What Made Better Caul Saul a Master Class in Visual Storytelling: A Video Essay




A decade ago, nobody interested in prestige dramatic television could have ignored Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan’s AMC series about a downtrodden high-school chemistry teacher who becomes a calculating and savage crystal-meth dealer. Such was the critical and popular success of the show that, less than two years after it ended, it was resumed in the form of Better Call Saul. The title character Saul Goodman had been the aforementioned teacher-turned-dealer’s lawyer in Breaking Bad, and the later series, a prequel, traces the half-decade journey that brought him to that point: a journey that began when he was a Chicago con man named Jimmy McGill.

Better Call Saul‘s six-season run (one episode longer than Breaking Bad) came to an end this week. During that time, the show has received even stronger accolades than the one that spun it off. To get a sense of what makes it such an achievement in a field crowded with some of the most ambitious creators of popular culture today, watch the video essay above by Youtuber Thomas Flight.


Here on Open Culture, we’ve previously featured his visual analyses of auteurs like Wes Anderson and Bong Joon-ho as well as shows like The Wire and Chernobyl. Five years ago, he uploaded a video explaining “why Better Call Saul is brilliant”; now he argues that it’s a “master class in visual storytelling.”

“‘Show, don’t tell’ is such common advice in filmmaking and screenwriting that it’s basically a cliché at this point,” says Flight, “but it’s also much easier said than done.” He goes on to draw from Better Call Saul a host of prime examples of showing-not-telling, organized into four categories of its special strengths: “props as symbolic objects,” “visual performances,” “characters in process,” and “storytelling with cinematography.” Better Call Saul‘s creators make rich use of objects, gestures, expressions, places, angles, and much else besides to tell — or rather, show — the story of Jimmy/Saul’s transformation, as well as the transformations of those around him. But which of those characters will star in Gilligan’s next, surely even more ambitious series?

Related content:

How Breaking Bad Crafted the Perfect TV Pilot: A Video Essay

Watch the Pilot of Breaking Bad with a Chemistry Professor: How Sound Was the Science?

The Science of Breaking Bad: Professor Donna Nelson Explains How the Show Gets it Right

Watch the Original Audition Tapes for Breaking Bad Before the Final Season Debuts

Breaking Bad Illustrated by Gonzo Artist Ralph Steadman

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.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Has Given Away 186 Million Free Books to Kids, Boosting Literacy Worldwide




Dolly Parton created her Imagination Library, a non-profit which gives books to millions of children every month, with her father, Robert Lee Parton, in mind.

“I always thought that if Daddy had an education, there’s no telling what he could have been,” she mused in her 2020 book, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics:

Because he knew how to barter, he knew how to bargain. He knew how to make everything work, and he knew how to count money. He knew exactly what everything was worth, how much he was going to make from that tobacco crop, what he could trade, and how he could make it all work

Despite his business acumen, Parton’s father never learned to read or write, a source of shame.


Parton explains how there was a time when schooling was never considered a given for children in the mountains of East Tennessee, particularly for those like her father, who came from a family of 15:

Kids had to go to work in the fields to help feed the family. Because of the weather and because of conditions, a lot of kids couldn’t go to school.

I told him, “Daddy, there are probably millions of people in this world who don’t know how to read and write, who didn’t get the opportunity. Don’t be ashamed of that. Let’s do something special.”

Parton is convinced that her father, whose pride in her musical accomplishments was so great he drove over with a bucket of soapy water to clean the bronze statue her hometown erected in her honor, was prouder still of a nickname bestowed on her by the Imagination Library’s child beneficiaries – the Book Lady.

Together with the community partners who secure funding for postage and non-administrative costs, the Book Lady has given away some 186,680,000 books since the project launched in 1995.

Originally limited to children residing in Sevier County, Tennessee, the program has expanded to serve over 2,000,000 kids in the US, UK, Australia, Canada and the Republic of Ireland.

Participation can start well before a child is old enough to attempt their ABCs. Parents and guardians are encouraged to enroll them at birth.

The Imagination Library’s littlest participants’ love of books is fostered with colorful illustrations and simple texts, often rhymes having to do with animals or bedtime.

By the time a reader hits their final year of the program at age 5, the focus will have shifted to school readiness, with subjects including science, folktales, and poetry.

