Ray Bradbury: “The Things That You Love Should Be Things That You Do.” “Books Teach Us That”

“I sup­pose you’re won­der­ing why I’ve called you all here,” says Ray Brad­bury above, in a lengthy inter­view with the The Big Read project spon­sored by the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts. Break­ing the ice with this stock phrase, Bradbury–author of Fahren­heit 451, The Illus­trat­ed Man, The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles, and sev­er­al dozen more fan­ta­sy and sci-fi nov­els and short sto­ry col­lec­tions (and some tru­ly chill­ing hor­ror)–begins to talk about… Love. Specif­i­cal­ly a love of books. “Love,” he says, “is at the cen­ter of your life. The things that you do should be things that you love, and the things that you love, should be things that you do.” That’s what books teach us, he says, and it becomes his mantra.

Brad­bury, who passed away in June, was cer­tain­ly an ear­ly inspi­ra­tion for me, and sev­er­al mil­lion oth­er book­ish kids whose warmest mem­o­ries involve dis­cov­er­ing some strange, life-alter­ing book on the shelf of a library. As he recounts his child­hood expe­ri­ences with books, he’s such an enthu­si­as­tic boost­er for pub­lic libraries that you may find your­self writ­ing a check to your local branch in the first ten min­utes of his talk.  And it’s easy to see why his most famous nov­el sprang from what must have been a very press­ing fear of the loss of books. Brad­bury was large­ly self-taught. Unable to afford col­lege, he pur­sued his fierce ambi­tion to become a writer imme­di­ate­ly out of high school and pub­lished his first short sto­ry, “Hollerbochen’s Dilem­ma,” at the age of nine­teen. As he says above, he became a writer because, “I dis­cov­ered that I was alive.” But I’m not doing it jus­tice. You have to watch him tell it to real­ly feel the thrill of this epiphany.

The Big Read’s mis­sion is to cre­ate a “Nation of Read­ers,” and to do so, it posts free audio guides for clas­sics such as Bradbury’s Fahren­heit 451, Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gats­by. They also fea­ture video inter­views with oth­er authors, like Amy Tan, Ernest J. Gaines, and Tobias Wolff. Each of the inter­views is fan­tas­tic, and the read­ers’ guides are superb as well. Bradbury’s, for exam­ple, nar­rat­ed by poet and author Dana Gioia, also fea­tures sci-fi giants Orson Scott Card and Ursu­la K. Le Guin, as well as sev­er­al oth­er writ­ers who were inspired by his work.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ray Brad­bury Gives 12 Pieces of Writ­ing Advice to Young Authors (2001)

Ray Brad­bury: Lit­er­a­ture is the Safe­ty Valve of Civ­i­liza­tion

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

Face to Face with Bertrand Russell: ‘Love is Wise, Hatred is Foolish’

In April of 1959 the British philoso­pher and math­e­mati­cian Bertrand Rus­sell sat down with John Free­man of the BBC pro­gram Face to Face for a brief but wide-rang­ing and can­did inter­view. Rus­sell rem­i­nisced about his ear­ly attrac­tion to math­e­mat­ics. “I got the sort of sat­is­fac­tion that Pla­to says you can get out of math­e­mat­ics,” he said. “It was an eter­nal world. It was a time­less world. It was a world where there was a pos­si­bil­i­ty of a cer­tain kind of per­fec­tion.”

Rus­sell, of course, dis­tin­guished him­self in that rar­i­fied world as one of the founders of ana­lyt­ic phi­los­o­phy and a co-author of Prin­cip­ia Math­e­mat­i­ca, a land­mark work that sought to derive all of math­e­mat­ics from a set of log­i­cal axioms. Although the Prin­cip­ia fell short of its goal, it made an enor­mous mark on the course of 20th cen­tu­ry thought. When World War I came along, though, Rus­sell felt it was time to come down from the ivory tow­er of abstract think­ing. “This world is too bad,” Rus­sell told Free­man. “We must notice it.”

