Leck Mich Im Arsch (“Kiss My Ass”): Listen to Mozart’s Scatological Canon in B Flat (1782)

We all know the manchild Mozart of Milos Forman’s 1984 biopic Amadeus. As embodied by a manic, braying Thomas Hulce, the precocious and haunted composer supposedly loved nothing more than scandalizing, amusing, or exasperating friends and enemies alike with juvenile pranks and scatological humor. Surely a fiction, eh? Gross exaggeration, no? Surely Mozart comported himself with more dignity? Those familiar with the composer’s biography know otherwise.

We have, for example, a ridiculously dirty letter the 21-year-old “poop-loving musical genius” wrote to his 19-year-old cousin Marianne—a missive Letters of Note prefaces with the disclaimer “if you’re easily offended, please do not read any further” (oh, but how can you resist?). This piece of correspondence is but one of many “shockingly crude letters” Mozart wrote to his family. And if these slightly insane documents don’t convince you, we offer as further evidence of Mozart’s exuberantly childish sensibility the above canon in B flat for six voices, Leck Mich Im Arsch, which translates roughly to “Kiss My Ass.”

One of three naughty canons composed in 1782 with lyrics like “Good night, sleep tight, / And stick your ass to your mouth,” this piece was discovered in 1991 at Harvard University. Harvard librarian Michael Ochs, with a clear penchant for understatement, said at the time: “These are minor works. They’re not the Requiem, or ‘Don Giovanni.’ They were written for the amusement of Mozart and his friends, and they show another side of him.” The first edition of Mozart’s complete works, published in 1804, bowdlerized the texts and removed the racy humor, changing the title of Leck Mich Im Arsch to “Let us be glad!”—likely, writes Lucas Reilly at Mental Floss, “the complete opposite of what this tune means.”

Reilly also points out that Mozart’s “potty mouth” was probably not, as some have supposed, evidence of Tourette’s syndrome, but rather of an especially strong current in German humor, shared by Johannes Gutenberg, Martin Luther, and Mozart’s equally brilliant contemporary, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In fact, Leck Mich Im Arsch alludes to Goethe’s serious dramatic work, Götz Von Berlichingen. The chorus reads as follows in English (see the sheet music with lyrics in German here—some bowdlerized and original lyrics in English at Wikipedia):

Kiss my arse!
Goethe, Goethe!
Götz von Berlichingen! Second act;
You know the scene too well!
Let’s sing out now summarily:
Here is Mozart literary!

Hear two additional dirty choral pieces—Bona Nox and Difficile Lectu—at Mental Floss. Some other scatological canons thought to be Mozart’s, such as Leck mir den Arsch fein recht schön sauber (“Lick my ass right well and clean”), have since been attributed to amateur composer and physician Wenzel Trnka, yet it appears that the three featured at Mental Floss are genuine. And also genuinely, hilariously, adolescent, which must be why they appealed to the über -juvenile Insane Clown Posse. In 2011, the clown-rap duo recorded their own take on Leck Mich Im Arsch in a bizarre collaboration with former White Stripe Jack White. It’s not safe for work, of course. I wouldn’t recommend listening to it anywhere else either.

via Mental Floss

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

Hattie McDaniel, Star of Gone with the Wind, Gives a Moving Academy Award Acceptance Speech (1940)

In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win an Academy Award, taking home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her turn as Mammy in Gone with the Wind. To quote a friend, there’s a lot happening in the 1:40 minutes that document her acceptance speech.

1939’s stately Best Supporting Actress Fay Bainter introduced the historic moment by noting, “It opens the doors of this room, moves back the walls, and enables us to embrace the whole of America….”

At which point, co-star Olivia de Havilland and fellow nominees Geraldine Fitzgerald, Edna May Oliver, and Maria Ouspenskaya no doubt loosened their girdles and began contemplating their next martinis.

McDaniel’s emotional, and inspiringly brief, remarks above don’t allude to the fact that she and her escort were seated at a table near the kitchen, far from the podium and her fellow Gone with the Wind cast members’ table. Two months prior, Georgia’s segregationist laws prevented her from attending the Atlanta premiere. Protesters outside the Coconut Grove awards ceremony decried Gone with the Wind’s depiction of people of color, McDaniel’s successful efforts to get the “n” word stricken from the script notwithstanding.

