Karen O & Willie Nelson Release a New Cover Bowie & Queen’s “Under Pressure”

Today, Karen O and Willie Nel­son unveiled their cov­er of the icon­ic David Bowie and Queen clas­sic “Under Pres­sure.” The­mat­i­cal­ly, it’s a song for our pres­sure-filled times. But this ver­sion will keep you cen­tered and calm. Put it on end­less loop through next Tues­day.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Lis­ten to Fred­die Mer­cury and David Bowie on the Iso­lat­ed Vocal Track for the Queen Hit ‘Under Pres­sure,’ 1981

Watch David Bowie & Annie Lennox in Rehearsal, Singing “Under Pres­sure,” with Queen (1992)

Watch Queen’s Stun­ning Live Aid Per­for­mance: 20 Min­utes Guar­an­teed to Give You Goose Bumps (July 13, 1985)

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The History of Soviet Rock: From the 70s Underground Rock Scene, to Soviet Punk & New Wave in the 1980s

“As long as you’ve got a pack of cig­a­rettes,” sings Vik­tor Tsoi, the Sovi­et Union’s biggest ever rock star, “life can’t be all that shab­by.” When Tsoi died in a car crash in 1990, Please Kill Me writes, “it was, to a young per­son in the Sovi­et Union, as if Bob Dylan, James Dean and Muham­mad Ali all died simul­ta­ne­ous­ly.” When Yuliya Aba­she­va, born in the year of Tsoi’s death, first heard him sing, “I was thrilled to the core of my being. I lit­er­al­ly fell in love with his music, and I imme­di­ate­ly real­ized that I didn’t want to lis­ten to any music but Kino.”

What, you’ve nev­er heard of Vik­tor Tsoi? Or Kino? Or Sovi­et rock? Well, you’re in for a treat. The two-part series on Sovi­et rock from Band­splain­ing fea­tured here cov­ers all the big names from the scene, bands who first came togeth­er in the 1970s and explod­ed into legit­i­ma­cy in the 80s, thanks to the KGB, iron­i­cal­ly, in 1981, when “some Com­mu­nist Par­ty genius decid­ed to open a num­ber of rock clubs around the Sovi­et Union to con­trol and treat the rock mania from with­in,” Auck­land-based Moscovite Anas­ta­sia Doniants writes. “For the first time since the ear­ly 1930s, the cool kids had a place to social­ize open­ly, but still under the watch­ful KGB eye.”

For­eign jazz and rock had cir­cu­lat­ed in samiz­dat form through­out the coun­try since the 1950s, some of it on repur­posed X‑Ray film. And Russ­ian hip­sters, known as stilya­gi, had devel­oped their own under­ground style and tastes. But form­ing a band and per­form­ing for an audi­ence is a major step beyond lis­ten­ing to illic­it records in secret. It sim­ply couldn’t be done at scale with­out offi­cial sanction—with no radio play, com­mer­cial record­ing stu­dios, or pay­ing gigs. Once said sanc­tion arrived, bands like Kino, Akvar­i­um, Time Machine, and Auto­graph took off.

But it was hard­ly a smooth tran­si­tion from under­ground to main­stream. “The vast author­i­tar­i­an gov­ern­ment would seem to con­stant­ly backpedal,” says Band­splain­ing, “allow­ing some artis­tic free­doms, then tak­ing them away. Numer­ous bands were pop­u­lar one moment, then banned, cen­sored, or even jailed the next.” Accused of being dis­si­dents, rock stars like Tsoi were also accused, as recent­ly as just a few years ago, of being “CIA oper­a­tives try­ing to desta­bi­lize the Sovi­et regime.” While the claim may be far-fetched, it is not off the mark entire­ly.

The U.S. was keen to use any cul­tur­al means to under­mine Sovi­et author­i­ty. But a “rock sub­cul­ture,” Carl Schreck writes at The Atlantic, “had been per­co­lat­ing in the Sovi­et Union for decades by the time Gor­bachev came to pow­er in 1985.” It was entire­ly home­grown and spread—as it was every­where in the world—by dis­af­fect­ed teenagers des­per­ate for a good time. Learn more about this pas­sion­ate scene and its sub­tly sub­ver­sive music in the two-part series above. Find track­lists of all the bands fea­tured on the doc­u­men­tary’s YouTube pages.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Did the CIA Write the Scor­pi­ons’ “Wind of Change,” One of the Best­selling Songs of All Time?

