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✇ Open Culture

Quentin Tarantino Gives a Tour of Video Archives, the Store Where He Worked Before Becoming a Filmmaker

Por Colin Marshall — 8 de Outubro de 2021, 14:00

When Quentin Tarantino hit it big in the 1990s with Reservoir Dogs, and then much bigger with Pulp Fiction, he became known as the auteur who’d received his film education by working as a video-store clerk. But like much Hollywood hype, that story wasn’t quite true. “No, I was already a movie expert,” says the man himself in a clip from the 1994 BBC documentary Quentin Tarantino: Hollywood’s Boy Wonder. “That’s how I got hired at Video Archives.” Located in the South Bay — a comparatively little-seen region of Los Angeles County later paid loving tribute with Jackie Brown — the store was, in the words of one of its owners, “one of the few places that Quentin could come as a regular guy and get a job and become like a star.”

“Me and the other guys would walk into the local movie theater and we’d be heading toward our seats and we’d hear, ‘There go the guys from Video Archives,'” says Tarantino in Tom Roston’s I Lost It at the Video Store. On one level, the experience constituted “a primer to what it would be like to be famous.” Having begun as a Video Archives customer, Tarantino wound up working there for five years, offering voluminous and forceful recommendations by day and, after closing, putting on staff-only film festivals by night. “That time is captured perfectly in True Romance,” which Tony Scott directed but Tarantino wrote, and one of those co-workers, Roger Avary, would collaborate with him on the screenplay for Pulp Fiction.

Video Archives was a beacon to all the South Bay’s “film geeks.” Then as now, most such people “devote a lot of money and they devote a lot of their life to the following of film, but they don’t really have that much to show for all this devotion,” other than their strongly held cinematic opinions. “What you find out fairly quickly in Hollywood is, this is a community where hardly anybody trusts their own opinion. People want people to tell them what is good, what to like, what not to like.” Hence the ability of the young Tarantino,  brimming with opinions and unafraid to state them and possessed of an unwavering resolve to make movies of his own, to go from video-store clerking practically straight to the top of the industry. Though he didn’t need film school — nor college, or indeed high school — he could hardly have found a more suitable alma mater.

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Quentin Tarantino Reviews Movies: From Dunkirk and King of New York, to Soul Brothers of Kung Fu & More

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Quentin Tarantino Gives a Tour of Video Archives, the Store Where He Worked Before Becoming a Filmmaker is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

✇ Open Culture

Watch “The Impossible Map,” a Short Animated Film That Uses a Grapefruit to Show Why Maps of the Earth Are Misleading (1947)

Por Josh Jones — 8 de Outubro de 2021, 11:00

There are any number of ways one might try to turn a globe into a two-dimensional surface. You could start by cutting it down the middle, as in this Vox video on world maps. You could choose volunteers and have them come up to the head of the class and peel oranges in one piece, flattening out the strips onto an overhead projector, as in this National Geographic lesson on world maps. Or, you might attack an already halved grapefruit peel with a rolling pin, as in the National Film Board of Canada’s animated short, “The Impossible Map,” above.

Each method (except, maybe, the rolling pin) has its merits, but none of them will make a 2-dimensional surface without warping, stretching, and distorting. That’s the point, in all these exercises, a point that has been made over and over throughout the years as cartographers search for better, more accurate ways to turn the Earth’s sphere (or oblate spheroid) into a representative rectangle that roughly preserves the scale of the continents. As the hands-on demonstrations show, you don’t need to remember your geometry to see that it’s impossible to do so with much precision.

A cartographer must choose a focal point, as Gerardus Mercator did in the 16th century in his famous cylindrical projection. Since the map was designed by a European for use by European navigators, it naturally puts Europe in the center, resulting in extreme distortions of the land masses around it. These have been remedied by alternate projections like the Mollweide, Goode Homolosine (the “orange-peel map”), and the 1963 Robinson projection, which was “adopted for National Geographic’s world maps in 1988,” The Guardian notes, and “appears in [a] growing number of other publications, [and] may replace Mercator in many classrooms.”

Pioneering Canadian animator Evelyn Lambart made “The Impossible Map” in 1947, several years before professor Arthur Robinson created his “Pseudocylindrical Projection with Pole Line” — for which he used “a huge number of trial-and-error computer simulations,” as the Arthur H. Robinson Map Library writes. “To this day, no other projection uses this approach to build a map,” not even most GPS mapping software, which still, in many cases, uses a “Web Mercator” projection to represent the whole Earth. But while Lambart’s film may not be technologically up-to-date, it is visually and pedagogically brilliant, explaining, with some basic narration and sliced produce, why globes still beat flat maps of the Earth every time.

via Aeon

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch “The Impossible Map,” a Short Animated Film That Uses a Grapefruit to Show Why Maps of the Earth Are Misleading (1947) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

✇ Open Culture

A Walking Tour Around the Pyramids of Giza: 2 Hours in Hi Def

Por Ted Mills — 8 de Outubro de 2021, 08:00

One of the first things tourists learn about the great Pyramids of Giza is how they are not far away in some remote location. Turns out they’re just photographed that way with the Western Desert as backdrop. Turn around and you’ll see not just the bustling city of Cairo, but a freakin’ golf course. The next thing tourists learn is that there’s a lot of walking if you want to take in both pyramids and the Sphinx. Hope you packed some good shoes!

Or you could sit back and watch this one-hour-and-50-minute walking tour, shot in 4K, on a chilly January morning in 2019. There’s not many tourists around for most of it, better to instill a sense of wonder and otherness as you encounter these 4,500 year old structures.

With its relaxing bobbing-head camera and its immersive field recording soundtrack—headphones are recommended—the video tours the entire ancient area, starting with the Mortuary Temple of Khafre, then moving to the two main pyramids, the cemetery, the smaller pyramid of Menkaure, and ending on the Sphinx. There’s even room for a horse ride, although as it’s sped up, it turns out to be rather comical. It’s also a delight to hear the occasional camel make themselves known.

Open Culture has written about the Pyramids of Giza several times. We’ve linked to the massive Digital Giza Project; shown a 3-D reconstruction of what the pyramids looked like when they were originally built (they were gleaming white, for one thing); followed a 3-D tour *inside* the pyramid that is quite spine-tingling; and highlighted an introductory course of Giza and Egyptology. The only remaining of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World continues to inspire a new generation of archaeologists, and this walking tour is as close as your browser can get to being there. ProWalk Tours’ YouTube site also offers many other pleasant walks, from the ancient to the modern. They’re worth checking out.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

A Walking Tour Around the Pyramids of Giza: 2 Hours in Hi Def is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

✇ Open Culture

An Animated History of the Ottoman Empire (1299 – 1922)

Por Josh Jones — 7 de Outubro de 2021, 14:00

History is selective. Or, rather, it’s selected by those in power for their own uses. Nowhere do we see this more than in nationalist re-imaginings of an imperial past, whether it be British, Roman, or, in the case of modern Turkey, Ottoman. “Much has been written,” notes Time magazine’s Alan Mikhail, “about [Turkish president Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s attempts to ‘resurrect’ the Ottoman Empire or to style himself a sultan.” Erdogan’s turn to hardline Islam has been inspired by one particular sultan, Selim I, under whose rule, “the Ottoman Empire grew from a strong regional power to a gargantuan global empire.” Mikhail compares Selim to another historical figure famed for single-minded intolerance: Andrew Jackson, a hero of the former United States president.

Erdogan’s characterization of the Ottoman Empire sometimes seems to have more in common with early European ideas about the empire than its ideas about itself. European writers in the 16th and 17th century linked the Ottomans with Islamist repression, an Orientalist take on Turkish power as a dangerous yet seductive new enemy. “The glorious Empire of the Turkes, the present terrour of the world,” wrote Richard Knolles in his 1603 Generall Historie of the Turkes, “hath amongst other things nothing in it more wonderful or strange, than the poore beginning of itselfe….” These same sentiments were echoed in 1631 by English writer John Speed, who described the “sudden advancement” of the Empire as “a terrour to the whole world.” Likewise, Andrew Moore in 1659 wrote of “this barbarous Nation, the worlds present terrour,” a nation with a “small & obscure beginning.”

All empires have small beginnings. In the case of the Ottomans, the story begins with Osman I, a tribal leader of obscure origins who founded the Empire in Anatolia some 300 years before the authors above put pen to paper. (The word “Ottoman” derives from his name.) A series of conquests followed, the most dramatic occurring in 1453 when Mehmed the Conquerer entered Constantinople, effectively ending the Byzantine Empire, an event you can see highlighted in the video above, an “entire history of the Ottoman Empire” — all 600 years of it — from 1299 to 1922. Such an extended period of conquest and influence led, of course, to a variety of views about the nature of the Ottomans, not least among the Ottomans themselves, who saw themselves not as Muslim invaders of Europe but as the rightful heirs of Rome. Indeed, educated Ottomans referred to themselves not as “Turks,” a word for the peasantry, but as R?m?, “Roman.”

