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Updated: 10 min 19 sec ago

Do Communists Have Better Sex?: A Documentary on the NSFW Ideological Question

6 hours 15 sec ago
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fl_r7rIcds8

If I had to point one visible difference between American cities and Toronto, where I’ve stayed this past week, I’d point out the flyers posted around advertising a “Communism Discussion Group.” Maybe this has to do with Canada’s wider openness to the political spectrum; maybe, if you look at things another way, it has to with Canada’s deeper slant to the left. But here, much more so than in most of the United States, I could imagine people openly discussing the question of whether maybe — just maybe — humanity had it any better under communism. Sure, nobody on the “wrong” side of the Iron Curtain could have enjoyed the food lines, the crumbling housing, or the sheer boredom. But this hourlong documentary has a specific yet enormously relevant and often overlooked sub-question in this line of inquiry to ask: Do Communists Have Better Sex? Or: did East Germans have better sex than West Germans? The divided country offered something close to a controlled experiment for anyone looking to study the effects of communism versus those of capitalism, and here we see the sexual side of that dynamic explored through expert interviews, contemporary newsreels and educational films, and even animation.

The documentary proposes that, for all its deficiencies, the German Democratic Republic actually put forth a remarkably progressive set of policies related to such things as birth control, divorce, abortion, and sex education — a precedent to which some non-communist countries still haven’t caught up. However forward-thinking you might find all this, it did have trouble meshing with other communist policies: the state’s rule of only issuing housing to families, for instance, meant that women would get pregnant by about age twenty in any case. We must admit that, ultimately, citizens of the showcase East Germany had a better time of it than did the citizens of Soviet Socialist Republics farther east. And if the Ossies had a better Cold War between the sheets than did the Wessies, well, maybe they just did it to escape their country’s pervasive atmosphere of “unerotic dreariness.” Still, one likes to believe in the possibility of a better world. Back in Los Angeles, I recently attended Competing Utopias, a show of East German household artifacts at Richard Neutra’s idealistic VDL House — now I just wonder what must have gone on in the bedrooms.

You can find Do Communists Have Better Sex? (2006), shot by André Meier, in our collection of 200+ Free Documentaries Online.

via Network Awesome

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Do Communists Have Better Sex?: A Documentary on the NSFW Ideological Question is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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.

The post Do Communists Have Better Sex?: A Documentary on the NSFW Ideological Question appeared first on Open Culture.

1797 Temperance Thermometer Measures the Moral & Physical Impact of Your Drinking Habits

10 hours 35 min ago

Question for the drinkers out there:

Does strong beer taken in moderate quantities at mealtimes make you cheerful?

Yeah, me too!

That gives us a temperature of 10 according to 18th-century physician John Coakley Lettsom’s “moral and physical thermometer,” one of his Hints Designed to Promote Beneficence, Temperance, and Medical Science (1797).

It’s nothing to be ashamed of—anything above zero constitutes a passing score. The founder of the Medical Society of London, Lettsom was a proponent of true temperance, not total abstinence. According to his rubric, a “small beer” has all the virtues of milk and water.

Dip below a zero, though, and you’re in for a bumpy night.

Punch is apparently the gateway to such demon influences as flip, shrub, whiskey and rum. Gosh. You may as well just skip the punch and go straight for the hard stuff, if, as in Lettsom’s view, they all end in the same vices and diseases.

Puking and Tremors of the Hands in the Morning?

Yes, on occasion.

Peevishness, Idleness, and Obscenity?

Yep, that too.

Murder, Madness, and Death?

Mercifully, no. At least not yet.

While not entirely free of stigma, alcoholism is now something many view through the lens of AA, a problem best remedied through a system of personal accountability shored up by a network of nonjudgmental, sympathetic support.

Back in Lettsom’s day, when an alcoholic hit rock bottom, it was assumed he or she would stay there, a task made easier when the wages of this particular sin included the poor house, a one way ticket to the Botany Bay penal colony, and the gallows.

Such looming consequences are easily laughed off when you’ve had a snoot, which may be why Lettsom also published the illustrated version of his thermometer below. A picture is worth a thousand words, particularly when depicting the pre-Dickensian misery that awaits the drunkard and his family.

via Rebecca Onion and Slate

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

1797 Temperance Thermometer Measures the Moral & Physical Impact of Your Drinking Habits is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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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Hear the Album Björk Recorded as an 11-Year-Old: Features Cover Art Provided By Her Mom (1977)

13 hours 24 min ago

Iceland’s biggest export, aside from volcanic ash, is that pixyish pop singer, Björk. Or at least that’s how it seems in the American popular imagination. Björk’s first three of albums were pretty much required listening in certain circles during the ‘90s.  Since then, her stature in the indie world has only grown.

jQuery(document).ready(function($) { $('#wp_mep_4').mediaelementplayer({ m:1 ,features: ['playpause','current','progress','duration','volume','tracks','fullscreen'] ,audioWidth:480,audioHeight:27 }); });

Yet before she had a run of beautiful and strange masterpieces; before she was systematically tortured in front of the camera by Lars Von Trier in Dancer in the Dark; and before she was singing about birthdays with her breakout band The Sugarcubes, Björk cut her very first album. It was 1977, and Björk was only eleven.

jQuery(document).ready(function($) { $('#wp_mep_5').mediaelementplayer({ m:1 ,features: ['playpause','current','progress','duration','volume','tracks','fullscreen'] ,audioWidth:480,audioHeight:27 }); });

Björk, whose name rhymes with “work” not “pork,” landed the record deal after a tape of her singing Tina Charles’ 1976 disco hit “I Love to Love” played on Iceland’s one and only radio station. The album, called simply Björk, was something of a family affair. While Björk sang and played the flute, her stepfather Sævar Árnason played guitar while her mom, Hildur Hauksdóttir, designed the album cover. (See above.) Overall, the record sounds exactly like what you might expect an Icelandic album from the ‘70s sung by a tweenaged chanteuse might sound like – part Abba, part King Crimson and part early Miley Cyrus. Björk does pretty groovy covers of The Beatles’ “Fool on the Hill” (top) and Syreeta Wright’s “Your Kiss is Sweet (middle),” both sung in Icelandic. There’s also an equally groovy psychedelic instrumental track dedicated to painter Jóhannes Kjarval, (below) whose work is on Icelandic currency. Björk reportedly went platinum in Iceland. You can listen to more tracks from that album on WFMU.

jQuery(document).ready(function($) { $('#wp_mep_6').mediaelementplayer({ m:1 ,features: ['playpause','current','progress','duration','volume','tracks','fullscreen'] ,audioWidth:480,audioHeight:27 }); });

via WFMU

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring one new drawing of a vice president with an octopus on his head daily.  The Veeptopus store is here.

