Watch Iggy Pop Perform Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

Of the original members of the Stooges, only Iggy Pop still lives. He has by now survived a great many other cultural figures who came up from the underground and into prominence through rock music in the nineteen-seventies. And not only is he still alive, he’s still putting out albums: his most recent, Every Loser, came out just this past January. It followed Free, from 2019, which includes his reading of Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” — an idea, Amanda Petrusich notes in a contemporary New Yorker profile, that came “after an advertising agency asked him to read the poem for a commercial voice-over.”

“At first, I resisted,” Pop says to Petrusich. “I’m not in junior high.” Indeed, as a vehicle for the expression of one’s own worldview, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” feels about one rung up from “The Road Not Taken.”

Petrusich acknowledges that “the poem has grown increasingly meaningless over time, having been repeated and adapted to so many inane circumstances. Yet if you can shake off its familiarity the central idea — that a person should live vigorously, unapologetically — remains germane.” Pop’s distinctive Midwestern voice, made haggard but resonant by decade after decade of punk-rock rigors, also imbues it with an unexpected vitality.

It may surprise those who know Pop mainly through his brazen onstage antics of half a century ago that it would occur to him to read a poem at all. In fact, he’s a man of many and varied literary interests, having also performed the work of Walt Whitman and Edgar Allan Poe, written about Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and made a film with Michel Houellebecq (whose novels inspired Pop’s 2009 album Préliminaires). All of this while he has kept on showing us, both on records and in live performances, how properly to rage, rage — against the dying of the light, and much else besides.

Related content:

Hear Dylan Thomas Recite His Classic Poem, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” Performed by John Cale (and Produced by Brian Eno)

Iggy Pop Reads Walt Whitman in Collaborations With Electronic Artists Alva Noto and Tarwater

Sir Anthony Hopkins Reads Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

Iggy Pop Reads Edgar Allan Poe’s Classic Horror Story “The Tell-Tale Heart”

Dylan Thomas Sketches a Caricature of a Drunken Dylan Thomas

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 Cab Calloway Actually Perform “Mr. Hepster’s Dictionary,” His Famous Dictionary of Jazz Slang (1944)

Who’s up for a good dictionary on film?

Colin Browning, assistant editor of The Bluff, a Loyola Marymount University student newspaper, has some kopasetic casting suggestions for a hypothetical feature adaptation of the “Merriam-Webster classic.”

He’s just muggin’, of course. Still, he seems like a young man who’s got his boots on.



In that case, you’d best acquaint yourself with the only cinematic dictionary adaptation we’re aware of, the Mr. Hepcat’s Dictionary number from Sensations of 1945, above.

Musical team Al Sherman & Harry Tobias drew directly from Cab Calloway’s Cat-ologue: a Hepster’s Dictionary, a lexicon of Harlem jazz musicians’ slang originally published in 1938 ’ when choosing terms for Calloway to define for a young protégée, eager to be schooled in “the lingo all the jitterbugs use today.”

In between, Calloway, lays some iron in white tie and tails.

By the time the film came out, Calloway’s Hepster Dictionary was in its seventh edition, and had earned its place as the official jive language reference book of the New York Public Library.

As Calloway wrote in the foreword to the sixth edition:

“Jive talk” is now an everyday part of the English language. Its usage is now accepted in the movies, on the stage, and in the song products of Tin Pan Alley. It is reasonable to assume that jive will find new avenues in such hitherto remote places as Australia, the South Pacific, North Africa, China, Italy, France, Sicily, and inevitably Germany and wherever our Armed Forces may serve.

I don’t want to lend the impression here that the many words contained in this edition are the figments of my imagination. They were gathered from every conceivable source. Many first saw the light of printer’s ink in Billy Rowe’s widely read column “The Notebook,” in the Pittsburgh Courier.

And now to enrich our vocabularies…



  • A hummer (n.): exceptionally good. Ex., “Man, that boy is a hummer.”
  • Ain’t coming on that tab (v.): won’t accept the proposition. Usually abbr. to “I ain’t coming.”
  • Alligator (n.): jitterbug.
  • Apple (n.): the big town, the main stem, Harlem.
  • Armstrongs (n.): musical notes in the upper register, high trumpet notes.


  • Barbecue (n.): the girl friend, a beauty.
  • Barrelhouse (adj.): free and easy.
  • Battle (n.): a very homely girl, a crone.
  • Beat (adj.): (1) tired, exhausted. Ex., “You look beat” or “I feel beat.” (2) lacking anything. Ex, “I am beat for my cash”, “I am beat to my socks” (lacking everything).
  • Beat it out (v.): play it hot, emphasize the rhythm.
  • Beat up (adj.): sad, uncomplimentary, tired.
  • Beat up the chops (or the gums) (v.): to talk, converse, be loquacious.
  • Beef (v.): to say, to state. Ex., “He beefed to me that, etc.”
  • Bible (n.): the gospel truth. Ex., “It’s the bible!”
  • Black (n.): night.
  • Black and tan (n.): dark and light colored folks. Not colored and white folks as erroneously assumed.
  • Blew their wigs (adj.): excited with enthusiasm, gone crazy.
  • Blip (n.): something very good. Ex., “That’s a blip”; “She’s a blip.”
  • Blow the top (v.): to be overcome with emotion (delight). Ex., “You’ll blow your top when you hear this one.”
  • Boogie-woogie (n.): harmony with accented bass.
  • Boot (v.): to give. Ex., “Boot me that glove.”
  • Break it up (v.): to win applause, to stop the show.
  • Bree (n.): girl.
  • Bright (n.): day.
  • Brightnin’ (n.): daybreak.
  • Bring down ((1) n. (2) v.): (1) something depressing. Ex., “That’s a bring down.” (2) Ex., “That brings me down.”
  • Buddy ghee (n.): fellow.
  • Bust your conk (v.): apply yourself diligently, break your neck.


