Haruki Murakami Day: Stream Seven Hours of Mixes Collecting All the Jazz, Classical & Classic American Pop Music from His Novels

What makes the nov­els of Haru­ki Muraka­mi — orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten in Japan­ese and almost unfail­ing­ly filled with some odd but deeply char­ac­ter­is­tic mix­ture of cats, wells, par­al­lel worlds, mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ing women with well-formed ears, and much else besides — so beloved around the world? A large part of it must have to do with Murakami’s cul­tur­al ref­er­ences, some­times Japan­ese but most often west­ern, and even more so when it comes to music. “Almost with­out excep­tion,” writes The Week music crit­ic Scott Mes­low in an exten­sive piece on all the songs and artists name-checked in these nov­els, “Murakami’s musi­cal ref­er­ences are con­fined to one of three gen­res: clas­si­cal, jazz, and Amer­i­can pop.”

Even the very names of Murakami’s books, “includ­ing Nor­we­gian WoodDance Dance Dance, and South of the Bor­der, West of the Sun — derive their titles from songs, and his char­ac­ters con­stant­ly reflect on the music they hear.”

You’ll hear all these songs and many more in Mes­low’s three stream­ing mix­es, total­ing sev­en hours of lis­ten­ing, that just this month made up “Haru­ki Muraka­mi Day” on Lon­don-based inter­net radio sta­tion NTS. (We pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured NTS here on Open Cul­ture when they put up a twelve-hour “spir­i­tu­al jazz” expe­ri­ence fea­tur­ing John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Her­bie Han­cock, and many oth­ers, a fair few of whom sure­ly appear in Murakami’s own famous­ly large col­lec­tion of jazz records.)

Haru­ki Muraka­mi begins with Brook Ben­ton’s 1970 bal­lad “Rainy Night in Geor­gia,” the first song Muraka­mi ever includ­ed in a nov­el. In fact, he includ­ed it in his very first nov­el, 1978’s Hear the Wind Sing, which he wrote in the wee hours at his kitchen table after clos­ing up the Tokyo jazz bar he ran in those years before becom­ing a pro­fes­sion­al writer. He even cre­at­ed a radio DJ char­ac­ter, whose voice recurs through­out the nov­el, to announce it and oth­er songs (though his tech­niques for includ­ing his favorite music in his writ­ing have grown some­what sub­tler since). “Okay, our first song of the evening,” the DJ says. “This one you can just sit back and enjoy. A great lit­tle num­ber, and the best way to beat the heat” — or the cold, or what­ev­er the weath­er in your part of the world. Wher­ev­er that is, it’s sure to have plen­ty of Muraka­mi fans who want to lis­ten in.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Became a DJ on a Japan­ese Radio Sta­tion for One Night: Hear the Music He Played for Delight­ed Lis­ten­ers

A 3,350-Song Playlist of Music from Haru­ki Murakami’s Per­son­al Record Col­lec­tion

A 96-Song Playlist of Music in Haru­ki Murakami’s Nov­els: Miles Davis, Glenn Gould, the Beach Boys & More

A 26-Hour Playlist Fea­tur­ing Music from Haru­ki Murakami’s Lat­est Nov­el, Killing Com­menda­tore

Haru­ki Murakami’s Pas­sion for Jazz: Dis­cov­er the Novelist’s Jazz Playlist, Jazz Essay & Jazz Bar

Stream Big Playlists of Music from Haru­ki Murakami’s Per­son­al Vinyl Col­lec­tion and His Strange Lit­er­ary Worlds

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, 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.

Isaac Asimov Predicts in 1983 What the World Will Look Like in 2019: Computerization, Global Co-operation, Leisure Time & Moon Mining

Paint­ing of Asi­mov on his throne by Rowe­na Morill, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

“It’s dif­fi­cult to make pre­dic­tions,” they say, “espe­cial­ly about the future.” The wit­ti­cism has been var­i­ous­ly attrib­uted. If Yogi Berra said it, it’s adorable non­sense, if Mark Twain, dry plain­spo­ken irony. If Niels Bohr, how­ev­er, we have a state­ment that makes us won­der what exact­ly “the future” could mean in a rad­i­cal­ly uncer­tain uni­verse.

If sci­en­tists can’t pre­dict the future, who can? Sci­ence fic­tion writ­ers, of course. They may be spec­tac­u­lar­ly wrong at times, but few pro­fes­sion­als seem bet­ter equipped to imag­i­na­tive­ly extrap­o­late from cur­rent conditions—cultural, tech­no­log­i­cal, social, and political—and show us things to come. J.G. Bal­lard, Octavia But­ler, Arthur C. Clarke, Kurt Von­negut… all have fore­seen many of the mar­vels and dystopi­an night­mares that have arrived since their time.

