Judy Blume Now Teaching an Online Course on Writing

FYI: If you sign up for a Mas­ter­Class course by click­ing on the affil­i­ate links in this post, Open Cul­ture will receive a small fee that helps sup­port our oper­a­tion.

After announc­ing that Mar­tin Scors­ese will be teach­ing an online course on film­mak­ing, Mas­ter­Class made it known today that Judy Blume has cre­at­ed an online course on Writ­ing. In 24 lessons, the beloved author of Are You There God? It’s Me, Mar­garet and Tales of a Fourth Grade Noth­ing will show you “how to devel­op vibrant char­ac­ters and hook your read­ers.” The indi­vid­ual course costs $90 and is now ready go. You can also buy an All-Access Annu­al Pass for $180 and explore every course in the Mas­ter­Class cat­a­logue. Some cours­es worth explor­ing include:

You can take this class by sign­ing up for a Mas­ter­Class’ All Access Pass. The All Access Pass will give you instant access to this course and 85 oth­ers for a 12-month peri­od.

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:

Enter an Archive of 6,000 His­tor­i­cal Children’s Books, All Dig­i­tized and Free to Read Online

Hayao Miyaza­ki Picks His 50 Favorite Children’s Books

A Dig­i­tal Archive of Sovi­et Children’s Books Goes Online: Browse the Artis­tic, Ide­o­log­i­cal Col­lec­tion (1917–1953)

When John Cage & Marcel Duchamp Played Chess on a Chessboard That Turned Chess Moves Into Electronic Music (1968)

Pho­to­graph by Lynn Rosen­thal

When is a chess game not a chess game?

When it’s played between Mar­cel Duchamp and John Cage.

Both the man who turned a uri­nal into a piece of mod­ern art and the man who reduced musi­cal com­po­si­tion all the way down to silence were fans of tak­ing things to absurd con­clu­sions. And they were both fans of chess; Duchamp the grand mas­ter and Cage the duti­ful stu­dent. Asked in 1974 whether Duchamp was a good teacher, Cage replied, “I was using chess as a pre­text to be with him. I didn’t learn, unfor­tu­nate­ly, while he was alive to play well.”

But Cage seemed to have lit­tle inter­est in com­pe­ti­tion. “Duchamp once watched me play­ing and became indig­nant when I didn’t win,” he said. “He accused me of not want­i­ng to win.” Instead, he approached chess as he approached the piano—as a decoy, a feint, that leads into anoth­er kind of game entire­ly. In a 1944 trib­ute to Duchamp, he paint­ed a chess­board that was actu­al­ly a musi­cal score, and, in 1968, he arranged a pub­lic game as a pre­text for a musi­cal per­for­mance called Reunion, per­formed in Toron­to with Duchamp and his wife Tee­ny (we have no film of the game-slash-con­cert; you can see Cage play Tee­ny in the video above).

Cage was an admir­er of the elder artist for over 20 years, play­ing chess with him fre­quent­ly. But he “didn’t want to both­er Duchamp with his friend­ship,” writes Syl­vere Lotringer, “until he real­ized that Duchamp’s health was fail­ing. Then he decid­ed to active­ly seek his com­pa­ny.” Play­ing on an elec­tron­ic chess board designed by Low­ell Cross, known as the inven­tor of the laser light show, the two cre­at­ed an extem­po­ra­ne­ous com­po­si­tion that last­ed as long as the audi­ence, and Duchamp, could tol­er­ate. “The con­cert,” Cross remem­bered on the for­ti­eth anniver­sary of the piece, “began short­ly after 8:30 on the evening of March 5, 1968, and con­clud­ed at approx­i­mate­ly 1:00 a.m. the next morn­ing.”

Debunk­ing a num­ber of mis­con­cep­tions about the chess­board, Cross explains that its oper­a­tion “depend­ed upon the cov­er­ing or uncov­er­ing of its 64 pho­tore­sis­tors.” It also con­tained con­tact micro­phones so that “the audi­ence could hear the phys­i­cal moves of the pieces of the board.” When either play­er made a move, it trig­gered one of sev­er­al elec­tron­ic “sound-gen­er­at­ing sys­tems” cre­at­ed by com­posers David Behrman, Gor­dan Mum­ma, David Tudor, and Cross him­self. Addi­tion­al­ly, “oscil­lo­scop­ic images emanat­ed from… mod­i­fied mono­chrome and col­or tele­vi­sion screens, which pro­vid­ed visu­al mon­i­tor­ing of some of the sound events pass­ing through the chess­board.”

