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What Are the Most Stolen Books? Bookstore Lists Feature Works by Murakami, Bukowski, Burroughs, Vonnegut, Kerouac & Palahniuk

3 hours 19 min ago

In 1971, Abbie Hoffman published his countercultural how-to/”hip Boy Scout handbook,” Steal This Book. Since then, millions of people have queued up to pay for it. Did they misread the very clear instruction in the title? Or did most of Hoffman’s readers think of it as another Yippie hoax, not to be taken any more seriously than Pigasus, the 145-pound pig Hoffman and his merry band of pranksters nominated for president in 1968? Seems to me Hoffman was dead serious about the pig, and about his call for shoplifting, or “inventory shrink.”


Nevertheless, millions of people have needed no unambiguous prodding from the Andy Kaufman of political theater to steal millions of other books from shops worldwide, to the detriment of publishers and booksellers and the edification of penurious readers. The books most stolen from bookstores happen to also be those that might best appeal to the kind of radical anarcho-hippies Hoffman addressed, including Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and anything by Bukowski and Burroughs.

Also high on the list is Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, not a novel we necessarily associate with dumpster-divers and boxcar-hoppers, but one of many Murakamis book thieves have taken to lifting nonetheless. Kurt Vonnegut ranks highly, including his very popular Cat’s Cradle and Breakfast of Champions. Other favorite authors include hyper-masculine seers of societal decadence, Chuck Palahniuk and Brett Easton Ellis.

How do we know this? One source is simply an image, above, tweeted out by Vintage/Anchor Books—a photo of a “Most Stolen Books” shelf at an unnamed bookstore. We might assume whichever store it is has all the evidence it needs from a consistently shrinking inventory of these titles. And another major bookstore confirms much of the anonymous shelf above.

Melissa MacAulay at The Editing Company blog writes that during a part-time gig at Canadian giant Indigo books, Palahniuk’s Fight Club ended up behind the counter. Readers looking for a copy instead found “a small sign directing you to ‘please ask for assistance.’” In addition to Palahniuk, Indigo’s big three most stolen authors are Murakami, Kurt Vonnegut, and Bukowski, who tops out as the “reigning king of ‘Shoplift Lit.’”

In yet another “Most Stolen” list, blogger Candice Huber—inspired by Markus Zusak’s 2013 novel The Book Thiefundertook her own informal research and came up with similar results, with Bukowski and Burroughs in the top spot and Kerouac at number two. “All of the books listed,” notes Kottke, “are by men and most by ‘manly’ men” (whatever that means). See her list, with commentary, below.

Anything by Charles Bukowski or William S. Burroughs. Book sellers tend to keep books by these authors behind the counter because they get swiped so often.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac. If you notice a theme here, Bukowski, Burroughs, and Kerouac books all share, shall I put it bluntly, content of sex and drugs. It seems that those most likely to commit a reckless act (stealing) are also interested in reading about reckless acts.

Graphic Novels. The majority of book thieves are young, white males, and this is what they read.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Which was actually one of the most commonly stolen books long before the movie came out.

Various Selections from Ernest Hemingway, including A Moveable Feast and The Sun Also Rises.

Naked and Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. David Sedaris? Really?

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster. I wouldn’t have thought this was the stuff of the five-finger discount.

Steal this Book did not crack the top seven, though it did receive honorable mention, along with Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, and “anything by Martin Amis.” Having been a poor college student myself once (not that I lifted my books!), and having taught many a cash-strapped undergrad, I’d assume a good number of the missing Fitzgeralds and Hemingways left bookstores in the hands of thieves bearing syllabi.

A 2009 Guardian list gives us an entirely different image of British book thieves with a penchant for boxer Lenny McLean’s memoirs, Yolanda Celbridge’s “modern S&M classic” The Taming of Trudi, comic books Tintin and Asterix, Banksy’s coffee table book Wall and Piece, and Harry Potter. Hoffman comes in at number six.

When it comes to books stolen from libraries, on the other hand, Huber points out this dynamic: “library theft leans more toward the practical than the popular, whereas bookstore theft leans toward the popular.” The top seven here include expensive art books, The Bible, The Guinness Book of World Records, textbooks/reference books/exam prep books, and, naturally, books on university reading lists. Also, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and “other racy books/magazines”—many stolen, perhaps, to avoid the embarrassment of prying librarian eyes.

We do not assume that you, dear upstanding reader, have ever stolen a book, or anything else. And yet, did you find anything on these lists surprising? (I thought Henry Miller might make the cut….) What books would you expect to see stolen often that didn’t appear? What about a list of “most borrowed” (and maybe never returned) books from friends/acquaintances/family/roommates? Let us know your thoughts below.

via Vintage/Anchor/Kottke

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

What Are the Most Stolen Books? Bookstore Lists Feature Works by Murakami, Bukowski, Burroughs, Vonnegut, Kerouac & Palahniuk 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.

Was a 32,000-Year-Old Cave Painting the Earliest Form of Cinema?

7 hours 4 min ago

A few years ago, Werner Herzog’s acclaimed Cave of Forgotten Dreams pulled off an unlikely combination of technology and subject matter, using the latest in 3D cinema to capture the oldest known manmade images. But in the view of French archaeologist and filmmaker Marc Azéma, it must have made perfect sense as a kind of closing of a grand cultural loop. More than twenty years of research has made him see the kind of up to 32,000-year-old cave paintings shown in Herzog’s film as sequential images of man and beast, not just static ones — moving pictures, if you like — that emerge when arranged in a certain way.

Azéma’s short video “Sequential Animation: The First Paleolithic Animated Pictures” does that arranging for us, revealing how the early anatomical sketches found on the walls of caves in France and Portugal depict animal movement as the human artists perceived it. The connection to modern cinema, if you go through Eadweard Muybridge’s nineteenth-century studies of motion and then on to the products of the Lumière brothers’ early movie camera, looks clear indeed. Once we figured out how to satisfy our ages-long curiosity about how things move, we then, human ambition being what it is, had to find a way to turn the discovery toward artistic ends again.

“I don’t think it’s too much to call it an early form of cinema,” says Azéma in the segment from PRI’s The World embedded above. “It was the first grand form of communication, with an audience and pictures.” He points to the key concept of retinal persistence, or persistence of vision, “when you’ve got an image, then a successive image, and another image, and the retina follows what’s coming next,” which makes cinema possible in the first place — and which early man, who “had the need to get the images out of his brain and on the wall,” seems to have known something about. And what, we can hardly resist wondering, will cinema look like to the future generations who will regard even our biggest-budget 3D spectacles as, essentially, prehistoric cave paintings?

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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.

Was a 32,000-Year-Old Cave Painting the Earliest Form of Cinema? 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.

How Did Hitler Rise to Power? : New TED-ED Animation Provides a Case Study in How Fascists Get Democratically Elected

Mon, 25 Jul 2016 - 10:25 am

How does one rise to public office? In part, by flattering the sensibilities of those one seeks to serve.

Do you appeal to their higher nature, their sense of civic responsibility and interconnectness?

Or do you capitalize on pre-existing biases, stoking already simmering fears and resentments to the boiling point?