The half-hour con­ver­sa­tion, shown above in its entire­ty, is of a qual­i­ty rarely seen on tele­vi­sion today. The inter­view­er Free­man was at that time a for­mer Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment and a future Ambas­sador to the Unit­ed States. Rus­sell talks with him about his child­hood, his views on reli­gion, his polit­i­cal and social activism, even his amus­ing con­vic­tion that smok­ing extend­ed his life. But per­haps the most famous moment comes at the end, when Free­man asks the old philoso­pher what mes­sage he would offer to peo­ple liv­ing a thou­sand years hence. In answer­ing the ques­tion, Rus­sell bal­ances the two great spheres that occu­pied his life:

I should like to say two things, one intel­lec­tu­al and one moral:

The intel­lec­tu­al thing I should want to say to them is this: When you are study­ing any mat­ter or con­sid­er­ing any phi­los­o­phy, ask your­self only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Nev­er let your­self be divert­ed either by what you wish to believe or by what you think would have benef­i­cent social effects if it were believed, but look only and sole­ly at what are the facts. That is the intel­lec­tu­al thing that I should wish to say.

The moral thing I should wish to say to them is very sim­ple. I should say: Love is wise, hatred is fool­ish. In this world, which is get­ting more and more close­ly inter­con­nect­ed, we have to learn to tol­er­ate each oth­er. We have to learn to put up with the fact that some peo­ple say things that we don’t like. We can only live togeth­er in that way, and if we are to live togeth­er and not die togeth­er we must learn a kind of char­i­ty and a kind of tol­er­ance which is absolute­ly vital to the con­tin­u­a­tion of human life on this plan­et.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Bertrand Rus­sell on the Exis­tence of God and the After­life

Three Pas­sions of Bertrand Rus­sell (and a Col­lec­tion of Free Texts)

Face to Face with Carl Jung: ‘Man Can­not Stand a Mean­ing­less Life’

Truman Capote (In Cold Blood) Talks Death Penalty with William F. Buckley (1968)

Tru­man Capote did­n’t study to become expert in cap­i­tal crime and its pun­ish­ment,” says William F. Buck­ley on the Fir­ing Line broad­cast of Sep­tem­ber 3, 1968, “but his five and one half year engage­ment of the slaugh­ter of the Clut­ter fam­i­ly, which went into the writ­ing of In Cold Blood, left him with high­ly set­tled impres­sions in the mat­ter.” You can hear Buck­ley elic­it and Capote con­cise­ly lay out the posi­tion to which these impres­sions brought him in the clip above. Though remem­bered for his own con­ser­v­a­tive views, Buck­ley seemed ever eager to invite onto his show, fre­quent­ly and with­out hes­i­ta­tion, pub­lic fig­ures who strong­ly dis­agreed with him. This sense of con­tro­ver­sy gen­er­at­ed a stream of clas­si­cal­ly com­pelling tele­vi­su­al moments over Fir­ing Line’s 33-year run, but for my mon­ey, all the direct con­flicts have less to offer than the times a guest — or even the host — broke from stan­dard ide­o­log­i­cal posi­tions, as Capote does here.

Buck­ley opens by ask­ing whether “sys­tem­at­ic exe­cu­tion of killers over the pre­ced­ing gen­er­a­tion might have stayed the hand of the mur­der­ers of the Cut­ter fam­i­ly.” Capote replies that “cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment — which I’m opposed to, but for quite dif­fer­ent rea­sons than are usu­al­ly advanced — would in itself be a sin­gu­lar­ly effec­tive deter­rent, if it were, in fact, sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly applied. But because pub­lic sen­ti­ment is very much opposed to it and the courts have allowed this end­less pol­i­cy of appeal — to such a degree that a per­son can be eleven, twelve, thir­teen, four­teen years under a sen­tence of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment — it becomes, in effect, an extreme, unusu­al, and cru­el pun­ish­ment. If peo­ple real­ly were sen­tenced to be exe­cut­ed and were with­in a rea­son­able peri­od of time, the pro­fes­sion­al mur­der­er knew the absolute, pos­i­tive end of their actions would be their own death, I think it would cer­tain­ly give them sec­ond thoughts.” This per­haps lends itself poor­ly to a sound bite, but Fir­ing Line at its best nev­er dealt in those.

