Charles & Ray Eames’ Short Film on the Mexican Day of the Dead (1957)

As much fun as Amer­i­cans have on Hal­loween, we could learn a thing or two from the Mex­i­cans. Their Día de los Muer­tos, the cel­e­bra­tion of which spans Octo­ber 31 to Novem­ber 2, gets more elab­o­rate, more seri­ous, and some­how more jovial at the same time. The robust Mex­i­can cul­ture of Los Ange­les, where I live, assures us a range of Día de los Muer­tos fes­tiv­i­ties each and every year, most impres­sive­ly the well-known cross-cul­tur­al blow-out at the Hol­ly­wood For­ev­er Ceme­tery. But I passed my most mem­o­rable Día de los Muer­tos on the cam­pus of the Uni­ver­si­dad Nacional Autóno­ma de Méx­i­co where, the year I went, they’d put togeth­er an entire field of shrines to the dead, nor­mal enough for the hol­i­day, but that time around they’d decid­ed to theme them all after Jorge Luis Borges sto­ries. (An Argen­tine, yes, but this has become a Latin Amer­i­can hol­i­day.) Every so often, the pow­er went out — Mex­i­co City, remem­ber — plung­ing the thou­sands of us there amid the hun­dreds of rep­re­sen­ta­tions of  “The Aleph,” “Funes the Mem­o­ri­ous,” and, appro­pri­ate­ly, “The Gar­den of Fork­ing Paths,” into peri­od­ic dark­ness.

As much as I would rec­om­mend such an expe­ri­ence, maybe you would­n’t want to make it your intro­duc­tion to the Mex­i­can Day of the Dead. Maybe you’d pre­fer this short film from famed design­ers (and, per­haps not coin­ci­den­tal­ly, Ange­lenos) Charles and Ray Eames, a film that paints a por­trait of Día de los Muer­tos through its icons and arti­facts just as their acclaimed Pow­ers of Ten paint­ed a por­trait of Earth at every scale. “In Mex­i­co,” explains its nar­ra­tor, “an inti­mate accep­tance of death extends far back into pre-His­pan­ic times. In the Aztec cul­ture which pre­ced­ed the com­ing of the Spaniards, death shows itself again and again — a famil­iar image. These ancient things of this land were joined over the cen­turies with the Span­ish cel­e­bra­tion of All Souls. Togeth­er they form a uni­ver­sal fes­ti­val of many facets and many dimen­sions — the Day of the Dead.” Through its cem­pasú­chitl flow­ers, its sug­ar skulls, and, yes, its angel-guid­ing rock­ets, The Day of the Dead exam­ines just what this end­less­ly fas­ci­nat­ing hol­i­day has, over the cen­turies, come to mean.

The Day of the Dead  (1957) will be added to our big col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down to the Bone: A Clay­ma­tion for The Day of the Dead

Design­ers Charles & Ray Eames Cre­ate a Pro­mo­tion­al Film for the Ground­break­ing Polaroid SX-70 Instant Cam­era (1972)

Charles & Ray Eames’ Icon­ic Film Pow­ers of Ten (1977) and the Less­er-Known Pro­to­type from 1968

Charles and Ray Eames’ Pow­ers of Ten: The Clas­sic Film Re-Imag­ined By 40 Artists

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Happy Halloween! Louis Armstrong Performs Skeleton in the Closet (1936)

Should you hap­pen to be in the vicin­i­ty of Coro­na, Queens this Hal­loween after­noon, the Louis Arm­strong House Muse­um will be wel­com­ing trick-or-treaters ’til 6pm. (Fun-sized Snick­ers be damned! Go any­way, just to see “To Jack Bradley, the ‘Great­est’ Pho­to Tak­er,” a col­lec­tion of can­did, pri­vate moments cap­tured by the friend Satch­mo described as his “white son.”)

