follow us in feedly
‘My life couldn’t fill a penny post card’: A glimpse of Andy Warhol’s early correspondence
09:47 am



In its December 1949 issue Harper’s published a short story by John Cheever—the story was called “Vega,” and it was illustrated by a young artist named Andy Warhol, who was all of 21 years old at the time.

The editor of Harper’s at the time was Russell Lynes, and at some point he wrote Warhol asking him for some biographical information. Warhol responded with an unmistakably Warholian document, featuring a cute drawing, an upbeat greeting, and a bare minimum of upper-case letters (there are five in all). Perhaps fittingly, Warhol plays the humble card, insisting that his “life couldn’t fill a penny post card” and that he has spent the previous few months “moving from one roach infested apartment to another.” (Warhol lived in at least two such apartments with his old school chum Philip Pearlstein.)

The short letter dates from an interesting time in Warhol’s life. He was fresh out of college, and the alacrity with which he secured some high-profile illustrating gigs may have been a sign of future successes to come. He illustrated two album covers, A Program of Mexican Music by Carlos Chávez and a recording of Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky by the Philadelphia Orchestra. He worked as a commercial artist for Glamour, Vogue, and Seventeen and also, we get this tidbit from the Tate Modern in London: “Infatuated with the writer Truman Capote, Andy inundates him with fan letters and telephone calls until Capote’s mother asks him to stop.”

Here’s a transcript of Warhol’s letter:

Hello mr. lynes
thank you very much
biographical information

my life couldn’t fill a penny post card i was born in pittsburgh in 1928 (like everybody else — in a steel mill)

i graduated from carnegie tech now i’m in NY city moving from one roach infested apartment to another.

Andy Warhol.

The letter comes from the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. It appears in the dazzling new book More Than Words by Liza Kirwin, published by Princeton Architectural Press (for more information about the archives, visit It’s highly recommended, as it’s jammed with visual treasures just like this one.

(Click on the image for a larger image.)


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The loopy, hilarious Vines of the late Harris Wittels
06:01 am



The comedy community of Los Angeles received a profound shock two weeks ago when Parks and Recreation actor and writer Harris Wittels was discovered dead of a probable overdose. Parks and Rec fans will forever remember Wittels as one of Pawnee’s two hilariously incompetent animal control guys. In 2012 he also published Humblebrag: The Art of False Modesty, a very sharp book based on a pretty genius idea.

I actually saw Wittels do standup once. It was 2007, he was just 23 years old, and he appared as part of a comedy show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in NYC called “Cavalcade” a friend of mine had organized—the show also featured Joe Mande, Jim Gaffigan, and Anthony Jeselnik. I don’t remember anything about his act. I confess that I found Wittels, as a comedian to follow, kind of confounding; in retrospect I didn’t catch him in his best contexts, and I mistook his giving-zero-fucks and deep hostility towards affectation and insincerity as a sort of laziness. On podcasts I was just beginning to tune into his deeply silly, low-key deadpan style when the news of his death hit the news.

One of the best episodes of any comedy podcast in 2014 came last November, when Wittels made his second appearance on Pete Holmes’ podcast You Made It Weird. After a half-hour of goofing around, Wittels suddenly revealed to Holmes that after “successfully” going through rehab a couple years earlier—which Holmes already knew about—he relapsed pretty badly and had to undergo a whole second, more serious round of rehab, which Holmes had not known about. That comment sparked a wild, hour-plus-long narrative of Wittels’ grueling second descent into addiction hell, a story that is (of course) made all the more powerful and moving because of Wittels’ passing.

Since his death I’ve become increasingly convinced, based on the testimony of Aziz Ansari, Dan Harmon, and others, that we did lose some kind of comic genius last month—one thing I never understand before was just how highly regarded his scriptwriting skills were. Sitcom director Rob Schrab did us all a favor by making a single video out of all of Wittels’ Vines—it takes just a few of the stupid things (there are dozens and dozens of them) to realize how brilliant, in an offhanded way, the guy was. He was clearly a master of the form, much as Humblebrag proves that he was a master of Twitter. Prepare yourself for a barrage of silly accents, facial expressions, loopy puns…. the man was truly a wellspring of cockeyed mirth, and he will be sorely missed.

via Splitsider

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
MAD magazine’s most vicious advertising parodies, circa 1960
07:55 am

Pop Culture


From 1957 to 2001, Mad magazine ran no outside ads—a highly noteworthy feat. Ideally, advertising income should finance 100% of a magazine’s operating costs, materials, payroll, profit, everything, leaving actual newsstand and subscription revenues as mere icing on the cake (that’s how alt weeklies can pull off free-of-charge distribution—well, that and criminally underpaying their art directors BUT I’M NOT BITTER). Mad‘s model was such a drastic inversion of the usual magazine industry business template that, off the top of my head, I can think of few other long-running rags to pull that off—Cooks Illustrated and Consumer Reports, both of which, if I recall correctly, survive on at least some institutional support, and the horrifying Reader’s Digest, which finally began taking ads in the ‘70s, probably realizing via the success of the era’s televangelists what a goldmine of suckers their elderly right-wing audience could be.

