Bill Murray Reads the Poetry of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Wallace Stevens, Emily Dickinson, Billy Collins, Lorine Niedecker, Lucille Clifton & More

Who among us wouldn’t want the ineffably mellow, witty, and wise Bill Murray to crash their party, wedding, or White House press briefing room? Maybe you’re one of the few who could resist his comic charms. But could you throw him out if he brought along a cellist and read Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poem “Dog”? Not I.

Murray appeared at SXSW on Monday and read the poem as part of the promotional campaign for Wes Anderson’s new stop-motion animation film Isle of Dogs. And it can seem when we look back at Murray’s many public appearances over the last few years, that the one thing he’s done more than crash other people's parties and star in Wes Anderson films has been read poetry in public.

Murray, as Ayun Halliday pointed out in a previous post, is a “documented poetry nut,” who once wrote poetry himself as a much younger man. He’s been “wise enough,” writes Gavin Edwards at Rolling Stone “not to share it with the world.”  Perhaps we’re missing out.

But we do have many, many clips of Murray reading his favorites from other poets he admires, like Ferlinghetti, and like Wallace Stevens, whose “The Planet on The Table” and “A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts,” he reads above at New York’s Poets House, an institution he has wholeheartedly supported.

Wallace Stevens is a famously difficult poet, but he is also quite funny, in an obliquely droll way, and its no wonder Murray likes his verse. Poets House director Lee Bricoccetti observes that there is “an alignment between comedy and poetry… a precision in the way you handle language.” Some of my own favorite poets—like Frank O’Hara and the “willfully ridiculous” Stevie Smith—are also some of the funniest writers I’ve ever encountered in any form. Murray’s own poetic efforts, were we ever to hear them, may not measure up to the work of his favorites, but he is undoubtedly “a master of linguistic control and pacing.”

We also know that he can turn in finely nuanced dramatic performances when he wants to, and his mastery of the spoken word contributes just as much to moodier poets like Emily Dickinson, whom he reads above in a surprise performance for constructions workers at work on the new Poets House home in 2009. You might agree, however, that he really shines with comic fare, like Billy Collins “Another Reason I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House” and Lorine Niedecker’s majorly condensed “Poet’s Work.”

Any of these readings should grant Murray admission into the most uptight of literary affairs. If anyone still doubts his skill in the craft of reading literature well in public—which, any writer will you, is no easy thing by far—then hear him read Lucille Clifton’s uplifting “What the Mirror Said” (above), or Sarah Manguso’s “What We Miss,” Billy Collins’ “Forgetfulness,” and Cole Porter’s song “Brush Up on Your Shakespeare.” Hear him read from Huckleberry Finn and mumble his way through Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm,” in character in the film St. Vincent.

Oh, but does the multitalented Bill Murray, "master of linguistic control and pacing," sing show tunes? Does he ever….

Find these poetry readings added to OC's collection, 900 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free

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

Watch the Original Black Panther Animated Series Online: All Six Episodes Now Available Thanks to Marvel

Last month, I was thrilled to learn of a talk coming to my town called “The Writers of Wakanda.” I scored a (free) ticket, thinking that maybe the massive blockbuster movie’s director/writer Ryan Coogler might make an appearance (or his co-writer Joe Robert Cole), or maybe one or more of the high-profile writers who have expanded the comic’s world recently, like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxanne Gay, or Nnedi Okorafor. Well, either there was some kind of bait-and-switch at work or I naively failed to read the fine print. The event was a panel of devoted fans of the comic having a discussion about their lifelong fandom, the many iterations of the character through various Marvel writer’s hands, and the film’s huge cultural impact at home and abroad. It was slightly disappointing but also quite enjoyable and informative.

I learned, for example, that some of the most well-loved and highly-praised characters in the film appeared very late in the series’ run (which began with the character’s creation by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966) and were introduced by its first black writers, the “chronically underappreciated” Christopher Priest and the filmmaker Reginald Hudlin.

In the late 90s, Priest invented the Dora Milaje, the elite all-female fighting force who protect Wakanda’s kings (who each take on the mantle of superhero Black Panther once they ascend the throne). Hudlin created the character of Shuri, King T’Challa’s younger sister and the scientific mastermind behind his high-tech empire of vibranium-powered gear and gadgetry. Which brings us, at last, to the subject of this post, the Black Panther animated series, co-produced by BET and Marvel, who have released all six episodes on Marvel's YouTube channel. Stream them all above.

