Leonard Nimoy Recites Famous Soliloquy from Hamlet in Yiddish: “To Be or Not To Be”

Leonard Nimoy’s death yeste­day at the age of 83 is an enor­mous loss to fans across the world who loved and respect­ed the actor. Nimoy may have nev­er tran­scend­ed his Star Trek char­ac­ter Spock, though he tried, but he seemed to have made his peace with that, sign­ing his many wise tweets in the last few months of his life with the acronym “LLAP,” or “live long and pros­per,” the Vul­can farewell. The actor and his most famous char­ac­ter were very famil­iar to even non-fans of the show; Spock has come to rep­re­sent an arche­type of the dis­pas­sion­ate and ratio­nal, and Nimoy even­tu­al­ly immersed him­self in the Star Trek uni­verse, pen­ning Star Trek nov­els and con­tin­u­ing to star in the franchise’s many films (and in good natured car ads with his replace­ment). He was an ambas­sador for sci­ence fic­tion, and an ambas­sador for sci­ence fact, as a major donor to NASA and nar­ra­tor of sev­er­al films about astron­o­my.

Nimoy also had sev­er­al oth­er non- Trek endeav­ors of note, includ­ing his work as a pho­tog­ra­ph­er and nar­ra­tor of audio­books about, for exam­ple, whales. And while Spock fans watched the actor inhab­it the half-Vul­can, half-human character’s exis­ten­tial strug­gles with his iden­ti­ty, Nimoy the actor had his own dis­tinc­tive back­ground as the son of Ukrain­ian Jew­ish immi­grants. His par­ents escaped the town of Zaslav in what was then Sovi­et Rus­sia and emi­grat­ed to Boston’s West End, a neigh­bor­hood rough­ly 60 per­cent Ital­ian and 25–30 per­cent Jew­ish. It was a place—Nimoy says in the engag­ing 10 minute excerpt above from an inter­view with Christa Whitney—where the Ital­ians spoke Yid­dish and the Jews spoke Ital­ian (Nimoy speaks some Yid­dish, some famous lines from Ham­let!, above).

Nimoy remem­bers his per­son­al his­to­ry, his par­ents’ bemuse­ment with Spock, and his own iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with the famous char­ac­ter: “Spock is an alien wher­ev­er he is,” says Nimoy, “not total­ly at home in the Vul­can cul­ture… not total­ly at home in the human cul­ture. And that alien­ation is some­thing that I had learned in Boston… so I under­stood that aspect of the char­ac­ter.” The inter­view was taped in Octo­ber of 2013 as part of the Yid­dish Book Center’s Wexler Oral His­to­ry Project. As we grieve the loss of Nimoy-as-Spock, it’s a fit­ting way to get to know much more about the man him­self. Hear much more of Nimoy’s Yid­dish and much more about his life in the full, two-hour inter­view below. You can find basic Yid­dish lessons in our col­lec­tion, Learn 48 Lan­guages Online for Free: Span­ish, Chi­nese, Eng­lish & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Leonard Nimoy Reads Ray Brad­bury Sto­ries From The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles & The Illus­trat­ed Man (1975–76)

Leonard Nimoy Nar­rates Short Film About NASA’s Dawn: A Voy­age to the Ori­gins of the Solar Sys­tem

Brian Eno Lists the Benefits of Singing: A Long Life, Increased Intelligence, and a Sound Civilization


Image via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

In Bri­an Eno’s A Year with Swollen Appen­dices, one of my very favorite books, the well-known rock pro­duc­er, visu­al artist, and “non-musi­cian” musi­cian writes out all the things he is, includ­ing “mam­mal,” “celebri­ty,” “wine-lover,” “non-dri­ver,” “prag­ma­tist,” and “drift­ing clar­i­fi­er.” The list gives us a kind of overview of the man’s many facets, as well as of the many facets we all have, but it does­n’t men­tion one of his most impor­tant roles: that of a singer.

Even with­in the realm of music, you might not imme­di­ate­ly asso­ciate Eno (who there made his name spout­ing syn­the­sized sounds into Roxy Music’s ear­ly records, cre­ative­ly shak­ing up big acts like David Bowie and U2, and pret­ty much invent­ing the word­less ambi­ent genre) with singing. But of course he’s done it since his ear­li­est solo albums and con­tin­ues to do it on rel­a­tive­ly recent ones, and you can hear sam­ples of both here in this post.

