Sinéad O’Connor Makes Her First US Television Appearance: Watch Her Sing “Mandinka” on Late Night with David Letterman (1988)

On Sep­tem­ber 7, 1988, a skin­ny, near bald, 21-year-old moth­er took the mic mid­way through Late Night with David Let­ter­man and blew the socks off both the live stu­dio audi­ence and the folks view­ing at home.

She also appeared as an unwill­ing par­tic­i­pant in a cheesy green­room sketch with fel­low guests come­di­an Robert Klein, croon­er Jer­ry Vale, and a female day play­er cos­tumed as a sexy cig­a­rette girl from anoth­er era.

It’s a stu­pid, ret­ro­grade bit that’s become even worse with age, but young Sinead O’Connor’s refusal to play along with the prob­lem­at­ic premise was as true to form as her howl­ing per­for­mance of Mandin­ka off her first album, The Lion and the Cobra.

Per­form­ing in a stud­ded jean jack­et and Claddagh ring, she made her live US tele­vi­sion debut with eyes most­ly closed.

Let­ter­man intro­duced her as a “remark­able, young singer and writer from Ire­land.”

It’s fun to see the truth of that canned line hit­ting the house band as the song pro­gress­es. Band­leader Paul Shaf­fer looks espe­cial­ly tick­led by the feroc­i­ty of O’Connor’s per­for­mance and her con­fi­dent musi­cian­ship.

In her mem­oir Remem­ber­ings, O’Connor explains that the song was inspired by the 1977 tele­vi­sion adap­ta­tion of Alex Haley’s semi-auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal his­tor­i­cal nov­el Roots:

I was a young girl when I saw it, and it moved some­thing so deeply in me, I had a vis­cer­al response. I came to emo­tion­al­ly iden­ti­fy with the civ­il rights move­ment and slav­ery, espe­cial­ly giv­en the theoc­ra­cy I lived in and the oppres­sion in my own home.

She reprised Mandin­ka sev­er­al months lat­er at the Gram­my Awards. She may have lost Best Female Rock Vocal Per­for­mance to estab­lished leg­end Tina Turn­er, but the LA Times wag­gish­ly declared her “black hal­ter top, bare midriff, torn, fad­ed blue jeans and large black work shoes” the “out­fit of the evening”:

The lat­est addi­tion to her shaved-head look is a tat­too of mil­i­tant rap group Pub­lic Ene­my’s insignia–a view through a tele­scop­ic gun sight–over her left ear. None of which detract­ed from her elec­tri­fy­ing per­for­mance of her song “Mandin­ka.”

“I thought it was a lit­tle odd that they asked me to per­form, because of the way I look,” a ner­vous-look­ing O’Connor told the press back­stage. “But I find it encour­ag­ing that they asked, because it’s an acknowl­edg­ment that they are pre­pared not to be so safe about the music and push for­ward with peo­ple slight­ly off the wall.”

Two years lat­er, her cov­er of Prince’s Noth­ing Com­pares 2 U, abet­ted by her defi­ant appear­ance, made her a house­hold name. Nom­i­nat­ed for four Gram­mys, she declined an invi­ta­tion to per­form at the cer­e­mo­ny. She also declined her award for Best Alter­na­tive Music Per­for­mance.

In a let­ter to the spon­sor­ing orga­ni­za­tion, the Record­ing Acad­e­my of the Unit­ed States, she argued against the music industry’s pri­or­i­ties, its overt ten­den­cy to rank artists based on their com­mer­cial suc­cess:

As artists I believe our func­tion is to express the feel­ings of the human race–to always speak the truth and nev­er keep it hid­den even though we are oper­at­ing in a world which does not like the sound of the truth. I believe that our pur­pose is to inspire and, in some way, guide and heal the human race, of which we are all equal mem­bers.