It would take the Academy over two decades to single out another African-American actor’s performance—Sidney Poitier, 1963’s Best Actor for his performance in Lilies of the Field.

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Ayun Halliday is spending the weekend at the NYC Feminist Zinefest. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Free App Lets You Play Chess With 23-Year-Old Norwegian World Champion Magnus Carlsen

Chess has been experiencing a surprising revival as of late, with the World Championships making headlines for the first time in  years. As it was during the days of Bobby Fischer and later Garry Kasparov, the resurgence is largely the doing of one man: Norway’s 23-year-old chess phenom, Magnus Carlsen. After having attained the level of a grandmaster at the age of 13, Carlsen had a string of spectacular victories that culminated in his win over India’s Viswanathan Anand in the world championships this past November. Carlsen also holds the highest rating in the game’s history. Oh, and he beat Bill Gates in 79 seconds (here’s a video). What’s next for the reigning king of chess? A free iOS chess app, of course.

The Magnus Plays app, which allows users to play against a simulated Carlsen, was  released this past Tuesday. If you’re worried that your technical prowess may not stack up against the new face of chess, don’t worry: the app relies on a vast database of moves that Carlsen used throughout the years, allowing you to play him anywhere from the ages of 5 to 23. I’m not a particularly adept chess player, but I didn’t have too much trouble with Carlsen at his youngest. The victory bolstered my confidence, so I decided to skip to Carlsen’s current 23-year-old self. As much as I’d like to discuss the outcome of the second game, it’s probably best to skim over the results. Suffice it to say that I have room for improvement. Luckily, the app also has a “Train With Me” section, where Carlsen provides video tutorials (some free, and some paid) on how to improve your game. If you’re feeling like you’ve lost a few IQ points after repeated bouts with Flappy Bird, Magnus Plays is a great alternative.

via Kottke.org

Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman, or read more of his writing at the Huffington Post.

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Oxford’s Free Course Critical Reasoning For Beginners Will Teach You to Think Like a Philosopher

Oxford_University,_Radcliffe_Camera,_a_Reading_room_of_Bodleian_libraryWhen I was younger, I often found myself disagreeing with something I’d read or heard, but couldn’t explain exactly why. Despite being unable to pinpoint the precise reasons, I had a strong sense that the rules of logic were being violated. After I was exposed to critical thinking in high school and university, I learned to recognize problematic arguments, whether they be a straw man, an appeal to authority, or an ad hominem attack. Faulty arguments are all-pervasive, and the mental biases that underlie them pop up in media coverage, college classes, and armchair theorizing. Want to learn how to avoid them? Look no further than Critical Reasoning For Beginners, the top rated iTunesU collection of lectures led by Oxford University’s Marianne Talbot.

Talbot builds the course from the ground up, and begins by explaining that arguments consist of a set of premises that, logically linked together, lead to a conclusion. She proceeds to outline the way to lay out an argument logically and clearly, and eventually, the basic steps involved in assessing its strengths and weaknesses. The six-part series, which was recorded in 2009, shows no sign of wear, and Talbot, unlike some philosophy professors, does a terrific job of making the content digestible. If you’ve got some time on your hands, the lectures, which average just over an hour in length, can be finished in less than a week. That’s peanuts, if you consider that all our knowledge is built on the foundations that this course establishes. If you haven’t had the chance to be exposed to a class on critical thought, I can’t recommend Critical Reasoning For Beginners with enough enthusiasm: there are few mental skills that are as underappreciated, and as central to our daily lives, as critical thinking.

Critical Reasoning For Beginners is currently available on the University of Oxford website in both audio and video formats, and also on iTunesU and YouTube. You can find it listed in our collection of Free Online Philosophy Courses, part of our collection of 1100 Free Online Courses.

Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman, or read more of his writing at the Huffington Post.

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Gaze at Global Movie Posters for Hitchcock’s Vertigo: U.S., Japan, Italy, Poland & Beyond


Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo might have been a critical disappointment when it came out in 1958, but it definitely had one of the most eye-catching poster designs in cinema history.

The poster was designed by Saul Bass who also did the movie’s groundbreaking title sequence. It features hand-drawn male and female figures that are standing before a massive white spiral against a striking orange background. It might be one of the few movie posters out there that you can identify from 100 yards away.


Vertigo played around the world and, as you can see below, the movie’s poster changed greatly to appeal to a local audience. The differences are fascinating.