“I believe in singing,” says Eno. “I believe in singing togeth­er.” He expounds upon this belief in an NPR seg­ment called “Singing: The Key to a Long Life.” He also cred­its the prac­tice with the abil­i­ty to ensure “a good fig­ure, a sta­ble tem­pera­ment, increased intel­li­gence, new friends, super self-con­fi­dence, height­ened sex­u­al attrac­tive­ness and a bet­ter sense of humor.” It offers the chance to “use your lungs in a way that you prob­a­bly don’t for the rest of your day, breath­ing deeply and open­ly,” to expe­ri­ence “a sense of lev­i­ty and con­tent­ed­ness,” and to “learn how to sub­sume your­self into a group con­scious­ness.”

Beyond sim­ply, er, singing the prais­es of singing, Eno also explains just how he goes about his own prac­tice, reg­u­lar­ly bring­ing togeth­er not just friends will­ing to sing, but “some drinks, some snacks, some sheets of lyrics and a strict start­ing time” — all cen­tered around a care­ful­ly curat­ed selec­tion of songs. Years of this have con­vinced Eno of singing’s impor­tance to our very civ­i­liza­tion, to the point that, as he says, “if I were asked to redesign the British edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem, I would start by insist­ing that group singing become a cen­tral part of the dai­ly rou­tine. I believe it builds char­ac­ter and, more than any­thing else, encour­ages a taste for co-oper­a­tion with oth­ers.” And it would cer­tain­ly encour­age whichev­er stu­dent turns out to be the next, well, Bri­an Eno.

P.S. Here’s Eno’s Group-Sing Song List:

Can’t Help Falling In Love
Love Me Ten­der
Keep On the Sun­ny Side
Six­teen Tons
Will the Cir­cle Be Unbro­ken
If I Had a Ham­mer
Love Hurts
I’ll Fly Away
Down By the River­side
Chapel of Love
Wild Moun­tain Thyme
Que Sera, Sera
Cot­ton Fields

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jump Start Your Cre­ative Process with Bri­an Eno’s “Oblique Strate­gies”

Bri­an Eno on Cre­at­ing Music and Art As Imag­i­nary Land­scapes (1989)

How David Byrne and Bri­an Eno Make Music Togeth­er: A Short Doc­u­men­tary

David Bowie & Bri­an Eno’s Col­lab­o­ra­tion on “Warsza­wa” Reimag­ined in Com­ic Ani­ma­tion

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture as well as the video series The City in Cin­e­ma 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.

Leonard Nimoy Reads Ray Bradbury Stories From The Martian Chronicles & The Illustrated Man (1975–76)

Ray Brad­bury, author of The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles and Fahren­heit 451, con­tributed to sci­ence fic­tion a high­ly dis­tinc­tive voice; the now depart­ed Leonard NimoyStar Trek’s Mr. Spock, also con­tributed to sci­ence fic­tion a high­ly dis­tinc­tive voice. In the mid-sev­en­ties, a pair of record albums came out that togeth­er offered a tru­ly sin­gu­lar lis­ten­ing expe­ri­ence: the voice of Brad­bury in the voice of Nimoy.

1975’s The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles and 1976’s The Illus­trat­ed Man con­tain Nimoy’s ren­di­tions of two well-known sto­ries, one per side, from each of Brad­bury’s epony­mous books. At the top of the post, you can hear The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles’There Will Come Soft Rains,” and just below, “Ush­er II.” At the bot­tom of the post, we have The Illus­trat­ed Man’s “The Veldt” and “Mar­i­onettes Inc.” You can also hear both sides of the albums in a sin­gle Youtube playlist.

In our inter­net age, with its abun­dance of down­load­able audio and mobile media deliv­ery sys­tems, we’ve grown thor­ough­ly accus­tomed to the idea of the audio book. But 40 years ago, in the age of twelve-inch vinyl discs that could bare­ly hold 45 min­utes of con­tent, the ful­ly real­ized con­cept must have seemed more like some­thing we would thrill to Brad­bury him­self writ­ing about, or Nimoy him­self using on tele­vi­sion. But the vision­ar­ies in this case worked at the record label Caed­mon, “a pio­neer in the audio­book busi­ness,” accord­ing to the Inter­net Archive, “the first com­pa­ny to sell spo­ken word record­ings to the pub­lic,” and “the ‘seed’ of the audio­book indus­try.” They grew famous putting out record­ings of lit­er­ary lumi­nar­ies read­ing their own work: Dylan Thomas read­ing Dylan Thomas, T.S. Eliot read­ing T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein read­ing Gertrude Stein. But to my mind — or to my ear, any­way — the best of it hap­pened at the inter­sec­tions, like this one, of an era-defin­ing author, and a dif­fer­ent era-defin­ing read­er.

