If You Could Spend Eternity with Your Ashes Pressed Into a Vinyl Record, What Album Would It Be?

In February, Ted Mills wrote about a new company–And Vinyly–which will press your ashes into a playable vinyl record when your time eventually runs out. The basic service runs $4,000, and it gets you 30 copies of a record containing your ashes. The rub is that you can’t “use copyright-protected music to fill up the 12 minutes per side, so no ‘Free Bird’ or ‘We Are the Champions,’ unfortunately.”

But it does raise the question, as I put on Twitter yesterday… If you could head into eternity pressed into a cherished album, which would you choose? This isn’t necessarily a what-record-would-you-take-to-a-deserted island scenario, taken to the nth degree. Meaning, it’s not necessarily a question of what record would you listen to endlessly, for eternity (although you could choose to make it that). Rather, the question might be: What album do you have a deep, abiding personal connection with? Which record captures your spirit? And, when thrown on the turntable, can keep you sonically in this world?

My pick, Abbey Road. “Come Together” has a bit of anti-establishment bite. “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something” tap into something emotional and nostalgia-inducing for me. And, oh, that medley on Side 2! Just click play any time.

Your picks? Please add them to the comments below.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Says This Short Film on Science in America Contains Perhaps the Most Important Words He’s Ever Spoken

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has won a reputation as a genial, yet pedantic nerd, a scientific gadfly whose point of view may nearly always be technically correct, but whose mode of delivery sometimes misses the point, like someone who explains a joke. His earnestness is endearing; it’s what makes him so relatable as a science educator. He’s wholeheartedly devoted to his subject, like his boyhood hero Carl Sagan, whose shoes Tyson did his best to fill in a remake of the classic Cosmos series. Tyson’s countrymen and women, however, have made his job a lot harder than they did in Sagan’s day, when ordinary Americans were hungry for scientific information.

The change has been decades in the making. Like Sagan, Tyson’s voice fills with awe as he contemplates the mysteries of nature and wonders of science, and with alarm as he comments on widespread American ignorance and hostility to critical inquiry and the scientific method. These attitudes have led us to a crisis point. Elected and appointed officials at the highest levels of government deny the facts of climate change and are actively gutting all efforts to combat it. The House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, Space, and Technology mocks climate science on social media even as NASA announces that the evidence is “unequivocal.”

How did this happen? Are we rapidly returning, as Sagan warned before his death, to an age of “superstition and darkness”? Tyson has recently addressed these questions with earnestness and urgency in a short video called “Science in America,” which you can watch above, “containing,” he wrote on Facebook, “what may be the most important words I have ever spoken.” He opens with a statement that echoes Sagan’s dire predictions: “It seems to me that people have lost the ability to judge what is true and what is not.” The problem is not simply an academic one, but a pressingly political one: “When you have people,” says Tyson, “who don’t know much about science, standing in denial of it, and rising to power, that is a recipe for the complete dismantling of our informed democracy.”

One must ask if the issue solely comes down to education. We are frequently reminded of how much denial is motivated and willful when, for example, a government official begins a completely unsupported claim with, “I’m not a scientist, but….” We know that fossil fuel companies like Exxon have known the facts about climate change for forty years, and have hidden or misrepresented them. But the problem is even more widespread. Evolutionary biology, vaccines, GMOs… the amount of misinformation and “alternative fact” in the public sphere has drowned out the voices of scientists. “That’s not the country I remember growing up in,” Tyson laments.

There are plenty of good philosophical reasons for skepticism, such as those raised by David Hume or by critical theorists and historians who point out the ways in which scientific research has been distorted and misused for some very dark, inhumane purposes. Yet critiques of methodology, philosophy, and ethics only strengthen the scientific enterprise, which—as Tyson passionately explains—thrives on vigorous and informed debate. We cannot afford to confuse thoughtful deliberation and honest reflection with specious reasoning and willful ignorance.