Mad‘s late founding publisher and giant among beautiful freaks William Gaines refused ads for so long because he felt it would compromise the publication’s satirical bent. In this amusing TV segment, Gaines spelled out his rejection of advertising bluntly and succinctly:

We don’t believe in merchandising. We make FUN of people who suck every last dime out of a product, and so we won’t do it.

It made sense—if for example Marlboro was paying the bills, writers might feel abashed to target Marlboro, and as it happens, Mad absolutely savaged the cigarette industry, even going so far, as you’ll see below, as to compare its death toll to Hitler’s. But so if all the revenue came from the readers alone, it was the readers alone who’d be served by the publication, and the writers and artists could freely satirize any entity they wanted to. And so they did—their advertising parodies are legendary, and a Flickr user by the handle of Jasperdo has amassed an excellent collection of them. Most of them are from the late ‘50s to mid-‘60s, coinciding with the advertising industry’s so-called “creative revolution,” so naturally they all appropriate the distinctive feel of that era.



More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Stanley Kubrick shoots the N.Y.C. subway, 1946
11:09 am



In the summer of 1945, Stanley Kubrick, many years before he was the acclaimed director of Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange, had a series of photographs published in LOOK magazine, a competitor to LIFE. He was just 16 years old. Thus would begin a relationship with the magazine that would last several years, until he began making movies in earnest around the age of 23, in the early 1950s.

Kubrick took this self-portrait in 1949 with his Leica III while working as a staff photographer for LOOK Magazine
Kubrick was fond of street photography, somewhat like the recent discovery Vivian Maier, and in 1946 he did a series about the New York subway. For more on Kubrick’s photographic career, see the archives of the Museum of the City of New York. Philippe D. Mather recent book Stanley Kubrick at LOOK Magazine: Authorship and Genre in Photojournalism and Film appears to be the only decent one out there on the subject.






More of Kubrick’s stunning subway pics, after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Log Book: The man who kept a diary of every shit he took in 2014
10:22 am



Intrepid reddit user captainmercedes kept a diary of every poop he had during 2014. He noted down every bowel movement in his captain’s “log book”—at what time he had one, its size, consistency, duration and many other relevant details. The information was kept in accordance with the Bristol Stool Chart—an academic shit comparison guide which experts use to classify the quality of turds from “nuts” and “liquid” to something that resembles “a sausage or snake.”
Poo are you? Distribution of bowel movement on Bristol Stool Scale. It would appear the captain mainly fired “a number two torpedo.” There is evidence of some late night binges throughout the year.
A Week of Poo: This chart shows how many fudge brownies our poo expert baked per day. Thursday was the day our man preferred to “drop the kids off at the pool,” while Monday and Tuesday seemed to produce the least number of brown fishies.
Log Dropping Time: 10am in the morning was the optimum time for pebble-dashing the porcelain—though note the very occasional night shift.
Toilet Punishments per day: Or, how many many fudge bombs dropped—which appears to be one on average, though there was that time he fired off five in one day—now that’s impressive. Still, what about the ranking for incomplete turds? What qualifies them as less than one?
Distance from optimal corndog condition.—a kind of sliding scale…
What our chocolate fingered maestro will do with all this information I dunno, but I certainly won’t be holding on with bated breathed…. maybe just holding my breath.
Via reddit.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The real reason the BBC wanted to keep George Orwell off the radio
07:27 am



When George Orwell died at the age of forty-six on January 21st 1950, he was considered by some of London’s fashionable literary critics as a marginal figure—“no good as a novelist”—who was best known for his essays rather than his fiction.

This quickly changed in the years after his death when his reputation and popularity as a writer grew exponentially. Over the past seven decades he has come to be considered one of the most influential English writers of the twentieth century.

This massive change in opinion was largely down to Orwell’s last two books Animal Farm first published in 1945, and Nineteen Eighty-Four published the year before he died. The importance of these two novels has enshrined Orwell’s surname, like Dickens, Kafka and more recently J. G. Ballard, into the English language as a descriptive term—“Orwellian”—for nightmarish political oppression, while many of his fictional ideas or terms contained within Nineteen Eighty-Four have become part of our everyday language—“Big Brother,” “Room 101,” “newspeak,” “doublethink,” “thoughtcrime” and so on.

