Hear Young Bob Dylan, Before Releasing His First Album, Tell Amazing Tales About Growing Up in a Carnival

Back in 2012, we fea­tured a young Bob Dylan talk­ing and play­ing on The Studs Terkel radio show in 1963. Open Cul­ture’s Mike Springer pref­aced the inter­view with these words, “Dylan had just fin­ished record­ing the songs for his sec­ond album, The Free­wheel­in’ Bob Dylan, when he trav­eled from New York to Chica­go to play a gig at a lit­tle place part­ly owned by his man­ag­er, Albert Gross­man, called The Bear Club. The next day he went to the WFMT stu­dios for the hour-long appear­ance on The Studs Terkel Pro­gram. Most sources give the date of the inter­view as April 26, 1963, though Dylan schol­ar Michael Krogs­gaard has giv­en it as May 3.” In talk­ing with Studs, Dylan told some tall tales (schol­ars say) about his youth, ones that would have made Huck­le­ber­ry Finn proud. And that ten­den­cy to cre­ate an alter­na­tive biog­ra­phy is on dis­play again in an even ear­li­er inter­view, dat­ing back to March 11, 1962.

Ani­mat­ed by Blank on Blank above, the (excerpt­ed) inter­view lets us hear Dylan, only 20 years old, before the release of his epony­mous debut album, and before achiev­ing any kind of fame. Young Dylan tells Cyn­thia Good­ing, host of the “Folksinger’s Choice” radio pro­gram in NYC, about the six years he spent with the car­ni­val.

I was with the car­ni­val off and on for about six years… I was clean-up boy, I used to be on the main line, on the fer­ris wheel, uh, do just run rides. I used to do all kinds of stuff like that… And I did­n’t go to school a bunch of years and I skipped this and I skipped that.

Lat­er he con­tin­ued:

I wrote a song once. I’m try­ing to find, a real good song I wrote. An’ it’s about this lady I knew in the car­ni­val. An’ er, they had a side show, I only, I was, this was, Thomas show, Roy B Thomas shows, and there was, they had a freak show in it, you know, and all the midgets and all that kind of stuff. An’ there was one lady in there real­ly bad shape. Like her skin had been all burned when she was a lit­tle baby, you know, and it did­n’t grow right, and so she was like a freak. An’ all these peo­ple would pay mon­ey, you know, to come and see and … er … that real­ly sort of got to me, you know. They’d come and see, and I mean, she was very, she did­n’t real­ly look like nor­mal, she had this fun­ny kind of skin and they passed her of as the ele­phant lady. And, er, like she was just burned com­plete­ly since she was a lit­tle baby, er.

You can hear a near­ly com­plete audio record­ing of the inter­view (55 min­utes) below, and read a tran­script of the full inter­view on Expect­ing Rain.

Over on Spo­ti­fy, you can hear the 11 songs that Dylan played for Good­ing that day.

They include sev­er­al that Dylan wrote, along with some old folk and blues songs:

  1. “(I Heard That) Lone­some Whis­tle” (Hank Williams/Jimmie Davis)
  2. “Fix­in’ to Die” (Buk­ka White)
  3. “Smoke­stack Ligh­n­ing” (Howl­in’ Wolf)
  4. “Hard Trav­elin’ ” (Woody Guthrie)
  5. “The Death of Emmett Till”  (Bob Dylan)
  6. “Stand­ing on the High­way” (Bob Dylan)
  7. “Roll on John” (Rufus Crisp)
  8. “Stealin’ ” (tra­di­tion­al)
  9. “It Makes a Long Time Man Feel Bad” (tra­di­tion­al)
  10. “Baby, Please Don’t Go” (Big Joe Williams)
  11. “Hard Times in New York Town” (Bob Dylan)

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:

Two Leg­ends Togeth­er: A Young Bob Dylan Talks and Plays on The Studs Terkel Pro­gram, 1963

Bob Dylan Reads From T.S. Eliot’s Great Mod­ernist PoemThe Waste Land

Bob Dylan & The Grate­ful Dead Rehearse Togeth­er in Sum­mer 1987: Hear 74 Tracks

Hear Anaïs Nin Read From Her Celebrated Diary: A 60-Minute Vintage Recording (1966)

Image by George Leite, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

At one time, writer Anaïs Nin’s rep­u­ta­tion large­ly rest­ed on her pas­sion­ate, long-term love affair with nov­el­ist Hen­ry Miller, whom she also finan­cial­ly sup­port­ed while he wrote his best-known nov­els and became, writes Sady Doyle, a “dar­ling of the avant-garde.” Nin her­self was a mar­gin­al­ized, “unfash­ion­able” writer, whose “frank por­tray­als of ille­gal abor­tions, extra­mar­i­tal affairs and incest” brought such crit­i­cal oppro­bri­um down on her that “by 1954, Nin believed the entire pub­lish­ing indus­try saw her as a joke.” She had good rea­son to think so.

