Thelonious Monk’s 25 Tips for Musicians (1960)

Stories of idiosyncratic and demanding composers and bandleaders abound in mid-century jazz—of pioneers who pushed their musicians to new heights and in entirely new directions through seeming sheer force of will. Miles Davis’ name inevitably comes up in such discussions. Davis was “not a patient man,” jazz historian Dan Morgenstern remarks, “and I think he got impatient with himself just as he did with other people.” Jazz and other forms of music have been immeasurably enriched by that impatience.

Other bop eccentrics—like John Coltrane—brought their own personality quirks and personal struggles to bear on their styles, pushing toward new insights and experiments that shaped the future of the music. Their peer Thelonious Monk, writes Candace Allen at The Guardian, “the jobbing musician who couldn’t, more than wouldn’t, conform to the conventions of the job," seemed the odd man out. He "spent most of his professional life struggling to support his family.” Monk's “misdiagnosed and ignorantly medicated bipolar condition” and his stubborn refusal to follow trends made it difficult for him to achieve the success he deserved.

But it was Monk’s inability to do things any way but his way that made up the essence of his greatness—his insistence on “playing angular, spacious and ‘slow,’” his “daunting and mysterious” silences. A musical prodigy, Monk honed his piano chops in Baptist churches and New York rent parties before his residency as house pianist for Teddy Hill’s band at the famed Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem, where he helped usher in the “bebop revolution.” While he “charted a new course for modern music few were willing to follow,” notes All About Jazz, those who did learned a new way of playing, Monk’s way.

What does that mean? The list above, as transcribed by saxophonist Steve Lacy, lays it all out. “T. Monk’s Advice,” as it’s called, offers guidelines, pointers, and pointed commands. Some of these instructions relate directly to live performance (“don’t sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene,” "avoid the hecklers"). Others get at the heart of Monk’s genius—his talent for creating space, both inside the arrangements and between the notes. Monk makes sure he’s the only one playing “weird notes,” demanding that musicians “play the melody!” “Don’t play the piano part,” he says, “I am playing that.” And he peppers the list with cryptic philosophical and social observations (“discrimination is important,” “always know,” “a genius is the one most like himself”).

In the last item on the list (cut off in the image above), Monk veers sharply away from music with some humorous social commentary. It’s a move that’s typical Monk—both deeply serious and playful, entirely unexpected, and leaving us, as he instructs his musicians, “wanting more.” See a transcription of Monk's list of advice for musicians below.

Just because you’re not a drummer, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep time.

Pat your foot and sing the melody in your head when you play.

Stop playing all that bullshit, those weird notes, play the melody!

Make the drummer sound good.

Discrimination is important.

You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?

All reet!

Always know

It must be always night, otherwise they wouldn’t need the lights.

Let’s lift the band stand!!

I want to avoid the hecklers.

Don’t play the piano part, I am playing that. Don’t listen to me, I am supposed to be accompanying you!

The inside of the tune (the bridge) is the part that makes the outside sound good.

Don’t play everything (or everytime); let some things go by. Some music just imagined.

What you don’t play can be more important than what you do play.

A note can be small as a pin or as big as the world, it depends on your imagination.

Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig & when it comes, he’s out of shape & can’t make it.

When you are swinging, swing some more!

(What should we wear tonight?) Sharp as possible!

Always leave them wanting more.

Don’t sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene.

Those pieces were written so as to have something to play & to get cats interested enough to come to rehearsal!

You’ve got it! If you don’t want to play, tell a joke or dance, but in any case, you got it! (to a drummer who didn’t want to solo).

Whatever you think can’t be done, somebody will come along & do it. A genius is the one most like himself.

