This Is “The End”: A Video Exploration of The Doors’ Existential Epic

If you had bro­ken up with your col­lege boyfriend and he told you that he writ­ten an 11-minute song about you while on enough LSD to kill a horse, would you want to hear it? Or would you block his num­ber on your phone?

Or maybe because said boyfriend is Jim Mor­ri­son and the band is the Doors and the song is “The End,” we’ll let it slide, because whether or not you think Jim’s lyrics are super deep or super­cil­ious, the groove is unde­ni­able, four small fur­ry musi­cians gath­ered togeth­er in a stu­dio and groov­ing on a raga, con­jur­ing up East­ern mys­ti­cism with West­ern instru­ments.

In Polyphonic’s explain­er video on “The End,” he pulls apart The Doors’ mag­num opus, the clos­er to its 1967 debut album, ana­lyz­ing the song in real time as it unspools. (There’s a few moments where Poly­phon­ic and Mor­ri­son are vocal­iz­ing at the same time—we rec­om­mend turn­ing on cap­tions).

The girl­friend in ques­tion was Mary Wer­be­low, Morrison’s steady in the ear­ly ‘60s before he chose the path of putting his poet­ry to music. The Werbelow/Morrison cou­ple had to die for the Doors to be born, in a sense, and Mor­ri­son start­ed the lyrics as a good­bye song, a stan­dard pop trope at the time. (There’s a very touch­ing, rare inter­view with Wer­be­low here). But Mor­ri­son took it in anoth­er direc­tion, we could say.

“The End” might be the first musi­cal exam­ple of the Psy­chotron­ic Breakup genre. Defined by Noah Segan and Adam Egypt Mor­timer when talk­ing about film, the Psy­chotron­ic Breakup genre “uses dream imagery, para­nor­mal ideas, or the hor­ror genre to express the emo­tion­al dra­ma of heart­break.” Segan and Mortimer’s def­i­n­i­tion deals only with film, but Mor­ri­son does the same thing with song, a lit­tle over ten years before the films they dis­cuss. “The End” is a breakup song that breaks down the psy­che like LSD, send­ing the injured par­ty back to basics, and into a uni­verse of arche­types. Things are dying. Things are being reborn. There’s a blue bus which is call­ing us, and that is either a ref­er­ence to the Solar Boat in Egypt­ian mythol­o­gy or a ref­er­ence to the San­ta Mon­i­ca bus sys­tem (accord­ing to one wag in the com­ments). Or hey, maybe it is both, because Mor­ri­son is tap­ping into some­thing here, much like James Joyce cre­at­ed lay­ers of myth with­in the quo­tid­i­an. (Mor­ri­son achieves this by walk­ing back­wards into it, how­ev­er.)

Poly­phon­ic gets into the song’s Oedi­pal Cliff Notes sec­tion, describ­ing how it all came flum­ing out of Mor­ri­son on stage, the band hav­ing dragged him to a gig at the Whiskey a Go-Go after he con­sumed “10,000 mikes” (i.e. 10,000 micro­grams, about ten full dos­es) of LSD. A few days lat­er the “kill your teach­ers, kill your par­ents” riff was com­mit­ted to tape, this time also on LSD.

For all its pre­tense the song still works. And though Mor­ri­son nev­er did rec­on­cile with his girl­friend, the song did find its soul mate when Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la used “The End” as the open­ing to Apoc­a­lypse Now, anoth­er work of art that drained the life force from its cre­ator. There are no real cov­er ver­sions of “The End,” and there are no films past Coppola’s that can use it with­out irony. It exists like a totem, to be found and puz­zled over.

(But because this is late cap­i­tal­ism and every­thing is ter­ri­ble, Polyphonic’s segue into a spon­sor ad at 11:46 is some­thing won­drous to behold in its per­verse beau­ty. Be warned, my only friend.)

