The Size of Asteroids Compared to New York City

The small­est aster­oid mea­sures 4.1 meters in diam­e­ter; the largest 939 kilo­me­ters, or 580 miles. Cre­at­ed by 3D ani­ma­tor Alvaro Gra­cia Mon­toya, the data on aster­oid sizes was all gleaned from Wikipedia…

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via Laugh­ing Squid

The Peanuts Gang Performs Pink Floyd’s Classic Rock Opera in the Mashup “Charlie Brown vs. The Wall

YouTu­ber Gar­ren Lazar has hit upon a bril­liant idea—take clips from Charles M. Schulz’s uni­ver­sal­ly beloved Peanuts car­toons and cut them togeth­er with uni­ver­sal­ly beloved (more or less) pop­u­lar anthems like “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody,” “Don’t Stop Believ­ing,” “Free­bird,” and “Stayin’ Alive.”

The huge emo­tions of these songs suit the over­sized feel­ings of the comic’s char­ac­ters, who were, all of them, vari­a­tions of Schulz him­self. As Jeff Kin­ney writes in his intro­duc­tion to Chip Kidd’s book, Only What’s Nec­es­sary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts, the strip and its many ani­mat­ed spin-offs con­sti­tute “per­haps the most rich­ly lay­ered auto­bi­og­ra­phy of all time.”

It’s fit­ting then that one of Lazar’s ear­li­er Peanuts mashups involved anoth­er such rich­ly auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal work, Pink Floyd’s rock opera The Wall, an album full of per­son­al and col­lec­tive pain, deep fear, alien­ation, inse­cu­ri­ty, and obser­va­tions about just how oppres­sive child­hood can be. Just like… well, just like Peanuts.

Schulz’s work has always tran­scend­ed the expec­ta­tions of his form, becom­ing what might even be called com­ic strip opera. His fifty years of draw­ing and writ­ing Peanuts make it “the longest sto­ry ever told by one human being,” says cul­tur­al his­to­ri­an Robert Thomp­son.

The cre­ator him­self had great ambi­tions for his col­lec­tions of “lit­tle inci­dents,” as he called the strips. He hat­ed the name Peanuts, which was forced upon him by Unit­ed Fea­ture Syn­di­cate in the 50s. Schulz pre­ferred his orig­i­nal title Li’l Folks, which he said imbued the strip “with dig­ni­ty and sig­nif­i­cance. ‘Peanuts’ made it sound too insignif­i­cant.”

This was essen­tial human dra­ma, writ small, and it amount­ed to a whole lot more than “peanuts.” Claire Cat­ter­all, cura­tor of a Schulz exhib­it in Lon­don, insists she’s “not being iron­ic” in call­ing the strip “Great Art.” Schulz “intro­duced children—and adults alike—to some of the biggest philo­soph­i­cal ideas.” His “influ­ence on cul­ture and soci­ety is noth­ing short of seis­mic.”

Peanuts’ rich­ness emerges in grand themes that took shape over decades. Bruce Handy writes of the Peanuts’ char­ac­ters’ “nihilism,” call­ing Schulz’s world a “the­ater of cru­el­ty.” (Their unhap­pi­ness only seems to lift dur­ing musi­cal num­bers.)  Jonathan Mer­ritt describes the strip’s reli­gious mis­sion, Maria Popo­va writes of its brave Civ­il Rights stand and its cul­tur­al evo­lu­tion, and Cameron Laux com­piles a list of Peanuts philoso­phies, from Exis­ten­tial­ism to the impor­tance of friend­ship and self-reflec­tion.

Nor does Schulz escape com­par­isons to writ­ers of great literature—including sev­er­al whose names may have popped up as ref­er­ences in the strip, like­ly in the word bub­bles of the pre­co­cious­ly eru­dite Schroed­er or Linus. Kin­ney com­pares Peanuts to Shake­speare, Laux com­pares it to Sartre and Beck­ett, and Stu­art Jef­fries at The Guardian writes, “Cer­tain­ly, Ibsen and Strind­berg made a lot of sense to me as an adult because I was raised on Peanuts.”

If Schulz’s com­ic strip and car­toons can evoke these august lit­er­ary names, then why not the names Roger Waters and David Gilmour? If any­one has ever felt like just anoth­er brick in the wall, it’s Char­lie Brown. Mar­vel at Lazar’s edit­ing skills in “Char­lie Brown vs. The Wall.” The Peanuts gang, and Schulz, may have pre­ferred jazz, but one can see in their exis­ten­tial angst and fre­quent bouts of despair the same kind of dis­il­lu­sion­ment Roger Waters ham­mers home in his mas­ter­piece. Only, the for­mer “Li’l Folks” and their cre­ator had a much bet­ter sense of humor about it all.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Peanuts Rock: Watch the Peanuts Gang Play Clas­sic Rock Songs by Queen, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jour­ney & More

The Vel­vet Under­ground as Peanuts Char­ac­ters: Snoopy Morphs Into Lou Reed, Char­lie Brown Into Andy Warhol

Umber­to Eco Explains the Poet­ic Pow­er of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts

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

Judith Butler on Nonviolence and Gender: Hear Conversation with The Partially Examined Life

A new Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life inter­view with Judith But­ler, Max­ine Elliot Pro­fes­sor of Com­par­a­tive Lit­er­a­ture at UC Berke­ley, dis­cuss­es the ethics and psy­chol­o­gy of non­vi­o­lence. This fol­lows a three-part treat­ment on the pod­cast of her ear­li­er work.