As Lotringer describes the scene, the two mod­ernist giants “played until the room emp­tied. With­out a word said, Cage had man­aged to turn the chess game (Duchamp’s osten­sive refusal to work) into a work­ing per­for­mance…. Play­ing chess that night extend­ed life into art—or vice ver­sa. All it took was plug­ging in their brains to a set of instru­ments, con­vert­ing nerve sig­nals into sounds. Eyes became ears, moves music.” Duchamp had giv­en the impres­sion he was done mak­ing art. “Cage found a way to lure him into one final pub­lic appear­ance as an artist,” notes the Toron­to Dreams Project blog.

Indeed, Cage may have been for­mu­lat­ing the idea for over twen­ty years, each time he sat down to play a game with Duchamp, and lost. When Duchamp arrived in Cana­da for the per­for­mance at what was called the Sight­soundsys­tems Fes­ti­val, he had no idea that he would be par­tic­i­pat­ing in the head­lin­ing event.

What he found when he arrived was a sur­re­al scene. Two of the great­est artists of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry took their seats in the mid­dle of the stage at the Ryer­son The­atre, bathed in bright light and the gaze of the audi­ence. Pho­tog­ra­phers cir­cled around them, shut­ters snap­ping; a movie cam­era whirred. The stage was a mess of gad­gets. There were wires every­where; a tan­gle of them plugged right into side of the chess­board. A pair of TV screens was set up on either side of the stage. The Toron­to Star called it “a cross between an elec­tron­ic fac­to­ry and a movie set.”

Cage lost, as usu­al, though he was more even­ly matched when he played Duchamp’s wife. The three of them, wrote the Globe, were “like fig­ures in a Beck­ett play, locked in some mean­ing­less game. The audi­ence, star­ing silent­ly and sul­len­ly at what was placed before it, was itself a char­ac­ter; and its role was as mean­ing­less as the oth­ers. It was total non-com­mu­ni­ca­tion, all around.” The wires run­ning from the chess­board con­nect­ed to “tuners, ampli­fiers and all man­ner of elec­tron­ic gad­getry,” the Star wrote, fill­ing the room with “screech­es, buzzes, twit­ters and rasps.”

The Star pro­nounced the event “infi­nite­ly bor­ing,” a wide­ly shared crit­i­cal assess­ment of the night. (Cage explains the Zen of bore­dom in his voice-over at the top.) But we can hard­ly expect most review­ers of either artist’s most exper­i­men­tal work to respond with less than bewil­der­ment, if not out­right hos­til­i­ty. It was to be Duchamp’s last pub­lic appear­ance. He passed away a few months lat­er. For Cage, the evening had been a suc­cess. As Cross put it, Reunion was “a pub­lic cel­e­bra­tion of Cage’s delight in liv­ing every­day life as an art form.”

Every­day life with Duchamp meant play­ing chess, and there were few greater influ­ences than Duchamp on Cage’s con­cep­tu­al approach to what music could be—and what could be music. “Like Duchamp,” writes PBS, “Cage found music around him and did not nec­es­sar­i­ly rely on express­ing some­thing from with­in.” Fur­ther up, see Cage’s 1944, Duchamp-inspired “Chess Pieces” per­formed on harp and accor­dion, and above hear a piece he wrote for Duchamp for a sequence in Hans Richter’s 1947 sur­re­al­ist film Dreams that Mon­ey Can Buy.

