British Doctors To Prescribe Arts & Culture to Patients: “The Arts Are Essential to our Health and Wellbeing”

Photo by Adam Jones, via Wikimedia Commons

The arts and humanities are afterthoughts in many American schools, rarely given priority as part of a comprehensive education, though they formed the basis of one for thousands of years elsewhere. One might say something similar of preventative medicine in the U.S. healthcare system. It’s tempting to idealize the priorities of other wealthy countries. The Japanese investment in “forest bathing,” for example, comes to mind, or Finnish public schools and France's funding of an Alzheimer’s village.

But everyplace has its problems, and no country is an island, exempt from the global pressures of capital or hostile interference.

But if we consider such things as art, music, and dance as essential—not only to an education, but to our general well-being—we must commend the UK’s Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, for his “social prescribing” initiative.

Hancock wants “the country’s doctors to prescribe therapeutic art- or hobby-based treatments for ailments ranging from dementia to psychosis, lung conditions and mental health issues,” reports Meilan Solly at Smithsonian. The plan “could find patients enrolled in dance classes and singing lessons, or perhaps enjoying a personalized music playlist.”

In a speech Hancock delivered on what happened to be election day in the U.S., he referred to a quote from Confucius that represents one particularly ancient educational tradition: “Music produces a kind of pleasure, which human nature cannot do without.” (He also quotes the Rolling Stones' “Satisfaction.”) Hancock’s idea goes beyond aristocratic traditions of old, proclaiming a diet of the arts for everyone.

They’re not just a right in their own terms as the search for truth and expression of the human condition. We shouldn’t only value them for the role they play in bringing meaning and dignity to our lives. We should value the arts and social activities because they’re essential to our health and wellbeing. And that’s not me as a former Culture Secretary saying it. It’s scientifically proven. Access to the arts and social activities improves people’s mental and physical health.

We’ve likely all come across research on the tremendous health benefits of what Warnock calls “social activities,” maintaining friendships and getting out and about. But what does the research into art and health say? “The medical benefits of engaging with the arts are well-recorded,” Solly writes, citing studies of stroke survivors making great strides after performing with the Royal Philharmonic; dance lessons improving clarity and concentration among those with early psychosis; and those with lung conditions improving with singing lessons. Additionally, many studies have shown the emotional lift museum visits and other cultural activities of a social nature can give.

Similar trials have taken place in Canada, but the UK project is “simultaneously more comprehensive and less fleshed-out,” aiming to encourage everything from cooking classes, playing bingo, and gardening to “more culturally focused ventures.” The proposal does not, however, fully address funding or accessibility issues for the most at-risk patients. Hancock’s rhetoric also perhaps heedlessly pits “more prevention and perspiration” against “popping pills and Prozac,” a characterization that seems to trivialize drug therapies and create a false binary where the two approaches can work well hand-in-hand.

Nonetheless, a shift away from “over-medicalising” and toward preventative and holistic approaches has the potential to address not only chronic symptoms of disease, but the non-medical causes—including stress, isolation, and sadness—that contribute to and worsen illness. The plan may require a rigorously individualized implementation by physicians and it will "start at a disadvantage," with 4% cuts per year to the NHS budget until 2021, as Royal College of Nursing public health expert Helen Donovan points out.

Those challenges aside, given all we know about the importance of emotional well-being to physical health, it’s hard to argue with Hancock’s premise. “Access to the arts improves people’s mental and physical health,” he tweeted during his November 6th roll-out of the initiative. “It makes us happier and healthier." Art is not a luxury, but a necessary ingredient in human flourishing, and yet "the arts do not tend to be thought of in medical terms," writes professor of health humanities Paul Crawford, though they constitute a "shadow health service," bringing us a kind of happiness, I’d argue with Confucius, that we simply cannot find anywhere else.

via The Smithsonian

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

Hundreds of Wonderful Japanese Firework Designs from the Early-1900s: Digitized and Free to Download

The Japanese term for fireworks, hanabi (花火), combines the words for fire, bi (), and flower, hana (). If you've seen fireworks anywhere, that derivation may seem at least vaguely apt, but if you've seen Japanese fireworks, it may well strike you as evocative indeed. The traditional Japanese way with presenting flowers, their shapes and colors as well as their scents, has something in common with the traditional Japanese way of putting on a fireworks show.

