Get the First Biography of Hilma af Klint at a 40% Discount (for a Limited Time)

A quick heads up: The University of Chicago Press will soon publish the first biography of the Swedish avant-garde painter Hilma af Klint–an artist we have explored here many times before. Written by Julia Voss, the 440-page biography features nearly 100 images of Klint’s life and art. Until October 27th, you can get 40% of the new book if you use the code VOSS40 at this site.

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 cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks for your support!

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Winnie the Pooh Went Into the Public Domain, and Someone Already Turned the Story Into a Slasher Film: Watch the Trailer for Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey

Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood

Where Christopher Robin plays

You’ll find the enchanted neighborhood

Of Christopher’s childhood days…

Those sweetly sentimental lyrics were penned not by A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie-The-Pooh but rather the Academy-Award winning songwriting team of brothers Robert and Richard Sherman, who also penned the scores of Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Jungle Book.

If you are under the age of 60, chances are your concept of Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, Roo, Owl, Rabbit and Tigger is informed by Winnie the Pooh and Honey Tree, the 1966 Disney cartoon that launched a successful franchise, not E.H. Shepherd’s charming illustrations for the 1926 book, Winnie the Pooh, which entered the public domain this year.


This means that Milne’s work can be freely reproduced or reworked, though Disney retains the copyright to their animated character designs.

Jennifer Jenkins, director of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University, told the Washington Post that the bulk of the inquiries she fielded in the lead up to 2022’s public domain titles becoming available had to do with Winnie the Pooh:

I can’t get over how people are freaking out about Winnie-the-Pooh in a good way. Everyone has a very specific story of the first time they read it or their parents gave them a doll or they [have] stories about their kids…It’s the Ted Lasso effect.We need a window into a world where people or animals behave with decency to one another.”

Ummm…

Judging by the trailer for their upcoming live action, low budget feature, Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, Jagged Edge, a London-based horror production company, is not much interested in Ted Lasso good vibes, though they do manage to stay within the limits of the law, equipping a black clad Piglet with threatening tusks, and dressing the titular “silly old bear” in a red shirt that doesn’t exactly scream Tummy Song.

More like Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Producer-Director Rhys Frake-Waterfield whose as-yet-unreleased credits include Peter Pan’s Neverland Nightmare and Spiders on a Plane told Variety that “we did as much as we could to make sure [the film] was only based on the 1926 version:”

When you see the cover for this and you see the trailers and the stills and all that, there’s no way anyone is going to think this is a child’s version of it.

Here’s hoping he’s right.

The trailer traffics freely in slasher flick tropes:

A bikini clad young woman relaxing, obliviously, in a hot tub.

A hand held camera tracking a desperate, and probably doomed, escape attempt through the woods.

Unnerving warnings written in blood (or possibly honey?)

The childish scrawl on the sign demarcating the 100 Acre Wood is both faithful to the original, and unmistakably sinister.

Equally disturbing is the lettering on Eeyore’s homemade grave marker. (SPOILER: as per Variety, a starving Pooh and Piglet ate him…and apparently discarded a human skull nearby.)

The “enchanted neighborhood of Christopher’s childhood days” has gone decidedly downhill.

Director Frake-Waterfield paints Pooh and Piglet as the primary villains, but surely the college-bound Christopher Robin deserves some of the blame for abandoning his old friends.

On the other hand, when a college-bound Andy tossed his beloved childhood playthings in a giveaway box at the beginning of Toy Story 3, Buzz and Woody did not go on a murderous rampage.

As Frake-Waterfield described Pooh and Piglet’s devolution to HuffPost:

Because they’ve had to fend for themselves so much, they’ve essentially become feral. So they’ve gone back to their animal roots. They’re no longer tame: they’re like a vicious bear and pig who want to go around and try and find prey.

An interview with Dread Central offers a graphic taste of the violent mayhem they inflict, even as Christopher Robin, as clueless as a bikini clad innocent in a hot tub, bleats, “We used to be friends, why are you doing this!?”

Unsurprisingly, the film’s tagline is “This Ain’t No Bedtime Story.”

View production photos, if you dare, here.

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto Her allegiance has long been with the 1926 version. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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Dolly Parton Reads Free Bedtime Stories to Kids: Watch Readings from Goodnight with Dolly

However old you may be, you’re never too old to have a children’s book read aloud to you by a pajama clad Dolly Parton.

So snuggle up!

Every episode of Goodnight with Dolly finds the country music icon in bed, glamorously made up as ever, reading glasses perched on her nose.

She introduces herself not as Dolly Parton, but the Book Lady, an honorific bestowed by the child beneficiaries of the Imagination Library, the non-profit she founded in 1995 to foster children’s love of books and reading.


The selections are all titles that Imagination Library participants have received free in the mail, with the Book Lady’s compliments.