 The Veldt

Mar­i­onettes Inc.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Leonard Nimoy Nar­rates Short Film About NASA’s Dawn: A Voy­age to the Ori­gins of the Solar Sys­tem

Ray Brad­bury: “The Things That You Love Should Be Things That You Do.” “Books Teach Us That”

Ray Brad­bury: Sto­ry of a Writer 1963 Film Cap­tures the Para­dox­i­cal Late Sci-Fi Author

Ray Brad­bury Gives 12 Pieces of Writ­ing Advice to Young Authors (2001)

Ray Brad­bury: Lit­er­a­ture is the Safe­ty Valve of Civ­i­liza­tion

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.

Guidelines for Handling William Faulkner’s Drinking During Foreign Trips From the US State Department (1955)


Image by Carl Van Vecht­en, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

There’s a polite turn of phrase I’ve always found amus­ing, if a lit­tle sad; when some­one has too much to drink at a social func­tion and embar­rass­es him or her­self, we say the per­son has been “over­served.” This euphemism gra­cious­ly lays the blame at the host’s feet rather than the some­times shame­faced imbiber’s, sug­gest­ing that a good host cares enough about his or her guests—whether they be light­weights or binge-drink­ing alcoholics—to mon­i­tor their intake and keep things on an even keel. In the case of one noto­ri­ous­ly hard-drink­ing guest, nov­el­ist William Faulkn­er, this respon­si­bil­i­ty became much more than the tact­ful bur­den of a few friends. Keep­ing an eye on the writer’s drink­ing became a man­date of State Depart­ment offi­cers at the U.S. Infor­ma­tion Agency dur­ing Faulkn­er’s offi­cial trips abroad.


Since his 1950 Nobel win—writes Greg Barn­his­el at Slate—Faulkn­er was in high demand as a Cold War good­will ambas­sador for Amer­i­can cul­ture, along with Martha Gra­ham, John Updike, and Louis Arm­strong, all “liv­ing proof that Amer­i­ca wasn’t just Mick­ey Mouse and chew­ing gum.” Unfor­tu­nate­ly, as most every­one knows, “the author had a bit of a drink­ing prob­lem.” Dur­ing a 1955 vis­it to Japan, for exam­ple, he got so drunk at the wel­come recep­tion “that the U.S. ambas­sador ordered he be put on the next plane back to the states.” U.S. offi­cials may have been embar­rassed, but the Japan­ese, it seems, did not feel that Faulkner’s drink­ing was a hin­drance. Accord­ing to Dr. Leon Picon, books offi­cer at the Tokyo embassy, the writer’s hosts “didn’t see any­thing wrong with the amount of drink that he had, and they under­stood when he went off com­plete­ly, and was not com­mu­ni­ca­ble again….” Rather than send Faulkn­er home, Picon found ways to make sure his guest was nev­er over­served.


Picon—whom Faulkn­er called his “wet nurse”—composed and dis­creet­ly cir­cu­lat­ed a doc­u­ment called “Guide­lines for Han­dling Mr. William Faulkn­er on His Trips Abroad.” These instruc­tions came from Picon’s obser­va­tions that Faulkn­er “fared bet­ter… when there was lit­tle time for con­cert­ed drink­ing.” Of the Japan­ese vis­it Faulkn­er biog­ra­ph­er David Mint­ner writes:

Giv­en shrewd­ly arranged sched­ules and care­ful­ly arranged audi­ences, Faulkn­er talked eas­i­ly about books, war, and race, hunt­ing, farm­ing, and sail­ing. Although his man­ners remained for­mal and his replies for­mu­la­ic, he seemed poised and respon­sive.

