A Touching Animated Documentary About the Rise, Fall & Second Coming of the 60s Psych-Folk Musician Richard Atkins

One wonders what might have become of Richard Atkins’ musical career had he come of age in this millennium, when youngsters suffering from acute stage fright regularly attract stadium-sized followings on Youtube.

This was most definitely not the case in 1968, when Atkins, aged 19, took the stage in a small Hollywood club filled with music industry brass, there specifically to see him.

Unfortunately, talent could only take him so far. Having learned to play guitar only a couple of years earlier in the wake of a disfiguring motorcycle accident, he and partner Richard Manning had recorded an album, Richard Twice, for Mercury Records. The presence on that record of several members of the Wrecking Crew, an informal, but legendary group of LA session musicians, conferred extra pop pedigree. The Acid Archives later called it "a virtually perfect pop album, the kind of thing that would have ruled the charts if the wind had been blowing the right way that month."




Alas, one tiny technical difficulty at the start of the gig caused Manning to flee, leaving the freaked out and frighteningly ill equipped Atkins to deal with the yawning chasm that had opened between him and the audience. The only fix that occurred to him was a Bugs Bunny-inspired soft shoe, a move that apparently went over big with his Mom, prior to the accident, when he had two legs and could balance without a crutch.

As recounted in Matthew Salton’s animated documentary, above, this soul crushing moment is not without humor. Atkins, affably narrating his own story, has had 50 years to mull that night over, and realizes that blown opportunities are probably more universal than successfully snagged brass rings (American Idol, anyone?)

Over the ensuing years, Atkins found fulfillment as a woodworker and family man, but music remained a painful what-if, addressed largely through avoidance.

Salton’s exuberantly scratchy animation comes as Atkins is taking steps to conquer his stage fright, performing out at small cafes, festivals, and potluck suppers near his Pacific Northwest home.

He’s been posting old songs, gently reminding listeners, “before I'm judged too harshly, remember that I was 18 and living in North Hollywood, probably raging hormones and in the music business to boot!”

He’s also writing and sharing new songs, including the touching “Life Is A Rollercoaster,” above.

Performing on Facebook Live in conjunction with Salton’s New York Times Op-Doc essay, he tears up when the interviewer informs him that his daughter has just posted an encouraging comment, and eagerly confirms his availability when another commenter asks if he’d be up for a gig.

It’s only too late when you’re in the grave.

Travel back in time with a couple more psych-folk cuts from Richard Twice, above, or buy the album in digital form on Amazon.

Related Content:

Evelyn Glennie (a Musician Who Happens to Be Deaf) Shows How We Can Listen to Music with Our Entire Bodies

Syd Barrett’s “Effervescing Elephant” Comes to Life in a New Retro-Style Animation

A History of Alternative Music Brilliantly Mapped Out on a Transistor Radio Circuit Diagram: 300 Punk, Alt & Indie Artists

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Two Million Wondrous Nature Illustrations Put Online by The Biodiversity Heritage Library

Are we truly in the midst of a human-caused sixth mass extinction, an era of “biological annihilation”? Many scientists and popular science writers say yes, using terms like “Holocene” or “Anthropocene” to describe what follows the Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Triassic, and Cretaceous periods. Peter Brannen, author of extinction history The Ends of the Earth has found at least one scientist who thinks the concept is “junk.” But Brannen quotes some alarming statistics. Chilling, even. “Until very recently,” he writes, “all vertebrate life on the planet was wildlife. But astoundingly, today wildlife accounts for only 3 percent of earth’s land animals; human beings, our livestock, and our pets take up the remaining 97 percent of the biomass… almost half of the earth’s land has been converted into farmland.”