Once things get rolling, the camera shifts to the illustrations, with Dolly’s zesty narration as voice over.

She lowers her voice to play Grandpa in the late Floyd Cooper’s Max and the Tag-Along Moon and the freight train in the 90th anniversary edition of Watty Piper’s The Little Engine That Could.

If her dramatic recitations occasionally include a bungled preposition, we can’t imagine authors taking umbrage.

In addition to the millions of children who benefit from Imagination Library membership, authors and illustrators whose titles selected for inclusion reap incredible rewards in the form of increased visibility, sales, status, and of course, the good feeling that comes from being part of such a worthy project.

And we sincerely hope even the prickliest grammar sticklers won’t blow a gasket over the odd “ain’t” and regionalisms born of Dolly’s East Tennessee mountain roots. In addition to coming from an authentic place, they’re delivered with a lot of heart and zero affect.

Though a word of caution to parents planning to let Dolly take over tonight: the series may be billed as bedtime stories, but Parton’s mischievous sense of humor is liable to have a non-soporific effect.

“Are you still awake?” she crows directly into the camera after There’s a Hole in the Log on the Bottom of the Lake, author-illustrator Loren Long’s crowd pleasing comic spin on the cumulative camp song staple. “I want to throw you in a lake if you don’t get in bed!”

The Book Lady is also fond of sharing a high energy snippet of whatever song the evening’s tale has put her in mind of.

Matt de la Peña’s Last Stop on Market Street, with award winning illustrations by Christian Robinson, inspires a few lines from Poor Folks Town, from 1972.

Come on down

Have a look around

Rich folks livin’ in a poor folks town

We got no money but we’re rich in love

That’s one thing that we’ve got a-plenty of

So come on down have a look around

At rich folks livin’ in a poor folks town

(“If that won’t put you to sleep, I don’t know what will,” she teases, after.)

After Dolly bids her listeners goodnight, the book’s author or illustrator is usually given a chance to have a word with the parents or caregivers, to stress how reading aloud deepens familial bonds and share childhood memories of being read to.

De la Peña, whose book features a grandmother pointing out the sort of non-monetary riches Dolly’s mother also valued, takes the opportunity to thank the self-effacing star’s efforts to “reach working class communities” – presumably through representation, as well as books intended to cultivate a lifelong love of reading.

Enjoy a playlist of Goodnight with Dolly episodes here.

Learn more about the Imagination Library here.

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

 

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

We have covered it before: school districts across the United States are increasingly censoring books that don’t align with white-washed conservative visions of the world. Art Spiegelman’s Maus, The Illustrated Diary of Anne Frank, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird–these are some of the many books getting pulled from library shelves in American schools. In response to this concerning trend, the Brooklyn Public Library has made a bold move: For a limited time, the library will offer a free eCard to any person aged 13 to 21 across the United States, allowing them free access to 500,000 digital books, including many censored books. The Chief Librarian for the Brooklyn Public Library, Nick Higgins said:

A public library represents all of us in a pluralistic society we exist with other people, with other ideas, other viewpoints and perspectives and that’s what makes a healthy democracy — not shutting down access to those points of view or silencing voices that we don’t agree with, but expanding access to those voices and having conversations and ideas that we agree with and ideas that we don’t agree with.

And he added:

This is an intellectual freedom to read initiative by the Brooklyn Public Library. You know, we’ve been paying attention to a lot of the book challenges and bans that have been taking place, particularly over the last year in many places across the country. We don’t necessarily experience a whole lot of that here in Brooklyn, but we know that there are library patrons and library staff who are facing these and we wanted to figure out a way to step in and help, particularly for young people who are seeing, some books in their library collections that may represent them, but they’re being taken off the shelves.

As for how to get the Brooklyn Public Library’s free eCard, their Books Unbanned website offers the following instructions: “individuals ages 13-21 can apply for a free BPL eCard, providing access to our full eBook collection as well as our learning databases. To apply, email booksunbanned@bklynlibrary.org.” In short, send them an email.

You can find a list of America’s most frequently banned books at the website of the American Library Association.

NOTE: We’re seeing reports on Twitter that a teacher in Norman, OK has been terminated for letting a student know about the Brooklyn Public Library’s free library. While this report hasn’t been fully substantiated, teachers who want to recommend this resource should proceed with caution. Parents could seemingly refer BPL’s free library to students with less concern about retaliation.

via KTVB

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 cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks for your support!

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Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Has Given Away 186 Million Free Books to Kids, Boosting Literacy Worldwide

Dolly Parton created her Imagination Library, a non-profit which gives books to millions of children every month, with her father, Robert Lee Parton, in mind.

