Hear Flannery O’Connor Read “A Good Man is Hard to Find” (1959)

Flan­nery O’Con­nor was a South­ern writer who, as Joyce Car­ol Oates once said, had less in com­mon with Faulkn­er than with Kaf­ka and Kierkegaard. Iso­lat­ed by poor health and con­sumed by her fer­vent Catholic faith, O’Con­nor cre­at­ed works of moral fic­tion that, accord­ing to Oates, “were not refined New York­er sto­ries of the era in which noth­ing hap­pens except inside the char­ac­ters’ minds, but sto­ries in which some­thing hap­pens of irre­versible mag­ni­tude, often death by vio­lent means.”

In imag­in­ing those events of irre­versible mag­ni­tude, O’Con­nor could some­times seem outlandish–even cartoonish–but she strong­ly reject­ed the notion that her per­cep­tions of 20th cen­tu­ry life were dis­tort­ed. “Writ­ers who see by the light of their Chris­t­ian faith will have, in these times, the sharpest eye for the grotesque, for the per­verse, and for the unac­cept­able,” O’Con­nor said. “To the hard of hear­ing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and star­tling fig­ures.”

In April of 1959–five years before her death at the age of 39 from lupus–O’Connor ven­tured away from her seclud­ed fam­i­ly farm in Milledgeville, Geor­gia, to give a read­ing at Van­der­bilt Uni­ver­si­ty. She read one of her most famous and unset­tling sto­ries, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” The audio, acces­si­ble above, is one of two known record­ings of the author read­ing that sto­ry. In her dis­tinc­tive Geor­gian drawl, O’Con­nor tells the sto­ry of a fate­ful fam­i­ly trip:

The grand­moth­er did­n’t want to go to Flori­da. She want­ed to vis­it some of her con­nec­tions in east Ten­nessee and she was seiz­ing at every chance to change Bai­ley’s mind. Bai­ley was the son she lived with, her only boy. He was sit­ting on the edge of his chair at the table, bent over the orange sports sec­tion of the Jour­nal. “Now look here, Bai­ley,” she said, “see here, read this,” and she stood with one hand on her thin hip and the oth­er rat­tling the news­pa­per at his bald head. “Here this fel­low that calls him­self The Mis­fit is aloose from the Fed­er­al Pen and head­ed toward Flori­da and you read here what it says he did to these peo­ple. Just you read it. I would­n’t take my chil­dren in any direc­tion with a crim­i­nal like that aloose in it. I could­n’t answer to my con­science if I did.”

After you lis­ten to this rare track, you can fol­low this link to a record­ing of O’Con­nor read­ing her 1960 essay, “Some Aspects of the Grotesque in South­ern Fic­tion,” in which she writes: “I have found that any­thing that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the North­ern read­er, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called real­is­tic.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Flan­nery O’Connor Reads ‘Some Aspects of the Grotesque in South­ern Fic­tion’ (c. 1960)

Hear Flan­nery O’Connor’s Short Sto­ry, “Rev­e­la­tion,” Read by Leg­endary His­to­ri­an & Radio Host, Studs Terkel

Flan­nery O’Connor’s “Every­thing That Ris­es Must Con­verge” Read by Estelle Par­sons

A Guided Tour of the Largest Handmade Model of Imperial Rome: Discover the 20x20 Meter Model Created During the 1930s

At the moment, you can’t see the largest, most detailed hand­made mod­el of Impe­r­i­al Rome for your­self. That’s because the Museo del­la Civiltà Romana, the insti­tu­tion that hous­es it, has been closed for ren­o­va­tions since 2014. But you can get a guid­ed tour of “Il Plas­ti­co,” as this grand Rome-in-minia­ture is known, through the new Ancient Rome Live video above. “The archae­ol­o­gist and archi­tect Ita­lo Gis­mon­di cre­at­ed this amaz­ing mod­el,” explains host Dar­ius Arya, pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture for his tour of Pom­peii. Work­ing at a 1:250 scale, Gis­mon­di built most of Il Plas­ti­co between 1933 and 1937, with lat­er expan­sions after its instal­la­tion in the Museo del­la Civiltà Romana.

Archae­ol­o­gists and oth­er schol­ars have, of course, learned more about the Eter­nal City over the past nine decades, knowl­edge reflect­ed in reg­u­lar­ly updat­ed dig­i­tal mod­els like Rome Reborn. But none have showed Gis­mondi’s ded­i­ca­tion to painstak­ing man­u­al labor, which allowed him to craft prac­ti­cal­ly every then-known archi­tec­tur­al and infra­struc­tur­al fea­ture with­in the walls of Rome in the Con­stan­tin­ian age, from 306 to 337 AD.

Arya points out rec­og­niz­able land­marks like the Colos­se­um, the Forum, and the Pyra­mid of Ces­tius as well as bridges, riv­er for­ti­fi­ca­tions, aque­ducts, and even land­scap­ing details down to the lev­el of indi­vid­ual trees.

