“More Barn!” The Story of How Neil Young First Played Harvest for Graham Nash (1972)

Image by Dar­ren Swim, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Every­one knows the punch­line “more cow­bell” from SNL’s affec­tion­ate jab at the Blue Öys­ter Cult’s enthu­si­asm. But how many peo­ple know the true sto­ry of “more barn”?

Too pre­cious few, I’d say.

It’s a clas­sic from that icon of clas­sic rock, Neil Young, a yarn—as told by Gra­ham Nash—that defies par­o­dy, and beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trates the absur­di­ty of Neil Young’s com­mit­ment to raw, rus­tic authen­tic­i­ty. For his ded­i­cat­ed fans, Neil’s ram­shackle meth­ods always yield wor­thy results. Even when he’s off, he’s so damned into it, it’s hard to ever fault him.

And when he’s on—in mas­ter­pieces like 1972’s Har­vest—Neil does no wrong. His tal­ents stretch beyond intense­ly impas­sioned songcraft and deliv­ery to a holis­tic appre­ci­a­tion of sound in all its forms (and a loathing for tech­nol­o­gy that does sound an injus­tice).

In the inter­view above with NPR’s Ter­ry Gross after the pub­li­ca­tion of his book Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life, Young’s erst­while CSNY band­mate Nash recounts the day Young first played him Har­vest:

The man is total­ly com­mit­ted to the muse of music. And he’ll do any­thing for good music. And some­times it’s very strange. I was at Neil’s ranch one day just south of San Fran­cis­co, and he has a beau­ti­ful lake with red-wing black­birds. And he asked me if I want­ed to hear his new album, “Har­vest.” And I said sure, let’s go into the stu­dio and lis­ten.

Oh, no. That’s not what Neil had in mind. He said get into the row­boat.

I said get into the row­boat? He said, yeah, we’re going to go out into the mid­dle of the lake. Now, I think he’s got a lit­tle cas­sette play­er with him or a lit­tle, you know, ear­ly dig­i­tal for­mat play­er. So I’m think­ing I’m going to wear head­phones and lis­ten in the rel­a­tive peace in the mid­dle of Neil’s lake.

Oh, no. He has his entire house as the left speak­er and his entire barn as the right speak­er. And I heard “Har­vest” com­ing out of these two incred­i­bly large loud speak­ers loud­er than hell. It was unbe­liev­able. Elliot Maz­er, who pro­duced Neil, pro­duced “Har­vest,” came down to the shore of the lake and he shout­ed out to Neil: How was that, Neil?

And I swear to god, Neil Young shout­ed back: More barn!

Now, whether or not that last bit is a Nash inven­tion, it must for­ev­er remain the punch­line of the sto­ry, which must always be referred to as “more barn.” But there’s no rea­son to think it didn’t hap­pen just the way Nash tells it.

In the film at the top, Young lis­tens to play­back of Har­vest through the barn, com­ments on the “nat­ur­al echo” of its rever­ber­a­tions from yon­der hill­side, drinks a Coors, and lounges in the straw. (He also talks in earnest depth about the eth­i­cal and per­son­al chal­lenges of being a “rich hip­pie.”)

I’ve heard this album count­less times through head­phones and stereo, sur­round, and car speak­ers, but until I can yell out “more barn!” I’m con­vinced I have not tru­ly heard it at all.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Neil Young Per­forms Clas­sic Songs in 1971 Con­cert: “Old Man,” “Heart of Gold” & More

Neil Young Busk­ing in Glas­gow, 1976: The Sto­ry Behind the Footage

When Neil Young & Rick James Cre­at­ed the 60’s Motown Band, The Mynah Birds

Miles Davis Opens for Neil Young and “That Sor­ry-Ass Cat” Steve Miller at The Fill­more East (1970)

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

How the Inca Used Intricately-Knotted Cords, Called Khipu, to Write Their Histories, Send Messages & Keep Records

Those of us who learned to write in a (most­ly) pho­net­ic lan­guage learned to take it for grant­ed that writ­ing should cor­re­spond (rough­ly) to sound. Then we learned of the pic­tographs, ideo­graphs, and logograms of the Chi­nese alpha­bet, or of Ancient Egypt­ian or Mayan, or of oth­er non-phone­mic orthogra­phies, and we were forced to revise ear­li­er assump­tions. Those who pur­sue the study of sym­bol­ic sys­tems even fur­ther will even­tu­al­ly come to meet khipu, the Incan sys­tem of record-keep­ing that uses intri­cate­ly knot­ted rope.