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Doors’ Ray Man­zarek Walks You Through the Writ­ing of the Band’s Icon­ic Song, “Rid­ers on the Storm”

“The Lost Paris Tapes” Pre­serves Jim Morrison’s Final Poet­ry Record­ings from 1971

A Young, Clean Cut Jim Mor­ri­son Appears in a 1962 Flori­da State Uni­ver­si­ty Pro­mo Film

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

The Long-Lost Pieces of Rembrandt’s Night Watch Get Reconstructed with Artificial Intelligence

Most of us know Rem­brandt’s mas­ter­piece by the name The Night Watch, but it has a longer orig­i­nal title: Mili­tia Com­pa­ny of Dis­trict II under the Com­mand of Cap­tain Frans Ban­ninck Cocq. By the same token, the ver­sion of the paint­ing we’ve all seen — what­ev­er we hap­pen to call it — is small­er than the one Rem­brandt orig­i­nal­ly paint­ed in 1642. “In 1715, the mon­u­men­tal can­vas was cut down on all four sides to fit onto a wall between two doors in Amsterdam’s Town Hall,” writes The New York Times’ Nina Sie­gal. “The snipped pieces were lost. Since the 19th cen­tu­ry, the trimmed paint­ing has been housed in the Rijksmu­se­um, where it is dis­played as the museum’s cen­ter­piece, at the focal point of its Gallery of Hon­or.”

In recent years, the Rijksmu­se­um has hon­ored The Night Watch fur­ther with a thor­ough­go­ing restora­tion called Oper­a­tion Night Watch. This ambi­tious under­tak­ing has so far pro­duced attrac­tions like the largest and most detailed pho­to­graph of the paint­ing ever tak­en, zoom-in-able to the indi­vid­ual brush­stroke.

That phase required high imag­ing tech­nol­o­gy, to be sure, but it may appear down­right con­ven­tion­al com­pared to the just-unveiled recre­ation of the work’s three-cen­turies-miss­ing pieces, which will hang on all four sides of the orig­i­nal at the Rijksmu­se­um for the next three months. This mak­ing-whole would­n’t have been pos­si­ble with­out a small copy made in the 17th cen­tu­ry — or the lat­est arti­fi­cial-intel­li­gence tech­nol­o­gy of the 21st.

Image cour­tesy of the Rijksmu­se­um

“Rather than hir­ing a painter to recon­struct the miss­ing pieces, the museum’s senior sci­en­tist, Robert Erd­mann, trained a com­put­er to recre­ate them pix­el by pix­el in Rembrandt’s style,” writes Sie­gal. Erd­mann used “a rel­a­tive­ly new tech­nol­o­gy known as con­vo­lu­tion­al neur­al net­works, a class of arti­fi­cial-intel­li­gence algo­rithms designed to help com­put­ers make sense of images.” The process, explained in more detail by Shan­ti Escalante-De Mat­tei at ART­News, involved dig­i­tal­ly “split­ting up the paint­ing into thou­sands of tiles and plac­ing match­ing tiles from both the orig­i­nal and the copy side-by-side,” train­ing mul­ti­ple neur­al net­works to com­plete the paint­ing in a style as close as pos­si­ble to Rem­brandt’s rather than the copy­ist’s. The result, with a few new faces as well as a star­tling­ly dif­fer­ent com­po­si­tion­al feel than the Night Watch we’ve all seen, would no doubt please Cap­tain Ban­ninck Cocq and his mili­ti­a­men: this, after all, is the por­trait they paid for.

You can watch videos on this Rijksmu­se­um page show­ing how the clas­sic paint­ing was restored.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

What Makes The Night Watch Rembrandt’s Mas­ter­piece

The Restora­tion of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch Begins: Watch the Painstak­ing Process On-Site and Online

The Largest & Most Detailed Pho­to­graph of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch Is Now Online: Zoom In & See Every Brush Stroke

All the Rem­brandts: The Rijksmu­se­um Puts All 400 Rem­brandts It Owns on Dis­play for the First Time

Watch an Art Con­ser­va­tor Bring Clas­sic Paint­ings Back to Life in Intrigu­ing­ly Nar­rat­ed Videos

AI & X‑Rays Recov­er Lost Art­works Under­neath Paint­ings by Picas­so & Modigliani

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.