In 1964, Asi­mov used the occa­sion of the New York World’s Fair to offer his vision of fifty years hence. “What will the World’s Fair of 2014 be like?” he asked in The New York Times, the ques­tion itself con­tain­ing an erro­neous assump­tion about the dura­bil­i­ty of that event. As a sci­en­tist him­self, his ideas are both tech­no­log­i­cal­ly farsee­ing and con­ser­v­a­tive, con­tain­ing advances we can imag­ine not far off in our future, and some that may seem quaint now, though rea­son­able by the stan­dards of the time (“fis­sion-pow­er plants… sup­ply­ing well over half the pow­er needs of human­i­ty”).

Nine­teen years lat­er, Asi­mov ven­tured again to pre­dict the future—this time of 2019 for The Star. Assum­ing the world has not been destroyed by nuclear war, he sees every facet of human soci­ety trans­formed by com­put­er­i­za­tion. This will, as in the Indus­tri­al Rev­o­lu­tion, lead to mas­sive job loss­es in “cler­i­cal and assem­bly-line jobs” as such fields are auto­mat­ed. “This means that a vast change in the nature of edu­ca­tion must take place, and entire pop­u­la­tions must be made ‘com­put­er-lit­er­ate’ and must be taught to deal with a ‘high-tech’ world,” he writes.

The tran­si­tion to a com­put­er­ized world will be dif­fi­cult, he grants, but we should have things pret­ty much wrapped up by now.

By the year 2019, how­ev­er, we should find that the tran­si­tion is about over. Those who can be retrained and re-edu­cat­ed will have been: those who can’t be will have been put to work at some­thing use­ful, or where rul­ing groups are less wise, will have been sup­port­ed by some sort of grudg­ing wel­fare arrange­ment.

In any case, the gen­er­a­tion of the tran­si­tion will be dying out, and there will be a new gen­er­a­tion grow­ing up who will have been edu­cat­ed into the new world. It is quite like­ly that soci­ety, then, will have entered a phase that may be more or less per­ma­nent­ly improved over the sit­u­a­tion as it now exists for a vari­ety of rea­sons.

Asi­mov fore­sees the cli­mate cri­sis, though he doesn’t phrase it that way. “The con­se­quences of human irre­spon­si­bil­i­ty in terms of waste and pol­lu­tion will become more appar­ent and unbear­able with time and again, attempts to deal with this will become more stren­u­ous.” A “world effort” must be applied, neces­si­tat­ing “increas­ing co-oper­a­tion among nations and among groups with­in nations” out of a “cold-blood­ed real­iza­tion that any­thing less than that will mean destruc­tion for all.”

He is con­fi­dent, how­ev­er, in such “neg­a­tive advances” as the “defeat of over­pop­u­la­tion, pol­lu­tion and mil­i­tarism.” These will be accom­pa­nied by “pos­i­tive advances” like improve­ments in edu­ca­tion, such that “edu­ca­tion will become fun because it will bub­ble up from with­in and not be forced in from with­out.” Like­wise, tech­nol­o­gy will enable increased qual­i­ty of life for many.

more and more human beings will find them­selves liv­ing a life rich in leisure.

This does not mean leisure to do noth­ing, but leisure to do some­thing one wants to do; to be free to engage in sci­en­tif­ic research. in lit­er­a­ture and the arts, to pur­sue out-of-the-way inter­ests and fas­ci­nat­ing hob­bies of all kinds.

If this seems “impos­si­bly opti­mistic,” he writes, just wait until you hear his thoughts on space col­o­niza­tion and moon min­ing.

The Asi­mov of 1983 sounds as con­fi­dent in his pre­dic­tions as the Asi­mov of 1964, though he imag­ines a very dif­fer­ent world each time. His future sce­nar­ios tell us as much or more about the time in which he wrote as they do about the time in which we live. Read his full essay at The Star and be the judge of how accu­rate his pre­dic­tions are, and how like­ly any of his opti­mistic solu­tions for our seem­ing­ly intractable prob­lems might be in the com­ing year.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

In 1964, Isaac Asi­mov Pre­dicts What the World Will Look Like Today: Self-Dri­ving Cars, Video Calls, Fake Meats & More

Philip K. Dick Makes Off-the-Wall Pre­dic­tions for the Future: Mars Colonies, Alien Virus­es & More (1981)

Arthur C. Clarke Pre­dicts the Future in 1964 … And Kind of Nails It

Octavia Butler’s 1998 Dystopi­an Nov­el Fea­tures a Fascis­tic Pres­i­den­tial Can­di­date Who Promis­es to “Make Amer­i­ca Great Again”

Sci-Fi Author J.G. Bal­lard Pre­dicts the Rise of Social Media (1977)

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

10 Rules for Appreciating Art by Sister Wendy Beckett (RIP), the Nun Who Unexpectedly Popularized Art History on TV

While life lasts, let us live it, not pass through as zom­bies, and let us find in art a glo­ri­ous pas­sage­way to a deep­er under­stand­ing of our essen­tial human­i­ty.

