Hear Harold Bloom Read From Three Sublime American Authors: Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson & Hart Crane

Before Shakespeare, literary characters mostly remained static, representing types rather than psychologically real human beings. At least according to critic and Yale academic Harold Bloom, who published a gargantuan book—Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human—to prove that “in Shakespeare, characters develop rather than unfold, and they develop because they reconceive themselves.” Shakespeare, in other words, invented psychological realism: that dynamism of character we recognize as one of the hallmarks of literature. Great books give us fictional people we believe in, suffer with, feel we know intimately when we’ve lived long with their stories.

For Bloom, Shakespeare’s characters often change because “they overhear themselves talking, whether to themselves or to others. Self-overhearing is their royal road to individualism.” When we look forward a couple hundred years, we find Herman Melville reaching for Shakespearean heights of tragedy and bombast in Moby Dick, his Ahab as outsized and unforgettable a character as Lear, Macbeth, or Richard II.


But does Ahab change? Perhaps only in that he grows more vehemently single-minded (and unstable) as the novel progresses, though his purpose never wavers from beginning to fateful end.

We can see Ahab’s intensification guided by the self-overhearing of his many crazed speeches—to his crew, himself, the whale, no one in particular. In the speech Bloom reads at the top of the post, Ahab addresses the purely elemental—St. Elmo’s fire—in Chapter 119, “The Candles,” asserting his selfhood against the sublime indifference of nature. “In the midst of the personified impersonal,” Ahab shouts at the luminous phenomenon, “a personality stands here.” In his critical book on Melville, Bloom interprets this speech as a Gnostic sermon, but we can just as well see it as a manifest refining of Ahab’s conscious sense of himself as an avatar of vengeance, animated against the world, though it seems not to recognize in him or anyone else the specialness of personality and its many lists of grievances.

The Melville reading, and the two above—from Hart Crane’s The Bridge and Emily Dickinson’s “There’s a Certain Slant of Light”—come to us from Random House, publisher of Bloom’s latest critical opus, The Daemon Knows, a study, as his subtitle states, of “Literary Greatness and the American Sublime.” As in nearly all of his popular critical books, in this most recent one, Bloom traces literary genealogies. And while all three of these American greats distantly descend from Shakespeare, “here,” writes Cynthia Ozick in her New York Times review, Bloom “invokes the primacy of Emerson as germinating ancestor.”

Emerson, writes Bloom, “is the fountain of the American will to know the self and its drive for sublimity.” As Bloom has interpreted the Western Canon for over half a century—serving as its self-appointed spokesman time and again—the great drive of literature since the Renaissance accords with the ancient command to know thyself… or, failing that, invent thyself.

Related Content:

Harold Bloom Creates a Massive List of Works in The “Western Canon”: Read Many of the Books Free Online

Harold Bloom Recites ‘Tea at the Palaz of Hoon’ by Wallace Stevens

Harold Bloom on the Ghastly Decline of the Humanities (and on Obama’s Poetry)

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

Hear the Declassified, Eerie “Space Music” Heard During the Apollo 10 Mission (1969)

The above video is a breathless example of American cable television, and how we love a good story and seriously want something to be more fantastic than boring ol’ scientific fact. It also ties into our culture’s perpetual love and nostalgia for the space program of the 1960s.

The anecdote takes place in 1969 during the Apollo 10 mission, when the astronauts on board were in lunar orbit and flying around the dark side of the moon. Having temporarily lost radio contact with earth, they begin to hear “weird music.” Eugene Cernan and John Young can be heard on the recordings asking “You hear that? That whistling sound?” Another astronaut agrees:  “That sure is weird music.” The sound lasted for about 60 minutes.

These recordings were only declassified in 2008 by NASA, which only adds to their mystery, along with the fact that the astronauts never spoke on the matter afterwards because they thought nobody would believe them, according to this BBC article.

So what could it have been? A Star Wars cantina on the moon? Martian ham radio operators? The monolith from 2001?

Well, cut through the internet interference and it seems to be radio interference. This thread on Metafilter has some great non-clickbait-y discussion, including this:

The other likely explanation is that radio noise from the universe resonated with various components in Apollo, and ultimately induced enough current on the radio antenna to generate a signal. On the dark side of the moon, earth-based signals fine tuned for human listeners are absent. Background noise and its impact on Apollo’s communication systems would be prominent on the audio signal.

