New Digital Archive Will Feature the Complete Works of Egon Schiele: Start with 419 Paintings, Drawings & Sculptures

If you’ve ever mis­tak­en an Egon Schiele for a Gus­tav Klimt, you can sure­ly be forgiven—the Aus­tri­an mod­ernist don served as a North Star for Schiele, who sought out Klimt, appren­ticed him­self, and received a great deal of encour­age­ment from his elder. But he would soon strike out on his own, devel­op­ing a grotesque, exag­ger­at­ed, yet ele­gant­ly sen­su­al style that shocked his con­tem­po­raries and made him a lead­ing fig­ure of Aus­tri­an Expres­sion­ism.

Now, a cen­tu­ry after his death in 1918 at age 28, a num­ber of exhi­bi­tions have high­light­ed the com­plex­i­ty of his brief career, dur­ing which he “cre­at­ed a for­mi­da­ble out­put that turned him into a real icon for new gen­er­a­tions,” writes Ele­na Mar­tinique.

Schiele achieved “a remark­able impact and per­ma­nen­cy” and it’s easy to see why. Best known for his erot­ic, elon­gat­ed por­traits and self-por­traits, “sear­ing explo­rations of their sitter’s psy­ches,” as The Art Sto­ry describes them, his depic­tions of the human form are con­sid­ered some of the “most remark­able of the 20th cen­tu­ry.”

The details of Schiele’s short life paint the pic­ture of a mod­ernist rock star. He is as famous for his work as for his “licen­tious lifestyle… marked by scan­dal, noto­ri­ety, and a trag­i­cal­ly ear­ly death… at a time when he was on the verge of the com­mer­cial suc­cess that had elud­ed him for much of his career.” In his short life, Mar­tinique notes, Schiele pro­duced “over 400 paint­ings; close to 3,000 water­col­ors and draw­ings; 21 sketch­books; 17 graph­ics; and 4 sculp­tures.”

This incred­i­ble body of work will be made avail­able in full online in a project spear­head­ed by Jane Kallir, co-direc­tor of New York’s Galerie St. Eti­enne, which mount­ed Schiele’s first Amer­i­can solo exhi­bi­tion in 1941 and recent­ly staged a “com­pre­hen­sive sur­vey of the artist’s artis­tic devel­op­ment.” Kallir authored the most recent cat­a­logue raison­né of Schiele’s work, and rather than pub­lish anoth­er print edi­tion, she has decid­ed to put the full cat­a­logue online, under the aus­pices of her research insti­tute.

The project cur­rent­ly “details 419 works and count­ing, with a par­tic­u­lar empha­sis on Schiele’s paint­ings,” reports Meilan Sol­ly at Smith­son­ian. His draw­ings and water­col­ors will be added in 2019. Though it is a pub­lic resource, the online cat­a­logue is designed for schol­ars, who can use it to “trace spe­cif­ic pieces’ prove­nance or debunk the exis­tence of forg­eries.” Kallir con­tin­ues the work of her grand­fa­ther, Otto Kallir, who wrote the first com­plete cat­a­logue of the artist’s work in 1930.

That ear­ly ref­er­ence has proven invalu­able “in the tan­gle court­room dra­ma sur­round­ing the resti­tu­tion of Nazi-loot­ed art.” The cen­te­nary of Schiele’s death on Octo­ber 31, 2018 has brought even more inter­est to his work, and a rise in fakes cir­cu­lat­ing in the art mar­ket. “It is very impor­tant to have a reli­able and read­i­ly acces­si­ble means of iden­ti­fy­ing authen­tic works of art,” Kallir writes in a state­ment. There is no one bet­ter placed than her to cre­ate it.

But while the Kallir Research Institute’s Com­plete Works of Egon Schiele Online offers nec­es­sary infor­ma­tion for cura­tors, art deal­ers, and schol­ars, it is very acces­si­ble to the gen­er­al pub­lic. If you’re new to Schiele, start with a short biog­ra­phy at the site. (Also read The Art Story’s overview and see sev­er­al high-res­o­lu­tion scans of his most famous works at the Art His­to­ry Project). Then click on “Works” to view pho­tos and infor­ma­tion about sketch­books, graph­ics, sculp­tures, and paint­ings.