The world paid a ghastly price when Germany’s Chancellor and eventual Führer Adolf Hitler proved himself a master of the latter approach.

It seems like we’ve been hearing about Hitler’s rise to power a lot lately… and not in anticipation of the fast-approaching 80th anniversary of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

We must always resist the temptation to oversimplify history, especially when doing so serves our own ends. There are way too many contributing factors to Hitler’s ascendancy to squeeze into a five minute animation.

On the other hand, you can’t dump a ton of information on people’s heads and expect them to absorb it all in one sitting. You have to start somewhere.

TED-Ed lesson planners Alex Gendler and Anthony Hazard, in collaboration with the Uncle Ginger animation studio, offer a very cogent explanation of how “a tyrant who orchestrated one of the largest genocides in history” achieved such a calamitously powerful position. All in a democratic fashion.

When viewers have more than five minutes to devote to the subject, they can delve into additional resources and participate in discussions on the subject.

The video doesn’t touch on Hitler’s mental illness or the particulars of Weimar era political structures, but even viewers with limited historical context will walk away from it with an understanding that Hitler was a master at exploiting the German majority’s mood in the wake of WWI. (A 1933 census shows that Jews made up less than one percent of the total population.)

Hitler’s reputation as a charismatic speaker is difficult to accept, given hindsight, modern sensibilities, and the herky-jerky quality of archival footage. He seems unhinged. How could the crowds not see it?

Perhaps they could, Gendler and Hazard suggest. They just didn’t want to. Businessmen and intellectuals, wanting to back a winner, rationalized that his more monstrous rhetoric was “only for show.”

Quite an attention-getting show, as it turns out.

Could it happen again?  Gendler and Hazard, like all good educators, present students with the facts, then open the floor for discussion.

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

How Did Hitler Rise to Power? : New TED-ED Animation Provides a Case Study in How Fascists Get Democratically Elected 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.

Marina Abramović and Ulay’s Adventurous 1970s Performance Art Pieces

Mon, 25 Jul 2016 - 8:26 am

Marina Abramović, who in her over forty-year career has put herself through countless harrowing works of performance art — involving knives, fire, unprescribed medication, and arduously long periods of motionlessness — doesn’t do things by half measures. “Once you enter into the performance state,” she once said, “you can push your body to do things you absolutely could never normally do.” It makes sense that she would connect with people who think and feel similarly about the artistic potential of endurance (or the endurance potential of art), and no such connection has had as dramatic an impact on her career as that with her fellow performance artist Ulay.

After meeting in Amsterdam in 1976, Abramović and Ulay entered into a twelve-year romantic relationship and artistic collaboration that brought them together into what they for a time described as a “two-headed body.” In the form of this “collective, androgynous being,” says one blog devoted to Abramović’s work, they “questioned the socially defined identities of both femininity and masculinity, and encouraged viewers to participate through their own exploration of gender relationships.” At the top of the post, you can see a video of their 1977 piece Relation in Time, which shows a couple minutes of the sixteen hours they spent tied together by their hair, never moving. The video just above shows a few moments of that same year’s Imponderabilia, in which they nakedly formed a narrow human corridor through which every audience member wanting to enter the gallery must pass.

“‘We are kneeling face to face, pressing our mouths together,” say Abramović and Ulay by way of introduction to Breathing In/Breathing Out. “Our noses are blocked with cigarette filters.” This piece, which they also put on in their evidently productive year of 1977, had them passing one another’s breath back and forth, breathing nothing else, for as long as they found humanly possible. The following year’s AAA AAArather than beginning with mouth-to-mouth contact, culminates in it: “Abramović and Ulay stand opposite of each other and make long sounds with their mouths open. Gradually, they move closer and closer to one another, until eventually they are yelling directly into each other’s open mouths” in an “exploration of aggression between physically present figures.”

Back in 2013, we featured a clip of Abramović’s The Artist Is Present, a much-publicized 2010 piece in which, for a total of 736 and a half hours, she sat silently in the atrium of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, opposite a chair in which anyone who cared to could sit across from her. 1,545 people, some having stood in line overnight, seized the opportunity, one of the earliest participants being Ulay himself. Alas, things have since soured. Ulay and Abramović have had a contract meant, according to The Guardian‘s Noah Charney, “to manage their joint oeuvre.” It’s owned by Abramović with 20 percent of the profits for all “saleable work” derived from it going to Ulay. But last year, suspecting that the former other half of the “collective, androgynous being” has violated that contract and “is trying to write him out of art history,” Ulay mounted the ultimate endurance test: a lawsuit.

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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.

Marina Abramović and Ulay’s Adventurous 1970s Performance Art Pieces 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.

Allen Ginsberg Teaches You How to Meditate with a Rock Song Featuring Bob Dylan on Bass

Mon, 25 Jul 2016 - 4:30 am

Image via Elisa Dorman, Wikimedia Commons

Whatever other criteria we use to lump them together—shared aims of psychedelic consciousness-expanding through drugs and Eastern religion, frank explorations of alternative sexualities, anti-establishment cred—the Beats were each in their own way true to the name in one very simple way: they all collaborated with musicians, wrote song or poems as songs, and saw literature as a public, performative art form like music.

And though I suppose one could call some of their forays into recorded music gimmicky at times, I can’t imagine Jack Kerouac’s career making a whole lot of sense without Bebop, or Burroughs’ without psychedelic rock and tape and noise experimentation, or Ginsberg’ without… well, Ginsberg got into a little bit of everything, didn’t he? Whether writing calypsos about the CIA, performing and recording with The Clash, showing up on MTV with Philip Glass and Paul McCartney…. He never worked with Kanye, but I imagine he probably would have.

For each of these artists, the medium delivered a message. Kerouac’s odes to jazz, loneliness, and wanderlust; Burroughs’ dark, paranoid prophecies about government control; and Ginsberg’s anti-war jeremiads and insistent pleas for peace, freedom, tolerance, and enlightenment. Ever the trickster and teacher, Ginsberg often used humor to disarm his audience, then went in for the kill, so to speak. We may find no more pointed an example of this comedic pedagogy than his 1981 song, “Do the Meditation Rock,” recorded in 1982 as a shambling folk-rock jam above with guitarist Steven Taylor, and members of Bob Dylan’s touring band—including Dylan himself making a rare appearance on bass.


As the story goes, according to Hank Shteamer at Rolling Stone, Ginsberg was in Los Angeles and “eager to book some studio time. Dylan obliged, and agreed to foot the bill for the studio costs on the condition that Ginsberg would pay the musicians. The two met at Dylan’s Santa Monica studio and, as Taylor remembers it, jammed for 10 hours.” Many more recordings from that session made it onto the recently released The Last World on First Blues, which also includes contributions from Jack Kerouac’s musical partner David Amram, folk legend Happy Traum, and experimental cellist, singer, and disco producer Arthur Russell.

