The Oldest Known Footage of London (1890-1920) Shows the City’s Great Landmarks

The City of London has exploded like Blade Runner in the last couple of decades with glass and concrete and shrines to global capitalism like St. Mary Axe (aka the Gherkin) and the Shard (aka the Shard). But has the view from the ground stayed the same? According to this charming then vs. now video assembled by a company called YesterVid, yes.

Trawling through the oldest surviving public domain footage from the early days of film (1890 – 1920), the videographers have placed old and modern-day shots side by side, matching as close as they can camera placement and lens.

Missing from today: the soot, the filth in the gutter, and the free-for-all in the streets as horse-drawn carriages and early busses battled it out with pedestrians. Streets are safer now, with railings to protect citizens, though the signs of increased security are also apparent, and CCTV cameras are most probably filming the director…somewhere!

St. Paul’s still needs room to breathe, and while the Empire Theatre may not show any more Lumiere Cinematographies, it’s still a cinema showing IMAX films. It didn’t suffer the fate of many cinemas outside of London after the ‘60s: being turned into bingo halls or just torn down.

Also: the sea of red poppies seen at 4:28 during the shot of the Tower of London’s moat is an installation work by artist Paul Cummins. Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red was installed between July and November of 2014 and, according to Wikipedia, it consisted of 888,246 ceramic red poppies, each intended to represent one British or Colonial serviceman killed in the Great War.

Final point: the oldest pub in London, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, still stands, and during the sweltering summers provides a cool respite, as most of its drinking rooms are underground. Cheers!

via Coudal

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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.

David Ogilvy’s 1982 Memo “How to Write” Offers 10 Pieces of Timeless Advice

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Nobody ever went broke writing a readable guide to writing in English, especially those that rise to the ranks of standard recommendations alongside Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style and William Zinsser’s On Writing WellBoth of those books endorse and exemplify the virtue of brevity, but even such short volumes take a great deal longer to read and internalize than this eminently to-the-point English style guide by the “Pope of Modern Advertising,” (and, for his part, a fan of Roman and Raphaelson’s Writing That Works) David Ogilvy, originally composed in the form of an internal memo.

Ogilvy sent it out on September 7th, 1982, directing it to everyone employed at Ogilvy & Mather, the respected ad agency he’d founded more than thirty years before. “The memo was entitled ‘How to Write,'” says Lists of Note, “and consisted of the following list of advice:”

1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.

2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.

3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.

4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.

6. Check your quotations.

7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning—and then edit it.

8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.

9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.

10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

And since we all send out more written communication today than we would have in 1982, the points on this list have only grown more advisable with time. “The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather,” Ogilvy adds. “People who think well, write well.” Amid all this practical advice, we’d do well not to forget that essential connection between word and thought. I like to quote a favorite Twitter aphorist of mine — and, per Ogilvy’s warning, I’ve checked my quotation first — on the subject: “People say they can’t draw when they mean they can’t see, and that they can’t write when they mean they can’t think.”

For more on the methods of Ogilvy the self-described “lousy copywriter” (but “good editor”), see also Lists of Note’s sister site Letters of Note, which has a 1955 letter wherein he lays out his work habits. A seemingly effective one involves “half a bottle of rum and a Handel oratorio on the gramophone.” Your mileage may vary.

via Lists of Note

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Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in CinemaFollow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

See the First Known Photograph Ever Taken (1826)

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In histories of early photography, Louis Daguerre faithfully appears as one of the fathers of the medium. His patented process, the daguerreotype, in wide use for nearly twenty years in the early 19th century, produced so many of the images we associate with the period, including famous photographs of Abraham Lincoln, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, and John Brown. But had things gone differently, we might know better the harder-to-pronounce name of his onetime partner Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, who produced the first known photograph ever, taken in 1826.

Something of a gentleman inventor, Niépce (below) began experimenting with lithography and with that ancient device, the camera obscura, in 1816. Eventually, after much trial and error, Niépce developed his own photographic process, which he called “heliography.” He began by mixing chemicals on a flat pewter plate, then placing it inside a camera. After exposing the plate to light for eight hours, the inventor then washed and dried it. What remained was the image we see above, taken, as Niépce wrote, from “the room where I work” on his country estate and now housed at the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center.

