I made a playlist. I'm going to try and keep making playlists. Every Tuesday. Ten tunes in each one.

I stopped listening to music a while ago. I didn't stop exactly, I was just listening to the same tunes over and over again. (Love you, Carly Rae.) I didn't seek out new music which is weird for me because I'm usually pretty rabid when it comes to new stuff: new books, new films, new tv shows, new, new, new... Then I realised, 'Shit me, I'm turning into a person that doesn't even try.' 

But I'm going try. There are tonnes of studies showing how listening to music (especially new music) is good for your brain. Brains love new stuff. They love reading new books, eating new dinners, seeing things they've never seen before... Brains are the worst for FOMO. 

So, to sate my brain (and yours) here's the first one. Think of it as sweet aural medicine. Until next week...




I didn't really know much about Bea Feitler until I read this great article by Madeleine Morley in the latest issue of Riposte. I mean, I knew her work because we've all seen it or seen its influence in magazines, book covers, album artwork but I didn't grasp just how brilliant she was.

bea feitler

Bea was a graphic designer and art director best known for her work in Harper's Bazaar, Ms., Rolling Stone and the premiere issue of the modern Vanity Fair.

bea feitler
bea feitler

'Throughout her life Feitler thought about rhythm; about the flow of pages, about the beat, layers and corners of a city. Whether she designed for Harper’s BazaarMs.Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair she’d mix up the things she saw in whirring, non-stop New York—high art and fashion, pop and ballet, politics and print—symbolising how things were mixed up and connected already. The freedom she was given at these publications allowed Feitler to renegotiate commercial representations, using magazines as a mass vehicle to address social change.

Feitler often used classic lines to break up pages—the kind of lines she’d find underscoring the title pages of antique books. She used them to interrupt text, to geometrically puncture vibrant organic shapes, to impose rhythm, but mostly she used lines to emphasise. To make space. To make meaning. With lines she said: This is important. Look. At. This.'

bea feitler

'Feitler believed totally in graphic design, how the flow of images and visual energy give vital shape and form to information. She wanted modern culture to look like it was already classic—of the moment, but also apart from it. She saw designers not as invisible, functional guides, but as a singular blend of authors and artists. Documenting and decorating, explaining and exploring, creating the stage upon which everything performed. A dancing figure, a pop-art shoe, a political message, a woman kissing herself in the mirror; all reinforced by Feitler with a definitive line, a persuasive elegance and, ultimately, a love of life.'

bea feitler

Storytellers, Film

Storytellers: Great Gardens

Great Gardens is a series of intimate portraits of the world's most beautiful gardens and the people who created them. Created by the wonderful Nowness, Great Gardens looks “at the intersection of nature and culture, told through the personal stories rooted within private gardens and the visionaries who created them.”

One of my favourite episodes is a walk through the gargantuan outdoor sculptures of Mexican haven Las Pozas, the subtropical garden established by twentieth-century British poet Edward James. 

Ever since I saw a photo of one of Edward James’s enormous esoteric concrete sculptures, soaring out of the Mexican jungle, I had wanted to explore Las Pozas. I have always loved what I call ‘automonuments,’ enormous works of art made without reference to anything other than what was going on inside of the heads and hearts of the artists who felt that they absolutely needed to create, no matter what anyone else thought.
— Toby Amies


The Smithsons

Whatever your views on The Smithsons and Robin Hood Gardens, this is worth a watch. I also really want Alison Smithson’s silver shirt/jacket. Shacket? I love a good portmanteau but that's too much, even for me. 

Some choice quotes:

‘We may be asking people to live in a way that is stupid. They maybe just want to be left alone.’

‘The site has been split like a kipper.’

‘And the building also explains its use in that wherever you need to take hold of something, or move around some woodwork or concrete element, then there is a smooth, rounded corner.’

Music, Film

Stop Making Sense

I'll fight anyone that says there's a better concert film than Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense.

Yesterday I rewatched it and was reminded that I'll never see anything like it again. Or any better concert film. I don't think it's possible, certainly not now, to make something that makes you feel so perfectly connected to the performance. Something that's so human and frantic and joyous and I will fight you if you tell me you think there's anything better. I will. 

Also, do you think Kanye was influenced by the whole Stop Making Sense clothing aesthetic for early Yeezy collections? Early Yeezy is like The Hunger Games meets Stop Making Sense minus 'the big suit'. 


What We Talk About When We Talk About Content

"Content." A catch-all. An abomination. A word people use to mean anything that is uploaded to the web. It used to be bandied about by advertisers but now it's everywhere and everybody's talking about "content". 

Every time I hear it, I die a little. (I also die a little every time I hear "disruptor" but my brain mangles it to disraptor and I imagine a giant hawk taking chunks of out people who "disrupt". And let's not even get started on "creatives". The "creatives" are going to take over the world but in a Dawn of the Dead way. "Watch out, the creatives are coming to eat your brain!")

Content is everything, and it’s nothing. It’s an artificial word thrown around by people who know nothing, describing nothing.
— The Ad Contrarian

So, here's the thing: why don't we, instead of talking about "content", call it what it is? Because "content" demeans everything. It shoves your selfie in a box with Al Vandenberg's photography. It's another cat video resting alongside Frida Kahlo's self-portraits. It puts your Facebook post right up there with Frank O'Hara's A Step Away from Them. Because it's online, it's all "content". 