Those look­ing for ear­ly-90s exam­ples of man-splain­ing might appre­ci­ate Record­ing Acad­e­my Pres­i­dent Michael Greene’s response, in which he over­looked the Let­ter­man appear­ance, claim­ing the Gram­mys pro­vid­ed O’Con­nor with her first nation­al­ly tele­vised expo­sure in the States:

We applaud that Sinead feels so strong­ly about these issues and believe that her con­vic­tions only add to the seri­ous­ness of her work. But she may be mis­guid­ed. We respect her immense­ly as an artist… But I’m afraid that Sinead may not be prop­er­ly informed about the dif­fer­ence between the overt­ly com­mer­cial aspects of pop­u­lar­i­ty con­tests as opposed to the Gram­mys, which are vot­ed on by the cre­ative com­mu­ni­ty.

O’Connor dou­bled down, attempt­ing to ral­ly her fel­low musi­cians to shine a light on society’s ills, telling the LA Times that “It’s not enough any more to just sit in your chair and say, ‘Yeah, it’s ter­ri­ble.’:”

Musi­cians are in a posi­tion to help heal this sick­ness, but I’d say 90% of the artists in the music busi­ness fail in that respon­si­bil­i­ty. You must acknowl­edge if you are an artist that you are a role mod­el for young peo­ple, whether you like it or not. If you don’t want to accept that respon­si­bil­i­ty, you shouldn’t be an artist. With pow­er comes respon­si­bil­i­ty.

The indus­try, includ­ing awards shows, sends out the mes­sage that sell­ing more records is good rather than telling the truth.

Hon­or­ing com­mer­cial suc­cess is the obvi­ous pur­pose of the Amer­i­can Music Awards tele­cast, but it’s also the intent of the Gram­mys as well.

I think if artists were to be award­ed for what they had achieved in so far as telling the truth … as far as heal­ing the human race, then I’d say Van Mor­ri­son or Ice Cube, peo­ple like that should be hon­ored.

That state­ment lends an extra poignan­cy to our view­ing of O’Connor and Morrison’s 1995 Let­ter­man appear­ance, when, backed by the Chief­tans, they duet­ted on Have I Told You Late­ly?

In the wake of O’Connor’s death at 56 last week, the media remind­ed us of the time she ripped up a pic­ture of Pope John Paul II on Sat­ur­day Night Live as a way of draw­ing atten­tion to the Catholic church’s coverup of sex­u­al abuse by the cler­gy.

They remind­ed us of the time Frank Sina­tra claimed he’d like to “kick her ass” when she wouldn’t sub­mit to singing the Nation­al Anthem before a con­cert.

They remind­ed us of her cor­re­spon­dence with Miley Cyrus, where­in she warned the younger singer not to “obscure (her) tal­ent by allow­ing (her)self to be pimped” either con­scious­ly or uncon­scious­ly.

Mean­while, Let­ter­man bassist Will Lee react­ed to the news by revis­it­ing that 1987 appear­ance on his Insta­gram:

Sinead O’Connor RIP — I always felt her pain, but now I don’t have to. She is free. Her death comes as a shock to the sys­tem because I always hoped she would find resolve, but she went too soon….

– 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.

Behold A Grammar of Japanese Ornament and Design: The 19th Century Book That Introduced Western Audiences to Japanese Art (1880)

In 1880, archi­tect Thomas W. Cut­ler endeav­ored to intro­duce his fel­low Brits to Japan­ese art and design, a sub­ject that remained nov­el for many West­ern­ers of the time, giv­en how recent­ly the Toku­gawa shogu­nate had “kept them­selves aloof from all for­eign inter­course, and their coun­try jeal­ous­ly closed against strangers.”

Hav­ing writ­ten pos­i­tive­ly of China’s influ­ence on Japan­ese artists, Cut­ler hoped that access to West­ern art would not prove a cor­rupt­ing fac­tor:

The fear that a bas­tard art of a very debased kind may arise in Japan, is not with­out foundation…The Euro­pean artist, who will study the dec­o­ra­tive art of Japan care­ful­ly and rev­er­ent­ly, will not be in any haste to dis­turb, still less to uproot, the thought and feel­ing from which it has sprung; it is per­haps the ripest and rich­est fruit of a tree cul­ti­vat­ed for many ages with the utmost solic­i­tude and skill, under con­di­tions of soci­ety pecu­liar­ly favor­able to its growth.

