An Archaeologist Creates the Definitive Guide to Beer Cans

Image via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

As a bev­er­age of choice and neces­si­ty for much of the pop­u­la­tion in parts of the ancient world, beer has played an impor­tant role in archae­ol­o­gy. Beer cans, on the oth­er hand, have not. Unlike mil­len­nia-old recipes, beer cans seem like no more than trash, even in a field where trash is high­ly trea­sured. This is a mis­take, says arche­ol­o­gist Jane Busch. “The his­tor­i­cal archae­ol­o­gist who ignores the beer can at his site is like the pre­his­toric arche­ol­o­gist who ignores his­toric pot­tery.”

David Maxwell, an expert in ani­mal bones who trained as a Mayanist, has rec­og­nized the truth of this state­ment by turn­ing his pas­sion for beer can col­lect­ing into beer can archae­ol­o­gy, a tiny niche with­in the small­er field of “tin can archae­ol­o­gy.” Maxwell became the reign­ing expert on beer can dat­ing when “in 1993, he pub­lished a field-iden­ti­fi­ca­tion guide in His­tor­i­cal Archae­ol­o­gy,” notes Jes­si­ca Gin­grich at Atlas Obscu­ra, “which has since become an indus­try stan­dard and his most-read work.”

The first com­mer­cial canned beer appeared in 1935, after sev­er­al unsuc­cess­ful exper­i­ments start­ing in 1909. Exper­i­ments in beer can­ning took a hia­tus dur­ing Pro­hi­bi­tion, and canned beer itself went off the mar­ket dur­ing WWII as sup­plies of tin plate were rerout­ed to the war effort. Dur­ing that inter­reg­num, only the mil­i­tary shipped canned beer, to sol­diers over­seas in olive and camo-col­ored cans. When sales resumed after the war, beer cans assumed more rou­tinized design ele­ments. Maxwell him­self became fas­ci­nat­ed with beer cans from afar. “While canned beer sales explod­ed in the Unit­ed States after World War II, Gin­grich writes, “the indus­try failed to take off in Cana­da until the 1980s.”

As a child in Cana­da, Maxwell col­lect­ed bot­tle caps. “All the beer came in the same shape bot­tle,” he says. Cans seemed exot­ic, espe­cial­ly those of an old­er vin­tage. “They had punch­es to open them instead of pull rings, and all I knew was that they pre­dat­ed me.” The val­ue of dis­pos­able arti­facts less than 100 years old isn’t imme­di­ate­ly appar­ent to most peo­ple, says Jim Rock, a pio­neer of tin can stud­ies who calls cans “the Rod­ney Dan­ger­field of arche­ol­o­gy. They just don’t get any respect.” But the fact is “all arche­ol­o­gy is garbage,” says Maxwell.

Dat­ing cans gives arche­ol­o­gists a pic­ture of mod­ern con­sump­tion pat­terns — and pat­terns of eco­log­i­cal destruc­tion — in the refuse tossed on high­ways and the stra­ta of trash found in con­struc­tion sites, land­fills, and even ancient dig sites, where dat­ing beer cans can tell arche­ol­o­gists when ear­li­er tres­passers might have arrived, removed or altered arti­facts, and left their trash behind. Maxwell, who has recent­ly down­sized his col­lec­tion from 4500 to 1700 cans to save space, admits that a nar­row focus on the beer can takes a spe­cial com­bi­na­tion of skills.

“Col­lec­tors are a fab­u­lous resource for aca­d­e­mics,” he says. “These are the guys who do the grunt work” — the end­less­ly curi­ous cit­i­zen sci­en­tists of archae­ol­o­gy. “I can’t think of any­one else who would do that except some­one who is obses­sive about what it is that they are col­lect­ing.” In Maxwell, the obses­sive col­lec­tor and rig­or­ous aca­d­e­m­ic just hap­pened to come togeth­er to pro­duce the defin­i­tive guide. (See Beer Cans: A Guide for the Archae­ol­o­gist online.) But even he has had to “face the ques­tion of what deserves to be archived and kept,” Nico­la Jones writes at Sapi­ens. In dis­card­ing 3,000 of his own cans, most of them acquired through col­lec­tors online, he had to admit that “though the rusty cans were a part of his­to­ry, they weren’t worth much to the rest of the world.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Beer Archae­ol­o­gy: Yes, It’s a Thing