These lat­ter works show a rad­i­cal devel­op­ment: from the con­ser­v­a­tive, tra­di­tion­al style of his ear­li­est paint­ing, to the heav­i­ly Klimt-influ­enced work of 1908–9, to 1910–18, when he dis­cov­ered and per­fect­ed his own pecu­liar vision.

via Art Net

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Gus­tav Klimt’s Haunt­ing Paint­ings Get Re-Cre­at­ed in Pho­tographs, Fea­tur­ing Live Mod­els, Ornate Props & Real Gold

Explore 7,600 Works of Art by Edvard Munch: They’re Now Dig­i­tized and Free Online

3,900 Pages of Paul Klee’s Per­son­al Note­books Are Now Online, Pre­sent­ing His Bauhaus Teach­ings (1921–1931)

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

Banksy Paints a Grim Holiday Mural: Season’s Greetings to All

Season’s greet­ings from Banksy. Two months after shred­ding a paint­ing at a Lon­don auc­tion, the street artist has resur­faced again. This time in Port Tal­bot, Wales, where he spray-paint­ed a hol­i­day mur­al on two sides of a garage. One sides shows a young boy frol­ick­ing in what looks like falling snow. The oth­er side makes you real­ize that the snow is real­ly a fire spew­ing tox­ic ash.

Accord­ing to the BBC, Gary Owen, a Port Tal­bot res­i­dent, mes­saged Banksy last sum­mer and asked him to put a spot­light on Port Tal­bot’s chron­ic pol­lu­tion prob­lem. The steel­works of the indus­tri­al town puts dust in the air, cre­at­ing poten­tial health risks for chil­dren. When Owen learned about the mur­al, he report­ed­ly said: “It’s bril­liant. I could­n’t take it in. I did­n’t think it was true.” That’s all before some “some drunk halfwit” tried to attack the paint­ing–very for­tu­nate­ly to no avail.

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:

Watch Dis­ma­land — The Offi­cial Unof­fi­cial Film, A Cin­e­mat­ic Jour­ney Through Banksy’s Apoc­a­lyp­tic Theme Park

Banksy Shreds His $1.4 Mil­lion Paint­ing at Auc­tion, Tak­ing a Tra­di­tion of Artists Destroy­ing Art to New Heights

Behind the Banksy Stunt: An In-Depth Break­down of the Artist’s Self-Shred­ding Paint­ing

Artificial Intelligence Creates Realistic Photos of People, None of Whom Actually Exist

Each day in the 2010s, it seems, brings anoth­er star­tling devel­op­ment in the field of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence — a field wide­ly writ­ten off not all that long ago as a dead end. But now AI looks just as alive as the peo­ple you see in these pho­tographs, despite the fact that none of them have ever lived, and it’s ques­tion­able whether we can even call the images that depict them “pho­tographs” at all. All of them come, in fact, as prod­ucts of a state-of-the-art gen­er­a­tive adver­sar­i­al net­work, a type of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence algo­rithm that pits mul­ti­ple neur­al net­works against each oth­er in a kind of machine-learn­ing match.

These neur­al net­works have, it seems, com­pet­ed their way to gen­er­at­ing images of fab­ri­cat­ed human faces that gen­uine humans have trou­ble dis­tin­guish­ing from images of the real deal. Their archi­tec­ture, described in a paper by the Nvidia researchers who devel­oped it, “leads to an auto­mat­i­cal­ly learned, unsu­per­vised sep­a­ra­tion of high-lev­el attrib­ut­es (e.g., pose and iden­ti­ty when trained on human faces) and sto­chas­tic vari­a­tion in the gen­er­at­ed images (e.g., freck­les, hair), and it enables intu­itive, scale-spe­cif­ic con­trol of the syn­the­sis.” What they’ve come up with, in oth­er words, has made it not just more pos­si­ble than ever to cre­ate fake faces, but made those faces more cus­tomiz­able than ever as well.

