A Subway Ride Through New York City: Watch Vintage Footage from 1905

If you’re a New York­er, you know this stretch of sub­way inside and out. You’ve schlepped from Union Square to Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion on the 4, 5, or 6 trains how many times? Prob­a­bly more than you care to count. But don’t wor­ry, you’re in good com­pa­ny. New York­ers have been mak­ing this jour­ney since 1904, and here we have some vin­tage video to prove it. Shot on May 21, 1905, sev­en months after the IRT sub­way line opened, the video shows a train mov­ing uptown. And then, dur­ing the last minute, you can see the New York­ers exit­ing the train, svelte and dressed to the nines.

If you’re won­der­ing how this clip was shot, let me add this: A cam­era was mount­ed on a sub­way train fol­low­ing anoth­er train on the same track. Light­ing was pro­vid­ed by a spe­cial­ly con­struct­ed work car on a par­al­lel track.

This pub­lic domain film can be found in the Library of Con­gress’ Ear­ly Motion Pic­ture Col­lec­tion. The video itself comes to us via the New York Dai­ly News, where you can see maps and pic­tures of the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry sub­way sys­tem.

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:

The World’s First Mobile Phone Shown on 1922 Vin­tage Film

Berlin Street Scenes Beau­ti­ful­ly Caught on Film (1900–1914)

1927 Lon­don Shown in Mov­ing Col­or

Rare Col­or Footage of the 1939 World Series: Yan­kees v. Reds

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Martin Scorsese Reveals His 12 Favorite Movies

kubrick listCin­e­ma as we’ve almost always known it — “Edi­son, the Lumière broth­ers, Méliès, Porter, all the way through Grif­fith and on to Kubrick”  — has “real­ly almost gone.” So writes Mar­tin Scors­ese in his recent essay for the New York Review of Books, “The Per­sist­ing Vision: Read­ing the Lan­guage of Cin­e­ma.” He argues that tra­di­tion­al film forms have “been over­whelmed by mov­ing images com­ing at us all the time and absolute­ly every­where, even faster than the visions com­ing at the astro­naut” in Kubrick­’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. “We have no choice but to treat all these mov­ing images com­ing at us as a lan­guage. We need to be able to under­stand what we’re see­ing and find the tools to sort it all out.” Only nat­ur­al that Scors­ese, as one of the best-known, high­est-pro­file auteurs alive, would ref­er­ence Kubrick, his gen­er­a­tional pre­de­ces­sor in the untir­ing fur­ther­ance of cin­e­mat­ic vision and craft.

We just yes­ter­day fea­tured a post about Kubrick­’s 1963 list of ten favorite films. Scors­ese, for his part, has impressed many as one of the most enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly cinephilic direc­tors work­ing in Amer­i­ca today: his essays about and appear­ances on the DVDs of his favorite movies stand as evi­dence for the sur­pris­ing breadth of his appre­ci­a­tion. Today, why not have a look at Scors­ese’s list, which he put togeth­er for Sight and Sound mag­a­zine, and which begins with the Kubrick selec­tion you might expect:

In “The Per­sist­ing Vision,” he cham­pi­ons com­pre­hen­sive film preser­va­tion, cit­ing the case of Hitch­cock­’s Ver­ti­go, the final entry on his list, now named the great­est film of all time by Sight and Sound’s crit­ics poll. “When the film came out some peo­ple liked it, some didn’t, and then it just went away.” When, after decades of obscu­ri­ty, Ver­ti­go came back into cir­cu­la­tion,  the col­or was com­plete­ly wrong,” and “the ele­ments — the orig­i­nal pic­ture and sound neg­a­tives — need­ed seri­ous atten­tion.” A restora­tion of the “decay­ing and severe­ly dam­aged” film even­tu­al­ly hap­pened, and “more and more peo­ple saw Ver­ti­go and came to appre­ci­ate its hyp­not­ic beau­ty and very strange, obses­sive focus.” I, per­son­al­ly, could­n’t imag­ine the world of cin­e­ma with­out it — nor with­out any of the oth­er pic­tures Scors­ese calls his favorites.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mar­tin Scors­ese Makes a List of 85 Films Every Aspir­ing Film­mak­er Needs to See

Mar­tin Scors­ese Cre­ates a List of 39 Essen­tial For­eign Films for a Young Film­mak­er

Revis­it Mar­tin Scorsese’s Hand-Drawn Sto­ry­boards for Taxi Dri­ver

Mar­tin Scorsese’s Very First Films: Three Imag­i­na­tive Short Works

Mar­tin Scors­ese Brings “Lost” Hitch­cock Film to Screen in Short Faux Doc­u­men­tary

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.

