Meet Frank Catalfumo, the Shoemaker Who Has Been Mending Souls in Brooklyn Since 1945

Frank Catal­fu­mo, now 90-and-a-half years old, opened F&C Shoes in 1945, a shoe repair store in the Ben­son­hurst sec­tion of Brook­lyn. Dur­ing the past 70+ years, every­thing around Frank has changed. Prices have gone up; neigh­bor­ing stores have come and gone, prob­a­bly many times over. But one thing has remained the same. Frank “keeps mov­ing for­ward,” com­ing to work five days a week and bring­ing worn souls back to life. His hands tell the sto­ry.

You can get to know Frank with the short film above and this accom­pa­ny­ing pho­to essay, both cre­at­ed by film­mak­er Dustin Cohen. The Shoe­mak­er is the lat­est install­ment in Cohen’s film series called “Made in Brook­lyn.” Pre­vi­ous install­ments include The Vio­lin Mak­er, The Watch­mak­er, and The Jew­el­ry Mak­er.


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Speaking in Whistles: The Whistled Language of Oaxaca, Mexico

Whis­tled lan­guage is a rare form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion that can be most­ly found in loca­tions with iso­lat­ing fea­tures such as scat­tered set­tle­ments or moun­tain­ous ter­rain. This doc­u­men­tary above shows how Dr. Mark Sicoli, Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Lin­guis­tics at George­town Uni­ver­si­ty, con­ducts field stud­ies among speak­ers of a Chi­nan­tec lan­guage, who live in the moun­tain­ous region of north­ern Oax­a­ca in Mex­i­co. The Sum­mer Insti­tute of Lin­guis­tics in Mex­i­co has record­ed and tran­scribed a whis­tled con­ver­sa­tion in Sochi­a­pam Chi­nan­tec between two men in dif­fer­ent fields. The result can be seen and heard here.

The most thor­ough­ly-researched whis­tled lan­guage how­ev­er is Sil­bo Gomero, the lan­guage of the island of La Gomera (Canary Islands). In 2009, it was inscribed on the Rep­re­sen­ta­tive List of the Intan­gi­ble Cul­tur­al Her­itage of Human­i­ty. The UNESCO web­site has a good descrip­tion of this whis­tled lan­guage with pho­tos and a video. Hav­ing almost died out, the lan­guage is now taught once more in schools.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, 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. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Learn 40 Lan­guages for Free: Span­ish, Eng­lish, Chi­nese & More

Watch Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile’ Performed on a Gayageum, a Traditional Korean Instrument

Jimi Hen­drix’s 1968 song “Voodoo Chile” is already a clas­sic. But it becomes all the more so when you see it per­formed by Luna Lee on a Gayageum, a tra­di­tion­al Kore­an stringed instru­ment. The first Gayageum dates back to the 6th cen­tu­ry. If you like see­ing west­ern rock stan­dards reimag­ined with­in an Asian aes­thet­ic, then you won’t want to miss: The Talk­ing Heads’ “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” Per­formed on Tra­di­tion­al Chi­nese Instru­ments.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, 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. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

‘Elec­tric Church’: The Jimi Hen­drix Expe­ri­ence Live in Stock­holm, 1969

Hen­drix Plays Sgt. Pepper’s Lone­ly Hearts Club Band, 1967

Enter Jeff Slatnick’s Won­der­ful World of New-Fan­gled and Res­ur­rect­ed Instru­ments

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Horses Wearing Nick Cave’s Soundsuits Stampede Into Grand Central Station

Pa, the hors­es got out of the barn again, and dan­ged if they don’t appear to have passed through the Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry on their way to Grand Cen­tral.

The oth­er­world­ly beasts are occu­py­ing the famed New York City tran­sit hub’s Van­der­bilt Hall this week as Heard NYC, a col­lab­o­ra­tion between artist Nick Cave and Cre­ative Time, which com­mis­sions work for pre­sen­ta­tion in pub­lic spaces. For his lat­est feat, Cave took his Sound­suits—wear­able sculp­tures with an organ­ic son­ic component—in a direc­tion both equine and ethno­graph­ic. Six­ty dancers from the Ailey School bring the herd of thir­ty to life, stamp­ing raf­fia-sheathed legs and toss­ing black heads aug­ment­ed with fes­tive Rajasthani embroi­dery. Their twice dai­ly per­for­mances occur dur­ing off-peak hours. Chance inter­ac­tions with mid­day trav­el­ers are one thing, but an unscript­ed encounter with an exhaust­ed com­muter rush­ing for the Metro North bar car? That’s a horse of a dif­fer­ent col­or, my friend.

