The Stoic Wisdom of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius: An Introduction in Six Short Videos


Though it enjoys a par­tic­u­lar pop­u­lar­i­ty here in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, the rig­or­ous­ly equani­mous Sto­ic world­view comes to us through the work of three fig­ures from antiq­ui­ty: Epicte­tus, Seneca, and Mar­cus Aure­lius. Epicte­tus was born and raised a slave. Seneca, the son of rhetori­cian Seneca the Elder, became an advi­sor to Nero (a posi­tion that ulti­mate­ly forced him to take his own life). Mar­cus Aure­lius, the most exalt­ed of the three, actu­al­ly did the top job him­self, rul­ing the Roman Empire from 161 to 180 AD. He also left behind a text, the Med­i­ta­tions, that stands along­side Epicte­tus’ Enchirid­ion and Seneca’s many essays and let­ters as a pil­lar of the canon of Sto­icism.

It is from the Med­i­ta­tions that this series of six videos from Youtube chan­nel Einzel­gänger draws its wis­dom. Each of them intro­duces dif­fer­ent aspects of Mar­cus Aure­lius’ inter­pre­ta­tion of Sto­icism and applies them to our every­day life here in moder­ni­ty, pre­sent­ing strate­gies for stay­ing calm, not feel­ing harm, accept­ing what comes our way, and not being trou­bled by the actions of oth­ers.

Though the impor­tance of these aims can be illus­trat­ed any num­ber of ways, their achieve­ment depends on accept­ing the notion cen­tral to all Sto­ic thought: “the dichoto­my of con­trol,” which dic­tates that “some things are in our con­trol and oth­ers aren’t.” When life hurts, “it often means that we care about things we have no con­trol over, and by doing so, we let them con­trol us.”

All the Sto­ics under­stood this, but for Mar­cus Aure­lius, “being unper­turbed by things out­side of his con­trol allowed him to cope with the many respon­si­bil­i­ties and chal­lenges he faced as an emper­or, and to focus on the task he believed he was giv­en by the gods.” He knew that “it’s not the out­side world and the events that take place in it, our bod­ies includ­ed, that hurt us, but our thoughts, mem­o­ries, and fan­tasies regard­ing them.” To indulge those fan­tasies means to live in per­pet­u­al con­flict with real­i­ty, and thus in per­pet­u­al, and futile, griev­ance against it. The stronger our judg­ments about what hap­pens, “the more vul­ner­a­ble we become to the whims of For­tu­na, the unpre­dictable god­dess of luck, chance, and fate,” forces that even­tu­al­ly get the bet­ter of us all — even if we hap­pen to have the world’s might­i­est empire at our com­mand.

Relat­ed con­tent:

An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to Sto­icism, the Ancient Greek Phi­los­o­phy That Lets You Lead a Hap­py, Ful­fill­ing Life

Every Roman Emper­or: A Video Time­line Mov­ing from Augus­tus to the Byzan­tine Empire’s Last Ruler, Con­stan­tine XI

How to Be a Sto­ic in Your Every­day Life: Phi­los­o­phy Pro­fes­sor Mas­si­mo Pigli­uc­ci Explains

Three Huge Vol­umes of Sto­ic Writ­ings by Seneca Now Free Online, Thanks to Tim Fer­riss

350 Ani­mat­ed Videos That Will Teach You Phi­los­o­phy, from Ancient to Post-Mod­ern

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.

Everything You Wanted to Ask About Psychedelics: A Johns Hopkins Psychedelics Researcher Answers 24 Questions in 2 Hours


These days, psy­che­del­ic research is expe­ri­enc­ing a renais­sance of sorts. And Matt John­son, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try at Johns Hop­kins, is lead­ing the way. One of “the world’s most pub­lished sci­en­tists on the human effects of psy­che­delics,” his research focus­es on “unrav­el­ing the sci­en­tif­ic under­pin­nings of psy­che­del­ic sub­stances, mov­ing beyond their his­tor­i­cal and cul­tur­al con­text to shed light on their role in mod­ern ther­a­peu­tic appli­ca­tions.” Like some oth­er researchers before him, he believes that psy­che­delics ulti­mate­ly have the “poten­tial to bring about a par­a­digm shift in psy­chi­a­try, neu­ro­science, and phar­ma­col­o­gy.” In the Big Think video above, the pro­fes­sor answers 24 big ques­tions about psy­che­delics, from “What are the main effects of psy­che­delics?,” to “How do psy­che­delics work in the brain?” and “What are the biggest risks of psy­che­delics?,” to “Will psy­che­delics answer the hard prob­lem of con­scious­ness?” John­son cov­ers a lot of ground here. Set­tle in. The video runs 2+ hours.

