24 Common Cognitive Biases: A Visual List of the Psychological Systems Errors That Keep Us From Thinking Rationally

There’s been a lot of talk about the Dunning-Kruger effect, the cognitive bias that makes people wildly overconfident, unable to know how ignorant they are because they don’t have the basic skills to grasp what competence means. Once popularized, the effect became weaponized. People made armchair diagnoses, gloated and pointed at the obliviously stupid. But if those finger-pointers could take the beam out of their own eye, they might see four fingers pointing back at them, or whatever folk wisdom to this effect you care to mash up.

What we now call cognitive biases have been known by many other names over the course of millennia. Perhaps never have the many varieties of self-deception been so specific. Wikipedia lists 185 cognitive biases, 185 different ways of being irrational and deluded. Surely, it’s possible that every single time we—maybe accurately—point out someone else’s delusions, we’re hoarding a collection of our own. According to much of the research by psychologists and behavioral economists, this may be inevitable and almost impossible to remedy.

Want to better understand your own cognitive biases and maybe try to move beyond them if you can? See a list of 24 common cognitive biases in an infographic poster at yourbias.is, the site of the nonprofit School of Thought. (The two gentlemen popping up behind brainy Jehovah in the poster, notes Visual Capitalist, "happen to represent Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, two of the leading social scientists known for their contributions to this field. Not only did they pioneer work around cognitive biases starting in the late 1960s, but their partnership also resulted in a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002.")

Granted, a Wikipedia list is a crowd-sourced creation with lots of redundancy and quite a few “dubious or trivial” entries, writes Ben Yagoda at The Atlantic. “The IKEA effect, for instance, is defined as ‘the tendency for people to place a disproportionately high value on objects they partially assembled themselves.’” Much of the value I’ve personally placed on IKEA furniture has to do with never wanting to assemble IKEA furniture again. “But a solid group of 100 or so biases has been repeatedly shown to exist, and can make a hash of our lives.”

These are the tricks of the mind that keep gamblers gambling, even when they’re losing everything. They include not only the “gambler’s fallacy” but confirmation bias and the fallacy of sunk cost, the tendency to pursue a bad outcome because you’ve already made a significant investment and you don’t want it to have been for nothing. It may seem ironic that the study of cognitive biases developed primarily in the field of economics, the only social science, perhaps, that still assumes humans are autonomous individuals who freely make rational choices.

But then, economists must constantly contend with the counter-evidence—rationality is not a thing most humans do well. (Evolutionarily speaking, this may have been no great disadvantage until we got our hands on weapons of mass destruction and the tools of climate collapse.) When we act rationally in some areas, we tend to fool ourselves in others. Is it possible to overcome bias? That depends on what we mean. Political and personal prejudices—against ethnicities, nationalities, genders, and sexualities—are usually buttressed by the systems errors known as cognitive biases, but they are not caused by them. They are learned ideas that can be unlearned.

What researchers and academics mean when they talk about bias does not relate to specific content of beliefs, but rather to the ways in which our minds warp logic to serve some psychological or emotional need or to help regulate and stabilize our perceptions in a manageable way. “Some of these biases are related to memory,” writes Kendra Cherry at Very Well Mind, others “might be related to problems with attention. Since attention is a limited resource, people have to be selective about what they pay attention to in the world around them.”

We’re constantly missing what’s right in front of us, in other words, because we’re trying to pay attention to other people too. It’s exhausting, which might be why we need eight hours or so of sleep each night if we want our brains to function half decently. Go to yourbias.is for this list of 24 common cognitive biases, also available on a nifty poster you can order and hang on the wall. You'll also find there an illustrated collection of logical fallacies and a set of “critical thinking cards” featuring both kinds of reasoning errors. Once you've identified and defeated all your own cognitive biases—all 24, or 100, or 185 or so—then you'll be ready to set out and fix everyone else's.

via Visual Capitalist

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

Beautiful Hand-Colored Japanese Flowers Created by the Pioneering Photographer Ogawa Kazumasa (1896)

Ogawa Kazumasa lived from the 1860s to almost the 1930s, surely one of the most fascinating 70-year stretches in Japanese history. Ogawa's homeland "opened" to the world when he was a boy, and for the rest of his life he bore witness to the sometimes beautiful, sometimes strange, sometimes exhilarating results of a once-isolated culture assimilating seemingly everything foreign — art, technology, customs — all at once. Naturally he picked up a camera to document it all, and history now remembers him as a pioneer of his art.

