Gonzo Illustrator Ralph Steadman Draws the American Presidents, from Nixon to Trump

In a 2012 inter­view with Nation­al Pub­lic Radio, car­toon­ist Ralph Stead­man, best known for his col­lab­o­ra­tions with Gonzo jour­nal­ist Hunter S. Thomp­son, lament­ed the qual­i­ty of the can­di­dates in that year’s Pres­i­den­tial race:

The prob­lem is there are no Nixons around at the moment. That’s what we need — we need a real good Nixon to give some­thing for oth­er peo­ple to get their teeth into, to real­ly … loathe him, to become them­selves more effec­tive as oppo­si­tion lead­ers.

Alas, his prayers have been answered.

Stead­man, who has brought his inky sen­si­bil­i­ties to bear on such works as Ani­mal Farm and Alice in Won­der­land, has a new Amer­i­can pres­i­dent to add to the col­lec­tion he dis­cussed sev­er­al years ago, in the video above.

Steadman’s pen was the sword that ren­dered Ger­ald Ford as a scare­crow, Ronald Rea­gan as a vam­pire, and George W. Bush as a mon­key in a cage of his own mak­ing.

Barack Oba­ma, one of the can­di­dates in that com­par­a­tive­ly bland 2012 elec­tion, is depict­ed as a tena­cious, slen­der vine, strain­ing ever upward.

Jim­my Carter, some­what less benign­ly, is a pup­py eager­ly fetch­ing a stick with which to par­don Nixon, the Welsh cartoonist’s dark muse, first encoun­tered when he accom­pa­nied Thomp­son on the road trip that yield­ed Fear and Loathing: On the Cam­paign Trail ’72.

And now…

Don­ald Trump has giv­en Stead­man rea­son to come out fight­ing. With luck, he’ll stay out as long as his ser­vices are required. The above por­trait, titled “Porky Pie,” was sent, unso­licit­ed, to Ger­ry Brakus, an edi­tor of the New States­man, who pub­lished it on Decem­ber 17, 2015.

At the time, Stead­man had no rea­son to believe the man he’d anthro­po­mor­phized as a human pig hybrid, squeezed into bloody flag-print under­pants, would become the 45th pres­i­dent:

Trump is unthink­able. A thug and a moles­ter. Who wants him?

The por­trait’s hideous­ness speaks vol­umes, but it’s also worth look­ing beyond the obvi­ous-seem­ing inspi­ra­tion for the title to a ref­er­ence few Amer­i­cans would get. “Pork pie”—or porky—is Cock­ney rhyming slang for “a lie.”

See a gallery of Steadman’s por­traits of Amer­i­can pres­i­dents on his web­site.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ralph Steadman’s Sur­re­al­ist Illus­tra­tions of George Orwell’s Ani­mal Farm (1995)

How Hunter S. Thomp­son — and Psilo­cy­bin — Influ­enced the Art of Ralph Stead­man, Cre­at­ing the “Gonzo” Style

Break­ing Bad Illus­trat­ed by Gonzo Artist Ralph Stead­man

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

Read 1,000 Editions of The Village Voice: A Digital Archive of the Iconic New York City Paper

After The Vil­lage Voice announced this week that it was fold­ing its print oper­a­tion, a cou­ple peo­ple com­pared the ven­er­a­ble NYC rag’s demise to the end of Gawk­er, the snarky online tabloid tak­en down by Hulk Hogan and his shad­owy financier Peter Thiel. For too many rea­sons to list, this com­par­i­son seems to my mind hard­ly apt. There’s a ges­ture toward the Voice’s pro­fane unruli­ness, but the alter­na­tive week­ly, found­ed in 1955, tran­scend­ed the blog age’s sopho­moric nihilism. The her­met­ic con­tain­er of its newsprint sealed out froth­ing com­ment sec­tions; no links fer­ried read­ers through rivers of per­son­al­ized algo­rithms.