Not that the production of firecrackers goes as far back, historically, as the arrangement of flowers does, nor that firecrackers themselves, originally a product of China, have anything essentially Japanese about them.

But as more recently with cars, comic books, consumer electronics, and Kit-Kats, whenever Japan re-interprets a foreign invention, the project amounts to radical re-invention, and often a dazzling one at that.

These Japanese versions of non-Japanese things often become highly desirable around the world in their own right. It certainly happened with Japanese fireworks, here proudly displayed in these elegant and vividly colored English catalogs of Hirayama Fireworks and Yokoi Fireworks, published in the early 1900s by C.R. Brock and Company, whose founding date of 1698 makes it the oldest firework concern in the United Kingdom.

These Brocks catalogs been digitized by the Yokohama Board of Education and made available online at the site of the Yokohama Public Library. (Though I've never seen a fireworks show in Yokohama, that city, dotted as it is with impeccably designed public gardens, certainly has its flower-appreciation credentials in order.) Even if you don't read Japanese, you can easily download them: just click here and scroll down until you see their cover images, click on their English titles, and click the "本体PDF画像" link on the next page to get the PDF.

Organized into such categories as "Vertical Wheels," "Phantom Circles," and "Colored Floral Bomb Shells," the catalogs present their imported Japanese wares simply, as various patterns of color against a black or blue background. But simplicity, as even those only distantly acquainted with Japanese art have seen, supports a few particularly strong and enduring branches of Japanese aesthetics.

No matter where you take in your displays of fireworks, you'll surely recognize more than a few of these designs from having seen them light up the night sky. And as far as where to look for the next firework innovator, I might suggest South Korea, where I live: at this past summer's Seoul International Fireworks festival I witnessed fireworks exploding into the shape of cat faces, whiskers and all. Such elaborateness many violate the more rigorous versions of the Japanese sensibility as they apply to hanabi — but then again, just imagine what wonders Japan, one of the most cat-loving countries in the world, could do with that concept.

via Boing Boing/Present and Correct

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A Firework’s Point of View

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.

Living Paintings: 13 Caravaggio Works of Art Performed by Real-Life Actors

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, the father of Baroque painting, shocked the upper class aesthetes of his day by drafting prostitutes and proletariats as models for his primarily Biblical subjects.

Ten years ago, under the direction of founder Ludovica Rambelli, eight members of the Italian company, Malatheatre, discovered first hand the insanely rigorous poses Caravaggio demanded of his models, creating 23 tableaux vivants inspired by the master’s oeuvre.

The company sought less to reproduce the paintings than the scene Caravaggio would have gazed on from behind his easel.

The 13 stagings in the video above make one aware of the intense physicality evident in Caravaggio’s work.

All those extended arms and inversions are agony for a model. After 30 seconds or so, even a sharply inclined neck or bent back can serve up a small taste of what it’s like to be crucified.

The result is exquisite. The eight players are not just extraordinarily fit specimens, they have clearly devoted much thought to the emotional life of each character they embody, sustaining the moment with great focus and determination.

The action unfolds in the suitably ancient setting of Naples’ Church of Santa Maria Donnaregina Nuova.

When not called upon to model, the performers become stage hands, helping each other to arrange the simple, well chosen props and flowing mantles.

(I enjoyed the small joke of a female Bacchus.)

Performed live to selections from Mozart, Bach, and Vivaldi, this company has settled on the Lux Aeterna section of Mozart’s Requiem to accompany their archival footage.

The next opportunity to see the show performed live will be in Naples on December 28.

