, much like her creator says she was as she waded through her 20s. Am I still a feminist if I watch porn, or if I want to change my body to make me feel more sexually attractive? ponders Waller-Bridge, remembering the confusion of her own early womanhood.

A porn-addled, grief-stricken mess Fleabag. Photograph: BBC

This conflicted character of Fleabag burst out of her one day when a friend asked her to fill a 10-minute slot in her storytelling night. While the idea of standup made her recoil in horror, she told herself: Im being a pussy. Ive got to do it. Ten minutes quickly snowballed into a one-woman Edinburgh show, critical acclaim and a transfer to Londons Soho Theatre. Waller-Bridge is now 30 and says the character emerged from a mix of feminist anger and wild frustration at the limitations put on young women before they can decide who and what they really are.

When I meet girls who are like, 23, 24, I just want to hug them now, she says, before remarking on her own 20s: I felt very aware of my sexuality and very aware of what that meant in terms of my worth. She swills the warm water around the leaves. As long as you were skinny and hot first, then you were allowed to get on with the rest of your life. The injustice of that. Shes laughing now but says it drove her mad at the time. And this coming from a woman who looks like a 1930s soap advert, every bit as pristine as her on-screen character.

Despite echoes of Carrie Bradshaw or Sharon Horgan in Catastrophe, Fleabags closest pop-cultural cousin is Ferris Bueller Waller-Bridge in Fleabag. Photograph: BBC

On top of the anger, there was the guilt. Waller-Bridge watched porn for a time in her early 20s and wondered if that made her a bad feminist as she read about the numbing effect it seemed to be having on her generation; all that hairless expectation and loveless, colliding flesh. I just felt like it was really wearing me down a bit, she says, looking out of the cafe door. She adds a bit to a lot of her answers, perhaps not wanting to seem too unequivocal about anything.

What is without doubt is that Waller-Bridge is on the rise. Since graduating from Rada in 2006, shes gradually become a familiar face on primetime TV. You might last have seen her as Marianne Jean-Baptistes legal sidekick in Broadchurch 2 or Lulu in E4s Crashing, her very modern flatshare comedy set in a disused hospital, which politely pushed the boundaries of taste and zinged with verbal sparklers. Waller-Bridge wrote it and played one of the twentysomething co-dwellers, living, pooing and shagging their way through life with a frankness that bordered on sociopathic.

When Crashing aired, some hailed her as the British Lena Dunham, but her aesthetic is nothing like as deliberately grubby or exposing. While they do have in common a lack of answers, Fleabag would never strip off and talk you through her tattoos the way Hannah does.

Politely pushing the boundaries of taste Waller-Bridge in Crashing. Photograph: Mark Johnson

She is so controlled, says Waller-Bridge. The clothes that she wears, shes constantly got this red lipstick on, her hairs perfect, she looks pristine and clean. The fleabagginess of her is her subtext. As so many of us do, with our carefully edited social media presence to the fore, she wears it on the inside. Those who saw Waller-Bridges stage version of Fleabag in Edinburgh or its London transfer described it as filthy and shocking, but its the verbal power she wields that socks you in the jaw.

Despite echoes of Carrie Bradshaw or Sharon Horgan in Catastrophe, Fleabags closest pop-cultural cousins, with her fourth-wall-busting asides to camera, are probably Ferris Bueller or Michael Caines Alfie. Waller-Bridge says it was important from the off to invite audience complicity for her heros increasingly bad behaviour. In the opening shot, she is just about to open the door to a late-night booty call when she turns to camera and explains the extensive preparation shes had to engage in to be ready for this seemingly casual encounter.

It could be a moment of pure clunk but instead she grabs us by the lapels and we go with her unquestioningly. Mid-shag she looks at us and tells us that her one-night friend is edging towards her anus but shes drunk so she might as well let him. The next morning, she tells us she is strangely moved by his gratitude at being allowed to up the bum her. These asides act as an effective coping strategy, as well as a hugely watchable dramatic technique. While shes looking at us, and essentially in her own head, she doesnt have to deal with the real world in any way.

Filthy, shocking and with a verbal power that socks you in the jaw Phoebe Waller-Bridge performing Fleabag at Londons Soho Theatre. Photograph: Jane Hobson/REX

For a relatively young writer, Waller-Bridge has assembled a supporting cast most comedy veterans would chew their elbows off for. Olivia Colman plays her spiteful, bohemian step mother with a devastating line in insults tucked away behind polite smiles. And Bill Patterson is the chilly, unavailable patriarch who keeps his daughters at arms length. Waller-Bridges own family sound like a much happier unit she mentions a brother, sister the love of my life and her mum, not an actor, actually appears in episode one. She plays a feminist lecturer with surprisingly on-point comic timing. I suppose the idea of losing my mum is my biggest fear ever, she says. When I remind her that she will definitely die one day, she grins nervously, clenching her fists. Shes not, shes not. Im not going to let it happen.

That callow unwillingness to recognise lifes unpleasant certainties is there for all to see; in Fleabag, a character who (in the words of Britney) is not a girl, not yet a woman. But just when you think youve sussed out this rather selfish, often wretchedly childish character, a big reveal during a chat with a cab driver changes everything. The first episode ends with a snippet of backstory that is barely hinted at until that moment and, suddenly, you find yourself wanting to hug her, too.

She has a heart, says Waller-Bridge protectively. Its just broken.

Fleabag is available on BBC3 from 21 July.

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‘Game of Thrones’ star Maisie Williams debuts new look | Fox News

Cast member Maisie Williams attends the premiere for the sixth season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” in Los Angeles April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Phil McCarten – RTX29DDX

What a change-up, Arya Stark. 

“Game of Thrones” star Maisie Williams stepped out at the Serpentine Summer Party in London on Wednesday rocking a dramatically different blueish black hair style, crediting the Neville Hair & Beauty salon on Instagram for the dramatic locks.

Sneezing panda Makeup by @ewtmakeup Hair by @nevillesalon Styling by @harrietbyczok Birthed by Hilary

A photo posted by Maisie Williams (@maisie_williams) on

WATCH: ‘Game of Thrones’ Star Maisie Williams Isn’t Labeling Her Sexuality

A natural brunette, the 19-year-old actress has been teasing her darker style on social media recently, showing off the bold look over the weekend before attending Beyonce’s “Formation” World Tour stop at Wembley Stadium.

