Hear the Great Mixtapes Richard Linklater Created to Psych Up the Actors in Dazed and Confused and Everybody Wants Some!!

Richard Linklater’s films have become increasingly sophisticated as the 90s indie breakout writer-director has grown into his auteurhood. From the loose stoner vérité of Slackers (watch it online) to the loose but heady animation of Waking Life to the painstakingly meticulous “model of cinematic realism” of Boyhood, Linklater has a uniquely American vision and the undeniable talent to realize it in full.

But mostly when I think of Linklater, I think—excuse my language—of cock rock.

I think of Dazed and Confused’s super senior Wooderson, leaning against a muscle car, drawling “alright, alright, alright,” and cranking Aerosmith. I think of wild-eyed Jack Black in School of Rock, strapping a Gibson Flying V on an uptight, sweater-vested youth and teaching him Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” riff. And now, I think of a gang of short shorts-wearing college baseball dudes in the “campus bromanceEverybody Wants Some!!, singing along (above) to Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”…. wait…

So, okay, it ain’t all cock rock. But Linklater’s films are often so dude-centric, and so informed by popular music of certain eras, that he titled two of his most personal—Dazed and Confused and its recent “spiritual sequel”—after anthems from the two most archetypically cock rock bands, Led Zeppelin and Van Halen.

Where Dazed and Confused’s high school milieu more or less stayed anchored in 70s hard rock, Everybody Wants Some!!—like its comparatively adventurous college jocks—takes several musical detours from beer-and-babes 80s clichés. The film’s soundtrack, for example, includes “deep cuts” from Brian Eno, obscure local Texas punk rock band The Big Boys, and L.A.-based 80s New Wave/R&B band The Busboys.

It’s true, then, that the songs choices on Everybody Wants Some!!, which you can hear almost in their entirely (sans a few) above, are fairly diverse, genre-wise, compared to the cock-rock-heavy list of songs from Dazed and Confused (further up). And when it comes to Linklater’s musical inspirations for both films, we see that difference as well.

linklater mixtape dazed

As the Criterion Collection blog documents—bringing us the 1992 letter above (read it here) from Linklater to his cast—the director put together “a thoughtful series of mixtapes to get his cast into the mind-set” of Dazed and Confused. And Criterion put together the Spotify playlist below of the songs Linklater gave his actors. As you’ll see, it’s mostly balls-to-the-wall hard rock, with some obligatory 70s disco and a few cuts from Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Elton John. In his accompanying letter, Linklater admits “a few of the songs are a little cheezy,” but also notes “there are a few places for ironic usage.” For the most part, he says, “this music… is like the movie itself—straightforward, honest and fun.”

When it came time to begin shooting Everybody Wants Some!! (get the official soundtrack here), Linklater again used the same method to get his cast in the mood, circulating the songs in the playlist below (though probably not on cassettes). Here we get a much more diverse, comprehensive musical summary of the decade in question, with Michael Jackson sitting next to Elvis Costello, Pat Benatar and Dire Straits next to Pink Floyd, Sister Sledge, Queen, and Chaka Khan.

It’s an interesting transition that may—musically—signal the move from teenage fandom to the more curious, adventurous listening habits of early adulthood. College, after all, is not only where young Americans of the modern era discover new sexual and chemical pleasures, but also where they acquire new musical tastes. And in the 80s especially, the boundaries of pop music expanded.

“That’s just how it felt to me to be a young person at that time. It was cool to be into everything,” Linklater commented to Cornelia Rowe at Yahoo: “There was a lot of newness in the era. You didn’t really appreciate it at the time – it’s like, there are all these new bands! There’s this new wave, punk, party, R&B – there’s a thing called rap music from New York!”

The athlete bros in Linklater’s latest, very male-oriented piece of cinematic nostalgia “at once embody and upend the stereotype of the shallow, sexually entitled jock,” writes A.O. Scott in his review. Roaming far afield of their comfort zones, they “have a good time wherever they are.” That’s pretty much guaranteed, I think, with the finely-curated 80s gems in these playlists as their soundtrack.

via the Criterion Collection

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

Surrealist Filmmaker Jan Švankmajer Is About to Make His Final Feature Film, and You Can Help Produce It

No filmmaker combines live action with stop-motion quite like Jan Švankmajer, and certainly no filmmaker has used that combination to such imaginative and troubling ends. An avowed surrealist who got his start in animation more than half a century ago in his homeland of the former Czechoslovakia, he’s continued to craft his distinctive cinematic experiences however and whenever possible through the decades. His filmography now includes such enduring trips as Dimensions of Dialogue (see below), which no less a visionary than Terry Gilliam calls one of the best animated films of all time; Alice, his dark interpretation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; and Little Otik, a modernization of a folktale about a tree stump that turns into a monstrous baby.

