Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov Strikingly Illustrated by Expressionist Painter Alice Neel (1938)
Images belong to The Estate of Alice Neel.
We all know the reputation of 19th-century Russian novels: long, dense bricks of pure prose, freighted with deep moral concerns and, to the uninitiated, enlivened only by a confusing farrago of patronymics. And sure, while they may have a bit of a learning curve to them, these classic works of literature also, so their advocates assure us, boast plenty to keep them relevant today — just the quality, of course, that makes them classic works of literature in the first place.
While we should by all means read them, that doesn’t mean we can’t get a taste of these much-discussed books before we heft them and turn to page one by, for example, checking out their illustrations. These vary in quality with the editions, of course, but how much of the art that has ever accompanied, say, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov has looked quite as evocative as the never-published illustrations here? They come from the hand of the Pennsylvania-born artist Alice Neel, commissioned in the 1930s for an edition of the novel that never saw the printing press.
The Paris Review‘s Dan Piepenberg, posting eight of Neel’s illustrations, highlights “how attuned these two sensibilities are: it’s the marriage of one kind of darkness to another”; “the black storm cloud of Neel’s pen is well suited to Dostoyevsky’s questions of God, reason, and doubt.” And yet Neel also manages to express the novel’s “madness and comedy,” bringing “a manic bathos to these scenes that lends them both gravity and levity; in every wide, glassy pair of eyes, grave questions of moral certitude are undercut by the absurd.”
You can see all of eight of Neel’s Karamazov illustrations at The Paris Review, not that they provide a substitute for reading the novel itself (which you can find in our collection of Free eBooks). After all, that’s the only way to find out what exactly happens at that bacchanal just above.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.
Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov Strikingly Illustrated by Expressionist Painter Alice Neel (1938) 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 eBooks, Free Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.
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Now closing in on 50 episodes, David Dutton’s 8-Bit Cinema series for CineFlix celebrates and critiques the increasing video game qualities of action films. Or maybe it’s a nostalgic do-over of a childhood spent watching great films turned into terrible games and your favorite games turned into terrible films. 8-Bit Cinema imagines popular and classic movies turned into NES-era console games, with the movie’s plot imagined as a “perfect run,” as gamers call it.
Their version of Guardians of the Galaxy (watch it here) quotes Megaman, Capcom’s 1987 hit game that is still spawning sequels, and confines its action to a platform shooter, which, in a way, describes James Gunn’s film. (But dig that 8-bit version of “The Pina Colada Song,” man!). The film adapts too well to a video game, and that may be its problem.
Things get more interesting when Dutton’s creative team tackles films in the cult canon. One of their favorites, Pulp Fiction combines several game genres: Dance Dance Revolution for the Jack Rabbit Slim sequence, side scrollers for the gun (and samurai sword)-heavy action, and more. But what 8-Bit Cinema had to do was straighten out Tarantino’s non-linear narrative, allowing the “player” to change characters from Vince to Butch after their unfortunate meeting, and ditch all that wonderful dialog. This 2 1/2 minute version quotes plenty of rare video games, just like Tarantino quotes movies.
The Shining is one of two Kubrick films the team has attempted, the other one being A Clockwork Orange. The Shining one works better as Kubrick’s examinations of domestic violence are rendered even icier (no pun intended) through typical violent gameplay, and tense confrontations between Jack and Wendy are reduced to emotionless exchanges. The video references 1987’s Maniac Mansion, appropriately enough, which itself was a tribute to horror movie cliches.
Wes Anderson’s ship set from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou was designed much like a platform game, so the 8-Bit Cinema team had an easier job with this one, and threw in references to Metal Gear Solid to boot. Judging from the comments, the 8-Bit death of Ned still manages to pull the ol’ heartstrings, but the narrative remains just as inscrutable.
The takeaway here might be this: The better the film, the less it can conform to the simplistic plots, puzzle play, and point-scoring violence that make video games fun to play. And while video games are undoubtedly a form of art, there’s a large gulf between them and cinema.
Currently Dutton’s crew manages one 8-Bit Cinema short a month. For a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to put three minutes of nostalgic bliss together, check this out:
Cult Films by Kubrick, Tarantino & Wes Anderson Re-imagined as 8-Bit Video Games 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 eBooks, Free Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.
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George Orwell Creates a Who’s Who List of “Crypto” Communists for British Intelligence Forces (1949)
Journalist and novelist Eric Blair, known for all of his professional life by the pen name George Orwell, staunchly identified himself as a democratic socialist. For example, in his slim 1946 publication Why I Write, he declared, “Every line of serious work I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism as I understand it.” Despite the widespread blurring of lines these days between socialism and communism—whether through ignorance or deliberate misleading—the distinction was not lost on Orwell. Though he supported an equitable distribution of wealth and public institutions for the common good, he fiercely opposed Soviet communism as anti-democratic and oppressive. As Orwell biographer John Newsinger writes, one “crucial dimension to Orwell’s socialism was his recognition that the Soviet Union was not socialist. Unlike many on the left, instead of abandoning socialism once he discovered the full horror of Stalinist rule in the Soviet Union, Orwell abandoned the Soviet Union and instead remained a socialist.”
Of course, Orwell’s anti-communist sentiments are familiar to every student who has read Animal Farm. Less well known is the degree to which he contributed to anti-communist propaganda, even corresponding with British secret services and keeping a blacklist of writers he deemed either “cryptos” (secret communists), “fellow travellers” (communist sympathizers), or outright members of the Communist Party. Orwell’s involvement with the Information Research Department (IRD), a propaganda unit formed in 1948 under the UK’s Foreign Office to combat Stalinism at home and abroad has received a good deal of attention in the past few decades, in part because of the discovery in 2003 of a private notebook containing his original list. Even before this revelation, biographers and historians had known about the list, which Orwell included, in part, in a letter to his love interest Celia Kirwan, who worked for the IRD, with the instructions that she keep it secret due to its “libelous” nature. Orwell intended that the writers on the list not be asked to work for the IRD because, in his estimation, they were people who could not be trusted.
