Watch Paul McCartney Compose The Beatles Classic “Get Back” Out of Thin Air (1969)

In its near­ly eight-hour run­time Peter Jack­son’s new doc­u­men­tary series The Bea­t­les: Get Back offers numer­ous minor rev­e­la­tions about the world’s favorite band. Among the film­mak­er’s avowed aims was to show that, even on the verge of acri­mo­nious dis­so­lu­tion, John, Paul, George, and Ringo enjoyed stretch­es of pro­duc­tive­ness and con­vivi­al­i­ty. Much else comes out besides, includ­ing that the cater­ing at Apple Corps head­quar­ters was mis­er­able (amount­ing most days to toast and diges­tive bis­cuits) and that, even amid the excess­es of the late 1960s, the Bea­t­les dressed more or less respectably (apart, that is, from George’s occa­sion­al­ly out­landish choic­es of out­er- and footwear). But it also lays bare exact­ly how they cre­at­ed a song.

The Bea­t­les went into these ses­sions with lit­tle mate­r­i­al pre­pared. All they knew for sure was that they had to come up with a set of songs to be record­ed live, with­out over­dubs, in order to “get back” to the sim­plic­i­ty that had char­ac­ter­ized their process before such aes­thet­i­cal­ly and tech­ni­cal­ly con­vo­lut­ed albums as Revolver and Sgt. Pep­per’s Lone­ly Hearts Club Band. These they would then per­form in a con­cert film. The whole project was under­tak­en with what Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield calls a “mag­nif­i­cent arro­gance. In a way, that’s what helped keep them togeth­er, through all their ups and downs. With­out that lev­el of arro­gance, there’s no way an adven­ture as admirably daft as Get Back could hap­pen in the first place.”

Some­how, to the very end, that arro­gance always proved jus­ti­fied. For much of Jack­son’s Get Back, the Bea­t­les appear to be just screw­ing around, crack­ing jokes, drink­ing tea and beer, and launch­ing into abortive per­for­mances in car­toon voic­es. And that’s when every­one shows up. “Lennon’s late again,” says Paul in the clip above. “I’m think­ing of get­ting rid of him.” But instead of nurs­ing resent­ment for his unpre­dictable musi­cal part­ner, he sits down and starts play­ing. His first chords will sound famil­iar to any Bea­t­les fan, though they belong to a song that does­n’t yet exist. Paul then adds to his strum­ming a bit of most­ly non-ver­bal vocal­iza­tion, which soon coheres into a melod­ic line: we (and a yawn­ing George) are wit­ness to the birth of “Get Back.”

Dur­ing the life­time of the Bea­t­les, Paul seems to have been the most pro­duc­tive mem­ber. Even since the band’s end half a cen­tu­ry ago, music has con­tin­ued to flow unim­ped­ed from his mind, shaped as if by pure instinct. In that time it has become ever more well-doc­u­ment­ed that he moti­vat­ed the group to work, espe­cial­ly after the death of their man­ag­er Bri­an Epstein in 1967. While Get Back attests to a cer­tain over­bear­ing qual­i­ty in his atti­tude toward the oth­er Bea­t­les, it also shows how McCart­ney’s hard­work­ing-yet-free­wheel­ing exam­ple encour­aged each of them to express his own par­tic­u­lar genius. When George gets stuck on the end of a lyric, for exam­ple, he, too, sim­ply sings what­ev­er comes to mind. Hence the tem­po­rary line “Some­thing in the way she moves / Attracts me like a pome­gran­ate” — and we all know how that tune even­tu­al­ly turned out.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Peter Jack­son Gives Us an Entic­ing Glimpse of His Upcom­ing Bea­t­les Doc­u­men­tary The Bea­t­les: Get Back

Paul McCart­ney Breaks Down His Most Famous Songs and Answers Most-Asked Fan Ques­tions in Two New Videos

Watch Pre­cious­ly Rare Footage of Paul McCart­ney Record­ing “Black­bird” at Abbey Road Stu­dios (1968)

Chaos & Cre­ation at Abbey Road: Paul McCart­ney Revis­its The Bea­t­les’ Fabled Record­ing Stu­dio

