The History of the Fisheye Photo Album Cover

Like goth­ic script in heavy met­al, the fish­eye album cov­er pho­to seems like a nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring fea­ture of cer­tain psy­che­del­ic strains of music. But it has a his­to­ry, as does the fish­eye pho­to­graph itself. The Vox video above begins in 1906 with Johns Hop­kins sci­en­tist and inven­tor Robert Wood, a some­what eccen­tric pro­fes­sor of opti­cal physics who want­ed to dupli­cate the way fish see the world: “the cir­cu­lar pic­ture,” he wrote, “would con­tain every­thing with­in an angle of 180 degrees in every direc­tion, i.e. a com­plete hemi­sphere.”

Rather than putting them to under­wa­ter use, lat­er sci­en­tists employed Wood’s ideas in astro­nom­i­cal obser­va­tion. Their next stop was the pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phy mar­ket: the first mass-pro­duced fish­eye lens, made by Nikon, cost $27,000 in 1957. From aca­d­e­m­ic jour­nals to the pages of Life mag­a­zine: mass media brought fish­eye pho­tog­ra­phy into pop­u­lar cul­ture. An afford­able, con­sumer-grade lens in 1962 brought it with­in the reach of the mass­es. For the way it com­press­es angles, the fish­eye lens “was, and always has been, a handy tool to cap­ture tight quar­ters, as well as huge spaces.”

The fish­eye lens suit­ed the Bea­t­les phe­nom­e­non per­fect­ly, com­press­ing back­stage hall­ways and sta­di­um-sized crowds into the same hyp­not­i­cal­ly cir­cu­lar dimen­sions. “Per­haps its great­est strength was mak­ing rock stars appear larg­er than life.”

The fish­eye pho­to “reflect­ed the trip­pi­ness of the psy­che­del­ic era.” Although one of the ear­li­est uses on an album cov­er was Sam Rivers’ Fuschia Swing Song, it soon adorned the Byrds Mr. Tam­bourine Man and—of course—the cov­er of Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Expe­ri­enced. The icon­ic band pho­to of the Expe­ri­ence, tak­en by graph­ic design­er Karl Fer­ris, inspired hun­dreds of psy­che­del­ic imi­ta­tors.

Fer­ris thought of the fish­eye pho­to with ref­er­ence, again, not to the ocean but the stars: Hendrix’s music, he said, was “so far out that it seemed to come from out­er space.” In order to intro­duce the band to audi­ences who hadn’t heard of them yet, he con­ceived of them as a “group trav­el­ing through space in a Bios­phere on their way to bring their oth­er­world­ly space music to earth.” Insep­a­ra­ble from space trav­el after NASA’s many fish­eye pho­tos of the Apol­lo mis­sions, the fish­eye album cov­er con­tains entire worlds in a sin­gle droplet, and promis­es to trans­port us to the out­er reach­es of sound.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Enter the Cov­er Art Archive: A Mas­sive Col­lec­tion of 800,000 Album Cov­ers from the 1950s through 2018

The Impos­si­bly Cool Album Cov­ers of Blue Note Records: Meet the Cre­ative Team Behind These Icon­ic Designs

Peo­ple Pose in Uncan­ny Align­ment with Icon­ic Album Cov­ers: Dis­cov­er The Sleeve­face Project

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

A Recently-Discovered 44,000-Year-Old Cave Painting Tells the Oldest Known Story

Where did art begin? In a cave, most of us would say — espe­cial­ly those of us who’ve seen Wern­er Her­zog’s Cave of For­got­ten Dreams — and specif­i­cal­ly on the walls of caves, where ear­ly humans drew the first rep­re­sen­ta­tions of land­scapes, ani­mals, and them­selves. But when did art begin? The answer to that ques­tion has proven more sub­ject to revi­sion. The well-known paint­ings of the Las­caux cave com­plex in France go back 17,000 years, but the paint­ings of that same coun­try’s Chau­vet cave, the ones Her­zog cap­tured in 3D, go back 32,000 years. And just two years ago, Grif­fith Uni­ver­si­ty researchers dis­cov­ered art­work on a cave on the Indone­sian island of Sulawe­si that turns out to be about 44,000 years old.

