800 Illuminated Medieval Manuscripts Are Now Online: Browse & Download Them Courtesy of the British Library and Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Buried Giant begins with an immersive depiction of what it might have been like to live in a European village during the middle ages. Or what it might feel like for us moderns, at least. The couple at the center of the story spends several pages fretting over the loss of a candle, their only one. Without it, their nights are pitch black. In the day, they wander in a fog, unable to remember anything. Though the cause of this turns out to be dark magic, one can’t help thinking that a smartphone would immediately solve all their problems.

This was a time not only before mobile video, but when images of any kind were scarce, when every book was painstakingly copied by hand in careful, elegant script. Many of those rare, scribal copies were not illustrated, they were “illuminated.” Their pages shone out into the darkness and fog. Most of the population could not read them, but they could, in rare instances when they might catch a glimpse, be deeply moved by the colorful, stylized images and lettering.

For the intellectual classes, illumination constituted a language of its own, framing and interpreting medical, classical, and legal texts, gospels and works by the church fathers. Not all books received this treatment but the “most luxurious,” notes the British Library, were “literally ‘lit up’ by decorations and pictures in brightly coloured pigments and burnished gold leaf.” For centuries, despite the explosion of image-making technologies of every kind, most of us, unless we were scholars or aristocrats, were in the same position vis-à-vis these stunning artifacts as the average medieval peasant. Medieval manuscripts were locked away in rare book rooms and seen by very few.

The situation has changed dramatically as libraries digitize their holdings. Last November, hundreds more rare, valuable medieval manuscripts became available to everyone when the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France launched a joint project, making “800 manuscripts decorated before the year 1200 available freely” online, as the BL blog announced in 2016. Both institutions provided 400 manuscripts each for digitization. Some of these are currently on display at the wildly popular, sold-out British Library exhibition Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War. Now they are also virtual public property, as it were, thanks to a grant from the Polonsky Foundation.

That these fragile artifacts have been so inaccessible, kept under glass and well away from insects, thieves, and vandals, now means they are in a condition to be digitally copied and uploaded in high resolution for close viewing, comparison, and careful study. Medievalists.net describes the complementary websites the two libraries have launched:

The first, France-England: medieval manuscripts between 700 and 1200, has been created by the Bibliothèque nationale de France based on the Gallica marque blanche infrastructure, using the IIIF standard and Mirador viewer to make the images held by the different institutions interoperable and enable them to be compared side-by-side within the same digital library or annotated. The second website, Medieval England and France, 700-1200, is aimed at a wider public audience, and has been developed by the British Library to showcase a selection of manuscripts as well as articles, essays and video clips.

The French site has ports of entry according to theme, author, place, and century, and many links to resources for scholars. The British Library site features curated selections, introduced by accessible articles. Laypeople with little experience studying medieval manuscripts can learn about legal, medical, and musical texts, see how the writings of the church fathers received special attention in monastic culture, and learn how manuscripts circulated before 1200. Those who know what they are looking for can conduct advanced searches at the Medieval Manuscripts site, and download a full list of all 800 manuscripts here.

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

When Fred Rogers and Francois Clemmons Broke Down Race Barriers on a Historic Episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1969)

Last year’s Fred Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, propelled François Clemmons—better known to generations of Mister Rogers Neighborhood viewers as Officer Clemmons—back into the international spotlight.

One of the most striking anecdotes in the doc concerns a 1969 episode in which Mister Rogers, who was white, invited Officer Clemmons, who is black, to join him in soaking his bare feet in a backyard baby pool on a hot summer’s day.

It was one of those giant leaps for mankind moments that passes itself off as a homey, fairly unremarkable step, though as Clemmons told his friend Karl Lindholm in a StoryCorps interview, Rogers understood the powerful message this gesture would send.

Likewise, his choice of Clemmons to embody a friendly cop for his television neighborhood, a part Clemmons, who played the role for 30 years, was initially hesitant to accept:

Fred came to me and said, “I have this idea, you could be a police officer.” That kind of stopped me in my tracks. I grew up in the ghetto. I did not have a positive opinion of police officers. Policemen were sicking police dogs and water hoses on people. And I really had a hard time putting myself in that role. So I was not excited about being Officer Clemmons at all.