See Ginsberg, Taylor, Russell, and Ginsberg’s partner Peter Orlovsky (meditating), perform the song above on a PBS special called “Good Morning, Mr. Orwell,” created in 1984 by Korean video artist Naim June Paik. As Ginsberg explains it in the liner notes to his collection Holy Soul, Jelly Roll, the song came together after his own meditation training in the late seventies, when the poet got the okay from his Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (founder of Naropa University) to “show basic meditation in his traditional classrooms or groups at poetry readings”—his goal, he says, to “knock all the poets out with sugar-coated dharma.”

Christmas Eve, I stopped in the middle of the block at a stoop and wrote the words down, notebook on my knee. I figured that if anyone listened to the words, they’d find complete instructions for classical sitting practice, Samatha-Vipassana (“Quieting the mind and clear seeing”). Some humor in the form, it doesn’t have to be taken over-seriously, yet it’s precise.

You may have noticed the familiar cadence of the chorus; it’s a take-off, he says, on “I Fought the Law,” recorded in 1977 by his soon-to-be musical partners, The Clash. In the live version below at New York’s Ukranian National Home, the song gets a more stripped-down, punk rock treatment with Tom Rogers on guitar. Like many a wandering bard, Ginsberg changes and adapts the lyrics slightly to the venue and occasion. See the Allen Ginsberg Project for several published versions of the lyrics and his changes in this rendition.

Apart from the basic meditation instructions, which are easy to follow in writing and song, Ginsberg’s “Do the Meditation Rock” had another message, specific to his understanding of the power of meditation; it can change the world, in spite of “a holocaust” or “Apocalypse in a long red car.” As Ginsberg speak/sings, “If you sit for an hour or a minute every day / you can tell the Superpower, sit the same way / you can tell the Superpower, watch and wait.” No matter how bad things seem, he says, “it’s never too late to stop and meditate.” Hear another recorded version of the song below from Holy Soul, Jelly Roll, recorded live in Kansas City by William S. Burroughs in 1989.

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

Allen Ginsberg Teaches You How to Meditate with a Rock Song Featuring Bob Dylan on Bass 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 Maggie Gyllenhaal Read the Opening Lines of Anna Karenina: The Beginning of a 36-Hour, New Audio Book

Sun, 24 Jul 2016 - 9:00 pm

Back in 2007, J. Peder Zane asked 125 top writers–everyone from Stephen King and Jonathan Franzen, to Claire Messud, Annie Proulx, and Michael Chabon–to name their favorite 10 books of all time. Zane then published each author’s list in his edited collection, The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite BooksAnd he capped it off with one meta list, “The Top Top Ten.”  When you boil 125 lists down to one, it turns out [SPOILER ALERT] that Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is the very best of the best. If you’ve read the novel, you’ll likely understand the pick. If you haven’t, you’re missing out.

Above, you can hear actress Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight, The Honourable Woman, etc.) read the opening lines of Anna Karenina, which famously begins “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Gyllenhaal spent 120 hours in the studio, making a recording that runs close to 36 hours in total. A lot more than she originally bargained for. Although available for purchase online, you can download the reading for free if you sign up for a 30-Day Free Trial with Audible. We have more information on that program here.

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Hear Maggie Gyllenhaal Read the Opening Lines of Anna Karenina: The Beginning of a 36-Hour, New Audio Book 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 Albert Camus Read the Famous Opening Passage of The Stranger (1947)

Fri, 22 Jul 2016 - 12:50 pm

It is closing-time in the gardens of the West and from now on an artist will be judged only by the resonance of his solitude or the quality of his despair –Cyril Connolly

My mind has been drawn to lately Albert Camus’ The Stranger, in which an alienated French-Algerian man, simply called Meursault, shoots a nameless “Arab,” for no particular reason that he can divine. He thinks, perhaps, it may have been the sun in his eyes. Meursault is not a police officer, he has not been called to a scene. He ambles into a scene, sees a stranger coming toward him, and fires five shots, commenting—in language that recalls the impersonal copspeak of a “discharged weapon”—that “the trigger gave.”

The import of Camus’ 1942 novel—translated as The Outsider in the first British edition, with its introduction by despairing literary critic Cyril Connolly—became such a hobby horse for critics that Louis Hudon wrote in 1960, “L’Etranger no longer exists…. Almost everyone has approached Camus and L’Etranger bound by his own tradition, prejudices, or critical apparatus.” But maybe we cannot do otherwise. Maybe there is never the “magnificently naked purity of the text” Hudon eulogizes.

Part of the difficulty, Hudon alleged, was down to Camus himself, who made available his journals and manuscripts, thus encouraging over-interpretation. In 1955, Camus remarked, “I summarized The Stranger a long time ago, with a remark I admit was highly paradoxical: ‘In our society any man who does not weep at his mother’s funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death.’” The book has been read and taught in light of this general statement ever since.

Recent commentary on The Stranger in English has turned, almost obsessively, on the translation of the novel’s first sentence: Aujourd’hui, maman est morte. Typically, as in that first British edition, the line has been rendered “Mother died today”—using a “static, archetypal term… like calling the family dog ‘Dog’ or a husband ‘Husband,’” writes Ryan Bloom in The New Yorker. For decades, Anglophone readers have come to know Meursault “through the detached formality of his statement.”

Perhaps if translators were to leave the word in its original French—maman—which connotes something between the formal “Mother” and childish “Mommy”—we would see Meursault differently. (French-speaking readers, of course, are not faced with this particular interpretive challenge.) But whether or not it makes a difference, and no matter how we have imagined Meursault’s internal voice, we can hear it the way Camus heard it, in the audio above from 1947, in which the author reads the opening section of the novel in French. (See the French passage and English translation at the bottom of the post.)

Does it matter whether we translate maman as “Mother” or leave it be? “Mommy” may be inappropriate, and while “mom” might “seem the closest fit… there’s still something off-putting and abrupt about the single-syllable word.” (Some translations have opted for the equally jarring, one-syllable “Ma.”) If the debate seems agonizingly scholastic, keep in mind that Meursault’s fate, his very life, as Camus remarked, turns on whether a jury views him as a sympathetic fellow human or a psychopath, based on exactly this kind of scrutiny.

But what of the murder? The murder victim? A man who is given no name, no history, no family, and no funeral that we see. Leaving maman in French, writes Bloom, serves another purpose—reminding readers “that they are in fact entering a world different from their own”—that of Camus’ native colonial French Algeria. (Though in some ways not so different.) Here, “the likelihood of a Frenchman in colonial Algeria getting the death penalty for killing an armed Arab was slim to nonexistent.” This historical context is often elided.

Many of us were taught that the murder is all of a piece with Meursault’s callous detachment from the world. But that interpretation itself betrays a profound callousness, one that takes for granted Meursault’s objectification of the faceless “Arab.” Absent in such a reading is the fact that Meursault is “a citizen of France domiciled in North Africa,” as Connolly writes, “an homme du midi yet one who hardly partakes of the traditional Mediterranean culture” …a colonist, who, because of his race and nationality, has likely been taught to view the Algerian “Arabs” as sub-human, other, outside, strange, undifferentiated, an enemy….

The shooting is a reflex born of that training. Why does he do it? He doesn’t know.