For a first-hand account of her new book, you can watch two 2016 lec­tures that she gave at UC Berke­ley on ear­ly ver­sions of the text:

Watch on YouTube. Watch the sec­ond lec­ture.

But­ler has been a tremen­dous­ly influ­en­tial (and con­tro­ver­sial) fig­ure in ongo­ing intel­lec­tu­al debates about gen­der and sex­u­al­i­ty. Her 1990 book Gen­der Trou­ble argues that gen­der is a “per­for­mance,” i.e. a habit­u­al group of behav­iors that reflect and rein­force social gen­der norms. Prac­tices such as dress­ing in drag sat­i­rize this per­for­mance, show­ing how even in “nor­mal” sit­u­a­tions, “act­ing fem­i­nine” is not a reflec­tion of one’s inner essence but is a mat­ter of putting on a dis­play of cul­tur­al­ly expect­ed man­ner­isms. The drag per­former (on But­ler’s analy­sis) may con­vey an absur­di­ty that decon­structs the expect­ed accord of bio­log­i­cal sex, sex­u­al pref­er­ence, and gen­der iden­ti­ty: “I’m dress­ing like a woman but am real­ly a man; also, in my every­day life, I dress like a man but am real­ly (in the way I actu­al­ly feel about myself) am a woman.” Most con­tro­ver­sial­ly, as a post-struc­tural­ist, But­ler argues that it’s not the case that there is an uncon­tro­ver­sial bio­log­i­cal fact of sex that then cul­ture con­nects gen­der behav­iors to. Instead, all of our under­stand­ing of the so-called bio­log­i­cal fact comes through the cul­tur­al lens of gen­der; we lit­er­al­ly can’t under­stand any such raw, bio­log­i­cal fact apart from its cul­tur­al asso­ci­a­tions. In oth­er words, it’s not just gen­der that’s a social con­struc­tion, but bio­log­i­cal sex itself.

This posi­tion has been attacked both from the posi­tion of naive, com­mon-sense sci­en­tism (of course bio­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences result­ing in babies isn’t just a mat­ter of what con­cepts a par­tic­u­lar soci­ety has hap­pened to devel­op) and as a moral haz­ard and exis­ten­tial threat: In 2017 while at a con­fer­ence in Brazil, far-right Chris­t­ian groups protest­ed her pres­ence and even burned her in effi­gy.

It should also be not­ed that But­ler’s take on gen­der departs from cur­rent, intu­itive expla­na­tions of the phe­nom­e­na of trans­gen­derism, i.e. that one might feel their “true gen­der” to be dif­fer­ent from what soci­ety has assigned them. For But­ler, there is no inner gen­der essence that may or may not be dis­played authen­ti­cal­ly. Instead, the “inner” is a cul­tur­al con­struc­tion, itself built out of our exter­nal per­for­mances and the dynam­ics of our psy­chic life, which she dis­cuss­es with­in the psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic tra­di­tion.

This use of psy­cho­analy­sis to explain our cul­tur­al life per­sists in new­ly released book, The Force of Non­vi­o­lence: An Ethico-Polit­i­cal Bind. Though the the­o­ry of non­vi­o­lent polit­i­cal protest may seem a far-flung top­ic from gen­der stud­ies, both involve the process of defin­ing an iden­ti­ty. In the case of gen­der, one defines one­self as a par­tic­u­lar gen­der or as being of a par­tic­u­lar sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion (as opposed to leav­ing these attrib­ut­es ambigu­ous and flu­id) by grasp­ing onto a strict social divi­sion between the avail­able sex­u­al options and declar­ing that one of them is “not me.” In But­ler’s dis­cus­sion of non­vi­o­lence, she instead focus­es on what counts as “self” in the usu­al­ly excused excep­tion to non­vi­o­lence, self-defense. She’s crit­i­ciz­ing a posi­tion where most of us claim to be non­vi­o­lent (and claim that our gov­ern­ment is non­vi­o­lent) because we are not the aggres­sors: We will fight only when we are attacked or threat­ened.

