Introducing The Radiohead Public Library: Radiohead Makes Their Full Catalogue Available via a Free Online Web Site

Radiohead remained relevant longer than any of their peers not only because they adapted to technological change but because they’ve just as often been a force behind it, whether musically or otherwise. Yet when it comes to their release strategies, we might call them increasingly conservative--they have embraced one of the oldest traditional features of the internet: the ability to give away free content to huge numbers of people all at once, and to archive that content in freely accessible repositories.

At least since In Rainbows, Radiohead has seen the internet as an opportunity to give away their work or sell it at a low-cost sliding scale, often with profits benefitting charities. Last year, when hackers stole demos from 1997’s OK Computer, Radiohead countered by releasing 18 hours of the material free to stream or buy for a limited time, with all proceeds going to climate action. Then they released every single studio album, including dozens of rarities, live sessions, and more, on YouTube, making everything free to stream for anyone with the bandwidth.




Now, concerned with the integrity of Radiohead collections online, they’ve gone full Internet Archive and started a “public library” (complete with a printable library card). And for any fan of the band—from the most casual to the most terminally dedicated—it’s an experience. “The band has brought nearly the entirety of their catalog to one place,” writes Rob Arcand at Spin, “which doesn’t contain ads and doesn’t use algorithms or obtrusive design gestures that could encourage myopic listening.” Dive in and you never know what you’ll find.

I stumbled upon OK Computer’s “Paranoid Android” and was reminded of how inexplicably weird the video is; crossed paths with 1992’s Drill, the band’s surprising power-pop-punk first EP (hear “Thinking About You” at the top); found a recent live performance of Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, and a drum machine—the two demonstrating with electric guitars and voice why even the band’s most abstract and foreboding songs still have at their heart the delicate melodies that made up the entirety of their achingly earnest second album, The Bends.

Other rarities include the King of Limbs remix EP TKOL RMX 8 (“not to be confused with their King of Limbs remix album TKOL RMX 1234567”) and a 2005 track titled “I Want None of This” made for war relief compilation Help!: A Day in the Life. The “stress” here in this archive “is on ‘Public,’” notes Daniel Kreps at Rolling Stone. “The library is free to enter and audio and video files are accessible even to those without premium streaming services.” Each member of the band served as a “librarian” for the first week of the archive’s existence, curating their favorite selections of material for posting on social media from January 20th to the 24th.

Check out the Radiohead Public Library here.

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

Can You Spot Liars Through Their Body Language? A Former FBI Agent Breaks Down the Clues in Non-Verbal Communication

Can you spot a liar? We all know people who think they can, and very often they claim to be able to do so by reading "body language." Clearing one's throat, touching one's mouth, crossing one's arms, looking away: these and other such gestures, they say, indicate on the part of the speaker a certain distance from the truth. In the WIRED "Tradecraft" video above, however former FBI special agent Joe Navarro more than once pronounces ideas about such physical lie indicators "nonsense." And having spent 25 years working to identify people presenting themselves falsely to the world — "my job was to catch spies," he says — he should know, at the very least, what isn't a tell.

Not that all the throat-clearing and arm-crossing doesn't indicate something. Navarro calls such behaviors "self-soothers," physical actions we use to pacify ourselves in stressful moments. Of course, even if self-soothers provide no useful information about whether a person is telling the truth, that doesn't mean they provide no useful information at all.




But Navarro's career has taught him that actions decisively indicating deception are much more specific, and without relevant knowledge completely illegible: take the suspected spy he had under surveillance who gave the game away just by leaving a flower shop holding a bouquet facing not upward but downward, "how they carry flowers in eastern Europe."

For the most part, detecting a liar requires a great deal of what Navarro calls "face time," a necessity when it comes to observing the full range of and patterns in an individual's forms of non-verbal communication. In the video he analyzes footage of a poker game, the kind of setting that heightens our awareness of such non-verbal communication. At the table we all know to put on a "poker face" and shut our mouths, but even when we say nothing, Navarro emphasizes, we're constantly transmitting a high quantity of information about ourselves. Whatever the setting, it comes through in how we dress, how we walk, how we carry ourselves — especially if we think it doesn't. In the eyes of those who know how to interpret this information, all the world becomes a poker game.

