What’s the Function of Criticism? Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #36 with Critic Noah Berlatsky

Do we need pro­fes­sion­al crit­ics reg­u­lat­ing our enter­tain­ment intake?  Noah has writ­ten for numer­ous pub­li­ca­tions includ­ing The Wash­ing­ton Post, The Atlantic, NBC News, The Guardian, Slate, and Vox, and his work has come up for dis­cus­sion in mul­ti­ple past Pret­ty Much Pop episodes.

He was invit­ed to join hosts Mark Lin­sen­may­er, Eri­ca Spyres, and Bri­an Hirt in spelling out the func­tions of crit­i­cism, the idea of crit­i­cism as art, ide­o­log­i­cal vs. aes­thet­ic cri­tique, and whether there’s any­thing wrong with being neg­a­tive about oth­er peo­ple’s art. While we talk most­ly about film, Noah also writes about TV, comics, music and more.

First, read some arti­cles by Noah about crit­i­cism:

Oth­er authors speak­ing on the util­i­ty of crit­ics:

Here are some exam­ples of Noah’s crit­i­cal work rel­e­vant to what came up in the inter­view and our recent episodes:

Includ­ed here with Noah’s per­mis­sion, here’s some crit­i­cism direct­ed at Noah:

At the end, after Noah leaves, Mark lays out a tax­on­o­my of crit­i­cism: sup­port­er, decoder, taste enforcer, and hater. Noah prac­tices all of these! Fol­low him on Twit­ter @nberlat and get scads of his writ­ing by sup­port­ing him at patreon.com/noahberlatsky.

Watch Mel Brooks’ depic­tion of the very first crit­ic.

This episode includes bonus dis­cus­sion that you can only hear by sup­port­ing the pod­cast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast is the first pod­cast curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Free: Austin City Limits Opens Up Video Archives During COVID-19 Pandemic

Austin City Limits–an PBS music pro­gram record­ed live in Austin, Texas–has decid­ed to open its archives “as a gift to music fans dur­ing the cur­rent live music mora­to­ri­um.” They write: “Start­ing March 23, the peren­ni­al tele­vi­sion series will make fan-favorite episodes from the recent­ly broad­cast Sea­son 45 avail­able for stream­ing, in addi­tion to the entire slate of pro­grams from the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons of the acclaimed con­cert show­case. Over 35 ACL install­ments will be avail­able to stream free online at https://www.pbs.org/show/austin-city-limits/ offer­ing a wide vari­ety of music’s finest from every genre. here’s some­thing for every­one: an elec­tri­fy­ing hour with gui­tar hero Gary Clark Jr.; an epic stage jour­ney with 2020’s Gram­my-win­ning glob­al pop phe­nom Bil­lie Eil­ish; super­group The Racon­teurs, fea­tur­ing Jack White and Bren­dan Ben­son, in an all-out hour of pure rock and roll.”

Get more infor­ma­tion here, and stream episodes here.

Above you can watch Robert Plant on Austin City Lim­its dur­ing a show record­ed in 2016.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Live Per­form­ers Now Stream­ing Shows, from their Homes to Yours: Neil Young, Cold­play, Broad­way Stars, Met­ro­pol­i­tan Operas & More

Watch Curat­ed Playlists of Exper­i­men­tal Videos & Films to Get You Through COVID-19: Miran­da July, Jan Švankma­jer, Guy Maddin & More

The Met Opera Stream­ing Free Operas Online to Get You Through COVID-19

Bruce Spring­steen Releas­es Live Con­cert Film Online: Watch “Lon­don Call­ing: Live In Hyde Park” and Prac­tice Self Dis­tanc­ing

Take a Virtual Tour of the Paris Catacombs

The Paris Cat­a­combs is “one of those places,” wrote pho­tog­ra­ph­er Félix Nadar, “that every­one wants to see and no one wants to see again.” If any­one would know, Nadar would. He spent three months in and out of the under­ground city of death, with its macabre piles of skulls and cross­bones, tak­ing pho­tographs (see here) that would help turn it into an inter­na­tion­al­ly famous tourist attrac­tion. In these days of quar­an­tine, no one can see it; the site is closed until fur­ther notice. But if you’re the type of per­son who enjoys tour­ing necrop­olis­es, you can still get your fix with a vir­tu­al vis­it.

