Watch the Hugely-Ambitious Soviet Film Adaptation of War and Peace Free Online (1966-67)

On the question of whether novels can successfully be turned into films, the cinephile jury remains out. In the best cases a filmmaker takes a literary work and reinvents it almost entirely in accordance with his own vision, which usually requires a book of modest or unrealized ambitions. This method wouldn’t do, in other words, for War and Peace. Yet Tolstoy’s epic novel, whose sheer historical, dramatic, and philosophical scope has made it one of the most acclaimed works in the history of literature, has been adapted over and over again: for radio, for the stage, as a 22-minute Yes song, and at least four times for the screen.

The first War and Peace film, directed by and starring the pioneering Russian filmmaker Vladimir Gardin, appeared in 1915. Japanese activist filmmaker Fumio Kamei came out with his own version just over three decades later. Only in the nineteen-fifties, with large-scale literary adaptation still in vogue, did the mighty hand of Hollywood take up the book. The project went back to 1941, when producer Alexander Korda tried to put it together under the direction of Orson Welles, fresh off Citizen Kane.

For better or worse, Welles’ version would surely have proven more memorable than the one that opened in 1956: King Vidor’s War and Peace expediently hacked out great swathes of Tolstoy’s novel, resulting in a lush but essentially unfaithful adaptation. This was still early in the Cold War, a struggle conducted through the amassing of soft power as well as hard. “It is a matter of honor for the Soviet cinema industry,” declared an open letter published in dthe Soviet press, “to produce a picture which will surpass the American-Italian one in its artistic merit and authenticity.”

The gears of the Soviet Ministry of Culture were already turning to get a superior War and Peace film into production — superior in scale, but far superior in fealty to Tolstoy’s words. This put a formidable challenge in front of Sergei Bondarchuk, who was selected as its director and who, like Gardin before him, eventually cast himself in the starring role of Count Pyotr “Pierre” Kirillovich Bezukhov. As a production of Mosfilm, national studio of the Soviet Union, War and Peace could marshal an unheard-of volume of resources to put early nineteenth-century Russia onscreen. Its furniture, fixtures, and other objects came from more than forty museums, and its thousands of uniforms and pieces of military hardware from the Napoleonic Wars were recreated by hand.

The most expensive production ever made in the Soviet Union, War and Peace was also rumored to be the most expensive production in the history of world cinema to date. With a total runtime exceeding seven hours, it was released in four parts throughout 1966 an 1967. Now, thanks to Mosfilm’s Youtube channel, you can watch them all free on Youtube. 55 years later, its production values still radiate from each and every frame, something you can appreciate even if you know nothing more of War and Peace than that — as a non-Russian filmmaker of comparatively modest production sensibilities once said — it’s about Russia.

Related content:

Why Should We Read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (and Finish It)? A TED-Ed Animation Makes the Case

An Animated Introduction to Leo Tolstoy, and How His Great Novels Can Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

The Art of Leo Tolstoy: See His Drawings in the War & Peace Manuscript & Other Literary Texts

Free: Watch Battleship Potemkin and Other Films by Sergei Eisenstein, the Revolutionary Soviet Filmmaker

Free Online: Watch Stalker, Mirror, and Other Masterworks by Soviet Auteur Andrei Tarkovsky

Watch 70 Movies in HD from Famed Russian Studio Mosfilm: Classic Films, Beloved Comedies, Tarkovsky, Kurosawa & More

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, 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, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Mama Cass and John Denver Sing a Lovely Duet of “Leaving On a Jet Plane” (1972)

My issue is that it’s all very well to sit back and complain but when it’s your country you have a responsibility. – Cass Elliot

What could be more heavenly than Cass Elliot of The Mamas & The Papas and singer-songwriter John Denver harmonizing on Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” a tune many conceived of as a protest to the Vietnam War, owing largely to folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary‘s cover version.

Maybe some voter registration added to the mix?

Before breaking into their duet on the late night TV musical variety show The Midnight Special, Denver invited Mama Cass to share a few words on her efforts to get out the vote in a presidential election year:

I’ve been traveling around the country for the past year or so, talking on a lot of college campuses and trying to find out exactly what people are thinking, and the thing that’s impressed me the most is, there is still in this country, believe it or not, after all the talk, a tremendous amount of apathy on the part of people who maybe don’t like the way things are going and maybe want to change it, but don’t do anything about it, y’know?

