Hear 48 Hours of Lectures by Joseph Campbell on Comparative Mythology and the Hero’s Journey

What does it mean to “grow up”? Every cul­ture has its way of defin­ing adult­hood, whether it’s sur­viv­ing an ini­ti­a­tion rit­u­al or fil­ing your first tax return. I’m only being a lit­tle facetious—people in the U.S. have long felt dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the ways we are ush­ered into adult­hood, from learn­ing how to fill out IRS forms to learn­ing how to fill out stu­dent loan and cred­it card appli­ca­tions, our cul­ture wants us to under­stand our place in the great machine. All oth­er press­ing life con­cerns are sec­ondary.

It’s lit­tle won­der, then, that gurus and cul­tur­al father fig­ures of all types have found ready audi­ences among America’s youth. Such fig­ures have left last­ing lega­cies for decades, and not all of them pos­i­tive. But one pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al from the recent past is still seen as a wise old mas­ter whose far-reach­ing influ­ence remains with us and will for the fore­see­able future. Joseph Camp­bell’s obses­sive, eru­dite books and lec­tures on world mytholo­gies and tra­di­tions have made cer­tain that ancient adult­hood rit­u­als have entered our nar­ra­tive DNA.

When Camp­bell was award­ed the Nation­al Arts Club Gold Medal in Lit­er­a­ture in 1985, psy­chol­o­gist James Hill­man stat­ed that “no one in our century—not Freud, not Thomas Mann, not Levi-Strauss—has so brought the myth­i­cal sense of the world and its eter­nal fig­ures back into our every­day con­scious­ness.” What­ev­er exam­ples Hill­man may have had in mind, we might rest our case on the fact that with­out Camp­bell there would like­ly be no Star Wars. For all its suc­cess as a mega­mar­ket­ing phe­nom­e­non, the sci-fi fran­chise has also pro­duced endur­ing­ly relat­able role mod­els, exam­ples of achiev­ing inde­pen­dence and stand­ing up to impe­ri­al­ists, even if they be your own fam­i­ly mem­bers in masks.

In the video inter­views above from 1987, Camp­bell pro­fess­es him­self no more than an “under­lin­er” who learned every­thing he knows from books. Like the con­tem­po­rary com­par­a­tive mythol­o­gist Mircea Eli­ade, Camp­bell did not con­duct his own anthro­po­log­i­cal research—he acquired a vast amount of knowl­edge by study­ing the sacred texts, arti­facts, and rit­u­als of world cul­tures. This study gave him insight into sto­ries and images that con­tin­ue to shape our world and fea­ture cen­tral­ly in huge pop cul­tur­al pro­duc­tions like The Last Jedi and Black Pan­ther.

Camp­bell describes rit­u­al entries into adult­hood that view­ers of these films will instant­ly rec­og­nize: Defeat­ing idols in masks and tak­ing on their pow­er; bur­ial enact­ments that kill the “infan­tile ego” (aca­d­e­mics, he says with a straight face, some­times nev­er leave this stage). These kinds of edge expe­ri­ences are at the very heart of the clas­sic hero’s jour­ney, an arche­type Camp­bell wrote about in his best­selling The Hero with a Thou­sand Faces and pop­u­lar­ized on PBS in The Pow­er of Myth, a series of con­ver­sa­tions with Bill Moy­ers.

In the many lec­tures just above—48 hours of audio in which Camp­bell expounds his the­o­ries of the mythological—the engag­ing, acces­si­ble writer and teacher lays out the pat­terns and sym­bols of mytholo­gies world­wide, with spe­cial focus on the hero’s jour­ney, as impor­tant to his project as dying and ris­ing god myths to James Fraz­er’s The Gold­en Bough, the inspi­ra­tion for so many mod­ernist writ­ers. Camp­bell him­self is more apt to ref­er­ence James Joyce, Carl Jung, Pablo Picas­so, or Richard Wag­n­er than sci­ence fic­tion, fan­ta­sy, or com­ic books (though he did break down Star Wars in his Moy­ers inter­views). Nonethe­less, we have him to thank for inspir­ing the likes of George Lucas and becom­ing a “patron saint of super­heroes” and space operas.

