How to Be a Samurai: A 17th Century Code for Life & War

Many today draw inspiration from Bushidō, the Way of the Warrior, a comprehensive code of conduct for premodern Japan’s samurai (or bushi).

The above installment of History Brothers David and Pete Kelly’s primary source web series Voices of the Past suggests that some aspects of the samurai code are more applicable to 21st century life than others.

For instance, when was the last time you slaughtered someone for rendering offense to your Lord?

Not that the best practices surrounding such an assignment aren’t fascinating. Still, you’ll probably benefit more from incorporating the samurai approach to dealing with gossips or clueless colleagues.

If you want to adapt Master Ninja Natori Masazumi‘s Edo period instructions for cleaning blood from long swords, without damaging the blade, to polishing your stainless steel fridge, have at it:

Place horse droppings inside some paper and wipe it over a blade that has been used to cut someone. This will leave traces of the wiping and the blood will no longer be seen. If there are no horse droppings available to wipe the blade with, use the back of your straw sandals or soil inside paper.

The video draws on historian Antony Cummins and translator Yoshie Minami’s The Book of Samurai: The Fundamental Teachings, a reproduction of two scrolls containing Natori Masazumi’s directives for samurai conduct in times of war and peace.

The second scroll, “Ippei Yoko,” contains some explicit marching orders for the former.

If you’re squeamish — or eating — you may want to duck out of the video before Natori Masazumi’s granular instructions on the severing of enemy heads. (15:30 onward.)

Alternatively, you could make like an inexperienced young samurai and harden yourself to the graphic realities of bloodshed by attending executions and violent punishments in your downtime.

Again, the more everyday wisdom of “Heika Jodan,” the first scroll, will likely prove more pertinent. A few chestnuts to get you started:

Don’t say something about someone behind their back that you are not prepared to repeat to their face.

Keep your distance from “stupid” associates, but also resist the urge to make fun of them.

Never shy away from an act of virtue.

In an emergency, exit in a swift, but orderly manner.

Compliment the food when you’re a guest in someone’s home, even if you don’t like it.

If you’re the host, and two guests begin fighting, try to help settle the matter discreetly, to avoid lasting injuries or grudges.

Don’t pass the buck to excuse your own misdeeds.

Don’t panic in an unexpected situation — the first thing you should do is take a breath and settle your mind.

Whether traveling or just out and about, be prepared with necessary items, including, pencil, paper, money, medications…

When tempted to regale others with any supernatural encounters you may have had, remember that less is more.

Watch more Voices of the Past on their YouTube channel.

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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.

Scenes of New York City in 1945 Colorized & Revived with Artificial Intelligence

Are you irked when a movie or video you’re attempting to enjoy is constantly interrupted by the commentary of a chatty fellow audience member?

If so, don’t watch archivist Rick Prelinger’s 2017 assemblage, Lost Landscapes of New York, in the company of a New Yorker.

Unlike Open Culture favorite NASS’s five minute sample of Lost Landscapes of New York, above, which adds color and ambient audio to the unvarnished found footage,  Prelinger — described by the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis as a “collector extraordinaire…one of the great, undersung historians of 20th century cinema” — relishes such mouthiness from the audience. His black and white compilations are mostly silent.

If you are a New Yorker, view that as an invitation here.

For everyone else, on behalf of New Yorkers everywhere, we concede that our confident utterances may indeed drive you out of your gourd…

Tourists with just one visit to their name can be forgiven for flaunting their personal brushes with such hall of famers as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Washington Square Arch, but there’s no competing with long time residents’ intimate knowledge of the city’s geography.

It’s snobbery of a type, but have pity on us long time residents, who know we will be viewed as subordinates by those who were born within the five Boroughs.

(We submit that there are layers to this…a native of, say, the Hoosier State, who can remember the original Penn Station should be considered to have at least as much street cred as a millennial whose  birth in Brooklyn, Harlem or the West Village confers native New Yorker status.)

However you slice it, consider this fair warning that some of us, viewing Lost Landscapes of New York in your company, will not be able to stop ourselves from triumphantly crowing, “That’s 8th between 43rd and 44th!”

Again, it’s something Prelinger courts in local live screenings of his Lost Landscapes series

The phenomenon is not limited to New York.

Be the setting San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Detroit, he views audience outbursts as the soundtracks to his mostly silent, non-narrative pastiches drawn from his vast archive of vintage home movies, government-produced films, and background footage shot with an eye toward compositing into a feature film.

