Carl Jung’s Fascinating 1957 Letter on UFOs


Deities, conspiracies, politics, space aliens: you don’t actually have to believe in these to find them interesting. Just focus your attention not on the things themselves, but in how other people regard them, what they say when they talk about them, and why they think about them the way they do. Psychotherapist and onetime Freud protégé Carl Gustav Jung treated UFOs this way when he wrote his book Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies, which examines “not the reality or unreality” of the titular phenomena, but their “psychic aspect,” and “what it may signify that these phenomena, whether real or imagined, are seen in such numbers just at a time” — the Cold War — “when humankind is menaced as never before in history.” As what Jung called a “modern myth,” UFOs qualify as real indeed.

In 1957, with Flying Saucers to appear the following year, New Republic editor Gilbert A. Harrison wanted to get this Jungian perspective on UFOs in his magazine. At the top of this post, you can see (via The Awl) a scan of Jung’s response to Harrison’s query, the text of which follows:

the problem of the Ufos is, as you rightly say, a very fascinating one, but it is as puzzling as it is fascinating; since, in spite of all observations I know of, there is no certainty about their very nature. On the other side, there is an overwhelming material pointing to their legendary or mythological aspect. As a matter of fact the psychological aspect is so impressive, that one almost must regret that the Ufos seem to be real after all. I have followed up the literature as much as possible and it looks to me as if something were seen and even confirmed by radar, but nobody knows exactly what is seen. In consideration of the psychological aspect of the phenomenon I have written a booklet about it, which is soon to appear. It is also in the process of being translated into English. Unfortunately being occupied with other tasks I am unable to meet your proposition. Being rather old, I have to economize my energies.

Jung, as you can see, doubled his own interest in the subject by not only considering flying saucers a social phenomenon, but as a real physical phenomenon as well. Serious enthusiasts of both Jung and UFOs might consider bidding on the original letter, now up for auction. Estimated sale price: $2,000 to 3,000.

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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 PrimerFollow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Watch Phish Play All of The Rolling Stones’ Classic Album, Exile on Main Street, Live in Concert

I’m riding a mighty big bandwagon when I tell you that Exile on Main Street is my favorite Stones record. It’s like championing the virtues of Sgt. Pepper’s or Dark Side of the Moon. Really, those are great albums? Wow, who knew. But here’s the thing… my favorite Stones songs—“Street Fighting Man,” “No Expectations,” “Get off of My Cloud” (hell, I even love “Shattered”)—do not appear on Exile. It is a perfect (double) album without one perfect single on all of its 18 tracks. Exile is a string of beautifully flawed pearls—gospel sketches, country weepers, barroom stompers, bare-bones blues. And this is why I think that any band approaching the album with ideas about cover versions should just go ahead and play the whole damn thing.

This is what Pussy Galore, one of my favorite New York scuzz-rock bands, did in 1986, with a cassette-only release that “sounds like it was recorded in the tank of a Lower East Side toilet.” If that seems like hyperbole, you have no idea how trashy, and thus, in a way, how perfectly apt, their take on the 1972 classic is (find out here). But now let’s take the case of Phish, who offer their own live version of Exile (above) from their 2009 “Festival 8” tour. I’ve never been much of a Phish fan, I’ll aver, but I must also cop to a grudging respect for them. Partly that’s due to their respect for music not their own. Per a longstanding tradition, Phish dons a different musical “costume” every Halloween show, playing a full album from a band they admire. For example, we’ve previously featured their 1996 live cover of the Talking Heads’ classic Remain in Light. Does it work? Not entirely, but their love for the material shines through.

They seem much more at home with the Stones, and the almost note-for-note live set is a hell of a lot of fun to watch, I have to say. Phish is not by any stretch a hip band, and they avoid any kind of experimentation in this loving tribute. But that’s kind of what makes it great. While the unpretentious enthusiasm, tight musicianship, and professionalism might seem to mark this as the antithesis of what L.A. Times Randall Roberts calls Pussy Galore’s “criminally unpracticed rock and roll stunt,” what unites them both is that both groups “obviously loved the original album,” whether their take on it is mangled parody or well-rehearsed, fun-loving rock out.

The original Exile is, yes, a masterpiece. It’s also a great conversation piece. Ask any die-hard Stones fan about its recording and you’re sure to hear anecdote after decadent anecdote (as fully documented in the 2010 film Stones in Exile). The band recorded the album in 1971 at Keith Richards’ rented villa, Nellcôte, in the South of France, where they’d relocated to evade taxes in Britain. During months of all-night sessions, thousands of dollars of heroin flowed through the house, along with visitors like William S. Burroughs, Terry Southern, and Stones’ country-rock muse Gram Parsons (who managed to get himself thrown out). It’s a true testament to the band’s fortitude and razor-sharp creative focus that their extended stay in a rock star playground produced such a brilliantly economical record, instead of the bloated mess it could have been.

