Hayao Miyazaki’s Masterpieces Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke Imagined as 8-Bit Video Games

As an unapologetic member of the “Millennial” generation, allow me to tell you how to win over a great many of us at a stroke: just appeal to our long-instilled affinity for Japanese animation and classic video games. Raised, like many of my peers born in the late 1970s and early 1980s, on a steady diet of those art forms — not that everyone knew to acknowledge them as art forms back then — I respond instinctively to either of them, and as for their intersection, well, how could I resist?

I certainly can’t resist the sterling example of anime-meets-retrogaming in action just above: an 8-Bit Cinema double-feature, offering David and Henry Dutton’s pixelated renditions of hugely respected Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s films Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. In just under eight minutes, the video tells both stories — the former of a young girl transported into not just the spirit realm but into employment at one of its bathhouses; the latter of the unending struggle between humans and forest gods in 15th-century Japan — as traditional side-scrolling, platform-jumping video games.

Clearly labors of love by true classic gamers, these transformations get not just the graphics (which actually look better than real games of the era, in keeping with Miyazaki’s artistry) but the sound, music, and even gameplay conventions just right. I’d love to play real versions of these games, especially since, apart from an unloved adaptation of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Miyazaki’s movies haven’t plunged into the video-game realm.

And if you respond better to the aesthetic of classic gaming than to that of Japanese animation, do have a look at 8-Bit Cinema’s other work, much of which you can sample in their show reel with clips from their versions of pictures like The ShiningKill Bill, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. I remember many childhood conversations about how video games would eventually look just like our favorite movies, animated or otherwise; little did we know that, one day, our favorite movies would also look just like video games.

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The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche Explained with 8-Bit Video Games

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Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Albert Einstein & Sigmund Freud Exchange Letters and Debate How to Eradicate War, on the Eve of Hitler’s Election (1932)

einstein freud

The problem of violence, perhaps the true root of all social ills, seems irresolvable. Yet, as most thoughtful people have realized after the wars of the twentieth century, the dangers human aggression pose have only increased exponentially along with globalization and technological development. And as Albert Einstein recognized after the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—which he partly helped to engineer with the Manhattan Project—the aggressive potential of nations in war had reached mass suicidal levels.

After Einstein’s involvement in the creation of the atomic bomb, he spent his life “working for disarmament and global government,” writes psychologist Mark Leith, “anguished by his impossible, Faustian decision.” Yet, as we discover in letters Einstein wrote to Sigmund Freud in 1932, he had been advocating for a global solution to war long before the start of World War II. Einstein and Freud’s correspondence took place under the auspices of the League of Nation’s newly-formed International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation, created to foster discussion between prominent public thinkers. Einstein enthusiastically chose Freud as his interlocutor.

In his first letter to the psychologist, he writes, “This is the problem: Is there any way of delivering mankind from the menace of war?” Well before the atomic age, Einstein alleges the urgency of the question is a matter of “common knowledge”—that “with the advance of modern science, this issue has come to mean a matter of life and death for Civilization as we know it.”

Einstein reveals himself as a sort of Platonist in politics, endorsing The Republic’s vision of rule by elite philosopher-kings. But unlike Socrates in that work, the physicist proposes not city-states, but an entire world government of intellectual elites, who hold sway over both religious leaders and the League of Nations. The consequence of such a polity, he writes, would be world peace—the price, likely, far too high for any world leader to pay:

The quest of international security involves the unconditional surrender by every nation, in a certain measure, of its liberty of action—its sovereignty that is to say—and it is clear beyond all doubt that no other road can lead to such security.

Einstein expresses his proposal in some sinister-sounding terms, asking how it might be possible for a “small clique to bend the will of the majority.” His final question to Freud: “Is it possible to control man’s mental evolution so as to make him proof against the psychosis of hate and destructiveness?”

