Alec Baldwin Has a Podcast: Hear His Intimate Interviews with Patti Smith, Thom Yorke, Jerry Seinfeld, Ira Glass, Amy Schumer & More

It somehow escaped me. Alec Baldwin has a podcast. With 133 episodes in its archive, Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin  (WebiTunes – Feeds) features “intimate and honest conversations” with “artists, policy makers and performers – to hear their stories, what inspires their creations, what decisions changed their careers, and what relationships influenced their work.” Below, we’ve embedded his recent conversation with Patti Smith. It’s quite good. But there are so many others worth a mention. Let me rattle off a quick list: REM’s Michael Stipe, Viggo Mortensen, Michael Pollan, Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow, William Friedkin, Paul Simon, Ira Glass, Jerry Seinfeld, David Simon, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Lena Dunham, Peter Frampton, David Letterman, Carol BurnettKristen Wiig, SNL’s Lorne Michaels, and Chris Rock.

Click the links to stream each interview, and don’t miss Baldwin’s new memoir, NeverthelessHe happens to narrate the audiobook version, which you can download for free if you sign up for Audible.com’s 30-day free trial. We have info on that here.

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Philosophical, Sci-Fi Claymation Film Answers the Timeless Question: Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

It’s a question that’s occupied our greatest thinkers, from Aristotle and Plato to Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye:

Which came first—the chicken or the egg?

The debate will likely rage as long as there’s a faith-based camp to square off against the evidence-based camp.

With that in mind, and the weekend looming, we’re inclined to go with the Claymation camp, in the form of Time Chicken, Nick Black’s 6-minute stop-motion meditation, above.




Described by its creator as a “philosophical-action-fantasy into the world of science, religion, knowledge and creation,” Time Chicken benefits from an appropriately bombastic original score performed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra and the seeming-eyewitness testimony of its admittedly clay-based, all-poultry cast.

Black’s copious cinematic references and science fiction tropes are every bit as delectable as a Mughal style egg-stuffed whole chicken slow cooked in a rich almond-poppy seeds-yogurt-&-saffron gravy.

Kudos to the filmmaker, too, for eschewing the uncredited dubbing that made fellow claymator Nick (Park)’s Chicken Run a crossover hit, trusting instead in the (unsubtitled) original language of his subjects.

Readers, watch this hilarious little film and weigh in. Which came first? The chicken? Or the egg?

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

NASA Releases a Massive Online Archive: 140,000 Photos, Videos & Audio Files Free to Search and Download

Last summer, astronomer Michael Summer wrote that, despite a relatively low profile, NASA and its international partners have been “living Carl Sagan’s dream for space exploration.” Summers’ catalogue of discoveries and groundbreaking experiments—such as Scott Kelly’s yearlong stay aboard the International Space Station—speaks for itself. But for those focused on more earthbound concerns, or those less emotionally moved by science, it may take a certain eloquence to communicate the value of space in words. “Perhaps,” writes Summers, “we should have had a poet as a member of every space mission to better capture the intense thrill of discovery.”

Sagan was the closest we’ve come. Though he never went into space himself, he worked closely on NASA missions since the 1950s and communicated better than anyone, in deeply poetic terms, the beauty and wonder of the cosmos. Likely you’re familiar with his “pale blue dot” soliloquy, but consider this quote from his 1968 lectures, Planetary Exploration:

There is a place with four suns in the sky — red, white, blue, and yellow; two of them are so close together that they touch, and star-stuff flows between them. I know of a world with a million moons. I know of a sun the size of the Earth — and made of diamond. There are atomic nuclei a few miles across which rotate thirty times a second. There are tiny grains between the stars, with the size and atomic composition of bacteria. There are stars leaving the Milky Way, and immense gas clouds falling into it. There are turbulent plasmas writhing with X- and gamma-rays and mighty stellar explosions. There are, perhaps, places which are outside our universe. The universe is vast and awesome, and for the first time we are becoming a part of it.

Sagan’s lyrical prose alone captured the imagination of millions. But what has most often made us to fall in love with, and fund, the space program, is photography. No mission has ever had a resident poet, but every one, manned and unmanned, has had multiple high-tech photographers.




NASA has long had “a trove of images, audio, and video the general public wanted to see,” writes Eric Berger at Ars Technica. “After all, this was the agency that had sent people to the Moon, taken photos of every planet in the Solar System, and launched the Hubble Space Telescope.”

Until the advent of the Internet, only a few select, and unforgettable, images made their way to the public. Since the 1990s, the agency has published hundreds of photos and videos online, but these efforts have been fragmentary and not particularly user-friendly. That changed this month with the release of a huge photo archive140,000 pictures, videos, and audio files, to be exact—that aggregates materials from the agency’s centers all across the country and the world, and makes them searchable. The visual poetry on display is staggering, as is the amount of technical information for the more technically inclined.