This state of affairs does not bode well for the millions of remaining species getting edged out of their environments by agribusiness and climate change. We learn from extinctions past that the planet rebounds after unimaginable catastrophe. Life really does go on, though it may take millions of years to recover. But the current forms of life may disappear before their time. If we want to understand what is at stake besides our own fragile fossil-fuel based civilizations, we need to connect to life emotionally as well as intellectually. Short of globe-hopping physical immersion in the earth’s biodiversity, we could hardly do better than immersing ourselves in the tradition of naturalist writing, art, and photography that brings the world to us.

The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), an “open access digital library for biodiversity literature and archives,” has for many years been making it easy for people to connect to nature through nature writing and illustration. In 2012, they announced the “success story” of their Flickr streams, both containing thousands of illustrations and photographs uploaded by the BHL staff and readers from their huge collections of books.

The first stream, currently at 122,281 images, has been carefully curated, and includes searchable galleries and albums divided by book title or subject, such as “Exotic botany illustrated,” “The Birds of Australia v.1,” and “Bats!” The second stream, consisting of over 2 million images, is a massive grab-bag of photos, illlustrations from nature, advertisements, and imaginative renderings.

Though far less useful for the scholar—or the very purposeful user—this second photostream offers more potential for chance discovery, through the aimless wandering that often leads to serendipitously sublime experiences. The formal BHL stream does not disappoint, though it may offer fewer surprises. Both of these image archives offer expansive views of humanity's encounter with the natural world, not only through statistics and academic jargon, but through the artistic recording of wonder, scientific curiosity, and deep appreciation.

Related Content:

Watch 50 Hours of Nature Soundscapes from the BBC: Scientifically Proven to Ease Stress and Promote Happiness & Awe

The British Library Puts 1,000,000 Images into the Public Domain, Making Them Free to Reuse & Remix

Download for Free 2.6 Million Images from Books Published Over Last 500 Years on Flickr

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Meet the 35-Year-Old British Man Who Lives Entirely in the Year 1946

Ben Sansum is something of a young fogey. He's only 35 years old, but he lives in the year 1946. Entirely. The pictures on his wall in his Cambridgeshire home, the supplies in his cupboard, the music played on his turntable, the clothes he wears--everything comes from 1946 and the post WWII era. His motivation is partly aesthetic. He likes living in a period home, he tells us. But it also goes deeper than that. As he notes, our modern world moves so quickly, it sometimes pays to hang onto old world charms.

via Coudal

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Mona Lisa Selfie: A Montage of Social Media Photos Taken at the Louvre and Put on Instagram

"Over 6 million people visit the Mona Lisa at the Louvre each year. Many share their visit on social media." Created by Daniel McKee, this dizzying video gathers together hundreds of the photos that get taken at the museum and then wind up on Instagram. Only a minute long, it's a nice succinct commentary on our time...

Related Content:

Leonardo da Vinci’s Visionary Notebooks Now Online: Browse 570 Digitized Pages

Leonardo Da Vinci’s To Do List (Circa 1490) Is Much Cooler Than Yours

Take a Trip Through the History of Modern Art with the Oscar-Winning Animation Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase

Did Leonardo da Vinci Paint a First Mona Lisa Before The Mona Lisa?

Original Portrait of the Mona Lisa Found Beneath the Paint Layers of da Vinci’s Masterpiece

Interactive Map Lets You Take a Literary Journey Through the Historic Monuments of Rome

Arches on arches! as it were that Rome,

Collecting the chief trophies of her line,

Would build up all her triumphs in one dome,

Her Coliseum stands; the moonbeams shine

As 'twere its natural torches, for divine

Should be the light which streams here, to illume

This long-explored but still exhaustless mine

Of contemplation; and the azure gloom

Of an Italian night, where the deep skies assume

Hues which have words, and speak to ye of heaven,

Floats o'er this vast and wondrous monument,

And shadows forth its glory.

—Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1818)

A modern visitor to Rome, drawn to the Coliseum on a moonlit night, is unlikely to be so bewitched, sandwiched between his or her fellow tourists and an army of vendors aggressively peddling light-up whirligigs, knock off designer scarves, and acrylic columns etched with the Eternal City’s must-see attractions.