Hav­ing nev­er vis­it­ed Japan him­self, Cut­ler relied on pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished works, as well as numer­ous friends who were able to fur­nish him with “reli­able infor­ma­tion upon many sub­jects,” giv­en their “long res­i­dence in the coun­try.”

Accord­ing­ly, expect a bit of bias in A Gram­mar of Japan­ese Orna­ment and Design (1880).

That said, Cut­ler emerges as a robust admir­er of Japan’s paint­ing, lac­quer­ware, ceram­ics, cal­lig­ra­phy, tex­tiles, met­al­work, enam­el­work and net­suke carv­ings, the lat­ter of which are “are often mar­velous in their humor, detail, and even dig­ni­ty.”

Only Japan’s wood­en archi­tec­ture, which he con­fi­dent­ly pooh poohed as lit­tle more than “artis­tic car­pen­try, dec­o­ra­tion, and gar­den­ing”, clev­er­ly designed to with­stand earth­quakes, get shown less respect.

Cutler’s ren­der­ings of Japan­ese design motifs, under­tak­en in his free time, are the last­ing lega­cy of his book, par­tic­u­lar­ly for those on the prowl for copy­right-free graph­ics.


Cut­ler observed that the “most char­ac­ter­is­tic” ele­ment of Japan­ese dec­o­ra­tion was its close ties to the nat­ur­al world, adding that unlike West­ern design­ers, a Japan­ese artist “would throw his design a lit­tle out of the cen­ter, and clev­er­ly bal­ance the com­po­si­tion by a but­ter­fly, a leaf, or even a spot of col­or.”

The below plant stud­ies are drawn from the work  of the great ukiyo‑e mas­ter Hoku­sai, a “man of the peo­ple” who ush­ered in a peri­od of “vital­i­ty and fresh­ness” in Japan­ese art.

A sam­pler of curved lines made with sin­gle brush strokes can be used to cre­ate clouds or the intri­cate scroll­work that inspired West­ern artists and design­ers of the Aes­thet­ic Move­ment.

While Cut­ler might not have thought much of Japan­ese archi­tec­ture, it’s worth not­ing that his book shows up in the foot­notes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan: The Role of Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Art and Archi­tec­ture in the Work of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Take a peek at some Japan­ese-inspired wall­pa­per of Cut­ler’s own design, then explore A Gram­mar of Japan­ese Orna­ment and Design by Thomas W. Cut­ler here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Explore the Beau­ti­ful Pages of the 1902 Japan­ese Design Mag­a­zine Shin-Bijut­sukai: Euro­pean Mod­ernism Meets Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Design

Down­load Clas­sic Japan­ese Wave and Rip­ple Designs: A Go-to Guide for Japan­ese Artists from 1903

Hun­dreds of Won­der­ful Japan­ese Fire­work Designs from the Ear­ly-1900s: Dig­i­tized and Free to Down­load

– 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.

Christopher Nolan Visits a Paris Video Store & Talks with Cillian Murphy About the Films That Influenced Him

Christo­pher Nolan has by now inspired at least a cou­ple gen­er­a­tions of young view­ers to dream of becom­ing film­mak­ers. For my own age cohort, the touch­stone work was his break­out pic­ture Memen­to, with its reverse-ordered sto­ry fea­tur­ing a pro­tag­o­nist unable to cre­ate new mem­o­ries. Oth­ers may have felt a greater impact from the real­i­ty-bend­ing Incep­tion or the dystopi­an sci-fi vision of Inter­stel­lar (to say noth­ing of all those Bat­man movies). But whether at the turn of the mil­len­ni­um or today, with Nolan’s lat­est fea­ture Oppen­heimer rid­ing high at the box office, the best advice for such aspi­rants is the same: watch as many movies as pos­si­ble.

‘The prob­lem with Chris,” says Oppen­heimer star Cil­lian Mur­phy in the video above, “is that he’s seen every film ever made.” “Not every film,” Nolan replies, a hand-wav­ing denial that only bol­sters the accu­sa­tion. This takes place amid the shelves of JM Vidéo, one of the last two video stores still stand­ing in the cinephile cap­i­tal of Paris.