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

Dexter Gordon’s Elegant Version of the Jazz Standard ‘What’s New,’ 1964

In 1964, when this performance was given, the tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon was in the second year of his European exile.

Gordon had risen to prominence in the early 1940s, after joining the Lionel Hampton band at the age of 17. He was one of the pioneer translators of the bebop idiom to the tenor sax. And he was an early influence on the playing of John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins.

“Dexter made a great contribution to the bebop language,” Rollins once said. “In fact, I think he defined it during a certain period. He transcribed a lot of the stuff that Bird was doing, and brought that approach to the tenor without being a copier. He was an important figure in bringing people along. Coltrane at one time sounded like Dexter, and I still hear that lineage.”

But by the 1950s Gordon was addicted to heroin. He checked himself into the hospital several times but always fell back. In 1960 he was arrested in Los Angeles on drug charges and spent three months in prison. When he got out he had trouble finding gigs. Even though he had completely kicked his habit by 1962, New York police refused to issue him a cabaret card to play in the city’s nightclubs. An offer to play in Europe changed his life. “I  went for three months and stayed for 14 years,” Gordon told People magazine in 1986. “I came alive over there.”

Gordon had clearly hit his stride again by July 29, 1964, when this scene was recorded for Dutch television in Amersfoort, Holland. Gordon is playing the 1939 Bob Haggart and Johnny Burke standard, “What’s New?” His European quartet includes George Gruntz on piano, Guy Pedersen on bass and Daniel Humair on drums. The performance is available as part of the Jazz Icons DVD, Dexter Gordon: Live in ’63 & ’64. In the liner notes, Gordon’s former producer Michael Cuscuna describes him as being in peak form when this film was made: “His tone resonates with power and beauty, his chops enable him to execute whatever occurs to him and his ideas flow seamlessly.”

Gordon learned from his idol Lester Young that it was a good idea to know the lyrics of a song if you want to understand its essence. One of Gordon’s idiosyncrasies was to recite a few lines from the lyrics before playing the song. In this scene, the six-foot, six-inch-tall saxophonist steps up to the microphone and, in his deep baritone voice, recites the opening lines to “What’s New?” before launching into a beautiful instrumental version. Summing up Gordon’s distinctive playing, a biographer at the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz writes: “His rich, vibrant sound, harmonic awareness, behind-the-beat phrasing, and his predilection for humorous quotations combine to create a unique style.”

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Tilda Swinton Recites Poem by Rumi While Reeking of Vetiver, Heliotrope & Musk

If anyone should ask you how to promote a celebrity fragrance without losing face, click play and whisper, “Like This.”

It helps if the celeb in question is generally acknowledged to be a class act. Imagine a drunken starlet emerging from her limo sans-drawers to stumble through her favorite poem by a 13th century Sufi mystic. Which would you rather smell like?

(Personally, I’d go with Team Swinton! )

Some scholars quibble with the accuracy of this Tilda Swinton-approved translation, but there’s no denying that Coleman Barks‘ “perfect satisfaction of all our sexual wanting” stands to move a lot more scent than A.J. Arberry‘s terse reference to Houris, viriginal and numerous though they may  be.

Speaking of comparisons, take a peek at how another celebrity promotes her fragrance in a video of similar length.

Team Swinton for the win. Definitely.

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Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #4, Visualized by the Great Music Animation Machine

Yesterday we featured videos visualizing Igor Stravinsky’s now hundred-year-old The Rite of Spring. They came from acknowledged master of music visualization Stephen Malinowski, inventor of the Music Animation Machine. Have a look at Malinowski’s Youtube page and you’ll find other videos showcasing how his software, by translating musical sounds into instinctively understandable graphics, allows us to better grasp the intricate workings of famous pieces. Today, let’s go back not just one hundred but about three hundred years, to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, the ingenious intricacy of which has, since the Baroque period, only won more and more devotion from musical scholars.

At the top, you can hear, and more importantly see, the first movement of Bach’s fourth Brandenburg concerto. Just above, you’ll find its second movement, below, its third. (This video presents the movement whole.) Watch as you listen, and you can experience through shape and color (I can only imagine the kick synesthetes get out of this sort of thing) the way that the concerto’s various voices, meant for violins, viola, cello, violone, and basso continuo, trade off, overlap, interact, giving each movement, and the whole piece, its shape. Though Bach’s musical accomplishments can sometimes seem impressive to the point of feeling forbidding, Malinowski’s graphical scores offer a way into comprehension, especially for the visually inclined.

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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 PrimerFollow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, Extols Some Odd Virtues of Ronald Reagan in New Animated Video

“Sir,” says James Brown to a reporter who had just made the mistake of calling him James, “I’m going to call you by your last name as long as you call me by mine. One thing I fought for was respect, Okay? I didn’t have that all the time.”