At the Getty's web site you can see a few examples of the sort of pictures Ogawa took of Japanese life in the mid-1890s. During that same period he published Some Japanese Flowers, a book containing his pictures of just that.

The following year, Ogawa's hand-colored photographs of Japanese flowers also appeared in the American books Japan, Described and Illustrated by the Japanese, edited by the renowned Anglo-Irish expatriate Japanese culture scholar Francis Brinkley and published in Boston, the city where Ogawa had spent a couple of years studying portrait photography and processing.

Ogawa's varied life in Japan included working as an editor at Shashin Shinpō (写真新報), the only photography journal in the country at the time, as well as at the flower magazine Kokka (国華), which would certainly have given him the experience he needed to produce photographic specimens such as these. Though Ogawa invested a great deal in learning and employing the highest photographic technologies, they were the highest photographic technologies of the 1890s, when color photography necessitated adding colors — of particular importance in the case of flowers — after the fact.

Some Japanese Flowers was re-issued a few years ago, but you can still see 20 striking examples of Ogawa's flower photography at the Public Domain Review. They've also made several of his works available as prints of several different sizes in their online shop, a selection that includes not just his flowers but the Bronze Buddha at Kamakura and a man locked in battle with an octopus as well. Even as everything changed so rapidly all around him, as he mastered the just-as-rapidly developing tools of his craft, Ogawa nevertheless kept his eye for the natural and cultural aspects of his homeland that seemed never to have changed at all.

via Public Domain Review

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, 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.

An Archive of Animations/Cartoons of Ancient Greece & Rome: From the 1920s Through Today

Ancient Greece and Rome have provided fertile hunting grounds for animated subject matter since the very inception of the form.

So what if the results wind up doing little more than frolic in the pastoral setting? Witness 1930’s Playful Pan, above, which can basically be summed up as Silly Symphony in a toga (with a cute bear cub who looks a lot like Mickey Mouse and some flame play that prefigures The Sorcerer’s Apprentice…)

Others are packed with history, mythic narrative, and period details, though be forewarned that not all are as visually appealing as Steve Simons’ Hoplites! Greeks at War, part of the Panoply Vase Animation Project.

Some series, such as the Asterix movies and Aesop and Sona staple of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show from 1959 to 1962have been the gateways through which many history lovers’ curiosity was first roused.

(Russian animator Anatoly Petrov’s erotic shorts for Soyuzmultfilm may rouse other, er, curiosities, and are definitely NSFW.)

And then there are instant classics like 2004’s It's All Greek to Scooby in which “Shaggy's purchase of a mysterious amulet only serves to cause a pestering archaeologist and centaur to chase him.”  (Ye gods…)

Senior Lecturer of Classical and Mediterranean Studies at Vanderbilt, Chiara Sulprizio, has collected all of these and more on her blog, Animated Antiquity.

Beginning with the 2-minute fragment that’s all we have left of Winsor McCay’s 1921 The Centaurs, Sulprizio shares some of her favorite cartoon representations of ancient Greece, Rome, and beyond. Her areas of professional specializationgender and sexuality, Greek comedy, and Roman satireare well suited to her chosen hobby, and her commentary doubles down on historical context to include the history of animation.

The appearance of cartoon stars like Daffy Duck, Tom and Jerry, and Popeye further demonstrates this antique subject matter’s sturdiness. TED-Ed and the BBC may view the genre as an excellent teaching tool, but there’s nothing stopping the animator from shoehorning some fabrications in amongst the buxom nymphs and buff gladiators.

