Scientist Creates a Working Rotary Cellphone

In popular histories of the mobile phone, and of the smartphone in particular, you will rarely see mention of IBM’s 1992 Simon, a smartphone invented before the word “smartphone.” “You could… use the Simon to send and receive emails, faxes, and pages,” writes Business Insider. “There were also a suite of built-in features including a notes collection you could write in [with a stylus], an address book that looked like a file folder, calendar, world clock, and a way to schedule appointments.”

Nifty, eh? But the Simon was born too soon, it seems, and its unsexy design—like a cordless handset with a long, rectangular screen where the number pad would be—proved less than enticing. “IBM did manage to sell approximately 50,000 units,” a pitiful number next to the iPhone’s first year sales of 6.1 million. The Simon was an evolutionary dead end, while the iPhone and its imitators changed the definition of the word “phone.”

No longer is it necessary even to specify that one’s telephone is of the “smart” variety. We can spend all day on our devices without ever making or answering a call. Is this development a good thing? No matter how we ask or answer the question, it may do little to change the course of technological development or our dependence on the touchscreen computers in our pockets.

That is, unless we have the ability to redesign our mobile phone ourselves, as Justine Haupt—a scientist in the Instrumentation Division at the Brookhaven National Laboratory—has done. You'll find no mention of anything like her rotary cellphone in any history of mobile telecommunications. No one would have seriously considered building such a thing, except as an anachronistic novelty.

But Haupt’s rotary cellphone is not a visual gag or piece of conceptual art. It’s a working device she built, ostensibly, for serious reasons. “In a finicky, annoying, touchscreen world of hyperconnected people using phones they have no control over or understanding of," she writes, "I wanted something that would be entirely mine, personal, and absolutely tactile, while also giving me an excuse for not texting.”

Haupt's reasoning calls to mind J.G. Ballard's comments on the car as "the last machine whose basic technology and function we can all understand." She lays out the rotary cellphone’s impressive features in the bulleted list below:

  • Real, removable antenna with an SMA connector. Receptions is excellent, and if I really want to I could always attach a directional antenna.
  • When I want a phone I don't have to navigate through menus to get to the phone "application." That's bullshit.
  • If I want to call my husband, I can do so by pressing a single dedicated physical key which is dedicated to him. No menus. The point isn't to use the rotary dial every single time I want to make a call, which would get tiresome for daily use. The people I call most often are stored, and if I have to dial a new number or do something like set the volume, then I can use the fun and satisfying-to-use rotary dial.
  • Nearly instantaneous, high resolution display of signal strength and battery level. No signal metering lag, and my LED bargraph gives 10 increments of resolution instead of just 4.
  • The ePaper display is bistatic, meaning it doesn't take any energy to display a fixed message.
  • When I want to change something about the phone's behavior, I just do it.
  • The power switch is an actual slide switch. No holding down a stupid button to make it turn off and not being sure it really is turning off or what.

I wouldn’t hold my breath for a production run, but “it’s not just a show-and-tell piece,” Haupt insists. “It fits in a pocket; it’s reasonably compact; calling the people I most often call if faster than with my old phone, and the battery lasts almost 24 hours.” For the rest of us, it’s a conversation starter: in less obviously quirky, retro ways, how could we reimagine mobile phones to make them less “smart” (i.e. less distracting and invasive) and more personal and customizable, while also enhancing their core functionality as devices that keep us connected to important people in our lives?

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

Watch the Grateful Dead Slip Past Security & Play a Gig at Columbia University’s Anti-Vietnam Protest (1968)

In 1968, the Vietnam War was not a catalyst for protests but a sort of nexus for all other injustices--the part contained elements of the whole: racism, class war, capitalist profiteering, imperialism. It was symptom and cause, much like climate change feels today. In April of that year, one inflection point happened on New York’s Columbia University campus.

