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Updated: 33 min 40 sec ago

Why Making Accurate World Maps Is Mathematically Impossible

1 hour 33 min ago

Jorge Luis Borges once wrote of an empire wherein “the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province.” Still unsatisfied, “the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it.” But posterity, when they lost their ancestors’ obsession for cartography, judged “that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters.” With that enormous map, in all its singular accuracy, cast out, smaller, imperfect ones presumably won the day again.

With that well-known story “On Exactitude in Science,” Borges illustrated the idea that all maps are wrong by imagining the preposterousness of a truly correct one. The Vox video “Why All World Maps Are Wrong” covers some of the same territory, as it were, first illustrating that idea by slitting open an inflatable globe and trying, futilely, to get the resulting plastic mess to lie flat.


“That right there is the eternal dilemma of mapmakers,” says the host in voiceover as the struggle continues onscreen. “The surface of a sphere cannot be represented as a plane without some form of distortion.” As a result, all of humanity’s paper maps of the world–which in the task of turning the surface of a sphere into a flat plane need to use a technique called “projection”–distort geographical reality by definition.

The Mercator projection has, since its invention by sixteenth-century Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator, produced the most widely-seen world maps. (If you grew up in America, you almost certainly spent a lot of time staring at Mercator maps in the classroom.) But we hardly live under the limitations of his day, nor those of the 1940s when Borges imagined his land-sized map. In our 21st century, the satellite-based Global Positioning System has “wiped out the need for paper maps as a means of navigating both the sea and the sky,” but even so, “most web mapping tools, like Google Maps, use the Mercator” due to its “ability to preserve shape and angles,” which “makes close-up views of cities more accurate.”

On the scale of a City, in more Borgesian words — and probably on the scale of a Province and even the Empire — Mercator projection still works just fine. “But the fact remains that there’s no right projection. Cartographers and mathematicians have created a huge library of available projections, each with a new perspective on the planet, and each useful for a different task.” You can compare and contrast a few of them for yourself here, or take a closer look of some of the Mercator projection’s size distortions (making Greenland, for example, look as big as the whole of Africa) here. These challenges and others have kept the Disciplines of Geography, unlike in Borges’ world, busy even today.

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

Why Making Accurate World Maps Is Mathematically Impossible is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

What’s the Fastest Way to Alphabetize Your Bookshelf?

5 hours 22 min ago

We’ve told you about the great Japanese word “tsundoku,” which describes the act of buying books and letting them pile up unread. It’s an affliction–or state of affairs–I’m sure many of you are personally familiar with.

Now let’s say you move that huge pile of unread books to a new home. And you’re wondering what’s the quickest way to get them in alphabetical order. Above, a handy lifehack to save you time.

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What’s the Fastest Way to Alphabetize Your Bookshelf? 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.

29 Lists of Recommended Books Created by Well-Known Authors, Artists & Thinkers: Jorge Luis Borges, Patti Smith, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, David Bowie & More

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 - 12:00 pm

Creative Commons image of Austrian National Library by Matl

At any given moment many of us can recommend a list of books to read. Books that have imprinted on us, named emotions we didn’t know we had, carved trails through our brains. Books that stand as a testament to a life lived as a reader. We may construct lists to pass on to a curious niece, nephew, son, daughter, student, or apprentice. “Life is perplexing,” we might say, “complex, wondrous, curious, painful, open to unimaginable possibilities. Read these, then go out and find the books that inspire, soothe, guide, challenge, and enlighten you.”

Of course, as you know from reading this site, we frequently bring you many such lists, from famous writers, artists, musicians, scientists, and other titans of their respective fields who have inspired millions of young students and apprentices. Today, we have compiled a master list of recommended reading lists, from writers like Jorge Luis Borges, musician-poets like Patti Smith, scientists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, futurists like Stewart Brand, and many, many more.

In fact, we have two lists from Borges, both predictably lengthy and eccentric. The first contains 33 books that could start a fictional Library of Babel, among which we find Jack London and Herman Melville alongside occult English writer Arthur Machen and Qing Dynasty Chinese writer Pu Songling. Borges’ second list spans 74 titles, and was intended, before his death, to expand to 100. Patti Smith also recommends Melville in her list, as well as Mikhail Bulgakov, Louisa May Alcott, and her hero, Arthur Rimbaud. Tyson’s list is short, only 8 titles, and he suggests these books not only for the avid reader but—in answer to a Redditor’s question—for “every single intelligent person on the planet.”

And Stewart Brand? Well, his list of 76 books is one of many such lists (including another one from Brian Eno) for his Long Now Foundation’s “Manual for Civilization,” a library meant to inspire and inform the few intelligent people left on Earth in the event of catastrophic collapse.

Find the complete list of lists above. 28 in total. In some cases, the titles in each post link to online text or audio books freely available online. And, separately, you should not miss our list of 74 essential books recommended by “a group of international women writers, artists and curators.”  Please let us know in the comments if there are any especially good lists not mentioned here–ones you think our readers would do well to consult.

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

29 Lists of Recommended Books Created by Well-Known Authors, Artists & Thinkers: Jorge Luis Borges, Patti Smith, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, David Bowie & 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.

Man Ray Designs a Supremely Elegant, Geometric Chess Set in 1920 (and It’s Now Re-Issued for the Rest of Us)

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 - 9:00 am

Yesterday, Colin Marshall featured Man Ray’s “Surrealist Chessboard” from 1934, which paid homage to the leaders of the Surrealist movement. Though artistically significant, the chessboard had some practical limitations. Made up of only 20 squares (as compared to the traditional 64), the “Surrealist Chessboard” wouldn’t let you play an actual game of chess.

For that, we need to turn to Man Ray’s chess set fashioned in 1924. Made of abstract geometric forms, this set (on display above, jump to the 3:30 mark to really see it) featured some unconventional chess pieces: the king is a pyramid; the queen, a cone; the castle, a cube; the bishop, a bottle; the knight, the head scroll of a violin; and the pawn, an elegant sphere.

We said you could actually play chess on this board. And indeed you can. In 2012, the Man Ray Trust authorized a new edition of this set, making it available to chess enthusiasts looking for a handsome set. Crafted in Germany, it’s made of solid beech wood.

This chessboard you can obtain.

As for the other modern chessboard Man Ray designed in 1945, it may be out of your league. David Bowie owned one of the few existing copies of that 1945 board, and, earlier this month, it sold for $1.3 million at a Sotheby’s auction in London.

