Venice’s Canals Have Run Dry During a Winter Drought, Leaving Gondolas Stuck in the Mud

When Venice was way under water a decade ago, we post­ed about it here on Open Cul­ture. By that time, the City of Canals was sup­posed to have been pro­tect­ed by MOSE, a $7 bil­lion flood-con­trol sys­tem not actu­al­ly com­plet­ed until 2021. But a drought struck the fol­low­ing year, and what afflicts Venice right now isn’t an excess of water but a lack of it. “Weeks of dry win­ter weath­er have raised con­cerns that Italy could face anoth­er drought after last sum­mer’s emer­gency,” reports Reuters, “with the Alps hav­ing received less than half of their nor­mal snow­fall.”

Venice in par­tic­u­lar “faces unusu­al­ly low tides that are mak­ing it impos­si­ble for gon­do­las, water taxis and ambu­lances to nav­i­gate some of its famous canals,” a phe­nom­e­non blamed on a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors includ­ing “the lack of rain, a high pres­sure sys­tem, a full moon, and sea cur­rents.”

The Guardian video above includes, among oth­er dispir­it­ing scenes, a gon­do­lier strug­gling to maneu­ver through one of the canals of Venice not quite reduced to mud­dy ditch­es. It also shows the con­trast with the flood­ing Venice endured as recent­ly as 2019, which had tourists and locals alike up to their knees in water.

These con­di­tions are strik­ing, but not unprece­dent­ed in Venice’s his­to­ry of over a mil­len­ni­um and a half. “Although they’ve become sig­nif­i­cant­ly less fre­quent over the past two decades due to ris­ing sea lev­els, Venice still sees one to ten low tides every year,” writes The Local’s Giampi­etro Vianel­lo. “The city has seen 160 low tides with lev­els equal to or low­er than ‑90cm since 1872, where­as the cur­rent tide has ‘only’ reached the ‑70cm mark so far.” Fore­casts do indi­cate a rain­fall to come across north­ern Italy, but at least until then, mod­ern-day Robert Bench­leys will have to alter their mes­sage back home: “Streets emp­ty of water. Please advise.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

Huge Hands Rise Out of Venice’s Waters to Sup­port the City Threat­ened by Cli­mate Change: A Poignant New Sculp­ture

How Venice Works: 124 Islands, 183 Canals & 438 Bridges

Venice in Beau­ti­ful Col­or Images 125 Years Ago: The Rial­to Bridge, St. Mark’s Basil­i­ca, Doge’s Palace & More

The Venice Time Machine: 1,000 Years of Venice’s His­to­ry Gets Dig­i­tal­ly Pre­served with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence and Big Data

A Relax­ing 3‑Hour Tour of Venice’s Canals

Watch Venice’s New $7 Bil­lion Flood Defense Sys­tem in Action

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.

Michelangelo’s Illustrated Grocery List

Image by Casa Buonar­roti, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

I admit to hav­ing a hard time keep­ing gro­cery lists. Do I write them by hand? If so, do I do it in a ded­i­cat­ed note­book, on a refrig­er­a­tor pad, or on any old scrap I find around? Do I com­pose them elec­tron­i­cal­ly, using some com­bi­na­tion of my com­put­er, my phone, and oth­er, more spe­cial­ized devices? And do I keep sep­a­rate lists for sep­a­rate trips to sep­a­rate stores? (Cer­tain del­i­ca­cies, after all, you can only get at Trad­er Joe’s.)

Liv­ing in the 15th and 16th cen­turies, the Ital­ian High Renais­sance sculp­tor, painter, archi­tect, poet, and engi­neer Michelan­ge­lo faced a rather less com­pli­cat­ed shop­ping prob­lem: he had only to send assis­tants off to mar­ket to bring back what he need­ed. Though van­ish­ing­ly few of this pro­lif­ic cre­ator’s papers sur­vive today, we do hap­pen to have a few of the gro­cery lists he sent with them, like that which you see above.

