The Muppets Sing the First Act of Hamilton

Or, at least it's one fine impression of the Muppets.

Here's the cast:

Alexander Hamilton - Kermit the Frog
Aaron Burr - The Great Gonzo
Eliza Schuyler - Miss Piggy
Marquis de LaFozette - Fozzie Bear
George Washington - Sam the Eagle
Angelica Schuyler - Camilla the Chicken
John Laurens - Beaker
Hercules Mulligan - Rowlf the Dog
King George III - Animal
Peggy Schuyler - Janice
Samuel Seabury - The Swedish Chef
Charles Lee - Elmo
Congressional Delegates - Floyd and Zoot
Crazy Patriot - Crazy Harry
Statler and Waldorf - Themselves

via BoingBoing

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Bill Nye Shows How Face Masks Actually Protect You–and Why You Should Wear Them

Like many Americans of my generation, I grew up having things explained to me by Bill Nye. Flight, magnets, simple machines, volcanoes: there seemed to be nothing he and his team of young lieutenants couldn't break down in a clear, humorous, and wholly non-boring manner. He didn't ask us to come to him, but met us where we already were: watching television. The zenith of the popularity of his PBS series Bill Nye the Science Guy passed a quarter-century ago, and the world has changed a bit since then. But even in the 2020s, when the spreading of scientific knowledge is no less important than it was in the 90s, Nye knows where to air his message if he wants the kids to hear it: TikTok.

Hugely popular among people not yet born during Bill Nye the Science Guy's original run, TikTok is a video-based social media platform that accommodates videos of up to 60 seconds — roughly half the length of the "Consider the Following" segments embedded within the episodes of Nye's original show.




This week Nye has revived the format on Tiktok in order to lay out the scientific principles behind something that had recently become a part of all of our lives: face masks. True to form, he explains not just with words but with objects, in this case a series of respiratory system-protecting anti-particle devices from a humble scarf to a homemade cloth face mask (employing that stalwart science-project component, a pipe cleaner) to the medical industry-standard N95.

"The reason we want you to wear a mask is to protect you," says Nye. "But the main reason we want you to wear a mask is to protect me from you, and the particles from your respiratory system from getting into my respiratory system!" As simple a point as this may sound, it has tended to get lost amid the fear and confusion of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic: the conflicting information initially published about the advisability of face masks for the general public, but also the ensuing controversy over the implementation and enforcement of mask-related rules. But as Nye reminds us, this is "a matter literally of life and death — and when I use the word literally, I mean literally." As we shore up our knowledge of masks, we Millennials, who throughout our lives have learned so much from Nye, would do well to internalize that point of usage while we're at it.

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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, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

A Free Stanford Course on How to Teach Online: Designed for Middle & High School Teachers (July 13 – 17)

This fall, many teachers (across the country and the world) will be asked to teach online--something most teachers have never done before. To assist with that transition, the Stanford Online High School and Stanford Continuing Studies have teamed up to offer a free online course called Teaching Your Class Online: The Essentials. Taught by veteran instructors at Stanford Online High School (OHS), this course "will help middle and high school instructors move from general concepts for teaching online to the practical details of adapting your class for your students." The course is free and runs from 1-3 pm California time, July 13 - 17. You can sign up here.

For anyone interested, Stanford will also offer additional courses that give teachers the chance to practice teaching their material online and get feedback from Stanford Online High School instructors. Offered from July 20 - July 24, those courses cost $95. Click to this page, and scroll down to enroll.

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Bisa Butler’s Beautiful Quilted Portraits of Frederick Douglass, Nina Simone, Jean-Michel Basquiat & More

Fiber artist Bisa Butler’s quilted portraits of Black Americans gain extra power from their medium.

Each work is comprised of many scraps, carefully cut and positioned after hours of research and preliminary sketches.

Velvet and silk nestle against bits of vintage flour sacks, West African wax print fabric, denim and, occasionally, hand-me-downs from the sitter’s own collection.




In The Warmth of Other Sons, a 12-foot, life-sized portrait of an African American family who migrated north in search of economic opportunity, a wary-looking young girl clutches a purse to her chest. The purse is constructed from a commercial wax cotton print titled Michelle Obama’s Bag, which commemorates one of the former First Lady’s trips to Africa.

