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Terrence Malick’s emergence as a major American film director (Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line) followed a trajectory as unlikely as any in cinema history. Paul Maher Jr., who has published an oral history of Terrence Malick, explores the early years of the director when he studied philosophy at Harvard and Oxford, visited Martin Heidegger in the Black Forest,  arrived a day late to meet Che Guevara (who had been killed the day before) and grieved the loss of a brother to suicide before plunging himself into film.

In early 1966, twenty-two-year-old Terrence Malick left Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he was attending Harvard University and went to the Black Forest in Germany to visit philosopher Martin Heidegger. Malick was equipped with only a rudimentary knowledge of German, just enough to interact with Heidegger who had consented to an interview. Malick came away from the encounter with the aging Existentialist philosopher’s autograph and the answers to a handful of questions that informed his Harvard undergraduate thesis, fulfilling his requirements for a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.

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When the young Beat novelist (Kerouac) met the old bohemian poet (Bodenheim) in 1951, they were headed in opposite directions. Jack Kerouac was just lighting his Roman candle, having already written On The Road (though it would be six years before publication) and Max Bodenheim (one-time prolific novelist and roustabout poet) had thoroughly burned his candle at both ends. Two eras meshed in the incubator of Greenwich Village, where abstract expressionists, musicians, dancers, dramatists and stage hounds caroused nightly. Kerouac scholar Paul Maher Jr. examines this seminal meeting when a baton perhaps unwittingly was passed.

Jack Kerouac met Maxwell Bodenheim in Greenwich Village on September 27, 1951, a Thursday night. There had been other long nights of the soul ending in sweaty frantic debauches. They could have run into each other before, but this was the first time Kerouac recorded it for posterity in a notebook. Kerouac and Bodenheim’s birth dates were separated by thirty years, but poetry is ageless and they were both poets to their souls.

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When Jack Kerouac Had His Crack-Up

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Spiraling down a silo of despair and drunkenness in the wake of his On The Road/Dharma Bums celebrity as ‘king of the Beats’, Jack Kerouac longed for a safe haven. Poet/publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti heeded the call, loaning Kerouac his cabin at Big Sur on California’s rocky Central Coast. Once there, Kerouac had what he feared all along—a Delirium Tremens (DT)-fueled crack up. Kerouac scholar Paul Maher Jr. picks up the story…

On the morning of July 1, 1960, Jack Kerouac woke with stomach cramps so bad that he writhed on the floor. He shit black blood. He felt better once it passed. He had been hiding out since the turn of the new year at his mother Gabrielle’s home in Northport, Long Island and had been binge drinking for several weeks. He could not find peace or solace from a world that wanted more pieces of himself than he had to give.

He was deeply suffering, he felt, from being hexed by “everybody.”

He was slowly going mad.

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Miles Davis: A Concerto of Conversation with David Amram

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The public saw one Miles Davis (1926-1991) but his fellow musicians caught rare glimpses of the real person. David Amram, composer, musician and raconteur, stayed close to the legendary trumpeter from the mid-1950s until the end of his life. He shared his memories of Miles with author/oral historian Paul Maher Jr.

David Amram, musician extraordinaire, has known and worked with all of the greats: Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Joe Papp, and Elia Kazan. Though he had never performed in a Miles Davis ensemble, Amram was well acquainted with Davis from their mutual interest in music and art. Through the years, they met and talked on numerous occasions. In 2006, I had an opportunity to talk with Amram about this relationship. Continue reading here...