(Raise your hand if your mother ever sacrificed you on the altar to Spinachia, goddess of spinach, in hopes that she might unleash a mushroom cloud of super-atomic power in your puny bicep.)

You’ll find a number of entries featuring the work of Japanese and Russian animators, including Thermae Romae, part of the juggernaut that’s sprung from Mari Yamazaki’s popular graphic novel series and Icarus and the Wise Men from the legendary Fyodor Khitruk, whose retelling of the myth sent a message about freedom from the Soviet Union, circa 1976.

Begin your decade-by-decade explorations of Chiara Sulprizio’s animated antiquities here or suggest that a missing favorite be added to the collection. (We vote for this one!)

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain, this April. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti Turns 100: Hear the Great San Francisco Poet Read “Trump’s Trojan Horse,” “Pity the Nation” & Many Other Poems

It has been a season of mourning for literature: first the death of Mary Oliver and now W.S. Merwin, two writers who left a considerable imprint on over half a century of American poetry. Considering the fact that founding father of the Beats and proprietor of world-renowned City Lights Bookstore, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, turns 100 on March 24th, maybe a few more people have glanced over to check on him. How’s he doing?

He's grown "frail and nearly blind," writes Chloe Veltman at The Guardian in an interview with the poet this month, "but his mind is still on fire." Ferlinghetti “has not mellowed,” says Washington Post book critic Ron Charles, "at all." If you’re looking for him at any of the events planned in his honor, City Lights announces, he will not be in attendance, but he has been busy promoting his latest book, a thinly-veiled autobiographical novel about his early life called Little Boy.

In the book Ferlinghetti describes his childhood in images right out of Edward Gorey. He was a “Little Lord Fauntleroy” in a Bronxville mansion 20 miles outside New York, an orphan taken in and raised by descendants of the founders of Sarah Lawrence. “His new guardians spoke to one another in courtly tones and dressed in Victorian garb,” notes Charles. “They sent him to private school, and, more important, they possessed a fine library, which he was encouraged to use.”

The poet would later write he was a “social climber climbing downward,” an ironic reference to how some people might have seen the trajectory of his career. After serving in the Navy during World War II, earning a master’s at Columbia, and a Ph.D. at the Sorbonne, Ferlinghetti decamped to San Francisco, and founded the small magazine City Lights with Peter D. Martin. Then he opened a bookstore on the edge of Chinatown to fund the publishing venture.

The shop became a haunt for writers and poets. Ferlinghetti started publishing them, starting with himself in 1955. The following year he gained international infamy for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (hear Ginsberg read the poem at City Lights in '56). The book was banned, and Ferlinghetti put on trial for obscenity. If anyone thought this would be the end of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, they were mistaken.

He has published somewhere around forty books of poetry and criticism, novels and plays, been a prolific painter for sixty years, as well as a publisher, bookseller, and activist. He does not consider himself a Beat poet, but from his influential first two books—Pictures of the Gone World and 1958’s A Coney Island of the Mindonward, Ferlinghetti’s philosophical outlook has more or less breathed the same air as Ginsberg et al.’s.

Quoting from Coney Island, Andrew Shapiro writes, “he counseled us to ‘confound the system,’ ‘to empty out our pockets… missing our appointments’ and to leave ‘our neckties behind’ and ‘take up the full beard of walking anarchy.’” He is still doing this, every way that he can, in public readings, media appearances, and a canny use of YouTube. His is not a call to flower power but to full immersion in the chaos of life, or, as he writes in “Coney Island of the Mind 1” in the “veritable rage / of adversity / Heaped up / groaning with babies and bayonets / under cement skies / in an abstract landscape of blasted trees.”

Ferlinghetti urged poets and writers to “create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic… you can conquer the conquerors with words.” Despite this stridency, he has never taken himself too seriously. Ferlinghetti is as relaxed as they come—he hasn’t mellowed, but he also hasn’t needed to. He’s a loose, natural storyteller and comedian and he’s still delivering sober, prophetic pronouncements with gravitas.