These days, your best bet for touring Rome’s best known landmarks in peace may be an interactive map, compliments of the Morgan Library and Museum. Based on Paul-Marie Letarouilly’s picturesque 1841 city plan, each digital pin can be expanded to reveal descriptions by nineteenth-century authors and side-by-side, then-and-now comparisons of the featured monuments.

The enduring popularity of the film Three Coins in the Fountain, coupled with the invention of the selfie stick has turned the area around the Trevi Fountain into a pickpocket’s dream and a claustrophobe’s worst nightmare.

Not so in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s day, though unlike Lord Byron, he cultivated a cool remove, at least at first:

They and the rest of the party descended some steps to the water’s brim, and, after a sip or two, stood gazing at the absurd design of the fountain, where some sculptor of Bernini’s school had gone absolutely mad in marble. It was a great palace-front, with niches and many bas-reliefs, out of which looked Agrippa’s legendary virgin, and several of the allegoric sisterhood; while, at the base, appeared Neptune, with his floundering steeds and Tritons blowing their horns about him, and twenty other artificial fantasies, which the calm moonlight soothed into better taste than was native to them. And, after all, it was as magnificent a piece of work as ever human skill contrived. At the foot of the palatial façade was strown, with careful art and ordered irregularity, a broad and broken heap of massive rock, looking as if it might have lain there since the deluge. Over a central precipice fell the water, in a semicircular cascade; and from a hundred crevices, on all sides, snowy jets gushed up, and streams spouted out of the mouths and nostrils of stone monsters, and fell in glistening drops; while other rivulets, that had run wild, came leaping from one rude step to another, over stones that were mossy, slimy, and green with sedge, because in a century of their wild play, Nature had adopted the Fountain of Trevi, with all its elaborate devices, for her own.

The human statues garbed as gladiators and charioteers spend hours in the blazing sun at the foot of the Spanish Stepsthe heirs to the artists and models who populated William Wetmore Story’s Roba di Roma:

All day long, these steps are flooded with sunshine in which, stretched at length, or gathered in picturesque groups, models of every age and both sexes bask away the hours when they are free from employment in the studios. ... Sometimes a group of artists, passing by, will pause and steadily examine one of these models, turn him about, pose him, point out his defects and excellences, give him a baiocco, and pass on. It is, in fact, a models’ exchange.

The Medici Villa houses the Académie de France, and its gardens remain a pleasant respite, even in 2017. Visitors who aren’t wholly consumed with finding a wifi signal may find themselves fantasizing about a different life, much as Henry James did in his Italian Hours:

Such a dim light as of a fabled, haunted place, such a soft suffusion of tender grey-green tones, such a company of gnarled and twisted little miniature trunks—dwarfs playing with each other at being giants—and such a shower of golden sparkles drifting in from the vivid West! ... I should name for my own first wish that one didn’t have to be a Frenchman to come and live and dream and work at the Académie de France. Can there be for a while a happier destiny than that of a young artist conscious of talent and of no errand but to educate, polish and perfect it, transplanted to these sacred shades?...What mornings and afternoons one might spend there, brush in hand, unpreoccupied, untormented, pensioned, satisfied—either persuading one’s self that one would be “doing something” in consequence or not caring if one shouldn’t be.

The interactive map was created to accompany the Morgan’s 2016 exhibition City of the Soul: Rome and the Romantics. Other pitstops include St. Peter’s, the Roman Forum, and The Equestrian Monument of Marcus Aurelius on the Capitol. Begin your explorations here.

Related Content:

New Digital Archive Puts Online 4,000 Historic Images of Rome: The Eternal City from the 16th to 20th Centuries

Ancient Rome’s System of Roads Visualized in the Style of Modern Subway Maps

Rome Reborn: Take a Virtual Tour of Ancient Rome, Circa 320 C.E.