The Sci­ence of Beer: A New Free Online Course Promis­es to Enhance Your Appre­ci­a­tion of the Time­less Bev­er­age

The First Known Pho­to­graph of Peo­ple Shar­ing a Beer (1843)

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

Build Wooden Models of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Great Building: The Guggenheim, Unity Temple, Johnson Wax Headquarters & More

Frank Lloyd Wright had his eccen­tric­i­ties, in not just his per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al con­duct but also the very lan­guage with which he described the world. Among the endur­ing­ly fas­ci­nat­ing ele­ments of his idi­olect is the word Uson­ian, which refers to things of or per­tain­ing to the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca.  Wright did­n’t coin the term: its ear­li­est record­ed user is the ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry writer James Duff Law, who declared that “We of the Unit­ed States, in jus­tice to Cana­di­ans and Mex­i­cans, have no right to use the title ‘Amer­i­cans’ when refer­ring to mat­ters per­tain­ing exclu­sive­ly to our­selves.” The most famous archi­tect in Amer­i­can his­to­ry took Uson­ian fur­ther, using it to label an Amer­i­can archi­tec­tur­al sen­si­bil­i­ty — of, nat­u­ral­ly, his own design.

Though Wright did envi­sion an ide­al­ly Uson­ian city, his clear­est expres­sions of the aes­thet­ic stand today in the form of the Uson­ian hous­es. Built between 1934 and 1958, these six­ty or so res­i­dences take advan­tage, as Wright saw it, of the range of dis­tinc­tive set­tings offered up by the land­scapes of the Unit­ed States.

Designed with fea­tures like gar­den ter­races, cleresto­ry win­dows, flat roofs with wide over­hangs, and easy visu­al and phys­i­cal pas­sage between the indoors and out­doors, these urban-rur­al hybrids still today draw the admi­ra­tion of archi­tects and non-archi­tects alike. But tru­ly to under­stand a Uson­ian house, per­haps you must build one your­self: luck­i­ly, the Lit­tle Build­ing Com­pa­ny offers a mod­el kit that lets you do just that.

Their Wright line­up also includes minia­ture wood­en ver­sions of his 1908 Uni­ty Tem­ple in Oak Park, his 1937 John­son Wax Head­quar­ters in Racine, and his 1937 Solomon R. Guggen­heim Muse­um in New York. The dif­fer­ences in scale and com­plex­i­ty between these build­ings make for a nat­ur­al mod­el-build­ing dif­fi­cul­ty curve: once you’ve done a Wright house, you’ll be ready for a Wright tem­ple; once you’ve done a Wright tem­ple, you’ll be ready for a Wright cor­po­rate head­quar­ters, and so on. Not only will the effort hone your man­u­al dex­ter­i­ty, it will height­en your appre­ci­a­tion for the Amer­i­can archi­tec­ture-defin­ing inno­va­tions Wright pulled off in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry. But do you have to be from the Unit­ed States to under­stand the Uson­ian? Based in Aus­tralia and sell­ing to the world, the Lit­tle Build­ing Com­pa­ny sug­gests not.

via MyMod­ern­Met

Relat­ed Con­tent:

12 Famous Frank Lloyd Wright Hous­es Offer Vir­tu­al Tours: Hol­ly­hock House, Tal­iesin West, Falling­wa­ter & More

Frank Lloyd Wright Designs an Urban Utopia: See His Hand-Drawn Sketch­es of Broad­acre City (1932)

The Mod­ernist Gas Sta­tions of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe

How Frank Lloyd Wright’s Son Invent­ed Lin­coln Logs, “America’s Nation­al Toy” (1916)

That Far Cor­ner: Frank Lloyd Wright in Los Ange­les – a Free Online Doc­u­men­tary

Omoshi­roi Blocks: Japan­ese Memo Pads Reveal Intri­cate Build­ings As The Pages Get Used

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.

Watch Lost Studio Footage of Brian Wilson Conducting “Good Vibrations,” The Beach Boys’ Brilliant “Pocket Symphony”

After Bri­an Wil­son cre­at­ed what Hen­drix called the “psy­che­del­ic bar­ber­shop quar­tet” sound of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, he moved on to what he promised would be anoth­er quan­tum leap beyond. “Our new album,” Smile, he claimed, “will be as much an improve­ment over Sounds as that was over Sum­mer Days.” But in his pur­suit to almost sin­gle-hand­ed­ly sur­pass the Bea­t­les in the art of stu­dio per­fec­tion­ism, Wil­son over­reached. He famous­ly scrapped the Smile ses­sions, and instead released the hasti­ly-record­ed Smi­ley Smile to ful­fill con­tract oblig­a­tions in 1967.

