Tuileries: The Coen Brothers’ Short Film About Steve Buscemi’s Very Bad Day in the Paris Metro

All around the world, each pub­lic tran­sit sys­tem has its own rules. These come in both the offi­cial and unspo­ken vari­eties, the for­mer basi­cal­ly con­sis­tent from place to place, and the lat­ter usu­al­ly reflect­ing the mores of the soci­ety each sys­tem serves. The accept­abil­i­ty of talk­ing to one’s fel­low pas­sen­gers, for instance, tends to vary, and in some coun­tries even mak­ing eye con­tact counts as a no-no. You cer­tain­ly won’t try it in Paris after wit­ness­ing the con­se­quences when Steve Busce­mi breaks that rule in Tui­leries, this short direct­ed by the Coen broth­ers that first appeared in the anthol­o­gy film Paris, je t’aime.

“Paris is known as the City of Lights,” Buscemi’s appar­ent tourist reads in his guide­book as he sits await­ing a train in the sta­tion from which the film takes its name. “A city of cul­ture… of fine din­ing and mag­nif­i­cent archi­tec­ture. Paris is a city for lovers: lovers of art, lovers of his­to­ry, lovers of food, lovers of… love.”

Though he seems to be hav­ing a some­what less than love­ly time there, includ­ing get­ting pelt­ed by a pass­ing child’s spit­balls, he endures. Not five sec­onds after read­ing about the no-eye-con­tact cus­tom on Paris’ “rea­son­ably clean” sub­way (a laugh line for any Parisian) does he look fate­ful­ly up, catch­ing the eye of a girl across the tracks and send­ing her boyfriend into a jeal­ous rage.

For­eign­ers have long felt as intim­i­dat­ed by Paris as they’ve admired it, a mix­ture of emo­tions the Coen Broth­ers play on with­out leav­ing the Tui­leries plat­form, as does Alexan­der Payne in the alto­geth­er dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ence of the Amer­i­can alone in the City of Lights he essays at the end of Paris, je t’aime. In the decade since the movie came out, we’ve seen a few oth­er city-themed anthol­o­gy films, includ­ing New YorkI Love YouRio, Eu Te Amo, and the unre­lat­ed Tokyo!, albeit none with a sec­ond con­tri­bu­tion by the Coen broth­ers or a sec­ond appear­ance by Busce­mi — whose char­ac­ter may have yet to recov­er from from his trip to Paris any­way.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How the Coen Broth­ers Sto­ry­board­ed Blood Sim­ple Down to a Tee (1984)

How the Coen Broth­ers Put Their Remark­able Stamp on the “Shot Reverse Shot,” the Fun­da­men­tal Cin­e­mat­ic Tech­nique

Watch the Coen Broth­ers’ TV Com­mer­cials: Swiss Cig­a­rettes, Gap Jeans, Tax­es & Clean Coal

World Cin­e­ma: Joel and Ethan Coen’s Play­ful Homage to Cin­e­ma His­to­ry

4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More

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.

Watch Japanese Woodworking Masters Create Elegant & Elaborate Geometric Patterns with Wood

A friend recent­ly told me he’d had his hair cut with a pair of $10,000 scis­sors, reput­ed­ly the high­est-qual­i­ty in the world. He hard­ly need­ed to add that his bar­ber ordered them from Japan, the land where those tru­ly ded­i­cat­ed to their craft spare no expense of mon­ey, time, or ener­gy to take each small step clos­er to per­fec­tion. The rig­or­ous tra­di­tions behind that extend far back into his­to­ry, espe­cial­ly in the mak­ing of paperswords, and, as you can see in the video above, mar­quetry, pat­terned veneers which use wood — and only wood — to cre­ate ele­gant and elab­o­rate geo­met­ric pat­terns to apply to the sur­faces of all sorts of objects: artis­tic, func­tion­al, and any­where in between.

In 2012 and 2013, Guc­ci Japan went around film­ing the world of mas­ters of tra­di­tion­al arts and crafts all around the coun­try and assem­bling them into the video series “Hand,” some of which we fea­tured here last year.