The Voice pub­lished hard jour­nal­ism that many, includ­ing Voice writ­ers them­selves, have rue­ful­ly revis­it­ed of late. Its music and cul­ture writ­ers like Nat Hentoff, Lester Bangs, Sasha Frere-Jones, Robert Christ­gau and so many oth­ers are some of the smartest in the busi­ness. Its colum­nists, edi­tors, and reviewers—Andrew Sar­ris, J. Hober­man, Robert Siet­se­ma, Tom Rob­bins, Greg Tate, Michael Mus­to, Thu­lani Davis, Ta-Nehisi Coates—equally so.

In its over six­ty-year run, Voice writ­ers sat in the front rows for the birth for hard bop, free jazz, punk, no wave, and hip-hop, and all man­ner of down­town exper­i­men­tal­ism in-between and after.

Amongst the many remem­brances from cur­rent and for­mer Voice staff in a recent Esquire oral his­to­ry, one from edi­tor and writer Camille Dodero stands out: “The alt-weekly’s pur­pose was, in the­o­ry, speak­ing truth to pow­er and the abil­i­ty to be irrev­er­ent, and print the word ‘fuck’ while doing so.’” Mis­sion accom­plished many times over, as you can see your­self in Google’s Vil­lage Voice archive, fea­tur­ing 1,000 scanned issues going all the back to 1955, when Nor­man Mail­er found­ed the paper with Ed Fanch­er, Dan Wolf, and John Wilcock. There are “blind spots” in Google’s archive of the Voicenot­ed John Cook at the erst­while Gawk­er. In 2009, his “search­es didn’t turn up any cov­er­age of Nor­man Mailer’s 1969 cam­paign or the Stonewall riots… and there’s not much on Rudy Giuliani’s may­oral bid.” Many years lat­er, months and years in the Google archive remain blank, “no edi­tions avail­able.”

The Voice has had its own blind spots. Writer Wal­ter Troy Spencer referred to Stonewall, for exam­ple, as “The Great Fag­got Rebel­lion” and used a phrase that has per­haps become the most weari­some in Amer­i­can Eng­lish: “there was most­ly ugli­ness on both sides.” This anti-gay prej­u­dice was a reg­u­lar fea­ture of the paper’s first few years, but by 1982, just as the AIDS cri­sis began to fil­ter into pub­lic con­scious­ness, the Voice was the sec­ond orga­ni­za­tion in the US to offer extend­ed ben­e­fits to domes­tic part­ners. It became a promi­nent voice for New York’s LGBTQ cul­ture and pol­i­tics, through all the buy­outs, cut­backs, and unbeat­able com­pe­ti­tion that brought it to its cur­rent pass.

The paper also became a voice for the most inter­est­ing things hap­pen­ing in the city at any giv­en time, such as the goings on at a Bow­ery dive called CBGB in 1975. Char­ac­ter stud­ies have long been a Voice sta­ple. Lester Bangs’ write-up of Iggy Pop two years lat­er cut to the heart of the mat­ter: “It’s as if some­one writhing in tor­ment has made that writhing into a kind of poet­ry.” Back in ’75, Andrew Sar­ris wrote a rather jaw-drop­ping pro­file of Hervé  Vil­lechaize (in which he begins a sen­tence, “The prob­lem of midgets….”).  …. the more I look through Voice back issues, the more I think it might have been a Gawk­er of its time, but as one­time colum­nist Har­ry Siegel tells Esquire, “what made it unique depends a lot on the age of who you’re ask­ing. It was a very dif­fer­ent paper in dif­fer­ent decades. It was valu­able enough for a long time that peo­ple paid mon­ey to read it.”

Indeed its first issue cost 5 cents, though by the non­de­script cov­er, above, you wouldn’t guess it would amuse or tit­il­late in the ways the Vil­lage Voice became well-known for—in its columns, pho­tos, car­toons, and lib­er­tine adver­tis­ing and clas­si­fieds. But most peo­ple these days remem­ber it as “free every Wednes­day,” to prof­fer dance, film, the­ater, music, restau­rants, to line sub­way cars and bird­cages, and to open up the city to its read­ers. The Voice is dead, long live the Voice.