Reactions to Orwell’s list have been very mixed. When the story first broke in the late nineties, Orwell’s longtime friend Michael Foot said he found the list “amazing” and out of character. One of the people named, Norman Mackenzie, ascribed the list to Orwell’s illness, saying that the writer was “losing his grip on himself” in 1949 during his final struggle with the tuberculosis that killed him that year. Orwell biographer Bernard Crick defended his actions, writing, “He did it because he thought the Communist Party was a totalitarian menace. He wasn’t denouncing these people as subversives. He was denouncing them as unsuitable for counter-intelligence operation.” On the other hand, late leftist firebrand journalist Alexander Cockburn condemned Orwell as a “snitch” and thought the list was evidence of Orwell’s bigotry, given his suspicion of Paul Robeson as “anti-white” and his denouncing of others due to their rumored homosexuality or Jewish background. He makes a compelling case. Whatever Orwell’s motivations, the effect on the named individuals’ professional and political lives was mild, to say the least. This was hardly a McCarthyite witch-hunt. Nonetheless, it’s a little hard for admirers of Orwell not to wince at this collaboration with the state secret service.
Below, see the list he submitted to Kirwan in his letter. Further down is a list of names, including those of Orson Welles and Katherine Hepburn, that appeared in his notebook but not on the list he gave to the IRD.
Writers and journalists
- “Aldred,” novelist (first name unknown)
- John Anderson, journalist, Industrial correspondent for Manchester Guardian
- John Beavan, editor
- Arthur Calder-Marshall, writer
- H. Carr, historian
- Isaac Deutscher, former Trotskyist writer, correspondent for The Economist and The Observer (1942–1947)
- Cedric Dover, journalist
- Walter Duranty, New York Times Moscow correspondent
- Douglas Goldring, novelist
- “Major Hooper”, writer on military history
- Alaric Jacob, Moscow Correspondent for the Daily Express during the Second World War
- Marjorie Kohn, journalist
- Stefan Litauer, journalist
- Norman MacKensie, historian and a founding member of the SDP
- Kingsley Martin, editor of the New Statesman
- Hugh McDiarmid, poet and Scottish nationalist
- Naomi Mitchison, novelist
- Nicholas Moore, poet
- Iris Morley, Moscow Correspondent for The Observer during the Second World War
- Neumann, novelist
- George Padmore, Trinidadian journalist and anti-imperialist campaigner
- Ralph Parker, journalist, News Chronicle
- B. Priestley, novelist and playwright
- Peter Smollett, Daily Express journalist later identified as a Soviet agent, Smolka recruited by Kim Philby.
- Margaret Stewart, industrial/labour correspondent
- Alexander Werth, journalist
Academics and scientists
- Patrick Blackett, physicist
- Gordon Childe, archaeologist
- John Macmurray, philosopher
- Tibor Mende, Foreign Affairs analyst
- G. Crowther, The Guardian’s first science correspondent
- Joseph Macleod
- Peadar O’Donnell, Irish socialist
- The Reverend Leonard Schiff, clergyman
- Commander Edgar Young
People named in Orwell’s notebook, but not appearing on the final IRD list:
- Bessie Braddock, Labour MP
- Alex Comfort, pacifist writer
- Nancy Cunard, heiress and left-wing activist
- Katharine Hepburn, actress
- Harold Laski, economist
- Cecil Day-Lewis, poet.
- Alan Nunn May, scientist
- John Platts-Mills, Labour MP
- Sean O’Casey, playwright
- George Bernard Shaw, playwright
- John Steinbeck, novelist
- Randall Swingler, poet
- Stephen Swingler, Labour MP
- J. P. Taylor, historian
- Orson Welles, film director
- Solly Zuckerman, scientist
George Orwell Creates a Who’s Who List of “Crypto” Communists for British Intelligence Forces (1949) 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 eBooks, Free Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.
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For the past two decades, Alain de Botton has refined his knack for popularizing philosophical and literary ideas. In 1997, he published his bestseller, How Proust Can Change Your Life. Next came his six-part video series, A Guide to Happiness, where de Botton showed how thinkers like Montaigne, Seneca and Schopenhauer can help you grapple with timeless questions — like dealing with anger, managing your love life, or maintaining your self-esteem. And, by 2008, we find Alain opening The School of Life, a London-based operation that has as its tagline “good ideas for everyday life.”
The School of Life offers classes, publishes books, makes films, and now produces YouTube videos, some of which we’ve featured here before. The School’s latest release won’t go unnoticed. A three minute lesson on Kant’s aesthetics, the video features an eroticized teacher talking quickly and authoritatively in German about difficult aspects relating to Kant’s philosophy. Things get meta pretty quickly, and soon the distracting camera work starts making Kant’s very point about the nature of the subjective. The charged imagery is not, in other words, entirely gratuitous — but it’s certainly pretty unconventional, and whether it’s effective, I guess that’s up for debate. Next, up Nietzsche, we’re told.
If you would like some deeper introductions to Kant’s philosophy, please see our list of 130 Free Online Philosophy Courses. Kant’s Critique of Judgment appears in our collection, 135 Free Philosophy eBooks.
A Racy Philosophy Lesson on Kant’s Aesthetics by Alain de Botton’s “School of Life” is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooks, Free Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.
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What can I add to the chorus of voices in praise of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme? Recorded in December of 1964 and released fifty years ago this month, the album has gone on to achieve cult status—literally inspiring a church founded in Coltrane’s name—as one of the finest works of jazz or any other form of music. It cemented Coltrane’s name in the pantheon of great composers, and re-invented religious music for a secular age. Composed as a hymn of praise and gratitude, “the bizarre suite of four movements,” wrote NPR’s Arun Rath last year, “communicated a profound spiritual and philosophical message.” That message is articulated explicitly by Coltrane in the album’s liner notes as “a humble offering to Him,” the deity he experienced in a 1957 “spiritual awakening” that “lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life.”