“I always thought that if Daddy had an education, there’s no telling what he could have been,” she mused in her 2020 book, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics:

Because he knew how to barter, he knew how to bargain. He knew how to make everything work, and he knew how to count money. He knew exactly what everything was worth, how much he was going to make from that tobacco crop, what he could trade, and how he could make it all work

Despite his business acumen, Parton’s father never learned to read or write, a source of shame.


Parton explains how there was a time when schooling was never considered a given for children in the mountains of East Tennessee, particularly for those like her father, who came from a family of 15:

Kids had to go to work in the fields to help feed the family. Because of the weather and because of conditions, a lot of kids couldn’t go to school.

I told him, “Daddy, there are probably millions of people in this world who don’t know how to read and write, who didn’t get the opportunity. Don’t be ashamed of that. Let’s do something special.”

Parton is convinced that her father, whose pride in her musical accomplishments was so great he drove over with a bucket of soapy water to clean the bronze statue her hometown erected in her honor, was prouder still of a nickname bestowed on her by the Imagination Library’s child beneficiaries – the Book Lady.

Together with the community partners who secure funding for postage and non-administrative costs, the Book Lady has given away some 186,680,000 books since the project launched in 1995.

Originally limited to children residing in Sevier County, Tennessee, the program has expanded to serve over 2,000,000 kids in the US, UK, Australia, Canada and the Republic of Ireland.

Participation can start well before a child is old enough to attempt their ABCs. Parents and guardians are encouraged to enroll them at birth.

The Imagination Library’s littlest participants’ love of books is fostered with colorful illustrations and simple texts, often rhymes having to do with animals or bedtime.

By the time a reader hits their final year of the program at age 5, the focus will have shifted to school readiness, with subjects including science, folktales, and poetry.

The books – all Penguin Random House titles – are chosen by a panel of early childhood literacy experts. 

This year’s selection includes such old favorites as The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Good Night, Gorilla, and The Snowy Day, as well as Parton’s own Coat of Many Colors, based on the song in which she famously paid tribute to her mother’s tender resourcefulness:

Back through the years

I go wonderin’ once again

Back to the seasons of my youth

I recall a box of rags that someone gave us

And how my momma put the rags to use

There were rags of many colors

Every piece was small

And I didn’t have a coat

And it was way down in the fall

Momma sewed the rags together

Sewin’ every piece with love

She made my coat of many colors

That I was so proud of

The Imagination Library is clearly a boon to children living, as Parton once did, in poverty, but participation is open to anyone under age 5 living in an area served by an Imagination Library affiliate.

Promoting early engagement with books in such a significant way has also helped Parton to reduce some of the stigma surrounding illiteracy:

You don’t really realize how many people can’t read and write. Me telling the story about my daddy instilled some pride in people who felt like they had to keep it hidden like a secret. I get so many letters from people saying, “I would never had admitted it’ or “I was always ashamed.”

Learn more about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which welcomes donations and inquiries from those who would like to start an affiliate program in their area, here.

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

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

According to a recent survey conducted by the Texas State Teachers Association, 70% of surveyed teachers said they were seriously thinking about leaving the teaching profession. “Lingering stress from the pandemic is a factor, but it isn’t the only one. Inadequate pay, political attacks on educators and the failure of state leaders to protect the health and safety of students and school employees also have combined to drive down the morale of teachers to the lowest level in recent memory and endanger our public school system,” TSTA President Ovidia Molina said.

We recently saw how Texas’ educational system has become a vast political minefield, with conservative legislators attempting to ban 800+ books from school libraries–primarily because the books make students feel “uncomfortable.” This week, the Keller Independent School District in Fort Worth, Texas decided to cancel an acclaimed illustrated adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank, echoing the recent decision by a Tennessee School board to ban Maus, the Pulitzer-Prize winning graphic novel on the Holocaust. The ban of The Diary of Anne Frank was triggered by a parent complaint, which the right-leaning school board decided to honor. Why would thinking people want to opt out of teaching in the Texas educational system? It’s not hard to imagine.

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 cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks for your support!

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The Oakland Public Library Puts Online a Collection of Items Forgotten in Library Books: Love Notes, Doodles & More

Librarians are champions of organization, and among its best practitioners.

Books are shelved according to the Dewey Decimal system.

Categories are assigned using Library of Congress Rule Interpretations, Library of Congress Subject Headings, and Library of Congress Classification.

And Sharon McKellar, the Teen Services Department Head at the Oakland Public Library, collects ephemera she and other staffers find in books returned to the OPL’s 18 locations.

It’s an impulse many share. 

Eventually, she began scanning them to share on her employer’s website, inspired by Found Magazine, a crowdsourced collection of found letters, birthday cards, kids’ homework, to-do lists, handwritten poems, doodles, dirty pictures, etc.