I imagine we’ll have a good laugh at creative redeployments of some classic Tyson harangues. (“This is science! It’s not something to toy with!”) And a good laugh sometimes feels like all we can do to relieve the tension. The real danger is that many people will dismiss his message as “politicizing” science rather than defending the very basis of its existence. We must agree on the basis of scientific truth, as discoverable through reason and evidence, Tyson warns, before we can even get to the political questions over climate change, vaccines, etc. Whether Americans can still do that has become an unsettlingly open question.

via Big Think

Related Content:

Carl Sagan Predicts the Decline of America: Unable to Know “What’s True,” We Will Slide, “Without Noticing, Back into Superstition & Darkness” (1995)

An Animated Neil deGrasse Tyson Gives an Eloquent Defense of Science in 272 Words, the Same Length as The Gettysburg Address

Neil deGrasse Tyson Remembers His First Meeting with Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan Issues a Chilling Warning to America in His Final Interview (1996)

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

Download 200+ Modern Art Books from the Guggenheim Museum

For at least half a decade now, New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has been digitizing its exhibition catalogs and other art books. Now you can find all of the publications made available so far — not just to read, but to download in PDF and ePub formats — at the Internet Archive. If you’ve visited the Guggenheim’s non-digital location on Fifth Avenue even once, you know how much effort the institution puts toward the preservation and presentation of modern art, and that comes through as much in its printed material as it does in its shows.

Among the more than 200 Guggenheim art books available on the Internet Archive, you’ll find one on a 1977 retrospective of Color Field painter Kenneth Noland, one on the ever-vivid icon-making pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, and one on the existential slogans — “MONEY CREATES TASTE,” “PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT,” “LACK OF CHARISMA CAN BE FATAL” — slyly, digitally inserted into the lives of thousands by Jenny Holzer. Other titles, like Expressionism, a German Intuition 1905-1920From van Gogh to Picasso, from Kandinsky to Pollock, and painter Wassily Kandinsky’s own Point and Line to Plane, go deeper into art history.

Where to start amid all these books of modern (and even some of pre-modern) art? You might consider first having a look at the books in the Internet Archive’s Guggenheim collection about the Guggenheim itself: the handbook to its collection up through 1980, for instance, or 1991’s Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection: From Picasso to Pollock, or the following year’s Guggenheim Museum A to Z, or Art of this Century: The Guggenheim Museum and its Collection from the year after that. But just as when you pay a visit to the Guggenheim itself, you shouldn’t worry too much about what order you see everything in; the important thing is to look with interest.

Explore the collection of 200+ art books and catalogues here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Robert Pirsig Reveals the Personal Journey That Led Him to Write His Counterculture Classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974)

I well remember pulling Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance from my parents’ shelves at age twelve or thirteen, working my way through a few pages, and stopping in true perplexity to ask, “what is this?” The book fit no formal scheme or genre I had ever encountered before. I understood its language, but I did not know how to read it. I still don’t, though I’ve had decades to study some of Pirsig’s references and influences, from Plato to Kant to Dōgen. Is this memoir? Fiction? Philosophy? A meditation on machinery, like Henry Adams’ strange essay “The Dynamo and the Virgin”? Yes.

Pirsig’s countercultural classic, published in 1974 after five years of rejections (121 in total) was “not… a marketing man’s dream,” as the editor at his eventual publisher, William Morrow, wrote to him at the time. Nevertheless, it sold—“50,000 copies in three months,” writes the L.A. Times, “and more than 5 million in the decades since. The dense tome has been translated into at least 27 languages…. Its popularity made Pirsig ‘probably the most widely read philosopher alive,’ one British journalist wrote in 2006.’” Pirsig, who died this past Monday, only wrote one other work, the philosophical novel Lila: An Inquiry into Morals. But he will be remembered as an important, if quixotic, figure in 20th century thought.

Zen ostensibly recounts a motorcycle journey Pirsig took with his son, Chris, and two friends. They are shadowed by another character, Phaedrus, the author’s neurotic alter ego. Pirsig poured all of himself into the book: his unorthodox philosophical and spiritual journey, his struggle with schizophrenia, his close and fretful relationship to his son (who later succumbed to drug addiction and was murdered at age 22, five years after Zen came out). It is a book “filled with unanswered and, perhaps, unanswerable questions.”

