Blade Runner: The Final, Final Cut of the Cult Classic

25 years after the release of Blade Run­ner, Rid­ley Scott has assem­bled a final and defin­i­tive direc­tor’s cut of the film, giv­ing audi­ences the chance to see the film as Scott orig­i­nal­ly intend­ed it.Before the film’s orig­i­nal release in 1982, pre­view screen­ings went hor­ri­bly, and the mon­ey men stepped in and imposed changes on the aes­thet­ic and nar­ra­tive. Voice-overs and hap­py end­ings were added. New film shot. Dia­logue changed. “I went along with the idea that we had to do cer­tain things to get audi­ences inter­est­ed,” Scott lament­ed in an arti­cle in appear­ing this week­end’s New York Times. “I lat­er real­ized that once I adopt­ed that line, I was sell­ing my soul to the dev­il, inch by inch drift­ing from my orig­i­nal conception.”This is actu­al­ly Scot­t’s sec­ond attempt at cre­at­ing a final cut. Back in 1992, he took a first crack at revis­ing Blade Run­ner. But he ulti­mate­ly did­n’t have the time and resources to get the job done as he liked. Now, just in time to cap­i­tal­ize on the 25th anniver­sary of the film, he’s releas­ing what he calls the final, final cut. The movie will be released in New York and Los Ange­les the­aters on Octo­ber 5, and by Christ­mas, you can buy it on DVD. (Actu­al­ly, it can already be pre-ordered on Ama­zon.)If you have a free moment, you may want to watch the audio slideshow that the Times put togeth­er on the cult clas­sic as well as the new film’s trail­er (see below). And to get even more info on this film’s mak­ing and remak­ing, see this arti­cle by MTV’s Kurt Loder.

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Martin Scorsese on The Rolling Stones, Then George Harrison

Mar­tin Scors­ese is on a rock ‘n roll tear.

In 2006, he released No Direc­tion Home, an acclaimed doc­u­men­tary on Bob Dylan (long after he filmed his first rock­u­men­tary, The Last Waltz in 1978). Next April, he’s set to release anoth­er doc­u­men­tary on The Rolling Stones, ten­ta­tive­ly called Shine a Light. (Watch the already released trail­er below.) And now he has just agreed to direct a film about George Har­ri­son. The movie, being made with the sup­port of Har­rison’s fam­i­ly, will cov­er his time with the Bea­t­les, his music and film career there­after, and Har­rison’s spir­i­tu­al engage­ment with East­ern reli­gion. Report­ed­ly, Paul McCart­ney and Ringo Starr may also con­tribute to the mak­ing of the film. It won’t be out for a few good years. In the mean­time, check out our recent piece, The Bea­t­les: Pod­casts from Yes­ter­day.

Support Monks’ Protest in Burma on Facebook

burmamonk.jpgSocial net­work­ing is doing some good. In a mat­ter of days, over 110,000 users have joined the Sup­port the Monks’ Protest in Bur­ma group on Face­book, with the larg­er goal of mobi­liz­ing sup­port for the Bud­dhist monks who have launched a peace­ful, “saf­fron” protest against the mil­i­tary regime that seized pow­er in 1962 and has held on ever since. As expect­ed, the gov­ern­ment is crack­ing down on the peace­ful pro­test­ers, break­ing into monas­ter­ies at night, tor­tur­ing monks and throw­ing them in jail. The Face­book Group offers a spe­cif­ic action plan, and it’s effec­tive­ly bring­ing vis­i­bil­i­ty to this human rights issue. Log into Face­book (or cre­ate an account), join the group here and sup­port democ­ra­cy in Bur­ma.

For a more gen­er­al account of the human rights abus­es in Bur­ma, click here; for dai­ly accounts of what’s cur­rent­ly hap­pen­ing in Bur­ma right now, click here.

Also please note: Inter­na­tion­al blog­gers are prepar­ing an action to sup­port the peace­ful rev­o­lu­tion in Bur­ma. On Octo­ber 4, blog­gers will refrain from post­ing to their blogs and just put up one Ban­ner under­lined with the words “Free Bur­ma!” Get more infor­ma­tion at, and if you’re a blog­ger par­tic­i­pate and help turn up the pres­sure.

