Brooklyn Academy of Music Puts Online 70,000 Objects Documenting the History of the Performing Arts: Download Playbills, Posters & More

Yesterday the sad news broke that The Village Voice will discontinue its print edition. Co-founded by Norman Mailer in 1955 and providing New Yorkers with savvy music writing, raunchy advice columns, juicy exposés, reviews, entertainment listings, apartments, jobs, band members, terrible roommates, and pretty much anything else one might desire every week for over half a century, the paper will be missed. Though it won’t disappear online, the loss of the street-level copy in its comfortingly familiar red plastic box marks the abrupt end of an era. Those of us inclined to mourn its passing can take some solace in the fact that so many of the city’s key cultural institutions still persist.

Prominent among them, Brooklyn’s Academy of Music, or BAM, has been at it since 1861, when it began as the home of the Philharmonic Society of Brooklyn. It has inhabited its present Beaux Arts building in Fort Greene since 1908. In its 150 years as a performance space for opera, classical, avant-garde theater, dance, and music, and film, BAM has amassed quite a collection of memorabilia. This year, on its century-and-a-half anniversary, it has made 70,000 of those artifacts available to the public in its Leon Levy Digital Archive. Like future issues of the Voice, you cannot hold these in your hand, unless you happen to be one of the museum’s curators. But “researchers—or anyone else interested,” writes The New York Times, “can create personalized collections based on specific artists, companies or eras.”

The history represented here is vast and deep, by a young country’s standards. “Every presidential candidate made campaign stops there before there was television,” says former BAM president Karen Brooks Hopkins. “Mary Todd Lincoln was in the audience during the opening week of festivities. Then you have [Rudolph] Nuryev making his first performance in the West just after he defects, [Martha] Graham performing her last performance on stage….” These landmark moments notwithstanding, BAM has earned a reputation as a home for avant-garde performance art, and the collection certainly reflects that dimension among the 40,000 artists represented.

We have further up the postcard Keith Haring designed for a 1984 Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane piece called Secret Pastures (Haring also designed the sets). We have the poster above for a 1981 performance of Philip Glass’ Satyagraha, his opera based on the life of Gandhi. And below, a poster for the 1983 world premier of Laurie Anderson’s United States: Parts I-IV. These objects come from BAM’s Next Wave Festival collection, which contains many thousands of photographs, playbills, and posters from the space’s more experimental side, many, though not all of them, downloadable.

Between the Civil War memorabilia and modernist documents, you’ll find all sorts of fascinating ephemera: photos of a very young Meryl Streep and Christopher Lloyd in a 1977 production of Happy End at the Chelsea Theater during a BAM Spring Series, or of an older Patrick Stewart in a 2008 Macbeth. Just below, we have a charming playing card featuring the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Peter Jay Sharp building in 1909, the year after it was built. It’s an imposing structure that seems like it might last forever, though much of the vibrant creative work featured year after year at BAM may someday also move entirely into digital spaces. Enter the complete BAM digital archive here.

via The New York Times/Hyperallergic

Related Content:

The Theater Dictionary: A Free Video Guide to Theatre Lingo

A Minimal Glimpse of Philip Glass

Google Gives You a 360° View of the Performing Arts, From the Royal Shakespeare Company to the Paris Opera Ballet

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

Hear What Music Sounds Like When It’s Created by Synthesizers Made with Artificial Intelligence

When synthesizers like the Yamaha DX7 became consumer products, the possibilities of music changed forever, making available a wealth of new, often totally unfamiliar sounds even to musicians who'd never before had a reason to think past the electric guitar. But if the people at Project Magenta keep doing what they're doing, they could soon bring about a wave of even more revolutionary music-making devices. That "team of Google researchers who are teaching machines to create not only their own music but also to make so many other forms of art," writes the New York Times' Cade Metz, work toward not just the day "when a machine can instantly build a new Beatles song," but the development of tools that allow artists "to create in entirely new ways."

Using neural networks, "complex mathematical systems allow machines to learn specific behavior by analyzing vast amounts of data" (the kind that generated all those disturbing "DeepDream" images a while back), Magenta's researchers "are crossbreeding sounds from very different instruments — say, a bassoon and a clavichord — creating instruments capable of producing sounds no one has ever heard."

You can give one of the results of these experiments a test drive yourself with NSynth, described by its creators as "a research project that trained a neural network on over 300,000 instrument sounds." Think of Nsynth as a synthesizer powered by AI.

