Bruce Hornsby Discusses His Adventurous Compositions and Collaborations on Nakedly Examined Music

Bruce Horns­by is best known for his first album The Way It Is (1986), but has come light years since then through 18+ albums, exper­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent styles, play­ing over 100 shows with the Grate­ful Dead, and scor­ing numer­ous projects for Spike Lee. He’s won three Gram­mys and record­ed with music roy­al­ty includ­ing Elton John, Ornette Cole­man, Bran­ford Marsalis, Willie Nel­son, Bob Dylan, etc.

On this episode of Naked­ly Exam­ined Music, host Mark Lin­sen­may­er and Bruce dis­cuss “Side­lines” (feat. Ezra Koenig from Vam­pire Week­end) from ‘Flict­ed (2022), “My Resolve” (feat. James Mer­cer of The Shins) from Non-Secure Con­nec­tion (2020), and a new live ver­sion of “Shad­ow Hand” from the 25th Anniver­sary Edi­tion of Spir­it Trail. End song: “Cast-Off” (feat. Justin Ver­non of Bon Iver) from Absolute Zero (2019). Intro: “The Way It Is” (Live from Köln, 2019). Learn more at brucehornsby.com and bruuuce.com.

Here, of course, is the orig­i­nal “The Way It is.” Lis­ten to the 2019 NYC Epi­cen­ters ver­sion in full. My favorite sin­gle from that first album was “Every Lit­tle Kiss.” An ear­ly tune recent­ly fea­tured promi­nent­ly in the sec­ond sea­son of the TV show The Bear is “The Show Goes On.”  You may or may not recall that Bruce co-wrote Don Henley’s hit “The End of the Inno­cence”; watch Bruce play that live with sev­er­al jazz greats. Hear the orig­i­nal 1998 ver­sion of “Shad­ow Hand.” Bruce’s 2004 “Hal­cy­on Days” fea­tures both Sting and Eric Clap­ton.

The track that Bruce co-wrote for Bon Iver’s album is “U (Man Like).” Watch the video for “Days Ahead,” anoth­er sin­gle from Bruce’s newest album ‘Flict­edHere’s the video for “Side­lines.” Watch a lyric video for “Cast-Off.” Watch Bruce and James Mer­cer per­form­ing “My Resolve” over the Inter­net dur­ing the pan­dem­ic.

Watch Bruce play piano with The Grate­ful Dead in 1991. Lis­ten to Oth­er Ones (Grate­ful Dead after Jer­ry Garcia’s death) play a clas­sic Horns­by tune, “White-Wheeled Lim­ou­sine,” live in 1998. His own ver­sion of that (from 1995’s Hot House), fea­tured Pat Methe­ny and Béla Fleck. Watch him live in 2012 with Bob Weir and Bran­ford Marsalis play­ing his tune “Stand­ing on the Moon.”

Lis­ten to Bruce on The Art of Longevi­ty pod­castHere he is on Soda­jerk­er. Bruce’s appear­ance on Ezra Koenig’s Time Cri­sis pod­cast is on #126, and you may be able to hear it with an Apple Music sub­scrip­tion.

Pho­to by Kat Fish­er.

Naked­ly Exam­ined Music is a pod­cast host­ed by Mark Lin­sen­may­er, who also hosts The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life Phi­los­o­phy Pod­cast, Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast, and Phi­los­o­phy vs. Improv. He releas­es music under the name Mark Lint.

The Golden Age of Japanese Cinema: Kurosawa, Ozu, Mizoguchi & Beyond


Oliv­er Her­manus’ lat­est film Liv­ing trans­plants the sto­ry of Aki­ra Kuro­sawa’s Ikiru to post­war Lon­don. Apart from its own con­sid­er­able mer­its, it has giv­en view­ers across the world rea­son to revis­it the 1952 orig­i­nal, a stand­out work even in a gold­en decade of Japan­ese cin­e­ma — the decade The Cin­e­ma Car­tog­ra­phy co-cre­ator Lewis Bond (pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here for oth­er explo­rations of Japan­ese cin­e­ma and ani­ma­tion) explains in the video above. In the nine­teen-fifties, “con­cen­trat­ed with­in a sin­gle coun­try were some of the great­est film­mak­ers to ever live, simul­ta­ne­ous­ly pro­duc­ing their great­est works. The result was a com­plete decen­tral­iza­tion of clas­sic cin­e­ma as the world was exposed to its new troupe of mas­ters.”

