Sartre, Heidegger, Nietzsche: Documentary Presents Three Philosophers in Three Hours

Human, All Too Human” is a three-hour BBC series from 1999, about the lives and work of Friedrich Niet­zscheMar­tin Hei­deg­ger, and Jean-Paul Sartre. The film­mak­ers focus heav­i­ly on pol­i­tics and his­tor­i­cal con­text — the Hei­deg­ger hour, for exam­ple, focus­es almost exclu­sive­ly on his trou­bling rela­tion­ship with Nazism.

The most engag­ing chap­ter is “Jean-Paul Sartre: The Road to Free­dom,” in part because the film­mak­ers had so much archival footage and inter­view mate­r­i­al (Check out a still love­ly Simone de Bou­voir at minute 9:00, gig­gling that Sartre was the ugli­est, dirt­i­est, most unshaven stu­dent at the Sor­bonne).

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Wal­ter Kaufmann’s Lec­tures on Niet­zsche, Kierkegaard and Sartre (1960)

Down­load Free Cours­es from Famous Philoso­phers: From Bertrand Rus­sell to Michel Fou­cault

Down­load 90 Free Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es and Start Liv­ing the Exam­ined Life

Sheer­ly Avni is a San Fran­cis­co-based arts and cul­ture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Week­ly, Moth­er Jones, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her on twit­ter at @sheerly

Tina Fey Brings Bossypants Tour to Google

A day after Pres­i­dent Oba­ma con­duct­ed his much pub­li­cized town hall meet­ing at Face­book, Tina Fey, the star of 30 Rock and the author of the new book Bossy­pants, head­ed to Google, just a few miles down the road.

Last May, Googlers had their riotous romp with Conan O’Brien. Now they get their 60 min­utes with anoth­er come­di­an who came of age on NBC. The con­ver­sa­tion led by Eric Schmidt teach­es you the secrets of improv, how to take pic­tures like a mod­el, the pros & cons of goof­ing on Sarah Palin, and why male and female com­e­dy writ­ers dif­fer in fun­da­men­tal­ly odd ways. Tina Fey is fun­ny. But some­times fun­nier is watch­ing Schmidt try­ing to keep the con­ver­sa­tion from going off the rails. Scroll to the 8:20 mark, and you’ll see what I mean.

Just an fyi: Tina Fey actu­al­ly nar­rates the audio­book ver­sion of Bossy­pants, and you can snag it for free through this deal. Details here.

The Kitty Genovese Myth and the Popular Imagination

On Mon­day, April 18th a 22-year old woman named Chris­sy Lee Polis was severe­ly beat­en by two teenagers at a McDon­ald’s in Bal­ti­more, while sev­er­al bystanders watched and a McDon­ald’s employ­ee video­taped the whole inci­dent. Late last week, the video went viral, and now the employ­ee has been fired, the two girls (one of whom is only 14) are in cus­tody, and Polis is con­sid­er­ing a civ­il suit. The vic­tim, who is trans­gen­dered, told the Bal­ti­more Sun this week­end that she con­sid­ers the beat­ing a hate crime.

Mean­while, the inci­dent has elicit­ed sev­er­al com­par­isons to the famous 1964 case of Kit­ty Gen­ovese, a young woman who was stabbed to death in the court­yard of her New York City apart­ment build­ing while 38 neigh­bors watched and did noth­ing to help her. The wide­spread cov­er­age of her case had a huge impact on both pol­i­cy and the field of psy­chol­o­gy: The NYPD reformed its tele­phone report­ing sys­tem; researchers began study­ing the bystander effect and dif­fu­sion of respon­si­bil­i­ty; and the dead woman became a sym­bol of the dire con­se­quences of inac­tion.

One of the most ele­gant uses of that sym­bol­ism is the chap­ter (above) from the online motion com­ic based on the graph­ic nov­el Watch­men. Gen­ovese fig­ures promi­nent­ly in the ori­gin sto­ry of the superhero/antihero Wal­ter Joseph Kovacs, aka “Rorschach.” Rorschach con­structs both his iden­ti­ty and his cos­tume as a direct response to the pas­siv­i­ty and even cyn­i­cal voyeurism embod­ied by the neigh­bors who heard and watched her die.

But the actu­al reac­tions of the wit­ness­es to Kit­ty Gen­ovese’s mur­der were more com­pli­cat­ed than orig­i­nal­ly report­ed. It’s unlike­ly, for exam­ple, that any of the infa­mous 38 bystanders heard the entire crime, or real­ized its sever­i­ty in the moment. For a fas­ci­nat­ing account of the dis­crep­an­cies between the facts and myths of the case, you can lis­ten to this 2009 sto­ry on NPR, or read this 2007 arti­cle from Amer­i­can Psy­chol­o­gist (the link is to a PDF from the author’s web­site).

The Kit­ty Gen­ovese para­ble is no less moral­ly instruc­tive for being not quite accu­rate. The bystander effect is still real, the McDon­ald’s work­er’s deci­sion to tape the beat­ing last week rather than stop it is still rep­re­hen­si­ble. And of course, Rorschach is still one of the most right­eous dark avengers in pop­u­lar cul­ture. But it’s worth remem­ber­ing that we’re more like­ly to learn from our mis­takes when we dig for the truth, even — and per­haps espe­cial­ly — when the truth isn’t so sim­ple.

