I am slowly making my way through a list of ~12,500 things I’ve previously noted as seeming potentially interesting and worth finding out more about (see the spreadsheet below!). Some of these things are brilliant and become a subject of an article, lesson or some other outcome, and some are not really worth pursuing. I want to publicise both the good and the bad because these evaluations are totally subjective and, because of a lack of time, usually pretty uninformed, and I don’t want to hide any part of this flawed process. If you’d like to help look stuff up, or notice any mistakes, please send me an e-mail. More information here.
American film director Ruth Leitman’s production company. Her first film, a documentary about the Wildwood amusement park in New Jersey, went viral in 2009. She has also made documentaries about early female wrestling, the American immigration process, and poverty in America, as well as shorter fiction films and music videos. She is currently working on a fiction feature film about early women’s wrestling. Leitman makes uncompromising, deep films with wit and a DIY attitude. They are accessible but challenging and REAL. I will include Lipstick & Dynamite.
American psychologist who invented the lie detector and created Wonder Woman. A maverick with his own set of psychological theories, he saw the educational potential of comic books and created Wonder Woman inspired by the women’s suffrage movement and his belief (informed by his work) that women should run the world. He rejected the “bloodcurdling masculinity” of the All-American male superhero archetype in favour of “a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman”. He described the comic as “psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should rule the world.” Its famous themes of bondage were symbolic of women’s oppression and also his own interests in BDSM and “abnormal” sexuality. He lived poly-amorously with Elizabeth Holloway and Olive Byrne in Rye, New York and had four children. He died of skin cancer in 1947. After his death, Wonder Woman became more sexualised and less politically symbolic. This is a very interesting story. Although I don’t admire Marston, I think there is a lot to admire in early Wonder Woman, and that’s inextricably linked to its origins. I will include ‘The Secret History of Wonder Woman’ and a collection of pre-194 7 Wonder Woman comics.
Prolific Kentish artist who has produced hundreds of records, zines, books, paintings and other artworks. He is proudly on the fringes of the art and music worlds and is outspoken and active in his rejection of the usual institutions. He rejects challenges to his independence with humour and imagination. He has produced an intimidatingly large body of work under an intimidatingly large range of names. His work is frequently fictitious yet autobiographical, creating a sort of self-mythology within a mythologised England. Before reading about Childish, I thought I hated him. He struck me as nostalgic and irrelevant, but having read about him – specifically, interviews with him – I see that this is a considered but honest response to contexts he has been in and that his celebration of friendship, joy in local surroundings and culture, rejection of institutions, use of pseudonyms as camouflage etc. are all ways of being self-expressive without any of the bullshit baggage of fame and “success”. The fact that he has gathered such a following while doing this is remarkable. He is a wonderful speaker and story-teller and from him quotes like “If you want to be rich, value what you have got” and “You have to take life very seriously, and realise that it’s all a joke. That is the art of living.” become less like the sort of fridge magnets your grandparents might have and more like revolutionary manifestos. As for what specifically to include, it’s easy and difficult – all of his stories are the same story, all of his songs are the same. I find some of his published work boring, but that’s all part of his approach and just doesn’t matter. Ultimately, I just want to include his brain. I will include The Idiocy of Idears, about the stupidity of the education system – something many children will related to.
British suffragette who became active despite her privileged background after meeting activists at a club in Littlehampton and hearing their stories of prison. She was a prison reformer who spent time in prison four times herself for her activism. She began carving “Votes for women” across her chest and face but became sick after carving the V too deep. When she realised that she was being given special treatment in prison because of her class, she got herself arrested in the guise of a working-class seamstress called Jane Warton. Her writing about being force-fed in prison helped end the practice. She never fully recovered from her abuse in prison and subsequent illness and died young at 54. Five years after her death, votes for women were granted. This is a fascinating life that is even more interesting considering her background and her “cross-class” dressing. Her writing is richly, viscerally descriptive. Her principles carried through into her private life too – when her mother refused her permission to marry a man from a “lower social order”, she simply refused to show interest in anyone else and remained unmarried her whole life. I think of Lady Constance Bulwer-Lytton as an amazing and exceptional example for becoming active in social justice late on in life, and despite her background. I will include ‘Prisons and Prisoners’, her law-changing personal account of her time spent in prisons.
French avant-garde trumpeter and Philosophy of Mathematics/Linguistics professor. Born in Paris to Martinique Communist parents, he developed a strong interest in jazz and the independence of French colonies. He moved to New York after Malcolm X was murdered in 1965 and played alongside many great American musicians. Returning to Paris in 1969, he led two albums of open, political free jazz – ‘Black Suite’ and ‘The Way Ahead’ – before disappearing from the scene for three decades to lecture on Saussurean linguistics in France, Martinique and the US. He was recorded again in 2005 by John Zorn, a former student of his. His most recent album, Trails of Tears, charts the colonial robbery of land from native people through history. Now retired from academia, he is recording more prolifically. Sounds like a total champ – overlooked but hugely respected by those who know him, as both a musician and lecturer. His expressive trumpeting is quite unique in post-’60s free music, and rejects the wild energy spasms of many modern sessions in favour of a more spacious, contemplative sound. He’s making original contributions to the more right-on areas of linguistics and jazz, so I think that should definitely be recognised. I will include ‘Black Suite’.
Recently not included:
Star Wars-themed comedy nerd rap project from New Zealand. The only trace I could find of this was a radio show playlist and a clip on YouTube which wasn’t great. The whole nerd rap thing seems pretty problematic.
American retro-styled psychedelic rock band formed in Washington DC in 1998, influenced by ’70s heavy metal and ’60s psychedelic rock. They have released many albums and toured internationally. It’s a good imitation with some great moments but I’d rather include their influences. The whole faux-vintage thing – Rickenbackers, Orange amps, filters on the cameras – bums me out.
Online project collecting pictures of people grumpy about local issues. Pictures are presented with the headline, a comment, and a link to the story. This is a nice project that says a LOT about NIMBYism and that particularly desperate sort of misplaced activism, but this project is supposed to be about hope. Why do people get so upset over not being served at a drive-through and remain ambivalent about climate change?
Pioneering Brazilian death / black metal group whose first album, I.N.R.I., was released in 1987. Their sound is low-fi, with uncredited use of a drum machine, and incorporated elements of punk too. This was also present in the way they dressed – corpse paint, black leather and spikes, but also mohicans. The lyrics are blasphemous and sexually explicit, slowly moving from Satanic themes to realism over the course of their output. Although the band sometimes criticised the macho culture of black metal, their lyrics are far from feminist, so it wouldn’t feel great to include them here. It’s a shame really, because that was an interesting time in Brazilian history – just after a dictatorship, with new artistic freedom. I’m sure there are other Brazilian bands from that time doing more interesting things.
Los Angeles=based arty dance pop formed in Los Angeles in 1995 by a Mexican (Milena Muzquiz) and Argentinian (Martiniano Lopez-Crozet) visual artist, informed by the Madrid underground. The artists see their pop music as an extension of their visual artwork. Reading interviews with the band, I expected the band to have more going on than it does. For a vanity project, it doesn’t seem like they have that much fun making it. The early stuff is a little more interesting, but not much. It’s probably wise to be skeptical of a band self-describing as an “International art performance and music group.”