  • Canary (n.): girl vocalist.
  • Capped (v.): outdone, surpassed.
  • Cat (n.): musician in swing band.
  • Chick (n.): girl.
  • Chime (n.): hour. Ex., “I got in at six chimes.”
  • Clambake (n.): ad lib session, every man for himself, a jam session not in the groove.
  • Chirp (n.): female singer.
  • Cogs (n.): sun glasses.
  • Collar (v.): to get, to obtain, to comprehend. Ex., “I gotta collar me some food”; “Do you collar this jive?”
  • Come again (v.): try it over, do better than you are doing, I don’t understand you.
  • Comes on like gangbusters (or like test pilot) (v.): plays, sings, or dances in a terrific manner, par excellence in any department. Sometimes abbr. to “That singer really comes on!”
  • Cop (v.): to get, to obtain (see collar; knock).
  • Corny (adj.): old-fashioned, stale.
  • Creeps out like the shadow (v.): “comes on,” but in smooth, suave, sophisticated manner.
  • Crumb crushers (n.): teeth.
  • Cubby (n.): room, flat, home.
  • Cups (n.): sleep. Ex., “I gotta catch some cups.”
  • Cut out (v.): to leave, to depart. Ex., “It’s time to cut out”; “I cut out from the joint in early bright.”
  • Cut rate (n.): a low, cheap person. Ex., “Don’t play me cut rate, Jack!”


  • Dicty (adj.): high-class, nifty, smart.
  • Dig (v.): (1) meet. Ex., “I’ll plant you now and dig you later.” (2) look, see. Ex., “Dig the chick on your left duke.” (3) comprehend, understand. Ex., “Do you dig this jive?”
  • Dim (n.): evening.
  • Dime note (n.): ten-dollar bill.
  • Doghouse (n.): bass fiddle.
  • Domi (n.): ordinary place to live in. Ex., “I live in a righteous domi.”
  • Doss (n.): sleep. Ex., “I’m a little beat for my doss.”
  • Down with it (adj.): through with it.
  • Drape (n.): suit of clothes, dress, costume.
  • Dreamers (n.): bed covers, blankets.
  • Dry-goods (n.): same as drape.
  • Duke (n.): hand, mitt.
  • Dutchess (n.): girl.


  • Early black (n.): evening
  • Early bright (n.): morning.
  • Evil (adj.): in ill humor, in a nasty temper.


  • Fall out (v.): to be overcome with emotion. Ex., “The cats fell out when he took that solo.”
  • Fews and two (n.): money or cash in small quantity.
  • Final (v.): to leave, to go home. Ex., “I finaled to my pad” (went to bed); “We copped a final” (went home).
  • Fine dinner (n.): a good-looking girl.
  • Focus (v.): to look, to see.
  • Foxy (v.): shrewd.
  • Frame (n.): the body.
  • Fraughty issue (n.): a very sad message, a deplorable state of affairs.
  • Freeby (n.): no charge, gratis. Ex., “The meal was a freeby.”
  • Frisking the whiskers (v.): what the cats do when they are warming up for a swing session.
  • Frolic pad (n.): place of entertainment, theater, nightclub.
  • Fromby (adj.): a frompy queen is a battle or faust.
  • Front (n.): a suit of clothes.
  • Fruiting (v.): fickle, fooling around with no particular object.
  • Fry (v.): to go to get hair straightened.


  • Gabriels (n.): trumpet players.
  • Gammin’ (adj.): showing off, flirtatious.
  • Gasser (n, adj.): sensational. Ex., “When it comes to dancing, she’s a gasser.”
  • Gate (n.): a male person (a salutation), abbr. for “gate-mouth.”
  • Get in there (exclamation.): go to work, get busy, make it hot, give all you’ve got.
  • Gimme some skin (v.): shake hands.
  • Glims (n.): the eyes.
  • Got your boots on: you know what it is all about, you are a hep cat, you are wise.
  • Got your glasses on: you are ritzy or snooty, you fail to recognize your friends, you are up-stage.
  • Gravy (n.): profits.
  • Grease (v.): to eat.
  • Groovy (adj.): fine. Ex., “I feel groovy.”
  • Ground grippers (n.): new shoes.
  • Growl (n.): vibrant notes from a trumpet.
  • Gut-bucket (adj.): low-down music.
  • Guzzlin’ foam (v.): drinking beer.


  • Hard (adj.): fine, good. Ex., “That’s a hard tie you’re wearing.”
  • Hard spiel (n.): interesting line of talk.
  • Have a ball (v.): to enjoy yourself, stage a celebration. Ex., “I had myself a ball last night.”
  • Hep cat (n.): a guy who knows all the answers, understands jive.
  • Hide-beater (n.): a drummer (see skin-beater).
  • Hincty (adj.): conceited, snooty.
  • Hip (adj.): wise, sophisticated, anyone with boots on. Ex., “She’s a hip chick.”
  • Home-cooking (n.): something very dinner (see fine dinner).
  • Hot (adj.): musically torrid; before swing, tunes were hot or bands were hot.
  • Hype (n, v.): build up for a loan, wooing a girl, persuasive talk.