Sheer­ly Avni is a San Fran­cis­co-based arts and cul­ture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Week­ly, Moth­er Jones, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her on twit­ter at @sheerly

The Hourglass: A Short Film that Celebrates Time, Slowly

Marc New­son is one of the world’s most respect­ed, exhib­it­ed and award-win­ning design­ers. Accord­ing to his web­site, he’s also the most high­ly-val­ued. New­son’s pieces have set so many records at auc­tion that his work now accounts for almost 25% of the total con­tem­po­rary design mar­ket. It there­fore comes as no sur­prise that the hour­glass­es he has designed for Ike­pod’s reboot cost any­where from 9,000 to 13,000 Euros.

It’s tempt­ing to dis­miss Ike­pod’s new Hour­glass video as a sleek ad for an over­priced prod­uct, espe­cial­ly since that’s exact­ly what it is. But the video is also an ele­gant, visu­al­ly strik­ing trib­ute to a van­ish­ing world, in which time (and time­pieces) seemed to move more slow­ly.

Sheer­ly Avni is a San Fran­cis­co-based arts and cul­ture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Week­ly, Moth­er Jones, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her on twit­ter at @sheerly

The Soundtrack of the Universe

We think of space as a silent movie, some­thing we see but nev­er hear. Yet space cre­ates a sound­track of sorts (even if sound waves can’t real­ly trav­el through the cos­mos), and now sci­en­tists and musi­cians want to play that sound­track for you.

Ear­li­er this year, Jan­na Levin, Pro­fes­sor of Physics and Astron­o­my at Barnard College/Columbia Uni­ver­si­ty, described how we can math­e­mat­i­cal­ly mod­el the sounds made by black holes. Fast for­ward to the 10:27 mark of her TED Talk above, and you will hear what it sounds like when a lighter black hole falls into a heav­ier black hole. The lit­tle guy bangs against space, kind of like a drumb play­ing faster and faster … which brings us to Mick­ey Hart, a for­mer drum­mer for The Grate­ful Dead.

In 2010, Hart teamed up with George Smoot, a Nobel Prize-win­ning physi­cist at the Lawrence Berke­ley Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry, to repro­duce the sound of The Big Bang and super­novas. (Berke­ley Labs post­ed this super­no­va clip above.) You can read more about the unlike­ly pair­ing and the “Rhythms of the Uni­verse” project here, then expe­ri­ence more celes­tial sounds recre­at­ed by Hart here.

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A Perfect Springtime Animation: The Windmill Farmer by Joaquin Baldwin

April may be the cru­elest month, mix­ing mem­o­ry and desire, etc. But Mr. Eliot nev­er depend­ed on sea­son­al change for his liveli­hood, except per­haps in the vaguest metaphor­i­cal sense. For a more uplift­ing take on spring, here’s The Wind­mill Farmer, a charm­ing short film by one of our favorite young ani­ma­tors.

Joaquin Bald­win, 27, earned his MFA at The UCLA Ani­ma­tion Work­shop. He was born in Paraguay to an envi­ron­men­tal activist moth­er and an artist father, and you can see the influ­ence of both voca­tions in his shorts, which have already won over 100 awards, and often have an envi­ron­men­tal theme. For more infor­ma­tion about his work and back­ground, check out our edi­tor’s 2010 write-up over at Brain­pick­ings. And enjoy those lilacs while they last.

Sheer­ly Avni is a San Fran­cis­co-based arts and cul­ture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Week­ly, Moth­er Jones, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her on twit­ter at @sheerly.

Astrophysics Goes Extreme

You would­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly guess it, but astro­physics comes with occu­pa­tion­al risks. Try­ing to unrav­el the mys­ter­ies of the uni­verse, some physi­cists jour­ney to inhos­pitable parts of the world (Siberia, the Antarc­tic, deep mine shafts, etc.), search­ing for ide­al con­di­tions to per­form exper­i­ments into dark ener­gy, dark mat­ter, and beyond. This all gets detailed by Anil Anan­thaswamy, a soft­ware writer turned sci­ence writer, who recent­ly pub­lished a new book The Edge of Physics: A Jour­ney to Earth­’s Extremes to Unlock the Secrets of the Uni­verse. The talk above was pre­sent­ed at the INK Con­fer­ence last Decem­ber. You can also watch him give a fuller 50 minute talk at Google here.

Kevin Spacey & Alec Baldwin Go to Bat for the Arts

Both Alec Bald­win and Kevin Spacey are long­time advo­cates for gov­ern­ment fund­ing of  the Arts. If you missed their tes­ti­mo­ny before the House Appro­pri­a­tions Subcom­mi­tee on the Inte­ri­or ear­li­er this month, you aren’t alone. They were kicked off the sched­ule because of prepa­ra­tions for a con­gres­sion­al shut­down. These speech­es were deliv­ered not to the sub­com­mit­tee but to a crowd of advo­cates and fans.

Both are well worth watch­ing. Spacey, who is also the artis­tic direc­tor of Lon­don’s Old Vic The­atre, has long been one of the most respect­ed and artic­u­late actors in Hol­ly­wood. (See his inspir­ing pep talk to a young actor on Inside the Actor’s Stu­dio here.) He packs more wis­dom in these 12 and a half min­utes than some per­form­ers do in a life­time.

As for Alec Bald­win, his speech is short­er, but equal­ly com­pelling. If you’re in a rush, head straight to minute  4:00, which begins with this teas­er: “I come from a busi­ness where we all know a great secret …”

Sheer­ly Avni is a San Fran­cis­co-based arts and cul­ture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Week­ly, Moth­er Jones, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her on twit­ter at @sheerly.

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