The freshest response to Camus’ novel happens to be a novel itself, Algerian writer Kamel Daoud’s 2013 The Meursault Investigation, narrated by “the Arab”’s younger brother, Harun, who notes that in Camus’ book “the world ‘Arab’ appears twenty-five times, but not a single name, not once.” Here, writes Claire Messud in her review, “Harun wants his listener to understand that the dead man had a name [“Musa”] and a family.” In his metafictional commentary, Harun ruminates: “Just think, we’re talking about one of the most read books in the world. My brother might have been famous if your author had merely deigned to give him a name.”

Daoud’s novel does not exist to upbraid Camus or supplant The Stranger but to humanize the figure of “the Arab,” tell the complicated stories of Algerian identity, and ask some very Camus-inspired questions about the morality of killing. Perhaps, as the consideration of maman suggests to us English readers, Meursault is not a sociopath, or an emotional vacuum, or a symbol of the amoral absurd, but a person who had a certain vague fondness for his mother, just not in the falsely sentimental way his judges would like. This is what we often take away from the novel—Meursault’s condemnation of a social order that insists on an inauthentic performance of humanity. Perhaps also Meursault’s seemingly senseless, casual murder of “the Arab” is not an outcome of his existential emptiness but a reflexively ordinary act that makes him more like his peers than we would like to admit.

Here’s the full text, in French and English, that Camus reads:

Aujourd’hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas. J’ai reçu un télégramme de l’asile : « Mère décédée. Enterrement demain. Sentiments distingués. » Cela ne veut rien dire. C’était peut-être hier. (See full text below)

L’asile de vieillards est à Marengo, à quatre-vingts kilomètres d’Alger. Je prendrai l’autobus à deux heures et j’arriverai dans l’après-midi. Ainsi, je pourrai veiller et je rentrerai demain soir. J’ai demandé deux jours de congé à mon patron et il ne pouvait pas me les refuser avec une excuse pareille. Mais il n’avait pas l’air content. Je lui ai même dit : « Ce n’est pas de ma faute. » Il n’a pas répondu. J’ai pensé alors que je n’aurais pas dû lui dire cela. En somme, je n’avais pas à m’excuser. C’était plutôt à lui de me présenter ses condoléances. Mais il le fera sans doute après-demain, quand il me verra en deuil. Pour le moment, c’est un peu comme si maman n’était pas morte. Après l’enterrement, au contraire, ce sera une affaire classée et tout aura revêtu une allure plus officielle.

J’ai pris l’autobus à deux heures. Il faisait très chaud. J’ai mangé au restaurant, chez Céleste, comme d’habitude. Ils avaient tous beaucoup de peine pour moi et Céleste m’a dit : « On n’a qu’une mère. » Quand je suis parti, ils m’ont accompagné à la porte. J’étais un peu étourdi parce qu’il a fallu que je monte chez Emmanuel pour lui emprunter une cravate noire et un brassard. Il a perdu son oncle, il y a quelques mois.

J’ai couru pour ne pas manquer le départ. Cette hâte, cette course, c’est à cause de tout cela sans doute, ajouté aux cahots, à l’odeur d’essence, à la réverbération de la route et du ciel, que je me suis assoupi. J’ai dormi pendant presque tout le trajet. Et – 5 – quand je me suis réveillé, j’étais tassé contre un militaire qui m’a souri et qui m’a demandé si je venais de loin. J’ai dit « oui » pour n’avoir plus à parler.

 

MOTHER died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure. The telegram from the Home says: YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY. FUNERAL TOMORROW. DEEP SYMPATHY. Which leaves the matter doubtful; it could have been yesterday.

The Home for Aged Persons is at Marengo, some fifty miles from Algiers. With the two o’clock bus I should get there well before nightfall. Then I can spend the night there, keeping the usual vigil beside the body, and be back here by tomorrow evening. I have fixed up with my employer for two days’ leave; obviously, under the circumstances, he couldn’t refuse. Still, I had an idea he looked annoyed, and I said, without thinking: “Sorry, sir, but it’s not my fault, you know.”

Afterwards it struck me I needn’t have said that. I had no reason to excuse myself; it was up to him to express his sympathy and so forth. Probably he will do so the day after tomorrow, when he sees me in black. For the present, it’s almost as if Mother weren’t really dead. The funeral will bring it home to me, put an official seal on it, so to speak. …

I took the two-o’clock bus. It was a blazing hot afternoon. I’d lunched, as usual, at Céleste’s restaurant. Everyone was most kind, and Céleste said to me, “There’s no one like a mother.” When I left they came with me to the door. It was something of a rush, getting away, as at the last moment I had to call in at Emmanuel’s place to borrow his black tie and mourning band. He lost his uncle a few months ago.

I had to run to catch the bus. I suppose it was my hurrying like that, what with the glare off the road and from the sky, the reek of gasoline, and the jolts, that made me feel so drowsy. Anyhow, I slept most of the way. When I woke I was leaning against a soldier; he grinned and asked me if I’d come from a long way off, and I just nodded, to cut things short. I wasn’t in a mood for talking.

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

Hear Albert Camus Read the Famous Opening Passage of The Stranger (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.

Stanley Kubrick’s Daughter Vivian Debunks the Age-Old Moon Landing Conspiracy Theory

Fri, 22 Jul 2016 - 8:26 am

All moon-landing conspiracy theorists refuse to believe that the United States landed on that much-mythologized rock 250,00 miles away in 1969. As to why the rest of us believe that it did happen, moon-landing conspiracy theorists vary in the specifics of their stories. Perhaps the most interesting element of the lore — interesting to cinephiles, at least — holds that Stanley Kubrick, fresh off the production of 2001: A Space Odyssey, secretly shot the landing video seen across America in a studio, later cashing in on the favor by borrowing one of NASA’s custom-made Zeiss lenses to shoot 1975’s Barry Lyndon.

Kubrick died in 1999, and so can’t clear up the matter himself, unless you believe the “confession” video that circulated last year, convincing nobody but the already-convinced. But his daughter Vivian took to Twitter just this month to put the matter to rest herself, embedding an impassioned defense of her father’s integrity (and an encouragement to focus on the more plausible abuses of power quite possibly going on right this moment) that goes way beyond 140 characters:

“Vivian Kubrick worked on the set of The Shining with her father where she shot a behind-the-scenes making-of documentary about the film,” adds Variety‘s Lamarco McClendon. “Theorists have purported [Stanley] even used the film to admit to shooting the hoax by leaving behind clues. One such clue was Danny Lloyd wearing an Apollo 11 sweater.” The Shining has given rise to a fair few theories, conspiracy and otherwise, of its own, proving that Kubrick fans can get obsessive, watching and re-watching his work while seeking out symbols and patterns, seeing connections and drawing conclusions by building elaborate interpretive structures atop thin evidence. Come to think of it, you’d think they and the moon-landing conspiracy theorists would have a lot to talk about.

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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.

Stanley Kubrick’s Daughter Vivian Debunks the Age-Old Moon Landing Conspiracy Theory 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.

