Jeff Tweedy Explains How to Learn to Love Music You Hate: Watch a Video Animated by R. Sikoryak

Punk rock peer pressure forced Jeff Tweedy, founder of Wilco, to shun Neil Young and other  "hippie"musical greats.

Ah, youth...

Were Tweedy, now a seasoned 51-year-old, to deliver a commencement speech, he'd do well to counsel younger musicians to reject such knee jerk rejection, as he does in the above animated interview for Topic magazine.

Not because he's now one of those grey beards himself, but rather because he's come to view influence and taste as living organisms, capable of interacting in surprising ways.

That's not to say the youngsters are obliged to declare an affinity for what they hear when venturing into the past, just as Tweedy doesn't fake a fondness for much of the new music he checks out on the regular.

Think of this practice as something similar to one millions of childish picky eaters have endured. Eat your vegetables. Just a taste. You can't say you don't like them until you've actively tasted them. Who knows? You may find one you like. Or perhaps it'll prove more of a slow burn, becoming an unforeseen ingredient of your maturity.

In other words, better to sample widely from the unending musical buffet available on the Internet than conceive of yourself as a wholly original rock god, sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus, capiche?

The narration suggests that Tweedy's got some problems with online culture, but he gives props to the digital revolution for its softening effect on the ironclad cultural divide of his 70s and 80s youth.

Was it really all just a marketing scheme?

Unlikely, given the Vietnam War, but there's no denying that educating ourselves in our passion includes approaching its history with an at-least-partially open mind.

If you want to snap it shut after you've had some time to consider, that's your call, though Tweedy suggests he's never comfortable writing something off forever.

If nothing else, the stuff he dislikes teaches him more about the stuff he loves—including, presumably, some of his own impressive catalog.

Kudos to director Keith Stack and Augenblick Studios, animator of so many Topic interviews, for matching Tweedy with cartoonist R. Sikoryak, an artist who clearly shares Tweedy's creative philosophy as evidenced by such works as Terms and Conditions and Masterpiece ComicsHere is another who clearly knows how to make a meal from mixing old and new, traditional and experimental, high and low. One of the bonus joys of this animated life lesson is catching all of Sikoryak's musical Easter eggs—including a cameo by Nipper, the face of His Master's Voice.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist ofthe East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City June 17 for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Elton John Takes Us Through the Creative Process of His Early Hit “Tiny Dancer” (1970)

We all have our favorites from Elton John’s vast catalog, and I’ll admit that 1970’s "Tiny Dancer" has never been one of mine.

Call me crass, but I tend to get it confused with 1973's "Candle in the Wind," which John retooled so swiftly for Princess Diana’s 1997 funeral.

But then Sir Elton—or “Reg” as close friends and long-time lyricist Bernie Taupin call the artist formerly known as Reginald Kenneth Dwight—has always had a knack for working quickly, as Taupin explains above.

I’d never been curious enough to investigate, but assumed, correctly, that the lyric “seamstress for the band” referred to an actual person.

John actually seems a bit blasé, explaining that it’s about Taupin’s then girlfriend and eventual first wife, Maxine Feibelman, whom I must thank for inadvertently supplying the title of my favorite track, "The Bitch is Back," which was her code phrase for “Elton’s in a mood.”

As per Sir Elton, "Tiny Dancer"’s lyrics informed the sound, which is more ballerina than pirate smile.

And while the original liner notes’ dedication suggests that "Tiny Dancer" is indeed a tribute to Feibelman, three wives later, Taupin revised things a bit, telling author Gavin Edwards:

We came to California in the fall of 1970, and sunshine radiated from the populace. I was trying to capture the spirit of that time, encapsulated by the women we met—especially at the clothes stores up and down the Strip in L.A. They were free spirits, sexy in hiphuggers and lacy blouses, and very ethereal, the way they moved. So different from what I'd been used to in England. And they all wanted to sew patches on your jeans. They'd mother you and sleep with you—it was the perfect Oedipal complex.

Writer-director Cameron Crowe must’ve absorbed that message, to go by his memorable use of the song in Almost Famous’ tour bus scene,

Those communal good vibes permeate director Max Weiland’s winning entry in a recent John-sponsored contest on The Cut, which, like the opening scene of La La Land, gets a lot of mileage from LA’s reputation for traffic jams.

