An Online Gallery of Over 900,000 Breathtaking Photos of Historic New York City

Grand Central

What is any major American city if not an industrial gallery bustling with people and machines? Sometimes the images are bleak, as with the photo essays that often circulate of Detroit’s beautiful ruin; sometimes they are defiantly hopeful, as with those of the rising of New Orleans; and sometimes they are almost unfathomably monumental, as with the images here of New York City, circa the 20th century—or a great good bit of it, anyway.

Queensboro Bridge

You can survey almost a hundred years of New York’s indomitable grandeur by perusing over 900,000 images from the New York City Municipal Archives Online Gallery. Photos like the astonishing tableaux in a sunlight-flooded Grand Central Terminal at the top (taken sometime between 1935 and 41) and like the breathtaking scale on display in the 1910 exposure of the Queensboro Bridge, above.

Bathers

The online gallery features large-format photos of the human, like the sea of bathers above; of the human-made, like the vaulted, cavernous City Hall subway station below; and of the melding of the two, like the painters posing on the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge, further down.

City Hall Station

These images come from a selection of photos culled from the various galleries by The Atlantic. For more, see the NYC Municipal Archives site, which you can search by keyword or other criteria. “Visitors,” writes the site, “are encouraged to return frequently as new content will be added on a regular basis. Patrons may order reproductions in the form of prints or digital files.”

Brooklyn Bridge

Many of the images have watermarks on them to prevent illegal use. Nonetheless the gallery is a jaw-dropping collection of photos you can easily get lost in for hours, as well as an important resource for historians and scholars of 20th century American urbanism. See The Atlantic’s selection of images for even more dazzling photos. Or better yet, start rummaging through the New York City Municipal Archives Online Gallery right here.

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

Download 100,000 Free Art Images in High-Resolution from The Getty

Abandoned Dust Bowl Home

When I want to get a good look at the city of Los Angeles, I go up to the Getty Center in the Santa Monica Mountains. I can also, of course, get a pretty good look at some art at the museum there. But if I don’t feel like making that trek up the hill — and if you don’t feel like making the trek from wherever you live — The Getty can give you, in some ways, an even better way to look at art online. Just visit the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Japanese Ladies

Seeing as this sort of free cultural resource fits right into our wheelhouse here at Open Culture, we’ve tried to keep you posted on the archive’s development over the past few years. Last time we passed the word along, the Getty’s digital public-domain archive of high-resolution images had grown to 87,000, and now it has nearly hit the 100,000 mark (99,989, to be exact)— which sounds to us like just the time to keep you posted on what you can find therein.

Rue Mosnier

In its current state (which promises further expansion still), the Getty’s Open Content Program offers images like Abandoned Dust Bowl Home (top image), Dorothea Lange’s vividly stark evocation of Depression-era American desolation, as well as other photographic time (and place) capsules, such as Kusakabe Kimbei’s hand-colored prints of life in late 19th- and early 20th-century Japan (Japanese Ladies pictured here); impressionist canvases like Édouard Manet’s 1878 The Rue Mosnier with Flagsand even views of Los Angeles itself, like Carleton Watkins’ shot of the city’s plaza circa 1880.

Plaza Los Angeles

To download an image for which you’ve searched, you first need to click on that image’s title. That link takes you to the image’s own page (like those we linked to in the paragraph just above), where you’ll find a download link. Look for the word “download” beneath the image, and then click that link. It’s just that simple — far simpler, in any case, than visual access to such a range of artwork has ever been before. Though if you do make it to Los Angeles, don’t hesitate to make the effort to visit the Getty Center; the tram that takes you up to it makes for a pretty fascinating cultural experience and view of the city in and of itself.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema 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.

Hysterical Literature: Art & Sexuality Collide in Readings of Whitman, Emerson & Other Greats (NSFW)

Without shame the man I like knows and avows the deliciousness of his sex, 

Without shame the woman I like knows and avows hers.

Thus spaketh Walt Whitman in Leaves of Grass. 160 years after that poem’s publication, how might that most American of American Romantics react to the spectacle of an attractive young woman pleasuring herself with his work, as an unseen hand beneath the table surreptitiously pleasures her with the Cadillac of vibrators?

