Animation Brings to Life “Man as Industrial Palace,” the 1926 Lithograph Depicting the Human Body as a Modern Factory

In 1926, Fritz Kahn, a German gynecologist and anatomy textbook author, produced a lithograph called Der Mensch als Industriepalast (Man as Industrial Palace) that depicted the human body as a factory, a chemical plant of sorts. Kahn's body came complete with mechanical lungs, a rock-sorting stomach, gears for a throat, and a switchboard for a brain, and it illustrated rather metaphorically the degree to which industrialization had taken over Western life, creating deep anxiety for some and curiosity for others.

More than 80 years later, Henning Lederer, a German artist, has brought Kahn's mechanical body to life with some gifted animation. To learn more about Lederer's project, you will want to spend more time on IndustriePalast.com and particularly with this helpful PDF. Other animation by Lederer can be found on Vimeo.

An earlier version of this post originally appeared on our site in 2011.

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A One-Man Pink Floyd Band Creates Note-Perfect Covers of “Echoes,” “Comfortably Numb,” “Mother” & Other Classics: Watch 19-Year-Old Wunderkind Ewan Cunningham in Action

If you’re a 19-year-old wunderkind like Ewan Cunningham, who can play any number of instruments, it’s a great time to be alive. Recording is cheap, video is just as cheap, and YouTube provides a venue to share a slew of his homemade covers of rock classics.

Above is one of his most ambitious ventures: a full note-for-note cover of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes,” all 20 minutes, that uses video trickery to have four Ewans side-by-side playing at Dobbie Hall. (From what we can tell, Dobbie Hall is located in Larbert, Scotland, a town about equidistant between Glasgow and Edinburgh.)

Diving down into all six years of Ewan’s videos and we find, at first, not a 13-year-old Ewan, but his dad, playing and singing an acoustic cover of Coldplay’s “Paradise”. So we know where Ewan got the music bug.

In fact, he tells us “I started playing drums at the age of 4 and continued to only play drums until I started branching out into other instruments such as guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals. I've been teaching myself to mix, record and film music since I was 10 years old and this is my passion.”

Ewan started uploading drum covers at 14, playing along to everyone from Evanescence to Foo Fighters. At 16 he uploaded his first Floyd drum cover (“Brain Damage/Eclipse”) and, like many a teen before him, fell hard for the band.

Then the covers begin in earnest, with him sharing duties with his dad (“Wot’s...Uh the Deal” and “Brain Damage”) and then on to “Grantchester Meadows” (from Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma) and finally on January 1, 2017, when Ewan premiered his three song set from Dobbie Hall, featuring “A Saucerful of Secrets,” “Careful with that Axe, Eugene,” and the aforementioned “Echoes.”

After a successful Indiegogo campaign, he returned later in 2017 to Dobbie Hall for three covers from “The Wall,” which cheekily included a papier-mache airplane crashing into the stage at the end of “In the Flesh?”.

The question this raises is obvious: does Ewan record anything original? Indeed, a few months ago he started a new YouTube channel of his own songs. It’s up to you, dear reader, to check them out.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

How to Get Over the Anxiety of Public Speaking?: Watch the Stanford Video, “Think Fast, Talk Smart,” Viewed Already 11 Million Times

How many of us fear public speaking more than death: four out of five, nine out of ten, 99 out of 100? We've all heard a variety of statistics, all of them suggesting the formidability — perceived or real — of the task of getting up and talking in front of other people. But perhaps you'll get an even clearer sense of that from the number 11,175,098: the total view count, as of this writing, racked up by "Think Fast, Talk Smart," an hour-long talk on public speaking techniques by communication coach and Stanford Graduate School of Business lecturer Matt Abrahams.

The pedants among us, myself included, will have already taken note of that linguistic infelicity in the very title of the talk, but Abrahams himself wastes little time pointing it out himself. He also points out its value: you've got to catch the attention of your audience, and a deliberately made mistake (or even a non-deliberately made one) catches it as well as anything.

He goes on to elaborate on various other techniques we can use not just to get other people listening well, but to get ourselves talking well, the first priority being to get ourselves to stop tripping over our innate desire to talk perfectly.

