Watch a Newly-Created “Epilogue” For Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

If after watching Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, you immediately want more 2001: A Space Odyssey, then you are a true fan—especially if you don’t consider the sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, to be anything of the kind, Arthur C. Clarke’s imprimatur notwithstanding.

But how will true fans react to the three-and-a-half minute, “epilogue” to Kubrick's film, above, set 203 years after 2001 and following astronaut Frank Poole’s body as it traverses Jupiter’s space and encounters a monolith?

Poole (played by Gary Lockwood), you’ll remember, was killed by the HAL 9000 computer when he became an inconvenience to the AI. In 3001the final book of Clarke’s trilogy, his body is found, preserved, 1000 years later and brought to life. Here, things turn out a little differently. No fan of Kubrick’s film will care much about the departure from canon.

But what about the cinematic language? Is the epilogue’s creator, Steve Begg, a professional visual effects artist, able to convincingly mimic the master’s touch? I’d say he comes as close as anyone could, though the final shot does not feel particularly Kubrickian to me. This labor of love was also a labor of cinematic art, “using practical models and digital versions of the tricks used in the original,” as Begg writes on the project’s Vimeo page.

He offers his imaginative addendum “with respect to Stanley K., Wally Veevers and Doug Trumbull” (the practical visual effects masterminds of the original film). Begg also admits to “ignoring 2010 and 3001 sorry, A.C. Clarke.” You’ll recognize the music as that of Richard Strauss and Gyorgi Ligeti from Kubrick’s original score. The musical cues, silences, abrupt edits and shifts in perspective, rhythm, and tempo, and the ambitious grandeur all ring true.

If you don’t consider it a sacrilege (and if so, fair enough), you might see Begg’s epilogue as a work of art all its own, one that impressively resurrects the chilly epic feel of the 1968 classic using digital tools from fifty years later.

via Kottke

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Watch Steven Soderbergh’s Re-Edited Version of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey Free Online

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

Fight Club Came Out 20 Years Ago Today: Watch Five Video Essays on the Film’s Philosophy and Lasting Influence

"Kipling is in the peculiar position of having been a byword for fifty years," writes George Orwell in a 1942 essay on the author of The Jungle Book and "Mandalay." "During five literary generations every enlightened person has despised him, and at the end of that time nine-tenths of those enlightened persons are forgotten and Kipling is in some sense still there." A similar truth holds for Fight Club, David Fincher's film adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novelwhich over the past twenty years to the day since its wide release has outlasted all the serious, intelligent, and indeed enlightened critiques mounted against it. Fight Club has long been a byword, if not since its financially disappointing run in the theaters, then at least since its deluxe DVD release. But what does that byword signify?

For many, it signifies the tastes and attitudes of a certain kind of twentysomething male — and given the unabated prevalence of Fight Club posters in freshman dorm rooms and fraternity houses, hardly without cause. At first glance, its subject matter also looks geared straight toward angry young men, telling as it does of a white-collar corporate drone who breaks out of his office dystopia by getting together with similarly alienated late-20th-century men and beating one another senseless. Before long, these "fight clubs" cohere into a nationwide terrorist organization bent on destroying consumer society. For some viewers, the movie would seem to have it all: violence, of course, but also sex, special effects, and satire aplenty, particularly at the icons of so-called "late capitalism." (Legend has it that Fincher worked a Starbucks cup into nearly every scene.)

Other viewers argue — making what Orwell, writing on Kipling, calls a "shallow and familiar charge" — that Fight Club is "fascist." They see it as glorifying the act of raising a shaven-headed, black-clad, repetitively chanting army under a charismatic leader, in this case a Nietzschean Übermensch by the name of Tyler Durden. Portrayed by Brad Pitt in perhaps the most memorable role of his career, Durden emerges from the mind of Fight Club's nameless narrator (an increasingly pale and wasted Edward Norton) in order to set him on his journey. "He's tried to do everything he was taught to do, tried to fit into the world by becoming the thing he isn't," Fincher has said of that narrator's journey. "He cannot find happiness, so he travels on a path to enlightenment in which he must 'kill' his parents, god, and teacher."