Nolan and Mur­phy paid a vis­it there to shoot an episode of Kon­bi­ni Video Club, a Youtube series that has also brought on such auteurs as Wes Ander­son, David Cro­nen­berg, and Ter­ry Gilliam. JM Vidéo feels like an espe­cial­ly suit­able space for Nolan, giv­en his advo­ca­cy of phys­i­cal media. On the defin­i­tive Blu-Ray and 4k ver­sions of his films, he explains, “there’s much less com­pres­sion,” and “we con­trol the col­or and the pic­ture and the bright­ness,” where­as stream­ing is “like broad­cast­ing a film: we don’t have much con­trol over how it goes out.”

Nolan pulls off the shelves There Will Be Blood and Punch-Drunk Love, the work of his con­tem­po­rary Paul Thomas Ander­son, as well as clas­sics that shaped his own direc­to­r­i­al choic­es: Cit­i­zen Kane, For­eign Cor­re­spon­dent, Lawrence of Ara­bia, Dr. Strangelove. That last was for­bid­den view­ing dur­ing the devel­op­ment of Oppen­heimer: “I’m a big fan of Strangelove, but I stopped watch­ing it for a cou­ple of years while we were mak­ing the film, because it’s too daunt­ing” — and because its black­ly satir­i­cal take on how the men in con­trol of the bomb decide the fate of the world could­n’t pos­si­bly have been improved upon. “I’m glad you did­n’t men­tion it,” adds Mur­phy, who may not have seen as many movies as Nolan, but whose range of ref­er­ence nev­er­the­less demon­strates his own cinephile cre­den­tials. “No fight­ing in the war room.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Films of Christo­pher Nolan Explored in a Sweep­ing 4‑Hour Video Essay: Memen­to, The Dark Knight, Inter­stel­lar & More

Wes Ander­son Vis­its a Paris Video Store and High­lights the Films He Loves: Kuro­sawa, Truf­faut, Buñuel & More

David Cro­nen­berg Vis­its a Video Store & Talks About His Favorite Movies

Ter­ry Gilliam Vis­its a Video Store & Talks About His Favorite Movies and Actors

Hear 9 Hours of Hans Zim­mer Sound­tracks: Dunkirk, Inter­stel­lar, Incep­tion, The Dark Knight & Much More

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.

1000+ Barbie Commercials Provides Context for This Summer’s Pinkest Blockbuster (1959–2023)

The Bar­bie movie has cap­tured the pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion in a big way.

The New York Times can’t get enough of the recent­ly opened sum­mer block­buster. Between reviews, fash­ion round ups, inter­views, box office reports and op eds, it has pub­lished over two dozen pieces tied to this mas­sive cul­tur­al moment.

Even those who don’t feel a burn­ing need to catch Bar­bie at the mul­ti­plex are like­ly aware of the Bar­ben­heimer phe­nom.

But what about those who grew up in fem­i­nist homes, or sis­ter­less cis-males of a cer­tain age?

Will a lack of hands-on expe­ri­ence dimin­ish the cin­e­mat­ic plea­sures of Bar­bie?

Not if you immerse your­self in Bar­bi­eCol­lec­tors’ chrono­log­i­cal playlist of Bar­bie com­mer­cials before tick­et­ing up. That’s over a thou­sand ads, span­ning more than six decades.

The 1959 ad, above, that intro­duced the glam­orous “teen age fash­ion doll” to the pub­lic clears up the mis­per­cep­tion that pink has always been Barbie’s de fac­to col­or. It’s black-and-white, but so is the diag­o­nal striped swim­suit the film’s star, Mar­got Rob­bie mod­els in the film’s open­er, a tongue in cheek homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

(Astute observers may note the sim­i­lar­i­ties between some of the sophis­ti­cat­ed ensem­bles orig­i­nal fla­vor Bar­bie sports here and the out­fits Rob­bie donned for the pink car­pet pri­or to the Screen Actors Guild strike.)