Why would any­one want to do this, espe­cial­ly dur­ing a glob­al out­break? The Cat­a­combs have attract­ed seek­ers after mor­bid curiosi­ties and spir­i­tu­al and philo­soph­i­cal truths for over two hun­dred years, through rev­o­lu­tions, mas­sacres, and plagues.

A stark, haunt­ing reminder of what Nadar called “the egal­i­tar­i­an con­fu­sion of death,” they wit­ness mute­ly, with­out euphemism, to the future we are all assured, no mat­ter our rank or posi­tion. They began as a dis­or­dered pile of bones in the late 18th cen­tu­ry, trans­ferred from over­crowd­ed ceme­ter­ies and became a place where “a Merovin­gian king remains in eter­nal silence next to those mas­sa­cred in Sep­tem­ber ‘92” dur­ing the French Rev­o­lu­tion.

Con­tem­pla­tions of death, espe­cial­ly in times of war, plague, famine, and oth­er shocks and crises, have been an inte­gral part of many cul­tur­al cop­ing mech­a­nisms, and often involve med­i­ta­tions on corpses and grave­yards. The Cat­a­combs are no dif­fer­ent, a sprawl­ing memen­to mori named after the Roman cat­a­combs, “which had fas­ci­nat­ed the pub­lic since their dis­cov­ery,” as the offi­cial site notes. Expand­ed, ren­o­vat­ed, and rebuilt dur­ing the time of Napoleon and lat­er dur­ing the exten­sive ren­o­va­tions of Paris in the mid-19th cen­tu­ry, the site was first “con­se­crat­ed as the ‘Paris Munic­i­pal Ossuary’ on April 7, 1786” and opened to the pub­lic in 1809.

It is a place that reminds us how all con­flicts end. To the “litany of roy­al and impov­er­ished dead from French his­to­ry,” writes Alli­son Meier at the Pub­lic Domain Review, Nadar added in his essay on the Cat­a­combs “the names of rev­o­lu­tion­ary vic­tims and per­pe­tra­tors like Max­im­i­lien Robe­spierre and Jean-Paul Marat.” Rumi­na­tions on the uni­ver­sal nature of death may be an odd diver­sion for some, and for oth­ers an urgent reminder to find out what mat­ters to them in life. Learn more about the fas­ci­nat­ing his­to­ry of the Paris Cat­a­combs here and begin your vir­tu­al vis­it here.

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Behold Félix Nadar’s Pio­neer­ing Pho­tographs of the Paris Cat­a­combs (1861)

Notre Dame Cap­tured in an Ear­ly Pho­to­graph, 1838

19th-Cen­tu­ry Skele­ton Alarm Clock Remind­ed Peo­ple Dai­ly of the Short­ness of Life: An Intro­duc­tion to the Memen­to Mori

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

What Happened to U.S. Cities That Practiced–and Didn’t Practice–Social Distancing During 1918’s “Spanish Flu”

Amer­i­cans have long been accused of grow­ing social­ly dis­tant, bowl­ing alone, as Robert Put­nam wrote in 2000, or worse becom­ing rad­i­cal­ized as “lone wolves” and iso­lat­ed trolls. But we are see­ing how much we depend on each oth­er as social dis­tanc­ing becomes the painful nor­mal. Not quite quar­an­tine, social dis­tanc­ing involves a semi-vol­un­tary restric­tion of our move­ments. For many peo­ple, this is, as they say, a big ask. But no mat­ter what cer­tain world lead­ers tell us, if at all pos­si­ble, we should stay home, and stay a safe dis­tance away from peo­ple who don’t live with us.

Peo­ple in the U.S. have done this before, of course, just a lit­tle over a hun­dred years ago dur­ing the influen­za epi­dem­ic called the “Span­ish Flu,” though the buzzy term “social dis­tanc­ing” wasn’t used then. As the short VOA News video above explains, dur­ing the spread of the dis­ease, city offi­cials in St. Louis did what cities all over the coun­try are doing now: shut down schools, play­grounds, libraries, church­es, pub­lic offices, and parks and banned gath­er­ings of over 20 peo­ple. Philadel­phia, on the oth­er hand, refused to do the same. The city “allowed a major World War I sup­port parade to take place that attract­ed 20,000 peo­ple.”