Miller’s noto­ri­ous­ly cen­sored books won him cult lit­er­ary sta­tus, and inspired the Beats, Nor­man Mail­er, Philip Roth, and many more hedo­nis­tic male writ­ers seek­ing to turn their lives into art. Nin’s equal­ly explic­it work was met, she lament­ed, “with indif­fer­ence, with insults.” Crit­ics either ignored her nov­els, sev­er­al of them self-pub­lished, or dis­missed them as vul­gar, art­less, and worse. One head­line, Doyle notes, called Nin “a mon­ster of self-cen­tered­ness whose artis­tic pre­ten­tions now seem grotesque.”

All of that changed when Nin pub­lished the first vol­ume of her diary in 1966. There­after, she achieved glob­al fame as a fem­i­nist icon, and the next ten years saw the pub­li­ca­tion of an addi­tion­al six vol­umes of her jour­nals, then sev­er­al more excerpts after her death in 1977. Most notably, Hen­ry and June appeared in 1986 (sub­se­quent­ly made into a film by Philip Kauf­man), a book which—in con­junc­tion with the pub­li­ca­tion of her and Miller’s let­ters the fol­low­ing year—fur­ther added to the mythol­o­gy of the two pas­sion­ate­ly erot­ic writ­ers.

Nin had kept her diaries reli­gious­ly since age 11, and has become known as “modernity’s most pro­lif­ic and per­cep­tive diarist,” writes Maria Popo­va, a dis­tinc­tion that has led to a tremen­dous resur­gence in pop cul­ture pop­u­lar­i­ty in our time, when well-craft­ed self-rev­e­la­tion is de rigeur for artists, activists, online per­son­al­i­ties, and aspi­rants of all kinds. Hen­ry Miller is now “a mar­gin­al­ized and large­ly for­got­ten Amer­i­can writer” (or so claims his biog­ra­ph­er Arthur Hoyle), and Nin has become a “patron saint of social media,” writes Doyle, a “pro­to-Lena-Dun­ham.” Pithy quo­ta­tions from her diaries—properly cred­it­ed or not—constantly cir­cu­late on Tum­blr, Face­book, and Twit­ter.

A new gen­er­a­tion just dis­cov­er­ing Anaïs Nin can access her work in any num­ber of ways—from hip, meme-heavy Tum­blr accounts like Fuck Yeah Anais Nin to more for­mal online venues like the Anais Nin Blog, which aggre­gates biogra­phies, pod­casts, schol­ar­ship, bib­li­ogra­phies, con­tro­ver­sies, and any­thing else one might want to know about the author. Anaïs Nin fans can also hear the author her­self read from her famous diary in the audio here. At the top of the post, hear Nin’s read­ing, record­ed in ’66, the year of the first volume’s pub­li­ca­tion. The com­plete record­ing runs about 60 min­utes.

After the acclaim of Nin’s diaries, and the celebri­ty she enjoyed in her last decade, her rep­u­ta­tion once again suf­fered, posthu­mous­ly, as biog­ra­phers and crit­ics sav­aged her life and work in moral­is­tic tor­rents of what would today be called “slut-sham­ing.” But Nin is now once again right­ly revered as a writer ful­ly ded­i­cat­ed to the art, no mat­ter the recep­tion or the audi­ence. The aston­ish­ing stream of words that flowed from her, record­ing every detail of her expe­ri­ences, “seems noth­ing less than phe­nom­e­nal,” wrote Noel Young of Nin’s non­stop let­ter writ­ing. When it came to the detailed, insight­ful, and acute­ly philo­soph­i­cal record­ing of her life, “the act of writ­ing may have even sur­passed the act of liv­ing.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Simone de Beau­voir Explains “Why I’m a Fem­i­nist” in a Rare TV Inter­view (1975)

Hen­ry Miller Makes a List of “The 100 Books That Influ­enced Me Most”

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

The Very First Film Adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a Thomas Edison Production (1910)

The sto­ry of humans cre­at­ing mon­strous beings in their image may have peren­ni­al rel­e­vance, even if it seems spe­cif­ic to our con­tem­po­rary cul­tur­al moment. What, after all, is Oscar Isaac’s AI inven­tor in Ex Machi­na but a 21st cen­tu­ry update of Vic­tor Franken­stein? And what is Frankenstein’s mon­ster but a Goth­ic recre­ation of the Golem, or any num­ber of folk­loric automa­tons in cul­tures far and wide? It’s an age-old arche­typ­al sto­ry that seems to get an update every year.