Khipu, long thought an aba­cus-like means of book­keep­ing, has recent­ly been acknowl­edged as much more than that, coun­ter­ing a schol­ar­ly view Daniel Cossins sum­ma­rizes at New Sci­en­tist as the belief that the Incas, despite their tech­no­log­i­cal and polit­i­cal “sophis­ti­ca­tion… nev­er learned to write.” This Euro­pean logo­cen­trism (in the Der­ridean sense), per­sist­ed for cen­turies despite some evi­dence to the con­trary four hun­dred years ago.

For exam­ple, the poet Gar­cila­so de la Vega, son of an Incan princess and Span­ish con­quis­ta­dor, wrote in 1609 that the Incas “record­ed on knots every­thing that could be count­ed, even men­tion­ing bat­tles and fights, all the embassies that had come to vis­it the Inca, and all the speech­es and argu­ments they had uttered.” There may be some hyper­bole here. In any case, the point “was moot,” notes Cossins, “because no one could read any of them.”

Like most­ly illit­er­ate cul­tures in the West and East that relied on scribes for record-keep­ing, Incan civ­i­liza­tion relied on khipumayuq, “or the keep­ers of the khi­pus, a spe­cial­ly trained caste who could tie and read the cords.” As explor­er Ale­jan­dro Chu and Patri­cia Lan­da, Con­ser­va­tor of the Inc­ahuasi Arche­o­log­i­cal Project, explain in the Nation­al Geo­graph­ic video at the top, these spe­cial­ists died, or were killed off, before they could pass their knowl­edge to the next gen­er­a­tions.

But the lin­guis­tic code, it seems, may have been cracked—by an under­grad­u­ate fresh­man eco­nom­ics major at Har­vard named Man­ny Medra­no. As Atlas Obscu­ra report­ed last year, Medra­no, work­ing under his pro­fes­sor of Pre-Columbian stud­ies, Gary Urton, spent his spring break match­ing a set of six khipu against a colo­nial-era Span­ish cen­sus doc­u­ment. He was able to con­firm what schol­ars had long assumed, that khipu kept track of cen­sus and oth­er admin­is­tra­tive data.

More­over, though, Medra­no “noticed that the way each cord was tied onto the khipu seemed to cor­re­spond to the social sta­tus of the 132 peo­ple record­ed in the cen­sus doc­u­ment. The col­ors of the strings also appeared to be relat­ed to the people’s first names.” (Now a senior, Medrano’s find­ings have been pub­lished in the jour­nal Eth­no­his­to­ry; he is first author on the paper, “indi­cat­ing that he con­tributed the bulk of the research”).

This research shows how khipu can tell sto­ries as well as record data sets. Medra­no built upon decades of work done by Urton and oth­er schol­ars, which Cossins sum­ma­rizes in more detail. Oth­er ethno­g­ra­phers like St. Andrews’ Sabine Hyland have had sim­i­lar epipha­nies. Hyland chanced upon a woman in Lima who point­ed her to khi­pus in the vil­lage of San Juan de Col­la­ta. The vil­lagers “believe them to be nar­ra­tive epis­tles,” writes Cossins, “cre­at­ed by local chiefs dur­ing a rebel­lion against the Span­ish in the late 18th cen­tu­ry.”

After care­ful analy­sis, Hyland found that the khi­pus’ pen­dant cords “came in 95 dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of colour, fibre type and direc­tion of ply. That is with­in the range of sym­bols typ­i­cal­ly found in syl­lab­ic writ­ing sys­tems.” She has since hypoth­e­sized that khipu “con­tain a com­bi­na­tion of pho­net­ic sym­bols and ideo­graph­ic ones, where a sym­bol rep­re­sents a whole word.”

Hyland grants it’s pos­si­ble that lat­er khi­pus made after con­tact with the Span­ish may have absorbed an alpha­bet from Span­ish writ­ing. Nev­er­the­less, these find­ings should make us won­der what oth­er arti­facts from around the world pre­serve a lan­guage West­ern schol­ars have nev­er learned how to read.

