A Sneak Peek of Peter Jackson’s New Beatles Documentary Get Back: Watch the New Trailer

In much the same way David Lynch gave us way more Twin Peaks than we’d ever hoped for in 2017, Peter Jack­son and the Bea­t­les are giv­ing us noth­ing like the lit­tle seen and quick­ly shelved Let It Be doc­u­men­tary from 1970, but a full six hours of the final musi­cal works of the Bea­t­les. Pre­mier­ing on Dis­ney Plus (yes, I know, you got­ta pay mon­ey to the Mouse) over three days after Thanks­giv­ing, this six-hour series is the big one fans of the var­i­ous remas­ters, repack­ages, and remix­es have been wait­ing for.

The Get Back ses­sions have long been a sour note in a career that was most­ly joy­ous. Appear­ing over and over again in boot­leg form, the var­i­ous jam ses­sions, cov­er ver­sions, and rehearsals through the songs that would turn up on Abbey Road and Let It Be can be grim lis­ten­ing. (I know, I’ve lis­tened to a lot of it. The Bea­t­les prac­tic­ing is just as tedious as any oth­er band work­ing through songs.) The gen­er­al nar­ra­tive is that the acri­mo­ny among the band mem­bers, the wraith-like pres­ence of Yoko Ono, and Paul’s relent­less­ly upbeat bad­ger­ing of every­body else caused the world’s most famous band to break up. Aban­don­ing the project, they per­formed some of the songs on a Sav­ille Row rooftop, and the rest was left up to the lawyers (and Phil Spec­tor) to sort out.

Jackson’s Get Back, made with the bless­ings of the sur­viv­ing Bea­t­les, intends to upend that nar­ra­tive.

“The thing is, when the film was released, The Bea­t­les were break­ing up, but they weren’t break­ing up when they were mak­ing Let It Be, which was record­ed a year ear­li­er,” Jack­son told GQ Mag­a­zine. “So I sup­pose it would have been odd to release a film where they are all enjoy­ing each other’s com­pa­ny.”

The acri­mo­ny only set in lat­er, when Allen Klein became their man­ag­er, he added.

This is Bea­t­les as a fam­i­ly, and fam­i­lies argue, joke about, and get down to fam­i­ly busi­ness.

Hon­ing the tech­niques Jack­son used to bring to life old World War I footage in They Shall Not Grow Old, the film takes the 57 hours of footage shot by Michael Lind­say-Hogg and makes it look like it was shot yes­ter­day. The col­ors you see in the trail­er, how­ev­er, have not been altered. “I mean, it does make you jeal­ous of the 1960s, because the cloth­ing is so fan­tas­tic,” Jack­son said.

The album Let It Be always had the shad­ow of a bad breakup over it, but for new­er gen­er­a­tions, that may no longer be the case after this doc­u­men­tary drops next month.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Bea­t­les’ 8 Pio­neer­ing Inno­va­tions: A Video Essay Explor­ing How the Fab Four Changed Pop Music

A Vir­tu­al Tour of Every Place Ref­er­enced in The Bea­t­les’ Lyrics: In 12 Min­utes, Trav­el 25,000 Miles Across Eng­land, France, Rus­sia, India & the US

How Peter Jack­son Made His State-of-the-Art World War I Doc­u­men­tary, They Shall Not Grow Old: An Inside Look

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 Little-Known Bombing of Pompeii During World War II

In 79 AD, 17-year-old Gaius Plin­ius Cae­cil­ius Secun­dus, known as Pliny the Younger, gazed across the Bay of Naples from his vaca­tion home in Mis­enum and watched Mount Vesu­vius erupt. “Dark­ness fell, not the dark of a moon­less or cloudy night,” Pliny wrote in his eye­wit­ness account — the only sur­viv­ing such doc­u­ment — “but as if the lamp had been put out in a dark room.” Unbe­knownst to Pliny and his famous uncle, Pliny the Elder, admi­ral of the Roman navy and revered nat­u­ral­ist, hun­dreds of lives were also snuffed out by lava, clouds of smoke and ash, and tem­per­a­tures in the hun­dreds of degrees Fahren­heit. The Elder Pliny launched ships to attempt an evac­u­a­tion. In the morn­ing, he was found dead, like­ly from asphyx­i­a­tion, along with over two thou­sand res­i­dents of Pom­peii and Her­cu­la­neum.