We will find some of Campbell’s meth­ods flawed and ter­mi­nol­o­gy out­dat­ed (no one uses “Ori­ent” and “Occi­dent” anymore)—and mod­ern heroes can just as well be women as men, pass­ing through the same kinds of sym­bol­ic tri­als in their ori­gin sto­ries. But Campbell’s ideas are as res­o­nant as ever, offer­ing to the wider cul­ture a coher­ent means of under­stand­ing the arche­typ­al stages of com­ing of age. As Hol­ly­wood exec­u­tive Christo­pher Vogler said in 1985, after rec­om­mend­ing The Hero with a Thou­sand Faces as a guide for screen­writ­ers, Campbell’s work “can be used to tell the sim­plest com­ic sto­ry or the most sophis­ti­cat­ed drama”—a sweep­ing vision of human cul­tur­al his­to­ry and its mean­ing for our indi­vid­ual jour­neys.

You can access the 48 hours of Joseph Camp­bell lec­tures above, or direct­ly on Spo­ti­fy.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Joseph Camp­bell and Bill Moy­ers Break Down Star Wars as an Epic, Uni­ver­sal Myth

A 12-Hour East­ern Spir­i­tu­al­i­ty Playlist: Fea­tures Lec­tures & Read­ings by Joseph Camp­bell, Christo­pher Ish­er­wood, the Dalai Lama & Oth­ers

The Com­plete Star Wars “Fil­mu­men­tary”: A 6‑Hour, Fan-Made Star Wars Doc­u­men­tary, with Behind-the-Scenes Footage & Com­men­tary

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

A Periodic Table Visualizing the Year & Country in Which Each Element Was Discovered

On the “Data is Beau­ti­ful” sub­red­dit, a user named Udzu post­ed a visu­al­i­sa­tion of the Peri­od­ic Table of Ele­ments that high­lights the year and coun­try in which each ele­ment was dis­cov­ered. You can view it in a larg­er for­mat here. Elab­o­rat­ing on how the graph­ic was made, he adds (his words, not mine, fol­low):

  • The year and coun­try of dis­cov­ery are tak­en from Wikipedia and are based on when the ele­ment was first observed or pre­dict­ed rather than when it was first iso­lat­ed.
  • The pri­or­i­ty for the dis­cov­er­ies is often con­tentious. The visu­al­i­sa­tion uses the list­ings cur­rent­ly in the Wikipedia arti­cle, with no claim as to their accu­ra­cy.
  • The coun­try is typ­i­cal­ly both the cit­i­zen­ship of the dis­cov­er­er and the loca­tion of dis­cov­ery. Excep­tions include Hafni­um (dis­cov­ered by a Dutch and Hun­gar­i­an duo in Copen­hagen) and Radon (dis­cov­ered by a British and Amer­i­can duo in Mon­tre­al); these are list­ed under loca­tion.
  • Coun­tries and flags are of the mod­ern equiv­a­lents when appro­pri­ate: e.g. Rus­sia rather than the USSR, UK rather than England/Scotland, and Mex­i­co rather than New Spain.
  • The ety­molo­gies are also tak­en from Wikipedia.
  • The leg­ends con­tain sum­ma­ry counts of the data. Good work, Swe­den.

Ranked in order, the UK could lay claim to 19 ele­ments, Swe­den and Ger­many to 18 each, France to 16, and Rus­sia and the Unit­ed States to 11 each.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Peri­od­ic Table of Endan­gered Ele­ments: Visu­al­iz­ing the Chem­i­cal Ele­ments That Could Van­ish Before You Know It

nter­ac­tive Peri­od­ic Table of Ele­ments Shows How the Ele­ments Actu­al­ly Get Used in Mak­ing Every­day Things

The Peri­od­ic Table of Ele­ments Scaled to Show The Ele­ments’ Actu­al Abun­dance on Earth

Peri­od­ic Table Bat­tle­ship!: A Fun Way To Learn the Ele­ments

“The Peri­od­ic Table Table” — All The Ele­ments in Hand-Carved Wood

World’s Small­est Peri­od­ic Table on a Human Hair

“The Peri­od­ic Table of Sto­ry­telling” Reveals the Ele­ments of Telling a Good Sto­ry

