A Virtual Table Read of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Featuring Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman, Shia LaBeouf, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, John Legend & More

If you will forgive a gross oversimplification, there are two kinds of people in this world:

Those (like me) who, having seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High the night before the first day of their senior year of high school, made sure to pack carrots in their lunchboxes, and those who were too young to see it in its original release, possibly because they hadn’t been born yet.

For those of us in the first group, Feelin’ A-Live’s #FastTimesLive, a virtual table read of the script for Cameron Crowe’s 1982 semi-autobiographical teen sex romp, is a bit of a tough sell, even as a fundraiser for two good causes: the COVID-19 relief organization CORE and REFORM Alliance, which is dedicated to criminal justice reform and staunching COVID-19’s spread within the incarcerated population.

It’s kind of a mess.




Possibly we’re just crabby from all the Zoom performances we’ve watched and taken part in over the last 6+ months.

Were we supposed to be charmed that this live, unrehearsed performance featured A-list movie stars, bumbling through like regular Joes circa April 2020?

Ray Liotta, reprising the late Ray Walston’s authority figure, Mr. Hand, is hamstrung by his old school paper script, ensuring that most of his lines will be delivered with downcast eyes.

Julia Roberts, as 15-year-old heroine, Stacy, is winsomely fresh, but out of focus.

Is it this blurriness of the technical difficulties that caused the production, originally conceived of as a feature-length table read, to be re-packaged as a sort of highlights tribute?

(Roberts’ computer glitch appears to have been cleared up after organizer Dane Cook’s first interruption to encourage donations (currently standing at a $2,132, which is particularly disappointing given that the film took in $2,545,674 its opening weekend, in 1992.))

Jennifer Aniston, in the role originated by Seventeen model, Phoebe Cates, is predictably funny, and also brings professional quality make up and lighting to the proceedings, but it’s somehow unjust that her celebrity status excuses her face-obscuring hairdo. Actresses of her generation, lacking her star power, plying their trade on Zoom are invariably ordered to barrette up.

The technical problems were not enough to spare us from a reenactment of the film’s most notorious scene, in which Stacy’s older brother, originally played by Judge Reinhold, now brought to life by Anniston’s ex, Brad Pitt, fantasizes about Cates unclasping her bikini top, only to be barged in on enjoying an extremely private moment by the very object of those fantasies.

It’s at the 37 minute mark, FYI.

A fitting punishment for those of us who, remembering the tabloid headlines, eagerly focused on Aniston’s face as Pitt was being introduced.

It wouldn’t hold a candle to the now-problematic original, if Pitt weren’t blushing and Morgan Freeman weren’t reading the stage directions.

(“Do you want me to use my Lorne Greene sonorous voice or just read like I’m not here?”)

Many viewers picked up on the players’ seemingly cool reception of their castmate, Method actor, Shia LaBeouf, born four years after the original film’s release. In the role of surfin’ stoner, Jeff Spicoli, he was tasked with some very big shoes to fill.

It’s a tribute to original Spicoli, activist Sean Penn’s versatility that he wasn’t forever typecast as variants on his star making role. As the only member of the original cast in attendance (as well as the founder of one of the designated charities), he alone seems to be enjoying the hell out of LaBeouf’s scene stealing antics.

Writer Crowe and director Amy Heckerling dish on his audition at the end of the proceedings, and in so doing shed some light on LaBeouf’s eccentricities, and the others’ wariness.

Even though the story conflicts, somewhat, with the casting director’s recollection below, we’re willing to take it on faith that LaBeouf’s fellows’ failure to clap for him is as much a part of the joke as Pitt’s game use of iconic headgear.

Dane Cook hedged his bets in deference to those who may not have lived through the period parodied by the film:

One more thing, before we start, the big disclaimer with a capital D, a whole lot of beliefs and language have changed since this came out, so don’t @ us, unless it’s to donate. Remember, it was a certain time and place, and the sentiments in the script do not reflect the people reading it today. They do reflect the fictional characters from an imaginary school in a totally make believe story, got it?

We get it!

The recasting with actors the same age as Jennifer Jason Leigh (Stacy) and Phoebe Cates remains a bitter pill, but perhaps it spares us all comments fixating on the ravages of time. Instead, we get to hear about the “timeless” beauty of Anniston and Roberts.