See and hear Ferlinghetti take on conquerors, bullies, and xenophobes, underwear, and other subjects in the readings here from his throughout his career, including a full, 40-minute reading in 2005 at UC Berkeley, below, an album of Ferlinghetti and Kenneth Rexroth, above, and at the top, a video made last year of the 99-year-old poet, in Lady Liberty mask, reading “Trump’s Trojan Horse” under a grinning, gray-bearded self-portrait of his younger self. Happy 100th to him. "I figure that with another 100 birthdays," he says, "that'll be about enough!"

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

The Case for Why Captain Beefheart’s Awful Sounding Album, Trout Mask Replica, Is a True Masterpiece

I’ve had Trout Mask Replica in my collection for years. I can’t say I regularly pull it out to give it a listen, but I know I’d never get rid of it. It’s a sometimes impenetrable slab of genius, wrought from endless sessions and then a short burst of recording, led by a man who couldn’t read music, was prone to fits of violent anger, but dammit knew what he wanted. (And Zappa produced.) When I learned later that the house where a lot of this went down was located in the hills behind the suburbs of Woodland Hills, it made the insurrection of the album all the more magical.

But yes, it’s a hard one to get into. There are no “hits.” There’s no foot tappin’ pop (well, mayyyyybe “Ella Guru,” and only because I knew it first as a cover by XTC.) It’s discordant. Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart sounds possessed by Howlin’ Wolf trying to sing nursery rhymes on acid, and it often plays like members of the band are in different areas of the house with a vague idea of what the others are doing. (This is actually a bit close to the truth).

Vox’s continuing series “Earworm,” hosted by Estelle Caswell, attempts to convert listeners who may have never heard of the album, by taking apart the opening track, “Frownland.”

As Caswell explains, with help from musicologists Samuel Andreyev and Susan Rogers, Van Vliet melded blues and free jazz, and played it with a deconstructed rock band instrumentation. Drums and bass did not lock down a rhythm--they played independent of the others, with the bass even playing chords. Rhythm and lead guitar played two different time signatures each, and neither were easy, 4/4 rhythms. And then there’s the saxophone work, dropping in to squonk and thrash like Ornette Coleman. As Magic Band members point out, Van Vliet didn’t understand that a bass or a guitar did not have the same range of notes as an 88-key piano, which was Van Vliet’s songwriting instrument.

However, only jazzbos dig on learning about polyrhythms. There’s so many other reasons to appreciate Trout Mask. For one, it’s in the proud tradition of European surrealism but also comes from a particular “old weird America” that produced some of our most brilliant nutcases. (How many people, learning that Van Vliet was raised near Joshua Tree, nodded in enlightenment? Of course he was.) You want drug music, the album says...well then, this is the uncut stuff.

And then sometimes it really just hits hard: “Moonlight On Vermont” is relentless, with a corruscating guitar line and Beefheart worked up into a lather over “that old time religion.” He quotes Blind Willie Johnson, conflates paganism and Puritanism, and transcends both. (Maybe this is the gateway song for newbies?)

The Vox video precedes its defense with some negative reviews from the contemporary press, but this Dick Larson review from the time understood it from the get go, who writes about it as a giant step forward after Beefheart’s two previous, more accessible albums:

Dylan would sympathise with Beefheart’s ‘nature-and-love-trips’, but the Captain is faster and more bulbous (and he’s got his band). But this is it. In straightening out his music, he’s found some kind of religion. It may be in hair pies (yes!) or in Frownland, but mainly it’s people, children and country men and women. And this is a new delight for Beefheart – a rough outdoor humanity blended with humour and a rich verbal vomit of imagery.

It is a wild album, literally. There are field recordings in between the music, with sounds of crickets and a plane passing overhead. The LP art shows the band standing, crouching, and hiding in the overgrown backyard of the house. There’s mysterious things in the stream below and only some of them are fish.

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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.