After World War II, the Japan­ese peo­ple were “left with the real­i­ty that they were an eth­ni­cal­ly homo­ge­neous and cul­tur­al­ly uni­fied unit that did not fit in with the new, demo­c­ra­t­ic world.” The Amer­i­can mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion “took con­trol of the entire Japan­ese film indus­try from 1945 until 1952,” forcibly remov­ing any image, theme, or line of dia­logue thought liable stoke recidi­vist pop­u­lar sen­ti­ment. With not just war movies but “feu­dal” peri­od pieces off the table, the only viable genre was what schol­ars have since labeled shominge­ki, the real­is­tic cin­e­ma of com­mon peo­ple in ordi­nary sit­u­a­tions. Even there, the cen­sors had their scis­sors out: on their orders, Masahi­ro Maki­no had to elim­i­nate a shot of the poten­tial­ly nation­al­ist sym­bol of Mount Fuji; Yasu­jirō Ozu had to cut a line from Late Spring about Tokyo being full of bomb sites.

These rules loos­ened toward the end of the occu­pa­tion. By 1951, Kuro­sawa could make a dar­ing his­tor­i­cal pic­ture like Rashomon, and even have it (with­out his con­sent) go on to screen at the Venice Film Fes­ti­val and win a Gold­en Lion, then an Acad­e­my Award. The West had acquired a taste for Japan­ese movies, and the Japan­ese film indus­try was only too hap­py to cater to it. The coun­try’s five major stu­dios “hired the best artists of the time and gave them the finan­cial back­ing and cre­ative free­dom that they need­ed. The result was that the stu­dios made a lot of mon­ey, the film­mak­ers cre­at­ed an abun­dance of mas­ter­pieces, and the gold­en age of Japan­ese cin­e­ma meant that peo­ple filled the the­aters.”

The nine­teen-fifties brought world­wide acclaim to a Mount Rush­more of Japan­ese auteurs. Kuro­sawa, who revived the samu­rai film, “did for cin­e­ma as a whole was what most film­mak­ers hope, at some point, to do”: bridg­ing “the gap between one’s artistry and main­stream appeal.” Uget­su direc­tor Ken­ji Mizoguchi looked on all real­i­ty — and espe­cial­ly women — with a tran­scen­den­tal gaze. “Although not as grandiose as Kuro­sawa, nor as spir­i­tu­al as Mizoguchi, Ozu epit­o­mizes a sen­ti­men­tal­i­ty that, per­haps, has not been as well achieved by any oth­er film­mak­er to this day.” Mikio Naruse, Masa­ki Kobayashi, Teinosuke Kin­u­gasa, Hiroshi Ina­ga­ki: one could enjoy a rich cin­e­mat­ic life with only the works of Japan­ese film­mak­ers of the fifties. It shows us “the pin­na­cle of what cin­e­ma can achieve, and the stan­dard we should con­tin­ue to strive for,” as Bond’s puts it in his clos­ing line, speak­ing over a shot from Ikiru.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Essen­tial Japan­ese Cin­e­ma: A Jour­ney Through 50 of Japan’s Beau­ti­ful, Often Bizarre Films

How Did Aki­ra Kuro­sawa Make Such Pow­er­ful & Endur­ing Films? A Wealth of Video Essays Break Down His Cin­e­mat­ic Genius

The Aes­thet­ic of Ani­me: A New Video Essay Explores a Rich Tra­di­tion of Japan­ese Ani­ma­tion

How One Sim­ple Cut Reveals the Cin­e­mat­ic Genius of Yasu­jirō Ozu

A Page of Mad­ness: The Lost, Avant Garde Mas­ter­piece from Ear­ly Japan­ese Cin­e­ma (1926)

Wes Ander­son & Yasu­jirō Ozu: New Video Essay Reveals the Unex­pect­ed Par­al­lels Between Two Great Film­mak­ers

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.

A Fan-Made Film Reconstructs an Entire Tom Waits Concert from His “Glitter and Doom Tour” (2008)

Every­body who’s been to a Tom Waits con­cert has sto­ries to tell about it — no few of them heard straight from the mouth of Waits him­self. The offi­cial live album for his 2008 Glit­ter and Doom tour actu­al­ly devotes its entire sec­ond disc to “a selec­tion of the com­ic bro­mides, strange mus­ings, and unusu­al facts that Tom tra­di­tion­al­ly shares with his audi­ence dur­ing the piano set,” with top­ics rang­ing from “the rit­u­al of insects to the last dying breath of Hen­ry Ford.” This after a first disc craft­ed from musi­cal per­for­mances record­ed in ten dif­fer­ent cities, “from Paris to Birm­ing­ham; Tul­sa to Milan; and Atlanta to Dublin.”

“Tom Waits — Glit­ter and Doom Con­cert Expe­ri­ence,” the fan video above, pulls off a sim­i­lar feat of assem­blage, but with a visu­al com­po­nent as well. Its cre­ator describes it as “a com­pi­la­tion of pro­fes­sion­al footage and fan films,” using “all the released sound­board audio that had footage to accom­pa­ny it to make a con­cert film that should make a good expe­ri­ence of what it would have been like being in the audi­ence.”