The books – all Penguin Random House titles – are chosen by a panel of early childhood literacy experts. 

This year’s selection includes such old favorites as The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Good Night, Gorilla, and The Snowy Day, as well as Parton’s own Coat of Many Colors, based on the song in which she famously paid tribute to her mother’s tender resourcefulness:

Back through the years

I go wonderin’ once again

Back to the seasons of my youth

I recall a box of rags that someone gave us

And how my momma put the rags to use

There were rags of many colors

Every piece was small

And I didn’t have a coat

And it was way down in the fall

Momma sewed the rags together

Sewin’ every piece with love

She made my coat of many colors

That I was so proud of

The Imagination Library is clearly a boon to children living, as Parton once did, in poverty, but participation is open to anyone under age 5 living in an area served by an Imagination Library affiliate.

Promoting early engagement with books in such a significant way has also helped Parton to reduce some of the stigma surrounding illiteracy:

You don’t really realize how many people can’t read and write. Me telling the story about my daddy instilled some pride in people who felt like they had to keep it hidden like a secret. I get so many letters from people saying, “I would never had admitted it’ or “I was always ashamed.”

Learn more about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which welcomes donations and inquiries from those who would like to start an affiliate program in their area, here.

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.

“When We All Have Pocket Telephones”: A 1920s Comic Accurately Predicts Our Cellphone-Dominated Lives




Much has been said lately about jokes that “haven’t aged well.” Sometimes it has do to with shifting public sensibilities, and sometimes with a gag’s exaggeration having been surpassed by the facts of life. As a Twitter user named Max Saltman posted not long ago, “I love finding New Yorker cartoons so dated that the joke is lost entirely and the cartoons become just descriptions of people doing normal things.” The examples included a partygoer admitting that “I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve downloaded it from the internet,” and a teacher admonishing her students to “keep your eyes on your own screen.”

All of those New Yorker cartoons appear to date from the nineteen-nineties. Even more prescient yet much older is the Daily Mirror cartoon at the top of the post, drawn by artist W. K. Haselden at some point between 1919 and 1923. It envisions a time “when we all have pocket telephones,” liable to ring at the most inconvenient times: “when running for a train,” “when your hands are full,” “at a concert,” even “when you are being married.” Such a comic strip could never, as they say, be published today — not because of its potential to offend modern sensitivities, but because of its sheer mundanity.


For here in the twenty-twenties, we all, indeed, have pocket telephones. Not only that, we’ve grown so accustomed to them that Haselden’s cartoon feels reminiscent of the turn of the millennium, when the novelty and prestige of cellphones (to say nothing of their gratingly simple ringtones) made them feel more intrusive in day-to-day-life. Now, increasingly, cellphones are day-to-day life. Far from the literal “pocket telephones” envisioned a century ago, they’ve worked their way into nearly every aspect of human existence, including those Haselden could never have considered.

Yet this wasn’t the first time anyone had imagined such a thing. “Rumors of a ‘pocket phone’ had been ringing around the world since 1906,” writes Laughing Squid’s Lori Dorn. “A man named Charles E. Alden claimed to have created a device that could easily fit inside a vest pocket and used a ‘wireless battery.'” In the event, it would take nearly eight decades for the first cellphone to arrive on the market, and three more on top of that for them to become indispensable in the West. Now the “pocket telephone” has become the defining device of our era all over the world, though the social norms around its use do remain a work in progress.

via Laughing Squid

Related content:

The First Cellphone: Discover Motorola’s DynaTAC 8000X, a 2-Pound Brick Priced at $3,995 (1984)

Lynda Barry on How the Smartphone Is Endangering Three Ingredients of Creativity: Loneliness, Uncertainty & Boredom

Filmmaker Wim Wenders Explains How Mobile Phones Have Killed Photography

A 1947 French Film Accurately Predicted Our 21st-Century Addiction to Smartphones

The World’s First Mobile Phone Shown in 1922 Vintage Film

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.

Texas School Board Bans Illustrated Edition of The Diary of Anne Frank

According to a recent survey conducted by the Texas State Teachers Association, 70% of surveyed teachers said they were seriously thinking about leaving the teaching profession. “Lingering stress from the pandemic is a factor, but it isn’t the only one. Inadequate pay, political attacks on educators and the failure of state leaders to protect the health and safety of students and school employees also have combined to drive down the morale of teachers to the lowest level in recent memory and endanger our public school system,” TSTA President Ovidia Molina said.