They tried to get me to hate white people, but someone would always come along & spoil it.

via Lists of Note

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

The Doodles in Leonardo da Vinci’s Manuscripts Contain His Groundbreaking Theories on the Laws of Friction, Scientists Discover

Just like the rest of us, Leonardo da Vinci doodled and scribbled: you can see it in his digitized notebooks, which we featured this past summer. But the prototypical Renaissance man, both unsurprisingly and characteristically, took that scribbling and doodling to a higher level entirely. Not only do his margin notes and sketches look far more elegant than most of ours, some of them turn out to reveal his previously unknown early insight into important subjects. Take, for instance, the study of friction (otherwise known as tribology), which may well have got its start in what at first just looked like doodles of blocks, weights, and pulleys in Leonardo's notebooks.

This discovery comes from University of Cambridge engineering professor Ian M. Hutchings, whose research, says that department's site, "examines the development of Leonardo's understanding of the laws of friction and their application. His work on friction originated in studies of the rotational resistance of axles and the mechanics of screw threads, but he also saw how friction was involved in many other applications."

One page, "from a tiny notebook (92 x 63 mm) now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, dates from 1493" and "contains Leonardo’s first statement of the laws of friction," sketches of "rows of blocks being pulled by a weight hanging over a pulley – in exactly the same kind of experiment we might do today to demonstrate the laws of friction."

"While it may not be possible to identify unequivocally the empirical methods by which Leonardo arrived at his understanding of friction," Hutchings writes in his paper, "his achievements more than 500 years ago were outstanding. He made tests, he observed, and he made powerful connections in his thinking on this subject as in so many others." By the year of these sketches Leonardo "had elucidated the fundamental laws of friction," then "developed and applied them with varying degrees of success to practical mechanical systems."

And though tribologists had no idea of Leonardo's work on friction until the twentieth century, seemingly unimportant drawings like these show that he "stands in a unique position as a quite remarkable and inspirational pioneer of tribology." What other fields of inquiry could Leonardo have pioneered without history having properly acknowledged it? Just as his life inspires us to learn and invent, so research like Hutchings' inspires us to look closer at what he left behind, especially at that which our eyes may have passed over before. You can open up Leonardo's notebooks and have a look yourself. Just make sure to learn his mirror writing first.

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

Read the “Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down” Letter That Albert Einstein Sent to Marie Curie During a Time of Personal Crisis (1911)

Marie Curie’s 1911 Nobel Prize win, her second, for the discovery of radium and polonium, would have been cause for public celebration in her adopted France, but for the nearly simultaneous revelation of her affair with fellow physicist Paul Langevin, the fellow standing to the right of a 32-year-old Albert Einstein in the above group photo from the 1911 Solvay Conference in Physics.

Both stories broke while Curie—unsurprisingly, the sole woman in the photo—was attending the conference in Brussels.

Equally unsurprisingly, the press preferred la scandal to la réalisation scientifique. Sex sells, then and now.

The fires of radium which beam so mysteriously...have just lit a fire in the heart of one of the scientists who studies their action so devotedly; and the wife and the children of this scientist are in tears....

—Le Journal, November 4, 1911

There's no denying that the affair was painful for Langevin’s family, particularly his wife, Jeanne, who supplied the media with incriminating letters from Curie to her husband. She must have been aware that Curie would be the one to bear the brunt of the public’s disapproval. Double standards with regard to gender are nothing new.

A furious throng gathered outside of Curie’s house and anti-Semitic papers, dissatisfied with labeling the pioneering scientist a mere home wrecker, declared—erroneously—that she was Jewish. The timeline was tweaked to suggest that Curie had taken up with Langevin prior to her husband’s death. Fellow radiochemist Bertram Boltwood seized the opportunity to declare that "she is exactly what I always thought she was, a detestable idiot.”

In the midst of this, Einstein, who had made Curie’s acquaintance at the conference, proved himself a true friend with a “don’t let the bastards get you down” letter, written on November 23. Other than a delicate allusion to Langevin as a person with whom he felt privileged to be in contact with, he refrained from mentioning the cause of her misfortune.

