Stanley Kubrick’s Jazz Photography and The Film He Almost Made About Jazz Under Nazi Rule

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Stan­ley Kubrick (look­ing like a creepy Rowan Atkin­son above) came of age as a chess-hus­tling pho­tog­ra­ph­er in the jazz-sat­u­rat­ed New York City of the 1940s. He began tak­ing pic­tures at the age of thir­teen, when his father bought him a Graflex cam­era. Dur­ing his teenage years, Kubrick flirt­ed with a career as a jazz drum­mer but aban­doned the pur­suit, instead join­ing Look Mag­a­zine as its youngest staff pho­tog­ra­ph­er right out of high school in 1945. His regard for jazz music and cul­ture did not abate, how­ev­er, as you can see from pho­tographs like Jazz Nights below.

Jazz nights Kubrick

Kubrick worked for Look until 1950 (when he left to begin mak­ing films); he cap­tured a wide vari­ety of New York scenes, but often returned to jazz clubs and show­girls, two favorite sub­jects. I’ve often won­dered why Kubrick’s home­town plays so small a role in his films. Unlike also NYC-bred Mar­tin Scors­ese, Kubrick seemed eager to get as far away as he could from the city of his youth, but the filmmaker’s love of for­ties-era jazz nev­er left him. Accord­ing to long­time assis­tant, Tony Frewin, “Stan­ley was a great swing-era jazz fan,” par­tic­u­lar­ly of Ben­ny Good­man.

“He had some reser­va­tions about mod­ern jazz. I think if he had to dis­ap­pear to a desert island, it’d be a lot of swing records he’d take, the music of his child­hood: Count Basie, Duke Elling­ton, Har­ry James.”

Frewin is quot­ed in this Atlantic piece about a film Kubrick almost made but didn’t: an explo­ration of jazz in Europe under the Third Reich. The project began when Kubrick encoun­tered a book in 1985, Swing Under the Nazis, writ­ten by anoth­er jazz enthu­si­ast, Mike Zwerin, who left music for jour­nal­ism and spent years col­lect­ing sto­ries of jazz preser­va­tion­ists in Ger­many and for­mer­ly occu­pied Europe. One of those stories—of Nazi offi­cer Diet­rich Schulz-Koehn—struck Kubrick as Strangelove-ian and noir-ish. Schulz-Koehn pub­lished an ille­gal under­ground newslet­ter report­ing back from var­i­ous jazz scenes in Europe under the pen name, “Dr. Jazz,” the title Kubrick chose for the film project. As Frewin claims:

“Stan­ley thought there was a kind of noir side to this mate­r­i­al…. Per­haps an approach like Dr. Mabuse would have suit­ed the sto­ry. Stan­ley said, ‘If only he were alive, we could have found a role for Peter Lorre.’ ”

Zwerin’s book—and pre­sum­ably Kubrick’s ideas for a fic­tion­al­ized take—traced clan­des­tine con­nec­tions between Nazi Ger­many, Paris, and the Unit­ed States, between black and Jew­ish musi­cians and Nazi music-lovers. We’ll have to imag­ine the odd angles and warped per­spec­tives Kubrick would have found in those sto­ries; his fas­ci­na­tion with Nazis led him to drop Dr. Jazz for a dif­fer­ent project, Aryan Papers, anoth­er unmade film with its own intrigu­ing back­sto­ry.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Napoleon: The Great­est Movie Stan­ley Kubrick Nev­er Made

Stan­ley Kubrick’s Very First Films: Three Short Doc­u­men­taries

Rare 1960s Audio: Stan­ley Kubrick’s Big Inter­view with The New York­er

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

A Crash Course on Creativity and Other Stanford MOOCs to Launch in April: Enroll Today

Tina Seel­ig serves as the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Stan­ford Tech­nol­o­gy Ven­tures Pro­gram, a cen­ter that teach­es stu­dents entre­pre­neur­ial skills need­ed to solve major world prob­lems. She is also the author of the 2012 book, inGe­nius: A Crash Course on Cre­ativ­i­ty, that oper­ates on the assump­tion that we’re not born being cre­ative and know­ing how to solve dif­fi­cult prob­lems. It’s some­thing that we can cul­ti­vate and learn (as John Cleese has also told us before). If you’re intrigued by this idea, and if you want to rev up your own “Inno­va­tion Engine,” you can take Seel­ig’s new course, also called A Crash Course on Cre­ativ­i­ty, start­ing on April 22. It’s one of five Stan­ford MOOCs (Mas­sive Open Online Cours­es) that will launch in April on the Ven­ture Lab plat­form. Oth­er cours­es now open for enroll­ment include:

Most Ven­ture Lab cours­es grant a “State­ment of Accom­plish­ment” signed by instruc­tors to any stu­dent who suc­cess­ful­ly com­pletes a course.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

300 Free MOOCs from Great Uni­ver­si­ties (Many Offer­ing Cer­tifi­cates)

John Cleese, Mon­ty Python Icon, on How to Be Cre­ative

Mal­colm McLaren: The Quest for Authen­tic Cre­ativ­i­ty

Mihaly Czik­szent­mi­ha­lyi on Cre­ativ­i­ty, Flow and the Source of Hap­pi­ness

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The Best of Quentin Tarantino: Celebrating the Director’s 50th Birthday with our Favorite Videos

We recent­ly fea­tured a Van­i­ty Fair arti­cle on the mak­ing of Quentin Taran­ti­no’s  Pulp Fic­tion, mark­ing the only semi-believ­able fact that its mak­ing hap­pened 20 years ago. But can you accept that the mak­ing of Taran­ti­no him­self hap­pened 50 years ago? We think of the motor­mouthed, gram­mat­i­cal­ly uncon­cerned, pop-cul­tur­al blender of a film­mak­er as an eter­nal genius ado­les­cent, con­sum­mate­ly skilled and pas­sion­ate but nev­er well served by the rigid struc­tures of tra­di­tion­al edu­ca­tion and craft. His recent releas­es like Inglou­ri­ous Bas­ter­ds and Djan­go Unchained don’t even hint at a cool­ing of the fire with­in. As the man who (for bet­ter or for worse) rep­re­sents the past two decades of cre­ativ­i­ty in Amer­i­can cin­e­ma cross­es the mid­dle-age rubi­con, seem­ing­ly untrou­bled, we ask this: how does Quentin Taran­ti­no do it? To help you find the answer your­self, we’ve round­ed up all of our choic­est pieces of Taran­ti­no-relat­ed mate­r­i­al.

“Every­body, when they talk about you — you get this sense of a kid, ear­ly on, falling in love with movies,” says Char­lie Rose to Taran­ti­no in the 1994 inter­view up top. That love and then some comes through in the con­ver­sa­tion, mak­ing it one of the most com­pelling episodes in the his­to­ry of Rose’s pro­gram. By that point, Pulp Fic­tion, Taran­ti­no’s sec­ond film, had already hit the zeit­geist hard, but watch him giv­ing Jon Stew­art a pre­view of the pic­ture, and you can tell he’d already sensed its com­ing impact. You can read many more details about exact­ly how it came togeth­er in Van­i­ty Fair’s oral his­to­ry of the pro­duc­tion, and might con­sid­er sup­ple­ment­ing it with Taran­ti­no’s (and Sam Raim­i’s) advice on film­mak­ing. And as Taran­ti­no him­self admits, he fuels his projects with deep and direct inspi­ra­tion from his favorite movies, such as the twen­ty he names that have come out since his own career began. More recent­ly, he reflect­ed in depth on his life and work, prompt­ed by Howard Stern, in a 75-minute radio inter­view.

As a born sto­ry­teller, Taran­ti­no knows that every jour­ney, no mat­ter how ulti­mate­ly vic­to­ri­ous, begins some­where. Prefer­ably, it begins some­where hum­ble, which brings us to My Best Friend’s Birth­day (below), the very first movie Taran­ti­no attempt­ed to make back in 1987, five years before his “real” fea­ture debut Reser­voir Dogs. In it, the film­mak­er plays a hap­less young rock­a­bil­ly des­per­ate­ly look­ing for a way to enliv­en his bud­dy’s birth­day. Because a fire claimed all but 36 min­utes of the pic­ture, we’ll nev­er see whether he suc­ceeds. But Taran­ti­no him­self, an aggres­sive col­lec­tor of film prints who owns both a reput­ed­ly aston­ish­ing home the­ater and Los Ange­les’ respect­ed revival house the New Bev­er­ly Cin­e­ma, should have no trou­ble liv­ing it up for the big 5–0. He’s no doubt planned an ambi­tious birth­day screen­ing: I’m think­ing a quin­tu­ple-bill, all genre.

