Watch Adam Savage Build Barbarella’s Space Rifle in One Day

In a new video by Tested, Adam Savage (model maker, industrial designer and television personality) shows you how to build a replica of the space rifle from the 1968 sci-fi film Barbarella. To design the replica, Savage had only one document to work with — a photograph showing Jane Fonda holding the gun, which originally appeared on the cover of a 1968 issue of LIFE Magazine. The 77-minute video above takes you inside Savage’s build process, moving from start to finish. If DIY is your thing, you won’t want to miss it.

via Digg

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Lennon or McCartney? 550 Artists Answer the Essential, Timeless Question

Lennon & McCartney — the two musicians came together and composed the most important songbook of the last 50 years. Early on, John and Paul wrote many of their songs together — songs like “She Loves You” and “Eight Days a Week.” Later, as they describe it here, the dynamic changed: one would write the bulk of a song; the other would give it a listen and work out the kinks, adding the right melody, or removing a particularly corny verse. Although the two shared writing credits for all Beatles songs, Lennon principally wrote “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” and “Come Together.” McCartney gave us “Eleanor Rigby,” “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be,” and “Penny Lane.” Depending on which you like, you might put yourself in the Lennon or the McCartney camp.

Along the way, we’ve all been asked to take a side, and that applies to musicians too. Above, you can find a 34 minute compilation where musicians and artists — from Lady GaGa to David Byrne — make their pick. And below, in the comments, you’re invited to tell us where you fall — with John or Paul, and why?

Or who is going to offer up George, who, for my money, released the best of the Beatles’ solo albums?

via Metafilter

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Patti Smith’s Musical Tributes to the Russian Greats: Tarkovsky, Gogol & Bulgakov

In 2010, Patti Smith won a National Book Award for her memoir Just Kids, making her, by my count, the only Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member to land that prize. Of course, she’s also the only person I can think of who has appeared in both a movie by Jean-Luc Godard (Film Socialisme) and an episode of Law and Order. And she’s definitely the only rocker out there who has a personal invite from the Pope to play at the Vatican.

Back in the mid-‘70s, Smith fused the noise and urgency of punk rock with spoken word poetry and created something unlike anything before or since. She performed with such intensity on stage that she looked like a modern day shaman in the midst of an ecstatic revelry. Yet she had a literary sensibility that made her stand apart from most of her fellow proto-punks at CBGBs. (The Ramones are awesome but no one is going to parse the lyrics of “Beat on the Brat with a Baseball Bat.”) The B-side track of Smith’s first single, “Piss Factory,” describes the unrelenting tedium she experienced working at a factory before she swiped a copy of Illuminations by French poet Arthur Rimbaud.

While making Film Socialisme with Godard, she conceived of her latest album, Banga, released in 2012. When she started writing songs, she was, as she said in an interview, very interested in Russian culture.

I like my travels to be akin with my studies, and so when I started being smitten with Bulgakov and started reading a lot of Russian literature and then watching a lot of Tarkovsky, being very immersed in Russian culture, I got some jobs in Russia. … But I’ve always done that. We have very idiosyncratic tours – I always make sure that the band does well financially, but a lot of our tours are based on things that I’m studying, and I’ll make choices as to where we go so that I can see something special.

The title track of the work, Banga, is taken from a minor character in Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita – Pontus Pilate’s extremely loyal dog who waited centuries for his master to come to heaven. Fun fact: Johnny Depp played drums on this track.

According to the liner notes, the album’s first single, “April Fool” was inspired by novelist Nikolai Gogol. As John Freeman notes in the Moscow Times, a number of lines from the song evoke the writer.

We’ll race through alleyways in tattered coats” is a fairly clear reference to Gogol’s short story “The Overcoat,” while “we’ll burn all of our poems” begs to be considered a nod to the fact that Gogol famously burned the second volume of his great novel “Dead Souls.” That work, one of Russia’s funniest and darkest, is conjured in the lines, “We’ll tramp through the mire when our souls feel dead. With laughter we’ll inspire them back to life again.

