Kickstart a Documentary on Emily Dickinson, Narrated by Cynthia Nixon

Lat­er this year, Hur­ri­cane Films will release A Qui­et Pas­sion, a film about Emi­ly Dick­in­son, which will be direct­ed by Ter­ence Davies and star Cyn­thia Nixon as the great Amer­i­can poet.

But that’s not where their ambi­tions end. If they can get your sup­port on Kick­starter, Hur­ri­cane Films also hopes to make a doc­u­men­tary (nar­rat­ed by Nixon) that will take every­one deep­er into Dick­in­son’s life & times. You can learn more about the promis­ing film–tentatively to be called Phos­pho­res­cence: A Film about the Life of Emi­ly Dick­in­son–in the video above, or the text down below. Please note: If you’re inclined to sup­port this kind of enrich­ing project, please do so now. There are only a few short days left in the Kick­starter cam­paign:

The doc­u­men­tary will be an essen­tial com­pan­ion piece to the nar­ra­tive. Nar­rat­ed by Cyn­thia Nixon (who plays Emi­ly in the fea­ture film) PHOSPHORESCENCE will take us on a jour­ney through the sea­sons of Emi­ly’s life in mid 1800’s New Eng­land as we engage with her pas­sion­ate rela­tion­ships via her let­ters and poems. Emily’s deep love of hor­ti­cul­ture and music as well as her close­ness to her fam­i­ly and friends will form a rich tapes­try — com­bin­ing ele­ments of a nat­ur­al his­to­ry film and a Koy­aanisqat­si-esque trav­el­ogue. Togeth­er with an ensem­ble cast of high­ly rec­og­nized actors lend­ing their voic­es to her many cor­re­spon­dences not dis­sim­i­lar in tone and feel to Ken Burns’ Amer­i­can Civ­il War. And with the dif­fer­ing views and inter­pre­ta­tions of her poet­ry by con­tem­po­rary experts we aim to weave a sto­ry that will both sur­prise, delight and throw light on some con­tro­ver­sial opin­ion from unex­pect­ed quar­ters.

The doc­u­men­tary will endeav­or to reflect qual­i­ties inspired by its sub­ject, Emi­ly Dick­in­son – deft words, pas­sion­ate beliefs, sear­ing indi­vid­u­al­i­ty and a great sto­ry well told. The film has the sup­port of the Emi­ly Dick­in­son Muse­um and will be com­plet­ed in mid 2016.

Get more infor­ma­tion and make a con­tri­bu­tion over on Kick­starter.

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 Online Emi­ly Dick­in­son Archive Makes Thou­sands of the Poet’s Man­u­scripts Freely Avail­able

Emi­ly Dickinson’s Hand­writ­ten Coconut Cake Recipe Hints at How Bak­ing Fig­ured Into Her Cre­ative Process

The Sec­ond Known Pho­to of Emi­ly Dick­in­son Emerges

Watch an Ani­mat­ed Film of Emi­ly Dickinson’s Poem ‘I Start­ed Early–Took My Dog’

Free Online Lit­er­a­ture Cours­es

Who Was Afraid of Ray Bradbury & Science Fiction? The FBI, It Turns Out (1959)

ray bradbury fbi fb

When you think of the most astute minds of our time, you might well think of Ray Brad­bury’s — but you prob­a­bly don’t think of him as one of the most astute ter­ror­ist minds of our time. The Fed­er­al Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion, how­ev­er, saw things dif­fer­ent­ly. Col­lab­o­ra­tive news site Muck­Rock found that out through files “released to for­mer Muck­Rock­er Inkoo Kang [which] doc­u­ment the decade the Bureau spent try­ing to deter­mine if Brad­bury was, if not a card-car­ry­ing Com­mu­nist, at least a sym­pa­thet­ic ‘fel­low trav­el­er.’ ” See snip­pets of doc­u­ments here from 1959.


