Why Should We Read Dante’s Divine Comedy? An Animated Video Makes the Case

Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century Divine Comedy is revered for the force of its imagery, its innovative terza rima and bold use of the vernacular, its creative interpretation of medieval Catholic doctrine, its ferocious political satire...

And the poignant autobiography the poet weaves throughout the story. The epic is animated by Dante's own romantic longing and his bitter disillusionment with life. He paints himself in the first stanza as overcome by middle-aged bewilderment. Robert Durling’s translation renders the first lines thus:

In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to
myself in a dark wood, for the straight way was lost.

He is already adrift when Virgil turns up to guide him to the famously inscribed gates of hell—“Abandon all hope ye who enter here.”

The grim descent “sets into motion what is perhaps the greatest love story ever told,” says the TED-Ed video above, scripted by Sheila Marie Orfano and animated by Tomás Pichardo-Espaillat. Dante takes this epic journey with two muses, Virgil, then Beatrice, who guides him through Paradise, a figure drawn from an unrequited obsession the poet harbored for a woman named Beatrice Portinari.

Dante turned his crush into a muse, and transformed desire into chaste religious allegory. He turned his hatred of church and state corruption, however, into gleeful revenge fantasy, torturing a number of people still very much alive at the time of his writing. A member of the White Guelphs, a Florentine faction that pushed back against Roman influence, Dante fought fiercely opposed the Black Guelphs, a group loyal to the Pope. He was eventually exiled from Florence, but not silenced.

“Dishonored and with little hope of return,” he “freely aired his grievances” in the Divine Comedy, writing in Italian, rather than Latin, to ensure “the widest possible audience.” His readers at the time would have picked up on the references. Now, we need hundreds of notes to explain the full context. We should also know some salient facts about the poet: a life of political battle and religious devotion, an imaginative literary love affair with a woman he supposedly met twice; a thwarted desire for justice and vengeance and an obsession with integrity.

We do not need extensive notes and critical essays to feel the force of Dante’s language, just as we do not need to believe in the Divine Comedys religion. Like all great epic poetry, its metaphysical themes amplify profoundly human emotional journeys.

Related Content:

Visualizing Dante’s Hell: See Maps & Drawings of Dante’s Inferno from the Renaissance Through Today

An Illustrated and Interactive Dante’s Inferno: Explore a New Digital Companion to the Great 14th-Century Epic Poem

Gustave Doré’s Haunting Illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy

A Free Course on Dante’s Divine Comedy from Yale University

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

Treasures in the Trash: A Secret Museum Inside a Working New York City Department of Sanitation Garage

Like many New Yorkers, retired sanitation worker Nelson Molina has a keen interest in his fellow citizens' discards.

But whereas others risk bedbugs for the occasional curbside score or dumpster dive as an enviro-political act, Molina’s interest is couched in the curatorial.

The bulk of his collection was amassed between 1981 and 2015, while he was on active duty in Carnegie Hill and East Harlem, collecting garbage in an area bordered by 96th Street, Fifth Avenue, 106th Street, and First Avenue.

At the end of every shift, he stashed the day’s finds at the garage. With the support of his coworkers and higher ups, his hobby crept beyond the confines of his personal area, filling the locker room, and eventually expanding across the massive second floor of Manhattan East Sanitation Garage Number 11, at which point it was declared an unofficial museum with the unconventional name of Treasures in the Trash.

Because the museum is situated inside a working garage, visitors can only access the collection during infrequent, specially arranged tours. Hunter College’s East Harlem gallery and the City Reliquary have hosted traveling exhibits.

The Foundation for New York’s Strongest (a nickname originally conferred on the Department of Sanitation's football team) is raising funds for an offsite museum to showcase Molina’s 45,000+ treasures, along with exhibits dedicated to “DSNY’s rich history.”

Molina’s former coworkers marvel at his unerring instinct for knowing when an undistinguished-looking bag of refuse contains an object worth saving, from autographed baseballs and books to keepsakes of a deeply personal nature, like photo albums, engraved watches, and wedding samplers.

There’s also a fair amount of seemingly disposable junk—obsolete consumer technology, fast food toys, and “collectibles” that in retrospect were mere fad. Molina displays them en masse, their sheer numbers becoming a source of wonder. That’s a lot of Pez dispensersTamagotchis, and plastic Furbees that could be cluttering up a landfill (or Ebay).