The result­ing hour-and-three-quar­ters includes a few exam­ples of Waits’ onstage ora­to­ry, and more impor­tant­ly, such beloved num­bers from his song­book as “Goin’ Out West,” Choco­late Jesus,” “Hold On”, and “Inno­cent When You Dream” — each one as much of a nar­ra­tive of deep­est, dark­est Amer­i­cana as his non-musi­cal mono­logues.

“A trip through the world of Tom Waits can be dis­ori­ent­ing,” writes NPR’s Robin Hilton (along­side a stream­able record­ing of Waits’ July 5, 2008 show at Atlanta’s Fox The­ater). “His ram­shackle sto­ry-songs, with their creaky instru­men­ta­tion and dusty poet­ry, usu­al­ly leave lis­ten­ers with more ques­tions than answers, and his per­sona out­side of his music revolves around a play­ful but guard­ed mix of fic­tion and real­i­ty.” To pro­mote the Glit­ter and Doom tour, out came “a taped press con­fer­ence, fea­tur­ing Waits seat­ed at a table of micro­phones, answer­ing ques­tions amid bursts of flash­bulbs and mur­murs” — all of which was soon revealed not to be what it seemed. But as Waits’ strange­ly cap­ti­vat­ing career demon­strates, the ambi­gu­i­ty between per­for­mance and real­i­ty is where it’s at.

via MetaFil­ter

Relat­ed con­tent:

Stream All of Tom Waits’ Music in a 24 Hour Playlist: The Com­plete Discog­ra­phy

An Ani­mat­ed Tom Waits Talks About Laugh­ing at Funer­als & the Moles Under Stone­henge (1988)

Tom Waits’ Many Appear­ances on David Let­ter­man, From 1983 to 2015

The Black Rid­er: A The­atri­cal Pro­duc­tion by Tom Waits, William S. Bur­roughs & Robert Wil­son (1990)

Tom Waits Reads Charles Bukows­ki

The Tom Waits Map: A Map­ping of Every Place Waits Has Sung About, From L.A. to Africa’s Jun­gles

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.

 

Read Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World: The First Sci-Fi Novel Written By a Woman (1666)

For a vari­ety of rea­sons, sci­ence fic­tion has long been regard­ed as a most­ly male-ori­ent­ed realm of lit­er­a­ture. This is evi­denced, in part, by the eager­ness to cel­e­brate par­tic­u­lar works of sci-fi writ­ten by women, like Ursu­la K. LeGuin’s Earth­sea saga, Octavia But­ler’s Para­ble nov­els, Joan­na Russ’ The Female Man, or Mar­garet Attwood’s The Hand­maid­’s Tale (uneasi­ly though it fits with­in the bound­aries of the genre). But those who pre­fer the ear­ly stuff can go all the way back to the mid-sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry, where they’ll find Mar­garet Cavendish’s The Blaz­ing World, read­able and down­load­able in all its strange glo­ry free online.

The Blaz­ing World was first pub­lished in 1666 and is often con­sid­ered a fore­run­ner to both sci­ence fic­tion and the utopi­an nov­el gen­res,” writes book blog­ger Eric Karl Ander­son. “It’s a total­ly bonkers sto­ry of a woman who is stolen away to the North Pole only to find her­self in a strange bejew­eled king­dom of which she becomes the supreme Empress. Here she con­sults with many dif­fer­ent animal/insect peo­ple about philo­soph­i­cal, reli­gious and sci­en­tif­ic ideas. The sec­ond half of the book pulls off a meta-fic­tion­al trick where Cavendish (as the Duchess of New­cas­tle) enters the sto­ry her­self to become the Empress’ scribe and close com­pan­ion.”

In the video just below, Youtu­ber Great Books Prof frames this as not just a work of pro­to-sci­ence fic­tion, but also a pio­neer­ing use of the “mul­ti­verse” con­cept that has under­gird­ed any num­ber of twen­ty-first-cen­tu­ry block­busters.

The Blaz­ing World con­tin­ues to inspire: actor-direc­tor Carl­son Young put out a loose cin­e­mat­ic adap­ta­tion just a few years ago. Cavendish her­self described the book as a “her­maph­ro­dit­ic text,” pos­si­bly in ref­er­ence to its engage­ment with top­ics then addressed almost exclu­sive­ly by men. But it also occu­pied two cat­e­gories at once in that she orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished it as a fic­tion­al sec­tion of her book Obser­va­tions upon Exper­i­men­tal Phi­los­o­phy, one of six philo­soph­i­cal vol­umes she wrote. In fact, her work qual­i­fied her as not just philoso­pher and nov­el­ist, but also sci­en­tist, poet, play­wright, and even biog­ra­ph­er. That last she accom­plished by writ­ing The Life of the Thrice Noble, High and Puis­sant Prince William Cavendish, who hap­pened to be her hus­band. Let her life be a les­son to those young girls who simul­ta­ne­ous­ly dream of becom­ing a princess and a writer whose books are read for cen­turies: some­times, you can have it all.