When the buried town was first unearthed, a new cycle of wit­ness, death, and res­ur­rec­tion began. “Since its redis­cov­ery in the mid-18th cen­tu­ry,” writes Nation­al Geo­graph­ic, “the site has host­ed a tire­less suc­ces­sion of trea­sure hunters and arche­ol­o­gists,” not to men­tion tourists — start­ing with aris­to­crat­ic gen­tle­men on their Grand Tour of Europe. In 1787, Goethe climbed Vesu­vius and gazed into its crater. “He record­ed with dis­ap­point­ment that the fresh­est lava was already five days old, and that the vol­cano nei­ther belched flame nor pelt­ed him with stones,” writes Amelia Soth in an arti­cle about “Pom­peii Mania” among the Roman­tics, a pas­sion that cul­mi­nat­ed in Edward Bul­w­er-Lyt­ton’s 1834 pot­boil­er, The Last Days of Pom­peii, “hands-down the most pop­u­lar nov­el of the age.”

Bulwer-Lytton’s book “had such a dra­mat­ic impact on how we think about Pom­peii,” the Get­ty writes, that the muse­um named an exhi­bi­tion after it that fea­tures — unlike so many oth­er his­to­ries — Pom­pei­i’s 20th cen­tu­ry “apoc­a­lypse”: an Allied bomb­ing raid in the autumn of 1943 that dam­aged near­ly every part of the site, includ­ing “some of Pom­pei­i’s most famous mon­u­ments, as well as its muse­um.” As Nigel Pol­lard shows in his book Bomb­ing Pom­peii, over 160 Allied bombs hit Pom­peii in August and Sep­tem­ber. Few tourists who now flock to the site know how much of the ruins have been rebuilt since then. “Only recent­ly have the lit­er­a­ture and the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty paid due atten­tion to these dra­mat­ic events, which con­sti­tute a fun­da­men­tal water­shed in the mod­ern his­to­ry of the site,” writes arche­ol­o­gist Sil­via Berte­sa­go.

A Pliny of his time (an Elder, giv­en his decades of sci­en­tif­ic accom­plish­ment), Pom­pei­i’s super­in­ten­dent, arche­ol­o­gist Amedeo Maiuri, “accel­er­at­ed the pro­tec­tion of build­ings and move­able items” in advance of the bomb­ing raids. But “who will save mon­u­ments, hous­es and paint­ings from the fury of the bom­bard­ments?” he wrote. Maiuri had warned of the com­ing destruc­tion, and when false infor­ma­tion iden­ti­fied the slopes of Vesu­vius as a Ger­man hide­out, the longest-run­ning arche­o­log­i­cal exca­va­tion in the world became “a real tar­get of war.… The first bomb­ing of Pom­peii took place on the night of August 24 1943.… Between August 30 and the end of Sep­tem­ber, sev­er­al oth­er raids fol­lowed by both day and night.… No part of the exca­va­tions was com­plete­ly spared.”

Maiuri chron­i­cled the destruc­tion, writ­ing:

It was thus that from 13 to 26 Sep­tem­ber Pom­peii suf­fered its sec­ond and more seri­ous ordeal, bat­tered by one or more dai­ly attacks: dur­ing the day fly­ing low with­out fear of anti-air­craft retal­i­a­tion; at night with all the smoke and bright­ness of flares […]. Dur­ing those days no few­er than 150 bombs fell with­in the exca­va­tion area, scat­tered across the site and con­cen­trat­ed where mil­i­tary tar­gets were thought to be.

