Beer Archaeology: Yes, It’s a Thing

Travis Rupp is a classics instructor at The University of Colorado. He’s also a “beer archaeologist” who works on a special projects team at the Avery Brewing Company (in Boulder) where they “brew beers the way that ancient Egyptians, Peruvians and Vikings did.” If you can understand the beer an ancient people drank, you can better understand their overall culture.  That’s assumption at the heart of beer archaeology.

Above, watch a three minute introduction to Rupp’s work. Below, find information on some of the world’s oldest beer recipes from Ancient Egypt and China.

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Rare Recordings of Burroughs, Bukowski, Ginsberg & More Now Available in a Digital Archive Created by the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)

Image via Christiaan Tonnis

Americans can be quite ignorant of the richness of our country’s cultural history. Part of this ignorance, I suspect, comes down to prejudice. Innovative American artists throughout history have come from groups often demonized and marginalized by the wider society. The dominance of corporate commerce also impoverishes the cultural landscape. Poetry and experimental art don’t sell much, so some people think they have little value.

Imagine if we were to invert these attitudes in public opinion: American poetry and art allow us to gain new perspectives from people and parts of the country we don’t know well; to enlarge and challenge our religious and political understanding; to experience a very different kind of economy, built on aesthetic invention and free intellectual enterprise rather than supply, demand, and profit. Creativity and finance are not, of course, mutually exclusive. But to consistently favor one at the expense of the other seems to me a great loss to everyone.

We find ourselves now in such a situation, as public universities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting face severe cuts or possible de-funding.

Such a political move would devastate many of the institutions that foster and preserve the country’s art and culture, and relegate the arts to the private sphere, where only sums of private money determine whose voices get heard. We can, however, be very appreciative of private institutions who make their collections public through open access libraries like the Internet Archive.

One such collection comes from the Digital Initiatives Unit of Decker Library at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), one of the oldest art colleges in the U.S., and one of the most highly regarded. They have digitally donated to “a number of rare and previously unreleased audio recordings,” they write in a press release, “spanning the 1960s through the late 1990s” and consisting of “over 700 audiocassette tapes” documenting “literature and poetry readings, fine art and design lectures, race and culture discussions” and college events.

These include (enter the archive here) a two hour poetry reading from Allen Ginsberg in 1978, at the top, with several other readings and talks from Ginsberg in the archive, the reading below it from Eileen Myles in 1992, and readings and talks above and below from Amiri Baraka, Anne Waldman, and William S. Burroughs. The collection represents a “strong focus on literature and poetry,” and features “a symposium on the Black Mountain poets.” Given the school’s mission, you’ll also find in the archive “a large selection of talks and lectures by visual artists, such as Elaine de Kooning, Alice Neel, Gordon Parks, Ad Rhinehart and Ben Shahn.”

Collections like this one from MICA and the Internet Archive allow anyone with internet access to experience in some part the breadth and range of American art and poetry, no matter their level of access to private institutions and sources of wealth. But the internet cannot fully replace or supplant the need for publicly funded arts initiatives in communities nationwide.

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

Alexis De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America: An Animated Introduction to the Most Insightful Study of American Democracy

We cannot rightly see ourselves without honest feedback. Those who surround themselves with sycophants and people just like them only hear what they want to hear, and never get an accurate sense of their capabilities and shortcomings. And so the best feedback often comes from people outside our in-groups. This can be as true of nations as it can be of individuals, provided our critics are charitable, even when unsparingly honest, and that they take a genuine interest in our well-being.

These qualities well describe one of the sharpest critics of the United States in the past two centuries. Alexis de Tocqueville, aristocratic French lawyer, historian, and political philosopher, who traveled to the fledgling country in 1831 to observe a nation then in the grip of a populist fever under Andrew Jackson, a president who became notorious for his expropriation of indigenous land, ruthless relocation policies, and embrace of Southern slavery. But the groups who flourished under Jackson’s rule did so with a tremendous enthusiasm that the French thinker admired but also viewed with a very skeptical eye.