“Of course, the abil­i­ty to cre­ate real­is­tic AI faces rais­es trou­bling ques­tions. (Not least of all, how long until stock pho­to mod­els go out of work?)” writes James Vin­cent at The Verge. “Experts have been rais­ing the alarm for the past cou­ple of years about how AI fak­ery might impact soci­ety. These tools could be used for mis­in­for­ma­tion and pro­pa­gan­da and might erode pub­lic trust in pic­to­r­i­al evi­dence, a trend that could dam­age the jus­tice sys­tem as well as pol­i­tics.”

But still, “you can’t doc­tor any image in any way you like with the same fideli­ty. There are also seri­ous con­straints when it comes to exper­tise and time. It took Nvidia’s researchers a week train­ing their mod­el on eight Tes­la GPUs to cre­ate these faces.”

Though “a run­ning bat­tle between AI fak­ery and image authen­ti­ca­tion for decades to come” seems inevitable, the cur­rent abil­i­ty of com­put­ers to cre­ate plau­si­ble faces cer­tain­ly fas­ci­nates, espe­cial­ly when com­pared to their abil­i­ty just four years ago, the hazy black-and-white fruits of which appear just above. Put that against the grid of faces at the top of the post, which shows how Nvidi­a’s sys­tem can com­bine the fea­tures of the faces on one axis with the fea­tures on the oth­er, and you’ll get a sense of the tech­no­log­i­cal accel­er­a­tion involved. Such a process could well be used, for exam­ple, to give you a sense of what your future chil­dren might look like. But how long until it puts con­vinc­ing visions of mov­ing, speak­ing, even think­ing human beings before our eyes?

via Petapix­el

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Sci­en­tists Cre­ate a New Rem­brandt Paint­ing, Using a 3D Print­er & Data Analy­sis of Rembrandt’s Body of Work

Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Writes a Piece in the Style of Bach: Can You Tell the Dif­fer­ence Between JS Bach and AI Bach?

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

Google Launch­es a Free Course on Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence: Sign Up for Its New “Machine Learn­ing Crash Course”

Google Launch­es Three New Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Exper­i­ments That Could Be God­sends for Artists, Muse­ums & Design­ers

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.

Lin-Manuel Miranda & Emily Blunt Take You Through 22 Classic Musicals in 12 Minutes

Watch­ing James Cor­den, Lin-Manuel Miran­da, and Emi­ly Blunt don­ning bad wigs to mug their way through a 12-minute salute to 22 movie musi­cal “clas­sics” is a bit rem­i­nis­cent of watch­ing the three most pop­u­lar coun­selors ham it up dur­ing an over­long sum­mer camp skit.

Their one-take per­for­mance was part of Role Call, a reg­u­lar fea­ture of the Late Late Show with James Cor­den. Usu­al­ly, this fan favorite is an excuse for Cor­den and a megas­tar guest—Tom Han­ks, Julia Roberts, Samuel L. Jack­son—to bum­ble through the most icon­ic moments of their career.

These kinds of larks are more fun for being a mess, and the live stu­dio audi­ence screams like besot­ted campers at every goofy quick change and wink­ing inside ref­er­ence. Blunt and Miran­da are def­i­nite­ly game, though one won­ders if they felt a bit cha­grinned that the film they are pro­mot­ing, Mary Pop­pins Returns, is giv­en pride of place­ment, while the orig­i­nal 1964 film star­ring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke is strange­ly absent.

As is Thor­ough­ly Mod­ern Mil­lie, Victor/Victoria, and even The Sound of Music.

Maybe Corden’s sav­ing up for a Julia Andrews-cen­tric Role Call.

What did make the cut points to how few orig­i­nal movie musi­cals there are to res­onate with mod­ern audi­ences.

Of the 22, over 2/3 start­ed out as Broad­way plays.

And “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from 2007’s Hair­spray was born of the 2002 stage adap­ta­tion, not the grit­ty 1988 orig­i­nal star­ring John Waters’ main­stay, Divine.

