A New Album of Goth-Folk Songs Inspired by the Life of Marie Curie

After several years of writing and performing songs influenced by such sources as authors Edward Gorey and Raymond Chandler, filmmaker Tim Burton, and murder ballads in the American folk tradition, Ellia Bisker and Jeffrey Morris, known collectively as Charming Disaster, began casting around for a single, existing narrative that could sustain an album’s worth of original tunes.

An encounter with Lauren Redniss’s graphic novel Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout spurred them to look more deeply at the Nobel Prize-winning scientist and her pioneering discoveries.

The result is Our Lady of Radium, a nine song exploration of Curie’s life and work.

The crowdfunded album, recorded during the pandemic, is so exhaustively researched that the accompanying illustrated booklet includes a bibliography with titles ranging from David I. Harvie’s technically dense Deadly Sunshine: The History and Fatal Legacy of Radium to Deborah Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook, described by The New York Observer as “a vicious, page-turning story that reads more like Raymond Chandler than Madame Curie.”

A chapter in the The Poisoner’s Handbook introduced Bisker and Morris to the Radium Girls, young workers whose prolonged exposure to radium-based paint in early 20th-century clock factories had horrific consequences.

In La Porte v. United States Radium Corporation (1935) prosecutors detailed the conditions under which the luminous dials of inexpensive watch faces were produced:

Each girl procured a tray containing twenty-four watch dials and the material to be used to paint the numerals upon them so that they would appear luminous. The material was a powder, of about the consistency of cosmetic powder, and consisted of phosphorescent zinc sulphide mixed with radium sulphate…The powder was poured from the vial into a small porcelain crucible, about the size of a thimble. A quantity of gum arabic, as an adhesive, and a thinner of water were then added, and this was stirred with a small glass rod until a paintlike substance resulted. In the course of a working week each girl painted the dials contained on twenty-two to forty-four such trays, depending upon the speed with which she worked, and used a vial of powder for each tray. When the paint-like substance was produced a girl would employ it in painting the figures on a watch dial. There were fourteen numerals, the figure six being omitted. In the painting each girl used a very fine brush of camel’s hair containing about thirty hairs. In order to obtain the fine lines which the work required, a girl would place the bristles in her mouth, and by the action of her tongue and lips bring the bristles to a fine point. The brush was then dipped into the paint, the figures painted upon the dial until more paint was required or until the paint on the brush dried and hardened, when the brush was dipped into a small crucible of water. This water remained in the crucible without change for a day or perhaps two days. The brush would then be repointed in the mouth and dipped into the paint or even repointed in such manner after being dipped into the paint itself, in a continuous process.

The band found themselves haunted by the Radium Girls’ story:

Partly it’s that it seemed like a really good job — it was clean work, it was less physically taxing and paid better than factory or mill jobs, the working environment was nice — and the workers were all young women. They were excited about this sweet gig, and then it betrayed them, poisoning them and cutting their lives short in a horrible way. 

There were all these details we learned that we couldn’t stop thinking about. Like the fact that radium gets taken up by bone, which then starts to disintegrate because radium isn’t as hard as calcium. The Radium Girls’ jaw bones were crumbling away, because they (were instructed) to use their lips to point the brushes when painting watch faces with radium-based paint. 

The radium they absorbed was irradiating them from inside, from within their own bones. 

Radium decays into radon, and it was eventually discovered that the radium girls were exhaling radon gas. They could expose a photographic plate by breathing on it. Those images—the bones and the breath—stuck with us in particular.

Fellow musician, Omer Gal, of the “theatrical freak folk musical menagerie” Cookie Tongue, heightens the sense of dread in his chilling stop-motion animation for Our Lady of Radium’s first music video, above. There’s no question that a tragic fate awaits the crumbling, uncomprehending little worker.

Before their physical symptoms started to manifest, the Radium Girls believed what they had been told — that the radium-based paint they used on the timepieces’ faces and hands posed no threat to their well being.

Compounding the problem, the paint’s glow-in-the-dark properties proved irresistible to high-spirited teens, as the niece of Margaret “Peg” Looney — 17 when she started work at the Illinois Radium Dial Company (now a Superfund Site) — recounted to NPR:

I can remember my family talking about my aunt bringing home the little vials (of radium paint.) They would go into their bedroom with the lights off and paint their fingernails, their eyelids, their lips and then they’d laugh at each other because they glowed in the dark.