You can view the files them­selves, obtained under the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act, at Muck­Rock. There, the site’s JPat Brown also sum­ma­rizes the orga­ni­za­tion’s basis for sus­pi­cion against the author: his “mem­ber­ship in the Screen Writer’s Guild, as well as his vocal oppo­si­tion to McCarthy­ism, drew par­tic­u­lar atten­tion,” as did the use in The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles of the “repeat­ed theme that earth­men are despoil­ers and not devel­op­ers.” Not just Brad­bury’s work but the whole of sci­ence fic­tion, which infor­mant Mar­tin Berke­ley calls a pos­si­bly “lucra­tive field for the intro­duc­tion of Com­mu­nist ide­ol­o­gy,” comes in for an indict­ment.


“Com­mu­nists have found fer­tile oppor­tu­ni­ties for devel­op­ment,” Berke­ley says, “for spread­ing dis­trust and lack of con­fi­dence in Amer­i­ca [sic] insti­tu­tions in the area of Sci­ence Fic­tion writ­ing.” Anoth­er, unsur­pris­ing­ly clear­er view of the genre comes from Brad­bury him­self, quot­ed dis­ap­prov­ing­ly in the file from a 1959 Wom­en’s Leg­isla­tive Action Bul­letin. There, he said he uses the medi­um of sci­ence fic­tion to “try to bring to light some of the cur­rent fal­lac­i­es in human val­ues today” — the one thing, as the author of Fahren­heit 451 must have known full well, that the pow­ers that be least want any­body to do. Get more at Muck­Rock.


via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ray Brad­bury: “I Am Not Afraid of Robots. I Am Afraid of Peo­ple” (1974)

Ray Brad­bury: Lit­er­a­ture is the Safe­ty Valve of Civ­i­liza­tion

Sovi­et Ani­ma­tions of Ray Brad­bury Sto­ries: ‘Here There Be Tygers’ & ‘There Will Comes Soft Rain’

FBI’s “Vault” Web Site Reveals Declas­si­fied Files on Hem­ing­way, Ein­stein, Mar­i­lyn & Oth­er Icons

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Stream 36 Recordings of Legendary Grateful Dead Concerts Free Online (aka Dick’s Picks)

Image via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

There’s no short­age of Grate­ful Dead con­certs freely avail­able on the web. Indeed, head over to and you’ll find hun­dreds of Dead shows, some going as far back as the 1960s. But when you start rum­mag­ing around, you’ll dis­cov­er that some nights were mag­ic, while many oth­ers fell far short. That’s why we can be thank­ful that Dick­’s Picks came along. Named after the band’s tape archivist Dick Lat­vala, Dick­’s Picks (released between 1993 and 2005) fea­tured 36 volumes/albums of Grate­ful Dead con­certs, all sourced from sound­board record­ings cap­tured on two-track mas­ter tapes. The record­ings, as Tony Sclafani notes in The Grate­ful Dead FAQ, gave every­one a chance to “expe­ri­ence what going to a clas­sic Dead show was like” — “to eas­i­ly access record­ings of leg­endary shows.”

Caught up in some Grate­ful Dead nos­tal­gia myself, I quick­ly real­ized that all 36 vol­umes of Dick­’s Picks are avail­able on Spo­ti­fy — at no cost. As much for my own musi­cal edi­fi­ca­tion as for yours, I’ve cre­at­ed a list below. (Some of you might have a beef with Spo­ti­fy, or want to own your own copies, so I’ve includ­ed Ama­zon links too.) You can reg­is­ter for Spo­ti­fy and down­load the free soft­ware here.

Dead fans will sure­ly argue over which Dick­’s Picks are the best. But, from what I’ve seen, Vol. 4 (above), Vol. 8, Vol. 10, and Vol. 12. offer great places to begin.

And although it does­n’t appear in the Dick­’s Picks series, you can find on what’s often con­sid­ered one of the Dead­’s finest live record­ings — their May 8, 1977 con­cert in Bar­ton Hall, at Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty.

Also, if you’re look­ing for a good intro­duc­tion to the Dead­’s musi­cal career, lis­ten to this recent episode of the Sound Opin­ions pod­cast, com­ing out of WBEZ in Chica­go.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Grate­ful Dead’s “Rip­ple” Played by Musi­cians Around the World

Bob Dylan and The Grate­ful Dead Rehearse Togeth­er in Sum­mer 1987. Lis­ten to 74 Tracks.