Barn­his­el quotes among Picon’s guide­lines for assur­ing a smooth vis­it the fol­low­ing:

  • “Keep sev­er­al pret­ty young girls in the front two rows of any pub­lic appear­ance to keep his atten­tion up”
  • “Put some­one in charge of his liquor at all times so that he doesn’t drink too quick­ly”
  • “Do not allow him to ven­ture out on his own with­out an escort”

As the declas­si­fied mem­o­ran­da above tes­ti­fy (click once, and then again, to view them in a larg­er for­mat), the instruc­tions helped oth­er for­eign ser­vice offi­cers to suc­cess­ful­ly nav­i­gate the writer’s habits. In the memo near the top of the post with the odd­ly-word­ed sub­ject “Exploita­tion of Faulkn­er Vis­it,” Dr. Picon is laud­ed for “humor­ing and han­dling Mr. Faulkn­er,” and his guide­lines cred­it­ed with being “effec­tive and vital to the suc­cess of the whole tour.” The memo just above—written in need­less­ly wordy bureau­cratese, appar­ent­ly by none oth­er than J. Edgar Hoover—commends Picon in more detail:

The Depart­ment wish­es to com­mend Mr. Leon Picon for the superb job he did in describ­ing a pro­ce­dure for devel­op­ing a pro­gram for Mr. Faulkn­er in oth­er coun­tries.

In his book Cold War Mod­ernists, Barn­his­el, a pro­fes­sor at Duquesne Uni­ver­si­ty, notes that Faulkn­er con­tin­ued to rep­re­sent the U.S. abroad, in trips to Greece and Venezuela, and though his drink­ing remained a chal­lenge for his gov­ern­ment han­dlers, the trips were deemed unqual­i­fied suc­cess­es.

via Slate

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Drink­ing with William Faulkn­er: The Writer Had a Taste for The Mint Julep & Hot Tod­dy

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

William Faulkn­er Reads His Nobel Prize Speech

Free Online Lit­er­a­ture Cours­es, part of our larg­er col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties

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

Cartoonist Lynda Barry Shows You How to Draw Batman in Her UW-Madison Course, “Making Comics”

How do you draw Bat­man?

Don’t say you don’t, or that you can’t. Accord­ing to car­toon­ist and edu­ca­tor Lyn­da Bar­ry, we’re all capa­ble of get­ting Bat­man down on paper in one form or anoth­er.

He may not resem­ble Adam West or Michael Keaton or any­thing artists Frank Miller or Neal Adams might ren­der, but so what?

You have the abil­i­ty to cre­ate a rec­og­niz­able Bat­man because Batman’s basic shape is uni­ver­sal­ly agreed upon, much like that of a car or a cat. Whether you know it or not, you have inter­nal­ized that basic shape. This alone con­fers a degree of pro­fi­cien­cy.

As proof of that, Bar­ry would ask you to draw him in 15 sec­onds. A time con­straint of that order has no room for fret­ting and self doubt. Only fren­zied scrib­bling.

It also lev­els the play­ing field a bit. At 15 sec­onds, a novice’s Bat­man can hold his own against that of a skilled draftsper­son.

Try it. Did you get pointy ears? A cape? A mask of some sort? Legs?

I’ll bet you did.

Barry Batman 1

Once you’ve proved to your­self that you can draw Bat­man, you’re ready to tack­le a more com­plex assign­ment: per­haps a four pan­el strip in which Bat­man throws up and screams.

This is prob­a­bly a lot eas­i­er than draw­ing him scal­ing the side of a build­ing or bat­tling the Jok­er. Why? Per­son­al expe­ri­ence. Any­body who’s ever lost his or her lunch can draw on the cel­lu­lar mem­o­ry of that event.

Fold a piece of paper into quar­ters and give it a whirl.

Then reward your­self with the video up top, a col­lec­tion of stu­dent-cre­at­ed work from the Mak­ing Comics class Bar­ry taught last fall at the great Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin.

You may notice that many of the Bat­men there­in sport big, round heads. Like the 15-sec­ond rule, this is the influ­ence of Ivan Brunet­ti, author of Car­toon­ing: Phi­los­o­phy and Prac­tice, a book Bar­ry ref­er­ences in both her class­es and the recent­ly pub­lished Syl­labus: Notes from an Acci­den­tal Pro­fes­sor.

With everyone’s Bat­man rock­ing a Char­lie Brown-sized nog­gin and sim­ple rub­ber hose style limbs, there’s less temp­ta­tion to get bogged down in com­par­isons.