It was August 19, 1972. The war in Vietnam and the upcoming contest between President Richard Nixon and his Democratic challenger George McGovern were the top stories. June’s Watergate break in was a mounting concern.

Earlier in the day, the New York Times reported that “Senator George McGovern expects (South Vietnamese) President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu and his “cohorts” to flee Saigon into exile and a Communist-dominated coalition to take control of South Vietnam if Mr. McGovern is elected President of the United States on Nov. 7.”

Cass Elliot, a McGovern supporter, had become much more vocal about her political activism following the 1968 break up of The Mamas & The Papas, as in this interview with Rolling Stone:

I think everybody who has a brain should get involved in politics.  Working within. Not criticizing it from the outside.  Become an active participant, no matter how feeble you think the effort is.  I saw in the Democratic Convention in Chicago that there were more people interested in what I was interested in than I believed possible.  It made me want to work.  It made me feel my opinion and ideas were not futile, that there would be room in an organized movement of politics for me to voice myself. 

She remained diplomatic on the Midnight Special, telling viewers that “I don’t think it’s so important who you vote for, you vote for who you believe in, but the important thing is to vote,” though it’s hard to imagine that anyone tuning in from home would mistake her for a Nixon gal.

Earlier in the year she had ushered at the Four For McGovern fundraising concert at the LA Forum, was in the audience at Madison Square Warren Beatty’s Together for McGovern concert Garden, and attended a party Americans Abroad for McGovern held in London.

Shortly after the election (SPOILER: Her man lost), during an appearance on The Mike Douglas Show, above, she intimated that she might be open to a career shift:

 I think I would like to be a Senator or something in twenty years.  I don’t think I really know enough yet. I’m just 30 now and I wouldn’t even be eligible to run for office for another five years.  But I have a lot of feelings about things.  I know the way I would like to see things for this country and in my travels, when I talk to people, everybody wants pretty much the same thing:  peace, enough jobs, no poverty and good education.  And I’ve learned a lot.  It’s funny.  So many people in show business go into politics, and I used to say ‘What the heck do they know about it?’  But when you travel around, you really do get to feel–not to be cliche–the pulse of the country and what people want.  I’m concerned and it’s not good to be unconcerned and just sit there.

Listening to her discuss Watergate during her final visit to The Mike Douglas Show, shortly before her 1974 death, really makes us wish she was still here with us.

What we wouldn’t give to hear this outspoken political observer’s take on the situation our country now finds itself in, especially with another five decades of experience under her belt.

Perhaps there’s an alternate universe in which Cass Elliot is President.

If you haven’t yet registered to vote, now would be a great time to do so. It may not be too late to participate in your state’s primary elections. You know that’s what Cass would have wanted.

Related Content 

Tom Jones Performs “Long Time Gone” with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young–and Blows the Band & Audience Away (1969)

Joni Mitchell Sings an Achingly Pretty Version of “Both Sides Now” on the Mama Cass TV Show (1969)

Janis Joplin & Tom Jones Bring the House Down in an Unlikely Duet of “Raise Your Hand” (1969)

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Stravinsky’s “Illegal” Arrangement of “The Star Spangled Banner” (1944)

In 1939, Igor Stravinsky emigrated to the United States, first arriving in New York City, before settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he delivered the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard during the 1939-40 academic year. While living in Boston, the composer conducted the Boston Symphony and, on one famous occasion, he decided to conduct his own arrangement of the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which he made out a “desire to do my bit in these grievous times toward fostering and preserving the spirit of patriotism in this country.” The date was January, 1944. And he was, of course, referring to America’s role in World War II.

As you might expect, Stravinsky’s version on “The Star-Spangled Banner” wasn’t entirely conventional, seeing that it added a dominant seventh chord to the arrangement. And the Boston police, not exactly an organization with avant-garde sensibilities, issued Stravinsky a warning, claiming there was a law against tampering with the national anthem. (They were misreading the statute.) Grudgingly, Stravinsky pulled it from the bill.

You can hear Stravinsky’s “Star-Spangled Banner” above, apparently performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, and conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. The Youtube video features an apocryphal mugshot of Stravinsky. Despite the mythology created around this event, Stravinsky was never arrested.

If you would like to get Open Culture post’s via email, please sign up for our free email newsletter here.

And if you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks for your support!