Both of these books have become essential texts for radicals and conservatives in their individual campaigns against perceived invasive and totalitarian governments. After the Second World War Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four were considered damning critiques of Stalinist Russia, and their subject matter limned the growing paranoia between East and West during the Cold War. When Edward Snowden exposed the covert surveillance by US intelligence agencies on millions of Americans, copies of the book were sold by the thousands. Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s flexibility of interpretation has meant the book has been used to condemn almost everything from the rise of CCTV and wind farms, to the George W. Bush/Tony Blair war against “the axis of evil,” the rise of jihadist Islam, the spread of capitalist globalization, Vladimir Putin’s political “grand vision”, and (rather laughably) “Obamacare.” 

But it wasn’t the meaning of Orwell’s writing that caused the BBC to sniff condescendingly about their employee during the 1940s, rather it was his actual voice which was considered by Overseas Services Controller, JB Clark as “un-attractive” as this secret internal BBC memo reveals:

Controller (Overseas Services)      19th January, 1943

GEORGE ORWELL                                 STAFF PRIVATE

1. A.C. (OS) 2. E.S.D.

I listened rather carefully to one of George Orwell’s English talks in the Eastern Service on, I think, Saturday last. I found the talk itself interesting, and I am not critical of its content, but I was struck by the basic unsuitability of Orwell’s voice. I realise, of course, that his name is of some value in quite important Indian circles, but his voice struck me as both un-attractive and really unsuited to the microphone to such an extent that (a) it would not attract any listeners who were outside the circle of Orwell’s admirers as a writer and might even repel some of these, and (b) would make the talks themselves vulnerable at the hands of people who would have reason to see Orwell denied the microphone, or of those who felt critical of the B.B.C. for being so ignorant of the essential needs of the microphone and of the audience as to put on so wholly unsuitable a voice.

I am quite seriously worried about the situation and about the wisdom of our keeping Orwell personally on the air.

JBC/GMG (J.B. Clark)

The reason Old Etonian Orwell’s voice may not have sounded attractive was that he had been shot in the neck during the Spanish Civil War. However, Orwell got his own back on the BBC by naming Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s infamous torture room after “Room 101” in Broadcasting House, where he had to sit through long, tedious meetings about political vetting.
The only known footage of George Orwell (or Eric Blair as he was then) can be seen in this clip of him playing the “Wall Game” with fellow pupils at Eton—he’s fourth on the left and in the clip between a very young Melanie Griffiths and Grace Kelly.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Grisly rites of Hitler’s monster flesh stripper’: Vintage Naziploitation magazine covers
09:22 am

Pop Culture


For some Americans, the Second World War didn’t end in 1945 but continued in their imaginations through the pages of lurid Naziploitation magazines published during the fifties and sixties. Why so many mid-century male Baby Boomers enjoyed ogling scantily clad women being tortured by Nazi pigs raises serious questions about the mindset of an entire generation. Indeed, it may explain why so many former hippies voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980, preferring the whip of capitalist exploitation and the jack boot of a dominant male to any kind of real fairness and equality.

It’s a theory…

The damsel in distress has long been a cultural trope and such magazines as Man’s Daring, Man’s Story, All Man and Real Men (imaginative titles, eh?) catered to this and permitted readers to indulge taboo fantasies under the guise of fighting a common evil enemy. It made weak men feel masculine and protective at the same time, while indulging their arousal over the antics of some wicked, pervy Nazis. Of course these magazines didn’t just focus on Nazis but picked on Communist Russians and the KGB (NKVD), Japanese geishas and Chinese Red Army generals.

Eventually these exploitation magazines lost out to the rise of “skin mags” like Playboy and Mayfair, where nothing was left to the imagination. As for Naziploitation, well it moved into movies during the 1970s with the likes of SS Experiment Love Camp, Ilsa: She-Wolf of the S.S. and even arthouse fare by directors such as Luchino Visconti (The Damned, 1969), Liliana Caviani (The Night Porter, 1974) and Tinto Brass (the notorious Salon Kitty, 1976). 
More questionable exploitation mags after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade Into You’ sung by Cookie Monster
05:30 am



Catman Cohen is an obscure but tenacious vocalist with an improbable, gravelly bass voice and a catalog of four self released CDs that feature absurdly portentious song titles like “If I Could Divide the Smell of Flowers,” “How I Want to Die,” “Metaphorical Dreams of a Broken Soul”... you get the picture. He’s very much a destitute man’s Leonard Cohen attempting to sing like Albert Kuvezhin, and on his 2009 opus How I Want to Dream: The Catman Chronicles 3 he covered Mazzy Star’s unforgettable 1993 single “Fade Into You.” Terribly. He also made a terrible video for it. Watch it here if you like, but I much prefer the version below, mashed-up by an internet smartass with footage of Sesame Street‘s Cookie Monster.