Attempts to deci­pher khi­pus use all sorts of com­par­a­tive meth­ods, from com­par­ing them with each oth­er to com­par­ing them with con­tem­po­rary Span­ish doc­u­ments. But one inno­v­a­tive method at MIT began by com­par­ing Incan khipu with stu­dent attempts to cre­ate their own rope lan­guage, in a 2007 course led by the “Khipu Research Group,” a col­lec­tion of schol­ars, includ­ing Urton, from arche­ol­o­gy, elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing, and com­put­er sci­ence.

“To gain insight into this ques­tion” of how the code might work, the syl­labus notes, “this class will explore how you would record lan­guage with knots in rope.” Maybe you’d rather skip the guess­work and learn how to make a khipu the way the Inca may have done? If so, see the series of six videos above by Har­vard Ph.D. stu­dent in arche­ol­o­gy, Jon Clin­daniel. And to learn as much about khipu as you might ever hope to know, check out the Khipu Data­base Project at Har­vard, whose goal is to col­lect “all known infor­ma­tion about khipu into one cen­tral­ized repos­i­to­ry.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of Machu Pic­chu, One of the New 7 Won­ders of the World

How to Write in Cuneiform, the Old­est Writ­ing Sys­tem in the World: A Short, Charm­ing Intro­duc­tion

Trigonom­e­try Dis­cov­ered on a 3700-Year-Old Ancient Baby­lon­ian Tablet

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

Alan Watts Dispenses Wit & Wisdom on the Meaning of Life in Three Animated Videos

Since his death in 1973, the pop­u­lar British philoso­pher, writer, speak­er, and one­time-Epis­co­pal-priest-turned-stu­dent-of-Zen-and-wild­ly-eclec­tic-coun­ter­cul­tur­al-spir­i­tu­al-thinker Alan Watts has become a cot­tage indus­try of sorts. And if you were unfa­mil­iar with his work, you might think—given this descrip­tion and the men­tion of the word “industry”—that Watts found­ed some sort of self-help sem­i­nar series, the kind in which peo­ple make a con­sid­er­able invest­ment of time and mon­ey.

In a sense, he did: the Alan Watts Orga­ni­za­tion (pre­vi­ous­ly known as the Alan Watts Elec­tron­ic Uni­ver­si­ty, the Alan Watts Cen­ter, or the Alan Watts Project) main­tains Watts’ pro­lif­ic audio and video archives. Found­ed in the last year of his life by Watts and his son Mark, the Orga­ni­za­tion charges for access to most of his work. The col­lec­tions are pricey. Albums of talks on such sub­jects as Bud­dhism and Com­par­a­tive Phi­los­o­phy and Reli­gion are exten­sive, but come at a cost.

Though the orga­ni­za­tion offers free con­tent, you could find your­self spend­ing sev­er­al hun­dred dol­lars to hear the col­lect­ed Watts lec­tures. It’s mon­ey the Mark Watts sug­gests cov­ers the “sub­stan­tial under­tak­ing” of dig­i­tiz­ing hun­dreds of hours of record­ings on lac­quered disks and mag­net­ic reels. These are noble and nec­es­sary efforts, but fans of Watts will know that hun­dreds of selec­tions from his deeply engag­ing talks are also freely avail­able on YouTube, many of them with nifty ani­ma­tions and musi­cal accom­pa­ni­ment, like the videos here from After Skool.

Watts would like­ly have been pleased with this situation—he loved to give out wis­dom wide­ly and kept no eso­teric trade secrets. But he was also, by his own admis­sion, “a spiritual/philosophical enter­tain­er,” who made a liv­ing telling peo­ple some of the most unset­tling, coun­ter­in­tu­itive meta­phys­i­cal truths there are. He did it with humor, eru­di­tion and com­pas­sion, with intel­lec­tu­al clar­i­ty and rhetor­i­cal aplomb.

So what did he have to tell us? That we should join the church of Alan Watts? Attend his next lec­ture and buy his book? Shape our lives into an emu­la­tion of Alan Watts? Though he wore the trap­pings of a West­ern expos­i­tor of East­ern thought, and embraced all kinds of non-tra­di­tion­al beliefs and prac­tices, Watts was too iron­i­cal and detached to be a guru. He couldn’t take him­self seri­ous­ly enough for that.

If there’s any one thread that runs through the incred­i­bly broad range of sub­jects he cov­ered, it’s that we should nev­er take our­selves too seri­ous­ly either. We buy into sto­ries and ideas and think of them as con­crete enti­ties that form the bound­aries of iden­ti­ty and exis­tence: sto­ries like think­ing of life as a “jour­ney” on the way to some spe­cif­ic denoue­ment. Not so, as Watts says in the ani­mat­ed video at the top. Life is an art, a form of play: “the whole point of the danc­ing is the dance.”