These phrases speak the language of recovery, and Coltrane found God through a program of recovery from heroin addiction. Like so many who have embraced faith after addiction, Coltrane’s devotion was ardent, but neither dogmatic nor judgmental. He “refused to commit to a single religion,” writes Rath, “His idea of God couldn’t be contained by any doctrine. But with his saxophone, and with his band, he could preach.” That he did, religiously, no pun intended. Before the recording of A Love Supreme, Coltrane’s classic quartet—including drummer Elvin Jones, pianist McCoy Tyner, and bassist Jimmy Garrison—toured the U.S. for four years. As the BBC documentary above informs us, “The group’s appetite for performance was ferocious.” They played “two gigs a day, six nights a week, taking only short breaks in the studio to record material for more than fifteen increasingly critically acclaimed albums.”
By the time the group recorded A Love Supreme, they had developed “an amazing unspoken communication.” Tyner recalled the album as “a culmination and natural extension of chemistry honed through years of playing together live.” (Despite all that, they would only perform the suite of songs live once, in Antibes, France, resulting in a live album and some fragmentary film of the event. Watch above. ) Narrated by Jez Nelson, the 2004 radio documentary (up top) presents interviews with Tyner, Jones, modernist composer Steve Reich, Coltrane’s wife Alice, and others, in-between passages of Coltrane’s music, including his major breakout hit recording of “My Favorite Things.”
Among the many tributes to the album’s inspiring, transcendent genius, Coltrane scholar Ashley Kahn offers a very down-to-earth assessment of A Love Supreme’s importance: “[Coltrane] was not a prodigy. He was someone who worked very, very, very hard at his craft, and he showed us, and he shows musicians still, that it is possible.” Whether we attribute Coltrane’s achievements to divine inspiration, incredibly hard work, or some combination the two, the proof of his devotion stands the test of fifty years, and fifty years from now, I suspect we’ll say the same.
The Story of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Released 50 Years Ago This Month 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 eBooks, Free Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.
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We like to keep things succinct around here. So behold the many ch-ch-changes of David Bowie, filmed in one minute, and in one continuous take. And when you’re done, check out 50 Years of Changing David Bowie Hair Styles in One Animated GIF. More Bowie material from the OC archive awaits you below.
The Musical Career of David Bowie in One Minute … and One Continuous Take 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 eBooks, Free Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.
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In a 2002 interview, children’s television host Fred Rogers reminded his fellow educators that their students were not “empty vessels into which teachers simply pour facts. Children come to the classroom with feelings, concerns, anxieties, and joys.”
This concept was also championed by acting teacher Lee Strasberg, father of The Method, an American technique born of Russian actor-director, Konstantin Stanislavsky’s “System” for achieving “believable truth.” Strasberg’s devotees, including Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Dustin Hoffman, learned to create characters from the inside out by drawing on their own life experiences.
Mister Rogers was legendary for being extraordinarily gentle both onscreen and off. He cultivated patience and kindness by modeling those virtues at all times. He had enormous respect for feelings and the people who have them.
Strasberg, too, respected feelings, and had no compunction about bullying reluctant students to get them to tap into them. His criticisms were stinging, and public. He made people cry, hard.
Mister Rogers had no problem with crying:
People have said, ‘Don’t cry’ to other people for years and years, and all it has ever meant is, ‘I’m too uncomfortable when you show your feelings. Don’t cry.’ I’d rather have them say, ‘Go ahead and cry. I’m here to be with you.’
You don’t get to be a Method actor by sitting on your feelings.
When Strasberg appeared on Old Friends New Friends (above), Roger’s award-winning 1978 primetime program for adults, Rogers cited the then-80-year-old for continuing to “inspire, push and encourage young people who care about acting.”
The in-class footage doesn’t shy away from showing that pushing. It’s hard to imagine what was going through Rogers’ mind as Strasberg berates a weeping female student for slothfulness and a lack of authenticity. It seems like she could’ve used a dose of Mister Rogers’ feel good medicine.
Strasberg himself wasn’t immune to Rogers’ calming presence. In the course of their private interview, he admitted that facilitating his students’ education could be rough on him too, particularly when the student in question was his daughter, Susan. He teared up recalling his Ukrainian immigrant parents.
Rogers listened without interrupting, and later turned his observations into the sort of universal benediction for which he was so celebrated:
Strasberg has obviously thought a lot about the roots of his life. He senses that his mother is always with him. And I wonder if most people don’t share his feeling about wishing he could have known his father better. I know I do. And yet I wonder how many people ever do know their fathers well. And I wonder how many fathers ever do know their children well. But the ties that bind parents and children go far beyond all that can be known. We still make a difference in each other’s lives. And what a great difference a great teacher can make in the lives of so many.
Mister Rogers Interviews Legendary Acting Teacher Lee Strasberg, Founder of The Method 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 eBooks, Free Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.
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Red seems to be a magnet for angry bulls and great directors. After all, it’s the color that seems to stand out more than any other. Yasujiro Ozu, for one, made the jump to color movies very reluctantly late in his career and promptly became obsessed with the color red. His production team kept a box on set of small red household things – a matchbox, an umbrella, a teakettle – which he used to place in the background of just about every shot. Jean-Luc Godard famously bathed Brigitte Bardot’s backside in red light for his first color film Contempt. When critics complained that his feature, Pierrot le Fou, was too bloody, he quipped, “It’s not blood, it’s red.” And from HAL 9000’s unforgiving electronic eye in 2001 to the buckets of blood pouring out of the elevator from hell in The Shining, Stanley Kubrick built some of his most memorable scenes around the color red.
Editor and designer Rishi Kaneria, who seems to be making a career out of pointing out the color choices of auteurs, has just released a video called “Red & Yellow: A Wes Anderson Supercut” that squarely places Wes Anderson among the ranks of cinema’s great crimson-loving stylists – from Ben Stiller’s sweats in The Royal Tenenbaums to the luxurious carpets of his latest effort The Grand Budapest Hotel. As you might gather from the title of Kaneria’s short, Anderson is also a fan of the color yellow too. You can watch the video above. And you can watch Kaneria’s look into Kubrick’s use of red below.