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

Dear Facebook, This is How You’re Breaking Democracy: A Former Facebook Insider Explains How the Platform’s Algorithms Polarize Our Society

Is this what we want? A post-truth world where toxicity and tribalism trump bridge building and consensus seeking? —Yaël Eisenstat

It’s an increasingly familiar occurrence.

A friend you’ve enjoyed reconnecting with in the digital realm makes a dramatic announcement on their social media page. They’re deleting their Facebook account within the next 24 hours, so shoot them a PM with your email if you’d like to stay in touch.

Such decisions used to be spurred by the desire to get more done or return to neglected pastimes such as reading, painting, and going for long unconnected nature walks.




These announcements could induce equal parts guilt and anxiety in those of us who depend on social media to get the word out about our low-budget creative projects, though being prone to Internet addiction, we were nearly as likely to be the one making the announcement.

For many, the break was temporary. More of a social media fast, a chance to reevaluate, rest, recharge, and ultimately return.

Legitimate concerns were also raised with regard to privacy. Who’s on the receiving end of all the sensitive information we’re offering up? What are they doing with it? Is someone listening in?

But in this election year, the decision to quit Facebook is apt to be driven by the very real fear that democracy as we know it is at stake.

Former CIA analyst, foreign service officer, andfor six monthsFacebook’s Global Head of Elections Integrity Ops for political advertising, Yaël Eisenstat, addresses these preoccupations in her TED Talk, “Dear Facebook, This is How You’re Breaking Democracy,” above.

Eisenstat contrasts the civility of her past face-to-face ”hearts and minds”-based engagements with suspected terrorists and anti-Western clerics to the polarization and culture of hatred that Facebook’s algorithms foment.

As many users have come to suspect, Facebook rewards inflammatory content with amplification. Truth does not factor into the equation, nor does sincerity of message or messenger.

Lies are more engaging online than truth. As long as [social media] algorithms’ goals are to keep us engaged, they will feed us the poison that plays to our worst instincts and human weaknesses.

Eisenstat, who has valued the ease with which Facebook allows her to maintain relationships with far-flung friends, found herself effectively demoted on her second day at the social media giant, her title revised, and her access to high level meetings revoked. Her hiring appears to have been purely ornamental, a palliative ruse in response to mounting public concern.

As she remarked in an interview with The Guardian’s Ian Tucker earlier this summer:

They are making all sorts of reactive changes around the margins of the issues, [to suggest] that they are taking things seriously – such as building an ad library or verifying that political advertisers reside in the country in which they advertising – things they should have been doing already. But they were never going to make the fundamental changes that address the key systemic issues that make Facebook ripe for manipulation, viral misinformation and other ways that the platform can be used to affect democracy.

In the same interview she asserted that Facebook’s recently implemented oversight board is little more than an interesting theory that will never result in the total overhaul of its business model:

First of all, it’s another example of Facebook putting responsibility on someone else. The oversight board does not have any authority to actually address any of the policies that Facebook writes and enforces, or the underlying systemic issues that make the platform absolutely rife for disinformation and all sorts of bad behaviour and manipulation.

The second issue is: it’s basically an appeal process for content that was already taken down. The bigger question is the content that remains up. Third, they are not even going to be operational until late fall and, for a company that claims to move fast and break things, that’s absurd.

Nine minutes into her TED Talk, she offers concrete suggestions for things the Facebook brass could do if it was truly serious about implementing reform:

  • Stop amplifying and recommending disinformation and bias-based hatred, no matter who is behind itfrom conspiracy theorists to our current president.
  • Discontinue personalization techniques that don’t differentiate between targeted political content and targeted ads for athletic footwear.
  • Retrain algorithms to focus on a metrics beyond what users click or linger on.
  • Implement safety features that would ensure that sensitive content is reviewed before it is allowed to go viral.

Hopefully viewers are not feeling maxed out on contacting their representatives, as government enforcement is Eisenstat’s only prescription for getting Facebook to alter its product and profit model. And that will require sustained civic engagement.

She supplements her TED Talk with recommendations for artificial intelligence engineer Guillaume Chaslot’s insider perspective op-ed “The Toxic Potential of YouTube’s Feedback Loop” and The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think by MoveOn.org‘s former Executive Director, Eli Pariser.

