Watch Iggy Pop Perform Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

Of the orig­i­nal mem­bers of the Stooges, only Iggy Pop still lives. He has by now sur­vived a great many oth­er cul­tur­al fig­ures who came up from the under­ground and into promi­nence through rock music in the nine­teen-sev­en­ties. And not only is he still alive, he’s still putting out albums: his most recent, Every Los­er, came out just this past Jan­u­ary. It fol­lowed Free, from 2019, which includes his read­ing of Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gen­tle Into That Good Night” — an idea, Aman­da Petru­sich notes in a con­tem­po­rary New York­er pro­file, that came “after an adver­tis­ing agency asked him to read the poem for a com­mer­cial voice-over.”

“At first, I resist­ed,” Pop says to Petru­sich. “I’m not in junior high.” Indeed, as a vehi­cle for the expres­sion of one’s own world­view, “Do Not Go Gen­tle Into That Good Night” feels about one rung up from “The Road Not Tak­en.”

Petru­sich acknowl­edges that “the poem has grown increas­ing­ly mean­ing­less over time, hav­ing been repeat­ed and adapt­ed to so many inane cir­cum­stances. Yet if you can shake off its famil­iar­i­ty the cen­tral idea — that a per­son should live vig­or­ous­ly, unapolo­get­i­cal­ly — remains ger­mane.” Pop’s dis­tinc­tive Mid­west­ern voice, made hag­gard but res­o­nant by decade after decade of punk-rock rig­ors, also imbues it with an unex­pect­ed vital­i­ty.

It may sur­prise those who know Pop main­ly through his brazen onstage antics of half a cen­tu­ry ago that it would occur to him to read a poem at all. In fact, he’s a man of many and var­ied lit­er­ary inter­ests, hav­ing also per­formed the work of Walt Whit­man and Edgar Allan Poe, writ­ten about Edward Gib­bon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and made a film with Michel Houelle­becq (whose nov­els inspired Pop’s 2009 album Prélim­i­naires). All of this while he has kept on show­ing us, both on records and in live per­for­mances, how prop­er­ly to rage, rage — against the dying of the light, and much else besides.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Hear Dylan Thomas Recite His Clas­sic Poem, “Do Not Go Gen­tle Into That Good Night”

Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gen­tle Into That Good Night” Per­formed by John Cale (and Pro­duced by Bri­an Eno)

Iggy Pop Reads Walt Whit­man in Col­lab­o­ra­tions With Elec­tron­ic Artists Alva Noto and Tar­wa­ter

Sir Antho­ny Hop­kins Reads Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gen­tle Into That Good Night”

Iggy Pop Reads Edgar Allan Poe’s Clas­sic Hor­ror Sto­ry “The Tell-Tale Heart”

Dylan Thomas Sketch­es a Car­i­ca­ture of a Drunk­en Dylan Thomas

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

Watch Cab Calloway Actually Perform “Mr. Hepster’s Dictionary,” His Famous Dictionary of Jazz Slang (1944)

Who’s up for a good dic­tio­nary on film?

Col­in Brown­ing, assis­tant edi­tor of The Bluff, a Loy­ola Mary­mount Uni­ver­si­ty stu­dent news­pa­per, has some kopaset­ic cast­ing sug­ges­tions for a hypo­thet­i­cal fea­ture adap­ta­tion of the “Mer­ri­am-Web­ster clas­sic.”

He’s just mug­gin’, of course. Still, he seems like a young man who’s got his boots on.

Dig?

…no?

In that case, you’d best acquaint your­self with the only cin­e­mat­ic dic­tio­nary adap­ta­tion we’re aware of, the Mr. Hep­cat’s Dic­tio­nary num­ber from Sen­sa­tions of 1945, above.

Musi­cal team Al Sher­man & Har­ry Tobias drew direct­ly from Cab Calloway’s Cat-ologue: a Hepster’s Dic­tio­nary, a lex­i­con of Harlem jazz musi­cians’ slang orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in 1938 ’ when choos­ing terms for Cal­loway to define for a young pro­tégée, eager to be schooled in “the lin­go all the jit­ter­bugs use today.”

In between, Cal­loway, lays some iron in white tie and tails.

By the time the film came out, Cal­loway’s Hep­ster Dic­tio­nary was in its sev­enth edi­tion, and had earned its place as the offi­cial jive lan­guage ref­er­ence book of the New York Pub­lic Library.

As Cal­loway wrote in the fore­word to the sixth edi­tion:

“Jive talk” is now an every­day part of the Eng­lish lan­guage. Its usage is now accept­ed in the movies, on the stage, and in the song prod­ucts of Tin Pan Alley. It is rea­son­able to assume that jive will find new avenues in such hith­er­to remote places as Aus­tralia, the South Pacif­ic, North Africa, Chi­na, Italy, France, Sici­ly, and inevitably Ger­many and wher­ev­er our Armed Forces may serve.

I don’t want to lend the impres­sion here that the many words con­tained in this edi­tion are the fig­ments of my imag­i­na­tion. They were gath­ered from every con­ceiv­able source. Many first saw the light of printer’s ink in Bil­ly Rowe’s wide­ly read col­umn “The Note­book,” in the Pitts­burgh Couri­er.

