A Giant Mural of Robin Williams Goes Up in Chicago

If you find yourself near Logan Square, off of Milwaukee Avenue, in Chicago, take a moment to explore the new mural celebrating the life and art of Robin Williams. According to TimeOut Chicago, “The expansive mural is the work of New York street artist Jerkface and New Zealand artist Owen Dippie…  Jerkface is known for his subversive depictions of animated pop-culture characters, while Dippie specializes in hyper-detailed portraits.” This Chicago mural comes right on the heels of another mural painted on Market Street in San Francisco. It’s by Argentine artist Andres Iglesias, aka Cobre. Catch a glimpse here.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you’d like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

What Made Robin Williams a Uniquely Expressive Actor: A Video Essay Explores a Subtle Dimension of His Comic Genius

Robin Williams Uses His Stand-Up Comedy Genius to Deliver a 1983 Commencement Speech

Steve Martin & Robin Williams Riff on Math, Physics, Einstein & Picasso in a Heady Comedy Routine (2002)

Robin Williams & Bobby McFerrin Sing Fun Cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together”

A Salute to Every Frame a Painting: Watch All 28 Episodes of the Finely-Crafted (and Now Concluded) Video Essay Series on Cinema

A Giant Mural of Robin Williams Goes Up in Chicago is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don’t miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The Outsiders: Lou Reed, Hunter S. Thompson, and Frank Zappa Reveal Themselves in Captivatingly Animated Interviews

Lou Reed thought the Beatles were garbage. Or at least he did when he started out in music, as he reveals in a 1987 interview. “We had an ambition and a goal: to elevate the rock song and take it where it hadn’t been before,” he says of his first band — perhaps you’ve heard of them — the Velvet Underground. “I just thought the other stuff couldn’t even come up to our ankles,” he adds. “They were just painfully stupid and pretentious. When they did try to get ‘arty,’ it was worse than stupid rock-and-roll.” Having graduated from college wanting to write “the great American novel,” Reed eventually decided to incorporate literature, and all the culture he knew, into music, to “write rock-and-roll that you could listen to as you got older and it wouldn’t lose anything. it would be timeless in the subject matter and the literacy of our lyrics.” The conversation appears first in “The Outsiders,” a compilation of three recordings made with three pillars of alternative American culture and imaginatively animated by Blank on Blank.

The second, which we’ve previously featured here on Open Culture, finds Studs Terkel sitting down with Hunter S. Thompson in 1967, talking about his first book Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. “The Angels came out of World War Two,” Thompson explains, “this whole kind of alienated, violent, subculture of people wandering around looking for either an opportunity, or if not an opportunity, then vengeance for not getting an opportunity.”

But if people insist on thinking of the Angels and their kind as the only violent troublemakers in existence, “then it’s just putting off the recognition that the same venom that the Angels are spewing around in public, a lot of people are just keeping bottled up in private.” In exploring the culture of the Angels, Thompson found that the venom filled him no less than it does everyone else: “I was seeing a very ugly side of myself a lot of times. I’m much more conscious of the kind of anger that lurks everywhere.”

The third, a 1971 interview with Frank Zappa, takes on the subject of fads. Zappa considered everything a fad, including the supposed political awakening of youth in the 60s: “It’s as superficial as their musical consciousness. It’s just another aspect of being involved in the actions of their peer group. One guy in the group says, ‘Hey, politics,’ and they go, ‘Yeah, politics.’ Or they go, ‘Grand Funk Railroad,’ and they go, ‘Yeah, Grand Funk Railroad. It’s the same thing.'” In America Zappa saw “a lot of changes, but I think that they’re all temporary things, and any change for the good is always subject to cancellation upon the arrival of the next fad.” That’s what happens, he explains, in a country that “doesn’t have any real culture. It doesn’t have any real art. It doesn’t have any real anything. It’s just got fads and a gross national product and a lot of inflation.” Does that, asks interviewer Howard Smith, make Zappa himself a fad as well? “I’m an American, I was born here,” Zappa replies. “I automatically got entered in a membership in the club.”

