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10 Most Popular MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) Getting Started in June: Enroll Free Today

4 hours 44 min ago

Like everything else these days, education has become a 24/7 affair. Yes, things are slowing down on college campuses this summer. But, on the internet, it’s full steam ahead. This June alone, over 300 free MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are getting underway. They’re all neatly catalogued by the education web site Class Central, which also tracks the most popular MOOCS offered each month. What’s hot in June? Find the top 10 below. And don’t hesitate to enroll in any of the courses. They’re all free.

Personal Finance Planning
Purdue University via edX
Manage your money more effectively by learning practical solutions to key investment, credit, insurance and retirement questions.
Bookmark | Next Session : 15th Jun, 2016

Nutrition and Health: Food Safety
Wageningen University via edX
Learn about bacteria, pesticides and health hazards present in food.
Bookmark | Next Session : 1st Jun, 2016

Islam Through Its Scriptures
Harvard University via edX
Learn about the Quran, the central sacred text of Islam, through an exploration of the rich diversity of roles and interpretations in Muslim societies.
Bookmark | Next Session : 1st Jun, 2016

History of Graphic Design
California Institute of the Arts via Coursera
This condensed survey course focuses on four major areas of design and their history: Typography, Image-Making, Interactive Media, and Branding.
Bookmark | Next Session : 20th Jun, 2016

Big Data: Data Visualisation
Queensland University of Technology via FutureLearn
Data visualisation is vital in bridging the gap between data and decisions. Discover the methods, tools and processes involved.
Bookmark | Next Session : 27th Jun, 2016

Microeconomics: When Markets Fail
University of Pennsylvania via Coursera
Perfect markets achieve efficiency: maximizing total surplus generated. But real markets are imperfect. This course will explore a set of market imperfections to understand why they fail and to explore possible remedies, including antitrust policy, regulation, and government intervention.
Bookmark | Next Session : 6th Jun, 2016

Single Page Web Applications with AngularJS
Johns Hopkins University via Coursera
Do you want to write powerful, maintainable, and testable front end applications faster and with less code? Then consider joining this course to gain skills in one of the most popular Single Page Application (SPA) frameworks today, AngularJS
Bookmark | Next Session : 20th Jun, 2016

Machine Learning: Clustering & Retrieval
University of Washington via Coursera
A reader is interested in a specific news article and you want to find similar articles to recommend. What is the right notion of similarity? Moreover, what if there are millions of other documents?
Bookmark | Next Session : 15th Jun, 2016

Introduction to Engineering
University of Texas at Arlington via edX
The application of knowledge to design and build devices, systems, materials and processes in engineering.
Bookmark | Next Session : 8th, Jun, 2016

Social Norms, Social Change
University of Pennsylvania via Coursera
This is a course on social norms, the rules that glue societies together. It teaches how to diagnose social norms, and how to distinguish them from other social constructs, like customs or conventions.
Bookmark | Next Session : 20th Jun, 2016

For a complete list of courses starting in June, click here.

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10 Most Popular MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) Getting Started in June: Enroll Free Today 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 to Spot Bullshit: A Primer by Princeton Philosopher Harry Frankfurt

Mon, 30 May 2016 - 12:00 pm

We live in an age of truthiness. Comedian Stephen Colbert coined the word to describe the Bush administration’s tendency to fudge the facts in its favor.

Ten years after the American Dialect Society named it Word of the Year, former president Bush’s calendar is packed with such leisure activities as golf and painting portraits of world leaders, but “truthiness” remains on active duty.



It’s particularly germane in this election year, though politicians are far from its only practitioners.

Take global warming. NASA makes a pretty rock solid case for both its existence and our role in it:

97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.

In view of such numbers, its understandable that a suburban Joe with a freezer full of factory-farmed beef and multiple SUVs in his garage would cling to the position that global warming is a lie. It’s his last resort, really.

But such self-rationalizations are not truth. They are truthiness.

Or to use the old-fashioned word favored by philosopher Harry Frankfurt, above: bullshit!

Frankfurt–a philosopher at Princeton and the author of On Bullshitallows that bullshit artists are often charming, or at their very least, colorful. They have to be. Achieving their ends involves engaging others long enough to persuade them that they know what they’re talking about, when in fact, that’s the opposite of the truth.

Speaking of opposites, Frankfurt maintains that bullshit is a different beast from an out-and-out lie. The liar makes a specific attempt to conceal the truth by swapping it out for a lie.

The bullshit artist’s approach is far more vague. It’s about creating a general impression.

There are times when I admit to welcoming this sort of manure. As a maker of low budget theater, your honest opinion of any show I have Little Red Hen’ed into existence is the last thing I want to hear upon emerging from the cramped dressing room, unless you truly loved it.

I’d also encourage you to choose your words carefully when dashing a child’s dreams.

But when it comes to matters of public policy, and the public good, yes, transparency is best.

It’s interesting to me that filmmakers James Nee and Christian Britten transformed a portion of their learned subject’s thoughts into voiceover narration for a lightning fast stock footage montage. It’s diverting and funny, featuring such ominous characters as Nosferatu, Bill Clinton, Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dictator, and Donald Trump, but isn’t it also the sort of misdirection sleight of hand at which true bullshitters excel?

Frankfurt expands upon his thoughts on bullshit in his aptly titled bestselling book, On Bullshit and its followup On Truth.

Related Content:

Noam Chomsky Schools 9/11 Truther; Explains the Science of Making Credible Claims

Young T.S. Eliot Writes “The Triumph of Bullsh*t” and Gives the English Language a New Expletive (1910)

Stephen Colbert Explains How The Colbert Report Is Made in a New Podcast

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

How to Spot Bullshit: A Primer by Princeton Philosopher Harry Frankfurt 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.

Noam Chomsky on Whether the Rise of Trump Resembles the Rise of Fascism in 1930s Germany

Mon, 30 May 2016 - 11:50 am

No matter where you are in the world, you must by now be well-acquainted with the political chaos in the United States. No one can confidently predict what’s going to happen next. A certain privileged few still find the situation amusing; a certain few have found a tremendous opportunity to increase profit and standing, embracing the madness by embracing Donald Trump, the celebrity real estate mogul some on the right have dubbed their “Great White Hope.”

A column last week by the far-right nationalist Pat Buchanan— whom Trump once denounced as a “Hitler-Lover”—ran with the idea, expressing the paranoiac fantasies of thousands of white supremacists who have rallied behind the Republican nominee. Rhetoric like Buchanan’s and David Duke’s—another supporter Trump once disavowed (then famously didn’t, then eventually did again)—has demolished the “Overton window,” we hear. America’s racist table talk is now a major party platform: the proverbial crank uncle who immiserates Christmas dinner with wild conspiracy theories now airs grievances 24 hours a day on cable news, unbound by “political correctness” or standards of accuracy of any kind.

Granted, a majority of the electorate is hardly thrilled by the likely alternative to Trump, but as even conservative author P.J. O’Rourke quipped in his backhanded endorsement of Hillary Clinton, “She’s wrong about absolutely everything, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.” There’s nothing “normal” about Donald Trump’s candidacy. Its freakishness enthralls his adoring fans. But the millions of Americans who aren’t among them have legitimate cause for alarm.

Comparisons to Hitler and Mussolini may have worn out their usefulness in elections past—frivolous as they often were—but the Trump campaign’s overt demagoguery, vicious misogyny, racism, violent speech, actual violence, complete disregard for truth, threats to free speech, and simplistic, macho cult of personality have prompted plausible shouts of fascism from every corner.

