Watch The Cure’s First TV Appearance in 1979 … Before The Band Acquired Its Signature Goth Look

Many fans of the Cure first encountered them with 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, a double album filled with bouncy pop confections like “Why Can’t I Be You?” and “Just Like Heaven,” or with Disintegration, 1989’s swirling atmospheric masterpiece that nails the sound of severe depressive episodes. On these albums, Robert Smith & company’s coverage of each “point on a bipolar scale” wasn’t an affectation—it was a lifestyle. Or so it seemed to the average listener given the band’s peculiar look: pancake makeup and weeping willow hair that gave them the air of stage clowns in a Restoration madhouse.

So associated are they with an arthouse look and new wave pop-to-tortured goth sound that many people find it jarring to discover just how punk they once were. Though able from the start to rip out pop gems like “Boys Don’t Cry,” the band inhabited a harder-edged territory in their first few years. In the late 70s, along with The Damned, Joy Division, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, they carved out the space of British post-punk and new wave before there was any such thing as “goth.”

As you can see from their first TV appearance, at the top, the spare, spiky hooks and atmospherics that form the basis of their sound predated the distinctive look, one so easily packaged, copied, and parodied later on—and turned to excellent cinematic account by Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands and Sean Penn in This Must Be the Place.

The televised performance took place at Theatre de l’Empire in Paris on December 3rd of 1979, by which time the band had been already been together for several years, though they were still very young (Smith only 21), and had only just released their first studio album, Three Imaginary Boys. In the full performance, above, see them play the title track and their controversial, Camus-inspired, first single “Killing an Arab.” They open, in the first clip, with a new song that would appear on the next record, Seventeen Seconds. It’s one that presages the supremely moody ambiance of Disintegration, but without that album’s lyrical focus. Here, what would become “A Forest” is played as “At Night,” with entirely different lyrics.

In these early performances, we see how formidable The Cure was as a minimalist punk band, and how effective is Robert Smith’s angular guitar work, which earned him a spot in the touring version of Siouxsie and the Banshees that year as well.  (See him play “Love in a Void” with them above in a ’79 television performance.) Like that band’s earliest work, The Cure drew directly on the raw energy of punk in both their musical and sartorial choices. Only later did they develop into the gloriously mopey goths fans know and love, as the 80s made more flamboyant demands on music fashion, apparently, and Smith became a more eccentric version of himself, turning his extreme introversion into a series of theatrical, tragicomic personas.

via Laughing Squid

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

Hayao Miyazaki Picks His 50 Favorite Children’s Books

Once upon a time, books served as the de facto refuge of the “physically weak” child. For animation legend, Hayao Miyazaki, above, they offered an escape from the grimmer realities of post-World War II Japan.

Many of the 50 favorites he selected for a 2010 exhibition honoring publisher Iwanami Shoten‘s “Boy’s Books” series are time-tested Western classics.

Loners and orphans–The Little Prince, The Secret Gardenfigure prominently, as do talking animals (The Wind in the Willows, Winnie-the-Pooh, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle).

And while it may be a commonly-held publishing belief that boys won’t read stories about girls, the young Miyazaki seemed to have no such bias, ranking Heidi and Laura Ingalls Wilder right alongside Tom Sawyer and Treasure Island’s pirates.

Several of the titles that made the cut were ones he could only have encountered as a grown up, including 1967’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and When Marnie Was There, the latter eventually serving as source material for a Studio Ghibli movie, as did Miyazaki’s top pick, Mary Norton’s The Borrowers.

We invite you to take a nostalgic stroll through Miyazaki’s best-loved children’s books. Readers, how many have you read?