How Radical Gardeners Took Back New York City

New York­ers’ rela­tion­ship to New York City com­mu­ni­ty gar­dens is large­ly informed by how long we’ve lived here.

Do you remem­ber the 60s, when a fis­cal cri­sis and white flight result­ed in thou­sands of vacant lots and aban­doned build­ings in low income neigh­bor­hoods?

Activists like Hat­tie Carthan and Liz Christy sprung from such soil, cre­at­ing youth pro­grams, haul­ing away debris, and putting con­stant pres­sure on elect­ed offi­cials to trans­form those urban waste­lands into green oases.

Ver­dant sites like the Bow­ery Hous­ton Com­mu­ni­ty Farm and Gar­den (now known as the Liz Christy Gar­den) improved air qual­i­ty, low­ered tem­per­a­tures, and offered a pleas­ant gath­er­ing place for neigh­bors of all ages.

In the ‘80s, the city boast­ed 1000 com­mu­ni­ty gar­dens, most­ly in neigh­bor­hoods con­sid­ered blight­ed. School aged chil­dren learned how to plant, tend, and har­vest veg­eta­bles. Immi­grant mem­bers intro­duced seeds new to Amer­i­can-born gar­den­ers, to help com­bat both home­sick­ness and food inse­cu­ri­ty. On site arts pro­grams flour­ished. There were al fres­co birth­day par­ties, con­certs, movie screen­ings, hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tions, per­ma­cul­ture class­es, com­mu­ni­ty meet­ings…. Gar­dens became focal points for com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment. Par­tic­i­pants were under­stand­ably proud, and invest­ed in what they’d built.

As Yon­nette Flem­ing, founder of the com­mu­ni­ty-led mar­ket at the Hat­tie Carthan Com­mu­ni­ty Gar­den and Farmer’s Mar­ket, says in the above episode of Vox’s Miss­ing Chap­ter: “Com­mu­ni­ty gar­dens grow com­mu­ni­ties, for the peo­ple, to be run by the peo­ple, for the ben­e­fit of the peo­ple.”

In the mid-90s, new­ly elect­ed May­or Rudy Giu­liani sided with devel­op­ers over cit­i­zens. More than half of the city’s gar­dens were bull­dozed to make way for lux­u­ry res­i­dences.

Tra­di­tion­al­ly low-rise neigh­bor­hoods like the East Vil­lage and Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuyvesant would become increas­ing­ly fash­ion­able dur­ing the ear­ly days of the new mil­len­ni­um. New arrivals with lit­tle inter­est in neigh­bor­hood his­to­ry might assume that the side­walks had always been lined with cute cafes and hip­ster bars, not to men­tion trees. (In real­i­ty, Carthan was 64 when she began her suc­cess­ful cam­paign to line Bed-Stuy with trees, and land­mark a ven­er­a­ble Mag­no­lia that was at risk of being torn down.)

Per­haps hop­ing to com­mand younger view­ers’ atten­tion, Vox’s Miss­ing Chap­ter opens not with the rich his­to­ry of New York City’s com­mu­ni­ty gar­dens, but rather the many recipes for seed bombs on Tik­Tok. The glass half full per­spec­tive on our 500-strong sur­viv­ing gar­dens can ring a bit emp­ty to those who lost the fight to pre­serve a num­ber of East Harlem gar­dens just a few short years ago.

Don’t for­get your roots! Christy’s type­writ­ten, hand illus­trat­ed Green Gueril­las recipe for seed bombs is below. (If you want to try it at home, please use seeds native to your area.)

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

A New Inter­ac­tive Map Shows All Four Mil­lion Build­ings That Exist­ed in New York City from 1939 to 1941

Behold the New York City Street Tree Map: An Inter­ac­tive Map That Cat­a­logues the 700,000 Trees Shad­ing the Streets of New York City

New York City: A Social His­to­ry (A Free Online Course from N.Y.U.) 