The Grate­ful Dead Play at the Egypt­ian Pyra­mids, in the Shad­ow of the Sphinx (1978)

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Hear Demos of Keith Richards Singing Lead Vocals on Rolling Stones Classics: “Gimme Shelter,” “Wild Horses” & More

In the ear­ly sev­en­ties, at the height of their pow­ers, unfor­get­table hits seemed to tum­ble out one after anoth­er from The Rolling Stones, solid­i­fy­ing Jag­ger and Richards’ rep­u­ta­tion for ele­men­tal, imme­di­ate song­writ­ing that seemed to cut through more baroque stu­dio pro­duc­tions of the late six­ties and sev­en­ties and deliv­er the goods raw. As Bri­an Jones’ influ­ence waned, Richards’ dark, raunchy riffs took over the band’s sound, and even when Jag­ger’s vocals are near incom­pre­hen­si­ble, as in much of Exile on Main Street, his pecu­liar intonation—part fake Delta blues­man, part sneer­ing delin­quent schoolboy—gets across every­thing you need to know about the Rolling Stones’ ethos.

The imme­di­a­cy of the Stones’ record­ings is large­ly an arti­fact of their tri­al-and-error method in the stu­dio. Unafraid of last-minute inspi­ra­tion and unortho­dox tech­ni­cal exper­i­ments, they built songs like “Gimme Shel­ter” from inspired demos to pow­er­ful anthems over the course of many ver­sions and mix­es. We’ve told the sto­ry of that song’s last-minute inclu­sion of Mer­ry Clayton’s stir­ring vocal per­for­mance. Now, at the top, hear an ear­ly demo of the song lack­ing not only her voice, but Jagger’s as well—at least in the lead spot. Every­thing else is there: the tremo­lo-soaked open­ing riff, the haunt­ing, reverb-drenched “Oooo”’s. But instead of Jagger’s faux-South­ern drawl sud­den­ly break­ing the ten­sion, we get the much more sub­dued voice of Richards, pushed rather far back in the mix and sound­ing pret­ty under­whelm­ing next to the final album ver­sion.

It’s not that Richards is a bad singer—here he almost cap­tures the cadences of Jag­ger, if not the pro­jec­tion (we do hear Jagger’s voice back­ing his). It’s just that we’ve come to asso­ciate the song so close­ly with Jagger’s quirks that hear­ing any­one else deliv­er the lyrics is a lit­tle jar­ring. On the oth­er hand, Richard’s unadorned acoustic demo of “Wild Hors­es,” above, gets right to the heart of the song, sound­ing more like his friend Gram Par­sons’ mourn­ful ear­ly ver­sion than the lat­er 1971 release on Sticky Fin­gers. (Hear anoth­er acoustic demo here, with Jag­ger on vocals.)

These two tracks rep­re­sent rare oppor­tu­ni­ties to hear Richards take the vocal lead on Stones tracks, though he would begin releas­ing solo work in 1978 and front­ed his own band, the X‑pensive Winos, in 1987, assem­bled in trib­ute to his hero Chuck Berry. Just the year pre­vi­ous, the Stones released Dirty Work, a high point in an oth­er­wise cre­ative slump for the band. The album’s first track, “One Hit (to the Body),” became its sec­ond big hit, and you can hear a scratchy, lo-fi demo ver­sion, with Kei­th on lead vocals, above. A thread at the Steve Hoff­man Music Forums points us toward many more demos of Stones songs with Keith’s vocals, from out­takes and demos of Voodoo Lounge, Talk is Cheap and oth­er albums. Many of these record­ings show how much Richards was respon­si­ble for the band’s vocal melodies as well their sig­na­ture gui­tar tones and rhythms. Amidst all these demos—of vary­ing degrees of sound qual­i­ty and states of inebriation—one song in par­tic­u­lar stands out, and it’s not a Stones song.

