Andy Samberg Announces Death of Liberal Arts, Coolness of Science Majors at Harvard Class Day

Every time Har­vard Class Day rolls around, you can expect a few good laughs from a come­di­an. In years past, Sacha Baron Cohen (a Cam­bridge grad), appear­ing as Ali G, offered some words of non­sen­si­cal wis­dom to Har­vard grads. Amy Poehler and Will Fer­rell have done the same. This year brings Andy Sam­berg, a Sat­ur­day Night Live cast mem­ber and co-star in var­i­ous com­ic films. The high­lights?

  • 4:29 mark: Announces that His­to­ry, Lit­er­a­ture, any­thing relat­ed to Art, and any­thing that ends with “Stud­ies,” are offi­cial­ly use­less.
  • 5:12 mark: Declares that Math and Sci­ence majors are cool .… final­ly.
  • 9:13 mark: Reads poem by WB Yeats in his own, nov­el way.
  • 10:20 mark: Impres­sions begin.
  • 14:07: Awk­ward­ly comes on to all the moth­ers in the crowd.
  • 15:04: Awk­ward­ly comes on to all the fathers in the crowd.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

‘This Is Water’: Com­plete Audio of David Fos­ter Wallace’s Keny­on Grad­u­a­tion Speech (2005)

Conan O’Brien Kills It at Dart­mouth Grad­u­a­tion

J.K. Rowl­ing Tells Har­vard Grads Why Suc­cess Begins with Fail­ure

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Bill Murray Stars in Playful, Slo-Mo, Mock Trailer (and More Culture from Around the Web)

As Wes Ander­son­’s new film with Bill Mur­ray hits the­aters this week­end, a fun video star­ring the actor has sur­faced on the web. Here’s the quick back­sto­ry. Last year, a crew work­ing on a com­mer­cial shoot with Bill Mur­ray got some­thing bet­ter than an auto­graph. They got to appear in a slow-motion scene with him, all set to music by The Kinks. The Wes Ander­son-style shoot was then turned into a short “trail­er” for a faux film, Les cinéastes, and it’s now online for your enjoy­ment. via @protoncharging

Now dis­cov­er more cul­ture from Around the Web (all links orig­i­nal­ly appeared on our Twit­ter Stream): 

Home Record­ing of 5‑Year-Old Sofia Cop­po­la Being Inter­viewed by Her Father

Bob Dylan, the Beat Gen­er­a­tion, and Allen Gins­berg’s Amer­i­ca. Essay by Sean Wilentz in The New York­er

John Waters Tries Some Des­per­ate Liv­ing on a Cross-Coun­try Hitch­hik­ing Odyssey

Gertrude Stein’s Posthu­mous Alpha­bet Book. Writ­ten in 1939, Final­ly Pub­lished with Illus­tra­tions in 2011

Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty’s Lec­ture Series on Great Writ­ers and Why They Inspire (iTunes)

Young Girl Writes Ein­stein  and Asks, “Do Sci­en­tists Pray?” And He Replies (1936)

Entre­pre­neur Tells Techies to Get a PhD in the Human­i­ties

Frank Zap­pa Lec­tures at Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty, 1975

David Fos­ter Wal­lace Reads “Con­sid­er the Lob­ster” (Added to our list of Free Audio Books)

Video: Woody Allen Reads “Not A Crea­ture Was Stir­ring”

Inten­sive Intro­duc­tion to Com­put­er Sci­ence from Har­vard (Added to our Free Online Course Col­lec­tion)

Celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge with a Free iPad App

When it opened to vehi­cle traf­fic in May, 1937 the Gold­en Gate Bridge was the longest sus­pen­sion bridge in the world. Since then eight bridges have sur­passed it in length, but the icon­ic inter­na­tion­al orange span is still the most pho­tographed bridge in the world. This month marks the Gold­en Gate’s 75th anniver­sary and the Cal­i­for­nia His­tor­i­cal Society’s exhib­it, A Wild Flight of the Imag­i­na­tion, cel­e­brates the event with a look at the bridge’s con­struc­tion. The exhib­it has also been made avail­able as a free eBook for the iPad, which includes his­toric pho­tographs by Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange as well as a short film of bridge design­er Joseph Strauss speak­ing to a reporter dur­ing the bridge’s con­struc­tion. At the time, experts said that the Gold­en Gate strait’s fero­cious winds and strong, swirling cur­rents would make con­struc­tion impos­si­ble. But the design intro­duced deflec­tion the­o­ry, which uti­lizes a thin, flex­i­ble road­way and long cables that reduce struc­tur­al stress.

