Behold the Bridges in India Made of Living Tree Roots

Living green walls and upcycled building materials are welcome environmentally-conscious design trends, but when it comes to sustainable architecture, the living root bridges made by indigenous Khasi and Jaintia people in the north-eastern Indian state of Meghalaya have them beat by centuries.

These traditional plant-based suspension bridges make it much easier for villagers to travel to neighboring communities, markets and outlying farms by spanning the dense tropical rainforest’s many gorges and rivers.

Their construction requires patience, as builders train the aerial roots of well-situated, mature rubber fig trees into position using bamboo, old tree trunks, and wire for support, weaving more roots in as they become available.

This multi-generational construction project can take up to 30 years to complete. The carefully-tended bridges become sturdier with age, as the roots that form the deck and handrails thicken.

The village of Nongriat has one bridge that has been in place for 200-some years. An upper bridge, suspended directly overhead, is a hundred years younger.

As village head and lifelong resident Wiston Miwa told Great Big Story, above, when he was a child, people were leery of using the newer bridge, worried that it was not yet strong enough to be safe. Six decades later, villagers (and tourists) traverse it regularly.

Architect Sanjeev Shankar, in a study of 11 living root bridges, learned that new structures are loaded with stones, planks, and soil to test their weight bearing capacity. Some of the oldest can handle 50 pedestrians at once.

Humans are not the only creatures making the crossing. Bark deer and clouded leopards are also known travelers. Squirrels, birds, and insects settle in for permanent stays.

The Khasi people follow an oral tradition, and have little written documentation regarding their history and customs, including the construction of living root bridges.

Architect Ferdinand Ludwig, a champion of Baubotanik – or living plant construction – notes that there is no set design being followed. Both nature and the villagers tending to the growing structures can be considered the architects here:

When we construct a bridge or a building, we have a plan – we know what it’s going to look like. But this isn’t possible with living architecture. Khasi people know this; they are extremely clever in how they constantly analyze and interact with tree growth, and accordingly adapt to the conditions…How these roots are pulled, tied and woven together differ from builder to builder. None of the bridges looks similar.

The bridges, while remote, are becoming a bucket list destination for adventurers and ecotourists, Nongriat’s double bridge in particular.

The BBC’s Zinara Rathnayake reports that such outside interest has provided villagers with an additional source of income, as well as some predictable headaches – litter, inappropriate behavior, and overcrowding:

Some root bridges see crowds of hundreds at a time as tourists clamber for selfies, potentially overburdening the trees.

The Living Bridge Foundation, which works to preserve the living root bridges while promoting responsible ecotourism is seeking to have the area designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Related Content 

1,100 Delicate Drawings of Root Systems Reveals the Hidden World of Plants

The Secret Language of Trees: A Charming Animated Lesson Explains How Trees Share Information with Each Other

Daisugi, the 600-Year-Old Japanese Technique of Growing Trees Out of Other Trees, Creating Perfectly Straight Lumber

The Tree of Languages Illustrated in a Big, Beautiful Infographic

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

Jonathan Demme Turns the Kurt Vonnegut Story, “Who Am I This Time?,” Into a TV Movie, with Susan Sarandon & Christopher Walken in Starring Roles (1982)

Back in 1982, the PBS American Playhouse series aired Jonathan Demme’s made-for-TV film based on the Kurt Vonnegut story, “Who Am I This Time?” Now, thanks to the YouTube channel Chicken Soup for the Soul TV, you can watch the rarely-seen film online. The channel writes:

Mix together a small town community theatre’s shy leading man and the lovely telephone worker who moves into town and you have a perfect recipe for a delightful romantic comedy. Academy Award-winners Susan Sarandon and Christopher Walken star as the couple who discover that affairs of the heart on the stage may be a bit less complicated than continuing the romance off the stage. Director Jonathan Demme, an Academy Award-winner, deftly weaves this endearing tale of love in bloom from Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s story.

While the video quality is grainy, the movie is still significant for serving as an early career vehicle for Sarandon, Walken and director Demme. This isn’t exactly ‘Before They Were Stars’ – after all, by 1982, Walken had already won an Oscar for “The Deer Hunter,”
Sarandon had already starred in “Rocky Horror” and been nominated for an Oscar for Atlantic City, and Demme, although still a decade away from his biggest work, had already directed the acclaimed “Melvin & Howard.”