Related Content:

The Night When Charlie Parker Played for Igor Stravinsky (1951)

Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Visualized in a Computer Animation for Its 100th Anniversary

Watch 82-Year-Old Igor Stravinsky Conduct The Firebird, the Ballet Masterpiece That First Made Him Famous (1965)

Hear 46 Versions of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in 3 Minutes: A Classic Mashup

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 10 ) |

The Timeline of World War II (Month by Month) Told With Scenes Made from Dozens of WWII Movies

We all learned a bit about the Second World War in school, or perhaps more than a bit. But for a great many of us, what we know of that period of history comes less from teachers and textbooks than it does from movies. World War II as a cinematic genre has existed since the early years of World War II itself, and at this point it has produced so many films that not even the most avid historically-minded cinephile could watch them all. Many such pictures, of course, take enormous liberties with their source material. But if you concentrate on just the most accurate parts of the most acclaimed movies about World War II, you can piece together a reasonably truthful portrayal of its events.

Such is the premise, at any rate, of the video above, “Timeline of WW2 in Films.” Created by Youtuber Salokin, it arranges clips from dozens of films released over the past half-century — Patton, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Battle of BritainDunkirk — in historical order.

Opening with footage from Roman Polanski’s The Pianist referring to the invasion of Poland in September 1939, it goes on to cover that year by drawing from the depiction of Soviet-Japanese border conflicts like the Battles of Khalkhin Go and Nomonhan in Kang Je-gyu’s My Way, then from the depiction of the titular fights on the Karelian Isthmus in Pekka Parikka’s The Winter War.

As Korean and Finnish productions, respectively, My Way and The Winter War offer perspectives on World War II different from the American one taken by Hollywood movies — Hollywood having once been the only motion-picture industry with the resources to re-create the war in a convincing manner. But the development of global film production in recent decades has also given rise to widely seen World War II movies from countries like Australia, Germany, Denmark, and Russia, to name a few countries whose films appear in this video. Not all of them agree perfectly with history as taught in the United States, but then, American World War II movie enthusiasts have unresolvable conflicts of their own: do you prefer Saving Private Ryan, for instance, or The Thin Red Line?

Related content:

Innovative Film Visualizes the Destruction of World War II: Now Available in 7 Languages

Watch World War II Rage Across Europe in a 7 Minute Time-Lapse Film: Every Day From 1939 to 1945

Watch Footage of the Allies Rolling Through a Defeated German Town in April, 1945: Restored & Colorized with AI

Time Travel Back to Tokyo After World War II, and See the City in Remarkably High-Quality 1940s Video

Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless: How World War II Changed Cinema & Helped Create the French New Wave

Quentin Tarantino’s World War II Reading List

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, 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, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Young Punk Rockers The Linda Lindas Play a Tiny Desk Concert Gig (at the Public Library)

The last we checked in with teenage girl power-punk band The Linda Lindas, they were tearing up the Los Angeles Public Library (Cypress Park branch) with their lockdown-hit “Racist, Sexist Boy.” After eleven-year-old drummer Mila de Garza recounted the xenophobic encounter that led to the song, the band unleashed some true noisy angst befitting a group twice their age. It was the song of rage we needed at the time, the clip went viral, and they soon got a record deal. Along the way, they’ve appeared in Amy Poehler’s documentary, contributed to a track by Best Coast, opened for Bikini Kill, played Jimmy Kimmel Live, and received accolades from Thurston Moore and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine.

Just over a year later, and The Linda Lindas are back in the library as part of NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series. Usually Tiny Desk gigs features an artist playing in the very cramped offices of the radio station, but as things are still not 100% safe, The Linda Lindas opted for the place they know well, this time playing at the Los Angeles Central Library branch.

This band is no one-off. The de Garza sisters, along with their cousin Eloise Wong and friend Bela Salazar, formed in 2018 and have been playing ever since. Compare the step up in confidence and band interplay on this newer version of “Racist, Sexist Boy,” with which they close the set.

Before that The Linda Lindas perform songs from their new album Growing Up, including the poppy Spanish ballad “Cuántas Veces”, the pop-punk “Talking to Myself,” and the title track. The band’s lyrics are honest, absent pretension, and while many of the concerns are universal, the album is definitely born out of COVID-era anxiety. If you’re wondering how these years are affecting those coming of age at this time, the album is essential.

And, hey kids, there’s still available (not on the live playlist but as a single on bandcamp) “Nino,” a harmony-filled ode to their pet cat.