The Sovi­ets Who Boot­legged West­ern Music on X‑Rays: Their Sto­ry Told in New Video & Audio Doc­u­men­taries

Rare Grooves on Vinyl from Around the World: Hear Curat­ed Playlists of Ara­bic, Brazil­ian, Bol­ly­wood, Sovi­et & Turk­ish Music

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

John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” & Bach’s “Prelude in C Major” Get Turned into Dazzling Musical Animations by an Artist with Synesthesia

Colour is the key­board, the eyes are the har­monies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touch­ing one key or anoth­er, to cause vibra­tions in the soul.

—Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky

We may owe the his­to­ry of mod­ern art to the con­di­tion of synes­the­sia, which caus­es those who have it to hear col­ors, see sounds, taste smells, etc. Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky, who pio­neered abstract expres­sion­ism in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, did so “after hav­ing an unusu­al­ly visu­al response to a per­for­mance of Wagner’s com­po­si­tion Lohen­grin at the Bol­shoi The­atre,” the Den­ver Muse­um of Art notes. He was so moved by the moment that he “aban­doned his law career to study paint­ing at the pres­ti­gious Munich Acad­e­my of Fine Arts. He lat­er described the life-chang­ing expe­ri­ence: ‘I saw all my col­ors in spir­it, before my eyes. Wild, almost crazy lines were sketched in front of me.’”

Kandin­sky nev­er heard Coltrane, but if he had, and had access to 3D ren­der­ing soft­ware, he might have made some­thing very much like the short ani­ma­tion above from Israeli artist Michal Levy. “Rough­ly 3 per cent of peo­ple expe­ri­ence synaes­the­sia,” writes Aeon, “a neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tion in which peo­ple have a recur­ring sen­so­ry over­lap, such as … envi­sion­ing let­ters and num­bers each with their own inher­ent colour.”

Levy’s con­di­tion is one of the most com­mon forms, like Kandinsky’s: “chro­maes­the­sia, in which sounds and music pro­voke visu­als.” Where the Russ­ian painter saw Wag­n­er in “wild, almost crazy lines,” Levy sees the “rol­lick­ing notes” of Coltrane’s Giant Steps as a “kinet­ic, cas­cad­ing cityscape built from colour­ful blocks of sound.”

After visu­al­iz­ing her expe­ri­ence of Coltrane, Levy cre­at­ed the ani­ma­tion above, Dance of Har­mo­ny, to illus­trate what hap­pens when she hears Bach. Dur­ing a mater­ni­ty leave, work­ing with her friend, ani­ma­tor Hagai Azaz, she set her­self the chal­lenge of show­ing, as she describes it, “the cas­cad­ing flow of emo­tion, to make the feel­ing con­ta­gious, by using only col­or, the basic shape of cir­cles, and min­i­mal­ist motion, assign­ing to each musi­cal chord the visu­al ele­ments that cor­re­spond to it synaes­thet­i­cal­ly.”

It is fas­ci­nat­ing to com­pare Levy’s descrip­tions of her con­di­tion with those of oth­er famous synes­thetes like Vladimir Nabokov and, espe­cial­ly Kandin­sky, who in essence first showed the world what music looks like, there­by giv­ing art a new visu­al lan­guage. Levy calls her synes­the­sia art, an “emo­tion­al voy­age of har­mo­ny,” and includes in her visu­al­iza­tion of Bach’s famous pre­lude an “unex­pect­ed ele­giac side­bar of love and loss,” Maria Popo­va writes. Read Levy’s full descrip­tion of Dance of Har­mo­ny here and learn more about the “extra­or­di­nary sen­so­ry con­di­tion called synes­the­sia” here.

via Aeon

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

An Artist with Synes­the­sia Turns Jazz & Rock Clas­sics Into Col­or­ful Abstract Paint­ings

Jazz Decon­struct­ed: What Makes John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” So Ground­break­ing and Rad­i­cal?