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At the Ransom Center website, you can see a short video describing Niépce’s house and showing how scholars recreated the vantage point from which he took the picture. Another video offers insight into the process Niépce invented to create his “heliograph.” In 1827, Niépce traveled to England to visit his brother. While there, with the assistance of English botanist Francis Bauer, he presented a paper on his new invention to the Royal Society. His findings were rejected, however, because he opted not to fully reveal the details, hoping to make economic gains with a proprietary method. Niépce left the pewter image with Bauer and returned to France, where he shortly after agreed to a ten-year partnership with Daguerre in 1829.

Sadly for Niépce, his heliograph would not produce the financial or technological success he envisioned, and he died just four years later in 1833. Daguerre, of course, went on to develop his famous process in 1829 and passed into history, but we should remember Niépce’s efforts, and marvel at what he was able to achieve on his own with limited materials and no training or precedent. Daguerre may receive much of the credit, but it was the “scientifically-minded gentleman” Niépce and his heliography that led—writes the Ransom Center’s Head of Photographic Conservation Barbara Brown—to “the invention of the new medium.”

Niepce Reproduction

Niépce’s pewter plate image was re-discovered in 1952 by Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, who published an article on the find in The Photographic Journal. Thereafter, the Gernsheims had the Eastman Kodak Company create the reproduction above. This image’s “pointillistic effect,” writes Brown, “is due to the reproduction process,” and the image “was touched up with watercolors by [Helmut] Gernsheim himself in order to bring it as close as possible to his approximation of how he felt the original should appear in reproduction.”

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

What is the Self? Watch Philosophy Animations Narrated by Stephen Fry on Sartre, Descartes & More

If you’ve followed our recent philosophy posts, you’ve heard Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) speak on what makes us humanthe origins of the universe, and whether technology has changed us, and Harry Shearer speak on ethics — or rather, you’ve heard them narrate short educational animations from the BBC scripted by Philosophy Bites‘ Nigel Warburton. Now another equally distinctive voice has joined the series to explain an equally important philosophical topic. Behold Stephen Fry on the Self.

These four videos draw on Socrates’s work on what it means to know oneself (and the limits of one’s knowledge); Erving Goffman’s (The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life) Shakespearean observation that we all play roles on this stage of a world; Rene Descartes‘ famous declaration “I think, therefore I am”; and Jean-Paul Sartre’s concept of human existence preceding human essence (which, if it sounds a bit foggy, the video will clarify). Whichever of these thinkers’ claims sound most plausible to you, you’ll come out feeling a bit surer that, whatever constitutes our selves — if indeed we have them — it isn’t what you might have assumed going in.

If the notions that we know nothing, that we have no fixed identities, that we create ourselves (and/or our selves) by our own actions, and that a trickster demon may be controlling your thoughts even as you read this seem too detached from everyday experience to easily grasp, at least we have a sensible English voice like Fry’s to guide us through them. The stereotypes may say that the people of that practical-minded land don’t go in for this kind of talk. But I propose a refutation: specifically, a refutation in the form of a return by Fry to talk about two of his fellow Britons, David Hume and George Berkeley. They had a few things to say about the self — to put it mildly.

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Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in CinemaFollow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Slavoj Žižek Calls Political Correctness a Form of “Modern Totalitarianism”

Opinions on what we generally mean by the phrase “political correctness” vary widely. Does it refer to the ways we try to maintain basic politeness and common decency in what we like to think of as a pluralistic, egalitarian society? Or is it a form of Orwellian, state-sponsored mind control that squashes dissent and banishes unpopular ideas from public discourse? On the one hand, stories of unacceptably abusive behavior in workplaces, classrooms, and government buildings abound, seeming to require placing reasonable limits on speech. On the other hand, extreme examples of rampant “trigger warnings” and other such qualifiers—on college literature syllabi, for example—can seem hypersensitive, patronizing, and silly at best.

In the Big Think video above, Marxist theorist, cultural critic, and professional provocateur Slavoj Žižek approaches the term as a kind of enforced niceness that obscures oppressive power relationships. He begins with an example, of a so-called “postmodern, non-authoritarian father,” who uses a subtle form of emotional coercion, playing on feelings of guilt, to enforce love and respect for a grandparent. This model, says Žižek, is “paradigmatic” of “modern totalitarianism”:

This is why the formula of modern totalitarianism is not “I don’t care what you think, just do it.” This is traditional authoritarianism. The totalitarian formula is, “I know better than you what you really want.”