In Touching Video, People with Alzheimer’s Tell Us Which Memories They Never Want to Forget

Fri, 22 Jul 2016 - 1:00 am

Director Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s 1999 film Afterlife tasks its recently deceased characters with choosing a single memory to take with them, as they move into the great unknown.

The subjects of “On Memory,” above, are all very much alive, but they too, have great cause to sift through a lifetime’s worth of memories. All have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. They range in age from 48 to 70. Two have been living with their diagnoses for six years. The baby of the group received hers just last year.

Those who have no personal connection to Alzheimer’s are likely to have a clearer picture of the disease’s advanced stage than its early presentation. A few minutes with Myriam Marquez, Lon Cole, Frances Smersh, Irene Japha, Nancy Johnson, and Bob Wellington should remedy that.

All six are able to recall and describe the significant events of their youth. At the interviewer’s request, they reflect on the pain of losing beloved parents and the pleasure of first kisses. Their powers of sensory recall bring back their earliest memories, including what the weather was like that day.

The recent past? Much hazier. At present, these individuals’ mild cognitive impairment resemble benign age-related memory slips quite closely. Their diagnoses are what lends urgency to their answers. The prospect of forgetting children and spouse’s names is very real to them.

Knowledge of the interviewees’ diagnoses can’t but help sharpen viewers’ eyes for distinct facial expressions, speech patterns, and individual temperaments. They share a common diagnosis, but for now, there’s no difficulty distinguishing between the six unique personalities, each informed by a wealth of experience.

The video is a step up for viral video producer Cut, creator of such internet sensations as the Truth or Drink series and Grandmas Smoking Weed for the First Time. This video, which directs viewers to the Alzheimer’s Association for more information, deserves an even wider audience.

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

In Touching Video, People with Alzheimer’s Tell Us Which Memories They Never Want to Forget 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.

If Coffee Commercials Told the Unvarnished Truth

Fri, 22 Jul 2016 - 12:44 am

A new comedy video from Cracked makes a fair point: there’s a lot of bullshit that goes into the marketing of coffee nowadays. Slap the words “organic” and “fair trade” on the product, and everyone feels pretty good about keeping their caffeine addictions going. Several years ago, Slovenian theorist Slavoj Žižek took a closer look at this phenomenon and drew some interesting conclusions about how, within contemporary capitalism, companies like Starbucks have reworked Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic, and found new ways to square our economic and spiritual lives. Starbucks has made it, Žižek notes, so that when we enter their stores, we’re not just buying coffee and being consumers. Rather, we’re buying fair trade and eco-friendly coffee, participating in charitable work, and leaving with a sense of redemption. The animated video is worth a look.

And lest you think marketing coffee has always been a sunny affair, let me turn your attention to this post in our archive: Men In Commercials Being Jerks About Coffee: A Mashup of 1950s & 1960s TV Ads.

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If Coffee Commercials Told the Unvarnished Truth 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.

Marie Curie Attended a Secret, Underground “Flying University” When Women Were Banned from Polish Universities

Thu, 21 Jul 2016 - 1:45 pm

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Marie Curie has long stood in the pantheon of scientists for her research on radioactivity — research so close to the subject that, as we posted about last year, her papers remain radioactive over a century later. She’s also become the most prominent historical role model for female students with an interest in science, not least because of the obstacles she had to surmount to arrive at the position where she could do her research in the first place. Born in 19th-century Poland to a family financially humbled by their participation in political struggles for independence from Russia (whose authorities took laboratory instruction out of the country’s schools), she hardly had a smooth road to follow, or even much of a road at all.

“I was only fifteen when I finished my high-school studies, always having held first rank in my class,” Curie wrote of those years. “The fatigue of growth and study compelled me to take almost a year’s rest in the country.” But when she returned to the capital, she couldn’t continue her formal learning there, given the University of Warsaw‘s refusal to admit women. So she continued her learning informally, getting involved with the “Flying University” (or “Floating University”) that in the late 19th and early 20th century clandestinely offered an education in ever-changing locations, often private houses, throughout the city. (Over 5,000 Poles, male and female, benefited from its services, including the writer Zofia Nałkowska and doctor Janusz Korczak.)

Marie Curie and the Science of Radioactivity author Naomi Pasachoff writes that “the mission of the patriotic participants of the Floating University,” as its name is also translated, “was to bring about Poland’s eventual freedom by enlarging and strengthening its educated classes.” Youngsters eager to read more about Curie’s experience there might like to read Marie Curie and the Discovery of Radium, whose authors Ann E. Steinke and Roger Xavier write of Curie’s experience listening to “lessons on anatomy, natural history, and sociology. In turn she gave lessons to women from poor families.” She would later describe her time there as the origin of her interest in experimental scientific work.

With their sights set on Western Europe, Curie (then Maria Skłodowska) and her sister Bronislawa (known as Bronya) made a pact: “Maria would work as a governess to help pay for Bronya’s medical studies in Paris. As soon as Bronya was trained and began to earn money, she would help cover the costs of Maria’s university training.” Curie earned two degrees in Paris in 1893 and 1894, and her first Nobel Prize in 1903. The Flying University lasted until 1905, and the operation would later return to activity in the late 1970s and early 80s with Poland under the thumb of communism. We now live in more enlightened times, with proper educations, scientific or otherwise, available to students male or female across most of the world — thanks to the will that drove unconventional institutions like the Flying University, and its unconventional students like Marie Curie.

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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.

Marie Curie Attended a Secret, Underground “Flying University” When Women Were Banned from Polish Universities 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.

Wonderfully Offbeat Assignments That Artist John Baldessari Gave to His Art Students (1970)

Thu, 21 Jul 2016 - 10:40 am

In 1970, when conceptual artist John Baldessari was teaching studio art at the experimental CalArts campus near Valencia, CA, the assignments he handed out to his class were art in themselves. Humorous, confounding, sometimes very specific but often like zen koans, the assignments must have come as a shock, especially to those students with a more traditional sense of what constitutes art.

They probably didn’t know that Baldessari was questioning art itself and in the middle of a crisis. That year he had taken all his previous painted work from 1953 – 1966 and cremated it at a San Diego mortuary. He turned from painting to photography. And he expected his students to rethink everything they thought they knew.

Looking back at his class assignments, which you can see here, here, and here, it’s like seeing the seeds of ideas that were to be turned into whole careers by the likes of Cindy Sherman, Wayne White, Komar & Melamid, and others.

Here’s a selection of favorites:

  1. One person copies or makes up random captions. Another person takes photos. Match photos to captions.
  2. Defenestrate objects. Photo them in mid-air.
  3. Photograph backs of things, underneaths of things, extreme foreshortenings, uncharacteristic views. Or trace them.
  4. Repaired or patched art. Recycled. Find something broken and discarded. Perhaps in a thrift store. Mend it.
  5. Imitate Baldessari in actions and speech.
  6. Punishment: Write “I will not make any more art” / “I will not make any more boring art” / “I will make good art” (or something similar) 1000 times on wall. (Apparently, Baldessari punished himself.)

Some of these assignments are intentionally silly. Some could produce good work. But all are meant to wake the artist up to the possibilities of the form.

via Austin Kleon/CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art

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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.