The inter­ac­tive app is accom­pa­nied by a musi­cal score—the open­ing selec­tion from com­pos­er Rob Kapilow’s Chrysopy­lae, Greek for “Gold­en Gate.” Ear­ly users of the eBook report­ed glitch­es with the app’s audio. The cul­prit may have been the side mute switch, which must be flipped off for the audio to work. Also, make sure your iPad’s vol­ume is up. Like the exhib­it in the society’s San Fran­cis­co muse­um, the app includes access to images of some 350 objects and ephemera relat­ed to the span’s con­struc­tion. Almost as nice as a walk across the bridge’s 1.7 miles, and not near­ly as windy.

Kate Rix writes about k‑12 instruc­tion and high­er ed. 

How David Byrne and Brian Eno Make Music Together: A Short Documentary

On Mon­day, we post­ed the Artist Series, short pro­files of var­i­ous aes­thet­i­cal­ly-ori­ent­ed cre­ators by the late Hill­man Cur­tis. Today, please enjoy what feels like the jew­el in the Artist Series’ crown, despite not offi­cial­ly being part of it: Cur­tis’ pro­mo­tion­al doc­u­men­tary on Bri­an Eno and David Byrne and their col­lab­o­ra­tion on 2008’s Every­thing That Hap­pens Hap­pen Will Hap­pen Today.

Cur­tis inter­views Eno and Byrne in their sep­a­rate work­spaces, cap­tures their con­ver­sa­tions about parts of their songs, and even — pre­sum­ably in keep­ing with the album’s do-it-your­self pro­mo­tion­al spir­it — lets them pho­to­graph one anoth­er. He also shows them doing what they do best when not cre­at­ing: cycling, of course, in Byrne’s case, and look­ing pen­sive­ly through win­dows in Eno’s.

In none of these nine min­utes do Byrne or Eno per­form any­thing. Cur­tis does­n’t need them to; he taps instead into the com­bi­na­tion of artic­u­la­cy, clar­i­ty, and idio­syn­crasy that has earned them near­ly forty years of sta­tus as cere­bral pop­u­lar music icons. Just as the ear­ly eight­ies’ nascent sam­pling tech­nol­o­gy gave Byrne and Eno a new frame­work with which to think about music when they record­ed My Life in the Bush of Ghosts togeth­er, the abil­i­ty to send sounds over the inter­net and exten­sive­ly mod­i­fy absolute­ly any record­ing after the fact shaped the con­struc­tion of Every­thing That Hap­pens Will Hap­pen Today.

The result­ing pro­duc­tion legit­i­mate­ly earns the crit­i­cal­ly abused adjec­tive “dream­like” — have a lis­ten to the track “I Feel My Stuff” above — and the feel of Cur­tis’ video aligns with the feel of the album, using unblink­ing gazes and drift­ing track­ing shots that would­n’t feel out of place in an Apichat­pong Weerasethakul film. If you still want to see these guys actu­al­ly play some­thing, watch Ride, Rise, Roar (trail­er here, clip below), Cur­tis’ con­cert film of the Songs of David Byrne and Bri­an Eno Tour.

Relat­ed con­tent

Bri­an Eno on Cre­at­ing Music and Art As Imag­i­nary Land­scapes (1989)

David Byrne: From Talk­ing Heads Front­man to Lead­ing Urban Cyclist

Sketch­es of Artists by the Late New Media Design­er Hill­man Cur­tis

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

ZeroN: An Amazing, Gravity-Defying New Interactive Technology at M.I.T.

In Stephen Spiel­berg’s film E.T. The Extra-Ter­res­tri­al there is a mem­o­rable scene in which a group of chil­dren ask a strand­ed vis­i­tor from out­er space where he is from, and he tries to com­mu­ni­cate by using an unseen force to lift a group of balls into mid-air and move them around to sim­u­late a solar sys­tem. Now a researcher at the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy has tapped into the physics of mag­net­ic lev­i­ta­tion to cre­ate some­thing sim­i­lar: a com­put­er-con­trolled sys­tem that allows users to manip­u­late a met­al sphere float­ing in space.

“I think there is some­thing fun­da­men­tal behind moti­va­tions to lib­er­ate phys­i­cal mat­ter from grav­i­ty and enable con­trol,” writes Jin­ha Lee on his Web site. “The moti­va­tion has exist­ed as a shared dream amongst humans for mil­len­nia. It is an idea found in mytholo­gies, desired by alchemists, and visu­al­ized in Sci­ence Fic­tion movies. I have aspired to cre­ate a space where we can expe­ri­ence a glimpse of this future.”