Rogers, who had met Clemmons in a Pittsburgh area church where the trained opera singer was performing, prevailed, stressing the impact such a positive portrayal of a black authority figure could have on the community.

Officer Clemmons, the first recurring black character on a children’s series, paved the way for the multiracial casts of Sesame Street and The Electric Company, also on PBS.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a song can also pack quite a wallop. It’s hard not to get choked up hearing Clemmons sing “There Are Many Ways to Say I Love You,” above, a tune he reprised in 1993, for his final appearance on the show, below.

Such sentiments are a natural fit in programs aimed at the preschool crowd, whose love of their families is reinforced at every turn, but it’s still unusual to see these feelings articulated so purely when the only people in sight are grown men.

Clemmons learned not to doubt Roger’s sincerity when he said, “I like you just the way you are.”

And Rogers grew to accept his friend’s sexual orientation, though this embrace came a bit less naturally. In an interview with Vanity Fair’s Chris Azzopardi, Clemmons was philosophical, recalling his “surrogate father’s” request to steer clear of gay clubs so as not to endanger the show’s wholesome image:

Sacrifice was a part of my destiny. In other words, I did not want to be a shame to my race. I didn’t want to be a scandal to the show. I didn’t want to hurt the man who was giving me so much, and I also knew the value as a black performer of having this show, this platform. Black actors and actresses—SAG and Equity—90 percent of them are not working. If you know that and here you are, on a national platform you’re gonna sabotage yourself?

I weighed this thing, the pros and the cons. And I thought, I not only have a national platform, I’m getting paid. I was also getting a promotion that I simply could not have afforded to pay for. Every time I did the show, and every time Fred took us across the country to do three, four, five personal appearances, my name was being written into somebody’s heart—some little kid who would grow up and say, “Oh, I remember him, I remember that he could sing, I remember that he was on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” I didn’t have the money to pay for that, but I was getting it free. There were so many things that I got back for that sacrifice that I kept my big mouth shut, kept my head down, kept my shoulder to the plough.

Students at Middlebury College, where Clemmons was a long time faculty presence, were well acquainted with the self-proclaimed “Divaman’s”’ flamboyant side:

Clemmons has added color and soul to the Middlebury College scene for nearly 25 years. As Alexander Twilight Artist in Residence and director of the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir, he is known by many names: the divo, the maestro, the reverend, doctor-madam-honey-man, sportin’ life, and even black magic. He has played the role of professor, choirmaster, resident vocal soloist, advisor, confidant, and community cheerleader. Yet his purpose is singular: to share hope through song.

Listen to StoryCorps podcast episode #462 about Mister Rogers’ and Francois Clemmons’ famous foot bath, as well as an incident that took place five years prior where protesters staged a “wade in” at the “Whites Only” pool at St. Augustine, Florida’s Monson Motor Lodge.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City on March 11 as host of  Theater of the Apes book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Lucille Ball Demos a Precursor to Peter Frampton’s “Talk Box” (1939)

Decades before Peter Frampton made the Talk Box come alive on songs like "Do You Feel Like We Do" and "Show Me the Way," another legend, Lucille Ball, experimented with its forerunner, the Sonovox. Invented by Gilbert Wright in 1939, the Sonovox "used speakers pressed into [a performer's] throat to produce mechanical talking sounds." And the sounds could then be modulated by the tongue and lips.  Above, in a 1939 newsreel clip called "Machine Made Voices!," Ball puts the Sonovox on display. This marked one of her earliest appearances on film.

The Sonovox would later feature prominently in radio station IDs and jingles. Bela Lugosi would use it to "portray the voice of a dead person during a seance." And it would even make an appearance on The Who's 1967 album, The Who Sell Out--all before the modern Talk Box arrived on the scene.

via BoingBoing

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Watch the Trailers for Tolkien and Catch-22, Two New Literary Films

For decades, fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings wondered if the books could ever become a film. The Beatles and John Boorman both tried to get adaptations off the ground in the 1960s and 70s, and animator Ralph Bakshi came up with his own cinematic interpretation, if only a partial one, in 1978. But now we live in a world rich with Lord of the Rings and Lord of the Rings-related material on film, thanks to the efforts of director Peter Jackson and his collaborators on not just the adaptations of The Fellowship of the RingThe Two Towers, and The Return of the King, but three whole feature films bringing the relatively brief tale The Hobbit to the screen.