But maybe this comment offers a better explanation:

Space whales.

Meanwhile, you can cut through all that by listening to the full archive of Apollo 10 recordings that NASA posted on archive.org on 2012. You can find the “music” on track 7, 10-030702_5-OF-6, starting at 44 minutes in, in all its static-y glory.

And for those who dig the music of sine waves, you could just listen to this:

Related Content:

NASA Puts Online a Big Collection of Space Sounds, and They’re Free to Download and Use

Download Free NASA Software and Help Protect the Earth from Asteroids!

Neil deGrasse Tyson: ‘How Much Would You Pay for the Universe?’

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.

13 Van Gogh’s Paintings Painstakingly Brought to Life with 3D Animation & Visual Mapping

Earlier this month, we told you how you can download hundreds of Van Gogh paintings in high resolution, courtesy of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Now, the question is, what will you do with those images? You’re a little tech savvy? Maybe make yourself a nice screensaver. You’ve got some more serious tech chops? Even better. You can put those Van Gogh images in motion. Last year, Mac Cauley animated Van Gogh’s 1888 painting, “The Night Cafe,” using Oculus virtual reality Software. It’s a sight to behold. And above, we have 3D animations of thirteen Van Gogh paintings, all created by Luca Agnani, an Italian artist who specializes in visual mapping and design projections. 


Agnani’s animations are painstaking and precise. Explaining the precision of his method, he told the The Creators Project, “To calculate the exact shadows, I tried to understand the position of the sun relative to Arles at different times of the day.” And he added: “If the video [above] was projected over [Van Gogh’s] paintings, my interpretations would superimpose perfectly, like a mapping of a framework.” To create similar animations you will want to get comfortable using software packages like Premiere and 3D Studio Max.

The Van Gogh paintings appearing in the video are as follows:

1. Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries
2. Langlois Bridge at Arles, The
3. Farmhouse in Provence
4. White House at Night, The
5. Still Life
6. Evening The Watch (after Millet)
7. View of Saintes-Maries
8. Bedroom
9. Factories at Asnieres Seen
10. White House at Night, The
11. Restaurant
12. First Steps (after Millet)
13. Self-Portrait

h/t Kim L.

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Watch as Van Gogh’s Famous Self-Portrait Morphs Into a Photograph

Van Gogh’s 1888 Painting, “The Night Cafe,” Animated with Oculus Virtual Reality Software

The Unexpected Math Behind Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

Take a Multimedia Tour of the Buttock Song in Hieronymus Bosch’s Painting The Garden of Earthly Delights

buttock song2

“Not a bum note in sight!” goes the headline, in all the Daily Mail‘s trademark subtlety. Mark Prigg’s straight-to-the-point article tells us of “a musical score discreetly written on the butt of a figure in Garden Of Earthly Delights, the famous painting by Hieronymus Bosch,” which, thanks to the labor of love of Oklahoma Christian University student Amelia Hamrick, “has become an online hit.” The title of her rendition: “The 600-Year-Old Butt Song from Hell.”


Going a bit upmarket to Sean Michaels in the Guardian, we find the details that, “posting on her Tumblr, a self-described ‘huge nerd‘ called Amelia explained that she and a friend had been examining a copy of Bosch’s famous triptych, which was painted around the year 1500. “[We] discovered, much to our amusement,” she wrote, “[a] 600-years-old butt song from Hell.” You can read about it on her viral post, which describes her project of transcribing Bosch’s posterior-written score “into modern notation, assuming the second line of the staff is C, as is common for chants of this era.”

You can actually hear a rendition of this heroically recovered composition by clicking on the video above. Some fine soul — presumably a fellow named Jim Spalink — took Hamrick’s notation and turned it into music. When you’re done, you can then give the Buttock song a close visual investigation by diving into the virtual tour of The Garden of Earthly Delights, featured here earlier this month. Look for the 13th stop on the guided tour, and you can see the musical notation in incredibly fine detail–finer detail than you could have ever hoped or imagined.

Related Content:

Take a Virtual Tour of Hieronymus Bosch’s Bewildering Masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights

What Ancient Greek Music Sounded Like: Hear a Reconstruction That is ‘100% Accurate’

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. 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.