The narrator creates Tyler, his teacher, and "kills his god by doing things they are not supposed to do. To complete the process of maturing, the narrator has to kill his teacher." Writing at philosophical subreddit The Motte, Redditor Dormn111 sums up Tyler's worldview as follows: "Men are suffering today because they are inherently unsuited for the social demands of modernity." Evolved to be "violent, aggressive, and driven by their very real biological urges," men are now "told that these aspects of themselves are barbaric, evil, and worthy of condemnation." There is no place in Francis Fukuyama's post-struggle "end of history" for "the gut-level desires that men feel in their bones. There is no victory, no power, no dominance. Everything the man is supposed to do builds towards some sort of higher status, but the gains are illusory."

Participation in a fight club is "an act of self-destruction to counter the societal obsession with self-improvement," since it "makes men ugly, injured, tired, late for work, and shifts their priorities from the feminine social hierarchy treadmill to a narcotic-like rush of masculine gratification." It gives them "a real sense of stakes in their lives, like the sort that mortal combat would have given them in the past." In the words of the Wisecrack video on the philosophy of Fight Club at the top of the post, which draws on thinkers like Jacques Derrida, Theodor Adorno, and Max Horkheimer, these men rebel against a system that "favors efficiency over tradition, custom, or individual desires" and produces stultifying lives in which is everything is "designed for a specific purpose, mass-produced and unrelentingly predictable."

The same creators break down the act of interpretation, using the tools of semiotics and pragmatism, in their video on the meaning of Fight Club and why we still can't agree on it. Fans and detractors alike come to especially different conclusions about the film's ending in which the narrator kills his teacher, a scene The Take attempts to explain in its own video essay. And despite being idea-driven, Fight Club also offers one of the more visceral viewing experiences (and for some, an entirely too-visceral viewing experience) in all of cinema, thanks not only to visuals that struggle against containment by the very medium of film, but also to the work of foley artists revealed in Film Radar's video on the movie's sound design — the craftsmen tasked with making the impact of a punch sound, unlike in most Hollywood pictures, as if it actually hurts.

Fight Club continues to make an impact of its own, as examined in the Fandor video just above. It names among the film's lovers Quentin Tarantino and among its haters Paul Thomas Anderson, so whichever side you take on it, you'll share an opinion with one of the most respected filmmakers alive today. But then, Fincher's own auteur status should give pause to anyone who dismisses Fight Club out of hand. As the relevant chapter of Cameron Beyl's Directors Series video essay tells it, making the movie was itself an act of rebellion against "the system," specifically the studio system, and even more specifically 20th Century Fox, the studio that ruined his feature debut Alien 3 with its interference. After Fincher bounced back with hits Seven and The Game, Fox wanted him back to direct an adaptation of Palahniuk's novel. Despite describing himself as a"non-reader," Fincher devoured the book, which shared some of his own pet themes, including nihilism and anti-commercialism.

Fox, seeing the benefit in smoothing out their relationship with a filmmaker who showed signs of becoming a box office-friendly Alfred Hitchcock crossed with Stanley Kubrick, allowed Fincher a near-carte blanche, creatively speaking. "Once Fincher knew how to play his meddlesome executives to his benefit," Beyl says, "he became truly unstoppable." Fincher and his collaborators, most notably screenwriter Jim Uhls, didn't make the kind of radical changes to Palahniuk's novel that film adaptations usually do to their source material. The CineFix video below goes point-by-point through all the differences between book and film, many of which have to to with the character of Tyler Durden: the book presents him as more of a psychotic killer, while the film presents him as a kind of an idealist: down-and-dirty yet high-minded.