Peo­ple have imag­ined mak­ing arti­fi­cial peo­ple, per­haps for as long as peo­ple have told sto­ries. But each iter­a­tion of that sto­ry emerges from a his­tor­i­cal matrix of par­tic­u­lar tech­no­log­i­cal, philo­soph­i­cal, and meta­phys­i­cal anx­i­eties. In the case of Ex Machi­na, we have not only a think­ing, feel­ing humanoid, but one cre­at­ed out of mass data col­lec­tion and designed to serve the pruri­ent inter­ests of a Niet­zschean ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist engi­neer. How very 2015, no?

In the orig­i­nal Franken­stein, a nov­el writ­ten by a woman, Mary Shel­ley, we have a very dif­fer­ent kind of mon­ster, born out of a Roman­tic con­ver­gence of inter­est in alche­my and the occult—the orig­i­nal domains of ear­ly mod­ern sci­en­tists like Isaac Newton—and more mod­ern, indus­tri­al sci­en­tif­ic meth­ods (hence the novel’s sub­ti­tle, The Mod­ern Prometheus). Many crit­ics have called the nov­el the first work of sci­ence fic­tion, and many, like Mau­rice Hin­dle in the intro­duc­tion to the Pen­guin Clas­sics edi­tion, have described its main theme as “the aspi­ra­tion of mod­ern mas­culin­ist sci­en­tists to be tech­ni­cal­ly cre­ative divini­ties.”

And yet, writes Ruth Franklin at the New Repub­lic—draw­ing con­vinc­ing­ly on Shelley’s own trau­mat­ic expe­ri­ences with birth, includ­ing her own—Franken­stein might “also be a sto­ry about preg­nan­cy.” Intrigu­ing as this pos­si­bil­i­ty may be, most inter­pre­ta­tions of the nov­el have seen it as “a fable of mas­cu­line repro­duc­tion, in which a man cre­ates life asex­u­al­ly.” That tra­di­tion con­tin­ues in the movies with the first film adap­ta­tion of Franken­stein, made by Edi­son stu­dios just over 100 years after the novel’s 1818 pub­li­ca­tion.

The 1910 short silent film, which you can watch above, bills itself as “a lib­er­al adap­ta­tion from Mrs. Shel­ley’s famous sto­ry,” and opens in its first scene with Vic­tor Franken­stein leav­ing home for col­lege. Two years lat­er, the Faus­t­ian mad sci­en­tist dis­cov­ers the mys­tery of life, uses the knowl­edge to make his “creature”—a sur­pris­ing­ly grotesque scene—and, appalled at the sight of it, rejects the thing in hor­ror. The rest of the sto­ry pro­ceeds along the usu­al lines, as the mon­ster, in rags and fright wig, seeks recog­ni­tion from his creator/parent and wreaks hav­oc when he does not receive it.

This first Franken­stein film, direct­ed by J. Sear­le Daw­ley, arrived two years after Edis­on’s Bronx, New York stu­dios began full and very lucra­tive oper­a­tions, and, by this time, writes Rich Drees, motion pic­tures had begun to receive unwel­come atten­tion from “moral cru­saders and reform groups, who decried the new medi­um as being dan­ger­ous and encour­ag­ing of immoral­i­ty.” Edi­son respond­ed quick­ly, fear­ing “a seri­ous threat to his bot­tom line,” and ordered that his films’ pro­duc­tion qual­i­ty and “moral tone” be improved.

Franken­stein, writes Drees, “was the per­fect choice to kick off pro­duc­tion under this new moral ban­ner. It’s a sto­ry that deals with the extremes of the human con­di­tion, life and death, and the dan­gers of tam­per­ing in God’s realm.” Edi­son released the film with the fol­low­ing dis­claimer:

To those famil­iar with Mrs. Shelly’s sto­ry it will be evi­dent that we have care­ful­ly omit­ted any­thing which might be any pos­si­bil­i­ty shock any por­tion of the audi­ence. In mak­ing the film the Edi­son Co. has care­ful­ly tried to elim­i­nate all actu­al repul­sive sit­u­a­tions and to con­cen­trate its endeav­ors upon the mys­tic and psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems that are to be found in this weird tale. Wher­ev­er, there­fore, the film dif­fers from the orig­i­nal sto­ry it is pure­ly with the idea of elim­i­nat­ing what would be repul­sive to a mov­ing pic­ture audi­ence. 

Five years after the Edi­son stu­dio’s short, anoth­er silent adap­ta­tion, Life With­out Soul, appeared. Made by the Ocean Film Cor­po­ra­tion, this film is now lost to his­to­ry, but it qual­i­fies as the first fea­ture-length adap­ta­tion at 70 min­utes. A review of the film, writes the blog Franken­steinia, “reveals a sto­ry that hews fair­ly close to Mary Shel­ley’s nov­el,” mak­ing a “bold attempt at cap­tur­ing the world-span­ning sweep of the tale.”