If pre-exist­ing engage­ments pre­vent you from haunt­ing Coro­na today, vir­tu­al chills await you, above, with “The Skele­ton In The Clos­et,” Armstrong’s show-stop­ping num­ber from 1936’s Pen­nies From Heav­en. (That masked man on the drums is fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor Lionel Hamp­ton.)

The vin­tage Hal­loween con­tent is a real treat. Gimme ghosts, gob­lins, and an “old desert­ed man­sion on an old for­got­ten road” over psy­cho gore or depressed pre­fab sex­i­ness any day, not just Octo­ber 31.

Pen­nies From Heav­en was Armstrong’s first major screen appear­ance. At the insis­tence of star Bing Cros­by, his turn as a math­e­mat­i­cal­ly-chal­lenged band­leader snagged him a main title cred­it, a first for an African-Amer­i­can actor appear­ing oppo­site whites.

The role itself is not a pil­lar of race advance­ment, but Ricky Ric­car­di, the Arm­strong House’s Archivist notes that Arm­strong remained fond of the work, reen­act­ing an entire scene from mem­o­ry when he and Cros­by appeared as guests on the David Frost Show in 1971.

Ric­car­di sub­jects “The Skele­ton in the Clos­et” to a close musi­cal and per­for­mance analy­sis on his Won­der­ful World of Louis Arm­strong blog, a major source of year round good­ies for Arm­strong fans.

Rat­tle your bones!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Louis Arm­strong Plays His­toric Cold War Con­certs in East Berlin & Budapest (1965)

Watch the Ear­li­est Known Footage of Louis Arm­strong Per­form­ing Live in Con­cert (Copen­hagen, 1933)

Louis Arm­strong Plays Trum­pet at the Egypt­ian Pyra­mids; Dizzy Gille­spie Charms a Snake in Pak­istan

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, home­school­er, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

Springsteen’s Favorite Books & Reading List


Image by Michele Lucon, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Bruce Spring­steen will make his debut as a chil­dren’s author next Tues­day, with the release of Out­law Pete. In advance of that lit­er­ary event, The New York Times inter­viewed Spring­steen about the books on his read­ing list and his lit­er­ary tastes. They ask:

What books are cur­rent­ly on your night stand?

I just fin­ished “Moby-Dick,” which scared me off for a long time due to the hype of its dif­fi­cul­ty. I found it to be a beau­ti­ful boy’s adven­ture sto­ry and not that dif­fi­cult to read. Warn­ing: You will learn more about whales than you have ever wished to know. On the oth­er hand, I nev­er want­ed it to end. Also, “Love in the Time of Cholera,” by Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez. It sim­ply touched on so many aspects of human love.

Who is your favorite nov­el­ist of all time, and your favorite nov­el­ist writ­ing today?

I like the Rus­sians, the Chekhov short sto­ries, Tol­stoy and Dos­toyevsky. I nev­er read any of them until the past four years, and found them to be thor­ough­ly psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly mod­ern. Per­son­al favorites: “The Broth­ers Kara­ma­zov” and, of course, “Anna Karen­i­na.”

Cur­rent favorites: Philip Roth, Cor­mac McCarthy and Richard Ford. It’s hard to beat “Amer­i­can Pas­toral,” “I Mar­ried a Com­mu­nist” and “Sabbath’s The­ater.” Cor­mac McCarthy’s “Blood Merid­i­an” remains a water­mark in my read­ing. It’s the com­bi­na­tion of Faulkn­er and Ser­gio Leone’s spaghet­ti west­erns that gives the book its spark for me. I love the way Richard Ford writes about New Jer­sey. “The Sports­writer,” “Inde­pen­dence Day” and “The Lay of the Land” are all set on my stomp­ing grounds and, besides being poignant and hilar­i­ous, nail the Jer­sey Shore per­fect­ly.