Abrahams leads his audience through several short "games," instructing them to do things like explaining their weekends to one another by spelling out loud and selling one another Slinkys, with the underlying goal of breaking the habits that have so often impeded our ability to simply get up and speak. He also provides physical techniques, like doing push-ups or taking a walk around the block before giving a talk in order to get your mind more "present," and intellectual ones, like always adhering to a structure, no matter how simple and no matter how ordinary the situation. ("I practice these structures on my kids," he notes.)

Taking the wider view, we shouldn't look at speaking as a challenge, according to Abrahams, but as a chance to explain and influence. "A Q&A session is an opportunity for you," he says, and practicing what he preaches, he opens one up at the end of the talk, underscoring that we can improve our public speaking skills by doing as he says, but even more so by doing as he does. Some of those more than eleven million views surely come from people who have watched more than once, studying Abrahams' own use of language, both verbal and body. He also demonstrates a good deal of humor, though brevity, as Shakespeare wrote, being the soul of wit, you might consider chasing his talk with the four-minute Big Think video on the same subject just above.

Abrahams regularly teaches courses on Public Speaking at Stanford Continuing Studies. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, give his classes a look. Also see his books, Speaking Up without Freaking Out: 50 Techniques for Confident and Compelling Presenting.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How Do Computers Work?: New Video Series Explains the Inner Workings of the Device You Use Every Day

How do computers work? Yes, that appliance you use every day? To help answer the question, Code.org (a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science) has put together a collection of primers that explain some of the oft-discussed components of computers--circuits, memory, CPU, etc. And how they all fit together.

The first video starts off with an introduction by Bill Gates. Watch the remaining five videos (each about five minutes long) just by letting the playlist run above. Or see this video collection on YouTube.

h/t Paul

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Read A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, a Hilarious & Informative Collection of Early Modern English Slang (1785)

A deep appreciation for profanity may rate high as a mark of a sophistication and authenticity. Cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker has made the neuroscience of swearing an object of study; legendary comic actor, writer, and “language enthusiast” Stephen Fry declares the practice a fine art; studies show that those who swear may be more honest than those who don’t; and if you have any doubt about how much swearing contributes to the literary history of the English language, just do a search on Shakespeare’s many profane insults, so rich and varied as to constitute a genre all their own.

Not all vulgar speech is considered “swear words,” referencing sex acts and bodily functions, but many a critic and lexicographer has nonetheless decided that slang, obscene or otherwise, doesn’t belong in polite company with formal diction. Samuel Johnson, the esteemed 18th-century essayist, poet, and compiler of the 1755 Dictionary of the English Language deemed slang “unfit for his learned tome,” writes The Public Domain Review. So, enter Francis Grose to correct the error thirty years later with his Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, a “compendium of slang” chock full of hilarious idioms of every kind.

There is the bawdy (“Sugar stick—the virile member”), the scatological (“Cackling farts—eggs”), the oddly obscure (“Kittle pitchering—to disrupt the flow of a ‘troublesome teller of long stories’ by constantly questioning and contradicting unimportant details, especially at the start”). Puns make their inevitable way in (“Just-ass—a punning name for justice [judge]”), as of course do comic images for body parts (“Tallywags/Whirligigs—testicles”). Much of this Early Modern English slang sounds to American ears just as colorfully askew as contemporary English slang does (“Dog booby—an awkward lout”; “Captain queernabs—a shabby ill-dressed fellow”).

Grose, compiler of the dictionary, “was not one for library work” and preferred to collect his specimens in the field where slang lives and breathes—the streets, pubs, and houses of ill-repute. “Supported by his trusty assist Tom Cocking [your joke here],” Grose “cruised the watering holes of Covent Garden and the East End, eating, boozing, and listening. He took pleasure in hearing his name punningly connected to his rotund frame. And he produced a book brimming with Falstaffian life.” Very much a Shakespearean bon vivant, Grose appears as something of a ribald doppelganger of the rotund, yet moralistic and often scowling Dr. Johnson. (See his portrait here.)

