Take a Free Online Course on Making Comic Books, Compliments of the California College of the Arts

Gather round, children and listen to Grandma reminiscin’ ‘bout the days when studying comics meant changing out of your pajamas and showing up at the bursar’s office, check in hand.

Actually, Grandma’s full of it. Graphic novels are enjoying unprecedented popularity and educators are turning to comics to reach reluctant readers, but as of this writing, there still aren’t that many programs for those interested in making a career of this art form.

The California College of the Arts is a notable exception. You can get your MFA in Comics there.

Even better, you need not enroll to sample the 5 week course, Comics: Art in Relationship, led by Comics MFA chair and Eisner Award-nominated author of The Homeless Channel, Matt Silady.

You might write the next Scott Pilgrim.

Or ink the next Fun Home.

At the very least, you’ll learn a thing or two about layout, the relationship of art to text, and using compression to denote the passage of time.

It’s the sort of nitty gritty training that would benefit both veterans and newbies alike.

Ready to sign up? The free course, which starts in February, will require approximately 10 hours per week. The syllabus is below.

Session 1: Defining Comics

Identify key relationships in sample texts & demonstrate the use of various camera angles on a comics page

Session 2: Comics Relationships

Create Text-Image and Image-Image Panels

Session 3: Time And Space

One Second, One Hour, One Day Comics Challenge

Session 4: Layout And Grid Design

Apply multiple panel grids to provided script

Session 5: Thumbnails

Create thumbnail sketches of a multipage scene

Enroll here.

via io9

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

Samuel Beckett Play Brought to Life in an Eerie Short Film Starring Alan Rickman & Kristin Scott Thomas

Here at Open Culture, when we think of authors who write work made for the movies, we do, of course, think of names like Dan Brown, J.K. Rowling, and Robert Ludlum — but even more so of names like Samuel Beckett, whose pushing of aesthetic and intellectual boundaries on the stage we welcome now more than ever on the screen. And in a way, his works have undergone more complete film adaptation than have the books of many bestselling mainstream writers, thanks to the 2002 omnibus project Beckett on Film, which rounded up nineteen auteurs to direct films, ranging in length from seven minutes to two hours, of each and every one of his nineteen plays.

Beckett on Film‘s roster of directors includes Michael Lindsay-Hogg doing Waiting for Godot, Atom Egoyan doing Krapp’s Last Tape, Neil Jordan doing Not I, the artist Damien Hirst doing Breath, and Anthony Minghella, he of The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley, doing Play, which you can watch above. The sixteen-minute production adapts Beckett’s 1963 one-act, a distinctively purgatorial sort of romantic drama which presents a man (“M”), his wife (“W1”), and his mistress (“W2”), each trapped in an urn, each forced to speak about the details of their triangular relationship when, on stage, the spotlight turns to them. On film, Minghella chooses to swap out the spotlight for the camera itself, which cuts, swings, and shifts focus swiftly between the three, commanding the history of the affair from all three perspectives, each delivered with flat, rapid-fire insistence yet with surprising clarity and feeling as well.

Those qualities naturally owe to Beckett’s mastery of the word, but also to the performances of the three actors, given under absurd circumstances, caked with filth and stuffed into pots: Kristin Scott Thomas as the wife, Juliet Stevenson as the mistress, and the late Alan Rickman as the hiccuping adulterer. Every line they speak distills some aspect of the Beckettian worldview: “Silence and darkness were all I craved,” says Thomas’ W1. “Well, I get a certain amount of both. They being one. Perhaps it is more wickedness to pray for more.” “Things may disimprove,” says Stevenson’s W2. “Adulterers, take warning,” says Rickman’s M, “never admit.” And the ultimate question: “When will all this have been… just play?” But in Beckett’s reality, there’s nothing so “just” about it.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

85 Compelling Films Starring and/or Directed By Women of Color: A List Created by Director Ava DuVernay & Friends on Twitter


Image by Marie Maye, via Wikimedia Commons

If you follow film news—or really, just news—you’re well aware of the controversy surrounding the current crop of Academy Award nominees. While awards extravaganzas seem like little more than popularity contests, it is curious that neither the acclaimed lead actors nor the directors received nominations for two of the most popular films of the year—Creed and Straight Outta Compton. (See SNL’s satirical take on this.) There’s been no shortage of critical praise for the talent in those films and others, casting doubt on claims that actors, writers, directors, etc. of color simply weren’t up to snuff. The truth is likely more banal: most of the Academy voters are older white men. (“Older and more dude-heavy than just about any place in America,” says The Atlantic, “and whiter than all but seven states.”) No need to allege outright conspiracy when implicit bias operates to exclude people all the time without malicious intent.