- Sis­ter Wendy Beck­ett (1930–2018)

Sis­ter Wendy, a clois­tered nun whose pas­sion for art led her to wan­der out into the world, where she became a star of glob­al pro­por­tions, enter­tained the tele­vi­sion mass­es with her frank human­ist assess­ments.

Unfazed by nudi­ty, car­nal­i­ty, and oth­er sen­su­al excess­es, she ini­tial­ly came across as a fun­ny-look­ing, grand­ma-aged vir­gin in an old-fash­ioned habit, lisp­ing rhap­sod­i­cal­ly about appendages and entan­gle­ments we expect most Brides of Christ to shy away from.

Attempts to spoof her fell flat.

Hav­ing beat­en the jok­ers to the punch, she took her rapt audi­ence along for the ride, barn­storm­ing across the con­ti­nent, eager to encounter works she knew only from the repro­duc­tions Church high­er ups gave her per­mis­sion to study in the 1980s.

She was grate­ful to the artists—1000s of them—for pro­vid­ing her such an excel­lent lens with which to con­tem­plate God’s cre­ations. Eroti­cism, greed, phys­i­cal love, hor­rif­ic violence—Sister Wendy nev­er flinched.

“Real art makes demands,” she told inter­view­er Bill Moy­ers, below, speak­ing approv­ing­ly of pho­tog­ra­ph­er Andres Serrano’s con­tro­ver­sial Piss Christ.

“Great art offers more than plea­sure; it offers the pain of spir­i­tu­al growth, draw­ing us into areas of our­selves that we may not wish to encounter. It will not leave us in our men­tal or moral lazi­ness,” she wrote in the fore­word to Sis­ter Wendy’s 1000 Mas­ter­pieces, her hand­picked selec­tion of the great­est paint­ings of West­ern art. (“A thou­sand sound­ed like so many until we got down to it and then began the anguish of choice,” she lat­er opined.)

A lover of col­or and tex­ture, she was unique in her abil­i­ty to appre­ci­ate shades of grey, delv­ing deeply into the psy­cho­log­i­cal moti­va­tions of both the sub­jects and the artists them­selves.

On Fran­cis Bacon’s Fig­ure with Meat (1954):

Here, he shows the pope, father of the Catholic Church, both enthroned and impris­oned by his posi­tion. Bacon’s rela­tion­ship with his own father was a very stormy one, and per­haps he has used some of that fear and hatred to con­jure up this ghost­ly vision of a scream­ing pope, his face frozen in a ric­tus of anguish.

On Hen­ri De Toulouse-Lautrec’s The Clown Chau-u-Kao (1895):

Toulouse-Lautrec, as the last descen­dant of an ancient French fam­i­ly, must have been bit­ter­ly con­scious of his own phys­i­cal defor­mi­ties and to many peo­ple he, too, was a fig­ure of fun…He shows us Chau-U-Kao prepar­ing for her act with dig­ni­ty and seren­i­ty, the great swirl of her frill seems to brack­et the clown so that we can tru­ly look at her, see the pathos of that blowzy and sag­ging flesh, and move on to the nobil­i­ty of the nose and the intense eyes. This is a degra­da­tion, but one that has been cho­sen by the per­former and redeemed by intel­li­gence and will pow­er.

On Nico­las Lancret’s The Four Times of the Day: Morn­ing (1739):

Morn­ing is filled with wit­ty obser­va­tion — a delight­ful young woman (who is clear­ly no bet­ter than she should be) is enter­tain­ing a young cler­ic, seem­ing­ly unaware of the temp­ta­tion offered by that casu­al­ly exposed bosom. He holds out his cup, but his eyes are fied, alas, on that region of the fem­i­nine anato­my that his pro­fes­sion for­bids him.

On François Clouet’s Diane De Poitiers (c. 1571)

The impli­ca­tion would seem to be that this shame­less beau­ty with her promi­nent nip­ples and over­flow­ing bowl of ripe fruit, is a woman of dubi­ous morals. Yet one can­not but feel that the artist admires the nat­ur­al free­dom of his sub­ject. Her chil­dren and her grin­ning wet-nurse are at her side, and, in the back­ground, the maid pre­pares hot water. /surely this domes­tic scene is no more than a sim­ple and endear­ing vignette. 

Her gen­er­ous takes on these and oth­er art­works are irre­sistible. How won­der­ful it would be to approach every piece of art with such thought and com­pas­sion.

For­tu­nate­ly, Sis­ter Wendy, who passed away last week at the age of 88, left behind a how-to of sorts in the form of her 2005 essay, “The Art of Look­ing at Art,” from which we have extract­ed the fol­low­ing 10 rules.

Sis­ter Wendy Beckett’s 10 Rules for Engag­ing with Art

Vis­it muse­ums

They are the prime locus where the unique­ness of an artist’s work can be encoun­tered.