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Tom Jones Covers Talking Heads “Burning Down the House”–and Burns Down the House (1999)

It was sup­pos­ed­ly “the album that final­ly oblit­er­ates the thin line sep­a­rat­ing arty white pop music and deep black funk,” as David Fricke wrote on the release of Talk­ing Heads’ Speak­ing in Tongues. The praise maybe over­sells music that is more arty white pop than “deep black funk.” But there’s nev­er been any deny­ing the funk­i­ness of Talk­ing Heads, either, just as there’s nev­er been any deny­ing the soul­ful­ness of Tom Jones. Not that they’re musi­cal­ly com­pa­ra­ble artists, but both have incor­po­rat­ed Black musi­cal styles into their own idioms, win­ning respect on either side of the indus­try’s seg­re­gat­ed line for self-aware re-inter­pre­ta­tions of the blues, funk, soul, and R&B, as well as Ghan­ian high life and Niger­ian Afrobeat.

Jones’ late-career rein­ven­tion involved show­ing up on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, cov­er­ing Prince, work­ing with Wyclef Jean, and mak­ing music one might char­ac­ter­ize as gen­er­al­ly good-humored pop that show­cased his still-got-it vocal abil­i­ties. In 1999, he took on Speak­ing in Tongues’ P‑Funk-inspired sin­gle “Burn­ing Down the House” in a cov­er that can be called a slick dance-pop inter­pre­ta­tion of an art-rock re-inter­pre­ta­tion of funk music.

Joined by the Cardi­gans, Jones belts it out with his typ­i­cal swag­ger, while Cardi­gans’ singer Nina Pers­son acts as the “foil” writes Patrick Garvin at Pop Cul­ture Exper­i­ment in a roundup of the song’s many cov­ers: “She sound­ed as monot­o­ne as he sound­ed mani­a­cal. And he sound­ed pret­ty damn mani­a­cal.”

But Jones doesn’t sound mani­a­cal like David Byrne sounds mani­a­cal. The orig­i­nal track came togeth­er from a jam ses­sion, with lyrics impro­vised by Byrne, who shout­ed ran­dom phras­es until he found those that best fit the song, chang­ing the Par­lia­ment-Funkadel­ic audi­ence chant “burn down the house!” into “burn­ing down the house,” a line which could mean any­thing at all. (At one point, he tells NPR, it changed to “Foam Rub­ber, U.S.A.”) Is it a threat? A pan­icked out­cry? A cel­e­bra­tion? A man­ic lamen­ta­tion? In Byrne’s anguished yelps one can nev­er tell.

Jones makes “burn­ing down the house” sound like a come-on, set against the ici­est of tight­ly syn­co­pat­ed arrange­ments, in the most 90s of music videos ever. (Con­trast it with the live ver­sion above, with P‑Funk’s own Bernie Wor­rell on key­boards, from Jonathan Demme’s Stop Mak­ing Sense.) Every cov­er of the song, and there are many, does its own thing. “The one con­sis­tent aspect,” Garvin writes, “is Byrne’s weird lyrics… because they don’t tell a sto­ry in a lin­ear sense, they can take on any vari­ety of mean­ings.”

Accord­ing to Byrne him­self, the song did take on added res­o­nance for him, per­fect­ly in keep­ing with the 90s rebirth of Tom Jones. “I didn’t real­ly know at the time,” he said in 1984, “but to me… it implies ecsta­t­ic rebirth or tran­scend­ing one’s own self…. In clas­sic psy­chol­o­gy, the house is the self. And burn­ing it down is destroy­ing your­self… And the assump­tion is you get reborn, like a Phoenix from the ash­es. See? It’s all there.” Indeed.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Tom Jones Per­forms “Long Time Gone” with Cros­by, Stills, Nash & Young–and Blows the Band & Audi­ence Away (1969)

Janis Joplin & Tom Jones Bring the House Down in an Unlike­ly Duet of “Raise Your Hand” (1969)

Talk­ing Heads Live in Rome, 1980: The Con­cert Film You Haven’t Seen

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

The Artistic & Mystical World of Tarot: See Decks by Salvador Dalí, Aleister Crowley, H.R. Giger & More