Former Republican Massachusetts governor (and recently rejected Libertarian vice-presidential candidate) William Weld equated Trump’s immigration plan with Kristallnacht, an analogy, writes Peter Baker in The New York Times that is “not a lonely one.” (“There is nobody less of a fascist than Donald Trump,” the candidate retorted.) Likewise, conservative columnist Robert Kagan recently penned a Times op-ed denouncing Trump as a fascist, a position, he writes, without a “coherent ideology” except its nationalist attacks on racial and religious others and belief in “the strongman, the leader (Il Duce, Der Führer), in whom could be entrusted the fate of the nation.”

On the liberal left, figures like former labor secretary Robert Reich and actor and Democratic Party organizer George Clooney have made the charge, as well as columnists in the New Republic and elsewhere. In the video above from Democracy Now, Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto compares Trump to Hitler, and Columbia University’s Robert Paxton—who has written articles and a book on his theory of fascism—discusses the possibility of Trump-as-fascist.

At the top of the post, Noam Chomsky (MIT professor and author of the new book, Who Rules the World?) weighs in, with his analysis of the “generalized rage” of “mainly working class, middle class, and poor white males” and their “traditional families” coalescing around Trump. (Anyone who objects to Chomsky’s characterization of Trump as a circus clown should take a moment to revisit his reality show career and performance in the WWE ring, not to mention those debates.)

In Chomsky’s assessment, we need only look to U.S. history to find the kind of “strong” racialized nativism Trump espouses, from Benjamin Franklin’s aversion to German and Swedish immigrants, who were “not pure Anglo-Saxons like us,” to later parties like the 19th century Know Nothings. Perhaps, as John Cassidy wrote in The New Yorker last year, that’s what Trump represents.

The history of nativism, Chomsky goes on, “continues into the 20th century. There’s a myth of Anglo-Saxonism. We’re pure Anglo-Saxons. (If you look around, it’s a joke.)” Now, there’s “the picture of us being overwhelmed by Muslims and Mexicans and the Chinese. Somehow, they’ve taken our country away.” This notion (which people like David Duke call “white genocide”) is

Based on something objective. The white population is pretty soon going to become a minority (whatever ‘white’ means)…. The response to this is generalized anger at everything. So every time Trump makes a nasty comment about whoever, his popularity goes up. Because it’s based on hate, you know. Hate and fear. And it’s unfortunately kind of reminiscent of something unpleasant: Germany, not many years ago.

Chomsky discusses Germany’s plummet from its cultural and political heights in the 20s—when Hitler received 3% of the vote—to the decay of the 30s, when the Nazis rose to power. Though the situations are “not identical,” they are similar enough, he says, to warrant concern. Likewise, the economic destruction of Greece, says Chomsky may (and indeed has) lead to the rise of a fascist party, a phenomenon we’ve witnessed all over Europe.

The fall of the Weimar Republic has a complicated history whose general outlines most of us know well enough. Germany’s defeat in WWI and the punitive, post-Treaty of Versailles’ reparations that contributed to hyperinflation and total economic collapse do not parallel the current state of affairs in the U.S.—anxious and agitated as the country may be. But Hitler’s rise to power is instructive. Initially dismissed as a clown, he struggled for political power for many years, and his party barely managed to hold a majority in the Reichstag in the early 30s. The historical question of why few—in Germany or in the U.S.—took Hitler seriously as a threat has become a commonplace. (Partly answered by the amount of tacit support both there and here.)

Hitler’s struggle for dominance truly catalyzed when he allied with the country’s conservatives (and Christians), who made him Chancellor. Thus began his program of Gleichschaltung—“synchronization” or “bringing into line”—during which all former opposition was made to fully endorse his plans. In similar fashion, Trump has fought for political relevance on the right for years, using xenophobic bigotry as his primary weapon. It worked. Now that he has taken over the Republican Party—and the religious right—we’ve seen nearly all of Trump’s opponents on the right, from politicians to media figures, completely fold under and make fawning shows of support. Even some Bernie Sanders supporters have found ways to justify supporting Trump.

But Trump is “not Hitler,” as his wife Melania claimed in his defense after his supporters swarmed journalist Julia Ioffe with grotesque anti-Semitic attacks. Although he has an obvious affinity for white nationalists and neo-Nazis (see his activity on social media and elsewhere) and perhaps a fondness for Hitler’s speeches, the comparison has serious drawbacks. Trump is something else—something perhaps more farcical and bumbling, but maybe just as dangerous given the forces he has unified and elevated domestically, and the dangers of such an unstable, petty, vindictive person taking over the world’s largest military, and nuclear arsenal.

Perhaps he’s just a tasteless, cynical con-man entertainer using hate as another means of self-advancement. He has non-white and Jewish supporters!, his voters claim. He holds “corrupt and liberal New York values“! say conservative detractors. These objections ring hollow given all Trump has said and done in recent years. His campaign, and the response it has drawn, looks enough like those of previous far-right racist leaders that calling Trump a fascist doesn’t seem far-fetched at all. That should seriously alarm any honest person who isn’t a far-right xenophobic nationalist.

Related Content:

Noam Chomsky Defines What It Means to Be a Truly Educated Person

Noam Chomsky Slams Žižek and Lacan: Empty ‘Posturing’

How to Spot Bullshit: A Primer by Princeton Philosopher Harry Frankfurt

Rare 1940 Audio: Thomas Mann Explains the Nazis’ Ulterior Motive for Spreading Anti-Semitism

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

Noam Chomsky on Whether the Rise of Trump Resembles the Rise of Fascism in 1930s Germany 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.

4 Simple Ways You Can Personally Reduce Your Risk of Getting Cancer

Mon, 30 May 2016 - 10:34 am

A quick public service announcement. According to a new study published in the journal JAMA Oncology, we have a good measure of control over whether cancer rates actually rise or fall. And if we take four practical steps, we could see cancer rates decline by as much as 40-60%. Here’s what the new study recommends:

  • No smoking. It’s that simple. (Bill Plympton’s “25 Ways To Quit Smoking” video above offers some light-hearted ways to rid yourself of that bad habit.)
  • Drink in moderation. One drink or less per day for women; two or less for men. Not more.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight, a Body Mass Index between 18.5 and 27.5. Learn how to calculate your BMI here.
  • Exercise often. During a given week, exercise moderately for at least 150 minutes, or vigorously for at least 75 minutes.

There are no great revelations here. It’s common sense really. But maybe you could improve in one of these areas, and maybe now is the time to get going.

You can find more details on the study in this press release.

And, just for good measure, eat well (no processed foods) and get a good night of sleep.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. And if you want to make sure that our posts definitely appear in your Facebook newsfeed, just follow these simple steps.

via LA Times/WaPo

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4 Simple Ways You Can Personally Reduce Your Risk of Getting Cancer 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.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Life & Literature Introduced in a Monty Python-Style Animation

Mon, 30 May 2016 - 8:30 am

“You know how earlier we were talking about Dostoyevsky?” asks David Brent, Ricky Gervais’ iconically insecure paper-company middle-manager central to the BBC’s original The Office. “Oh, yeah?” replies Ricky, the junior employee who had earlier that day demonstrated a knowledge of the influential Russian novelist apparently intimidating to his boss. “Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky. Born 1821. Died 1881,” recites Brent. “Just interested in him being exiled in Siberia for four years.” Ricky admits to not knowing much about that period of the writer’s life. “All it is is that he was a member of a secret political party,” Brent continues, drawing upon research clearly performed moments previous, “and they put him in a Siberian labour camp for four years, so, you know…”


We here at Open Culture know that you wouldn’t stoop to such tactics in an attempt to establish intellectual supremacy over your co-workers — nor would you feel any shame in not having yet plunged into the work of that same Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky, born 1821, died 1881, and the author of such much-taught novels as Crime and PunishmentThe Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov (as well as a prolific doodler). “His first major work,” in the posturing words of David Brent, “was Notes from the Underground, which he wrote in St Petersburg in 1859. Of course, my favorite is The Raw Youth. It’s basically where Dostoyevsky goes on to explain how science can’t really find answers for the deeper human need.”