Hear the Album Björk Recorded as an 11-Year-Old: Features Cover Art Provided By Her Mom (1977) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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.

The post Hear the Album Björk Recorded as an 11-Year-Old: Features Cover Art Provided By Her Mom (1977) appeared first on Open Culture.

Sylvia Plath Reads Her Poetry: 23 Poems from the Last 6 Years of Her Life

17 hours 16 sec ago
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOv9_ksYwAg

In March of last year, Toronto collector Greg Gatenby auctioned off “some 1,700 LPs, 45s, and 10-inch discs”-worth of recorded literary history, containing readings by such canonical figures as “Auden and Atwood, Camus and Capote, Eliot, Faulkner, Kipling, Shaw and Yeats,” and the recordings featured here from Sylvia Plath. Gatenby’s entire collection went on sale for a buy-it-now price of $85,000 (I assume it’s sold by now), and while we might have preferred that he donated these artifacts to libraries, there may have been no need. Most of them are already, or we hope soon will be, digitized and free online. Sylvia Plath reading her poetry (now out of print) was originally released on vinyl and cassette in 1977 by prolific spoken word record label Caedmon, but of course the readings they document all took place over fifteen years earlier, some at least as early as 1959, the year before the publication of her first book, The Colossus and Other Poems.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHVEMogmxZ0

Many of the poems here appeared in The Colossus, the only collection of poems Plath published in her lifetime. Some, like “November Graveyard”—first published in Mademoiselle in 1958—were collected late, in the Ted Hughes-edited Collected Poems in 1981, and the rest appeared in Ariel and other posthumous collections. Oddly, the title poem of her first book doesn’t appear, nor will you hear any of the poems that made Plath an infamous literary figure: no “Ariel,” no “Daddy,” no “Lady Lazarus,” though you can hear her read those poems elsewhere. Many of these poems are more lush, less visceral and personal, though no less rich with arresting and sometimes disturbing imagery. Several of these readings took place in February 1959 at Harvard’s Woodberry Poetry Room. The album’s official description tells us these are “selections from the last 6 years of her life,” and also include “readings for the BBC before she wrote her controversial novel, The Bell Jar.”

Before Caedmon collected these lesser-known poems recorded readings of “Daddy” and “Lady Lazarus” had already been released on the compilation record The Poet Speaks in 1965. Listening to Plath read these poems may prompt you to pull out your own editions to read them for yourself, whether again or for the first time. To see a full listing of the poems Plath reads above, scroll to the bottom of this bibliography page on sylviaplath.info.

Find more great poetry readings in our audio collection — 550 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.

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Lady Lazarus: Watch an Experimental Film Spoken by Sylvia Plath

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

Sylvia Plath Reads Her Poetry: 23 Poems from the Last 6 Years of Her Life is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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.

The post Sylvia Plath Reads Her Poetry: 23 Poems from the Last 6 Years of Her Life appeared first on Open Culture.

Christopher Walken Reads Where The Wild Things Are

Mon, 29 Sep 2014 - 5:00 pm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKNaYlzssbc

Perhaps you saw Spike Jonze and Dave Egger’s twee, sunlit, achingly earnest adaptation of the Maurice Sendak classic Where the Wild Things Are. Perhaps you found it irresistibly charming. Perhaps, however, you missed the sharp edges of Sendak’s lean adventure, its undercurrent of feral violence, its flirtations with matricide and cannibalism. Well who better to convey such frightening undertones than master of casual menace Christopher Walken? Just above, hear him read Wild Things like you’ve never heard it before. Walken’s interpolated commentary on the illustrations draws our attention to a few features we probably missed in our several hundred readings of the book, such as the possible suicide of Max’s teddy bear and a potential swarm of giant insects in his transformed bedroom. After you hear Walken’s take, Max’s harmless suppertime daydream might give you nightmares.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tp_a9TLISoM

Walken has long enjoyed entertaining the kiddies with his creepy interpretations of children’s stories. Just above see him read the Three Little Pigs in 1993 on the British comedy series Saturday Zoo. Once again, he adds his own explanatory comments. He’s a little more Billy Crystal than Captain Koons this time, and if his delivery doesn’t make you LOL, his day-glo sweater and wicker throne won’t fail to. Host Jonathan Ross liked the reading so much he invited Walken to read again in 2009 on his BBC show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. This one’s for the older kids—a deadpan rendition of Lada Gaga’s “Poker Face,” below. Can’t get enough of Walken’s readings? Don’t miss Kevin Pollack’s spot-on parody of the actor Mickey Rourke once called a “strange being from another place.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSrMdsJagM4

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

Christopher Walken Reads Where The Wild Things Are is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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.

The post Christopher Walken Reads Where The Wild Things Are appeared first on Open Culture.

The Only Footage of Mark Twain: The Original & Digitally Restored Films Shot by Thomas Edison

Mon, 29 Sep 2014 - 4:45 pm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leYj–P4CgQ

We know what Mark Twain looked like, and we think we know what he sounded like. Just above see what he looked like in motion, strolling around Stormfield, his house in Redding, Connecticut—signature white suit draped loosely around his frame, signature cigar puffing white smoke between his fingers. After Twain’s leisurely walk along the house’s façade, we see him with his daughters, Clara and Jean, seated indoors. Above you can see the original murky version, featured on our site way back in 2010. Here, a digital restoration (which we can’t embed) does wonders for the watchability of this priceless silent artifact, so vividly capturing the writer/contrarian/raconteur’s essence that you’ll find yourself reaching to turn the volume up, expecting to hear that familiar curmudgeonly drawl.