New Archive Reveals How Scientists Finally Solved the Vexing “Longitude Problem” During the 1700s

For cen­turies, sea­far­ing explor­ers and mer­chants reck­oned with the lon­gi­tude prob­lem. It was rel­a­tive­ly easy to fig­ure out a ship’s loca­tion on a north-south axis, but near­ly impos­si­ble to deter­mine how far east or west it was. And the stakes were high. Sail too far astray and your ship (and men) could end up so far afield that get­ting home before the food and water ran out might be impos­si­ble. The sail­ing world need­ed bet­ter tools to deter­mine loca­tion at sea.

In 1714 the British gov­ern­ment estab­lished the Board of Lon­gi­tude, offer­ing a cash prize to any­one who could fig­ure out how to detect how far east or west a ship was at sea. The Board was abol­ished in 1828, but only after fos­ter­ing inno­v­a­tive tech­niques that would for­ev­er change the nature of marine nav­i­ga­tion.

Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty and the Nation­al Mar­itime Muse­um at Green­wich recent­ly released an archive mak­ing all of the let­ters, objects, and doc­u­ments relat­ed to the Board’s work avail­able, along with a spiffy set of videos that brings the Board’s his­to­ry and achieve­ments to life.

Dur­ing the Board’s tenure, clock­mak­er John Har­ri­son fig­ured out that sailors could find out their loca­tion if they knew local time at sea and com­pared that to the time at a com­mon ref­er­ence point. The moon was seen as a giant clock, and its posi­tion rel­a­tive to stars was record­ed in the Nau­ti­cal Almanac, giv­ing sailors the data to com­pare against the time at sea. One of the inno­va­tions vet­ted by the Board of Lon­gi­tude is John Harrison’s Sea Clock. Also dur­ing that time, Green­wich became the prime merid­i­an.

All of this work led to more accu­rate maps. The Board spon­sored jour­neys, includ­ing some aboard Cap­tain Cook’s ships with portable obser­va­to­ries for map­mak­ers to sketch and use tri­an­gu­la­tion to deter­mine accu­rate loca­tion on voy­ages, includ­ing one to the North­west­ern Unit­ed States.

You can start rum­mag­ing through the fas­ci­nat­ing archive here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Caught Map­ping: A Cin­e­mat­ic Ride Through the Nit­ty Grit­ty World of Vin­tage Car­tog­ra­phy

Play Cae­sar: Trav­el Ancient Rome with Stanford’s Inter­ac­tive Map

Cut­ting-Edge Tech­nol­o­gy Recon­structs the Bat­tle of Get­tys­burg 150 Years Lat­er

Kate Rix writes about edu­ca­tion and dig­i­tal media. Fol­low her on Twit­ter @mskaterix or vis­it her on the web at .

Classic Monty Python: Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw Engage in a Hilarious Battle of Wits

Have you ever won­dered what it would have been like to be present when Oscar Wilde was deliv­er­ing those daz­zling epi­grams of his? In this clas­sic sketch from Mon­ty Python’s Fly­ing Cir­cus, we’re pre­sent­ed with one hilar­i­ous pos­si­bil­i­ty.

The sketch is from Episode 39 of the Fly­ing Cir­cus, the last episode of sea­son three, which was record­ed on May 18, 1972 but not aired until Jan­u­ary 18, 1973. The scene takes place in 1895, in the draw­ing room of Wilde’s Lon­don home. Hold­ing court amid a room­ful of syco­phants, Wilde (played by Gra­ham Chap­man) com­petes with the Irish writer George Bernard Shaw (Michael Palin) and the Amer­i­can-born painter James McNeill Whistler (John Cleese) to impress Queen Vic­to­ri­a’s son Albert Edward (Ter­ry Jones), the Prince of Wales and future King Edward VII.