Have a look at the video below, for some comparisons between the original paintings and the 13 tableaux vivants seen in the video:

The Entombment of Christ

Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy,

Crucifixion of Saint Peter

The Beheading of St John the Baptist

Judith Beheading Holofernes

Flagellation of Christ

The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew

Annunciation

Rest on the Flight into Egypt

Narcissus,

The Raising of Lazarus

Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy

Bacchus

via This Kids Should See This

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Ayun Halliday is a former artist’s model turned author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, November 12 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

 

“A Great Day in Harlem,” Art Kane’s Iconic Photo of 57 Jazz Legends, Celebrates Its 60th Anniversary

Image by Art Kane, via Wikimedia Commons

Sixty years ago, Art Kane assembled one of the largest groups of jazz greats in history. No, it wasn’t an all-star big band, but a meeting of veteran legends and young upstarts for the iconic photograph known as “A Great Day in Harlem.” Fifty-seven musicians gathered outside a brownstone at 17 East 126th St.—accompanied by twelve neighborhood kids—from “big rollers,” notes Jazzwise magazine, like “Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Count Basie, Sonny Rollins, Lester Young, Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins and Pee Wee Russell to then up-and-coming names, Benny Golson, Marion MacPartland, Mary Lou Williams and Art Farmer.”

Sonny Rollins was there, one of only two musicians in the photo still alive. The other, Benny Golson, who turns 90 next year, remembers getting a call from Village Voice critic Nat Hentoff, telling him to get over there. Golson lived in the same building as Quincy Jones, “but somehow he wasn’t called or he didn’t make it.”

Other people who might have been in the photograph but weren’t, Golson says, because they were working (and the 10 a.m. call time was a stretch for a working musician): “John Coltrane, Miles, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman.” And Buddy Rich, whom Golson calls the “greatest drummer I ever heard in my life” (adding, “but his personality was horrible.”)

The next year, everything changed—or so the story goes—when revolutionary albums hit the scene from the likes of Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Ornette Coleman, and Charles Mingus. These records pushed experimental forms, leaving behind the confines of both swing and bebop. But Kane’s jazz class photo shows us, Matthew Kessel writes at Vulture, “a portrait of harmony, old and new guard alike peaceably intermingling. The photo suggests that jazz is as much about continuity and tradition as it is about radical change.” The photo has since become a tradition itself, hanging on the walls of thousands of homes, bookshops, record stores, barbershops, and restaurants. (Get your copy here.)

Originally titled "Harlem 1958,"  Kane's image has inspired some notable homages in black culture. In 1998, XXL magazine tapped Gordon Parks to shoot “A Great Day in Hip Hop” for a now-historic cover. And this past summer, Netflix gathered 47 black creatives behind more than 20 original Netflix shows for the redux “A Great Day in Hollywood.” The photo also inspired a documentary of the same title in 1994 (at whose website you can click on each musician for a short bio). At the Daily News, Sarah Goodyear tells the story of how Kane conceived and executed the ambitious project for a special jazz edition of Esquire.

It was his “first professional shooting assignment and, with it, he ended up making history by almost by accident.” Goodyear quotes Kane’s son Jonathan, himself a New York musician, who remarks, “certain things end up being bigger than the original intention. The photograph has become part of our cultural fabric.” For longtime residents of Harlem, the so-called Capital of Black America, and a spiritual home of jazz, it's just like an old family portrait. See a fully annotated version of "A Great Day in Harlem" at Harlem.org, and at the Daily News, an interactive version with links to YouTube recordings and performances from every one of the 57 musicians in the picture.

This month, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the photo, Wall of Sound Gallery will publish the book Art Kane: Harlem 1958, a retrospective with outtakes from the photo session and text from Quincy Jones, Benny Golson, Jonathan Kane, and Art himself. "The importance of this photo transcends time and location," writes Jones in his forward, "leaving it to become not only a symbolic piece of art, but a piece of history. During a time in which segregation was very much still a part of our everyday lives, and in a world that often pointed out our differences instead of celebrating our similarities, there was something so special and pure about gathering 57 individuals together, in the name of jazz."