So begins the latest animated feature from Blank on Blank, a nonprofit project that brings forgotten interviews back to life. In this episode, ABC radio journalist Rocci Fisch takes us back to a little interview he and a few other reporters had with Brown before a concert in 1984. The location was Washington D.C., so perhaps it should come as no surprise when the brief interview veers into politics. At one point Fisch asks Brown what he thinks of the man who was president then, Ronald Reagan.

“I think he’s the most intelligent…I think he’s the most well-coordinated president we’ve ever had in history,” says Brown.

“You think he’s going to win again?” says Fisch.

“I’m not here to endorse. I just know he’s the most well-organized president we’ve ever had in history. His acting ability taught him the whole structure of the country.”

“Communication, you mean?”



“He knows what everybody wants. You see, every American, every American man is still a cowboy. See you’ve got to remember that.”

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Rediscovered: The First American Anti-Nazi Film, Banned by U.S. Censors and Forgotten for 80 Years

On March 5, 1933, Germany held its last democratic elections until the end of WWII, and the National Socialists gained a plurality in the Reichstag, with 43.9% of the vote and 288 seats. This event paved the way for the Enabling Act later that month, which effectively empowered Hitler as dictator. It would seem in hindsight that this turn—with all its attendant violence, coercion, and hysterical nationalist rhetoric—might have alarmed the Western powers. And yet the opposite was true.

At least one newsman was alarmed, however. And on the day of the 1933 elections, he gained a brief audience with the future Fuhrer. That man was Cornelius “Neil” Vanderbilt IV, great-great-grandson of the railroad tycoon. Fed up with the malaise of his privileged peers, Vanderbilt had moved to journalism from his position as a driver during the First World War. His name gave him access to Mussolini, Stalin, and Hitler, whose impending Reich became the subject of Vanderbilt’s documentary film, called Hitler’s Reign of Terror, released on April 30, 1934, a short portion of which you can see above.

The New Yorker obtained the clip from Brandeis University professor Thomas Doherty, who rediscovered the film in a Belgian archive while researching a recent book. Vanderbilt’s documentary might well be the first American anti-Nazi film, but its contemporary reception speaks volumes about how criticism of the new Nazi regime was suppressed in the mid-thirties; the film was censored across the U.S., denied a license, and banned.

What Vanderbilt saw first-hand and chronicled in his film is mild in comparison to what was to come. Nevertheless, his take was prescient. He describes his anxious but partially successful endeavor to smuggle footage across the German border, prefacing the story by saying “there isn’t money enough in Hollywood to get me to go through it again.” (The scene above is a reenactment, as is, quite obviously, the scene of Vanderbilt’s meeting with Hitler.) Asked about his impressions of Hitler, Vanderbilt has this to say:

Unquestionably he is a man of real ability, of force. But the way I sized him up after interviewing him is that he is a strange combination of Huey Long, Billy Sunday, and Al Capone…. I had never heard a man so able to sway people…. In the hour and a half that Hitler talked to that packed audience that night, he was as effective as a barker in a sideshow traveling with a circus.

Vanderbilt says above that the rising Nazi tide, “demanded revenge” and would not rest until they had it, to which his interviewer responds, “It all seems a ghastly, incredible nightmare.” Vanderbilt’s vision seemed like a sensationalistic fever dream to his critics as well.

Read the full story of the film over at The New Yorker’s Culture Desk.

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

Punk Meets High Fashion in Metropolitan Museum of Art Exhibition PUNK: Chaos to Couture

Whatever else British punk rock gave pop culture, it was always a revolution in fashion, engineered by Sex Pistols svengali Malcolm McLaren and his partner, designer Vivienne Westwood. The two pioneered punk’s S&M-inspired look from their Chelsea boutique, SEX, a onetime record shop that morphed into the epicenter of London street fashion. McLaren passed away in 2010, but his former partner Westwood is still designing—only now her work is haute couture nostalgia, its shocking sneer at uptight British culture a museum piece. Her latest collection, Chaos, revisits many of the iconic designs of the mid-seventies made famous by the Sex Pistols, such as the “tits square” and “cowboy square” t-shirts and the ubiquitous safety pin.

The name of Westwood’s retro latest work is reflected in a current exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art called PUNK: Chaos to Couture, which began May 9th and runs until August 14th. In the video above, curator Andrew Bolton discusses the exhibition’s staging of low and high culture crossover. In the press materials, Bolton is frank about the contradictory aims of punk and high fashion:

Since its origins, punk has had an incendiary influence on fashion… Although punk’s democracy stands in opposition to fashion’s autocracy, designers continue to appropriate punk’s aesthetic vocabulary to capture its youthful rebelliousness and aggressive forcefulness.

This is not the first time Bolton has appropriated punk fashion for high art or worked with Vivienne Westwood. In 2006, Bolton curated a Met exhibit called AngloMania (catalog here), which drew its name and inspiration from another of Westwood’s collections.

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

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