The refusal to shut down large gath­er­ings cost thou­sands of lives. “Three days lat­er, every bed in Philadelphia’s 31 hos­pi­tals was filled with sick and dying Span­ish flu patients.” COVID-19 may be a far milder ill­ness in chil­dren and most healthy peo­ple, but this is exact­ly what makes it so insid­i­ous. One per­son can infect dozens before show­ing any symp­toms, if ever. Dur­ing the “Span­ish” flu pan­dem­ic, “the best approach­es were lay­ered,” writes Ger­man Lopez at Vox. “It wasn’t enough to just tell peo­ple to stay home, because they might feel the need to go to school or work, or they could just ignore guid­ance and go to events, bars, church or oth­er big gath­er­ings any­way.”

The com­par­i­son between St. Louis and Philadel­phia stress­es the need for city offi­cials to inter­vene in order for social dis­tanc­ing strate­gies to work. How­ev­er we might feel in ordi­nary cir­cum­stances about gov­ern­ments ban­ning pub­lic gath­er­ings, the glob­al spread of a dead­ly virus seems to war­rant a coor­di­nat­ed pub­lic response that best con­tains the spread. “In prac­ti­cal terms,” Lopez points out, “this meant advis­ing against or pro­hibit­ing just about every aspect of pub­lic life, from schools to restau­rants to enter­tain­ment venues (with some excep­tions for gro­cery stores and drug­stores).”

Lopez cites sev­er­al aca­d­e­m­ic stud­ies of the 1918 influen­za out­break as evi­dence of the effec­tive­ness of social dis­tanc­ing. For even more data on our cur­rent pan­dem­ic, see Tomas Pueyo’s exten­sive Medi­um essay com­pil­ing data and sta­tis­tics on COVID-19’s spread and pre­ven­tion. And if you’re still hav­ing a lit­tle trou­ble fig­ur­ing out what exact­ly “social dis­tanc­ing” involves, see this excel­lent guide from Asaf Bit­ton, physi­cian, pub­lic health researcher, and direc­tor of the Ari­adne Labs at Brigham and Women’s Hos­pi­tal and the Har­vard T.H. Chan School of Pub­lic Health.

As Bit­ton tells Isaac Chotin­er in a recent New York­er inter­view, “social dis­tanc­ing isn’t some exter­nal con­cept that applies only to work and school. Social dis­tanc­ing is real­ly extreme. It is a con­cept that dis­con­nects us phys­i­cal­ly from each oth­er. It pro­found­ly reori­ents our dai­ly life habits. And it is very hard.” No mat­ter how polar­ized we become, or how glued to our var­i­ous screens, we are “social crea­tures” who need con­nec­tion and com­mu­ni­ty. When we make the tran­si­tion out of life at a dis­tance, maybe the mem­o­ry of that need will help us over­come some of our pre-virus social alien­ation.

Relat­ed Con­tent:   

Free Cours­es on the Coro­n­avirus: What You Need to Know About the Emerg­ing Pan­dem­ic

Watch “Coro­n­avirus Out­break: What You Need to Know,” and the 24-Lec­ture Course “An Intro­duc­tion to Infec­tious Dis­eases,” Both Free from The Great Cours­es

How to Pro­tect Your­self Against COVID-19/­Coro­n­avirus

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

Watch Curated Playlists of Experimental Videos & Films to Get You Through COVID-19: Miranda July, Jan Švankmajer, Guy Maddin & More

When we get sick, many of us habit­u­al­ly use the time away from work and oth­er oblig­a­tions to do the same thing: watch movies. But old favorites and recent releas­es we’d missed our first chance to catch can only last us so long: now, with so much of the world either sick or at home try­ing not to get sick, a com­bi­na­tion of iso­la­tion and uncer­tain­ty about the state of things push­es us to seek out more cin­e­mat­i­cal­ly dar­ing fare. To sat­is­fy this demand, Los Ange­les film­mak­er Kate Lain has cre­at­ed a col­lec­tion called “CABIN FEVER: Cop­ing with COVID-19 playlist of online exper­i­men­tal films & videos,” all of them free to watch online, begun “as an editable Google sheet on March 13 to gath­er some exper­i­men­tal films togeth­er based on moods one might be expe­ri­enc­ing while being cooped up.”

