Has TV Rotted Our Minds? On Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death (A Pretty Much Pop Culture Podcast/Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast Crossover)

Mar­shall McLuhan famous­ly said “The medi­um is the mes­sage,” by which he meant that when we receive infor­ma­tion, its effect on us is deter­mined as much by the form of that infor­ma­tion as by the actu­al con­tent.

Neil Post­man, in his 1985 book Amus­ing Our­selves to Death: Pub­lic Dis­course in the Age of Show Busi­ness, ran with this idea, argu­ing that TV has con­di­tioned us to expect that every­thing must be enter­tain­ing, and that this has had a dis­as­trous effect on news, pol­i­tics, edu­ca­tion, and think­ing in gen­er­al.

In this dis­cus­sion, your Pret­ty Much Pop hosts Mark Lin­sen­may­er and Bri­an Hirt join with the rest of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life crew: Seth Paskin, Dylan Casey and Wes Alwan.

The result is much more philo­soph­i­cal con­text than you’d get in a typ­i­cal Pret­ty Much Pop dis­cus­sion. Pla­to, for exam­ple, argued (through the char­ac­ter of Socrates) in the Phae­drus against writ­ing, which he said amounts to off-load­ing thought to this inert thing, when it should be live­ly in our minds and our direct con­ver­sa­tions. Post­man’s book describes the Age of Print as high­ly con­ge­nial toward lengthy, abstract rea­son­ing. High lit­er­a­cy rates, par­tic­u­lar­ly in Amer­i­ca, con­di­tioned peo­ple to expect that this is how infor­ma­tion is to be received, and as such they were, for instance, pre­pared to lis­ten rapt­ly to the Lin­coln-Dou­glas debates in which the speak­ers pro­vid­ed lawyer­ly speech­es that might span mul­ti­ple hours.

Post­man, an edu­ca­tion­al the­o­rist, described tele­vi­sion as not just pro­vid­ing a no-con­text expe­ri­ence whose high lev­el of visu­al and audi­to­ry stim­u­la­tion beats its spec­ta­tors into thought­less pas­siv­i­ty, but that its pop­u­lar­i­ty pos­i­tive­ly infects all the oth­er com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels avail­able. Of course there is still in-per­son teach­ing, but tele­vi­sion short­ens atten­tion spans such that teach­ers now feel the need to con­stant­ly enter­tain instead of forc­ing stu­dents to make the effort required to attend care­ful­ly to what they have to teach. Of course there are still books, but they are less read, and the com­pe­ti­tion of tele­vi­sion for our time has changed the pre­sen­ta­tion with­in books so that they must be as imme­di­ate­ly and con­sis­tent­ly appeal­ing as tele­vi­sion.

McLuhan described tele­vi­sion as a “hot” medi­um due to its high lev­el of stim­u­la­tion, where a “cool” one like a text­book requires more active par­tic­i­pa­tion of the recip­i­ent. We dis­cuss how Post­man’s cri­tique fares in the Age of the Inter­net, which inter­est­ing­ly mix­es things up, with more inter­ac­tiv­i­ty (in that sense cool­er) yet even more pos­si­bil­i­ty for sen­so­ry dis­trac­tion (in that per­haps more impor­tant sense hot­ter). To sup­ple­ment Post­man, we also con­sult­ed a wide­ly read arti­cle from The Atlantic writ­ten by Nicholas Carr in 2008 called “Is Google Mak­ing Us Stu­pid.”

For more philo­soph­i­cal touch­points, see the post for this dis­cus­sion at partiallyexaminedlife.com.

Hear more Pret­ty Much Pop at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes an equal­ly long sec­ond part that you can access by sup­port­ing Pret­ty Much Pop at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by sup­port­ing The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life at partiallyexaminedlife.com/support. Lis­ten to a pre­view of part two.

