The Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions Read by Bob Dylan

From 2006 to 2009, Bob Dylan hosted the Theme Time Radio Hour on Sirius Satellite Radio. Each show featured “an eclectic mix of songs, from a wide variety of musical genres, … along with Dylan’s on-air thoughts and commentary interspersed with phone calls, email readings, contributions from special guests and an array of classic radio IDs, jingles and promos from the past.” That eclectic mix also gave us this: Dylan reading, in his distinctive, quirky way, a list of the most oft-cited New Year’s Resolutions, ones that we annually make and sometimes break.

Happy New Year to all! And best of luck with the resolutions. If you need some help, check out this post: The Science of Willpower: 15 Tips for Making Your New Year’s Resolutions Last from Dr. Kelly McGonigal.

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The Ramones Play New Year’s Eve Concert in London, 1977

Before the Clash, before the Sex Pistols, there were the Ramones. The motley group from Forest Hills, Queens ignited the punk movement, first in New York and later in London, with an image and sound that cut to the core of rock and roll: jeans and leather jackets and two-minute songs played one after another at breakneck speed. As the band’s biography at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Web site says:

The Ramones revitalized rock and roll at one of its lowest ebbs, infusing it with punk energy, brash attitude and a loud, fast new sound. When the punk-rock quartet from Queens hit the street in 1976 with their self-titled first album, the rock scene in general had become somewhat bloated and narcissistic. The Ramones got back to basics: simple, speedy, stripped-down rock and roll songs. Voice, guitar, bass, drums. No makeup, no egos, no light shows, no nonsense.

On December 31, 1977, the Ramones played a classic show at the Rainbow Theatre in North London. The music was preserved on the 1979 album It’s Alive, considered by many to be the best live album from the punk era, and a portion of the show was later included in the film Ramones: It’s Alive 1974-1996.

The 26-minute film version (above) contains exactly half of the 28 songs on the album:

  1. Blitzkrieg Bop
  2. I Wanna Be Well
  3. Glad to See You Go
  4. You’re Gonna Kill That Girl
  5. Commando
  6. Havana Affair
  7. Cretin Hop
  8. Listen to My Heart
  9. I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You
  10. Pinhead
  11. Do You Wanna Dance?
  12. Now I Wanna Be a Good Boy
  13. Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue
  14. We’re A Happy Family

The set list draws on material from the band’s first three albums: Ramones, from early 1976, and Leave Home and Rocket to Russia, both released in 1977. The Ramones are still in their classic lineup here, including Joey Ramone (Jeffrey Hyman) on vocals, Johnny Ramone (John Cummings) on guitar, Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Colvin) on bass and Tommy Ramone (Thomas Erdelyi) on drums. Tommy Ramone quit playing drums for the group a few months later. Ramones: It’s Alive captures one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time at their absolute zenith. It’s a great way to get the New Year’s party rolling. Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!

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The Ramones, a New Punk Band, Play One of Their Very First Shows at CBGB (1974)

The Ramones’ First Press Release: We’re Part Musicians, Dentists & Degenerates (1975)

Charles and Ray Eames’ Powers of Ten: The Classic Film Re-Imagined By 40 Artists

Thinkers, creators, and imaginers of all kinds love Powers of Ten, with good cause. If you’ve never seen Charles and Ray Eames’ still-influential film on all the various scales at which one can view the universe, take nine minutes and watch it free online. Though the original power couple of modern American design produced the film 35 years ago, the short has stayed as crisp, striking, and (literally) perspective-altering as ever. We may not need a new Powers of Ten, per se, but who wouldn’t be interested in seeing how many 21st-century interpretations of its theme 40 artists can come up with? The Powers Project has taken on this very idea, inviting contributors from Los Angeles to Köln to Wellington to Kyoto to re-envision each of the distances from which the original film views humanity, from one meter away to 1024 meters away to .000001 angstroms away.