Watch The Bea­t­les Per­form Their Famous Rooftop Con­cert: It Hap­pened 50 Years Ago Today (Jan­u­ary 30, 1969)

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

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

How a Mosaic from Caligula’s Party Boat Became a Coffee Table in a New York City Apartment 50 Years Ago

Imag­ine own­ing Caligula’s cof­fee table — or, bet­ter yet, a cof­fee table made from the mosa­ic floor­ing that once cov­ered the infa­mous­ly cru­el Roman Emperor’s par­ty boats. Art deal­er and Man­hat­tan­ite Helen Fio­rat­ti owned such a table for 45 years, but she had no idea what it was until she hap­pened to go to a 2013 book sign­ing by author and Ital­ian stone expert Dario Del Bufa­lo. There, a friend noticed her table in Del Bufalo’s cof­fee table book, Por­phyry, “about the red­dish-pur­ple rock much used by Roman emper­ors,” notes Glo­ria Oladipo at The Guardian. Fio­rat­ti’s hus­band bought the piece from an aris­to­crat­ic Ital­ian fam­i­ly in the 1960s, then affixed it to a base and made into a table. “It was an inno­cent pur­chase,” Fioret­ti told The New York Times in 2017 after Italy’s Nemi muse­um seized the arti­fact and returned it to its home coun­try. Del Bufa­lo agreed, and it pained him to have to take it, but the arti­fact, he says in an inter­view above with Ander­son Coop­er, is price­less.

Caligu­la had two lux­u­ri­ous wood­en ships with elab­o­rate tile floors built to float on Lake Nemi, just a few miles out­side of Rome. “Stretch­ing 230 feet and 240 feet long and most­ly flat,” Brit McCan­d­less Farmer writes for Six­ty Min­utes, it was said they were once “topped with silk sails and fea­tured orchards, vine­yards, and even bath­rooms with run­ning water.” They even boast­ed lead pipes “inscribed Gaius Cae­sar Augus­tus Ger­man­i­cus, Caligula’s offi­cial name, accord­ing to a 1906 issue of Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can.” He was “once the most pow­er­ful man in the world,” says Ander­son Coop­er above, but Caligu­la became renowned for his bru­tal­i­ty, self-indul­gence, and pos­si­ble insan­i­ty. The third Roman emper­or was assas­si­nat­ed four years into his reign by a con­spir­a­cy of Prae­to­ri­ans and sen­a­tors. So hat­ed was he at the time that Romans attempt­ed to “chis­el him out of his­to­ry.” The sink­ing of his par­ty boats was one of many acts of van­dal­ism com­mit­ted against his waste­ful, vio­lent lega­cy.

Inter­est in the plea­sure ships was only piqued again when divers found the wreck­age in 1895. “The deck must have ben a mar­velous sight to behold,” wrote Ital­ian archae­ol­o­gist Rodol­fo Lan­ciani in 1898; “it goes beyond the pow­er of imag­i­na­tion for its strength and ele­gance.” Lan­ciani described in detail “the pave­ment trod­den by impe­r­i­al feet, made of disks of por­phyry and ser­pen­tine… framed in seg­ments and lines of enam­el, white and gold, white and red, or white, red, and green.” But it would be anoth­er few decades before the ships, sub­merged for almost 2,000 years, would see dry land again when Ben­i­to Mus­soli­ni, who was obsessed with Caligu­la, ordered Lake Nemi par­tial­ly drained in the 30s and the boats res­ur­rect­ed and housed in a near­by muse­um built for that pur­pose. Then, in 1944, retreat­ing Nazis alleged­ly set fire to the muse­um, after using it as a bomb shel­ter, destroy­ing Caligu­la’s plea­sure cruis­ers. No one knows how Fioret­ti’s mosa­ic made it out of Italy dur­ing this time.