Enter the dig­i­tal archive of the Voice here.

Writ­ings from the Voice have been col­lect­ed in these antholo­gies: The Vil­lage Voice Anthol­o­gy (1956–1980) and The Vil­lage Voice Read­er.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Com­plete Dig­i­ti­za­tion of Eros Mag­a­zine: The Con­tro­ver­sial 1960s Mag­a­zine on the Sex­u­al Rev­o­lu­tion

Down­load 36 Dadaist Mag­a­zines from the The Dig­i­tal Dada Archive (Plus Oth­er Avant-Garde Books, Leaflets & Ephemera)

Enter a Huge Archive of Amaz­ing Sto­ries, the World’s First Sci­ence Fic­tion Mag­a­zine, Launched in 1926

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

Neil deGrasse Tyson is Creating a New Space Exploration Video Game with the Help of George R.R. Martin & Neil Gaiman

Although Neil deGrasse Tyson is some­what hes­i­tant to go in on plans to ter­raform and col­o­nize Mars, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t like a good ol’–yet science-based–video game. Sev­er­al out­lets announced recent­ly that the videogame Space Odyssey, spear­head­ed by deGrasse Tyson–one of America’s main defend­ers of log­ic and Enlightenment–has sur­passed its Kick­starter fund­ing goal. The game promis­es to send play­ers on “real sci­ence-based mis­sions to explore space, col­o­nize plan­ets, cre­ate and mod in real time.”

In the game, accord­ing to deGrasse Tyson, “you con­trol the for­ma­tion of plan­ets, of comets, of life, civ­i­liza­tion. You could maybe tweak the force of grav­i­ty and see what effect that might have.” It will be, he says, “an explo­ration into the laws of physics and how they shape the world in which we live.”

The game has been form­ing for sev­er­al years now, and most impor­tant­ly to our read­ers, has called in sev­er­al sci-fi and fan­ta­sy writ­ers to help cre­ate the var­i­ous worlds in the game, as they have apt­ly demon­strat­ed their skills in doing so on the print­ed page. That includes George R.R. Mar­tin, cur­rent­ly ignor­ing what­ev­er HBO is doing to his cre­ation Game of Thrones; Neil Gaiman, who cre­ates a new uni­verse every time he drops a new nov­el; and Len Wein, who has had a hand in cre­at­ing both DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolver­ine. Also on board: deGrasse Tyson’s bud­dy Bill Nye, for­mer NASA astro­naut Mike Mas­simi­no, and astro­physi­cist Charles Liu.

The idea of world/­galaxy-build­ing is not new in video games, espe­cial­ly recent­ly. No Man’s Sky (2015) fea­tures “eigh­teen quin­til­lion full-fea­tured plan­ets” and Minecraft seems lim­it­less. But Space Odyssey (still a tem­po­rary title!) is the first to have deGrasse Tyson and friends work­ing the con­trols in the back­ground. And a game is as good as the vision­ar­ies behind it.


Accord­ing to the Kick­starter page, the raised funds will go into “the abil­i­ty to have this com­mu­ni­ty play the game and engage with it while the final build is under­way. As the Kick­starter gam­ing com­mu­ni­ty begins to beta test game-play and pro­vide feed­back, we can begin to use the funds raised via Kick­starter to incor­po­rate your mod­ding, map­ping and build­ing sug­ges­tions, togeth­er build­ing the awe­some gam­ing expe­ri­ence you helped to cre­ate.”