In the bat­tle between pink and his­tor­i­cal record, pink is des­tined to come out on top in the Bar­bie movie. Direc­tor Gre­ta Ger­wig and her design team punch up Barbie’s ear­ly 80’s West­ern look with a wide pink brush, low­er­ing the neck­line but keep­ing the wink.

The doll came with a work­ing auto­graph stamp Rob­bie may con­sid­er adopt­ing, should Bar­bie mania con­tin­ue on into fall.

One of the most thrilling design ele­ments of the movie is the human scale Dream­hous­es occu­pied by Bar­bie and her friends, the major­i­ty of whom are also named Bar­bie.

The Dream­house has tak­en many archi­tec­tur­al forms over the years — town­house, cot­tage, man­sion — but it always comes with­out a fourth wall.

Anoth­er cin­e­mat­ic treat is the roll call of vehi­cles Bar­bie com­man­deers on her jour­ney to the real world with her hap­less boyfriend, Ken.

Some of the film’s deep­er cuts are jokes at the expense of mis­guid­ed releas­es, Bar­bie side­kicks so ill-con­ceived that they were quick­ly dis­con­tin­ued, although 1993’s Ear­ring Mag­ic Ken became a best­seller, thanks to his pop­u­lar­i­ty in the gay com­mu­ni­ty.

Look for Barbie’s preg­nant pal, Midge, her yel­low Labrador retriev­er, Tan­ner (whose scoopable excre­ment was quick­ly deemed a chok­ing haz­ard) and Grow­ing up Skip­per, the lit­tle sis­ter who goes through puber­ty with a twist of the arm … “which is some­thing you can’t do,” the commercial’s nar­ra­tor taunts in a rare rever­sal of the “girls can be any­thing” ethos Mat­tel insists is part of the brand.

Of course, one can only cram so many know­ing­ly-placed prod­ucts into one fea­ture-length film.

Are those of you who grew up with Bar­bie hurt­ing from any glar­ing omis­sions? (Ask­ing as a child of the Mal­ibu Bar­bie era…)

Those who didn’t grow up with Bar­bie can play along too by sam­pling from Bar­bi­eCol­lec­tors’ mas­sive chrono­log­i­cal com­mer­cial playlist, then nom­i­nat­ing your favorites in the com­ments.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Mattel’s Bar­bie Turns Women of Med­i­cine, Includ­ing COVID Vac­cine Devel­op­er, Into Dolls

The New David Bowie Bar­bie Doll Released to Com­mem­o­rate the 50th Anniver­sary of “Space Odd­i­ty”

– 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.

Oppenheimer’s Secret City: The Story Behind the Stealthy Creation of Los Alamos, New Mexico

We think of the atom­ic bomb as a destroy­er of cities, name­ly Hiroshi­ma and Nagasa­ki. But its devel­op­ment also pro­duced a city: Los Alam­os, New Mex­i­co, an offi­cial­ly non-exis­tent com­mu­ni­ty in which the nec­es­sary research could be con­duct­ed in secret. More recent­ly, it became a major shoot­ing loca­tion for Oppen­heimer, Christo­pher Nolan’s new movie about the tit­u­lar the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist remem­bered as the father (or one of the fathers) of the atom­ic bomb based on his work as the direc­tor of the Los Alam­os Lab­o­ra­to­ry. You can learn more about that lab­o­ra­to­ry, and the town of 6,000 con­struct­ed to sup­port it, in the new Vox video above.

Los Alam­os was nec­es­sary to the Man­hat­tan Project, as the R&D of the world’s first nuclear weapon was code-named, but it was­n’t suf­fi­cient: oth­er secret sites involved includ­ed “a nuclear reac­tor under a Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go foot­ball field”; “the Alaba­ma Ordi­nance Works, for pro­duc­ing heavy water”; “a large plant for the enrich­ment of ura­ni­um and pro­duc­tion of some plu­to­ni­um” in Oak Ridge, Ten­nessee”; and the Han­ford Engi­neer Works in Wash­ing­ton State, which pro­duced even more plu­to­ni­um.