And now to enrich our vocab­u­lar­ies…

HEPSTER’S DICTIONARY

A

  • A hum­mer (n.): excep­tion­al­ly good. Ex., “Man, that boy is a hum­mer.”
  • Ain’t com­ing on that tab (v.): won’t accept the propo­si­tion. Usu­al­ly abbr. to “I ain’t com­ing.”
  • Alli­ga­tor (n.): jit­ter­bug.
  • Apple (n.): the big town, the main stem, Harlem.
  • Arm­strongs (n.): musi­cal notes in the upper reg­is­ter, high trum­pet notes.

B

  • Bar­be­cue (n.): the girl friend, a beau­ty.
  • Bar­rel­house (adj.): free and easy.
  • Bat­tle (n.): a very home­ly girl, a crone.
  • Beat (adj.): (1) tired, exhaust­ed. Ex., “You look beat” or “I feel beat.” (2) lack­ing any­thing. Ex, “I am beat for my cash”, “I am beat to my socks” (lack­ing every­thing).
  • Beat it out (v.): play it hot, empha­size the rhythm.
  • Beat up (adj.): sad, uncom­pli­men­ta­ry, tired.
  • Beat up the chops (or the gums) (v.): to talk, con­verse, be loqua­cious.
  • Beef (v.): to say, to state. Ex., “He beefed to me that, etc.”
  • Bible (n.): the gospel truth. Ex., “It’s the bible!”
  • Black (n.): night.
  • Black and tan (n.): dark and light col­ored folks. Not col­ored and white folks as erro­neous­ly assumed.
  • Blew their wigs (adj.): excit­ed with enthu­si­asm, gone crazy.
  • Blip (n.): some­thing very good. Ex., “That’s a blip”; “She’s a blip.”
  • Blow the top (v.): to be over­come with emo­tion (delight). Ex., “You’ll blow your top when you hear this one.”
  • Boo­gie-woo­gie (n.): har­mo­ny with accent­ed bass.
  • Boot (v.): to give. Ex., “Boot me that glove.”
  • Break it up (v.): to win applause, to stop the show.
  • Bree (n.): girl.
  • Bright (n.): day.
  • Bright­nin’ (n.): day­break.
  • Bring down ((1) n. (2) v.): (1) some­thing depress­ing. Ex., “That’s a bring down.” (2) Ex., “That brings me down.”
  • Bud­dy ghee (n.): fel­low.
  • Bust your conk (v.): apply your­self dili­gent­ly, break your neck.

C

  • Canary (n.): girl vocal­ist.
  • Capped (v.): out­done, sur­passed.
  • Cat (n.): musi­cian in swing band.
  • Chick (n.): girl.
  • Chime (n.): hour. Ex., “I got in at six chimes.”
  • Clam­bake (n.): ad lib ses­sion, every man for him­self, a jam ses­sion not in the groove.
  • Chirp (n.): female singer.
  • Cogs (n.): sun glass­es.
  • Col­lar (v.): to get, to obtain, to com­pre­hend. Ex., “I got­ta col­lar me some food”; “Do you col­lar this jive?”
  • Come again (v.): try it over, do bet­ter than you are doing, I don’t under­stand you.
  • Comes on like gang­busters (or like test pilot) (v.): plays, sings, or dances in a ter­rif­ic man­ner, par excel­lence in any depart­ment. Some­times abbr. to “That singer real­ly comes on!”
  • Cop (v.): to get, to obtain (see col­lar; knock).
  • Corny (adj.): old-fash­ioned, stale.
  • Creeps out like the shad­ow (v.): “comes on,” but in smooth, suave, sophis­ti­cat­ed man­ner.
  • Crumb crush­ers (n.): teeth.
  • Cub­by (n.): room, flat, home.
  • Cups (n.): sleep. Ex., “I got­ta catch some cups.”
  • Cut out (v.): to leave, to depart. Ex., “It’s time to cut out”; “I cut out from the joint in ear­ly bright.”
  • Cut rate (n.): a low, cheap per­son. Ex., “Don’t play me cut rate, Jack!”

D

  • Dic­ty (adj.): high-class, nifty, smart.
  • Dig (v.): (1) meet. Ex., “I’ll plant you now and dig you lat­er.” (2) look, see. Ex., “Dig the chick on your left duke.” (3) com­pre­hend, under­stand. Ex., “Do you dig this jive?”
  • Dim (n.): evening.
  • Dime note (n.): ten-dol­lar bill.
  • Dog­house (n.): bass fid­dle.
  • Domi (n.): ordi­nary place to live in. Ex., “I live in a right­eous domi.”
  • Doss (n.): sleep. Ex., “I’m a lit­tle beat for my doss.”
  • Down with it (adj.): through with it.
  • Drape (n.): suit of clothes, dress, cos­tume.
  • Dream­ers (n.): bed cov­ers, blan­kets.
  • Dry-goods (n.): same as drape.
  • Duke (n.): hand, mitt.
  • Dutchess (n.): girl.

E

  • Ear­ly black (n.): evening
  • Ear­ly bright (n.): morn­ing.
  • Evil (adj.): in ill humor, in a nasty tem­per.