Above, Richards’ deliv­ers a Bour­bon Street take on “Some­where Over the Rain­bow.” His qui­et voice haunts the song, again pushed so far back in the mix you have to strain to hear him at all as he trails in and out. The record­ing, from 1977, leaked in 2008, along with Richards cov­ers of oth­er stan­dards by Hoagy Carmichael and Per­ry Como. “The songs,” writes The Guardian, “fea­ture melan­choly piano, an even more melan­choly Keef and sound like he’s doing an impres­sion of ear­ly Tom Waits.” Fit­ting, then, that Richards would col­lab­o­rate with Waits in 2006, on a record­ing that sounds like he’d been prac­tic­ing for it his entire career.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Tom Waits and Kei­th Richards Sing Sea Song “Shenan­doah” for New Pirate-Themed CD: Lis­ten Online

The Rolling Stones Release a Soul­ful, Nev­er-Heard Acoustic Ver­sion of “Wild Hors­es”

Mick Jag­ger Tells the Sto­ry Behind ‘Gimme Shel­ter’ and Mer­ry Clayton’s Haunt­ing Back­ground Vocals

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

Jared Diamond Identifies the Real, Unexpected Risks in Our Everyday Life (in a Psychedelic Animated Video)

Jared Dia­mond is a true poly­math. He got his start research­ing how the gall blad­der absorbed salt and then moved on to oth­er fields of study – ornithol­o­gy, anthro­pol­o­gy, lin­guis­tics. His wild­ly diverse inter­ests have giv­en him a unique per­spec­tive of how and why our species evolved. His Pulitzer Prize-win­ning book Germs, Guns and Steel makes a pret­ty con­vinc­ing argu­ment about why Europe — and not Chi­na or South Amer­i­ca — end­ed up dom­i­nat­ing the world. The answer, it turns not, has every­thing to do with geog­ra­phy and lit­tle to do with any kind of cul­tur­al supe­ri­or­i­ty.

Back in 2013, Dia­mond spoke at The Roy­al Insti­tu­tion about how we think of risk in the first world ver­sus those who live in remote New Guinea. The RI has tak­en a por­tion of that hour and a half talk and set it to some glo­ri­ous ani­ma­tion. You can watch it above.

Ear­ly in Diamond’s career, he was in the jun­gle with his New Guinean guides. He found what he thought was a per­fect spot to pitch camp – under a mas­sive dead tree. His guides refused to sleep there, fear­ing that the tree might fall in the mid­dle of the night. He thought that they were being over­ly para­noid until he start­ed see­ing things from their per­spec­tive.

Every night you’re in New Guinea sleep­ing in a for­est, you hear a tree fall some­where and then you go do the num­bers. Sup­pose the risk of that tree falling on me tonight is 1 in 1000. If I sleep under dead trees for 1000 nights, in three years I’m going to be dead. … The New Guinea atti­tude is sen­si­tive to the risks of things you are going to do reg­u­lar­ly. Each time they car­ry a low risk but if you are not cau­tious it will catch up with you.

Dia­mond then extrap­o­lat­ed this real­iza­tion to mod­ern life. He notes that he is 76 years old and will sta­tis­ti­cal­ly speak­ing prob­a­bly live anoth­er 15 or so years. Yet if the risk of tak­ing a fall in the show­er is rough­ly the same as get­ting brained by a dead tree in the jun­gles of New Guinea (1 in 1000), then Dia­mond fig­ures he could kill him­self 5 ½ times over his the course of those 15 years.

“And so I’m care­ful about show­ers,” he says in the full video of the talk. “I’m care­ful about side­walks. I’m care­ful about steplad­ders. It dri­ves many of my Amer­i­can friends crazy but I will sur­vive and they won’t.”

Peo­ple in the first world are ter­ri­fied by the wrong things, Dia­mond argues. The real dan­ger isn’t ter­ror­ism, ser­i­al killers or sharks, which kill a very, very small per­cent­age of peo­ple annu­al­ly. The real risks are those things that we do dai­ly that car­ry a low risk but that even­tu­al­ly catch up with you – dri­ving, tak­ing stairs, using step lad­ders.

You can watch the full inter­view, which is fas­ci­nat­ing, below.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jared Dia­mond Explains Haiti’s Endur­ing Pover­ty

The Evo­lu­tion of Reli­gions: A Talk by Jared Dia­mond

“Pro­fes­sor Risk” at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Says “One of the Biggest Risks is Being Too Cau­tious”

MIT’s Intro­duc­tion to Pok­er The­o­ry: A Free Online Course

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.