But as well as he brings the bizarre to vivid life on screen, he’s always had higher ambitions than that. “Švankmajer is capable of creating dark yet playful worlds that dissect the very core of our society,” says the Indiegogo page now raising the funds for his latest — and last — feature film, Insects. “The civilization we live in has little interest in authentic artistic creation,” laments the filmmaker. “What it needs is well-working advertisement, the iconographic contemporary art, pushing people towards more and more mass consumption. It gets increasingly difficult to fund independent art that scrutinizes the very core of our society. Who would deliberately support their own critics?”

Now, in this age of crowdfunding, you can support one of its most entertaining critics alive yourself. Insects has already succeeded in raising the first phase of its budget, but still has a way to go before it can assure its esteemed creator and his collaborators full artistic freedom (Švankmajer is looking to raise $400,000 in total), so if you’d like to chip in, you can make yourself eligible for such rewards as the first opportunity to download the film, its Blu-Ray edition with an accompanying art book, or even — if you’ve got $15,000 to put toward the cause — “a dinner with Jan Švankmajer at his mansion in Czech Republic and a commented visit to his Kunstkabinet.” Even now, work on Insects, its Indiegogo page assures us, is underway, with Švankmajer “very busy visiting entomological auctions, buying various kinds of bugs, doing rehearsal shots with them and so on.”

If you’d like to learn more about the drama that they’ll ultimately act out, watch the promo video at the top of the post. In it, Švankmajer describes it as set in a pub, after hours, where an amateur theater group has gathered to rehearse The Insect Play by the Čapek brothers. But “as the rehearsal progresses, the characters of the play are born and die with no regard to time,” and the actors “experience frightening transformations.” Švankmajer, who has planned not a direct adaptation of The Insect Play but a more complex work that draws inspiration both from it and The Metamorphosis by his other well-known countryman Franz Kafka, puts the appeal of this story where “bugs behave as human beings, and people behave as insects” simply: “The Čapek brothers’ play is very misanthropic. I’ve always liked that.”

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. 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.

Meet Four Women Who Pioneered Electronic Music: Daphne Oram, Laurie Spiegel, Éliane Radigue & Pauline Oliveros

My small city is still coming down from the elation of last month’s Moogfest, a three-day extravaganza of performances, workshops, seminars, films, and other activities relating to music made by the synthesizers designed and influenced by Robert Moog.

This year’s festivities included several performances from New Wave star Gary Numan; appearances by legends like Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh, Parliament-Funkadelic’s Bernie Worrell, Negativland’s Chris Grigg, and Can’s Malcolm Moony; and tributes to recently deceased Japanese synth master Isao Tomita and British prog rock superstar Keith Emerson…. And yes, many excellent younger female artists performed and gave workshops and talks, but as a newcomer to the scene, you’d be forgiven for thinking that earlier generations of electronic musicians were exclusively male.

And that impression would be entirely off the mark, even if it has been reinforced again and again in retrospectives, documentaries, and popular histories. But perspectives are shifting, and we’ve tried to highlight some of the alternate histories of electronic music that document female artists’ indispensable contributions to the field.

Recent documentaries about influential BBC Radio composer and musician Delia Derbyshire, for example, have reintroduced her work to a new generation. A wider appreciation came in the form of KPFA’s “Crack O’ Dawn” program broadcasting seven hours of music by over two dozen important women composers and musicians from 1938-2014.

On the live circuit, “’all-female bills,’” writes Jennifer Lucy Allan at The Guardian, “have gained traction to address the stark gender imbalance in dance and electronic music bookings.” But “they can feel tokenist, where gender comes before talent… not so at London’s Southbank Centre next weekend: its Deep Minimalism festival presents compositions by some of electronic music’s early frontrunners, going as far back as the 1950s. They just so happen to be almost exclusively female.”