John Updike once wrote that “excel­lence in the great things is built upon excel­lence in the small,” and the obser­va­tion holds up ide­al­ly when we think about Michelan­gelo’s numer­ous great achieve­ments — PietàDavidThe Last Judg­ment, St. Peter’s Basil­i­ca — in com­par­i­son to this hum­ble yet strik­ing run­down of ingre­di­ents for a meal, of the same basic kind each of us scrawl out reg­u­lar­ly. But when Michelan­ge­lo scrawled, he scrawled with both a craftsman’s prac­ti­cal pre­ci­sion and an artist’s evoca­tive flair. “Because the ser­vant he was send­ing to mar­ket was illit­er­ate,” writes the Oregonian‘s Steve Duin in a review of a Seat­tle Art Muse­um show, “Michelan­ge­lo illus­trat­ed the shop­ping lists — a her­ring, tortel­li, two fen­nel soups, four anchovies and ‘a small quar­ter of a rough wine’ — with rushed (and all the more exquis­ite for it) car­i­ca­tures in pen and ink.” As we can see, the true Renais­sance Man didn’t just pur­sue a vari­ety of inter­ests, but applied his mas­tery equal­ly to tasks excep­tion­al and mun­dane. Which, of course, ren­ders the mun­dane excep­tion­al.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Michelangelo’s David: The Fas­ci­nat­ing Sto­ry Behind the Renais­sance Mar­ble Cre­ation

Take a 3D Vir­tu­al Tour of the Sis­tine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basil­i­ca and Oth­er Art-Adorned Vat­i­can Spaces

Leonar­do da Vinci’s Hand­writ­ten Resume (1482)

The Sis­tine Chapel: A $22,000 Art-Book Col­lec­tion Fea­tures Remark­able High-Res­o­lu­tion Views of the Murals of Michelan­ge­lo, Bot­ti­cel­li & Oth­er Renais­sance Mas­ters

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Kurt Vonnegut Diagrams the Shape of All Stories: From Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” to “Cinderella”

Few Amer­i­can nov­el­ists of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry looked as pro­fes­so­r­i­al as Kurt Von­negut, at least in a rum­pled-fix­ture-of-the-Eng­lish-depart­ment way. But though he did rack up some teach­ing expe­ri­ence, not least at the Iowa Writ­ers’ Work­shop, he could hard­ly have been a con­ven­tion­al lec­tur­er. This is evi­denced by the 2004 clip above, in which he explains his ideas about the “shapes” tak­en by all sto­ries — an idea he first for­mal­ly pre­sent­ed as his master’s the­sis in anthro­pol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go. Though the the­sis itself was reject­ed (a quar­ter-cen­tu­ry lat­er, the uni­ver­si­ty accept­ed Cat’s Cra­dle in its stead), its ideas proved pow­er­ful enough to enter­tain Von­negut’s audi­ences up until the end of his life.

On his chalk­board, Von­negut draws a ver­ti­cal and a hor­i­zon­tal axis: the for­mer charts the pro­tag­o­nist’s for­tune, good or ill, and the lat­ter rep­re­sents time (from B to E: “begin­ning, entropy”). He then plots the curve of an espe­cial­ly sim­ple and reli­able sto­ry form, “man in a hole,” which involves some­one get­ting into trou­ble — down­ward turns the slope — then get­ting back out again.

But the pro­tag­o­nist should end up a bit high­er on the scale of for­tune than he began, because “the read­er thinks, ‘Well, by God, I’m a human being too. I must have that much in reserve if I get into trou­ble.” Then come the sto­ries of oth­er shapes, includ­ing such pop­u­lar favorites as “Cin­derel­la” and Kafka’s Meta­mor­pho­sis.