We recently saw how Texas’ educational system has become a vast political minefield, with conservative legislators attempting to ban 800+ books from school libraries–primarily because the books make students feel “uncomfortable.” This week, the Keller Independent School District in Fort Worth, Texas decided to cancel an acclaimed illustrated adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank, echoing the recent decision by a Tennessee School board to ban Maus, the Pulitzer-Prize winning graphic novel on the Holocaust. The ban of The Diary of Anne Frank was triggered by a parent complaint, which the right-leaning school board decided to honor. Why would thinking people want to opt out of teaching in the Texas educational system? It’s not hard to imagine.

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 

Tennessee School Board Bans Maus, the Pulitzer-Prize Winning Graphic Novel on the Holocaust; the Book Becomes #1 Bestseller on Amazon

The 850 Books a Texas Lawmaker Wants to Ban Because They Could Make Students Feel Uncomfortable

Umberto Eco Makes a List of the 14 Common Features of Fascism

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 4 ) |

The Brilliantly Nightmarish Art & Troubled Life of Painter Francis Bacon

The paintings of Francis Bacon continue to trouble their viewers, not least those viewers who try to slot his work into a particular genre or movement. Bacon rose to prominence painting the human body, hardly an uncommon subject, but he did so in the middle of the twentieth century, just when abstraction had achieved near-complete domination of Western art. Though his work may not have been deliberately fashionable, it wasn’t straightforwardly realistic either. Even as they incorporated humanity, his artistic visions twisted it out of shape, often in complicatedly grotesque or bloody ways. What could have inspired such enduringly nightmarish work?

That question underlies Francis Bacon: A Brush with Violence, the 2017 BBC Two documentary above. Some answers are to be found in the painter’s life, whose fragile and asthmatic early years were shadowed by the formidable presence of the elder Bacon, a Boer War veteran and racehorse trainer. As Bacon’s friend and dealer Lord Gowrie says, “His father got his stable boys to whip him, and I think that started one or two things off.” Like many studies, the film draws connections between Bacon’s harrowing artworks and his even more harrowing sex life, conducted in shadowy underworlds at great — and to him, seemingly thrilling — risk of physical harm.

Bacon proceeded down his long life’s every avenue in the same deliberately reckless manner. As with men, money, and drink, so with art: he would gamble everything, as another interviewee puts it, on the next brushstroke. His impulsive creation often preceded equally impulsive destruction, as evidenced by one assistant’s memories of following the artist’s orders to destroy a great many paintings that would now command serious prices at auction. When Bacon realized what he needed to paint — a process that began with a youthful trip to Paris, where he first encountered the work of Pablo Picasso — he knew he could accept nothing else.

Those paintings attract ever more intense critical scrutiny, an enterprise that has recently produced Francis Bacon: A Tainted Talent, the four-part documentary series just above from Youtube channel Blind Dweller (recently featured here on Open Culture for a video essay on Jean-Michel Basquiat). Almost wholly untrained in the classical sense, Bacon developed not just a distinctive set of techniques for making visible his tantalizingly appalling inner world, but also kept refining those techniques to make his work ever less outwardly shocking yet ever more affecting on subtler levels. In his lifetime, this made him the highest-paid artist in the world; more than thirty years after his death, he remains a movement of one.

Related content:

Francis Bacon on the South Bank Show: A Singular Profile of the Singular Painter

William Burroughs Meets Francis Bacon: See Never-Broadcast Footage (1982)

Art History School: Learn About the Art & Lives of Toulouse-Lautrec, Gustav Klimt, Frances Bacon, Edvard Munch & Many More

The Revolutionary Paintings of Jean-Michel Basquiat: A Video Essay

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.

Orson Welles Reads the Abolitionist John Brown’s Final Speech After Being Sentenced to Death

Orson Welles was only 25 years old when he directed and starred in Citizen Kane, a film still widely considered the best ever made. Even then, he’d already been a household name for at least three years, since his controversially realistic radio adaptation of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. But Welles’ high profile at a young age came as a result of serious work at an even younger one. His earlier efforts include Marching Song, a never-produced stage play about the abolitionist John Brown, which he co-wrote with his former schoolmaster Roger Hill when he was just seventeen years old.