To delve deep­er, you can explore the book, Mar­cel Duchamp: The Art of Chess by Fran­cis M. Nau­mann.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mar­cel Duchamp, Chess Enthu­si­ast, Cre­at­ed an Art Deco Chess Set That’s Now Avail­able via 3D Print­er

Play Chess Against the Ghost of Mar­cel Duchamp: A Free Online Chess Game

The Music of Avant-Garde Com­pos­er John Cage Now Avail­able in a Free Online Archive

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

Watch Brian Eno’s Experimental Film “The Ship,” Made with Artificial Intelligence

“How is Bri­an Eno still find­ing unchart­ed waters after half a cen­tu­ry spent mak­ing music?” asked The Verge’s Jamieson Cox after the release of Eno’s 25th album, The Ship. Call­ing it a “dark near-mas­ter­piece,” The Onion’s A.V. Club expressed sim­i­lar aston­ish­ment. The album “can hold its own among the very best in a career full of bril­liant work…. Forty-one years after Anoth­er Green World, Eno is still for­ag­ing for new musi­cal ground, and what he’s able to come up with is noth­ing short of mirac­u­lous. When lis­ten­ing to The Ship, we get the sense that he will nev­er stop.”

Should you think that an exag­ger­a­tion, note that since The Ship, Eno has already released yet anoth­er crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed ambi­ent album, Reflec­tion—like its pre­de­ces­sor, a somber sound­track for somber times. And like anoth­er end­less­ly pro­duc­tive mul­ti­me­dia artist of his gen­er­a­tion, Lau­rie Ander­son, Eno hasn’t only con­tin­ued to make work that feels deeply con­nect­ed to the moment, but he has adapt­ed to wave after wave of tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion, this time around, har­ness­ing arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence to cre­ate a “gen­er­a­tive film” drawn from The Ship’s title track (below).

You can see a trail­er for the film at the top of the post, but this hard­ly does the expe­ri­ence jus­tice, since each viewer’s—or user’s—expe­ri­ence of it will be dif­fer­ent. As Pitch­fork describes the project: “On a web­site, ‘The Ship’ plays, and the user can click on tweets of news sto­ries, which appear along­side his­tor­i­cal pho­tos.” The film uti­lizes “a bespoke arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence pro­gramme,” the site explains, “devel­oped by the Dentsu Lab Tokyo,” explor­ing “var­i­ous his­tor­i­cal pho­to­graph­ic images and real-time news feeds to com­pose a col­lec­tive pho­to­graph­ic mem­o­ry of humankind.” (Dentsu received a pres­ti­gious prize nom­i­na­tion from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion for their work.)

It’s a con­cep­tu­al­ly grandiose project—which makes sense giv­en its source mate­r­i­al. The Ship, the musi­cal project, takes its inspi­ra­tion from the Titan­ic, “the ship that could nev­er sink,” Eno told The New York Times, “and… the First World War was the war that we couldn’t pos­si­bly lose—this men­tal­i­ty suf­fused pow­er­ful men. They get this idea that, ‘We’re unstop­pable, so there­fore, we’ll go ahead and do it….’ And they can’t.” Eno con­tin­ues in this vein of trag­ic explo­ration with the film, remark­ing in a state­ment:

Humankind seems to teeter between hubris and para­noia: the hubris of our ever-grow­ing pow­er con­trasts with the para­noia that we’re per­ma­nent­ly and increas­ing­ly under threat. At the zenith we realise we have to come down again… we know that we have more than we deserve or can defend, so we become ner­vous. Some­body, some­thing is going to take it all from us: that is the dread of the wealthy. Para­noia leads to defen­sive­ness, and we all end up in the trench­es fac­ing each oth­er across the mud.

The inter­ac­tive visu­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion takes these themes even fur­ther, ask­ing how much we as spec­ta­tors of hubris and para­noia are com­plic­it in per­pet­u­at­ing them, or per­haps chang­ing and shap­ing their direc­tion through tech­nol­o­gy: “Does the machine intel­li­gence pro­duce a point of view inde­pen­dent of its mak­ers or its view­ers? Or are we—human and machine—ultimately co-cre­at­ing new and unex­pect­ed mean­ings?”