But does it also make him too handsome, too cool, too quotable? No examination of Fight Club, no matter how close, conclusively determines the film's own position on Tyler or any other character, let alone its judgment of broad economic, political, and ideological concepts like capitalism and fascism (put on screen, in one of the film's many ironies, by a former commercial director and a Hollywood heartthrob). "I love this idea that you can have fascism without offering any direction or solution," Fincher once said. Fascism insists on going in one particular direction, "but this movie couldn't be further from offering any kind of solution." Fight Club endures because it resists straightforward interpretation, ensuring that disagreements about it will never be settled. And indeed, now that its themes happen to dovetail with so many of today's vogue terms — "patriarchy," "bro culture," "toxic masculinity" — the arguments have grown more heated than ever. 

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Watch Author Chuck Palahniuk Read Fight Club 4 Kids

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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.

Watching Nature Documentaries Can Produce “Real Happiness,” Finds a Study from the BBC and UC-Berkeley

Hollywood science fiction films imagine future humans in worlds that are no longer green, or never were—from Soylent Green’s dying Earth to that of Interstellar. And from Soylent Green to Ad Astra, humans in the future experience plant and animal life as simulations on a screen, in hyperreal photography and video meant to pacify and comfort. Maybe we live in that world already, to some extent, with apocalyptic films and science fiction expressing a collective mourning for the extinctions brought on by climate change.

“Over the course of my lifetime—I’m 46,” writes Washington Post art critic Sebastian Smee, “the planet has lost more than half of its wildlife populations, according to the World Wildlife Fund.” Surely this brute fact explains the immense popularity of high production-value nature documentaries, the antidote to apocalyptic futurism. They have become “blockbuster events,” argues Ed Yong at The Atlantic, with fandoms as fierce as any.

Viewed “from the perspective of the future,” writes Smee, nature documentaries “are great art. Maybe the greatest of our time.” But can viewing film and photographs of nature produce in us the feelings of awe and wonder that poets, artists, and philosophers have described feeling in actual nature for centuries? BBC Earth, producer of several major blockbuster nature documentary series, undertook some psychological research to find out, partnering with researchers from the University of California, Berkeley.

The team examined the effects of watching the BBC’s Planet Earth II documentary series relative to other kinds of programs. “It is a deep human intuition that viewing nature and being in nature is good for the mind and body,” they write in the study, titled “Exploring the Emotional State of ‘Real Happiness.’” (Sociobiologist E.O. Wilson coined the term “biophilia” to describe the evolved preference for natural beauty.) Does screentime equal physical time spent outdoors? Not exactly, but nature documentaries can lower stress levels and, yes, produce feelings of "real happiness."

There have been several previous such studies. The authors cite one in which a few minutes of the original series Planet Earth “led people, compared to control participants, to feel 45.6% more awe and 31.4% more gratitude, but no shifts in feelings of negative emotions such as fear and sadness.” The Planet Earth II study may be the largest of its kind, with almost 3,500 participants in the U.S., around a thousand in the U.K., India, and Australia, each, and around 500 in both South Africa and Singapore for a total of approximately 7,500 viewers.

Participants across a range of age groups, from 16 to 55 and over, were shown short clips of a variety of TV programs, including clips from Planet Earth II. They were surveyed on an array of emotional responses before and after each viewing. The study also measured stress levels using the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), and used a facial mapping technology called CrowdEmotion to track physical responses. The researchers aggregated the data and controlled for population size in each country.

The findings are fascinating. Across the scale, Planet Earth II clips generated more feelings of happiness and awe, with clips from news and entertainment shows causing more fear. In most of the study’s measures, these good feelings peaked highest at the lower demographic age range of 16-24. Younger viewers showed greater positive emotional responses in facial mapping and survey data, a fact consistent with BBC ratings data showing that 16-34 year-olds make up around 41% of the audience share for Planet Earth II.

“This younger group,” note the authors, “was more likely to experience significant positive shifts in emotion.” They also started out, before viewing the clips, with significantly more environmental anxiety, scoring highly on the stress scale. 71% described themselves as “extremely worried about the state of the world’s environment and what it will mean for my future.” A smaller percentage showed the lowest level of agreement with the statement “I regularly get outside and enjoy spending time with nature.”

