Daily Rituals: Women at Work: A New Book Highlights the Routines of Famous Female Creators Like Octavia Butler, Edith Wharton, Coco Chanel & 140 Others

Certain kinds of content have flowered on the internet that we can't seem to get enough of, and if you frequent Open Culture, you may well have a weakness for one kind in particular: the daily schedules of notable creators. When we know and respect someone's work, we can't help but wonder how they spend their finite time on this Earth in such a way that allows them to create that work in the first place. Mason Currey, creator of the blog Daily Rituals, knows this well: not only did all his posting about "how writers, artists, and other interesting people organize their days" lead to a book, Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work, it just last month produced a sequel, Daily Rituals: Women at Work.

"In the first Daily Rituals, I featured far more men than women," writes Currey. "In this second volume, I correct the imbalance with profiles of the day-to-day working lives of 143 women writers, artists, and performers," including Octavia Butler, "who wrote every day no matter what," Isak Dinesen, "who subsisted on oysters and champagne but also amphetamines, which gave her the overdrive she required, Martha Graham, "who eschewed socializing in favor of long hours alone in her studio," and Lillian Hellman, "who chain-smoked three packs of cigarettes and drank twenty cups of coffee a day (after milking the cow and cleaning the barn on her Hardscrabble Farm)."

You can read a few excerpts of the book at the publisher's web site. Coco Chanel, we learn, usually arrived late to the office but "stayed until late in the evening, compelling her employees to hang around with her even after work had ceased, pouring wine and talking nonstop, avoiding for as long as possible the return to her room at the Ritz and to the boredom and loneliness that awaited her there." Edith Wharton, by contrast, "always worked in the morning, and houseguests who stayed at the Mount — the 113-acre estate in Lenox, Massachusetts, where Wharton penned several novels, including The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome — were expected to entertain themselves until 11:00 a.m. or noon, when their hostess would emerge from her private quarters, ready to go for a walk or work in the garden."

The other subjects of Daily Rituals: Women at Work, a full list of which you can read here, include everyone from Maya Angelou to Diane Arbus, Joan Didion to Marlene Dietrich, Dorothy Parker to Emily Post, and Agnès Varda to Alice Walker. Not only do no two of these creators have the same routines, their strategies for how best to use their time often conflict. "Screw inspiration," said Octavia Butler, but her colleague in writing Zadie Smith takes quite a different tack: "I think you need to feel an urgency about the acts,” Currey quotes her as saying in an interview, "otherwise when you read it, you feel no urgency either. So, I don’t write unless I really feel I need to." For all tips as you might pick up from these 143 women, as well as from the creators of both sexes in the previous book, the most important one might be a meta-tip: develop the set of daily rituals that suits your personality and no one else's.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, 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.

Here’s What Ancient Dogs Looked Like: A Forensic Reconstruction of a Dog That Lived 4,500 Years Ago

Images by Historic Environment Scotland

We’re pretty sure dogs aren’t obsessed with ancestry, despite the proliferation of canine DNA testing services.

That seems to be more of a human thing.

However, with very little digging, nearly every dog on earth could claim to be descended from a handsome specimen such as the one above.

This news must be gratifying to all those lapdogs who fancy themselves to be something more wolfish than their exteriors suggest.

This beast is no 21st-century pet, but rather, a reconstruction, forensic science’s best guess as to what the owner of a Neolithic skull discovered during a 1901 excavation of the 5,000-year-old Cuween Hill chambered cairn on Orkney, Scotland would have looked like in life.

About the size of a large collie, the "Cuween dog" has the face of a European grey wolf and the reasonable gaze of a family pet.

(Kudos to the project’s organizers for resisting the urge to bestow a nickname on their creation, or if they have, to resist sharing it publicly.)

Whether or not this good boy or girl had a name, it would’ve earned its keep, guarding a farm in the tomb’s vicinity.

Steve Farrar, Interpretation Manager at Historic Environment Scotland, the conservation organization that commissioned the reconstruction, believes that the farmers’ esteem for their dogs went beyond mere utilitarian appreciation:

Maybe dogs were their symbol or totem, perhaps they thought of themselves as the 'dog people'.

