Books Come to Life in Classic Cartoons from 1930s and 1940s

Remem­ber Spike Jonze’s stop motion film Mourir Auprès de Toi? When we fea­tured it last week, one of our read­ers called it “Slow, bor­ing and unimag­i­na­tive.” He then con­tin­ued:

Warn­er Broth­ers’ ani­ma­tion depart­ment did sev­er­al car­toons based on this con­cept over 50 years ago that packed much more ener­gy and humor into a very few min­utes worth of daz­zling ani­ma­tion.

The read­er was also good enough to point us to one such ear­ly car­toon, which we’re fea­tur­ing today. (See above.)

Released in 1946, the Looney Tunes car­toon Book Revue starts with a scene that may look famil­iar if you watched Jonze’s film: It’s mid­night. The book­store is closed. The lights are off. No crea­tures are stir­ring, not even … Scratch that, the books are stir­ring. They’re com­ing to life. And the hor­mones are run­ning high, a lit­tle too high. You can watch the rest, but we’ll leave you with this tid­bit. In 1994, Book Revue was vot­ed one of the 50 great­est car­toons of all time by a group of 1,000 ani­ma­tion pro­fes­sion­als. We thank Mike for send­ing this our way.

For good mea­sure, let’s also rewind the clock to 1938, when Mer­rie Melodies released Have You Got Any Cas­tles? It may well be the orig­i­nal books-come-to-life car­toon. We start again at mid­night, and the book cov­ers do their thing. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Fu Manchu, The Phan­tom of the Opera, and Franken­stein make an appear­ance, along with oth­er famous lit­er­ary char­ac­ters. When TBS re-released this car­toon decades lat­er, sev­er­al char­ac­ters from this orig­i­nal film (Bill “Bojan­gles” Robin­son from The 39 Steps, and Cab Cal­loway singing “I’ve Got Swing For Sale”) were edit­ed out because of the indel­i­cate way that African-Amer­i­cans were car­i­ca­tured here. Tal­ent these 1930s ani­ma­tors had. But also their blindspots too.…

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 3 ) |

10,000 Solutions

Ari­zona State Uni­ver­si­ty has launched a new con­test called 10,000 Solu­tions open to any­one over 18, any­where in the world, and it offers a $10,000 prize. Entries can take on one of the eight great­est chal­lenges fac­ing the world, like sus­tain­abil­i­ty and the future of edu­ca­tion. What makes the con­test unusu­al is that par­tic­i­pants are encour­aged to col­lab­o­rate and build on one another’s solu­tions. ASU wants to cre­ate an open solu­tions bank that oth­ers can use to gen­er­ate new ideas, and some stu­dents at ASU have already met up in per­son to talk over things they shared on the site. The school is pro­mot­ing 10,000 Solu­tions as an exper­i­ment in col­lab­o­ra­tive inven­tion and the Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion is fund­ing a team of ASU researchers to study the con­test and see how ideas are shared and devel­oped.

The con­test is off to a strong start, get­ting some high-pro­file entries like this one from Dan Ariely.

While many of the solu­tions share ques­tions or ideas at the brain­storm­ing stage, some groups are using the plat­form to pro­mote work­ing pro­to­types. This group of ASU stu­dent engi­neers is work­ing on a low-cost smart­board tech­nol­o­gy based on the Wii that could be set up any­where you can run a pro­jec­tor.

ASU hopes 10,000 Solu­tions will bring some fresh ener­gy to prob­lems that often seem over­whelm­ing. If you have a minute to spare and a bright idea for mak­ing the world a bet­ter place, why not share it?

Ed Finn is an occa­sion­al con­trib­u­tor to Open Cul­ture. He recent­ly start­ed work­ing at Ari­zona State Uni­ver­si­ty in Uni­ver­si­ty Ini­tia­tives, an office focused on devel­op­ing new projects and think­ing big about the future of pub­lic uni­ver­si­ty edu­ca­tion. 10,000 Solu­tions is a project his team is help­ing to launch this year.

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 4 ) |

‘Catch-22,’ Joseph Heller’s Darkly Hilarious Indictment of War, is 50

This month marks the 50th anniver­sary of Catch-22, Joseph Heller’s exu­ber­ant­ly sur­re­al com­e­dy about the insan­i­ty of war. The nov­el grew out of Heller’s expe­ri­ences as an Air Force bom­bardier in Europe dur­ing World War II. Sur­pris­ing­ly, the author’s own atti­tude toward the war bore lit­tle resem­blance to the views of his immor­tal pro­tag­o­nist, John Yos­sar­i­an.