It seems that the Emper­or’s star has been on the rise once more the past few years, since the dis­cov­ery of the mosa­ic and of Caligu­la’s impe­r­i­al plea­sure gar­den, Hor­ti Lami­ani, “the Mar-a-Lago of its day,” Franz Lidz writes at The New York Times. Unearthed in an exca­va­tion between 2006 and 2015, the now-sub­ter­ranean ruins found beneath a “con­demned 19th cen­tu­ry apart­ment com­plex, yield­ed gems, coins, ceram­ics, jew­el­ry, pot­tery, cameo glass, a the­ater mask, seeds of plants such as cit­ron, apri­cot and aca­cia that had been import­ed from Asia, and bones of pea­cocks, deer, lions, bears, and ostrich­es.” The ruins opened to tourists this past spring. As for Mrs. Fio­rat­ti, “I felt very sor­ry for her,” said Del Bufa­lo, “but I could­n’t do any­thing dif­fer­ent, know­ing that my muse­um in Nemi is miss­ing the best part.” He hopes to make a repli­ca to return to her Park Avenue liv­ing room for bev­er­age ser­vice. “I think my soul would feel a lit­tle bet­ter,” he says.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of Ancient Rome in 20 Quick Min­utes: A Primer Nar­rat­ed by Bri­an Cox

A Vir­tu­al Tour of Ancient Rome, Cir­ca 320 CE: Explore Stun­ning Recre­ations of The Forum, Colos­se­um and Oth­er Mon­u­ments

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

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

Hear Haruki Murakami Play Beatles Covers on His Radio Show, Murakami Radio

Now ramp­ing up to a wide release is a film that will draw in no few fans of Haru­ki Muraka­mi around the world: Dri­ve My Car, adapt­ed by film­mak­er Ryusuke Ham­aguchi from Murakami’s short sto­ry of the same name. That name itself comes, of course, from the Bea­t­les song, their knock­out open­er to Rub­ber Soul. It was­n’t the first time Muraka­mi had bor­rowed a title from the Fab Four. The nov­el that made him a house­hold name, in his home­land of Japan and sub­se­quent­ly the rest of the world, was called Nor­we­gian Wood.

The Bea­t­les’ albums have also pro­vid­ed him with inspi­ra­tion, as evi­denced by his sto­ry “With the Bea­t­les,” pub­lished in trans­la­tion last year by The New York­er. It takes place in 1965, when the Bea­t­les had become huge­ly pop­u­lar in not just the West but Japan as well. “Turn on the radio and chances were you’d hear one of their songs,” says the nar­ra­tor. “I liked their songs myself and knew all their hits,” but “truth be told, I was nev­er a fer­vent Bea­t­les fan. I nev­er active­ly sought out their songs. For me, it was pas­sive lis­ten­ing, pop music flow­ing out of the tiny speak­ers of my Pana­son­ic tran­sis­tor radio.” Despite being a high-school, then col­lege stu­dent in the 1960s, “I didn’t buy a sin­gle Bea­t­les record. I was much more into jazz and clas­si­cal music.”

This sto­ry is fic­tion­al; its nar­ra­tor is not its author. Yet Muraka­mi, who hap­pened to come of age in the same era, made sim­i­lar remarks about his expe­ri­ence with the Bea­t­les a cou­ple of years ago. His orig­i­nal­ly one-off ses­sion as a disc jock­ey on Tokyo FM has become a more or less full-fledged show, Muraka­mi Radio. Each of its broad­casts he ded­i­cates to a dif­fer­ent musi­cal theme, and it was thus only a mat­ter of time before he got around to the Bea­t­les.

Despite his ear­ly indif­fer­ence, as Muraka­mi explains between songs, he lat­er, in his thir­ties, came to sense the genius of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, dur­ing a stay in Greece with their self-titled 1968 “White Album” on tape in his Walk­man — which, despite lack­ing its title song, inspired him to start writ­ing Nor­we­gian Wood. Apart from that mem­o­ry, the late-peri­od Bea­t­les fig­ure only sec­on­dar­i­ly into Murakami’s “Bea­t­les Night.” He focus­es instead on their ear­ly, pre-Rub­ber Soul work, or rather, on a vari­ety of less­er-known cov­ers there­of.

