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Updated: 25 min 17 sec ago

Rick Rubin Revisits the Origins of Def Jam Records & the NYU Dorm Room Where It All Began

49 min 46 sec ago
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBHADseIs-w

There may have been no more influential a label in the late 1980s than Def Jam Records. Founded by Rick Rubin, Def Jam launched the careers of The Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, and dozens more hip-hop pioneers. But its beginnings were humble. The earliest Def Jam releases list the mailing address “5 University Pl. #712.” Current and former NYU students out there may recognize this address—it’s a dorm room in the university’s Weinstein Residence Hall, where in 1984, Rubin set up shop and began trying to reproduce the sound, as Rolling Stone writes, of “the raw performances he heard in clubs and the wild parties he threw.”

In the short Rolling Stone documentary above, “Rick Was Here,” see the pioneering producer revisit his origins, returning to his old dorm for the first time in 30 years. He talks about the “very specific feeling” of early hip-hop, and his desire to shift the focus of hip-hop records from R&B backing tracks to the DJ, who was all-important in live performances. Def Jam’s first release, T La Rock and Jazzy Jay’s “It’s Yours,” remains a classic of the genre. At the time, says Rubin, “it didn’t sound like anything else,” and through that record, Rubin met Russell Simmons, already “a big fish in the small pond of hip hop.” Simmons brought along a host of artists and gave Rubin more credibility in the community. Now the two are superproducers and moguls, but their origin story is one of scrappy determination that sparked a musical revolution.

The short film also features interviews with Simmons, LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys’ Adam Horowitz, and some of Rubin’s former dorm-mates and accomplices. For more on Def Jam’s early years, MetaFilter points us toward the histories Def Jam Recordings: The First 35 Years of the Last Great Record Label and Russell Simmons autobiography Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, + God.

Related Content:

The “Amen Break”: The Most Famous 6-Second Drum Loop & How It Spawned a Sampling Revolution

All Hail the Beat: How the 1980 Roland TR-808 Drum Machine Changed Pop Music

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

Rick Rubin Revisits the Origins of Def Jam Records & the NYU Dorm Room Where It All Began is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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The Groundbreaking Art of Alex Steinweiss, Father of Record Cover Design

3 hours 38 min ago

Given the visual perfection and ubiquity of album covers by designers like Storm Thorgerson and Peter Saville—given the popularity of blogs featuring monumentally bad album covers—it’s hard to feature a time when records came wrapped in plain brown paper like cheap booze or covered in nondescript bindings like business ledgers. But this was the case, before another widely admired designer, Alex Steinweiss, more or less invented the album cover in 1939 at the age of 22.

There had been cover art before, during the age of the 78 rpm record, but only for the rare special release. Most music came stamped with its contents and little else. Initially contracted by Columbia Records to produce better jackets for the unwieldy 78, Steinweiss soon became the label’s art director and convinced them to try out several full color designs inspired by French and German modernist poster art. When Columbia released the first vinyl LP in 1948, Steinweiss not only designed the cover, but he invented the paperboard jacket that still surrounds records today.

You can see a few of Steinweiss’ covers for classical and jazz albums here. At the top of the post, see that first LP cover, for a recording of Grieg’s Violin Concerto in E Minor. The design may seem pretty restrained, but Steinweiss quickly broadened his palette. Just below the Grieg cover is a classic design for the jazz compilation Boogie Woogie, and just above, we have a colorful block design for a Gershwin album. Steinweiss also drew inspiration from abstract expressionist painters like Wassily Kandinsky, as you can see in the Bartok cover below.

Steinweiss’ designs were extremely popular and sent record sales soaring. In one instance, Newsweek reported that sales of a recording of Beethoven’s “Eroica” symphony “increased 895% with its new Steinweiss cover.” A savvy, fearless artist, Steinweiss left the field with the same ease and grace with which he’d entered it. After designing album covers, movie posters, and graphics for “countless other products” for 33 years, writes Jeff Newelt for the Art Directors Club, Steinweiss retired to become a painter, “noting the rise of Swiss Modernism and minimalism, and the increasing preference for photography in the field” of graphic design. While Steinweiss wasn’t afraid to incorporate photos into his designs on occasion—as you can see in a 1940 Bessie Smith cover below—it was the rare occasion. Mostly what interested him were bold colors and geometrical shapes.

Though it’s certain that someone would have come along and created record covers eventually, it’s hard to underestimate the tremendous influence Steinweiss had on the form—the way his work has guided our experience of staring in awe at a mysterious album cover, even in the MP3 age, and trying to imagine the kind of music it describes. For much, much more on Steinweiss, you could purchase this enormous, and enormously expensive, Taschen book. Or save a few bucks and browse through some extensive online collections of his work, like this Steinweiss tribute site, this six part biography, and the Birka Jazz Archive from Columbia, which also features iconic covers by such artists as Jim Flora, Neil Fujita, and Saul Bass. Steven Heller, who teaches at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, presents a talk on Steinweiss’ art here.

