Isaac Asimov on How Libraries Can Radically Change Your Life (1971)

Back in 1971, Isaac Asimov sent a letter to celebrate the opening of a new library in Troy, Michigan. Thoughtful as always, his letter addressed the children of the Troy community as follows: “Congratulations on the new library, because it isn’t just a library. It is a space ship that will take you to the farthest reaches of the Universe, a time machine that will take you to the far past and the far future, a teacher that knows more than any human being, a friend that will amuse you and console you—and most of all, a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life.”

In total, 97 writers (including Dr. Spock, Dr. Seuss and E.B. White) sent letters to mark the occasion. You can read through them in the Troy Library Flickr stream here.

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Watch Restored Versions of Classic Fleischer Cartoons on Youtube, Featuring Betty Boop, Koko the Clown & Others

Quite a few generations of American children have by now grown up knowing the names of Max and Dave Fleischer — albeit knowing even better the names of the characters they animated, like Betty Boop, Popeye the Sailor, and Superman. The kids who first thrilled to Max Fleischer’s early “Out of the Inkwell” series, which he started in the late nineteen-tens and continued into the late nineteen-twenties, would naturally have seen them in a movie theater. But most of us under the age of eighty would have received our introduction to the lively, whimsical, and often bizarre world of the brothers Fleischer through the television, a medium hungry for cartoons practically since its inception.

Now viewers of all ages can enjoy Fleischer cartoons on Youtube, and in newly restored form at that. “The Fabulous Fleischer Cartoons Restored team is dedicated to preserving Fleischer’s films by restoring them from original prints and negatives,” writes Boing Boing’s Rusty Blazenhoff, adding that “Adam Savage’s Tested visited the Blackhawk Films scanning facility in California and spoke with restoration expert Steve Stanchfield about the process of bringing these classic films back to life.”

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The charm of Fleischer cartoons may still feel effortless a century after their creation, but anyone familiar with animation knows how painstaking that creation would have been; by the same token, bringing the surviving films back to pristine condition is a more complicated job than most viewers would imagine.

The current offerings on Fabulous Fleischer Cartoons Restored’s channel include Betty Boop and Pudgy in “Happy You and Merry Me,” Bimbo the Dog in “Teacher’s Pest,” and even the short but lavish Technicolor fantasy “Somewhere in Dreamland,” which brightened up the grim days of the Great Depression for all who saw it. The restorers have also worked their magic on Fleischer holiday cartoons like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Christmas Comes But Once a Year” (including with the latter a side-by-side comparison of the new restoration with the existing sixteen-millimeter DVD print). Yes, Christmas has just passed, but it will come again next year, and bring with it the latest generation’s chance to be delighted by Fleischer cartoons crisper and more vivid than the ones with which any of us grew up.

via Boing Boing

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The Original 1940s Superman Cartoon: Watch 17 Classic Episodes Free Online

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How Walt Disney Cartoons Are Made: 1939 Documentary Gives an Inside Look

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.

Pelé’s Great World Cup Goals (RIP)

Today, the soccer legend, Pelé, passed away at age 82. The most dominant player of his generation, Pelé turned professional at age 15, won the World Cup at age 17 in 1958 (before winning two more World Cups in 1962 and 1970), and ultimately scored 1,283 goals in 1,367 professional matches, averaging nearly one goal per game. On the international stage, he scored 77 goals for Brazil, 12 of them in the World Cup.

The highlight reel above features the young Pelé’s goals in the 1958 World Cup. Separately, you can see his 5 greatest goals in the World Cup finals here. And, for good measure, we’ve added more footage below that highlights his magical skills across his career.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.

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, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks!

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The Book of Leaves: A Beautiful Stop Motion Film Featuring 12,000 Pressed Leaves

Brett Foxwell meticulously collected over 12,000 leaves while walking through forests and parks. Then he carefully arranged the leaves, many at different stage of development, into a stop motion sequence. He says:

While collecting leaves, I conceived that the leaf shape [of] every single plant type I could find would fit somewhere into a continuous animated sequence of leaves if that sequence were expansive enough. If I didn’t have the perfect shape, it meant I just had to collect more leaves.

Above, you can see the result of his painstaking work. You can also watch another exacting Foxwell animation, The Woodswimmer, here.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.