Hayao Miyazaki’s Top 50 Children’s Books

  1. The Borrowers — Mary Norton
  2. The Little Prince — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  3. Children of Noisy Village — Astrid Lindgren
  4. When Marnie Was There — Joan G. Robinson
  5. Swallows and Amazons — Arthur Ransome
  6. The Flying Classroom — Erich Kästner
  7. There Were Five of Us — Karel Poláček
  8. What the Neighbours Did, and Other Stories — Ann Philippa Pearce
  9. Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates — Mary Mapes Dodge
  10. The Secret Garden — Frances Hodgson Burnett
  11. Eagle of The Ninth — Rosemary Sutcliff
  12. The Treasure of the Nibelungs — Gustav Schalk
  13. The Three Musketeers — Alexandre Dumas, père
  14. A Wizard of Earthsea — Ursula K. Le Guin
  15. Les Princes du Vent — Michel-Aime Baudouy
  16. The Flambards Series — K. M. Peyton
  17. Souvenirs entomologiques — Jean Henri Fabre
  18. The Long Winter — Laura Ingalls Wilder
  19. A Norwegian Farm — Marie Hamsun
  20. Heidi — Johanna Spyri
  21. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer — Mark Twain
  22. Little Lord Fauntleroy — Frances Hodgson Burnett
  23. Tistou of the Green Thumbs — Maurice Druon
  24. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes — Arthur Conan Doyle
  25. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler — E. L. Konigsburg
  26. The Otterbury Incident — Cecil Day-Lewis
  27. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland — Lewis Carroll
  28. The Little Bookroom — Eleanor Farjeon
  29. The Forest is Alive or Twelve Months — Samuil Yakovlevich Marshak
  30. The Restaurant of Many Orders — Kenji Miyazawa
  31. Winnie-the-Pooh — A. A. Milne
  32. Nihon Ryōiki — Kyokai
  33. Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio — Pu Songling
  34. Nine Fairy Tales: And One More Thrown in For Good Measure — Karel Čapek
  35. The Man Who Has Planted Welsh Onions — Kim So-un
  36. Robinson Crusoe — Daniel Defoe
  37. The Hobbit — J. R. R. Tolkien
  38. Journey to the West — Wu Cheng’en
  39. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea — Jules Verne
  40. The Adventures of the Little Onion — Gianni Rodari
  41. Treasure Island — Robert Louis Stevenson
  42. The Ship that Flew — Hilda Winifred Lewis
  43. The Wind in the Willows — Kenneth Grahame
  44. The Little Humpbacked Horse — Pyotr Pavlovich Yershov (Ershoff)
  45. The Little White Horse — Elizabeth Goudge
  46. The Rose and the Ring — William Makepeace Thackeray
  47. The Radium Woman — Eleanor Doorly
  48. City Neighbor, The Story of Jane Addams — Clara Ingram Judson
  49. Ivan the Fool — Leo Tolstoy
  50. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle — Hugh Lofting

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  She’ll be appearing onstage in New York City this June as one of the clowns in Paul David Young’s Faust 3. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Artificial Intelligence: A Free Online Course from MIT

Today we’re adding MIT’s course on Artificial Intelligence to our ever-growing collection, 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities. That’s because, to paraphrase Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, artificial intelligence (AI) is “not just in the first inning of a long baseball game, but at the stage where the very first batter comes up.” Look around, and you will find AI everywhere–in self driving cars, Siri on your phone, online customer support, movie recommendations on Netflix, fraud detection for your credit cards, etc. To be sure, there’s more to come.

Featuring 30 lectures, MIT’s course “introduces students to the basic knowledge representation, problem solving, and learning methods of artificial intelligence.” It includes interactive demonstrations designed to “help students gain intuition about how artificial intelligence methods work under a variety of circumstances.” And, by the end of the course, students should be able “to develop intelligent systems by assembling solutions to concrete computational problems; understand the role of knowledge representation, problem solving, and learning in intelligent-system engineering; and appreciate the role of problem solving, vision, and language in understanding human intelligence from a computational perspective.”

Taught by Prof. Patrick Henry Winston, the lectures can all be viewed above. Or watch them on YouTube and iTunes. Related course materials (including a syllabus) can be found on this MIT website. The textbook, available on Amazon, was written by Professor Winston.

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The Sounds of Blade Runner: How Music & Sound Effects Became Part of the DNA of Ridley Scott’s Futuristic World

Blade Runner, among its many other achievements, stands as quite possible the only 35-year-old science-fiction movie whose visual effects still hold up. Director Ridley Scott and his collaborators’ thoroughly realized vision of 2019 Los Angeles rewards a seemingly infinite number of viewings, revealing something new to the viewer each and every time. Yet the sheer amount to look at can also distract from all there is to listen to. For a visual medium, movies stand or fall to a surprising extent on the quality and design of their sound, and if Blade Runner remains convincing and compelling, it does so in large part not because of what see when we watch it, but what we hear.

This in addition to all it makes us think about, some of which the video essayist Evan Puschak, better known as Nerdwriter, explained in Blade Runner: The Other Side of Modernity.” Apparently as big a fan of the film as we here at Open Culture, Puschak has also made another video essay focusing on the masterpiece’s aural dimension, “Listening to Blade Runner.”

