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A 12-Hour Eastern Spirituality Playlist: Features Lectures & Readings by Joseph Campbell, Christopher Isherwood, the Dalai Lama & Others

3 hours 18 min ago

Krishna teaching Arjuna, from the Bhagavata Gita, by Arnab Dutta, via Wikimedia Commons

Opening with 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s quote, “The East is a career,” Edward Said’s Orientalism traced the lineage of “the Orient” as “almost a European invention.” Through discourses scientific, political, philosophical, cultural, and otherwise, European thinkers, artists, and statesmen, Said contended, “accepted the basic distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborate theories, epics, novels, social descriptions and political accounts.” But at the root of a long academic tradition of comparative analyses of “East” and “West,”—a relationship of dominance—there lay the recognition, however dim, that “The Orient is not only adjacent to Europe; it is also… the source of its civilizations and languages.”

The cultural debts that Europe owed its colonies were not the kind of thing most politicians liked to discuss, but many European and U.S. writers and scholars fascinated with the East have long recognized religious and philosophical continuities between the two hemispheres. The number of conversations between so-called Western and Eastern traditions only increased as the 20th century wore on and European Empires crumbled, giving rise mid-century to a whole society of comparative East/West religionists and writers: D.T. Suzuki, Alan Watts, Herman Hesse, Aldous Huxley, Allen Ginsberg…. Although many Western scholars’ pronouncements may have overgeneralized or distorted, interest in a dialogue has only grown since the 50s and 60s, and sympathetic presentations of Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and other “Eastern religions” proliferated.


From this atmosphere emerged the work of Joseph Campbell, famous for The Hero with a Thousand Faces, published in 1949, a work of comparative religion that adopted a philological approach to myth like that of Campbell’s own hero, Nietzsche. Campbell may have seen East and West as distinct cultural entities—titling one lecture “The Eastern Way” and another “The Western Quest”—but his theory did not allow for a strict cultural hierarchy. In his many recorded lectures, Campbell stresses the similarities and common origins of world traditions, which inhabit, he says, a “single constellation.” We have a few of those talks in full in the 12 hour Spotify playlist on Eastern Spirituality above, including lectures on “Imagery of Rebirth Yoga” and “Hinduism,” delivered in the late sixties.

We also have Christopher Isherwood reading selections from his translation with Swami Prabhavananda of the Bhagavad-Gita. Isherwood’s famed embrace of Vedanta did much to foster inter-religious dialogue, and he left behind a “tremendous cache of self-revelatory works,” writes American Vedantist, “including essays, lectures, novels, his diaries, and the autobiographical My Guru and His Disciple.” Next to Campbell and Isherwood, we have Tibetan Buddhist authority the Dalai Lama giving an introductory lecture on Buddhism and a talk on “Cultivating Happiness.” Rounding out the playlist is another introduction to Buddhism by Emma Hignett, a reading of the Tao te Ching, and a reading by Robert Hamilton of his fascinating comparative study of world religions, Caduceus.

While each of us could, of course, take it upon ourselves to learn Sanskrit, or Pali, or Chinese, translate ancient religious literature and draw our own conclusions, we can also partake of the work of scholars and writers who have invested deeply in their subject, personally and professionally, and returned with a great deal of wisdom about global spiritual traditions. The lectures on this playlist (if you need Spotify’s free software, download it here) offer an excellent sampling of that wisdom and scholarship. You’ll find much more on our site in work by Jorge Luis Borges, Alan Watts, Robert Thurman, the Dalai Lama, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, Leonard Cohen, and many more.

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

A 12-Hour Eastern Spirituality Playlist: Features Lectures & Readings by Joseph Campbell, Christopher Isherwood, the Dalai Lama & Others 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 History of Photography in Five Animated Minutes: From Camera Obscura to Camera Phone

7 hours 9 min ago

We find ourselves, still early in the 21st century, in an unprecedented era in the history of photography. The consumers of the developed world have, of course, had access to cameras of their own for decades and decades, but now almost each and every one of us walks around with a camera in our pocket. When a particular landscape, building, animal, human being, or other sight strikes our fancy, we capture it without a moment’s hesitation — and, often, without having given a moment’s thought to the technological and artistic history of the discipline we are, if for little more than an instant, practicing.

Most of us, knowing ourselves to be no Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, or Diane Arbus, would hesitate to describe the snaps with which we document and share our daily lives as “photography.” But in taking any picture, no matter how mundane or even silly, we place ourselves in the stream of a tradition. But we can gain an understanding of that tradition, at least in broad strokes, from “The History of Photography in Five Minutes,” the Cooperative of Photography video above which, in the words of its narrator, offers an insight into — brace yourself for this and other puns —  “how photography has developed.”

Beginning with the camera obscura, the reflection and tracing devices that date back to antiquity (later described and used by Leonardo da Vinci), the video moves swiftly from milestone to photographic milestone, including the first photograph, a “heliograph” taken in 1826; Louis Daguerre’s invention of “the first practical photographic process” in 1833; the first selfie, taken in 1839; the emergence of mobile photo studios in the 1850s; Eadweard Muybridge’s motion-photography studies of the 1870s; Kodak’s production of the first roll-film consumer camera in 1888; the game-changing Leica I hitting the market in 1925; the first single-lens reflex in 1949; the first digital camera in 1975; and, opening our own era, the first camera phone in 2000.

And now our smartphones and their “insanely powerful cameras” onboard have turned photography into a “global passion” that “has truly brought the world closer together.” The proliferation of hastily taken, essentially uncomposed shots of our purchases, our food, and ourselves have given old-school photography enthusiasts plenty to complain about, but the era of accessible photography has only just begun. Most of us are still, in some sense, taking heliographs and daguerreotypes; just imagine how the next fifteen years will, er, expose our true photographic capabilities.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The History of Photography in Five Animated Minutes: From Camera Obscura to Camera Phone 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 Hidden Secrets in “Daydreaming,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s New Radiohead Music Video

Mon, 22 Aug 2016 - 1:00 pm

Paul Thomas Anderson, as his fans will tell you, makes the kind of large-scale cinema nobody else does anymore: intense of emotion, involved of story, colorfully populated, wide of aspect ratio (and even, in the case of The Master, shot on 70-millimeter film), no superheroes asked, none given. Having displayed unwavering commitment to his visions from the very beginning, it makes sense that, on his latest music video, he would work with Radiohead, a band no less committed to their own. Radiohead fans know the ambitiousness of a Radiohead song or album when they hear it, but what makes the video Anderson directed for “Daydreaming,” their single released this past May, Andersonian?

“Like many great works of art, Radiohead’s latest music video makes you struggle for its inner meaning,” says Rishi Kaneria in his explanatory video “Radiohead: the Secrets of ‘Daydreaming.'” His narration describes the video’s ostensibly simple form: “an older, tired-looking Thom Yorke” — Radiohead’s singer and co-founder — “opening door after door, and like a ghost, walking through the background of seemingly random people’s lives,” all “a metaphor for the choices Thom has had to make in his life, of the doors he’s stepped through, while never quite knowing what’s on the other side. Because he can never go back, we see him constantly pushing forward, continually searching for meaning and an ultimate resting place. “

Kaneria keys in on details that only those with a thorough knowledge of the life and work of Yorke and his band could notice. In real life, Yorke had just split up with his partner of 23 years; in the video, he walks through 23 doors. In the video, he wears an outfit designed by Rick Owens; in real life, his partner was named Rachel Owens. (Well, Rachel Owen, but close enough.) The various rooms through which York passes contain women, usually mothers, even in a hospital ward. Can we consider that a reference to his recuperation from a “severe car crash in 1987, especially considering there’s a wheel on the wall”?