Relat­ed con­tent:

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

James Bald­win Bests William F. Buck­ley in 1965 Debate at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty

Allen Gins­berg Reads a Poem He Wrote on LSD to William F. Buck­ley

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

Campbell’s to Sell Special Andy Warhol Soup Cans, and What Makes Those Cans Art Anyway

When Mad Men kicked off its fifth sea­son ear­li­er this year, we encoun­tered Don Drap­er and Peg­gy Olson brain­storm­ing an adver­tis­ing cam­paign for Heinz baked beans. The goal? To make this sta­ple of the Amer­i­can diet sex­i­er to a younger gen­er­a­tion. It’s a peren­ni­al prob­lem for many tra­di­tion­al brands, some­thing that real-world com­pa­nies con­tend with day in, day out. Take Camp­bel­l’s Soup for exam­ple. As part of a broad­er effort to make its prod­ucts “more eth­nic, more hip,”  the com­pa­ny found­ed in 1869 plans to sell 1.2 mil­lion cans with art­work inspired by Andy Warhol.

Of course, Warhol is the artist who famous­ly began pro­duc­ing silkscreens of Camp­bel­l’s soup cans back in 1962. When Andy first cre­at­ed these icon­ic pieces of pop art, Camp­bel­l’s was none too pleased. In fact, the com­pa­ny con­sid­ered hit­ting him with a law­suit. But, by 1964, they were send­ing him nice let­ters and free cas­es of soup, and they also com­mis­sioned him to make a paint­ing for the fir­m’s retir­ing chair­man. Now 50 years lat­er, they’re hop­ing that Warhol’s pop art can get their sag­ging sales going again.

The soup cans will go on sale at Tar­get, start­ing this Sun­day, for 75 cents a pop. In the mean­time, we’ll leave you with this — Sal Khan (Khan Acad­e­my) and Steven Zuck­er (Smarthis­to­ry) explain­ing what makes Warhol’s art, art. And, by the way, I spot­ted Sal at the local gro­cery store tonight. Should have said hi. It’s a small world.

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Kurt Vonnegut Writes an Offbeat Contract Outlining His Chores Around the House, 1947

vonnegut lettersKurt Von­negut nev­er did things the con­ven­tion­al way. He did­n’t write par­tic­u­lar­ly con­ven­tion­al nov­els. He cer­tain­ly did­n’t make very con­ven­tion­al speech­es at uni­ver­si­ties. But he did make semi-con­ven­tion­al domes­tic agree­ments. Take, for exam­ple, this con­tract writ­ten on Jan­u­ary 26, 1947. Post­ed on the Harper’s web­site in full, this odd lit­tle doc­u­ment, dubbed “The Chore List of Cham­pi­ons,” finds Von­negut out­lin­ing all of the tasks he promised to do around the house — this while his young wife, Jane, pre­pared to give birth to their first child. The con­tract (the con­tent is con­ven­tion­al, the form is not) will be pub­lished in Kurt Von­negut: Let­ters next month. And it begins:

I, Kurt Von­negut, Jr., that is, do here­by swear that I will be faith­ful to the com­mit­ments here­un­der list­ed:

I. With the agree­ment that my wife will not nag, heck­le, or oth­er­wise dis­turb me on the sub­ject, I promise to scrub the bath­room and kitchen floors once a week, on a day and hour of my own choos­ing. Not only that, but I will do a good and thor­ough job, and by that she means that I will get under the bath­tub, behind the toi­let, under the sink, under the ice­box, into the cor­ners; and I will pick up and put in some oth­er loca­tion what­ev­er mov­able objects hap­pen to be on said floors at the time so as to get under them too, and not just around them. Fur­ther­more, while I am under­tak­ing these tasks I will refrain from indulging in such remarks as “Shit,” “God­damn sono­fabitch,” and sim­i­lar vul­gar­i­ties, as such lan­guage is nerve-wrack­ing to have around the house when noth­ing more dras­tic is tak­ing place than the fac­ing of Neces­si­ty. If I do not live up to this agree­ment, my wife is to feel free to nag, heck­le, and oth­er­wise dis­turb me until I am dri­ven to scrub the floors any­way—no mat­ter how busy I am.