As everyone interested in its making knows, Blade Runner wouldn’t quite have been Blade Runner without its music by Vangelis, a composer who used synthesizers (especially the legendary Yahama CS80) in a way seldom if ever heard at that time. But as Puschak points out, “the score isn’t laid on top of the visuals. It’s not a guide or an addition” but “baked into the DNA of the movie itself.”

Every piece of audio in Blade Runner, “including score, sound design, and dialogue,” is tightly integrated: “each blurs into the others.” Puschak shows us how, as in the scene above, the film keeps the audience unaware of “where the music ends and the world begins,” by matching the qualities of the music to the qualities of the space and light, incorporating “faint computer-y noises,” and applying still-new digital reverberation technology Vangelis uses on both the music and the dialogue to “fold separate audio sources into one master track,” creating a “cohesive acoustic environment” that emphasizes different dimensions of sound at different times in different ways — in service, of course, to different elements of the story.

Though still active as a composer, Vangelis, alas, hasn’t returned to do the score for Blade Runner 2049, Dennis Villeneuve’s much-anticipated sequel coming out later this year. But the sonic world he created in 1982 has had a more recent tribute paid to it in the form of the unofficial so-called “Esper edition” of the Blade Runner soundtrack. The existing editions, say the two fans who assembled it, “never ‘got it right’ in terms of chronology‚ or thoroughness,” so, “like taking pieces from a puzzle‚ we decided to simply ‘cut and paste’ from all the exciting releases…‚ 1982 video‚ 1992 directors cut… and construct something fresh.” The nearly two-hour listening experience will underscore just how much putting in the right music and sound can do for a movie.

Conversely, watching the five minutes of Harrison Ford’s now-excised voiceovers from the original theatrical release below will underscore how much taking out certain sounds can do for one as well:

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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.


Watch Clouds Roil Through the Grand Canyon: A Beautiful Timelapse Film Captures a Rare Full Cloud Inversion

From producer and editor Harun Mehmedinovic comes a pretty breathtaking timelapse film of a rare phenomenon at the Grand Canyon. Writes Mehmedinovic:

Millions of visitors a year come to Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park, one of the seven natural wonders of the world and the most visited national park in the western United States. However, on extremely rare days when cold air is trapped in the canyon and topped by a layer of warm air, which in combination with moisture and condensation, form the phenomenon referred to as the full cloud inversion. In what resembles something between ocean waves and fast clouds, Grand Canyon is completely obscured by fog, making the visitors feel as if they are walking on clouds.

This video was filmed as part of SKYGLOW (, an ongoing crowdfunded quest to explore the effects and dangers of urban light pollution in contrast with some of the most incredible dark sky areas in North America. This project is being produced in collaboration with International Dark-Sky Association (, a non-profit fighting for the preservation of night skies around the globe.

The film was shot on Canon 5DSR & 5DIII cameras and lenses. You can download high resolution stills via this zip file. Enjoy.

via Twisted Sifter

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How Finland Created One of the Best Educational Systems in the World (by Doing the Opposite of U.S.)

Every conversation about education in the U.S. takes place in a minefield. Unless you’re a billionaire who bought the job of Secretary of Education, you’d better be prepared to answer questions about racial and economic equity, disability issues, protections for LGBTQ students, teacher pay and unions, religious charter schools, and many other pressing concerns. These issues are not mutually exclusive, nor are they distinct from questions of curriculum, testing, or achievement. The terrain is littered with possible explosive conflicts between educators, parents, administrators, legislators, activists, and profiteers.

The needs of the most deeply invested stakeholders, as they say, the students themselves, seem to get far too little consideration. What if we in the U.S., all of us, actually wanted to improve the educational experiences and academic outcomes for our children—all of them? Where might we look for a model? Many people have looked to Finland, at least since 2010, when the documentary Waiting for Superman contrasted struggling U.S. public schools with highly successful Finnish equivalents.

The film, a positive spin on the charter school movement, received significant backlash for its cherry-picked examples and blaming of teachers’ unions for America’s failing schools. By contrast, Finland’s schools have been described by William Doyle, an American Fulbright Scholar who studies them, as “the ‘ultimate charter school network'” (a phrase, we’ll see, that means little in the Finnish context.) There, Doyle writes at The Hechinger Report, “teachers are not strait-jacketed by bureaucrats, scripts or excessive regulations, but have the freedom to innovate and experiment as teams of trusted professionals.”