Related Content:@jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads. The Veeptopus store is here.
Wes Anderson Likes the Color Red (and Yellow) 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 eBooks, Free Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.
Earlier this month, we featured advertisements from Japan’s prewar Art Deco golden age, a period that shows off one facet of the country’s rich graphic history. While all forms of Japanese design remain compelling today, any time or place would be hard pressed to compete with the world of Japan’s pre-war print advertising. It has, especially for the modern Westerner, not just a visual novelty but a commercial novelty as well: as often as not, surviving examples glorify now-restricted addictive substances like alcohol and tobacco.
At Pink Tentacle (a completely safe-for-work page, believe it or not), you can find a roundup of Japanese print advertisements for products that tap into just such vices. Japan opened up to the world in a big way in the mid-to-late 19th century, and the country’s acceptance (and subsequent Japanification) of all things foreign kept chugging along right up until the Second World War. At the top, we have an appealing example of this internationalism at work in the service of Sakura Beer in the late 1920s. The 1902 ad just above depicts not just the globe but a smoking Pegasus astride it in the name of Peacock cigarettes.
When the tone of Japanese life got militaristic in the 1930s, so did the tone of Japanese ads. The 1937 poster just above proclaims “Defense for Country, Tobacco for Society,” a message brought to you by the South Kyoto Tobacco Sellers’ Union. Below, the kind of Japanese maiden prewar graphic design always rendered so well appears in a different, more outwardly patriotic, and much more naval form.
It goes without saying that most of these ads’ designers geared them toward the eyes of the Japanese — most, but not all. After the war, during the United States’ occupation of the country, there appeared print announcements in this same stylistic vein urging GIs and other American military personnel to keep on their best commercial behavior. Take, for instance, these words the straightforwardly named Japan Monopoly Corporation placed beside this archetypically courtly but uncharacteristically stern traditional lady in 1954:
A valiant effort, but from the stories I’ve heard of the occupation, no amount of graphic design could’ve shut down that particular black market. And finally, no look back at vintage Japanese ads would be complete without including one advertisement for sake. The ad below is for Zuigan sake, created in 1934.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.
Glorious Early 20th-Century Japanese Ads for Beer, Smokes & Sake (1902-1954) 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 eBooks, Free Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.
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The Louisville Leopard Percussionists — they’re a performing ensemble made up of 60 students, all between the ages of 7 and 14, from schools around the Louisville, Kentucky area. Each musician plays several instruments, such as the marimbas, xylophone, vibraphone, drum set, timbales, congas, bongos and piano. And they can rock with the best of them. Perhaps you’ve seen a viral video of the young percussionists playing Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” which Jimmy Page called “too good not to share” on his Facebook page.
If your inner 16-year-old is asking “what about Ozzy?,” well then, we’ve got you covered. Above you can watch The Fabulous Leopard Percussionists rehearsing a version of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” the heavy metal classic from 1980. Founded in 1993 by the elementary school teacher Diane Downs, the ensemble has certainly explored other musical forms too. Here, you can see them perform Chick Corea’s “Spain” and Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing” at the International Association of Jazz Educators’ concert in New York City. And Latin-inspired versions of Low Rider/Oye Como Va. Not a bad way to start your day, I must say.
Kids Orchestra Plays Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” and Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” 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 eBooks, Free Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.
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At first blush, Hunter S. Thompson might be the last person you would want to ask for advice. After all, his daily routine involved copious amounts of cocaine, LSD and Chivas Regal. He once raked a neighbor’s house with gunfire. And he once almost accidentally blew up Johnny Depp. Yet beneath his gonzo persona lay a man who thought deeply and often about the meaning of it all. He was someone who spent a lifetime staring into the abyss.
So in 1958, before he became a counter-culture icon, before he even started writing professionally, Thompson wrote a long letter about some of the big questions in life to his friend, Hume Logan, who was in the throes of an existential crisis.
While the first couple of paragraphs warns against the dangers of seeking advice, Hunter then expounds at length on some deep, and surprisingly level-headed truths. Below are a few pearls of wisdom:
- Whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this!
- You might also try something called Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre. These are merely suggestions. If you’re genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you’re doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.)
- To put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. We do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.
- Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN— and here is the essence of all I’ve said— you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.
- Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know— is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.
The letter was published in the 2013 book, Letters of Note. You can read it in its entirety below.
April 22, 1958
57 Perry Street
New York City
You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal— to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.
I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind.
“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles … ” (Shakespeare)
And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect— between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.
But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he’s not after the “big rock candy mountain,” the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?
The answer— and, in a sense, the tragedy of life— is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.
So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?
The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all, or not with tangible goals, anyway. It would take reams of paper to develop this subject to fulfillment. God only knows how many books have been written on “the meaning of man” and that sort of thing, and god only knows how many people have pondered the subject. (I use the term “god only knows” purely as an expression.) There’s very little sense in my trying to give it up to you in the proverbial nutshell, because I’m the first to admit my absolute lack of qualifications for reducing the meaning of life to one or two paragraphs.
I’m going to steer clear of the word “existentialism,” but you might keep it in mind as a key of sorts. You might also try something called Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre. These are merely suggestions. If you’re genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you’re doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.) But back to the answer. As I said, to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.
But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors— but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires— including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.
As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).
In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life— the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.
Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN— and here is the essence of all I’ve said— you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.
Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ve lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn’t any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.
So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”
And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know— is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.
If I don’t call this to a halt, I’m going to find myself writing a book. I hope it’s not as confusing as it looks at first glance. Keep in mind, of course, that this is MY WAY of looking at things. I happen to think that it’s pretty generally applicable, but you may not. Each of us has to create our own credo— this merely happens to be mine.
If any part of it doesn’t seem to make sense, by all means call it to my attention. I’m not trying to send you out “on the road” in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that— no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.
And that’s it for now. Until I hear from you again, I remain,
Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads. The Veeptopus store is here.
Hunter S. Thompson, Existentialist Life Coach, Gives Tips for Finding Meaning in Life is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooks, Free Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.
