Why You Shouldn’t Drive Slowly in the Left Traffic Lane

If you tend to drive slowly in the left lane, then take note. At best, you’re creating more traffic. At worst, you’re increasing the chances of an accident. That’s what research indicates. And that’s why the authorities are now trying to discourage the practice. Above, you can watch a quick public service announcement from Vox. Read more on the cons of left-lane driving here.

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Download 100,000 Photos of 20 Great U.S. National Parks, Courtesy of the U.S. National Park Service

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The story of the U.S.’s national parks isn’t one story, but many. These have been told and retold since the founding of the National Park Service, a century ago this past Thursday. And they stretch back even further, to the Civil War, the conquering and settling of the west, and the beginnings of the American conservation movement. Nearly every one of us who grew up within a cramped, contentious family car ride from one (or more) of those parks has our own story to tell. But our nostalgic memories can conflict with the history. Virginia and North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway, for example—the park closest to my childhood home—offers visitors an idyllic vision of Appalachian life and landscape. But the founding and construction of the park in the 1930s and 40s was anything but.

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On the one hand, the building of the gorgeously scenic, 469-mile highway provided jobs for out-of-work civilians and, later, conscientious objectors under FDR’s Works Progress Administration, Emergency Relief Administration, and Civilian Conservation Corps. On the other hand, the federal government’s seizure of the land created hardships for existing farmers and landowners, forced sometimes to sell their property or to obtain permission for building and development. The Park Service project also engendered resentment among the Eastern Cherokee, who fought the Parkway, and won some concessions. (In one story that represents both of these hardships, a Cherokee man Jerry Wolfe tells WRAL what it was like to work on the road, one that ran directly through the cabin he once shared with his parents.)

Planting Plan Blue Ridge

To celebrate their 100 years of existence, the National Park Service has launched what it calls its Open Parks Network, a portal to thousands of photographs and documents dating from the very beginnings of many of its parks—some of which, like Yosemite and Yellowstone, came under federal protection before the NPS existed, and some, like New York’s Stonewall Inn, only given protected monumental status this year. The Open Parks Network includes over 20 different parks and several dozen collections that document specific periods.

Great Smoky Mountains Shelton

In the case of Blue Ridge Parkway, we have only one—a collection of the park’s engineering plans. One might hope for images of those toiling Depression-era crews, or of the anxious faces of the region’s residents. But instead we can piece together the story of the park through fascinating documents like the “Planting Plan” further up, from 1965, which reminds us how much the natural beauty of the Parkway is achieved through human intervention. And we can imagine what many of those early-20th century Appalachian folks looked like in historic photos like that above, from a collection of Great Smokey Mountains photographs taken in the teens and 20s by Jim Shelton.

Lincoln's Birthplace Nearby House

Regardless of how much meddling we have done to create the scenic overlooks and mountain and Redwood underpasses that constitute the nation’s protected parks, there’s no denying their appeal to us all, nature lovers and otherwise, as symbols of the country’s rough grandeur. We can skip the hikes and long car rides, or plan for them in the future, surveying the parks’ beauty through over 100,000 high-resolution digital scans of photographs and 200,000 images in all, including more galleries of building plans, maps, and illustrations. Some of the galleries are quite unusual—like this collection of aerial infrared photographs of the Great Smoky Mountains, or this one of “historic goats” of the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. And many of the photos—like the faded 1968 photo of Yellowstone’s Old Faithful geyser, further up, look just like your family vacation photos.

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There are beautiful historical images like that of a house near Hodgenville, Kentucky, site of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, further up; images of park rangers and staff, like the charming group photo above from Andersonville National Historic Site in Georgia; and sublime vistas like the photo at the top of the post from the Kings Mountain National Military Park in Yosemite Valley. The Open Parks Network, writes Joe Toneli at Digg, “is constantly being added to, and is an important tool in preserving the history of the NPS and the national monuments it protects.” Developed in partnership with Clemson University since 2010, Open Parks hosts all public domain images, free to explore and download. See this guide for a detailed explanation on how to best navigate the collections, all of which are fully searchable.