Wonderfully Offbeat Assignments That Artist John Baldessari Gave to His Art Students (1970) 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 Beatles “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” Gets a Dreamy New Music Video from Cirque du Soleil

Thu, 21 Jul 2016 - 8:26 am

The Beatles gave us enough. You couldn’t ask for more. But if you want to get a little greedy, you could ask for a few more songs from George. Though crowded out by the prolific Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership, Harrison squeezed in some Beatles songs that rival their best. Shall I refresh your memories?  “Taxman.” “I Want to Tell You.” “It’s All Too Much.” “Something.” “Here Comes the Sun.” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” You owe them all to George.

Written in 1968 for The White Album, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is ranked #136 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list, “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Clapton played the solo on the original recording–the same solo Prince shredded at the 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. And it’s perhaps partly thanks to that Prince performance, witnessed so widely when the musician passed earlier this year, that we now have this: a new video paying tribute to “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” featuring scenes from LOVE, Cirque du Soleil’s mesmerizing Beatles production that’s been running in Las Vegas since 2006. If you like the beautiful LOVE soundtrack, you’ll enjoy the remixed version of Harrison’s song and all of the dreamy Cirque du Soleil visuals that accompany it above.

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The Beatles “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” Gets a Dreamy New Music Video from Cirque du Soleil 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.

Octavia Butler’s 1998 Dystopian Novel Features a Fascistic Presidential Candidate Who Promises to “Make America Great Again”

Thu, 21 Jul 2016 - 1:09 am

Image by Nikolas Coukouma, via Wikimedia Commons

The Internet has been abuzz and atwitter these past few months with stories about prophetic predictions of the rise of Trump, buried in ancient texts like Back to the Future II, and an episode of The Simpsons from 2000. Then there’s Mike Judge’s now ten-year-old satire Idiocracy. While not specifically modeled after a Trump presidency, its depiction of the country as a violent, backward dystopia, armed and corporate-branded to the teeth, sure does resemble the kind of place many imagine Trump and his supporters might build. These allusions and direct references don’t necessarily provide evidence of the writers’ clairvoyance; after all, Trump has threatened us with his candidacy since 1988, with mostly unserious statements. But they do show us that we’ve seen this version of the future coming for the last thirty years or so.

One prediction you may have missed, however, offers us a much more sober take on the rise of a frightening neo-fascist during a time of fear and civil unrest. As Twitter user @oligopistos pointed out, in the second book of her Earthseed series, The Parable of the Talents (1998), Hugo and Nebula-award winning science fiction writer Octavia Butler gave us Senator Andrew Steele Jarret, a violent autocrat in the year 2032 whose “supporters have been known… to form mobs.” Jarret’s political opponent, Vice President Edward Jay Smith, “calls him a demagogue, a rabble-rouser, and a hypocrite,” and—most presciently—Jarret rallies his crowds with the call to “make America great again.”


Though Trump has trademarked it, the slogan did not originate with him, nor even with Butler’s Jarret character—the 1980 Reagan-Bush campaign used it, as Matt Taibbi pointed out Rolling Stone last year. (Historians have even shown that another of Trump’s slogans, “America First,” was used by Charles Lindbergh and “Nazi-friendly Americans in the 1930s.”) Again, proto-Trumpism has been in the zeitgeist for a long time. While Butler may have used “Make American Great Again” from her memory of Reagan’s first campaign, the way her character employs it speaks to our moment for a number of reasons.

It’s true that Senator Jarret differs from Trump in some significant ways: “Jarret’s beef is with Canada instead of Mexico,” writes Fusion, and “instead of business acumen as his main credential, religion is Jarret’s stump. He’s the head of a group called Christian America, which is intolerant of other religious views, and whose supporters burn ‘witches’—meaning Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists—at the stake.” Our current candidate may have co-opted the religious right, but he doesn’t speak their language at all. Nonetheless, he has made promises that give secularists and non-Christians chills, and religious intolerance has formed the backbone of his campaign and of the rhetoric that has driven his party to the far right.

Jarret and the fanaticism he inspires form the core of the novel’s story, but the crucial background in Butler’s 1998 depiction of a post-apocalyptic 2032 are the conditions she identifies as giving rise to the Senator’s rule (and which she described in the first book, Parable of the Sower). In Talents, the narrator’s father Taylor Franklin Bankole writes,

I have read that the period of upheaval that journalists have begun to refer to as “the Apocalypse” or more commonly, more bitterly, “the Pox” lasted from 2015 through 2030—a decade and a half of chaos…. I have also read that the Pox was caused by accidentally coinciding climatic, economic, and sociological crises. It would be more honest to say that the Pox was caused by our own refusal to deal with obvious problems in those areas. We caused the problems: then we sat and watched as they grew into crises.

In Butler’s fiction, the rise of Senator Jarret and his mobs is an outcome of the same kinds of impending crises we face now, and that far too many of our leaders dutifully ignore as they stage increasingly acrimonious and bizarre forms of political theater. Butler’s indirect warning to us in Parable of the Talents may be less about the demagogic leader and his cult—though they pose the most dire existential threat in the book—than about the causes and conditions that created “the Pox,” the kind of social collapse that Kurt Vonnegut warned of ten years before Butler in his time-capsule letter to the people of 2088, vaguely identifying similar kinds of “climatic, economic, and sociological” crises to come. Would that we could abandon empty spectacle and heed these Cassandras of the near future.

via The Huffington Post

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

Octavia Butler’s 1998 Dystopian Novel Features a Fascistic Presidential Candidate Who Promises to “Make America Great Again” 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.

Portraits of Ellis Island Immigrants Arriving on America’s Welcoming Shores Circa 1907

Wed, 20 Jul 2016 - 1:22 pm

The shibboleths of our political culture have trended lately toward the loathesome, crude, and completely specious to such a degree that at least one prominent columnist has summed up the ongoing spectacle in Cleveland as “grotesquerie… on a level unique in the history of our republic.” It’s impossible to quantify such a thing, but the sentiment feels accurate in the fervor of the moment. We’ll hear a torrent of well-worn counter-clichés at the other party’s big convention, and one of them that’s sure to come up again and again is the phrase “nation of immigrants.” The U.S., we’re told over and over, is a “nation of immigrants.” And it is. Or has become so, though the term “immigrant” is not an uncomplicated one, as we’ve seen in the EU’s struggle to parse “refugees” from “economic migrants.”

The U.S. is also a nation of indigenous people and former slaves, indentured servants, and settler colonists, all very different histories—and academic historians are careful not to blur the categories, even if politicians, ordinary citizens, and textbook publishers often do. Yet rhetoric about who owns the country, and who gets to “take it back,” clouds every issue—it belongs to everyone and no one, or as Wallace Stevens put it, “this is everybody’s world.”

But when we talk about the history of immigration, we usually talk about a specific history dating from the mid-19th to early-20th century, during which diverse groups of people arrived from all over the world, bringing with them their languages, customs, food, and cultures, and only slowly becoming “Americans” as they naturalized and assimilated to various degrees, forcibly or otherwise. We also talk about a legal history that proscribed certain kinds of people and created hierarchies of desirable and undesirable immigrants with respect to ethnic and national origin and economic status.