In many ways, the Ottomans — bloody conquests, slavery, genocides and all — took after the Romans. “Obviously they saw value in spreading religion,” says David Lesch, professor of Middle East history at Trinity University in San Antonio. But they did not share the narrative of a “clash of civilizations” favored by European writers of the time, and certain revisionists today. “The Ottoman Empire saw itself as very much, even more so a European empire than a Middle Eastern empire. And they took a very tolerant view toward non-Muslims since for most of the Ottoman Empire — especially when it was at its largest — most of its population was non-Muslim. It was in fact Christian.” The observation brings to mind the central claim of Turkish scholar Nam?k Kemal’s influential essay “Europe Knows Nothing about the Orient,” in which he writes that European scholars have failed to understand the “true character such as ours, which is so close to them that … it might as well be touching their eyelashes.”

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

An Animated History of the Ottoman Empire (1299 – 1922) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

✇ Open Culture

A Brilliant Demonstration of Magnets & the Promise of Levitating Trains (1975)

Por Josh Jones — 7 de Outubro de 2021, 11:00

For a brief time in the 1980s, it seemed like trains powered by maglev — magnetic levitation — might just solve transportation problems everywhere, maybe even replacing air travel, thereby eliminating one of the most vexing sources of carbon emissions. Maglev trains don’t use fuel; they don’t require very much power by comparison with other sources of high speed travel; they don’t produce emissions; they’re quiet, require less maintenance than other trains, and can travel at speeds of 300 mph and more. In fact, the fastest maglev train to date, unveiled this past summer in Qingdao, China, can reach speeds of up to 373 miles per hour (600 kph).

So, why isn’t the planet criss-crossed by maglev trains? asks Dave Hall at The Guardian, citing the fact that the first maglev train was launched in the UK in 1984, after which Germany, Japan, and China followed suit. It seems to come down, as such things do, to “political will.” Without significant commitment from governments to reshape the transportation infrastructure of their countries, maglev trains remain a dream, the monorails of the future that never materialize. Even in China, where government mandate can institute mass changes at will, the development of maglev trains has not meant their deployment. The new train could, theoretically, ferry travelers between Shanghai to Beijing in 2.5 hours… if it had the track.

Perhaps someday the world will catch up with maglev trains, an idea over a century old. (The first patents for maglev technology were filed by a French-born American engineer named Emile Bachelet in the 1910s.) Until then, the rest of us can educate ourselves on the technology of trains that use magnetic levitation with the 1975 video lesson above from British engineer and professor Eric Laithwaite (Imperial College London), who “deconstructs the fascinating physics at work behind his plans for a maglev trains, which he first modelled in the 1940s and perfected in the 1970s,” notes Aeon. “Well-regarded in his time as both a lecturer and an engineer, Laithwaite presents a series of demonstrations that build, step by step, until he finally unveils a small maglev train model.”

Laithwaite’s small-scale demonstration would eventually culminate in the first commercial maglev train almost a decade later at Birmingham Airport. Here, he begins where science begins, with an admission of ignorance. “Permanent magnets are difficult things to understand,” he says. “In fact, if we’re absolutely honest with ourselves, we don’t understand them.” The good professor then briskly moves on to demonstrate what he does know — enough to build a levitating train. Learn much more about the history and technology of maglev trains at How Stuff Works, and keep your eyes on the Northeast Maglev project, a developing Superconducting Maglev train that promises travel between New York and Washington, DC in one hour flat.

via Aeon

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

A Brilliant Demonstration of Magnets & the Promise of Levitating Trains (1975) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

✇ Open Culture

How to Make Comics: A Four-Part Series from the Museum of Modern Art

Por Colin Marshall — 7 de Outubro de 2021, 08:00


A painting? “Moving. Spiritually enriching. Sublime. ‘High’ art.” The comic strip? “Vapid. Juvenile. Commercial hack work. ‘Low’ art.” A painting of a comic strip panel? “Sophisticated irony. Philosophically challenging. ‘High’ art.” So says Calvin of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, whose ten-year run constitutes one of the greatest artistic achievements in the history of the newspaper comic strip. The larger medium of comics goes well beyond the funny pages, as any number of trend pieces have told us, but as an art form it remains less than perfectly understood.  Perhaps, as elsewhere, one must learn by doing: hence “How to Make Comics,” a “four-part journey through the art of comics” from the Museum of Modern Art.

Created by comics scholar and writer Chris Gavaler, this educational series begins with the broadest possible question: “What Are Comics?” That section offers two answers, the first being that comics are “cartoons in the funnies sections of newspapers and the pages of comic books” telling stories “about superheroes or talking animals” — or they’re longer-format “graphic novels,” which “can be more serious and include personal memoirs.”

The second, broader answer conceives of comics as nothing more specific than “juxtaposed images. Any work of art that divides into two or more side-by-side parts is formally a comic. So if an artist creates two images and places them next to each other, they’re working in the comics form.”

That second definition of comics includes, say, Andy Warhol’s Jacqueline Kennedy III — a work of art that conveniently happens to be owned by MoMA. The museum’s visual resources figure heavily into the whole “How to Make Comics,” in which Gavaler explains not just the process of creating comics but the relationship between comics and other (often longer institutionally approved) forms of art. And to whatever degree they juxtapose images, the works of art in MoMA’s online collection — rich as so many of them are with action, character, narrative, humor, and even words — offer inspiration to comic artists budding and experienced alike. The better part of two centuries into its development, this thoroughly modern medium has the power to incorporate ideas from any other art form; the high-and-low distinctions can take care of themselves. Enter “How to Make Comicshere.

via Kottke

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How to Make Comics: A Four-Part Series from the Museum of Modern Art is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

✇ Open Culture

A Guitarist Rocks Out on Guitars Made from Shovels, Cigar Boxes, Oil Cans & Whisky Barrels

Por Josh Jones — 6 de Outubro de 2021, 14:00

When Keith Richards felt he’d gone as far as he could go with the six-string guitar, he took one string off and played five, a trick he learned from Ry Cooder. These days, the trend is to go in the opposite direction, up to seven or eight strings for highly technical progressive metal compositions and downtuned “djent.” Traditionalists may balk at this. A five-string, after all, is a modification easily accomplished with a pair of wire-cutters. But oddly shaped eight-string guitars seem like weirdly rococo extravagances next to your average Stratocaster, Tele, or Les Paul.

Ideas we have about what a guitar should be, however, come mostly from the marketing and public relations machinery around big brand guitars and big name guitarists. The truth is, there is no Platonic ideal of the guitar, since no one is quite sure where the guitar came from.

It’s most easily recognized ancestors are the oud and the lute, which themselves have ancient heritages that stretch into prehistory. The six-string arrived rather late on the scene. In the renaissance, guitars had eight strings, tuned in four “courses,” or pairs, like the modern 12-string, and baroque guitars had 10 strings in five courses.

Closer in time to us, “the jazz guitarist George Van Eps had a seven-string guitar built for him by Epiphone Guitars in the late 1930s,” notes one brief history, “and a signature Gretsch seven-string in the late 60s and early 70s…. Several others began using seven-string guitars after Van Eps.” Russian folk guitars had seven strings before the arrival of six-string Spanish classical instruments (two hundred years before the arrival of Korn).

Meanwhile, in the hills, hollars, and deltas of the U.S. south, folk and blues musicians built guitars out of whatever was at hand, and fit as many, or as few, strings as needed. From these instruments came the powerfully simple, timeless licks Keef spent his career emulating. Guitarist Justin Johnson has cultivated an online presence not only with his slick electric slide playing, but also with his tributes to odd, old-time, homemade guitars. At the top, he plays a three-string shovel guitar, doing Keith two better.

Further up, some “Porch Swing Slidin’” with a six-string cigar box-style guitar engraved with a portrait of Robert Johnson. Above, hear a stirring rendition of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on an oil can and a slide solo on a whiskey barrel guitar. Finally, Johnson rocks out Ray Charles on a three string cigar box guitar, made mostly out of ordinary items you might find around the shed.

You might not be able to pluck out Renaissance airs or complicated, sweep-picked arpeggios on some of these instruments, but where would even the most complex progressive rock and metal be without the raw power of the blues driving the evolution of the guitar? Finally, below, see Johnson play a handmade one-string Diddley Bow (and see the making of the instrument as well). Originally a West African instrument, it may have been the very first guitar.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

A Guitarist Rocks Out on Guitars Made from Shovels, Cigar Boxes, Oil Cans & Whisky Barrels is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Gustav Klimt’s Iconic Painting The Kiss: An Introduction to Austrian Painter’s Golden, Erotic Masterpiece (1908)

Por Colin Marshall — 6 de Outubro de 2021, 11:00

Not long ago I stayed in a hotel by the train station of a small Korean city. In the room hung a reproduction of Gustav Klimt’s Die Umarmung, or The Embrace. This at first struck me as just another piece of culturally incongruous décor — a phenomenon hardly unknown in this country — but then I realized that its sensibility wasn’t entirely inappropriate. For the room was in what belonged, broadly speaking, to the category of South Korea’s “love hotels,” and Klimt, as Great Art Explained creator James Payne puts it, “placed sexuality at the forefront of his work.” The artist had that in common with Sigmund Freud, his fellow denizen of fin de siècle Vienna.