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Each image, like that of Yosemite Falls, above, has options for viewing full-screen and zooming in and out. So absorbing are these archives, you may find yourself getting lost in them, and any one of these beautifully-preserved parks and their incredible histories offer welcome places to get lost for several hours, or several days. For even more historic photography from the nation’s many parks, see selections online from the Eastman Museum’s current exhibit, Photography and America’s National Parks, “designed,” writes Johnny Simon at Quartz, “to inspire people to look at national landscape just as Teddy Roosevelt once did, a century ago.”

Enter Open Parks here.

via Digg

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

The Spellbinding Art of Human Anatomy: From the Renaissance to Our Modern Times

Many of us have a fraught relationship with what medical illustrator Vanessa Ruiz, above, refers to as our anatomical selves.

You may have received the Visible Man for your 8th birthday, only to forget, some thirty years later, what your spleen looks like, where it’s located and what it does.

We know more about the inner workings of our appliances than we do our own bodies. Why? Largely because we saved the manual that came with our dishwasher, and refer to it when our glassware is covered in spots.




As Ruiz noted in her TED-Med talk last November, there’s a wealth of easily accessible detailed anatomical illustrations, but we tend to keep them out of sight, and thus out of mind. Once a student is finished with his or her medical textbook or app, he or she rarely seeks those pictures out again. Those of us outside the medical profession have spent very little time considering the way our bodily systems are put together.

This lack of engagement prompted Ruiz to found the aggregate blog Street Anatomy, devoted to ferreting out the intersection between anatomical illustration and public art. Exposure is key. In creating startling, body-based images—and what is more startling than a flayed human or piece thereof?—the artist reminds viewers of what lurks beneath their own skin.

Ruiz is deeply interested in the history of her craft, a practice which can be dated to Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci. She sees beauty in bizarre early examples which inserted severed limbs into still lives and posed semi-dissected cadavers next to popular attractions, such as Clara, the touring rhino.

These days, the subjects of those purposeful illustrations are more likely to be rendered as 3-D computer-generated animations.

The more old school approach is visible in the work of the artists Ruiz champions, such as Fernando Vicente, who couches 19th-century male anatomical plates inside more contemporary female pin-ups and fashion illustrations.

Artist Jason Freeny gives Barbie, Legos, and Mario the Visible Man treatment.

Noah Scalin, who spent 2007 creating a skull a day, made a gut-filled gun and titled it “Anatomy of War.”

But let us not presume all viewers are in total ignorance of their bodies’ workings. A woman whose ankle had been smashed in a roller skating accident commissioned architect Federico Carbajal to document its reconstruction with one of his anatomically accurate wire sculptures. Carbajal incorporated his benefactor’s surgical screws.

Check out Ruiz’s recommended reading list to delve into the subject more deeply.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her latest script, Fawnbook, is available in a digital edition from Indie Theater Now.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

1850s Japan Comes to Life in 3D, Color Photos: See the Stereoscopic Photography of T. Enami

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For about a quarter of a millennium, Japan had a policy called sakoku, literally meaning “closed country,” which put to death foreigners who dared enter to Japan, or Japanese who dared to leave it. It came to an end with the Meiji Restoration, the period between 1868 to 1912, during which Japan put the Emperor back in charge and, as historians often say, began to “open up” to the outside world, lighting out on the path to its own kind of modernity. Foreigners would still have had only a vague idea of Japanese life at the time — at least those without access to a stereoscope, and who thus couldn’t lay eyes on the vivid 3D photography of Yokohama’s T. Enami.

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“To many whose lives revolved around photography — including both Japanese and foreign professionals, as well as serious amateurs — Enami was not just a photographer, but a ‘photographer’s photographer,'” writes Enami enthusiast Rob Oechsle on his site t-enami.org. He also dubs his photographic hero (who was born Nobukuni Enami in 1859 and lived until 1929, seeing the end of the Meiji era but not the beginning of the second world war) “King of the Stereoview, Master of the Lantern-Slide, Prolific, Anonymous Contributor To the World of Meiji-era Yokohama Album Views, Dedicated Street Photographer, and Honored Alumnus of National Geographic Magazine.”