Why We Dance: An Animated Video Explains the Science Behind Why We Bust a Move

Has any culture, apart from that of the tiny Utah town in Footloose, done entirely without dancing? It would at first seem that any human need the rhythmic shaking of one's limbs to organized sound fulfills must reside pretty low on the overall priority scale, but anthropology tells us that various human societies started dancing before they got into most every other activity that fills their time today. "Why is this ostensibly frivolous act so fundamental to being human?" asks the Aeon video above. "The answer, it seems, is in our need for social cohesion — that vital glue that keeps societies from breaking apart despite interpersonal differences."

Directed and animated by Rosanna Wan and Andrew Khosravani, the four-minute explainer frames our deep, culture-transcending need to "bust a move" in terms of the work of both 19th- and early 20th-century French sociologist Émile Durkheim and more recent research performed by Bronwyn Tarr, an Oxford evolutionary biologist who also happens to be a dancer herself.

Durkheim posited the phenomenon of "collective effervescence," or "a sort of electricity," or "that exhilaration, almost euphoria, that overtakes groups of people united by a common purpose, pursuing an intensely involving activity together." When you feel it, you feel "a flow, a sense that your self is melding with the group as a whole." And has any practice generated as much collective effervescence throughout human history as dance?

Modern science has shed a bit of light on why: Tarr has found that "we humans have a natural tendency to synchronize our movements with other humans," thanks to a region in the brain which helps us make the same movements we see others making. "When we mimic our partner's movements, and they're mimicking ours, similar neural networks in both networks open up a rush of neurohormones, all of which make us feel good." Listening to music "can create such a euphoric delight that it appears to activate opioid receptors in the brain," making it even harder to resist getting up and dancing. "They said he'd never win," Footloose's tagline said of the movie's big-city teen intent on getting the town dancing again, but "he knew he had to" — an assurance that turns out to have had a basis in neurology.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, 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.

Oxford’s Free Course Critical Reasoning For Beginners Teaches You to Think Like a Philosopher

Image by Pablo Fernández, via Flickr Commons

When I was younger, I often found myself disagreeing with something I’d read or heard, but couldn't explain exactly why. Despite being unable to pinpoint the precise reasons, I had a strong sense that the rules of logic were being violated. After I was exposed to critical thinking in high school and university, I learned to recognize problematic arguments, whether they be a straw man, an appeal to authority, or an ad hominem attack. Faulty arguments are all-pervasive, and the mental biases that underlie them pop up in media coverage, college classes, and armchair theorizing. Want to learn how to avoid them? Look no further than Critical Reasoning For Beginners, a top rated collection of lectures led by Oxford University’s Marianne Talbot.

Talbot builds the course from the ground up, and begins by explaining that arguments consist of a set of premises that, logically linked together, lead to a conclusion. She proceeds to outline the way to lay out an argument logically and clearly, and eventually, the basic steps involved in assessing its strengths and weaknesses.

The six-part series, which was recorded in 2009, shows no sign of wear, and Talbot, unlike some philosophy professors, does a terrific job of making the content digestible. If you’ve got some time on your hands, the lectures, which average just over an hour in length, can be finished in less than a week. That's peanuts, if you consider that all of our knowledge is built on the foundations that this course establishes. If you haven’t had the chance to be exposed to a class on critical thought, I can’t recommend Critical Reasoning For Beginners with enough enthusiasm: there are few mental skills that are as underappreciated, and as central to our daily lives, as critical thinking.

Critical Reasoning For Beginners is currently available on the University of Oxford website in both audio and video formats, and also on iTunes and YouTube. You can find it listed in our collection of Free Online Philosophy Courses, part of our collection of 1300 Free Online Courses from top universities.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2014.

Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman, or read more of his writing at the Huffington Post.

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Mythos: An Animation Retells Timeless Greek Myths with Abstract Modern Designs

Designer Stephen Kelleher and animator Chris Guyot present "Mythos," an animation that tells timeless stories--Greek myths--with simple abstract designs. Here's how they describe this project where the ancient unexpectedly meets the modern:

For centuries the Greek Myths have been used as cautionary tales and teaching tools for people both young and old. These stories convey deep wisdom about the human condition which continue to resonate with us. I wanted to honor these ancient stories by interpreting them in the age of the pixel and gif.