When Yorke’s character finally finds solace beside a fire in a cave, he speaks a backwards phrase to the camera which, reversed, sounds like, “Half of my life, half of my love.” 23 years, of course, constitutes just about half of the 47-year-old Yorke’s life — and, Kaneria notes, the number of years since the band began recording. The video also performs other exegeses numerical, lyrical, and visual, and zodiacal, everywhere finding references to Rachel as well as to Radiohead — song titles, album art, even the settings of past music videos — to the point that we see “how Thom’s personal life with Rachel is inescapably saturated and surrounded by all things Radiohead.”

Nobody ever called balancing the demands of domestic life and those of perhaps the biggest rock band in the world easy. Still, few recent works of art have illustrated this kind of struggle as vividly as the “Daydreaming” video, and Anderson, not just one of the most famous and respected filmmakers alive but a husband and a father to four children, surely knows something about it as well. So often compared to his cinema-redefining predecessors from Robert Altman to Stanley Kubrick, he must also know as well as Yorke does what it means to have your work subjected to such close scrutiny — and to want to create work that will repay that scrutiny.

The Anderson-Radiohead connection goes as least as far back as 2007’s There Will Be Blood, scored by the band’s guitarist Jonny Greenwood. Anderson commissioned Greenwood’s musical services again for his next two pictures, The Master, and Inherent Vice, and last year made a documentary called Junjun about Greenwood’s solo album of the same name. No matter how much of Kaneria’s presented revelation you believe, “Daydreaming” sits as suitably with the rest of Anderson’s filmography as it does in its treatment of an old theme: you can’t enjoy every kind of satisfaction — but from the lifelong battle to do so, mostly against oneself, emerges art.

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Radiohead-Approved, Fan-Made Film of the Band at Roseland for 2011′s The King of Limbs Tour

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke Gives Teenage Girls Endearing Advice About Boys (And Much More)

Radiohead: Making Videos Without Cameras (or Lights)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Hidden Secrets in “Daydreaming,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s New Radiohead Music Video 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.

Prof. Brian Cox Has a Maddening Conversation with a Climate Science-Denying Politician

Mon, 22 Aug 2016 - 10:28 am

According to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, July 2016 was the warmest month ever recorded. 2016 will likely be the warmest year on record. And the decades ahead will only get worse, much worse.

And yet, notes physicist Lawrence Krauss in The New Yorker this weekend, we have the GOP’s Frankenstein trying to demagogue his way into the presidency by calling climate science into question. Krauss writes:

In May, for instance, while speaking to an audience of West Virginia coal miners, Trump complained that regulations designed to protect the ozone layer had compromised the quality of his hair spray. Those regulations, he continued, were misguided, because hair spray is used mainly indoors, and so can have no effect on the atmosphere outside….

Often, Trump is simply wrong about science, even though he should know better. Just as he was a persistent “birther” even after the evidence convincingly showed that President Obama was born in the United States, Trump now continues to propagate the notion that vaccines cause autism in spite of convincing and widely cited evidence to the contrary… In other cases, Trump treats scientific facts the way he treats other facts—he ignores or distorts them whenever it’s convenient. He has denied that climate change is real, calling it pseudoscience and advancing a conspiracy theory that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.”

And way across the pond, we have another politician, Australian Senator Malcolm Roberts, making his own kind of laughable claims. In a recent television broadcast, Roberts asks physicist Brian Cox for empirical proof that climate change exists. Cox offers evidence gathered by NASA, to which Roberts responds, NASA’s “data has been corrupted and manipulated.” Not good enough. If you regularly read our site, you know that this is not the first time that NASA has been accused of manipulating data. Conspiracy theorists have long accused NASA and Stanley Kubrick of faking the moon landing in 1969. Roberts bristles at being associated with these loons. But frankly it’s an apt comparison. And if anyone should be bothered by the comparison, it’s the moon landing conspiracists. However strange their theories might be, no one doubts that they’re heartfelt, genuine, and seemingly free from the hint of political and financial influence.

In the meantime, in a new video from NASA, you can see the Arctic ice levels retreating to one of the lowest levels in recorded history. Call the video “corrupted” and “manipulated” at your own peril.

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Prof. Brian Cox Has a Maddening Conversation with a Climate Science-Denying Politician 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.

Behold the Very First Color Photograph (1861): Taken by Scottish Physicist (and Poet!) James Clerk Maxwell

Mon, 22 Aug 2016 - 8:26 am

Since its ancient origins as the camera obscura, the photographic camera has always mimicked the human eye, allowing light to enter an aperture, then projecting an image upside down. Renaissance artists relied on the camera obscura to sharpen their own visual perspectives. But it wasn’t until photography—the ability to reproduce the obscura’s images—that the rudimentary artificial eye began evolving the same complex structures we rely on for our own visual acuity: lenses for sharpness, variable apertures, shutter speeds, focus controls…. Only when it began to seem that photography might vie with the other fine arts did the development of camera technology take off. And it moved quickly.

Between the time of the first photograph in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and 1861, photography had advanced sufficiently that physicist James Clerk Maxwell—known for his “Maxwell’s Demon” thought experiment—produced the first color photograph that did not immediately fade or require hand painting (above). The Scottish scientist chose to take a picture of a tartan ribbon, “created,” writes National Geographic, “by photographing it three times through red, blue, and yellow filters, then recombining the images into one color composite.” Maxwell’s three-color method was intended to mimic the way the eye processes color, based on theories he had elaborated in an 1855 paper.

Maxwell’s many other accomplishments tend to overshadow his color photography (and his poetry!). Nonetheless, the polymath thinker ushered in a revolution in photographic reproduction, almost as an aside. “It’s easy to forget, “ writes BBC picture editor, Phil Coomes, “that not long ago news agencies were transmitting their wire photographs as colour separations, usually cyan, magenta and yellow—a process that relied on Clerk Maxwell’s discovery. Indeed even the latest digital camera relies on the separation method to capture light.” And yet, compared to the usual speed of photographic advancement, the process took some time to fully refine.

Maxwell created the image with the help of photographer Thomas Sutton, inventor of the single lens reflex camera, but his interest lay principally in its demonstration of his color theory, not its application to photography in general. Sixteen years later, the reproduction of color had not advanced significantly, though a subtractive method allowed more subtlety of light and shade, as you can see in the 1877 example above by Louis Ducos du Hauron. Even so, these nineteenth images still cannot compete for vibrancy and lifelikeness with hand-colored photos from the period. Despite appearing artificial, hand-tinted images like these of 1860s Samurai Japan brought a startling immediacy to their subjects in a way that early color photography did not.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century—with the development of color processes by Gabriel Lippman and the Sanger Shepherd company—that color came into its own. Leo Tolstoy appeared early in the century in brilliant full color photos. Paris came alive in color images during WWI. And Sarah Angelina Acland, a pioneering English photographer, took the image above in 1900 above using the Sanger Shepherd method. That process—patented, marketed, and sold—thoroughly improved upon Maxwell’s results, but its basic operation was nearly the same: three images, red, green, and blue, combined into one.