Even when the cam­era zooms way in, Gis­mondi’s Rome looks prac­ti­cal­ly hab­it­able (and indeed, it may appeal to some view­ers more than do the mod­ern Euro­pean cities that are its descen­dants). It’s no won­der that Rid­ley Scott, a direc­tor famous­ly sen­si­tive to visu­al impact, would use the mod­el in Glad­i­a­tor. And while a video tour like Arya’s pro­vides a clos­er-up view of many sec­tions of Il Plas­ti­co than one can get in per­son, the only way to ful­ly appre­ci­ate the sheer scale of the achieve­ment is to behold its phys­i­cal real­i­ty. Luck­i­ly, you should be able to do just that next year, when the Museo del­la Civiltà Romana is sched­uled to reopen at long last. But then, no more could Rome be built in a day than its muse­um could be ren­o­vat­ed in a mere decade.

Relat­ed con­tent:

A Huge Scale Mod­el Show­ing Ancient Rome at Its Archi­tec­tur­al Peak (Built Between 1933 and 1937)

Rome Reborn: A New 3D Vir­tu­al Mod­el Lets You Fly Over the Great Mon­u­ments of Ancient Rome

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 Iconic Artists at Work: Rare Videos of Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky, Renoir, Monet, Pollock & More

Claude Mon­et, 1915:

We’ve all seen their works in fixed form, enshrined in muse­ums and print­ed in books. But there’s some­thing spe­cial about watch­ing a great artist at work. Over the years, we’ve post­ed film clips of some of the great­est artists of the 20th cen­tu­ry caught in the act of cre­ation. Today we’ve gath­ered togeth­er eight of our all-time favorites.

Above is the only known film footage of the French Impres­sion­ist Claude Mon­et, made when he was 74 years old, paint­ing along­side a lily pond in his gar­den at Giverny. The footage was shot in the sum­mer of 1915 by the French actor and drama­tist Sacha Gui­t­ry for his patri­ot­ic World War I‑era film, Ceux de Chez Nous, or “Those of Our Land.” For more infor­ma­tion, see our pre­vi­ous post, “Rare Film: Claude Mon­et at Work in His Famous Gar­den at Giverny, 1915.”

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1915:

You may nev­er look at a paint­ing by the French Impres­sion­ist Pierre-Auguste Renoir in quite the same way after see­ing the footage above, which is also from Sacha Gui­t­ry’s Ceux de Chez Nous. Renoir suf­fered from severe rheuma­toid arthri­tis dur­ing the last decades of his life. By the time this film was made in June of 1915, the 74-year-old Renoir was phys­i­cal­ly deformed and in con­stant pain. The painter’s 14-year-old son Claude is shown plac­ing the brush in his father’s per­ma­nent­ly clenched hand. To learn more about the footage and about Renoir’s ter­ri­ble strug­gle with arthri­tis, be sure to read our post, “Aston­ish­ing Film of Arthrit­ic Impres­sion­ist Painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1915).”

Auguste Rodin, 1915:

The footage above, again by Sacha Gui­t­ry, shows the French sculp­tor Auguste Rodin in sev­er­al loca­tions, includ­ing his stu­dio at the dilap­i­dat­ed Hôtel Biron in Paris, which lat­er became the Musée Rodin. The film was made in late 1915, when Rodin was 74 years old. For more on Rodin and the Hôtel Biron, please see: “Rare Film of Sculp­tor Auguste Rodin work­ing at his Stu­dio in Paris (1915).”

Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky, 1926:

In 1926, film­mak­er Hans Cürlis took the rare footage above of the Russ­ian abstract painter Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky apply­ing paint to a blank can­vas at the Galerie Neu­mann-Nieren­dorf in Berlin. Kandin­sky was about 49 years old at the time, and teach­ing at the Bauhaus. To learn more about Kandin­sky and to watch a video of actress Helen Mir­ren dis­cussing his work at the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art in New York, see our post, “The Inner Object: See­ing Kandin­sky.”

Hen­ri Matisse, 1946:

The French artist Hen­ri Matisse is shown above when he was 76 years old, mak­ing a char­coal sketch of his grand­son, Ger­ard, at his home and stu­dio in Nice. The clip is from a 26-minute film made by François Cam­paux for the French Depart­ment of Cul­tur­al Rela­tions. To read a trans­la­tion of Matis­se’s spo­ken words and to watch a clip of the artist work­ing on one of his dis­tinc­tive paper cut-outs, go to “Vin­tage Film: Watch Hen­ri Matisse Sketch and Make His Famous Cut-Outs (1946).”

Pablo Picas­so, 1950:

In the famous footage above, Span­ish artist Pablo Picas­so paints on glass at his stu­dio in the vil­lage of Val­lau­ris, on the French Riv­iera. It’s from the 1950 film Vis­ite à Picas­so (A Vis­it with Picas­so) by Bel­gian film­mak­er Paul Hae­saerts. Picas­so was about 68 years old at the time. You can find the full 19-minute film here.