  1. Hilton Jefferson (1903-1968)
  2. Benny Golson (1929-)
  3. Art Farmer (1928-2003)
  4. Wilbur Ware (1923-1979)
  5. Art Blakey (1919-1990)
  6. Chubby Jackson (1918-2003)
  7. Johnny Griffin (1928-2008)
  8. Dickie Wells (1909-1985)
  9. Buck Clayton (1911-1993)
  10. Taft Jordan (1915-1981)
  11. Zutty Singleton (1898-1975)
  12. Henry “Red” Allen (1908-1967)
  13. Tyree Glenn (1912-1972)
  14. Miff Mole (1898-1961)
  15. Sonny Greer (1903-1982)
  16. J.C. Higginbotham (1906-1973)
  17. Jimmy Jones (1918-1982)
  18. Charles Mingus (1922-1979)
  19. Jo Jones (1911-1985)
  20. Gene Krupa (1909-1973)
  21. Max Kaminsky (1908-1994)
  22. George Wettling (1907-1968)
  23. Bud Freeman (1906-1988)
  24. Pee Wee Russell (1906-1969)
  25. Ernie Wilkins (1922-1999)
  26. Buster Bailey (1902-1967)
  27. Osie Johnson (1923-1968)
  28. Gigi Gryce (1927-1983)
  29. Hank Jones (1918-2010)
  30. Eddie Locke (1930-2009)
  31. Horace Silver (1928-2014)
  32. Luckey Roberts (1887-1968)
  33. Maxine Sullivan (1911-1987)
  34. Jimmy Rushing (1902-1972)
  35. Joes Thomas (1909-1984)
  36. Scoville Browne (1915-1994)
  37. Stuff Smith (1909-1967)
  38. Bill Crump (1919-1980s)
  39. Coleman Hawkins (1904-1969)
  40. Rudy Powell (1907-1976)
  41. Oscar Pettiford (1922-1960)
  42. Sahib Shihab (1925-1993)
  43. Marian McPartland (1920-2013)
  44. Sonny Rollins (1929-)
  45. Lawrence Brown (1905-1988)
  46. Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981)
  47. Emmett Berry (1915-1993)
  48. Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)
  49. Vic Dickenson (1906-1984)
  50. Milt Hinton (1910-2000)
  51. Lester “Pres” Young (1909-1959)
  52. Rex Stewart (1907-1972)
  53. J.C. Heard (1917-1988)
  54. Gerry Mulligan (1927-1995)
  55. Roy Eldridge (1911-1989)
  56. Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993)
  57. William “Count” Basie (1904-1984)

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

A Space of Their Own, a New Online Database, Will Feature Works by 600+ Overlooked Female Artists from the 15th-19th Centuries

Many of the works we found—well, nobody knew they were there. Nobody knew anything about the artists. … They weren’t important, but rather beholden to their fathers, mothers, and husbands. They had no voice.   

- Jane Fortune, Founder of Advancing Women Artists (AWA)

The paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures the late Jane Fortune refers to above were discovered in museum storage spaces throughout Florence.

Many of their female creators were acclaimed during their lifetimes. By the time Fortune set about restoring their work—and visibility —to the public view, they were virtually unknown, even to museum staff.

Saint Catherine with Lily by Plautilla Nelli

That may change as early as the fall of 2019, when A Space of Their Own, an illustrated online database of over 600 female artists working in the US and Europe between the 15th and 19th centuries, launches.

In preparation for their reintroduction, many of the works appearing on A Space of Their Own have undergone extensive restoration, courtesy of Jane Fortune's nonprofit Advancing Women Artists.

David and Bathsheba by Artemisia Gentileschi

Interestingly, women make up the majority of art restorers in Florence. This professional dominance can be traced back to the mid-60s, when a catastrophic flood laid waste to millions of the city’s art treasures. “It was the first time women began wearing trousers in Florence,” Linda Falcone, AWA’s current director told artnet. “Women’s liberation in Florence is deeply linked to the art restoration effort.”