But what about the mean­ing of life? Is Alan Watts going to reveal it in the last course of his ten-week ses­sion (payable in install­ments)? Will we dis­cov­er it in a series of self-improve­ment pack­ages? No. The mean­ing of life he says, is life. “The sit­u­a­tion of life is opti­mal.” But how is any­one sup­posed to judge what’s good with­out unchang­ing exter­nal stan­dards? A clas­sic Zen sto­ry about a Chi­nese farmer offers a con­cise illus­tra­tion of why we may have no need—and no real ability—to make any judg­ments at all.

You’ll find many more free excerpts of Watts’ lectures—of vary­ing lengths and with or with­out ani­ma­tions, on YouTube. To get a fur­ther taste of his spir­i­tu­al and philo­soph­i­cal dis­til­la­tions, see the links below.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Wis­dom of Alan Watts in Four Thought-Pro­vok­ing Ani­ma­tions

Zen Mas­ter Alan Watts Explains What Made Carl Jung Such an Influ­en­tial Thinker

Take a Break from Your Fran­tic Day & Let Alan Watts Intro­duce You to the Calm­ing Ways of Zen

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

Watch Jeff Beck Smash His Guitar While Jimmy Page & the Yardbirds Jam By His Side: A Classic Scene from Antonioni’s Blowup (1966)

Art film and rock and roll have, since the 60s, been soul­mates of a kind, with many an acclaimed direc­tor turn­ing to musi­cians as actors, com­mis­sion­ing rock stars as sound­track artists, and film­ing scenes with bands. Before Nico­las Roeg, Jim Jar­musch, David Lynch, Mar­tin Scors­ese and oth­er rock-lov­ing auteurs did all of the above, there was Michelan­ge­lo Anto­nioni, who bar­reled into the Eng­lish-lan­guage mar­ket, under con­tract with Metro-Gold­wyn-May­er, with a tril­o­gy of films steeped in the sights and sounds of six­ties coun­ter­cul­ture.

Blowup, the first and by far the best of these, though scored by jazz pianist Her­bie Han­cock, promi­nent­ly fea­tured the Yardbirds—with both Jim­my Page and Jeff Beck. In the mem­o­rable scene above, Beck smash­es his gui­tar to bits after his amp goes on the fritz. The Ital­ian direc­tor “envi­sioned a scene sim­i­lar to that of Pete Townshend’s famous rit­u­al of smash­ing his gui­tar on stage,” notes Gui­tar­world’s Jonathan Gra­ham. “Anto­nioni had even asked The Who to appear in the film,” but they refused.

In stepped the Yard­birds, dur­ing a piv­otal moment in their career. The year before, they released mega-hit “For Your Love,” and said good­bye to lead gui­tarist Eric Clap­ton. Beck, his replace­ment, her­ald­ed a much wilder, more exper­i­men­tal phase for the band. Jeff Beck, it seemed, could play any­thing, but what he didn’t do much of onstage is emote. Next to the gui­tar-smash­ing Town­shend or the fire-set­ting Hen­drix (see both below), he was a pret­ty reserved per­former, though no less thrilling to watch for his vir­tu­os­i­ty and style.

But as he tells it, Anto­nioni wouldn’t let the band do their “most excit­ing thing,” a cov­er of “Smoke­stack Light­ning” that “had this incred­i­ble buildup in the mid­dle which was just pow!” That moment would have been the nat­ur­al pre­text for a good gui­tar smash­ing.

Instead, the set piece with the bro­ken amp gives the intro­vert­ed Beck a rea­son to get agi­tat­ed. As Gra­ham describes it, he also played a gui­tar spe­cial­ly des­ig­nat­ed as a prop:

Due to issues over pub­lish­ing, the Yard­birds clas­sic “Train Kept A‑Rollin’,” was reworked as “Stroll On” for the per­for­mance, and as the scene involved the destruc­tion of an instru­ment, Beck’s usu­al choice of his icon­ic Esquire or Les Paul was swapped for a cheap, hol­low-body stand-in that he was direct­ed to smash at the song’s con­clu­sion.