Its four-minute short on mar­quetry, as prac­ticed by Noboru Hon­ma of Hakone, has espe­cial­ly daz­zled its view­ers by reveal­ing how almost unre­al-look­ing aes­thet­ic pre­ci­sion can result from one man’s work with noth­ing more than saws, sanders, and woods of var­i­ous nat­ur­al col­ors. These woods, which include cher­ry, dog­wood, ash, mul­ber­ry, and cam­phor, can make about 60 dif­fer­ent canon­i­cal pat­terns com­bin­able in an infini­tude of ways.

You can learn more about tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese mar­quetry, or yose­gi-zaiku, in the Tech­nigeek video above. It pays a vis­it to anoth­er wood­shop, not far from Hon­ma’s in the neigh­bor­ing city of Odawara. (Both Odawara and Hakone are locat­ed in Kana­gawa Pre­fec­ture, an area known for its woods.) Kiy­ota­ki Tsuyu­ki, the crafts­man in charge, works with a group of younger yose­gi prac­ti­tion­ers with the aim of push­ing the for­m’s bound­aries and keep­ing it rel­e­vant to the times. “Yose­gi is about beau­ty, the detail in the pat­tern, and the col­ors,” he says. “It’s about design, using it in your dai­ly life, or enjoy­ing it as art. If it’s fun to look at and easy to use on any occa­sion, you’re more like­ly to love it and enjoy being around it.” Espe­cial­ly if you under­stand the work — and in some sense, cen­turies of work — that went into it.

via Twist­ed Sifter

Relat­ed con­tent:

20 Mes­mer­iz­ing Videos of Japan­ese Arti­sans Cre­at­ing Tra­di­tion­al Hand­i­crafts

How Japan­ese Things Are Made in 309 Videos: Bam­boo Tea Whisks, Hina Dolls, Steel Balls & More

The Mak­ing of Japan­ese Hand­made Paper: A Short Film Doc­u­ments an 800-Year-Old Tra­di­tion

Watch a Japan­ese Crafts­man Lov­ing­ly Bring a Tat­tered Old Book Back to Near Mint Con­di­tion

The Art of Col­lo­type: See a Near Extinct Print­ing Tech­nique, as Lov­ing­ly Prac­ticed by a Japan­ese Mas­ter Crafts­man

Japan­ese Crafts­man Spends His Life Try­ing to Recre­ate a Thou­sand-Year-Old Sword

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 Tarot Card Deck Designed by Salvador Dalí


The Tarot has long been a tool of char­la­tans. But it has also long been embraced by bril­liant, uncon­ven­tion­al thinkers, many of whom them­selves have a touch of the char­la­tan about them (and who would just as like­ly admit it with a smile). William But­ler Yeats was a fan, as is vision­ary Chilean film­mak­er, artist, writer, and psy­cho­naut Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky, who has record­ed his own Youtube series explain­ing his take on this clas­sic mode of div­ina­tion. With its arche­typ­al sym­bol­ism, the Tarot’s appeal to artists should be obvi­ous. Most of them, like Jodor­owsky, find far more inter­est­ing uses for it than for­tune-telling. “You must not talk about the future,” Jodor­owsky tells us in his series, “the future is a con. The tarot is a lan­guage that talks about the present.”

What might anoth­er vision­ary artist, Sal­vador Dalí, think of Jodorowsky’s Tarot inter­pre­ta­tions? We’ll nev­er know, but I sus­pect he would find them enchant­i­ng. Not only do the two seem like kin­dred spir­its, but Dalí devot­ed some part of his life to the Tarot, design­ing his own deck in the 70s.

Ini­tial­ly, the project arrived as a com­mis­sion from pro­duc­er Albert Broc­coli for the James Bond film Live and Let Die. “Like­ly inspired by his wife Gala, who nur­tured his inter­est in mys­ti­cism,” writes Chicago’s Muse­um of Con­tem­po­rary Art, “Dalí eager­ly got to work, and con­tin­ued the project of his own accord when the con­trac­tu­al deal fell through.”

It was just around this time that the Tarot saw a mas­sive resur­gence in pop­u­lar­i­ty. The occult inter­ests of the 60s coun­ter­cul­ture were main­streamed in the 70s thanks to books like Stu­art Kaplan’s Tarot Cards for Fun and For­tune Telling. But while Dalí had chan­neled the vivid psy­che­delia of the age in an ear­li­er illus­tra­tion project, 1969’s Alice and Won­der­land, his Tarot deck, writes Lisa Rain­wa­ter at Galo mag­a­zine, “actu­al­ly shows reserve. Yes, reserve—as if his rev­er­ence for the tarot near­ly hum­bles him.” His knack for “fanat­i­cal self-pro­mo­tion” does get the bet­ter of him even­tu­al­ly: he choos­es his own face to rep­re­sent the Magi­cian (above).

