Hugh Hefner (RIP) Defends “the Playboy Philosophy” to William F. Buckley, 1966

"Mr. Hefner's magazine is most widely known for its total exposure of the human female," says William F. Buckley, introducing the guest on this 1966 broadcast of his talk show Firing Line. "Though of course other things happen in its pages." Not long before, publisher and pleasure empire-builder Hugh Hefner's Playboy magazine ran a series of articles on "the Playboy philosophy," a set of observations of and propositions about human sexuality that provided these men fodder for their televised debate. Hefner stands against religiously mandated, chastity-centered codes of sexual morality; Buckley demands to know how Hefner earned the qualifications to issue new codes of his own. Describing the Playboy philosophy as "sort of a hedonistic utilitarianism," Buckley tries simultaneously to understand and demolish these 20th-century revisions of the rules of sex.

"The Playboy founder is no match for the Catholic who snipes him at will with 'moral' bullets," writes the poster of the video. "The acerbic, dry Buckley is on attack mode with a conservative audience, in moral panic, behind him. The Catholic had the era of conservatism behind him. [ ... ] In the 21st century though, Buckley would have a harder time defending morality with Hefner." One wonders how Buckley and Hefner, were they still alive today, might revisit this debate in 2017. (Buckley died in 2008, and Hefner passed away yesterday at the age of 91.) Times have certainly changed, but I suspect Buckley would raise the same core objection to Hefner's argument that loosening the old strictures on sex leads, perhaps counterintuitively, to more satisfied, more monogamous pairings: "How in the hell do you know?" Though this and certain other of Buckley's questions occasionally wrong-foot Hefner, the faithful can rest assured that he keeps enough cool to fire up his signature pipe on camera.

Note: This post first appeared on our site back in 2012. We brought it back today for obvious reasons, and updated it to reflect Hefner's passing. Since 2012, a huge archive of "Firing Line" episodes have been put online. Get more on that here.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Judy Blume to Teach an Online Course on Writing

A quick fyi: After announcing last Friday that Martin Scorsese will be teaching an online course on filmmaking, MasterClass made it known today that Judy Blume will be presenting on an online course on Writing. In 15 +lessons, the beloved author of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing will show you "how to develop vibrant characters and hook your readers." You can learn a little more from the trailer above. Though the course ($90) won't be ready until early 2018, you can pre-enroll now and eventually get early access to the class.

Other MasterClass courses worth exploring include:

Note: MasterClass is one of our partners. So if you sign up for a course, it benefits not just you and MasterClass. It benefits Open Culture too. So consider it win-win-win.

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When John Cage & Marcel Duchamp Played Chess on a Chessboard That Turned Chess Moves Into Electronic Music (1968)

Photograph by Lynn Rosenthal

When is a chess game not a chess game?

When it’s played between Marcel Duchamp and John Cage.

Both the man who turned a urinal into a piece of modern art and the man who reduced musical composition all the way down to silence were fans of taking things to absurd conclusions. And they were both fans of chess; Duchamp the grand master and Cage the dutiful student. Asked in 1974 whether Duchamp was a good teacher, Cage replied, “I was using chess as a pretext to be with him. I didn’t learn, unfortunately, while he was alive to play well.”

But Cage seemed to have little interest in competition. “Duchamp once watched me playing and became indignant when I didn’t win,” he said. “He accused me of not wanting to win.” Instead, he approached chess as he approached the piano—as a decoy, a feint, that leads into another kind of game entirely. In a 1944 tribute to Duchamp, he painted a chessboard that was actually a musical score, and, in 1968, he arranged a public game as a pretext for a musical performance called Reunion, performed in Toronto with Duchamp and his wife Teeny (we have no film of the game-slash-concert; you can see Cage play Teeny in the video above).

Cage was an admirer of the elder artist for over 20 years, playing chess with him frequently. But he “didn’t want to bother Duchamp with his friendship,” writes Sylvere Lotringer, “until he realized that Duchamp’s health was failing. Then he decided to actively seek his company.” Playing on an electronic chess board designed by Lowell Cross, known as the inventor of the laser light show, the two created an extemporaneous composition that lasted as long as the audience, and Duchamp, could tolerate. “The concert,” Cross remembered on the fortieth anniversary of the piece, “began shortly after 8:30 on the evening of March 5, 1968, and concluded at approximately 1:00 a.m. the next morning.”