Many thanks to Valerie Johnson for this find.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
J Mascis singing Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade Into You’
Cookie Monster sings Tom Waits’ ‘Hell Broke Luce’
Tuvan throat singer takes on Led Zeppelin, Kraftwerk, Beefheart, Joy Division & more

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Can mice throw up?’: Before there was Google, there was the New York Public Library
09:06 am



A few days ago, the New York Public Library uploaded an intriguing picture to its Instagram account. The picture was of a torn and tattered index card with a plaintive and yet hopeful message typed on it: “Is this the place where I ask questions I can’t get answers to?” It turns out that before the Internet significantly improved the process of resolving heretofore elusive questions of whether it was Bill Paxton or Bill Pullman who was the star of Spaceballs (answer: Pullman), a significant chunk of the job description of librarians, at least at the New York Public Library (NYPL), was slaking the well-nigh random curiosity of the public at large. They fielded questions in person but also over the telephone, and some of the questions that came up were recorded on index cards.

The purpose of NYPL’s Instagram post was to announce the inauguration of a new series of photos, to be posted every Monday, using the hashtag #letmelibrarianthatforyou:

We found an old recipe box while cleaning out a desk, and it was labeled “Interesting Reference Questions,” the contents of which ranged from total stumpers to funny mispronunciations. People came to the library for reference, but also for info on buying and selling, looking for inspiration, crafty project ideas, and even to find photos. In a world pre-Google, librarians weren’t just Wikipedia, they were people’s Craiglist, Pinterest, Etsy, and Instagram all rolled into one.

The series’ second installment was yesterday, and the card they chose was incredibly beguiling, so much so that I am forced to entertain the notion that someone was pranking the NYPL, way back in 1967:

Telephone call mid-afternoon New Year’s Day, 1967: Somewhat uncertain female voice: “I have two questions. The first is sort of an etiquette one. I went to a New Year’s Eve party and unexpectedly stayed over. I don’t really know the hosts. Ought I to send a thank-you note? Second. When you meet a fellow and you know he’s worth twenty-seven million dollars—because that’s what they told me, twenty-seven million, and you know his nationality, how do you find out his name?” CS 1/2/67


Shrewdly, the NYPL released a couple dozen questions to Gothamist—not the cards, just the questions—and they’re well worth a look. We’ve included the few pics of the index cards that have been released so far. Gothamist reports that “People still use an updated version of this, called Ask NYPL, and the library says they receive about 1,700 reference questions a month via chat, email, and phone.” (I have used “Ask NYPL” myself via chat, but to resolve a thorny research question about the NYPL’s holdings, not to find out about the cast of Spaceballs.) Reading the questions is a little like seeing what the Autocomplete function spits out when you type in “why is there a” on Google, only a bit more refined:

Are black widow spiders more harmful dead or alive?

Are Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates the same person?

Can NYPL recommend a good forger?

Can you tell me the thickness of a US Postage stamp with the glue on it? Answer: We cannot get this answer quickly. Perhaps try the Postal Service. Response: This is the Postal Service.

Does the Bible have a copyright?

What percentage of all bathtubs in the world are in the US?

What does it mean when you dream of being chased by an elephant?

What’s the difference between pig and pork?

Can mice throw up?




And, finally, one the Manhattanites especially will enjoy:

via Messy Nessy Chic

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Five merry & macabre Ralph Steadman Christmas cartoons from way back in 1957
02:12 pm



Ralph Steadman‘s path to the splattered and hyperbolic cartoons that went so well with the gonzo journalism of Hunter Thompson was neither short nor straightforward. Steadman’s first published comic (about Egypt) appeared in the Manchester Evening Chronicle in 1956. As he said in an interview in 1989, “It was done in sort of quasi-David Low style, because that was the sort of thing that was expected: if you did a political cartoon, it had to look like David Low. Nothing had come on the horizon yet for me. I hadn’t yet found George Grosz. I hadn’t even found Picasso. I had not really found anybody at that time.”

A year later, for Christmas, the same newspaper ran five single-paneled cartoons on the theme of Christmas by Steadman; the date was December 21, 1957. He was all of 21 years old.

The Evening Chronicle was trying to make Steadman into a local and beloved figure with a nickname to match his signature of that time—“STEAD.” The title of the Christmas gallery of cartoons is “STEAD Looks at Christmas.” It’s interesting to see signs of the scathing and acidic negativity that would come later in Steadman’s career here, when his style was relatively anonymous—“quasi-David Low,” as he said. His concept of a cute punchline was pretty negative, whether it’s a Santa in the Sahara or Santa having to buy an unfathomable number of stamps or, in the most Steadman-esque of the bunch by far, a frenzied paterfamilias exasperated with “Aunt Agatha” while he cuts the Christmas goose.





Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Page 3 of 45  < 1 2 3 4 5 >  Last ›