“This rise and fall,” Von­negut warns us, “is, in fact, arti­fi­cial. It pre­tends that we know more about life than we real­ly do.” When he attempts to describe the shape of Ham­let, he ends up com­ing across one rea­son the play is regard­ed as a work of genius: “we are so sel­dom told the truth,” but Shake­speare tells us the truth that “we don’t know enough about life to know what the good news is and what the bad news is.” Rather, “all we do is echo the feel­ings of peo­ple around us.” As Von­negut’s read­ers know, a dim­mer view of human nature than his would be hard to come by. But if he did­n’t have faith the abil­i­ty of sto­ries to teach us good from bad, he did have faith in their abil­i­ty to teach us that we aren’t about to fig­ure it out for our­selves.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Kurt Von­negut Offers 8 Tips on How to Write Good Short Sto­ries (and Amus­ing­ly Graphs the Shapes Those Sto­ries Can Take)

Kurt Von­negut Dia­grams the Shape of All Sto­ries in a Master’s The­sis Reject­ed by U. Chica­go

Why the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Reject­ed Kurt Vonnegut’s Master’s The­sis (and How a Nov­el Got Him His Degree 27 Years Lat­er)

Why Should We Read Kurt Von­negut? An Ani­mat­ed Video Makes the Case

Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Iden­ti­fies the Six Main Arcs in Sto­ry­telling: Wel­come to the Brave New World of Lit­er­ary Crit­i­cism

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.

A Retired Math Teacher Helps Students Learn Geometry Through Quilting

Some real talk from retired geom­e­try teacher Wendy Licht­man, above, the author of sev­er­al math-themed YA nov­els:

Not many 15-year-olds care that two par­al­lel lines are crossed by a trans­ver­sal.

“But right here are two par­al­lel lines,” she con­tin­ues, point­ing to a pink and orange quilt. “and these are trans­ver­sals, and they are at a 90º angle and it feels real. You’ve got­ta get it to look right.”

The teenaged par­tic­i­pants in the Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia pro­gram she found­ed to demys­ti­fy geom­e­try through hands-on quilt­mak­ing get it to look right by plot­ting their designs on graph paper, care­ful­ly mea­sur­ing and cut­ting shapes from bright cal­i­co of their own choos­ing. (Lic­th­man has com­mit­ted to but­ton­ing her lip if their favored print is not to her taste.)

Licht­man came up with this cre­ative approach to help a bright stu­dent who was in dan­ger of not grad­u­at­ing, hav­ing flunked geom­e­try three times.

She details their jour­ney in How to Make a Geo­met­ric Quilt, an essay for­mat­ted as step-by-step instructions…not for quilt­mak­ing but rather how those in the teach­ing pro­fes­sion can lead with humil­i­ty and deter­mi­na­tion, while main­tain­ing good bound­aries.

Some high­lights:

6. Some­time after the sewing has begun, and the math note­book is ignored for weeks, begin to wor­ry that your stu­dent is not real­ly learn­ing geom­e­try.  She’s learn­ing sewing and she’s learn­ing to fix a bro­ken bob­bin, but real­ly, geom­e­try?

7. Remind your­self that this kid needs a quilt as much as she needs geom­e­try.

8. Remem­ber, also, the very, very old woman who taught you hat-mak­ing one night long ago.  She had gone to school only through 5th grade because, she said, she was a Black child in the deep south and that’s how it was back then.  Think about how she explained to the hat-mak­ing class that to fig­ure out the length of the hat’s brim, you need­ed to mea­sure from the cen­ter to the edge with a string and then do “three of those and a lit­tle bit more,” and remem­ber how you sat in awe, because three radii and a lit­tle bit more is the def­i­n­i­tion of pi, and this hat-mak­er had evi­dent­ly dis­cov­ered for her­self the for­mu­la for cir­cum­fer­ence.

As the two become bet­ter acquaint­ed, the stu­dent let her guard down, reveal­ing more about her sit­u­a­tion while they swapped sto­ries of their moth­ers.

But this was no easy A.

In addi­tion to expect­ing reg­u­lar, punc­tu­al atten­dance, Lict­man stip­u­lat­ed that in order to pass, the stu­dent could not give the fruits of her labor away.

