Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category

Kurt Vonnegut Urges Young People to Make Art and “Make Your Soul Grow”

The Quirky Philosophical Drawings of Jean-Paul Sartre
in Art, Letters, Philosophy | April 21st, 2014

We’ve established something of a tradition here of featuring drawings by famous authors. It seems, unsurprisingly, that skill with the pen often goes hand-in-glove with a keen visual sense, though admittedly some writers are more talented draftsmen than others. William Faulkner, for example, created some very fine pen-and-ink illustrations for his college newspaper during his brief time at Ole Miss. Franz Kafka’s expressionistic sketches are quite striking, despite his anguished protestations to the contrary. And Jorge Luis Borges’ doodles are as quirky and playful as the author himself. Today we bring you the sketches of that great French existentialist philosopher, novelist, and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre—a collection of six rough, childlike caricatures that are, shall we say, rather less than accomplished. It’s certainly for the best—as the cliché goes—that Sartre never quit his day job for an art career.


But there is a certain wicked charm in Sartre’s visual satires of human moral failings, which he calls a “series de ‘douze vices sans allusion’”—roughly, “a series of twelve vices without reference.” Either Sartre only completed half the series, or—more likely—half have been lost, since the author assures the recipient of his handiwork, a Mademoiselle Suzanne Guille, that he presents to her a “série complete.” Who was Suzanne Guille? Your guess is as good as mine. Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, which houses these sketches, gives us no indication. Perhaps she was a relative, perhaps the spouse, of Pierre Guille, Simon de Beauvoir’s last lover? Given the many complicated liaisons pursued by both Sartre and his partner, the possibilities are indeed intriguing. As for the drawings? Their subjects hold more interest than their execution, providing us with keys to Sartre’s moral universe.


The first caricature, at the top, is titled “Le Contentment de soi”—“Self-Satisfaction”—and the character’s pompous expression says as much. Below it, the curious little fellow with the curlicue nose is called “L’Esprit Critique”—“The Spirit of Criticism.” And above we have “Le respect de la consigne et de la jurée”—“Keeping a Sworn Oath.” You can see the remaining three drawings, and read Sartre’s letter (in French, of course) to Mademoiselle Guille in pdf form here.

Related Content:

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James Joyce, With His Eyesight Failing, Draws a Sketch of Leopold Bloom (1926)

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The Art of Sylvia Plath: Revisit Her Sketches, Self-Portraits, Drawings & Illustrated Letters

Walter Kaufmann’s Classic Lectures on Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Sartre (1960)

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

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The Origins of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk: Vintage Footage of Cab Calloway, Sammy Davis Jr., Fred Astaire & More
in Dance, Video – Arts & Culture | April 21st, 2014

Michael Jackson took one giant leap for pop history on March 25, 1983 when he gave an adoring public their first taste of his signature moonwalk in honor of Motown Records’ 25th birthday. (See below)

Novelty-wise, it wasn’t quite a Neil Armstrong moment. Like many artists, Jackson had many precedents from which he could and did draw. He can be credited with bringing a certain attitude to the proceedings. The expert practitioners in the video above are more ebullient, tapping, sliding and proto-moonwalking themselves into a state of rapture that feeds off the audience’s pleasure.

The line-up includes artists lucky enough to have left lasting footprints—Cab Calloway, Sammy Davis Jr., Fred Astaire, as well as those we’d do well to rediscover: Rubberneck Holmes, Earl “Snakehips” Tucker, Buck and Bubbles….

Lacking the Internet, however, it does seem unlikely that Jackson would’ve spent much time poring over the footwork of these masters. (He may have taken a sartorial cue from their socks.)

Instead, he invested a lot of time breaking down the street moves, what he referred to in his autobiography as “a ‘popping’ type of thing that black kids had created dancing on the street corners in the ghetto.”