F

  • Fall out (v.): to be over­come with emo­tion. Ex., “The cats fell out when he took that solo.”
  • Fews and two (n.): mon­ey or cash in small quan­ti­ty.
  • Final (v.): to leave, to go home. Ex., “I finaled to my pad” (went to bed); “We copped a final” (went home).
  • Fine din­ner (n.): a good-look­ing girl.
  • Focus (v.): to look, to see.
  • Foxy (v.): shrewd.
  • Frame (n.): the body.
  • Fraughty issue (n.): a very sad mes­sage, a deplorable state of affairs.
  • Free­by (n.): no charge, gratis. Ex., “The meal was a free­by.”
  • Frisk­ing the whiskers (v.): what the cats do when they are warm­ing up for a swing ses­sion.
  • Frol­ic pad (n.): place of enter­tain­ment, the­ater, night­club.
  • From­by (adj.): a frompy queen is a bat­tle or faust.
  • Front (n.): a suit of clothes.
  • Fruit­ing (v.): fick­le, fool­ing around with no par­tic­u­lar object.
  • Fry (v.): to go to get hair straight­ened.

G

  • Gabriels (n.): trum­pet play­ers.
  • Gam­min’ (adj.): show­ing off, flir­ta­tious.
  • Gasser (n, adj.): sen­sa­tion­al. Ex., “When it comes to danc­ing, she’s a gasser.”
  • Gate (n.): a male per­son (a salu­ta­tion), abbr. for “gate-mouth.”
  • Get in there (excla­ma­tion.): go to work, get busy, make it hot, give all you’ve got.
  • Gimme some skin (v.): shake hands.
  • Glims (n.): the eyes.
  • Got your boots on: you know what it is all about, you are a hep cat, you are wise.
  • Got your glass­es on: you are ritzy or snooty, you fail to rec­og­nize your friends, you are up-stage.
  • Gravy (n.): prof­its.
  • Grease (v.): to eat.
  • Groovy (adj.): fine. Ex., “I feel groovy.”
  • Ground grip­pers (n.): new shoes.
  • Growl (n.): vibrant notes from a trum­pet.
  • Gut-buck­et (adj.): low-down music.
  • Guz­zlin’ foam (v.): drink­ing beer.

H

  • Hard (adj.): fine, good. Ex., “That’s a hard tie you’re wear­ing.”
  • Hard spiel (n.): inter­est­ing line of talk.
  • Have a ball (v.): to enjoy your­self, stage a cel­e­bra­tion. Ex., “I had myself a ball last night.”
  • Hep cat (n.): a guy who knows all the answers, under­stands jive.
  • Hide-beat­er (n.): a drum­mer (see skin-beat­er).
  • Hinc­ty (adj.): con­ceit­ed, snooty.
  • Hip (adj.): wise, sophis­ti­cat­ed, any­one with boots on. Ex., “She’s a hip chick.”
  • Home-cook­ing (n.): some­thing very din­ner (see fine din­ner).
  • Hot (adj.): musi­cal­ly tor­rid; before swing, tunes were hot or bands were hot.
  • Hype (n, v.): build up for a loan, woo­ing a girl, per­sua­sive talk.

I

  • Icky (n.): one who is not hip, a stu­pid per­son, can’t col­lar the jive.
  • Igg (v.): to ignore some­one. Ex., “Don’t igg me!)
  • In the groove (adj.): per­fect, no devi­a­tion, down the alley.

J

  • Jack (n.): name for all male friends (see gate; pops).
  • Jam ((1)n, (2)v.): (1) impro­vised swing music. Ex., “That’s swell jam.” (2) to play such music. Ex., “That cat sure­ly can jam.”
  • Jeff (n.): a pest, a bore, an icky.
  • Jel­ly (n.): any­thing free, on the house.
  • Jit­ter­bug (n.): a swing fan.
  • Jive (n.): Harlemese speech.
  • Joint is jump­ing: the place is live­ly, the club is leap­ing with fun.
  • Jumped in port (v.): arrived in town.

K

  • Kick (n.): a pock­et. Ex., “I’ve got five bucks in my kick.”
  • Kill me (v.): show me a good time, send me.
  • Killer-diller (n.): a great thrill.
  • Knock (v.): give. Ex., “Knock me a kiss.”
  • Kopaset­ic (adj.): absolute­ly okay, the tops.

L

  • Lamp (v.): to see, to look at.
  • Land o’darkness (n.): Harlem.
  • Lane (n.): a male, usu­al­ly a non­pro­fes­sion­al.
  • Latch on (v.): grab, take hold, get wise to.
  • Lay some iron (v.): to tap dance. Ex., “Jack, you real­ly laid some iron that last show!”
  • Lay your rack­et (v.): to jive, to sell an idea, to pro­mote a propo­si­tion.
  • Lead sheet (n.): a top­coat.
  • Left raise (n.): left side. Ex., “Dig the chick on your left raise.”
  • Lick­ing the chops (v.): see frisk­ing the whiskers.
  • Licks (n.): hot musi­cal phras­es.
  • Lily whites (n.): bed sheets.
  • Line (n.): cost, price, mon­ey. Ex., “What is the line on this drape” (how much does this suit cost)? “Have you got the line in the mouse” (do you have the cash in your pock­et)? Also, in reply­ing, all fig­ures are dou­bled. Ex., “This drape is line forty” (this suit costs twen­ty dol­lars).
  • Lock up: to acquire some­thing exclu­sive­ly. Ex., “He’s got that chick locked up”; “I’m gonna lock up that deal.”

