HBO Drops a Teaser Trailer for Fahrenheit 451, Its New Adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Classic Dystopian Novel

From HBO comes the latest teaser trailer for a new adaptation of Ray Bradbury's 1953 dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451. Scheduled to debut in May 2018, the new film will feature Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon.

Ostensibly Fahrenheit 451 is a story about government censorship. And some have considered it a response to McCarthyism. But, when asked what the story is really about, Ray Bradbury said this: It's about people "being turned into morons by TV."  As a medium, television "gives you the dates of Napoleon, but not who he was,” spreading "factoids" instead of knowledge. “They stuff you with so much useless information, you feel full.” Just something to keep in mind before and after the new HBO film hits your TV sets this spring.

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Large Archive of Hannah Arendt’s Papers Digitized by the Library of Congress: Read Her Lectures, Drafts of Articles, Notes & Correspondence

Many people read the German-Jewish political philosopher and journalist Hannah Arendt as something of an oracle, a secular prophet whose most famous works—her essay on the trial of Adolf Eichmann and her 1951 Origins of Totalitarianism—contain secrets about our own times of high nationalist fervor. And indeed they may, but we should also keep in mind that Arendt’s insights into the horrors of Nazism did not emerge until after the war.

Arendt did not identify as Jewish during the Nazi's rise to power, but as a fully assimilated German; she had a romantic relationship with her professor Martin Heidegger, who became a doctrinaire Nazi, and she seemed to have little understanding of German antisemitism during the thirties and forties. Arendt, many have alleged, sometimes seemed too close to her subject.

In such times as hers, to use the words of Wallace Stevens—a writer with his own complicated relationship to fascism—the “difficult rigor” of observing the moment means that “we reason of these things with later reason.” Arendt’s observations of Europe in the 1950s were reckonings with the recent past—she drew together strains of experience that could not always be connected during what Stevens calls the “irrational moment.” So too, intellectual observers of our own “irrational moment” may only truly understand it “with later reason.”

But if Americans wish to learn about their country’s longstanding political tendencies from Arendt’s work, it is perhaps not to her writing on Germany or the U.S.S.R. that we should turn, but to her work on the U.S., much of which is reflected in typed drafts of essays and lectures, correspondence, and notes contained at the Library of Congress’s Hannah Arendt Papers collection. All of the collection has been digitized, and some of those scans are online. Finding out which documents have been uploaded and which only remain viewable onsite takes a little digging around in the catalog, but it is work that pays off for those with a genuine interest in the fascinating turns of Arendt’s thought.

We may turn to essays such as 1971’s “Lying in Politics,” written after the release of the Pentagon Papers, notes Brain Pickings, and “included in Crises of the Republic—a collection of Arendt’s timelessly insightful and increasingly timely essays on politics [and] civil disobedience.” As Arendt writes in an earlier lecture that preceded “Lying in Politics”—with the earlier title “The Role of the Lie in Politics” (top)—“Truthfulness has never been counted as among the political virtues.” You can view and download high-quality images of that typed lecture here, and see her revise her ideas in corrections and marginal notes.

The political lie, she writes wearily, “has existed since the beginning of recorded history.” And yet, there is something unique about its use in U.S. politics, in which “the only person likely to be an ideal victim of complete manipulation is the President of the United States.” Despite her dispassionate philosophical view, Arendt found the lies of the Vietnam War-era particularly disturbing. In the typescript page at the top, you can see a proposed subtitle penciled in at the top left corner: “How Could They? What Went Wrong in America.”

In the typed lecture above, “Action and the Pursuit of Happiness,” from 1960, Arendt remarks on the “amazing discovery” by the country’s naturalized “new citizens” that the “pursuit of happiness” remains a “more than meaningless phrase and an empty word in the public and private life of the American Republic.” This “most elusive of all human rights,” she continues, “apparently entitles men, in the words of Howard Mumford Jones, to ‘the ghastly privilege of pursuing a phantom and embracing a delusion.'”