Looney died at 24, having suffered from anemia, debilitating hip pain, and the loss of teeth and bits of her jaw. Although her family harbored suspicions as to the cause of her bewildering decline, no attorney would take their case. They later learned that the Illinois Radium Dial Company had arranged for medical tests to be performed on workers, without truthfully advising them of the results.

Eventually, the mounting death toll made the connection between workers’ health and the workplace impossible to ignore. Lawsuits such as La Porte v. United States Radium Corporation led to improved industrial safety regulations and other labor reforms.

Too late, Charming Disaster notes, for the Radium Girls themselves:

(Our song) Radium Girls is dedicated to the young women who were unwittingly poisoned by their work and who were ignored and maligned in seeking justice. Their plight led to laws and safeguards that eventually became the occupational safety protections we have today. Of course that is still a battle that’s being fought, but it started with them. We wanted to pay tribute to these young women, honor their memory, and give them a voice.  

Preorder Charming Disaster’s Our Lady of Radium 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 Khipu, the Ancient Incan Record & Writing System Made Entirely of Knots

Khipus, the portable information archives created by the Inca, may stir up memories of 1970s macrame with their long strands of intricately knotted, earth-toned fibers, but their function more closely resembled that of a densely plotted computerized spreadsheet.

As Cecilia Pardo-Grau, lead curator of the British Museum’s current exhibition Peru: a journey in time explains in the above Curators Corner episode, khipus were used to keep track of everything from inventories and census to historical narratives, using a system that assigned meaning to the type and position of knot, spaces between knots, cord length, fiber color, etc.


Much of the information preserved within khipus has yet to be deciphered by modern scholars, though the Open Khipu Repository — computational anthropologist Jon Clindaniel‘s open-source database — makes it possible to compare the patterns of hundreds of khipus residing in museum and university collections.

Even in the Incan Empire, few were equipped to make sense of a khipu. This task fell to quipucamayocs, high born administrative officials trained since childhood in the creation and interpretation of these organic spreadsheets.

Fleet messengers known as chaskis transported khipus on foot between administrative centers, creating an information superhighway that predates the Internet by some five centuries. Khipus’ sturdy organic cotton or native camelid fibers were well suited to withstanding both the rigors of time and the road.

A 500-year-old composite khipu that found its way to British Museum organics conservator Nicole Rode prior to the exhibition was intact, but severely tangled, with a brittleness that betrayed its age. Below, she describes falling under the khipu’s spell, during the painstaking process of restoring it to a condition whereby researchers could attempt to glean some of its secrets.

Visit Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino’s website to learn more about khipu in a series of fascinating short articles that accompanied their groundbreaking 2003 exhibit QUIPU: counting with knots in the Inka Empire.

via Aeon.

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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.

How Fashionable Dutch Women (Like the Girl with a Pearl Earring) Got Dressed in 1665

Remember how it felt to be bundled into tights, socks, jeans, a thick sweater, a snowsuit, mittens, only to realize that you really needed to pee?

Back in 1665, the Little Ice Age compelled the well-to-do ladies of Delft to turn themselves out with a similar eye toward keeping warm, but their ensembles had a distinct advantage over the Christmas Story snowsuit approach.

Relieving themselves was as easy as hiking their skirts, petticoats, and voluminous, lace-trimmed chemise. No flies for freezing fingers to fumble with. In fact, no drawers at all.

Historical costumer Pauline Loven, a creator of the Getting Dressed In… series, builds this elite outfit from the innermost layer out, above, noting that clothing was an avenue for well-to-do citizens to flaunt their wealth:

  • A long, full, Linen or silk chemise trimmed with lace at the cuff
  • A waist-tied hip pad to bolster several layers of cozy, lined petticoats
  • An elegant silk gown comprised of several components:
    • A flat fronted skirt tucked into pleats at the sides and back
    • A laced up bodice stiffened with whale bone stays
    • Detachable sleeves
    • A stomacher for front-laced bodices
  • A loose fitting, fur-trimmed velvet or silk jacket
  • Silk or woolen thigh-high stockings gartered below the knee (created for the episode by heritage educator, and knitwear designer Sally Pointer)
  • A linen or silk kerchief pinned or tied at the breast
  • Square-toed leather shoes with a curved heel (created for the episode by Kevin Garlick, who specializes in handmade shoes for re-enactors.)