Wes Anderson Movie Sets Recreated in Cute, Miniature Dioramas

A photo posted by Mar Cerdà (@marillustrations) on

Wes Anderson’s perfectionist films often look like dollhouses enlarged to fit in human actors, but Barcelona-based illustrator Mar Cerdà has one-upped the director and created her own miniature dioramas replicating sets from several of his films.

This is meticulous work done in watercolor, then precisely cut and combined into scenes both two- and three-dimensional. For anyone who has tried to cut something very small and fiddly with an x-acto knife, you’ll appreciate her skill. (The artist in me is complete jelly, as they say.) So far she has recreated the concierge desk from The Grand Budapest Hotel, the berth from The Darjeeling Limited, and the bathroom from The Royal Tenenbaums, complete with Margot and her mom Etheline. (If you look deeper, you will also find this mini Margot box.)

A photo posted by Mar Cerdà (@marillustrations) on

Her love of Anderson is no surprise if you look at the other work in her portfolio. Her book Familiari is a series of figures that can be flipped to make “80,000 different families,” all of which give off the Tenenbaum group shot vibe. And her lovingly detailed recreation of an entry in a Menorca-located house shares a love of cute and colorful with the director’s art direction.

Dioramas aside, by the way, her watercolor technique as well as her figurative work is on point.

Currently, Cerdà is working on a Star Wars-themed diorama because, hey why not? Most everybody in the world loves that universe. And she also just finished a recreation of a scene from Zoolander. Follow her on Instagram, because there’s sure to be more to come.

A photo posted by Mar Cerdà (@marillustrations) on

via AV Club

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Books in the Films of Wes Anderson: A Supercut for Bibliophiles

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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.

See The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” Played on the Oldest Martin Guitar in Existence (1834)

You may have heard the recent hubbub over an antique Martin guitar from the 1870s that ended up smashed to bits on the set of Quentin Tarantino’s ultraviolent Western The Hateful Eight. Maybe you saw people gnash their teeth online and said, “so what? It’s just a guitar!” Fair enough, and a Stradivarius is just a violin. I exaggerate a little, but many guitar lovers who watched the clip of Kurt Russell destroying the priceless artifact (unwittingly, it seems) felt the impact for days afterward. As Colin Marshall wrote in a post featuring that footage, “You can still go out and buy a serviceable guitar from the end of the 19th century without completely wiping out your savings, but you’d be hard pressed to find a Martin made a few decades earlier—such as the one smashed in The Hateful Eight—at any price at all; less than ten may exist anywhere.”

You can see one of those relics above; the oldest known Martin in existence, in fact, made decades earlier than the wrecked guitar from Tarantino’s set—made, in fact, in 1834, just one year after cabinet maker C.F. Martin moved to New York City from his native Germany, where he had run into trouble with the Violin Maker’s Guild who claimed exclusive rights over instrument manufacturing. Martin immediately began producing guitars, like the small-bodied Stauffer-style instrument above, before moving his factory to its current location of Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where the Martin Museum is located. In the video, folk guitarist Stevie Coyle has the pleasure of picking out The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and an original tune called “Saltflat Rhapsody” on the aged instrument, which sounds just a little bit like a Medieval lute.

Just above, see Chris Martin IV, great-great-great-grandson of the famed guitar maker and current CEO of the company give a tour of the museum, pointing out what guitar historians believe is the earliest guitar with X-bracing, the innovative inner architecture C.F. Martin supposedly invented when coming up with his own designs and moving away from those of his mentor, Johann Stauffer. After the pain of watching a beautiful vintage Martin smashed to bits in Tarantino’s film, it’s a great consolation—for guitar nerds at least—to see how well the Martin Museum has preserved so much of the company’s history and kept such early models in playable condition.