For more information on Man Ray’s chessboards, read this short article from Chess Collectors International (see page 18). Or see The Imagery of Chess Revisited, which covers Man Ray’s boards and beyond.

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Man Ray Designs a Supremely Elegant, Geometric Chess Set in 1920 (and It’s Now Re-Issued for the Rest of Us) 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.

Blade Runner Gets Re-Created, Shot for Shot, Using Only Microsoft Paint

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 - 7:00 am

Blade Runner came out in June 1982. Microsoft’s Paint came out in November 1985. Little could the designers of that rebranded version of ZSoft’s PC Paintbrush packaged in with Windows 1.0 know that the paths of their humble graphics application and that elaborate sci-fi cinematic vision would cross just over 30 years later. Surely nobody involved in either project could have imagined the form the intersection would take: MSP Blade Runner, a fan’s shot-by-shot Tumblr “remake” (and gentle parody) of the film using only Microsoft Paint, starting with the Ladd Company tree logo.

Why make such a thing? “I like the idea of having a blog but basically feel as if I have very little to say about things, at least things that are original or interesting,” creator David MacGowan told Motherboard’s Rachel Pick. “I gravitated to Tumblr with some idea of just posting pictures, but still felt I needed to be posting something I’d actually made myself… [Y]ears ago I used to draw really crappy basic MS Paint pics for a favourite pop group’s fan site, and they always seemed to raise a smile. The idea of doing something else with MS Paint, a kind of celebration of my not being deterred by lack of artistic talent, never really went away.”

The mixture of technological and aesthetic sensibilities inherent in using a severely outdated but ever-present digital tool to re-create the enduringly compelling analog visuals of a movie from that same era goes well with the original Blade Runner‘s project of updating the conventions of film noir to depict a then-newly imagined future. Even more fittingly, a work like MSP Blade Runner could only make sense in the 2010s, the very decade the movie tried to envision. Will it go all the way to the shot of Deckard and Rachel’s final exit into the elevator? “I don’t really think about giving up,” McGowan told Pick. “The idea of actually completing something I start out to do (for once in my life) is very appealing.” Spoken like a 21st-century man indeed.

You can find every frame painted so far, and every new one to come, here.

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

Blade Runner Gets Re-Created, Shot for Shot, Using Only Microsoft Paint 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.

A Whiskey-Fueled Lin-Manuel Miranda Reimagines Hamilton as a Girl on Drunk History

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 - 1:08 am

Back in July of 1804, when Vice President Aaron Burr fired a fatal round into the abdomen of former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, I wonder which scenario would have seemed more implausible: that these political rivals would one day be resurrected in the form of a black guy and a Nuyorican, or as two young women in revealingly snug breeches, above.

Time moves on. These days, your average Hamilton-obsessed pre-teen may have trouble accepting that there was a time—January 2015, to be exact—when most Americans couldn’t say what the guy on the ten dollar bill was famous for.

I confess, until quite recently, I was far more confident in Arrested Developments fictional Bluth family’s exploits than any involving Hamilton and Burr. This explains, in part, why I’m so drawn to the casting instincts of Derek Waters’, creator of Drunk History

The most recent episode features Alia Shawkat, one of my favorite Arrested Development players as a sardonic, potty mouthed Hamilton.

No worries that Drunk History, which bills itself as a “liquored-up narration of our nation’s history,” is the latest in a long line of Johnny-Come-Latelys, eagerly bellying up to the Hamilton trough.

Before Shawkat imbued him with her trademark edge, Drunk History’s Hamilton exuded the befuddled sweetness of Shawkat’s besotted Arrested Development cousinMichael Cera, who originated the part in a video that gave rise to the series, below.

That one’s far sloppier, and not just in terms of production values. The inaugural narrator, Mark Gagliardi, was rendered a good deal more than three sheets to the wind by the bottle of scotch he downed on a sagging brown velour couch.

America would not want to see its current sweetheart, Hamilton’s playwright and original leading man, Lin-Manuel Miranda in such a condition.

Whereas Gagliardi seemed dangerously close to needing the bucket Waters thoughtfully positioned nearby, a whiskey-fuelled Miranda seems merely the tiniest bit buzzed, sitting cross legged in his parent’s living room, fleshing out Hamilton’s story with bits he didn’t manage to cram into his Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, such as a bewigged Tony Hale (aka Buster Bluth) as James Monroe.

On the other hand, he does describe the Reynolds Pamphlet as “Dick 101” (and failed to recall FaceTiming various friends post-recording) so…

You’ll need a Comedy Central subscription to view the complete episode online, but Shawkat’s earlier Drunk History turn as Grover Cleveland’s “It Girl” wife, Frances, is free for all, here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her play Zamboni Godot is opening in New York City in March 2017. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

A Whiskey-Fueled Lin-Manuel Miranda Reimagines Hamilton as a Girl on Drunk History 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 Stanley Kubrick Made His Masterpieces: An Introduction to His Obsessive Approach to Filmmaking

Thu, 1 Dec 2016 - 1:45 pm

As each semester in my film course rolls around, it’s more and more apparent how time depletes the pop culture currency of those directors who did not make it into the 21st Century. A knowledge of Stanley Kubrick used to be a given, as was the understanding of what “A Stanley Kubrick Film” meant to film fans. Now he is a solution to a weird join-the-dots, as I watch students who know The Shining as a classic horror film grok suddenly that the same director made the headtrip 2001: A Space Odyssey. And what’s this Barry Lyndon film? And this Spartacus that looks like it’s from a completely different time? It can baffle a young cineaste, and it baffles them in a different way, I suppose, than how Kubrick baffled his contemporaries from film to film. Yes, there’s more of my students who have seen Dr. Strange than Dr. Strangelove, but the joy of discovery is still there, as is the thrill of being in a special fan club when you do discover Kubrick.


Fortunately, we are also having a renaissance in film critique in the medium of video, as followers of this site know. Along with Tony Zhou and Evan Puschak, Lewis Bond (aka Channel Criswell) has created some of the most in depth video essays on YouTube. Having authored overviews of the work of Hayao Miyazaki, Yasujiro Ozu, Andrei Tarkovsky, Lars von Trier, and David Lynch, Bond offers an excellent introduction above to Kubrick’s oeuvre.

Not content to use his knowledge of Kubrick’s films, Bond visited the Kubrick archives in London, learning firsthand the meticulous way the director created a film.