Watch other complete films on the Chicken Soup for the Soul TV Youtube Channel, or on their free-standing website. Enjoy.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.

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 free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks!

via Metafilter

Related Content 

4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, Documentaries & More

Watch the New Trailer for a Kurt Vonnegut Documentary 40 Years In the Making

Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Good Short Story

Hear Christopher Walken’s Wonderful Reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”

Susan Sarandon Reads an Animated Version of Good Night Moon … Without Crying

How John Keats Writes a Poem: A Line-by-Line Breakdown of “Ode on a Grecian Urn”

The Greek term ekphrasis sounds rather exotic if you seldom come across it, but it refers to an act in which we’ve all engaged at one time or another: that is, describing a work of art. The best ekphrases make that description as vivid as possible, to the point where it becomes a work of art in itself. The English language offers no better-known example of ekphrastic poetry than John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” from 1819, which pulls off the neat trick of taking both its subject and its genre from the same ancient culture — among other virtues, of course, several of which are explained by Evan Puschak, better known as the Nerdwriter, in his new video above, “How John Keats Writes a Poem.”

Puschak calls “Ode on a Grecian Urn” “arguably the best poem from arguably the best romantic poet,” then launches into a line-by-line exegesis, identifying the techniques Keats employs in its construction. “The speaker craves the ideal, everlasting love depicted on and symbolized by the urn,” he says. “But the way he expresses himself — well, it’s almost embarrassing, even hysterical, feverish.”

Keats uses compulsive-sounding repetition of words like happy and forever to “communicate something about the speaker that runs counter to his words. It reminds me of those times when you hear someone insist on how happy they are, but you know they’re just trying to will that fact into existence by speaking it.”

In the course of the poem, “the speaker begins to doubt his own cravings for the permanence of art. Is it really as perfect as he imagines?” Throughout, “he’s looked to the urn, to art, to assuage his despair about life,” a task to which it finally proves not quite equal. “In life, things change and fade, but they’re real. In art, things may be eternal, but they’re lifeless.” The famous final lines of “Ode on a Grecian Urn” arrive at the conclusion that “beauty is truth, truth beauty,” and how literal an interpretation to grant it remains a matter of debate. It may not really be all we know on Earth, nor even all we need to know, but the fact that we’re still arguing about it two centuries later speaks to the power of art — as well as art about art.

Related content:

Hear Benedict Cumberbatch Read John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” and Other Great Works by Shakespeare, Dante & Coleridge

Watch Art on Ancient Greek Vases Come to Life with 21st Century Animation

F. Scott Fitzgerald Reads Shakespeare’s Othello and Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” (1940)

Learn to Write Through a Video Game Inspired by the Romantic Poets: Shelley, Byron, Keats

How Ancient Greek Statues Really Looked: Research Reveals Their Bold, Bright Colors and Patterns

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 or on Facebook.

Google & Coursera Create a Career Certificate That Prepares Students for Cybersecurity Jobs in 6 Months

This spring, Google has launched several online certificate programs designed to help students land an entry-level job, without necessarily having a college degree. The tech company’s latest program covers Cybersecurity, a field that stands poised to grow as companies become more digital, and cyberattacks inevitably continue.

Offered on Coursera’s educational platform, the new Google Cybersecurity Professional Certificate features eight online courses, which collectively help students learn how to:

  • Understand the importance of cybersecurity practices and their impact for organizations.
  • Identify common risks, threats, and vulnerabilities, as well as techniques to mitigate them.
  • Protect networks, devices, people, and data from unauthorized access and cyberattacks using Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools.
  • Gain hands-on experience with Python, Linux, and SQL.

The Cybersecurity Professional Certificate joins a larger collection of certificate programs created by Google, with subjects covering User Experience Design, Business Intelligence, Data Analytics, Advanced Data Analytics, Project Management, IT Support and finally IT Automation.

Students can take individual courses in these professional certificate programs for free. (Above, you can watch video from the first course in the cybersecurity certificate program, entitled “Foundations of Cybersecurity.”) However, if you would like to receive a certificate, Coursera will charge $49 per month (after an initial 7-day free trial period). That means that the Cybersecurity Professional Certificate, designed to be completed in 6 months, will cost roughly $300 in total.