M

  • Main kick (n.): the stage.
  • Main on the hitch (n.): hus­band.
  • Main queen (n.): favorite girl friend, sweet­heart.
  • Man in gray (n.): the post­man.
  • Mash me a fin (com­mand.): Give me $5.
  • Mel­low (adj.): all right, fine. Ex., “That’s mel­low, Jack.”
  • Melt­ed out (adj.): broke.
  • Mess (n.): some­thing good. Ex., “That last drink was a mess.”
  • Meter (n.): quar­ter, twen­ty-five cents.
  • Mezz (n.): any­thing supreme, gen­uine. Ex., “this is real­ly the mezz.”
  • Mitt pound­ing (n.): applause.
  • Moo juice (n.): milk.
  • Mouse (n.): pock­et. Ex., “I’ve got a meter in the mouse.”
  • Mug­gin’ (v.): mak­ing ’em laugh, putting on the jive. “Mug­gin’ light­ly,” light stac­ca­to swing; “mug­gin’ heavy,” heavy stac­ca­to swing.
  • Mur­der (n.): some­thing excel­lent or ter­rif­ic. Ex., “That’s sol­id mur­der, gate!”

N

  • Neigho, pops: Noth­ing doing, pal.
  • Nick­lette (n.): auto­mat­ic phono­graph, music box.
  • Nick­el note (n.): five-dol­lar bill.
  • Nix out (v.): to elim­i­nate, get rid of. Ex., “I nixed that chick out last week”; “I nixed my gar­ments” (undressed).
  • Nod (n.): sleep. Ex., “I think I’l cop a nod.”

O

  • Ofay (n.): white per­son.
  • Off the cob (adj.): corny, out of date.
  • Off-time jive (n.): a sor­ry excuse, say­ing the wrong thing.
  • Orches­tra­tion (n.): an over­coat.
  • Out of the world (adj.): per­fect ren­di­tion. Ex., “That sax cho­rus was out of the world.”
  • Ow!: an excla­ma­tion with var­ied mean­ing. When a beau­ti­ful chick pass­es by, it’s “Ow!”; and when some­one pulls an awful pun, it’s also “Ow!”

P

  • Pad (n.): bed.
  • Peck­ing (n.): a dance intro­duced at the Cot­ton Club in 1937.
  • Peo­la (n.): a light per­son, almost white.
  • Pigeon (n.): a young girl.
  • Pops (n.): salu­ta­tion for all males (see gate; Jack).
  • Pounders (n.): police­men.

Q

  • Queen (n.): a beau­ti­ful girl.

R

  • Rank (v.): to low­er.
  • Ready (adj.): 100 per cent in every way. Ex., “That fried chick­en was ready.”
  • Ride (v.): to swing, to keep per­fect tem­po in play­ing or singing.
  • Riff (n.): hot lick, musi­cal phrase.
  • Right­eous (adj.): splen­did, okay. Ex., “That was a right­eous queen I dug you with last black.”
  • Rock me (v.): send me, kill me, move me with rhythm.
  • Ruff (n.): quar­ter, twen­ty-five cents.
  • Rug cut­ter (n.): a very good dancer, an active jit­ter­bug.

S

  • Sad (adj.): very bad. Ex., “That was the sad­dest meal I ever col­lared.”
  • Sad­der than a map (adj.): ter­ri­ble. Ex., “That man is sad­der than a map.”
  • Salty (adj.): angry, ill-tem­pered.
  • Sam got you: you’ve been draft­ed into the army.
  • Send (v.): to arouse the emo­tions. (joy­ful). Ex., “That sends me!”
  • Set of sev­en brights (n.): one week.
  • Sharp (adj.): neat, smart, tricky. Ex., “That hat is sharp as a tack.”
  • Sig­ni­fy (v.): to declare your­self, to brag, to boast.
  • Skins (n.): drums.
  • Skin-beat­er (n.): drum­mer (see hide-beat­er).
  • Sky piece (n.): hat.
  • Slave (v.): to work, whether ardu­ous labor or not.
  • Slide your jib (v.): to talk freely.
  • Snatch­er (n.): detec­tive.
  • So help me: it’s the truth, that’s a fact.
  • Sol­id (adj.): great, swell, okay.
  • Sound­ed off (v.): began a pro­gram or con­ver­sa­tion.
  • Spoutin’ (v.): talk­ing too much.
  • Square (n.): an unhep per­son (see icky; Jeff).
  • Stache (v.): to file, to hide away, to secrete.
  • Stand one up (v.): to play one cheap, to assume one is a cut-rate.
  • To be stashed (v.): to stand or remain.
  • Susie‑Q (n.): a dance intro­duced at the Cot­ton Club in 1936.

