Dance Like David Byrne! An Easy-to-Follow Instructional Video Shows You How

This dance is seri­ous. This dance is nec­es­sary. Do you feel that change? — David Byrne

Every­one can dance, though some of us need a push from an enthu­si­as­tic, encour­ag­ing instructor…like singer-song­writer David Byrne.

Move­ment has long been a hall­mark of the for­mer Talk­ing Heads frontman’s per­for­mances, when he was a pal­pa­bly ner­vous 23-year-old sol­dier­ing through one of the band’s first New York City gigs.

Byrne drove the danc­ing in Talk­ing Heads 1984 con­cert film, Stop Mak­ing Sense and has col­lab­o­rat­ed with sev­er­al notable chore­o­g­ra­phers over the course of his long and var­ied career.

In 1981, Twyla Tharp com­mis­sioned him to write the score for her phys­i­cal­ly demand­ing, exper­i­men­tal bal­let, The Cather­ine Wheel.

In 1999, he pro­vid­ed the sound­track for In Spite of Wish­ing and Want­i­ng, a 2‑hour work chore­o­g­ra­ph­er Wim Van­dekey­bus cre­at­ed for the men in his com­pa­ny, Ulti­ma Vez.

His most fruit­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion has been with Big Dance The­ater’s Annie‑B Par­son, who chore­o­graphed Byrne’s 2012 Love this Giant world tour with St. Vin­cent, as well as Here Lies Love, his 2013  immer­sive rock musi­cal about for­mer First Lady of the Philip­pines Imel­da Mar­cos. Most recent­ly, the pair worked togeth­er to adapt Byrne’s Amer­i­can Utopia tour for Broad­way.

In an inter­view with Vul­ture, Par­son recalled ques­tion­ing why some­one with Byrne’s nat­u­ral­ly cool phys­i­cal instincts would seek an out­side par­ty to han­dle the danc­ing:

I was like, Huh, you’re my favorite chore­o­g­ra­ph­er, what are you doing!? Being able to make move­ment for your­self and being a chore­o­g­ra­ph­er are quite dif­fer­ent, and he’s not inter­est­ed in mak­ing move­ment for oth­er peo­ple. He is a dancer. Some of the stuff he does in the show he total­ly made up for him­self.

No ques­tion about it. The man has moves.

Here’s Parson’s favorite:

He does this thing where he slaps his hands while cross­ing the stage in Slip­pery Peo­ple that’s so amus­ing to watch. He goes down on the ground at one point in Once in a Life­time and I asked him what he was doing, and he was like, “Um, I’m going down to the water in the ground.” He’s imag­in­ing things and feel­ing the music. “Loose” wouldn’t be the word because nei­ther of us are loose at all. He’s incred­i­ble as an artist in the way he thinks and acts on things. I’ve always felt that I have a huge amount of free­dom.

Feel the Byrne next time you hit the dance floor by head­ing back up to the top of this post and fol­low­ing along with his instruc­tion­al video for the social­ly dis­tanced par­tic­i­pa­to­ry dance expe­ri­ence he co-host­ed for two weeks in New York City’s Park Avenue Armory’s 55,000-square-foot Drill Hall.

If only every dance teacher showed up in such a buoy­ant mood (not to men­tion a util­i­ty kilt and Eng­lish sand shoes…)

Shake your hips!

Pup­pet legs!

Hold the traf­fic!

Vibrat­ing arms!

Those lucky enough to score one of the night­ly-assigned danc­ing spots that ensured SOCIAL!  would be, as adver­tised, a social­ly dis­tanced dance club, exe­cut­ed these, and oth­er dance moves, that Byrne’s pre-record­ed voice called for over the pow­er­ful P.A. sys­tem.

The New York­er gave a feel for the pro­ceed­ings:

Some parts were instruc­tions for line dances; oth­ers were more abstract (“Let me see you move like you’re in a new world”) or his­tor­i­cal (“This song is by the first inter­ra­cial band to play Carnegie Hall”); some were idio­syn­crat­ic Byr­nisms (“C’mon, baby, let’s think about your ten­dons”).