Relat­ed con­tent:

100 Great Sci-Fi Sto­ries by Women Writ­ers (Read 20 for Free Online)

The First Work of Sci­ence Fic­tion: Read Lucian’s 2nd-Cen­tu­ry Space Trav­el­ogue A True Sto­ry

When Astronomer Johannes Kepler Wrote the First Work of Sci­ence Fic­tion, The Dream (1609)

The Ency­clo­pe­dia of Sci­ence Fic­tion: 17,500 Entries on All Things Sci-Fi Are Now Free Online

Every Pos­si­ble Kind of Sci­ence Fic­tion Sto­ry: An Exhaus­tive List Cre­at­ed by Pio­neer­ing 1920s Sci­Fi Writer Clare Winger Har­ris (1931)

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.

The Cardboard Bernini: An Artist Spends 4 Years Building a Giant Cardboard Fountain Inspired by the Baroque Sculptor Bernini, Only to Let It Dissolve in the Rain

From the Tri­ton Foun­tain in the Piaz­za Bar­beri­ni to the Foun­tain of the Four Rivers in Piaz­za Navona, sculp­tor Gian Loren­zo Berni­ni’s glo­ri­ous pub­lic foun­tains have impressed vis­i­tors to Rome for cen­turies.

Berni­ni angled for immoral­i­ty when carv­ing his Baroque mas­ter­pieces from mar­ble.

Image by Trdinfl, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Eter­ni­ty occu­pied artist James Grashow’s mind, too, through­out four years of toil on his Cor­ru­gat­ed Foun­tain, a mas­ter­piece of planned obso­les­cence.

“All artists talk about process”, he rumi­nates in an out­take from Olympia Stone’s doc­u­men­tary, The Card­board Berni­ni, “but the process that they talk about is always from begin­ning to fin­ish:

Nobody real­ly talks about full term process to the end, to the destruc­tion, to the dis­so­lu­tion of a piece. Every­thing dis­solves in an eter­ni­ty. I’d like to speak to that.

He picked the right medi­um for such a med­i­ta­tion — cor­ru­gat­ed card­board, sourced from the Dan­bury Square Box Com­pa­ny. (The founders chose its name in 1906 to alert the local hat­ting indus­try that they did not traf­fic in round hat box­es.)

Grashow chal­lenged him­self to make some­thing with card­board and hot glue that would “out­shine” Berni­ni before it was sac­ri­ficed to the ele­ments:

Water and card­board can­not exist togeth­er.  The idea of a paper foun­tain is impos­si­ble, an oxy­moron that speaks to the human dilem­ma. I want­ed to make some­thing hero­ic in its con­cept and exe­cu­tion with full aware­ness of its poet­ic absur­di­ty. I want­ed to try to make some­thing eter­nal out of card­board… the Foun­tain was an irre­sistible project for me.

The doc­u­men­tary catch­es a mix of emo­tions as his metic­u­lous­ly con­struct­ed Baroque fig­ures — nymphs, hors­es, dol­phins, Posei­don — are posi­tioned for destruc­tion on the grounds of the Aldrich Con­tem­po­rary Art Muse­um.

A young boy at the exhibition’s open­ing is untrou­bled by the sculpture’s impend­ing fate:

I think it’s cool, coz it’s made out of trees and it’s return­ing to mush…or what­ev­er you want to call it.

His bud­dy finds it hard to share his enthu­si­asm, ges­tur­ing help­less­ly toward the mon­u­men­tal work, his voice trail­ing off as he remarks, “I don’t see why you would want that to…”

An adult vis­i­tor unashamed­ly reveals that she had been active­ly root­ing for rain.

When a storm does reduce the sculp­ture to an Ozy­man­di­an tableau a short while lat­er, Grashow sus­pects the project was ulti­mate­ly a self por­trait, “full of blus­ter and brava­do, hol­low and melan­choly at its core, doomed from the start, and search­ing for beau­ty in all of the sad­ness.”

Then he and a helper cart what’s left off to a wait­ing dump­ster.

His daugh­ter, Rab­bi Zoë Klein, likens the Cor­ru­gat­ed Fountain’s imper­ma­nence to the sand man­dalas Tibetan monks spend months cre­at­ing, then sweep away with lit­tle fan­fare:

…the art is about just the gift of cre­ation, that we have this abil­i­ty to cre­ate, that we cel­e­brate that, not that we can con­quer time, but rather we can make the most of the time we have by mak­ing it beau­ti­ful and mean­ing­ful, liv­ing up to our poten­tial..