One early frontrunner, Daphne Oram, was a contemporary and colleague of Delia Derbyshire. Oram, writes Allan, “noodled with modular machines at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in its early days, before the studio created the seminal Doctor Who theme” (largely Derbyshire’s doing). That description doesn’t do her justice. Oram was in fact a co-founder of the hugely influential Radiophonic Workshop, and her work deserves, and has begun to receive, the kind of critical re-evaluation that Derbyshire has attained recently.

The Wire magazine centered Oram’s work in a 2012 discussion, “Attack of the Radiophonic Women: How Synthesizers Cracked Music’s Glass Ceiling.” They feature much more info on Oram on their site, including a “Daphne Oram Portal” with links to articles about her sophisticated work. At the top of the post, you can hear the subtle drones, ringing, and echoes of Oram’s “Pulse Persephone,” and just above, listen to a 2008, 40-minute radio documentary on her work called “Wee Have Also Sound-Houses,” made in celebration of the Radiophonic Workshop’s 50th anniversary.

Oram has been lauded by the BBC as “the unsung pioneer of techno” and there is currently a Kickstarter campaign to republish her book, An Individual Note: Of Music, Sound and Electronics, and to “write Daphne Oram back into music history.” Oram’s book explains her philosophy of sound, which she called “Oramics.” Like many an early electronic musical pioneer, she not only created original sound designs but designed original equipment to make them—in her case, an “optical synthesizer” called the Oramics Machine (read about it here). Just above, see a clip from Atlantis Anew, a film about the Oramics Machine.

Another pioneering composer, Laurie Spiegel, is also an engineer and software designer with a long resume that includes working with synthesizer designers (and Moog competitors) Buchla and Electronic Music Laboratories. See her above in 1977 playing the Alles Machine, a very early digital synthesizer she worked on with Hal Alles at Bell Labs. Spiegel worked for Bell Labs for several years, creating one of the first computer drawing programs in the mid-70s, and she is widely known as the designer of Music Mouse, a MIDI program created for Apple in 1985.

Spiegel, writes Allan, “programmed synths before computer-based controllers were a twinkle in the techno DJ’s eye.” If her list of accomplishments as an engineer seems impressive, her contributions as a composer and musician certainly are as well. In 1977, her realization of Johannes Kepler’s 17th century composition “Harmonices Mundi” (“Harmony of the Worlds,” above) was chosen as the first musical recording on the Voyager probe’s “Golden Record,” a cultural time capsule sent into space for ears of extraterrestrials (“assuming they have ears,” writes Pitchfork in a glowing profile of Spiegel).

Spiegel has composed soundtracks for television shows and films, including a 1980 PBS adaptation of Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven. That same year, she released her acclaimed first album The Expanding Universe, now a recently re-released classic. (Hear the album’s 28-minute title track here.)

And though it isn’t included in the official chart-topping soundtrack album, Spiegel’s 1972 composition “Sediment,” just above, appears in the first Hunger Games score, a “left-field” development that Spiegel views very positively. “There are quite a few films and TV shows lately that have strong female protagonists who aren’t just co-stars to a male hero,” she told Wired, “We have yet to get to the point where we see a lot of female composers appearing in soundtrack credits, but maybe that will change.”

Perhaps it already is, very, very slowly. The work of French composer and onetime Spiegel collaborator Éliane Radigue was among the two dozen electronic, orchestral, and avant-garde pieces on the soundtrack for Alejandro Innaritu’s The Revenant, for example. Radigue began her career studying musique concrete with experimental pioneers Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry in the 50s. She began making synth-based music in 1970 on a Buchla synthesizer while she shared a studio with Spiegel. “In the beginning,” says Radigue above in a documentary about her life and career, “there was a certain music that I wished to make. It was this particular music and no other.” That music—slow, droning, immersive—became religious in nature when she converted to Tibetan Buddhism.

Radigue’s Buddhist-inspired piece “Jetsun Mila” (Hear Part One above, Part Two here)—excerpted in The Revenant—is “deeply meditative,” writes Other Music’s Michael Klausman, in its “exploration of inaudible subharmonics and overtones,” which have a “way of physically changing the landscape of the room her music inhabits.”