Debunking a number of misconceptions about the chessboard, Cross explains that its operation "depended upon the covering or uncovering of its 64 photoresistors." It also contained contact microphones so that "the audience could hear the physical moves of the pieces of the board." When either player made a move, it triggered one of several electronic "sound-generating systems" created by composers David Behrman, Gordan Mumma, David Tudor, and Cross himself. Additionally, "oscilloscopic images emanated from... modified monochrome and color television screens, which provided visual monitoring of some of the sound events passing through the chessboard."

As Lotringer describes the scene, the two modernist giants "played until the room emptied. Without a word said, Cage had managed to turn the chess game (Duchamp’s ostensive refusal to work) into a working performance…. Playing chess that night extended life into art—or vice versa. All it took was plugging in their brains to a set of instruments, converting nerve signals into sounds. Eyes became ears, moves music.” Duchamp had given the impression he was done making art. “Cage found a way to lure him into one final public appearance as an artist,” notes the Toronto Dreams Project blog.

Indeed, Cage may have been formulating the idea for over twenty years, each time he sat down to play a game with Duchamp, and lost. When Duchamp arrived in Canada for the performance at what was called the Sightsoundsystems Festival, he had no idea that he would be participating in the headlining event.

What he found when he arrived was a surreal scene. Two of the greatest artists of the twentieth century took their seats in the middle of the stage at the Ryerson Theatre, bathed in bright light and the gaze of the audience. Photographers circled around them, shutters snapping; a movie camera whirred. The stage was a mess of gadgets. There were wires everywhere; a tangle of them plugged right into side of the chessboard. A pair of TV screens was set up on either side of the stage. The Toronto Star called it "a cross between an electronic factory and a movie set."

Cage lost, as usual, though he was more evenly matched when he played Duchamp’s wife. The three of them, wrote the Globe, were “like figures in a Beckett play, locked in some meaningless game. The audience, staring silently and sullenly at what was placed before it, was itself a character; and its role was as meaningless as the others. It was total non-communication, all around.” The wires running from the chessboard connected to “tuners, amplifiers and all manner of electronic gadgetry,” the Star wrote, filling the room with “screeches, buzzes, twitters and rasps.”

The Star pronounced the event “infinitely boring,” a widely shared critical assessment of the night. (Cage explains the Zen of boredom in his voice-over at the top.) But we can hardly expect most reviewers of either artist’s most experimental work to respond with less than bewilderment, if not outright hostility. It was to be Duchamp’s last public appearance. He passed away a few months later. For Cage, the evening had been a success. As Cross put it, Reunion was “a public celebration of Cage’s delight in living everyday life as an art form.”

Everyday life with Duchamp meant playing chess, and there were few greater influences than Duchamp on Cage’s conceptual approach to what music could be—and what could be music. “Like Duchamp,” writes PBS, “Cage found music around him and did not necessarily rely on expressing something from within.” Further up, see Cage’s 1944, Duchamp-inspired “Chess Pieces” performed on harp and accordion, and above hear a piece he wrote for Duchamp for a sequence in Hans Richter’s 1947 surrealist film Dreams that Money Can Buy.

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

Watch Brian Eno’s Experimental Film “The Ship,” Made with Artificial Intelligence

“How is Brian Eno still finding uncharted waters after half a century spent making music?” asked The Verge’s Jamieson Cox after the release of Eno’s 25th album, The Ship. Calling it a “dark near-masterpiece,” The Onion’s A.V. Club expressed similar astonishment. The album “can hold its own among the very best in a career full of brilliant work…. Forty-one years after Another Green World, Eno is still foraging for new musical ground, and what he’s able to come up with is nothing short of miraculous. When listening to The Ship, we get the sense that he will never stop.”