(Sol­id advice for cre­ators of any craft project this ambi­tious. As Deb­bie Stoller, author of Stitch ‘n Bitch: The Knit­ter’s Hand­book coun­sels:

…those who have nev­er knit some­thing have no idea how much time it took. If you give some­one a sweater, they may think that you made that in an evening when you were watch­ing a half-hour sit­com. It’s only when peo­ple actu­al­ly attempt to knit that they final­ly get this real­iza­tion, this light bulb goes on over their heads, and they real­ize that, “Wow, this actu­al­ly takes some skill and some time. I’ve got new­found respect for my grand­ma.”)

Ulti­mate­ly, Licht­man con­cludes that the five cred­its she award­ed her stu­dent could not be reduced to some­thing as sim­ple as geom­e­try or quilt-mak­ing;

You are giv­ing her cred­it for some­thing less tan­gi­ble.  Some­thing like pride.  Five cred­it hours for feel­ing she can accom­plish some­thing hard that, okay, is slight­ly relat­ed to geom­e­try.

Exam­ples of the cur­rent cohort’s work can be seen on Rock Paper Scis­sors Col­lec­tive’s Insta­gram.

Once com­plet­ed, these quilts will be donat­ed to Bay Area fos­ter chil­dren and pedi­atric patients at the local Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal.

via Boing­Bo­ing

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Solar Sys­tem Quilt: In 1876, a Teacher Cre­ates a Hand­craft­ed Quilt to Use as a Teach­ing Aid in Her Astron­o­my Class

17-Year-Old Ade­line Har­ris Cre­at­ed a Quilt Col­lect­ing 360 Sig­na­tures of the Most Famous Peo­ple of the 19th Cen­tu­ry: Lin­coln, Dick­ens, Emer­son & More (1863)

Bisa Butler’s Beau­ti­ful Quilt­ed Por­traits of Fred­er­ick Dou­glass, Nina Simone, Jean-Michel Basquiat & More

Via Boing Boing

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

Why Maya Angelou’s Memoir I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Became One of the Most Banned Books of All Time

Some good news: Maya Angelou’s 1969 mem­oir I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, a recount­ing of her first 17 years, includ­ing a rape at the age of 7 or 8 by her mother’s boyfriend, and her sub­se­quent emo­tion­al trau­ma, no longer leads the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion’s Office for Intel­lec­tu­al Freedom’s list of banned and chal­lenged books.

The bad news: there will always be titles assigned to high school­ers that vivid­ly depict young people’s actu­al expe­ri­ence, that par­ents and com­mu­ni­ty groups will tar­get on sim­i­lar grounds.

New African list­ed some of the ver­ba­tim objec­tions that have been lev­eled against I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - that it encour­aged “pro­fan­i­ty”, was filled with “descrip­tions of drug abuse, sex­u­al­ly explic­it con­duct and tor­ture”, preached “bit­ter­ness and hatred against whites”, was “like­ly to cor­rupt minors” and con­tained “inap­pro­pri­ate­ly explic­it sex­u­al scenes.”

Angelou, who accused the book’s detrac­tors of not read­ing more than two words of it, bri­dled that any­one would “act as if their chil­dren are not faced with the same threats.”

Mol­lie Godfrey’s TED-Ed les­son, ani­mat­ed by Lau­ra White. above, points out how rad­i­cal Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings was for a work of its time:

Her auto­bi­og­ra­phy was one of the first to speak open­ly about child sex­u­al abuse and espe­cial­ly ground­break­ing to do so from the per­spec­tive of the abused child. For cen­turies Black women writ­ers have been lim­it­ed by stereo­types char­ac­ter­iz­ing them as hyper­sex­u­al. Afraid of rein­forc­ing these stereo­types, few were will­ing to write about their sex­u­al­i­ty at all but Angelou refused to be con­strained. She pub­licly explored her most per­son­al expe­ri­ence with­out apol­o­gy or shame.