“His work ethic bordered on the obsessed,” he says. “This experience was how I imagined it is to see a great painter’s brushes. It was a way to gain a brief glimpse into the mind of a master at work.”

Bond makes the case that Kubrick’s attention to detail through all stages of production, including editing, distribution, and even attending screenings and checking the quality of the prints, is exactly what makes him one of the best directors. Every choice seen in the films, all the way down to the smallest prop, has Kubrick’s DNA on it. It’s no wonder that people pore over every frame of The Shining, reading into it all sorts of meaning.

“He changed the way visual stories were told,” says Bond, where Kubrick’s mise en scene and composition both deliver the essential narrative and the symbolism underneath.

Kubrick could only have reached these heights with the complete creative control his fame afforded him from the 1960s onward. There was time to plan, time and money to shoot, and time to edit, something directors–before or since–rarely get. And not all directors have the discipline to deliver when they get such freedom.

There’s much more in Bond’s essay so check it out. Side note: Lewis Bond’s girlfriend Luiza Lopes (aka Art Regard) also creates video essays on directors like David Cronenberg, Roman Polanski, and Ingmar Bergman. Could this be the first ‘celebrity couple’ of the video essay era?

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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.

How Stanley Kubrick Made His Masterpieces: An Introduction to His Obsessive Approach to Filmmaking is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

When Ursula K. Le Guin & Philip K. Dick Went to High School Together

Thu, 1 Dec 2016 - 10:25 am

Creative commons images are by Rasmus Lerdorf and Gorthian , via Wikimedia Commons

When you run a site like this, you learn all kinds of unexpected things–most of it rich and rewarding, some of it strange, trivial and still nonetheless intriguing. Discovering that Adolf Hitler and Ludwig Wittgenstein went to the same Austrian middle school, likely at the same time, fits into the latter category. And so too does this:

On Twitter, jazz critic Ted Gioia recently highlighted a curious passage from Ursula K. Le Guin’s new book, where she mentions attending high school with another seminal figure in sci-fi literature, Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?Total Recall, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly etc.).

As she separately told The Paris Review, Berkeley High had 5,300 kids during the 1940s. It was a big high school. And yet “Nobody knew Phil Dick. I have not found one person from Berkeley High who knew him. He was the invisible classmate.” Years later, the two authors talked. But never met. PKD always remained something of a ghost.

via @TedGioia

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When Ursula K. Le Guin & Philip K. Dick Went to High School Together is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Hear 20 Hours of Romantic & Victorian Poetry Read by Ralph Fiennes, Dylan Thomas, James Mason & Many More

Thu, 1 Dec 2016 - 8:26 am

By the time William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge published their Lyrical Ballads in 1798, poets in England had long been celebrities and arbiters of taste in matters political and literary. The seventeenth century, for example, became known as the “Age of Dryden,” for poet and literary critic John Dryden’s tremendous influence. John Milton, Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson… these were literary men whose writing vied with the era’s philosophers and advised its nobility and heads of state. By the Romantic period of Wordsworth and Coleridge, no poet held such a position of authority and influence as had those of the previous two centuries.

And yet, we might argue that poetry—and the exalted figure of the poet—became even more sacrosanct and indispensable to British culture throughout the nineteenth century; that poets became, as Percy Shelley wrote in 1821, the “unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Such a hyperbolic statement may seem to conflict with the aims Wordsworth stated for Romantic poetry in the Lyrical Ballads’ preface: “fitting to metrical arrangement a selection of the real language of men in a state of vivid sensation.” Yet when we think of Romantic poetry, we rarely think of the “real language of men.”

The nineteenth century saw the ascendency of the British Empire to its height during Victoria’s reign. Whether effect or cause of the hubris of the times, both Romantic and Victorian poetry—all the way to the end of Alfred Tennyson’s 12-cycle series Idylls of the King in 1885—gave us mythical epics filled with grandeur of expression and image, and no small amount of bombast. Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (from the Lyrical Ballads) and strange “Kubla Khan” showed the way. Keats tells an outsized tale of the Titans’ fall from Olympus in Hyperion. Shelley gave us the bleak imperial relics of “Ozymandias.”


There were also, of course, the quiet love and nature poems of Wordsworth, Keats, John Clare, and Walter De La Mare, all wonderfully representative of a Romantic pastoral tradition reflecting a nostalgia for a rapidly transforming English countryside. There were the Orientalist poems of exotic wonder, and heroic poems of military valor and revolution. The later nineteenth century revealed even more variety as these strains yielded to greater specialization, and to expanded roles for women poets.

Kipling’s colonialist verses reassured British subjects of their superior status in the scheme of things, and entertained them with fables and morality plays. Oscar Wilde refined the aestheticism of Keats with a decadent eroticism. Brother and sister Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Christina Rossetti took the Romantics’ antiquarianism into the territory of medieval and Gothic revival. Husband and wife Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning looked also to the Middle Ages, and to Italy. Swinburne and Tennyson upheld the tradition of the epic, imbuing it with their own strange preoccupations. Gerard Manley Hopkins did things with language never attempted before.

All of these poets appear in the Spotify playlists here, titled “The Romantics” and “The Victorians,” though you’ll notice that these aren’t mutually exclusive categories. Elizabeth Barrett Browning appears in both lists. Tennyson, perhaps the longest-lived and most famous poet of the age, spans almost the entire century.  Keats, whose early tragic death contributed to his rock star status with later readers, died most assuredly a Romantic. But the terms hardly tell us very much by themselves, marking conventional ways of dividing up the literature of the nineteenth century.

What we might notice about the English verse of these two periods on the whole is its tendency toward exaggerated, often florid and overly formal diction and syntax, and its sentimentalism, high seriousness, and decorum. These are qualities we often learn to associate with all poetry, or learn to think of as insincere and pretentious.  In the nearly 20 hours of skilled readings here—including some by famous names like James Mason, Dylan Thomas, John Gielgud, Sir Ralph Richardson, Boris Karloff, and Ralph Fiennes—we hear a great deal of nuance, subtlety, irony, and beauty. Learning to appreciate the poetic voices of over a century past not only requires familiarity with unusual idioms and ideas; it also requires tuning our ears to very different kinds of English than our own.

Both playlists will be added to our collection, 900 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.

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

Hear 20 Hours of Romantic & Victorian Poetry Read by Ralph Fiennes, Dylan Thomas, James Mason & Many 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.