Fire it up, and you can mash up and play your own sonic hybrids of guitar and sitar, piccolo and pan flute, hammer dulcimer and dog. In the video at the top of the post you can hear "the first tangible product of Google's Magenta program," a short melody created by an artificial intelligence system designed to create music based on inferences drawn from all the music it has "heard." Below that, we have another piece of artificial intelligence-generated music, this one a polyphonic piece trained on Bach chorales and performed with the sounds of NSynth.

If you'd like to see how the creation of never-before-heard instruments works in a bit more depth, have a look at the demonstration just above of the NSynth interface for Ableton Live, one of the most DJ-beloved pieces of audio performance software around, just above. Hearing all this in action brings to mind the moral of a story Brian Eno has often told about the DX7, from which only he and a few other producers got innovative results by actually learning how to program: as much as the prospect of AI-powered music technology may astound, the music created with it will only sound as good as the skills and adventurousness of the musicians at the controls — for now.

Related Content:

Artificial Intelligence Program Tries to Write a Beatles Song: Listen to “Daddy’s Car”

Artificial Intelligence Creativity Machine Learns to Play Beethoven in the Style of The Beatles’ “Penny Lane”

Watch Sunspring, the Sci-Fi Film Written with Artificial Intelligence, Starring Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley)

Two Artificial Intelligence Chatbots Talk to Each Other & Get Into a Deep Philosophical Conversation

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, 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.

How to Win at Texas Hold ‘Em: A Free MIT Course

In 2015, we featured a short MIT course called Poker Theory and Analytics, which introduced students to poker strategy, psychology, and decision-making in eleven lectures. Now comes a new course, this one more squarely focused on Texas Hold 'Em. Taught by MIT grad student Will Ma, the course "covers the poker concepts, math concepts, and general concepts needed to play the game of Texas Hold'em on a professional level." Here's a quick overview of the topics the course delves into in the 7 lectures above (or find them here on YouTube).

  • Poker Concepts: preflop ranges, 3-betting, continuation betting, check-raising, floating, bet sizing, implied odds, polarization, ICM theory, data mining in poker
  • Math Concepts: probability and expectation, variance and the Law of Large Numbers, Nash Equilibrium
  • General Concepts: decisions vs. results, exploitative play vs. balanced play, risk management

You can find the syllabus, lecture slides and assignments on this MIT website.  How to Win at Texas Hold 'Em will be added to our collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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.

Related Content:

MIT’s Introduction to Poker Theory: A Free Online Course

150 Free Online Business Courses

Learn Python with a Free Online Course from MIT

What’s a Scientifically-Proven Way to Improve Your Ability to Learn? Get Out and Exercise

Wikimedia Commons Image by the U.S. Navy

The benefit, nay necessity, of physical exercise is undeniable. The medical community has identified sedentary lifestyles as an epidemic, sometimes called “sitting disease” (or as people like to say, “sitting is the new smoking”). Prolonged sitting has been established as a cause of all sorts of chronic illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, and even certain cancers. Combine this problem with the steady stream of processed foods in more and more diets and we have a full-blown public health crisis on our hands that requires some serious intervention on the part of doctors, dieticians, physical therapists, and scientists.

And as more and more researchers are finding out, a poor diet and lack of exercise can also have seriously harmful effects on the brain. Conversely, as a recent University of California study shows, exercise boosts brain function; it “enhances learning and memory, improves executive function” and “counteracts… mental decline.” To put the theory of enhanced learning to the test, researchers have conducted several experiments and found that physical activity can improve the ability to learn new things at nearly any age.

Studies have “found correlations between children’s aerobic fitness and their brain structure,” reports The New York Times, and kids who exercise before math and reading tests show consistently higher scores than their sedentary peers. Likewise, a study conducted with college students in Ireland found that participants performed significantly better on memory tests after 30 minutes of cycling. One likely explanation is that exercise increases the production of BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor), a protein that promotes nerve health. And in a new paper published by researchers from Italy, China, and Thailand, we find that that exercise can specifically improve the ability to learn new languages.

The study tested 40 college-age Chinese students who are learning English. One group remained sedentary, while another rode exercise bikes at a moderate pace both before and during study sessions. The students who biked performed better on 8 separate vocabulary tests and were better able to recognize correct English sentences. These results are similar to those of a recent German study which found that a group of young women riding exercise bikes, at slow and moderate paces, performed much better on vocabulary tests than another group who didn’t exercise.