Freud’s response to Einstein, dated September, 1932, sets up a fascinating dialectic between the physicist’s perhaps dangerously naïve optimism and the psychologist’s unsentimental appraisal of the human situation. Freud’s mode of analysis tends toward what we would now call evolutionary psychology, or what he calls a “’mythology’ of the instincts.” He gives a mostly speculative account of the prehistory of human conflict, in which “a path was traced that led away from violence to law”—itself maintained by organized violence.

Freud makes explicit reference to ancient sources, writing of the “Panhellenic conception, the Greeks’ awareness of superiority over their barbarian neighbors.” This kind of proto-nationalism “was strong enough to humanize the methods of warfare.” Like the Hellenistic model, Freud proposes for individuals a course of humanization through education and what he calls “identification” with “whatever leads men to share important interests,” thus creating a “community of feeling.” These means, he grants, may lead to peace. “From our ‘mythology’ of the instincts,” he grants, “we may easily deduce a formula for an indirect method of eliminating war.”

And yet, Freud concludes with ambivalence and a great deal of skepticism about the elimination of violent instincts and war. He contrasts ancient Greek politics with “the Bolshevist conceptions” that propose a future end of war and which are likely “under present conditions, doomed to fail.” Referring to his theory of the competing binary instincts he calls Eros and Thanatos—roughly love (or lust) and death drives—Freud arrives as what he calls a plausible “mythology” of human existence:

The upshot of these observations, as bearing on the subject in hand, is that there is no likelihood of our being able to suppress humanity’s aggressive tendencies. In some happy corners of the earth, they say, where nature brings forth abundantly whatever man desires, there flourish races whose lives go gently by; unknowing of aggression or constraint. This I can hardly credit; I would like further details about these happy folk.

Nonetheless, he says wearily and with more than a hint of resignation, “perhaps our hope” that war will end in the near future, “is not chimerical.” Freud’s letter offers no easy answers, and shies away from the kinds of idealistic political certainties of Einstein. For this, the physicist expressed gratitude, calling Freud’s lengthy response “a truly classic reply…. We cannot know what may grow from such seed.”

This exchange of letters, contends Humboldt State University philosophy professor John Powell, “has never been given the attention it deserves…. By the time the exchange between Einstein and Freud was published in 1933 under the title Why War?, Hitler, who was to drive both men into exile, was already in power, and the letters never achieved the wide circulation intended for them.” Their correspondence is now no less relevant, and the questions they address no less urgent and vexing. You can read the complete exchange at professor Powell’s site here.

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The Famous Letter Where Freud Breaks His Relationship with Jung (1913)

Sigmund Freud Appears in Rare, Surviving Video & Audio Recorded During the 1930s

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

The History of Cartography, the “Most Ambitious Overview of Map Making Ever,” Now Free Online

history of cartography2

Worth a quick mention: The University of Chicago Press has made available online — at no cost — the first three volumes of The History of Cartography. Or what Edward Rothstein, of The New York Times, called “the most ambitious overview of map making ever undertaken.” He continues:

People come to know the world the way they come to map it—through their perceptions of how its elements are connected and of how they should move among them. This is precisely what the series is attempting by situating the map at the heart of cultural life and revealing its relationship to society, science, and religion…. It is trying to define a new set of relationships between maps and the physical world that involve more than geometric correspondence. It is in essence a new map of human attempts to chart the world.

If you head over to this page, then look in the upper left, you will see links to three volumes (available in a free PDF format). My suggestion would be to look at the gallery of color illustrations for each book, links to which you’ll find below. The image above, appearing in Vol. 2, dates back to 1534. It was created by Oronce Fine, the first chair of mathematics in the Collège Royal (aka the Collège de France), and it features the world mapped in the shape of a heart. Pretty great.

Volume 1

Gallery of Color Illustrations

Volume 2: Part 1

Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 1–24)
Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 25–40)

Volume 2: Part 2

Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 1–16)
Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 17–40)

Volume 2: Part 3

Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 1–8)
Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 9 –24)

Volume 3: Part 1

Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 1–24)
Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 25–40)

Volume 3: Part 2

Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 41–56)
Gallery of Color Illustrations (Plates 57–80)

Note: If you buy Vol 1. on Amazon, it will run you $248. As beautiful as the book probably is, you’ll probably appreciate this free digital offering. The series will be added to our collection, 700 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.