Man Ray Creates a “Surrealist Chessboard,” Featuring Portraits of Surrealist Icons: Dalí, Breton, Picasso, Magritte, Miró & Others (1934)

Thu, 1 Dec 2016 - 1:00 am

Like most artists, Emmanuel Radnitzky had more than one major interest in his life. We who know him as Man Ray usually first encounter him through his photography, such as the artist and writer portraits featured here at Open Culture last year. But Man Ray himself ultimately considered painting his main creative field. And, apart from his work, he had chess–or at least his friend and fellow conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp had chess. Duchamp seems to have turned Man Ray on to it as well, and they even appear playing together in Rene Clair’s 1924 film Entr’acte.

Duchamp’s passion for chess ran deep enough that, for a time, he all but abandoned art to devote himself to the game. Later he came to the realization that “chess was art; art was chess,” having pursued both of those interests at once in the creation of an art deco chessboard. Man Ray, for his part, brought art and chess together in 1934’s Surrealist Chessboard, a mosaic of his portraits of artists associated with the Surrealist movement, including Salvador Dalí, Andre Breton, Pablo Picasso, René Magritte, Joan Miró, and of course himself — but with the chess-loving Duchamp nowhere to be seen.


“Surrealist exhibition group photographs include the frequent participation of Man Ray but rarely Duchamp,” writes Lewis Kachur in aka Marcel Duchamp: Meditations on the Identities of an Artist, his non-appearance on the Surrealist Chessboard being the “most astonishing” example. “The structure is the democratic grid format of the chessboard, with each of twenty surrealists or fellow travelers as a head shot against a black or light-colored background, alternating to suggest the black and white squares of the board. Man Ray had a negative of an appropriate profile bust of Duchamp (1930), striking for its absence here.”

Kachur imagines that Duchamp “chose not to take part,” in keeping with his “somewhat shadowy” position in relation to the Surrealists, “on the margins of the movement group’s identity.” Or he may simply have wanted to save his friend the trouble of figuring out a shape in which to arrange 21 portraits instead of 20. Whatever Duchamp thought of this project that used the chessboard only as visual structure, he probably preferred the chess set Man Ray designed a decade earlier using historically inspired pure geometric forms — and one that he could actually play chess with. You can still purchase own copy of that chess set today.

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Watch Dreams That Money Can Buy, a Surrealist Film by Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder, Fernand Léger & Hans Richter

Marcel Duchamp, Chess Enthusiast, Created an Art Deco Chess Set That’s Now Available via 3D Printer

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

Man Ray Creates a “Surrealist Chessboard,” Featuring Portraits of Surrealist Icons: Dalí, Breton, Picasso, Magritte, Miró & Others (1934) 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 Psychology That Leads People to Vote for Extremists & Autocrats: The Theory of Cognitive Closure

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 - 10:42 am

There’s a political disconnect in the United States. We have two political parties, each now living in its own reality and working with its own set of facts. The common ground between them? Next to none.

How to explain this disconnect? Maybe the answer lies in the theory of “cognitive closure”–a theory first worked out by social psychologist Arie Kruglanski back in 1989.

“People’s politics are driven by their psychological needs,” Kruglanski explains in the short documentary above. “People who are anxious because of the uncertainty that surrounds them are going to be attracted to messages that offer certainty.”

He sips a soda, then continues, “The need for closure is the need for certainty, to have clear cut knowledge. You feel that you need to stop processing too much information, to stop listening to a variety of viewpoints, and zero in on what appears to be, to you, the truth.” “The need for closure tricks your mind to believe you have the truth, even though you haven’t examined the evidence very carefully.” And that, unfortunately, can be very dangerous.

Kruglanski’s theory could help explain the rise of Nazism in the economically-depressed Weimar Germany. And it’s perhaps why, across much of our economically stagnating world, we’re seeing populations lurch toward extreme ideologies and autocratic personalities. “The divisions, the polarization, it’s all part of the same psychological syndrome,” says Kruglanski.

So what’s the cure? Listen to other points of view. Look at all available information. And, most of all, be suspicious of your own sense of righteous.

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The Psychology That Leads People to Vote for Extremists & Autocrats: The Theory of Cognitive Closure 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.

All of Wes Anderson’s Cinematic Commercials: Watch His Spots for Prada, American Express, H&M & More

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 - 8:26 am

They say a filmmaker qualifies as an auteur if you can identify their work from any given shot. That might strike even cinephiles as a difficult task unless the filmmaker in question is Wes Anderson, who for twenty years’ worth of feature films now has defined and refined a cinematic style increasingly unique to him and his host of regular collaborators. What qualities constitute the unmistakably Andersonian? Vibrant colors, especially red and yellow. Old buildings. Uniforms. The sounds of the British InvasionPerfect symmetry. The technology of the mid-twentieth-century as well as vintage American and European design of that era. An eye for the imagined past as well as the past’s imagined future (and its use of Futura). And of course, Bill Murray.

Anderson has used different combinations of these and other aesthetic choices not just in all his full-length films from Bottle Rocket to The Grand Budapest Hotel, but also in his commercials. Given the uncompromising look and feel of his “real” filmography as well as its overall success at the box office, one might not at first imagine Anderson as the kind of auteur with the need, desire, or even ability to make advertisements.


But make them he does, an aspect of his career that actually began with a self-parodying 2004 American Express commercial starring the director himself, hard at work on his latest, albeit fictional, quiet spectacle of meticulousness and anachronism (which also has explosions).

Ever the throwback, Anderson next shot a commercial for Japan, that land where, in the days before Youtube, so many American celebrities used to go to cash in on their image unbeknownst to their Western public. Specifically, he shot it for the Japanese telecommunications giant Softbank, casting Brad Pitt as a Jacques Tati-style vacationer, good-natured if bumbling and possessed of an eye for the ladies, in the French countryside. Two years later, he and frequent writing partner Roman Coppola returned to his beloved early 1960s for Apartomatic, a spot for Stella Artois (a brand that has also employed the likes of Wim Wenders) that brings to life every young man’s fantasy of the ultimate automated bachelor pad.

In 2012, Modern Life and Talk To My Car, a pair of thirty-second commercials for a new Hyundai sedan, brought Anderson back into the present. Naturally, he delivered a present deeply rooted in the dreams of decades past, which, when the idea is to sell a product as saturated with the mythology of the postwar years as an automobile, does the job ideally. “After months of creative development on the new Hyundai Azera we were almost out of time to produce the launch spots,” writes creative director Robert Prins. “At the last minute someone suggested asking Wes Anderson to direct. We all laughed. Then he said yes.” Imagine the resulting jealousy in the conference rooms of ad agencies all over the world, where the talk constantly references Anderson’s work without ever touching the genuine article.