Though The New York Times points to a different study with contrasting results, the evidence seems largely on the side of exercise-enhances-learning proponents. “In recent years,” the Times notes, “a wealth of studies in both animals and people have shown that we learn differently if we also exercise.” You’ll find many of those studies summarized at the BBC, The Guardian, and elsewhere, along with several possible explanations for the phenomenon. Psychologist Justin Rhodes notes that “aerobic exercise can actually reverse hippocampal shrinkage,” increasing gray matter in an area of the brain associated with memory and emotion. His contention is backed by recent research on mice and humans.

In any case, although it appears that more vigorous exercises like cycling and running create the most improvement, taking a brisk walk before a class or study session can also help with retention and alertness. Whatever kind of exercise one does, a simple “take-home message,” says one researcher, “may be that instruction should be flanked by physical activity. Sitting for hours and hours without moving is not the best way to learn.” Having trouble getting motivated to run or bike before you study for that math test or start a new language course? Take some advice from Harvard Medical School on how to start slowly, find something you like doing, and turn everyday activities into exercise.

Related Content:

Why Sitting Is The New Smoking: An Animated Explanation

This Is Your Brain on Exercise: Why Physical Exercise (Not Mental Games) Might Be the Best Way to Keep Your Mind Sharp

Hear Aerobic Exercise: When Soviet Musicians Recorded Electronic Music for a Subversive Home Fitness Record (1984)

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

Reality Is Nothing But a Hallucination: A Mind-Bending Crash Course on the Neuroscience of Consciousness

If you've been accused of living in "a world of your own," get ready for some validation. As cognitive scientist Anil Seth argues in "Your Brain Hallucinates Your Conscious Reality," the TED Talk above, everyone lives in a world of their own — at least if by "everyone" you mean "every brain," by "world" you mean "entire reality," and by "of their own" you mean "that it has created for itself." With all the signals it receives from our senses and all the prior experiences it has organized into expectations, each of our brains constructs a coherent image of reality — a "multisensory, panoramic 3D, fully, immersive inner movie" — for us to perceive.

"Perception has to be a process of 'informed guesswork,'" says the TED Blog's accompanying notes, "in which sensory signals are combined with prior expectations about the way the world is, to form the brain’s best guess of the causes of these signals."

Seth uses optical illusions and classic experiments to underscore the point that “we don’t just passively perceive the world; we actively generate it. The world we experience comes as much from the inside-out as the outside-in," in a process hardly different from that which we casually call hallucination. Indeed, in a way, we're always hallucinating. “It’s just that when we agree about our hallucinations, that’s what we call ‘reality.’” And as for what, exactly, constitutes the "we," our brains do a good deal of work to construct that too.

Seventeen minutes only allows Dash to go so far down the rabbit hole of the neuroscience of consciousness, but he'll galvanize the curiosity of anyone with even a mild interest in this mind-mending subject. He leaves us with a few implications of his and others' research to consider: first, "just as we can misperceive the world, we can misperceive ourselves"; second, "what it means to be me cannot be reduced to — or uploaded to — a software program running on an advanced robot, however sophisticated"; third, "our individual inner universe is just one way of being conscious, and even human consciousness generally is a tiny region in a vast space of possible consciousnesses." As we've learned, in a sense, from every TED Talk, no matter how busy a brain may be constructing both reality and the self, it can always come up with a few big takeaways for the audience.

Related Content:

Free Online Psychology & Neuroscience Courses

John Searle Makes A Forceful Case for Studying Consciousness, Where Everything Else Begins

Robert Sapolsky Explains the Biological Basis of Religiosity, and What It Shares in Common with OCD, Schizophrenia & Epilepsy

Stanford’s Robert Sapolsky Demystifies Depression, Which, Like Diabetes, Is Rooted in Biology

Alan Watts On Why Our Minds And Technology Can’t Grasp Reality

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, 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.

Repairing Willie Nelson’s Trigger: A Good Look at How a Luthier Gets America’s Most Iconic Guitar on the Road Again

Many guitarists are of two minds about tribute models. In some cases, they seem like shameless cash grabs, particularly when the artist is no longer with us and can’t consent to the process. Fender’s “Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster” (registered trademark) is in no way, after all, Jimi Hendrix’s Stratocaster. His white Strat was a right-handed guitar he modified himself, turning it upside down to play as a lefty. Born of necessity, it was nonetheless a brilliant mechanical innovation that defined his sound. The mass-market version flips everything over on a left-handed guitar for the more numerous righty customers, undermining the purpose of the design, mass-producing Hendrix’s handmade alterations, and turning a one-of-a-kind historical artifact into a commodity.

