Musician Lugs a Cello Up a Mountain, Then Plays Bach at 10,000 Feet, at the “Top of the World”

After this inspiring weekend, I didn’t need anything particularly energizing to start my week. But, then again, it’s hard to refuse a shot inspiration when it falls right into your lap. Above, watch “Andante,” which the website Aeon describes as follows:

Andante (a musical term meaning ‘at walking pace’) follows the cellist Ruth Boden as she climbs 10,000 feet to a peak in Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains for a deeply personal, yet breathtakingly public solo performance. With her prized cello strapped to her back, Boden reflects on how she wants to do something with music that transcends the commonplace, and on the particular joy of playing from Bach’s cello suite at ‘the top of the world’.

Hope this helps you get to Wednesday. And, to reach Friday, we’ve added some other fine Bach material in the Relateds below.

via Aeon

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Before Siri & Alexa: Hear the First Attempt to Use a Synthesizer to Recreate the Human Voice (1939)

Whether from Stephen Hawking, Siri, or anyone in between, we’ve all heard quite a lot of electronically synthesized speech by now. But less than eighty years ago, the very idea of a human-sounding voice produced in a mechanical manner inspired wonder and disturbance in equal measure. The everyman and everywoman got their first chance to hear such a technology at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, during its hourly demonstrations of the very first speech synthesizer, the “Voder.” Who, they must have imagined as they stood before its booming square-jawed-Art-Deco-hero logo, could have invented such a thing?

Homer Dudley, an electronic and acoustic engineer at Bell Labs, had in the 1920s invented the “Vocoder” (or “Voice Operated reCorDER”), a device that could convert human speech into an electronic signal and then, somewhere else down the like, turn that signal back into speech again.

For the Voder (or “Voice Operation DEmonstratoR”) he took the initial voice out of the signal, creating a kind of synthesizer dedicated to the sounds of speech that one could operate manually, through an interface somewhat resembling that of an organ. Its controls (which you can see diagrammed at 120 Years of Electonic Music) presented a steep enough learning curve that fewer than thirty people, mostly the “girls” employed for the Voder’s demonstrations, ever learned to play it.

Though impressive for the time (the other feat of artificial humanity at that World’s Fair being Electro the Smoking Robot), “the Voder’s speech came out a little hard to understand, and even a bit unsettling,” according to Atlas Obscura. “The Voder was shown again during San Francisco’s Golden Gate International Exposition in late 1939, but after that, the machine disappeared almost instantly.” Speech synthesis itself, by contrast, had come to stay, though progress would remain relatively slow for the next four or five decades. Now, in the 21st century, it exists all around us, and despite considerable improvements in realism, its voices still retain a bit of the unearthly awkwardness of the Voder — and we probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

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

An Introduction to Hegel’s Philosophy of History: The Road to Progress Runs First Through Dark Times

The question of whether or not genuine human progress is possible, or desirable, lies at the heart of many a radical post-Enlightenment philosophical project. More pessimistic philosophers have, unsurprisingly, doubted it. Arthur Schopenhauer, cast baleful suspicion on the idea. Danish Existentialist Soren Kierkegaard thought of collective progress toward a more enlightened state an unlikely prospect. One modern critic of progress, pessimistic English philosopher John Gray, writes in his book Straw Dogs that “the pursuit of progress” is an idealist illusion ending in “mass murder.” (Gray has been unimpressed by Steven Pinker’s optimistic arguments in The Better Angels of Our Nature.)

These skeptics of progress all in some way write in response to the towering 19th century figure G.W.F. Hegel, the German logician and philosopher of history, politics, and phenomenology whose systematic thinking provided Karl Marx with the basis of his dialectical materialism. Hegel saw the mass murder brought about by massive political and economic change in his revolutionary and imperial age, but in his estimation, such man-made disasters were necessary occurrences, the “slaughter bench of history,” as he famously wrote in the Philosophy of History.