The University wanted to build a military gym, not on campus, but in Morningside Park, a public space that bordered on Harlem. The student body immediately protested the construction. For one thing, it was planned to feature one entrance for students and faculty, and another entrance in the basement for Harlem’s mostly African-American residents. Protestors saw this, and the displacement of black residents from their neighborhood park, as racist. The Student Afro-American Society (SAS) of the University nicknamed it “Gym Crow.” At the same time, another activist group, the Students for a Democratic Society, discovered links between the University and the Department of Defense. The two events were separate, but stood for a bigger problem.

Students staged protests, sit-ins, and generally disrupted the University, vowing to continue until their demands were met--specifically divestment in the war machine and halting construction of the gym. Things got so bad, with some 148 injuries and 372 reports of police brutality from New York’s Finest, that the University went into lockdown.

That was April. On May 3, enter the Grateful Dead. Still a young band, the Dead were comparatively unknown on the East Coast, but set out to support the students with a free concert. What you see above is one of the few reels of footage of the illegal gig, with music from earlier gigs used over the silent footage. No sound recording exists of this event, but the uploader seems to think “The Eleven” was part of the set.

Mickey Hart, who had only recently joined the band as a second drummer, recalled how they made their way onto the campus:

[Grateful Dead manager] Rock [Scully] reached out to the strike organizers and offered to do a free show for the students. Always up for an adventure, we of course, went right along. Since the police and guards were closing off access to the majority of the campus – we were “smuggled” on campus to Low Library Plaza in the back of a bread delivery truck. Equipment and all. We were already jamming away before the security and police could to stop us.

This other footage shows more context--shots of Morningside Park, the protests, the police response, the sit-ins, a chalk noticeboard featuring messages from the outside to the students--all truly a time capsule. One YouTube commenter says he was there:

They set up on the porch of Ferris Booth Hall, which was the student union, in effect. A small crowd gathered; the Dead were not widely known yet in New York. I had a nice chat with Garcia [while] they were setting up. They started to play, but someone from the administration cut the power, which was not received favorably by the students. After some brief negotiating -- someone pointed out that legally Ferris Booth Hall was owned by the students and does the university really need another riot -- the power was turned back on and the show continued.

In the end, the student protests continued right through graduation--students held their own ceremony off campus--but they worked. The gym was not built and the University broke off its work with the DoD.

Flash forward to 2019 and it’s all coming around again: students and faculty demanded the University divest from all fossil fuels, in support of the Extinction Rebellion hunger strikers. As of this writing (February 2020), the University is still mulling it over. (No free concerts have been announced either...yet.)

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How the Grateful Dead’s “Wall of Sound”–a Monster, 600-Speaker Sound System–Changed Rock Concerts & Live Music Forever

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 and/or watch his films here.

Explore Ancient Athens 3D, a Digital Reconstruction of the Greek City-State at the Height of Its Influence

Today any of us can go Athens, a city with flavorful food, pleasant weather, a picturesque setting, reasonable prices, and a decent subway system. That is to say, we can enjoy Athens as it is, but what about Athens as it was? As one of the oldest cities in the world, not to mention a developmental center of Western civilization itself, its history holds as much interest as its present reality. Despite all the historical research into ancient Greece, we lack a fully accurate image of what Athens looked and felt like at the height of its power as a city-state. But thanks to the last dozen years of work by photographer and visual effects artist Dimitris Tsalkanis, we can experience Athens as it might have been in the form of Ancient Athens 3D.

"Visitors to the site can browse reconstructions that date back as early as 1200 BCE, the Mycenaean period — or Bronze Age — through Classical Athens, featuring the rebuilds made necessary by the Greco-Persian War, and ages of occupation by Romans and Ottomans," writes Hyperallergic's Sarah Rose Sharp.