The scene is more a tantrum than the orgias­tic onstage freak-out Town­shend would prob­a­bly have deliv­ered. Its chief virtue for Yard­bird’s fans lies not in the fun­ny, out-of-char­ac­ter moment (which SF Gate film crit­ic Mick LaSalle calls “one of the weird­est scenes in the movie”). Rather, it was “the chance,” as one fan tells LaSalle, “in the days before MTV and YouTube, to see the Yard­birds, with Jeff Beck and Jim­my Page.” Anto­nioni had seized the moment. In addi­tion to fir­ing “the open­ing sal­vo of the emerg­ing ‘film gen­er­a­tion,’” as Roger Ebert wrote, he gave con­tem­po­rary fans a rea­son (in addi­tion to explic­it sex and nudi­ty), to go see Blowup again and again.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

13-Year-Old Jim­my Page Plays Gui­tar on TV in 1957, an Ear­ly Moment in His Spec­tac­u­lar Career

Jim Jar­musch: The Art of the Music in His Films

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

How Nicolas Roeg (RIP) Used David Bowie, Mick Jagger & Art Garfunkel in His Mind-Bending Films

Crit­ics have applaud­ed Bradley Coop­er for the bold move of cast­ing Lady Gaga in his new remake of A Star Is Born, and as its tit­u­lar star at that. As much cin­e­mat­ic dar­ing as it takes to cast a high-pro­file musi­cian in their first star­ring role in the movies, the act has its prece­dents, thanks not least to film­mak­er Nico­las Roeg, who died last week. Hav­ing start­ed out at the bot­tom of the British film indus­try, serv­ing tea at Lon­don’s Maryle­bone Stu­dios the year after World War II end­ed, he became a cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er (not least on David Lean’s Lawrence of Ara­bia) and then a direc­tor in his own-right. That chap­ter of Roeg’s career began with 1970’s Per­for­mance, which he co-direct­ed with Don­ald Cam­mell and in which he cast no less a rock star than Mick Jag­ger in his act­ing debut.

You can see Jag­ger in action in Per­for­mance’s trail­er, which describes the pic­ture as “a film about mad­ness… mad­ness and san­i­ty. A film about fan­ta­sy. This is a film about fan­ta­sy and real­i­ty… and sen­su­al­i­ty. A film about death… and life. This is a film about vice… and ver­sa.”

Those words reflect some­thing real about not just Per­for­mance itself — which crash­es the end of the swing­ing 1960s into grim gang­ster­ism in a man­ner that draws equal­ly from Borges and Bergman — but Roeg’s entire body of work, and also the strug­gle that mar­keters went through to sell it to the pub­lic. But you don’t so much buy a tick­et to see a Nico­las Roeg film as you buy a tick­et to expe­ri­ence it, not least because of the par­tic­u­lar per­for­ma­tive qual­i­ties brought to the table by the music stars Roeg put onscreen.

In 1976 Roeg cast David Bowie as a space alien named Thomas Jerome New­ton in the “shock­ing, mind-stretch­ing expe­ri­ence in sight, in space, in sex” of The Man Who Fell to Earth, arguably the role he was born to play. “I thought of David Bowie when I first was try­ing to fig­ure out who would be Mr. New­ton, some­one who was inside soci­ety and yet awk­ward in it,” Roeg says in the doc­u­men­tary clip above. “David got more than into the char­ac­ter of Mr. New­ton. I think he put much more of him­self than we’d been able to get into the script. It was linked very much to his ideas in his music, and towards the end, I real­ized a big change had hap­pened in his life.” How much Bowie took from the role remains a mat­ter for fans to dis­cuss, though he him­self admits to tak­ing one thing in par­tic­u­lar: the wardrobe. “I lit­er­al­ly walked off with the clothes,” he says, “and I used the same clothes on the Sta­tion to Sta­tion tour.”