Here on Open Cul­ture we’ve fea­tured the argu­ment that ancient rock-wall art con­sti­tutes the ear­li­est form of cin­e­ma, to the extent that its unknown painters sought to evoke move­ment. But cave paint­ings like the one in Sulawe­si’s cave Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4, which you can see in the video above, also shed light on the nature of the ear­li­est known forms of sto­ry­telling.

The “four­teen-and-a-half-foot-wide image, paint­ed in dark-red pig­ment,” writes The New York­er’s Adam Gop­nik, depicts “about eight tiny bipedal fig­ures, bear­ing what look to be spears and ropes, brave­ly hunt­ing the local wild pigs and buf­fa­lo.” This first known narrative“tells one of the sim­plest and most res­o­nant sto­ries we have: a tale of the hunter and the hunt­ed, of small and eas­i­ly mocked pur­suers try­ing to bring down a scary but vul­ner­a­ble beast.”

Like oth­er ancient cave art, the paint­ing’s char­ac­ters are the­ri­anthropes, described by the Grif­fith researchers’ Nature arti­cle as “abstract beings that com­bine qual­i­ties of both peo­ple and ani­mals, and which arguably com­mu­ni­cat­ed nar­ra­tive fic­tion of some kind (folk­lore, reli­gious myths, spir­i­tu­al beliefs and so on).” Giv­en the appar­ent impor­tance of their roles in ear­ly sto­ries, how much of a stretch would it be to call these fig­ures the first super­heroes? “Indeed, the cave paint­ing could be entered as evi­dence into a key aes­thet­ic and sto­ry­telling argu­ment of today — the debate between the pal­adins of Amer­i­can film, Mar­tin Scors­ese and Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la, and their Mar­vel Cin­e­mat­ic Uni­verse con­tem­po­raries,” writes Gop­nik.

If you haven’t fol­lowed this strug­gle for the soul of sto­ry­telling in the 21st cen­tu­ry, Scors­ese wrote a piece in The New York Times claim­ing that today’s kind of block­buster super­hero pic­ture isn’t cin­e­ma, in that it shrinks from “the com­plex­i­ty of peo­ple and their con­tra­dic­to­ry and some­times para­dox­i­cal natures, the way they can hurt one anoth­er and love one anoth­er and sud­den­ly come face to face with them­selves.” (“He didn’t say it’s despi­ca­ble,” Cop­po­la lat­er added, “which I just say it is.”) And yet, as Gop­nik puts it, “our old­est pic­ture sto­ry seems to belong, whether we want it to or not, more to the Mar­vel uni­verse than to Mar­ty Scorsese’s.” If we just imag­ine how those the­ri­anthropes — “A human with the strength of a bull! Anoth­er with the guile of a croc­o­dile!” — must have thrilled their con­tem­po­rary view­ers, we’ll under­stand these cave paint­ings for what they are: ear­ly art, ear­ly sto­ry­telling, ear­ly cin­e­ma, but above all, ear­ly spec­ta­cle.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Was a 32,000-Year-Old Cave Paint­ing the Ear­li­est Form of Cin­e­ma?

40,000-Year-Old Sym­bols Found in Caves World­wide May Be the Ear­li­est Writ­ten Lan­guage

Archae­ol­o­gists Dis­cov­er the World’s First “Art Stu­dio” Cre­at­ed in an Ethiopi­an Cave 43,000 Years Ago

Hear the World’s Old­est Instru­ment, the “Nean­derthal Flute,” Dat­ing Back Over 43,000 Years

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.

Steve Martin Performs Stand-Up Comedy for Dogs (1973)

In what looks/sounds like his first appear­ance on The Tonight Show Star­ring John­ny Car­son, Steve Mar­tin per­forms a ground­break­ing com­e­dy rou­tine. As you’ll see, you might not get the jokes. But your dogs will. Although record­ed 46 years ago (Feb­ru­ary 15, 1973), the pooches will laugh as hard now as they did then.

