Stevie Nicks “Shows Us How to Kick Ass in High-Heeled Boots” in a 1983 Women’s Self Defense Manual

Yesterday, on Twitter, Priscilla Page reminded us of the time when "Stevie Nicks showed us how to kick ass in high-heeled boots in her bodyguard's self-defense book," calling our attention to the little-known 1983 book, Hands Off!: A Unique New System of Self Defence Against Assault for the Women of Today.

The book itself was written by Bob Jones, an Australian martial arts instructor who doubled as a security guard for Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Joe Cocker and other stars. And it featured what Jones called "mnemonic movements"--essentially a series of nine subconscious/reflexive self-defense moves (like a swift knee to the groin). See Jones' website for a more complete explanation of the exercise routine that also provided, he notes, a great cardio workout.

Stevie Nicks agreed to take part in a photoshoot where she would help demonstrate the nine mnemonic movements. Jones recalls," This lady was a professional: in two hours I had a hundred of the most magnificent photos ever offered to the martial arts, and just one would make the cover [above]."

"On this day of the shoot I was standing in my martial arts training uniform, wearing my Black Belt. Then Stevie appeared, her hair done to resemble the mane of a lion. She was psyched up for some serious photographing. Stevie wore her familiar thick-soled, thick-heeled, knee-high brown suede kid leather boots. High roll-over socks appeared over the top of these elegant Swedish boots and hung tentatively around her knees." "In these kicking-style photographs the sun also made her dress partially see-through: just enough to be artistically interesting."

Hands Off is now long out of print. But you can find a series of images from the book on the Voices of East Anglia and Dangerous Minds websites.

via Priscilla Page/Coudal

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How Henry David Thoreau Revolutionized the Pencil

Last Thursday was National Pencil Day, which commemorates, according to The New York Public Library (NYPL), "the day in 1858 when Philadelphia immigrant Hymen Lipman patented his invention for a pencil with an eraser on top, creating the conveniently-designed pencil we know and love."

Of course, Lipman's invention didn't take place in a vacuum. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, American inventors were hard at work, trying to find ways to make improvements to the pencil, whose history traces back to 1564. During those early days of our republic, "American pencil-making was in sorry shape," writes NYPL. "Poor materials made domestic pencils smudgy and frail, in comparison to their superior British counterparts, which were made of purer graphite." So the pressing question became: how to improve the quality of the graphite? Enter Henry David Thoreau, America's great essayist, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist and tax resister. And apparently innovator too:

Seeking employment after studying at Harvard, [Thoreau] worked at his father's pencil factory, which Edward Emerson -- son of Ralph Waldo Emerson -- recalled as being somewhat better than the typical American pencil factory at the time. Still, Henry David Thoreau aspired to improve the family business, so he hit the books at the Harvard College library to find out more.

...Having no knowledge of chemistry, Henry David nevertheless came up with a formula to make a pencil rivaling that made in Europe. It was the first of its kind in America.

Soon, Thoreau pencils were taking over the market, and the family's business grew and grew. Thoreau pencils were awarded twice by Mechanic Associations and gained a local reputation in Boston for their quality. Ralph Waldo Emerson himself praised them. News of Thoreau's pencils spread quickly, and soon, Petroski writes, they were "without peer in this country."

Add an eraser to Thoreau's pencil, and you've got Hymen Lipman's patent for the pencil you're pretty much using today. You can see pictures of Thoreau's pencil over at The New York Public Library.

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via NYPL

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Take a 360 Degree Tour of Miniature Models of Famous Landmarks: From the Taj Mahal to The Great Wall of China

Pretty cool item. A new exhibition in New York, called "Gulliver's Gate," shrinks the world's most famous sites--everything from the Taj Mahal to The Great Wall of China--into miniature versions of themselves, roughly 87 times smaller than the original. In the video above, you can take a 360 degree tour of parts of the exhibition. Click on the clip, swirl around, and check out the tiny creations. It's particularly neat if you try it on your phone.

Below, find an introduction to the project and don't miss their behind-the-scenes footage.

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Nick Cave Narrates an Animated Film about the Cat Piano, the Twisted 18th Century Musical Instrument Designed to Treat Mental Illness

What do you imagine when you hear the phrase “cat piano”? Some kind of whimsical furry beast with black and white keys for teeth, maybe? A relative of My Neighbor Totoro’s cat bus? Or maybe you picture a piano that contains several caged cats who shriek along an entire scale when keys are pressed that slam sharpened nails into their tails. If this is your answer, you might find people slowly backing away from you at times, or gently suggesting you get some psychiatric help.