Chem­istry on YouTube: “Peri­od­ic Table of Videos” Wins SPORE Prize

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Read and Hear Tristan Tzara’s “Dada Manifesto,” the Avant-Garde Document Published 100 Years Ago (March 23, 1918)

Dada demands expla­na­tion, yet it some­how also demands not to be explained. In the near­ly 102 years since its incep­tion, many attempts at sum­ma­ry and analy­sis of that ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry Euro­pean avant-garde move­ment have emerged; as you can see in the relat­ed links at the bot­tom of the post, we’ve fea­tured a fair few of them here on Open Cul­ture. But to tru­ly under­stand Dada, you must, to the extent pos­si­ble, get inside the heads of its founders, and one short­cut to that artis­ti­cal­ly rich des­ti­na­tion takes the form of some­thing any move­ment worth its salt — espe­cial­ly any ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry Euro­pean avant-garde move­ment — will have drawn up: its man­i­festo.

“The mag­ic of a word – Dada – which has brought jour­nal­ists to the gates of a world unfore­seen, is of no impor­tance to us,” wrote Roman­ian-French essay­ist, poet, and per­for­mance artist Tris­tan Tzara almost exact­ly a cen­tu­ry ago.

To put out a man­i­festo you must want: ABC

to ful­mi­nate against 1, 2, 3

to fly into a rage and sharp­en your wings to con­quer and dis­sem­i­nate lit­tle abcs and big ABCs, to sign, shout, swear, to orga­nize prose into a form of absolute and irrefutable evi­dence, to prove your non plus ultra and main­tain that nov­el­ty resem­bles life just as the lat­est-appear­ance of some whore proves the essence of God. His exis­tence was pre­vi­ous­ly proved by the accor­dion, the land­scape, the wheedling word. To impose your ABC is a nat­ur­al thing — hence deplorable.

In this Dada Man­i­festo of March 23, 1918 (read it online here), Tzara goes on to define “Dada” as “a word that throws up ideas so that they can be shot down; every bour­geois is a lit­tle play­wright, who invents dif­fer­ent sub­jects and who, instead of sit­u­at­ing suit­able char­ac­ters on the lev­el of his own intel­li­gence, like chrysalis­es on chairs, tries to find caus­es or objects (accord­ing to whichev­er psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic method he prac­tices) to give weight to his plot, a talk­ing and self-defin­ing sto­ry.” And fur­ther down, just in case you haven’t quite got the pic­ture: “DADA DOES NOT MEAN ANYTHING.”

Dif­fer­ent trans­la­tions of Tzara’s words, of which you can hear read­ings in the videos at the top of the post and just above, put it some­what dif­fer­ent­ly: “Dada means noth­ing,” says anoth­er. But what­ev­er it means, exact­ly — or does­n’t mean, exact­ly — Dada burned bright­ly enough dur­ing its brief hey­day to pro­duce not just one man­i­festo, but two. “As in every human endeav­or when two strong per­son­al­i­ties meet, opin­ions may clash and an argu­ment often ensues,” writes Eli Ana­pur at Wide­walls. The Ger­man writer Hugo Ball actu­al­ly wrote his own Dada man­i­festo before Tzara did, in 1916. “Both Man­i­festos are expla­na­tions of the Dada move­ment and its goals, but the con­tent dif­fers as long as the modes of spread­ing the move­ment through­out Europe and ulti­mate­ly world, were con­cerned.”

Ball begins by describ­ing Dada as “a new ten­den­cy in art. One can tell this from the fact that until now nobody knew any­thing about it, and tomor­row every­one in Zurich will be talk­ing about it.” For the word itself he cites sev­er­al dic­tio­nary def­i­n­i­tions: “In French it means ‘hob­by horse.’ In Ger­man it means ‘good-by,’ ‘Get off my back,’ ‘Be see­ing you some­time.’ In Roman­ian: ‘Yes, indeed, you are right, that’s it. But of course, yes, def­i­nite­ly, right.’ ” Yet what a use­ful word it can be:

How does one achieve eter­nal bliss? By say­ing dada. How does one become famous? By say­ing dada. With a noble ges­ture and del­i­cate pro­pri­ety. Till one goes crazy. Till one los­es con­scious­ness. How can one get rid of every­thing that smacks of jour­nal­ism, worms, every­thing nice and right, blink­ered, moral­is­tic, euro­peanized, ener­vat­ed? By say­ing dada. Dada is the world soul, dada is the pawn­shop. Dada is the world’s best lily-milk soap. Dada Mr. Rubin­er, dada Mr. Kor­ro­di. Dada Mr. Anas­ta­sius Lilien­stein.