As for the his­tor­i­cal basis of the sketch, “There seems to be no evi­dence for the con­vivial tri­umvi­rate of Whistler, Wilde, and Shaw,” writes Darl Larsen in Mon­ty Python’s Fly­ing Cir­cus: An Utter­ly Com­plete, Thor­ough­ly Unil­lus­trat­ed, Absolute­ly Unau­tho­rized Guide, “espe­cial­ly as late as 1895, when Whistler was car­ing for his ter­mi­nal­ly ill wife and Wilde was in the ear­ly stages of his fall from grace.” Wilde’s play The Impor­tance of Being Earnest opened in Feb­ru­ary of that year, and short­ly after­ward he became embroiled in a legal bat­tle with the Mar­quess of Queens­ber­ry that led even­tu­al­ly to his impris­on­ment for homo­sex­u­al­i­ty. Wilde was once a pro­tégé of Whistler, but their friend­ship had dete­ri­o­rat­ed by 1895. Whistler was appar­ent­ly jeal­ous of Wilde’s suc­cess, and believed he had stolen many of his famous lines. When Wilde report­ed­ly said “I wish I had said that” in response to a wit­ty remark by Whistler in about 1888, the painter famous­ly retort­ed, “You will, Oscar, you will.” Shaw worked as a Lon­don the­atre crit­ic in the 1890s, and the Prince of Wales was a patron of the arts.

In the Python sketch, Wilde kicks off a round of wit­ti­cisms with his famous line, “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” But things go rapid­ly down­hill as the con­ver­sa­tion turns into an exer­cise in heap­ing abuse on the Prince of Wales and pin­ning the blame on a rival:

WILDE: Your Majesty is like a big jam dough­nut with cream on the top.

PRINCE: I beg your par­don?

WILDE: Um…It was one of Whistler’s.

WHISTLER: I nev­er said that.

WILDE: You did, James, you did.

WHISTLER: Well, Your High­ness, what I meant was that, like a dough­nut, um, your arrival gives us pleasure…and your depar­ture only makes us hun­gry for more. [The prince laughs and nods his head.] Your High­ness, you are also like a stream of bat’s piss.


WHISTLER: It was one of Wilde’s. One of Wilde’s.

WILDE: It sod­ding was not! It was Shaw!

SHAW: I…I mere­ly meant, Your Majesty, that you shine out like a shaft of gold when all around is dark.


WILDE: Right. Your Majesty is like a dose of clap–

WHISTLER: –Before you arrive is plea­sure, and after is a pain in the dong.

PRINCE: What??

WHISTLER AND WILDE: One of Shaw’s, one of Shaw’s.

SHAW: You bas­tards.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mon­ty Python’s Best Phi­los­o­phy Sketch­es

Watch Mon­ty Python’s “Sum­ma­rize Proust Com­pe­ti­tion” on the 100th Anniver­sary of Swann’s Way

John Cleese’s Eulo­gy for Gra­ham Chap­man: ‘Good Rid­dance, the Free-Load­ing Bas­tard, I Hope He Fries’

Bryan Cranston Reads Shelley’s Sonnet “Ozymandias” in Ominous Teaser for Breaking Bad’s Last Season

Since his improb­a­ble but riv­et­ing rise from put-upon, can­cer-strick­en chem­istry teacher Wal­ter White to socio­path­ic meth king­pin Heisen­berg, Bryan Cranston’s char­ac­ter in Break­ing Bad has come to embody all of the char­ac­ter­is­tics of an ancient despot: cun­ning, para­noia, the nurs­ing of old wounds and pre­ten­sions to unde­served great­ness. It seems per­fect­ly in char­ac­ter, then, that the show’s pro­duc­ers would tease the final sea­son with the omi­nous and dusty clip above, with Cranston read­ing Per­cy Bysshe Shelley’s son­net “Ozy­man­dias,” a poem about the hubris of anoth­er desert tyrant—well-known for his mega­lo­ma­ni­a­cal fol­ly—Ramess­es II (also known by a translit­er­a­tion of his throne name, Ozy­man­dias).

The speak­er of Shel­ley’s poem meets a trav­eller from an “antique land,” who describes an immense stat­ue, bro­ken to pieces and lying strewn in the desert where “Noth­ing beside remains.” On the stat­ue’s pedestal, a sculp­tor has inscribed the words, “My name is Ozy­man­dias, king of kings. / Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair.” As Slate describes the teaser’s match-up:

The poem echoes all the show’s big themes: the mythol­o­gy of evil, the nuances of moral­i­ty, the arc of coro­na­tion and decay. The images, on the oth­er hand are fleeting—mostly New Mex­i­co desert and sub­ur­bia, though we end with a lin­ger­ing shot of Heisenberg’s dusty, worn hat rest­ing, like the poem’s once-colos­sal stat­ue.