As anthropologist Nina Sylvanus writes in Patterns in Circulation: Cloth, Gender, and Materiality in West Africa:

To wear this pattern…is both to honor and aspire to be ravishingly beautiful and powerful like Michele Obama; It is considered a must-have fashion piece in the wardrobe of stylish women in Abidjan, Lomé, and Lagos.

The vibrant colors of Butler’s materials also inform her portraits, particularly those inspired by historical figures whose images are most familiar in black-and-white.

She is also deeply influenced by her undergraduate years at Howard University, where many of her professors were part of the AfriCOBRA artists' collective. They encouraged students to think of blank canvases as black, rather than white, and to throw out the Beaux Arts palette in favor of West African fabric’s Kool-Aid colors—“bright orange, bright yellow, crimson red, intense blue.”

As she describes in the above video:

The initial start is who’s it gonna be? Then after you choose that person, choose your color scheme. The color scheme is based on what you feel about that person. People have color around them, in them, that is not evidently visible to the naked eye.

The Storm, the Whirlwind, and The Earthquake, her recently completed full-length portrait of a 30-year old Frederick Douglass, reimagines the abolitionist’s 19th-century garb as something akin to a modern day Harlem dandy’s bold embrace of color, pattern, and style, deliberately challenging the status quo. The rich color scheme extends to his skin and the homey background fabric.

Butler, who was raised in an art-filled New Jersey home by a Black American mother and a Ghanian father, also credits her grandmother, the subject of her first quilted portrait, with helping her find her aesthetic.

An early attempt to paint a portrait of her beloved relative (and childhood sewing instructor) resulted in disappointment on both sides. The crestfallen artist’s aunt tipped her off that the older lady’s mental self-picture was that of someone 30 years younger.

Inspired by the collaged work of Romare Bearden, Butler gave it another go, this time in quilted form, taking care to represent her grandmother as an attractive woman in the prime of life. This time her efforts were met with enthusiasm. “I could feel an energy in the room that something new was happening,” Butler recalls.

Whether her subjects are living or dead, Butler strives to bring the same sense of “dignity and regal opulence” to unsung citizens that she does when creating portraits of such famous Americans as Nina Simone, Zora Neale Hurston, Jackie Robinson, Lauren Hill, Josephine Baker, and Jean-Michel Basquiat:

African Americans have been quilting since we were brought to this country and needed to keep warm. Enslaved people were not given large pieces of fabric and had to make do with the scraps of cloth that were left after clothing wore out. From these scraps the African American quilt aesthetic came into being. Some enslaved peoples were so talented that they were tasked for creating beautiful quilts that adorned their enslavers beds. My own pieces are reminiscent of this tradition, but I use African fabrics from my father’s homeland of Ghana, batiks from Nigeria, and prints from South Africa. My subjects are adorned with and made up of the cloth of our ancestors. If these visages are to be recreated and seen for the first time in a century, I want them to have their African Ancestry back, I want them to take their place in American History. I want the viewer to see the subjects as I see them. 

Explore the work of Bisa Butler on the artist’s Instagram, or MyModernmet and Colossal.

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

An Introduction to Jean Baudrillard, Who Predicted the Simulation-Like Reality in Which We Live

Each and every morning, many of us wake up and immediately check on what's happening in the world. Sometimes these events stir emotions within us, and occasionally we act on those emotions, which raise in us a desire to affect the world ourselves. But does this entire ritual involve anything real? While performing it we don't experience the world, but only media; when we respond, we respond not with action in the world, but only with action in media. We have directly interacted, to put it bluntly, with nothing more than pixels on a screen. This condition has pitilessly intensified in our era of smartphones and social media, and though philosopher and sociologist Jean Baudrillard died three months before the introduction of the iPhone, nothing about it would surprise him.

Assembled in an ominous, vintage stock footage-heavy style reminiscent of Adam Curtis (he of The Century of the Self and HyperNormalisation), the half-hour Then & Now video essay above provides an introduction to Baudrillard's ideas, especially those that predicted the world in which we live today, a "hyperreal postmodern" one filled with signs referencing little that actually exists. "In the run-up to the 2008 crash," the narrator reminds us, "the real value of mortgages was hidden under layers of sign value, under deceitful insurance policies and financial ratings based on nothing." On the news, "it doesn't matter what's real. What matters is how it's said, who says it — the perspective, whether it will be provocative enough, whether it will entertain." We live, in sum, in a "postmodern carnival" where  "things like reality TV, Disneyland, and Facebook define our lives."




