W. H. Auden: Tell Me the Truth About Love

W. H. Auden: Tell Me the Truth About Love

Biographic Notes

Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-1973) was born in York, England. He moved to Birmingham during childhood and was educated at Christ Church, Oxford. At Oxford his precocity as a poet was immediately apparent, and he formed lifelong friendships with two fellow writers, Stephen Spender and Christopher Isherwood.

As a young man, he traveled through Germany, Iceland, and China, served in the Spanish Civil war and in 1939 moved to the United States, where he met his lover, Chester Kallman, and became an American citizen. A prolific writer, Auden was also a noted playwright, librettist, editor, and essayist. Considered by some to be the greatest English poet of the twentieth century, his work has exerted a major influence on succeeding generations of poets on both sides of the Atlantic.

Dark Night of the Soul

In 1952, Auden and his life-long companion moved to an apartment at 77 St. Marks Place in New York’s East Village. It was, more or less, Auden’s permanent home for the rest of his life. During the initial years, Auden lived, however ambivalently, actively engaged in social and political interests, as well as enjoying his status as an internationally renowned poet. In his later years, Auden became increasingly withdrawn and lonely.

This was profoundly reflected in his writings, through which he deliberately attempted to discard much of his own public dignity, a significant sign that indicated the painful depth of his feelings of personal isolation. Many of his last poems spoke to, rather than about, silent objects and people who were either absent or dead. Ruminations about “night” (the darkness and ending of one’s day/life) dominated his writings in 1972, and particularly in his poem Lullaby that was addressed to himself. In that poem, writing about sleep was framed by the language of finality: “Let your last thinks all be thanks,” anticipating a time of final endings, completions and a state surpassing all feelings of resentment.

On another note, Auden’s life-long anxieties about his seemingly paradoxical wishes to maintain a clear sense of autonomy, versus his strong needs for attachment, were perhaps no more clearly presented than in his book of poems, About the House, inspired by various rooms in his home. Writing about groups of people visiting in the “living room”, Auden’s thoughts turned to the impact of the size of such rooms upon the internal experiences of psychological boundaries versus a lack of boundaries.

If the room was too small, he believed that, “…people can’t forget at will that they’re not alone.” In other words, they can’t remember that while together (or part of a “we”), they are also alone, instead drowning in a sense of enmeshment, lack of personal identity, autonomy and achievement.

At another extreme, if the room was too large, it would encourage people to engage in ever-more strong efforts to make contact with each other, with intensively forceful attempts to achieve a sense of attachment, along with heightened wishes and strivings for nurturing dependency.

Near the very end of his life, Auden’s poem entitled Loneliness purported to convey his prediction that his intense feelings of solitude would be relieved on the following day, when his companion, Chester Kallman, was to return. In fact, the poem only addresses in the first person his own terrifying image of Loneliness itself, the “Gate-crashing ghost, aggressive / invisible visitor.”

Concluding this brief commentary, we return to Auden’s feelings of the dark night of his soul as the end of life approached, best captured in his poem entitled Lullaby

Lullaby

First stanza
W. H. Auden (1907-1973)

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Kenneth Granham Reads W. H. Auden’s Lullaby

W. H. Auden: Tell Me the Truth About Love

Tell Me the Truth About Love is a BBC documentary film looking at the poetry of W. H. Auden, revealing how it came not just from inspiration but from a rigorous personal analysis of love itself. When he died in 1973, he left behind some of the greatest love poems of the 20th century. Most of his unpublished material was destroyed, apart from two short journals and a series of jottings, containing diagrams and notes about the nature of love.

W. H. Auden: Tell Me the Truth About Love

Photo-Gallery: W. H. Auden Through the Years

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Samuel L. Jackson: “Wake The F**k Up!” And Vote Obama (NSFW)

Samuel L. Jackson: “Wake The F**k Up!” And Vote Obama (NSFW)

Academy Award Nominee Samuel L. Jackson, with his booming voice and imposing presence, was the perfect choice to  record last year’s audiobook version of the bestselling children’s book for adults, Go the F**k to Sleep!.

In a new, unconventional ad for President Barack Obama that hit the internet on Thursday, Jackson improvises on that title in his political video, Wake the F**k Up!. Have you been thinking about just sitting out this election, or maybe even considering voting for Romney just for the hell of it? You may want to think twice about that!

Jackson may appear out of nowhere to give you a profanity-laced nursery rhyme about the dangers of voting Republican this November. In this video, Jackson magically shows up in the homes of seniors, young people and other disaffected voters to exhort them with his very salty language to start paying attention. Disparaging Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in rhyming verses, Jackson says:

Sorry, my friends, but there’s no time to snore.
An out-of-touch millionaire has just declared war.
On schools, the environment, unions, fair pay.
We’re all on our own if Romney has his way.
And he’s against safety nets, if you fall, tough luck.
So I strongly suggest that you wake the f**k up.