Jack­son Pol­lock, 1951:

In the short film above, called Jack­son Pol­lock 51, the Amer­i­can abstract painter talks about his work and cre­ates one of his dis­tinc­tive drip paint­ings before our eyes. The film was made by Hans Namuth when Pol­lock was 39 years old. To learn about Pol­lock and his fate­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion with Namuth, see “Jack­son Pol­lock: Lights, Cam­era, Paint! (1951).”

Alber­to Gia­comet­ti, 1965:

The Swiss artist Alber­to Gia­comet­ti is most famous for his thin, elon­gat­ed sculp­tures of the human form. But in the clip above from the 1966 film Alber­to Gia­comet­ti by the Swiss pho­tog­ra­ph­er Ernst Schei­deg­ger, Gia­comet­ti is shown work­ing in anoth­er medi­um as he paints the foun­da­tion­al lines of a por­trait at his stu­dio in Paris. The footage was appar­ent­ly shot in 1965, when Gia­comet­ti was about 64 years old and had less than a year to live. To learn about Gia­comet­ti’s approach to draw­ing and to read a trans­la­tion of the Ger­man nar­ra­tion in this clip, be sure to see our post, “Watch as Alber­to Gia­comet­ti Paints and Pur­sues the Elu­sive ‘Appari­tion,’ (1965).”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1922 Pho­to: Claude Mon­et Stands on the Japan­ese Foot­bridge He Paint­ed Through the Years

Helen Mir­ren Tells Us Why Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky Is Her Favorite Artist (And What Act­ing & Mod­ern Art Have in Com­mon)

When Hen­ri Matisse Was 83 Years Old, He Couldn’t Go to His Favorite Swim­ming Pool, So He Cre­at­ed a Swim­ming Pool as a Work of Art

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 1 ) |

Humans First Started Enjoying Cannabis in China Circa 2800 BC

Judg­ing by how cer­tain Amer­i­can cities smell these days, you’d think cannabis was invent­ed last week. But that spike in enthu­si­asm, as well as in pub­lic indul­gence, comes as only a recent chap­ter in that sub­stance’s very long his­to­ry. In fact, says the pre­sen­ter of the PBS Eons video above, human­i­ty began cul­ti­vat­ing it “in what’s now Chi­na around 12,000 years ago. This makes cannabis one of the sin­gle old­est known plants we domes­ti­cate,” even ear­li­er than “sta­ples like wheat, corn, and pota­toes.” By that time scale, it was­n’t so long ago — four mil­len­nia or so — that the lin­eages used for hemp and for drugs genet­i­cal­ly sep­a­rat­ed from each oth­er.

The old­est evi­dence of cannabis smok­ing as we know it, also explored in the Sci­ence mag­a­zine video below, dates back 2,500 years. “The first known smok­ers were pos­si­bly Zoroas­tri­an mourn­ers along the ancient Silk Road who burned pot dur­ing funer­al rit­u­als,” a propo­si­tion sup­port­ed by the analy­sis of the remains of ancient bra­ziers found at the Jirzankal ceme­tery, at the foot of the Pamir moun­tains in west­ern Chi­na. “Tests revealed chem­i­cal com­pounds from cannabis, includ­ing the non-psy­choac­tive cannabid­i­ol, also known as CBD” — itself rein­vent­ed in our time as a thor­ough­ly mod­ern prod­uct — and traces of a THC byprod­uct called cannabi­nol “more intense than in oth­er ancient sam­ples.”

What made the Jirzankal ceme­tery’s stash pack such a punch? “The region’s high alti­tude could have stressed the cannabis, cre­at­ing plants nat­u­ral­ly high in THC,” writes Sci­ence’s Andrew Lawler. “But humans may also have inter­vened to breed a more wicked weed.” As cannabis-users of the six­ties and sev­en­ties who return to the fold today find out, the weed has grown wicked indeed over the past few decades. But even mil­len­nia ago and half a world away, civ­i­liza­tions that had incor­po­rat­ed it for rit­u­al­is­tic use — or as a med­ical treat­ment — may already have been agri­cul­tur­al­ly guid­ing it toward greater poten­cy. Your neigh­bor­hood dis­pen­sary may not be the most sub­lime place on Earth, but at least, when next you pay it a vis­it, you’ll have a sound his­tor­i­cal rea­son to cast your mind to the Cen­tral Asian steppe.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Drugs Used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans

Alger­ian Cave Paint­ings Sug­gest Humans Did Mag­ic Mush­rooms 9,000 Years Ago

Pipes with Cannabis Traces Found in Shakespeare’s Gar­den, Sug­gest­ing the Bard Enjoyed a “Not­ed Weed”

Reefer Mad­ness, 1936’s Most Unin­ten­tion­al­ly Hilar­i­ous “Anti-Drug” Exploita­tion Film, Free Online

Carl Sagan on the Virtues of Mar­i­jua­na (1969)

Watch High Main­te­nance: A Crit­i­cal­ly-Acclaimed Web Series About Life & Cannabis

The New Nor­mal: Spike Jonze Cre­ates a Very Short Film About America’s Com­plex His­to­ry with Cannabis

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.