The following year, we featured Castello Cavalcanti, Anderson’s eight-minute short film starring Jason Schwartzman (who became an Anderson regular, and a star in his own right, in Rushmore fifteen years earlier) as a race car driver who crashes into a strangely familiar village somewhere in 1955 Italy. He shot it at Rome’s legendary Cinecittà studio at the behest of a certain Italian brand called Prada (perhaps you’ve heard of them) and in collaboration with Coppola also put together Prada: Candy, a series of three somewhat more straightforward commercials embedded as a playlist just above. Set in France this time, they tell the Jules and Jim-esque story of twin brothers vying for the attention of the same girl, a blonde bon viveuse who happens to have the same name — and if you believe the marketing, the same personality — as Prada’s fragrance.

Just yesterday we featured Come Together, Anderson’s latest commercial directorial effort with Adrien Brody playing the dedicated conductor of a badly delayed passenger train on Christmas Eve. Though it ostensibly comes as nothing more than a promotion for fast-fashion retailer H&M, thousands of fans have already thrilled to this new glimpse into Anderson’s world — a make-believe one, but “we are all make-believe, too, every one of us,” as GQ‘s Chris Heath puts it, “each self-assembled from a hotchpotch of dreams and experiences and wishes and ambitions and setbacks (and, yes, what we buy and what we say and what we wear and the way we choose to wear it, and all the rest of it).” Anderson himself might well agree. But when, we all wonder, will a brand come his way worthy of a commercial starring Bill Murray?

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Jean-Luc Godard’s After-Shave Commercial for Schick

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

All of Wes Anderson’s Cinematic Commercials: Watch His Spots for Prada, American Express, H&M & 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.

Richard Feynman’s Poignant Letter to His Departed Wife Arline: Watch Actor Oscar Isaac Read It Live Onstage

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 - 4:52 am

Media vita in morte sumus, goes the medieval line of poetry that lent the English Book of Common Prayer its most memorable expression: “In the midst of life we are in death.” The remainder of the poem extrapolates a theology from this observation, something one can only take on faith. But whatever way we dress up the mystery of death, it remains ever-present and inevitable. Yet we might think of the motto as a palindrome: In the midst of death, we are in life. The dead remain with us, for as long as we live and remember them. This is also a mystery.

Even theoretical physicists must confront the presence of the departed, and few scientists—few writers—have done so with as much poignancy, directness, eloquence, and humor as Richard Feynman, in a letter to his wife Arline written over a year after she died of tuberculosis at age 25. Feynman, himself only 28 years old at the time, sealed the letter, written in 1946, until his own death in 1988. “Please excuse my not mailing this,” he wrote with bitter humor in the postscript, “but I don’t know your new address.” Even in the midst of his profound grief, Feynman’s wit sparkles. It is not a performance for us, his posthumous readers. It is simply the way he had always written—in letter after letter—to Arline.

In the video above, Oscar Isaac, who has embodied many a wisecracking romantic, gives voice to the longing and pain of Feynman’s letter, in which the physicist confesses, “I thought there was no sense to writing.” Somehow, he could not help but do so, ending with starkly ambivalent truths he was unable to reconcile with what he colloquially calls his “realistic” nature: “You only are left to me. You are real…. I love my wife. My wife is dead.” Read the full letter below, via Letters of Note. For more from their Letters Live series, see Benedict Cumberbatch read Kurt Vonnegut’s letter to the school that banned his novel Slaughterhouse Five.

October 17, 1946

D’Arline,

I adore you, sweetheart.

I know how much you like to hear that — but I don’t only write it because you like it — I write it because it makes me warm all over inside to write it to you.

It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you — almost two years but I know you’ll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; and I thought there was no sense to writing.

But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and that I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you.

I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead — but I still want to comfort and take care of you — and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you — I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. What should we do. We started to learn to make clothes together — or learn Chinese — or getting a movie projector. Can’t I do something now? No. I am alone without you and you were the “idea-woman” and general instigator of all our wild adventures.

When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn’t have worried. Just as I told you then there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true — you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else — but I want you to stand there. You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive.

I know you will assure me that I am foolish and that you want me to have full happiness and don’t want to be in my way. I’ll bet you are surprised that I don’t even have a girlfriend (except you, sweetheart) after two years. But you can’t help it, darling, nor can I — I don’t understand it, for I have met many girls and very nice ones and I don’t want to remain alone — but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes.

You only are left to me. You are real.

My darling wife, I do adore you.

I love my wife. My wife is dead.

Rich.

PS Please excuse my not mailing this — but I don’t know your new address

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Richard Feynman’s Poignant Letter to His Departed Wife Arline: Watch Actor Oscar Isaac Read It Live Onstage 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 Photography of Poet Arthur Rimbaud (1883)

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 - 1:00 am

Arthur Rimbaud, far-seeing prodigy, “has been memorialized in song and story as few in history,” writes Wyatt Mason in an introduction to the poet’s complete works; “the thumbnail of his legend has proved irresistible.” The poet, we often hear, ended his brief but brilliant literary career when he ran off to the Horn of Africa and became a gunrunner… or some other sort of adventurous outlaw character many miles removed, it seems, from the intense symbolist hero of Illuminations and A Season in Hell.

Rimbaud’s break with poetry was so decisive, so abrupt, that critics have spent decades trying to account for what one “hyperbolic assessment” deemed as having “caused more lasting, widespread consternation than the break-up of the Beatles.” What could have caused the young libertine, so drawn to urban voyeurism and the skewering of the local bourgeoisie, to disappear from society for an anonymous, rootless life?

On the other hand, in revisiting the poetry we find—amidst the grotesque, hallucinogenic reveries—that “travel, adventure, and departure on various levels are thematic concerns that run through much of Rimbaud”: from 1871’s “The Drunken Boat” to A Season in Hell’s “Farewell,” in which the poet writes, “The time has come to bury my imagination and my memories! A fitting end for an artist and teller of tales.”

He was only 18 then, in 1873, when he wrote his farewell. Two years later, he would finally end his violent tumultuous relationship with Paul Verlaine, and embark on a series of voyages, first by foot all over Europe, then to the Dutch East Indies, Cyprus, Yemen, and finally Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia), where he settled in Harar, struck up a friendship with the governor (the father of future Emperor Haile Selassie), and became a highly-regarded coffee trader, and yes, gun dealer.

