William F. Buckley Meets (Possibly Drunk) Jack Kerouac, Tries to Make Sense of Hippies, 1968

The first modern use of the word hippie can be traced back to 1965, when Michael Fallon, a San Francisco journalist, used the word to refer to the bohemian lifestyle emerging in the city’s Haight-Ashbury district. (Apparently, Fallon took the word hipster used by Norman Mailer and then shortened it into hippie.) By 1967, the mass media couldn’t stop talking about hippies. It was the Summer of Love in San Francisco, the defining moment of the counterculture, and the rest of the country was scratching its collective head, trying to make sense of it all. Who better to do it than William F. Buckley, the emerging voice of conservative America?

In this classic 1968 episode of Firing Line, Buckley tries to demystify the hippie movement with the help of three guests: Lewis Yablonsky, a professor of sociology and criminology at Cal State-Northridge; Ed Sanders, the activist poet who helped form The Fugs; and then Jack Kerouac, author of the Beat classic, On the Road. In many ways, Kerouac inspired the hippie movement. And he, himself, acknowledges the relationship between the Beats and the hippies. But, in watching this clip, one thing becomes clear: in style and substance, he and the hippies were also worlds apart….

Don’t miss Yale’s lecture on Kerouac and On the Road here.

via Biblioklept

Related Content:

Jack Kerouac Reads from On the Road (1959)

Ken Kesey’s First LSD Trip Animated

William F. Buckley Flogged Himself to Get Through Atlas Shrugged

Neil deGrasse Tyson Delivers the Greatest Science Sermon Ever

Just when you think you’ve had enough Neil deGrasse Tyson, another not-to-miss video comes along. This one comes from the 2006 Beyond Belief Conference, and it features the astrophysicist giving what’s been called the “greatest science sermon ever.” As a youngster, Tyson stepped into the Hayden Planetarium (the institution he now runs) and he felt an unshakable calling to study the universe. It wasn’t unlike the feeling someone undergoes when they’re religiously born again. And ever since, Tyson has experienced revelation after revelation, epiphany after epiphany, when studying the universe, and especially whenever he’s reminded that, chemically speaking, we are in the universe, and the universe is in us. We’re all made of the same stardust. How can that not leave us with an incredibly spiritual feeling?

Related Content:

Neil deGrasse Tyson Lists 8 (Free) Books Every Intelligent Person Should Read

Stephen Colbert Talks Science with Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson & Richard Dawkins Ponder the Big Enchilada Questions of Science

Breaking News: Socrates Tried Again in Athens and Acquitted!



Note: the action starts at about the two minute mark, and the video is accompanied by an English translation.

The trial and execution of Socrates at Athens in 399 B.C.E. has come down to us as the archetype of intellectual martyrdom. But the facts of the case, as filtered through the writings of Socrates’ students Xenophon and Plato, are sketchy.  “Why,” asks Douglas Linder on the Famous Trials Web site, “in a society enjoying more freedom and democracy than any the world had ever seen, would a seventy-year-old philosopher be put to death for what he was teaching?”

Last Friday the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens gave Socrates a new trial, assembling a panel of distinguished jurists from Europe and America to reopen the case. As the Onassis Centre’s Web site explains, the event was “not a re-enactment but a modern perspective based on current legal framework supplemented with ancient Greek elements and comical theatrics.” This time the verdict was different–but just barely. The vote by the jury was a 5-5 tie, which meant Socrates was acquitted. The audience’s vote was more decisive: 5 to convict, 584 to acquit. Of course, it was a little late for Socrates.

You can download The Apology of Socrates from our collection of Free Audio Books and Free eBooks.

The Ideas of Noam Chomsky: An Introduction to His Theories on Language & Knowledge (1977)

We’ve featured the linguist and polemicist Noam Chomsky here before, and not two weeks ago we posted about philosopher-broadcaster Bryan Magee. The Ideas of Noam Chomsky brings the two men together for a chat about linguistics, the philosophy of language, human cognitive programming, and the philosophy of science. Though Magee introduces Chomsky, a highly nontraditional intellectual to his adherents and detractors alike, as “something of a joker in the pack, as far as philosophy is concerned,” he interviews him with all the attentiveness and respect he brings to discussions with purely philosophical luminaries. Clearly, Magee wants to know more about Chomsky’s theories of language, and especially about their implications for what he calls the dominant philosophical problem: “that of the relationship between language and the world.”




Rarely questioned along these lines in the media, Chomsky responds thoughtfully and in detail. This ultimately leads to a conversation about the divide between where meaningful scientific theories can develop, and where our cognitive limitations might prevent them from developing. You’ll notice that none of this has to do with politics, and political guidance is what most of Chomsky’s fans have expected from him over the decades. While even Chomsky himself has admitted to seeing no connection between his academic and activist careers, Magee pursues a line of inquiry late in the broadcast meant to tie them together. Magee asks astute questions and Chomsky provides honest answers, but finding a common root between ideas like deep grammar and anarchist socialism perhaps remains an intellectual stunt best not tried at home.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

Related content:

Noam Chomsky & Michel Foucault Debate Human Nature & Power (1971)

Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (1992)

Bryan Magee’s In-Depth, Uncut TV Conversations With Famous Philosophers (1978-87)

Ali G and Noam Chomsky Talk Linguistics

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

The Open Goldberg Variations: J.S. Bach’s Masterpiece Free to Download

First published in 1741, J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations is often considered the most ambitious composition ever written for harpsichord. As this conversation at NPR notes, the piece begins “with an initial melody, the Aria, followed by 30 short but brilliant variations built on eight notes that Bach appears to have borrowed from Handel.” It’s an impressive example of musical one-upmanship — so impressive that the demanding piece still captures our often divided attention today.