Fans of the show famil­iar with the poem’s most pro­nounced theme, the fleet­ing nature of empires, no mat­ter how great, will know to antic­i­pate the fall of Heisen­berg in some spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion, though all we have so far are the vague hints of Walter’s esca­lat­ing vio­lence and para­noia from the last few episodes. Cranston seethes the poem’s most famous line—that one about despair (and the source of the poem’s cen­tral irony)—with par­tic­u­lar men­ace.


The poem’s imagery, so com­mon to the ear­ly nine­teenth cen­tu­ry Egyp­tol­ogy of Shelley’s time and after, was alleged­ly inspired by a pas­sage in Roman-era his­to­ri­an Diodor­us Sicu­lus describ­ing just such a stat­ue. Also fuel­ing Shelley’s imag­i­na­tion were the Napoleon­ic archae­o­log­i­cal finds in Egypt, includ­ing news of the 1816 dis­cov­ery of a mas­sive Ramess­es II stat­ue by Ital­ian explor­er Gio­vani Bel­zoni (who sold it to the British Muse­um in 1821). Shel­ley wrote “Ozy­man­dias” in com­pe­ti­tion with a friend, financier and nov­el­ist Hen­ry Smith. Smith’s sub­mis­sion, “In Egypt’s Sandy Silence,” came first.

Crit­ic and writer Leigh Hunt pub­lished both poems in 1818 edi­tions of his month­ly mag­a­zine The Exam­in­er. While Smith’s poem bare­ly ris­es to the occa­sion, more clum­sy par­o­dy than seri­ous lit­er­ary endeav­or, Shelley’s—like the sculptor’s inscrip­tion in his poem—has out­last­ed the empire of his day and lives on in the micro­cos­mic TV rep­re­sen­ta­tions of our own impe­r­i­al works. Above, see an 1817 draft copy of Shelley’s iambic pen­tame­ter son­net, worked over with cor­rec­tions and revi­sions. Below see the fair copy he sent to Hunt for pub­li­ca­tion. Both copies reside at the Bodleian Library.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

Inside Break­ing Bad: Watch Conan O’Brien’s Extend­ed Inter­view with the Show’s Cast and Cre­ator

Dis­cov­ered: Lord Byron’s Copy of Franken­stein Signed by Mary Shel­ley

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

Stephen Colbert Tries to Make Sense of MOOCs with the Head of edX

Last week Anant Agar­w­al, Pres­i­dent of edX (the MOOC con­sor­tium launched by Har­vard and MIT), paid a vis­it to The Col­bert Report. And it did­n’t take long for the host, the one and only Stephen Col­bert, to ask fun­ny but unmis­tak­ably prob­ing ques­tions about the advent of Mas­sive Open Online Cours­es. “I don’t under­stand. You’re in the knowl­edge busi­ness in a uni­ver­si­ty. Let’s say I had a shoe store, ok, and then I hired you to work at my shoe store. And you said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a great idea! Let’s give the shoes away for free.’ I would fire you and then prob­a­bly throw shoes at your head.” In oth­er words, why would uni­ver­si­ties dis­rupt them­selves and give edu­ca­tion away at no cost? Where’s the san­i­ty in that?  If you have five min­utes, you can watch Agar­wal’s response and get a few laughs along the way. And if you’re ready to take a MOOC, then dive into our col­lec­tion of 550 Free MOOCs from Great Uni­ver­si­ties. 120 new cours­es will be start­ing in August and Sep­tem­ber alone.

via The Har­vard Crim­son

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stephen Col­bert Talks Sci­ence with Astro­physi­cist Neil deGrasse Tyson