"Tsalkanis traces the evolution of sites like the Acropolis throughout the ages, the rise and fall of the city walls, the Agora, which served as center of city life, and various temples, libraries, and other fortifications." All we might see only as monochromatic ruins on our modern Athenian travels stands tall and colorful in Tsalkanis' three-dimensional digital recreation — as does all that hasn't survived even as ruins.

Tsalkanis writes of using "artistic license" to reconstruct "monuments that have left few or no traces at all (like the Mycenaean palace of the Acropolis) and other complementary constructions — such as houses — that were incorporated into the render in order to create a more complete image of the monument and its space." Though he draws on all the historical and archaeological information he can find, much of that information remains sketchy, or at least incomplete. Fortunately, the digital nature of the project, as well as its accessibility to viewers with knowledge of their own to offer, keeps it more or less current with the state of the research. "Tsalkanis stays up to date with his fantasy city," writes Sharp, "updating reconstructions constantly for better quality of models and better archaeological and historical accuracy.

"You can immerse into this environment," Tsalkanis tells Sharp, "or you can even 3D print it if you like." You can also view the individual digital reconstruction videos posted to Ancient Athens 3D's Youtube channel, which showcase such monuments as the Temple of Ilissos, the Temple of Hephaestus, and the city of Delphi. Just as Tsalkanis' historical models of Athens will continue to be filled in, expanded, and improved, the technological range of their possible uses will only expand. Tsalkanis himself mentions the smartphone apps that could one day enrich our visits to Athens with augmented reality — allowing us, in other words, to experience Athens as it is and Athens as it might have been, both at the same time.

via Hyperallergic

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The New York Public Library Creates a List of 125 Books That They Love

The New York Public Library sure knows how to celebrate a quasquicentennial. In honor of its own 125th anniversary, it's rolling out a number of treats for patrons, visitors, and those who must admire it from afar.

In addition to the expected author talks and live events, Patience and Fortitude, the iconic stone lions who flank the main branch's front steps, are displaying some reading material of their own—Toni Morrison’s 1987 novel Beloved and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age classic The Great Gatsby, from 1925.

Donors who kick in $12.50 or more to help the library continue providing such public services as early literacy classes, free legal aid, and job training courses will be rewarded with a cheerful red sticker bearing the easy to love slogan "♥ reading."

The cover image of Ezra Jack Keats’ 1962 Caldecott Award-winning picture book The Snowy Day, which at 485,583 checkouts holds the title for most popular book in the circulating collection, graces special edition Library and MetroCards.

And a team of librarians drew up a list of 125 books from the last 125 years that inspire a lifelong love of reading.

The list is deliberately inclusive with regard to authors’ gender, race, and sexual orientation as well as literary genre. In addition to novels and non-fiction, you’ll find memoir, poetry, fantasy, graphic novels, science fiction, mystery, short stories, humor, and one children’s book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which the judges decided “transcends age categories.” (A similar list geared toward younger readers will be released later this year.)

The list was drawn from a pool containing anything published after May 23rd, 1895, the day attorney John Bigelow’s plan to combine the resources of the Astor and Lenox libraries and the Tilden Trustin into The New York Public Library was officially incorporated.

The selection criteria can be viewed here.

Obviously, the list—and any perceived omissions—will generate passionate debate amongst book lovers, a prospect the library relishes, though it's enlisted one of its most ardent supporters, author Neil Gaiman, whose American Gods made the final cut, to remind any disgruntled readers of the spirit in which the picks were made:

The New York Public Library has put together a list of 125 books that they love—the librarians and the people in the library. That's the criteria. You may not love them, but they do. And that's exciting. The thing that gets people reading is love. The thing that makes people pick up books they might not otherwise try, is love. It's personal recommendations, the kind that are truly meant. So here are 125 books that they love. And somewhere on this list you will find books you've never read, but have always meant to, or have never even heard of. There are 125 chances here to change your own life, or to change someone else's, curated by the people from one of the finest libraries in the world. Read with joy. Read with love. Read!