The transformative style is very fitting for Williams, considering the major changes her character underwent this season on the massively popular HBO series, which just wrapped up season 6.

WATCH: ‘Game of Thrones’ Star Maisie Williams Has Best Reaction to Finale’s Crazy Death

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The kids of Jesus Camp, 10 years later: ‘Was it child abuse? Yes and no’

The controversial 2006 documentary about an evangelical church camp outraged secular audiences, but its subjects have mixed memories

Ten-year-old Andrew Sommerkamp, with his shy demeanor and floppy blond hair, mounts the stage of the Kids On Fire church camp, and nervously tells the crowd that hes struggling with his belief in God. Hed spent days watching his fellow Christian campers weep uncontrollably, repenting and begging Gods forgiveness, and he has a confession to share.

I just want to talk about belief in God … Ive been having a hard time with it, he says, staring at the ground, scared and confused as the other kids look around at each other with anxiety in their eyes. To believe in God is hard because you dont see him, you dont know him much. Sometimes I dont even believe what the Bible says. It makes me a faker, it makes me feel guilty and bad.

Its one of several emotionally exhausting scenes in the 2006 documentary, Jesus Camp. Over the course of its celebrated and contested life, Jesus Camp has become a Rorschach test for audiences: some evangelicals see it as a fair representation of their culture, while secular, left-leaning audiences typically see an expose against a malicious force of right-wing indoctrination, often walking away with one angry phrase on their lips: child abuse.

Ten years later, Sommerkamp (yes, thats his real name) has abandoned evangelical Christianity, living with a group of spiritual seekers in Mount Shasta, California. His split from the evangelical world happening when his father came out as gay. He says he spent several years angry at the church, but has since discovered peace in eastern mysticism, quantum mechanics, and psychotropic drugs.

Was it child abuse? Yes and no, he said in a recent interview, about his time at Kids on Fire church camp. I think they had the best of intentions, but I see it as sick people trying to treat sick people. Its their coping mechanism for figuring out why were alive. I wouldnt trade that experience for anything, though, because it allowed me at such a young age to question my existence.

Andrew Sommerkamp, then 10 years old, in Jesus Camp. Photograph: Courtesy of Loki Films

I have peace of mind

Levi OBrien was 12 when he was featured in Jesus Camp, sporting an enormous rat-tail, oversized T-shirts, and an unusually confident demeanor. Unlike Sommerkamp, in the film, OBrien was wildly enthusiastic about his faith, speaking passionately about how his life had been transformed by God. Its an intensity that continues in him today, which he applies to his job as a staff member of World Revival Ministries.

Andrew Sommerkamp. Photograph: Courtesy of Andrew Sommerkamp

He says that people are often shocked that hes turned out to be a happy, healthy young man who wasnt traumatized by his experiences at Jesus Camp.

Ive been asked the same question hundreds of times by people from all over the world: do you believe you are the way you are because of how you were raised? he says. Isnt everybody?

And lets look at the outcome: I have peace in my mind, I have drive and purpose and character.

According to child psychologist Valerie Tarico, many children of evangelical upbringing dont turn out so well.

One of the problems with faith-based teaching is it teaches children not to trust their own reason and intuition, undermining their ability to have confidence in their own knowledge and ability to process information. There is a lot of psychological damage that follows when people are trained not to trust themselves.

For many viewers, Jesus Camp was their first exposure to a Pentecostal church service, where crying, screaming, dancing, speaking in tongues and convulsions are as ritualistic as incense at a Catholic ceremony.

Levi OBrien and his fiancee in 2016. Photograph: Courtesy of Levi OBrien

Co-director of the film Heidi Ewing said she disagreed with the teachings of the camp, but didnt feel camp leaders were abusive.

Theyre not doing anything illegal, and if you want to raise your children as liberal progressives, to be amped up about environmentalism and being pro-choice, you can do that, she said. Some of the arguments against the film were so knee-jerk, it made me realize the far left and the far right have a lot in common.

Liberal outrage

In addition to the camp, the film captures an intimate portrayal of the childrens lives at home, where every aspect of their day is wrapped up in evangelical beliefs. Their home-school textbooks deny global-warming and teach creationism. They listen to Christian music and rightwing talk radio, watch Christian movies, and pledge allegiance to a Christian flag. Activities included proselytizing to strangers at a bowling alley, and protesting abortion outside the supreme court.

Liberal audiences were outraged by a scene featuring pastor Ted Haggard (leader of the National Association of Evangelicals, and informal advisor to then president George W Bush), where he disparages homosexuality as a sin, then makes a joke about infidelity and blackmail into the camera. Serendipitously, Jesus Camp hit theaters at the exact time that Haggard was exposed as having a three-year relationship with a male prostitute, from whom he also purchased methamphetamine.

Late-night political comedians like Jon Stewart and Bill Maher had a lot of fun with that clip, fueling the outrage and popularity of Jesus Camp among atheists.

Director of the Kids On Fire camp and lead subject of the film, Becky Fischer, declined to speak with us for this story. Though in her memoir, Jesus Camp, My Story, she said that while the film sensationalized and overly politicized the camp, overall she was satisfied with it.

Becky Fischer in the 2006 documentary Jesus Camp. Photograph: Loki Films

Following the documentarys release, Fischer helped promote Jesus Camp along with an evangelical PR company, but soon found herself the target of a radical opposition to her ministry.

My email box was spilling over with angry accusations. Child abuse! Brainwashing! Indoctrinating Children! You should be ashamed of yourself! she wrote.

Fischer says she often feared for her safety when people would recognize her in public. Following the films explosive popularity, and an Academy Award nomination, the camp was vandalized and Fischer was not allowed to rent it for her ministry again.

For the first time in my life I could truly relate to Jewish people, seeing how a Holocaust could have its embryonic beginnings, she wrote.

While she no longer operates a church camp, Fischer continues to provide religious instruction to children through her company, Kids Ministry International.

By the end of our conversation, Sommerkamp said that he didnt think he was abused. He was extremely critical of evangelicals, at one point calling Becky Fischer a terrible fucking person who is fueled by the spiritual suffering of other people. But, he said, he had chosen to have love for her, and was even grateful for the experience of Jesus Camp.

They showed us what it meant to really feel deep emotions for life, for God, he says. Some people would say that it was all fake, but when I look back on it, our belief in it had made it real. It really taught me the power of belief.