This suggests a very brutal view, and yet Hegel believed overall that “Reason is the Sovereign of the World; that the history of the world therefore, presents us with a rational process.” For Hegel, the individual personality was not important, only collective entities: peoples, states, empires. These moved against each other according to a metaphysical reasoning process working through history which Hegel called the dialectic. In his animated School of Life video above, Alain de Botton describes the dialectic in the terms we usually use—thesis, antithesis, synthesis—though Hegel himself did not exactly formulate the principle this way.

This is the common shorthand way of understanding how Hegel’s nonlinear explanation of history works: “the world makes progress,” summarizes de Botton, “by lurching from one extreme to the other, as it seeks to overcompensate for a previous mistake, and generally requires three moves before the right balance on any issue can be found.” One particularly bloody example is the terror of the French Revolution as an extreme corrective for the monarchy’s oppression. This gave way to the antithesis, the brutal autocratic empire of Napoleon in another extreme swing. Only decades later could these be reconciled in modern French civil society.

In our own time, we have encountered the progressive ideas of Hegel not only through Marx, but through the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., who studied Hegel as a graduate student at Harvard and Boston University and found much inspiration in the Philosophy of History. Though critical of Hegel’s idealism, which, “tended to swallow up the many in the one,” King discovered important first principles there as well: “His analysis of the dialectical process, in spite of its shortcomings, helped me to see that growth comes through struggle.”

We endlessly quote King’s statement, “the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice,” but we forget his corresponding emphasis on the necessity of struggle to achieve the goal. As Hegel theorized, says de Botton above, “the dark moments aren’t the end, they are a challenging but in some ways necessary part… imminently compatible with events broadly moving forward in the right direction.” King found his own historical synthesis in the principle of nonviolent resistance, which “seeks to reconcile the truths of two opposites,” he wrote in 1954’s Stride Toward Freedom, “acquiescence and violence.” Nonviolent resistance is not passive compliance, but neither is it intentional aggression.

Hegel and his socially influential students like Martin Luther King and John Dewey have generally operated on the basis of some faith—in reason, divine justice, or secular humanism. There are much harsher, more pessimistic ways of viewing history than as a swinging pendulum moving toward some greater end. Pessimistic thinkers may be more rigorously honest about the staggering moral challenge posed by increasingly efficient means of mass killing and the perpetuation of ideologies that commit it. Yet it is partly through the influence of Hegel that modern social movements have embraced the necessity of struggle and believed progress was possible, even inevitable, when it seemed least likely to occur.

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

An Animated History of Planned Parenthood, Brought to You by Lena Dunham, JJ Abrams & More

Lena Dunham drafted a host of well known friends for The History Of 100 Years Of Women’s Health Care At Planned Parenthood, the short film (above) she co-directed with animator Kirsten Lepore. Others taking part in the production include comedians Mindy Kaling and Amy Schumer, actors Meryl Streep, America Ferrera, Hari Nef, Jennifer Lawrence, and Constance Wu, and producer J.J. Abrams.

But the real stars of this show are the female trailblazers who fought (and continue to fight) for access to safe and affordable reproductive care for all women, regardless of age, race, or ability to pay.

In the words of founder Margaret Sanger, a controversial figure who seems to share quite a few traits with Dunham, from her deft leverage of her celebrity on behalf of her chosen cause to her capacity for alienating fans with some of her less savory views and statements:

No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.

Women like Rosie Jimenez, a single mother who died from complications of a back alley abortion following the passage of the Hyde Amendment, were victimized by laws regarding reproductive choice.

Others, like Estelle Griswold, executive director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, flouted the laws to bring about change.

More recently Faye Wattleton, Planned Parenthood’s first African American president and its current president, Cecile Richards, have worked to promote awareness of both the public’s rights and any impending dangers to those rights.

(Vice President Mike Pence’s inadvertent fundraising efforts go unheralded, appropriately enough. The millions of women—and men—who made small donations to Planned Parenthood in his name are the true heroes here.)