Reporters for Van­i­ty Fair and the New York Times (who felt reas­sured that Byrne is “him­self an invit­ing­ly imper­fect dancer”) list­ed some of the steps they’d attempt­ed at Byrne’s behest:

Hand-san­i­tiz­ing (“You’ve got too much! Flick it front, flick it behind!”)

Thread­ed through crowds on a New York City side­walk (“Don’t step on that piz­za!”)

Move like a zom­bie

Sub­way surf

Float a la Gaga



Reach for the rafters (“Maybe you’re rais­ing your hand in praise or to feel the light or to represent—or because you have a ques­tion. Is any­body answer­ing your ques­tion? So much uncer­tain­ty these days.”)

Pre­sum­ably, they, like Late Show host Stephen Col­bert, below, also learned to “pol­ish the plates.”

I Dance Like This by David Byrne

I’m work­ing on my danc­ing

This is the best I can do

I’m ten­ta­tive­ly shak­ing

You don’t have to look

Can’t say I’m sor­ry

I can’t say I’m ashamed

Can’t think of tomor­row

When it seems so far away

We dance like this

Because it feels so damn good

If we could dance bet­ter

Well you know that we would

For even more inspi­ra­tion, check out the Insta­gram account Dai­ly David Byrne Dances.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Watch David Byrne Prac­tice His Dance Moves for Stop Mak­ing Sense in New­ly Released Behind-the-Scenes Footage

Watch a Very Ner­vous, 23-Year-Old David Byrne and Talk­ing Heads Per­form­ing Live in NYC (1976)

David Byrne Launch­es Rea­sons to Be Cheer­ful, an Online Mag­a­zine Fea­tur­ing Arti­cles by Byrne, Bri­an Eno & More

- 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.

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Play “Artle,” an Art History Version of Wordle: A New Game from the National Gallery of Art

Are you one of the hun­dreds of thou­sands who’ve got­ten them­selves hooked on Wor­dle, the free online game that gives play­ers six chances to guess a five-let­ter word of the day?

Its pop­u­lar­i­ty has spawned a host of imi­ta­tors, includ­ing Quor­dle, Cross­wor­dle, Absur­dle and Lew­dle, which has carved itself a niche in the vul­gar and pro­fane.

Even the Nation­al Gallery of Art is get­ting in on the action with Artle, where­in play­ers get four attempts to cor­rect­ly iden­ti­fy an artist du jour by exam­in­ing four of their pieces, drawn from its vast col­lec­tion of paint­ings, pho­tographs, sculp­tures and oth­er works.

The Gallery pro­vides a bit of an assist a few let­ters into every guess, espe­cial­ly help­ful to those tak­ing wild shots in the dark.

Before you com­mit to Geor­gia O’Keeffe, you may want to con­sid­er some 80 oth­er George and Georges vari­ants who pop up as you type, includ­ing  Georges Braque, George Grosz, Georgine E. Mason, George Joji Miyasa­ki, George Segal, Georges Seu­rat, and Georg Andreas Wolf­gang the Elder.

Hats off if you can read­i­ly iden­ti­fy all of these artists’ work on sight. That’s an impres­sive com­mand of art his­to­ry you’ve got there!

As with Wor­dle, a but­ton pro­vides a stream­lined invi­ta­tion to boast about your prowess on social media after you’ve com­plet­ed your dai­ly Artle. Return vis­i­tors can keep track of their stats in the upper right hand cor­ner.

There’s no shame in fail­ing to iden­ti­fy an artist in four tries, just a free oppor­tu­ni­ty to fur­ther your edu­ca­tion a bit with titles and links to the four works you just spent time view­ing.

The exam­ples we’ve includ­ed from Thurs­day, June 2’s puz­zle are Free Space (Deluxe), pink, The Civet, Imper­a­tive, and Cobalt Night by….

