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Posted by Colin Marshall

"The electronic media haven't wiped out the book: it's read, used, and wanted, perhaps more than ever. But the role of the book has changed. It's no longer alone. It no longer has sole charge of our outlook, nor of our sensibilities." As familiar as those words may sound, they don't come from one of the think pieces on the changing media landscape now published each and every day. They come from the mouth of midcentury CBC television host John O'Leary, introducing an interview with Marshall McLuhan more than half a century ago.

McLuhan, one of the most idiosyncratic and wide-ranging thinkers of the twentieth century, would go on to become world famous (to the point of making a cameo in Woody Allen's Annie Hall) as a prophetic media theorist. He saw clearer than many how the introduction of mass media like radio and television had changed us, and spoke with more confidence than most about how the media to come would change us. He understood what he understood about these processes in no small part because he'd learned their history, going all the way back to the development of writing itself.

Writing, in McLuhan's telling, changed the way we thought, which changed the way we organized our societies, which changed the way we perceived things, which changed the way we interact. All of that holds truer for the printing press, and even truer still for television. He told the story in his book The Gutenberg Galaxy, which he was working on at the time of this interview in May of 1960, and which would introduce the term "global village" to its readers, and which would crystallize much of what he talked about in this broadcast. Electronic media, in his view, "have made our world into a single unit."

With this "continually sounding tribal drum" in place, "everybody gets the message all the time: a princess gets married in England, and 'boom, boom, boom' go the drums. We all hear about it. An earthquake in North Africa, a Hollywood star gets drunk, away go the drums again." The consequence? "We're re-tribalizing. Involuntarily, we're getting rid of individualism." Where "just as books and their private point of view are being replaced by the new media, so the concepts which underlie our actions, our social lives, are changing." No longer concerned with "finding our own individual way," we instead obsess over "what the group knows, feeling as it does, acting 'with it,' not apart from it."

Though McLuhan died in 1980, long before the appearance of the modern internet, many of his readers have seen recent technological developments validate his notion of the global village — and his view of its perils as well as its benefits — more and more with time. At this point in history, mankind can seem less united than ever than ever, possibly because technology now allows us to join any number of global "tribes." But don't we feel more pressure than ever to know just what those tribes know and feel just what they feel?

No wonder so many of those pieces that cross our news feeds today still reference McLuhan and his predictions. Just this past weekend, Quartz's Lila MacLellan did so in arguing that our media, "while global in reach, has come to be essentially controlled by businesses that use data and cognitive science to keep us spellbound and loyal based on our own tastes, fueling the relentless rise of hyper-personalization" as "deep-learning powered services promise to become even better custom-content tailors, limiting what individuals and groups are exposed to even as the universe of products and sources of information expands." Long live the individual, the individual is dead: step back, and it all looks like one of those contradictions McLuhan could have delivered as a resonant sound bite indeed.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, 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.

Marshall McLuhan Predicts That Electronic Media Will Displace the Book & Create Sweeping Changes in Our Everyday Lives (1960) 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.

Posted by Dan Colman

Last month Colin Marshall gave you the scoop on Stanford University's digitization of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," a project that takes you inside the making of the iconic 1955 poem. As a quick follow up, it's worth mentioning this: Stanford has also just put online over 2,000 Ginsberg audio cassette recordings, giving you access to "a staggering amount of primary source material associated with the Beat Generation" and its most acclaimed poet.

For a quick taste of what's in the archive, Stanford Libraries points you to an afternoon breakfast table conversation between Ginsberg and another legendary Beat figure, William S. Burroughs. But you can rummage/search through the whole collection and find your own favorite recordings here.

via Stanford Libraries and Austin Kleon's newsletter (which you should subscribe to here)

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2,000+ Cassettes from the Allen Ginsberg Audio Collection Now Streaming 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.

Posted by ephemeralnewyork

He often came across subjects for his work near Washington Square, or Union or Madison Squares.

But in 1912, after moving from Sixth Avenue to 155 East 22nd Street, John Sloan trained his outsider’s eye on Gramercy Park (fellow social realist painter George Bellows’ territory), where he painted two women tending to a baby in a carriage on a warm, lush day.

Sloan “found his subjects in his immediate surroundings; the streets he traveled and the people he encountered were immediately translated to canvas,” wrote Margarita Karasoulas on Questroyal.com.

“He typically captured New Yorkers going about their routines from the perspective of an outside observer, painting intimate scenes with a window-like viewpoint in order to focus closely and observe the subject undetected.”

I’m curious about the red brick townhouse to the right of the park. This is 1912, and it certainly could have been torn down.

But I wonder if Sloan is giving us a look at the Stuyvesant Fish House at 19 Gramercy Park South.

Built in 1845 for a Whig politician, it was expanded and redone in the 1880s for Old New York scion and railroad magnate Stuyvesant Fish and his party-loving society hostess wife, Mamie.