Navarro is the author of two books on this subject: The Dictionary of Body Language: A Field Guide to Human Behavior and What Every Body Is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Speed-Reading People. For a contrarian point of view that challenges the idea that we can ever read people accurately, see Malcolm Gladwell's new book, Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know.

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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.

The Neuroscience of Drumming: Researchers Discover the Secrets of Drumming & The Human Brain

An old musician’s joke goes “there are three kinds of drummers in the world—those who can count and those who can’t.” But perhaps there is an even more global divide. Perhaps there are three kinds of people in the world—those who can drum and those who can’t. Perhaps, as the promotional video above from GE suggests, drummers have fundamentally different brains than the rest of us. Today we highlight the scientific research into drummers' brains, an expanding area of neuroscience and psychology that disproves a host of dumb drummer jokes.

"Drummers," writes Jordan Taylor Sloan at Mic, "can actually be smarter than their less rhythmically-focused bandmates." This according to the findings of a Swedish study (Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm) which shows "a link between intelligence, good timing and the part of the brain used for problem-solving." As Gary Cleland puts it in The Telegraph, drummers "might actually be natural intellectuals."




Neuroscientist David Eagleman, a renaissance researcher The New Yorker calls “a man obsessed with time," found this out in an experiment he conducted with various professional drummers at Brian Eno's studio. It was Eno who theorized that drummers have a unique mental makeup, and it turns out "Eno was right: drummers do have different brains from the rest." Eagleman's test showed "a huge statistical difference between the drummers' timing and that of test subjects." Says Eagleman, "Now we know that there is something anatomically different about them." Their ability to keep time gives them an intuitive understanding of the rhythmic patterns they perceive all around them.

That difference can be annoying—like the pain of having perfect pitch in a perpetually off-key world. But drumming ultimately has therapeutic value, providing the emotional and physical benefits collectively known as "drummer's high," an endorphin rush that can only be stimulated by playing music, not simply listening to it. In addition to increasing people's pain thresholds, Oxford psychologists found, the endorphin-filled act of drumming increases positive emotions and leads people to work together in a more cooperative fashion.

Clash drummer Topper Headon discusses the therapeutic aspect of drumming in a short BBC interview above. He also calls drumming a "primeval" and distinctly, universally human activity. Former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley have high hopes for the science of rhythm. Hart, who has powered a light show with his brainwaves in concerts with his own band, discusses the "power" of rhythm to move crowds and bring Alzheimer's patients back into the present moment.

Whether we can train ourselves to think and feel like drummers may be debatable. But as for whether drummers really do think in ways non-drummers can't, consider the neuroscience of Stewart Copeland's polyrhythmic beats, and the work of Terry Bozzio (below) playing the largest drumkit you've ever seen.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2015.

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

Drunk History Takes on the Father of Prohibition: The Ban on Alcohol in the U.S. Started 100 Years Ago This Month

There may be plenty of good reasons to restrict sales and limit promotion of alcohol. You can search the stats on traffic fatalities, liver disease, alcohol-related violence, etc. and you’ll find the term “epidemic” come up more than once. Yet even with all the dangers alcohol poses to public health and safety, its total prohibition has seemed “so hostile to Americans’ contemporary sensibilities of personal freedom,” writes Mark Lawrence Schrad at The New York Times, “that we struggle to comprehend how our ancestors could have possibly supported it.” Prohibition in the United States began 1oo years ago--on January 17, 1920--and lasted through 1933.

How did this happen? Demand, of course, persisted, but public support seemed widespread. Despite stories of thousands rushing bars and liquor stores on the evening of January 16, 1920 before the 18th Amendment banning alcohol nationwide went into effect, “the final triumph of prohibition was met with shrugs…. The United States had already been ‘dry’ for the previous half-year thanks to the Wartime Prohibition Act. And even before that, 32 of the 48 states had already enacted their own statewide prohibitions.”

