Give Everybody Everything: The Financial Life of Bernadette Mayer

If poetry makes nothing happen, it also makes very little in the way of income. Take the acclaimed poet Bernadette Mayer. Often aligned with the Language Poets, Mayer overcame entrenched sexism to establish herself as one of the most influential poets of her generation. At 73, she's still producing work. And yet she only made about $17,000 last year. That's hardly enough to live on, even after Mayer and her partner moved out of New York City. Tech moguls like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk talk about Universal Basic Income as a fix for increasing automation. But could poetry — culturally necessary but essentially unmarketable — provide an even more compelling argument for UBI? Some minimal allowance might deliver poets like Mayer from financial ruin. What do the rest of us lose when poets can no longer afford to pursue their life's work?

The Narrative Line

What happens when the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves turn out to be wrong? And what if the attempt to shape our life stories to fit some formulaic narrative arc fundamentally distorts them? Could different narrative forms tell more honest stories? Or do all narratives falsify reality in their own way? Three artists suggest new ways forward for narrative storytelling and making sense of the world. Maggie Nelson seeks to write stories that, in place of a traditional plot, instead reflect a mode of being in the world. Visual artist Brian Belott blends found sounds, Groucho Marxian humor, and playful nonsense into anarchic vocal freakouts. And writer and artist Renee Gladman confounds the boundaries of reading, drawing, and seeing to connect thinkers with landscape and turn ideas into architecture.

Death in Twin Peaks

[Explicit language] In 2017, David Lynch's metaphysical detective soap opera Twin Peaks returned to cable television screens 26 years after its network cancellation. Most of the original characters resurfaced, but in several cases, either those characters or the actors playing them—or both—were dying. Over its 18 new episodes, this specter of commingled on- and off-screen mortality became as much the substance of the show as the narrative of mysteries, disappearances, violence, slapstick, romances, and resurrections that played out in the foreground. In the original series, Kyle MacLachlan, as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, investigated the murder of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), the all-American high school student with a double life. From there, the show spiraled into a web of secrets, conspiracies, red herrings, in-jokes, and epiphanies. Twin Peaks: The Return jettisoned much of the original series' plot-based baggage. Instead, it explored the abstract possibilities of the form, tracing mystical and mundane contingencies that ran along a live wire from Lynch's 1977 film Eraserhead directly into the circuitry of present-day Twin Peaks. It is here critic Howard Hampton locates his own kinship with the world of Twin Peaks, together with the true source of the show's screwball gravitas: the late Catherine Coulson as "the Log Lady," Margaret Lanterman. Coulson had been with Lynch since his Eraserhead days. A beacon, a cipher, a beloved emblem of Lynch's universe on the verge of death herself, she delivers a benediction disguised as an oracle's warning.

A Call in the Night

On this week's Organist, two stories about the surprising intimacy of anonymity. In the first, thousands of people sign up for a service, created by artist and programmer Max Hawkins, which wakes up thousands strangers with a phone call in the middle of the night then pairs them up at random and records their conversations. The vulnerability of that moment, and the anonymity of having a sleepy and total stranger on the end of the line, leads to recordings of astonishing intimacy. One night, a fighting couple, who have angrily retreated to their separate apartments, wake up to hear the voice of the other on the line, a one-in-four-thousand chance. After talking face-to-face has failed, can this weird art experiment bring them back together? In our second story, Vanessa Lowe—host of KCRW's Nocturne, a sound-rich podcast featuring stories about the night—walks home from her favorite coffee shop to find a handwritten note sitting under a rock on her front porch. It's from an anonymous stranger, who has listened to her every word in the cafe. The note's contents pull her into a series of increasingly anxious encounters. Has this process made her more sinister, alienated, and critical than the anonymous note-writer him or herself?

Angelyne

If you've lived in L.A. anytime in the last thirty years, you know Angelyne. She's the blonde bombshell on the billboards that used to be studded like rhinestones all over the city. Angelyne rose to prominence in the '80s, and she was a mashup of elements from the pantheon of Hollywood starlets: platinum hair, an hourglass figure, and a breathy, cooing voice. But Instead of a movie or a TV show or an album, Angelyne's billboards just advertised herself. A ninth-grader named Kate Wolf interviewed Angelyne at the height of her popularity by pretending she was a reporter for her school newspaper. Twenty-five years later, Kate wins a raffle for a ride in Angelyne's hot-pink Corvette and asks Angelyne the tough questions about truth, image, aging, and her career as a looming pink archetype of gender.

The Dogfather

Today's episode is about dogs.

The New World

Where do speech balloons come from? How does time move from panel to panel? This week we explore the techniques of comic-book storytelling through Chris Reynolds's graphic series, newly anthologized as The New World. Join us as we travel deep into...