Last year, Michael Moore featured many of Finland’s innovative educational experiments in his humorous, hopeful travelogue Where to Invade Next. In the clip above, you can hear from the country’s Minister of Education, Krista Kiuru, who explains to him why Finnish children do not have homework; hear also from a group of high school students, high school principal Pasi Majassari, first grade teacher Anna Hart and many others. Shorter school hours—the “shortest school days and shortest school years in the entire Western world”—leave plenty of time for leisure and recreation. Kids bake, hike, build things, make art, conduct experiments, sing, and generally enjoy themselves.

“There are no mandated standardized tests,” writes LynNell Hancock at Smithsonian, “apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school… there are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions.” Yet Finnish students have, in the past several years, consistently ranked in the top ten among millions of students worldwide in science, reading, and math. “If there was one thing I kept hearing over and over again from the Finns,” says Moore above, “it’s that America should get rid of standardized tests,” should stop teaching to those tests, stop designing entire curricula around multiple-choice tests. Hancock describes the results of the Finnish system, and its costs:

Ninety-three percent of Finns graduate from academic or vocational high schools, 17.5 percentage points higher than the United States, and 66 percent go on to higher education, the highest rate in the European Union. Yet Finland spends about 30 percent less per student than the United States.

Moore’s camera registers the shock on Finnish educators’ faces when they hear that many U.S. schools eliminated music, art, poetry and other pursuits in order to focus almost exclusively on testing. Though lighthearted in tone, the segment really drives home the depressing degree to which so many U.S. students receive an impoverished education—one barely worthy of the name—unless they luck into a voucher for a high-end charter school or have the independent means for an expensive private one. In Finland, says the Minister of Education, “all the schools are equal. You never ask where the best school is.”

It’s also illegal in Finland to profit from schooling. Wealthy parents have to ensure that neighborhood schools can give their kids the best education possible, because they are the only option. Many people in the U.S. object to comparisons like Moore’s by noting that societies like Finland are “homogenous” next to what may seem to them like maddening cultural diversity in the U.S. However, Finland has incorporated (not without difficulty) large immigrant and refugee populations—even as its schools continue to improve. The government has responded in part to rising immigration with educational solutions such as this one, a “national initiative to reinforce Finnish higher education institutions (HEIs) as significant stakeholders in migrants’ integration.”

The subtantive differences between the two countries’ educational systems may have less to do with demography and more to do with economics and the training and social status of teachers.

In Finland, writes Doyle, no teacher “is allowed to lead a primary school class without a master’s degree in education, with specialization in research and classroom practice.” Teaching “is the most admired job in Finland next to medical doctors.” And as Dana Goldstein points out at The Nation—a fact Waiting for Superman failed to mention—Finnish teachers are “gasp!—unionized and granted tenure.” Perhaps an even more significant difference the documentary glossed over: in Finland, “families benefit from a cradle-to-grave social welfare system that includes universal daycare, preschool and healthcare, all of which are proven to help children achieve better results at school.”

Hundreds of studies in recent years substantiate this claim. It would seem intuitive that stresses associated with hunger and poverty would have a pernicious effect on learning, especially when poorer schools are so egregiously under-resourced. And the data says as much, to varying degrees. And yet, we are now in the U.S. slashing breakfast and lunch programs that feed hungry children and deciding whether to uninsure millions of families as millions more still lack basic health coverage. Most every American parent knows that quality daycares and preschools can cost as much per year as a decent university education in this country.

It seems to many of us that the atrocious state of the U.S. educational system can only be attributed to an act of will on the part our political elite, who see schools as competition for fundamentalist belief systems, opportunities to punish their opponents out of spite, or as rich fields for private profit. But it needn’t be so. It took 40 years for the Finns to create their current system. In the 1960s, their schools ranked on the very low end—along with those in the U.S. By most accounts, they’ve since shown there can be systems that, while surely imperfect in their own way, work for all kids, embedded within larger systems that prize their teachers and families.

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

Timelapse Animation Lets You See the Rise of Cities Across the Globe, from 3700 BC to 2000 AD

Last year, a Yale-led research project produced an innovative dataset that mapped the history of urban settlements. Covering a 6,000 year period, the project traced the location and size of cities across the world, starting in 3700 BC (when the first known urban dwellings emerged in Sumer) and continuing through 2000 AD. According to Yale’s Meredith Reba, if we understand “how cities have grown and changed over time, throughout history, it might tell us something useful about how they are changing today,” and particularly whether we can find ways to make modern cities sustainable.