It’s not that But­ler is cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly against using vio­lence to defend one­self, one’s loved ones, one’s coun­try, or any­one else who is in dan­ger of being seri­ous­ly harmed. She is, how­ev­er, argu­ing for an eth­ic of non­vi­o­lence that clear­ly under­stands our inter­re­lat­ed­ness with every­one else in the world, even and espe­cial­ly those that we might think out­side our cir­cle of con­cern. It’s too easy for us to define “self” as “peo­ple like us,” which then leaves out the rest of the pop­u­lace (and the non-human pop­u­la­tion, and the envi­ron­ment more gen­er­al­ly) from inclu­sion in our “self-defense” cal­cu­la­tions of when vio­lence might be jus­ti­fied. But­ler ana­lyzes the fear of immi­grants, for instance, as a “phan­tas­mat­ic trans­mu­ta­tion” that projects the poten­tial for vio­lence that always exists with­in our imme­di­ate social rela­tions (and even our own rage against our­selves) onto an invad­ing Oth­er. As in the case of gen­der, she wants us instead to under­stand the dynam­ics of these self-and-oth­er attri­bu­tions, to behave more ratio­nal­ly and humane­ly, and to chan­nel our unavoid­able rage con­struc­tive­ly into force­ful non-vio­lence, or what Gand­hi calls Satya­gra­ha, “polite insis­tence on the truth.” The goal of this type of polit­i­cal action is con­ver­sion, not coer­cion, and it’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion and respect­ing even a hat­ed oth­er as a griev­able equal that pro­vides a real con­trast to vio­lence. She wants us to rec­og­nize the poten­tial for vio­lence with­in each rela­tion­ship, at each moment, and to choose oth­er­wise.

The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life Phi­los­o­phy Pod­cast began a dis­cus­sion of the gen­er­al con­cept of social con­struc­tion back with in Oco­to­ber with episode 227, fol­low­ing this up with appli­ca­tions of this con­cept to race (dis­cussing Kwame Antho­ny Appi­ah and Charles Mills with in episode 228 with guest Cole­man Hugh­es), to the devel­op­ment of sci­ence (con­sid­er­ing Bruno Latour on episode 230 with guest Pro­fes­sor Lyn­da Olman), and to gen­der (con­sid­er­ing Simone de Beau­voir’s The Sec­ond Sex for episode 232 with Pro­fes­sor Jen­nifer Hansen. Pro­fes­sor Hansen then con­tin­ued with hosts Mark Lin­sen­may­er, Wes Alwan, Seth Paskin, and Dylan Casey to dis­cuss But­ler’s Gen­der Trou­ble. For fur­ther expla­na­tion of The Force of Non­vi­o­lence, see episode 236 at partiallyexaminedlife.com.

Mark Lin­sen­may­er is the host of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life, Pret­ty Much Pop, and Naked­ly Exam­ined Music pod­casts. He is a writer and musi­cian work­ing out of Madi­son, Wis­con­sin. Read more Open Cul­ture posts about The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life.

Image by Solomon Grundy.

The Opera Database: Find Scores, Libretti & Synopses for Thousands of Operas Free Online


It’s not espe­cial­ly hard to get inex­pen­sive tick­ets to the opera if you live in, say, New York. But it’s not so easy if you live hun­dreds of miles from a major opera house. Opera’s rar­i­ty, how­ev­er, does not make it a “more ele­vat­ed” form than, say, musi­cal the­ater, argues Antho­ny Tom­masi­ni in The New York Times. Musi­cals may have mar­ket share, and opera may bare­ly sus­tain itself from a dwin­dling pool of pri­vate donors, but the com­ic operas of Mozart once played broad­ly to mass audi­ences, “and there is no big­ger crowd pleas­er than Leoncavallo’s impas­sioned ‘Pagli­ac­ci.’”

The major for­mal dif­fer­ence between musi­cal the­ater and opera is that “in opera, music is the dri­ving force; in musi­cal the­ater, words come first. This explains why for cen­turies opera-goers have revered works writ­ten in lan­guages they do not speak,” even in a time before super­ti­tles. “As long as you basi­cal­ly know what is going on and what is more or less being said, you can be swept away by a great opera, not just by music, but by vis­cer­al dra­ma.” In order for that to hap­pen, you’ll need to see and hear much more than high­lights and great­est hits. And a lit­tle bit of con­text goes a long way.

If you don’t live in a major city or can’t get to the opera often, you can watch full-length per­for­mances online at projects like The Opera Plat­form, which not only includes filmed pop­u­lar operas like Verdi’s La Travi­a­ta, but also, as Col­in Mar­shall not­ed in an ear­li­er Open Cul­ture post, “pro­vides a host of sup­ple­men­tary mate­ri­als, includ­ing doc­u­men­tary and his­tor­i­cal mate­ri­als that put the month’s fea­tured opera in con­text.” If you’re ready to dig deep­er, how­ev­er, or are already a schol­ar of the form, or if you, your­self, hap­pen to be an opera singer, then you will absolute­ly want to vis­it the Opera Data­base.

The archival resource describes its pur­pose as three­fold:

  • To cre­ate a com­pre­hen­sive data­base of operas.
  • To cat­a­log arias and cre­ate PDFs from Pub­lic Domain sources, for the pur­pose of broad­en­ing the opera singer’s audi­tion reper­toire and seek­ing out rarely heard pieces.
  • To cre­ate a repos­i­to­ry for oper­at­ic infor­ma­tion, includ­ing libret­ti, scores, and syn­opses.

