The Outsiders: Lou Reed, Hunter S. Thompson, and Frank Zappa Reveal Themselves in Captivatingly Animated Interviews

Lou Reed thought the Beatles were garbage. Or at least he did when he started out in music, as he reveals in a 1987 interview. "We had an ambition and a goal: to elevate the rock song and take it where it hadn't been before," he says of his first band — perhaps you've heard of them — the Velvet Underground. "I just thought the other stuff couldn't even come up to our ankles," he adds. "They were just painfully stupid and pretentious. When they did try to get 'arty,' it was worse than stupid rock-and-roll." Having graduated from college wanting to write "the great American novel," Reed eventually decided to incorporate literature, and all the culture he knew, into music, to "write rock-and-roll that you could listen to as you got older and it wouldn't lose anything. it would be timeless in the subject matter and the literacy of our lyrics." The conversation appears first in "The Outsiders," a compilation of three recordings made with three pillars of alternative American culture and imaginatively animated by Blank on Blank.

The second, which we've previously featured here on Open Culture, finds Studs Terkel sitting down with Hunter S. Thompson in 1967, talking about his first book Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. "The Angels came out of World War Two," Thompson explains, "this whole kind of alienated, violent, subculture of people wandering around looking for either an opportunity, or if not an opportunity, then vengeance for not getting an opportunity."

But if people insist on thinking of the Angels and their kind as the only violent troublemakers in existence, "then it's just putting off the recognition that the same venom that the Angels are spewing around in public, a lot of people are just keeping bottled up in private." In exploring the culture of the Angels, Thompson found that the venom filled him no less than it does everyone else: "I was seeing a very ugly side of myself a lot of times. I'm much more conscious of the kind of anger that lurks everywhere."

The third, a 1971 interview with Frank Zappa, takes on the subject of fads. Zappa considered everything a fad, including the supposed political awakening of youth in the 60s: "It's as superficial as their musical consciousness. It's just another aspect of being involved in the actions of their peer group. One guy in the group says, 'Hey, politics,' and they go, 'Yeah, politics.' Or they go, 'Grand Funk Railroad,' and they go, 'Yeah, Grand Funk Railroad. It's the same thing.'" In America Zappa saw "a lot of changes, but I think that they're all temporary things, and any change for the good is always subject to cancellation upon the arrival of the next fad." That's what happens, he explains, in a country that "doesn't have any real culture. It doesn't have any real art. It doesn't have any real anything. It's just got fads and a gross national product and a lot of inflation." Does that, asks interviewer Howard Smith, make Zappa himself a fad as well? "I'm an American, I was born here," Zappa replies. "I automatically got entered in a membership in the club."

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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.

Jurassic Park Without Dinosaurs: Watch Humans Stare in Amazement at a World Stripped of CGI Creations

How many times have you encountered an otherwise perfect view spoiled by a newly erected high rise, a construction crane, or a CGI brachiosaurus?

Constantly, right?

Video editor William Hirsch makes light work of Jurassic Park’s primary attractions’ first appearance, literally erasing them from the scene.

Hirsch estimated that it took him about a week to get rid of those pesky ‘saurs using nothing fancier than After Effects’s built in tools, which include the motion tracking software Mocha.

It's equal parts ridiculous and lovely to see humans suddenly thunderstruck by the unspoiled landscape they’ve been driving through.

These days, of course, Laura Dern would have to glance up from her phone, not a paper map.

Though it's not such a stretch to imagine Jurassic Park's author's successor, the late Michael Crichton's literary heir, hard at work on a dystopian novel titled Park.

At the time of its release, Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs were a special effects game changer. Their numbers were supplemented by some non-computer-generated animatronic models, though no doubt Spielberg was apprehensive given the way his robotic sharks acted up on the set of Jaws. The human players may have had more screen time, but the dinosaurs’ 15 minutes of footage has resulted in a lasting fame, extending decades beyond the expected 15 minutes.

Unexpectedly, Hirsch’s dinosaurs, or rather, lack thereof, have generated the most excitement with regard to his project. But his attention to detail is also laudable. Above, he reveals how he tweaked the access badge dangling from the rear view mirror of the park's all-terrain vehicle.