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

Watch 400+ Documentaries from German Broadcaster Deutsche Welle: Art Forgery, Fashion Photography, the Mona Lisa, and More

You’re cer­tain­ly famil­iar with Nou­velle Vague, the “French new wave” that shook up world cin­e­ma in the mid-2oth cen­tu­ry. You’ve prob­a­bly also heard of Hal­lyu, the “Kore­an wave” of pop music and tele­vi­sion dra­mas (and, increas­ing­ly, films) now crash­ing across not just Asia but the West. As for Deutsche Welle, lit­er­al­ly the “Ger­man wave,” you may know the term bet­ter in its abbre­vi­at­ed form: DW, the brand of Ger­many’s pub­lic inter­na­tion­al broad­cast­er. Here on Open Cul­ture we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured DW’s series Bauhaus World, a cel­e­bra­tion of that influ­en­tial Ger­man school of art, archi­tec­ture, and design, but it’s just one of 415 doc­u­men­taries free to watch on the DW Doc­u­men­tary Youtube chan­nel.

DW’s doc­u­men­tar­i­ans have a thor­ough­ly inter­na­tion­al man­date, as evi­denced by their pop­u­lar exam­i­na­tions of the dic­ta­to­r­i­al regime of North Korea, Bul­gar­i­a’s Roma mar­riage mar­ket, extrav­a­gant wealth in cen­tral Africa, and dire pover­ty in the Unit­ed States. You can also browse the archive through themed playlists rang­ing from pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics to human nature and soci­ety to cul­ture and arts.

That last sec­tion, no doubt of par­tic­u­lar inter­est to Open Cul­ture read­ers, demon­strates DW’s advan­tage as a long-stand­ing broad­cast­er sit­u­at­ed in the heart of Europe. Where bet­ter to start learn­ing about Goth­ic and Romanesque cathe­drals, top elec­tron­ic dance music DJs, Mar­tin Luther and the Ref­or­ma­tion, or the truth behind the Last Sup­per and the Mona Lisa?

Even more inter­est lies in DW’s explo­rations of less­er-known top­ics like the trea­sures of Turk­menistan, fak­ery in the art world, and Berlin’s Lit­tle Hanoi. There are also pro­files of such Ger­man fig­ures as Peter Lind­bergh, the late fash­ion and adver­tis­ing pho­tog­ra­ph­er count­ed as an inspi­ra­tion by the likes of Wim Wen­ders, and Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, out­go­ing pres­i­dent of the Goethe-Insti­tut, a nat­ur­al sub­ject for DW to cov­er. Found­ed with­in a cou­ple of years of one anoth­er, both DW and the Goethe-Insti­tut take the pro­mo­tion of Ger­man cul­ture abroad as a large part of their mis­sion — and both do so in the knowl­edge that, to get oth­er soci­eties inter­est­ed in your cul­ture, you’ve got to show gen­uine inter­est in all of theirs as well. Explore the com­plete list of DW doc­u­men­taries here. And find more doc­u­men­taries online in our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch 3,000+ Films Free Online from the Nation­al Film Board of Cana­da

Watch Bauhaus World, a Free Doc­u­men­tary That Cel­e­brates the 100th Anniver­sary of Germany’s Leg­endary Art, Archi­tec­ture & Design School

Beat Club, the 1960s TV Show That Brought Rock Music to 70 Mil­lion Kids in Ger­many, Hun­gary, Thai­land, Tan­za­nia & Beyond

285 Free Doc­u­men­taries Online

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, 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.

What Makes Ringo Starr a Great Drummer: Demonstrations from a German Teenager & Ringo Himself

The ques­tion of whether or not Ringo Starr is a great rock drum­mer — maybe one of the great­est– seems more or less set­tled among drum­mers. “From the sim­plis­tic heavy-hit­ting of Dave Grohl, to the pro­gres­sive mind bend­ing of Mike Port­noy, and way beyond,” writes Stu­art Williams at Music Radar, “all roads lead back to Ringo.” Not only is Ringo “your favorite drummer’s favorite drum­mer,” but when he took the stage in 1964 on The Ed Sul­li­van Show, “you’d be hard-pushed to find anoth­er moment where one drum­mer inspired an entire gen­er­a­tion of kids and teenagers to pick up a pair of sticks and beg their par­ents to buy them a kit.”