Radigue is a fanatically patient composer, “an important, intriguing figure within the European musical avant-garde,” as Electronic Beats describes her in a 2012 interview; her “work is defined by its painstaking creation and singular methodology.” From 1970 to 2004, when she transitioned to writing acoustic music, Radigue’s work was “created exclusively on the unwieldy but brilliant ARP 2500 modular synth,” a machine inspired by Wendy Carlos’ use of Moog’s synthesizers on her Switched on Bach album.

The three women profiled above represent a small sampling of too-often-overlooked electronic composers, musicians, engineers, and theorists whose work deserves wider appreciation, not because it’s made by women, but because it’s innovative, technically brilliant, and beautiful music made by people who happen to be women.

And yet, it’s likely the case that the work of Oram, Spiegel, and Radigue flies so far under the radar because so many histories of electronic music focus almost exclusively on men. One salient example is the exclusion of Pauline Oliveros from many of those histories. “A constant presence” at the upcoming Deep Minimalism festival, Oliveros was “at the vanguard of electronics, working with tape machines,” writes Tom Service, and she “collaborated with Terry Riley… and Morton Subtonick,” as well as Steve Reich, all very well-known experimental composers.

She also happened to be a “friend, colleague, and performer of John Cage and his music.” Oliveros’ philosophy of “Deep Listening” had a profound influence on Cage and many others, but her name rarely comes up in discussions of experimental, improvisatory minimalist music. (Cultural theorist Tracy McMullen has her own theory about Oliveros’ obscurity relative to Cage.) You can see Oliveros describe her philosophy in the TED talk further up, listen to her early, 1965 composition “Mnemonics III” just above, and learn much more about her fascinating life and work in Service’s Guardian profile.

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

When Charlie Chaplin Entered a Chaplin Look-Alike Contest and Came in 20th Place

chaplin contest

Charlie Chaplin started appearing in his first films in 1914—40 films, to be precise—and, by 1915, the United States had a major case of “Chaplinitis.” Chaplin mustaches were suddenly popping up everywhere–as were Chaplin imitators and Chaplin look-alike contests. A young Bob Hope apparently won one such contest in Cleveland. Chaplin Fever continued burning hot through 1921, the year when the Chaplin look-alike contest, shown above, was held outside the Liberty Theatre in Bellingham, Washington.

According to legend, somewhere between 1915 and 1921, Chaplin decided to enter a Chaplin look-alike contest, and lost, badly. A short article called “How Charlie Chaplin Failed,” appearing in The Straits Times of Singapore in August of 1920, read like this:

Lord Desborough, presiding at a dinner of the Anglo-Saxon club told a story which will have an enduring life. It comes from Miss Mary Pickford who told it to Lady Desborough, “Charlie Chaplin was one day at a fair in the United States, where a principal attraction was a competition as to who could best imitate the Charlie Chaplin walk. The real Charlie Chaplin thought there might be a chance for him so he entered for the performance, minus his celebrated moustache and his boots. He was a frightful failure and came in twentieth.

A variation on the same story appeared in a New Zealand newspaper, the Poverty Bay Herald, again in 1920. As did another story in the Australian newspaper, the Albany Advertiser, in March, 1921.

A competition in Charlie Chaplin impersonations was held in California recently. There was something like 40 competitors, and Charlie Chaplin, as a joke, entered the contest under an assumed name. He impersonated his well known film self. But he did not win; he was 27th in the competition.

Did Chaplin come in 20th place? 27th place? Did he enter a contest at all? It’s fun to imagine that he did. But, a century later, many consider the story the stuff of urban legend. When one researcher asked the Association Chaplin to weigh in, they apparently had this to say: “This anecdote told by Lord Desborough, whoever he may have been, was quite widely reported in the British press at the time. There are no other references to such a competition in any other press clipping albums that I have seen so I can only assume that this is the source of that rumour, urban myth, whatever it is. However, it may be true.”

I’d like to believe it is.

via France Culture/Stack Exchange

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Andrei Tarkovsky Answers the Essential Questions: What is Art & the Meaning of Life?

“An artist never works under ideal conditions,” says Andrei Tarkovsky, who, even under his own set of less-than-ideal conditions, managed to make movies like Solaris, The Mirror, and Stalker. (Watch them free online here.) “If they existed, his work wouldn’t exist, for the artist doesn’t live in a vacuum. Some sort of pressure must exist. The artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn’t look for harmony but simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world.”