You can hear eight of those num­bers in the Youtube video above, includ­ing Lit­tle Richard’s inter­pre­ta­tion of “I Saw Her Stand­ing There”; “All My Lovin’ ” as per­formed by Chet Atkins and Suzy Bog­guss; and even “Tu Perds ton Temps,” Eng­lish pop star Petu­la Clark’s French-lan­guage ver­sion of “Please Please Me.” If you lis­ten to the actu­al broad­cast on Japan­ese video-stream­ing site Nicon­i­co, you’ll also hear such addi­tion­al Bea­t­les cov­ers as “Do You Want to Know a Secret” by Motown singer Mary Wells and “She Loves You” by Rita Lee of Brazil­ian rock titans Os Mutantes. Obvi­ous­ly, the appeal of the Bea­t­les tran­scends cul­tur­al bound­aries, as does that of the exten­sive­ly trans­lat­ed Muraka­mi. What explains it? Per­haps, in both cas­es, that they cre­at­ed their own gen­res — or rather, their own won­drous real­i­ties.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear 100 Amaz­ing Cov­er Ver­sions of Bea­t­les Songs

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Became a DJ on a Japan­ese Radio Sta­tion for One Night: Hear the Music He Played for Delight­ed Lis­ten­ers

A 96-Song Playlist of Music in Haru­ki Murakami’s Nov­els: Miles Davis, Glenn Gould, the Beach Boys & More

Stream Big Playlists of Music from Haru­ki Murakami’s Per­son­al Vinyl Col­lec­tion and His Strange Lit­er­ary Worlds

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Day: Stream Sev­en Hours of Mix­es Col­lect­ing All the Jazz, Clas­si­cal & Clas­sic Amer­i­can Pop Music from His Nov­els

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The 17th Century Japanese Samurai Who Sailed to Europe, Met the Pope & Became a Roman Citizen

Image via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

We learn about intre­pid Euro­peans who sought, and some­times even found, trade and mis­sion­ary routes to Chi­na and Japan dur­ing the cen­turies of explo­ration and empire. Rarely, if ever, do we hear about vis­i­tors from the East to the West, espe­cial­ly those as well-trav­eled as 17th-cen­tu­ry samu­rai Haseku­ra Tsune­na­ga. Sent on a mis­sion to Europe and Amer­i­ca by his feu­dal lord, Date Masumune, Haseku­ra “set off on a quest to earn rich­es and spir­i­tu­al guid­ance,” Andrew Milne writes at All that’s Inter­est­ing. “He cir­cum­nav­i­gat­ed the globe, became part of the first Japan­ese group in Cuba, met the Pope, helped begin a branch of Japan­ese set­tlers in Spain (still thriv­ing today), and even became a Roman cit­i­zen.”

Haseku­ra was a bat­tle-test­ed samu­rai who had act­ed on the daimyo’s behalf on many occa­sions. His mis­sion to the West, how­ev­er, was first and fore­most a chance to redeem his hon­or and save his life. In 1612, Haseku­ra’s father was made to com­mit sep­puku after an indict­ment for cor­rup­tion. Stripped of lands and title, Haseku­ra could only avoid the same fate by going West, and so he did, just a few years before the peri­od of sakoku, or nation­al iso­la­tion, began in Japan. Trav­el­ing with Span­ish mis­sion­ary Luis Sote­lo, Haseku­ra embarked from the small Japan­ese port of Tsuki­noura in 1613 and first reached Cape Men­do­ci­no in Cal­i­for­nia, then part of New Spain.

“Sev­en years before the Mayflower head­ed to the New World,” Mar­cel Ther­oux writes at The Guardian, Haseku­ra “crossed the Pacif­ic, trav­eled over­land through Mex­i­co, then sailed all the way to Europe. He was accom­pa­nied by about 20 fel­low coun­try­men — in all like­li­hood, the first Japan­ese to cross The Atlantic.” They set sail on a Japan­ese-built galleon — called Date Maru, then lat­er San Juan Bautista by the Span­ish. “The expe­di­tion spent sev­en years trav­el­ing one-third of the globe,” notes PBS in a descrip­tion of  “A Samu­rai in the Vat­i­can,” an episode of Secrets of the Dead.