Fellow lefty Kurt Cobain’s ingenious Jag-Stang—a mashup of Fender’s Mustang and Jaguar guitars—seems more legit, on the other hand, since Fender made prototypes for Cobain from a design he himself sent to the company (or rather from two Polaroids he taped together). There’s a proprietary relationship here between artist and guitar maker, a prior arrangement. We don’t see that relationship between another famous player and his guitar’s famous maker. Like Hendrix and Cobain and their Fenders, Willie Nelson has inspired generations of players to pick up Martin acoustics. But I very much doubt that Martin would ever produce a replica based on Trigger, Nelson’s stalwart classical ax, even if such a thing were possible.

That’s for the best. Trigger is and should remain an entirely unique object. It has an aura of its own, much of it emanating from a huge hole in the middle of the guitar. Like its owner, Trigger is weathered and worn, and instantly recognizable. It has been with Nelson since he restarted his career in Austin after his first bout of Nashville fame, and it represents Nelson’s transformation from traditional crooner into the outlaw troubadour who emerged in the early seventies to change the course of country music. (Read the story of the man and his guitar here.) To really appreciate Trigger's ragged mysteries, you don’t need to hear from Martin guitars, but from one of the instrument’s elite hostlers, so to speak. Respected luthier Mark Erlewine takes care of Trigger when it's at home in Austin and can explain, as he does in the video above, every one of the guitar’s peculiarities.

“There are a number of things wrong with it,” says Erlewine, “but they’re just minor repairs to keep it going.” As for that hole and the craters surrounding it, he seems unconcerned. Though it looks like it might cave in at any moment, Erlewine has kept it structurally sound. “Willie is not concerned about the looks of this guitar so much as the playability and functionality of it.” How did Trigger come to take on its distinctive wounds? Not in the way you might expect. Rather than a stage accident or tour mishap, the way these things can happen, Nelson’s guitar became damaged through the sheer passion of his fingerstyle playing. Over the years his fingernails would “often chip into the wood and pull out wood as he plays.”

In perfect condition when he bought it, Trigger has recorded in its beaten-up top the motor memories of “over 10,000 shows and recording sessions" in the deep impressions of only its owner's fingers and personality. There is no way to duplicate this phenomenon for mass consumption. Stick with the video, from guitar tool and parts giant Stewart-MacDonald, and see how Erlewine keeps Trigger healthy, "alive," and "shored up over the years."

via Uncrate

Related Content:

Willie Nelson and His Famous Guitar: The Tale of Trigger: Watch the Short Film Narrated by Woody Harrelson

Willie Nelson–Young, Clean-Shaven & Wearing a Suit–Sings Early Hits at the Grand Ole Opry (1962)

Mark Knopfler Gives a Short Masterclass on His Favorite Guitars & Guitar Sounds

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

Guitarist Randy Bachman Demystifies the Opening Chord of The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night”

You could call it the magical mystery chord. The opening clang of the Beatles' 1964 hit, "A Hard Day's Night," is one of the most famous and distinctive sounds in rock and roll history, and yet for a long time no one could quite figure out what it was.

In this fascinating clip from the CBC radio show, Randy's Vinyl Tap, the legendary Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive guitarist Randy Bachman unravels the mystery. The segment (which comes to us via singer-songwriter Mick Dalla-Vee) is from a special live performance, "Guitarology 101," taped in front of an audience at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto back in January, 2010. As journalist Matthew McAndrew wrote, "the two-and-a-half hour event was as much an educational experience as it was a rock'n'roll concert."

One highlight of the show was Bachman's telling of his visit the previous year with Giles Martin, son of Beatles' producer George Martin, at Abbey Road Studios. The younger Martin, who is now the official custodian of all the Beatles' recordings, told Bachman he could listen to anything he wanted from the massive archive--anything at all.

Bachman chose to hear each track from the opening of "A Hard Day's Night." As it turns out, the sound is actually a combination of chords played simultaneously by George Harrison and John Lennon, along with a bass note by Paul McCartney. Bachman breaks it all down in an entertaining way in the audio clip above.

You can read about some of the earlier theories on The Beatles Bible and Wikipedia, and hear a fascinating account of one scholar's mathematical analysis of the component sounds of the chord from a few years ago at NPR.

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.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in December, 2011. It was time to bring it back.