Okay, so maybe some peo­ple are bet­ter than oth­ers when it comes to draw­ing toi­lets. No big­gie. Keep at it. We improve through prac­tice, and you can’t prac­tice if you don’t start.

Barry Batman 2

Once you’ve drawn Bat­man throw­ing up and scream­ing, there’s no end to the pos­si­bil­i­ties. Bar­ry has an even big­ger col­lec­tion of stu­dent work (sec­ond video above), in which you’ll find the Caped Cru­sad­er doing laun­dry, using a lap­top, call­ing in sick to work, read­ing Under­stand­ing Comics, eat­ing Saltines… all the stuff one would expect giv­en that part of the orig­i­nal assign­ment was to envi­sion one­self as Bat­man.

More of Lyn­da Barry’s Bat­man-relat­ed draw­ing phi­los­o­phy from Syl­labus can be found above and down below:

Barry Batman 3

Barry Batman 4

Barry Batman 5

No mat­ter what any­one tells you (see below), there’s no right way to draw Bat­man!


Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Lyn­da Barry’s Won­der­ful­ly Illus­trat­ed Syl­labus & Home­work Assign­ments from Her UW-Madi­son Class, “The Unthink­able Mind”

Lyn­da Bar­ry, Car­toon­ist Turned Pro­fes­sor, Gives Her Old Fash­ioned Take on the Future of Edu­ca­tion

Car­toon­ist Lyn­da Bar­ry Reveals the Best Way to Mem­o­rize Poet­ry

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

Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov Strikingly Illustrated by Expressionist Painter Alice Neel (1938)


Images belong to The Estate of Alice Neel.

We all know the rep­u­ta­tion of 19th-cen­tu­ry Russ­ian nov­els: long, dense bricks of pure prose, freight­ed with deep moral con­cerns and, to the unini­ti­at­ed, enlivened only by a con­fus­ing far­ra­go of patronymics. And sure, while they may have a bit of a learn­ing curve to them, these clas­sic works of lit­er­a­ture also, so their advo­cates assure us, boast plen­ty to keep them rel­e­vant today — just the qual­i­ty, of course, that makes them clas­sic works of lit­er­a­ture in the first place.


While we should by all means read them, that does­n’t mean we can’t get a taste of these much-dis­cussed books before we heft them and turn to page one by, for exam­ple, check­ing out their illus­tra­tions. These vary in qual­i­ty with the edi­tions, of course, but how much of the art that has ever accom­pa­nied, say, Fyo­dor Dos­toyevsky’s The Broth­ers Kara­ma­zov has looked quite as evoca­tive as the nev­er-pub­lished illus­tra­tions here? They come from the hand of the Penn­syl­va­nia-born artist Alice Neel, com­mis­sioned in the 1930s for an edi­tion of the nov­el that nev­er saw the print­ing press.


The Paris Review’s Dan Piepen­berg, post­ing eight of Neel’s illus­tra­tions, high­lights “how attuned these two sen­si­bil­i­ties are: it’s the mar­riage of one kind of dark­ness to anoth­er”; “the black storm cloud of Neel’s pen is well suit­ed to Dostoyevsky’s ques­tions of God, rea­son, and doubt.” And yet Neel also man­ages to express the nov­el­’s “mad­ness and com­e­dy,” bring­ing “a man­ic bathos to these scenes that lends them both grav­i­ty and lev­i­ty; in every wide, glassy pair of eyes, grave ques­tions of moral cer­ti­tude are under­cut by the absurd.”

You can see all of eight of Neel’s Kara­ma­zov illus­tra­tions at The Paris Review, not that they pro­vide a sub­sti­tute for read­ing the nov­el itself (which you can find in our col­lec­tion of Free eBooks). After all, that’s the only way to find out what exact­ly hap­pens at that bac­cha­nal just above.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Fyo­dor Dos­to­evsky Draws Elab­o­rate Doo­dles In His Man­u­scripts

Albert Camus Talks About Adapt­ing Dos­toyevsky for the The­atre, 1959

Crime and Pun­ish­ment by Fyo­dor Dos­toyevsky Told in a Beau­ti­ful­ly Ani­mat­ed Film by Piotr Dumala

The Dig­i­tal Dos­to­evsky: Down­load Free eBooks & Audio Books of the Russ­ian Novelist’s Major Works

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture as well as the video series The City in Cin­e­ma 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.