Relat­ed Con­tent

Michael Pol­lan, Sam Har­ris & Oth­ers Explain How Psy­che­delics Can Change Your Mind

How to Use Psy­che­del­ic Drugs to Improve Men­tal Health: Michael Pollan’s New Book, How to Change Your Mind, Makes the Case

Psilo­cy­bin Could Soon Be a Legal Treat­ment for Depres­sion: Johns Hop­kins Pro­fes­sor, Roland Grif­fiths, Explains How Psilo­cy­bin Can Relieve Suf­fer­ing

Artist Draws 9 Por­traits While on LSD: Inside the 1950s Exper­i­ments to Turn LSD into a “Cre­ativ­i­ty Pill”

New LSD Research Pro­vides the First Images of the Brain on Acid, and Hints at Its Poten­tial to Pro­mote Cre­ativ­i­ty

Inside MK-Ultra, the CIA’s Secret Pro­gram That Used LSD to Achieve Mind Con­trol (1953–1973)

Aldous Hux­ley, Psy­che­delics Enthu­si­ast, Lec­tures About “the Vision­ary Expe­ri­ence” at MIT (1962)

A Mesmerizing Music Video for Brian Eno’s “Emerald and Stone” Made with Paint, Soap & Water

Bri­an Eno turned 75 years old this past spring, but if he has any thoughts of retire­ment, they haven’t slowed his cre­ation of new art and music. Just last year he put out his lat­est solo album FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE, videos from whose songs we fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture. How­ev­er com­pelling the offi­cial mate­r­i­al released by Eno, the bod­ies of fan-made work it tends to inspire also mer­its explo­ration. Take French visu­al artist Thomas Blan­chard’s short film “Emer­ald and Stone” above, which visu­al­izes the epony­mous track from Eno’s 2010 album Small Craft on a Milk Sea, a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Jon Hop­kins and Leo Abra­hams.

“Emer­ald and Stone,” which you’ll want to watch in full-screen mode, con­sists entire­ly of “riv­et­ing imagery built from a sim­ple con­coc­tion of paint, soap and water.” So says Aeon, in praise of the film’s “ephemer­al dream­world of flow­ing music and visu­als that’s easy to sink into.”

Its drift­ing, glit­ter­ing bub­bles have a plan­e­tary look, con­tribut­ing to a visu­al aes­thet­ic that suits the son­ic one. Like many of the oth­er com­po­si­tions on Small Craft on a Milk Sea, “Emer­ald and Stone” will sound on some lev­el famil­iar to lis­ten­ers who only know Eno’s ear­li­er work devel­op­ing the genre of ambi­ent music in the nine­teen-sev­en­ties and eight­ies.

That same era wit­nessed — or rather, heard — the rise of “new age” music, which played up its asso­ci­a­tions with out­er space, seas of tran­quil­i­ty, the move­ment of the heav­en­ly bod­ies, and so on. Eno’s work was, at least in this par­tic­u­lar sense, some­what more down-to-earth: he called his break­out ambi­ent album Music for Air­ports, after all, hav­ing cre­at­ed it with those util­i­tar­i­an spaces in mind. Appro­pri­ate­ly enough, Blan­chard’s short for “Emer­ald and Stone” evokes the cos­mos with­out depart­ing from the fine grain of our own world, and appears abstract while hav­ing been made whol­ly from every­day mate­ri­als. Eno him­self would sure­ly approve, hav­ing premised his own on not escap­ing real­i­ty, but plac­ing it in a more inter­est­ing con­text.

via Aeon

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Bri­an Eno Discog­ra­phy: Stream 29 Hours of Record­ings by the Mas­ter of Ambi­ent Music

Watch Videos for 10 Songs on Bri­an Eno’s Brand New Album, FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE

“Day of Light”: A Crowd­sourced Film by Mul­ti­me­dia Genius Bri­an Eno

Bri­an Eno Explains the Ori­gins of Ambi­ent Music

Watch Bri­an Eno’s Exper­i­men­tal Film “The Ship,” Made with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence

Bri­an Eno on the Loss of Human­i­ty in Mod­ern Music

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.