Baudrillard saw this happening nearly 40 years ago: "People no longer look at each other, but there are institutes for that," he writes in Simulacra and Simulation. "They no longer touch each other, but there is contactotherapy. They no longer walk, but they go jogging, etc. Everywhere one recycles lost faculties, or lost bodies, or lost sociality, or the lost taste for food." He credited Marshall McLuhan, fellow gnomic observer of late 20th-century society, with "one of the defining axioms of postmodern life." When McLuhan declared that "the medium is the message," says the narrator, he saw that "what mattered in this new world was not what was real and material, but what was represented as signs: in short, television, and now the computer screen, has come to dominate social life. Sign production has replaced material production as the organizing principle of political economy."

What would Baudrillard make of a production like HBO's Chernobyl, whose painstaking reconstruction of historical events we previously featured here on Open Culture? What made that show a spectacle, says the narrator, was that "the depiction was more real than the event itself: costumes, props, special effects, and the perfect angle, the Geiger counter mapped onto the score already overdetermined by signs." And so, "in twenty years' time we think of Chernobyl, will we think of the real event, or images conjured by TV studios?" But we need hardly look that far into the future. The very things our screens insist to us are happening in the world right now, far beyond the walls of the homes fewer and fewer of us leave these days — what do we truly know of their existence apart from this digital blizzard of signs? If Baudrillard were alive to hear our speculation about the possibility that we live in another being's simulation, he'd surely point out that we've already created the simulation ourselves.

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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, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Watch the Famous James Baldwin-William F. Buckley Debate in Full, With Restored Audio (1965)

When James Baldwin took the stage to debate William F. Buckley at Cambridge in 1965, it was to have “a debate we shouldn’t need,” writes Gabrielle Bellot at Literary Hub, and yet it’s one that is still “as important as ever.” The proposition before the two men—famed prophetic novelist of the black experience in America and the conservative founder of the National Review—was this: “The American Dream is at the Expense of the America Negro.”

The statement should not need defending, Baldwin argued, because it is so obviously true. The wealth created by hundreds of years of slavery has passed down through generations of families. So too has the poverty. These divisions have been strenuously maintained by Jim Crow, redlining, and racist policing. “Profits from slavery,” write Stephen Smith and Kate Ellis at APM Reports, “helped fund some of the most prestigious schools in the Northeast, including Harvard, Columbia, Princeton and Yale,” which happened to be Buckley’s alma mater and was founded by an actual slave trader.




Slave labor funded, built, and maintained nearly every part of the formative university system in the early U.S., and built the wealth of many other powerful institutions. Baldwin says it is “awkward” to have to point out these facts. Rather than recite them, he personalizes, speaking, he says, as “a kind of Jeremiah” in naming crimes gone unredressed for too long: “I am stating very seriously, and this is not an overstatement. I picked the cotton, I carried it to the market, and I built the railroads under someone else’s whip for nothing. For nothing…. The American soil is full of the corpses of my ancestors. Why is my freedom or my citizenship, or my right to live there, how is it conceivably a question now?”

Buckley’s response drips with condescension and contempt. He begins with a standard conservative line: deploring the acts of a few “individual American citizens” who “perpetuate discrimination," but denying that historic, systemic racism still exists. He then cites “the failure of the Negro community itself to make certain exertions, which were made by other minority groups during the American experience.” He damns an entire group of people with platitudes about hard work while also declaring loudly that race has nothing to do with it.

This contradiction—engaging in racist scapegoating while claiming not to see race—was part of the strategy of “colorblind” conservatism the National Review adopted after the passage the Civil Rights Act. Prior to the early sixties, however, Buckley had been a strident segregationist who publicly defended institutionalized white supremacy rather than claiming it had disappeared. In 1957, he wrote an editorial titled “Why the South Must Prevail” and argued that white southern politicians must “take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally” over black citizens.