An intriguing position! To hear it explained with deeper comprehension (but just as entertainingly, and also in an English-accented voice), watch this 14-minute, Monty Python-style animated primer from Alain de Botton’s School of Life and read the accompanying article from The Book of Life. Even apart from those years in Siberia, the man “had a very hard life, but he succeeded in conveying an idea which perhaps he understood more clearly than anyone: in a world that’s very keen on upbeat stories, we will always run up against our limitations as deeply flawed and profoundly muddled creatures,” an attitude “needed more than ever in our naive and sentimental age that so fervently clings to the idea – which this great Russian loathed – that science can save us all and that we may yet be made perfect through technology.”

After The School of Life gets you up to speed on Dostoyevsky, you’ll no doubt find yourself able to more than hold your own in any water-cooler discussion of the man whom James Joyce credited with shattering the Victorian novel, “with its simpering maidens and ordered commonplaces,” whom Virginia Woolf regarded as the most exciting writer other that Shakespeare, and whose work Hermann Hesse tantalizingly described as “a glimpse into the havoc.” You may well also find yourself moved even to open one of Dostoyevsky’s intimidatingly important books themselves, whose assessments of the human condition remain as devastatingly clear-eyed as, well, The Office‘s.

Related Content:

Dostoevsky Draws Doodles of Raskolnikov and Other Characters in the Manuscript of Crime and Punishment

Fyodor Dostoevsky Draws Elaborate Doodles In His Manuscripts

Dostoevsky Draws a Picture of Shakespeare: A New Discovery in an Old Manuscript

The Digital Dostoevsky: Download Free eBooks & Audio Books of the Russian Novelist’s Major Works

The Animated Dostoevsky: Two Finely Crafted Short Films Bring the Russian Novelist’s Work to Life

Albert Camus Talks About Nihilism & Adapting Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed for the Theatre, 1959

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. 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.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Life & Literature Introduced in a Monty Python-Style Animation 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.

R. Crumb Shows Us How He Illustrated Genesis: A Faithful, Idiosyncratic Illustration of All 50 Chapters

Fri, 27 May 2016 - 9:00 am

It is widely accepted among scholars that the first few books of the Bible—including, of course, Genesis, with its creation myths and flood story—are a patchwork of several different sources, pieced together by so-called redactors. This “documentary hypothesis” identifies the literary characteristics of each source, and attempts to reconstruct their different theological and political contexts. Primarily refined by German scholars in the late nineteenth century, the theory is very persuasive, but can also seem pretty schematic and dry, robbing the original texts of much of their liveliness, rhetorical power, and ancient strangeness.

Another German scholar, Hermann Gunkel, approached Genesis a little differently. “Everyone knows”—write the editors of a scholarly collection on the foundational Biblical text—Gunkel’s “motto”: “Genesis ist eine Sammlung von Sagen”—“Genesis is a collection of popular tales.” Rather than reading the various stories contained within as historical narratives or theological treatises, Gunkel saw them as redacted legends, myths, and folk tales—as ancient literature. “Legends are not lies,” he writes in The Legends of Genesis, “on the contrary, they are a particular form of poetry.”

Such was the approach of cartoonist and illustrator Robert Crumb, who took on illustrating the entire book of Genesis, “a text so great and so strange,” he says, “that it lends itself readily to graphic depictions.” In the short video above, Crumb describes the creation narrative in the ancient Hebrew book as “an archetypal story of our culture, such a strong story with all kinds of metaphorical meaning.” He also talks about his genuine respect and admiration for the stories of Genesis and their origins. “You study ancient Mesopotamian writings,” says Crumb, “and there’s all of these references in the oldest Sumerian legends about the tree of knowledge” and other elements that appear in Genesis, mixed up and redacted: “That’s how folk legends and all that shit evolve over centuries.”

The Biblical book first struck Crumb as “something to satirize,” and his initial approach leans on the irreverent, scatological tropes we know so well in his work. But he instead decided to produce a faithful visual interpretation of the text just as it is, illustrating each chapter, all 50, word for word. The result, writes Colin Smith at Sequart, is “idiosyncratic, tender-hearted and ultimately inspiring.” It is also a critical visual commentary on the text’s central character: Crumb’s God “is regularly, if not exclusively, portrayed as an unambiguously self-obsessed and bloodthirsty despot, terrifying in his demands, terrifying in his brutality.” Arguably, these traits emerge from the stories unaided, yet when we’re told, for example, that “The Lord regretted having made man on Earth and it grieved him in his heart,” Crumb “shows us nothing of regret and grief, but rather a furious old dictator apparently tottering on the edge of madness.”

“It’s not the evil of men that Crumb’s concerned with,” writes Smith, “so much as the psychology of a creature who’d slaughter an entire world.” In that interpretation, he echoes critics of the Bible’s theology since the Enlightenment, from Voltaire to Christopher Hitchens. But he doesn’t shy away from graphic depictions of human brutality, either (witness Cain’s murder of his brother, below). Crumb’s move away from satire and decision to “do it straight,” as he told NPR, came from his sense that the sweeping, violent mythology and “soap opera” relationships already lend themselves “to lurid illustration”—his forté. Originally intending to do just the first couple chapters “as a comic story,” he soon found he had a market for all 50 and “stupidly said, ‘okay, I’ll do it.’” The work—undertaken over four years—proved so exhausting, he says he “earned every penny.”

Does Crumb himself identify with the religious traditions in Genesis? Raised a Catholic, he left the church at 16: “I have my own little spiritual quest,” Crumb says, “but I don’t associate it with any particular traditional religion. I think that the traditional Western religions all are very problematic in my view.” That said, like many nonreligious people who read and respect religious texts, he knows the Bible well—better, it turned out, than his editor, a self-described expert. “I just illustrate it as it’s written,” said Crumb, “and the contradictions stand.”

When I first illustrated that part, the creation, where there’s basically two different creation stories that do contradict each other, and I sent it to the editor at Norton, the publisher, who told me he was a Bible scholar. And he read it, and he said wait a minute, this doesn’t make sense. This contradicts itself. Can we rewrite this so it makes sense? And I said that’s the way it’s written. He said, that’s the way it’s written? I said, yeah, you’re a Bible scholar. Check it out. 

Crumb invites us all to “check it out“—this collection of archetypal legends that inform so much of our politics and culture, whether the bizarre and costly creation of a fundamentalist “Ark Park” (“dinosaurs and all“), or the Biblical epics of Cecil B. DeMille or Darren Aronofsky, or the poetry of John Milton, or the interpretive illustrations of William Blake. Whether we think of it as history or myth or some patchwork quilt of both, we should read Genesis. R. Crumb’s illustrated version is as good—or better—a way to do so as any other. See more of his illustrations at The Guardian and purchase his illustrated Genesis here.

Related Content:

A Short History of America, According to the Irreverent Comic Satirist Robert Crumb

R. Crumb’s Vibrant, Over-the-Top Album Covers (1968-2004)

R. Crumb Describes How He Dropped LSD in the 60s & Instantly Discovered His Artistic Style

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

R. Crumb Shows Us How He Illustrated Genesis: A Faithful, Idiosyncratic Illustration of All 50 Chapters 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.