Once students complete the cybersecurity certificate, they can add the credential to their LinkedIn profile, resume, or CV. As a perk, students in the U.S. can also connect with 150+ employers (e.g., American Express, Colgate-Palmolive, T-Mobile, Walmart, and Google) who have pledged to consider certificate holders for open positions. According to Coursera, this certificate can prepare students to become an entry-level “cybersecurity analyst and SOC (security operations center) analyst.”

You can start a 7-day free trial of the Cybersecurity Professional Certificate here.

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

Tina Turner (RIP) Delivers a Blistering Live Performance of “Proud Mary” on Italian TV (1971)

Note: The great Tina Turner passed away today at her home in Switzerland. She was 83. From our archive, we’re bringing back an electric 1971 performance, a reminder of what made her … simply the best. The post below first appeared on our site in April 2021.

John Fogerty once said that he conceived the opening bars of “Proud Mary” in imitation of Beethoven’s Fifth symphony. It’s an unusual association for a song about a steamboat, but it works as a classic blues rock hook. Most people would say, however, that the song didn’t truly come into its own until Tina Turner began covering it in 1969.

“Proud Mary” helped Turner come back after a suicide attempt the previous year. Her version, released as a single in January 1971, “planted the seeds of her liberation as both an artist and a woman,” Jason Heller writes at The Atlantic, bringing Ike and Tina major crossover success. Their version of the CCR song “rose to No.4 on Billboard’s pop chart, sold more than 1 million copies, and earned Turner the first of her 12 Grammy Awards.” See her, Ike, and the Ikettes perform it live on Italian TV, above.

It’s a sadly ironic part of her story that the success of “Proud Mary” also helped keep Turner in an abusive relationship with her musical partner and husband Ike for another five years until she finally left him in 1976. She spent the next several decades telling her story as she rose to international fame as a solo artist, in memoirs, interviews, and in the biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It.

The new HBO documentary, Tina, tells the story again but also includes Turner’s weary response to it. Asked in 1993 why she did not go see What’s Love Got to Do With It, Turner replied, “the story was actually written so that I would no longer have to discuss the issue. I don’t love that it’s always talked about… this constant reminder, it’s not so good. I’m not so happy about it.”

Like all musicians, Turner liked to talk about the music. “Proud Mary,” the second single from Ike and Tina’s Workin’ Together, came about when they heard an audition tape of the song, which they’d been covering on stage. “Ike said, ‘You know, I forgot all about that tune.’ And I said let’s do it, but let’s change it. So in the car Ike plays the guitar, we just sort of jam. And we just sort of broke into the black version of it.”

She may have given Ike credit for the idea, but the execution was all Tina (and the extraordinary Ikettes), and the song became a staple of her solo act for decades. Now, with Tina, it seems she may be leaving public life for good. “When do you stop being proud? How do you bow out slowly — just go away?” she says.

It’s a question she’s been asking with “Proud Mary” for half a century — onstage working day and night — a song, she said last year, that could be summed up in a single word, “Freedom.”

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.

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 free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks!

Related Content: 

How Aretha Franklin Turned Otis Redding’s “Respect” Into a Civil Rights and Feminist Anthem

Watch the Earliest Known Footage of the Jimi Hendrix Experience (February, 1967)

How Giorgio Moroder & Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” Created the “Blueprint for All Electronic Dance Music Today” (1977)

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

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 1 ) |

Helen Keller Writes a Letter to Nazi Students Before They Burn Her Book: “History Has Taught You Nothing If You Think You Can Kill Ideas” (1933)

Helen Keller achieved notoriety not only as an individual success story, but also as a prolific essayist, activist, and fierce advocate for poor and marginalized people. She “was a lifelong radical,” writes Peter Dreier at Yes! magazine, whose “investigation into the causes of blindness” eventually led her to “embrace socialism, feminism, and pacifism.” Keller supported the NAACP and ACLU, and protested strongly against patronizing calls for her to “confine my activities to social service and the blind.” Her critics, she wrote, mischaracterized her ideas as “a Utopian dream, and one who seriously contemplates its realization indeed must be deaf, dumb, and blind.”