Related Content:

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Classic Jazz Album Covers Animated, or the Re-Birth of Cool

Underground Cartoonist R. Crumb Introduces Us to His Rollicking Album Cover Designs

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

The Groundbreaking Art of Alex Steinweiss, Father of Record Cover Design is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Download The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe: Macabre Stories as Free eBooks & Audio Books

7 hours 14 min ago
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLSmhpwLdEQ

With Halloween fast approaching, let us remind you that few American writers can get you into the existentially chilling spirit of this climatically chilling season than Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849). And given that he lived and wrote entirely in the first half of the 19th century, few American writers can do it at so little financial cost to you, the reader. Today we’ve collected Poe’s freely available, public domain works of pure psychological unsettlement into five volumes of eBooks:

And five volumes of audiobooks as well (all the better to work their way into your subconscious):

And if, beyond perhaps reading here and there about pits, pendulums, ravens, and casks in Italy, you’ve never plunged into the canon produced by this troubled master of letters — American Romantic, acknowledged adept of the macabre, inventor of detective fiction, and contributor to the eventual emergence of science fiction — your chance has come. If you feel the understandable need for a lighter preliminary introduction to Poe’s work, hear Christopher Walken (speaking of American icons) deliver a surprisingly non-excessively Walkenified interpretation of “The Raven” at the top of the post. Below, we have a 1953 animation of “The Tell-Tale Heart” narrated by James Mason:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4s9V8aQu4c

After watching these videos, you’ll surely want to spend Halloween time catching up on everything else Poe wrote, after which you’ll understand that true scariness arises not from slasher movies, malevolent pumpkins, or tales of hooks embedded in car doors, but from the sort of thing the closed-eyed narrator of “The Pit and the Pendulum” means when he says, “It was not that I feared to look upon things horrible, but that I grew aghast lest there should be nothing to see.”

The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe permanently reside in our twin collections: 550 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free and 600 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices

Related Content:

Watch the 1953 Animation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Narrated by James Mason

Download a Free, New Halloween Story by Neil Gaiman (and Help Charities Along the Way)

Watch Goethe’s Haunting Poem, “Der Erlkönig,” Presented in an Artful Sand Animation

“A Haunted House” by Virginia Woolf

Watch Nosferatu, the Seminal Vampire Film, Free Online (1922)

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

Download The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe: Macabre Stories as Free eBooks & Audio Books is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The post Download The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe: Macabre Stories as Free eBooks & Audio Books appeared first on Open Culture.

Watch The Simpsons’ Halloween Parody of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shining

11 hours 14 min ago

For the past 25 years, the highlight of every season of The Simpsons has been its Treehouse of Horror Halloween special – an omnibus episode filled with morbid, and frequently hilarious, horror spoofs. It’s the one time of the year when the creators of the long running series feel comfortable with disemboweling Homer, flaying Marge, and letting Maggie wield an axe. Arguably the best one of these segments was its 1994 parody of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining – called “The Shinning”. This year, The Simpsons return to riffing on Kubrick in a segment called “A Clockwork Yellow.” You can watch a section of it above.

The episode centers on cankerous bartender Moe Szyslak as the bowler-bedecked Alex who, along with Lenny, Carl and Homer (playing Dim, of course), spouts nonsense Nadsat and terrorizes London. When they decide to break into a house, Moe and the gang end up crashing an Eyes Wide Shut-style orgy hosted by Mr. Burns. From there, the Kubrick references start flying thick and fast, with nods to Full Metal Jacket, 2001: A Space Odyssey and even Barry Lyndon (“Even I forget what this is in reference to”). And then a scene cuts to a Simpsonfied version of Kubrick, watching the segment from an editing bay. “Let’s burn this,” he bellows at an assistant. “Let’s rewrite everything. And let’s start all over.”

The full episode is available on Hulu Plus, if you have a subscription. If not, you can watch it for free after October 27th. And you can watch a portion of “The Shinning” below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yGJGTjV2WE

Related Content: 

Fear and Desire: Stanley Kubrick’s First and Least-Seen Feature Film (1953)

Stanley Kubrick’s Daughter Shares Photos of Herself Growing Up on Her Father’s Film Sets

Stanley Kubrick’s List of Top 10 Films (The First and Only List He Ever Created)

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 vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.

Watch The Simpsons’ Halloween Parody of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shining is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The post Watch The Simpsons’ Halloween Parody of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shining appeared first on Open Culture.

Are You a Psychopath? Take the Test (And, If You Fail, It’s Not All Bad News)

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 - 2:50 pm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUsGDVOCLVQ

We’ve all heard the old philosophical scenario known as the trolley problem: as the runaway vehicle of the name careens out of control toward the edge of a cliff, you must choose whether to pull the lever to switch it to another track. The catch: while the trolley would then no longer plunge off that cliff, bringing about the certain deaths of the five people aboard, it would instead kill someone standing on the other track, who will survive if you don’t pull the lever. In a more fraught version of the problem, you must choose not whether to pull a lever, but whether to shove a person of considerable bulk onto the (single) track, stopping the trolley but killing the bulky individual.

In the Big Think video above, Oxford psychologist Kevin Dutton, author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, uses the trolley problem to illuminate the condition of psychopathy. While non-psychopaths may dither about the first version of the scenario, they eventually come to the conclusion that they prefer one death to five. They have much more of a struggle with the second version, which requires them to actually push the lone stranger to head off those five deaths. Psychopaths, by contrast, experience no such difficulty: the trolley problem, for them, hardly amounts to a problem at all, and Dutton explains, neuroscientifically, why: “Imagine that I were to hook you up to a brain scanner and present you with those two dilemmas. I would see the emotion center of your brain, your amygdala and related brain circuits, the medial orbital frontal cortex for example, light up like a pinball machine.”

And if he’d scanned a psychopath? “Precisely nothing.” All this assumes, of course, that you do not yourself suffer from psychopathy. If you don’t know whether you do, Dutton offers a handy multiple-choice “psychopath challenge” on his site that can give you an idea of the direction your brain may lean. If you’ve got a touch of the old psychopathy, don’t lock yourself away; as Dutton explains in this Time interview, “you don’t need to be violent,” and you can even attain greater success in certain fields than non-psychopathics — especially if you consider vigilantly and unhesitatingly minimizing the death tolls at diverted cliffside trolley tracks a field.

Related Content:

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Free Online Psychology Courses

How To Think Like a Psychologist: A Free Online Course from Stanford

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

Are You a Psychopath? Take the Test (And, If You Fail, It’s Not All Bad News) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The post Are You a Psychopath? Take the Test (And, If You Fail, It’s Not All Bad News) appeared first on Open Culture.