Even if step­ping between the con­cert stage and the cin­e­ma screen looks nat­ur­al in ret­ro­spect for the likes of Jag­ger and Bowie, can it work for a low­er-key but nev­er­the­less world-famous per­former? Roeg’s 1980 film Bad Tim­ing cast, in the star­ring role of an Amer­i­can psy­chi­a­trist in Cold War Vien­na who grows obsessed with a young Amer­i­can woman, Art Gar­funkel of Simon and Gar­funkel. (Play­ing the woman, inci­den­tal­ly, is There­sa Rus­sell, who would lat­er show up in Roeg’s Insignif­i­cance in the role of Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe.) The clip above shows a bit of how Roeg uses the per­sona of Gar­funkel, sure­ly one of the least Dionysian among all 1960s musi­cal icons, to infuse the char­ac­ter with a cere­bral chill. In Roeg’s New York Times obit­u­ary, Gar­funkel remem­bers — fond­ly — that the direc­tor “brought me to the edge of mad­ness.” Roeg, for his part, had already paid his musi­cian stars their com­pli­ments in that paper decades ear­li­er: “The fact is that Jag­ger, Bowie and Gar­funkel are all extreme­ly bright, intel­li­gent and well edu­cat­ed. A long way from the pub­lic stereo­type.” But will any direc­tor use per­form­ers like them in quite the same way again?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe Explains Rel­a­tiv­i­ty to Albert Ein­stein (in a Nico­las Roeg Movie)

Watch David Bowie Star in His First Film Role, a Short Hor­ror Flick Called The Image (1967)

When David Bowie Became Niko­la Tes­la: Watch His Elec­tric Per­for­mance in The Pres­tige (2006)

Mick Jag­ger Acts in The Nightin­gale, a Tele­vised Play from 1983

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, 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.

Watch David Bowie Take MTV to Task for Failing to Play Music Videos by Black Artists (1983)

The old vaude­ville phrase “Will it play in Peo­ria?” has its roots in the late 19th cen­tu­ry, specif­i­cal­ly in Hor­a­tio Alger’s nov­el Five Hun­dred Dol­lars; Or Jacob Marlowe’s SecretLike all of the books Alger wrote extolling the virtues of thrift, study, groom­ing, indus­try, etc., this one artic­u­lates a mid­dle Amer­i­can boot­straps phi­los­o­phy and rags-to-rich­es mythol­o­gy, while giv­ing the enter­tain­ment indus­try a col­or­ful way to sum up the small-town audi­ences who embraced Alger’s straight-laced eth­ic, and who need­ed to be pan­dered to or they wouldn’t get all those big city jokes and ref­er­ences.

Peo­ria has been many places in the U.S.—from Tul­sa to Boise—but what­ev­er the test mar­ket, the assump­tions have always been the same: the Amer­i­can main­stream is insu­lar, mid­dle class or aspir­ing to it, cul­tur­al­ly con­ser­v­a­tive, unfail­ing­ly white, and fear­ful of every­one who isn’t. Such demo­graph­ic dog­ma has per­sist­ed for over a hun­dred years. Even when it is shown to be out­mod­ed or plain wrong, broad­cast­ers and jour­nal­ists con­tin­ue to play to Peo­ria, gen­u­flect­ing to a sta­t­ic, pop­ulist ver­sion of the U.S. that ignores large, rapid­ly chang­ing seg­ments of the pop­u­la­tion.

In the ear­ly eight­ies it took an Eng­lish­man with a very high pro­file to inter­ro­gate this state of affairs on the air. You may have seen the inter­view mak­ing the rounds in 2016, after David Bowie passed away and social media began sev­er­al months of mourn­ing and memo­ri­al­iz­ing. One thread that got a lot of atten­tion involved the tran­script of a 1983 inter­view Bowie gave the fledg­ling MTV, in which he “turns the tables on reporter Mark Good­man,” writes Takepart’s Jen­nifer Swann, “to grill him about the youth-ori­ent­ed network’s lack of eth­nic diver­si­ty.”

“It’s a sol­id enter­prise, and it’s got a lot going for it,” says Bowie. “I’m just floored by the fact there’s so few black artists fea­tured in it. Why is that?” On the spot, Good­man reach­es for a mar­ket­ing term, “nar­row­cast­ing,” to sug­gest that the net­work is delib­er­ate­ly tar­get­ing a niche. But when Bowie keeps push­ing, Good­man admits that the “nar­row” demo­graph­ic is the very same sup­posed mass mar­ket that exist­ed in Alger’s day, when the only rep­re­sen­ta­tions of black enter­tain­ers most white audi­ences in Peo­ria (or wher­ev­er) saw were in black­face.

We have to try and do what we think not only New York and Los Ange­les will appre­ci­ate, but also Pough­keep­sie or the Mid­west. Pick some town in the Mid­west that would be scared to death by Prince, which we’re play­ing, or a string of oth­er black faces, or black music. We have to play music we think an entire coun­try is going to like, and cer­tain­ly we’re a rock and roll sta­tion.