Should you think that an exaggeration, note that since The Ship, Eno has already released yet another critically acclaimed ambient album, Reflection—like its predecessor, a somber soundtrack for somber times. And like another endlessly productive multimedia artist of his generation, Laurie Anderson, Eno hasn’t only continued to make work that feels deeply connected to the moment, but he has adapted to wave after wave of technological innovation, this time around, harnessing artificial intelligence to create a “generative film” drawn from The Ship’s title track (below).

You can see a trailer for the film at the top of the post, but this hardly does the experience justice, since each viewer’s—or user’s—experience of it will be different. As Pitchfork describes the project: “On a website, ‘The Ship’ plays, and the user can click on tweets of news stories, which appear alongside historical photos.” The film utilizes “a bespoke artificial intelligence programme,” the site explains, “developed by the Dentsu Lab Tokyo,” exploring “various historical photographic images and real-time news feeds to compose a collective photographic memory of humankind.” (Dentsu received a prestigious prize nomination from the European Commission for their work.)

It’s a conceptually grandiose project—which makes sense given its source material. The Ship, the musical project, takes its inspiration from the Titanic, “the ship that could never sink,” Eno told The New York Times, “and… the First World War was the war that we couldn’t possibly lose—this mentality suffused powerful men. They get this idea that, ‘We’re unstoppable, so therefore, we’ll go ahead and do it….’ And they can’t.” Eno continues in this vein of tragic exploration with the film, remarking in a statement:

Humankind seems to teeter between hubris and paranoia: the hubris of our ever-growing power contrasts with the paranoia that we're permanently and increasingly under threat. At the zenith we realise we have to come down again... we know that we have more than we deserve or can defend, so we become nervous. Somebody, something is going to take it all from us: that is the dread of the wealthy. Paranoia leads to defensiveness, and we all end up in the trenches facing each other across the mud.

The interactive visual representation takes these themes even further, asking how much we as spectators of hubris and paranoia are complicit in perpetuating them, or perhaps changing and shaping their direction through technology: “Does the machine intelligence produce a point of view independent of its makers or its viewers? Or are we—human and machine—ultimately co-creating new and unexpected meanings?”

You be the judge. See your own personalized version of Eno’s The Ship film here.

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

Watch the New Anime Prequel to Blade Runner 2049, by Famed Japanese Animator Shinichiro Watanabe

The run-up to Blade Runner 2049, befitting what now looks like the cinematic event of the decade, has consisted of not just marketing hype (though it does include plenty of that) but genuine artistic material as well. Last month we featured Nexus: 2036, the first of three short "prequels" to Denis Villeneuve's upcoming Blade Runner sequel. That one and its follow up 2048: Nowhere to Run, both directed by Luke Scott (son of Blade Runner director Ridley Scott), use live action to fill in some of the story between the 2019 of the first movie and the 2049 of the second. The just-released third short, Black Out 2022, from Cowboy Bebop director Shinichirō Watanabe, brings the Blade Runner universe into the realm of Japanese animation.

"Blade Runner was definitely the movie that influenced me the most as an anime director," says Watanabe in the preview of his prequel down below. He and other Japanese viewers understood the film's power long before most anyone in the West (with the notable exception of Philip K. Dick, author of its source material), and Japanese artists began paying tribute to it almost immediately.




In a sense, Blade Runner took anime form thirty years ago: Katsuhito Akiyama's animated series Bubblegum Crisis, the story of artificial humans (called "booomers" instead of replicants) run amok and the advanced police team (called "Knight Sabers" instead of "Blade Runners") who hunt them down in a Tokyo of the future rebuilt after a disastrous earthquake, could hardly wear its influence more openly.

Filled with visual, sonic, and thematic references to the original Blade Runner while taking the story in new directions — and also introducing two new replicant characters — Watanabe's Black Out 2022--viewable up top--depicts the events leading up to the detonation of an electromagnetic pulse that destroys the electronics and machinery on which humanity has become so reliant. Humanity blames the replicants, and so begins a period of prohibition on replicant production, only brought to an end by the efforts of Niander Wallace, the character so eerily played by Jared Leto in Nexus: 2036Blade Runner 2049 will pick things up 26 years after the EMP attack. What shape will Los Angeles be in then? What shape will the cat-and-mouse game between replicants and Blade Runners take there? We'll find out, and surely in no small amount of detail, next month.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Marilyn Monroe & Elvis Presley Star in an Action-Packed Pop Art Japanese Monster Movie

Designed by Erik Winkowski, this wild cut-out animation, called "Scary Prairie," features pop icons, an Andy Warhol aesthetic, Japanese monsters, homages to Wild West films, all in one action-packed minute. What more could you want?