Related Content:

Hand-Colored 1860s Photographs Reveal the Last Days of Samurai Japan

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

Behold the Very First Color Photograph (1861): Taken by Scottish Physicist (and Poet!) James Clerk Maxwell 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.

Get a First Look at Neuroscientist Oliver Sacks’ Final Interview

Mon, 22 Aug 2016 - 4:50 am

It’s been nearly a year since the poet laureate of medicine, author and neurologist Oliver Sacks, took his final bow as a sentient being on this beautiful planet, succumbing to liver cancer at the age of 82.

The New Yorker marks the occasion by publishing Sacks’ fellow neurologist and author Dr. Orrin Devinsky’s recollection of their longstanding friendship. Devinsky paints a vivid picture of an exceptionally compassionate man, who felt a kinship not only with starfish, jellyfish, and octopi, but also humans in both financial and emotional need.

The piece becomes even more powerful in light of Sacks’ final interview, above, part of filmmaker Ric Burns’ upcoming documentary, Oliver Sacks: His Own Life.

Sacks peppers his remarks with astonishing biological tidbits, a compulsion that delighted his friend Devinsky on their frequent early morning bike rides along New York City’s west side.

(Palatal myoclonus—or rhythmic pulsing—in the palate, eardrum and strap muscles are vestigial evidence that humans once had gills!)

(The dandelion’s name evolved from dent de lion, French for lion’s tooth, a structure the spikes on its serrated leaves could be said to resemble. Also, certain dandelion species reproduce asexually, and Sacks had no fear about eating an unwashed specimen he plucked from the questionably sanitary grounds of Riverside Park!)

The musings that warrant the melancholy piano and strings accompanying Burns’ excerpt are of a more personal nature. Sacks’ was totally immersed in his chosen subject. His mother was a comparative anatomist and surgeon, and his boyish interest in the hard sciences is what led him to biology. A lifetime of scientific observation and clinical interaction only add to the poetry of his thoughts on death:

My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be nobody like us when we are gone, but then there is nobody like anybody ever. When people die they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled. It is the fate, the genetic and neural fate of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death. Even so, I am shocked and saddened at the sentence of death, and I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return. I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal on this beautiful planet, and this in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

Related Content:

Oliver Sacks Explains the Biology of Hallucinations: “We See with the Eyes, But with the Brain as Well”

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her latest comic contrasts the birth of her second child with the uncensored gore of Game of Thrones. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Get a First Look at Neuroscientist Oliver Sacks’ Final Interview 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.

Free: Hear Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Read by Hans Conried (1958)

Sun, 21 Aug 2016 - 2:17 pm

Briefly noted: Over on Spotify you can stream a classic audio book of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (iPad/iPhone – Kindle + Other Formats – Read Online). Recorded in 1958 by character actor Hans Conried, this classic pirate’s tale runs 5 hours, 20 minutes–which is shorter than other recordings available on the market, suggesting that it’s abridged. But nonetheless it’s worth the listen. Conried’s reading (which can also be purchased online) will be added to our collection, 700 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free. Stevenson’s text itself appears in our collection of Free eBooks. If you need Spotify’s free software, download it here.

Looking for free, professionally-read audio books from Audible.com? Here’s a great, no-strings-attached deal. If you start a 30 day free trial with Audible.com, you can download two free audio books of your choice. Get more details on the offer here.

Free: Hear Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Read by Hans Conried (1958) 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.

Read the Original 32-Page Program for Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927)

Fri, 19 Aug 2016 - 9:30 am

One of the very first feature-length sci-fi films ever made, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis took a daring visual approach for its time, incorporating Bauhaus and Futurist influences in thrillingly designed sets and costumes. Lang’s visual language resonated strongly in later decades. The film’s rather stunning alchemical-electric transference of a woman’s physical traits onto the body of a destructive android—the so-called Maschinenmenschfor example, began a very long trend of female robots in film and television, most of them as dangerous and inscrutable as Lang’s. And yet, for all its many imitators, Metropolis continues to deliver surprises. Here, we bring you a new find: a 32-page program distributed at the film’s 1927 premier in London and recently re-discovered.

In addition to underwriting almost one hundred years of science fiction film and television tropes, Metropolis has had a very long life in other ways: Inspiring an all-star soundtrack produced by Giorgio Moroder in 1984,with Freddie Mercury, Loverboy, and Adam Ant, and a Kraftwerk album. In 2001, a reconstructed version received a screening at the Berlin Film Festival, and UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register added it to their roster. 2002 saw the release of an exceptional Metropolis-inspired anime with the same title. And in 2010 an almost fully restored print of the long-incomplete film—recut from footage found in Argentina in 2008—appeared, adding a little more sophistication and coherence to the simplistic story line.

Even at the film’s initial reception, without any missing footage, critics did not warm to its story. For all its intense visual futurism, it has always seemed like a very quaint, naïve tale, struck through with earnest religiosity and inexplicable archaisms. Contemporary reviewers found its narrative of generational and class conflict unconvincing. H.G. Wells—“something of an authority on science fiction”—pronounced it “the silliest film” full of “every possible foolishness, cliché, platitude, and muddlement about mechanical progress and progress in general served up with a sauce of sentimentality that is all its own.” Few were kinder when it came to the story, and despite its overt religious themes, many saw it as Communist propaganda.

Viewed after subsequent events in 20th century Germany, many of the film’s scenes appear “disturbingly prescient,” writes the Unaffiliated Critic, such as the vision of a huge industrial machine as Moloch, in which “bald, underfed humans are led in chains to a furnace.” Lang and his wife Thea von Harbau—who wrote the novel, then screenplay—were of course commenting on industrialization, labor conditions, and poverty in Weimar Germany. Metropolis‘s “clear message of classism,” as io9 writes, comes through most clearly in its arresting imagery, like that horrifying, monstrous furnace and the “looming symbol of wealth in the Tower of Babel.”

The visual effects and spectacular set pieces have worked their magic on almost everyone (Wells excluded) who has seen Metropolis. And they remain, for all its silliness, the primary reason for the movie’s cultural prevalence. Wired calls it “probably the most influential sci-fi movie in history,” remarking that “a single movie poster from the original release sold for $690,000 seven years ago, and is expected to fetch even more at an auction later this year.”

We now have another artifact from the movie’s premiere, this 32-page program, appropriately called “Metropolis” Magazine, that offers a rich feast for audiences, and text at times more interesting than the film’s script. (You can view the program in full here.) One imagines had they possessed backlit smart phones, those early moviegoers might have found themselves struggling not to browse their programs while the film screened. But, of course, Metropolis’s visual excesses would hold their attention as they still do ours. Its scenes of a futuristic city have always enthralled viewers, filmmakers, and (most) critics, such that Roger Ebert could write of “vast futuristic cities” as a staple of some of the best science fiction in his review of the 21st-century animated Metropolis—“visions… goofy and yet at the same time exhilarating.”