Ayn Rand Issues 13 Commandments to Filmmakers for Making Good Capitalist Movies (1947)

Fri, 27 May 2016 - 4:50 am

A couple Christmases ago, we featured the story of how Ayn Rand helped the FBI “identify” It’s a Wonderful Life as a piece of communist propaganda, which does make one wonder: what kind of movie would she have America watch instead? We know exactly what kind, since, in 1947, the author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, never one to shrink from the task of explaining her ideas, wrote the “Screen Guide for Americans,” according to Paleofuture, a pamphlet meant for distribution to Hollywood producers in order to make them aware of what she saw as a communist push to poison the movies with anti-American ideology.



“The purpose of the Communists in Hollywood, Rand writes, “is not the production of political movies openly advocating Communism. Their purpose is to corrupt our moral premises by corrupting non-political movies — by introducing small, casual bits of propaganda into innocent stories — thus making people absorb the basic premises of Collectivism by indirection and implication.” And so, to counteract the subtly propagandistic power of It’s a Wonderful Life and its ilk, she proposes fighting fire with fire, issuing these thirteen corrective filmmaking commandments:

  1. Don’t take politics lightly. “To hire Communists on the theory that ‘they won’t put over any politics on me’ and then remain ignorant and indifferent to the subject of politics, while the Reds are trained propaganda experts — is an attitude for which there can be no excuse.”
  2. Don’t smear the free enterprise system. “Don’t preach or imply that all publicly-owned projects are noble, humanitarian undertakings by grace of the mere fact that they are publicly-owned—while preaching, at same time, that private property or the defense of private property rights is the expression of some sort of vicious greed, of anti-social selfishness or evil.”
  3. Don’t smear industrialists. “You, as a motion picture producer, are an industrialist. All of us are employees of an industry which gives us a good living. There is an old fable about a pig who filled his belly with acorns, then started digging to undermine the roots of the oak from which the acorns came. Don’t let’s allow that pig to become our symbol.”
  4. Don’t smear wealth. “If the villain in your story happens to be rich—don’t permit lines of dialogue suggesting that he is the typical representative of a whole social class, the symbol of all the rich. Keep it clear in your mind and in your script that his villainy is due to his own personal character—not to his wealth or class.”
  5. Don’t smear the profit motive. “Don’t give to your characters — as a sign of villainy, as a damning characteristic, a desire to make money. Nobody wants to, or should, work without payment, and nobody does — except a slave.”
  6. Don’t smear success. “It is the Communists’ intention to make people think that personal success is somehow achieved at the expense of others and that every successful man has hurt somebody by becoming successful. It is the Communists’ aim to discourage all personal effort and to drive men into a hopeless, dispirited, gray herd of robots who have lost all personal ambition, who are easy to rule, willing to obey and willing to exist in selfless servitude to the State.”
  7. Don’t glorify failure. “While every man meets with failure somewhere in his life, the admirable thing is his courage in overcoming it — not the fact that he failed.”
  8. Don’t glorify depravity. “Don’t drool over weaklings as conditioned ‘victims of circumstances’ (or of ‘background’ or of ‘society’) who ‘couldn’t help it.’ You are actually providing an excuse and an alibi for the worst instincts in the weakest members of your audiences.”
  9. Don’t deify “the common man.” “No self-respecting man in America is or thinks of himself as ‘little,’ no matter how poor he might be. That, precisely, is the difference between an American working man and a European serf.”
  10. Don’t glorify the collective. “If you preach that it is evil to be different — you teach every particular group of men to hate every other group, every minority, every person, for being different from them; thus you lay the foundation for race hatred.”
  11. Don’t smear an independent man. “Remember that America is the country of the pioneer, the non-conformist, the inventor, the originator, the innovator. Remember that all the great thinkers, artists, scientists were single, individual, independent men who stood alone, and discovered new directions of achievement — alone.”
  12. Don’t use current events carelessly. “It is a sad joke on Hollywood that while we shy away from all controversial subjects on the screen, in order not to antagonize anybody — we arouse more antagonism throughout the country and more resentment against ourselves by one cheap little smear line in the midst of some musical comedy than we ever would by a whole political treatise.”
  13. Don’t smear American political institutions. “It is true that there have been vicious Congressmen and judges, and politicians who have stolen elections, just as there are vicious men in any profession. But if you present them in a story, be sure to make it clear that you are criticizing particular men — not the system. The American system, as such, is the best ever devised in history. If some men do not live up to it — let us damn these men, not the system which they betray.”

Have any real motion pictures passed Rand’s pro-capitalist test? (Read her full pamphlet here.) The film adaptation of The Fountainhead came out in 1949, and Rand herself at first praised it as “more faithful to the novel than any other adaptation of a novel that Hollywood has ever produced.” But later she turned against it, claiming to have “disliked the movie from beginning to end” and swearing never again to sell her novels without reserving the right to pick the director and screenwriter as well as to edit the film herself. She didn’t live to exercise those rights on Atlas Shrugged the movie, which came out as a trilogy between 2011 and 2014, so we’ll never know for sure if the movie met her stringent ideological standards — but with Metacritic scores of 28%, 26%, and 9%, we can safely assume they wouldn’t meet her cinematic ones.

via Paleofuture

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Ayn Rand’s Reviews of Children’s Movies: From Bambi to Frozen

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. 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.

Ayn Rand Issues 13 Commandments to Filmmakers for Making Good Capitalist Movies (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.

The Art Market Demystified in Four Short Documentaries

Fri, 27 May 2016 - 4:00 am

Spend an hour or two at MoMA, Tate Modern, or some other world class museum and inevitably you’’ll overhear some variation of “my seven-year-old could paint that.”

Mayhaps, Madam, but how much would it fetch at auction?

As a new documentary series, the Art Market (in Four Parts), makes clear, the monetary value of art is tricky to assign.

There are exceptions, of course, such as in the irresistible Picasso anecdote cited in the trailer, above.

Usually however, even the experts must resort to an educated guess, based on a number of factors, none of which can tell the whole story.

As journalist and former director of New York’s White Columns gallery, Josh Baer, points out in the series’ first episode below, even art market indices are an unreliable tool for assessing worth. A portrait of actress Elizabeth Taylor by Andy Warhol failed to attract a single bid at auction, though artnet Price Database reported sales of between $27 million and $31.5 million for other “Liz” paintings by the same artist.

I’d have thought a signature as famous as Warhol’s would confer the same sort of insta-worth Picasso claimed his John Hancock did.

The unpredictability of final sales figures has led auction houses to issue guarantees in return for a split of the profits, a practice Sotheby’s North and South America chairman, Lisa Dennison, likens to an insurance policy for the seller.

With the exception of the ill-fated Warhol’s great big goose egg, the numbers batted around by the series’ influential talking heads are pretty staggering. Snappy editing also lends a sense of art world glamour, though gallerist Michele Maccarone betrays a certain weariness that may come closer to the true energy at the epicenter of the scene.

As for me, I couldn’t help thinking back to my days as a receptionist in a commercial gallery on Chicago’s tourist friendly Magnificent Mile. I was contemptuous of most of the stuff on our walls, which ran heavily to pastel garden parties and harlequins posed in front of recognizable landmarks. One day, a couple who’d wandered in on impulse dropped a ridiculous sum on a florid beach scene, complete with shimmering rainbows. Rich they may have been, but their utter lack of taste was appalling, at least until the wife excitedly confided that the painting’s setting reminded them of their long ago Hawaiian honeymoon. That clarified a lot for me as to art’s true value. I hope that the couple is still alive and enjoying the most for their money’s worth, every single day.

The Art Market’s other three parts, “Galleries,” “Patrons,” and “Art Fairs,” will be released weekly through mid-June. And we’ll try to add them to this post, as they roll out.