The drop­down menus on the homepage’s search field alone give you a sense of how expan­sive the data­base is—with dozens of lan­guages, from Ara­bic and Azer­bai­jani to Uzbek and Viet­namese, dozens of nation­al­i­ties, and thou­sands of entries from over four cen­turies. Most of these works will be unknown even to life­long opera lovers who have only lis­tened to the Euro­pean clas­sics. And sev­er­al famous mod­ern com­posers, like John Adams of Nixon in Chi­na fame, have shown how rel­e­vant the form still is for con­tem­po­rary con­cerns and cos­tumes.

All that said, only a por­tion of the entries have links to syn­opses and libret­ti. Search major titles like Nixon in Chi­na or Puccini’s La boheme and you’ll find pdf scores and libret­ti trans­lat­ed into sev­er­al lan­guages. Search any­thing more obscure than these block­busters and you’ll only turn up the most basic infor­ma­tion on the com­pos­er, nation­al­i­ty, and year of com­po­si­tion. Nonethe­less the Opera Data­base has some­thing for every­one, from the opera-curi­ous to the opera-adept, with a sep­a­rate aria data­base that allows users to search voice types from bass to sopra­no in twelve lan­guages.

Whether you’re look­ing to expand your knowl­edge beyond “kill the wab­bit” par­o­dies or expand your already advanced reper­toire of mate­r­i­al, you’ll find this online opera cat­a­logue offers a wealth of infor­ma­tion for bet­ter under­stand­ing an emo­tion­al­ly engag­ing, if endan­gered, cul­tur­al form.

via Nico­la Fred­do

Relat­ed Con­tent:

New Web Site, “The Opera Plat­form,” Lets You Watch La Travi­a­ta and Oth­er First-Class Operas Free Online

Stephen Fry Hosts “The Sci­ence of Opera,” a Dis­cus­sion of How Music Moves Us Phys­i­cal­ly to Tears

J.S. Bach’s Com­ic Opera, “The Cof­fee Can­ta­ta,” Sings the Prais­es of the Great Stim­u­lat­ing Drink (1735)

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

Watch the Spectacular Hieronymus Bosch Parade, Which Floats Through the Garden of Earthly Delights Painter’s Hometown Every Year

Whether paint­ing scenes of par­adise, damna­tion, or some­where in between, Hierony­mus Bosch real­ized elab­o­rate­ly grotesque visions that fas­ci­nate us more than 500 years lat­er. But no mat­ter how long we gaze upon his work, espe­cial­ly his large-for­mat altar­piece trip­tychs, most of us would­n’t want to spend our lives in his world. But a group of ded­i­cat­ed Bosch fans has made it pos­si­ble to live in it for three days a year, when the annu­al Bosch Parade floats down the Dom­mel Riv­er. Last year that small water­way host­ed “a sto­ry in motion, pre­sent­ed on 14 sep­a­rate tableaux. They shape a uni­ver­sal tale of pow­er and coun­ter­force, bat­tle and rap­proche­ment, chaos and hope. From the chaos after the bat­tle a new order shall emerge.”

All images © Bosch Parade, Ben Niehuis

In prac­ti­cal terms, writes Colos­sal’s Grace Ebert, that meant “a musi­cal per­for­mance played on a par­tial­ly sub­merged piano and a scene with two peo­ple strad­dling enor­mous horns,” as well as a dozen oth­er water-based vignettes that passed through the Dutch town of ‘s‑Hertogenbosch, Bosch’s birth­place and lat­er his name­sake.

Every­thing that rolled down the Dom­mel was designed by a group of artists select­ed, accord­ing to the parade’s web site, “on the basis of their com­ple­men­tary char­ac­ter­is­tics, the var­i­ous dis­ci­plines they rep­re­sent and their clear match with the Bosch Parade artis­tic ‘DNA’ in the way they work and per­form.” As you can see in the 2019 Bosch Parade’s pro­gram, the artists’ cre­ations draw on 15th-cen­tu­ry con­cep­tions of life, art, tech­nol­o­gy, and the human body while also tak­ing place unmis­tak­ably in the 21st.

Though Bosch’s paint­ings look alive even in their motion­less­ness, to appre­ci­ate a parade requires see­ing it in action. Hence the videos here of the 2015 Bosch Parade: at the top of the post is a short teas­er; just above is a longer com­pi­la­tion of some of the even­t’s most Boschi­an moments, which puts the painter’s images side-by-side with the floats they inspired. View­ers will rec­og­nize ele­ments of The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights, Bosch’s sin­gle best-known work, but also of The Hay­wain Trip­tych, The Sev­en Dead­ly Sins and the Four Last Things, and The Temp­ta­tions of St. Antho­ny. As art his­to­ry buffs know, some of those paint­ings may or may not have been paint­ed by Bosch him­self, but by one of his fol­low­ers or con­tem­po­rary imi­ta­tors.