Jackson’s sister, LaToya, identified former Soul Train and Solid Gold dancer Jeffrey Daniel, below, as her brother’s primary tutor in this endeavor. (He went on to co-choreograph Jackson’s videos for “Bad” and “Smooth Criminal“.) As to the story behind his moonwalk, or backslide as he called it before Jackson’s version obliterated the possibility of any other name, Daniel gave props to the same kids Jackson did.

via Metafilter

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Ayun Halliday is the author of seven books, and creator of the award winning East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

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Sir Patrick Stewart & Sir Ian McKellen Play The Newlywed Game
in Comedy, Random | April 21st, 2014

I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that this is the first time two knighted cultural figures have played The Newlywed Game – a version of that wince (and nostalgia) -inducing game show that ran from the 1960s through the 1990s. Although Stewart and McKellen aren’t married, they know each other plenty well. They’ve worked together on stage (in a production of Waiting for Godot) and in film (they’ll be appearing together in an upcoming X-Men movie.) And suffice it to say, they’ve formed a tight friendship. When Stewart married Sunny Ozell last year, McKellen officiated at the wedding ceremony.

This little bit took place at a BuzzFeed Brews event back in February. You can watch their full 48 minute appearance here. Also find the two in a deeper conversation recorded at the Screen Actors Guild Foundation just last month.

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Painter Paul Gauguin Plays the Harmonium with No Pants or Shoes (Circa 1895)
in Art, Photography | April 20th, 2014
gauguin plays

What do we have here? Painter Paul Gauguin playing a harmonium at the Paris studio of Alphonse Mucha, a Czech Art Nouveau painter, in or around 1895. How this came about — how Gauguin decided to strip off his pants and shoes and start playing that pump organ — we’ll probably never know. But we’re certainly glad that this light moment was saved for posterity.

via @SteveSilberman

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Kurt Vonnegut Urges Young People to Make Art and “Make Your Soul Grow”
in Creativity, K-12, Letters, Literature | April 19th, 2014

Art not only saves lives, it casts ripples, as Kurt Vonnegut surely knew when he replied—at length—to five New York City high school students who’d contacted him as part of a 2006 English assignment. (The identities of the other authors selected for this honor are lost to time, but not one had the courtesy to respond except Vonnegut.)

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals [sic]. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

via Open Culture


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How do the media scare us? Russell Brand The Trews Ep38

Russell Brand The Trews Ep 38.
I give you the true news so you don’t have to invest any money in buying newspapers that charge you for the privilege of keeping your consciousness imprisoned in a tiny box of ignorance and lies.

“Philosophy is devotion to an analyzed life…..”


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Rocker Jack White – Serious Jibber-Jabber with Conan O’Brien

Grammy-winning musician and producer Jack White joins Conan for a special episode of Serious Jibber-Jabber — shot entirely on 35mm film.


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Look Up

‘Look Up’ – A spoken word film for an online generation.

‘Look Up’ is a lesson taught to us through a love story, in a world where we continue to find ways to make it easier for us to connect with one another, but always results in us spending more time alone.

Written, Performed & Directed by Gary Turk.


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“One Town, 50 different People, One very difficult Question”
Fifty People One Question – Galway
A short film which brough together people from furthest corners of the world…

It is based on the ‘Fifty People One Question’ series made by
It is based in Galway and it was shot in November 2010.
Shot in High Quality on Cannon 550D.

Songs used in the production and iTune links where you can buy them:
1)Wilson Phillips – Go Your Own Way []
2)Hans Zimmer – You’re So Cool (‘True Romance’ soundtrack)
3)Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth []
4)John Powell, Pete Anthony, Don Harper, Blake Nelly & The Hollywood Studio Symphony – The Moon And The Superhero (Hancock Soundtrack)
5)Rachel’s – Water From the Same Source []


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3 Secrets Behind Why YouTube Videos Go Viral

Kevin Allocca is YouTube’s trends manager, and he has deep thoughts about silly web video.

In this talk from TEDYouth, he shares the 4 reasons a video goes viral.