And the track “Tarkovsky (The Second Stop Is Jupiter)”, not surprisingly, evokes images from the films of cinematic auteur Andrei Tarkovsky – specifically, his metaphysical sci-fi epic Solaris along with Ivan’s Childhood. Hear the track at the top of this post, and watch Tarkovsky’s films online here.

In case you thought that the album was just about Russians, her song “This is the Girl” is about the life and death of Amy Winehouse, “Fuji-San” is a tribute to the massive 2011 Tohoku earthquake, and “Nine” is a birthday present to Johnny Depp.

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Patti Smith Documentary Dream of Life Beautifully Captures the Author’s Life and Long Career (2008)

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.

Johnny Cash’s Christmas Specials, Featuring June Carter, Steve Martin, Andy Kaufman & More (1976-79)

Johnny Cash, outlaw country singer and defiant man in black, comes carefully packaged for many people through the merchandising of his life and image. From t-shirts to posters, documentaries to award-winning biopics, we know about his ornery prison concerts, drug use and arrests, noble championing of the disenfranchised, and dramatic story of pain and redemption. We marveled at the mystique around the aged Cash in his late-life revival. But many of us know little about another side of the man—Johnny Cash, genial TV personality.

If you happened to have been glued to the tube during the seventies and eighties, however, you would know this Johnny Cash well from his cameo appearances on Columbo and Little House on the Prairie. You’d have seen him shilling for Amoco during the gas crisis of the early 70s—a gig he took on during a serious career slump. You’d have maybe caught his recurring role on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, his turn on 1985 mini-series North and South (as John Brown, naturally), as well as a number of film appearances. And that’s not to mention Cash’s own, short-lived variety show, which ran from 1969-71.

If this rather commercial, mainstream Cash seems at odds with the legend, wait till you see The Johnny Cash & Family Christmas Show, which ran each year from 1976-79. Here, writes Dangerous Minds, “Cash gamely refashioned himself as a family-friendly country music TV host” in the vein of Porter Wagoner. It is decidedly “far from the middle-finger Johnny Cash or Folsom Prison Blues”—closer instead to Hee Haw’s Buck Owens and Roy Clark (who appears in the first special at the top). After his marriage to June Carter in 1968, many of his ventures featured the two as a singing duo. Here, they aren’t just man and wife, but “family,” meaning “many of June and Johnny’s wide-ranging clan of relatives are featured.

We’re also treated to appearances from Tony Orlando and Cash’s spiritual mentor Billy Graham (’76), Jerry Lee Lewis (’77), Kris Kristoferson and Steve Martin (’78), and even Andy Kaufman, in character as Taxi’s Latka Gravas (’79). Yes, these may be country corny as all get-out, but they’re also really fun. We get charming, informal goof-offs with June and Johnny, lots of Vegas style comedy bits and lounge routines, and, of course, some stellar musical performances. After his dramatic late-sixties conversion, Cash remained staunchly evangelical to the end of his days. (Hear him read The New Testament here.) But rather than rail at secularists in his Christmas specials, he treats the holiday as a laid-back occasion for food (“snake ‘n’ potatoes”), laughs, friends and family, and all-star sing alongs by the fire. Hop on over to Dangerous Minds to see all four specials.

via Dangerous Minds

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

Hear Neil Gaiman Read A Christmas Carol Just as Dickens Read It

gaiman dickens

Image by New York Public Library

Last Christmas, we featured Charles Dickens’ hand-edited copy of his beloved 1843 novella A Christmas Carol. He did that hand editing for the purposes of giving public readings, a practice that, in his time, “was considered a desecration of one’s art and a lowering of one’s dignity.” That time, however, has gone, and many of the most prestigious writers alive today take the reading aloud of their own work to the level of art, or at least high entertainment, that Dickens must have suspected one could. Some writers even do a bang-up job of reading other writers’ work: modern master storyteller Neil Gaiman gave us a dose of that on Monday when we featured his recitation of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” from memory. Today, however, comes the full meal: Gaiman’s telling of A Christmas Carol straight from that very Dickens-edited reading copy.