Related Content:

Animations Revive Lost Interviews with David Foster Wallace, Jim Morrison & Dave Brubeck

New Animation Brings to Life a Lost 1974 Interview with Leonard Cohen, and Cohen Reading His Poem “Two Slept Together”

Watch Janis Joplin’s Final Interview Reborn as an Animated Cartoon

Young Patti Smith Rails Against the Censorship of Her Music: An Animated, NSFW Interview from 1976

An Animated Bill Murray on the Advantages & Disadvantages of Fame

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.

The Outsiders: Lou Reed, Hunter S. Thompson, and Frank Zappa Reveal Themselves in Captivatingly Animated Interviews is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don’t miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Punking Out, a Short 1978 Documentary Records the Beginning of the Punk Scene at CBGB’s: Watch The Ramones, The Dead Boys & Richard Hell & the Voidoids

I hate to be one of those people who goes on about how punk was an all-American phenomenon before it crossed the pond. But hell, I’ve no less an authority on the counterculture than William S. Burroughs on my side, or on the side of Legs McNeil, at least, the music journalist who just happened to give punk its name by co-founding Punk magazine in 1975. Of McNeil’s seminal oral history Please Kill Me, Burroughs remarks, “This book tells it like was.” More accurately, it lets the music’s frontiersmen and women tell it, starting with Lou Reed and the Velvets and other mainstays in Andy Warhol’s Factory scene.

McNeil’s book surveys a number of major American scenesters, most of them from New York, with the exception of The Stooges from Detroit, and one exceptional band from, of all places, Cleveland, Ohio. The Dead Boys rarely get their due, but they were as influential as the Ramones in the downtown New York scene. Along with Iggy Pop, Dead Boys’ lead singer Stiv Bators indulged in the kind of thrilling onstage depravity mainstream audiences came to think of as the special provenance of the Sex Pistols. In the mid-seventies, these bands, along with Patti Smith, the Ramones, the New York Dolls, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids, etc. invented all the moves punk came to be known for.

An excellent companion to McNeil’s print documentary, the short, 1978 film Punking Out, above, surveys three key downtown New York bands—the Ramones, the Dead Boys, who moved to the city in ‘76, and Richard Hell & the Voidoids. (Hell gave McNeil’s book its title, designing a t-shirt with a bullseye painted on it and the words “please kill me” scrawled above. He admitted he was “too much of a coward” to wear it.) All three bands played central roles in the CBGB’s scene, and Hell—who also played in Neon Boys, Television, and the Heartbreakers—gets credit for more or less inventing punk fashion—from spiked hair to DIY clothing designs held together with safety pins.

Directed by Maggi Carson and Juliusz Kossakowski, the film serves as its own oral history of sorts, featuring interviews with fans and the bands and CBGB’s owner Hilly Kristal (who says, “the more crowded and the louder it is, I think, the less violence.”) Watch it for the history, but also for the classic performances, captured from every angle in black and white, with surprisingly decent sound. It’s educational, for sure. Punking Out belongs on every punk syllabus right next to Please Kill Me.

via BoingBoing

Related Content:

Watch an Episode of TV-CBGB, the First Rock ‘n’ Roll Sitcom Ever Aired on Cable TV (1981)

The Talking Heads Play CBGB, the New York Club That Shaped Their Sound (1975)

Take a Virtual Tour of CBGB, the Early Home of Punk and New Wave

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

 

<i>Punking Out</i>, a Short 1978 Documentary Records the Beginning of the Punk Scene at CBGB’s: Watch The Ramones, The Dead Boys & Richard Hell & the Voidoids is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don’t miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The Joy of Experiencing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for the Very First Time: Watch Three Reaction Videos

Remember when you first encountered Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”?