Sloan’s depiction doesn’t look exactly like the house, seen here in 2010. Artistic license, perhaps?

[Photo: Wikipedia]


Posted by ephemeralnewyork

The East 68th Street campus of Hunter College doesn’t look very collegiate, with its skywalks and square modernist buildings.

But there’s a wonderful exception to all those concrete boxes: Thomas Hunter Hall at 934 Lexington Avenue.

(Thomas Hunter was the first president of this former all-female teachers college founded in 1869, when it was known as Normal College.)

Designed in 1912 by Charles B.J. Snyder, the architect of so many of New York’s elementary and high schools at the turn of the century, this English Gothic castle of a college building features cathedral windows and rooftop turrets that give the impression of a Medieval fortress.

And if you look closely, you’ll see plenty of Gothic-style faces staring back at you.

The facade and twin spires flanking the entrance are packed with grotesques—some scary, some goofy with a sense of humor (like the guy in the glasses above, who has a pencil behind his ear).

Hunter College is part of the City University of New York, and it’s not the only CUNY building decorated with unique, cheeky grotesques.

Visit CUNY’s campus on 137th Street in Harlem—a Gothic architecture lover’s dream—and you’ll encounter the same kind of fun and mischievous characters, like this one, appropriately reading a book. (This is a college, after all!)

[Top photo: Hunter College]


Posted by ephemeralnewyork

In the late 19th and early 20th century, thousands of New Yorkers lived in tenements bordered by elevated train tracks.

Trains thundered so close to living rooms and kitchens, one observer in the 1880s described the elevated as “so near to the houses you might shake hands with the inhabitants and see what they had for dinner.”

Having a train outside one window was one thing. But what in the world was it like living in a slender building at the juncture of two elevated lines, with trains lurching and screeching day and night on both sides of your home?

The curtains in the windows of this tenement, at the Battery Place stop where the Sixth Avenue El and Ninth Avenue El meet in Lower Manhattan, tell us people did make their homes here.

Both elevated lines were dismantled in the late 1930s. At some point, the Flatiron-like tenement had its date with the wrecking ball as well; I haven’t been able to locate it anywhere in the downtown streetscape.

[Photos: MCNY/Wurtz Bros.]


Posted by Dan Colman

Image by Allan Warren, via Wikimedia Commons

Last month, a Spanish court ordered the exhumation of Salvador Dalí's, to see whether--as a paternity case claims--he's the father of María Pilar Abel Martínez, a tarot card reader born in 1956. When experts opened his crypt on Thursday night, they encountered a pretty remarkable scene. According to Narcís Bardalet, the doctor who embalmed the artist's body back in 1989, Dalí's face was covered with a silk handkerchief – a magnificent handkerchief." "When it was removed, I was delighted to see his moustache was intact … I was quite moved. You could also see his hair." "His moustache is still intact, [like clock hands at] 10 past 10, just as he liked it. It’s a miracle."  "The moustache is still there and will be for centuries." That's perhaps the last surviving trace of Dalí's schtick that will remain.

via The Guardian

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Salvador Dalí’s Body Gets Exhumed, Revealing That, 28 Years After His Death, His Moustache Remains Perfectly Intact 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.

Posted by Colin Marshall

Ask any creator subject to frequent interviews which questions they dread, and one in particular will come up more than any other: "Where do you get your ideas?" Some have readily spoken and written on the subject — Isaac Asimov, Neil Gaiman, David Lynch — but most, even if they've had truly astonishing ideas, have given the subject of ideas in general little thought. The video above, named after the infamous question, compiles a variety of answers from a variety of people, younger and older, famous and less so, into a five-minute search for the source of human creativity.

"I get ideas in fragments," says Lynch, whose voice we hear amid the many others in the video. "It's as if, in the other room, there's a puzzle and all the pieces are together. But in my room, they just flip one piece at a time into me."

When a good idea comes along, says a twelve-year-old named Ursula, "that's the feeling they call inspiration." But Radiolab host Robert Krulwich has a dim view of inspiration: "I'm a little suspicious of the idea like, 'In the beginning there was nothing and then there was light.' I don't think I've had that experience, and for other people who've said that they've had that experience, I'm not sure I believe them."

"Inspiration is for amateurs," says artist Chuck Close. "The rest of us just show up and get to work. Every great idea came out of work, everything." Chalk up another point in favor of Thomas Edison's famous breakdown of genius as one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration — but what kind of perspiration? As professional skateboarder Ray Barbee sees it, "most people start off by mimicking something, but then it turns into their own thing because they don't really have the ability to mimic it precisely," a process that produces "originality from copying."