Some of the items Molina singles out for show and tell in Nicolas Heller’s documentary short, at the top, seem like they could have considerable resell value. One man’s trash, you know...

But city sanitation workers are prohibited from taking their finds home, which may explain why Department of Sanitation employees (and Molina’s wife) have embraced the museum so enthusiastically.

Even though Molina retired after raising his six kids, he continues to preside over the museum, reviewing treasures that other sanitation workers have salvaged for his approval, and deciding which merit inclusion in the collection.

Preservation is in his blood, having been raised to repair rather than discard, a practice he used to put into play at Christmas, when he would present his siblings with toys he’d rescued and resurrected.

This thrifty ethos accounts for a large part of the pleasure he takes in his collection.

As to why or how his more sentimental or historically significant artifacts wound up bagged for curbside pickup, he leaves the speculation to visitors of a more narrative bent.

Sign up for updates or make a donation to the Foundation for New York’s Strongest’s campaign to rehouse the collection in an open-to-the-public space here.

To inquire about the possibility of upcoming tours, email the NYC Department of Sanitation at tours@dsny.nyc.gov.

Photos of Treasures in the Trash by Ayun Halliday, © 2018

Related Content:

The First Museum Dedicated Exclusively to Poster Art Opens Its Doors in the U.S.: Enter the Poster House

The Museum of Failure: A Living Shrine to New Coke, the Ford Edsel, Google Glass & Other Epic Corporate Fails

The Disgusting Food Museum Curates 80 of the World’s Most Repulsive Dishes: Maggot-Infested Cheese, Putrid Shark & More

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Although she lives and works inside Nelson Molina’s former pick up zone, she has yet to see any of her discards on display. Join her in NYC on Monday, October 7 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates the art of Aubrey Beardsley. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

William Burroughs Meets Francis Bacon: See Never-Broadcast Footage (1982)

The writing of William S. Burroughs and the paintings of Francis Bacon take us into often troubling but nevertheless compelling realities we couldn't possibly glimpse any other way. Some of that effect has to do with the inimitable (if often unsuccessfully imitated) styles they developed for themselves, and some with what was going on in their unusual lives as well as the even wilder realms of their minds. And though no scholars have yet turned up a Burroughs monograph on Bacon's art, or Bacon-painted illustrations for a Burroughs novel — just imagine Naked Lunch given that treatment — those minds did meet now and again in life, starting in Morocco six decades ago.

"The two men first met in Tangiers in the 1950s when Burroughs was technically on the run for murdering his wife after a 'shooting accident' during a drunken game of William Tell," writes Dangerous Minds' Paul Gallagher. "Bacon was then in a brutal and near fatal relationship with a violent sadist called Peter Lacey who used to beat him with a leather studded belt." None other than Allen Ginsberg made the introduction between the two men, "as he thought Bacon painted the way Burroughs wrote." But Burroughs saw more differences than similarities: "Bacon and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum," he once said. "He likes middle-aged truck drivers and I like young boys. He sneers at immortality and I think it’s the one thing of importance. Of course we’re associated because of our morbid subject matter."

Bacon and Burroughs reminisce about their first meeting — what they can remember of it, anyway — in an encounter filmed by the BBC for a 1982 documentary on the writer. "Arena followed him to the home and studio of old friend Francis Bacon, where he drops in for a cup of tea and a catch up," says the BBC's site. "This meeting has never been broadcast." But you can see their conversation presented in a ten-minute edit in the video above. Gallagher notes that the camera-shy Burroughs gets into the spirit of things only when the talk turns to his favorite subjects at the time: "Jajouka" — a Moroccan village with a distinct musical tradition — "Mayans, and immortality." Bacon, "waspish, bitchy, gleeful like a naughty schoolboy," throws out barbs left and right about his fellow artists and Burroughs' fellow writers.