Daniel Dennett Presents the 4 Biggest Ideas in Philosophy in One of His Final Videos (RIP)

A week ago, Big Think released this video fea­tur­ing philoso­pher Daniel Den­nett talk­ing about the four biggest ideas in phi­los­o­phy. Today, we learned that he passed away at age 82. The New York Times obit­u­ary for Den­nett reads: “Espous­ing his ideas in best sell­ers, he insist­ed that reli­gion was an illu­sion, free will was a fan­ta­sy and evo­lu­tion could only be explained by nat­ur­al selec­tion.” “Mr. Den­nett com­bined a wide range of knowl­edge with an easy, often play­ful writ­ing style to reach a lay pub­lic, avoid­ing the impen­e­tra­ble con­cepts and turgid prose of many oth­er con­tem­po­rary philoso­phers. Beyond his more than 20 books and scores of essays, his writ­ings even made their way into the the­ater and onto the con­cert stage.”

Above, Den­nett, a long-time phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor at Tufts Uni­ver­si­ty, out­lines the “four eras he evolved through on his own jour­ney as a philoso­pher: clas­si­cal phi­los­o­phy, evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry, memet­ic the­o­ry, and the inten­tion­al stance. Each stage added depth to his per­spec­tive and under­stand­ing… Dennett’s key take­away is a request for philoso­phers to reeval­u­ate their method­olo­gies, urg­ing mod­ern-day thinkers to embrace the insights offered by new sci­en­tif­ic dis­cov­er­ies. By com­bin­ing the exis­ten­tial and the­o­ret­i­cal view­points of philoso­phers with the ana­lyt­i­cal and evi­den­tial per­spec­tive of sci­en­tists, we can begin to ful­ly and accu­rate­ly inter­pret the world around us.”

To help you delve a lit­tle deep­er into Daniel Den­net­t’s world, we’ve also post­ed below a vin­tage TED video where the philoso­pher dis­cuss­es the illu­sion of con­scious­ness. We would also encour­age you to explore the Den­nett items in the Relat­eds below.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Daniel Den­nett Presents Sev­en Tools For Crit­i­cal Think­ing

How to Argue With Kind­ness and Care: 4 Rules from Philoso­pher Daniel Den­nett

Daniel Den­nett and Cor­nel West Decode the Phi­los­o­phy of The Matrix

Hear What It Sounds Like When Philoso­pher Daniel Dennett’s Brain Activ­i­ty Gets Turned into Music

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 3 ) |

Discover the Singing Nuns Who Have Turned Medieval Latin Hymns into Modern Hits

We now live, as one often hears, in an age of few musi­cal super­stars, but tow­er­ing ones. The pop­u­lar cul­ture of the twen­ty-twen­ties can, at times, seem to be con­tained entire­ly with­in the per­son of Tay­lor Swift — at least when the media mag­net that is Bey­on­cé takes a breather. But look past them, if you can, and you’ll find for­mi­da­ble musi­cal phe­nom­e­na in the unlike­li­est of places. Take the Poor Clares of Arun­del, a group of singing nuns from Sus­sex who, dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, “smashed all chart records to become not only the high­est-chart­ing nuns in his­to­ry, but also the UK’s best-sell­ing clas­si­cal artist debut,” reports Clas­sic FM’s Mad­dy Shaw Roberts.

“Music is at the heart of the nuns’ wor­ship,” writes the Guardian’s Joan­na Moor­head, but the idea of putting out an album “came about ini­tial­ly as a bit of a joke.” Not long after receiv­ing a vis­it from a curi­ous music pro­duc­er, the singing Poor Clares — skilled and unskilled alike — found them­selves in a prop­er record­ing stu­dio, lay­ing down tracks.

Roberts describes the result­ing debut Light for the World as “a col­lec­tion of Latin hymns pro­duced for a twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry audi­ence, bring­ing calm and beau­ty dur­ing a time when so many were sep­a­rat­ed from their loved ones.” Just a few weeks ago, they released its fol­low-up May Peace I Give You, the video for whose title track appears at the top of the post.