Are we wrong to think that John Williams’ swelling original score feels more organic in this dinosaur-free context? Rivers, trees, and vast amounts of skies have been known to spur composers to such heights.

The potentially lethal prehistoric beasts are out of the way, but that line “We’re gonna make a fortune with this place” retains an air of ominous foreshadowing, given the plentiful natural resources on display. Sometimes humans can do more damage than dinosaurs.

If that feels too intense, you can also retreat to the escapist pleasures of the original, below.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, October 15 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Why You Should Read One Hundred Years of Solitude: An Animated Video Makes the Case

Maybe we read some celebrated literary works the way we eat kale or quinoa—you don’t exactly love it but they say it’s, like, a superfood. Not so Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. When I first started reading the novel, I couldn’t stop. Twelve hours and a couple pots of coffee later, I wanted to read it again right away. It’s a page-turner—not something one often says of literary fiction beloved by highbrow critics and academics—but I mean it as the highest possible compliment.

The book has every feature of a binge-worthy soap opera: characters we love and love to hate, doomed affairs, sex, violence, endless family squabbling, tragedy, intrigue, melodrama…. Again, this is no criticism; Marquez loved telenovelas and even wrote a script for one. He wanted his work to reach as many people as possible, to thrill and entertain. But he didn't withhold any literary nutrients either.

The novel’s poetic language, historical scope, and thematic and symbolic complexity has led critics like William Kennedy to compare it to the book of Genesis, and led no small number of readers to wildly prefer it to the Bible or any other ancient book of mythology.

If you’re one of the two or three people who hasn’t read the novel, and you don’t find all this praise fully convincing, consider the case made by Francisco Díez-Buzo in the TED-Ed animated video above.

The story, we learn, arrived as an epiphany Marquez had while he and his family were on the road to a vacation destination. He turned the car around, abandoned the trip, and started writing immediately—an example of the total commitment many writers promise themselves they’ll one day get around to maybe working on. Eighteen months and many pots of coffee later, One Hundred Years of Solitude appeared, introducing a worldwide readership to Marquez, magical realism, and Latin American literature, politics, and history.

Most every reader now has a volume of Octavio Paz or Pablo Neruda on the shelf, and novels by Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, or Isabelle Allende. Before Cien años de soledad arrived, however, this was rarely so outside of Spanish-speaking countries. The novel created a global appetite for rich Latin American traditions of storytelling and lyrical poetry. New translations from the region began appearing everywhere.

Like Faulkner’s entire corpus compressed into one volume, the epic tale of seven generations of Buendías in the fictional Colombian town of Macondo is vast and sprawling. It “is not an easy book to read,” says Díez-Buzo. Here, as you might expect, I disagree. It is harder not to read it once you’ve picked it up. But you will need to read it again, and again, and again.

So packed is the book with detail, allusion, historical reference, and narrative that you could read it for the rest of your life and never exhaust its layers of meaning. As Harold Bloom put it, “every page is rammed full of life beyond the capacity of any single reader to absorb… There are no wasted sentences, no mere transitions, in this novel, and you must notice everything at the moment you read it.” Pablo Neruda called it "the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since Don Quixote of Cervantes"—the founding text of Spanish-language literature and, indeed, of the novel form itself.

The supernatural and the surreal suffuse each page, raising even mundane encounters to a mythic dimension, staging history as timeless drama, played out over and over again through each generation. In each repetition, fantastic and fatal changes also “produce a sense of history," says Díez-Buzo, "as a downward spiral the characters seem powerless to escape.”

It is this history that Marquez described, when he accepted the Nobel Prize in 1982, as “a boundless realm of haunted men and historic women, whose unending obstinacy blurs into legend.” Marquez’s own family history, full of “haunted men and historic women,” served as a model for his succession of fictional ancestors. Latin Americans, he said, “have not had a moment’s rest,” yet in the face of colonialist brutality, civil war, dictatorships, “oppression, plundering and abandonment,” he declared, “we respond with life.” By some strange act of magic, Marquez contained all of that life in one extraordinary novel.