Robert P. Doyle, vice-pres­i­dent of the Free­dom to Read Foun­da­tion, revealed that the ALA was inspired to launch Banned Books Week in 1982, when the Amer­i­can Book­sellers Asso­ci­a­tion dis­played I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and oth­er works in a cage out­side the entrance to their annu­al con­fer­ence:

The dis­play gen­er­at­ed a lot of press atten­tion. And the book com­mu­ni­ty real­ized that we have not only an oppor­tu­ni­ty, but a respon­si­bil­i­ty to engage the Amer­i­can pub­lic in a con­ver­sa­tion about the First Amend­ment as it relates to books and lit­er­a­ture. A coali­tion was formed imme­di­ate­ly with the authors, pub­lish­ers, and major dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ters (book­stores and libraries) in the U.S. to draw atten­tion to the impor­tance of the free­dom to read, to pub­li­cize threats to that free­dom, and to pro­vide infor­ma­tion to com­bat the lack of aware­ness.

Many of the book’s high pro­file defend­ers dis­cov­ered it at a for­ma­tive age, includ­ing rap­per Com­mon, who decid­ed to become a writer after encoun­ter­ing it as a 5th grad­er, and Oprah Win­frey, who was blown away to learn that anoth­er young Black girl had also endured sex­u­al abuse:

I read those words and thought, “Some­body knows who I am.”

No less mov­ing is a com­ment on Godfrey’s TED-Ed les­son left by a teacher in Texas:

Caged Bird helped saved my life. Thank­ful for the day my 11th grade Eng­lish teacher at a con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian school hand­ed it to me and said, “read this, sweet pea”…I still encour­age my stu­dents at a con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian school in TX to read it.”

“I am glad you got the help you need­ed,” anoth­er view­er respond­ed. “I live in Flori­da, and that teacher who helped you would be charged with a felony here. I’m dead seri­ous.”

Lis­ten to Maya Angelou dis­cuss I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in this 1970  inter­view with Studs Terkel. 

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Brook­lyn Pub­lic Library Gives Every Teenag­er in the U.S. Free Access to Cen­sored Books

Texas School Board Bans Illus­trat­ed Edi­tion of The Diary of Anne Frank

Ten­nessee School Board Bans Maus, the Pulitzer-Prize Win­ning Graph­ic Nov­el on the Holo­caust; the Book Becomes #1 Best­seller on Ama­zon

The 850 Books a Texas Law­mak­er Wants to Ban Because They Could Make Stu­dents Feel Uncom­fort­able

Umber­to Eco Makes a List of the 14 Com­mon Fea­tures of Fas­cism

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

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How One Man Keeps Showing Films in a Japanese Cinema That Closed 58 Years Ago: A Moving, Short Documentary

Since at least the nine­teen-fifties, when tele­vi­sion own­er­ship began spread­ing rapid­ly across the devel­oped world, movie the­aters have been labor­ing under one kind of exis­ten­tial threat or anoth­er. Yet despite their appar­ent vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to a vari­ety of dis­rup­tive devel­op­ments — home video, stream­ing, COVID-19 — many, if not most, of them have found ways to sol­dier on. In some cas­es this owes to the ded­i­ca­tion of small groups of sup­port­ers, or even to the efforts of indi­vid­u­als like Shu­ji Tamu­ra, who oper­ates the cen­tu­ry-old Motomiya Movie The­ater in Japan’s Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture sin­gle-hand­ed­ly.

You can see Tamu­ra in action in My The­ater, the five-minute doc­u­men­tary short above. “The Japan­ese direc­tor Kazuya Ashizawa’s charm­ing obser­va­tion­al por­trait cap­tures Tamu­ra as he screens old movies for an audi­ence of stu­dents and cinephiles, and gives behind-the-scenes tours of the cin­e­ma,” says Aeon. Those tours include an up-close look at the thor­ough­ly ana­log film pro­jec­tor of whose oper­a­tion Tamu­ra, 81 years old at the time of film­ing, has retained all the know-how. Though he offi­cial­ly closed the the­ater in the nine­teen-six­ties, it seems he keeps his thread­ing skills sharp by hold­ing screen­ings for tour groups young and old.