Stephen Col­bert Dish­es Out Wis­dom & Laughs at North­west­ern

Har­vard and MIT Cre­ate EDX to Offer Mas­sive Open Online Cours­es World­wide

Stanley Kubrick’s List of Top 10 Films: The First and Only List He Ever Created

Image by Moody Man, via Flickr Com­mons

When, over the past week­end, I noticed the words “Stan­ley Kubrick” had risen into Twit­ter’s trend­ing-top­ics list, I got excit­ed. I fig­ured some­one had dis­cov­ered, in the back of a long-neglect­ed stu­dio vault, the last extant print of a Kubrick mas­ter­piece we’d some­how all for­got­ten. No suck luck, of course; Kubrick schol­ars, giv­en how much they still talk about even the auteur’s nev­er-real­ized projects like Napoleon, sure­ly would­n’t let an entire movie slip into obscu­ri­ty. The burst of tweets actu­al­ly came in hon­or of Kubrick­’s 85th birth­day, and hey, any chance to cel­e­brate a direc­tor whose fil­mog­ra­phy includes the likes of Dr. StrangeloveThe Shin­ing, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, I’ll seize. The British Film Insti­tute marked the occa­sion by post­ing a lit­tle-seen list of Kubrick­’s top ten films.

“The first and only (as far as we know) Top 10 list Kubrick sub­mit­ted to any­one was in 1963 to a fledg­ling Amer­i­can mag­a­zine named Cin­e­ma (which had been found­ed the pre­vi­ous year and ceased pub­li­ca­tion in 1976),” writes the BFI’s Nick Wrigley. It runs as fol­lows:

1. I Vitel­loni (Felli­ni, 1953)
2. Wild Straw­ber­ries (Bergman, 1957)
3. Cit­i­zen Kane (Welles, 1941)
4. The Trea­sure of the Sier­ra Madre (Hus­ton, 1948)
5. City Lights (Chap­lin, 1931)
6. Hen­ry V (Olivi­er, 1944)
7. La notte (Anto­nioni, 1961)
8. The Bank Dick (Fields, 1940—above)
9. Rox­ie Hart (Well­man, 1942)
10. Hell’s Angels (Hugh­es, 1930)

But see­ing as Kubrick still had 36 years to live and watch movies after mak­ing the list, it nat­u­ral­ly pro­vides some­thing less than the final word on his pref­er­ences. Wrigley quotes Kubrick con­fi­dant Jan Har­lan as say­ing that “Stan­ley would have seri­ous­ly revised this 1963 list in lat­er years, though Wild Straw­ber­ries, Cit­i­zen Kane and City Lights would remain, but he liked Ken­neth Branagh’s Hen­ry V much bet­ter than the old and old-fash­ioned Olivi­er ver­sion.” He also quotes Kubrick him­self as call­ing Max Ophuls the “high­est of all” and “pos­sessed of every pos­si­ble qual­i­ty,” call­ing Elia Kazan “with­out ques­tion the best direc­tor we have in Amer­i­ca,” and prais­ing hearti­ly David Lean, Vit­to­rio de Sica, and François Truf­faut. This all comes in handy for true cinephiles, who can nev­er find sat­is­fac­tion watch­ing only the film­mak­ers they admire; they must also watch the film­mak­ers the film­mak­ers they admire admire.

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:

Stan­ley Kubrick’s Very First Films: Three Short Doc­u­men­taries

Ter­ry Gilliam: The Dif­fer­ence Between Kubrick (Great Film­mak­er) and Spiel­berg (Less So)

Napoleon: The Great­est Movie Stan­ley Kubrick Nev­er Made

4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More

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.

Noam Chomsky Went Gangnam Style … Ever So Briefly?

I’m usu­al­ly pret­ty dialed into this stuff, but some­how this one slipped by me last fall. Dur­ing the Gang­nam Style craze, MIT shot a par­o­dy video where Noam Chom­sky, the father of mod­ern lin­guis­tics, made a cameo appear­ance. Maybe it slipped by me because the appear­ance is brief. About 5 sec­onds, start­ing at the 3:20 mark. We were on the ball enough, how­ev­er, to spot anoth­er par­o­dy by Ai Wei­wei and then we had Slavoj Žižek demys­ti­fy­ing the whole Gang­nam Style phe­nom­e­non, com­plete with wild hand ges­tic­u­la­tions and fran­tic rubs of the nose. Any­way, one day this will make for some good archival footage — pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al meets inter­na­tion­al pop cul­ture craze — so we’re adding it to the trove.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Noam Chom­sky Spells Out the Pur­pose of Edu­ca­tion

A Shirt­less Slavoj Žižek Explains the Pur­pose of Phi­los­o­phy from the Com­fort of His Bed

Noam Chom­sky & Michel Fou­cault Debate Human Nature & Pow­er (1971)

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