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Man punches a bear in Ontario and walks away with only scratches

Rick Nelson, who spent years as a featherweight fighter, was walking his dog when a cub appeared in his path followed closely by its 320lb mother

A 61-year-old man from northern Ontario said he was lucky to walk away with only scratches after facing off against a 320lb black bear with only his fists and the skills gleaned from years of featherweight boxing.

Rick Nelson was walking his dog outside the city of Sudbury on Sunday when a black bear cub poked its head out of a shrub some three feet away from him. It was so close I could touch it. It let out a yelp, because I scared the heck out of it, he said.

As his dog barked at the cub, the former bear hunter knew he only had seconds to spare before the cubs mother would arrive to defend her cub. I knew right away I was in trouble, he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Its calling for mommy.

He soon heard a crashing noise in the bushes. The mother was coming full speed, he said. And it came and it meant business. The bear stood on her hind legs as she eyed him.

Nelson looked around him. He had nothing to fight off the bear no rocks or sticks but he had spent a lot of time in the ring perfecting his boxing technique.

As the bear took a swing at him, Nelson responded with a right-hand jab, grazing the bears lips and teeth and tearing up his knuckles in the process. The bear struck back, carving inches-long gashes into Nelsons face and chest.

Nelson readied himself to take another swing at the bear. I knew it would swing first with its left but it would really come with its right, because most bears are right-handed, he said.

This time his punch landed exactly as he had hoped. I did an underhand and hit it right in the snout, he said. Believe me, when youve got adrenaline pumping, you can hit. Even at 61 with grey hair, you can still hit hard.

The cub let out another squeal and begin to amble out of the area. Now it was the moment of truth. Whats this bear going to do? Is it going to follow its cub or is it going to come back after me? Nelson said. To tell you the truth, that was the only time I was afraid I had no chance, I didnt stand a prayer. This bear was 320lbs and when it stood up its taller than I am.

He braced himself. It turned around and it was snorting blood. It looked at me, and I thought, Oh no. Here it comes, he said. It just turned back around and walked away like nothing ever happened and followed the cub. So I really lucked out there.

He spoke to CBC one day after the attack, telling the broadcaster that, despite his encounter, people have little reason to fear black bears. Black bears really arent dangerous unless you have a cub involved, he said. Probably theyre more afraid of you and [me] than we are of them.

He was quick to acknowledge, however, that his close call could easily have turned out very differently. Im really glad that the bear walked away. And Im really glad I did, too.

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Brexit: The city that took EU money but 50% voted to leave – BBC News

  • The EU referendum result in Leeds was one of the closest in the country
  • Remain just edged ahead with 50.3%, while 49.7% voted to leave
  • The area has benefited from EU funding

It’s a week after Brexit and despite the political and economic uncertainty, Selina Hartley is feeling positive. She is discussing a new business venture over coffee in the Victoria Quarter, an upmarket shopping centre that houses Harvey Nichols and Louis Vuitton, among other luxury retailers. Hartley has lived and worked in Europe, but still voted to leave.

“Although I love Europe, I believe that we need to take back some important legislation,” she says.

Can she explain why the vote in Leeds was so close? “I think it is probably divided. We are the financial capital of the North. There are many people who work in banking and insurance, all based in the city centre, so maybe they voted differently to the normal man on the street outside of commerce. South of Leeds is obviously a lot poorer.”

Outside, Frances Harrison-Burton, her husband Richard and grown-up daughter Dawn are heading home after a morning of shopping. Frances voted to remain, Richard voted Leave, and Dawn didn’t vote at all. She says she was too busy.

“When he walked out [of the polling booth] he said, ‘What did you vote?’,” says Frances. “I said I’d voted to stay in. He said ‘Well, you know what I’ve done, don’t you?'”

Richard is happy to be leaving. “We need to hold our own power again in Parliament, not some faceless machine in Brussels that says we can’t report all these criminals that are coming in,” he says.

There are no hard feelings, but Frances is concerned about how leaving the EU will affect young people like her 20-year-old grandson, who has to provide for his baby on a zero-hours contract. “Now we’ve left, is he still going to be in a job?” she wonders. Housing is also an issue – her grandson, girlfriend and baby are living with his parents. He is on the list for a council house, but she fears it may be a long wait.

One of the reasons Frances voted to remain is EU funding for the Burmantofts estate, where she lives. Research, however, shows, grants from Brussels have only covered a couple of small community schemes there.

“So why leave when they’re doing good things?”

It’s a different picture in nearby Harehills. Dawn bought a house there 11 years ago for 74,000. She says it has since dropped to 56,000. She blames the high number of immigrants. “There’s 44 houses on my side of the street – eight English people, the rest are Romanian,” she says. “I live next door to a lovely couple but there’s just too many now.”

Leeds has historically been regarded as “two cities within a city”, owing to the financial inequality that separates affluent, middle-class areas from deprived areas. The centre is prosperous, as are many of its suburbs, but there’s a ring around the city centre that has been called the “doughnut of deprivation”.

The wealth hasn’t spread into these areas, says Sally-Anne Greenfield, from the charity Leeds Community Foundation.

Back in 1999, Leeds applied for EU funding to address this “two-speed economy”.

“If you look at the deprivation indices between 2001 and 2011, many of the most deprived areas in Leeds have remained at the same level, so there’s a sense that the gap is still there,” says Greenfield.

“Leeds is a city of mobility, and people are supported to make economic progression. But the people who benefit from this mobility often move out of deprived areas and into more affluent ones.”

The Burmantofts estate overlooks the headquarters of NHS England, an imposing red building nicknamed the Kremlin. The roads have just been resurfaced and are divided by neat lawns.

In a house opposite the community centre, Sally (not her real name) shuts her two dogs inside the house before coming over to talk to us. She used to work at a local hospital, cleaning the ward and feeding patients, until she retired due to ill health. She is 53. Her grandchildren are playing in the front garden.

Sally voted to leave. She has lived on the estate for more than 20 years, but feels that British-born people are unfairly treated, while immigrants get good council houses. “People that have lived here all their lives can’t get the houses that they need,” she says. “I think there’s only five houses on this side with people from here.”

She says she’s not racist – her children are mixed-race – but blames the fact that there aren’t enough houses for those who need them.

Leeds City Council says priority for social housing is assessed on need, not origin, although some localities are able to prioritise some housing for local residents.