Rimbaud may have left poetry behind, deciding he had realized all he could in language. But he had not given up on approaching his experience aesthetically. Only, instead of trying “to invent new flowers, new stars, new flesh, new tongues,” as he wrote in “Farewell,” he had evidently decided to take the world in on its own terms. He documented his findings in essays on geography and travel accounts and, in 1883, several photographs, including two self-portraits he sent to his mother in May, writing, “Enclosed are two photographs of me which I took.”

You can see one of those portraits at the top of the post, and the other, in much worse shape, below it, and a third self-portrait just below. The “circumstances in which the photographs were taken are quite mysterious,” writes Lucille Pennel at The Eye of Photography.

Starting in 1882, Rimbaud became fascinated with the new technology. He ordered a camera in Lyon in order to illustrate a book on “Harar and the Gallas country,” a camera he received only in early 1883. He also ordered specialized books and photo processing equipment. The planned scientific publication was never realized, and the six photographs are the only trace of Rimbaud’s activity.

“I am not yet well established, nor aware of things,” Rimbaud wrote in the letter to his mother, “But I will be soon, and I will send you some interesting things.” It’s not exactly clear why Rimbaud abandoned his photographic endeavors. He had approached the pursuit not only as hobby, but also as a commercial venture, writing in his letter, “Here everyone wants to be photographed. They even offer one guinea a photograph.”

The comment leads Pennel to conclude “there must have been other photographs, but any trace of them is lost, raising doubts about the degree of Rimbaud’s engagement with photography.”

Perhaps, however, he’d simply decided that he’d done all he could do with the medium, and let it go with a graceful farewell. History, posterity, the cementing of a reputation—these are phenomena that seemed of little interest to Rimbaud. “What will become of the world when you leave?” he had written in “Youth, IV”—“No matter what happens, no trace of now will remain.” In a historical irony, Rimbaud’s photographs “were developed in ‘filthy water,’” notes Pennel, meaning they “will continue to fade until the images are all gone. They are as fleeting as the man with the soles of wind.”

If we wish to see them in person, the time is short. The photo at the top of the post now resides at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. The other six are housed at the Arthur Rimbaud Museum in Charleville-Mézières.

via Vintage Anchor/The Eye of Photography.

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

The Photography of Poet Arthur Rimbaud (1883) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Why Socrates Hated Democracies: An Animated Case for Why Self-Government Requires Wisdom & Education

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 - 12:45 pm

How often have you heard the quote in one form or another? “Democracy is the worst form of Government,” said Winston Churchill in 1947, “except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time….” The sentiment expresses two cultural values many Americans are trained to hold uncritically: the primacy of democracy and the burdensomeness of government as a necessary evil.

In his new book Toward Democracy, Harvard historian James T. Kloppenberg argues that these ideas arose fairly recently with “mostly Protestants, at least at first,” notes Kirkus, in whose hands “the idea of democracy as a dangerous doctrine of the mob was reshaped into an ideal.” Much of this transformation “occurred in the former British colonies that became the United States, where, at least from a British nobleman’s point of view, mob rule did take hold.”

The modern revamping of democracy into a sacred set of universal institutions has defined our understanding of the term. Just as the West has co-opted classical Athenian architecture as symbolic of democratic purity, it has often co-opted Greek philosophy. But as anyone who has ever read Plato’s Republic knows, Greek philosophers were highly suspicious of democracy, and could not conceive of a functioning egalitarian society with full suffrage and freedom of speech.

Socrates, especially, says Alain de Botton in the School of Life video above, “was portrayed in the dialogues of Plato as hugely pessimistic about the whole business of democracy.” In the ideal society Socrates constructs in the Republic, he famously argues for restricted freedom of movement, strict censorship according to moralistic civic virtues, and a guardian soldier class and the rule of philosopher kings.

In Book VI, Socrates points out the “flaws of democracy by comparing a society to a ship.” If you were going on a sea voyage, “who would you ideally want deciding who was in charge of the vessel, just anyone, or people educated in the rules and demands of seafaring?” Unless we wish to be obtusely contrarian, we must invariably answer the latter, as does Socrates’ interlocutor Adeimantus. Why then should just any of us, without regard to level of skill, experience, or education, be allowed to select the rulers of a country?

The grim irony of Socrates’ skepticism, de Botton observes, is that he himself was put to death after a vote by 500 Athenians. Rather than the typical elitism of purely aristocratic thinking, however, Socrates insisted that “only those who had thought about issues rationally and deeply should be let near a vote.” Says de Botton, “We have forgotten this distinction between an intellectual democracy and a democracy by birthright. We have given the vote to all without connecting it to wisdom.” (He does not tell us whom he means by “we.”)

For Socrates, so-called “birthright democracy” was inevitably susceptible to demagoguery. Socrates “knew how easily people seeking election could exploit our desire for easy answers” by telling us what we wanted to hear. We should heed Socrates’ warnings against mob rule and the dangers of demagoguery, de Botton argues, and consider democracy as “something that is only ever as good as the education system that surrounds it.” It’s a potent idea, and one often repeated with reference to a similar warning from Thomas Jefferson.

What de Botton does not mention in his short video, however, is that Socrates also advised that his rulers lie to the citizenry, securing their trust not with false promises and seductive blandishments, but with ideology. As the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy summarizes, Socrates “suggests that [the rulers] need to tell the citizens a myth that should be believed by subsequent generations in order for everyone to accept his position in the city”—and to accept the legitimacy of the rulers. The myth—like modern scientific racism and eugenics—divides the citizenry into an essential hierarchy, which Socrates symbolizes by the metals gold, silver, and bronze.

But who determines these categories, or which voters are the more “rational,” or what that category entails? How do we reconcile the egalitarian premises of democracy with the caste systems of the utopian Republic, in which voting “rationally” means voting for the interests of the class that gets the vote? What about the uses of propaganda to cultivate official state ideology in the populace (as Walter Lippman so well described in Public Opinion). And what are we to do with the deep suspicions of, say, Nietzsche when it comes to Socratic ideas of reason, many of which have been confirmed by the findings of neuroscience?

As cognitive scientist and linguist George Lakoff writes, “Most thought is unconscious, since we don’t have conscious access to our neural circuitry…. Estimates by neuroscientists vary between a general ‘most’ to as much as 98%, with consciousness as the tip of the mental iceberg.” That is to say that—despite our levels of education and specialized training—we “tend to make decisions unconsciously,” at the gut level, “before becoming consciously aware of them.” Even decisions like voting.

