Aldous Huxley Warns Against Dictatorship in America

Warnings of dictatorship are nothing new in America. We have them now, and we've had them before, and we've even had them come from the intelligentsia at times. Above, Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World (get free text here), talks with Mike Wallace in 1958 -- smack in the middle of the Cold War -- about the major threats to American freedom. Who were the villains? Not elected representatives who passed laws with a majority in Congress. No, it was a different set of characters: overpopulation, bureaucracy, propaganda, drugs, advertising, and, yes, television. Part 1 of the interview appears above, and you can continue with Part 2, and Part 3. For more interviews from The Mike Wallace Interview (1957-1960), please revisit our earlier piece. You'll find some more thought provoking interviews there (and lots of cigarette peddling).

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Papiroflexia

Originally from Paraguay, Joaquin Baldwin moved to LA and started studying at The UCLA Animation Workshop, where he directed this short animated film, Papiroflexia (Spanish for “Origami”). The film ended up being a finalist at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. Then, in 2009, Baldwin went on win the competition with a new animated film, Sebastian's Voodoo, even though he was competing with films by Pixar and Disney. You can watch four shorts (including Sebastian's Voodoo) at Baldwin's site, PixelNitrate.com. And for lots of other film goodness, be sure to check out our collection of Free Movies Online.

Marlon Brando Opens Up to Tennessee Williams

I had no idea that Marlon Brando was much of a writer, but this 1955 letter to Tennessee Williams is superb. Perhaps I just can't help identifying him with Stanley Kowalski of the "Napoleonic code," Stella!" and "Hoity-toity, describin' me like a ape." Especially interesting is his attitude towards success. (Note some of the language is a little strong/racy):

I have been afraid for you sometimes, because success sings a deadly lullaby to most people. Success is a real and subtle whore, who would like nothing better than to catch you sleeping and bite your cock off. You have been as brave as anybody I've known, and it is comforting to think about it. You probably don't think of yourself as brave because nobody who really has courage does, but I know you are and I get food from that.

This passage echoes Williams' own views on success, especially his beautiful (and ironically inspiring) essay On a Streetcar Named Success, written eight years earlier:

It is never altogether too late, unless you embrace the Bitch Goddess, as William James called her, with both arms and find in her smothering caresses exactly what the homesick little boy in you always wanted, absolute protection and utter effortlessness. Security is a kind of death, I think, and it can come to you in a storm of royalty checks beside a kidney-shaped pool in Beverly Hills or anywhere at all that is removed from the conditions that made you an artist, if that's what you are or were intended to be. Ask anyone who has experienced the kind of success I am talking about--What good is it? Perhaps to get an honest answer you will have to give him a shot of truth-serum but the word he will finally groan is unprintable in genteel publications.

You'll find the rest of Brando's letter (including an image of the original) -- which includes reflections on actors Anna Magnani and Burt Lancaster -- here.

Wes Alwan lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he works as a writer and researcher and attends the Institute for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Culture. He also participates in The Partially Examined Life, a podcast consisting of informal discussions about philosophical texts by three philosophy graduate school dropouts.

Orson Welles Reads Moby Dick

Welles is reading just a short introduction here. But if you want a complete audio download of Moby Dick, let me tell you how to get one. You can download a free reading of Melville's classic at Librivox. (The full mp3 zip file is right here.) Or you can also snag a free copy of the novel (or any other book you want) if you try out Audible's 14 day, no-strings-attached, free trial. Details on that here. (Note: these audio files feature other folks reading Moby Dick, not Welles.) Finally, you can download a lot more great literature from our big collection of Free Audio Books.

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YouTube EDU Turns One Today

Just wanted to send out a quick birthday wish to YouTube EDU, which celebrates its first birthday today. The site now features over 65,000 academic videos and 350 full courses, many coming from universities like Stanford, Yale, and MIT. My program at Stanford has happily contributed 12 courses to the collection (find them here), and they've been downloaded by thousands of viewers across the world. It's all very gratifying.

If you want to learn more about YouTube EDU, you can read this piece I posted shortly after it launched. But, better yet, you should give the site itself a visit. And, to the folks at YouTube, keep up the good work!

PS If you're looking for more intelligent content on YouTube, you should peruse our page that highlights the smartest video channels on the Tube. NASA, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Google Talks, TED Talks -- they're all listed here.

Sam Harris: Science Can Answer Moral Questions

What's good, and what's evil? Traditionally, religion and philosophy have answered these questions, pushing science to the side, asking it to stick to the world of natural laws and knowable facts. But Sam Harris wants to change things. At TED, he's arguing that science (particularly neuroscience) can address moral questions precisely because these questions fall into the world of knowable facts. And, even better, science can provide definitive, highly objective answers to such questions. Just as there are scientific answers to all questions in physics, so there are clear answers in the moral realm. This applies, for example, to whether children should be subjected to corporal punishment, or how society deals with very meaningful gender questions. (Things get a little emotional on this topic at about 11 minutes in.) The upshot is that Harris isn't buying a radically relativist position on morality, and this will disappoint many post-modernists. The Enlightenment project is alive and well, ready to make its comeback.

Update: You can find a rebuttal to Harris’s thesis from physicist Sean Carroll here. Thanks Mike for pointing that out.

via RichardDawkins.net

Tim O’Reilly: The University as an Open iPhone Platform

Both the iPhone and Facebook took off when they opened themselves up to outside developers, letting them innovate and build thousands of unforeseen apps for users. In the video above, tech guru Tim O'Reilly asks how universities can do the same. How can they let developers (in this case, the professors) innovate and distribute content to users (students) in new and efficient ways? There are more questions than answers here, but if you want to imagine the university in the 21st century, these are the questions you can't avoid.

via @drszucker via Beth Harris, both at smARThistory.

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