“I have no com­plaints about my ser­vice at all,” Heller told Allan Gregg of Cana­di­an pub­lic broad­cast­ing in an inter­view (see above) record­ed not long before the author’s death in 1999. “If any­thing, it was ben­e­fi­cial to me in a num­ber of ways.”  Catch-22, he says, was a response to what tran­spired dur­ing the nov­el­’s 15-year ges­ta­tion: the cold war, the McCarthy hear­ings–the hypocrisy, the bul­ly­ing that was going on in Amer­i­ca.”

As E.L. Doc­torow told a reporter the day after Heller’s death, “When ‘Catch-22’ came out, peo­ple were say­ing, ‘Well, World War II was­n’t like this.’ But when we got tan­gled up in Viet­nam, it became a sort of text for the con­scious­ness of that time.” The nov­el went on to sell more than 10 mil­lion copies, and its title, as The New York Times wrote in Heller’s obit­u­ary, “became a uni­ver­sal metaphor not only for the insan­i­ty of war but also for the mad­ness of life itself.”

In the sto­ry, Yos­sar­i­an strives to get him­self ground­ed from future mis­sions, only to come up against the genius of bureau­crat­ic log­ic:

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which spec­i­fied that a con­cern for one’s safe­ty in the face of dan­gers that were real and imme­di­ate was the process of a ratio­nal mind. Orr was crazy and could be ground­ed. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more mis­sions. Orr would be crazy to fly more mis­sions and sane if he did­n’t, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and did­n’t have to; but if he did­n’t want to he was sane and had to. Yos­sar­i­an was moved very deeply by the absolute sim­plic­i­ty of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respect­ful whis­tle.

Heller went on to write six more nov­els, three plays, two mem­oirs and a col­lec­tion of short sto­ries, but none were as suc­cess­ful as his debut nov­el. In lat­er years when Heller was asked why he had­n’t writ­ten anoth­er book like Catch-22, his stock response was: “Who has?”

For more on Heller and his achieve­ment, you can lis­ten to an inter­est­ing NPR inter­view with Christo­pher Buck­ley, a friend of Heller who wrote the intro­duc­tion to the 50th Anniver­sary Edi­tion of Catch-22. And for a quick reminder of the nov­el­’s sen­si­bil­i­ty, watch this excerpt from Mike Nichols’ 1970 film adap­ta­tion star­ring Alan Arkin as Yos­sar­i­an:

Relat­ed Con­tent:

20 Pop­u­lar High School Books Avail­able as Free eBooks & Audio Books

Royal Society Opens Online Archive; Puts 60,000 Papers Online

Mag­gie Koerth-Bak­er of Boing­Bo­ing writes:

60,000 peer-reviewed papers, includ­ing the first peer-reviewed sci­en­tif­ic research jour­nal in the world, are now avail­able free online. The Roy­al Soci­ety has opened its his­tor­i­cal archives to the pub­lic. Among the cool stuff you’ll find here: Issac New­ton’s first pub­lished research paper and Ben Franklin’s write-up about that famous kite exper­i­ment. Good luck get­ting any­thing accom­plished today. Or ever again. —

New­ton’s tele­scope appears in the image above…

Relat­ed Con­tent:

William Faulkn­er Audio Archive Goes Online

Penn Sound: Fan­tas­tic Audio Archive of Mod­ern & Con­tem­po­rary Poets

Dis­cov­er The Math Guy Radio Archive

Leonard Cohen Gives a Great Speech on How His Love Affair with Music First Began (2011)

Sev­er­al weeks back, we fea­tured Ladies and Gen­tle­men… Mr. Leonard Cohen, the 1965 film that doc­u­ment­ed the life and times of the young poet who had­n’t yet start­ed his leg­endary song­writ­ing career. Now comes a lit­tle post­script. Speak­ing last Fri­day at the Prince of Asturias Awards, Mr. Cohen recalls the defin­ing lit­tle moment when he shift­ed towards music and song­writ­ing. He calls it the moment that explains “How I Got My Song,” and it’s all bound up with Spain and tragedy. The 11-minute talk is filled with humil­i­ty and grat­i­tude in equal parts. You can find a tran­script here. H/T Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Leonard Cohen Reads “The Future” (Not Safe for Work)

Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man. Watch the Film

Learn Span­ish with our Col­lec­tion of Free Lan­guage Lessons

Norah Jones Sings Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” in Honor of Steve Jobs (Plus Coldplay’s Performance)

Apple has post­ed on its web site the cel­e­bra­tion of Steve Jobs’ life that it held last Wednes­day. And, at least for me, one of the more poignant moments comes when Norah Jones takes the stage (around the 23 minute mark) and sings a mov­ing ver­sion of Bob Dylan’s For­ev­er Young (29 minute mark).

Jobs always had a spe­cial affec­tion for Dylan’s song­writ­ing. Accord­ing to Wal­ter Isaac­son’s new biog­ra­phy, Jobs and Steve Woz­ni­ak bond­ed over Dylan’s music as young men. “The two of us would go tramp­ing through San Jose and Berke­ley and ask about Dylan bootlegs and col­lect them,” Woz­ni­ak recalled. “We’d buy brochures of Dylan lyrics and stay up late inter­pret­ing them. Dylan’s words struck chords of cre­ative think­ing.”