Tarkovsky calls that the central issue of Andrei Rublev, his earlier historical drama about the titular 15th-century icon painter, footage of which we see in the clip at the top. It comes extracted from the documentary A Poet in Cinema, essential viewing for those seeking to understand the mind behind all these singular cinematic visions. Tarkovsky used film in an art form in a way that no other director did before or has quite done since, which will raise a certain curiosity in any of his viewers: how, then, did he conceive of art itself?

Just before the beginning of the clip above, a disembodied voice put the question to him directly: “Andrei, what is art?” Tarkovsky, looking even more pensive than usual, declares that “before defining art — or any concept — we must answer a far broader question: what is the meaning of Man’s life on Earth?” An ambitious topic, certainly, but he, in his own way, embodied the very concept of the ambitious filmmaker. “Maybe we are here to enhance ourselves spiritually. If our life tends to this spiritual enrichment, then art is a means to get there. Art should help man in this process.”

Rejecting the idea “that art helps man to know the world like any other intellectual activity,” Tarkovsky made films from his lack of belief in the “possibility of knowing. Knowledge distracts us from our main purpose in life. The more we know, the less we know. Getting deeper, our horizon becomes narrower. Art enriches man’s own spiritual capabilities, and he can then rise above himself, to use what we call ‘free will.'” Those who subscribe to these views of the world and of art will find that his work still serves this purpose. Even many of those who don’t accept Tarkovsky’s austere philosophical premises have to admit that, if a perfect world doesn’t contain his movies, we’d probably rather not live in it.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. 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.

An Animated Introduction to the Life & Literary Works of Charles Dickens

The social role of the writer changes from generation to generation, but at no time in the history of literary culture have novelists and poets faced more competition for the attention of their readers than they do today. Before visual media took over as the primary means of storytelling, however, many writers enjoyed the measure of fame now given to film and pop music stars. Or at least they did in the age of Charles Dickens, whose tireless self-promotion and populist sentiments endeared him to the public and made him one of the most famous men of his day.

Dickens was “a great showman” says Alain de Botton above in his School of Life introduction to the author of Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, and too many more great books to name. (Find them in our collections of Free eBooks and Free Audio Books.) He was a natural celebrity before radio and television and, to the dismay of his more high-minded colleagues, “entertainment was at the heart of what Dickens was up to.”

But Dickens used his public platform not only to advance his career, but also to “get us interested in some pretty serious things: the evils of an industrializing society, the working conditions in factories, child labor, vicious social snobbery, the maddening inefficiencies of government bureaucracy.” Then and now, these are hardly subjects readers want to be reminded of. And yet, then as now, great storytellers can make us care despite our apathy and desire for escapist pleasure. And few writers have made readers care more than Dickens.

His “genius was to discover that the big ambitions to educate a society about its failings didn’t have to be opposed to what his critics called ‘fun’—racy plots, a chatty style, clownish characters, weepy moments, and happy endings.” Yet Dickens didn’t only seek to educate, de Botton argues; he “believed that writing could play a big role in fixing the problems of the world.” In this he was not entirely wrong, despite the anti-political sentiments of so many aesthetes who have argued otherwise, from Oscar Wilde to W.H. Auden.

Though he opposed many working class movements and had no “coherent doctrine” of social change, says Hugh Cunningham, professor of social history at the University of Kent, Dickens “helped create a climate of opinion” by emotionally moving people to sympathize with the poor and to take action in controversies already raging in the zeitgeist. In this role, Dickens preceded dozens of writers who—like himself—began their careers in journalism and sought through fiction to motivate complacent readers: naturalist novelists like Emile Zola, Stephen Crane, and Theodore Dreiser, and muckraking realists like Upton Sinclair all owe something to Dickens’ mode of social protest through novel-writing.

De Botton goes on in his introduction to explain some of the biographical origins of Dickens’ sympathy for the afflicted, including his own time spent as a child laborer and his father’s confinement in debtor’s prison. The conditions Dickens and his characters endured are unimaginable to most privileged readers, but not to millions of people in poverty around the world who still live under the kind of squalid oppression the Victorian poor suffered. Whether any author in the 21st century can bring the same kind of sympathetic attention to their lives that Dickens did in his time is debatable, but De Botton uses Dickens’ example to argue that art and entertainment can “seduce” us into compassion and taking action for others.