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, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks!

via Petapixel/Laughing Squid

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Watch You Suck at Cooking, a Hilarious Source for Tasty Recipes and Food Hacks of Questionable Veracity

Is it just us, or did half of Gen Z teach themselves how to cook on TikTok during the height of the pandemic?

The recipes that go viral have more in common with gonzo science experiments than Julia Child’s Coq au Vin.

Hacks are golden in this forum – whether or not they actually work – and running time is of the essence.

There’s an unmistakable visual vocabulary, too – from the god shots of manicured hands dumping pre-measured ingredients into mixing bowls to the reveal of the completed dish just seconds later.

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One has to be conversant in these tropes to subvert them as gleefully as the anonymous creator of the seven year old online series You Suck at Cooking.

Unlike such TikTok heavy hitters as cloud bread or whipped coffee, most of You Suck at Cooking‘s dishes are things you might consider preparing on a regular basis, however trendy they may be at the moment.

The responsible party’s cooking and editing skills are solid, but his writing is the real star here. We also appreciate the massive amount of planning and care that goes into every five minute episode.

He’s an unabashed coiner of vocabulary and elaborate ways to refer to straightforward appliances and ingredients. His delivery is mild mannered, but he doesn’t mince words when it comes to culinary biases – e.g., condimenting only one side of the bun is a certifiable burger crime and if you don’t like pickles, one thing you can do is seek help.

Simple dishes such as overnight oats require so little instruction, he’s freed up to skewer the questionable claims of food-focused wellness “experts” by leaning all the way in.

The spirit of the project carries over into his written step-by-steps on the rare occasions when mere video demonstration will not suffice.

(His cookbook, You Suck at Cooking: The Absurdly Practical Guide to Sucking Slightly Less at Making Food, was published anonymously in 2019.)

To get the most from your experience, we recommend you first watch his deep fried Korean-style corndog How To, then follow the written recipe:

1. Go to the store 

2. Buy corn dogs 

3. Enjoy 

If you insist on making corn dogs yourself, first read these frying safety tips

The reason home fryers are safer than doing it on the stovetop is because they limit the heat of your oil so it won’t catch fire. It’s easy to let it get too hot which is very bad news. 

Batter

    • 1 ¼ cups flour 
    • 2 tablespoon sugar 
    • ½ teaspoon salt 
    • 1.3 teaspoon yeast 
    • 1 egg 
    • 100 ml warm water

Wangjangle until your wrist is furious (I did it for a few minutes tops)

Let it sit for half an hour 

Dry off anything you’re rolling in it 

Peg your dogs 

Roll ‘em 

Roll them in artisan Italian bread crumbs (okay seriously this is a flavor game changer and I can’t recommend them enough. Kortalian food just has such depth. 

Fry for 3 minutes 

Cool for a few minutes 

I think anything else is pretty straight forward

When it comes to cooking hacks, our hero is a champion fabulist.

It’s safe to assume that the first tip is legit, after which… well, let’s just say that some of his orange peeling methods remind us in the best possible way of our old pal Shel Silverstein’s Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book.

Enjoy a playlist of all 150 episodes of You Suck at Cooking here.

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

How to Make Roman Concrete, One of Human Civilization’s Longest-Lasting Building Materials

More than a millennium and a half after its fall, we still look back with wonder on the accomplishments of the ancient Roman Empire. Few elements of its legacy impress us as much as its built environment — or in any case, what’s left of its built environment. Still, the fact that anything remains at all of the structures built by the Romans tells us that they were doing something right: specifically, they were doing concrete right. Just how they made that astonishingly durable building material has been a subject of research even in recent years, and we even featured it here on Open Culture back in 2017. But could we make Roman concrete today?

Such is the task of Shawn Kelly, host of the Youtube channel Corporal’s Corner, in the video above. Using materials like volcanic ash, pumice and limestone, he makes a brick that looks more than solid enough to go up against any modern concrete.

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As of this writing, this simple video has racked up more than three million views, a number that reflects our enduring fascination with the question of how the ancient Romans created their world — as well as the question addressed in the higher-tech Practical Engineering video below, “Was Roman Concrete Better?”