May Peace I Give You comes from Dec­ca Records, a label famous in part for their rejec­tion, in 1962, of a scruffy rock-and-roll band called the Bea­t­les. Pre­sum­ably deter­mined not to make the same mis­take twice, they’ve since tak­en chances on all man­ner of acts, start­ing with the Rolling Stones; over the decades, they’ve reached beyond the well-trod­den spaces in pop­u­lar and clas­si­cal music. The suc­cess of the Poor Clares goes to show that this prac­tice con­tin­ues to pay off, and that — like the pop­u­lar Gre­go­ri­an chant and gospel booms of decades past — ven­er­a­ble holy music retains its res­o­nance even in our trend-dri­ven, not-espe­cial­ly-reli­gious age. And as the pro­mo­tion of their new Abbey Road-record­ed album proves, even for the monas­ti­cal­ly dis­ci­plined, some temp­ta­tions are irre­sistible.

via Clas­sic FM

Relat­ed con­tent:

A YouTube Chan­nel Com­plete­ly Devot­ed to Medieval Sacred Music: Hear Gre­go­ri­an Chant, Byzan­tine Chant & More

Expe­ri­ence the Mys­ti­cal Music of Hilde­gard Von Bin­gen: The First Known Com­pos­er in His­to­ry (1098 – 1179)

10 Rules for Appre­ci­at­ing Art by Sis­ter Wendy Beck­ett (RIP), the Nun Who Unex­pect­ed­ly Pop­u­lar­ized Art His­to­ry on TV

Man­u­script Reveals How Medieval Nun, Joan of Leeds, Faked Her Own Death to Escape the Con­vent

Reli­gious Songs That Sec­u­lar Peo­ple Can Love: Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Sam Cooke, John­ny Cash & Your Favorites

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 Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mind-Bending Masterpiece Free Online

“I feel like every sin­gle frame of the film is burned into my reti­na,” said Oscar-win­ning actress Cate Blanchett about the movie Stalk­er (1979). “I had­n’t seen any­thing like it before and I haven’t real­ly seen any­thing like it since.

Andrei Tarkovsky’s final film in the USSR seems like an unlike­ly movie to have a devot­ed, almost cultish, fol­low­ing. It is a dense, mul­ti­va­lent, mad­den­ing­ly elu­sive work that has lit­tle of the nar­ra­tive pay-offs of a Hol­ly­wood movie. Yet the film is so slip­pery and so seem­ing­ly pli­able to an end­less num­ber of inter­pre­ta­tions that it requires mul­ti­ple view­ings. “I’ve seen Stalk­er more times than any film except The Great Escape,” wrote nov­el­ist and crit­ic Geoff Dyer,” and it’s nev­er quite as I remem­ber. Like the Zone, it’s always chang­ing.”

The movie’s sto­ry is sim­ple: a guide, called here a Stalk­er, takes a cel­e­brat­ed writer and a sci­en­tist from a rot­ting indus­tri­al cityscape into a ver­dant area called The Zone, the site of some unde­fined calami­ty which has been cor­doned off by rings of razor wire and armed guards. There, one sup­pos­ed­ly can have their deep­est, dark­est desires ful­filled. Yet even if you man­age to give the guards a slip, there are still count­less sub­tle traps laid by what­ev­er sen­tient intel­li­gence that con­trols the Zone. Ratio­nal­i­ty is of no help here. One can only progress along a mean­der­ing path that can only be fol­lowed by intu­ition.

The Stalk­er, with his shaved head and a per­pet­u­al­ly haunt­ed expres­sion on his face, is a sort of holy fool; a man who is both addict­ed to the strange ener­gy of the Zone and bound to help his fel­low man. His clients’ motives, how­ev­er, are far less altru­is­tic. Once deep in the room, the three engage in a series of philo­soph­i­cal argu­ments that quick­ly turns per­son­al.


The movie’s pow­er, how­ev­er, is not found in tra­di­tion­al dra­mat­ics. Instead it’s a cumu­la­tive effect of Tarkovsky’s hyp­not­ic pace, his philo­soph­i­cal com­men­tary and per­haps most of all his imagery. Shot with smudgy, almost com­plete­ly desat­u­rat­ed col­ors, the world out­side the Zone seems to be a grim, dis­mal place – as if Tarkovsky were try­ing to evoke the indus­tri­al hellscape of Eraser­head by way of Samuel Beck­ett. (Stalk­er was in fact shot in an indus­tri­al waste­land out­side of Tallinn, Esto­nia, down riv­er from a chem­i­cal plant. Expo­sure to that plant’s runoff might very well have caused the filmmaker’s death.) Inside the Zone, how­ev­er, the sur­round­ings are lush and col­or­ful, filled with glimpses of inex­plic­a­ble won­der and beau­ty.

Stalk­er screen­writer Arkady Stru­gatsky once said that the movie was not “a sci­ence fic­tion screen­play but a para­ble.” The ques­tion is, a para­ble of what? Reli­gious faith? Art? The cin­e­ma itself? Reams of paper have been devot­ed to this ques­tion and I’m not offer­ing any the­o­ries. Tarkovsky him­self, in his book Sculpt­ing Time, wrote “Peo­ple have often asked me what The Zone is, and what it symbolizes…The Zone does­n’t sym­bol­ize any­thing, any more than any­thing else does in my films: the zone is a zone, it’s life.”