T

  • Take it slow (v.): be care­ful.
  • Take off (v.): play a solo.
  • The man (n.): the law.
  • Threads (n.): suit, dress or cos­tume (see drape; dry-goods).
  • Tick (n.): minute, moment. Ex., “I’ll dig you in a few ticks.” Also, ticks are dou­bled in account­ing time, just as mon­ey is dou­bled in giv­ing “line.” Ex., “I finaled to the pad this ear­ly bright at tick twen­ty” (I got to bed this morn­ing at ten o’clock).
  • Tim­ber (n.): tooth­pick.
  • To drib­ble (v.): to stut­ter. Ex., “He talked in drib­bles.”
  • Togged to the bricks: dressed to kill, from head to toe.
  • Too much (adj.): term of high­est praise. Ex., “You are too much!”
  • Trick­er­a­tion (n.): strut­tin’ your stuff, mug­gin’ light­ly and polite­ly.
  • Tril­ly (v.): to leave, to depart. Ex., “Well, I guess I’ll tril­ly.”
  • Truck (v.): to go some­where. Ex., “I think I’ll truck on down to the gin­mill (bar).”
  • Truck­ing (n.): a dance intro­duced at the Cot­ton Club in 1933.
  • Twister to the slam­mer (n.): the key to the door.
  • Two cents (n.): two dol­lars.

U

  • Unhep (adj.): not wise to the jive, said of an icky, a Jeff, a square.

V

  • Vine (n.): a suit of clothes.
  • V‑8 (n.): a chick who spurns com­pa­ny, is inde­pen­dent, is not amenable.

W

  • What’s your sto­ry?: What do you want? What have you got to say for your­self? How are tricks? What excuse can you offer? Ex., “I don’t know what his sto­ry is.”
  • Whipped up (adj.): worn out, exhaust­ed, beat for your every­thing.
  • Wren (n.): a chick, a queen.
  • Wrong riff: the wrong thing said or done. Ex., “You’re com­ing up on the wrong riff.”

Y

  • Yard­dog (n.): uncouth, bad­ly attired, unat­trac­tive male or female.
  • Yeah, man: an excla­ma­tion of assent.

Z

  • Zoot (adj.): exag­ger­at­ed
  • Zoot suit (n.): the ulti­mate in clothes. The only total­ly and tru­ly Amer­i­can civil­ian suit.

That’s sol­id mur­der, gate!

If you’re not too beat, Jazz Night In Amer­i­ca builds on Calloway’s dic­tio­nary with some addi­tion­al vocab­u­lary in the video below. Watch it for the mean­ings of stank, ictus, swoop, and scoop, defined col­lec­tive­ly by drum­mer Ali Jack­son as the sort of col­lo­qui­alisms you use when you “don’t want every­one to know what you’re say­ing, but you want to express a point.”

Lis­ten to poet Lemn Sis­say’s BBC his­to­ry of Cab Calloway’s Hepster’s Dic­tio­nary here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Cab Calloway’s “Hep­ster Dic­tio­nary,” a 1939 Glos­sary of the Lin­go (the “Jive”) of the Harlem Renais­sance

One of the Great­est Dances Sequences Ever Cap­tured on Film Gets Restored in Col­or by AI: Watch the Clas­sic Scene from Stormy Weath­er

Cab Cal­loway Stars in “Min­nie the Moocher,” a Trip­py Bet­ty Boop Car­toon That’s Ranked as the 20th Great­est Car­toon of All Time (1932)

Watch a Sur­re­al 1933 Ani­ma­tion of Snow White, Fea­tur­ing Cab Cal­loway & Bet­ty Boop: It’s Ranked as the 19th Great­est Car­toon of All Time

– 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 the Ancient Romans Had Better Teeth Than Modern Europeans

The cas­es for trav­el­ing back in time and liv­ing in a past era are many and var­ied, but the case against doing so is always the same: den­tistry. In every chap­ter of human his­to­ry before this one, so we’re often told, every­one lived in at least a low-lev­el state of agony inflict­ed by tooth prob­lems, to say noth­ing of the unimag­in­able unsight­li­ness of their smiles. But as jus­ti­fied as we prob­a­bly are in laugh­ing at the pearly whites on dis­play in Hol­ly­wood peri­od pieces, the his­tor­i­cal record con­flicts with our belief that the fur­ther you go into the past, the worst every­one’s teeth: ancient Romans, as explained in the Told In Stone video above, actu­al­ly had bet­ter teeth than mod­ern Euro­peans.

That’s hard­ly a high bar to clear, a mod­ern Amer­i­can may joke. But then, the Unit­ed States today takes den­tal care to an almost obses­sive lev­el, where­as the cit­i­zens of the Roman Empire had prac­ti­cal­ly noth­ing to work with by com­par­i­son. “The stan­dard, and often sole imple­ment employed to clean teeth was a tooth­pick,” says Told in Stone cre­ator Gar­rett Ryan. These “were paired with tooth pow­ders, which were rubbed over the teeth and gums with an enthu­si­as­tic fin­ger.” Ingre­di­ents includ­ed “pumice, pul­ver­ized bone, pow­dered glass, and crushed shell,” or some­times “sheep­’s sweat and the ash of a wolf’s head.” — all a far cry from any­thing offered on the tooth­paste aisle today.

“Bad breath was a chron­ic con­di­tion in the clas­si­cal world,” and “toothache seems to have been almost equal­ly preva­lent.” The treat­ment most com­mon­ly prac­ticed by Roman den­tists was extrac­tion, per­formed with­out anes­thet­ic. Yet only about a third of the pre­served skele­tons recov­ered from the ruins of Pom­peii and Her­cu­la­neum were miss­ing teeth, “and rel­a­tive­ly few had cav­i­ties.”  Though many soci­eties today take den­tal con­di­tion as a mark­er of class, in ancient Rome the rela­tion­ship was, to a cer­tain extent, reversed: “A young girl wear­ing expen­sive jew­el­ry, for exam­ple, already had five cav­i­ties, prob­a­bly because her fam­i­ly could afford to give her plen­ty of snacks smoth­ered in expen­sive and sug­ary hon­ey.”