English-speaking countries tended to keep Bass’s spiral while foreign-language markets largely did not. The Japanese poster plays up the romantic elements of Vertigo while the Italian poster focuses on the psychological weirdness of the movie. And the Polish poster – which ditches all references to Saul Bass’s design and, really, anything from the film itself – is pretty damned awesome.


Of course, in the years since Vertigo’s release, its reputation has only grown. And in a 2012, Sight and Sound magazine put Vertigo at the top of their list for Greatest Films of All Time, unseating Citizen Kane. Maybe the poster had something to do with that.

Bonus Poster from Belgium

Vertigo POSTER Alfred Hitchcock -MUST SEE- James Stewart Kim Novak BELGIAN Art

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow.

Enter the Hannah Arendt Archives & Discover Rare Audio Lectures, Manuscripts, Marginalia, Letters, Postcards & More


The work of Hannah Arendt has been in the press recently for two reasons in particular: first, the 50th anniversary of her book Eichmann in Jerusalem, published in 1963 from reports she filed for The New Yorker on the 1961 trial of the archetypal Nazi bureaucrat. Then there is Margarethe von Trotta’s 2012 biopic Hannah Arendt, starring German actress Barbara Sukowa as the German Jewish philosopher. Recent coverage of the book and the film have focused on Arendt’s reputation as a philosophical journalist most closely identified with the famous descriptive phrase “the banality of evil,” a comment on Adolf Eichmann as an exemplar of genocidal murderers who, as the well-worn defense goes, were “just following orders.”

Arendt scholar Roger Berkowitz argues that this reading of Arendt’s book is a profound misreading. Eichmann in Jerusalem was divisive, setting critics against each other in efforts to vindicate or castigate its author. The controversy, however, at the time of publication and again in the recent re-evaluation, has the unfortunate effect of obscuring the breadth of Arendt’s philosophical thinking apart from Eichmann and Nazism. Those interested in connecting with Arendt’s life, scholarship, and philosophical insight can find a wealth of archival materials online from the collections of Bard College and the Library of Congress. Today, we highlight several items in those collections that may be of interest, including the Library of Congress’s scanned copy of the final typescript of Eichmann in Jerusalem.

Part 1:
Part 2 (Q&A):

First, directly above, hear Arendt’s speech “Power & Violence.” The lecture re-iterates ideas Arendt expressed more fully in a lengthy 1969 essay published by the New York Review of Books as “Reflections on Violence” and as a book titled On Violence. In the lecture and the essay, Arendt references the work of thinkers like Friedrich Engels and, especially, Frantz Fanon in a critical discussion of the roles racism and ideology play in state violence.

That same year Arendt delivered a series of lectures for a Spring semester course at The New School for Social Research called “Philosophy and Politics: What is Political Philosophy.” This fascinating investigation grapples not only with political philosophy, but philosophy in general as a meaningful activity. You can view the full typescripts of her course lectures here.

The Library of Congress has also digitized much of Arendt’s correspondence and uploaded images of her letters, including some to and from such well-known figures as W.H. Auden, Lionel Trilling, and Alfred Kazin (most of Arendt’s letters are only available for viewing onsite at the Library of Congress, The New School University, or the University of Oldenburg).

Bard College’s Hannah Arendt Collection showcases many of Arendt’s personal books. We can see digitized images of her copies of—among many others—Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Leo Strauss, her friend poet Robert Lowell, Carl Schmitt, and, of course, her onetime mentor and lover, Martin Heidegger. Each of the uploads shows the pages in which Arendt underlined or marked key passages and left marginal notes.


In addition to the “Arendt Marginalia” section, Bard hosts a gallery that includes “inscribed books, journals & manuscripts,” “artwork & photographs,” and “postcards and other correspondence” (such as the above postcard from Walter Benjamin, addressed to “Hannah Stern,” her married name at the time).

Lastly, for an excellent overview of Arendt’s life and work that puts all of the above materials in context, see the Library of Congress’s “Biographical Note” and be sure to read “Three Essays: The Role of Experience in Hannah Arendt’s Political Thought” by Jerome Kohn, director of the New School’s Hannah Arendt Center. As many know, Arendt, and many other German Jewish intellectuals who fled the Nazis, found a home at New York’s New School for Social Research (now New School University). And we have the New School (and an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant) to thank for the Library of Congress’s vast, digitized collection of Arendt’s papers, which preserves her legacy for generations to come.