Almost a mile and a half down the road from Burmantofts, on Harehills Lane, businesses have sprung up to service the needs of the immigrant community. Outside St Gemma’s Hospice charity shop, women are combing through a pile of cast-off clothes under the watchful eye of Lee Hiamey.

“It’s a very mixed area,” says Hiamey. “We have problems, but it’s what you would expect from a growing town. We get a lot of crime, fighting, drinking on the street, that kind of problem. We get police sirens going every two seconds, night and day.”

He won’t reveal how he voted, but he wishes nothing had changed. “I have more worries now. We are in limbo. We don’t know how it will pan out.

Next door to the charity shop is the Ritz letting agency, managed by Bobby Sharma. “In this part of Leeds you’ve got a lot of housing benefit-style tenants.”

Many of his tenants are from Eastern Europe and this is part of his motivation for wanting to stay in the EU. “What would be the consequences if we end up losing these Eastern European tenants? That was one of the key business reasons for me voting to remain,” he says.

When the results came in, many of his landlords were worried. “On the way to work the following morning I must have had about four or five phone calls from large investors, saying: ‘Bobby what’s going to happen to our properties now that we’re going to be exiting?'”

Sharma admits there aren’t enough affordable, well-maintained houses available, and that the area is overpopulated, but the rents are good.

Pushing her cheery toddler down Harehills Lane single mum Sophie Whittaker is heading back to her privately-rented property. “It’s horrible,” she says. “I’ve got mice, my son brought me a dead mouse, he’s two. I can’t get re-housed because there’s no houses.” She didn’t vote because she says she just didn’t know much about it.

Her bright red hair is a sign of her profession – hairdresser – but the 21-year-old is unemployed. She didn’t vote in the referendum. She says she didn’t know much about it and was waiting for a leaflet to come through her door.

“If you’d asked me last year I’d have said, ‘Send them all back’ but now I have Romanian neighbours I feel nasty saying that.”

Many of the people the BBC meets on the streets of Harehills and Hovingham did not vote. Some were not eligible, but others say they never bother. “The government will do what they want to do at the end of the day so what’s the point,” says one mother who has just picked up her son from school.

Other mothers on the school run did vote.

Sameena Akhtar, 38, is an assistant pharmacist. She says she voted to stay because of who she is – a British Asian. “Already you can see on the news that people are being racially abused. I think it will affect us, even though we’re British.”

Across town, in upmarket Oakwood, Charlotte Walker, 27, is being treated to high tea by her two aunts. Her son Riley is with them – he should be at school, but they recently moved to be closer to her mother and found there was no school place. “All schools are just bursting. There’s just no room. Classes are just full everywhere,” she says.

Leeds City Council says 10 years of rising birth rates, reflecting the national picture, has put pressure on school places. Some schools have added an extra class to accommodate the new pupils.

“Leeds is a growing city and families arrive from elsewhere in the country as well as from other countries. Families move from one part of the city to another,” it said in a statement.

Walker’s voting registration did not come through in time, but her aunts, Julie Simpson, 57, and Moira Ross, 52, both voted to leave. In the run-up to the referendum Ross organised events for both UKIP and Labour. She says she likes the fact that Leeds has become more cosmopolitan, but it’s gone too far.

“When you see what’s getting handed out to foreigners, and our own pensioners having to scrimp and scrape and be cold in winter, it gets your back up,” says Simpson. “I’ve worked all my life and paid taxes and I don’t mind doing that – as long as my grandchildren are going to benefit.”

It’s been a turbulent week in politics since the vote, but they are still convinced leaving is the right thing to do.

Simpson is looking forward to a holiday in Spain next week. She says that the fact that the pound is weak against the euro because of the vote doesn’t worry her. She is more concerned about the future of the country, than the cost of her holiday.

In an attempt to combat Brexit gloom, Jameson’s cafe and tea rooms in Oakwood have put up a sign that says: “Cake makes you happy.”

But it’s going to take more than tea and cake to make Remain voters Nancy Crang and Joanne Kay happy.

Crang, 49, a civil servant, is very uncomfortable with the Leave campaign’s focus on immigration. “I definitely want to be an inclusive country,” she says “I’m really sad that some people from outside the country don’t feel welcome here. That’s a big thing for me.”

Kay, 51, says although she can understand the resentment, she feels all workers have the same chances. As part of her work for the Environment Agency she has to inspect waste management companies, which rely heavily on European labour.

She asked the owner of the biggest skip company in Leeds why he didn’t employ more locals. He says that he has tried to, but they aren’t as committed. “They come to work for a few days and then they don’t come back. The people come back time and time again are the Eastern Europeans.”

Now Kay is worried about how leaving the EU will affect her own job – the Environment Agency depends on Europe for much of its funding and legislation.

“I can’t remember feeling as devastated after any kind of political vote as I did when I found out about this,” she says. “It’s seismic.

Down the hill in Killingbeck, among the suburban semis one house leaps out as a celebration of British and Irish culture. Liam Lawlor, who immigrated from Wexford in the 1960s, has filled his front garden with an astonishing collection of pub signs and other memorabilia which he uses to raise money for charity.

He says he loves Leeds. “It’s friendly and you’ve only got to go a couple of miles outside and it looks like Ireland.”

But he voted to leave the EU.

He thinks the opportunities for his grandchildren aren’t as good as they were for him. “I think there’s too many people – the doctors are full the hospitals are full, the houses are full.” Although he admits he has never suffered any NHS delays himself, and he has nothing but praise for Leeds’ St James hospital, where he had a major operation.

A week on, and doubt is creeping in. “I’m not sure if I’ve done the right thing now,” he says.

Photographs by Paul Kerley. Additional reporting by Camila Ruz and James Stewart

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The problem with ‘being yourself’

Be yourself, were told but thats just another tyranny and theres nothing worse for our self-esteem, says Eva Wiseman

British women feel the same about their bodies as we do about Goebbels, or school dinner. Full of hate. Our arms are made of old ham; our genitals are like the closed-off wells that it is rumoured a child once died in; our bellies are obscene; our faces, bloody hell our faces are exploded mines at best. A handful of wet clay chucked against a wall. Nose like Broken Britain, skin like an umbrella that came free with the Express. Our thighs are a collective nightmare dreamed in a small tent in Wales. Our breasts are useless gym bags, our arses like an apocalypse.