Your guess?

Play Artle here — like Wor­dle and mul­ti­vi­t­a­mins, just one a day.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Google App Uses Machine Learn­ing to Dis­cov­er Your Pet’s Look Alike in 10,000 Clas­sic Works of Art

Google’s Free App Ana­lyzes Your Self­ie and Then Finds Your Dop­pel­ganger in Muse­um Por­traits

Con­struct Your Own Bayeux Tapes­try with This Free Online App

A Gallery of 1,800 Gigapix­el Images of Clas­sic Paint­ings: See Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Ear­ring, Van Gogh’s Star­ry Night & Oth­er Mas­ter­pieces in Close Detail

- 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.

Draw Along with Beloved Cartoonist & Educator Lynda Barry: Free Drawing Exercises Online

How do you res­cue a day that’s gone pear shaped?

Stop­ping to drink a glass of water is one of our long­time go tos.

If there’s a box of match­es handy, we might per­form Yoko Ono’s Light­ning Piece.

Most recent­ly, we’ve tak­en to grab­bing some paper and a trusty black felt tip to spend a few min­utes doing one of beloved car­toon­ist and edu­ca­tor Lyn­da Bar­ry’s all-ages draw-alongs.

Bar­ry began upload­ing these videos ear­ly in the pan­dem­ic, for “friends at home who are about to turn four or five or six or sev­en or any age real­ly.”

Each demon­stra­tion begins with an oval. There’s no pro­logue. Just dive on in and copy the motions of Barry’s slow mov­ing, refresh­ing­ly unman­i­cured hands, cap­tured in a DIY god shot.

Less than four min­utes lat­er, voila! A smil­ing croc­o­dile! (It’s mag­i­cal how a facial expres­sion can be changed with one sim­ple line.)

The sound­tracks to these lit­tle nar­ra­tion-free exer­cis­es are an extra treat. We’ve always admired Barry’s musi­cal taste. It’s a real mood boost­er to cov­er a chee­tah in spots to the tune of a marim­ba orches­tra.

Barry’s also a big cumbia fan, con­jur­ing a kit­ty to Lito Bar­ri­en­tos’ Cumbia En Do Menor, a lion to Los Mir­los’ Cumbia de los Pajar­i­tos, and a Stegosaurus to Romu­lo Caicedo’s Cumbia Cavela.

Now that you’ve got a chee­tah under your belt, you’re ready to progress to a Scor­pi­onLeop­ard, one of Draw Along with Lyn­da B’s “strange ani­mals.”

Bar­ry does offer some com­men­tary as these cryp­tids take shape.

We sus­pect her pio­neer­ing work with a group of four-year-olds in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wisconsin’s Draw Bridge pro­gram leads her to antic­i­pate the sorts of burn­ing ques­tions a pre-school­er might have with regard to these beasts. Her class­room expe­ri­ence is evi­dent. Where­as oth­ers might think a steady stream of bright chat­ter is nec­es­sary to keep very young par­tic­i­pants engaged, Bar­ry’s thought­ful words devel­op in real time along with her draw­ing:

This is a tough ani­mal. It has a big stinger on the back. This is a rough ani­mal… angry.  Put the eye­brows like this. It makes them look angry. What kind of teeth do you think this ani­mal has? I don’t think they have lit­tle bit­ty teeth. I think they have big fangs.

Oth­ers in the “strange ani­mal” fam­i­ly: a Cat­DogSeal­Fish, an octo­phant, and a cat­ter­fly (fea­tur­ing a cameo by Barry’s inquis­i­tive pooch’s snout.)

Draw along with Lyn­da Bar­ry on this YouTube playlist.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Lyn­da Bar­ry on How the Smart­phone Is Endan­ger­ing Three Ingre­di­ents of Cre­ativ­i­ty: Lone­li­ness, Uncer­tain­ty & Bore­dom

Watch Car­toon­ist Lyn­da Barry’s Two-Hour Draw­ing Work­shop

Lyn­da Barry’s Won­der­ful­ly Illus­trat­ed Syl­labus & Home­work Assign­ments from Her UW-Madi­son Class, “The Unthink­able Mind”

- 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.

