Hear a Complete Reading of the Newly-Discovered Kurt Vonnegut Story, “The Drone King”

Twenty some years before a young engineer named Ray Tomlinson invented email, writer Kurt Vonnegut invented bee-mail in “The Drone King,” a story that didn’t see the light of day until his friend and fellow author Dan Wakefield unearthed it while going through old papers for a new Vonnegut collection.

The collection’s co-editor, Vonnegut scholar Jerome Klinkowitz, estimates that it was written in the early 50s, likely before the publication of his first novel, Player Piano, in 1952.

This early work, recently published in The Atlantic as well as Wakefield and Klinkowitz's collection, shows an author whose gallows humor is already firmly in place.

Several of his favorite themes crop up, too: the enthusiasm of the misguided entrepreneur, the battle of the sexes, and technology taken to absurd extremes (i.e. bees delivering scraps of messages in soda straws tied to their thoraxes).

If we’re not mistaken Indianapolis, Vonnegut’s boyhood home, now host to his Memorial Library, puts in an unbilled appearance, as well. The story’s Millennium Club bears an uncanny resemblance to that city’s Athletic Club, now defunct.

The self-pitying male haplessness Vonnegut spoofs so ably feels just as skewer-able in the post-Weinstein era, though the doddering black waiter’s dialect is rather queasy-making, especially in the mouth of the white narrator reading the story, above.

You can buy "The Drone King" as part of Kurt Vonnegut Complete Stories collection or read it free online here. The Atlantic was also good enough to create an audio version. It's excerpted up top. And it appears in its entirety right above.

"The Drone King" will be added to our Free Audio Books and Free eBooks collections.

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

Behold the Beautiful Designs of Brazil’s 1920s Art Deco Magazine, Para Todos

Art Nouveau, Art Deco… these are terms we associate not only with a particular period in history—the turn of the 20th century and the ensuing jazz-age of the 20s—but also with particular locales: Paris, New York, L.A., London, Vienna, or the Jugendstil of Weimar Munich. We probably do not think of Rio de Janeiro. This may be due to biases about the privileged location of culture, such that most people in Europe and North America, even those with an arts education, know very little about art from “the colonies.”

But it is also the case that Brazil had its own modern art movement, one that strove for a distinctly Brazilian sensibility even as it remained in dialogue with Europe and the U.S. The movement announced itself in 1922, the centennial of the South American nation’s independence from Portugal.

In celebration, artists from São Paulo held the Semana de Arte Moderna, seven days in which, the BBC writes, they “constructed, deconstructed, performed, sculpted, gave lectures, read poetry and created some of the most avant-garde works ever seen in Brazil.”

1922 also happened to be the year that a Rio de Janeiro-born artist, illustrator, and graphic designer who went by the name J. Carlos (José Carlos de Brito e Cunha) took over the direction of the magazine Para Todos. Founded in 1918, the magazine began as a film rag, and its covers faithfully featured photo spreads of movie stars. But in 1926, Carlos, who had already proven himself a “major talent in Brazilian Art Deco graphic design,” writes Messy Nessy, began drawing his own cover illustrations, and he continued to do so for the next four years, as well as drawing thousands of cartoons and writing vaudeville plays and samba lyrics.

His work clearly draws from Euro-American sources, including several unfortunate racial caricatures. But it also introduces some uniquely Brazilian elements, or uniquely Carlos-ian elements, that seem almost proto-psychedelic (we might imagine a jazz-age Os Mutantes accompanying these trippy designs).  J. Carlos was a prolific artist who “collaborated in design and illustration in all the major publications of Brazil from the 1920s until the 1950s.” In all, it’s estimated that he left behind over 100,000 illustrations. So devoted was Carlos to the art and culture of his native city that he apparently turned down an invitation by Walt Disney to work in Hollywood.

Print magazine describes Carlos’ work as “a cross between Aubrey Beardsley and John Held Jr.,” and while there is no shortage of the willowy, doll-like flappers, elongated, elfin figures, and intricate, spidery patterns we would expect from this derivation, Carlos is also doing something very different from either of those artists—or really from anyone working in the Northern Hemisphere. He has since become a heroic figure for Brazilian artists and scholars, inspiring an extensive web project, a visual thesis on Issuu, and two recent documentary films (all in Portuguese), which you can find here.