But the bomb itself was cre­at­ed in Los Alam­os, into whose iso­la­tion Oppen­heimer recruit­ed the likes of Enri­co Fer­mi, Edward Teller, Richard Feyn­man, and oth­er pow­er­ful sci­en­tif­ic minds — who brought their wives and chil­dren along.

As a 1944 Med­ical Corp memo warned, the “intel­lec­tu­als” at Los Alam­os would “seek more med­ical care than the aver­age per­son”; at the same time, one-fifth of the mar­ried women there were preg­nant, so up went mater­ni­ty wards as well. The pop­u­la­tion of Los Alam­os grew so rapid­ly that “hut­ments were a com­mon form of accom­mo­da­tion,” though “apart­ment build­ings were also avail­able.” The hous­ing sat along­side “facil­i­ties for graphite fab­ri­ca­tion, and the cyclotron and Van de Graaff machines.” Less than 250 miles south lay what, in the sum­mer of 1945, would become the site of the Trin­i­ty test. It was there, gaz­ing upon the explo­sion of the unprece­dent­ed nuclear weapon whose devel­op­ment he’d over­seen, that Oppen­heimer saw not mere­ly a destroy­er of cities, but a destroy­er of worlds.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Oppen­heimer: The Man Behind the Bomb

Watch Chill­ing Footage of the Hiroshi­ma & Nagasa­ki Bomb­ings in Restored Col­or

J. Robert Oppen­heimer Explains How, Upon Wit­ness­ing the First Nuclear Explo­sion, He Recit­ed a Line from the Bha­gavad Gita: “Now I Am Become Death, the Destroy­er of Worlds”

See Every Nuclear Explo­sion in His­to­ry: 2153 Blasts from 1945–2015

Learn How Richard Feyn­man Cracked the Safes with Atom­ic Secrets at Los Alam­os

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.

How a 1930s Architectural Masterpiece Harnesses the Sun to Keep Warm in the Winter & Cool in the Summer

Keep­ing the sum­mer sun out and the win­ter sun in has fig­ured promi­nent­ly among the tasks of archi­tec­ture ever since antiq­ui­ty. As Aeschy­lus said, “only prim­i­tives and bar­bar­ians lack knowl­edge of hous­es turned to face the win­ter sun,” and he’d nev­er even lived through a Chica­go win­ter. Two and a half mil­len­nia lat­er, in the sub­urb of Schaum­burg, Illi­nois, the archi­tect Paul Schweikher built a house not just turned to face the win­ter sun, but inge­nious­ly and ele­gant­ly designed nat­u­ral­ly to stay warm in the cold months and cool in the hot months. Archi­tec­tur­al design edu­ca­tor Stew­art Hicks explains how in the video above, an intro­duc­tion to what’s now known as the Paul Schweikher House and Stu­dio.

What will strike most vis­i­tors to the Schweikher House, which now oper­ates as a muse­um, has less to do with its com­fort­able tem­per­a­tures than with its look and feel. “The house does­n’t give all its secrets away at once,” says the site of design and fur­nish­ing com­pa­ny Tryst­craft.

“Instead, the vis­i­tor is teased with hints that lead you under and past a car­port, along a long board and bat­ten wall around the perime­ter of a lush court­yard with a mag­nif­i­cent tree — pro­vid­ing a won­der­ful con­trast to the lin­ear­i­ty of the struc­tures sur­round­ing it.” This “entry sequence” also intro­duces the house­’s main mate­ri­als: brick, most vis­i­bly, but also red­wood now weath­ered to “a range of beau­ti­ful dark browns and grays.”

Schweikher used these mate­ri­als and oth­ers to con­struct what Hicks calls a “direct gain pas­sive solar sys­tem,” whose open­ings and over­hangs are “posi­tioned so that it lets in win­ter sun, while block­ing the sum­mer sun,” which beats down at a slight­ly dif­fer­ent angle. “Ele­vat­ed, oper­a­ble open­ings on the oth­er side of the build­ing allow warm air to rise, and draw in air from out­side,” in addi­tion to oth­er fea­tures that main­tain a tem­per­ate inte­ri­or cli­mate with­out the use of any elec­tri­cal or even mechan­i­cal appa­ra­tus. Hav­ing designed this res­i­dence for him­self and his wife in 1937 put him on the van­guard of what would lat­er be rec­og­nized as the Amer­i­can inter­pre­ta­tion of mid-cen­tu­ry mod­ernism, as well as what’s now called “solar home” build­ing tech­nol­o­gy. Arguably, Schweikher’s tech­niques are even more valu­able today: the cli­mate may change, after all, but the sun’s sea­son­al angles stay the same.