Just above, you can watch one completed segment of the Powers Project from London’s Jordi Pagès. In it, the camera moves toward the surface of a hand and into the skin, eventually finding its way into a single blood vessel. When it eventually comes available online, the finished project will include almost as many styles of filmmaking as it does scales of viewing. Open to as many techniques of and perspectives on moving image creation as its contributors could summon, the film will take the Eames’ idea, originally all about the straight-on perception of reality, into a new realm of abstraction. Who’d have guessed how much rich artistic potential remained in, as Powers of Ten‘s subtitle puts it, the Relative Size of Things in the Universe and the Effect of Adding Another Zero?

via FastCoDesign

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

J.R.R. Tolkien, Using a Tape Recorder for the First Time, Reads from The Hobbit for 30 Minutes (1952)

Having not seen the first installment of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, I am required to withhold judgment. As a Tolkien reader from the first time I could struggle through the prose, I’ll admit, I’ve been on tenterhooks (and not all reviews fill me with hope). In any case, I plan, like many a fan, to re-read Tolkien’s fairy tale novel before seeing Jackson’s film. It was my first exposure to Tolkien, and the perfect book for a young reader ready to dive into moral complexity and a fully-realized fictional world.

And what better guide could there be through The Hobbit than Tolkien himself, reading (above) from the 1937 work? In this 1952 recording in two parts (part 2 is below), the venerable fantasist and scholar reads from his own work for the first time on tape. Some dutiful fan has added a background score and a slideshow of images of the author, as well as artists’ renderings of his characters (including stills from Jackson’s Rings films).

Tolkien begins with a passage that first describes the creature Gollum; listening to this description again, I am struck by how much differently I imagined him when I first read the book. No doubt Andy Serkis deserves all the praise for his portrayal, but the Gollum of The Hobbit seems somehow so much hoarier and more monstrous than the slippery creature in Peter Jackson’s films. This is a minor point and not a criticism, but perhaps a comment on how necessary it is to return to the source of a mythic world as rich as Tolkien’s, even, or especially, when it’s been so well-realized in other media. No one, after all, knows Middle Earth better than its creator.

These readings were part of a much longer recording session, during which Tolkien also read (and sang!) extensively from The Lord of the Rings. A YouTube user has collected, in several parts, a radio broadcast of that full session here, and it’s certainly worth your time to listen to it all the way through. It’s also worth knowing the neat context of the recording. Here’s the text that accompanies the video on YouTube:

When Tolkien visited a friend in August of 1952 to retrieve a manuscript of The Lord of the Rings, he was shown a “tape recorder”. Having never seen one before, he asked how it worked and was then delighted to have his voice recorded and hear himself played back for the first time. His friend then asked him to read from The Hobbit, and Tolkien did so in this one incredible take.

Also, it may interest you to know what Tolkien’s posthumous editor, his youngest son Christopher, thinks of the adaptations of his dad’s beloved books, among many other things Middle Earth. Read Christopher Tolkien’s first press interview in forty years here, and watch him below reading the ending of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Looking for free, professionally-read audio books from–including, for example The Hobbit? Here’s a great, no-strings-attached deal. If you start a 30 day free trial with, you can download two free audio books of your choice. Get more details on the offer here.

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Listen to J.R.R. Tolkien Read Poems from The Fellowship of the Ring, in Elvish and English (1952)

Download Eight Free Lectures on The Hobbit by “The Tolkien Professor,” Corey Olsen

Free Audio: Download the Complete Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Fantastic Footage of J.R.R. Tolkien in 1968

500 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free

Josh Jones is a writer and scholar currently completing a dissertation on landscape, literature, and labor.

Richard Feynman’s Ode to a Flower: A Short Animation

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but couldn’t one’s appreciation of that aroma get a boost from understanding the science behind its existence? So theoretical physicist Richard Feynman argues from beyond the grave in ‘Ode to a Flower’, a short animation by Fraser Davidson. Pulling from a 1981 BBC interview with the charismatic Nobel laureate, Davidson’s simple graphics make the case for a multifaceted sense of admiration. Reversing the angle, are there not those of us for whom Science is a patient etherized upon a table, until viewed through the warm lens of a tightly edited animation? Speaking for myself, yes.
Let us find ways for our existing passions to lead to new found appreciations and an ever-deepening sense of wonder in the new year.