These considerations should also inform critiques of democracy, which have not only warned us of its dangers, but have also been used to justify widespread voter suppression and disenfranchisement for reasons that have nothing to do with objective rationality and everything to do with myth and political ideology.

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

Why Socrates Hated Democracies: An Animated Case for Why Self-Government Requires Wisdom & 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.

Performance Artist Marina Abramović Describes Her “Really Good Plan” to Lose Her Virginity

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 - 11:17 am

Losing your virginity–it’s not a subject we’ve previously discussed much here at Open Culture. Nor is it a subject about which we’d claim to have great expertise. (After all, you lose it only once in life.)

But performance artist Marina Abramović has given the whole endeavor some serious thought. As she explains in the BBC Radio 4 video above, she waited until she was 24 years old. Having seen precocious friends make mistakes, she handled things in her own special way. A Perry Como album. A bottle of Albanian whisky. An experienced, emotionally uninvolved partner. They all figured into what she calls–now 45 years later–her “really good plan.”

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Performance Artist Marina Abramović Describes Her “Really Good Plan” to Lose Her Virginity is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Hear a 20-Hour Playlist Featuring the Experimental Music of Composer Pauline Oliveros (RIP)

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 - 8:26 am

We can all surely recite some version of the difference between listening and hearing. It’s usually explained by a parent or guardian, with the intent of making us better at following instructions. On the whole, it’s for our own good as children that we pay heed to our elders. But genuine, critical listening is about so much more than perceiving gestures of authority. The avant-garde composer Pauline Oliveros, who died this past Thursday at 84, would argue that true listening, what she called “deep listening,” opens us up in radical ways to the world around us, and frees us from the sociopolitical constraints that hem in our senses. “Take a walk at night,” says one Oliveros’ 1974 “Sonic Meditations,” a set of 25 instructions for deep listening, “Walk so silently that the bottom of your feet become ears.”

“Sonic Meditations” emerged after “a period of intense introspection prompted by the Vietnam War,” writes Steve Smith in a New York Times obituary, during which Oliveros “changed creative course” to begin favoring improvisatory works. “All societies admit the power of music or sound,” she wrote in the preface.

“Sonic Meditations,” wrote Oliveros, “are an attempt to return the control of sound to the individual alone, and within groups especially for humanitarian purposes; specifically healing.” Her approach represented the composer giving up control and the primacy of authorship in order to play other roles: healer, guide, and teacher, a role she inhabited for decades as a college professor and author of several books of musical theory.

As you can see in her TEDx lecture at the top of the post, Oliveros always returned from her sonic explorations—such as the 1989 recording titled Deep Listening (hear an excerpt below)—with lessons for us in how to become better, more engaged and empowered listeners, rather than distracted consumers, of music and sound. Even before the 70s, and her turn to music as a meditative discipline informed by Buddhism and Native American ritual, Oliveros’ work disrupted the usual hierarchies of sound. An early adopter of technology, she “was quickly at the vanguard of electronics,” wrote Tom Service in a 2012 Guardian profile, but her “relationship with technology is philosophically ambivalent” given the role of research and development in creating weapons of war.

In early compositions like 1965’s “Bye Bye Butterfly,“ the composer “manipulated a recording of Puccini’s opera ‘Madama Butterfly’ on a turntable,” Smith writes, “augmenting its sounds with oscillators and tape delay.” In the beautifully moving results, further up, she aimed for a critique that “bids farewell not only to the music of the 19th century,” she wrote, “but also to the system of polite morality of that age and its attendant institutionalized oppression of the female sex.” Music has always been produced and consumed within the social constructions of gender binaries, Oliveros maintained. In a 1970 New York Times essay “And Don’t Call Them ‘Lady’ Composers,” she observed that “unless she is super-excellent, the woman in music will always be subjugated, while men of the same or lesser talent will find places for themselves.”

Throughout her long career, Oliveros created a place for herself, with as much theoretical rigor, playfulness, elegance, and sophistication as her friend and contemporary John Cage. That her substantial body of work has received a fraction of the attention as his may offer an instructive gloss on her contentions of persistent bias. But Oliveros’ work was not reactive; it was constructive, such that her concepts gave rise to what she called a Deep Listening Institute, an “ever-growing community of musicians, artists, scientists, and certified Deep Listening practitioners,” who strive “for a heightened consciousness of the world of sound and the sound of the world.”

But you don’t need specialized certification or training to experience the meditative, consciousness-expanding techniques of Oliveros’ music. On the contrary, she sought to foster “creative innovation across boundaries and across abilities, among artists and audience, musicians and nonmusicians, healers and the physically or cognitively challenged, and children of all ages.” In the Spotify playlist above, hear—or rather listen to—20 hours of Oliveros compositions, many featuring her early experiments with analog electronics, her “expanded instrument system,” and her signature instrument, a digitally-enhanced accordion.

As in the orchestral movement of Deep Listening, the album, Oliveros frequently dialogues with musical traditions, but she refused to allow them any particularly elevated authority over her work. “I’m not dismissive of classical music and the Western canon,” she said in 2012, “It’s simply that I can’t be bound by it. I’ve been jumping out of categories all my life.” As listeners, and readers, of her work, we can all learn to do the same.

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

Hear a 20-Hour Playlist Featuring the Experimental Music of Composer Pauline Oliveros (RIP) 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 Come Together, Wes Anderson’s New Short Film/Commercial Starring Adrien Brody

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 - 1:00 am

Why does the holiday season no longer feel complete without a Wes Anderson movie? Several of his features have opened in late fall or early winter, surely the most Andersonian time of year. Some have come out right around Christmas (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou on the day itself), and some, most notably The Royal Tenenbaums, take place partially in the season. While it looks as if we’ll have to do without a full-length Anderson production this Christmas, since the past year has reportedly seen him in pre-production on an as yet untitled stop-motion animated movie, the auteur of poignant and funny anachronism has nevertheless found time to direct Come Together, a brand new not-quite-commercial for “fast fashion” retailer H&M.

Anderson’s unusual niche in the world of filmmaking allows him to both work as perhaps the most meticulous cinematic visionary alive, and also to make ads with impunity. We’ve featured the pair of commercials for the Hyundai Azera he did in 2012, and more recently the less overt Castello Cavalcanti, a seven-minute short sponsored by Prada. These are in addition to spots for the likes of Stella Artois and American Express, the latter of which starred the director parodying himself.