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

A First Look at The Animated Mind of Oliver Sacks, a Feature-Length Journey Into the Mind of the Famed Neurologist

“Every day a word surprises me,” famed neurologist Oliver Sacks once told Bill Hayes, with whom he spent the final six years of his life. The comment came "apropos of nothing other than that a word had suddenly popped into his head," writes Hayes in a recent New York Times piece on Sacks' love of language. "Often this happened while swimming — 'ideas and paragraphs' would develop as he backstroked, after which he’d rush to the dock or pool’s edge to get the words down on paper — as Dempsey Rice has captured in an enchanting forthcoming film, The Animated Mind of Oliver Sacks." You can get a glimpse of that film, and its portrayal of Sacks' habit of getting ideas while swimming, in the trailer above.

"In 1982 I wrote a section of A Leg to Stand On" — his memoir of his experience recovering from a mountaineering accident that left him without awareness of his left leg — "by a lake." We watch his animated form making its way across the water in cap and speedo, a wake of words trailing behind them.

After the swim, "dripping, I would write." We then see James Silberman, then president and editor at Summit Books, reading Sacks' handwritten, still-soggy manuscript. The sogginess might be artistic license, but the handwritten-ness wasn't: Silberman "wrote me back saying, did I think this was the 19th century? No one has sent him a manuscript for thirty years. And besides, this one looked like it had been dropped in the bath."

So maybe the animators didn't get quite as creative drawing those pages as it might seem, but they still must have had to get creative indeed to keep up with Sacks himself, a decade of whose conversations with Rice provide the film's narration. "Oliver saw his patients as whole people, rather than isolated disorders," she says by way of explaining what made Sacks' books, like AwakeningsThe Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and many more besides, so resonant with readers the world over. "He wasn't afraid to openly inquire of the patient with autism or amnesia, 'What is it like to be you?'" The Animated Mind of Oliver Sacks finished a successful Kickstarter campaign in July, but you can still donate and keep up with release details at its official site. As a viewing experience, it should confirm what readers have long suspected: though they come for a look into the unusual minds of Oliver Sacks' patients, they stay to inhabit the even more unusual mind of Oliver Sacks.

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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.

Salvador Dalí & Walt Disney’s Short Animated Film, Destino, Set to the Music of Pink Floyd

In 1945, Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí began collaborating on an animated film. 58 years later, with Dalí long gone and Disney gone longer still, it came out. The delayed arrival of Destino had to do with money trouble at the Walt Disney Studios not long after the project began, and it seems that few laid eyes on its unfinished materials again until Disney's nephew Roy E. Disney came across them in 1999. Completed, it premiered at the 2003 New York Film Festival and received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short Film. Now, fifteen years later, we know for sure that Destino has found a place in the culture, because someone has mashed it up with Pink Floyd.

Unlike The Wizard of Oz, which has in Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon the best-known inadvertent soundtrack of all time, the seven-minute Destino can hardly accommodate an entire album. But it does match nicely with "Time," Dark Side of the Moon's fourth track, in length as well as in theme.

Though in many ways a more visual experience than a narrative one — if completed in the 1940s, it might have become part of a Fantasia-like "package film" — Destino does tell a story, showing a graceful woman who catches the eye of Chronos, the mythical personification of time itself. This allows the film to indulge in some clock imagery, which one might expect from Dalí, though it also includes clocks of the non-melting variety.

Only with "Time" as its soundtrack does Destino include the sound of clocks as well. All the ringing and bonging that opens the song came as a contribution from famed producer Alan Parsons, who worked on Dark Side of the Moon as an engineer. Before the album's sessions, he'd happened to go out to an antique shop and record its clocks as a test of the then-novel Quadraphonic recording technique. The transition from Parsons' clocks to Nick Mason's drums fits uncannily well with the opening of Destino, as does much that follows. "Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time," sings David Gilmour. "Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines." Though Disney and Dalí came up with much more than half a page of scribbled lines, both of them probably assumed Destino had come to naught. Or might they have suspected that the project would find its way in time?

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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.

The Rise and Fall of The Simpsons: An In-Depth Video Essay Explores What Made the Show Great, and When It All Came to an End

As an American man in his thirties, I can, if necessary, communicate entirely in Simpsons references. But however voluminous and close at hand my knowledge of the Simpson family and their hometown of Springfield, it doesn't extend past the 1990s. Most of my demographic can surely say the same, as can quite a few outside it: take the Irishman behind the Youtube channel Super Eyepatch Wolf, author of the video essay "The Fall of The Simpsons: How It Happened." We both remember tuning in to the show's debut on December 14, 1989, and how it subsequently "transformed television as we knew it" — and we've both lamented how, in the nearly three decades since, "one of the best and most influential TV shows of all time became just another sitcom."