Grashow speaks ten­der­ly of the ephemer­al mate­r­i­al he uses fre­quent­ly in his work:

It’s so grate­ful for the oppor­tu­ni­ty to become some­thing, because it knows it’s going to be trash.

Watch The Card­board Berni­ni here.

See more of James Grashow’s card­board works here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Design­er Cre­ates Origa­mi Card­board Tents to Shel­ter the Home­less from the Win­ter Cold

Kraftwerk’s “The Robots” Per­formed by Ger­man 1st Graders in Cute Card­board Robot Cos­tumes

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

Free Download: A Knitting Pattern for a Sweater Depicting an Iconic Cover of George Orwell’s 1984

It’s win­ter, and we still have a ways to go. So maybe we could inter­est you in a free knit­ting pat­tern that depicts a vin­tage Pen­guin Clas­sics cov­er of George Orwell’s <i>1984</i>. A col­lege stu­dent gave it a go and post­ed the results on Red­dit. It’s pret­ty swelle­gant. You can down­load the pat­tern here.

Please note, “The pat­tern includes extra alpha­bet charts so that you can cus­tomise the title and author to your favourite book.”

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The BBC Cre­ates Step-by-Step Instruc­tions for Knit­ting the Icon­ic Dr. Who Scarf: A Doc­u­ment from the Ear­ly 1980s

A Mas­sive, Knit­ted Tapes­try of the Galaxy: Soft­ware Engi­neer Hacks a Knit­ting Machine & Cre­ates a Star Map Fea­tur­ing 88 Con­stel­la­tions

Behold an Anatom­i­cal­ly Cor­rect Repli­ca of the Human Brain, Knit­ted by a Psy­chi­a­trist

Behold 1,600-Year-Old Egypt­ian Socks Made with Nål­bind­ning, an Ancient Pro­to-Knit­ting Tech­nique

 

 

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Music Producer Steve Albini, Director Godfrey Reggio & Actor Fred Armisen Explain Why Creating Is Crucial to Human Existence

Imag­ine, if you will, an evening’s enter­tain­ment con­sist­ing of an episode of Port­landia, a spin of Nir­vana’s In Utero, and a screen­ing of Koy­aanisqat­si. Per­haps these works would, at first glance, seem to have lit­tle in com­mon. But if you end the night by watch­ing the above episode of Big Think’s series Dis­patch­es from the Well with Kmele Fos­ter, their com­mon spir­it may well come into view. In it, Fos­ter trav­els Amer­i­ca in order to vis­it with God­frey Reg­gio, Steve Albi­ni, and Fred Armisen, wide­ly known, respec­tive­ly, as the direc­tor of Koy­aanisqat­si, the pro­duc­er of In Utero, and the co-cre­ator of Port­landia. All of them have also made a great deal of oth­er work, and none of them are about to stop now.

“When you have a mania, you can scream and go nuts, or you can write every­thing down,” says Reg­gio. “I write every­thing down.” The same con­cept aris­es in Fos­ter’s con­ver­sa­tion with Albi­ni, who believes that “the best music is made in ser­vice of the mania of the peo­ple doing it at the moment.” As for “the peo­ple who are try­ing to be pop­u­lar, who are try­ing to, like, enter­tain — a lot of that music is triv­ial.”

Fos­ter cred­i­bly describes Albi­ni as “a man with a code,” not least that which dic­tates his rejec­tion of dig­i­tal media. “I’m not mak­ing an aes­thet­ic case for ana­log record­ing,” he says. “Ana­log record­ings are a durable archive of our cul­ture, and in the dis­tant future, I want peo­ple to be able to hear what our music sound­ed like.”

To cre­ate as per­sis­tent­ly as these three have demands a will­ing­ness to play the long game — and to “re-per­ceive the nor­mal,” as Reg­gio puts it while artic­u­lat­ing the pur­pose of his uncon­ven­tion­al doc­u­men­tary films. To his mind, it’s what we per­ceive least that affects us most, and if “what we do every day, with­out ques­tion, is who we are,” we can enrich our expe­ri­ence of real­i­ty by ask­ing ques­tions in our life and our work like, “Is it the con­tent of your mind that deter­mines your behav­ior, or is it your behav­ior that deter­mines the con­tent of your mind?” This line of inquiry will send each of us in dif­fer­ent intel­lec­tu­al and aes­thet­ic direc­tions, impos­si­ble though it is to arrive at a final answer. And in the face of the fact that we all end up at the same place in the end, Armisen has a cre­ative strat­e­gy: “I real­ly cel­e­brate death,” he explains. “I have my funer­al all planned out and every­thing.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

How Walk­ing Fos­ters Cre­ativ­i­ty: Stan­ford Researchers Con­firm What Philoso­phers & Writ­ers Have Always Known

How TV Addles Kids’ Brains: A Short Film Direct­ed by God­frey Reg­gio (Mak­er of Koy­aanisqat­si) & Scored by Philip Glass

Read Steve Albini’s Uncom­pro­mis­ing Pro­pos­al to Pro­duce Nirvana’s In Utero (1993)

Fred Armisen Teach­es a Short Sem­i­nar on the His­to­ry of Punk

Koy­aanisqat­si at 1552% Speed

Why Man Cre­ates: Saul Bass’ Oscar-Win­ning Ani­mat­ed Look at Cre­ativ­i­ty (1968)

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.