A friendly word can go a long way in times of disgrace, and Einstein supplied his new friend with some stoutly unequivocal ones, denouncing the scandalmongers as “reptiles” feasting on sensationalistic “hogwash”:

Highly esteemed Mrs. Curie,

Do not laugh at me for writing you without having anything sensible to say. But I am so enraged by the base manner in which the public is presently daring to concern itself with you that I absolutely must give vent to this feeling. However, I am convinced that you consistently despise this rabble, whether it obsequiously lavishes respect on you or whether it attempts to satiate its lust for sensationalism! I am impelled to tell you how much I have come to admire your intellect, your drive, and your honesty, and that I consider myself lucky to have made your personal acquaintance in Brussels. Anyone who does not number among these reptiles is certainly happy, now as before, that we have such personages among us as you, and Langevin too, real people with whom one feels privileged to be in contact. If the rabble continues to occupy itself with you, then simply don’t read that hogwash, but rather leave it to the reptile for whom it has been fabricated.

With most amicable regards to you, Langevin, and Perrin, yours very truly,

A. Einstein

PS I have determined the statistical law of motion of the diatomic molecule in Planck’s radiation field by means of a comical witticism, naturally under the constraint that the structure’s motion follows the laws of standard mechanics. My hope that this law is valid in reality is very small, though.

That deliberately geeky postscript amounts to another sweet show of support. Perhaps it fortified Curie when a week later, she received a letter from Nobel Committee member Svante Arrhenius, urging her to skip the Prize ceremony in Stockholm. Curie rejected Arrhenius’ suggestion thusly:

The prize has been awarded for the discovery of radium and polonium. I believe that there is no connection between my scientific work and the facts of private life. I cannot accept ... that the appreciation of the value of scientific work should be influenced by libel and slander concerning private life.

For a more in-depth look at Marie Curie’s nightmarish November, refer to “Honor and Dishonor” the sixteenth chapter in Barbara Goldsmith’s Obsessive Genius: The Inner World of Marie Curie.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography in Her First Online Course

John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Dolly Parton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barack Obama and family, Bruce Springsteen, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Gates, Queen Elizabeth II, Lady Gaga: name someone who has risen to the very top of the zeitgeist over the past few decades, and Annie Leibovitz has probably photographed them. Her images, in fact, have often come to stand for the images of her subjects in the culture: when we think of certain celebrities, we instinctively imagine them as they appeared on a Leibovitz-shot cover of Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair. Safe to say, then, that she knows a thing or two about how to take a picture that makes an impact.

The people at online education company Masterclass have now packaged that knowledge in "Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography," a course that joins their existing lineup that includes Helen Mirren on actingSteve Martin on comedyWerner Herzog on filmmaking, and Herbie Hancock on jazz. For a price of $90 (or $180 for a year-long pass to all of their classes), Masterclass offers a package of workbook-accompanied video lessons in which "Annie teaches you how to develop concepts, work with subjects, shoot with natural light, and bring images to life in post-production." (If you want to give this course as a gift, just click here.)

The early lessons in "Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography" cover subjects like memories of her own development as a photographer to discussions of her influences and her view of the medium itself. Later on, she gets into the real-life case study of shooting chef Alice Waters for Vanity Fair, digital post-production, how to come up with the right concept (ideally, so her career has shown, one just strange or daring enough to get people talking), and how to work with your subject. "There's this idea that in portraiture, it's the photographer's job to set the subject at ease," Leibovitz says in the class trailer above. "I don't believe that."

Few aspects of Leibovitz's method have drawn as much attention as the way she handles her subjects,  which tends to involve both developing enough of a relationship with them to gain some understanding of their inner lives and putting them in situations which, so she has studiously learned while getting to know them, may lie a bit outside of their comfort zone. Few of us will ever have that much face time with a photographer like Leibovitz, let alone enough to ask her in-depth questions about the craft, but if you suspect you might find yourself one day in a position to photograph the next Caitlyn Jenner, Mark Zuckerberg, or Kim Kardashian — or someone more important to you personally — the strategies explained in her Masterclass course will surely come in handy.

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If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Note: MasterClasss and Open Culture have a partnership. If you sign up for a MasterClass course, it benefits not just you and MasterClass. It benefits Open Culture too. So consider it win-win-win.