The tarot goes back to Italy of the late Mid­dle Ages. Every day here in the 21st cen­tu­ry, I see unde­ni­able signs of its cul­tur­al and tem­po­ral tran­scen­dence: specif­i­cal­ly, the tarot shops doing busi­ness here and there along the streets of Seoul, where I live. The tarot began as a deck for play, but these aren’t deal­ers in card-gam­ing sup­plies; rather, their pro­pri­etors use tarot decks to pro­vide cus­tomers sug­ges­tions about their des­tiny and advice on what to do in the future. Over the past five or six cen­turies, the pur­pose of the tarot many have changed, but its orig­i­nal artis­tic sen­si­bil­i­ty — dra­mat­ic, sym­bol-laden, and high­ly sub­ject to coun­ter­in­tu­itive inter­pre­ta­tion — has remained intact.

You can get an idea of that orig­i­nal artis­tic sen­si­bil­i­ty by tak­ing a look at the the Sola-Bus­ca, the old­est known com­plete deck of tarot cards. Dat­ing from the 1490s, it holds obvi­ous his­tor­i­cal inter­est, but it’s hard­ly the only tarot deck we’ve fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture.

Artists of sub­se­quent eras, up to and includ­ing our own, have cre­at­ed spe­cial decks in accor­dance with their dis­tinc­tive visions. The unstop­pable sur­re­al­ist Sal­vador Dalí designed his own, a project embarked upon at the behest of James Bond film pro­duc­er Albert Broc­coli. Lat­er, the mas­ter of bio­mech­anism H.R. Giger received a tarot com­mis­sion as well; though his deck uses pre­vi­ous­ly unpub­lished rather than cus­tom-made art, it all looks sur­pris­ing­ly, some­times chill­ing­ly fit­ting.

The world’s most pop­u­lar tarot deck was designed not by a famous artist, but by an illus­tra­tor named Pamela Cole­man-Smith. Many more have used and appre­ci­at­ed her work than even, say, the Thoth deck, designed by no less renowned an occultist than Aleis­ter Crow­ley, “the wickedest man in the world.” If you won’t take his word for it, per­haps the founder of ana­lyt­i­cal psy­chol­o­gy can sell you on the mer­its of tarot: for Carl Jung, the deck held out the pos­si­bil­i­ty of the “intu­itive method” he sought for “under­stand­ing the flow of life, pos­si­bly even pre­dict­ing future events, at all events lend­ing itself to the read­ing of the con­di­tions of the present moment.” (See his deck here.) Even if you’re not in search of such a method, few oth­er arti­facts weave togeth­er so many threads of art, phi­los­o­phy, his­to­ry, and sym­bol­ism. Of course, no few mod­ern enthu­si­asts find in it the same appeal as did those ear­ly tarot play­ers of the 15th cen­tu­ry: it’s fun.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Meet the For­got­ten Female Artist Behind the World’s Most Pop­u­lar Tarot Deck (1909)

Sal­vador Dalí’s Tarot Cards Get Re-Issued: The Occult Meets Sur­re­al­ism in a Clas­sic Tarot Card Deck

The Thoth Tarot Deck Designed by Famed Occultist Aleis­ter Crow­ley

H.R. Giger’s Tarot Cards: The Swiss Artist, Famous for His Design Work on Alien, Takes a Jour­ney into the Occult

Behold the Sola-Bus­ca Tarot Deck, the Ear­li­est Com­plete Set of Tarot Cards (1490)

Divine Decks: A Visu­al His­to­ry of Tarot: The First Com­pre­hen­sive Sur­vey of Tarot Gets Pub­lished by Taschen

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.

1540 Monet Paintings in a Two Hour Video

I am dis­tressed, almost dis­cour­aged, and fatigued to the point of feel­ing slight­ly ill. What I am doing is no good, and in spite of your con­fi­dence I am very much afraid that my efforts will all lead to noth­ing. 