In 2009, Carlos received a posthumous honor that probably would have thrilled him in life, a tribute song by the Académicos da Rocinha samba club. Listen to it here and find several more of Carlos’ Para Todos covers at Messy Nessy, Print, and the Brazilian blog Os caminhos do Journalismo.

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

Download Hundreds of Issues of Jugend, Germany’s Pioneering Art Nouveau Magazine (1896-1940)

It’s an ungainly word for English speakers, which is maybe why we do not hear it often: Gleichschaltung. Yet the concept remains central for a clear view of what happened to Germany in the 1930s. In 1933, the nation completely transformed, seemingly overnight, through “a concerted policy of ‘coordination’ (Gleischaltung),” the U.S. Holocaust Museum writes. “Culture, the economy, education, and law all came under Nazi control.” Those artists and organizations that were not purged had their essential character changed to reflect an entirely different set of artistic and political values. One publication, especially, serves as an example of the Nazification of culture.

The arts journal Jugend (Youth), writes Messy ’N Chic, “had been turned largely into propaganda” between 1933 and 1940, its final year. But prior to the regime’s takeover, Jugend showcased the most avant-garde, “degenerate” artists of the era, and might have been “the ‘brainiest’ periodical of the day,” as one critic wrote in a 1904 issue of The Yale Literary Magazine. “There is no magazine published in England or in this country which is at all like it.”

You can take a look yourself—browse, search, and download hundreds of scanned issues of Jugend at the University of Heidelberg's digital archive, thousands of pages in PDF form, spanning the magazine's forty-four year history. You can also see images at Flickr.

As in England, France, Austria, and the U.S., the Art Nouveau movement in Germany emerged from a whirlwind of post-Impressionist painting, Orientalist motifs, folk art, modernist art and advertising, book illustration, and graphic and industrial design. Appropriately, given its perch on the threshold of a new millennium, Art Nouveau looked both backward—to the medieval, gothic, and Romantic—and forward toward a more modernist, urbane, and urbanized sensibility.

So influential was Jugend that Art Nouveau in Germany became known as Jugendstil. The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines writes, "Among Jugend's most important qualities—indeed, an essential aspect of Art Nouveau and its German equivalent Jugendstil—was its brilliant escapism." Founded in 1896 by writer George Hirth, the magazine was "from the start a venue to promote the new cultural Renaissance without recourse to the established 'vintage' art." (See its very first cover right above.)

Jugenstil was primarily based in Munich, where most of its artists, designers, and writers lived and worked, until the turn of the century, when, notes the Art Encyclopedia, "the Munich group dispersed, heading for Berlin, Weimar and Darmstadt." Art Nouveau in Germany developed in two phases, "a pre-1900 phase dominated by floral motifs, themselves rooted in English Art Nouveau and Japanese art," and a "post-1900 phase, marked by a tendency towards abstract art."

While we know the names of many Art Nouveau artists from elsewhere in Europe—Henri Toulouse-Lautrec in France, Aubrey Beardsley in England, Gustave Klimt in Austria, for example— Jugendstil in Germany produced few international stars. Many of the artists published in its pages were relatively unknown at first. But its shockingly brilliant covers and radical editorial tone put it at the forefront of German arts for decades. "Jugend's political and social platform," wrote the The Yale Literary Magazine critic, "is one of opposition—opposition to everything."

In 1933, however, the magazine was forced to comply with the kind of dour conservatism it had arisen explicitly to protest. Its wild covers and proudly original contents turned sombre and neoclassical, as in the bust of Nietzsche on the cover above from 1934. Many of its artists disappeared or went into exile. But as we observe this transformation happening abruptly in the University of Heidelberg archive, we still see a magazine whose editorial staff held fast to notions of artistic quality, as they were forced to turn away from everything that had made Jugend exciting, cutting-edge, and worthy of its title.

via Messy ’N Chic

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

The Tokyoiter: Artists Pay Tribute to the Japanese Capital with New Yorker-Style Magazine Covers

When humorist and New Yorker contributor David Sedaris quit smoking about a decade ago, he chose Tokyo in which to do it: "Its foreignness would take me out of myself, I hoped, and give me something to concentrate on besides my own suffering." That first extended trip not only allowed him to kick the habit and gave him plenty of culture clashes to write about, but began his relationship with Tokyo that continues to this day. "Windows flanked the moving sidewalks, and on their ledges sat potted flowers," he writes in appreciation in his first diaries there. "No one had pulled the petals off. No one had thrown trash into the pots or dashed them to the floor. How different life looks when people behave themselves."

