If you can’t judge a movie by its poster, it’s not for the poster designer’s lack of trying. Nearly as venerable as cinema itself, the art of the movie poster has evolved to attract the attention and interest of generation after generation of filmgoers — and, safe to say, developed a few best practices along the way. Some examples go beyond effective advertisement to become icons in and of themselves: take for example, the poster for Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, designed by James Verdesoto. In the Vanity Fair video above, Verdesoto draws on a variety of “one-sheets” in order to explain a few of the tricks of the trade.
Like any cultural artifact, movie posters are subject to trend and fashion. It just happens that trends and fashions in movie poster design can last for decades, with each revival bringing an underlying aesthetic concept back into the zeitgeist in a new way. Surely you’ll recall a few years, not long ago, when every major comedy seemed to stamp bold red text on a pure white background: American Pie, the remakes of Cheaper by the Dozen, and The Heartbreak Kid, even the likes of Norbit.
This has been going on at least since the 1980s, as Verdesoto shows by pulling out the poster for John Hughes’ beloved Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, then comparing it to the conceptually similar one for Meet the Parents to note differences in the use of fonts, photographs, and negative space.
Since The Firm, thrillers have often been signaled with hunted-looking men running down blue-toned corridors or streets, often in silhouette; a great many explosive action movies since Die Hard have gone in for black-and-white posters that emphasize slashes of red or orange. Even the non-genre of “independent films,” often modest of marketing budget, have their own color: canary yellow “a cheap way to catch the eye.” Case in point: Vincent Gallo’s The Brown Bunny, a notorious film that also happened to come with one of the most memorable posters of the 2000s, due not just to its yellow background but because its conscious reference to European designs of the 1950s and 60s, such as the one for Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up.
You can behold (and in some cases even download) countless many works of movie-poster art, from a variety of decades and a variety of nations, at the sites of the University of Texas Harry Ransom Center and the New York movie poster gallery Posteritati. Here on Open Culture we’ve also featured Taschen’s book of dynamic movie posters of the Russian avant-garde, online archives of the famously artistic movie posters of Poland and Czechoslovakia, not to mention compellingly odd hand-painted movie posters from Ghana. Spend enough time with all of them, and you may find yourself possessed of enough of an intellectual investment in this thoroughly modern art form to start investing in a genuine collection of your own. But no matter your enthusiasm for movie posters, it’ll be a while before you catch up with Martin Scorsese.
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.Read More...
Today we take a ride on the world’s oldest electric suspension railway—the Wuppertal Schwebebahn in Germany.
Actually, we’ll take two rides, traveling back in time to do so, thanks to YouTuber pwduze, who had a bit of fun trying to match up two videos discovered online for comparison’s sake.
The journey on the left was filmed in 1902, when this miracle of modern engineering was but a year old.
The train passes over a broad road traveled mostly by pedestrians.
Note the absence of cars, traffic lights, and signage, as well as the proliferation of greenery, animals, and space between houses.
The trip on the right was taken much more recently, shortly after the railway began upgrading its fleet to cars with cushioned seats, air conditioning, information displays, LED lighting, increased access for people with disabilities and regenerative brakes.
An extended version at the bottom of this page provides a glimpse of the control panel inside the driver’s booth.
There are some changes visible beyond the windshield, too.
Now, cars, buses, and trucks dominate the road.
A large monument seems to have disappeared at the 2:34 mark, along with the plaza it once occupied.
Fieldstone walls and 19th-century architectural flourishes have been replaced with bland cement.
There’s been a lot of building—and rebuilding. 40% of Wuppertal’s buildings were destroyed by Allied bombing in WWII.
Although Wuppertal is still the greenest city in Germany, with access to public parks and woodland paths never more than a ten-minute walk away, the views across the Wupper river to the right are decidedly less expansive.
As Benjamin Schneider observes in Bloomberg CityLab:
For the Schwebebahn’s first riders at the turn of the 20th century, these vistas along the eight-mile route must have been a revelation. Many of them would have ridden trains and elevators, but the unobstructed, straight-down views from the suspended monorail would have been novel, if not terrifying.