Arendt’s 1968 New York Times editorial “Is America By Nature a Violent Society,” whose typescript you can see in part above, opens with a number of assumptions about the country’s “national character,” beginning with the comment that the country’s “multitude of ethnic groups… for better or worse have never melted together into a nation.” Perhaps this is too broad a characterization. Or perhaps the U.S. as a nation is no more “artificial ‘by nature,’” in its composition than many other, much older, nations.

Arendt’s observations on her adopted land weren’t always so astute, but she did have enough critical distance from the country to closely observe it during times of crisis and see clearly what others could or would not. You’ll find many more of Arendt’s keen observations—typed in drafts and notes, scribbled in margins, and written in letters—at the Library of Congress’ Hannah Arendt Papers collection, (partly) online.

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

What Ancient Chinese Philosophy Can Teach Us About Living the Good Life Today: Lessons from Harvard’s Popular Professor, Michael Puett

It has at times been concerning for some Buddhist scholars and teachers to watch mindfulness become an integral part of self-help programs. A casual attitude toward the practice of mindfulness meditation can make it seem accessible by making it seem relaxing and effortless, which often results in missing the point entirely. Whatever the school, lineage, or particular tradition from which they come, the source texts and sages tend to agree: the purpose of meditation is not self improvement—but to realize that there may, indeed, be no such thing as a self.

Instead, we are all epiphenomenon arising from combinations of ever-shifting elements (the aggregates, or skandhas). The self is a conventionally useful illusion. This notion in the ancient Indian texts has its echo in Scottish enlightenment philosopher David Hume’s so-called “bundle theory,” but Hume's thoughts about the self have mostly remained obscure footnotes in western thought, rather than central premises in its philosophies and religions. But as thinkers in India took the self apart, so too did philosophers in ancient China, before Buddhism reached the country during the Han Dynasty.

Harvard Professor Michael Puett has been lecturing on Chinese philosophy to audiences of hundreds of students—and at 21st century temples of self-actualization like TED and the School of Life. He has co-authored a book on the subject, The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life, drawn from his enormously popular university courses, in which he expounds the philosophies of Confucius, Mencius, Zhuangzi, and Xunzi. The book has found a ready audience, and Puett’s “Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory” is the 3rd most popular class among Harvard undergraduates, behind intro to economics and computer science. What Professor Puett offers, in his distillation of ancient Chinese wisdom, is not at all to be construed as self-help.

Rather, he says, “I think of it as sort of anti-self-help. Self-help tends to be about learning to love yourself and embrace yourself for who you are. A lot of these ideas are saying precisely the opposite—no, you overcome the self, you break the self. You should not be happy with who you are.” Lest this sound like some form of violence, we must understand, Puett tells Tim Dowling at The Guardian, that in “breaking” the self, we are only doing harm to an illusion. As in the Buddhist thought that took root in China, so too in the earlier Confucianism: there is no self, just a “a messy and potentially ugly bunch of stuff.”

While our current circumstances may seem unique in world history, Puett shows his students how Chinese philosophers 2,500 years ago also experienced rapid societal change and upheaval, as his co-author Christine Gross-Loh writes at The Atlantic; they navigated and understood "a world where human relationships are challenging, narcissism and self-centeredness are on the rise, and there is disagreement on the best way for people to live harmoniously together." A majority of students at Harvard are driven to pursue "practical, predetermined" careers. By teaching them Confucian and Daoist philosophy, Puett tries to help them become more spontaneous and open to change.

Whatever we call it, the interacting phenomenon that give rise to the self cannot, we know, be observed in anything resembling an unchanging steady state. Yet Western culture (for several motivated reasons) has lagged far behind both intuitive and scientific observations of this fact. Puett's students have been told, “’Find your true self, especially during these four years of college,’” and “try and be sincere and authentic to who you really are” in making choices about careers, partners, passions, and consumer products. They take to his class because “they’ve spent 20 years looking for this true self and not finding it.”