There was lit­tle prece­dent for what he did in rock drum­ming even in the band’s ear­li­est years. Ringo helped change “the role of the drums from an ortho­dox, mil­i­tary and jazz-led dis­ci­pline into a more democ­ra­tised art form. If there was a blue­print for what drum­mers ‘did’ in rock ’n’ roll, Ringo’s approach widened it,” adds Music Radar. Much of his expan­sive vocab­u­lary was acci­den­tal, at least at first, a prod­uct of what Bea­t­les biog­ra­ph­er Bob Spitz calls a child­hood beset by “a Dick­en­sian chron­i­cle of mis­for­tune.”

Like many a ground­break­ing musi­cian, Ringo played at what might be con­sid­ered a phys­i­cal dis­ad­van­tage. He learned the drums in “the hos­pi­tal band,” he once said, while con­va­lesc­ing from tuber­cu­lo­sis. “My grand­par­ents gave me a man­dolin and a ban­jo, but I didn’t want them. My grand­fa­ther gave me a har­mon­i­ca… we had a piano — noth­ing. Only the drums.” Like Hen­drix, he was a lefty forced to adapt to a right-hand­ed ver­sion of the instru­ment, thus enlarg­ing what right- (and left) hand­ed drum­mers thought could be done with it.

As Ger­man drum­mer Sina demon­strates at the top of the post, Ringo’s unique style involves a great deal of sub­tle­ty, “tone, taste, musi­cal­i­ty, and that left-hand­ed drum­mer on a right-hand­ed kit reverse-fell tom-tom work,” writes Boing Boing. We’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured Sina in a post in which great drum­mers pay trib­ute to Ringo. The daugh­ter of a musi­cian in Ger­man Bea­t­les trib­ute band the Sil­ver Bea­t­les, she shows off an unim­peach­able grasp of Star­r’s sig­na­ture moves.

In the clip above, Ringo him­self demon­strates his tech­nique on “Tick­et to Ride,” “Come Togeth­er,” and his high­est-chart­ing solo sin­gle “Back Off Booga­loo.” In explain­ing how he employed his most high­ly praised tal­ent — play­ing exact­ly what the song need­ed and no more — he shows how the drum pat­tern in the Abbey Road open­er came direct­ly from John’s vocals and Paul’s bass line. In “Tick­et to Ride,” he shows how he works from his shoul­der, pro­duc­ing a down­beat that’s slight­ly ahead.

Where do Ringo’s quirks come from, accord­ing to Ringo? “It has to do with swing,” he dead­pans, “or as we keep men­tion­ing, med­ica­tion.” More seri­ous­ly, he explains above in an inter­view with Conan O’Brien, he “leads with his left,” a lim­i­ta­tion that he turned into a musi­cal lega­cy on his favorite Bea­t­les drum moments and on every­one else’s.

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Musi­cian Plays Sig­na­ture Drum Parts of 71 Bea­t­les Songs in 5 Min­utes: A Whirl­wind Trib­ute to Ringo Starr

How Can You Tell a Good Drum­mer from a Bad Drum­mer?: Ringo Starr as Case Study

Iso­lat­ed Drum Tracks From Six of Rock’s Great­est: Bon­ham, Moon, Peart, Copeland, Grohl & Starr

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

Watch Colorized 1940s Footage of London after the Blitz: Scenes from Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace & More

“Reg­u­lar fea­tures of the time: neat­ly swept-up piles of glass, lit­ter of stone and splin­ters of flint, smell of escap­ing gas, knots of sight­seers wait­ing at the cor­dons.”

