New Film Project Features Citizens of Alabama Reading Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” a Poetic Embodiment of Democratic Ideals

In times of national anxiety, many of us take comfort in the fact that the U.S. has endured political crises even more severe than those at hand. History can be a teacher and a guide, and so too can poetry, as Walt Whitman reminds us again and again. Whitman witnessed some of the greatest upheavals and revolutionary changes the country has ever experienced: the Civil War and its aftermath, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the failure of Reconstruction, the massive industrialization of the country at the end of the 19th century….

Perhaps this is why we return to Whitman when we make what critics call a “poetic turn.” His expansive, multivalent verse speaks for us when beauty, shock, or sadness exceed the limits of everyday language. Whitman contained the nation’s warring voices, and somehow reconciled them without diluting their uniqueness. This was, indeed, his literary mission, to “create a unified whole out of disparate parts,” argues Karen Swallow Prior at The Atlantic. “For Whitman, poetry wasn’t just a vehicle for expressing political lament; it was also a political force in itself.” Poetry’s importance as a binding agent in the fractious, fragile coalition of states, meant that for Whitman, the country’s “Presidents shall not be their common referee so much as their poets shall.”

Whitman wrote as a gay man who, by the time he published the first edition of Leaves of Grass in 1855, had gone from being an “ardent Free-Soiler” to fully supporting abolition. His poetry proclaimed a “radically egalitarian vision,” writes Martin Klammer, “of an ideal, multiracial republic.” A country that was, itself, a poem. “The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem,” wrote Whitman in his preface. The nation’s contradictions inhabit us just as we inhabit them. The only way to resolve our differences, he insisted, is to embody them fully, with openness toward other people and the natural world. Understanding Whitman’s mission makes filmmaker Jennifer Crandall’s project Whitman, Alabama all the more poignant.

For two years, Crandall “crisscrossed this deep Southern state, inviting people to look into a camera and share part of themselves through the words of Walt Whitman.” To the question “Who is American?,” Crandall—just as Whitman before her—answers with a multitude of voices, weaving in and out of a collaborative reading of the epic “Song of Myself,” beginning with 97-year-old Virginia Mae Schmitt of Birmingham, at the top, who reads Whitman’s lines, “I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin / Hoping to cease not till death.” No one watching the video, Crandall remarks, should ask, “Why isn’t’ a thirty-seven year old man reading this?” To do so is to ignore Whitman’s design for the universal in the particular.

When Whitman penned the first lines of “Song of Myself,” the country had not yet “Unlimber’d” the cannons “to begin the red business,” as he would later write, but the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act had clearly lain the foundation for civil war. The poet’s many revisions, additions, and subsequent editions of Leaves of Grass after his first small run in 1855 continued until his death in 1892. He was obsessed with the hugeness and dynamism of the country and its people, in their darkest, bloodiest moments and at their most flourishing. His vision lets everyone in, without qualification, constantly rewriting itself to meet new faces in the ever-changing nation.

As Mariam Jalloh, a 14-year old Muslim girl from Guinea, recites in her short portion of the reading further up, “every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” Jollah quite literally makes Whitman’s language her own, translating into her native Fulani the line, “If they are not just as close as they are distant, they are nothing.” Jalloh “may seem like a surprising conduit for the writing of Whitman, a long-dead queer socialist poet from Brooklyn,” writes Christian Kerr at Hyperallergic, “but such incongruity is the active agent in Whitman, Alabama’s therapeutic salve.” It is also, Whitman suggested, the matrix of American democracy.

See more readings from the project above from Laura and Brandon Reeder of Cullman, the Sullivan family of Mobile, and by Demetrius Leslie and Frederick George, and Patricia Marshall and Tammy Cooper, inmates at mens’ and womens’ prisons in Montgomery. Whitman’s voice winds through these bodies and voices, settling in, finding a home, then, restless, moving on, inviting us all to join in the chorus, yet also—in its contrarian way—telling us to find our own paths. “You shall no longer take things at second or third hand….,” wrote Whitman, “nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books, / You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, / You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.”