Of course, that expla­na­tion does lit­tle to explain the film’s star­tling, utter­ly cryp­tic final min­utes.

Above, you can watch the film online, thanks to Mos­film. You can also find oth­er Tarkovsky films in the Relat­eds below.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Andrei Tarkovsky’s Films Free Online: Stalk­er, The Mir­ror & Andrei Rublev

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Very First Films: Three Stu­dent Films, 1956–1960

Andrei Tarkovsky Answers the Essen­tial Ques­tions: What is Art & the Mean­ing of Life?

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

Beautifully-Preserved Frescoes with Figures from the Trojan War Discovered in a Lavish Pompeii Home

Image via  Pom­peii Archae­o­log­i­cal Park

Imag­ine vis­it­ing the home of a promi­nent, wealthy fig­ure, and at the evening’s end find­ing your­self in a room ded­i­cat­ed to late-night enter­tain­ing, paint­ed entire­ly black except for a few scenes from antiq­ui­ty. Per­haps this would­n’t sound entire­ly implau­si­ble in, say, twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry Sil­i­con Val­ley. But such places also exist­ed in antiq­ui­ty itself: or at least one of them did, as recent­ly dis­cov­ered in Pom­peii. Pre­served for near­ly two mil­len­nia now by the ash of Mount Vesu­vius, the ruins of that city give us the clear­est and most detailed archae­o­log­i­cal insights we have into life at the height of the Roman Empire — but even today, a third of the site has yet to be exca­vat­ed.

That archae­o­log­i­cal dig con­tin­ues apace, and its lat­est dis­cov­ery — more recent than the Pom­pei­ian “snack bar” and “piz­za” pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture — is “a spec­tac­u­lar ban­quet­ing room with ele­gant black walls, dec­o­rat­ed with mytho­log­i­cal char­ac­ters and sub­jects inspired by the Tro­jan War,” includ­ing such mytho­log­i­cal char­ac­ters as Helen, Paris, Cas­san­dra, and Apol­lo.

“It pro­vid­ed a refined set­ting for enter­tain­ment dur­ing con­vivial moments, whether ban­quets or con­ver­sa­tions, with the clear aim of pur­su­ing an ele­gant lifestyle, reflect­ed by the size of the space, the pres­ence of fres­coes and mosaics dat­ing to the Third Style.”

Fres­coes in that Roman Third Style, explains Hyper­al­ler­gic’s Rhea Nay­yar, fea­ture “small, fine­ly paint­ed fig­ures and sub­jects that seem to float with­in mono­chro­mat­ic fields,” designed “to mim­ic framed works of art or altars through illu­sions resem­bling carved beams, shad­ed pil­lars, and shin­ing can­de­labras — all of which were paint­ed on flat walls.”

The col­or of those walls, in this case, seems to have been cho­sen to hide the car­bon deposits left by oil lamps burn­ing all night long. As report­ed by BBC Sci­ence News, the com­mis­sion­er of this room, and indeed of the lav­ish house in which it’s locat­ed, may have been Aulus Rustius Verus, a “super-rich” local politi­cian who — assum­ing deci­sive archae­o­log­i­cal evi­dence emerges in his favor — also knew how to par­ty.

via Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed con­tent:

A New­ly-Dis­cov­ered Fres­co in Pom­peii Reveals a Pre­cur­sor to Piz­za

Take a High Def, Guid­ed Tour of Pom­peii

Archae­ol­o­gists Dis­cov­er an Ancient Roman Snack Bar in the Ruins of Pom­peii

Behold 3D Recre­ations of Pompeii’s Lav­ish Homes — as They Exist­ed Before the Erup­tion of Mount Vesu­vius

Watch the Destruc­tion of Pom­peii by Mount Vesu­vius, Re-Cre­at­ed with Com­put­er Ani­ma­tion (79 AD)

Pom­peii Rebuilt: A Tour of the Ancient City Before It Was Entombed by Mount Vesu­vius

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.

Learn How to Create Your Own Custom AI Assistants Using OpenAI GPTs: A Free Course from Vanderbilt University

Last fall, Ope­nAI start­ed let­ting users cre­ate cus­tom ver­sions of ChatGPT–ones that would let peo­ple cre­ate AI assis­tants to com­plete tasks in their per­son­al or pro­fes­sion­al lives. In the months that fol­lowed, some users cre­at­ed AI apps that could gen­er­ate recipes and meals. Oth­ers devel­oped GPTs to cre­ate logos for their busi­ness­es. You get the pic­ture.

If you’re inter­est­ed in devel­op­ing your own AI assis­tant, Van­der­bilt com­put­er sci­ence pro­fes­sor Jules White has released a free online course called “Ope­nAI GPTs: Cre­at­ing Your Own Cus­tom AI Assis­tants.” On aver­age, the course should take sev­en hours to com­plete.