Related Condition:

Priceless 145-Year-Old Martin Guitar Accidentally Gets Smashed to Smithereens in Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight

Musician Plays the Last Stradivarius Guitar in the World, the “Sabionari” Made in 1679

How Fender Guitars Are Made, Then (1959) and Nowadays (2012)

The Story of the Guitar: The Complete Three-Part Documentary

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

Orson Welles Narrates the Russian Revolution in Ten Days That Shook the World (1967)

“St. Petersburg, capital of Russia. October the 25th, 1917. The time: twenty-one minutes to ten in the evening. At anchor in the river Neva, the cruiser Aurora waits to take her place in history. In precisely one minute’s time, the crew, led by Bolsheviks, will fire a shot to signal the attack on the winter palace.” So begins Ten Days That Shook the World — not John Reed’s 1919 book of reportage on the October Revolution, nor Sergei Eisenstein’s 1928 film based on it, but a 1967 documentary by Granada Television. And who speaks those words? You won’t have to hear anything more than “St. Petersburg” to recognize the voice of the one and only Orson Welles.


Welles could tell the story of anything, of course, and he does the expected good job recounting that of the fall of Nicolas II, the Kerensky regime, the Bolshevik takeover, and the Russia that rose thereafter, working from a script by the Soviet filmmaker Grigori Alexsandrov, who co-directed Eisenstein’s film. As we listen to Welles speak, we see imagery drawn from a variety of sources: photographs and newspaper clippings, interview footage, contemporary newsreels, and even scenes from historical feature films about the Russian Revolution, especially Eisenstein and Alexandrov’s picture.

I like to think that Welles appreciated this method of documentary construction, which combines an overall adherence to fact with occasional visual departures from it — though the production tightly integrates the “fictional” footage with the “factual” footage, and the former has in many cases shaped our collective mental image of the Russian Revolution more than the latter has. He would step deep into this arena himself less than a decade later with F for Fake, his final, sui generis piece of filmmaking ostensibly about art forgery but really, in both its form and substance, about the line between the true and the false.

Watching Ten Days That Shook the World here almost a half-century into 1967’s future — itself a half-century into 1917’s future — makes it impossible not to think about the continuum of history, and the shifting ways in which we’ve told and retold the stories of those who came before us all along it. “Who dare say where the road they began to travel in 1917 will finally lead them,” asks Orson Welles of the Russians at the documentary’s end, “and us?” The question holds up today just as it did fifty years ago — or indeed a hundred.

Related Content:

The Red Menace: A Striking Gallery of Anti-Communist Posters, Ads, Comic Books, Magazines & Films

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F for Fake: Orson Welles’ Short Film & Trailer That Was Never Released in America

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. 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.

Californium: New Video Game Lets You Experience the Surreal World of Philip K. Dick

Did Philip K. Dick foresee the future, or did he help invent it? While many of his visions belong more to the realm of the paranormal than the science-fictional, it’s certainly the case that the world we inhabit increasingly resembles a pastiche of Dick’s hyperreal, postmodern techno-dystopias.

Dick wrote about how the shiny, pop-art surfaces of modernity conceal worlds within worlds, none of them more—or less—real than any other, and it’s easy to imagine why his characters come unhinged when confronted with one virtual trapdoor after another, their sense of self and object permanence disintegrating. But for Dick, this experience was not simply a fictional device, but a part of his lived psychological reality: from his drug use, to his many failed marriages, to his paranoid anti-authoritarianism, to his life-altering mystical encounter….

And now, thanks to the very Dickian phenomenon of first-person computer games, you too can experience the hallucinatory life of a down-and-out sci-fi scribe in 1960s Berkeley whose mind gets invaded by an alien intelligence. The new game, Californium—developed by Darjeeling and Nova Productions—puts you inside the world of writer Elvin Green, whose life, writes Motherboard, “is an amalgam of real elements from Dick’s life… and numerous events and themes that run through his work.”

For legal reasons, the developers could not use Dick’s name nor the titles of his novels, but “nevertheless,” the game “is shaping up to be one of the most fitting tributes to the 20th century’s infamous techno-prophet.” At the top of the post, watch a trailer for the game, and just above, Youtuber Many a True Nerd walks through a comprehensive tour of the game’s architecture, with some lively commentary. If you’re convinced you’d like to spend some time in this colorfully addled alternate dimension, head on over to the game’s website to download it for yourself.

Related Content:

Philip K. Dick Takes You Inside His Life-Changing Mystical Experience

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Philip K. Dick Makes Off-the-Wall Predictions for the Future: Mars Colonies, Alien Viruses & More (1981)

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

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