Since Summers lauded NASA’s accomplishments, the fraught politics of science funding have become deeply concerning for scientists and the public, provoking what will likely be a well-attended march for science tomorrow. Where does NASA stand in all of this? You may be surprised to learn that the president has signed a bill authorizing considerable funding for the agency. You may be unsurprised to learn how that funding is to be allocated. Earth science and education are out. A mission to Mars is in.

As I perused the stunning NASA photo archive, picking my jaw up from the floor several times, I found in some cases that my view began to shift, especially while looking at photos from the Mars rover missions, and reading the captions, which casually refer to every rocky outcropping, mountain, crater, and valley by name as though they were tourist destinations on a map of New Mexico. In addition to Sagan’s Cosmos, I also began to think of the colonization epics of Ray Bradbury and Kim Stanley Robinson—the corporate greed, the apocalyptic wars, the history repeating itself on another planet….

It’s easy to blame the current anti-science lobby for shifting the focus to planets other than our own. There is no justification for the mutually assured destruction of climate science denialism or nuclear escalation. But in addition to mapping and naming galaxies, black holes, and nebulae, we’ve seen an intense focus on the Red Planet for many years. It seems inevitable, as it did to the most far-sighted of science fiction writers, that we would make our way there one way or another.

We would do well to recover the sense of awe and wonder outer space used to inspire in us—sublime feelings that can motivate us not only to explore the seemingly limitless resources of space but to conserve and preserve our own on Earth. Hopefully you can find your own slice of the sublime in this massive photo archive.

 

via the Creators Project

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

An Interactive Visualization of Hegel’s Science of Logic (Available on Github)

In 1812, GWF Hegel published his Science of Logic. Two centuries later, one of his disciples put on Github an interactive visualisation of Hegel’s work, which essentially takes the structure of the text and puts it into a visual map. Whether the visualization has any utility, I’m not sure. But it’s fun to give it a quick spin.

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via Philosophy Matters

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5 Animations Introduce the Media Theory of Noam Chomsky, Roland Barthes, Marshall McLuhan, Edward Said & Stuart Hall

We watch it happen in real time, aghast as the media cannibalizes itself, turning reality into a parody of the kind we laughed at in goofy dystopian scenarios from Back to the Future, The SimpsonsIdiocracy. A brave new world of hypercredulity and monstrous disingenuousness arrived on our smart phones and TVs. It was gaudy and pernicious and lied to us like we couldn’t trust our lying eyes. We saw reality TV mainlined into reality. The response was to shout, “Fake News,” a phrase almost immediately redigested and spun into flimsy conspiracy theories. It now serves little purpose but to get the snake gnawing its tail again.

How?, many wondered in despair. Haven’t people read the theory? Noam Chomsky, Marshall McLuhan, Stuart Hall, Edward Said, Roland Barthes…. Didn’t we see them proven right time and again? But chances are if you know all these names, you’ve spent time in university English, Communications, or Media Studies departments.




You’ve hung around hip bookstores and coffeeshops in cities and puzzled over critical theory, pretending, perhaps, to have read at least one of these writers you hadn’t. You gave up your TV years ago and kept your kids away from screens (or told people you did). You fit, in other words, a certain profile, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it was, in the scheme of things, a pretty narrow niche, and an often pretty smug one at that.

Maybe academics, critics, and journalists need to be better at talking and listening to ordinary people? Maybe fashionable waves of anti-intellectualism need to be resisted with almost religious vigor…? Whatever the solution(s) for mass media illiteracy, we can treat the video series here from Al Jazeera as a step in the right direction. Called “Media Theorized: Reading Against the Grain,” the project takes as its subtitle a quote from Roland Barthes, the French philosopher and literary critic who distilled cultural studies into highly readable essays, dissecting everything from wrestling to tourism to advertising. Barthes showed how these genres constitute symbolic texts, just like romantic novels and morality plays, but purport to show us unmediated truth.

“Media Theorized” surveys five cultural critics who have, in five different ways, made similar analyses of mass media. Marshall McLuhan famously declared the medium as the message: its signal inseparable from its noise; Noam Chomsky demonstrated how popular consent is engineered by a narrow set of shady special interests with influence over the media; Stuart Hall showed how mass media manipulates discourses of race, class, gender, and religion to misrepresent outsiders and marginalized people and keep them in their place in the social imaginary; and Edward Said documented the long tradition of “Orientalism”—a totalizing Euro-American discourse that estranges, belittles, and dehumanizes whole countries, cultures, and religious communities.