Cartoonist Lynda Barry Teaches You How to Make a Visual Daily Diary

Car­toon­ist and edu­ca­tor Lyn­da Barry is a favorite here at Open Cul­ture.

We’re always excit­ed to share exer­cis­es from her books and intel on her class­es at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin, but noth­ing beats the warmth and humor of her live instruc­tion… even when it’s deliv­ered vir­tu­al­ly.

Last week, she took to Insta­gram to inform the four­teen lucky U of W stu­dents enrolled in her fall Mak­ing Comics class to pre­pare for a new way of keep­ing their required dai­ly diaries, using a tech­nique she calls “sis­ter images.”

Those of us at home can play along, above.

Grab a com­po­si­tion book, or two blank sheets of paper, and a black felt tip pen. (Even­tu­al­ly you’ll need a timer, but not today.)

Rather than describe the ten-minute writ­ing and draw­ing exer­cise in advance, we encour­age you to jump right in, con­fi­dent that teacher Bar­ry would approve.

There are plen­ty of resources out there for those who want to learn how to out­linescript, and sto­ry­board comics.

Bar­ry aims to tap a deep­er vein of cre­ativ­i­ty with exer­cis­es that help stu­dents embrace the unknown.

The sis­ter diary’s pur­pose, she says, is to “let our hands lead the way in terms of fig­ur­ing out our sto­ries.”

Whether or not you seek to make comics, it’s an engag­ing way to doc­u­ment your life. You can also imple­ment the sis­ter diary tech­nique for dis­cov­er­ing more about char­ac­ters in your fic­tion­al work.

You’ll also pick up some bonus tips on draw­ing back­grounds, using all caps, allot­ting enough space with­in a pan­el for full body ren­der­ings, and stay­ing in the moment should you find your­self at a tem­po­rary loss.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Watch Car­toon­ist Lyn­da Barry’s Two-Hour Draw­ing Work­shop

Car­toon­ist Lyn­da Bar­ry Teach­es You How to Draw

Take a Road Trip Across Amer­i­ca with Car­toon­ist Lyn­da Bar­ry in the 90s Doc­u­men­tary, Grandma’s Way Out Par­ty

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

Art Historian Provides Hilarious & Surprisingly Efficient Art History Lessons on TikTok

@_theiconoclassIf youse come at me again for my Aus­tralian pro­nun­ci­a­tion I swear 😂 #arthis­to­ry #arthis­to­ry­tik­tok #baroque♬ orig­i­nal sound — AyseD­eniz

Art His­to­ri­an Mary McGillivray believes art appre­ci­a­tion is an acquired skill. Her Tik­Tok project, The Icon­o­class, is bring­ing those lack­ing for­mal art his­to­ry edu­ca­tion up to speed.

The 25-year-old Aus­tralian’s pithy obser­va­tions dou­ble as sur­pris­ing­ly stur­dy mnemon­ics, use­ful for nav­i­gat­ing world class col­lec­tions both live and online.

Some high­lights from her whirl­wind guide to the Baroque peri­od, above:

If it looks like the chaos after black­out where every­one is stum­bling around in the dark under one soli­tary emer­gency light, it’s a Car­avag­gio.

If there’s at least one per­son look­ing to the cam­era like they’re on The Office, it’s a Velázquez.

If there’s a room with some nice fur­ni­ture, a win­dow, and some women just going about their every­day busi­ness, it’s a Ver­meer.

Rather than the tra­di­tion­al chrono­log­i­cal pro­gres­sion, McGillivray mix­es and match­es, often in response to com­ments and Patre­on requests.

When a com­menter on the Baroque Tik­Tok took umbrage that she referred to Artemisia Gen­tileschi by first name only, McGillivray fol­lowed up with an edu­ca­tion­al video explain­ing the con­ven­tion from the 17th-cen­tu­ry per­spec­tive.