  • Icky (n.): one who is not hip, a stupid person, can’t collar the jive.
  • Igg (v.): to ignore someone. Ex., “Don’t igg me!)
  • In the groove (adj.): perfect, no deviation, down the alley.


  • Jack (n.): name for all male friends (see gate; pops).
  • Jam ((1)n, (2)v.): (1) improvised swing music. Ex., “That’s swell jam.” (2) to play such music. Ex., “That cat surely can jam.”
  • Jeff (n.): a pest, a bore, an icky.
  • Jelly (n.): anything free, on the house.
  • Jitterbug (n.): a swing fan.
  • Jive (n.): Harlemese speech.
  • Joint is jumping: the place is lively, the club is leaping with fun.
  • Jumped in port (v.): arrived in town.


  • Kick (n.): a pocket. Ex., “I’ve got five bucks in my kick.”
  • Kill me (v.): show me a good time, send me.
  • Killer-diller (n.): a great thrill.
  • Knock (v.): give. Ex., “Knock me a kiss.”
  • Kopasetic (adj.): absolutely okay, the tops.


  • Lamp (v.): to see, to look at.
  • Land o’darkness (n.): Harlem.
  • Lane (n.): a male, usually a nonprofessional.
  • Latch on (v.): grab, take hold, get wise to.
  • Lay some iron (v.): to tap dance. Ex., “Jack, you really laid some iron that last show!”
  • Lay your racket (v.): to jive, to sell an idea, to promote a proposition.
  • Lead sheet (n.): a topcoat.
  • Left raise (n.): left side. Ex., “Dig the chick on your left raise.”
  • Licking the chops (v.): see frisking the whiskers.
  • Licks (n.): hot musical phrases.
  • Lily whites (n.): bed sheets.
  • Line (n.): cost, price, money. Ex., “What is the line on this drape” (how much does this suit cost)? “Have you got the line in the mouse” (do you have the cash in your pocket)? Also, in replying, all figures are doubled. Ex., “This drape is line forty” (this suit costs twenty dollars).
  • Lock up: to acquire something exclusively. Ex., “He’s got that chick locked up”; “I’m gonna lock up that deal.”


  • Main kick (n.): the stage.
  • Main on the hitch (n.): husband.
  • Main queen (n.): favorite girl friend, sweetheart.
  • Man in gray (n.): the postman.
  • Mash me a fin (command.): Give me $5.
  • Mellow (adj.): all right, fine. Ex., “That’s mellow, Jack.”
  • Melted out (adj.): broke.
  • Mess (n.): something good. Ex., “That last drink was a mess.”
  • Meter (n.): quarter, twenty-five cents.
  • Mezz (n.): anything supreme, genuine. Ex., “this is really the mezz.”
  • Mitt pounding (n.): applause.
  • Moo juice (n.): milk.
  • Mouse (n.): pocket. Ex., “I’ve got a meter in the mouse.”
  • Muggin’ (v.): making ’em laugh, putting on the jive. “Muggin’ lightly,” light staccato swing; “muggin’ heavy,” heavy staccato swing.
  • Murder (n.): something excellent or terrific. Ex., “That’s solid murder, gate!”


  • Neigho, pops: Nothing doing, pal.
  • Nicklette (n.): automatic phonograph, music box.
  • Nickel note (n.): five-dollar bill.
  • Nix out (v.): to eliminate, get rid of. Ex., “I nixed that chick out last week”; “I nixed my garments” (undressed).
  • Nod (n.): sleep. Ex., “I think I’l cop a nod.”


  • Ofay (n.): white person.
  • Off the cob (adj.): corny, out of date.
  • Off-time jive (n.): a sorry excuse, saying the wrong thing.
  • Orchestration (n.): an overcoat.
  • Out of the world (adj.): perfect rendition. Ex., “That sax chorus was out of the world.”
  • Ow!: an exclamation with varied meaning. When a beautiful chick passes by, it’s “Ow!”; and when someone pulls an awful pun, it’s also “Ow!”


  • Pad (n.): bed.
  • Pecking (n.): a dance introduced at the Cotton Club in 1937.
  • Peola (n.): a light person, almost white.
  • Pigeon (n.): a young girl.
  • Pops (n.): salutation for all males (see gate; Jack).
  • Pounders (n.): policemen.


  • Queen (n.): a beautiful girl.


  • Rank (v.): to lower.
  • Ready (adj.): 100 per cent in every way. Ex., “That fried chicken was ready.”
  • Ride (v.): to swing, to keep perfect tempo in playing or singing.
  • Riff (n.): hot lick, musical phrase.
  • Righteous (adj.): splendid, okay. Ex., “That was a righteous queen I dug you with last black.”
  • Rock me (v.): send me, kill me, move me with rhythm.
  • Ruff (n.): quarter, twenty-five cents.
  • Rug cutter (n.): a very good dancer, an active jitterbug.