Radiocarbon dating of this dog’s skull and 23 others found on the site point to ritual burial—the animals were placed within more than 500 years after the passage to the tomb was built. Historic Environment Scotland posits that the canine remains’ placement next to those of humans attest to the community’s belief in an afterlife for both species.

The model is presumably more relatable than the naked skull, which was scanned by Edinburgh University's Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, enabling Historic Environment Scotland to make the 3D print that forensic artist Amy Thornton fleshed out with muscle, skin, and hair.

What a human genealogist wouldn’t give to trace their lineage back to 2000 BC, let alone have such a fetching picture.

via Live Science

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City this May for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Enter, Explore, and Learn About Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson with a New Augmented-Reality App

More than 350 years after he painted them, the paintings of Rembrandt van Rijn still look real enough to step right into. Now, thanks to a new augmented reality app from the Mauritshuis museum, you can do just that through the screen of your phone, starting with Rembrandt's famed early canvas The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp. "The augmented reality experience, a first for a museum, allows the user to experience the anatomical theatre of 1632 digitally," says the Mauritshuis' press release, "and to observe Dr. Tulp and his fellow physicians, as well as the subject of their examination, the corpse of Aris Kindt."

"I entered it and was surrounded by its enveloping darkness, its piecemeal illuminations," writes Hyperallergic's Seph Rodney on his augmented-reality experience of The Anatomy Lesson. "I walked in front of and sometimes faced each of the characters arrayed around a central figure, a corpse, with its left arm missing its skin below the elbow. One man, rather overdressed in a black doublet with a white shirt collar and white sleeves accenting his head and hands uses a pair of forceps to hold the corpse’s exposed arm muscles and tendons stretched away from the bones beneath."

As Rodney approaches the figure, "a small text box pops out telling me precisely this: that he is gazing at the book to make sense of what the body beneath him is saying in all its vascular and muscular complexity."

Sans text boxes, the scene will sound familiar to Rembrandt enthusiasts, but not even the most enthusiastic of them will have seen it in quite this way before. To build an augmented-reality version of the scene Rembrandt painted 387 years ago, "lookalikes of the main figures in the painting dressed up in seventeenth-century outfits and were then scanned with a 3D scanner made up of 600 reflex cameras. The original theatre in the Waag where Dr. Tulp gave his anatomy lesson in 1632 was then captured with the 3D scanner. These scans were then combined, after which 3D modelers gave the figures and the space the correct colors, textures and light."

You can get a glimpse of the process in the short video at the top of the post, then download the Rembrandt Reality app in either its Google or Apple version and step into The Anatomy Lesson yourself. It may feel somewhat odd at first to simply stroll around the scene of an ongoing dissection of a human body, but in a way, the Mauritshuis' digital opening of this immortal lesson to the world re-emphasizes the true nature of the original scene. When a physician of Tulp's stature dissected a corpse, people from all around — medical professionals and otherwise — would come to watch the spectacle that could last for days. But could even Tulp, then Amsterdam's city anatomist and later the city's mayor, have imagined that this particular spectacle would last 387 years and counting?

via Hyperallergic

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, 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.

What Is a Zen Koan? An Animated Introduction to Eastern Philosophical Thought Experiments

If you know anything at all about Zen, you know the famous question about the sound of one hand clapping. While the brain teaser did indeed originate with a Zen master, it does not fully represent the nature of the koan. Between the 9th and 13th centuries, when Chan Buddhism, as Zen was known in China, flourished, koans became widely-used, explains the TED-Ed animated video above, as objects of meditation. “A collection of roughly one thousand, seven hundred bewildering philosophical thought experiments,” koans were ostensibly tools to practice living with the unexplainable mysteries of existence.

The name, notes the lesson, “originally gong-an in Chinese, translates to ‘public record or case.’ But unlike real-world court cases, koans were intentionally incomprehensible.” Koans are “Surprising, surreal, and frequently contradicted themselves.” The lessons in ambiguity and paradox have their analogue, perhaps, in certain trains of thought in Medieval Catholic philosophy or the idealism of thinkers like George Berkeley, who might have first come up with the one about the tree falling in the forest.