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The Elegant Universe

PBS’s NOVA recent­ly aired a three-hour mini-series, The Ele­gant Uni­verse, that intro­duced TV view­ers to string the­o­ry — a rad­i­cal “the­o­ry of every­thing” that unites major laws of physics and offers a uni­fied expla­na­tion for every­thing that hap­pens in the uni­verse. The pro­gram was host­ed by Bri­an Green, a string the­o­rist who wrote a run­away best­selling book also called The Ele­gant Uni­verse (you can read an excerpt here). The pro­gram makes dif­fi­cult con­cepts quite gras­pable, part­ly with the help of dynam­ic com­put­er ani­ma­tion. And the best part is that you can now watch the mini-series any time you want online (just click here to get the videos). You can also access the com­plete descrip­tion of the show here.

PS: Here is a great heads up from a read­er. “A great com­ple­ment to the Ele­gant Uni­verse is the Ori­gins series on NOVA, part of which is also avail­able online. It details the cre­ation of life on earth.” The com­plete col­lec­tion of NOVA episodes can be found here. Thanks Allen for the good info.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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Newly Minted Genius: 2007 MacArthur Fellows

The MacArthur Foun­da­tion recent­ly announced its lat­est crop of “genius grant” recip­i­ents. Each win­ner receives $500,000 “with no strings attached” and they can use the mon­ey to live, to fund research, or to buy a very mod­est con­do in the Bay Area. As usu­al, the recip­i­ents come from a wide range of fields and back­grounds. Review­ing the bios and mul­ti­me­dia clips of these incred­i­bly gift­ed peo­ple, I can’t help but be remind­ed of a great Tom Lehrer quote: “When Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years.”

Hannibal on iTunes: From the Classical World to Archaeology Today

hannibal2.jpgLet me elab­o­rate on an item that we touched upon very briefly ear­li­er this week. Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty has rolled out a new free course on iTunes (lis­ten here) that takes you inside the life and adven­tures of Han­ni­bal, the great Carthagin­ian mil­i­tary tac­ti­cian who maneu­vered his way across the Alps and stunned Roman armies in 218 BCE. Pre­sent­ed by Patrick Hunt, the author of the new­ly-released Ten Dis­cov­er­ies That Rewrote His­to­ry, the class also gives you glimpses into cut­ting-edge trends in mod­ern archae­ol­o­gy.

The course, orig­i­nal­ly pre­sent­ed in Stan­ford’s Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies Pro­gram, will be rolled out in install­ments over the next sev­er­al weeks. Sep­a­rate­ly you can lis­ten to a stand­alone lec­ture that Hunt gave on Han­ni­bal short­ly before the start of the course. (Lis­ten on iTunes here.) For more cours­es like these, check out our pod­cast col­lec­tion of free uni­ver­si­ty cours­es.

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Course Descrip­tion for Han­ni­bal

“Han­ni­bal is a name that evoked fear among the ancient Romans for decades. His courage, cun­ning and intre­pid march across the dan­ger­ous Alps in 218 bce with his army and war ele­phants make for some of the most excit­ing pas­sages found in ancient his­tor­i­cal texts writ­ten by Poly­bius, Livy, and Appi­an. And they con­tin­ue to inspire his­to­ri­ans and archae­ol­o­gists today. The mys­tery of his exact route is still a top­ic of debate, one that has con­sumed Patrick Hunt (Direc­tor of Stanford’s Alpine Archae­ol­o­gy Project) for more than a decade.

This course exam­ines Hannibal’s child­hood and his young sol­dier­ly exploits in Spain. Then it fol­lows him over the Pyre­nees and into Gaul, the Alps, Italy, and beyond, exam­in­ing his vic­to­ries over the Romans, his bril­liance as a mil­i­tary strate­gist, and his lega­cy after the Punic Wars. Along the way, stu­dents will learn about archae­ol­o­gists’ efforts to retrace Hannibal’s jour­ney through the Alps and the cut­ting-edge meth­ods that they are using. Hunt has been on foot over every major Alpine pass and has now deter­mined the most prob­a­ble sites where archae­o­log­i­cal evi­dence can be found to help solve the mys­tery.”