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We didn’t realize it at the time, but Michel Gondry was one of the last great music video directors, creating mini-epics just before the music industry collapsed, budgets disappeared, and now your cousin with a Canon 7D is following his friend’s band around in a field and putting *that* up on Vimeo. Maybe Gondry too saw the writing on the wall, because, by the beginning of the ‘aughts, he was inching his way into Hollywood, first with Human Nature and then striking paydirt with the Charlie Kaufman-scripted Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of the best French films ever made that wasn’t French (apart from the director).
But in the twilight of music videos, Gondry’s best work combined new technology with the homemade, DIY aesthetic. His interest in fractals, mathematics, and logical paradoxes and loops went into the mix. As did his interest in the machinery and artifice of movie making. And as did his romantic, autobiographical side. What follows is a small selection of some of his best, most complex music videos.
Gondry directed several videos for Björk, starting with “Human Behavior,” her first solo single, but 1997’s “Bachelorette” (top) goes beyond playful into heartbreaking. A riff on an infinitely recursive poem, a story that is about the telling of itself, the video finds Björk discovering a book in the woods that begins to write itself. As she finds a publisher, gains success, and sees the book turned into a musical, the story is told again, and then again, a play within a play within a play. But each version is analog, not digital, and loses something in the process, and the forest creeps back in to claim its work.
Similarly, in this video for The Chemical Brothers’ song “Let Forever Be” (1999) Gondry sets up two worlds, one on digital video, where our heroine attempts to wake up and go to work at a department store; and another shot on film, where the girl’s numerous doppelgängers parody her struggle and her grip on sanity through choreographed dance numbers. This illustrates a familiar Gondry equation: If A and B, then A+B equals freakout madness time. The colorbars of video production loom nearby to further the idea of irreality, and a cheesy VideoToaster-style effect rescues us at the end.
As far as we know, Radiohead’s “Knives Out” (2001) has nothing to do with hospitals, but Gondry took this cannibalistic song and made one of his most personal videos. Here Thom Yorke stands in for the director, as Gondry offers a mea culpa about a relationship that went past its expiration date, when his girlfriend developed an illness and he couldn’t bear to break up with her. All of that is laid out, in sad, fever-dream detail, in this single-take video that features a lot of his obsessions: toys, television, loops, and a shuffling of symbols and motifs. Look for Gondry’s son briefly playing on the floor.
Not to go out with a sour note, here’s Gondry’s adventurous 1994 video for the swallowed-by-history Lucas. “Lucas with the Lid Off” is one of Gondry’s first one-take masterpieces that shows how the magic is made while still being magical. (The current kings of single-take music videos, OK Go, owe their success to Gondry.) It’s also a video that tries to give each sampled loop its own element within the video, looking forward to his work for Daft Punk (“Around the World”) and The Chemical Brothers (“Star Guitar”).
Gondry continues to make videos–he made one last year for Metronomy’s “Love Letters,” but his attention is really elsewhere. Enjoy these gems from his classic era.
Note: Gondry’s 1988 short animated film, Jazzmosphere, an exploration of jazz and images, has been added to our collection, 700 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..
Michel Gondry’s Finest Music Videos for Björk, Radiohead & More: The Last of the Music Video Gods 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 eBooks, Free Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.
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A Playlist of 172 Songs from Wes Anderson Soundtracks: From Bottle Rocket to The Grand Budapest Hotel
So much of the writing done about the films of Wes Anderson focuses on their visuals — and with good cause. We’ve featured pieces on everything from the design of their settings to the symmetry of their shots to their quotation of other movies. You can’t talk about the aesthetic distinctiveness of Anderson’s work unless you talk about its visual distinctiveness, but you also miss out on a lot if you focus solely on that. We mustn’t forget the importance of sound in all of this, and specifically the importance of music.
Casual Anderson fans might here think of one kind of music before all others: the British Invasion. The Creation’s “Making Time” in Rushmore, the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” in The Royal Tenenbaums, and, to take the concept in as Andersonian a direction as possible, Portuguese-language covers of David Bowie songs in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Yet Anderson’s projects have made use of quite a few other musical traditions besides, as you’ll already know if you remember the jazz-scored short version of Bottle Rocket we featured a couple years ago.
But getting the clearest sense of the music might require temporarily separating it from the movies. To that end, we offer you “From Bottle Rocket to The Grand Budapest Hotel,” a Spotify playlist by Michael Park bringing together 172 of the songs included in Anderson’s eight features so far, coming to over nine and a half hours of immaculately curated, 20th century counterculture-rooted music, from not just the Stones and Bowie-via-Seu Jorge but Horace Silver, the Kinks, the Vince Guaraldi Trio, Elliott Smith, Yves Montand, Nick Drake, and the Velvet Underground. (To listen, you need only download and register for Spotify.)
While you listen, why not read through Oscar Rickett’s Vice interview with Anderson’s music supervisor Randall Poster? “Wes always talks about how those guys would wear coats and ties on the cover of their records but that the music was so aggressive and rebellious,” says Poster of the director’s lasting penchant for the British Invasion. “I think that corresponded to [Rushmore protagonist] Max Fischer because he was this kid who, underneath it all, was looking to break through. The music speaks to his character, who is out of time with the world, and I think that’s a running theme in our movies and you can see it with M. Gustave in Grand Budapest Hotel, who is holding on to a more mannered, genteel era.” And what current works of art have expressed genteel rebellion, or rebellious gentility, so well as Anderson’s?
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.
A Playlist of 172 Songs from Wes Anderson Soundtracks: From Bottle Rocket to The Grand Budapest Hotel 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 eBooks, Free Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.