Him­self wound­ed in his left foot by a bomb, Maiuri helped draw up a list of 1378 destroyed items and over 100 dam­aged build­ings. Hasty, emer­gency rebuild­ing in the years to fol­low would lead to the use of “exper­i­men­tal mate­ri­als” like rein­forced con­crete, which “would lat­er prove incom­pat­i­ble with the orig­i­nal mate­ri­als” and itself require restora­tion and repair. The ruins of Pom­peii were rebuilt and res­ur­rect­ed after they were near­ly destroyed a sec­ond time by fire from the sky — this time entire­ly an act of humankind. But the necrop­o­lis would have its revenge. The fol­low­ing year, Vesu­vius erupt­ed, destroy­ing near­ly all of the 80 B‑25 bombers and the Allied air­field at the foot of the moun­tain.

In the video above, you can learn more about the bomb­ing of Pom­peii. See pho­tographs of the destruc­tion at Pom­peii Com­mit­ment and at the Get­ty Muse­um, which fea­tures pho­tos of Pom­pei­ian sites destroyed by bomb­ing side-by-side with col­or images of the rebuilt sites today. These images are dra­mat­ic, enough to make us pay atten­tion to the seams and joints if we have the chance to vis­it, or revis­it, the famous arche­o­log­i­cal site in the future. And we might want to ask our guide if we can see not only the ruins of the nat­ur­al dis­as­ter, but also the mul­ti­ple undet­o­nat­ed bombs from the “apoc­a­lypse” of World War II.

Relat­ed Con­tent

Watch the Destruc­tion of Pom­peii by Mount Vesu­vius, Re-Cre­at­ed with Com­put­er Ani­ma­tion (79 AD)

Pom­peii Rebuilt: A Tour of the Ancient City Before It Was Entombed by Mount Vesu­vius

A Drone’s Eye View of the Ruins of Pom­peii

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

William Shatner in Tears After Becoming the Oldest Person in Space: ‘I’m So Filled with Emotion … I Hope I Never Recover from This”

Yes­ter­day Star Trek’s William Shat­ner, now 90 years old, final­ly became a Rock­et Man, tak­ing a trip to space. And upon his return he said: “I hope I nev­er recov­er from this.” “I’m so filled with emo­tion about what just hap­pened. It’s extra­or­di­nary, extra­or­di­nary. It’s so much larg­er than me and life. It hasn’t got any­thing to do with the lit­tle green men and the blue orb. It has to do with the enor­mi­ty and the quick­ness and the sud­den­ness of life and death.” “To see the blue col­or whip by you, and now you’re star­ing into black­ness … every­body in the world needs to do this. Every­body in the world needs to see this.” What. A. Trip.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent

A Cult Clas­sic: William Shat­ner Sings Elton John’s “Rock­et Man” at 1978 Sci­Fi Awards Show

Watch City Out of Time, A Short Trib­ute to Venice, Nar­rat­ed by William Shat­ner in 1959

William Shat­ner Nar­rates Space Shut­tle Doc­u­men­tary

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136 Paintings by Gustav Klimt Now Online (Including 63 Paintings in an Immersive Augmented Reality Gallery)

At the end of World War II the Nazis burned an Aus­tri­an cas­tle full of mas­ter­pieces, includ­ing three paint­ings by Gus­tav Klimt enti­tled Phi­los­o­phy, Med­i­cine, and Jurispru­dence. Called the “Fac­ul­ty Paint­ings,” these were com­mis­sioned by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vien­na for the ceil­ing of its Great Hall in 1900, then, upon com­ple­tion sev­en years lat­er, were deemed porno­graph­ic and nev­er exhib­it­ed. Until now, they were pre­served for pos­ter­i­ty only in black and white pho­tographs.