Gaiman read to a full house at the New York Public Library, an institution known for its stimulating events, holiday-themed or otherwise. But he didn’t have to hold up the afternoon himself; taking the stage before him, BBC researcher and The Secret Museum author Molly Oldfield talked about her two years spent seeking out fascinating cultural artifacts the world over, including but not limited to the NYPL’s own collection of things Dickensian. You can hear both Oldfield and Gaiman in the recording above. But perhaps the greatest gift of all came in the form of the latter’s attire for his reading: not only did he go fully Victorian, he even went to the length of replicating the 19th-century literary superstar’s own severe hair part and long goatee. And School Library Journal has pictures.

The story really gets started around the 11:25 mark. Gaiman’s reading will be added to our list of Free Audio Books. You can find the text of Dickens’ classic in our collection, 700 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.

via Den of Geek/BrainPickings

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

David Lynch’s Music Videos: Nine Inch Nails, Moby, Chris Isaak & More

David Lynch gets sound like few other directors. There’s an unforgettable scene in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me where Laura Palmer leads her best friend Donna Hayward into what looks like a den of iniquity for lumberjacks. It’s filled with burly men and cheap women grinding to music blaring from the speakers. Lynch lets the music roll right over top the dialogue. It was a shocking choice back in 1992 but it was the right one. The banter was intentionally banal and obscure. The grotesque faces, the ominous crimson lighting and, most of all, that utterly hypnotic music are all you need to tell the story, creating a mood of dread and decadence. The scene is a stunning fusion of image, sound and editing in an otherwise flawed work.

Since that movie, Lynch became more and more interested in the possibilities of sound design. He eventually ditched film altogether for a career in music. So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, along with creating at least three cinematic masterpieces, one of the most influential TV series ever made, and a string of television commercials, Lynch has also made a handful of music videos. You can watch them above and below.

Lynch’s first music video was for “I Predict” by the band The Sparks. It was made back in 1982 when MTV was still in its infancy and Lynch’s career was just taking off. Perhaps for that reason, the video has little of the stylistic obsessions that mark his later work. No weird flashing lights. No smoke or fire. No hollow-eyed models. Instead Lynch goes for a more direct, if silly, form of surrealism – a guy (band member Ron Mael) with a Hitler mustache in drag doing a striptease. Does it feel Lynchian? No, not really. But it’s still kind of distressing.

There are two videos for Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Games.” One, which was on heavy rotation on MTV, was shot by Herb Ritts and featured Isaak and supermodel Helena Christensen rolling around half-naked in the Hawaiian surf. And then there is Lynch’s video made as a tie-in to his strange, Wizard of Oz obsessed noir Wild at Heart, which has much less nudity – which is odd considering the movie is pretty much non-stop boinking. Instead, the video is pretty straightforward – just Isaaks and the band playing the tune intercut with shots from the flick.

After Mulholland Drive, Lynch turned his back on celluloid film, preferring the endless possibilities of digital. His enthusiasm for this new technology resulted in a flurry of projects including Dumbland, a crudely animated series presented in stark black and white. The video of Moby’s “Shot in the Back of the Head” is a moodier animated work but it is definitely in the same vein. Check it out above.

Lynch’s video for Nine Inch Nail’s “Came Back Haunted” can quite literally mess with your head. The piece is packed with flashing red and white lights and as a result comes with the following warning: “This video has been identified by Epilepsy Action to potentially trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy. Viewer discretion is advised.” You have been warned.

And finally here’s a music video for Lynch’s own song called appropriately “Crazy Clown Time.” Not only is the video a catalogue Lynch’s obsessions – Americana, naked women, fire – but it also features Lynch singing, who, after a bunch of effects, sounds like a castrated Keebler Elf.