With paintings like Die Umarmung, Klimt pushed the boundaries of what Freud called “the misunderstood and much-maligned erotic.” Payne cites those very words in his new video on Klimt’s much better-known work Der Kuss, or The Kiss.

Completed in 1908, the painting shows both the artist’s penchant for “allegory and symbolism” carried over from his younger days, as well as his mature ability to transform allegory and symbolism “into a new language that was more overtly sexual and more disturbing.” For these and other reasons — its nearly life-size dimensions, its liberal use of actual gold — The Kiss has for more than a century been an un-ignorable work of art, even “an icon for the post-religious age.”

As in his other fifteen-minute videos, Payne manages to discuss both technique and context. Here the “deliberate contrast between the realistically rendered flesh and the two-dimensional abstract ornamentation creates an effect almost like photo montage.” The figures’ clothes offer “a visual metaphor for the emotional and physical expression of erotic love,” and their close framing echoes Japanese woodblock prints, from which Payne notes that Klimt (like Van Gogh) drew great inspiration. He also traces the aesthetic roots of The Kiss through Edvard’s Munch’s eponymous painting, and Auguste Rodin’s even earlier sculpture. “Once considered pornographic and deviant,” Klimt’s was later “put on display in one of the imperial palaces” — and even today, on the other side of the world and in a much humbler context, it retains its romantic power.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Gustav Klimt’s Iconic Painting The Kiss: An Introduction to Austrian Painter’s Golden, Erotic Masterpiece (1908) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Albert Camus on the Responsibility of the Artist: To “Create Dangerously” (1957)

Por Josh Jones — 6 de Outubro de 2021, 11:00

Literary statements about the nature and purpose of art constitute a genre unto themselves, the ars poetica, an antique form going back at least as far as Roman poet Horace. The 19th century poles of the debate are sometimes represented by the dueling notions of Percy Shelley — who claimed that poets are the “unacknowledged legislators of the world” — and Oscar Wilde, who famously proclaimed, “all art is quite useless.” These two statements conveniently describe a conflict between art that involves itself in the struggles of the world, and art that is involved only with itself.

In the mid-twentieth century, Albert Camus put the question somewhat differently in a 1957 speech entitled “Create Dangerously.”

Of what could art speak, indeed? If it adapts itself to what the majority of our society wants, art will be a meaningless recreation. If it blindly rejects that society, if the artist makes up his mind to take refuge in his dream, art will express nothing but a negation.

And yet, grandiose ideas about the artist’s role seemed absurd in the mid-twentieth century, when the question becomes whether artists should exist at all. “Such amazing optimism seems dead today,” writes Camus. “In most cases the artist is ashamed of himself and his privileges, if he has any. He must first of all answer the question he has put to himself: is art a deceptive luxury?”

Women artists have also had to consider the question, of course. Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova quotes Audre Lorde’s call for artists to “uphold their responsibility toward ‘the transformation of silence into language and action.” Ursula Le Guin believed that art expanded the imagination, and thus the possibilities for human freedom. Both of these writers were politically engaged artists, and so it’s little wonder that we find similar sentiments in Camus’ speech from decades earlier.

To make art, Camus writes, is to make choices. Artists are already involved, as Shelley declared, in shaping the world around them, whether they acknowledge it or not:

Reality cannot be reproduced without exercising a selection… The only thing needed, then, is to find a principle of choice that will give shape to the world. And such a principle is found, not in the reality we know, but in the reality that will be — in short, the future. In order to reproduce properly what is, one must depict also what will be.

The most eloquent, enduring expressions of future thinking are that which we call art. Even art that seeks to depict the fleetingness of nature freezes itself for posterity.

Art, in a sense, is a revolt against everything fleeting and unfinished in the world. Consequently, its only aim is to give another form to a reality that it is nevertheless forced to preserve as the source of its emotion. In this regard, we are all realistic and no one is. Art is neither complete rejection nor complete acceptance of what is. It is simultaneously rejection and acceptance, and this is why it must be a perpetually renewed wrenching apart. 

To understand art as purposelessly divorced from the world is to misunderstand it, Camus argues. This is the misunderstanding of “a fashionable society in which all troubles [are] money troubles and all worries [are] sentimental worries” — the self-satisfied bourgeois society “about which Oscar Wilde, thinking of himself before he knew prison, said that the greatest of all vices was superficiality.”

Art for art’s sake is the doctrine of a “society of merchants… the artificial art of a factitious and self-absorbed society,” Camus declared. “The logical result of such a theory is the art of little cliques.” Or, to a degree Camus could not have imagined, we have the entertainment industrial complex of art for commerce’s sake, which in the 21st century can make it nearly impossible for art to thrive. (As actor Stellan Skarsgård recently said in public comments, the problem with the film industry is “that we have for decades believed that the market should rule everything.”)

Therefore, the question before Camus, and no less before artists today, is how to “create dangerously” in a society “that forgives nothing.” The question of whether or not art serves a purpose is a false one, he suggests, since “every publication is a deliberate act,” and therefore purposeful. The real question, for Camus the philosopher, “is simply to know — given the strict controls of countless ideologies (so many cults, such solitude!) — how the enigmatic freedom of creation remains possible.” If only arriving at such knowledge were so simple. Camus’ lecture has recently been translated by Sandra Smith and published in the short volume, Create Dangerously: The Power and Responsibility of the Artist. You can read a section of the lecture at Lithub.

Camus’ speech was presented on December 14, 1957 at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, shortly after he won the Nobel Prize.

via Brain Pickings

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Albert Camus on the Responsibility of the Artist: To “Create Dangerously” (1957) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Medieval Tennis: A Short History and Demonstration

Por Ayun Halliday — 5 de Outubro de 2021, 14:00

British You Tuber Nikolas “Lindybiege” Lloyd is a man of many, many interests.

Wing Chun style kung fu…

Children’s television produced in the UK between 1965 and 1975…

Ancient weaponrychainmail, and historically accurate WWII model miniatures

Actress Celia Johnson, star of the 1945 romantic drama Brief Encounter

Evolutionary psychology

…and it would appear, tennis.

But not the sort you’ll find played on the grass courts of Wimbledon, or for that matter, the hard courts of the US Open.

Lloyd is one of a select few who gravitate toward the version of the game that was known as the sport of kings.

It was, according to a 1553 guide, created, “to keep our bodies healthy, to make our young men stronger and more robust, chasing idleness, virtue’s mortal enemy, far from them and thus making them of a stronger and more excellent nature.”

Henry VIII was a talented and enthusiastic player in his youth, causing the Venetian Ambassador to rhapsodize, “it was the prettiest thing in the world to see him play; his fair skin glowing through a shirt of the finest texture.”

Henry’s second wife, the ill-fated Anne Boleyn, was also a fan of the sport, with money riding on the match she was watching when she was summoned to the Privy Council “by order of the King,” the first stop on her very swift journey to the Tower of London.

The sport’s roots reach all the way to the 11th and 12th centuries when monks and villagers in southern France were mad for jeu de paume, a tennis-like game predating the use of racquets, whose popularity eventually spread to the royals and aristocrats of Paris.

The game Lloyd tries his hand at above is now known as Real Tennis, a term invented in the 19th-century to distinguish it from the then-new craze for lawn tennis.

Mention “the sport of kings” these days and most folks will assume you’re referring to fox hunting or horse-racing.

Mind you, real tennis is just as rarified. You won’t find it being played on any old (which is to say new) indoor court. It requires four irregularly sized walls, an asymmetrical layout, and a sloping penthouse roof. Behold the layout of a Real Tennis court by Atethnekos, compliments of  English Wikipedia:

Compared to that, the Tennis Department‘s diagram of the familiar modern set up seems like child’s play:

Other cognitive challenges for those whose version of tennis doesn’t extend back to medieval days:  a slack net; lopsided, tightly strung, small raquets; and a gallery of waist-high screened “hazards,” that are spiritually akin to pinball targets, especially the one with the bell.

The handmade balls may look similar to your average mass-produced Penn or Wilson, but expect that each will be “unique in its particular quirks”:

They are not perfectly spherical and these seams stick out a little bit more here and there, which means that the bounce can be rather unpredictable. Because these are heavier and harder, they don’t swerve when you spin them in the air very much, but when they hit a wall and get a decent grip, the swerve can send them zinging off along the wall to great effect.

Once Lloyd has oriented viewers and himself to the court and equipment, Real Tennis pro Zak Eadle walks him through serving, scoring, and strategy in the form of chases.