We tend to think of prohibition now as a wild overreaction and a political miscalculation, and frankly, it’s no wonder, given how bonkers some of its most prominent advocates were. Who better to profile one of the most fanatical than the irresponsibly drunk comedians of Comedy Central’s Drunk History? See John Levenstein and friends take on the leader of the Anti-Saloon League, Wayne Wheeler, above,

Wheeler indirectly killed tens of thousands of people when his ASL pushed to have poison added to industrial alcohol to deter bootlegging in the 20s. His pre-prohibition tactics (he coined the term “pressure group”) recall those of the Moral Majority campaigns that took over local and state legislatures nationwide in the U.S. in recent decades, and it is largely due to the ASL that prohibition gained such significant political ground.

They allied with progressives in the North and racists in the South; with suffragists and with the Klan, whom Wheeler secretly employed to smash up bars. As Daniel Okrent writes at Smithsonian:

Wheeler’s devotion to the dream of a dry America accommodated any number of unlikely allies. Billy Sunday, meet pioneering social worker Jane Addams: you’re working together now. The evangelical clergy of the age were motivated to support Prohibition because of their faith; reformers like Addams signed on because of the devastating effect that drunkenness had on the urban poor. Ku Klux Klan, shake hands with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW): you’re on the same team. The Klan’s anti-liquor sentiment was rooted in its hatred of the immigrant masses in liquor-soaked cities; the IWW believed that liquor was a capitalist weapon used to keep the working classes in a stupor.

Dogged, uncompromising, shrewd, and seemingly amoral, Wheeler was once described by the Cincinnati Enquirer as a crusader who “made great men his puppets.” Prohibition may be impossible to imagine one hundred years later, but we surely recognize Wayne Wheeler as a perennial figure in American politics. Don’t trust a drunk comedian to give you the straight story? Get a sober history above in the excerpt from the Ken Burns’ documentary Prohibition.

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

Fellini’s Fantastic TV Commercials for Barilla, Campari & More: The Italian Filmmaker Was Born 100 Years Ago Today

To help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, we present a series of lyrical television advertisements made during the final decade of his life.

In 1984, when he was 64 years old, Fellini agreed to make a miniature film featuring Campari, the famous Italian apéritif. The result, Oh, che bel paesaggio! ("Oh, what a beautiful landscape!"), shown above, features a man and a woman seated across from one another on a long-distance train.




The man (played by Victor Poletti) smiles, but the woman (Silvia Dionisio) averts her eyes, staring sullenly out the window and picking up a remote control to switch the scenery. She grows increasingly exasperated as a sequence of desert and medieval landscapes pass by. Still smiling, the man takes the remote control, clicks it, and the beautiful Campo di Miracoli ("Field of Miracles") of Pisa appears in the window, embellished by a towering bottle of Campari.

"In just one minute," writes Tullio Kezich in Federico Fellini: His Life and Work, "Fellini gives us a chapter of the story of the battle between men and women, and makes reference to the neurosis of TV, insinuates that we're disparaging the miraculous gifts of nature and history, and offers the hope that there might be a screen that will bring the joy back. The little tale is as quick as a train and has a remarkably light touch."

Also in 1984, Fellini made a commercial titled Alta Societa ("High Society") for Barilla rigatoni pasta (above). As with the Campari commercial, Fellini wrote the script himself and collaborated with cinematographer Ennio Guarnieri and musical director Nicola Piovani. The couple in the restaurant were played by Greta Vaian and Maurizio Mauri. The Barilla spot is perhaps the least inspired of Fellini's commercials. Better things were yet to come.

In 1991 Fellini made a series of three commercials for the Bank of Rome called Che Brutte Notti or "The Bad Nights." "These commercials, aired the following year," writes Peter Bondanella in The Films of Federico Fellini, "are particularly interesting, since they find their inspiration in various dreams Fellini had sketched out in his dream notebooks during his career."