The bridge structures appear to have changed little over the last 120 years, despite several safety upgrades.
Those steampunk silhouettes are a testament to the planning—and expense—that resulted in this unique mass transit system, whose origin story is summarized by Elmar Thyen, head of Schwebebahn’s Corporate Communications and Strategic Marketing:
We had a situation with a very rich city, and very rich citizens who were eager to be socially active. They said, ‘Which space is publicly owned so we don’t have to go over private land?… It might make sense to have an elevated railway over the river.’
In the end, this is what the merchants wanted. They wanted the emperor to come and say, ‘This is cool, this is innovative: high tech, and still Prussian.’
At present, the suspension railway is only operating on the weekends, with a return to regular service anticipated for August 2021. Face masks are required. Tickets are still just a few bucks.
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Western scholarship has had “a bias against studying sensual experience,” writes Reina Gattuso at Atlas Obscura, “the relic of an Enlightenment-era hierarchy that considered taste, touch, and flavor taboo topics for sober academic inquiry.” This does not mean, however, that cooking has been ignored by historians. Many a scholar has taken European cooking seriously, before recent food scholarship expanded the canon. For example, in a 1926 English translation of an ancient Roman cookbook, Joseph Dommers Vehling makes a strong case for the centrality of food scholarship.
“Anyone who would know something worth while about the private and public lives of the ancients,” writes Vehling, “should be well acquainted with their table.” Published as Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome (and available here at Project Gutenberg), it is, he says, the oldest known cookbook in existence.
The book, originally titled De Re Coquinaria, is attributed to Apicius and may date to the 1st century A.C.E., though the oldest surviving copy comes from the end of the Empire, sometime in the 5th century. As with most ancient texts, copied over centuries, redacted, amended, and edited, the original cookbook is shrouded in mystery.
The cookbook’s author, Apicius, could have been one of several “renowned gastronomers of old Rome” who bore the surname. But whichever “famous eater” was responsible, over 2000 years later the book has quite a lot to tell us about the Roman diet. (All of the illustrations here are by Vehling, who includes over two dozen examples of ancient practices and artifacts.)
Meat played an important role, and “cruel methods of slaughter were common.” But the kind of meat available seems to have changed during Apicius’s time:
With the increasing shortage of beef, with the increasing facilities for raising chicken and pork, a reversion to Apician methods of cookery and diet is not only probably but actually seems inevitable. The ancient bill of fare and the ancient methods of cookery were entirely guided by the supply of raw materials—precisely like ours. They had no great food stores nor very efficient marketing and transportation systems, food cold storage. They knew, however, to take care of what there was. They were good managers.
But vegetarians were also well-served. “Apicius certainly excels in the preparation of vegetable dishes (cf. his cabbage and asparagus) and in the utilization of parts of food materials that are today considered inferior.” This apparent need to use everything, and to sometimes heavily spice food to cover spoilage, may have led to an unusual Roman custom. As How Stuff Works puts it, “cooks then were revered if they could disguise a common food item so that diners had no idea what they were eating.”
As for the recipes themselves, well, any attempt to duplicate them will be at best a broad interpretation—a translation from ancient methods of cooking by smell, feel, and custom to the modern way of weights and measures. Consider the following recipe:
WINE SAUCE FOR TRUFFLES
PEPPER, LOVAGE, CORIANDER, RUE, BROTH, HONEY AND A LITTLE OIL.
ANOTHER WAY: THYME, SATURY, PEPPER, LOVAGE, HONEY, BROTH AND OIL.
I foresee much frustrating trial and error (and many hopeful substitutions for things like lovage or rue or “satury”) for the cook who attempts this. Some foods that were plentifully available could cost hundreds now to prepare for a dinner party.