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.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Steve Mar­tin & Robin Williams Riff on Math, Physics, Ein­stein & Picas­so in a Heady Com­e­dy Rou­tine (2002)

Steve Mar­tin Teach­es His First Online Course on Com­e­dy

Watch Steve Mar­tin Make His First TV Appear­ance: The Smoth­ers Broth­ers Com­e­dy Hour (1968)

Steve Mar­tin Writes a Hymn for Hymn-Less Athe­ists

 

John Coltrane Talks About the Sacred Meaning of Music in the Human Experience: Listen to One of His Final Interviews (1966)


A few years ago, the ani­mat­ed series Blank on Blank released a video with five min­utes from one of John Coltrane’s last inter­views in 1966, eight months before his death from liv­er can­cer at age 40. In the excerpts, Coltrane tells inter­view­er Frank Kof­sky, a Paci­fi­ca Reporter, about his intu­itive approach to prac­tic­ing, his switch to sopra­no sax, and his desire to “be a force for real good.” As juicy as these tid­bits are for Coltrane fans, the full inter­view, above, is even better—an hour-long encounter with the jazz saint, who opens up to Kof­sky in his relaxed, yet guard­ed way.

Coltrane choos­es his words care­ful­ly. His refusal to elab­o­rate is often its own sub­tle form of expres­sion. Dur­ing their open­ing ban­ter, Kof­sky asks him about see­ing Mal­colm X speak just before the latter’s death. Coltrane calls Mal­colm “impres­sive” and leaves it at that. Kof­sky then asks his first point­ed ques­tion: “Some musi­cians have said that there’s a rela­tion­ship between some of Malcom’s ideas and music, espe­cial­ly the new music. You think there’s any­thing in there?”

Kof­sky had his own rea­sons for push­ing this line. Just a few years lat­er, he pub­lished Black Nation­al­ism and the Rev­o­lu­tion in Music in 1971. The book was reprint­ed with the more spe­cif­ic, less threat­en­ing, title John Coltrane and the Jazz Rev­o­lu­tion of the 1960s. Both ver­sions promi­nent­ly fea­ture Coltrane on the cov­er. “Ded­i­cat­ed to both John Coltrane and Mal­colm X,” notes Soul Jazz Records, the book “places the rev­o­lu­tion­ary ‘new thing’ music and ideas of Coltrane, Albert Ayler and oth­ers in a wider con­text of 60’s rad­i­cal­ism, African Amer­i­can pol­i­tics and his­to­ry.”

An his­to­ri­an and aca­d­e­m­ic who pub­lished sev­er­al books on jazz, Kof­sky isn’t sub­tle about his agen­da, but Coltrane is unwill­ing to be pushed into a polit­i­cal cor­ner, as fans have point­ed out in dis­cus­sions of this inter­view. He wants to embrace every­thing. “I think that music, being an expres­sion of the human heart, or the human being itself,” he says, “does express just what is hap­pen­ing. It express­es the whole thing.” He con­sis­tent­ly refus­es to get drawn into a dis­cus­sion of racial pol­i­tics with Kof­sky.

When they final­ly move on to talk­ing about per­for­mance, the unflap­pable Coltrane stops demur­ring and opens up. We hear him describe his expe­ri­ence of being on stage at one con­cert as “too busy” to know what was hap­pen­ing in the audi­ence, but the right audi­ence can also be, he says, a par­tic­i­pat­ing mem­ber of the group. When Kof­sky again push­es Coltrane on the rela­tion­ship between his music and black nation­al­ism, Coltrane cool­ly replies, “I have con­scious­ly made an attempt to change what I’ve found. In oth­er words, I’ve tried to say, ‘this could be bet­ter, in my opin­ion, so I will try to do this to make it bet­ter.”

Coltrane’s knack for cut­ting to the heart of his purpose—to add to the world with his play­ing, with­out a need to con­trol what hap­pens afterwards—comes through in the entire hour-long inter­view. His ret­i­cence to engage with Kofsky’s analy­sis might have some­thing to do with who was ask­ing the ques­tions, but in any case, there’s no doubt that Coltrane was inte­gral to the fierce, uncom­pro­mis­ing Black Arts poet­ry of the 1970s, and many oth­er polit­i­cal­ly informed move­ments. He was influ­en­tial, how­ev­er, not as the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of an ide­ol­o­gy, but as the inventor—or the ves­sel, he might say—of an entire­ly new form of cre­ative expres­sion.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Ani­mat­ed John Coltrane Explains His True Rea­son for Being: “I Want to Be a Force for Real Good”

