Watch Slipping Storm Troopers in Previously Unseen Blooper Reel & Outtakes from Star Wars

The “blooper” reel above from the filming of Star Wars: Episode 4, we’re told by io9, is “brand new” footage. Brand new to us, of course. Discovered by a Redditor, it made the rounds yesterday and everyone pronounced it amazing. And so it is. Many scenes lack audio, making the humor all the more subtle. We get some line flubs, action scenes gone awkward, and the vintage early title below.

SWVintageTitle

If you’re anything like everyone else I know who’s seen this (if you’re reading this—you likely are), you’ll watch the two and a-half minute reel at least two or three times, if not more. And if you find yourself less than jazzed about the coming of Star Wars: Episode 7 (or about the existence of episodes 1-3), we’ll at least have the hundreds of new memes spawned by this ridiculous footage. As i09 says, “get to GIF-ing, people.” And get to writing dialogue for those silent scenes.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

“Neglected Books” You Should Read: Here’s Our List; Now We Want Yours

the-confidence-man

Last week we highlighted a feature from the excellent website Neglected Books detailing two articles that appeared in The New Republic in 1934 on “good books that almost nobody has read.” The articles were the product of a query the magazine’s editor, Malcolm Cowley, sent out to the literary community of his day, asking them to list their favorite unsung books. Such lists are bound fast to their historical context; fame is fleeting, and great works are forgotten and rediscovered in every generation. Some of the books named then—like Franz Kafka’s The Castle or Nathaniel West’s Miss Lonelyhearts—have since gone on to notoriety. Most of them have not. This week, we thought we’d continue the theme with our own list of “neglected books.” I offer mine below, and I encourage readers to name your own in the comments. We'll feature many of your suggestions in a follow-up post.

A few words about my by-no-means-definitive-and-certainly-incomplete list. These are not obscure works. And you’ll note that there are almost no recent works on it. This is due at least as much to my own lamentable ignorance of much contemporary literature as to a conviction that a work that isn’t widely read months after its publication is not, thereby, “neglected.” In the age of the internet, books can age well even after they’re remaindered, since instant communities of readers spring up overnight on fansites and places like Goodreads. Instead, my list consists of a few neglected classics and a book of poetry that I personally think should all be read by many more people than they are, and that I think are timely for one reason or another. Maybe some of these books have gotten their due in some small circles, and in some cases, their influence is much greater than sales figures can ever reflect. But they're works more people should read, not simply read about, so I offer you below five titles I think are “neglected books.” You may interpret that phrase any way you like when you submit your own suggestions.

  •  Cane by Jean Toomer

Jean Toomer’s Cane is well-known to students of the Harlem Renaissance, but it isn’t read much outside that academic context, I think, which is a shame because it is a beautiful book. Not a novel, but a collection of short stories, poems, and literary sketches inspired by Toomer’s stint as a substitute principal in Sparta, Georgia in 1921, Cane practically vibrates with the furious and fragile lives of a collection of characters in the Jim Crow South. Yet like all great books, it transcends its setting, elevating its subjects to archetypal status and immortalizing a time and place that seems to live only in caricature now. Read the first sketch, “Karintha,” and see what I mean.

Olive Schreiner is another writer who receives her due in scholarly circles but is little read outside the classroom. Schreiner was a white South African woman who turned her experiences of race, gender, and nation to literary fame with her novel The Story of an African Farm in 1883. The novel’s success at the time did not necessarily grant its author lasting fame, and while Schreiner has been lauded for transforming Victorian literature with her freethinking, feminist views, the book that once made her famous is an almost shockingly un-Victorian work. Short, stark, impressionistic, and very unsentimental, The Story of an African Farm may find purchase with scholars for historical or political reasons, but it should be read for its stunning prose descriptions and piercing dialogue.

 Carpentier was a Cuban novelist, scholar, and musicologist who is not much read in the English-speaking world, and perhaps not much in Latin America. Although he coined the term “magical realism” (lo real maravilloso)—as part of his theory that Latin American history is so outlandish as to seem unreal—his literary fame in the States has never reached the degree of more fantastic practitioners of the style. Although perhaps best known, where he is known, for his harsh tale of Haiti’s first king, the brutal Henri Christophe, in The Kingdom of this World, Carpentier’s complex and mysterious 1953 The Lost Steps is a novel that justifies my calling him the Nabokov of Latin American letters.