While it’s impossible to do justice to the richness and depth of their arguments with quick summaries and pithy animation, what “Media Theorized” does well is to present this handful of academics as accessible and uniquely relevant to our current situation. This works especially well because the presenters are people used to putting theory into practice, communicating with the public, and critiquing mass media. Activists and journalists from all over the world, who have not only contributed short videos on YouTube, but thoughtful supplementary essays and interviews at the “Media Theorized” site (which also includes high resolution posters from each video.) The project is an invitation for each of us to take several steps back and ask some highly pertinent questions about how and why the stories we’re told get told, and for whose benefit.

Millions of people have had enough and are demanding accountability from individual figures in the media—a positive development, to be sure, though it seems like too little too late. We need to understand the damage that’s been done, and continues to be done, by the systems mass media enable and sell. This series introduces “critical tools” we can use in our “everyday encounters” with such salesmanship.

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

Salvador Dalí Figurines Let You Bring the Artist’s Surreal Paintings Into Your Home

Whether at the Museum of Modern Art, a dorm-room wall, or anywhere in between, we’ve all seen Salvador Dalí’s 1931 canvas The Persistence of Memory, and who among us wouldn’t want to own one of the “melting watches” it famously depicts? Alas, technology hasn’t quite caught up to that flamboyant Spanish surrealist’s vivid imagination: though clocks now come as flat as you like, no artistically minded entrepreneur has yet put such a Camembertishly malleable one into production. But that doesn’t mean you can’t surround yourself with the other stuff of Dalí’s paintings, thanks to this set of collectable figurines.

Just like the Hieronymus Bosch figurines we featured last month, these come from the UK manufacturer Parastone, and you can browse the selection on their Dalí page (or get them on Amazon). At the top of the post we have one of the tigers leaping from the mouth of a fish originally painted in 1944’s Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening (another dorm-room favorite, incidentally). The folks at Parastone describe it as “a Freudian image based on a dream from Gala, Dalí’s wife.” Their figurine drawn from the previous year’s Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man, however, bears a message: “The new human must free itself from its oppressive entwinement with the past.”

Or perhaps you’d prefer to add not just a touch of Dalí to your home, but a touch of Dalí depicting Dalí. In that case you might consider Parastone’s three-dimensional version of his 1941 Soft Self-Portrait with Grilled Bacon. Salvador-Dali.org describes the image as “a spectre full of irony, where an amorphous, soft face appears, supported by crutches” — the face of Dalí himself — “with a pedestal that bears the inscription of the title of the work and, above, a slice of fried bacon, a symbol of organic matter and of the everyday nature of his breakfasts in New York’s Saint Regis Hotel.” Not only does the figurine thus feature a vogue meat of the early 21st-century, it renders it in a manner that perhaps even Dalí, also a noted cookbook author, would consider good enough to eat. See the full figurine collection here.

via Dangerous Minds

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Peter Singer’s Course on Effective Altruism Gets Started This Week: Enroll & Put Philosophy Into Worldly Action

This week, Peter Singer’s online course on Effective Altruism is getting underway on Coursera. Based on the philosopher’s books, The Life You Can Save and The Most Good You Can Do, the course introduces students to the concept of Effective Altruism, which asserts that “living a fully ethical life involves doing the most good one can.” Particularly, the course promises to examine the philosophical underpinnings of Effective Altruism, “present remarkable people who have restructured their lives in accordance with it, and think about how effective altruism can be put into practice in your own life.” The introductory video for the course appears above. You can enroll free here.

A philosophy professor at Princeton, Singer first became well-known when he published Animal Liberation in 1975 and helped put an intellectual framework around the animal rights movement. More recently, he has brought his utilitarian philosophy to bear on global poverty. Sometimes controversial, Singer is undeniably influential. (He was named world’s third most influential global thought leader in 2013.) The Effective Altruism course gives you a good opportunity to familiarize yourself with Singer’s style of thought, and put philosophy into meaningful action.

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Hear Two Legends, Lead Belly & Woody Guthrie, Performing on the Same Radio Show (1940)

Let’s go back in time to December 12, 1940 and turn our radio dial to 830 AM WNYC. It’s 6 p.m. in New York and blues singer Lead Belly has his weekly half-hour show (Folk Songs of America) where he sings songs and invites on a guest each week. On this episode he welcomes folk singer “The Dustiest Dustbowler of them all”——as the announcer calls him——Woody Guthrie, who, like the host, delivers three songs with some in between song patter.