This time regular collaborator Adrien Brody, previously seen in The Darjeeling Limited and The Grand Budapest Hotel and heard in The Fantastic Mr. Fox, takes the lead role of Conductor Ralph, the man in charge of a train that has fallen far behind its schedule as Christmas Eve becomes Christmas Day. Still, displaying the same attitude most of Anderson’s characters take toward matters of aesthetics and tradition, he takes seriously indeed the job of making Christmas special for his passengers. We glimpse these passengers one at a time through their cabin windows from outside the train, a sequence reminiscent of the cross-section shots of The Life Aquatic‘s R/V Belafonte.

What will enliven the pale greens and matte grays of this slightly forlorn but still doggedly rolling conveyance? It takes less than four minutes, during which Ralph, and Anderson, summon all the resources of this unspecified, dreamlike past at their disposal, to find out. Afterward, Come Together leaves only one lingering question. The famously meticulous Anderson who appears to demand a certain vintage yet timeless solidity in everything from his settings to his devices to his cuisine to his wardrobe — he can’t possibly be into fast fashion. Can he?

Related Content:

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A Complete Collection of Wes Anderson Video Essays

The Auteurs of Christmas: Christmas Morning as Seen Through the Eyes of Kubrick, Tarantino, Scorsese & More

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

Watch Come Together, Wes Anderson’s New Short Film/Commercial Starring Adrien Brody 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.

An Animated Introduction to George Orwell

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 - 12:45 pm

When his short and (by his own account) often miserable life came to an end in 1950, could the English political writer Eric Arthur Blair have known that he would not just become a household name, but remain one well over half a century later? Given his adoption of the memorable nom de plume George Orwell, we might say he had an inkling of his literary legacy’s potential. Still, he claimed to choose it for no grander reason than that it sounded like “a good round English name,” and would have loathed the pretense he sensed in the use of the phrase “nom de plume,” or, for that matter, any other of conspicuously foreign provenance.

The attitudes that shaped the author of Animal Farm and 1984 come out in this animated introduction to Orwell’s life and work, newly published by Alain de Botton’s School of Life. In explaining the motivations of this “most famous English language writer of the 20th century,” de Botton quotes from the essay “Why I Write,” wherein Orwell, with characteristic clarity, lays out his mission “to make political writing into an art. My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”

Orwell hated his fellow intellectuals, whom he accused of “a range of sins: a lack of patriotism, resentment of money and physical vigor, concealed sexual frustration, pretension, and dishonesty.” He loved “the ordinary person” and the lives led by those “not especially blessed by material goods, people who work in ordinary jobs, who don’t have much of an education, who won’t achieve greatness, and who nevertheless love, care for others, work, have fun, raise children, and have large thoughts about the deepest questions in ways Orwell thought especially admirable.” Though raised middle-class and educated at Eton, Orwell eschewed university and believed that “the average pub in a coal-mining village contained more intelligence and wisdom than the British Cabinet or the high table of an Oxbridge college.”

One might want to call such an intellectual a poseur or even a sort of fetishist, but Orwell backed up his pronouncements about the superiority of the working class with his years spent living and working in it, and, with books like Down and Out in Paris and London and The Road to Wigan Pier, writing about it. He praised newspaper comics, country walks, dancing, Charles Dickens, and straightforward language, all of which informed the attacks on ideology and authoritarianism that would keep his writing meaningful for future generations. The holiday season now upon us makes another work of Orwell’s especially relevant: his Christmas pudding recipe, one blow in his lesser-known struggle to, as the London-based de Botton puts it, write “bravely in defense of English cooking” — a project which would, by itself, qualify him as a champion of the underdog.

Related Content:

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What “Orwellian” Really Means: An Animated Lesson About the Use & Abuse of the Term

Try George Orwell’s Recipe for Christmas Pudding, from His Essay “British Cookery” (1945)

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

An Animated Introduction to George Orwell 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’s Wide-Ranging Interview on a Donald Trump Presidency: “The Most Predictable Aspect of Trump Is Unpredictability”

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 - 12:00 pm

Last May, during the contentious presidential primaries, Noam Chomsky spoke about the mounting resentments in America, the opening they’ve created for a figure like Donald Trump, and the parallels to 1930s Germany. Six months later, Trump has apparently won the election. So what does Chomsky, one of America’s leading public intellectuals, make of it all now?

The MIT professor presciently warned back in 2010 that a Trump-like figure was coming. (See his comments pasted below.) But he couldn’t tell you how Trump will actually govern once he takes office. That’s because “The most predictable aspect of Trump is unpredictability. It’s dangerous, very dangerous.” He also adds, “It’s certainly extremely hazardous to have an ignorant, thin-skinned megalomaniac who sends off [tweets] at 3am if somebody angered him.”


If there’s room for some optimism, it’s because Trump might actually make good on his promise to deescalate tensions with the Russians.

We don’t know what’s in [Trump’s] mind. I suspect he doesn’t know what’s in his mind… But anything that would reduce the growing and dangerous and severe threat of nuclear war is to be welcomed. It would be a nice thing if humanity could survive.

A textbook definition of what’s called damning with faint praise.

But don’t worry Republicans, Chomsky doesn’t go easy on Democrats either. Continuing the line of thought above, Chomsky added “One of the presidents who worried me most was Kennedy. In fact Kennedy brought us closer to nuclear destruction than anybody.”

And asked about Democrat suspicions that the Russians possibly hacked the election, he retorts: “It’s a kind of a strange complaint in the United States. The U.S. has been interfering with and undermining elections all over the world for decades and is proud of it. So yes maybe they’re doing it here too.”

Around the 18:15 mark, Chomsky gets to chiding progressives who refused to stop Trump, and voted for Stein or Johnson instead. They simply made “a bad mistake,” he adds.

For me, the best part comes when the al Jazeera interviewer asks Chomsky how we should address the rise of fake news and the “post truth” climate we’re now living in, as some claim: “You combat it by being an educator, by trying to educate, organize, and bring people to understand that they should use their critical intelligence, to evaluate what they’re reading, whether it’s in the mainstream media or on some other site they are looking up.”

For more on that, see this item in our archive:

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

Daniel Dennett Presents Seven Tools For Critical Thinking

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

 

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

Noam Chomsky’s Wide-Ranging Interview on a Donald Trump Presidency: “The Most Predictable Aspect of Trump Is Unpredictability” 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.