"Whenever I finish a story," says New Yorker writer Susan Orlean, "I go through a period of time where I feel like I will never again have an idea." But it never lasts as long as it feels: "One day you fall onto something, and it just looks you in the face and says, 'I'm the one.'" That "one" could take the form, according to the video's contributors, of a chance encounter, a sentence in a story, a yellow ball bouncing down the street, a solitary lawn chair seen from a train window, a dump trick, or many other even less expected entities besides. You just have to be primed and ready to connect it in an interesting manner to other things in your head, in your environment, and in the culture. "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity," goes a well-known quote often attributed to Seneca — and so, it seems, is creativity.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, 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.

Where Do Ideas Come From? David Lynch, Robert Krulwich, Susan Orlean, Chuck Close & Others Reveal Their Creative Sources 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.

Posted by Ayun Halliday

Colorized episodes of I Love Lucy verge on sacrilege, but Olga Shirnina, a translator and amateur colorist of considerable talent, has unquestionably noble goals when colorizing vintage portraits, such as that of the Romanovs, above.

In her view, color has the power to close the gap between the subjects of musty public domain photos and their modern viewers. The most fulfilling moment for this artist, aka Klimblim, comes when “suddenly the person looks back at you as if he’s alive.”

A before and after comparison of her digital makeover on Nadezhda Kolesnikova, one of many female Soviet snipers whose vintage likenesses she has colorized bears this out. The color version could be a fashion spread in a current magazine, except there's nothing artificial-seeming about this 1943 pose.

“The world was never monochrome even during the war,” Shirnina reflected in the Daily Mail.

Military subjects pose a particular challenge:

When I colorize uniforms I have to search for info about the colours or ask experts. So I’m not free in choosing colors. When I colorize a dress on a 1890s photo, I look at what colors were fashionable at that time. When I have no limitations I play with colours looking for the best combination. It’s really quite arbitrary but a couple of years ago I translated a book about colours and hope that something from it is left in my head.

She also puts herself on a short leash where famous subjects are concerned. Eyewitness accounts of Vladimir Lenin’s eye color ensured that the revolutionary’s colorized irises would remain true to life.

And while there may be a market for representations of punked out Russian literary heroes, Shirnina plays it straight there too, eschewing the digital Manic Panic where Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Bulgakov are concerned.

Her hand with Photoshop CS6 may restore celebrity to those whose stars have faded with time, like Vera Komissarzhevskaya, the original ingenue in Chekhov’s much performed play The Seagull and wrestler Karl Pospischil, who showed off his physique sans culotte in a photo from 1912.

Even the unsung proletariat are given a chance to shine from the fields and factory floors.

Browse an eye popping gallery of Olga Shirnina’s work on her website.

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

Russian History & Literature Come to Life in Wonderfully Colorized Portraits: See Photos of Tolstoy, Chekhov, the Romanovs & 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.

Posted by Satisfied '75

Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST. SIRIUS 488: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Sun Ra – We’re Living In The Space Age ++ Honeyboy Martin & The Voices – Dreader Than Dread ++ Johnny […]


Posted by Satisfied '75

August 1st – in celebration of Jerry Garcia’s 75th Birthday – Aquarium Drunkard & The Jerry Garcia Family Present: Grateful Shred & Friends, live at the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles. Tickets: HERE. w/ Delicate Steve ++ King Tuff ++ William Tyler ++ Emmett Kelly ++ Eric Johnson ++ Jenny O ++ Omar Velasco ++ […]


Posted by Josh Jones

We think of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press (circa 1440) to have begun the era of the printed book, since his invention allowed for mass production of books on a scale unheard of before. But we must date the invention of printing itself much earlier—nearly 600 years earlier—to the Chinese method of xylography, a form of woodblock printing. Also used in Japan and Korea, this elegant method allowed for the reproduction of hundreds of books from the 9th century to the time of Gutenberg, most of them Buddhist texts created by monks. In the 11th century, writes Elizabeth Palermo at Live Science, a Chinese peasant named Bi Sheng (Pi Sheng) developed the world’s first movable type.” The technology may have also arisen independently in the 14th century Yuan Dynasty and in Korea around the same time.

Despite these innovations, xylography remained the primary method of printing in Asia. The “daunting task” of casting the thousands of characters in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean “may have made woodblocks seem like a more efficient option for printing these languages.” This still-labor-intensive process produced books and illustrations for several centuries, a good many of them incredible works of art in their own right. In 1633, a Chinese printer named Hu Zhengyan invented a technique known as douban, a form of polychrome xylography that led to the creation of the world’s oldest multicolor printed book, Shi zhu zhai shu hua pu (Manual of Calligraphy and Painting), containing, perhaps, writes Cambridge University Library, “the most beautiful set of prints ever made.” And now thanks to Cambridge, the manual has been carefully digitized and made available online.