Shot by Thomas Edison in 1909, the short film is most likely the only moving image of Twain in existence. We might assume that Edison also recorded Twain’s voice, since we seem to know it so well, from portrayals of the great American humorist in pop cultural touchstones like Star Trek: The Next Generation and parodies by Alec Baldwin and Val Kilmer. Kilmer’s surprisingly funny in the role, but he doesn’t come near the pitch perfect impersonation Hal Holbrook’s been giving us for the better part of sixty years in his masterful Mark Twain Tonight. Holbrook’s vocal mannerisms have become a definitive model for actors playing Twain on stage and screen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqHPN4lW6tI

Given the number of Twain vocal impersonations out there, and Edison’s interest in documenting the author, we might be surprised to learn that no original recordings of his voice exist. Twain, we find out in the short film above, experimented with audio recording technology, but abandoned his efforts. It seems that none of the wax cylinders he worked with have survived—perhaps he destroyed them himself.

As narrator Rod Rawlings—himself a Twain impersonator and aficionado—informs us, what we do have is a recording made in 1934 by actor and playwright William Gillette,  an able mimic of Twain, his patron and longtime neighbor. Like Holbrook, Gillette spent a good part of his career traveling from town to town playing Mark Twain. Above, you’ll hear Gillette address a class of students at Harvard, first in his own voice, then in the voice of the author, reading from “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Gillette’s performance is likely the closest we’ll ever come to hearing the voice of the real Twain, whose major works appear in our collection of 550 Free Audio Books and 600 Free eBooks.

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

The Only Footage of Mark Twain: The Original & Digitally Restored Films Shot by Thomas Edison is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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.

The post The Only Footage of Mark Twain: The Original & Digitally Restored Films Shot by Thomas Edison appeared first on Open Culture.

Martin Scorsese’s New Documentary on The New York Review of Books Airs Tonight on HBO

Mon, 29 Sep 2014 - 1:57 pm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FmHuio4C-s

A quick note: Tonight, HBO will air the premiere of The 50 Year Argument. That’s Martin Scorsese’s new documentary about the influential literary and academic journal, The New York Review of Books.

Writes The New York Times: “Robert Silvers has assigned thousands of pieces for The New York Review of Books, so why not a documentary film? “The 50 Year Argument” … originated along the same lines as one of the lengthy, learned articles in The Review: Mr. Silvers sought out a talented essayist, in this case Martin Scorsese, and asked him to explore a subject — the magazine’s 50-year history — that he was passionate about but not expert in.” The result is a “textured and smart but thoroughly celebratory, a paean to the magazine and the amazingly durable Mr. Silvers, now 84.”

Regrettably, the film isn’t available online. But you can watch the trailer above and then a long Q&A about the film. Recorded in Berlin earlier this year, the Q&A features Scorsese on the stage, along with David Tedeschi (his co-director), NYRB editor Robert Silvers, publisher Rea Hederman, and contributor Michael Greenberg.

We have many other heady documentaries (where else?) on our list of 200 Free Documentaries Online.

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Martin Scorsese’s New Documentary on The New York Review of Books Airs Tonight on HBO is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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.

The post Martin Scorsese’s New Documentary on The New York Review of Books Airs Tonight on HBO appeared first on Open Culture.

Glenn Gould Gives Us a Tour of Toronto, His Beloved Hometown (1979)

Mon, 29 Sep 2014 - 8:40 am
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyXnpFvBmXk

I write this from Toronto, having come to explore, record interviews in, write about, and generally try to understand this big, busy, famously diverse, and sometimes formless-seeming metropolis Canadians appreciate and resent in equal measure. Despite the difficulty of defining or even describing it, the city has nurtured impressive minds. If not Canadian yourself, you might struggle to come up with a list of notable Torontonians, but surely names like Margaret Atwood, David Cronenberg, Frank Gehry, Joni Mitchell, and Marshall McLuhan ring bells. Despite having passed in 1982, pianist-composer Glenn Gould may still rank as the city’s best-known cultural ambassador. “I’m not really cut out for city living, and given my druthers I’d probably avoid all cities and live in the country,” he said in 1979. “Toronto, however, belongs on a very short list of cities which I’ve visited and which seem to offer to me, at any rate, peace of mind — cities which, for want of a better definition, do not oppose their cityness upon you.”

He says it at the very beginning of Glenn Gould‘s Toronto, which spends the rest of its 50 minutes exploring not just the city itself but Gould’s ideas of its nature. The documentary, which originally aired as an episode of the CBC series Cities, follows him from the CN Tower which looms over Toronto to the waterfront (on what he calls “the least great of the Great Lakes”) to the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition (a sizable event with a “spirit out of a small-town fall fair”) to the then-new city hall. Along the way, his monologue touches on the peace and quiet Toronto offers him, the reflexive distaste it can inspire in others, the “cultural mosaic” to which it plays host (sometimes insistently), the way it survived the 1960s without enduring the disastrous hollowing-out American cities did, and the friendly rivalry it enjoys with Montreal. Gould’s clear, analytical manner of speech delivers a stream of pointed observations, dry jokes, and childhood memories, revealing his nuanced lifelong relationship with the city: not the simple one of a booster, nor the even simpler one of a detractor. But then, Gould never had anything simple about him — nor, as I’ve come to find out this past week, does Toronto.

You can find Glenn Gould‘s Toronto in our collection of Free Documentaries.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Glenn Gould Gives Us a Tour of Toronto, His Beloved Hometown (1979) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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.

The post Glenn Gould Gives Us a Tour of Toronto, His Beloved Hometown (1979) appeared first on Open Culture.