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For all their serious brooding and biting digs at the establishment, the members of Pink Floyd were not above having a little fun with their image. Take this 1975 comic book, created by their record cover designer Storm Thorgerson’s company Hipgnosis for the Dark Side of the Moon tour. A “Super, All-Action Official Music Programme for Boys and Girls,” the 15-page oddity—pitched, writes Dangerous Minds, “somewhere halfway between ‘professional promotional item’ and ‘schoolboy’s notebook scribbling’”—includes several short comic stories: Roger (“Rog”) Waters is an “ace goal-scorer” for the “Grantchester Rovers” football club. Floyd drummer Nick Mason becomes “Captain Mason, R.N.,” a “courageous and smart” WWII naval hero, and David Gilmour gets cast as stunt cyclist “Dave Derring.” The juiciest part goes to keyboardist Richard Wright, whose salacious exploits as high roller “Rich Right” complete the proto-Heavy Metal vibe of the whole thing.
Perhaps most fun is a silly questionnaire called “Life Lines” that asks each band member about such trivia as age, weight, height, “philosophical beliefs,” “sexual proclivities,” “political leanings,” and “musical hates.” Most of the answers are of the flippant, smartass variety, but I think they’re all sincere when they name their favorite movies: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, The Seventh Seal, Cool Hand Luke, and El Topo. I’ll let you figure out who chose which one. (Click the image above, then click again, to enlarge.) The penultimate page includes the lyrics to three new songs the band was working on at the time and playing live during the Dark Side of the Moon Tour: “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” and two unreleased tracks, “Raving and Drooling” and “Gotta Be Crazy”—which later turned into “Sheep” and “Dogs,” respectively, on the Animals album.
The comic takes the goofiness of Beatlemania-like merch to a much farther out place—somewhere “beyond the 3rd Bardo.” One member of the International Roger Waters Fanclub, who kept his program comic book for decades after seeing the Dark Side show in San Francisco, writes “I was so wasted on acid at the show, I don’t know how I held on to anything.” Hipgnosis, and Floyd, surely knew their audience. You can download the whole thing here, in high resolution images. (Click through and then scroll to the bottom of the page.) See much more Pink Floyd tour memorabilia at the fansite Pinfloydz.com.
via Dangerous Minds
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When American society relinquished cigarettes, American cinema lost one of its most dramatic visual devices. You still see smoking in the movies, but its meaning has changed. “A cigarette wasn’t always a statement,” wrote David Sedaris when he himself kicked the habit. “Back when I started, you could still smoke at work, even if you worked in a hospital where kids with no legs were hooked up to machines. If a character smoked on a TV show, it did not necessarily mean that he was weak or evil. It was like seeing someone who wore a striped tie or parted his hair on the left — a detail, but not a telling one.”
These two short films show American auteurs keeping the cinematic centrality of the cigarette alive well after its heyday had ended. At the top of the post, you can watch Jim Jarmusch’s 1986 short Coffee and Cigarettes, which stars Steven Wright and Roberto Benigni sitting down for and talking about those very same consumables. It began a long-term project that culminated in Jarmusch’s 2003 feature of the same name, which comprises eleven such coffee- and cigarette-centric short films (one of them featuring Iggy Pop and Tom Waits, another featuring Bill Mur) shot over those eighteen years.
While one might naturally have met a friend specifically to enjoy caffeine and nicotine in the mid-1980s, a decade later the situation had changed: only in America’s seedier corners could you even find a coffee-serving establishment to smoke in. Paul Thomas Anderson used this very setting to begin his career with Cigarettes and Coffee above. Eschewing film school, he gathered up his college fund, some gambling winnings, his girlfriend’s credit card, and various other bits and pieces of funding in order to commit this short story to film.
It worked: Cigarettes and Coffee scored Anderson an invitation to the Sundance Filmmakers Lab, a setting that allowed him to adapt the short into his feature debut Hard Eight. Like Cigarettes and Coffee, Hard Eight stars Philip Baker Hall, a favorite actor of Anderson’s that he went on to use in both Boogie Nights and Magnolia. Thematically, this tale of a group of low-living but in their own ways hard-striving characters all connected by a $20 bill presages the themes that, in his pictures of higher and higher profile, he continues to work with today.
And can it be an accident that Anderson has, in the main, set his films in past eras that not only accepted smoking, but expected it? Jarmusch, for his part, seems to prefer milieus at increasing distance from our everyday experience, amid urban samurai, assassins in foreign lands, immortal vampires in Detroit, that sort of thing. So if these filmmakers want to keep using smoking, they have ways. I just hope coffee doesn’t fall out of style. That would bring about a world that, as a filmgoer and a human being, I doubt I’d be prepared to live in.
Two Short Films on Coffee and Cigarettes from Jim Jarmusch & Paul Thomas Anderson 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 eBooks, Free Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.
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George Harrison “never thought he was any good” as a guitarist, says his son Dhani, and so “he focused on touch and control… not hitting any off notes, not making strings buzz, not playing anything that would jar you.” Harrison himself put it this way, in typically self-effacing, mystical fashion: “I play the notes you never hear.” Of course, as most every thoughtful guitar player will tell you, these are exactly the makings of a good—and in Harrison’s case, great—guitarist. A dime a dozen are players who can play speed runs and flashy solos, who have learned every lick from their favorite songs and can re-produce them exactly. But it’s the sensitivity—the personal “touch and control” over the instrument—that matters most, and that can make a player’s tone impossible to duplicate. Harrison’s playing, Dhani says, “is the reason no one can really cover the Beatles faithfully…. At some point there’s going to be a George Harrison solo, and that solo is usually perfect.”
I would certainly say that is the case with the guitar solo in “Here Comes the Sun.” Oh, you’ve never heard it? That’s because the song, as it was originally released on 1969’s Abbey Road didn’t have one. For whatever reason, George Martin decided to leave it out, and the song, we might agree, is perfect without it. But the solo—rediscovered by Martin and Dhani Harrison—is also perfect. You can hear a version of the song with the solo restored at the top of the post, courtesy of Youtube user Kanaal van DutchDounpour. And above, see Dhani, Martin, and Martin’s son Giles rediscovering the solo, which Martin had forgotten about, while playing around with the master tracks of the song in 2012. (The second video first appeared on our site that same year.) At 1:01, the solo suddenly appears. Martin leans in and listens attentively and Dhani says, “It’s totally different to anything I’ve ever heard.” It’s unmistakable Harrison, the “liquid quality” Jayson Greene identified in a Pitchfork appreciation, more evocative of “a zither, a clarinet—something more delicate, nuanced and lyrical than an electric guitar.”