Published by Hu Zhengyan’s Ten Bamboo Studio in Nanjiang, this manual for teachers contains 138 pages of multicolor prints by fifty different artists and calligraphers and 250 pages of accompanying text. “The method” that produced the stunning artifact “involves the use of multiple printing blocks which successively apply different coloured inks to the paper to reproduce the effect of watercolour painting.” Kept untouched in Cambridge’s “most secure vaults,” the book was unsealed for the first time just a couple years ago. “What surprised us,” remarked Charles Aylmer, head of the Library’s Chinese Department, “was the amazing freshness of the images, as if they had never been looked at for over 300 years.”

The 17th century copy is “unique in being complete, in perfect condition and in its original binding.” (Another, incomplete, copy was acquired in 2014 by the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA.) The book contains many “detailed instructions on brush techniques,” writes CNN, “but its phenomenal beauty has meant from the outset that it has held a greater position” than other such manuals. Like another gorgeous multicolor painting textbook, the Manual of the Mustard Seed Garden, made in 1679, this text had a significant impact on the arts in both China and Japan, “where it inspired a whole new branch of printing.”

Considered “one of the most historically and artistically important illustrated books of 17th century Chinese woodblock art,” notes Liesl Bradner at the L.A. Times, Hu Zhengyan’s text reflects a time when literacy levels were rising. Along with them came “increasing consumer demand for the printed word and images, which ushered in a golden era of Chinese pictorial painting.” You can page through digital scans of the entire book, from cover to cover, at the University of Cambridge’s Digital Library. Note: There are 388 pages in total. Click on the arrows at the top of this page to move through the text.

via MetaFilter

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

The World’s Oldest Multicolor Book, a 1633 Chinese Calligraphy & Painting Manual, Now Digitized and Put 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.

Posted by Dan Colman

In 2014, Google acquired DeepMind, a company which soon made news when its artificial intelligence software defeated the world's best player of the Chinese strategy game, Go. What's DeepMind up to these days? More elemental things--like teaching itself to walk. Above, watch what happens when, on the fly, DeepMind's AI learns to walk, run, jump, and climb. Sure, it all seems a little kooky--until you realize that if DeepMind's AI can learn to walk in hours, it can take your job in a matter of years.

Watch a primer explaining how DeepMind works here. And find more AI resources in the Relateds below.

via Twisted Sifter

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Google’s DeepMind AI Teaches Itself to Walk, and the Results Are Kooky, No Wait, Chilling 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.

Posted by Dan Colman

What's director Michel Gondry up to these days? Apparently, trying to show that you can do smart things--like make serious movies--with that smartphone in your pocket. The director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the Noam Chomsky animated documentary Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? has just released "Détour," a short film shot purely on his iPhone 7 Plus. Subtitled in English, "Détour" runs about 12 minutes and follows "the adventures of a small tricycle as it sets off along French roads in search of its young owner." Watch it, then ask yourself, was this really not made with a traditional camera? And then ask yourself, what's my excuse for not getting out there and making movies?

According to Europe 1, the film took about two weeks to make, during which Gondry used the video software Filmic Pro, which costs $14.99 in Apple's app store.

"Détour" will be added to our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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Director Michel Gondry Makes a Charming Film on His iPhone, Proving That We Could Be Making Movies, Not Taking Selfies 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.

Posted by Josh Jones

In popular conceptions, we take the computer to be the natural outcome of empirical science, an inheritance of the Enlightenment and subsequent scientific revolutions in the 19th and 20th centuries. Of course, modern computers have their ancient precursors, like the Antikythera Mechanism, a 2,200-year-old bronze and wood machine capable of predicting the positions of the planets, eclipses, and phases of the moon. But even this fascinating artifact fits into the narrative of computer science as “a history of objects, from the abacus to the Babbage engine up through the code-breaking machines of World War II.” Much less do we invoke the names of “philosopher-mathematicians,” writes Chris Dixon at The Atlantic, like George Boole and Gottlob Frege, “who were themselves inspired by Leibniz’s dream of a universal ‘concept language,’ and the ancient logical system of Aristotle.” But these thinkers are as essential, if not more so, to computer science, especially, Dixon argues, Aristotle.

The ancient Greek thinker did not invent a calculating machine, though they may have existed in his lifetime. Instead, as Dixon writes in his recent piece, “How Aristotle Created the Computer,” Aristotle laid the foundations of mathematical logic, “a field that would have more impact on the modern world than any other.”

The claim may strike historians of philosophy as somewhat ironic, given that Enlightenment philosophers like Francis Bacon and John Locke announced their modern projects by thoroughly repudiating the medieval scholastics, whom they alleged were guilty of a slavish devotion to Aristotle. Their criticisms of medieval thought were varied and greatly warranted in many ways, and yet, like many an empiricist since, they often overlooked the critical importance of Aristotelian logic to scientific thought.