The kind of deep ambiguity and uncertainty Zen explores is not easy to write about, unsurprisingly, and in the NPR interview above from 1974, Pirsig describes his struggles as a writer—the distractions and intrusions, the self-doubt and confusion. Pirsig secluded himself for much of the writing of the book, and for much of it worked a day job writing technical manuals, which explains quite a lot about its intricate levels of technical detail.

Pirsig’s descriptions of the hard-won self-discipline (and exhaustion) that the writer’s life requires will ring true for anyone who has tried to write a book. He sums up his motivation succinctly: “this was really a compulsive book. If I didn’t do it, I’d feel worse than if I did do it.” But Pirsig found he couldn’t make any progress as a writer until he gave up trying to be “in quotes, a ‘writer,’” or play the role of one anyway. “It was always a separation of my real self from the act of writing,” he says.

His process sounds like the freewriting of Kerouac’s road novel or the automatic writing of the Surrealists: “I could almost watch my hand moving on the page; there was almost no volition one way or the other, it was just happening.” What he identifies as the “sincerity” of the book’s voice helps steady readers who must trust a very unreliable narrator to guide them through a philosophy of what Pirsig calls “quality”—a metaphysical condition that underlies religions and philosophies East and West. “One can meditate,” he wrote, “on the fact that the old English roots for the Buddha and Quality, God and good, appear to be identical.” Pirsig subjected all human endeavor to the scrutiny of “quality,” including so-called “value free” science, a characterization he found dubious.

In the BBC radio interview above, you can hear Pirsig describe his personal and intellectual journey, which took him through a troubled childhood in Minnesota, a tour in the Korean War, an academic career, and eventually a central role in the “whole attempt to reform America” begun by “beatniks” and “hippies” in San Francisco. (Both words, he wrote, were “cliches and stereotypes… invented for the antitechnologists, the antisystem people.”) Urged by a university colleague to pursue the question “what is quality?,” Pirsig undertook an obsessive investigation. His willingness and courage to follow wherever it led defined the rest of his life as a writer and thinker.

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

Watch Teeny Tiny Japanese Meals Get Made in a Miniature Kitchen: The Joy of Cooking Mini Tempura, Sashimi, Curry, Okonomiyaki & More

Every time I go to Japan, I marvel at the artificial sandwiches, omelets, bowls of noodles, and parfaits displayed outside even the humblest shopping-arcade cafés, all made to give the customer a more vivid sense of the dishes on offer than would any two-dimensional photograph. But while those fake foods, made to scale with polyvinyl chloride and other inedible materials, do reflect Japan’s long tradition of high-quality hand-craftsmanship, they don’t reflect some of the culture’s other virtues: the advanced Japanese skills of miniaturization (remarked upon by even the earliest Western visitors to the once-closed country), not to mention the deliciousness of actual Japanese food.

At a stroke, the Youtube channel Miniature Space combines all of those into a single project: its creators replicate a variety of classic Japanese, Western, and Japanese-Western dishes like shrimp tempura, curry, and okonomiyaki on video, all at what seems an impossibly small scale. Not only that, but they use only miniature kitchen tools, right down to wee knives, spatulas, and rolling pins as well as tea candle-powered stoves.

Some of these, writes iDigitalTimes’ ND Medina, “come from Re-Ment, a Japanese company noted for the impressive detail of its miniatures. However, many of the tools used have long been out of production, like anything by Konapun, a brand which made fun miniature cooking sets for kids to experience the joys of cooking.”

Miniature cooking at this level of rigor requires not just considerable manual dexterity but a certain knack for creative substitution: toothpicks instead of standard skewers, quail eggs instead of chicken eggs, special shrimp from the aquarium supply store small enough to fit inside one’s thimble-sized cooking pot. Though aesthetically satisfying on many levels and technically edible to boot, these mini-meals wouldn’t satisfy any normal human appetite. Nevertheless, watching enough Miniature Space videos in a row will almost certainly get you hungering for a regular-sized grill of yakitori, bowl of spaghetti, or plate of pancakes — and leave you with some of the know-how needed to make such dishes, even in a non-miniature kitchen.