Indeed, “in the absence of processed sug­ar, oral bac­te­ria were less aggres­sive than they are today.” Romans got cav­i­ties, but “the per­va­sive black­ened teeth and hol­low cheeks of ear­ly mod­ern Europe,”  an era at the unfor­tu­nate inter­sec­tion of rel­a­tive­ly plen­ti­ful sug­ar and rel­a­tive­ly prim­i­tive den­tistry, “were near­ly as dis­tant from the Roman expe­ri­ence as they are from ours.” Some of us here in the sug­ar-sat­u­rat­ed twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, with its con­stant pur­suit of den­tal per­fec­tion, may now be con­sid­er­ing the poten­tial ben­e­fits of shift­ing to an ancient Roman diet — with­out, of course, all those tiny, enam­el-abrad­ing stones that had a way of end­ing up in ancient Roman bread.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Try the Old­est Known Recipe For Tooth­paste: From Ancient Egypt, Cir­ca the 4th Cen­tu­ry BC

Explore the Roman Cook­book, De Re Coquinar­ia, the Old­est Known Cook­book in Exis­tence

Archae­ol­o­gists Dis­cov­er an Ancient Roman Snack Bar in the Ruins of Pom­peii

Bars, Beer & Wine in Ancient Rome: An Intro­duc­tion to Roman Nightlife and Spir­its

The Mys­tery Final­ly Solved: Why Has Roman Con­crete Been So Durable?

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.

Nathan Lane Breaks Down His Broadway Career

Play­bill writes: “Nathan Lane is cur­rent­ly star­ring on Broad­way in ‘Pic­tures From Home,’ oppo­site Zoë Wana­mak­er (who plays his wife) and Dan­ny Burstein (who plays his son). In the inau­gur­al entry to Play­bil­l’s new video series, ‘My Life in the The­atre,’ Lane sits down with a Play­bill binder con­tain­ing every Play­bill from every show he’s ever done on Broad­way. Lane walks us through his career, includ­ing the time he asked Sond­heim to write new songs for ‘The Frogs,’ how he almost changed his name to Nor­man Lane, and the pro­duc­tion where he played a ‘thug ver­sion of Don­ald Trump.’ ”

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!

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent 

100,000+ Won­der­ful Pieces of The­ater Ephemera Dig­i­tized by The New York Pub­lic Library

Watch Lin-Manuel Miran­da Per­form the Ear­li­est Ver­sion of Hamil­ton at the White House, Six Years Before the Play Hit the Broad­way Stage (2009)

Benedict Cumberbatch Reads a Letter to People Who Don’t Lock Bathroom Doors

In April 2018, author Andrew For­rester wrote an open let­ter to “Peo­ple Who Don’t Make Every Con­ceiv­able Effort to Ensure that the Bath­room Door is Locked.” And now Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch has read it, and read it well. This read­ing took place at Let­ters Live, an event cel­e­brat­ing the pow­er of lit­er­ary cor­re­spon­dence, held at Lon­don’s Roy­al Albert Hall. You can find oth­er Cum­ber­batch read­ings in the Relat­eds below.

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 

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch & Ian McK­ellen Read Epic Let­ters Writ­ten by Kurt Von­negut

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Reads “the Best Cov­er Let­ter Ever Writ­ten”

Hear Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Read­ing Let­ters by Kurt Von­negut, Alan Tur­ing, Sol LeWitt, and Oth­ers

Succession Star Brian Cox Tells the Entire Histories of Ancient Greece and Rome in 20 Minutes Each

Spoil­er alert: The death of Logan Roy the week­end before last marked the end of an era. Or at the very least, it was notable for occa­sion­ing, in the Los Ange­les Times, per­haps the first news­pa­per obit­u­ary of a fic­tion­al char­ac­ter. Roy was the mogul-patri­arch at the cen­ter of the hit black com­e­dy-dra­ma Suc­ces­sion, which is now approach­ing the end of its fourth and final sea­son on HBO. Bri­an Cox’s per­for­mance in that role had much to do with the suc­cess of Suc­ces­sion, so to speak, not least because he clear­ly under­stood that, for all its of-the-moment ref­er­ences, the series’ nar­ra­tive is deeply root­ed in con­cepts like dynasty and empire, which them­selves extend way back to antiq­ui­ty.

Antiq­ui­ty hap­pens to be the sub­ject of two videos Cox nar­rat­ed, just before the pre­miere of Suc­ces­sion, for the Youtube chan­nel Arza­mas. “Ancient Greece in 18 Min­utes” and “Ancient Rome in 20 Min­utes” deliv­er just what their titles promise, brief but clear and well-informed primers on the clas­si­cal civ­i­liza­tions that mod­ern West­ern­ers have long thought of as the pre­cur­sors to their own.

Of course, there were no sin­gle, con­tin­u­ous polit­i­cal or geo­graph­i­cal enti­ties called “Ancient Greece” and “Ancient Rome”; rather, those names refer to large regions of the world in which city-states rise and fell — as their very nature and rela­tion­ships with one anoth­er changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly — over a peri­od of cen­turies upon cen­turies.