What remains for the Tolkien-inspired filmmaker today? None, so far, have proven brave enough to take on the likes of The Silmarillion, the forbiddingly mythopoeic work published a few years after the writer's death. But the Finnish director Dome Karukoski, whose last picture told the story of male-erotica illustrator Tom of Finland, has found material in the writer's life.

Going by the trailer above, Tolkien deals not just with the writing of The Lord of the Rings, described by star Nicholas Hoult as "a story about journeys, the journeys we take to prove ourselves," about "adventures" and "potent magic, magic beyond anything anyone has ever felt before."

It's also, says Hoult-as-Tolkien, a story about "what it means to love, and to be loved." That fits with another apparent storyline of Tolkien itself, that of the man who dreamed up Middle-Earth's relationship with Edith Bratt, the girl he met as a teenager who would become his wife — not long after which he received the letter summoning him to France to fight in the First World War, where he managed to survive the Battle of the Somme. An equally skilled writer of another temperament might have produced an enduring novel of the war, but Tolkien, as his generations of readers know, went in another direction entirely. A generation later, Joseph Heller proved to be that skilled writer of a different temperament, and sixteen years after coming back from the Second World War, he produced Catch-22.

Heller's novel has also made it to the screen a few times: Mike Nichols directed a feature-film adaptation in 1970, the pilot for a television series aired three years later, and now we await a Catch-22 miniseries that will air on Hulu this May. Christopher Abbott stars as Captain John Yossarian, the hapless bombardier with no aim in the war but to stay out of harm's way, and George Clooney (also one of the series' directors) as Lieutenant Scheisskopf, one of the book's cast of highly memorable minor characters. The series' six episodes should accommodate more of that cast — and more of the forms Heller's elaborate satire takes in the novel — than a movie can. If, as a result, you need to consult Heller's large-format handwritten outline for the book, by all means do — and have a look at Tolkien's annotated map of Middle-Earth while you're at it.

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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.

A Six-Hour Time-Stretched Version of Brian Eno’s Music For Airports: Meditate, Relax, Study

Writing in his 1995 diary about his seminal ambient album Music for Airports, Eno remembered his initial thoughts going into it: “I want to make a kind of music that prepares you for dying--that doesn’t get all bright and cheerful and pretend you’re not a little apprehensive, but which makes you say to yourself, ‘Actually, it’s not that big a deal if I die.’”

Created in 1978 from seconds-long tape loops from a much longer improv session with musicians including Robert Wyatt, Music for Airports started the idea of slow, mediative music that abandoned typical major and minor scales, brought in melodic ambiguity, and began the exploration of sounds that were designed to exist somewhere in the background, beyond the scope of full attention.

For those who think 50 minutes is too short and those piano notes too recognizable, may we suggest this 6-hour, time-stretched version of the album, created by YouTube user “Slow Motion TV.” The tonal field is the same, but now the notes are no attack, all decay. It’s granular as hell, but you could imagine the whole piece unspooling unnoticed in a terminal while a flight is delayed for the third time. (Maybe that’s when the acceptance of death happens, when you’ve given up on ever getting home?)

Unlike Music for Films, which featured several tracks Eno had given to filmmakers like Derek Jarman, it took some time for Music for Airports to be realized in its intended location: being piped in at a terminal at La Guardia, New York, sometime in the 1980s. And that was just a one-time thing.

The album seemed destined for personal use only, but then in 1997 the modern ensemble Bang on a Can played it live, translating the randomness of out of sync tape loops into music notation. Over the years they’ve performed it at airports in Brussels, Holland and Liverpool, and in 2015 the group brought it to Terminal 2 of San Diego International. Writing for KCET, Alex Zaragoza reported that “crying babies, echoes of rolling suitcases and boarding passes serving as tickets to the concert failed to remind anyone that they were, indeed, at one of the busiest airports in the country. Even the telltale announcements were there: Airport security is everyone's responsibility. Do not leave bags unattended.”

And then in 2018, London City Airport played the original album in a day-long long loop for the album’s 40th anniversary.

As site-specific multi-media art builds popularity in the 21st century with increasingly cheaper and smaller technology, we might hope to hear ambient drones, and not classic rock or pop, in more and more landscapes.

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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.