  • Sad (adj.): very bad. Ex., “That was the saddest meal I ever collared.”
  • Sadder than a map (adj.): terrible. Ex., “That man is sadder than a map.”
  • Salty (adj.): angry, ill-tempered.
  • Sam got you: you’ve been drafted into the army.
  • Send (v.): to arouse the emotions. (joyful). Ex., “That sends me!”
  • Set of seven brights (n.): one week.
  • Sharp (adj.): neat, smart, tricky. Ex., “That hat is sharp as a tack.”
  • Signify (v.): to declare yourself, to brag, to boast.
  • Skins (n.): drums.
  • Skin-beater (n.): drummer (see hide-beater).
  • Sky piece (n.): hat.
  • Slave (v.): to work, whether arduous labor or not.
  • Slide your jib (v.): to talk freely.
  • Snatcher (n.): detective.
  • So help me: it’s the truth, that’s a fact.
  • Solid (adj.): great, swell, okay.
  • Sounded off (v.): began a program or conversation.
  • Spoutin’ (v.): talking too much.
  • Square (n.): an unhep person (see icky; Jeff).
  • Stache (v.): to file, to hide away, to secrete.
  • Stand one up (v.): to play one cheap, to assume one is a cut-rate.
  • To be stashed (v.): to stand or remain.
  • Susie-Q (n.): a dance introduced at the Cotton Club in 1936.


  • Take it slow (v.): be careful.
  • Take off (v.): play a solo.
  • The man (n.): the law.
  • Threads (n.): suit, dress or costume (see drape; dry-goods).
  • Tick (n.): minute, moment. Ex., “I’ll dig you in a few ticks.” Also, ticks are doubled in accounting time, just as money is doubled in giving “line.” Ex., “I finaled to the pad this early bright at tick twenty” (I got to bed this morning at ten o’clock).
  • Timber (n.): toothpick.
  • To dribble (v.): to stutter. Ex., “He talked in dribbles.”
  • Togged to the bricks: dressed to kill, from head to toe.
  • Too much (adj.): term of highest praise. Ex., “You are too much!”
  • Trickeration (n.): struttin’ your stuff, muggin’ lightly and politely.
  • Trilly (v.): to leave, to depart. Ex., “Well, I guess I’ll trilly.”
  • Truck (v.): to go somewhere. Ex., “I think I’ll truck on down to the ginmill (bar).”
  • Trucking (n.): a dance introduced at the Cotton Club in 1933.
  • Twister to the slammer (n.): the key to the door.
  • Two cents (n.): two dollars.


  • Unhep (adj.): not wise to the jive, said of an icky, a Jeff, a square.


  • Vine (n.): a suit of clothes.
  • V-8 (n.): a chick who spurns company, is independent, is not amenable.


  • What’s your story?: What do you want? What have you got to say for yourself? How are tricks? What excuse can you offer? Ex., “I don’t know what his story is.”
  • Whipped up (adj.): worn out, exhausted, beat for your everything.
  • Wren (n.): a chick, a queen.
  • Wrong riff: the wrong thing said or done. Ex., “You’re coming up on the wrong riff.”


  • Yarddog (n.): uncouth, badly attired, unattractive male or female.
  • Yeah, man: an exclamation of assent.


  • Zoot (adj.): exaggerated
  • Zoot suit (n.): the ultimate in clothes. The only totally and truly American civilian suit.

That’s solid murder, gate!

If you’re not too beat, Jazz Night In America builds on Calloway’s dictionary with some additional vocabulary in the video below. Watch it for the meanings of stank, ictus, swoop, and scoop, defined collectively by drummer Ali Jackson as the sort of colloquialisms you use when you “don’t want everyone to know what you’re saying, but you want to express a point.”

Listen to poet Lemn Sissay‘s BBC history of Cab Calloway’s Hepster’s Dictionary here.

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Cab Calloway Stars in “Minnie the Moocher,” a Trippy Betty Boop Cartoon That’s Ranked as the 20th Greatest Cartoon of All Time (1932)

Watch a Surreal 1933 Animation of Snow White, Featuring Cab Calloway & Betty Boop: It’s Ranked as the 19th Greatest Cartoon of All Time

– 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.

Why the Ancient Romans Had Better Teeth Than Modern Europeans

The cases for traveling back in time and living in a past era are many and varied, but the case against doing so is always the same: dentistry. In every chapter of human history before this one, so we’re often told, everyone lived in at least a low-level state of agony inflicted by tooth problems, to say nothing of the unimaginable unsightliness of their smiles. But as justified as we probably are in laughing at the pearly whites on display in Hollywood period pieces, the historical record conflicts with our belief that the further you go into the past, the worst everyone’s teeth: ancient Romans, as explained in the Told In Stone video above, actually had better teeth than modern Europeans.

That’s hardly a high bar to clear, a modern American may joke. But then, the United States today takes dental care to an almost obsessive level, whereas the citizens of the Roman Empire had practically nothing to work with by comparison. “The standard, and often sole implement employed to clean teeth was a toothpick,” says Told in Stone creator Garrett Ryan. These “were paired with tooth powders, which were rubbed over the teeth and gums with an enthusiastic finger.” Ingredients included “pumice, pulverized bone, powdered glass, and crushed shell,” or sometimes “sheep’s sweat and the ash of a wolf’s head.” — all a far cry from anything offered on the toothpaste aisle today.

“Bad breath was a chronic condition in the classical world,” and “toothache seems to have been almost equally prevalent.” The treatment most commonly practiced by Roman dentists was extraction, performed without anesthetic. Yet only about a third of the preserved skeletons recovered from the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum were missing teeth, “and relatively few had cavities.”  Though many societies today take dental condition as a marker of class, in ancient Rome the relationship was, to a certain extent, reversed: “A young girl wearing expensive jewelry, for example, already had five cavities, probably because her family could afford to give her plenty of snacks smothered in expensive and sugary honey.”