Quoth Shakespeare’s Henry V:

His present, and your pains, we thank you for:
When we have match’d our rackets to these balls,
We will, in France, by God’s grace play a set,
Shall strike his father’s crown into the Hazard:
Tell him, he made a match with such a wrangler, 
That all the Courts of France will be disturb’d with chases.

Even non-athletic types could find themselves fascinated by the historical context Lindybeige provides.

If you’re moved to take racquet in hand, there are a handful of Real Tennis courts in the USA, UK, Australia, and France where you might be able to try your luck.

The sport could use you. Estimates indicate that the number of players has dwindled to a mere 10,000. Surely someone is desperate for a partner.

Delve further into the world of Real Tennis on the International Real Tennis Professionals Association’s website.

Check out some of Lindybeige’s other interests on his YouTube channel.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday

Medieval Tennis: A Short History and Demonstration is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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The Beach Boys’ Lost Concert: Watch the Band Perform Their Classics at Their Zenith (1964)

Por Colin Marshall — 5 de Outubro de 2021, 11:00

In early 1964, there could hardly have been an American teenager ignorant of the Beach Boys. Singing in immaculate harmonies about surfing, hot rods, girls, and root beer — as well as various combinations and permutations thereof — they soon found themselves riding an unprecedentedly high wave, so to speak, of postwar teen culture. On the other side of the pond, the Beatles had been hard at work playing to demographically similar, also-enraptured audiences. In February of 1964 the Fab Four arrived in America, and their performance on The Ed Sullivan Show alone put them on at least an equal footing there with the Beach Boys.

“The next opportunity for your average American Beatlemaniac to see the Beatles perform would have been at the movie theater watching the Beatles’ Washington D.C. concert at the Coliseum on a closed circuit broadcast on March 14 or 15, 1964,” says the blog Meet the Beatles for Real. “This was the first time in history that the closed-circuit was used for a concert. Previously, it had only been used to show boxing matches.”

The direct-to-theaters broadcast also included shorter opening acts Lesley Gore and the Beach Boys, the latter of whose performance was thought lost until its rediscovery in 1998. In the video above, you can see its entire 22 minutes at an audiovisual quality well exceeding most concert films of its era.

Beginning with “Fun, Fun, Fun,” the Beach Boys play a variety of early numbers that would turn out to rank among their most beloved songs, also including “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Surfer Girl,” “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” and “Shut Down.” (“Long Tall Texan” would only be properly recorded 32 years later, with the late country singer Doug Supernaw.) The set even features “In My Room,” whose melancholic break from the surfing-cars-girls spectrum offered a sign of things to come from the group’s musical mastermind Brian Wilson. Unsuited to the stress of stardom, he would recuse himself from live performance the following year. This show thus marks the onstage zenith of the Beach Boys’ classic lineup of the Wilson brothers Brian, Carl, and Dennis with Al Jardine and Mike Love. But as makers of classic albums — and classic albums pushed to heights of ambition by competition with the Beatles — they’d only just begun.

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Watch Lost Studio Footage of Brian Wilson Conducting “Good Vibrations,” The Beach Boys’ Brilliant “Pocket Symphony”

Enter Brian Wilson’s Creative Process While Making The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds 50 Years Ago: A Fly-on-the Wall View

Paul McCartney vs. Brian Wilson: A Rivalry That Inspired Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper, and Other Classic Albums

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Beach Boys’ Lost Concert: Watch the Band Perform Their Classics at Their Zenith (1964) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Footage of the Last Known Tasmanian Tiger Restored in Color (1933)

Por Josh Jones — 5 de Outubro de 2021, 08:00

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that nearly two dozen wildlife species would be removed from the endangered species list, as CNN reported, including the ivory-billed woodpecker, “the Bachman’s warbler, two species of freshwater fishes, eight species of Southeastern freshwater mussels and 11 species from Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.” This is not good news. The animals have been delisted because they’ve been added to a list of extinct creatures, one that grows longer each year.

Most of us have seen few, if any, of these animals and cannot grasp the scope of their loss. What does it mean to say there are no more Bachman’s warblers left on Earth? Species wiped out by climate change, overfarming, overfishing, or the encroachment of humans and invasive species can feel far away from us, their loss a distant tragedy; or extinction can seem inevitable, like that of the Dodo or Sicilian wolf, creatures that seem too fantastic for the world we now inhabit. So too, the dog-like marsupial Tasmanian tiger — or thylacine — an animal that lived as recently as 1936 when the last representative of its species, named Benjamin, died in captivity in Australia.

The thylacine looks like an evolutionary oddity, too weird to survive. But this judgment is a misapplication of Darwinism as egregious as the idea that only the “fittest,” i.e. those who can take good beating, survive. The day Benjamin died, September 7, has been commemorated in Australia as National Threatened Species Day, which raises awareness about the hundreds of plant and animal species close to extinction. The day also celebrates the hundreds of species found nowhere else in the world, animals that could come to seem to us in the near future as strange and exotic as the thylacine — a fascinating example of convergent evolution: a marsupial canid that evolved completely independently of wolves, dogs, and other canine species with which it had no contact whatsoever until the British arrived.

Found only on the island of Tasmania by the time of European settlement, thylacine populations were destroyed by disease, dogs, and, primarily, human hunters. Before the final member of the species died, they were kept in zoos and captured on silent film by naturalists like David Fleay, who shot the black-and-white footage just above of Benjamin at Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart, Tasmania. In the video at the top, we can see the same footage in vivid color — and full digital restoration — thanks to Samuel François-Steininger and his Paris-based company Composite Films.

Sent an HDR (High Dynamic Range) scan of the film by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA), François-Steininger had to make a lot of interpretive choices. Next to “original skins preserved in museums,” the NFSA notes, his team “had to rely on sketches and paintings because of the lack of original color pictures or footage that could be used for research.” While there are 9 short film clips of the animals from the London and Hobart zoos, these are all, of course, in black and white. “Written descriptions of the thylacine’s coat gave them a general idea of the tints and shades present in the fur, information they supplemented with scientific drawings and recent 3D color renderings of the animal.” The results are incredibly natural-looking and startlingly immediate.

Are the thylacine, Bachman’s warbler, and other extinct species victims of the Anthropocene? Will our children’s children children watch films of polar bears and koalas and wonder how our planet could have contained such wonders? Geological epochs deal with “mile-thick packages of rock stacked up over tens of millions of years,” Peter Brannen writes at The Atlantic, and thus it overstates the case to call the last four centuries of climate change and mass extinction an “Anthropocene.” The word names “a thought experiment” rather than a span of deep time in Earth’s history. But from the perspective of critically endangered species — maybe to include, eventually, humans themselves — the transformations of the present seem squarely focused on our reckless behavior and its effects on habitats we never see.

We are far less important to geological time than we think, Brannen argues, but it does, indeed, seem up to us at the moment whether there is a future on Earth filled with plant, animal, and yes, human, life:

We haven’t earned an Anthropocene epoch yet. If someday in the distant future we have, it will be an astounding testament to a species that, after a colicky, globe-threatening infancy, learned that it was not separate from Earth history, but a contiguous part of the systems that have kept this miraculous marble world habitable for billions of years.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Footage of the Last Known Tasmanian Tiger Restored in Color (1933) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Facebook Whistleblower Offers an Unprecedented Look at How the Company “Chooses Profits Over Safety”

Por OC — 5 de Outubro de 2021, 07:54

On Sunday night, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook data scientist, appeared on 60 Minutes and revealed that she left the company with a trove of private Facebook research–research which shows, she contends, that the company knowingly amplifies hate, misinformation and political unrest, all to keep people engaged and outraged, and thus their advertising money machine rolling. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Initially, she gave the company’s leaked documents to the Wall Street Journal, and they became the basis of the podcast series The Facebook Files. According to the Journal, “Time and again, the documents show, Facebook’s researchers have identified the platform’s ill effects. Time and again, despite congressional hearings, its own pledges and numerous media exposés, the company didn’t fix them. The documents offer perhaps the clearest picture thus far of how broadly Facebook’s problems are known inside the company, up to the chief executive himself.”

Watch the 60 Minutes interview above. Then stream the Facebook Files on WSJ’s site, Spotify and/or Apple. Episode 1 appears below:

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Facebook Whistleblower Offers an Unprecedented Look at How the Company “Chooses Profits Over Safety” is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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The Medieval Ban Against the “Devil’s Tritone”: Debunking a Great Myth in Music Theory

Por Josh Jones — 4 de Outubro de 2021, 14:00

Music lives deep within us, in the marrow of our evolutionary bones, tapping into “this very primitive system,” says British musicologist John Deathridge, “which identifies emotion on the basis of a violation of expectancy.” In other words, our brains are predisposed to hear certain combinations of sounds as soothing and others as disturbing. When we plot those sounds on a staff, we find one of the most dissonant, yet intriguing, combinations, what can be called an augmented 4th or diminished 5th but isn’t quite either one. But it’s much better known by its medieval nickname, “the devil’s tritone” (or “devil’s interval”), a sequence of notes so sinister, they were once banned in the belief that they might conjure Lucifer himself…. Or so the story goes.