10 Tips on How to Write a Great Screenplay from Billy Wilder: Pearls of Wisdom from the Director of Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, Double Indemnity & More

Image via Wikimedia Commons

There's an old story -- Orson Welles called it "the greatest Hollywood one-liner ever made" -- that when someone attending the 1958 funeral of Harry Cohn, the fearsome president of Columbia Pictures, asked how it was possible that such a huge crowd would show up for Cohn's funeral, Billy Wilder quipped: "Well, give the people what they want."

The story is almost certainly apocryphal. The line may have been spoken by someone else, at a different Hollywood mogul's funeral. But the fact that it is so often attributed to Wilder says something about his reputation as a man with a razor-sharp wit and a firm grasp of the imperatives of popular movie-making. In films like Sunset Boulevard, Some Like it Hot, Double Indemnity and Sabrina, Wilder used his formidable craft as a director to tell stories in a clear and efficient way. It was an ethic he picked up as a screenwriter.

Wilder was born in Austria-Hungary and moved as a young man to Germany, where he worked as a newspaper reporter. In the late 1920s he began writing screenplays for the German film industry, but he fled the country soon after Adolf Hitler became chancellor in 1933. Wilder made his way to Hollywood, where he continued to write screenplays. He co-wrote a number of successful films in the 30s, including Ninotchka, Hold Back the Dawn and Ball of Fire. In the early 40s he got his first chance to direct a Hollywood movie, and a long string of hits followed. In 1960 he won three Academy Awards for producing, writing and directing The Apartment.

Wilder was 90 years old when the young director Cameron Crowe approached him in 1996 about playing a small role in Jerry Maguire. Wilder said no, but the two men formed a friendship. Over the next several years they talked extensively about filmmaking, and in 1999 Crowe published Conversations with Wilder. One of the book's highlights is a list of ten screenwriting tips by Wilder. "I know a lot of people that have already Xeroxed that list and put it by their typewriter," Crowe said in a 1999 NPR interview. "And, you know, there's no better film school really than listening to what Billy Wilder says."

Here are Wilder's ten rules of good filmmaking:

1: The audience is fickle.
2: Grab 'em by the throat and never let 'em go.
3: Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.
4: Know where you're going.
5: The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
6: If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.
7: A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They'll love you forever.
8: In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they're seeing.
9: The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.
10: The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then -- that's it. Don't hang around.

Note: Readers might also be interested in Wilder's 1996 Paris Review interview. It's called The Art of of Screenwriting.

An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in August 2013.

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Hear Neil Gaiman Read Aloud 15 of His Own Works, and Works by 6 Other Great Writers: From The Graveyard Book & Coraline, to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven & Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Neil Gaiman is a storyteller. That title encompasses quite a few pursuits, most of which seemingly involve writing — writing novels, writing radio dramas, writing comic books — but he also occasionally tells stories the old-fashioned way: speaking aloud, and to an audience of rapt listeners. Traditionally, such storytelling happened in a circle around the campfire, but as a storyteller of the 21st century — albeit a master of timeless techniques who uses those techniques to deal with timeless themes — Gaiman can tell stories to the entire world. Today we've gathered all of Gaiman's streamable readings, both video and audio, in one place.

Nearly every type of text at which he has tried his hand appears in this collection, from novels (The Graveyard Book) to novellas (Coraline) to poetry ("Instructions," above) to manifestos ("Making Good Art"). Suitable as his voice and delivery are to his own work, Gaiman's live storytelling talent also extends to the works of others, as you'll find out if you listen to the selections on the second list below.

The material varies widely, from nonsense or near-nonsense poetry like Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham and Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" to the work of his friend Ursula K. Le Guin to a classic like Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," whose Gothic atmosphere will no doubt appeal to Gaiman's fans.

And Gaiman certainly has his fair share of fans. If you already count yourself in that group, you'll need little convincing to do a binge-listen of his readings here. But if you aren't yet familiar with Gaiman's work in all its various forms, you might consider using these pieces of video and audio as an entryway into his narrative world, with its emotional chiaroscuro, it modern-day mythology, and its unflagging sense of humor. There's plenty of Neil Gaiman out there to read, of course, but with his style of storytelling, sometimes he must simply be heard — if not around an actual campfire, then on that largest campfire ever created, the internet. These texts will be added to our list, 900 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.