Most strikingly of all, there stood all "those vending machines, right out in the open, lined up on the sidewalk like people waiting for a bus." The then-Paris-based Sedaris commiserates with a French Japanese language school classmate: "'Can you believe it?' he asked. 'In the subway station, on the street, they just stand there, completely unmolested.'"

Our Indonesian classmate came up, and after listening to us go on, he asked what the big deal was.

“In New York or Paris, these machines would be trashed,” I told him.

The Indonesian raised his eyebrows.

“He means destroyed,” Christophe said. “Persons would break the glass and cover everything with graffiti.”

The Indonesian student asked why, and we were hard put to explain.

“It’s something to do?” I offered.

“But you can read a newspaper,” the Indonesian said.

“Yes,” I explained, “but that wouldn’t satisfy your basic need to tear something apart.”

Those vending machines, a basic expectation to Tokyoites but a barely imaginable luxury to many a foreigner, appear on one cover of the Tokyoiter, a collaborative art project producing a series of covers for an imaginary New Yorker-style magazine based in the Japanese capital. This tribute to a distinctively Japanese form of automated sidewalk commerce comes from Hennie Haworth, an illustrator based in England (where Sedaris also now lives, incidentally) who spent six months in Japan doing nothing but drawing its vending machines.

"I have a family member living in Japan which gives me excuse to visit every now and again," writes illustrator Yuliya. "One of the main inspirations I find in folklore and all the magical beings of Japan. I’m originally from Ukraine and grew up surrounded by folk tales and superstitions, and even though I never truly believed in any of it, it always fascinated me. I miss that in modern Western world. So the creatures on my cover are made up but they are inspired by Japanese Yokai and just like the rest of Tokyo, they’re taking a spontaneous nap on the train." Other Tokyoiter covers, contributed by artists from all around the world, take as their subjects Tokyo's architecture, its food, its street life, its bath houses, and much more besides.

Taken as a collection, the project presents a combination of images of Tokyo familiar even to those who've never set foot in the city and references whose nuances only a Tokyoite — or at least someone with a Sedaris-level familiarity with the place — can immediately grasp. What could be more Tokyo, for instance, than the Rockabilly dancers of Yoyogi Park, portrayed here by Australian artist Grace Lee, who for more than 40 years have spent their Sunday afternoons taking 1950s Americana to its absolute limit for the enjoyment of all who pass by? And if you've gone to see them yourself, you'll know that, if you get thirsty while watching, you can simply buy a drink from one of the many vending machines nearby, all lined up right out in the open.

See more covers in the Tokyoiter collection here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Read 1,000 Editions of The Village Voice: A Digital Archive of the Iconic New York City Paper

After The Village Voice announced this week that it was folding its print operation, a couple people compared the venerable NYC rag's demise to the end of Gawker, the snarky online tabloid taken down by Hulk Hogan and his shadowy financier Peter Thiel. For too many reasons to list, this comparison seems to my mind hardly apt. There’s a gesture toward the Voice’s profane unruliness, but the alternative weekly, founded in 1955, transcended the blog age’s sophomoric nihilism. The hermetic container of its newsprint sealed out frothing comment sections; no links ferried readers through rivers of personalized algorithms.

The Voice published hard journalism that many, including Voice writers themselves, have ruefully revisited of late. Its music and culture writers like Nat Hentoff, Lester Bangs, Sasha Frere-Jones, Robert Christgau and so many others are some of the smartest in the business. Its columnists, editors, and reviewers—Andrew Sarris, J. Hoberman, Robert Sietsema, Tom Robbins, Greg Tate, Michael Musto, Thulani Davis, Ta-Nehisi Coates—equally so.

In its over sixty-year run, Voice writers sat in the front rows for the birth for hard bop, free jazz, punk, no wave, and hip-hop, and all manner of downtown experimentalism in-between and after.