Taking its story from Hudlin’s 2005 comics run, the series is less animation and more “a stop motion comic,” as Nerdist writes, “added to the artwork of John Romita, Jr.” This is all to its credit, as is its star-studded voice casting, with Kerry Washington as Shuri, Alfre Woodard as the Queen Mother, Jill Scott as Storm, and Djimon Hounsou as T’Challa/Black Panther. How does it compare to the blockbuster film? From its first salvo of Wakandan warrior prowess in a cold open set in the 5th century A.D., to its seventies-African-funk-inspired theme song, to a present-day scene in the White House, with a blustery racist army general (played by Stan Lee) who sounds like a member of the current administration, the first episode, above, suggests it will live up to Hudlin’s casting of the character as “an unapologetic African man,” as Todd Steven Burroughs writes at The Root, “openly opposed to white, Western supremacy.”

Hudlin wrote some of the comic’s most politically challenging stories, delving into “serious European colonization themes.” These themes are woven throughout the animated series, which features such characters now familiar to filmgoers as Everett Ross and the villain Klaw. Captain America parachutes in—in a flashback—meets an earlier Black Panther during World War II, and takes a beating. ("These are dangerous times," says Cap, "you need to choose a side." The reply: "We have, our own.") The X-Men’s Storm, formerly the first most-famous African superhero, plays a significant role. Not in the series, likely to many people’s disappointment, are the Dora Milaje, at least in starring roles, and the film’s primary antagonist Erik Killmonger.

But not to worry. The ass-kicking general Okoye and her cadre of warriors will soon get a spin-off comic written by Okorafor, and there’s been some speculation, at least, about whether Killmonger will return (resurrected, perhaps, as he was in the comics) in the inevitable Black Panther 2. In the meantime, both longtime and new fans of the character can get their fix in this six-episode series, which offers a thrilling, bloody, and historically fascinating take not only on the Black Panther himself, but on the complicated relationship of Wakanda to the machinations of the Western world throughout colonial history and into the present.

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

Coursera Now Offering Complete Bachelor’s and Master’s Programs–With Tuition Reduced by 70%

As we observed last October, Coursera has been undergoing an evolution of sorts. When the ed tech company started out, it offered an array of individual courses to students worldwide. A little of this. And a little of that. Now, they're increasingly moving towards courses that work together in sequences. First came "course specializations"--collections of courses that allow students to gain a mastery of specialized topics like Deep Learning, Data Science (Johns Hopkins), Business Fundamentals (Wharton), Digital Marketing (University of Illinois), and Big Data (UC San Diego). Next it was just a logical jump to offering full-blown Bachelor's and Master's programs at a discounted price (roughly 1/3 the usual cost.) As of this month, Coursera offers one Bachelor's program (Computer Science from the University of London), one MBA, and eight Master's programs. The full list of degree programs appears below:

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Play a Collection of Classic Handheld Video Games at the Internet Archive: Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Tron and MC Hammer

Equipped with smartphones that grow more powerful by the year, gamers on the go now have a seemingly unlimited variety of playing options. A decade ago they relied on handheld game consoles with their thousands of available game cartridges and later discs, whose reign began with Nintendo's introduction of the original Game Boy (a device whose unwrapping on Christmas 1990 remains one of my most vivid childhood memories). But even before the Game Boy and its successors, there were standalone handheld proto-video-games, "LCD, VFD and LED-based machines that sold, often cheaply, at toy stores and booths over the decades."

Those words come from Jason Scott at the Internet Archive, where you can now play a range of those handheld games again, emulated right here in your browser. "They range from notably simplistic efforts to truly complicated, many-buttoned affairs that are truly difficult to learn, much less master," Scott writes.

"They are, of course, entertaining in themselves – these are attempts to put together inexpensive versions of video games of the time, or bringing new properties wholecloth into existence." They also "represent the difficulty ahead for many aspects of digital entertainment, and as such are worth experiencing and understanding for that reason alone."

What kind of games came in this form? The Internet Archive's current offerings include vague approximations of 70s and 80s arcade hits like Pac-ManDonkey Kong, and Q*Bert;  even vaguer approximations of such major motion pictures of the day as TronRobocop 2 (as well as Robocop 3), and Apollo 13; and sports titles like World Championship BaseballNFL Football, and Blades of Steel. You'll even find popular oddities like Bandai's Tamagotchi, the original virtual pet, along with less popular oddities like MC Hammer, a dual-directional-padded simulation of a dance battle with the auteur of "U Can't Touch This."