You be the judge. See your own per­son­al­ized ver­sion of Eno’s The Ship film here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bri­an Eno on Why Do We Make Art & What’s It Good For?: Down­load His 2015 John Peel Lec­ture

Bri­an Eno Lists 20 Books for Rebuild­ing Civ­i­liza­tion & 59 Books For Build­ing Your Intel­lec­tu­al World

Lau­rie Ander­son Intro­duces Her Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty Instal­la­tion That Lets You Fly Mag­i­cal­ly Through Sto­ries

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

Watch the New Anime Prequel to Blade Runner 2049, by Famed Japanese Animator Shinichiro Watanabe

The run-up to Blade Run­ner 2049, befit­ting what now looks like the cin­e­mat­ic event of the decade, has con­sist­ed of not just mar­ket­ing hype (though it does include plen­ty of that) but gen­uine artis­tic mate­r­i­al as well. Last month we fea­tured Nexus: 2036, the first of three short “pre­quels” to Denis Vil­leneu­ve’s upcom­ing Blade Run­ner sequel. That one and its fol­low up 2048: Nowhere to Run, both direct­ed by Luke Scott (son of Blade Run­ner direc­tor Rid­ley Scott), use live action to fill in some of the sto­ry between the 2019 of the first movie and the 2049 of the sec­ond. The just-released third short, Black Out 2022, from Cow­boy Bebop direc­tor Shinichirō Watan­abe, brings the Blade Run­ner uni­verse into the realm of Japan­ese ani­ma­tion.

Blade Run­ner was def­i­nite­ly the movie that influ­enced me the most as an ani­me direc­tor,” says Watan­abe in the pre­view of his pre­quel down below. He and oth­er Japan­ese view­ers under­stood the film’s pow­er long before most any­one in the West (with the notable excep­tion of Philip K. Dick, author of its source mate­r­i­al), and Japan­ese artists began pay­ing trib­ute to it almost imme­di­ate­ly.

In a sense, Blade Run­ner took ani­me form thir­ty years ago: Kat­suhi­to Akiya­ma’s ani­mat­ed series Bub­blegum Cri­sis, the sto­ry of arti­fi­cial humans (called “booomers” instead of repli­cants) run amok and the advanced police team (called “Knight Sabers” instead of “Blade Run­ners”) who hunt them down in a Tokyo of the future rebuilt after a dis­as­trous earth­quake, could hard­ly wear its influ­ence more open­ly.

Filled with visu­al, son­ic, and the­mat­ic ref­er­ences to the orig­i­nal Blade Run­ner while tak­ing the sto­ry in new direc­tions — and also intro­duc­ing two new repli­cant char­ac­ters — Watan­abe’s Black Out 2022–view­able up top–depicts the events lead­ing up to the det­o­na­tion of an elec­tro­mag­net­ic pulse that destroys the elec­tron­ics and machin­ery on which human­i­ty has become so reliant. Human­i­ty blames the repli­cants, and so begins a peri­od of pro­hi­bi­tion on repli­cant pro­duc­tion, only brought to an end by the efforts of Nian­der Wal­lace, the char­ac­ter so eeri­ly played by Jared Leto in Nexus: 2036Blade Run­ner 2049 will pick things up 26 years after the EMP attack. What shape will Los Ange­les be in then? What shape will the cat-and-mouse game between repli­cants and Blade Run­ners take there? We’ll find out, and sure­ly in no small amount of detail, next month.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jared Leto Stars in a New Pre­quel to Blade Run­ner 2049: Watch It Free Online

Blade Run­ner 2049’s New Mak­ing-Of Fea­turette Gives You a Sneak Peek Inside the Long-Await­ed Sequel

The Offi­cial Trail­er for Rid­ley Scott’s Long-Await­ed Blade Run­ner Sequel Is Final­ly Out

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

Watch Tears In the Rain: A Blade Run­ner Short Film–A New, Unof­fi­cial Pre­quel to the Rid­ley Scott Film

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Marilyn Monroe & Elvis Presley Star in an Action-Packed Pop Art Japanese Monster Movie

Designed by Erik Winkows­ki, this wild cut-out ani­ma­tion, called “Scary Prairie,” fea­tures pop icons, an Andy Warhol aes­thet­ic, Japan­ese mon­sters, homages to Wild West films, all in one action-packed minute. What more could you want?