In a conversation with The Essay Review’s Lucy Schiller, he remarked:

I’ve discovered that home movies become something else when blown up to theater-screen size. The change of scale provokes a role change in the audience, who without necessarily expecting it become more than simple commentators. They turn into ethnographers, noticing and often remarking on every visible detail of kinship, word and gesture and every interpersonal exchange. They also respond as cultural geographers, calling out streets and neighborhoods and buildings, reading signs aloud, repeating tradenames and brands and marking extinct details in the cityscape. If I could capture them (and I generally cannot, because it is hard to intelligibly record the voices of hundreds of people in one room), it would play back like an urban research project distributed through a crowd of investigators. Each successful identification, each naming achieved, is an endorphin trigger.

Prelinger is happy to play fast and loose with chronological order, scrambling period fashions, and color and black-and-white stock. This crazy quilt approach is in step with his resistance to constructing narratives (“the curse of contemporary documentary”) and admiration for the way enthusiastic amateurs’ footage renders “caste distinctions between animals and humans, between places and their inhabitants” moot:

I am much less interested in the minutiae of local history than I am in the process of daylighting it, in the relationship of history and contemporary life.

His approach allows those of us who live or have lived here to revel in New York City’s long standing capacity for reinvention.

Like the anonymous tide of humanity bustling along our sidewalks (and darting into traffic, mid-block), the marquees, restaurant names and words on the delivery trucks aren’t fixed. We claim to hate it, but philosophers might suggest it’s what keeps us engaged.

You won’t find many street vendors hawking frumpy cotton undies these days, but there are plenty of corners where you can buy fruit and veg… and iPhone cases, earbuds, and COVID-19 era face masks.

As exciting as it is to successfully peg the quintessentially New York things that remain, there’s an equal thrill to recognizing and shouting out the things that don’t, especially if there’s a significant personal connection.

It makes us feel like we’re notable, contributing in some way.

You contribute, too, by watching Lost Landscapes of New York (2017) here, while simultanously keeping your eyes peeled for gratifyingly well attended, highly participated live screenings.

If vintage amateur footage you’re in possession of is gathering dust, consider donating it to expand Prelinger’s archive, already some 60,000 films strong.

Watch Prelinger’s Lost Landscapes compilations of other cities here and here (see episode 7 of his San Francisco series above).

Explore his massive archive on the Internet Archive.

And if you want to practice sounding like a “real New Yorker,” head back up to the top of the page, skip to the end, and inform everyone within earshot that that building is the old James A. Farley Post Office at 32nd and 8th:

“Now it’s Moynihan Train Hall! It opened on January 1! It’s part of Penn Station! Don’t forget to look up inside the 33rd street entrance, or you’ll miss Kehinde Wiley’s incredible stained-glass ceiling! And if you want a snack for the ride, you should hit H-Mart on 32nd just east of Greeley Square!”

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

William Shatner in Tears After Becoming the Oldest Person in Space: ‘I’m So Filled with Emotion … I Hope I Never Recover from This”

Yesterday Star Trek‘s William Shatner, now 90 years old, finally became a Rocket Man, taking a trip to space. And upon his return he said: “I hope I never recover from this.” “I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened. It’s extraordinary, extraordinary. It’s so much larger than me and life. It hasn’t got anything to do with the little green men and the blue orb. It has to do with the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death.” “To see the blue color whip by you, and now you’re staring into blackness … everybody in the world needs to do this. Everybody in the world needs to see this.” What. A. Trip.

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Behold the Photographs of John Thomson, the First Western Photographer to Travel Widely Through China (1870s)

In the early 1860s, a few Westerners had seen China — but nearly all of them had seen it for themselves. The still-new medium of photography had yet to make images of everywhere available to viewers everywhere else, which meant an opportunity for traveling practitioners like John Thomson. “The son of a tobacco spinner and shopkeeper,” says, ” he was apprenticed to an Edinburgh optical and scientific instrument manufacturer where he learned the basics of photography.”

In 1862 Thomson sailed from Leith “with a camera and a portable dark room. He set up in Singapore before exploring the ancient civilizations of China, Thailand — then known as Siam — and Cambodia.” It is for his extensive photography of China in the late 1860s and early 1870s that he’s best known today.

First lavishly published in a series of books titled Illustrations of China and Its People (now available to read free online at the Yale University Library: volume one, volume two, volume three, volume four), they now constitute some of the earliest and richest direct visual records of Chinese landscapes, cityscapes, and society as they were in the late 19th century.

“The first Western photographer to travel widely through the length and breadth of China,” Thomson brought his camera on journeys “far more extensive than those undertaken by most Westerners of his generation,” extending “beyond the relative comfort and safety of the coastal treaty ports.” Those words come from scholar of the 19th-century Allen Hockley, whose five-part visual essay “John Thomson’s China” at MIT Visualizing Cultures provides a detailed overview and historical contextualization of Thomson’s work in Asia.

Thomson’s photographs, writes Hockley, “fall into two broad categories: scenic views and types. Views encompassed both natural landscapes and built environments. They could be panoramic, taking in large swaths of scenery, or they might highlight specific natural phenomena or individual structures.”