Can ticket buyers expect to find the song featured prominently in the just released John biopic, Rocketman?

No.

(Just kidding. Why else would John and his Rocketman doppelgänger, actor Taron Egerton choose that one for a duet at John’s annual Oscar party?)

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City this June for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch Patti Smith’s New Tribute to the Avant-Garde Poet Antonin Artaud

The force of Artaud, you couldn’t kill him! - Patti Smith

Found sound enthusiasts Soundwalk Collective join forces with the Godmother of Punk Patti Smith for "Ivry," the musical tribute to poet and theatermaker Antonin Artaud, above.

The track, featuring Smith’s hypnotic improvised narration, alternately spoken and sung over Tarahumara guitars, Chapareke snare drums, and Chihuahua bells from Mexico's Sierra Tarahumara, the region that provided the setting for Artaud’s autobiographical The Peyote Dance, has the soothing quality of lullabies from such popular children’s music Folk Revivalists as Elizabeth Mitchell and Dan Zanes.

We’d refrain from showing the kiddies this video, though, especially at bedtime.

It begins innocently enough with mirror images of the beautiful Artaud—as the Dean of Rouen in 1928’s silent classic The Passion of Joan of Arc, and later in the private psychiatric clinic in Ivry-sur-Seine where he ended his days.

Things get much rougher in the final moments, as befits the founder of the Theater of Cruelty, an avant-garde performance movement that employed scenes of horrifying violence to shock the audience out of their presumed complacency.

Nothing quite so hairy as Artaud’s virtually unproduceable short play, Jet of Blood—or, for that matter, Game of Thrones—but we all remember what happened to Joan of Arc, right? (Not to mention the grisly fate of the many peasants whose names history fails to note...)

In-between is footage of indigenous Rarámuri (or Tarahumara) tribespeople enacting traditional rituals—the mirrors on their headdresses and the filmmakers’ use of reflective symmetry honoring their belief that the afterlife mirrors the mortal world.

"Ivry" is the penultimate track on a brand new Artaud-themed album, also titled The Peyote Dance, which delves into the impulse toward expanded vision that propelled the artist to Mexico in the 1930s.

Prior to bringing Smith into the studio, members of Soundwalk Collective revisited Artaud’s journey through that country (including a cave in which he once lived), amassing stones, sand, leaves, and handmade Rarámuri instruments to “awaken the landscape’s sleeping memories and uncover the space’s sonic grammar.”

This mission is definitely in keeping with Smith’s practice of making pilgrimages and collecting relics.

The Peyote Dance is the first entry in a triptych titled The Perfect Vision. Tune in later this year to travel to Ethiopia’s Abyssinian valley in consideration of another Smith favorite, poet Arthur Rimbaud, and the Indian Himalayas, in honor of spiritual Surrealist René Daumal, whose allegorical novel Mount Analogue: A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing ended in mid-sentence, when he died at 36 from the effects of tuberculosis (and, quite possibly, youthful experiments with such psychoactive chemicals as carbon tetrachloride.)

You can order Soundwalk Collective’s album, The Peyote Dance, which also features the work of actor Gael García Bernal, here.

via BoingBoing

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City this June for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Todd Rundgren’s Advice to Young Artists: Be Free and Fearless, Make Art That Expresses Your True Self, and Never Mind the Critics

The Internet has redeemed graduation season for those of us whose commencement speakers failed to inspire.

One of the chief digital pleasures of the season is truffling up words of wisdom that seem ever so much wiser than the ones that were poured past the mortarboard into our own tender ears.

Our most-recently found pearls come from the mouth of one of our favorite dark horses, musician, producer, and multimedia pioneer Todd Rundgren, one of Berklee College of Music’s 2017 commencement speakers.

Rundgren claims he never would have passed the prestigious institution’s audition. He barely managed to graduate from high school. But he struck a blow for lifelong learners whose pursuit of knowledge takes place outside the formal setting by earning honorary degrees from both Berklee, and DePauw University, where the newly anointed Doctor of Performing Arts can be seen below, studying his honoris causa as the school band serenades him with a student-arranged version of his song, All the Children Sing.

Rundgren’s outsider status played well with Berklee’s Class of 2017, as he immediately ditched his ceremonial headdress and conferred some cool on the sunglasses dictated by his failing vision.

