Don’t Dance at the Jefferson Memorial: A Quick PSA

Anyone know what law these dancers were violating, since the arresting officer apparently doesn't know (or won't say)?

Update: This article/post gives you the backstory. It explains that the dancers were "there protesting a ... court decision [handed down] earlier this month that upheld a ban on dancing within the memorial." The members of the "civil danceobedience" were charged with demonstrating without a permit, and then released a short time after. That's the answer to the question, in short...

via BoingBoing

Gil Scott-Heron, Godfather of Rap, Rest in Peace

Gil Scott-Heron, sometimes called the "Godfather of Rap," passed away in New York today. He was 62 years old.

Scott-Heron started setting poetry to rhythmic jazz during the late 60s and and gained fame when he recorded The Revolution Will Not Be Televised in 1971. Almost 40 years later, he released his final album, I'm New Here, which included a track called Where Did the Night Go that's featured above. That same year, the New Yorker published a profile – New York Is Killing Me: The unlikely survival of Gil Scott-Heronthat takes you through a life that knew hardship from beginning to end, but which brimmed with creativity in between.

If this is your first introduction to Scott-Heron's recordings, let us refer you to The Bottle, Winter in AmericaJohannesburg, and Ain't No Such Thing As Superman...

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John Banville: Art is a Minority Sport

The Franz Kafka Society announced yesterday that it was awarding the prestigious Franz Kafka Prize for 2011 to the Irish writer John Banville, who has built a reputation for being one of the finest prose stylists working in English--and for being a bit difficult.

First, there are the books themselves. "In their architecture and their style," wrote Belinda McKeon in the introduction to Banville's 2009 Paris Review interview, "his books are like baroque cathedrals, filled with elaborate passages and sometimes overwhelming to the casual tourist." And then there is the personality. When Banville won the 2005 Man Booker Prize for his novel The Sea, he proclaimed, "it is nice to see a work of art win the Booker Prize." As he explained later to The Village Voice, "the Booker Prize and literary prizes in general are for middle-ground, middlebrow work, which is as it should be. The Booker Prize is a prize to keep people interested in fiction, in buying fiction. If they gave it to my kind of book every year, it would rapidly die."

Art may not be for everyone, but for those who have read his books--16 novels published under his own name, four crime novels under the pen name Benjamin Black, and one collection of short stories--there is no doubt that Banville is an artist. "It all starts with rhythm for me," Banville told the Paris Review. "I love Nabokov's work, and I love his style. But I always thought there was something odd about it that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Then I read an interview in which he admitted he was tone deaf. And I thought, that's it--there's no music in Nabokov, it's all pictorial, it's all image-based. It's not any worse for that, but the prose doesn't sing. For me, a line has to sing before it does anything else. The great thrill is when a sentence that starts out being completely plain suddenly begins to sing, rising far above any expectation I might have had for it. That's what keeps me going on those dark December days when I think about how I could be living instead of writing."

For an example of Banville's singing prose, we leave off where The Sea begins:

They departed, the gods, on the day of the strange tide. All morning under a milky sky the waters in the bay had swelled and swelled, rising to unheard-of heights, the small waves creeping over parched sand that for years had known no wetting save for rain and lapping the very bases of the dunes. The rusted hulk of the freighter that had run aground at the far end of the bay longer ago than any of us could remember must have thought it was being granted a relaunch. I would not swim again, after that day. The seabirds mewled and swooped, unnerved, it seemed, by the spectacle of that vast bowl of water bulging like a blister, lead-blue and malignantly agleam. They looked unnaturally white, that day, those birds. The waves were depositing a fringe of soiled yellow foam along the waterline. No sail marred the high horizon. I would not swim, no, not ever again.

Orson Welles Performs a Magic Trick

We can't say enough good things about Biblioklept, and not only because they find so many literature-related gems. (A few recent examples: Raymond Carver's correspondence with editor Gordon Lish, Melville's Passport Application, A Post-Rapture Reading List). They also find great material from other art forms -- for example this clip of Orson Welles doing a magic trick, taken from the 1995 documentary Orson Welles: The One Man Band.

Watch to the end. As you might expect, the master upstages his co-star, flapping wings and all.

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Sir Anthony Hopkins Reads Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

The great actor Sir Anthony Hopkins is well versed in the work of fellow Welshman Dylan Thomas -- so much so he even directed the critically lauded film Dylan Thomas: The Return Journey in 2006. Here, he is reading one of Thomas' best-known poems, "Do not go gentle into that good night." (If anyone knows when this video was made, please drop us a line.)

There is, of course, no reader of Thomas' poetry equal to Thomas himself. Just listen to this BBC recording from 1951, the year the beloved villanelle was first published. But if dulcet tones and minimalist recordings aren't your thing, then you might want to check out this John Cale version.

And then, because it's Friday, don't forget Rodney Dangerfield.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 


Listening to Famous Poets Reading Their Own Work

Sheerly Avni is a San Francisco-based arts and culture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Weekly, Mother Jones, and many other publications. You can follow her on twitter at @sheerly


Tom Hanks Addresses the Yale Class of 2011

For Class Day 2011, Harvard had comedian Amy Poehler, and Yale had Tom Hanks -- two figures who have a whole lot more entertainment value than the speaker at my graduation -- the Assistant County Coroner. Dead serious! Pun only halfway intended. Anyway, I digress. Today, we're featuring Tom Hanks, the two-time winner of the Academy Award for Best Actor, who starts funny, but then turns a little serious, reminding graduates, à la F.D.R., that essentially "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Not a bad talk overall, but we're still most partial to Steve Job's Stanford talk from 2005. Our hands-down favorite...

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Yale Rolls Out 10 New Courses - All Free

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E. chromi: Designer Bacteria

E. chromi, a short film about a unique collaboration between designers and biologists has won the best documentary award at Bio:Fiction, the world’s first synthetic biology film festival, held earlier this month in Vienna.
E. chromi tells the story of a project uniting designers Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and James King with a team of undergraduate biology students at Cambridge University. Using genes from existing organisms, the team designed custom DNA sequences, called BioBricks, and inserted them into E. coli bacteria.The new E. coli—dubbed “E. chromi”—were programmed to express a rainbow of colors when exposed to various chemicals.

Ginsberg and King helped the young biologists dream up a variety of possible applications for the invention.For example, E. chromi could be used to test the safety of drinking water--turning red if a toxin is present, green if it’s okay. Or it might  be used as an early warning system for disease: a person would ingest some yogurt containing E. chromi, then watch out for tell-tale colors at the other end of the digestive process.

The E. chromi team was awarded the grand prize at the 2009 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For more films on synthetic biology, see the Bio:Fiction website.

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