Twenty years later she found a different set of readers treating her ideas with contempt. This time, however, the critics were in Nazi Germany, and instead of simply disagreeing with her, they added her collection of essays, How I Became a Socialist, to a list of “degenerate” books to be burned on May 10, 1933. Such was the date chosen by Hitler for “a nationwide ‘Action Against the Un-German Spirit,’” writes Rafael Medoff, to take place at German Universities—“a series of public burnings of the banned books” that “differed from the Nazis’ perspective on political, social, or cultural matters, as well as all books by Jewish authors.”

Books burned included works by Einstein and Freud, H.G. Wells, Hemingway, and Jack London, Students hauled books out of the libraries as part of the spectacle. “The largest of the 34 book-burning rallies, held in Berlin,” Medoff notes, “was attended by an estimated 40,000 people.”

Not only were these demonstrations of anti-Semitism, but their contempt for ideas appealed broadly to the Nazi philosophy of “Blood and Soil,” a nationalist caricature of rural values over a supposedly “degenerate,” polyglot urbanism. “The soul of the German people can again express itself,” declared Joseph Goebbels ominously at the Berlin rally. “These flames not only illuminate the final end of an old era; they also light up the new.”

“Some American editorial responses” before and after the burnings, “made light of the event,” remarks the United States Holocaust Museum, calling it “silly” and “infantile.”  Others foresaw much worse to come. In one very explicit expression of the terrible possibilities, artist and political cartoonist Jacob Burck drew the image above, evoking the observation of 19th century German writer Heinrich Heine: “Where one burns books, one will soon burn people.” Newsweek described the events as “’a holocaust of books’… one of the first instances in which the term ‘holocaust’ (an ancient Greek word meaning a burnt offering to a deity) was used in connection with the Nazis.”

The day before the burnings, Keller also displayed a keen sense for the gravity of book burnings, as well as a “notable… early concern,” notes Rebecca Onion at Slate—outside the Jewish community, that is—for what she called the “barbarities to the Jews.” On May 9, 1933, Keller published a short but pointed open letter to the Nazi students in The New York Times and elsewhere, abjuring them to stop the proposed burnings. She wrote in a religious idiom, invoking the “judgment” of God and paraphrasing the Bible. (Not a traditional Christian, she belonged to a mystical sect called Swedenborgianism.) At the top of the post, you can see the typescript of her letter, with corrections and annotations by Polly Thompson, one of her primary aides. Read the full transcript below:

To the student body of Germany:

History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas. Tyrants have tried to do that often before, and the ideas have risen up in their might and destroyed them.

You can burn my books and the books of the best minds in Europe, but the ideas in them have seeped through a million channels and will continue to quicken other minds. I gave all the royalties of my books for all time to the German soldiers blinded in the World War with no thought in my heart but love and compassion for the German people.

I acknowledge the grievous complications that have led to your intolerance; all the more do I deplore the injustice and unwisdom of passing on to unborn generations the stigma of your deeds.

Do not imagine that your barbarities to the Jews are unknown here. God sleepeth not, and He will visit His judgment upon you. Better were it for you to have a mill-stone hung around your neck and sink into the sea than to be hated and despised of all men.

Keller added the penultimate paragraph of the published text later. (See the handwritten addition at the bottom of the typed draft.) Her concern for the “grievous complications” of the German people was certainly genuine. The expression also seems like a targeted rhetorical move for a student audience, conceding the situation as “complex,” and appealing in more philosophical language to “justice” and “wisdom.” The Nazis ignored her protest, as they did the “massive street demonstrations” that took place on the 10th “in dozens of American cities,” the Holocaust Museum writes, “skillfully organized by the American Jewish Congress” and sparking “the largest demonstration in New York City history up to that date.”

Five years later, however, another planned book burning—this time in Austria before its annexation—was prevented by students at Williams College, Yale, and other universities in the U.S., where pro- and anti-Nazi partisans fought each other on several American campuses. U.S. students were able to push the Austrian National Library to lock the books away rather than burn them. Keller “is not known to have commented specifically” on these student protests, writes Medoff, “but one may assume she was deeply proud that at a time when too many Americans did not want to be bothered with Europe’s problems, these young men and women understood the message of her 1933 letter—that the principles under attack by the Nazis were something that should matter to all mankind.”