His own work
Works by others

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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.

Women’s Hidden Contributions to Modern Genetics Get Revealed by New Study: No Longer Will They Be Buried in the Footnotes

It’s too easy, when our historical knowledge is limited, to mistake effects for causes, to fall for just-so stories that naturalize and perpetuate inequality. Many of us may have only recently learned, for example, that the moon landing would not have been possible without mathematician Katherine Johnson and her Hidden Figures colleagues, or that the Hubble telescope would not have been possible without astronomer Nancy G. Roman (now immortalized in LEGO). Prior to this knowledge, we might have been led to believe that women had little to do with humankind’s first leaps into outer space, to the surface of the moon, and beyond.

Cornell University historian of science Margaret Rossiter has called this phenomenon “the Matilda effect,” after an 1893 essay by suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage. Rossiter spent years trying to counter the dominant narratives that leave out women in science with a multi-volume scholarly history. Counter-narratives like hers now appear regularly online. And popular media like the book, then film, Hidden Figures have inspired other academics to drill into the history of their fields, find the women who have been ignored, and try to understand the how and why.

When Brown University’s Emilia Huerta-Sánchez and San Francisco State University’s Rori Rohlfs saw Hidden Figures, they decided to research their specialization, theoretical population genetics. It may not be as glamorous as space travel, and their research may not become a Hollywood film or LEGO set, but the results they unearthed are revelatory and important. During the 1970s, for example, “a pivotal time for the field of population genetics,” notes Ed Yong at The Atlantic, the two researchers and their team of undergraduates found that “women accounted for 59 percent of acknowledged programmers, but just 7 percent of actual authors.”

Those women were scientists doing “crucial work,” writes Yong. One programmer, Margaret Wu, created a statistical tool still regularly used to calculate optimal genetic diversity. Her model appeared in a 1975 paper and is now known as the Watterson estimator, after the “one and only" named author, G.A. Watterson. "The paper has been cited 3,400 times.” Today, “if a scientist did all the programming for a study, she would expect to be listed as an author.” But the practice only began to change in the 1980s, when “programming began changing from a ‘pink collar’ job, done largely by low-paid women, to the male-dominated profession it remains today.”

The marginalization of female programmers during some of the field’s most productive years—their relegation to literal footnotes in history—has created the impression, as Huerta- Sánchez, Rohlfs, and their co-authors write, that “this research was conducted by a relatively small number of independent individual scientists nearly all of whom were men.” See a summary of the authors' findings in the video above. To obtain their results, they combed through every issue of the journal Theoretical Population Biology—nearly 900 papers—then pulled out “every name in the acknowledgments, worked out whether they did any programming, and deduced their genders where possible.”

The study, published in the latest issue of Genetics does not comprehensively survey the entire field, nor does it definitively show that every programmer who contributed to a paper did so substantively enough to warrant authorship. But it does not need to do these things. The disparities between named authors and marginally acknowledged scientific laborers in a major journal in the field calls for an explanation beyond selection bias or chance. The explanation of systemic bias not only has the benefit of being well-supported by a huge aggregate of data across the sciences, but it also presents us with a situation that can be changed when the problems are widely seen and acknowledged.

The study's results "dispel the misconception that women weren't participating in science," the researchers point out in their video, and they suggest that a significant number of women in genetics weren't given the credit they deserved. Huerta- Sánchez and Rohlfs walk their talk. The undergraduate researchers who worked on "Illuminating Women's Hidden Contribution to Historical Theoretical Population Genetics" are all named as authors in the paper, so that their contributions to writing a new history of their field can be recognized.

via The Atlantic

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

Hear Siouxsie Sioux’s Powerful Isolated Vocals on “The Killing Jar,” “Hong Kong Garden,” “Cities In Dust” & “Kiss Them for Me”

Like hundreds of other teenagers in late seventies England, Susan Ballion, better known as Siouxsie Sioux, embraced the anyone-can-do-it-ness of punk after seeing the Sex Pistols. In 1976, already a tastemaker in the scene, she threw a band together with Sid Vicious on drums, and with no practice, or even any songs, they got onstage, and improvised a 20-minute rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer.” There launched the career of a post-punk, dark pop legend, spanning that first anarchic gig, the infamous Bill Grundy TV appearance, some of the most influential British rock of the late-70s and 80s, and major tours and hits throughout the last three decades.