Types “focused on the manners and customs of Chinese people and tended to highlight the defining features of gender, age, class, ethnicity, and occupation.” A century and a half later, both Thomson’s views and types have given scholars in a variety of disciplines much to discuss.

“It is clear from his commentary to Illustrations of China that, however sympathetic he was towards Chinese people, he could often be superior and high-handed,” writes Andrew Hiller at Visualizing China. “If Thomson never sought to question the validity of Britain’s presence, his attitude towards China was ambivalent. Whilst critical of what he saw as the corruption and obfuscation of Qing officials, he nevertheless could see the country’s potential.”

Thomson also helped others to see that potential — or at least those who could afford to buy his books, whose prices matched the quality of their production. But today, thanks to online archives like Historical Photographs of China and Wellcome Collection, they’re free for everyone to behold. China itself has become much more accessible since Thomson’s day, of course, but it’s famously a much different place than it was 25 years ago, let alone 150 years ago. The land through which he traveled — and of which he took so many of the very earliest photographs — is now infinitely less accessible to us than it ever was to his fellow Westerners of the 19th century.

Hear a lecture on Thomson’s photography in China from the University of London here.

via Flashbak

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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.

Japanese Guided Tours of the Louvre, Versailles, the Marais & Other Famous French Places (English Subtitles Included)

“As tourist season here in Paris winds to a close and the air once again becomes crisp, fresh, and new,” writes The Atlantic‘s Chelsea Fagan, “we must unfortunately acknowledge that it does not end without a few casualties.” That piece was published at this time of year, albeit a decade ago, when “tourist season” anywhere had a bit more bustle. But the worldwide downturn in travel hasn’t done away with the object of her concern: Paris Syndrome, “a collection of physical and psychological symptoms experienced by first-time visitors realizing that Paris isn’t, in fact, what they thought it would be.” This disorder, one often hears, is especially prevalent among the Japanese.

Japan, writes Fagan, is rich with portrayals of the French capital as a city “filled with thin, gorgeous, unbelievably rich citizens. The three stops of a Parisian’s day, according to the Japanese media, are a cafe, the Eiffel Tower, and Louis Vuitton.” To someone who knows it only through such images, a confrontation with the real Paris — with its service-industry workers who treat tourists “like something they recently scraped from the bottom of their shoes” to its subway cars “filled with groping couples, screaming children, and unimaginably loud accordion music” — can trigger “acute delusions, hallucinations, dizziness, sweating, and feelings of persecution.”

Not all Japanese visitors to Paris, of course, come down with Paris Syndrome. Some plunge into an even more overwhelming condition of love for the City of Light, as might well have been the case with the Youtuber France Guide Nakamura. “I studied art history at a university in France and was amazed at how interesting it was,” he writes on his about page. “When you study art, there is a moment of revelation! Something that was not visible until now suddenly appears. It is the ‘pleasure’ of ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding.’ I think this is the ‘core’ of tourism.” It is on that basis that he creates videos like the hour-long Louvre tour above, a smooth first-person walk through the world’s most famous museum that he narrates with a high degree of articulacy, knowledge, and enthusiasm.

Experienced in leading tours for his countrymen, he describes all his videos in his native Japanese. But in the case of his Louvre tour, you can turn on English subtitles by clicking the CC button in the toolbar at the bottom of the video. His other popular English-subtitled videos include walks through Montmartre, Marais, and the Latin Quarter, as well as certain excursions outside of Paris, such as this visit to Versailles. If you do speak Japanese, you’ll also be able to enjoy Nakamura’s many previous videos digging into the nature, history, and cultural context of other things French, from neighborhoods to works of art to convenience stores, but not, as yet, the Eiffel Tower — or for that matter, Louis Vuitton.

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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.

Watch Anthony Bourdain’s First Food-and-Travel Series A Cook’s Tour Free Online (2002-03)

At the time of his death in 2018, Anthony Bourdain was quite possibly the most famous cook in the world. Without question he held the title of the most famous cook-traveler, a status resting primarily on No Reservations and Parts Unknown, the television shows he hosted on the Travel Chanel and CNN, respectively. But it all began with A Cook’s Tour, which the Food Network originally broadcast in 2002 and 2003. That series, Bourdain’s very first, took him from Japan to Morocco to Mexico to Australia to Thailand — and through many points in between — in search of the world’s most stimulating eating experiences.

Now A Cook’s Tour has come available free to watch on Youtube, thanks to the streaming channel GoTraveler (who also offer the show through their own service). A Portuguese slaughtering-and-roasting party; vodka-fueled ice fishing in St. Petersburg; an exploration of the American “Barbecue Triangle” constituted by Kansas City, Houston, and North Carolina; and a best-faith effort to lose himself in Chiang Mai: if you caught these or other of Bourdain’s early international culinary adventures those nearly twenty years ago, you can relive them, and if you missed out, you can enjoy them for the first time.