Buckley had not fundamentally changed in 1965, though he positioned himself as a moderate middle ground between liberals and segregationists like Strom Thurmond, whom he considered crude. His position amounts to little more than a defense of domination, couched in what historian Joshua Tait calls the “racial innocence of intellectual conservatism” that deliberately ignores or distorts historical truths and present realities. “Bristling at Baldwin’s claim that the American economy was built by the unremunerated labour of Black people,” writes Joss Harrison, “Buckley cries: ‘My great grandparents worked too!’”

The debate “now stands as one of the archetypal articulations of the dividing line between US progressives and conservatives on questions of race, justice and history,” writes Aeon, who bring us the full version above with restored audio by Adam D’Arpino. Buckley responds to Baldwin’s powerful rhetoric with insults, out of context “facts and figures – as well as an ad hominem shot at Baldwin’s speaking voice.” He proposes that one road to equality lies in disenfranchising poor Southern whites as well as black citizens.

Buckley displays a “complete ignorance of the problems faced by black Americans in society,” writes Harrison. Such ignorance, "allied with power," Baldwin said elsewhere, constitutes "the most ferocious enemy justice can have." For Baldwin, Buckley's attitude simply confirmed the “great shock," that he movingly describes in his debate statement, "around the age of five, or six, or seven, to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance, along with everybody else, has not pledged allegiance to you.”

via Aeon

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

Buddhist Monk Covers Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law,” Then Breaks Into Meditation

Back in April, we introduced you to Kossan, a Japanese Buddhist monk who has a penchant for performing covers of rock anthems--everything from The Ramones’ “Teenage Lobotomy,” to “Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine.” Now he returns with Judas Priest's "Breaking the Law." It's a curious cover, not least because he ends the song and breaks seamlessly into meditation. Metal? Meditation? Sure, why not.

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 Laughing Squid

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Does Every Picture Tell a Story? A Conversation with Artist Joseph Watson for Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #51

Storytelling is an essential part of Las Vegas artist Joseph Watson's painting methodology, whether he's creating city scenes or public sculpture or children's illustrations. So how does the narrative an author may have in mind affect the viewer, and is this different for different types of art?

Joseph is perhaps best known as the illustrator of the Go, Go, GRETA! book series and does online streaming of drawing sessions through Instagram and Facebook. On this episode of Pretty Much Pop, he joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to explore the picture-narrative connection and more generally how knowing about the creation of an image affects our reception of it, touching on Guernica, Where the Wild Things Are, Dr. Seuss, The Chronicles of Narnia, and more.

You can browse Joseph's work at josephwatsonart.com, and you're really going to want in particular to look at a couple of the works that we consider explicitly:

Other sources we looked at in preparation for this discussion include:

Follow Joseph on Instagram @josephwatsonart; also Twitter and Facebook.

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This week, it includes a particularly philosophical consideration of the notion of escapism and how different that is from so-called serious pursuits. Is this just a version of the high-low culture distinction that we largely rejected in episode one? This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

Explore the Beautiful Pages of the 1902 Japanese Design Magazine Shin-Bijutsukai: European Modernism Meets Traditional Japanese Design

We read much about the role of Japanism in the art of late 19th Europe and North America. “The craze for all things Japanese,” writes the Art Institute of Chicago, “was launched in 1854 when American Commodore Matthew Perry forced Japan to recommence international trade after two centuries of virtual isolation.” Britain, the Continent, and the U.S. were awash in Japanese art and artifacts and ideas about the pre-industrial purity of Japanese forms proliferated. “Westerners were... drawn to traditional Japanese artistic expression because of its ties to the natural world. Japanese artists in all media treated the subjects of birds, flowers, landscapes, and the seasons.”

Westerners like Louis Comfort Tiffany emulated these patterns in their designs, and they appeared in the work of van Gogh and Gaugin. We may be familiar with how much the admiration for Japanese woodcuts, furniture, architecture, and poetry influenced Impressionism, the Arts and Crafts Movement, and early 20th century Modernism.




We may not know that the influence was mutual, with Japanese artists developing their own forms of Art Deco, European-influenced Modernism and a nationalist Japanese Arts and Crafts Movement called “Mingei” that was heavily inspired by earlier British artists who had themselves been inspired by the Japanese.