The program really is an astonishing document, a treasure for fans of the film and for scholars. Full of production stills, behind-the-scenes articles and photos, technical minutiae, short columns by the actors, a bio of Thea von Harbau, the “authoress,” excerpts from her novel and screenplay placed side-by-side, and a short article by her. There’s a page called “Figures that Speak” that tallies the production costs and cast and crew numbers (including very crude drawings and numbers of “Negroes” and “Chinese”). Lang himself weighs in, laconically, with a breezy introduction followed by a classic silent-era line: “if I cannot succeed in finding expression on the picture, I certainly cannot find it in speech.” Film history agrees, Lang found his expression “on the picture.”

“Only three surviving copies of this program are known to exist,” writes Wired, and one of them, from which these pages come, has gone on sale at the Peter Harrington rare book shop for 2,750 pounds ($4,244)—which seems rather low, given what an original Metropolis poster went for. But markets are fickle, and whatever its current or future price, ”Metropolis” Magazine is invaluable to cineastes. See all 32 pages of the program at Peter Harrington’s website.

via Wired

Related Content:

Metropolis: Watch a Restored Version of Fritz Lang’s Masterpiece (1927)

Fritz Lang Tells the Riveting Story of the Day He Met Joseph Goebbels and Then High-Tailed It Out of Germany

Metropolis II: Discover the Amazing, Fritz Lang-Inspired Kinetic Sculpture by Chris Burden

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

Read the Original 32-Page Program for Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) 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.

Hear Arthur C. Clarke Read 2001: A Space Odyssey: A Vintage 1976 Vinyl Recording

Fri, 19 Aug 2016 - 8:26 am

When we hear the opening of Also Sprach Zarathustra, we instinctively steel ourselves for enormous leaps through space and time. We have since 1968, when Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey made Richard Strauss’ 1896 piece its theme music. (Kubrick, as we posted in 2014, did commission an original score, only to reject it as “completely inadequate for the film.”) If you saw and loved it during its original theatrical run, long before the advent of home video, you had only a limited set of ways to re-live it at will. The obvious choice included buying a copy of the soundtrack or Arthur C. Clarke’s eponymous novel (or, for the kids, to go eat at Howard Johnson’s), but in 1976, you could also buy a record that gave you a bit of both at once.


On this now out-of-print record, Clarke reads the final chapters of 2001 with the accompaniment of that most recognizable piece from the film score, all packaged in a sleeve featuring an image of Keir Dullea as Mission Commander David Bowman on one of the film’s immaculately crafted space-station sets. You can hear side one at the top, and side two below.

If all this strikes you as an unconscionable intermingling of book and movie, remember that Kubrick’s 2001 doesn’t straightforwardly adapt Clarke’s 2001. Both of those independent but complementary works grew from the seed of “The Sentinel,” Clarke’s 1948 short story about a dazzling and mystifying artifact left behind by an ancient alien civilization. Kubrick had originally tapped Clarke to write a whole new screenplay, but that collaboration ultimately turned into two parallel projects, with the novelist writing to his own sensibility and the filmmaker certainly directing to his. Some Clarke fans prefer the novel and some Kubrick fans prefer the film, but those who admire the virtues of both 2001s will appreciate the existence of this record, in its own way an impressive artifact of a distant era.

You can’t buy this album new these days, but used copies can still be purchased online.

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Watch Steven Soderbergh’s Re-Edited Version of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey Free Online

Howard Johnson’s Presents a Children’s Menu Featuring Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Hear Arthur C. Clarke Read 2001: A Space Odyssey: A Vintage 1976 Vinyl Recording 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.

What Ancient Latin Sounded Like, And How We Know It

Fri, 19 Aug 2016 - 12:48 am

Latin is a language

As dead as dead can be

It killed the Romans long ago, 

And now it’s killing me.

That famed ditty isn’t likely to resonate with many modern school children, but interest in ancient Rome remains fairly robust. 

We’ve come to accept that those stately ruins were once covered in graffiti.

We can recreate their meals from hors d’oevures (Boiled Eggs with Pine Nut Sauce) to dessert (Pear Patina).

Thermae Romae, a popular Japanese manga-cum-feature-film, took us inside Emperor Hadrian’s bathhouse.

But what did the Romans sound like?

Kirk DouglasSpartacus? Or Laurence Olivier’s Crassus?

The recent series Rome upheld the tradition of British accents.

Animator Josh Rudder of NativLang did a fair amount of digging in service of finding out What Latin Sounded Like, above.

(And he seems to have done so without the help of Derek Jarman’s NSFW Sebastiane, the only feature film to be filmed entirely in sermo vulgaris or vulgar Latin.)

Instead, he draws from ancient rhetorician Quintilian and Virgil’s’ poetic meter. Scroll backward through the romance languages, and you’ll see Germanic tribes trading with and fighting ancient Roman troops.

The result is not so much a reconstructive pronunciation guide as a linguistic detective story.

Related Content:

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Rome Reborn: Take a Virtual Tour of Ancient Rome, Circa 320 C.E.

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her latest comic contrasts the birth of her second child with the uncensored gore of Game of Thrones. Follow her @AyunHalliday

What Ancient Latin Sounded Like, And How We Know It 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 Neuroscience & Psychology of Procrastination, and How to Overcome It

Thu, 18 Aug 2016 - 12:45 pm

Procrastination is a skill, an art, a slight-of-hand technique. I’m procrastinating right now, but you’d never know it. How many tabs do I have open in my multiple browser windows? Pick a number, any number. How many tasks have I put off today? How many dreams have I deferred? I’ll never tell. The unskilled procrastinators stick out, they’re easy to spot. They talk a lot about what they’re not doing. They run around in circles of bewilderment like the troubled hero of Dr. Seuss’s Hunches in Bunches. The skilled practitioner makes it look easy.

But no matter how much Facebook time you get in before lunch and still manage to ace those performance reviews, you’re really only cheating yourself, am I right? You wanted to finish that novel/symphony/improv class/physics theorem. But something stopped you. Something in your brain perhaps. That’s where these things usually happen. When Stuart Langfield asked a neuroscientist about the neuroscience of procrastination, he got the following answer: “People think that you can turn on an MRI and see where something’s happening in the brain, but the truth is that’s not so. This stuff is vastly more complicated, so we have theories.”

There are theories aplenty that tell us, says Langfield, “what’s probably happening” in the brain. Langfield explains his own: the primitive, pleasure-seeking, pain-avoiding limbic system acts too quickly for our more deliberative, rational prefrontal cortex to catch up, rendering us stupefied by distractions. Piers Steel, Distinguished Research Chair at the University of Calgary and a procrastination expert, shares this view. You can see him explain it in the short video below. The evolutionary “design flaw,” says Langfield, might make the situation seem hopeless, were it not for “neuroplasticity,” a fancy buzzword that means we have the ability to change our brains.

Langfield’s purpose in his short video is not only to understand the biology of procrastination, but to overcome it. He asks psychologist Tim Pychyl, whose answers we see and hear as an incomprehensible jumble of ideas. But then Pychyl reduces the complicated theories to a simple solution. You guessed it, mindfulness meditation—to “downregulate the limbic system.” Really, that’s it? Just meditate? It is a proven way to reduce anxiety and improve concentration.