Ayun Halliday is the author of Peanut, a graphic novel released earlier this week. Find her @AyunHalliday

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Richard Feynman Presents Quantum Electrodynamics for the NonScientist

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The Recycled Orchestra: Paraguayan Youth Play Mozart with Instruments Cleverly Made Out of Trash

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” — it’s a saying they’re taking to heart in Cateura, Paraguay, a small town where impoverished families live along a vast landfill. Cateura’s residents can’t afford many things that American families often take for granted, and that includes buying new musical instruments for their kids. Indeed, in Cateura, your garden variety violin costs more than the average home. But that hasn’t stopped the town from assembling a youth chamber orchestra that performs music by Mozart, Beethoven and the Beatles. The instruments they play are made from the trash that surrounds them. Oil cans become cellos; aluminum bowls get forged into violins. And the music they make suffers not one bit. This inspirational story will be told in an upcoming feature-length documentary called Landfill Harmonic. You can keep an eye out for the film by following its Facebook page, and learn more about The Recycled Orchestra by reading this interview. H/T Kim

Microscopic Battlefield: Watch as a Killer T Cell Attacks a Cancer Cell

Every day, inside our body, there is a war going on. Microscopic invaders of one kind or another try to make a meal of us, and our immune system fights back, seeking out the invaders and destroying them. One of our body’s most important foot-soldiers in this war is the T cell, a type of white blood cell with receptors that can recognize foreign substances. Like all white blood cells, T cells originate in the bone marrow, but then they migrate to an organ called the thymus (hence the “T” in “T cell”), where they evolve into specialized immune system warriors. Mature T cells, which leave the thymus and circulate around the body, come in different types. One type, the cytotoxic T cell, specializes in attacking and killing cells of the body that are infected by viruses, bacteria, or cancer.

Which is where this fascinating little video comes in. It shows a cytotoxic T cell (also known as a “killer T cell”) attacking a cancerous cell. The process is shown at 92 times the actual speed. And for a sense of scale, a cytotoxic T cell is only 10 microns long, or about one-tenth the width of a human hair. The video was created by PhD student Alex Ritter at the University of Cambridge, and posted recently in the university’s “Under the Microscope” Web series. Ritter’s supervisor in the Department of Medicine, Professor Gillian Griffiths, explains the importance of the research associated with the video:

Cytotoxic T cells are very precise and efficient killers. They are able to destroy infected or cancerous cells, without destroying healthy cells surrounding them….By understanding how this works, we can develop ways to control killer cells. This will allow us to find ways to improve cancer therapies, and ameliorate autoimmune diseases caused when killer cells run amok and attack healthy cells in our bodies.

You can bone up on biology by visiting the Bio section in our collection of 625 Free Courses Online.

Richard Pryor Does Early Stand-Up Comedy Routine in New York, 1964

Yesterday we featured one of the final performances of Lenny Bruce, the so-called “sick comedian” who was hounded out of work in the mid-sixties for his supposed obscenity. While Bruce was fighting and losing his legal battles, going bankrupt, and sinking into depression, one of his successors was just getting his start in New York City, playing Greenwich Village coffee houses alongside Woody Allen and Bob Dylan. Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor arrived in New York in 1963, leaving behind him a grim, abusive childhood in Peoria, Illinois and a very troubled army stint (most of which he spent locked in the brig). But watching Pryor’s early act—like the 1964 performance above—you’d hardly know that he came from such hardscrabble places as he did. We get the classic Pryor gestures, mannerisms, and expressions: the full immersion of his arms and malleable face in every punchline. But the jokes…. Well, it’s safe material. Tame one-liners and middlebrow, sanitized bits about childhood, bachelorhood, life in New York, and TV commercials. If there is a glimmer of the absurdism and tragicomedy of Pryor’s later wit, it’s a faint one. But who can blame him after what happened to Lenny Bruce?

But, as we all know, something changed. According to Pryor himself, he had an “epiphany” while standing onstage in front of a full audience (which included Dean Martin) in Las Vegas in 1967. Apparently, before he started his act, he looked out into the crowd, exclaimed into the microphone, “what the f*ck am I doing here?” and walked off stage. For the remainder of his career, he built his onstage act around the brutal, unsparing honesty–about race, poverty, drug abuse, his troubled past (and present), and everything in-between–that audiences loved. Even when the bits were painful, they were painfully funny (though not always so funny off stage). That he managed to cultivate such a profane and controversial persona while achieving mainstream Hollywood movie success is further credit to his versatility. He even did the alphabet on Sesame Street in 1976. But he never went back to the unthreatening and generic material from his early New York days. Even his roles in the most kid-friendly films had plenty of edge and that vein of dopey-but-dangerous craziness that ran through all of Pryor’s work after he found his voice.

For a vintage clip of the Richard Pryor we remember, take a look back to the 1979 film Richard Pryor: Live in Concert, recorded the previous year at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach, California. It’s NSFW, of course.

Josh Jones is a writer and scholar currently completing a dissertation on landscape, literature, and labor.

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