Published only in 2019, Marching Song proves that Welles had been working in the fragmented-biography narrative form well before Citizen Kane. It also shows the depth of his fascination with the figure of John Brown. As research, Welles and Hill visited historical sites including Harper’s Ferry, the Virginia town in which Brown, in October of 1859, led the raid on a federal armory meant as the first blow in a large-scale slave-liberation movement. As every American learns in school, Brown’s rebellion did not go as planned — not only did he lose more men than he’d expected to, he also gained the cooperation of fewer slaves than he’d expected to — and brought the country closer to civil war.


About two months later, Brown became the first person executed for treason in the history of the United States. That the verdict didn’t take him by surprise is evidenced by the eloquence of his last speech, delivered extemporaneously after his conviction. Devoutly religious, he used it to make a final appeal to a higher authority. “This court acknowledges, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God,” he said. “I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament. That teaches me that ‘all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them.’ It teaches me, further, to ‘remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them.’ I endeavored to act up to that instruction.”

He then added, “I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons” — with the clear irony that he was at that point 59 years old, not to mention intimately familiar with the Bible. The gravity of the occasion, and of Brown’s demeanor, might have been too much for the teenage Welles to embody. But when he got older he did well indeed by the text of Brown’s last speech, a performance captured in the video above. He’d also managed, writes Mass Live’s Ray Kelly, to “stage Macbeth with an all-black cast in Harlem in 1936,” produce “the controversial Native Son on Broadway,” and use radio “to seek justice for blinded African-American veteran Isaac Woodard Jr.” Welles never had to face the gallows for his convictions, but could certainly channel the spirit of a man who was prepared to.

Related content:

Young Orson Welles Directs “Voodoo Macbeth,” the First Shakespeare Production With An All-Black Cast: Footage from 1936

Albert Einstein Explains How Slavery Has Crippled Everyone’s Ability to Think Clearly About Racism

The Anti-Slavery Alphabet: 1846 Book Teaches Kids the ABCs of Slavery’s Evils

How Karl Marx Influenced Abraham Lincoln and His Position on Slavery & Labor

When Orson Welles Became a Speech & Joke Writer for Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Orson Welles Narrates an Animated Parable About How Xenophobia & Greed Will Put America Into Decline (1971)

When Orson Welles Crossed Paths With Hitler (and Churchill): “He Had No Personality…. I Think There Was Nothing There.”

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.

Behold a Secret Gallery of Art Created Using Discarded Gum on London’s Millennium Bridge

Throughout history, determined artists have worked on available surfaces – scrap wood, cardboard, walls…

Ben Wilson has created thousands of works using chewing gum as his canvas.

Specifically, chewing gum spat out by careless strangers.


His work has become a defining featuring of London’s Millennium Bridge, a modern structure spanning the Thames, and connecting such South Bank attractions as Tate Modern and the Shakespeare’s Globe with St. Paul’s Cathedral to the north.

A 2021 profile in The Guardian documents the creation process:

The technique is very precise. He first softens the oval of flattened gum a little with a blowtorch, sprays it with lacquer and then applies three coats of acrylic enamel, usually to a design from his latest book of requests that come from people who stop and crouch and talk. He uses tiny modelers’ brushes, quick-drying his work with a lighter flame as he goes along, and then seals it with more lacquer. Each painting takes a few hours and can last for many years.

Unsurprisingly, Wilson works very, very small.

For every Millennium Bridge pedestrian who’s hip to the ever-evolving solo exhibition underfoot, there are several hundred who remain completely oblivious.

Stoop to admire a miniature portrait, abstract, or commemorative work, and the bulk of your fellow pedestrians will give you a wide berth, though every now and then a concerned or curious party will stop to see what the deal is.

Wilson, who works sprawled on the bridge’s metal treads, his nose close to touching his tiny, untraditional canvas, receives a similar response, as described in Zachary Denman’s short documentary, above:

They make think I’ve fallen over and they may think I’ve had a cardiac arrest or something, so I’ve had lots of ambulances turning up…I’ve had loads of police.

His subjects are suggested by the shape of the spat out gum, by friends, by strangers who stop to watch him work:

I’ve had to deal with people memorializing people who have been murdered. People who have been so lonely, or remembering favorite pets; people who are destitute in all sorts of ways. It goes from proposal pictures, ‘Will you marry me?’, to people who I drew when they were kids and they now have their own kids.