But Pychyl and his research team at Carleton University have a few more very practical suggestions, based on experimental data gathered by Steel and others. The Wall Street Journal offers this condensed list of tips:

Break a long-term project down into specific sub-goals. State the exact start time and how long (not just “tomorrow”) you plan to work on the task.

Just get started. It isn’t necessary to write a long list of tasks, or each intermediate step.

Remind yourself that finishing the task now helps you in the future. Putting off the task won’t make it more enjoyable.

Implement “microcosts,” or mini-delays, that require you to make a small effort to procrastinate, such as having to log on to a separate computer account for games.

Reward yourself not only for completing the entire project but also the sub-goals.

A Stockholm University study tested these strategies, assigning a group of 150 self-reported “high procrastinators” several of the self-help instructions over 10 weeks, and employing a reward system and varying levels of guidance. “The results,” WSJ reports, “showed that after intervention with both guided and unguided self-help, people improved their procrastination, though the guided therapy seemed to show greater benefit.”

Other times, adding self-help tasks to get us to the tasks we’re putting off doesn’t work so well. We can all take comfort in the fact that procrastination has a long history, dating back to ancient Egypt, Rome, and 18th century England. The wisdom of the ages could not defeat it, or as Samuel Johnson wrote, “even they who most steadily withstand it find it, if not the most violent, the most pertinacious of their passions, always renewing its attacks, and, though often vanquished, never destroyed.”

But there are people who procrastinate, beset by its pertinacity, and then there are chronic procrastinators. “If you’re an occasional procrastinator, says Pychyl, “quit thinking about your feelings and get to the next task.” Suck it up, in other words, and walk it off—maybe after a short course of self-help. For all the conflicting neuroscientific theory, “there is a quiet science behind procrastination,” writes Big Think, and “according to recent studies, procrastination is a learned habit.” Most research agrees it’s one we can unlearn through meditation and/or patient retraining of ourselves.

However if you’re of the chronic subset, say Pychyl, “you might need therapy to better understand your emotions and how you’re coping with them through avoidance.” Psychologist Joseph Ferrari at DePaul University agrees. Citing a figure of “20 percent of U.S. men and women” who “make procrastination their way of life,” he adds, “it is the person who does that habitually, always with plausible ‘excuses’ that has issues to address.” Only you can determine whether your trouble relates to bad habits or deeper psychological issues.

Whatever the causes, what might motivate us to meditate or seek therapy are the effects. Chronic procrastination is “not a time management issue,” says Ferrari, “it is a maladaptive lifestyle.” Habitual procrastinators, the WSJ writes, “have higher rates of depression and anxiety and poorer well-being.” We may think, writes Eric Jaffe at the Association for Psychological Science’s journal, of procrastination as “an innocuous habit at worst, and maybe even a helpful one at best,” a strategy Stanford philosophy professor John Perry argued for in The Art of Procrastination. Instead, Jaffe says, in a sobering summary of Pychyl’s research, “procrastination is really a self-inflicted wound that gradually chips away at the most valuable resource in the world: time.”

Related Content:

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Miranda July Teaches You How to Avoid Procrastination

The Art of Structured Procrastination

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

The Neuroscience & Psychology of Procrastination, and How to Overcome It 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.

What Do Movies Say When They Say Nothing at All: A Video Essay

Thu, 18 Aug 2016 - 10:24 am

Sometimes less is more. Sometimes silence says more than words or sound itself. John Cage knew it. Ditto our finest filmmakers. That’s the takeaway from When Words Fail in Moviesa new video essay that stitches together 15 scenes from iconic films by Hitchcock, Kubrick, Fellini and others. Created by David Verdeure at Filmscalpel, the clip lets us meditate on “the meaningful use of silence” in the sound-film era. Fandor has pulled together a list of scenes used in the montage. Find them below:

The Matrix, dir. Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski. Silver Pictures, USA, 1999. 136 mins.
The Godfather: Part III, dir. Francis Ford Coppola. Zoetrope Studios, USA, 1990. 162 mins.
Mon Oncle, dir. Jacques Tati. Specta films et al., France, 1958. 117 mins.
2001: A Space Odyssey, dir. Stanley Kubrick. Stanley Kubrick Productions, UK / USA, 1968. 149 mins.
Lost in Translation, dir. Sofia Coppola. American Zoetrope et al., USA, 2003. 101 mins.
On the Waterfront, dir., Elia Kazan. Horizon Pictures et al., USA, 1954. 108 mins.
The Graduate, dir. Mike Nichols. Lawrence Turman, USA, 1967. 106 mins.
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, dir. Tony Richardson. Woodfall Film Productions, UK, 1962. 104 mins.
North by Northwest, dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, USA, 1959. 136 mins.
In the Mood for Love, dir. Wong Kar-Wai. Block 2 Pictures et al., Hong Kong / China, 2000. 158 mins.
The Martian, dir. Ridley Scott. Scott Free Productions et al., USA, 2015. 144 mins.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, dir. Luis Buñuel. Greenwich Film Productions, France, 1972. 102 mins.
The Conversation, dir. Francis Ford Coppola. American Zoetrope et al., USA, 1974. 113 mins.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, dir. David Lynch. Twin Peaks Productions et al., USA, 1992. 135 mins.
La Dolce Vita, dir. Federico Fellini. Riama Film et al., Italy, 1960. 180 mins.

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John Cage Performs His Avant-Garde Piano Piece 4’33” … in 1’22” (Harvard Square, 1973)

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101 Free Silent Films: The Great Classics

What Do Movies Say When They Say Nothing at All: A Video Essay 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.

When Steve Buscemi Was a Firefighter — and Took It Up Again After 9/11

Thu, 18 Aug 2016 - 8:26 am

Steve Buscemi’s roles in movies like In the SoupThe Big Lebowski, and Ghost World have associated him for life with a certain kind of character: awkward, ineffectual, and even slightly creepy, but nevertheless strangely endearing. But types and the actors who play them can, and usually do, diverge, and that goes especially for Buscemi. He may have made his name portraying a host of loser-ish men, but his skill at bringing them and other characters to distinctive life have kept him a highly successful performer for decades now. And what did he do before that? Why, he fought fires — and he didn’t hesitate to do it again after becoming famous.

Unilad’s Alex Watt quotes a post on the Brotherhood of Fire Facebook page which reveals how the Boardwalk Empire star entered his other profession: “In 1976 Steve Buscemi took the FDNY civil service test when he was just 18 years old,” became a firefighter a few years later, and for four years “served on one of FDNY’s busiest, Engine Co. 55.” He returned to that very same engine after September 11, 2001, “and for several days following Brother Steve worked 12-hour shifts alongside other firefighters digging and sifting through the rubble from the World Trade Center looking for survivors.”

Though he avoided publicizing his brief return to firefighting at the time, Buscemi has spoken openly about it since, as he does in the CBS Sunday Morning clip at the top of the post. Many who hear the story of a high-profile actor putting his life on hold and rushing right into a disaster site might rush right to the urban legend site Snopes, which doesn’t just verify it, but also collects some of Buscemi’s own words about his firefighting days. He started, he recalls, when he “was living in Manhattan, working as a furniture mover during the day, doing stand-up comedy at night and looking for a change. I liked the job — the guys I worked with and the nature of the work. I think I would have been happy doing it if I hadn’t had a greater passion for acting.”