The challenge was to communicate these complex stories in the most minimal way possible while retaining their essence. By having each vignette loop seamlessly, the timeless and perennial nature of these stories are reinforced. Ultimately these animations serve as visual shorthand for ancient truths which are as relevant today as they were when first told.

Sisyphus:

After numerous transgressions, Zeus decided to punish the deceitful king Sisyphus once and for all by forcing him to push a huge enchanted boulder up a steep hill. As soon as he reached the top, the boulder would roll back down to the base of the hill, condemning Sisyphus to an eternity of frustrated labor.

Icarus:

King Minos imprisoned Icarus in a tower alongside his father, the master craftsman Daedalus. As a means of escape Daedalus created a set of wings made of feathers and wax for his son but warned him not to fly too close to the sun. Icarus did not however heed his father’s advice. His wings dissolved and Icarus fell into the sea below and drowned.

Persephone:

The daughter of Zeus and Demeter, Persephone was abducted by the god of the underworld Hades. Although Zeus intervened and brought her back to the land of the living, Persephone was bound to Hades for four months of each year. In her grief, Demeter would make the soils barren thereby creating winter while Persephone’s return would mark the start of the spring.

Narcissus:

As punishment for mortal Narcissus’ cruel treatment of the nymph Echo, he was cursed by Nemesis, the goddess of revenge. She led him to a pool where upon seeing his own reflection, he became besotted with his image and was unable to leave. Fixated, starving and in despair, he fell into the pool and drowned.

Midas:

Having done a great service for the god Dionysus, King Midas was granted one wish of his choosing. He wished that everything he touched would turn to gold. Upon turning food, water and even his own daughter to gold however, he soon realized his foolishness and prayed to Dionysus to undo his wish. Dionysus took pity on King Midas and duly undid the wish.

Theseus:

A Greek hero of many adventures, Theseus is best known for his defeat of the Minotaur. Under the decree of King Minos, every year fourteen young Atheneans were sacrificed to the Minotaur - a monstrous half bull, half man who resided deep within the Labyrinth. Not only was Theseus able to slay the Minotaur but he also successfully escaped the complex Labyrinth, solidifying his legend.

Enjoy...

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via Aeon

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David Lynch Teaches Creativity and Film: A New Online Course

How many of us became David Lynch fans while first watching one of his films? And how many of those fans also left filled with the desire to make a film themselves? Though the long-circulating term "Lynchian" puts a name to Lynch's distinctively stimulating and disturbing cinematic style, it increasingly seems that no filmmaker, no matter how skilled, can quite pull off that style but Lynch himself. But even if you can never be the man who directed the likes of Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive (and co-created the similarly inimitable television series Twin Peaks), you can still learn a great deal about filmmaking from him that you can't learn from anyone else.

Now online education company MasterClass has made some of his knowledge easily accessible in the form of their new course "David Lynch Teaches Creativity and Film." In Lynch's world — unlike Hollywood in general — you can't make a film without creativity. But of what does creativity consist? "Ideas are everything," says Lynch in the trailer for his MasterClass above. "We're nothing without an idea. So I go where the ideas lead." He has long liked to make an analogy with fishing: you put a piece of bait on a hook, cast your line out into the world, and wait for an idea to bite. Different idea-fishing methods work for different people, and Lynch has spoken of his success with drinking a milkshake at Bob's Big Boy every day for seven years, and even more so with decade after decade of twice-daily meditation.

However you fish for ideas, "you don't know when they're going to come or what will trigger them. Lo and behold, on a lucky day, bingo, you'll catch an idea, and... party time." Lynch also drops an unexpectedly practical piece of advice to do with all this in the trailer: "If you want to make a feature-length film, all you need to do is get 70 ideas." Then you take those 70 ideas, write them on cards, and put the cards in order — and not necessarily in a narratively conventional order. "In cinema, I don't like rules," Lynch says, a statement that will surprise neither his boosters nor his detractors. He covers that territory in the eleventh lesson of his MasterClass, which explains the difference between "restrictions that stifle creativity from those that actually help you to think outside the box." Other lessons get into "how to approach a blank page," "how to identify and recognize the right performer for a part," and "how David handles the pressures of the set while protecting a creative space for the cast and crew."