Thanks to cut­ting edge art restora­tion AI, the mono­chro­mat­ic images of Klimt’s Fac­ul­ty Paint­ings have been recon­struct­ed in col­or. They are now on dis­play in an online gallery of 130 paint­ings, plus a vir­tu­al exhi­bi­tion of 63 of the artist’s works, all brought togeth­er by Google Arts & Cul­ture and appro­pri­ate­ly called Klimt vs. Klimt. It’s a ret­ro­spec­tive explor­ing the artist’s many con­tra­dic­tions. Was he a “schol­ar or inno­va­tor? Fem­i­nist or wom­an­iz­er? Famous artist or hum­ble crafts­man? The answer, in most cas­es, is both,” notes Google. There’s more, of course, giv­en the venue, as Art Dai­ly explains:

The exhi­bi­tion fea­tures an immer­sive Aug­ment­ed Real­i­ty Pock­et Gallery, which dig­i­tal­ly orga­nizes 63 of Klimt’s mas­ter­works under a sin­gle roof. Audi­ences can vir­tu­al­ly walk the halls of the gallery space at scale and zoom in on the paint­ings’ fine orna­men­ta­tion and pat­tern, char­ac­ter­is­tic of Klimt’s prac­tice, made pos­si­ble by the dig­i­ti­za­tion of his icon­ic art­works in ultra-high res­o­lu­tion.

With respect to the first pair of oppo­si­tions (that is, schol­ar or inno­va­tor?), Klimt was assured­ly both, though not exact­ly at the same time. Trained as an archi­tec­tur­al painter at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Arts in Vien­na, his ear­ly work is solid­ly aca­d­e­m­ic — real­ist, for­mal, clas­si­cal and con­ser­v­a­tive.

So con­ser­v­a­tive an artist was Klimt, in fact, he was elect­ed an hon­orary mem­ber of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Munich and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vien­na, and in 1888 Klimt received the Gold­en Order of Mer­it from Aus­tri­an Emper­or Franz Josef I … before, that is, his work was judged obscene — a judg­ment that did sur­pris­ing­ly lit­tle to hin­der Klimt’s career.

At the end of the 19th cen­tu­ry, Klimt abrupt­ly shift­ed focus, par­tic­u­lar­ly after the death of his artist broth­er Ernst and his father, a gold engraver, in 1892. He became a found­ing mem­ber of the Vien­na Seces­sion move­ment, pro­duc­ing some of his most famous Sym­bol­ist works dur­ing his “Gold­en Phase,” when many of his works con­tained real gold leaf in trib­ute not only to his father but to the Byzan­tine art he saw dur­ing vis­its to Venice and Raven­na. This was the height of Klimt’s career, when he pro­duced such works as The KissThe Embrace, and Ful­fill­ment and Expec­ta­tion, “prob­a­bly the ulti­mate stage of my devel­op­ment of orna­ment,” he said.

In many ways, Klimt embod­ied con­tra­dic­tion. An admir­er of soci­ety and lux­u­ry, he also spurned com­pa­ny, turned away all vis­i­tors, and spend­ing so much time paint­ing land­scapes dur­ing sum­mer hol­i­days that locals called him Wald­schrat, “for­est demon.” Renowned for his sex­u­al adven­tur­ous­ness (he sup­pos­ed­ly fathered 14 chil­dren), Klimt was also an intense­ly focused and iso­lat­ed indi­vid­ual. In a piece enti­tled “Com­men­tary on a Non-Exis­tent Self-Por­trait,” he writes:

I have nev­er paint­ed a self-por­trait. I am less inter­est­ed in myself as a sub­ject for a paint­ing than I am in oth­er peo­ple, above all women… There is noth­ing spe­cial about me. I am a painter who paints day and day from morn­ing to night… Who­ev­er wants to know some­thing about me… ought to look care­ful­ly at my pic­tures.

Look care­ful­ly at an online gallery of Klimt’s works here. And see the immer­sive Aug­ment­ed Real­i­ty gallery here.


Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Gus­tav Klimt’s Mas­ter­pieces Destroyed Dur­ing World War II Get Recre­at­ed with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence

Gus­tav Klimt’s Icon­ic Paint­ing The Kiss: An Intro­duc­tion to Aus­tri­an Painter’s Gold­en, Erot­ic Mas­ter­piece (1908)

Gus­tav Klimt’s Haunt­ing Paint­ings Get Re-Cre­at­ed in Pho­tographs, Fea­tur­ing Live Mod­els, Ornate Props & Real Gold

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

Archaeologists Discover 1300-Year-Old Pair of Skis, the Best-Preserved Ancient Skis in Existence

Surf­ing is gen­er­al­ly believed to have orig­i­nat­ed in Hawaii and will be for­ev­er asso­ci­at­ed with the Poly­ne­sian islands. Yet anthro­pol­o­gists have found evi­dence of some­thing like surf­ing wher­ev­er humans have encoun­tered a beach — on the coasts of West Africa, in the Caribbean, India, Syr­ia, and Japan. Surf­ing his­to­ri­an Matt War­shaw sums up the prob­lem with locat­ing the ori­gins of this human activ­i­ty: “Rid­ing waves sim­ply for plea­sure most like­ly devel­oped in one form or anoth­er among any coastal peo­ple liv­ing near warm ocean water.” Could one make a sim­i­lar point about ski­ing?

It seems that wher­ev­er humans have set­tled in places cov­ered with snow for much of the year, they’ve impro­vised all kinds of ways to trav­el across it. Who did so with the first skis, and when? Ski-like objects dat­ing from 6300–5000 BC have been found in north­ern Rus­sia. A New York Times arti­cle recent­ly described evi­dence of Stone Age skiers in Chi­na. “If ski­ing, as it seems pos­si­ble,” Nils Larsen writes at the Inter­na­tion­al Ski­ing His­to­ry Asso­ci­a­tion, “dates back 10,000 years or more, iden­ti­fy­ing a point of ori­gin (or ori­gins) will be dif­fi­cult at best.” Such dis­cus­sions tend to get “bogged down in pol­i­tics and nation­al pride,” Larsen writes. For exam­ple, “since the emer­gence of ski­ing in greater Europe in the late 1800s” — as a sport and pure­ly recre­ation­al activ­i­ty — “Nor­way has often been con­sid­ered the birth­place of ski­ing. Nor­way has pro­mot­ed this view and it is a point of nation­al pride.”

Despite its ear­li­est records of ski­ing dat­ing mil­len­nia lat­er than oth­er regions, Nor­way has some claim. The word ski is, after all, Nor­we­gian, derived from Old Norse skíð, mean­ing “cleft wood” or “stick.” And the best-pre­served ancient skis ever found have been dis­cov­ered in a Nor­we­gian ice field. “Even the bind­ings are most­ly intact,” notes Kot­tke. The first ski, believed to be 1300 years old, turned up in 2014, found by the Glac­i­er Arche­ol­o­gy Pro­gram (GAP) in the moun­tains of Inn­lan­det Coun­ty, Nor­way. The archae­ol­o­gists decid­ed to wait, let the ice melt, and see if the oth­er ski would appear. It did, just recent­ly, and in the video above, you can watch the researchers pull it from the ice.

Pho­to: Andreas Christof­fer Nils­son, secretsoftheice.com

“Mea­sur­ing about 74 inch­es long and 7 inch­es wide,” notes Livia Ger­shon at Smith­son­ian, “the sec­ond ski is slight­ly larg­er than its mate. Both fea­ture raised footholds. Leather straps and twist­ed birch bark bind­ings found with the skis would have been attached through holes in the footholds. The new ski shows signs of heavy wear and even­tu­al repairs.” The two skis are not iden­ti­cal, “but we should not expect them to be,” says archae­ol­o­gist Lars Pilø. “The skis are hand­made, not mass-pro­duced. They have a long and indi­vid­ual his­to­ry of wear and repair before an Iron Age ski­er used them togeth­er and they end­ed up in the ice.”