But to the extent that all these images can inspire mod­ern-day painters, sculp­tors, musi­cians, dancers, and spec­ta­cle-mak­ers, they enrich the Boschi­an real­i­ty — a real­i­ty of water and fire, bod­ies and body parts, men and mon­sters, con­trap­tions and pro­jec­tions, and even video games and the inter­net — that comes to life every sum­mer in ‘s‑Hertogenbosch. Or rather, most every sum­mer: the next Bosch Parade is sched­uled not for June of this year but June of 2021. But when that time comes around around it will last for four days, from the 17th through the 20th. That infor­ma­tion comes from the parade’s Twit­ter account, which in the run-up to the event will pre­sum­ably also post answers to all the most impor­tant ques­tions — such as whether next year will fea­ture any live but­tock music.

via Colos­sal

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hierony­mus Bosch Fig­urines: Col­lect Sur­re­al Char­ac­ters from Bosch’s Paint­ings & Put Them on Your Book­shelf

Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Cre­ates Stun­ning Real­is­tic Por­traits That Recre­ate Sur­re­al Scenes from Hierony­mus Bosch Paint­ings

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of Hierony­mus Bosch’s Bewil­der­ing Mas­ter­piece The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights

Take a Mul­ti­me­dia Tour of the But­tock Song in Hierony­mus Bosch’s Paint­ing The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights

Liv­ing Paint­ings: 13 Car­avag­gio Works of Art Per­formed by Real-Life Actors

Flash­mob Recre­ates Rembrandt’s The Night Watch in a Dutch Shop­ping Mall

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

A Tribute to NASA’s Katherine Johnson (RIP): Learn About the Extraordinary Mathematician Who Broke Through America’s Race & Gender Barriers

We don’t call it a tragedy when a renowned per­son dies after the cen­tu­ry mark, espe­cial­ly if that per­son is bril­liant NASA math­e­mati­cian Kather­ine John­son, who passed away yes­ter­day at the ven­er­a­ble age of 101. Her death is a great his­tor­i­cal loss, but by almost any mea­sure we would con­sid­er reach­ing such a fin­ish line a tri­umphant end to an already hero­ic life.

A prodi­gy and pio­neer, John­son joined the all-black “human com­put­ing” sec­tion at NASA’s pre­de­ces­sor, the Nation­al Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee for Aero­nau­tics, in 1953. She would go on to cal­cu­late the launch win­dows and return tra­jec­to­ries for Alan Shepard’s first space­flight, John Glenn’s first trip into orbit, and the Apol­lo Lunar Module’s first return from the Moon.

All this with­out the ben­e­fit of any machine com­put­ing pow­er to speak of and—as Hid­den Fig­ures dra­ma­tizes through the pow­er­ful per­for­mance of Tara­ji P. Hen­son as Johnson—while fac­ing the dual bar­ri­ers of racism and sex­ism her white male boss­es and co-work­ers blithe­ly ignored or delib­er­ate­ly upheld.

John­son and her fel­low “com­put­ers,” with­out whom none of these major mile­stones would have been pos­si­ble, had to fight not only for recog­ni­tion and a seat at the table, but for the basic accom­mo­da­tions we take for grant­ed in every work­place.

Her con­tri­bu­tions didn’t end when the space race was over—her work was crit­i­cal to the Space Shut­tle pro­gram and she even worked on a mis­sion to Mars. But John­son her­self kept things in per­spec­tive, telling Peo­ple mag­a­zine in the inter­view above from 2016, “I’m 98. My great­est accom­plish­ment is stay­ing alive.” Still, she lived to see her­self turned into the hero of that year’s crit­i­cal­ly laud­ed film based on the best­selling book of the same name by Mar­got Lee Shetterly—decades after she com­plet­ed her most ground­break­ing work.

Shetterly’s book, writes his­to­ri­an of tech­nol­o­gy Marie Hicks, casts John­son and her fel­low black women math­e­mati­cians “as pro­tag­o­nists in the grand dra­ma of Amer­i­can tech­no­log­i­cal his­to­ry rather than mere details.” By its very nature, a Hol­ly­wood film adap­ta­tion will leave out impor­tant details and take lib­er­ties with the facts for dra­mat­ic effect and mass appeal. The fea­ture treat­ment moves audi­ences, but it also soothes them with feel-good moments that “keep racism at arm’s length from a nar­ra­tive that, with­out it, would nev­er have exist­ed.”

The point is not that John­son and her col­leagues decid­ed to make racism and sex­ism cen­tral to their sto­ries; they sim­ply want­ed to be rec­og­nized for their con­tri­bu­tions and be giv­en the same access and oppor­tu­ni­ties as their white male col­leagues. But to suc­ceed, they had to work togeth­er instead of com­pet­ing with each oth­er. Despite its sim­pli­fi­ca­tions and gloss­es over Cold War his­to­ry and the depth of prej­u­dice in Amer­i­can soci­ety, Hid­den Fig­ures does some­thing very dif­fer­ent from most biopics, as Atlantic edi­tor Leni­ka Cruz writes, telling “a sto­ry of bril­liance, but not of ego. It’s a sto­ry of strug­gle and willpow­er, but not of indi­vid­ual glo­ry… it looks close­ly at the remark­able per­son in the con­text of a com­mu­ni­ty.”