Though light­heart­ed, a por­trait like this could hard­ly avoid an ele­giac under­tone. Already suf­fer­ing from the depop­u­la­tion that has afflict­ed many regions of Japan, Fukushi­ma was also bad­ly afflict­ed by the 2011 Tōhoku earth­quake and tsuna­mi and their asso­ci­at­ed nuclear dis­as­ter. In 2020, the year after Ashiza­wa shot My The­ater, a typhoon “caused the Abuku­ma­gawa riv­er and its trib­u­taries to flood,” as the Asahi Shim­bun’s Shoko Riki­maru writes. “The Motomiya city cen­ter was inun­dat­ed, sev­en peo­ple died, and more than 2,000 hous­es and build­ings were dam­aged.” Both Tamu­ra’s the­ater and his home were flood­ed, and “half of the 400 film cans on shelves on the first floor of his house were drenched in mud­dy water.”

In response, help came from near and far. “A man­u­fac­tur­er in Kana­gawa Pre­fec­ture sent 10 box­es of film cans to the the­ater, while a movie the­ater in Morio­ka, Iwate Pre­fec­ture, deliv­ered a film-edit­ing machine. About 30 peo­ple affil­i­at­ed with the film indus­try in Tokyo showed up at the the­ater to help clean and dry the film. The effort led to the restora­tion of about 100 films.” Alas, Tamu­ra’s planned re-open­ing event hap­pened to coin­cide with the spread of the coro­n­avirus across Japan, result­ing in its indef­i­nite post­pone­ment. But now that Japan has re-opened for inter­na­tion­al tourism, per­haps the  Motomiya Movie The­ater can become a des­ti­na­tion for not just domes­tic vis­i­tors but for­eign ones as well. Hav­ing been charmed by My The­ater, who would­n’t want to make the trip?

via Aeon

Relat­ed con­tent:

Why Japan Has the Old­est Busi­ness­es in the World?: Hōshi, a 1300-Year-Old Hotel, Offers Clues

A Med­i­ta­tive Look at a Japan­ese Artisan’s Quest to Save the Bril­liant, For­got­ten Col­ors of Japan’s Past

Dis­cov­er the Ghost Towns of Japan: Where Scare­crows Replace Peo­ple, and a Man Lives in an Aban­doned Ele­men­tary School Gym

The Sto­ry of Akiko Takaku­ra, One of the Last Sur­vivors of the Hiroshi­ma Bomb­ing, Told in a Short Ani­mat­ed Doc­u­men­tary

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.

The Art of Making Movie Trailers: A Longtime Movie Trailer Editor Breaks Down Classic Previews for Dr. Strangelove, Carrie, and Others

No art form is as sub­ject to trend and fash­ion as the Hol­ly­wood film — except, per­haps, the Hol­ly­wood trail­er. If you came of age as a movie­go­er in the nine­teen-nineties, as I did, you’ll remem­ber hear­ing hun­dreds of grav­el­ly-voiced promis­es of trans­porta­tion to “a world where the sun burns cold, and the wind blows cold­er”; to “a world where great risks can bring extra­or­di­nary rewards”; to “a world where dream­ers and believ­ers are mirac­u­lous­ly trans­formed into heav­en­ly crea­tures.” Prac­ti­cal­ly all of these  lines were deliv­ered by voice-over artist Don LaFontaine; when he died in 2008, the “in a world…” trail­er went with him.

LaFontaine gets his due in the Vox video at the top of the post, which exam­ines the art of the movie trail­er through the eyes of edi­tor Bill Neil. Neil’s own résumé includes the trail­ers for mod­ern entries in var­i­ous hor­ror fran­chis­es, like remakes of The Texas Chain­saw Mas­sacre and The Ami­tyville Hor­ror, as well as the 2018 Hal­loween.

This placed him well to cut one togeth­er for Nope by Jor­dan Peele, an auteur keen on putting old tropes of genre film to new ends. The project gave Neil a chance to exer­cise his own retro-repur­pos­ing instinct, and here he lays out a few of the sources — Car­pen­ter’s The Fog, Steven Spiel­berg’s Close Encoun­ters of the Third Kind — to which he paid homage while fill­ing the trail­er with intrigue.

