Tag Archives: Open Culture

20,000 Endangered Archaeological Sites Now Catalogued in a New Online Database

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We all know that civilizations, through the millennia, have had a way of rising and falling. But many of us don’t yet appreciate the fact that even after the fall, a civilization still has value — and can still come to harm. Archaeologists have used the traces left by bygone early cities, nations, and empires to gain an in-depth understanding of human history, but they can only continue doing so if the sites they study have the proper protection. The newest tool to advance that cause takes the form of the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East & North Africa (EAMENA) Database, a rich source of information, including satellite imagery and published reports, about the threatened archaeological sites and landscapes in that part of the world.

Based at the Universities of Oxford, Leicester, and Durham and built with the Getty Conservation Institute and World Monuments Fund‘s open-source platform Arches, the English- and Arabic-Language Database uses, "an interactive map that traces the distribution of sites under threat," writes Smithsonian‘s Brigit Katz.

"You can click on select locales for information about how the sites were once used, and the types of disturbances that have occurred over the years. A pre-populated search function lets users browse through general categories — like ‘Pendants,’ a type of circular burial enclosure that is associated with some 700 sites in the database—and through specific locations."

"Petra, Jericho, and the ancient port of Byblos are just three of the thousands of at-risk archaeological sites scattered across the Middle East and North Africa," writes Hyperallergic’s Claire Voon. "Aside from the destruction wrought by wartime conflict, they also face damage from looting; agricultural practices; the construction of pipelines, refugee camps, and mining; and natural erosion." In a press release announcing the project’s launch late last month, EAMENA’s director, Dr. Robert Bewley said that "not all damage and threats to the archaeology can be prevented, but they can be mitigated through the sharing of information and specialist skills." And apart from the importance of preserving irreplaceable pieces of global cultural heritage, we might step back and consider that, the better we understand the trajectory of past civilizations, the more we can ensure a positive one for our own.

Click here to visit the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East & North Africa (EAMENA) Database.

via Smithsonian 

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

20,000 Endangered Archaeological Sites Now Catalogued in a New Online Database 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.

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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)

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The cast of Dave Fleischer’s 1932 cartoon, Minnie the Moocher, above, are a far cry from the candy-colored ponies and simpering dragons populating today’s cartoon universe.

There’s not much of a narrative, and the closest thing to a moral is an unspoken “don’t be cokey.”

Who cares?

The lyrics to bandleader Cab Calloway’s crossover hit were ample excuse to send a rebellious Betty Boop and her anthropomorphized pal, Bimbo, on a trippy jaunt through the underworld.

While there’s no evidence of Betty or Bimbo hitting the pipe, one wonders what the animators were smoking to come up with such an imaginative palette of ghouls.

The ghosts are prisoners sporting chain gang stripes.

A witch with an outsized head prefigures Miyazaki’s commanding old ladies.

A blank-socketed mama cat, leached dry by her equally eyeless kittens, conjures the sort of nightmare vision that appealed to Hieronymus Bosch.

The most benign presence is a phantasmagoric walrus, modeled on a rotoscoped Calloway. The Hi De Ho Man cut a far svelter presence in the flesh, as evidenced by the live action sequence that introduces the cartoon.

Betty’s home sweet home offers nearly as weird a landscape as the one she and Bimbo flee at film’s end.

Its many inorganic inhabitants would have felt right at home in PeeWee’s Playhouse, as would a self-sacrificing flowering plant, who succumbs to a sample of the hasenpfeffer Betty’s immigrant mother unsuccessfully urges on her. As for Betty’s father, Fleischer struck a blow for teenagers everywhere by having his head morph into a gramophone on which a broken record (or rather, cylinder) plays.

Minnie the Moocher was voted the 20th greatest cartoon of all time, in a 1994 survey of 1,ooo animation professionals. We hope you enjoy it now, as the animators did then, and audiences did way back in 1932.

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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.

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

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Artists May Have Different Brains (More Grey Matter) Than the Rest of Us, According to a Recent Scientific Study

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Image Photo courtesy of the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at UCLA.

Sometimes—as in the case of neuroscience—scientists and researchers seem to be saying several contradictory things at once. Yes, opposing claims can both be true, given different context and levels of description. But which is it, Neuroscientists? Do we have “neuroplasticity”—the ability to change our brains, and therefore our behavior? Or are we “hard-wired” to be a certain way by innate structures.

The debate long predates the field of neuroscience. It figured prominently in the work, for example, of John Locke and other early modern theorists of cognition—which is why Locke is best known as the theorist of tabula rasa. In “Some Thoughts Concerning Education,” Locke mostly denies that we are able to change much at all in adulthood.

Personality, he reasoned, is determined not by biology, but in the “cradle” by “little, almost insensible impressions on our tender infancies.” Such imprints “have very important and lasting consequences.” Sorry, parents. Not only did your kid get wait-listed for that elite preschool, but their future will also be determined by millions of sights and sounds that happened around them before they could walk.

