Saturday, May 29, 2010

Advanced Genius Theory in Publishers Weekly

A review (Publishers Weekly):
Jason Hartley, foreword by Chuck Klosterman. Scribner, $15 paper (288p) ISBN 9781439102367
Fans of any art form or entertainment—especially music—have seen at least one beloved favorite's youthful brilliance, with time, turn to embarrassing self-parody. What pop culture writer Hartley proposes is that their genius hasn't faded—it's just outstripped the public's ability to appreciate. Though it can feel a bit tongue-in-cheek, Hartley gently advances his "Advanced Genius Theory" with rigor, enthusiasm, and a game sense of (re-)discovery. Eschewing the snide critical distance that many fans take for granted, Hartley gives the artist in question the benefit of the doubt: if we accept that Lou Reed, for example, was a musical genius in his youth, are we even qualified to say he's lost his brilliance as he's gotten older? (Regarding George Lucas, Hartley submits: "The fact is, Jar Jar Binks is no better or worse than Chewbacca. Just ask your dad.") Defining his terms clearly ("Advanced" geniuses must have alienated their original fans and lost much of their popularity), he proceeds through key aspects and examples of his theory, including the ideas of "Overt" achievement and "Irritants," the "most advanced musicians of all time" (Bob Dylan and Lou Reed), and the Advanced success story of Steve Martin. Though it should ignite many debates over whether your current favorite is Overt or Advanced, it also shows that, in either case, there's more pleasure to be found when one keeps an open mind.
 This reviewer understands me.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Advanced Genius Theory on Too Much Information

I did a live, one-hour show at WFMU yesterday. The show is called Too Much Information and the host, Benjamin Walker, was really accommodating. Plus he had a great take on the Advanced Theory. I only wish we could have had another hour.

If you want to listen to the results, go to the TMI page.

I'm going to be doing a few other radio appearances. If you want updates, just look at the Twitter thing on the side of this blog, follow me on Twitter, or join my facebook group, all of which you can do by clicking those big pictures to the right.

And, oh yeah, you can also buy my book.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Orson Welles at

This idea sounds familiar:
In one basic respect, [author] Chris Feder shares with the general public a sense of frustration that the great man didn't furnish what was either wanted or expected of him most of the time; this was his genius as well as his misfortune. For in order for an artist (or a father) to be consistent and dependable -- that is to say, consumable, offering some sense of security -- he has to behave predictably, and this was the last thing Welles was capable of doing most of the time. Producing works that were unforeseeable and therefore somewhat indigestible when they first appeared, which meant that we all often had to spend years catching up with them, he was out of step mainly because he remained ahead of our expectations. He had to pay an enormous price for this, but so did we.
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Advanced Genius Theory in AccessAtlanta

Had a good interview with an editor at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Here's a bit of the article on one of their partner sites:
For everyone who has ever bought the latest CD by their favorite rock legend and been disappointed, here’s the book for you.
 “The Advanced Genius Theory” (Simon and Schuster, $15) by Atlanta author Jason Hartley asserts that no matter what they do, musicians like Brian Wilson, Sting and Bob Dylan have not lost their musical minds. They are just so genius, they are still ahead of the times, and their former fans just haven’t caught up to them yet.
Hartley’s theory, which he first cooked up over a meal at Pizza Hut with lifelong friend Britt Bergman, classifies musicians as Overt or Advanced. Overt musicians may be “conventionally brilliant,” but their talent is limited, and they tend to appeal to a small fan base. Advanced musicians start out Overt, but not only do they eventually gain a mass following, they ultimately alienate their original fan base by producing work spectacularly different from what launched their careers.
There may be more in the AJC Sunday paper.

George Lucas Writes a Letter to "Lost"

From Zap2it:

Congratulations on pulling off an amazing show. Don't tell anyone ... but when 'Star Wars' first came out, I didn't know where it was going either. The trick is to pretend you've planned the whole thing out in advance. Throw in some father issues and references to other stories -- let's call them homages -- and you've got a series.

In six seasons, you've managed to span both time and space, and I don't think I'm alone in saying that I never saw what was around the corner. Now that it's all coming to an end, it's impressive to see how much was planned out in advance and how neatly you've wrapped up everything. You've created something really special. I'm sad that the series is ending, but I look forward to seeing what you two are going to do next.

That first part is further evidence that he is Advanced. Speaking of which, the book goes on sale today. Get it anywhere, including Amazon.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Advanced Genius Theory at Atlanta's Yacht Club (A Capella Books)

I'll be appearing at the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club at 7 PM on Thursday night.Come join me if you can. I'll be signing books and reading, plus taking a few questions I would imagine.

The Yacht Club is located in the heart of little 5 points:
1136 Euclid Ave NE | Atlanta, GA 30307 | 404.688.2582

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Advanced Genius Theory in the Wall StreetJournal

I wrote something for WSJ. I'll let them describe the premise:

People routinely argue the late-career output of brilliant artists like Bob Dylan or Steve Martin is inferior to their earlier work. Who could watch “Cheaper by the Dozen 2″ and think it’s as good as “The Jerk?” In his new book,”The Advanced Genius Theory” (Scribner), author Jason Hartley offers an intriguing defense, suggesting our creative heroes are so sophisticated we can’t understand their artistic intentions.
Intrigued, we asked Hartley to put his theory to the test and argue the merits of Paul McCartney’s “Freedom” — a 9/11 tribute song so trite it’s actually offensive.

Read why it isn't offensive at all!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Devo Album

Allow me to cut and paste from a press release I just got:

DEVO are set to release their first new studio album in 20 years.  The new album, entitled "Something For Everybody," is the follow-up to 1990's "Smooth Noodle Maps."  UK release date for the album is Monday June 14th, followed by North American release on Tuesday 15th June. 