You can view a playlist of miniature Japanese cooking here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing in a New Online Course

FYI: David Mamet, one of America’s preeminent playwrights and screenwriters, will be teaching a course on Dramatic Writing over at MasterClass this spring. Featuring 25 video lessons and a downloadable workbook, the course will take you through Mamet’s “process for turning life’s strangest moments into dramatic art. He’ll teach you the rules of drama, the nuances of dialogue, and the skills to develop your own voice and create your masterpiece.” The cost is $90. It’s not every day that you can get inside the creative process of the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of Glengarry Glen Ross. So perhaps it’s money well spent.

As we’ve previously mentioned, MasterClass has enlisted other accomplished figures to teach courses on their craft–eg, Steve Martin does comedyWerner Herzog, filmmakingAaron Sorkin, screenwritingChristina Aguilera, singing, and Frank Gehry, architecture, to name a few. You can browse their complete list of courses here. And watch a trailer for Mamet’s course above.

If you’re looking for free courses, check out our collection, 1200 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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New Film Project Features Citizens of Alabama Reading Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” a Poetic Embodiment of Democratic Ideals

In times of national anxiety, many of us take comfort in the fact that the U.S. has endured political crises even more severe than those at hand. History can be a teacher and a guide, and so too can poetry, as Walt Whitman reminds us again and again. Whitman witnessed some of the greatest upheavals and revolutionary changes the country has ever experienced: the Civil War and its aftermath, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the failure of Reconstruction, the massive industrialization of the country at the end of the 19th century….

Perhaps this is why we return to Whitman when we make what critics call a “poetic turn.” His expansive, multivalent verse speaks for us when beauty, shock, or sadness exceed the limits of everyday language. Whitman contained the nation’s warring voices, and somehow reconciled them without diluting their uniqueness. This was, indeed, his literary mission, to “create a unified whole out of disparate parts,” argues Karen Swallow Prior at The Atlantic. “For Whitman, poetry wasn’t just a vehicle for expressing political lament; it was also a political force in itself.” Poetry’s importance as a binding agent in the fractious, fragile coalition of states, meant that for Whitman, the country’s “Presidents shall not be their common referee so much as their poets shall.”

Whitman wrote as a gay man who, by the time he published the first edition of Leaves of Grass in 1855, had gone from being an “ardent Free-Soiler” to fully supporting abolition. His poetry proclaimed a “radically egalitarian vision,” writes Martin Klammer, “of an ideal, multiracial republic.” A country that was, itself, a poem. “The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem,” wrote Whitman in his preface. The nation’s contradictions inhabit us just as we inhabit them. The only way to resolve our differences, he insisted, is to embody them fully, with openness toward other people and the natural world. Understanding Whitman’s mission makes filmmaker Jennifer Crandall’s project Whitman, Alabama all the more poignant.

For two years, Crandall “crisscrossed this deep Southern state, inviting people to look into a camera and share part of themselves through the words of Walt Whitman.” To the question “Who is American?,” Crandall—just as Whitman before her—answers with a multitude of voices, weaving in and out of a collaborative reading of the epic “Song of Myself,” beginning with 97-year-old Virginia Mae Schmitt of Birmingham, at the top, who reads Whitman’s lines, “I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin / Hoping to cease not till death.” No one watching the video, Crandall remarks, should ask, “Why isn’t’ a thirty-seven year old man reading this?” To do so is to ignore Whitman’s design for the universal in the particular.

When Whitman penned the first lines of “Song of Myself,” the country had not yet “Unlimber’d” the cannons “to begin the red business,” as he would later write, but the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act had clearly lain the foundation for civil war. The poet’s many revisions, additions, and subsequent editions of Leaves of Grass after his first small run in 1855 continued until his death in 1892. He was obsessed with the hugeness and dynamism of the country and its people, in their darkest, bloodiest moments and at their most flourishing. His vision lets everyone in, without qualification, constantly rewriting itself to meet new faces in the ever-changing nation.

