Sam Harris — he wrote the bestsellers The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. He’s also one-fourth of the New Atheist quartet informally called The Four Horsemen (where you’ll also find Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett.) And he has most recently argued that neuroscience can eventually answer all moral questions. Sam Harris is very much a public intellectual. He’s out there and in the mix. And he’s now answering questions from Reddit.com users. Give Harris 54 minutes and he’ll tell you how to promote public rationality, why meditation can change your life, and much, much more …
The Nokia Short 2011 competition wrapped up this weekend at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and the jury gave the first prize to Splitscreen: A Love Story. Shot with a Nokia N8 mobile phone and a hand-held dolly (watch the “making of” video here), the film elegantly weaves together scenes from Paris and New York. A synchronized tale of two great cities. Then, it all comes together in London. Kudos to director JW Griffiths, and don’t miss his original pitch.
It’s with some discomfort that the author names Gone with the Wind, published exactly 75 years ago today, her favorite childhood book: It was thick, it was romantic — and perhaps most crucially for any awkward, bespectacled preteen girl — it featured a headstrong heroine whose appeal to the opposite sex derived more from her charm than her physical beauty.
Nonetheless, there’s no way around the profound failings of both the book and the MGM epic film based on it: Novel and film treated slavery as an incidental backdrop to the war; they glorified and misrepresented the actions of the Ku Klux Klan; and most egregiously, they portrayed the master-slave relationship as one which neither master nor slave should ever dream of altering. In the words of historian and sociologist Jim Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong:
[Gone With The Wind] laments the passing of the slave era as “gone with the wind.” In the novel, Mitchell states openly that African Americans are “creatures of small intelligence.” And this book is by far the most popular book in the U.S. and has been for 60 years. The book is also profoundly wrong in its history. What it tells us about slavery, and especially reconstruction, did not happen…it is profoundly racist and profoundly wrong. Should we teach it? Of course. Should we teach against it? Of course.
Meanwhile, Hattie McDaniel took home a best supporting actress Oscar for her role as Scarlett O’Hara’s loyal house slave, Mammy. She was the first African-American woman to win an Academy Award. The fact that she was not allowed to attend the film’s premiere in Atlanta makes her acceptance speech (1940) even more poignant. It appears above.
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.
Today, Bruce Springsteen published on his web site a revised version of the eulogy he delivered last week for Clarence Clemons, his friend and band mate. It’s equal parts honest and moving. The talk builds momentum as it goes along, kind of like a Springsteen song, with the rhythm really picking up here:
I think perhaps “C” protected me from a world where it wasn’t always so easy to be an insecure, weird and skinny white boy either. But, standing together we were badass, on any given night, on our turf, some of the baddest asses on the planet. We were united, we were strong, we were righteous, we were unmovable, we were funny, we were corny as hell and as serious as death itself. And we were coming to your town to shake you and to wake you up. Together, we told an older, richer story about the possibilities of friendship that transcended those I’d written in my songs and in my music. Clarence carried it in his heart. It was a story where the Scooter and the Big Man not only busted the city in half, but we kicked ass and remadethe city, shaping it into the kind of place where our friendship would not be such an anomaly. And that… that’s what I’m gonna miss. The chance to renew that vow and double down on that story on a nightly basis, because that is something, that is the thing that we did together… the two of us. Clarence was big, and he made me feel, and think, and love, and dream big. How big was the Big Man? Too fucking big to die. And that’s just the facts. You can put it on his grave stone, you can tattoo it over your heart. Accept it… it’s the New World.
And finally the crescendo:
SO LADIES AND GENTLEMAN… ALWAYS LAST, BUT NEVER LEAST. LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE MASTER OF DISASTER, the BIG KAHUNA, the MAN WITH A PHD IN SAXUAL HEALING, the DUKE OF PADUCAH, the KING OF THE WORLD, LOOK OUT OBAMA! THE NEXT BLACK PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES EVEN THOUGH HE’S DEAD… YOU WISH YOU COULD BE LIKE HIM BUT YOU CAN’T! LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE BIGGEST MAN YOU’VE EVER SEEN!… GIVE ME A C-L-A-R-E-N-C-E. WHAT’S THAT SPELL? CLARENCE! WHAT’S THAT SPELL? CLARENCE! WHAT’S THAT SPELL? CLARENCE! … amen.
No more top hat and handkerchief. Marco Tempest uses iPods and iPhones to create magic for the 21st century. He calls himself a techno-illusionist. “I explore the borders between technology and magic,” says Tempest, “between what’s incredibly real and incredibly not.” Originally from Switzerland, Tempest now lives in New York City. He was featured in the internationally syndicated television series, The Virtual Magician, and his work can be viewed on a YouTube channel of the same name. His newest release, “iPod Magic–Deceptions,” features an application he developed to synchronize video playback on multiple screens. The App is called “MultiVid.” You can download it for free here, and learn how to use it here.
Yesterday, the Open University released ‘The History of English in 10 Minutes,’ a witty animated sequence that takes you through 1600 years of linguistic history. The Vikings gave us “give” and “take.” Shakespeare added another 2,000 words and expressions to the mix. The British Empire (see video above) then brought the evolving English language to new lands, creating new varieties of English worldwide. And so the story continues. You can find this series featuring the voice of Clive Anderson on iTunes or YouTube. We’ve included links to each YouTube chapter right below. Many thanks to Catherine for the heads up…
In 1967, a young Linda Eastman went to London to photograph the “Swinging Sixties” and snagged exclusive photos of The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. In the midst of it all, she met Paul McCartney, and when the two married in 1969, she had a fixed place within rock ‘n roll’s inner circle.
During the coming decades, she took over 200,000 images. Yes, that means many more photographs of rock stars and artists. But the emphasis also shifted inward, to a new domestic life with Paul and their children – Heather, Mary, Stella, and James. Years later, as Paul prepares to marry again, the photographic work of Linda McCartney (1941-1998) has been published in a 288-page retrospective volume called Linda McCartney: Life in Photographs. It features a forward by Paul and some commentary by Annie Leibovitz. An impressive sampling of Linda McCartney’s work can be previewed on this web site.
The high points of this documentary on the great J.R.R. Tolkien, from the BBC Series In Their Own Words: British Novelists, are the moments that fulfill the promise of the series’ title. Skip over the distracting “man on the street” interviews and long pans of the landscape, meant perhaps to invoke Middle Earth. In fact, you can skip over every scene that isn’t just the author’s magnificent talking head.
Start at minute 2:49, where he describes first writing the immortal words “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” The anecdote should inspire beleaguered graduate students and teachers everywhere: He came up with the line while grading exams.
We also loved Tolkien’s confession about trees, starting at the 7:00 minute mark: “I should have liked to make contact with a tree and find out how it feels about things.”
You can watch the documentary on YouTube in two parts. The first part is above, the second here. The material also appears in our collection of 250 Cultural Icons.
Earlier this year, Google rolled out “Art Project,” a tool that lets you access 1,000 works of art appearing in 17 great museums across the world, from the Met in New York City to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. (More on that here.) Now, as part of a broader effort to put art in your hands, the company has produced a new smartphone app (available in Android and iPhone) that enriches the museum-going experience, and it’s being demoed at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
The concept is pretty simple. You’re wandering through the Getty. You spot a painting that deeply touches you. To find out more about it, you open the Google Goggles app on your phone, snap a photo, and instantly download commentary from artists, curators, and conservators, or even a small image of the work itself. Sample this, and you’ll see what we mean. And, for more on the story, turn to Jori Finkel, the ace arts reporter for the LA Times.