700 Years of Persian Manuscripts Now Digitized & Free Online

Too often those in pow­er lump thou­sands of years of Mid­dle East­ern reli­gion and cul­ture into mono­lith­ic enti­ties to be feared or per­se­cut­ed. But at least one gov­ern­ment insti­tu­tion is doing exact­ly the oppo­site. For Nowruz, the Per­sian New Year, the Library of Con­gress has released a dig­i­tal col­lec­tion of its rare Per­sian-lan­guage man­u­scripts, an archive span­ning 700 years. This free resource opens win­dows on diverse reli­gious, nation­al, lin­guis­tic, and cul­tur­al tra­di­tions, most, but not all, Islam­ic, yet all dif­fer­ent from each oth­er in com­plex and strik­ing ways.

“We nowa­days are pro­grammed to think Per­sia equates with Iran, but when you look at this it is a mul­ti­re­gion­al col­lec­tion,” says a Library spe­cial­ist in its African and Mid­dle East­ern Divi­sion, Hirad Dinavari. “Many con­tributed to it. Some were Indi­an, some were Tur­kic, Cen­tral Asian.” The “deep, cos­mopoli­tan archive,” as Atlas Obscura’s Jonathan Carey writes, con­sists of a rel­a­tive­ly small num­ber of manuscripts—only 155. That may not seem par­tic­u­lar­ly sig­nif­i­cant giv­en the enor­mi­ty of some oth­er online col­lec­tions.

But its qual­i­ty and vari­ety mark it as espe­cial­ly valu­able, rep­re­sen­ta­tive of much larg­er bod­ies of work in the arts, sci­ences, reli­gion, and phi­los­o­phy, dat­ing back to the 13th cen­tu­ry and span­ning regions from India to Cen­tral Asia and the Cau­cus­es, “in addi­tion to the native Per­sian speak­ing lands of Iran, Afghanistan and Tajik­istan,” the LoC notes.

Promi­nent­ly rep­re­sent­ed are works like the epic poem of pre-Islam­ic Per­sia, the Shah­namah, “likened to the Ili­ad or the Odyssey,” writes Carey, as well as “writ­ten accounts of the life of Shah Jahan, the 17th-cen­tu­ry Mughal emper­or who over­saw con­struc­tion of the Taj Mahal.”

The Library points out the archive includes the “most beloved poems of the Per­sian poets Saa­di, Hafez, Rumi and Jami, along with the works of the poet Niza­mi Gan­javi.” Some read­ers might be sur­prised at the pic­to­r­i­al opu­lence of so many Islam­ic texts, with their col­or­ful, styl­ized bat­tle scenes and group­ings of human fig­ures.

Islam­ic art is typ­i­cal­ly thought of as icon­o­clas­tic, but as in Chris­t­ian Europe and North Amer­i­ca, cer­tain sects have fought oth­ers over this inter­pre­ta­tion (includ­ing over depic­tions of the Prophet Moham­mad). This is not to say that the icon­o­clasts deserve less atten­tion. Much medieval and ear­ly mod­ern Islam­ic art uses intri­cate pat­terns, designs, and cal­lig­ra­phy while scrupu­lous­ly avoid­ing like­ness­es of humans and ani­mals. It is deeply mov­ing in its own way, rig­or­ous­ly detailed and pas­sion­ate­ly exe­cut­ed, full of math­e­mat­i­cal and aes­thet­ic ideas about shape, pro­por­tion, col­or, and line that have inspired artists around the world for cen­turies.

