Gore Vidal (1925-2012) Feuds with Norman Mailer & William F. Buckley

Gore Vidal wrote 25 novels and various memoirs, essays, plays, television dramas and screenplays. He invested himself in American politics and ran for office twice, losing both times. He tended openly toward homosexuality long before the country warmed up to the idea. And he never backed down from a good argument. Gore Vidal died Tuesday from complications of pneumonia at his home in Los Angeles.

During the 1960s and 70s, Vidal feuded publicly with literary and political foes alike. Sometimes it made for good TV. Other times it made for bad TV. It didn't really matter. He was ready to go. Above, we have Gore Vidal's verbal brawl with the mercurial (and seemingly sauced) novelist Norman Mailer. It happened on The Dick Cavett Show in December, 1971, and only the show's host (and the bewildered Janet Flanner) emerge from the dustup looking okay. Slate has more on this memorable episode here.

The next clip brings us back to an ABC television program aired during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Suffice it to say, emotions were running high. In the months leading up to the Convention, Martin Luther King Jr. and RFK were both assassinated. Riots followed. Meanwhile, the Vietnam War splintered the nation in two. The Chicago police tried to shut down demonstrations by anti-war protestors, and eventually the two sides clashed in the parks and streets. Amidst all of this, Buckley and Vidal, both political analysts for ABC News, started discussing the protestors and their rights to free speech, when things came to a head. Vidal called Buckley a "pro-crypto-Nazi." Buckley called Vidal a "queer" and threatened to "sock [him] in the goddamn face." The threat was not easily forgotten. It became the fodder for jokes when Buckley interviewed Noam Chomsky the next year. Find the complete episode here.

Paris in (Stop) Motion

Thanks to Mayeul Akpovi, we'll always have Paris....

via Devour

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Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio Show Podcast Tackles the History of Video Games

Neil deGrasse Tyson has a podcast. I repeat, Neil deGrasse Tyson has a podcast. If you’re unfamiliar (and you shouldn’t be), Tyson is Astrophysicist-in-residence at New York’s Natural History Museum and Director of its Hayden Planetarium. He’s also the most prominent advocate for a revitalized U.S. space program. Okay, back to the podcast. As an avid consumer of every science-based podcast out there, I can tell you that the StarTalk Radio Show (iTunes - Feed - Web Site) has quickly risen to the top of my list. The very personable Tyson is the big draw, but he has also made the wise decision to include “comedian co-hosts, celebrities, and other special guests.” In the episode right below, Tyson and comedian Eugene Mirman (whom you might recognize as the voice of Gene from Bob’s Burgers) mix it up with video game designer Will Wright and author Jeff Ryan.

Ryan's Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America—and the history of video games more generally—is the topic of the show. Despite the less-than-stellar audio quality, this is not to be missed. The conversation is rapid-fire: Mirman interjects hilarious inanities while Wright and Ryan speed through the fascinating history and Tyson throws knuckleball questions and enthuses (at 4:30) that the "first real video game," Space Wars, was about, what else, space. We also get the history of the unforgettable Pong (at 5:59), the original Star Wars game (at 8:17), and, naturally, Donkey Kong (at 3:19), designed by the now wildly famous (in Japan, at least) Shigeru Miyamoto--who also invented Mario, and who had never designed a game in his life before Donkey Kong. All this and some classic 8-bit video game music to boot.

StarTalk in general has much to recommend it. Tyson is the “nation’s foremost expert on space,” and is probably instantly recognizable from his hosting of NOVA scienceNow and his bestselling books. He is the public face of a scientific community often in need of good press, and he has the rare ability to translate abstruse concepts to the general public in a humorous and approachable way. Previous guests/co-hosts have included Janeane Garofalo (in the “most argumentative Startalk podcast ever”) and John Hodgman (of the Daily Show and the “Mac vs. PC” ads). But above all, c’mon, it’s Neil deGrasse Tyson. The man deservedly has his own internet meme, inspired by his dramatic gestures in this video discussion of Isaac Newton from Big Think.

Enough said.

Watch the full Big Think interview with Tyson here. And don’t forget to subscribe to the StarTalk Radio Show (iTunes - Feed - Web Site).

Josh Jones is a doctoral candidate in English at Fordham University and a co-founder and former managing editor of Guernica / A Magazine of Arts and Politics.