Kather­ine John­son lived her life as a tremen­dous exam­ple for young women of col­or who excel at math and sci­ence but feel exclud­ed from the estab­lish­ment. On her 98th birth­day, she “want­ed to share a mes­sage to the young women of the world,” says the nar­ra­tor of the 20th Cen­tu­ry Stu­dios video above: “Now it’s your turn.” And, she might have added, “you don’t have to do it alone.” Hear Hid­den Fig­ures author Shet­ter­ly dis­cuss the crit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions of Kather­ine and her extra­or­di­nary “human com­put­er” col­leagues in the inter­view below, and learn more about John­son’s life and lega­cy in the fea­turette at the top and at her NASA biog­ra­phy here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:   

Women Sci­en­tists Launch a Data­base Fea­tur­ing the Work of 9,000 Women Work­ing in the Sci­ences

“The Matil­da Effect”: How Pio­neer­ing Women Sci­en­tists Have Been Denied Recog­ni­tion and Writ­ten Out of Sci­ence His­to­ry

Women’s Hid­den Con­tri­bu­tions to Mod­ern Genet­ics Get Revealed by New Study: No Longer Will They Be Buried in the Foot­notes

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

Free Courses on the Coronavirus: What You Need to Know About the Emerging Pandemic

The coro­n­avirus has spread out of Chi­na, into South Korea, Japan and now Italy. We’re set­tling into the real­i­ty that we’re like­ly fac­ing a pan­dem­ic. It’s time to edu­cate ourselves–to take some free cours­es on COVID-19.

In response to the out­break, Impe­r­i­al Col­lege Lon­don has put togeth­er a free course (offered through Cours­era) called “Sci­ence Mat­ters: Let’s Talk About COVID-19.” The course will teach you the “sci­ence under­pin­ning the nov­el Coro­n­avirus out­break,” so that you can under­stand “how the spread of the epi­dem­ic is mod­eled, how trans­mis­si­bil­i­ty of infec­tions is esti­mat­ed, what the chal­lenges are in esti­mat­ing the case fatal­i­ty ratio, and also … the impor­tance of com­mu­ni­ty involve­ment in respond­ing to the epi­dem­ic.” You can get start­ed with this course right now.

Alter­na­tive­ly you can sign up for COVID-19: Tack­ling the Nov­el Coro­n­avirus. Cre­at­ed by Future­Learn and The Lon­don School of Hygiene and Trop­i­cal Med­i­cine, this course looks at “how COVID-19 emerged, was iden­ti­fied and spreads, the pub­lic health mea­sures for the virus world­wide, and what is need­ed to address COVID-19 and pre­vent it [from] spread­ing.” Although the course is now open for enroll­ment, it won’t offi­cial­ly start until March 22.

Both cours­es will be added to our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Note: The Uni­ver­si­ty of Hong Kong also offer a course on Epi­demics.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

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, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Inter­ac­tive Web Site Tracks the Glob­al Spread of the Coro­n­avirus: Cre­at­ed and Sup­port­ed by Johns Hop­kins

 

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Conquer Your Vertigo and Watch this Dazzling Footage of Construction Workers Atop the Chrysler Building in 1929

Paris has the gar­goyles of Notre Dame.

New York City has eight art-deco eagles pro­trud­ing from the Chrysler Build­ing’s 61st floor.

These mighty stain­less steel guardians seem impres­sive­ly sol­id until you watch con­struc­tion work­ers muscling them into place on April 3, 1930 in the Fox Movi­etone news­reel footage above.

For­get being stur­dy enough to serve as a time trav­el div­ing board for a very freaked out Will Smith in Men in Black III

It now seems a mir­a­cle that no unsus­pect­ing pedes­tri­ans have been crushed by an art-deco eagle head crash­ing uncer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly down to Lex­ing­ton Avenue in the mid­dle of rush hour.

Also that no work­ers died on the job, giv­en how quick­ly the build­ing went up and the rel­a­tive lack of safe­ty equip­ment on dis­play… no word on ampu­tat­ed fin­gers, but it’s not hard to imag­ine giv­en that only one of the guys help­ing out with the eagle appears to be wear­ing gloves.

In fact, as author Vin­cent Cur­cio describes in Chrysler: The Life and Times of an Auto­mo­tive Genius, the job site boast­ed a num­ber of inno­v­a­tive safe­ty mea­sures, such as scaf­folds with guardrails, tar­pau­lin-cov­ered plank roofs, wire net­ting between the toe boards, a hos­pi­tal on-loca­tion, and a bul­letin board for safe­ty-relat­ed updates. Founder Wal­ter Chrysler was as proud of this work­place con­sci­en­tious­ness as he was of the 4‑floors per week speed with which his build­ing was erect­ed:

In an arti­cle called “Is Safe­ty on Your Pay­roll?” He spoke of star­ing up at work­ers on the scaf­fold­ing with a friend on the street below. “‘My, that’s a risky job,’ my com­pan­ion remarked. ‘A man just about takes his life in his hands work­ing on a build­ing like this.’”