The page from a lav­ish­ly illu­mi­nat­ed Qur’ān, above, cir­ca 1708, offers such an exam­ple, writ­ten in Ara­bic with an inter­lin­ear Per­sian trans­la­tion. There are reli­gious texts from oth­er faiths, like the Psalms in Hebrew with Per­sian trans­la­tion, there are sci­en­tif­ic texts and maps: the Rare Per­sian-Lan­guage Man­u­script Col­lec­tion cov­ers a lot of his­tor­i­cal ground, as has Per­sian lan­guage and cul­ture “from the 10th cen­tu­ry to the present,” the Library writes. Such a rich tra­di­tion deserves care­ful study and appre­ci­a­tion. Begin an edu­ca­tion in Per­sian man­u­script his­to­ry here.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2019.

via Atlas Obscu­ra

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dis­cov­er the Per­sian 11th Cen­tu­ry Canon of Med­i­cine, “The Most Famous Med­ical Text­book Ever Writ­ten”

15,000 Col­or­ful Images of Per­sian Man­u­scripts Now Online, Cour­tesy of the British Library

The Com­plex Geom­e­try of Islam­ic Art & Design: A Short Intro­duc­tion

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

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The Lunar Codex Will Digitize the Work of 30,000 Artists, and Then Archive Them on the Moon

There may not yet be civ­i­liza­tion on the moon, but that does­n’t mean there’s no cul­ture up there. We’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured the tiny ceram­ic tile, smug­gled onto the Apol­lo 12 lunar lan­der, that bears art by the likes of Claes Old­en­burg, Robert Rauschen­berg, and Andy Warhol. “Fall­en Astro­naut, an alu­minum sculp­ture by the Bel­gian artist Paul van Hoey­don­ck, was left on the lunar sur­face by the Apol­lo 15 crew in 1971,” writes the New York Times’ J. D. Biers­dor­fer. “The Arch Mis­sion Foun­da­tion has sent Isaac Asimov’s Foun­da­tion tril­o­gy and mil­lions of Lunar Library pages into space,” and artists like Jeff Koons and Sacha Jafri are among the artists cur­rent­ly aim­ing to install their own work on the moon’s sur­face.

The Lunar Codex has grander ambi­tions, hav­ing assem­bled works from “over 30,000 artists, writ­ers, musi­cians, and film­mak­ers, from 158 coun­tries, in four time cap­sules launched to the moon.” You can browse their con­tents at the pro­jec­t’s offi­cial web site, which breaks it all down into not just eight “gal­leries” of visu­al art, but also sec­tions ded­i­cat­ed to film, tele­vi­sion, music, and poet­ry, among oth­er forms and media. There’s even a sec­tion for books and nov­els (as well as anoth­er, odd­ly, for nov­els and books), which includes a large num­ber of curi­ous titles to rep­re­sent the achieve­ments of human civ­i­liza­tion: Kamikaze Kan­ga­roos, Goofy New­fies, Don’t Taco ‘Bout Mur­der, In Bed with Her Mil­lion­aire Foe.

Also among all these books, stored on either dig­i­tal mem­o­ry cards or a nick­el-based medi­um called NanoFiche, is The Zoo at the End of the World by one Samuel Per­al­ta, who also hap­pens to be the mas­ter­mind of the Lunar Codex project. “A semi­re­tired physi­cist and author in Cana­da with a love of the arts and sci­ences,” Per­al­ta has select­ed for preser­va­tion on the moon every­thing from “prints from war-torn Ukraine” to “more than 130 issues of Poet­sArtists mag­a­zine” to images like “New Amer­i­can Goth­ic, by Ayana Ross, the win­ner of the 2021 Ben­nett Prize for women artists; Emer­ald Girl, a por­trait in Lego bricks by Pauline Aubey; and the apt­ly titled New Moon, a 1980 seri­graph by Alex Colville.”

All the work to be placed on the moon through the Lunar Codex was cre­at­ed by artists who are now active, or have been active in the past decade or two. As such, it reflects a par­tic­u­lar moment in the cul­tur­al his­to­ry of human­i­ty, con­sti­tut­ing what Per­al­ta calls “a mes­sage in the bot­tle for the future that dur­ing this time of war, pan­dem­ic and eco­nom­ic upheaval peo­ple still found time to cre­ate beau­ty.” They also found time to cre­ate pod­casts, as will be evi­denced by the inclu­sion of a quar­ter-cen­tu­ry-long archive of Grace Cav­a­lier­i’s inter­view show The Poet and the Poem, which has reached a new audi­ence in recent years through that rel­a­tive­ly new for­mat — one that, to future gen­er­a­tions of space­far­ers mak­ing a stop on the moon, will offer as good a rep­re­sen­ta­tion as any of life on Earth in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry.