A 1932 Illustrated Map of Harlem’s Night Clubs: From the Cotton Club to the Savoy Ballroom

Mon, 29 Sep 2014 - 1:00 am

Harlem’s undergoing another Renaissance of late. Crime’s down, real estate prices are up, and throngs of pale-faced hipsters are descending to check the area out.

Sure, something’s gained, but something’s lost, too.

For today’s holiday in Harlem, we’re going to climb in the Wayback Machine. Set the dial for 1932. Don’t forget your map. (Click the image above to view a larger version.)

This delirious artifact comes courtesy of Elmer Simms Campbell (1906-1971), an artist whose race proved an impediment to career advancement in his native Midwest. Not long after relocating to New York City, he had the good fortune to be befriended by the great Cab Calloway, star of the Cotton Club. Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-ho! Check the lower left corner of your map.

You may notice that the compass rose deviates rather drastically from established norms. As you’ve no doubt heard, the Bronx is up, and the Battery’s down, but not in this case. Were you to choose those trees in the upper left corner as your starting point, you’d be at the top of Central Park, basically equidistant from the east and west sides. (Take the 2 or the 3 to 110th St…)

But keep in mind that this map is not drawn to scale. I know it looks like the joints are jumping from the second you step off the curb, but in reality, you’ll need to hoof it 21 blocks from the top of Central Park to 131st street for things to start cookin’. Hopefully, this geographical liberty won’t get you too hot under the collar. And if it does, well, it may be Prohibition, but stress-relieving beverages await you in every location listed, as well as in some 500 speakeasies Campbell allowed to remain on the down low.

If that doesn’t do it for you, there’s a guy selling reefer across the street from Earl “Snakehips” Tucker.

As you stagger back and forth between Seventh Avenue to Lenox (now referred to as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Malcolm X), bear in mind that Campbell was the first African-American cartoonist to be nationally published in the New Yorker, Playboy, and Esquire, whose bug-eyed, now retired mascot, Esky, was a Campbell creation.

In the end, he was an extremely successful illustrator, though few of his creations are reflective of his race.

The map above, which did double duty as endpapers for Calloway’s autobiography, Of Minnie the Moocher and Me, is far closer to home.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJQeppLqpWQ

Right above, see Cab Calloway perform “Hotcha Razz Ma Tazz” at the famous Cotton Club, in Harlem, 1935.

via Big Think

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Ayun Halliday is an author, Hoos-Yorker, homeschooler, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

A 1932 Illustrated Map of Harlem’s Night Clubs: From the Cotton Club to the Savoy Ballroom is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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.

The post A 1932 Illustrated Map of Harlem’s Night Clubs: From the Cotton Club to the Savoy Ballroom appeared first on Open Culture.

Rare Footage of the “Human Be-In,” the Landmark Counter-Culture Event Held in Golden Gate Park, 1967

Sun, 28 Sep 2014 - 12:54 am
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTGyFgyB5Q8

Investigative reporter Steve Silberman awesomely flagged this video for us today. He writes:

This seems to have just surfaced: the most complete recording of the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park in 1967 that I have ever seen, by far. It opens with Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder chanting, Michael McClure follows, and the Grateful Dead (with adorable footage of Allen dancing) pop up at about 14:00. At 18:00, Dizzy Gillespie is smiling in the audience. So much mythical noumenon has piled up around these events over the decades it’s almost inevitable that the real thing seems a little banal compared to one’s imagination, but it’s still cool.

If you’re not quite familiar with what the Human Be-In, held on January 14, 1967, was all about, let me refer you to this succinct description by a web site called Magic Bus San Francisco: “Announced on the cover of the first edition of the counter-culture zine San Francisco Oracle, the ‘Gathering of the Tribes’ or ‘Human Be-In’ as it came to be known, was the prototype of all 1960s counter culture celebrations. The Human Be-In precipitated the legendary Summer of Love, and made San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury the epicenter of the burgeoning hippie movement.  The Be-In featured all the luminaries of psychedelic counter-culture, including Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), Dick Gregory, Lenore Kandel, and Jerry Ruben.  Many of the Haight’s best musical acts also performed, including the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service.” As a curious side note, the Dead didn’t get a mention in the poster promoting the event. Is that because they were a late addition? I’m not sure.

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Rare Footage of the “Human Be-In,” the Landmark Counter-Culture Event Held in Golden Gate Park, 1967 is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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.

The post Rare Footage of the “Human Be-In,” the Landmark Counter-Culture Event Held in Golden Gate Park, 1967 appeared first on Open Culture.

Philosopher Jacques Derrida Interviews Jazz Legend Ornette Coleman: Talk Improvisation, Language & Racism (1997)

Fri, 26 Sep 2014 - 8:30 am

This most certainly ranks as one of my favorite things on the internet, and I dearly wish we had audio to share with you, though I doubt any exists. What we do have is an English translation from the French of an interview that originally took place in English between philosopher Jacques Derrida and jazz great Ornette Coleman. (We must squint for traces of the original conversation in this double linguistic mediation: exactly the kind of thing Derrida relishes). Now there are those who dismiss Derrida—who consider his methods fraudulent. If you’re one of them, this is obviously not for you. For those who appreciate the turns of his thought, and the fascinating possibilities inherent in a Derridian approach to jazz improvisation, not to mention the convergences and points of conflict between these two disparate cultural figures, read on.

The interview took place in 1997, “before and during Coleman’s three concerts at La Villette, a museum and performing arts complex north of Paris that houses, among other things, the world-renowned Paris Conservatory.” As I mentioned, the two spoke in English but, as translator Timothy S. Murphy—who worked with a version published in the French magazine Les Inrockuptibles—notes, “original transcripts could not be located.” Curiously, at the heart of the conversation is a discussion about language, particularly “languages of origin.” In answer to Derrida’s first question about a program Coleman would present later that year in New York called Civilization, the saxophonist replies, “I’m trying to express a concept according to which you can translate one thing into another. I think that sound has a much more democratic relationship to information, because you don’t need the alphabet to understand music.”