Millions of the people who arrived during the peak of U.S. immigration passed through the immigration inspection station at New York’s Ellis Island, which operated between the years 1882 and 1954. The individuals and families who spent any time there were working people and peasants. Among new arrivals, “the first and second class passengers were considered wealthy enough,” writes The Public Domain Review, “not to become a burden to the state and were examined onboard the ships while the poorer passengers were sent to the island where they underwent medical examinations and legal inspections.”

Many of these individuals also sat for portraits taken by the Chief Registry Clerk Augustus Sherman while “waiting for money, travel tickets or someone to come and collect them from the island.” Sherman’s camera captured striking images like the poised Guadeloupean woman in profile at the top, the defiant German stowaway below her, stern Danish man further down, Algerian man and Italian woman above, and severe-looking trio of Dutch women and Georgian man below.

These photographs date from before 1907, which was the busiest year for Ellis Island, “with an all-time high of 11,747 immigrants arriving in April.” About two percent of immigrants at the time were denied entry because of disease, insanity, or a criminal background. That percentage of people turned away rose in the following decade, and the diversity of people coming to the country narrowed significantly in the 1920s, until the 1924 immigration act imposed strict quotas, “as immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe were seen as inferior to the earlier immigrants from Northern and Western Europe” and those from outside the European continent were limited to a tiny fraction of the almost 165,000 allowed that year.

“Following the Red Scare of 1919,” writes the Densho Encyclopedia, “widespread fear of radicalism fueled anti-foreign sentiment and exclusionist demands. Supporters of immigration legislation stressed recurring themes: Anglo-Saxon superiority and foreigners as threats to jobs and wages.” Not coincidentally, during this time the country also saw the resurgence of the Klu Klux Klan, which—notes PBS—“moved in many states to dominate local and state politics.” It was a time that very much resembled our own, sadly, as fanatical nativism and white supremacy became dominant strains in the political discourse, accompanied by much fearmongering, demagoguery, and violence. (It was also in the teens and twenties that the idea of a superior “Western Civilization” was invented.)

The portraits above were published in National Geographic and “hung on the walls of the lower Manhattan headquarters of the federal Immigration Service” in 1907, before the hysteria began. They show us the human face of an abstract phenomenon far too often used as an epithet or catch-all scare word rather than a fact of human existence since humans have existed. Becoming acquainted with the history of immigration in the U.S. allows us to see how we have handled it well in the past, and how we have handled it badly, and the photographic evidence preserves the dignity of the various individual people from all over the world who were lumped together collectively—as they are today—with the loaded word “immigrant.”

These images come from the New York Public Library’s online archive of Ellis Island Photographs, which contains 89 photos in all, including several exterior and interior shots of the island’s facilities and many more portraits of arriving people. We’re grateful to the Public Domain Review (who have a fascinating new book on Nitrous Oxide coming out) for bringing these to our attention. For more of the NYPL’s huge repository of historical photographs, see their Flickr gallery of over 2,500 photos or full digital photography collection of over 180,000 images.

via The Public Domain Review

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

Portraits of Ellis Island Immigrants Arriving on America’s Welcoming Shores Circa 1907 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 Largest Ever Tribute to Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” Choreographed by a Flashmob in Berlin

Wed, 20 Jul 2016 - 12:52 pm

When I’m feeling depressed or uninspired, I can always count on one of my favorite visionary musicians to remind me just how much wild weirdness and unexpected beauty the world contains. That person is Kate Bush, and for all of her many brilliant songs—too many to name—the touchstone for true fans will always be her first single, “Wuthering Heights,” written when she was only 16, recorded two years later, and turned into two astonishing videos. The first, UK version does Kate’s ethereal strangeness justice, without a doubt, placing her on a dark stage, in flowing white gown, fog machine at her feet, showcasing her idiosyncratic dance moves with several double-exposure versions of herself. All very Kate, but we’d seen this kind of thing before, if only at the meetings of our high school drama club.

It really wasn’t until the second, U.S. video’s release that audiences fully grasped the uniqueness of her genius. In this version, above, the young prodigy—who trained, by the way, with David Bowie’s mime and dance teacher Lindsay Kemp—appears in a flowing, Bohemian red gown, matching tights, and black belt, haunting a “wiley, windy” moor like Catherine Earnshaw, the doomed heroine of Emily Brontë’s novel. Everything about this: the flowers in her hair, the editing tricks that have her fading in and out of the shot like a ghost, and most especially the fully uninhibited dance moves—not confined this time to the boundaries of a stage (which could never contain her anyway)…. It’s perfect, the very acme of melodramatic theatricality, and simply could not be improved upon in any possible way.

And so when fans seek to pay tribute to Kate Bush, they invariably call back to this video. In 2013, Kate Bush parody troupe Shambush! organized a group dance in Brighton, with 300 eager fans in red dresses and wigs, each one doing their best Kate Bush impression in a synchronized comedy homage. This year, on July 16th,  a flashmob gathered in Berlin’s Tempelhof Field for “The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever,” breaking the Shambush! record for most Kate Bush-attired dancing fans in one place. See them at the top of the post. Other flashmobs assembled around the world as well, in London, Wellington, Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, and elsewhere, reports German site Tonspion. Melbourne, it seems put on a particularly “strong showing of Bush-mania” (watch it above), according to Electronic Beats, who also suggest that next year the organizers “switch it up and find a good forest for a ‘The Sensual World‘ flashmob.” That is indeed a stunning video, and it’s very hard to choose a favorite among Bush’s many visual masterpieces, but I’d like to see them try the wartime choreography of “Army Dreamers” next.

Related Content:

300 Kate Bush Impersonators Pay Tribute to Kate Bush’s Iconic “Wuthering Heights” Video

Kate Bush’s First Ever Television Appearance, Performing “Kite” & “Wuthering Heights” on German TV (1978)

2009 Kate Bush Documentary Dubs Her “Queen of British Pop”

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

The Largest Ever Tribute to Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” Choreographed by a Flashmob in Berlin 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.

Why Economics is for Everyone!, Explained in a New RSA Animated Video

Wed, 20 Jul 2016 - 11:28 am

It has been a while, but RSA has returned with another one of their whiteboard animated videos. During the early days of YouTube, they broke some aesthetic ground by animating Slavoj Zizek on the Surprising Ethical Implications of Charitable Giving; Barbara Ehrenreich (author of Nickel and Dimed) on The Perils of Positive PsychologyDaniel Pink on The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, and Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo on The Secret Powers of Time. Now, they’re back with the influential Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang explaining “why every single person can and SHOULD get their head around basic economics.” Here, Chang “pulls back the curtain on the often mystifying language of derivatives and quantitative easing, and explains how easily economic myths and assumptions become gospel,” helping you to “arm yourself with some facts” and take part in “discussions about the fundamentals that underpin our day-to-day lives.” If you want to get up to speed on economics, some of the resources below will undoubtedly give you a hand.

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Why Economics is for Everyone!, Explained in a New RSA Animated 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.