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The First Illustrations of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds: The Surreal & Horrifying Art of Henrique Alvim Corrêa (1906)


H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds has terrified and fascinated readers and writers for decades since its 1898 publication and has inspired numerous adaptations. The most notorious use of Wells’ book was by Orson Welles, whom the author called “my little namesake,” and whose 1938 War of the Worlds Halloween radio play caused public alarm (though not actually a national panic). After the occurrence, reports Phil Klass, the actor remarked, “I’m extremely surprised to learn that a story, which has become familiar to children through the medium of comic strips and many succeeding and adventure stories, should have had such an immediate and profound effect upon radio listeners.”


Surely Welles knew that is precisely why the broadcast had the effect it did, especially in such an anxious pre-war climate. The 1898 novel also startled its first readers with its verisimilitude, playing on a late Victorian sense of apocalyptic doom as the turn-of-the century approached. But what contemporary circumstances eight years later, we might wonder, fueled the imagination of Henrique Alvim Corrêa, whose 1906 illustrations of the novel you can see here? Wells himself approved of these incredible drawings, praising them before their publication and saying, “Alvim Corrêa did more for my work with his brush than I with my pen.”


Indeed they capture the novel’s uncanny dread. Martian tripods loom, ghastly and cartoonish, above blasted realist landscapes and scenes of panic. In one illustration, a grotesque, tentacled Martian ravishes a nude woman. In a surrealist drawing of an abandoned London above, eyes protrude from the buildings, and a skeletal head appears above them. The alien technology often appears clumsy and unsophisticated, which contributes to the generally terrifying absurdity that emanates from these finely rendered plates.


Alvim Corrêa was a Brazilian artist living in Brussels and struggling for recognition in the European art world. His break seemed to come when the War of the Worlds illustrations were printed in a large-format, limited French edition of the book, with each of the 500 copies signed by the artist himself.

wells illustrated

Unfortunately, Corrêa’s tuberculosis killed him four years later. His War of the Worlds drawings did not bring him fame in his lifetime or after, but his work has been cherished since by a devoted cult following. The original prints you see here remained with the artist’s family until a sale of 31 of them in 1990. (They went up for sale again recently, it seems.) You can see many more, as well as scans from the book and a poster announcing the publication, at Monster Brains and the British Library site.


via Flavorwire

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

Back to Bed: A New Video Game Inspired by the Surreal Artwork of Escher, Dali & Magritte

If you’ve ever looked at a mindbending, impossible piece of architecture designed by M.C. Escher and thought, well, I would love to play that, then you just might love Back to Bed, a video game for Windows, Mac, Google Play and Playstation.

Similar to last year’s aesthetically beautiful architecture puzzle game Monument Valley, players make their way through 30 levels of increasingly difficult landscapes. You play a dog-like companion that tries to stop his sleep-walking owner Bob from falling off into space by placing objects in his path. But, as with these games, you must use logic to access some of the objects and thinking several moves ahead stretches the brain.

back to bed

The giant, green apples recall Rene Magritte, melted watches are out of Dalí, and the voice that says “The stairs are not what they seem”? We have another Lynch fan in Bedtime Time Digital Games’ crew. And the whole narcolepsy theme has a bit of the ol’ Caligari going for it.

The small company consists of former students who created the game “in a freezing old warehouse on the harbor in Aalborg, Denmark,” according to their bio. They forged ahead with the game after a Kickstarter campaign and what sounds like many years later, they won the student showcase at San Francisco’s Independent Games Festival. That attracted investors and with actual funding, they’ve rewritten the game to make it really shine on HDTVs.

Despite the suspenseful gameplay, there’s much that’s relaxing in the worlds of Back to Bed, from its children book graphic design—everything looks airbrushed—to its hypnotic, hypnagogic sound, including a very Brian Eno-esque ambient soundtrack.