Cult Films by Kubrick, Tarantino & Wes Anderson Re-imagined as 8‑Bit Video Games

Now clos­ing in on 50 episodes, David Dut­ton’s 8‑Bit Cin­e­ma series for Cine­Flix cel­e­brates and cri­tiques the increas­ing video game qual­i­ties of action films. Or maybe it’s a nos­tal­gic do-over of a child­hood spent watch­ing great films turned into ter­ri­ble games and your favorite games turned into ter­ri­ble films. 8‑Bit Cin­e­ma imag­ines pop­u­lar and clas­sic movies turned into NES-era con­sole games, with the movie’s plot imag­ined as a “per­fect run,” as gamers call it.

Their ver­sion of Guardians of the Galaxy (watch it here) quotes Mega­man, Capcom’s 1987 hit game that is still spawn­ing sequels, and con­fines its action to a plat­form shoot­er, which, in a way, describes James Gunn’s film. (But dig that 8‑bit ver­sion of “The Pina Cola­da Song,” man!). The film adapts too well to a video game, and that may be its prob­lem.

Things get more inter­est­ing when Dutton’s cre­ative team tack­les films in the cult canon. One of their favorites, Pulp Fic­tion com­bines sev­er­al game gen­res: Dance Dance Rev­o­lu­tion for the Jack Rab­bit Slim sequence, side scrollers for the gun (and samu­rai sword)-heavy action, and more. But what 8‑Bit Cin­e­ma had to do was straight­en out Tarantino’s non-lin­ear nar­ra­tive, allow­ing the “play­er” to change char­ac­ters from Vince to Butch after their unfor­tu­nate meet­ing, and ditch all that won­der­ful dia­log. This 2 1/2 minute ver­sion quotes plen­ty of rare video games, just like Taran­ti­no quotes movies.

The Shin­ing is one of two Kubrick films the team has attempt­ed, the oth­er one being A Clock­work Orange. The Shin­ing one works bet­ter as Kubrick’s exam­i­na­tions of domes­tic vio­lence are ren­dered even ici­er (no pun intend­ed) through typ­i­cal vio­lent game­play, and tense con­fronta­tions between Jack and Wendy are reduced to emo­tion­less exchanges. The video ref­er­ences 1987’s Mani­ac Man­sion, appro­pri­ate­ly enough, which itself was a trib­ute to hor­ror movie clich­es.

Wes Anderson’s ship set from The Life Aquat­ic with Steve Zis­sou was designed much like a plat­form game, so the 8‑Bit Cin­e­ma team had an eas­i­er job with this one, and threw in ref­er­ences to Met­al Gear Sol­id to boot. Judg­ing from the com­ments, the 8‑Bit death of Ned still man­ages to pull the ol’ heart­strings, but the nar­ra­tive remains just as inscrutable.

The take­away here might be this: The bet­ter the film, the less it can con­form to the sim­plis­tic plots, puz­zle play, and point-scor­ing vio­lence that make video games fun to play. And while video games are undoubt­ed­ly a form of art, there’s a large gulf between them and cin­e­ma.

Cur­rent­ly Dutton’s crew man­ages one 8‑Bit Cin­e­ma short a month. For a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to put three min­utes of nos­tal­gic bliss togeth­er, check this out:

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills and/or watch his films here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

8‑Bit Phi­los­o­phy: Pla­to, Sartre, Der­ri­da & Oth­er Thinkers Explained With Vin­tage Video Games

The Inter­net Arcade Lets You Play 900 Vin­tage Video Games in Your Web Brows­er (Free)

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mas­ter­piece Stalk­er Gets Adapt­ed into a Video Game

George Orwell Creates a Who’s Who List of “Crypto” Communists for British Intelligence Forces (1949)