At the turn of the 20th century, almost three hundred years after Bacon sought to transcend Aristotle’s Organon with his form of natural philosophy, the formal logic of Aristotle could still be “considered a hopelessly abstract subject with no conceivable applications.” But Dixon traces the “evolution of computer science from mathematical logic” and Aristotelian thought, beginning in the 1930s with Claude Shannon, author of the groundbreaking essay "A Symbolic Analysis of Switching and Relay Circuits.” Shannon drew on the work of George Boole, whose name is now known to every computer scientist and engineer but who, in 1938, “was rarely read outside of philosophy departments.” And Boole owed his principle intellectual debt, as he acknowledged in his 1854 The Laws of Thought, to Aristotle’s syllogistic reasoning.

Boole derived his operations by replacing the terms in a syllogism with variables, “and the logical words ‘all’ and ‘are’ with arithmetical operators.” Shannon discovered that “Boole’s system could be mapped directly onto electrical circuits,” which hitherto “had no systematic theory governing their design.” The insight “allowed computer scientists to import decades of work in logic and mathematics by Boole and subsequent logicians.” Shannon, Dixon writes, “was the first to distinguish between the logical and the physical layer of computers,” a distinction now “so fundamental to computer science that it might seem surprising to modern readers how insightful it was at the time.” And yet, the field could not move forward without it—without, that is, a return to ancient categories of thought.

Since the 1940s, computer programming has become significantly more sophisticated. One thing that hasn’t changed is that it still primarily consists of programmers specifying rules for computers to follow. In philosophical terms, we’d say that computer programming has followed in the tradition of deductive logic, the branch of logic discussed above, which deals with the manipulation of symbols according to formal rules.

Dixon’s argument for the centrality of Aristotle to modern computer science takes many turns—through the quasi-mystical thought of 13th-century Ramon Llull and, later, his admirer Gottfried Leibniz. Through Descartes, and later Frege and Bertrand Russell. Through Alan Turing’s work at Bletchley Park. Nowhere do we see Aristotle, wrapped in a toga, building a circuit board in his garage, but his modes of reasoning are everywhere in evidence as the scaffolding upon which all modern computer science has been built. Aristotle’s attempts to understand the laws of the human mind “helped create machines that could reason according to the rules of deductive logic.” The application of ancient philosophical principles may, Dixon concludes, “result in the creation of new minds—artificial minds—that might someday match or even exceed our own.” Read Dixon’s essay at The Atlantic, or hear it read in its entirety in the audio above.

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

 

How Aristotle Invented Computer Science 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.

Posted by Satisfied '75

A conversation with Robyn Hitchcock can at times feel a lot his lyrics; just when things seem grounded, the skies open up and we’re off in the clouds for a whimsical journey. A very affable fellow, there’s great humor spiced through his words, often moving quickly between the visceral and surreal. Following a conversation this […]


Posted by Colin Marshall

Images via PLOS

If you want to see where art began, go to a cave. Not just any cave, but not just one cave either. You'll find the best-known cave paintings at Lascaux, an area of southwestern France with a cave complex whose walls feature over 600 images of animals, humans, and symbols, all of them more than 17,000 years old, but other caves elsewhere in the world reveal other chapters of art's early history. Some of those chapters have only just come into legibility, as in the case of the cave near the Ethiopian city of Dire Dawa recently determined to be the world's oldest "art studio."

"The Porc-Epic cave was discovered by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Henry de Monfreid in 1929 and thought to date to about 43,000 to 42,000 years ago, during the Middle Stone Age," writes Sarah Cascone at Artnet.

There, archaeologists have found "a stash of 4213 pieces, or nearly 90 pounds, of ochre, the largest such collection ever discovered at a prehistoric site in East Africa." The "ancient visitors to the site processed the iron-rich ochre stones there by flaking and grinding the raw materials to produce a fine-grained and bright red powder," a substance useful for "symbolic activities, such as body painting, the production of patterns on different media, or for signalling."

In other words, those who used this ochre-rich cave over its 4,500 years of service used it to produce their tools, which functioned like proto-stamps and crayons. You can read about these findings in much more detail in the paper "Patterns of change and continuity in ochre use during the late Middle Stone Age (MSA) of the Horn of Africa: The Porc-Epic Cave record" by Daniela Eugenia Rosso of the University of Barcelona and Francesco d’Errico and Alain Queffelec of the University of Bordeaux. In it, the authors "identify patterns of continuity in ochre acquisition, treatment and use reflecting both persistent use of the same geological resources and similar uses of iron-rich rocks by late MSA Porc-Epic inhabitants."

The Ethiopian site contains so much ochre, in fact, that "this continuity can be interpreted as the expression of a cohesive cultural adaptation, largely shared by all community members and consistently transmitted through time." The more evidence sites like the Porc-Epic cave provide, the greater the level of detail in which we'll be able to piece together the story of not just art, but culture itself. Culture, as Brian Eno so neatly defined it, is everything you don't have to do, and though drawing in ochre might well have proven useful for the prehistoric inhabitants of modern-day Ethiopia, one of them had to give it a try before it had any acknowledged purpose. Little could they have imagined what that action would lead to over the next few tens of thousands of years.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, 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.