Over­all, the deck com­bines the eclec­tic ori­gins of occult prac­tices with Dalí’s own unmis­tak­able sen­si­bil­i­ty. Dalí’s Tarot is “a pas­tiche of old-world art, sur­re­al­ism, kitsch, Chris­t­ian iconog­ra­phy and Greek and Roman sculp­ture. Many of his recur­ring motifs such as the rose, the fly and the bull’s head are found through­out the deck.” First pub­lished in a lim­it­ed edi­tion in 1984—and reis­sued since in edi­tions by TASCHEN and in book form by oth­er pub­lish­ers—the deck includ­ed an intro­duc­to­ry book­let that reads, in Span­ish, Eng­lish, and French:

The Wiz­ard (Arcanum I), Sal­vador Dalí, has trans­formed with his excep­tion­al art and his mar­velous tal­ent the 78 gold­en plates of ‘The fab­u­lous book of Thot’ into as many artis­tic mar­vels, each one of them duly signed by the hand of this unmatch­able, inter­nal­ly famous painter … such an extra­or­di­nary artis­tic cre­ation does not detract, in any way, from the Tarot’s close sym­bol­ism. On the con­trary, it enhances with its cap­ti­vat­ing beau­ty, the Tarot’s eso­teric and plas­tic mean­ing.

See a pre­view video of the full Dalí deck above, pur­chase a lim­it­ed edi­tion set here, or a much more afford­able ver­sion here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky Explains How Tarot Cards Can Give You Cre­ative Inspi­ra­tion

Sal­vador Dalí’s 1973 Cook­book Gets Reis­sued: Sur­re­al­ist Art Meets Haute Cui­sine

Sal­vador Dalí’s Avant-Garde Christ­mas Cards

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

Watch David Bowie & Marianne Faithfull Rehearse and Sing Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe” (1973)

It was Octo­ber 1973 and three months ear­li­er David Bowie had stood before his fans at the Ham­mer­smith Odeon and announced–to the sur­prise of his band–that he was effec­tive­ly end­ing Zig­gy Star­dust and the Spi­ders from Mars. His alter-ego was done, and he had to break up the band.

But there would be one final swan song, a live spe­cial fea­tur­ing Bowie, set in a futur­is­tic cabaret, to be called The 1980 Floor Show (a pun on Orwell’s 1984, which the singer was try­ing to adapt into a con­cept album, and which would lat­er morph into Dia­mond Dogs). The loca­tion would be the famous Lon­don night­club the Mar­quee, but the show would be shot for Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion and a late-night rock and pop vari­ety show called The Mid­night Spe­cial, air­ing on NBC Fri­day nights after John­ny Carson’s The Tonight Show.

British fans who couldn’t make the film­ing were annoyed, and to this day, the full broad­cast has not been shown in the UK, and is still not offi­cial­ly avail­able.

Invi­ta­tion only, the audi­ence com­prised mem­bers of the David Bowie fan club, the rock press, musi­cians, and oth­er lucky peo­ple. This would turn out to be the very last time that Mick Ron­son and Trevor Bold­er would play with Bowie as the Spi­ders. Join­ing the band was pianist Mike Gar­son, who had been a part of the Zig­gy tour and the recent­ly released Aladdin Sane, and whose sound is unmis­tak­able here. Bowie also has three black back-up singers, a first sign of the sounds he would explore in Young Amer­i­cans. And he invit­ed The Trog­gs to play their hit, “Wild Thing.”

Unlike a con­cert run-through, the three days of film­ing fea­tured each num­ber rehearsed sep­a­rate­ly and filmed mul­ti­ple times. For one thing, it allowed Bowie the chance to change cos­tumes for each song, wear­ing some of the most out­landish out­fits of his Zig­gy era, designed by Fred­die Bur­ret­ti.