John Coltrane Per­forms A Love Supreme and Oth­er Clas­sics in Antibes (July 1965)

Why You Should Read Dune: An Animated Introduction to Frank Herbert’s Ecological, Psychological Sci-Fi Epic

A vision of human­i­ty’s future with­out most of the high tech­nol­o­gy we expect from sci­ence fic­tion, but with a sur­feit of reli­gions, mar­tial arts, and medieval pol­i­tics we don’t; pro­nun­ci­a­tion-unfriend­ly names and terms like “Bene Gesser­it,” “Kwisatz Hader­ach,” and “Muad’Dib”; a sand plan­et inhab­it­ed by giant killer worms: near­ly 55 years after its pub­li­ca­tion, Dune remains a strange piece of work. But apply­ing that adjec­tive to Frank Her­bert’s high­ly suc­cess­ful saga of inter­stel­lar adven­ture and intrigue high­lights not just the ways in which its intri­cate­ly devel­oped world is unfa­mil­iar to us, but the ways in which it is famil­iar — and has grown ever more so over the decades.

“Fol­low­ing an ancient war with robots, human­i­ty has for­bid­den the con­struc­tion of any machine in the like­ness of a human mind,” says Dan Kwartler in the ani­mat­ed TED-Ed intro­duc­tion to the world of Dune aboveThis edict “forced humans to evolve in star­tling ways, becom­ing bio­log­i­cal com­put­ers, psy­chic witch­es, and pre­scient space pilots,” many of them “reg­u­lar­ly employed by var­i­ous noble hous­es, all com­pet­ing for pow­er and new plan­ets to add to their king­doms.” But their super­hu­man skills “rely on the same pre­cious resource: the spice,” a mys­ti­cal crop that also pow­ers space trav­el, “mak­ing it the cor­ner­stone of the galac­tic econ­o­my.”

Her­bert sets Dune — the first of five books by him and many suc­ces­sors by his son Bri­an Her­bert and Kevin J. Ander­son — on the desert plan­et Arrakis, where the noble House Atrei­des finds itself relo­cat­ed. Before long, its young scion Paul Atrei­des “is cat­a­pult­ed into the mid­dle of a plan­e­tary rev­o­lu­tion where he must prove him­self capa­ble of lead­ing and sur­viv­ing on this hos­tile desert world.” Not that Arrakis is just some rock cov­ered in sand: an avid envi­ron­men­tal­ist, Her­bert “spent over five years cre­at­ing Dune’s com­plex ecosys­tem. The plan­et is check­ered with cli­mate belts and wind tun­nels that have shaped its rocky topog­ra­phy. Dif­fer­ing tem­per­ate zones pro­duce vary­ing desert flo­ra, and almost every ele­ment of Dune’s ecosys­tem works togeth­er to pro­duce the plan­et’s essen­tial export.”

Her­bert’s world-build­ing “also includes a rich web of phi­los­o­phy and reli­gion,” which involves ele­ments of Islam, Bud­dhism, Sufi mys­ti­cism, Chris­tian­i­ty, Judaism, and Hin­duism, all arranged in con­fig­u­ra­tions the likes of which human his­to­ry has nev­er seen. What Dune does with reli­gion it does even more with lan­guage, draw­ing for its vocab­u­lary from a range of tongues includ­ing Latin, Old Eng­lish, Hebrew, Greek, Finnish, and Nahu­atl. All this serves a sto­ry deal­ing with themes both eter­nal, like the decline of empire and the mis­placed trust in hero­ic lead­ers, and increas­ing­ly top­i­cal, like the con­se­quences of a feu­dal order, eco­log­i­cal change, and wars over resources in inhos­pitable, sandy places. At the cen­ter is the sto­ry of a man strug­gling to attain mas­tery of not just body but mind, not least by defeat­ing fear, described in Paul’s famous line as the “mind-killer,” the “lit­tle-death that brings total oblit­er­a­tion.”