As one example of this “democratic relationship,” Coleman cites the relationship between the jazz musician and the composer—or his text: “the jazz musician is probably the only person for whom the composer is not a very interesting individual, in the sense that he prefers to destroy what the composer writes or says.” Coleman goes on later in the interview to clarify his ideas about improvisation as democratic communication:

[T]he idea is that two or three people can have a conversation with sounds, without trying to dominate or lead it. What I mean is that you have to be… intelligent, I suppose that’s the word. In improvised music I think the musicians are trying to reassemble an emotional or intellectual puzzle in which the instruments give the tone. It’s primarily the piano that has served at all times as the framework in music, but it’s no longer indispensable and, in fact, the commercial aspect of music is very uncertain. Commercial music is not necessarily more accessible, but it is limited.

Translating Coleman’s technique into “a domain that I know better, that of written language,” Derrida ventures to compare improvisation to reading, since it “doesn’t exclude the pre-written framework that makes it possible.” For him, the existence of a framework—a written composition—even if only loosely referenced in a jazz performance, “compromises or complicates the concept of improvisation.” As Derrida and Coleman try to work through the possibility of true improvisation, the exchange becomes a fascinating deconstructive take on the relationships between jazz and writing. (For more on this aspect of their discussion, see “Deconstructin(g) Jazz Improvisation,” an article in the open access journal Critical Studies in Improvisation.)

The interview isn’t all philosophy. It ranges all over the place, from Coleman’s early days in Texas, then New York, to the impact of technology on music, to Coleman’s completely original theory of music, which he calls “harmolodics.” They also discuss globalization and the experience of growing up as a racial minority—an experience Derrida relates to very much. At one point, Coleman observes, “being black and a descendent of slaves, I have no idea what my language of origin was.” Derrida responds in kind, referencing one of his seminal texts, Monolingualism of the Other:

JD: If we were here to talk about me, which is not the case, I would tell you that, in a different but analogous manner, it’s the same thing for me. I was born into a family of Algerian Jews who spoke French, but that was not really their language of origin [… ] I have no contact of any sort with my language of origin, or rather that of my supposed ancestors.

OC: Do you ever ask yourself if the language that you speak now interferes with your actual thoughts? Can a language of origin influence your thoughts?

JD: It is an enigma for me.

Indeed. Derrida then recalls his first visit to the United States, in 1956, where there were “‘Reserved for Whites’ signs everywhere.” “You experienced all that?” he asks Coleman, who replies:

Yes. In any case, what I like about Paris is the fact that you can’t be a snob and a racist at the same time here, because that won’t do. Paris is the only city I know where racism never exists in your presence, it’s something you hear spoken of.

“That doesn’t mean there is no racism,” says Derrida, “but one is obliged to conceal it to the extent possible.”

You really should read the whole interview. The English translation was published in the journal Genre and comes to us via Ubuweb, who host a pdf. For more excerpts, see posts at The New Yorker and The Liberator Magazine. As interesting a read as this doubly-translated interview is, the live experience itself was a painful one for Derrida. Though he had been invited by the saxophonist, Coleman’s impatient Parisian fans booed him, eventually forcing him off the stage. In a Time magazine interview, the self-conscious philosopher recalled it as “a very unhappy event.” But, he says, “it was in the paper the next day, so it was a happy ending.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CoPGDfMWFc

Hear more of Coleman’s thoughts on language, sound, and technology in the 2008 interview above (see here for Part 2). The year previous, in another conjunction of the worlds of language and music, Coleman was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in music for his live album Sound Grammar, a title that succinctly expresses Coleman’s belief in music as a universal language.

Image of Ornette Coleman by Geert Vandepoele

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

Philosopher Jacques Derrida Interviews Jazz Legend Ornette Coleman: Talk Improvisation, Language & Racism (1997) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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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Sigmund Freud Writes to Concerned Mother: “Homosexuality is Nothing to Be Ashamed Of” (1935)

Fri, 26 Sep 2014 - 5:00 am

Hank Green, hosting his Crash Course on Psychology, put it best: when we think of the study of the mind, we think of an old, bespectacled bearded man puffing on a pipe. We think, in other words, of Sigmund Freud, whether we know anything about him or not. Despite publishing such very real and still reasonably well-known works as The Interpretation of DreamsBeyond the Pleasure Principle, and Civilization and its Discontents, the man has somehow passed partially into the realm of popular myth: we think of him at once as an influential pioneer in a little-explored intellectual field, and as something of an idée fixe-hobbled charlatan as well. Perhaps, like many universally recognized 20th-century figures, he combined rightness and wrongness in some kind of irresistible proportion. But the letter above, featured at Letters of Note, demonstrates that, at least on the issue of homosexuality, he had indeed drawn a correct conclusion well before most anyone else.

In 1935, says that post, Freud “was contacted by a worried mother who was seeking treatment for her son’s apparent homosexuality. Freud, who believed that all humans are attracted to both sexes in some capacity, responded with the following letter of advice.”

Dear Mrs [Erased],

I gather from your letter that your son is a homosexual. I am most impressed by the fact that you do not mention this term yourself in your information about him. May I question you why you avoid it? Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function, produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them. (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc). It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime – and a cruelty, too. If you do not believe me, read the books of Havelock Ellis.

By asking me if I can help, you mean, I suppose, if I can abolish homosexuality and make normal heterosexuality take its place. The answer is, in a general way we cannot promise to achieve it. In a certain number of cases we succeed in developing the blighted germs of heterosexual tendencies, which are present in every homosexual in the majority of cases it is no more possible. It is a question of the quality and the age of the individual. The result of treatment cannot be predicted.

What analysis can do for your son runs on a different line. If he is unhappy, neurotic, torn by conflicts, inhibited in his social life, analysis may bring him harmony, peace of mind, full efficiency, whether he remains a homosexual or gets changed. If you make up your mind he should have analysis with me — I don’t expect you will — he has to come over to Vienna. I have no intention of leaving here. However, don’t neglect to give me your answer.