Is it wrong to hope that most view­ers hear­ing “Your Song” will think, Elton John! not Moulin Rouge”?

And Beau­ty and The Beast is per­haps not so much a movie musi­cal as a children’s fea­ture-length ani­ma­tion, so why not The Lit­tle Mer­maid, The Lion  King, or hell, Snow White or Pinoc­chio?

Alas, 1953’s Gen­tle­men Pre­fer Blondes is as far back as this skit’s mem­o­ry goes, pre­sum­ably because the audi­ence has a greater like­li­hood of rec­og­niz­ing Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe than say, Howard Keel.

More inter­est­ing than the jokey horse­play with Into the Woods and The Mup­pet Movie is the choice to blithe­ly cast white actors in roles that were writ­ten for black women (Dream­girls, Lit­tle Shop of Hor­rors). I don’t think any­one would try to get away with that on Broad­way these days, even in in a spoofy char­i­ta­ble event like Broad­way Bares or East­er Bon­net… though if they did, get­ting Lin-Manuel Miran­da on board would be a very good idea.

As to why Hamil­ton isn’t one of the titles below … it’s not a movie musi­cal—yet!

Readers—what glar­ing omis­sions leap out at you?



La La Land

Beau­ty and the Beast

Guys and Dolls


Sin­gin’ in the Rain

Mary Pop­pins Returns

The Mup­pet Movie

The Wiz­ard of Oz 




Fid­dler on the Roof

Into the Woods 

Lit­tle Shop of Hor­rors

Les Mis­er­ables

Moulin Rouge 



Gen­tle­men Pre­fer Blondes

Mama Mia

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hair: The Amer­i­can Trib­al Love-Rock Musi­cal Debuted on Broad­way 50 Years Ago: Watch Footage of the Cast Per­form­ing in 1968

David Bowie Dreamed of Turn­ing George Orwell’s 1984 Into a Musi­cal: Hear the Songs That Sur­vived the Aban­doned Project

Alexan­der Hamil­ton: Hip-Hop Hero at the White House Poet­ry Evening

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.


Researchers Recreate the Sounds Worshippers Heard in the Mosque of Cordoba Over 1,200 Years Ago

As we know from con­ver­sa­tions in sub­way tun­nels or singing in the show­er, dif­fer­ent kinds of spaces and build­ing mate­ri­als alter the qual­i­ty of a sound. It’s a sub­ject near and dear to archi­tectsmusi­cians, and com­posers. The rela­tion­ship between space and sound also cen­tral­ly occu­pies the field of “Acoustic Arche­ol­o­gy.” But here, an unusu­al prob­lem presents itself. How can we know how music, voice, and envi­ron­men­tal sound behaves in spaces that no longer exist?

More specif­i­cal­ly, writes EurekAltert!, the ques­tion that faced researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Seville was “how did words or the rain sound inside the Mosque of Cor­do­ba in the time of Abd al-Rah­man I?” The founder of an Iber­ian Mus­lim dynasty began con­struc­tion on the Mosque of Cor­do­ba in the 780s. In the hun­dreds of years since, it under­went sev­er­al expan­sions and, lat­er, major ren­o­va­tions after it became the Cathe­dral of Cor­do­ba in the 13th cen­tu­ry.

The archi­tec­ture of the 8th cen­tu­ry build­ing is lost to his­to­ry, and so, it would seem, is its care­ful sound design. “Unlike frag­ments of tools or shards of pot­tery,” Atlas Obscu­ra’s Jes­si­ca Leigh Hes­ter notes, “sounds don’t lodge them­selves in the soil.” Archeo-acousti­cians do not have recourse to the mate­r­i­al arti­facts arche­ol­o­gists rely on in their recon­struc­tions of the past. But, giv­en the tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ments in reverb sim­u­la­tion and audio soft­ware, these sci­en­tists can nonethe­less approx­i­mate the sounds of ancient spaces.