Melville was certainly a neglected writer in his time. He is, it should go without saying, no more. But while everyone knows Moby Dick (if not many finish it), Billy Budd, and “Bartelby,” few people read his, yes difficult, novel The Confidence Man. Also called The Confidence Man: His Masquerade, this was Melville’s last published novel in his lifetime. It’s a darkly comic book that sometimes sounds a bit like Twain in its colorful vernacular and shifting registers, but grows stranger and more unsettling as it progresses, becoming almost a cacophony of disembodied voices in a state of moral panic. The central character, a nameless shape-shifting grifter on a steamboat called the Fidele, takes on a succession of American identities, all of them thoroughly persuasive and all of them thoroughly, calculatedly, false.

The only book of poetry on my list also happens to be the only book by a living writer. It also happens to be a book that makes me tremble each time I think of it. De Kok, a South African poet, takes as her inspiration for her 2002 Terrestrial Things the transcripts from her country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I’ll leave you with an excerpt from “The Sound Engineer,” a poem prefaced by the matter-of-fact statement that the “highest turnover” during the Commission, “was apparently among reporters editing sound for radio.”

Listen, cut; comma, cut;

stammer, cut;

edit, pain; connect, pain; broadcast, pain;

listen, cut; comma, cut.

Bind grammar to horror,

blood heating to the earphones,

beating the airwaves’ wings.

 

For truth’s sound bite,

tape the teeth, mouth, jaw,

put hesitation in, take it out:

maybe the breath too.

Take away the lips.

Even the tongue.

Leave just sound’s throat.

So there you have my list. I hope it has inspired you to go discover something new (or old). If not, I hope you will submit your own neglected books in the comments below and share your hidden literary treasures with our readers.

Public domain books listed above will be added to our collection of 500 Free eBooks.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

“What a Wonderful World,” Louis Armstrong’s Classic, Performed with Traditional Chinese Instruments

Several years back, we featured Matteo, a band from Salt Lake City, performing the Talking Heads' 1983 hit, “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody).” And they were playing the Heads' new wave, avant-garde music with traditional Chinese instruments.  Now they're back with another clip. Above we have them performing "What a Wonderful World," a song written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss, and first recorded and made famous by the great Louis Armstrong in 1967. Watch a classic performance below.

Last year, Matteo ran a Kickstarter campaign where they promised this to any backer who pledged more than $100: "Your choice of a song for MATTEO to cover (and we mean any song) which will then be dedicated and sung to you in a youtube video posted for the world to see..." Someone named "Jennifer" kicked in her $100+. And, for Jennifer, they performed Armstrong's standard. Hope you enjoy. And don't miss some other great instances of west-meets-east below.

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Doodlebug, Christopher Nolan’s First Short: What Came Before The Dark Night, Memento & Inception (1997)

We know British filmmaker Christopher Nolan best today for directing the latest trilogy of Batman films, Batman BeginsThe Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises. His recent high-profile non-superhero hit Inception made an impressive, if brief, splash as a mainstream brainbender, which, for me, faintly echoed the thrill he sent through the world of crossover independent film with 2000's backward-told Memento. Yet, if this doesn't make me too much of an I-liked-the-early-stuff-cliché, I still think of him most fondly for directing his 1998 feature debut Following, a 16-millimeter, black-and-white, $6000-budget tale of theft, impersonation, and identity shot on the streets of London. (One of the characters breaks into an apartment with a now-striking Batman logo on its door.) But even a project as small-scale as Following has a predecessor, Doodlebug, which you can watch above.

"The depths of insanity are explored by a man chasing something in his apartment with a shoe," promises the video description of the three-minute Doodlebug. In the center of this shadowy, paranoid tale we have Jeremy Theobald, who would go on to star in Following (and appear as a Gotham Water Board Technician in Batman Begins). Nolan shot it back in his days studying English literature at University College London, a school whose film society he led and which he chose expressly for the availability of its cameras and editing gear. His early, handmade pictures have become even more fascinating to watch in light of his declarations in DGA Quarterly interview that he far prefers shooting in film to shooting digitally, and that 3D technology hasn't much impressed him. But he hardly disdains spectacle, and the article contains a good deal of talk about how he uses CGI and crafts action sequences. Over the years, Nolan's core enthusiasms seemingly haven't changed; even Doodlebug, especially by student-film standards, has some pretty cool special effects.