Like any street artist, Wilson’s had his share of run ins with the law, including a wrongful 2010 arrest for criminal damage, when a crowd of schoolchildren who’d been enthusiastically watching an itty bitty St. Pauls taking shape on a blob of gum witnessed him being dragged off by his feet. (He asked if he could finish the picture first…)

He may not get permission to create the public works he goes out daily to create, but he contributes by clearing the area of litter, and as he points out, painting on discarded gum doesn’t constitute defacing anyone’s actual property:

Technically in one sense, I’m working within the law …if I paint on chewing gum, it’s like finding No Man’s Land or common ground. It’s a space which is not under the jurisdiction of a local or national government.











See more of Ben Wilson’s work in his online Gum Gallery.

Photos in this article taken by Ayun Halliday, 2022. All rights reserved.

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.

When Christopher Hitchens Vigilantly Defended Salman Rushdie After the Fatwah: “It Was a Matter of Everything I Hated Versus Everything I Loved”

I have often been asked if Christopher defended me because he was my close friend. The truth is that he became my close friend because he wanted to defend me. –Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie remains in critical condition after suffering multiple stab wounds while on stage in New York, a shocking occurrence but not quite surprising given that the author has lived with a death sentence over his head since 1989. (You can read the history of that controversy here.) The nation of Iran has denied any responsibility for the attack on the author, but it’s probably safe to assume that his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses has something to do with it, over thirty years after the fact.

“Even before the fatwa,” Steven Erlanger writes in The New York Times“the book was banned in a number of countries, including India, Bangladesh, Sudan and Sri Lanka.” Protests of the novel resulted in several deaths and attacks on booksellers. Rushdie had not set out to enrage much of the Islamic world, but neither had he any interest in appeasing its conservative leaders. Always outspoken, and a ferocious critic of British Empire as well as Islamic theocracy, his career since the fatwa has demonstrated a commitment to freeing the literary arts from the dictates of church and state.

On the subject of imperialism, Rushdie and the late Christopher Hitchens came to disagree after the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq and Hitchens’ “U-turn across the political highway to join forces with the war-makers of George W. Bush’s administration,” Rushdie writes in a Vanity Fair appreciation for Hitchens‘ after the latter’s death. But his book God is Not Great “carried Hitch away from the American right and back toward his natural, liberal, ungodly constituency”; a collection of people who see the free expression of ideas as a far preferable condition to the existence of theocratic death squads.

Wherever he fell at any given time on the political spectrum, Hitchens never gave up his defense of Rushdie, one in which, as he wrote in his memoir, Hitch-22, he was completely committed from the start:

It was, if I can phrase it like this, a matter of everything I hated versus everything I loved. In the hate column: dictatorship, religion, stupidity, demagogy, censorship, bullying, and intimidation. In the love column: literature, irony, humor, the individual, and the defense of free expression. Plus, of course, friendship– 

Hitchens was gravely disappointed in liberal writers like Arthur Miller who refused to publicly support Rushdie out of fear, as he says in the television interview at the top of the post. The ambivalent response of many on the left struck him as gross political cowardice and hypocrisy. He went on the attack, arguing roundly on popular shows like Question Time (below, with his brother Peter, Baroness Williams, and recently deposed prime minister Boris Johnson).

Hitchens “saw that the attack on The Satanic Verses was not an isolated occurrence,” Rushdie writes, “that across the Muslim world, writers and journalists and artists were being accused of the same crimes — blasphemy, heresy, apostasy, and their modern-day associates, ‘insult’ and ‘offense.'” Rushdie had meant no offense, he writes, “I had not chosen the battle.” But it seems to have chosen him:

It was at least the right battle, because in it everything that I loved and valued (literature, freedom, irreverence, freedom, irreligion, freedom) was ranged against everything I detested (fanaticism, violence, bigotry, humorlessness, philistinism, and the new offense culture of the age). Then I read Christopher using exactly the same everything-he-loved-versus-everything-he-hated trope, and felt… understood.

If the fatwa against Rushdie made him infamous, it did not make him universally beloved, even among his fellow writers, but he always had a fierce ally in Hitchens. Let’s hope Rushdie can pick up the fight for free expression once again when he recovers from this brutal stabbing.