British women have almost the lowest self-esteem in the world, with only 20% feeling confident about their bodies. This according to interviews with 10,500 women and girls across 13 countries for the latest Dove self-esteem in women project. Nearly all British women interviewed (85%) said that when they feel bad about the way they look they opt out of life they dont play sport, see friends, have a proper laugh. Seven in 10 girls with low body-esteem say they wont be assertive in their opinion or stick to their decision if they arent happy with the way they look, while nine out of 10 women will stop themselves from eating.

Though the study is new, the information, of course, is not. None of this is wildly surprising. Chances are you know, or you are, or you have known a woman, and you have stood with her beside a reflective surface, and you will have heard her tut and rearrange her body to make it look smaller from a distance. You will have always known she thinks her hips are evil and that she wanted to abort her hair.

The two new things that this study tells us are: first, that Britains body anxiety is getting worse. And second, that on top of all this anxiety there is an added cherry. While 60% of women say they believe they need to meet certain beauty standards, 77% believe it is also important to be their own person. And yet werent we promised that if we simply be ourselves, the pressure to meet beauty standards would fall away? It seems clear now that the two arent mutually exclusive. Luckily, we have two shoulders for these devils to sit on. What do you do with a tension like that between the pressure on you to be thin and blonde, and the pressure to embrace your curves, love your imperfections, to enjoy that vague candied sense of sorority with every other woman you encounter? To be strong, brave, natural, real, and at the same time look like Jennifer Lawrence when shes just got off a Californian horse.

This obscure requirement for the modern and liberated woman to be herself feels increasingly pernicious. While we should give Dove credit for its mission to inspire confidence in women, however wobbly the premise, I fear the modern panic it helps create. First there was that side-eyed term, real women; now theres the order to be yourself authenticity is currency, especially for women. But only if the authentic you is not insecure, or whimsical, or sad, or has that old worry chewing at her throat that she would be more lovable if she was whiter, thinner, blonde. Only if the authentic you believes not only that your body is beautiful but that beauty really matters.

At least the old pressure was prescriptive. You could see the edges of it, you could walk around it, subvert it, laugh at it, chuck it in the bin. It is possible to work out exactly why we shouldnt all aspire to look like 15-year-old Swedish gymnasts and refer back to the list whenever were feeling uncomfortable on a beach. But its much harder to unpick the problems with the new requirements, especially when they havent even replaced the need to look thin and white, just swaddled it in motivational Instagram quotes. To be yourself, when that means to appear confident, happy, brave and healthy, takes more than Botox it requires, among other things, a denial of all the societal crap that has brought you to a place where you feel the need to cover up those parts of your personality that are deemed unattractive. And that gap-year-style journey is not only far more expensive than a decent concealer but a reminder that it is still the womans responsibility to feel better about herself. The problem with be yourself is the insistence that, rather than the culture, the adverts, the media and the politics, it is still you who needs to change.

Email Eva at or follow her on Twitter @EvaWiseman

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Guidelines urge improved care for terminally-ill children – BBC News

Image copyright ollie young foundation
Image caption Ollie was five years old when he was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour

Sarah Young remembers being told the devastating news that nothing more could be done for her five-year-old son, Ollie.

Days earlier, he had been diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour and now he had been given just weeks to live.

His health deteriorated rapidly, leaving him paralysed down his left side, but a visit to a children’s hospice in Oxford proved to be a turning point for the whole family.

“Ollie perked up immediately when we got there. He was relaxed, he was chatting and he couldn’t wait to get in the water,” Sarah says.

Over the following week, while he was still able, he splashed about in the hospice’s hydrotherapy spa, played in the sensory room and loved making as much noise as possible in the music room.

Image caption Ollie attending his parents’ wedding

By the time of his second visit to Helen House, Ollie was confined to a bed – but the care he received was just as attentive and amazing, according to his mum.

“I felt like we were treated as a special case. Ollie thrived. That’s why he lasted so long. It was down to Helen House. At home or in hospital, he wouldn’t have left us happy.”

But not every family’s experience of end-of-life care is as comforting as that experienced by the Youngs.

Vulnerable children

And that is why NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) has published draft guidance this week which seeks to improve care for the estimated 40,000 children and young people in England living with a life-limiting condition.

These can include cancers, genetic conditions and rare or chronic diseases.

With improvements in neo-natal and intensive care, this population of vulnerable children has been growing over time but experts say there is not enough understanding about what they face, nor enough funding of children’s palliative care.

Image copyright Helen and Douglas House
Image caption Charlotte plays the drums with Pete, the music therapist at Helen House

The guidance recommends that children and their families should be able to choose the type of care they receive and the place where they want to spend their final days.

Often, it notes, there is an assumption that the best place to die is at home but it says there are many other factors to consider – such as how to manage the dying child’s pain and symptoms alongside the daily demands of family life.

Places like Helen House, which specifically cares for children and has eight beds, have the time, staff and resources to provide end-of-life care.

The guidance highlights the importance of using music, art and pictures to help children explore their feelings and questions about what is happening to them.

And it suggests that children, young people and their parents or carers should be offered emotional and psychological support to help them cope with distress.


Dr Emily Harrop, interim chairwoman of the NICE guideline committee and consultant in paediatric palliative care at Helen & Douglas House in Oxford, says care around the country is patchy.

“To lose a child is a tragic, unimaginable, life-changing event. However, the way the death is handled by the professionals around a family, can make an enormous difference.”

She stressed the importance of communicating with children in an age-appropriate way and empowering families by really listening to their wishes.

Dr Harrop recalls a terminally ill boy in her care whose eyes lit up when he was able to have a musical conversation with a music therapist and another child, who could no longer speak, who was able to communicate his pain through pointing at pictures.

Image caption Ollie Young (R) with his brother Alfie

“These techniques can draw out a distressed person, give them a sense of autonomy and make them relax,” she explains.

Zoe Picton-Howell, a lay member of the NICE guideline committee, who lost her son Adam in March 2015, when he was 15, echoes Dr Harrop’s comments.

She says: “The most helpful thing was to have healthcare professionals who took the time to listen to Adam.

“When we worked together, Adam got the best care possible, but if a member of the team thought they knew best and became uninterested in what Adam wanted, his care tended to be bad.”