So as you play, spare a thought for the developers of these handheld games, not just because of the dire intellectual property they often had to work with, but the severe technological restrictions they invariably had to work under. "This sort of Herculean effort to squeeze a major arcade machine into a handful of circuits and a beeping, booping shell of what it once was is an ongoing situation," writes Scott. "Where once it was trying to make arcade machines work both on home consoles like the 2600 and Colecovision, so it was also the case of these plastic toy games. Work of this sort continues, as mobile games take charge and developers often work to bring huge immersive experiences to where a phone hits all the same notes." And the day will certainly come when even the most impressive games we play now, handheld or otherwise, will seem just as hilariously simplistic.

Enter the handheld video collection here. And find more classic video games in the Relateds below.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch Stephen Hawking’s Interview with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Recorded 10 Days Before His Death: A Last Conversation about Black Holes, Time Travel & More

Ten days before Stephen Hawking’s death, Neil DeGrasse Tyson sat down with the world-famous physicist for an interview on Tyson’s StarTalk podcast. “I picked his legendary brain,” says Tyson in his introduction, “on everything, from the big bang to the origins of the universe.” He starts off, however, with some softballs. Hawking’s favorite food? He likes oysters. Favorite drink? Pimms.

Your appreciation for Tyson’s earnestly awkward small talk may vary. He’s prone to making himself laugh, which doesn’t elicit laughs from Hawking, whose communication was, of course, extraordinarily constrained. And yet, when it came to matters most of consequence to him, he was eloquent, witty, profound into his final days.

Though we cannot detect any tonal inflection in Hawking’s computer voice, we know him as a sensitive, compassionate person as well as a brilliant mind. It doesn’t sound like he’s bragging when—in answer to Tyson’s question about his favorite equation (at 4:10)—he replies, “the equation I discovered relating the entropy of black hole to the area of its horizon.” "How many people," Tyson replies, chuckling, "get to say that their favorite equation is one they came up with? That’s badass.”

Cutaway segments with Tyson, theoretical physicist Janna Levin, and comedian Matt Kirshen surround the short interview, with Levin offering her professional expertise as a cosmologist to explain Hawking’s ideas in lay terms. His favorite equation, she says, demonstrates that black holes actually radiate energy, returning information, though in a highly disordered form, that was previously thought lost forever.

At 8:05, hear Hawking’s answer to the question of what he would ask Isaac Newton if he could go back in time. Whether we understand his reply or not, we learn how “badass” it is in the cutaway commentary (which begins to seem a little ESPN-like, with Levin as the seasoned player on the panel). Rather than asking Newton a question Hawking himself didn’t know the answer to, which Newton likely couldn’t answer either, Hawking would ask him to solve a problem at the limit of Newton’s own studies, thereby testing the Enlightenment giant’s abilities.

Offered ad-free in Hawking’s memory, the podcast interview also tackles the question of whether it might ever be possible to actually travel back in time, at 24:00 (the answer may disappoint you). Michio Kaku joins the panel in the studio to clarify and sticks around for the remainder of the discussion. The panel also answers fan-submitted questions, and Bill Nye makes an appearance at 42:16. Hawking’s interview makes up a comparatively small portion of the show.

His answers, by necessity, were very brief and to the point. His final theories, by contrast, are mind-expandingly vast, opening us up to the secrets of black holes and the existence of the multiverse. While Hawking's theoretical work may have been too speculative for the Nobel committee, who need hard evidence to make a call, his legacy as “one of our greatest minds, of our generation, of the century, or maybe, ever,” as Tyson says, seems secure.

via Laughing Squid

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

A Huge Scale Model of Ancient Rome at Its Architectural Peak, Originally Commissioned by Mussolini

The narrator of Teju Cole's Open City, one of the better novels of memory and urban space to come along in recent years, at one point flies into New York City and remembers going to see a "sprawling scale model" of the metropolis at the Queens Museum of Art. "The model had been built for the World’s Fair in 1964, at great cost, and afterward had been periodically updated to keep up with the changing topography and built environment of the city. It showed, in impressive detail, with almost a million tiny buildings, and with bridges, parks, rivers, and architectural landmarks, the true form of the city." The model really exists; you can go see it yourself.