SEAFOOD MINCES ARE MADE OF SEA-ONION, OR SEA CRAB, FISH, LOBSTER, CUTTLE-FISH, INK FISH, SPINY LOBSTER, SCALLOPS AND OYSTERS. THE FORCEMEAT IS SEASONED WITH LOVAGE, PEPPER, CUMIN AND LASER ROOT.
Vehling’s footnotes mostly deal with etymology and define unfamiliar terms (“laser root” is wild fennel), but they provide little practical insight for the cook. “Most of the Apician directions are vague, hastily jotted down, carelessly edited,” much of the terminology is obscure: “with the advent of the dark ages, it ceased to be a practical cookery book.” We learn, instead, about Roman ingredients and home economic practices, inseparable from Roman economics more generally, according to Vehling.
He makes a judgment of his own time even more relevant to ours: “Such atrocities as the willful destruction of huge quantities of food of every description on the one side and the starving multitudes on the other as seen today never occurred in antiquity.” Perhaps more current historians of antiquity would beg to differ, I wouldn’t know.
But if you’re just looking for a Roman recipe that you can make at home, might I suggest the Rose Wine?
MAKE ROSE WINE IN THIS MANNER: ROSE PETALS, THE LOWER WHITE PART REMOVED, SEWED INTO A LINEN BAG AND IMMERSED IN WINE FOR SEVEN DAYS. THEREUPON ADD A SACK OF NEW PETALS WHICH ALLOW TO DRAW FOR ANOTHER SEVEN DAYS. AGAIN REMOVE THE OLD PETALS AND REPLACE THEM BY FRESH ONES FOR ANOTHER WEEK; THEN STRAIN THE WINE THROUGH THE COLANDER. BEFORE SERVING, ADD HONEY SWEETENING TO TASTE. TAKE CARE THAT ONLY THE BEST PETALS FREE FROM DEW BE USED FOR SOAKING.
You could probably go with red or white, though I’d hazard Apicius went with a fine vinum rubrum. This concoction, Vehling tells us in a helpful footnote, doubles as a laxative. Clever, those Romans. Read the full English translation of the ancient Roman cookbook here.
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“Early cookbooks were fit for kings,” writes Henry Notaker at The Atlantic. “The oldest published recipe collections” in the 15th and 16th centuries in Western Europe “emanated from the palaces of monarchs, princes, and grand señores.” Cookbooks were more than recipe collections—they were guides to court etiquette and sumptuous records of luxurious living. In ancient Rome, cookbooks functioned similarly, as the extravagant fourth century Cooking and Dining in Imperial Rome demonstrates.
Written by Apicius, “Europe’s oldest [cookbook] and Rome’s only one in existence today”—as its first English translator described it—offers “a better way of knowing old Rome and antique private life.” It also offers keen insight into the development of heavily flavored dishes before the age of refrigeration. Apicus recommends that “cooks who needed to prepare birds with a ‘goatish smell’ should bathe them in a mixture of pepper, lovage, thyme, dry mint, sage, dates, honey, vinegar, broth, oil and mustard,” Melanie Radzicki McManus notes at How Stuff Works.
Early cookbooks communicated in “a folksy, imprecise manner until the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s,” when standard (or metric) measurement became de rigueur. The first cookbook by an American, Amelia Simmons’ 1796 American Cookery, placed British fine dining and lavish “Queen’s Cake” next to “johnny cake, federal pan cake, buckwheat cake, and Indian slapjack,” Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald write at Smithsonian, all recipes symbolizing “the plain, but well-run and bountiful American home.” With this book, “a dialogue on how to balance the sumptuous with the simple in American life had begun.”
Cookbooks are windows into history—markers of class and caste, documents of daily life, and snapshots of regional and cultural identity at particular moments in time. In 1950, the first cookbook written by a fictional lifestyle celebrity, Betty Crocker, debuted. It became “a national best-seller,” McManus writes. “It even sold more copies that year than the Bible.” The image of the perfect Stepford housewife may have been bigger than Jesus in the 50s, but Crocker’s career was decades in the making. She debuted in 1921, the year of publication for another, more humble recipe book: the Pilgrim Evangelical Lutheran Church Ladies’ Aid Society of Chicago’s Pilgrim Cook Book.