The new ski answered ques­tions the researchers had about the first dis­cov­ery, such as how the ancient skis might have main­tained for­ward motion uphill. “A fur­row on the under­side along the length of the ski, as you find on oth­er pre­his­toric skis (and on mod­ern cross-coun­try skis), would solve the ques­tion,” they write, and the sec­ond ski con­tained such a fur­row. While they may nev­er prove that Nor­way invent­ed ski­ing, as glac­i­er ice melts and new arti­facts appear each year, the team will learn much more about ancient Nor­we­gian skiers and their way of life. See their cur­rent dis­cov­er­ies and fol­low their future progress at the Secrets of the Ice web­site and on their YouTube chan­nel.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Archae­ol­o­gists Find the Ear­li­est Work of “Abstract Art,” Dat­ing Back 73,000 Years

Watch an Archae­ol­o­gist Play the “Litho­phone,” a Pre­his­toric Instru­ment That Let Ancient Musi­cians Play Real Clas­sic Rock

Medieval Ten­nis: A Short His­to­ry and Demon­stra­tion

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

Slot Machine Age: A 1964 British Newsreel Angsts Over Whether Automated Machines Will Displace People

When Amer­i­cans hear the phrase “slot machine,” they think of pen­sion­ers com­pul­sive­ly pulling levers day and night in Las Vegas. But when the British hear it, a much less bleak vision comes to their minds: the auto­mat­ed dis­pen­sa­tion of cig­a­rettes, cof­fee, gro­ceries, and even entire meals. Or at least such a vision came to the minds of Britons back in 1964, the year of the British Pathé news­reel above. With its bril­liant col­ors and jazzy score, Slot Machine Age proud­ly dis­played to the view­ing pub­lic the range of coin-oper­at­ed won­ders already mak­ing their way into dai­ly life, from pay phones and pin­ball machines to shoe-buffers and bot­tle-recy­cling sta­tions.

“This inven­tion, this brain­child of the boffins, has cre­at­ed a new dis­ease,” declares the announc­er: “slot machine fever.” Again, this has noth­ing to do with gam­bling, and every­thing to do with automa­tion. Near­ly 60 years ago, buy­ing some­thing from a machine was a nov­el­ty to most peo­ple in even the most high­ly indus­tri­al­ized coun­tries on Earth.

Yet even then the automat, where din­ers pulled all their dish­es from coin-oper­at­ed win­dows, had in cer­tain cities been an insti­tu­tion for decades. Alas, such estab­lish­ments did­n’t sur­vive the explo­sion of fast food in the 1970s, whose busi­ness mod­el made use of more, not less, human labor.

But in the 1960s, the age of the robot seemed well on its way — so much so that this phrase titles anoth­er, slight­ly lat­er British Pathé pro­duc­tion show­cas­ing a “semi-com­put­er­ized ver­sion of the dumb­wait­er” being tried out in hotel rooms. From it the film’s hon­ey­moon­ing cou­ple extract cock­tails, peanuts, tooth­paste, and “that last cig­a­rette of the day.” It even offers read­ing mate­r­i­al, a con­cept since tried again in France, Poland, San Fran­cis­co, and an eccen­tric book­store in Toron­to, but the glo­ri­ous age of all-around con­ve­nience pre­dict­ed in these news­reels has yet to mate­ri­al­ize. We cit­i­zens of the 21st cen­tu­ry are in many cas­es hard­ly pleased, but rather anx­ious about what we see as our grow­ing depen­dence on automa­tion. Still, with the coro­n­avirus-induced vogue for con­tact-free pay­ment and din­ing, per­haps it’s time to give the automat anoth­er chance.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch 85,000 His­toric News­reel Films from British Pathé Free Online (1910–2008)

Hear Alan Watts’s 1960s Pre­dic­tion That Automa­tion Will Neces­si­tate a Uni­ver­sal Basic Income

Buck­min­ster Fuller Rails Against the “Non­sense of Earn­ing a Liv­ing”: Why Work Use­less Jobs When Tech­nol­o­gy & Automa­tion Can Let Us Live More Mean­ing­ful Lives