By 1973, Mar­i­anne Faith­full had gone from Mick Jagger’s girl­friend and pop chanteuse to a hero­in addict, but Bowie’s invi­ta­tion to join him helped her on her road to recov­ery. She sang “As Tears Go By” solo for the show wear­ing an angel­ic white dress and then “20th Cen­tu­ry Blues” dressed in a red dress, wear­ing a tow­er­ing pur­ple feath­er hat and backed by male dancers.

For the finale, Bowie joined her onstage. (You can watch their ulti­mate per­for­mance here.) Dressed as deca­dent nun with a ful­ly exposed back, Faith­full stood next to Bowie, dressed as “the Angel of Death” accord­ing to him, and had a go at the 1965 Son­ny and Cher song “I Got You Babe.” The two real­ly hadn’t rehearsed the song until that day. Faithfull’s voice was already head­ing towards the low, Nico-esque tones she’d devel­op lat­er in the decade. The video con­tains two full rehearsals of the song, a non-”Wild Thing” num­ber from the Trog­gs, and once again Bowie with “Space Odd­i­ty” and “I Can’t Explain.”

Also on the tape are intro­duc­tions from one Aman­da Lear, a vel­vet-voiced blonde who had a very intrigu­ing career–Sal­vador Dali pro­tege, Rolling Stone groupie, David Bowie lover, Ita­lo-dis­co star, nude mod­el, pos­si­ble trans­sex­u­al. So yes, a per­fect host for what was at that time both a high-water mark for glam rock and a vis­it to the future.

As we approach the one year anniver­sary of David Bowie’s death, which seemed to send the Grim Reaper on a killing spree, there’s plen­ty of the Star­man’s career to dis­cov­er and re-discover…and to be released.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jean-Luc Godard Shoots Mar­i­anne Faith­full Singing “As Tears Go By” (1966)

The Sto­ry of Zig­gy Star­dust: How David Bowie Cre­at­ed the Char­ac­ter that Made Him Famous

David Bowie Remem­bers His Zig­gy Star­dust Days in Ani­mat­ed Video

Lego Video Shows How David Bowie Almost Became “Cob­bler Bob,” Not “Aladdin Sane”

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 and/or watch his films here.

Carrie Fisher’s Long Career as a Writer, Screenwriter, and Hollywood Fixer: “I’m a Writer” First and Foremost

By now the news of Car­rie Fisher’s death has hit hard all over the world. It’s true that for an entire gen­er­a­tion of peo­ple, her break­out role at 19 as Princess Leia in the orig­i­nal Star Wars tril­o­gy has made her a sci-fi icon and a child­hood crush—both roles she longed to escape. Trib­ute after trib­ute on social media and else­where remind­ed us almost imme­di­ate­ly after Tuesday’s announce­ment that her life and work have had a much wider impact, even on peo­ple who have nev­er even seen a Star Wars film.

Fisher’s unabashed­ly can­did pub­lic con­ver­sa­tions about her per­son­al strug­gles with sub­stance abuse and bipo­lar dis­or­der made her a pow­er­ful advo­cate for oth­ers who felt ashamed to talk about these too-often-taboo sub­jects and often too ashamed to seek help. Much like George Michael, anoth­er celebri­ty mourned by mil­lions this hol­i­day sea­son, Fish­er refused to be shamed into silence or to capit­u­late to bul­lies and big­ots. Instead she prac­ti­cal­ly bloomed with earthy charm and wit as she co-opt­ed tabloid char­ac­ter assas­si­na­tion and turned it into her own form of auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal art and ther­a­peu­tic out­reach.

Her return to the reboot­ed Star Wars fran­chise last year as the wise, aging Gen­er­al Leia Organa ele­vat­ed the con­ver­sa­tion about old­er women in Hol­ly­wood, after her response to some vicious com­ments about her looks made her haters look small, mean, and stunt­ed. Fish­er’s tal­ent for Oscar Wilde-wor­thy apho­risms that sliced right through lay­ers of insuf­fer­able bull­shit also led to one of her most suc­cess­ful career stints, as a writer, script doc­tor, and Hol­ly­wood fix­er dur­ing a “long, very lucra­tive episode,” as she told Newsweek in a 2008 inter­view. (In true Car­rie Fish­er fash­ion, she brought these life expe­ri­ences to an Emmy-nom­i­nat­ed guest turn on an episode of 30 Rock as her fun­ni­est char­ac­ter, Rose­mary Howard.)