Decon­struct­ing Bach’s Famous Cel­lo Prelude–the One You’ve Heard in Hun­dreds of TV Shows & Films

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

A Glass Floor in a Dublin Grocery Store Lets Shoppers Look Down & Explore Medieval Ruins

In South Korea, where I live, many recent build­ings — the new Seoul City Hall, Zaha Hadid’s Dong­dae­mun Design Plaza — have incor­po­rat­ed the cen­tu­ry-upon-cen­tu­ry old ruins dis­cov­ered on their sites. This makes lit­er­al­ly vis­i­ble, often through clear glass floors, the “5,000 years of unbro­ken his­to­ry” about which one often hears boasts in Korea. But nor is Europe his­tor­i­cal­ly impov­er­ished, and there the win­dow-onto-the-past archi­tec­tur­al tech­nique has been applied in even less like­ly places: a new Dublin loca­tion, for instance, of Ger­man chain dis­count super­mar­ket Lidl.

“Archi­tects dis­cov­ered the remains of an 11th-cen­tu­ry house dur­ing the devel­op­ment of the site on Aungi­er Street,” says the video from Irish broad­cast­er RTÉ above. “The sunken-floored struc­ture has been pre­served and is dis­played beneath the glass.” Archae­o­log­i­cal site direc­tor Paul Duffy described the dis­cov­ery as poten­tial­ly hav­ing “func­tioned as many things, as a house or an extra space for the fam­i­ly. It’s a domes­tic struc­ture, so you have to imag­ine that there would have been a sub­urb here of Hiber­no-Norse Dublin­ers, who were effec­tive­ly the ances­tors of the Vikings.”

We’re a long way indeed from James Joyce’s Dublin­ers of 900 years lat­er. But the new Lidl has put more than one for­mer­ly buried era of the city’s past on dis­play: “A sec­ond glass pan­el near the check­out tills allows shop­pers to glimpse an 18th-cen­tu­ry ‘pit trap’ from the stage of the old Aungi­er Street The­atre,” writes Irish Cen­tral’s Shane O’Brien, pit traps being devices “used to bring an actor on stage as if by mag­ic. Anoth­er work­ing area under the build­ing pre­serves “the foun­da­tions of the medieval parish church of St. Peter, which served parish­ioners for more than 600 years between 1050 AD and 1650 AD.”

In the RTÉ video, Dublin City Archae­ol­o­gist Ruth John­son frames this as a chal­lenge to the speed-ori­ent­ed con­struc­tion mod­el — “put up a hoard­ing, exca­vate a site, and then put up a devel­op­ment” — preva­lent dur­ing Ire­land’s recent “Celtic Tiger” peri­od of eco­nom­ic growth. That and oth­er fac­tors have made the built envi­ron­ment of Dublin, a city of many charms, less inter­est­ing than it could be. In his recent book Trans-Europe Express’ chap­ter on Dublin, crit­ic Owen Hather­ley writes that “con­tem­po­rary Irish archi­tec­ture is marked by a strik­ing par­si­mo­ny, a cheap­ness and care­less­ness in con­struc­tion.” Look­ing to the past isn’t always the answer, of course, but in this case Lidl has done well to take it lit­er­al­ly.

via Colos­sal

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mag­nif­i­cent Ancient Roman Mosa­ic Floor Unearthed in Verona, Italy

Explore Metic­u­lous 3D Mod­els of Endan­gered His­tor­i­cal Sites in Google’s “Open Her­itage” Project

See the Expan­sive Ruins of Pom­peii Like You’ve Nev­er Seen Them Before: Through the Eyes of a Drone

Watch Ancient Ruins Get Restored to their Glo­ri­ous Orig­i­nal State with Ani­mat­ed GIFs: The Tem­ple of Jupiter, Lux­or Tem­ple & More

James Joyce’s Dublin Cap­tured in Vin­tage Pho­tos from 1897 to 1904

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, 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, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

Janis Joplin & Tom Jones Bring the House Down in an Unlikely Duet of “Raise Your Hand” (1969)

If you’re a fan of Tom Jones and you don’t care who knows it, then no one needs to jus­ti­fy the jovial Welsh superstar’s lounge-soul cov­ers of pop, R&B, and rock songs to you. Cer­tain purists have been a tougher sell on Jones’ act, includ­ing, in 1969, Neil Young, who joined Jones onstage once, and only once, on the This is Tom Jones show and imme­di­ate­ly regret­ted it. But who cares about Neil Young’s cranky dis­like of com­mer­cial tele­vi­sion? Who is Neil Young to say we can’t enjoy Jones’ brava­do vocals on Cros­by, Stills, Nash & some­times Young’s “Long Time Gone”? The audi­ence sure got a kick out of it, as appar­ent­ly did the rest of the band.