Your clued-in Facebook friends have no doubt already pointed you to the documentary The Social Dilemma, which is now available on Netflix. Or perhaps to Jaron Lanier’s Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.

Read the transcript of Yaël Eisenstat’s TED Talk here.

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

The Liberal Arts Can Make People Less Susceptible to Authoritarianism, a New Study Finds

“Correlation does not equal causation” isn’t always a fun thing to say at parties, but it is always a good phrase to keep in mind when approaching survey data. Does the study really show that? Might it show the opposite? Does it confirm pre-existing biases or fail to acknowledge valid counterevidence? A little bit of critical thinking can turn away a lot of trouble.

I’ll admit, a new study, “The Role of Education in Taming Authoritarian Attitudes,” confirms many of my own biases, suggesting that higher education, especially the liberal arts, reduces authoritarian attitudes around the world. The claim comes from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, which analyzed and aggregated data from World Values Surveys conducted between 1994 and 2016. The study takes it for granted that rising authoritarianism is not a social good, or at least that it poses a distinct threat to democratic republics, and it aims to show how “higher education can protect democracy.”

Authoritarianism—defined as enforcing “group conformity and strict allegiance to authority at the expense of personal freedoms”—seems vastly more prevalent among those with only a high school education. “Among college graduates,” Elizabeth Redden writes at Inside Higher Ed, “holders of liberal art degrees are less inclined to express authoritarian attitudes and preferences compared to individuals who hold degrees in business or science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.”

The “valuable bulwark” of the liberal arts seems more effective in the U.S. than in Europe, perhaps because “American higher education places a strong emphasis on a combination of specific and general education,” the full report speculates. “Such general education includes exposure to the liberal arts.” The U.S. ranks at a moderate level of authoritarianism compared to 51 other countries, on par with Chile and Uruguay, with Germany ranking the least authoritarian and India the most—a 6 on a scale of 0-6.

Higher education also correlates with higher economic status, suggesting to the study authors that economic security reduces authoritarianism, which is expressed in attitudes about parenting and in a “fundamental orientation” toward control over autonomy.

The full report does go into greater depth, but perhaps it raises more questions than it answers, leaving the intellectually curious to work through a dense bibliography of popular and academic sources. There is a significant amount of data and evidence to suggest that studying the liberal arts does help people to imagine other perspectives and to appreciate, rather than fear, different cultures, religions, etc. Liberal arts education encourages critical thinking, reading, and writing, and can equip students with tools they need to distinguish reportage from pure propaganda.

But we might ask whether these findings consistently obtain under actually existing authoritarianism, which “tends to arise under conditions of threat to social norms or personal security.” In the 2016 U.S. election, for example, the candidate espousing openly authoritarian attitudes and preferences, now the current U.S. president, was elected by a majority of voters who were well-educated and economically secure, subsequent research discovered, rather than stereotypically “working class” voters with low levels of education. How do such findings fit with the data Georgetown interprets in their report? Is it possible that those with higher education and social status learn better to hide controlling, intolerant attitudes in mixed company?

Learn more at this report summary page here and read and download the full report as a PDF here.

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

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Favorite Opera Recordings (and Her First Appearance in an Opera)

U.S. Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death has thrown an unbearably fraught political year into further disarray, a fact that has sadly overshadowed memorialization of her inspiring life and career. Ginsburg was a personal hero for millions of activists and students—from grade school to law school; an icon casually identified by her initials by those who felt like they knew her. “For many women, and many girls,” Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in a New York Times tribute, her loss is “deeply personal.”

How should we remember such a figure at such a time? If you happen to find the news numbing, full of enervating rancor and alarm…. If you want to bring the focus back to the person we have lost, might we suggest a soundtrack? The suggestions come from Ginsburg herself, from the art form—opera—closest to her heart. “She was our greatest advocate and our greatest spokesperson,” says Francesca Zambello, director of the Washington National Opera, “the ideal attendee… who knows everything but is open to interpretations.”