Beyond Free Speech: Ahmadinejad at Columbia (on Video)

ahmadinejad2.jpgThere was a lot of hand-wring­ing lead­ing up to Mah­moud Ahmadine­jad’s appear­ance at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty on Mon­day. But, as it turns out, free­dom of speech seem­ing­ly worked as it was intend­ed. Ahmadine­jad entered the mar­ket­place of ideas and quick­ly came out the wrong side of the exchange. (You can watch the full video of his appear­ance here or read the tran­script here.) The decid­ing fac­tor was­n’t so much the unbe­com­ing intro­duc­tion offered by Lee Bollinger, Columbi­a’s pres­i­dent. It was more just a mat­ter of giv­ing Ahmadine­jad enough rope to hang him­self (i.e., let­ting him doubt the exis­tence of the Holo­caust and also gays in Iran) and then sit­ting back and watch­ing it hap­pen.

Of course, the “mar­ket­place of ideas” metaphor only goes so far when you’re deal­ing with inter­na­tion­al pol­i­tics. Ahmadine­jad’s speech was­n’t about win­ning a com­pe­ti­tion at Colum­bia. It was most­ly about play­ing to an audi­ence at home, one for whom his rhetor­i­cal strate­gies score points. But then there are the unin­tend­ed con­se­quences to con­sid­er. Far bet­ter than a dis­cred­it­ed Bush admin­is­tra­tion ever could, Ahmadine­jad real­is­ti­cal­ly soft­ened up the Amer­i­can pub­lic to any mil­i­tary plans that the US gov­ern­ment has on the table. At the very least, this has to qual­i­fy for a Dar­win Award. I’ll save fur­ther analy­sis for the pun­dits and talk­ing heads since I know that pol­i­tics and polit­i­cal opin­ions only go so far on this blog.

Relat­ed Note:

Last week, KQED’s Forum here in San Fran­cis­co had a good con­ver­sa­tion about free speech in the uni­ver­si­ty. It touched on Ahmadine­jad’s appear­ance at Colum­bia, but also Don Rums­feld’s invi­ta­tion to Stan­ford’s Hoover’s Insti­tu­tion and Lar­ry Sum­mers can­celed invi­ta­tion to speak before the UC Board of Regents. Lis­ten here: iTunesFeedMp3Web site.

Amazon Goes Head-to-Head with iTunes (and How to Get iTunes Freebies)

amazonmp3.pngThe dig­i­tal music mar­ket is big, and so far Apple has owned it. But now Ama­zon may be quick­ly emerg­ing as a viable com­peti­tor.

Tues­day, Ama­zon launched Ama­zon MP3, which gives you access to 2 mil­lion songs and more soon to come. Ama­zon’s prod­uct has sev­er­al nice advan­tages over iTunes. Let’s list them briefly:

  • It deliv­ers songs in MP3 for­mat, not a pro­pri­etary for­mat, with the real plus being that you can play songs on any music play­er — the iPod, the Zune, you name it.
  • There are no dig­i­tal rights man­age­ment (DRM) restric­tions, so you can take the music you buy and download/burn it to CDs. And it does­n’t expire.
  • The songs have bet­ter sound qual­i­ty on aver­age.
  • And the prices are gen­er­al­ly low­er. Many songs go for 89 cents; while many albums are in the $5.99 to $9.99 range, and the 100 best-sell­ing albums are all under $8.99.

Give Ama­zon MP3 a hard look and, for more details, check out these reviews — here, here, and here.

Relat­ed Note: From Oct. 2 to Nov. 7, Star­bucks will be giv­ing away 50 mil­lion free dig­i­tal songs to help pro­mote a new wire­less iTunes music ser­vice that’s being rolled out in con­junc­tion with the recent release of Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch. Songs by 37 artists will be fea­tured. Artists include Paul McCart­ney, Joni Mitchell, Dave Matthews, John May­er, Annie Lennox and Bob Dylan. Get more info here.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.