Part 2. Galleries

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She wrote about her brief stint as a gallery receptionist in her third book, Job Hopper: The Checkered Career of a Down-Market Dilettante. Follow her @AyunHalliday

The Art Market Demystified in Four Short Documentaries 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.

Watch the Three Original Wizard of Oz Feature Films, Produced by L. Frank Baum Himself

Fri, 27 May 2016 - 12:47 am

As a film, The Wizard of Oz of 1939 is so iconic, so well known, that any sequel has been treated as an affront to American culture. Just see for example, the reviled Return to Oz and the mediocre response to Oz the Great and Powerful. However, spin-offs and recontextualized works, like The Wiz (the musical) and Wicked (the other musical, based on a novel), do really well as long as they remain tied to Victor Fleming’s film.



Even before the days of Judy Garland, the Oz stories made for popular cinema. We already told you about the 1910 silent short film version of The Wizard of Oz, which confusingly packs much of the original children’s book and the stage play adaptation (from 1902) into 13 crazed minutes, redolent of Georges Méliès’ sci-fi films and filled with beauties on parade and a very active mule character called Hank.

Meanwhile, the prolific author of the Oz series, L. Frank Baum, reeling from taking a loss on the stage play version of his story, decided to make some money in cinema. In 1914, he and some friends from the Los Angeles Athletic Club (who called themselves the Uplifters) started their own production house, Oz Film Manufacturing Company, based in Los Angeles. Baum thought he had plenty of material to work with, making good-natured children’s films to compete with the more popular westerns.

All three of Baum’s features are now available on YouTube, with Baum’s first film, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, from 1914, at the top of this page. Adapting his 1913 book, Baum changed plot devices, adding in vaudeville routines and stop-motion animation. A French acrobat called Pierre Couderc played the Patchwork Girl in the stunt sequences, and the film is also noticeable for an early appearance by Hal Roach and Harold Lloyd, who became such fast friends on the production that they went on to make their own films.

After that His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz, was released in 1914, and retells the Wizard of Oz story in its own way, but gives the Scarecrow a new origin story. Hank the Mule returns, as do some more pantomime animals. This time, the movie was made as promotion for the upcoming book of a similar name, but did not help sales in the end.

The final film produced was The Magic Cloak of Oz, based on a non-Oz Baum book called Queen Zixi of Ix, but Baum knew that anything with Oz in the title could sell. Paramount didn’t however, and delayed release for two years. This surviving version is missing a reel, and British distributors divided it up into two separate films.

Shot all at the same time, Baum was hoping to quickly make his investors’ money back, but this didn’t happen and the Oz Film Manufacturing Company shuttered soon after, with Baum dying in 1919 at age 62, with no idea how influential his one book would become.

These original Oz films will be added to our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the 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.

Watch the Three Original Wizard of Oz Feature Films, Produced by L. Frank Baum Himself 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 Essential Elements of Film Noir Explained in One Grand Infographic

Thu, 26 May 2016 - 12:50 pm

What makes film noir film noir? Like Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart making his famous pronouncement on obscenity, we can honestly claim to know it when we see it. But what elements, exactly, do we only see converge in the high, undisputed levels of the film noir canon? Designer Melanie Patrick and writer Adam Frost have, at the behest of the British Film Institute, come up with a handy infographic (click here to view it in a larger format) that explains and visualizes the particulars of the “shadowy world of one of classic Hollywood’s most beloved subgenres.”



First, film noir needs the right cast of characters, including an investigator with “relative integrity” like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, a criminal (“usually a murderer”), one “bad, beautiful” woman, and another “good, bland” woman. These characters should come from a script based on a piece of American pulp fiction such as The Maltese Falcon or Double Indemnity, ideally adapted by a European émigré director like Fritz Lang or Billy Wilder and replete with heavy drinking and smoking, “stolen money or valuables,” and obsessions with the past, all wrapped up in a bleak, convoluted story that plays out in an urban setting by night.

The heyday of film noir lasted from the early 1940s to the late 1950s, right in the middle of the tyranny of the Motion Picture Production Code, better known as the Hays Code, which, in limiting “the amount of sex and violence that could be shown on screen,” forced filmmakers to get creative and convey dramatic tension primarily with lighting and composition. It also meant that the finest film noir made maximally effective use of its dialogue, producing such immortally snappy exchanges as the one in Murder My Sweet when Philip Marlowe shoots back to a woman who announces she finds men very attractive, “I imagine they meet you halfway.” The infographic above also highlights the importance of a stylish poster and a startling tagline, ultimately arriving at the name of the sole film that possesses every element of film noir — and hence “the noiriest film ever.”

All this comes as the fruit of research into “around 100 of the most highly regarded film noirs,” and the infographic’s creators have made some of their data available to view on a Google spreadsheet. Should you now feel like conducting a film-noir investigation of your own, we can offer you a few leads, including the five essential rules of film noir, Roger Ebert’s ten essential characteristics of film noir, “noirchaeologist” Eddie Muller’s list of 25 noir films that will stand the test of time, a collection of film noir’s 100 greatest posters, and of course, our collection of 60 film noir movies free to watch online. But stay alert; if we’ve learned one thing from watching film noir, it’s that investigations, no matter the relative integrity with which you conduct them, don’t always go as planned.

Thanks to Melanie for letting us feature her work!

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The 5 Essential Rules of Film Noir

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100 Greatest Posters of Film Noir

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

The Essential Elements of Film Noir Explained in One Grand Infographic 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 Influence of Miles Davis Revealed with Data Visualization: For His 90th Birthday Today

Thu, 26 May 2016 - 11:40 am

Miles Davis would have celebrated his 90th birthday today. And though he’s been gone for 25 years (hard to believe), he remains arguably the most influential figure in jazz. How influential? Glad you asked. A new website called “The Universe of Miles Davis” has tried to quantify and visualize Davis’ influence by combing through Wikipedia, and finding every English-language Wikipedia page (2,452 in total ) that links to the main Miles Davis entry on Wikipedia. Turning those links into graphics, the site visualizes Miles’ relationships and associations, revealing the far-reaching influence of Miles Davis in a novel way. You can enter “The Universe of Miles Davis” here.

This interactive site was produced by Polygraph, “an experimental publication devoted to complex topics and discourse.”

via Forbes

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The Influence of Miles Davis Revealed with Data Visualization: For His 90th Birthday Today 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 British Library’s “Sounds” Archive Presents 80,000 Free Audio Recordings: World & Classical Music, Interviews, Nature Sounds & More

Thu, 26 May 2016 - 8:00 am

Online archives, galleries, and libraries offer Vegas-sized buffets for the senses (well two of them, anyway). All the art and photography your eyes can take in, all the music and spoken word recordings your ears can handle. But perhaps you’re still missing something? “Geordies banging spoons” maybe? Or “Tawang lamas blowing conch shell trumpets… Tongan tribesmen playing nose flutes…,” the sound of “the Assamese woodworm feasting on a window frame in the dead of night”?

No worries, the British Library’s got you covered and then some. In 2009, it “made its vast archive of world and traditional music available to everyone, free of charge, on the internet,” amounting to roughly 28,000 recordings and, The Guardian estimates “about 2,000 hours of singing, speaking, yelling, chanting, blowing, banging, tinkling and many other verbs associated with what is a uniquely rich sound archive.”

But that’s not all, oh no! The complete archive, titled simply and authoritatively “Sounds,” also houses recordings of accents and dialects, environment and nature, pop music, “sound maps,” oral history, classical music, sound recording history, and arts, literature, and performance (such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s short discourse on “Wireless,” animated in the video below).