The rest of the inter­view touch­es on his favorite New Jer­sey writer (had to ask that); the writ­ers who most inspired his song­writ­ing (spoil­er alert, Flan­nery O’Con­nor is one of them); his favorite book about music; the unex­pect­ed books on his shelves (hel­lo Bertrand Russell’s “The His­to­ry of West­ern Phi­los­o­phy”); and much more. Read the inter­view in its entire­ty here, and also see today’s Times piece on the new, open-access, aca­d­e­m­ic jour­nal about Spring­steen. It’s called Boss.

Note, you can find most of the clas­sic books he men­tions in our col­lec­tion, 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bruce Spring­steen Plays East Berlin in 1988: I’m Not Here For Any Gov­ern­ment. I’ve Come to Play Rock

Bruce Spring­steen and Pink Floyd Get Their First Schol­ar­ly Jour­nals and Aca­d­e­m­ic Con­fer­ences

Heat Map­ping the Rise of Bruce Spring­steen: How the Boss Went Viral in a Pre-Inter­net Era

Vintage Photos of Veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, Taken Circa 1858

Monsieur Moret of the 2nd Regiment 1814/15

His­to­ri­ans have debat­ed for cen­turies how Napoleon Bona­parte man­aged to turn the same men who once over­threw a king in the name of lib­erté, égal­ité  and fra­ter­nité into a for­mi­da­ble fight­ing force devot­ed to an emper­or. But that’s pre­cise­ly what he did. As he swept through Italy, Spain and Egypt, his army grew rapid­ly and not just with French troops. Pol­ish, Ger­man, Dutch and Ital­ian sol­diers took up arms under Napoleon’s ban­ner. In 1805, in a French vil­lage fac­ing the Eng­lish Chan­nel, Napoleon chris­tened his mas­sive multi­na­tion­al army the Grande Armée.

Monsieur Ducel Mameluke de la Garde  1813-1815.

Orig­i­nal­ly, the diminu­tive despot from Cor­si­ca planned to use the force to invade Britain but that ulti­mate­ly nev­er hap­pened. Instead, he direct­ed his force to take out some of his con­ti­nen­tal rivals. The Grande Armée destroyed the Holy Roman Empire at Auster­litz. After it forced the Aus­tri­ans into sub­mis­sion fol­low­ing the Bat­tle of Wagram in 1809, the Grande Armée set out for Napoleon’s dis­as­trous cam­paign in Rus­sia. As it marched towards Moscow in 1812, its ranks swelled to over a half mil­lion troops. As it retreat­ed, it was reduced to less than 120,000.

Monsieur Vitry Departmental Guard

Napoleon and the Grande Armée were final­ly defeat­ed in 1815 dur­ing the Bat­tle of Water­loo. And though Napoleon was igno­min­ious­ly exiled to Elba, he, and his army, con­tin­ued to be revered by the French. On the anniver­sary of his death, May 5th, vet­er­ans of the Napoleon­ic wars would pay homage to the Emper­or by march­ing in full uni­form through Paris’ Place Vendôme.

Quartermaster Fabry 1st Hussars

In 1858, some­one took por­traits of the vet­er­ans using that new­fan­gled tech­nol­o­gy called pho­tog­ra­phy. The men were well into old age when the pic­tures were tak­en, and some were clear­ly strug­gling to stay still for the length of the camera’s expo­sure. But they all look impres­sive in their uni­forms com­plete with epaulettes, medals, sash­es and plumes. You can see some of the images above. Click on each to enlarge them.

The pho­tographs, high­light­ed this week on Mash­able, come from a web­site host­ed by Brown Uni­ver­si­ty. There you can see more images from the col­lec­tion.

via Mash­able

Relat­ed Con­tent:

14,000 Free Images from the French Rev­o­lu­tion Now Avail­able Online

The First Col­or Pho­tos From World War I: The Ger­man Front

Napoleon: The Great­est Movie Stan­ley Kubrick Nev­er Made

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. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