The peephole is much larger than it would’ve been in 1855. Hysterical Literature was conceived as an online project in which each session’s featured female participant chooses a resonant text, then reads it aloud until a Hitachi Magic Wand puts an end to her ability to form coherent sentences.

Creator Clayton Cubitt has complained that the orgasmic element and the status of certain celebrity participants like comedian Margaret Cho  have preoccupied the press. His preference is for viewers to take a more holistic approach, viewing the experience with some “mystery and magic and ‘WTF.’”

Accordingly, let us focus upon some of the selected works:

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson

The Necrophilia Variations by Supervert

Really, no Anaïs Nin? I would’ve thought…

The most recent contributor to the series is also its oldest, 60-year-old Janet, below, who had to take leave of Whitman’s pal, Ralph Waldo Emerson, not once but twice in eight minutes.

Cumulatively, these sessions make a marvelously frank primer for actors or directors charged with creating realistic sex scenes. The dichotomy of Hysterical Lit’s staging ensures that things are fairly respectable above the waist, thus satisfying YouTube’s Community Guidelines.

Daring female lovers of literature should be advised that Cubitt seeks to include more women of color, older participants, and non-English texts. No word on who exactly is under that table. Drain your pent-up rivers by applying here.

via Kottke

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

William Faulkner Resigns From His Post Office Job With a Spectacular Letter (1924)

WilliamFaulknerStamp

Working a dull civil service job ill-suited to your talents does not make you a writer, but plenty of famous writers have worked such jobs. Nathaniel Hawthorne worked at a Boston customhouse for a year. His friend Herman Melville put in considerably more time—19 years—as a customs inspector in New York, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Both Walt Disney and Charles Bukowski worked at the post office, though not together (can you imagine?), and so, for two years, did William Faulkner.

After dropping out of the University of Mississippi in 1920, Faulkner became its postmaster two years later, a job he found “tedious, boring, and uninspiring,” writes Mental Floss: “Most of his time as a postmaster was spent playing cards, writing poems, or drinking.” Eudora Welty characterized Faulkner’s tenure as postmaster with the following vignette:

Let us imagine that here and now, we’re all in the old university post office and living in the ’20’s. We’ve come up to the stamp window to buy a 2-cent stamp, but we see nobody there. We knock and then we pound, and then we pound again and there’s not a sound back there. So we holler his name, and at last here he is. William Faulkner. We interrupted him. . . . When he should have been putting up the mail and selling stamps at the window up front, he was out of sight in the back writing lyric poems.

By all accounts, she hardly overstates the case. As author and editor Bill Peschel puts it, Faulkner “opened the post office on days when it suited him, and closed it when it didn’t, usually when he wanted to go hunting or over to the golf course. He would throw away the advertising circulars, university bulletins and other mail he deemed junk.” A student publication from the time proposed a motto for his service: “Never put the mail up on time.”

Unsurprisingly, the powers that be eventually decided they’d had enough. In 1924, Faulkner sensed the end coming. But rather than bow out quietly, as perhaps most people would, the future Nobel laureate composed a dramatic and uncharacteristically succinct resignation letter to his superiors:

As long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.

This, sir, is my resignation.

The defiant self-aggrandizement, wounded pride, blame-shifting… maybe it’s these qualities, as well as a notorious tendency to exaggerate and outright lie (about his military service for example) that so qualified him for his late-life career as—in the words of Ole Miss—“Statesman to the World.” Faulkner’s gift for self-fashioning might have suited him well for a career in politics, had he been so inclined. He did, after all, receive a commemorative stamp in 1987 (above) from the very institution he served so poorly.

But like Hawthorne, Bukowski, or any number of other writers who’ve held down tedious day jobs, he was compelled to give his life to fiction. In a later retelling of the resignation, Peschel claims, Faulkner would revise his letter “into a more pungent quotation,” unable to resist the urge to invent: “I reckon I’ll be at the beck and call of folks with money all my life, but thank God I won’t ever again have to be at the beck and call of every son of a bitch who’s got two cents to buy a stamp.”

via Letters of Note

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

Talking Heads’ First TV Appearance Was on American Bandstand, and It Was Pretty Awkward (1979)

“I guess he’s…organically shy.”–Tina Weymouth

As Talking Heads went from CBGBs (see some vintage video) to college radio to a European tour opening for The Ramones in 1977, the band was slowly making its way out of New York City poverty while their art school rock was seeping into American culture at large. When “Take Me To the River,” their airy, nervous but still funky Eno-produced cover of the Al Green song became their first Billboard Top 30 hit, the band took a step towards national recognition.

