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MNAC 72

“Where is the wis­dom we have lost in knowl­edge? Where is the knowl­edge we have lost in infor­ma­tion?,” asked T.S. Eliot in lines from his play “The Rock.” His pre­scient descrip­tion of the dawn­ing infor­ma­tion age has inspired data sci­en­tists and their dis­senters for decades. Thir­ty-six years after Eliot’s prophet­ic lament over “End­less inven­tion, end­less exper­i­ment,” futur­ist Alvin Tof­fler described the effects of infor­ma­tion over­load in his book Future Shock, and though many of his pre­dic­tions haven’t aged well, his “prog­no­sis,” writes Fast Com­pa­ny, “was more accu­rate than not.” Among his many “Tof­flerisms” is one I believe Eliot would appre­ci­ate: “The illit­er­ate of the future will not be the per­son who can­not read. It will be the per­son who does not know how to learn.”

Indeed, the expo­nen­tial accu­mu­la­tion of data and infor­ma­tion, and the incred­i­ble amount of ready access would make both men’s heads spin. Inter­net archives grow vaster and vaster, their con­tents an embar­rass­ing rich­ness of the world’s trea­sures, and a per­haps even greater store of its obscu­ri­ties. Each week, it seems, we bring you news of one or two more open access data­bas­es filled with images, texts, films, record­ed music. It can indeed be dizzy­ing. And of all the archives I’ve sur­veyed, used in my own research, and pre­sent­ed to Open Cul­ture read­ers, none has seemed to me vaster than Euro­peana Col­lec­tions, a por­tal of “48,796,394 art­works, arte­facts, books, videos and sounds from across Europe,” sourced from well over 100 insti­tu­tions such as The Euro­pean Library, Europho­to, the Nation­al Library of Fin­land, Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Dublin, Museo Galileo, and many, many more, includ­ing con­tri­bu­tions from the pub­lic at large. Where does one begin?

europeana grammophone

In such an enor­mous ware­house of cul­tur­al his­to­ry, one could begin any­where and in an instant come across some­thing of inter­est, such as the stun­ning col­lec­tion of Art Nou­veau posters like that fine exam­ple at the top, “Cer­cle Art­s­tique de Schaer­beek,” by Hen­ri Pri­vat-Live­mont (from the Plandiu­ra Col­lec­tion, cour­tesy of Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalynya, Barcelona). One might enter any one of the avail­able inter­ac­tive lessons and cours­es on the his­to­ry of World War I or vis­it some of the many exhibits on the peri­od, with let­ters, diaries, pho­tographs, films, offi­cial doc­u­ments, and war pro­pa­gan­da. One might stop by the vir­tu­al exhib­it, “Pho­tog­ra­phy on a Sil­ver Plate,” a fas­ci­nat­ing his­to­ry of the medi­um from 1839–1860, or “Record­ing and Play­ing Machines,” a his­to­ry of exact­ly what it sounds like, or a gallery of the work of Swiss painter Jean Antoine Linck. All of the arti­facts have source and licens­ing infor­ma­tion clear­ly indi­cat­ed.

Vue du Mont-Blanc, prise du Sommet du Col de Balme

The pos­si­bil­i­ties may lit­er­al­ly be end­less, as the col­lec­tion con­tin­ues to expand at a rate far beyond the abil­i­ty of any one per­son, or team of peo­ple, or entire research insti­tute of peo­ple to match. It is easy to feel adrift in such a data­base as this, which stretch­es on like a Bor­ge­sian library, offer­ing room after end­less room of visu­al splen­dor, doc­u­men­ta­tion, and inter­pre­ta­tion. It is also easy to make dis­cov­er­ies, to meet peo­ple, stum­ble upon art, hear music, see pho­tographs, learn his­to­ries you would nev­er have encoun­tered if you knew what you were look­ing for and knew exact­ly how to find it. Eliot warned us—and right­ly so—of the dan­gers of infor­ma­tion over­load. But he neglect­ed, in his puri­tan­i­cal way, to describe the plea­sures, the minor epipha­nies, the hap­py chance occur­rences afford­ed us by the ever-expand­ing sea of infor­ma­tion in which we swim. One can learn to nav­i­gate it, one can drift aim­less­ly, and one can, simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, feel immense­ly over­whelmed.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