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.

Listen to Supreme Court Arguments on Prop 8 and DOMA Online

ernieThis week, the Supreme Court is hear­ing argu­ments about gay rights in Amer­i­ca. And, no mat­ter how the court decides, these cas­es will enter the his­to­ry books. Will the court lead the nation in mak­ing equal­i­ty avail­able for all, as it did dur­ing the civ­il rights era? Or will the nation be forced to lead the court into moder­ni­ty dur­ing the years ahead? That we will soon find out.

Usu­al­ly the court delays the release of audio record­ings of oral argu­ments. But, acknowl­edg­ing the impor­tance of these par­tic­u­lar cas­es, SCOTUS is mak­ing this week’s argu­ments imme­di­ate­ly avail­able. You can lis­ten to the debates over Prop. 8 here or below. DOMA argu­ments will appear here. And it’s also now below.

Prop 8



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Dennis Hopper Reads From Rainer Maria Rilke’s Timeless Guide to Creativity, Letters to a Young Poet

For almost a cen­tu­ry, writ­ers and oth­er cre­ative peo­ple have found inspi­ra­tion and a pro­found sense of val­i­da­tion in the Bohemi­an-Aus­tri­an poet Rain­er Maria Rilke’s posthu­mous­ly pub­lished Let­ters to a Young Poet. Many a sen­si­tive soul has felt as if Rilke’s let­ters, writ­ten to a young man who had asked him for advice on whether to become a poet, were addressed direct­ly to him or her. One of those peo­ple was the actor Den­nis Hop­per.

“Rilke’s Let­ters to a Young Poet is a great book,” Hop­per says in this short film from 2007. “For me the let­ters are a cre­do of cre­ativ­i­ty and a source of inspi­ra­tion. After read­ing Rilke it became clear to me that I had no choice in the mat­ter. I had to cre­ate.” The ten-minute film, Must I Write?, was direct­ed by Her­mann Vaske and pho­tographed by Rain Li. Hop­per reads the first of the book’s ten let­ters, in which Rilke tells the young man to stop seek­ing approval from oth­ers:

You are look­ing out­ward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can help and coun­sel you, nobody. There is only one sin­gle way. Go into your­self. Search for the rea­son that bids you write; find out whether it is spread­ing out its roots in the deep­est places in your heart, acknowl­edge to your­self whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all–ask your­self in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into your­self for a deep answer. And if this should be affir­ma­tive, if you may meet this earnest ques­tion with a strong and sim­ple “I must,” then build your life accord­ing to this neces­si­ty; your life even into its most indif­fer­ent and slight­est hour must be a sign of this urge and a tes­ti­mo­ny to it.

Hop­per is read­ing from the 1934 trans­la­tion by M.D. Hert­er Nor­ton. There are a few minor slips, in which Hop­per devi­ates slight­ly from the text. Most seri­ous­ly, he inverts the mean­ing of a pas­sage near the end by adding (at the 7:23 mark) the word “not” to Rilke’s phrase, “Per­haps it will turn out that you are called to be an artist.” That pas­sage, one of the most mem­o­rable in the book, reads:

A work of art is good if it has sprung from neces­si­ty. In this nature of its ori­gin lies the judge­ment of it: there is no oth­er. There­fore, my dear sir, I know no oth­er advice for you save this: to go into your­self and test the deeps in which your life takes rise; at its source you will find the answer to the ques­tion whether you must cre­ate. Accept it, just as it sounds, with­out inquir­ing into it. Per­haps it will turn out that you are called to be an artist. Then take that des­tiny upon your­self and bear it, its bur­den and its great­ness, with­out ever ask­ing what rec­om­pense might come from out­side. For the cre­ator must be a world for him­self and find every­thing in him­self and in Nature to whom he has attached him­self.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Den­nis Hop­per Reads Rud­yard Kipling on the John­ny Cash Show