For more of Dunham’s highly visible support of Planned Parenthood, read her 2015 interview with President Cecile Richards or check out the t-shirt she designed to benefit the California Planned Parenthood Education Fund.

via Kottke

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

20 Lessons from the 20th Century About How to Defend Democracy from Authoritarianism, According to Yale Historian Timothy Snyder

Image by Rob Kall, via Flickr Commons

Timothy Snyder, Housum Professor of History at Yale University, is one of the foremost scholars in the U.S. and Europe on the rise and fall of totalitarianism during the 1930s and 40s. Among his long list of appointments and publications, he has won multiple awards for his recent international bestsellers Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin and last year’s Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and WarningThat book in part makes the argument that Nazism wasn’t only a German nationalist movement but had global colonialist origins—in Russia, Africa, and in the U.S., the nation that pioneered so many methods of human extermination, racist dehumanization, and ideologically-justified land grabs.

The hyper-capitalism portrayed in the U.S.—even during the Depression—Snyder writes, fueled Hitler’s imagination, such that he promised Germans “a life comparable to that of the American people,” whose “racially pure and uncorrupted” German population he described as “world class.” Snyder describes Hitler’s ideology as a myth of racialist struggle in which “there are really no values in the world except for the stark reality that we are born in order to take things from other people.” Or as we often hear these days, that acting in accordance with this principle is the “smart” thing to do. Like many far right figures before and after, Hitler aimed to restore a state of nature that for him was a perpetual state of race war for imperial dominance.

After the November election, Snyder wrote a profile of Hitler, a short piece that made no direct comparisons to any contemporary figure. But reading the facts of the historical case alarmed most readers. A few days later, the historian appeared on a Slate podcast to discuss the article, saying that after he submitted it, “I realized there was more…. there are an awful lot of echoes.” Snyder admits that history doesn’t actually repeat itself. But we’re far too quick, he says, to dismiss that idea as a cliché “and not think about history at all. History shows a range of possibilities.” Similar events occur across time under similar kinds of conditions. And it is, of course, possible to learn from the past.

If you’ve heard other informed analysis but haven’t read Snyder’s New York Review of Books columns on fascism in Putin’s Russia or the former Yanukovich’s Ukraine, or his long article “Hitler’s World May Not Be So Far Away,” you may have seen his widely-shared Facebook post making the rounds. As he argued in The Guardian last September, today we may be “too certain we are ethically superior to the Europeans of the 1940s.” On November, 15, Snyder wrote on Facebook that “Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism.” Snyder has been criticized for conflating these regimes, and rising “into the top rungs of punditdom,” but when it comes to body counts and levels of suppressive malignancy, it’s hard to argue that Stalinist Russia, any more than Tsarist Russia, was anyone’s idea of a democracy.

Rather than making a historical case for viewing the U.S. as exactly like one of the totalitarian regimes of WWII Europe, Snyder presents 20 lessons we might learn from those times and use creatively in our own where they apply. In my view, following his suggestions would make us wiser, more self-aware, proactive, responsible citizens, whatever lies ahead. Read Snyder’s lessons from his Facebook post below and consider pre-ordering his latest book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century:

1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.

3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.

6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.

7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Learn about sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.

10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.

14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.

15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.

16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.

18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)

19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.

20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

via Kottke

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

Deconstructing How Louis CK Writes a Joke

Those who subscribe to the notion that deconstructing a joke ruins it may consider making an exception for the Nerdwriter (aka Evan Puschak).

His careful parsing of Louis CK’s Monopoly joke, above, takes rhythm, word choice, and the importance of a clearly stated premise into account.

Delivering the 207-word joke at the Beacon Theater, CK is characteristically nonchalant, but Puschak argues that there’s nothing unrehearsed about his performance.

Take the way he ramps up a scenario that will be familiar to any parent—the six-year-old who is emotionally unequipped to handle losing at games. CK gets at an even deeper truth about the howling injustice of being six, by saying that his younger daughter is “not emotionally developed enough to handle her inevitable loss in every game of Monopoly.”