So how did it happen? To understand what made The Simpsons fall, we have to understand what put it at the top of the zeitgeist in the first place. Not only did the counterculture still exist back in the 1990s, The Simpsons quickly came to constitute its most popular expression. And as with any powerful countercultural product, it was just as quickly labeled dangerous, as anyone who grew up describing each week's episode of the show to friends not allowed to watch it remember. Yet its "rebellious satire" and all the consequent violations both subtle and blatant of the staid conventions of mainstream American culture (especially in its purest manifestation, the sitcom) came unfailingly accompanied by "comedy grounded in character and heart."

The fact that The Simpsons' first generation of writers might well revise a joke twenty or thirty times — creating the countless moments of intricately structured, multilayered verbal and visual comedy we still remember today — didn't hurt. But even if current writers put in the same hours, they do it on a show that has long since lost touch with what made it great. While each of its characters once had "a very specific set of conflicting beliefs and motivations," they now seem to do or say anything, no matter how implausible or absurd, that serves the gag of the moment. Celebrity guest stars stopped playing characters specially crafted for them but caricatures of themselves. Plots became bizarre. "The only thing that The Simpsons was a parody of now," says Super Eyepatch Wolf bringing us to the present day, "was The Simpsons."

While the show has been self-referentially acknowledging its own decline since about the turn of the millennium, that doesn't make comparisons with its 1990s "golden age" any less dispiriting. One thinks of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, another generational touchstone, whose creator Bill Watterson ended it after just ten years: it still finds an audience today in part, he says, "because I chose not to run the wheels off it.” The Simpsons, by contrast, now draws its lowest ratings ever, and it would pain those of us who grew up with it as much to see it end as it does to see it keep going. But then, "entertainment isn't meant to last forever. Rather, it's an extension of the people and places that made it at a particular moment in time." The Simpsons at its countercultural best will always define that moment, no matter how long it insists on running beyond it.

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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.

How Master Japanese Animator Satoshi Kon Pushed the Boundaries of Making Anime: A Video Essay

To casual viewers, most Japanese animation (at least apart from the elegant work of Hayao Miyazaki and his collaborators at Studio Ghibli) can look like a pretty unsophisticated and even disreputable affair, characterized by crude flashiness, convoluted storylines, and bizarre, sophomoric humor. All those things do, of course, exist in the realm of anime, but only because everything does: if Japan's version of animation often rises above those of other cultures, it does so as a result of that culture regarding animation as simply cinema by other means. And any cinematic form will inevitably produce diverse virtuosity: to see how a master Japanese animator can have a sensibility completely different from that of Miyazaki, look no further than Satoshi Kon.

"Even if you don't know his work, you have certainly seen some of these images," says Every Frame a Painting's Tony Zhou in the series' video essay on Kon's work, which includes the internationally acclaimed films Perfect BlueTokyo Godfathers, and Paprika.

"He is an acknowledged influence on both Darren Aronofsky and Christopher Nolan, and he has a fan base that includes just about everyone who loves animation." The essay shows us how those two Western live-action auteurs, among Kon's other fans, have borrowed his images for their own stories, just as Kon, in turn, drew a great deal of inspiration from a similarly unlikely source: George Roy Hill's 1972 cinematic adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse-Five.

More specifically, Kon drew inspiration from the film's inventive and surprising cuts from one scene to another, a formal reflection of its chronology-and-geography-jumping protagonist's state of being "unstuck in time." Throughout his decade-long feature filmmaking career, Kon "was constantly showing one image and then revealing that it wasn't what you thought it was." Kon died in 2010, having "pushed animation in ways that aren't really possible in live action, not just elastic images but elastic editing, a unique way of moving from image to image, scene to scene." His accomplishments live on not just in his own work, but in all the ways the creators who admire it continue to adapt his innovations for their own, even in the traditionally "respectable" forms of cinema.

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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.

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