New Archive Makes Avail­able 800,000 Pages Doc­u­ment­ing the His­to­ry of Film, Tele­vi­sion & Radio

Yale Launch­es an Archive of 170,000 Pho­tographs Doc­u­ment­ing the Great Depres­sion

The New York Pub­lic Library Lets You Down­load 180,000 Images in High Res­o­lu­tion: His­toric Pho­tographs, Maps, Let­ters & More

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

The Society of Mind: A Free Online Course from Marvin Minsky, Pioneer of Artificial Intelligence

This past week­end, Mar­vin Minksy, one of the found­ing fathers of com­put­er sci­ence, passed away at the age of 88. Edu­cat­ed at Har­vard and Prince­ton, The MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review recalls, “Min­sky believed that the human mind was fun­da­men­tal­ly no dif­fer­ent than a com­put­er, and he chose to focus on engi­neer­ing intel­li­gent machines, first at Lin­coln Lab, and then lat­er as a pro­fes­sor at MIT, where he cofound­ed the Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Lab in 1959 with anoth­er pio­neer of the field, John McCarthy.” Dur­ing the 1980s, Min­sky pub­lished The Soci­ety of Mind, a sem­i­nal work which posit­ed that there’s no essen­tial dif­fer­ence between humans and machines, because humans are “actu­al­ly machines of a kind whose brains are made up of many semi­au­tonomous but unin­tel­li­gent ‘agents’.” (Quote comes from this NYTimes obit, not Min­sky direct­ly).

Above, you can watch The Soci­ety of Mind taught as a free online course. Pre­sent­ed at MIT in 2011, Min­sky takes you through his the­o­ries about how the human mind works, empha­siz­ing “aspects of think­ing that are so poor­ly under­stood that they are still con­sid­ered to be more philo­soph­i­cal than sci­en­tif­ic.” The goal, how­ev­er, is to “replace ill-defined folk the­o­ries of ‘con­scious­ness’, ‘self’ and ’emo­tion’ with more con­crete com­pu­ta­tion­al con­cepts.” Lec­tures in the course include ones intrigu­ing­ly called “Falling in Love,” “From Pan­ic to Suf­fer­ing,” and “Com­mon Sense.” In addi­tion to The Soci­ety of Mind, the course also cen­ters around anoth­er book by Min­sky, The Emo­tion Machine, which you can read free online here.

Min­sky’s course will be added to our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties. His book, The Emo­tion Machine, can be found in our oth­er col­lec­tion: 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices.

via Boing Boing/O’Reil­ly Radar

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Com­put­er Sci­ence Cours­es

The Feyn­man Lec­tures on Physics, The Most Pop­u­lar Physics Book Ever Writ­ten, Now Com­plete­ly Online

Harvard’s Free Com­put­er Sci­ence Course Teach­es You to Code in 12 Weeks

John Lennon Jams With Eric Clapton, Keith Richards & Mitch Mitchell at the Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus (1968)

In 1968, Mick Jag­ger and Michael Lindsay-Hogg—director of the Let It Be film and sev­er­al pro­mo music videos for the Bea­t­les and the Rolling Stones—sat down to brain­storm ideas for a full-length tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion that would be unlike typ­i­cal con­cert films. Lind­say-Hogg drew a cir­cle on a piece of paper, and an idea was born for a rock and roll cir­cus: two shows fea­tur­ing the Stones, the Who, Mar­i­anne Faith­full, Taj Mahal, Jethro Tull, and John Lennon’s super­group Dirty Mac, with Yoko, Eric Clap­ton, Jimi Hen­drix’s drum­mer Mitch Mitchell, and Kei­th Richards on bass. That Decem­ber, the bands played on a cir­cus set in a Lon­don TV stu­dio to a live audi­ence.

Unhap­py with the result­ing footage, Jag­ger shelved the project, feel­ing like the Stones’ per­for­mance wasn’t up to snuff. (They went on ear­ly in the morn­ing, and some say Jag­ger felt upstaged by the Who.) Some film of the con­cert made it into the 1979 doc­u­men­tary The Kids Are Alright, but much of it was lost until 1989, when it turned up in the Who’s pri­vate archive. The full con­cert film even­tu­al­ly pre­miered in 1996 at the New York Film Fes­ti­val (and it’s now out on Blu­Ray-see trail­er below), where it appeared, wrote Janet Maslin, “straight out of its time cap­sule,” bring­ing back “the sleek young Stones in all their inso­lent glo­ry, recall­ing a time when they ruled the roost.” Despite Jag­ger’s mis­giv­ings, they real­ly did dom­i­nate that cir­cus stage, but the event is notable for a num­ber of oth­er rea­sons.