In the two lectures above—a shorter one at the top from TEDx Nashville and a longer talk above for Ivy, “The Social University”—you can get a taste of Puett’s enthusiastic style. Chinese philosophy, “in its strong form,” he says above, “can truly change one’s life.” Not by making us more empowered, personally-fulfilled agents who re-create reality to better meet our narrow specs. But rather, as he tells Dowling, by training us “to become incredibly good at dealing with this capricious world.”

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

Hunter S. Thompson’s Decadent Daily Breakfast: The “Psychic Anchor” of His Frenetic Creative Life

Image  via Wikimedia Commons

Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

It certainly seems so from all the carefully staged photos of overnight oatmeal on Instagram.

The physical and mental benefits are well documented. A nutritious meal in the morning boosts blood glucose levels, improving concentration, boosting energy levels and maintaining healthy weight.

Sadly, many Americans gobble their breakfasts on the fly. How many hundreds of film and television scenes have you seen wherein the main characters hurtle through the kitchen snatching bananas, granola bars, and travel mugs on their way to the door?

The late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson would surely not have approved, though he may have enjoyed the sense of superiority these morning scrambles would have engendered.

This was a man who bragged that he could “cover a hopelessly scrambled presidential campaign better than any six-man team of career political journalists on The New York Times or The Washington Post and still eat a three-hour breakfast in the sun every morning.”

Reporting for Rolling Stone in “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 76,” he intimated that he viewed breakfast with the “traditionalized reverence that most people associate with Lunch and Dinner.”

One wonders who exactly he meant by “most people”?

Texans? The Irish? Rabelais?

Regardless of whether he had been to bed, or what he had gotten up to the night before, he insisted upon a massive repast—consumed al fresco, and preferably in the nude. The sun he enjoyed basking in was usually at its zenith by the time he sat down. The meal, which he called the "psychic anchor" of "a terminally jangled lifestyle, consisted of the following:

Four bloody Marys

Two grapefruits

A pot of coffee

Rangoon crêpes

A half-pound of either sausage, bacon, or corned beef-hash with diced chilies

A Spanish omelette or eggs Benedict

A quart of milk

A chopped lemon for random seasoning

Something like a slice of Key lime pie

Two margaritas

And six lines of the best cocaine for dessert

Last summer, a Danish Vice reporter recreated Thompson’s breakfast of choice, inviting a poet friend (and “aspiring alcoholic") to partake along with him. It ended with him vomiting, naked, into a shrub. His guest, who seems to be made of sturdier stuff, praised the eggs benedict, the Bloody Marys, and dessert.

Thompson preferred that his first meal of the day be consumed solo, in order to get a jump on the day’s work. In addition to the edible menu items, he required:

Two or three newspapers

All mail and messages

A telephone

A notebook for planning the next twenty four hours

And at least one source of good music

Read "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1976" here. The key breakfast quote reads as follows:

I like to eat breakfast alone, and almost never before noon; anybody with a terminally jangled lifestyle needs at least one psychic anchor every twenty four hours, and mine is breakfast. In Hong Kong, Dallas, or at home—and regardless of whether or not I have been to bed—breakfast is a personal ritual that can only be properly observed alone, and in a spirit of genuine excess. The food factor should always be massive: Four bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crêpes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon, or corned beef-hash with diced chilies, a Spanish omelette or eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of Key lime pie, two margaritas, and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert... Right, and there should also be two or three newspapers, all mail and messages, a telephone, a notebook for planning the next twenty four hours, and at least one source of good music... All of which should be dealt with outside, in the warmth of the hot sun, and preferably stone naked.