Different From the Others (1919): The First Gay Rights Movie Ever … Later Destroyed by the Nazis

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 - 10:50 am
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJHlH19hbJo

From Albert Kinsey, to Sigmund Freud, to Magnus Hirschfeld, prominent social scientists have offered dissenting opinions to prevailing mainstream ideas about homosexuality as a consequence of parental or societal influences. This doesn’t mean those researchers have agreed with each other, or with current ideas, but their conclusions were controversial and startling to a consensus often complicit in the criminalization and political repression of gays and lesbians. If you haven’t heard the last name on that list above, there’s probably a good reason: Hirschfeld—a gay, Jewish physician, sexologist, and advocate in Weimar Germany—had much of his work burned by the Nazis in their 1933 rise to power.

One of Hirschfeld’s works destroyed in Nazi fires was a film he co-wrote and co-starred in called Different From the Others, the first gay rights movie in history. Released in 1919, and banned in 1920, the film explored a doomed relationship between a violinist, played by silent star Conrad Veidt, and his student. Extensive flashback scenes show both characters’ early sexual experiences, their failed attempts to change their sexual orientation (including treatment with bogus “ex-gay” therapies), and their eventual self-acceptance. In their present day, the couple is openly affectionate, until the violinist is blackmailed and dragged into court by an extortionist, then abandoned by his friends and family. He commits suicide, and his lover vows to fight the law that criminalized homosexuality in Germany, known as Paragraph 175.

Different From the Others would be lost to history were it not for Hirschfeld’s preservation of 40 minutes of footage in a separate documentary. You can view the surviving film above, with English title cards. The film was part of a didactic series on themes of sexuality that Hirschfeld made with director Richard Oswald. In each one, Hirschfeld appears as a doctor who intervenes on behalf of persecuted individuals. In Different from the Others, he does so with the violinist’s parents, telling them, “You must not condemn your son because he is a homosexual, he is not to blame for his orientation. It is not wrong, nor should it be a crime. Indeed, it is not even an illness, merely a variation, and one that is common to all of nature.”

In many other such scenes, most of them now lost, Hirschfeld explicitly states his argument that, as The New York Times writes, “homophobia, not homosexuality, was a scourge of society.” The then-radical point of view found little contemporary support—screenings were restricted solely to medical practitioners and lawyers until the film’s destruction—but it makes this artifact of tremendous interest to film historians and activists today. In addition to Hirschfeld’s pioneering activism, the film is notable for starring Viedt, who went on to fame for his role in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Despite its many lacunae and entire missing scenes, and characters, Different From the Others is currently being restored and turned into an expanded, “watchable feature,” using the surviving remnants, along with found photos and film stills, by the Outfest-UCLA Legacy Project (see their fully-funded Kickstarter here). Many scenes—such as a lengthy theoretical lecture by Hirschfeld—will be reconstructed from a synopsis, “a few reviews, and little else.” “You’re not seeing the original,” admits UCLA Film & Television Archive director Jan-Christopher Horek of the coming reconstruction, “because we don’t know what the original looks like.” Nevertheless, in whatever form, Different From the Others represents a perspective at least “50 years ahead of its time,” says Horak, with an “enlightened theory that you wouldn’t see in this country probably until the ‘70s or ‘80s.”

Different from the Others will be added to our list of Great Silent Films, part of our larger collection, 700 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

Related Content:

Rudolf Brazda, Last Man to Wear the Pink Triangle During the Holocaust, Tells His Story

Sigmund Freud Writes to Concerned Mother: “Homosexuality is Nothing to Be Ashamed Of” (1935)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: See the Restored Version of the 1920 Horror Classic with Its Original Color Tinting

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

Different From the Others (1919): The First Gay Rights Movie Ever … Later Destroyed by the Nazis is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The post Different From the Others (1919): The First Gay Rights Movie Ever … Later Destroyed by the Nazis appeared first on Open Culture.

Lynda Barry, Cartoonist Turned Professor, Gives Her Old Fashioned Take on the Future of Education

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 - 8:00 am
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZleAvAv1Yg

With college tuitions ballooning to the point of implosion, and free educational content proliferating online, the future of education is a scorching hot topic.

So where are we heading?

Coursera and Khan AcademyVideo game-based curricula? Experience-driven microlearning?

Or school buildings that moonlight as candy?

So suggested one of the younger participants in a workshop led by the University of Wisconsin’s Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Creativity, cartoonist and author Lynda Barry (aka Professor Long-Title).

Barry’s messianic embrace of the arts has proved popular with students of all ages. When the university’s Counterfactual Drawing Board Project invited faculty, staff, and others to consider what the “appearance, purpose, atmosphere and community of the campus” would be like in 100 years time, Barry deliberately widened the pool to include children.

Yes, their innovations tended toward volcano schools that erupt at dismissal, but presumably some of those same children will be in the vanguard when it’s time for initiatives that seem unimaginable now to be implemented. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all that.

Or as one gimlet-eyed youth put it, in a hundred years “the teachers will all be dead.”

No wonder few adult participants can see past a button-driven, hermetically sealed, digital future wherein every student has a chip implanted in his or her head.

Barry, no stranger to depression, manages to laugh such gloomy forecasts off, despite what they portend for the tactile, handmade ephemera she reveres. A sense of humor—and humanity—is at the core of every educational reform she practices.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhOU6HUjL6Y

Rather than rip each other’s writing to shreds during in-class critiques, her students call each other by outlandish pseudonyms and draw meditative spirals as each others’ work is read aloud. Every reader is assured of a hearty “good!” from the teacher. She wants them to keep going, you see.

Surely there are institutions where this approach might not fly, but why poo-poo it? Isn’t fueling the creative spirit a practical investment in the future?