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That first title has granted a portion of Enami’s large body of work a surprising recent afterlife. Following in his teacher’s footsteps, Enami refined the Japanese use of the stereographic camera, a device that produced, writes the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Zoe Clayton, a stereograph: “two pictures mounted next to each other, viewed with a set of lenses known as a stereoscope.  Taken around 7cm apart, roughly corresponding to the spacing of the eyes, the left picture represents what the left eye would see, and likewise for the right, so when observing the pictures through a stereoscopic viewer, the pair of photographs converge into a single three-dimensional image.”

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Advertised with slogans like “See the world from your parlor!,” this “optical marvel took the world by storm in the mid 19th century, becoming the first ever mass-produced photographic images sold,” their popularity such that “every Victorian home — regardless of class — had a stereoscope and a collection of views.” And though the years have made stereoscopes a little hard to come by, the internet has discovered that you can enjoy something like the same 3D effect Victorian viewers did by looking at an animated GIF that oscillates quickly between the left picture and the right one. Enami hand-tinted many of his stereographs, resulting in colored historical images that look, even in two dimensions, startlingly realistic today.

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Here we present only a few of Enami’s stereographs, but you can see a much fuller collection at Oeschle’s “Old Japan in 3D” Flickr page. He survived 1923’s Great Kantō earthquake, but his studio didn’t; he rebuilt it and later passed it on to his son, who ran the place until it underwent a second destruction in 1945 by Allied bombs. Though Enami’s name remains known primarily to fans of Meiji-era photography, his posthumous reputation has slowly but steadily grown: one of his photos even appeared on the cover of the first edition of Odyssey: the Art of Photography at National Geographic. These GIFs have already sparked an interest in Enami’s work among a new generation. When 3D monitors catch on, perhaps he’ll rise to his true place in the photographic pantheon.

via Boing Boing

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

A Photographic Tour of Haruki Murakami’s Tokyo, Where Dream, Memory, and Reality Meet

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 the Beatles Play Their Final Concert 50 Years Ago Today (August 29, 1966)

50 years ago today, the Beatles played their final official concert and put an end to their touring career. It all happened at the now defunct Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

As Josh Jones told us in 2014, “knowing it would be their final show, the band brought a camera onstage to take photos of the crowd and themselves.” And “Paul McCartney asked the band’s press officer Tony Barrow to record the concert on a hand-held tape recorder.” Barrows eventually talked more about how this recording came to see the light of day. He said:

Back in London I kept the concert cassette under lock and key in a drawer of my office desk, making a single copy for my personal collection and passing the original to Paul for him to keep. Years later my Candlestick Park recording re-appeared in public as a bootleg album. If you hear a bootleg version of the final concert that finishes during Long Tall Sally it must have come either from Paul’s copy or mine, but we never did identify the music thief!

Above, you can hear the Beatles’ last 28 minutes as a live act—save, of course, their impromptu gig played on a London rooftop in 1969. For all its roughness, there’s a good chance that the sound quality rivals what fans heard that cold August night in Candlestick. Like other stadiums from that era, Candlestick had a god-awful sound system, ill-equipped to compete with an endless barrage of teenage screams and gusts of wind. But that didn’t stop fans from enjoying the show all the same.

Find a setlist for the 11-song concert below:

01. “Rock and Roll Music”
02. “She’s a Woman”
03. “If I Needed Someone”
04. “Day Tripper”
05. “Baby’s In Black”
06. “I Feel Fine”
07. “Yesterday”
08. “I Wanna Be Your Man”
09. “Nowhere Man”
10. “Paperback Writer”
11. “Long Tall Sally” (Incomplete)

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please 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.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

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Peter Sellers Reads The Beatles’ “She Loves You” in 4 Different Accents: Dr. Strangelove, Cockney, Irish & Upper Crust

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The Beatles’ Rooftop Concert: The Last Gig Filmed in January 1969

Nakedly Examined Music Podcast Explores Songwriting with Cracker, King Crimson, Cutting Crew, Jill Sobule & More

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I’m Mark Linsenmayer, the host of The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast, and I’d like to introduce you to a new-in-2016 interview series called Nakedly Examined Music (iTunes – Facebook – RSS) that features great songwriters talking about their motivations and techniques regarding specific songs.