To these acclaimed videos Cox brings his sig­na­ture irrev­er­ence-laced grav­i­tas. At the very end of “Ancient Greece in 18 Min­utes,” he tells of the Byzan­tine Empire, “which extend­ed the life of Greek cul­ture anoth­er thou­sand years — leav­ing us the weird Russ­ian alpha­bet, for instance.” This line is fun­nier if you know that Arza­mas is a Russ­ian chan­nel that has also put up videos on Russ­ian his­to­ry and cul­ture: the one on the coun­try’s twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry art just above, for instance, which Cox also nar­rates. Rus­sia has inher­it­ed ele­ments of the ancient Greek and Roman civ­i­liza­tions, as have oth­er dis­tant lands like the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca. And wher­ev­er we live, we can laugh at Cox’s obser­va­tion that “if an ancient Greek were to see mod­ern democ­ra­cy, he would say just one word: oli­garchy” — a form of rule Logan Roy knew all about.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Intro­duc­tion to Ancient Greek His­to­ry: A Free Online Course from Yale

A Vir­tu­al Tour of Ancient Athens: Fly Over Clas­si­cal Greek Civ­i­liza­tion in All Its Glo­ry

The Rise & Fall of Roman Civ­i­liza­tion: Every Year Shown in a Time­lapse Map Ani­ma­tion (753 BC ‑1479 AD)

An 8‑Minute Ani­mat­ed Flight Over Ancient Rome

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

An Archive of Animations/Cartoons of Ancient Greece & Rome: From the 1920s Through Today

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.

Jazz Drummer Larnell Lewis Hears Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” for the Very First Time, Then Plays It Near-Perfectly

Even if you don’t think you know “Enter Sand­man,” you know “Enter Sand­man.” For more than thir­ty years it’s been the sig­na­ture song of Metal­li­ca, the best-known heavy met­al band in the world, and as such prac­ti­cal­ly unavoid­able — unavoid­able, that is, unless you’re jazz drum­mer Lar­nell Lewis. Pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture for his demon­stra­tion of the thir­teen lev­els of drum­ming dif­fi­cul­ty, Lewis is most close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the fusion band Snarky Pup­py, and has, fair to say, spent his pro­fes­sion­al life out­side the realm of met­al. Hence the intrigue of the chal­lenge he takes on in the video above: can he play through “Enter Sand­man” after hear­ing it just once?

Metal­li­ca die-hards know how for­mi­da­ble a task this is. Record­ing the song in the first place took the band’s drum­mer Lars Ulrich more than one take — in fact, it took him near­ly fifty takes, in each of which he played just one sec­tion of the song, nev­er the whole thing straight through.

The final mix edits togeth­er all of the most pre­cise and intense pieces of his per­for­mance into one seem­ing­ly impos­si­ble-to-repli­cate whole. But for Lewis, learn­ing a song by ear and then play­ing it per­fect­ly is all in a day’s work, a process he demon­strates in the ear­li­er video just below, talk­ing his lis­ten­ers through his men­tal process of active lis­ten­ing to a per­cus­sion-free song, then com­ing up with all the drum parts on the fly.

Watch­ing Lewis active­ly lis­ten to “Enter Sand­man” has the appeal of those viral videos in which Youtu­bers hear hit songs for the first time — but even more so, since Lewis knows his craft back­wards and for­wards, and does­n’t hes­i­tate to express his own reac­tions and per­cep­tions. He notes a few tricky shifts into half time, and even one espe­cial­ly dra­mat­ic shot that he fore­sees miss­ing when he tries his own hand at the song. Apart from that, how­ev­er, he then plays the song him­self with an accu­ra­cy that aston­ish­es even the Metal­li­ca fans in the com­ments. As one says, it’s hard to say which is more unbe­liev­able: Lewis’ extra­or­di­nary tal­ent or the fact that he’d nev­er heard ‘Enter Sand­man’ before. The man must nev­er have set foot in a gym — but then, he prob­a­bly gets more than enough of a work­out at the drum kit.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed con­tent:

Watch 13 Lev­els of Drum­ming, from Easy to Com­plex, Explained by Snarky Pup­py Drum­mer Lar­nell Lewis

Watch Metal­li­ca Play “Enter Sand­man” Before a Crowd of 1.6 Mil­lion in Moscow, Dur­ing the Final Days of the Sovi­et Union (1991)

Metallica’s “Enter Sand­man” Sung in the Style of David Bowie

A Blue­grass Ver­sion of Metallica’s Heavy Met­al Hit, “Enter Sand­man”

Metal­li­ca Play­ing “Enter Sand­man” on Class­room Toy Instru­ments

The Neu­ro­science of Drum­ming: Researchers Dis­cov­er the Secrets of Drum­ming & The Human Brain

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.

Hayao Miyazaki Selects His 50 Favorite Children’s Books

Once upon a time, books served as the de fac­to refuge of the “phys­i­cal­ly weak” child. For ani­ma­tion leg­end, Hayao Miyaza­ki, above, they offered an escape from the grim­mer real­i­ties of post-World War II Japan.

Many of the 50 favorites he select­ed for a 2010 exhi­bi­tion hon­or­ing pub­lish­er Iwana­mi Shoten’s “Boy’s Books” series are time-test­ed West­ern clas­sics.

