Great Shakespeare Plays Retold with Stick Figures in Three Simple Drawings

MacbethComic

Other than Romeo and Juliet and possibly Hamlet,  Shakespeare doesn't exactly lend himself to the elevator pitch. The same creaky plot devices and unfathomable jokes that confound modern audiences make for long winded summaries.

Not to say it can't be done. Mya Gosling, a Southeast Asia Copy Cataloger at the University of Michigan, has been amusing herself, and more recently others, with "Good Tickle Brain," a web comic that reduces each of the complete works to a mere three panels. (Titus Andronicus' bloodbath required but one.)

Those of us who are semi-versed in the Bard should delight in the way major characters and complex side plots are glibly stricken from the record.

(Methinks Lady MacBeth would not be pleased...)

And what high schooler won't experience a perverse thrill, when the obscure and boring text his class has been parsing for weeks is dispatched with the swiftness of your average Garfield? (The wise teacher will be in no rush to share these revelations...)

HenryIV

Gosling, whose dad introduced her to Shakespeare at an early age, knows the material well enough to subvert it. Who cares if her artistic talent maxes out with stick figures? Familiarity allows her to nail the ending of Troilus and Cressida ("Homer's Iliad happens"). The middle panel of Winter's Tale is devoted to "some poor guy" getting eaten by a bear, and why shouldn't it be, when the author's famous stage direction is the only thing most people can dredge up with regard to that particular play?

As for the title of her web comic, it's an insult from one of her faves, Henry IV, part 1. My kind of geekery, forsooth.

H/T Michael Goodwin, the author of Economix, a book that explains The History of Economics & Economic Theory with Comics. See a sample by clicking here.

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Ayun Halliday's 16-year-old daughter plays a small part in Michael Almereyda's Cymbeline. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Dizzy Gillespie Worries About Nuclear & Environmental Disaster in Vintage Animated Films

Dizzy Gillespie was one of the best jazz trumpet players of all time. His virtuosic playing, along with his tricked out trumpet and his freakishly elastic cheeks, turned him into a musical icon of the 20th century. But did you know that he lent his voice to an Oscar-winning movie?

The Hole (1962), which you can see above, is an experimental animated short about two construction workers engaged in an increasingly intense conversation about free will and the possibility of an accidental nuclear war. Gillespie improvised the dialogue opposite actor George Matthews, a giant of a man who was most famous for playing movie thugs. The style of the animation is loose, blotchy and rough – in other words, about as un-Disney as can be.

And that was by design. John Hubley, who directed the movie along with his wife Faith Hubley, got his start in animation by working on some of Disney’s most famous early films including Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Bambi and Fantasia, but he found that his artistic ambitions lay beyond Uncle Walt’s vision. After the war, he helped found the United Productions of America and even created its most successful character – Mr. Magoo -- only to be forced out of the company during the Red Scare.

After marrying Faith in 1955, Hubley founded Storyboard Studios to make visually adventurous, socially minded animated movies. (Fun fact: John and Faith Hubley’s daughter Georgia grew up to be the drummer for the indie band Yo La Tengo.) The Hole (1962) proved to be very successful for the studio; it won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short and in 2013, it was selected for the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Gillespie and the Hubleys continued to collaborate in two other movies The Hat, which co starred Dudley Moore, and the supremely groovy Voyage to Next (1974). In that latter film, above, Dizzy and Maureen Stapleton play Father Time and Mother Nature respectively. They watch in wonder, concern and eventually alarm as humanity evolves from communal villagers to greedy nationalists on the brink self-annihilation.

You can find both films listed in the Animation section of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

via Dangerous Minds and NPR

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow.

Hear Allen Ginsberg’s Short Free Course on Shakespeare’s Play, The Tempest (1980)

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Ginsberg Class One

Ginsberg Class Two

Like so many great poets, Allen Ginsberg composed extemporaneously as he spoke, in erudite paragraphs, reciting lines and whole poems from memory---in his case, usually the poems of William Blake. In a 1966 Paris Review interview, for example, he discusses and quotes Blake at length, concluding “The thing I understood from Blake was that it was possible to transmit a message through time that could reach the enlightened.” Eight years later, Ginsberg would begin to midwife this concept as a teacher at the newly-founded Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Ginsberg taught summer workshops at the school from 1974 until the end of his life, eventually spending the remainder of the year in a full-time position at Brooklyn College. The Internet Archive hosts recordings of many of these workshops, such as his lectures on 19th Century Poetry, Jack Kerouac, Spiritual Poetics, and Basic Poetics. In the audio lectures here, from August 1980, Ginsberg teaches a four-part course on Shakespeare’s The Tempest (parts one and two above, three and four below), a play he often returned to for reference in his own work.