For nearly all of the study’s viewers, nature documentaries seemed to produce at least fleeting feelings of “real happiness.” For many, they may also be a way of countering fears of the future, and compensating in advance for a loss of the natural beauty that remains. Unfortunately, the study did not measure the number of participants who viewed Planet Earth II and other “blockbuster” nature documentaries as a call to action against environmental destruction. Maybe that's a subject for another study. Read the full Planet Earth II study results here. And if you're feeling stressed, watch thirty minutes of "Visual Soundscapes," presented by Planet Earth II, above.

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

MIT Researchers 3D Print a Bridge Imagined by Leonardo da Vinci in 1502— and Prove That It Actually Works

Photo by Gretchen Ertl, via MIT News

Unfortunate though it may be for the dreamers of the world, we're all judged not by what we imagine, but what we actually do. This goes double for those specifically tasked with creating things in the physical environment, from engineers and architects to inventors and artists. Leonardo da Vinci, the original "Renaissance man," was an engineer, architect, inventor, artist, and more besides, and five centuries after his death we continue to admire him for not just the works of art and technology he realized during his lifetime, but also the ones that never made it off his drawing board (or out of his notebooks). And as we continue to discover, many of the latter weren't just flights of fancy, but genuine innovations grounded in reality.

Take the bridge Leonardo proposed to Sultan Bayezid II, who in 1502 had "sent out the Renaissance equivalent of a government RFP (request for proposals), seeking a design for a bridge to connect Istanbul with its neighbor city Galata," writes MIT News' David L. Chandler. Writing to the sultan, Leonardo describes his design as "a masonry bridge as high as a building, and even tall ships will be able to sail under it."

At the time, such bridges required the support of piers all along their spans, which prevented large ships from passing underneath. But Leonardo's design would do the job with only "a single enormous arch." About ten times longer than the typical bridge of the early 16th century, it took a page from the bridges of ancient Rome, designed as it was to "stand on its own under the force of gravity, without any fasteners or mortar to hold the stone together."

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Alas, Leonardo, who had better luck with Italian patrons, didn't win this particular commission. His bridge design must at least have impressed the sultan with its sheer ambition, but would it have held up? A team at MIT consisting of graduate Karly Bast, professor John Ochsendorf, and undergraduate Michelle Xie recently put it to the test, scrutinizing the material Leonardo left behind, replicating the geological conditions of the proposed site, and building a 1:500 scale model out of 126 3D-printed blocks. Not only could the model bear weight using only the strength of its own geometry, the design also came with other features, such as stabilizing abutments (which Chandler compares to the legs of "a standing subway rider widening her stance to balance in a swaying car") to keep the bridge upright in that earthquake-prone area of modern-day Turkey.

That particular location didn't get a bridge until 1845, when Valide Sultan ordered the construction of the first, wooden, Galata Bridge. It stood for 18 years until its replacement by another wooden bridge, part of an infrastructure-building push before Napoleon III's visit to Istanbul. The third Galata Bridge, completed in 1875 from a design by a British engineering firm, floated on pontoons. The fourth was a German-designed floating bridge in use from 1912 until a fire damaged it in 1992. Only the fifth and current Galata Bridge, with its tram tracks above, its pedestrianized deck full of shops and market spaces below, and it drawbridge section in the middle, was built by a Turkish company. In all its iterations, the Galata Bridge has become one of Istanbul's cultural reference points and major attractions as well — not that having been designed by Leonardo would have hurt its image any.

via MIT News/Popular Mechanics

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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.

Yo-Yo Ma Performs the First Classical Piece He Ever Learned: Take a 12-Minute Mental Health Break and Watch His Moving “Tiny Desk” Concert

For those who feel their enjoyment of J.S. Bach’s gorgeous Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1 in G major has been undercut rather than enhanced by its frequent TV and film appearancesYo-Yo Ma’s 2018 NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert is a tonic.