I suspect many of us don’t. It’s not the Kennedy assassination. Nor does it take long for Freddy Mercury’s soaring vocals and monumental lyrics to leach into the blood stream, creating the impression that we were born knowing every note, every word, every staggering transition…

(Note to those unfamiliar with this impossible to categorize 1975 masterpiece: Go give it a listen RIGHT NOW, while the rest of us wait for you here. Here’s the official video. But first, set up whatever equipment you need to film your reaction in real time, as Pennsylvania based YouTuber AFRO REACT, does above.)

He’ll definitely remember where he was when he first heard this wonderful, seminal song, as will over 1000 viewers, most of whom gave him an encouraging thumbs up.

So what if he mispronounces both “bohemian” and “rhapsody”?  That he’s unclear whether Queen is the name of the singer or the band? He can cringe later…or not. Such documented boo boos may be a generational hazard, the way crimped and moussed 80s hair was for mine.

(I was surprised, and grateful, that neither he, nor any of the video reaction masters featured today, sniped at the ridiculous coiffures of the artists they were watching.)

Perhaps AFRO REACT’s appreciation will lead him to investigate those unfamiliar words and more: Scaramouche, Bismillah, fandango (No, not the popular movie time site…)

I appreciated how he consulted his mom prior to listening, to see if she thought he’d enjoy the full song as much as he liked the snippet he’d heard in a movie trailer.

My son never asks my opinion like that.

Hold up a sec there, AFRO REACT. Why not leave Mom out of it and just give it a spin (as we used to say)?

I suspect what he was really eager to find out was whether she thought this track would be worthy of a reaction video.

The answer, resoundingly, is yes.

I confess that his habit of pausing the video to interject his own thoughts was driving me out of my gourd. My son does the same thing.

I have since learned this is more than just a symptom of being born into a world where pretty much everything can be paused and restarted at will, at least as far as practitioners of the reaction video arts are concerned.

Taking frequent breaks like that is a solid way to get around copyright claim when including the official videos alongside the reaction. (Other techniques include lowering the volume while offering one’s response or fast forwarding 5 seconds a couple of times per minute.)

I suspect many older fans will feel a lump at the 4:15 mark, as the appreciative first-timer muses, “This man has a beautiful voice. Like, what happened to him?”

Ask your mother, kid.

The real treat comes at 6:15. Scaramouche, scaramouche, whatever our young listener was expecting, it surely wasn’t that!

Thusly another Queen fan is forged. Just a few days ago, he shared his virgin response to “Under Pressure (Live at Wembley)

Tuscaloosa-based musician Joey Da Prince takes a more understated approach to reaction videos. Watching him bob from side to side, brow furrowed, appreciative involuntary smiles blooming now and again, reminds me of coming home, stripping the cellophane from a just-purchased album (or CD) and giving it a good hard listen, eyeballs glued to the liner notes.

He only hits pause once, shocked by the opening line of the famous first verse:

Mama just killed a man…

Oh, wait a minute. In a just posted 25-minute lyric breakdown, Joey reveals that he misheard that line, and was, understandably, taken aback by the idea of the singer’s mother murdering someone.

(Mercury’s technique was impeccable, so let’s take this as proof that commas are easier to see than hear…)

Like AFRO REACT, Joey quickly queued up the live version of “Under Pressure”…and “Somebody to Love,” “Fat Bottomed Girls,” “We Will Rock You,” the list goes on…

He’s obsessed to such a degree that he’s even filmed his reaction to pop culture essayist Polyphonic’s The Secrets Behind Freddie Mercury’s Legendary Voice, below. This is what lifelong learners do.

It’s worth noting that Joey Da Prince tried “Bohemian Rhapsody” on a commenter’s suggestion.

At the rate he’s going, he’s going to burn through Queen’s sizable catalogue pretty quickly, so toss him some suggestions, people!

I’m gonna go out on a limb and nominate Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights.”