Fashionable accessories might include a foot warming, charcoal powered voeten stoof and understated jewelry, like the pearls Johannes Vermeer painted to such luminous effect.

If that doesn’t tip you off to the direction this historic recreation is headed, allow us to note that the attendant, who’s far from the focus of this episode, is garbed so as to suggest The Milkmaid by a certain Dutch Baroque Period painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes…and whose initials are J.V.

The finishing touch is a turban of yellow silk taffeta and blue silk dupion, an exotic element that may produce a sense of deja vu in art lovers … and anyone who relishes a good art-based recreation challenge.

View more of Pauline Loven’s work and Getting Dressed In… episodes focused on other periods at Crow’s Eye Productions’ YouTube channel.

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Street Art for Book Lovers: Dutch Artists Paint Massive Bookcase Mural on the Side of a Building

Ayun Halliday is an author, theatermaker, and the Chief Primaologist of the East Village Inky zine. Her latest book, Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto, will be published in early 2022.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Is There Life After Death?: John Cleese and a Panel of Scientists Discuss That Eternal Question

“I am sixty-five years old,” said John Cleese as he began one year’s convocation address at my university, “which is nearly dead.” It got enough of a laugh that I’m not surprised to find, looking it up all these years later, that he seem to have deployed the line many times since. “I’m now incredibly old,” he said last year in a video urging compliance with coronavirus rules. “I’m nearly dead. I am 81 years of age.” Nevertheless, he remains decidedly non-dead (and indeed active on Twitter) today, though no doubt reality-based enough to accept that he’s no less mortal than his fellow Pythons Graham Chapman and Terry Jones, who’ve preceded him into the afterlife — if indeed there is an afterlife.

That very question animates the 80-minute conversation above. Put on by the University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies at the 2018 Tom Tom Festival, it places Cleese at the head of a panel of scientists charged with probing one question: is there life after death?


Many will find the evidence discussed here fairly persuasive, especially the documented “near-death experiences.” In these cases “we have heightened mental thoughts when your brain isn’t functioning; we have accurate perceptions from outside the body; we have meetings with deceased loved ones who you didn’t know had died; we have meetings with deceased loved ones whom you didn’t know, period; and we don’t have a good physical explanation for this.”

So says Bruce Greyson, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia, one of the panel’s five distinguished non-Pythons. The others are Jim B. Tucker, the Division of Perceptual Studies director; Edward Kelly, one of its Professors of Research; Emily Williams Kelly, one of its Assistant Professors of Research; and UVA Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences Kim Penberthy. Their work suggests to them that, while near-death experiences may not reflect the detachment of soul from body, neither do they seem to be straightforward hallucinations. The trouble with mounting a rigorous investigation into such a rare phenomenon is the necessarily small number of cases. These researchers might thus consider taking on Cleese himself as a subject; after all, the man’s self-professed state of near-death has lasted more than fifteen years now.

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Carl Sagan Answers the Ultimate Question: Is There a God? (1994)

John Cleese Plays the Devil, Makes a Special Appeal for Hell, 1966

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include 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.

What Does It Take to Be a Great Artist?: An Aging Painter Reflects on His Creative Process & Why He Will Never Be a Picasso

What does it take to be an artist? In the short film above by Jakub Blank, artist Bill Blaine meditates on the question as he strolls around his home and studio and talks about his work. Blaine has aged into the realization that making art is what fulfills him, even though it probably won’t bring him immortal fame. “I’ve thought about this,” he says. “I would probably be a happier person if I were painting all the time.” Bloated egos belong to the young, and Blaine is glad to put the “absurd” ambitions of youth behind him. “In the old days,” he muses, “your ego was so big, that you wanted to be better than everybody else, you wanted to be on the cutting edge of things… at least with old age, you don’t have a lot of that.”

