K as in Knife

Unknown quantities, resonant frequencies, moving parts, and everything in between. Chosen and obsessively annotated by C. Mason Wells.

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Teenage females, in close-up

Andy Warhol’s shoesAndy Warhol’s shoes

Andy Warhol’s shoes

Fun on Mars (1971), Sally Cruikshank

Thanks to the indispensable Anthology Film Archives in New York, I discovered Cruikshank’s underground animated work last night, and my head is still reeling 12 hours later. Cruikshank fell into animation her senior year at Smith (where she made the stunning Ducky) and proceeded to create several other trippy, delirious, whimsical, riotously funny shorts. Her cult reputation led to a flirtation with the mainstream — she created the credit sequences for a few Hollywood pictures (including Mannequin and Ruthless People) and animated songs for Sesame Street. But it’s her original work that retains the most power; her wild and wonderful vision is still completely sui generis.

From filmmaker and musician  Michael Galinsky (of Sleepyhead), a series of candid, lyrical photographs documenting American malls in the summer of 1990.From filmmaker and musician  Michael Galinsky (of Sleepyhead), a series of candid, lyrical photographs documenting American malls in the summer of 1990.

From filmmaker and musician Michael Galinsky (of Sleepyhead), a series of candid, lyrical photographs documenting American malls in the summer of 1990.

Fairfield Porter, “Jimmy and John” (1957-58) oil on canvasFairfield Porter, “Jimmy and John” (1957-58) oil on canvas

Fairfield Porter, “Jimmy and John” (1957-58) oil on canvas

From photojournalist Steve McCurry for National Geographic, this shot of a cemetery in Parsons, Kansas represents  “the last photograph on the last roll of Kodachrome film manufactured by Kodak” — ever.From photojournalist Steve McCurry for National Geographic, this shot of a cemetery in Parsons, Kansas represents  “the last photograph on the last roll of Kodachrome film manufactured by Kodak” — ever.

From photojournalist Steve McCurry for National Geographic, this shot of a cemetery in Parsons, Kansas represents “the last photograph on the last roll of Kodachrome film manufactured by Kodak” — ever.

Art Metrano’s magician act — like a sillier version of vintage Albert Brooks, this is my kind of dumb comedy. Metrano was also something of a character actor extraordinaire, popping up in dozens of TV shows and films, including one of my favorite films from the ’80s, Jim McBride’s remake of Breathless.

Jean-Luc Godard Font »

A free font inspired by the title sequences from Jean-Luc Godard’s films, used prominently in the most recent issue of the great film magazine Cinema Scope.

Captain Beefheart’s 10 Rules for Guitarists

1. LISTEN TO THE BIRDS That’s where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren’t going anywhere.

2. YOUR GUITAR IS NOT REALLY A GUITAR Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you’re good, you’ll land a big one.

3. PRACTICE IN FRONT OF A BUSH Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn’t shake, eat another piece of bread.

4. WALK WITH THE DEVIL Old delta blues players referred to amplifiers as the “devil box.” And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you’re bringing over from the other side. Electricity attracts demons and devils. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.

5. IF YOU’RE GUILTY OF THINKING, YOU’RE OUT If your brain is part of the process, you’re missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.

6. NEVER POINT YOUR GUITAR AT ANYONE Your instrument has more power than lightning. Just hit a big chord, then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.

7. ALWAYS CARRY YOUR CHURCH KEY You must carry your key and use it when called upon. That’s your part of the bargain. Like One String Sam. He was a Detroit street musician in the fifties who played a homemade instrument. His song “I Need A Hundred Dollars” is warm pie. Another church key holder is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin’ Wolf’s guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty making you want to look up her dress to see how he’s doing it.

8. DON’T WIPE THE SWEAT OFF YOUR INSTRUMENT You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.

9. KEEP YOUR GUITAR IN A DARK PLACE When you’re not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don’t play your guitar for more than a day, be sure to put a saucer of water in with it.

10. YOU GOTTA HAVE A HOOD FOR YOUR ENGINE Wear a hat when you play and keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house the hot air can’t escape. Even a lima bean has to have a wet paper towel around it to make it grow.

A perfect compliment to Jad Fair’s "How To Play Guitar"

From designer Alexander Hulme, the pocket pencilFrom designer Alexander Hulme, the pocket pencil

From designer Alexander Hulme, the pocket pencil

Jim O’Rourke, “Pictures of Adolph Again” (2008)

This very O’Rourke cover of the Bill Fay classic was recorded for the soundtrack to Koji Wakamatsu’s UNITED RED ARMY, which will finally be seeing a belated theatrical release in 2011. This is only song proper O’Rourke performed for the film; the rest of his material consists of striking original instrumental numbers. O’Rourke currently lives in Japan and is quite the Japanese film buff (and film buff in general — a number of his LPs are named after Nicolas Roeg movies), so this collaboration shouldn’t be too surprising. What is surprising, though, is that O’Rourke is reportedly unhappy with Wakamatsu’s finished film; I think UNITED RED ARMY, while certainly less transgressive than the director’s subversive pink films, is one of his greatest.

Play count: 10
Jorge Luis Borges self-portrait, drawn after he’d gone blindJorge Luis Borges self-portrait, drawn after he’d gone blind

Jorge Luis Borges self-portrait, drawn after he’d gone blind

You have here, Reader, a book whose faith can be trusted, a book which warns you from the start that I have set myself no other end but a private family one. I have not been concerned to serve you nor my reputation: my powers are inadequate for such a design. I have dedicated this book to the private benefits of my friends and kinsmen so that, having lost me (as they must do soon), they can find here again some traits of my character and of my humours. They will thus keep their knowledge of me more full, more alive.

"If my design had been to seek the favour of the world I would have decked myself out better and presented myself in a studied gait. Here I want to be seen in my simple, natural, everyday fashion, without striving or artifice: for it is my own self that I am painting. Here, drawn from life, you will read of my defects and my native form so far as respect for social convention allows: for had I found myself among those people who are said still to live under the sweet liberty of Nature’s primal laws, I can assure you that I would most willingly have portrayed myself whole, and wholly naked.

"And therefore, Reader, I myself am the subject of my book: it is not reasonable that you should employ your leisure on a topic so frivolous and so vain.

"Therefore, farewell.

—Michel de Montaigne, introduction to his Essays

Two early music videos by Olivier Assayas