Note: This post originally appeared on our site in 2017.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.

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 free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks!

Related Content 

The Brooklyn Public Library Gives Every Teenager in the U.S. Free Access to Books Getting Censored by American Schools

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

Mark Twain & Helen Keller’s Special Friendship: He Treated Me Not as a Freak, But as a Person Dealing with Great Difficulties

America’s First Banned Book: Discover the 1637 Book That Mocked the Puritans

John Singer Sargent’s Scandalous Paintings: An Introduction to Madame X and Dr. Pozzi at Home

Henry James, perhaps the most famous American expatriate novelist of the nineteenth century, won a great deal of his fame with The Portrait of a Lady. John Singer Sargent, perhaps the most famous American expatriate painter of the nineteenth century, won a great deal of his fame with a portrait of a lady — but not before it seemed to kill his illustrious career at a stroke. When it was first shown to the public at the Paris Salon of 1884, Sargent’s Portrait of Madame X drew a range of reactions from bitter dismissal to near-violent anger. But today, as Great Art Explained host James Payne says in the new video above, “it is genuinely hard to see what the fuss was about.”

“Twenty years before, in 1865, Manet had shown Olympia at the Salon, to a scandalized Paris. So why the shock now? The difference was that Manet’s Olympia was a prostitute, like the women in Toulouse-Lautrec’s painting also on display in 1884. But Madame X was part of French high society.” She was, all those first viewers would have known, the socialite, banker’s wife, and “professional beauty” Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau. Her rumored penchant for infidelities wouldn’t have been unusual for her particular place and time, but her background as the New Orleans-born daughter of a European Creole family certainly would have.

Beholding Madame X, “Parisians were forced to confront their own decadence, which they preferred not to acknowledge, and this was where Sargent went wrong. The salons were a sacrosanct part of French culture, and he, a foreigner, was flaunting immorality in their faces with a painting of another foreigner, an exotic one at that.” He’d already stirred up a certain amount of controversy three years earlier with Dr. Pozzi at Home, another full-length portrait that portrayed its subject – the highly accomplished and notoriously handsome gynecologist Samuel-Jean Pozzi — in a manner whose sheer informality verges on the concupiscent.

Payne thus regards Dr. Pozzi and Madame X as “male-female versions of the same type. They are both flamboyant peacock figures, with a streak of vanity and a knack for seduction. There is something in the way they are posed which is unconventional. They have an indirect gaze, and they both have supreme confidence verging on arrogance.” That only Sargent could have — or, at least, would have — captured and transmitted those qualities with such directness wasn’t appreciated quite so much at the time. Ostracized in Paris, where he’d been a sought-after portraitist to the wealthy, he packed up Madame and set off for London, where he soon rebuilt his career. The advice to do so came from none other than Henry James, who knew a thing or two about advantageous relocation.

Related content:

How John Singer Sargent Became the Greatest Portraitist Who Ever Lived — by Painting “Outside the Lines”

When John Singer Sargent’s “Madame X” Scandalized the Art World in 1884

The Scandalous Painting That Helped Create Modern Art: An Introduction to Édouard Manet’s Olympia

Great Art Explained: Watch 15 Minute Introductions to Great Works by Warhol, Rothko, Kahlo, Picasso & More

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

Considering Rocky/Creed, Our Most Successful Sports Film Franchise — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #149


Your Pretty Much Pop hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Lawrence Ware, Sarahlyn Bruck, and Al Baker talk through the ups and downs of this nine-film franchise that started with Rocky, the highest grossing film of 1976 and winner of that year’s Academy Award for Best Picture. We’re especially concerned with this year’s Creed III, directed by its star Michael B. Jordan, which is the first entry in the franchise that’s entirely free of Sylvester Stallone.

How can such an apparently simple formula (start as an underdog, train, and win at least a moral victory) stay fresh? Why was there a robot in Rocky IV? Is there any rationale for an extended, continuing Rocky-verse? Does enjoying these films involve approving of boxing as a sport, or the glorification of fictional sports heroes over real-life ones?