What does the Isley broth­ers, asks Good­man, mean to a sev­en­teen year old? To which Bowie replies, “I’ll tell you what the Isley Broth­ers means to a black sev­en­teen year old, and sure­ly he’s part of Amer­i­ca as well.” To the defense that it’s just way things are, espe­cial­ly in radio, he gives a reply that might be derid­ed by many in the ready­made terms that rou­tine­ly pop up in such dis­cus­sions these days. Bowie, who suc­cess­ful­ly crossed over into play­ing for black audi­ences on Soul Train in the mid-sev­en­ties, would have sneered at phras­es like “SJW.” As he says in response to one young fan who rant­ed in a let­ter about “what he did­n’t want to see” on MTV: “Well that’s his prob­lem.”

The Peo­ria effect, says Bowie, “does seem to be ram­pant through Amer­i­can media. Should it not be a chal­lenge to make the media far more inte­grat­ed, espe­cial­ly, if any­thing, in musi­cal terms?” The “lines are begin­ning to blur,” Good­man admits. At the end of that year, Michael Jackson’s John Lan­dis-direct­ed “Thriller” video debuted and “changed music videos for ever,” break­ing the prime­time bar­ri­ers for black artists on MTV, trans­form­ing the net­work “into a cul­tur­al behe­moth,” as Swann writes, and giv­ing the lie to the Peo­ria myth, one Bowie knew had lit­tle to do in actu­al­i­ty with the country’s cul­ture or its tastes but with a nar­row, archa­ic view of who the media should serve.

See Good­man’s full inter­view with Bowie just above.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Bowie Sings “Fame” & “Gold­en Years” on Soul Train (1975)

David Bowie and Cher Sing Duet of “Young Amer­i­cans” and Oth­er Songs on 1975 Vari­ety Show

David Bowie Becomes a DJ on BBC Radio in 1979; Intro­duces Lis­ten­ers to The Vel­vet Under­ground, Talk­ing Heads, Blondie & More

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

Two Cats Keep Trying to Get Into a Japanese Art Museum … and Keep Getting Turned Away: Meet the Thwarted Felines, Ken-chan and Go-chan

Pag­ing direc­tor Hayao Miyaza­ki.

A com­pelling sub­ject for a fea­ture length ani­ma­tion is hang­ing around the slid­ing glass doors of Hiroshi­ma Prefecture’s Onomichi City Muse­um of Art.

In June of 2016, a black tom­cat start­ed show­ing up at the muse­um on the reg­u­lar, for rea­sons unknown.

Those open to the sort of nar­ra­tive whim­sy at which Miyaza­ki excels might choose to believe that the beast was drawn by a cat-themed exhib­it of work by not­ed wildlife pho­tog­ra­ph­er and film­mak­er Mit­sua­ki Iwa­go, a por­tion of which would have been vis­i­ble to him through the mod­ern building’s large glass win­dows.

What­ev­er his rea­sons, the cat, Ken-chan, whose own­ers run a near­by restau­rant, was refused entry by a white-gloved secu­ri­ty guard and oth­er staffers, whose efforts to send him on his way start­ed blow­ing up the Inter­net short­ly after his first appear­ance.

Even­tu­al­ly, Ken-chan start­ed bring­ing back-up in the form of a well-man­nered orange tom­cat the muse­um staff dubbed Go-chan.

Their vis­its have proved to be a boon for both the small muse­um and the city they call home.

The New York Pub­lic Library has its lions.

Boston’s Pub­lic Gar­den has its ducks.

Onomichi and its small art muse­um have Ken-chan and Go-chan, whose Inter­net fame is quick­ly out­pac­ing the sup­ply of com­mem­o­ra­tive tote bags, below.

Ten­der heart­ed fans bom­bard the museum’s Twit­ter account with requests to grant the feline pair entry, but the muse­um brass is wise­ly pri­or­i­tiz­ing dra­mat­ic ten­sion over con­sum­ma­tion.

Mean­while, offi­cials in Zelenograd­sk, a Russ­ian resort town boast­ing both a cat muse­um and giant cat street mon­u­ment have invit­ed Ken-chan, Go-chan, and muse­um staff to be their guests in March, for a cat-cen­tric hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tion.

For now, Ken-chan and Go-chan are stick­ing close to home, alter­nate­ly enter­tain­ing and dis­ap­point­ing vis­i­tors who show up, cam­era in hand, hop­ing to catch them in the act.