And that leads us to this awkward March 17, 1979 appearance of the band on ABC’s American Bandstand, their first on American TV. Longtime host Dick Clark was pretty square–rock critic Nik Cohn described him as “a disc jockey who looked like an all-American choirboy”–but American Bandstand was a prime opportunity. In 1979, the New Wave and Post-Punk scenes were raging at the show’s doors. Talking Heads were one of the few acts that year from NYC’s creative cauldron of a music scene, apart from Blondie and Grace Jones, to make it onto Bandstand.

In the above clip, Clark apologizes for getting Tina Weymouth’s name wrong, then jumps in to interview David Byrne, who responds to Clark’s questions by shutting them down with embarrassed looks and matter-of-fact answers. Clark then turns back to Tina for some psychoanalytic help. “Is he always this enthusiastic?” he asks. It crumbles from there.
Weymouth remembered it slightly differently in this recent (2014) interview in New York Magazine:

I couldn’t explain to the record-label people why David’s behavior could be so incredibly odd. He had a freak-out on our first television appearance, on Dick Clark, on American Bandstand. David sort of froze, and Dick Clark sort of whirled around, and hands the microphone to me. And there were other things going on, too. I don’t think any person is one thing, or defined by a condition that they might have.

It’s not exactly freezing, but it is odd…for rock frontmen. And asking Byrne “Do you flog yourself into this?” tells you a bit more about Clark’s state of mind than anything else.

You can see the mimed performance of their hit here:

The other song they performed on the broadcast “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel” has not popped up on YouTube…yet.

Parting note: The other guest that night on Bandstand was twee, blue-eyed disco act Brooklyn Dreams with their single Make It Last.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills and/or watch his films here.

Quentin Tarantino Lists His 20 Favorite Spaghetti Westerns, Starting with The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Like many film fans, I grew up familiar with the term “Spaghetti western,” but I’d nearly reached adulthood before figuring out what, exactly, America’s most popular Italian dish had to do with America’s once-most popular movie genre. But even if they don’t know the specific definition of a Spaghetti western, those who enjoy them know a Spaghetti western when they see one. Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of DollarsFor a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; Sergio Corbucci’s Minnesota Clay and Django; Enzo Barboni’s They Call Me Trinity and Trinity Is Still My Name — if a picture belongs in that company, nobody doubts it.

You’ll notice that all those directors have Italian names, and indeed, western all’italiana, the Italian equivalent of “Spaghetti western,” simply means “Italian-style western.” These Italian-produced tales of the lawless 19th-century American west, sometimes featuring fading or rising Hollywood stars (as with the young Clint Eastwood, who would become identified with Leone’s “Man with No Name”), and often shot in the Spanish desert, rode high from the mid-1960s to the early 70s, bringing a fresh sensibility and visceral impact which had for the most part drained out of the homegrown variety.

Trust a genre-loving auteur like Quentin Tarantino (and one who made his very own Django a few years back) to know Spaghetti westerns inside and out. While even those of us who never turn down the chance to enjoy a good Spaghetti western might struggle to name ten of them, Tarantino can easily run down his personal top twenty:

  1. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)
  2. For a Few Dollars More (Sergio Leone, 1965)
  3. Django (Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
  4. The Mercenary (Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
  5. Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)
  6. A Fistful of Dollars (Sergio Leone, 1964)
  7. Day of Anger (Tonino Valerii, 1967)
  8. Death Rides a Horse (Giulio Petroni, 1967)
  9. Navajo Joe (Sergio Corbucci,1966)
  10. The Return of Ringo (Duccio Tessar, 1965)
  11. The Big Gundown (Sergio Sollima, 1966)
  12. A Pistol for Ringo (Duccio Tessari, 1965)
  13. The Dirty Outlaws (Franco Rossetti, 1967)
  14. The Great Silence (Sergio Corbucci, 1968)
  15. The Grand Duel (Giancarlo Santi, 1972)
  16. Shoot the Living, Pray for the Dead (Giuseppe Vari, 1971)
  17. Tepepa (Giulio Petroni, 1968)
  18. The Ugly Ones (Eugenio Martin, 1966)
  19. Viva Django! (Ferdinando Baldi, 1967)
  20. Machine Gun Killers (Paolo Bianchini, 1968)