Janis Joplin didn’t have any such hangups when she went on Jones’ show that same year. Well, she had a hangup, but it wasn’t Jones. “God bless her,” Jones remem­bered, “she said to me when she came on, ‘Look, I don’t do vari­ety shows; I’m only doing it because it’s you.’ So she saw through it. Then when Janis and I did the rehearsal for Raise Your Hand she looked at me and said, ‘Jesus, you can real­ly sing! (laughs) I thought, thank God peo­ple like Janis Joplin had tak­en note.” If she out­shines Jones in the tele­vised per­for­mance of the song, above, and I think we can agree she does, he doesn’t seem to mind it much.

Jones may not have had much rock cred; he would nev­er have been invit­ed to share the Wood­stock stage with CSNY and Joplin, but as a singer, he’s always earned tremen­dous respect from every­one, and right­ly so.

“Tom held his own,” writes Soci­ety of Rock, “and kept up beau­ti­ful­ly as he was swept up in the storm that was Janis Joplin’s stage pres­ence, trad­ing ver­bal licks and send­ing her into fits of joy when he let go and sur­ren­dered to her over­whelm­ing ener­gy. This wasn’t just your reg­u­lar, run of the mill vari­ety show but then again, noth­ing was ordi­nary after Janis was through with it.”

This includes any stage that had her on it, which she imme­di­ate­ly dom­i­nat­ed as soon as she opened her mouth. Hear her live ver­sion of “Raise Your Hand” at Wood­stock from ear­li­er that year, fur­ther up, and see her tear it up in Frank­furt on her Euro­pean tour with the Kozmic Blues Band. “I make it a pol­i­cy not to tell any­one to sit down,” she says by way of intro­duc­tion. “That’s to encour­age every­body to stand up.” Joplin’s death the fol­low­ing year deprived the world of one of its all-time great­est blues singers, but thanks to the inter­net, and Tom Jones, we’ll always have per­for­mances like these to remem­ber her by.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Tom Jones Per­forms “Long Time Gone” with Cros­by, Stills, Nash & Young–and Blows the Band & Audi­ence Away (1969)

Watch Janis Joplin’s Final Inter­view Get Reborn as an Ani­mat­ed Car­toon

Janis Joplin’s Last TV Per­for­mance & Inter­view: The Dick Cavett Show (1970)

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

When Billy Idol Went Cyberpunk: See His Tribute to Neuromancer, His Recording Session with Timothy Leary, and His Limited-Edition Floppy Disk (1993)

Bil­ly Idol has long evad­ed straight­for­ward musi­cal clas­si­fi­ca­tion, being a full-on star but one ful­ly belong­ing to nei­ther rock nor pop. He may have come up in the 1970s as the front­man of Gen­er­a­tion X, the first punk band to play Top of the Pops, but the hits he went on to make as an MTV-opti­mized solo artist in the 80s and 90s — “Eyes With­out a Face,” “Cra­dle of Love” — sit less than eas­i­ly with those ori­gins. But as the end of the mil­len­ni­um approached and the zeit­geist grew increas­ing­ly high-tech­no­log­i­cal, it seems to have occurred to the for­mer William Michael Albert Broad that, if he could­n’t be a punk, he could per­haps be a cyber-punk instead.

As bad luck would have it, the bio­me­chan­i­cal had already intrud­ed onto Idol­’s life in the form of a steel rod implant­ed in his leg after a motor­cy­cle acci­dent. This lost him the role of T‑1000, the killer cyborg in Ter­mi­na­tor 2, but it inspired him in part to record the ambi­tious con­cept album Cyber­punk in 1993. Like Pete Town­shend’s Psy­choderelict or Don­ald Fagen’s Kamakiri­ad from that same year (or David Bowie’s Out­side from 1995), Cyber­punk is built on a dystopi­an nar­ra­tive in which “the future has implod­ed into the present” and “mega-cor­po­ra­tions are the new gov­ern­ments. Com­put­er-gen­er­at­ed info-domains are the new fron­tiers.” Thus speaks Idol in the album’s open­ing man­i­festo.