“It’s there in everybody,” Barry believes. “You have to give people an experience of it, a repeated experience of it that they generate themselves.”

Maybe someday, some kid who hasn’t had the love of learning squelched out of him or her will apply all that creativity toward curing cancer. That’d be great, huh? At worst, that carefully tended spark can give solace in the dark days ahead. As fans of Barry’s work well know, art exists to carry us through times of “sorrow and grief and trouble.”

Related Content:

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Join Cartoonist Lynda Barry for a University-Level Course on Doodling and Neuroscience

Lynda Barry, Cartoonist Turned Professor, Gives Her Old Fashioned Take on the Future of Education is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Pablo Picasso’s Two Favorite Recipes: Eel Stew & Omelette Tortilla Niçoise

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 - 4:15 am

Back in 1964, Pablo Picasso shared with Vogue’s food columnist Ninette Lyon two of his favorite recipes — one for Eel Stew, the other for Omelette Tortilla Niçoise. If you live in the South of France, as Picasso did, the recipes probably won’t be entirely foreign to you. But if you aren’t so lucky, you might want to add these recipes, now reprinted by Vogue, to your culinary bucket list.

Below, we’ve highlighted the ingredients for the recipes. But, for step-by-step directions on how to prepare the dishes, head over to Vogue itself.

For more recipes from cultural icons — Hemingway, Tolstoy, Alice B. Toklas, Jane Austen, David Lynch, Miles Davis, etc. — head to the bottom of this page.

Eel Stew for Four People

6 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons butter
12 small white onions
1 teaspoon sugar
2 yellow onions, chopped
12 mushrooms
⅓ pound salt pork, cubed
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eels of about 1 pound each, cut into four- to five-inch sections
1 bottle of good red wine
1 tablespoon flour
Salt, pepper, cayenne pepper
Bouquet garni: thyme, bay leaf, parsley, fennel, and a small branch of celery

Omelette Tortilla Niçoise for Four People
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion
4 peppers, red and green
3 tomatoes
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
8 eggs
Salt and pepper

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Thomas Jefferson’s Handwritten Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe

Alice B. Toklas Reads Her Famous Recipe for Hashish Fudge (1963)

Marilyn Monroe’s Handwritten Turkey-and-Stuffing Recipe

Read Filmmaker Luis Buñuel’s Recipe for the Perfect Dry Martini, and Then See Him Make One

Miles Davis’ “South Side Chicago Chili Mack” Recipe Revealed

The Recipes of Iconic Authors: Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath, Roald Dahl, the Marquis de Sade & More

Pablo Picasso’s Two Favorite Recipes: Eel Stew & Omelette Tortilla Niçoise is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Google Makes Available 750 Icons for Designers & Developers: All Open Source 

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 - 12:16 am

If you’re a designer or developer, Kottke.org thought you’d might like to know: “As part of their Material Design visual language, Google has open-sourced a package of 750 icons. More info here.”

Over at Github, you can view a live preview of the icons or download the icon pack now.

Our friends at BoingBoing add, “They’re licensed CC-BY-SA and designed for use in mobile apps and other interactive stuff.” Use them well.

 

Google Makes Available 750 Icons for Designers & Developers: All Open Source  is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Hear The Flaming Lips Cover All of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s: Streaming Free for a Limited Time

Mon, 20 Oct 2014 - 7:22 pm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UWO6vQXYIk

In 2012, Rolling Stone issued a revised list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, at the very top of which sits The Beatles’ 1967 recordSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Justifying making the album its number one pick, Rolling Stone wrote:

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time. From the title song’s regal blasts of brass and fuzz guitar to the orchestral seizure and long, dying piano chord at the end of “A Day in the Life,” the 13 tracks on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band are the pinnacle of the Beatles’ eight years as recording artists. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were never more fearless and unified in their pursuit of magic and transcendence….

Sgt. Pepper formally ushered in an unforgettable season of hope, upheaval and achievement: the late 1960s and, in particular, 1967’s Summer of Love. In its iridescent instrumentation, lyric fantasias and eye-popping packaging, Sgt. Pepper defined the opulent revolutionary optimism of psychedelia and instantly spread the gospel of love, acid, Eastern spirituality and electric guitars around the globe. No other pop record of that era, or since, has had such an immediate, titanic impact. This music documents the world’s biggest rock band at the very height of its influence and ambition.

Given Sgt. Pepper’s iconic status, it’s hard to imagine a contemporary band deciding to cover the entire album. (Can you really improve upon it?) But that’s just what The Flaming Lips have done with With a Little Help From My Fwends. Scheduled to be released next week, the album features contributions by fwends like Moby, My Morning Jacket, Miley Cyrus, and others. Proceeds from the album — which is now streaming free for a limited time at NPR — will go to the Bella Foundation, a non-profit that assists low-income, elderly or terminally ill pet owners with the cost of veterinary care when it cannot be afforded. You can pre-order the Flaming Lips album on Amazon and iTunes.

In other news, Paul McCartney announced today that he has unearthed a Wings’ song he played (back in the day) with John Bonham on drums. An intriguing idea. Catch it here.

Hear The Flaming Lips Cover All of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s: Streaming Free for a Limited Time is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The post Hear The Flaming Lips Cover All of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s: Streaming Free for a Limited Time appeared first on Open Culture.

Steven Pinker Identifies 10 Breakable Grammatical Rules: “Who” Vs. “Whom,” Dangling Modifiers & More

Mon, 20 Oct 2014 - 2:00 pm

We’ve previously featured Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker discussing writing at a Harvard conference on the subject. In that case, the focus was narrowly on academic writing, which, he has uncontroversially claimed, “stinks.” Now—“not content with just poaching” in the land of the scribes, writes Charles McGrath at The New York Times Sunday Book Review—Pinker has dared to “set himself up as a gamekeeper” with a new book—The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. The grandiose title suggests to McGrath that the scientist intends to supplant that most venerable, and most dated, classic writer’s text by Strunk and White. He’s gone from chiding his fellow scholars to writing prescriptions for us all.