By the way, there aren’t many other rock bands playing in libraries, but we did find one while searching the intertubes: it’s The Clash’s Mick Jones playing a solo electric set of his hits. It’s just one more reminder to support your local library—you never know who might turn up.

Related Content:

How the Riot Grrrl Movement Created a Revolution in Rock & Punk

Fear of a Female Planet: Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) on Why Russia and the US Need a Pussy Riot

Judy!: 1993 Judith Butler Fanzine Gives Us An Irreverent Punk-Rock Take on the Post-Structuralist Gender Theorist

Watch 450 NPR Tiny Desk Concerts: Intimate Performances from The Pixies, Adele, Wilco, Yo-Yo Ma & Many More

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

Sir Ben Kingsley Reads a Letter Written by Gandhi to Hitler (in the Voice of Mahatma Gandhi)

Several years before Indian independence as World War loomed, Mahatma Gandhi found he had little sway in international politics even as he built his movement at home. The philosophy of satyagraha did not sound noble to the British in 1939, for example, when the Indian leader wrote a letter exhorting them to let the Germans take their country, their homes, and even their lives rather than fight back. That same year, he wrote to Hitler, addressing him as “Dear Friend” and writing, “It is quite clear that you are today the one person in the world who can prevent a war which may reduce humanity to a savage state.”

Gandhi’s first 1939 letter to Hitler implies that the Führer was the only world leader who wanted such a war. The Indian leader fully understood the stakes. “My sympathies are all with the Jews,” he’d written in a 1938 article. “If there ever could be a justifiable war, in the name of and for humanity, war against Germany to prevent the wanton persecution of a whole race would be completely justified.” Still, he concluded, “I do not believe in any war.” He stuck to his principles even after Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939.

“Not deterred by the outbreak of war,” Alexander LaCasse writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “Gandhi wrote to Hitler a second time.” Just above, you can see Sir Ben Kingsley read that letter, in character as Gandhi and perhaps sounding much like Gandhi did when reading his letters aloud. Gandhi “took correspondence very seriously,” Nick Owen writes, and he “wrote — and was written to by — almost anyone.” In this much longer letter from 1940, Gandhi extols the practical virtues of non-violence and attempts some moral reasoning:

If not the British, some other power will certainly improve upon your method and beat you with your own weapon. You are leaving no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud. They cannot take pride in a recital of a cruel deed, however skillfully planned. I, therefore, appeal to you in the name of humanity to stop the war.

“There is no evidence to suggest Hitler ever responded to,” or even read, “either of Gandhi’s letters,” writes LaCasse. And maybe little evidence that Gandhi expected a response. “I am aware that your view of life regards such spoliations as virtuous acts,” he writes. “But we have been taught from childhood to regard them as acts degrading humanity.” He continues to profess Hitler a friend, writing “I own no foes. My business in life has been for the past 33 years to enlist the friendship of the whole of humanity.”

Before his death in 1948, Gandhi called the Holocaust “the greatest crime of our time.” According to a biographer, he also added, “the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs. It would have aroused the world and the people of Germany.” Had he suggested this in a letter to Europe’s Jews, it is unlikely they would have been persuaded.

Related Content:

Carl Jung Psychoanalyzes Hitler: “He’s the Unconscious of 78 Million Germans.” “Without the German People He’d Be Nothing” (1938)

When Mahatma Gandhi Met Charlie Chaplin (1931)

Mahatma Gandhi’s List of the 7 Social Sins; or Tips on How to Avoid Living the Bad Life

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

Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro Is Getting Adapted for the Stage by The Royal Shakespeare Company & Jim Henson’s Creature Shop

The films of Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli have won immense worldwide acclaim, in large part because they so fully inhabit their medium. Their characters, their stories, their worlds: all can come fully to life only in animation. Still, it’s true that some of their material did originate in other forms. The pre-Ghibli breakout feature Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, for instance, began as a comic book written and drawn by Miyazaki (who at first laid down the condition that it not be adapted for the screen). Four years later, by the time of My Neighbor Totoro, the nature of Ghibli’s visions had become inseparable from that of animation itself.

Now, almost three and a half decades after Totoro‘s original release, the production of a stage version is well underway. Playbill‘s Raven Brunner reports that the show “will open in London’s West End at The Barbican theatre for a 15-week engagement October 8-January 21, 2023.