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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.

Moviedrome: Filmmaker Alex Cox Provides Video Introductions to 100+ Classic Cult Films

If you happened to pass the 1990s in Britain as a certain sort of alternative and/or obscurantist cinephile, you know BBC2’s Moviedrome, which, albeit belonging to the proud old tradition of the television movie show, showed primarily cult films. But what makes for a cult film, anyway? A cult film “has a passionate following, but does not appeal to everyone.” Yet cult film status “does not automatically guarantee quality,” nor does the box office money a picture either made or failed to make. But we can categorize all cult films under certain genres, and often more than one, given their “tendency to slosh over from one genre into another, so that a science fiction film might also be a detective movie, or vice versa,” all sharing the common themes of “love, murder and greed.”

Those words come straight from Repo ManWalker, and Sid & Nancy director Alex Cox, a cult filmmaker of no small renown. He also hosted Moviedrome, providing much more than the standard movie-show framing of and introduction to the night’s feature. At the top of the post, we have his opening segment for Edward G. Ulmer’s cheap but astonishingly enduring 1945 film noir Detour, which you can chase with the film itself just above. You may also remember Carnival of Souls, which we featured in full as one of Time Out London‘s 1oo best horror films — well, Cox ably gave Moviedrome primer on that one as well, describing it as one of the most influential cult movies of its kind ever made.

But Cox talked about a lot more than filmmakers some might describe as schlocky and exploitative; he also talked about the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, who took schlock and exploitation to its highest point of cinematic artistry. Last year, we featured an examination of Hitchcock’s sleight-of-hand in the making of Rope, the suspense master’s supposedly cut-free tale of killing and deception. Just above, in Cox’s intro for the film, you can hear more about why this film made the cut, as it were, into Moviedrome‘s league of “cult and weirdo type movies.” You can learn about many more such disreputable-yet-reputable pictures through Cox’s many segments posted to Youtube, as well as in the full text of his Moviedrome Guide available on his “free stuff” page. The Moviedrome faithful might also consider having a look at this gallery of films from the show’s Alex Cox years, and the exegetic Tumblr blog Moviedromer.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Susan Sontag’s List of 10 Parenting Rules

Parenting is difficult. I don’t need to tell you this—those of you who face the challenge daily and hourly. Those of you who don’t have heard your friends—and your own parents—do enough complaining that you know, in theory at least, how raising humans is rough business all around. Paradoxically, there is no rulebook for parenting and there are hundreds of rulebooks for parenting, seemingly a new one published every day. In my admittedly limited experience as the parent of a young child, most such guides have diminishing returns next to the direct lessons learned in the fray, so to speak, through trial after trial and no small amount of error.

But we do benefit from the wisdom of others, especially those who record their experiments in child-rearing with the precision and thoughtfulness of Susan Sontag. In the list below, made by a 26-year-old Sontag in 1959, we see how the young mother of a then 7-year-old David Rieff approached the job. The son of Sontag and sociologist Philip Rieff (“pop,” below), whom Sontag married at 17 then divorced in 1958, David has written a memoir of Sontag’s painful final days. He also edited her journals and notebooks, which contained the following rules.

  1. Be consistent.
  2. Don’t speak about him to others (e.g. tell funny things) in his presence. (Don’t make him self-conscious.)
  3. Don’t praise him for something I wouldn’t always accept as good.
  4. Don’t reprimand him harshly for something he’s been allowed to do.
  5. Daily routine: eating, homework, bath, teeth, room, story, bed.
  6. Don’t allow him to monopolize me when I am with other people.
  7. Always speak well of his pop. (No faces, sighs, impatience, etc.)
  8. Do not discourage childish fantasies.
  9. Make him aware that there is a grown-up world that’s none of his business.
  10. Don’t assume that what I don’t like to do (bath, hairwash) he won’t like either.