A final "bonus chapter" offers Lynch's views on transcendental meditation, a practice that has taught him "to approach life and work with deeper awareness" and "enjoy the 'doing' of almost any activity." That sets "David Lynch Teaches Creativity and Film" apart from the other filmmaking courses Masterclass offers, taught by such an intellectually and aesthetically varied set of luminaries as Martin Scorsese, Ken Burns, Jodie Foster, Spike Lee, and Werner Herzog. You can take all of those, and any other Masterclass besides, with the site's $180 "all-access pass," or just this one course for $90. And even if you don't, you'd do pretty well to take with you into your filmmaking career the words by which Lynch himself has clearly lived: "Never give up final cut and total creative freedom."

FYI: If you sign up for a MasterClass course by clicking on the affiliate links in this post, Open Culture will receive a small fee that helps support our operation.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, 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.

Christopher Hitches Makes the Case for Paying Reparations for Slavery in the United States

There may be no more heretical figure from the last several decades for both the current mainstream political left and right than the late Christopher Hitchens. He has maintained contrarian positions that range from vexing to enraging for nearly every orthodoxy. Contrarianism can seem his one singular consistency in a slide from “socialist to neocon" and some very imperialist views on war, race, culture, and religion. But his one true allegiance, he would say, was to “the principles of free inquiry” and Enlightenment thought.

Hitchens inquired freely and often, and he was a supremely polished rhetorician who had mastered the art of making arguments, regardless of whether he was persuaded by them himself. It may seem surprising that a crusader against “the race card in American politics” and “the perils of identity politics,” would make the case for reparations for slavery. But he does so in a 2001 Oxford-style debate at Boston University, a forum that requires no personal allegiance to the position.

This context aside, Hitchens’ argument is compelling on its own merits. "It matters not what you think,” he says in a classically liberal formula in his introductory remarks above, “it matters how you think.” He starts with an argument from analogy: with the repatriation of the Elgin Marbles, sections of the Parthenon taken from Greece in the 18th century. The acquisition of these artifacts was “an original crime,” says Hitchens, “a desecration of a great historic culture…. It was a theft, a rape, a taking, perpetrated by the strong upon the weak.”

This was, he says, “by the way… all done at the same time as the British fleet… was also the military guarantor of the slave trade.” Not every crime committed by the British Empire could be made good, but “this one could. Restitution could be made.” Upon publishing a book making this case for returning the Greek stones, Hitchens says he was “immediately impressed by the torrent of bad faith arguments in which I was doused… the irrelevant, the non-sequitur, the generalization.” Likewise, when the subject of reparations comes up, Hitches says he hears “a constant whine and drone” of bad faith.

To laughs from the audience, he cheekily calls counterarguments a “white whine.” On the subject of reparations, white Americans display “a rather nasty combination of self pity and self hatred,” he says, the workings of a “bad conscience.” He weaves his scorn for self-interest and flimsy reasoning into an extended analogy with looted artifacts in the British museum. Curiously, he does not seem to argue that Britain make restitution to the descendants of looted people, an obvious conclusion of his arguments for the U.S. But perhaps it comes up in the full debate from which these remarks come, just below.

Related Content:

Christopher Hitchens Dismisses the Cult of Ayn Rand: There’s No “Need to Have Essays Advocating Selfishness Among Human Beings; It Requires No Reinforcement”

The Atlantic Slave Trade Visualized in Two Minutes: 10 Million Lives, 20,000 Voyages, Over 315 Years

W.E.B. Du Bois Creates Revolutionary, Artistic Data Visualizations Showing the Economic Plight of African-Americans (1900)

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





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