Philosophy Explained With Donuts

philosophy donuts

We’ve all seen them, on the board­walks of Venice Beach or of the Jer­sey Shore: poop-joke t‑shirts that state the gist of var­i­ous world reli­gions or philoso­phies by ref­er­ence to the afore­men­tioned bod­i­ly func­tion. Clever they aren’t, but the form adapts to anoth­er, more taste­ful for­mu­la­tion (pun most def­i­nite­ly intend­ed) in the list above, which briefly describes the philo­soph­i­cal pro­grams of six­teen promi­nent West­ern thinkers with ref­er­ence to that uni­ver­sal­ly beloved food, the donut. To wit: pre-Socrat­ic Greek philoso­pher Her­a­cli­tus gets summed up with “You can’t eat the same donut twice,” a twist on one of his famous few apho­risms. Lud­wig Wittgen­stein’s phi­los­o­phy becomes an ellip­ti­cal series of pos­si­ble donuts in var­i­ous lan­guage games: “Fried Pas­try, Zero, Park­ing lot spin, Spare tire.” And so on.

No need to point out the over­sim­pli­fi­ca­tion inher­ent in this strat­e­gy; that’s kind of the point. It’s a joke, after all, but one the author—whoever that is—clearly intends as a means of break­ing the ice and get­ting down to more seri­ous explo­rations. But what if the donut is the seri­ous explo­ration? Such is the case in a 2001 arti­cle pub­lished in the jour­nal Basic Objects: Case Stud­ies in The­o­ret­i­cal Prim­i­tives by Colum­bia phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor Achille C. Varzi.

Sim­ply titled (in the British spelling) “Dough­nuts,” Varzi’s paper explores the donut, or “torus” in the lan­guage of topog­ra­phers, as a the­o­ret­i­cal object for an onto­log­i­cal thought exper­i­ment. In short, he asks whether or not we can say that the donut hole is an actu­al exist­ing enti­ty or sim­ply a fig­ure of speech, a “façon de par­ler.” In the tra­di­tion­al view, that of the topog­ra­phers, who prac­tice “a sort of rub­bery geom­e­try…. The only thing that mat­ters is the edi­ble stuff. The hole is a mere façon de par­ler.”

On anoth­er, more three-dimen­sion­al view of the rela­tion­ship “between void and mat­ter,” things look dif­fer­ent: “We must be very seri­ous about treat­ing them [donut holes] as ful­ly-fledged enti­ties, on a par with the mate­r­i­al objects that sur­round them.” The real exis­tence of the hole can­not be eas­i­ly dis­missed with­out run­ning into a prob­lem, “the dilem­ma of every elim­i­na­tive strat­e­gy: if suc­cess­ful, it ends up elim­i­nat­ing every­thing just in order to elim­i­nate noth­ings.” No hole, no donut. (Though, as Simone De Beau­voir appar­ent­ly rec­og­nized, “Patri­archy is respon­si­ble for the shape of the donut.”) The donut hole the­sis also forms part of the argu­ment in an aca­d­e­m­ic phi­los­o­phy paper from 2012 enti­tled “Being Pos­i­tive About Neg­a­tive Facts” from Phi­los­o­phy & Phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal Research. On the way to show­ing that “neg­a­tive facts exist in the usu­al sense of exis­tence,” authors Stephen Bark­er and Mark Jago, both of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Not­ting­ham, come to sim­i­lar con­clu­sions about the donut, with ref­er­ence to ear­li­er work by Varzi:

Holes pose some­thing of a philo­soph­i­cal quandary and, per­haps as a result of their mys­tery, are often treat­ed as imma­te­r­i­al enti­ties (Casati and Varzi 1994). Yet we seem to be able to per­ceive holes, gaps, dents and the like. The view of holes as imma­te­r­i­al objects is, we think, very much in line with think­ing of the neg­a­tive as the meta­phys­i­cal­ly undead. Giv­en our accep­tance of neg­a­tive facts, we can offer a sto­ry about holes on which they are mate­r­i­al enti­ties. If there is a donut hole then there is a spa­tial region involv­ing the instan­ti­a­tion of donut-dough which is inti­mate­ly con­nect­ed with an absence there­of.