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

James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake Gets Turned into an Interactive Web Film, the Medium It Was Destined For

Two radical modernists, James Joyce and Sergei Eisenstein, once met in Paris in 1929 and, “depending on who you read,” writes Dan McGinn, “are purported to have discussed a film version of ‘Ulysses’ and how Karl Marx’s ‘Das Kapital’ could be depicted onscreen.” For many years, an adaptation of Marx’s dense political-economic critique seemed about as plausible as a film version of Joyce’s famously dense novel, which takes place on a single day, June 16th—forever after known as Bloomsday.

A great admirer of Joyce’s cinematic imagination, Eisenstein once remarked that “formally Joyce went as far as literature could go.” Given the conventionally narrative, realist route film eventually traveled, Ulysses, with its recursive digressions and hyperallusive interiority, seemed unfilmable until Joseph Strick’s admirable effort in 1967.

Just as Eisenstein admired Joyce’s literary experimentation, Joyce was a lover of Eisenstein’s experiments in film. He founded Ireland’s first movie house, the Volta, in 1909, and though the venture flopped a year later, Joyce’s investment in the aesthetics of film survived. Colm McAuliffe observes that Ulysses “deployed a whole range of techniques such as montage and rapid scene dissolves which are more commonly associated with the cinema.” Eisenstein “raved about the way Joyce had adopted a scientific approach to the story of a day in the life of one man,” writes McGinn, “putting almost every aspect of that day under the microscope.” After Joyce, Eisenstein said, “the next leap is to film.”

But if Ulysses went as far as the novel could go, Finnegans Wake exploded the form altogether, dissolving the boundaries between prose and poetry, subject and object, history and myth. Ulysses employed the techniques of film; Finnegans Wake imagined technology which did not even exist. It is a novel—if we are to call it such—written for the 21st century, and perhaps the only way it can be adapted in other media is through the internet’s nonlinear, labyrinthine structures; the online project First We Feel Then We Fall does just that, creating a multimedia adaptation of Finnegans Wake that “transfers” the novel “to audiovisual language,” and demonstrates the novel as—in the words of The Guardian’s Billy Mills—“the book the web was invented for.”

Conceived and executed by Polish artist Jakub Wróblewski and scholar Katarzyna Bazarnik, the project’s “main goal,” its press release announces, “is to show complexity of narration, language and meanings included in this masterpiece. Based on an interdisciplinary analysis, the work translates the text into the cinematic form.” As you can see in the short clips here, it’s a form much like we might imagine Eisenstein adopting to film Finnegans Wake, had Eisenstein had access to web technology. Central to the project is “an interactive video app… designed in order to enhance an experience of Joycean stream of consciousness.”

Selected passages and within them specific words, phrases or sentences serve as the basis for video sequences. Shots illustrating a passage are divided into four separate channels. The viewers have the opportunity to choose in real time which channel they would like to watch…. This system is supposed to reflect the tenets of Joyce’s fiction: that the book can be read in different ways, while the readers can solve its verbal puzzles, yield to the melodious rhythm or look for hidden meanings.

The project’s creators base their adaptation on the novel’s conceptual principles: “Based on a cyclical vision of history, the book is a textual merry-go-round, too: it begins mid sentence and ends with another one broken in the middle, which finds it continuation on the first page: the same anew.” And although they don’t say so explicitly, they also employ Eisenstein’s theoretical principles of montage: “Primo: photo-fragments of nature are recorded; secundo: these fragments are combined in various ways.”

In addition to a jumble of abstract images, the project’s short videos—as you can see in these excerpts—incorporate a wide range of voices, accents, and musical and sonic accompaniment. The only way to experience the full effect of First We Feel Then We Fall is to visit the site’s player and spend some time cycling through its dizzying collection of images and voices reading from the text, using the up and down arrows on your keyboard to move from video to video. As a key to understanding Joyce’s work and their own adaptation, the project’s artists chose the Joycean words “Meandertale” and “Meanderthalltale,”—“two of innumerable puns making up the textual labyrinth of Finnegans Wake,” neologisms that nudge us to read the book “as a ‘tall tale” wandering waywardly, looping backward and flashing forward, into the pre-historic past, and the origins of the human species.”

