A love lette to alternative culture.

Doc Watson: “Just One of the People.”

Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson was born March 3, 1923 in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. At the age of one, he lost his eyesight after developing a severe ocular infection that was compounded by a pre-existing vascular disorder. Watson came from a musical family, so as soon as the boy’s hands were big enough, his father placed a harmonica in them. By age five, little Arthel Lane was picking a banjo and learning chords on a $12 Stella guitar.

Spontaneously nicknamed “Doc” in his late teens by an audience member, this child would one day come to be known as “the Godfather of all flatpickers" and "a powerful singer and a tremendously influential picker who virtually invented the art of playing mountain fiddle tunes on the flattop guitar” according to Folklore Productions.

From the early ’60s onward, Doc became better and better known for his rare and precious ability to re-contextualize the old (some might’ve said “musty”) southern Appalachian folk traditions of balladry and bluegrass as vibrantly contemporary forms. Decades later, all of his Grammy-winning records still sound fresh— full of life and oxygen and timeless pathos.

Watson, who experienced a hell of a lot of tragedy and hardship in his lifetime, remained a humble, self-sufficient and generous artist to the last, telling a close friend, David Holt, toward the end of his life that he hoped to be remembered as “just as a good ol’ down-to-earth boy that didn’t think he was perfect and that loved music […] I’d like to leave quite a few friends behind and I hope I will. Other than that, I don’t want nobody putting me on a pedestal when I leave here. I’m just one of the people … just me.” (via)

Last year, when a life-size bench statue of Watson was dedicated in Boone, N.C. (at the very spot where Watson had busked for pennies in the nineteen-forties and fifties to support his family), Doc requested that inscription read precisely that: simply “Just One of the People.” And so it was.

Rest in Peace, Doc Watson. (1923 - 2012)


"Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story"

The following embed of a notorious 1987 indie film called Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story comes to us courtesy of New Zealand-based comic book writer and artist Dylan Horrocks, who says “I remember seeing it at the Auckland Film Festival and being disconcerted, impressed, and powerfully moved. […] The audience laughed a lot at the beginning. But by the end, we watched in stunned silence. I’ve never forgotten it.”

Two years after graduating with an MFA from Bard College, Superstar director Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, Far from Heaven, Safe) shocked and moved unprepared audiences with the now-infamous and nigh-impossible-to-track down 43 minute film. “Seizing upon the inspired gimmick of using Barbie and Ken dolls to sympathetically recount the story of the pop star’s death from anorexia, he spent months making miniature dishes, chairs, costumes, Kleenex and Ex-Lax boxes, and Carpenters’ records to create the film’s intricate, doll-size mise-en-scene. The result was both audacious and accomplished as the dolls seemingly ceased to be dolls leaving the audience weeping for the tragic singer.” (via)

Richard Carpenter, upon viewing the film, was apparently enraged at its depiction of his family— especially by Haynes’ insinuations that Richard was gay. In 1989, after confirming with A&M Records that Haynes had never obtained proper music licensing for numerous Carpenters songs used in the film, Richard Carpenter served Haynes with a cease-and-desist order and sued him for failing to obtain proper clearance.  Haynes offered “to only show the film in clinics and schools, with all money going to the Karen Carpenter Memorial Fund for anorexia research”, but Carpenter was unrelenting, and eventually won his lawsuit against Haynes. All copies of Superstar were recalled and destroyed.  (According to Wiki, the Museum of Modern Art retains a print of the film, but has consented to never screen or exhibit it at the Carpenter estate’s request.)

More than two full decades after it was made, copies of Superstar still remain very difficult to track down. Except, of course (somewhat dubiously), on YouTube.

Rachel Brice and Illan Rivière Duet, Tribal Fest 12


Reports are coming in fast and fervent from several friends who attended this year’s Tribal Fest in Sebastopol that the following duet between Rachel Brice (featured many times on Coilhouse) and Illan Rivière (also featured here previously) was one of the most electrifying performances at the diverse and thriving event:

Illan’s solo performance and Rachel’s group piece with her PDX troupe Datura are inspiring to watch as well. In fact, the entire video list for Tribal Fest 2012 over at YouTube is chock full of beauty and splendor and kinship. It would be easy to lose hours watching all of these wonderful dancers.

By the bye… a reminder that print Issue Six of Coilhouse Magazine features a beautiful in-depth feature about Brice and the modern tribal belly dance movement. We still have copies available for sale in the online shop, and when you buy that way, you also get a free, high quality download of a Rachel Brice music video that was produced for Coilhouse by the wonderful folks at Purebred Pro.