As he explains above, the prelude was the first piece he learned as a beginning four-year-old cellist, adding one measure per day, an incremental approach he recommends.

He and the 300-some-year-old composition have done well by each other throughout a relationship spanning nearly six decades.

His first recording of the Suites, in 1983, resulted in his first Grammy.

Currently, he’s wrapping up the Bach Project, playing the Suites in 36 iconic locations around the world, believing that Bach has a unique ability to unite humans and inspire collaboration, especially in “a time when our civic conversation is so often focused on division.”

The legendary cellist’s unassuming, friendly demeanor is also a unifier, well suited to the informality of the Tiny Desk Concerts.

(Producer Tom Huizenga—a non-cellist—recounts how Ma passed him his bow, along with a 1712 Stradivarius, encouraging him to “play something.”)

Music is a clearly a major part of Ma’s DNA, and also the way in which he experiences the circle of life. He introduces the Sarabande as the heart of the suite, telling how he played it at two friends’ weddings and then again at their memorial services, illustrating the ways in which music is a cumulative emotional proposition.

As he told NPR's Mary Louise Kelly immediately following his performance:

You try and transcend technique to get to what you think is there. Instead of saying, "Here are these notes and this is difficult and I'm going to try and nail it," you try to express it.

With the sand quickly slipping through the hourglass of his 12-minute performance, he treats his audience to Bach’s tiny, populist Gigue.

Set List:

J.S. Bach: "Prelude (from Suite No. 1 for Solo Cello)"

J.S. Bach: "Sarabande (from Suite No. 6 for Solo Cello)"

J.S. Bach: "Gigue (from Suite No. 3 for Solo Cello)"

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Yo-Yo Ma & The Goat Rodeo Sessions

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, November 4 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Louise Jordan Miln’s “Wooings and Weddings in Many Climes (1900). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Why Should We Read Dante’s Divine Comedy? An Animated Video Makes the Case

Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century Divine Comedy is revered for the force of its imagery, its innovative terza rima and bold use of the vernacular, its creative interpretation of medieval Catholic doctrine, its ferocious political satire...

And the poignant autobiography the poet weaves throughout the story. The epic is animated by Dante's own romantic longing and his bitter disillusionment with life. He paints himself in the first stanza as overcome by middle-aged bewilderment. Robert Durling’s translation renders the first lines thus:

In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to
myself in a dark wood, for the straight way was lost.

He is already adrift when Virgil turns up to guide him to the famously inscribed gates of hell—“Abandon all hope ye who enter here.”

The grim descent “sets into motion what is perhaps the greatest love story ever told,” says the TED-Ed video above, scripted by Sheila Marie Orfano and animated by Tomás Pichardo-Espaillat. Dante takes this epic journey with two muses, Virgil, then Beatrice, who guides him through Paradise, a figure drawn from an unrequited obsession the poet harbored for a woman named Beatrice Portinari.

Dante turned his crush into a muse, and transformed desire into chaste religious allegory. He turned his hatred of church and state corruption, however, into gleeful revenge fantasy, torturing a number of people still very much alive at the time of his writing. A member of the White Guelphs, a Florentine faction that pushed back against Roman influence, Dante fought fiercely opposed the Black Guelphs, a group loyal to the Pope. He was eventually exiled from Florence, but not silenced.

“Dishonored and with little hope of return,” he “freely aired his grievances” in the Divine Comedy, writing in Italian, rather than Latin, to ensure “the widest possible audience.” His readers at the time would have picked up on the references. Now, we need hundreds of notes to explain the full context. We should also know some salient facts about the poet: a life of political battle and religious devotion, an imaginative literary love affair with a woman he supposedly met twice; a thwarted desire for justice and vengeance and an obsession with integrity.

We do not need extensive notes and critical essays to feel the force of Dante’s language, just as we do not need to believe in the Divine Comedys religion. Like all great epic poetry, its metaphysical themes amplify profoundly human emotional journeys.