– George Orwell

What was it like to live in Lon­don dur­ing and after the Blitz? George Orwell’s note­books from the time con­tain a “fas­ci­nat­ing account of every­day life in Lon­don dur­ing the Sec­ond World War,” full of jour­nal­is­tic detail, the British Library writes. In Orwell’s esti­ma­tion, the city was riv­en with class divides. “Despite his crit­i­cism of Stal­in­ism, Orwell remained a con­vinced social­ist all his life.” He believed the war could only be won if it turned into a rev­o­lu­tion. “When you see how the wealthy are still behav­ing, in what is man­i­fest­ly devel­op­ing into  a rev­o­lu­tion­ary war,” he wrote in a diary entry that would become the 1941 essay The Lion and the Uni­corn, “you think of St. Peters­burg in 1916.”

Orwell may have been wrong about the rev­o­lu­tion, but he report­ed hon­est­ly on much of what was hap­pen­ing in Lon­don. Mean­while, the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion pro­duced a short pro­pa­gan­da film in 1940 for the Amer­i­can pub­lic called “Lon­don Can Take It.” The tone was in keep­ing with the “Keep Calm and Car­ry On” ethos we asso­ciate with Britain in the peri­od. A com­pan­ion film, “Britain Can Take It,” sim­i­lar­ly sold the “illu­sion of social uni­ty,” Craig Stew­art Hunter writes, “cre­at­ed by the use of films and oth­er media to por­tray pos­i­tive morale.” (View many more British WWII pro­pa­gan­da films here.) These did not account for “grow­ing dis­en­chant­ment in urban areas, which found them­selves ‘unable to take it,’ so to speak.”

Peter Watts writes in The Guardian about once-vibrant city blocks that were demol­ished by the fire­bomb­ing, then lat­er turned into park­ing garages. Many of these neigh­bor­hoods were then, in the 1960s, fold­ed into mas­sive estate hous­ing projects with “high-rise tow­ers nobody want­ed to live in,” says Peter Larkham, pro­fes­sor of plan­ning at Birm­ing­ham School of the Built Envi­ron­ment. Could Lon­don take it? It depend­ed on which Lon­don one meant, in the long run. But dur­ing the war itself, there was per­haps more social cohe­sion than Orwell was will­ing to grant, giv­en that some­thing like one in every six Lon­don­ers suf­fered home­less­ness dur­ing the bomb­ing cam­paign and over 40,000 civil­ians lost their lives.

The degree of Britain’s nation­al uni­ty dur­ing the war remains “a con­tin­u­ing his­to­ri­o­graph­i­cal debate,” writes Hunter, ever since” the gen­er­a­tion of his­to­ri­ans born after the war… have been able to write with more crit­i­cal detach­ment.” And since most every­one alive then is no longer, ideas about what it felt like to be in Lon­don dur­ing WWII will change as his­to­ri­ans view the source mate­r­i­al dif­fer­ent­ly over time.

But thanks to pho­tog­ra­phy and film from the peri­od, we’ll always have a fair­ly good idea of what Lon­don looked like dur­ing the war, though we’ll have to make do, until the AI “becomes more mature,” as the poster of the video com­pi­la­tion above notes, with infe­ri­or col­oriza­tion tech­niques. (Yes, they know, the bus­es should be red.)

The var­i­ous scenes have been motion-sta­bi­lized, slight­ly speed-cor­rect­ed, enhanced and col­orized by means of sophis­ti­cat­ed Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence soft­ware. 

The film shows remark­able scenes of bomb dam­age, close up film­ing of the release of bar­rage bal­loons, anti-air­craft gun posi­tions, traf­fic at Trafal­gar Square, Pic­cadil­ly Cir­cus, mil­i­tary parades in front of Buck­ing­ham Palace, beau­ti­ful scenes of the Thames dur­ing day­time and at dusk, Water­loo Sta­tion, and much more.