Amongst the many remembrances from current and former Voice staff in a recent Esquire oral history, one from editor and writer Camille Dodero stands out: “The alt-weekly’s purpose was, in theory, speaking truth to power and the ability to be irreverent, and print the word ‘fuck’ while doing so.’” Mission accomplished many times over, as you can see yourself in Google’s Village Voice archive, featuring 1,000 scanned issues going all the back to 1955, when Norman Mailer founded the paper with Ed Fancher, Dan Wolf, and John Wilcock. There are “blind spots” in Google's archive of the Voicenoted John Cook at the erstwhile Gawker. In 2009, his “searches didn’t turn up any coverage of Norman Mailer’s 1969 campaign or the Stonewall riots… and there’s not much on Rudy Giuliani’s mayoral bid.” Many years later, months and years in the Google archive remain blank, “no editions available.”

The Voice has had its own blind spots. Writer Walter Troy Spencer referred to Stonewall, for example, as “The Great Faggot Rebellion” and used a phrase that has perhaps become the most wearisome in American English: “there was mostly ugliness on both sides.” This anti-gay prejudice was a regular feature of the paper’s first few years, but by 1982, just as the AIDS crisis began to filter into public consciousness, the Voice was the second organization in the US to offer extended benefits to domestic partners. It became a prominent voice for New York’s LGBTQ culture and politics, through all the buyouts, cutbacks, and unbeatable competition that brought it to its current pass.

The paper also became a voice for the most interesting things happening in the city at any given time, such as the goings on at a Bowery dive called CBGB in 1975. Character studies have long been a Voice staple. Lester Bangs’ write-up of Iggy Pop two years later cut to the heart of the matter: “It’s as if someone writhing in torment has made that writhing into a kind of poetry.” Back in '75, Andrew Sarris wrote a rather jaw-dropping profile of Hervé  Villechaize (in which he begins a sentence, “The problem of midgets….”).  …. the more I look through Voice back issues, the more I think it might have been a Gawker of its time, but as onetime columnist Harry Siegel tells Esquire, “what made it unique depends a lot on the age of who you’re asking. It was a very different paper in different decades. It was valuable enough for a long time that people paid money to read it.”

Indeed its first issue cost 5 cents, though by the nondescript cover, above, you wouldn’t guess it would amuse or titillate in the ways the Village Voice became well-known for—in its columns, photos, cartoons, and libertine advertising and classifieds. But most people these days remember it as "free every Wednesday," to proffer dance, film, theater, music, restaurants, to line subway cars and birdcages, and to open up the city to its readers. The Voice is dead, long live the Voice.

Enter the digital archive of the Voice here.

Writings from the Voice have been collected in these anthologies: The Village Voice Anthology (1956-1980) and The Village Voice Reader.

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Enter a Huge Archive of Amazing Stories, the World’s First Science Fiction Magazine, Launched in 1926

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

Enter a Huge Archive of Amazing Stories, the World’s First Science Fiction Magazine, Launched in 1926

If you haven’t heard of Hugo Gernsback, you’ve surely heard of the Hugo Award. Next to the Nebula, it’s the most prestigious of science fiction prizes, bringing together in its ranks of winners such venerable authors as Ursula K. Le Guin, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Neil Gaiman, Isaac Asimov, and just about every other sci-fi and fantasy luminary you could think of. It is indeed fitting that such an honor should be named for Gernsback, the Luxembourgian-American inventor who, in April of 1926, began publishing “the first and longest-running English-language magazine dedicated to what was then not quite yet called ‘science fiction,’” notes University of Virginia’s Andrew Ferguson at The Pulp Magazines Project. Amazing Stories provided an “exclusive outlet” for what Gernsback first called “scientifiction,” a genre he would “for better and for worse, define for the modern era.” You can read and download hundreds of Amazing Stories issues, from the first year of its publication to the last, at the Internet Archive.

Like the extensive list of Hugo Award winners, the back catalog of Amazing Stories encompasses a host of geniuses: Le Guin, Asimov, H.G. Wells, Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, and many hundreds of lesser-known writers. But the magazine “was slow to develop,” writes Scott Van Wynsberghe. Its lurid covers lured some readers in, but its "first two years were dominated by preprinted material,” and Gernsback developed a reputation for financial dodginess and for not paying his writers well or at all.

By 1929, he sold the magazine and moved on to other ventures, none of them particularly successful. Amazing Stories soldiered on, under a series of editors and with widely varying readerships until it finally succumbed in 2005, after almost eighty years of publication. But that is no small feat in such an often unpopular field, with a publication, writes Ferguson, that was very often perceived as “garish and nonliterary.”