44 Essential Movies for the Student of Philosophy

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “philo­soph­i­cal film”? The Matrix, most like­ly, an obvi­ous exam­ple of a movie—or franchise—that explores time­less ques­tions: Who are we? What is real­i­ty? Are our lives noth­ing more than elab­o­rate sim­u­la­tions pro­grammed by hyper­in­tel­li­gent super­com­put­ers? Okay, that last one may be of more recent vin­tage, but it’s close­ly relat­ed to that ancient cave alle­go­ry of Plato’s that asks us to con­sid­er whether our expe­ri­ences of the world are noth­ing more than illu­sions ema­nat­ing from a “real” world that lies hid­den from view. Anoth­er influ­ence on The Matrix is Rene Descartes, whose dual­is­tic sep­a­ra­tion of con­scious­ness and body receives the max­i­mum of dra­mat­ic treat­ment.

But The Matrix is only one film among a great many that con­cern them­selves with clas­sic prob­lems of phi­los­o­phy. In a 2010 post for Mubi, Matt Whit­lock com­piled a list of 44 “Essen­tial Movies for a Stu­dent of Phi­los­o­phy.” Along with The Matrix, oth­er films of the past cou­ple decades get men­tions—Richard Lin­klater’s Wak­ing Life, The Tru­man Show (“the true home of Plato’s Cave in mod­ern movies”), Eter­nal Sun­shine of the Spot­less Mind, I Heart Huck­abees, Being John Malkovich, Incep­tion. Also appear­ing on the list are clas­sics like Aki­ra Kurosawa’s Rashomon and Ing­mar Bergman’s The Sev­enth Seal—which illus­trates, Whit­lock writes, “The Angst of The Absurd.” All of these films appear under the sub­head­ing “Famous thought exper­i­ments or dis­cus­sion of a famous philo­soph­i­cal prob­lem.”

Anoth­er cat­e­go­ry on the list is “Movies fea­tur­ing a philoso­pher.” The media-savvy Slavoj Žižek gets two men­tions, for 2006’s The Pervert’s Guide to Cin­e­ma and 2005’s Žižek! (excerpt above). Since Whit­lock com­piled the list, Žižek has received yet anoth­er fea­ture-length treatment—2012’s The Pervert’s Guide to Ide­ol­o­gy. Astra Tay­lor, direc­tor of Žižek!, also includ­ed him in 2009’s The Exam­ined Life, along­side Peter Singer, Michael Hardt, Judith But­ler, Sunau­ra Tay­lor, and Cor­nel West. After the doc­u­men­taries, we have “Movies with philoso­pher as a char­ac­ter,” includ­ing Derek Jarman’s Wittgen­stein, with Clan­cy Chas­say as the iras­ci­ble logi­cian, Rober­to Rossellini’s 1958 Socrates, star­ring Jean Syl­vere in the title role, and, of course, Bill and Ted’s Excel­lent Adven­ture, with Tony Steed­man as “So-Crates.”

The final three sub­cat­e­gories in Whitlock’s list are “Movies fea­tur­ing the ideas of par­tic­u­lar philoso­phers,” “Movies based on Nov­els writ­ten by famous philoso­phers,” and “Oth­er.” In the last bas­ket, Whit­lock places the PBS string-the­o­ry doc­u­men­tary The Ele­gant Uni­verse and Finnish per­for­mance artist M.A. Numminen’s bizarre adap­ta­tion of Wittgenstein’s Trac­ta­tus. Whit­lock nar­rows the field by rul­ing out “movies that make you think deep crazy stuff” or those with “some new ‘exis­ten­tial twist’ on com­mon top­ics.” Instead, he sticks to those films “that (seem to be) incar­na­tions of clas­sic philo­soph­i­cal thought exper­i­ments or movies that have a major philo­soph­i­cal prob­lem as a main theme… that include top­ics that a seri­ous stu­dent of phi­los­o­phy needs to under­stand.”