Ginsburg’s commitment to the opera spans decades. She and her husband Marty were in the audience when Leontyne Price made her debut at the Met in 1961. Forty-seven years later, the Justice had occasion to honor Pryce at a 2008 National Endowment for the Arts luncheon. Also in attendance: Antonin Scalia, Ginsburg’s notorious rival. The only thing the two may have agreed on was a passion for the opera. It formed the basis of a fragile peace, and the subject of its own opera, Scalia v. Ginsburg, that explores extreme judicial differences through “Verdi, Puccini, Christmas carols, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ and jazz.”

Scalia v. Ginsberg composer Derrick Wang heard the grandiosity of opera when he read the fiercely opposing written opinions of the two justices. It’s safe to assume that both were listening to their favorite works while they composed. In 2012, Ginsburg gave her list of favorites to Alex Ross at The New Yorker, who points to other Ginsburg connections to the classical world like her son, James Ginsburg, “proprietor of Cedille Records, an independent classical label based in Chicago.” (Read their statement on Ginsburg’s passing here.)

There is far too much to say about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s judicial influence, and about the power vacuum left behind by her loss. But if we want to understand what mattered to her most as an individual, we should turn to the music she most loved. “Her life was about understanding people’s stories,” says Zambello. The kinds of cases “she made her career of are the stuff of opera.” At the top, see Ginsburg’s first appearance onstage, in a non-singing role as the Duchess of Krakenthorpe in the The Daughter of the Regiment at the Kennedy Center. Just below, see her list of favorite works, peppered with occasional commentary from the late, beloved R.B.G. herself. This list originally comes from The New Yorker. If you have a Spotify account, you can stream the music in this 30-hour playlist.

Verdi, “Aida”; Zinka Milanov, Jussi Björling, Leonard Warren, Fedora Barbieri, Boris Christoff, Jonel Perlea conducting the Rome Opera Orchestra and Chorus (RCA).

Verdi, “Otello”; Plácido Domingo, Renata Scotto, Sherrill Milnes, James Levine conducting the National Philharmonic and Ambrosian Opera Chorus (RCA).

Dvořák, “Rusalka”; Renée Fleming, Ben Heppner, Dolora Zajick, Franz Hawlata, Charles Mackerras conducting the Czech Philharmonic and Kühn Mixed Choir (Decca).

Handel, “Julius Caesar”; Norman Treigle, Beverly Sills, Maureen Forrester, Beverly Wolff, Julius Rudel conducting the New York City Opera Orchestra and Chorus (RCA).

Justice Ginsburg comments: “Listened to LP recording many times. Production was Julius Rudel’s triumph, opened in the State Theatre the year the Met moved to Lincoln Center. Met opened with the not at all triumphant production of Barber’s ‘Antony and Cleopatra.’ Next, my two best-loved operas.”

Mozart, “Don Giovanni”; Cesare Siepi, Fernando Corena, Suzanne Danco, Lisa Della Casa, Anton Dermota, Hilde Gueden, Walter Berry, Kurt Böhme, Josef Krips conducting the Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna State Opera Chorus (Decca).

Mozart, “The Marriage of Figaro”; Samuel Ramey, Lucia Popp, Thomas Allen, Kiri Te Kanawa, Frederica von Stade, Kurt Moll, Robert Tear, Georg Solti conducting the London Philharmonic and London Opera Chorus (Decca).

Strauss, “Der Rosenkavalier”; Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig, Teresa Stich-Randall, Otto Edelmann, Eberhard Wächter, Ljuba Welitsch, Nicolai Gedda, Herbert von Karajan conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus (EMI).

Tchaikovsky, “Eugene Onegin”; Thomas Allen, Mirella Freni, Neil Shicoff, Anne Sofie von Otter, James Levine conducting the Dresden Staatskapelle and Leipzig Radio Chorus (DG).

Puccini, “Tosca”; Maria Callas, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Tito Gobbi, Victor de Sabata conducting the La Scala orchestra and chorus (EMI).

Menotti, “The Medium”; Joyce Castle, Patrice Michaels, Lawrence Rapchak conducting the Chicago Opera Theatre (Cedille).

Kurka, “The Good Soldier Schweik”; Jason Collins, Marc Embree, Kelli Harrington, Buffy Baggott, Alexander Platt conducting the Chicago Opera Theatre (Cedille).