De Tocqueville published his observations and analyses of the United States in a now-famous book, Democracy in America. Though we’ve come to take the idea of democracy for granted, for the young Frenchman, a child of Napoleonic Europe, it was “a highly exotic and new political option,” as Alain de Botton tells us in his animated video introduction above. De Tocqueville “presciently believed that democracy was going to be the future all over the world, and so he wanted to know, ‘what would that be like?’”

With a grant from the French government, De Tocqueville traveled the country (then less than half its current size) for nine months, getting to know its people and customs as best he could, and making a series of general observations that would form the vignettes and arguments in his book. He was “particularly alive to the problematic and darker sides of democracy.” De Botton discusses five critical insights from Democracy in America. See three of them below, with quotes from De Tocqueville himself.

1. Democracy Breeds Materialism.

For De Tocqueville one kind of materialism—the excessive pursuit of wealth—disposed the country to another, “a dangerous sickness of the human mind”—the denial of a spiritual or intellectual life. “While man takes pleasure in this honest and legitimate pursuit of well-being,” he wrote, “it is to be feared that in the end he may lose the use of his most sublime faculties, and that by wanting to improve everything around him, he may in the end degrade himself.”

De Tocqueville, says De Botton, observed that “money seemed to be quite simply the only achievement that Americans respected” and that “the only test of goodness for any item was how much money it happens to make.”

2. Democracy Breeds Envy & Shame

“When all the prerogatives of birth and fortune have been abolished,” wrote De Tocqueville, “when every profession is open to everyone, an ambitious man may think it is easy to launch himself on a great career and feel that he has been called to no common destiny. But this is a delusion which experience quickly corrects.” Unable to rise above his circumstances, and yet believing that he should be equal to his neighbors in achievements, such a person may blame himself and feel ashamed, or succumb to envy and ill will.

De Tocqueville was far too optimistic about the abolishment of “prerogatives of birth and fortune,” but many Americans might recognize themselves still in his general picture, in which “the sense of unlimited opportunity could initially encourage a surface cheerfulness.” And yet, De Botton notes, “as time passed and the majority failed to raise themselves, Tocqueville noted that their mood darkened, that bitterness took hold and choked their spirits, and that their hatred of themselves and their masters grew fierce.”

3. Tyranny of the Majority

De Tocqueville, De Botton says, thought that “democratic culture… often ends up demonizing any assertion of difference, and especially cultural superiority, even though such attitudes might be connected with real merit.” In such a state, “society has an aggressive leveling instinct.”

It wasn’t only attacks on high culture that De Tocqueville feared, but what he called the “Omnipotence of the Majority,” a phrase he used to denote the power of public opinion as an almost totalitarian means of social control. In volume two of his study, published in 1840, De Tocqueville devoted particular attention to “the power which that majority naturally exercises over the mind…. By whatever political laws men are governed in the ages of equality, it may be foreseen that faith in public opinion will become for them a species of religion, and the majority its ministering prophet.”

From this prediction, De Tocqueville foresaw “two tendencies; one leading the mind of every man to untried thoughts, the other prohibiting him from thinking at all.”

De Botton goes on to discuss two closely related critiques: democracy’s suspicion of all authority and its undermining of free thought. Rather than encountering the kind of marketplace of ideas the country prides itself on fostering, he found in few places “less independence of mind, and true freedom of discussion, than in America.” The criticism is harsh, and De Tocqueville did not flatter his hosts often, and yet for all of its “inherent drawbacks,” De Botton writes at the School of Life, the Frenchman “isn’t anti-democratic.”

His aim is “to get us to be realistic” about democratic society and its tendencies to inhibit rather than enlarge many freedoms. As Arthur Goldhammer observes at The Nation, De Tocqueville believed that “True freedom lay not in the pursuit of individualistic aims, but “in ‘slow and tranquil’ action in concert with others sharing some collective purpose.”

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

Slavoj Žižek Expounds on His Hatred of Teaching, Grading Papers, and Particularly Holding Office Hours

“Those who can, do,” so we often used to hear, “and those who can’t, teach.” Nowadays the situation seems to have transformed into something more like, “Those who can, do, at least in the occasional free moments when they don’t have to teach.” At first you just take a teaching gig on the side to supplement your real career, and before you know it teaching has usurped that real career almost entirely. We’ve all heard complaints from academic friends about the seemingly unbreakable cycle of lecturing, grading, and holding office hours, but how many have put it in terms as stark as Slavoj Žižek does in the interview above?