But if this seems out of bounds, wait until you hear what he suggests. Instead of issuing even more seemingly arbitrary, burdensome commands, Pinker aims to free us from the tyranny of the senseless in grammar—or, as he calls it in an article at The Guardian, from “folklore and superstition.” Below are five of the ten “common issues of grammar” Pinker selects “from those that repeatedly turn up in style guides, pet-peeve lists, newspaper language columns and irate letters to the editor.” In each case, he explains the absurdity of strict adherence and offers several perfectly reasonable exceptions that require no correction to clarify their meaning.

  1. Beginning sentences with conjunctions

We have almost certainly all been taught in some fashion or another that this is a no-no. “That’s because teachers need a simple way” to teach children “how to break sentences.” The “rule,” Pinker says, is “misinformation” and “inappropriate for adults.” He cites only two examples here, both using the conjunction “because”: Johnny Cash’s “Because you’re mine, I walk the line,” and the stock parental non-answer, “Because I said so.” And yet (see what I did?), other conjunctions, like “and,” “but,” “yet,” and “so” may also “be used to begin a sentence whenever the clauses being connected are too long or complicated to fit comfortably into a single megasentence.”

  1. Dangling modifiers

Having taught English composition for several years, and thus having read several hundred scrambled student essays, I find this one difficult to concede. The dangling modifier—an especially easy error to make when writing quickly—too easily creates confusion or downright unintelligibility. Pinker does admit since the subjects of dangling modifiers “are inherently ambiguous,” they might sometimes “inadvertently attract a reader to the wrong choice, as in ‘When a small boy, a girl is of little interest.’” But, he says, this is not a grammatical error. Here are a few “danglers” he suggests as “perfectly acceptable”:

“Checking into the hotel, it was nice to see a few of my old classmates in the lobby.”

“Turning the corner, the view was quite different.”

“In order to contain the epidemic, the area was sealed off.”

  1. Who and Whom

I once had a student ask me if “whom” was an archaic affectation that would make her writing sound forced and unnatural. I had to admit she had an excellent point, no matter what our overpriced textbook said. In most cases, even if correctly used, whom can indeed sound “formal verging on pompous.” Though they seem straightforward enough, “the rules for its proper use,” writes Pinker, “are obscure to many speakers, tempting them to drop ‘whom’ into their speech whenever they want to sound posh,” and to generally use the word incorrectly. Despite “a century of nagging by prescriptive grammarians,” the distinction between “who” and “whom” seems anything but simple, and so one’s use of it—as with any tricky word or usage—should be carefully calibrated “to the complexity of the construction and the degree of formality” the writing calls for. Put plainly, know how you’re using “whom” and why, or stick with the unobjectionable “who.”

  1. Very unique

Oftentimes we find the most innocuous-sounding, common sense usages called out by uptight pedants as ungrammatical when there’s no seeming reason why they should be. The phrase “very unique,” a description that may not strike you as excessively weird or backward, happens to be “one of the commonest insults to the sensibility of the purist.” This is because, such narrow thinkers claim, as with other categorical expressions like “absolute” or “incomparable,” something either is or it isn’t, in the same way that one either is or isn’t pregnant: “referring to degrees of uniqueness is meaningless,” says the logic, in the case of absolute adjectives. Of course, it seems to me that one can absolutely refer to degrees of pregnancy. In any case, writes Pinker, “uniqueness is not like pregnancy [...]; it must be defined relative to some scale of measurement.” Hence, “very unique,” makes sense, he says. But you should avoid it on aesthetic grounds. “’Very,’” he says, “is a soggy modifier in the best of circumstances.” How about “rather unique?” Too posh-sounding?

  1. That and which

I breathed an audible sigh on encountering this one, because it’s a rule I find particularly irksome. Of note is that Pinker, an American, is writing in The Guardian, a British publication, where things are much more relaxed for these two relative pronouns. In U.S. usage, “which” is reserved for nonrestrictive—or optional clauses: “The pair of shoes, which cost five thousand dollars, was hideous.” For restrictive clauses, those “essential to the meaning of the sentence,” we use “that.” Pinker takes the example of a sentence in a documentary on “Imelda Marcos’s vast shoe collection.” In such a case, of course, we would need that bit about the price; hence, “The pair of shoes that cost £5,000 was hideous.”

It’s a reasonable enough distinction, and “one part of the rule,” Pinker says, “is correct.” We would rarely find someone writing “The pair of shoes, that cost £5,000…” after all. It probably looks awkward to our eyes (though I’ve seen it often enough). But there’s simply no good reason, he says, why we can’t use “which” freely, as the Brits already do, to refer to things both essential and non-. “Great writers have been using it for centuries,” Pinker points out, citing whoever (or “whomever”) translated that “render unto Caesar” bit in the King James Bible and Franklin Roosevelt’s “a day which will live in infamy.” QED, I’d say. And anyway, “which” is so much lovelier a word than “that.”

See Pinker’s Guardian piece for his other five anti-rules and free yourself up to write in a more natural, less stilted way. That is, if you already have some mastery of basic English. As Pinker rightly observes, “anyone who has read an inept student paper [um-hm], a bad Google translation, or an interview with George W. Bush can appreciate that standards of usage are desirable in many areas of communication.” How do we know when a rule is useful and when it impedes “clear and graceful prose?” It’s really no mystery, Pinker says. “Look it up.” It sounds like his book might help put things into better perspective than most writing guides, however. You can also hear him discuss his accessible and intuitive writing advice in the KQED interview with Michael Krasny above.