The truth is less sensational. “To the chagrin of many a musician wanting to tap into a badass rebel streak in music’s DNA,” James Bennett writes at WQXR, “there aren’t any records to suggest any rogue medieval composers took a hike to Perdition after using this spooky, devilish interval.” In other words, no one seems to have been tortured, imprisoned, or excommunicated for a musical arrangement, all internet assertions to the contrary notwithstanding. But the association with the devil is historical. In the 18th century, the tritone acquired the name diabolus in musica, or “the devil in music,” part of a mnemonic: “Mi contra fa est diabolus in musica” or “mi against fa is the devil in music.”

If you’re already versed in music theory, you’ll find this technical explanation of the “devil’s interval” by musician Jerry Tachoir helpful. In the video above, bass player Adam Neely debunks the myth of the devil’s tritone as an actual curse. But his explanation is more than “one long, ‘Um, Actually,'” he says. Instead, he tells us why the tritone is a musical blessing, and was thought of as such a thousand years ago. His explanation also gets a little technical, but his visual and musical demonstrations make it fairly easy to follow, and if you don’t absorb the theory, you’ll pick up the true history of the “devil’s tritone,” beginning with the Greek thinker Aristoxenus of Tarentum, one of the first to write about the uncomfortable dissonance of a note sitting between two others.

The tritone is what musicologist Carl E. Gardner called a “dependent” chord, one characteristic of tension. We may not register it consciously, but it primes our brains with anxious expectation. “The reason it’s unsettling is that it’s ambiguous, unresolved,” says Gerald Moshell, Professor of Music at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. “It wants to go somewhere. It wants to settle here, or [there]. You don’t know where it’ll go, but it can’t stop where it is.” We hear this irresolution, this “devil” of musical doubt in compositions ranging from The Simpsons theme to the chorus of Pearl Jam’s “Evenflow” to Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Danse macabre,” a piece of music that may not actually conjure evil, but sure sounds like it could if it wanted to.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Medieval Ban Against the “Devil’s Tritone”: Debunking a Great Myth in Music Theory is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Monet’s Water Lilies: How World War I Inspired Monet to Paint His Final Masterpieces & Create “the World’s First Art Installation”

Por Colin Marshall — 4 de Outubro de 2021, 11:00

When one considers which artists most powerfully evoke the horrors of trench warfare, Claude Monet is hardly the first name to come to mind. And yet, once viewed that way, his final Water Lilies paintings — belonging to a series that, in reproduction, speaks to many of no more harrowing a setting than a doctor’s waiting room — can hardly be viewed in any other. These eight large-scale canvasses constitute “a war memorial to the millions of lives tragically lost in the First World War,” argues Great Art Explained creator James Payne. Monet declined to include a horizon line in any of them, leaving viewers in “a vast field of unfathomable nothingness, of light, air, and water,” at once peaceful and reminiscent of “the battle-ravaged landscape along the western front.”

Those battlefields “had no beginning or end, and no horizons. Time and space was forgotten, as soldiers were enveloped in a sea of mud, surrounded by waterlogged and surreal landscapes, which covered their field of vision.” The Great War, as it was then known, still raged on when the septuagenarian Monet began these works.  (“He could hear the sound of gunfire from 50 kilometers away from his house in Giverny as he painted,” notes Payne.)

By the time he finished them, in the last year of his life, the fighting had been over for eight years. In a sense, these paintings may have kept him alive: “He was constantly ‘reworking’ them and seemed incapable of finishing,” even though, by his own admission, “he could no longer see the details or make out colors.”

When these Water Lilies were revealed to the public, mounted in their own specially designed gallery in Paris’ Musée de l’Orangerie (arranged by close personal friend Georges Clemenceau), Monet was dead — which may, in part, explain the critics’ willingness to deride them as the work of an artist who had lost his powers. “Monet, rejected by critics in the 19th century for being too radical, was now being criticized in the 20th century for not being radical enough.” It would take a later generation of artists — including American painters like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock  — to see his last works as “a logical jumping-off point for abstraction,” and the space that houses them as “the Sistine Chapel of impressionism.” World War I has passed out of living memory, but “the world’s first art installation” it inspired Monet to create has lost none of its power.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Monet’s Water Lilies: How World War I Inspired Monet to Paint His Final Masterpieces & Create “the World’s First Art Installation” is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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DEVO Co-Founder Jerry Casale Muses on Songwriting & Social Protest: Stream the Nakedly Examined Music Interview Online

Por Mark Linsenmayer — 4 de Outubro de 2021, 08:00

This week’s Nakedly Examined Music podcast features a discussion of songwriting and social protest with Jerry Casale, the co-frontman of Devo since its formation in 1973.

Jerry developed the idea of “devolution” with his friend Bob Lewis in the late ’60s when attending Kent State University, and by his own account was radicalized to political action by the Kent State shootings in 1970. This took the form of what was originally a partnership with Mark Mothersbaugh to create visual art, but this quickly became a musical partnership as well. Mark had used his synthesizer skills to ape British progressive rock, while Jerry was more influenced by blues, having played bass in The Numbers Band and other outfits. The two started recording independently, bringing in Mark’s brother Bob (“Bob 1”) to play lead guitar and later adding Jerry’s brother Bob (“Bob 2”) to play rhythm guitar and more keyboards as well as drummer Alan Myers. Buoyed by heralded live shows in Ohio that included a particularly idiosyncratic and catchy take on The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” Devo was signed to a major label and released seven albums before coming to a gradual stop in after their album sales declined in the late ’80s given that Mark was doing more and more music for TV and film.

This created a dilemma for Jerry, who has regarded Devo as his life’s work and also regarded it as essentially a partnership with Mark. There have been many Devo live reunions (including one happening now), and there was a full new Devo album in 2010, but that leaves a lot of time to merely collect residuals from “Whip It” and run a winery in Napa.

In reaction to the falsehoods that launched the 2003 Iraq War, Jerry recorded a limited-release solo album under the name “Jihad Jerry and the Evildoers.” This work has now been repackaged to accompany the release of a brand new single (attributed to “DEVO’s Gerald V. Casale”) called “I’m Gonna Pay U Back,” written with current Devo drummer Josh Freese and featuring guitars by Oingo Boingo’s Steve Bartek. As Jerry has always thought of his videos as integral to his musical output, this new song features an elaborately storyboarded and textured video co-directed with Davy Force of Force! Extreme Ani-Mation.

This revival of the Jihad Jerry character created to criticize America’s paranoid post-9/11 mindset allowed Jerry to visualize a conflict between Jihad Jerry and DEVO Jerry, in the Nakedly Examined Music interview, host Mark Linsenmayer engages Jerry about what these characters amount to and how exactly irony does (or does not) play into them. It was both a blessing and a curse for Devo that their various militaristic and/or robotic personas were so funny. The humor (and fun danceability) involved in songs like “Whip It,” “Mongoloid,” and “Freedom of Choice” meant they could gain an enduring foothold in popular culture, but on the other hand, they’ve been dismissed as merely jokes. Including themselves in the critique, acknowledging themselves as subject to the same human foibles, allowed them to create minimalist, anthemic songs that had a self-conscious stupidity and lampooned the pretensions of art rock. There was a clear connection between the musical styles that Devo sported and the message of this critique: They could all chant in unison that we are all degenerate conformists and use synthesizers and jerky rhythms to act out our dehumanization.

Jihad Jerry, i.e. Jerry wearing a theatrical turban and sunglasses, was given a specific backstory involving escaping Iranian theocracy, determined to use music as a weapon to fight prejudice and ignorance everywhere. Whatever the virtues of this character as a narrative device, it was a marketing disaster, raising ire both with American conservatives and with Muslims who felt they were being mocked, and so the character was retired in 2007. Jerry’s Nakedly Examined Music interview discusses “The Owl,” a track written during Jihad Jerry’s initial run, which confusingly has Jihad Jerry (a character) speaking narratively through the voice of a superhero character “The Owl,” who threatens physical violence on all boorish, selfish American evildoers. Now, given that there’s a character named Nite Owl in Alan Moore’s comic Watchmen, which is explicitly about the mental instability of those who appoint themselves the moral and physical guardians of society, it would be natural to think that irony is playing ask thickly in this new portrayal as it was for the Devo “smart patrol” characters, but in this interview, Jerry urges us to take the critique at face value, as a straightforward condemnation of American arrogance. Does the critique land better without the explicit self-incrimination? Or is the fact that Jihad Jerry is obviously a joke, the Owl as a superhero is obviously a joke, and the fact that we’re talking about characters talking through characters give Jerry Casale enough of a framework to be able to launch very direct attacks without being dismissed as shrill or condescending?