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

 

350 Animated Videos That Will Teach You Philosophy, from Ancient to Post-Modern

Philosophy is not an idle pursuit of leisured gentlemen and tenured professors, though the life circumstances of many a philosopher might make us think otherwise. The foremost example of a privileged philosopher is Marcus Aurelius, famous expositor of Stoicism, and also, incidentally, Emperor of Rome. Yet we must also bear in mind that Epictetus, the other most famous expositor of Stoicism, whom Aurelius quotes repeatedly in his Meditations, was born a slave.

Against certain tendencies of modern thinking, we might hazard to believe that both men shared enough common human experience to arrive at some universal principles fully applicable to everyday life. Stoicism, after all, is nothing if not practical. Consider, for example, the emperor’s advice below—how challenging it might be for anyone, and how beneficial, not only for the individual, but—as Aurelius makes plain—for everyone.

Begin the morning by saying to yourself, I shall meet with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to mine, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of divinity, I can neither be harmed by any of them, nor no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my brother, nor hate him. For we are made for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away.

Yes, a passage that might have come from the speeches of Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, or Martin Luther King, Jr. also belongs to the philosophical traditions of ancient Rome, though in the mouth of an emperor it may not sound to us as compellingly radical.

Nowadays, several million more people have access to books, literacy, and leisure than in Marcus Aurelius’ era (and one wonders where even an emperor found the time), though few of us, it’s true, have access to a nobleman’s education. While currently under threat, the internet still provides us with a wealth of free content—and many of us are much better positioned than Epictetus was to educate ourselves about philosophical traditions, schools, and ways of thinking.

We can learn about the Stoics, for example—or get the gist, and hopefully a taste for more—with Alain de Botton’s video appetizer at the top, just one of 30 short animated videos on the philosophy YouTube channel of his School of Life. We can cruise through a summary of Aristotle’s views on “flourishing” in the video above, narrated by the always-affable Stephen Fry as part of the BBC’s “History of Ideas” series, currently up to 48 uniquely animated videos featuring other smart-sounding celebrity narrators like Harry Shearer and Gillian Anderson.

The Macat series of philosophy explainer videos (136 in total) may lack celebrity cred, but it makes up for it with some very thorough short summaries of important works in philosophy—as well as sociology, psychology, history, politics, economics, and literature. “The essential purpose of politics is freedom,” Hannah Arendt wrote in her 1958 The Human Condition, we learn above, a work of hers that is not focused on mass murder and totalitarianism. Arendt had much more to say, and in this book, she relies on a classical distinction well known to the Greeks and Romans and all who came after them: the contrast between two kinds of life—the vita activa and vita contemplativa.

While philosophy may have become much more accessible, it has also become less “open access”—in the sense of being a public affair, taking place in city squares and actively encouraged by statesmen and ordinary loiterers alike. For all its possibilities—and we hope they can remain—the internet has never been able to recreate the Athenian ideal of the philosophical public square, if such a thing ever really existed. But projects like Wireless Philosophy—sponsored by Yale, MIT, Duke, and other elite institutions—have sought for years to introduce people from every walk of life to the kinds of ideas that Athenians supposedly threw around like frisbees in their spare time, including Plato’s notion (via his mouthpiece, Socrates) of “the good life,” which University of New Orleans professor Chris Surprenent, summarizes above. See all of Wireless Philosophy's 130 animations here.

The material is out there. We've highlighted 350 philosophical animations above, and also separately gathered 170 Free Online Philosophy Courses. And, if you’re reading this, it’s a good bet you’ve probably got a little time to spare. If it’s an old-fashioned sales pitch you need to get going, consider that for just pennies, er, minutes a day, you can become more knowledgeable about ancient Greek and Roman thought, Kantian ethics, 20th century Critical Theory, Nietzsche, critical thinking skills, Scholastic theological thought, Buddhism, Wittgenstein, Sartre, etc., etc, etc., etc. That said, however, acquiring the concentration, discipline, and will to do your own thinking about what you’ve learned, and to apply it, has never been so free and easy to come by for anyone at any time in history.