Justice Ginsburg comments: “Glimmerglass Opera later mounted ‘Schweik’ with perfect-for-the-part Anthony Dean Griffey.”

Stravinsky, “The Rake’s Progress”; Philip Langridge, Samuel Ramey, Cathryn Pope, Stafford Dean, Sarah Walker, John Dobson, Astrid Varnay, Riccardo Chailly conducting the London Sinfonietta and Chorus (Decca).

Britten, “Billy Budd”; Nathan Gunn, Ian Bostridge, Gidon Saks, Daniel Harding conducting the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (Virgin Classics).

Justice Ginsburg comments: “Two Lieder recordings I now and then play when working at home: **Schubert, ‘An mein Herz,’ with Matthias Goerne; and songs by Brahms, with Angelika Kirchschlager.”

via The New Yorker

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

A Long, Guided Tour of New York City Captured in Original Color Film (1937)

So much classic black and white footage has been digitally colorized recently, it’s hard to remember that the Eastman Kodak Company’s Kodachrome film debuted way back in 1935.

The above footage of New York City was shot by an unknown enthusiast in and around 1937.

Dick Hoefsloot, the Netherlands-based videographer who posted it to YouTube after tweaking it a bit for motion stabilization and speed-correction, is not averse to artificially coloring historic footage using modern software, but in this case, there was no need.

It was shot in color.




If things have a greenish cast, that’s owing to the film on which it was shot. Three-color film, which added blue to the red-green mix, was more expensive and more commonly used later on.

Hoefsloot’s best guess is that this film was shot by a member of a wealthy family. It’s confidently made, but also seems to be a home movie of sorts, given the presence of an older woman who appears a half dozen times on this self-guided tour of New York sites.

There’s plenty here that remains familiar: the Woolworth Building and the Metropolitan Museum of Arttrussed up Christmas trees propped against makeshift sidewalk stands, the New York Public Library’s lions, Patience and Fortitude.

Other aspects are more a matter of nostalgia.

Over in Times Square, Bulldog Drummond Comes Back starring John Barrymore was playing at the Criterion (now the site of a Gap store), while the Paramount Theater, now a Hard Rock Cafe, played host to True Confession with Barrymore and Carol Lombard.

Oysters were still food for the masses, though records show that locally harvested ones had been deemed too polluted for human consumption for at least a decade.

A bag of peanuts cost 15¢. A new Oldsmobile went for about $914 plus city tax.

Laundry could be seen strung between buildings (still can be on occasion), but people dressed up carefully for shopping trips and other excursions around town. Heaven forbid they step outside without a hat.

Though the Statue of Liberty makes an appearance, the film doesn’t depict the neighborhoods where new and established immigrants were known to congregate. Had the camera traveled uptown to the Apollo—by 1937, the largest employer of black theatrical workers in the country and the sole venue in the city in which they were hired for backstage positions—the overall composition would have proved less white.

The film, which was uploaded a little over a year ago, has recently attracted a fresh volley of attention, leading Hoefsloot to reissue his request for viewers to “refrain from (posting) political, religious or racist-related comments.”

In this fraught election year, we hope you will pardon a New Yorker for pointing out the legion of commenters flouting this polite request, so eager are they to fan the fires of intolerance by expressing a preference for the “way things used to be.”

With all due respect, there aren’t many people left who were present at the time, who can accurately recall and describe New York City in 1937. Our hunch is that those who can are not spending such time as remains rabble-rousing on YouTube.

So enjoy this historic window on the past, then take a deep breath and confront the present that’s revealing itself in the YouTube comments.

A chronological list of New York City sites and citizens appearing in this film circa 1937:

00:00 Lower Manhattan skyline seen from Brooklyn Heights Promenade

00:45 Staten Island steam ferry

01:05 RMS Carinthia

01:10 Old three-stack pass.ship, maybe USS Leviathan

01:28 One-stack pass.ship, name?

01:50 HAL SS Volendam or SS Veendam II

02:18 Westfield II steam ferry to Staten Island, built 1862?