The production will be presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company and executive producer Joe Hisaishi.” Japan’s most famous film composer, Hisaishi scored Totoro as well as all of Miyazaki’s other Ghibli films so far, including Porco RossoPrincess Mononoke, and Spirited Away (itself adapted for the stage in Japan earlier this year).

As you can see in the video just above, the RSC production of Totoro also involves Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. “The puppets being built at Creature Shop are based on designs created by Basil Twist, one of the UK’s most innovative puppeteers,” writes Deadline’s Baz Bamigboye, and they’ll be supplemented by the work of another master, “Mervyn Millar, of Britain’s cutting-edge Significant Object puppet studio.” Even such an assembly of puppet-making expertise will find it a formidable challenge to re-create the denizens of the enchanted countryside in which Totoro‘s young protagonists find themselves — to say nothing of the titular wood spirit himself, with all his mass, mischief, and overall benevolence. As for how they’re rigging up the cat bus, Ghibli fans will have to wait until next year to find out.

Related content:

The Films of Hayao Miyazaki Celebrated in a Glorious Concert Arranged by Film Composer Joe Hisaishi

Studio Ghibli Producer Toshio Suzuki Teaches You How to Draw Totoro in Two Minutes

Jim Henson Teaches You How to Make Puppets in Vintage Primer From 1969

Build Your Own Miniature Sets from Hayao Miyazaki’s Beloved Films: My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service & More

Studio Ghibli Releases Tantalizing Concept Art for Its New Theme Park, Opening in Japan in 2022

Hayao Miyazaki, The Mind of a Master: A Thoughtful Video Essay Reveals the Driving Forces Behind the Animator’s Incredible Body of Work

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, 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, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Take Graphic Design Courses to Launch Your Career as a Graphic Designer, Video Game Designer, UI Designer & More

What can you do with graphic design skills? More and more, it seems, as emerging technologies drive new apps, software, and games. New design challenges are everywhere, from human-machine interfaces, to 3D modeling in video games and animated films, to re-imagining classic designs in print and on screen. In addition to traditional jobs like art director, graphic designer, production artist, and animator, the past few years have seen a sharp rise in demand for User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) designers, roles that require a variety of different creative and technical skill sets.

You could get a four-year degree in design to work in one of these fields, or you could take a Coursera Specialization and be one step closer. Coursera has met the demand for new job skills and tech education by partnering with top arts institutions and universities to offer online courses at low cost. All of these courses grant certificates that show potential employers you’re ready to put your learning to use. If careers in art and contemporary design, graphic design, web user experience and interface design, or video game design appeal to you, you can learn those skills in the five certificate-granting Specialization programs below.

Graphic designers can choose to be as specialized or generalized as they like, but as in all creative fields, they need a thorough understanding of the basics. A Coursera Specialization is a series of courses intended to lead students to mastery, building on the history and foundations of the field. You can enroll for free and try out any of the Specializations for 7 days. After that, you’ll be charged between $39-$49 per month until you complete the courses in a Specialization. (Financial aid is available).

The exciting Specializations from CALARTS and the Museum of Modern Art will bring you many steps closer to a new career, or maybe even a new personal passion project.

Note: Open Culture has a partnership with Coursera. If readers enroll in certain Coursera courses and programs, it helps support Open Culture.

Related Content:

Google Unveils a Digital Marketing & E-Commerce Certificate: 7 Courses Will Help Prepare Students for an Entry-Level Job in 6 Months       

Google & Coursera Launch Career Certificates That Prepare Students for Jobs in 6 Months: Data Analytics, Project Management and UX Design

Become a Project Manager Without a College Degree with Google’s Project Management Certificate

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

How to Get into a Creative “Flow State”: A Short Masterclass

Is “flow state” the new mindfulness? The phrase has gained a lot of currency lately. You may have heard it spoken of in rarified terms that sound like you have to be a full-time artist, professional athlete, or Albert Einstein to access it. On the other hand, we have award-winning journalist, human performance expert, and Flow Research Collective founder Steven Kotler explaining in a video that we featured recently how to achieve a flow state on command. So, does flow require a little or a lot of us? It requires, first and foremost, a shift in consciousness.