With Nope, as with most every film, Neil made its trail­er with­out see­ing the fin­ished prod­uct. Rather, he had to work with raw footage as it was being shot, which results in vis­i­ble dif­fer­ences between the images in the trail­er and those in the actu­al movie. (In some cas­es, scenes excerpt­ed in a trail­er end up cut out entire­ly.) Such restric­tions have a way of inspir­ing edi­tors to come up with new tech­niques, some of which become high­ly influ­en­tial: in the video, Neil high­lights the fea­tures of clas­sic trail­ers for pic­tures like Dr. Strangelove, Car­rie, and Alien, iden­ti­fy­ing the most endur­ing ele­ments of their lega­cy in his craft.

When those movies came out in the nine­teen-six­ties, sev­en­ties, and ear­ly eight­ies, most trail­ers were seen in one place: the movie the­ater. (And in those days, as Neil notes, trail­ers were made not by spe­cial­ized pro­duc­tion hous­es, but employ­ees in the stu­dio or even the film­mak­ers them­selves.) Then came the home-video era, which chal­lenged edi­tors with defeat­ing the view­er’s instinct to hit fast-for­ward. Today, trail­ers reflect the dom­i­nance of what Neil calls the “bumper,” a flash of max­i­mum excite­ment in the first few sec­onds that sug­gests “it’s gonna get crazy by the end” — on the the­o­ry that, because you’re prob­a­bly watch­ing on Youtube, you won’t hes­i­tate to click that skip but­ton oth­er­wise.

Relat­ed con­tent:

John Lan­dis Decon­structs Trail­ers of Great 20th Cen­tu­ry Films: Cit­i­zen Kane, Sun­set Boule­vard, 2001 & More

Com­pare the Orig­i­nal Trail­ers of Clas­sic Films with Their Mod­ern Updates: Casablan­ca, Dog Day After­noon & The Exor­cist

Watch 25 Alfred Hitch­cock Trail­ers, Excit­ing Films in Their Own Right

Watch the 7 Hour Trail­er for the 720 Hour Film, Ambiancé, the Longest Movie in His­to­ry

The Creepy 13th-Cen­tu­ry Melody That Shows Up in Movies Again & Again: An Intro­duc­tion to “Dies Irae”

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.

Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree: The Animated Film Narrated by Shel Silverstein Himself (1973)

Back in 1964, Shel Sil­ver­stein wrote The Giv­ing Tree, a wide­ly loved chil­dren’s book now trans­lat­ed into more than 30 lan­guages. It’s a sto­ry about the human con­di­tion, about giv­ing and receiv­ing, using and get­ting used, need­i­ness and greed­i­ness, although many fin­er points of the sto­ry are open to inter­pre­ta­tion. Today, we’re rewind­ing the video­tape to 1973, when Sil­ver­stein’s lit­tle book was turned into a 10-minute ani­mat­ed film. Sil­ver­stein nar­rates the sto­ry him­self and also plays the har­mon­i­ca.… which brings us to his musi­cal tal­ents. Don’t miss Sil­ver­stein, also a well-known song­writer, appear­ing on The John­ny Cash Show in 1970, and the two singing “A Boy Named Sue.” Sil­ver­stein wrote the song, and Cash made it famous. Thanks to Mark, co-edi­tor of the phi­los­o­phy blog/podcast The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life for send­ing these along.

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:

Watch Ani­ma­tions of Oscar Wilde’s Children’s Sto­ries “The Hap­py Prince” and “The Self­ish Giant”

Ani­mat­ed Sto­ries Writ­ten by Tom Waits, Nick Cave & Oth­er Artists, Read by Dan­ny Devi­to, Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis & More

Mau­rice Sendak Ani­mat­ed; James Gan­dolfi­ni Reads from Sendak’s Sto­ry “In The Night Kitchen”

The Only Draw­ing from Mau­rice Sendak’s Short-Lived Attempt to Illus­trate The Hob­bit

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.