They’ve a far bet­ter like­li­hood of cross­ing paths with your aver­age, unsus­pect­ing Joe than actress Til­da Swin­ton, a‑slumber in her glass cof­fin at the near­by Muse­um of Mod­ern Art (see below), but as of yet, the mon­sters are not viewed as con­sti­tut­ing a major secu­ri­ty threat.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Wear­able Sculp­ture by Nick Cave (But No, Not That Nick Cave) Invade Microsoft

The Cre­ators Project Presents the Future of Art and Design, Brought to You by Intel and Vice Mag­a­zine

Pi in the Sky: The World’s Largest Ephemer­al Art Instal­la­tion over Beau­ti­ful San Fran­cis­co

Ayun Hal­l­i­day, hav­ing com­muned with the hors­es, is off to cel­e­brate her birth­day at Spa Cas­tle. @AyunHalliday

Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Staggering Genius of Isaac Newton

Genius — these days, we bandy the term about ever so freely. Every­one’s a genius, includ­ing this 2‑year-old wield­ing a pair of nail clip­pers. Then, Neil deGrasse Tyson comes along and reminds us what a genius real­ly looks like. Asked “Who is the Great­est Physi­cist in His­to­ry,” he responds, Isaac New­ton, with­out any hes­i­ta­tion. New­ton dis­cov­ered the laws of optics, prov­ing that white light is actu­al­ly made up of col­ors, the col­ors of the rain­bow. He mapped out his three laws of motion and the uni­ver­sal laws of grav­i­ta­tion. And then he invent­ed dif­fer­en­tial and inte­gral cal­cu­lus to explain why plan­ets orbit in an ellip­ti­cal fash­ion. Now get ready for the kick­er. This all hap­pened before New­town turned 26. That, my friends, is what genius looks like.

This clip comes from an extend­ed Big Think inter­view, which you can watch in full here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

Sir Isaac Newton’s Papers & Anno­tat­ed Prin­cip­ia Go Dig­i­tal

Neil deGrasse Tyson Deliv­ers the Great­est Sci­ence Ser­mon Ever

Free Physics Cours­es (From Our Col­lec­tion of 700 Free Online Cours­es)

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William Faulkner’s Newly-Discovered Short Story and Drawings

New Faulkner story

Just when it seemed, after decades of schol­ar­ship, crit­i­cism, and com­men­tary on the life’s work of William Faulkn­er, that there was noth­ing more to say, along comes The New York Times with a report of an ear­ly unpub­lished sto­ry and a batch of let­ters to his wife Estelle, recent­ly uncov­ered in a box found in the barn at the Faulkn­er fam­i­ly farm in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia. The new work, dis­cov­ered last year, will go on auc­tion at Sotheby’s this June, along with hand-cor­rect­ed man­u­scripts, a hand-bound poet­ry book, Faulkner’s 1949 Nobel prize medal and diplo­ma, and a hand­writ­ten draft of his accep­tance speech.

The Times com­ments that the Nobel items are “like­ly to be the most sought after” by col­lec­tors, but for schol­ars and us lovers of the writ­ing, it’s the unpub­lished work that holds the most inter­est. Says Faulkn­er schol­ar Sal­ly Wolff-King: “In lit­er­ary cir­cles a new­ly dis­cov­ered first draft of a famous sto­ry or nov­el can be as sig­nif­i­cant as an ear­ly ver­sion of the Get­tys­burg Address to Amer­i­can his­to­ri­ans.”

New Faulkner

In addi­tion to his Nobel-win­ning lit­er­ary skill, Faulkn­er was quite the illus­tra­tor, often includ­ing pen-and-ink draw­ings in his let­ters and post­cards, such as the self-por­trait at left, drawn on the back of a draft of a sto­ry, with new­ly-grown beard and pipe. “My beard is get­ting along quite well,” he writes. Faulkn­er sent illus­trat­ed let­ters and post­cards to his par­ents from his sojourn in Paris, sign­ing them “Bil­ly.”