“Back to Bed, the game says out loud in a drone, half-awake voice when you finish a level. But this addictive game might just keep you up later than usual.

via Vice’s Creator’s Project

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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, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

30 Minutes of Harry Potter Sung in an Avant-Garde Fashion by UbuWeb’s Kenneth Goldsmith

potter ubu

Last month, we featured poet, professor, and WFMU radio host Kenneth Goldsmith singing the theory of Theodor Adorno, Sigmund Freud, and Ludwig Wittgenstein — heavy reading, to be sure, but therein lay the appeal. How differently do we approach these formidable theoretical texts, Goldsmith’s project implicitly asks, if we receive them not just aurally rather than textually, but also in a light — not to say goofy — musical arrangement? But if it should drain you to think about questions like that, even as you absorb the thought of the likes of Adorno, Freud, and Wittgenstein, might we suggest Kenneth Goldsmith singing Harry Potter?

Perhaps the best-known modern exemplar of “light reading” we have, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books present themselves as ripe for adaptation, most notably in the form of those eight big-budget films released between 2001 and 2011. On the other end of the spectrum, with evidently no budget at all, comes Goldsmith’s 30-minute adaptation, which you can hear just above, or along with his various other sung texts at Pennsound. Here he sings, with ever-shifting musical accompaniment and through some otherworldly voice processing, what sounds like the final novel in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

“She tells a good story” — thus has every adult Harry Potter-reader I know explained the appeal of Rowling’s children’s novels even outside of the children’s demographic, especially as they awaited Deathly Hallows‘ release in 2007. Having never dipped into the well myself, I couldn’t say for sure, but to my mind, if she tells a good enough story, that story will survive no matter the form into which you transpose it. The Potter faithful hold a variety of opinions about the degree of justice each movie does to their favorite novels, and even about the voice that reads them aloud in audiobook form, but what on Earth will they think of Goldsmith’s idiosyncratic rendition?

Update: Kenneth shot us an email a few minutes ago and filled out the backstory on this recording. Turns out the story is even more colorful than we first thought. He writes: “I was a DJ on WFMU from 1995-2010. In 2007, J.K. Rowling released the seventh and final Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Prior to the book’s release the day I went on the air at WFMU, someone had leaked a copy to the internet, enraging Scholastic Books, who threatened anybody distributing it with a heavy lawsuit. I printed out and sang in my horrible voice the very last chapter of the book on the air, thereby spoiling the finale of the series for anyone listening. During my show, the station received an angry call from Scholastic Books. It appears that their whole office was listening to WFMU that afternoon. Nothing ever came of it.”

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Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Bernie Sanders Sings “This Land is Your Land” on the Endearingly Bad Spoken Word Album, We Shall Overcome

Sooo…. Let’s talk Bernie Sanders. No, I don’t want to talk about Bernie vs. Hillary, or vs. an increasingly worrisome grandstanding demagogue whose name I need not mention. I don’t want to talk Bernie vs. a younger civil rights activist groundswell… No!

Let’s talk about Bernie Sanders the recording artist.

Yeah, that’s right, Bernie made a record in 1987, a spoken-word album of classic hippy folk songs like “This Land is Your Land,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” and—fittingly given his roots as a civil rights campaigner—“We Shall Overcome,” also the title of the album. Sanders, a passionate democratic socialist and stalwart advocate for economic justice, was also so passionate about this music that he wanted to add his voice to the choir. “Apparently,” writes Dan Joseph at MRCTV, “everyone in Sanders’ inner circle thought the recording was a pretty good idea. That was until they realized that Sanders had no musical talent, whatsoever.”