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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.

Free: Listen to 298 Episodes of the Vintage Crime Radio Series, Dragnet

dragnet radio

Before it was a film, and before it became a classic television series, Dragnet started out as a long-running radio show, airing from June 3, 1949, to February 26, 1957. One of the most influential crime drama shows from the 50s, Dragnet was the brainchild of Jack Webb, the actor, director and screenwriter who played the lead role of Sergeant Joe Friday. We best remember Joe Friday imploring female informants to provide "Just the facts, ma'am." But, in actual fact, he never uttered precisely those words. "All we want are the facts" is what he really said. But I digress. Thanks to Archive.org you can now travel back to the 50s and listen to 298 episodes of the show, which was known for its realistic depiction of police work -- the boredom, the drudgery, the danger, the occasional acts of heroism, and everything in between.

Note: There were 314 episodes in total. And Archive.org does not house the very first episode called "Robbery," which first aired on June 3, 1949. That's available here.

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. 

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Watch Red Shirley, Lou Reed’s Short Documentary on His Fascinating 100-Year-Old Cousin (2010)

From fronting the Velvet Underground to putting out four solid sides of feedback noise to collaborating with Metallica on a semi-spoken word album based on the plays of Frank Wedekind, the late avant-rocker Lou Reed had a way of never working on quite what you'd expect him to. Easier said than done, of course, but Reed managed to sustain a long, always-interesting career and position in the culture by exercising that strength not just in music but in other forms as well. Above we have Red Shirley, a half-hour documentary film he made with Ralph Gibson in 2010. (Score provided by "the Metal Machine Trio".) We get the premise up front, onscreen: "On the eve of her 100th birthday, Lou sat down with his cousin Shirley for a tête-à-tête." Most nearly-100-year-olds have, presumably, seen a lot; Shirley Novick has seen even more.

"During World War I she emerged unscathed from Poland after her family's house was hit by a dud shell," writes the Wall Street Journal's Nicolas Rapold in an article that also includes Reeds own's reflections on his cousin and her thoroughly historical life. "At 19, she journeyed to Canada without her parents, thus escaping the fate of relatives during World War II. ('Hitler took care of them,' she curtly remarks in the film.)

Leaving Canada, which she deemed 'too provincial,' Ms. Novick joined thousands of immigrants in New York City's garment industry. There, over the course of 47 years, her debate skills came in handy as an outspoken activist during union scraps. She would later join the 1963 civil rights march on Washington." Snagfilms tags Red Shirley with the apt label "fascinating people," but for a solid documentary, you also need a fascinated interviewer, and Reed fills that role. "The only other thing I would like to do is make a movie about martial arts," Reed told Rapold. "Like, travel around to different teachers and tournaments, compare techniques and training." That we'll never see it now fills me with regret.

The film should be viewable in most all geographies, or so our Twitter followers tell us. (Our apologies if you're not in one of them.) You can find Red Shirley permanently housed in our collection of 575 Free Movies Online.

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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.

Lou Reed — Velvet Underground Frontman, Influential Solo Musician — Dead at 71

Rolling Stone is reporting that Lou Reed, whose music career began with The Velvet Underground in the 1960s, before becoming an influential solo artist in the 70s, has died. He was 71 and had undergone a liver transplant back in May. Whether that's related to the cause of death remains unknown. We will follow up with a lengthier reflection on the life and times of Lou Reed. But, for now, we want to make you aware of this sad news and present some of our favorites clips of Reed and the VU. We start you off, above, with Reed singing a live funk version of “Sweet Jane,” a song first released on VU's 1970 album, Loaded. It was performed in Paris in '74, with Prakash John playing bass and Steve Hunter on guitar. To delve deeper into Reed's career, we suggest you watch the 1998 documentary, Rock and Roll Heart. It's from PBS's American Masters series and runs 75 minutes.

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