As Ayun Halliday noted in an earlier post, this charming collection features recipes for “Blitz Torte, Cough Syrup, and Sauerkraut Candy,” and it’s only one of thousands of such examples at the Internet Archive’s Cookbook and Home Economics Collection, drawn from digitized special collections at UCLA, Berkeley, and the Prelinger Library. When we last checked in, the collection featured 3,000 cookbooks. It has grown since 2016 to a library of 10,600 vintage examples of homespun Americana, fine dining, and mass marketing.
Laugh at gag-inducing recipes of old; cringe at the pious advice given to women ostensibly anxious to please their husbands; and marvel at how various international and regional cuisines have been represented to unsuspecting American home cooks. (It’s hard to say whether the cover or the contents of a Chinese Cook Book in Plain English from 1917 seem more offensive.) Cookbooks of recipes from the American South are popular, as are covers featuring stereotypical “mammy” characters. A more respectful international example, 1952’s Luchow’s German Cookbook gives us “the story and the favorite dishes of America’s most famous German restaurant.”
There are guides to mushrooms and “commoner fungi, with special emphasis on the edible varieties”; collections of “things mother used to make” and, most practically, a cookbook for leftovers. And there is every other sort of cookbook and home ec. manual you could imagine. The archive is stuffed with helpful hints, rare ingredients, unexpected regional cookeries, and millions of minute details about the habits of these books’ first hungry readers.
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As a longtime fan of all things Dune, there’s no living director I’d trust more to take over the “property” than Denis Villeneuve. But why remake Dune at all? Oh, I know, the original film—directed (in several cuts) by “Alan Smithee,” also known as David Lynch—is a disaster, so they say. Even Lynch says it. (Maybe the nicest thing he’s ever said about the movie is, “I started selling out on Dune.”) Critics hated, and largely still hate, it; the film’s marketing was a mess (Universal promoted it like a family-friendly Star Wars clone); and the studio felt it necessary to hand glossaries to early audiences to define terms like Kwisatz Haderach, gom jabber, and sardaukar.
But when I first saw David Lynch’s Dune, I did not know any of this. I hardly knew Lynch or his filmography and had yet to read Frank Herbert’s books. I was a young science fiction fan who saw in the movie exactly what Lynch said he intended: “I saw tons and tons of possibilities for things I loved, and this was the structure to do them in. There was so much room to create a world.” I did not know to be upset about his deviations from the books in the grotesque imagining of the Third Stage Guild Navigator or the decision to cover Baron Harkonnen in bloody, oozing pustules. The film’s impenetrability seemed like a feature, not a bug. This was a world, totally alien and yet uncannily familiar.
In hindsight, I can see its many flaws, though not its total failure, but I still find it mesmerizing (and what a cast!). Villeneuve, I think, was in a very difficult position in updating such a divisive work of cinema. Should he appeal to fans of the books who hate Lynch’s film, or to fans of the classic film who love its imagery, or to the kinds of theatergoers Universal Studios feared would need a glossary to make it through the movie? Add to this the pressures of filmmaking during a pandemic, and you can imagine he might be feeling a little stressed.
But Villeneuve seems perfectly relaxed in a recent interview above for the Shanghai International Film Festival, and the trailer for the new film has so far passed muster with everyone who’s seen it, generating excitement among all of the above groups of potential viewers. As you can see in the video at the top, which matches shots from the preview with the same scenes from the 1984 film, the new Dune both does its own thing and references Lynch’s disputed classic in interesting ways.