Oh, the humanity.

Puschak also singles out CK’s acting ability. The way he speaks to his daughter, placing her in the first row of the audience, sharpens the comedy by helping the audience to fully visualize the scenario he’s set up:

I play Monopoly with my kids, that’s really fun. My nine year old, she can totally do Monopoly. The six year old totally gets how the game works but she’s not emotionally developed enough to handle her inevitable loss in every game of Monopoly because a monopoly loss is dark. It’s heavy. It’s not like when you lose at Candyland ‘Oh you got stuck in the fudgy-thing, baby! Oh well you’re in the gummy twirly-o’s! You didn’t get to win!’ But when she loses at Monopoly, I gotta look at her little face and go ‘Ok, so here’s what’s gonna happen now, ok? All your property, everything you have, all your railroads and houses, and all your money…that’s mine now. Gotta give it all to me. Give it to me, that’s right. And no no, you can’t play anymore because, you see, even though you’re giving me all of that, it doesn’t even touch how you owe me. Doesn’t even touch it, baby. You’re going down hard, it’s really bad. All you’ve been working for all day, I’m gonna take it now and I’m gonna use it to destroy your sister. I mean I’m gonna ruin her! It is just mayhem on this board for her now.

You can view the Nerdwriter’s other videos essays on his website or subscribe to his YouTube channel where a new video is published every Wednesday.

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

12 Million Declassified CIA Documents Now Free Online: Secret Tunnels, UFOs, Psychic Experiments & More

Image by Duffman, via Wikimedia Commons

“The United States Government has not yet made any official reply to the Soviet and East German allegations and protests concerning the 300-yard tunnel that American intelligence operatives are said to have built underneath the border between West and East Berlin for espionage purposes,” says a Washington Post article from 1956 headlined “The Tunnel of Love.” The Communists’ excitement about their discovery even had them conducting “special propaganda tours through the tunnel and to have exhibited the wiretapping and other recording apparatus that the Americans are supposed to have installed inside it.”

This amusing chapter of Cold War history might have seemed, to America at the time, like the kind of foiled effort — though one of an ingenuity admired on both sides of the Iron Curtain — best buried at the back of the espionage archives. But now, thanks to an executive order requiring the Central Intelligence Agency to release “nonexempt historically valuable records 25 years or older” as well as the dogged efforts of journalist Michael Best, you can read over 12 million pages of previously classified documents at CREST, the CIA Records Search Tool. In addition to the files on the “Berlin Tunnel” operation, it offers copious material on much else, such as vintage espionage techniques like writing with invisible ink and undetectably opening sealed letters and CIA research into spiritualist healingtelepathy, and other psychic powers.

For quite some time before now, you technically could have looked up all of this information yourself, provided you felt like going to the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, and pulling it up on one of the four computers made available to do so — but only between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The fact that you can now do it from the comfort of your browser owes in large part to the efforts of Best, who raised $15,000 on Kickstarter to go manually print out all (or at least some) of those twelve million pages and upload them to the internet, thereby prodding the CIA to save the ink-and-paper money and just do it themselves.

Some of the project’s backers, no doubt, wanted specifically to see what the CIA’s archives have to say about space aliens, a stock of information you may recall that we featured here just last year. “The publication of the files represents a potential motherlode of background material for researchers, journalists and curious hobbyists,” write the New York Times‘ Daniel Victor and Erin McCann, not long before admitting that “most of the files are pretty boring,” a result of “regular bureaucratic collation.” But then, that kind of methodical gathering and organizing of information has long constituted most of the work of national intelligence: even the short-lived “Tunnel of Love” gathered enough data to keep its processors busy for years after it became a Soviet tourist spot.

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

Watch Mr. Rogers Persuade Congress to Stop Cutting PBS Budget in 1969 : Would It Stop Trump from Defunding PBS & NEA Today?

Yesterday, the news broke that the Trump administration will apparently be slashing federal spending, to the tune of $10.5 trillion over 10 years. According to The Hill, the “departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding.” And “the Corporation for Public Broadcasting [aka PBS] would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.”

