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James Earl Jones Reads Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” and Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”

2 hours 38 min ago

For all its many flaws the original Star Wars trilogy never strayed too far afield because of the deep well of gravitas in James Earl Jones’ voice. The ominous breathing, the echo effect, and that arresting baritone—no amount of dancing Ewoks could take away from his vocal performance. And though Jones’ expressive face has also carried many a film, his unmistakable voice can give even the silliest of material the weight of an oil tanker’s anchor. So then imagine the effect when Jones reads from already weighty literature by Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman? “Chills” only begins to describe it. Just above, hear him read Poe’s “The Raven,” a poem whose rhymes and sing-song cadences conjure up the mad obsession that materializes as that most portentous and intelligent of all the winged creatures.

While Vader and Poe seem like natural companions, the reading by Jones above of selections from Whitman’s “Song of Myself” also makes perfect sense. As comfortable on the stage as he is before the cameras, Jones has an excellent ear for the Shakespearean line, clearly good preparation for the Whitmanian, an “operatic line,” writes The Broken Tower, “due to its brea(d)th.” In the truth Whitman sings in his expansive transcendental poem, “the body, the body politic, and the nation’s body, are all literally the stuff of the universe, stardust smattered and strewn from the unifying explosion of our shared origin.” There are few readers, I aver, who could hold such “stuff” together with the strength and depth of voice as James Earl Jones. The recording above, of sections 6-7 and 17-19, comes from a reading Jones gave in October of 1973 at the 92nd St. Y. Below, hear the complete recording, with several more stanzas. Jones begins at the beginning, rumbling and bellowing out those lines that transmute egotism into magisterial, selfless inclusivity:

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

James Earl Jones Reads Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” and Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” 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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Fritz Lang’s Metropolis Restored with a Soundtrack Featuring Freddie Mercury, Adam Ant & Pat Benatar

5 hours 38 min ago

At the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, disco trailblazer and Oscar-winning composer Giorgio Moroder unveiled a restored version of Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent epic Metropolis — the first time that the groundbreaking movie had been restored since it premiered. Though Moroder labored for years with some of the leading archivists in the world to create the most complete version of the film to date, his adaptation also streamlined the movie’s storyline, added sound effects, colorized the movie’s monochrome picture and, most controversially, added a synth pop soundtrack featuring music by Pat Benatar, Billy Squier, Adam Ant and Freddie Mercury. You can watch it above.

The resulting film, as you might expect, is a profoundly odd collision between pop and art. Lang’s pungent imagery exists uneasily alongside Moroder’s MTV treatment. Critic Thomas Elsaesser in his BFI booklet on the movie called Moroder’s version “somewhere between a remake and a post-modern appropriation.” And though the songs are uniformly cringe-inducing – to say that they didn’t age well is a big understatement — Moroder’s version still works.

The reason that Lang’s movie influenced filmmakers from George Lucas to Terry Gilliam to Stanley Kubrick is because of its visual brilliance, not because of its story. The script, penned by Lang’s wife and future Nazi Party propagandist, Thea von Harbou, is stuffed full of allusions to Frankenstein and German folktales along with plenty of maudlin melodrama. But Lang’s high modernist visuals – evoking both the Bauhaus movement and Henry Ford’s new brand of industrialism – transcended the movie’s story, becoming a lasting vision of totalitarian dystopia.

In 2010, a painstakingly researched “complete” version of Metropolis came out, clocking in at almost three hours. It might be an achievement of film preservation but, compared to Moroder’s version, it shows how bloated and meandering Von Harbou’s script was. Moroder’s more svelte version might be cheesy, but at least it’s fun. The great film critic Pauline Kael described Lang’s movie as “a wonderful, stupefying folly.” Moroder’s version is a folly on top of a folly.

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Metropolis Restored: Watch a New Version of Fritz Lang’s Masterpiece

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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 pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.

Fritz Lang’s Metropolis Restored with a Soundtrack Featuring Freddie Mercury, Adam Ant & Pat Benatar 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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Experience James Joyce’s Ulysses in Virtual Reality, Using the Oculus Rift Headset

8 hours 10 min ago

If, like Virginia Woolf, you could never read James Joyce’s Ulysses from start to finish, then here’s another way to experience the modernist classic. Virtually rather than textually. According to The Creator’s Project, “an Irish filmmaker named Eoghan Kidney is designing a virtual reality video game that uses an Oculus Rift headset to put the player in the shoes of Stephen Dedalus as he meanders through Dublin on June 16th, 1904.”  On his Fundit page and in the video above, Mr. Kidney (not to be confused with Leopold Bloom’s burnt kidney breakfast) gives us an example of how the “In Ulysses” project will work:

My “In Ulysses” project is another way of experiencing the book – this time, using the virtual format. It will be a virtual reality videogame that will allow a user to inhabit the characters of Ulysses and experience the density of Joyce’s language in a fun and accessible way….