Ginsberg Class Three

Ginsberg Class Four

Ginsberg’s method of teaching Shakespeare is unlike anyone else’s. He’s not interested in exegesis so much as an open conversation—with the text, with his students, and with any ephemera that strikes his interest. It’s almost a kind of divination by which Ginsberg teases out the “messages” Shakespeare’s play sends through the ages, working with the rhythmic and syntactical oddities of individual lines instead of grand, abstract interpretative frameworks. Ginsberg’s pedagogy requires patience on the part of his students. He doesn’t drive toward a point as much as arrive at it circuitously as by the chance operations of his meditative mind. His first of four lectures above, for example, begins with a great deal of futzing around about different editions, which can seem a little tedious to an impatient listener. Give in to the urge to fast-forward, though, and you’ll miss the diamond-like bits of wisdom that emerge from Ginsberg's discursive exploration of minutiae.

Ginsberg explains to his class why he thinks the Penguin G.B. Harrison edition was the best available at the time because it draws from the original folio and has “more respect than the actual arrangement of the lines for speaking as determined by the editions printed in Shakespeare’s day.” Harrison’s text, he says, recovers the idiosyncrasies of Shakespeare’s lines: “Since [Alexander] Pope and [John] Dryden and others messed with Shakespeare’s texts—straightened them out and modernized them and improved them—they’ve always been reproduced too smoothly.” Such was the hubris of Pope and Dryden. Ginsberg spends a few minutes “correcting” the punctuation of a line for students with more modernized editions. One can see the appeal of the first folio for Ginsberg as he insists that its text is “not all exactly properly lined up pentametric blank verse but is more broken, more irregular lines, more like free verse actually, because it fitted exactly to speech.” Much like his own work in fact, and that of his fellow Beats, whom he reads and draws into the discussion of The Tempest’s poetics throughout the course of his lectures. The Allen Ginsberg Project has more on the poet's teaching of Shakespeare during his Naropa days.

When Ginsberg founded the Jack Kerouac School with Anne Waldman in 1974, he and his fellow Beats had not taught before. They simply invented their own ways of passing on their poetic enlightenment. Invited to create the school at Naropa University in Boulder by his spiritual teacher and Naropa founder Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Ginsberg seemed to combine in equal parts the Buddhist tradition of spiritual lineage with that of Western literary filiation. He distilled this synthesis in his elliptical 1992 text “Mind Writing Slogans,”: “two decades’ experience teaching poetics at Naropa Institute” and a “half decade at Brooklyn College,” Ginsberg writes, “boiled down to brief mottoes from many sources found useful to guide myself and others in the experience of ‘writing the mind.’” This document is an excellent source of Ginsberg’s eclectic wisdom, as is his “Celestial Homework” reading list for his class “Literary History of the Beats.”

Ginsberg and company’s relationship to Trungpa’s Shambhala Buddhist school, and to the artistic community of Boulder, was not without its detractors. Poet Kenneth Rexroth and others accused Ginsberg and his teacher of a kind of cultic exploitation of Buddhist teachings, of “Buddhist fascism.” The conflict between Ginsberg’s guru and poets like W.S. Merwin—who apparently had a humiliating experience at Naropa—is documented in Tom Clark’s polemical The Great Naropa Poetry Wars. Others remember the Naropa founder much more fondly. Two documentaries offer different portraits of life at Naropa. The first, Fried Shoes, Cooked Diamonds (above)—filmed in 1978 and narrated by Ginsberg himself—presents a raw, in-the-moment picture of the anarchic Kerouac School’s early days. Former Naropa student Kate Lindhardt’s “micro-budget” Crazy Wisdom, below, offers a more detached look at the school and asks questions about what she calls the “institutionalization” of creativity from a more feminist perspective.

Ginsberg's Tempest course will be added to our collection of 875 Free Online Courses; the films mentioned above can be found in our collection of 640 Free Movies Online. The Tempest and poems by Ginsberg can be found in our collection of Free eBooks.