Make of these claims what you will, but I think what we see in both essays is that seri­ous inter­est in a friv­o­lous object can pro­duce illu­mi­nat­ing dis­cus­sion. That describes the the­sis of the site Improb­a­ble Research, who bring us both of these donut exam­ples; their motto—“Research that makes peo­ple LAUGH and then THINK.” I don’t know if either essay—or even the donut joke at the top of the page—really makes for ha-ha laughs so much, but these argu­ments about the mate­r­i­al exis­tence of the imma­te­r­i­al space of donut holes cer­tain­ly chal­lenged my think­ing.

via Improb­a­ble Research

Relat­ed Con­tents:

140+ Free Online Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es

Phi­los­o­phy Ref­er­ee Hand Sig­nals

Mon­ty Python’s Best Phi­los­o­phy Sketch­es

The Epis­te­mol­o­gy of Dr. Seuss & More Phi­los­o­phy Lessons from Great Children’s Sto­ries

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy, from 600 B.C.E. to 1935, Visu­al­ized in Two Mas­sive, 44-Foot High Dia­grams

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

Marshall McLuhan’s 1969 Deck of Cards, Designed For Out-of-the-Box Thinking


Image via

Six years before Bri­an Eno and Peter Schmidt designed their first pack of Oblique Strate­gies cards—a set of ran­dom apho­risms meant to clear cre­ative blocks—communication the­o­rist and philoso­pher Mar­shall McLuhan had designed a very sim­i­lar deck in 1969, this one with a more direct nod to the clas­sic play­ing card deck.

mcluhan cards

The name of the card deck, Dis­tant Ear­ly Warn­ing, was a ref­er­ence to the 3,000 mile long DEW Line, a sys­tem of 63 radar sta­tions that act­ed as an ear­ly detec­tion inva­sion buffer dur­ing the Cold War. And in his 1964 book Under­stand Media, McLuhan explained,

“I think of art, at its most sig­nif­i­cant, as a DEW line, a Dis­tant Ear­ly Warn­ing sys­tem that can always be relied on to tell the old cul­ture what is begin­ning to hap­pen to it.”

And so with help from adver­tis­ing and pub­lish­ing guru Eugene Schwartz, The Mar­shall McLuhan DEW-Line Newslet­ter and its spin­off deck of cards was born. Schwartz saw the newslet­ter much like we see blogs today: a very imme­di­ate way of dis­sem­i­nat­ing infor­ma­tion, deep­er than tele­vi­sion and faster than books. The newslet­ter last­ed only two years, came in sev­er­al forms (one issue was a set of slides, anoth­er a record), and rep­re­sents the height of “McLuhan Mania” in Amer­i­can cul­ture. Busi­ness and thought lead­ers were its tar­get audi­ence.

dew line cards3

Much like Oblique Strate­gies (you can still find vin­tage ver­sions online), the instruc­tions for Dis­tant Ear­ly Warn­ing (also avail­able online here) sug­gest that the user think of a per­son­al or busi­ness prob­lem, shuf­fle the deck, choose a card and inter­pret its mean­ing. Although div­ina­to­ry cards have long been a part of west­ern cul­ture, the idea of inde­ter­mi­na­cy and con­sult­ing the I Ching was very much in vogue through artists like John Cage.

dew line 4

The cards con­tain plays on apho­risms, like “The Vic­tor Belongs to the Spoils” or “Thanks for the Mam­maries.” Some­times they quote Vic­to­ri­an nov­el­ist Samuel But­ler, like “The chick­en was the egg’s idea for get­ting more eggs” or W.C. Fields (“How do you like kids?” “Well cooked,” he said stern­ly), or John Cage (“Silence is all the sounds of the envi­ron­ment at once.”) Many are McLuhan’s own quotes.

dew line 5

McLuhan and Schwartz’ ideas can still be felt in any num­ber of TED talks or when­ev­er a busi­ness leader talks about think­ing out­side the box. Steve Jobs was a walk­ing deck of these cards.