Lee’s device is part of the M.I.T. Tan­gi­ble Media Group’s larg­er project of giv­ing phys­i­cal form to dig­i­tal infor­ma­tion. The group strives to bring togeth­er the sep­a­rate worlds of bits and atoms in a Tan­gi­ble User Inter­face, or TUI, to allow peo­ple to use their nat­u­ral­ly evolved phys­i­cal dex­ter­i­ty to visu­al­ize and manip­u­late com­pu­ta­tion. To help achieve this, Lee devel­oped a pro­gram­ma­ble inter­face ele­ment he calls “ZeroN.” He describes it in the abstract of a paper pub­lished last Octo­ber with col­lab­o­ra­tors Reh­mi Post and Hiroshi Ishii:

ZeroN serves as a tan­gi­ble rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a 3D coor­di­nate of the vir­tu­al world through which users can see, feel, and con­trol com­pu­ta­tion. To acom­plish this we devel­oped a mag­net­ic con­trol sys­tem that can lev­i­tate and actu­ate a per­ma­nent mag­net in a pre-defined 3D vol­ume. This is com­bined with an opti­cal track­ing and dis­play sys­tem that projects images on the lev­i­tat­ing object. We present appli­ca­tions that explore this new inter­ac­tion modal­i­ty. Users are invit­ed to place or move the ZeroN object just as they can place objects on sur­faces. For exam­ple, users can place the sun above phys­i­cal objects to cast dig­i­tal shad­ows, or place a plan­et that will start revolv­ing based on sim­u­lat­ed phys­i­cal con­di­tions.

You can access the com­plete paper as a PDF. And you can find sim­i­lar videos when you explore our Tech­nol­o­gy sec­tion.

David Rees and His One-Man Artisanal Pencil Sharpening Service

This is for any­one with a love of old school wood­work­ing — luthiers, ébénistes and the rest. In 2009, the humorist David Rees gave up car­toon­ing and opened up his one-man arti­sanal pen­cil sharp­en­ing ser­vice in Bea­con, New York, an old fac­to­ry town along the Hud­son Riv­er. Just a man, some high qual­i­ty cedar, a knife, and an occa­sion­al pen­cil sharp­er revive a bygone era and a dis­ap­pear­ing instru­ment of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. 400 pen­cils lat­er, at $15 a pop, Rees has some­thing good going. You can learn more about Rees and his crafts­man­ship by read­ing (seri­ous­ly) his new book, How to Sharp­en Pen­cils, with a for­ward by John Hodg­man. Or start with an excerpt, of course, at Etsy.

Note: Rees uses some NSFW lan­guage dur­ing the video.

via Red­dit

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Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize-Winner, Tweets New Story with The New Yorker

In March, Jen­nifer Egan (A Vis­it From the Goon Squad) paid a vis­it to Google and was asked to sum up her year since win­ning the Pulitzer Prize in 2011. She said: “I am still not used to the idea that I won it. Maybe I will final­ly real­ly grab hold of that idea when some­one else wins it. I will say ‘No, I want it!’ ” Lit­tle did she know that just a few weeks lat­er the Pulitzer Prize judges would decline to name a suc­ces­sor, leav­ing her in men­tal lim­bo for yet anoth­er year. She seems to be han­dling it pret­ty well — well enough to pub­lish a new short sto­ry on The New York­er’s Fic­tion twit­ter stream. Yes, you read that right, its Twit­ter stream.

Start­ing last night, The New York­er began tweet­ing her new sto­ry, “Black Box,” and the sto­ry will con­tin­ue to unfold over nine more night­ly install­ments. It’s a gim­mick, you’re think­ing, right? Well, for Egan, it’s not. She explains on The New York­er web site:

I’d also been won­der­ing about how to write fic­tion whose struc­ture would lend itself to seri­al­iza­tion on Twit­ter. This is not a new idea, of course, but it’s a rich one—because of the inti­ma­cy of reach­ing peo­ple through their phones, and because of the odd poet­ry that can hap­pen in a hun­dred and forty char­ac­ters. I found myself imag­in­ing a series of terse men­tal dis­patch­es from a female spy of the future, work­ing under­cov­er by the Mediter­ranean Sea. I wrote these bul­letins by hand in a Japan­ese note­book that had eight rec­tan­gles on each page. The sto­ry was orig­i­nal­ly near­ly twice its present length; it took me a year, on and off, to con­trol and cal­i­brate the mate­r­i­al into what is now “Black Box.”

If you’re a Twit­ter user, you can catch the live stream between 8 and 9 P.M. EDT. (And you can also fol­low our live­ly Twit­ter stream here.) If micro-seri­al­ized fic­tion isn’t your thing, then you can always fol­low the sto­ry on The New York­er’s “Page Turn­er” blog.

New Great Gatsby, On the Road Adaptations Revive an Old Debate: Can Great Books Make Great Movies?

Two of the great­est Amer­i­can nov­els of the 20th century–F. Scott Fitzger­ald’s The Great Gats­by and Jack Ker­ouac’s On the Road–are head­ed for the big screen lat­er this year, and lit­er­ary fans are brac­ing for the worst.