Archaeologists Discover the World’s First “Art Studio” Created in an Ethiopian Cave 43,000 Years Ago 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.

Posted by Ted Mills

Image by Raffi Asdourian, via Wikimedia Commons

Asked to list their favorite films of all times, most directors tend towards the canon. And why not? 8 1/2--loved by Scorsese and Lynch and many others--is an indisputable masterpiece, for example. So is The Godfather, Rashomon, Vertigo, and any number of movies that make top film lists over and over. The point is, most of the time, these lists are samey.

That’s why this list from Wes Anderson is a hoot. Here he’s not asked to list his favorites of all time, but rather to create a Top 10 list of Criterion titles. Yet here's his M.O.: “I thought my take on a top-ten list might be to simply quote myself from the brief fan letters I periodically write to the Criterion Collection team,” he says.

A lot of these films are rarities, and Anderson admits he’s only just seen some of them for the first time. Martin Ritt’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is one. Roberto Rossellini’s The Taking of Power by Louis XIV is another. Of the latter, he says, “This is a wonderful and very strange movie. I had never heard of it. The man who plays Louis cannot give a convincing line reading, even to the ears of someone who can’t speak French—and yet he is fascinating.”

Anderson’s comments are often questions, not definitive statements. Like us, he is just as mystified by a film, and that feeling is probably why he likes them in the first place.

Of that Rossellini film he wonders “What does good acting actually mean?” And of Claude Sautet’s Classe tous risques he asks, “Who is our Lino Ventura?” referring to the Italian-born French actor who was once described as “The French John Wayne.” (So, the real question is this: who is our modern day John Wayne?)

We’ll leave the rest for you to read, but for a director so invested in artifice and nostalgia it was a surprise to hear how much he loves surrealist Luis Buñuel:

“He is my hero. Mike Nichols said in the newspaper he thinks of Buñuel every day, which I believe I do, too, or at least every other.”

Wes Anderson's Criterion Collection Top 10

1. The Earrings of Madame de... (dir. Max Ophuls)
2. Au hasard Balthazar (dir. Robert Bresson)
3.Pigs and Battleships/The Insect Woman/Intentions of Murder (dir. Shohei Imamura)
4. The Taking of Power by Louis XIV (dir. Roberto Rossellini)
5. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (dir. Martin Ritt)
6. The Friends of Eddie Coyle (dir. Peter Yates)
7. Classe tous risques (dir. Claude Sautet)
8. L’enfance nue (dir. Maurice Pialat)
9. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (dir. Paul Schrader)
10. The Exterminating Angel (dir. Luis Buñuel)

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Wes Anderson Names 12 of His Favorite Art Films 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.

Posted by Brad Feuerhelm

“It is also to remind people that the condition of “evil” or trauma exists only in the post-event and that we do not recognize, as Arendt mentions, the force of its implication while it is being...

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Posted by Colin Marshall

When television appeared in Japan in the 1950s, most people in that still-poor country could only satisfy their curiosity about it by watching the display models in store windows. But by the 1980s, the Japanese had become not just astonishingly rich but world leaders in technology as well. It took something special to make Tokyoites stop on the streets of Akihabara, the city's go-to district for high technology, but stop they did in 1990 when, in the windows of Sony Town, appeared Infinite Escher.

Produced by Sony HDVS Soft Center as a showcase for the company's brand new high-definition video technology, this short film caused passersby, according to the video description, to "gasp in amazement at the clarity and sharp crisp focus of the picture."

Running seven and a half minutes, it tells the story of a bespectacled New York City teenager (played by a young Sean Lennon, son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono) who steps off the school bus one afternoon to find M.C. Escher-style visual motifs in the urban landscape all around him: a jigsaw puzzle piece-shaped curbside puddle, a transparent geometrically patterned basketball.

When he goes home to sketch a few artistic-mathematical ideas of his own, he looks into an awfully familiar-looking reflecting sphere and gets sucked into a completely Escherian realm. This sequence demonstrates not just the look of Sony's high-definition video, but the then-state-of-the-art techniques for dropping real-life characters into computer-generated settings and vice versa. In addition to the visions of the Dutch graphic designer who not just imagined but rendered the impossible, Sony also brought in two of the other powerful creative minds, Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto to create the score and Korean video artist Nam June Paik to do the art direction.

Watching Infinite Escher today may first underscore just how far high-definition video and computer graphics have come over the past 27 years, but it ultimately shows another example of how Escher's visions, even after the artist's death in 1972, have remained so compelling that each era — with its own technological, cultural, and aesthetic trends — pays its own kind of tribute to them.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, 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.