And then lat­er con­tin­ues:

g. When smok­ing I will make every effort to keep the ash­tray I am using at the time upon a sur­face that does not slant, sag, slope, dip, wrin­kle, or give way upon the slight­est provo­ca­tion; such sur­faces may be under­stood to include stacks of books pre­car­i­ous­ly mount­ed on the edge of a chair, the arms of the chair that has arms, and my own knees;

h. I will not put out cig­a­rettes upon the sides of, or throw ash­es into, either the red leather waste­bas­ket or the stamp waste­bas­ket that my lov­ing wife made me for Christ­mas, 1945, as such prac­tice notice­ably impairs the beau­ty and ulti­mate prac­ti­ca­bil­i­ty of said waste­bas­kets;

j. An excep­tion to the above three-day time lim­it is the tak­ing out of the garbage, which, as any fool knows, had bet­ter not wait that long; I will take out the garbage with­in three hours after the need for dis­pos­al has been point­ed out to me by my wife. It would be nice, how­ev­er, if, upon observ­ing the need for dis­pos­al with my own two eyes, I should per­form this par­tic­u­lar task upon my own ini­tia­tive, and thus not make it nec­es­sary for my wife to bring up a sub­ject that is mod­er­ate­ly dis­taste­ful to her;

l. The terms of this con­tract are under­stood to be bind­ing up until that time after the arrival of our child (to be spec­i­fied by the doc­tor) when my wife will once again be in full pos­ses­sion of all her fac­ul­ties, and able to under­take more ardu­ous pur­suits than are now advis­able.

You can read the com­plete “Chore List of Cham­pi­ons” at Harper’s.

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

22-Year-Old P.O.W. Kurt Von­negut Writes Home from World War II: “I’ll Be Damned If It Was Worth It”

Kurt Von­negut Reads from Slaugh­ter­house-Five

Kurt Vonnegut’s Eight Tips on How to Write a Good Short Sto­ry

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Peter Sellers: His Life in Home Movies

Peter Sell­ers was a com­pul­sive home movie mak­er. His house was clut­tered with cam­eras, cables and tape recorders, accord­ing to his first wife Anne Howe, and he liked to bring a cam­era along with him wher­ev­er he went, some­times hand­ing it to a com­pan­ion and clown­ing around in front of the lens.

In 1995, fif­teen years after Sell­er­s’s death, pro­duc­ers from BBC Are­na sort­ed through his exten­sive archive and assem­bled some of the best footage for a film called The Peter Sell­ers Sto­ry. In 2002 they short­ened it into The Peter Sell­ers Sto­ry: As He Filmed It (above), which tells the sto­ry of the come­di­an’s life almost exclu­sive­ly with footage from his own cam­era.

There are glimpses of some notable peo­ple from the actor’s cir­cle, includ­ing Stan­ley Kubrick, Sophia Loren, Lord Snow­don, Princess Mar­garet, Britt Ekland, Blake Edwards, Spike Mil­li­gan and Orson Welles. The audio is pieced togeth­er from vin­tage per­for­mances and inter­views, along with com­men­tary by Sell­er­s’s friends, fam­i­ly and col­leagues. It’s a unique film, offer­ing a per­son­al look at the enig­mat­ic and emo­tion­al­ly trou­bled genius who was able to slip con­fi­dent­ly into an amaz­ing range of personas–often in the same film–but was nev­er sure of his own. As Sell­ers once told an inter­view­er:

I have no per­son­al­i­ty of my own, you see. I could nev­er be a star because of this. I’m a char­ac­ter actor. I could­n’t play Peter Sell­ers the way Cary Grant plays Cary Grant, say–because I have no con­crete image of myself. I look in the mir­ror and what I see is some­one who has nev­er grown up–a crash­ing sen­ti­men­tal­ist who alter­nates between great heights and black depths. You know, it’s a fun­ny thing, but when I’m doing a role I feel it’s the role doing the role, if you know what I mean. When some­one tells me “You were great as so-and-so,” I feel they should be telling this to so-and-so, and when I fin­ish a pic­ture I feel a hor­ri­ble sud­den loss of iden­ti­ty.