An earlier example of the cross-cultural exchange in the arts between Europe and Japan can be seen here in these prints from Shin-Bijutsukai (新美術海)... a Japanese design magazine that was edited by illustrator and designer Korin Furuya (1875-1910),” notes Spoon and Tamago. These images come from a collection of issues from 1901 to 1902, bound together in a huge 353-page design book (view it online at the Internet Archive or the Public Domain Review). We can see in the traditional images of flowers and birds the influence of industrial design as well as “hints of art nouveau and other influences of the time” from European graphic arts.

There was a reluctance among many Japanese artists to acknowledge their debts to Western artists, a symptom, writes Wendy Jones Nakanishi, professor at Shikoku Gakuin University, of “the ambivalence felt by many Japanese towards the rapid westernization of their country at the cost of the loss of indigenous cultural practices.” Despite the enormous popularity of Japanese art in Europe, “the ambivalence was mutual.” Many appeared to feel that “the subtle beauty of the Japanese art threatened European claims to cultural supremacy” when it appeared in Victorian exhibitions in London and elsewhere.

These fears aside, the meeting of many cultures in the exchanges between Europe and Japan helped to revitalize the arts and shake off stagnant classical traditions while responding in dynamic ways to rapid industrialization. The emphasis on folk and decorative art, brought into the realm of fine art, was culturally transformative in Europe. In Japan, the stylizations of modernist painting disrupted traditional scenes and techniques, as in the woodblock prints here and in the several hundred more in various issues of the monthly magazine. See them all at Public Domain Review.

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

A Chilling Time-Lapse Video Documents Every COVID-19 Death on a Global Map: From January to June 2020

The story of the Coronavirus, at least in the US, has swung between a number of rhetorical tics now common to all of our discourse. Called a “hoax,” then given several racist nicknames and dismissed as a “nothing burger,” the pandemic—currently at around 3 million cases in the country, with a U.S. death toll over 130,000—has now become the “new normal,” a phrase that pops up everywhere you look.

“This framing is inviting,” writes Chime Asonye at the World Economic Forum. It conveys “the idea that our present is okay because normal is regular,” and we’re all supposed to be getting back to regular life, according to the powers that be, who don’t seem particularly troubled by the dead, sick, and dying or the continued threat to public health.




But pretending things are normal is simply a form of a denial, a maladaptive and unhealthy response to trauma as much as to disease. “Allowing ourselves to cope means not normalizing our situation,” writes Asonye, “but giving ourselves the time to truly process it.” We are all living in the midst of profound loss—of loved ones, livelihoods, future plans and present joys. Asonye adds:

Psychologists advise that it’s important to identify the losses we are feeling and to honour the grief surrounding us through methods like meditation, communicating our struggle, and expressing ourselves through art or by keeping a journal. In uncertain times, the 'new normal' frame reinforces an understanding that the world and our emotions should by now have settled. Surrounded by uncertainty, it’s okay to admit that things are not normal. It’s okay to allow ourselves to grieve or to be scared. It’s okay not to be comfortable with what is going on.

How do we process if we cannot admit that there is a problem—a massive problem that requires our lives to change, even if we’re feeling fatigued and worn out? Though we may have grown cynically accustomed to the callous, corrupt response of certain governments to human suffering, the “overwhelming scale” of the pandemic, as James Beckwith writes on YouTube, marks the coronavirus as decidedly not normal. It may be the kind of catastrophe the world has not witnessed in over a century.

Inspired by artist Isao Hashimoto’s “Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945,” which we’ve previously featured here, Beckwith used the same visual presentation to map the over 500,000 lives lost to the virus since the first January outbreak in China. “The virus grows, continuing to work its way throughout the world until the end of June—where this piece ends but the real virus has not,” he writes. “It is likely a sequel will need to be made.” Though he admits the animation “may be upsetting to some people,” Beckwith, like Asonye, recognizes the importance of admitting the full scope.

Watching the virus spread, and kill, over the past six months hits much harder than reading the dry facts. The video is dedicated to “every person that tragically lost their lives to COVID-19.” Beckwith would like it “to be understood and seen by as many people around the world as possible,” so that we can all have a shared understanding of what we’re facing together (and maybe come to an agreement that this cannot be the "new normal"). “Sometimes there are no words for terrible events like this,” Beckwith writes, but he would like help translating the video description into other languages. You can contact him via his YouTube or Instagram channels to volunteer.

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





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