You can watch all the trailers of these Spaghetti western masterpieces in the playlist above, created by The Spaghetti Western Database. Some may now strike you as disarmingly straightforward about ballyhooing the excitement promised by the feature they advertise, and you may find others surprisingly funny and more self-aware. While I defy anyone to watch the entire playlist of trailers without wanting to dive into this surprisingly little-explored tradition, nothing gets me quite as excited about watching a movie — old or new, subtle or schlocky, genre or otherwise — as Tarantino’s contagious cinephilia.

via The Spaghetti Western Database

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema 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.

Animated: The Inspirational Story of Jane Goodall, and Why She Believes in Bigfoot

Now out. The second video in The Experimenters, a short series of animations highlighting three “icons of science” and “what spurred their creativity.” Episode 1 brought us into “the Geodesic Life” of Buckminster Fuller. This new installment gives us an animated look at Jane Goodall, the primatologist who has done such inspirational work with chimpanzees. (Don’t miss last week’s feature on her in The Times.) Drawing on a 2002 interview that aired on NPR’s Science Friday, this clip features Goodall recounting her life story — including how she got a PhD at Cambridge before getting an undergraduate degree — and it also veers into some fun terrain. Does Goodall believe in Bigfoot? You bet she does.

The next video in The Experimenters series will focus on Richard Feynman. Stay tuned.

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Dan Colman is the founder/editor of Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn 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.

 

Download 422 Free Art Books from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Met 1

You could pay $118 on Amazon for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s catalog The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry. Or you could pay $0 to download it at MetPublications, the site offering “five decades of Met Museum publications on art history available to read, download, and/or search for free.” If that strikes you as an obvious choice, prepare to spend some serious time browsing MetPublications’ collection of free art books and catalogs.

met museum free art books

You may remember that we featured the site a few years ago, back when it offered 397 whole books free for the reading, including American Impressionism and Realism: The Painting of Modern Life, 1885–1915; Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomical Drawings from the Royal Library; and Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of ArtBut the Met has kept adding to their digital trove since then, and, as a result, you can now find there no fewer than 422 art catalogs and other books besides. Those sit alongside the 400,000 free art images the museum put online last year.

wisdom embodied

So have a look at MetPublications’ current collection and you’ll find you now have unlimited access to such lush as well as artistically, culturally, and historically varied volumes as African IvoriesChess: East and West, Past and PresentModern Design in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1890–1990; Vincent Van Gogh: The Drawings; French Art Deco; or even a guide to the museum itself (vintage 1972).

chess east and est

Since I haven’t yet turned to art collection — I suppose you need money for that — these books don’t necessarily make me covet the vast sweep of artworks they depict and contextualize. But they do make me wish for something even less probable: a time machine so I could go back and see all these exhibits firsthand.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema 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.

Puppets of Dostoevsky, Dickens & Poe Star in 1950s Frank Capra Educational Film

Produced between 1956 and 1964 by AT&T, the Bell Telephone Science Hour TV specials anticipate the literary zaniness of The Muppet Show and the scientific enthusiasm of Cosmos. The “ship of the imagination” in Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos reboot may in fact owe something to the episode above, one of nine, directed by none other than It’s A Wonderful Life’s Frank Capra. “Strap on your wits and hop on your magic carpet,” begins the special, “You’ve got one, you know: Your imagination.” As a guide for our imagination, The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays enlists the humanities—specifically three puppets representing Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, and, somewhat incongruously for its detective theme, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who plays the foil as an incurious spoilsport. The show’s host, Frank Baxter (“Dr. Research”) was actually a professor of English at UCLA and appears here with Richard Carlson, explaining scientific concepts with confidence.