Sote­lo and Haseku­ra made for­mal requests for more mis­sion­ar­ies in Japan, deliv­er­ing let­ters from from Haseku­ra’s lord, the daimyo of Sendai, to the King of Spain and Pope Paul V. But the samu­rai’s most press­ing pur­pose was the estab­lish­ment of trade links between Japan, New Spain (Mex­i­co), and Europe. In his 1982 nov­el, The Samu­rai, Shusaku Endo dra­ma­tized the exchange the Span­ish mis­sion­ar­ies made for such intro­duc­tions, hav­ing a priest say: “In order to spread God’s teach­ing in Japan… there is only one pos­si­ble method. We must cajole them into it. Espana must offer to share its prof­its from trade on the Pacif­ic with the Japan­ese in return for sweep­ing pros­e­ly­tiz­ing priv­i­leges. The Japan­ese will sac­ri­fice any­thing else for the sake of prof­its.” This was not to be, of course.

The Span­ish gam­bled on trade open­ing up Japan for the kind of mis­sion­ary col­o­niza­tion they had achieved else­where, using Haseku­ra’s mis­sion as a proxy. Haseku­ra gam­bled on a Chris­t­ian mis­sion to save his life. Though his own accounts are lost, it seems he came to gen­uine­ly embrace the faith, becom­ing a con­firmed Catholic under the name Philip Fran­cis Fax­e­cu­ra. Dur­ing his mis­sion, how­ev­er, the Shogun, Toku­gawa Ieya­su, banned Chris­tian­i­ty in Japan on penal­ty of death, in advance of the expul­sion of the Span­ish and Por­tuguese by his grand­son, Toku­gawa Iemit­su, in 1623. What became of the explor­er samu­rai when he returned to Japan in 1620 is unknown, but his dece­dents were exe­cut­ed for prac­tic­ing his new­found faith. He would be the last vis­i­tor to the West from Japan until the Toku­gawa Shogu­nate sent the so-called “First Japan­ese Embassy to Europe” in 1862, over 200 years lat­er.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Hear the First Japan­ese Vis­i­tor to the Unit­ed States & Europe Describe Life in the West (1860–1862)

Meet Yasuke, Japan’s First Black Samu­rai War­rior

Dis­cov­er Japan’s Old­est Sur­viv­ing Cook­book Ryori Mono­gatari (1643)

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

Watch John Cage’s 4′33″ Played by Musicians Around the World

Make sure to watch the video above with the sound on. In it musi­cians from around the world all play a well-known com­po­si­tion: 4′33″ by John Cage. “I spent weeks ask­ing strangers on the inter­net to send me their rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent inter­pre­ta­tions, and boy did they deliv­er,” writes the video’s cre­ator Sam Vladimirsky. “My inbox filled with adap­ta­tions by an Aus­tri­an death met­al band, a marim­ba play­er, a bun­ny rab­bit, the Muse­um of Musi­cal Instru­ments in Phoenix, a mid­dle school music teacher, a ver­sion played on Gui­tar Hero and over Zoom.” Though orig­i­nal­ly com­posed for piano, 4′33″ is eas­i­ly trans­posed to all these instru­ments and oth­ers, call­ing as it does for their play­ers to do the very same thing: noth­ing.

“Inspired by Zen Bud­dhism, the Dada move­ment and Cage’s strong dis­taste for the ubiq­ui­tous muzak of the time,” says Aeon, “its score instructs per­form­ers not to play their instru­ments for the piece’s four-minute, thir­ty-three-sec­ond dura­tion.” The result is not silence but “the unique ambi­ent sound­scape of the envi­ron­ment in which it’s per­formed, reflect­ing Cage’s belief that music is ever-present.”

Here the sub­mit­ted per­for­mances take place in such envi­ron­ments as a class­room, a bed­room, a court­yard, a dri­ve­way, a bus, and a sub­way sta­tion. Vladimirsky pairs the videos, allow­ing us to enjoy not just par­al­lel view­ing expe­ri­ences but a lay­ered lis­ten­ing expe­ri­ence of these ambi­ent sound­scapes.