As a user of “In Ulysses” walks along a virtual Sandymount Strand, the book will be read to them – they will hear Stephen’s thoughts as they are written – but these thoughts will then be illustrated around the user in real-time using textual annotations, images and links. A user can stop walking (therefore stopping Stephen walking) and explore these illustrations, gaining insight into the book and adding to the enjoyment of it.

“In Ulysses” has already raised €4000, enough to fund its prototype. No target date for its release has been announced. And, from what I can tell, the consumer version of the Oculus Rift won’t be released until next year. So, like any good reader of Ulysses, you’ll need to have a little patience.

H/T Eric O.

Related Content:

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Read Ulysses Seen, A Graphic Novel Adaptation of James Joyce’s Classic

James Joyce Reads From Ulysses and Finnegans Wake In His Only Two Recordings (1924/1929)

Experience James Joyce’s Ulysses in Virtual Reality, Using the Oculus Rift Headset 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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Watch World War I Unfold in a 6 Minute Time-Lapse Film: Every Day From 1914 to 1918

14 hours 38 min ago

World War I began 100 years ago, on 28 July 1914. The initial trigger, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, produced something of a “domino effect,” where European powers, bound by pre-existing international alliances, chose sides and fell rather obviously into a catastrophic war. It started as a European war, pitting Allied powers against Central powers. But, soon enough, it became international, involving a long list of countries from Africa, North and South America, Asia, and Australasia. The trench warfare that became such an important part of World War I ensured that the battle lines moved ever so slowly, at least until the final stages of the war. That grinding quality gets captured remarkably well by EmperorTigerstar’s latest YouTube video, “World War I: Every Day,” which shows “the changing front lines of World War I every day from Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war to the armistice of November 11, 1918.” It also includes the changing front lines in Africa and the Pacific. (A legend, below, will help you sort out the various different players.) When you’re done watching “World War I: Every Day” (above), you’ll perhaps want to spend time with EmperorTigerstar’s previous video, “World War II in Europe: Every Day,” which documents an even bloodier war unfolding at a dramatic pace.

Legend:

Maroon = Central Powers and annexed lands.
Burgundy = Areas militarily occupied by the Central Powers.
Red = Central Power puppet or client states.
Brown = Central Powers in an armistice.
Pink = Central Power gains for that day.
Dark blue = Allied powers.
Blue = Central Powered lands militarily occupied by the Allies.
Blue-grey = Allied powers in an armistice.
Light blue = Allied gains for that day.

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Watch World War I Unfold in a 6 Minute Time-Lapse Film: Every Day From 1914 to 1918 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 World War I Unfold in a 6 Minute Time-Lapse Film: Every Day From 1914 to 1918 appeared first on Open Culture.

Richard Nixon’s Tips For Getting Pandas to Have Sex, Caught on Newly-Revealed Audio Tape (1972)

Mon, 28 Jul 2014 - 2:33 pm

 

http://nixontapes.org/19720313-1116_Pandas.mp3

Have you heard? Richard Nixon is back in the news. For one thing, John Dean, former Nixon legal counsel, has been making the rounds, promoting his third Watergate book The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It. Just this morning on NPR’s Diane Rehm show, Dean discussed the surprising new evidence that’s come to light in thousands of hours of tape-recorded conversations, all of which Dean has personally surveyed. This month will also see the release of Douglas Brinkley and Luke A. Nichter’s The Nixon Tapes 1971-1972.

Nixon recorded everything, which proved to be his undoing. But he also granted posterity such odd moments as the audio above, in which the president discusses the curious customs of panda bear mating. The conversation concerns Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing, the two pandas given to the National Zoo by Premier Zhou Enlai during Nixon’s famous trip to China. (As a young child in Washington, DC in the 70s and 80s, I remember seeing the pair on almost a monthly basis.) The attempts to mate the pandas made for national drama each year, though sadly none of the cubs Ling-Ling conceived survived. This was a difficulty Nixon anticipated. In the phone call above to Crosby Noyes, then foreign editor of The Washington Star, Nixon described the issue thusly:

Nixon: The problem with, uh—The problem, however, with pandas is that they don’t know how to mate. The only way they learn how is to watch other pandas mate. You see?

Noyes: [laughs]

Nixon: And, so they’re keeping them there a little while—these are younger ones—

Noyes: I see.

Nixon: —to sort of learn, you know, how it’s done.