The Yale dataset was originally published in Scientific Data in 2016. And before too long, some enterprising YouTuber brought the data to life. Above, the history of urban life unfolds before your eyes. The action starts off slow, but then later kicks into high gear.

You can read more about the mapping of urban settlements at this Yale website. And see the animated map in a larger format here.

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The Story of Habitat, the Very First Large-Scale Online Role-Playing Game (1986)

Long before World of Warcraft, before Everquest and Second Life, and even before Ultima Online, computer-gamers of the 1980s looking for an online world to explore with others of their kind could fire up their Commodore 64s, switch on their dial-up modems, and log into Habitat. Brought out for the Commodore online service Quantum Link by Lucasfilm Games (later known as the developer of such classic point-and-click adventure games as Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island, now known as Lucasarts), Habitat debuted as the very first large-scale graphical virtual community, blazing a trail for all the massively multiplayer online role-playing games (or MMORPGs) so many of us spend so much of our time playing today.

Designed, in the words of creators Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer, to “support a population of thousands of users in a single shared cyberspace,” Habitat presented “a real-time animated view into an online simulated world in which users can communicate, play games, go on adventures, fall in love, get married, get divorced, start businesses, found religions, wage wars, protest against them, and experiment with self-government.” All that happened and more within the service’s virtual reality during its pilot run from 1986 to 1988. The features both cautiously and recklessly implemented by Habitat‘s developers, and the feedback they received from its users, laid down the template for all the more advanced graphical online worlds to come.

At the top of the post, you can watch Lucasfilm’s original Habitat promotional video promise a “strange new world where names can change as quickly as events, surprises lurk at every turn, and the keynotes of existence are fantasy and fun,” one where “thousands of avatars, each controlled by a different human, can converge to shape an imaginary society.” (All performed, the narrator notes, “with the cooperation of a huge mainframe computer in Virginia.”) The form this society eventually took impressed Habitat‘s creators as much as anyone, as Farmer writes in his Habitat Anecdotes” from 1988, an examination of the most memorable happenings and phenomena among its users.

Farmer found he could group those users into five now-familiar categories: the Passives (who “want to ‘be entertained’ with no effort, like watching TV”), the Active (whose “biggest problem is overspending”), the Motivators (the most valuable users, for they “understand that Habitat is what they make of it”), the Caretakers (employees who “help the new users, control personal conflicts, record bugs” and so on), and the Geek Gods (the virtual world’s all-powerful administrators). Sometimes everyone got along smoothly, and sometimes — inevitably, given that everyone had to define the properties of this brand new medium even as they experienced it — they didn’t.

“At first, during early testing, we found out that people were taking stuff out of others’ hands and shooting people in their own homes,” Farmer writes. Later, a Greek Orthodox Minister opened Habitat‘s first church, but “I had to eventually put a lock on the Church’s front door because every time he decorated (with flowers), someone would steal and pawn them while he was not logged in!” This citizen-governed virtual society eventually elected a sheriff from among its users, though the designers could never quite decide what powers to grant him. Other surprisingly “real world” institutions developed, including a newspaper whose user-publisher “tirelessly spent 20-40 hours a week composing a 20, 30, 40 or even 50 page tabloid containing the latest news, events, rumors, and even fictional articles.”

Though developing this then-advanced software for “the ludicrous Commodore 64” posed a serious technical challenge, write Farmer and Morningstar in their 1990 paper “The Lessons of Lucasfilm’s Habitat,” the real work began when the users logged on. All the avatars needed houses, “organized into towns and cities with associated traffic arteries and shopping and recreational areas” with “wilderness areas between the towns so that everyone would not be jammed together into the same place.” Most of all, they needed interesting places to visit, “and since they can’t all be in the same place at the same time, they needed a lot of interesting places to visit. [ … ] Each of those houses, towns, roads, shops, forests, theaters, arenas, and other places is a distinct entity that someone needs to design and create. Attempting to play the role of omniscient central planners, we were swamped.”

All this, the creators discovered, required them to stop thinking like the engineers and game designers they were, giving up all hope of rigorous central planning and world-building in favor of figuring out the tricker problem of how, “like the cruise director on an ocean voyage,” to make Habitat fun for everyone. Farmer faces that question again today, having launched the open-source NeoHabitat project earlier this year with the aim of reviving the Habitat world for the 21st century. As much progress as graphical multiplayer online games have made in the past thirty years, the conclusion Farmer and Morningstar reached after their experience creating the first one holds as true as ever: “Cyberspace may indeed change humanity, but only if it begins with humanity as it really is.”

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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.

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