Listening to the family

The guidance also refers to ways of helping to manage pain without resorting to drugs – which include music, massage and holding patients.

Sarah Young says all these elements played a crucial part in Ollie’s care in the weeks before he died in 2012.

“Massage helped because he had bedsores and had to be turned regularly.

“And there was always someone talking to him, playing music, giving him a drink and listening to him.”

The needs of Ollie’s older brother Alfie, who was eight, were not forgotten either.

In Ollie’s final days, leading up to his sixth birthday, Sarah says she felt very reassured because there was always time for her questions to be answered and her concerns to be heard.

When it came to preserving memories of Ollie – which some people choose to do with handprints, locks of hair or photos – the family set up a foundation in his name which funds paediatric brain tumour research and support.

“I don’t know where we’d be now if it hadn’t been for the support we received at Helen House,” Sarah says.

The consultation for NICE’s draft guidance is open until 12 August 2016. Comments are welcome through the NICE website.

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Could it be magick? The occult returns to the art world

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Tony Oursler have spent many years exploring paranormal phenomena through their artworks. Now, both have major exhibitions in New York and suddenly theyre not alone in their interests

Drugs, blood, caskets, fish and hair all feature in the arsenal of supplies enlisted for art by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. A few more, for varietys sake: bones, a brass hand, dominatrix shoes and the discarded skin of a pet boa constrictor.

Best known as a musical dissident with the proto-industrial band Throbbing Gristle and later Psychic TV, Breyer P-Orridge has made visual art for decades as part of a ritualistic practice in which boundaries tend to blur. The first transmissions of musical noise started in the 1970s, but art has been part of the project from several years before then to the present day. Work of the more recent vintage makes up the bulk of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: Try to Altar Everything, an exhibition on view at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York.

The Rubin show focuses on correspondences between global contemporaneity and historic cultures from areas around the Himalayas and India, and the show surveys, in an expansive fashion, Breyer P-Orridges engagement with ideas from Hindu mythology and Nepal. Nepal is a favored haven away from the artists home in New York, but as with most matters in Breyer P-Orridges realm worldly matters turn otherworldly fast.

Reliquary by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Photograph: Invisible Exports

Visitors to the exhibition are greeted by two large illuminated portraits of nude bodies on the surface of caskets standing on end, one belonging to the artist and the other to h/er late partner and muse Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge. The unorthodox pronoun h/er is not a mistake but the preferred way to address the genderless existence of the pandrogyne, a state of male-female fusion the two were seeking to achieve by way of surgical incursions and rituals to combine souls. The undertaking was chronicled intimately in the 2011 documentary The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, released to wide acclaim four years after Lady Jaye fell prey to cancer and died (or left her body, as Genesis tells it). Now, Try to Altar Everything brings some of the couples collaborative artwork into the light.

Blood Bunny, made over 10 years until its completion in 2007, is a sculpture under glass of a wooden rabbit covered in blood. Hanging from its head is a ponytail made from Lady Jayes hair, bright blond in contrast to the dark blood all but black in its desiccated state. The source of it was needle pricks from injections of the powerful drug ketamine, which the couple took and Breyer P-Orridge reveres still for its fabled out-of-body experiences.

Its such a powerful material that we dont waste it we use it. Weve got little vials of blood in our refrigerator at home, Breyer P-Orridge says while staring the bunny down at the museum on a recent sunny afternoon.

Blood Bunny: includes blood infused with ketamine. Photograph: Invisible Exports

Nearby are a small sculptural shrine with dried fish slathered in sparkles over an abstract mandala design (Feeding the Fishes, 2010) and an odd clock remade with fossil teeth, feathers and bits of gold alluding to alchemical forces (Its All a Matter of Time, 2016).

Works of the sort in the show serve as reliquaries or tools for use in rituals rooted in a mixture of familiar religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, voodoo) and inclinations toward the more arcane realms of black magic and the occult.

Weve investigated lots of avenues and that includes occulture of various types, says Breyer P-Orridge, who uses the word we exclusively in reference to a sort of individual and collective self. Early learning from occult figures like Aleister Crowley and mysterious magical sects like the Ordo Templi Orientis led to a lifelong devotion to ritualistic practice that has expanded and evolved.

S/he speaks highly still of sex magic, where the orgasm is the moment when all forms of consciousness in your mind are joined, temporarily, and therefore you can pass a message through. And other ceremonial endeavors involving age-old symbols and codes continue to be part of a method of art-making that is as much about the making as the end result.

Feeding the Fishes: a small sculptural shrine. Photograph: Invisible Exports

An essay in the catalog for the Rubin show refers to Breyer P-Orridges earliest works dedication to the discovery of intention, meaning it created and unearthed its message and relevance through performance, not before, while characterizing h/er ritual-abetted communion with Lady Jaye as a living, experimental work of art in the process.

The exhibition, which continues through 1 August, arrives in the midst of a certain vogue for art attuned to occult practices. Last fall, a survey of demonic and deranged paintings by Marjorie Cameron, an associate of notorious rocket-scientist/occultist Jack Parsons and film-maker Kenneth Anger, showed at the gallery of prominent New York art maven Jeffrey Deitch. A group show titled Language of the Birds: Occult and Art gathered work by the likes of Brion Gysin, Jordan Belson, Anohni, Lionel Ziprin, Carol Bove and many more (including Breyer P-Orridge) in the 80WSE Gallery at New York University. Uptown at the American Folk Art Museum, a show titled Mystery and Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art drew visitors before closing in May.

Enough interest has been fostered and fanned out to make one wonder about the source of it all. Is it a yearning for art made for purposes other than mere aesthetic enterprise? A desired deferral to forces other than those proffered by markets and asset-class finance deals? A curiosity about creations devised with a mind for matters at play outside internal dialogues within just the art world itself?

A still from Tony Ourslers Imponderable. Photograph: MoMA

Tony Oursler, who has a new exhibition with paranormal proclivities on view at the Museum of Modern Art, says he can see the appeal of looking beyond the artistic pursuit for other forms of reason and rationale.

A lot of people are trying to move into more social practices to find some relevance. Its probably refreshing for people to see a certain kind of agency that can be offered in other practices, the artist says.