Noyes: Sure, learn the ropes—

Nixon: Now, if they don’t learn it they’ll get over here and nothing will happen, so I just thought you should just have your best reporter out there to see whether these pandas—

Noyes: Well, we certainly will—

Nixon: —have learned. So, now that I’ve given you the story of pandas let me let you get back to your more serious questions. [laughter]

Read the full transcript of that conversation at “Post Everything,” and learn more about the long, eventful lives of Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing at the Smithsonian’s The Bigger Picture.

via DCist

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

Richard Nixon’s Tips For Getting Pandas to Have Sex, Caught on Newly-Revealed Audio Tape (1972) 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 Richard Nixon’s Tips For Getting Pandas to Have Sex, Caught on Newly-Revealed Audio Tape (1972) appeared first on Open Culture.

Bertolt Brecht Sings “Mack the Knife” in a 1929 Recording

Mon, 28 Jul 2014 - 11:28 am

Since 2008, a recording has been making the rounds on YouTube of Bertolt Brecht singing ‘Die Moritat von Mackie Messer,’ or what’s more commonly known as “Mack the Knife” in English, a song Kurt Weill and Brecht composed for The Threepenny Opera, which premiered in Berlin in 1928. The Brecht recording dates back to 1929, and, according to Discogs, it was released in 1960 on a 7-inch German album called Bertolt Brecht Singt. Below, you can hear Brecht make his way through the tune. The clip comes accompanied by a quirky, new animated video created by the studio Quality Schnallity, Inc.

“Mack the Knife” has, of course, been covered by countless artists over the years. Bobby Darin sang perhaps the most famous, swinging version in 1958. There are also classic versions by Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald, not to mention more contemporary ones by Lyle Lovett, The Psychedelic Furs, The Young Gods, Nick Cave, and Marianne Faithfull. Did we miss one of your favorites?

via WFMU

Bertolt Brecht Sings “Mack the Knife” in a 1929 Recording 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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Learn How Crayons Are Made, Courtesy of 1980s Videos by Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers

Mon, 28 Jul 2014 - 8:40 am

Some things are difficult to improve upon. Take crayons. The new generation may be clamoring for shades like “mango tango” and “jazzberry jam” but the actual technology appears unchanged since Sesame Street detailed the process in the early 80s, in the lovely, non verbal documentary above. Not a product placement in sight, I might add, though few can mistake that familiar green and gold box.

Those who prefer a bit more explanation might prefer Fred Rogers‘ hypnotic step-by-step guide, playing in perpetuity on Picture Picture.

By the time the industry’s giant gorilla got around to weighing in, the wooden collection boxes and analog counters had been replaced, but otherwise, it’s still business as usual on the ol’ crayon-manufacturing floor. Don’t expect to find the recipe for the “secret proprietary blend of pigments and other ingredients” any time soon. Just know they’re capable of cranking out 8500 crayons per minute. For those playing along at home, that’s enough to encircle the globe 6 times per calendar year, with a full third owing their existence to solar energy.

There’s a Homeland Security-ish vibe to some of the dialogue, but the Life of an American Crayon, above, does our native assembly lines proud. Prouder than the American slaughterhouse, anyway, or some other factory floors, I could name. The workers seem content enough to stay in their positions for decades, happily declaring allegiance to this or that hue.

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

 

Learn How Crayons Are Made, Courtesy of 1980s Videos by Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers 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 Learn How Crayons Are Made, Courtesy of 1980s Videos by Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers appeared first on Open Culture.

Greek Myth Comix Presents Homer’s Iliad & Odyssey Using Stick-Man Drawings

Mon, 28 Jul 2014 - 5:00 am

The next time some know-it-all moralist blames any number of social ills on violent video games or action films, ask them if they’d rather kids stick to the classics. When they invariably reply in the affirmative, you can smugly direct their attention to Greek Myth Comix’s astonishing infographic detailing the multitude of gruesome killings in the Iliad. Homer’s epic unflinchingly describes, for example, in graphic detail, the death of Lycon, who in Book 16 has a sword thrust through his neck: “nothing held but a piece of skin, and from that, Lycon’s head dangled down.” And if you’ve held on to your lunch, you may be interested to know the grisly circumstances of the other two candidates for “grimmest death.” Just below, see a section of the comic celebrating “stand out performances in battle.” Can Zack Snyder’s King Leonidas match kills with Homer’s Achilles? Only one way to find out….

The Iliad graphic is great fun—as well as a succinct way to render modern scolds speechless—but Greek Myth Comix doesn’t stop there… Oh no! Fans of Homer’s Odyssey will not be disappointed; Books 5-7, and much of 9, 10, and 12 also get the “comix” treatment. The artwork is admittedly crude, but the text comes from a much more authoritative source than 300, no disrespect to Frank Miller. Lauren Jenkinson is a “Classical Civilisation and Literature teacher, writer and, apparently, artist,” and her online adaptations are intended primarily to help students pass their GCSE (OCR), the British secondary exams whose nearest equivalent in the States might perhaps be the SATs.