Lat­er, when Jobs cre­at­ed the famous “Think Dif­fer­ent” ad, he made sure that Dylan was among the 17 rebels fea­tured in it. (Watch the nev­er-aired com­mer­cial nar­rat­ed by Jobs him­self here.) Apple also helped under­write the pro­duc­tion of Mar­tin Scors­ese’s Bob Dylan doc­u­men­tary, No Direc­tion Home. And, even down to his last days, Jobs’ per­son­al iPod was packed with icon­ic music from the 60s — the Bea­t­les, the Stones and, of course, Bob Dylan too. Enjoy, and for good mea­sure, we’re adding a song from Cold­play’s per­for­mance, which comes lat­er in the cel­e­bra­tion.

Oth­er songs played include Vida la VidaFix You and Every Teardrop Is A Water­fall.

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 4 ) |

Listen to the New Tom Waits Album, ‘Bad As Me,’ Free for a Limited Time

This week Tom Waits released his first stu­dio album in sev­en years, and it does­n’t dis­ap­point. Bad As Me, writes Will Her­mes in a four-star Rolling Stone review, may be Waits’ most broad­ly emo­tion­al album to date: “Cer­tain­ly it’s his most sharply focused record since the game-chang­ing tag team Sword­fishtrom­bones and Rain Dogs decades ago.” You can judge for your­self: For a lim­it­ed time, Nation­al Pub­lic Radio is offer­ing a sneak pre­view of the com­plete album.

Bad As Me is more acces­si­ble than many of Waits’ albums. As his long-time ses­sion gui­tarist Marc Ribot told The New York Times, “On this record it was less, ‘O.K. let’s be super rig­or­ous and cre­ate music com­plete­ly with­out prece­dent,’ and more just ‘Let’s rock the house.’ ” The title track is a good exam­ple. It’s a rol­lick­ing blues stomp, with Waits chan­nel­ing the ghost of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins as he shouts:

You’re the head on the spear
You’re the nail on the cross
You’re the fly in my beer
You’re the key that got lost
You’re the let­ter from Jesus on the bath­room wall
You’re moth­er supe­ri­or in only a bra
You’re the same kind of bad as me

On a more seri­ous note, Waits sings of Amer­i­ca’s infan­tile pol­i­tics, its mil­i­tary and eco­nom­ic quag­mires, and the gen­er­al break­down of dis­course in the melan­choly “Talk­ing At The Same Time”:

A tiny boy sat and he played in the sand
He made a sword from a stick
And a gun from his hand
Well we bailed out the mil­lion­aires
They’ve got the fruit
We’ve got the rind
And every­body’s talk­ing at the same time

Waits is joined by a stel­lar group of back­ing musi­cians, includ­ing Kei­th Richards on gui­tar and vocals, David Hidal­go on gui­tar, and Flea on bass. Bad As Me comes in two ver­sions: the stan­dard edi­tion, with 13 songs, and the deluxe edi­tion, with 16. You can hear all 13 tracks from the stan­dard edi­tion on the NPR web­site, and fol­low along with the lyrics on

Alfred Hitchcock Presents Ghost Stories for Young People (1962)

hitchcock photo

Image by Fred Palum­bo, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Close the doors. Shut the blinds. Turn out the lights. Make that room dark. Get ready for Alfred Hitch­cock Presents Ghost Sto­ries for Young Peo­ple. Orig­i­nal­ly record­ed in 1962, the album fea­tures 11 ghost sto­ries intro­duced by Hitch­cock him­self and then read by actor John Allen. If you were a kid dur­ing the ear­ly 60s, this may bring back some very good mem­o­ries. The record­ing is avail­able on YouTube and Spo­ti­fy, embed­ded below. (Down­load Spo­ti­fy’s soft­ware for free here.)

Here’s a playlist of the tracks:

  • The Haunt­ed And The Haunters (The Pirate’s Curse)
  • The Magi­cian (’til Death Do Us Part)
  • John­ny Takes A Dare (The More The Mer­ri­er)
  • The Open Win­dow (Spe­cial Adap­ta­tion)
  • The Help­ful Hitch­hik­er
  • Jim­my Takes Van­ish­ing Lessons


h/t @BrainPicker

Relat­ed Con­tent:

21 Free Hitch­cock Movies Online

Alfred Hitchcock’s Sev­en-Minute Edit­ing Mas­ter Class

François Truffaut’s Big Inter­view with Alfred Hitch­cock (Free Audio)

Alfred Hitchcock’s Rules for Watch­ing Psy­cho (1960)

1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 5 ) |

« Go BackMore in this category... »
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.