Ourslers show is more playful and inclined toward levity and debunking than Breyer P-Orridges. It includes parts of an immense archival collection related to stage magic and historical matters such as spirit photography and telekinetic mediums popular in the early 20th century, when notions of ghosts and transmissions from other worlds were very much part of the cultural conversation. The archive and a fanciful feature-length film, Imponderable, chart a peculiar history involving Ourslers own grandfather Charles Fulton Oursler and his real-life dealings with characters including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Houdini and various spirit-world fixtures who turned out to be hucksters and frauds.

About the magnetism of such a subject, Oursler speaks of an unending interest in magical thinking and how its generated through media and various social means that led me back to these world views.

Bolts from the blue: art gets spooky. Photograph: MoMA

He insists, too, that they are not as anachronistic as many might suspect. Everyone walks around with a matrix of beliefs through which they view the world, Oursler says. Statistically, if you look at America, it turns out roughly 60% of the population believes in ESP. One in three people do not believe in evolution. Forty percent of the public believes in UFOs. The rationalism we assume to be there might not, in fact, be there.

Breyer P-Orridge attributes rising interest in the occult to certain fleeting motivations. Some of it is pure fashion, always, s/he says. But the role of ritual and faith in its own ends can be a guide. After growing weary of the hierarchies and conscriptions of ceremonial magic as practiced early on (see: robes, chants, gestures with strict limitations and rules), We thought: Do you need all the fancy theatrics or is there something at the core that makes things happen? Our experience tells us its just one or two things at the core. One of those is being able to reprogram ones deep consciousness through repetition in ritual.

When a working sense of ritual conjoins with the process of making art, the result might be differently invested. When we walk around to galleries, were nearly always disappointed, Breyer P-Orridge says of art s/he sees around town. Most of it is not about anything. Its decorative at best and looks nice in penthouses. And now its gotten more corrupted because its like the stock market people going around to advise people what to buy as an investment. You cant trust the art world.

To be trusted instead: That strange reverberation that tells me whats fascinating.

  • This article was amended on 1 July 2016; the artist mentioned is Marjorie Cameron, not Carmen

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Samuel L Jackson: I was a drug addict, out of my mind, but I showed up on time and hit my marks

A Hollywood fixture from Tarantino to Pixar movies, the one-time Black Panther is now getting political in The Legend of Tarzan. He talks about how getting sober led to non-stop work and stardom

Everyone thinks Samuel L Jackson is about 15 years younger than he really is. Its the hair, probably, or the absence of it. I think weve all come to accept that Jackson keeps a rotating carousel of different movie wigs somewhere at home, and that none of his movie hair is ever real. No steady progression from dark to grey to white means the ageing process seems almost to have halted itself, and the man before me today, shaven-headed, tall, enviably lean and energetic, talkative and affable, could pass for a fit 45-year-old. Except hes 67.

Jacksons latest role, in The Legend of Tarzan, is a real-life figure inserted into a fictional universe, George Washington Willis, who achieved things in his lifetime that one is shocked and pleased to learn were achieved by any black American in the latter half of the 19th century. For a historically minded man such as Jackson, whose teenage years coincided with the optimistic height of the civil rights struggle, and who was a young Black Panther in the bleak and treacherous COINTELPRO years, the role probes some unfamiliar backwaters of the African-American experience.

At 14 years old he enlists in the civil war, he says, then he enlists in the Mexican revolution against the Emperor Maximilian. I dont know if he was an actual Buffalo Soldier, but I know he fought in the Indian wars too, and he killed a bunch of Indians! He was a Congressman, a preacher, a historian he did a lot of things, he had a whole life, short as it was. I actually visited his memorial, his grave, last year in Blackpool.

Jackson with Alexander Skarsgard in The Legend of Tarzan. Photograph: Jonathan Olley/AP

You heard that right: Blackpool. Lancashire. Willis died in Blackpool in 1891, of tuberculosis, on his way back to the US after making an important intervention in the Belgian-backed proto-holocaust against the people of the Congo. He documented the cruelties of the Belgian rubber-harvesting industry there maimings, executions, atrocities without number, millions dead and on his return pointed fingers at both King Leopold of Belgium (to his face, no less) and his local agent, the explorer/exploiter Henry Stanley, implicating them in what was not yet termed a genocide. It was an important milestone on the long road to ending the horrors of the rubber trade.

Thus is the nightmare of colonial Congo grafted on to the fantasy universe of Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan series. The villain of the piece, played by Christoph Waltz, is another real-life figure, colonial administrator and mass killer Captain Lon Rom, likely one of the inspirations for Conrads Mr Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. This is something like the 200th Tarzan movie since 1918, but the first major reboot since the failure of Greystoke in 1984; The Legend of Tarzan seems prepared to situate itself amid some very dark and troubling history.

Hopefully with this movie, we can persuade people to look into George Washington Williss story and, through him, find out about that first holocaust in the Congo, says Jackson. Willis is in the movie trying to convince Tarzan who hasnt been in Africa for 20 years to go home and investigate King Leopold. Hes talked to some soldiers that were there doing bad things and he wants to find a way to stop these things. He wants to prevent the British and American governments from helping Leopold build his railroad. Because Leopold ran out of money though how the fuck he ran out of money I dont know, because he was pulling diamonds and rubber out of there, and rubber was like liquid gold at the time. Anyway, he ran out of money and thats when he enlisted that army to go there. And thats where we come in.

Jackson as hitman Jules in Pulp Fiction (1994), the film that projected him into the mainstream. Photograph: Allstar/MIRAMAX

The Legend of Tarzan reunites Jackson with screenwriter Craig Brewer, who conjured up a magical role for Jackson in the steamy 2007 racial melodrama Black Snake Moan, and who is intent here, as in his movies as a writer-director (Moan, Hustle and Flow), on creating provocative black characters. This, of course, is meat and drink to the near-workaholic Jackson. When he read the script for Django Unchained, in which he was offered the part of Leonardo Dicaprios obsequious house-negro Stephen, the most painstaking evisceration of the Stepin-Fetchit-yass-massa caricature ever, and a role requiring immense delicacy and good judgment, Jackson said to Quentin Tarantino: So you really want me to play the most hateful black character in cinematic history, huh? OK, lets do it!

We often forget that before exploding into the public consciousness in 1994, aged 45, as Pulp Fictions fire-and-brimstone-spewing hitman Jules, that Jackson was a well-regarded New York stage actor. Well-regarded, that is, except for his demons and appetites. He played important roles in the first runs of a couple of August Wilson plays, but was always replaced before they moved to Broadway. He had started boozing, smoking weed and doing LSD at college in the late 60s, and has said that until he got clean in 1991 after a crack-induced meltdown that involved his eight-year-old daughter finding him zonked out in the kitchen among his dimebags and paraphernalia he had never set foot on stage without some kind of substance in his body.