Sincerely yours with best wishes,

Freud

While mainstream western thought no longer expects that homosexuals might, under any circumstances, “get changed,” it has aligned to Freud’s view in the sense of regarding their orientation as “nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation.” And from what I can see, humanity now enjoys the presence of more such “highly respectable individuals” who publicly acknowledge their own non-heterosexuality than ever before. Freud’s letter to this concerned American mother of the 1930s, in any case, brings nuance to the cartoon image we all have of him — the obsession with dreams, the insistence on diagnosing repression, the whole deal with cigar symbolism — just as his view of homosexuals would have brought nuance to the cartoon image this and other concerned American mothers of the 1930s might have had of them.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Sigmund Freud Writes to Concerned Mother: “Homosexuality is Nothing to Be Ashamed Of” (1935) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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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A Soviet Animation of Stephen King’s Short Story “Battleground” (1986)

Fri, 26 Sep 2014 - 12:33 am
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0o_2PPsBw0

Stephen King has that rare, and spectacularly profitable, skill to suck you into his world and compel you to flip to the next page. And when you’re hooked, his words have the uncanny ability to simply unfold like a movie in your head. So it isn’t surprising that his books have been widely adapted to the silver screen. Some are flat out masterpieces. Others are most decidedly not. This appreciation by filmmakers of King’s storytelling chops isn’t just contained to this side of the Iron Curtain. In 1986, Soviet animator Mikhail Titov — whose previous work includes How the Cossacks Played Football (1970) — turned King’s short story “Battleground (1972) into an animated movie, titled simply Сражение or Battle.

The short is about a noirish hired gun who dresses in a trench coat and a fedora and bears more than a passing resemblance to Vladimir Putin. He is contracted to kill a toy maker. When he returns home, he discovers that there’s a box on his doorstep and makes the completely unwise decision of taking it inside. Soon, toy soldiers start to tumble out of the box. They have live ammo, rocket launchers, tiny little helicopters at their disposal and they are on a single-minded mission to kill him. The killer soon finds himself pinned down in bathroom, waiting for the next attack.

The film is a lot of fun. Titov relies heavily on rotoscoping – an animation technique you probably remember from A-ha’s music video Take On Me. The killer’s form and movements feel realistic as the rest of the movie’s heightened, brooding world bends and bulges as if rendered through a fisheye lens. And like A-ha, the film’s synth and saxophone soundtrack might sound painfully 80s to some. You can watch Battle with subtitles above or without subtitles below. The dialogue is minimal throughout.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5DofuztDUg

Battle will be added to our list of Free Animations, part of our larger collection, 700 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrowAnd check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring one new drawing of a vice president with an octopus on his head daily.  The Veeptopus store is here.

A Soviet Animation of Stephen King’s Short Story “Battleground” (1986) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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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How Edward Hopper “Storyboarded” His Iconic Painting Nighthawks

Thu, 25 Sep 2014 - 4:06 pm

Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942) doesn’t just evoke a certain stripe of mid-century, after-hours, big-city American loneliness; it has more or less come to stand for the feeling itself. But as with most images that passed so fully into the realm of iconhood, we all too easily forget that the painting didn’t simply emerge complete, ready to embed itself in the zeitgeist. Robin Cembalest at ARTnews has a post on how Edward Hopper “storyboarded” Nighthawks, finding and sketching out models for those three melancholic customers (one of whom you can see in an early rendering above), that wholesome young attendant in white, and the all-night diner (which you can see come together in chalk on paper below) in which they find refuge.

These “19 studies for Nighthawks,” writes Cembalest, “reveal how Hopper choreographed his voyeuristic scene of the nighttime convergence of the man, a couple, and a server in the eerie Deco diner, refining every nuance of the countertop, the figures, the architecture, and the effects of the fluorescent lighting.” In each sketch, more pieces have fallen into place: a diner assumes their position, the light finds its angle, the perspective shifts to that of an outsider on the darkened street. Cembalest quotes Whitney curator Carter Foster describing the final product as a “marvelous demonstration of both extreme specificity and near abstract compositional summation on the same surface beguilingly [which] reflects how empirical observation and imagination coexisted in Hopper’s head.”

Despite how many elements of the real world Hopper studied to create Nighthawks, it ultimately depicts no real place. The painter himself posed for the male figures, and his wife modeled for the female. As for the locale, seen in the final drawing just above, Cembalest notes that “after years of research and scholarship, experts have determined that Nighthawks was not inspired by one specific diner. Rather, it was a composite of wedge-shaped intersections around Greenwich Avenue. Its curving prow seems partly inspired by the Flatiron Building.” In a way, it almost seemed too realistically New York to actually exist in New York. Hopper painted a distillation of a sense of American place, and like many American places, I’ve never quite known whether I’d love to drop in at the Nighthawks diner (though I’d have to find a front door first), or whether I should count myself lucky that life hasn’t relegated me to it. You can learn more about the fascinating storyboarding of Nighthawks at Art News and see many more sketches. Speaking of the sketches, they come courtesy of The Whitney Museum of American Art.

via ARTNews

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How Edward Hopper “Storyboarded” His Iconic Painting Nighthawks is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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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A Sneak Preview of Haruki Murakami’s Forthcoming Illustrated Novel, The Strange Library

Thu, 25 Sep 2014 - 12:08 pm

Quick note: If you just finished reading Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, and if you’re now hankering for some more Murakami, you won’t have to wait very long. In December, his next book, a 96 page novella called The Strange Library, will be published by Knopf. And already, thanks to The Guardian, you can get a sneak preview of the illustrated edition. When you enter the Guardian gallery, make sure you click the arrows in the top right corner of the first image to see the illustrations in a larger format. The book can be pre-ordered here.

In the meantime, we have a few Murakami items (stories, music, film, etc.) to keep you busy this fall.

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A Sneak Preview of Haruki Murakami’s Forthcoming Illustrated Novel, The Strange Library is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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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Art Garfunkel Lists 1195 Books He Read Over 45 Years, Plus His 157 Favorites (Many Free)

Thu, 25 Sep 2014 - 9:00 am

If you’ve been wondering what Art Garfunkel has been up to lately, the answer is that it seems that he’s been reading. A lot.