Sev­er­al dozen film adap­ta­tions in the ensu­ing years have tracked more or less close­ly to Shel­ley’s narrative—giving Franken­stein’s mon­ster a bride and hav­ing Vic­tor Franken­stein rean­i­mate his dead lover with the mind of a wrong­ly-exe­cut­ed man. But none of these films, so far as I know, has drawn out the sub­text of Franken­stein as a nov­el about preg­nan­cy and child­birth. Such an adap­ta­tion remains to be made, per­haps by the first woman direc­tor to take on a Franken­stein film.

You can find Mary Shel­ley’s Franken­stein in our col­lec­tions of Free eBooks and Free Audio Books.

The film above will be added to our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The First Hor­ror Film, George Méliès’ The Manor of the Dev­il (1896)

Franken­wee­nie: Tim Bur­ton Turns Franken­stein Tale into Dis­ney Kids Film (1984)

Mary Shelley’s Hand­writ­ten Man­u­scripts of Franken­stein Now Online for the First Time

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

Colorful Animation Visualizes 200 Years of Immigration to the U.S. (1820-Present)

Many of us, whether born there, resid­ing there, or just inter­est­ed in the place, describe the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca as “a nation of immi­grants.” What exact­ly that phrase means has in recent times become the sub­ject of heat­ed pub­lic debate. As this year’s pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates strain to appeal to vot­ers with a wide vari­ety of views on the ques­tion of what role immi­gra­tion should play in Amer­i­ca’s future (to say noth­ing of what’s going on in Britain right now), it might help to look at what role immi­gra­tion has played in its past, and a new ani­mat­ed info­graph­ic of who has immi­grat­ed from where since 1820 gives the clear­est pos­si­ble look at the whole pic­ture.

“Through most of the 1800s, immi­gra­tion came pre­dom­i­nant­ly from West­ern Europe (Ire­land, Ger­many, the U.K.),” writes the data visu­al­iza­tion’s cre­ator Max Gal­ka at Metro­cosm. “Toward the end of the cen­tu­ry, coun­tries fur­ther east in Europe (Italy, Rus­sia, Hun­gary) took over as the largest source of migra­tion. Begin­ning in the ear­ly 1900’s, most immi­grants arrived from the Amer­i­c­as (Cana­da, Mex­i­co). And the last few decades have seen a rise in migra­tion from Asia.”

Each col­ored dot fly­ing toward the U.S. rep­re­sents a part of that coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion, and the bright­ness of a coun­try’s col­or on the map cor­re­sponds to its total migra­tion to the U.S. at that par­tic­u­lar time. Gal­ka pro­vides oth­er charts that show immi­gra­tion flows by coun­try of ori­gin over time, which makes immi­gra­tion look high­er than ever, and then the same data as a per­cent­age of the total pop­u­la­tion of the Unit­ed States, which makes it look almost low­er than ever. (And as an Amer­i­can who moved to Korea last year, I can’t help but ask whether we should now give as much thought to emi­gra­tion out of the U.S. as we have to immi­gra­tion into it.)

To real­ly feel the advan­tages and com­pli­ca­tions of the nation of immi­grants first-hand, you’ll want to spend time in a major Amer­i­can city, those always vibrant, often trou­bled places that peo­ple like The Wire cre­ator David Simon have ded­i­cat­ed them­selves to observ­ing. “You look at what New Orleans is capa­ble of, as a prod­uct of the Amer­i­can melt­ing pot, and it’s glo­ri­ous,” he once said. “It’s in the fric­tion and in the dynam­ic between the var­i­ous groups that inhab­it a city that cre­ativ­i­ty real­ly hap­pens. What makes cities work is a lev­el of tol­er­ance and human endeav­or and wit that is absolute­ly required on the part of all peo­ple. Whether or not we suc­ceed as an urban peo­ple is the only ques­tion worth ask­ing.” And in Amer­i­ca, an urban peo­ple has always been a diverse peo­ple.

via Men­tal Floss

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Rare Audio: Albert Ein­stein Explains “Why I Am an Amer­i­can” on Day He Pass­es Cit­i­zen­ship Test (1940)

Noam Chom­sky on Whether the Rise of Trump Resem­bles the Rise of Fas­cism in 1930s Ger­many

Brex­it 101: The UK’s Stun­ning Vote Explained in 4 Min­utes

The Syr­i­an Con­flict & The Euro­pean Refugee Cri­sis Explained in an Ani­mat­ed Primer

John Green’s Crash Course in U.S. His­to­ry: From Colo­nial­ism to Oba­ma in 47 Videos

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.