Buscemi’s firefighting experience and ability to appear onscreen come together in A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY, the documentary just above. Co-produced by Buscemi himself, the film goes “behind the scenes” of the New York City Fire Department, showing just what it takes to put out the blazes of America’s most demanding city. (You can see Buscemi talking about his experience during 9/11 around the 43 minute mark.) The “good job” of the title, one retired firefighter explains, means “a really tough fire.” And no matter what kind of “job,” Buscemi says, “they’re all frightening. Any time you go into a burning building, there’s the potential for disaster. I never had any real close calls, though there’s no such thing as a routine fire.” No doubt he keeps himself mentally prepared for another — just in case.

Related Content:

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William S. Burroughs’ Home Movies, Featuring Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg, Steve Buscemi & Cats

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

When Steve Buscemi Was a Firefighter — and Took It Up Again After 9/11 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.

8 Writers on How to Face Writer’s Block and the Blank Page: Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Franzen, Joyce Carol Oates & More

Thu, 18 Aug 2016 - 1:00 am

For those who write for a living, the issue of writer’s block doesn’t come up as often as television and movies may have others believe. Sure, there’s plenty of times where the words don’t flow like they should. Or a writer may find they’ve written drivel and start again. Or the beginning proves elusive. Or the end proves tricky. But that cliché of the harried writer, sitting in front of a blank sheet of paper (maybe with the daunting “Chapter One” hovering at the top)? Maybe not so much.

In this short video made for the Louisiana Channel (a YouTube channel for the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark), the blank page is anything but terrifying for the eight authors interviewed.

“I don’t think writer’s block actually exists,” says Philipp Meyer. “It’s basically insecurity. It’s your own internal critic turned up to a higher level than it’s supposed to be at that moment…The point is to get something down on paper.”

Alaa Al-Aswany makes the most philosophical point, calling writing the “conflict between what you want to say and what you could say.”

Many of the authors interviewed, like Jonathan Franzen, Lydia Davis, and Joyce Carol Oates agree on a similar point: the writer’s mind must have prepped and written and researched long before the body sits and the hands write. “By the time I come to the blank page I have many things to say,” Oates says.

For other writers, the blank page is a symbol of potential. For David Mitchell it’s a door that opens onto infinity. For Margaret Atwood, the page “beckons you in to write something on it. It must be filled.”

Daniel Kehlmann fills his in longhand and calls it “deeply satisfying” even though writing that first draft is the “least joyful part of writing.”

In the final minute, David Mitchell does tackle the idea of a writer’s block, but his suggestion is not worth spoiling, so go ahead and watch the whole thing. And if you’re a writer watching this video because you’re procrastinating…get back to work!

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

8 Writers on How to Face Writer’s Block and the Blank Page: Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Franzen, Joyce Carol Oates & More 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 CIA Puts Hundreds of Declassified Documents About UFO Sightings Online, Plus 10 Tips for Investigating Flying Saucers

Wed, 17 Aug 2016 - 1:50 pm

Let down by the X-Files reboot? Maybe you never really dug the whole alien conspiracy thing with the bees and the black sludge in the first place. Maybe you didn’t need another convoluted, inscrutable, bonkers plotline. Maybe you wanted the truth. It’s out there. The CIA might know where it is.

In 1978, the agency known in some circles for masterminding nearly every world event since its inception declassified a vast number of files, “hundreds of documents… detailing the Agency’s investigations into Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOS). The documents date primarily from the late 1940s and 1950s.”

And since this past January the public has had full and open access to all of those documents on the internet. To celebrate the seriousness of this archive’s widespread availability, the Agency made two lists of five different documents each, to “highlight a few documents both skeptics and believers will find interesting.”

Who do you think they picked for their model skeptic and believer? “The truth is out there,” as the CIA is apparently fond of saying, “click on the links to find it.”

The Mulder and Scully lists serve as lighthearted introductions to the sometimes bewildering array of documents in the CIA’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Electronic Reading Room, which hosts those several hundred reports, memos, etc., sometimes redacted or written in Agency code.

Then, of course, there’s this precious eyewitness testimony, from Mulder’s list, taken from a man in East Germany in 1952:

Now, the side of the object on which the holes had been opened began to glitter. Its color seemed green but later turned to red. At the same time I began to hear a slight hum. While the brightness and hum increased, the conical tower began to slide down into the center of the object. The whole object then began to rise slowly from the ground and rotate like a top.

If you’re seeing a description from a classic sci-fi radio drama or pulp magazine, read on. The craft becomes “surrounded by a ring of flames,” rises, and flies away. And, of course, the man had earlier witnessed men “dressed in some shiny metallic clothing.” It all sounds very silly except that many other unrelated people in the small town reported seeing something very strange in the sky that night. One witnesses’ overactive imagination does not invalidate the testimony of the others.

Or does it?

We’ve had many sightings of UFOs from astronauts and pilots in the last few decades (mostly debunked), and ordinary people on the ground have never stopped seeing lights in the sky. So we might wonder why all of the CIA documents on the site come from the 1960s and before? Is this a sign of increased activity in the years after the supposed Roswell event? Perhaps the alien conspiracy’s feverish, devious start?

Or, as GeekWire writes, was the CIA “worried about the potential threat that UFOs posed to national security… they assumed that the UFOs might be part of a Soviet weapons test program.” With the gradual warming of relations, then glasnost, the spies lost interest… (Or…?) … but we might wonder why the Agency used the new X-Files debut to draw attention to itself. Your conspiracy theory is probably as good as any other.

If CIA did stop investigating alien invasions, you don’t have to. The Agency has left it in your capable hands, publishing “10 Tips When Investigating a Flying Saucer” to guide you in your quest for the truth. Be warned: it’s a very skeptic-friendly set of guidelines; one that—were everyone to follow it—might virtually eliminate every reported UFO sighting. Curious that. What are they hiding?

Find the list below, and see the complete explanation of each tip (such times we live in) at the CIA’s website.

1. Establish a group to investigate and evaluate sightings
2. Determine the objectives of your investigation
3. Consult with experts
4. Create a reporting system to organize incoming cases
5. Eliminate false positives
6. Develop methodology to identify aircraft and other aerial phenomena often mistaken for UFOs
7. Examine witness documentation
8. Conduct controlled experiments
9. Gather and test physical and forensic evidence
10. Discourage false reporting

Again, to dig deeper into the CIA’s fascinating archive of UFO sightings, visit its FOIA UFO collection. True believers may want to know more, and they can, if they’re willing to follow the Byzantine research instructions on the UFO collection’s main page to find an Agency article about the “CIA’s Role in the Study of UFOs, 1947-1990.” Or they could just click here.

Related Content:

Read the CIA’s Simple Sabotage Field Manual: A Timeless, Kafkaesque Guide to Subverting Any Organization with “Purposeful Stupidity” (1944)

The C.I.A.’s “Bestiary of Intelligence Writing” Satirizes Spook Jargon with Maurice Sendak-Style Drawings

Carl Jung’s Fascinating 1957 Letter on UFOs

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

The CIA Puts Hundreds of Declassified Documents About UFO Sightings Online, Plus 10 Tips for Investigating Flying Saucers 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.

When Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party Brought Klaus Nomi, Blondie & Basquiat to Public Access TV (1978-82)

Wed, 17 Aug 2016 - 10:16 am

“This is not a test!” the host shouts into his microphone. “This is an actual show!” If you lived in New York and had cable in the late 1970s, you may have witnessed it yourself — and you may well have needed the reminder, because this show neither looked nor felt like anything that ever aired before. A fixture on public access Channel D and Channel J from 1972 to 1982, it threw down a redefinition of televisual possibilities that hasn’t just survived as a time capsule of the downtown Manhattan scene at its creative rolling boil, but retains its anarchic charge to this day. Welcome, whether you first tuned in back then or have only just tuned in on the internet now, to Glenn O’Brien‘s TV Party.

O’Brien, who co-created and presided over the show, didn’t always shout, but when he did, he managed to retain his deadpan self-possession. He even kept his cool when hanging out, live on the air, with the regulars of a guest list including “David Bowie, David Byrne, Robert Fripp, the B-52s, Chris Burden, George Clinton, Iggy Pop, Steven Meisel, Mick Jones, James Chance, John Lurie, Klaus Nomi, Kraftwerk, the Screamers, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Nile Rodgers, Kid Creole, the Offs, Alex Chilton, the Brides of Funkenstein, Arthur Russell, David McDermott, and Charles Rocket, just to name a few.” At its height, TV Party let its audience hang out with such luminaries almost every week as well — literally, if they managed to find their way to the studio.

Having attained subcultural fame as the first editor of Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, the Cleveland-born O’Brien also engaged in such straightforwardly countercultural efforts as writing for, and later editing, the infamous journal of the cannabis lifestyle High Times. That bit of status drew an invitation to appear on the early public-access variety program The Coca Crystal Show. The experience immediately inspired him to create one of his own, a strike against the threat to free speech he sensed when mass media meant just a few mainstream television channels. And so O’Brien, along with Blondie co-founder and guitarist Chris Stein, launched TV Party, a drug-fueled re-interpretation of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy After Dark, “the TV show that’s a party,” as he put it in a memorably askew phrasing on its very first broadcast, “but which could be a political party.”

Here we have a few particularly memorable TV Party evenings, including a performance by the not-of-this-earth proto-glam-rocker Klaus Nomi, an interview of painter Jean-Michel Basquiat (who became a regular presence on the show and a “little brother” figure to the crew), and an episode with Blondie (not just Stein but the whole band, including Deborah Harry, who would turn up on the show pretty often herself). Vice put up TV Party best-of a couple years ago, which has let a new generation experience what now seems strikingly like a predecessor of the shows created for the internet video platforms they frequent today. It also includes a 90-minute documentary about the history of TV Party, which provides the necessary historical and cultural context for those unfamiliar with the New York O’Brien describes as “like a third-world country.” Shot in the ghostly black-and-white one associates with 1970s video artists, its visual elements either psychedelically bleeding into or jaggedly cutting between one another, “the show could get abstract quickly,” remembers O’Brien.

But in upholding its mission to erase the distinction between performer and audience, TV Party belongs as much to the late 70s as it does to the 21st century. It used to the fullest extent possible the freedom of public-access television, very much the Youtube of its day. (Certainly the callers-in could sound just as abusive as Youtube commenters.) It even ended in the highly modern fashion of not getting canceled, but simply fading away, the stretches between episodes growing longer and longer. “Maybe Chris and I will start it up again,” O’Brien speculates in the documentary, but he presumably has his hands full with his latest talk show: Tea at the Beatrice with Glenn O’Brien, created especially for the internet. The sensibility may have changed — nobody fires up a joint on camera anymore — but the excitement of exploring uncharted media territory remains.

Related Content:

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Klaus Nomi: The Brilliant Performance of a Dying Man

David Bowie and Klaus Nomi’s Hypnotic Performance on SNL (1979)

The Odd Couple: Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, 1986

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

When Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party Brought Klaus Nomi, Blondie & Basquiat to Public Access TV (1978-82) 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.

Three-Hour Mixtape Offers a Sonic Introduction to Underground Goth Music

Wed, 17 Aug 2016 - 8:26 am

Image by Pedro Figueiredo, via Wikimedia Commons

Why, in my day we called it “post-punk” and we walked miles to find it in catacombs with secret passwords, far away from any mall apparel stores or beverage-sponsored music festivals….

Mostly rubbish, though I have heard many an old campaigner say as much, decrying Goth rock as a recent, devolution from more serious, avant-garde trends. Some amalgam of The Doors, Leonard Cohen, Nico and the Velvet Underground, The Damned, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and Hammer horror films, early goth rock went spare, atmospheric, and punky, like the early Cure, or baroque, morose, and cabaret like Bauhaus, or any other number of respectable art-rock directions.

These bands, many of my cohort believe, had integrity, and much better taste than kids today. All that get off my lawn-ness makes an easy target, as does the increasing popularity of a genre of music made for and by unpopular people.

Mix blog Secret Thirteen, curator of the goth rock mix above, admits as much. “Goth has never been an easy affair to discuss,” reads the mix intro in idiosyncratic English: “Kitschy atmosphere of massive contemporary goth festivals and stereotyping discourses usually overwhelmed the textural and emotional core of goth.” Contemporary perceptions, fair or not, obscure the diversity—stylistically, that is… of the music, with its “diverse elements including Dada movement, surrealist aesthetics, post-modernism, French ‘fin-de-siecle’ poetry, 19th century romanticism, punk, kraut, glam, shoegaze, ambient, folk, etc….”

Indeed, it’s all there, when a band with the abrasive low-camp, grindhouse punk of Nick Cave’s The Birthday Party shares a musical lineage with the early synthpop of Ministry (with DJ-scratching!) and the medieval- and world music-obsessed Dead Can Dance. But the key operator in these extremes is theatricality. Since Siouxsie Sioux’s fishnets and swastikas, Dave Vanian’s vampire costumes and pancake makeup, and Robert Smith’s enormous weeping willow hair and onstage mist-shrouded cathedrals of despair, goth has had to make overwrought spectacles of itself, at times horribly tacky ones.

But the Secret Thirteen mix, compiled by founder Justinas Mikulskis, reminds us it’s really about the music, by putting together “the deep cuts,” writes Electronic Beats, “none of this ‘Bela’s Lugosi’s Dead’ stuff” (referring to Bauhaus’ biggest hit).

Here instead we find “the boisterous deathrock of Mighty Sphincter, Specimen’s Batcave thrashiness, the artsy weirdness of Red Wedding and early 4AD stalwarts Mass.” It’s a very 80s mix, but unless you were digging deep in the crates of alternative record stores at the time, few names may be familiar. The Birthday Party shows up, and a band called Kommunity FK that had a very minor hit. Former Sex Pistol John Lydon’s Public Image Ltd. appears with their pounding rant “Religion II.” The Virgin Prunes also make the cut, number 42 in the mix—a very much overlooked, and very disturbing band, often only known for their childhood and family association with U2. Find a complete list of the tracks at the bottom of this page.

It is overall, I think, an excellent way to approach “goth”—or one definition of it—free from the wardrobe squabbles and generational condescension. The mix, writes Secret Thirteen, isn’t intended as “encyclopedic or anthological” in nature, but is “rather presented as a narrative with unexpected twists and turns showcasing a wide variety of elements, moods.” Sort of like a good story by Poe, or a good B horror movie.

via Electronic Beats

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

Three-Hour Mixtape Offers a Sonic Introduction to Underground Goth Music 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.