Read and Hear Famous Writers (and Armchair Sportsmen) J.M. Coetzee and Paul Auster’s Correspondence

“Why waste my time slumped in front of a tele­vi­sion screen watch­ing young men at play?” writes one man. “I have an expe­ri­ence (a sec­ond­hand expe­ri­ence), but it does me no good that I can detect. I learn noth­ing. I come away with noth­ing.” From the oth­er man comes a reply: “I agree with you that it is a use­less activ­i­ty, an utter waste of time. And yet how many hours of my life have I wast­ed in pre­cise­ly this way, how many after­noons have I squan­dered just as you did?” This epis­to­lary con­ver­sa­tion about sports con­tin­ues, touch­ing on the pow­er of famil­iar­i­ty to endure bore­dom, per­for­mance art, hero­ism, ethics ver­sus aes­thet­ics, activ­i­ty ver­sus pas­siv­i­ty, the “big busi­ness” of the NFL against the sub­si­diza­tion of bal­let, child­hood sex­u­al iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, the vis­i­b­li­ty of the human ide­al, chess mania, the plea­sure of max­i­mum effort, and genre lit­er­a­ture ver­sus “the kinds of books you and I try to write.” What kind of books do these men try to write? Being the nov­el­ists Paul Auster and J.M. Coet­zee, they write books, we can safe­ly say, in their very own gen­res.

We now have a new vol­ume from both Auster and Coet­zee called Here and Now: Let­ters (2008–2011), from which a sub­stan­tial sports-relat­ed excerpt appears on the New York­er. Though not sui gener­is like the con­trib­u­tors’ own nov­els, the book does its part for the cur­rent mini-revival of col­lec­tions of let­ters between men of let­ters. (2011 saw a sim­i­lar French project from Michel Houelle­becq and  Bernard-Hen­ri Lévy. “Who would we end up with?” asked the Observ­er’s Tim Adams, imag­in­ing a British equiv­a­lent. “Irvine Welsh and Alain de Bot­ton?”) Fans of the laud­ed, pri­vate Auster and the high­ly laud­ed, intense­ly pri­vate Coet­zee sure­ly feel grate­ful for these new pieces of direct insight into the authors’ per­son­al­i­ties, and they can get a lit­tle more by watch­ing the read­ing of Here and Now at the New York State Writ­ers Insti­tute at the top of the post. Do see also Auster’s Big Think clips on what keeps him up at night, the fate of the nov­el, and how he stares down the chal­lenges of writ­ing (above). As for a solo per­for­mance from Coet­zee, could we do any bet­ter than his Nobel lec­ture?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Nobel Prize Win­ner Reads From His New Nov­el

Hear Paul Auster Read the Entire­ty of The Red Note­book, an Ear­ly Col­lec­tion of Sto­ries

Paul Auster Reads from New Nov­el, Sun­set Park

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.

Creative Uses of the Fax Machine: From Iggy Pop’s Bile to Stephen Hawking’s Snark

Iggy fax

Unlike the type­writer, the low­ly fax machine nev­er pulled itself out of the hive-like exis­tence of util­i­tar­i­an office machines and into lit­er­ary celebri­ty. With their bland, func­tion­al styling, fax machines will not have their impend­ing obso­les­cence capped with muse­um exhi­bi­tions. And as lit­tle more than con­duits for wonky, unglam­orous com­mu­niqués, fax machines rarely con­duct a piece of text that inspires peo­ple to savor, and want to save, the words, as with per­son­al let­ters. While we often fea­ture his­toric cor­re­spon­dence of a time before email from one of our favorite sites, Let­ters of Note, the ris­i­ble, pro­found, and shock­ing sen­ti­ments expressed by famous fig­ures when they think that no one’s look­ing rarely make it into office mem­o­ran­da.

How­ev­er, inspired by our recent post on Mark Twain’s type­writer, a read­er alert­ed us to a Let­ters of Note sub­genre of sorts, “fax­es of note.” These odd­ball mes­sages defy the worka­day con­ven­tions of the fax. Take, for exam­ple, the fax above sent by Iggy Pop to Plazm mag­a­zine writer Joshua Berg­er as an adden­dum to a 1995 inter­view. Scrawled with his fevered thoughts, on Delta Air­lines sta­tion­ary, Pop’s fax amounts to what Let­ters of Note calls “a rant so rich with quotable lines, it’s amaz­ing he was able to con­tain it all on a sin­gle sheet.”