Nor do corporate buzzwords like “diversity” carry much weight when it comes to creating a more inclusive industry. “It’s a medicinal word,” says Selma director Ava DuVernay, “that has no emotional resonance… Diversity’s like, ‘Ugh, I have to do diversity.'” No one wants to attend a “diversity training” or read a hiring manual about how to “do diversity”; recognizing talent shouldn’t be a forced, procedural matter, but a matter of course. The Academy has vowed to make changes by retiring many inactive members to non-voting emeritus status and—in an Orwellian turn of phrase—”doubling the number of diverse members” by 2020, whatever that means. The aforementioned DuVernay has been sowing seeds of discontent with the status quo for quite some time now, online and in the industry itself with her distribution company AFFRM+Array Releasing, which attempts to counterbalance the racial and gender disparities in the film world.

In a tweet last year, written off the cuff during a writing break, she put out a call to followers to “name three films you like with black, brown, native or Asian women leads” or directors. Indiewire comments that “it seems like common sense that these films exist,” yet “the question proved to be a serious challenge for Twitter.” Eventually, DuVernay and the Twitter denizens came up with a list of 85 titles starring and/or directed by women of color, and you can see them all listed below. If you find yourself watching movie after movie about the same kinds of experiences, maybe consider making your own viewing habits more “diverse” by checking out some of these excellent, and in most cases little-seen movies, including two well-reviewed films from DuVernay herself, 2010’s I Will Follow and 2012’s Middle of Nowhere.

“35 Shots of Rum” by Claire Denis (2008)
“A Different Image” by Alile Sharon Larkin (1982)
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” by Ana Lily Amirpour (2014)
“Advantageous” by Jennifer Phang (2015)
“Ala Modalaindi” by Nandini Bv Reddy (2011)
“All About You” by Christine Swanson (2001)
“Alma’s Rainbow” by Ayoka Chenzira (1994)
“Appropriate Behavior” by Desiree Akhavan (2014)
“B For Boy” by Chika Anadu (2013)
“Bande de Filles/Girlhood” by Céline Sciamma (2014)
“Belle” by Amma Asante (2013)
“Bend it Like Beckham” by Gurinder Chadha (2002)
“Bessie” by Dee Rees (2015)
“Beyond the Lights” by Gina Prince-Bythewood (2014)
“Bhaji on the Beach” by Gurinder Chadha (1993)
“Caramel” by Nadine Labaki  (2007)
“Circumstance” by Maryam Keshavarz (2011)
“Civil Brand” by Neema Barnette (2002)
“Compensation” by Zeinabu irene Davis (199)
“Daughters of the Dust” by Julie Dash (1991)
“Double Happiness ” by Mina Shum (1994)
“Down in the Delta” by Maya Angelou (1998)
“Drylongso” by Cauleen Smith (1988)
“Earth” by Deepa Mehta (1998)
“Elza” by Mariette Monpierre (2011)
“Endless Dreams” by Susan Youssef (2009
“Eve’s Bayou” by Kasi Lemmons (1997)
“Fire” by Deepa Mehta (1996)
“Frida” by Julie Taymor (2002)
“Girl in Progress” by Patricia Riggen (2012)
“Girlfight” by Karyn Kusama (2000)
“Habibi Rasak Kharban” by Susan Youssef (2011)
“Hiss Dokhtarha Faryad Nemizanand (Hush! Girls Don’t Scream)” by Pouran Derahkandeh (2013)
“Honeytrap” by Rebecca Johnson (2014)
“I Like It Like That” by Darnell Martin (1994)
“I Will Follow” by Ava DuVernay (2010
“In Between Days” by So-yong Kim (2006)
“Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” by Martha Coolidge (1999)
“It’s a Wonderful Afterlife” by Gurinder Chadha (2010)
“Jumpin Jack Flash” by Penny Marshall (1986)
“Just Another Girl on the IRT” by Leslie Harris (1992)
“Just Wright” by Sanaa Hamri (2010)
“Kama Sutra” by Mira Nair (1996)
“Losing Ground” by Kathleen Collins (1982)
“Love & Basketball” by Gina Prince-Bythewood (2000)
“Luck by Chance” by Zoya Akhtar (2009)
“Mi Vida Loca” by Allison Anders (1993)
“Middle of Nowhere” by Ava DuVernay (2012)
“Mississippi Damned” by Tina Mabry (2009)
“Mississippi Masala” by Mira Nair (1991)
“Mixing Nia” by Alison Swan (1998)
“Monsoon Wedding” by Mira Nair (2001)
“Mosquita y Mari” by Aurora Guerrero (2012)
“Na-moo-eobs-neun san (Treeless Mountain)” by So-yong Kim (2008)
“Night Catches Us” by Tanya Hamilton (2010)
“Pariah” by Dee Rees (2011)
“Picture Bride” by Kayo Hatta (1994)
“Rain” by Maria Govan (2008)
“Real Women Have Curves” by Patricia Cardoso (2002)
“Saving Face” by Alice Wu (2004)
“Second Coming” by Debbie Tucker Green (2014)
“Something Necessary” by Judy Kibinge (2013)
“Something New” by Sanaa Hamri (2006)
“Still the Water” by Naomi Kawase  (2014)
“Stranger Inside” by Cheryl Dunye (2001)
“Sugar Cane Alley/Black Shack Alley” by Euzhan Palcy (1983)
“The Kite” by Randa Chahal Sabag (2003)
“The Rich Man’s Wife” by Amy Holden Jones (1996)
“The Secret Life of Bees” by Gina Prince-Bythewood (2008)
“The Silence of the Palace” by Moufida Tlatli (1994)
“The Watermelon Woman” by Cheryl Dunye (1996)
“The Women of Brewster Place” by Donna Deitch (1989)
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Darnell Martin (2005)
“Things We Lost in the Fire” by Susanne Bier  (2007)
“Wadjda” by Haifaa Al-Mansour (2012)
“Water” by Deepa Mehta (2005)
“Whale Rider” by Niki Caro  (2002)
“What’s Cooking?” by Gurinder Chadha (2000)
“Where Do We Go Now?” by Nadine Labaki  (2011)
“Whitney” by Angela Bassett (2015)
“Woman Thou Art Loosed: On The 7th Day” by Neema Barnette (2012)
“Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl” by Joan Chen (1998)
“Yelling to the Sky” by Victoria Mahoney (2011)
“Young and Wild” by Marialy Rivas (2012)