“Though there is bet­ter liv­ing through sci­ence and chem­istry, we’re all becom­ing cyborgs. The com­put­er is the new cool tool. Though we say all infor­ma­tion should be free, it is not. Infor­ma­tion is pow­er and cur­ren­cy of the vir­tu­al world we inhab­it.” Here, “cyber­punks are the true rebels.” This would have sound­ed famil­iar to read­ers of William Gib­son, whose Neu­ro­mancer pop­u­lar­ized the aes­thet­ic and ethos of “high tech meets low life” — and shares a title with one of Cyber­punk’s songs. In fact, as Gib­son lat­er recalled, Idol “made it a con­di­tion of get­ting an inter­view with him, that every jour­nal­ist had to have read Neu­ro­mancer.” They did, “but when they met with Bil­ly, the first thing that became real­ly appar­ent was that Bil­ly had­n’t read it.”

What­ev­er his intel­lec­tu­al invest­ment in cyber­punk, Idol threw him­self into what he saw as the cul­ture sur­round­ing it. This effort involved fre­quent­ing Usenet’s alt.cyberpunk news­group; read­ing Mon­do 2000; and con­nect­ing with fig­ures like Gareth Bran­wyn, author of cyber­punk man­i­festos, and Mark Frauen­felder, co-founder of Boing Boing. “We are merg­ing with machines to become smarter, faster, and more pow­er­ful,” writes Frauen­felder in an essay includ­ed among the “mul­ti­me­dia” con­tents of the 3.5″ flop­py disk orig­i­nal­ly bun­dled with Cyber­punk. “Are you going to ignore tech­nol­o­gy, turn your back on it, and let author­i­ty enslave you with it, or are you going to learn every­thing you can about sur­viv­ing in the dig­i­tal age?”

Cyber­punk con­sti­tutes Idol­’s affir­ma­tive answer to that ques­tion. Much of his excite­ment about per­son­al tech­nol­o­gy sure­ly owes to the lib­er­at­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties of the pro­fes­sion­al-grade home record­ing stu­dio. “I’d always real­ly sort of worked through a team of a pro­duc­er and an engi­neer,” he said in one inter­view, “and in the end I think real­ly you felt like you weren’t get­ting as close to your ideas as you could be.” From his own home stu­dio he wit­nessed the 1992 Los Ange­les riots, which prompt­ed him then and there to rewrite the song “Shock to the Sys­tem” to reflect the tur­moil roil­ing out­side his door. (Film­mak­er Kathryn Bigelow would explore at greater length that explo­sion of urban dis­con­tent’s inter­sec­tion with cyber­punk cul­ture in 1995’s Strange Days.)

See­ing cyber­punk as the lat­est man­i­fes­ta­tion of a broad­er coun­ter­cul­ture, Idol cast a wide net for col­lab­o­ra­tors and inspi­ra­tions. He invit­ed Tim­o­thy Leary, the “cyberdel­ic” cul­tur­al icon who dreamed of mak­ing a Neu­ro­mancer com­put­er game, not just to inter­view him about the project but par­tic­i­pate in its record­ing. The album’s cen­ter­piece is a cov­er of the Vel­vet Under­ground’s “Hero­in,” and a dance cov­er at that. Though remem­bered as nei­ther an artis­tic nor a com­mer­cial suc­cess (the rea­sons for which Youtube music crit­ic Todd in the Shad­ows exam­ines in the video at the top of the post), Cyber­punk set some­thing of a prece­dent for main­stream musi­cians keen to use cut­ting-edge record­ing and pro­duc­tion tech­nol­o­gy to go ful­ly D.I.Y. — to go, as it were, cyber-punk.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Cyber­punk: 1990 Doc­u­men­tary Fea­tur­ing William Gib­son & Tim­o­thy Leary Intro­duces the Cyber­punk Cul­ture

Tim­o­thy Leary Plans a Neu­ro­mancer Video Game, with Art by Kei­th Har­ing, Music by Devo & Cameos by David Byrne

William Gibson’s Sem­i­nal Cyber­punk Nov­el, Neu­ro­mancer, Dra­ma­tized for Radio (2002)

Dis­cov­er Rare 1980s CDs by Lou Reed, Devo & Talk­ing Heads That Com­bined Music with Com­put­er Graph­ics

When David Bowie Launched His Own Inter­net Ser­vice Provider: The Rise and Fall of BowieNet (1998)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, 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, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

The Time When National Lampoon Parodied Mad Magazine: A Satire of Satire (1971)

I grew up on Mad Mag­a­zine. It was the one mag­a­zine I made sure my par­ents got me every month. I bought the Super Spe­cials, the paper­back reprints, the flexi discs, and even the board game. When we’d go to swap meets, I’d bring home old­er issues from the 1960s, and try to fig­ure out the pol­i­tics from a decade before I was born. It was why this eight-year old kid knew any­thing about pol­i­tics, and knew that Nixon sucked, Ford sucked, Carter kind of sucked, and Rea­gan def­i­nite­ly sucked.