via Metafil­ter/Smith­son­ian

Relat­ed con­tent:

Carl Sagan Sent Music & Pho­tos Into Space So That Aliens Could Under­stand Human Civ­i­liza­tion (Even After We’re Gone)

NASA Enlists Andy Warhol, Annie Lei­bovitz, Nor­man Rock­well & 350 Oth­er Artists to Visu­al­ly Doc­u­ment America’s Space Pro­gram

There’s a Tiny Art Muse­um on the Moon That Fea­tures the Art of Andy Warhol & Robert Rauschen­berg

Lau­rie Ander­son Cre­ates a Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty Instal­la­tion That Takes View­ers on an Uncon­ven­tion­al Tour of the Moon

NASA Puts Online a Big Col­lec­tion of Space Sounds, and They’re Free to Down­load and Use

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 5 Innovative Bridges That Make New York City, New York City

The Brook­lyn Bridge ignites the pas­sions of tourists and locals alike.

For every 10,000 vis­i­tors who pause in its bike lanes to snap self­ies, there’s an alum of near­by PS 261 who cel­e­brat­ed its birth­day with a song that men­tions the fates of its engi­neers John and Wash­ing­ton Roe­bling to the tune of I’ve Been Work­ing on the Rail­road.

(A sam­ple cho­rus: Caisson’s dis­ease! Cais­sons dis­ease! Caisson’s dis­ease is real­ly bad!)

Native son Adam Suerte of Brook­lyn Tat­too esti­mates that he inks its like­ness on a half dozen cus­tomers per month. (A tem­po­rary option is avail­able for those with com­mit­ment issues…)

In 1886, a hus­tler named Steve Brodie claimed to have sur­vived a jump off of it, a tale prop­a­gat­ed by Bugs Bun­ny.

We watch movies at its feet and draw atten­tion to caus­es by march­ing across it.

It con­tin­ues to mes­mer­ize artists, poets, film­mak­ers and pho­tog­ra­phers.

But, as archi­tect Michael Wyet­zn­er makes clear in his most recent video for Archi­tec­tur­al Digest, it’s not the only bridge in New York City.

Also, despite what you may have heard, it’s not for sale.

Under­stand­ably, the hybrid cable-stayed/­sus­pen­sion super­star con­nect­ing Brook­lyn to low­er Man­hat­tan takes the lead in Wyetzner’s cov­er­age of five bridges that have had an enor­mous impact on the devel­op­ment of a city whose five bor­oughs were once tra­vers­a­ble sole­ly by fer­ry.

The oth­er notable play­ers:

The Hell Gate Bridge — a feat of WWI-era rail­road engi­neer­ing con­nect­ing Queens to Randall’s and Wards Island over a par­tic­u­lar­ly per­ilous stretch of water­way, it was once the longest steel arch bridge in the world.

In his 1921 book New York: The Great Metrop­o­lis, painter Peter Mar­cus not­ed that “if laid over Man­hat­tan it would reach from Wanamaker’s store at Eighth Street, to One Hun­dred and Twen­ty-fifth Street.”

Macomb’s Dam Bridge, a low lying swing bridge whose cen­ter por­tion piv­ots to accom­mo­date boat traf­fic on the Harlem Riv­er. When con­struc­tion began in late 1890, the New York Times gushed that it would be a “street built in mid-air” between the Bronx and Wash­ing­ton Heights in upper Man­hat­tan:

It is hard­ly enough to say of it that it will be the great­est piece of engi­neer­ing of the kind in the world. Noth­ing like it has ever been attempt­ed.

The High Bridge - Orig­i­nal­ly part of the Cro­ton Aque­duct, it is tech­ni­cal­ly the old­est sur­viv­ing bridge in the city, as well as a com­mu­ni­ty-led preser­va­tion cam­paign suc­cess sto­ry. Hav­ing lan­guished in the lat­ter part of the 20th cen­tu­ry, it is now a beau­ti­ful pedes­tri­an bridge whose killer views can be enjoyed with­out the has­sle of Brook­lyn Bridge-sized crowds.

The George Wash­ing­ton Bridge - a major mon­ey mak­er for the Port Author­i­ty, it’s not only the world’s busiest bridge, it puts a lot of the bridge in “bridge and tun­nel crowd” by con­nect­ing Man­hat­tan to New Jer­sey.