To really get the most out of the list, tune in to the NYPL’s The Librarian Is In podcast, which will be devoting an episode to one of the featured titles each month.

The current episode kicks things off with co-hosts Frank Collerius and Rhonda Evans’ favorites from the list:

Maus by Art Spiegelman

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Readers, have a look at the complete list of the New York Public Library’s 125 Books for Adult Readers, and leave us a comment to let us know what titles you wish had been included. Or better yet, tell us which as-yet unread title you're planning to read in honor of the New York Public Library's 125th year:

George Orwell, 1984

Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March

W.H. Auden, The Age of Anxiety

Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton

Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front

James Patterson, Along Came a Spider

Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Mary Oliver, American Primitive

Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None

Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts

Sylvia Plath, Ariel

Ian McEwan, Atonement

Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

Tom Wolfe, The Bonfire of the Vanities

Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Claudia Rankine, Citizen

Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra

David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Langston Hughes, The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes

Terry Pratchett, The Color of Magic

Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress

Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City

Frank Herbert, Dune

Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

Alyssa Cole, An Extraordinary Union

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

J.R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season

Alison Bechdel, Fun Home

George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find

Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham

John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

Carson McCullers, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles

V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas

Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth

Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

Allen Ginsberg, Howl

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Truman Capote, In Cold Blood

Beverly Jenkins, Indigo

Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies

Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Gore Vidal, Julian

Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

Mary Karr, The Liars’ Club

Kate Atkinson, Life After Life

Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

Art Spiegelman, Maus

David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day

John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children

Martin Amis: Money

Michael Lewis: Moneyball

Jonathan Lethem, Motherless Brooklyn

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend

J.D. Robb, Naked in Death

Richard Wright, Native Son

Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master’s Son

Per Petterson, Out Stealing Horses

Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower

Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint

Graham Greene, The Quiet American

Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day

Louise Erdrich, The Round House

Amor Towles, Rules of Civility

Alice Munro, Runaway

John Ashbery, Self-Portrarit in a Convex Mirror

Stephen King, The Shining

Annie Proulx, The Shipping News

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Nalini Singh, Slave to Sensation

Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues

John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever

Albert Camus, The Stranger

Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley

George Saunders, Tenth of December

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart

Cixin Liu, The Three-Body Problem

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Denis Johnson, Train Dreams

Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad

Joseph Mitchell, Up in the Old Hotel

Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Watchmen

Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Don DeLillo, White Noise

Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall

Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior

Via Lit Hub

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join Ayun’s company Theater of the Apes in New York City this March for her book-based variety series, Necromancers of the Public Domain, and the world premiere of Greg Kotis’ new musical, I AM NOBODY. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Discover the Artist Who Mentored Edward Hopper & Inspired “Nighthawks”

Every good teacher must be prepared for the students who surpass them. Such was the case with Martin Lewis, Edward Hopper's onetime teacher, an Australian-born printmaker who left rural Victoria at age 15 and traveled the world before settling in New York City in 1900 to make his fame and fortune. By the 1910s, Lewis had become a commercially successful illustrator, well-known for his etching skill. It was then that he took on Hopper as an apprentice.

“Hopper asked that he might study alongside him,” writes DC Pae at Review 31, “and Lewis thereafter became his mentor in the discipline.” The future painter of Nighthawks even “cited his apprenticeship with the printmaker as inspiration for his later painting, the consolidation of his individual style.” Messy Nessy quotes Hopper’s own words: “after I took up my etching, my painting seemed to crystallize.” Hopper, she writes, “learned the finer points of etching and both artists used the great American metropolis at night as their muse.”

Though he is not popularly known for the art, Hopper himself became an accomplished printmaker, creating a series of around 70 works in the 1920s that drew from both Edgar Degas and his etching teacher, Lewis.

“Hopper easily took to etching and drypoint,” writes the Seattle Artist League. “He had a preference for a deeply etched plate, and very black ink on very white paper, so the prints were high contrast, similar to Martin Lewis…, Hopper’s primary influence in printmaking.”