No director should try to please everyone, but few adaptations come laden with more baggage than Dune. Maybe it’s a good idea to play it safe, anchoring the film to its troubled past while bringing it in line with the current size and scope of Hollywood blockbusters? Not if you ask the director of the Dune that never was. Alejandro Jodorowsky intended to bring audiences the most epic Dune of all time, and was relieved to find that Lynch’s adaptation was “a shitty picture.” By contrast, he pronounces the Villeneuve trailer “very well done” but also compromised by its “industrial” need to appeal to a mass audience. “The form is identical to what is done everywhere,” he says, “The lighting, the acting, everything is predictable.”
Maybe this is inevitable with a story that filmgoers already know. Maybe Villeneuve’s movie has surprises even Jodorowsky won’t see coming. And maybe it’s impossible—and always has been—to make the Dune that the cult Chilean master wanted (though breaking it into two parts, as Villeneuve has done, is surely a wise choice). Herbert’s vision was vast; every Dune is a compromise—“Nobody can do it. It’s a legend,” says Jodorowsky. But every great director who tries leaves behind indelible images that burrow into the mind like shai-hulud.
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A couple years ago, obituaries began appearing online for the department store Sears after the 130-year-old American company announced its bankruptcy. Many of the tributes focused on Sears, Roebuck & Co’s catalog, and for good reason. Their massive mail-order business, the Amazon of its day, transformed the U.S., selling guitars to Delta blues and rock and roll musicians and shipping thousands of build-it-yourself houses to rural homesteaders and suburbanites. The sheer reach and scope of the Sears’ catalog can seem overwhelming…. That is, until we turn to the 1912 Harrods for Everything.
This 1,525-page catalogue from London’s world-famous department store, Harrods, does seem to mean everything, with over 15,000 products available for purchase at the store’s location, by mail, or by phone (“anything, at any time, day or night”).
You can see the enormous monument to commerce for yourself at Project Gutenberg. The catalogue took 13 years to scan. “Some idea of the vast quantity of items that Harrods stocked or had available can be taken from the general index,” notes Eric Hutton, one of the volunteer editors on the project, “which runs for 68 pages, five columns to a page.”
Men and women could order custom-tailored clothing, fine jewelry, clocks, watches, furniture. Naturalists and hunters could have their trophies dressed and mounted. Policemen and, well, anyone, could order pistols, “knuckle dusters,” and handcuffs. “You could also hire bands or musicians, plus tents or marquees for outdoor gatherings. You could rent steam, electric, or petrol launches to go down a river, or, if you set your sights further afield, there were ‘exploring, scientific and shooting expeditions… completely equipped and provisioned for any part of the world”… perhaps the Edwardian British version of the Sears House.
A MetaFilter user points out how much globalization and empire play into the marketing. These are “not just luxury goods but commodities. I noticed wheat could come from at least three continents…. Over and over it explains how Harrods will outfit anyone abroad who needs a social or military or exploratory uniform: telegraph Harrods for shoe buckles appropriate to your stations.” Harrods also repeatedly emphasizes they will ship anywhere in the world. Colonial officials in India or Uganda could live like kings. We must confess, we doubt this merchandise was truly meant for everyone.
This was also a time when miracle cures and various unscientific treatments abounded. “You could buy things like chloroform or throat pastilles in dozens of varieties,” notes Hutton, “even those containing cocaine!”
A few of the commodities featured in Harrods for Everything are a lot harder to come by these days. Some of them, like the pages of guns, are easy to get in the US but not so readily available in the UK and many of its former colonies. (Though you can find catalogues for just about anything if you look hard enough.)
But aside from certain obvious historical differences, the catalogue isn’t that much different from the pages of online retailers who will also sell you almost anything, at any time of day, and ship it to you anywhere in the world. What we thought of as unprecedented innovation was commonplace in the days of Queen Victoria, only shipping took a lot longer. Harrods’ universalizing Latin motto even sounds particularly modern, in English, at least: Omnia Omnibus Ubique, or “everything for everyone, everywhere.” Yet much, too, has changed. Harrods, outfitter of the British Empire, is now owned by the state of Qatar.
See the fully scanned 1,525-page Harrods for Everything catalogue at Project Gutenberg.