Relat­ed con­tent:

1,300 Pho­tos of Famous Mod­ern Amer­i­can Homes Now Online, Cour­tesy of USC

What Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unusu­al Win­dows Tell Us About His Archi­tec­tur­al Genius

George Bernard Shaw’s Famous Writ­ing Hut, Which Could Be Rotat­ed 360 Degrees to Catch the Sun All Day

What Is the House of the Ris­ing Sun?: An Intro­duc­tion to the Ori­gins of the Clas­sic Song

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.

How the Ancient Greeks Invented the First Computer: An Introduction to the Antikythera Mechanism (Circa 87 BC)

At the cen­ter of Indi­ana Jones and the Dial of Des­tiny is a device quite like the real ancient Greek arti­fact known as the Antikythera mech­a­nism, which has been called the world’s old­est com­put­er. “Every Indi­ana Jones adven­ture needs an exot­ic MacGuf­fin,” writes’s Meilan Sol­ly, and in this lat­est and pre­sum­ably last install­ment in its series, “the hero chas­es after the Archimedes Dial, a fic­tion­al­ized ver­sion of the Antikythera mech­a­nism that pre­dicts the loca­tion of nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring fis­sures in time.” After under­go­ing Indi­ana Jone­si­fi­ca­tion, in oth­er words, the Antikythera mech­a­nism becomes a time machine, a func­tion pre­sum­ably not includ­ed in even the least respon­si­ble archae­o­log­i­cal spec­u­la­tions about its still-unclear set of func­tions.

But accord­ing to Jo Marchant, author of Decod­ing the Heav­ens: Solv­ing the Mys­tery of the World’s First Com­put­er, the Antikythera mech­a­nism real­ly is “a time machine in a sense. When you turn the han­dle on the side, you are mov­ing back­ward in time, you’re con­trol­ling time. You’re see­ing the uni­verse either being fast-for­ward­ed or reversed, and you’re choos­ing the speed and can set it to any moment in his­to­ry that you want.”

She refers to the fact that a han­dle on the side of the mech­a­nism con­trols gears with­in it, which engage to com­pute and dis­play “the posi­tions of celes­tial bod­ies, the date, the tim­ing of ath­let­ic games. There’s a cal­en­dar, there’s an eclipse pre­dic­tion dial, and there are inscrip­tions giv­ing you infor­ma­tion about what the stars are doing.”

It seems that the Antikythera mech­a­nism could tell you “every­thing you need to know about the state and work­ings of the cos­mos,” at least if you’re an ancient Greek. But it also tells us some­thing impor­tant about the ancient Greeks them­selves: specif­i­cal­ly, that they’d devel­oped much more sophis­ti­cat­ed mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing than we’d known before the ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, when the device was dis­cov­ered in a ship­wreck. Accord­ing to the BBC video above on the details of the Antikythera mech­a­nis­m’s known capa­bil­i­ties, Arthur C. Clarke thought that “if the ancient Greeks had under­stood the capa­bil­i­ties of the tech­nol­o­gy, then they would have reached the moon with­in 300 years.” A grand old civ­i­liza­tion that turns out to have been on a course for out­er space: now there’s a viable premise for the next big archi­tec­tur­al adven­ture film fran­chise.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Watch an Accu­rate Recon­struc­tion of the World’s Old­est Com­put­er, the 2,200 Year-Old Antikythera Mech­a­nism, from Start to Fin­ish

How the World’s Old­est Com­put­er Worked: Recon­struct­ing the 2,200-Year-Old Antikythera Mech­a­nism

Researchers Devel­op a Dig­i­tal Mod­el of the 2,200-Year-Old Antikythera Mech­a­nism, “the World’s First Com­put­er”