In this case, Uni­ver­si­ty of Seville’s Rafael Suárez and his col­lab­o­ra­tors in the research group “Archi­tec­ture, Her­itage and Sus­tain­abil­i­ty” col­lect­ed impulse responses—recordings of reverberation—from the cur­rent cathe­dral. “From there, they used soft­ware to recon­struct the inter­nal archi­tec­ture of the mosque dur­ing four dif­fer­ent phas­es of con­struc­tion and ren­o­va­tion.… Next, they pro­duced aural­iza­tions, or sound files repli­cat­ing what wor­ship­pers would have heard.”

To hear what late-8th cen­tu­ry Span­ish Mus­lims would have, “researchers used soft­ware to mod­el how the archi­tec­ture would change the same snip­pet of a record­ed salat, or dai­ly prayer. In the first con­fig­u­ra­tion, the prayer sounds full-bod­ied and sonorous; in the mod­el that reflects the mosque’s last ren­o­va­tion, the same prayer echoes as though it was recit­ed deep inside a cave.” All of those ren­o­va­tions, in oth­er words, destroyed the son­ic engi­neer­ing of the mosque.

As the authors write in a paper recent­ly pub­lished in Applied Acoustics, “the enlarge­ment inter­ven­tions failed to take the func­tion­al aspect of the mosque and gave the high­est pri­or­i­ty to main­ly the aes­thet­ic aspect.” In the sim­u­la­tion of the mosque as it sound­ed in the 780s, sound was intel­li­gi­ble all over the build­ing. Lat­er con­struc­tion added what the researchers call “acoustic shad­ow zones” where lit­tle can be heard but echo.

Unlike Hagia Sofia, the Byzan­tine cathe­dral-turned-mosque, which retained its basic design over the course of almost 1500 years, and thus its basic sound design, the Mosque-Cathe­dral of Cor­do­ba was so altered archi­tec­tural­ly that a “sig­nif­i­cant dete­ri­o­ra­tion of the acoustic con­di­tions” result­ed, the authors claim. The mosque’s many remain­ing visu­al ele­ments would be famil­iar to 8th cen­tu­ry atten­dees, writes Hes­ter, includ­ing “gilt cal­lig­ra­phy and intri­cate tiles… and hun­dreds of columns—made from jasper, onyx, mar­ble, and oth­er stones sal­vaged from Roman ruins.” But the “acoustic land­scape” of the space would be unrec­og­niz­able.

The spe­cif­ic sounds of a space are essen­tial to mak­ing “a place feel like itself.” Some­thing to con­sid­er the next time you’re plan­ning a major home ren­o­va­tion.

via Atlas Obscu­ra

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear the Hagia Sophia’s Awe-Inspir­ing Acoustics Get Recre­at­ed with Com­put­er Sim­u­la­tions, and Let Your­self Get Trans­port­ed Back to the Mid­dle Ages

The Same Song Sung in 15 Places: A Won­der­ful Case Study of How Land­scape & Archi­tec­ture Shape the Sounds of Music

David Byrne: How Archi­tec­ture Helped Music Evolve

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

The Moonlight Sonata But the Bass Is a Bar Late, and the Melody Is a Bar Early

From com­pos­er and elec­tron­ic musi­cian Isaac Schankler comes an exper­i­men­tal take on Beethoven’s Moon­light Sonata. As the title says, the bass is a bar late and the melody is a bar ear­ly. Sheet music for the exper­i­ment can be found here. And some of Schankler’s more seri­ous com­po­si­tions here.

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 Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Did Beethoven Com­pose His 9th Sym­pho­ny After He Went Com­plete­ly Deaf?