This is no exaggeration. Gawker quotes Todd Lockwood, a Burlington musician who helped produce the record: “As talented of a guy as he is, he has absolutely not one musical bone in his body, and that became painfully obvious from the get-go.” Hell, it never stopped William Shatner, and Shatner is the go-to comparison for the Sanders’ awkward “singing.” (It’s “positively Shatneresque,” writes Dangerous Minds.) Hear for yourself above in the Sander-ization of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

Bernie earnestly reads the lyrics in his native Brooklyn accent over a backing track that sounds like an outtake from the frustratingly great/terrible Leonard Cohen/Phil Spector collaboration Death of a Ladies Man. The contrast between the overproduced music and Sanders’ heartfelt and completely unmusical delivery is pretty weird, to say the least. Hear several more samples above, from Todd Lockwood’s Soundcloud. And if for some reason you want to listen to the whole album, and pay for the pleasure, buy Sanders’ We Shall Overcome at Amazon.

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

240 MOOCs Getting Started in September: Enroll Today

September. The beaches are behind us. The books and classrooms ahead. Perhaps it’s a good time to enroll in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), especially since a whopping 240+ MOOCs are getting underway this month. You can find a complete list here. Or, head over to Class Central to see September’s 10 most popular MOOCs. Below, I’ve highlighted a few courses that caught my liberal artsy eye:

Note: The trailer for A Global History of Architecture is featured above.

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Haruki Murakami Publishes His Answers to 3,700 Questions from Fans in a New Japanese eBook

agony uncle

A quick follow up: Back in January, Colin Marshall took you inside Haruki Murakami’s unexpected stint as an agony uncle, writing an online advice column called Mr. Murakami’s Place. According to his publisher, readers sent the Japanese novelist 37,465 questions (see a few in translation here), and he penned responses to 3,716 of them — answering questions like: “30 is right around the corner for me, but there isn’t a single thing that I feel like I’ve accomplished…. What should I do with myself?” Or, “My wife quite frequently belches right near the back of my head when she passes behind me… Is there something I can do to stop my wife’s belching?”

Luckily, at least for Japanese readers, Murakami has now published his responses (all of them) as an ebook in Japan. And it’s been climbing Japan’s Kindle bestseller list. Currently, there are no plans to release Mr. Murakami’s Place – The Complete Edition — in English. The task of translating what amounts to an 8-volume set of books would be formidable. And yet somehow — like most things Murakami has written — I suspect the collection will eventually see the light of day in English-speaking markets.

Thanks to @justinmegahan and @hyloupa for helping us track down this book.

via The Guardian

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The Films of Quentin Tarantino: Watch Video Essays on Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill & More

In the ten years between Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Kill Bill (2003), Quentin Tarantino was all some film fans could talk about, and who many up-and-coming directors idolized and copied. But it would take another ten years for his films to be intelligently discussed, and it’s a sign of these times that the best essays are not in print but in video format.

Matt Zoller Seitz and his colleagues over at Indiewire’s Press Play blog led the charge with a series of 10 -12 minute video essays (collectively called “On the Q.T.”) that explore individual Tarantino films and his approach to filmmaking.

The video above is part two of the series and probes what it means to be cool in Pulp Fiction, how characters create their own mythologies and what happens when reality confronts them.

If that video makes you look at Pulp Fiction in a deeper way, then you’ll enjoy the first in the series, on Reservoir Dogs. Seitz claims the film is both a collage of film quotes and references, from City on Fire to The Killing, but there’s a human heart beating beneath all of it. And that’s a lesson lost on all the imitators that came in Tarantino’s ‘90s wake, he says.

You might also want to check out this two part essay (Part 1Part 2) on Jackie Brown — this one crafted by Press Play’s Odie Henderson–which examines what Tarantino took from Elmore Leonard in his only adaptation to date, and what is pure QT. (Hint: It’s the casting of Pam Grier).

The final video in the series looks at the Female Archetype vs. the Goddess in Kill Bill. Created by Nelson Carvajal, who uses captions instead of narration, it’s the weakest in the series, being long on clips and short on ideas.

But with The Hateful Eight on the horizon, the entire series will get you ready for interpreting the latest in his oeuvre.

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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, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.