Thirty years ago, people said that we were cynical, that we had a bad attitude, says Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh. "But now, when you ask people if de-evolution is real, they understand that there was something to what we were saying. It's not the kind of thing you want to see proven right, but it does make it easier to talk about."

More than three decades after the release of their visionary debut, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo, and a full 20 years since their last studio album, Devo are back with the aptly titled "Something for Everybody". The long rumored, wildly anticipated album (which was recently launched with a memorable performance in Vancouver at the Winter Olympics) features the band's classic line-up - Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh, Gerald and Bob Casale - joined by drummer Josh Freese (Nine Inch Nails, Guns n' Roses).  Click here for the full announcement and album artwork -  Produced by Greg Kurstin (The Bird & The Bee), the album also includes contributions from John Hill and Santi White (better known as rising hip-hop star Santigold), John King of the Dust Brothers, and the Teddybears.

Devo's sound, style, and philosophy have been an influence on artists from Rage Against the Machine to Lady Gaga. Kurt Cobain once said, "Of all the bands who came from the underground and actually made it in the mainstream, Devo is the most challenging and subversive of all." The world is in sync with Devo, says his band-mate and co-writer Gerald Casale. "We're not the guys who freak people out and scare them - we're like the house band on the Titanic, entertaining everybody as we go down."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Advanced Genius Theory in Atlanta's Creative Loafing

A bit of it:

How would you sum up The Advanced Genius Theory for the uninitiated?
It started out with a simple observation. Lou Reed used to be really great, but then he got terrible. Rather than just assume that sucking was the inevitable conclusion to every artist's career, my friend Britt Bergman and I explored some alternative explanations. We seized upon one idea in particular: Maybe if Reed was ahead of his time when he was fronting the Velvet Underground, then isn't it possible that he would still be ahead of his time in the present day? And perhaps his evolution, or "advancement" as it came to be called, would be so much more pronounced that it would take longer and longer for us to understand his work.
Central to the theory is this, people were very comfortable in the 1980s saying that Bob Dylan had "lost it," that he had completely lost the sense of what is good. Our argument was that it is much more likely that you have lost it, not Dylan, based on not only his body of work, but his encyclopedic knowledge of American music. It just makes sense to me that he is on a different plane than most of us, but most people don't like it when someone is smarter than they are, so they find a reason to hate them.

Read the whole thing.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

TCM's Orson Welles Film Festival

From PopMatters:

On Thursday, 6 May, Turner Classic Movies will air a mini Welles film festival, featuring a few of the films that the controversial and ruthlessly ambitious Welles deigned to appear in for filthy lucre, as well as his 1941 landmark classic, Citizen Kane (showing at 5:45 PM, all times EST).

The first film in the impressive line-up, shot for RKO Pictures in 1942 from a screenplay by Welles and actor Joseph Cotten (based on a novel by influential British spy novelist Eric Ambler), is Journey into Fear (airing at 11:30 AM), described by Welles biographer and noted French film critic Andre Bazin as “a rather humorous and fantastic spy story set in Turkey” during World War II. There has been much doubt over the years, however, concerning the true director behind the film. In Orson Welles: A Critical View Bazin notes:     “In theory, Norman Foster was the director of this film, with Welles producing and acting. In point of fact, it is clear that Journey into Fear is to a great extent the work of Welles, who has left his mark on the script, while numerous directorial touches bear his stamp, notably the killer’s musical motif, in which one recognizes Welles’ taste for musical effects and aural atmosphere. Moreover, after the first press show, dissatisfied with the film’s last sequence, Welles demanded and obtained permission to reshoot it.”

Welles, in case you didn't know, was seriously Advanced.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Cold Comfort: Woody Allen Interview

From Commonweal (where you can read it all):
RL: When Ingmar Bergman died, you said even if you made a film as great as one of his, what would it matter? It doesn’t gain you salvation. So you had to ask yourself why do you continue to make films. Could you just say something about what you meant by “salvation”?
WA: Well, you know, you want some kind of relief from the agony and terror of human existence. Human existence is a brutal experience to me…it’s a brutal, meaningless experience—an agonizing, meaningless experience with some oases, delight, some charm and peace, but these are just small oases. Overall, it is a brutal, brutal, terrible experience, and so it’s what can you do to alleviate the agony of the human condition, the human predicament? That is what interests me the most. I continue to make the films because the problem obsesses me all the time and it’s consistently on my mind and I’m consistently trying to alleviate the problem, and I think by making films as frequently as I do I get a chance to vent the problems. There is some relief. I have said this before in a facetious way, but it is not so facetious: I am a whiner. I do get a certain amount of solace from whining.
RL: Are you saying the humor in your films is a relief for you? Or are you sort of saying to the audience, “Here is an oasis, a couple of laughs”?
WA: I think what I’m saying is that I’m really impotent against the overwhelming bleakness of the universe and that the only thing I can do is my little gift and do it the best I can, and that is about the best I can do, which is cold comfort.
 Remember that the next time you're watching Bananas.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Google Number-One Image: "hippies"

Above is what the Google algorithm feels is the ideal match for a search on "hippies." I think I might make this a series.

Ridiculous Guitars

I wanted to see some ridiculous guitars, so I typed in "ridiculous guitars." The result? Ridiculous guitars! This site (which appears to exist solely to serve ads) has what it calls the 20 most ridiculous guitars ever, but I encourage you to do your own searches. I bring this up because I don't have anything to write about, but also because the Advanced like ridiculous guitars.