How the Ancient Greeks Shaped Mod­ern Math­e­mat­ics: A Short, Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion

Mod­ern Artists Show How the Ancient Greeks & Romans Made Coins, Vas­es & Arti­sanal Glass

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 Collection of Hokusai’s Drawings Are Being Carved Onto Woodblocks & Printed for the First Time Ever

If you know any­thing about the ukiyo‑e mas­ters of eigh­teenth- and nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry Japan like Kita­gawa Uta­maro, Uta­gawa Hiroshige, and Kat­sushi­ka Hoku­sai, you know that they became renowned through wood­block prints. But in almost all cas­es, a wood­block print begins in anoth­er medi­um: the medi­um of the draw­ing, where the artist works out the image before com­mit­ting (or hav­ing it com­mit­ted) to a block of wood for print­ing. This process, as Tokyo-based Cana­di­an print­mak­er David Bull explains in the video above, entailed the destruc­tion of the orig­i­nal draw­ing — or at least it did a cou­ple of cen­turies ago, before the advent of copy machines, let alone high-res­o­lu­tion dig­i­tal scan­ners.

Our time has not only these tech­no­log­i­cal­ly advanced tools, but also, as pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, a wealth of redis­cov­ered draw­ings by Hoku­sai him­self. “The exis­tence of these exquis­ite small draw­ings had been for­got­ten,” says the site of the British Muse­um. “Last pub­licly record­ed at a Parisian auc­tion in 1948, they are said to have been in a pri­vate col­lec­tion in France before resur­fac­ing in 2019.”

Hav­ing acquired the 103 images that con­sti­tute this Great Pic­ture Book of Every­thing, the British Muse­um has entered into a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Bull, whose work­shop Mokuhankan is tak­ing a selec­tion of these draw­ings — nev­er print­ed in Hoku­sai’s day — and carv­ing them into wood­blocks for the first time ever.

You can enjoy this project, called Hoku­sai Reborn, by fol­low­ing its progress on Bul­l’s Youtube chan­nel; the first two episodes of the series appear just above. You can also pur­chase a sub­scrip­tion to receive copies of the actu­al prints now being made from Hoku­sai’s draw­ings at Mokuhankan. “The prints will be 13.5 x 18.5 cm in for­mat (slight­ly larg­er than 5 x 7 inch­es),” says the page at the stu­dio’s site with more infor­ma­tion on that, “and will be made on a thin ver­sion of our usu­al hosho washi, made in the work­shop of Iwano Ichibei,” one of Japan’s offi­cial­ly des­ig­nat­ed Liv­ing Nation­al Trea­sures. This sales mod­el is in keep­ing with the com­mer­cial mod­el of ukiyo‑e in the Edo peri­od of the sev­en­teenth through the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, when a bur­geon­ing mer­chant class formed a robust cus­tomer base for its arti­sans. Here we have an unex­pect­ed oppor­tu­ni­ty to become one of those cus­tomers — and, per­haps, to own the next Great Wave Off Kana­gawa.

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed con­tent:

View 103 Dis­cov­ered Draw­ings by Famed Japan­ese Wood­cut Artist Kat­sushi­ka Hoku­sai

The Great Wave Off Kana­gawa by Hoku­sai: An Intro­duc­tion to the Icon­ic Japan­ese Wood­block Print in 17 Min­utes

Thir­ty-Six Views of Mount Fuji: A Deluxe New Art Book Presents Hokusai’s Mas­ter­piece, Includ­ing The Great Wave Off Kana­gawa

The Evo­lu­tion of The Great Wave off Kana­gawa: See Four Ver­sions That Hoku­sai Paint­ed Over Near­ly 40 Years

Watch the Mak­ing of Japan­ese Wood­block Prints, from Start to Fin­ish, by a Long­time Tokyo Print­mak­er

Get Free Draw­ing Lessons from Kat­sushi­ka Hoku­sai, Who Famous­ly Paint­ed The Great Wave of Kana­gawa: Read His How-To Book, Quick Lessons in Sim­pli­fied Draw­ings

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.