Many of the artists in the database were self-taught, barred from seeking formal training or studying anatomy on account of their gender. They could not hope to make a living from their talents when women were forbidden from issuing invoices. And then, of course, there are the demands of marriage and motherhood.

Small wonder they have been so underrepresented in museums and art history books.

Self-portrait by Leonetta Pieraccini Cecchi

Peruse a menu of paintings in need of restoration sponsorship and learn more about the artists on AWA’s website. Sign up for the newsletter for updates in advance of A Space of Their Own's grand opening.

via Hyperallergic

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, November 12 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Download Digitized Copies of The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, the Pre-Civil Rights Guide to Traveling Safely in the U.S. (1936-66)

As an American living outside America, I'm often asked how best to see my homeland by people wanting to visit it. I always suggest the same method: road-tripping, preferably across the entire continent — a way of experiencing the U.S. of A guaranteed to at once to confirm and shatter the visitor's pre-existing perceptions of the country. But even under the best possible conditions, such road trips have their arduous stretches and even their dangers, a fact understood by nobody better than by the black travelers of the Green Book era. Published between 1936 and 1967, the guide officially known as The Negro Motorist Green Book informed such travelers of where in America (and later other countries as well) they could have a meal, stay the night, and get their car repaired without prejudice.

You can learn more about the Green Book (which we've previously featured here on Open Culture) from the Vox explainer video above. Then, to get a fuller idea of the books' content, head over to the New York Public Library's digital collections, where you'll find 23 issues from the Green Book's more than 30-year run.

Digitized by the NYPL's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, they're free to read online and download. Data drawn from this archive and released into the public domain has also given rise to projects like "Navigating the Green Book," where you can explore its recommended places laid out on a map and even plot a trip between any two cities in America according to the Green Book's 1947 or 1956 editions.

Though the Green Book ceased publication not long after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, interest in the America they reflect hasn't vanished, and has in fact grown in recent years. Academia has produced more studies of Jim Crow-era travel over the past decade or two, and this Thanksgiving will see the wide release of Green Book, Peter Farrelly's feature film about the friendship between black pianist Don Shirley and the chauffeur who drove him through the Deep South in the 1960s. "To flip through a Green Book is to open a window into history and perhaps to see, the tiniest amount, through the eyes of someone who lived it," writes K Menick on the NYPL's blog. "Read these books; map them in your mind. Think about the trips you could take, can take, will take. See how the size of the world can change depending on the color of your skin." 

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

A Database of Paper Airplane Designs: Hours of Fun for Kids & Adults Alike

Though we can trace the history of paper aircraft back 2000 years to the Chinese and their kites, and into the 19th century with the French and their imaginary airships, the origin of the modern paper airplane is shrouded in mystery. A San Diego Reader article placed the birth somewhere in 1910. By 1915, most American kids were already tormenting teachers. And Jack Northrup used paper models to work on aerodynamics at Lockheed in the 1930s, but even that doesn’t do much to explain how such a ubiquitous object has continued to be so humble and ordinary while inspiring a recent upsurge of interest.

The database at Fold’n’Fly shows how much variety there is beyond the basic “dart” style, and each airplane comes with step-by-step folding instructions, a printable pattern page, and a helpful video.

You can choose by difficulty level, whether or not you will need scissors, or sort by distance, acrobatics, time aloft, or purely decorative.

One of the reasons for the renewed interest in paper airplanes is the use of CAD (computer aided design) in constructing prototypes, and that in itself is a response to the challenge set by various Guinness world records.

The current distance record is 226 feet, 10 inches, set in March 2012 by a former college quarterback Joe Ayoob. The plane was designed by television producer John Collins, who used Ayoob’s throwing arm strength to break the previous record holder by nearly 20 feet.