The lanky, curly-haired number two guy for the seminal folk-rock band Simon & Garfunkel has been keeping track of every single thing he has read from June 1968 until October 2013 and he’s posted all of them  — 1,195 texts — on his website. The first item on his list is Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions and the last is Witold Gombrowicz’s Cosmos. In between, Garfunkel has knocked through some seriously daunting tomes –War and Peace, Ulysses, Middlemarch, Remembrance of Things Past and Immanuel Kant’s Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals. He even reportedly read the entire Random House Dictionary.

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His tastes generally run towards the greats of the Western Canon with some more pulpy works thrown in along the way. J.K. Rowling, Anne Rice and Dan Brown make appearances, as does E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey. For those who find it daunting to look at a list of 1,1195 books, Garfunkel also provides a list of his 157 favorites, which includes many great public domain works found in our Free eBooks and Free Audio Books collections. You can 15 of Art’s favorites here:

“I read for the reading pleasure, not for the gold star,” Garfunkel told Nick Paumgarten of the New Yorker in an interview a few years back. “Reading is a way to take downtime and make it stimulating. If you’re in the waiting room of a dentist’s office and don’t want to twiddle your thumbs, you turn to Tolstoy.”
Garfunkel’s list, or “library” as his website calls it, creates an expectantly intimate portrait of the artist. In the winter 1970, when Simon & Garfunkel released their biggest selling album, Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water, just as the duo was breaking up, Garfunkel blew through Moby Dick and Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther before moving on to Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea and then later Bertrand Russell’s The Conquest of Happiness. When the duo reunited to play their famous concert in Central Park in 1981, Garfunkel polished off Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby. And when Simon & Garfunkel was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January 1990, he was reading Anthony Trollope’s An Autobiography.

The one type of book he doesn’t read is postmodern literature. His list of some 1195 books contains no mention of the likes of Don DeLillo, Donald Barthelme or Thomas Pynchon. “I tried Gravity’s Rainbow, and I thought it was fraudulent,” Garfunkel said.

Image above taken by Eddie Mallin.

via @pickover

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrowAnd check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring one new drawing of a vice president with an octopus on his head daily.  The Veeptopus store is here.

 

Art Garfunkel Lists 1195 Books He Read Over 45 Years, Plus His 157 Favorites (Many Free) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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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Watch George Harrison’s Final Interview and Performance (1997)

Thu, 25 Sep 2014 - 1:00 am
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjWTFlg2Er0

Before John Fugelsang was a well-known political commentator regularly opining at Huffington Post, MSNBC, and CNN, he caught a big break as a host on VH1 in the 90s, where he was, in his own words, “their de facto classic rock guy.” Interviewing the illustrious likes of Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Robbie Robertson, and Willie Nelson, Fugelsang had the chance to host “the most incredible all-star concerts that nobody would watch.” At least one of those concerts became tremendously significant in hindsight—on July 24, 1997, George Harrison came by the studio, talked at length about the Beatles, his own music, and spirituality, giving what would turn out to be his very last public interview and performance. Watch it above in a re-broadcast. That same year, Harrison was diagnosed with throat cancer. He died in 2001.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_S9Bg442lI

Harrison appeared with his old friend Ravi Shankar—he had just produced Shankar’s Chants of India—and had only planned to stop by, Fugelsang says, and “give us a little 10-minute sound byte.” Instead they talked for twice that long and Harrison played, among other things, his classic “All Things Must Pass” from his 1970 solo record of the same name (above). The interview was, of course, a high point for the show’s host, who did everything he could to keep Harrison talking, connecting with him over their shared interest in religious faith. For Harrison, there was no separating music and spirituality. Reflecting on Shankar’s album, he says

And that’s really why for me this record’s important, because it’s another little key to open up the within. For each individual to be able to sit and turn off, um…”turn off your mind relax and float downstream” and listen to something that has its root in a transcendental, because really even all the words of these songs, they carry with it a very subtle spiritual vibration. And it goes beyond intellect really. So if you let yourself be free to let that have an effect on you, it can have an effect, a positive effect.

Harrison and Fugelsang also discussed the 1970 Concert for Bangladesh, which was partly set in motion by Shankar. In a life that included playing in the most famous band in the world then sustaining one of the most productive and successful solo careers in rock, 1970 was a watershed year for Harrison. The Bangladesh benefit marked the live debut of many of Harrison’s first solo compositions; and for a great many George Harrison fans, the Phil Spector-produced All Things Must Pass is the purest expression of the soft-spoken musician’s genius.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ncxyOBsK6Y

I only speak for myself in pointing to the haunting, hypnotic “The Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp” (above) as the most beautiful and mysterious song on that album. Last night—it being George Harrison week on Conan O’Brien—Harrison’s son Dhani came on the show to play that song and “Let It Down,” also from All Things Must Pass. His appearance follows Paul Simon’s Tuesday night rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” and Beck’s cover of Harrison’s “Wah Wah” on Monday. These performances mark the release of a new Harrison box set, which has also occasioned a September 28th all-star tribute concert at L.A.’s Fonda Theater. Learn more about that event and other Harrison tributes and happenings at Consequence of Sound.

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

Watch George Harrison’s Final Interview and Performance (1997) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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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Henri Matisse Illustrates Baudelaire’s Censored Poetry Collection, Les Fleurs du Mal

Wed, 24 Sep 2014 - 5:00 pm

We previously featured Henri Matisse’s illustrations for a 1935 edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses. If the Odyssey-themed etchings he did for that book surprised you, have a look at his illustrations for Charles Baudelaire’s poetry collection Les Fleurs du mal, first published in 1857. According to Henri-Matisse.net, the book (available in French and English in our collection of 600 Free eBooks) had “been illustrated over the years by a variety of major artists, including Emile Bernard, Charles Despiau, Jacob Epstein, Gustave Rodin, Georges Rouault, and Pierre-Yes Trémois. Each interpreted selected poems more or less faithfully. Matisse took a different approach in the 1947 edition published by La Bibliothèque Française.” As you can see from the examples provided here, he went an even more unconventional route this time, accompanying Baudelaire’s poems with nothing but portraiture.