Pri­or­i­tize qual­i­ty time over quan­ti­ty of works viewed

Soci­ol­o­gists, lurk­ing incon­spic­u­ous­ly with stop­watch­es, have dis­cov­ered the aver­age time muse­um vis­i­tors spend look­ing at a work of art: it is rough­ly two sec­onds. We walk all too casu­al­ly through muse­ums, pass­ing objects that will yield up their mean­ing and exert their pow­er only if they are seri­ous­ly con­tem­plat­ed in soli­tude.

Fly solo

If Sis­ter Wendy could spend over four decades sequestered in a small mobile home on the grounds of Carmelite monastery in Nor­folk, sure­ly you can go alone. Do not com­pli­cate your con­tem­pla­tion by teth­er­ing your­self to a friend who can­not wait to exit through the gift shop.

Buy a post­card

…take it home for pro­longed and (more or less) dis­trac­tion­less con­tem­pla­tion. If we do not have access to a muse­um, we can still expe­ri­ence reproductions—books, post­cards, posters, tele­vi­sion, film—in soli­tude, though the work lacks imme­di­a­cy. We must, there­fore, make an imag­i­na­tive leap (visu­al­iz­ing tex­ture and dimen­sion) if repro­duc­tion is our only pos­si­ble access to art. What­ev­er the way in which we come into con­tact with art, the crux, as in all seri­ous mat­ters, is how much we want the expe­ri­ence. The encounter with art is pre­cious, and so it costs us in terms of time, effort, and focus.

Pull up a chair, when­ev­er pos­si­ble

It has been well said that the basic con­di­tion for art appre­ci­a­tion is a chair.

Don’t hate on your­self for being a philis­tine.

How­ev­er invi­o­late our self-esteem, most of us have felt a sink­ing of the spir­it before a work of art that, while high­ly praised by crit­ics, to us seems mean­ing­less. It is all too easy to con­clude, per­haps sub­con­scious­ly, that oth­ers have a nec­es­sary knowl­edge or acu­men that we lack.

Take respon­si­bil­i­ty for edu­cat­ing your­self…

Art is cre­at­ed by spe­cif­ic artists liv­ing in and fash­ioned by a spe­cif­ic cul­ture, and it helps to under­stand this cul­ture if we are to under­stand and appre­ci­ate the total­i­ty of the work. This involves some prepa­ra­tion. Whether we choose to “see” a totem pole, a ceram­ic bowl, a paint­ing, or a mask, we should come to it with an under­stand­ing of its iconog­ra­phy. We should know, for exam­ple, that a bat in Chi­nese art is a sym­bol for hap­pi­ness and a jaguar in Mesoamer­i­can art is an image of the super­nat­ur­al. If need be, we should have read the artist’s biog­ra­phy: the ready response to the paint­ing of Vin­cent van Gogh or Rem­brandt, or of Car­avag­gio or Michelan­ge­lo, comes part­ly from view­ers’ sym­pa­thy with the con­di­tions, both his­tor­i­cal and tem­pera­men­tal, from which these paint­ings came.

…but don’t be a pris­on­er to facts and expert opin­ions

A para­dox: we need to do some research, and then we need to for­get it…We have delim­it­ed a work if we judge it in advance. Faced with the work, we must try to dis­pel all the busy sug­ges­tions of the mind and sim­ply con­tem­plate the object in front of us. The mind and its facts come in lat­er, but the first, though pre­pared, expe­ri­ence should be as unde­fend­ed, as inno­cent, and as hum­ble as we can make it.

Cel­e­brate our com­mon human­i­ty

Art is our lega­cy, our means of shar­ing in the spir­i­tu­al great­ness of oth­er men and women—those who are known, as with most of the great Euro­pean painters and sculp­tors, and those who are unknown, as with many of the great carvers, pot­ters, sculp­tors, and painters from Africa, Asia, the Mid­dle East, and Latin Amer­i­ca. Art rep­re­sents a con­tin­u­um of human expe­ri­ence across all parts of the world and all peri­ods of his­to­ry.

Lis­ten to oth­ers but see with your own eyes

We should lis­ten to the appre­ci­a­tions of oth­ers, but then we should put them aside and advance toward a work of art in the lone­li­ness of our own truth.