Since then, Lain writes, “the list has mor­phed some, with some great new cat­e­gories being added to the mix.” The most recent ver­sion of the spread­sheet, avail­able in .XSLX and .PDF for­mats, includes such cat­e­gories as “For when you need to laugh or smile,” “For when you’re stuck inside but want to be out­side,” “Ani­mals,” “Plants,” “Nos­tal­gia,” and “Virus movies cuz why not.” (One such movie, Tuzan Wu’s Dis­ease of Man­i­fes­ta­tion, appears at the top of the post.)

With­in these and oth­ers appears the work of such film­mak­ers as Jan Švankma­jer, Miran­da July, Fer­nand Léger (pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture), Man Ray, Maya Deren, and Cindy Sher­man. (Avant-garde enthu­si­asts may also rejoice at the sight of names like Hol­lis Framp­ton, James Ben­ning, and Ken­neth Anger.)

Inspired by Lain’s col­lec­tion, Hyper­al­ler­gic’s Dessane Lopez Cas­sell has “reached out to artists, film­mak­ers, and Hyper­al­ler­gic con­trib­u­tors to assem­ble a list of what we’ve been shar­ing and encoun­ter­ing across our net­works.” Their selec­tions include Afro­nauts, “a lumi­nous short which ren­ders the sto­ry of the Zam­bian Space Pro­gram” — at which we looked back ear­li­er this month — “as a dream­like work of spec­u­la­tive fic­tion”; Bassem Saad’s Saint Rise, about the trans­porta­tion of a stat­ue of Saint Char­bel (“now being her­ald­ed by con­ser­v­a­tive reli­gious media as a heal­er of the Coro­n­avirus,” the film­mak­er adds) to a high moun­tain­top in Faraya, Leba­banon; and Guy Maddin’s The Green Fog (watch in full here and see the trail­er below), described by crit­ic Car­man Tse as “a scene-by-scene recre­ation of Ver­ti­go, made entire­ly of footage from oth­er movies that take place in San Fran­cis­co.”

“There’s an espe­cial­ly fun­ny mon­tage right at the cli­max of the movie that uses Chuck Nor­ris clips,” Tse notes, mak­ing The Green Fog a promis­ing choice for those of us who need to light­en the mood of our iso­la­tion — and who also appre­ci­ate a high den­si­ty of inter-cin­e­mat­ic ref­er­ence. Hail­ing as he does from the noto­ri­ous­ly win­try Cana­di­an city of Win­nipeg, Maddin him­self sure­ly knows a thing or two about how best to amuse one­self dur­ing long peri­ods stuck indoors. Indeed, every artist grow­ing up in cir­cum­stances of iso­la­tion, occa­sion­al or fre­quent, devel­ops a strong appre­ci­a­tion and high­ly refined sense of artis­tic dar­ing, one that unfail­ing­ly shows in their work when it debuts in the wider world. If we take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to expand the depth and breadth of our own view­ing expe­ri­ences, imag­ine how much more astute film­go­ers we’ll be after the pan­dem­ic pass­es.

Find the Cab­in Fever col­lec­tion of exper­i­men­tal videos and films here. It cur­rent­ly has 284 videos on the list. Hyper­all­ger­ic adds yet more here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, etc.

A Page of Mad­ness: The Lost, Avant Garde Mas­ter­piece from Ear­ly Japan­ese Cin­e­ma (1926)

Watch “Bells of Atlantis,” an Exper­i­men­tal Film with Ear­ly Elec­tron­ic Music Fea­tur­ing Anaïs Nin (1952)

The Exper­i­men­tal Abstract Films of Pio­neer­ing Amer­i­can Ani­ma­tor Mary Ellen Bute (1930s-1950s)

Sigour­ney Weaver Stars in a New Exper­i­men­tal Sci-Fi Film: Watch “Rak­ka” Free Online

Use Your Time in Iso­la­tion to Learn Every­thing You’ve Always Want­ed To: Free Online Cours­es, Audio Books, eBooks, Movies, Col­or­ing Books & More

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.