Find many more readings at the Whitman, Alabama website. And stay tuned for new readings as they come online.

Also find works by Walt Whitman on our lists of Free Audio Books and Free eBooks.

via Hyperallergic

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

Buckminster Fuller Creates an Animated Visualization of Human Population Growth from 1000 B.C.E. to 1965

Sit back, relax, put on some music (I’ve found Chopin’s Nocturne in B major well-suited), and watch the video above, a silent data visualization by visionary architect and systems theorist Buckminster Fuller, “the James Brown of industrial design.” The short film from 1965 combines two of Fuller’s leading concerns: the exponential spread of the human population over finite masses of land and the need to revise our global perspective via the “Dymaxion map,” in order “to visualize the whole planet with greater accuracy,” as the Buckminster Fuller Institute writes, so that “we humans will be better equipped to address challenges as we face our common future aboard Spaceship Earth.”

Though you may know it best as the name of a geodesic sphere at Disney’s Epcot Center, the term Spaceship Earth originally came from Fuller, who used it to remind us of our interconnectedness and interdependence as we share resources on the only vehicle we know of that can sustain us in the cosmos.

“We are all astronauts,” he wrote in his 1969 Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, and yet we refuse to see the long-term consequences of our actions on our specialized craft: “One of the reasons why we are struggling inadequately today,” Fuller argued in his introduction, “is that we reckon our costs on too shortsighted a basis and are later overwhelmed with the unexpected costs brought about by our shortsightedness.”

Like all visionaries, Fuller thought in long spans of time, and he used his design skills to help others do so as well. His population visualization documents human growth from 1000 B.C.E. to Fuller’s present, at the time, of 1965. In the image above (see a larger version here), we have a graphic from that same year—made collaboratively with artist and sociologist John McHale—showing the “shrinking of our planet by man’s increased travel and communication speeds around the globe.” (It must be near microscopic by now.) Fuller takes an even longer view, looking at “the confluence of communication and transportation technologies,” writes Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard, “from 500,000 B.C.E. to 1965.”

Here Fuller combines his population data with the technological breakthroughs of modernity. Though he’s thought of in some quarters as a genius and in some as a kook, Fuller demonstrated his tremendous foresight in seemingly innumerable ways. But it was in the realm of design that he excelled in communicating what he saw. “Pioneers of data visualization,” Fuller and McHale were two of “the first to chart long-term trends of industrialization and globalization.” Instead of becoming alarmed and fearful of what the trends showed, Fuller got to work designing for the future, fully aware, writes the Fuller Institute that “the planet is a system, and a resilient one.”

Fuller thought like a radically inventive engineer, but he spoke and wrote like a peacenik prophet, writing that a system of narrow specializations ensures that skill sets “are not comprehended comprehensively… or they are realized only in negative ways, in new weaponry or the industrial support only of war faring.” We’ve seen this vision of society played out to a frightening extent. Fuller saw a way out, one in which everyone on the planet can live in comfort and security without consuming (then not renewing) the Earth’s resources. How can this be done? You’ll have to read Fuller’s work to find out. Meanwhile, as his visualizations suggest, it’s best for us to take the long view—and give up on short-term rewards and profits—in our assessments of the state of Spaceship Earth.

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

Milton Glaser’s 10 Rules for Life & Work: The Celebrated Designer Dispenses Wisdom Gained Over His Long Life & Career

“None of us has really the ability to understand our path until it’s over,” the celebrated graphic designer Milton Glaser muses less than a minute into the above video.

The 86-year-old Glaser’s many contributions to pop culture—the  I ❤ NY logo, the psychedelic portrait of a rainbow-haired Bob Dylan, DC Comics’ classic bullet logo—confer undeniable authority. To the outside eye, he seems to have a pretty firm handle on the path he’s been traveling for lo these many decades. Aspirant designers would do well to give extra consideration to any advice he might share.

As would the rest of us.