02:30 Floyd Bennett Airfield, North Beach Air Service inc. hangar

02:43 Hoey Air Services hangar at  F.B. Airfield

02:55 Ladies board monoplane, Stinson S Junior, NC10883, built 1931

03:15 Flying over New York: Central Park & Rockefeller Center

03:19 Empire State Building (ESB)

03:22 Chrysler building in the distance

03:26 Statue of Liberty island

03:30 Aircraft, Waco ZQC-6, built 1936

03:47 Reg.no. NC16234 becomes readable

04:00 Arrival of the “Fly Eddie Lyons” aircraft

04:18 Dutch made Fokker 1, packed

04:23 Douglas DC3 “Dakota”, also packed, new

04:28 Green mono- or tri-engine aircraft, type?

04:40 DC3 again. DC3’s flew first on 17 Dec.1935

04:44 Back side of Woolworth Building

05:42 Broadway at Bowling Green

05:12 Brooklyn across East River, view from Pier 11

05:13 Water plane, Grumman G-21A Goose

05:38 Street with bus, Standard Oil Building (R)

05:40 Truck, model?

05:42 Broadway at Bowling Green

05:46 Old truck, “Engels”, model?

05:48 Flag USA with 48 stars!

05:50 Broadway at Bowling Green, DeStoto Sunshine cab 1936

05:52 Truck, “Bier Mard Bros”, model?

05:56 Ford Model AA truck 1930

05:58 Open truck, model?

06:05 Standard Oil Building

06:25 Bus 366 & Ford Model A 1930

06:33 South Street & Coenties Slip

06:35 See 07:19, Black car?

06:45 Cities Service Building at 70 Pine St. right. Left: see 07:12

06:48 Small vessels in the East River

06:50 Owned by Harry F. Reardon

07:05 Shack on Coenties Slip, Pier 5

07:12 City Bank-Farmers Trust Building, 20 Exchange Place

07:15 Oyster bar, near Coenties Slip

07:19 South Street, looking North towards the old Seaman’s Church Institute

07:31 Holland America Line, Volendam-I, built 1922

07:32 Chrysler Plymouth P2 De Luxe

07:34 Oyster vendor

08:05 Vendor shows oyster in pot

08:16 Wall st.; Many cars, models?

08:30 Looking down Wall st.

08:52 More cars, models?

09:00 Near the Erie Ferry, 1934/35 Ford s.48 De Luxe

09:02 Rows of Christmas tree sales, location?

09:15 Erie Railroad building, location? Quay 21? Taxi, model?

09:23 1934 Dodge DS

09:25 See 09:48

09:27 Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad

09:29 Clyde Mallory Lines

09:48  South end of West Side Highway

09:4910:0810:1110:45 Location?

10:25 Henry Hudson Parkway

11:30 George Washington Bridge without the Lower Level

12:07 Presbyterian Hospital, Washington Heights

12:15 Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research

12:49 New York Hospital at 68th St. & East River

13:14 ditto

13:35 ditto

13:42 Metropolitan Museum of Art

14:51 Rockefella Plaza & RCA building

16:33 Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

16:50 Public Library

17:24 Panoramic view, from ESB

17:45 RCA Building, 30 Rockefeller Plaza

18:16 Original Penn Station

19:27 Movie True Confession, rel. 24 Dec.1937

19:30 Sloppy Joes

20:12 Neon lights & Xmas

26:34 Herald Square

29:48 Police Emergency Service (B&W)

31:00 SS Normandie, French Line, Pier 88

32:06 RMS Queen Mary, White Star Line, Pier 92

32:43 Departure Queen Mary

33:45 Italian Line, Pier 84, Terminal, dd.1935

34:00 SS Conte Di Savoia, Italian Line, Pier 84

34:25 Peanut seller, near the piers

34:35 Feeding the pidgeons

34:52 SS Normandie, exterior & on deck

35:30 View from Pier 88

35:59 Interior

37:06 From Pier 88

37:23 Northern, Eastern, Southern or Western Prince, built 1929

37:32 Tug, William C. Gaynor

38:20 Departure

38:38 Blue Riband!

39:15 Tugs push Normandie into fairway

39:50 Under own steam.

40:00 Statue of Liberty

40:15 SS Normandie leaves NYC

View more of Dick Hoefsloot’s historic uploads on his YouTube channel.