Meet the World’s First Known Author: Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna

Watch­ers of West­world will have heard a char­ac­ter in the most recent episode utter the line, “for the first time, his­to­ry has an author.” It’s as loaded a bit of dia­logue as the series has dropped on fans, not least for its sug­ges­tion that in the absence of a god we should be bet­ter off with an all-know­ing machine.

The line might bend the ear of lit­er­ary schol­ars for anoth­er rea­son. The idea of author­ship is a com­pli­cat­ed one. In one sense, maybe, every­one is an author of his­to­ry, and in anoth­er, per­haps no one is. But it’s dif­fi­cult to com­pre­hend these abstractions—we crave sto­ries with strong char­ac­ters, hence our ven­er­a­tion of Great Men and Women of the past.

Still, in many times and places, indi­vid­ual author­ship was irrel­e­vant. Renais­sance thinkers reval­ued the author as an auc­tori­tas, a wor­thy fig­ure of influ­ence and renown. “Death of the author” the­o­rists point­ed out that the appear­ance of a lit­er­ary text could nev­er be reduced to a sin­gle, unchang­ing per­son­al­i­ty. In reli­gious stud­ies, ques­tions of author­ship open onto mine­field after mine­field. There may be no com­mon­ly agreed-upon way to think about what an author is.

Does it make sense, then, to talk about the “world’s first author”? Per­haps. In the TED-Ed les­son above by Soraya Field Fio­rio, we learn that the first known per­son to use writ­ten lan­guage for lit­er­ary pur­pos­es was named was Enhed­u­an­na, a pow­er­ful Mesopotami­an high priest­ess who wrote forty-two hymns and three epic poems in cuneiform 4,3000 hun­dred years ago.

Daugh­ter of Sar­gon of Akkad, who placed her in a posi­tion to rule, Enhed­u­an­na lived about “1,500 years before Homer and about 500 years before the Bib­li­cal patri­arch Abra­ham.” (There’s con­sid­er­able doubt, of course, about whether either of those peo­ple exist­ed, whether they wrote the works attrib­uted to them, or whether such works were penned by com­mit­tee, so to speak.)

Sar­gon was also an author, hav­ing com­posed an auto­bi­og­ra­phy, The Leg­end of Sar­gon, that “exert­ed a pow­er­ful influ­ence over the Sume­ri­ans he sought to con­quer,” notes Joshua J. Mark at the Ancient His­to­ry Ency­clo­pe­dia. But first, Enhed­u­an­na used her posi­tion as high priest­ess to uni­fy her father’s empire with reli­gious hymns that praised the gods of each major Sumer­ian city. “In her writ­ing, she human­ized the once aloof gods,” just as Homer would hun­dreds of years lat­er. “Now they suf­fered, fought, loved, and respond­ed to human plead­ing.”

Her hymns to Inan­na are her most defin­ing lit­er­ary achieve­ment, but Enhed­u­an­na has some­how been com­plete­ly left out of his­to­ry. “We know who the first nov­el­ist is,” writes Charles Hal­ton at Lit Hub, “eleventh cen­tu­ry Japan­ese Noble­woman Murasa­ki Shik­ibu, who wrote the Tale of Gen­ji.” Like­wise, we know the first nov­el­ist of the west­ern world, Miguel de Cer­vantes, and the first essay­ist, Michel de Mon­taigne. But “ask any per­son in your life who wrote the first poem and they’re apt to draw a blank.”

Maybe this is because, unlike nov­els, we don’t think of poet­ry as being invent­ed by a sin­gle indi­vid­ual. It seems as though it must have sprung from the col­lec­tive psy­che not long after humans began using lan­guage. Yet from the point of view of lit­er­ary history—which, like most his­to­ries, con­sists of a suc­ces­sion of great names—Enheduanna cer­tain­ly deserves the hon­or as the world’s first known poet and first known author.  Learn more about her in the les­son above.