You can click here for a full tran­script of Iggy’s take on Amer­i­can cul­tur­al deca­dence, but here are just a few high­lights from his faxed get-off-my-lawn moment: Pop—on tour in Europe at the time—calls his home coun­try “a nation of midgets,” and decries the ‘90s rehash of ‘60s and ’70s music (“none of them have fuck-all to say”); he rails against the Calvin Klein aes­thet­ic, adding “our gods are ass­holes” (maybe some pro­fes­sion­al jeal­ousy here—Pop more or less invent­ed hero­in chic). Final­ly, he signs off with some cranky ono­matopoeia: “i hate it all. heavy met­al. hol­ly­wood movies. SCHPOLOOGY! YeHE­HCHH!” This is archival-wor­thy vit­ri­ol, for sure.

Hawking fax

Anoth­er fax of note uses the medi­um to oppo­site effect; Stephen Hawking’s fax (above), also from 1995, responds to a request from erst­while British music and fash­ion mag­a­zine The Face for the for­mu­la for time trav­el. Hawk­ing replies, via his per­son­al assis­tant, “Thank you for your recent fax. I do not have any equa­tions for time trav­el. If I had, I would win the Nation­al Lot­tery every week.”  Unlike Iggy’s explo­sion of hand­writ­ten bile, Hawking’s mis­sive retains all the for­mal prop­er­ties of the fax—appropriate insti­tu­tion­al let­ter­head, “from” and “to” lines, etc—which makes his pithy retort all the more incon­gru­ous.

While the 1980s and ’90s were boom times for fax trans­mis­sions, the machine actu­al­ly dates back to 1843, when it was patent­ed by Scot­tish inven­tor Alexan­der Bain. As ear­ly as 1902, fax tech­nol­o­gy allowed pho­tographs to be sent over tele­phone lines. And yes, as every frus­trat­ed admin­is­tra­tive assis­tant knows too well, the hum­ble fax machine is still in use in offices around the world, trans­mit­ting blear­ing­ly bor­ing mes­sages, as well as the occa­sion­al flash of indi­vid­u­al­i­ty. For more on famous fax­es, see this help­ful info­graph­ic from our read­er.

H/T @jaclynlambert

Relat­ed Con­tent:

From The Stooges to Iggy Pop: 1986 Doc­u­men­tary Charts the Rise of Punk’s God­fa­ther

Sev­en Ques­tions for Stephen Hawk­ing: What Would He Ask Albert Ein­stein & More

David Bowie’s First Amer­i­can Fan Let­ter And His Evolv­ing Views of the U.S. (1967–1997)

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

The Art and Science of Beer

Charles Bam­forth is the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Pro­fes­sor of Malt­ing and Brew­ing Sci­ences at UC Davis, which means he knows a few things about mak­ing beer. He can get into some nit­ty-grit­ty top­ics, like the enzy­mol­o­gy of the brew­ing process, foam sta­bil­i­ty, and the psy­chophysics of beer per­cep­tion. But that’s not what he’s doing here. In the clip above, the “Pope of Foam,” as Bam­forth is oth­er­wise known, gives you a quick overview of the beer-mak­ing process, describ­ing every­thing from grind­ing the malt, to boil­ing the wort, to bot­tling with glass ver­sus cans. Final­ly, the Pope gives you a hot tip: how to pick the fresh­est pint when you’re at a pub.

If you want to go deep­er into Bam­forth’s world, you can read his 2009 book: Beer: Tap into the Art and Sci­ence of Brew­ing. Or don’t miss this pre­vi­ous post where a Uni­ver­si­ty of Not­ting­ham sci­en­tist explains The Physics of Guin­ness Beer.

via Devour

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Wim Wen­ders Cre­ates Ads to Sell Beer (Stel­la Artois), Pas­ta (Bar­il­la), and More Beer (Car­ling)

How to Open a Wine Bot­tle with Your Shoe for the DIY Con­nois­seur

The Physics of Cof­fee Rings Final­ly Explained

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