A similar series by Lewis in the 1920s, which includes the striking prints you see here, shows a far stronger hand in the art, though also, perhaps, some mutual influence between the two friends, who exhibited together during the period. But there’s no doubt Lewis’s long shadows, forlorn street-lit corners, and cinematic scenes left their mark on Hopper’s famous later paintings.

It was to painting, after the massive popularity of printmaking, that the art world turned when the Depression hit. Lewis found himself out of date. Hopper left off etching in 1928 to focus on his primary medium. In many ways, Pae points out, Lewis served as a bridge between the documentary Ashcan School and the more psychological realism of Hopper and his contemporaries. Yet he “died in obscurity in 1962, largely forgotten” notes Messy Nessy (see much more of Lewis’s work there). “History chose Edward Hopper but Martin Lewis was his mentor,” and a figure well worth celebrating on his own for his technical mastery and originality.

via Messy Nessy

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

America’s First Drag Queen Was Also America’s First LGBTQ Activist and a Former Slave

Negro Dive Raided. Thirteen Black Men Dressed as Women Surprised at Supper and Arrested. —The Washington Post, April 13, 1888

Sometimes, when we are engaged as either participant in, or eyewitness to, the making of history, its easy to forget the history-makers who came earlier, who dug the trenches that allow our modern battles to be waged out in the open.

Take America’s first self-appointed “queen of drag” and pioneering LGBTQ activist, William Dorsey Swann, born into slavery around 1858.

30 years later, Swann faced down white officers busting a drag ball in a “quiet-looking house” on Washington, DC’s F street, near 12th.

"You is no gentleman,” Swann allegedly told the arresting officer, while half the guests broke for freedom, correctly surmising that anyone who remained would see their names published in the next day’s newspaper as participants in a bizarre and unseemly ritual.

A lurid Washington Post clipping about the raid caught the eye of writer, historian, and former  Oberlin College Drag Ball queen, Channing Gerard Joseph, who was researching an assignment for a Columbia University graduate level investigative reporting class:

An animated conversation, carried on in effeminate tones, was in progress as the officers approached the door, but when they opened it and the form of Lieut. Amiss was visible to the people in the room a panic ensued. A scramble was made for the windows and doors and some of the people jumped to the roofs of adjoining buildings. Others stripped off their dresses and danced about the room almost in a nude condition, while several, headed by a big negro named Dorsey, who was arrayed in a gorgeous dress of cream-colored satin, rushed towards the officers and tried to prevent their entering.

Joseph’s interest did not flag when his reporting class project was turned in. House of Swann: Where Slaves Became Queens will be published in 2021.

Meanwhile you can bone up on Swann, Swann’s jail time for running a brothel, and the Washington DC drag scene of the Swann era in Joseph’s essay for The Nation, "The First Drag Queen Was a Former Slave."

Please note that William Dorsey Swann does not appear in the photo at the top of the page. As per Joseph:

The dancers — one in striped pants, the other in a dress — were recorded in France by Louis Lumière. Though their names are lost, they are believed to be American. In the show, they performed a version of the cakewalk, a dance invented by enslaved people, and the precursor to vogueing.

via The Nation

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join Ayun’s company Theater of the Apes in New York City this March for her book-based variety series, Necromancers of the Public Domain, and the world premiere of Greg Kotis’ new musical, I AM NOBODY. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch This Year’s Oscar-Winning Short The Neighbor’s Window, a Surprising Tale of Urban Voyeurism

As the last couple of generations to come of age have rediscovered, urban living has its benefits. One of those benefits is the ability to keep an eye on your neighbors — quite literally, given a situation of buildings in close proximity, sufficiently large windows, and minimal usage of drapes. Fortysomething Brooklyn couple Alli and Jacob find themselves turned into voyeurs by just such a situation in Marshall Curry's The Neighbor's Window, the Best Live Action Short Film at this year's Academy Awards. "Do they have jobs, or clothes?" asks Alli, overcome by the frustration of looking after her and Jacob's three young children. "All they do is host dance parties and sleep 'till noon and screw."