The longest time a paper airplane has been in the air is currently 27.6 seconds, set in 1998 by Ken Blackburn at the Georgia Dome. He was breaking his own record for the third time.

Lastly, the record for largest paper airplane is 40 ft 10 inches, designed by students from the Technology University of Delft in 1995.

So, now you know what you’re up against. If you think you can do better, dive into this website and get folding.

via Metafilter

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

The First House Powered by Coffee

Since 2006, Dunkin' Donuts has used the tagline "America Runs on Dunkin'," presumably alluding to the coffee and donuts that get millions of Americans through each morning. But maybe, all along, they've had something more in mind. Above, Dunkin' presents a tiny home powered by biofuel made from spent coffee grounds, a process masterminded by a company called Blue Marble Biomaterials. Working with luxury tiny homebuilder New Frontier Tiny Homes, they've created a process--notes a Dunkin' press release--that works something like this:

  • Step 1: Extract excess oils in the spent coffee grounds. There can be natural oils left in spent coffee grounds, all depending on the coffee bean type and original processing methods.
  • Step 2: Mix and react. These oils are then mixed with an alcohol to undergo a chemical reaction known as transesterification. This produces biodiesel and glycerin as a byproduct.
  • Step 3: Refine. The biodiesel is washed and refined to create the final product.

When all is said and done, 170 pounds of used coffee grounds translates into one gallon of fuel. From 65,000 pounds of coffee grounds, you got enough juice to power a 275 square foot home, at least for a while.

Take a 360 degree interactive tour of the tiny home here.

via New Atlas

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Freddie Mercury’s Final Days: Watch a Poignant Montage That Documents the Last Chapter of the Singer’s Life

The “biopic” has delivered dramatic retellings of famous figures’ lives since the very earliest days of cinema. We hunger, it seems, to see more-or-less-faithful approximations of our idols stride across the screen, enacting events witnessed by millions and those hidden away from everyone. In the case of popular musicians, these tend to involve epic alcohol and drug use, tumultuous love affairs, stadium-sized triumphs and the crushing defeats of falling out of cultural favor. Such scenes can prove difficult to recreate convincingly, especially the music and signature moves of world famous stars.

Condensing lifetimes into marketable narrative films that hit typical Hollywood beats also involves taking a fair amount of license. And as a spate of articles like “Everything Bohemian Rhapsody Got Wrong About Freddie Mercury’s Life” testify, the new biopic about Queen singer Freddie Mercury, played in the film by Rami Malek, twists or totally changes key events in Mercury’s life. The film re-imagines, for example, how Mercury met his bandmembers, his girlfriend Mary, and Jim Hutton, his longtime and final partner.

And, oddly, it imagines Mercury telling Queen about his HIV diagnosis during rehearsals for their 1985 Live Aid appearance, which it stages as a reunion, showing the band as having been on hiatus while members pursued solo projects. The truth, however, is that Mercury didn’t receive his diagnosis until 1987, and his bandmates weren’t fully aware of his illness until 1989. And when the band came together to perform at Live Aid, they had just toured the world in support of their 1984 album The Works.

Such distortions are a little perplexing given that Brian May and Roger Taylor served as creative consultants, sitting in on set during the production. The film has been also been accused of “straightwashing” Mercury’s sexuality and glossing over his roots and religion. You’ll have to evaluate the merits of these charges for yourself, but the case remains that if we want to know what Mercury’s life was really like, we need to supplant the entertaining fiction with the even more compelling truth.

The video above helps in some small part to fill gaps in our knowledge of Mercury’s last years, editing together interviews, TV clips, and performance footage. Although Mercury was very sick during this period, you would hardly have known it, and most of the people around him didn’t. He continued to write and record, working hard on Queen’s last album, Innuendo, released in the final year of his life.