Most of the film dates from late 1943, but some of the footage of Water­loo sta­tion and Pic­cadil­ly Cir­cus comes from the late 1930s and it ends with a minute of VE day on 8 May 1945. All of the footage comes from the Prelinger Archives. Can we see nation­al uni­ty in the crowds of peo­ple going about their busi­ness amidst a city full of arma­ments and rub­ble? Is it vis­i­ble to the naked eye? See time­stamped descrip­tions of the loca­tion and action in each clip at the video’s YouTube page here.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

WWII Britain Revis­it­ed in 120 Short Films, Now Free on the Web

Dra­mat­ic Col­or Footage Shows a Bombed-Out Berlin a Month After Germany’s WWII Defeat (1945)

How to Behave in a British Pub: A World War II Train­ing Film from 1943, Fea­tur­ing Burgess Mered­ith

The Old­est Known Footage of Lon­don (1890–1920) Fea­tures the City’s Great Land­marks

How the Fences & Rail­ings Adorn­ing London’s Build­ings Dou­bled (by Design) as Civil­ian Stretch­ers in World War II

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

A Relaxing 3‑Hour Tour of Venice’s Canals

Expe­ri­ence Venice in this boat tour through 17 miles (27 km) of canals. “You will see the full Grand Canal going in both direc­tions, nav­i­gate through the small canals and under bridges and see sites that you can­not see by walk­ing.” It’s qui­et, med­i­ta­tive, a men­tal escape from the tedi­um of quar­an­tine life.

Right below, you can find a list of the stops along the way…

1:32​ Con­sti­tu­tion Bridge

2:02​ The Grand Canal (Full Tour)

3:23​ San­ta Lucia Train Sta­tion

13:33​ Rial­to Bridge

23:28​ Ponte del­l’Ac­cad­e­mia

30:38​ Piaz­za San Mar­co

36:08​ Small Inside Canals & Bridges

41:05​ Libre­ria Acqua Alta

44:08​ Cam­po San­ti Gio­van­ni e Pao­lo

47:16​ Open Water — Skip ahead to the next sec­tion

57:25​ Canal of Saint Peter

58:18​ Build­ing Bridges Sculp­ture

1:09:55​ Bridge of Sighs

1:16:15​ Rial­to Bridge & Grand Canal

1:18:39​ Small Inside Canals & Bridges

1:23:04​ The Grand Canal

1:27:14​ Pont del­l’Ac­cad­e­mia

1:34:44​ Rial­to Bridge

1:43:34​ Ponte delle Guglie

1:46:04​ Tre Archi Bridge

1:48:38​ Lib­er­ty Bridge (Ponte del­la Lib­ertà)

1:54:18​ Con­sti­tu­tion Bridge

1:58:38​ Close Call!

2:04:43​ Squero di San Trova­so (gon­do­la boat­yard)

2:07:23​ Grand Canal (short sec­tion)

2:10:44​ Small Canals and Bridges

2:17:14​ Grand Canal (short sec­tion)

2:20:14​ Mag­is­ter Cano­va

2:22:04​ Open Water

2:26:14​ Small Inside Canals & Bridges

2:30:44​ Piaz­za San Mar­co

2:33:04​ The Grand Canal (Full Tour)

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Venice Works: 124 Islands, 183 Canals & 438 Bridges

Venice in Beau­ti­ful Col­or Images 125 Years Ago: The Rial­to Bridge, St. Mark’s Basil­i­ca, Doge’s Palace & More

The Venice Time Machine: 1,000 Years of Venice’s His­to­ry Gets Dig­i­tal­ly Pre­served with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence and Big Data

Pink Floyd Plays in Venice on a Mas­sive Float­ing Stage in 1989; Forces the May­or & City Coun­cil to Resign

Behold the 1940s Typewriter That Could Type in English, Chinese & Japanese: Watch More Than a Thousand Different Characters in Action

There was a time, not long after the wide­spread adop­tion of teleg­ra­phy in the 19th cen­tu­ry, when the writ­ten Chi­nese lan­guage looked doomed. Or at least it did to cer­tain thinkers con­sid­er­ing the impli­ca­tions of that instant glob­al com­mu­ni­ca­tion-enabling tech­nol­o­gy hav­ing been devel­oped for the rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple Latin alpha­bet. And as unsuit­ed as the Chi­nese writ­ing sys­tem must have seemed to the world of the tele­graph, it would have pre­sent­ed a seem­ing­ly even heav­ier bur­den in the world of the type­writer.