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

Treasures in the Trash: A Secret Museum Inside a New York City Department of Sanitation Garage

Like many New Yorkers, retired sanitation worker Nelson Molina has a keen interest in his fellow citizens' discards.

But whereas others risk bedbugs for the occasional curbside score or dumpster dive as an enviro-political act, Molina’s interest is couched in the curatorial.

The bulk of his collection was amassed between 1981 and 2015, while he was on active duty in Carnegie Hill and East Harlem, collecting garbage in an area bordered by 96th Street, Fifth Avenue, 106th Street, and First Avenue.

At the end of every shift, he stashed the day’s finds at the garage. With the support of his coworkers and higher ups, his hobby crept beyond the confines of his personal area, filling the locker room, and eventually expanding across the massive second floor of Manhattan East Sanitation Garage Number 11, at which point it was declared an unofficial museum with the unconventional name of Treasures in the Trash.

Because the museum is situated inside a working garage, visitors can only access the collection during infrequent, specially arranged tours. Hunter College’s East Harlem gallery and the City Reliquary have hosted traveling exhibits.

The Foundation for New York’s Strongest (a nickname originally conferred on the Department of Sanitation's football team) is raising funds for an offsite museum to showcase Molina’s 45,000+ treasures, along with exhibits dedicated to “DSNY’s rich history.”

Molina’s former coworkers marvel at his unerring instinct for knowing when an undistinguished-looking bag of refuse contains an object worth saving, from autographed baseballs and books to keepsakes of a deeply personal nature, like photo albums, engraved watches, and wedding samplers.

There’s also a fair amount of seemingly disposable junk—obsolete consumer technology, fast food toys, and “collectibles” that in retrospect were mere fad. Molina displays them en masse, their sheer numbers becoming a source of wonder. That’s a lot of Pez dispensersTamagotchis, and plastic Furbees that could be cluttering up a landfill (or Ebay).

Some of the items Molina singles out for show and tell in Nicolas Heller’s documentary short, at the top, seem like they could have considerable resell value. One man’s trash, you know...

But city sanitation workers are prohibited from taking their finds home, which may explain why Department of Sanitation employees (and Molina’s wife) have embraced the museum so enthusiastically.

Even though Molina retired after raising his six kids, he continues to preside over the museum, reviewing treasures that other sanitation workers have salvaged for his approval, and deciding which merit inclusion in the collection.

Preservation is in his blood, having been raised to repair rather than discard, a practice he used to put into play at Christmas, when he would present his siblings with toys he’d rescued and resurrected.

This thrifty ethos accounts for a large part of the pleasure he takes in his collection.

As to why or how his more sentimental or historically significant artifacts wound up bagged for curbside pickup, he leaves the speculation to visitors of a more narrative bent.

Sign up for updates or make a donation to the Foundation for New York’s Strongest’s campaign to rehouse the collection in an open-to-the-public space here.

To inquire about the possibility of upcoming tours, email the NYC Department of Sanitation at

Photos of Treasures in the Trash by Ayun Halliday, © 2018

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Although she lives and works inside Nelson Molina’s former pick up zone, she has yet to see any of her discards on display. Join her in NYC on Monday, October 7 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates the art of Aubrey Beardsley. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

William Burroughs Meets Francis Bacon: See Never-Broadcast Footage (1982)

The writing of William S. Burroughs and the paintings of Francis Bacon take us into often troubling but nevertheless compelling realities we couldn't possibly glimpse any other way. Some of that effect has to do with the inimitable (if often unsuccessfully imitated) styles they developed for themselves, and some with what was going on in their unusual lives as well as the even wilder realms of their minds. And though no scholars have yet turned up a Burroughs monograph on Bacon's art, or Bacon-painted illustrations for a Burroughs novel — just imagine Naked Lunch given that treatment — those minds did meet now and again in life, starting in Morocco six decades ago.