Infinite Escher: A High-Tech Tribute to M.C. Escher, Featuring Sean Lennon, Nam June Paik & Ryuichi Sakamoto (1990) 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.

Posted by Satisfied '75

Earlier this year Netherlands-based reissue outfit Music From Memory released the wonderful and exquisitely strange compilation, Outro Tempo: Electronic And Contemporary Music From Brazil 1978-1992. A collection of exotic, otherworldly futurism and electronics, born from the most poignant of circumstances, the assemblage finds traditions and soundscapes blending into a new form. Via the label: “As […]


Posted by Josh Jones

If you haven’t heard of Hugo Gernsback, you’ve surely heard of the Hugo Award. Next to the Nebula, it’s the most prestigious of science fiction prizes, bringing together in its ranks of winners such venerable authors as Ursula K. Le Guin, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Neil Gaiman, Isaac Asimov, and just about every other sci-fi and fantasy luminary you could think of. It is indeed fitting that such an honor should be named for Gernsback, the Luxembourgian-American inventor who, in April of 1926, began publishing “the first and longest-running English-language magazine dedicated to what was then not quite yet called ‘science fiction,’” notes University of Virginia’s Andrew Ferguson at The Pulp Magazines Project. Amazing Stories provided an “exclusive outlet” for what Gernsback first called “scientifiction,” a genre he would “for better and for worse, define for the modern era.” You can read and download hundreds of Amazing Stories issues, from the first year of its publication to the last, at the Internet Archive.

Like the extensive list of Hugo Award winners, the back catalog of Amazing Stories encompasses a host of geniuses: Le Guin, Asimov, H.G. Wells, Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, and many hundreds of lesser-known writers. But the magazine “was slow to develop,” writes Scott Van Wynsberghe. Its lurid covers lured some readers in, but its "first two years were dominated by preprinted material,” and Gernsback developed a reputation for financial dodginess and for not paying his writers well or at all.

By 1929, he sold the magazine and moved on to other ventures, none of them particularly successful. Amazing Stories soldiered on, under a series of editors and with widely varying readerships until it finally succumbed in 2005, after almost eighty years of publication. But that is no small feat in such an often unpopular field, with a publication, writes Ferguson, that was very often perceived as “garish and nonliterary.”

In hindsight, however, we can see Amazing Stories as a sci-fi time capsule and almost essential feature of the genre’s history, even if some of its content tended more toward the young adult adventure story than serious adult fiction. Its flashy covers set the bar for pulp magazines and comic books, especially in its run up to the fifties. After 1955, the year of the first Hugo Award, the magazine reached its peak under the editorship of Cele Goldsmith, who took over in 1959. Gone was much of the eyepopping B-movie imagery of the earlier covers. Amazing Stories acquired a new level of relative polish and sophistication, and published many more “literary” writers, as in the 1959 issue above, which featured a “Book-Length Novel by Robert Bloch.”

This trend continued into the seventies, as you can see in the issue above, with a “complete short novel by Gordon Eklund” (and early fiction by George R.R. Martin). In 1982, Ferguson writes, Amazing Stories was sold “to Gary Gygax of D&D fame, and would never again regain the prominence it had before.” The magazine largely returned to its pulp roots, with covers that resembled those of supermarket paperbacks. Great writers continued to appear, however. And the magazine remained an important source for new science fiction—though much of it only in hindsight. As for Gernsback, his reputation waned considerably after his death in 1967.

“Within a decade,” writes Van Wynsberghe, “science fiction pundits were debating whether or not he had created a ‘ghetto’ for hack writers.” In 1986, novelist Brian Aldiss called Gernsback “one of the worst disasters ever to hit the science fiction field.” His 1911 novel, the ludicrously named Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 is considered “one of the worst science fiction novels in history,” writes Matthew Lasar. It may seem odd that the Oscar of the sci-fi world should be named for such a reviled figure. And yet, despite his pronounced lack of literary ability, Gernsback was a visionary. As a futurist, he made some startlingly accurate predictions, along with some not-so-accurate ones. As for his significant contribution to a new form of writing, writes Lasar, “It was in Amazing Stories that Gernsback first tried to nail down the science fiction idea.” As Ray Bradbury supposedly said, “Gernsback made us fall in love with the future.” Enter the Amazing Stories Internet Archive here.

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

 

Enter a Huge Archive of Amazing Stories, the World’s First Science Fiction Magazine, Launched in 1926 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.