The image at the top shows the unpub­lished story—about a fur trapper’s trip to the city—typed on the back of Uni­ver­si­ty of Mis­sis­sip­pi let­ter­head, where Faulkn­er was a stu­dent for three semes­ters between 1919 and 1920.

via The New York Times

Relat­ed Con­tent:

William Faulkn­er (Who Died 50 Years Ago Today) Reads His Nobel Prize Speech

William Faulkn­er Explains Why Writ­ing is Best Left to Scoundrels … Prefer­ably Liv­ing in Broth­els (1956)

Sev­en Tips From William Faulkn­er on How to Write Fic­tion

William Faulkn­er Audio Archive Goes Online

Josh Jones is a writer, edi­tor, and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him @jdmagness

Meet Delia Derbyshire, the Dr. Who Composer Who Almost Turned The Beatles’ “Yesterday” Into Early Electronica

The March issue of UK month­ly music mag­a­zine Q recent­ly hit news­stands, fea­tur­ing a Bea­t­les 50th anniver­sary cov­er with an inset promis­ing “Mac­ca Speaks!”. Did we need anoth­er Paul McCart­ney inter­view, you may well ask? Is there any­thing Bea­t­les-relat­ed left to tell? It seems there is. McCart­ney reveals that he once gave seri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion to using an elec­tron­ic back­ing for the 1965 record­ing of “Yes­ter­day” instead of the string arrange­ment he end­ed up with. Now, in itself, this may not seem note­wor­thy except that, well, it was 1965… what did “elec­tron­ic” even mean in music at the time?

To find out, we should get acquaint­ed with Delia Der­byshire, com­pos­er and arranger at the BBC’s Radio­phon­ic Work­shop, who would have scored McCartney’s elec­tron­ic “Yes­ter­day.” Der­byshire is now best known as the com­pos­er of the clas­sic 1963 theme to the orig­i­nal Dr. Who series (above), a fact we will return to. But first, let Q read­er and record pro­duc­er David Mel­lor explain why he thinks that when McCart­ney says elec­tron­ic, he doesn’t mean syn­the­sized music:

The rea­son I don’t think that syn­the­siz­ers would have been con­tem­plat­ed is that the Radio­phon­ic Work­shop only acquired their first syn­the­siz­er in 1965. Per­haps it was already avail­able for use at the time of the record­ing of Yes­ter­day in 1965, but the his­tor­i­cal reports I can find don’t give suf­fi­cient lev­el of pre­ci­sion to con­firm this. I would con­tend how­ev­er that unless the Radio­phon­ic Work­shop imme­di­ate­ly went synth-crazy as soon as the syn­the­siz­er was deliv­ered, most work would have been accom­plished using their exist­ing tech­niques.

So what were the “exist­ing tech­niques” before the use of syn­the­siz­ers? McCart­ney him­self alludes to them in say­ing that Der­byshire had a “hut in the bot­tom of her gar­den… full of tape machines and fun­ny instru­ments.” What McCart­ney saw were the imple­ments of radio sound effects and also of what was called musique con­créte, an ear­ly form of elec­tron­ic music devel­oped by French com­pos­er Pierre Scha­ef­fer, Egypt­ian com­pos­er Hal­im El-Dabh, and oth­ers (most notably Olivi­er Mes­si­aen and Karl­heinz Stock­hausen). Musique con­créte com­posers manip­u­lat­ed nat­ur­al sounds with basic record­ing technologies—microphones, tape recorders, film cameras—to cre­ate com­plex elec­troa­coustic arrang­ments through care­ful edit­ing and effects like reverb, echo, and over­dub­bing. The excerpt below from the BBC’s 1979 doc­u­men­tary The New Sound of Music demon­strates.

It so hap­pened that Delia Der­byshire had mas­tered these tech­niques, using them in her arrange­ment of Ron Grainer’s Dr. Who theme, com­posed entire­ly of musique con­créte effects. The work of Der­byshire and her col­leagues at the BBC sound effects unit cap­tured the imag­i­na­tions of thou­sands of sci­ence fic­tion fans and lovers of radio dra­ma, includ­ing McCart­ney, who is quot­ed from his Q inter­view say­ing:

The Radio­phon­ic Work­shop, I loved all that, it fas­ci­nat­ed me, and still does… there came a time when John (Lennon), because of his asso­ci­a­tion with Yoko and the avant garde, became thought of as the one who turned us all on to that. But that ear­ly era was more mine.

Mac­ca can take the cred­it, but the ear­ly era of exper­i­men­tal elec­tron­ic music belonged to Delia Der­byshire. See her demon­strate her craft below, using tape machines to cre­ate a rhythm track.