We learn that his closest friends, colleagues, and bandmembers were in denial, “right up to the last minute,” as Brian May says, about the severity of his disease. “We sort of refused to know” how bad it was, May admits. Mercury himself pushed the knowledge away, immersing himself in his music to keep going. “The sicker Freddie got,” says Roger Taylor, “the more he seemed to need to record to give himself something to do, you know, some sort of reason to get up… so it was a period of fairly intense work.”

Mercury’s early death was tragic, but he met it heroically. And though his bandmates struggled to face the truth, they rallied around him in support, both in life and in death. When the tabloid press viciously slandered and attacked him, May and Taylor went on television to defend their friend. “He had a very responsible attitude to everyone that he was close to and he was a very generous and caring person to all the people that came through his life and more than that you can’t ask,” said May in a 1991 interview appearance after Mercury passed away. “I tell you we do feel absolutely bound to stick up for him,” added Taylor, “because he can’t stick up for himself anymore, you know?”

via Laughing Squid

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

The Disgusting Food Museum Curates 80 of the World’s Most Repulsive Dishes: Maggot-Infested Cheese, Putrid Shark & More

Often we get to know each other by talking which foods we like. Perhaps even more often, we get to know each other by talking about which foods we hate. Entertaining disagreements tend to arise from such discussions, usually around traditionally divisive comestibles like anchovies, cilantro, brussel sprouts, or the Japanese dish of fermented soybeans known as natto. But however many of us prefer to avoid them, these foods all look more or less conventional compared to the dishes curated by the Disgusting Food Museum, which the Washington Post's Maura Judkis describes as "the world’s first exhibition devoted to foods that some would call revolting."

"The exhibit has 80 of the world’s most disgusting foods," says the museum's official site. Adventurous visitors will appreciate the opportunity to smell and taste some of these notorious foods. Do you dare smell the world’s stinkiest cheese? Or taste sweets made with metal cleansing chemicals?" Judkis notes that "the museum’s name and its contents are pretty controversial — one culture’s disgusting is another culture’s delicacy.

That goes for escamoles, the tree-ant larvae eaten in Mexico, or shirako, the cod sperm eaten in Japan, or bird’s nest soup, a Chinese dish of nests made from bird saliva." It all goes to emphasize the Disgusting Food Museum's stated premises: "Disgust is one of the six fundamental human emotions. While the emotion is universal, the foods that we find disgusting are not. What is delicious to one person can be revolting to another."

With interest in food seemingly at an all-time high — and not just food, but traditional food from all around the world — the cultural studies wing of academia has begun to get serious mileage out of that proposition. But the Disgusting Food Museum has taken on a less intellectual and much more visceral mission, placing before its visitors durian fruit, banned from many a public space across Asia for its sheer stinkiness; casu marzu, which the museum's site describes as "maggot-infested cheese from Sardinia"; and hákarl, which Judkis describes as "a putrid shark meat dish from Iceland that the late Anthony Bourdain said was one of the worst things he had ever tasted."

You can learn more about these and the Disgusting Food Museum's other offerings from the Associated Press video at the top of the post, as well as at Smithsonian and the New York Times. If you'd like to see, smell, and even taste some of its exhibits for yourself, you'll have to make the trek out to Malmö, Sweden. The project comes from the mind of Samuel West, a Swede best known for creating the Museum of Failure (previously featured here on Open Culture), whose half-American parentage has made him familiar with several items of U.S. cuisine that gross out non-Americans, from Spam to Jell-O pasta salad (shades of James Lileks' midcentury midwest-focused Gallery of Regrettable Food) to Rocky Mountain oysters. Despite being American myself, I've never known anyone who likes that last, a dish made of bull testicles, or at least no one has ever admitted to me that they like it. But if someone did, I'd certainly feel as if I'd learned something about them.

Related Content:

The Museum of Failure: A Living Shrine to New Coke, the Ford Edsel, Google Glass & Other Epic Corporate Fails

Salvador Dalí’s 1973 Cookbook Gets Reissued: Surrealist Art Meets Haute Cuisine

What Prisoners Ate at Alcatraz in 1946: A Vintage Prison Menu

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





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