In the episode above, titled "The Picnic Lunch Dream," the classic damsel-in-distress scenario is turned upside down when a man (played by Paolo Villaggio) finds himself trapped on the railroad tracks with a train bearing down on him while the beautiful woman he was dining with (Anna Falchi) climbs out of reach and taunts him. But it's all a dream, which the man tells to his psychoanalyst (Fernando Rey). The analyst interprets the dream and assures the man that his nights will be restful if he puts his money in the Banco di Roma.

The other commercials (watch here) are called "The Tunnel Dream" and "The Dream of the Lion in the Cellar." (You can watch Roberto Di Vito's short, untranslated film of Fellini and his crew working on the project here.)

The bank commercials were the last films Fellini ever made. He died a year after they aired, at age 73. In Kezich's view, the deeply personal and imaginative ads amount to Fellini's last testament, a brief but wondrous return to form. "In Federico's life," he writes, "these three commercial spots are a kind of Indian summer, the golden autumn of a patriarch of cinema who, for a moment, holds again the reins of creation."

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

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Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2012.

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A Medical Student Creates Intricate Anatomical Embroideries of the Brain, Heart, Lungs & More

My first thought upon seeing the delicate, anatomy-based work of the 23-year-old embroidery artist and medical student Emmi Khan was that the Girl Scouts must have expanded the categories of skills eligible for merit badges.

(If memory serves, there was one for embroidery, but it certainly didn’t look like a cross-sectioned brain, or a sinus cavity.)

Closer inspection revealed that the circular views of Khan’s embroideries are not quite as tiny as the round badges stitched to high achieving Girl Scouts’ sashes, but rather still framed in the wooden hoops that are an essential tool of this artist’s trade.

Methods both scientific and artistic are a source of fascination for Khan, who began taking needlework inspiration from anatomy as an undergrad studying biomedical sciences. As she writes on her Moleculart website:

Science has particular methods: it is fundamentally objective, controlled, empirical. Similarly, art has particular methods: there is an emphasis on subjectivity and exploration, but there is also an element of regulation regarding how art is created... e.g. what type of needle to use to embroider or how to prime a canvas.

The procedures and techniques adopted by scientists and artists may be very different. Ultimately, however, they both have a common aim. Artists and scientists both want to 1) make sense of the vastness around them in new ways, and 2) present and communicate it to others through their own vision. 

A glimpse at the flowers, intricate stitches, and other dainties that populate her Pinterest boards offers a further peek into Khan’s methods, and might prompt some readers to pick up a needle themselves, even those with no immediate plans to embroider a karyotype or The Circle of Willis, the circular anastomosis of arteries at the base of the brain.

The Cardiff-based medical student delights in embellishing her threaded observations of internal organs with the occasional decorative element—sunflowers, posies, and the like…

She makes herself available on social media to answer questions on subjects ranging from embroidery tips to her relationship to science as a devout Muslim, and to share works in progress, like a set of lungs that embody the Four Seasons, commissioned by a customer in the States.

To see more of Emmi Khan’s work, including a downloadable anatomical floral heart embroidery pattern, visit Molecularther Instagram page, or her Etsy shop.

via Colossal

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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 Monday, February 3 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates New York: The Nation’s Metropolis (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch Hunter S. Thompson & Ralph Steadman Head to Hollywood in a Revealing 1978 Documentary

In 1978, Hollywood was looking to make a film about Hunter S. Thompson. No, it was not an adaptation of Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas--that would come later. Instead, this was the now-almost-forgotten Bill Murray vehicle Where the Buffalo Roam, which was based on Thompson’s obituary for his friend and “attorney” from Fear & Loathing, Oscar “Zeta” Acosta.

Knowing that both Thompson and illustrator Ralph Steadman would be involved and reuniting and driving from Aspen, through Las Vegas, and into Hollywood, the BBC dispatched a film crew for the arts program Omnibus. Director Nigel Finch returned with a ramshackle road trip of a film, one that always seems in danger of falling apart due to Thompson’s paranoid and antagonistic state.




For a lot of British viewers, this would have been their primer on the American writer, and quickly brings them up to date on Thompson’s rise to infamy, the creation of Gonzo journalism, and his alter-ego Raoul Duke.