Slavoj Žižek Explains the Artistry of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Films: Solaris, Stalker & More

Though a film­mak­er of strong per­son­al con­vic­tions, artis­tic and oth­er­wise, Andrei Tarkovsky made films that endure in part because they open them­selves to a mul­ti­plic­i­ty of inter­pre­ta­tions. Noth­ing in the Tarkovsky canon opens itself up to quite such a mul­ti­plic­i­ty of inter­pre­ta­tions as Stalk­er, which con­tin­ues to pro­duce fas­ci­nat­ing new works derived from their cre­ators’ expe­ri­ence of the film, such as Geoff Dyer’s Zona: A Book About a Film About a Jour­ney to a Room, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series of video games, and even a seg­ment of the Slavoj Žižek-star­ring doc­u­men­tary The Per­vert’s Guide to Cin­e­ma, which you can watch above.

“We need the excuse of a fic­tion to stage what they tru­ly are,” declares the philo­soph­i­cal, cul­tur­al, and polit­i­cal provo­ca­teur over footage of what many con­sid­er Tarkovsky’s mas­ter­piece. He describes it as “a film about a ‘Zone,’ a pro­hib­it­ed space where there are debris, remain­ders of aliens vis­it­ing us.” The tit­u­lar pro­fes­sion­als he describes as “peo­ple who spe­cial­ize in smug­gling for­eign­ers who want to vis­it into this space where you get many mag­i­cal objects.” The ulti­mate goal of all who make the har­row­ing jour­ney to the Zone? “The room in the mid­dle of this space, where it is claimed your desires will be real­ized.”

Not a bad sum­ming-up of the premise of a movie even whose biggest fans strug­gle to explain. But Žižek, of course, takes his analy­sis fur­ther, bring­ing in Solaris, Tarkovsky’s 1972 adap­ta­tion of Stanis­law Lem’s sci­ence fic­tion nov­el about a plan­et that can read the minds of the humans in orbit around it, “an id machine as an object which real­izes your night­mares, desires, fears, even before you ask for it.” With Stalk­er, Tarkovsky envi­sions the oppo­site, “a zone where your desires, your deep­est wish­es, get real­ized on con­di­tion that you are able to for­mu­late them. Which, of course, you are nev­er able.”

If you sub­scribe to Žižek’s read­ing of the films, it actu­al­ly makes per­fect sense that they could con­tin­ue to find new, enthralled audi­ences: the human rela­tion­ship to desire remains as fraught as ever — and per­haps has only gained fraugh­t­ness as we find ways to sat­is­fy our desires — and both Solaris and Stalk­er find artis­ti­cal­ly strik­ing new ways to dra­ma­tize it. And accord­ing to Žižek, the respect­ed film­mak­er also pro­vides a solu­tion: “reli­gious obscu­ran­tism,” a “ges­ture of self-sac­ri­fice” of the kind we see made in his final films, Nos­tal­ghia and The Sac­ri­fice. Tarkovsky also sac­ri­ficed him­self, but for cin­e­ma, and so cre­at­ed some of the most for­mal­ly remark­able motion pic­tures ever made, ones in which, in Žižek’s words, “we are made to feel this iner­tia, drab­ness of time,” and even “the den­si­ty of time itself.” If you won­der what he means by that, as ever, you’ve just got to expe­ri­ence Tarkovsky for your­self. A num­ber of his major films you can watch free online.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online: Watch the Films of Andrei Tarkovsky, Arguably the Most Respect­ed Film­mak­er of All Time

Watch Stalk­er, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mind-Bend­ing Mas­ter­piece Free Online

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

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Advice to Young Film­mak­ers: Sac­ri­fice Your­self for Cin­e­ma

Slavoj Žižek Names His Favorite Films from The Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion

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.

Photographer Bill Cunningham (RIP) on Living La Vie Boheme Above Carnegie Hall

New York City lost some of its charm this week­end, with the news that Bill Cun­ning­ham, the Times’ beloved, on-the-street fash­ion pho­tog­ra­ph­er, had passed away at the age of 87.

Much has been made over the fact that he was des­ig­nat­ed a liv­ing land­mark by the New York Land­marks Con­ser­van­cy. It’s an hon­or he earned, hit­ting the streets dai­ly in his usu­al mufti of khakis, sneak­ers, and bleu de tra­vail cot­ton jack­et to hunt his quar­ry by bicy­cle, but one could nev­er accuse him of court­ing it.