As Mariam Jalloh, a 14-year old Muslim girl from Guinea, recites in her short portion of the reading further up, “every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” Jollah quite literally makes Whitman’s language her own, translating into her native Fulani the line, “If they are not just as close as they are distant, they are nothing.” Jalloh “may seem like a surprising conduit for the writing of Whitman, a long-dead queer socialist poet from Brooklyn,” writes Christian Kerr at Hyperallergic, “but such incongruity is the active agent in Whitman, Alabama’s therapeutic salve.” It is also, Whitman suggested, the matrix of American democracy.

See more readings from the project above from Laura and Brandon Reeder of Cullman, the Sullivan family of Mobile, and by Demetrius Leslie and Frederick George, and Patricia Marshall and Tammy Cooper, inmates at mens’ and womens’ prisons in Montgomery. Whitman’s voice winds through these bodies and voices, settling in, finding a home, then, restless, moving on, inviting us all to join in the chorus, yet also—in its contrarian way—telling us to find our own paths. “You shall no longer take things at second or third hand….,” wrote Whitman, “nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books, / You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, / You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.”

Find many more readings at the Whitman, Alabama website. And stay tuned for new readings as they come online.

Also find works by Walt Whitman on our lists of Free Audio Books and Free eBooks.

via Hyperallergic

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

Buckminster Fuller Creates an Animated Visualization of Human Population Growth from 1000 B.C.E. to 1965

Sit back, relax, put on some music (I’ve found Chopin’s Nocturne in B major well-suited), and watch the video above, a silent data visualization by visionary architect and systems theorist Buckminster Fuller, “the James Brown of industrial design.” The short film from 1965 combines two of Fuller’s leading concerns: the exponential spread of the human population over finite masses of land and the need to revise our global perspective via the “Dymaxion map,” in order “to visualize the whole planet with greater accuracy,” as the Buckminster Fuller Institute writes, so that “we humans will be better equipped to address challenges as we face our common future aboard Spaceship Earth.”

Though you may know it best as the name of a geodesic sphere at Disney’s Epcot Center, the term Spaceship Earth originally came from Fuller, who used it to remind us of our interconnectedness and interdependence as we share resources on the only vehicle we know of that can sustain us in the cosmos.

“We are all astronauts,” he wrote in his 1969 Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, and yet we refuse to see the long-term consequences of our actions on our specialized craft: “One of the reasons why we are struggling inadequately today,” Fuller argued in his introduction, “is that we reckon our costs on too shortsighted a basis and are later overwhelmed with the unexpected costs brought about by our shortsightedness.”

Like all visionaries, Fuller thought in long spans of time, and he used his design skills to help others do so as well. His population visualization documents human growth from 1000 B.C.E. to Fuller’s present, at the time, of 1965. In the image above (see a larger version here), we have a graphic from that same year—made collaboratively with artist and sociologist John McHale—showing the “shrinking of our planet by man’s increased travel and communication speeds around the globe.” (It must be near microscopic by now.) Fuller takes an even longer view, looking at “the confluence of communication and transportation technologies,” writes Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard, “from 500,000 B.C.E. to 1965.”

Here Fuller combines his population data with the technological breakthroughs of modernity. Though he’s thought of in some quarters as a genius and in some as a kook, Fuller demonstrated his tremendous foresight in seemingly innumerable ways. But it was in the realm of design that he excelled in communicating what he saw. “Pioneers of data visualization,” Fuller and McHale were two of “the first to chart long-term trends of industrialization and globalization.” Instead of becoming alarmed and fearful of what the trends showed, Fuller got to work designing for the future, fully aware, writes the Fuller Institute that “the planet is a system, and a resilient one.”

Fuller thought like a radically inventive engineer, but he spoke and wrote like a peacenik prophet, writing that a system of narrow specializations ensures that skill sets “are not comprehended comprehensively… or they are realized only in negative ways, in new weaponry or the industrial support only of war faring.” We’ve seen this vision of society played out to a frightening extent. Fuller saw a way out, one in which everyone on the planet can live in comfort and security without consuming (then not renewing) the Earth’s resources. How can this be done? You’ll have to read Fuller’s work to find out. Meanwhile, as his visualizations suggest, it’s best for us to take the long view—and give up on short-term rewards and profits—in our assessments of the state of Spaceship Earth.

