A Harrowing Test Drive of Buckminster Fuller’s 1933 Dymaxion Car: Art That’s Scary to Ride

In the 1930s, the systems theorist, designer and inventor Buckminster Fuller created the Dymaxion car — an aerodynamic concept car that managed to get 30 miles per gallon while topping out at 90 miles per hour, and transporting 11 passengers. Like Fuller’s Dymaxion house, the three-wheel Dymaxion car could be disassembled and re-assembled with ease. You can see vintage videos of both here.

The concept car didn’t get much beyond the concept stage. Only three original versions were built, one of which rolled over at the 1933 World’s Fair, leaving the driver dead, three passengers injured, and investors reluctant to bring the car to market. In 2010, the British architect Sir Norman Foster built a replica of the Dymaxion. You can see Dan Neil, of The Wall Street Journal, take the car on a harrowing test drive above. And if you’re intrigued enough to learn more, you can hunt down the 2012 documentary called The Last Dymaxion (watch a trailer of the film here).

via Gizmodo/@KirstinButler

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Martin Scorsese Introduces Filmmaker Hong Sangsoo, “The Woody Allen of Korea”

In the clip above, Martin Scorsese talks about a group of films that, in his words, have “enriched me, educated me, disturbed me, moved me in a way that have awakened me to new possibilities in cinema.” Those words will remind many of us of our experiences with Scorsese’s own pictures, which raises a big question: what movement could possibly have enough power to enrich, educate, disturb, move, and cinematically awaken a man who has done so much enriching, educating, disturbing, moving, and cinematic awakening himself?

Scorsese speaks of the cinema of South Korea, especially the wave that, over the past twenty years, has brought the global film scene such auteurs as Park Chan-wook (Joint Security AreaOldboyStoker), Lee Chang-dong (OasisSecret SunshinePoetry), and Kim Ki-duk (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring, 3-Iron, Pietà). But he adds that, “for me, there’s something especially interesting about the films of Hong Sangsoo. It’s got to do with his masterful sense of storytelling. In each of his films that I’ve managed to see, everything kind of starts unassumingly” — but then things “unpeel like an orange.”

Only in one respect can I compare myself to Martin Scorsese: a love of Hong Sangsoo movies. I even wrote an essay for The Quarterly Conversation a few years back trying to explain the artistry of this most prolific Korean director, who has put out sixteen alcohol-soaked, cigarette-clouded, social and sexual awkwardness-saturated features to date. Some call Hong “the Korean Woody Allen,” which gets at the fact that his many comedies of manners pass through more moods than comedy and deal with more than manners, but that doesn’t capture his penchant for rich formal and structural experimentation — stories told multiple times, through different perspectives, using clashing sets of facts, and so on — which delights cinephiles everywhere.

This has made Hong a big name on the festival circuit — he usually has a project or two making the rounds at any given time — on which his latest movie Hill of Freedom received much critical acclaim. Telling of a Japanese man’s trip to Seoul to track down his Korean ex-girlfriend through a disordered pile of letters he sent her all at once, the mostly English-language movie shows the internationalization of not just Hong’s appeal, but of his work itself. It allows few of its characters to speak their native language, resulting in the kind of meaningful inarticulacy that he’d previously had to get his all-Korean casts drunk to achieve.

You can take the plunge into Hong’s cut-up and meticulously rearranged cinematic world of inept, jealously idealistic men, women that I’ve elsewhere described as “eerily unrepentant studies in blank calculation and frigid pliability,” and the catastrophes into which they lead themselves by starting with his debut The Day the Pig Fell into a Well, available free on the Korean Film Archive’s Youtube channel.

I recently went to Korea to record a podcast interview with Seoul-based film scholar Marc Raymond about how Hong’s films reflect modern Korean life. It turns out they reflect it pretty well, something I’ll see for myself later this year when, after having studied the Korean language for nearly a decade, I move to Korea — all out of an interest first stoked by Hong Sangsoo.

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

The Science of Singing: New, High-Speed MRI Machine Images Man Singing ‘If I Only Had a Brain’

Back in December, Ayun Halliday took you inside an MRI machine to explore the neuroscience of jazz improvisation and musical creativity. Along the way, you got to see Johns Hopkins surgeon Charles Limb jam on a keyboard inside one of those crowded, claustrophobia-inducing tubes. How could you beat that for entertainment?