And yet, though he seems to have everything an artist could want in the material sense – a palatial estate with its own well-appointed studio – a melancholy feeling of defeat hangs over the artist. Sadness remains in his ready smile as he gently interrogates himself, “So then, why the hell aren’t you painting all the time?” Blaine chuckles as he contemplates seeing a therapist, an idea he doesn’t seem to take particularly seriously. Aside from a few outliers, maybe the psychiatric profession hasn’t taken the creative impulse particularly seriously either. One psychoanalyst who did, Otto Rank, wrote in Art and Artist of the importance of creativity to all human development and activity.


“The human urge to create,” Rank argued, “does not find expression in works of art alone. It also produces religion and mythology and the social institutions corresponding to these. In a word, it produces the whole culture.” Everything we do, from baking bread to writing symphonies, is a creative act, in that we take raw materials and make things that didn’t exist before. In Western culture, however, the role of the artist has been distorted. Artists are elevated to the status of genius, or relegated to mediocrities, at best, disposable deadbeats, at worst. Blaine surely deserves his lot of happiness from his work. Has he been undermined by self-doubt?

His vulnerability and the sharp candor of his observations leave us with a portrait of a man almost in agony over the knowledge, he says – again using the accusatory second person – that “you’re not going to be the next Picasso or the next Frank Stella or whatever else.” There’s more to the negative comparisons than wounded vanity. He should feel free to do what he likes, but he lacks what made these artists great, he says:

You have to be obsessive, you really do. Compulsive. And I’m not enough, unfortunately. Had a certain amount of talent, just didn’t have the obsession apparently. I think that’s what great artists have. They can’t let it go. And eventually, whatever they do, that’s their art, that’s who they are.

Blaine contrasts greatness with the work of unserious “dilettantes” who may approximate abstract expressionist or other styles, but whose work fails to manifest the personality of the artist. “You can see through it,” says Blaine, wincing. Shot in his “home and studio in Mount Dora, Florida,” notes Aeon, the film is “full of his original paintings and photographs. Blaine offers his unguarded thoughts on a range of topics related to the generative process.”

Artists are rarely their own best critics, and Blaine’s assessments of his work can seem withering when voiced over Blank’s slideshow presentations. But as he opens up about his creative process, and his perception of himself as “too bourgeois” to really make it, he may reveal much more about the struggles that all artists — or all creative people — face than he realizes.

via Aeon

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

18 Male Leonard Cohen Fans Over the Age of 65 Star in an Oddly Moving A Cappella Version of “I’m Your Man”

It’s going to be a tearjerker, I think — artist Candice Breitz

Watch 18 diehard Leonard Cohen fans over the age of 65 ardently fumbling their way through the title track of his 1988 album, I’m Your Man, for a deep reminder of how we are transported by the artists we love best.

These men, selected from a pool of over 400 applicants, don’t appear overly bothered by the quality of their singing voices, though clearly they’re giving it their all.

Instead, their chief concern seems to be communing with Cohen, who had died the year before, at the age of 82.

Artist Candice Breitz zeroed in on the likeliest candidates for this project using a 10-page application, in which interested parties were asked to describe Cohen’s role in their lives.


Almost all were based in Cohen’s hometown of Montreal.

Many have been fans since they were teenagers.

Participant Fergus Keyes described meeting Cohen at a 1984 signing for his poetry collection, Book of Mercy:

He told me he liked my name. He asked if he could use it in some future song. I said yes and he wrote it down in his little notebook. I said to him, ‘Sometimes I don’t understand what you’re saying.’ And he said there was no wrong way of interpreting it, because he wrote for others and whatever we interpret is right. 

There’s definitely a variety of interpretations on display, above, in an excerpt of Breitz’ 40-minute work, I’m Your Man: A Portrait of Leonard Cohen.

In person, it’s displayed as an installation in-the-round, with viewers free to roam around in the middle, as each participant is projected on his own life-size video monitor for the duration.

They’re our men.

Some standing stiffly.

Others with eyes tightly shut.

Some cannot resist the temptation to act out certain choice lines.

One joyful uninhibited soul beams and dances.

They keep time with their hands, feet, heads… a seated man taps his cane.

One whistles, confidently filling the space most commonly occupied by an instrumental, while the majority of the others fidget.

There are suit jackets, a couple of Cohen-esque fedoras, a t-shirt from a 2015 Cohen event, and what appears to be a linen gown, topped with a chunky sweater vest.