Like most such lists, this one doesn’t claim to be defin­i­tive, and the four years since its com­pi­la­tion have pro­duced sev­er­al films that might war­rant inclu­sion. Yet anoth­er ref­er­ence from 2010—William G. Smith’s Socrates and Sub­ti­tles: A Philosopher’s Guide to 95 Thought-Pro­vok­ing Movies from Around the World—casts a wider net. But Whitlock’s list seems to me a very use­ful start­ing point for think­ing about the rela­tion­ship between phi­los­o­phy and film. Below, see the first ten films on the list:

Zizek! (2005)
Exam­ined Life (2008)
Der­ri­da (2002)
The Ister (2004)
The Pervert’s Guide To Cin­e­ma (2009)
Being In The World (2010)
Bill And Ted’s Excel­lent Adven­ture (2001)
When Niet­zsche Wept (2007)
The Last Days Of Immanuel Kant (1994)
The Alchemist Of Hap­pi­ness (2004)

Take a look at his full list here, and by all means, offer your own sug­ges­tions for films that fit the cri­te­ria in the com­ments sec­tion below.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Wittgen­stein: Watch Derek Jarman’s Trib­ute to the Philoso­pher, Fea­tur­ing Til­da Swin­ton (1993)

Watch The Real­i­ty of the Vir­tu­al: 74 Min­utes of Pure Slavoj Žižek (2004)

Watch The Idea, the First Ani­mat­ed Film to Deal with Big, Philo­soph­i­cal Ideas (1932)

Daniel Den­nett and Cor­nel West Decode the Phi­los­o­phy of The Matrix in 2004 Film

Two Ani­ma­tions of Plato’s Alle­go­ry of the Cave: One Nar­rat­ed by Orson Welles, Anoth­er Made with Clay

The Drink­ing Par­ty, 1965 Film Adapts Plato’s Sym­po­sium to Mod­ern Times

Down­load 100 Free Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es and Start Liv­ing the Exam­ined Life

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


Did Bach’s Wife Compose Some of “His” Masterpieces? A New Documentary Says Yes

You may have heard of, or indeed read, Aus­tralian con­duc­tor Mar­tin Jarvis’ 2011 book Writ­ten By Mrs. Bach, which inves­ti­gates the ques­tion of whether Johann Sebas­t­ian Bach’s “cel­lo suites were com­posed by the Ger­man musi­cian’s sec­ond wife, Anna Mag­dale­na Bach.” Now, the book has become a doc­u­men­tary — adding the no doubt enrich­ing ele­ment of sound to the pro­ceed­ings — whose trail­er you can watch above. In it, accord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Post, “a pro­fes­sor of music, a com­pos­er and an Amer­i­can expert in doc­u­ment foren­sics advance the case.”

“Prof Jarvis said he aims to over­turn the ‘sex­ist’ con­ven­tion that recog­nised com­posers were always a ‘sole male cre­ator,’ to final­ly rein­state Mrs Bach into the his­to­ry books,” writes the Tele­graph’s Han­nah Fur­ness. “While Anna is known to have tran­scribed for Bach in his lat­er years, researchers found the hand­writ­ing did not have the ‘slow­ness or heav­i­ness’ usu­al­ly attrib­uted to some­one who is mere­ly copy­ing, but was like­ly to have flowed from her own mind,” bol­stered by “numer­ous cor­rec­tions to scores writ­ten in her hand, sig­nalling she is like­ly to have been com­pos­ing it as she went along.” A ter­ri­bly intrigu­ing ques­tion, but as with the ques­tion of Shake­speare­an author­ship, who held the pen now mat­ters less than what came out of it.