As Found’s creators, Davy Rothbart and Jason Bitner, write on the magazine’s website:

We certainly didn’t invent the idea of found stuff being cool. Every time we visit our friends in other towns, someone’s always got some kind of unbelievable discovered note or photo on their fridge. We decided to make a bunch of projects so that everyone can check out all the strange, hilarious and heartbreaking things people have picked up and passed our way.

McKellar told NPR that her project “lets us be a little bit nosy. In a very anonymous way, it’s like reading people’s secret diaries a little bit but without knowing who they are.”

The finds, which she stores in a box under her desk prior to scanning and posting, are pushing 600, with more arriving all the time.

Searchable categories include notes, creative writing, art, and photos.

One artifact, the scatological one-of-a-kind zine Mr Men #48, excerpted above, spans four categories, including kids, a highly fertile source of both humor and heartbreak.

There’s a distinctly different vibe to the items that children forge for themselves or each other, as opposed to work created for school, or as presents for the adults in their lives.

McKellar admits to having a sweet spot for their inadvertent contributions, which comprise the bulk of the collection.

She also catalogues the throwaway flyers, ticket stubs and lists that adult readers use to mark their place in a book, but when it comes to placeholders with more obvious potential for sentimental value, she finds herself wondering if a library patron has accidentally lost track of a precious object:

Does the person miss that item? Do they regret having lost it or were they careless with it because they actually didn’t share those deep and profound feelings with the person who wrote [it]?

Actual bookmarks are not exempt…

Future plans include a possible writing contest for short stories inspired by items in the collection.

Browse the Found in a Library Book collection here.

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

Discover The Key of Hell, an Illustrated 18th-Century Guide to Black Magic (1775)

According to the Book of Revelation, the returning Christ arrives surrounded by seven candlesticks. In its author’s prophetic dream, “his head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire.” From his mouth issues “a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.” It’s a startling image, created for symbolic purposes. Without a key to what those symbols mean, the text remains obscure. It is, after all, a vision given to a mystic hermit exiled on an island.

Many a Revelation-inspired magical grimoire from succeeding centuries also remains nearly incomprehensible to non-adepts. Such is the case with the “strange 18th-century manuscript called Clavis Inferni (key of hell),” as Benjamin Breen writes at Slate. “Filled with invocations, cryptic sigils, and paintings of supernatural beings” — such as the illustration from Revelation above — “the book defies interpretation — as it was meant to do.” Also, like Revelation, the text’s authorship is mysterious, and yet significant to our understanding of its intent.

The Key of Hell is attributed to a Cyprianus, a name that “probably refers to St. Cyprian of Antioch (d. 304 CE),” Breen writes in a post at Atlas Obscura, “a very common apocryphal attribution for medieval magical texts, since Cyprian was reputed to have been a powerful magician and demon-summoner before converting to Christianity.” The use of pseudoepigraphy — an author assuming the name of a long-dead figure — was common practice throughout the history of both theological and alchemical writing. Rather than an attempt at deception, it could signal the continuation of a tradition of occult knowledge.

The title page of the Key of Hell “seems to date it to 1717,” writes Breen, but a Sotheby’s catalogue entry claims, “the script seems to be of the late 18th century” and dates it to 1775. At the Wellcome Library — who host the text online in its entirety — we find this “Harry Potter-esque” origin story:

Also known as the Black Book, [the Key of Hell] is the textbook of the Black School at Wittenberg, the book from which a witch or sorcerer gets his spells. The Black School at Wittenberg was purportedly a place in Germany where one went to learn the black arts.

Written in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and “the Magical Alphabet devised by occultist Cornelius Agrippa in his Third Book of Occult Philosophy from 1510,” notes Flashbak, the manuscript is “filled with invocations to spirits and demons — including a Hebrew invocation for summoning God.” (It also includes helpful instructions for banishing summoned spirits.) The manuscript’s full Latin title — Clavis Inferni sive magic alba et nigra approbata Metatrona — translates to “The Key of Hell with white and black magic approved by Metatron,” an archangel in the Talmudic and Kabbalist traditions. The use of this name suggests the spells within come from a higher authority.

Breen, however, found some unusual commentary on the book’s possible author, including the idea in Denmark that Cyprianus was “a fellow Dane so evil during his lifetime that when he died the devil threw him out of Hell,” writes professor of Norwegian literature Kathleen Stokker. Cyprianus was so enraged by this treatment that “he dedicated himself to writing the nine Books of Black Arts that underlie all subsequent Scandinavian black books.” Another apocryphal story identifies Cyprianus as a “ravishingly beautiful” Mexican nun from 1351 (?!) who met a “gory” end.

Whoever wrote the Key of Hell, and for whatever reason, they left behind a fascinating book of sorcery full of curious illustrations and a cryptic cosmology. See Breen’s attempts to decipher some of its key symbols here and make your own with the full text at the Wellcome Library.

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

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