His employ­er fre­quent­ly sent him to cov­er the elite, but he had no inter­est in join­ing their ranks, despite his own grow­ing celebri­ty. His “Evening Hours” col­umn doc­u­ment­ed the dressed up doings on the “par­ty cir­cuit.” (This liv­ing New York land­mark nev­er shook his Boston accent, one of the chief delights of his week­ly video series for the Times.) A recent install­ment sug­gests that shoot­ing the likes of actress Nicole Kid­man and Vogue Edi­tor-in-Chief Anna Win­tour dur­ing tony pri­vate func­tions at MoMA and the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art (“aht”) was far less excit­ing than encoun­ter­ing col­or­ful­ly clad Himalayan dancers and a children’s craft table at an entire­ly free Sun­day after­noon street fair spon­sored by the Rubin Muse­um of Art.

Play­wright Win­ter Miller shared this anec­dote the morn­ing Cunningham’s death was announced:

…he did­n’t give a fk about who was famous or not. I once met Bill Mur­ray in the lob­by of the old New York Times build­ing. He’d shown up to see if he could track down a pho­to of him and his then-wife that Bill had shot. I brought one Bill to the oth­er, but Bill (Cun­ning­ham) was out on the streets with his blue jack­et, white bike and cam­era. When he returned, I explained how I’d come to take Bill Mur­ray under my wing to help him track down this pho­to. Bill had no idea who Bill Mur­ray was and not unkind­ly told me (that) none of his pho­tos were dig­i­tal, so it would involve him per­son­al­ly dig­ging through old files and he did­n’t have time. I admired that he knew his pri­or­i­ties and nev­er strayed from his task. I had been eager to get Bill Mur­ray the thing he’d want­ed and would have combed though vast files myself… but I nev­er looked. Bill Cun­ning­ham’s files were impen­e­tra­ble to an out­sider.

One likes to think that Mur­ray, who’s known for using his fame as his tick­et to hang with ordi­nary mor­tals, would find much to love about that.

In fact, Mur­ray strikes me as the per­fect can­di­date to play Cun­ning­ham in a biopic cov­er­ing the six decades spent liv­ing and work­ing in a stu­dio over Carnegie Hall. As far as I know, Bill Cun­ning­ham New York, a fea­ture length doc­u­men­tary, is the only time his sto­ry has been cap­tured on the sil­ver screen. How can it be that no one has thought to make a movie cen­tered on the lost bohemi­an peri­od Cun­ning­ham recalls so fond­ly in the slideshow above? It sounds like an Amer­i­can spin on the Lost Generation—sneaking down to the unlocked stage for pho­tog­ra­ph­er Edit­ta Sher­man’s impromp­tu ama­teur per­for­mances of The Dying Swan, an elder­ly cir­cus per­former and her dog roam­ing the halls on a uni­cy­cle, some­one always in a state of undress…

Per­haps Murray’s fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor, Wes Ander­son, could be enlist­ed to set these wheels in motion. The col­or­ful cast of char­ac­ters seem tai­lor-made for this direc­tor, already a fash­ion world favorite.

The hats alone!

Pri­or to acquir­ing an Olym­pus Pen D half-frame cam­era from a friend in 1966, Cun­ning­ham worked as a milliner. Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe used to crack her­self up, try­ing them on in between class­es at the Actor’s Stu­dio. The wife of a Carnegie Hall neigh­bor and Cunningham’s boss, fash­ion pho­tog­ra­ph­er Ray Solowin­s­ki, served as his mod­el. After he was estab­lished as a fash­ion expert in his own right, Cun­ning­ham admit­ted that his designs were “a lit­tle too exot­ic – you know, for nor­mal peo­ple”.


I think they’re won­der­ful, and hope­ful­ly, Bill Mur­ray, Wes Ander­son and you will agree. See below. I think they’re won­der­ful, and hope­ful­ly, Bill Mur­ray, Wes Ander­son and you will agree. Hats off to the inim­itable Bill Cun­ning­ham, as much a fix­ture of New York as Carnegie Hall.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hunter S. Thompson’s Advice for Aspir­ing Pho­tog­ra­phers: Skip the Fan­cy Equip­ment & Just Shoot

Alfred Stieglitz: The Elo­quent Eye, a Reveal­ing Look at “The Father of Mod­ern Pho­tog­ra­phy”

Stan­ley Kubrick’s Jazz Pho­tog­ra­phy and The Film He Almost Made About Jazz Under Nazi Rule

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

Free: Hear 24 Hours of Noam Chomsky’s Lectures & Talks on the Powers That Subvert Our Democracies

Noam Chom­sky is opti­mistic. Yes, the world seems to teeter on the brink of… well, name your dystopi­an sce­nario, but Noam Chom­sky is opti­mistic. The same Chom­sky who, for decades, has sought to show the myr­i­ad ways our most revered insti­tu­tions are large­ly sham oper­a­tions behind which pow­er­ful elites con­duct secret wars, pro­pa­gan­da cam­paigns, envi­ron­men­tal destruc­tion, and con­cert­ed efforts to defraud the peo­ple and dis­able demo­c­ra­t­ic process­es… well, he tells us, in a recent inter­view with James Resnick, that we too “can be very opti­mistic. Things like this have hap­pened before and they’ve been over­come.”