But Greek Myth Comix won’t only appeal to struggling students in the British Isles. Educators will find much to love here, as will lovers of mythology in general. Online access to the site is free, and you can purchase copies of the comix in PDF—either individually, in bulk, or in poster-size resolution. The site’s full archive has other goodies like the above, “What Makes a Homeric Hero?” And with such recent updates, no doubt Greek Myth Comix has much more in store for those struggling to enjoy or understand Homer’s bloody-minded epics, and those who simply love their myths in comic form as well as ancient lyric.

via HolyKaw

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

Greek Myth Comix Presents Homer’s Iliad & Odyssey Using Stick-Man 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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Ubu Roi: Alfred Jarry’s Scandalous Play Strikingly Adapted for Television (1965)

Mon, 28 Jul 2014 - 12:50 am

“Merdre,” the very first word spoken in Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, needs no introduction. When it first opened — and closed — on stage in 1896, it didn’t have to do much more than that to get its audience worked up. As soon as this hyper-vulgar satire of the powerful came to its deliberately undramatic end, a “riot” broke out, history books invariably note. Something in Jarry’s tale of the savage, infantile, and all-desiring royalty of the title touched a nerve, and the Surrealist and Theatre of the Absurd movements that followed would strive to keep on touching it. But the strange, low-minded Ubu Roi and its sequels would, while no longer liable to prompt fisticuffs, retain a kind of power over the next century and beyond. That legacy is visible even in French political discourse, where the insult “Ubuesque” tends to get thrown around to describe a certain impulsive, self-satisfying kind of public figure.

Jean-Christopher Averty’s television production of Ubu Roi above first aired in 1965. Its content, presumably by then familiar enough to the viewing audience, no longer shocked, but its aesthetic choices still look striking today. “I can almost guarantee you will never see another film that looks even remotely like this,” says The Sick, the Strange, and the Awful. It “dispels any types of camera panning, zooms and even moving the camera at all,” placing, “at any one time, three, four, six different mini-scenes onscreen, all interacting with each other in bizarre ways. Characters will pass things to each other, and the item will change size depending on where the camera is. It’s visually disorientating, and cool as hell.” The simply attired characters against backgrounds reduced to their most basic elements (when not just a black void) retain the theatricality of the material, but it all comes together visually with the kind of optical effects that had only recently become possible. Jarry’s daring presaged the era of anything-goes theatre; only natural that his work would go on to explore the limitless visual possibilities opened at the dawn of the video age. But if it started any riots in middle-class French living rooms, history has left them unrecorded.

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The Hearts of Age: Orson Welles’ Surrealist First Film (1934)

Man Ray and the Cinéma Pur: Four Surrealist Films From the 1920s

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.

Ubu Roi: Alfred Jarry’s Scandalous Play Strikingly Adapted for Television (1965) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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The Touching Moment When Nicholas Winton Met the Children He Saved During the Holocaust

Sun, 27 Jul 2014 - 12:37 am

Procrastinators take note.

Some teens of my acquaintance have been agitating for a meeting with a Holocaust survivor. These encounters, common enough in my childhood, are growing less so as those with firsthand knowledge enter their golden years. Bear in mind that Eva Lavi, the youngest person named on Oskar Schindler’s List, is now 76.

Sir Nicholas Winton, at 105, is definitely an inspiring figure, and not just for his remarkable longevity. From late 1938 until the start of the war, he managed to rescue 669 Czech children—most of them Jews.

Winton made no public mention of his heroics, until 1988, when the BBC obtained his rescue scrapbook and used it to coordinate a massive live on-air surprise during the program That’s Life (see above).

I plan on using the 60 Minutes episode below to introduce my teen friends—most of whom stoutly declare they’d have hidden Anne Frank without a second thought—to a man whose actions speak louder than words.

via Holy Kaw

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Anne Frank: The Only Existing Video Now Online

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

The Touching Moment When Nicholas Winton Met the Children He Saved During the Holocaust 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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Colorized Photos Bring Walt Whitman, Charlie Chaplin, Helen Keller & Mark Twain Back to Life

Sat, 26 Jul 2014 - 8:00 pm

When disco pioneer Giorgio Morodoer released a colorized version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis – featuring a soundtrack with Billy Squier, Pat Benatar and Adam Ant, no less – film purists everywhere howled with disbelief at how the film’s moody black and white had been turned into Easter egg pinks and blues. It felt like a gimmick and, worse, it just didn’t look real.