Posted by Josh Jones

Whatever else we take from it, Franz Kafka’s nightmarish fable The Metamorphosis offers readers an especially anguished allegory on troubled sleep. Filled with references to sleep, dreams, and beds, the story begins when Gregor Samsa awakens to find himself (in David Wylie’s translation) “transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin.” After several desperate attempts to roll off his back, Gregor begins to agonize, of all things, over his stressful working hours: “’Getting up early all the time,’ he thought, ‘it makes you stupid. You’ve got to get enough sleep.” Realizing that he has overslept and missed his five o’clock train, he agonizes anew over the frantic workday ahead, and we can hear in his thoughts the complaints of their author. “Sleep and lack thereof,” writes The Independent’s Christopher Hooten, “is of course a central theme in Kafka’s best known work…. It seems there was a strong dose of autobiography at play.”

Chronically insomniac, Kafka wrote at night, then rose early each morning for his hated job at an insurance office. Though he made good use of restlessness, Kafka characterized his insomnia as much more than an inconvenient physical ailment. He thought of it in metaphysical terms, as a kind of soul-sickness. “Sleep,” he wrote in his diaries, “is the most innocent creature there is and sleepless man the most guilty.”

Insomnia transformed Kafka into an unclean thing, quivering in fear of death. “Perhaps I am afraid that the soul, which in sleep leaves me, will not be able to return,” he confessed in a letter to German writer Milena Jesenská. Anxious expressions like this, writes Theresa Fisher, have led researchers to “speculate that Kafka’s pathological traits… indicate borderline personality disorder.” This posthumous diagnosis may be a leap too far. “Unearthing his insomnia, however,” and its effects on his life and work, “requires less speculation.”

Kafka’s descriptions of his anxious insomniac writing habits have led Italian doctor Antonio Perciaccante and his wife and co-author Alessia Coralli to argue in a recent paper published in The Lancet that the writer composed much of his fiction in a state of something like lucid dreaming. In one diary entry, Kafka writes, “it was the power of my dreams, shining forth into wakefulness even before I fall asleep, which did not let me sleep.” Perciaccante and Coralli note that “this seems to be a clear description of a hypnagogic hallucination, a vivid visual hallucination experienced just before the sleep onset.” It’s something we’ve all experienced. Kafka, fearing sleep, stayed there as long as he could. Lest we think of his writing as therapeutic in some way, he gives no indication that it was so. Indeed, it seems that writing introduced more pain: “When I don’t write,” he told Jesenská, “I am merely tired, sad, heavy; when I do write, I am torn by fear and anxiety.”

Kafka made many similar statements about sleep deprivation bringing him to “a depth almost inaccessible at normal conditions.” The visions he encountered, he wrote, “shape themselves into literature.” Through surveying the literature, biographies, interpretations, and the author’s diaries and letters to Jesenská and Felice Bauer, Perciaccante and Coralli pieced together a "psychophysiological" account of Kafka’s dream logic. As Perciaccante told ResearchGate in an interview, his study concerned itself less with the causes of Kafka’s sleeplessness. He admits “it’s difficult to classify Kafka’s insomnia.” Instead the authors concerned themselves with the effects of remaining in a hypnagogic state (a word, notes Drake Baer, that etymologically means “being abducted into sleep”), as well as Kafka’s awareness of his insomnia’s magical and debilitating power.

Metamorphosis, says Perciaccante, in addition to a work about social and familial alienation, “may also represent a metaphor for the negative effects that poor quality sleep, short sleep duration, and insomnia may have on mental and physical health.” Had Kafka overcome his malady, he may never have written his best-known work. Indeed, he may not have written at all. “Perhaps there are other forms of writing,” he told Max Brod in 1922, “but I know only this kind, when fear keeps me from sleeping, I know only this kind.” Perciaccante and Coralli see Kafka’s insomniac torment as a primary theme in his work, but two dissenting voices, writer Saudamini Deo and forensic doctor and anthropologist Philippe Charlier, disagree. Writing into The Lancet to express their view, they assert that despite Kafka’s persistent laments and the squirmy fate of the autobiographical Gregor Samsa, the writer's “insomnia was not at all dehumanizing... but the exact opposite—ie, humanizing the self by bringing to surface elements of unconscious that guide most actions of our waking life.”

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

How Insomnia Shaped Franz Kafka’s Creative Process and the Writing of The Metamorphosis: A New Study Published in The Lancet 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.

Posted by Dan Colman

Keith Enevoldsen, a software engineer at Boeing, has created an Interactive Periodic Table of Elements. As you might expect, the table shows the name, symbol, and atomic number of each element. But even better, it illustrates the main way in which we use, or come into contact with, each element in everyday life. For example, Cadmium you will find in batteries, yellow paints, and fire sprinklers. Argon you'll encounter in light bulbs and neon tubes. And Boron in soaps, semiconductors and sports equipment.

The Interactive Periodic Table of Elements (click here to access it) is a handy tool for chemistry teachers and students, but also for anyone interested in how the elements make a chemical contribution to our world. Also worth noting: Enevoldsen has released his Interactive Table under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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via Mental Floss

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Interactive Periodic Table of Elements Shows How the Elements Actually Get Used in Making Everyday Things 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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