Sis­ter Wendy’s tele­vi­sion shows can be found on PBS, the BBC, and as DVDs. Her books are well rep­re­sent­ed in libraries and from book­sellers like Ama­zon. (We have learned so much in the year her dic­tio­nary-sized 1000 Paint­ings has been parked next to our com­mode…)

Relat­ed Con­tent:

10 Rules for Stu­dents and Teach­ers Pop­u­lar­ized by John Cage

1.8 Mil­lion Free Works of Art from World-Class Muse­ums: A Meta List of Great Art Avail­able Online

The Art Insti­tute of Chica­go Puts 44,000+ Works of Art Online: View Them in High Res­o­lu­tion

Down­load 502 Free Art Books from The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City this Jan­u­ary as host of  The­ater of the Apes book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

President Obama Names His Favorite Books, Movies & Songs of 2018

Pho­to by Pete Souza via obamawhitehouse.archive.gov

On Face­book this morn­ing, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma wrote: “As 2018 draws to a close, I’m con­tin­u­ing a favorite tra­di­tion of mine and shar­ing my year-end lists. It gives me a moment to pause and reflect on the year through the books, movies, and music that I found most thought-pro­vok­ing, inspir­ing, or just plain loved. It also gives me a chance to high­light tal­ent­ed authors, artists, and sto­ry­tellers – some who are house­hold names and oth­ers who you may not have heard of before. Here’s my best of 2018 list — I hope you enjoy read­ing, watch­ing, and lis­ten­ing.” Note that you can hear all of the music on this Spo­ti­fy playlist.

Books That Pres. Oba­ma Read This Year:

Becom­ing by Michelle Oba­ma (obvi­ous­ly my favorite!)
An Amer­i­can Mar­riage by Tayari Jones
Amer­i­canah by Chi­ma­man­da Ngozi Adichie
The Bro­ken Lad­der: How Inequal­i­ty Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die by Kei­th Payne
Edu­cat­ed by Tara West­over
Fact­ful­ness by Hans Rosling
Futureface: A Fam­i­ly Mys­tery, an Epic Quest, and the Secret to Belong­ing by Alex Wag­n­er
A Grain of Wheat by Ngu­gi wa Thiong’o
A House for Mr Biswas by V.S. Naipaul
How Democ­ra­cies Die by Steven Lev­it­sky and Daniel Ziblatt
In the Shad­ow of Stat­ues: A White South­ern­er Con­fronts His­to­ry by Mitch Lan­drieu
Long Walk to Free­dom by Nel­son Man­dela
The New Geog­ra­phy of Jobs by Enri­co Moret­ti
The Return by Hisham Matar
Things Fall Apart by Chin­ua Achebe
Warlight by Michael Ondaat­je
Why Lib­er­al­ism Failed by Patrick Deneen
The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes

Favorite Books of 2018:

Amer­i­can Prison by Shane Bauer
Arthur Ashe: A Life by Ray­mond Arse­nault
Asym­me­try by Lisa Hal­l­i­day
Feel Free by Zadie Smith
Flori­da by Lau­ren Groff
Fred­er­ick Dou­glass: Prophet of Free­dom by David W. Blight
Immi­grant, Mon­tana by Ami­ta­va Kumar
The Largesse of the Sea Maid­en by Denis John­son
Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence by Max Tegmark
There There by Tom­my Orange
Wash­ing­ton Black by Esi Edugyan

Favorite Movies of 2018:

Black Pan­ther
The Death of Stal­in
Eighth Grade
If Beale Street Could Talk
Leave No Trace
Mind­ing the Gap
The Rid­er
Sup­port the Girls
Won’t You Be My Neigh­bor

Favorite Songs of 2018

Apes••t by The Carters
Bad Bad News by Leon Bridges
Could’ve Been by H.E.R. (feat. Bryson Tiller)
Dis­co Yes by Tom Misch (feat. Pop­py Ajud­ha)
Ekombe by Jupiter & Okwess
Every Time I Hear That Song by Bran­di Carlile
Girl Goin’ Nowhere by Ash­ley McBryde
His­to­ria De Un Amor by Ton­i­na (feat. Javier Limón and Tali Rubin­stein)
I Like It by Car­di B (feat. Bad Bun­ny and J Balvin)
Kevin’s Heart by J. Cole
King For A Day by Ander­son East
Love Lies by Khalid & Nor­mani
Make Me Feel by Janelle Monáe
Mary Don’t You Weep (Piano & A Micro­phone 1983 Ver­sion) by Prince
My Own Thing by Chance the Rap­per (feat. Joey Purp)
Need a Lit­tle Time by Court­ney Bar­nett
Nina Cried Pow­er by Hozi­er (feat. Mavis Sta­ples)
Nteri­ni by Fatouma­ta Diawara
One Trick Ponies by Kurt Vile
Turnin’ Me Up by BJ the Chica­go Kid
Wait by the Riv­er by Lord Huron
Wow Freestyle by Jay Rock (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
And in hon­or of one of the great jazz singers of all time, who died this year, a clas­sic album: The Great Amer­i­can Song­book by Nan­cy Wil­son

You can find all of these song neat­ly list­ed in a playlist here on Spo­ti­fy.