Today, we return with a new video showing another way the MRI machine is giving scientists new insights into the making of music. This time the focus is on how we produce sounds when we sing. When “we sing or speak, the vocal folds—the two small pieces of tissue [in our neck]—come together and, as air passes over them, they vibrate,” and produce sound. That’s basically what happens. We know that. But the typical MRI machine, capturing about 10 frames per second, is too slow to really let scientists break down the action of the larynx. Enter the new, high speed MRI machine at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois, working at 100 frames per second. It does the trick.

Above, you can see the new machine in action, as a volunteer sings ‘If I Only Had a Brain.’ Get more of the backstory over at the Beckman Institute.

via Mental Floss

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Baudelaire, Balzac, Dumas, Delacroix & Hugo Get a Little Baked at Their Hash Club (1844-1849)

Club des Hashischins

Hôtel de Lauzun, the meeting place of the Club des Hachichins

It may be cliché to say so, but there does seem to be a strong correlation between experiments with mind-altering chemicals and some of the most intriguing experiments in literary style. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Arthur Rimbaud, William S. Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson…. Of course, it is necessary to point out that these talented writers were already that—talented writers—substances or no. As one of Rimbaud’s modern children, Patti Smith, declares, drugs are “not really how one accesses the imagination. It can be a tool, but when that tool starts to master you, you’ll lose touch with your craft.”

This seems to have happened to Smith’s literary idol. One of Rimbaud’s literary heroes, Charles Baudelaire, also eventually succumbed to his excessive use of laudanum, alcohol, and opium. But at one time, Baudelaire dabbled with a much less destructive drug, hashish, along with a coterie of other artists, including Alexandre Dumas, Gérard de Nerval, Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, and painter Eugène Delacroix. The French greats gathered in a gothic house, from 1844-1849, under the moniker Club des Hachichins and partook of the drug, introduced to it by medical doctor Jacques-Joseph Moreau and writer and journalist Théophile Gautier. Writes The Guardian:

…ritualistically garbed in Arab clothing, they drank strong coffee, liberally laced with hashish, which Moreau called dawamesk, in the Arabic manner. It looked, reported the members, like a greenish preserve, its ingredients a mixture of hashish, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pistachio, sugar, orange juice, butter and cantharides. Some of them would write of their “stoned” experiences, although not all. Balzac attended the club but preferred not to indulge, though some time in 1845 the great man cracked and ate some. He told fellow members he had heard celestial voices and seen visions of divine paintings. 

Baudelaire declared the hash admixture “the playground of the seraphim” and “a little green sweetmeat.” And yet, like Balzac, he “rarely, if indeed ever, indulged.” Gautier would write of the poet, “It is possible and even probable that Baudelaire did try hascheesh once or twice by way of physiological experiment, but he never made continuous use of it. Besides, he felt much repugnance for that sort of happiness, bought at the chemist’s and taken away in the vest-pocket.”

This “repugnance” did not keep Baudelaire from other drugs. And it did not keep him from writing a short book in 1860 on hash and opium, Artificial Paradises (Les Paradis Artificiels). The Paris Review reprints an excerpt of one section, “The Poem of Hashish”—not in fact a poem, but a descriptive essay. Translated by Aleister Crowley—another writer whose experiments with chemical excess contributed to some of the strangest books written in English—Baudelaire’s prose is almost medical in its precision. In part a response to Thomas de Quincy’s 1821 drug memoir Confession’s of an English Opium Eater, the symbolist poet’s treatise does not draw the conclusions one might expect.

Though he writes stunningly vivid, almost seductive, descriptions of hash intoxication, instead of praising the creative effects of drugs, Baudelaire disparages their use and warns of addiction, especially for the artist. At one point, he writes, “He who would resort to a poison in order to think would soon be incapable of thinking without the poison. Can you imagine this awful sort of man whose paralyzed imagination can no longer function without the benefit of hashish or opium?” Baudelaire recognized these stifling effects even as he lapsed into addiction himself, describing in withering terms the search “in pharmacy” for an escape from “his habitaculum of mire.”

You can read an excerpt of the Crowley-translated “The Poem of Hashish” at The Paris Review’s site and the full translation here. Those who have indulged in their own cannabis experiments—legally or otherwise—will surely recognize the poetic accuracy of his hash portrait, so perfect that it’s hard to believe he didn’t partake at least once or twice at the all-star Club des Hachichins:

Hashish often brings about a voracious hunger, nearly always an excessive thirst … Such a state would not be supportable if it lasted too long, and if it did not soon give place to another phase of intoxication, which in the case above cited interprets itself by splendid visions, tenderly terrifying, and at the same time full of consolations. This new state is what the Easterns call Kaif. It is no longer the whirlwind or the tempest; it is a calm and motionless bliss, a glorious resignèdness. Since long you have not been your own master; but you trouble yourself no longer about that. Pain, and the sense of time, have disappeared; or if sometimes they dare to show their heads, it is only as transfigured by the master feeling, and they are then, as compared with their ordinary form, what poetic melancholy is to prosaic grief.