It’s an extreme, and unscientific, contention, fascinating as it may be from a cultural standpoint. Now we have psychedelic-looking brain scans popping up in our news feeds all the time, promising to reveal the true origins of consciousness and personality. But the conclusions drawn from such research are tentative and often highly contested.

So what does science say about the eternally mysterious act of artistic creation? The abilities of artists have long seemed to us godlike, drawn from supernatural sources, or channeled from other dimensions. Many neuroscientists, you may not be surprised to hear, believe that such abilities reside in the brain. Moreover, some think that artists’ brains are superior to those of mediocre ability.

Or at least that artists’ brains have more gray and white matter than “right-brained” thinkers in the areas of “visual perception, spatial navigation and fine motor skills.” So writes Katherine Brooks in a Huffington Post summary of “Drawing on the right side of the brain: A voxel-based morphometry analysis of observational drawing.” The 2014 study, published at NeuroImage, involved a very small sampling of graduate students, 21 of whom were artists, 23 of whom were not. All 44 students were asked to complete drawing tasks, which were then scored and compared to images of their brain taken by a method called “voxel-based morphometry.”

“The people who are better at drawing really seem to have more developed structures in regions of the brain that control for fine motor performance and what we call procedural memory,” the study’s lead author, Rebecca Chamberlain of Belgium’s KU Leuven University, told the BBC. (Hear her segment on BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science here.) Does this mean, as Artnet News claims in their quick take, that “artists’ brains are more fully developed?”

It’s a juicy headline, but the findings of this limited study, while “intriguing,” are “far from conclusive.” Nonetheless, it marks an important first step. “No studies” thus far, Chamberlain says, “have assessed the structural differences associated with representational skills in visual arts.” Would a dozen such studies resolve questions about causality–nature or nurture? As usual, the truth probably lies somewhere in-between.

At Smithsonian, Randy Rieland quotes several critics of the neuroscience of art, which has previously focused on what happens in the brain when we look at a Van Gogh or read Jane Austen. The problem with such studies, writes Philip Ball at Nature, is that they can lead to “creating criteria of right or wrong, either in the art itself or in individual reactions to it.” But such criteria may already be predetermined by culturally-conditioned responses to art.

The science is fascinating and may lead to numerous discoveries. It does not, as the Creators Project writes hyperbolically, suggest that "artists actually are different creatures from everyone else on the planet." As University of California philosopher professor Alva Noe states succinctly, one problem with making sweeping generalizations about brains that view or create art is that “there can be nothing like a settled, once-and-for-all account of what art is.”

Emerging fields of “neuroaesthetics” and “neurohumanities” may muddy the waters between quantitative and qualitative distinctions, and may not really answer questions about where art comes from and what it does to us. But then again, given enough time, they just might.

via The Creators Project

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

Artists May Have Different Brains (More Grey Matter) Than the Rest of Us, According to a Recent Scientific Study 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.

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240 Hours of Relaxing, Sleep-Inducing Sounds from Sci-Fi Video Games: From Blade Runner to Star Wars

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Need to put a little geek in your sleep? We’ve got just what you need…

Back in 2009, the musician dubbed Cheesy Nirvosa" began experimenting with ambient music, before launching a YouTube channel where he "composes longform space and scifi ambience," much of it designed to help you relax, or ideally fall asleep. He calls the videos "ambient geek sleep aids."

You can sample his work with the playlist above. Called "Video Game Relaxation Sounds," the playlist features "long relaxing soundscapes from video games." Sci-fi video games, to be precise. The playlist gives you access to 21 soundscapes, running more than 240 hours in total. Lull yourself to sleep, for example, with ambient sounds from the 1997 Blade Runner video game, a "sidequel" to the Ridley Scott film. Or de-stress with this ambient noise produced by the A/SF-01 B-Wing Starfighter. It’s taken from this 2001 Star Wars game created by LucasArts.

Stream the playlist above. And hope you enjoy dreaming of electric sheep.

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240 Hours of Relaxing, Sleep-Inducing Sounds from Sci-Fi Video Games: From Blade Runner to Star Wars 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.

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The Set List for the Band Playing at Trump’s Climate Retreat Speech: From “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,” to “Burning Down the House”

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Today the United States joined two other countries in refusing to take part in the Paris climate accord. Syria and Nicaragua. What great company to be in.

Before Trump made his announcement in the Rose Garden, the White House had a band warm up the crowd. Later, McSweeney’s sarcastically published their setlist. Burning Down the House. It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine). I Melt With You. Coal Miner’s Daughter. Find all 14 tracks below.

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The Set List for the Band Playing at Trump’s Climate Retreat Speech: From “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,” to “Burning Down the House” 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.

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See What Happens When a Camera’s Shutter Speed Gets Perfectly Synced with a Helicopter’s Rotor

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German cameraman Chris Fay recently posted on YouTube a neat video showing what happens when the frames per second on a camera and the speed of a helicopter rotor are perfectly aligned. The helicopter blades appear not to rotate at all. And the helicopter hovers magically in the air. Even when you know the mechanics of the illusion, it’s fun to watch.