By “things like this,” the renowned lin­guist and anar­chist polit­i­cal philoso­pher specif­i­cal­ly means astound­ing lev­els of wealth inequal­i­ty and the ascen­den­cy, once again, of far-right extrem­ism in Europe and the U.S., a phe­nom­e­non he first observed in the years pri­or to World War II. Chom­sky began his career of social and polit­i­cal cri­tique in 1938 at the age of 10, “writ­ing arti­cles for the school news­pa­per on the rise of fas­cism in Europe and the threats to the world as I saw them.”

He went on to com­plete­ly rev­o­lu­tion­ize the field of lin­guis­tics, an achieve­ment that, stun­ning­ly, can seem sec­ondary to his polit­i­cal writ­ing and activism, giv­en the sheer num­ber of his books, essays, inter­views, and speech­es crit­i­cal of state pow­er, war, and media manip­u­la­tion over the past sev­er­al decades. (Some of his books you can read free online here.) I sup­pose if Chom­sky weren’t some­thing of an opti­mist, he would have giv­en up a long time ago. He tells Resnik what keeps him going:

The things I con­sid­er inspir­ing is see­ing peo­ple strug­gling: poor suf­fer­ing peo­ple, with lim­it­ed resources, strug­gling to real­ly achieve any­thing. Some of them are very inspir­ing. For exam­ple, a remote very poor vil­lage in south­ern Colom­bia orga­niz­ing to try to pre­vent a Cana­di­an gold-min­ing oper­a­tion from destroy­ing their water sup­ply and the envi­ron­ment; mean­while, fend­ing off para-mil­i­tary and mil­i­tary vio­lence and so on. That kind of thing which you see all over the world is very inspir­ing.

Are you inspired? Maybe it depends on how many of these grass­roots strug­gles you’ve wit­nessed. The world­wide, ground-lev­el resis­tance Chom­sky describes—and refers to again and again in his polit­i­cal work—is large­ly hid­den from us, by a mass media that sees no dol­lar val­ue in it, or per­haps obscures it for more sin­is­ter rea­sons. As Chom­sky has argued since the sixties—most com­pre­hen­sive­ly in his 1988 Man­u­fac­tur­ing Con­sent with Edward S. Herman—the cam­paigns of war and eco­nom­ic depre­da­tion con­duct­ed by the West against minori­ties, indige­nous peo­ple, and small nations around the world most­ly occur with the con­sent of West­ern peo­ple: a con­sent man­u­fac­tured by a mas­sive pro­pa­gan­da oper­a­tion called the Free Press.

His posi­tion should not sound espe­cial­ly con­tro­ver­sial to any­one who has paid the least bit of atten­tion in the last few years. The seem­ing col­lu­sion of respect­ed news orga­ni­za­tions like The Wash­ing­ton Post and The New York Times in the push for the sec­ond Iraq War led to well over a decade of post-hoc intro­spec­tion by jour­nal­ists. Recent months have seen those same organs—for per­haps more bald­ly prof­it-seek­ing motives—provide a cou­ple of bil­lion dol­lars-worth of free PR for Don­ald Trump, a can­di­date who has on mul­ti­ple occa­sions threat­ened to retal­i­ate against the press for any crit­i­cism, and who recent­ly revoked the Post’s cre­den­tials to cov­er his events. (A recent Har­vard study con­clud­ed that dur­ing this pro­tract­ed, ugly pri­ma­ry sea­son, “the press became [Trump’s] depend­able if unwit­ting ally.”)

As in these exam­ples, the role of the British press in spread­ing fear and mis­in­for­ma­tion pri­or to this month’s Brex­it vote has become its own sig­nif­i­cant sto­ry. We con­stant­ly see the press turn­ing in ago­nized cir­cles, try­ing to come to grips with its com­plic­i­ty in push­ing var­i­ous agen­das. Whether or not main­stream media orga­ni­za­tions take direct orders from gov­ern­ment bod­ies or eco­nom­ic elites, they accede to the inter­ests of the pow­er­ful all the same, and they wield enor­mous influ­ence over a vot­ing pub­lic who depend upon them for infor­ma­tion. The sit­u­a­tion presents a seri­ous prob­lem for the health of a func­tion­ing democ­ra­cy, which itself depends upon an informed and edu­cat­ed elec­torate.