via The Paris Review

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

Shakespearean Actor Brian Cox Teaches Hamlet’s Soliloquy to a 2-Year-Old Child

Perhaps you’ve seen Scottish actor Brian Cox in blockbuster films like Braveheart, The Bourne Identity, or Troy. Or, if you’re lucky enough, you’ve seen him perform with the Royal Shakespeare Company in critically-acclaimed performances of The Taming of The Shrew and Titus Andronicus. But there’s perhaps another role you haven’t seen him in: tutor of toddlers. Several years back, Cox taught Theo, then only 30 months old, the famous soliloquy from Hamlet, hoping to show there’s a Shakespearean actor in all of us. Later, Cox talked to the BBC about his “masterclass” with Theo and what he took away from the experience. Watch him muse right below:

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Hōshi: A Short Film on the 1300-Year-Old Hotel Run by the Same Family for 46 Generations

Hōshi is a ryokan (a Japanese traditional inn) located in Komatsu, Japan, and it holds the distinction of being the 2nd oldest hotel in the world, and “the oldest still running family business in the world” (per Wikipedia). Built in 718 AD, the ryokan has been operated by the same family for 46 consecutive generations. Count them. 46 generations.

Japan is a country with deep traditions. And when you’re born into a family that’s the caretaker of a 1300-year-old institution, you find yourself struggling with issues most of us can’t imagine. That’s particularly true when you’re the daughter of the Hōshi family, a modern woman who wants to break free from tradition. And yet history and strong family expectations keep calling her back.

The story of Hōshi ryokan is poignantly told in a short documentary above. It was shot in 2014 by the German filmmaker Fritz Schumann.

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The Oldest Known Footage of London (1890-1920) Shows the City’s Great Landmarks

The City of London has exploded like Blade Runner in the last couple of decades with glass and concrete and shrines to global capitalism like St. Mary Axe (aka the Gherkin) and the Shard (aka the Shard). But has the view from the ground stayed the same? According to this charming then vs. now video assembled by a company called YesterVid, yes.

Trawling through the oldest surviving public domain footage from the early days of film (1890 – 1920), the videographers have placed old and modern-day shots side by side, matching as close as they can camera placement and lens.

Missing from today: the soot, the filth in the gutter, and the free-for-all in the streets as horse-drawn carriages and early busses battled it out with pedestrians. Streets are safer now, with railings to protect citizens, though the signs of increased security are also apparent, and CCTV cameras are most probably filming the director…somewhere!

St. Paul’s still needs room to breathe, and while the Empire Theatre may not show any more Lumiere Cinematographies, it’s still a cinema showing IMAX films. It didn’t suffer the fate of many cinemas outside of London after the ‘60s: being turned into bingo halls or just torn down.

Also: the sea of red poppies seen at 4:28 during the shot of the Tower of London’s moat is an installation work by artist Paul Cummins. Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red was installed between July and November of 2014 and, according to Wikipedia, it consisted of 888,246 ceramic red poppies, each intended to represent one British or Colonial serviceman killed in the Great War.

Final point: the oldest pub in London, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, still stands, and during the sweltering summers provides a cool respite, as most of its drinking rooms are underground. Cheers!

via Coudal

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

David Ogilvy’s 1982 Memo “How to Write” Offers 10 Pieces of Timeless Advice


Nobody ever went broke writing a readable guide to writing in English, especially those that rise to the ranks of standard recommendations alongside Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style and William Zinsser’s On Writing WellBoth of those books endorse and exemplify the virtue of brevity, but even such short volumes take a great deal longer to read and internalize than this eminently to-the-point English style guide by the “Pope of Modern Advertising,” (and, for his part, a fan of Roman and Raphaelson’s Writing That Works) David Ogilvy, originally composed in the form of an internal memo.

Ogilvy sent it out on September 7th, 1982, directing it to everyone employed at Ogilvy & Mather, the respected ad agency he’d founded more than thirty years before. “The memo was entitled ‘How to Write,'” says Lists of Note, “and consisted of the following list of advice:”

1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.

2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.

3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.

4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.

6. Check your quotations.

7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning—and then edit it.

8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.

9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.

10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

And since we all send out more written communication today than we would have in 1982, the points on this list have only grown more advisable with time. “The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather,” Ogilvy adds. “People who think well, write well.” Amid all this practical advice, we’d do well not to forget that essential connection between word and thought. I like to quote a favorite Twitter aphorist of mine — and, per Ogilvy’s warning, I’ve checked my quotation first — on the subject: “People say they can’t draw when they mean they can’t see, and that they can’t write when they mean they can’t think.”