Beethoven’s Ode to Joy Played With 167 Theremins Placed Inside Matryosh­ka Dolls in Japan

The Sto­ry of How Beethoven Helped Make It So That CDs Could Play 74 Min­utes of Music


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Discover Isotype, the 1920s Attempt to Create a Universal Language with Stylish Icons & Graphic Design

How long has mankind dreamed of an inter­na­tion­al lan­guage? The first answer that comes to mind, of course, dates that dream to the time of the Bib­li­cal sto­ry of the Tow­er of Babel. If you don’t hap­pen to believe that human­i­ty was made to speak a vari­ety of mutu­al­ly incom­pre­hen­si­ble tongues as pun­ish­ment for dar­ing to build a tow­er tall enough to reach heav­en, maybe you’d pre­fer a date some­where around the much lat­er devel­op­ment of Esperan­to, the best-known lan­guage invent­ed specif­i­cal­ly to attain uni­ver­sal­i­ty, in the late 19th cen­tu­ry. But look ahead a few decades past that and you find an intrigu­ing exam­ple of a lan­guage cre­at­ed to unite the world with­out using words at all: Inter­na­tion­al Sys­tem Of Typo­graph­ic Pic­ture Edu­ca­tion, or Iso­type.

“Near­ly a cen­tu­ry before info­graph­ics and data visu­al­iza­tion became the cul­tur­al ubiq­ui­ty they are today,” writes Brain Pick­ings’ Maria Popo­va, “the pio­neer­ing Aus­tri­an soci­ol­o­gist, philoso­pher of sci­ence, social reformer, and cura­tor Otto Neu­rath (Decem­ber 10, 1882–December 22, 1945), togeth­er with his not-yet-wife Marie, invent­ed ISOTYPE — the vision­ary pic­togram lan­guage that fur­nished the vocab­u­lary of mod­ern info­graph­ics.”

First known as the Vien­na Method of Pic­to­r­i­al Sta­tis­tics, Iso­type­’s ini­tial devel­op­ment began in 1926 at Vien­na’s Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftsmu­se­um (or Social and Eco­nom­ic Muse­um), of which Neu­rath was the found­ing direc­tor. There he began to assem­ble some­thing like a design stu­dio team, with the mis­sion of cre­at­ing a set of pic­to­r­i­al sym­bols that could ren­der dense social, sci­en­tif­ic tech­no­log­i­cal, bio­log­i­cal, and his­tor­i­cal infor­ma­tion leg­i­ble at a glance.

Neu­rath’s most impor­tant ear­ly col­lab­o­ra­tor on Iso­type was sure­ly the wood­cut artist Gerd Arntz, at whose site you can see the more than 4000 pic­tograms he cre­at­ed to sym­bol­ize “key data from indus­try, demo­graph­ics, pol­i­tics and econ­o­my.” Arntz designed them all in accor­dance with Neu­rat’s belief that even then the long “vir­tu­al­ly illit­er­ate” pro­le­tari­at “need­ed knowl­edge of the world around them. This knowl­edge should not be shrined in opaque sci­en­tif­ic lan­guage, but direct­ly illus­trat­ed in straight­for­ward images and a clear struc­ture, also for peo­ple who could not, or hard­ly, read. Anoth­er out­spo­ken goal of this method of visu­al sta­tis­tics was to over­come bar­ri­ers of lan­guage and cul­ture, and to be uni­ver­sal­ly under­stood.”

By the mid-1930s, writes The Atlantic’s Steven Heller in an arti­cle on the book Iso­type: Design and Con­texts 1925–1971, “with the Nazi march into Aus­tria, Neu­rath fled Vien­na for Hol­land. He met his future wife Marie Rei­de­meis­ter there and after the Ger­man bomb­ing of Rot­ter­dam the pair escaped to Eng­land, where they were interned on the Isle of Man. Fol­low­ing their release they estab­lished the Iso­type Insti­tute in Oxford. From this base they con­tin­ued to devel­op their unique strat­e­gy, which influ­enced design­ers world­wide.” Today, even those who have nev­er laid eyes on Iso­type itself have exten­sive­ly “read” the visu­al lan­guages it has influ­enced: Giz­mod­o’s Alis­sa Walk­er points to the stan­dard­ized icons cre­at­ed in the 70s by the U.S. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and the Amer­i­can Insti­tute of Graph­ic Arts as well as today’s emo­ji — prob­a­bly not exact­ly what Neu­rath had in mind as the lan­guage of Utopia back when he was co-found­ing the Vien­na Cir­cle, but nev­er­the­less a dis­tant cousin of Iso­type in “its own adorable way.”