“Stuck inside,” writes Vladimirsky, “pro­fes­sion­al musi­cians, ded­i­cat­ed ama­teurs, awk­ward teens and col­lege stu­dents found 4′33″ to be the music of our moment.” If the Rolling Stones could play “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” in lock­down, each from his sep­a­rate home, then who’s to say this isn’t the next log­i­cal step? Each per­for­mance of 4′33″ reflects not just its imme­di­ate set­ting but its cul­tur­al peri­od: com­pare the clip just above, in which Cage him­self plays it in Har­vard Square in 1973. Most of us haven’t seen the inside of a con­cert hall in quite some time, let alone heard the ambi­ent sounds pro­duced with­in it in the absence of prop­er music. But each of us can, at least, per­form 4′33″ for our­selves when­ev­er and wher­ev­er we like — one way of doing it being sim­ply to play the video at the top of the post with the sound off.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch John Cage Play His “Silent” 4’33” in Har­vard Square, Pre­sent­ed by Nam June Paik (1973)

The Curi­ous Score for John Cage’s “Silent” Zen Com­po­si­tion 4’33”

John Cage’s Silent, Avant-Garde Piece 4’33” Gets Cov­ered by a Death Met­al Band

The 4’33” App Lets You Cre­ate Your Own Ver­sion of John Cage’s Clas­sic Work

The Grate­ful Dead’s “Rip­ple” Played By Musi­cians Around the World (with Cameos by David Cros­by, Jim­my Buf­fett & Bill Kreutz­mann)

The Vir­tu­al Choir: Watch a Choir Con­duc­tor Dig­i­tal­ly Unite 3500 Singers from Around the World

How to Find Silence in a Noisy World

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Watch Hilarious Spoofs of Classic Film Genres: Film Noir, Spaghetti Westerns, Scandinavian Crime Dramas, Time Travel Films & More

Come­di­an Alas­dair Beck­ett-King has a keen ear for enter­tain­ment tropes and sub­scribes to the belief that “putting too much effort into things makes them fun­nier.”

The result is a series of one-minute videos in which he spoofs the con­ven­tions of a par­tic­u­lar genre or long run­ning series, with per­fect visu­als, meta dia­logue, and faith­ful­ly ren­dered per­for­mance styles.

Beck­ett-King put his Lon­don Film School train­ing to use with this project dur­ing lock­down, spend­ing “absolute­ly ages putting togeth­er some­thing very tiny.”

Wit­ness his take on every episode of Star Trek: The Next Gen­er­a­tionin which the cap­tain of the ship, a Patrick Stew­art dop­pel­gänger and “veg­e­tar­i­an space social­ist who is always right” nego­ti­ates with a “rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a kind of iffy alien race not nec­es­sar­i­ly based on a spe­cif­ic human eth­nic­i­ty.” As Beck­ett-King told Eric John­son, host of Fol­low Fri­day pod­cast:

That one was very, very hard work because I had to do a CGI bald cap for myself because I have long, long flow­ing hair. I had to try and do an impres­sion of Cap­tain Picard of the Star­ship Enter­prise… it’s not that good. There’s so much work that went into it.

Before I post­ed it, I was con­vinced I’d wast­ed my time. Then luck­i­ly it did quite well and peo­ple real­ly liked it. Peo­ple kept say­ing, “When are you doing Cap­tain Picard again?” I’m like, “I’m not! because it took ages to do the bald head, and you’ve seen it now.” I think what’s nice about it though, is you get to try some­thing, com­mit to it and then see if it’s fun­ny after­wards. It’s quite like doing live standup.

(Beckett-King’s part­ner Rachel Anne Smith gets cred­its for the non-CGI cos­tumes.)

Some oth­er favorites:

Every Sin­gle Scan­di­na­vian Crime Dra­ma: The killer could be any­one in Hel­ga­sund. That’s over sev­en peo­ple.

Every Sin­gle Spooky Pod­cast: The frozen soil was lit­tered with what appeared to be dis­card­ed Casper mat­tress­es and Bom­bas socks.

Every Sin­gle Spaghet­ti West­ern: Yeah, well your lips don’t synch…

Every Haunt­ed House Movie: It’s the per­fect place for me to quit drink­ing, fin­ish my nov­el, and real­ly come to terms with that deer we hit on the way over.