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Bryan Cranston Gives Advice to the Young: Find Yourself by Traveling and Getting Lost

I don’t know what time you’re reading this post but “What do you really want to do in life?” is a question that can wake you up right fast, or make you want to pack it in and sleep on it.

It’s also a question asked maybe a bit too early of our young people, which starts with fantasy (“What do you want to be when you grow up?” “A spaceman!”) and by our teens it turns into a more serious, fate-deciding inquiry by people who may not be happy with their station in life.

Actor Bryan Cranston takes on this question in this Big Think video, and extolls the virtues of travel and wandering.




“Traveling forces you to be social,” Cranston says. “You have to get directions.You have to learn where things are. You’re attuned to your environment.”

Cranston thought he was going to be a policeman when he entered college. Then he took an acting class. So, at 19, Cranston explored America for two years by motorcycle with his brother, in essence to find themselves by getting lost. He says he’s passed on this directionless wandering to his now 24 year-old daughter.

That idea of letting go and just wandering also dovetails nicely into his other advice about auditions. You don’t go there to get a job, you go to create a character and present it. The rest is out of your control.

Now, Cranston says that the period between high school/college and the “real world” is the best time to do it, but there’s really no time like right now. To quote Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there,” and the boats are always leaving. Just jump on.

Related Content:

21 Artists Give “Advice to the Young:” Vital Lessons from Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Umberto Eco, Patti Smith & More

Ray Bradbury Gives 12 Pieces of Writing Advice to Young Authors (2001)

John Cleese’s Advice to Young Artists: “Steal Anything You Think Is Really Good”

Walt Whitman Gives Advice to Aspiring Young Writers: “Don’t Write Poetry” & Other Practical Tips (1888)

Ursula Le Guin Gives Insightful Writing Advice in Her Free Online Workshop

Akira Kurosawa’s Advice to Aspiring Filmmakers: Write, Write, Write and Read

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

What to Say When You Don’t Understand Contemporary Art? A New Short Film, “Masterpiece,” Has Helpful Suggestions

MasterpieceRunyararo Mapfumo’s short film above, will feel very familiar to anyone who has struggled for words to share with a friend after his or her underwhelming Off-Off-Broadway solo show, open mic performance, or art installation…

Equally familiar, from the reverse angle, to any artist who’s ever invited a trusted friend to view his or her passion project, hoping for approval or at the very least, interest… something more robust than the paltry crumbs the friend manages to eek out under pressure.




A British Film Institute London Film Festival selected short, Masterpiece focuses on a tight group of male friends… one of whom has reached beyond the communal comfort zone in the service of his art. His earnestness confounds his old pals, who clown around outside the gallery where they've gathered for an after hours preview of his work, one staunchly asserting that he only showed up because his mum made him, and also, he was told there’d be free food.

Once inside the friends are left alone to puzzle out his masterpiece. What to say? Maybe they should draw parallels to the current socio-political situation? Perhaps they could tell their friend his work  is reminiscent of German Expressionism?

Yoko Ono or Marcel Duchamp would have made a more apt comparison, as writer-director Mapfumo is surely aware. Masterpiece is notable for more than just its pitch-perfect take on artist vs. befuddled but still supportive friends. As Mapfumo told Directors Notes:

I’ve been told time and time again to “write what you want to see.” I started thinking about what that meant to me in a everyday context. These characters are black men that I recognize…I didn’t want the conflict to revolve around their identity but rather through their observations. 

Related Content:

How to Look at Art: A Short Visual Guide by Cartoonist Lynda Barry

An Online Guide to 350 International Art Styles & Movements: An Invaluable Resource for Students & Enthusiasts of Art History

Your Brain on Art: The Emerging Science of Neuroaesthetics Probes What Art Does to Our Brains

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Her most recent artistic endeavor is Theater of the Apes Sub-Adult Division's production of Animal Farm, opening next week in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

More in this category... »
Quantcast