In episode one, for instance, indie rock icon and activist for artist rights David Lowery deconstructed the lyrics for his story songs “All Her Favorite Fruit” (Camper Van Beethoven, 1989) and “I Sold the Arabs the Moon” (from his 2011 solo album), contrasting these with the nonsense song that launched his career, “Take the Skinheads Bowling.”

The songs discussed are played in full, and the idea is to get a sense of the artist’s approach in very specific terms, and how this has changed over time. In episode 15, Craig Wedren shows us his development from writing heavy (“post-hardcore”), dissonant music in the 90s with Shudder to Think, to creating disco synthscapes with his early 00’s band Baby, to now composing music for soundtracks like Netflix’s “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp.”

The emphasis in a given interview depends on the artist: Guitar virtuoso Gary Lucas (Captain Beefheart, Jeff Buckley) eschews music theory, so the focus is more on the ideology of creation, whereas tap-guitar wizard Trey Gunn (King Crimson, David Sylvian) instructs us in combining time signatures and soloing in modes. The interviews both teach us how to listen to and appreciate music by showing us what to focus on, and also serve to instruct songwriters real and vicarious about decisions that go into a choice of chord or lyric or instrumentation.

What kind of music can you expect to hear? Officially, anything that has thought behind it, but I’m starting with my experience as musician (see www.marklint.com) and music lover growing up in the 80s and 90s listening to popular, indie, folk, punk, and progressive rock. There hare been some movement into soul (Episode 16 features the great Narada Michael Walden, who produced Whitney Houston among many others), electronica (Gareth Mitchell), country (Beth Kille), and future episodes will venture into classical, hip-hop, and world music. More typical, however (i.e. more akin to my own writing), are figures like 90s sweetheart and political activist Jill Sobule, cow-punk pioneer Jon Langford (Mekons), grunge-peddler turned symphonist Jonathan Donahue (Mercury Rev), NPR darling Chad Clark (Beauty Pill), and 80s Cutting Crew front-man Nick Eede. One of the episodes next to be released will feature Bill Bruford (Yes, King Crimson, Earthworks).

Listen to Jill Sobule in episode 18:

In one of the most interesting interviews (episode 3), major league music video director–and member of 70s supergroup 10cc and 80s duo Godley & Creme–Kevin Godley takes us from 70s prog excess (and getting to record jazz legend Sarah Vaughan) into the New Wave and out of music altogether, only to rediscover it post-retirement.

This is not about getting behind the scenes with your favorite stars or any other hype of that sort, but about talking with smart people to figure out the language of music, the motivations behind creation, and the techniques available for self-expression. In the course of these discussions, we get into changing trends in making a living in music (or not!), new music technologies, and, of course, philosophical issues.

Mark Linsenmayer is a writer and musician in Madison, WI. His Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast has been downloaded more than 15 million times. Learn more about Nakedly Examined Music at www.nakedlyexaminedmusic.com, subscribe via iTunes, or follow on Facebook.

Angelo Badalamenti Reveals How He and David Lynch Composed the Twin Peaks‘ “Love Theme”

On my last trip to New York, some friends took me to a favorite new-wave Chinese place of theirs. When I asked where to find the bathroom, they said to go downstairs. The staircase deposited me into one of the most surreal bathroom approaches I’ve ever experienced: a long, narrow, fully mirrored hallway with a hauntingly familiar composition piped in from speakers installed along its length. Not until I resurfaced and asked what the deal was could I identify the music: the “Love Theme” from David Lynch’s early-1990s television series Twin Peaks.

Many TV themes have lodged themselves into our collective memory, mostly through sheer repetition, but few have retained as much evocative power as the one Lynch’s composer, Angelo Badalamenti, recorded for his short-lived postmodern detective show.




It had that power from the moment Badalamenti put his fingers to the keyboard, a story told in the clip above. “What do you see, David?” he remembers asking the director as he sits down before the very same Fender Rhodes on which he composed Twin Peaks‘ major themes all those years ago. “Just talk to me.”