Indeed, “in the absence of processed sugar, oral bacteria were less aggressive than they are today.” Romans got cavities, but “the pervasive blackened teeth and hollow cheeks of early modern Europe,”  an era at the unfortunate intersection of relatively plentiful sugar and relatively primitive dentistry, “were nearly as distant from the Roman experience as they are from ours.” Some of us here in the sugar-saturated twenty-first century, with its constant pursuit of dental perfection, may now be considering the potential benefits of shifting to an ancient Roman diet — without, of course, all those tiny, enamel-abrading stones that had a way of ending up in ancient Roman bread.

Related content:

Try the Oldest Known Recipe For Toothpaste: From Ancient Egypt, Circa the 4th Century BC

Explore the Roman Cookbook, De Re Coquinaria, the Oldest Known Cookbook in Existence

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The Mystery Finally Solved: Why Has Roman Concrete Been So Durable?

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.

Nathan Lane Breaks Down His Broadway Career

Playbill writes: “Nathan Lane is currently starring on Broadway in ‘Pictures From Home,’ opposite Zoë Wanamaker (who plays his wife) and Danny Burstein (who plays his son). In the inaugural entry to Playbill’s new video series, ‘My Life in the Theatre,’ Lane sits down with a Playbill binder containing every Playbill from every show he’s ever done on Broadway. Lane walks us through his career, including the time he asked Sondheim to write new songs for ‘The Frogs,’ how he almost changed his name to Norman Lane, and the production where he played a ‘thug version of Donald Trump.'”

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Benedict Cumberbatch Reads a Letter to People Who Don’t Lock Bathroom Doors

In April 2018, author Andrew Forrester wrote an open letter to “People Who Don’t Make Every Conceivable Effort to Ensure that the Bathroom Door is Locked.” And now Benedict Cumberbatch has read it, and read it well. This reading took place at Letters Live, an event celebrating the power of literary correspondence, held at London’s Royal Albert Hall. You can find other Cumberbatch readings in the Relateds below.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.

If you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks!

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Succession Star Brian Cox Tells the Entire Histories of Ancient Greece and Rome in 20 Minutes Each

Spoiler alert: The death of Logan Roy the weekend before last marked the end of an era. Or at the very least, it was notable for occasioning, in the Los Angeles Times, perhaps the first newspaper obituary of a fictional character. Roy was the mogul-patriarch at the center of the hit black comedy-drama Succession, which is now approaching the end of its fourth and final season on HBO. Brian Cox’s performance in that role had much to do with the success of Succession, so to speak, not least because he clearly understood that, for all its of-the-moment references, the series’ narrative is deeply rooted in concepts like dynasty and empire, which themselves extend way back to antiquity.

Antiquity happens to be the subject of two videos Cox narrated, just before the premiere of Succession, for the Youtube channel Arzamas. “Ancient Greece in 18 Minutes” and “Ancient Rome in 20 Minutes” deliver just what their titles promise, brief but clear and well-informed primers on the classical civilizations that modern Westerners have long thought of as the precursors to their own.

Of course, there were no single, continuous political or geographical entities called “Ancient Greece” and “Ancient Rome”; rather, those names refer to large regions of the world in which city-states rise and fell — as their very nature and relationships with one another changed dramatically — over a period of centuries upon centuries.

To these acclaimed videos Cox brings his signature irreverence-laced gravitas. At the very end of “Ancient Greece in 18 Minutes,” he tells of the Byzantine Empire, “which extended the life of Greek culture another thousand years — leaving us the weird Russian alphabet, for instance.” This line is funnier if you know that Arzamas is a Russian channel that has also put up videos on Russian history and culture: the one on the country’s twentieth-century art just above, for instance, which Cox also narrates. Russia has inherited elements of the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, as have other distant lands like the United States of America. And wherever we live, we can laugh at Cox’s observation that “if an ancient Greek were to see modern democracy, he would say just one word: oligarchy” — a form of rule Logan Roy knew all about.

Related Content:

Introduction to Ancient Greek History: A Free Online Course from Yale

A Virtual Tour of Ancient Athens: Fly Over Classical Greek Civilization in All Its Glory

The Rise & Fall of Roman Civilization: Every Year Shown in a Timelapse Map Animation (753 BC -1479 AD)

An 8-Minute Animated Flight Over Ancient Rome

A Virtual Tour of Ancient Rome, Circa 320 CE: Explore Stunning Recreations of The Forum, Colosseum and Other Monuments

An Archive of Animations/Cartoons of Ancient Greece & Rome: From the 1920s Through Today

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.

Jazz Drummer Larnell Lewis Hears Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” for the Very First Time, Then Plays It Near-Perfectly

Even if you don’t think you know “Enter Sandman,” you know “Enter Sandman.” For more than thirty years it’s been the signature song of Metallica, the best-known heavy metal band in the world, and as such practically unavoidable — unavoidable, that is, unless you’re jazz drummer Larnell Lewis. Previously featured here on Open Culture for his demonstration of the thirteen levels of drumming difficulty, Lewis is most closely associated with the fusion band Snarky Puppy, and has, fair to say, spent his professional life outside the realm of metal. Hence the intrigue of the challenge he takes on in the video above: can he play through “Enter Sandman” after hearing it just once?