The so-called “long 18th-Century”—a period lasting from the restoration of the Monarchy after the English Civil War to around the French Revolution—presents a tradition of lewd witticism, from the poetry of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, to Jonathan Swift’s “The Lady’s Dressing Room,” to the sordid fantasies of the Marquis de Sade. Such pornographic humor and rude earthiness offered a counterweight to heady Enlightenment philosophy, just as Shakespeare’s insults provide needed comic relief for his bloody tragedies. Grose’s dictionary can be seen as adding needed comic local color to the many serious dictionaries and studies of language that emerged in the 1700s.

But A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue is also an important academic resource all its own, and “would strongly influence later dictionaries of this kind,” notes the British Library—those like J. Redding Ware’s 1909 Passing English of the Victorian Era: A Dictionary of Heterodox English, Slang, and Phrase. We can see in Grose’s work how many slang words and phrases still in common use today—like “baker’s dozen,” "gift of the gab," “birds of a feather,” “birthday suit,” and “kick the bucket”—were just as current well over 200 years ago. And we get a very vivid sense of the world in which Grose moved in the many metaphors employed, most involving food and drink. (A “butcher’s dog,” for example, refers to someone who “lies by the beef without touching it; a simile often applicable to married men.”)

But we needn’t worry too much about scholarly uses for Grose’s work. Instead, we might find ourselves motivated to do as he did, hit the streets and the bars, and maybe bring back into circulation such locutions as “Betwattled” (surprised, confounded, out of one’s senses), “Chimping merry” (exhilarated with liquor), or, perhaps my favorite so far, “Dicked in the nob” (silly, crazed).

Page through Grose’s dictionary above or read it in a larger format (and/or download as a PDF or ePub) at the Internet Archive.

via Public Domain Review

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

When the Sex Pistols Played at the Chelmsford Top Security Prison: Hear Vintage Tracks from the 1976 Gig

Serious fans of live recordings well know that such productions are usually doctored before they reach the masses, with effects added to sweeten the mix, recording errors corrected, instruments and crowd noise overdubbed, tracks rearranged, and performances from different nights combined. It’s a common practice and shouldn’t alarm anyone expecting absolute documentary fidelity. If you couldn’t make the show to experience the band firsthand, they’d at least like you to hear them at their best. (Who could resist the opportunity to revise, say, a public speaking gig after the fact?)

When record companies are involved, every effort can go into making a saleable product, but heavy editing usually doesn’t happen to taped bootlegs. One notable exception happens to come from an exceptional gig, when the Sex Pistols followed Johnny Cash's example and played the Chelmsford Top Security Prison during their first major tour of England in 1976 for an audience of 500 prisoners. Partly due to a serious recording issue—the near total failure to capture original bassist Glen Matlock—and partly to a “confused idea of what would make for a worthy release,” writes Ned Raggett at Allmusic, the band’s soundman Dave Goodman decided to make several alterations to the recording.

These changes, in turn, gave rise to a mythology surrounding the show, raising its reputation to the levels of chaos for which the Pistols are renowned. That reputation itself largely revolves around Sid Vicious’ later onstage antics, and is at times inflated. The Pistols could be a great live band—Steve Jones, Paul Cook, and Matlock were all more than capable musicians, and Johnny Rotten was a perfect punk spectacle all his own. But the elements didn’t always come together amidst the band's unrehearsed disorder.

The audience at Chelmsford were, please excuse the pun, a captive one, and therefore, unable to display the same unbridled enthusiasm as the band’s usual crowds of rubberneckers and scenesters. To play up the gig, then, Goodman dubbed in the sounds of “random crowd and violence noise” and sirens. He didn’t only see fit to overdub Matlock’s missing bass, but also added in “an incredibly poor Rotten imitator goading the ‘prisoners’ on between songs,” Ragett notes, “as well as often singing on top of the real Rotten himself!” That first 1990 release of Live at Chelmsford does not so much gild the band’s musical strengths as it “plays on the revolutionary/anarchy side of the punk image to no avail.”

Luckily, the original recordings remained, and were released later on the Sex Pistols Alive compilation, in their original order, and, rearranged, on a second Live at Chelmsford Prison CD. It is the originals, with minimal treatment, that you can hear here. At the top is “Anarchy in the UK,” below it “Submission,” and a sneering cover of The Who’s “Substitute” further down.  The giant hole in the middle of the mix where Matlock’s bass should be is hard to ignore, but overall, these are some occasionally great performances, particularly from Cook and Jones, whose pounding drums and blistering guitar come through loud and clear, often burying Rotten’s voice, which is muddied throughout.