The scope, com­plex­i­ty, and sheer odd­i­ty of Her­bert’s vision has repeat­ed­ly tempt­ed film­mak­ers and the film indus­try — and repeat­ed­ly defeat­ed them. Per­haps unsur­pris­ing­ly Alexan­der Jodor­owsky could­n’t get his plans off the ground for a 14-hour epic Dune involv­ing Pink Floyd, Sal­vador Dalí, Moe­bius, Orson Welles, and Mick Jag­ger. In 1984 David Lynch man­aged to direct a some­what less ambi­tious adap­ta­tion, but the nev­er­the­less enor­mous­ly com­plex and expen­sive pro­duc­tion came out as what David Fos­ter Wal­lace described as “a huge, pre­ten­tious, inco­her­ent flop.” Dune will return to the­aters in Decem­ber 2020 in a ver­sion direct­ed by Denis Vil­leneuve, whose recent work on the likes of Arrival and Blade Run­ner 2049 sug­gests on his part not just the nec­es­sary inter­est in sci­ence fic­tion, but the even more nec­es­sary sense of the sub­lime: a grandeur and beau­ty of such a scale and stark­ness as to inspire fear, much as every Dune read­er has felt on their own imag­ined Arrakis.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The 14-Hour Epic Film, Dune, That Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky, Pink Floyd, Sal­vador Dalí, Moe­bius, Orson Welles & Mick Jag­ger Nev­er Made

Moe­bius’ Sto­ry­boards & Con­cept Art for Jodorowsky’s Dune

The Dune Col­or­ing & Activ­i­ty Books: When David Lynch’s 1984 Film Cre­at­ed Count­less Hours of Pecu­liar Fun for Kids

Why You Should Read The Mas­ter and Mar­gari­ta: An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to Bulgakov’s Rol­lick­ing Sovi­et Satire

Why You Should Read One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude: An Ani­mat­ed Video Makes the Case

Why You Should Read Crime and Pun­ish­ment: An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to Dostoevsky’s Moral Thriller

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.

A Visual Introduction to Kintsugi, the Japanese Art of Repairing Broken Pottery and Finding Beauty in Imperfection

Kintsu­gi, the Japan­ese art of join­ing bro­ken pot­tery with gleam­ing seams of gold or sil­ver, cre­ates fine art objects we can see as sym­bols for the beau­ty of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty. Sure­ly, these bowls, cups, vas­es, etc. remind of us Leonard Cohen’s oft-quot­ed lyric from “Anthem” (“There is a crack in every­thing, that’s how the light gets in.”) Writer and artist Austin Kleon touch­es on this same sen­ti­ment in a recent post on his blog. “The thing I love the most about Kintsu­gi is the vis­i­ble trace of heal­ing and repair—the idea of high­light­ed, glow­ing scars.”

Kintsu­gi, which trans­lates to “gold­en join­ery,” has a his­to­ry that dates back to the 15th cen­tu­ry, as Col­in Mar­shall explained in a pre­vi­ous post here. But it’s fas­ci­nat­ing how much this art res­onates with our con­tem­po­rary dis­course around trau­ma and heal­ing.

“We all grow up believ­ing we should empha­size the inher­ent pos­i­tives about our­selves,” writes Mar­shall, “but what if we also empha­sized the neg­a­tives, the parts we’ve had to work to fix or improve? If we did it just right, would the neg­a­tives still look so neg­a­tive after all?”

A key idea here is “doing it just right.” Kintsu­gi is not a warts-and-all pre­sen­ta­tion, but a means of turn­ing bro­ken­ness into art, a skill­ful real­iza­tion of the Japan­ese idea of wabi-sabi, the “beau­ty of things imper­fect, imper­ma­nent, and incom­plete,” as Leonard Koren writes in Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Design­ers, Poets & Philoso­phers. Objects that rep­re­sent wabi-sabi “may exhib­it the effects of acci­dent, like a bro­ken bowl glued back togeth­er again.” In kintsu­gi, those effects are due to the artist’s craft rather than ran­dom chance.

When it comes to heal­ing psy­chic wounds so that they shine like pre­cious met­als, there seems to be no one per­fect method. But when we’re talk­ing about the artistry of kintsu­gi, there are some—from the most refined arti­san­ship to less rig­or­ous do-it-your­self techniques—we can all adopt with some suc­cess. In the video at the top, learn DIY kintsu­gi from World Crafted’s Robert Mahar. Fur­ther up, we have an inten­sive, word­less demon­stra­tion from pro­fes­sion­al kintsu­gi artist Kyoko Ohwa­ki.