The Peter Sell­ers Sto­ry: As He Filmed It will be added to our col­lec­tion of 500 Free Movies Online.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Peter Sell­ers Per­forms The Bea­t­les in Shake­speare­an Mode

Peter Sell­ers Reads The Bea­t­les’ ‘She Loves You’ in Four Voic­es


Hollywood by Helicopter, 1958

“This movie is going to be pret­ty obvi­ous.” That’s not the best way to get the view­er’s atten­tion. And the rest of the script, read by Bob Crane, is not much bet­ter: “Hey Kit­ty, look … Kit­ty, you did­n’t look hard enough … See the thing that looks like a build­ing? That’s a build­ing!” Nor is the premise of the film very good: Kit­ty is a novice actress, and, before appear­ing in her first movie, she gets an aer­i­al tour of Hol­ly­wood and its land­marks.

But from a his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive, this 1950s footage of the Los Ange­les movie indus­try has its intrigu­ing moments. It’s par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing to see how much space there still was around some of the stu­dios and movie the­aters. Just com­pare the image of Grau­man’s Chi­nese The­ater on Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard tak­en from the film with a Google Earth shot from today:

By pro­fes­sion, Matthias Rasch­er teach­es Eng­lish and His­to­ry at a High School in north­ern Bavaria, Ger­many. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twit­ter.

Michio Kaku Explains the Physics Behind Absolutely Everything

“It’s tur­tles all the way down,” a pos­si­bly apoc­ryphal old lady once said as a way of ful­ly explain­ing her con­cept of the world sup­port­ed on the back of a giant tor­toise. But accord­ing to City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York’s Michio Kaku, it’s physics all the way down. He shares this high­ly edu­cat­ed assump­tion with, pre­sum­ably, every­one in his field of the­o­ret­i­cal physics, and if you’ve got 42 min­utes, he’ll tell you why the sub­jec­t’s explana­to­ry pow­er has com­pelled him and so many oth­ers to ded­i­cate their lives to it. In “The Uni­verse in a Nut­shell,” the lec­ture embed­ded above, Kaku tells of the ori­gins of mod­ern physics, breaks down how it has clar­i­fied to human­i­ty so many of the mech­a­nisms of exis­tence, and reminds us of both the count­less tech­no­log­i­cal advances it has already made pos­si­ble and the infini­tude of them it will in the future. To our fel­low humans just a few gen­er­a­tions back, he says, we, with our advanced com­mu­ni­ca­tion devices and our abil­i­ty to watch slick­ly pro­duced, high-res­o­lu­tion lec­tures on demand, would look like wiz­ards; our grand­chil­dren, enjoy­ing yet more ben­e­fits from physics, would look like gods.

This video comes to you free from Big Think, though as a pro­duc­tion it orig­i­nates from the asso­ci­at­ed ven­ture Float­ing Uni­ver­si­ty, which sells access to lec­tures on a vari­ety of sub­jects, from physics to demog­ra­phy to lin­guis­tics to aes­thet­ics. Giv­en all the use­ful infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy now so wide­ly avail­able — thanks in part to dis­cov­er­ies in, yes, physics — a par­tic­u­lar­ly fruit­ful time has come for projects meant to rein­vent edu­ca­tion. Float­ing Uni­ver­si­ty con­sid­ers itself to be “democ­ra­tiz­ing edu­ca­tion,” and the demand cer­tain­ly seems fer­vent. “Why can’t school be like this?” writes one YouTube com­menter. “I don’t want home­work, I don’t want a binder with dividers, I don’t want to be bored to death with work­sheets. I just want to LEARN.” This, of course, start­ed argu­ments. But that’s democ­ra­cy for you.

Please note, oodles of Free Physics Cours­es — includ­ing ones by Richard Feyn­man, Leonard Susskind, Sean Car­roll, and Wal­ter Lewin — can be found in our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Learn­ing Physics Through Free Cours­es

Mod­ern Physics: A Com­plete Intro­duc­tion

Ein­stein in 60 Sec­onds (or 40 Hours)

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

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