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

Steven Pinker Identifies 10 Breakable Grammatical Rules: “Who” Vs. “Whom,” Dangling Modifiers & 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.

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The Electric Rise and Fall of Nikola Tesla: As Told by Technoillusionist Marco Tempest

Mon, 20 Oct 2014 - 11:33 am

A couple of years back, Marco Tempest, a technoillusionist from Switzerland, retold the life story of inventor Nikola Tesla using the principles of Tanagra theater, a form of theater popular in Europe nearly a century ago. A good description of this forgotten form of theatre is surprisingly hard to come by. Perhaps the best I encountered comes from this academic web site:

Tanagra Theatres existed in many European cities in the years 1910-1920. The name comes from the figures excavated at Tanagra in the 1890s whose name became synonymous with perfect living miniatures, particularly female. The sideshow illusion consisted of a miniature stage where living actors appeared as real but tiny figures, through an arrangement of plain and concave mirrors. Its development as a sideshow attraction came about as a by-product of research into optical instruments which could better sustain the perception of depth. The use of concave mirrors has a long history in magic but for the Tanagra the stronger light of electricity was essential.

In his presentation, Tempest takes the concepts of Tanagra to a whole new level, combining projection mapping and intricate pop-up art. As you watch the show, you might find yourself intrigued as much by the method as by the story itself. If that’s the case, you will want to watch the “behind-the-scenes” video below. Tempest also gave his presentation at TED. You can watch it here.

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The Electric Rise and Fall of Nikola Tesla: As Told by Technoillusionist Marco Tempest is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Kevin Spacey Is the Rainforest, Julia Roberts is Mother Nature: Actors Play Nature in Environmental Shorts

Mon, 20 Oct 2014 - 8:30 am
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBqMJzv4Cs8

When Hollywood’s formidable promotional wing discovered it could announce a movie by not just telling you a big star is in it, but that a big star is it, they had a decades-long field day with the idea that continues, tiresomely, to the present moment. Right now, many of the billboards up around Los Angeles insist upon telling me that “Keanu Reaves is John Wick,” but give it a few weeks and they’ll tell us someone else we know is someone else we don’t (unless, of course, we buy a ticket). Conservation International has taken this marketing trope and spun it into a series of shorts featuring “A-list” actors, the most famous of the famous, playing the earthly entities with which we should, perhaps, have more familiarity than we do. At the top of the post, Kevin Spacey is the rainforest. Just below, Julia Roberts is Mother Nature. At the bottom, Harrison Ford is the ocean.

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

“I’m most of this planet,” Ford-as-ocean intones with his signature (and increasingly gruff) gruffness. “I shaped it. Every stream, every cloud, and every raindrop — it all comes back to me.” But as Mother Nature, Roberts makes impressive claims of her own: “I’ve been here for over four and a half billion years — 22,500 times longer than you. I don’t really need people, but people need me.” Not to be outdone, Kevin Spacey’s ever-giving rainforest issues a challenge to us all: “Humans, they’re so smart. So smart. Such big brains and opposable thumbs. They know how to make things — amazing things. Now why would they need an old forest like me anymore? Well, they do breathe air, and I make air. Have they thought about that?”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rM6txLtoaoc

You can watch the entire series of films, entitled “Nature is Speaking,” on a single Youtube playlist. The rest of the lineup includes Edward Norton as the soil, Penelope Cruz as water (o, hablando en español, como Agua), and Robert Redford as, suitably, the redwood. (You can also see clips from behind the scenes featuring Norton and Ford assuming their elemental roles in the recording studio.) They all combine this considerable amount of vocal star power with equally striking footage of the part of the environment from whom we hear, and sometimes of its destruction. They carry one overall message, which Conversation International has unshyly spelled out: “Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature.” Still, it comes off less heavy-handed than most of the environmental messages I remember from the films of my 1990s youth. If, for the next series, they get Reeves on board (speaking of pieces of my 90s youth), can they find a suitably laid-back element to pair him with? For more information on the campaign, please visit the Nature is Speaking site.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3e66bnuxV2A

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

Kevin Spacey Is the Rainforest, Julia Roberts is Mother Nature: Actors Play Nature in Environmental Shorts is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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

Mon, 20 Oct 2014 - 1:00 am

“I do the show in character, he’s an idiot, he’s willfully ignorant of what you know and care about, please honestly disabuse me of my ignorance and we’ll have a great time.” 

This secret speaks to the heart of comedian and fake-pundit Stephen Colbert’s wildly popular Colbert Report. But how exactly does he manage to pull this rabbit from his hat, night after night grueling night?

The nuts and bolts of Colbert’s working day make for a fascinating inaugural episode of Working, a new Slate podcast hosted by David Plotz. It shares a title with radio personality Studs Terkel’s famous non-fictional examination, but Plotz’s project is more process oriented. Soup-to-nuts-and-bolts, if you will.

Colbert is happy to oblige with a Little Red Hen-like corn metaphor in which alcohol, not bread, is the ultimate goal.

His morning begins with a deep rummage through the headlines—Google News, Reddit, Slate, The Drudge Report, Fox News, Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post… imagine if this stack was made of paper. When does he have the time to google ex-girlfriends?

Whenever patterns and trends emerge, Colbert and his hard working team ferret out ways to impose his character onto them. Occasionally some lucky non-story will find itself elevated to Queen for a Day, if it speaks to something Colbert-the-character would care about passionately. The proposed ban on horse carriages in Central Park, the Colorado VA’s marijuana stance, and the self-declared lesbian trouple are three that have borne fruit of late.

From pitch meeting through read-aloud and rewrites, the school hours portion of Colbert’s day resembles that of other deadline-driven shows. He’s quick to acknowledge the contributions of a dedicated and like-minded staff, including executive producer Tom Purcell and head writer Opus—as in Bloom County—Moreschi.

