The Mechanical Monsters: Seminal Superman Animated Film from 1941

In 1941, director Dave Fleischer and Paramount Pictures animators Steve Muffati and George Germanetti produced Superman: The Mechanical Monsters -- a big-budget animated adaptation of the popular Superman comics of that period, in which a mad scientist unleashes robots to rob banks and loot museums, and Superman, naturally, saves the day. It was one of seventeen films that raised the bar for theatrical shorts and are even considered by some to have given rise to the entire Anime genre.

More than a mere treat of vintage animation, the film captures the era's characteristic ambivalence in reconciling the need for progress with the fear of technology in a culture on the brink of incredible technological innovation. It was the dawn of the techno-paranoia that persisted through the 1970s, famously captured in the TV series Future Shock narrated by Orson Welles, and even through today. Take for example books like Nicholas Carr's The Shallows and Sherry Turkle's Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.

Superman: The Mechanical Monsters is available for download on The Internet Archive, and Toonami Digital Arsenal has the complete series of all seventeen films. Find more vintage animation in Open Culture's collection of Free Movies Online.

Maria Popova is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of cross-disciplinary interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, The Atlantic and DesignObserver, and spends a great deal of time on Twitter.

Jon Stewart & Bill O’Reilly Debate Rapper’s Visit to the White House

The culture wars wage on. Almost twenty years after the great Murphy Brown debate, we're still going at it. But now, instead of debating the pros and cons of single motherhood, the focus has turned to whether Michelle Obama erred in inviting the rapper Common to the White House Poetry Night last week. (See his actual performance here.) Critics point to this 2007 YouTube video, A Letter to the Law, though they don't necessarily listen until the very end. And they also flag his sympathetic words directed toward Joanne Chesimard (aka Assata Shakur), an ex-Black Panther, convicted of killing a New Jersey police officer in 1973. This all built up to the latest Jon Stewart - Bill O'Reilly faceoff, which drilled down to the question: Did the First Lady make a major gaffe? Or is this another case of selective outrage? Part 1 is above; Part II is here...

via @Frauenfelder

William F. Buckley Explains How He Flogged Himself to Get Through Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged

Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged sold an estimated 25 million copies between its publication in 1957 and 2007. Early on, the book inspired a young generation of business leaders, and now, decades later, it holds appeal for a new class of conservatives. But it wasn't always that way. Back in the 1950s, William F. Buckley, the enfant terrible of the conservative movement, launched the National Review and published a review by Whittaker Chambers -- the Soviet spy who famously turned against Communism (and Alger Hiss), all while building a remarkable career at TIME Magazine. About Atlas Shrugged, Chambers wrote: ”I find it a remarkably silly book. It is certainly a bumptious one. Its story is preposterous." And, what's more, he adds: "Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal."

Rand never forgave Buckley for the review. Persona non grata, he was. Years later, in 2003, Buckley revisited the whole affair with Charlie Rose and made known his personal feelings for Rand's book. "I had to flog myself to read it..."

Note: You can download Atlas Shrugged as a free audiobook if you sign up for a free 30-Day Trial with Audible.com. Find more information on that program here.

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Related Content:

Mike Wallace Interviews Ayn Rand (1959)

William F. Buckley v. Gore Vidal (1968)

Ayn Rand Talks Atheism with Phil Donahue

Wealthy Donors Paying Universities to Teach Rand

via Roger Ebert

Way of Life: Rare Footage of the Hiroshima Aftermath, 1946

The recent 9.0-magnitude Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and subsequent Fukushima nuclear accidents were among the most devastating environmental disasters in recorded history. The immediate consequences are frightening, but their full, long-term impact remains an unsettling mystery.

This, of course, isn't the first time Japan has faced a nuclear emergency. After the World War II atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the U.S. government recorded the raw aftermath of Hiroshima in candid, grim detail (while Hollywood was busy lampooning America's nuclear obsession). Filmed in the spring of 1946 by the Department of Defense, Way of Life documents how the people of Hiroshima adapted to life after the atomic bomb. Though the archival footage lacks sound, its imagery -- moving, heartbreaking, deeply human -- speaks volumes about the delicate duality of despair and resilience.

Maria Popova is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of cross-disciplinary interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, The Atlantic and DesignObserver, and spends a great deal of time on Twitter.

Phoenix Still Rising: Egypt After The Revolution

Much has been said, tweeted and written about the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, glorifying it as one of the most landmark triumphs of freedom in recent history. Yet the Western media has delivered surprisingly little on its aftermath, leaving the lived post-revolution reality of the Egyptian people a near-mystery.

This beautiful short film by British film studio Scattered Images offers a rare glimpse of a phoenix still struggling to rise from the ashes of oppression. With incredible visual eloquence, the film peels away at the now-worn media iconography of the revolution itself, revealing how life after it has actually changed -- or hasn't -- as Egypt remains a nation in transition, with a future yet to be decided.

Politically, there is a vacuum. The revolution demanded a government accountable to the people and ruled by transparent institutions. But now, the only ruler is uncertainty.

Maria Popova is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of cross-disciplinary interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, The Atlantic and DesignObserver, and spends a great deal of time on Twitter.

Oil’d, by Chris Harmon

We're often obsessed with oil. A year ago, the issue was offshore drilling. The Deepwater Horizon rig had exploded, and crude oil was spilling into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 53,000 barrels a day. We all watched helplessly as BP threw everything but the kitchen sink at the problem. (Remember the golf balls?) Three months passed and 4.9 million barrels ripped into the ecosystem before the well was finally capped. Time to talk about it? Hardly. Now the discussion has moved on to skyrocketing oil prices and the issues surrounding them, like the causes (conflict in the Middle East, rising consumption in China and India, commodity speculation at home...) and the political implications for the 2012 U.S. presidential election if gas prices stay high. Weighty issues, to be sure. But before we allow the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 to fade into our collective amnesia, Chris Harmon, a Brooklyn-based designer, animator and writer, has created a work of animated typography to put some of the staggering facts into perspective.

Sartre, Heidegger, Nietzsche: Documentary Presents Three Philosophers in Three Hours

"Human, All Too Human" is a three-hour BBC series from 1999, about the lives and work of Friedrich NietzscheMartin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre. The filmmakers focus heavily on politics and historical context -- the Heidegger hour, for example, focuses almost exclusively on his troubling relationship with Nazism.

The most engaging chapter is "Jean-Paul Sartre: The Road to Freedom," in part because the filmmakers had so much archival footage and interview material (Check out a still lovely Simone de Bouvoir at minute 9:00, giggling that Sartre was the ugliest, dirtiest, most unshaven student at the Sorbonne).

Related Content:

Walter Kaufmann’s Lectures on Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Sartre (1960)

Download Free Courses from Famous Philosophers: From Bertrand Russell to Michel Foucault

Download 90 Free Philosophy Courses and Start Living the Examined Life

Sheerly Avni is a San Francisco-based arts and culture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Weekly, Mother Jones, and many other publications. You can follow her on twitter at @sheerly

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