And then, I just grew out of it. Although the orig­i­nal Har­vey Kurtz­man-writ­ten issues from the 1950s still felt vital, the “Usu­al Gang of Idiots” felt, well, safe and bor­ing. I wouldn’t have said a bad word against them if you asked, but I would not have told any of my teenage friends they absolute­ly need­ed to read it. Until its can­cel­la­tion in 2019, Mad would be a friend­ly sight on the news­stand, but I’d nev­er pick it up. Nobody *real­ly* had a bad word to say about Mad, did they?

Appar­ent­ly an unusu­al new gang of idiots at the Nation­al Lam­poon did, back in Octo­ber 1971. This 15-page satire on Mad is as vicious a take­down as they come, its veins puls­ing with the kind of vin­dic­tive glee only a true for­mer fan can muster.

The “What, Me Fun­ny?” issue is a col­lec­tive voice of child­hood betrayed, with spot-on par­o­dies of Mort Druck­er, Don Mar­tin, Dave Berg, Al Jaf­fee, Jack Davis, Paul Cok­er, and oth­ers, drawn by artists like Joe Orlan­do, John Romi­ta, and Ernie Colon, among oth­ers.

The main charge: after pub­lish­er William Gaines and Har­vey Kurtz­man had acri­mo­nious­ly split and gone sep­a­rate ways, Mad mag­a­zine grew embar­rassed of its com­ic book past, and sought out a more mid­dle-of-the-road audi­ence, with humor less “in a jugu­lar vein” and more in a juve­nile vein. Like Sat­ur­day Night Live for the last five? ten? twen­ty? years, it had for­got­ten what satire was and how it works.

That’s the heart of its cen­ter­piece, a Druck­er-style par­o­dy of Cit­i­zen Kane called “Cit­i­zen Gaines”. The dying publisher’s last “Rose­bud” word is “satire.” Like in the film, an anony­mous reporter goes in search of clues to the word’s mean­ing, inter­view­ing cur­rent edi­tor Al Feld­stein, writer Gary Belkin, and the “usu­al gang of idiots” who say things like “I only draw what they give me”. But the Jede­di­ah Leland char­ac­ter in all this is Kurtz­man, who Gaines betrays in a sim­i­lar Kane fashion…for the mon­ey and pow­er.

Else­where, Anto­nio Pro­hias’ “Spy vs. Spy” gets a realpoltik update, Don Mar­tin-style vio­lence is used to illus­trate police bru­tal­i­ty, and Dave Berg gets assailed for being a wishy-washy lib­er­al in a satire of his “Lighter Side” strip. In fact, years lat­er a fan used exact­ly the punch­line (“Boy, are you an ass­hole”) when he met Dave Berg at a con­ven­tion. (Berg had no idea about the par­o­dy.)

Over the years the fresh faces at Lam­poon would also lose their satir­ic edge and a com­pa­ny that called Mad “juve­nile” would lat­er churn out end­less T&A straight-to-video come­dies. All stu­dents even­tu­al­ly become the mas­ter that they once took down. It’s as much a part of nature as portze­bie.

Scan through the pages of the Nation­al Lam­poon par­o­dy here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The End of an Era: MAD Mag­a­zine Will Pub­lish Its Last Issue With Orig­i­nal Con­tent This Fall

Every Cov­er of MAD Mag­a­zine, from 1952 to the Present: Behold 553 Cov­ers from the Satir­i­cal Pub­li­ca­tion

When MAD Mag­a­zine Ruf­fled the Feath­ers of the FBI, Not Once But Three Times

Al Jaf­fee, Icon­ic Mad Mag­a­zine Car­toon­ist, Retires at Age 99 … and Leaves Behind Advice About Liv­ing the Cre­ative Life

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

The Craft of Writing Effectively: Essential Lessons from the Longtime Director of UChicago’s Writing Program