Breitz’s only requirement of the participants was that they memorize the lyrics to the I’m Your Man album in its entirety, prior to entering the recording studio.

Each man laid his track down solo, singing along while listening to the album on earbuds, unaware of exactly how his contribution would be used. Several professed shock to discover, on opening night, that synchronous editing had transformed them into members of an a cappella choir. 

The project may strike some viewers as funny, especially when an individual or group flubs a lyric or veers off tempo, but the purpose is not mockery. Breitz worked to establish trust, and the participants’ willingness to extend it gives the piece its emotional foundation.

Victor Shiffman, co-curator of the 2017 Cohen exhibit A Crack in Everything at the commissioning Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, told the Montreal Gazette:

They are not precisely singers. They are just passionate, ardent fans; their goal was to communicate their devotion and love for Leonard by participating in this tribute. It is not about hitting the notes. The emotion comes through in the conviction these men portray and in the dedication they show in having put themselves out there. There is so much beauty in that work; it disarms us.

Having centered similar fan-based multichannel video experiments around such works as Bob Marley’s Legend and John Lennon’s Working Class Hero, Breitz explained the casting of the Cohen project to CBC Arts:

I was really interested in this moment in life when one starts to look back and contemplate what kind of a life one has lived and what kind of life one wishes to continue living as one approaches the end of that life. And I think that even when he was a young man, Cohen was somebody who thought about and wrote about mortality in very profound ways. So what I decided to do was to invite a group of Cohen fans who really would be up to the project of interpreting that complexity.

Prior to the work’s premiere, Breitz gathered the group for a toast, suggesting that the occasion was doubly special in that it was highly unlikely they would meet again.

Sometimes artists are unaware of the powerful force they unleash.

Rather than going their separate ways, the participants formed friendships, reunite for non-solo Cohen singalongs, and in the words of one man, became “a real brotherhood… once you establish that connection, everything else disappears.”

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

How Well Can You Move in Medieval Armor?: Medievalist Daniel Jaquet Gives It a Try in Real Life

If you’ve ever run a marathon in costume, or for that matter, boarded public transportation with a large musical instrument or a bulky bag of athletic equipment, you know that gear can be a burden best shed.

But what if that gear is your first, nay, best line of defense against a fellow knight fixing to smite you in the name of their liege?

Such gear is non-optional.


Curious about the degree to which 15th-century knights were encumbered by their protective plating, medievalist Daniel Jaquet commissioned a top armor specialist from the Czech Republic to make a suit specific to his own personal measurements. The result is based on a 15th century specimen in Vienna that has been studied by the Wallace Collection’s archaeometallurgist Alan Williams. As Jaquet recalled in Sciences et Avenir:

We had to make compromises in the copying process, of course, because what interested me above all was to be able to do a behavioral study, to see how one moved with this equipment on the back rather than attaching myself to the number of exact rivets…we knew the composition and the hardness of the parts that we could compare to our replica.

The accomplished martial artist tested his mobility in the suit with a variety of highly public, modern activities: reaching for items on the highest supermarket shelves, jogging in the park, scaling a wall at a climbing gym, taking the Metro …

It may look like showboating, but these movements helped him assess how he’d perform in combat, as well as lower stress activities involving sitting down or standing up.

Out of his metal suit, Jaquet has been known to amuse himself by analyzing the verisimilitude of Game of Thrones’ combat scenes. (Conclusion: some liberties were taken, armor-wise, in that gruesome face off between the Mountain and the Viper.)

An invitation to travel to New York City to present at the Metropolitan Museum of Art offered an unexpected testing opportunity, compliments of the airline’s baggage restrictions:

For reasons of weight, space and cost, the solution to wear the armor over me was considered the best.

(The TSA officers at Newark were not amused...)

His armored experience sheds light on those of early 15th-century knight Jean le Maingre, aka Boucicaut, whose impressive career was cut short in 1415, when he was captured by the English at the Battle of Agincourt.

Boucicaut kept himself in tip top physical condition with a regular armored fitness regimen. His chivalric biography details gearing up for exercises that include running, chopping wood, vaulting onto a horse, and working his way up a ladder from the underside, without using his feet.

Jaquet duplicates them all in the above video.

(Reminder to those who would try this at home, make sure you’re capable of performing these exercises in lightweight shorts and t-shirt before attempting to do them in armor.)

