The Grateful Dead Rock the National Anthem at Candlestick Park: Opening Day, 1993

The 2013 baseball season starts next week, and it's a time when hope springs eternal -- unless you root for the Cubs, the injury-laden Yankees, or the Pirates, Indians, or various other small market teams. But let's not get sidetracked by all of that. Today, we're heading into the past, 20 years deep, and we're thinking about Baseball, Apple Pie and the Grateful Dead. You heard me right, the Grateful Dead. On April 12, 1993, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, and Vince Welnick (then a keyboardist with the band) did the honors on opening day at Candlestick Park, singing the national anthem before the San Francisco Giants - Florida Marlins game. If you thought the Dead could never carry a tune, you're in for a little surprise.

A few key things to remember about this 1993 moment. 1) It was the first season of baseball for the new Marlins expansion team. 2) Barry Bonds was still skinny and lean and homered in his first at bat. And 3) it was the only time that Jerry sang the anthem at a ball game. Bob Weir and Phil Lesh made a return visit last fall.

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Clever Animation Brings Figure Drawings to Life

The creative team of Tom Wrigglesworth & Matt Robinson went to an art class at The Book Club in London, and there created an animation that breathes life into a series of figure drawings. Every easel in the class captured a nude model from a different angle. The film then gathered them all together, producing one wonderfully animated composite figure. Pretty neat stuff. If you're in London, you can check out the next Life Drawing class on April 6.

via Laughing Squid

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Rare Audio: Samuel Beckett Reads From His Novel Watt

Samuel Beckett was notoriously shy around recording devices. He would spend hours in a studio working with actors, but when it came to recording a piece in his own voice he was elusive. Only a handful of recordings are known to exist. So the audio above of Beckett reading a pair of his poems is extremely rare.

The recordings were made in 1965 by Lawrence Harvey, professor of comparative literature at Dartmouth College, who traveled to Paris to meet with Beckett a number of times from 1961 to 1965 while researching his 1970 book Samuel Beckett, Poet and Critic. At one point during their discussions, Beckett recited several passages from his third but second-published novel, Watt. The book was written in English in the 1940s, mostly while Beckett was hiding from the Nazis in southern France. It's an experimental novel (Beckett called it an "exercise") about a seeker named Watt who journeys to the house of the enigmatic Mr. Knott and works for a time as his servant. "Watt" and "Knott" are often interpreted as stand-ins for the question "what?" and unanswerable "not," or "naught."

The two poems recited by Beckett are from his 37 intriguing Addenda at the end of Watt. Harvey also recorded Beckett reading a prose passage from the book. The full four-minute tape is now in the collection of the Baker Library at Dartmouth. The short clip above is from the 1993 film Waiting For Beckett. The image quality is poor and there are distracting Dutch subtitles, so perhaps the best way to enjoy the reading is to scroll down and look instead at Beckett's words while you listen to his voice. He begins with the 4th Addenda, later published as "Tailpiece" in Collected Poems, 1930-1978:

who may tell the tale
of the old man?
weigh absence in a scale?
mete want with a span?
the sum assess
of the world's woes?
in words enclose?

The images in the poem are, according to scholars S.E. Gontarski and Chris Ackerley in their essay "Samuel Beckett's Watt," a reworking by Beckett of the biblical passage Isaiah 40:12, which says, "Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?" The next poem is the 23rd Addenda. It tells of Watt's long and fruitless journey through barren lands:

Watt will not
abate one jot
but of what

of the coming to
of the being at
of the going from
Knott's habitat

of the long way
of the short stay
of the going back home
the way he had come

of the empty heart
of the empty hands
of the dim mind wayfaring
through barren lands

of a flame with dark winds
hedged about
going out
gone out

of the empty heart
of the empty hands
of the dark mind stumbling
through barren lands

that is of what
Watt will not
abate one jot

If Beckett seems to mispronounce certain consonant sounds, it may have something to do with a surgery he had in November of 1964 to remove a tumor in his jaw. The surgery temporarily left Beckett with a hole in the roof of his mouth. According to a 1998 article by Peter Swaab in The Times Literary Supplement, the recordings were probably made in March of 1965, when Beckett was awaiting a follow-up surgery to fix his palate. Still, many listeners have been struck by the beauty of the recordings. As Swaab writes:

Beckett's voice is unexpectedly soft, and seems more suited to the serenely commiserative vein of his writing than the splenetic and cynical one. He reads the poems a lot more slowly than the prose--with a pronounced chanting mellifluousness.... The overall effect of these rare and fascinating recordings is of a delivery like that which Beckett recommended to the actor David Warrilow for Ohio Impromptu, "calm, steady, designed to soothe"--or (to bring in two of the central words in Watt) a "murmur" meant to "assuage." The tape evidently records a sort of rehearsal, and the perfectionist Beckett would surely not have been satisfied with it, but it is good to know that his voice has not altogether disappeared.

via A Piece of Monologue

Special thanks to Dr. Mark Nixon, reader in Modern Literature at the University of Reading and director of the Beckett International Foundation, for confirming the authenticity of the recording and pointing us on the way to more information.

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Stanley Kubrick’s Jazz Photography and The Film He Almost Made About Jazz Under Nazi Rule

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Stanley Kubrick (looking like a creepy Rowan Atkinson above) came of age as a chess-hustling photographer in the jazz-saturated New York City of the 1940s. He began taking pictures at the age of thirteen, when his father bought him a Graflex camera. During his teenage years, Kubrick flirted with a career as a jazz drummer but abandoned the pursuit, instead joining Look Magazine as its youngest staff photographer right out of high school in 1945. His regard for jazz music and culture did not abate, however, as you can see from photographs like Jazz Nights below.

Jazz nights Kubrick

Kubrick worked for Look until 1950 (when he left to begin making films); he captured a wide variety of New York scenes, but often returned to jazz clubs and showgirls, two favorite subjects. I’ve often wondered why Kubrick’s hometown plays so small a role in his films. Unlike also NYC-bred Martin Scorsese, Kubrick seemed eager to get as far away as he could from the city of his youth, but the filmmaker’s love of forties-era jazz never left him. According to longtime assistant, Tony Frewin, "Stanley was a great swing-era jazz fan," particularly of Benny Goodman.

"He had some reservations about modern jazz. I think if he had to disappear to a desert island, it'd be a lot of swing records he'd take, the music of his childhood: Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Harry James."

Frewin is quoted in this Atlantic piece about a film Kubrick almost made but didn’t: an exploration of jazz in Europe under the Third Reich. The project began when Kubrick encountered a book in 1985, Swing Under the Nazis, written by another jazz enthusiast, Mike Zwerin, who left music for journalism and spent years collecting stories of jazz preservationists in Germany and formerly occupied Europe. One of those stories---of Nazi officer Dietrich Schulz-Koehn---struck Kubrick as Strangelove-ian and noir-ish. Schulz-Koehn published an illegal underground newsletter reporting back from various jazz scenes in Europe under the pen name, “Dr. Jazz,” the title Kubrick chose for the film project. As Frewin claims:

"Stanley thought there was a kind of noir side to this material…. Perhaps an approach like Dr. Mabuse would have suited the story. Stanley said, 'If only he were alive, we could have found a role for Peter Lorre.'"

Zwerin’s book---and presumably Kubrick’s ideas for a fictionalized take---traced clandestine connections between Nazi Germany, Paris, and the United States, between black and Jewish musicians and Nazi music-lovers. We’ll have to imagine the odd angles and warped perspectives Kubrick would have found in those stories; his fascination with Nazis led him to drop Dr. Jazz for a different project, Aryan Papers, another unmade film with its own intriguing backstory.