But as Chom­sky has often argued—drawing as always on pri­ma­ry sources and direct­ly quot­ing the West’s most influ­en­tial polit­i­cal philoso­phers, pol­i­cy archi­tects, and busi­ness leaders—elites since the 17th and 18th cen­turies have inten­tion­al­ly thwart­ed the abil­i­ty of the pub­lic to make informed deci­sions, and have shut the pop­u­lace out of the most impor­tant deci­sion-mak­ing process­es. As he wrote in his 1999 cri­tique of Neolib­er­al­ism, Prof­it Over Peo­ple, “the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion must be exclud­ed entire­ly from the eco­nom­ic are­na, where what hap­pens in the soci­ety is large­ly deter­mined. Here the pub­lic is to have no role, accord­ing to pre­vail­ing demo­c­ra­t­ic the­o­ry.”

Chom­sky fol­lows this line of rea­son­ing in his talk “When Elites Fail,” at the top of the post, deliv­ered as the keynote address for the Eco­con­ver­gence Con­fer­ence in Port­land, Ore­gon in 2009. You can also hear this talk, along with 19 oth­ers, in the Spo­ti­fy playlist just above—a total of 24 hours of Chom­skyan social, polit­i­cal, and eco­nom­ic analy­sis, deliv­ered by the man him­self in his calm, mea­sured, under­stat­ed way. (If you need Spo­ti­fy’s free soft­ware, down­load it here.) Chom­sky address­es “The Tyran­ny of Cor­po­ra­tions,” the “U.S. Media as Pro­pa­gan­da Sys­tem,” “Pol­i­tics and Lan­guage,” “Iraq: The For­ev­er War,” and more—levying crit­i­cisms against the sys­tems of pow­er, whether Repub­li­can, Demo­c­ra­t­ic, or inter­na­tion­al, that dogged­ly seek to increase their domains and, in the approv­ing words of James Madi­son, to “pro­tect the minor­i­ty of the opu­lent against the major­i­ty.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Noam Chom­sky on Whether the Rise of Trump Resem­bles the Rise of Fas­cism in 1930s Ger­many

Clash of the Titans: Noam Chom­sky & Michel Fou­cault Debate Human Nature & Pow­er on Dutch TV, 1971

Read 9 Free Books By Noam Chom­sky Online

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

And Now for Some Culinary Weirdness: Christopher Walken Shows You How to Cook Chicken & Pears

I don’t need to be made to look evil. I can do that on my own. 

- Christo­pher Walken

Five years ago, actor Christo­pher Walken casu­al­ly shared a sim­ple recipe for roast chick­en with pears, above. The light­ing was ama­teur, his imple­ments fair­ly util­i­tar­i­an, and, much to my grat­i­fi­ca­tion, he could­n’t keep his cat off the counter, either.

His impro­vised pat­ter was as non­cha­lant as his han­dling of his ingre­di­ents. Unde­terred, legions of fans still found plen­ty of Walken-esque quotes with which to spice up the video’s com­ments sec­tion.

Chalk it up to the dozens of soft spo­ken, seri­ous­ly unhinged char­ac­ters on which this actor’s rep­u­ta­tion rests. It’s painful­ly easy to imag­ine a rival gang mem­ber or law enforce­ment offi­cial lashed to a chair just off cam­era, squirm­ing in ter­ror as Walken paus­es to appre­ci­ate the “lit­tle cook­ies” the caramelized pears leave behind on the bot­tom of his pan.

What­ev­er he’s plan­ning to do to this imag­i­nary unfor­tu­nate, one hopes it won’t involve flaps of skin and a ver­ti­cal poul­try roast­er.

As to the recipe, it’s as deli­cious as it is innocu­ous. Try it!

If you’re feel­ing less than adven­tur­ous, you can decrease the creep fac­tor by repli­cat­ing the shoot with a grand­fa­ther­ly gent of your choos­ing pri­or to serv­ing. (Any­one who’s not Christo­pher Walken will do.)

If you’re look­ing for fur­ther serv­ing sug­ges­tions, the com­e­dy chan­nel Fun­ny or Die revis­it­ed the dish in 2012, pair­ing it with sal­ad, seafood melange, red wine, Law & Order: Spe­cial Vic­tims Unit star Richard Belz­er, and two heav­i­ly made up assis­tants who appear to be on loan from Robert Palmer’s “Addict­ed to Love” video.

Things get cook­ing with a vis­it to the Byzan­tine Stew Leonard’s super­mar­ket, and end with a cell phone pic of Walken’s nose. There’s a live man­dolin ser­e­nade and the kitchen seems vast­ly more expen­sive, but I found myself miss­ing the homey sense of fore­bod­ing cre­at­ed by the orig­i­nal.

Still, one can nev­er go wrong with poul­try and pears.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Christo­pher Walken Reads The Three Lit­tle Pigs, The Raven, and a Lit­tle Lady Gaga

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

How Cook­ing Can Change Your Life: A Short Ani­mat­ed Film Fea­tur­ing the Wis­dom of Michael Pol­lan

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

« Go BackMore in this category... »
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.