For various articles about things going on in the franchise, check out Sarahlyn mentions the NPR podcast The Statue.

Follow us @law_writes@sarahlynbruck@ixisnox@MarkLinsenmayer.

Hear more Pretty Much Pop. If you’re not subscribed to the podcast, you’re missing lots of good episodes. Support the show and hear bonus talking for this and nearly every other episode at or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

Watch Ben Kingsley Play Salvador Dalí in the Trailer for the New Film, Dalíland

By itself, the prospect of seeing Sir Ben Kingsley play Salvador Dalí would be enough to get more than a few moviegoers into the theater (or onto their couches, streaming). But then, so would the prospect of seeing him play practically anyone: Mahatma Gandhi (as the Academy acknowledged), or Georges Méliès, or Dmitri Shostakovich, or a foulmouthed London gang enforcer. Dalíland, which comes out next month, promises a rich portrayal of Dalí not just by Kingsley, but by also Ezra Miller, an actor possessed of a physical resemblance to the artist in his youth as well as a public life seen as scandalous and occasionally criminal.

This choice of casting, with the troubled Miller playing the young Dalí and the ultra-respectable Kingsley playing the old, reflects a certain intent to capture the duality of the character himself. Kingsley has spoken of developing his interpretation of Dalí “based on his language; his behavior; his taste in love, life, food, wine, and everything; and also his daring to break so many rules.”

You can hear him reflect more on the experience in the Deadline Hollywood video just below. “I love his work,” he says. “I love his fearlessness, and he was exhilarating and exhausting to play, as I anticipated he would be.” He also has high praise for director Mary Harron, who’s known for her adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho.

Harron’s first feature was I Shot Andy Warhol, about Warhol’s near-murderer Valerie Solanas, and her most recent, Charlie Says, tells the story of Leslie Van Houten and the Manson family. Such pictures demonstrate her facility with biographical drama, as well as her investment in the culture of postwar America and the eccentric personalities that both enlivened and darkened it. Dalíland takes place in the winter of 1974, which Dalí and his wife Gala spent at the St. Regis Hotel in New York. Its protagonist, a young gallery employee played by Christopher Briney, gets pulled into Dalí’s world and becomes responsible for making sure the artist has all the work ready for his fast upcoming show.

“The film’s seventies setting allows it to be a portrait of the moment when the art world underwent its tectonic shift, fusing with the money culture, becoming a kind of piggy bank for the wealthy,” writes Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman. “Dalí and Gala have, in their way, played into this. They’re exploiters of Dalí’s legend who have, in turn, been exploited.” At that time Dalí still had about fifteen years to go, but Kingsley sees the period as “possibly the closing chapters of Dalí’s life,” the setting of “his coming to terms with mortality, a subject with which he struggled dreadfully.” The phenomenon witnessed by Briney’s character, and thus the audience, is “how a genius leaves the world” — and, in this particular case, leaves it considerably more surreal than he found it.

Related content:

A Soft Self-Portrait of Salvador Dalí, Narrated by the Great Orson Welles

Two Vintage Films by Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel: Un Chien Andalou and L’Age d’Or

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

Salvador Dalí Strolls onto The Dick Cavett Show with an Anteater, Then Talks About Dreams & Surrealism, the Golden Ratio & More (1970)

Watch: New Film by Roman Polanski, Starring Helena Bonham Carter, Sir Ben Kingsley & Prada Shoes

Salvador Dalí on What’s My Line?

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 or on Facebook.

Neil Gaiman Speaks at the Alternative Graduation Held at a College Resisting Ron DeSantis’ Hostile Takeover

His presidential campaign has ended before it started. But Ron DeSantis is the last to know it. And so he continues pandering to Trump’s base. After shipping migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, the Florida governor now picks costly fights with Disney, his state’s second largest employer; bans books in Florida public schools; and exerts political pressure on the state’s public colleges and universities.

At the New College of Florida, DeSantis is using the cudgel of government to transform a traditional liberal arts college into a conservative-leaning institution. If you’re not following what’s happening at New College, read this profile in The New Yorker. The article will help set the stage for the video above.