Or at least that’s very much the case with Baz Luhrman­n’s 3‑D ver­sion of The Great Gats­by, star­ring Leonar­do DiCaprio as Jay Gats­by, Carey Mul­li­gan as Daisy Buchanan and Tobey Maguire as nar­ra­tor Nick Car­raway. The trail­er was released ear­li­er this week (see above) and the Inter­net has been buzzing. A head­line writer at the New York Dai­ly News observed that the new adap­ta­tion by the Aus­tralian film­mak­er who brought us Moulin Rouge! “won’t be your high school teacher’s F. Scott Fitzger­ald.” Over at the Wall Street Jour­nal’s “Speakeasy” blog, Lyne­ka Lit­tle described the music in the trail­er (by those Jazz Age lumi­nar­ies Kanye West, Jay‑Z and Jack White) as “awful­ly con­tem­po­rary.” But when it comes to the per­fect choice of words, the prize must go to actor James Urba­ni­ak, who said yes­ter­day on Twit­ter, “The Great Gats­by 3D: Borne back cease­less­ly into your face.”

Lit­er­ary purists are a bit more hope­ful when it comes to the first-ever film of Ker­ouac’s On the Road. In The New York Times yes­ter­day, Steve Chagol­lan described the painstak­ing research con­duct­ed by direc­tor Wal­ter Salles, best known for his 2004 film about Che Gue­vara, The Motor­cy­cle Diaries. The Brazil­ian direc­tor retraced Ker­ouac’s jour­neys across North Amer­i­ca and inter­viewed schol­ars and sur­viv­ing mem­bers of the Beat Gen­er­a­tion. “I was well aware that my pas­sion for the book was not suf­fi­cient to jus­ti­fy launch­ing into an adap­ta­tion straight away,” Salles told the Times. “In fact, mak­ing the fea­ture film ceased to be my main con­cern at the time. Under­stand­ing and get­ting to know these peo­ple bet­ter became my main goal.” Still, as Chagol­lan put it, Beat afi­ciona­dos will be watch­ing the film very close­ly, “cer­tain to cast an unfor­giv­ing eye.”

There’s an old say­ing: Good books make bad movies, and vice ver­sa. But is it true? It’s not dif­fi­cult to come up with the names of a few good books that have been made into mem­o­rable movies. Phillip Noyce’s adap­ta­tion of Gra­ham Greene’s The Qui­et Amer­i­can comes to mind. So does Blake Edward­s’s film of Tru­man Capote’s Break­fast at Tiffany’s and Stan­ley Kubrick­’s film of Antho­ny Burgess’s A Clock­work Orange. It’s even pos­si­ble to think of a great film made from a lit­er­ary mas­ter­piece, as in the case of Kubrick­’s adap­ta­tion of Vladimir Nabokov’s Loli­ta. Kubrick expressed his thoughts on trans­lat­ing books into films in a 1960–1961 essay, “Words and Movies”:

It’s some­times said that a great nov­el makes a less promis­ing basis for a film than a nov­el which is mere­ly good. I don’t think that adapt­ing great nov­els presents any spe­cial prob­lems which are not involved in adapt­ing good nov­els or mediocre nov­els; except that you will be more heav­i­ly crit­i­cised if the film is bad, and you may be even if it’s good. I think almost any nov­el can be suc­cess­ful­ly adapt­ed, pro­vid­ed it is not one whose aes­thet­ic integri­ty is lost along with its length. For exam­ple, the kind of nov­el in which a great deal and vari­ety of action is absolute­ly essen­tial to the sto­ry, so that it los­es much of its point when you sub­tract heav­i­ly from the num­ber of events or their devel­op­ment. Peo­ple have asked me how it is pos­si­ble to make a film out of Loli­ta when so much of the qual­i­ty of the book depends on Nabokov’s prose style. But to take the prose style as any more than just a part of a great book is sim­ply mis­un­der­stand­ing just what a great book is. Of course, the qual­i­ty of the writ­ing is one of the ele­ments that make a nov­el great. But this qual­i­ty is a result of the qual­i­ty of the writer’s obses­sion with his sub­ject, with a theme and a con­cept and a view of life and an under­stand­ing of char­ac­ter. Style is what an artist uses to fas­ci­nate the behold­er in order to con­vey to him his feel­ings and emo­tions and thoughts. These are what have to be drama­tised, not the style. The drama­tis­ing has to find a style of its own, as it will do if it real­ly grasps the con­tent. And in doing this it will bring out anoth­er side of the struc­ture which has gone into the nov­el. It may or may not be as good as the nov­el; some­times it may in cer­tain ways be even bet­ter.

What do you think? Are you look­ing for­ward to see­ing the new Great Gats­by and On the Road films? And can you think of a great book that has been made into an equal­ly great–or even greater–movie?

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.