While Rieff has described his relationship with Sontag as “strained and at times very difficult,” it seems to me that a parent who adhered to these rules would create the kind of supportive structure children need to thrive. The remainder of Sontag’s journal entries show us a deeply introspective, self-conscious writer, and yet, writes Emily Greenhouse at The New Yorker, her work as a whole offers “surprisingly little of her own direct experience” and she never undertook an autobiography. Yet, this short list of parenting rules gives us a great deal of insight into the perspicacity and compassion she brought to her role as a mother, qualities most of us could use a bit more of in our daily parenting struggles.

The list above appears in the new book Lists of Note, the follow up to Shaun Usher’s Letters of Note, both compilations of his extensive online archives of personal notes and correspondence from famous and interesting people. Download a preview of the book and purchase a hardcover copy, just in time for Christmas, at Waterstones.com (if you live in the UK).

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

Alfred Hitchcock Conducts a Politically Incorrect Sound Test on the Set of Blackmail (1929)

Above we have a young Alfred Hitchcock on the set of Blackmail (1929), conducting a rather naughty sound test with actress Anny Ondra (1929).

In case you don’t know the backstory, Blackmail was originally meant to be a silent film. However, with talkies becoming the rage, Hitchcock decided mid-stream to make the film a talkie. That decision didn’t come without its own problems. Anny Ondra, a Czech actress, spoke English with a heavy accent and couldn’t pass as a Londoner in the film. So Hitchcock performed some cinema magic and had English actress Joan Barry dub Ondra’s lines. In those days, dubbing couldn’t take place in post-production. It all had to happen in real-time. Thus, as the camera rolled, Barry stood outside the frame and spoke the dialogue into a microphone, while Ondra pantomimed the words. Throughout, Hitchcock directed Ondra while listening to Barry through a pair of headphones.

hitch with hair

You can watch Blackmail (Britain’s first talkie feature film) online here or find it in our collection of 23 Free Hitchcock Films Online.

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Animated Louis CK Shows Demonstrates How “Animation Lets You Do Anything”

Fatherhood is a fertile subject for comedian Louis C.K.

Kids do say the darnedest things, but Louis’ observations reveal the depth of his investment.

He lit out after standardized testing and the Common Core on Twitter.

He made a passionate case against giving kids smartphones to Conan O’Brien.

Is it any wonder that the “dumber, funnier” version of himself he created for his TV show is preoccupied and often thwarted by his responsibilities as the single dad of two young daughters?

(Real life may provide inspiration, but the writer and star displays appropriate boundaries when he says that his actual daughters are markedly different characters than their TV counterparts.)

But the knife of fatherhood cuts both ways. Louis’ troubled relationship with his own dad gets less attention than the father-daughter bond, but it’s there in his work. The prospect of spending time with his estranged father causes the fictional Louis to vomit at the dinner table in season three.

The animated approach seen above, gives Louis more control over the situation. Animation, like reading, makes possible flights of fancy wherein children—including grown ones like Louis—can do “absolutely anything.” Flying and using a rainbow as a slide are among the fantastical activities the 2-D Louis samples. Meanwhile, the quality of his narration conveys an underlying distaste for the sort of canned “imaginative” suggestions foisted on children by well-meaning educational programmers.

Left to their own devices, most kids will come up with scenarios and powers far weirder than anything peddled to them by an adult. Why “swim through the ocean like a fish” when you can anthropomorphize your elderly father as a malevolent spider, lodged in your chest, pooping out regular little “infestations of hate”?

Animation lets you go all the way, and C.K. certainly does, lopping off heads, and (SPOILER!) inadvertently Bonnie and Clyding himself from within.

Someone’s made a lot of progress since the 90’s, when he used his time on Dr. Katz’s animated couch to discuss K-Mart and Chips Ahoy.

For a less packaged, non-animated take on Louis’ dad, check out the interview he did with Howard Stern, below.

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


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