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!

via Messy n Chic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Miyaza­ki Meets Warhol in Campbell’s Soup Cans Reimag­ined by Design­er Hyo Taek Kim

Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe Recounts Her Har­row­ing Expe­ri­ence in a Psy­chi­atric Ward in a 1961 Let­ter

The Entire His­to­ry of Japan in 9 Quirky Min­utes

Hand-Col­ored Pho­tographs from 19th Cen­tu­ry Japan: 110 Images Cap­ture the Wan­ing Days of Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Soci­ety

The Big Ideas Behind Andy Warhol’s Art, and How They Can Help Us Build a Bet­ter World

Photo Archive Lets You Download 4,300 High-Res Photographs of the Historic Normandy Invasion

Taxis to Hell – and Back – Into the Jaws of Death, by Robert F. Sar­gent, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

In the mid-20th cen­tu­ry, the­o­rists like Roland Barthes and Pierre Bour­dieu explod­ed naive notions of pho­tog­ra­phy as “a per­fect­ly real­is­tic and objec­tive record­ing of the vis­i­ble world… a ‘nat­ur­al lan­guage,’” as Bour­dieu wrote in Pho­tog­ra­phy: A Mid­dle­brow Art. Bour­dieu him­self wield­ed a cam­era dur­ing his ethno­graph­ic work in Alge­ria, tak­ing dozens of con­ven­tion­al and uncon­ven­tion­al pho­tographs of the nation’s strug­gle for inde­pen­dence from France in the 50s. Yet he urged us to see pho­tog­ra­phy as for­mal­ly medi­at­ing social real­i­ty rather than trans­par­ent­ly rep­re­sent­ing the truth.

We have been trained to inter­pret the per­spec­tives most pho­tographs adopt as objec­tive views, when in fact they are “per­fect­ly in keep­ing with the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the world which has dom­i­nat­ed Europe since the Quat­tro­cen­to.” Pho­tog­ra­phy, in oth­er words, tends to give us art imi­tat­ing Renais­sance art. It can be dif­fi­cult to bear this in mind when we look at indi­vid­ual photographs—what Barthes calls “the This.”

Whether they doc­u­ment our own fam­i­ly his­to­ries or such momen­tous events as the Nor­mandy Inva­sion that began on D‑Day, June 6th, 1944, pho­tographs elic­it pow­er­ful emo­tion­al reac­tions that defy aes­thet­ic cat­e­gories.

At the Flickr account Pho­to­sNor­mandie, you can browse and search over 4,300 high res­o­lu­tion pho­tographs from the piv­otal Nor­mandy cam­paign, “From icon­ic images like Into the Jaws of Death by Robert F. Sar­gent,” My Mod­ern Met writes, “to troops inter­act­ing with locals as they lib­er­ate areas of Nor­mandy.” The pho­tos are deeply affect­ing, often awe-inspir­ing. When we look with a crit­i­cal eye, we’ll find our­selves ask­ing cer­tain ques­tions about them.

The skewed per­spec­tive and omi­nous sky in Sargent’s “Into the Jaws of Death,” for exam­ple, at the top of the post, might make us think of the Sturm und Drang of many a dra­mat­ic ship­wreck paint­ing from the Roman­tic peri­od. Was Sar­gent aware of the sim­i­lar­i­ty when he looked through the lens? Did he posi­tion him­self to height­en the effect? In pho­tos like that fur­ther up, of a French home dis­play­ing a pro‑U.S. sign on July 11th, 1944, we might won­der whether the res­i­dents made the sign or whether it was giv­en to them, per­haps for this very pho­to op. As always, we’re jus­ti­fied in ask­ing about the role of the pho­tog­ra­ph­er in stag­ing or fram­ing a par­tic­u­lar scene.

For exam­ple, the pho­to of a Ger­man sol­dier sur­ren­der­ing to Amer­i­can G.I.s, above, looks staged. But what exact­ly these sol­diers are doing remains a mys­tery. How much do these exter­nal details mat­ter? Pho­tog­ra­phy is unique among oth­er visu­al arts in that “the Pho­to­graph,” Barthes writes, “repro­duces to infin­i­ty” what has “occurred only once.” It is the meet­ing of infin­i­ty with “only once” that engages us in more exis­ten­tial explo­rations.  All of these sol­diers and civil­ians, shar­ing their joy and anguish, most of them now passed into his­to­ry. Who were these peo­ple? What did these moments mean to them? What do they mean to us 70 years lat­er?