The latter portion of the interview turns to a lesser known Devo track “Fountain of Filth,” which Jerry says he wrote with his brother Bob Casale (who passed away in early 2014) during the recording sessions for Devo’s most famous album, 1980s Freedom of Choice. The song (in the form presented in the podcast) was included in the Hardcore Devo: Volume Two CD in 1991, and was performed live for the first time as part of the 2014 Hardcore Devo Live! tour. In Jerry’s introduction to the song in that concert and in this interview, he describes the “fountain” as all the misinformation and other commercial garbage that makes up much of American media. However, the lyrics of the song are ambiguous: “I’ve got a hunger that makes me want things… Nowhere are we safe… from the appeal of the eternal fountain of filth.” Like one of Devo’s well-known songs “Uncontrollable Urge” (written by Mark without Jerry), this could be a song not actually condemning the temptations, but laughing at prurient hysteria about temptation, i.e. a firmly ironic missive. The technique here is most likely irony that cuts in all directions: One can condemn the overreaction while still condemning the thing it was a reaction to, and a prudish fear of sexuality and full immersion in it are two sides of the same degenerate (i.e. “de-evolved”) coin.

The interview concludes with a 2016 single attributed to Jerry Casale with Italy’s Phunk Investigation that explicitly states this totalizing condemnation/celebration: “It’s All Devo.” Again, the song was released with an elaborate, evocative video, in this case using the art of Max Papeschi and direction by Maurizio Temporin.

Get more links related to this episodes on the Nakedly Examined Music website. Nakedly Examined Music is a podcast hosted by Mark Linsenmayer, who also hosts The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast, Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast, and Philosophy vs. Improv. He releases music under the name Mark Lint.

DEVO Co-Founder Jerry Casale Muses on Songwriting & Social Protest: Stream the Nakedly Examined Music Interview Online is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Ai Weiwei Creates Hand-Silkscreened Scarves Drawing on a Chinese Paper Cutting Tradition

Por OC — 3 de Outubro de 2021, 18:18

FYI: Ai Weiwei has created handwoven and hand-silkscreened scarves that aesthetically draw on a 2,000-year-old Chinese paper cutting tradition. “The colored, intricately cut papers are used as a story-telling medium in festivities, for prayers, and as everyday decoration.” The scarves are 100% silk. You can find versions in blue, red and black. (Here’s Ai Weiwei sporting one in red.) Or find them all here on Taschen’s web site.

Note: Taschen is a partner of ours. So if you purchase a scarf, it helps support Open Culture.

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Ai Weiwei Creates Hand-Silkscreened Scarves Drawing on a Chinese Paper Cutting Tradition is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Encore! Encore! An Hour of the World’s Most Beautiful Classical Guitar

Por Ayun Halliday — 1 de Outubro de 2021, 11:00

When it comes to encores, most musicians like to slate in a guaranteed crowdpleaser to send the audience out on a high. Conventional wisdom holds that an encore should be short, and change the mood created by the piece preceding it.

Classical guitarist Ana Vidovi? takes a different approach.

For the last few years, she has concluded most concerts by taking audience suggestions for the piece that will take it on home, viewing it as an opportunity to make an extra connection with fans:

It’s like a gift to me, also… sometimes I get nervous because I don’t know what they will ask me to play and I may not have practiced that particular piece, but you know, whatever! I think it’s just more of a gesture of appreciation. Of course there’s a connection through music, but obviously we don’t speak to each other.

The live audience for her March 2021 appearance at San Francisco’s St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, above, was unusually small due to COVID-19 protocols — just a few staffers from the Omni Foundation for the Performing Arts, an organization that brings the world’s finest acoustic guitarists to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Their applause was enthusiastic, helped by St. Mark’s excellent acoustics, but it feels thin in contrast to the wall of sound that would greet a musician of Vidovi?’s caliber when she performs to a packed house.

Despite the extremely intimate setting, after her final piece, Nocturno by fellow Croatian Slavko Fumic, Vidovi? observed her own tradition, opening the floor to requests with a bit of a giggle:

If you have any encores, please feel free to ask. No, seriously, requests! Hopefully I practiced it … Richard?

One of her listeners promptly suggests 19th-century Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz‘s Asturias, originally written for piano and now considered one of the most essential works in the classical guitar repertoire.

Although she has been known to politely decline if she’s feeling too rusty, on this occasion, Vidovi? obliged, and beautifully so.

The complete program, which includes her customary healthy dose of her childhood favorite Bach, is below.

Flute Partita in A minor, BWV 1013

by Johann Sebastian Bach

(Transcribed by Valter Despalj)

-Allemande (3:06)

-Corrente (8:40)

Violin Sonata No. 1, BWV 1001

by Johann Sebastian Bach

(arr. by Manuel Barrueco)

-Adagio (12:44)

-Fuga (16:38)

-Siciliana (21:19)

-Presto (24:25)

Un Dia de Noviembre (27:36)

by Leo Brouwer

Gran Sonata Eroica, Op. 150 (32:17)

by Mauro Giuliani

Sonata in E major, K. 380, L. 23 (41:39)

Sonata in D minor K.1, L. 366 (46:28)

by Domenico Scarlatti

Nocturno (48:55)

by Slavko Fumic

Encore –

Asturias (53:49)

by Isaac Albeniz

San Francisco has now resumed live concerts (including Vidovi?’s scheduled return to St. Mark’s in April 2022), but the pandemic led Omni to expand its mission, with virtual concerts by top guitarists in various locations around the world, including Xuefei Yang playing in Beijing’s 15th-Century Zhizhu TempleMarko Topchii playing in Ukraine’s St. Andrew’s Cathedral, and David Russell in the monastery of Celanova, Spain. Watch a playlist of Omni On Location virtual events, including Q&As with performers here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Encore! Encore! An Hour of the World’s Most Beautiful Classical Guitar is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Japanese Guided Tours of the Louvre, Versailles, the Marais & Other Famous French Places (English Subtitles Included)

Por Colin Marshall — 1 de Outubro de 2021, 08:00

“As tourist season here in Paris winds to a close and the air once again becomes crisp, fresh, and new,” writes The Atlantic‘s Chelsea Fagan, “we must unfortunately acknowledge that it does not end without a few casualties.” That piece was published at this time of year, albeit a decade ago, when “tourist season” anywhere had a bit more bustle. But the worldwide downturn in travel hasn’t done away with the object of her concern: Paris Syndrome, “a collection of physical and psychological symptoms experienced by first-time visitors realizing that Paris isn’t, in fact, what they thought it would be.” This disorder, one often hears, is especially prevalent among the Japanese.

Japan, writes Fagan, is rich with portrayals of the French capital as a city “filled with thin, gorgeous, unbelievably rich citizens. The three stops of a Parisian’s day, according to the Japanese media, are a cafe, the Eiffel Tower, and Louis Vuitton.” To someone who knows it only through such images, a confrontation with the real Paris — with its service-industry workers who treat tourists “like something they recently scraped from the bottom of their shoes” to its subway cars “filled with groping couples, screaming children, and unimaginably loud accordion music” — can trigger “acute delusions, hallucinations, dizziness, sweating, and feelings of persecution.”

Not all Japanese visitors to Paris, of course, come down with Paris Syndrome. Some plunge into an even more overwhelming condition of love for the City of Light, as might well have been the case with the Youtuber France Guide Nakamura. “I studied art history at a university in France and was amazed at how interesting it was,” he writes on his about page. “When you study art, there is a moment of revelation! Something that was not visible until now suddenly appears. It is the ‘pleasure’ of ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding.’ I think this is the ‘core’ of tourism.” It is on that basis that he creates videos like the hour-long Louvre tour above, a smooth first-person walk through the world’s most famous museum that he narrates with a high degree of articulacy, knowledge, and enthusiasm.

Experienced in leading tours for his countrymen, he describes all his videos in his native Japanese. But in the case of his Louvre tour, you can turn on English subtitles by clicking the CC button in the toolbar at the bottom of the video. His other popular English-subtitled videos include walks through Montmartre, Marais, and the Latin Quarter, as well as certain excursions outside of Paris, such as this visit to Versailles. If you do speak Japanese, you’ll also be able to enjoy Nakamura’s many previous videos digging into the nature, history, and cultural context of other things French, from neighborhoods to works of art to convenience stores, but not, as yet, the Eiffel Tower — or for that matter, Louis Vuitton.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Japanese Guided Tours of the Louvre, Versailles, the Marais & Other Famous French Places (English Subtitles Included) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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David Bowie’s Lost Album Toy Will Get an Official Release: Hear the First Track “You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving”

Por Ted Mills — 30 de Setembro de 2021, 19:33

To the serious Bowie fan, the unreleased self-covers album Toy is not a secret. This collection of reworked pre-“Space Oddity” songs recorded with his touring band from his 2000 Glastonbury appearance was bootlegged a year after it was shelved in 2001. And it has been re-pressed illegally nearly every year since, sometimes as Toy and sometimes as The Lost Album. Some of the fourteen cuts popped up as b-sides over the years, but the whole album? Maybe, fans thought…one day.