Perhaps Finch thought that getting Thompson and Steadman together in a car would conjure up the Fear & Loathing vibe on screen, but the two make an awkward couple. At one point the reserved Steadman compares himself to Thompson’s pet bird Edward. Thompson antagonizes this bird into some sort of trauma, then holds it close and talks to it. “I feel absolutely taken apart,” being friends with the writer, Steadman says. “...he’s holding me like that bird and I’m trying to bite my way out.”

In Vegas, the crew and Steadman try to rouse Thompson, then find him, confused, and with his face covered in white make-up. In Hollywood, Thompson hates the attention from the camera crew so much--not to mention the tourists who assume he is a celebrity of some kind--that they find him hiding behind a parked car.

This era was indeed the end of that phase of Thompson’s career. At one point he asks Finch if he’s there to film Thompson or to film Raoul Duke. Finch doesn’t know. Thompson doesn’t know either, but he does realize that “The myth has taken over...I feel like an appendage.” He can no longer cover events like he did with the Hell’s Angels, or the Kentucky Derby, because of his fame. He can’t cover the story, because he’s become part of the story, and to a real journalist that’s death.

So perhaps that’s the appeal of Hollywood? We see Thompson and Steadman meet with a screenwriter (probably John Kaye, who wrote Where the Buffalo Roam) to discuss the script.

Thompson had agreed to option the script because, like Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, he never believed it would get made. So when it went into production he had pretty much given away creative control. The script, he said, “It sucks – a bad, dumb, low-level, low-rent script.”

However, Bill Murray and Thompson hung out in Aspen together during the shoot and engaged in a sort of mind-meld, Murray becoming a version of Duke. When Murray returned to Saturday Night Live that season, he came back as a cigarette-holder-smoking faux-Thompson. Years later, Johnny Depp would also find himself being transformed during Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. (I noticed right after watching this Omnibus special that I answered my phone in a sort of Thompson drawl until my friend called me out. The power of the Gonzo is such.)

But the man who had an equal power over Thompson was Richard Nixon. Since seeing the wily politician reappear on the national stage during the Barry Goldwater campaign in 1964, Thompson correctly recognized an enemy of everything he held dear, a dark side of America rising from the corpse of John F. Kennedy. And Nixon caused the fear and the loathing in America to bear fruit. As Thompson says in the documentary:

Richard Nixon for me stands for everything that I would not want to have happen to myself, or be, or be around. He is everything that I have contempt for and dislike and I think should be stomped out: Greed, treachery, stupidity, cupidity, positive power of lying, total contempt for any sort of human, constructive, political instinct. Everything that’s wrong with America, everything that this country has demonstrated as a national trait, that the world finds repugnant: the bully instinct, the power grab, the dumbness, the insensitivity. Nixon represents everything that’s wrong with this country, down the line.

Maybe the question is not, what would Thompson think of Trump, who doesn’t even feign Nixon’s humble routine. The question is, where is our Hunter S. Thompson?

Related content:

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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.

How to Draw Like an Architect: An Introduction in Six Videos

That we pass through life without really perceiving our surroundings has long been a commonplace. How can we cure ourselves of this regrettable condition? Before we can learn to notice more of what's around us, we must have a process to test how much we already notice. Many artists and all architects already have one: drawing, the process of recording one's perceptions directly onto the page. But while artists may take their liberties with physical reality — it isn't called "artistic license" by coincidence — architects draw with more representationally rigorous expectations in mind.

Though we can heighten our awareness of the built environment around us by practicing architectural drawing, we need not learn only from architects. In the video at the top of the post, a Youtuber named Shadya Campbell who deals with creativity more generally offers a primer on how to draw buildings — or, perhaps less intimidatingly, on "architectural doodles for beginners." As an example, she works through a drawing of Paris' Notre-Dame cathedral (mere weeks, incidentally, before the fire of last April so dramatically altered its appearance), using a simple head-on viewpoint that nevertheless provides plenty of opportunity to practice capturing its shapes and filling in its details.