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

Watch a “Lost Interview” With Michel Foucault: Missing for 30 Years But Now Recovered

An introductory shot that might be an outtake from A Clockwork Orange opens this interview with Michel Foucault, “lost,” we’re told by Critical Theory, “for nearly 30 years” before it appeared on Youtube last week. In it, Foucault discusses madness and his interest in psychology and psychopathology, repeating in brief the argument he made in Madness and Civilization, his 1961 work in which—through impressive feats of archival research and leaps of the imagination—Foucault attempted, as he wrote in his preface, “to return, in history, to that zero point in the course of madness at which madness is an undifferentiated experience, a not yet divided experience of division itself.”

Foucault explains this thesis more clearly above, pointing out that until the 17th century, so-called “mad” people lived and moved freely in European society. During the age of Enlightenment, however, they began to be shut up in asylums and hidden away. And not only the dangerously insane. “All socially worthless people, the troublemakers,” says Foucault, “were imprisoned.” In the 19th century, this phenomenon gave rise to the scientific discourse of psychiatry, and a rise in hospitals, sanitariums, workhouses, and virtual prisons for those understood to be mentally ill. “My thesis is this, “says Foucault: “the universality of our knowledge, has been acquired at the cost of exclusions, bans, denials, rejections, at the price of a kind of cruelty with regard to reality.”

Foucault gave the interview to artist and philosopher Fons Elders on Dutch TV in 1971 (the voice-over commentary is in Dutch and untranslated). Elders, you may recall, moderated a debate between Foucault and Noam Chomsky shortly after (and apparently paid Foucault partly in hashish). He is rebuffed here for seeking personal information from his subject: “Structuralists,” says Foucault—who along with Roland Barthes is credited, crudely, with the “death of the author” thesis—“are people for whom what counts in essence are systems of relations and thus not at all the lived individual experience of people.” Nevertheless, Foucault says, “I don’t see what I’ve been talking about for the past half an hour if not my personal life.” He does so without revealing any details, and there would be no need. In fact, Foucault agreed to the interview in a letter with the following stipulations, which Elders reads after the introduction.

Sir, I do not wish that during the television broadcast you want to devote to me, any biographical information be given any place. I consider indeed such information to have no importance for the subject matter at hand.

“Some have argued,” writes Critical Theory, “that Foucault’s work was, in a way, biographical.” His depression and homosexuality marked him to doctors at the time as mentally ill and one of the excluded. In many ways Foucault’s own life served as an experiment in radical rejection of the categories assigned him and other marginalized people, even in a society that thinks itself, he says, "very tolerant." After their debate that year, Chomsky described Foucault as “totally amoral.” And yet, all of his work was predicated on a refusal to accept cruelty, suppression, violence, conquest, and mass imprisonment as the cost of European knowledge and power. If that isn’t a moral position, I don’t know what is.

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

Big Bang Big Boom: Graffiti Stop-Motion Animation Creatively Depicts the Evolution of Life

There's a rapacious, run-amok energy to Italian street artist Blu's stop motion animation, “BIG BANG BIG BOOM." However long it took him, assisted by a slew of local artists, to render a host of painted large-scale characters across a primarily industrial landscape in Argentina and Uruguay, it takes less than ten, gloriously gritty minutes for his just-dawned world to destroy itself.

This is evolution at its most apocryphal (and least scientific). Crustaceans and giant lizards who mere decades ago would have terrorized the streets of Tokyo are here no match for man. In fact, man is no match for man, rapidly engineering his own demise as he chases about an appropriately circular, abandoned-looking silo.

The necessary demise of his murals---animation frames, if you like---serves as a nifty reminder of the evolutionary fate of most street art. A Banksy carefully preserved beneath Plexi is the exception, and even that is no guarantee of permanence. Case in point, New York City's legendary "institute of higher burning," 5 Pointz, whose 200,000-square-feet were recently whitewashed into nothingness overnight.

Boom indeed.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the long running zine, The East Village Inky. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Richard Feynman on Religion, Science, the Search for Truth & Our Willingness to Live with Doubt

A completely unsurprising thing has happened during the first season of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos reboot. Creationists vocally complained that the show does not give their point of view an equal hearing. Tyson responded, saying “you don’t talk about the spherical earth with NASA and then say let’s give equal time to the flat-earthers.” The analogy is more amusing than effective, since roughly fifty percent of Americans are Creationists, while perhaps 49.9 percent fewer believe the earth is flat. But the point stands. If scientific theories were arrived at by popular vote, the “equal time” argument might make some sense. Of course that’s not how science works. Is this bias? As Tyson put it in one of his well-crafted tweets, “you are not biased any time you ever speak the truth.”