Hear Marc Maron’s Long Talk with Werner Herzog

Wed, 17 Aug 2016 - 12:30 am

Image by Erinc Salor and The Necessary Evil, via Wikimedia Commons

Heads up: In the latest episode of the WTF podcast, filmmaker Werner Herzog pays a visit to Marc Maron’s garage in Los Angeles, and they get into a wide-ranging conversation, talking about Herzog’s upbringing in war-torn Germany, his upcoming film projects and a good deal more. But inevitably they focus on Herzog’s new film, a meditation on the internet and technology called Lo And Behold: Reveries Of The Connected World, which opens in theaters this Friday. You can also watch it at home.

Feel free to stream Maron and Herzog’s conversation below. It starts around the 33:30 mark. Or hear it over at Maron’s website.

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Hear Marc Maron’s Long Talk with Werner Herzog 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.

33 Songs That Document the History of Feminist Punk (1975-2015): A Playlist Curated by Pitchfork

Tue, 16 Aug 2016 - 1:26 pm

Women have always been central to punk rock, even though they had to fight very hard to get and stay there. As veteran punk journalist and musician Vivien Goldman writes at Pitchfork, “Resistance to our existence was an acknowledged fact of life.” And yet, “punk freed female musicians,” she argues. She knows of what she speaks, having observed firsthand the “laddist boystown” of rock before punk broke barriers for women, and having been a part of that barrier-breaking herself. Goldstein’s essay introduces us to a playlist (stream it above) compiled by the Pitchfork staff called “The Story of Feminist Punk in 33 Songs,” which in a way acts as a critical complement to a recent publishing trend.

In the past few years, we’ve learned a lot about what central moments in punk looked like in memoirs from big names like Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, the Slits’ Viv Albertine, and Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein. In Girl in a Band: A Memoir, Gordon describes scraping by in the “postapocalyptic hell” of New York circa 1979; Albertine’s book shows us the “astonishing level of violence” the Slits faced on the streets of London around the same time; and Brownstein’s autobiography immerses us in the mid-90s Pacific Northwest scene and her band’s attempt to “expand the notion of what it means to be female.”

That’s not even to mention Patti Smith’s National Book Award-winning memoir or Kathleen Hanna’s public remembrances. The wave of press does risk obscuring something crucial, however; punk has always had its stars, but its primary appeal has been that anyone, no matter who, can do it, and all of the women above began in that spirit. Even if many of the women who left their stamp on early and later punk did not become famous, their fans remember them, as do the many thousands of people who heard them and then went out to start their own bands.

But the angle in Pitchfork’s compilation is not simply “women in punk.” Their 33-song playlist follows the specific thread of what they call “feminist punk,” meaning “songs that make their feminist messages clear—not just songs by punks who are feminists.” The rubric means that in addition to all of the artists mentioned above, and obscure bands like The Bags and The Brat, the all-male Fugazi get a mention for their song “Suggestion,” in which Ian MacKaye sings from a woman’s perspective about “the aggressive objectification of women’s bodies.” The song is a “tentpole for male feminism in punk,” and we can think of it as a kind of benign tokenism and an important moment for other male punk bands who followed suit in denouncing the patriarchy.

The playlist spans four decades, beginning with Patti Smith in 1975 and ending with Downtown Boys in 2015. The best-known artists happen to arrive in the late 70s and the mid-90s (Hanna makes the list thrice with three different bands). Not coincidentally, these are the moments—in England and the U.S.—when feminist punks made the most noise, and Goldman points out just how much the women in these eras had in common:

Because women’s contributions are so often hidden from herstory, when the riot grrrl movement began in America, those women were virtually unaware that their UK sisters had been fighting parallel battles two decades earlier. But the Americans were way better funded and organized than we had been, lurching through no-woman’s-land to make ourselves heard. It took awhile before Kurt Cobain championed the Raincoats and Sonic Youth bonded with the Slits.

Punk may be dead, or it may remain what Goldstein calls the “global music of rebellion.” Either way, Pitchfork’s playlist—with its critical commentary on each selection—offers young female artists making music in their bedrooms a sense of continuity with a long line of mostly DIY feminist punks who made “fissures and cracks, some crumbling walls” in the edifice of rock’s boy’s club. Goldman warns her target readers—who so clearly are those young bedroom guitarists, singers, producers, etc.—against complacency, but also leaves them with some clear, concise advice: “Where possible, please create a community with complementary skills. Nowadays, it often starts online. Still, try and find a way to actually, physically be with your new creative cohorts. Because nothing beats jamming with your sisters.”

See Pitchfork for the full, annotated playlist with Goldman’s introduction and hear the full playlist in order at the top of the post.

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

33 Songs That Document the History of Feminist Punk (1975-2015): A Playlist Curated by Pitchfork 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.

Oliver Sacks Explains the Biology of Hallucinations: “We See with the Eyes, But with the Brain as Well”

Tue, 16 Aug 2016 - 1:00 pm

We all understand that hallucination involves seeing things that aren’t really there, but what are hallucinations themselves? “They don’t seem to be of our creation. They don’t seem to be under our control. They seem to come from the outside, and to mimic perception.” Those words come from Oliver Sacks, who would know. We featured a short clip of him discussing what he learned from his personal experience with LSD and amphetamines back in 2012, when his book Hallucinations had just come out. He died almost exactly three years later — and therefore just under a year ago — leaving behind a body of work from which we all stand to gain much understanding of the workings of the brain, as illuminated by both its normal and abnormal states.

In this 2009 TED Talk on what hallucinations reveal about our minds, Sacks tells of his experiences with one patient, elderly and blind, who kept “seeing” visions of “people in Eastern dress, in drapes, walking up and down stairs.” Another, with limited eyesight, “ said she saw a man in a striped shirt in a restaurant. And he turned around. And then he divided into six figures in striped shirts, who started walking towards her. And then the six figures came together again, like a concertina.” Another, with a small tumor on the occipital cortex, “would see cartoons. These cartoons would be transparent and would cover half the visual field, like a screen. And especially she saw cartoons of Kermit the Frog.”

Sacks connects all this to something called Charles Bonnet syndrome, first described by the naturalist of that name in 1760. Bonnet’s grandfather, who’d had cataract surgery (and 18th-century cataract surgery at that), said he saw things like handkerchiefs and wheels floating in midair. These hallucinations work differently than psychotic ones, which “address you. They accuse you. They seduce you. They humiliate you. They jeer at you.” But Charles Bonnet syndrome produces an experience more like watching a film — a term Sacks’ patients could use to describe it, though obviously nobody could have in Bonnet’s day.

Bonnet, Sacks concludes, “wondered how, thinking about these hallucinations, as he put it, the theater of the mind could be generated by the machinery of the brain. Now, 250 years later, I think we’re beginning to glimpse how this is done.” Thanks to Sacks’ inspiration of succeeding generations of neuroscientific researchers, that glimpse of how we “see with the eyes, but with the brain as well” will only widen.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Oliver Sacks Explains the Biology of Hallucinations: “We See with the Eyes, But with the Brain as Well” 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.