 Relat­ed Con­tent:

How to Write in Cuneiform, the Old­est Writ­ing Sys­tem in the World: A Short, Charm­ing Intro­duc­tion

Watch a 4000-Year Old Baby­lon­ian Recipe for Stew, Found on a Cuneiform Tablet, Get Cooked by Researchers from Yale & Har­vard

Hear The Epic of Gil­gamesh Read in its Orig­i­nal Ancient Lan­guage, Akka­di­an

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

The “Feynman Technique” for Studying Effectively: An Animated Primer

After win­ning the Nobel Prize, physi­cist Max Planck “went around Ger­many giv­ing the same stan­dard lec­ture on the new quan­tum mechan­ics. Over time, his chauf­feur mem­o­rized the lec­ture and said, ‘Would you mind, Pro­fes­sor Planck, because it’s so bor­ing to stay in our rou­tine, if I gave the lec­ture in Munich and you just sat in front wear­ing my chauffeur’s hat?’ Planck said, ‘Why not?’ And the chauf­feur got up and gave this long lec­ture on quan­tum mechan­ics. After which a physics pro­fes­sor stood up and asked a per­fect­ly ghast­ly ques­tion. The speak­er said, ‘Well, I’m sur­prised that in an advanced city like Munich I get such an ele­men­tary ques­tion. I’m going to ask my chauf­feur to reply.’ ”

That this intel­lec­tu­al switcheroo nev­er actu­al­ly hap­pened did­n’t stop Char­lie Munger from using it as an open­er for a com­mence­ment speech to USC’s Law School. But when a suc­cess­ful bil­lion­aire investor finds val­ue even in an admit­ted­ly “apoc­ryphal sto­ry,” most of us will find val­ue in it as well. It illus­trates, accord­ing to the Free­dom in Thought video above, the dif­fer­ence between “two kinds of knowl­edge: the deep knowl­edge that Max had, and the shal­low knowl­edge that the chauf­feur had.” Both forms of knowl­edge have their advan­tages, espe­cial­ly since none of us have life­time enough to under­stand every­thing deeply. But we get in trou­ble when we can’t tell them apart: “We risk fool­ing our­selves into think­ing we actu­al­ly under­stand or know some­thing when we don’t. Even worse, we risk tak­ing action on mis­in­for­ma­tion or mis­un­der­stand­ing.”

Even if you put lit­tle stock into a made-up anec­dote about one Nobel-win­ning physi­cist, sure­ly you’ll believe the doc­u­ment­ed words of anoth­er. Richard Feyn­man once artic­u­lat­ed a first prin­ci­ple of know­ing as fol­lows: “You must not fool your­self, and you are the eas­i­est per­son to fool.” This prin­ci­ple under­lies a prac­ti­cal process of learn­ing that con­sists of four steps. First, “explain the top­ic out loud to a peer who is unfa­mil­iar with the top­ic. Meet them at their lev­el of under­stand­ing and use the sim­plest lan­guage you can.” Sec­ond, “iden­ti­fy any gaps in your own under­stand­ing, or points where you feel that you can’t explain an idea sim­ply.” Third, “go back to the source mate­r­i­al and study up on your weak points until you can use sim­ple lan­guage to explain it.” Final­ly, “repeat the three steps above until you’ve mas­tered the top­ic.”

We’ve fea­tured the so-called “Feyn­man tech­nique” once or twice before here on Open Cul­ture, but its empha­sis on sim­plic­i­ty and con­ci­sion always bears repeat­ing — in, of course, as sim­ple and con­cise a man­ner as pos­si­ble each time. Its ori­gins lie in not just Feny­man’s first prin­ci­ple of knowl­edge but his intel­lec­tu­al habits. This video’s nar­ra­tor cites James Gle­ick­’s biog­ra­phy Genius, which tells of how “Richard would cre­ate a jour­nal for the things he did not know. His dis­ci­pline in chal­leng­ing his own under­stand­ing made him a genius and a bril­liant sci­en­tist.” Like all of us, Feyn­man was igno­rant all his life of vast­ly more sub­jects than he had mas­tered. But unlike many of us, his desire to know burned so furi­ous­ly that it pro­pelled him into per­pet­u­al con­fronta­tion with his own igno­rance. We can’t learn what we want to know, after all, unless we acknowl­edge how much we don’t know.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Richard Feynman’s “Note­book Tech­nique” Will Help You Learn Any Subject–at School, at Work, or in Life

Richard Feynman’s Tech­nique for Learn­ing Some­thing New: An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion

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

The Cor­nell Note-Tak­ing Sys­tem: Learn the Method Stu­dents Have Used to Enhance Their Learn­ing Since the 1940s

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.