"The two men first met in Tangiers in the 1950s when Burroughs was technically on the run for murdering his wife after a 'shooting accident' during a drunken game of William Tell," writes Dangerous Minds' Paul Gallagher. "Bacon was then in a brutal and near fatal relationship with a violent sadist called Peter Lacey who used to beat him with a leather studded belt." None other than Allen Ginsberg made the introduction between the two men, "as he thought Bacon painted the way Burroughs wrote." But Burroughs saw more differences than similarities: "Bacon and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum," he once said. "He likes middle-aged truck drivers and I like young boys. He sneers at immortality and I think it’s the one thing of importance. Of course we’re associated because of our morbid subject matter."

Bacon and Burroughs reminisce about their first meeting — what they can remember of it, anyway — in an encounter filmed by the BBC for a 1982 documentary on the writer. "Arena followed him to the home and studio of old friend Francis Bacon, where he drops in for a cup of tea and a catch up," says the BBC's site. "This meeting has never been broadcast." But you can see their conversation presented in a ten-minute edit in the video above. Gallagher notes that the camera-shy Burroughs gets into the spirit of things only when the talk turns to his favorite subjects at the time: "Jajouka" — a Moroccan village with a distinct musical tradition — "Mayans, and immortality." Bacon, "waspish, bitchy, gleeful like a naughty schoolboy," throws out barbs left and right about his fellow artists and Burroughs' fellow writers.

Bacon also recalls his and Burroughs' "mutual friendship with Jane and Paul Bowles," the famously bohemian married couple known for their writing as well as their expat life in Morocco, "going on to discuss Jane Bowles’ mental decline and the tragedy of her last years being tended to by nuns, a situation which Bacon thought ghastly. Ironically, Bacon died just over a decade later being tended to by nuns after becoming ill in Spain (an asthma attack)." Even the most knowledgable fans of Burroughs, Bacon, and all the illustrious figures in their worldwide circles surely don't know the half of what happened when they got together. And though this ten-minute chat adds little concrete information to the record, it still gets us imagining what all these artistic associations might have been like — firing up our imaginations being the strong suit of creators like Bacon and Burroughs, even decades after they've left us to our own reality.

via Dangerous Minds

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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.

H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds Becomes a New BBC Miniseries Set in Edwardian England

H.G. Wells began writing the novel that would become The War of the Worlds in the England of the mid-1890s. As a setting for this tale of invasion from outer space, he chose the place he knew best: England of the mid-1890s. Staging spectacles of unfathomable malice and fantastical destruction against such an ordinary backdrop made The War of the Worlds, first as a magazine serial and then as a standalone book, a chillingly compelling experience for its readers. Orson Welles understood the effectiveness of that choice, as evidenced by the fact that in his famously convincing 1938 radio adaptation of Wells' novel, the hostile aliens land in modern-day New Jersey.

Subsequent adaptations have followed the same principle: in 1953, the first War of the Worlds Hollywood film set the action in 1950s Los Angeles; the latest, a Steven Spielberg-directed Tom Cruise vehicle that came out in 2005, set it in the New York and Boston of the 2000s. But now, set to premiere later this year on BBC One, we have a three-part miniseries that returns the story to the place and time in which Wells originally envisioned it — or rather, the place and very nearly the time. Shot in Liverpool, the production recreates not the Victorian England in which The War of the Worlds was first published but the brief Edwardian period, lasting roughly the first decade of the 20th century, that followed it.

In a way, a period War of the Worlds reflects our time as clearly as the previous War of the Worlds adaptations reflect theirs: television viewers of the 2010s have shown a surprisingly hearty appetite for historical drama, and often British historical drama at that. Think of the success earlier this decade of Downton Abbey, whose upstairs-downstairs dynamics proved gripping even for those not steeped in the British class system. This latest War of the Worlds, whose trailer you can watch at the top of the post, uses similar themes, telling the story of a man and woman who dare to be together despite their class differences — and, of course, amid an alien invasion that threatens to destroy the Earth. It remains to be seen whether the miniseries will rise to the central challenge of adapting The War of the Worlds: will the emotions at the center of the story be as convincing as the mayhem surrounding them?