Now, with no further delay, let me direct your attention to The Open Goldberg Variations, the first Kickstarter-funded, open source recording of Bach’s masterpiece, available entirely for free. If you click here, you can download and share the newly-released recording by Kimiko Ishizaka, performed on a Bösendorfer 290 Imperial piano in Berlin. You can do pretty much whatever you want with the recording because it’s released under a Creative Commons Zero license, which automatically puts things in the public domain.

You can also stream the Open Goldberg Variations below, and don’t miss this very related item: How to Download the Complete Organ Works of J.S. Bach for Free. And then this bonus: Glenn Gould’s Performance of the Goldberg Variation’s online. via BoingBoing

Measuring the Universe: How Astronomers Learned to Measure Celestial Distances Explained with Animation

Have you ever wondered how astronomers figure out the mind-boggling distances between the Earth and various astronomical objects? In this informative animated video from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, we learn the fundamentals of the Cosmic Distance Ladder, the succession of methods used to determine those distances.

The video was made for “Measuring the Universe: from the transit of Venus to the edge of the cosmos,” an exhibit that will be on display at the observatory through September 2. The exhibit is timed to coincide with this year’s rare transit of Venus, which will be visible from Earth on June 5 and 6 and won’t happen again until 2117. The transit of Venus played a key role in the history of astrometry. In 1663 the Scottish mathematician and astronomer James Gregory proposed a method of timing the movement of Venus across the Sun from two widely separated points on the Earth and using the differential to calculate the sun’s mean equatorial parallax and, by triangulation, the Sun’s distance from the Earth.

Knowing the distance from the Earth to the Sun, we can then figure out the distances of some stars using the same method of trigonometric parallax. But as astronomer Olivia Johnson explains in the video, that technique can only be used to measure the closest stars. For distances greater than 500 light years, other methods are required. When the objects in question have a known luminosity–in other words, when they are “standard candles”–the inverse square law of light can be used to calculate distances. Those measurements, along with Hubble’s Law and the Doppler Effect, enable even further calculations extending to the edge of the known cosmos.

“What’s most incredible to me,” says Johnson, “is how all these measurements build on each other. It’s only by knowing the scale of our Solar System–the distance between the Earth and Sun–that we’re able to measure distances to nearby stars using parallax. If we can learn how far it is to some nearby standard candles using parallax, we can then use comparisons between standard candles to measure the distances to farther stars and galaxies. Finally, by studying the motions of galaxies with standard candles, we learn we can use redshift to measure distances throughout our expanding Universe.”

via Devour

Related Content:

The Higgs Boson, AKA the God Particle, Explained with Animation

Daniel Dennett (a la Jeff Foxworthy) Does the Routine, “You Might be an Atheist If…”

The American comedian Jeff Foxworthy has a well known comedy routine called “You Might be a Redneck If,” where he lists the self-mocking possibilities that answer the question. For example: You Might be a Redneck If …

  1. Your wife has ever said, “Come move this transmission so I can take a bath.”
  2. You own a homemade fur coat.
  3. You think a subdivision is part of a math problem.
  4. You’ve ever financed a tattoo.
  5. You have ever used lard in bed.

The philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett picked up on this schtick when speaking at the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne, Australia. And he asked a series of questions meant to show that people might be a little less religious, or a bit more atheist, than they might care to admit. So here it goes: You Might be an Atheist If…

  1. You don’t believe that Jesus is literally the son of God.
  2. You don’t believe God actually listens to each and everyone’s prayers.
  3. You don’t think God picks sides when countries go to war (or when football teams play each other).
  4. Or, to put things differently, If you believe God isn’t a personal God, but rather is a benign force, a concept that enriches people’s lives.

You get the gist. By the time you’re done with the 45 minute talk, you’ll know whether you’re indeed a theist, or perhaps an atheist after all. It’s a reality check either way.

Vladimir Nabokov–Channelled by Christopher Plummer (RIP)–Teaches Kafka at Cornell

“From my point of view,” writes Vladimir Nabokov in Lectures on Literature, “any outstanding work of art is a fantasy insofar as it reflects the unique world of a unique individual.” He also says it in the video above, a lecture on Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis originally aired by WQED in Pittsburgh. (Find Kafka’s classic work in our collection of Free eBooks and Free Audio Books.) But he doesn’t say it himself; he says it through Christopher Plummer, who portrays Nabokov teaching in a 1989 re-creation of late-1940s Cornell University. Literarily inclined students of the era (including United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) must have experienced a similar introduction to Kafka in Nabokov’s classes, perhaps down to his sketch of poor Gregor Samsa’s beetle form. But this production adds the theatrical touch, surely not a feature of Cornell’s lecture halls in those days, of spotlighting Plummer-as-Nabokov and darkening everything else whenever he reads from the story.

Plummer himself says a few words about Nabokov at the beginning of the video, and he assumes the Russian novelist’s persona at about 1:38. Does Plummer nail Nabokov’s distinctively multinational accent? Does Nabokov’s observation that Gregor Samsa never uses his wings mean anything of importance?




Will we ever enter another era when public television resurrects cultural luminaries to give lectures by way of our time’s most respected thespians? This half-hour program gives us many such questions to ponder, and even if we can’t answer them, those of us who failed to draw inspiration from the Robin Williams of Dead Poets Society will surely find, in Plummer’s majestic eccentricity, a briefer but more memorable teacherly performance.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

Related content:

Nabokov Reads Lolita, Names the Great Books of the 20th Century

Nabokov Makes Editorial Improvements to Kafka’s The Metamorphosis

Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

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