Attempts to cut funding for the arts is nothing new. Above, we take you back to 1969, when Richard Nixon planned to reduce PBS’ funding from $20 million to $10 million. That is, until Fred Rogers, the gentle creator of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, spent six short minutes before Senator John Pastore, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, and made his pitch for publicly-funded educational television. In those 360 seconds, Rogers gets the gruff senator to do a complete 180 – to end up saying “It looks like you just earned the 20 million dollars.”

It’s unlikely that Mr. Rogers could get the same traction today. Quite the contrary, his sweetness and sincerity would likely be mocked quite mercilessly, a sign of how coarse our society has become these days.

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

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Download & Print Free Shepard Fairey Protest Posters for the Trump Inauguration

Shepard Fairey probably first crossed your radar when he drew the iconic “Hope” poster so associated with Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. Now, he returns with another set of posters to help protest the inauguration of one Donald J. Trump. If you head over to the Amplifier Foundation web site, you can download and print a series of posters (shown above) by Fairey. The same applies to a number of posters designed by other artists, including Jessica Sabogal and Ernesto Yerena.

The images capture the “shared humanity of our diverse America” and condemn the exclusionary policies of the incoming administration. And thanks to the $1.3 million raised through a successful Kickstarter campaign, these posters will figure into a larger Inauguration Day plan. Here’s how it will work:

Much of Washington will be locked down on Inauguration Day, and in some areas there will be severe restrictions on signs and banners.  But we’ve figured out a hack.  It’s called the newspaper!  On January 20th, if this campaign succeeds, we’re going to take out full-page ads in the Washington Post with these images, so that people across the capitol and across the country will be able to carry them into the streets, hang them in windows, or paste them on walls.

You’re welcome to print and post these posters around your town–wherever it’s legally permitted to do so. To download the posters, click here.

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

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Learn What Old Norse Sounded Like, with UC Berkeley’s “Cowboy Professor, Dr. Jackson Crawford

If you want to study another language, by all means feel free to study such widely spoken ones as English, Spanish, and Chinese. But obscurity, as we all learn at one point or another growing up, also has an appeal, though we often need someone cool to give us a hint as to which obscurities to pursue. One “cowboy professor” has, since the videos he posts to Youtube have begun to gain popularity, emerged as the cool guy who may well turn a generation of scholars-to-be on to the study of Old Norse. Though he holds an academic position at the University of California, Berkeley, “Wyoming’s Dr. Jackson Crawford,” as he refers to himself, seems to spend at least part of his time in what he describes as “the Wilderness of the American West.”

He also shoots his videos out there, an appropriately sublime backdrop for the discussion of the mechanics of the Old Norse language, originally spoken by the Scandinavians of the 9th through the 13h centuries, and the myth and poetry composed in it.

Here we have three of Crawford’s videos meant to address questions of general curiosity about Old Norse: what the language sounded like, and, in two parts, how best to pronounce the names of the various gods, places, and other elements of its mythology, from Óðinn (whom you might have seen referred to as Odin) to Valhǫll (Valhalla) to Ásgarðr (Asgard).

Jackson also gives readings from the 13th-century Poetic Edda, arguably the most influential piece of Scandinavian literature ever written, and one which he recently translated into modern English. Perhaps a sample:

Þagalt ok hugalt
skyli þjóðans barn,
ok vígdjarft vera.
Glaðr ok reifr
skyli gumna hverr,
unz sinn bíðr bana.

A noble man should
be silent, thoughtful,
and bold in battle.
But every man should also
be cheerful and happy,
till the inevitable day of death.

In addition to that and other impressive CV items, he also came up with the runes and Old Norse dialogue for the hit Disney movie Frozen — just in case you had any concerns as to the language’s professional practicality. Explore his Youtube channel here.

via Digg

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Learn Latin, Old English, Sanskrit, Classical Greek & Other Ancient Languages in 10 Lessons

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