Bacon also recalls his and Burroughs' "mutual friendship with Jane and Paul Bowles," the famously bohemian married couple known for their writing as well as their expat life in Morocco, "going on to discuss Jane Bowles’ mental decline and the tragedy of her last years being tended to by nuns, a situation which Bacon thought ghastly. Ironically, Bacon died just over a decade later being tended to by nuns after becoming ill in Spain (an asthma attack)." Even the most knowledgable fans of Burroughs, Bacon, and all the illustrious figures in their worldwide circles surely don't know the half of what happened when they got together. And though this ten-minute chat adds little concrete information to the record, it still gets us imagining what all these artistic associations might have been like — firing up our imaginations being the strong suit of creators like Bacon and Burroughs, even decades after they've left us to our own reality.

via Dangerous Minds

Related Content:

The Visual Art of William S. Burroughs: Book Covers, Portraits, Collage, Shotgun Art & More

Gun Nut William S. Burroughs & Gonzo Illustrator Ralph Steadman Make Polaroid Portraits Together

When William S. Burroughs Appeared on Saturday Night Live: His First TV Appearance (1981)

The Discipline of D.E.: Gus Van Sant Adapts a Story by William S. Burroughs (1978)

Who Was Joan Vollmer, the Wife William Burroughs Allegedly Shot While Playing William Tell?

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.

H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds Becomes a New BBC Miniseries Set in Edwardian England

H.G. Wells began writing the novel that would become The War of the Worlds in the England of the mid-1890s. As a setting for this tale of invasion from outer space, he chose the place he knew best: England of the mid-1890s. Staging spectacles of unfathomable malice and fantastical destruction against such an ordinary backdrop made The War of the Worlds, first as a magazine serial and then as a standalone book, a chillingly compelling experience for its readers. Orson Welles understood the effectiveness of that choice, as evidenced by the fact that in his famously convincing 1938 radio adaptation of Wells' novel, the hostile aliens land in modern-day New Jersey.

Subsequent adaptations have followed the same principle: in 1953, the first War of the Worlds Hollywood film set the action in 1950s Los Angeles; the latest, a Steven Spielberg-directed Tom Cruise vehicle that came out in 2005, set it in the New York and Boston of the 2000s. But now, set to premiere later this year on BBC One, we have a three-part miniseries that returns the story to the place and time in which Wells originally envisioned it — or rather, the place and very nearly the time. Shot in Liverpool, the production recreates not the Victorian England in which The War of the Worlds was first published but the brief Edwardian period, lasting roughly the first decade of the 20th century, that followed it.

In a way, a period War of the Worlds reflects our time as clearly as the previous War of the Worlds adaptations reflect theirs: television viewers of the 2010s have shown a surprisingly hearty appetite for historical drama, and often British historical drama at that. Think of the success earlier this decade of Downton Abbey, whose upstairs-downstairs dynamics proved gripping even for those not steeped in the British class system. This latest War of the Worlds, whose trailer you can watch at the top of the post, uses similar themes, telling the story of a man and woman who dare to be together despite their class differences — and, of course, amid an alien invasion that threatens to destroy the Earth. It remains to be seen whether the miniseries will rise to the central challenge of adapting The War of the Worlds: will the emotions at the center of the story be as convincing as the mayhem surrounding them?

Related Content:

Hear Orson Welles’ Iconic War of the Worlds Broadcast (1938)

Horrifying 1906 Illustrations of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds: Discover the Art of Henrique Alvim Corrêa

Ray Harryhausen’s Creepy War of the Worlds Sketches and Stop-Motion Test Footage

Edward Gorey Illustrates H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds in His Inimitable Gothic Style (1960)

Things to Come, the 1936 Sci-Fi Film Written by H.G. Wells, Accurately Predicts the World’s Very Dark Future

Stream Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, a BBC Production Featuring Derek Jacobi (Free for a Limited Time)

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.

How Grace Slick Wrote “White Rabbit”: The 1960s Classic Inspired by LSD, Lewis Carroll, Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain, and Hypocritical Parents

I never know what to do with the fact that Jefferson Airplane became Jefferson Starship became Starship—purveyors of “We Built This City,” a “barnacle made of synthesizers and cocaine,” writes GQ, and an honored guest on worst-of lists everywhere. (Also a song co-written by none other than Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin).

It might seem peevish to get so worked up over how bad “We Built this City” is, if it didn’t derive from the legacy of one of the best bands of the 1960s. Even Grace Slick disavows it. “This is not me,” she says.