The one-hour films became very popular as tools of science education, but there are good reasons—other than their datedness or Dr. Baxter’s expertise—to approach them critically. At times, the degree of speculation indulged by Baxter and the writers strains credulity. For example, writes Geoff Alexander in Academic Films for the Classroom: A History, 1958’s The Unchained Goddess (above) “introduces the viewer to bizarre concepts such as the possibility of ‘steering’ hurricanes away from land by creating bio-hazards such as ocean borne oil-slicks and introducing oil-based ocean fires.” These grim, fossil fuel industry-friendly scenarios nonetheless openly acknowledged the possibility of man-made climate change and looked forward to solar energy.

Along with some dystopian weirdness, the series also contains a good deal of explicit Christian proselytizing, thanks to Capra. As a condition for taking the job, “the renowned director would be allowed to embed religious messages in the films.” As Capra himself said to AT&T president Cleo F. Craig:

If I make a science film, I will have to say that scientific research is just another expression of the Holy Spirit… I will say that science, in essence, is just another facet of man’s quest for God.

At times, writes Alexander, “the religious perspective is taken to extremes,” as in the first episode, Our Mr. Sun, which begins with a quotation from Psalms and admonishes “viewers who would dare to question the causal relationship between solar energy and the divinity.” The Unchained Goddess, above, is the fourth in the series, and Capra’s last.

Afterward, a director named Owen Crump took over duties on the next four episodes. His films, writes Alexander, “did not overtly proselytize” and “relied less on animated characters interacting with Dr. Baxter.” (Watch the Crump-directed Gateways to the Mind above, a more sober-minded, yet still strangely off-kilter, inquiry into the five senses.) The last film, The Restless Sea (unavailable online) was produced by Walt Disney and directed by Les Clark, and starred Disney himself and Baxter’s replacement, Sterling Holloway.  The Capra productions will be added to our collection, 700 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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

Play the Twin Peaks Video Game: Retro Fun for David Lynch Fans

blacklodge2600-ataricatalog

They made a video game out of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, so why not Twin Peaks.

Twin Peaks is, of course, a seminal cult TV series, a surrealist soap opera spun out of the mind of David Lynch. When it came out in the late 80s, America was seized with the show’s central mystery – who killed Laura Palmer? A tortured blonde beauty queen who wound up dead, wrapped in plastic. Its first season (US viewers can watch it on Hulu) was easily one of the best ever on television with great characters, inside jokes and just enough Lynchian weirdness to unnerve a mainstream audience without totally freaking them out. Too bad, then, that the quality of the show’s second season went off a cliff.

You would expect a video game about the series to be about the search for Laura Palmer’s killer, but no. Instead, the game, an Atari 2600-style work called Black Lodge 2600, is a riff on the show’s final angry episode. In that episode, FBI agent Dale Cooper delves into the otherworldly Black Lodge, which, in spite of its name, is decorated primarily in red curtains. There, Cooper is confronted by his doppelganger. Lynch’s Jungian obsessions have never been as bald as in that episode.

Basically, if you felt like your well-worn copy of Pitfall was strangely lacking in busts of Venus De Milo and a pervading sense of the Unheimliche, then this video game might be for you. The game’s manual, which has way too many exclamation points, sets the stage:

A day in the FBI was never like this before! You are Special Agent Dale Cooper and you’ve found yourself trapped inside the Black Lodge, a surreal and dangerous place between worlds. Try as you might, you can’t seem to find anything but the same room and hallway no matter which way you turn. Worse yet, your doppelganger is in hot pursuit! You have no choice but to keep running through the room and hallway (or is it more than one?) and above all else, don’t let your doppelganger touch you!

[…]

You’ll find quickly that you’re not alone in the Black Lodge, though your friends are few and far between. Not only that, the Lodge itself seems to be actively trying to trip you up at all times! You’ll be dodging chairs and crazed Lodge residents all while trying to keep your own sanity. How long can this go on?

Based on this description, I can’t tell if this game is compelling or if it will merely evoke the same feeling of existential futility I feel every time I call Time Warner Cable. Watch a video of the game below and judge for yourself. Or start downloading the game and the manual here.

Note: If you have problems getting the game going on a Mac, then follow these Black Lodge troubleshooting instructions: Go to “System Preferences”, open “Security & Privacy”, click the padlock to allow changes, then click the “Anywhere” option under “Allow applications downloaded from.”

via Welcome to Twin Peaks

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


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