Of course, there’s the Lennon super­group, whose per­for­mance of his “Yer Blues,” sans Yoko (top) is “indis­pens­able,” writes All­mu­sic. That’s no over­state­ment. Clap­ton’s sin­u­ous leads and Mitch Mitchel­l’s busy fills sit beau­ti­ful­ly with Lennon’s con­fi­dent deliv­ery. Rock and Roll Cir­cus also fea­tures the only filmed per­for­mance of soon-to-be Black Sab­bath gui­tarist Tony Iom­mi in his tenure with Jethro Tull (“arguably,” Maslin says, “the most unbear­able band of their day.”)

As amaz­ing as so many of these per­for­mances are (Taj Mahal’s “Ain’t That a Lot of Love” seri­ous­ly rocks), as Maslin point­ed out, the Stones “ruled the roost,” and they knew it, even if they had to go on at five in the morn­ing to accom­mo­date dif­fi­cult setups between acts.

It just so hap­pens that Rock and Roll Cir­cus rep­re­sents Bri­an Jones very last gig with the band. (It was not, as Ulti­mate Clas­sic Rock reports, an ear­li­er show at Empire Pool that May.) He looks par­tic­u­lar­ly unen­thused above play­ing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and the rest of the band looks exhaust­ed as well—all except Jag­ger whose “fab­u­lous per­for­mance,” Maslin writes, “near­ly turns this into a one-man show.” Just above, see them do “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” intro­duced by Lennon in sign lan­guage (“one of two live ren­di­tions it ever got with Bri­an Jones in the line­up,” writes All­mu­sic). You can also see the bar­room blues tune “Para­chute Woman” here and below, a jumpy, funky “Sym­pa­thy for the Dev­il” (with Span­ish sub­ti­tles).

To see the full concert—including the Who’s quick appear­ance, more Dirty Mac (with Yoko), and a bunch of sideshow extras—pick up a copy of the Rock and Roll Cir­cus on Blu­Ray.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

John Lennon Writes Eric Clap­ton an 8‑Page Let­ter Ask­ing Him to Join the Plas­tic Ono Band for a World Tour on a Cruise Ship

The Last Time Lennon & McCart­ney Played Togeth­er Cap­tured in A Toot And a Snore in ’74

Gimme Shel­ter: Watch the Clas­sic Doc­u­men­tary of the Rolling Stones’ Dis­as­trous Con­cert at Alta­mont

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

Archive of 35,000 TV Political Ads Launched, Creating a Badly Needed Way to Hold Politicians Accountable

The long-loom­ing 2016 Unit­ed States pres­i­den­tial elec­tion has already got many of us, even (or maybe espe­cial­ly) non-Amer­i­cans, instinc­tive­ly flinch­ing at any­thing that smacks of polit­i­cal cam­paign­ing. Giv­en that the noise has noth­ing to do but inten­si­fy, how do we stay sane for the dura­tion of the year, not to men­tion able to tell the cred­i­ble claims from the incred­i­ble?

I rec­om­mend get­ting some per­spec­tive with a vis­it to the Inter­net Archive’s new­ly opened Polit­i­cal TV Ad Archive. Its cre­ators have, “after sift­ing through more than 100,000 hours of broad­cast tele­vi­sion cov­er­age and count­ing,” orga­nized “more than 30,000 ad air­ings” into a site meant to, in the words of Inter­net Archive’s Tele­vi­sion Archive Man­ag­ing Edi­tor Nan­cy Watz­man, “bring jour­nal­ists, researchers, and the pub­lic resources to help hold politi­cians account­able for the mes­sages they deliv­er in TV ads.” A for­mi­da­ble task, giv­en that the cur­rent storm of polit­i­cal ads in which we find our­selves comes as only the lat­est vis­it of the larg­er bliz­zard of polit­i­cal ads that has swirled around us since Eisen­how­er answered Amer­i­ca 55 years ago.