Related Content:

Christopher Hitchens Dismisses the Cult of Ayn Rand: There’s No “Need to Have Essays Advocating Selfishness Among Human Beings; It Requires No Reinforcement”

Hear Salman Rushdie Read Donald Barthelme’s “Concerning the Bodyguard” 

Jeff Koons and Salman Rushdie Teach New Courses on Art, Creativity & Storytelling for MasterClass

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

What Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unusual Windows Tell Us About His Architectural Genius

There could be few more American styles of dwelling than the tract house, and few more American architects than Frank Lloyd Wright. But Wright, of course, never designed a tract house. Each of his dwellings, to say nothing of his public buildings, was in every sense a one-off, not just in its layout and its details but in its relationship to its context. Wright believed, as he declared in his book The Natural House, that a building should be “as dignified as a tree in the midst of nature.” This he held true even for relatively modest residences, as evidenced by the series of “Usonian houses” he began in the late nineteen-thirties.

The Vox video above features the “cypress-and-brick masterpiece” that is Pope-Leighey House in Alexandria, Virginia, which Wright completed in 1941. “Bounded by the humble budget of the Pope family” — Loren Pope, its head was working as a newspaper copy editor at the time — “this structure nonetheless exhibits the distinct features characteristic of his formidable vision and style.”


So says the house’s page at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which adds that “the architectural element of compression and release, the cantilevered roofs, and the windows that open to the outside create an immediate interaction with the surrounding landscape.”

Video producer Phil Edwards pays special attention to those windows. He cites Wright’s conviction that “the best way to light a house is God’s way — the natural way, as nearly as possible in the daytime and at night as nearly like the day as may be, or better.” In the case of the Pope-Leighey house, achieving this ideal involved the use of not just nearly floor-to-ceiling windows, but also clerestory windows perforated in a distinctive geometric pattern and positioned so as to cast “light hung like pictures on the wall.” The effect is so strong that the house’s two relocations appear not to have diminished it — and so singular that, despite the enthusiasm of post-war tract-house developers for Wright’s innovations in housing, it never did make it into Levittown.

Related content:

A Virtual Tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Lost Japanese Masterpiece, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo

Take a 360° Virtual Tour of Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Personal Home & Studio

12 Famous Frank Lloyd Wright Houses Offer Virtual Tours: Hollyhock House, Taliesin West, Fallingwater & More

That Far Corner: Frank Lloyd Wright in Los Angeles – A Free Online Documentary

How Insulated Glass Changed Architecture: An Introduction to the Technological Breakthrough That Changed How We Live and How Our Buildings 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.

The Oakland Public Library Puts Online a Collection of Items Forgotten in Library Books: Love Notes, Doodles & More

Librarians are champions of organization, and among its best practitioners.

Books are shelved according to the Dewey Decimal system.

Categories are assigned using Library of Congress Rule Interpretations, Library of Congress Subject Headings, and Library of Congress Classification.

And Sharon McKellar, the Teen Services Department Head at the Oakland Public Library, collects ephemera she and other staffers find in books returned to the OPL’s 18 locations.

It’s an impulse many share. 

Eventually, she began scanning them to share on her employer’s website, inspired by Found Magazine, a crowdsourced collection of found letters, birthday cards, kids’ homework, to-do lists, handwritten poems, doodles, dirty pictures, etc.


As Found’s creators, Davy Rothbart and Jason Bitner, write on the magazine’s website:

We certainly didn’t invent the idea of found stuff being cool. Every time we visit our friends in other towns, someone’s always got some kind of unbelievable discovered note or photo on their fridge. We decided to make a bunch of projects so that everyone can check out all the strange, hilarious and heartbreaking things people have picked up and passed our way.

McKellar told NPR that her project “lets us be a little bit nosy. In a very anonymous way, it’s like reading people’s secret diaries a little bit but without knowing who they are.”

The finds, which she stores in a box under her desk prior to scanning and posting, are pushing 600, with more arriving all the time.

Searchable categories include notes, creative writing, art, and photos.

One artifact, the scatological one-of-a-kind zine Mr Men #48, excerpted above, spans four categories, including kids, a highly fertile source of both humor and heartbreak.