You may recognize Maria Dizzia and Greg Keller, who play Alli and Jacob, from their appearances in Noah Baumbach's While We're Young. That film, too, dealt with the envy New York Gen-Xers feel for seemingly more freewheeling New York Millennials, but The Neighbor's Window takes it in a different direction.

Curry based it on "The Living Room," an episode of the storytelling interview podcast Love and Radio in which writer and filmmaker Diana Weipert tells of all she saw when she enjoyed a similarly clear view into the life of her own younger neighbors. "Am I supposed to have maybe respected their privacy and just looked away?" Weipert asks, rhetorically. "But it's impossible because that's the way the chairs face. They face the window! I couldn't have not seen them if I wanted to."

Then again, she adds, "I guess I could've not gotten the binoculars." That irresistible detail makes it into The Neighbor's Window as a symbol of Alli and Jacob's surrender to their fascination with the couple across the street. "They're like a car crash that you can't look away from," as Alli puts it. "Okay, a beautiful, sexy, young car crash." Yet both she and her husband, like any human beings with a partial view of other human beings, can't help but compare their circumstances unfavorably with those seen from afar. Eventually, as in "The Living Room," the twentysomethings experience a reversal of fortune, changing Alli and Jacob's view of them. They also regain the view of themselves they'd lost amid all their voyeurism — enough of it to make them forget that the observers can also be observed.

The Neighbor's Window will be added to our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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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.

Watch Footage from the Psychology Experiment That Shocked the World: Milgram’s Obedience Study (1961)

For decades following World War II,  the world was left wondering how the atrocities of the Holocaust could have been perpetrated in the midst of—and, most horrifically, by—a modern and civilized society. How did people come to engage in a willing and systematic extermination of their neighbors? Psychologists, whose field had grown into a grudgingly respected science by the midpoint of the 20th century, were eager to tackle the question.

In 1961, Yale University’s Stanley Milgram began a series of infamous obedience experiments. While Adolf Eichmann’s trial was underway in Jerusalem (resulting in Hannah Arendt’s five-piece reportage, which became one of The New Yorker magazine’s most dramatic and controversial article series), Milgram began to suspect that human nature was more straightforward than earlier theorists had imagined; he wondered, as he later wrote, "Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?"

In the most famous his experiments, Milgram ostensibly recruited participants to take part in a study assessing the effects of pain on learning. In reality, he wanted to see how far he could push the average American to administer painful electric shocks to a fellow human being.

When participants arrived at his lab, Milgram’s assistant would ask them, as well as a second man, to draw slips of paper to receive their roles for the experiment. In fact, the second man was a confederate; the participant would always draw the role of “teacher,” and the second man would invariably be made the “learner.”

The participants received instructions to teach pairs of words to the confederate. After they had read the list of words once, the teachers were to test the learner’s recall by reading one word, and asking the learner to name one of the four words associated with it. The experimenter told the participants to punish any learner mistakes by pushing a button and administering an electric shock; while they could not see the learner, participants could hear his screams. The confederate, of course, remained unharmed, and merely acted out in pain, with each mistake costing him an additional 15 volts of punishment. In case participants faltered in their scientific resolve, the experimenter was nearby to urge them, using four authoritative statements:

Please continue.

The experiment requires that you continue.

It is absolutely essential that you continue.

You have no other choice, you must go on.

In a jarring set of findings, Milgram found that 26 of the 40 participants obeyed instructions, administering shocks all the way from “Slight Shock,” to “Danger: Severe Shock.” The final two ominous switches were simply marked “XXX.” Even when the learners would pound on the walls in agony after seemingly receiving 300 volts, participants persisted. Eventually, the learner simply stopped responding.