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

Why Coffee Naps Will Perk You Up More Than Either Coffee, or Naps, Alone

We've all had a cup of coffee after a nap. But maybe we've been doing it all wrong. Maybe we should put the cup of coffee before the nap. It sounds counterintuitive. But apparently the coffee nap--a cup of joe followed immediately by a quick nap--has some scientific merits and unexpected health benefits.

Over at Vox, they've summarized the findings of researchers at Loughborough University in the UK, who found that "when tired participants took a 15-minute coffee nap, they went on to commit fewer errors in a driving simulator than when they were given only coffee, or only took a nap."

Or "a Japanese study found that people who took a caffeine nap before taking a series of memory tests performed significantly better on them compared with people who solely took a nap, or took a nap and then washed their faces or had a bright light shone in their eyes."

The accompanying Vox video above explains how the coffee nap works its magic. The biology and chemistry all get discussed in a quick two-minute clip.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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Will You Really Achieve Happiness If You Finally Win the Rat Race? Don’t Answer the Question Until You’ve Watched Steve Cutts’ New Animation

Illustrator Steve Cutts sets his latest animation, "Happiness," in a teeming urban environment, with hundreds of near identical cartoon rats standing in for human drudges in an unfulfilling, and not unfamiliar race.

Packed subway cars, a bombardment of advertising, soul-deadening office jobs, and Black Friday sales are just a few of the indignities Cutts’ rodents are subjected to, to the tune of Bizet’s "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle."

Rampant over-consumption—a major preoccupation for this artist—offers illusory relief, and a great deal of fun for viewers with the time to hit pause, to better savor the grim details.

The maximalist frames read like a gratifying perversion of Richard Scarry’s relentlessly sunny Busytown. As with Cutts' 80s-throwback Simpson’s couch gag: pop-culture references and visual input whip by at subliminal warp speed. 

They may also serve as an antidote to the sort of messaging we’re constantly on the receiving end of, whether we live in city, country or somewhere in-between. Check out the scene as Cutts pans up from the subway platform, 52 seconds in:

The panty-clad female model for Blah cologne’s fashionably black and white ad is emaciated nearly to the point of death.

“You’re better than laces” flatters the latest (laceless) shoe from a swoosh-bedecked footwear manufacturer, while a radiator-colored beverage floats above the motto “Just drink it, morons.”

Krispo Flakes fight depression with “the bits other cereals don’t want.”

Heaven help us all, there’s even a poster for TRUMP The Musical.

This freeze-frame scrutiny could make an excellent activity for any class where middle and high schoolers are encouraged to think critically about their role as consumers.

As Cutts, a one-time employee of the digital marketing agency, Isobar, who contributed to campaigns for such global giants as Coca-Cola, Google, Reebok, and Toyota, told Reverb Press in 2015:

These are things that affect us all on a fundamental level so naturally they’re a main focus for a lot of my work. Humanity has the power to be great in so many ways and yet at the same time we are fundamentally flawed. I think it’s the conflict between these two that fascinates me the most. As a race of beings we’ve made incredible achievements in such a short space, but at the same time we seem so overwhelmingly intent on destroying ourselves and everything around us. It would be very interesting to see where we’ll be in a hundred years. The term insanity is intriguing – it’s almost like we’re encouraged to act in a way that seems genuinely insane when you look at it objectively, but it’s often accepted as normal right now. I think we will have to evolve beyond our current thinking and way of doing things if we want to survive.

See more of Cutts’ animated work here. And while he doesn’t go out of his way to hype his online store, a gallery quality print of The Rat Trap would make a fantastic gift from your cubicle mate’s Secret Santa. (HURRY! TIME IS RUNNING OUT!!!)