You need words? You need photographs? You need illustrations? You need a film? CALL IT WHAT IT IS. And the people? My god, please think of the people who have been reduced to "content creators" toiling away on content farms where their only respite is a cracked window and a slug of content juice to help them make the content faster. Nope. These people aren't "content creators", they're writers, film makers, photographers, artists and designers. For the love of all that is good and holy, give them their due. 

And let's stop using words that don't mean anything and start saying the things we mean. 

We were so into the net around the time of Kid A. Really thought it might be an amazing way of connecting and communicating. And then very quickly we started having meetings where people started talking about what we did as ‘content’. They would show us letters from big media companies offering us millions in some mobile phone deal or whatever it was, and they would say all they need is some content. I was like, what is this ‘content’ which you describe? Just a filling of time and space with stuff, emotion, so you can sell it?
— Thom Yorke, The Guardian

Film, Words

Throw the fucking ball

Everyone's seen The Big Lebowski, right? Right? If you haven't seen The Big Lebowski you need to watch it. And if anyone tells you it's overrated you need to slap that person in the face.

A lot of the time I find it hard to get started with work and writing. All I do is think about how bad it's going to be. That I'm a fraud. That I can't do it. It's the thinking that kills it all. So, in the front of my notebook is a quote from a Jeff Bridges' interview about bowling lessons he took while preparing for The Big Lebowski. I have a million little quotes stuck in a million different places but this one always rises to the top. It reminds me to get on with it, to stop thinking and "...throw the fucking ball."

The Big Lebowski: the film that never stops giving. 

They got you a bowling instructor on set, correct?

Barry Asher. I can remember John [Turturro] and I and Buscemi, we took bowling lessons from this guy. He was a champion, one of the best bowlers in the world. We bowled a few frames and then I asked this guy, ‘I’m wondering what the Dude’s preparation would be?’ So Barry tells this story about his own preparation when he bowls. And how there’s kind of a Zen thing to bowling: the pins are down before you even bring your ball back. So Barry would get up there to bowl and he would prep, he’s gotta shake it off, waiting for that moment to cock it back, and it would go on for five, 10 minutes. And his bowling partners on the team would say, ‘Throw the fucking ball!’ He actually had to go into therapy about it. So I said, ‘So how do you do it now?’ He says, ‘I just get up and throw the fucking ball. I don’t think.’
— Jeff Bridges in Rolling Stone

Pretend you're Count Dracula

Kurt Vonnegut's letter to students at Xavier High School in New York City. 

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don't make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana. 

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you're Count Dracula.

Here's an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don't do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don't tell anybody what you're doing. Don't show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what's inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

Via Letters of Note

Storytellers: Geoff McFetridge

"I used drawing to tell myself stories, and to create memories. it was like having a machine in your hand that could make toys."

Work from Geoff McFetridge's last show Meditallucination. 

Meditations, in that they are a bit like listening to the world around you, using the noise to find an inner silence and peace that connects you to a deeper state of consciousness. Hallucinations, in that they are made of the raw material of our visual cortex, beyond being found images they are nearly hard-wired into our minds. There are portions of our brain (visual cortex) that view patterns, read language, and make connections to discern depth. Skills that are essential to being a human. I feel this work is about crossing those wires.
— Geoff McFetridge


Paper Airplanes

Harry Everett Smith, an artist, collected paper airplanes he found in the streets and buildings of New York. A selection of Smith’s planes feature in a new collection by J & L Books and the Anthology Film Archives. 

Ever since I read the article in The New Yorker, I can't stop thinking about those paper planes and all the hands that made them. All the stories folded into the creases. Some made fast, some made slow. Crafted by tiny hands eager to watch their planes sink or soar. How those hands knew how to make the sharp folds to create the best wings. Running thumb and forefinger together along the creases to make them stay. They are all so beautiful. Made out of envelopes, receipts, letters, newspapers, library cards, junk mail and magazines. I imagine them cast from the top of staircases and angled out of windows. The fortunate ones, the ones that missed gaps in the grates and dark puddles of the sidewalks,  were gathered by Harry Everett Smith, marked with the date and location of where they were found, flattened and kept in boxes. Imagine those boxes stuffed full of hundreds of paper airplanes, all imprinted with time and the hands that made them. 

He would run out in front of the cabs to get them, you know, before they got run over. I remember one time we saw one in the air and he was just running everywhere trying to figure out where it was going to be. He was just, like, out of his mind, completely. He couldn’t believe that he’d seen one. Someone, I guess, shot it from an upstairs building.
— The New Yorker

I'm glad Harry Everett Smith found the planes beautiful and important enough to save. And I'm glad I get to think about the "someone" who shot it. 


"This animated short by Norman McLaren features synchronisation of image and sound in the truest sense of the word. To make this film, McLaren employed novel optical techniques to compose the piano rhythms of the sound track, which he then moved, in multicolour, onto the picture area of the screen so that, in effect, you see what you hear."