In the field of positive psychology, flow is most associated with theorist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, whose Creativity: Flow the Psychology of Discovery and Invention provided key contemporary insights into the idea. For Csikszentmihalyi, directing our activity toward material notions of security sets us up for disappointment. Flow states are best understood as actualized creativity we can manifest in almost any conditions: we can be “happy, or miserable, regardless of what is actually happening ‘outside,’ just by changing the contents of consciousness,” he said.

For Taoists, flow means according with the nature of things as they are, which takes a lot of keeping still and letting be. Goethe used the phrase “effortless effort” to describe creative flow. Kotler’s definition is a bit more operational: Flow, he says in his Mindvalley talk above, is an “optimalized state of consciousness where we feel our best and we perform our best.” One thing all notions of flow seem to share is a belief in the importance of what Kotler calls “non-time,” or what the Taoist calls “the doing of non-doing,” a pleasurable resting state without distraction. (Kotler takes his “non-time” between 4 and 7:30 in the morning.)

Kotler himself arrived at the flow state “through an unusual door” — which he illustrates in his talk with an MRI of a skull in profile and list titled “The Cost of Doing Business.” For an ambitious freelance journalist, that meant “2 fractured kneecaps, 2 shattered arms, 1 snapped wrist, 2 mangled ankles,” and the list goes on (including 5 concussions): a description of injuries incurred while following extreme athletes around the world. What he saw, he says, were people who had everything going against them — little education, little natural ability, and histories of “destroyed homes.”

The athletes he followed were traumatized people who would not necessarily be candidates for world-changing innovation. Yet here they were, “extending the limits of kinesthetic possibility” — doing the previously impossible by achieving flow states. Kotler’s descriptions of flow are often very Yang, we might say, focusing on “peak performance” and favoring sports examples. But his claims for flow also sound like deeply healing medicine. He talks about “triggering” flow states to “overcome PTSD, addiction, and heartbreak.” Like Csikszentmihalyi, he saw firsthand how flow states can heal trauma.

We can achieve this “altered state of consciousness” by surfing or skydiving. We can also achieve it while solving equations, translating foreign languages, or knitting scarves. As Csikszentmihalyi points out, it is not the content of an experience — or the expense in airline tickets and broken bones — that matters so much as our state of absorption in activities we love and practice regularly, which take us away from thoughts about our ever-present problems and open up the space for possibility.

Related Content:

How to Enter a ‘Flow State’ on Command: Peak Performance Mind Hack Explained in 7 Minutes

Albert Einstein Tells His Son The Key to Learning & Happiness is Losing Yourself in Creativity (or “Finding Flow”)

Creativity, Not Money, is the Key to Happiness: Discover Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly’s Theory of “Flow”

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

Bars, Beer & Wine in Ancient Rome: An Introduction to Roman Nightlife and Spirits

When they finally get those kinks worked out of the time machine and we can take a tourist trip back to Rome—having signed the non-intervention paperwork, of course—we’re going to need someone to guide us. I propose that should be Garrett Ryan, host of the Told In Stone YouTube channel, PhD in Greek and Roman History, and author of Naked Statues, Fat Gladiators, and War Elephants: Frequently Asked Questions about the Ancient Greeks and Romans. He has made it his job to answer the everyday questions about these two ancient cultures that most historians pass over. But these are the questions we’re going to need as tourists if we think we’re going to go party in Ancient Rome.

Because invariably somebody in our tourist group is going to ask “where’s the bars and nightclubs?” Fair question. Ryan has the answers, all told in the video above.

Much like Las Vegas or Dubai, the real partying is happening at the elite levels, among the idle rich who could afford day long banquets, extravagant activities such as live lion hunts, and import dancers from as far away as Spain. In Ryan’s reconstruction of a debauched night out he follows a typical nouveau riche who goes slumming in the grimier parts of the city, picks fights that his bodyguards sort out, and then lies his way into a party at a mansion by claiming to know a friend inside. (He also bribes the guards). And then it’s on and on until the break of dawn.

For the majority of Romans though, the cities weren’t bustling at night. Most people rose at dawn and slept at dusk. Bars and eateries did exist, however. After the dinner hour, these weren’t family-friendly establishments. There was gambling and drinking, and harried waitresses who didn’t have time for dummies, and the beer and wine was cheap and exceptionally low quality, and…wait, what exactly has changed? Not much, it seems.