Only in 1916, thanks to the efforts of a U.S.-educated Shang­hai engi­neer named Hou-Kun Chow, did the Chi­nese type­writer debut, built around a large, revolv­ing cylin­der that could print 4,000 ideo­graph­ic (that is to say, each one rep­re­sent­ing a dif­fer­ent word or sound) char­ac­ters. From that point the evo­lu­tion of the Chi­nese type­writer was rather quick, by the stan­dards of the day. And it did­n’t only hap­pen in Chi­na: Japan, whose own writ­ten lan­guage incor­po­rates many ideo­graph­ic Chi­nese char­ac­ters, had been sub­ject to more intense tech­no­log­i­cal influ­ence from the West since open­ing to for­eign trade in the 1860s.

The very year after its found­ing in 1939, elec­tron­ics-giant-to-be Toshi­ba (the prod­uct of a merg­er involv­ing Japan’s first mak­er of tele­graph equip­ment) pro­duced the first Japan­ese cylin­dri­cal type­writer. “Most­ly used by the Japan­ese mil­i­tary dur­ing World War II,” says the Vin­tage Type­writer Muse­um, it incor­po­rat­ed 630 char­ac­ters. After the war “Toshi­ba intro­duced a new mod­el, the 1200 A, fea­tur­ing 1172 Japan­ese and Chi­nese char­ac­ters.” In the video above, from Youtu­ber by the name of Type­writer Col­lec­tor, you can see a slight­ly lat­er mod­el in action.

Pro­duced before the intro­duc­tion of “West­ern-style” key­boards, the Toshi­ba BW-2112 has the same inter­face as its pre­de­ces­sors: “The char­ac­ter is select­ed by rotat­ing the cylin­der and shift­ing it hor­i­zon­tal­ly, so that the nec­es­sary char­ac­ter is select­ed with the index point­er,” accord­ing to the Vin­tage Type­writer Muse­um. “When the print key is depressed, the type strip is pushed upwards from the cylin­der, and the type ham­mer swings to the cen­ter to print the char­ac­ter onto the paper.”

These vin­tage Japan­ese type­writ­ers still today strike their view­ers as mar­vels of engi­neer­ing, though their then-vast store of char­ac­ters (which includ­ed not just Chi­nese-derived kan­ji but pho­net­ic kana and even the Latin alpha­bet) have long since been sur­passed by dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy. Now that every stu­den­t’s smart­phone puts all 50,000 or extant Chi­nese char­ac­ters in their com­mand — to say noth­ing of the world’s oth­er writ­ten lan­guages — it’s safe to say they’re not about to fall into dis­use any time soon.

via Messy Nessy

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Endur­ing Ana­log Under­world of Gramer­cy Type­writer

Dis­cov­er Friedrich Nietzsche’s Curi­ous Type­writer, the “Malling-Hansen Writ­ing Ball” (Cir­ca 1881)

When IBM Cre­at­ed a Type­writer to Record Dance Move­ments (1973)

Dis­cov­er the Inge­nious Type­writer That Prints Musi­cal Nota­tion: The Keaton Music Type­writer Patent­ed in 1936

Free Chi­nese Lessons

Learn Japan­ese Free

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, 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.

The Rolling Stones Jam with Muddy Waters for the First and Only Time at Chicago’s Legendary Checkerboard Lounge (1981)

What­ev­er mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als may claim, the Rolling Stones did not just hap­pen upon Bud­dy Guy’s Checker­board Lounge on Chicago’s South Side (before it closed, reopened in Hyde Park, then closed again for good) on a night when Mud­dy Waters hap­pened to be there in 1981. And they did not spon­ta­neous­ly get invit­ed to jam, as it seems, when they “climbed over tables” to get onstage with their hero and blues leg­ends Bud­dy Guy and Junior Wells.

A chance meet­ing, of course, would have been mag­i­cal, but the truth is the event was prob­a­bly “planned and coor­di­nat­ed,” writes W. Scott Poole at Pop­mat­ters. These were the biggest names in the blues and rock and roll, after all. “Why,” before the Stones and their entourage arrive, “is there an emp­ty table on the night Mud­dy Waters came back to South­side?”