This recording sat in the WNYC archives until being dusted off for a rebroadcast in 2007 as part of the Down Home Radio Show. The first year of the Down Home Radio Show coincided with the last year in the life of Professor Henrietta Yurchenco (1916-2007), who was a well known folk and world music radio personality, as well as an ethnomusicologist. One of her earliest radio jobs was producing this very episode for Lead Belly’s Folk Songs of America, when she was only 24. She later went on to work with other stars in the business such as Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan.




The 1940 episode was unearthed for a show on outlaw songs, both blues and folk songs that glamorize people that the law saw as common criminals, but the people loved regardless. Lead Belly sings “Frankie and Albert” and Guthrie sings “John Hardy” and “Jesse James.”

Also on the show, Guthrie introduces his own “Ballad of Tom Joad” with a story about watching The Grapes of Wrath movie (1940) three times and then writing his own version. Lead Belly ends the show with “Boll Weevil,” which, being about a much hated insect, is kind of an outlaw ballad of sorts.

The only shame is not hearing the two together, and it’s not known whether they were in the same studio at the time.

Finally the announcer adds that if you like the show, drop a line to Lead Belly courtesy of WNYC and they’ll send you all the lyrics. I wonder if anybody still has a copy of that?

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

The Day When Chivalry Officially Came to an End in 1363 AD: A Short Comedy Film

When did chivalry come to an end? Some would say it’s a matter of historical debate. But not for Jake Mahaffy. His short, funny film lets you see the embarrassing circumstances under which chivalry died, somewhere in a marsh in 1363. Enjoy.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

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.

via Vimeo Staff Picks

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Hear What the Language Spoken by Our Ancestors 6,000 Years Ago Might Have Sounded Like: A Reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European Language

As scholars of ancient texts well know, the reconstruction of lost sources can be a matter of some controversy. In the ancient Hebrew and less ancient Christian Biblical texts, for example, critics find the remnants of many previous texts, seemingly stitched together by occasionally careless editors. Those source texts exist nowhere in any physical form, complete or otherwise. They must be inferred from the traces they have left behind—signatures of diction and syntax, stylistic and thematic preoccupations….

So it is with the study of ancient languages, but since oral cultures far predate written ones, the search for linguistic ancestors can take us back to the very origins of human culture, to times unremembered and unrecorded by anyone, and only dimly glimpsed through scant archaeological evidence and observable aural similarities between vastly different languages. So it was with the theoretical development of Indo-European as a language family, a slow process that took several centuries to coalesce into the modern linguistic tree we now know.




The observation that Sanskrit and ancient European languages like Greek and Latin have significant similarities was first recorded by a Jesuit missionary to Goa, Thomas Stephens, in the sixteenth century, but little was made of it until around 100 years later. A great leap forward came in the mid-nineteenth century when German linguist August Schleicher, under the influence of Hegel, published his Compendium of the Comparative Grammar of the Indo-European Languages. There, Schleicher made an extensive attempt at reconstructing the common ancestor of all Indo-European languages, “Proto-Indo-European,” or PIE, for short, thought to have originated somewhere in Eastern Europe, though this supposition is speculative.

To provide an example of what the language might have been like Schleicher made up a fable called “The Sheep and the Horses” as a “sonic experiment.” The story has been used ever since, “periodically updated,” writes Eric Powell at Archaeology, “to reflect the most current understanding of how this extinct language would have sounded when it was spoken some 6,000 years ago.” Having no access to any texts written in Proto-Indo-European (which may or may not have existed) nor, of course, to any speakers of the language, linguists disagree a good deal on what it should sound like; “no single version can be considered definitive.”

And yet, since Schleicher’s time, the theory has been considerably refined. At the top of the post, you can hear one such refinement based on work by UCLA professor H. Craig Melchert and read by linguist Andrew Byrd. See a translation of Schleicher’s story, “The Sheep and the Horses” below:

A sheep that had no wool saw horses, one of them pulling a heavy wagon, one carrying a big load, and one carrying a man quickly. The sheep said to the horses: “My heart pains me, seeing a man driving horses.” The horses said: “Listen, sheep, our hearts pain us when we see this: a man, the master, makes the wool of the sheep into a warm garment for himself. And the sheep has no wool.” Having heard this, the sheep fled into the plain.

Byrd also reads another story in hypothetical Proto-Indo-European, “The King and the God,” using “pronunciation informed by the latest insights into PIE.”

See Powell’s article at Archaeology for the written transcriptions of both Schleicher’s and Melchert/Byrd’s versions of PIE, and see his article here to learn about the archeological evidence for the Bronze Age speakers of this theoretical linguistic common ancestor.

Note: The wonderful image that accompanies this post on Facebook and Twitter comes from this post in our archive: The Tree of Languages Illustrated in a Big, Beautiful Infographic. It was created by Minna Sundberg and can be purchased as a poster here.

via io9

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


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