“But what is truth?” asks a certain kind of skeptic. That, suggests the late Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman above, depends upon your method. If you’re doing science, you may find answers, but not necessarily the ones you want:

If you expected science to give all the answers to the wonderful questions about what we are, where we’re going, what the meaning of the universe is and so on, then I think you can easily become disillusioned and look for some mystic answer.

Going to the sciences, says Feynman, to “get an answer to some deep philosophical question,” means “you may be wrong. It may be that you can’t get an answer to that question by finding out more about the character of nature.” Science does not begin with answers, but with doubt: “Is science true? No, no we don’t know what’s true, we’re trying to find out.” Feynman’s scientific attitude is profoundly agnostic; he’d rather “live with doubt than have answers that might be wrong.”

Feynman couches his comments in personal terms, admitting there are scientists who have religious faith, or as he puts it “mystic answers,” and that he “doesn’t understand that.” He declines to say anything more. While similarly agnostic, Neil deGrasse Tyson states his opinions a bit more forcefully on scientists who are believers, saying that around one third of “fully-functioning” “Western/American scientists claim that there is a god to whom they pray.” Yet unlike the claims of Answers in Genesis and other Creationist outfits, “There is no example of someone reading their scripture and saying, ‘I have a prediction about the world that no one knows yet, because this gave me insight. Let’s go test that prediction,’ and have the prediction be correct.”

Both Feynman and Tyson seem to agree that the scientific and Creationist methods for discovering “truth,” whatever that may be, are basically incompatible. Says Feynman: “There are very remarkable mysteries… but those are mysteries I want to investigate without knowing the answers to them.” For that reason, says Feynman, he “can’t believe the special stories that have been made up about our relationship to the universe.” His wording recalls the phrase Answers in Genesis uses to characterize human origins: “special creation,” the description of a method that places meaning and value before evidence, and doggedly assumes to know the truth about what it sets out to investigate in ignorance.

Confronted with the Creationists of today, Feynman would likely lump them in with what he called in a 1974 Caltech commencement speech “Cargo Cult Science,” or “science that isn’t science” but that intimidates “ordinary people with commonsense ideas.” That lecture appears in a collection of Feynman’s speeches, lectures, interviews and articles called The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, which also happens to be the title of the program from which the clip at the top comes.

Produced by the BBC in 1981, the hour-long interview was taped for a show called Horizon which, like Cosmos, showcases scientists sharing the joys of discovery with a lay audience. Like Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Carl Sagan before him, Feynman was a very likable and accomplished science communicator. He had little time for philosophy, but his practice of the scientific method is unimpeachable. Of the Feynman TV special above, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Sir Harry Kroto remarked: “The 1981 Feynman-Horizon is the best science program I have ever seen. This is not just my opinion - it is also the opinion of many of the best scientists that I know who have seen the program... It should be mandatory viewing for all students whether they be science or arts students."

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

Julia Child Shows How to Edit Videotape with a Meat Cleaver, and Cook Meat with a Blow Torch

Julia Child changed the way Americans eat. Before Julia, French cooking was seen as something reserved solely for fine restaurants. Recipes for home-cooked meals stressed hygiene and convenience over freshness and taste. Thus, as was the case at my grandmother’s house, dinner would often involve a pork chop cooked within an inch of its life and a horrific jello salad concoction.

But with the launch of her hugely influential PBS TV show, The French Chef (1963-1973), Julia Child started to change America’s mind about what good food is and how it should be prepared. It’s hard to imagine the recent foodie revolution with its emphasis on seasonal, fresh ingredients without Child.

While the series was a showcase for her cooking prowess -- honed by years of training at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu and with some of France’s most famous master chefs – Child's playful, eccentric personality is what turned the show into a hit. The French Chef was videotaped live from start to finish, so every screw up was recorded for posterity. And yet those mistakes -- along with her particular way of speaking and her enduring love of wine -- endeared her to the audience. She was always poised, resourceful and surprisingly funny.

You can see that sense of humor on display in the video above, which was made for the staff’s holiday party just after the show premiered. With tongue squarely in cheek, Child demonstrates how to edit video with masking tape and a meat clever. (Note: do not edit videotape with masking tape and a meat cleaver.) When asked by her interviewer (in this slightly longer version here) whether the tape she was using was special, Child retorts, “Well, it’s just a nice sticky tape.”

Another example of Child’s keen sense of humor, along with her skills with a blow torch, is this late 1980s appearance on Late Night with David Letterman. Child originally intended on showing Letterman how to make a hamburger, but when the hot plate failed to work, she quickly improvised a brand new dish – beef tartare gratiné.

via @WFMU & The Atlantic

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow.

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