Gamer Quamax, aka Qua, did not come to “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a total Queen newbie. By his own admission, he was somewhat familiar with “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and “Under Pressure” from their appearances in movies and “other pop culture” (which presumably does not cover someone else’s reaction videos.)

As he listens in an intent forward-facing hunch, he seems the most keyed-in to the humor that is a definite part of this song’s listening experience (and possibly performance). He laughs merrily at the phrase “Mama Mia, Mama Mia” and avails himself of some truly delightful after effects in the editing process. (Those in a rush may fast forward to 4:32.)

Final pronouncement? It’s “dope and funny” and he really liked the transitions from one musical style to another.

Welcome to the Queen Army, Quamax! You should try listening to “Under…” oh, you already did.

Readers, if these young men’s open-mindedness and open ears have inspired you to shoot a reaction video of your own, you’ll find a good primer here.

What haven’t you heard?

And what do you wish you could hear again for the very first time?

via Metafilter

Related Content:

Hip Hop Fan Freaks Out When He Hears Rage Against the Machine’s Debut Album for the Very First Time

Hear Freddie Mercury & Queen’s Isolated Vocals on Their Enduring Classic Song, “We Are The Champions”

Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” Played by 28 Trombone Players

Watch the Brand New Trailer for Bohemian Rhapsody, the Long-Awaited Biopic on Freddie Mercury & Queen

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, October 15 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Joy of Experiencing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for the Very First Time: Watch Three Reaction Videos is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don’t miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

What Makes The Night Watch Rembrandt’s Masterpiece

When you think of Rembrandt, do you think first of The Philosopher in Meditation? Or The Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild? How about Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp? Those paintings may well come to mind, and others besides, but only one demands a great effort indeed not to think of: Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, better known as The Night Watch. Famous for the enormous dimensions that make its figures nearly life-size, and make the painting a showcase for the artist’s mastery of shadow and light more fully than any other, it stands not just for Rembrandt’s body of work but for the 17th century’s Dutch Golden Age of painting as well.

But what, exactly, makes The Night Watch Rembrandt’s masterpiece? Walter Benjamin once said that every great work either dissolves a genre or founds a new one, but this painting fits neatly in an established tradition: the civic guard portrait, civic guards being the groups of wealthy citizens who pledged to defend a city should it come under threat. As Dutch painting moved away from religious subject matter toward commissioned portraiture, civic guards made fine clients, possessed as they were of both the desire and budget for large and expensive group scenes. But even within the genre, everyone involved must have suspected that, when Amsterdam mayor Frans Banninck Cocq hired Rembrandt van Rijn to paint him and his civic guard in the late 1630s, something impressive would result.

“What hits me right away is the balance that Rembrandt strikes between chaos and unity,” says Evan Puschak, the video essayist known as the Nerdwriter, in his analysis of The Night Watch above. “He clearly wanted to create a canvas with a lot of movement, but the challenge was to make that movement — people lurching in different directions, performing a variety of actions — cohere into a unified whole.” Therein lies the secret to The Night Watch‘s transcendence of its genre, a transcendence achieved through a quality we might now call dynamism. Rembrandt also makes use of visual techniques more closely associated with cinema, such as a “depth of field” achieved by rendering Cocq and his lieutenant with the utmost clarity and gradually reducing that clarity in the figures behind.

As with any masterpiece, the more you look at The Night Watch, the more you notice. You may even start to sense a joke: “The Night Watch is capturing the moments before the company sets out to its collective purpose,” says Puschak, “but the painting almost makes us doubt that they’ll ever get there.” By the time of the painting’s completion in 1642, he notes, civic guards had less to do with actual defense than with ceremony, “and at a certain point these companies became clubs for men to play with their weapons and chip in with fancy group portraits. It’s not inconceivable that Rembrandt may have been secretly making fun of them.” Maybe masterpiece status doesn’t absolutely necessitate creating or destroying a genre. Nor, perhaps, does it absolutely demand a sense of humor, but surely the works that have one, like The Night Watch, stand a better chance of attaining it.