The video was sponsored by the Jewish Council on Education and Research.

Samuel L. Jackson: “Wake The F**k Up!” And Vote Obama (NSFW)

A Charming Little Bedtime Story: Go the F**k to Sleep!!

Go the F**K To Sleep is a wonderful little book by Adam Mansbach, probably the best children’s story since the classic Goodnight Moon. The story only gets better here, when it’s read by Hollywood favorite Samuel L. Jackson, who says in the introduction that in his own experience reading stories to put kids to sleep just doesn’t work. Jackson said he used to say “Go the f**k to sleep!” to his own daughter when she was growing up. He says, at some point, she would look at me when I would come in her room, and she’d say, “Go the f**k to sleep, Daddy?” And I’d say, “Yeah, go the f**k to sleep!

A Charming Little Bedtime Story: Go the F**k to Sleep!!

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On the Road with The Kills: Dream and Drive

On the Road with The Kills: Dream and Drive

The Kills just celebrated their ten-year anniversary as a band, but it feels like they’re just getting started. Singer Alison Mosshart and guitarist Jamie Hince have taken their time on their rise from anonymous newcomers to veritable rock stars. Last year they put out their fourth album, Blood Pressures, and played some of the biggest venues of their career. Now, on September 4th, they’ll release a book of photographs, Dream and Drive, taken by their longtime friend Kenneth Cappello.

Photographer Cappello has gotten to know Mosshart and Hince pretty well over the last 10 years. Through lonely deserts and stages crawling with fans and sweat, Cappello captured many of the band’s most public and private moments. “He’s seen it all, the good and the bad, the broken down and the weird,” says Mosshart in the forward to Dream and Drive, Cappello’s collection of photographs of life on the road with The Kills.

The Kills: Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” (2012)

The Kills: The Last Goodbye

The Last Goodbye is a powerfully emotive music video portrait of the rock duo Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince, directed by the Oscar nominated actress Samantha Morton. The Kills celebrate ten years of musical partnership with this poignant and captivating video. The melancholic song The Last Goodbye offsets the usually hard-edged sound that Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince are known for, with haunting vocals and a nostalgic piano loop. Shot in monochrome on crisp, silvery 35mm film, the video reflects the beautiful simplicity of the track, while using an old-school photo-booth to provide an intimate backdrop for Mosshart’s intense and heart-warming opening performance. Her introduction is followed by a series of touching poses that casts a tender light on the musicians’longstanding and spirited friendship, as Mosshart and Hince share memories of their first meeting and a decade of collaboration.

The Kills: The Last Goodbye

(Best Viewed in HD Full-Screen Mode)

Photo-Gallery: The Kills: Dream and Drive

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The Studs Terkel Centenary: Chicago Celebrates Legendary Studs Terkel

The Studs Terkel Centenary: Chicago Celebrates Legendary Studs Terkel

May 16th marks the 100th anniversary of Studs Terkel’s birth and an occasion to memorialize one of the most prolific writers and cultural critics in the history of Chicago letters. As an author, broadcaster and oral historian, legendary Chicagoan Studs Terkel celebrated the lives of ordinary Americans. Some of Terkel’s many friends and fans are hoping to return the favor with a series of events marking the 100th birthday of a man whose work is a chronicle of the 20th century.

The Studs Terkel Centenary, a group headed up by Terkel’s friends, including Chicago Tribune reporter Rick Kogan, on Saturday will rededicate the Division Street Bridge, which was named after Terkel 20 years ago. On Wednesday, The Newberry Library will host a birthday party featuring guest speakers who will share stories about Studs. Terkel’s friends will ensure that his memory lives on with a day of Studs-only programming on WFMT-FM on his birthday, with performances of passages from Terkel’s 2001 book Will the Circle Be Unbroken? at Steppenwolf Theatre next week and by phoning in personal anecdotes about Terkel to a hotline set up by Chicago’s Hull House Museum.

A Tribute: Remembering Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel: The Human Voice (StoryCorps)

Remembering Studs Terkel: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

The New York Times reported that Chicago’s legendary Studs Terkel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose searching interviews with ordinary Americans helped establish oral history as a serious genre, and who for decades was the enthusiastic host of a popular nationally syndicated radio show on WFMT-FM in Chicago, died at his home at the age of 96.

In his oral histories, which he called guerrilla journalism, Mr. Terkel relied on his effusive but gentle interviewing style to bring forth in rich detail the experiences and thoughts of his fellow citizens. For more than the four decades, Studs produced a continuous narrative of great historic moments sounded by an American chorus in the native vernacular.