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As every grade schooler knows (and delights in working into conversation), cows have a tendency towards flatulence. At first this just deterred kids from going into animal husbandry, but now those kids have come to associate the phenomenon of farting livestock with a larger issue of interest to them: climate change. From cows’ rear ends comes methane, “one of the most harmful greenhouse gases and a major contributor to climate change,” as Adam Satariano puts it in a recent New York Times article on scientific research into the problem. “If they were a country, cows would rank as the world’s sixth-largest emitter, ahead of Brazil, Japan and Germany, according to data compiled by Rhodium Group, a research firm.”
For some, such bovine damage to the climate has provided a reason to stop eating beef. But that’s hardly the solution one wants to endorse if one runs a company like, say, Burger King. And so we have the Reduced Methane Emissions Beef Whopper, the product of a partnership “with top scientists to develop and test a new diet for cows, which according to initial study results, on average reduces up to 33% of cows’ daily methane emissions per day during the last 3 to 4 months of their lives.” The main effective ingredient is lemongrass, as anyone can find out by looking up the project’s formula online, where Burger King has made it public — or as the marketing campaign stresses, “open source.”
That campaign also has a music video, directed by no less an auteur of the form than Michel Gondry. In it the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewind filmmaker has eleven-year-old country musician Mason Ramsey and eight other Western-attired youngsters sing about the role of cow flatulence in climate change and Burger King’s role in addressing it. All of this presents a natural opportunity for Gondry to indulge his signature handmade aesthetic, at once clumsy and slick, childlike and refined. You may recognize Ramsey as the boy yodeling “Lovesick Blues” at Walmart in a video that, originally posted two years ago, has now racked up nearly 75 million views. Burger King surely hopes to capture some of that virality to promote its climate-mindedness — and, of course, to encourage viewers to have a Reduced Methane Emissions Beef Whopper “while supplies last.”
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, 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, on Facebook, or on Instagram.Read More...
Famed game designer Nick joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to consider fundamental questions about the activity of gaming (Nick calls games “arbitrary limits on meaningless goals”) and what constitutes a casual game: Is it one that’s easy (maybe not easy to win, but at least you don’t die), one meant to be played in short bursts, or maybe one with a certain kind of art style, or just about any game that runs on a phone? Nick’s most famous creation is the casual Diner Dash, which can be very stressful. Vastly different games from very hard but very short action games and very involved but soothing strategy games get lumped under this one label.
Our conversation touches on everything from crosswords to Super Meat Boy, plus the relation between psychology and game design, whether casual games really play less than hardcore gamers, the stigma of an activity that was for marketing reasons at one point branded as being just for adolescent boys, and even heuristics for beating slot machines.
Some sources we looked at include:
Just so you don’t have to write them down, our recommendations at the end were:
You can follow Nick @nickfortugno.
Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.Read More...
Just as the category of “Foreign Language Film” has serious problems, so too does that of “World Music,” which names so many kinds of music that it names nothing at all. World music “might best be described by what it is not,” noted a 1994 Music Library Association report. “It is not Western art music, neither it is mainstream Western folk or popular music.” The report adds some vague qualifications about “ethnic or foreign elements” then gives away the game: “It is simply not our music, it is their music, music which belongs to someone else.”
Perhaps one can see why the idea is now regarded by some as “outdated and offensive.” As the University of Minnesota’s Timothy Brennan argues in a historical analysis of the term, “world music does not exist” except “as an idea in the mind of journalists, critics, and the buyers of records.”
But to whom can music belong? If Japanese musicians play jazz, are they playing American-owned music? Is it “Japanese jazz” or just jazz? Must it have Japanese instruments for it to be “World Music”?
How these questions get answered can determine whether most listeners ever encounter the recorded output of jazz musicians from Japan, such as that in an excellent thirty-minute sampler from the 1970s that we featured just a few days back. In this mix, DJ Zag Erlat showcases names that “will sound familiar,” wrote Open Culture’s Colin Marshall, “to those of us who’ve spent years digging crates around the world for Japanese jazz on vinyl.” That’s a select group, indeed, and one you may be inspired to join once you’ve heard Erlat’s mix.