@_theiconoclassReply to @rajendzzz her dad was hot, com­ment if you agree #baroque #artemisia #arthis­to­ryclass♬ Guilty Love — Lady­hawke & Broods

At the urg­ing of a Patre­on sub­scriber, she leaps across four cen­turies to dis­cov­er an unex­pect­ed kin­ship between Cubism and Renais­sance painters, using George Braque’s Man with a Gui­tar and San­dro Botticelli’s Four Scenes from the Ear­ly Life of Saint Zeno­bius. One is attempt­ing to escape the shack­les of per­spec­tive by show­ing sur­faces not vis­i­ble when regard­ing a sub­ject from a sin­gle point. The oth­er is using a sin­gle space to depict mul­ti­ple moments in a subject’s life simul­ta­ne­ous­ly.

@_theiconoclass#arthis­to­ry #arthis­to­ry­tik­tok #renais­sance #cubism #medievaltik­tok♬ orig­i­nal sound — Fin­ian Hack­ett

McGillivray is will­ing to be seen learn­ing along with her fol­low­ers. She’s open about the fact that she prefers Giot­to and Fra Angeli­co to con­tem­po­rary art (as per­haps befits an art his­to­ri­an whose face is more 1305 than 2021). Artist Dominic White’s wear­able, envi­ron­men­tal sculp­ture Hood­ie Empa­thy Suit does­n’t do much for her until a con­ver­sa­tion with the exhibit­ing gallery’s direc­tor helps ori­ent her to White’s objec­tives.

@_theiconoclassWant to see me tack­le more con­tem­po­rary art? Big thanks to @mprg_vic ❤️🪶#arthis­to­ry­tik­tok #arthis­to­ry #con­tem­po­rar­yart #art­gallery♬ orig­i­nal sound — Mary McGillivray

She tips her hand in an inter­view with Pedes­tri­an TV:

I’m not very inter­est­ed in decid­ing what is art and what isn’t. The whole “what is art” ques­tion has nev­er been very impor­tant to me. The ques­tions I pre­fer to ask are: Why was this image made?

She rec­om­mends art crit­ic John Berg­er’s 1972 four-part series Ways of See­ing to fans eager to expand beyond the Icon­o­class:

It’s got all the things you would expect from a 1970s BBC pro­duc­tion – wide col­lared shirts, long hair, smok­ing on tele­vi­sion – plus some of the most influ­en­tial insights into how we look at art and also how we look at the world around us.

Watch Mary McGillivray’s The Icon­o­class here. Sup­port her Patre­on here.

@_theiconoclassWant a part two? 😏😘 #arthis­to­ry­tik­tok #arthis­to­ry­ma­jor #learnon­tik­tok♬ Rasputin (Sin­gle Ver­sion) — Boney M.

via Bored Pan­da

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Free Art & Art His­to­ry Cours­es

One Minute Art His­to­ry: Cen­turies of Artis­tic Styles Get Packed Into a Short Exper­i­men­tal Ani­ma­tion

An Intro­duc­tion to 100 Impor­tant Paint­ings with Videos Cre­at­ed by Smarthis­to­ry

Steve Mar­tin on How to Look at Abstract Art

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her June 7 for a Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain: The Peri­od­i­cal Cica­da, a free vir­tu­al vari­ety hon­or­ing the 17-Year Cicadas of Brood X. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Learn How to Play Chess Online: Free Chess Lessons for Beginners, Intermediate Players & Beyond

The most desired Christ­mas gift of 2020? A chess set. It’s cer­tain­ly desired, at any rate, by the rapt view­ers of The Queen’s Gam­bit, the acclaimed Net­flix minis­eries that debuted in Octo­ber. Cre­at­ed by screen­writer-pro­duc­ers Scott Frank and Allan Scott, its sev­en episodes tell the sto­ry of Beth Har­mon, an orphan in 1950s Ken­tucky who turns out to be a chess prodi­gy, then goes on to become a world-class play­er. Dur­ing the Cold War, the intel­lec­tu­al and geopo­lit­i­cal prospect of Amer­i­can and Sovi­et mas­ters going head to head stoked pub­lic inter­est in chess; over the past month, the sur­prise suc­cess of The Queen’s Gam­bit has had a sim­i­lar effect.