Of course, by 1985, all of Slick’s best collaborators—the great Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Cassidy, Paul Kantner, Marty Balen, Spencer Dryden, et al.—had moved on, and it was that volatile collection of musical personalities that made psych rock classics like “Somebody to Love” and the slinky, druggy, Lewis Carroll-inspired bolero “White Rabbit” so essential.

Grace Slick is a great singer and songwriter, but she needed a band as uncannily talented as Jefferson Airplane to fully realize her eccentric vision, such as the acid rock song about drug references in Alice in Wonderland, played in the style of Spanish folk music and Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain.

Before she wrote "White Rabbit," Slick dropped acid and listened to Davis’ jazz/folk/classical experiment “over and over for hours,” she told The Wall Street Journal in 2016. “Sketches of Spain was drilled into my head and came squirting out in various ways as I wrote ‘White Rabbit.’”

No lesser band could have taken this swirl of influences and turned into what the Polyphonic video at the top calls a distillation of the entire era. But “White Rabbit” didn’t always have the perfectly executed intensity we know from 1967’s Surrealistic Pillow and Jefferson Airplane’s commanding performance at Woodstock (above).

In 1965, LSD was still legal. Grace Slick was working, she tells WSJ, “as a couture model at I. Magnin in San Francisco.” Before signing on as the singer for Jefferson Airplane, she formed The Great Society with her then-husband Jerry Slick. She wrote “White Rabbit” for that ensemble and the band first performed it “in early ’66,” she says, “at a dive bar on Broadway in San Francisco.”

Below, you can hear a 6-minute live version of The Great Society’s “White Rabbit.” It’s unrecognizable until Slick starts to sing over four minutes into the song. We are not likely to be reminded of Miles Davis. But when Slick brought “White Rabbit” to Jefferson Airplane, as the Polyphonic video demonstrates, they realized its full potential, references to Sketches of Spain and all.

Recorded in 1966, the single “kicked off” the following year’s Summer of Love, “celebrating the growing psychedelic culture” and freaking out parents, who passionately hated “White Rabbit.” These were the very people Slick wanted to pay attention. “I always felt like a good-looking schoolteacher singing 'White Rabbit,'" she says. "I sang the words slowly and precisely, so the people who needed to hear them wouldn’t miss the point. But they did.”

Slick’s own parents were a little freaked out when she started her first band, after an interview she gave the San Francisco Chronicle got back to them. “I argued in favor of marijuana and LSD,” she says. “It was painful for them, I’m sure, but I didn’t care whether they minded. Parents were criticizing a generation’s choices while sitting there with their glasses of scotch.” They were also regularly popping pills, although "the ones the mother gives you," she sang, "don't do anything at all."

“To this day,” she says, “I don’t think most people realize the song was aimed at parents who drank and told their kids not to do drugs. I felt they were full of crap, but write a good song, you need a few more words than that.” And to turn a good song into an instant classic, you need a band like Jefferson Airplane.

Related Content:

Listen to Grace Slick’s Hair-Raising Vocals in the Isolated Track for “White Rabbit” (1967)

Jefferson Airplane Plays on a New York Rooftop; Jean-Luc Godard Captures It (1968)

Dick Clark Introduces Jefferson Airplane & the Sounds of Psychedelic San Francisco to America: Yes Parents, You Should Be Afraid (1967)

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

Download 435 High Resolution Images from John J. Audubon’s The Birds of America

In our experience, bird lovers fall into two general categories:

Keenly observant cataloguers like John James Audubon …

And those of us who cannot resist assigning anthropomorphic personalities and behaviors to the 435 stars of Audubon's The Birds of America, a stunning collection of prints from life-size watercolors he produced between 1827 and 1838.

Our suspicions have little to do with biology, but rather, a certain zestiness of expression, an overemphatic beak, a droll gleam in the eye.

The Audubon Society’s newly redesigned website abounds with treasure for those in either camp:

Free high res downloads of all 435 plates.

Mp3s of each specimen’s call.

And vintage commentary that effectively splits the difference between science and the unintentionally humorous locutions of another age.

Take for instance, the Burrowing Owl, as described by self-taught naturalist Thomas Say (1787-1834):

It is delightful, during fine weather, to see these lively little creatures sporting about the entrance of their burrows, which are always kept in the neatest repair, and are often inhabited by several individuals. When alarmed, they immediately take refuge in their subterranean chambers; or, if the dreaded danger be not immediately impending, they stand near the brink of the entrance, bravely barking and flourishing their tails, or else sit erect to reconnoitre the movements of the enemy.