Low Fidelity

What sounds don't we hear when we listen? What sounds are discarded in digital processing, whether it's through hearing aids or mp3s? This week we travel to Scottish lighthouses, professional sound-testing facilities, and animal slaughterhouses...

Between Speaking and Singing

Will spoken language become obsolete? What if, in the future, a simple conversation between two adults becomes a rarity, like an obscure musical piece that involves months of rehearsing and vocal training to be able to perform?

The Blindfold Challenge

In his audio diaries recorded while driving cross-country, artist David Wojnarowicz tries to describe how he feels after being diagnosed with AIDS. Writer Sandy Allen translates the autobiography of their schizophrenic uncle, presenting his...

The Secret Life of Plants

Stevie Wonder's entire life, according to conspiracy theorists, is a lie. He's been able to see all along. But what does that have to do with the idea that plants are conscious beings capable of communication?

Bingeing Texas

The national news media is mesmerized by a president who runs the White House like a reality show. Jen Rice takes a look at the weird relationship between political actors and public audience. In her recap of the 85th Texas legislative session, she...

Two Years With Franz

The poet and Pulitzer Prize–winner Franz Wright recorded 546 audio tapes in the two years of his life after a terminal cancer diagnosis. The tapes show incredible vitality in the face of death. Over two years, Bianca Giaever listened to all 546...

The Voice of God

Actor and writer Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), director Penelope Spheeris (Wayne's World), and voice-over master Peter Coyote (Ken Burns' documentaries, including The Vietnam War) describe voices from heaven, hell, and everywhere in...

The Organist returns Thursday

From KCRW and McSweeney's, the Organist returns with its fifth season on July 12!

Bonus: Neighborhood Secret

New Edition was an unlikely boy-band from Boston that launched Bobby Brown's career and incubated the smooth 90s R&B of Bell Biv DeVoe.

How to Be in Two Places at Once: The Firesign Theatre in the US and Vietnam

Four comedians trained in poetry and psy-ops, Firesign Theatre created dense, album-length art-objects that could take multiple spins to understand. Comedy in the form of abrasive soundscapes that reviewers were as likely to call "frightening" as "funny." This week, we explore how these albums were heard: in groups, at teenage house parties, in poet John Ashbery's pot smoke-filled living room, and on military bases in Vietnam.

How to Be in Two Places at Once: The Firesign Theatre in the US and Vietnam

Antigonick

Antigone is one of the most widely performed plays in the world. Poet Anne Carson's experimental translation of Sophocles' tragedy incorporates 2,500 years of its performance and interpretation. The play's emotional core persists even as we...

The Gospel of Ndegeocello

Meshell Ndegeocello's debut album kicked off the era of neo-soul, inspiring Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, and D'Angelo. Twenty-three years later, Ndegeocello is still making art, but she's expanded her medium with a new project that's part theater, part church revival, with an unexpected saint at its center.

A 700-Foot Mountain of Whipped Cream

From in utero to the studio, Clive Desmond gives us a history of the golden age of radio ads, featuring Frank Zappa, Ken Nordine, Linda Ronstadt, and Randy Newman. While the 1960s shift in print and TV advertising has been heavily documented and mythologized by Mad Men, Madison Avenue's radiophonic collision with the counterculture is less well known. Here, in Clive's private tour, each jingle becomes a Proustian madeleine.

Incense, Sweaters, and Altadena: An Interview with Martine Syms

Fresh off her first solo show at the MoMA, Martine Syms talks with the Organist about how growing up in Altadena, a red-lined suburb of Los Angeles led to her fascination with DIY culture and conceptual art. Syms draws inspiration from both famed furniture designer Charles Eames and the Ten-Point Program of the Black Panthers as she pushes herself to continually experiment in new media and new forms.

Incense, Sweaters, and Altadena: An Interview with Martine Syms

Appendix: Still Not Dotcoms

At last! An unobstructed view of the internet's lacunae: Brian McMullen reads his Still Not Dotcoms, an epic catalog of one thousand unclaimed URLs, in its totality.

magnificentwebsite.com

In this four-part episode, MF Doom, in absentia, sends imposters to wear his steel gladiator mask and rap at his concerts. Joshua Cohen, author of Moving Kings, writes a novel live online while heckled by Reddit-grade hate speech. Novelist Fiona Maazel explores the nascent form of the podcast from a 4 am retirement home toilet seat, as performed by actor Zoe Lister-Jones. Brian McMullen recites his epic catalog of unclaimed URLs.

The Show About the Show About the Show

In the vein of Werner Herzog, Larry David, and Spalding Gray, the radical documentaries of Caveh Zahedi find comedy in pushing social norms. His oddly life-affirming efforts to merge lived experience with art trigger the dissolution of his marriage....