The Commissioner of Sewers


Via Scott McLemee, I see that one of William Burroughs' best political satires has been uploaded to YouTube:

Fair warning: The language, while mild by Burroughs' standards, would not necessarily be appreciated in many American workplaces. Headphones may be advisable.

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  1. Not being able to view Youtube clips at work, I will imagine Homer Simpson’s classic The Garbage Man and continue with my day.

  2. Burroughs is my favorite writer of all time. Too many people think the beats were all liberals, that is not true. Burroughs and Kerouac were very libertarian.

    1. Burroughs was a little too creepy for this libertarian to embrace him… literally and figuratively.

        1. Interesting fact, Jamie from the mythbusters made the mugwump for the Naked Lunch movie. In fact you can see the mugwump hanging up in the mythbusters workshop on their show.

      1. Dont worry; you are probably the majority of the public, if maybe within a minority of libertarians.

        He does have some less creepy writing, but not by a whole lot. I think his main appeal is the determined iconoclasm. He was a man who believe people should mind their own business. The world in his view was divided between “Johnsons” and “shits”


        “”A Johnson honours his obligations. His word is good and he is a good man to do business with. A Johnson minds his own business. He is not a snoopy, self-righteous, troublemaking person. Wouldn’t rush to the law if he smelled hop in the hall, doesn’t care what fags in the back room are doing. A Johnson will give help when help is needed. He will not stand by while someone is drowning or trapped under a burning car”” versus “”Most of the trouble in this world has been caused by folks who can’t mind their own business, because they have no business of their own to mind, any more than a smallpox virus has. “

        You could try either, “The Job”, by Daniel Odier, which is a series of interviews with him. No aliens having sex and stuff like that.

        Or “The Adding Machine”, a series of essays.

        …The title is a reference to the fact that he is named after either his father or grandfather (cant remember), the inventor of the first practical calculator. (The Burroughs Adding Machine).

        1. Strangely, my favorite thing of his was a Christmas story about how an addict gave his last hit of morphine to a poor kid suffering from some severe stomach ailment who couldn’t afford a doctor.

          As for the Naked Lunch, I thought I understood it when I was younger, now I just cop to the fact that I had no idea what the fuck was going on.

          1. I think he would have said that if you did know what the fuck was going on, you should probably seek psychological help immediately.

            He also once said, “Start in the middle and read in any direction”. Or something like that. I tried. It was more or less the same.

      2. He certainly wasn’t an entirely decent person, but his thoughts about politics and interacting with people (at least those he didn’t want to have sex with) and minding one’s own business are pretty great. I’d recommend reading “The Adding Machine” for some good not-too-disturbing essays by Burroughs if your only exposure to him has been Naked Lunch or similar fiction.

  3. The language…would not necessarily be appreciated in many American workplaces

    So it’s OK now to watch videos at work so long as the language isn’t offensive?

    1. Maybe not “OK”, but man, even on wall street, I’d walk by cubicles and see people watching everything from the World Cup to Lady Gaga in their cubies. Even management does it from time to time.

  4. Coincidentally…I bought a video of the original ‘Commissioner of Sewers’ documentary (Klaus Maeck, 1991) last month on Ebay.

    I was worried this was the whole movie at first. There goes the collect-ability value…

    1. Actually, 1986… I just checked.

      its on Netflix.

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