One hun­dred years on, the tenets of Dada may not look like an obvi­ous route to eter­nal bliss, fame, or the exci­sion of both­er­some ele­ments of life. But some­thing about the notion at the move­men­t’s core — of mov­ing rad­i­cal­ly beyond sense as a response to the state of the world — still res­onates today. The Europe of 1918 found itself in a bad spot, to put it mild­ly, but most of us in the ear­ly 21st cen­tu­ry also feel, at least occa­sion­al­ly, sur­round­ed by a real­i­ty that has lost its own sense. How much could it hurt to heed Ball and Tzara’s words and just say dada?

You can read Tzara’s man­i­festo at this Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia web­site.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load All 8 Issues of Dada, the Arts Jour­nal That Pub­li­cized the Avant-Garde Move­ment a Cen­tu­ry Ago (1917–21)

The ABCs of Dada Explains the Anar­chic, Irra­tional “Anti-Art” Move­ment of Dadaism

Down­load 36 Dadaist Mag­a­zines from the The Dig­i­tal Dada Archive (Plus Oth­er Avant-Garde Books, Leaflets & Ephemera)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Museum of Failure: A Living Shrine to New Coke, the Ford Edsel, Google Glass & Other Epic Corporate Fails

All suc­cess­ful prod­ucts are alike; every unsuc­cess­ful prod­uct is unsuc­cess­ful in its own way. Or so a mod­ern-day Tol­stoy might find him­self inspired to write after a vis­it to the Muse­um of Fail­ure, a mov­able feast of flops which began last year in Hels­ing­borg, Swe­den and has now opened its doors on Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard in Los Ange­les. The Don­ald Trump board game, Apple’s New­ton, Noki­a’s N‑Gage, Ford’s Edsel, Col­gate Beef Lasagne, Harley-David­son Cologne, New Coke, Google Glass: these and oth­er shin­ing exam­ples of fail­ure appear in the videos about the muse­um at the top of the post and just below.

Con­sid­ered today, many of these prod­ucts, whether well-known or thor­ough­ly obscure, look hilar­i­ous­ly ill-con­ceived. But the Muse­um of Fail­ure’s founder, a psy­chol­o­gist named Samuel West, does have high praise for some of the prod­ucts he’s col­lect­ed in his insti­tu­tion.

As you’ll find out on a vis­it there, though, they’ve all got at least one fatal flaw — a design prob­lem, bad tim­ing, mis­judg­ment of the mar­ket, falling into the cracks of exist­ing offer­ings — that drove con­sumers away. You can’t say that any of them did­n’t take a risk, but risks, by their very nature, burn out more often than they pay off.

“Why do I have all these fail­ures?” asks West in his TED Talk just above. “The point of hav­ing the muse­um is that we can learn from these fail­ures. I want us to start to admit our fail­ures as com­pa­nies, as indi­vid­u­als, so we can learn from it.” Amer­i­ca’s rel­a­tive lack of cul­tur­al stigma­ti­za­tion of fail­ure often gets cit­ed among the rea­sons for the coun­try’s rep­u­ta­tion for inno­va­tion and eco­nom­ic dynamism, but there, as any­where else, an increased will­ing­ness not just to fail but to bet­ter under­stand the nature of indi­vid­ual fail­ures would­n’t go amiss. Noth­ing suc­ceeds like suc­cess, so the say­ing goes, but the fas­ci­na­tion that has built around the Muse­um of Fail­ure so far sug­gests that we have much to gain from its oppo­site as well.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Thomas Edison’s Creepy Talk­ing Dolls: An Inven­tion That Scared Kids & Flopped on the Mar­ket

Blade Run­ner: The Pil­lar of Sci-Fi Cin­e­ma that Siskel, Ebert, and Stu­dio Execs Orig­i­nal­ly Hat­ed