Smi­ley Smile’s pecu­liar genius went unrec­og­nized at the time, par­tic­u­lar­ly because its cen­ter­piece, “Good Vibra­tions,” had set expec­ta­tions so high. Record­ed and released as a sin­gle in 1966, the song would be referred to as  a “pock­et sym­pho­ny” (a phrase invent­ed either by Wil­son him­self or pub­li­cist Derek Tay­lor). Even the jad­ed ses­sion play­ers who sat in for the hours of record­ing — vet­er­ans from the famed “Wreck­ing Crew” — knew they were mak­ing some­thing that tran­scend­ed the usu­al rut of pop sim­plic­i­ty.

“We were doing two, three record dates a day,” says organ play­er Mike Melvoin, “and the lev­el of sophis­ti­ca­tion was, like, not real­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed at all.” The “Good Vibra­tions” ses­sions were anoth­er expe­ri­ence entire­ly. “All of a sud­den, you walk in, and here’s run-on songs. It’s like this sec­tion fol­lowed by that sec­tion fol­lowed by this sec­tion, and each of them with a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter. And you’re going, ‘Whoa.’” Wreck­ing Crew bassist Car­ol Kay, who sat in for the ses­sions but didn’t make the final mix, remem­bers think­ing, “that wasn’t your nor­mal rock ‘n’ roll…. You were part of a sym­pho­ny.”

Wilson’s pop sym­phonies were cre­at­ed and arranged not on paper but dur­ing the record­ing ses­sions them­selves, which account­ed for the 90 hours of tape and tens of thou­sands of dol­lars in expens­es, the most mon­ey ever spent on a pop sin­gle. He made cre­ative deci­sions accord­ing to what he called “feels,” frag­ments of melody and sound that formed his avant-garde pas­tich­es. “Each feel rep­re­sent­ed a mood or an emo­tion I’d felt,” he recalled, “and I planned to fit them togeth­er like a mosa­ic.” Not every­one could see the plan at first.

But when Wil­son final­ly emerged from months of iso­la­tion after cut­ting and mix­ing hours and hours of tape, the rest of the band was “very blown out,” he says. “They were most blown out. They said, ‘God­damn, how can you pos­si­bly do this, Bri­an?’ I said, ‘Some­thing got inside of me.’… They go, ‘Well, it’s fan­tas­tic.’ And so they sang real­ly good just to show me how much they liked it.” In the edit­ed footage at the top, tak­en over the six months of record­ing in four dif­fer­ent stu­dios, you can see drum­mer Hal Blaine, organ play­er Mick Melvoin, dou­ble bass play­er Lyle Ritz, and the Beach Boys them­selves all record­ing their parts.

To the press, Wil­son told one sto­ry — “Good Vibra­tions” was “still stick­ing pret­ty close to that same boy-girl thing, you know, but with a dif­fer­ence. And it’s a start, it’s def­i­nite­ly a start.” But the song — which he first want­ed to call “Good Vibes” — is very much meant to sug­gest “the healthy ema­na­tions that should result from psy­chic tran­quil­i­ty and inner peace,” wrote Bruce Gold­en in The Beach Boys: South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Pas­toral. In that sense, “Good Vibra­tions” was aspi­ra­tional, almost trag­i­cal­ly so, for Wil­son, who could not ful­fill its promis­es. Yet, in anoth­er sense, “Good Vibra­tions” is itself the ful­fill­ment of Wilson’s cre­ative promise, an eter­nal­ly bril­liant “pock­et sym­pho­ny” — and as Wil­son told engi­neer Chuck Britz dur­ing the ses­sions, his “whole life per­for­mance in one track.”

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

The Mag­ic of the Beach Boys’ Har­monies: Hear Iso­lat­ed Vocals from “Sloop John B.,” “God Only Knows,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” & Oth­er Pet Sounds Clas­sics

The Beach Boys’ Bri­an Wil­son & Bea­t­les Pro­duc­er George Mar­tin Break Down “God Only Knows,” the “Great­est Song Ever Writ­ten”

How the Beach Boys Cre­at­ed Their Pop Mas­ter­pieces: “Good Vibra­tions,” Pet Sounds, and More

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

The Black Film Archive: A New Site Highlights 200+ Noteworthy Black Films Made Between 1915–1979

The just launched Black Film Archive is a labor of love for the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion, thanks to audi­ence strate­gist, Maya Cade.