Know Your Rights: Photography in Public (Courtesy of Lifehacker)

Over at Lifehacker, Thorin Klosowski has written a clear and edifying overview about First Amendment rights in the US as they apply (or sometimes don’t apply) to taking pictures in a public place:

Nearly every modern phone has a camera attached to it and subsequently more and more people are taking photos in public places than ever before. The shot might be as simple as snapping a picture of a parade or as tricky as recording video of a riot. Regardless of the reasons, the rules for photographing in public places are the same.

For the most part, your right to take photographs and video in public places in the United States is protected under the First Amendment under free speech. This includes snapping pictures of your favorite monument when you’re on vacation or taking part in a little citizen journalism. It’s not as cut and dried as you may think and it’s good to know your rights and the caveats that come with them.

He links to this handy, free  downloadable flyer explaining your rights when stopped or confronted for photography. Both are definitely worth checking out.

And, from across the pond, in the UK, there’s also I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist.

[Lifehacker link via Marisa Kakoulas, thanks!]

In Observation of World Goth Day:

Happy horrorday, batlings! Shake ya cobwebs.

(Or if you’re feeling more subdued, you can always just peruse the rather vast archive of Coilhouse posts tagged “Goth”.)

"I’m So Goth I Shit Bats" needlepoint by Defiant Damsel, available on Etsy.

Brené Brown’s TED Talks: Vulnerability, Wholeheartedness, and the Epidemic of Shame

Brené Brown is a big-hearted, über-thoughtful Texan research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent a decade of her life studying the effects of “vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame” on the day-to-day human experience. Both of her TED talks have gone megaviral, for understandable reasons. She bravely asks her audience to parse and confront the following quandaries:

How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?

Here’s Brown’s first TED talk, from 2011, called “The Power of Vulnerability”:

Talk number two, from 2012, is called “Listening to Shame”:

Brown puts her finger on some extremely tender universal trigger points, and presses with gentle frankness. If you haven’t watched them yet, both of these talks are highly recommended viewing on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

BTC: SHOCK’s “Dynamo Beat” is Candy-Colored, Proto-Cyberdork/Cemetery Goth. Everybody Wins!

Good morning. Pretend for a moment that this is not, in fact, the Spring of 2012, but rather the Spring of 1982, now thirty years past. We’re in England. New Romance is budding. Rocky Horror is a’rockin’. The likes of Gary Numan, Spandau Ballet, and Klaus Nomi rule subterranean radio.

Under the banner of SHOCK, two young London lads with very excellent bone structure and pop ‘n’ lock skillz named Tim Dry (who would one day become Tik from the robotic mime duo Tik & Tok) and Richard James Burgess (who would go on to produce all manner of sophisti-pop) have joined forces with two young London lasses with very large hair and dovelike coos called Carole Caplin (who shall one day become far better known as the tormented fitness and fashion consultant to Tony and Cherie Blair) and Barbie Wilde (who is soon to be immortalized in celluloid as the creepyhot female Cenobite from Hellraiser II).

And they make this splendiferousness happen:

Via Brian Moroz, with giggly thanks.

If you enjoyed this darque ‘n’ tender morsel of obscure nostalgia, you may also appreciate:

Maurice Sendak 1928-2012

Maurice Sendak [Via]

“I said anything I wanted because I don’t believe in children, I don’t believe in childhood. I don’t believe that there’s a demarcation. ‘Oh you mustn’t tell them that. You mustn’t tell them that.’ You tell them anything you want. Just tell them if it’s true. If it’s true you tell them.”

~ Maurice Sendak

With this post I run the risk of turning the top of Coilhouse into a memorial to my youth, but there’s really no helping it, I suppose. More sad news then, as it has been reported that author and illustrator Maurice Sendak died today, at the age of 83 due to complications from a recent stroke. Sendak was perhaps best known for his 1963 book Where the Wild Things Are. The book not only made his career but earned him the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1964.

Mr. Sendak’s work was a staple of my childhood. I learned to read with the help of the Little Bear Books (written by Else Holmelund Minarik). My first exposure to Grimm’s fairy tales was through my mother’s copy of the collection he illustrated and I had a copy of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Nutcracker which featured his artwork. His Mouse King terrified me.

And that is, above all, what I remember and respected most about his work, his willingness to scare the crap out of kids. There is a darkness and danger in his books, the same kind found in the stories of greats like Carroll and Baum, which seems mostly lacking from children’s literature now, something that Mr. Sendak seemed keenly aware of. Sendak wrote books that treated children like adults, like equals. Speaking to The Guardian last October, he said “I refuse to lie to children. I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence.” This refusal to sugarcoat his work was, undoubtedly, his greatest asset. It will be missed.

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