Why Do So Many Peo­ple Adore The Room, the Worst Movie Ever Made? A Video Explain­er

Meet the World’s Worst Orches­tra, the Portsmouth Sin­fo­nia, Fea­tur­ing Bri­an Eno

Paulo Coel­ho on The Fear of Fail­ure

“Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Bet­ter”: How Samuel Beck­ett Cre­at­ed the Unlike­ly Mantra That Inspires Entre­pre­neurs Today

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

A 17-Hour Chronological Playlist of Pink Floyd Albums: The Evolution of the Band Revealed in 209 Tracks (1967–2014)

At the inter­sec­tion of pro­gres­sive rock, con­cep­tu­al psy­che­delia, bluesy, anthemic clas­sic rock, and exper­i­men­tal sound you’ll find Pink Floyd, a band every­one thinks they know but who always man­age to sur­prise even ardent fans with the strange twists and turns of their discog­ra­phy. One might even say, as Bill Wyman writes at Vul­ture, that “there are at least four, or arguably five, Pink Floyds.”

“The first was a goofy and absur­dist pop-rock band, led by one Syd Bar­rett,” writes Wyman. This orig­i­nal Floyd released The Piper at the Gates of Dawn then fell apart after its lead singer/writer/guitarist’s men­tal health declined pre­cip­i­tous­ly. The sec­ond Pink Floyd first took shape “before Bar­rett joined, and then reached full pre­ten­tious flower after his depar­ture” and replace­ment by David Gilmour. This was the “psy­che­del­ic, space-rock­‑y, qua­si-impro­vi­sa­tion­al ensem­ble” of A Saucer­ful of Secrets, Ummagum­ma, and Atom Heart Moth­er.

The third Floyd, Wyman argues, “is the one we know and love; the organ­ic unit that cre­at­ed Med­dle, The Dark Side of the Moon, and Wish You Were Here”—arguably the band’s cre­ative zenith. From here, we move to the fourth ver­sion, “which saw a dom­i­neer­ing [Roger] Waters tak­ing con­trol,” pro­duc­ing records that increas­ing­ly became Roger Waters solo albums—Ani­mals, The Wall, and The Final Cut. The band’s sta­di­um shows became bom­bas­tic affairs of Spinal Tap pro­por­tions.

Final­ly, the fifth and final iter­a­tion, crit­i­cal­ly snubbed but com­mer­cial­ly suc­cess­ful, left the dis­af­fect­ed Waters to his solo work and went on with Gilmour at the helm to record A Momen­tary Lapse of Rea­son, The Divi­sion Bell, and twen­ty years lat­er, the final Pink Floyd album, the most­ly instru­men­tal End­less Riv­er, made in 2014 after key­boardist Richard Wright’s death and draw­ing on record­ings from The Divi­sion Bell ses­sions.

It’s easy to find fault with this schemat­ic out­line of Pink Floyd’s career—which leaves out their detours into film sound­tracks with More, Obscured by Clouds, and an abort­ed score for Michelan­ge­lo Antonioni’s film Zabriskie Point. It leaves out a mis­be­got­ten, but notable excur­sion into bal­let (!), and exper­i­ments with found sound record­ings in the late-60s. This quick sur­vey also under­es­ti­mates the impor­tance of Syd Bar­rett.

Pink Floyd’s first front­man may have tak­en his odd­ball sen­si­bil­i­ty with him when he left the band—and brought it to his cap­ti­vat­ing­ly weird solo work—but his pres­ence remained with them for years after­ward and haunts one of their finest achieve­ments, 1975’s Wish You Were Here. There are all sorts of lines that run through the var­i­ous ver­sions of Pink Floyd, con­nect­ing their strange, youth­ful, unpre­dictable ear­ly work to the high­ly-pol­ished, and much less inter­est­ing, mature late record­ings.

And yet, Wyman’s sum­ma­ry is a use­ful cat­e­go­riza­tion nonethe­less, a suc­cinct expla­na­tion for how Pink Floyd “may be the only rock band that can cred­i­bly be com­pared to both the Bea­t­les and Spinal Tap.” His mas­sive under­tak­ing—rank­ing every Pink Floyd song from worst to best—deserves a thor­ough read. Long­time lovers of the band and new­com­ers alike will find the com­men­tary enlight­en­ing and infor­ma­tive (and he does include those film scores and gives Bar­rett his due).