Begin­ning in June 2020, she began research­ing films pro­duced between 1915 to 1979 that are avail­able for stream­ing, and “have some­thing sig­nif­i­cant to say about the Black expe­ri­ence; speak to Black audi­ences; and/or have a Black star, writer, pro­duc­er, or direc­tor.”

Thus far, she’s col­lect­ed over 200 films, span­ning the peri­od between 1915’s Black-pro­duced silent slap­stick short, Two Knights of Vaude­ville and 1978’s star­ry big bud­get musi­cal, The Wiz, a com­mer­cial flop that “major Hol­ly­wood stu­dios used … as a rea­son to stop invest­ing in Black cin­e­ma.”

Cade rea­sons that the rise of Black inde­pen­dent film in the 80s makes 1979 “feel like a nat­ur­al stop­ping point” for the archive. She’s also push­ing back against the notion of Black Films as trau­ma porn:

As debates about Black film’s asso­ci­a­tion with trau­ma rage on, I hope Black Film Archive can offer a dif­fer­ent lens through which to under­stand Black cin­e­mat­ic his­to­ry, one that takes into con­sid­er­a­tion the full weight of the past. Through this lens, it is easy to see that the notion that “Black films are only trau­mat­ic” is based on gen­er­al­iza­tions and impres­sions of recent times (often pinned to the suc­cess of films like 12 Years a Slave) rather than a deep­er engage­ment with his­to­ry, which reveals that “slave films” con­sti­tute only a small per­cent­age of the Black films that have been made. I hope con­ver­sa­tions evolve to con­sid­er the expan­sive archive of rad­i­cal ideas and expres­sion found in Black films’ past.

The col­lec­tion, which Cade will be updat­ing month­ly, has some­thing for every­one — com­e­dy, dra­ma, doc­u­men­taries, musi­cals, silent films, for­eign films, and yes, Blax­ploita­tion.

Some of the titles — To Sir with LoveA Raisin in the SunShaft — are far from obscure, and you’ll find appear­ances by many Black per­form­ers and doc­u­men­tary sub­jects whose lega­cies endure: Paul Robe­sonCice­ly TysonSid­ney Poiti­erJosephine Bak­erDorothy Dan­dridgeBil­ly Dee Williams and Richard Pry­orMuham­mad AliMal­colm XLight­nin’ Hop­kins.…

But the archive is also a won­der­ful oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cov­er direc­tors, per­form­ers, and films with which you may be utter­ly unfa­mil­iar.

Black Girl, 1966, was the first fea­ture of Ous­mane Sem­bène, the father of African cin­e­ma, and the first fea­ture made in Africa by a sub-Saha­ran African to attract inter­na­tion­al notice. It fol­lows a Sene­galese domes­tic work­er serv­ing a wealthy white fam­i­ly on the Côte d’Azur. Ear­ly on Dioua­na is seen work­ing in the kitchen, naive­ly dream­ing of adven­tures that sure­ly await once she’s fin­ished prepar­ing “a real African dish” for her employer’s din­ner guests:

Maybe we’ll go to Cannes, Nice, Monte Car­lo. We’ll look in all the pret­ty stores and when the mis­tress pays me, I’ll buy pret­ty dress­es, shoes, silk undies, and pret­ty wigs. And I’ll get my pic­ture tak­en on the beach, and I’ll send it back to Dakar, and they’ll all die of jeal­ousy!

One of sev­er­al adap­ta­tions of Tim­o­thy Shay Arthur’s pop­u­lar 1854 tem­per­ance nov­el, The Col­ored Play­ers Film Cor­po­ra­tion of Philadelphia’s 1926 melo­dra­ma, Ten Nights in a Bar Room, fea­tures a star turn by the mul­ti-tal­ent­ed Charles Gilpin, the most suc­cess­ful Black stage per­former of the ear­ly 20th Cen­tu­ry.

The Emper­or Jones may have pro­vid­ed Paul Robe­son with his icon­ic, break­through role, but the part was first played onstage by Gilpin, who was fired by play­wright Eugene O’Neill after it was dis­cov­ered he was repeat­ed­ly swap­ping out the script’s many instances of the N‑word for gen­tler terms like “Black boy.”