Before ChatGPT, There Was ELIZA: Watch the 1960s Chatbot in Action

In 1966, the soci­ol­o­gist and crit­ic Philip Rieff pub­lished The Tri­umph of the Ther­a­peu­tic, which diag­nosed how thor­ough­ly the cul­ture of psy­chother­a­py had come to influ­ence ways of life and thought in the mod­ern West. That same year, in the jour­nal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions of the Asso­ci­a­tion for Com­put­ing Machin­ery, the com­put­er sci­en­tist Joseph Weizen­baum pub­lished “ELIZA — A Com­put­er Pro­gram For the Study of Nat­ur­al Lan­guage Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Between Man and Machine.” Could it be a coin­ci­dence that the pro­gram Weizen­baum explained in that paper — the ear­li­est “chat­bot,” as we would now call it — is best known for respond­ing to its user’s input in the non­judg­men­tal man­ner of a ther­a­pist?

ELIZA was still draw­ing inter­est in the nine­teen-eight­ies, as evi­denced by the tele­vi­sion clip above. “The com­put­er’s replies seem very under­stand­ing,” says its nar­ra­tor, “but this pro­gram is mere­ly trig­gered by cer­tain phras­es to come out with stock respons­es.” Yet even though its users knew full well that “ELIZA did­n’t under­stand a sin­gle word that was being typed into it,” that did­n’t stop some of their inter­ac­tions with it from becom­ing emo­tion­al­ly charged. Weizen­baum’s pro­gram thus pass­es a kind of “Tur­ing test,” which was first pro­posed by pio­neer­ing com­put­er sci­en­tist Alan Tur­ing to deter­mine whether a com­put­er can gen­er­ate out­put indis­tin­guish­able from com­mu­ni­ca­tion with a human being.

In fact, 60 years after Weizen­baum first began devel­op­ing it, ELIZA — which you can try online here — seems to be hold­ing its own in that are­na. “In a preprint research paper titled ‘Does GPT‑4 Pass the Tur­ing Test?,’ two researchers from UC San Diego pit­ted Ope­nAI’s GPT‑4 AI lan­guage mod­el against human par­tic­i­pants, GPT‑3.5, and ELIZA to see which could trick par­tic­i­pants into think­ing it was human with the great­est suc­cess,” reports Ars Tech­ni­ca’s Benj Edwards. This study found that “human par­tic­i­pants cor­rect­ly iden­ti­fied oth­er humans in only 63 per­cent of the inter­ac­tions,” and that ELIZA, with its tricks of reflect­ing users’ input back at them, “sur­passed the AI mod­el that pow­ers the free ver­sion of Chat­G­PT.”

This isn’t to imply that Chat­G­P­T’s users might as well go back to Weizen­baum’s sim­ple nov­el­ty pro­gram. Still, we’d sure­ly do well to revis­it his sub­se­quent think­ing on the sub­ject of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence. Lat­er in his career, writes Ben Tarnoff in the Guardian, Weizen­baum pub­lished “arti­cles and books that con­demned the world­view of his col­leagues and warned of the dan­gers posed by their work. Arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, he came to believe, was an ‘index of the insan­i­ty of our world.’ ” Even in 1967, he was argu­ing that “no com­put­er could ever ful­ly under­stand a human being. Then he went one step fur­ther: no human being could ever ful­ly under­stand anoth­er human being” — a propo­si­tion arguably sup­port­ed by near­ly a cen­tu­ry and a half of psy­chother­a­py.

Relat­ed con­tent:

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

Thanks to Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence, You Can Now Chat with His­tor­i­cal Fig­ures: Shake­speare, Ein­stein, Austen, Socrates & More

Noam Chom­sky on Chat­G­PT: It’s “Basi­cal­ly High-Tech Pla­gia­rism” and “a Way of Avoid­ing Learn­ing”

What Hap­pens When Some­one Cro­chets Stuffed Ani­mals Using Instruc­tions from Chat­G­PT

Noam Chom­sky Explains Where Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Went Wrong

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.