Division Street: America (1966), his first best seller, explored the urban conflicts of the 1960s. Its success led to Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (1970) and Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do (1974).

Mr. Terkel’s book The Good War: An Oral History of World War II won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. In Talking to Myself: A Memoir of My Times (1977), Terkel turned the microphone on himself to produce an engaging memoir. In Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession (1992) and Coming of Age: The Story of Our Century by Those Who’ve Lived It (1995), he reached for his ever-present tape recorder for interviews on race relations in the United States and the experience of growing old.

In 1985, a reviewer for The Financial Times of London characterized his books as “completely free of sociological claptrap, armchair revisionism and academic moralizing.” The amiable Mr. Terkel was a gifted and seemingly tireless interviewer who elicited provocative insights and colorful, detailed personal histories from a broad mix of people. “The thing I’m able to do, I guess, is break down walls,” he once told an interviewer. “If they think you’re listening, they’ll talk. It’s more of a conversation than an interview.”

Readers of his books could only guess at Mr. Terkel’s interview style. Listeners to his daily radio show, which was first broadcast on WFMT-FM in 1958, got the full flavor as Studs, with both breathy eagerness and a tough-guy Chicago accent, went after the straight dope from guests like Sir Georg Solti, Muhammed Ali, Mahalia Jackson, the young Dob Dylan, Toni Morrison and Gloria Steinem.

The entire New York Times article can be read here.

Rick Kogan has written a detailed article in The Chicago Tribune, which can be read here.

Studs Terkel’s website at The Chicago Historical Society can be accessed here.

Studs Terkel’s (1970) WFMT-FM radio interview with me (Patrick Zimmerman) can be heard here. Parts of this radio interview later become a selection (pp. 489-493) in Terkel’s acclaimed book, Working:

Audio: Part I of The Radio Interview

Audio: Part II of The Radio Interview

Studs Terkel: Remembering His Life and Times

Conversations about Studs Terkel (2004)

Studs Terkel: About the Human Spirit (2002)

Studs Terkel: The Pioneering Broadcaster

Music Audio: Mavis Staples/Hard Times

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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore Wins 2012 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore Wins 2012 Oscar for Best Animated Short

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is an award-winning animated short film by author/illustrator William Joyce and Co-Director Brandon Oldenburg at Moonbot Studios, which won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film last night at the 2012 Academy Awards. Drawing on inspirations from Hurricane Katrina, The Wizard of Oz and Buster Keaton, the amazing and inspirational short film combines a variety of animation techniques to tell the story of people who have a passion for books.

Moonbot Studios also created the best-selling, interactive Morris Lessmore iPad app, which is available on iTunes in the App Store.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore: 2012 Oscars Acceptance Speech

Oscar Nomination Announcements: Moonbot Studios, Shreveport, Louisiana

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A Lifesaving Passion for Books: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

A Lifesaving Passion for Books: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is an award-winning animated short film by author/illustrator William Joyce and Co-Director Brandon Oldenburg at Moonbot Studios, which just received a 2012 Academy Award Nomination for Best Animated Short Film. Drawing on inspirations from Hurricane Katrina, The Wizard of Oz and Buster Keaton, the film combines a variety of animation techniques to tell the story of people who have a passion for books.

Moonbot Studios also created the best-selling, interactive Morris Lessmore iPad app, which is available on iTunes in the App Store.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Oscar Nomination Announcements: Moonbot Studios, Shreveport, Louisiana

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Spike Jonze: To Die By Your Side

Spike Jonze: To Die By Your Side

To Die By Your Side (Mourir Auprès de Toi) is a tragicomic stop-motion animated short film co-created by the celebrated filmmaker Spike Jonze and designer Olympia Le-Tan. After spending five years adapting Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are, Jonze’s more recent short films include last year’s robot love story, I’m Here, and this year’s Arcade Fire collaboration, Scenes From the Suburbs. To Die By Your Side is his latest short film, which premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival’s Critics’ Week and was first presented online yesterday at NOWNESS.com.

A tale to pierce the heart, the star-crossed love story is set on the shelves of Paris’s storied Shakespeare and Co. bookstore. When night falls, an old Parisian bookseller closes the small shop, and a klutzy skeleton springs off the cover of Macbeth and falls for Mina, the flame-haired damsel from Dracula. Enlisting French filmmaker Simon Cahn to co-direct, the team wrote the script between Los Angeles and Paris over a six-month period of time, before working night and day animating the 3,000 pieces of felt that Le-Tan had cut by hand.

To Die By Your Side is a delightfully whimsical, humorous and poignant animated felt short film: be sure to watch it to the end!

Spike Jonze: To Die By Your Side

(Best Watched in Full-Screen Mode)

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