As Indy Week’s Byron Woods notes in a pre­view of N, Adri­enne Ear­le Pender’s play about O’Neill and Gilpin:

A 1921 review in Negro World con­clud­ed, “We imag­ine if Mr. Gilpin is an intel­li­gent and loy­al Negro, his heart must ache and rebel with­in him as he is forced to belie his race.” When the work was staged in Harlem, Langston Hugh­es recalled that the audi­ence “howled with laugh­ter.”

The Oscar nom­i­nat­ed The Qui­et One, from 1948, was the first major Amer­i­can film to posi­tion a Black child — 10-year old non-actor Don­ald Thomp­son — front and cen­ter.

Osten­si­bly a doc­u­men­tary, it took an unflinch­ing look at the emo­tion­al­ly tur­bu­lent exis­tence of a neglect­ed Harlem boy, and offered no easy solu­tions, even as he begins to come out of his shell at the Wiltwyck School for Boys.

The cast, includ­ing a num­ber of stu­dents from the Wiltwyck School, is almost entire­ly Black, with Ulysses Kay’s jazz score pro­vid­ing an urgent pulse to real life scenes of mid-cen­tu­ry Harlem.

The white pro­duc­tion team fea­tured sev­er­al high pro­file, social­ly con­scious names — nov­el­ist and film crit­ic James Agee con­tributed poet­ic com­men­tary and pho­tog­ra­ph­er Helen Levitt was one of two prin­ci­pal cam­era peo­ple.

Cur­rent­ly, the Black Film Archive is orga­nized by decade, though we hope one day this might be expand­ed to encom­pass gen­res, as well as a search option that would allow view­ers to dis­cov­er work by direc­tor and per­form­ers.

For now, Cade’s cura­tor picks are an excel­lent place to begin your explo­rations.

This mam­moth under­tak­ing is a self-fund­ed one-woman oper­a­tion. Dona­tions are wel­come, as are paid sub­scrip­tions to the Black Film Archive Sub­stack.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Watch Free Films by African Amer­i­can Film­mak­ers in the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion … and the New Civ­il Rights Film, Just Mer­cy

Watch the First-Ever Kiss on Film Between Two Black Actors, Just Hon­ored by the Library of Con­gress (1898)

Watch the Pio­neer­ing Films of Oscar Micheaux, America’s First Great African-Amer­i­can Film­mak­er

Watch Lime Kiln Club Field Day, One of the Ear­li­est Sur­viv­ing Fea­ture Films with an All Black Cast (1913)

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

Two Haruki Murakami Stories Adapted into Short Films: Watch Attack on a Bakery (1982) and A Girl, She Is 100% (1983)

At this year’s Cannes Film Fes­ti­val, the Award for Best Screen­play went to Ryusuke Ham­aguchi’s Dri­ve My Car, an adap­ta­tion of a sto­ry by Haru­ki Muraka­mi. So did FIPRESCI Prize, the Prize of the Ecu­meni­cal Jury, and no small amount of crit­i­cal acclaim, sug­gest­ing that the code for trans­lat­ing Muraka­mi onto the screen might final­ly have been cracked. Every now and again over the past forty years, a bold film­mak­er has tak­en on the chal­lenge of turn­ing a work of that most world-famous Japan­ese nov­el­ist into a fea­ture. But until recent­ly, the results have for the most part not been received as espe­cial­ly con­se­quen­tial in and of them­selves.

In gen­er­al, short fic­tion tends to pro­duce more sat­is­fy­ing adap­ta­tions than full-fledged nov­els, and Murakami’s work seems not to be an excep­tion (as under­scored a few years ago by Kore­an auteur Lee Chang-dong’s Burn­ing). Ham­aguchi’s film spins some 40 pages into a run­ning time of near­ly three hours, doing the oppo­site of what oth­er Japan­ese film­mak­ers have done with Murakami’s short sto­ries. In 1982, Nao­to Yamakawa made one of them into Attack on a Bak­ery, a short film run­ning less than twen­ty min­utes; the fol­low­ing year, he made anoth­er into the even short­er A Girl, She is 100%, run­ning less than fif­teen. Today Muraka­mi fans every­where can watch them both on Youtube, com­plete with Eng­lish sub­ti­tles.