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

Milton Glaser’s 10 Rules for Life & Work: The Celebrated Designer Dispenses Wisdom Gained Over His Long Life & Career

“None of us has really the ability to understand our path until it’s over,” the celebrated graphic designer Milton Glaser muses less than a minute into the above video.

The 86-year-old Glaser’s many contributions to pop culture—the  I ❤ NY logo, the psychedelic portrait of a rainbow-haired Bob Dylan, DC Comics’ classic bullet logo—confer undeniable authority. To the outside eye, he seems to have a pretty firm handle on the path he’s been traveling for lo these many decades. Aspirant designers would do well to give extra consideration to any advice he might share.

As would the rest of us.

His “Ten Things I Have Learned,” originally delivered as part of a talk to the AIGA—a venerable membership organization for design professionals—qualifies as solid life advice of general interest.

Yes, the Internet spawns bullet-pointed tips for better living the way spring rains yield mushrooms, but Glaser, a self-described “child of modernism” who’s still a contender, does not truck in pithy Instagram-friendly aphorisms. Instead, his list is born of reflection on the various turns of a long and mostly satisfying creative career.

We’ve excerpted some of his most essential points below, and suggest that those readers who are still in training give special emphasis to number seven. Don’t place too much weight on number nine until you’ve established a solid work ethic. (See number four for more on that.)



Some years ago I realized that… all the work I had done that was meaningful and significant came out of an affectionate relationship with a client.


Here, Glaser quotes composer John CageNever have a job, because if you have a job someday someone will take it away from you and then you will be unprepared for your old age. 


Glaser recommends putting a questionable companion to a gestalt therapy test. If, after spending time with that person “you are more tired, then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy, you have been nourished. The test is almost infallible and I suggest that you use it for the rest of your life.”


Glaser concedes that a record of dependable excellence is something to look for in a brain surgeon or auto mechanic, but for those in the arts, “continuous transgression” is the quality to cultivate. Professionalism does not allow for that because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure and if you are professional your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success. 


I have an alternative to the proposition that I believe is more appropriate. ‘Just enough is more.’


Style change is usually linked to economic factors, as all of you know who have read Marx. Also fatigue occurs when people see too much of the same thing too often.


The brain is the most responsive organ of the body…. Thought changes our life and our behavior. I also believe that drawing works in the same way…. Drawing also makes you attentive. It makes you pay attention to what you are looking at, which is not so easy.


One of the signs of a damaged ego is absolute certainty. Schools encourage the idea of not compromising and defending your work at all costs. Well, the issue at work is usually all about the nature of compromise…. Ideally, making everyone win through acts of accommodation is desirable.


Glaser credits essayist Roger Rosenblatt’s Rules for Aging (misidentifying the title as Aging Gracefully) with helping him articulate his philosophy here.  It doesn’t matter what you think. It does not matter if you are late or early, if you are here or there, if you said it or didn’t say it, if you are clever or if you were stupid. If you were having a bad hair day or a no hair day or if your boss looks at you cockeyed or your boyfriend or girlfriend looks at you cockeyed, if you are cockeyed. If you don’t get that promotion or prize or house or if you do – it doesn’t matter.


It’s interesting to observe that in the new AIGA’s code of ethics there is a significant amount of useful information about appropriate behavior towards clients and other designers, but not a word about a designer’s relationship to the public. If we were licensed, telling the truth might become more central to what we do.


A butcher was opening his market one morning and as he did a rabbit popped his head through the door. The butcher was surprised when the rabbit inquired ‘Got any cabbage?’ The butcher said ‘This is a meat market – we sell meat, not vegetables.’ The rabbit hopped off. The next day the butcher is opening the shop and sure enough the rabbit pops his head round and says ‘You got any cabbage?’ The butcher now irritated says ‘Listen you little rodent, I told you yesterday we sell meat, we do not sell vegetables and the next time you come here I am going to grab you by the throat and nail those floppy ears to the floor.’ The rabbit disappeared hastily and nothing happened for a week. Then one morning the rabbit popped his head around the corner and said ‘Got any nails?’ The butcher said ‘No.’ The rabbit said ‘Ok. Got any cabbage?’’