Metallica die-hards know how formidable a task this is. Recording the song in the first place took the band’s drummer Lars Ulrich more than one take — in fact, it took him nearly fifty takes, in each of which he played just one section of the song, never the whole thing straight through.

The final mix edits together all of the most precise and intense pieces of his performance into one seemingly impossible-to-replicate whole. But for Lewis, learning a song by ear and then playing it perfectly is all in a day’s work, a process he demonstrates in the earlier video just below, talking his listeners through his mental process of active listening to a percussion-free song, then coming up with all the drum parts on the fly.

Watching Lewis actively listen to “Enter Sandman” has the appeal of those viral videos in which Youtubers hear hit songs for the first time — but even more so, since Lewis knows his craft backwards and forwards, and doesn’t hesitate to express his own reactions and perceptions. He notes a few tricky shifts into half time, and even one especially dramatic shot that he foresees missing when he tries his own hand at the song. Apart from that, however, he then plays the song himself with an accuracy that astonishes even the Metallica fans in the comments. As one says, it’s hard to say which is more unbelievable: Lewis’ extraordinary talent or the fact that he’d never heard ‘Enter Sandman’ before. The man must never have set foot in a gym — but then, he probably gets more than enough of a workout at the drum kit.

via Kottke

Related content:

Watch 13 Levels of Drumming, from Easy to Complex, Explained by Snarky Puppy Drummer Larnell Lewis

Watch Metallica Play “Enter Sandman” Before a Crowd of 1.6 Million in Moscow, During the Final Days of the Soviet Union (1991)

Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” Sung in the Style of David Bowie

A Bluegrass Version of Metallica’s Heavy Metal Hit, “Enter Sandman”

Metallica Playing “Enter Sandman” on Classroom Toy Instruments

The Neuroscience of Drumming: Researchers Discover the Secrets of Drumming & The Human Brain

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.

Hayao Miyazaki Selects His 50 Favorite Children’s Books

Once upon a time, books served as the de facto refuge of the “physically weak” child. For animation legend, Hayao Miyazaki, above, they offered an escape from the grimmer realities of post-World War II Japan.

Many of the 50 favorites he selected for a 2010 exhibition honoring publisher Iwanami Shoten‘s “Boy’s Books” series are time-tested Western classics.

Loners and orphans–The Little Prince, The Secret Gardenfigure prominently, as do talking animals (The Wind in the Willows, Winnie-the-Pooh, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle).

And while it may be a commonly-held publishing belief that boys won’t read stories about girls, the young Miyazaki seemed to have no such bias, ranking Heidi and Laura Ingalls Wilder right alongside Tom Sawyer and Treasure Island’s pirates.

Several of the titles that made the cut were ones he could only have encountered as a grown up, including 1967’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and When Marnie Was There, the latter eventually serving as source material for a Studio Ghibli movie, as did Miyazaki’s top pick, Mary Norton’s The Borrowers.

We invite you to take a nostalgic stroll through Miyazaki’s best-loved children’s books. Readers, how many have you read?

Hayao Miyazaki’s Top 50 Children’s Books

  1. The Borrowers — Mary Norton
  2. The Little Prince — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  3. Children of Noisy Village — Astrid Lindgren
  4. When Marnie Was There — Joan G. Robinson
  5. Swallows and Amazons — Arthur Ransome
  6. The Flying Classroom — Erich Kästner
  7. There Were Five of Us — Karel Poláček
  8. What the Neighbours Did, and Other Stories — Ann Philippa Pearce
  9. Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates — Mary Mapes Dodge
  10. The Secret Garden — Frances Hodgson Burnett
  11. Eagle of The Ninth — Rosemary Sutcliff
  12. The Treasure of the Nibelungs — Gustav Schalk
  13. The Three Musketeers — Alexandre Dumas, père
  14. A Wizard of Earthsea — Ursula K. Le Guin
  15. Les Princes du Vent — Michel-Aime Baudouy
  16. The Flambards Series — K. M. Peyton
  17. Souvenirs entomologiques — Jean Henri Fabre
  18. The Long Winter — Laura Ingalls Wilder
  19. A Norwegian Farm — Marie Hamsun
  20. Heidi — Johanna Spyri
  21. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer — Mark Twain
  22. Little Lord Fauntleroy — Frances Hodgson Burnett
  23. Tistou of the Green Thumbs — Maurice Druon
  24. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes — Arthur Conan Doyle
  25. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler — E. L. Konigsburg
  26. The Otterbury Incident — Cecil Day-Lewis
  27. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland — Lewis Carroll
  28. The Little Bookroom — Eleanor Farjeon
  29. The Forest is Alive or Twelve Months — Samuil Yakovlevich Marshak
  30. The Restaurant of Many Orders — Kenji Miyazawa
  31. Winnie-the-Pooh — A. A. Milne
  32. Nihon Ryōiki — Kyokai
  33. Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio — Pu Songling
  34. Nine Fairy Tales: And One More Thrown in For Good Measure — Karel Čapek
  35. The Man Who Has Planted Welsh Onions — Kim So-un
  36. Robinson Crusoe — Daniel Defoe
  37. The Hobbit — J. R. R. Tolkien
  38. Journey to the West — Wu Cheng’en
  39. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea — Jules Verne
  40. The Adventures of the Little Onion — Gianni Rodari
  41. Treasure Island — Robert Louis Stevenson
  42. The Ship that Flew — Hilda Winifred Lewis
  43. The Wind in the Willows — Kenneth Grahame
  44. The Little Humpbacked Horse — Pyotr Pavlovich Yershov (Ershoff)
  45. The Little White Horse — Elizabeth Goudge
  46. The Rose and the Ring — William Makepeace Thackeray
  47. The Radium Woman — Eleanor Doorly
  48. City Neighbor, The Story of Jane Addams — Clara Ingram Judson
  49. Ivan the Fool — Leo Tolstoy
  50. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle — Hugh Lofting

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2017.

