A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...

Posts tagged "steal like an artist"

Sep 12, 2014

Getting tagged with cool pictures of my books on Instagram never gets old. Makes me wonder why I even bother taking my own photos of them…

(Credit: 1 2 3 4 5 6 )

Sep 05, 2014
You start when you’re young and you copy. You straight up copy.

Sep 02, 2014
An artist of any sort… you must not put down the man before you. It’s like putting down the guy who built the ladder you’re standing on. Without him, you’re standing on the floor. With him, naturally you’re above him, because he’s holding you on his shoulders. You devour his stuff. You eat it up. And then you move one step higher. A lot of cartoonists, I’ll take all the originality they’ve got, and all their ideas, and swallow them, and then I’ll try to move one step further. That doesn’t mean I could’ve done it without their influence or their help. Because, eventually, some guy’s going to be standing on my shoulders…
Shel Silverstein, in a wonderful interview with Studs Terkel

Aug 11, 2014
Every book is a quotation; and every house is a quotation out of all forests and mines and stone quarries; and every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Plato; or, the Philosopher” (via)

Aug 03, 2014

How do you sleep at night?

Mad Men, S01E06 [video]

Roy: “So, what do you do, Don?”
Don Draper: “I blow up bridges.”
Midge: “Don’s in advertising.”
Roy: “No way! Madison Avenue? What a gas!”
Midge: “We all have to serve somebody.”
Roy: “Perpetuating the lie. How do you sleep at night?”
Don: “On a bed made of money.”

Simpsons, S06E18 [video]

Jay Sherman: How do you sleep at night?
Rainer Wolfcastle: On top of a pile of money with many beautiful ladies.
Jay Sherman: Just asking.

Jul 31, 2014

James Brown on the T.A.M.I. Show, 1964

One of my favorite all-time performances. Glad to see it being passed around so much lately, thanks to David Remnick’s appreciation in the New Yorker.

One thing I didn’t know:

This was the first time that Brown, while singing “Please, Please, Please,” pulled out his “cape act,” in which, in the midst of his own self-induced hysteria, his fit of longing and desire, he drops to his knees, seemingly unable to go on any longer, at the point of collapse, or worse. His backup singers, the Flames, move near, tenderly, as if to revive him, and an offstage aide, Danny Ray, comes on, draping a cape over the great man’s shoulders. Over and over again, Brown recovers, throws off the cape, defies his near-death collapse, goes back into the song, back into the dance, this absolute abandonment to passion.

Of course, James Brown, like so many soul acts, stole straight from the church:

That falling-to-the-knees-overcome-with-emotion dramaturgy is straight out of the Holiness Church, out of a belief system holding, in the charnel heat of the moment, that a person could be overpowered by a sudden tap from the Holy Ghost. Holy Ghost jumpers were what they called those filled with the spirit in the earliest days of Pentecostalism. It was a form of possession, of yielding with glory to a higher force. Many figures in the black Pentecostal tradition wore the cape.

There’s so many things I love about this performance — be sure to note towards the end how you can see the dust from the stage on James’ knees from falling down so much. Incredible.

You can get the full T.A.M.I show on DVD here.

Jul 29, 2014
Any book has behind it all the other books that have been written.

Jul 18, 2014
Everything has already been said and done. But, then, if this is so, why do we need more poems in the world? I once read a Jane Hirshfield interview where she said something quite wonderful. She essentially said we have to keep writing because it’s every generation’s job to put in the present vernacular poems that are called upon for rites of passage, such as poems read at weddings or funerals. I hadn’t thought of this before. Your ordinary citizen should be able to go to the library and find a poem written in the current vernacular, and the responsibility for every generation of writers is to make this possible. We must, then, rewrite everything that has ever been written in the current vernacular, which is really what the evolution of literature is all about. Nothing new gets said but the vernacular keeps changing.

Jun 25, 2014

#4 on buzzfeed's list of 37 Books Every Creative Person Should Be Reading

“If you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.” —austinkleon

Get the book here.


#4 on buzzfeed's list of 37 Books Every Creative Person Should Be Reading

“If you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.” —austinkleon

Get the book here.

Jun 05, 2014

“You don’t go into a museum and paint a moustache on somebody else’s painting.”

Mr. Don Henley (drummer/singer for The Eagles, with an estimated net worth over $200 million) doesn’t want people messin’ with his music. Henley recently sent takedowns to Frank Ocean and Will Sheff of Okkervil River—Ocean sampled the whole master track from “Hotel California” for “American Wedding”, and Sheff rewrote portions of his cover of “The End of Innocence.” His take:

“They don’t understand the law… You can’t re-write the lyrics to somebody else’s songs and record it and put it on the internet. I’m sorry, but it wasn’t an improvement. We were not impressed. So we simply had our legal team tell them to take it down and they got all huffy about it.

It’s a different mindset. I don’t know how they’d react if I took one of their songs and re-wrote the lyrics and recorded it, I don’t know if they’d like that. Maybe they wouldn’t care but I care. We work really really hard on our material. We spend months writing it and years recording it. You don’t go into a museum and paint a moustache on somebody else’s painting. Nobody would think of doing that.

(Actually, Mr. Henley, somebody did think of doing that, in 1919. But anyways…)

Technically, Henley is legally very much in the right. As Rolling Stone points out, “United States copyright law allows anyone to record a cover of any song without asking permission, so long as the musician does not alter the original.”

But to paraphrase Jeffrey “I hate the fuckin’ Eagles, man” Lebowksi, “You’re not wrong, Don, you’re just an asshole.”

Frank Ocean responded:

He (They) threatened to sue if I perform it again. I think that’s fuckin awesome. I guess if I play it at coachella it’ll cost me a couple hundred racks. If I don’t show up to court, it’ll be a judgement against me & will probably show up on my credit report. Oh well. I try to buy my shit cash anyway. They asked that I release a statement expressing my admiration for Mr. Henley, along with my assistance pulling it off the web as much as possible. Shit’s weird. Ain’t this guy rich as fuck? Why sue the new guy? I didn’t make a dime off that song. I released it for free. If anything I’m paying homage.

Will Sheff’s response was a bit more thoughtful, and very much in line with Steal Like An Artist:

I started noticing something [all my favorite artists] had in common – they all copied each other…. I realized that this is what artists are supposed to do – communicate back and forth with each other over the generations, take old ideas and make them new (since it’s impossible to really “imitate” somebody without adding anything of your own), create a rich, shared cultural language that was available to everybody. Once I saw it in folk art, I saw it everywhere – in hip-hop, in street art, in dada. I became convinced that the soul of culture lay in this kind of weird, irreverent-but-reverant back-and-forth. And I concluded that copyright law was completely opposed to this natural artistic process in a way that was strangling and depleting our culture, taking away something rich and beautiful that belonged to everyone in order to put more money into the hands of the hands of a small, lawyered few.

He then goes on to explain why he altered the Henley cover in the first place. Worth a read.

One funny bit that nobody’s mentioned: The Eagles themselves probably ripped off Jethro Tull’s “We Used To Know” for “Hotel California,” which sold over 16 million copies in the U.S. alone, and made them all millionaires.

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