Should you feel like push­ing your brain lat­er­al­ly, check out the full deck here at this Flickr feed, and if you long to own a phys­i­cal copy, it can still be had for Cana­di­an dol­lars at the site run by McLuhan’s son.

via Flash­bak

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Vision­ary Thought of Mar­shall McLuhan, Intro­duced and Demys­ti­fied by Tom Wolfe

McLuhan Said “The Medi­um Is The Mes­sage”; Two Pieces Of Media Decode the Famous Phrase

Nor­man Mail­er & Mar­shall McLuhan Debate the Elec­tron­ic Age

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

A Wonderfully Illustrated 1925 Japanese Edition of Aesop’s Fables by Legendary Children’s Book Illustrator Takeo Takei


Most of us have inter­nal­ized the con­tent of a fair few of Aesop’s fables but have long since for­got­ten the source — if, indeed, we read it close to the source in the first place. Whether or not we’ve had any real aware­ness of the ancient Greek sto­ry­teller him­self, we’ve cer­tain­ly encoun­tered his sto­ries in count­less much more recent inter­pre­ta­tions over the decades. My per­son­al favorite ren­di­tions came, skewed, in the form of the “Aesop and Son” seg­ments on Rocky and Bull­win­kle, but this 1925 Japan­ese edi­tion of Aesop’s Fables, illus­trat­ed by huge­ly respect­ed chil­dren’s artist Takeo Takei, must cer­tain­ly rank in the same league.


Takei began his career in the ear­ly 1920s, illus­trat­ing chil­dren’s mag­a­zine cov­ers, col­lec­tions of Japan­ese folk­tales and orig­i­nal sto­ries, and even young­ster-ori­ent­ed writ­ings of his own. Even in that ear­ly peri­od, he showed a pro­fes­sion­al inter­est in giv­ing new aes­thet­ic life to not just old sto­ries but old non-Japan­ese sto­ries, such as The Thou­sand and One Nights and Hans Chris­t­ian Ander­sen’s fairy tales. It was dur­ing that time that he took on the chal­lenge of putting his own aes­thet­ic stamp on Aesop.


You can see quite a few of Takei’s Aesop illus­tra­tions at the book design and illus­tra­tion site 50watts, whose author notes that he found the images in the data­base of Japan’s Nation­al Diet Library. Even if you can’t read the Japan­ese, you’ll know the fables in ques­tion — “The Tor­toise and the Hare,” “The North Wind and the Sun,” “The Wolf and the Crane” — after noth­ing more than a glance at Takei’s live­ly art­work, which takes Aesop’s well-known char­ac­ters (often ani­mals or nat­ur­al forces per­son­i­fied) and dress­es them up in the nat­ty style of jazz-age Tokyo high soci­ety.


Takei would go on to enjoy a long career after illus­trat­ing Aesop’s Fables. A decade after its pub­li­ca­tion, he would begin pro­duc­ing his best-known series of works, the “kam­pon” (in Japan­ese, “pub­lished book”). With these 138 vol­umes, he explored the form of the illus­trat­ed chil­dren’s book in every way he pos­si­bly could, using, accord­ing to, “tra­di­tion­al meth­ods of let­ter­press, wood­block, wood engrav­ing, sten­cil, etch­ing and lith­o­g­ra­phy,” as well as clay block-prints and “def­i­nite­ly non-tra­di­tion­al images of woven labels, paint­ed glass, ceram­ic, and cel­lo-slides — trans­paren­cies com­posed of bright cel­lo­phane paper.” He would con­tin­ue work­ing work­ing right up until his death in 1983, leav­ing a lega­cy of influ­ence on Japan­ese visu­al cul­ture as deep as the one Aesop left on sto­ry­telling.


via 50watts

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ear­ly Japan­ese Ani­ma­tions: The Ori­gins of Ani­me (1917–1931)

Adver­tise­ments from Japan’s Gold­en Age of Art Deco

Glo­ri­ous Ear­ly 20th-Cen­tu­ry Japan­ese Ads for Beer, Smokes & Sake (1902–1954)

Vin­tage 1930s Japan­ese Posters Artis­ti­cal­ly Mar­ket the Won­ders of Trav­el

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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