DeGrasse Tyson will be in the game him­self, urg­ing play­ers onward. There’s no indi­ca­tion whether Mr. Mar­tin will be pop­ping up, though.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Because of Pink Floyd, I’ve Spent Decades Undo­ing the Idea That There’s a Dark Side of the Moon”

David Byrne & Neil deGrasse Tyson Explain the Impor­tance of an Arts Edu­ca­tion (and How It Strength­ens Sci­ence & Civ­i­liza­tion)

Are We Liv­ing in a Com­put­er Sim­u­la­tion?: A 2‑Hour Debate with Neil Degrasse Tyson, David Chalmers, Lisa Ran­dall, Max Tegmark & More

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Three Charles Bukowski Books Illustrated by Robert Crumb: Underground Comic Art Meets Outsider Literature

Think of the artists you know who, espe­cial­ly in the 1960s and 70s, por­trayed an often sor­did real­i­ty in detail, just as they saw it, gar­ner­ing acclaim from enthu­si­asts, who per­ceived a high artistry in their seem­ing­ly rough-hewn work, and cries from count­less detrac­tors who object­ed to what they saw as the artists’ lazy cru­di­ty. In the realm of poet­ry and prose, Charles Bukows­ki should come to mind soon­er or lat­er; in that of com­ic art, who fits the bill bet­ter than Robert Crumb? It makes only good sense that the work of both men should inter­sect, and they did in the 1980s when Crumb illus­trat­ed two short books by Bukows­ki, Bring Me Your Love and There’s No Busi­ness.

“Crumb’s sig­na­ture under­ground comix aes­thet­ic and Bukowski’s com­men­tary on con­tem­po­rary cul­ture and the human con­di­tion by way of his famil­iar tropes — sex, alco­hol, the drudgery of work — coa­lesce into the kind of fit that makes you won­der why it hadn’t hap­pened soon­er,” writes Brain Pick­ings’ Maria Popo­va.

“In 1998, a final posthu­mous col­lab­o­ra­tion was released under the title The Cap­tain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Tak­en Over the Ship — an illus­trat­ed selec­tion from Buk’s pre­vi­ous­ly unpub­lished diaries, cap­tur­ing a year in his life short­ly before his death in 1994.” As one stu­dent of the graph­ic nov­el sum­ma­rizes Bring Me Your Love, “the main char­ac­ter is a man whose per­son­al­i­ty resem­bles the main char­ac­ter of most Bukows­ki sto­ries. He goes through life rather aim­less­ly, killing time by drink­ing and hav­ing sex. His wife is in a men­tal hos­pi­tal.”

“Crumb’s illus­tra­tions give the already grit­ty sto­ry­lines a visu­al con­text — such as a man who looks much like Buk wrestling on the floor with his ‘wife’ after a dis­pute involv­ing answer­ing the phone or var­i­ous bar­room skir­mish­es depict­ing a Bukows­ki-look­ing char­ac­ter run­ning amok,” says Dan­ger­ous Minds. “He was a very dif­fi­cult guy to hang out with in per­son, but on paper he was great,” Crumb once said of Bukows­ki, and his illus­tra­tions also reveal that he under­stands Bukowski’s own aware­ness of the dif­fer­ence between his page self and his real one. “Old writer puts on sweater, sits down, leers into com­put­er screen, and writes about life,” Bukows­ki writes, in their third and final col­lab­o­ra­tion, above a Crumb illus­tra­tion of just such a scene. “How holy can we get?”

See more Crumb illus­tra­tions of Bukows­ki at Brain Pick­ings.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Four Charles Bukows­ki Poems Ani­mat­ed

Watch “Beer,” a Mind-Warp­ing Ani­ma­tion of Charles Bukowski’s 1971 Poem Hon­or­ing His Favorite Drink

R. Crumb Shows Us How He Illus­trat­ed Gen­e­sis: A Faith­ful, Idio­syn­crat­ic Illus­tra­tion of All 50 Chap­ters

Robert Crumb Illus­trates Philip K. Dick’s Infa­mous, Hal­lu­ci­na­to­ry Meet­ing with God (1974)

Car­toon­ist R. Crumb Assess­es 21 Cul­tur­al Fig­ures, from Dylan & Hitch­cock, to Kaf­ka & The Bea­t­les

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les, 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.