The 80,000 recordings available to stream online represent just a selection of the British Library’s “extensive collections of unique sound recordings,” but what a selection it is. In the short video at the top of the post, The Wire Magazine takes us on a mini-tour of the physical archive’s meticulous digitization methods. As with all such wide-ranging collections, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

One might browse the range of unusual folk sounds on aural display in the World & Traditional music section, covering every continent and a daunting metacategory called “Worldwide.” For a more specific entry point, Electronic Beats recommends a collection of “around 8,000 Afropop tracks” from Guinea, recorded on “the state-supported Syliphone label” and “released between 1958 and 1984.”

Other highlights include “Between Two Worlds: Poetry & Translation,” an ongoing project begun in 2008 that features readings and interviews with “poets who are bilingual or have English as a second language, or who otherwise reflect the project’s theme of dual cultures.” Or you may enjoy the extensive collection of classical music recordings, including “Hugh Davies experimental music,” or the “Oral History of Jazz in Britain.”

The category called “Sound Maps” organizes a diversity of recordings—including regional accents, interviews with Holocaust survivors, wildlife sounds, and Ugandan folk music—by reference to their locations on Google maps.

Not all of the material in “Sounds” is sound-based. Recording and audio geeks and historians will appreciate the large collection of “Playback & Recording Equipment” photographs (such as the 1912 Edison Disc Phonograph, above ), spanning the years 1877 to 1992. Also, many of the recordings—such as the wonderful first version of “Dirty Old Town” by Alan Lomax and the Ramblers, with Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger (below)—feature album covers, front and back, as well as disc labels.

The recordings in the Archive are unfortunately not downloadable (unless you are a licensed member of a UK HE/FE institution), but you can stream them all online and share any of them on your favorite social media platform. Perhaps the British Library will extend download privileges to all users in the future. For now, browsing through the sheer volume and variety of sounds in the archive should be enough to keep you busy.

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

The British Library’s “Sounds” Archive Presents 80,000 Free Audio Recordings: World & Classical Music, Interviews, Nature Sounds & More is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Wake Up & Smell the Coffee: The New All-in-One Coffee-Maker/Alarm Clock is Finally Here!

Thu, 26 May 2016 - 7:39 am

Last year, British designer Josh Renouf announced plans to build the Barisieur, a combination alarm clock/coffee brewer that will wake you up, then serve you a nice hot cup of coffee, as you open your eyes and greet the new day. Here’s how Engadget described it at the time:

Using induction heating and stainless steel ball bearings, the Barisieur boils water for pour-over brew, giving off the aroma of your favorite beans as you rise to start the day. There’s even a cooled slot for a spot of milk and storage for sugar and extra grounds.

Today, we’re pleased to announce that the first orders for the Barisieur can be placed through Kickstarter. They’re looking to raise $555,000 through their Kickstarter campaign. (Watch the video above for information on that.) The first 300 backers will be able to pre-order their Barisieur at a low price ($292). Get more details here.

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Wake Up & Smell the Coffee: The New All-in-One Coffee-Maker/Alarm Clock is Finally Here! 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.

Wynton Marsalis Takes Louis Armstrong’s Trumpet Out of the Museum & Plays It Again

Wed, 25 May 2016 - 11:00 am

Louis Armstrong’s beloved trumpet sits in the Smithsonian–a relic of a grand tradition of American music. When it first became a museum piece, the brass-and-gold instrument, made in Paris after World War II, wasn’t in working condition. Dwandalyn Reece, the culture curator at The Smithsonian, notes:  “It wasn’t playable when it got here… There was a lacquer coating on it to help prevent tarnish. We looked to see if there were any spots where the lacquer impacted the valves. There were areas where the valves were a little sticky so we wanted to make sure they would flow freely.” Once restored, they put the instrument in the right hands. Above, watch Wynton Marsalis, the nine-time Grammy winner, playing Satchmo’s Selmer trumpet last fall.

Marsalis later commented, “It sounded better than I thought it would sound.” Apparently, it’s the first time an historic instrument from the Smithsonian’s collection has been put back into real service.

via The Smithsonian/@TedGioia

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Wynton Marsalis Takes Louis Armstrong’s Trumpet Out of the Museum & Plays It 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.

Daily Meditation Boosts & Revitalizes the Brain and Reduces Stress, Harvard Study Finds

Wed, 25 May 2016 - 8:30 am

I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but meditation may have saved my life. During a particularly challenging time of overwork, underpay, and serious family distress, I found myself at dangerous, near-stroke levels of high cholesterol and blood pressure, and the beginnings of near-crippling early-onset arthritis. My doctors were alarmed. Something had to change. Unable to make stressful outer circumstances disappear, I had to find constructive ways to manage my responses to them instead. Yoga and meditation made the difference.



I’m hardly alone in this journey. The leading cause of death in the U.S. is heart disease, followed closely by stroke, diabetes and, depression leading to suicide—all conditions exacerbated by high levels of stress and anxiety. In my own case, a changed diet and daily exercise played a crucial role in my physical recovery, but those disciplines would not even have been possible to adopt were it not for the calming, centering effects of a daily meditation practice.

Anecdotes, however, are not evidence. We are bombarded with claims about the miracle magic of “mindfulness,” a word that comes from Buddhism and describes a kind of meditation that focuses on the breath and body sensations as anchors for present-moment awareness. Some form of “mindfulness based stress reduction” has entered nearly every kind of therapy, rehabilitation, corporate training, and pain management, and the word has been a marketing totem for at least a solid decade now. No one ever needs to mention the B-word in all this meditation talk. As one meditation teacher tells his beginner students, “Buddhism cannot exist without mindfulness, but mindfulness can exist perfectly well without Buddhism.”

So, no need to believe in reincarnation, renunciation, or higher states of consciousness, fine. But does meditation really change your brain? Yes. Academic researchers have conducted dozens of studies on how the practice works, and have nearly all concluded that it does. “There’s more than an article a day on the subject in peer-reviewed journals,” says University of Toronto psychiatrist Steven Selchen, “The research is vast now.” One research team at Harvard, led by Harvard Medical School psychology instructor Sara Lazar, published a study in 2011 that shows how mindfulness meditation results in physical changes to the brain.

The paper details the results of MRI scans from 16 subjects “before and after they took part in the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness,” reports the Harvard Gazette. Each of the participants spent “an average of 27 minutes each day practicing mindfulness exercises.” After the program, they reported significant stress reduction on a questionnaire, and analysis of their MRIs “found increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.”

The Harvard Business Review points to a another survey study in which scientists from the University of British Columbia and the Chemnitz University of Technology “were able to pool data from more than 20 studies to determine which areas of the brain are consistently affected. They identified at least eight different regions.” Highlighting two areas “of particular concern to business professionals,” the HBR describes changes to the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), an area of the frontal lobe associated with self-regulation, learning, and decision-making. The ACC “may be particularly important in the face of uncertain and fast-changing conditions.” Like Lazar’s Harvard study, the researchers also identified “increased amounts of gray matter” in the hippocampus, an area highly subject to damage from chronic stress.

These studies and many others bring mindfulness together with another current psychological buzzword that has proven to be true: neuroplasticity, the idea that we can change our brains for the better—that we are not “hardwired” to repeat patterns of behavior despite our best efforts. In the TEDx Cambridge talk at the top of the post, Lazar explains her results, and connects them with her own experiences with meditation. She is, you’ll see right away, a skeptic, not inclined to accept medical claims proffered by yoga and meditation teachers. But she found that those practices worked in her own life, and also had “scientifically validated benefits” in reducing stress, depression, anxiety, and physical pain. In other words, they work.