As showtime approaches, Colbert swaps his jeans for a Brooks Brothers suit, and leaves the homey, dog-friendly townhouse where the bulk of the writing takes place for the studio next door.

There are last minute rewrites, a guest to greet, a Bic pen to be nibbled

Ideally, he’ll get at least 10 minutes of headspace to become the monster of his own making, liberal America’s favorite willfully ignorant idiot. (Most of liberal America, anyway. My late-mother-in-law refused to believe it was an act, but it is.)

A bit of schtick with the makeup artist serves as a litmus test for audience responsiveness.

When the cameras roll, Colbert sticks close to his prompter, further proof that the character is a construct. Any improvisational impulses are unleashed during one-on-one interactions with the guest. With some 10,000 hours of comedy under his belt, his instincts tend toward the unerring.

At days end, he thanks the audience, the guest and everyone backstage except for one guy who gets a mere wave. The show is then edited at a zip squeal pace, and will hopefully fall into the “yay!” category. (The other choices are “solid” or “wrench to the head.”)

Colbert will only watch the show if there was a problem.

And then? The day begins again.

After peering through this window onto Colbert’s world, we’re stoked for future episodes of Working, when guests as varied as a rock musician, a hospice nurse, and porn star Jessica Drake walk Plotz through a typical day.

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Ayun Halliday is the creator of The Mermaid’s Legs, a trauma-filled Hans Christian Andersen reboot premiering this week in NYC. See it! And follow her @AyunHalliday

Stephen Colbert Explains How The Colbert Report Is Made in a New Podcast is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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How Wolves Change Rivers

Sun, 19 Oct 2014 - 12:39 am
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa5OBhXz-Q

In nature, everything is connected — connected in ways you might not expect. The short video above is narrated by George Monbiot, an English writer and environmentalist, who now considers himself a “rewilding campaigner.” The concept of rewilding and how it can save ecosystems in general, and how wolves changed Yellowstone National Park in particular, is something Monbiot explains in greater detail in his 2013 TED Talk below, and in his new book — Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding.

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

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How Wolves Change Rivers is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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IAI Academy Now Offers Free Courses: From “The Meaning of Life” to “A Brief Guide to Everything”

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 - 11:21 pm

This month, The Institute of Art and Ideas (IAI), an organization committed to fostering “a progressive and vibrant intellectual culture in the UK,” launched IAI Academy — a new online educational platform that features courses in philosophy, science and politics. The initial lineup includes 12 courses covering everything from theoretical physics, the meaning of life, the future of feminism, the often vexed relationship between science and religion, and more.

IAI Academy offers its courses for free. But, like other course providers, they charge a nominal fee (right now about $25) if you would like a Verified Certificate when you’ve successfully completed a course. Here’s the initial lineup:

  • A Brief Guide to Everything – Web Video – John Ellis, King’s College London, CBE 
  • The Meaning of Life – Web Video – Steve Fuller, University of Warwick
  • New Adventures in Spacetime – Web Video – Eleanor Knox, King’s College London
  • Minds, Morality and Agency – Web Video – Mark Rowlands, University of Miami
  • Nine Myths About Schizophrenia – Web Video – Richard Bentall, University of Liverpool
  • The History of Fear – Web Video – Frank Furedi, University of Kent
  • Physics: What We Still Don’t Know – Web Video – David Tong, Cambridge
  • Science vs. Religion – Web Video – Mark Vernon, Journalist/Philosopher
  • Sexuality and Power – Web Video – Veronique Mottier, University of Lausanne
  • The Infinite Quest – Web Video – Peter Cameron, Queen Mary University of London.
  • End of Equality – Web Video – Beatrix Campbell – Writer/Activist
  • Rethinking Feminism – Web Video – Finn Mackay – Feminist Activist & Researcher

For more evergreen courses that you can download and enjoy whenever you want, don’t miss our collection, 1000 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

For MOOCs being provided in real-time, see our list of MOOCs from Great Universities.

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IAI Academy Now Offers Free Courses: From “The Meaning of Life” to “A Brief Guide to Everything” is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Toby Dammit: Fellini’s Masterful Short Film, Based on a Tale by Edgar Allan Poe (1968)

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 - 5:29 pm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnxCKCImvC8

The writings of Edgar Allan Poe have long been tempting source material for filmmakers. Roger Corman made a series of enjoyable shlocky adaptations back in the 1960s. D. W. Griffith turned Poe’s “The Avenging Conscience” into a Victorian morality play. Italian horror master Dario Argento took a stab with The Black Cat. But perhaps the best Poe adaptation out there is Federico Fellini’s Toby Dammit You can watch it above.

The short was a part of the 1968 omnibus movie Spirits of the Dead, which also featured segments by Roger Vadim and Louis Malle. Fellini’s movie is based on Poe’s short story “Never Bet the Devil Your Head.” Poe was sick of the literary establishment railing against his work for not having a moral for the audience, so he wrote a tongue-in-cheek tale that had a thuddingly obvious one. It’s in the title. In the story, Toby Dammit is a foolish lad who, in spite of having no money, would bet on anything, using his head as collateral. Eventually, the devil takes him up on the offer and, not surprisingly, Dammit loses his head. Literally.

The movie has little of the satirical edge of Poe’s story, but Fellini’s flashy decadence meshes surprisingly well with Poe’s brooding morbidity. Terence Stamp plays Dammit, a washed up, alcoholic Shakespearean actor who looks a bit like a bleached out version of Poe himself. Lured by promises of a Ferrari, he goes to Rome to appear in the world’s first Catholic Western. Dammit soon finds himself haunted by visions of the devil. No red horns here. This Satan comes in the form of a creepy blonde girl who looks like she was pulled straight out of a Japanese horror movie. The second half of the movie is a phantasmagoric joy ride as a crazed Dammit blasts through the streets of Rome in his new car.  It’s a drive straight to a very Felliniesque hell.