The bombed-out cathe­drals and defeat­ed tanks make us pon­der the fragili­ty of our own built envi­ron­ment, though the destruc­tive forces threat­en­ing to undo the mod­ern world now seem as like­ly to be nat­ur­al as man-made—or rather some new, fright­en­ing com­bi­na­tion of the two. In the faces of the wound­ed and the dis­placed, we see spe­cif­ic man­i­fes­ta­tions of the same trag­ic inva­sions and migra­tions that reach back to Thucy­dides and for­ward to the present moment in world his­to­ry, in which some 60 mil­lion peo­ple dis­placed by war and hard­ship seek sanc­tu­ary.

The images draw us away into gen­er­al obser­va­tions as they draw us back to the unre­peat­able moment. This project began on the 60th anniver­sary of D‑Day “as a way,” My Mod­ern Met explains, “to crowd­source descrip­tions of images on the now defunct Archives Nor­mandie, 1939–1945. Thus, users are encour­aged to com­ment on pho­tos if they are able to improve descrip­tions, loca­tions, and iden­ti­fi­ca­tions.” His­to­ry may rhyme with the present—as one famous quote attrib­uted to Mark Twain has it—but it nev­er exact­ly repeats. The pho­to­graph, Barthes wrote, “mechan­i­cal­ly repeats what could nev­er be repeat­ed exis­ten­tial­ly.” Moments for­ev­er lost to time, trans­mut­ed into time­less­ness by the cam­er­a’s eye. Enter the Pho­to­sNor­mandie gallery here.

via My Mod­ern Met

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Clem Albers & Fran­cis Stewart’s Cen­sored Pho­tographs of a WWII Japan­ese Intern­ment Camp

The Fin­land Wartime Pho­to Archive: 160,000 Images From World War II Now Online

31 Rolls of Film Tak­en by a World War II Sol­dier Get Dis­cov­ered & Devel­oped Before Your Eyes

200,000 Pho­tos from the George East­man Muse­um, the World’s Old­est Pho­tog­ra­phy Col­lec­tion, Now Avail­able Online

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

The Strange Story of Dr. James Barry, the Pioneering 19th Century British Doctor Who Was a Woman in Disguise

The work of many recent his­to­ri­ans has brought more bal­ance to the field, but even with­in heav­i­ly mas­culin­ist, Euro­cen­tric his­to­ries, we find non­white peo­ple who slipped past racial gate­keep­ers to leave their mark, and women who made it past the gen­der police—sometimes under the guise of male pen names, and some­times in dis­guise, as in the case of Dr. James Bar­ry, who, upon his death in 1865, turned out to be “a per­fect female,” as the sur­prised woman who washed the body dis­cov­ered.

What makes Dr. Barry—born in Ire­land as Mar­garet Bulk­ley, niece of the painter James Barry—such a note­wor­thy per­son besides pass­ing for male in the com­pa­ny of peo­ple who did not tol­er­ate gen­der flu­id­i­ty? As the Irish Times writes in a review of a new biog­ra­phy, “her life as James Bar­ry was a suc­ces­sion of auda­cious firsts—the first woman to become a doc­tor; the first to per­form a suc­cess­ful cae­sare­an deliv­ery; a pio­neer in hos­pi­tal reform and hygiene; and the first woman to rise to the rank of gen­er­al in the British Army (Barry’s com­mis­sion, signed by Queen Vic­to­ria, still exists).”