The Roman Author Pliny the Younger Gets Ghosted by a Friend, and Goes on a Rant: Hear It Read by Actor Rob Delaney

Pliny the Younger may be best remem­bered for writ­ing the only eye-wit­ness account of the destruc­tion of Pom­peii in 79 AD. It’s a mem­o­rable let­ter still found in mod­ern col­lec­tions of Pliny the Younger’s cor­re­spon­dence. There, you can also find a sim­ple let­ter authored by Pliny, one that reflects not on a shat­ter­ing his­tor­i­cal event, but rather some­thing we can all relate to: the anger the author felt upon get­ting ghost­ed by a friend. To set the scene, Pliny had invit­ed Sep­ti­cius Clarus to join him for some food, wine, and con­ver­sa­tion. But his friend nev­er showed up, and so Pliny fired off a snub let­ter, which actor and come­di­an Rob Delaney reads above at a Let­ters Live event. You can fol­low along with the text below:

Shame on you! You promised to come to din­ner, and you nev­er came!

I’ll take you to court, and you will pay to the last pen­ny for my loss­es, and quite a sum! Ready for each of us were a let­tuce, three snails, and two eggs, bar­ley water with hon­ey wine cooled with snow (you must add the cost of snow as well, in fact the snow in par­tic­u­lar, as it melts in the dish). There were olives, beet­root, gourds, onions, and count­less oth­er del­i­ca­cies no less ele­gant. You would have heard per­form­ers of com­e­dy, or a read­er, or a lyre-play­er, or even all three, such is my gen­eros­i­ty!

But you pre­ferred to dine at some nobody’s house, enjoy­ing oys­ters, sow’s tripe, sea urchins, and per­form­ing-girls from Cadiz. You’ll be pun­ished for this, I won’t say how. What boor­ish­ness was this! You begrudged per­haps your­self, and cer­tain­ly me – but yes, your­self as well. What jok­ing and laugh­ter and learn­ing we would have enjoyed!

You can dine in many hous­es on more elab­o­rate fare, but nowhere more genial­ly, inno­cent­ly, and unguard­ed­ly. Farewell!

In the end, Pliny for­gave his friend. For Pliny ded­i­cat­ed the first of his let­ter to Sep­ti­cius, stat­ing: “You have con­stant­ly urged me to col­lect and pub­lish the more high­ly fin­ished of the let­ters that I may have writ­ten. I have made such a col­lec­tion… I can only hope that you will not have cause to regret the advice you gave, and that I shall not repent hav­ing fol­lowed it.” You can read the col­lec­tion online here.

Relat­ed Con­tent

The Only Writ­ten Eye-Wit­ness Account of Pompeii’s Destruc­tion: Hear Pliny the Younger’s Let­ters on the Mount Vesu­vius Erup­tion

The Lit­tle-Known Bomb­ing of Pom­peii Dur­ing World War II

What the Romans Saw When They Reached New Parts of the World: Hear First-Hand Accounts by Appi­an, Pliny, Tac­i­tus & Oth­er Ancient His­to­ri­ans

Stanford Continuing Studies Offering a Course on the History & Music of the Grateful Dead, Taught by David Gans: Starts on Monday, January 22

Image via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

A quick heads up: On Mon­day, Stan­ford Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies will kick off an online course called Psy­che­delia and Groove: The Music and Cul­ture of the Grate­ful Dead. Taught by David Gans (author of Play­ing in the Band: An Oral and Visu­al Por­trait of the Grate­ful Dead), the course got a nice shout out from drum­mer Mick­ey Hart on Insta­gram. Open to any adult, the course descrip­tion reads:

The Grate­ful Dead­’s ground­break­ing fusion of music, coun­ter­cul­ture, and com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment forged an endur­ing lega­cy that tran­scends gen­er­a­tions while shap­ing the evo­lu­tion of music and cul­tur­al expres­sion. Fresh off the farewell per­for­mance of Dead & Com­pa­ny in San Fran­cis­co in July, this course invites stu­dents to delve into the phe­nom­e­non that is the Grate­ful Dead through a cap­ti­vat­ing explo­ration of the band’s his­to­ry, music, and cul­tur­al impact.

The course will start by trac­ing the band’s evo­lu­tion, from its hum­ble begin­nings to its leg­endary sta­tus as one of the most influ­en­tial bands in music his­to­ry. We will explore the band’s for­ma­tion, the ear­ly San Fran­cis­co music scene, its unique approach to tour­ing, and the var­i­ous eras of its exis­tence. We’ll next embark on a son­ic jour­ney through the band’s diverse and ever-evolv­ing musi­cal cat­a­log. Stu­dents will dis­sect the dis­tinc­tive blend of rock, folk, blues, and impro­vi­sa­tion that defined the Grate­ful Dead­’s sound.

Final­ly, we’ll exam­ine the band’s cul­tur­al impact on soci­ety, div­ing into the band’s con­nec­tion to art, lit­er­a­ture, and social change, as well as its unique fan cul­ture and the phe­nom­e­non of the “Dead­head.” By the end of the course, stu­dents will have a well-round­ed appre­ci­a­tion for the roots, strug­gles, and mile­stones that shaped the Grate­ful Dead’s tra­jec­to­ry, an under­stand­ing of its pro­found impact on music and cul­ture, and insight into a lega­cy that still res­onates deeply today.