But is the purpose of the koan simply to break the brain’s reliance on reason? It was certainly used this way. Zen Master Eihei Dogen, founder of Japanese Soto Zen traveled to China to study under the Chan Masters, and later criticized this kind of koan practice and other aspects of Chan, though he also collected 300 koans himself and they became integral to Soto tradition. Koans are not just absurdist zingers, they are, as the name says, cases—little stories, often about two monks in some kind of teacher and student relationship. Many of the students and teachers in these stories were patriarchs of Chan.

Like the sayings and doings of other religious patriarchs in other world religions, these “cases” have been collected with copious commentary in books like The Blue Cliff Record and The Book of Serenity. They show in snapshots the transmission of the teaching directly from teacher to student, rather than through sacred texts or rituals (hundreds of koans, rules, and rituals notwithstanding). That they are puzzling and ambiguous does not mean they are incomprehensible. Many seem more or less like fables, such as the oft-told story of the monk who carries a beautiful woman across a mud patch, then chastises his younger companion for bringing it up miles down the road.

Other koans are like Greek philosophical dialogues in miniature, such as the story in which two monks argue about the nature of a flag waving in the wind. A third steps in, Socrates-like, with a seemingly “right” answer that transcends both of their positions. The longevity of these vignettes lies in their subtlety—surface meanings only hint at what the stories are up to. Koans force those who take up their study to struggle with uncertainty and irresolution. They also frequently undermine the most common expectation that the teacher knows best.

Often posed as a kind of oblique verbal combat between teacher and student, koans include extremely harsh, even violent teachers, or teachers who seem to admit defeat, tacitly or otherwise, when a student gets the upper hand, or when both confront the speechless awe of not knowing. Attitudes of respect, reverence, humility, candor, and good humor prevail. Perhaps under all koan practice lies the idea of skillful means—the appropriate action to take in the moment, which can only be known in the moment.

In his short, humorous discussion of Zen koans above, Alan Watts tells the story of a Zen student who tricks his master and hits him with his own stick. The master responds with approval of the student’s tactics, but the koan does not suggest that everyone should do the same. That, as Dogen would argue, would be to have an idea about reality, rather than a wholly-engaged response to it. Whatever else koans show their students, they point again and again to this central human dilemma of thinking about living—in the past, present, or future—versus actually experiencing our lives.

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

Paris in Beautiful Color Images from 1890: The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, The Panthéon, and More (1890)

The 17th and 18th centuries in England marked a period of ostentation for a growing, and increasingly wealthy, landowning class. These were also times of internal religious wars between Catholics and Protestants, a period that saw the regicide of Charles I, the restoration of Charles II to the throne, and William and Mary’s “Glorious Revolution,” deposing his successor, James II. All of this over the span of 28 years. Anti-Catholic sentiment ran high among the people, and it made a particularly convenient political tool.

But there are two groups you might not have found at anti-Catholic rallies during the most heated of political times, not, at least, during the final, formative years of their education. Both young scions of gentry and nobility on a gap year, and artists and poets seeking out the finest training, took the European Grand Tour, for several months or several years, a sojourn through the mostly-Catholic continent. No classical education was complete without a visit to Florence, Milan, Rome, Vienna, and, of course, Paris.

Here, gentleman picked up the latest fashions and dance steps, budding architects studied cathedrals and Catholic art, and everyone, Catholic and Protestant alike, gawked at the towering Notre Dame. The importance of the Grand Tour, remarked historian E.P. Thompson, “showed that ruling class control in the 18th century was located primarily in cultural hegemony.” Touring gentlemen wrote memoirs and guidebooks and commissioned paintings. Artists sent back drawings and poems, as both souvenirs and proof of their cultural mastery.

Through these aristocratic tourists the rest of the world came to see Europe as a succession of monuments, like the Greek and Roman cities of antiquity. At the same time, an imperialist craze for Neoclassical architecture began to make Europe’s biggest cities resemble classical models more and more.

The last half of the 18th century saw the construction of the Panthéon, La Madeline—the Catholic church first dedicated as a temple to Napoleonand the Louvre, all monuments to classical architecture.