The fact of the matter is that, despite possessing technologies the Romans could hardly have imagined, their concrete lasts longer than ours. Why that should be the case comes down, in large part, to water: we put a great deal more of it into our concrete than the Romans did, in order to pour it more cheaply and easily. But this makes it more fragile and subject to deterioration over time (as seen in the early dilapidation of certain Brutalist buildings), even despite our use of chemical additives and steel reinforcement. Roman concrete was also mixed with seawater, which caused the formation of crystals within the material that actually strengthened it as it aged — thus cementing, as one wag in the comments puts it, the Romans’ place in history.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.

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, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks!

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Roman Architecture: A Free Course from Yale

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.

Coursera Offers $200 Off of Coursera Plus (Until January 14), Giving You Unlimited Access to Courses & Certificates

A new deal to start a new year: Between now and January 14, 2023, Coursera is offering a $200 discount on its annual subscription plan called “Coursera Plus.” Normally priced at $399, Coursera Plus (now available for $199) gives you access to 90% of Coursera’s courses, Guided Projects, Specializations, and Professional Certificates, all of which are taught by top instructors from leading universities and companies (e.g. Yale, Duke, Google, Facebook, and more). The $199 annual fee–which translates roughly to 55 cents per day–could be a good investment for anyone interested in learning new subjects and skills in 2023, or earning certificates that can be added to your resume. Just as Netflix’s streaming service gives you access to unlimited movies, Coursera Plus gives you access to unlimited courses and certificates. It’s basically an all-you-can-eat deal.

You can try out Coursera Plus for 14 days, and if it doesn’t work for you, you can get your money back. Explore the offer (before January 14, 2023) here.

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

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How Fast Food Began: The History of This Thoroughly American (and Now Global) Form of Dining

What is the most American institution of all? The mind first goes in the directions of church, of the military, of football. But if we consider only the systems of modern life developed on United States soil, the most influential must surely be fast food. That influence manifests in not just the homeland but the rest of the world as well, and like every robust American creation, fast food both changes and adapts to the foreign lands in which it takes root. Though unknown in the U.S., the yellow motorcycles of McDonald’s deliverymen are an everyday sight in the capital of South Korea, where I live. That could hardly have figured in even the farthest-reaching visions Richard and Maurice McDonald had for the entirely new model of hamburger stand they launched in San Bernardino, California, in 1948.

Back in postwar America, “car culture reigns supreme. Drive-in movies and drive-in restaurants become all the rage, taking convenience to another level.” So says the narrator of the clip above, from the fast-food episode of the Netflix series History 101. But before long, drive-ins would be relegated to the status of historical curiosity, and fast food on the McDonald’s model would become nearly omnipresent.

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As with much else in American industrial history, the key was efficiency. Having previously run a drive-in, the McDonald brothers understood well how cumbersome such operations could be, and how they encouraged customers to linger rather than spend their money and be on their way. The stripped-down menu, the streamlined cooking process: every element was now engineered for speed above all.

McDonald’s did not, however, invent the drive-through. That honor goes to a Texas establishment called Pig Stand, which first erected that pillar of the American way of life back in 1921. In Fast Food: The Fast Lane of Life, the History Chanel documentary above, the president of Texas Pig Stands says that the chain’s founder Jessie G. Kirby “was famous for his quote of saying that people with cars are so lazy that they don’t want to get out of them to go eat. That prophecy proved to be very true.” Even as the spread of car ownership across America and then the world made drive-through fast food into a viable proposition, it put (and continues to put) greater and greater pressure on the businesses to deliver their product in shorter and shorter times.

“Beyond the challenges of technical hardware that delivered things fast, the industry had to deliver a pipeline to deliver the food,” says the documentary’s narrator. “Throughout the eighties, the burger giants set about designing a network of suppliers that could deliver millions of tons of foods to thousands of restaurants at exacting standards of uniformity.” This uniformity — hamburgers that cost and taste exactly the same, everywhere — enchanted Andy Warhol, that maven of American mass culture. It has also, arguably, done its part to trivialize the rituals of preparing and consuming food, to say nothing of the health dangers posed by frequent indulgence in salty, sugary, oily meals, especially in the context of a sedentary automotive lifestyle. But if you don’t understand fast food — and all the technological, economic, and social factors that have made it not just possible but world-dominant — can you claim understand America?

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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.