To know any­thing about the school of paint­ing called Impres­sion­ism, one must know Claude Mon­et, who gave the move­ment its name with his paint­ing Impres­sion, Sun­rise and pro­vid­ed its method — an almost con­fronta­tion­al rela­tion­ship with land­scape in plein-air. “I have gone back to some things that can’t pos­si­bly be done: water, with weeds wav­ing at the bot­tom,” Mon­et wrote in a let­ter to his friend Gus­tave Gef­froy in 1890. “It is a won­der­ful sight, but it dri­ves one crazy try­ing to paint it. But that is the kind of thing I am always tack­ling.”

That “kind of thing,” the com­pul­sion to paint nature in motion, required work­ing quick­ly, repeat­ing the same exper­i­ments over and over, despair­ing of get­ting it right, pro­duc­ing in the attempt his glo­ri­ous series of haystacks and water lilies. Mon­et began paint­ing land­scapes upon meet­ing artist Eugene Boudin, who taught him to paint in open air, and he nev­er stopped, refin­ing his brush­stroke for almost sev­en­ty years: from his first can­vas, 1858’s View from the banks of the Lezade, to his last, The Rose Bush, fin­ished in 1926, the final year of his life.

What­ev­er else Impres­sion­ism might mean, when it comes to Mon­et, it entails a prodi­gious amount of draw­ing, sketch­ing, and paint­ing. Over 2,500 such works have been attrib­uted to him. That num­ber is prob­a­bly much high­er “as it is known that Mon­et destroyed a num­ber of his own works and oth­ers have sure­ly been lost over time,” notes the Mon­et Gallery. Around 2,000 of those works are paint­ings, now spread around the world, with the largest col­lec­tion locat­ed at the Mar­mot­tan Mon­et Muse­um in Paris, where Impres­sion, Sun­rise (above) is held.

While it may be near­ly impos­si­ble to see all of Monet’s known works in one life­time (just as it seems impos­si­ble that he could have made so many mas­ter­pieces in one life), you can see 1540 of them in the video at the top — in a pre­sen­ta­tion that may or may not suit your art view­ing sen­si­bil­i­ties. If zoom­ing slow­ly into hun­dreds of Mon­et paint­ings for a few sec­onds leaves you feel­ing a lit­tle over­whelmed, you can also head to the Mon­et Gallery online to see over 1900 of the artist’s attempts at “fol­low­ing Nature,” as he put it, “with­out being able to grasp her.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Rare 1915 Film Shows Claude Mon­et at Work in His Famous Gar­den at Giverny

Claude Mon­et at Work in His Famous Gar­den at Giverny: Rare Film from 1915

How to Paint Water Lilies Like Mon­et in 14 Min­utes

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

Every Roman Emperor: A Video Timeline Moving from Augustus to the Byzantine Empire’s Last Ruler, Constantine XI

Famed Roman ora­tor and con­sul Cicero is cel­e­brat­ed as a staunch defend­er of the Repub­lic, and of tra­di­tion­al Roman moral­i­ty and civic virtues. He was also a shrewd oppor­tunist who sur­vived the Republic’s demise and lived to tell about it, although he sup­port­ed Julius Cae­sar’s rival Pom­pey in the con­test for con­trol of Rome. When Cae­sar became a dic­ta­tor, he for­gave Cicero. And when Cae­sar was mur­dered, Cicero applaud­ed:

Our tyrant deserved his death for hav­ing made an excep­tion of the one thing that was the black­est crime of all… here you have a man who was ambi­tious to be king of the Roman Peo­ple and mas­ter of the whole world; and he achieved it! The man who main­tains that such an ambi­tion is moral­ly right is a mad­man, for he jus­ti­fies the destruc­tion of law and lib­er­ty and thinks their hideous and detestable sup­pres­sion glo­ri­ous…. All hon­est men killed Cae­sar… some lacked design, some courage, some oppor­tu­ni­ty: none lacked the will. 