At this point, even the most well-informed and media-lit­er­ate among us face a dif­fi­cult search for clar­i­ty amid all the slant­ed­ly aggres­sive “mes­sag­ing,” and so the Polit­i­cal TV Ad Archive has accom­pa­nied its data with links to “fact-check­ing and fol­low-the-mon­ey jour­nal­ism by the project’s part­ners,” which include the Amer­i­can Press Insti­tute, the Cen­ter for Pub­lic Integri­ty, FactCheck.org, and The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Fact Check­er. “Before the pri­maries are over, the pub­lic in key pri­ma­ry states will be buried in cam­paign ads gen­er­at­ing more heat than light,” Watz­man quotes Tele­vi­sion Archive direc­tor Roger Mac­don­ald as say­ing, high­light­ing the ease with which it lets us “have a bet­ter chance at sep­a­rat­ing lies from truths and learn who is pay­ing for the ads.”

What has the project found so far? To take exam­ples just from its scruti­ny of the can­di­dates draw­ing the most media atten­tion, part­ner Poli­ti­fact “rat­ed a claim in this Don­ald Trump cam­paign ad as ‘Pants on Fire’ because it pro­claimed that Trump would ‘stop ille­gal immi­gra­tion by build­ing a wall on our south­ern bor­der that Mex­i­co will pay for,’ while show­ing footage not of Mex­i­can immi­grants, but rather of refugees stream­ing into Moroc­co that had been pulled from an Ital­ian news net­work.”

On the oth­er side of the great divide, part­ner FactCheck.org “report­ed that a Hillary Clin­ton TV ad that claimed that drug prices had dou­bled in the last sev­en years was inac­cu­rate,” claim­ing that “brand-name drug prices on aver­age have more than dou­bled” when “more than 80 per­cent of filled pre­scrip­tions are gener­ic drugs, and those prices have declined by near­ly 63 per­cent, that same report says.”

The les­son to take away so far: ads are ads, and polit­i­cal ads are even more so. We have no defense against them but what facts we learn and what degree of hair-trig­ger skep­ti­cism we bring to the table, both of which tools like the Polit­i­cal TV Ad Archive can only increase. Eval­u­ate these flur­ries of claims from all sides as best you can with­out get­ting too obses­sive about it, and you’ll sure­ly sur­vive 2016 with your rea­son intact, and even a thing or two learned about the dark arts of polit­i­cal adver­tise­ment. Stay smart out there, ladies and gen­tle­men — espe­cial­ly if you live in a swing state.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Eisen­how­er Answers Amer­i­ca: The First Polit­i­cal Adver­tise­ments on Amer­i­can TV (1952)

Dizzy Gille­spie Runs for US Pres­i­dent, 1964. Promis­es to Make Miles Davis Head of the CIA

2,200 Rad­i­cal Polit­i­cal Posters Dig­i­tized: A New Archive

Free Online Polit­i­cal Sci­ence Cours­es

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.

The Power of Power Naps: Salvador Dali Teaches You How Micro-Naps Can Give You Creative Inspiration

dali naps 3

Image by Allan War­ren, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

In high school, I had a his­to­ry teacher who was, in his spare time, a mil­lion­aire own­er of sev­er­al mari­nas. He taught, he told us, because he loved it. Was he a good teacher? Not by the lights of most ped­a­gog­i­cal stan­dards, but he did intend, amidst all his las­si­tude and total lack of orga­ni­za­tion, to leave us all with some­thing more impor­tant than his­to­ry: the secret of his suc­cess. What was it, you ask? Naps. Each day he tout­ed the pow­er of pow­er naps with a pros­e­ly­tiz­er’s relent­less enthu­si­asm: 15 min­utes a few times a day, the key to wealth and hap­pi­ness.

We all thought he was benign­ly nuts, but maybe he was on to some­thing after all. It seems that many very wise, pro­duc­tive people—such as Albert Ein­stein, Aris­to­tle, and Sal­vador Dali—have used pow­er naps as sources of refresh­ment and inspi­ra­tion. Except that while my his­to­ry teacher rec­om­mend­ed no less than ten min­utes, at least one of these famous gents pre­ferred less than one. Dali used a method of tim­ing his naps that ensured his sleep would not last long. He out­lined it thus, accord­ing to Life­hack­er:

1. Sleep sit­ting upright (Dali rec­om­mends a Span­ish-style bony arm­chair)

2. Hold a key in your hand, between your fin­gers (for the bohemi­an, use a skele­ton key)

3. Relax and fall asleep (but not for too long…)

4. As you fall asleep, you’ll drop the key. Clang bang clang!

5. Wake up inspired!

Dali called it, fit­ting­ly, “Slum­ber with a key,” and to “accom­plish this micro nap,” writes The Art of Man­li­ness, he “placed an upside-down plate on the floor direct­ly below the key.” As soon as he fell asleep, “the key would slip through his fin­gers, clang the plate, and awak­en him from his nascent slum­ber.” He claimed to have learned this trick from Capuchin monks and rec­om­mend­ed it to any­one who worked with ideas, claim­ing that the micro nap “reviv­i­fied” the “phys­i­cal and psy­chic being.”

Dali includ­ed “Slum­ber with a key” in his book for aspir­ing painters, 50 Secrets of Mag­ic Crafts­man­ship, along with such nos­trums as “the secret of the rea­son why a great draughts­man should draw while com­plete­ly naked” and “the secret of the peri­ods of car­nal absti­nence and indul­gence to be observed by the painter.” We might be inclined to dis­miss his nap tech­nique as a sur­re­al­ist prac­ti­cal joke. Yet The Art of Man­li­ness goes on to explain the cre­ative poten­tial in the kind of nap I used to take in his­to­ry class—dozing off, then jerk­ing awake just before my head hit the desk:

The expe­ri­ence of this tran­si­tion­al state between wake­ful­ness and sleep is called hyp­n­a­gogia. You’re float­ing at the very thresh­old of con­scious­ness; your mind is slid­ing into slum­ber, but still has threads of aware­ness dan­gling in the world…. While you’re in this state, you may see visions and hal­lu­ci­na­tions (often of shapes, pat­terns, and sym­bol­ic imagery), hear nois­es (includ­ing your own name or imag­ined speech), and feel almost phys­i­cal sen­sa­tions…. The expe­ri­ence can essen­tial­ly be described as “dream­ing while awake.”

The ben­e­fits for a sur­re­al­ist painter—or any cre­ative per­son in need of a jolt out of the ordinary—seem obvi­ous. Many vision­ar­ies such as William Blake, John Keats, and Samuel Tay­lor Coleridge have made use of wak­ing dream states as well­springs of inspi­ra­tion. Both Beethoven and Wag­n­er com­posed while half asleep.

Sci­en­tists have found wak­ing dream states use­ful as well. We’ve already men­tioned Ein­stein. Bril­liant math­e­mati­cian, engi­neer, philoso­pher, and the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist Hen­ri Poin­care also found inspi­ra­tion in micro naps. He point­ed out that the impor­tant thing is to make ready use of any insights you glean dur­ing your few sec­onds of sleep by writ­ing them down imme­di­ate­ly (have pen and paper ready). Then, the con­scious mind must take over: “It is nec­es­sary,” wrote Poin­care, “to put in shape the results of this inspi­ra­tion, to deduce from them the imme­di­ate con­se­quences, to arrange them,” and so forth. He also sug­gests that “ver­i­fi­ca­tion” of one’s hyp­n­a­gog­ic insights is need­ed above all, but this step, while crit­i­cal for the math­e­mati­cian, seems super­flu­ous for the artist.

So the micro nap comes to us with a very respectable pedi­gree, but does it real­ly work or is it a psy­cho­log­i­cal place­bo? The author of the Almost Bohemi­an blog writes that he has prac­ticed the tech­nique for sev­er­al weeks and found it “rel­a­tive­ly suc­cess­ful” in restor­ing ener­gy, though he has yet to har­ness it for inspi­ra­tion. If you asked empir­i­cal sleep researchers, they might tend to agree with my his­to­ry teacher: “Sleep lab­o­ra­to­ry stud­ies show,” writes Lynne Lam­berg in her book Bodyrhythms, “that a nap must last at least ten min­utes to affect mood and per­for­mance.” This says noth­ing at all, how­ev­er, about how long it takes to open a door­way to the uncon­scious and steal a bit of a dream to put to use in one’s wak­ing work.