His “Ten Things I Have Learned,” originally delivered as part of a talk to the AIGA—a venerable membership organization for design professionals—qualifies as solid life advice of general interest.

Yes, the Internet spawns bullet-pointed tips for better living the way spring rains yield mushrooms, but Glaser, a self-described “child of modernism” who’s still a contender, does not truck in pithy Instagram-friendly aphorisms. Instead, his list is born of reflection on the various turns of a long and mostly satisfying creative career.

We’ve excerpted some of his most essential points below, and suggest that those readers who are still in training give special emphasis to number seven. Don’t place too much weight on number nine until you’ve established a solid work ethic. (See number four for more on that.)



Some years ago I realized that… all the work I had done that was meaningful and significant came out of an affectionate relationship with a client.


Here, Glaser quotes composer John CageNever have a job, because if you have a job someday someone will take it away from you and then you will be unprepared for your old age. 


Glaser recommends putting a questionable companion to a gestalt therapy test. If, after spending time with that person “you are more tired, then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy, you have been nourished. The test is almost infallible and I suggest that you use it for the rest of your life.”


Glaser concedes that a record of dependable excellence is something to look for in a brain surgeon or auto mechanic, but for those in the arts, “continuous transgression” is the quality to cultivate. Professionalism does not allow for that because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure and if you are professional your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success. 


I have an alternative to the proposition that I believe is more appropriate. ‘Just enough is more.’


Style change is usually linked to economic factors, as all of you know who have read Marx. Also fatigue occurs when people see too much of the same thing too often.


The brain is the most responsive organ of the body…. Thought changes our life and our behavior. I also believe that drawing works in the same way…. Drawing also makes you attentive. It makes you pay attention to what you are looking at, which is not so easy.


One of the signs of a damaged ego is absolute certainty. Schools encourage the idea of not compromising and defending your work at all costs. Well, the issue at work is usually all about the nature of compromise…. Ideally, making everyone win through acts of accommodation is desirable.


Glaser credits essayist Roger Rosenblatt’s Rules for Aging (misidentifying the title as Aging Gracefully) with helping him articulate his philosophy here.  It doesn’t matter what you think. It does not matter if you are late or early, if you are here or there, if you said it or didn’t say it, if you are clever or if you were stupid. If you were having a bad hair day or a no hair day or if your boss looks at you cockeyed or your boyfriend or girlfriend looks at you cockeyed, if you are cockeyed. If you don’t get that promotion or prize or house or if you do – it doesn’t matter.


It’s interesting to observe that in the new AIGA’s code of ethics there is a significant amount of useful information about appropriate behavior towards clients and other designers, but not a word about a designer’s relationship to the public. If we were licensed, telling the truth might become more central to what we do.


A butcher was opening his market one morning and as he did a rabbit popped his head through the door. The butcher was surprised when the rabbit inquired ‘Got any cabbage?’ The butcher said ‘This is a meat market – we sell meat, not vegetables.’ The rabbit hopped off. The next day the butcher is opening the shop and sure enough the rabbit pops his head round and says ‘You got any cabbage?’ The butcher now irritated says ‘Listen you little rodent, I told you yesterday we sell meat, we do not sell vegetables and the next time you come here I am going to grab you by the throat and nail those floppy ears to the floor.’ The rabbit disappeared hastily and nothing happened for a week. Then one morning the rabbit popped his head around the corner and said ‘Got any nails?’ The butcher said ‘No.’ The rabbit said ‘Ok. Got any cabbage?’’

Read Milton Glaser’s “Ten Things I Have Learned” in its entirety here.

via Kottke

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

What Makes a Coen Brothers Movie a Coen Brothers Movie? Find Out in a 4-Hour Video Essay of Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski, Fargo, No Country for Old Men & More

What could movies as different as Barton FinkThe Big LebowskiNo Country for Old Men, and True Grit have in common? Even casual cinephiles will take that as a silly question, knowing full well that all of them came from the same sibling writing-directing team of Joel and Ethan Coen, better known as the Coen brothers. But to those who really dig deep into movies, the question stands: what, aesthetically, formally, intellectually, or emotionally, does unify the filmography of the Coen brothers? Though it boasts more than its fair share of critical, commercial, and cult fan favorites, its auteurs seemingly prefer to mark their work with many subtle signatures rather than one bold and obvious one.