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:

The Books on Barack Obama’s Sum­mer Read­ing List: Naipaul, Ondaat­je & More

Barack Oba­ma Shares a List of Enlight­en­ing Books Worth Read­ing

The 5 Books on Pres­i­dent Obama’s 2016 Sum­mer Read­ing List

A Free POTUS Sum­mer Playlist: Pres. Oba­ma Curates 39 Songs for a Sum­mer Day

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Getting Dressed During World War I: A Fascinating Look at How Soldiers, Nursers & Others Dressed During the Great War

Not to dimin­ish the night­mare of mor­tars and shrap­nel, but as evi­denced by Crow’s Eye Pro­duc­tions’ peri­od accu­rate dress­ing video above, one of the great­est hor­rors of WWI was wet wool.

Decades before the inven­tion of Gore-Tex, Polar Fleece and oth­er high per­for­mance, all weath­er gear, British sol­diers relied on their woolies from head to toe.

An army of female knit­ters sent gloves, scarves, bal­a­clavas and oth­er such “com­forts” to the front, in addi­tion to seam­less socks designed to last their boys three whole march­ing days inside their ankle high leather boots.

Alas, no amount of wax­ing and oil­ing could keep the trench­es’ freez­ing cold pud­dles from seep­ing through those boots.

Nothing’s worse than the scent of three lay­ers of wet wool when you’re catch­ing your death in sod­den put­tees.

The reg­i­ments whose uni­form bot­toms con­sist­ed of kilts had it par­tic­u­lar­ly rough, as the wet mate­r­i­al would freeze, cut­ting across the wear­ers’ legs like knives.

Pre­vent­ed from join­ing the com­bat on the front­lines, British women helped out where they could, achiev­ing a more com­fort­able lev­el of dress than they’d known before the war.

Tor­so-smash­ing corsets were scrapped to pre­serve steel for the war effort, though deco­rum decreed that British Red Cross Soci­ety Vol­un­tary Aid Detach­ment nurs­es, such as Down­ton Abbey’s fic­tion­al Lady Sybil Craw­ley, main­tain a tidy fig­ure with lighter, front-fas­ten­ing corsets from hips to just below the bust.

Many of the upper class women swelling the vol­un­teer nurs­ing ranks were unac­cus­tomed to dress­ing in such util­i­tar­i­an fashion—cotton dress­es, black flat rub­ber-soled shoes, aprons and sleeve pro­tec­tors.

Their fig­ures found com­par­a­tive lib­er­a­tion, while their van­i­ty found hum­bler out­lets in dust­ing pow­der and the flat­ter­ing army-style pro­fes­sion­al nurs­ing veils they pre­ferred to The Handmaid’s Tale-ish Sis­ter Dora caps.

The greater phys­i­cal free­dom of the nurs­es’ uni­forms extend­ed to ordi­nary young women as well. Their underwear—a midriff bar­ing chemise, knick­ers and petticoat—allowed for eas­i­er move­ment, as short­er skirts led to glam­orous stock­ings and—gasp!—shaved legs!

Trendy cardi­gans, jumpers and waist­coats weren’t just cute, they helped make up for the lost warmth of those oh-so-restric­tive corsets.

View more of Crow’s Eye Pro­duc­tions’ short films on the his­to­ry of dress here.

Knit­ters, you can find over 70 pat­terns for WW1 com­forts and neces­si­ties in the book Cen­te­nary Stitch­es: Telling the Sto­ry of One WW1 Fam­i­ly Through Vin­tage Knit­ting and Cro­chet.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Women Got Dressed in the 14th & 18th Cen­turies: Watch the Very Painstak­ing Process Get Cin­e­mat­i­cal­ly Recre­at­ed

The Dress­er: The Con­trap­tion That Makes Get­ting Dressed an Adven­ture

How to Make and Wear Medieval Armor: An In-Depth Primer

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City this Jan­u­ary as host of  The­ater of the Apes book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Where Did the Monk’s Haircut Come From? A Look at the Rich and Contentious History of the Tonsure

One might assume from a mod­ern view­point that the hair­styles worn by monks arose to deal with male pat­tern bald­ness anx­i­ety. As in the school uni­form approach, you can’t sin­gle out one person’s bald­ness when every­one is bald. But this, again, would be a mod­ern view, full of the van­i­ty the tonsured—those with reli­gious­ly shaven heads—ostensibly vowed to renounce. Accord­ing to the Catholic Ency­clo­pe­dia, the ton­sure (from the Latin verb for “to shear”) began as a “badge of slav­ery” among Greeks and Romans. It was adopt­ed “on this very account” by ear­ly monas­tic orders, to mark the total sur­ren­der of the will.