Whether or not you feel a sense of kin­ship with the series’ unre­lent­ing­ly chess-obsessed young pro­tag­o­nist, you may well feel an urge to learn, or re-learn, to play the game. If so, all the resources you need are online, and today we’ve round­ed them up for you.

To get start­ed, has pro­duced “Every­thing You Need to Know About Chess,” a series of Youtube videos “designed to give every aspir­ing chess play­er the ‘one chess les­son of their life’ if they were only to get one.” Watch them, or explore these web-based tuto­ri­als. And even if you don’t have a chess set of your own, you can get start­ed play­ing imme­di­ate­ly there­after: cre­ate an account at and you can play against the com­put­er or real play­ers around the world matched to your skill lev­el, all for free.

To shore up your knowl­edge of the game’s fun­da­men­tals, watch this five-video series by instruc­tor John Bartholomew on top­ics like unde­fend­ed pieces, coor­di­na­tion, and typ­i­cal mis­takes. The Chess Web­site’s Youtube chan­nel cov­ers even more, and its basics playlist teach­es every­thing from open­ing prin­ci­ples to the nature of indi­vid­ual pieces, pawn, rook, knight, and beyond.

But nobody with a taste for chess can stop at the basics, and the sup­ply of instruc­tion has grown to meet the demand. The St. Louis Chess Club offers a series of lec­tures from nation­al mas­ters and grand­mas­ters geared toward begin­ning, inter­me­di­ate, and advanced play­ers.

At Chess School, you’ll find videos on“the great­est chess games ever played, the immor­tal chess games, the best games from the lat­est tour­na­ments, world cham­pi­on’s games, instruc­tive chess games, famous play­ers games and much more.” Among seri­ous play­ers you’ll find many fans of Agad­ma­tor, whose exten­sive playlists exam­ine cur­rent mas­ters like Mag­nus Carlsen, past mas­ters like Gar­ry Kas­parov, and exam­ples of tech­niques like the Eng­lish Open­ing and the Sicil­ian Defense, the lat­er of which enjoyed quite a moment in the era of The Queen’s Gam­bit.  The series has hard­ly gone unno­ticed in the chess world: on chan­nels like Chess Net­work, you’ll even find videos about the strate­gies employed by Beth Har­mon, whose style has been pro­grammed into chess-play­ing AI “bots.” They also have a “Begin­ner to Chess Mas­ter” playlist that will con­tin­u­al­ly build your under­stand­ing of the game in a step by step man­ner.

The char­ac­ter’s per­son­al­i­ty, how­ev­er, remains a cre­ation of Wal­ter Tevis, author of the epony­mous nov­el The Queen’s Gam­bit. Tevis’ oth­er works famous­ly brought to the screen include The Hus­tler and The Man Who Fell to Earth: works of lit­er­a­ture con­cerned, respec­tive­ly, with mas­tery of a decep­tive­ly com­plex game and the con­di­tion of the social out­sider. These themes come togeth­er in The Queen’s Gam­bit, whose author also described it as “a trib­ute to brainy women.” Per­haps you plan to give such a per­son in your life a chess set this year. If so, you know which book to wrap up with it — apart, of course, from  Ward Farnsworth’s 700-page Preda­tor at The Chess­board: A Field Guide To Chess Tac­tics. Or Bob­by Fis­ch­er Teach­es Chess. If you have oth­er favorite resources, please feel free to add them to the list below…

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Free 700-Page Chess Man­u­al Explains 1,000 Chess Tac­tics in Straight­for­ward Eng­lish

A Beau­ti­ful Short Doc­u­men­tary Takes You Inside New York City’s Last Great Chess Store