Well, that one day is here, as the first single “You’ve Got a Habit of Leaving” dropped yesterday along with an announcement for a larger 90’s-encompassing box set release coming soon after.
According to Chris O’Leary’s Pushing Ahead of the Dame webpage—which you really should bookmark if you haven’t yet—the original version of “You’ve Got a Habit of Leaving” was written when he was only 18, and earned him a reprimand from none other than The Who’s Pete Townshend. ”You’re trying to write like me!” said Pete.

You can totally hear the Who influence in the chorus of the version released by Davy Jones and the Lower Third, which apes the fuzz-guitar freak-outs from “My Generation.”

Three and a half decades and multiple Bowie-incarnations later, and the former Davy Jones decided to look back at those hungry early years and redo some of his songs.

The plan in 2000 was to gather his band and record an album old-school, live, in studio, with all the energy and sometimes sloppiness that used to happen in the 1960s, when most bands got at most two days to record their first albums. The first Beatles album was recorded this way, and look where that got them.

But this also afforded Bowie a chance to fix the weaknesses of those original songs in structure and arrangement. Says O’Leary: “The new version is longer, far more elaborately produced, far more professionally played and it still sounds like a Who knock-off, only a knock-off of The Who ca. 1999. That said, Bowie sings it well and it does finally rock out at the end.”

Bowie’s plan was to quickly finish Toy and drop it unannounced as a surprise to his fans. This is commonplace now—Beyonce and Radiohead have done similar secret releases—but EMI freaked out, balked, and their reaction ultimately led Bowie to leave the label.

Other songs reimagined on Toy include “Liza Jane,” Bowie’s debut single from 1964; “Silly Boy Blue” from his first self-titled 1967 LP; and “The London Boys” a 1966 B-side. The album also includes songs that didn’t make it on the bootlegs: “Karma Man,” the original of which turned up on Bowie at the Beeb from a 1968 session, and “Can’t Help Thinking About Me,” originally released in 1966.

The release will be part of Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001) an 11-CD or 18-LP box set that will focus on Bowie’s third decade. Toy will be released separately as a 3-CD release called Toy:Box, containing “alternate mixes and outtakes.” Better save your pennies!

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

David Bowie’s Lost Album Toy Will Get an Official Release: Hear the First Track “You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving” is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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See Every Nuclear Explosion in History: 2153 Blasts from 1945-2015

Por Colin Marshall — 30 de Setembro de 2021, 11:00

There have been more than 2,000 nuclear explosions in all of history — which, in the case of the technology required to detonate a nuclear explosion, goes back only 76 years. It all began, according to the animated video above, on July 16, 1945, with the nuclear device code-named Trinity. The fruit of the labors of the Manhattan Project, its explosion famously brought to the mind of theoretical physicist Robert J. Oppenhemier a passage from the Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.” But however revelatory a spectacle Trinity provided, it turned out merely to be the overture of the nuclear age.

Created by Ehsan Rezaie of Orbital Mechanics, the video offers a simple-looking but deceptively information-rich presentation of every nuclear explosion that has so far occurred. It belongs to a perhaps unlikely but nevertheless decisively established genre, the animated nuclear-explosion time-lapse, of which we’ve previously featured examples from Business Insider’s Alex Kuzoian and artist Isao Hasimoto here on Open Culture.

The size of each circle that erupts on the world map indicates the relative power of the explosion in its location (all information also provided in the scrolling text on the lower left); those detonated underground appear in yellow, those detonated underwater in blue, and those detonated in the atmosphere in red.

Trinity created an atmospheric explosion above New Mexico’s Jornada del Muerto desert. (Otherwise Oppenheimer wouldn’t have been able to witness it change the world.) So did Little Boy and Fat Man, the bombs dropped on Japan in World War II. Those remain the only detonations of nuclear weapons in combat, and thus the nuclear explosions everyone knows, but they, too, represent only the beginning. As the Cold War sets in, something of a testing volley emerges between the United States and the Soviet Union, culminating in the colossal red dot of 1961’s Tsar Bomba, still the most powerful nuclear weapon ever tested. With the USSR long gone today, the explosions have only slowed. But in recent years, as the data on which this video is based indicates, nuclear testing has turned into a one-player game — and that player is North Korea.

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J. Robert Oppenheimer Explains How He Recited a Line from Bhagavad Gita–“Now I Am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds” — Upon Witnessing the First Nuclear Explosion

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

See Every Nuclear Explosion in History: 2153 Blasts from 1945-2015 is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Jim Henson’s Farewell: Revisit the “Nice, Friendly” Memorial Service at St. John the Divine (1990)

Por Josh Jones — 30 de Setembro de 2021, 08:00

Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It’s a good life, enjoy it. — Jim Henson

Born in Greenville, Mississippi, Jim Henson spent his youth practicing the tenets of Christian Science, a faith he would officially renounce in 1975. But the power of positive thinking his early religion years instilled would persist, romanticized by his alter-ego, Kermit the Frog, and tempered by foils like the earthy, irascible Ms. Piggy. For every foul-mouthed Oscar the Grouch, there was always a lovable Big Bird, “Jim taught us many things: to save the planet, be kind to each other, praise God, and be silly,” said Muppet writer Jerry Juhl at Henson’s 1990 New York City memorial service. “That’s how I’ll remember him — as a man who was balanced effortlessly and gracefully between the sacred and the silly.”

Henson’s first memorial, held at the cavernous Cathedral of St. John the Divine bore witness to Juhl’s portrait of the late, brilliant creator’s legacy. In true Henson fashion, the puppeteer directed the event himself from beyond the grave, a final lighthearted joke, as he had written in a letter to his family four years earlier: “It feels strange writing this while I am still alive, but it wouldn’t be easy after I go …. This all may seem silly to you guys, but what the hell, I’m gone and who can argue with me?”

By “this all,” Henson meant a funeral service in which guests were forbidden to wear black and asked to mourn and celebrate to the tunes of a Dixieland brass band: “A nice, friendly little service,” he wrote in his instructions, with a “rousing” soundtrack.

To the sounds of jazz, his friends and family added — of course — the songs that defined Henson’s career, including “Sunny Day,” the Sesame Street theme song, Muppets anthem “The Rainbow Connection,” and — in a second memorial service held two months later at St. Paul’s in London — Kermit the Frog’s anthem, “It’s Not Easy Being Green” (above) sung by Big Bird and Oscar puppeteer Caroll Spinney. (Spinney passed away in 2019.) Both Henson memorials were solemn (unavoidable given the occasion and the venues) but also decidedly silly, as story after story about the man poured forth from those who knew him best.

In the Defunctland video at the top, you can see Henson’s friend and frequent collaborator Juhl take the pulpit at St. John the Divine to tell his favorite Henson story of working on their first show in 1955, Sam and Friends, a local Washington, D.C. live-action/puppet program that gave birth to Kermit. Doubting the joke at the heart of a sketch, Juhl went to Henson with his misgivings; and Henson replied, “It’s a terrible joke, but it’s worthy of us.” The laughter that rumbles through the crowd is characteristic of both funeral services, which feel far more intimate than they are. Or as Henson’s son Brian says in his tribute, “Sorry Dad. Little service, big place.” See the full New York funeral service for Henson just below.

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Watch Blondie’s Debbie Harry Perform “Rainbow Connection” with Kermit the Frog on The Muppet Show (1981)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Jim Henson’s Farewell: Revisit the “Nice, Friendly” Memorial Service at St. John the Divine (1990) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Nirvana Refuses to Mime Along to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on Top of the Pops (1991)

Por Josh Jones — 29 de Setembro de 2021, 14:00

This month marks the 30th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind, first released on September 24, 1991, “the day,” writes Michael Tedder at Stereogum, “that college radio-nurtured types and arty hard rock officially became rebranded as Alternative Rock, and, according to legend, everything changed forever.” You might believe that legend even if you remember the reality. Yes, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was just as huge as everybody says — and, yes, you likely recall where you were when you first saw the video or heard the song explode with Pixies-inspired quiet-loud ferocity from the radio. But the change was already on the way.

Nirvana emerged in a pop music landscape slowly becoming saturated with alternative music. You might also remember where you were the first time you saw the video for Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence,” for example, or R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion,” or Sinéad O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” — or when you first experienced the dynamic/melodic assault of the aforementioned Pixies, virtual alt-rock elders by the time they released Trompe Le Monde, their fourth studio album, in the same September week that Nevermind appeared. (You may remember where you were the first time you heard the word “Lollapalooza,” first organized in 1991.)

The fateful week in September also saw the release of 90s-defining albums like Primal Scream’s Screamadelica, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory. In the year that Nevermind supposedly single-handedly invented “grunge,” Soundgarden released Badmotorfinger and Pearl Jam released Ten. It’s fair to say Nirvana were one of just many bands reinventing themselves and the culture. Even the hair metal bands and teen pop idols Nirvana put out of business were already trying to make more serious, “authentic” music before Nevermind turned every executive’s head.