Here’s how he frames the course:

This cut­ting-edge course will guide you through the excit­ing jour­ney of cre­at­ing and deploy­ing cus­tom GPTs that cater to diverse indus­tries and appli­ca­tions. Imag­ine hav­ing a vir­tu­al assis­tant that can tack­le com­plex legal doc­u­ment analy­sis, stream­line sup­ply chain logis­tics, or even assist in sci­en­tif­ic research and hypoth­e­sis gen­er­a­tion. The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less! Through­out the course, you’ll delve into the intri­ca­cies of build­ing GPTs that can use your doc­u­ments to answer ques­tions, pat­terns to cre­ate amaz­ing human and AI inter­ac­tion, and meth­ods for cus­tomiz­ing the tone of your GPTs. You’ll learn how to design and imple­ment rig­or­ous test­ing sce­nar­ios to ensure your AI assis­tan­t’s accu­ra­cy, reli­a­bil­i­ty, and human-like com­mu­ni­ca­tion abil­i­ties. Pre­pare to be amazed as you explore real-world exam­ples and case stud­ies, such as:

1. GPT for Per­son­al­ized Learn­ing and Edu­ca­tion: Craft a vir­tu­al tutor that adapts its teach­ing approach based on each stu­den­t’s learn­ing style, pro­vid­ing per­son­al­ized les­son plans, inter­ac­tive exer­cis­es, and real-time feed­back, trans­form­ing the edu­ca­tion­al land­scape.

2. Culi­nary GPT: Your Per­son­al Recipe Vault and Meal Plan­ning Mae­stro. Step into a world where your culi­nary cre­ations come to life with the help of an AI assis­tant that knows your recipes like the back of its hand. The Culi­nary GPT is a cus­tom-built lan­guage mod­el designed to rev­o­lu­tion­ize your kitchen expe­ri­ence, serv­ing as a per­son­al recipe vault and meal plan­ning and shop­ping mae­stro.

3. GPT for Trav­el and Busi­ness Expense Man­age­ment: A GPT that can assist with all aspects of trav­el plan­ning and busi­ness expense man­age­ment. It could help users book flights, hotels, and trans­porta­tion while adher­ing to com­pa­ny poli­cies and bud­gets. Addi­tion­al­ly, it could stream­line expense report­ing and reim­burse­ment process­es, ensur­ing com­pli­ance and accu­ra­cy.

4. GPT for Mar­ket­ing and Adver­tis­ing Cam­paign Man­age­ment: Lever­age the pow­er of cus­tom GPTs to ana­lyze con­sumer data, mar­ket trends, and cam­paign per­for­mance, gen­er­at­ing tar­get­ed mar­ket­ing strate­gies, per­son­al­ized mes­sag­ing, and opti­miz­ing ad place­ment for max­i­mum engage­ment and return on invest­ment.

You can sign up for the course at no cost here. Or, alter­na­tive­ly, you can elect to pay $49 and receive a cer­tifi­cate at the end.

As a side note, Jules White (the pro­fes­sor) also designed anoth­er course pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on OC. It focus­es on prompt engi­neer­ing for ChatPG­PT.

Relat­ed Con­tent

A New Course Teach­es You How to Tap the Pow­ers of Chat­G­PT and Put It to Work for You

Google & Cours­era Launch New Career Cer­tifi­cates That Pre­pare Stu­dents for Jobs in 2–6 Months: Busi­ness Intel­li­gence & Advanced Data Ana­lyt­ics

Com­put­er Sci­en­tist Andrew Ng Presents a New Series of Machine Learn­ing Courses–an Updat­ed Ver­sion of the Pop­u­lar Course Tak­en by 5 Mil­lion Stu­dents


An Archive of Vividly Illustrated Japanese Schoolbooks, from the 1800s to World War II

If you want to appre­ci­ate Japan­ese books, it helps to be able to read Japan­ese books. It helps, but it’s not 100 per­cent nec­es­sary: even if you’ve nev­er learned a sin­gle kan­ji char­ac­ter, you’ve prob­a­bly mar­veled at one time or anoth­er at the aes­thet­ics of Japan’s print cul­ture. Maybe you’ve even done so here at Open Cul­ture, where we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured archives of Japan­ese books going back to the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry, a col­lec­tion of Japan­ese wave and rip­ple designs from 1980, a Japan­ese edi­tion of Aesop’s Fables from 1925, and even a fan­tas­ti­cal his­to­ry of Amer­i­ca from 1861 — all of which dis­play a height­ened design sen­si­bil­i­ty not as eas­i­ly found in oth­er lands.

The same even holds true for Japan­ese school­books and oth­er edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als, a dig­i­tal archive of which you can explore on the web site of Japan’s Nation­al Insti­tute for Edu­ca­tion­al Pol­i­cy Research. “Rang­ing from brush paint­ing guides to ele­men­tary read­ers to the geog­ra­phy of Koshi Province — now the Hokuriku region — hun­dreds of dig­i­tal scans reveal what stu­dents were learn­ing in school more than 100 years ago,” writes Colos­sal’s Kate Moth­es.