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Classic Children’s Books Now Digitized and Put Online: Revisit Vintage Works from the 19th & 20th Centuries

Classic Children’s Books Now Digitized and Put Online: Revisit Vintage Works from the 19th & 20th Centuries

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  She’ll be appearing onstage in New York City this June as one of the clowns in Paul David Young’s Faust 3. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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How to Paint Like Yayoi Kusama, the Avant-Garde Japanese Artist

When Yayoi Kusama first arrived in New York, in the late nineteen-fifties, she must have sensed that she was in a practically ideal time and place to make abstract art. That would explain why she subsequently began creating a series of large paintings we now know as Infinity Nets, all of which consist solely of patterns of polka dots — or at least what look like patterns, and what look like polka dots, when viewed from a distance. Up close, there’s something quite different going on, something altogether more organic, irregular, and ever-shifting. and the best method of understanding it is to pick up a brush and paint an infinity net of your own.

You can learn how to do that by watching the video above, which comes from Coursera and the Museum of Modern Art’s online course “In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting.” In it, painter Corey D’Augustine goes through all the steps of executing a finished canvas in the style of Kusama’s Infinity Nets, which requires little conventional technical skill, but a great deal of patience.

D’Augustine suggests that you “lose yourself in the serial activity” of painting all these tiny shapes “as a way to quiet the mind.” Get deep enough into it, and “you won’t be thinking about your job or your children or whatever it is, whatever kind of stresses you have on your mind normally.

This therapeutic view isn’t a million miles from what Kusama has said of her own motivations for creating art. Even before launching into the Infinity Nets proper, she was painting polka-dot fields out of inspiration given to her by the hallucinations she’d been suffering since the age of ten. Now, at the age of 94, she’s long been a world-renowned artist, one who voluntarily resides at a mental-health facility when not at work in her studio further exploring the very same visual concepts with which she began. You can learn more about Kusama’s life from the material we’ve previously featured here on Open Culture, and if you want to go all the way into her world, there’s always her autobiography, Infinity Net.

Related content:

How Yayoi Kusama, Obsessed with Polka Dots, Became One of the Most Radical Artists of All Time

The MoMA Teaches You How to Paint Like Pollock, Rothko, de Kooning & Other Abstract Painters

New Hilma af Klint Documentary Explores the Life & Art of the Trailblazing Abstract Artist

Japanese Computer Artist Makes “Digital Mondrians” in 1964: When Giant Mainframe Computers Were First Used to Create Art

Wabi-Sabi: A Short Film on the Beauty of Traditional Japan

Steve Martin on How to Look at Abstract Art

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.

Wes Anderson Re-Creates The Truman Show, Armageddon & Out of Sight as Stage Plays Performed by the Cast of Rushmore (1999)

Nominees of the 1999 MTV Movie Awards included Adam Sandler, Liv Tyler, Chris Tucker, and Jennifer Love Hewitt to mention just a few of the names in a veritable who’s-who of turn-of-the-millennium American pop culture. But for the teenage cinephiles watching that night, the highlight of the broadcast was surely a set of brief skits performed by “the Max Fischer Players.” Directed by Wes Anderson, who had been named Best New Filmmaker during the ceremony of three years before, they present low-budget but high-spirited interpretations of three of the motion pictures up for honors: Out of Sight, The Truman Show, and Armageddon.

Having been a teenage cinephile myself at the time, I can tell you that none of those movies made as much an impact on me as Anderson’s own Rushmore, which introduced the hyper-ambitious young slacker Max Fischer to the world. In it, Max and his players adapt Sidney Lumet’s Serpico, and later put on an elaborate (and explosive) pastiche of various Vietnam War pictures.

Twenty-five years ago, few of us had identified in the painstakingly ramshackle look and feel of these productions the seed of what would grow into Anderson’s signature aesthetic. But it was clear that, if the Max Fischer Players method were applied to the Hollywood blockbusters of the day, amusing incongruity would result.

These skits prominently feature Mason Gamble and Sara Tanaka, both of whom retired from acting a few years after giving their memorable performances in Rushmore. But Jason Schwartzman, who will no doubt forever be identified with Max Fischer, has remained an active member of Anderson’s own group of players, and even plays a starring role once again in Anderson’s new film Asteroid City, which comes out this summer. The Max Fisher Players’ parodies were included on the DVD of Rushmore released by the Criterion Collection — an honor still denied, one might add, to the recipient of the 1999 MTV Movie Award for Best Movie, There’s Something About Mary. (But not to Armageddon, which just goes to show how unpredictable the favor of cinephilia can be.)

via Reddit

Related content:

Wes Anderson’s Breakthrough Film Rushmore Revisited in Five Video Essays: It Came Out 20 Years Ago Today

Wes Anderson Explains How He Writes and Directs Movies, and What Goes Into His Distinctive Filmmaking Style

Wes Anderson’s Shorts Films & Commercials: A Playlist of 8 Short Andersonian Works

Wes Anderson Goes Sci-Fi in 1950s America: Watch the Trailer for His New Film Asteroid City

Why Do Wes Anderson Movies Look Like That?