Archi­tec­ture buffs can geek out on the Con­crete Indus­try Board Award-win­ning bus sta­tion and sto­ried Lit­tle Red Light­house in its shad­ow.

The GWB’s most ardent fan has got to be artist Faith Ring­gold, who immor­tal­ized it in her Tar Beach sto­ry quilt and relat­ed children’s book:

 I nev­er want to be more than three min­utes from the George. I could always see it as I grew up.  That bridge has been in my life for as long as I can remem­ber.  As a kid, I could walk across it any­time I want­ed.  I love to see it sparkling at night.  I moved to New Jer­sey, and I’m still next to it.

Wyet­zn­er, whose archi­tec­tur­al round up shoe­horns in a lot of inter­est­ing infor­ma­tion about pub­lic health, eco­nom­ics, trans­porta­tion, labor prac­tice and New York City his­to­ry, is active­ly court­ing view­ers to sug­gest bridges for a sequel.

We’ll throw our weight behind the Man­hat­tan, the Williams­burg, the Queens­boro, the Ver­raz­zano, and the admit­ted­ly dark horse 103rd Street Foot­bridge.


Relat­ed Con­tent 

How the Brook­lyn Bridge Was Built: The Sto­ry of One of the Great­est Engi­neer­ing Feats in His­to­ry

A Mes­mer­iz­ing Trip Across the Brook­lyn Bridge: Watch Footage from 1899

See New York City in the 1930s and Now: A Side-by-Side Com­par­i­son of the Same Streets & Land­marks

An Online Gallery of Over 900,000 Won­der­ful Pho­tos of His­toric New York City

– 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.

When the Wind Blows: An Animated Tale of Nuclear Apocalypse With Music by Roger Waters & David Bowie (1986)

Human­i­ty has few fas­ci­na­tions as endur­ing as that with apoc­a­lypse. We’ve been telling our­selves sto­ries of civ­i­liza­tion’s destruc­tion as long as we’ve had civ­i­liza­tion to destroy. But those sto­ries haven’t all been the same: each era envi­sions the end of the world in a way that reflects its own imme­di­ate pre­oc­cu­pa­tions. In the mid nine­teen-eight­ies, noth­ing inspired pre­oc­cu­pa­tions quite so imme­di­ate as the prospect of sud­den nuclear holo­caust. The mount­ing pub­lic anx­i­ety brought large audi­ences to such major after­math-dra­ma­tiz­ing “tele­vi­sion events” as The Day After in the Unit­ed States and the even more har­row­ing Threads in the Unit­ed King­dom.

“As a young­ster grow­ing up in the nine­teen-eight­ies in a tiny vil­lage in the heart of the Cotswolds, I can attest to the fact that no part of the coun­try, how­ev­er remote and bucol­ic, was imper­vi­ous to the threat of the Cold War esca­lat­ing into a full-blown nuclear con­flict,” writes Neil Mitchell at the British Film Insti­tute.

“Pop­u­lar cul­ture was awash with nuclear war-themed films, com­ic strips, songs and nov­els.” This tor­rent includ­ed the artist-writer Ray­mond Brig­gs’ When the Wind Blows, a graph­ic nov­el about an elder­ly rur­al cou­ple who sur­vive a cat­a­stroph­ic strike on Eng­land. Jim and Hilda’s opti­mism and will­ing­ness to fol­low gov­ern­ment instruc­tions prove to be no match for nuclear win­ter, and how­ev­er inex­orable their fate, they man­age not to see it right up until the end comes.

In 1986, When the Wind Blows was adapt­ed into a fea­ture film, direct­ed by Amer­i­can ani­ma­tor Jim­my Muraka­mi. Among its dis­tinc­tive aes­thet­ic choic­es is the com­bi­na­tion of tra­di­tion­al cel ani­ma­tion for the char­ac­ters with pho­tographed minia­tures for the back­grounds, as well as the com­mis­sion­ing of sound­track music from the likes of Roger Waters, David Bowie, and Gen­e­sis — prop­er Eng­lish rock­ers for a prop­er Eng­lish pro­duc­tion. If the adap­ta­tion of When the Wind Blows is less wide­ly known today than oth­er nuclear-apoc­a­lypse movies, that may owe to its sheer cul­tur­al speci­fici­ty. It would be dif­fi­cult to pick the movie’s most Eng­lish scene, but a par­tic­u­lar­ly strong con­tender is the one in which Hil­da rem­i­nisces about how “it was nice in the war, real­ly: the shel­ters, the black­out, the cups of tea.”