It’s rumored that Fish­er revised her lines in George Lucas’ noto­ri­ous­ly wordy Star Wars scripts. (Although one image of Empire Strikes Back edits pur­port­ed to be in her hand actu­al­ly con­tains revi­sions by the film’s direc­tor Irvin Ker­sh­n­er.) But her for­mal screen­writ­ing career began in 1990, when she adapt­ed her best­selling 1987 auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal nov­el, Post­cards from the Edge, into the screen­play for a Meryl Streep-star­ring film. The project led to rewrit­ing work on high-pro­file come­dies through­out the next decade. In addi­tion to a cred­it for one of those unwieldy Lucas scripts for The Phan­tom Men­ace in 1999, Fish­er helped rework films like Hook, Sis­ter Act, Made in Amer­i­ca, So I Mar­ried an Axe Mur­der­er, The Wed­ding Singer, and sev­er­al more.

Always a fierce­ly out­spo­ken crit­ic of the way Hol­ly­wood treats women, Fish­er fought to make female char­ac­ters more three-dimen­sion­al. In a Web­MD inter­view, she was asked, “What does it take to heal bad dia­logue?” Her pithy answer: “Make the women smarter and the love scenes bet­ter.” As a peace­mak­er for trou­bled pro­duc­tions, how­ev­er, she often advised women actors to use diplomacy—with her own spin on the con­cept. When Whoopi Gold­berg feud­ed with Disney’s Jef­frey Katzen­berg, for exam­ple, Fish­er advised, “Send Jef­frey a hatch­et and say, ‘Please bury this on both our behalfs.’” Gold­berg thought it over, and “the next day Katzen­berg received his hatch­et. With­in a few days a token of Katzenberg’s respect arrived at her front door: two enor­mous brass balls.”

Sto­ries like this one, and many more uproar­i­ous and often per­son­al­ly self-destruc­tive episodes, formed the basis for Fisher’s auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal best­sellers, includ­ing her mem­oir Wish­ful Drink­ing, which also became a one-woman Broad­way show, then an HBO spe­cial (see an excerpt at the top). She has always won over crit­ics as an actress, and she made a wry kind of peace with her eter­nal fame as Princess Leia, imbu­ing the char­ac­ter with renewed grav­i­tas and sen­si­tiv­i­ty in the year before her death. But she did not see her­self prin­ci­pal­ly as an actress. “I’m a writer,” she told Web­MD. Asked whom she’d choose to share “con­fined quar­ters” with from his­to­ry, she answered—with her win­ning com­bi­na­tion of dis­arm­ing sin­cer­i­ty and wink­ing self-aware­ness—“Samuel Tay­lor Coleridge. He was man­ic-depres­sive, too.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch a Young Car­rie Fish­er (RIP) Audi­tion for Star Wars (1975)      

Watch the Very First Trail­ers for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back & Return of the Jedi (1976–83)

The Com­plete Star Wars “Fil­mu­men­tary”: A 6‑Hour, Fan-Made Star Wars Doc­u­men­tary, with Behind-the-Scenes Footage & Com­men­tary

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

Watch a Young Carrie Fisher (RIP) Audition for Star Wars (1975)

Car­rie Fish­er, the actress who played Princess Leia in Star Wars, has died. She was only 60 years old.

Last week, she suf­fered a mas­sive heart attack on a flight from Lon­don to LA. News reports ini­tial­ly indi­cat­ed that her con­di­tion was improv­ing. But alas fate then moved things in anoth­er direc­tion.

Above, you can watch a young Car­rie Fisher–only 19 years old–audition for the part that made her famous. (On YouTube, see oth­er audi­tion footage fea­tur­ing Mark Hamill, Har­ri­son Ford, and Kurt Rus­sell.) Last month, while pro­mot­ing her brand new mem­oir The Princess Diarist, Fish­er talked with NPR’s Ter­ry Gross about the chal­lenge of mak­ing that first Star Wars film. “I think I sort of felt iso­lat­ed. I did­n’t real­ly have any­one. I did­n’t con­fide in men. [The cast and film­mak­ers were all men.] I did­n’t con­fide in any­one then.” “I was so inse­cure.” But she kept it well hid­den. Only poise and con­fi­dence are on dis­play here.