Figures from Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” Come to Life as Fine Art Piñatas

Piñatas are a night­mare.

Oh sure, they look fes­tive, but seri­ous­ly, think twice before arm­ing a blind­fold­ed child (or a beer guz­zling adult guest) with a stur­dy stick and encour­ag­ing him to swing wild­ly.

There’s no need to wor­ry, how­ev­er, about any­one tak­ing a bat to the intri­cate Hierony­mus Bosch-inspired piñatas of Rober­to Benavidez, a self-described half-breed, South Tex­an, queer fig­u­ra­tive sculp­tor.

Even if you filled them with can­dy, the exte­ri­ors would be far more valu­able than any trea­sures con­tained with­in.

Bosch, of course, excelled at sce­nar­ios far more night­mar­ish than any­thing one might encounter in a back­yard par­ty. Benavidez seems less drawn to that aspect than the beau­ty of the fan­tas­ti­cal crea­tures pop­u­lat­ing The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights.

In fact, the major­i­ty of his papi­er-mâché homages are drawn from the par­a­disi­a­cal left pan­el of the famous trip­tych.

Not so the first in the series, 2013’s superbly titled Piña­ta of Earth­ly Delights #1, above

In the orig­i­nal, a mis­shapen water­bird uses its long beak to spear a cher­ry with which it tempts a pas­sel of weak-willed mor­tals, crowd­ed togeth­er inside a spiky pink blos­som.

In Benavidez’s ver­sion the lack of naked humans allows us to focus on the crea­ture, whose beak now pierces a sim­ple star-shaped piña­ta of its own.

Those with a fas­ci­na­tion for the antics of Bosch’s par­ty peo­ple are invit­ed to play a vari­a­tion of Where’s Wal­do, scour­ing the paint­ing for the inspi­ra­tion behind Can­dy Ass Bot­tom, above.

(Hint: if you’re grav­i­tat­ing toward those pos­te­ri­ors serv­ing as ves­sels for flutes, flocks of black­birds, or red hot pok­ers, you’re get­ting cold­er…)

While lit­tle is known about Bosch’s artis­tic train­ing, Benavidez majored in act­ing, before return­ing to his child­hood fas­ci­na­tion for sculpt­ing, tak­ing class­es in draw­ing, paint­ing, and bronze cast­ing at Pasade­na City Col­lege. Thrift and porta­bil­i­ty led him to begin explor­ing paper as his pri­ma­ry medi­um.

As he remarked on the blog of the crepe paper man­u­fac­tur­er Car­totec­ni­ca Rossi:

I was intrigued by the idea of tak­ing the piña­ta form, some­thing seen as cheap and dis­pos­able, and mov­ing it into the are­na of fine art.  I feel that my sculp­tur­al forms and fring­ing tech­niques set my work apart from what most peo­ple think of as a typ­i­cal piña­ta and the themes are more com­plex than is typ­i­cal.


View more of Rober­to Benavidez’ fine art piñatas, includ­ing those inspired by Hierony­mus Bosch on his web­site or Insta­gram feed.

via This Is Colos­sal

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of Hierony­mus Bosch’s Bewil­der­ing Mas­ter­piece The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights

Hierony­mus Bosch Fig­urines: Col­lect Sur­re­al Char­ac­ters from Bosch’s Paint­ings & Put Them on Your Book­shelf

Take a Mul­ti­me­dia Tour of the But­tock Song in Hierony­mus Bosch’s Paint­ing The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights

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

Neil deGrasse Tyson Demonstrates the Physics-Defying Rattleback

The rat­tle­back–it’s been intrigu­ing us since pre­his­toric times. Seem­ing to defy the laws of physics, it spins in one direc­tion, “rat­tles” to a stop, and then changes direc­tion, as Neil deGrasse Tyson demon­strates above. How does the rat­tle­back work? To get into that, watch this tech­ni­cal video from William Case, a pro­fes­sor at Grin­nell Col­lege. Or review the resources on this web page. In either case, you will need to wear your think­ing cap.