Cameron Beyl, creator of The Directors Series (whose examinations of Stanley Kubrick and David Fincher we’ve previously featured here on Open Culture), finds out just what makes a Coen brothers movie a Coen brothers movie in his seven-part, nearly four-hour set of video essays on the two Jewish brothers from the Minnesota suburbs who went on to make perhaps the most distinctive impact on the zeitgeist of their generation of American filmmakers.

He begins with the Coen brothers’ Texas noir debut Blood Simple and sophomore southwestern slapstick Raising Arizona, then goes on to their larger-scale postmodern period pieces Miller’s CrossingBarton Fink, and the Hudsucker Proxy.

The next chapter covers their breakout films of the late 1990s Fargo and The Big Lebowski, and then two highly stylized pictures, the Odyssey-inspired prison break O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the black-and-white noir The Man Who Wasn’t There. Then come Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers, two 21st-century screwball comedies, followed by their “prestigious pinnacle,” the acclaimed four-picture stretch of No Country for Old MenBurn After ReadingA Serious Man, and True Grit.

The final chapter (below) looks at the Coen brothers’ two most recent works, both of which take on the culture industry: Inside Llewyn Davis, the tale of a would-be 1960s folk star, and Hail, Caesar!, one of early-1950s Hollywood.

Beyl’s analysis brings to the fore both the more and the less visible common elements of the Coen brothers’ movies. The former include their fondness for historical and “middle American” settings, their repeated use of actors like John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Frances McDormand, and John Turturro, and their tendency to move the camera with what Beyl several times describes as “breakneck speed.” The latter include easily missable place and character interconnections (for instance, how Barton Fink and Hail, Caesar!, set a decade apart and made a quarter-century apart, involve the same fictional Hollywood studio) and their simultaneous deployment and subversion of genre conventions, possibly owing to their lifelong “outsider” perspective.

But above all, nothing signals the work of the Coen brothers quite so clearly as their ever-more-refined mixture of zaniness and brutality, which Beyl puts in terms of their mixture of disparate filmmaking influences: Preston Sturges on one hand, for example, and Sam Peckinpah on the other. This comes with their films’ built-in resistance to straightforward interpretation, a kind of pleasurable complexity that prevents any one simple historical, social, or political reading from making much headway. In fact, as Beyl acknowledges in the first of these video essays, the Coen brothers would probably consider this sort of long-form examination of their work a waste of time, but if it sends viewers back to that work — and especially if it sends them back watching and noticing more closely — it does a favor to the rare kind of modern cinema that actually merits the word unique.

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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.

Discover the Creative, New Philosophy Podcast Hi-Phi Nation: The First Story-Driven Show About Philosophy

Let me call your attention to a new and quite different philosophy podcast. Created by Barry Lam (Associate Professor of Philosophy at Vassar College), Hi-Phi Nation is a philosophy podcast “that turns stories into ideas.” Consider it “the first sound and story-driven show about philosophy, bringing together narrative storytelling, investigative journalism, and soundtracking.”

Above you can watch a trailer that introduces Hi-Phi Nation, which is now available on iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud and this website. Below, hear Episode 9 of Season 1, called “The Ashes of Truth.” Among other things, it features filmmaker Errol Morris.

The first season of Hi-Phi Nation has been made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, the Humanities-Writ Large Fellowship, and other institutions. Learn more about the show by reading these write-ups by Vassar and Princeton.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter 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. 

If you’d like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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How to Make the World’s Smallest Cup of Coffee, from Just One Coffee Bean

The Finnish coffee company, Paulig, has been around for a good long while–since 1876, to precise. But only in 2017 did they get around to doing this–enlisting Helsinki designer Lucas Zanotto “to make the smallest cup of coffee, out of 1 bean.” Zanotto doesn’t need much more than a nail file, candle, and thimble-sized cup to produce that tiny cup of joe. Conceptually, it’s a neat exercise in efficiency and conservation. But, practically speaking, will it get you through the day?