via Brain Pick­ings

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Art of Data Visu­al­iza­tion: How to Tell Com­plex Sto­ries Through Smart Design

You Could Soon Be Able to Text with 2,000 Ancient Egypt­ian Hiero­glyphs

Say What You Real­ly Mean with Down­load­able Cindy Sher­man Emoti­cons

The Hobo Code: An Intro­duc­tion to the Hiero­glyph­ic Lan­guage of Ear­ly 1900s Train-Hop­pers

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.

Listen to a Heartfelt Musical Retelling of O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi” with Hanky in Hand

It’s that time of year when cer­tain songs con­spire with cer­tain moods to hit you right in the ol’ brisket.

The feel­ing is volup­tuous, and not nec­es­sar­i­ly unpleas­ant, pro­vid­ed there’s a bath­room stall or spare bed­room should you need to flee a par­ty like Cin­derel­la, as some old chest­nut threat­ens to turn you into a blub­ber­ing mess.

Let the kid­dies deck the halls, jin­gle bells, and prance about with Rudolph and Frosty. The best sec­u­lar songs for grown ups are the ones with a thick cur­rent of long­ing just under the sur­face, a yearn­ing for those who aren’t here with us, for a bet­ter future, for the way we were…

There’s got to be some hope in the bal­ance though, some sweet­ness to savor as we mud­dle through.

(Judy Gar­land famous­ly stonewalled on the first ver­sion of “Have Your­self a Mer­ry Lit­tle Christ­mas” until lyri­cist Hugh Mar­tin agreed to light­en things up a bit. In the end, both got what they want­ed. She got her update:

Have your­self a mer­ry lit­tle Christ­mas

Let your heart be light 

Next year all our trou­bles will be out of sight

But the ten­sion between the promise of a bet­ter tomor­row and her emo­tion­al deliv­ery holds a place for Hugh­es’ appeal­ing­ly dark sen­ti­ment:

Have your­self a mer­ry lit­tle Christ­mas

It may be your last 

Next year we may all be liv­ing in the past

I’ll Be Home for Christ­mas” man­ages to ring some of those same bells.

As a rule, the oldies are the good­ies in this depart­ment.

More recent bids by Cold­play and Tay­lor Swift have failed to achieve the prop­er mix of hope and hope­less­ness.

It’s a dif­fi­cult bal­ance, but singer-song­writer Ellia Bisker pulls it off beau­ti­ful­ly, above, by turn­ing to O. Henry’s endur­ing short sto­ry, “The Gift of the Magi.”

Accom­pa­ny­ing her­self on ukulele as she per­forms under her par­lor rock pseu­do­nym, Sweet Soubrette, Bisker’s sound is both sun­ny and plain­tive. It’s an appro­pri­ate choice for a young bride who parts with her most valu­able asset, in order to give her cher­ished hus­band a “wor­thy” gift:

I want to give you some­thing that I can’t afford,

Let you believe with me we’re real­ly not so poor.

You see that pack­age wait­ing under­neath the tree? 

It’s just a token of how much you mean to me.

(Spoil­er for the hand­ful of peo­ple unfa­mil­iar with this tale: he does the same, thus negat­ing the util­i­ty of both cost­ly presents.)

In an inter­view with Open Cul­ture, Bisker praised the O. Hen­ry story’s iron­ic sym­me­try:

It’s a lit­tle like the death scene in Romeo & Juli­et, but with­out the tragedy. The sto­ry itself still feels sur­pris­ing­ly fresh, despite the peri­od details. It has more humor and sym­pa­thy to it than sen­ti­ment. It sur­pris­es you with real emo­tion. 

The Romeo and Juli­et com­par­i­son is apt. The sto­ry cov­ers a time peri­od so brief that the new­ly­weds’ feel­ings for each oth­er nev­er stray from purest won­der and admi­ra­tion.