A Brief His­to­ry of Chess: An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to the 1,500-Year-Old Game

Vladimir Nabokov’s Hand-Drawn Sketch­es of Mind-Bend­ing Chess Prob­lems

The Mag­ic of Chess: Kids Share Their Unin­hib­it­ed, Philo­soph­i­cal Insights about the Ben­e­fits of Chess

Gar­ry Kas­parov Now Teach­ing an Online Course on Chess

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, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

The Japanese Traditions of Sashiko & Boro: The Centuries-Old Craft That Mends Clothes in a Sustainable, Artistic Way

The state of our trou­bled plan­et dic­tates that dis­pos­ables are out.

Reusables are in.

And any­one who’s taught them­selves how to mend and main­tain their stuff has earned the right to flaunt it!

A quick scroll through Insta­gram reveals loads of vis­i­ble mend­ing projects that high­light rather than dis­guise the area of repair, draw­ing the eye to con­trast­ing threads rein­forc­ing a thread­bare knee, frayed cuff, ragged rip, or moth hole.

While some prac­ti­tion­ers take a freeform approach, the most pleas­ing stitch­es tend to be in the sashiko tra­di­tion.

Sashiko—fre­quent­ly trans­lat­ed as “lit­tle stabs”—was born in Edo peri­od Japan (1603–1868), when rur­al women attempt­ed to pro­long the life of their fam­i­lies’ tat­tered gar­ments and bed­ding, giv­ing rise to a hum­ble form of white-on-indi­go patch­work known as boro.

While sashiko can at times be seen serv­ing a pure­ly dec­o­ra­tive func­tion, such as on a very well pre­served Mei­ji peri­od jack­et in the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art’s col­lec­tion, its pri­ma­ry use was always one born of neces­si­ty.

As Austin Bryant notes on Hed­dels, a news and edu­ca­tion web­site ded­i­cat­ed to sus­tain­able goods:

Over gen­er­a­tions of fam­i­lies, these tex­tiles would acquire more and more patch­es, almost to the point of the com­mon observ­er being unable to rec­og­nize where the orig­i­nal fab­ric began. As they recov­ered after the end of World War II, to some the boro tex­tiles remind­ed the Japan­ese of their impov­er­ished rur­al past.

Keiko & Atsushi Futat­suya are a moth­er-and-son arti­san team whose posts on sashiko and boro go beyond straight­for­ward how-tos to delve into cul­tur­al his­to­ry.

Accord­ing to them, the goal of sashiko should not be aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing rows of uni­form stitch­es, but rather “enjoy­ing the dia­logue” with the fab­ric.

As Atsushi explains in an Insta­gram post, view­ers see­ing their work with a West­ern per­spec­tive may respond dif­fer­ent­ly than those who have grown up with the ele­ments in play:

This is a pho­to of a “Boro-to-be Jack­et” in the process. This is the back (hid­ing) side of the jack­et and many non-Japan­ese would say this should be the front and should show to the pub­lic. The Japan­ese would under­stand why it is a back­side nat­u­ral­ly, but I would need to “explain” to the non-Japan­ese who do not share the same val­ue (why we) pur­pose­ful­ly make this side as “hid­ing” side. That’s why, I keep shar­ing in words. One pic­ture may be worth a thou­sand words, but the thou­sand words may be com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent based on their (free) inter­pre­ta­tion. In shar­ing the cul­ture, some “actu­al words” would be also very impor­tant.

To try your hand at sashiko, you will need a long nee­dle, such as a cot­ton darn­ing nee­dle, white embroi­dery thread, and—for boro—an aging tex­tile in need of some atten­tion.

Should you find your­self slid­ing into a full blown obses­sion, you may want to order sashiko nee­dles and thread, and a palm thim­ble to help you push through sev­er­al weights of fab­ric simul­ta­ne­ous­ly.