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 Physics Cours­es

The Feyn­man Lec­tures on Physics, The Most Pop­u­lar Physics Book Ever Writ­ten, Now Com­plete­ly Online

The Pio­neer­ing Physics TV Show, The Mechan­i­cal Uni­verse, Is Now on YouTube: 52 Com­plete Episodes from Cal­tech

Free Physics Text­books

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The Web Site “Centuries of Sound” is Making a Mixtape for Every Year of Recorded Sound from 1860 to Present

The vibra­tions of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Ele­vat­ed Rail­road in Man­hat­tan, a recita­tion of “Mary Had a Lit­tle Lamb,” the announce­ments issu­ing forth from an inven­tor’s attempt at a talk­ing clock — hard­ly a mix with which to get the par­ty start­ed, but one that pro­vides the clos­est expe­ri­ence we can get to trav­el­ing in a son­ic time machine. With Cen­turies of Sound, James Erring­ton has assem­bled those record­ings and a few oth­ers into its 1878–1885 mix, an ear­ly chap­ter in his project of cre­at­ing one lis­ten­ing expe­ri­ence for each year in the his­to­ry of record­ed sound.

“Things get a lit­tle more lis­ten­able in 1887 with a record­ing of ‘Twin­kle Twin­kle Lit­tle Star,’ ” writes The A.V. Club’s Matt Ger­ar­di. “It’s also with this third mix that we start to get a sense for Cen­turies Of Sound’s edit­ing style, as speech­es start to be lay­ered over musi­cal per­for­mances, cre­at­ing a lis­ten­ing expe­ri­ence that’s as plea­sur­able as it is edu­ca­tion­al.”

In so doing, “Erring­ton calls atten­tion to the issue of rep­re­sen­ta­tion, as one of his pri­ma­ry goals is to paint a glob­al, mul­ti-cul­tur­al pic­ture of record­ing his­to­ry,” dig­ging past all the “march­ing bands, sen­ti­men­tal bal­lads, nov­el­ty instru­men­tals and noth­ing much else” in the his­tor­i­cal archives while putting out the call for expert help sourc­ing and eval­u­at­ing “Rem­beti­ka, ear­ly micro­ton­al record­ings, French polit­i­cal speech­es, Tagore songs or any­thing else.”

Putting up anoth­er year’s mix each month, Cen­turies of Sound has so far made it up to 1893, the year of the World’s Columbian Expo­si­tion in Chica­go which “set the tone for the next twen­ty-five years of archi­tec­ture, arts, cul­ture and the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of the world,” and also the first age of “ ‘hits’ – music pro­duced with an eye to sell­ing, even if only as a sou­venir or a fun nov­el­ty.” With a decade remain­ing until Cen­turies of Sound catch­es up with the present moment, Erring­ton has put togeth­er a taste of what its son­ic dose of the almost-present will sound like with a 2016 pre­view mix fea­tur­ing the likes of the final album by A Tribe Called Quest and Lazarus, the musi­cal by David Bowie, both of whom took their final bows last year. We’re def­i­nite­ly a long way from the time of “Mary Had a Lit­tle Lamb.” But how will it all sound to the ears of 2027?

via The A.V. Club

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The British Library’s “Sounds” Archive Presents 80,000 Free Audio Record­ings: World & Clas­si­cal Music, Inter­views, Nature Sounds & More

Cor­nell Launch­es Archive of 150,000 Bird Calls and Ani­mal Sounds, with Record­ings Going Back to 1929

Great New Archive Lets You Hear the Sounds of New York City Dur­ing the Roar­ing 20s

Map­ping the Sounds of Greek Byzan­tine Church­es: How Researchers Are Cre­at­ing “Muse­ums of Lost Sound”

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les, 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.