All of Fellini’s trademark stylistic traits are there on the screen. Gorgeous, if vapid women, in elaborate hairstyles? Check. Bizarre Catholic imagery? Check. Paparazzi asking improbably philosophical questions? Yup. Fellini turns Poe’s tortured gloom into the sort of spiraling existential malaise that he perfected in La Dolce Vita and 8 ½. If you’re a Fellini fan, this film really is a joy to watch.

Though Fellini’s segment was the clear stand out of the three shorts – New York Times critic Vincent Canby declared Toby Dammit to be a “short movie but a major one” – the other two movies weren’t as well received and Spirits of the Dead was soon forgotten. Then renowned cinematographer and Fellini collaborator Giuseppe Rotunno had Toby Dammit restored. When it screened at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, it was hailed as a lost Fellini masterpiece.

via Biblioklept

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.

Toby Dammit: Fellini’s Masterful Short Film, Based on a Tale by Edgar Allan Poe (1968) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 - 5:00 am

Ten years in academia gave me a healthy dislike of clichéd jargon, as well as an appreciation for jokes about it. There are a few, like the academic sentence generator and Ph.D. Comics, that capture a bit of what it’s like to go to school and work in higher ed. Corporate drones, of course, have Office Space and Dilbert. But what about the spooks, those nameless, faceless agents who work tirelessly away in the basement of Langley, doing who knows what to whom? Where does the C.I.A. go to laugh at its peculiar brand of hackneyed doublespeak? Not that we were supposed to know this, but perhaps many of them turn to an article called “the Bestiary of Intelligence Writing” in a 1982 copy of internal agency newsletter Studies in Intelligence.

Medium describes this odd piece as a “zoo of fictional fauna,” and like that strange literary form, the medieval European bestiary (often a source of satire and critique), this 17-page article, with footnotes, singles out the most offensive spook buzzwords as though they were cardinal sins—naming 15 members of “the Collection” in all, each one represented by its own Maurice Sendak-like pencil-drawn beast and a description of its habits. The two-headed beast at the top, Multidisciplinary Analysis, is a “hybrid—the fruit of the casual mating of standard forms of Analysis.” Just above, we have Heightened Tensions, “the adult form of Conventional Tensions—Tensions that have acquired stilts by thriving on a rich diet of poverty, malnutrition and especially alienation.” Sounds like rough work, this spy game….

Most of the beasts are cuddly enough, some mischievous, some perhaps deadly. Above, we have Dire Straits and below, Parameters. “The Agency author and artist detailed 15 monsters in all—complete with illustrations,” writes Medium, “Both of their names are redacted in the document. We’ll never know just which CIA agents turned their hand towards snarky political satire.” The document comes to us via a cache of records declassified in a lawsuit filed by former agency employee Jeffry Scudder. We do know that the two anonymous lampoonists were inspired by A Political Bestiary, book by James Kilpatrick, cartoonist Jeff MacNelly, and former senator and presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy. See the full, bone dry article here, and think about the work talk that might drive you to such creative extremes.

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

The C.I.A.’s “Bestiary of Intelligence Writing” Satirizes Spook Jargon with Maurice Sendak-Style Drawings is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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The Student of Prague: The Very First Independent Film (1913)

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 - 1:00 am
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuvIvwSi1gI

When people talk about “independent cinema” today, they seem, as often as not, to talk about a sensibility — we all know, on some level, what someone means when they tell us they “like indie films.” But the term has its roots, of course, not necessarily in independence of spirit, but in independence from systems. Now that technology has granted all of us the ability, at least in theory, to make any movie we want, this distinction has lost some of its meaning, but between about twenty and eighty years ago, the commercial establishments controlling production, distribution, and screening enjoyed their greatest solidity (and indeed, impenetrability). During that time, making a film independently meant making a fairly specific, often anti-Hollywood statement. But what about before then, when the medium of cinema itself had yet to take its full shape?

Not only does 1913’s The Student of Prague offer an entertaining example of independent film from an era before even Hollywood had become Hollywood, it has a place in history as the first independent film ever released. German writer Hanns Heinz Ewers and Danish director Stellan Rye (not to mention star Paul Wegener, he of the Golem trilogy) collaborated to bring to early cinematic life this 19th-century horror story of the titular student, a down-at-the-heels bon vivant who, besotted with a countess and determined to win her by any means necessary, makes a deal with a devilish sorcerer that will fulfill his every desire. The catch? He summons the student’s reflection out of the mirror and into reality. So empowered, this doppelgänger goes around wreaking havoc. Hardly the ostensibly high-minded material of “indie film” — let alone “foreign film” — from the past half-century or so, but The Student of Prague treats it with respect, arriving at the kind of uncompromising ending that might surprise even modern audiences. If you don’t watch it today, keep it bookmarked for Halloween viewing.

You can find The Student of Prague added to our big film collection, 700 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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

The Student of Prague: The Very First Independent Film (1913) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The post The Student of Prague: The Very First Independent Film (1913) appeared first on Open Culture.

6 Hours of Mannequins Flying From Newark to San Francisco

Thu, 16 Oct 2014 - 8:15 pm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsMZRl71Zo4

Is there anything worse than flying from Newark to San Francisco? Maybe it’s watching mannequins taking this cross-country flight. Talk about tedium. And yet there’s something a little brilliant about this six hour advertisement from Virgin Airlines — which promises a more inspiring flight. I mean how many six hour advertisements have you seen, let alone ones that have “action” from start to finish? Somewhere, someone’s going to watch this thing all the way through. Maybe it’s you.

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