Gertrude Stein Gets a Snarky Rejection Letter from Publisher (1912)

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Gertrude Stein considered herself an experimental writer and wrote what The Poetry Foundation calls "dense poems and fictions, often devoid of plot or dialogue," with the result being that "commercial publishers slighted her experimental writings and critics dismissed them as incomprehensible." Take, for example, what happened when Stein sent a manuscript to Alfred C. Fifield, a London-based publisher, and received a rejection letter mocking her prose in return. According to Letters of Note, the manuscript in question was published many years later as her modernist novel, The Making of Americans: Being a History of a Family's Progress (1925). You can hear Stein reading a selection from the novel below. Also find other Gertrude Stein works in our collections of Free eBooks and Free Audio Books.

via Electric Literature

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The Beatles Perform in a Spoof of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1964

In late April of 1964, England was celebrating the 400th birthday of William Shakespeare. At the same time, "Beatlemania" was in full swing. And for a brief moment, two of Britain's cultural treasures intersected when the Beatles performed in a playful send-up of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The sketch was recorded in London on April 28, 1964. Only the month before, the Beatles had made their American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. The Shakespearean spoof was part of a one-hour British TV special called "Around the Beatles." It's from the play-within-a-play in Act 5, Scene 1 of A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which a group of actors make a mess of the classic Pyramus and Thisbe story from Ovid's Metamorphoses.




Pyramus and Thisbe, a source of inspiration for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, are a pair of star-crossed lovers whose feuding parents forbid them from seeing one another. They live next-door to each other but are separated by walls. Through a crack in one wall they whisper their love and make plans to meet on a moonlit night under a mulberry tree. Thisbe arrives first, only to see a lion with blood dripping from its mouth after eating its prey. Terrified, she drops her veil and runs. Pyramus arrives soon afterward and sees both the blood and the veil. He assumes the lion has killed Thisbe, so he falls on his sword and dies. Thisbe returns and finds Pyramus dead. She takes his sword and kills herself.

In the silly Beatles sketch, Paul McCartney plays Pyramus, John Lennon plays Thisbe, Ringo Starr plays the Lion and George Harrison plays Moonshine. When Lennon was asked why he took the role of the maiden, he said, "Because if anyone likes dressing up more stupid than the rest, I enjoy it, you know. I was asked to do it because they thought I had the deeper voice."

via BrainPickings

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Wes Anderson’s First Short Film: The Black-and-White, Jazz-Scored Bottle Rocket (1992)

"The only Wes Anderson movie I like is Bottle Rocket," declares the character Beatnik Vampire in Dorothy Gambrell's comic strip Cat and Girl. He does so in a bid for supremacy during a cultural "slap fight" consisting of a volley of claims like "I saw Modest Mouse in Berlin in 1999" and "Cuban food made by Mexicans is better than Italian food made by Albanians." Even if we've avoided participating in such one-upsmanship sessions disguised as conversations, we've all witnessed them. But should you one day need your own trump card, I give you Wes Anderson's first short film above. Watch it, and you can then credibly insist the following: "The only Wes Anderson movie I like is Bottle Rocket. No, the original."

In the late nineties, Anderson and his collaborators found themselves in a position to make their beloved breakthrough Rushmore on the strength of its predecessor Bottle Rocket, their 1996 feature debut. But even that film, a now-appreciated but then little-seen story of three deeply amateur criminals on the run through the green open spaces of Texas starring now-famous acting brothers Owen and Luke Wilson, followed another. Four years earlier, Anderson and Owen Wilson, who'd met in a playwriting class at the University of Texas, Austin, put together the thirteen-minute short you see here. It tries out the concept of thieves in training, albeit in a very different style from the one we've come to regard, over twenty years later, as Andersonian. Wes, if you read this, know that I'd like to see you do something in black-and-white again. With a jazz score.

via Dangerous Minds

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los AngelesA Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Helen Keller & Annie Sullivan Appear Together in Moving 1930 Newsreel

Helen Keller was born on this day in 1880, some 133 years ago. If you don't know the Helen Keller story, you can watch The Miracle Worker below, the 1962 film starring Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft. You'll learn about how Keller, at 19 months, contracted a disease -- either scarlet fever or meningitis, it's still not clear -- that left her deaf and blind. You'll also learn how Annie Sullivan, her beloved teacher, taught her to communicate by spelling words into her hand. Their relationship would last 49 years. And you'll discover how Keller became the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, en route to becoming an activist, author and overall source of inspiration. In the clip above, filmed roughly 83 years ago, Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan appear in the flesh. Captured in an old newsreel, Sullivan explains how Keller learned to talk and, in the final line, Helen movingly declares, "I am not dumb now!" Find more Helen Keller vintage footage below.

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Watch a Surprisingly Moving Performance of John Cage’s 1948 “Suite for Toy Piano”

At some point during his 1948 mania for the Rube Goldberg pieces of prepared pianos, John Cage, inspired by minimalist French composer Erik Satie, decided to turn back to melody for a moment. Still building with a dull percussive tonal palate, he wrote solely for the keyboard this time… of a toy piano. “Suite for Toy Piano” consists of five short movements, none over two minutes. Cage liked the abrasive chiming and limited range of the instrument.

The piece can be mechanical or structurally immersive, depending on the player. In the performance above, Portuguese pianist Joana Gama achieves the latter effect, imbuing the composition with dynamic energy many other renditions lack, though I do not know whether Cage intended a flat affect. In any case, he tended to appreciate improvisatory takes on his work at all times, so he wouldn’t have been bothered.

The surrounding audience—shuffling, whispering, wheezing—only add to Gama’s intensity. The event marked the 2011 opening of the Centre for Art and Architecture Affairs in Guimarães, Portugal.

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Washington, DC. Follow him @jdmagness

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The Art of Punk Presents a New Documentary on The Dead Kennedys and Their Gritty Aesthetics

Last week, Colin Marshall told you all about The Art of Punk, the new documentary series from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. This week, the series continues with a new video looking at The Dead Kennedys and the artist behind their striking artwork, Winston Smith. A "punk art surrealist" known for his "hand-carved" collages, Smith is perhaps best known for creating The Dead Kennedys' iconic logo and other arresting images (see a slideshow here). The new MOCA video covers all of that, and then some, above.

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Free Business Courses: Discover Our New Collection (and Offer Your Own Suggestions)

business free online course photoAlmost daily, readers write us and ask for courses that can deepen their professional education. Some want to learn new tech skills. Others want to bone up on statistics and calculus. And still others want to learn about project management. We decided to address this by creating a new collection of Free Online Business Courses. So far, we've compiled a list of 145 business-oriented courses and related resources. Some courses come from leading  universities. Others come from government, non-profits and the occasional MOOC provider. The list is fairly rich. But we will keep adding to it over time. If you know of a great course (or a great business resource that's free) please tell us in the comments below, or send us an email via this page. We would love to benefit from your collective wisdom. And you will be helping many people in the process, during a tough economic time. Visit: 145 Free Online Business Courses.

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