Related Content:

Take a Virtual Tour of Abbey Road Studios, Courtesy of the New Google Site “Inside Abbey Road”

Here Comes The Sun: The Lost Guitar Solo by George Harrison

Peter Sellers Recites The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” in the Style of Shakespeare’s Richard III

On the Power of Teaching Philosophy in Prisons

Philosophy is often seen as an arcane academic discipline, in competition with the hard sciences or laden with abstruse concepts and language inaccessible to ordinary people. Such a perception may be warranted. This is not to damn academic philosophy but to highlight what has been lost through professionalization: classical notions of ethics as “the art of living” or what Michel Foucault called “the care of the self”; the ancient Greek idea of parrhesia—bold, honest speech unclouded by proprietary jargon; philosophy as a practice like meditation or yoga, a technique for self-knowledge, self-control, and wise, just, and considerate relationships with others.

From Socrates to Aristotle to Epicurus and the Stoics, ancient Western thinkers believed philosophy to be intimately relevant to everyday life. This was very much the case in ancient Eastern thought as well, in the Jainist sages, the Buddha, or Lao-Tzu, to name a few. We will find some form of popular philosophy on every continent and every historical age. And while plenty of modern teachers still believe in philosophy for everyone, they operate in a consumer culture that often deems them irrelevant, at best. Still, many educators persist outside the academy, endeavoring to reach not only ordinary citizens but a class of disempowered people also deemed irrelevant, at best: the imprisoned, many of whom have had few educational resources and little to no exposure to philosophical thinking.

We have many examples of influential thinkers writing from prison, whether Boethius’ early Christian Consolations of Philosophy, Antonio Gramsci’s passionate Marxist prison letters, Oscar Wilde's De Profundis, or Martin Luther King, Jr.’s essential “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” These have maybe provided readers who have never been jailed with tragic, yet romantic notions of doing philosophy while doing time. But the philosophers who enter prisons to work with people convicted—justly or otherwise—of all manner of crimes cannot afford to have romantic ideas. Philosopher Alan Smith found this to be especially so after teaching in UK prisons for 14 years, and writing boldly and candidly about the experience in his Guardian column “Philosophy for Prisoners.”

Finally retiring in 2013, Smith confessed, “If I carried on in prison, I would have to do it differently; I would have to admit that it was prison.” He may have felt burned out at the end of his sojourn, but he hadn't lost his sense of ethical purpose:

When we don't know about history and art and society we are adrift. Most of you reading this will never have had that experience, but many of the men I taught were ignorant of just about everything, and as grown men felt this keenly. Education was a relief, a route to self-respect.

Those who do this work report on how so many inmates hunger for routes to self-knowledge, reflection, and rigorous intellectual exercise. Several educators at The Philosophy Foundation, for example, have written about their experiences teaching philosophy in various UK prisons. Conditions are different, and often much bleaker, in the US—a country with 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prisoners—but here, too, philosophers have helped inmates discover new truths about themselves and their society. In the very short TED talk up top, Damon Horowitz, who teaches at San Quentin through the Prison University Project, gives a passionate, rapid-fire accounting of his mission behind bars: “Everyone's got an opinion. We are here for knowledge. Our enemy is thoughtlessness.” A chorus of venerable ancients would assuredly agree.

Further down, you can see participants in Princeton's Prison Teaching Initiative talk about the virtues and rewards of their accredited program. That includes teachers and students alike.

Note: You can find 140+ Free Philosophy Courses in our ever-growing list, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Related Content:

Tim Robbins’ Improv Classes Transform Prisoners’ Lives & Lower Recidivism Rates

Patti Smith Reads from Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, the Love Letter He Wrote From Prison (1897)

What Prisoners Ate at Alcatraz in 1946: A Vintage Prison Menu

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

Long Before Photoshop, the Soviets Mastered the Art of Erasing People from Photographs — and History Too

Adobe Photoshop, the world's best-known piece of image-editing software, has long since transitioned from noun to verb: "to Photoshop" has come to mean something like "to alter a photograph, often with intent to mislead or deceive." But in that usage, Photoshopping didn't begin with Photoshop, and indeed the early masters of Photoshopping did it well before anyone had even dreamed of the personal computer, let alone a means to manipulate images on one. In America, the best of them worked for the movies; in Soviet Russia they worked for a different kind of propaganda machine known as the State, not just producing official photos but going back to previous official photos and changing them to reflect the regime's ever-shifting set of preferred alternative facts.

"Like their counterparts in Hollywood, photographic retouchers in Soviet Russia spent long hours smoothing out the blemishes of imperfect complexions, helping the camera to falsify reality," writes David King in the introduction to his book The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin's Russia. "Stalin's pockmarked face, in particular, demanded exceptional skills with the airbrush. But it was during the Great Purges, which raged in the late 1930s, that a new form of falsification emerged. The physical eradication of Stalin's political opponents at the hands of the secret police was swiftly followed by their obliteration from all forms of pictorial existence."