Despite the awards, star collaborations, and multi-generational influence, Siouxsie’s striking musical talent has often been given short shrift in the U.S. press. For example, a 1992 Los Angeles Times concert write-up after the release of her biggest U.S. hit, “Kiss Them for Me,” cast her as “the leader of a cult of weird chicks,” writes Liz Ohnanesian at Noisey, “in a review that spent five paragraphs on her looks and a whopping two on the music.” Maybe, “at that point, the band was used to that.” But it’s a serious oversight.

“Much has been written about the vocal range of artists like Freddie Mercury,” Dangerous Minds points out, “but not so much on the equally brilliant Siouxsie Sioux.” If the comparison seems stretched, consider another one: Kate Bush.

Though very different artists, both released debut albums in 1978 and became style icons who are as influential for their look as for their vocal prowess. Siouxsie, whose voice “developed from spiky, punky vocals to rich, powerful, and glorious textured tones… can hit the high notes and bring an unnerving warmth and menace to her lower range.”

With Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Creatures, and in her solo work, she has given cool, icy voice to gothic sentiments and images, conveying ache and fear and brutal beauty. In the videos here, listen to Siouxsie’s isolated vocals from 1988’s “The Killing Jar” (hear the original right above), an excellent example of “just how good she is.” Above, also hear her vocal track from “Hong Kong Garden,” her 1978 debut single, and “arguably the most important of the early post-punk hits,” writes Robert Webb at The Independent.

Listen to her sing 1985’s “Cities in Dust,” about the destruction of Pompeii, and below, hear “Kiss Them for Me,” a cryptic tribute to actress Jayne Mansfield and a song that made a new generation of Siouxsie and the Banshees fans when it came out in 1991. Siouxsie has attracted a newly devoted fanbase every decade since the 70s for her style, songwriting, and her voice, an instrument that deserves greater attention.

“These days,” she said in a 2007 interview, the legacy of punk has “almost been reduced to a fashion statement. I think there’s been a false sense of empowerment for women” in music. “Almost as if there’s that ever-present preoccupation with body form and image… not about expressing any style or intent.” Young artists looking for genuine inspiration will always find the real thing in Siouxsie’s impressive body of work.

via Dangerous Minds

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

“Odyssey of the Ear”: A Beautiful Animation Shows How Sounds Travel Into Our Ears and Become Thoughts in Our Brain

As all schoolchildren know, we hear with our ears. And as all schoolchildren also probably know, we hear with our brains — or if they don't know it, at least they must suspect it, given the way sounds around us seem to turn without effort into thoughts in our heads. But how? It's the interface between ear and brain where things get more complicated, but "Odyssey of the Ear," the six-minute video above, makes it much clearer just how sound gets through our ears and into our brains. Suitable for viewers of nearly any age, it combines silhouette animation (of the kind pioneered by Lotte Reiniger) with live action, projection, and even dance.

According to the video, which was originally produced as part of HarvardX's Fundamentals of Neuroscience course, the process works something like this. Our outer ear collects sounds from our environment when things vibrate in the physical world, producing variations in air pressure, or "sound waves" that pass through the air.

The sound waves enter the ear and pass down through the auditory canal, at the end of which they hit the ear drum. The ear drum transfers the vibrations of the sound waves to a "series of little bones," three of them, called the ossicles, or "hammer, anvil, and stirrup." These transmit the sounds to the fluid-filled inner ear through a membrane called the "oval window."

Inside the inner ear is the snail-shaped organ known as the cochlea, and inside the cochlea is the organ of corti, and inside the organ of corti are "thousands of auditory hair cells," actually receptor neurons called stereocilia, that "convert the motion energy of sound waves into electrical signals that are communicated to the auditory nerve." From there, "the signal goes into structures deeper in the brain, until at last it reaches the auditory cortex, where we consciously experience sound." That conscious experience of sound may make it feel as if we immediately recognize and consider all the noises, voices, or music we hear, but as "Odyssey of the Ear" reveals, sound waves have to make quite an epic journey before they reach our brains at all. At that point the waves themselves may have dissipated, but they live on in our consciousness. In other words, "the brain has taken what was outside and made it inside."

via The Kids Should See This

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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.





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