The edition’s 33 portraits, including one of Matisse himself and one of Baudelaire, capture a variety of subjects, mostly women — also a source of inspiration for the poet. However, as the site that bears his name makes clear, “Matisse did not indulge in the biographical fallacies of the literary critics of his day who attempted to understand Baudelaire by associating each poem with the woman who may have inspired it. Thus, his gallery of facial portraits provides an accompaniment rather than an imitative rendition of selected poems.” Would that more illustrators of literature follow his example and make a break from pure literalism, allowing the meaning of the relationship between text and image to cohere in the reader-viewer’s mind. You might say that Matisse pioneered, in other words, the most poetic possible method of illustrating poetry.

Since it is Banned Books Week, it’s perhaps worth noting that Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal was quickly censored in France. Yale’s Modernism Lab website notes that, two months after its publication in 1857, a French court “banned six of Baudelaire’s erotic poems, two of them on lesbian themes and the other four heterosexual but mildly sado-masochistic. The ban was not officially lifted until 1949, by which time Baudelaire had achieved ‘classic’ status as among the most important influences on modern literature in France and throughout Europe.” A second expurgated (or as Baudelaire called it “mutilated“) edition was published in 1861. Presumably Matisse illustrated that edition in 1947. If you want to buy one of the 300 copies with Matisse’s illustrations, you will have to shell out about $7500.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Henri Matisse Illustrates Baudelaire’s Censored Poetry Collection, Les Fleurs du Mal is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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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Cartoonists Draw Their Famous Cartoon Characters While Blindfolded (1947)

Wed, 24 Sep 2014 - 12:23 pm

At some point in your life, no doubt, you’ve thought that you have done something so many times that you could do it with your eyes closed — be it change a diaper, make coffee, drive to work or perform a minor surgical procedure. Not that this would necessarily be a good idea (especially that last one) but there’s something about repetition, routine and muscle memory that makes a task so familiar that sight seems superfluous.

In 1947, LIFE Magazine asked some of the most famous cartoonists around to draw their comic strip characters blindfolded. The results are fascinating, looking a bit like the outcome of a clinical test on artists before and after taking illicit substances. (See our previous post: Artist Draws Nine Portraits on LSD During 1950s Research Experiment.)

Chic Young’s blindfolded version of Dagwood Bumstead is all dynamic lines and spirals, looking a bit like a doodle from an Italian Futurist. Chester Gould’s blind attempt at Dick Tracy’s chiseled profile looks not all that different from the sighted version. And Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon has all the elements there — the flinty eyes, the wavy hair – but it’s all jumbled together.

You can see more such drawings here.

via BoingBoing

Related Content: 

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrowAnd check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring one new drawing of a vice president with an octopus on his head daily.  The Veeptopus store is here.

 

Cartoonists Draw Their Famous Cartoon Characters While Blindfolded (1947) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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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Monty Python and the Holy Grail Censorship Letter: We Want to Retain “Fart in Your General Direction”

Wed, 24 Sep 2014 - 8:40 am

If anyone could make toilet humor funny past the age of 14, it was Monty Python. Mining equally the halls of academia and the grade school yard, there was no register too high or too low for the masterful British satirists. And when it came time for them to release their second film in 1975—Arthurian spoof Monty Python and the Holy Grail—the troop fought in vain to reach an audience of all ages. Unlike today’s many ratings gradations, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) then had a very simple classification system: AA for 14 and over, and A for ages 5-14. Hoping to increase the film’s audience, producer Mark Forstater wrote the letter above to fellow producer Michael White a few days after a Twickenham screening attended by BBFC member Tony Kerpel, who suggested a few cuts to bring the film an A rating.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ey0wvGiAH9g

In the letter, Forstater lists Kerpel’s recommendations:

Lose as many shits as possible
Take Jesus Christ out, if possible
Lose “I fart in your general direction”
Lose “the oral sex”
Lose “oh, fuck off”
Lose “We make castanets out of your testicles”

Two of these lines you no doubt recognize as uttered by the obnoxious mocking French guard the Grail questers encounter on their journey. Played by John Cleese, the Frenchman gets some of the best lines in the film, including the offending “fart” and “testicles” bits (at 2:15 and 6:05 in the clip above). Forstater must have had a keen sense of just how funny—therefore how necessary—these lines were. In his suggestions to White, he writes,

I would like to get back to the Censor and agree to lose the shits, take the odd Jesus Christ out and lose Oh fuck off, but to retain ‘fart in your general direction’, ‘castanets of your testicles’ and ‘oral sex’ and ask him for an ‘A’ rating on that basis.

Unfortunately for Britain’s Python-loving kids and for the film’s investors, the AA rating stuck, at least until 2006, when it was re-rated for ages 12 and above in a theatrical re-release. This by contrast to its U.S. status, where the movie first scored a PG rating and was later upgraded to PG-13 (which didn’t exist in 1975) for its Blu-ray release. Monty Python and the Holy Grail has received a variety of mature ratings in various countries and—we should mention, since it’s Banned Books Week—has been entirely banned in Malaysia.

Another comedy team encountered similar difficulties with film ratings. The South Park duo—similarly adept at pitching potty jokes to grown-ups—ended up with an R for the feature length Bigger, Longer & Uncut, though censors originally wanted an NC-17. See the cuts the MPAA recommended for that film in Matt Stone’s legendary response memo to the ratings board and read the full transcript of the Python letter at Letters of Note.

Related Content:

Watch All of Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python Animations in a Row

Monty Python Sings “The Philosopher’s Song,” Revealing the Drinking Habits of Great European Thinkers

Classic Monty Python: Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw Engage in a Hilarious Battle of Wits

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

Monty Python and the Holy Grail Censorship Letter: We Want to Retain “Fart in Your General Direction” is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, 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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