The notes of ornithologist John Kirk Townsend (1809 – 1851) suggest that not everyone was as taken with the species as Say (who was, in all fairness, the father of American entomology):

Nothing can be more unpleasant than the bagging of this species, on account of the fleas with which their plumage swarms, and which in all probability have been left in the burrow by the Badger or Marmot, at the time it was abandoned by these animals. I know of no other bird infested by that kind of vermin. 

The Common Gallinule, above, suggests that there's often more to these birds than meets the eye. His somewhat sheepish looking countenance belies the red hot love life Audubon recounts:

… the manifestations of their amatory propensity were quite remarkable. The male birds courted the females, both on the land and on the water; they frequently spread out their tail like a fan, and moved round each other, emitting a murmuring sound for some seconds. The female would afterwards walk to the water's edge, stand in the water up to her breast, and receive the caresses of the male, who immediately after would strut on the water before her, jerking with rapidity his spread tail for awhile, after which they would both resume their ordinary occupations.

Being that we are firmly planted in the second type of bird lover's camp, this ornithological cornucopia mainly serves to whet our appetite for more Falseknees, self-described bird nerd Joshua Barkman’s beautifully rendered webcomic.

Yes, Audubon’s Indigo Birdaka Petit Papebleu, “an active and lively little fellow” who "possesses much elegance in his shape, and also a certain degree of firmness in his make” was separated by a century or so from "Mood Indigo"—we presume that’s the tune stuck in Barkman’s bird’s head—but he does look rather preoccupied, no?

Possibly just thinking of mealworms…

Explore Audubon’s Birds of America by chronological or alphabetical order, or by state, and download them all for free here.

Related Content:

Cornell Launches Archive of 150,000 Bird Calls and Animal Sounds, with Recordings Going Back to 1929

What Kind of Bird Is That?: A Free App From Cornell Will Give You the Answer

Explore an Interactive Version of The Wall of Birds, a 2,500 Square-Foot Mural That Documents the Evolution of Birds Over 375 Million Years

Modernist Birdhouses Inspired by Bauhaus, Frank Lloyd Wright and Joseph Eichler

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, November 7 for her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Free: Download the Sublime Sights & Sounds of Yellowstone National Park

Moments before writing these words I was feeling a little stressed—a not uncommon experience for most everyone these days. Then I watched the 25-second video of a bighorn sheep, above, and something happened. Not an epiphany or moment of Zen. Just a momentary suspension of human woe as the animal silently munched, a creature so unlike myself and yet so motivated by the same basic needs.

How much better to observe the sheep firsthand, in its home at Yellowstone National Park? But perhaps we can, through our computers, touch into a little of the remedy Oliver Sacks suggested for our modern traumas. Nature gives us “sense of deep time,” the neurologist wrote, which “brings a deep peace with it, a detachment from the timescale, the urgencies of daily life… a profound sense of being at home, a sort of companionship with the earth.”

Research has found that watching nature documentaries can bring on real contentment, confirming what millions of National Geographic devotees already know. Now, at the National Park Service’s site, you can immerse yourself in virtual visits with not only our silent bighorn sheep friend, but the song of a mountain bluebird, or choruses of howling wolves. The audio library contains dozens more such melodious and haunting sounds from Yellowstone’s biophony.

The video library is replete with not only short clips of animals doing what animals do, but also video tours like that above, in which we learn how park rangers capture and handle bison in their conservation efforts at the park. Then there are stunning landscape videos like that below of Lower Falls viewed from Lookout Point in the spring of 2017, with soothing natural white noise from the rushing water and blowing wind.

All of this content is available for download and free for anyone to use. Remix the sounds of falling snow, geysers, and mountain lions; make as many nature gifs as you desire. As you do, bear in mind that while humans might greatly benefit—both psychologically and culturally—from the digital preservation of the natural world, the true purpose may be to help us understand why we need to step back and preserve the real thing.

Just above see a (nondownloadable) video from Yellowstone on the importance of listening to and conserving the land’s natural soundscapes—a feature of the world that best thrives in the near absence of human involvement.