Four Interactive Maps Immortalize the Road Trips That Inspired Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

Wed, 20 Jul 2016 - 8:31 am

Jack Kerouac’s On the Road has, in the almost 60 years since its publication, inspired its readers to do many things: some try their hands at writing their own carefully composed yet carelessness-exuding prose, but others find themselves moved to replicate the American road trip whose story Kerouac uses that near-inimitable style to tell. They might do so by following the author’s own hand-drawn map, or the more recently composed set of Google driving directions we featured a couple years ago. But now they have another detailed research tool in the form of Dennis Mansker’s interactive maps.

Mansker, himself the author of a book called A Bad Attitude: A Novel from the Vietnam War, has put together not one but four On the Road maps, each one detailing one of the road trips Kerouac used to create his Beat narrative of America: Map One follows his summer 1947 trip from New York to San Francisco by way of Denver and back again; Map Two, his winter 1949 trip from Rocky Mount, North Carolina to San Francisco by way of New Orleans; Map Three, his spring 1949 trip from Denver to New York by way of San Francisco; Map Four, his spring 1950 trip from New York to Mexico City by way of Denver.

“Click on one of the placemarkers on the map to see a quotation from the book,” Mansker explains. “Zoom in it to see the location on the map. In many cases where the narrative wasn’t clear on a given place, I’ve had to approximate — apply a ‘best guess’ solution to a given location.” He also provides information on the three cars, a 1949 Hudson, a 1947 Cadillac Limousine, and a 1937 Ford Sedan (as well as a Greyhound Bus (protagonist Sal Paradise’s transportation mode of choice “when he couldn’t boost a ride” with the irrepressible Dean Moriarty) which “themselves became sort of minor characters during the course of the adventures.”

“He came right out to Paterson, New Jersey, where I was living with my aunt,” writes Kerouac of Dean’s return to Sal’s life in the small city that figured early in that first 1947 road trip. “He was gone,” says Sal of Dean’s departure from his life as he recovers from a fever in Mexico City, the last stop of Kerouac’s 1950 road trip. “When I got better I realized what a rat he was, but then I had to understand the impossible complexity of his life, how he had to leave me there, sick, to get on with his wives and woes.” If you love Kerouac’s novel, by all means follow in his tire tracks — just make sure to find a more reliable traveling companion.

Related Content:

Jack Kerouac’s On The Road Turned Into Google Driving Directions & Published as a Free eBook

Jack Kerouac’s On the Road Turned Into an Illustrated Scroll: One Drawing for Every Page of the Novel

Jack Kerouac’s Hand-Drawn Map of the Hitchhiking Trip Narrated in On the Road

Jack Kerouac Lists 9 Essentials for Writing Spontaneous Prose

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.

 

Four Interactive Maps Immortalize the Road Trips That Inspired Jack Kerouac’s On the Road 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.

Enroll in a Free Online Course about ‘The Hobbits’ (aka Homo floresiensis)

Tue, 19 Jul 2016 - 11:36 pm

You might have seen a new type of ancient human on the news recently, nicknamed, affectionately, ‘the hobbit’ (not because they were taking the ring to Mordor, but because of their rather diminutive stature).

If you didn’t, here’s the news in brief: a team of scientists went digging for the first Australians and instead found a completely new (and tiny) ancient human. Since then they’ve been trying to work out what happened to these small ancestors of ours.

To share their findings, some of the scientists involved in understanding ‘the hobbit’ have put together a 4 week free online course to explain how the discovery unfolded…

The course has been created with FutureLearn and will take you inside the world of this new species, giving you a run through modern scientific archaeological techniques along the way.

Here’s what’s on the syllabus:

Week 1 – Human Origins and Introduction to Archaeology

Learn about where you, me and everyone came from – before getting onto the moment ‘the hobbit’ was discovered.

Week 2 – Archaeological Methods: In the Cave

You think a festival is bad? Get to grips with how science translates in somewhere without electricity or water.

Week 3 – Archaeological Science: In the Lab

Understand what happens once all the archaeological finds are delicately hauled back to the lab.

Week 4 – Future Directions

‘The Hobbit’, despite it’s size, is having a big impact in the world of archaeology – find out exactly what this little ancient human might mean for the story of our origins.

Intrigued? Join the course today – it started this week, and you’re not too late to join.

Jess Weeks is a copywriter at FutureLearn. She has never conducted ground-breaking science in a cave, or discovered a new species, but there’s still time.

Enroll in a Free Online Course about ‘The Hobbits’ (aka Homo floresiensis) 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.

William S. Burroughs Drops a Posthumous Album, Setting Readings of Naked Lunch to Music (NSFW)

Tue, 19 Jul 2016 - 1:26 pm

Image by Christiaan Tonnis, via Wikimedia Commons

William S. Burroughs may have died almost twenty years ago, but that doesn’t mean his fans have gone entirely without new material since. This year, for instance, has seen the release of the Naked Lunch author’s new spoken word album Let Me Hang You, which you can listen to free on Spotify. (If you don’t have Spotify’s free software, download it here.) Its content, in fact, comes straight from that form- and taboo-breaking 1959 novel, which Burroughs committed to tape — along with a trio of accomplished experimental musicians — not long before his passing, and which thus got lost along the way to commercial release.

“But more than 20 years later,” writes the New York Times‘ Joe Coscarelli, “those surreal recordings — which featured music from the guitarist and composer Bill Frisell, along with the pianist Wayne Horvitz and the violist Eyvind Kang — are getting a second life as an album with an assist from the independent musician King Khan, best known for his raucous live shows as an eccentric punk and soul frontman.” Fans of Burroughs’ roughest-edged material can rest assured that, in these sessions, the writer focused on speaking the “unspeakable” parts of Naked Lunch: “think sex, drugs, and defecation,” Coscarelli says.

Hard as it may seem to believe that a novel written well over half a century ago, let alone one written by an author born more than a century ago, could retain its power to shock, this newly published musical interpretation of Burrough’s substance-inspired, random-access, “obscenity”-laden text freshens its transgressive impact. “One particularly jagged track on the record is ‘Clem Snide the Private Ass Hole,'” writes Rolling Stone‘s Kory Grow. “As Burroughs stiltedly reads his own bizarre prose in which the titular Snide recites every lurid, gritty detail he notices while watching a junky ‘female hustler,’ Khan and his fellow musicians play a brittle, upbeat groove and funky, bluesy guitar solos.” Finally, someone has taken this work of the most offbeat of all the Beats and set it to a beat.

Related Content:

William S. Burroughs Reads Naked Lunch, His Controversial 1959 Novel

The “Priest” They Called Him: A Dark Collaboration Between Kurt Cobain & William S. Burroughs

How to Jumpstart Your Creative Process with William S. Burroughs’ Cut-Up Technique

William S. Burroughs on the Art of Cut-up Writing

William S. Burroughs Explains What Artists & Creative Thinkers Do for Humanity

William S. Burroughs on Saturday Night Live, 1981

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.

William S. Burroughs Drops a Posthumous Album, Setting Readings of Naked Lunch to Music (NSFW) 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.