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Ray Bradbury: Love (1968)

“Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.” This—writes Sam Weller in his introduction to a 2010 interview with sci-fi and fantasy luminary Ray Bradbury—was the author’s “lifelong credo.” Weller writes of discovering an unpublished Paris Review interview from the 1970s in Bradbury’s garage, with a note from editor George Plimpton that read “a bit informal in places, maybe overly enthusiastic.” The irony of this judgment is that it is Bradbury’s enthusiasm, his lack of formality, which make him so compelling and so copious a writer and speaker. Bradbury didn’t self-edit or second guess much—his approach is best characterized as fearless and passionate, just as he describes his writing process:

I type my first draft quickly, impulsively even. A few days later I retype the whole thing and my subconscious, as I retype, gives me new words. Maybe it’ll take retyping it many times until it is done. Sometimes it takes very little revision.

It’s that unfettered expression of his subconscious that Bradbury discusses in the short clip above, in which he re-invigorates all the sort of carpe diem clichés one hears so often by framing them not as self-help suggestions but as imperatives for a full and healthy life. Responding in the moment, says Bradbury, refusing to “put off till tomorrow… what I must do, right now,” allows him to “find out what my secret self needs, wants, desires with all its heart.” For Bradbury, writing is much more than a formal exercise or a specialized craft—it is a vital expression of his full humanity and a means of “cleansing the stream” of his mind: “We belong only by doing,” he says, “and we own only by doing, and we love only by doing…. If you want an interpretation of life and love, that would be the closest thing I could come to.”

Bradbury doesn’t limit his philosophy to the writing life; he advocates for everyone an unabashed emotional engagement with the world. For him, the man (and woman, we might presume), who cannot “laugh freely,” cry, or “be violent”—which he defines in sublimating terms as any physical or creative activity—is a “sick man.” Bradbury’s “overly enthusiastic” explorations of creative passion were almost as much a part of his output as his fiction. His interviews, televised and in print, are inspiring for this reason: he is never coy or pretentious but pushes others to aspire to the same kind of authentic joy he seemed to take in everything he did.

By the way, the first person we see above is legendary Warner Bros. animator Chuck Jones (as one Youtube commenter says, we get in this clip “two visionaries for the price of one”). Bradbury’s “vitality,” says Jones, “rubs off on the people who work with him.” And, he might have added, all of the people who read and listen to him, too.

via Open Culture


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The Longest Way 1.0 – walk through China and grow a beard!

In 2008, I walked through China – one year, more than 4500km. All the while, I let my hair and my beard grow. This is the resulting video.
Add me on FB: Or drop by on my blog:
Additional info:
– I never finished my original goal of walking to Germany. Instead, I walked for a year and roughly 4500km, passed the Gobi desert, and then decided to stop walking for now.
– All of the distance from Beijing to Ürümqi was completed solely on foot, straight good old walking. There are instances where you can see me in the video sitting on a plane or riding a boat, but those are during breaks I had to take from walking, either to sort out bureaucracy issues or to take care of some personal things.
– I had been planning this trip for over a year before I even started, and getting as far as I got was an experience for which I am very grateful.
– Obtaining the necessary visa for a trip like this was not very easy, hence I had to go back to Beijing a few times to resolve some issues.
– This is not a strict “1 pic a day” video, because I wanted to make it a bit more alive by adding some additional movement. Sometimes during the film you would follow me turn around, or something would happen in the background. I tried to capture these moments to make the video more interesting.
– If you liked the music I used in this video, get it here:
The Kingpins – “L’Aventurier”
Zhu Fengbo – “Olive Tree”
– The core of this project is in actually my blog where I have posted my extensive travel diary, starting from day 1 (Nov 9th 2007) and describing every single day until the end one year later.


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The dark side of positive thinking….

How Positive Psychology/Thinking is Concealing some of the Real Causes of our Collective Suffering

The dark side of positive thinking….

Delusion is dangerous.
Mandatory optimism is dangerous.
Being negative might mean asking important yet unpopular questions.
The alternative to positive thinking is NOT negative thinking.


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Wil Wheatons response to a little girl on how to deal with being called a nerd

This was taken and Denver Comic Con this year and was a great response.


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