But it wasn’t all opening snark, as he praised the students’ previous night’s musical performance, telling them that they were a credit to their school, their families and themselves.

His was a different path.

Rundgren, an experienced public speaker, claims he was stumped as to how one would go about crafting commencement speeches. Rejecting an avalanche of advice, whose urgency suggested his speech could only result in “universal jubilation or mass suicide if (he) didn’t get it right,” he chose instead to spend his first 10 minutes at the podium recounting his personal history.

It’s interesting stuff for any student of rock n roll, with added cool points owing to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame’s failure to acknowledge this musical innovator.

Whether or not the Class of 17 were familiar with their speaker prior to that day, it’s probable most of them were able to do the math and realize that the self-educated Rundgren would have been their age in 1970, when his debut album, Runt, was released, and only a couple of years older when his third album, 1972’s two disc, Ritalin-fueled Something/Anything shot him to fame.

After which, this proud iconoclast promptly thumbed his nose at commercial success, detouring into the sonic experiments of A Wizard, a True Star, whose disastrous critical reception belies the masterpiece reputation it now enjoys.

Rolling Stone called it a case of an artist “run amok.”

Patti Smith, whose absolutely mandatory Creem review reads like beat poetry, was a rare admirer.

Did a shiver of fear run through the parents in the audience, as Rundgren regaled their children with tales of how this deliberate trip into the unknown cost him half his fanbase?

How much is Berklee's tuition these days, anyway?

Autobiographical urges from the commencement podium run the risk of coming off as inappropriate indulgence, but Rundgren’s personal story is supporting evidence of his very worthy message to his younger fellow artists :

  • Don’t self-edit in an attempt to fit someone else’s image of who you should be as an artist. See yourself.
  • Use your art as a tool for vigorous self-exploration.
  • Commit to remaining free and fearless, in the service of your defining moment, whose arrival time is rarely published in advance.
  • Don’t view graduation as the end of your education. Think of it as the beginning. Learn about the things you love.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City this June for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Graduation Highlight: Billionaire Robert F. Smith Announces That He’ll Pay Off the Student Loans of Morehouse’s Class of 2019

Robert F. Smith, the billionaire CEO of Vista Equity Partners, received an honorary degree from Morehouse College on Sunday. And he gave something back--a grant to retire the student loans of Morehouse's 2019 graduating class. Like that an estimated $40 million in debt was gone.

Meanwhile, in other news, a titan of industry spent $90 million this week on a Jeff Koons rabbit statue. And now it will likely serve as an ornament piece in a walled-off mansion somewhere. Imagine how that money could have been put to more productive use...

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A New Archive Transcribes and Puts Online the Diaries & Notebooks of Women Artists, Art Historians, Critics and Dealers

While one is still comparatively young, one has many more thoughts & certainly sentiments than one is able to make use of. It seems as if these might be stored up so that in old age or when one became less prolific one could find matter to use. Every thought or suggestion could be of use.

- Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitneysculptor, collector, founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1906

There are very few moral defenses for rummaging inside another’s private diary or sketchbook, until that person shuffles off this mortal coil … and even then snoopers may get burned by what they read.

Or not.

Boredom is another strong possibility.

Best to stick with figures of historical import.

With all due respect to Frida Kahlo, I prefer those whom history hasn’t turned into mega-celebs.

It’s fun to discover a fascinating person via her own words and doodles, rather than seek them out as a bedazzled fan girl.

The Women’s History Project at the Archives of American Art is scanning a trove of handwritten papers as part of a year long mission to preserve and pass along the creative processes and daily doings of various women artists, art historians, critics, dealers, and gallery owners. Fascinating reading awaits those who can get past the enigmatic antique scrawl. More on that below.

A sample:

Portraitist Cecilia Beaux’s letters to her friend, frequent sitter, and possible lover, actress Dorothea Gilder. (See Beaux's painting of “Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt and daughter Ethel" from 1902 up top.)

The notebook of sculptor Anna Coleman Ladd, stuffed with quotes, poems, research, definitions, and autobiographical musings, dated the same year that she founded the American Red Cross Studio for Portrait Masks for severely disfigured WW1 vets.