But a good recording of half the band hardly sells the legend of the Sex Pistols, especially the Sex Pistols in prison. “By all accounts,” writes Raggett, “it was a bit of a harrowing experience.” But you’d have to have been there to know it, and you probably wouldn’t want to be. So it’s no wonder Goodman saw the need to spruce things up with what Discogs’ notes describe as “a canned audio track of a riot (complete with shouting, scuffles, breaking glass, etc.)” A lot of people hated it, but if you’re really curious, you can grab a copy of the overdubbed version and hear for yourself. Or listen to the full, undoctored, recording on YouTube.

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

Noam Chomsky Explains What’s Wrong with Postmodern Philosophy & French Intellectuals, and How They End Up Supporting Oppressive Power Structures

Noam Chomsky has always had irascible tendencies—when he doesn’t like something, he lets us know it, without ever raising his voice and usually with plenty of footnotes. It’s a quality that has made the emeritus MIT professor and famed linguist such a potent critic of U.S. empire for half a century, vigorously denouncing the Vietnam War, the Iraq War(s), and the possibility of a catastrophic war with North Korea. Chomsky isn’t a professional historian or political philosopher; these are avocations he has taken on to bolster his arguments. But those arguments are strengthened by his willingness to engage with primary sources and take them seriously.

When it comes, however, to his much-publicized feud with “Postmodernism,” a term he uses liberally at times to describe almost all post-war French intellectual culture, Chomsky rarely confronts his opponents in their own terms. That’s largely because, as he’s said on many occasions, he can’t make any sense of them. It’s not exactly an original critique. Mandarins of French thought like Jean-Francois Lyotard, Jacques Lacan, and Jean Baudrillard have been accused for decades, and not without merit, of knowingly peddling bullshit to a French readership that expects, as Michel Foucault once admitted, a mandatory “ten percent incomprehensible.” (Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu asserts that the number is much higher.)

But Chomsky’s critique goes further, in a direction that doesn’t get nearly as much press as his charges of obscurantism and overuse of insular jargon. Chomsky claims that far from offering radical new ways of conceiving the world, Postmodern thought serves as an instrument of oppressive power structures. It's an interesting assertion given some recent arguments that “post-truth” postmodernism is responsible for the rise of the self-described “alt-right” and the rapid spread of fake information as a tool for the current U.S. ruling party seizing power.

Not only is there “a lot of material reward,” Chomsky says, that comes from the academic superstardom many high-profile French philosophers achieved, but their position—or lack of a clear position—"allows people to take a very radical stance… but to be completely dissociated from everything that’s happening.” Chomsky gives an example above of an anonymous postmodernist critic branding a talk he gave as “naïve” for its discussion of such outmoded “Enlightenment stuff” as making moral decisions and referring to such a thing as “truth.” In his brief discussion of “the strange bubble of French intellectuals” at the top of the post, Chomsky gets more specific.

Most post-war French philosophers, he alleges, have been Stalinists or Maoists (he uses the example of Julia Kristeva), and have uncritically embraced authoritarian state communism despite its documented crimes and abuses, while rejecting other modes of philosophical thought like logical positivism that accept the validity of the scientific method. This may or may not be a fair critique: political orientations shift and change (and at times we accept a thinker's work while fully rejecting their personal politics). And the postmodern critique of scientific discourse as form of oppressive power is a serious one that needn't entail a wholesale rejection of science.

Are there any post-structuralist thinkers Chomsky admires? Though he takes a little dig at Michel Foucault in the clip above, he and the French theorist have had some fruitful debates, “on real issues,” Chomsky says, “and using language that was perfectly comprehensible—he speaking French, me English.” That's not a surprise. The two thinkers, despite the immense difference in their styles and frames of reference, both engage heavily with primary historical sources and both consistently write histories of ideology.