And why did the Rolling Stones’ man­ag­er claim he “approached the Checker­board high­er-ups a week in advance,” Ted Schein­man writes at Slant, “propos­ing a sur­prise con­cert and prof­fer­ing $500 as proof-of earnest”?

Was it a cyn­i­cal ploy to re-estab­lish the band’s blues cred dur­ing what would turn out to be the largest gross­ing tour of the year — one fea­tur­ing what Jag­ger called “enor­mous images of a gui­tar, a car and a record — an Amer­i­cana idea.” In some sense, Mud­dy Waters was also an “Amer­i­cana idea,” but how could he be oth­er­wise to the Stones, giv­en that they’d grown up lis­ten­ing to him from across the Atlantic, asso­ci­at­ing him with expe­ri­ences they had nev­er known first­hand?

And so what if the his­toric meet­ing at the Checker­board Lounge was stage-man­aged behind the scenes? That’s what man­agers do — they arrange things behind the scenes and let per­form­ers cre­ate the illu­sion of spon­tane­ity, as though they hadn’t spent an entire tour, or decades of tours, mak­ing the same songs seem fresh on any giv­en night. When it comes to the blues, play­ing the same songs over again is a key part of the game, see­ing how much atti­tude and style one can wring out of a few chords, dogged­ly per­sis­tent themes of sex, love, death, betray­al, and maybe a bot­tle­neck slide.

It’s a les­son the Stones learned well, and their ado­ra­tion and respect for Mud­dy Waters is noth­ing less than gen­uine, even if it took some back­stage nego­ti­a­tion to bring them togeth­er this one and only time. Mud­dy is spec­tac­u­lar. “Even as one of the aging elder states­men of the Chica­go blues in 1981,” writes Poole, “he exudes an aura of sex and pow­er, show­ing off every attribute that so inspired Mick and Kei­th and that became an inef­fa­ble part of their own music and their per­sona.”

Mean­while, the absolute­ly boy­ish glee on the faces of Jag­ger, Richards, Ron­nie Wood, and Stones’ pianist Ian Stew­art as they per­form onstage with an artist who had giv­en them so much more than just their name speaks for itself. The con­cert video and live album “began appear­ing as boot­leg and unof­fi­cial releas­es almost imme­di­ate­ly,” All­mu­sic notes, “from LP and CD to VHS and DVD.” Here, you can see them jam out three songs from the night: “Baby Please Don’t Go” (on which Waters brings Jag­ger onstage at 5:30 for an extend­ed ver­sion and Kei­th joins at 6:50), “Man­nish Boy,” and “Hoochie Coochie Man.”

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

10-Sto­ry High Mur­al of Mud­dy Waters Goes Up in Chica­go

A Visu­al His­to­ry of The Rolling Stones Doc­u­ment­ed in a Beau­ti­ful, 450-Page Pho­to Book by Taschen

The Rolling Stones Release a Long Lost Track Fea­tur­ing Led Zeppelin’s Jim­my Page

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

Scientists at Purdue University Create the “Whitest White” Paint Ever Seen: It Reflects 98% of the Sun’s Light

Xiulin Ruan, a Pur­due Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor of mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing, holds up his lab’s sam­ple of the whitest paint on record. Pur­due University/Jared Pike

Sure­ly, you’ve heard of Vantablack, the high-tech coat­ing invent­ed by UK com­pa­ny Sur­rey NanoSys­tems that absorbs over 99 per­cent of light and makes three-dimen­sion­al objects look like black holes? Aside from its con­tro­ver­sial­ly exclu­sive use by artist Anish Kapoor, the black­est of black paints has so far proven to be most effec­tive in space. “You can imag­ine up in space peo­ple think of it as being real­ly black and dark,” Sur­rey NanoSys­tems chief tech­ni­cal offi­cer Ben Jensen explains. “But actu­al­ly it’s incred­i­bly bright up there because the Sun’s like a huge arc lamp and you’ve got light reflect­ing off the Earth and moon.”

