The Great Elephant Escape

Let me set the scene: Not long after the attack on Pearl Har­bor, Japan invad­ed Bur­ma, a “back­wa­ter of the British Empire,” hop­ing to put the Chi­nese and British at a strate­gic dis­ad­van­tage. (Get more details here.) Ini­tial­ly the Japan­ese cam­paign met with suc­cess, and, in ear­ly 1942, the British and local allies beat a retreat, try­ing to escape over the bor­der to India. But when they reached the bor­der, they found rivers, flood­ed by mon­soons, block­ing their way. That’s when a British tea planter named Gyles Mack­rell stepped in and moved 200 refugees across the bor­der using the only means avail­able to them — ele­phants. This amaz­ing sto­ry is now being told for the first time, thanks to the Cen­tre of South Asian Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cam­bridge and its short film (13 min­utes) shown above. You can read more about the great ele­phant escape here.

What A Glorious Space To Dwell

I can’t vouch for the claims being made in this “fun facts” song. (Nor do I know what’s up with the Jesus imagery.) But the video has some enter­tain­ment val­ue, if not some good triv­ia. So enjoy…

In Praise of Copying: Get Your Free Copy

Just a quick fyi: If you head over to the Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press web site, you can grab a free copy of Mar­cus Boon’s new book, In Praise of Copy­ing, which makes the case that “copy­ing is an essen­tial part of being human, that the abil­i­ty to copy is wor­thy of cel­e­bra­tion, and that, with­out rec­og­niz­ing how inte­gral copy­ing is to being human, we can­not under­stand our­selves or the world we live in.” Boon is a writer, jour­nal­ist and Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor in the Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture depart­ment at York Uni­ver­si­ty, Toron­to. You can down­load a free copy of his book in PDF for­mat straight from this link. (Note that the text is for­mal­ly released under a Cre­ative Com­mons license.) Or you can always pur­chase a print­ed copy online.

P.S. The Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press is offer­ing up a free e‑book of its own: The Bour­geois Virtues (632 pages) by Deirdre N. McCloskey. Head here to get a copy.

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Down to the Bone

Every Novem­ber 2nd, Mex­i­cans cel­e­brate the Day of the Dead. Close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with oth­er Catholic hol­i­days (All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day), the Day of the Dead gives par­tic­i­pants a chance to pray for and remem­ber dear­ly depart­ed fam­i­ly mem­bers and friends. And it’s often car­ried out in a fes­tive spir­it, not one marked by melan­choly. As Car­los Fuentes, one of Mex­i­co’s most cel­e­brat­ed writ­ers, once said about death: “We Mex­i­cans don’t advance towards death, we return to it, because death is not the end but the begin­ning, the start of every­thing: we descend from death.”

Today, on the Day of the Dead, we give you a clay­ma­tion film that cap­tures the mood of the hol­i­day — Has­ta los hue­sos or Down to the Bone. René Castil­lo, a self-taught ani­ma­tor from Guadala­jara, wrote and direct­ed the film back in 2001. And it went on to win many inter­na­tion­al awards for excel­lence in film. Down to the Bone runs nine min­utes, and it’s a wild ride through­out. H/T M.S.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.