While you read about each of the band’s offi­cial­ly-released, 165 songs, you can lis­ten to them as well in the Spo­ti­fy playlist above, which not only includes every stu­dio release, but every live album as well. 17 hours total of Pink Floyd’s quirky pop, space‑y, prog­gy exper­i­men­tal­ism, mas­ter­ful psych-rock sound­scapes, cli­mac­tic, polit­i­cal­ly-charged con­cept albums, and the denoue­ment of their final three albums. No mat­ter how long you’ve fol­lowed the band over their 40-plus year career, you’re like­ly to find some sur­pris­es here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The “Lost” Pink Floyd Sound­track for Michelan­ge­lo Antonioni’s Only Amer­i­can Film, Zabriskie Point (1970)

When Pink Floyd Tried to Make an Album with House­hold Objects: Hear Two Sur­viv­ing Tracks Made with Wine Glass­es & Rub­ber Bands

Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” Pro­vides a Sound­track for the Final Scene of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

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

The Models for “American Gothic” Pose in Front of the Iconic Painting (1942)

Grant Wood’s “Amer­i­can Goth­ic” now hangs at the Art Insti­tute of Chica­go. And on the muse­um’s web­site you’ll find a lit­tle back­ground infor­ma­tion intro­duc­ing you to the icon­ic 1930 paint­ing:

The impe­tus for the paint­ing came while Wood was vis­it­ing the small town of Eldon in his native Iowa. There he spot­ted a lit­tle wood farm­house, with a sin­gle over­sized win­dow, made in a style called Car­pen­ter Goth­ic. [See it here.] “I imag­ined Amer­i­can Goth­ic peo­ple with their faces stretched out long to go with this Amer­i­can Goth­ic house,” he said. He used his sis­ter and his den­tist as mod­els for a farmer and his daugh­ter, dress­ing them as if they were “tin­types from my old fam­i­ly album.” The high­ly detailed, pol­ished style and the rigid frontal­i­ty of the two fig­ures were inspired by Flem­ish Renais­sance art, which Wood stud­ied dur­ing his trav­els to Europe between 1920 and 1926. After return­ing to set­tle in Iowa, he became increas­ing­ly appre­cia­tive of mid­west­ern tra­di­tions and cul­ture, which he cel­e­brat­ed in works such as this. Amer­i­can Goth­ic, often under­stood as a satir­i­cal com­ment on the mid­west­ern char­ac­ter, quick­ly became one of America’s most famous paint­ings and is now firm­ly entrenched in the nation’s pop­u­lar cul­ture. Yet Wood intend­ed it to be a pos­i­tive state­ment about rur­al Amer­i­can val­ues, an image of reas­sur­ance at a time of great dis­lo­ca­tion and dis­il­lu­sion­ment. The man and woman, in their sol­id and well-craft­ed world, with all their strengths and weak­ness­es, rep­re­sent sur­vivors.

Above, you can see Wood’s sis­ter and dentist–otherwise known as Nan Wood Gra­ham and Dr. B.H. McKeeby–posing in front of “Amer­i­can Goth­ic” in 1942. That’s when the paint­ing first went on dis­play in its home­town, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It’s a fair­ly meta moment. Gra­ham and McK­ee­by look down­right dour in the pic­ture, just as in the paint­ing.

Grant Wood died of pan­cre­at­ic can­cer in ’42, and his sis­ter even­tu­al­ly moved to North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, where she became the care­tak­er of his lega­cy. She did, after all, owe him a debt. “Grant made a per­son­al­i­ty out of me,” she said. “I would have had a very drab life with­out [Amer­i­can Goth­ic].”