“‘I sup­pose it does seem that way,’ I replied, ‘But it’s no so dan­ger­ous as you think. If you knew the pre­cau­tions we have tak­en to pro­tect those work­ers, you might change your mind… not a sin­gle life has been lost in con­struct­ing the steel frame­work of that build­ing.’” To give an idea of how much of an achieve­ment this was, it should be not­ed that the rule of thumb at that time was one death for every floor above fif­teen in the con­struc­tion of a build­ing; by this mea­sure the Chrysler Build­ing should have been respon­si­ble for six­ty-two deaths.

By con­trast, the guys Fox Movi­etone filmed seem hap­py to play up the ver­tig­i­nous nature of their work for the cam­era, edg­ing out onto gird­ers and con­vers­ing casu­al­ly atop pipes, as if seat­ed astride a 1000-foot tall jun­gle gym:

“Gosh, that’s a long way to the street, boys.”

“How’d ya like to fall down there?”

“Whad­daya think, I’m an angel?

“Well, you’re liable to be an angel any minute.”

“You’ll break the alti­tude record going down-“

“Ha ha, yeah, maybe!”

While our appetite for this vin­tage blus­ter is bot­tom­less, it’s worth not­ing that Movi­etone usu­al­ly issued those appear­ing in pri­ma­ry posi­tions a cou­ple of lines of script­ed dia­logue.

What would those work­ers think of OSHA’s cur­rent safe­ty stan­dards for the con­struc­tion indus­try?

Fall pro­tec­tion is still the most com­mon­ly cit­ed stan­dard dur­ing con­struc­tion site inspec­tions.

Falls claimed the lives of 338 Amer­i­can con­struc­tion work­ers in 2018, the same year a con­struc­tion work­er in Kuala Lumpur used his cell phone to film a cowork­er in shorts and sneak­ers erect­ing scaf­fold­ing sans safe­ty equip­ment, whilst bal­anc­ing on unse­cured pipes some 700 feet in the air.

Watch it below, if you dare.

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How the Brook­lyn Bridge Was Built: The Sto­ry of One of the Great­est Engi­neer­ing Feats in His­to­ry

Immac­u­late­ly Restored Film Lets You Revis­it Life in New York City in 1911

A Vir­tu­al Time-Lapse Recre­ation of the Build­ing of Notre Dame (1160)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Feb­ru­ary 3 when her month­ly book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain cel­e­brates New York, The Nation’s Metrop­o­lis (1921). Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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

You may have noticed cer­tain brands, over the past decade or so, going for a “Wes Ander­son aes­thet­ic” in their adver­tise­ments. But as all the younger film­mak­ers Ander­son inspires inevitably find out, repli­cat­ing the direc­tor’s sig­na­ture mise-en-scène — the dis­tinc­tive col­or palettes, the rig­or­ous geom­e­try, the care­ful­ly curat­ed objects — is no easy task. To achieve the cin­e­mat­i­cal­ly Ander­son­ian, it seems you real­ly need Ander­son him­self. For­tu­nate­ly for cer­tain mar­ket­ing depart­ments, the auteur of Rush­moreThe Roy­al Tenen­baums, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and oth­er pic­tures (includ­ing the upcom­ing The French Dis­patch) has occa­sion­al­ly made him­self avail­able for com­mer­cial work.

But as any­one who has seen one or two of Ander­son­’s movies might expect, the man appears to have lit­tle inter­est in mak­ing straight­for­ward com­mer­cials. Even when direct­ing short spots for the likes of Amer­i­can Express or Stel­la Artois, Ander­son brings us into his very own aes­thet­ic and cul­tur­al realm: in the for­mer he sat­i­rizes a cer­tain idea of his own process on set, and in the lat­ter he cre­ates com­e­dy from his pen­chant for (and mas­tery of) ear­ly-1960s Euro­pean design. In oth­er instances he’s tak­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to indulge his cinephil­ia more direct­ly than usu­al, as in his Jacques Tati-inspired com­mer­cial for Japan­ese cell­phone ser­vice provider Soft­Bank. You can see all these and more on our Youtube playlist of eight of Ander­son­’s short films.

Com­mer­cial direc­tors often dis­cuss their projects in the same terms they would use to dis­cuss short films. But it seems that every time Ander­son makes a com­mer­cial, he real­ly does make a short film. Some­times he makes both: after he direct­ed a 44-sec­ond ad for Pra­da, he went on with the fash­ion house­’s spon­sor­ship to direct the sev­en-minute Castel­lo Cav­al­can­ti. But ever since mak­ing the thir­teen-minute black-and-white short that would become his debut fea­ture Bot­tle Rock­et, Ander­son has also used short films in ser­vice of his long ones. Cousin Ben’s Troop Screen­ing makes for a fun intro­duc­tion to Moon­rise King­domHotel Cheva­lier is prac­ti­cal­ly required view­ing before The Dar­jeel­ing Lim­it­ed. Both remind us that, how­ev­er sol­id the work a brand can get out of him, Wes Ander­son pro­motes noth­ing quite as delight­ful­ly as he pro­motes Wes Ander­son. Watch the playlist of 8 com­mer­cials and short films here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Com­plete Col­lec­tion of Wes Ander­son Video Essays