Below that, architect Llyan Austria goes a step further by introducing a few drawing practices from the profession under the banner of his "top six architecture sketching techniques." Much of his guidance has to do with drawing something as simple — or as seemingly simple — as a line: he recommends beginning with the most general outlines of a space or building and filling in the details later, emphasizing the start and end of each line, and letting the lines that meet overlap. To get slightly more technical, he also introduces the methods of perspective, used to make architectural drawings look more realistically three-dimensional.




When you introduce perspective to your drawings, you have three types to choose from, one-point, two-point, and three-point. A drawing in one-point perspective, the simplest of the three, has only a single "vanishing point," the point at which all of its parallel lines seem to converge, and is most commonly used to render interiors (or to compose shots in Stanley Kubrick movies). In two-point perspective, two vanishing points make possible more angles of viewing, looking not just straight down a hall, for example, but at the corner of a building's exterior. With the third vanishing point incorporated into three-point perspective, you can draw from a high angle, the "bird's eye view," or a low angle, the "worm's eye view."

You can learn how to draw from all three types of perspective in "How to Draw in Perspective for Beginners," a video from Youtube channel Art of Wei. Below that comes the more specifically architecture-minded "How to Draw a House in Two Point Perspective" from Tom McPherson's Circle Line Art School. After a little practice, you'll soon be ready to enrich your architectural drawing skills, however rudimentary they may be, with advice both by and for architecture professionals. At his channel 30X40 Design Workshop, architect Eric Reinholdt has produced videos on all aspects of the practice, and below you'll find his video of "essential tips" on how to draw like an architect."

In this video and another on architectural sketching, Reinholdt offers such practical advice as pulling your pen or pencil instead of pushing it, moving your arm rather than just pivoting at the wrist, and making "single, continuous, confident strokes." He also goes over the importance of line weight — that is, the relative darkness and thickness of lines — and how it can help viewers to feel what in a drawing is supposed to be where. But we can't benefit from any of this if we don't also do as he says and make drawing a habit, switching up our location and materials as necessary to keep our minds engaged. That goes whether we have a professional or educational interest in architecture or whether we just want to learn to see the ever-shifting mixture of manmade and natural forms that surrounds us in all its richness.

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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.

Hear Christopher Tolkien (RIP) Read the Work of His Father J.R.R. Tolkien, Which He Tirelessly Worked to Preserve

J.R.R. Tolkien is responsible for the existence of Middle-earth, the richly realized fictional setting of the Lord of the Rings novels. But he also did his bit for the existence of the much less fictional Christopher Tolkien, his third son as well as, in J.R.R.'s own words, his "chief critic and collaborator." Christopher spent much of his life returning the favor, dedicating himself to the organization, preservation, and publication of his father's notes on Middle-earth's elaborate geography, history, and mythology until his own death this past Wednesday at the age of 95.

Most fans of Tolkien père came to know the work of Tolkien fils through The Silmarillion, the collection of the former's previously unpublished mythopoeic writings on Middle-Earth and the universe that contains it. That book came out in 1977, four years after J.R.R. Tolkien's death, and for a time thereafter, write The New York Times' Katharine Q. Seelye and Alan Yuhas, "Tolkien fans and scholars wondered how much of The Silmarillion was the work of the father and how much was the work of the son."




In response, "Christopher produced the 12-volume The History of Middle-Earth (1996), a compilation of drafts, fragments, rewrites, marginal notes and other writings culled from 70 boxes of unpublished material."

Christopher Tolkien didn't just take over J.R.R. Tolkien's duties as the steward of Middle-earth; he more or less grew up in the place, and even provided comments, at his father's request, on the work that would become The Lord of the Rings. The power of J.R.R. Tolkien's storytelling, one often hears, owes in part to the writer's thorough grounding in literary and linguistic subjects like English and Germanic philology, heroic verse, Old Norse, Old Icelandic, and medieval Welsh. Christopher Tolkien, in turn, made himself into what Seelye and Yhuas call "an authority, above all, on the reams of writing that his father produced." You can hear Christopher Tolkien read authoritatively from the work of J.R.R. Tolkien in the videos presented here.