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Tree of Modern Art: Elegant Drawing Visualizes the Development of Modern Art from Delacroix to Dalí (1940)

Selecting certain features, simplifying them, exaggerating them, and using them to provide a deep insight, at a glance, into the subject as a whole: such is the art of the caricaturist, one that Miguel Covarrubias elevated to another level in the early- to mid-20th century. Those skills, combined with his knowledge as an art historian, also served him well when he drew "The Tree of Modern Art." This aesthetically pleasing diagram first appeared in Vanity Fair in May of 1933, a time when many readers of such magazines would have felt a great curiosity about how, exactly, all these new paintings and sculptures and such — many of which didn't seem to look much like the paintings and sculptures they knew at all — related to one another.

"Because it stops in 1940, the tree fails to account for abstract expressionism and other post–World War II movements," writes Vox's Phil Edwards, in a piece that includes a version of the Covarrubias' 1940 "Tree of Modern Art" revision with clickable examples of relevant artwork.

But "the organizational structure alone reveals a surprisingly large amount about the way art has evolved," including how it "becomes broader and more inclusive over time," eventually turning into a "global affair"; how "artistic schools have become more aesthetically diverse"; how "the canon evolved quickly"; and how "all art is intertwined," created as it has so long been by artists who "work together, borrow from each other, and grow in tandem."

You can also find the "Tree of Modern Art" at the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection, a holding that illustrates, as it were, just how wide a swath of information design the term "map" can encompass. "The date is estimated based on the verso of the paper being a blue lined base map of the National Park Service dated 12/28/39," says the collection's site. "This drawing was found in the papers of B. Ashburton Tripp" — also a mapmaker in the collection — "and we assume that Covarrubias and Tripp were friends (verified by Tripp's descendants) and that the blue line base map was something Tripp was working on in his landscape architecture business."

The legend describes the tree as having been "planted 60 years ago," a number that has now passed 130. Many more leaves have grown off those branches of impressionism, expressionism, post-impressionism, surrealism, cubism, and futurism in the years since Covarrubias drew the tree, but for someone to go back and augment such a fully-realized creation wouldn't do at all — as with any work of art, modern or otherwise.

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

See Ridley Scott’s 1973 Bread Commercial—Voted England’s Favorite Advertisement of All Time

I have often thought that eating some really serious brown bread is a bit like pushing a bike up a very steep hill, a hill called “health.” So what a surprise to find that in 2006 a poll of 1,000 Britons voted this 1973 ad for Hovis bread as the Favorite British Commercial of All Time. And none other than Ridley Scott directed it. Indeed, this story of a young lad delivering bread by bicycle up a steep cobblestone mining-town street is laced through with nostalgia and a sentimental use of Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony. (So beloved is it that Brits often request the classical work on radio as “the Hovis music.”)

Before Ridley Scott became a blockbuster film director, he cut his teeth by directing episodic television in the UK, and then forming an advertising production company with his brother Tony called RSA Films (Ridley Scott Associates). According to Scott, he was involved in the production of roughly 2,700 commercials over the company’s 10 years.

This iconic ad was one of several he directed that year for Hovis, but this is the one that stuck. It might be the simplicity of the ad, the Sisyphean struggle of its young protagonist (who at least gets to easily ride home), or any number of factors, but it would be a stretch to really see the auteur in this film. If anything, it’s reminiscent of his kitchen sink meets French New Wave short film from 1965, "Boy and Bicycle," which is interesting more as an oddity and a starring vehicle for his brother than a great film.

The Independent tracked down the boy in the Hovis ad, Carl Barlow, who was 13 at the time, but is now 57 and a retired firefighter.

"It was pure fate that I got the part as the Hovis boy. I was down to the last three, and it turned out that one of the two boys couldn't ride a bike, and the other wouldn't cut his hair into the pudding bowl style - it was the Seventies after all. As the only boy who could ride a bike and would cut his hair, I got the part."

This year, as part of an ad campaign for Evans Bicycles, Mr. Barlow made his way to the top of the hill one more time, with the help of an electric bike:

The original commercial is not Ridley Scott’s most famous one. That would go to his Apple Macintosh “1984” ad that screened during the Super Bowl. This list shows a few more that Scott directed, into the 1990s.