Japanese Artist Has Drawn Every Meal He’s Eaten for 32 Years: Behold the Delicious Illustrations of Itsuo Kobayashi

Since the 1980s, Itsuo Kobayashi has drawn a pic­ture of every sin­gle meal he eats. How­ev­er notable we find this prac­tice now, it would sure­ly have struck us as down­right eccen­tric back then. Kobayashi began draw­ing his food before the arrival of inex­pen­sive dig­i­tal cam­eras and cell­phones, and well before the smart­phone com­bined the two into the sin­gle pack­age we now keep close at hand. We all know peo­ple who take cam­era-phone pic­tures of their meals, some of them with the reg­u­lar­i­ty and solem­ni­ty of prayer, but how many of them could pro­duce life­like ren­der­ings of the food placed before them with only pen and paper?

“The Japan­ese out­sider artist and pro­fes­sion­al cook, born in 1962, first began keep­ing food diaries as a teenag­er,” Art­net’s Sarah Cas­cone writes of Kobayashi. “In his 20s, he began adding illus­tra­tions of the dish­es he made at work, and those he ate while din­ing out.” When, at the age of 46, a “debil­i­tat­ing neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der made it dif­fi­cult for him to walk, leav­ing him large­ly con­fined to his home,” Kobayashi began to focus on his food diaries even more intense­ly.

His sub­jects are now most­ly “food deliv­er­ies — some­times from restau­rants, some­times from his moth­er. And though his day-to-day exis­tence rarely varies, he’s been push­ing his prac­tice in a new direc­tion, cre­at­ing a new series of pop-up paint­ings.”

After 32 years of mak­ing increas­ing­ly detailed and real­is­tic over­head draw­ings of his every meal — includ­ing such infor­ma­tion as names, prices, fla­vor notes, and faith­ful­ly repli­cat­ed restau­rant logos — Kobayashi’s work has caught the atten­tion of the Amer­i­can art world. The Fukuya­ma-based gallery Kushi­no Ter­race “gave Kobayashi his US debut in Jan­u­ary, at New York’s Out­sider Art Fair,” Cas­cone writes. “His works sell for between $500 and $3,000.” That makes for quite a step up in pres­tige from his old job cook­ing at a soba restau­rant, though his copi­ous expe­ri­ence with that dish shows when­ev­er it appears in his diary.

But then, after decade upon decade of dai­ly prac­tice, every­thing Kobayashi draws looks good enough to eat, from bowls of ramen to plates of cur­ry to ben­to box­es filled with all man­ner of delights from land and sea. Though hard­ly fan­cy, espe­cial­ly by the advanced stan­dards of Japan­ese food cul­ture, these are the kind of meals you want to savor, the ones to which you feel you should pay appre­cia­tive atten­tion rather than just scarf­ing down. Or at least they look that way under Kobayashi’s gaze, which even the most ardent 21st-cen­tu­ry food-pho­tograph­ing hob­by­ist must envy. Many of us wish to eat more con­scious­ly, and the work of this cook-turned-artist shows us how: put down the phone, and pick up the sketch­book.

via Art­net

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Tee­ny Tiny Japan­ese Meals Get Made in a Minia­ture Kitchen: The Joy of Cook­ing Mini Tem­pu­ra, Sashi­mi, Cur­ry, Okonomiya­ki & More

Wagashi: Peruse a Dig­i­tized, Cen­turies-Old Cat­a­logue of Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Can­dies

Cook­pad, the Largest Recipe Site in Japan, Launch­es New Site in Eng­lish

How to Make Sushi: Free Video Lessons from a Mas­ter Sushi Chef

How the Aston­ish­ing Sushi Scene in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Was Ani­mat­ed: A Time-Lapse of the Month-Long Shoot

The Prop­er Way to Eat Ramen: A Med­i­ta­tion from the Clas­sic Japan­ese Com­e­dy Tam­popo (1985)

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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