Der­byshire did, of course, also embrace the use of syn­the­siz­ers as they became more wide­ly avail­able. Branch­ing out from her BBC work, she began to make music with anoth­er com­pos­er, Bri­an Hodg­son, under the name Unit Delta Plus. The two soon joined with clas­si­cal bass play­er David Vorhaus to form the exper­i­men­tal elec­tron­ic band White Noise in 1968. The fol­low­ing year, the band released their now-clas­sic album An Elec­tric Storm, which used the tape manip­u­la­tion tech­niques Der­byshire demon­strates above as well as the first British syn­the­siz­er, the EMS Syn­thi VCS3.  This record, notes All­mu­sic, is renowned “as one of the first albums to fuse pop and elec­tron­ic music.” Check out the White Noise song “Love with­out Sound” below to get a taste of what they were about.

What­ev­er your inter­est in the place this song occu­pies with­in the wider his­to­ry of elec­tron­ic music, there’s no doubt that Der­byshire and com­pa­ny were sim­ply mak­ing fan­tas­tic exper­i­men­tal pop. If they sound well ahead of their time, that’s because of the influ­ence they’ve had on so many musi­cians since (why, Pitch­fork even gives the White Noise album an 8.6!). After sev­er­al more pro­duc­tive years, Der­byshire became dis­il­lu­sioned with the state of elec­tron­ic music in the sev­en­ties and with­drew to work in a book­shop and art gallery, but with the mid-nineties revival of the sounds she helped cre­ate, she saw a resur­gence of recog­ni­tion as both a genre pio­neer and a hero to female musi­cians and engi­neers. For an extend­ed look at Derbyshire’s life and art, be sure to watch the doc­u­men­tary Sculp­tress of Sound, on YouTube in sev­en parts.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The “Amen Break”: The Most Famous 6‑Second Drum Loop & How It Spawned a Sam­pling Rev­o­lu­tion

Glenn Gould Pre­dicts Mash-up Cul­ture in 1969 Doc­u­men­tary

Josh Jones is a writer, edi­tor, and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him @jdmagness

Read, Hear, and See Tweeted Four Stories by Jennifer Egan, Author of A Visit from the Goon Squad

Though def­i­nite­ly a writer, and an acclaimed one at that, Jen­nifer Egan does not allow the tra­di­tion­al­ly writ­ten word to con­tain her. In 2010, her book A Vis­it from the Goon Squad turned read­er­ly heads by pre­sent­ing itself nei­ther as a nov­el nor a short sto­ry col­lec­tion. It also con­tained an entire — chap­ter? sto­ry? — sec­tion in the form of a Pow­er­point pre­sen­ta­tion. If you find your­self on the fence about plung­ing into Egan’s for­mal­ly irrev­er­ent, Pulitzer Prize-win­ning work, you can sam­ple its first sec­tion (not the Pow­er­point one, you may feel relieved to hear) as “Found Objects,” the way the New York­er ran it in 2007. If the loose-ends music-indus­try work­er pro­tag­o­nist’s brush with klep­to­ma­nia intrigues you, and if you val­ue autho­r­i­al inter­pre­ta­tion, you can watch Egan her­self read a bit of the sec­tion above. The New York­er has also run two oth­er pieces of Egan’s Goon Squad-era writ­ing on its fic­tion pages: “Safari” and “Ask Me if I Care.” Then comes “Black Box.”

Egan com­posed “Black Box” for Twit­ter, where it ran over ten nights on the New York­er’s NYer­Fic­tion account. But she did­n’t write it on Twit­ter, opt­ing instead for long­hand in a Japan­ese note­book print­ed with rec­tan­gu­lar box­es. You can find all the tweets that com­prise the sto­ry col­lect­ed at Paste, and New York­er sub­scribers can read the whole thing in a slight­ly more tra­di­tion­al form here. Egan spent a year on the sto­ry, which she describes as “a series of terse men­tal dis­patch­es from a female spy of the future, work­ing under­cov­er by the Mediter­ranean Sea.” I’ve seen many a lit­er­ary aca­d­e­m­ic go into rap­tures about the impli­ca­tions of Twit­ter, but here we have an artist exe­cut­ing a gen­uine­ly intrigu­ing project with “the odd poet­ry that can hap­pen in a hun­dred and forty char­ac­ters.” Cer­tain gen­er­a­tions of writ­ers and thinkers make such a big deal about that 14o-char­ac­ter lim­it, but I notice that nobody under 35 blinks an eye at it. It’s just the way we com­mu­ni­cate now — Egan must under­stand this makes it one of the most impor­tant medi­ums for writ­ers to take on. You can hear her dis­cuss that and more with New York­er fic­tion edi­tor Deb­o­rah Treis­man on the mag­a­zine’s pod­cast.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jen­nifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize Win­ner, Talks Writ­ing @Google

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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