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

via Art­sy/Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

“The Artist Project” Reveals What 127 Influ­en­tial Artists See When They Look at Art: An Acclaimed Video Series from The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art

Whit­ney Muse­um Puts Online 21,000 Works of Amer­i­can Art, By 3,000 Artists

Smith­son­ian Dig­i­tizes & Lets You Down­load 40,000 Works of Asian and Amer­i­can Art

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Tom Waits Curates a 76-Song Playlist of His Own Music: An Introduction to Tom Waits by Tom Waits

If you ever find your­self in an argu­ment about the best Tom Waits songs, say, or best Tom Waits albums, or best Tom Waits peri­od, you now have the lux­u­ry of call­ing Mr. Waits him­self to the stand. Or, at least, you can point to the 76-song playlist below, curat­ed by Waits to mark the re-release of his first sev­en albums, all “orig­i­nal­ly released through Elek­tra Asy­lum Records in the 1970s,” notes Folk Radio UK, “many of which have been long out of print.” (If you don’t have Spo­ti­fy, you can also stream the playlist on iTunes if you have Apple Music.)

All sev­en records have been re-mas­tered and made avail­able dig­i­tal­ly, on CD, and vinyl pre-order at the offi­cial Tom Waits online store. Clos­ing Time, Heart of Sat­ur­day Night, Nighthawks at the Din­er, Small Change, For­eign Affairs, Blue Valen­tine, Heart Attack and Vine…. If you don’t know this first phase of Waits’ career, the titles alone should clue you in to the fact that he spent most of the 70s as a Sina­tra-lov­ing lounge singer, com­pos­ing the sad drunk­en sound of 2 A.M. heart­break at a seedy Hol­ly­wood dive.

This side of Waits sur­vives, of course, in bet­ter-known albums like Sword­fishtrom­bones, Rain Dogs, and Real Gone, but it’s often buried deep with­in the crash­ing, smash­ing, bang­ing, clang­ing sound of his lat­er work (or—in the case of his cov­er of Daniel Johnston’s “King Kong”—beat­box­ing, Tom Waits-style). In the 1987 live ver­sion of Rain Dogs’ “Clap Hands” (top), the first song on Waits’ playlist, he mix­es his reg­is­ters, trad­ing his ear­li­er raspy croon for his lat­er com­mand­ing bark, over cool, lounge‑y Latin-tinged jazz.

“Span­ning decades of mate­r­i­al,” writes Reid McCarter at The Onion’s A.V. Club, the playlist has Waits, “like a growl­ing Vir­gil tak­ing your soft lit­tle hand safe­ly into his gnarled grip,” lead­ing you through his cat­a­log as only he could. Have a quar­rel with his choic­es? “Upset that the first half hour is dom­i­nat­ed by piano bal­lads?” Well, take it up with the man him­self. “Sure­ly,” McCarter taunts, “you must know Tom Waits’ music bet­ter than Tom Waits him­self.”

Of course, we’re always free to dis­agree with the artist’s assess­ment of his work. But if you’re a Waits new­bie, I couldn’t rec­om­mend a bet­ter guide. Alter­nate­ly, you can work your way through his entire cat­a­log from start to fin­ish—stream it all, from Clos­ing Time to his last stu­dio album Bad as Me, here.

via A.V. Club

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stream All of Tom Waits’ Music in a 24 Hour Playlist: The Com­plete Discog­ra­phy

Tom Waits Makes a List of His Top 20 Favorite Albums of All Time

Tom Waits For No One: Watch the Pio­neer­ing Ani­mat­ed Tom Waits Music Video from 1979

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

Come on Down to David Byrne’s Giant Suit Emporium: We’re Burning Down the House with Savings!

A fun­ny bit of com­e­dy that accom­pa­nied David Byrne’s recent vis­it to The Late Show with Stephen Col­bert, where he per­formed ‘Every­body’s Com­ing To My House,’ the lead track off of his new album Amer­i­can Utopia. Pick up the album. Catch one of his con­certs this sum­mer. And don’t miss his new uplift­ing web site, Rea­sons to Be Cheer­ful.

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via @dark_shark

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Byrne Launch­es the “Rea­sons to Be Cheer­ful” Web Site: A Com­pendi­um of News Meant to Remind Us That the World Isn’t Actu­al­ly Falling Apart

David Byrne’s Grad­u­a­tion Speech Offers Trou­bling and Encour­ag­ing Advice for Stu­dents in the Arts

David Byrne: From Talk­ing Heads Front­man to Lead­ing Urban Cyclist

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.