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter 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. 

If you’d like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

via Colossal

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The Futurist Cookbook (1930) Tried to Turn Italian Cuisine into Modern Art

With the coming savage cuts in arts funding, perhaps we’ll return to a system of noblesse oblige familiar to students of The Gilded Age, when artists needed independent wealth or patronage, and wealthy industrialists often decided what was art, and what wasn’t. Unlike fine art, however, haute cuisine has always relied on the patronage of wealthy donors—or diners. It can be marketed in premade pieces, sold in cookbooks, and made to look easy on TV, but for reasons both cultural and practical, given the nature of food, an exquisitely-prepared dish can only be made accessible to a select few.

Still, we would be mistaken, suggested Futurist poet and theorist F.T. Marinetti (1876–1944), should we neglect to see cooking as an art form akin to all the others in its moral and intellectual influence on us. While hardly the first or the last artist to publish a cookbook, Marinetti’s Futurist Cookbook seems as first glance deadly, even aggressively, serious, lacking the whimsy, impractical weirdness, and surrealist art of Salvador Dali’s Les Diners de Gala, for example, or the eclectic wistfulness of the MoMA’s Artist’s Cookbook.

Just as he had sought with his earlier Futurist Manifesto to revolutionize art, Marinetti intended his cookbook to foment a “revolution of cuisine,” as Alex Revelli Sorini and Susanna Cutini point out. You might even call it an act of war when it came to certain staples of Italian eating, like pasta, which he thought responsible for “sluggishness, pessimism, nostalgic inactivity, and neutralism” (anticipating scads of low and no-carb diets to come).

Believing that people “think, dream and act according to what they eat and drink,” Marinetti formulated strict rules not only for the preparation of food, but also the serving and eating of it, going so far as to call for abolishing the knife and fork. A short excerpt from his introduction shows him applying to food the techno-romanticism of his Futurist theory—an ethos taken up by Benito Mussolini, whom Marinetti supported:

The Futurist culinary revolution … has the lofty, noble and universally expedient aim of changing radically the eating habits of our race, strengthening it, dynamizing it and spiritualizing it with brand-new food combinations in which experiment, intelligence and imagination will economically take the place of quantity, banality, repetition and expense.

In hindsight, the fascist overtones in Marinetti’s language seem glaring. In 1932, when  the Futurist Cookbook  was published, his Futurism seemed like a much-need “jolt to all the practical and intellectual activities,” note Sorini and Cutini.  “The subject [of cooking] needed a good shake to reawaken its spirit.” And that’s just what it got. The Futurist Cookbook acted as “a preview of Italian-style Nouvelle Cuisine,” with such innovations as “additives and preservatives added to food, or using technological tools in the kitchen to mince, pulverize, and emulsify.”

Yet, for all the high seriousness with which Marinetti seems to treat his subject, “what the media missed” at the time, writes Maria Popova, “was that the cookbook was arguably the greatest artistic prank of the twentieth century.” In an introduction to the 1989 edition, British journalist and historian Lesley Chamberlain called the Futurist Cookbook “a serious joke, revolutionary in the first instance because it overturned with ribald laughter everything ‘food’ and ‘cookbooks’ held sacred.” Marinetti first swept away tradition in favor of creative dining events the Futurists called “aerobanquets,” such as one in Bologna in 1931 with a table shaped like an airplane and dishes called “spicy airport” (Olivier salad) and “rising thunder” (orange risotto). Lambrusco wine was served in gas cans.

It’s performance art worthy of Dali’s bizarre costumed dinner parties, but fueled by a genuine desire to revolutionize food, if not the actual eating of it, by “bringing together elements separated by biases that have no true foundation.” So remarked French chef Jules Maincave, a 1914 convert to Futurism and inspiration for what Marinetti calls “flexible flavorful combinations.” See several such recipes excerpted from the Futurist Cookbook at Brain Pickings, read the full book in Italian here, and, just below, see Marinetti’s rules for the perfect meal, first published in 1930 as the “Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine.”