Guest speak­ers for this course will include Steve Sil­ber­man, who was fea­tured in the doc­u­men­tary Long Strange Trip and is a reg­u­lar voice on the Good Ol’ Grate­ful Dead­cast. He is also a co-author of Skele­ton Key: A Dic­tio­nary for Dead­heads.

Again, the course starts on Mon­day, Jan­u­ary 22. Tuition is $405. You can enroll here.

Stan­ford Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies also offers many oth­er cours­es online, across many dis­ci­plines, at a rea­son­able price. Check out the cat­a­logue here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Stream a Mas­sive Archive of Grate­ful Dead Con­certs from 1965–1995

The Grate­ful Dead Movie: Watch It Free Online

How the Grate­ful Dead’s “Wall of Sound”–a Mon­ster, 600-Speak­er Sound System–Changed Rock Con­certs & Live Music For­ev­er

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How Loneliness Is Killing Us: A Primer from Harvard Psychiatrist & Zen Priest Robert Waldinger

In 1966, Paul McCart­ney famous­ly sang of “all the lone­ly peo­ple,” won­der­ing aloud where they come from. Near­ly six decades lat­er, their num­bers seem only to have increased; as for their ori­gin, psy­chi­a­trist, psy­cho­an­a­lyst, and Zen priest Robert Waldinger has made it a long­time pro­fes­sion­al con­cern. “Start­ing in the nine­teen fifties, and going all the way through to today, we know that peo­ple have been less and less invest­ed in oth­er peo­ple,” he says in the Big Think video above. “In some stud­ies, as many as 60 per­cent of peo­ple will say that they feel lone­ly much of the time,” a feel­ing “per­va­sive across the world, across all age groups, all income groups, all demo­graph­ics.”

“Hav­ing an exten­sive net­work of friends is no guar­an­tee against lone­li­ness,” writes the late soci­ol­o­gist Ray Old­en­burg in The Great Good Place. “Nor does mem­ber­ship in vol­un­tary asso­ci­a­tions, the ‘instant com­mu­ni­ties’ of our mobile soci­ety, ensure against social iso­la­tion and atten­dant feel­ings of bore­dom and alien­ation. The net­work of friends has no uni­ty and no home base.” He names as a key fac­tor the dis­ap­pear­ance, espe­cial­ly in Amer­i­can life since World War II, of “con­ve­nient and open-end­ed social­iz­ing — places where indi­vid­u­als can go with­out aim or arrange­ment and be greet­ed by peo­ple who know them and know how to enjoy a lit­tle time off.”

Old­en­burg’s ele­gy for and defense of “cafés, cof­fee shops, com­mu­ni­ty cen­ters, gen­er­al stores, bars,” and oth­er engines of com­mu­ni­ty life, was pub­lished in 1989, well before the rise of social media — which Waldinger frames as the lat­est stage in a process that began with tele­vi­sion. As more Amer­i­can homes acquired sets of their own, “there was a decline in invest­ing in our com­mu­ni­ties. Peo­ple went out less, they joined clubs less often. They went to hous­es of wor­ship less often. They invit­ed peo­ple over less often.” Then, “the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion gave us more and more screens to look at, and soft­ware that was designed specif­i­cal­ly to grab our atten­tion, hold our atten­tion, and there­fore keep it away from the peo­ple we care about.”

We also know, he con­tin­ues, that “peo­ple with strong social bonds are much less like­ly to die in any giv­en year than peo­ple with­out strong social bonds.” This is a cred­i­ble claim, giv­en that he hap­pens to direct the now 85-year-long Har­vard Study of Adult Devel­op­ment. In 2016, we fea­tured Waldinger’s TED Talk on some of its find­ings here on Open Cul­ture. Before that, we post­ed a PBS Brain­Craft video that con­sid­ers the Har­vard Study of Adult Devel­op­ment along with oth­er research on the con­tribut­ing fac­tors to hap­pi­ness, a body of work that, tak­en togeth­er, points to the impor­tance of love — which, even if it isn’t all you need, is cer­tain­ly some­thing you need. And thus one more Bea­t­les lyric con­tin­ues to res­onate.

Relat­ed con­tent:

New Ani­ma­tion Explains Sher­ry Turkle’s The­o­ries on Why Social Media Makes Us Lone­ly

What Are the Keys to Hap­pi­ness? Lessons from a 75-Year-Long Har­vard Study

All You Need is Love: The Keys to Hap­pi­ness Revealed by a 75-Year Har­vard Study

A Guide to Hap­pi­ness: Alain de Bot­ton Shows How Six Great Philoso­phers Can Change Your Life

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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