And just above, see psy­chol­o­gist Alexa Alt­man trav­el to Japan to learn kintsu­gi, then make it “acces­si­ble” with an expla­na­tion of both the phys­i­cal process of kintsu­gi and its metaphor­i­cal dimen­sions. As Alt­man shows, kintsu­gi can just as well be made from things bro­ken on pur­pose as by acci­dent. When it comes to the beau­ti­ful­ly flawed fin­ished prod­uct, how­ev­er, per­haps how a thing was bro­ken mat­ters far less than the amount of care and skill we use to join it back togeth­er.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Kintsu­gi: The Cen­turies-Old Japan­ese Craft of Repair­ing Pot­tery with Gold & Find­ing Beau­ty in Bro­ken Things

The Philo­soph­i­cal Appre­ci­a­tion of Rocks in Chi­na & Japan: A Short Intro­duc­tion to an Ancient Tra­di­tion

Wabi-Sabi: A Short Film on the Beau­ty of Tra­di­tion­al Japan

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

Itzhak Perlman Appears on Sesame Street and Poignantly Shows Kids How to Play the Violin and Push Through Life’s Limits (1981)

I always cham­pi­on any­thing that will improve the lives of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties and put it on the front burn­er. — Itzhak Perl­man

At its best, the Inter­net expands our hori­zons, intro­duc­ing us to new inter­ests and per­spec­tives, forg­ing con­nec­tions and cre­at­ing empa­thy.

The edu­ca­tion­al chil­dren’s series Sesame Street was doing all that decades ear­li­er.

Wit­ness this brief clip from 1981, star­ring vio­lin vir­tu­oso Itzhak Perl­man and a six-year-old stu­dent from the Man­hat­tan School of Music.

For many child—and per­haps adult—viewers, this excerpt pre­sent­ed their first sig­nif­i­cant encounter with clas­si­cal musi­cal and/or dis­abil­i­ty.

The lit­tle girl scam­pers up the steps to the stage as Perl­man, who relies on crutch­es and a motor­ized scoot­er to get around, fol­lows behind, heav­ing a sigh of relief as he low­ers him­self into his seat.

Already the point has been made that what is easy to the point of uncon­scious­ness for some presents a chal­lenge for oth­ers.

Then each takes a turn on their vio­lin.

Perlman’s skills are, of course, unpar­al­leled, and the young girl’s seem pret­ty excep­tion­al, too, par­tic­u­lar­ly to those of us who nev­er man­aged to get the hang of an instru­ment. (She began lessons at 3, and told the Suzu­ki Asso­ci­a­tion of the Amer­i­c­as that her Sesame Street appear­ance with Perl­man was the “high­light of [her] pro­fes­sion­al career.”)

In the near­ly 40 years since this episode first aired, pub­lic aware­ness of dis­abil­i­ty and acces­si­bil­i­ty has become more nuanced, a devel­op­ment Perl­man dis­cussed in a 2014 inter­view with the Wall Street Jour­nal, below.

Hav­ing resent­ed the way ear­ly fea­tures about him invari­ably show­cased his dis­abil­i­ty, he found that he missed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to advo­cate for oth­ers when men­tions dropped off.

Trans­paren­cy cou­pled with celebri­ty pro­vides him with a mighty plat­form. Here he is speak­ing in the East Room of the White House in 2015, on the day that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma hon­ored him with the Medal of Free­dom:

And his col­lab­o­ra­tions with Sesame Street have con­tin­ued through­out the decadesinclud­ing per­for­mances of “You Can Clean Almost Any­thing” (to the tune of Bach’s Par­ti­ta for Solo Vio­lin), “Put Down the Duck­ie,” Pagli­ac­ci’s Vesti la giub­ba (back­ing up Placido Flamin­go), and Beethoven’s Min­uet in G, below.