Futurist cuisine and rules for the perfect lunch

1. An original harmony of the table (crystal ware, crockery and glassware, decoration) with the flavors and colors of the dishes.

2. Utter originality in the dishes.

3. The invention of flexible flavorful combinations (edible plastic complex), whose original harmony of form and color feeds the eyes and awakens the imagination before tempting the lips.

4. The abolition of knife and fork in favor of flexible combinations that can deliver prelabial tactile enjoyment.

5. The use of the art of perfumery to enhance taste. Each dish must be preceded by a perfume that will be removed from the table using fans.

6. A limited use of music in the intervals between one dish and the next, so as not to distract the sensitivity of the tongue and the palate and serves to eliminate the flavor enjoyed, restoring a clean slate for tasting.

7. Abolition of oratory and politics at the table.

8. Measured use of poetry and music as unexpected ingredients to awaken the flavors of a given dish with their sensual intensity.

9. Rapid presentation between one dish and the next, before the nostrils and the eyes of the dinner guests, of the few dishes that they will eat, and others that they will not, to facilitate curiosity, surprise, and imagination.

10. The creation of simultaneous and changing morsels that contain ten, twenty flavors to be tasted in a few moments. These morsels will also serve the analog function […] of summarizing an entire area of life, the course of a love affair, or an entire voyage to the Far East.

11. A supply of scientific tools in the kitchen: ozone machines that will impart the scent of ozone to liquids and dishes; lamps to emit ultraviolet rays; electrolyzers to decompose extracted juices etc. in order to use a known product to achieve a new product with new properties; colloidal mills that can be used to pulverize flours, dried fruit and nuts, spices, etc.; distilling devices using ordinary pressure or a vacuum, centrifuge autoclaves, dialysis machines.

The use of this equipment must be scientific, avoiding the error of allowing dishes to cook in steam pressure cookers, which leads to the destruction of active substances (vitamins, etc.) due to the high temperatures. Chemical indicators will check if the sauce is acidic or basic and will serve to correct any errors that may occur: lack of salt, too much vinegar, too much pepper, too sweet.”

via FineDiningLovers and BrainPickings

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

Hear Four Hours of Music in Jim Jarmusch’s Films: Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, Neil Young, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins & More

“I gotta say — not to rant, but — one thing about commercial films is, doesn’t the music almost always really suck?” Jim Jarmusch, director of films like Stranger Than Paradise, Mystery TrainBroken Flowers, and most recently Paterson, put that important question to his audience during a live interview a few years ago. “I’ve seen good movies — or maybe they would be good — just destroyed by the same crap, you know? If you look at films from even in the seventies, it wasn’t that bad. People had some sense of music for films. But maybe that’s just the commercial realm: guys in suits come and tell ’em what kind of music to put on.”

Jarmusch’s own movies draw obsessive fans as well as bewildered detractors, but they’ll never draw the accusation of having their soundtracks assembled by guys in suits. Music seems to matter to his work on almost as fundamental a level as images, not just in the final products but in every stage of their creation as well.

“I get a lot of inspiration from music, probably more than any other form,” he says in the same interview. “For me, music is the most pure form. It’s like another language. Whenever I start writing a script, I focus on music that sort of kickstarts my ideas or my imagination.” The process has also resulted in several high-profile collaborations with musicians, such as Neil Young in the “acid western” Dead Man and the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA in the urban samurai tale Ghost Dog.

You can hear four hours of the music that makes Jim Jarmusch movies Jim Jarmusch movies in the Spotify playlist embedded just above. (If you don’t have Spotify’s free software, you can download it here.) Its 76 tracks begin, suitably, with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You,” to which Eszter Balint famously danced in Jarmusch’s breakout feature Stranger Than Paradise. Five years later, Jarmusch cast Hawkins himself as the concierge of a run-down Memphis hotel in Mystery Train. Between those pictures came Down by Law, the black-and-white New Orleans jailbreak picture starring no less an icon of American singing-songwriting than Tom Waits, whose work appears on this playlist alongside that of Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, Otis Redding, Neil Young and RZA, and many others.