If Ulysses seemed unfilmable, Finnegans Wake truly is—at least in the conventional narrative language film has settled into since Eisenstein’s time. But in using the abstract vocabulary of avant-garde film and the post-modern technology of the internet, First We Feel Then We Fall has created an adaptation that seems worthy of the book’s innovations, and that authentically translates its vertiginously playful poetic strangeness to the screen. Enter First We Feel Then We Fall here.

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

R Crumb, the Father of Underground Comix, Takes Down Donald Trump in a NSFW 1989 Cartoon

Trump Crumb

Nature’s way is to take away from those that have too much and give to those that have too little. Man’s way, on the contrary, is to take away from those who have too little to give more to those who already have too much. 

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, circa 500 BC

Two and a half thousand years later, the ancient sage’s quote continues to resonate, especially in this election year.

Lest we get too gloomy, there is another quote I would like to submit:

And isn’t this a nutty kinda country where you can draw any irreverent, degrading thing about the most powerful people and nobody cares! You don’t get jailed. You don’t get persecuted. They just ice you out of the marketplace. 

R Crumb, Hup, 1989

Crumb is to underground comix as Lao Tzu was to Taoism, but the fame Crumb achieved in the late 60s and early 70s did not protect him from the 80s, “an awful decade” as he told the Observer. His astonishing creative output never flagged, but he hated the culture and struggled to make ends meet:

…it all gradually fell apart through the 70s, and by the 80s with the rise of the yuppies, Reagan’s election and the real estate boom. In California it was always about real estate ever since the Gold Rush, but the 80’s saw a new explosion of it. They went crazy. Everybody was getting their real estate license. They kept on building these hideous housing developments where we lived. It used to be farmland there when we first arrived, then everything became a fight. Dow Chemical tried to come there, we fought that. Then the Super Collider, we fought that. It was this constant battle against these forces of development and business. 

In 1991, he fled America for a small village in Southern France, a prescient move, given “Point the Finger,” a comic published two years earlier in his short-lived Hup series. The semi-fictional five-pager pits Crumb himself against real estate developer Donald Trump, billed as “one of the more visible big time predators who feed on society,” as well as “one of the most evil men alive.”

The then-42-year-old Trump is quick to take Crumb’s bait, piling on some insults of his own. He may not be familiar with the cartoonist’s work, but he knows how to mount an attack, with labels like “crass,” “venal,” “some kind of self-styled terrorist,” “the picture of negativity,” and “filled with hate.” Had Crumb set this smack down on a beach, Trump would be the bully kicking sand in the scrawny nerd’s face, as a couple of hot babes look on, admiringly.

In fact, the comic comes very close to ending on such a note. Two of Crumb’s characteristically powerfully-thighed females are on hand, ostensibly as members of his camp. Their heads are quickly turned, however, by an invitation to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s lavish Palm Beach estate. The Donald starts looking pretty good to Tracy and Marny, bedazzled by the promise of banquets, manicures, world-class entertainment, and a hedonistic after-hours romp with Trump and his then-wife Ivana.

The cartoonist, defeated, compares the tycoon to Trimalchio, the vulgar but loaded host of Petronius’ Satyricon, before preparing to take things out with the Lao Tzu quote at the top of this post.

It’s here that things take a turn for the meta, as Stan “the Man” Shnooter, the self-assured fictional producer of Hup, rallies Crumb to assert authorial control.

Crumb rewinds to a pivotal moment. In this redo, Tracy and Marny remain steadfast. The bully is frogmarched to the toilet to be given a taste of his own medicine. The saga draws to a close with the sort of acrobatic, questionably consensual, NSFW sex that has rained feminist ire on Crumb for years, as the unlikely conquerer savors victory in his preferred style.

Is it fantasy? Reality? All just a dream?

(Any way you slice it, I’m pretty sure Tracy and Marny aren’t the winners…)

You can check out Crumb’s 1989 Trump comic in its extremely NSFW entirety here or buy Hup, Issue 3 to read it the old fashioned way. Some of the tamer panels can be sampled here.

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

Take UC Berkeley’s Free “Edible Education 101” Lecture Course, Featuring a Pantheon of Sustainable Food Superstars

edible education

Dinner at Berkeley’s famed Chez Panisse shows up on a lot of foodie’s bucket lists. Its founder, Alice Waters, has been promoting the importance of eating organically and locally for nearly half a century.