Read more of Perlman’s thoughts on dis­abil­i­ty, and enroll in his Mas­ter Class here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Great Vio­lin­ists Play­ing as Kids: Itzhak Perl­man, Anne-Sophie Mut­ter, & More

Philip Glass Com­pos­es Music for a Sesame Street Ani­ma­tion (1979)

See Ste­vie Won­der Play “Super­sti­tion” and Ban­ter with Grover on Sesame Street in 1973

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Jan­u­ary 6 when her month­ly book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domaincel­e­brates Cape-Cod­di­ties by Roger Liv­ingston Scaife (1920). Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Illustrations from the Soviet Children’s Book Your Name? Robot, Created by Tarkovsky Art Director Mikhail Romadin (1979)

As we approach three full decades of a world with­out the Sovi­et Union, cer­tain details about life in the soci­eties that con­sti­tut­ed it inevitably begin to fade from liv­ing mem­o­ry. But nobody who grew up Sovi­et could ever for­get the chil­dren’s books they grew up read­ing, and recent efforts to dig­i­tal­ly archive them — such as Play­ing Sovi­et at the Cot­sen Col­lec­tion at Princeton’s Fire­stone Library, pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture — have ensured that future gen­er­a­tions will be able to enjoy them too, no mat­ter the regime under which they come of age, or even what lan­guage they speak.

Most Sovi­et chil­dren’s books have such cap­ti­vat­ing illus­tra­tions that one need not read them to enjoy them. Take, for instance, Your Name? Robot, a 1979 Sovi­et pic­ture book fea­tured on book and design blog 50 Watts.

Who could resist the charm of these mechan­i­cal crea­tures dis­play­ing their many abil­i­ties: pick­ing up sig­nals, play­ing music, paint­ing pic­tures, spout­ing com­pli­cat­ed fig­ures, boil­ing water? With their hyp­not­i­cal­ly detailed pat­terns of cir­cuits and wires, the inner work­ings of these robots also look quite unlike any­thing else — and cer­tain­ly unlike the also-pop­u­lar robot char­ac­ters who have long fig­ured into sto­ries for Amer­i­can chil­dren.

In the mid-20th cen­tu­ry, Amer­i­ca and the Sovi­et Union were rac­ing each oth­er to the future: though vision­ar­ies in both lands may have dis­agreed about what exact form that future would take, many saw some kind of utopia made real through high tech­nol­o­gy dead ahead. And whether work­er’s par­adise or con­sumer’s par­adise, the rest of the mil­len­ni­um would sure­ly see the devel­op­ment of intel­li­gent robots to assist, edu­cate, and enter­tain us.

But by the late 1970s, some of these visions had turned dystopi­an: to bor­row the tagline from Zardoz, they’d seen the future, and it did­n’t work — itself a grim rever­sal of Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist Lin­coln Stef­fens’ opti­mistic ear­ly-20th-cen­tu­ry dec­la­ra­tion about Sovi­et Rus­sia.

From Sovi­et cin­e­ma, one less-than-opti­mistic treat­ment of the future endures above all: 1972’s Solaris, adapt­ed by Andrei Tarkovsky from the nov­el by Stanis­law Lem. The pro­duc­tion design­er who gave that film’s future its look and feel was none oth­er than Mikhail Romadin, the artist who would go on to illus­trate Your Name? Robot just a few years lat­er (in an illus­tra­tion career involv­ing hun­dreds of books, includ­ing vol­umes by Leo Tol­stoy and Ray Brad­bury).

“Romad­in’s char­ac­ter is hid­den, forced deep inside,” said Tarkovsky of his col­lab­o­ra­tor and friend since film school. “In his best works what often hap­pens is that the out­ward char­ac­ter­is­tics of bare­ly ordered dynamism and chaos that one per­ceives ini­tial­ly, melt imper­cep­ti­bly into the appre­ci­a­tion of calm and noble form, silent and sim­ple” — an appre­ci­a­tion Your Name? Robot must have done its part to instill in a gen­er­a­tion of young read­ers.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

Read Vladimir Mayakovsky’s Children’s Book Whom Should I Be?: A Clas­sic from the “Gold­en Age” in Sovi­et Children’s Lit­er­a­ture

Two Beau­ti­ful­ly-Craft­ed Russ­ian Ani­ma­tions of Chekhov’s Clas­sic Children’s Sto­ry “Kash­tan­ka”

Watch Sovi­et Ani­ma­tions of Win­nie the Pooh, Cre­at­ed by the Inno­v­a­tive Ani­ma­tor Fyo­dor Khitruk

Sovi­et-Era Illus­tra­tions Of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hob­bit (1976)

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

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.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.