When Bar­ry’s sex was dis­cov­ered, it caused a sen­sa­tion, inspir­ing every­one from muck­rak­ing anony­mous jour­nal­ists to Charles Dick­ens to weigh in on the case. The tale “was explored in nov­els,” notes The Guardian, “and even a play,” but the “true sto­ry is both more pro­sa­ic and infi­nite­ly more strange.” The video at the top of the post walks us through Barry’s career serv­ing the Empire in South Africa, where she treat­ed sol­diers, lep­ers, and ail­ing moth­ers. Mar­garet’s sto­ry as Dr. Bar­ry begins in Cork when, long­ing for adven­ture at 18, she first decid­ed to take on the per­sona of “a hot-tem­pered ladies’ man,” Atlas Obscu­ra writes, “don­ning three-inch heeled shoes, a plumed hat, and sword.” When her wealthy uncle passed away and left the fam­i­ly his for­tune, she also took his name.

Three years lat­er in 1809, with the encour­age­ment of her men­tor and guardian, Venezue­lan gen­er­al Fran­cis­co Miran­da, “she decid­ed to embody a smooth-faced young man in order to attend the men’s‑only Uni­ver­si­ty of Edin­burgh and prac­tice medicine—a guise that would last for 56 years.” Margaret’s ear­ly years were marked by hard­ship and tragedy. In her teens she had been raped by a fam­i­ly mem­ber and had born a child. When she became James Bar­ry, a physi­cian attend­ing to preg­nant women, she “had a secret advan­tage,” her biog­ra­phers Michael du Preez and Jere­my Dron­field write. “There was not anoth­er prac­tic­ing physi­cian in the world who knew from per­son­al expe­ri­ence what it was like to bear a child.”

But of course, she did not need to expe­ri­ence lep­rosy or gun­shot wounds to treat the many hun­dreds of patients in her care. Her sex was inci­den­tal to her skill as a physi­cian. Mar­garet Bulk­ley’s trans­for­ma­tion may be “one of the longest decep­tions of gen­der iden­ti­ty ever record­ed,” writes du Preez. Bar­ry “is remem­bered for this sen­sa­tion­al fact rather than for the real con­tri­bu­tions that she made to improve the health and the lot of the British sol­dier as well as civil­ians.” The doctor’s wild per­son­al sto­ry weaves through the lives of com­mon­ers and aris­to­crats, sol­diers and rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies, duels and illic­it love affairs, and is sure­ly wor­thy of an HBO minis­eries. Her med­ical accom­plish­ments are wor­thy of pub­lic memo­ri­al­iza­tion, Joan­na Smith argues at CBC News, along with a host of oth­er accom­plished women who changed the world, even as their lega­cies were elbowed aside to make even more room for famous men.

via The Guardian

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Marie Curie Invent­ed Mobile X‑Ray Units to Help Save Wound­ed Sol­diers in World War I

Marie Curie Attend­ed a Secret, Under­ground “Fly­ing Uni­ver­si­ty” When Women Were Banned from Pol­ish Uni­ver­si­ties

Pho­tos of 19th-Cen­tu­ry Black Women Activists Dig­i­tized and Put Online by The Library of Con­gress

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

A Virtual Tour of Japan’s Inflatable Concert Hall

After the mas­sive Fukushi­ma earth­quake in 2011, archi­tect Ara­ta Isoza­ki and artist Anish Kapoor cre­at­ed the Ark Nova, an inflat­able mobile con­cert hall, designed to bring music to dev­as­tat­ed parts of Japan. Made of a stretchy plas­tic mem­brane, the Ark Nova can be inflat­ed with­in two hours. Add air in the after­noon. At night, enjoy a con­cert in a 500-seat per­for­mance hall. After­wards, deflate, pack on truck, and move the gift of music to the next city.

Marc Kush­n­er, author of The Future of Archi­tec­ture in 100 Build­ings, takes us on a vir­tu­al tour of the con­cert hall in the video above. Over on the web­site Dezeen, you can see an array of pho­tos, show­ing both the inte­ri­or and exte­ri­or of this inge­nious struc­ture.

via Swiss Miss

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

The World Con­cert Hall: Lis­ten To The Best Live Clas­si­cal Music Con­certs for Free

The His­to­ry of Clas­si­cal Music in 1200 Tracks: From Gre­go­ri­an Chant to Górec­ki (100 Hours of Audio)

Stan­ford Prof Makes Ukule­les from Wood Floor of New Con­cert Hall

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.