Would it sur­prise you, then, to learn that there were ton­sure wars? Prob­a­bly not if you know any­thing about church his­to­ry. Every arti­cle of cloth­ing and of faith has sparked some major con­tro­ver­sy at one time or anoth­er. So too with the ton­sure, of which—we learn in the Vox video above—there were three styles. The first, the coro­nal (or Roman or Petrine) ton­sure, is the one we see in count­less Medieval and Renais­sance paint­ings: a bald pate at the crown sur­round­ed by a fringe of hair, pos­si­bly meant to evoke the crown of thorns. Next is the Pauline, a ful­ly shaved head, seen much less in West­ern art since it was “used more com­mon­ly in East­ern Ortho­doxy.”

The third style of ton­sure caused all the trou­ble. Or rather, it was this style that served as a vis­i­ble sign of reli­gious dif­fer­ences between the Roman Catholic Church and the church­es in Britain and Ire­land. “Celtic Catholi­cism was ‘out of sync’ with the Roman Catholic Church,” notes Vox. “Roman Catholics would use the dif­fer­ences between them to por­tray Celtic Catholi­cism as pagan, or even as an off­shoot, cel­e­brat­ing the pow­er-hun­gry magi­cian, Simon Magus.” The Celtic ton­sure fell under a cloud, but how exact­ly did it dif­fer from the oth­ers? Since it dis­ap­peared in the ear­ly Mid­dle Ages and few images seem to have sur­vived, no one seems sure.

Daniel McCarthy, fel­low emer­i­tus at Trin­i­ty Col­lege, Dublin set out to solve the mys­tery. He spec­u­lates the Celtic ton­sure, as you’ll see on a com­put­er-sim­u­lat­ed monk’s head, was a tri­an­gu­lar shape, with the apex at the front. When the Roman Catholics took over Ire­land, all of the vest­ments, dates, and hair­cuts were slow­ly brought into line with the dom­i­nant view. The prac­tice of ton­sure offi­cial­ly end­ed in 1972, and fell out of favor in Eng­lish-speak­ing coun­tries cen­turies ear­li­er, accord­ing to the Catholic Ency­clo­pe­dia. But in any case, McCarthy sees the ton­sure not as a spurn­ing of fash­ion, but as a cult-like devo­tion to style. In that sense, we can see peo­ple who adopt sim­i­lar hair­cuts around the world as still visu­al­ly sig­nal­ing their mem­ber­ship in some kind of order, reli­gious or oth­er­wise.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How a Bal­ti­more Hair­dress­er Became a World-Renowned “Hair Archae­ol­o­gist” of Ancient Rome

Ani­mat­ed: Stephen Fry & Ann Wid­de­combe Debate the Catholic Church

50 Years of Chang­ing David Bowie Hair Styles in One Ani­mat­ed GIF

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

Earthrise, Apollo 8’s Photo of Earth from Space, Turns 50: Download the Iconic Photograph from NASA

Just a lit­tle over fifty years ago, we did­n’t know what Earth looked like from space. Or rather, we had a decent idea what it looked like, but no clear col­or images of the sight exist­ed. 2001: A Space Odyssey pre­sent­ed a par­tic­u­lar­ly strik­ing vision of Earth from space in the spring of 1968, but it used visu­al effects and imag­i­na­tion (both to a still-impres­sive degree) to do so. Only on Christ­mas Eve of that year would Earth be gen­uine­ly pho­tographed from that kind of dis­tance, cap­tured with a Has­sel­blad by Bill Anders, lunar mod­ule pilot of NASA’s Apol­lo 8 mis­sion.

“Two days lat­er, the film was processed,” writes The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Chris­t­ian Dav­en­port, “and NASA released pho­to num­ber 68-H-1401 to the pub­lic with a news release that said: “This view of the ris­ing earth greet­ed the Apol­lo 8 astro­nauts as they came from behind the moon after the lunar orbit inser­tion burn.”

The image, called Earth­rise, went “as viral as any­thing could in 1968, a time that saw all sorts of pho­tographs leave their mark on the nation­al con­scious­ness, most of them scars.” Life mag­a­zine ran it with lines from U.S. poet lau­re­ate James Dick­ey: “Behold/ The blue plan­et steeped in its dream/ Of real­i­ty.”

It’s often said of icon­ic pho­tographs that they make their view­ers see their sub­jects in a new way, an effect Earth­rise must exem­pli­fy more clear­ly than any oth­er pic­ture. “The vast lone­li­ness is awe-inspir­ing,” said Apol­lo 8 com­mand mod­ule pilot Jim Lovell at the time, “and it makes you real­ize just what you have back there on Earth.” At the recent cel­e­bra­tion of the mis­sion’s 50th anniver­sary at the Wash­ing­ton Nation­al Cathe­dral, Anders remem­bered, “As I looked down at the Earth, which is about the size of your fist at arm’s length, I’m think­ing this is not a very big place. Why can’t we get along?”