Impossible, I’d say, to duplicate. Even the younger Harrison—perhaps the most faithful interpreter of George’s music—finds himself fudging his father’s solos when covering his songs, playing his own instead. Harrison, says Tom Petty, always had a way of “finding the right thing to play. That was part of the Beatles magic.” He may not be remembered as the most virtuoso of guitarists, he may not have thought much of his own playing, but no one has ever played like him, before or since. See Harrison play an acoustic rendition of “Here Comes the Sun”—sans solo—above at the concert for Bangladesh.
(Note: some readers have pointed out that the solo at the top of the post sounds out of tune. We do not doubt that it is George Harrison’s playing, but it has been edited and possibly even sped up to match the final mastered recording. This is not a professional remix, but only a rough recreation of what the song might have sounded like had the lost solo been included.)
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“It was the ugliest sound that any mortal ever heard—even a mortal exhausted and unnerved by two days of hard fighting, without sleep, without rest, without food and without hope.”
- Ambrose Bierce, “A Little of Chickamauga” (1898)
“…a shrill ringing scream with a touch of the Indian war-whoop in it .”
- London Times reporter William Howard Russell (1861)
“…a foxhunt yip mixed up with sort of a banshee squall.”
- Historian Shelby Foote (1990)
The secessionist battle cry has long captivated Civil War scholars. A fixture of literature as well as eyewitness accounts, its actual sound was a matter of conjecture. It lent itself to colorful description. Phonetic renderings could not hope to reproduce the chilling effect:
“Yee-aay-ee!” -Margaret Mitchell
“Wah-Who-Eeee!” -Chester Goolrick
“Rrrrrr-yahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip!” -H. Allen Smith
Of course, the Rebel Yell is far from the only sound to have struck a note of dread during The Civil War. Hoofbeats, the crackle of flames, a white voice commanding you to leave your hiding place…
By the time the harmless-looking grandpas in the archival footage above donned their old uniforms to demonstrate the yell, the war had been over for sixty-five years.
There’s a clear sense of occasion. The old fellows’ pipes are impressive, though one begins to understand why there was never consensus regarding the actual sound of the thing.
Linguist Allen Walker Read concluded that the yell—aka the “Pibroch of the Confederacy,” a vocal legacy of blue painted Celtic warriors facing down the Roman army—was a stress-related, full body response. Ergo, any hollering done after 1865 was a facsimile.
At least one veteran agreed. In Ken Burn’s Civil War documentary, Shelby Foote recalled how one of them refused to oblige eager listeners at a society dinner, claiming he could only execute it at a run, and certainly not with “a mouth full of false teeth and a belly full of food.”
(An assertion several legions of grey coated reenactors clearly do not support.)
My 14-year-old son was greatly amused by the coyote-like ululations of the old gents. The variety of interpretations only heightened his enjoyment. Their proud demonstration is undeniably reminiscent of Patrick Stewart’s take on the regional variations of mooing British cows.
I had to remind my boy that this was once a serious thing. To quote Henry “Dr. Livingston, I Presume” Stanley, who participated in the Battle of Shiloh as a 21-year-old enlistee on the Southern side:
It drove all sanity and order from among us. It served the double purpose of relieving pent-up feelings, and transmitting encouragement along the attacking line. I rejoiced in the shouting like the rest. It reminded me that there were about four hundred companies like the Dixie Greys, who shared our feelings. Most of us, engrossed with the musket-work, had forgotten the fact; but the wave after wave of human voices, louder than all other battle-sounds together, penetrated to every sense, and stimulated our energies to the utmost.
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Watch Veterans of The US Civil War Demonstrate the Dreaded Rebel Yell (1930) 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 eBooks, Free Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.
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Note: Anyone with an Amazon account (at least in the US) can watch this pilot in HD for free here.
This week, The New Yorker officially celebrates its 90th anniversary with an expanded edition that revisits its many accomplishments since it first printed copies on February 21, 1925. Led by David Remnick, only the magazine’s fifth editor, The New Yorker has a rich past. But it has a future to consider too. Recently, the magazine launched the pilot of The New Yorker Presents — a “docu-series” that brings The New Yorker aesthetic to film. The 30-minute pilot (above, and also free on Amazon here) “features a doc from Oscar winner Jonathan Demme based on Rachel Aviv’s article ‘A Very Valuable Reputation,’ writer Ariel Levy interviewing artist Marina Abramovic, a sketch from Simon Rich and Alan Cumming, poetry read by Andrew Garfield, and cartoons by Emily Flake.”
If you like what you see, you’re in luck. The show, produced by Amazon Studios, has been greenlit for a full season. According to Real Screen, the new episodes will debut exclusively on Amazon Prime’s video-on-demand service in the U.S., UK and Germany later this year. When the episodes are out, we’ll let you know.
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In November, we presented for you a quick way to download The Complete Sherlock Holmes — not knowing that, a few months later, a lost Sherlock Holmes story, seemingly attributed to Arthur Conan Doyle, would be discovered in an attic in Scotland.
The story, The Guardian writes, was “part of a pamphlet printed in 1903 to raise money to restore a bridge in the Scottish border town of Selkirk.” Discovered by the historian Walter Elliot, the tale entitled “Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, By Deduction, the Brig Bazaar” can be read below, thanks to Vulture.
In 2013, a US judge ruled that Sherlock Holmes stories now belonged in the public domain. The same would appear to hold true for this happily discovered, 1300-word story. You can find more Sherlock Holmes stories in our collection of Free eBooks.
“Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, By Deduction, the Brig Bazaar”
We’ve had enough of old romancists and the men of travel” said the Editor, as he blue-pencilled his copy, and made arrangements for the great Saturday edition of the Bazaar Book. “We want something up-to-date. Why not have a word from ‘Sherlock Holmes?'”