But then, imagine that such a perverse oddity was in use by psychiatrists, like the 18th-century German physician Johann Christian Reil, who---reports David McNamee at The Guardian---“wrote that the device was intended to shake mental patients who had lost the ability to focus out of a ‘fixed state’ and into ‘conscious awareness.’”


So long, meds. See you, meditation and mandala coloring books.... I joke, but apparently Dr. Reil was in earnest when he wrote in an 1803 manual for the treatment of mental illness that patients could “be placed so that they are sitting in direct view of the cat’s expressions when the psychiatrist plays a fugue.”

A bafflingly cruel and nonsensical experiment, and we might rejoice to know it probably never took place. But the bizarre idea of the cat piano, or Katzenklavier, did not spring from the weird delusions of one sadistic psychiatrist. It was supposedly invented by German polymath and Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680), who has been called “the last Renaissance man” and who made pioneering discoveries in the fields of microbiology, geology, and comparative religion. He was a serious scholar and a man of science. Maybe the Katzenklavier was intended as a sick joke that others took seriously---and for a very long time at that. The illustration of a Katzenklavier above dates from 1667, the one below from 1883.

Kircher’s biographer John Glassie admits that, for all his undoubted brilliance, several of his “actual ideas today seem wildly off-base; if not simply bizarre” as well as “inadvertently amusing, right, wrong, half-right, half-baked, ridiculous….” You get the idea. He was an eccentric, not a psychopath. McNamee points to other, likely apocryphal, stories in which cats were supposedly used as instruments. Perhaps, cruel as it seems to us, the cat piano seemed no crueller in previous centuries than the way we taunt our cats today to make them perform for animated GIFs.

But to the cats these distinctions are meaningless. From their point of view, there is no other way to describe the Katzenklavier than as a sinister, terrifying torture device, and those who might use it as monstrous villains. Personally I'd like to give cats the last word on the subject of the Katzenklavier---or at least a few fictional animated, walking, talking, singing cats. Watch the short animation at the top, in which Nick Cave reads a poem by Eddie White about talented cat singers who mysteriously go missing, scooped up by a human for a “harpsichord of harm, the cruelest instrument to spawn from man’s gray cerebral soup.” The story has all the dread and intrigue of Edgar Allan Poe’s best work, and it is in such a milieu of gothic horror that the Katzenklavier belongs.

The Cat Piano narrated by Nick Cave will be added to our list of Free Animations, a subset of our meta collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.

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

42 Hours of Ambient Sounds from Blade Runner, Alien, Star Trek and Doctor Who Will Help You Relax & Sleep

Back in 2009, the musician who goes by the name "Cheesy Nirvosa" began experimenting with ambient music, before eventually launching a YouTube channel where he "composes longform space and scifi ambience." Or what he otherwise calls "ambient geek sleep aids." Click on the video above, and you can get lulled to sleep listening to the ambient droning sound--get ready Blade Runner fans!-- heard in Rich Deckard's apartment. It runs a good continuous 12 hours.

You're more a Star Trek fan? Ok, try nodding off to the idling engine noise of a ship featured in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Mr. Nirvosa cleaned up a sample from the show and then looped it for 24 hours. That makes for one long sleep.

Or how about 12 hours of ambient engine noise generated by the USCSS Nostromo in Alien?

Finally, and perhaps my favorite, Cheesy created a 12 hour clip of the ambient sounds made by the Tardis, the time machine made famous by the British sci-fi TV show, Doctor Who. But watch out. You might wake up living in a different time and place.

For lots more ambient sci-fi sounds (Star Wars, The Matrix, Battlestar Galactica, etc. ) check out this super long playlist here.

via Dangerous Minds

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

Not too long ago, we featured for you 4 hours of ambient music created by Moby, all of which you can download for free, and use to sleep, meditate, do yoga and generally not panic. Sound timely? Then download away.

Perhaps taking a cue from Moby, the Relax Sleep ASMR YouTube channel has also assembled a "video" offering 10 hours of Arctic ambient music, featuring the sounds of the frozen ocean, ice cracking, snow falling, [an] icebreaker idling and [a] distant howling wind sound."

Click play above and you can enjoy "white noise sounds generated by the wind and snow falling, combined with deep low frequencies with delta waves from the powerful ... idling engines" of a Polar Icebreaker. Very chill.

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If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Looking for free, professionally-read audio books from Audible.com? Here’s a great, no-strings-attached deal. If you start a 30 day free trial with Audible.com, you can download two free audio books of your choice. Get more details on the offer here.

via Boing Boing

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