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

Watch the Coen Broth­ers’ TV Com­mer­cials: Swiss Cig­a­rettes, Gap Jeans, Tax­es & Clean Coal

Wim Wen­ders Cre­ates Ads to Sell Beer (Stel­la Artois), Pas­ta (Bar­il­la), and More Beer (Car­ling)

David Lynch’s Sur­re­al Com­mer­cials

Fellini’s Three Bank of Rome Com­mer­cials, the Last Thing He Did Behind a Cam­era (1992)

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

Military Vet Floored (Literally) by Discovery That Rolex Purchased for $341 Is Now Worth $500,000-$700,000

Now you know what knock me down with a feath­er means…

Why We Should Read William Golding’s Lord of the Flies: An Animated Video Makes the Case

Like many of you, I was assigned to read William Golding’s Lord of the Flies in junior high. (Raise your hand if you had the one with this cov­er). Look­ing back, was there a sub­con­scious rea­son our teacher gave us this famous tale of a group of ship­wrecked chil­dren and young teens turn­ing into mur­der­ous sav­ages? Were we real­ly that bad?

Per­haps you’ve nev­er read the book and got assigned To Kill a Mock­ing­bird or Kes instead. Is Golding’s book still worth pick­ing up as an adult?

For sure, yes, and this ani­mat­ed explain­er from Jill Dash of TED-Ed hope­ful­ly will entice you do so. What it pro­vides is what we didn’t get in school: con­text.

Gold­ing had been a lieu­tenant in the Roy­al Navy dur­ing the war, and had returned to find a post-war world where nuclear anni­hi­la­tion felt pal­pa­ble. He was also teach­ing at a pri­vate school for boys. He got to won­der­ing: are we doomed as a species to sav­agery? Is war inevitable?

Gold­ing was also think­ing about the pop­u­lar Young Adult nov­els (as we now call them) of his day, because he read them to his own chil­dren. A pop­u­lar trope fea­tured young boys as cast­aways on a desert island who get up to all sorts of fun adven­tures, with a dash of British colo­nial­ism thrown in for good mea­sure. All were riffs on Daniel Defoe’s Robin­son Cru­soe.

Lord of the Flies, then, is a bru­tal satire, reduc­ing angel­ic British school­boys to a blood­thirsty mob in very lit­tle time, while in the greater world of the nov­el nuclear war rages. (Hav­ing read this dur­ing the ‘80s, the nuclear back­ground was nev­er impressed on us stu­dents. I think I would have found the nov­el even more ter­ri­fy­ing.)

It took Gold­ing ten years to find an inter­est­ed pub­lish­er, and even then it was a flop on ini­tial release. But its rep­u­ta­tion soon grew, helped by Peter Brook’s black-and-white film adap­ta­tion, and its ped­a­gog­i­cal use as an alle­gor­i­cal tale dur­ing the Cold War. It also influ­enced a gen­er­a­tion of writ­ers. Stephen King named his fic­tion­al town Cas­tle Rock after the kids’ fort in the nov­el. It also opened the door for any num­ber of Young Adult authors to deal with dark and trou­bling themes.

There were also real-world exam­ples to draw from. In the same year, 1954, as Golding’s nov­el appeared, Muzafer Sher­if’s The Rob­bers Cave Exper­i­ment was pub­lished. This was non-fic­tion, how­ev­er, detail­ing an exper­i­ment in which 22 mid­dle-class white boys were set up in two groups at a desert­ed Okla­homa sum­mer camp. With sci­en­tists pos­ing as coun­selors, they let the groups–the Rat­tlers and the Eagles–sort out their own hier­ar­chies, then set up com­pe­ti­tions.

The psy­chol­o­gists watched the arms race esca­late over the fol­low­ing days. Final­ly, one vio­lent mob brawl became so sus­tained that the researchers were forced to step in, drag the boys apart and remove them to sep­a­rate loca­tions.

How long did it take for mere fric­tion to esca­late into a juve­nile war, in an idyl­lic set­ting where every­one had plen­ty of food? Phase two last­ed just six days from the first insult (“Fat­ty!”) to the final all-out brawl. Gold­ing would have loved it.

We can see Golding’s warn­ing every­where in pop­u­lar cul­ture, from the back-bit­ing and betray­als in real­i­ty shows like Sur­vivor to hor­ror movies like The Purge. We’ve also seen the ter­rors that chil­dren can inflict on each oth­er, Columbine school shoot­ing onward. In Golding’s nov­el, the chil­dren are res­cued and revert back to a sob­bing, depen­dent state. In the real world, alas, nobody’s com­ing to save us.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Why You Should Read One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude: An Ani­mat­ed Video Makes the Case

How to Mem­o­rize an Entire Chap­ter from “Moby Dick”: The Art and Sci­ence of Remem­ber­ing Every­thing

Why Should We Read William Shake­speare? Four Ani­mat­ed Videos Make the Case

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.


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