Hunter S. Thomp­son Chill­ing­ly Pre­dicts the Future, Telling Studs Terkel About the Com­ing Revenge of the Eco­nom­i­cal­ly & Tech­no­log­i­cal­ly “Obso­lete” (1967)

Experts Pre­dict When Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Will Take Our Jobs: From Writ­ing Essays, Books & Songs, to Per­form­ing Surgery and Dri­ving Trucks

Watch the “Bib­lio-Mat” Book-Vend­ing Machine Dis­pense Lit­er­ary Delight

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 a “Cult” Band? Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #107

What makes for a “cult band”? Not just a small audi­ence, because Grate­ful Dead fans are an arche­typ­i­cal cult. Not just a devot­ed, emo­tion­al­ly invest­ed audi­ence; no vol­ume of Swifties make Tay­lor Swift qual­i­fy as a cult act. Does the music have to be some­how inac­ces­si­ble, or the fans snob­by?

Your host Mark Lin­sen­may­er and three oth­er musi­cians try to fig­ure it out:

A few of the names that come up for con­sid­er­a­tion are Tom Waits, The Cure, XTC, Big Star, Bri­an Wil­son, Lou Reed, Guid­ed by Voic­es, David Bowie, R.E.M., The Res­i­dents, Os Mutantes, Tony Owens, Phil Judd, Mike “Sport” Mur­phy, and many more.

We talk about how the Inter­net has affect­ed fan­dom and the music busi­ness, the pow­er of musi­cians laud­ing each oth­er, and how music fan­dom relates to oth­er fan­dom.

Lis­ten to Tim on Naked­ly Exam­ined Music and The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life. Read his blog 5‑s­tar-songs. Read his arti­cle “Hope­less­ly Devote: Cult Bands.” Fol­low him @tbquirk.

Lis­ten to Aaron talk­ing about his songs on Naked­ly Exam­ined Music, on Pret­ty Much Pop last year (talk­ing about Borat), and as part of a Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life audio­play (also fea­tur­ing PMP favorite Eri­ca Spyres and cult actress Lucy Law­less). Lis­ten to the song he men­tions that result­ed from a Tik-Tok col­lab­o­ra­tion with cult artist Emma Free­man. Fol­low him on Face­book.

Read Chris’ post-mortem on cult artist Foun­tains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger.

A cou­ple of arti­cles that fed into this includ­ed:

Just to explain one of Mark’s com­ments, there real­ly was a play­set for “the hatch” for the TV show Lost.

This episode includes bonus dis­cus­sion you can access by sup­port­ing the pod­cast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by choos­ing a paid sub­scrip­tion through Apple Pod­casts. This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

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

Behold the Photographs of John Thomson, the First Western Photographer to Travel Widely Through China (1870s)

In the ear­ly 1860s, a few West­ern­ers had seen Chi­na — but near­ly all of them had seen it for them­selves. The still-new medi­um of pho­tog­ra­phy had yet to make images of every­where avail­able to view­ers every­where else, which meant an oppor­tu­ni­ty for trav­el­ing prac­ti­tion­ers like John Thom­son. “The son of a tobac­co spin­ner and shop­keep­er,” says BBC.com, ” he was appren­ticed to an Edin­burgh opti­cal and sci­en­tif­ic instru­ment man­u­fac­tur­er where he learned the basics of pho­tog­ra­phy.”

In 1862 Thom­son sailed from Lei­th “with a cam­era and a portable dark room. He set up in Sin­ga­pore before explor­ing the ancient civ­i­liza­tions of Chi­na, Thai­land — then known as Siam — and Cam­bo­dia.” It is for his exten­sive pho­tog­ra­phy of Chi­na in the late 1860s and ear­ly 1870s that he’s best known today.