Enter the sound library here, and the video library here.

via Kottke

Related Content:

How the Japanese Practice of “Forest Bathing”—Or Just Hanging Out in the Woods—Can Lower Stress Levels and Fight Disease

Watch 50 Hours of Nature Soundscapes from the BBC: Scientifically Proven to Ease Stress and Promote Happiness & Awe

The British Library’s “Sounds” Archive Presents 80,000 Free Audio Recordings: World & Classical Music, Interviews, Nature Sounds & More

10 Hours of Ambient Arctic Sounds Will Help You Relax, Meditate, Study & Sleep

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

David Gilmour Makes His Live at Pompeii Concert Film Free to Watch Online

On a hot October day in 1971, Pink Floyd and their crew assembled their live gear in an empty ancient Pompeii amphitheater and, with a film crew along for the ride, recorded one of the first epic concerts of their career, playing “Echoes,” “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” “Careful with that Axe, Eugene,” and other prog numbers that set the stage for Dark Side of the Moon. A few years later, they’d be playing in stadiums actually filled with people, and well, you know the rest.

In 2016, guitarist David Gilmour returned to the same amphitheater with his current band in tow, and filmed another concert movie (also called “Live at Pompeii”). This time the stadium was filled (though not on the ancient seats), nighttime was exchanged for daytime, and the set list was a combination of Floyd classics, older rarities like “Fat Old Sun” and “One of the These Days”, and plenty of tracks from his then new solo album Rattle That Lock, released in 2015.

Gilmour opted not to play “Echoes,” telling Rolling Stone that it was too much a Rick Wright song and didn’t feel right to play it without him. It was the first public performance in the ancient Roman amphitheatre since AD 79. (The guitarist was also made an honorary citizen of Pompeii).

Well, Gilmour just released the full concert on YouTube after a worldwide cinema screening of the concert in 2017. The YouTube playlist contains tracks that weren’t in the film, so for fans, this is just an extra special bonus.

The band includes Chester Kamen on guitars, a session musician who has played with both Gilmour and Waters on various occasions; Guy Pratt, who’s been Pink Floyd’s touring bassist since Roger Waters split; Chuck Leavell of the Allman Brothers; Greg Phllinganes, and Steve DiStanislao.

The show begins as the last rays of sunlight disappear behind Mt. Vesuvius, a nice Floydian touch. It ends, appropriately enough, with “Comfortably Numb,” (embedded above) but not with an exact copy of its famous guitar solo.

“I just try and let the solo come out,” Gilmour said in the same Rolling Stone interview. “I couldn’t play the one off the album. I try not too think about it too much.”

Related Content:

Watch Pink Floyd Play Live Amidst the Ruins of Pompeii in 1971 … and David Gilmour Does It Again in 2016

Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour Sings Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18

David Gilmour Invites a Street Performer to Play Wine Glasses Onstage With Him In Venice: Hear Them Play “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”

David Gilmour Talks About the Mysteries of His Famous Guitar Tone

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

The Women of Rock: Discover an Oral History Project That Features Pioneering Women in Rock Music

If you’ve wondered why projects celebrating women in the history of rock are needed, maybe all you need to do is listen to women in rock. Stories of boys’ clubs in the industry, from record labels to journalists to fandoms, are ubiquitous, which is why so many voices are pushed to the margins, say rock historians like Tanya Pearson, director of the Women of Rock oral history project.

Marginalization happens not only on stages and studios but at the level of memory and preservation. “Canons influence how we remember the past,” Pearson writes. “Rock journalism, media, and scholarship perpetuates a one sided, androcentric rock narrative…. Women do not easily fit and so they continue to be underrepresented. If they are represented at all, they are not given the same level of attention or granted the same access to audience as their male counterparts.”

Women of Rock, a “collection of digital interviews and written transcripts housed at the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith college,” focuses “primarily on artists who have been left out of the popular rock narratives.” Pearson and her volunteer collaborators hope that “by creating space for women, trans, and gender nonconforming artists to share their personal and professional histories” the project can “contribute to their personal and professional histories and accurate popular rock narratives.”

Pearson created the project while an undergraduate at Smith, finding herself “frustrated by the scant details available about her favorite musicians,” writes Sharon Hannon at Please Kill Me. “The main reason I started this project,” she tells Hannon, “was that it’s something I wish I had access to when I was 13 or 14,” a time in her life when she was “desperately searching for representation.” The problem wasn’t that women like her did not exist in rock, but that she couldn’t find out much about them.