Aca­d­e­m­ic writ­ing has a bad rep­u­ta­tion. “When a scholar’s vanity/insecurity leads him to write pri­mar­i­ly to com­mu­ni­cate and rein­force his own sta­tus as an Intel­lec­tu­al,” as David Fos­ter Wal­lace diag­nosed the prob­lem near­ly two decades ago, “his Eng­lish is deformed by pleonasm and pre­ten­tious dic­tion (whose func­tion is to sig­nal the writer’s eru­di­tion) and by opaque abstrac­tion (whose func­tion is to keep any­body from pin­ning the writer down to a def­i­nite asser­tion that can maybe be refut­ed or shown to be sil­ly).” Indeed. But the dis­or­ders behind the kind of prose that inspires provo­ca­tions like Phi­los­o­phy and Lit­er­a­ture’s “Bad Writ­ing Con­test” are, if you believe Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Writ­ing Pro­grams direc­tor Lar­ry McEner­ney, even more basic than that.

“You think that writ­ing is com­mu­ni­cat­ing your ideas to your read­ers,” McEner­ney declares to a room­ful of aca­d­e­mics in the video above. “It is not.” In this 80-minute talk, titled “The Craft of Writ­ing Effec­tive­ly,” he iden­ti­fies the core mis­con­cep­tions that cause aca­d­e­m­ic writ­ing to be bad — or more to the point, unin­ter­est­ing, unin­flu­en­tial, unread. Most all of us grow up learn­ing to write in school, where we need not give much con­sid­er­a­tion to our audi­ence: a teacher, or in col­lege per­haps a teach­ing assis­tant, who’s paid to read what we’ve writ­ten. But when nobody’s next meal is com­ing from read­ing our papers any­more, we come face to face with an essen­tial mis­match between our assumed goals as a writer and the desires of an unpaid read­er.

“I got no prob­lem with some­body writ­ing an essay because they want to think,” says McEner­ney. “What I have a prob­lem with is when they come to my office and say, ‘My read­ers don’t appre­ci­ate me.’ ” But “they don’t owe you their appre­ci­a­tion,” nor even their atten­tion — not if you neglect your core task as a writer, “to change the way your read­ers think.” This has lit­tle to do with the task of writ­ing back in school, which involved the pre­sen­ta­tion of your ideas and knowl­edge in exchange for a grade. To pro­duce “clear, orga­nized, per­sua­sive, and valu­able” writ­ing, to McEner­ney’s mind, you must “iden­ti­fy the peo­ple with pow­er in your com­mu­ni­ty and give them what they want,” which neces­si­tates mas­ter­ing the “code” of that com­mu­ni­ty.

This does­n’t sim­ply mean suck­ing up to the high­er-ups. While you should, of course, demon­strate famil­iar­i­ty with the work already accom­plished in your field, you’ve also got to tell those high­er-ups — who, like most any­one else, read to have their ideas changed — that some­thing they know is wrong. This requires sav­ing the expla­na­tion of your sub­ject for lat­er, after first set­ting up a prob­lem with the lan­guage of insta­bil­i­ty (words like “but,” “how­ev­er,” “incon­sis­tent,” and “anom­aly”), then offer­ing your own solu­tion. You can see these and oth­er tech­niques in use, as well as exam­ples of what not to do, in the lec­ture’s PDF hand­out. Are there valid objec­tions to McEner­ney’s view of writ­ing?  He acknowl­edges that there are, such as as the moral cri­tique mount­ed by crit­i­cal the­o­rist Homi K. Bhab­ha, then a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go — and also, as it hap­pens, a sec­ond-plac­er in the Bad Writ­ing Con­test.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How to Speak: Watch the Lec­ture on Effec­tive Com­mu­ni­ca­tion That Became an MIT Tra­di­tion for Over 40 Years

10 Writ­ing Tips from Leg­endary Writ­ing Teacher William Zinss­er

Umber­to Eco’s How To Write a The­sis: A Wit­ty, Irrev­er­ent & High­ly Prac­ti­cal Guide Now Out in Eng­lish

Steven Pinker Uses The­o­ries from Evo­lu­tion­ary Biol­o­gy to Explain Why Aca­d­e­m­ic Writ­ing is So Bad

Mar­tin Amis Explains His Method for Writ­ing Great Sen­tences

Why the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Reject­ed Kurt Vonnegut’s Master’s The­sis (and How a Nov­el Got Him His Degree 27 Years Lat­er)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, 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, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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