None of the research invalidates the Buddhist and Hindu traditions from which yoga and meditation come, but it does show that one needn’t adopt any particular belief system in order to reap the health benefits of the practices. For some secular introductions to meditation, you may wish to try UCLA’s free guided meditation sessions or check out the Meditation 101 animated beginner’s guide above. If you’re not too put off by the occasional Buddhist reference, I would also highly recommend the Insight Meditation Center’s free six-part introduction to mindfulness meditation. Chronic stress is literally killing us. We have it in our power to change the way we respond to circumstances, change the physical structure of our brains, and become happier and healthier as a result.

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

Daily Meditation Boosts & Revitalizes the Brain and Reduces Stress, Harvard Study Finds 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.

Stephen King’s The Shining Is Now an Opera, and The Tickets Are All Sold Out

Wed, 25 May 2016 - 4:50 am

As a story, The Shining certainly passes the test of adaptability: we’ve featured not just the annotated copy of Stephen King’s original novel that Stanley Kubrick used to make his well-known film adaptation, but its Simpsons parody, its reimagined feel-good Hollywood trailer, its remake in miniature as a long-form Aesop Rock music video, and even a board game based on the book. Now The Shining has taken its latest form live on stage as a production of the Minnesota Opera, whose digital program you can read above.

“I can’t recall an opera in which the villain is a building,” writes Ron Hubbard in a review for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “but that’s the case with The Shining, an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about a haunted hotel and a family that winters within it. While ghosts play a prominent role in many operas, the spirits occupying the remote Rocky Mountain hotel in The Shining are servants to one powerful, malevolent master: the building itself.” Hubbard highlights the elaborate design that recreates the forbidding Overlook Hotel with a “stately set,” “swirling, spooky projections,” and building elements that “roll in and out behind screens swirling with patterns, creating an unsettling, kaleidoscopic effect.”

As every opera enthusiast soon finds out, no production can survive by design alone. But The Shining, according to Hubbard, earns full marks in other areas as well, including but not limited to its “score full of discomfiting themes that clash and collide to strongly sung and disarmingly believable portrayals of characters alive and otherwise.” He also emphasizes that the source material comes not from Kubrick’s film, but King’s novel: “Stanley Kubrick took great liberties with the story, going so far as to change how the conflict plays out and resolves. I actually found this operatic version considerably creepier, in large part because we get to know the ghosts better.”


The novel and the movie are vastly different,” says librettist Mark Campbell in the video above, though they and they opera all tell “the story of Jack Torrance, who, because of economic reasons, accepts a job as the winter caretaker for a hotel in remote western Colorado.” And before long, as we know whether we’ve read the book or seen the movie, Jack “submits to a number of his demons” before the eyes of his terrified and increasingly endangered family. But it remains, Campbell says, “the story of a man who wants to do good — he just didn’t choose the right job, and ended up in a situation that did everything it could to tear him apart.”

The Shining the opera comes commissioned by Minnesota Opera’s New Works Initiative, “designed to invigorate the operatic art form with an infusion of contemporary works.” Given its completely sold-out success in St. Paul, where it premiered, we can safely say that this production has accomplished the mission of drawing vigor from a perhaps unexpected source, and even that it stands a chance of bringing its chilling artistry (not to mention its promisingly warned-about “strong language, gunshots, simulated nudity, theatrical haze, and strobe lighting”) to a city near you, preferably in the dead of winter to best suit the story — a time that, in Minnesota, already counts as forbidding enough.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. 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.

Stephen King’s The Shining Is Now an Opera, and The Tickets Are All Sold Out is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Behold the Kinetic, 39-Ton Statue of Franz Kafka’s Head, Erected in Prague: Artist David Černý’s Latest Creation

Wed, 25 May 2016 - 1:00 am

What does Kafka mean to you? To me he has always represented the triumph of smallness, which is no slight; the exemplary figure of what Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari called “a minor literature.” Kafka made minutiae and triviality compelling, invested the petty struggles of everyday life with a dramatic intensity and metaphysical aura that linger for days after reading him. Kafka’s letters show him caught in the grip of a crippling, yet deeply funny, intellectual ambivalence; his stories and novels equally trade in absurdist humor and philosophical seriousness. Kafka haunts the small domestic spaces and tedium of office life, imbuing secular modernity with a tragicomic strangeness. He trembles at the continued power of a dethroned religious authority, perplexed by its emptiness, rewriting the inwardness and self-negation of religious asceticism in parables absent of any god.


Seeking the source of authority, Kafka’s heroes find instead unsolvable riddles and mysterious vacancies. Which is why it seems odd to me that Kafka should himself be memorialized as a gigantic head in statuary—an 11 meter, 45 ton stainless steel head, with 42 motorized layers that move independently, rearranging and “metamorphosing” the author’s face. Called “K on Sun” and created by Czech artist David Černý, the shimmering, monumental work, installed in 2014, sits near the office building where Kafka worked as a clerk at an insurance company and across from the Prague City Hall. The “enormous mirrored bust” writes Christopher Jobson at This is Colossal, “brilliantly reveals Kafka’s tortured personality and unrelenting self-doubt.” Perhaps. Jacob Shamsian at Business Insider has another interpretation: “It’s meant to distract people from the frustrations of dealing with government employees.”

Maybe the key to understanding “K on Sun” is by comparison with an earlier piece by Černý called Metalmorphosis, which as you can see above, uses the same monumental, stainless steel design to create an enormous, gleaming, constantly rearranging head. This one sits at the Whitehall Technology Park in Charlotte, North Carolina, the kind of bland, homogenized corporate office campus that might have driven Kafka mad. “Černý,” writes Atlas Obscura, “notes the Metalmorphosis as something of a self-portrait of his own psyche,” saying “This is how I feel; it is a mental self-portrait.” Can we regard “Kafka in Sun” as also something of a portrait of Černý as well, imagining himself as Kafka? Perhaps.

The artist is a trickster character, known for frustrating and infuriating patrons and audiences, “a rebellious mix of Antony Gormley and Damien Hirst,” The Guardian opines, “as controversial as he is amusing.” One work, “Piss,” features just that, “two gyrating, mechanical men urinating on a map of the Czech Republic.” Their urine spells out famous sayings from Prague residents. Located right next to the Franz Kafka museum, the sculpture mocks the idea of art as a cultural enterprise devoted to the national interest. “Kafka in Sun” presents us with a much more imposingly serious piece than so many of Černý’s other, more whimsical, works. But it’s hard to imagine the satirical artist had a more serious, straightforward intention. In imagining Kafka as a huge, shiny sunlit head, he inverts the author’s small, private, self-contained world, turning Kafka into a strangely looming, public, authoritative presence resembling an enormous metal god.

via This is Colossal

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

Behold the Kinetic, 39-Ton Statue of Franz Kafka’s Head, Erected in Prague: Artist David Černý’s Latest Creation 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.

Watch 82-Year-Old Igor Stravinsky Conduct The Firebird, the Ballet Masterpiece That First Made Him Famous (1965)

Tue, 24 May 2016 - 1:52 pm

The Ballets Russes, founded in 1909 by art critic and impresario Sergei Diaghilev, staged some truly revolutionary productions on the very edge of aesthetic newness. Diaghilev’s ballets coordinated set designs by artists like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Giorgio de Chirico, choreography by such masters as George Balanchine and Vaslav Nijinsky, and scores by such modern composers as Sergei Prokofiev and Erik Satie. But of course, when we think of Diaghilev’s Russian ballets, we surely think foremost of Igor Stravinsky, whose Rite of Spring was so radical it famously incited a riot at its 1913 Parisian premiere and “would go on,” writes The Verge, “to leave an indelible mark on jazz, minimalism, and other contemporary movements.”