via Indiewire

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

The Art from David Bowie’s Final Album, Blackstar, is Now Free for Fans to Download and Reuse


Jonathan Barnbrook, the British graphic designer who created the cover art for several of David Bowie’s more recent albums, had his creative studio issue an announcement on Facebook today, one which will surely please many:

Barnbrook loved working with David Bowie, he was simply one of the most inspirational, kind people we have met. So in the spirit of openness and in remembrance of David we are releasing the artwork elements of his last album ★ (Blackstar) to download here free under a Creative Commons NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence. That means you can make t-shirts for yourself, use them for tattoos, put them up in your house to remember David by and adapt them too, but we would ask that you do not in any way create or sell commercial products with them or based on them.

Barnbrook was the creative force behind Heathen (2002), Reality (2003) and The Next Day (2013). In this in-depth interview, the designer talks about his approach to creating a visual language for Blackstar, whose design elements can now be freely downloaded here.

via Pitchfork

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An Animated Introduction to Goethe, Germany’s “Renaissance Man”

We all know the name Goethe — some of us even know the full name, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. I’ve never lived in the renowned 18th- and 19th-century writer, politician, and cultural polymath’s homeland of Germany, but even when I lived in Los Angeles, I regularly went to my local branch of the Goethe-Institute for German cultural events. Even in Korea, where I live now, Goethe has left a wide if shallow mark: you can see The Sorrows of Young Werther in the form of an elaborate stage musical, for instance, and buy almost all the goods you need in life from the enormous conglomerate named after the young lady on whom Werther concentrates his doomed affections, Lotte.

But why, more than 180 years after Goethe’s death, does his name still come up in so many different contexts? And given that, why do so many of us know so little about his long, varied, colorful, and highly productive life and career? This sounds like a job for the video wing of Alain de Botton’s School of Life, whose short primers continue to bring us up to speed on why the legacies of so many cultural figures (with one section given over to the literary) have endured, or should endure. “Goethe is one of the great minds of European civilisation, though his work is largely unknown outside of the German speaking countries,” says de Botton in their video on Goethe: “He deserves our renewed attention.”

To fill out the details provided in the School of Life’s video, you can read an overview of Goethe’s career (including details on the proper pronunciation of his name) in the accompanying Book of Life entry online. It tells the story of not just Young Werther’s creator, but “one of Europe’s big cultural heroes – comparable to the likes of Shakespeare, Dante and Homer,” skilled in letters, of course, but also in “physiology, geology, botany and optics,” who also spent stretches of his career as “a diplomat, fashion guru, a senior civil servant, a pornographer, the head of a university, a fine artist, an adventurous traveller, the director of a theatre company and the head of a mining company.”