The first three clips from the top come two vinyl LPs released in 1977 and 1988 by Caedmon Records (the proto-audiobook label that also put out Edgar Allan Poe read by Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone as well as Hemingway and Faulkner read by Hemingway and Faulkner). All of their selections come from The Silmarillion, the Tolkien text that would never have seen the light of day if not for Christopher's efforts (and those of Guy Gavriel Kay, who would later become a fantasy novelist himself). But as a tribute to the man's life so rigorously devoted to a body of work that has fascinated so many, what could be more suitable than the video above, his reading of the very end of the final book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King. Christopher Tolkien kept his father's flame alive, and thanks to his work that flame will survive him — and generations of Tolkien readers to come.

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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.

The Anti-Conformist, Libertarian Philosophy That Shaped Rush’s Classic Albums

“Throughout their career, Rush have been proudly anti-conformist and anti-authoritarian,” notes the Polyphonic video on recently departed drummer and lyricist Neil Peart, above. “This philosophy is clearly reflected in many of their finest works.” Since the addition of Peart in 1974 after their first, self-titled album, Rush’s philosophy has also been unambiguously Libertarian.

Of course, Peart also turned Rush into the most literary of progressive rock bands. Steeped in fantasy, science fiction, and moral philosophy, he translated his influences into a sprawling sci-fi vision all his own, and one that consistently exceeded the sum of its parts. Yet early Rush was also very much a band that wrote earnest, epic songs about Ayn Rand’s Objectivism.




Peart drew heavily on her work in the first three albums he recorded with the band, including 1975’s Fly by Night, which included the song “Anthem,” an ode to towering creative geniuses that cribs from Rand's dystopian novel of the same name. Rush’s breakout masterwork, 2112, released the following year, expanded dramatically on the theme, as you’ll see in the Polyphonic breakdown of its lyrics.

The 20-minute opening title track tells the story of a futuristic, fictional city of Megadon, a place, writes Rob Bowman in the 40th anniversary edition liner notes, “where individualism and creativity are outlawed with the population controlled by a cabal of malevolent Priests who reside in the Temples of Syrinx.” Based on a short story by Peart, he himself credited its inspiration in the original liner notes to “the genius of Ayn Rand.”

These references don’t seem to make Rush fans love their career-defining mid-seventies concept albums any less. But it has meant that a great deal of talk about Rush has forever linked Peart with this phase in his life. Asked about it in Rolling Stone almost four decades after 2112’s release, he disavowed a lasting influence.

Oh, no. That was 40 years ago. But it was important to me at the time in a transition of finding myself and having faith that what I believed was worthwhile…. On that 2112 album, again, I was in my early twenties. I was a kid. Now I call myself a bleeding heart libertarian.

The change came about, he says, after he saw how libertarian ideals get “twisted by the flaws of humanity.” Peart, and Rush, however never wavered from their anti-authoritarian championing of individual rights. And denials aside, the Randian influence lingered, especially in songs like “Freewill” from 1980’s Permanent Waves:

You can choose from phantom fears  
And kindness that can kill  
I will choose a path that's clear  
I will choose free will 

Rush’s libertarian streak—both the early Objectivist and later “bleeding heart” varieties—can broadly be called their guiding political philosophy. But it should not be mistaken for Peart’s sole obsession. His songs are full of huge themes, as well as the “thorny questions” of everyday life, writes Annie Zaleski at NPR. “Like the best songwriting, Peart’s body of work was also malleable enough to grow with its listeners—his songs often mused about aging and the importance of dreaming.”

Sometimes Rush spoke even more directly to their aging fans. “The ominous ‘Subdivisions’ railed against the conformist suburbs that ‘have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth.’” Whether or not Rush fans themselves have had an early Ayn Rand phase, all of them identify with Peart’s lifelong desire to seize his own destiny and escape the mundane.

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Free Audio: Ayn Rand’s 1938 Dystopian Novella Anthem 

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





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