Like Boucicault’s, Jaquet’s armor is bespoke. Those who’ve struggled to lift their arms in an off-the-rack jacket will appreciate the trade off. It’s worth spending more to ensure sufficient range of movement.

In Boucicault’s day, ready-made pieces of lesser quality could be procured at markets, trading fairs, and shops in populous areas. You could also try your luck after battle, by stripping the captive and the dead of theirs. Size was always an issue. Too small and your movement would be restricted. Too big, and you’d be hauling around unnecessary weight.

Jaquet describes his load as being on par with the weight 21st-century soldiers are required to carry. Body armor is a lifesaver, according to a 2018 study by the Center for a New American Security, but it also reduces mobility, increases fatigue, and reduces mission performance.

Gizmodo’s Jennifer Ouellette finds that medieval knights faced similar challenges:

The legs alone were carrying an extra 15 to 18 pounds, so the muscles had to work that much harder to overcome inertia to set the legs in motion. There is also evidence that the thin slits in the face mask, and tight chest plate, restricted oxygen flow even further.

Read a detailed, scholarly account of Jaquet’s armor experiment in Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History.

For those looking for a lighter read, here is Jaquet’s account of taking a commercial flight in armor (and some best practice tips for those attempting the same.)

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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Stephen Fry Explains How to Deal with Bullying

Stephen Fry got sent off to a faraway boarding school at the age of seven. His subsequent years of student life far from home taught him, among other things, a set of effective strategies to deflect bullying. (“I suppose it all began when I came out of the womb,” he once said when asked at what point he acknowledged his sexuality, and that must have given him plenty of time to consider what it was to stand outside the mainstream.) The particular line he recommends delivering in the Q&A clip above (recorded at The Oxford Union) may not be for everyone, but he also has a larger point to make, and he makes it with characteristic eloquence. The eternal threat of bullying, he says, is “why nature gave us, or enough of a percentage of us, wit — or at least what might pass for it.”

Wit, which Fry possesses in a famous abundance, must surely have carried him through a great many situations both professional and personal. A modern-day intellectual and aesthetic heir to Oscar Wilde, Fry has the advantage of having lived in a time and place without being subject to the kind of punishment visited on the author of “The Ballad of Reading Gaol.” But that doesn’t mean he’s had an easy time of it. He cites an “ancient metaphor” he’s kept in mind: “No matter how dark it is, the smallest light is visible; no matter how light it is, a bit of dark is nothing.” The challenges he’s faced in life — none of them a million miles, presumably, from the kind endured by those seen to be different in other ways — have sent him to the wells of history, philosophy, and even mythology. 


“We have to return to Nietzsche,” Fry says, and specifically The Birth of Tragedy. “He argued that tragedy was born out of ancient Greece, out of a spirit that the Athenians had as they grew up as a special tribe that somehow managed to combine two qualities of their twelve Olympic deities.” Some of these qualities were embodied in Athena, goddess of wisdom, and Apollo, god of harmony, music, mathematics, and rhetoric. But then we have Dionysius, “god of wine and festival and riot. Absolute riot.” Tragedies, according to Nietzsche, “look at the fact that all of us are torn in two,” with part of us inclined toward Athenian and Apollonian pursuits, where another part of us “wants to wrench our clothes off, dive into the grapes, and make slurping, horrible noises of love and discord.”

This all comes down to the thoroughly modern myth that is Star Trek. On the Enterprise we have Mr. Spock, who embodies “reason, logic, calculation, science, and an absolute inability to feel”; we have Bones, “all gut reaction”; and “in the middle, trying to be a perfect mix of the two of them,” we have Captain Kirk, “who wanted the humanity of Bones, but some of the reasoning judgment of Spock.” The Enterprise, in a word, is us: “Each one of us, if we examine ourselves, knows there is an inner beast who is capable of almost anything — in mind, at least — and there is an inner monk, an inner harmonious figure.” Each side keeps getting the better of the other, turning even the bullied into bullies on occasion. The best you can do, in Fry’s view, is to “go forth, be mad, be utterly proud of who you are — whatever you are — and for God’s sake, try everything.”

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PBS Short Video “Bad Behavior Online” Takes on the Phenomenon of Cyberbullying

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include 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.