Every Episode of Pop­u­lar Time Trav­el Show: Help us, Doc­tor. The intran­si­gent Implaca­blons are poised to destroy us.

How Every Film Noir Ends: Talk your way out of a snub nosed pis­tol held at waist height.

Should you find your­self at loose ends, wait­ing for the next Beck­ett-King “every sin­gle…” episode to drop, try  bid­ing your time with his Art House Movie Spoil­ers and North East of Eng­land spin on Jaws.

Buy a Cof­fee for Alas­dair Beck­ett-King here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hard­ware Wars: The Moth­er of All Star Wars Fan Films (and the Most Prof­itable Short Film Ever Made)

Down­load a Com­plete, Cov­er-to-Cov­er Par­o­dy of The New York­er: 80 Pages of Fine Satire

The Time When Nation­al Lam­poon Par­o­died Mad Mag­a­zine: A Satire of Satire (1971)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­maol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Blade Runner and Alien TV Shows Confirmed by Ridley Scott

Rid­ley Scott is 83, and good on him for not slow­ing down. The Last Duel came and went, but it actu­al­ly exist­ed and was an orig­i­nal idea, based on a true his­tor­i­cal event, and with a script from Nicole Holofcener, and fea­tured a re-team­ing up of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. And as of this writ­ing, House of Guc­ci is set to open and give us some sala­cious scan­dal and mur­der among the hoity and toit, just in time for Oscar sea­son. He’s even recent­ly dropped some hot takes against the super­hero movie fac­to­ry of Hol­ly­wood. So Scott’s doing well. Then why does this lat­est announce­ment feel so under­whelm­ing?

Accord­ing to a BBC inter­view on Mon­day, Scott is also devel­op­ing a 10-episode lim­it­ed series based on Blade Run­ner *and* a lim­it­ed series based on Alien, this time set on earth.

It’s not total­ly clear how much Scott is active­ly involved.

“We [have already] writ­ten the pilot for ‘Blade Run­ner’ and the bible,” he says, refer­ring to the mas­ter plan of the 10 episodes. “So, we’re already pre­sent­ing ‘Blade Run­ner’ as a TV show, the first 10 hours.” But who his co-cre­ators are, we don’t know right now. And there are sim­i­lar ques­tions in the upcom­ing Alien series, which has been rumored since 2020. Noah Haw­ley, who turned the Coen Bros. Far­go into some­thing like a jazz riff on the Coen’s films spread across sev­er­al decades, is set to be the showrun­ner.

The Blade Run­ner announce­ment has sent the pop media press into a tizzy, try­ing to guess where and when the new series will be set. After all, the 1982 film was set in a bleak, dystopi­an 2019, and the Denis Vil­leneuve sequel was set in a bleak, dystopi­an 2049. And it was only because of this announce­ment that I even knew of the Adult Swim ani­mat­ed series, Blade Run­ner: Black Lotus, which is set in a bleak, dystopi­an 2032. Times have changed, but the Los Ange­les of the future sure hasn’t. So when will it take place? Who knows?

Look, the two new series might be good, they might be meh, but Scott’s sud­den promi­nence at the end of 2021 feels like an encap­su­la­tion of media’s diver­gent paths. On one hand you have his two films, both orig­i­nal con­tent, one that might have a sec­ond life on stream­ing on and anoth­er that feels like it will have some buzz and lead peo­ple back to the cin­e­ma. Either way, they tell sto­ries with begin­nings, mid­dles, and ends. On the oth­er hand you have the con­tin­u­al fran­chise-ment of cul­ture, revis­it­ing and rehash­ing two excel­lent films from the ear­ly ‘80s that exist per­fect­ly well as stand­alone sto­ries. Do we real­ly need more sto­ries about the xenomorph? Do we need more sto­ries about a very damp Los Ange­les and its repli­cants? Is cul­ture at a stand­still? Are we doomed to recy­cle every­thing from the 1980s onward?