Kurt Cobain was already well aware — and wary — of the dangers of hero worship and blind allegiance to style over substance. It was an attitude he came by naturally given that, in 1991, his friends in Olympia, Washington founded an indie record label called Kill Rock Stars. He’d written an anthem, “In Bloom,” about it before anyone heard the opening power chords of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” As he pursued, with rigorous ambition, the power of rock stardom, he rejected its trappings and pretensions, as when the band appeared on Top of the Pops and took the piss out of the show, rather than mime along dutifully, as Mark Beaumont writes at NME:

Pretending to strum his guitar like a robot and making no attempt to go anywhere near an actual chord – presumably a statement about being asked to perform like a mechanical puppet – Kurt launches into his vocal in deep, theatrical baritone, an homage to Morrissey that comes across more like Jim Morrison on mogadon. Meanwhile Krist Novoselic flails his bass around his head like he’s wrestling a live wolf and Dave Grohl’s ‘drumming’ is more like an interpretive dance to represent ‘goofy imp’. Oh, and heaven knows what the TOTP censors thought of Kurt changing the opening lyrics to “load up on drugs, kill your friends” before trying to eat the microphone. 

In light of the groundswell of alternative bands emerging — or still plugging away — at the time of Nevermind’s release, the myth of Nirvana as the single-handed inventors of 90s alt-rock is more than a little overblown. This is especially so in a decade that saw electronic dance music and hip hop cross over into rock and vice-versa, a trend Nirvana had nothing to do with. They were a thunderingly great band, and Kurt Cobain was a rare and gifted songwriter, but the heart of Nirvana’s popular appeal was extra-musical. The band — meaning, principally, Cobain — most honestly embodied the spirit of the time: painfully ambivalent and at war with its aspirations. “Kurt — I would call him a windmill,” says bassist Krist Novoselic. “He wanted to be a rock star — and he hated it.”

Related Content: 

The Recording Secrets of Nirvana’s Nevermind Revealed by Producer Butch Vig

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The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain’s Headbanging Cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Nirvana Refuses to Mime Along to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on Top of the Pops (1991) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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America’s First Banned Book: Discover the 1637 Book That Mocked the Puritans

Por Colin Marshall — 29 de Setembro de 2021, 11:00

In the contest for the title of the most American historical figure of them all, Thomas Morton‘s name can’t be left out. Businesslike, litigious, given to rhapsodies over nature, and not resistant to turning celebrity, he was also — in a characteristically American manner — born elsewhere. Back in Devon, England, he’d made his name as a lawyer, representing members of the lower class in court, but in 1622 he was hired by investor Sir Ferdinando Gorges on a trip to handle his affairs in the North American colonies. This was just two years after the founding of Plymouth Colony, whose success had inspired many an English businessman to contemplate getting in on the New World action himself. In 1624, Gorges sent Morton across the Atlantic again, this time with everything needed to found a colony of his own.

Morton was not a Puritan, nor was he “on board with the strict, insular, and pious society they had hoped to build for themselves,” as Atlas Obscura’s Matthew Taub puts it. Though his own colony of Merrymount became Plymouth’s rival in the fur trade, for the Puritans “the problem wasn’t only that Morton was taking goods and commerce away from Plymouth, but that he was giving that business to the Native Americans, including trading guns to the Algonquins. With Plymouth’s monopoly dissolved and its perceived enemies armed, Morton had perhaps done more than anyone else to undermine the Puritan project in Massachusetts.” And that was before Morton erected Merrymount’s 80-foot, antler-topped maypole, around which he invited residents to “drink, dance, and frolic.”

Obviously, Morton’s reign as a “lord of misrule” (as Plymouth’s governor William Bradford deemed him) could not be borne for long. “During the 1628 festivities, a Puritan militia led by Myles Standish invaded Merrymount and chopped down the maypole,” writes Taub, noting that the incident inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1832 short story “The May-Pole of Merry Mount.” Morton also turned out to be an able chronicler of the period himself, at least after the subsequent tribulations that saw him sentenced to death by starvation, helped to survive by the Native American tribes with whom he had maintained good relations, safely returned to England, and frustrated in his attempts to return to the colonies. Around 1630, he did what any true American, official or aspiring, would do: put together a lawsuit.

Morton demanded, writes World History Encyclopedia’s Joshua Mark, “that the government of the Massachusetts Bay Colony demonstrate by what authority they exercised their power,” arguing for the revocation of its charter “because the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony had not only misrepresented themselves in obtaining the charter but had no right to colonize the region in the first place as it was legally in Gorges’ patent.” As the long (and in any case futile) legal proceedings dragged on, Morton got the idea of turning his extensive briefs for the trial into “a three-volume work of history, natural history, satire, and poetry” called New English Canaan, a Biblical allusion underscoring Morton’s critical view of the Puritans as “abusing the natives and the land for profit and then justifying their actions in the name of their god and the scriptures.”

Linda Cantoni at Hot off the Press writes that “the first two books of New English Canaan are mostly non-controversial, containing Morton’s observations on the native Americans, whom he respected greatly, and on the rich natural resources in New England. It was in the third book that Morton rolled up his sleeves and got down to his real purpose of skewering the New England Puritans, who, he said, ‘make a great shewe of Religion, but no humanity.'” As a result, writes Mental Floss’ Jake Rossen, “his book was perceived as an all-out attack on Puritan morality, and they didn’t take kindly to it. So they banned it,” making New English Canaan what Christie’s called “America’s first banned book” when they auctioned a copy off for $60,000. But you can read it for free at Project Gutenberg, bearing in mind the most American lesson of all from the life of Thomas Morton: when all else fails, publish a tell-all memoir.

via Atlas Obscura

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

America’s First Banned Book: Discover the 1637 Book That Mocked the Puritans is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Why Scientists Can’t Recreate the Sound of Stradivarius Violins: The Mystery of Their Inimitable Sound

Por Josh Jones — 29 de Setembro de 2021, 08:00

In his influential 1936 essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” critic Walter Benjamin used the word “aura” to describe an artwork’s “presence in time and space” — an explanation of the thrill, or chill, we get from standing before a Jackson Pollock, say, or a Michelangelo, rather than a photograph of the same. Writing in the age of radio, photography, and newspapers, Benjamin believed that aura could not be transmitted or copied: “Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element” — that rare thing that makes art worth preserving and reproducing in the first place.

Let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that musical instruments have aura — that the very sounds they make are its manifestation, and that, no matter how sophisticated our technology, we may never reproduce those sounds perfectly. As Hank Green explains in the SciShow video above: “For centuries, musicians, instrument makers, engineers, and scientists have been trying to understand and reproduce the ‘Stradivarius’ sound. They’ve investigated everything from the materials their maker used to how he crafted the violins. But the mystique is still there.” Can science solve the mystery?

At heart, the question seems to be whether the aural qualities of a Stradivari instrument can be plucked from their time and place of origin and made fungible, so to speak, across the centuries. Antonio Stradivari (his name is often Latinized to “Stradivarius”) began making violins in the 1600s and continued, with his sons Francesco and Omobono, until his death in 1737, producing around 1000 instruments, most of which were violins. About 650 of those instruments survive today, and approximately 500 of those are violins, ranging in value from tens of millions to priceless.

Green surveys the techniques, materials, physics, and chemical composition of Stradivari violins “to understand why Stradivarius violins have been so hard to recreate.” Their sound has been described as “silvery,” says Green, a word that sounds pretty but has little technical meaning. Rather than rely on adjectives, researchers from diverse fields have tried to work from the objects themselves — analyzing and attempting to recreate the violins’ shape, construction, materials, etc. They’ve learned that time and place matter more than they supposed.

The wood of a Stradivari violin “really is different,” Green says, “but because Stradivari never wrote down his process, researchers can’t quite tell why.” That wood itself grew in a process over which Stradivari had no control. The alpine spruce he used came from trees harvested “at the edge of Europe’s Little Ice Age, a 70-year period of unseasonably cold weather … that slowed tree growth and made for even more consistent wood.” We begin to see the difficulties. One researcher, Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus of biochemistry at Texas A&M University, recently made another discovery. As Texas A&M Today notes:

[Stradivari and fellow maker Guarneri] soaked their instruments in chemicals such as borax and brine to protect them from a worm infestation that was sweeping through Italy in the 1700s. By pure accident the chemicals used to protect the wood had the unintended result of producing the unique sounds that have been almost impossible to duplicate in the past 400 years.

Perhaps we cannot duplicate the sound because none of us is Antonio Stradivari, working with his sons in the early 18th century in Cremona, Italy, building violins with a unique crop of alpine spruce while fighting unseasonably cold weather and worms.

Related Content: 

What Makes the Stradivarius Special? It Was Designed to Sound Like a Female Soprano Voice, With Notes Sounding Like Vowels, Says Researcher

Watch Priceless 17-Century Stradivarius and Amati Violins Get Taken for a Test Drive by Professional Violinists

Why Stradivarius Violins Are Worth Millions

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Why Scientists Can’t Recreate the Sound of Stradivarius Violins: The Mystery of Their Inimitable Sound is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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