Although they followed instructions, participants repeatedly expressed their desire to stop the experiment, and showed clear signs of extreme discomfort:

“I observed a mature and initially poised businessman enter the laboratory smiling and confident. Within 20 minutes he was reduced to a twitching, stuttering wreck, who was rapidly approaching a point of nervous collapse… At one point he pushed his fist into his forehead and muttered: “Oh God, let’s stop it.” And yet he continued to respond to every word of the experimenter, and obeyed to the end." 

Milgram’s study set off a powder keg whose impact remains felt to this day. Ethically, many objected to the deception and the lack of adequate participant debriefing. Others claimed that Milgram overemphasized human nature’s propensity for blind obedience, with the experimenter often urging participants to continue many more times than the four stock phrases allowed.

In the clip above, you can watch original footage from Milgram’s  experiment, frightening in its insidious simplicity. (See a full documentary on the study below.) The man administering the shock grows increasingly uncomfortable with his part in the proceedings, and almost walks out, asking “Who’s going to take the responsibility for anything that happens to that gentleman?” When the experimenter replies, “I’m responsible,” the man, absolving himself, continues. As the person receiving the shocks grows increasingly panicked, complaining about his heart and asking to be let out, the participant makes his objections known but appears paralyzed, sheepishly turning to the experimenter, unable to leave.

Although Milgram’s work has drawn critics, his results endure. While changing the experiment’s procedure may alter compliance (e.g., having the experimenter speak to participants over the phone rather than remain in the same room throughout the experiment decreased obedience rates), replications have tended to confirm Milgram’s initial findings. Whether one is urged once or a dozen times, people tend to take on the yoke of authority as absolute, relinquishing their personal agency in the pain they impart. Human nature, it seems, has no Manichean leanings—merely a pliant bent.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in November 2013.

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Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based science and culture writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman

Wes Anderson Releases the Official Trailer for His New Film, The French Dispatch: Watch It Online

James Pogue in the Baffler recently lamented the rise of "shareable writing," manifest in a now-common breed of article both "easy for publishers to reproduce" and for readers to absorb. Shareability requires, above all, that pieces "be simple to describe and package online." This in contrast to the writing published by, say, The New Yorker in decades past. "Every time I have a reason to pull up a piece from the archives, I am shocked at how strange and outré the older pieces read — less like work from a different magazine than documents from an alien society." That alien society provides the backdrop for Wes Anderson's next feature film The French Dispatch, whose trailer has just come out.

Anyone who watches one of Anderson's films will suspect him of loving all things mid-century — that is to say, the artifacts of life as it was lived in the decades following the Second World War, especially in western Europe. This love comes through in the look and feel of even Anderson's earlier pictures, like Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, whose stories ostensibly take place in contemporary America. But in recent years Anderson has gone in for increasingly intricate period pieces, setting Moonrise Kingdom in mid-1960s New England and The Grand Budapest Hotel in the years 1932, 1968, and 1985, all in the imagined European country of Zubrowka. The French Dispatch takes place in the 1960s in the very real European country of France, but a fictional town called "Ennui-sur-Blasé" that allows Anderson to conjure up a mid-20th-century France of the mind.

The mid-century objects of Anderson's love include The New Yorker, a magazine he's read and collected since his teen years. The influence of that love on The French Dispatch has not gone unnoticed at the current New YorkerA piece published there offering stills of Anderson's new film describes it as "about the doings of a fictional weekly magazine that looks an awful lot like — and was, in fact, inspired by — The New Yorker. The editor and writers of this fictional magazine, and the stories it publishes—three of which are dramatized in the film — are also loosely inspired by The New Yorker." Heading the titular dispatch is Arthur Howitzer, Jr., played (naturally) by Bill Murray and inspired by New Yorker founding editor Harold Ross. Owen Wilson's Herbsaint Sazerac is "a writer whose low-life beat mirrors Joseph Mitchell’s." Jeffrey Wright as Roebuck Wright, "a mashup of James Baldwin and A. J. Liebling, is a journalist from the American South who writes about food."