“In this sense,” says Žižek, “I am horrified by this new culture of experts.” In his typically animated style, he leaps from case to case—the banning of public e-cigarette smoking, for example—to show how concerns about public health or racism give way to meaningless, culturally stultifying moralizing. His point that political correctness can be a humorless “self-discipline” is persuasive. Whether his examples of “progressive racism”—or the social release valve of obscene or racist jokes—translate to an American context is debatable. (Trigger warning: Žižek drops a couple n-words).

Does the uncouth Žižek get a pass because he disavows personal prejudice, even as he makes light of it? Is there really a “great art” to the racist joke that can bring people closer together? Do we need a “tiny exchange of friendly obscenities” to establish “real contact” with other people? I for one wouldn’t want to live in a society without obscene humor and honest, open conversation. But whether all forms of political correctness— whatever it is—are “modern totalitarianism,” I leave to you to decide. It does seem to me that if we can’t have political debates without fear and shame then we really have lost some measure of freedom; but if we’re unable to debate with good will and sensitivity, then we’ve lost some important measure of our humanity.

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

Quentin Tarantino Supercuts Explore the Director’s Stylized Use of Sound, Close Ups & Cars in His Films

It’s not surprising perhaps that we are in a film nerd supercut golden age. After all, all film students have access to video editing software, almost all movies are available digitally, and websites, like this one, are perpetually hungry for new content. Great supercuts reveal something new or unnoticed about a great director, like how Yasujiro Ozu uses hallways or Kubrick favors one-point perspective. Editor Jacob T. Swinney, who won the internet last month with his video “First and Final Frames,” just released the third out of a promised four-part supercut on Quentin Tarantino.

The director of Pulp Fiction and Death Proof is, of course, known for his dialogue – razor-sharp, obscenity-laden repartee crammed with references to pop culture or obscure movies. What is a Tarantino movie without a rant about the true meaning of “Like a Virgin,” say, or a lengthy discourse on the difference between McDonald’s menus in American and in Europe? Swinney strips away all that dialogue to explore some of the recurring visual and audial motifs that lard Tarantino’s films. What you realize after watching these is just how stylized his movies are. Tarantino loves expressionistic sound effects, flashy insert shots, generally aping the look and feel of his cinematic heroes like Sergio Leone or King Hu. You can watch the first film above and the next two below.

The first film called “Hearing Tarantino” is about all the pungent, stylized sounds the QT has used. As you can imagine, there are lots of gurgling of blood and clanking of swords. What you might not have noticed is how many cartoony whooshes and zings he has folded into the sound mix.

The second vid, “Tarantino’s Extreme Close Ups,” shows lots of eyes bearing expressions somewhere along the terrified-pissed off spectrum.

And the third piece, “Tarantino: Driving Shots,” shows just how much of his movies take place in cars.

The fourth film has yet to come out, but I hope it’s on Tarantino’s not-at-all creepy obsession with women’s feet. You can probably fill a couple minutes just on Uma Thurman’s alone.

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.

High-Tech Japanese Camera Proves That the Shape of a Wine Glass Affects the Flavor of Wines

Japanese scientists have developed a camera that confirms what we’ve long sensed: “wine glass shape has a very sophisticated functional design for tasting and enjoying wine.” That’s what Kohji Mitsubayashi, a researcher at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University, told Chemistry World.

It’s a little complicated, and I’d encourage you to read this Chemistry World article, but the upshot is this: Mitsubayashi’s team used a special camera to analyze “different wines, in different glasses – including different shaped wine glasses, a martini glass and a straight glass – at different temperatures.” And they found that “different glass shapes and temperatures can bring out completely different bouquets and finishes from the same wine.”

In the video above, you can see the new-fangled camera in action, demonstrating how wines at different temperatures (something that’s affected by the geometry of the glass) release different vapors. And those translate into different flavors. Get more on this at Chemistry World.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn 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.

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Watch a Timelapse Video Showing the Creation of New York City’s Skyline: 1500 to Present

Next month, when you step into one of the “five special elevators servicing the observatory atop the new 1 World Trade Center,” you will get a pretty great view. Though it’s not the view you might initially imagine. The New York Times describes what you’ll see:

From the moment the doors close until they reopen 47 seconds later on the 102nd floor, a seemingly three-dimensional time-lapse panorama will unfold on three walls of the elevator cabs, as if one were witnessing 515 years of history unfolding at the tip of Manhattan Island.

For less than four seconds, [the Twin Towers devastated on 9/11] will loom into view on one wall of the cab. Then, in a quick dissolve, they will evanesce.