The site's current roster of interviewees is an interesting and impressive mix. It includes women who have been integral to punk, indie, and alternative rock—like Lydia Lunch (further up), Nina Gordon and Louise Post of Veruca Salt, Alice Bag, Shirley Manson, Julie Cafritz, Melissa Auf der Mauer, Kristin Hersh, Mary Timony, Kira Rosseler, JD Samson, Amanda Palmer, and Exene Cervanka. (Sadly, Kim Shattuck of the Muffs, who passed away recently, isn’t featured.) And there are lesser-known artists who deserve a much wider audience, like Brie (Howard) Darling, a member of the criminally underrated Fanny, and whose full interview you can see below.

All of these women have stories to tell about surviving in a “male dominated business” as Tracy Bonham says in the trailer at the top of the post. Stories about “the patriarchal system,” as Shirley Manson says in her interview further up, “that allows men to thrive” and pushes women out. All of these musicians also tell us stories about themselves—their childhoods, influences, struggles, and passions, leaving behind a record in which future women rockers and rock historians among the current generation of 13- and 14-year-old kids can see themselves.

See the project's YouTube channel for more full interviews and interview clips and visit the Women of  Rock site for more.

Related Content:

Meet Fanny, the First Female Rock Band to Top the Charts: “They Were Just Colossal and Wonderful, and Nobody’s Ever Mentioned Them”

New Web Project Immortalizes the Overlooked Women Who Helped Create Rock and Roll in the 1950s

How Joan Jett Started the Runaways at 15 and Faced Down Every Barrier for Women in Rock and Roll

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

Where Did Human Beings Come From? 7 Million Years of Human Evolution Visualized in Six Minutes

One vulgar conception of human evolution holds that we "come from monkeys." You don't have to be a bona fide evolutionary biologist to know that's not quite how we currently understand it to have happened, but how clearly do you grasp the real story? The animation from the American Museum of Natural History above goes over seven million years of evolution in a mere six minutes, and it's certainly not a straight line down from "monkeys" to us. The video does, however, start its story with apes, and specifically chimpanzees, "our closest living relatives" with whom "we share a common ancestor that lived seven million years ago."

But we once had "much closer relatives, hominins, who are no longer living." These we know about through the fossils they left behind in Africa, from which the first known hominin emerged those seven million years ago. Different bones from different species of hominins found elsewhere on the continent suggest small teeth, upright walking, and bipedalism, some of the qualities that distinguish humans from apes.

And though hominins may have walked upright, they also climbed trees, but eventually lost the grasping feet needed to do so. Later they compensated with the very human-like development of making and using stone tools. Two million years ago, the well-known Homo erectus, with their large brains, long legs, and dextrous hands, made the famous migration out of Africa.

We know that by 1.2 million years thereafter Homo erectus' brains had grown larger still, fueled by new cooking techniques. Only about 200,000 years ago do we, Homo sapiens, enter the picture, but not long after, we interbreed with the various hominin species already in existence as we spread outward to fill "every geographic niche" of the Earth. Ultimately, hominins couldn't keep up: "Climate pressures and competition with Homo sapiens may have wiped them out." Now that we've seen their story and ours recapitulated, let's pour one out for the once-mighty hominin who preceded us, lived alongside us, and influenced us in ways genetic and otherwise — at least if it hasn't given us too much pause wondering when the evolutionarily inevitable successor to Homo sapiens will appear in our midst.

via Laughing Squid

Related Content:

Watch 570 Million Years of Evolution on Earth in 60 Seconds

550 Million Years of Human Evolution in an Illustrated Flipbook

Carl Sagan Explains Evolution in an Eight-Minute Animation

New Animated Web Series Makes the Theory of Evolution Easy to Understand

Richard Dawkins Explains Why There Was Never a First Human Being

10 Million Years of Evolution Visualized in an Elegant, 5-Foot Long Infographic from 1931

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.

  • Great Lectures



    Get the best cultural and educational resources on the web curated for you in a daily email. We never spam. Unsubscribe at any time.


  • About Us

    Open Culture scours the web for the best educational media. We find the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & educational videos you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.

    Advertise With Us

  • Archives

  • Quantcast