Arm­chair trav­el­ers can enjoy a cat’s eye view tour of Onomichi, thanks to Google Street View-style 360-degree cam­era tech­nol­o­gy.

And pho­tog­ra­ph­er Iwa­go shares some pro advice for any­one seek­ing to cap­ture feline sub­jects:

…male cats are eas­i­er to pho­to­graph. Male cats seem to have more lat­i­tude and leisure in their lives. Because females do things such as raise the kit­tens, they con­cen­trate more on what goes on around them. Because males are out on patrol, it is more like­ly that you will encounter them. Because they have the free time, they’ll let you hang out and pho­to­graph them.

Depend­ing on the cat, there are a num­ber of ways to get a cat’s atten­tion. For exam­ple, when it’s start­ing to get dark out, you need to use a low­er shut­ter speed. How­ev­er, this means that the cat will be blur­ry if it moves. To avoid this, in such sit­u­a­tions, I say to the cat, ‘Stop, hold your breath!’ At that instant, when the cat is frozen, I snap the pic­ture. When you speak out to a cat, they get the mes­sage. That said, you can also get shots of good cat body lan­guage by let­ting them roam freely. They don’t need to be look­ing at the cam­era.

Even a cell­phone cam­era is enough. How­ev­er, if you don’t have a tele­pho­to lens, you’re going to have to get close to the cat you’re pho­tograph­ing. Due to this, it might be good to use a sin­gle-lens reflex (SLR) cam­era if you are pho­tograph­ing out­side. How­ev­er, if you are pho­tograph­ing the cat you live at home with, a big cam­era may prove intim­i­dat­ing. To avoid this prob­lem, it is nec­es­sary to reg­u­lar­ly put your cam­era in a place that the cat can see. It is good to start snap­ping pic­tures only after your cat has got­ten over its fear of cam­eras. If you use a flash to pho­to­graph cats indoors, their hair will look spiky and lose its soft­ness. There­fore, I rec­om­mend avoid­ing a flash. I also rec­om­mend not using a tri­pod, con­sid­er­ing the line of sight will become too high. When I am pho­tograph­ing cats, I kneel down so that I am at the same eye line as they are. It’s as if I’m crawl­ing for­ward into bat­tle.

Fol­low the Onomichi City Muse­um of Art on Twit­ter to keep up with Ken-chan and Go-chan.

via The Guardian/Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Insane­ly Cute Cat Com­mer­cials from Stu­dio Ghi­b­li, Hayao Miyazaki’s Leg­endary Ani­ma­tion Shop

Medieval Cats Behav­ing Bad­ly: Kit­ties That Left Paw Prints … and Peed … on 15th Cen­tu­ry Man­u­scripts

Free Enter­tain­ment for Cats and Dogs: Videos of Birds, Squir­rels & Oth­er Thrills

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC this Decem­ber for the 10th anniver­sary pro­duc­tion of Greg Kotis’ apoc­a­lyp­tic hol­i­day tale, The Truth About San­ta, and the next month­ly install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Malcolm Gladwell and Rick Rubin Launch a New Music Podcast, Broken Record: Listen Online

This past month, Mal­colm Glad­well (author), Rick Rubin (record pro­duc­er), and Bruce Head­lam (media desk edi­tor of the New York Times) teamed up to launch Bro­ken Record. It’s a music pod­cast that dou­bles as “lin­er notes for the dig­i­tal age.” Or, as Glad­well tells Rolling Stone, it’s “a kind of musi­cal vari­ety show.” Some episodes offer an in-depth nar­ra­tive. Oth­ers fea­ture mini per­for­mances and inter­views with musicians–plus an assort­ment of “digres­sions, argu­ments, back-sto­ries, and ran­dom things to dis­agree with about music.”

The episodes released so far can be streamed online here. For new episodes, sub­scribe to the pod­cast via iTunes or Spo­ti­fy. The lat­est episode with Niles Rodgers and Chic appears below:

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!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mal­colm Glad­well on Why Genius Takes Time: A Look at the Mak­ing of Elvis Costello’s “Depor­tee” & Leonard Cohen’s “Hal­lelu­jah”

Rick Rubin Revis­its the Ori­gins of Def Jam Records & the NYU Dorm Room Where It All Began

Mal­colm Glad­well Teach­ing His First Online Course: A Mas­ter Class on How to Turn Big Ideas into Pow­er­ful Sto­ries

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.