Editors have only to speak and it is done, at least, they think so. “Sherlock Holmes!” As well talk of interviewing the Man in the Moon. But it does not do to tell Editors all that you think. I had no objections whatever, I assured the Editor, to buttonhole “Sherlock Holmes,” but to do so I should have to go to London.
“London!” scornfully sniffed the Great Man. “And you profess to be a journalist? Have you never heard of the telegraph, the telephone, or the phonograh? Go to London! And are you not aware that all journalists are supposed to be qualified members of the Institute of Fiction, and to be qualified to make use of the Faculty of Imagination? By the use of the latter men have been interviewed, who were hundreds of miles away; some have been ‘interviewed’ without either knowledge or consent. See that you have a topical article ready for the press for Saturday. Good day.”
I was dismissed and had to find copy by hook or by crook. Well, the Faculty of Imagination might be worth a trial.
The familiar house in Sloan Street met my bewildered gaze. The door was shut, the blinds drawn. I entered; doors are no barrier to one who uses the Faculty of Imagination. The soft light from an electric bulb flooded the room. “Sherlock Holmes” sits by the side of the table; Dr Watson is on his feet about to leave for the night. Sherlock Holmes, as has lately been shown by a prominent journal, is a pronounced Free Trader. Dr. Watson is a mild Protectionist, who would take his gruelling behind a Martello tower, as Lord Goschen wittily put it, but not “lying down!” The twain had just finished a stiff argument on Fiscal policy. Holmes loq—
“And when shall I see you again, Watson? The inquiry into the ‘Mysteries of the Secret Cabinet’ will be continued in Edinburgh on Saturday. Do you mind a run down to Scotland? You would get some capital data which you might turn to good account later.”
“I am very sorry,” replied Dr Watson, “I should have liked to have gone with you, but a prior engagement prevents me. I will, however, have the pleasure of being in kindly Scottish company that day. I, also, am going to Scotland.”
“Ah! Then you are going to the Border country at that time?”
“How do you know that?”
“My dear Watson, it’s all a matter of deduction.”
“Will you explain?”
“Well, when a man becomes absorbed in a certain theme, the murder will out some day. In many discussions you and I have on the fiscal question from time to time I have not failed to notice that you have taken up an attitude antagonistic to a certain school of thought, and on several occasions you have commented on the passing of “so-called’ reforms, as you describe them, which you say were not the result of a spontaneous movement from or by the people, but solely due to the pressure of the Manchester School of politicians appealing to the mob. One of these allusions you made a peculiar reference to ‘Huz an’ Mainchester’ who had ‘turned the world upside down.’ The word ‘Huz’ stuck to me, but after consulting many authors without learning anything as to the source of the word, I one day in reading a provincial paper noticed the same expression, which the writer said was descriptive of the way Hawick people looked at the progress of Reform. ‘Huz an’ Mainchester’ led the way. So, thought I, Watson has a knowledge of Hawick. I was still further confirmed in this idea by hearing you in several absent moments crooning a weird song of the Norwegian God Thor. Again I made enquires, and writing to a friend in the South country I procured a copy of ‘Teribus.’ So, I reasoned, so — there’s something in the air! What attraction has Hawick for Watson?”
“Wonderful,” Watson said, “and —”
“Yes, and when you characterised the action of the German Government in seeking to hamper Canadian trade by raising her tariff wall against her, as a case of ‘Sour Plums,’ and again in a drawing room asked a mutual lady friend to sing you that fine old song, ‘Braw, braw lads,’ I was curious enough to look up the old ballad, and finding it had reference to a small town near to Hawick, I began to see a ray of daylight. Hawick had a place in your mind; likewise so had Galashiels — so much was apparent. The question to be decided was why?”
“So far so good. And—”
“Later still the plot deepened. Why, when I was retailing to you the steps that led up to the arrest of the Norwood builder by the impression of his thumb, I found a very great surprise that you were not listening at all to my reasoning, but were lilting a very sweet – a very sweet tune, Watson – ‘The Flowers of the Forest;’ then I in turn consulted an authority on the subject, and found that that lovely if tragic song had a special reference to Selkirk. And you remember, Watson, how very enthusiastic you grew all of a sudden on the subject of Common-Ridings, and how much you studied the history of James IV., with special reference to Flodden Field. All these things speak, Watson, to the orderly brain of a thinker. Hawick, Galashiels, and Selkirk. What did the combination mean? I felt I must solve the problem, Watson; so that night when you left me, after we had discussed the “Tragedy of a Divided House,” I ordered in a ton of tobacco, wrapped my cloak about me, and spent the night in thought. When you came round in the morning the problem was solved. I could not on the accumulative evidence but come to the conclusion that you contemplated another Parliamentary contest. Watson, you have the Border Burghs in your eye!”
“In my heart, Holmes,” said Watson.
“And where do you travel to on Saturday, Watson?”
“I am going to Selkirk; I have an engagement there to open a Bazaar.”
“Is it in aide of a Bridge, Watson?”
“Yes,’ replied Watson in surprise; “but how do you know? I have never mentioned the matter to you.”
“By word, no; but by your action you have revealed the bent of your mind.”
“Let me explain. A week ago you came round to my rooms and asked for a look at ‘Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome.’ (You know I admire Macaulay’s works, and have a full set.) That volume, after a casual look at, you took with you. When you returned it a day or two later I noticed it was marked with a slip of paper at the ‘Lay of Horatius,’ and I detected a faint pencil mark on the slip noting that the closing stanza was very appropriate. As you know, Watson, the lay is all descriptive of the keeping of a bridge. Let me remind you how nicely you would perorate —
When the goodman mends his armour
And trims his helmet’s plume,
When the goodwife’s shuttle merrily
Goes flashing through the loom,
With weeping and with laughter.
Still the story told —
How well Horatius kept the bridge,
In the brave days of old.
Could I, being mortal, help thinking you were bent on some such exploit yourself?”
“Well, goodbye, Watson; shall be glad of your company after Saturday. Remember Horatius’ words when you go to Border Burghs: ‘How can man die better than facing fearful odds.’ But there, these words are only illustrations. Safe journey, and success to the Brig!”
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