You can down­load Earth­rise from NASA’s web site and learn more about the tak­ing of the pho­to from the video above, made for its 45th anniver­sary. Using all avail­able data on the mis­sion, includ­ing audio record­ings of the astro­nauts them­selves, the video pre­cise­ly re-cre­ates the cir­cum­stances under which Anders shot Earth­rise, for­ev­er pre­serv­ing a view made pos­si­ble by a roll of the space­craft exe­cut­ed by Apol­lo 8 com­man­der Frank Bor­man. To what extent their pho­to­graph­ic achieve­ment has con­vinced us all to get along remains debat­able, but has human­i­ty, since the day after Christ­mas 1968, ever thought about its blue plan­et in quite the same way as before?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Won­der, Thrill & Mean­ing of See­ing Earth from Space. Astro­nauts Reflect on The Big Blue Mar­ble

Coun­tries and Coast­lines: A Dra­mat­ic View of Earth from Out­er Space

What It Feels Like to Fly Over Plan­et Earth

The Beau­ty of Space Pho­tog­ra­phy

The Cap­ti­vat­ing Sto­ry Behind the Mak­ing of Ansel Adams’ Most Famous Pho­to­graph, Moon­rise, Her­nan­dez, New Mex­i­co

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, 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.

Guillermo del Toro Names Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can the Most Underrated Great Movie of All Time

Direc­tor Guiller­mo del Toro, as one Twit­ter wag put it recent­ly, is the kind of film friend we’d all love to have–a great con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist, a good lis­ten­er, a fan at heart, and an ency­clo­pe­dic knowl­edge of the form. And while it’s not rare to hear him praise Steven Spiel­berg, this recent Twit­ter post most peo­ple by sur­prise:

Catch Me If You Can is hon­est­ly a film I haven’t thought about since I watched it in the the­aters. That’s not to say it was bad–it was an enjoy­able romp with Leonar­do DiCaprio and Tom Han­ks play­ing cat and mouse with each side appre­ci­at­ing the oth­er side’s wiles, but appar­ent­ly de Toro has watched it and thought about it often.

Ben­David Gra­bin­s­ki, the man who made the first vol­ley in pro­claim­ing Spielberg’s film under­rat­ed, is known for writ­ing the Jack­ie Chan-John­ny Knoxville vehi­cle Skip­trace and work­ing on the more recent Blindspot­ting.

“Prob­a­bly Walken’s best per­for­mance after DEER HUNTER,” he adds, along with “Leonar­do DiCaprio is so good you don’t judge Tom Han­ks for falling for his shit.” and “There is noth­ing more enter­tain­ing than hear­ing Tom Han­ks angri­ly yell. Bet­ter than the most expen­sive FX mon­ey can buy.”
(One of Grabinski’s fol­low­ers men­tions Amy Adams’ role, long before she hit it big. There’s also a nod to the John Williams’ score, which is light and jazzy unlike his block­buster work.)

It’s more inter­est­ing who del Toro read­i­ly calls to mind as influ­ences: Stan­ley Donen (Cha­rade), William Well­man (The Pub­lic Ene­my), Vin­cent Min­nel­li, Michael Cur­tiz (Casablan­ca), and William Wyler (Roman Hol­i­day). These men were all worka­day direc­tors with­in the stu­dio sys­tem, all skilled crafts­man, but not so idio­syn­crat­ic as to stand out.

Spiel­berg told the Amer­i­can Film Insti­tute once:

“Peo­ple like Vic­tor Flem­ing and Michael Cur­tiz I iden­ti­fy with more [than the likes of Mar­tin Scors­ese and Orson Welles] because they didn’t have styles…They were chameleons and they could quick­ly adapt; they could go from a sto­ry about heav­en and the after­life to the Civ­il War. They could do a lot of dif­fer­ent sub­jects and they could do them well because they were good crafts­men… but they didn’t impose who they were on what that was. And I always felt I was more in their game.”

Some may dis­agree, as Spiel­berg, espe­cial­ly in his block­busters, has a style that oth­ers have eas­i­ly copied (J.J. Abrams, I’m look­ing at you.) But right from the get-go, Spiel­berg has always made room for oth­er gen­res, from romance to his­tor­i­cal epics to hor­ror and sci-fi.

del Toro is not that kind of film­mak­er, though his best films are when he gets per­son­al and nos­tal­gic, like The Devil’s Back­bone. The Shape of Water cer­tain­ly had its Spiel­ber­gian moments, espe­cial­ly in its E.T.-style res­cu­ing of the cen­tral crea­ture.

Now that del Toro has weighed in, hope­ful­ly he might write a lit­tle bit more on the movie in the future. For us, we might need to watch the film again.

via Indiewire

Relat­ed con­tent:

Steven Spiel­berg on the Genius of Stan­ley Kubrick

Ter­ry Gilliam on the Dif­fer­ence Between Kubrick & Spiel­berg: Kubrick Makes You Think, Spiel­berg Wraps Every­thing Up with Neat Lit­tle Bows

Watch Steven Spielberg’s Debut: Two Films He Direct­ed as a Teenag­er

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.

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