The mate­r­i­al will feel famil­iar to Eng­lish-lan­guage Muraka­mi read­ers. A main char­ac­ter of the sto­ry “The Sec­ond Bak­ery Attack” rem­i­nisces about a rob­bery he attempt­ed as a hun­gry young man that went com­i­cal­ly off the rails, in a man­ner sim­i­lar to the one in Yamakawa’s first short. (In 2010 “The Sec­ond Bak­ery Attack,” where­in the now-mar­ried nar­ra­tor robs a fast-food joint with his new bride, itself became a short film direct­ed by Car­los Cuarón, broth­er of Alfon­so.) Though “The Bak­ery Attack” has nev­er been offi­cial­ly pub­lished in Eng­lish, “On See­ing the 100% Per­fect Girl One Beau­ti­ful April Morn­ing” has, and it now stands as one of Murakami’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive short works in that lan­guage; it also, in the orig­i­nal, pro­vides the basis for A Girl, She Is 100%.

“She doesn’t stand out in any way,” Murakami’s nar­ra­tor says of the tit­u­lar fig­ure. “Her clothes are noth­ing spe­cial. The back of her hair is still bent out of shape from sleep. She isn’t young, either — must be near thir­ty, not even close to a ‘girl,’ prop­er­ly speak­ing. But still, I know from fifty yards away: She’s the 100% per­fect girl for me.” Yamakawa dra­ma­tizes a sim­i­lar fleet­ing encounter and the roman­tic spec­u­la­tions that res­onate in the man’s mind. Like the half-baked philo­soph­i­cal and polit­i­cal con­vic­tions of the would-be rob­bers, these inspire the direc­tor to the kind of visu­al and for­mal inven­tive­ness one would expect giv­en his back­ground in Godard and Scors­ese schol­ar­ship. But the only film­mak­er name-checked is Woody Allen, which fans will rec­og­nize as a char­ac­ter­is­tic Muraka­mi ref­er­ence. So as are the inclu­sions of Wag­n­er, D.H. Lawrence, jazz music — and of course, an unex­pect­ed cat.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Read 12 Sto­ries By Haru­ki Muraka­mi Free Online

Dis­cov­er Haru­ki Murakami’s Adver­to­r­i­al Short Sto­ries: Rare Short-Short Fic­tion from the 1980s

Haru­ki Murakami’s Pas­sion for Jazz: Dis­cov­er the Novelist’s Jazz Playlist, Jazz Essay & Jazz Bar

A 3,350-Song Playlist of Music from Haru­ki Murakami’s Per­son­al Record Col­lec­tion

Mem­o­ran­da: Haru­ki Murakami’s World Recre­at­ed as a Clas­sic Adven­ture Video Game

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.

An 18-Year-Old Spends a Year Alone Building a Log Cabin in the Swedish Wilderness: Watch from Start to Finish

Hen­ry David Thore­au has at times been upbraid­ed by crit­ics for “everyone’s favorite incrim­i­nat­ing bio­graph­i­cal fac­toid,” writes Dono­van Hohn at The New Repub­lic: “Dur­ing the two years he spent at Walden Pond, his moth­er some­times did his laun­dry.” The author who became “America’s orig­i­nal nature boy “played at rugged self-suf­fi­cien­cy,” it is said, “while squat­ting on bor­rowed land, in a house built with a bor­rowed axe”; he played at rugged indi­vid­u­al­ism while rely­ing on friends and fam­i­ly to sup­port him.

Who did Erik Grankvist’s laun­dry, we might won­der, while he built a log cab­in alone dur­ing the year he record­ed in the edit­ed video above? Grankvist shows how, at 18, he “ven­tured out alone with only a back­pack full of sim­ple hand tools to actu­al­ize my dream… [to] build my own tra­di­tion­al off grid log cab­in by hand from the mate­ri­als of the Swedish wilder­ness. Just like our Fore­fa­thers did.” You may notice, or not, the clean­li­ness of Grankvist’s cloth­ing. You may won­der, “who washed his fore­fa­thers’ clothes?”…

Or, you might say, “this isn’t a video about laun­dry but about build­ing a log cab­in!” And you would be cor­rect. As an exper­i­ment in build­ing a log cab­in from scratch with (most­ly) just a few hand tools, it is an extra­or­di­nary doc­u­ment: “I had no pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence in build­ing, gath­er­ing mate­ri­als or film­ing,” Grankvist writes. “So I start­ed study­ing myself the old arts and learn­ing from my grand­fa­ther and men­tor Åke Nils­son. I began to cut down trees and film with my phone, learn­ing as I go.”