Colorization has come a long way since then. In the hands of the right Photoshop wizard – like artist Dana Keller – a colorized photograph of, say, the Oklahoma dust bowl or turn-of-the-century Coney Island gives viewers the chill of the uncanny. People and things that have long since departed this world suddenly seem vital and alive. It makes that foreign country called the past feel eerily familiar.

Above is a picture of poet Walt Whitman. His trademark long hair and Karl Marx beard would look right at home in certain corners of Portland. Apart from that, there is both a sensitivity and ferociousness about this picture. Whitman definitely looks like he’s capable of delivering a barbaric yawp. You can see what the picture looked like in its original black and white here.

This photograph of Helen Keller drawing a hand over Charlie Chaplin’s face from 1919 looks like it could be a still from an upcoming Oscar bait biopic. In fact the picture was taken in Hollywood while Keller was on one of her speaking tours. (See original here.)

Likewise with this portrait (original here) of Mark Twain. You can almost hear him make some pithy comment like “A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever.” As you can see from the picture, Twain didn’t take that risk, opting for more of a whiskery scowl.

This picture of Joseph Goebbels (original) staring down a Jewish photographer is simply terrifying. It’s the sort of death stare common among psycho-killers, death row inmates and, apparently, Nazi propaganda ministers.

And this picture of a humble burger flipper from 1938 is so crisp that it looks like it might have been taken yesterday.

If you have an hour to kill, you can see many, many more colorized pics from the past over at Inspire 52.

A big H/T to Natalie W. G.  for sending these our way.

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Marilyn Monroe Reads Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1952)

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 art blog Veeptopus.

Colorized Photos Bring Walt Whitman, Charlie Chaplin, Helen Keller & Mark Twain Back to Life is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Above LA: A Top-Down Timelapse View of the Great Megacity

Sat, 26 Jul 2014 - 3:52 pm

Chris Pritchard tells us: “Above LA showcases the often unseen beauty of Los Angeles from above. It was shot on hilltops, mountains, and high-rise rooftops around the city and features a number of day to night transitions and rare weather. My goal was to capture the depth, beauty, and movement of a vast and bustling megacity from a new angle, and encourage people to get out and experience their environments in new ways. I never thought I’d appreciate this city so much until I spent countless hours staring at it from high above.” You can learn more about Above LA over at Chris’ blog here.

Above LA: A Top-Down Timelapse View of the Great Megacity 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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Why R.E.M.’s 1991 Out of Time May Be the “Most Politically Important Album” Ever

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 - 10:45 pm

Raise your hand if you bought your first music on cassette tapes. No, not those detourned objects of nostalgia circa 2013, but the “this is the latest technology and that’s that” kinda thing. Okay, you in the back there, remember when the CD came to town? Yeah, and remember those boxes—all that ridiculous packaging, with the long cardboard box twice as long as the product? What was that all about? The rest of you, keep up: It was a different time. Okay, since we all still know what vinyl looks like when handsomely placed on store shelves (maybe you’ve seen this at your local Urban Outfitters), we know that record sleeves are big and square and CD cases are small and square. And the problem for those record stores when the CDs came to replace tapes—but not the precious vinyl—was that the main displays were for the big squares, and the stores didn’t wanna change ‘em. Thus the long CD box: two of them side by side equaled the area of one record.

Problem solved? Not for spoilsports like R.E.M. who (you in the back, remember?) released that album Green in ’88 and went on endlessly about “think global, act local” enviro—blah blah. Why they cared so much about the lives of shade-giving, wish-granting trees I’ll never know, but they did, and it bothered them, these wasteful boxes. So, enter Tipper Gore. Wait, what? Who? How? A short history: Some time ago, Al Gore’s wife Tipper and many others were upset by raunchy lyrics—especially by the 2 Live Crew fellows—and lobbied for those “Parental Advisory” stickers to get stuck on explicit CDs, and some music was censored, and Gore and her coalition of mostly right-wing friends found a convenient boogeyman in popular music. (Are you googling? It’s spelled “PMRC”). A lot of this agitation over explicit lyrics came from genuinely concerned parents. A lot of it came from political opportunists and people who like using legislation to enforce their religious morality.