Other regular Anderson players include Adrien Brody's Julian Cadazio, an art dealer "modelled on Lord Duveen, who was the subject of a six-part New Yorker Profile by S. N. Behrman, in 1951." Consider, for a moment, that there was a time when a major magazine would publish a six-part profile of a British art dealer who had died more than a decade before — and when such a piece of writing would draw both considerable attention and acclaim. There are those who criticize as misplaced Anderson's apparent nostalgia for times, places, and cultures like the one The French Dispatch will bring to the screen this summer. But here in the 21st century, inundated as we are by what Pogue calls the "largely voiceless and precisely formulaic" writing of even respectable publications, can we begrudge the filmmaker his yearning for those bygone days? The only thing missing back then, it might seem to us fans, was Wes Anderson movies.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How the Brooklyn Bridge Was Built: The Story of One of the Greatest Engineering Feats in History

When Emily Roebling walked across the Brooklyn Bridge on May 24th, 1883, the first person to cross its entire span, she capped a family saga equal parts triumph and tragedy, a story that began sixteen years earlier when her father-in-law, German-American engineer John Augustus Roebling, began design work on the bridge. Roebling had already built suspension bridges over the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh, the Niagara River between New York and Canada, and over the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky. But the bridge over the East River was to be something else entirely. As Roebling himself said, it “will not only be the greatest bridge in existence, but it will be the greatest engineering work of the continent, and of the age.”

New York City officials may have had little reason to think so in the mid-1860s. “Suspension bridges were collapsing all across Europe,” notes the TED-Ed video above by Alex Gendler. “Their industrial cables frayed during turbulent weather and snapped under the weight of their decks.” But the overcrowding city needed relief. An “East River Bridge Project” had been in the works since 1829 and was seen as more necessary with each passing decade. Despite their misgivings, the authorities were willing to trust Roebling with a hybrid design that combined methods used by both suspension and cable-stayed bridges. Two years later, he was dead, the result of a tetanus infection contracted after he lost several toes in a dock accident.

Roebling’s son Washington, a civil engineer who had fought for the Union Army at the Battle of Gettysburg, took over the project, only to suffer from paralysis after he got the bends while trapped inside a caisson in 1870. For the remainder of the bridge’s construction, he would advise from his bedroom, relaying instructions through his wife Emily—who became after a time the bridge’s de facto chief engineer. She “studied mathematics, the calculations of catenary curves, strengths of materials and the intricacies of cable construction,” writes Emily Nonko at 6sqft.  She knew the bridge so well that “many were under the impression she was the real designer.”

“1.5 times longer than any previously built suspension bridge,” the video lesson notes, Roebling’s design worked because it used steel cables instead of hemp, with towers rising over 90 meters (295 feet) above sea level. This is almost three times higher than editors at the New York Mirror projected in 1829, when they called the brand new “East River Bridge Project” an “absurd and ruinous” proposition. “Who would mount over such a structure, when a passage could be effected in a much shorter time, and that, too, without exertion or trouble, in a safe and well-sheltered steamboat?”

Just six days after Emily Roebling crossed the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge, a stampede killed twelve people, and months later, P.T. Barnum led 21 elephants over the bridge to prove its safety. Who would cross such a structure? It turned out, for better or worse, anyone and everyone would drive, walk, run, subway, bike, scoot, climb up, leap from, and otherwise “mount over” the East River by way of the neo-gothic wonder (and later its much uglier sibling, the Manhattan Bridge). Learn much more in the short lesson above how John A. Roebling’s bombastic claims about his design were not far off the mark, and why the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the greatest engineering feats in modern history.

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

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