Cicero then attached him­self to Cae­sar’s great-nephew and named suc­ces­sor, Octa­vian, the future Augus­tus, Rome’s first emper­or. “The elder states­man was extreme­ly flat­tered to have Octa­vian ‘total­ly devot­ed to me,’” José Miguel Baños writes at Nation­al Geo­graph­ic. “He became con­vinced that an alliance with Octa­vian might help to destroy [Mark] Antony’s polit­i­cal aspi­ra­tions.” This time, Cicero backed the right dic­ta­tor. Nonethe­less, before com­mit­ting sui­cide with his lover Cleopa­tra, Antony had the great ora­tor behead­ed. It was “the moment,” writes Baños, “the Roman Repub­lic tru­ly died.”

Cicero’s death, and Augus­tus’ ascen­sion, marked the birth of the Roman Empire, ruled by a suc­ces­sion of emper­ors — or some­times two, three, or even six or sev­en emper­ors. Many of these are renowned, right­ly or wrong­ly, for their deca­dence and hedo­nism. Caligu­la, Nero, Com­modus have all become vil­lains in fea­ture films. Some were philoso­phers, like Mar­cus Aure­lius; some were teenagers, like Heli­o­ga­balus, who reigned from age 14 to age 18, when he was mur­dered by his own Prae­to­ri­an guard, and Romu­lus Augus­tu­lus, the last of the West­ern emper­ors, who ascend­ed at age 12, a proxy for his father, and was deposed by Ger­man gen­er­al Odoac­er in 476 AD.

The Empire con­tin­ued for anoth­er 1000 years of Chris­t­ian rule in the East, first under Con­stan­tine, in Con­stan­tino­ple (now Istan­bul), which had been named Byzan­tium; hence Rome became the Byzan­tine Empire. The video above shows a time­line of every Roman emper­or from Augus­tus to the very last ruler of the East­ern Empire, Con­stan­tine XI Palaiol­o­gos, who sur­ren­dered Con­stan­tino­ple in 1453 to Ottoman Sul­tan Mehmet II.

The Empire had final­ly fall­en, 1500 years after Cicero warned of the Republic’s demise. Before his army’s defeat, the last Byzan­tine Emper­or gave a speech to “the descen­dants of the Greeks and Romans.”

I can tell you that this city mas­tered the entire uni­verse; She placed beneath her feet Pon­tus, Arme­nia, Paphlag­o­nia, The Ama­zon­ian lands, Cap­pado­cia, Gala­tia, Media, Geor­gian Colchis, Bospho­ros, Alba­nia, Syr­ia, Cili­cia, Mesopotamia, Phoeni­cia, Pales­tine, Ara­bia, Judea, Bac­tria, Scythia, Mace­do­nia, Thes­saly, Boeo­tia, Locris, Aeto­lia, Arcar­na­nia, Achaea, the Pelo­pon­nese, Epirus, Illyr­ia, Lykhnites, the Adri­at­ic, Italy, Tus­cany, the Celts, and Gala­t­ian Celts, Spain up to Cadiz, Libya, Mau­ri­ta­nia, Ethiopia, Beledes, Scude, Numidia, Africa and Egypt.

Con­sid­er, said the last emper­or, “my broth­ers and com­rades in arms, how the com­mem­o­ra­tion of our death, our mem­o­ry, fame and free­dom can be ren­dered eter­nal.”

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

What Did the Roman Emper­ors Look Like?: See Pho­to­re­al­is­tic Por­traits Cre­at­ed with Machine Learn­ing

Hear an Ancient Chi­nese His­to­ri­an Describe The Roman Empire (and Oth­er Voic­es of the Past)

The Chang­ing Land­scape of Ancient Rome: A Free Online Course from Sapien­za Uni­ver­si­ty of Rome 

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

Hear Demos & Outtakes of Joni Mitchell’s Blue on the 50th Anniversary of the Classic Album

When Joni Mitchell released Blue in 1971, she revealed her­self to the world as a poet with a hard-boiled inte­ri­or life. The album, writes Rolling Stone, chal­lenged the image many had of her as an inno­cent flower child. “The West Coast fem­i­nine ide­al” was a role “Mitchell hadn’t asked for and did not want.” Of her writ­ing of the album, she said in a 2013 inter­view, “They bet­ter find out who they’re wor­ship­ping. Let’s see if they can take it. Let’s get real.”