Where in Stipe’s name is this going? It ties together through one man, Jeff Gold, Warner Brother’s exec during the release of the band’s 1991 album Out of Time. Gold needed the long box for this CD, and he wanted the then-new Rock the Vote project to register millions of young music buyers, who would then, he reasoned, vote out the pols who did the censorship. Gold and Rock the Vote founder and Virgin records co-founder Jeff Ayeroff convinced the band to do the long box thing by making half the box a Rock the Vote petition for the Motor Voter Bill, which would allow voters to register through their local DMV. And that, according to radio show 99% Invisible, is how REM became the face of Rock the Vote and the Motor Voter Bill in 1993. Marketing! And environmentalism. See that sensitive activist at the top of the post? That’s Michael Stipe making a Rock the Vote pitch. See that picture above? (Click to embiggen.) That’s the dorsal side of Out of Time’s CD long box package. The card at the bottom addresses itself to the young record buyer’s Senator. It says,

Dear Senator:

I support the Motor Voter Bill. According to the U.S. Census, in the last presidential election 78% of 18-29 year olds who were registered to vote voted. We aren’t as apathetic as some people think. It’s just that the laws make it hard for many of us to register.

I hope I can say my Senator supports the Motor Voter Bill.

Your Constituent

In no small part because of R.E.M.’s lobbying, the Motor Voter Bill was passed. Many did not like it then and do not like it now. They say it encourages voter fraud, which you might think would be rampant and completely out of control by now, but is not in the least. In any case, the law remains unreasonably controversial, as do many, many laws that make it easier for all kinds of citizens to vote. But you probably know that story already.

For more on why Out of Time is possibly “the most politically important album of all time,” listen to the first episode of new podcast Pitch below, and visit their site for a transcript of their detailed interview with Jeffs Gold and Ayeroff. And for Stipe’s sake, get yourself registered and get to the polls this November.

via 99% Invisible

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

Why R.E.M.’s 1991 Out of Time May Be the “Most Politically Important Album” Ever 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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Watch The Reality of the Virtual: 74 Minutes of Pure Slavoj Žižek (2004)

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 - 11:30 am

Slavoj Žižek must make a tempting documentary subject; you have only to fire up the camera and let him do his thing. Or at least the Slovenian academic provocateur and intellectual performance artist, in films like The Pervert’s Guide to CinemaThe Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, and Žižek!, has given the impression that he can effortlessly carry a film all by himself. The directors of those aforementioned movies did a bit more than sit Žižek down before a rolling camera, but Ben Wright, maker of The Reality of the Virtual, seems to have taken the man’s raw oratorical value as the very premise of his project. This 74-minute documentary — if even the word “documentary” suits such a radically simplified form — simply has Žižek sit at a table, in front of some bookshelves, and talk, ostensibly about “real effects produced by something which does not yet fully exist,” as he identifies them in the realms of psychoanalysis, politics, sociology, physics, and popular culture.

“Shot by Ben Wright over the course of a single day,” writes the New York Times’ Nathan Lee, “here is the apotheosis of the talking-head movie, made up entirely of seven long, static takes of Mr. Žižek,” animated only by his own “habitual repertory of twitches, spasms and uncontrolled perspiration, an alarming frenzy of exuberance that contributes to his reputation as a rock star of philosophy.” The theme at hand, which certainly has something to do with belief and truth, possibility and impossibility, the reality within the unreal and the unreal within reality, takes him through the widest possible range of associated subjects. Those who appreciate Žižek primarily as a master of focused digression — and I have to imagine his fan base contains many such people — will find no purer expression of that particular skill. Then again, to truly experience Žižek, maybe you have to take an actual class taught by him. If The Reality of the Virtual inspires you to do so, count yourself as braver than I.

Find many more heady films on our list of Free Documentaries, part of our larger collection, 675 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.

Watch The Reality of the Virtual: 74 Minutes of Pure Slavoj Žižek (2004) 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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Map Showing Where Today’s Countries Would Be Located on Pangea

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 - 1:02 am

The supercontinent of Pangea formed some 270 million years ago, during the Early Permian Period, and then began to break up 70 million years later, eventually yielding the continents we inhabit today. Pangea was, of course, a peopleless place. But if you were to drop today’s nations on that great land mass, here’s what it might look like. (Click on the image to view it in a much larger, high resolution format.) The map’s creator is Massimo Pietrobon, someone who playfully describes himself as “a famous explorer and cartographer of Atlantis,” and who has taken on other experiments with maps in the past. When someone claimed that the scale of certain countries wasn’t exactly right, Massimo was quick to confess on his blog, “Yes, it’s just a trial, it can be better.” But it’s a creative start.

via Pickover’s Reality Carnival

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Map Showing Where Today’s Countries Would Be Located on Pangea 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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“Tsundoku,” the Japanese Word for the New Books That Pile Up on Our Shelves, Should Enter the English Language

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 - 3:00 pm

There are some words out there that are brilliantly evocative and at the same time impossible to fully translate. Yiddish has the word shlimazl, which basically means a perpetually unlucky person. German has the word Backpfeifengesicht, which roughly means a face that is badly in need of a fist. And then there’s the Japanese word tsundoku, which perfectly describes the state of my apartment. It means buying books and letting them pile up unread.