Given the importance of music to his movies, it should come as no surprise that Jarmusch originally set out to become a musician himself, and now, in parallel with his career as one of America’s most respected living independent filmmakers, spends a fair chunk of his time being one. His band Sqürl, formed to record some instrumental pieces to score 2009’s The Limits of Control, has now grown into its own separate entity, and several of their tracks appear on this playlist. Jarmusch described their music to the New York Times Magazine as follows: “It varies between avant noise-rock, drone stuff and some song-structured things with vocals. And some covers of country songs that we slow down and give a kind of molten treatment to” — all of which fits right in with the rest of the music that has shaped his movies.

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Jim Jarmusch’s Anti-MTV Music Videos for Talking Heads, Neil Young, Tom Waits & Big Audio Dynamite

Jim Jarmusch: The Art of the Music in His Films

New Jim Jarmusch Documentary on Iggy Pop & The Stooges Now Streaming Free on Amazon Prime

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.


Alec Baldwin Has a Podcast: Hear His Intimate Interviews with Patti Smith, Thom Yorke, Jerry Seinfeld, Ira Glass, Amy Schumer & More

It somehow escaped me. Alec Baldwin has a podcast. With 133 episodes in its archive, Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin  (WebiTunes – Feeds) features “intimate and honest conversations” with “artists, policy makers and performers – to hear their stories, what inspires their creations, what decisions changed their careers, and what relationships influenced their work.” Below, we’ve embedded his recent conversation with Patti Smith. It’s quite good. But there are so many others worth a mention. Let me rattle off a quick list: REM’s Michael Stipe, Viggo Mortensen, Michael Pollan, Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow, William Friedkin, Paul Simon, Ira Glass, Jerry Seinfeld, David Simon, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Lena Dunham, Peter Frampton, David Letterman, Carol BurnettKristen Wiig, SNL’s Lorne Michaels, and Chris Rock.

Click the links to stream each interview, and don’t miss Baldwin’s new memoir, NeverthelessHe happens to narrate the audiobook version, which you can download for free if you sign up for’s 30-day free trial. We have info on that here.

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Philosophical, Sci-Fi Claymation Film Answers the Timeless Question: Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

It’s a question that’s occupied our greatest thinkers, from Aristotle and Plato to Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye:

Which came first—the chicken or the egg?

The debate will likely rage as long as there’s a faith-based camp to square off against the evidence-based camp.

With that in mind, and the weekend looming, we’re inclined to go with the Claymation camp, in the form of Time Chicken, Nick Black’s 6-minute stop-motion meditation, above.

Described by its creator as a “philosophical-action-fantasy into the world of science, religion, knowledge and creation,” Time Chicken benefits from an appropriately bombastic original score performed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra and the seeming-eyewitness testimony of its admittedly clay-based, all-poultry cast.

Black’s copious cinematic references and science fiction tropes are every bit as delectable as a Mughal style egg-stuffed whole chicken slow cooked in a rich almond-poppy seeds-yogurt-&-saffron gravy.

Kudos to the filmmaker, too, for eschewing the uncredited dubbing that made fellow claymator Nick (Park)’s Chicken Run a crossover hit, trusting instead in the (unsubtitled) original language of his subjects.

Readers, watch this hilarious little film and weigh in. Which came first? The chicken? Or the egg?

Related Content:

How Did Everything Begin?: Animations on the Origins of the Universe Narrated by X-Files Star Gillian Anderson

Watch The Touching Moment When Physicist Andrei Linde Learns That His Theories on the Big Bang Were Finally Validated

Hear Carl Sagan Artfully Refute a Creationist on a Talk Radio Show: “The Darwinian Concept of Evolution is Profoundly Verified”

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

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