During the launch phase of his rise to fame (after decades of restaurant work and years of writing, an effort that first produced a couple of food-themed murder-mystery novels), Bourdain managed to tap into a new wave of gastronomic interest then rising in America. He did so with a street-smart sense of humor that appealed even to viewers with no particular investment in the world of cooking and dining, as long as they had an interest in the world itself. With A Cook’s Tour, he took food television out of the kitchen — way out of the kitchen — and over the eighteen years since its conclusion, the series’ influence has become so pervasive as almost to be invisible. Anthony Bourdain may be gone, but parts of his personality live on in every high-profile traveler out there cooking, eating, and getting lost today.

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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.

360 Degree Virtual Tours of the Hagia Sophia

Last year, when Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that Hagia Sophia would be reconverted into a mosque, he assured a concerned UNESCO that changes to the 1,500-year-old former cathedral-turned-mosque would have “no negative impact” on its status as World Heritage Site. “A state must make sure that no modification undermines the outstanding universal value of a site listed on its territory,” the world body has said. Claims to the contrary notwithstanding, the “universal value” of the site does seem to have been undermined.

Designated a museum by the secular Turkish Republic in 1934, the site contains hundreds of years of history for both the Christian and Islamic worlds, and the shared heritage between them in the shifting mix of peoples who conquered, settled, and moved through the city first called Byzantium, then Constantinople, then Istanbul.

“The World Heritage site was at the centre of both the Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires and is today one of Turkey’s most visited monuments,” Reuters noted last year.

The mosque is open to the public for prayers, and anyone can visit. What they’ll find — as you can see in this recent tour video — is ugly green carpeting covering the floor, and screens, panels, and plywood obscuring the Byzantine Christian art. (The same thing was done in the smaller Hagia Sophia in the city of Trabzon.) These changes are not only distressing for UNESCO, but also for lovers of art and history around the world, myself included, who had hoped to one day see the millennia-and-a-half of blended religious and aesthetic traditions for themselves.

It’s possible Turkish politics will allow Hagia Sophia to return to its status as a museum in the future, restoring its “universal value” for world history and culture. If not, we can still visit the space virtually — as it was until last year — in the 360 degree video views above, both of which allow you to look around in any direction as they play. You can also swivel around a spherical panoramic image at 360 cities.

The BBC video at the top narrates some of the significant features of the incredible building, once the largest church in the world, including its “colored marble from around the Roman Empire” and “10,000 square meters of gold mosaic.” Learn much more about Hagia Sophia history in the video above from Khan Academy’s executive directors (and former deans of art and history), Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris.

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

Banksy’s Great British Spraycation: The Artist Spray Paints England’s Favorite Summer-Holiday Destinations

“We’re all going on a summer holiday / no more working for a week or two,” sings Cliff Richard in one of his most famous songs. “Fun and laughter on a summer holiday / no more worries for me or you.” Like The Beatles’ ultra-northern “When I’m Sixty-Four,” with its cottage rentals on the Isle of Wight (“if it’s not too dear”), Richard’s “Summer Holiday” dates from a time in Britain when tourism was, as a rule, domestic. And so it has become again over the past couple of years, what with the coronavirus pandemic and its severe curtailment of international travel. Ever tuned in to current events, the pseudonymous graffiti artist Banksy has taken the opportunity to go on a “Great British Spraycation.”

This was a busman’s holiday for Banksy, who appears to have had a detailed plan of exactly which east-coast resort towns to visit, and exactly where in each of them to surreptitiously create another of his signature pieces of high-contrast satirical art.

“The stenciled pieces are often integrated with repurposed objects from the area, highlighting the pre-planned and perfectly positioned nature of the work,” writes Designboom’s Kat Barandy. “In Lowestoft, a massive seagull dines on a box of ‘chips’ rendered by a dumpster filled with insulation material. Nearby a child is depicted building a sandcastle with a crowbar, fronted by a mound of sand on the pavement.”

That work, Arts University Bournemouth professor Paul Gough tells the BBC for its guide to the Great British Spraycation, may be a reference to the 1968 Paris student uprising and its slogan “Sous les pavés, la plage!” You can see these and other fresh works documented in the video at the top of the post, which also catches the reactions of passing locals and tourists. “That looks all like mindless vandalism, that,” says one woman, articulating a common assessment of Banksy’s artistic statements. “It looks a lot better from far away than it does when you get this close,” says another. But the most telling comment, in a variety of respects, comes from a man regarding Banksy’s addition of a cartoonish tongue and ice cream cone to the statue of 19th-century mayor Frederick Savage in King’s Lynn: “Yeah, someone’s done that, ain’t they?”

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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