Aside from the very spe­cif­ic use of the micro nap, the longer pow­er nap—anywhere from 10–40 minutes—can work won­ders in improv­ing “mood, alert­ness and per­for­mance,” writes the Nation­al Sleep Foun­da­tion. Short naps seem to work best as they leave one feel­ing refreshed but not grog­gy, and do not inter­fere with your reg­u­lar sleep cycle. The Sleep Foun­da­tion cites a NASA study “on sleepy mil­i­tary pilots and astro­nauts” which found that “a 40-minute nap improved per­for­mance by 34% and alert­ness by 100%.” Life­hack­er points to stud­ies show­ing that “pow­er naps, short 10 to 15 minute naps, improve men­tal effi­cien­cy and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty,” which is why com­pa­nies like Google and Apple allow their employ­ees to doze off for a bit when drowsy.

One stress man­age­ment site observes that the 10–15 minute pow­er nap does not even require a pil­low or blan­ket; “you don’t even need to go to sleep! You just need a com­fort­able place to lie on your back, put your feet up, and breathe com­fort­ably.” Such a prac­tice will not like­ly turn you into a world famous artist, poet, or sci­en­tist (or mil­lion­aire mari­na-own­ing, altru­is­tic high school teacher). It will like­ly reju­ve­nate your mind and body so that you can make much bet­ter use of the time you spend not sleep­ing.

via The Art of Man­li­ness

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How a Good Night’s Sleep — and a Bad Night’s Sleep — Can Enhance Your Cre­ativ­i­ty

Why You Do Your Best Think­ing In The Show­er: Cre­ativ­i­ty & the “Incu­ba­tion Peri­od”

How to Take Advan­tage of Bore­dom, the Secret Ingre­di­ent of Cre­ativ­i­ty

Music That Helps You Sleep: Min­i­mal­ist Com­pos­er Max Richter, Pop Phe­nom Ed Sheer­an & Your Favorites

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

William S. Burroughs Reads Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”

burroughs poe

The label “Amer­i­can orig­i­nal” gets slapped onto a lot of dif­fer­ent peo­ple, but it seems to me that, espe­cial­ly in the realm of let­ters, we could find no two lumi­nar­ies who mer­it it more in the 19th cen­tu­ry than psy­cho­log­i­cal hor­ror pio­neer Edgar Allan Poe, and in the 20th cen­tu­ry William S. Bur­roughs, sui gener­is even with­in the Beat Gen­er­a­tion. So how could we resist fea­tur­ing the record­ing just below, free to hear on Spo­ti­fy (whose soft­ware, if you don’t have it yet, you can down­load here), of Bur­roughs read­ing Poe’s tale — because, as you know if you read him, he wrote not sto­ries but tales — “The Masque of the Read Death”?

The 1842 tale itself, still haunt­ing today more than 170 years after its pub­li­ca­tion, tells of a prince and his coterie of a thou­sand aris­to­crats who, in order to pro­tect them­selves from a Black Plague-like disease—the tit­u­lar Red Death—sweeping through com­mon soci­ety, take refuge in an abbey and weld the doors shut. In need of amuse­ments (this all takes place about cen­tu­ry and a half before Net­flix, remem­ber), the prince throws a mas­quer­ade ball. What, then, should inter­rupt this good time but the inex­plic­a­ble arrival of an unin­vit­ed guest in a cos­tume rem­i­nis­cent of the corpse of a Red Death vic­tim — pos­si­bly an embod­i­ment of the Red Death itself?

Poe could tell a seri­ous­ly res­o­nant tale, and so could Bur­roughs. Though com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent in form, aes­thet­ic, set­ting, and psy­chol­o­gy, both writ­ers’ works strike just the right omi­nous tone and leave just enough unex­plained to seep into our sub­con­scious in vivid and some­times even unwant­ed ways. And so it makes per­fect sense for Bur­roughs and his voice of a jad­ed but still amused ancient to join the for­mi­da­ble line­up of Poe’s inter­preters, which includes Christo­pher Walken, Vin­cent Price, Christo­pher LeeJames Earl JonesIggy PopLou Reed, and Stan Lee. But among them all, who bet­ter than Bur­roughs to artic­u­late “The Masque of the Red Death’s” final line: “And Dark­ness and Decay and the Red Death held illim­itable domin­ion over all.”

You can hear more of Bur­roughs read­ing Poe, in per­for­mances record­ed for the com­put­er game The Dark Eye, in Ted Mills’ pre­vi­ous post here.