The above mentioned Whitney’s 1914 travel diary, when she made several trips to France in the name of establishing and supporting a hospital in north-central France.

Ready to explore?

You can do more than that.

The project is a part of the Smithsonian Transcription Center, which depends upon the public to take a crack at deciphering the obscure cursive of these handwritten pages, strike-throughs, marginalia, and all.  You can try your hand at a single sentence or tackle an entire collection or diary. No worries if you have no transcription experience. The Center has easy to follow instructions here.

Your efforts will make the digitized documents keyword searchable, while preserving the original creators’ memories for future generations. New content will be added monthly through March 2020.

Begin your explorations of the Women’s History Project at the Archives of American Art here.

via Hyperallergic

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City this June for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Hunter S. Thompson’s Ballsy Job Application Letter (1958)

Image by RS79 , via Wikimedia Commons

In 1958, Hunter S. Thompson applied for a job with the Vancouver Sun. He was fresh out of the Air Force and struggling to make a living in New York City, though from the tone of the letter you wouldn’t know it.

People who are experts in such things say that good cover letters should match the employer’s needs with the applicant's abilities, should be tailored specifically to the job in question and should show some personality. By those yardsticks, Thompson’s letter to the Vancouver Sun is a model to be followed. He lays out his eagerness to work: "I can work 25 hours a day if necessary, live on any reasonable salary." Any HR manager would be tickled with lines like that. He succinctly describes his work experience: "most of my experience has been in sports writing, but I can write everything from warmongering propaganda to learned book reviews." And for any other fault you might find with the letter, it definitely doesn't lack in personality.

Yet the letter somehow failed to charm his would-be employer; Thompson never moved to Vancouver. Perhaps they were given pause by Thompson's steady stream of insults directed towards his former editor -- "It was as if the Marquis De Sade had suddenly found himself working for Billy Graham" -- and towards journalism in general: "It's a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity." Or perhaps it was his intentionally off-putting arrogance, "I'd rather offend you now than after I started working for you." In any case, it's a hoot to read. More people should write job application letters like this.

Read the full letter below.

Vancouver Sun
TO JACK SCOTT, VANCOUVER SUN
October 1, 1958 57 Perry Street New York City

Sir,
I got a hell of a kick reading the piece Time magazine did this week on The Sun. In addition to wishing you the best of luck, I'd also like to offer my services.

Since I haven't seen a copy of the "new" Sun yet, I'll have to make this a tentative offer. I stepped into a dung-hole the last time I took a job with a paper I didn't know anything about (see enclosed clippings) and I'm not quite ready to go charging up another blind alley.

By the time you get this letter, I'll have gotten hold of some of the recent issues of The Sun. Unless it looks totally worthless, I'll let my offer stand. And don't think that my arrogance is unintentional: it's just that I'd rather offend you now than after I started working for you.

I didn't make myself clear to the last man I worked for until after I took the job. It was as if the Marquis de Sade had suddenly found himself working for Billy Graham. The man despised me, of course, and I had nothing but contempt for him and everything he stood for. If you asked him, he'd tell you that I'm "not very likable, (that I) hate people, (that I) just want to be left alone, and (that I) feel too superior to mingle with the average person." (That's a direct quote from a memo he sent to the publisher.)

Nothing beats having good references.

Of course if you asked some of the other people I've worked for, you'd get a different set of answers. If you're interested enough to answer this letter, I'll be glad to furnish you with a list of references -- including the lad I work for now.

The enclosed clippings should give you a rough idea of who I am. It's a year old, however, and I've changed a bit since it was written. I've taken some writing courses from Columbia in my spare time, learned a hell of a lot about the newspaper business, and developed a healthy contempt for journalism as a profession.

As far as I'm concerned, it's a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity. If this is what you're trying to get The Sun away from, then I think I'd like to work for you.

Most of my experience has been in sports writing, but I can write everything from warmongering propaganda to learned book reviews.

I can work 25 hours a day if necessary, live on any reasonable salary, and don't give a black damn for job security, office politics, or adverse public relations.
I would rather be on the dole than work for a paper I was ashamed of.
It's a long way from here to British Columbia, but I think I'd enjoy the trip.

If you think you can use me, drop me a line.

If not, good luck anyway.

Sincerely,

Hunter S. Thompson

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in April 2015.

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.

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