Ryan’s other videos offer quick histories on the beer and wine selections you might find in Rome and in the larger empire. Although the upper classes looked down their Roman noses at beer, a majority of future Europe preferred it, including Gaul, also known as modern day France. Tacitus considered beer (from Germany) as bad as spoiled wine. And indeed a lot of it was sour, improved with the addition of sweeteners. The physician Dioscorides didn’t like beer because it caused excessive gas. And while that might be true, it’s not like Roman wine would win any gold medals these days.

Both the Greeks and the Romans preferred their wine heavily watered down, which might have been necessary for its strong taste. Sweeteners like honey would also be added to improve the taste. And most wine, fermented in vats, only lasted up to a year before turning to vinegar.

There’s so much more to learn at these videos, you should just dive in. But when the time travel trip comes, please keep your 21st century opinions to yourself until we’re safely home.

Related Content:

An 8-Minute Animated Flight Over Ancient Rome

The History of Ancient Rome in 20 Quick Minutes: A Primer Narrated by Brian Cox

The Changing Landscape of Ancient Rome: A Free Online Course from Sapienza University of Rome

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

Free Online: Watch Stalker, Mirror, and Other Masterworks by Soviet Auteur Andrei Tarkovsky

Andrei Tarkovsky understood cinema in a way no filmmaker had before — and, quite possibly, in a way no filmmaker has since. That impression is reinforced by any of his films, five of which are available to watch free on Youtube. You’ll find them on the Youtube channel of Mosfilm, which was once the Soviet Union’s biggest film studio. It was for Mosfilm that Tarkovsky directed his debut feature Ivan’s Childhood in 1962. Based on a folkloric war story by Soviet writer Vladimir Bogomolov, the film had already been made by another young director but rejected by the studio. Tarkovsky’s version both satisfied the higher-ups and, with its international success, introduced the world to his own distinctive cinematic vision.

“My discovery of Tarkovsky’s first film was like a miracle. Suddenly, I found myself standing at the door of a room the keys of which had, until then, never been given to me.” These are the words of Ingmar Bergman, to whom Tarkovsky would much later pay tribute with his final film, The Sacrifice, produced in Bergman’s homeland of Sweden.

But in between these films would come five others, each widely considered a masterwork in its own way. Andrei Rublev offers a Tarkovskian view of the fifteenth-century Russia inhabited by the eponymous icon painter. Solaris adapts Stanislaw Lem’s science-fiction novel of a sentient planet and its psychological manipulation of cosmonauts onboard a nearby space station.

It was with 1975’s Mirror that Tarkovsky turned inward. Drawing as deeply as possible from the artistic potential of his medium, he created a cinematic experience rich with memory, history, reality, and dreams — a kind of “poetry” in cinema, as one often hears his work described. The resulting break with many of the conventions and expectations attached to motion pictures at the time polarized critical and popular reaction. But the intervening 47 years have venerated Tarkovsky’s artistic brazenness: in Sight & Sound‘s most recent 100 Greatest Films of All Time poll, Mirror came in at number nineteen, seven places higher than Andrei Rublev.

Despite having come in three spots below Andrei Rublev on the Sight & Sound poll, 1979’s Stalker is to many Tarkovsky fans far and away the auteur’s greatest achievement. Its apparently linear, vaguely science-fictional narrative presents a journey into “the Zone,” a mysterious region containing a room that grants the wishes of all who enter it. This simplistic-sounding premise belies a film of infinite depth: “I’ve seen Stalker more times than any film except The Great Escape,” writes Geoff Dyer (who once devoted an entire book to the former). “It’s never quite as I remember. Like the Zone, it’s always changing.” We watch Stalker — or indeed, anything in Tarkovsky oeuvre — not to see a movie, but to see “the reason cinema was invented.”

Related content:

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Very First Films: Three Student Films, 1956-1960

The Story of Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Troubled (and Even Deadly) Sci-Fi Masterpiece

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris Shot by Shot: A 22-Minute Breakdown of the Director’s Filmmaking

The Poetic Harmony of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Filmmaking: A Video Essay

What Andrei Tarkovsky’s Most Notorious Scene Tells Us About Time During the Pandemic: A Video Essay

Slavoj Žižek Explains the Artistry of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Films: Solaris, Stalker & More

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, 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, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

  • Great Lectures

  • About Us

    Open Culture scours the web for the best educational media. We find the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & educational videos you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.

    Advertise With Us

  • Receive our Daily Email

    Get the best cultural and educational resources delivered to your inbox Subscribe
  • Archives

  • Search

  • Quantcast
    Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.