The word dates back to the very beginning of modern Japan, the Meiji era (1868-1912) and has its origins in a pun. Tsundoku, which literally means reading pile, is written in Japanese as 積ん読. Tsunde oku means to let something pile up and is written 積んでおく. Some wag around the turn of the century swapped out that oku (おく) in tsunde oku for doku (読) – meaning to read. Then since tsunde doku is hard to say, the word got mushed together to form tsundoku.

As with other Japanese words like karaoke, tsunami, and otaku, I think it’s high time that tsundoku enter the English language. Now if only we can figure out a word to describe unread ebooks that languish on your Kindle. E-tsundoku? Tsunkindle? Visit our collection of Free eBooks and contemplate the matter for a while.

The illustration above was made when Redditor Wemedge asked his daughter to illustrate the word “Tsundoku,” and she did not disappoint.

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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 art blog Veeptopus.

“Tsundoku,” the Japanese Word for the New Books That Pile Up on Our Shelves, Should Enter the English Language 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 “Tsundoku,” the Japanese Word for the New Books That Pile Up on Our Shelves, Should Enter the English Language appeared first on Open Culture.

One Woman, 17 British Accents

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 - 11:53 am

In April, we featured a tour of 14 British accents in 84 seconds. But as any commenter to that video will tell you, such a selection only scratches the surface of the variety of ways a given Briton could potentially speak English. “It’s important to state that there is no ‘British’ accent,” says the web site of BBC America’s Anglophenia. “There are so many regional dialects spread across tiny geographical areas that to arrive in, say, Swansea or Leicester (pronounced “lester” — you’re welcome), and launch into a stream of corblimey cockneyisms would go down extraordinarily badly.” This blog and video series, which brands itself “British Culture with an American Accent,” has spent more than a little energy helping its fans sort out the “infinite world of variety in the accents of the British Isles.” At the top of the post, Anglophenia host Siobhan Thompson demonstrates no fewer than seventeen British accents.

And not only can Thompson speak them, she can tell you who else speaks them. Other users of the middle-class, BBC-friendly “received pronunciation” include currently bankable film and television actors Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch. And pretty much only on film and television do you hear the more refined-sounding “heightened received pronunciation,” and even then mainly from characters like Downton Abbey‘s Dowager Countess. She also does a truly Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels London accent, the flat East Anglian inflection that everyone loses when they move out of East Anglia, and thirteen more from across the rest of England as well as Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Once you learn to comprehend all these varieties of speech, though, you may still fail to grasp the meaning of what you hear. The Anglophenia episode above, “How to Speak British,” gives you a primer on a series of expressions — “Away with the fairies,” “Swings and roundabouts,” “Horses for courses” — you’ll only ever hear said in a British accent.

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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.

One Woman, 17 British Accents 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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Theodor Adorno’s Philosophy of Punctuation

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 - 8:45 am

German critical theorist Theodor Adorno is known for many things, but a light touch isn’t one of them. His work includes despairing post-fascist ethics and a study on the sociology and psychology of fascism. Those who dig deeper into his catalog may know his rigorously philosophical Negative Dialectics or dense, opaque Aesthetic Theory. Given the seriously heavy nature of these books, you might surprised, as I was, to read the paragraph below:

An exclamation point looks like an index finger raised in warning; a question mark looks like a flashing light or the blink of an eye. A colon, says Karl Kraus, opens its mouth wide: woe to the writer who does not fill it with something nourishing. Visually, the semicolon looks like a drooping moustache; I am even more aware of its gamey taste. With self-satisfied peasant cunning, German quotation marks (<<> >) lick their lips.

The skillful deployment of aphorism seems typical; the playfulness not so much. But Adorno’s short essay, “punctuation marks,” takes a sober turn shortly thereafter, and for good reason. Punctuation is serious business. Sounding much more like the Adorno I know, the dour Marxist writes, “History has left its residue in punctuation marks, and it is history, far more than meaning or grammatical function, that looks out at us, rigidified and trembling slightly, from every mark of punctuation.” Okay.

Well, Adorno would just hate what I’m about to do, but—hey—this is the internet; who has the time and concentration to traverse the rocky course of thought he carves out in his work? Maybe you? Good, read the full essay. Not you? See below for some bite-sized highlights.

Punctuation as music: “punctuation marks,” Adorno writes, “are marks of oral delivery.” As such, they function like musical notation. “The comma and the period correspond to the half-cadence and the authentic cadence.” Exclamation points are “like silent cymbal clashes, question marks like musical upbeats.” Colons are like “dominant seventh chords.” Adorno, a musicologist and composer himself, heard things in these symbols most of us probably don’t.