“We’re in a dark woods,” Badalamenti recalls Lynch first saying. “There’s a soft wind blowing through sycamore trees. There’s a moon out, some animal sounds in the background. You can hear the hoot of an owl. Just get me into that beautiful darkness.” Badalamenti plays as he played then, which drew an immediate response from Lynch: “Angelo, that’s great. I love that. That’s a good mood. But can you play it slower?” With the feedback loop between the scene in Lynch’s mind and the mood of Badalamenti’s music engaged, Lynch added a detail: “From behind a tree, in the back of the woods, is this very lonely girl. Her name is Laura Palmer.”

Badalamenti lightens his improvisation in a way that makes it somehow eerier. “That’s it!” The composer and the director play off one another’s ideas, almost like two long-collaborating musicians in a jam session. “She’s walking toward the camera, she’s coming closer… just keep building it! Just keep building it!” Eventually, they’ve created an entire rising and falling dramatic arc in this single piece of music (arguably more dramatic than the one created by the series itself, which Lynch left after two seasons). “David got up, gave me a big hug, and said, ‘Angelo, that’s Twin Peaks‘” — and to this day, a part of the culture.

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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.

Rome Comes to Life in Photochrom Color Photos Taken in 1890: The Colosseum, Trevi Fountain & More

1890 Colosseum

For almost two hundred years, English gentlemen could not consider their education complete until they had taken the “Grand Tour” of Europe, usually culminating in Naples, “ragamuffin capital of the Italian south,” writes Ian Thomson at The Spectator. Italy was usually the primary focus, such that Samuel Johnson remarked in 1776, perhaps with some irony, “a man who has not been to Italy is always conscious of an inferiority.” The Romantic poets famously wrote of their European sojourns: Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth… each has his own “Grand Tour” story.

1890 Trevi Fountain

Shelley, who traveled with his wife Mary Godwin and her stepsister Claire Clairmont, did not go to Italy, however. And Byron sailed the Mediterranean on his Grand Tour, forced away from most of Europe by the Napoleonic wars. But in 1817, he journeyed to Rome, where he wrote the Fourth Canto of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:

Oh Rome! my country! city of the soul!
The orphans of the heart must turn to thee,
Lone mother of dead empires! And control
In their shut breasts their petty misery.

For the traveling artist and philosopher, “Italy,” Thomson writes, “presented a civilization in ruins,” and we can see in all Romantic writing the tremendous influence visions of Rome and Pompeii had on gentlemen poets like Byron. The Grand Tour, and journeys like it, persisted until the 1840s, when railroads “spelled the end of solitary aristocratic travel.” But even decades afterward, we can see Rome (and Venice) the way Byron might have seen it—and almost, even, in full color. As we step into the vistas of these postcards from 1890, we are far closer to Byron than we are to the Rome of our day, before Mussolini’s monuments, notorious snarls of Roman traffic, and throngs of tourists.

1890 Trumphal Arch

“These postcards of the ancient landmarks of Rome,” writes Mashable, “were produced… using the Photochrom process, which adds precise gradations of artificial color to black and white photos.” Invented by Swiss printer Orell Gessner Fussli, the process involved creating lithographic stone from the negatives—“Up to 15 different tinted stones could be involved in the production of a single picture, but the result was remarkably lifelike color at a time when true color photography was still in its infancy.”

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The Library of Congress hosts forty two of these images in their online catalog, all downloadable as high quality jpegs or tiffs, and many, like the stunning image of the Colosseum at the top (see the interior here), featuring a pre-Photocrom black and white print as well.

1890 San Lorenzo

Aside from a rare street scene, with an urban milieu looking very much from the 1890s, the photographs are void of crowds. In the foreground of the Triumphal Arch further up we see a solitary woman with a basket of produce on her head. In the image of San Lorenzo, above, a tiny figure walks away from the camera.

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In most of these images—with their dreamlike coloration—we can imagine Rome the way it looked not only in 1890, but also how it might have looked to bored aristocrats in the 17th and 18th centuries—and to passionate Romantic poets in the early 19th, a place of raw natural grandeur and sublime man-made decay. See the Library of Congress online catalog to view and download all forty-two of these postcards. Also find a gallery at Mashable.

1890 Great Cascade

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Behold the Very First Color Photograph (1861): Taken by Scottish Physicist (and Poet!) James Clerk Maxwell

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

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