Using tools that now seem impossibly primitive, Soviet proto-Photoshoppers made "once-famous personalities vanish" and crafted photographs representing Stalin "as the only true friend, comrade, and successor to Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution and founder of the USSR."

This quasi-artisanal work, "one of the more enjoyable tasks for the art department of publishing houses during those times," demanded serious dexterity with the scalpel, glue, paint, and airbrush. (Some examples, as you can see in this five-page gallery of images from The Commissar Vanishes, evidenced more dexterity than others.) In this manner, Stalin could order written out of history such comrades he ultimately deemed disloyal (and who usually wound up executed as) as Naval Commissar Nikolai Yezhov, infamously made to disappear from Stalin's side on a photo taken alongside the Moscow Canal, or People's Commissar for Posts and Telegraphs Nikolai Antipov, commander of the Leningrad party Sergei Kirov, and Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet Nikolai Shvernik — pictured, and removed one by one, just above.

This practice even extended to the materials of the Soviet space program, writes Wired's James Oberg. Cosmonauts temporarily erased from history include Valentin Bondarenko, who died in a fire during a training exercise, and the especially promising Grigoriy Nelyubov (pictured, and then not pictured, at the top of the post), who "had been expelled from the program for misbehavior and later killed himself." Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who made history as the first human in outer space, did not, of course, get erased by the proud authorities, but even his photos, like the one just above where he shakes hands with the Soviet space program's top-secret leader Sergey Korolyov, went under the knife for cosmetic reasons, here the removal of the evidently distracting workman in the background — hardly a major historical figure, let alone a controversial one, but still a real and maybe even living reminder that while the camera may lie, it can't hold its tongue forever.

h/t @JackFeerick

Related Content:

Joseph Stalin, a Lifelong Editor, Wielded a Big, Blue, Dangerous Pencil

Leon Trotsky: Love, Death and Exile in Mexico

Watch the Surrealist Glass Harmonica, the Only Animated Film Ever Banned by Soviet Censors (1968)

Soviet Union Creates a List of 38 Dangerous Rock Bands: Kiss, Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, Village People & More (1985)

Russian History & Literature Come to Life in Wonderfully Colorized Portraits: See Photos of Tolstoy, Chekhov, the Romanovs & More

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, 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.

India on Film, 1899-1947: An Archive of 90 Historic Films Now Online

India, the largest democracy in the world, is a rising economic powerhouse, and a major player in the fields of media, entertainment, and telecommunications.

But for many armchair travelers, subcontinental modernity takes a backseat to postcard visions of elephants, teeming rustic streets, and snake charmers.

Fans of Rudyard Kipling and E.M. Forster will thrill to the vintage footage in a just released British Film Institute online archive, India on Film (see a trailer above).

1914’s The Wonderful Fruit of the Tropics, a stencil-coloured French-produced primer on the edible flora of India offers just the right blend of exoticism and reassurance (“the fruit of a mango is excellent as a food”) for a newly arrived British housewife.

A Native Street in India (1906) speaks to the populousness that continues to define a country scheduled to outpace China’s numbers within the next 10 years.

An Eastern Market follows a Punjabi farmer’s trek to town, to buy and sell and take in the big city sights.

The archive’s biggest celeb is surely activist Mahatma Gandhi, whose great nephew, Kanu, enjoyed unlimited filming access on the assurance that he would never ask his uncle to pose.

The Raj makes itself known in 1925's King Emperor's Cup Race, a Handley Page biplane arriving in Calcutta in 1917, and several films documenting Edward Prince of Wales’ 1922 tour

Explore the full BFI’s full India on Film: 1899-1947 playlist here. It features 90 films in total, with maybe more to come.

Related Content:

Parvati Saves the World: Watch a Remix of Bollywood Films That Combats Rape in India

Google’s Moving Ad About 1947 Partition of India & Pakistan Tops 10 Million Views

1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc. 

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





  • Great Lectures

  • FREE UPDATES!

    GET OUR DAILY EMAIL

    Get the best cultural and educational resources on the web curated for you in a daily email. We never spam. Unsubscribe at any time.



    FOLLOW ON SOCIAL MEDIA

  • About Us

    Open Culture editor Dan Colman scours the web for the best educational media. He finds the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & movies you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.


    Advertise With Us

  • Archives

  • Quantcast