The timelapse animation, shown in a smaller format above, was designed by the Hettema Group in Pasadena, CA, and Blur Studio of Culver City, CA. Hope you enjoy the early preview.

h/t Robin

via NYTimes

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn 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.

200 Ansel Adams Photographs Expose the Rigors of Life in Japanese Internment Camps During WW II

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Images courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Actor George Takei was once best known as Star Trek’s Mr. Sulu. He still is, of course, but over the last few years his friendly, intelligent, and wickedly funny presence on social media has landed him a new popular role as a social justice advocate. Takei’s activist passion is informed not only by his status as a gay man, but also by his childhood experiences. At the age of 5, Takei was rounded up with his American-born parents and taken to a Japanese internment camp in Arkansas, where he would live for the next three years. In a recent interview with Democracy Now, Takei spoke frankly about this history:

We’re Americans…. We had nothing to do with the war. We simply happened to look like the people that bombed Pearl Harbor. But without charges, without trial, without due process—the fundamental pillar of our justice system—we were summarily rounded up, all Japanese Americans on the West Coast, where we were primarily resident, and sent off to 10 barb wire internment camps—prison camps, really, with sentry towers, machine guns pointed at us—in some of the most desolate places in this country.

Takei and his family were among over 100,000 Japanese-Americans— over half of whom were U.S. citizens—interned in such camps.

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Into one of these camps, Manzanar, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, celebrated photographer Ansel Adams managed to gain entrance through his friendship with the warden. Adams took over 200 photographs of life inside the camp. In 1965, he donated his collection to the Library of Congress, writing in a letter, “The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, business and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and dispair [sic] by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment.”

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Adams had another purpose as well—as scholar of the period Frank H. Wu describes it—“to document some aspects of the internment camp that the government didn’t want to have shown.” These include “the barbed wire, and the guard towers, and the armed soldiers.” Prohibited from documenting these control mechanisms directly, the photographer “captured them in the background, in shadows,” says Wu: “In some of the photos when you look you can see just faintly that he’s taking a photo of something, but in front of the photo you can see barbed wire, or on the ground you can see the shadow of barbed wire. Some of the photos even show the blurry outline of a soldier’s shadow.”

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The photographs document the daily activities of the internees—their work and leisure routines, and their struggles to maintain some semblance of normalcy while living in hastily constructed barracks in the harshest of conditions.

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Though the landscape, and its climate, could be desolate and unforgiving, it was also, as Adams couldn’t help but notice, “magnificent.” The collection includes several wide shots of stretches of mountain range and sky, often with prisoners staring off longingly into the distance. But the majority of the photos are of the internees—men, women, and children, often in close-up portraits that show them looking variously hopeful, happy, saddened, and resigned.

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You can view the entire collection at the Library of Congress’ online catalog. Adams also published about 65 of the photographs in a book titled Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese Americans in 1944. The collection represents an important part of Adams’ work during the period. But more importantly it represents events in U.S. history that should never be forgotten or denied.

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via Dangerous Minds

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

The Long Game of Creativity: If You Haven’t Created a Masterpiece at 30, You’re Not a Failure

Orson Welles directed the greatest movie ever made, Citizen Kane, at age 25, with only a limited knowledge of the medium. When Paul McCartney was 25, he, along with his fellow Beatles, released the era-defining album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. By age 29, Pablo Picasso revolutionized modern art by developing cubism.

If hearing such stories sets off an existential panic attack because you squandered your 20s with too much reality TV and graduate school, then take heart — you’re not necessarily a failure.

As Adam Westbrook points out in his video essay The Long Game, Leonardo da Vinci was a total loser before he painted The Last Supper at age 46. As a youth, Leonardo planned grandiose projects that he wouldn’t be able to finish. This, of course, did little for his reputation and even less for his career as a freelance artist. But he continued to work, eking out a living by enduring the demands of picky, small-minded clients, and, through this lean period, Leonardo emerged a great artist. Robert Greene, in his book Mastery, calls this period “The Difficult Years.” Every successful creative slogs through some form of the Difficult Years, even child prodigies. Mozart just went through his struggles at a time when most children are learning to read.

In other words, “genius” has less to do with innate talent than just doing the work. Of course, that isn’t nearly as good a story as that of the romantic genius. But it is encouraging for those of us who haven’t quite yet won that MacArthur grant.

You can watch Westbrook’s video essay in two parts above.

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.


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