The history of punk zines

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The Digital Fanzine Preservation Society has posted a huge archive of original punk zines online for free!

Not only do these magazines have obvious historical value, but the style and layout have been appropriated many times and it’s nice to go back to the angry, messy and difficult to read originals. No large company could ever match the offensive cheapness of the originals.

As a teenager I bought some of these at Monkey’s Retreat in Columbus, Ohio. They fascinated me and, I have to admit, scared me a little bit. Looking at them now, I just see the the cut and xerox, all text done with a typewriter and DIY simplicity. But, at the time, they seemed like they came from a tremendously cool alternate universe where the magazines looked like they were written and designed by people in an insane asylum.

You can also get a selection of old Maximum Rockndroll issues from their site.

Even more zines here!

Lost art: the corporate musical

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Over on the WFMU Blog they have been chronicling a lost art form. The corporate musical! These were musicals created by large companies to help charge up their sales force during conventions. They hired professionals to do it and those professionals obviously have no passion for the subject. It’s a great example of overcoming obstacles and having to create without inspiration.

What would you do if you had to write an entire musical about bathroom fixtures? Probably something like The Bathrooms Are Coming. Not only does it contain the best (only?) song about bathroom fixture distributors ever written, but also the best song about how a woman feels about her bathroom.

My bathroom
Is a private kind of place
very special kind of place
the only place where I can stay
making faces at my face

How about a calculator company? Here’s the Monroe Calculator Company musical, It’s a Brand New Ball Game. Or JC Penny’s Spirit of 66! Which include the great song, How Would We Look Without Zippers? Or the most complicated corporate musical, General Electric’s Go Fly A Kite! It includes a trip to hell and the song Big Fat Wife and Make a Woman Out of Your Wife. This post is a potpourri of different companies, my favorite is the song from the point of view of a salesman’s wife called My VIP, a creepy appreciation from a neglected wife.

We’re those things called salesman’s wives
We gave up living when we chose our lives
But one truth stands, it will always be
We love those men, our VIPs.

Oh, and the Frito Twist.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes there is nothing more inspiring than something completely uninspired.

Tom Waits on songwriting

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The latest Mojo Magazine has an interview with Tom Waits about his songwriting process. I wanted to share a few quotes. The first is on the diversity of influences songwriters have. The basic point being that you draw from sources that are unlike your own.

We all have a feeling that songwriters are purist, that if you like folk music you only listen to folk music, but it’s not true. Like for example, Howlin’ Wolf loved Jimmie Rodgers and Muddy Waters loved Gene Autry. He didn’t sit around listening to blues all day. It’s like breathing your own oxygen. You’ve got to find some nutrients somewhere.

I love the thought of Muddy Waters sitting around listening to a Gene Autry album and digging it. Creators need a broad range of ¬†sources to create new things. Limiting your consumption also limits your output. If you want to break new ground, you’re going to need every resource you can get.

He also compares hearing new and different music to “entering another world.”

I think everybody’s looking for something they’ve never seen before. You work on your songs, but your songs also work on you. So you absorb and you excrete and in some way you retain, and slowly you start to become some place that songs are passing through. I’d like to think that they enjoy blowing through you. There’s something electric about you, maybe, some kind of a force left behind by music that passes through you. Like everybody likes to be around someone who does something well and loves doing it, so songs would be no different, right? Like, ‘Let’s blow down and see that guy.

In other words, instead of trying to build the songs, make yourself into a person that attracts songs. You have to open all the windows in your house for a breeze to come through and you’ll have to open your mind to new resources for ideas to wander in.

What Is Beauty? An Experiment

Does context matter for beauty? Do people need to be told what is beautiful? Or, does beauty stand out no matter where it is?

The Washington Post did a simple experiment to try and answer this question. They got Joshua Bell, one of the world’s most famous violinists who can charge $1000 a minute for his services, to play in a crowded pedestrian area in Washington D.C. during rush hour. They had crowd control measures in place in case things got out of control and let him loose. He played for 43 minutes.

Any guesses as to the outcome?

The Post went to the director of the National Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin, and asked his prediction.

"Let’s assume," Slatkin said, "that he is not recognized and just taken for granted as a street musician . . . Still, I don’t think that if he’s really good, he’s going to go unnoticed. He’d get a larger audience in Europe . . . but, okay, out of 1,000 people, my guess is there might be 35 or 40 who will recognize the quality for what it is. Maybe 75 to 100 will stop and spend some time listening."

So, a crowd would gather?

"Oh, yes."

And how much will he make?

"About $150."

There was a shoeshine place nearby and the lady running it usually calls the police on musicians because they drive away her business. She didn’t call the police that day even though the music was far too loud for her liking because the musician was pretty good. A postal worker stops at the top of an escalator when he hears the music. He has to go back and find the source. He gave $5 and still didn’t recognize who Bell was even though he was a fan.

In total for that day he collected $32.17. Some people gave him pennies and he was recognized once. No crowd control was needed.

I think this just goes to show the importance of context for art. Also, it shows how much other people depend on experts and crowds to tell them what is good. Most people like what other people tell them to like. They don’t have time to find beauty on their own.

I’m betting if he played there for every single day for a year, by the end of the time he would have fans and crowds. Eventually the early adopters would find him and then the rest would follow.

Kind of sad to think of beauty as a commodity that needs to be marketed instead of beauty having its own appeal.

There are great videos taken of the experiment embedded in the article.

Read the article and watch the videos here

My iPod Is Smarter Than Your iPod

The internet is just loaded with ways to fill your iPod with smart stuff for free!

The best site for free audio smart stuff is LibriVox. This is a sister project to Project Gutenberg their mission is to supply mp3s of people reading books, articles and stories in the public domain. I have found the quality of the readers to be uneven, but I can’t complain because it’s all free.

What about free old time radio shows? Try Old Time Radio Fans. You can even get the original broadcast of War of the Worlds for free.

Even though it is incomplete, if you want some free Shakespeare audio students at Los Medanos college have a podcast where they are working their way through all of Shakespeare’s work. What they have done already is available on their site. Shakespearecast.

Finally, Stanford University offers free audio of faculty lectures on many different topics. This is an amazing service. They have three courses that they are offering all lectures completely free of charge.

 

Sound Smart When You Talk About Music

WFMU’s Beware of the Blog has all the mp3s from a 1959 album that gives the correct pronunciations of classical composers, music terms, opera titles and musician’s names. Learning the vocabulary makes it much easier to enjoy and talk about classical music without sounding like a rube. Also, you can get all snotty and irritated when you her people mispronounce them. So, it’s win/win.

Now, if they would just post a guide to philosophers we’d certainly hear a lot more discussion of people like Sartre, Nietzsche and Heraclitus. I know that Weird Al would like to work a reference to Sartre into his next album but he’s not sure if it actually rhymes with "fart".

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