“I hate, I hate, I hate — okay, talks are okay, but I hate giving classes,” says the Slovenian philosopher-critic-showman at a 2014 University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning conference devoted to his work. “I’m proud to say, I did teach a couple of semesters here, and all the grading was pure bluff. I even openly told the students. I told them, I remember — at the New School, for example, in New York, ‘If you don’t give me any of your shitty papers, you’ll get an A. If you give me a paper, I may read it and not like it, you can get a lower grade.’ And it worked — I got no papers.” And so he solves the problem of grading.

But what of office hours? These he calls “the main reason I don’t want to teach,” because “students, they’re like other people; the majority are boring idiots, so I cannot imagine a worse experience than some idiot comes and starts to ask you questions.” In other countries one might find a way to endure it, but “the problem is, here in United States, students tend to be so open that if you’re kind to them, they even start to ask you personal questions, like private problems, could you help them, and so on. What should I tell them? ‘I don’t care. Kill yourself. Not my problem.'”

These teaching experiences led Žižek’s to one conclusion: “I like universities without students.” But not everyone cheers his pronouncement: “Whenever something like this pops up, I worry that some people will see it and say, ‘You see? That’s what I’ve been saying about those ivory tower types all along,'” writes one anonymous academic in response. “Žižek is an outlier, in terms of both his stature and his attitude. Most working academics can’t get away with being dismissive of students, and even if we could, almost all of us wouldn’t.”

Slate’s Rebecca Schuman argues that the “real problem with Žižek isn’t that he feels this way or that he says these things aloud. It’s that he does so and people think it’s hilarious. It’s that his view is, believe it or not, a common ‘superstar’ view of students — so common, in fact, that if you work at a research university and actually like teaching, you should maybe pretend you don’t, lest you appear not ‘serious’ enough about your research.” A semi-frequent critic of Žižek, most recently of his endorsement of Donald Trump (“after all, the two thrice-married, outspoken older gentlemen do have quite a bit in common, a fact that would surely horrify them both”), Schuman knows that the fault lies never so much with the provocateur himself as it does with our tendency to take his provocations at face value.

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

Bach’s Most Famous Organ Piece Played on Wine Glasses

Robert Tiso takes stemmed wine glasses and turns them into a magical musical instrument–or what he calls the “glass harp.” As his website explains, “each glass is tuned by adding a precise amount of water (watch a tutorial here), while the sound is produced by rubbing the fingertips around the rims, simulating the friction of a violin bow.” Above you can watch him play Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” (BWV 565), the free sheet music for which you can find here. And if you head over to Tiso’s YouTube channel, you can watch him tackle Ravel, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Pachelbel, and much more. Enjoy.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, and Flipboard 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. And if you want to make sure that our posts definitely appear in your Facebook newsfeed, just follow these simple steps.

via @WFMU

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Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda Creates a Playlist of Protest Music for Our Troubled Times

Photo by Steve Jurvetson, via Flickr Commons

In 1992 Ice-T’s metal band Body Count mastered the art of shock politics when the song “Cop Killer” put them “at the centre of a national outrage.” But their political ferocity may have seemed much diminished when, in 2015, they released a tongue-in-cheek update of Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized” in which Ice-T rails against his wife, bad tech support, and an interrupted ham sandwich while on the set of Law & Order.

The past year’s events have jolted Body Count back into fighting form. Their recent release “No Lives Matter” combines topical social critique with “Cop Killer”-style confrontation in a pummeling track reminiscent of another 90s rap-metal activist stalwart. Ice-T may have moved on from L.A. gang life to comfortable TV stardom, but few would deny him his street cred or his continued ability to size up the situation of the American underclass.

Another rapper-slash-actor (slash-poet-slash-composer) has entered the world of protest music from a decidedly different sphere. Now internationally famous for his musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work doesn’t speak truth to power as much as it makes power speak its truth. Hamilton, writes Mary Grace Garis at Bustle, “is a searing reminder that America is very much founded by immigrants facing persecution, and that our freedom, likewise, was fought for by immigrants.”