The semicolon: There is no mark of punctuation that Adorno rejects outright. All have their place and purpose. He does decry the modernist tendency to mostly leave them out, since “then they simply hide.” But Adorno reserves a special pride of place for the semicolon. He claims that “only a person who can perceive the different weights of strong and weak phrasings in musical form” can understand the difference between semicolon and comma. He differentiates between the Greek and German semicolon. And he expresses alarm “that the semicolon is dying out.” This, he claims, is due to a fear of “page-long paragraphs”—the kind he often writes. It is “a fear created by the marketplace—by the consumer who does not want to tax himself.” Right, I told you, he would hate the internet, though he seems to thrive—posthumously—on Twitter.

Quotation marks: While Adorno accepts every punctuation mark as meaningful, he does not accept all uses of them. In the case of the quotation mark, his advice is precisely what I have received, and have passed on to overly glib and thoughtless students. Quotation marks, he writes, should only be used for direct quotes, “and if need be when the text wants to distance itself from a word it is referring to.” This can include writing words as words (the word “word” is a word…). Adorno rejects quotation marks as an “ironic device.” This usage presents “a predetermined judgment on the subject”; it offers a “blind verdict.”

The ellipsis: On this mark, Adorno becomes very prickly, particular, and, well… elliptical. Three dots “suggests an infinitude of thoughts and associations.” Two is the mark of a hack. I leave it to you to parse his reasoning.

The dash: First, we have “the serious dash,” in which “thought becomes aware of its fragmentary character.” Dashes may signal “mute lines into the past, wrinkles on the brow” of the text, ”uneasy silence.” Dashes need not connect thoughts. The “desire to connect everything,” Adorno writes, is the mark of “literary dilettantes.” Thus the “modern dash” is debased, a symptom of “the progressive degeneration of language.” It prepares us “in a foolish way for surprises that by that very token are no longer surprising.” Adorno also prefers another use of dashes—more below.

Parentheses: Parenthetical phrases (like this) create “enclaves” and admit the “superfluousness” of their contents, which is why many stylebooks frown upon them. Their use in this way “capitulate[s] to pedantic philistinism.” The “cautious writer”—writes punctiliously cautious Adorno—will place parentheticals between dashes, “which block off parenthetical material from the flow of the sentence without shutting it up in a prison.” The parentheses do have their place, as do all marks of punctuation in Adorno’s lexical theory. But probably only if you are Proust.

Reading Adorno—on punctuation and anything else—can be intimidating. His erudition, his disdain for carelessness, middlebrow expediency, and the crude forms of expression given birth by commerce of all kinds: these are attitudes that can seem at times like overbearing elitism. And yet, Adorno understands the burdensome nature of writing prescriptions. “The writer,” he admits, “is in a permanent predicament when it comes to punctuation marks: if one were fully aware while writing, one would sense the impossibility of ever using a mark of punctuation correctly and would give up writing altogether.” Far too many have done so. We “cannot trust in the rules,” nor can we ignore them. What to do? Err on the side of the abstemious says our poker-faced German Strunk; to avoid sloppiness or rote misuse, follow an Epicurean mean: “better too few than too many.”

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

Theodor Adorno’s Philosophy of Punctuation 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 Baffler Makes Its Back Issues All Free to Read Online

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 - 1:00 am

The New Yorker wasn’t the only magazine that relaunched its web site this week. The Baffler did the same. They got a new look and feel. And they made plenty of loyal readers happy by making 25 years of back issues freely available online. The editors of the magazine — that “loose collective of disaffiliated culture critics, knowledge workers, poets, illustrators, and closet utopians” — write:

Well, when The Baffler was born in 1988, we never could have foreseen this #innovation, but here we are. Please enjoy this new and uncharacteristically shiny iteration of The Baffler online—featuring not only our new issue (no. 25, “The None and the Many”), but also, for the first time ever, all of our digitized archives in one place.

That’s 25 issues, 432 contributors, 277 salvos, 450 graphics, 172 poems, 73 stories, 3,396 pages made of 1,342,785 words. You can click on individual pieces or flip through entire issues page by page, if you so desire.

You can flip through the sporadically-published back issues and revel in the iconoclastic magazine that “ridicules respectable business leaders, laughs at popular consumer brands as souvenirs of the cultural industry, and debunks the ideology of free-market nincompoops in the media and on the campuses.” Or, if you’re looking for some more direction, you can head to the The Paris Review, where Dan Piepenbring makes some recommendations, starting with his “personal favorite, Steve Albini’s “The Problem with Music,” a terse, caustic critique of the record industry at the height of yuppie-ism and major-label excess.”

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The Baffler Makes Its Back Issues All Free to Read Online 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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