First lav­ish­ly pub­lished in a series of books titled Illus­tra­tions of Chi­na and Its Peo­ple (now avail­able to read free online at the Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Library: vol­ume one, vol­ume two, vol­ume three, vol­ume four), they now con­sti­tute some of the ear­li­est and rich­est direct visu­al records of Chi­nese land­scapes, cityscapes, and soci­ety as they were in the late 19th cen­tu­ry.

“The first West­ern pho­tog­ra­ph­er to trav­el wide­ly through the length and breadth of Chi­na,” Thom­son brought his cam­era on jour­neys “far more exten­sive than those under­tak­en by most West­ern­ers of his gen­er­a­tion,” extend­ing “beyond the rel­a­tive com­fort and safe­ty of the coastal treaty ports.” Those words come from schol­ar of the 19th-cen­tu­ry Allen Hock­ley, whose five-part visu­al essay “John Thom­son’s Chi­na” at MIT Visu­al­iz­ing Cul­tures pro­vides a detailed overview and his­tor­i­cal con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion of Thom­son’s work in Asia.

Thom­son’s pho­tographs, writes Hock­ley, “fall into two broad cat­e­gories: scenic views and types. Views encom­passed both nat­ur­al land­scapes and built envi­ron­ments. They could be panoram­ic, tak­ing in large swaths of scenery, or they might high­light spe­cif­ic nat­ur­al phe­nom­e­na or indi­vid­ual struc­tures.”

Types “focused on the man­ners and cus­toms of Chi­nese peo­ple and tend­ed to high­light the defin­ing fea­tures of gen­der, age, class, eth­nic­i­ty, and occu­pa­tion.” A cen­tu­ry and a half lat­er, both Thom­son’s views and types have giv­en schol­ars in a vari­ety of dis­ci­plines much to dis­cuss.

“It is clear from his com­men­tary to Illus­tra­tions of Chi­na that, how­ev­er sym­pa­thet­ic he was towards Chi­nese peo­ple, he could often be supe­ri­or and high-hand­ed,” writes Andrew Hiller at Visu­al­iz­ing Chi­na. “If Thom­son nev­er sought to ques­tion the valid­i­ty of Britain’s pres­ence, his atti­tude towards Chi­na was ambiva­lent. Whilst crit­i­cal of what he saw as the cor­rup­tion and obfus­ca­tion of Qing offi­cials, he nev­er­the­less could see the country’s poten­tial.”

Thom­son also helped oth­ers to see that poten­tial — or at least those who could afford to buy his books, whose prices matched the qual­i­ty of their pro­duc­tion. But today, thanks to online archives like His­tor­i­cal Pho­tographs of Chi­na and Well­come Col­lec­tion, they’re free for every­one to behold. Chi­na itself has become much more acces­si­ble since Thom­son’s day, of course, but it’s famous­ly a much dif­fer­ent place than it was 25 years ago, let alone 150 years ago. The land through which he trav­eled — and of which he took so many of the very ear­li­est pho­tographs — is now infi­nite­ly less acces­si­ble to us than it ever was to his fel­low West­ern­ers of the 19th cen­tu­ry.

Hear a lec­ture on Thom­son’s pho­tog­ra­phy in Chi­na from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Lon­don here.

via Flash­bak

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Col­or­ful Wood Block Prints from the Chi­nese Rev­o­lu­tion of 1911: A Gallery of Artis­tic Pro­pa­gan­da Posters

The World’s Old­est Mul­ti­col­or Book, a 1633 Chi­nese Cal­lig­ra­phy & Paint­ing Man­u­al, Now Dig­i­tized and Put Online

Hand-Col­ored Pho­tographs from 19th Cen­tu­ry Japan: 110 Images Cap­ture the Wan­ing Days of Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Soci­ety

How Vivid­ly Col­orized Pho­tos Helped Intro­duce Japan to the World in the 19th Cen­tu­ry

1850s Japan Comes to Life in 3D, Col­or Pho­tos: See the Stereo­scop­ic Pho­tog­ra­phy of T. Ena­mi

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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