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via Messy n Chic

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Photo Archive Lets You Download 4,300 High-Res Photographs of the Historic Normandy Invasion

Taxis to Hell – and Back – Into the Jaws of Death, by Robert F. Sargent, via Wikimedia Commons

In the mid-20th century, theorists like Roland Barthes and Pierre Bourdieu exploded naive notions of photography as “a perfectly realistic and objective recording of the visible world… a ‘natural language,’” as Bourdieu wrote in Photography: A Middlebrow Art. Bourdieu himself wielded a camera during his ethnographic work in Algeria, taking dozens of conventional and unconventional photographs of the nation’s struggle for independence from France in the 50s. Yet he urged us to see photography as formally mediating social reality rather than transparently representing the truth.

We have been trained to interpret the perspectives most photographs adopt as objective views, when in fact they are “perfectly in keeping with the representation of the world which has dominated Europe since the Quattrocento.” Photography, in other words, tends to give us art imitating Renaissance art. It can be difficult to bear this in mind when we look at individual photographs—what Barthes calls “the This."




Whether they document our own family histories or such momentous events as the Normandy Invasion that began on D-Day, June 6th, 1944, photographs elicit powerful emotional reactions that defy aesthetic categories.

At the Flickr account PhotosNormandie, you can browse and search over 4,300 high resolution photographs from the pivotal Normandy campaign, “From iconic images like Into the Jaws of Death by Robert F. Sargent,” My Modern Met writes, “to troops interacting with locals as they liberate areas of Normandy.” The photos are deeply affecting, often awe-inspiring. When we look with a critical eye, we’ll find ourselves asking certain questions about them.

The skewed perspective and ominous sky in Sargent’s “Into the Jaws of Death,” for example, at the top of the post, might make us think of the Sturm und Drang of many a dramatic shipwreck painting from the Romantic period. Was Sargent aware of the similarity when he looked through the lens? Did he position himself to heighten the effect? In photos like that further up, of a French home displaying a pro-U.S. sign on July 11th, 1944, we might wonder whether the residents made the sign or whether it was given to them, perhaps for this very photo op. As always, we're justified in asking about the role of the photographer in staging or framing a particular scene.

For example, the photo of a German soldier surrendering to American G.I.s, above, looks staged. But what exactly these soldiers are doing remains a mystery. How much do these external details matter? Photography is unique among other visual arts in that “the Photograph,” Barthes writes, “reproduces to infinity” what has “occurred only once.” It is the meeting of infinity with “only once” that engages us in more existential explorations.  All of these soldiers and civilians, sharing their joy and anguish, most of them now passed into history. Who were these people? What did these moments mean to them? What do they mean to us 70 years later?

The bombed-out cathedrals and defeated tanks make us ponder the fragility of our own built environment, though the destructive forces threatening to undo the modern world now seem as likely to be natural as man-made—or rather some new, frightening combination of the two. In the faces of the wounded and the displaced, we see specific manifestations of the same tragic invasions and migrations that reach back to Thucydides and forward to the present moment in world history, in which some 60 million people displaced by war and hardship seek sanctuary.

The images draw us away into general observations as they draw us back to the unrepeatable moment. This project began on the 60th anniversary of D-Day “as a way,” My Modern Met explains, “to crowdsource descriptions of images on the now defunct Archives Normandie, 1939-1945. Thus, users are encouraged to comment on photos if they are able to improve descriptions, locations, and identifications.” History may rhyme with the present—as one famous quote attributed to Mark Twain has it—but it never exactly repeats. The photograph, Barthes wrote, “mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially.” Moments forever lost to time, transmuted into timelessness by the camera's eye. Enter the PhotosNormandie gallery here.

via My Modern Met

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

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