Just three years earlier, however, Stravinsky was mostly unknown. Still working under the shadow of his teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov, he was given his first big break by Diaghilev only after several other composers refused the job. That commission turned out to be one of the works for which Stravinsky is best known—the score for The Firebird, a ballet based on a Russian folk tale about a prince who frees a magical bird held captive by a sorcerer. Fittingly, given the monstrous nature of the story’s antagonists, Stravinsky’s score turns on a very sinister-sounding musical interval, the tritone, whose dissonance caused earlier composers to dub it “the Devil’s Interval” and to avoid it entirely in religious music. Just above, you can see Stravinsky himself, at age 82, conduct “The Lullaby Suite” from the ballet.

Stravinsky’s score built on Claude Debussy’s use of the tritone twenty years earlier in the eerie Prelude to an Afternoon of a Faun, and the net effect of the interval in these two pieces lead to its dark, moody sound becoming “the center of modern music.” So says Carnegie Hall’s Jeffrey Geffen in the short video introduction to Stravinsky’s Firebird above. Geffen goes on to tell us that Debussy and Stravinsky “looked to what was considered the most dissonant interval of the past 200 years and turned it into into something that becomes exotic and perfumed.” Although The Firebird’s story and many of its musical themes are distinctly Russian in origin (as you can see in the Khan Academy video below), the music “would not have been possible,” says Carnegie Hall’s David Robertson, “without the influence of Debussy and that of his friend Maurice Ravel.”

Stravinsky’s music proved polarizing even before the riots of Rite of Spring. When legendary dancer Anna Pavlova heard the Firebird score, she declared it “noise” and refused to dance to it, forcing Diaghilev to cast Tamara Karsavina in the title role. But the producer believed in his new composer, remarking to Karsavina on the ballet’s premiere that Stravinsky was “a man on the eve of celebrity.” Even the forward-looking Diaghilev couldn’t have predicted how much influence Stravinsky would have on the next 100 years of modern music. Since its first incarnation in 1910, The Firebird has been restaged and rearranged several times. The suite Stravinsky conducts at the top of the post comes from the 1945 arrangement. Two years after this filmed performance, Stravinsky conducted his very last recording for Columbia Records. He again chose to return, for the last time, to the ballet that first made him famous, The Firebird.

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

Watch 82-Year-Old Igor Stravinsky Conduct The Firebird, the Ballet Masterpiece That First Made Him Famous (1965) 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 to Build Stuff: A Free Short Course on Making Prototypes by Entrepreneur Dan Gelbart

Tue, 24 May 2016 - 11:14 am

Dan Gelbart, a Vancouver-based electrical engineer, helped create a company called Creo, which Kodak bought in 2005 for roughly $1 billion. If you read Gelbart’s short autobiography here, you can learn about the arc of his career: About how, during his early years, he started working for a tech company that produced high-speed film recorders. And about how Gelbart told the company that he could build a better film recorder, at a cheaper price. And he could do it in the basement of his home. He explains:

After a crash course in optics, I changed the design [of the recorder], but surprisingly managed to deliver a shippable prototype in 12 months with only one person working with me. I had a small metalworking workshop at home, many of the machines home-built, and this allowed me to fabricate most of the parts for the prototype myself.

I now have a wonderful CNC machine shop at home, but I don’t have the boundless enthusiasm of those days. However, I still build all my prototypes myself, finding it to be faster than sending out drawings and waiting for parts.

Above, you can watch what Gelbart calls “A Short Course on How to Build Stuff,” a series of 18 videos designed for students and scientists who want to build prototypes very quickly, using machines that are easy to master. Writes Make magazine, the “series begins by demonstrating how to use and modify his favorite shop tools, and reveals all kinds of enlightening shortcuts that make complicated assemblies trivial to produce. There is a true art to uncomplicating things, a rarity for some engineers.”

You can access the complete playlist here. Individual topics include:

1. Introduction
2. Safety
3. Waterjet
4. Bending
5. Spot Welding
6. Coatings
7. Presswork
8. Enclosures
9. Materials
10. Flexures
11. Non-metals
12. Plastics Forming and Casting
13. Large Structures
14. Brazing
15. Mill and Lathe
16. Machining
17. High Accuracy
18. Design

Gelbart’s course will be added to our collection, 1200 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

via Metafilter

How to Build Stuff: A Free Short Course on Making Prototypes by Entrepreneur Dan Gelbart 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.

Hunter S. Thompson Writes a Blistering, Over-the-Top Letter to Anthony Burgess (1973)

Tue, 24 May 2016 - 8:30 am

We know Anthony Burgess for having written A Clockwork Orange, but in total, according to Shaun Usher’s More Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience (a book based on the well-known blog), he “published 33 novels, 25 nonfiction titles, produced poetry, short stories and screenplays, composed three symphonies, wrote hundreds of musical pieces, and spoke nine languages fluently.” Yet even such a “prolific, versatile, and highly intelligent” man of letters faces writer’s block now and again.

Take the Rolling Stone thinkpiece Burgess couldn’t manage to write in 1973. Conceding defeat — “things are hell here,” he wrote of his life in Rome at the time — he offered the magazine “a 50,000-word novella I’ve just finished, all about the condition humaine, etc.” in its place. Surely his editor would understand? Alas, unluckily for Burgess, his editor turned out to be one Hunter S. Thompson, who fired back the characteristically blunt but eloquently vitriolic reply you see here:

Dear Mr. Burgess,

Herr Wenner has forwarded your useless letter from Rome to the National Affairs Desk for my examination and/or reply.

Unfortunately, we have no International Gibberish Desk, or it would have ended up there.

What kind of lame, half-mad bullshit are you trying to sneak over on us? When Rolling Stone asks for “a thinkpiece”, goddamnit, we want a fucking Thinkpiece… and don’t try to weasel out with any of your limey bullshit about a “50,000 word novella about the condition humaine, etc…”

Do you take us for a gang of brainless lizards? Rich hoodlums? Dilettante thugs?

You lazy cocksucker. I want that Thinkpiece on my desk by Labor Day. And I want it ready for press. The time has come & gone when cheapjack scum like you can get away with the kind of scams you got rich from in the past.

Get your worthless ass out of the piazza and back to the typewriter. Your type is a dime a dozen around here, Burgess, and I’m fucked if I’m going to stand for it any longer.

Sincerely,

Hunter S Thompson

“The desired thinkpiece never appeared in the pages of Rolling Stone,” writes the International Anthony Burgess Foundation’s Graham Foster, “but the essay referred to in these letters, ‘The Clockwork Condition’, was eventually published in the New Yorker in 2012.” In it, Burgess recalls the origins of his best-known novel and considers the causes of the societal conformity he took as one of his themes, arriving at the Orwellian notion that “the burden of making one’s own choices is, for many people, intolerable. To be tied to the necessity of deciding for oneself is to be a slave to one’s will.”

That goes for “where to eat, whom to vote for, what to wear” — and, of course, for what to write a thinkpiece about as well as how to write it. “It is easier to be told,” Burgess writes. “Smoke Hale — ninety per cent less tar; read this novel, seventy-five weeks on the best-seller list; don’t see that movie, it’s artsy-shmartsy.” He even remembers, with a certain fondness, his time in the army: “At first I resented the discipline, the removal of even minimal liberty,” but “soon my reduction to a piece of clockwork began to please me, soothe me.” Fair to say, though, that no matter how demanding the officers above him, the experience didn’t prepare Burgess for a superior like Thompson.

via More Letters of Note and Esquire

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. 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.

Hunter S. Thompson Writes a Blistering, Over-the-Top Letter to Anthony Burgess (1973) 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.