Read Milton Glaser’s “Ten Things I Have Learned” in its entirety here.

via Kottke

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

What Makes a Coen Brothers Movie a Coen Brothers Movie? Find Out in a 4-Hour Video Essay of Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski, Fargo, No Country for Old Men & More

What could movies as different as Barton FinkThe Big LebowskiNo Country for Old Men, and True Grit have in common? Even casual cinephiles will take that as a silly question, knowing full well that all of them came from the same sibling writing-directing team of Joel and Ethan Coen, better known as the Coen brothers. But to those who really dig deep into movies, the question stands: what, aesthetically, formally, intellectually, or emotionally, does unify the filmography of the Coen brothers? Though it boasts more than its fair share of critical, commercial, and cult fan favorites, its auteurs seemingly prefer to mark their work with many subtle signatures rather than one bold and obvious one.

Cameron Beyl, creator of The Directors Series (whose examinations of Stanley Kubrick and David Fincher we’ve previously featured here on Open Culture), finds out just what makes a Coen brothers movie a Coen brothers movie in his seven-part, nearly four-hour set of video essays on the two Jewish brothers from the Minnesota suburbs who went on to make perhaps the most distinctive impact on the zeitgeist of their generation of American filmmakers.

He begins with the Coen brothers’ Texas noir debut Blood Simple and sophomore southwestern slapstick Raising Arizona, then goes on to their larger-scale postmodern period pieces Miller’s CrossingBarton Fink, and the Hudsucker Proxy.

The next chapter covers their breakout films of the late 1990s Fargo and The Big Lebowski, and then two highly stylized pictures, the Odyssey-inspired prison break O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the black-and-white noir The Man Who Wasn’t There. Then come Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers, two 21st-century screwball comedies, followed by their “prestigious pinnacle,” the acclaimed four-picture stretch of No Country for Old MenBurn After ReadingA Serious Man, and True Grit.

The final chapter (below) looks at the Coen brothers’ two most recent works, both of which take on the culture industry: Inside Llewyn Davis, the tale of a would-be 1960s folk star, and Hail, Caesar!, one of early-1950s Hollywood.

Beyl’s analysis brings to the fore both the more and the less visible common elements of the Coen brothers’ movies. The former include their fondness for historical and “middle American” settings, their repeated use of actors like John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Frances McDormand, and John Turturro, and their tendency to move the camera with what Beyl several times describes as “breakneck speed.” The latter include easily missable place and character interconnections (for instance, how Barton Fink and Hail, Caesar!, set a decade apart and made a quarter-century apart, involve the same fictional Hollywood studio) and their simultaneous deployment and subversion of genre conventions, possibly owing to their lifelong “outsider” perspective.

But above all, nothing signals the work of the Coen brothers quite so clearly as their ever-more-refined mixture of zaniness and brutality, which Beyl puts in terms of their mixture of disparate filmmaking influences: Preston Sturges on one hand, for example, and Sam Peckinpah on the other. This comes with their films’ built-in resistance to straightforward interpretation, a kind of pleasurable complexity that prevents any one simple historical, social, or political reading from making much headway. In fact, as Beyl acknowledges in the first of these video essays, the Coen brothers would probably consider this sort of long-form examination of their work a waste of time, but if it sends viewers back to that work — and especially if it sends them back watching and noticing more closely — it does a favor to the rare kind of modern cinema that actually merits the word unique.

Related Content:

How the Coen Brothers Storyboarded Blood Simple Down to a Tee (1984)

Is The Big Lebowski a Great Noir Film? A New Way to Look at the Coen Brothers’ Iconic Movie

How the Coen Brothers Put Their Remarkable Stamp on the “Shot Reverse Shot,” the Fundamental Cinematic Technique

Tuileries: A Short, Slightly Twisted Film by Joel and Ethan Coen

World Cinema: Joel and Ethan Coen’s Playful Homage to Cinema History

Discover the Life & Work of Stanley Kubrick in a Sweeping Three-Hour Video Essay

How Did David Fincher Become the Kubrick of Our Time? A New Series of Video Essays Explains

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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