There’s a distinctly different vibe to the items that children forge for themselves or each other, as opposed to work created for school, or as presents for the adults in their lives.

McKellar admits to having a sweet spot for their inadvertent contributions, which comprise the bulk of the collection.

She also catalogues the throwaway flyers, ticket stubs and lists that adult readers use to mark their place in a book, but when it comes to placeholders with more obvious potential for sentimental value, she finds herself wondering if a library patron has accidentally lost track of a precious object:

Does the person miss that item? Do they regret having lost it or were they careless with it because they actually didn’t share those deep and profound feelings with the person who wrote [it]?

Actual bookmarks are not exempt…

Future plans include a possible writing contest for short stories inspired by items in the collection.

Browse the Found in a Library Book collection here.

Related Content 

Public Library Receipt Shows How Much Money You’ve Saved by Borrowing Books, Instead of Buying Them

Free Coloring Books from World-Class Libraries & Museums: Download & Color Hundreds of Free Images

The New York Public Library Creates a List of 125 Books That They Love

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.

How a Simple, Bauhaus-Designed Chair Ended Up Everywhere Over the Past 100 Years

If you don’t believe chairs can be art, you’ll have to take it up with the curators, gallerists, collectors, architects, and designers around the world who spend their lives obsessing over chair design. Every major museum has a furniture collection, and every collection displaying furniture gives special pride of place to the radical innovations of modernist chairs, from early artisan creations of the Bauhaus to mass-produced mid-century chairs of legend. Chairs are status symbols, art objects, and physical manifestations of leisure, power, and repose.

Who could forget Charles and Ray Eames’ iconic lounge chair, Arne Jacobsen’s “Egg,” the elegantly simple side chairs of Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames, or even the more recent corner office staple, the Aeron Chair — the Herman Miller original that has been part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection since 1992? “In chairs more than in any other object, human beings are the unit of measure,” says Museum of Modern Art curator Paola Antonelli, “and designers are forced to walk a line between standardization and personalization.”


Artist Marcel Breuer, a Bauhaus designer, architect, and instructor, applied more than his share of innovative ideas to a series of chairs and tables designed and built in the 1920s and 30s. The most iconic of these, from a design perspective, may be the “Wassily,” a club chair-shaped contraption made of steel tubing and canvas straps. (The chair acquired the name because Breuer’s Bauhaus colleague Wassily Kandinsky so admired it.) One rarely encounters this chair outside the environs of upscale furniture galleries and the finer homes and waiting rooms.

Breuer’s Cesca, however, the Wassily’s smaller, more utilitarian cousin from 1928, seems to show up all over the place. Also called the B32 (with an armchair version called the B64), the Cesca’s one-piece, steel tube design was, like Breuer’s full line of Bauhaus furniture, inspired by his experiments in bike-building and interest in “mass production and standardization,” he said. Unlike the Wassily, which might set you back around $3,300 for a quality reproduction, a Cesca comes in at around 1/10th the price, and seems ubiquitous, the Vox video above points out.

No, it’s still not cheap, but Breuer’s rattan chair design is widely beloved and copied. “The cantilevered cane-and-chrome chair is all over the place,” Vox writes, “in trendy homes, in movies and on TV shows, even tattooed on people’s bodies…. [This] somewhat unassuming two-legged chair is the realization of a manifesto’s worth of utopian ideals about design and functionality.” It satisfies the school’s brief, that is to say, for the utilitarian as utopian, as Breuer himself later commented on his design:

I already had the concept of spanning the seat with fabric in tension as a substitute for thick upholstery. I also wanted a frame that would be resilient and elastic [as well as] achieve transparency of forms to attain both visual and physical lightness…. I considered such polished and curved lines not only symbolic of our modern technology, but actually technology itself.

Learn more about the practical, comfortable, beauty of the Cesca — and the ideals of the Bauhaus — in the video at the top. Learn more about the chair’s designer, Marcel Breuer, in this online MoMA monograph by Christopher Wilk.

Related Content: 

How the Iconic Eames Lounge Chair Is Made, From Start to Finish

Download Original Bauhaus Books & Journals for Free: A Digital Celebration of the Founding of the Bauhaus School 100 Years Ago

The Women of the Bauhaus: See Hip, Avant-Garde Photographs of Female Students & Instructors at the Famous Art School

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


  • 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.