The Grand Tour approach to looking at cities and the corresponding Neoclassical wave of building came together in the age of photography, when prints of the great places could give their viewers a sense of having been there, or at least hit all the major entries in the guidebook. Wandering gentry and artists became entrepreneurs, using the new technology to not only simulate a Grand Tour, but to sell prints for postcards and the rare photographic book.

By 1890, when the photos of Paris here were taken, such prints were commonplace. They represented a democratization, in a way, of Europe’s great landmarks, and of the literary and fine arts techniques once primarily used to record them. No doubt some few people saw the development as a vulgar one, but art historians today can be grateful that Paris at the end of the 19th century was so well-documented. In this digital collection from the Library of Congress, Beaux-Arts masterpieces like the Paris Opera House sit beside the Gothic Notre Dame and Neo-Classical Panthéon.

It is a shame these photos do not let viewers go inside to experience firsthand the buildings that inspired The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and in which are buried such literary royalty as Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile Zola, and Victor Hugo himself. But this rich archive of early color photographs from just before the turn of the century does capture—for all time, perhaps, now that they are online—the greatest feats of architectural engineering from the old Medieval  order, the Ancien Régime, the Republic, and the Empire.

The collection represents yet another way of digitally preserving the memories of these grand buildings should they one day be lost, as Notre Dame nearly was just a few days ago. It also shows the state of photography at the dawn of the postcard boom, when Photochrom prints like these could be purchased cheaply and mailed for a few cents or centimes. See many more of these stunning photos at the Library of Congress Digital Collections here.

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

Experience the Majesty of Notre Dame by Getting a Free Download of the Video Game Assassin’s Creed Unity (Free for a Limited Time)

FYI: In the wake of the great Notre Dame fire, the French video game company Ubisoft has decided to make its popular video game Assassin's Creed Unity free through April 25th, allowing gamers to "experience the majesty and beauty of the cathedral." The gothic cathedral figures centrally in the game. Start your download (available only for PC users) here. Once you download the game, you’ll own it forever in your Uplay games library.

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via Laughing Squid

Climate Change Gets Strikingly Visualized by a Scottish Art Installation

What does it accomplish to talk about climate change? Even those who talk about climate change professionally might find it hard to say. If you really want to make a point about rising sea levels — not to mention all the other changes predicted to afflict a warming Earth — you might do better to show, not tell. That reasoning seems to have motivated art projects like the giant hands reaching out from the waters of Venice previously featured here on Open Culture, and it looks even clearer in the more recent case of Lines (57° 59 ́N, 7° 16 ́W), an installation now on display on a Scottish island.

All images courtesy of Timo Aho and Pekka Niittyvirta

"At high tide, three synchronized lines of light activate in the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland," writes Designboom's Zach Andrews, and in the dark, "wrap around two structures and along the base of a mountain landscape.

Everything below these lines of light will one day be underwater." Created by Finnish artists Pekka Niittyvirta and Timo Aho for Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts CentreLines (57° 59 ́N, 7° 16 ́W) offers a stark reminder of the future humanity faces if climate change goes on as projected.

But why put up an installation of such apparent urgency in such a thinly populated, out-of-the-way place? "Low lying archipelagos like this one are especially vulnerable to the catastrophic effects of climate change," Andrews writes, adding that the Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre itself "cannot even afford to develop on its existing site anymore due to the predicted rise of storm surge sea." But though the effects of rising sea levels may be felt first on islands like these, few predictions have those effects stopping there; worst-case scenarios won't spare our major metropolises, and certainly not the coastal ones.

You can get a sense of what Lines (57° 59 ́N, 7° 16 ́W) looks like in action from the photographs on Niittyvirta's site a well as the time-lapse video at the top, which shows the lines of light activating when their sensors detect high tide, then only those lines of light remaining by the time the sun has gone completely down. To experience the full impact of the installation, however, requires seeing it in person in the context for which it was created. So if you've been putting off that trip to the Outer Hebrides, now might be the time to finally take it — not just because of Niittyvirta and Aho's work, but because in a few years, it may not be quite the same place.

via Colossal

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, 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.

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