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

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Three-Hour Mix­tape Offers a Son­ic Intro­duc­tion to Under­ground Goth Music

Stream 15 Hours of the John Peel Ses­sions: 255 Tracks by Syd Bar­rett, David Bowie, Siouxsie and the Ban­shees & Oth­er Artists

A His­to­ry of Alter­na­tive Music Bril­liant­ly Mapped Out on a Tran­sis­tor Radio Cir­cuit Dia­gram: 300 Punk, Alt & Indie Artists

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

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Essence of Hayao Miyaza­ki Films: A Short Doc­u­men­tary About the Human­i­ty at the Heart of His Ani­ma­tion

Hayao Miyaza­ki Tells Video Game Mak­ers What He Thinks of Their Char­ac­ters Made with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence: “I’m Utter­ly Dis­gust­ed. This Is an Insult to Life Itself”

Build Your Own Minia­ture Sets from Hayao Miyazaki’s Beloved Films: My Neigh­bor Totoro, Kiki’s Deliv­ery Ser­vice & More

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.

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:

Free Online Com­put­er Sci­ence Cours­es

Hayao Miyaza­ki Tells Video Game Mak­ers What He Thinks of Their Char­ac­ters Made with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence: “I’m Utter­ly Dis­gust­ed. This Is an Insult to Life Itself”

Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Pro­gram Tries to Write a Bea­t­les Song: Lis­ten to “Daddy’s Car”

Two Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Chat­bots Talk to Each Oth­er & Get Into a Deep Philo­soph­i­cal Con­ver­sa­tion

Noam Chom­sky Explains Where Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Went Wrong

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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:

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stream 72 Hours of Ambi­ent Sounds from Blade Run­ner: Relax, Go to Sleep in a Dystopi­an Future

How Rid­ley Scott’s Blade Run­ner Illu­mi­nates the Cen­tral Prob­lem of Moder­ni­ty

The Art of Mak­ing Blade Run­ner: See the Orig­i­nal Sketch­book, Sto­ry­boards, On-Set Polaroids & More

Watch an Ani­mat­ed Ver­sion of Rid­ley Scott’s Blade Run­ner Made of 12,597 Water­col­or Paint­ings

The Blade Run­ner Sketch­book Fea­tures The Orig­i­nal Art of Syd Mead & Rid­ley Scott (1982)

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

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mes­mer­iz­ing Time­lapse Film Cap­tures the Won­der of Bees Being Born

Google Street View Takes You on a Panoram­ic Tour of the Grand Canyon

Albert Ein­stein Sports a Native Amer­i­can Head­dress and a Peace Pipe at the Grand Canyon, 1931

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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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Study Shows That Teach­ing Young Kids Phi­los­o­phy Improves Their Aca­d­e­m­ic Per­for­mance, Mak­ing Them Bet­ter at Read­ing & Math

In Japan­ese Schools, Lunch Is As Much About Learn­ing As It’s About Eat­ing

Med­i­ta­tion is Replac­ing Deten­tion in Baltimore’s Pub­lic Schools, and the Stu­dents Are Thriv­ing

Mal­colm Glad­well Asks Hard Ques­tions about Mon­ey & Mer­i­toc­ra­cy in Amer­i­can High­er Edu­ca­tion: Stream 3 Episodes of His New Pod­cast

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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Relat­ed Con­tent

The Rise & Fall of the Romans: Every Year Shown in a Time­lapse Map Ani­ma­tion (753 BC ‑1479 AD)

200,000 Years of Stag­ger­ing Human Pop­u­la­tion Growth Shown in an Ani­mat­ed Map

Buck­min­ster Fuller Cre­ates an Ani­mat­ed Visu­al­iza­tion of Human Pop­u­la­tion Growth from 1000 B.C.E. to 1965

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.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free: Play 2,400 Vin­tage Com­put­er Games in Your Web Brows­er

Long Live Glitch! The Art & Code from the Game Now Released into the Pub­lic Domain

Tim­o­thy Leary Plans a Neu­ro­mancer Video Game, with Art by Kei­th Har­ing, Music by Devo & Cameos by David Byrne

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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