Their musical venues and political visions may span a wide Venn diagram, but like Body Count’s latest, Hamilton draws on both contemporary political rhetoric and music from the heyday of “conscious” hip-hop and alternative. Miranda has widely shared his influences in his HAMthology Playlist, and he remade several of the show’s songs with some of his idols on The Hamilton Mixtape. Continuing his curatorial role, and having “learned how to use the Spotify thingy on my day off,” Miranda now brings his fans the playlist above, which he calls “Rise Up Eyes Up Wise Up.”

The new mix begins with The Hamilton Mixtape’s “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)” and moves on to a thoroughly eclectic but SFW mix of Green Day, Talib Kweli, Regina Spektor, Bob Dylan, Ruben Blades, and many others. It’s downtempo protest music, overall—no Body Count or Rage Against the Machine. Even Green Day’s entry is a ballad, “Are We the Waiting” from American Idiot. But then again, Hamilton’s fans often tend toward the downtempo end of the spectrum. Let a thousand protest songs bloom, I say.

Miranda announced the playlist on a new Twitter account, where he’s received a couple hundred replies, including one from a fan who put the mix on Google Play. For those so inspired to revisit or hear for the first time Hamilton‘s reimagining of the American experiment, find the original cast recording below. If you need Spotify’s free software, download it here.

via Bustle

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

13 Rules for Radicals: Discover Saul Alinsky’s Tried-and-True Guidelines for Creating Meaningful Social Change

Saul David Alinsky died 36 years before the election of Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton’s first attempt for the presidency. But many feverish screeds on social media, talk radio, and YouTube might have made one think he lurked behind these politicians like Rasputin. Spoken of by many on the right as a servant of the devil, “American Joseph Goebbels,” and “dangerous harbinger of insurrection,” Alinsky developed a reputation for insidiousness that may exceed his influence, considerable though it may be.

But liberals and leftists have no special purchase on Alinsky’s legacy. As one thoughtful, eloquent pundit recently wrote, “the Right has taken Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and shoved it up where #TheResistance don’t shine.” Not long before this charming appropriation, Alinsky’s 1971 manual of political warfare found its way into the hands of some of the same Tea Party organizers who had made his name synonymous with everything they despised about the left. (See Alinsky court his Luciferian comparisons in the 1966 interview above.)

But Alinsky wrote Rules for Radicals for his demographic. From the 30s to the 70s, he organized poor, working people in Chicago and other cities and addressed countercultural and civil rights activists nationwide. The opening paragraph of the book makes it perfectly clear who his readers are:

What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.

Alinsky’s reference to Machiavelli sets readers up for a high degree of ruthlessness and realpolitik, and the book does not disappoint. If you’re looking for Anarchist Cookbook-level radicalism, you’d best look elsewhere. While Alinsky talked tough, in an honest Chicago way, he did not recommend violence in his manual. In the Prologue, he denounces “parts of the far left who have gone so far in the political circle that they are now all but indistinguishable from the extreme right.” In recent revolutionary violence, he writes, “we are dealing with people who are merely hiding psychosis behind a political mask.”

Rules for Radicals recommends mostly working within the system—though in the twisted way Machiavelli is reputed to have done (whether or not he’s been interpreted fairly). Below, you’ll find Alinsky’s list of 13 “Rules for Radicals,” offered with his proviso that political activism cannot be a self-serving enterprise: “People cannot be free unless they are willing to sacrifice some of their interests to guarantee the freedom of others. The price of democracy is the ongoing pursuit of the common good by all of the people.”

1. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood.
2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.
3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.
4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.
5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.
6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.
7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news.
8. “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.
9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.
10. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.” It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign.
11. “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.
12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem.
13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

Alinsky’s rules can and have been used for anti-democratic designs. But he defines the U.S. as a “society predicated on voluntarism.” His vision of democracy leans heavily on that of keen outside observer of early America, Alexis de Tocqueville, the French philosopher who “gravely warned,” writes Alinsky, “that unless individual citizens were regularly involved in the action of governing themselves, self-government would pass from the scene.”