Related Content:

300+ Etchings by Rembrandt Now Free Online, Thanks to the Morgan Library & Museum

Late Rembrandts Come to Life: Watch Animations of Paintings Now on Display at the Rijksmuseum

A Final Wish: Terminally Ill Patients Visit Rembrandt’s Paintings in the Rijksmuseum One Last Time

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

Scientists Create a New Rembrandt Painting, Using a 3D Printer & Data Analysis of Rembrandt’s Body of Work

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities 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.

What Makes <i>The Night Watch</i> Rembrandt’s Masterpiece is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don’t miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Europe’s Oldest Intact Book Was Preserved and Found in the Coffin of a Saint

Photo via the British Library

If you’re a British history buff, next month is an ideal time to be in London for the British Library’s “once-in-a-generation exhibition” Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War, opening October 19th and featuring the illuminated Lindisfarne Gospels, Beowulf, Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, the “world-famous” Domesday Book, and Codex Amiatinus, a “giant Northumbrian Bible taken to Italy in 716” and returning to England for the first time in 1300 years. But with all of these manuscript stars stealing the show, one special exhibit might go overlooked, the St. Cuthbert Gospel, the oldest surviving intact European book.

A Latin copy of the Gospel of John, the book was originally called the Stonyhurst Gospel, after its first owner, Stonyhurst College. It acquired its current name because it was found inside the coffin of St. Cuthbert, a hermit monk who died in 687 and whose remains, legend has it, were incorruptible. This supposed miracle inspired a cult that placed offerings around Cuthbert’s tomb. Just when and how the small book made its way into his coffin remains a mystery. It was likely sometime between the 700s and 800s CE, when his body was moved to Durham due to Viking raids.

When Cuthbert’s casket was opened in 1104, the book was found “in miraculously perfect condition,” writes the British Library, inside “a satchel-like container of red leather with a badly-frayed sling made of silken threads.” Scholars have dated the book’s creation to between 700 and 730, and its interest for academics and lay people alike lies not only in the legend of St. Cuthbert but in the book’s physical qualities and its own uncorrupted nature. As Allison Meier writes at JSTOR Daily, “the 1,300-year-old manuscript retains its original pages and binding,” a remarkable fact for a book of its age.

Its condition makes it an “important example of Insular art, which was created on the British Isles and Ireland between 600 and 900 CE.” The general features of this style involve “the layering of pattern, line, and color on seemingly flat surfaces,” notes Oxford Bibliographies, in order to create “complex spatial patterns.” Scholar Robert D. Stevick describes these properties on the ornate dyed leather covers of the St. Cuthbert Gospel:

There is interlace pattern in two panels on the front cover, step-pattern implying two crosses on the lower cover, a prominent double vine scroll at the center of the front cover—elements of this early art that have been well catalogued for their individual features as well as for their affinities to similar decorative elements in other artifacts.

Bound with a sewing technique that originated in North Africa (and therefore often called “Coptic sewing”), the “simple but elegant” book, Meier explains, “reflects the transmission of publishing knowledge across Europe” from the Mediterranean. Its small size and placement in a leather pouch is also significant. St. John’s Gospel “was sometimes employed as a protective talisman,” worn in a pouch on the body to ward off evil. Why one of Cuthbert’s admirers would have given such a talisman to his corpse remains unclear.

If you can’t make it to the British Library to see this fascinating artifact in person, you can see its miraculously well-preserved binding and pages in scans at the British Library site here.

via JSTOR Daily

Related Content:

Behold 3,000 Digitized Manuscripts from the Bibliotheca Palatina: The Mother of All Medieval Libraries Is Getting Reconstructed Online

1,000-Year-Old Manuscript of Beowulf Digitized and Now Online

How Illuminated Medieval Manuscripts Were Made: A Step-by-Step Look at this Beautiful, Centuries-Old Craft

Wearable Books: In Medieval Times, They Took Old Manuscripts & Turned Them into Clothes

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