The Turkish DJ has further done his part to disambiguate World Music on his YouTube channel My Analog Journal. Here, you’ll find Erlat spinning sets of “Brazilian Grooves,” “Arabic Grooves,” “African Grooves,” “Bollywood Grooves,” and so much more—including a set of Jazz from the USSR in his tenth episode that is quite a revealing listen. Who knew such music existed in the Soviet Union? Well, except for those Soviet jazz crate-diggers.
Now you know too, and you’ll learn a lot more about what the world’s been up to, music-wise. These are also, obviously, very broad categories, and one might reasonably object to them. But it’s a great start for getting to know some classic pop sounds from specific regions in the world. Erlat does get more specific in some sets, as in his Japanese jazz from the 70s. (I’d especially recommend his “Turkish Female Singers from the 70s” mix.)
This is music of the modern world—not “ours” or “theirs”—its basic elements embedded in a global cultural marketplace. “It is 25 years since the concept of world music was created by enthusiasts in a north London pub,” wrote The Guardian’s Ian Birrell in 2012. “Perhaps it made sense then, as a marketing device to promote the sounds of the world that were lost in record shops and on the radio. But not now. Not in this mixed-up, messy and shrunken world.” Perhaps it didn’t make sense then, when artists like Fela Kuti or Os Mutantes made music that was as much “Western” as it was African or South American.
It becomes increasingly impossible to segregate artists from different countries. Genre mashups rule, and the more furiously artists from around the world pick up and put down global styles, the more they attract the positive notice of fans and critics in pop music. But perhaps we’ll continue to refer to indigenous folk traditions as “World Music,” and perhaps that’s what the label has always been meant to describe. In that case, as one writer for the Grammy’s official blog put it, “something tells me that the rest of the world has a different definition.”
Get familiar with several other groovy musics from elsewhere at Erlat’s My Analog Journal.
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You may have noticed certain brands, over the past decade or so, going for a “Wes Anderson aesthetic” in their advertisements. But as all the younger filmmakers Anderson inspires inevitably find out, replicating the director’s signature mise-en-scène — the distinctive color palettes, the rigorous geometry, the carefully curated objects — is no easy task. To achieve the cinematically Andersonian, it seems you really need Anderson himself. Fortunately for certain marketing departments, the auteur of Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and other pictures (including the upcoming The French Dispatch) has occasionally made himself available for commercial work.
But as anyone who has seen one or two of Anderson’s movies might expect, the man appears to have little interest in making straightforward commercials. Even when directing short spots for the likes of American Express or Stella Artois, Anderson brings us into his very own aesthetic and cultural realm: in the former he satirizes a certain idea of his own process on set, and in the latter he creates comedy from his penchant for (and mastery of) early-1960s European design. In other instances he’s taken the opportunity to indulge his cinephilia more directly than usual, as in his Jacques Tati-inspired commercial for Japanese cellphone service provider SoftBank. You can see all these and more on our Youtube playlist of eight of Anderson’s short films.
Commercial directors often discuss their projects in the same terms they would use to discuss short films. But it seems that every time Anderson makes a commercial, he really does make a short film. Sometimes he makes both: after he directed a 44-second ad for Prada, he went on with the fashion house’s sponsorship to direct the seven-minute Castello Cavalcanti. But ever since making the thirteen-minute black-and-white short that would become his debut feature Bottle Rocket, Anderson has also used short films in service of his long ones. Cousin Ben’s Troop Screening makes for a fun introduction to Moonrise Kingdom; Hotel Chevalier is practically required viewing before The Darjeeling Limited. Both remind us that, however solid the work a brand can get out of him, Wes Anderson promotes nothing quite as delightfully as he promotes Wes Anderson. Watch the playlist of 8 commercials and short films here.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, 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.Read More...