The Benefits of Being Awestruck

http://vimeo.com/46264514

In December 1972, astronauts aboard the Apollo 17 spacecraft snapped a photograph of our Earth from an altitude of 45,000 kilometres. The photograph, known as "The Big Blue Marble," let everyone see their planet fully illuminated for the first time. The picture, showing the Earth looking isolated and vulnerable, left everyone awestruck. And "The Big Blue Marble" became the most widely-distributed image of the 20th century. Now, less than a half century later, pictures of our planet barely move us. And we hardly bat an eyelash at videos giving us remarkable views from the International Space Station.

We're losing our sense of awe at our own peril, however. The title of a new Stanford study tells you all you need to know: Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being. Apparently, watching awe-inspiring vidoes makes you less impatient, more willing to volunteer time to help others, more likely to prefer experiences over material products, more present in the here and now, and happier overall. (More on that here.) All of this provides filmmaker Jason Silva the material for yet another one of his “philosophical shots of espresso,” The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck. It's the first video above.

Find more awe in our collection of Great Science Videos.

 

Star Trek Celebrities, William Shatner and Wil Wheaton, Narrate Mars Landing Videos for NASA

NASA and Star Trek -- they've been joined at the hip for decades. Back in 1972, when NASA launched its very first space shuttle, they called it the Enterprise, a clear nod to the starship made famous by the 1960s TV show. In 2011, NASA brought the space shuttle program to a close, and they fittingly asked William Shatner to narrate an 80 minute film documenting the history of the audacious space program. (Watch it here.)

Now we're one week away from another NASA milestone -- the landing of the rover Curiosity on Mars -- which can mean only one thing. William Shatner's back, and he's previewing the action that lies ahead. First the Curiosity's difficult landing, the so-called Seven Minutes of Terror. And then the rover's mission on the Red Planet. Shatner's clip will give geeks north of 40 a little nerdgasm. For younger geeks (said affectionately), NASA has Wil Wheaton, the star of Star Trek: The Next Generation, reading the same script. You can watch it below.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and now Google Plus and share intelligent media with your friends! They’ll thank you for it.

 

France in the Year 2000, Imagined by Illustrators in 1900

Back in 1899-1901, French artists imagined what their nation might look like in another century. They tapped into their imaginations, drew their futuristic designs, then distributed them as paper cards enclosed in cigar boxes right around the time of the World's Fair in Paris. The drawing above imagines the French classroom in the Year 2000. You can see an extensive collection of other designs-- 23 images in total -- at The Public Domain Review. And, be sure to support their important fundraising drive!

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Who’s Afraid of Ai Weiwei: A Short Documentary

The work of dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is monumental, as is the man's fearless and outspoken personality. Recently, while standing under the circular display of massive bronze animal heads in Ai's Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads at Washington, DC's Hirshhorn Museum, I found myself wishing I could meet him. The next best thing, I guess, is to see candid footage of his life and work, which is what you find in Who's Afraid of Ai Weiwei, the short documentary (above) from PBS's Frontline.

Begun in 2008 by 24-year-old filmmaker Alison Klayman, Who's Afraid of Ai Weiwei captures the artist immediately before his principled and costly stand against the Beijing Olympics (which he helped to design) and the oppressive police state he claimed it representedKlayman followed Ai for two years and shot 200 hours of footage, some of which became the short film above. The rest has been edited and released as a feature-length film called Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, which has picked up prizes at Sundance, the Berlin International Film Festival, and the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.

Ai is unique among his contemporaries in the art world for his willingness to confront social issues not only through visual media but also through media commentary. As Klayman puts it, "Weiwei the artist had become as provocative with his keyboard, typing out a daily diatribe against local corruption and government abuses" on his blog. Ai claims his political involvement is "very personal." "If you don't speak out," he says above, "if you don't clear your mind, then who are you?" He has written editorials for English-language publications on why he withdrew his support from the Beijing Games and what he thought of last Friday’s opening ceremony in London (he liked it). And, of course, he’s become a bit of a star on Twitter, using it to relentlessly critique China’s deep economic divides and suppression of free speech.

But for all his notoriety as an activist and his well-known internet persona, Ai’s sculpture and photography speaks for itself. Unfortunately, due to his arrest and imprisonment by Chinese authorities in 2011, he was unable to attend the opening of Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads in LA, and he is still under constant surveillance and not permitted to leave the country. But, true to form, none of these setbacks have kept him from speaking out, about his politics and his art. In the short video below, he discusses the significance of Zodiac Heads, his most recent monumental vision.

Josh Jones is a doctoral candidate in English at Fordham University and a co-founder and former managing editor of Guernica / A Magazine of Arts and Politics.

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