And just in case, here is a recipe for Crab Rangoon Crepes…

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

A Demonstration of Perfect Samurai Swordsmanship

The age of the samurai has long since ended, but does its spirit live on? You might well feel that, despite everything, the flame of the samurai still burns in Japan today after watching the swordsmanship skills on display in the clip above. Or perhaps we should call it swordswomanship: the modern-day warrior executing those perfect cuts is the daughter of grandmaster Fumon Tanaka, and her bearing and self-possession bring to mind the onna bugeisha of old Japan. And as we see, gender matters not at all in the stark reality of blade on bone — or in this case, blade on a similarly dense stalk of bamboo.

Tanaka, showing an imperfectly cut piece of bamboo, explains that its curved edge means "your left and right hands are not balanced. If a samurai decapitates a man with this bad technique, it would cause great pain. It has to be one precise cut. That is the way of the samurai."

His daughter then demonstrates just how handily she can attend to any of your decapitation needs, halving the bamboo with what her father deems "a perfect straight cut." Though it only takes a single stroke, that single stroke comes as the culmination of years and years of work toward mastery — and work that, in this modern onna bugeisha's case, no doubt began early indeed.

The Smithsonian Channel produced this video as part of their series Samurai Headhunters, more of whose material on "how these elite knights actually lived, loved, fought, and died" you can watch on Youtube. If you'd like a more in-depth sense of how their sword techniques work, have a look at Masayuki Shimabukuro's video series on samurai swordsmanship, which begins with an episode on the basics and continues on to subjects like postures, two-hand cuts (as seen executed on those bamboo stalks), and flicking the blood — that last perhaps more useful in feudal Japan than 21st-century Tokyo, or for that manner everywhere else, but a good samurai has always known how to honor the past.

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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.

175+ College Admissions Offices Promise Not to Penalize High School Students Who Get Suspended for Protesting Peacefully Against Gun Violence

Image by Lorie Shaull, via Flickr Commons

“Will my admission get rescinded if I get suspended for engaging in a school walk-out meant to bring attention to the school shooting issue?” That's a question many high school students have posed to college admissions offices around the country, especially after some high school officials threatened to suspend students taking part in anti-gun demonstrations.

Many leading universities have since issued policy statements and given these students their blessing and support. In a post called "In Support of Student Protests," Hannah Mendlowitz, from Yale's Admissions Office, writes:

[W]e continue to get the question: will Yale look unfavorably upon discipline resulting from peaceful demonstrations?

The answer is simple: Of course not.

To the students who have reached out to us with these concerns, we have made clear that they should feel free to participate in walk-out events to bring attention to this issue without fear of repercussion. Yale will NOT be rescinding anyone’s admission decision for participating in peaceful walkouts for this or other causes, regardless of any high school’s disciplinary policy. I, for one, will be cheering these students on from New Haven.

And on the official Twitter feed for the Brown University, a tweet reads:

Applicants to Brown: Expect a socially conscious, intellectually independent campus where freedom of expression is fundamentally important. You can be assured that peaceful, responsible protests against gun violence will not negatively impact decisions on admission to Brown.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Below, find a list of 175+ universities that have granted similar assurances, along with links to their statements. The list comes from Alex Garcia, who is maintaining a regularly-updated Google Doc. Access it online here.

Again, you can refer to this Google Doc for more updates.

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Free: The Best Books for Learning Modern Statistics

A quick fyi: Dan Kopf, an economics reporter, has a tip that seemed worth passing along. Over at Quartz, he writes:

As a former data scientist, there is no question I get asked more than, “What is the best way to learn statistics?” I always give the same answer: Read An Introduction to Statistical Learning. Then, if you finish that and want more, read The Elements of Statistical Learning. These two books, written by statistics professors at Stanford University, the University of Washington, and the University Southern California, are the most intuitive and relevant books I’ve found on how to do statistics with modern technology... You can download them for free.

Find An Introduction to Statistical Learning in PDF format here. And The Elements of Statistical Learning here. Physical/hard copies can be purchased respectively here and here.

We'd also recommend supplementing these resources (both now available in our collection of Free Math Textbooks) with video-based classes found on our list of Free Math Courses, a subset of our big collection, 1,500 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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. 

via Quartz

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