Bisker taps into those feel­ings in a way Joni Mitchell’s mean­der­ing, unre­leased take on the same mate­r­i­al did not.

The Squir­rel Nut Zip­pers also took a crack at musi­cal­iz­ing “The Gift of the Magi,” but the sound is more Ozarks than shab­by, urban New York, with back­ground har­monies hint­ing that the young cou­ple may be part of a larg­er sup­port net­work.

Bisker’s song starts, as it ends, with a pair of young, broke lovers who only have eyes for each oth­er.

Let’s not for­get O. Hen­ry’s part­ing words:

The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invent­ed the art of giv­ing Christ­mas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, pos­si­bly bear­ing the priv­i­lege of exchange in case of dupli­ca­tion. And here I have lame­ly relat­ed to you the unevent­ful chron­i­cle of two fool­ish chil­dren in a flat who most unwise­ly sac­ri­ficed for each oth­er the great­est trea­sures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wis­est. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wis­est. Every­where they are wis­est. They are the magi. 

Enjoy this musi­cal gift, read­ers. The artist has made the track free for down­load­ing, though per­haps you could scratch up a few coins in thanks, with­out pawn­ing your watch or cut­ting your hair.

Read O. Hen­ry’s short sto­ry “The Gift of the Magi” here.

Lis­ten to Ellia Bisker’s “Gift of the Magi,” and four oth­er tracks off of Sweet Soubrette’s name-your-own-price Hap­py Hol­i­days album here.

We were young and broke, but we didn’t care 

You had your pock­et­watch, I had my gold­en hair 

We were just scrap­ing by, wait­ing to make it big 

I was an ingénue, you were just a kid 

But it was Christ­mas eve, didn’t know what to do 

How could I hope to buy some kind of gift for you 

Ain’t got no trust fund hon, ain’t got no sav­ings bond 

Just got my stu­dent loans, the clothes that I’ve got on 

I want to give you some­thing that I can’t afford 

Let you believe with me we’re real­ly not so poor 

You see that pack­age wait­ing under­neath the tree 

It’s just a token of how much you mean to me 

Frank­in­cense (here’s what I wish, what I imag­ine) 

Gold and myrrh (that I could give, give what you are worth) 

Put them in (this is the gift, gift of the magi) 

The manger (it’s not a frac­tion of all that you deserve) 

I used to win­dow shop, I would nev­er tell 

There was a pair of combs made out of tor­toise­shell 

I tried them on one time, put up my long long hair 

If I were rich and famous that’s what I would wear 

You wore your father’s watch, it was a vin­tage piece 

It made you feel like fifty mil­lion bucks at least 

But it was fas­tened with a flim­sy nick­el chain 

You want­ed bet­ter but you said it’s all the same 

I want to give a token to you of my love 

A lit­tle lux­u­ry to keep your spir­its up 

I’ll cut and sell my hair, the only gold I’ve got 

To buy a gold­en chain for your pock­et­watch 

Frank­in­cense (here’s what I wish, what I imag­ine) 

Gold and myrrh (that I could give, give what you are worth) 

Put them in (this is the gift, gift of the magi) 

The manger (it’s not a frac­tion of all that you deserve) 

I can’t for­get the look that flashed across your face 

When I walked into our apart­ment late that day 

And I took off my hat revealed a pix­ie cut 

Gave you a lit­tle box told you to open up 

You pulled out the gold­en chain that lay inside 

Were you about to laugh were you about to cry 

You said I shouldn’t have, because your watch was sold 

So you could buy for me a pret­ty pair of combs

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Sto­ry of The Pogues’ “Fairy­tale of New York,” the Boozy Bal­lad That Has Become One of the Most Beloved Christ­mas Songs of All Time

Hear Paul McCartney’s Exper­i­men­tal Christ­mas Mix­tape: A Rare & For­got­ten Record­ing from 1965

Stream 22 Hours of Funky, Rock­ing & Swing­ing Christ­mas Albums: From James Brown and John­ny Cash to Christo­pher Lee & The Ven­tures

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.

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