We might call Goethe, insofar as he developed his own mastery, spanning so much of the human experience, a Renaissance man out of time — but one who, in his way, outdid even the actual men of the Renaissance. “We have so much to learn from him,” adds the Book of Life. “We don’t often hear people declaring a wish to be a little more like ‘Goethe.’ But if we did, the world would be a more vibrant and humane place.”

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Stephen Hawking & Actor Paul Rudd Play an Epic Game of Quantum Chess, Narrated by Keanu Reeves

The Institute for Quantum Information and Matter (IQIM) at Caltech posted on its YouTube channel today a fun little video called “Anyone Can Quantum”–the “Anyone” probably referring to actor Paul Rudd, who takes on Stephen Hawking in a game of Quantum Chess, narrated by Keanu Reeves. Quantum Chess, a made-up thing, a gimmick, you say? Not so apparently. It’s a thing.

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Rare Video Captures 29-Year-Old Luciano Pavarotti in One of His Earliest Recorded Performances (1964)

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that certain entertainers did not arrive fully formed with their famous look already part of the act. It’s still weird to me, for example, to see very early George Carlin, looking like a nephew to the button-down comedy of Bob Newhart. You might get the same shock seeing this very early—possibly the first, but not verified—televised appearance of master tenor Luciano Pavarotti.

In this archived clip from Soviet television, the future opera superstar looks more like comedian Jackie Gleason than the bearded, iconic figure he would become. Those eyebrows are working overtime, though.

The year is 1964, only three years after his professional debut in a regional Italian opera house, where he played the lead, Rodolfo, in a production of La Boheme. It was also a year after his first major accomplishment, supporting and singing with Joan Sutherland on an Australian tour. He was yet to have an American premiere, and was still trying to make a name for himself.

This above clip, a jaunty and confident take on Verdi’s “La Donna e Mobile” from Rigoletto, shows all the youthful promise in his 29-year-old voice. Compare and contrast below his 1982 version from Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s film version of the opera. It’s sweeter and Pavarotti has less to prove, firmly established in the firmament of singing stars. The song remains the same, but this early glimpse into Pavarotti’s career shows he knew he was going places, but just needed that chance to prove it.

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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 tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Stephen Hawking’s New Lecture, “Do Black Holes Have No Hair?,” Animated with Chalkboard Illustrations

You can now hear in full on the BBC’s website the first part of Stephen Hawking‘s 2016 Reith Lecture—“Do Black Holes Have No Hair?” Just above, listen to Hawking’s lecture while you follow along with an animated chalkboard on which artist Andrew Park sketches out the key points in helpful images and diagrams. We alerted you to the coming lecture this past Tuesday, and we also pointed you toward the paper Hawking recently posted online, “Soft Hair on Black Holes,” co-authored with Malcolm J. Perry and Andrew Strominger. There, Hawking argues that black holes may indeed have “hair,” or waves of zero-energy particles that store information previously thought lost.

The article is tough going for anyone without a background in theoretical physics, but Hawking’s talk above makes these ideas approachable, without dumbing them down. He has a winning way of communicating with everyday examples and witticisms, and Park’s illustrations further help make sense of things. Hawking begins with a brief history of black hole theory, then builds slowly to his thesis: as the BBC puts it, rather than see black holes as “scary, destructive and dark he says if properly understood, they could unlock the deepest secrets of the cosmos.”

Hawking is introduced by BBC broadcaster Sue Lawley, who also chairs a question-and-answer session (in the full lecture audio) with a few select Radio 4 listeners whose questions Hawking chose from hundreds submitted to the BBC. Stay tuned for Part Two, which should come online shortly after Tuesday’s broadcast.

The short animated video above gives us a tantalizing excerpt from Hawking’s second talk. “If you feel you are in a black hole,” he says reassuringly, “don’t give up. There’s a way out.” That nice little aside is but one of many colorful ways Hawking has of expressing himself when discussing the theoretical physics of black holes, a subject that could turn deadly serious, and—speaking for myself—incomprehensible. As far as I know, black holes work in the real universe just like they do in Interstellar.

I kid, but there is, however, at least one way in which Christopher Nolan’s apocalyptic space fantasy with its improbably happy ending may not be total hokum: as Hawking theorizes above, certain particles (or anti-particles) may escape from a black hole, “to infinity,” he says, or “possibly to another universe.” The main idea, says Hawking, is that black holes “are not the eternal prisons they were once thought.” Or, in other words, “black holes ain’t as black as they are painted,” which also happens to be the title of his next talk. Stay tuned: we’ll bring you more of Hawking’s fascinating black hole theory soon.

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

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