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Josh Jones is a writer, editor, and musician based in Washington, DC. Follow him @jdmagness

A Crash Course on Creativity and Other Stanford MOOCs to Launch in April: Enroll Today

Tina Seelig serves as the Executive Director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, a center that teaches students entrepreneurial skills needed to solve major world problems. She is also the author of the 2012 book, inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity, that operates on the assumption that we're not born being creative and knowing how to solve difficult problems. It's something that we can cultivate and learn (as John Cleese has also told us before). If you're intrigued by this idea, and if you want to rev up your own "Innovation Engine," you can take Seelig's new course, also called A Crash Course on Creativity, starting on April 22. It's one of five Stanford MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that will launch in April on the Venture Lab platform. Other courses now open for enrollment include:

Most Venture Lab courses grant a "Statement of Accomplishment" signed by instructors to any student who successfully completes a course.

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The Best of Quentin Tarantino: Celebrating the Director’s 50th Birthday with our Favorite Videos

We recently featured a Vanity Fair article on the making of Quentin Tarantino's  Pulp Fiction, marking the only semi-believable fact that its making happened 20 years ago. But can you accept that the making of Tarantino himself happened 50 years ago? We think of the motormouthed, grammatically unconcerned, pop-cultural blender of a filmmaker as an eternal genius adolescent, consummately skilled and passionate but never well served by the rigid structures of traditional education and craft. His recent releases like Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained don't even hint at a cooling of the fire within. As the man who (for better or for worse) represents the past two decades of creativity in American cinema crosses the middle-age rubicon, seemingly untroubled, we ask this: how does Quentin Tarantino do it? To help you find the answer yourself, we've rounded up all of our choicest pieces of Tarantino-related material.

"Everybody, when they talk about you — you get this sense of a kid, early on, falling in love with movies," says Charlie Rose to Tarantino in the 1994 interview up top. That love and then some comes through in the conversation, making it one of the most compelling episodes in the history of Rose's program. By that point, Pulp Fiction, Tarantino's second film, had already hit the zeitgeist hard, but watch him giving Jon Stewart a preview of the picture, and you can tell he'd already sensed its coming impact. You can read many more details about exactly how it came together in Vanity Fair's oral history of the production, and might consider supplementing it with Tarantino's (and Sam Raimi's) advice on filmmaking. And as Tarantino himself admits, he fuels his projects with deep and direct inspiration from his favorite movies, such as the twenty he names that have come out since his own career began. More recently, he reflected in depth on his life and work, prompted by Howard Stern, in a 75-minute radio interview.

As a born storyteller, Tarantino knows that every journey, no matter how ultimately victorious, begins somewhere. Preferably, it begins somewhere humble, which brings us to My Best Friend's Birthday (below), the very first movie Tarantino attempted to make back in 1987, five years before his "real" feature debut Reservoir Dogs. In it, the filmmaker plays a hapless young rockabilly desperately looking for a way to enliven his buddy's birthday. Because a fire claimed all but 36 minutes of the picture, we'll never see whether he succeeds. But Tarantino himself, an aggressive collector of film prints who owns both a reputedly astonishing home theater and Los Angeles' respected revival house the New Beverly Cinema, should have no trouble living it up for the big 5-0. He's no doubt planned an ambitious birthday screening: I'm thinking a quintuple-bill, all genre.

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los AngelesA Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Listen to Supreme Court Arguments on Prop 8 and DOMA Online

ernieThis week, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments about gay rights in America. And, no matter how the court decides, these cases will enter the history books. Will the court lead the nation in making equality available for all, as it did during the civil rights era? Or will the nation be forced to lead the court into modernity during the years ahead? That we will soon find out.

Usually the court delays the release of audio recordings of oral arguments. But, acknowledging the importance of these particular cases, SCOTUS is making this week's arguments immediately available. You can listen to the debates over Prop. 8 here or below. DOMA arguments will appear here. And it's also now below.

Prop 8



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