The works under scruti­ny here include “Bach’s unac­com­pa­nied cel­lo suites, of which there are six — the first of them pop­u­lar­ized as the theme of the film Mas­ter and Com­man­der: The Far Side of the World”; “the aria that begins and ends per­haps the most famous key­board work of all time, The Gold­berg Vari­a­tions”; and “a por­tion of the two-book mas­ter­work orig­i­nal­ly com­posed for the harp­si­chord known as the The Well-Tem­pered Clavier.” That infor­ma­tion comes from the Post, who also offer clips of these pieces. We’ve embed­ded them here for you to enjoy — and, no mat­ter who wrote them, you cer­tain­ly will. How often in his­to­ry, after all, do you encounter both man and wife who can com­pose for the ages?

via The Wash­ing­ton Post

Relat­ed Con­tent:

All of Bach for Free! New Site Will Put Per­for­mances of 1080 Bach Com­po­si­tions Online

A Big Bach Down­load: All of Bach’s Organ Works for Free

The Genius of J.S. Bach’s “Crab Canon” Visu­al­ized on a Möbius Strip

Video: Glenn Gould Plays the Gold­berg Vari­a­tions by J.S. Bach

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Man Hauls a Piano Up a Mountain in Thailand and Plays Beethoven for Injured Elephants

If we’ve fea­tured Jazz for Cows on Open Cul­ture, then why not Clas­si­cal Music for Ele­phants? Actu­al­ly, they’re not just any ele­phants fea­tured above. They’re old, injured, hand­i­capped, some­times blind ele­phants who live in the moun­tains of Thai­land. And the gen­tle­man play­ing a slow move­ment from Beethoven’s “Pathé­tique Sonata” is Paul Bar­ton. On his Youtube chan­nel, Bar­ton men­tions that he hauled his piano into the moun­tains, to Ele­phantstay — a refuge for the ani­mals. And, emphat­i­cal­ly, he tells us that the piano’s keys are made of plas­tic, not of ivory, see­ing that the trade of ivory has caused ele­phants so much mis­ery.

Bar­ton has a playlist of 23 videos of ele­phants and his piano play­ing, the most viral of which was anoth­er clip where Bar­ton plays a 12 bar blues on the piano with Peter the Ele­phant. Peter’s par­tic­i­pa­tion was entire­ly impromp­tu and com­plete­ly of his own accord. You can see a pho­to gallery of Paul and the ele­phants here, and catch a radio inter­view with him here.

via Twist­ed Sifter

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Charlie Chaplin Does Cocaine and Saves the Day in Modern Times (1936)

When you think of drug movies, flicks like Easy Rid­er, Drug­store Cow­boy and pret­ty much every­thing by Cheech and Chong might spring to mind. Add to this list Char­lie Chap­lin’s mas­ter­piece Mod­ern Times. In the movie, Chaplin’s icon­ic Lit­tle Tramp char­ac­ter does a whole lot of blow and ends up a bet­ter man for it. You can see a clip above.

After get­ting mis­tak­en for a Com­mu­nist demon­stra­tor, the Tramp is thrown in the clink. In the prison mess hall, a hulk­ing pris­on­er sit­ting next to him refus­es to let him have any of the com­mu­nal bread. Mean­while, the shifty look­ing guy on the oth­er side of him dumps a bunch of “nose pow­der” into a salt­shak­er before get­ting hauled away by the prison guards. Chap­lin sprin­kles lib­er­al amounts of this “salt” on his meal and soon he starts show­ing all of the tell­tale symp­toms of cocaine use – bugged out eyes, exces­sive ener­gy and unshake­able self-con­fi­dence. He also shows some less com­mon side effects like com­pul­sive twirling and a propen­si­ty to jam food in his ear.

With his new­found chem­i­cal courage, Chap­lin not only faces down this thug­gish neigh­bor but he also sin­gle-hand­ed­ly thwarts a prison break. The author­i­ties are so pleased with Chaplin’s coke-addled hero­ics that they release him. So remem­ber, kids, drugs can get you out of (and more like­ly back into) jail.

Of course, this wasn’t the first time that Chap­lin depict­ed drug use in his movies. In his clas­sic short Easy Street, Chaplin’s love inter­est, a vir­ginal pastor’s daugh­ter, gets locked in a base­ment with a remark­ably ener­getic hero­in addict. You can watch it below. And if you’re jonesing for some more Chap­lin, there are 65 Free Chap­lin Movies you can watch right here.

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