For more on the methods of Ogilvy the self-described “lousy copywriter” (but “good editor”), see also Lists of Note’s sister site Letters of Note, which has a 1955 letter wherein he lays out his work habits. A seemingly effective one involves “half a bottle of rum and a Handel oratorio on the gramophone.” Your mileage may vary.

via Lists of Note

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

See the First Known Photograph Ever Taken (1826)


In histories of early photography, Louis Daguerre faithfully appears as one of the fathers of the medium. His patented process, the daguerreotype, in wide use for nearly twenty years in the early 19th century, produced so many of the images we associate with the period, including famous photographs of Abraham Lincoln, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, and John Brown. But had things gone differently, we might know better the harder-to-pronounce name of his onetime partner Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, who produced the first known photograph ever, taken in 1826.

Something of a gentleman inventor, Niépce (below) began experimenting with lithography and with that ancient device, the camera obscura, in 1816. Eventually, after much trial and error, Niépce developed his own photographic process, which he called “heliography.” He began by mixing chemicals on a flat pewter plate, then placing it inside a camera. After exposing the plate to light for eight hours, the inventor then washed and dried it. What remained was the image we see above, taken, as Niépce wrote, from “the room where I work” on his country estate and now housed at the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center.


At the Ransom Center website, you can see a short video describing Niépce’s house and showing how scholars recreated the vantage point from which he took the picture. Another video offers insight into the process Niépce invented to create his “heliograph.” In 1827, Niépce traveled to England to visit his brother. While there, with the assistance of English botanist Francis Bauer, he presented a paper on his new invention to the Royal Society. His findings were rejected, however, because he opted not to fully reveal the details, hoping to make economic gains with a proprietary method. Niépce left the pewter image with Bauer and returned to France, where he shortly after agreed to a ten-year partnership with Daguerre in 1829.

Sadly for Niépce, his heliograph would not produce the financial or technological success he envisioned, and he died just four years later in 1833. Daguerre, of course, went on to develop his famous process in 1829 and passed into history, but we should remember Niépce’s efforts, and marvel at what he was able to achieve on his own with limited materials and no training or precedent. Daguerre may receive much of the credit, but it was the “scientifically-minded gentleman” Niépce and his heliography that led—writes the Ransom Center’s Head of Photographic Conservation Barbara Brown—to “the invention of the new medium.”

Niepce Reproduction

Niépce’s pewter plate image was re-discovered in 1952 by Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, who published an article on the find in The Photographic Journal. Thereafter, the Gernsheims had the Eastman Kodak Company create the reproduction above. This image’s “pointillistic effect,” writes Brown, “is due to the reproduction process,” and the image “was touched up with watercolors by [Helmut] Gernsheim himself in order to bring it as close as possible to his approximation of how he felt the original should appear in reproduction.”

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

What is the Self? Watch Philosophy Animations Narrated by Stephen Fry on Sartre, Descartes & More

If you’ve followed our recent philosophy posts, you’ve heard Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) speak on what makes us humanthe origins of the universe, and whether technology has changed us, and Harry Shearer speak on ethics — or rather, you’ve heard them narrate short educational animations from the BBC scripted by Philosophy Bites‘ Nigel Warburton. Now another equally distinctive voice has joined the series to explain an equally important philosophical topic. Behold Stephen Fry on the Self.

These four videos draw on Socrates’s work on what it means to know oneself (and the limits of one’s knowledge); Erving Goffman’s (The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life) Shakespearean observation that we all play roles on this stage of a world; Rene Descartes‘ famous declaration “I think, therefore I am”; and Jean-Paul Sartre’s concept of human existence preceding human essence (which, if it sounds a bit foggy, the video will clarify). Whichever of these thinkers’ claims sound most plausible to you, you’ll come out feeling a bit surer that, whatever constitutes our selves — if indeed we have them — it isn’t what you might have assumed going in.

If the notions that we know nothing, that we have no fixed identities, that we create ourselves (and/or our selves) by our own actions, and that a trickster demon may be controlling your thoughts even as you read this seem too detached from everyday experience to easily grasp, at least we have a sensible English voice like Fry’s to guide us through them. The stereotypes may say that the people of that practical-minded land don’t go in for this kind of talk. But I propose a refutation: specifically, a refutation in the form of a return by Fry to talk about two of his fellow Britons, David Hume and George Berkeley. They had a few things to say about the self — to put it mildly.

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