Bur­roughs’ read­ing (which you can also hear on YouTube) will be added to our col­lec­tion, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

William S. Bur­roughs Reads Edgar Allan Poe Tales in the Vin­tage 1995 Video Game, “The Dark Eye”

Iggy Pop Reads Edgar Allan Poe’s Clas­sic Hor­ror Sto­ry, “The Tell-Tale Heart”

Down­load 55 Free Online Lit­er­a­ture Cours­es: From Dante and Mil­ton to Ker­ouac and Tolkien

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” Read by Christo­pher Walken, Vin­cent Price, and Christo­pher Lee

Lou Reed Rewrites Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” See Read­ings by Reed and Willem Dafoe

Down­load the Com­plete Works of Edgar Allan Poe on His Birth­day

Aubrey Beardsley’s Macabre Illus­tra­tions of Edgar Allan Poe’s Short Sto­ries (1894)

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.

Hear a Supercut of the Last Second of Every AC/DC Song

acdc songs

Image by Weatherman90, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Last sum­mer, Paul Mar­shall, a DJ at the clas­sic rock sta­tion 100.7 KSLX in Phoenix Ari­zona, went the dis­tance in try­ing to answer a ques­tion: how many AC/DC songs end in pret­ty much the same way? The result of his study is the super­cut below. On his Face­book page, Mar­shall writes:

It took a LONG time to go through. I promise you, *no song was repeat­ed.* These are all the final notes, of almost every AC/DC song ever record­ed (very few songs in their his­to­ry, fade out. They were omit­ted). They know how to end a song. That’s for sure. Feel free to share, steal, and give to your morn­ing show with­out cred­it­ing me (you know who you are!). Annnd.…power chord!

All of this puts the quote attrib­uted to Angus Young (AC/DC co-founder/­gui­tarist) in a fun­ny light: “I’m sick to death of peo­ple say­ing we’ve made 11 albums that sounds exact­ly the same, Infact, [sic] we’ve made 12 albums that sound exact­ly the same.”

Enjoy!

via @WFMU

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.

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Psychedelic Animation Takes You Inside the Mind of Stephen Hawking

What’s it like inside the mind of the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist Stephen Hawk­ing? Is it an elec­tro-cos­mic dance par­ty nar­rat­ed by Carl Sagan? I would like to think so. So would direc­tor Will Studd of Aard­man Stu­dios who cre­at­ed the hip pro­mo video above, which also includes audio clips from Hawk­ing him­self and fel­low physi­cists Bri­an Cox and Andrew Stro­minger, with music by Max Hal­stead. Pret­ty cool, but what’s it for?

Well, Hawk­ing will very soon join a long line of dis­tin­guished pub­lic intel­lec­tu­als when he deliv­ers two Rei­th Lec­tures, the annu­al BBC Radio event estab­lished in 1948 and inau­gu­rat­ed by Bertrand Rus­sell (access an audio archive of the lec­tures up to 2011 here). Hawk­ing’s first lec­ture, “Do Black Holes Have No Hair?” will debut today (and we’ll post it here for you). The sec­ond, “Black Holes Ain’t as Black as They Are Paint­ed” will broad­cast next Tues­day. So what’s with the funky titles?

Ask Hawking—or rather, read his paper (or one of the lay­folk sum­maries), “Soft Hair on Black Holes,” which he  post­ed a cou­ple of weeks ago on Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty’s arX­iv, an open access data­base of physics, math­e­mat­ics, and oth­er sci­en­tif­ic research. Of Hawk­ing and oth­er physi­cists’ the­o­ry, Tia Ghose at Live Sci­ence writes, “black holes may sport a lux­u­ri­ous head of ‘hair’ made up of ghost­ly, zero-ener­gy par­ti­cles.” These “hairs” may store quan­tum infor­ma­tion that would oth­er­wise be lost for­ev­er. In the sec­ond part of his lec­ture, Hawk­ing will expand on his the­o­ry of black hole radi­a­tion. Get a brief sum­ma­ry of that the­o­ry in the video clip above, and watch this space for Hawk­ing’s sure-to-be-enlight­en­ing black hole lec­tures.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Physics Cours­es

Bertrand Rus­sell & Oth­er Big Thinkers in BBC Lec­ture Series (Free)

The Big Ideas of Stephen Hawk­ing Explained with Sim­ple Ani­ma­tion

Watch A Brief His­to­ry of Time, Errol Mor­ris’ Film About the Life & Work of Stephen Hawk­ing

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

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.