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via PetaPixel

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See What Happens When a Camera’s Shutter Speed Gets Perfectly Synced with a Helicopter’s Rotor 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.

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Paul McCartney Admits to Dropping Acid in a Scrappy Interview with a Prying Reporter (June, 1967)

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When we think of LSD and the Beatles, John Lennon invariably gets the nod as the main mind expander of the group. After all, despite all protestations to the contrary, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” literally spells out Lennon’s indulgence in the psychedelic drug.

But it was Paul, as seen in this above newsreel, who announced that he himself had dropped acid before any other band member admitted to such. And in doing so, knowing the whole world was watching, McCartney insisted on telling the truth and facing the music, as it were.

The interview was recorded on June 19, 1967, a day after Paul’s 25th birthday. Their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had been released three weeks prior on June 1, ushering in a particular psychedelic era in London, though the band had been dropping hints (as well as lysergic acid) as early as 1966’s Revolver and 1965’s “Day Tripper.”

McCartney had already let it be known he had taken the drug in an interview a few days before in Queen magazine, which Life then reprinted.

After I took it (LSD), it opened my eyes. We only use one-tenth of our brain. Just think what we could accomplish if we could only tap that hidden part. It would mean a whole new world.

The quote sent ITV crews to McCartney’s backyard garden on Cavendish Ave. for this confrontational interview, where the interviewer wants to know first where he got the LSD from, but then chastises the singer for not keeping such a personal event quiet.

McCartney responded:

Mmm, but the thing is — I was asked a question by a newspaper, and the decision was whether to tell a lie or tell him the truth. I decided to tell him the truth… but I really didn’t want to say anything, you know, because if I had my way I wouldn’t have told anyone. I’m not trying to spread the word about this. But the man from the newspaper is the man from the mass medium. I’ll keep it a personal thing if he does too you know… if he keeps it quiet. But he wanted to spread it so it’s his responsibility, you know, for spreading it not mine.

The reporter, looking for an angle, asks “Do you think that you have now encouraged your fans to take drugs?”

McCartney puts the onus back on the reporter for sensationalizing a personal matter.

No, it’s you who’ve got the responsibility. You’ve got the responsibility not to spread this NOW. You know, I’m quite prepared to keep it as a very personal thing if you will too. If you’ll shut up about it, I will.

Funnily enough, it was Paul who came to LSD long after Lennon and Harrison had taken it for the first time…inadvertantly, that is:

John, George and their wives were slipped a dose on a sugar pill in their evening coffee by dentist John Riley, who had the couples over for dinner, and possibly some free love. Instead the four went clubbing and had their minds expanded. You can read the whole story over here at this fascinating history of Beatle drug use. Also hear John tell it in the animation above.

McCartney finally dropped acid–the last Beatle to do so–on March 21, 1967 after a recording session for “Getting Better.” Lennon had taken some acid by accident and sat out the session, unable to continue and McCartney took him home to his flat, where he decided to try LSD, to “sort of catch up” with his friend. The BeatlesBible site quotes from McCartney’s bio by Barry Miles, Many Years from Now.

And we looked into each other’s eyes, the eye contact thing we used to do, which is fairly mind-boggling. You dissolve into each other. But that’s what we did, round about that time, that’s what we did a lot. And it was amazing. You’re looking into each other’s eyes and you would want to look away, but you wouldn’t, and you could see yourself in the other person. It was a very freaky experience and I was totally blown away.

There’s something disturbing about it. You ask yourself, ‘How do you come back from it? How do you then lead a normal life after that?’ And the answer is, you don’t. After that you’ve got to get trepanned or you’ve got to meditate for the rest of your life. You’ve got to make a decision which way you’re going to go.

I would walk out into the garden – ‘Oh no, I’ve got to go back in.’ It was very tiring, walking made me very tired, wasted me, always wasted me. But ‘I’ve got to do it, for my well-being.’ In the meantime John had been sitting around very enigmatically and I had a big vision of him as a king, the absolute Emperor of Eternity. It was a good trip. It was great but I wanted to go to bed after a while.

I’d just had enough after about four or five hours. John was quite amazed that it had struck me in that way. John said, ‘Go to bed? You won’t sleep!’ ‘I know that, I’ve still got to go to bed.’ I thought, now that’s enough fun and partying, now … It’s like with drink. That’s enough. That was a lot of fun, now I gotta go and sleep this off. But of course you don’t just sleep off an acid trip so I went to bed and hallucinated a lot in bed. I remember Mal coming up and checking that I was all right. ‘Yeah, I think so.’ I mean, I could feel every inch of the house, and John seemed like some sort of emperor in control of it all. It was quite strange. Of course he was just sitting there, very inscrutably.

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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.

Paul McCartney Admits to Dropping Acid in a Scrappy Interview with a Prying Reporter (June, 1967) 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.

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