With the Edible Schoolyard Project, she found a way to share these beliefs in true hands-on fashion, by involving thousands of children and teens in kitchens and gardens across the country.

We will all benefit from this revolution, though I can’t help but envy the kids at its epicenter. Back when Waters was pioneering California cuisine, I was suffering under my school lunchroom’s mandatory “courtesy bite” policy. The remembered aroma of Salisbury steak and instant mashed potatoes still activates my gag reflex.

The University of California’s Edible Education 101 course has been continuing the Edible Schoolyard’s work at the collegiate level since 2011. It’s a glorious antidote to the culinary traumas experienced by earlier generations. UC Berkeley students can take Edible Education 101 for credit. The public is welcome to sit in on lectures featuring a pantheon of sustainable food superstars, including Waters, author Michael Pollan of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, above, and course leader Mark Bittman (you know him from The New York Times and his new startup The Purple Carrot).

Fortunately for those of us whose bucket list splurge at Chez Panisse requires such additional expenses as plane tickets and hotel rooms, many of the lectures are also viewable online.

The range of topics make clear that edible education is not simply a matter of learning to choose a locally grown portobello over a Big Mac.  Transportation, technology, marketing, and pubic policy all factor into the goal of making healthy, equitably farmed food available to all at an a non-Chez Panisse price.

A complete playlist of 2015’s Edible Education 101 lectures is here, or stream them right above. A list of 2016’s topics and guest lecturers is here. The Edible Education lectures will be added to our collection, 1200 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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

1,000 Vintage Postcards Show Famous Actors Performing Shakespeare’s Plays from 1880 to 1914


We’ll never fully know how anything looked in Shakespeare’s time, much less how the Bard’s own plays did when first performed on the stage of the Globe Theatre. Thorough scholarship of history in general and Shakespeare in particular has enabled us to imagine and reconstruct such a sight with reasonable credibility, but only so much direct accuracy, since the development of photography wouldn’t happen for a couple hundred years. But not long after humanity got its photographers did those photographers begin taking pictures of humanity’s best-known dramas, and a set of particularly vivid examples survives on Emory University’s relaunched web site Shakespeare and the Players.


The site describes itself as “an online exhibition of nearly 1,000 postcards featuring many famous English and American actors who performed Shakespeare’s plays for late Victorian and Edwardian audiences,” specificially from around 1880 to 1914. It “showcases postcards featuring the dominating actors of the time in roles from some of the more popular and oft-performed plays, like Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet, as well as those from plays not often performed, like Cymbeline and The Merry Wives of Windsor.”


Slate‘s Rebecca Onion refers to scholar Lawrence W. Levine, who writes of how, in the 19th century, “many Americans, even if illiterate, knew and loved Shakespeare’s plays; they were the source material for endless parodies, skits, and songs on the American stage. Nor was Shakespeare fandom confined to the elite; in the first half of the 19th century, theater ‘played the role that movies played in the first half of the twentieth … a kaleidoscopic, democratic institution presenting a widely varying bill of fare to all classes and socioeconomic groups.'”


Shakespeare and the Players first went live back in the 1990s, a project of English professor Harry Rusche, who has written an informative preface for the site in its recently redesigned form (with its images completely re-digitized). “Postcards on Shakespeare appeared in a dizzying array of contexts,” he explains, “some humorous and some serious; these cards of actors were only a small part of Shakespeare and of the card-industry as a whole.” A “mania for collecting” swept up their contemporary buyers, not to mention an appreciation for the stars of the day: “handsome men and beautiful women are always popular in any medium.”


But plenty of them actually used these postcards for their intended purpose, about which you can learn more on the site’s postcard backs section. It notes that “the philosopher Jacques Derrida, in The Postcard, encourages us to read the two conflicting, yet resonating scenes — in our case, the Shakespeare image and the handwriting on the back — two sides of the postcards together,” an experience that may “be especially interesting to those of us born in the age of email, video conferences, Twitter, and text messaging,” those who will now wonder when a set of Shakespeare emoji will come along, providing us a means of continuing to incorporate these eternal characters into our correspondence today.

via Slate

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. 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.