Jour­nal­ist and nov­el­ist Eric Blair, known for all of his pro­fes­sion­al life by the pen name George Orwell, staunch­ly iden­ti­fied him­self as a demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ist. For exam­ple, in his slim 1946 pub­li­ca­tion Why I Write, he declared, “Every line of seri­ous work I have writ­ten since 1936 has been writ­ten, direct­ly or indi­rect­ly, against total­i­tar­i­an­ism and for demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ism as I under­stand it.” Despite the wide­spread blur­ring of lines these days between social­ism and communism—whether through igno­rance or delib­er­ate misleading—the dis­tinc­tion was not lost on Orwell. Though he sup­port­ed an equi­table dis­tri­b­u­tion of wealth and pub­lic insti­tu­tions for the com­mon good, he fierce­ly opposed Sovi­et com­mu­nism as anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic and oppres­sive. As Orwell biog­ra­ph­er John Newsinger writes, one “cru­cial dimen­sion to Orwell’s social­ism was his recog­ni­tion that the Sovi­et Union was not social­ist. Unlike many on the left, instead of aban­don­ing social­ism once he dis­cov­ered the full hor­ror of Stal­in­ist rule in the Sovi­et Union, Orwell aban­doned the Sovi­et Union and instead remained a social­ist.”

Of course, Orwell’s anti-com­mu­nist sen­ti­ments are famil­iar to every stu­dent who has read Ani­mal Farm. Less well known is the degree to which he con­tributed to anti-com­mu­nist pro­pa­gan­da, even cor­re­spond­ing with British secret ser­vices and keep­ing a black­list of writ­ers he deemed either “cryp­tos” (secret com­mu­nists), “fel­low trav­ellers” (com­mu­nist sym­pa­thiz­ers), or out­right mem­bers of the Com­mu­nist Par­ty. Orwell’s involve­ment with the Infor­ma­tion Research Depart­ment (IRD), a pro­pa­gan­da unit formed in 1948 under the UK’s For­eign Office to com­bat Stal­in­ism at home and abroad has received a good deal of atten­tion in the past few decades, in part because of the dis­cov­ery in 2003 of a pri­vate note­book con­tain­ing his orig­i­nal list. Even before this rev­e­la­tion, biog­ra­phers and his­to­ri­ans had known about the list, which Orwell includ­ed, in part, in a let­ter to his love inter­est Celia Kir­wan, who worked for the IRD, with the instruc­tions that she keep it secret due to its “libelous” nature. Orwell intend­ed that the writ­ers on the list not be asked to work for the IRD because, in his esti­ma­tion, they were peo­ple who could not be trust­ed.

Reac­tions to Orwell’s list have been very mixed. When the sto­ry first broke in the late nineties, Orwell’s long­time friend Michael Foot said he found the list “amaz­ing” and out of char­ac­ter. One of the peo­ple named, Nor­man Macken­zie, ascribed the list to Orwell’s ill­ness, say­ing that the writer was “los­ing his grip on him­self” in 1949 dur­ing his final strug­gle with the tuber­cu­lo­sis that killed him that year. Orwell biog­ra­ph­er Bernard Crick defend­ed his actions, writ­ing, “He did it because he thought the Com­mu­nist Par­ty was a total­i­tar­i­an men­ace. He wasn’t denounc­ing these peo­ple as sub­ver­sives. He was denounc­ing them as unsuit­able for counter-intel­li­gence oper­a­tion.” On the oth­er hand, late left­ist fire­brand jour­nal­ist Alexan­der Cock­burn con­demned Orwell as a “snitch” and thought the list was evi­dence of Orwell’s big­otry, giv­en his sus­pi­cion of Paul Robe­son as “anti-white” and his denounc­ing of oth­ers due to their rumored homo­sex­u­al­i­ty or Jew­ish back­ground. He makes a com­pelling case. What­ev­er Orwell’s moti­va­tions, the effect on the named indi­vid­u­als’ pro­fes­sion­al and polit­i­cal lives was mild, to say the least. This was hard­ly a McCarthyite witch-hunt. Nonethe­less, it’s a lit­tle hard for admir­ers of Orwell not to wince at this col­lab­o­ra­tion with the state secret ser­vice.

Below, see the list he sub­mit­ted to Kir­wan in his let­ter. Fur­ther down is a list of names, includ­ing those of Orson Welles and Kather­ine Hep­burn, that appeared in his note­book but not on the list he gave to the IRD.

Writ­ers and jour­nal­ists

Aca­d­e­mics and sci­en­tists


Labour MPs


Peo­ple named in Orwell’s note­book, but not appear­ing on the final IRD list:

Relat­ed Con­tent:

George Orwell Explains in a Reveal­ing 1944 Let­ter Why He’d Write 1984

George Orwell Reviews Mein Kampf (1940)

George Orwell’s Five Great­est Essays (as Select­ed by Pulitzer-Prize Win­ning Colum­nist Michael Hiltzik)

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

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