How a Liberal Arts Education Helped Derek Black, the Godson of David Duke, Break with the White Nationalist Movement

Image of Ron Paul, Don Black, Derek Black (right), via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

A native of West Palm Beach, Flori­da, Derek Black grew up in one of the most promi­nent white nation­al­ist fam­i­lies in the Unit­ed States. He’s the son of Don Black, a for­mer grand wiz­ard of the Ku Klux Klan. And he’s the god­son of David Duke, “the most rec­og­niz­able fig­ure of the Amer­i­can rad­i­cal right, a neo-Nazi, long­time Klan leader and now inter­na­tion­al spokesman for Holo­caust denial” (per the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter). In short, Derek Black had every rea­son to grow up a racist, and remain a racist from cra­dle to grave. But things did­n’t turn out that way.

Below, you can hear Black explain how, as a young adult, he broke with white nation­al­ism, leav­ing behind his fam­i­ly, friends and com­mu­ni­ty. What laid the ground­work for that break? Going to a small lib­er­al arts col­lege, encoun­ter­ing new ideas, and meet­ing dif­fer­ent peo­ple. In this record­ed inter­view, he tells Michael Bar­baro of The New York Times:

In 2010, I moved across the state and start­ed col­lege at this lit­tle lib­er­al arts col­lege in Flori­da, which was about three and a half hours from home and it was the first time that I had lived away from home. Nobody knew who I was and I did not vol­un­teer who I was or any­thing about my back­ground, I made friends, hung out with peo­ple and played my gui­tar on my bal­cony in my dorm. It was nice to come back from class and be able to talk about his­to­ry or phi­los­o­phy or what­ev­er oth­er sub­ject and be around oth­er peo­ple.…

I had a friend on cam­pus who I had got­ten to know dur­ing my first semes­ter when nobody knew who I was, he was an obser­vant Jew who had Shab­bat din­ners pret­ty reg­u­lar­ly when­ev­er he was in town on Fri­day night and he would invite peo­ple of athe­ists and all sorts of dif­fer­ent reli­gions. It was just a nice din­ner. And so he actu­al­ly invit­ed me to one of the Shab­bats, and I knew him, and so I brought wine…

He had read my posts on Storm­front [a white nation­al­ist web­site cre­at­ed by Don Black] going back years — even the stuff when I was a teenag­er — and he doubt­ed that he was going to con­vince me of any­thing, he just want­ed to let me see a Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty thing so that if I was going to keep say­ing these anti-Semit­ic things that at least I had seen real Jews.

It was ulti­mate­ly in pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions with a per­son I met at the Shab­bat din­ners … we would talk about things. Not only white nation­al­ism, but even­tu­al­ly white nation­al­ism. And I would say, “This is what I believe about I.Q. dif­fer­ences, I have 12 dif­fer­ent stud­ies that have been pub­lished over the years, here’s the jour­nal that’s put this stuff togeth­er, I believe that this is true, that race pre­dicts I.Q. and that there were I.Q. dif­fer­ences in races.” And they would come back with 150 more recent, more well researched stud­ies and explain to me how sta­tis­tics works and we would go back and forth until I would come to the end of that argu­ment and I’d say, Yes that makes sense, that does not hold togeth­er and I’ll remove that from my ide­o­log­i­cal tool­box but every­thing else is still there. And we did that over a year or two on one thing after anoth­er until I got to a point where I didn’t believe it any­more.

As you stream the inter­view below, spend some time think­ing about the trans­for­ma­tive pow­er of a lib­er­al arts edu­ca­tion. Yes, more than an expe­di­ent busi­ness degree, it can change hearts and save lives.

Also pay atten­tion to Black­’s final thoughts on what Trump’s response to the Char­lottesville dra­ma did for the White nation­al­ist move­ment: “I think Tues­day was the most impor­tant moment in the his­to­ry of the mod­ern white nation­al­ist move­ment.” Trump “said there were good peo­ple in the white nation­al­ist ral­ly and he sal­vaged their mes­sage.”

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.