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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.

How Grace Slick Wrote “White Rabbit”: The 1960s Classic Inspired by LSD, Lewis Carroll, Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain, and Hypocritical Parents

I never know what to do with the fact that Jefferson Airplane became Jefferson Starship became Starship—purveyors of “We Built This City,” a “barnacle made of synthesizers and cocaine,” writes GQ, and an honored guest on worst-of lists everywhere. (Also a song co-written by none other than Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin).

It might seem peevish to get so worked up over how bad “We Built this City” is, if it didn’t derive from the legacy of one of the best bands of the 1960s. Even Grace Slick disavows it. “This is not me,” she says.

Of course, by 1985, all of Slick’s best collaborators—the great Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Cassidy, Paul Kantner, Marty Balen, Spencer Dryden, et al.—had moved on, and it was that volatile collection of musical personalities that made psych rock classics like “Somebody to Love” and the slinky, druggy, Lewis Carroll-inspired bolero “White Rabbit” so essential.

Grace Slick is a great singer and songwriter, but she needed a band as uncannily talented as Jefferson Airplane to fully realize her eccentric vision, such as the acid rock song about drug references in Alice in Wonderland, played in the style of Spanish folk music and Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain.

Before she wrote "White Rabbit," Slick dropped acid and listened to Davis’ jazz/folk/classical experiment “over and over for hours,” she told The Wall Street Journal in 2016. “Sketches of Spain was drilled into my head and came squirting out in various ways as I wrote ‘White Rabbit.’”

No lesser band could have taken this swirl of influences and turned into what the Polyphonic video at the top calls a distillation of the entire era. But “White Rabbit” didn’t always have the perfectly executed intensity we know from 1967’s Surrealistic Pillow and Jefferson Airplane’s commanding performance at Woodstock (above).

In 1965, LSD was still legal. Grace Slick was working, she tells WSJ, “as a couture model at I. Magnin in San Francisco.” Before signing on as the singer for Jefferson Airplane, she formed The Great Society with her then-husband Jerry Slick. She wrote “White Rabbit” for that ensemble and the band first performed it “in early ’66,” she says, “at a dive bar on Broadway in San Francisco.”

Below, you can hear a 6-minute live version of The Great Society’s “White Rabbit.” It’s unrecognizable until Slick starts to sing over four minutes into the song. We are not likely to be reminded of Miles Davis. But when Slick brought “White Rabbit” to Jefferson Airplane, as the Polyphonic video demonstrates, they realized its full potential, references to Sketches of Spain and all.

Recorded in 1966, the single “kicked off” the following year’s Summer of Love, “celebrating the growing psychedelic culture” and freaking out parents, who passionately hated “White Rabbit.” These were the very people Slick wanted to pay attention. “I always felt like a good-looking schoolteacher singing 'White Rabbit,'" she says. "I sang the words slowly and precisely, so the people who needed to hear them wouldn’t miss the point. But they did.”

Slick’s own parents were a little freaked out when she started her first band, after an interview she gave the San Francisco Chronicle got back to them. “I argued in favor of marijuana and LSD,” she says. “It was painful for them, I’m sure, but I didn’t care whether they minded. Parents were criticizing a generation’s choices while sitting there with their glasses of scotch.” They were also regularly popping pills, although "the ones the mother gives you," she sang, "don't do anything at all."

“To this day,” she says, “I don’t think most people realize the song was aimed at parents who drank and told their kids not to do drugs. I felt they were full of crap, but write a good song, you need a few more words than that.” And to turn a good song into an instant classic, you need a band like Jefferson Airplane.

Related Content:

Listen to Grace Slick’s Hair-Raising Vocals in the Isolated Track for “White Rabbit” (1967)

Jefferson Airplane Plays on a New York Rooftop; Jean-Luc Godard Captures It (1968)

Dick Clark Introduces Jefferson Airplane & the Sounds of Psychedelic San Francisco to America: Yes Parents, You Should Be Afraid (1967)

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

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