Finally, an iconic commercial invites parody, and, in fact, cherished comedians The Two Ronnies made fun of the Hovis ad in this brief skit from 1978.

Related Content:

Ridley Scott Walks You Through His Favorite Scene from Blade Runner

Ridley Scott Talks About Making Apple’s Landmark “1984” Commercial, Aired on Super Bowl Sunday in 1984

How Ridley Scott Turned Footage From the Beginning of The Shining Into the End of Blade Runner

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Underground Cartoonist Robert Crumb Creates an Illustrated Introduction to Franz Kafka’s Life and Work

The use of an author’s name as an adjective to describe some kind of general style can seem, well, lazy, in a wink-wink, “you know what I mean,” kind of way. One must leave it to readers to decide whether deploying a “Baldwinian” or a “Woolfian," or an “Orwellian” or “Dickensian," is justified. When it comes to “Kafkaesque,” we may find reason to consider abandoning the word altogether. Not because we don’t know what it means, but because we think it means what Kafka meant, rather than what he wrote. Maybe turning him into shorthand, “a clever reference,” writes Chris Barsanti, prepares us to seriously misunderstand his work.

The problem motivated author David Zane Mairowitz and underground comics legend Robert Crumb to create a graphic biography, first published in 1990 as Kafka for Beginners. “The book,” writes Barsanti of a 2007 Fantographics edition called Kafka, “states its case rather plain: ‘No writer of our time, and probably none since Shakespeare, has been so widely over-interpreted and pigeon holed… [Kafkaesque] is an adjective that takes on almost mythic proportions in our time, irrevocably tied to fantasies of doom and gloom, ignoring the intricate Jewish Joke that weaves itself through the bulk of Kafka’s work.’” Or, as Maria Popova puts it, “Kafka’s stories, however grim, are nearly always also… funny.”

Much of that humor derives from “the author’s coping mechanisms amid Prague’s anti-Semitic cultural climate.” Mairowitz describes Kafka’s Jewish humor as “healthy anti-Semitism.... but sooner or later, even the most hateful of Jewish self-hatreds has to turn around and laugh at itself.” Crumb provides graphic illustrations of Kafka’s especially mordant, absurdist humor in adaptations of The Metamorphosis, A Hunger Artist, In the Penal Colony, and The Judgement and brief sketches from The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika. These illustrations draw out the grotesque nature of Kafka’s humor from the start, Barstanti notes, “with a gruesome graphic rendering of Kafka’s nightmares of his own death.”

Kafka’s self-violence leaps out at us in its incredible specificity, which can produce horrors, like the ghoulish execution of “In the Penal Colony," and darkly funny fantasies like a “pork butcher’s knife” sending thin slices of Kafka flying around the room, "due to the speed of the work.” Turned into cold cuts, as it were. Crumb’s illustration (top), imagines this grisly joke with exquisite glee—halo of blood spurts like squiggly exclamation marks and bowler hat taking flight. Along with Mairowitz’s literary analysis and biographical detail, Crumb’s finely rendered illustrations make Kafka an “invaluable book,” Barsanti writes, one that gives Kafka “back his soul.”

One only wishes they had paid more attention to Kafka’s weird animal stories, some of the funniest he ever wrote. Stories like “Investigations of a Dog” and “In Our Synagogue” express with more vivid imagination and wicked humor Kafka's profoundly ambivalent relationship to Judaism and to himself as a “tortured, gentle, cruel, and brilliant," and yet very funny, outsider.

via Brain Pickings

Related Content:

What Does “Kafkaesque” Really Mean? A Short Animated Video Explains

R. Crumb Shows Us How He Illustrated Genesis: A Faithful, Idiosyncratic Illustration of All 50 Chapters

Robert Crumb Illustrates Philip K. Dick’s Infamous, Hallucinatory Meeting with God (1974)

Three Charles Bukowski Books Illustrated by Robert Crumb: Underground Comic Art Meets Outsider Literature

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





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