Watch the First Two Hours of MTV’s Inaugural Broadcast (August 1, 1981)

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.

An Introduction to the Painting That Changed Georgia O’Keeffe’s Career: Ram’s Head, White Hollyhock-Hills

Public recognition is an all too rare reward for many artists, but it carries with it a risk of being widely misunderstood.

Georgia O’Keeffe gained renown for her large-scale flower paintings in the 1920s, selling six images of calla lilies for $25,000.

Her husband Alfred Stieglitz, an influential photographer and gallery owner 24 years her senior, created a sensation when he exhibited these floral images alongside his sensuous nude portraits of her, fomenting an erotic association that has been near impossible to shake.

O’Keefe maintained that the close-up flower views were abstractions, similar in spirit to the modernist photographs of her husband’s contemporaries Edward Weston and Paul Strand, but as art historian Randall C. Griffin points out, Stieglitz was inclined to see things differently.

Stieglitz and his circle belonged to a tradition that used themes of sexuality in their art as a declaration of being avant-garde. Stieglitz read virtually all of Freud’s books, as well as Havelock Ellis’s six-volume Studies in the Psychology of Sex, which argues that art is driven by sexual energy. Thus, for Stieglitz, sex was a liberating source of creativity. O’Keeffe may or may not have thought of Freud when she painted her flowers, but the psychologist’s writings were a cultural touchstone at the time, with his ideas widely known in a simplified fashion.

Curator James Payne, creator of the Great Art Explained web series, brings this context to his examination of O’Keeffe’s 1935 painting Ram’s Head, White Hollyhock-Hills.

By the time she began work on it, O’Keeffe had forged a deep, spiritual connection to the New Mexican desert. Its alien landscape offered respite from Stieglitz’s extra-marital affairs and the mental health issues that had plagued her in New York.

The Southwest provided abundant fresh subject matter. She drove her Ford Model A for miles across the desert, stopping to collect the bleached bones of animals who had perished under drought conditions. Unlike Farm Security Agency photographers such as Arthur Rothstein, O’Keeffe was not interested in using these bones to document the catastrophe of the Dust Bowl, or even to meditate on mortality:

The bones do not symbolize death to me. They are shapes that I enjoy. It never occurs to me that they have anything to do with death. They’re very lively. . . .They please me, and I have enjoyed them very much in relation to the sky.


Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses is a lovely still life, a study in white. The same skull shows up transposed (in Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue) against a red, white, and blue background.

“I’ll tell you what went on in my so-called mind when I did my paintings of animal skulls” she told the New Yorker’s Calvin Tomkins in a 1974 interview:

There was a lot of talk in New York then—during the late twenties and early thirties—about the Great American Painting. It was like the Great American Novel. People wanted to ‘do’ the American scene. I had gone back and forth across the country several times by then, and some of the current ideas about the American scene struck me as pretty ridiculous. To them, the American scene was a dilapidated house with a broken-down buckboard out front and a horse that looked like a skeleton. I knew America was very rich, very lush. Well, I started painting my skulls about this time. First, I put a horse’s skull against a blue-cloth background, and then I used a cow’s skull. I had lived in the cattle country—Amarillo was the crossroads of cattle shipping, and you could see the cattle coming in across the range for days at a time. For goodness’ sake, I thought, the people who talk about the American scene don’t know anything about it. So, in a way, that cow’s skull was my joke on the American scene, and it gave me pleasure to make it in red, white, and blue.

Ram’s Head, White Hollyhock-Hills presents a more nuanced vision than Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue, and represents a turning point in O’Keeffe’s art.

As Payne observes, the dark clouds gathered above the red hills visible from her desert ranch promise a much longed-for rain.

The hollyhock she plucked from her garden is a symbol of rebirth and fertility.

Their floating placement has drawn comparisons to Surrealism, but O’Keefe asserted that the composition “just sort of grew together”, telling art historian Katherine Kuh, “I was in the surrealist show when I’d never heard of surrealism. I’m not a joiner.”

Ram’s Head, White Hollyhock-Hills met with acclaim when it was shown at Stieglitz’s Gallery 291 in 1936. The New Yorker hailed it as one of O’Keeffe’s most brilliant paintings in form and execution, and Stieglitz’s friend, painter Marsden Hartley, might well have intuited something about the direction O’Keeffe was heading in when he described the image as “a transfiguration:”

…as if the bone, divested of its physical usages—had suddenly learned of its own esoteric significance, had discovered the meaning of its own integration through the processes of disintegration, ascending to the sphere of its own reality, in the presence of skies that are not troubled, being accustomed to superior spectacles—and of hills that are ready to receive.

Related Content 

Explore 1,100 Works of Art by Georgia O’Keeffe: They’re Now Digitized and Free to View Online

The Real Georgia O’Keeffe: The Artist Reveals Herself in Vintage Documentary Clips

Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life in Art, a Short Documentary on the Painter Narrated by Gene Hackman

How Georgia O’Keeffe Became Georgia O’Keeffe: An Animated Video Tells the Story

Browse Paintings, Photos, Papers & More in the Archive of Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe, America’s Original Art Power Couple

– 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.

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