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

Rare Audio: William Faulkner Names His Best Novel, And the First Faulkner Novel You Should Read


Image by Carl Van Vechten, via Wikimedia Commons

My two favorite William Faulkner novels are, without a doubt, Absalom, Absalom! and The Sound and The Fury. After readers get thrust into the narrators’ dizzying streams of consciousness, both books mount in tension to a frightful, almost unbearable pitch, before reaching their grim, cathartic climaxes. I’ve always felt that the white-hot intensity of the novels meant that, somehow, they had meant more to Faulkner than his other writings. According to an audio recording of Faulkner himself, it turns out that I was half right.

In 1957 and 1958, Faulkner served as the Writer-in-Residence at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, and today the school retains what is likely to be the largest Faulkner archive in the world. In addition to Faulkner’s private library, original manuscripts, letters, and personal effects, the archive also contains hours upon hours of Faulkner’s Q & A sessions, speeches, and readings. In April of 1957, during a class lecture, a student asked Faulkner about his favorite novel. Listen to the audio clip here:

Unidentified participant: Mr. Faulkner, what do you consider your best book?

William Faulkner: The one that—that failed the most tragically and the most splendidly. That was The Sound and the Fury—the one I worked at the longest, the hardest, that was to me the—the most passionate and moving idea, and made the most splendid failure. That’s the one that’s my—I consider the best, not—well, best is the wrong word—that’s the one that I love the most.

The recordings themselves are a fascinating resource, with Faulkner commenting widely on his novels and stories. Where else could one hear, for example, what the author considered the best book to start with when reading him? Listen here.

Unidentified participant: Do you think that there’s a particular order in which your works should be read […]? Many people have offered a sequence. Do you think there’s a particular sequence that your books should be read in?

William Faulkner: Probably to begin with a book called Sartoris. That has the germ of my apocrypha in it. A lot of the characters are postulated in that book. I’d say that’s a good one to begin with.

For those interested in learning more about Faulkner and his writing, the Southeast Missouri State University’s Center for Faulkner Studies is offering a promising MOOC called Faulkner 101, led by the Center’s founder, Dr. Robert Hamblin, as well as its current director, Dr. Chris Rieger. You can sign up now. Or find countless other MOOCs in our big, ever-expanding list of MOOCs.

Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman, or read more of his writing at the Huffington Post.

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The Lyrics of Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” Charted on a Dynamic Google Map

johnny cash mapped

The country music classic “I’ve Been Everywhere” was first recorded by Lucky Starr in Australia in 1962, then later adapted by Hank Snow, various other artists, and eventually the great Johnny Cash. The lyrics begin:

I was toting my pack along the dusty Winnemucca road
When along came a semi with a high an’ canvas-covered load
“If you’re goin’ to Winnemucca, Mack, with me you can ride.”
And so I climbed into the cab and then I settled down inside
He asked me if I’d seen a road with so much dust and sand
And I said, “Listen, I’ve traveled every road in this here land!”

I’ve been everywhere, man
I’ve been everywhere, man
Crossed the desert’s bare, man
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man
Of travel I’ve had my share, man
I’ve been everywhere

I’ve been to:
Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota
Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota
Wichita, Tulsa, Ottawa, Oklahoma
Tampa, Panama, Mattawa, La Paloma
Bangor, Baltimore, Salvador, Amarillo
Tocopilla, Barranquilla, and Padilla, I’m a killer

I’ve been to:
Boston, Charleston, Dayton, Louisiana
Washington, Houston, Kingston, Texarkana
Monterey, Faraday, Santa Fe, Tallapoosa
Glen Rock, Black Rock, Little Rock, Oskaloosa
Tennessee, Tennessee, Chicopee, Spirit Lake
Grand Lake, Devil’s Lake, Crater Lake, for Pete’s sake

And that’s not all of the locations the narrator travels to. If you chart and connect all of the destinations mentioned in the song — as Iain Mullan has done in this handy, dynamic map — you’ll find that the singer covers some 112,515 miles (or 181,075 kilometers). Even better, you can watch the travels take place in real-time on a Google map. Just click play, and you will be on your way.

For more travels on a Google map, don’t miss our recent post:

Jack Kerouac’s On The Road Turned Into Google Driving Directions & Published as a Free eBook

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