You’ll find many pat­terns, tips, and tuto­ri­als on the Futat­suya family’s YouTube chan­nel.

via Vox

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

20 Mes­mer­iz­ing Videos of Japan­ese Arti­sans Cre­at­ing Tra­di­tion­al Hand­i­crafts

See How Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Car­pen­ters Can Build a Whole Build­ing Using No Nails or Screws

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

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

The History of the 1918 Flu Pandemic, “The Deadliest Epidemic of All Time”: Three Free Lectures from The Great Courses

In one cas­cade of events after anoth­er, peo­ple are find­ing out the nor­mal they once knew doesn’t exist any­more. Instead it feels as if we’re liv­ing through sev­er­al past crises at once, try­ing to cram as much his­tor­i­cal knowl­edge as we can to make sense of the moment. 2020 espe­cial­ly feels like an echo of 1918–1919, when the “dead­liest epi­dem­ic of all time,” as The Great Cours­es calls the “Span­ish flu,” killed mil­lions (then the U.S. devolved into a wave of racist vio­lence.) By offer­ing exam­ples of both neg­a­tive and pos­i­tive respons­es, the his­to­ry, soci­ol­o­gy, and epi­demi­ol­o­gy of the 1918 flu can guide deci­sion-mak­ing as we pre­pare for a sec­ond wave of COVID-19 infec­tions.

The Great Cours­es start­ed offer­ing free resources on the coro­n­avirus out­break back in March, with a brief “What You Need to Know” explain­er and a free lec­ture course on infec­tious dis­eases. After catch­ing up on the his­to­ry of epi­demics, we’ll find our­selves nat­u­ral­ly won­der­ing why we learned lit­tle to noth­ing about the Span­ish flu.

The three-part lec­ture series here, excerpt­ed from the larg­er course Mys­ter­ies of the Micro­scop­ic World (avail­able with a Free Tri­al to the Great Cours­es Plus), begins by bold­ly call­ing this his­tor­i­cal lacu­na “A Con­spir­a­cy of Silence.” Tulane pro­fes­sor Bruce E. Fleury quotes Alfred Cros­by, who writes in America’s For­got­ten Pan­dem­ic, “the impor­tant and almost incom­pre­hen­si­ble fact about the Span­ish influen­za, is that it killed mil­lions upon mil­lions of peo­ple in a year or less… and yet, it has nev­er inspired awe, not in 1918 and not since.”

Epi­dem­ic dis­eases that have had tremen­dous impact in the past have become the sub­ject of lit­er­ary epics. Few epi­demics have accom­plished mass death “through sheer brute force” like the 1918 flu. The num­bers are tru­ly stag­ger­ing, in the tens to hun­dreds of mil­lions world­wide, with U.S. deaths dwarf­ing the com­bined casu­al­ties of all the coun­try’s major wars. Yet there are only a few men­tions of the flu in Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture from the time. Fleury men­tions some rea­sons for the amne­sia: WWI “took cen­ter stage,” sur­vivors were too trau­ma­tized to want to remem­ber. We may still won­der why we should look back over 100 years ago and learn about the past when cur­rent events are so all-con­sum­ing.

“His­to­ry com­pels us not to look away,” pro­fes­sor Fleury says, “lest we fail to learn the lessons paid for by our par­ents and our grand­par­ents.” Faulkn­er, it seems, was right that the past is nev­er past. But we need not respond in the same failed ways each time. The abil­i­ty to study and learn from his­to­ry gives us crit­i­cal per­spec­tive in per­ilous, uncer­tain times.

Sign up here for a free tri­al to the Great Cours­es Plus now rebrand­ed as Won­dri­um.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Span­ish Flu: A Warn­ing from His­to­ry

Louis Arm­strong Remem­bers How He Sur­vived the 1918 Flu Epi­dem­ic in New Orleans

Watch “Coro­n­avirus Out­break: What You Need to Know,” and the 24-Lec­ture Course “An Intro­duc­tion to Infec­tious Dis­eases,” Both Free from The Great Cours­es

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

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