The project real­ly picked up steam once Grankvist grad­u­at­ed high school, he writes, sug­gest­ing he did not actu­al­ly live full time in the woods but that some­one fed, housed, and clothed him while he worked. We see none of this in the video. We do see a trac­tor at one point, and Grankvist admits he’d rather the mod­ern extrav­a­gance have been a horse.

Does it ruin the mag­ic a lit­tle to won­der about the mun­dane details of the builder’s life — food, cloth­ing, health­care, etc. — while watch­ing him cut his own tim­ber, clear the land, build a stone foun­da­tion and, on top of it, a rus­tic lit­tle cab­in? Maybe a lit­tle. But as extra­or­di­nary as it is to watch an 18-year-old Swede build a log cab­in by him­self, one also can’t help but remem­ber it takes a vil­lage worth of fore­fa­thers, and moth­ers, to make an 18-year-old Swede. But Grankvist does not present his visu­al Walden as a how-to guide (any more than Thore­au did), but as his own state­ment of inde­pen­dence, one worth mak­ing even if it does­n’t tell the full truth about self-suf­fi­cien­cy.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Japan­ese Car­pen­ters Unearth 100-Year-Old Wood Joiner­ies While Tak­ing Apart a Tra­di­tion­al House

How Frank Lloyd Wright’s Son Invent­ed Lin­coln Logs, “America’s Nation­al Toy” (1916)

How to Sur­vive the Com­ing Zom­bie Apoc­a­lypse: An Online Course by Michi­gan State

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

Vintage Public Health Posters That Helped People Take Smart Precautions During Past Crises

We sub­scribe to the the­o­ry that art saves lives even in the best of times.

In the midst of a major pub­lic health cri­sis, art takes a front line posi­tion, com­mu­ni­cat­ing best prac­tices to cit­i­zens with eye catch­ing, easy to under­stand graph­ics and a few well cho­sen words.

In March of 2020, less than 2 weeks after COVID-19 brought New York to its knees, Angeli­na Lip­pert, the Chief Cura­tor of Poster House, one of the city’s new­er muse­ums shared a blog post, con­sid­er­ing the ways in which the CDC’s basic hygiene rec­om­men­da­tions for help­ing stop the spread had been tout­ed to pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.

As she not­ed in a lec­ture on the his­to­ry of the poster as Pub­lic Ser­vice Announce­ment the fol­low­ing month, “mass pub­lic health action… is how we stopped tuber­cu­lo­sis, polio, and oth­er major dis­eases that we don’t even think of today:”

And a major part of erad­i­cat­ing them was edu­cat­ing the pub­lic. That’s real­ly what PSAs are—a means of inform­ing and teach­ing the pub­lic en masse. It goes back to that idea … of not hav­ing to seek out infor­ma­tion, but just being pre­sent­ed with it. Keep­ing the bar­ri­er for entry low means more peo­ple will see and absorb the infor­ma­tion.

The Office of War Infor­ma­tion and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia Soci­ety for the Pre­ven­tion of Blind­ness used an approach­able look­ing rac­coon to con­vince the pub­lic to wash hands in WWII.

Artist Sey­mour Nydorf swapped the rac­coon for a blonde wait­ress with glam­orous red nails in a series of six posters for the U.S. Pub­lic Health Ser­vice of the Fed­er­al Secu­ri­ty Agency

Cough­ing and sneez­ing took posters into some­what gross­er ter­rain.

The New Zealand Depart­ment of Health’s 50s era poster shamed care­less sneez­ers into using a han­kie, and might well have giv­en those in their vicin­i­ty a per­sua­sive rea­son to bypass the buf­fet table.

Great Britain’s Cen­tral Coun­cil for Health Edu­ca­tion and Min­istry of Health col­lab­o­rat­ed with

Her Majesty’s Sta­tionery Office to teach the pub­lic some basic infec­tion math in WWII.

Children’s well­be­ing can be a very per­sua­sive tool. The WPA Fed­er­al Art Project was not play­ing in 1941 when it paired an image of a cheru­bic tot with stern warn­ings to par­ents and oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers to curb their affec­tion­ate impuls­es, as well as the trans­mis­sion of tuber­cu­lo­sis.

The arrest­ing image packs more of a wal­lop than this earnest and far wordier, ear­ly 20s poster by the Nation­al Child Wel­fare Asso­ci­a­tion and the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion for the Study and Pre­ven­tion of Tuber­cu­lo­sis.