Made it is all relative, he says of his supposedly late start in the movies. I had a very good theatre reputation. Granted, I was a fucking drug addict and I was out of my mind a lot of the time, but I had a good reputation. Showed up on time, knew my lines, hit my marks. I just wasnt making a lot of money, but I was very satisfied artistically. I was doing Pulitzer prize-winning plays. I was working with people who made me better, who challenged me. So I was doing things the right way, it was just that one thing that was in the way – my addiction. And once that was out of the way, it was boom! The door blew wide open.

As Stephen in Django Unchained. Photograph: Allstar/THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY

Getting clean freed up a hitherto closed-off dimension to his performances, he remembers. Ive always had my wife LaTanya, whos my harshest critic. Shed say: Youre so intelligent that the first time you read something, you think you understand it intellectually and emotionally, then you find the vocal inflections, and the facial expressions and you can get there with that. But theres no blood in it. And Im like: Its all fuckin make-believe, what in the hell you talking about? And it wasnt until I got sober that I knew fully what she meant. Before, I used to do stuff on stage and kinda look for the reaction from the audience Aha! I got em good that time! And once I was able to ignore that, and focus on the relationships with the people I was onstage with, I was finally able to blossom into whatever I might think I am now.

Jackson started acting at Moorhouse College, the famous post-civil war institution for sons of the emergent black middle class. But he felt stifled there by the generation gap between a cautious, gradualist college administration and the impatient young students who saw the civil rights struggle unfolding on TV every day. Jackson also had a dauntingly low number in the draft lottery. I pretty much had to stay in school. Either I make good grades in school or Im getting shipped off to Vietnam, which made it very real to me indeed when I was 19.

Moorhouse was breeding politically correct negroes. They were creating the next Martin Luther Kings. They didnt say that because, really, they didnt want you to be that active politically, and they were more proud of the fact that he was a preacher than that he was a civil-rights leader. That was their trip: they was into making docile negroes. We wanted a Black Studies Department, but they wouldnt do it.

With his wife LaTanya, 2016. Photograph: Barry King/Getty Images

But history had come home from the hill. And all of a sudden things kinda went haywire on them. I met guys in my freshman class who had already been to Vietnam they had afros already! Guys that had killed people in a war zone and knew what was goin on, and had discipline and leadership, those guys got hold of us. And suddenly we were talking politics and finding out how the war was getting run, who was getting killed. And what with civil rights going on at the same time, and with us being in the south, there was just no way you could ignore it.

Jackson quit college for a year in 1968 to work with the Black Panthers he was one of Kings many pallbearers at the funeral until the FBI came to his mothers house and told him he risked getting shot. He went back to school and graduated in 1971. That is a lot of history and politics for one 22-year-old, and shaped for ever the way Jackson frames and comprehends the world, and America.

I ask him how he rates the first black president, and what he thinks of Donald Trumps inexorable rise.

Obama got a lot done in seven years, hell yes! Hes done as much as he can do in the face of a morass of people trying to prevent him getting anything done. The fact that he got anything done at all is a miracle. He had to wait a minute until he could gangsta his way into doing all the things he wanted to do, because that was the only way it was gonna happen. He wasnt gonna be able to do it all through the process. Those guys on the other side werent gonna go to work for him they just stopped working, decided theyre not gonna do anything. And even though hes created a lot of jobs, theyre not the kind of jobs that people used to have, and all the factory work is gone abroad. Its created the environment that allows Donald Trump and that Rafael Cruz to thrive.

Much as he despises Trump and his ilk, Jackson has only a limited degree of sympathy for those bedazzled by their race-baiting, scapegoating rhetoric.

With Ruby Dee in Jungle Fever, 1991. Photograph: Everett/REX/Shutterstock

Theres a bunch of disenfranchised people whose anxieties they exploit. And those people are losing their jobs, and are going to be extinct. And theyve convinced them that the cause of their extinction lies in immigration law. And they say, theres a threat to your existence because these people are comin in stealing your jobs. People are getting back in the streets, but it feels like theyre asking for the wrong things. The only people whove figured out what they want, unfortunately, is Isis. And the rest of us are still trying to figure out whyre they doing this? Thats the crowd Trump knows hes got, and he knows how to speak to them and the truest thing hes said all through the campaign, the only true thing, is that he loves the uneducated.

In the 70s and 80s, when there was a thriving theatre world for black actors in New York, Jackson worked with everyone. We worked all the time, and every now and then … like, we were doing A Soldiers Play and Denzel [Washington], he got plucked out to do St Elsewhere. Then Fish [Laurence Fishburne] got plucked out, and Howard Rollins, and then I was doing Mother Courage and all of a sudden Morgan Freeman was gone. He did Street Smart, and boom hes on his way. Every year somebody got plucked out. So I figured, I seem to be in the right place, so the right opportunity is gonna present itself in the end.

Little by little by little, the landscape changed. I played that robber in Coming to America, which caught a lot of attention. But you always had to play the bad guy still, every time. Youd look at the script and go: Lets see, which page do I die on? Page 50? aw yeah!

After a half-decade of playing gang member, hoodlum, robber and Jacksons own favourite (from Sea of Love) black guy, Spike Lees Jungle Fever broke him, well before Pulp Fiction made him a household name. His role as a crackhead son of a minister came literally weeks after his own rehab, and changed everything.

I used to have this sort of ritual I had with my first agent. Id call him up and always say: Hollywood call today? No! So after we went to Cannes with Jungle Fever, I called him up and said: Hollywood call today? Well, as a matter of fact, they did! But even then, that was, I think, my fourth movie with Spike.

And once they had found him, film-makers and screenwriters couldnt get enough of him. And Jackson, who replaced addiction with some vigorous strain of workaholism, has stayed busy for the entire two decades since.

But no Oscar yet?

If I cared about that, I could have made a big fuss and gone all OscarsSoWhite and all that for Stephen in Django, but I dont think an Oscar is gonna validate my career. You ask the average person, you know what theyre probably gonna say? He already has one!

The Legend of Tarzan is out on 8 July.

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