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

Pixar & Khan Academy Offer a Free Online Course on Storytelling

It doesn’t take much to spark a good story.

A tall man, a short woman, a setting that’s sterile to the point of soulless, and a couple dozen bananas…

It practically writes itself!

If you’re slow to recognize the potential in these extremely potent elements (culled from the above video’s opening shot), this free online course on storytelling, part of Khan Academy’s popular Pixar In A Box series, might help strengthen those slack storytelling muscles.

The lessons will hold immense appeal for young Pixar fans, but adults students stand to gain too. Children are naturally confident storytellers. Unfortunately, time can do a number on both fluency and one’s belief in one’s own ability to string together narratives that others will enjoy.

The Pixar directors and story artists drafted to serve as instructors for this course are as deft at encouragement as they are at their craft. They’ll help you move that rubber tree plant… for free.

Each short, example-packed video lesson is followed with an activity in which the viewer is asked to parse his or her favorite stories.

One of the most compelling aspects of the series is hearing about the stories that matter deeply to the teachers.

Mark Andrews, who wrote and directed Brave, recalls his visceral response to the injustice of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’s Island of Misfit Toys.

Domee Shi who storyboarded Inside Out had to bail on The Lion King, she was so effected by Simba’s discovery of his dead father.

Ratatouille animator Sanjay Patel, whose observations consistently struck me as the most profound and out of the box, went with The Killing Fields, a title that’s probably not on the radar of those most squarely in Pixar’s demographic.

The first installment stresses the importance of providing a rich setting for well-developed characters to explore, though the teachers are divided on which should come first.

Director Pete Docter, whose daughter’s tweenage passage into the Reviving Ophelia-land inspired Inside Out, stresses “writing what you know” need not pin you to the narrow confines of your own backyard. He was well into production on Monsters, Inc. when he realized it wasn’t so much a tale of a monster whose job is scaring little kids as a story of his own journey to fatherhood.

As you may have guessed, examples from the Pixar canon abound.

Khan Academy will be taking the whole of 2017 to roll out Pixar in a Box’s five remaining Storytelling units

You can complete the first unit here, then revisit their previous course on making animations, while waiting for the rest of the curriculum to drop.

Find more free courses in our collection, 1200 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and theater maker, whose new play Zamboni Godot is opening in New York City in less than two weeks. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Buckminster Fuller’s Map of the World: The Innovation that Revolutionized Map Design (1943)

Last week we brought you news of a world map purportedly more accurate than any to date, designed by Japanese architect and artist Hajime Narukawa. The map, called the AuthaGraph, updates a centuries-old method of turning the globe into a flat surface by first converting it to a cylinder. Winner of Japan’s Good Design Grand Award, it serves as both a brilliant design solution and an update to our outmoded conceptions of world geography.

But as some readers have pointed out, the AuthaGraph also seems to draw quite heavily on an earlier map made by one of the most visionary of theorists and designers, Buckminster Fuller, who in 1943 applied his Dymaxion trademark to the map you see above, which will likely remind you of his most recognizable invention, the Geodesic Dome, “house of the future.”

Whether Narukawa has acknowledged Fuller as an inspiration I cannot say. In any case, 73 years before the AuthaGraph, the Dymaxion Map achieved a similar feat, with similar motivations. As the Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) points out, “The Fuller Projection Map is [or was] the only flat map of the entire surface of the Earth which reveals our planet as one island in the ocean, without any visually obvious distortion of the relative shapes and sizes of the land areas, and without splitting any continents.”

Fuller published his map in Life magazine, as a corrective, he said, “for the layman, engrossed in belated, war-taught lessons in geography…. The Dymaxion World map is a means by which he can see the whole world fairly at once.” Fuller, notes Kelsey Campell-Dollaghan at Gizmodo, “intended the Dymaxion World map to serve as a tool for communication and collaboration between nations.”

Fuller believed, writes BFI, that “given a way to visualize the whole planet with greater accuracy, we humans will be better equipped to address challenges as we face our common future aboard Spaceship Earth.” Was he naïve or ahead of his time?