In hindsight, however, we can see Amazing Stories as a sci-fi time capsule and almost essential feature of the genre’s history, even if some of its content tended more toward the young adult adventure story than serious adult fiction. Its flashy covers set the bar for pulp magazines and comic books, especially in its run up to the fifties. After 1955, the year of the first Hugo Award, the magazine reached its peak under the editorship of Cele Goldsmith, who took over in 1959. Gone was much of the eyepopping B-movie imagery of the earlier covers. Amazing Stories acquired a new level of relative polish and sophistication, and published many more “literary” writers, as in the 1959 issue above, which featured a “Book-Length Novel by Robert Bloch.”

This trend continued into the seventies, as you can see in the issue above, with a “complete short novel by Gordon Eklund” (and early fiction by George R.R. Martin). In 1982, Ferguson writes, Amazing Stories was sold “to Gary Gygax of D&D fame, and would never again regain the prominence it had before.” The magazine largely returned to its pulp roots, with covers that resembled those of supermarket paperbacks. Great writers continued to appear, however. And the magazine remained an important source for new science fiction—though much of it only in hindsight. As for Gernsback, his reputation waned considerably after his death in 1967.

“Within a decade,” writes Van Wynsberghe, “science fiction pundits were debating whether or not he had created a ‘ghetto’ for hack writers.” In 1986, novelist Brian Aldiss called Gernsback “one of the worst disasters ever to hit the science fiction field.” His 1911 novel, the ludicrously named Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 is considered “one of the worst science fiction novels in history,” writes Matthew Lasar. It may seem odd that the Oscar of the sci-fi world should be named for such a reviled figure. And yet, despite his pronounced lack of literary ability, Gernsback was a visionary. As a futurist, he made some startlingly accurate predictions, along with some not-so-accurate ones. As for his significant contribution to a new form of writing, writes Lasar, “It was in Amazing Stories that Gernsback first tried to nail down the science fiction idea.” As Ray Bradbury supposedly said, “Gernsback made us fall in love with the future.” Enter the Amazing Stories Internet Archive here.

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


Free: 355 Issues of Galaxy, the Groundbreaking 1950s Science Fiction Magazine

Along with Astounding Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy Magazine was one of the most important science fiction digests in 1950s America. Ray Bradbury wrote for it--including an early version of his masterpiece Fahrenheit 451--as did Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, Theodore Sturgeon, Cordwainer Smith, Jack Vance, and numerous others.

Now a fairly decent collection of issues (355 in total) is available for your perusal at archive.org for absolutely free. It’s not complete yet, but it’s close.

When Galaxy appeared in October 1950, it promised a kind of science-fiction different from the space operas of previous decades. As an “annual report” written by publisher H.L. Gold proclaimed,

...other publishers thought the idea of offering mature science fiction in an attractive, adult format was downright funny. They knew what sold--shapely female endomorphs with bronze bras, embattled male mesomorphs clad in muscle, and frightful alien monsters in search of a human soul.

And while Astounding Science Fiction was focused on technology--suited for an America that had fundamentally changed since WWII--H.L. Gold’s Galaxy focused on ideas, humor, satire, psychology and sociology. It also had one of the best pay rates in the industry, and offered some of its writers exclusive contracts. And the writers responded in kind and followed their own obsessions--although Gold often pitched ideas.

(Ironically, though immersed in stories of inner and outer space, Gold was an acute agoraphobe, and stayed in his apartment, communicating by phone.)

After a wobbly start graphics-wise, Gold hired Ed Emshwiller in 1951 to paint covers, whose often humorous style (e.g. this Christmas issue below) suited the humor inside the issue.

Confident in their stable of writers, Galaxy produced the wonderful birthday cover at the top, featuring caricatures of everybody from Bradbury to Asimov. There’s also a guide to see who’s who.

A series of editors--including Frederik Pohl--took over from Gold after a car accident in 1961, and by 1977--eight years after Pohl's departure--the magazine was on its decline. There were more iterations, reprints, anthologies, and online versions, but the essential run is here. And those first ten years changed American science-fiction forever, paving the way for experimental writers like Philip K. Dick and William Gibson.

You could start with the Ray Bradbury story (“The Fireman”) we told you about, or Robert A. Heinlein’s “The Puppet Masters.”

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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.

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