It is partly through the interplay between Foucault and Chomsky’s ideas that we might find a synthesis of French Marxist post-structuralist thought and American anarchist political philosophy. Rather than seeing them as professional wrestlers in the ring, with the postmodernist as the heel and headlines like “Chomsky DESTROYS Postmodernism,” we could look for complementarity and points of agreement, and genuinely read, as difficult as that can be, as many of the arguments of postmodern French philosophers as we can (and perhaps this defense of obscurantism) before deciding with a sweeping gesture that none of them make any sense.

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

Criterion Collection Films 50% Off for a Limited Time: Get Great Films at Half Price

FYI. Until noon eastern time tomorrow (2/14), the Criterion Collection is running a flash sale (click here), giving you a chance to purchase "all in-stock Blu-rays & DVDs at 50% off." Just use the promo code GOLD and get classic films by Hitchcock, Lynch, Welles, Kubrick, the Coen Brothers, and many others.

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Designer Creates Origami Cardboard Tents to Shelter the Homeless from the Winter Cold

During the day, Xavier Van der Stappen runs an electric car company. At night, the Belgian entrepreneur/designer helps spearhead the ORIG-AMI project, which creates origami-style cardboard tents designed to shield Brussels' homeless from the bitter cold of winter. Cardboard is light and portable. It holds heat fairly well. And the cardboard tents (as opposed to other structures) are legal on Brussels' streets. The cost for each life-saving structure? Only $36.

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Reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on Its 200th Anniversary: An Animated Primer to the Great Monster Story & Technology Cautionary Tale

200 years ago, 18-year-old Mary Shelley did an extraordinary thing. After a dreary winter evening spent indoors telling ghost stories during the storied “year without a summer,” she took her idea and turned it into a novel. In January of 1818, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus appeared, first published anonymously in an edition of 500 copies, with a preface by her husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Granted, Mary Shelley wasn’t an ordinary 18-year-old. In addition to her romance with Shelley and friendship with Lord Byron, she was also the daughter of philosophers William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. Which is to say that she was steeped in Romantic poetry and Victorian thought from a very early age, and conversant with the intellectual controversies of the day.

Nonetheless, the young novelist’s achievement—her synthesis of so many 19th-century anxieties into a monster story rivaled only, perhaps, by Bram Stoker’s Dracula—remains as impressive now as it was then. Shelley tells the legendary tale of the novel’s composition herself in an introduction to the heavily revised 1831 edition. In the animated video above, scholar Iseult Gillespie sketches out the book's basics (as we know, Frankenstein is the name of the monster’s creator; the monster himself remains nameless), then briefly explains some of its “multiple meanings."

We may be conditioned by the genius of James Whale and Mel Brooks to think of the novel’s center as the doctor’s electrified laboratory, but “the plot turns on a chilling chase” between monster and doctor, and what a chase it is. The book’s gripping action scenes get badly undersold in conceptions of Frankenstein (or the monster, rather) as a sad, stupid, lumbering beast. In fact, Frankenstein, says Gillespie, “is one of the first cautionary tales about artificial intelligence.” The novel’s Romantic interest in mythology (spelled out more directly by Percy two years later in his Prometheus Unbound) and its use of Gothic devices to evoke dread mark it as a complicated work, and its creature as a very complicated monster—a perpetually relevant symbol of the horrors unchecked scientific experimentation might unleash.

Shelley also inscribed her personal trauma in the text; though well-known as the daughter of the famed Wollstonecraft—author of the “key feminist text” A Vindication of the Rights of WomenShelley never actually got to know her mother. Wollstonecraft died of complications in childbirth, and Shelley, haunted by guilt, and her grief over several miscarriages she suffered, the first at age 16, uses what seems like a story solely about male creative agency to introduce themes of childbirth “as both creative and destructive.”

But mostly Frankenstein comes to us as a novel about the “power of radical ideas to expose darker areas of life.” Though it may do the novel a critical injustice to call it the Black Mirror (or Prometheus) of its time, the anxious contemporary anthology show is inseparable from a lineage of creative texts in horror and science fiction that owe a tremendous debt to the brilliance of the young Mary Shelley. For more info on the origins of this famous book, read Jill Lepore's 200th-anniversary essay at The New Yorker, and see all of the known manuscripts digitized at the Shelley-Godwin archive.

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





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