We may have had a good laugh at a recent replica of Fuller’s nearly undriveable, “scary as hell,” 1930 Dymaxion Car, one of his first inventions. Many of Fuller’s contemporaries also found his work bizarre and impractical. Elizabeth Kolbert at The New Yorker sums up the reception he often received for his “schemes,” which “had the hallucinatory quality associated with science fiction (or mental hospitals).” The commentary seems unfair.

Fuller’s influence on architecture, design, and systems theory has been broad and deep, though many of his designs only resonated long after their debut. He thought of himself as an “anticipatory design scientist,” rather than an inventor, and remarked, “if you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.” In this sense, we must agree that the Dymaxion map was an unqualified success as an inspiration for innovative map design.

In addition to its possibly indirect influence on the AuthaGraph, Fuller’s map has many prominent imitators and sparked “a revolution in mapping,” writes Campbell-Dollaghan. She points us to, among others, the Cryosphere, further up, a Fuller map “arranged based on ice, snow, glaciers, permafrost and ice sheets”; to Dubai-based Emirates airline’s map showing flight routes; and to the “Googlespiel,” an interactive Dymaxion map built by Rehabstudio for Google Developer Day, 2011.

And, just above, we see the Dymaxion Woodocean World map by Nicole Santucci, winner of 2013’s DYMAX REDUX, an “open call to create a new and inspiring interpretation of Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map.” You’ll find a handful of other unique submissions at BFI, including the runner-up, Clouds Dymaxion Map, below, by Anne-Gaelle Amiot, an “absolutely beautiful hand-drawn depiction of a reality that is almost always edited from our maps: cloud patterns circling above Earth.”

via Gizmodo

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

Rarely Seen, Very Early Godard Film Surfaces on YouTube

Jean-Luc Godard, that living embodiment of the nouvelle vague who did so much to tear down and rebuild the relationship between cinema and its viewers, has kept pushing the boundaries of his art form well into his eighties. But even he had to start somewhere, and up until very recently indeed, Godard enthusiasts looked to his first film Opération béton, a short 1955 documentary on the construction of a Swiss dam that we featured a few years ago, as the starting point of his career as a filmmaker. But most of them surely had more interest in Un Femme coquette, Godard’s second and no doubt more formative first fiction film, a nine-minute adaptation of a Maupassant story hardly ever seen until just last week.

Une Femme coquette is the most elusive rarity of the French New Wave, and possibly the most difficult-to-see film by a name filmmaker that isn’t believed to be irretrievably lost,” wrote A.V. Club critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky in a 2014 piece on his search for it. And so, for decades, nearly everyone who wanted to see Un Femme coquette had to make do with mere descriptions. In his Godard biography Everything Is CinemaNew Yorker critic Richard Brody highlights not only how the filmmaker, in adapting this “tale about a woman who, seeing a prostitute beckon to passing men, decides to try the gesture herself [ … ] turns the necessity of filming cheaply and rapidly, without movie lights, into an aesthetic virtue,” but also how this “film about watching, about trying to live with what one has watched, and about the inherent dangers of doing so” evokes “the perilous path [Godard] was taking as he sought to enter the cinema and anticipates the moral dangers that awaited him there.”

The sudden appearance of Un Femme coquette on “the digital back channels frequented by obscure movie enthusiasts,” as Vishnevetsky puts it, and complete with English subtitles at that, would thrill even a casual Godard fan. As for the BreathlessAlphaville, and Weekend director’s die-hard exegetes, one can only imagine the feelings they, or at least the ones who’ve yet brought themselves to cast eyes upon this sacred text, have experienced while watching it. No matter our level of familiarity with Godard and his work, we can all feel the charge cinema history has given his shoestring-budgeted and at times rough-looking black-and-white short. But who, watching it at one of its sparse early screenings, could have imagined what an aesthetic revolutionary its director, screenwriter, and one-man crew would shortly become — who, that is, besides Jean-Luc Godard?

via AV Club

Related Content:

An Introduction to Jean-Luc Godard’s Innovative Filmmaking Through Five Video Essays

Jean-Luc Godard Takes Cannes’ Rejection of Breathless in Stride in 1960 Interview

The Entirety of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless Artfully Compressed Into a 3 Minute Film

Jean-Luc Godard’s Debut, Opération béton (1955) — a Construction Documentary

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