Note: You can down­load The Princess Diarist as a free audio­book from if you take part in their no-strings-attached free tri­al pro­gram. Get more details on that here.

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:

Hard­ware Wars: The Moth­er of All Star Wars Fan Films (and the Most Prof­itable Short Film Ever Made)

The Com­plete Star Wars “Fil­mu­men­tary”: A 6‑Hour, Fan-Made Star Wars Doc­u­men­tary, with Behind-the-Scenes Footage & Com­men­tary

16 Great Star Wars Fan Films, Doc­u­men­taries & Video Essays to Get You Ready for Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens

Learn to Code with Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens and Minecraft

How Star Wars Bor­rowed From Aki­ra Kurosawa’s Great Samu­rai Films

When Ayn Rand Collected Social Security & Medicare, After Years of Opposing Benefit Programs


Image via YouTube, 1959 inter­view with Mike Wal­lace

A robust social safe­ty net can ben­e­fit both the indi­vid­u­als in a soci­ety and the soci­ety itself. Free of the fear of total impov­er­ish­ment and able to meet their basic needs, peo­ple have a bet­ter oppor­tu­ni­ty to pur­sue long-term goals, to invent, cre­ate, and inno­vate. Of course, there are many who believe oth­er­wise. And there are some, includ­ing the acolytes of Ayn Rand, who believe as Rand did: that those who rely on social sys­tems are—to use her ugly term—“parasites,” and those who amass large amounts of pri­vate wealth are hero­ic super­men.

Rand dis­ci­ple Alan Greenspan, for exam­ple, ini­ti­at­ed the era of “Reaganomics” in the ear­ly 1980s by engi­neer­ing “an increase in the most regres­sive tax on the poor and mid­dle class,” writes Gary Weiss, “the Social Secu­ri­ty pay­roll tax—combined with a cut in ben­e­fits.” For Greenspan, “this was no con­tra­dic­tion. Social Secu­ri­ty was a sys­tem of altru­ism at its worst. Its ben­e­fi­cia­ries were loot­ers. Rais­ing their tax­es and cut­ting their ben­e­fits was no loss to soci­ety.”

One prob­lem with Rand’s rea­son­ing is this: whether “par­a­site” or titan of indus­try, none of us is any­thing more than human, sub­ject to the same kinds of cru­el twists of fate, the same exis­ten­tial uncer­tain­ty, the same ill­ness and dis­ease. Suf­fer­ing may be unequal­ly dis­trib­uted to a great degree by human agency, but nature and cir­cum­stance often have a way of evening the odds. Rand her­self expe­ri­enced such a lev­el­ing effect in her retire­ment. After under­go­ing surgery in 1974 for lung can­cer caused by her heavy smok­ing, she found her­self in strait­ened cir­cum­stances.

Two years lat­er, she was paired with social work­er Evva Pry­or, who gave an inter­view in 1998 about their rela­tion­ship. “Rarely have I respect­ed some­one as much as I did Ayn Rand,” said Pry­or. When asked about their philo­soph­i­cal dis­agree­ments, she replied, “My back­ground was social work. That should tell you all you need to know about our dif­fer­ences.” Pry­or was tasked with per­suad­ing Rand to accept Social Secu­ri­ty and Medicare to help with mount­ing med­ical expens­es.

I had read enough to know that she despised gov­ern­ment inter­fer­ence, and that she felt that peo­ple should and could live inde­pen­dent­ly. She was com­ing to a point in her life where she was going to receive the very thing she didn’t like.… For me to do my job, she had to rec­og­nize that there were excep­tions to her the­o­ry.… She had to see that there was such a thing as greed in this world.… She could be total­ly wiped out by med­ical bills if she didn’t watch it. Since she had worked her entire life and had paid into Social Secu­ri­ty, she had a right to it. She didn’t feel that an indi­vid­ual should take help.