All that sun­light can make cer­tain parts of the world unbear­ably hot for humans, a rapid­ly wors­en­ing phe­nom­e­non thanks to cli­mate change, which has itself been wors­ened by cli­mate con­trol sys­tems used to cool homes, offices, stores, etc. Since the 1970s sci­en­tists have attempt­ed to break the vicious cycle with white paints that can cool build­ings by reflect­ing sun­light from their sur­faces. “Paint­ing build­ings white to reflect sun­light and make them cool­er is com­mon in Greece and oth­er coun­tries,” notes The Wash­ing­ton Post. “Cities like New and Chica­go have pro­grams to paint roofs white to com­bat urban heat.”

The prob­lem is “com­mer­cial white paint gets warmer rather than cool­er,” writes Pur­due Uni­ver­si­ty. “Paints on the mar­ket that are designed to reject heat reflect only 80%-90% of sun­light and can’t make sur­faces cool­er than their sur­round­ings,” since they absorb ultra­vi­o­let light. That may well change soon, with the inven­tion by a team of Pur­due engi­neers of an as-yet unnamed, patent-pend­ing ultra-white paint that has “pushed the lim­its on how white paint can be.” Those lim­its now fall just slight­ly short of Vantablack on the oth­er side of the spec­trum (or grayscale).

An infrared cam­era shows how a sam­ple of the whitest white paint (the dark pur­ple square in the mid­dle) actu­al­ly cools the board below ambi­ent tem­per­a­ture, some­thing that not even com­mer­cial “heat reject­ing” paints do. Pur­due University/Joseph Peo­ples

Pur­due describes the prop­er­ties of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary com­pound.

Two fea­tures give the paint its extreme white­ness. One is the paint’s very high con­cen­tra­tion of a chem­i­cal com­pound called bar­i­um sul­fate, which is also used to make pho­to paper and cos­met­ics white.

The sec­ond fea­ture is that the bar­i­um sul­fate par­ti­cles are all dif­fer­ent sizes in the paint. How much each par­ti­cle scat­ters light depends on its size, so a wider range of par­ti­cle sizes allows the paint to scat­ter more of the light spec­trum from the sun.

This for­mu­la “reflects up to 98.1% of sun­light — com­pared with the 95.5%,” of light reflect­ed by a pre­vi­ous com­pound that used cal­ci­um car­bon­ate instead of bar­i­um sul­fite. The less than 3% dif­fer­ence is more sig­nif­i­cant than it might seem.

Xiulin Ruan, pro­fes­sor of mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing, describes the poten­tial of the new reflec­tive coat­ing: “If you were to use this paint to cov­er a roof area of about 1,000 square feet, we esti­mate that you could get a cool­ing pow­er of 10 kilo­watts. That’s more pow­er­ful than the cen­tral air con­di­tion­ers used by most hous­es… If you look at the ener­gy [sav­ings] and cool­ing pow­er this paint can pro­vide, it’s real­ly excit­ing.”

Will there be a pro­pri­etary war between major play­ers in the art world to con­trol it? “Ide­al­ly,” Kait Sanchez writes at The Verge, “any­thing that could be used to improve people’s lives while reduc­ing the ener­gy they use should be free and wide­ly avail­able.” Ide­al­ly.

Learn more about the whitest white paint here and, if you have access, at the researchers’ pub­li­ca­tion in the jour­nal ACS Applied Mate­ri­als & Inter­faces.

via Smith­son­ian

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

YIn­Mn Blue, the First Shade of Blue Dis­cov­ered in 200 Years, Is Now Avail­able for Artists

Dis­cov­er Harvard’s Col­lec­tion of 2,500 Pig­ments: Pre­serv­ing the World’s Rare, Won­der­ful Col­ors

A 3,000-Year-Old Painter’s Palette from Ancient Egypt, with Traces of the Orig­i­nal Col­ors Still In It

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

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