Get real she did, shock­ing the men around her, some of whom she’d writ­ten about can­did­ly, includ­ing Gra­ham Nash, Leonard Cohen, and James Tay­lor, who played on sev­er­al tracks. She wrote about the heart­break of leav­ing her daugh­ter and rewrote the breakup song as a con­fes­sion­al on “Riv­er.” The album’s cul­tur­al impact, 50 years after its release, has much to do with Mitchell as a lone female pro­tag­o­nist in a male-dom­i­nat­ed indus­try. “Along with its roman­tic melan­choly,” Rolling Stone writes, “Blue was the sound of a woman avail­ing her­self of the roman­tic and sex­u­al free­dom that was, until then, an exclu­sive­ly male province in rock.”

We lis­ten to Blue now and hear the voic­es of lat­er gen­er­a­tions of singer-song­writ­ers, from Tra­cy Chap­man and Tori Amos to Phoebe Bridgers, who seized their own pow­er. By the time of Blue’s release, Mitchell had become a pow­er­ful voice of her gen­er­a­tion, pen­ning “Wood­stock” just the year before. “Blue is Mitchell’s first song cycle where­by all the songs inter­re­late in their themes of loss and trans­for­ma­tion,” writes Clas­sic Album Sun­days. “The album reflects the dis­il­lu­sion­ment and dis­en­chant­ment felt by a gen­er­a­tion dur­ing the clos­ing of The Six­ties.”

“It’s a descrip­tion of the times,” Mitchell attests. “There were so many sink­ing but I had to keep think­ing I could make it through the waves. You watched that high of the hip­pie thing descend into drug depres­sion. Right after Wood­stock, then we went through a decade of basic apa­thy where my gen­er­a­tion sucked it’s thumb and then just decid­ed to be greedy and porno­graph­ic.”

As if cap­tur­ing the feel­ings of her own per­son­al loss­es and those of mil­lions of oth­ers weren’t enough, Mitchell’s song­writ­ing and musi­cian­ship on the album are con­sis­tent­ly aston­ish­ing, each word mar­ried to a sus­pend­ed note, an unex­pect­ed chord voic­ing, a preg­nant breath. “My words and music are locked togeth­er,” she says. She proved on Blue that she was a tal­ent to be reck­oned with and nev­er under­es­ti­mat­ed. On the 50th anniver­sary of Blue’s release, Mitchell is releas­ing a five song EP, Blue 50 (Demos & Out­takes), which you can hear above (see track­list below).

  1. A Case Of You (Demo) 0:00:00
  2. Cal­i­for­nia (Demo) 0:04:00
  3. Hunter (Out­take) 0:07:30
  4. Riv­er (Out­take with French Horns) 0:10:25
  5. Urge For Going (Out­take with Strings) 0:14:27

It’s a doc­u­ment of a dif­fer­ent album, one that might have includ­ed “Hunter” — a coun­try-like strum­mer  — and might have had french horns on “Riv­er,” per­haps the album’s best-known song and one of the most beloved Christ­mas songs of the past 50 years. Look for the next release cel­e­brat­ing a half-cen­tu­ry of Blue on Octo­ber 29th. Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 2: The Reprise Years (1968–1971) “will explore the peri­od lead­ing up to Blue,” notes her offi­cial YouTube, “through near­ly six hours of unre­leased home, stu­dio, and live record­ings.” Or, you could just lis­ten to Blue over and over. It seems to reveal some­thing dif­fer­ent every time.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

How Joni Mitchell’s Song of Heart­break, “Riv­er,” Became a Christ­mas Clas­sic

How Joni Mitchell Wrote “Wood­stock,” the Song that Defined the Leg­endary Music Fes­ti­val, Even Though She Wasn’t There (1969)

Watch Joni Mitchell Sing an Immac­u­late Ver­sion of Her Song “Coy­ote,” with Bob Dylan, Roger McGuinn & Gor­don Light­foot (1975)

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

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