Lon­ers and orphans–The Lit­tle Prince, The Secret Gar­denfig­ure promi­nent­ly, as do talk­ing ani­mals (The Wind in the Wil­lows, Win­nie-the-Pooh, The Voy­ages of Doc­tor Dolit­tle).

And while it may be a com­mon­ly-held pub­lish­ing belief that boys won’t read sto­ries about girls, the young Miyaza­ki seemed to have no such bias, rank­ing Hei­di and Lau­ra Ingalls Wilder right along­side Tom Sawyer and Trea­sure Island’s pirates.

Sev­er­al of the titles that made the cut were ones he could only have encoun­tered as a grown up, includ­ing 1967’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweil­er and When Marnie Was There, the lat­ter even­tu­al­ly serv­ing as source mate­r­i­al for a Stu­dio Ghi­b­li movie, as did Miyazaki’s top pick, Mary Norton’s The Bor­row­ers.

We invite you to take a nos­tal­gic stroll through Miyazaki’s best-loved children’s books. Read­ers, how many have you read?

Hayao Miyazaki’s Top 50 Children’s Books

  1. The Bor­row­ers — Mary Nor­ton
  2. The Lit­tle Prince — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  3. Chil­dren of Noisy Vil­lage — Astrid Lind­gren
  4. When Marnie Was There — Joan G. Robin­son
  5. Swal­lows and Ama­zons — Arthur Ran­some
  6. The Fly­ing Class­room — Erich Käst­ner
  7. There Were Five of Us — Karel Poláček
  8. What the Neigh­bours Did, and Oth­er Sto­ries — Ann Philip­pa Pearce
  9. Hans Brinker, or The Sil­ver Skates — Mary Mapes Dodge
  10. The Secret Gar­den — Frances Hodg­son Bur­nett
  11. Eagle of The Ninth — Rose­mary Sut­cliff
  12. The Trea­sure of the Nibelungs — Gus­tav Schalk
  13. The Three Mus­ke­teers — Alexan­dre Dumas, père
  14. A Wiz­ard of Earth­sea — Ursu­la K. Le Guin
  15. Les Princes du Vent — Michel-Aime Bau­douy
  16. The Flam­bards Series — K. M. Pey­ton
  17. Sou­venirs ento­mologiques — Jean Hen­ri Fab­re
  18. The Long Win­ter — Lau­ra Ingalls Wilder
  19. A Nor­we­gian Farm — Marie Ham­sun
  20. Hei­di — Johan­na Spyri
  21. The Adven­tures of Tom Sawyer — Mark Twain
  22. Lit­tle Lord Fauntleroy — Frances Hodg­son Bur­nett
  23. Tis­tou of the Green Thumbs — Mau­rice Druon
  24. The Adven­tures of Sher­lock Holmes — Arthur Conan Doyle
  25. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweil­er — E. L. Konigs­burg
  26. The Otter­bury Inci­dent — Cecil Day-Lewis
  27. Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land — Lewis Car­roll
  28. The Lit­tle Book­room — Eleanor Far­jeon
  29. The For­est is Alive or Twelve Months — Samuil Yakovle­vich Mar­shak
  30. The Restau­rant of Many Orders — Ken­ji Miyaza­wa
  31. Win­nie-the-Pooh — A. A. Milne
  32. Nihon Ryōi­ki – Kyokai
  33. Strange Sto­ries from a Chi­nese Stu­dio — Pu Songling
  34. Nine Fairy Tales: And One More Thrown in For Good Mea­sure — Karel Čapek
  35. The Man Who Has Plant­ed Welsh Onions — Kim So-un
  36. Robin­son Cru­soe — Daniel Defoe
  37. The Hob­bit — J. R. R. Tolkien
  38. Jour­ney to the West — Wu Cheng’en
  39. Twen­ty Thou­sand Leagues Under the Sea — Jules Verne
  40. The Adven­tures of the Lit­tle Onion — Gian­ni Rodari
  41. Trea­sure Island — Robert Louis Steven­son
  42. The Ship that Flew — Hil­da Winifred Lewis
  43. The Wind in the Wil­lows — Ken­neth Gra­hame
  44. The Lit­tle Hump­backed Horse — Pyotr Pavlovich Yer­shov (Ershoff)
  45. The Lit­tle White Horse — Eliz­a­beth Goudge
  46. The Rose and the Ring — William Make­peace Thack­er­ay
  47. The Radi­um Woman — Eleanor Door­ly
  48. City Neigh­bor, The Sto­ry of Jane Addams — Clara Ingram Jud­son
  49. Ivan the Fool — Leo Tol­stoy
  50. The Voy­ages of Doc­tor Dolit­tle — Hugh Loft­ing

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2017.

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:

Enter an Archive of 7,000 His­tor­i­cal Children’s Books, All Dig­i­tized & Free to Read Online

Clas­sic Children’s Books Now Dig­i­tized and Put Online: Revis­it Vin­tage Works from the 19th & 20th Cen­turies

Clas­sic Children’s Books Now Dig­i­tized and Put Online: Revis­it Vin­tage Works from the 19th & 20th Cen­turies

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  She’ll be appear­ing onstage in New York City this June as one of the clowns in Paul David Young’s Faust 3. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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