“The cou­ple are fruit­less­ly nos­tal­gic for the Blitz spir­it of the Sec­ond World War, con­vinced the gov­ern­ment-issued Pro­tect and Sur­vive pam­phlets are worth the paper they’re print­ed on, and blind­ly under the assump­tion that there can be a win­ner in a nuclear war,” writes Mitchell. “These sweet, unas­sum­ing retirees rep­re­sent an ail­ing, rose-tint­ed world­view and way of life that’s woe­ful­ly unpre­pared for the mag­ni­tude of dev­as­ta­tion wrought by the bomb.” You can see fur­ther analy­sis of the film’s art and world­view in the video at the top of the post from ani­ma­tion-focused Youtube chan­nel Steve Reviews. In the event, human­i­ty sur­vived the long show­down of the Cold War, los­ing none of our pen­chant for apoc­a­lyp­tic fan­ta­sy as a result. How­ev­er com­pul­sive­ly we imag­ine the end of the world today, will any of our visions prove as mem­o­rable as When the Wind Blows?

Relat­ed con­tent:

Pro­tect and Sur­vive: 1970s British Instruc­tion­al Films on How to Live Through a Nuclear Attack

The Atom­ic Café: The Cult Clas­sic Doc­u­men­tary Made Entire­ly Out of Nuclear Weapons Pro­pa­gan­da from the Cold War (1982)

The Night Ed Sul­li­van Scared a Nation with the Apoc­a­lyp­tic Ani­mat­ed Short, A Short Vision (1956)

Duck and Cov­er: The 1950s Film That Taught Mil­lions of School­child­ren How to Sur­vive a Nuclear Bomb

How a Clean, Tidy Home Can Help You Sur­vive the Atom­ic Bomb: A Cold War Film from 1954

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.

Johnny Cash Sings “Barbie Girl” in the Style of “Folsom Prison Blues” … with a Little Help from A.I.

The YouTube chan­nel There I Ruined It cre­ates new ver­sions of songs using AI-gen­er­at­ed voic­es. For Dustin Bal­lard, the chan­nel’s cre­ator, the point is to “lov­ing­ly destroy your favorite songs.” Take the exam­ple above. Here, an AI ver­sion of John­ny Cash’s voice sings the lyrics of Aqua’s “Bar­bie Girl,” set to the music of Cash’s “Fol­som Prison Blues.” Recent­ly, Bal­lard explained his approach to Busi­ness Insid­er:

My process for these is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent than most peo­ple. I first record the vocals myself so that I can do my best imi­ta­tion of the cadence of the orig­i­nal singer. Then I use one of their own songs (like ‘Fol­som Prison Blues’ rather than the orig­i­nal ‘Bar­bie Girl’ music) to add to the illu­sion that this is a ‘real’ song in the artist’s cat­a­log, though clear­ly all done in jest. Final­ly, I use an AI voice mod­el trained on snip­pets of the orig­i­nal artist’s singing to trans­form my voice into theirs. I have a guy in Argenti­na I often call upon for this train­ing (although the John­ny Cash one already exist­ed).

If you head over to There I Ruined It, you can hear oth­er AI cre­ations: Hank Williams sings “Straight Out­ta Comp­ton,” Louis Arm­strong sings Flo Rida’s “Low,” Frank Sina­tra sings Lil Jon’s “Get Low” and more.

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.

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Relat­ed Con­tent 

Chat­G­PT Writes a Song in the Style of Nick Cave–and Nick Cave Calls it “a Grotesque Mock­ery of What It Is to Be Human”

What Hap­pens When Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Cre­ates Images to Match the Lyrics of Icon­ic Songs: David Bowie’s “Star­man,” Led Zeppelin’s “Stair­way to Heav­en”, ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” & More

Neu­ro­sci­en­tists Recon­struct a Pink Floyd Song from Lis­ten­ers’ Brain Activ­i­ty, with a Lit­tle Help from AI

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.