How­ev­er, if any­body should be mak­ing mon­ey off of Rid­ley Scott’s lega­cy it’s Scott him­self. Leave your thoughts in the com­ments below, while I put on this Van­ge­lis sound­track.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Expe­ri­ence Blade Run­ner Like You Nev­er Have Before Through a Fea­ture-Length Remas­tered Sound­track

The Sounds of Blade Run­ner: How Music & Sound Effects Became Part of the DNA of Rid­ley Scott’s Futur­is­tic World

Three Blade Run­ner Pre­quels: Watch Them Online

What is a Blade Run­ner? How Rid­ley Scott’s Movie Has Ori­gins in William S. Bur­roughs’ Novel­la, Blade Run­ner: A Movie

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 Drugs Used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans

Many of us liv­ing in the parts of the world where mar­i­jua­na has recent­ly been legal­ized may regard our­selves as par­tak­ing of a high­ly mod­ern plea­sure. And giv­en the ever-increas­ing sophis­ti­ca­tion of the grow­ing and pro­cess­ing tech­niques that under­lie what has become a for­mi­da­ble cannabis indus­try, per­haps, on some lev­el, we are. But as intel­lec­tu­al­ly avid enthu­si­asts of psy­choac­tive sub­stances won’t hes­i­tate to tell you, their use stretch­es far­ther back in time than his­to­ry itself. “For as long as there has been civ­i­liza­tion, there have been mind-alter­ing drugs,” writes Sci­ence’s Andrew Lawler. But was any­one using them in the pre­de­ces­sors to west­ern civ­i­liza­tion as we know it today?

For quite some time, schol­ars believed that unlike, say, Mesoamer­i­ca or north Africa, “the ancient Near East had seemed curi­ous­ly drug-free.” But now, “new tech­niques for ana­lyz­ing residues in exca­vat­ed jars and iden­ti­fy­ing tiny amounts of plant mate­r­i­al sug­gest that ancient Near East­ern­ers indulged in a range of psy­choac­tive sub­stances.”

The lat­est evi­dence sug­gests that, already three mil­len­nia ago, “drugs like cannabis had arrived in Mesopotamia, while peo­ple from Turkey to Egypt exper­i­ment­ed with local sub­stances such as blue water lily.” That these habits seem to have con­tin­ued in ancient Greece and Rome is sug­gest­ed by archae­o­log­i­cal evi­dence sum­ma­rized in the video above.

In 2019, archae­ol­o­gists unearthed a few pre­cious arti­facts from a fourth-cen­tu­ry Scythi­an bur­ial mound near Stavropol in Rus­sia. There were “gold­en arm­bands, gold­en cups, a heavy gold ring, and the great­est trea­sure of all, two spec­tac­u­lar gold­en ves­sels,” says nar­ra­tor Gar­rett Ryan, who earned a PhD in Greek and Roman His­to­ry from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan. The inte­ri­ors of those last “were coat­ed with a sticky black residue,” con­firmed in the lab to be opi­um with traces of mar­i­jua­na. “The Scythi­ans, in oth­er words, got high” — as did “their Greek and Roman neigh­bors.” Ryan, author of Naked Stat­ues, Fat Glad­i­a­tors, and War Ele­phants: Fre­quent­ly Asked Ques­tions about the Ancient Greeks and Romans, goes on to make intrigu­ing con­nec­tions between scat­tered but rel­e­vant pieces of archae­o­log­i­cal and tex­tu­al evi­dence. We know that some of our civ­i­liza­tion­al fore­bears got high; how many, and how high, are ques­tions for future scholas­tic inquiry.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Alger­ian Cave Paint­ings Sug­gest Humans Did Mag­ic Mush­rooms 9,000 Years Ago

Dis­cov­er the Old­est Beer Recipe in His­to­ry From Ancient Sume­ria, 1800 B.C.

Pipes with Cannabis Traces Found in Shakespeare’s Gar­den, Sug­gest­ing the Bard Enjoyed a “Not­ed Weed”

1,000-Year-Old Illus­trat­ed Guide to the Med­i­c­i­nal Use of Plants Now Dig­i­tized & Put Online

Beer Archae­ol­o­gy: Yes, It’s a Thing

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

More in this category... »
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.