But if you get to Rome before you next get to New York, you can see another city model of equally impressive, almost implausible accomplishment there. At the Museum of Roman Culture resides a 1:250 recreation of imperial Rome, known as the Plastico di Roma Imperiale, which transports viewers not just through space but time as well. "To commemorate the birth of Augustus (63 BC) two thousand years earlier, Mussolini commissioned a model of Rome as it appeared at the time of Constantine (AD 306-337), when the city had reached its greatest size," says Encyclopedia RomanaConstructed by Italo Gismondi between 1933 and 1937, then extended and restored in the 1990s, it takes as its basis Rodolfo Lanciani's 1901 atlas the Forma Urbis Romae.

You can see more detailed pictures of the Plastico di Roma Imperiale at the Museum of Roman Culture's site as well as at Viral Spell, zooming in on such Roman landmarks as the Campus Martius, the Circus Maximus, the Tiber Island, and the Flavian Amphitheatre, better know as the Colosseum. "The attention to detail was so meticulous that one could not help but think of Borges’s cartographers," says Open City's narrator, "who, obsessed with accuracy, had made a map so large and so finely detailed that it matched the empire’s scale on a ratio of one to one, a map in which each thing coincided with its spot on the map." This memory comes prompted by the sight of the Big Apple, of course, but it somehow sounds even more fitting for the Eternal City at the height of its ambition.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Jane Goodall Now Teaching a Free Online Course on Developing Compassionate Leaders: Enroll and Start Today

FYI: Starting today, you can enroll in Jane Goodall's course on cultivating compassionate leaders. Offered through the University of Colorado-Boulder, the free MOOC will help participants "mentor young people to lead change in their communities using community mapping, collaborating with stakeholders, and designing practical solutions in the form of campaigns." Although mainly designed for "K-12 formal and informal educators in the United States," the course nonetheless welcomes anyone interested in compassion and leadership. Find more information about the class at this UC-Boulder page.

Separately, Goodall has also recently developed a course on conserving the environment. It's available through Masterclass. We have a few more details here.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter 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. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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Feel Strangely Nostalgic as You Hear Classic Songs Reworked to Sound as If They’re Playing in an Empty Shopping Mall: David Bowie, Toto, Ah-ha & More

"…if he went away, as he had once upon a time, other voices, other rooms, voices lost and clouded, strummed his dreams." - Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms

Is there a word for the emotional floodtide that wells up when a song from the past catches us alone and unawares?

The sensation is too private to be written off as mere nostalgia.

Whatever chemical phenomenon explains it, “Cecil Robert,” a 20-year-old from Kaukauna, Wisconsin, has tapped into it in a big way, by messing with the frequencies of pop songs from the 70s, 80s and 90s, until they sound like something playing on the neighbor’s side of the wall, or the echo chamber of an empty shopping mall.

The New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino wrote that his faraway remix of Toto’s early 80s soft rock hit, "Africa," above, sounded like “longing and consolation together, extended into emptiness, a shot of warmth coming out of a void.”

Funny. That pretty much sums up how I feel listening to Cecil Robert’s take on Nena's "99 Luftballons"

It was released in 1983, the year that I graduated high school and in which "Africa"—which I confess leaves me cold—hit Number One on Billboard’s Hot 100 list.

Were it a matter of sheer generational nostalgia, Tolentino (one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for 2017) should be laid flat by Mac DeMarco’s "My Kind of Woman" “playing slowly from another room.”

And I’d be getting all gooey over "Africa."

It doesn’t work that way.

But it definitely works, as evidenced by the plethora of comments that greet every new Cecil Robert upload:

This is what plays when I’m crying in a bathroom of a party and my crush comes in and comforts me…

This is the song you listen to during the aftermath of a party while everyone is passed out and someone left the music playing...

This really evokes the feeling of slowly bleeding out alone on the kitchen floor & all your senses slowly blurring together under the glare of the fluorescent light overhead set to the tune of the muffled music coming from the record player in the next room…

Such a deep connection begs that requests be taken, and Cecil Roberts does his best to oblige, prioritizing those who make a modest donation on his Patreon page:

I need "Hotel California" playing at an airport restaurant bar late at night…

I need U2—"Beautiful Day"  playing in a diner while it’s raining in the afternoon…

I need "Coming of Age" by Foster the People being played in a diner while I eat a hotdog and wait for my car to get out of the shop across the street...

(For the record, Tolentino asked for an another-room edit of Jai Paul’s dreamy 2011 electro-soul hit "BTSTU.")

Some of Cecil Robert's source material—Julee Cruise’s Twin Peaks theme, "Falling," for instance—is so ethereal that placing it at the other end of the sonic telescope almost feels like overkill.