Cer­tain pub­li­ca­tions, like the epis­to­lary 冨士野往来 (“Mount Fuji Com­ings and Goings”) from 1674, date back much fur­ther. But only a cou­ple of cen­turies lat­er did Japan­ese books start inte­grat­ing the col­or­ful art­work that still looks so vivid to us today. You’ll find par­tic­u­lar­ly rich exam­ples of such books in the sec­tions of the archive ded­i­cat­ed to edu­ca­tion­al pic­tures, wall charts, and sug­oroku, a kind of tra­di­tion­al board game.

Orig­i­nal­ly pro­duced, for the most part, in the mid-to-late nine­teenth cen­tu­ry (though with some items as recent as the time of World War II), these pro­vide a look at the world­view that Japan pre­sent­ed to its young stu­dents dur­ing a peri­od when, not long emerged from more than 200 years of delib­er­ate iso­la­tion, the coun­try was tak­ing in for­eign influ­ence — and espe­cial­ly West­ern influ­ence — at a break­neck pace.

But despite a vari­ety of pro­posed dra­mat­ic lan­guage reforms (which would lat­er include the whole­sale adop­tion of Eng­lish), Japan would con­tin­ue almost exclu­sive­ly to speak and read Japan­ese. If you’re inter­est­ed in learn­ing it your­self, the read­ing mate­ri­als in this archive will sure­ly work as well for you as they did for the stu­dents of the eigh­teen-nineties. And even if you’re not, they’re still time­less object lessons in edu­ca­tion­al illus­tra­tion and design. Enter the col­lec­tion here.

via Colos­sal/Present & Cor­rect

Relat­ed con­tent:

1,000+ His­toric Japan­ese Illus­trat­ed Books Dig­i­tized & Put Online by the Smith­son­ian: From the Edo & Meji Eras (1600–1912)

A Japan­ese Illus­trat­ed His­to­ry of Amer­i­ca (1861): Fea­tures George Wash­ing­ton Punch­ing Tigers, John Adams Slay­ing Snakes & Oth­er Fan­tas­tic Scenes

Behold A Gram­mar of Japan­ese Orna­ment and Design: The 19th Cen­tu­ry Book That Intro­duced West­ern Audi­ences to Japan­ese Art (1880)

Down­load Clas­sic Japan­ese Wave and Rip­ple Designs: A Go-to Guide for Japan­ese Artists from 1903

The Japan­ese Fairy Tale Series: The Illus­trat­ed Books That Intro­duced West­ern Read­ers to Japan­ese Tales (1885–1922)

A Won­der­ful­ly Illus­trat­ed 1925 Japan­ese Edi­tion of Aesop’s Fables by Leg­endary Children’s Book Illus­tra­tor Takeo Takei

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.

Free: Download the The Anarchist’s Tool Chest, The Anarchist’s Design Book, The Anarchist’s Workbench & Other Woodworking Texts

For Christo­pher Schwarz, Amer­i­can anar­chism isn’t “about bombs and leather jack­ets; it’s about being an inde­pen­dent design­er.” It’s about work­ing out­side “mas­sive and dehu­man­iz­ing insti­tu­tions” (like cor­po­ra­tions) and design­ing beau­ti­ful objects that last. He writes: “As a design­er of books, tools and fur­ni­ture, I have zero desire to make things that are intend­ed from the get-go to fall apart.” Based in Cov­ing­ton, Ken­tucky, Schwarz runs a small wood­work­ing busi­ness where he hand­crafts beau­ti­ful tables, chairs and oth­er pieces of fur­ni­ture. He also runs Lost Art Press, which pub­lish­es books like The Anarchist’s Tool ChestThe Anarchist’s Design Book, The Anarchist’s Work­bench, and oth­er titles.

His “Anar­chist” series of books “rep­re­sent a 10-year effort to make wood­work­ing more acces­si­ble, afford­able and eth­i­cal – and less com­mer­cial.” Typ­i­cal­ly the print edi­tions run $30-$54. But, to the delight of many fel­low wood­work­ers, Schwarz has made sev­er­al edi­tions avail­able as free dig­i­tal down­loads. This includes (as of this week) The Anarchist’s Tool Chest, which “shows you how you can build fur­ni­ture with only a small kit of high-qual­i­ty tools. The first half of the book explains in detail how to choose the right tools… The sec­ond half of the book shows you how to build a tra­di­tion­al tool chest to hold these tools.” To find a com­plete list of books avail­able as free down­loads, see the list below.


  • Great Lectures

  • About Us

    Open Culture scours the web for the best educational media. We find the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & educational videos you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.

    Advertise With Us

  • Archives

  • Search

  • Quantcast
    Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.