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

David Lynch Tries to Make a List of the Good Things Happening in the World … and Comes Up Blank

David Lynch’s weather report for Sunday September 13th: “Here in LA, grey. Again, smoke-filled sky. Very still right now. 61 degrees fahrenheit. Today I’m making a list of all the good things that are happening in the world. [Pause.] I’m still thinking… No blue skies, no golden sunshine today.”

Maybe David Byrne, creator of the “Reasons to Be Cheerful” web site, would have a better shot at filling out the page. Have your own list of good things happening in the world? Add them to the comments below…

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.

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Central Park Bird Watcher Christian Cooper Writes DC Comics Graphic Novel: It’s Now Free Online

Write what you know.

It’s oft-cited advice for writers both beginning and established.

Thus, Jules, the teenage boy at the center of Christian Cooper’s It’s a Bird, the first entry in DC Comics’ digital-first anthology series Represent!, is a birdwatcher, like the author.

And the binoculars that were a 50th birthday gift from Cooper’s father, a Korean War vet and Civil Rights activist, serve as models for the ones Jules is none too thrilled to receive, despite his grandpa’s belief that they possess special powers.




Cooper, who was was Marvel’s first openly gay writer and editor, introducing a number of queer characters before devoting himself to science writing, also draws on recent personal history that is more fraught.

Although the location has shifted from New York City’s Central Park to a suburban green space bordered with large, well-kept homes, including Jules’, the young man’s encounter with an indignant white woman and her off-leash dog should ring any number of bells.

In late May, Cooper became the subject of national news, when he confronted Amy Cooper (no relation) over her violation of park rules, tired of the havoc uncontrolled dogs wreak on birds who call the park home. Ms. Cooper escalated things quickly by calling 911, claiming she was being threatened by an African-American man. Cooper recorded the incident as a matter of protocol, and his sister shared the video on social media later that day.

The same day that George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

What Jules sees through the lenses of his grandfather’s binoculars contains an element of fantasy, but is also deeply rooted in reality—the faces of Amidou Diallo, Breonna Taylor, Floyd, and other Black people who have died as a result of excessive, unwarranted police force.

When DC first approached him about tapping his experience for his first comic in over two decades, Cooper was reluctant:

I thought, “I don’t know, DC Comics? Superheroes? Not sure how that’s going to work.” We kicked around a couple of ideas. They said they had gotten the title, I’m not sure exactly from who, but somebody pretty high up in the DC food chain: “It’s a Bird.” It took me half a beat. “Oh…I get what you did there.” Once I had the title, the story wrote itself.

It’s a Bird artist Aletha E. Martinez, a pioneer whose 20-year career has included inking such superhero heavy hitters as the Black Panther, Iron Man, Batgirl, and X-Men, also pulled from personal experience when rendering Jules’ expression after the binoculars reveal the circumstances of George Floyd’s death:

I saw that look on my son’s face three years ago after we left North Carolina, and we were coming home to New York. We were stopped going into the airport. We travel so often—cons, in and out of the country. These two security guards started to harass us. They wanted to take my purse. “Where are you from?” You hear my voice, there’s no accent in my voice. It ended up with them saying, “You should travel with your passport.” This is after backing us up in the corner, and why? I’m an American citizen born on this soil, so is my son. I don’t need a passport to travel within my country. This is our day and age.

I watched my son’s face change, and he never quite walked up again looking happy going to the airport. Now he has on armor. That face you see? That’s my kid.

It’s a Bird can be read for free on participating digital platforms (see links below), and Cooper is hopeful that it will inspire young people to find out more about some of the real life characters Jules spies through his binoculars. To that end, an appendix touches on some biographical details:

We not only give the bare bones details of how they died, but also a little bit about them, because they were people. They weren’t just want happened to them. I hope young people (are) inspired to keep the focus where it needs to be, which is on those we have lost and how we keep from losing more. There are people who are invested in distracting us right now, and there are people who want to distract us from their failures on so many other things. That’s not what this moment is about. This moment is about the ones we’ve lost, and how we’re going to keep from losing any more. And if you’re not talking about that, I don’t want to hear it.

Read Represent!: It’s a Bird for free on readdc.comComixologyAmazon Kindle, Apple Books, and other participating digital platforms.

Read an interview with Cooper and Martinez, from which the quotes in this post are drawn, on DC’s blog.

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

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