On the other hand, it could add a welcome layer for fans subconsciously pining for that lost sense of anticipation—for early 90s girls in 50s saddle shoes and pencil skirts, for episodes doled out one week at a time…

Get in a weird mood on Cecil Robert’s YouTube channel.

Fast track a request for $2 on his Patreon page.

Listen to his original ambient compositions on Soundcloud.

via The New Yorker

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC this Tuesday, March 20 for the second installment of Necromancers of the Public Domain at The Tank. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How the Ornate Tapestries from the Age of Louis XIV Were Made (and Are Still Made Today)

“Time is the warp and matter the weft of the woven texture of beauty in space, and death is the hurling shuttle.”

— Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

For the uninitiated, the warp are the plain vertical threads of a weaving or tapestry, through which the colorful, horizontal weft threads are passed, over and under, on wooden needle-shaped bobbins (or shuttles).

As Beatrice Grisol, Head Weaver at Paris’ venerable Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins remarks, in The Art of Making a Tapestry, above, weavers must possess a love of drawing and an abundance of imagination in order to translate an artist’s vision using silken or woolen threads.

21st century designs are more contemporary, and dying equipment more precise, but Les Gobelins’s weavers’ process remains remarkably unchanged since the days of the Sun King, Louis XIV.

As in the 17th-century, giant looms are strung with white warp threads, in readiness for the threads expert dyers have colored according to the artist’s palette.

The colored weft threads are stored on spools, and eventually portioned out onto the bobbins, which dangle from the backside of the tapestry, as the weaver works her magic, constantly checking her progress in a mirror reflecting both the project's front side and a print of the original design.

It’s worth noting that the pronouns here are exclusively feminine. The lavish tapestries decorating Louis XIV’s court hinted at years of unsung labor by highly skilled craftswomen. Tapestries were the ne plus ultra of princely status, a testament to their owner’s erudition and taste. Louis XIV amassed some 2,650 pieces.

That’s a lot of bobbins, and a lot of hard-working female weavers.

Witness the transformation from artist Charles Le Brun’s 1664 study for the figure who would become the seated youth in The Entry of Alexander into Babylon

…to the fully realized oil on canvas rendering from 1690…

…to its incarnation as a tapestry in the Sun King’s court:

Speeding ahead to the 21st-century, Les Gobelins appears to rival Brooklyn’s Etsy flagship as a pleasantly appointed, well lit, and highly respected Temple of Craft.

View some of the highlights of the Getty Museum’s 2016 exhibition Woven Gold: Tapestries of Louis XIV here.

Or grab your heddles and plan an in-person visit to La Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on March 20 for the second installment of Necromancers of the Public Domain at The Tank. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Beautifully Designed Map Shows the Literal Translations of Country Names: “Place of Abundant Fish” (Panama), “Land of Many Rabbits” (Spain), and More

Recently we featured a world map that labels each country not with its name in English, but its name in its own language. That surely proved not just a fascinating linguistic-geographical lesson but, for many, a helpful guide to referring to other lands in a much more sophisticated manner at cocktail parties. But whatever one's motives, one ultimately has to wonder: what do all those country names actually mean? Few to none would have emerged as random assemblies of syllables; nearly all must have started as descriptions, to varying degrees of literalness, of the places they name.

Take, for instance, "Place of Abundant Fish," better known to its people as Panamá and to English-speakers as Panama. Or "Land of Burnt Faces," which many of us whose faces really would get burned if we took a trip there without sunscreen call Ethiopia. Or "Temple of the Soul of Ptah," "He that Striveth with God," and "In the Navel of the Moon," also known as Egypt, Israel, and Mexico.

These names and many others appear on this world map with country names translated literally into English. "I was disappointed by Spain," added German geographer Simon Kustenmacher when he tweeted out the map. "'Land of Many Rabbits'? I expected something related to military..."

Naturally, all manner of arguments immediately erupted beneath Kustenmacher's tweet: arguments over the source languages used, arguments over etymology, arguments over translation, arguments over interpretation. One commenter suggests that the United States of America, on the map simply labeled "The United States of America," actually be called "The United States of the Land of Amerigo Vespucci," the Italian cartographer who inspired the name "America." But then, some Americans might feel a very different variety of disappointment not only that their country's name doesn't mean "The Land of the Free," but that the meaning has already been claimed by Thailand. In creative cartography, as in every other pursuit, you can't please everybody.

You can view the map showing the "Literal Translation of Country Names" in a large zoomable fashion here.

via Kottke

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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