Read Poster House Chief Cura­tor Angeli­na Lippert’s Brief His­to­ry of PSA Posters here.

Down­load the free anti-xeno­pho­bia PSAs Poster House com­mis­sioned from design­er Rachel Gin­grich ear­ly in the pan­dem­ic here.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Down­load Beau­ti­ful Free Posters Cel­e­brat­ing the Achieve­ments of Liv­ing Female STEM Lead­ers

The First Muse­um Ded­i­cat­ed Exclu­sive­ly to Poster Art Opens Its Doors in the U.S.: Enter the Poster House

Sal­vador Dalí Cre­ates a Chill­ing Anti-Vene­re­al Dis­ease Poster Dur­ing World War II

Down­load 2,000 Mag­nif­i­cent Turn-of-the-Cen­tu­ry Art Posters, Cour­tesy of the New York Pub­lic Library

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

MoMA’s Online Courses Let You Study Modern & Contemporary Art and Earn a Certificate

The labels “mod­ern art” and “con­tem­po­rary art” don’t eas­i­ly pull apart from one anoth­er. In a strict­ly his­tor­i­cal sense, the for­mer refers to art pro­duced in the era we call moder­ni­ty, begin­ning in the mid-19th cen­tu­ry. And accord­ing to its ety­mol­o­gy, the lat­ter refers to art pro­duced at the same time as some­thing else: there is art “con­tem­po­rary” with, say, the Ital­ian Renais­sance, but also art “con­tem­po­rary” with our own lives. You’ll have a much clear­er idea of this dis­tinc­tion — and of what peo­ple mean when they use the rel­e­vant terms today — if you take the Mod­ern and Con­tem­po­rary Art and Design Spe­cial­iza­tion, a set of cours­es from the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art (aka MoMA) in New York.

Offered on the online edu­ca­tion plat­form Cours­era, the Mod­ern and Con­tem­po­rary Art and Design Spe­cial­iza­tion promis­es to “intro­duce you to the art of our time.” In its first course, Mod­ern Art & Ideas, you’ll learn “how artists have tak­en inspi­ra­tion from their envi­ron­ment and respond­ed to social issues over the past 150 years.”

In the sec­ond, See­ing through Pho­tographs (whose trail­er appears above), you’ll explore pho­tog­ra­phy “from its ori­gins in the mid-1800s through the present.” The third, What Is Con­tem­po­rary Art?, intro­duces works of the past four decades “rang­ing from 3‑D-print­ed glass and fiber sculp­tures to per­for­mances in a fac­to­ry.” The final course, Fash­ion as Design, affords the oppor­tu­ni­ty to “learn from mak­ers work­ing with cloth­ing every day — and, in some cas­es, rein­vent­ing it for the future.”

You can view the entire Con­tem­po­rary Art and Design Spe­cial­iza­tion for free, by “audit­ing” its cours­es. Alter­na­tive­ly, you can join the paid track, which costs $39 USD per month, which at Cours­er­a’s sug­gest­ed pace of sev­en months to com­plete (includ­ing a “hands-on project” for each course) comes out to $273 over­all. Then, when you fin­ish the spe­cial­iza­tion, you’ll “earn a Cer­tifi­cate that you can share with prospec­tive employ­ers and your pro­fes­sion­al net­work.” Whet­her you go the audit or cer­tifi­cate route, you’ll earn an under­stand­ing of “mod­ern art” and “con­tem­po­rary art” as they’re cre­at­ed and regard­ed here in the 21st cen­tu­ry: the era deep into moder­ni­ty in which we live, and one in which the bound­aries of art itself — not just the adjec­tives pre­ced­ing it — show no sign of ceas­ing to expand.

Note: Open Cul­ture has a part­ner­ship with Cours­era. If read­ers enroll in cer­tain Cours­era cours­es and pro­grams, it helps sup­port Open Cul­ture.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Take Sev­en Free Cours­es From the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art (aka MoMA)

What Is Con­tem­po­rary Art?: A Free Online Course from The Muse­um of Mod­ern Art

The Muse­um of Mod­ern Art (MoMA) Presents a Free Online Class on Fash­ion: Enroll in Fash­ion as Design Today

How to Make a Sav­ile Row Suit: A Short Doc­u­men­tary from the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art

Art His­to­ri­an Pro­vides Hilar­i­ous & Sur­pris­ing­ly Effi­cient Art His­to­ry Lessons on Tik­Tok

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.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.