There, you will see author Neil Gaiman speaking at an alternative graduation arranged by New College students. Not wanting to participate in the official graduation architected by the school’s new conservative bosses (the event featured Scott Atlas, the radiologist who became Trump’s controversial Covid “expert,” how inspiring!), the students arranged an alt graduation and invited Gaiman to speak via video. Through a personal story, The Sandman author reminded the students of the liberal arts values that undergird the school, and left students with some timely advice: “You must fight for what you believe to be right while never losing your sense of humor or your sense of proportion.” Here’s to hoping that New College outlasts the erstwhile presidential contender.

via BoingBoing

Related Content 

Neil Gaiman Gives Graduates 10 Essential Tips for Working in the Arts

John Waters’ RISD Graduation Speech: Real Wealth Is Life Without A*Holes

David Byrne’s Graduation Speech Offers Troubling and Encouraging Advice for Students in the Arts

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 3 ) |

Watch the Original Schoolhouse Rock Composers Sing “Conjunction Junction” and “I’m Just a Bill” Live in Concert

At first blush, Schoolhouse Rock!, the interstitial animations airing between ABC’s Saturday morning cartoon line up from 1973 to 1984, may seem like a catchy, educational equivalent of sneaking spinach into pancakes (and a major Gen X touchstone.)

Not so fast! It’s also jazz, baby!

Jazz pianist Bob Dorough recalled how an ad exec at a New York ad agency pitched the idea:

My little boys can’t memorize their times tables, but they sing along with Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones, so why don’t you put it to rock music and we’ll call it Multiplication Rock?

Dorough, whose compositional preferences ran to “extravagant love songs” and vocal challenging numbers, realized that his first order of business would be to write a good song:

I hit upon the idea, let’s pick a number. Three! That’s a good number. And I sat down at the piano and started fooling around. It took me 2 weeks.

In his hands, three became a magic number, an ear worm to bring even the most reluctant elementary mathematicians up to speed in no time.

Eventually, Dorough was able to bring many of his jazz world friends into the fold, including, most famously, trumpeter and Merv Griffin Show sidekick Jack Sheldon, whose one-of-a-kind delivery is the hands down highlight of “Conjunction Junction.”

(Many Schoolhouse Rock! fans, viewing the excerpt of the duo’s mid-90’s live appearance on the KTLA Morning Show, above, professed disbelief that Sheldon’s soul was of the blue-eyed variety, even though the animated engineer who serves as his avatar in that three minute episode is white.)

In an interview with the director of the Fillius Jazz Archive at Hamilton College, Sheldon agreed that the series owed a major debt to jazz:

When we made Conjunction Junction, it was me and Teddy Edwards and Nick Ceroli and Leroy Vinegar and Bob Dorough played the piano. That’s a jazz band…it was really nothing to do with rock. It was always jazz, but we said rock and roll, so everybody loved it for rock and roll.

Another memorable collaboration between Sheldon and Dorough is the much parodied “I’m Just a Bill,” in which a weary scroll loiters on the steps of the Capital Building, explaining to a wide eyed youngster (voiced by his son) the process by which a bill becomes law.

Doroughs’ Schoolhouse Rock! contributions include the haunting Figure Eight, the folky Lucky Seven Sampson, whose sentiments Dorough identified with most closely, and Naughty Number Nine, which his protégé, singer-songwriter Nellie McKay singled out for special praise, “cause it was kind of weird and subversive:”

(It) made me want to gamble and win. I got hooked when I heard Bob’s jazzy rasp of a voice breaking the rules even as he explained them… this guy had a wild mind, which I figured out later equaled creativity.

She also paid the perpetually sunny Dorough, whom she first encountered “glow(ing) with health and good cheer, spreading sunshine wherever he went on the campus of East Stroudsburg University, the supreme compliment:

Lou Reed‘s idea of hell would be to sit in heaven with Bob Dorough.

via Laughing Squid

Related Content 

Schoolhouse Rock: Revisit a Collection of Nostalgia-Inducing Educational Videos

I’m Just a Pill: A Schoolhouse Rock Classic Gets Reimagined to Defend Reproductive Rights in 2017

Conspiracy Theory Rock: The Schoolhouse Rock Parody Saturday Night Live May Have Censored

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

  • 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

  • Subscribe to our Newsletter


  • Archives

  • Search

  • Quantcast
    Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.