Final­ly, Rand relent­ed. “Whether she agreed or not is not the issue,” said Pry­or, “She saw the neces­si­ty for both her and [her hus­band] Frank.” Or as Weiss puts it, “Real­i­ty had intrud­ed upon her ide­o­log­i­cal pipedreams.” That’s one way of inter­pret­ing the con­tra­dic­tion: that Rand’s phi­los­o­phy, Objec­tivism, “has no prac­ti­cal pur­pose except to pro­mote the eco­nom­ic inter­ests of the peo­ple bankrolling it”—the sole func­tion of her thought is to jus­ti­fy wealth, explain away pover­ty, and nor­mal­ize the sort of Hobbe­sian war of all against all Rand saw as a soci­etal ide­al.

Rand taught “there is no such thing as the pub­lic inter­est,” that pro­grams like Social Secu­ri­ty and Medicare steal from “cre­ators” and ille­git­i­mate­ly redis­trib­ute their wealth. This was a “sub­lime­ly entic­ing argu­ment for wealthy busi­ness­men who had no inter­est what­ev­er in the pub­lic inter­est.… Yet the tax­pay­ers of Amer­i­ca paid Rand’s and Frank O’Con­nor’s med­ical expens­es.” Ran­di­ans have offered many con­vo­lut­ed expla­na­tions for what her crit­ics see as sheer hypocrisy. We may or may not find them per­sua­sive.

In the sim­plest terms, Rand dis­cov­ered at the end of her life that she was only human and in need of help. Rather than starve or drop dead—as she would have let so many oth­ers do—she took the help on offer. Rand died in 1982, as her admir­er Alan Greenspan had begun putting her ideas into prac­tice in Reagan’s admin­is­tra­tion, mak­ing sure, writes Weiss, that the sys­tem was “more favor­able to the cre­ators and entre­pre­neurs who were more valu­able to soci­ety,” in his Ran­di­an esti­ma­tion, “than peo­ple low­er down the lad­der of suc­cess.” After well over three decades of such poli­cies, we can draw our own con­clu­sions about the results.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ayn Rand Helped the FBI Iden­ti­fy It’s A Won­der­ful Life as Com­mu­nist Pro­pa­gan­da

Free Audio: Ayn Rand’s 1938 Dystopi­an Novel­la Anthem

In Her Final Speech, Ayn Rand Denounces Ronald Rea­gan, the Moral Major­i­ty & Anti-Choicers (1981)

Flan­nery O’Connor: Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Ayn Rand (1960)

Ayn Rand Argues That Believ­ing in God Is an Insult to Rea­son on The Phil Don­ahue Show (Cir­ca 1979)

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

Watch the First Surf Movie Ever Made: A 1906 Thomas Edison Film Shot in Hawaii

Above you can watch what was arguably the first surf movie ever made–the very begin­ning of a long cin­e­mat­ic tra­di­tion that gave us Gid­get in 1959, and The End­less Sum­mer in 1966. And lest you think the surf movie reached its zenith dur­ing those hal­cy­on days, some would argue that the best surf films were lat­er pro­duced dur­ing the aughts–Thick­er Than Water (2000), Blue Crush (2002), Step Into Liq­uid (2003), Rid­ing Giants (2004), etc. And don’t for­get this great lit­tle short, “Dark Side of the Lens.”

In 1906, smack in the mid­dle of the aughts of last cen­tu­ry, Thomas Edi­son sent the pio­neer­ing cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er Robert K. Bonine to shoot an ‘Actu­al­i­ty’ doc­u­men­tary about life in the Poly­ne­sian islands. The blurb accom­pa­ny­ing this video describes the scene above: “The first mov­ing pic­tures of surfers rid­ing waves — Surf Rid­ers, Waiki­ki Beach, Hon­olu­lu — shows a minute of about a dozen surfers on ala­ia boards in head-high, off­shore surf at what is prob­a­bly Canoes. These surfers are shot too far away to detail what they were wear­ing, but they all appear to be in tanksuits.”

If you’re inter­est­ed in tak­ing a deep dive into Hawai­i’s surf­ing scene, I’d def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend pick­up up a copy of Bar­bar­ian Days: A Surf­ing Lifethe mem­oir by New York­er writer William Finnegan. It won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Thomas Edison’s Silent Film of the “Fartiste” Who Delight­ed Crowds at Le Moulin Rouge (1900)

Dark Side of the Lens: A Poet­ic Short Film by Surf Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Mick­ey Smith

Watch the Very First Fea­ture Doc­u­men­tary: Nanook of the North by Robert J. Fla­her­ty (1922)

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