Salvador Dalí’s Body Gets Exhumed, Revealing That, 28 Years After His Death, His Moustache Remains Perfectly Intact

Image by Allan Warren, via Wikimedia Commons

Last month, a Spanish court ordered the exhumation of Salvador Dalí's, to see whether--as a paternity case claims--he's the father of María Pilar Abel Martínez, a tarot card reader born in 1956. When experts opened his crypt on Thursday night, they encountered a pretty remarkable scene. According to Narcís Bardalet, the doctor who embalmed the artist's body back in 1989, Dalí's face was covered with a silk handkerchief – a magnificent handkerchief." "When it was removed, I was delighted to see his moustache was intact … I was quite moved. You could also see his hair." "His moustache is still intact, [like clock hands at] 10 past 10, just as he liked it. It’s a miracle."  "The moustache is still there and will be for centuries." That's perhaps the last surviving trace of Dalí's schtick that will remain.

via The Guardian

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Where Do Ideas Come From? David Lynch, Robert Krulwich, Susan Orlean, Chuck Close & Others Reveal Their Creative Sources

Ask any creator subject to frequent interviews which questions they dread, and one in particular will come up more than any other: "Where do you get your ideas?" Some have readily spoken and written on the subject — Isaac Asimov, Neil Gaiman, David Lynch — but most, even if they've had truly astonishing ideas, have given the subject of ideas in general little thought. The video above, named after the infamous question, compiles a variety of answers from a variety of people, younger and older, famous and less so, into a five-minute search for the source of human creativity.

"I get ideas in fragments," says Lynch, whose voice we hear amid the many others in the video. "It's as if, in the other room, there's a puzzle and all the pieces are together. But in my room, they just flip one piece at a time into me."

When a good idea comes along, says a twelve-year-old named Ursula, "that's the feeling they call inspiration." But Radiolab host Robert Krulwich has a dim view of inspiration: "I'm a little suspicious of the idea like, 'In the beginning there was nothing and then there was light.' I don't think I've had that experience, and for other people who've said that they've had that experience, I'm not sure I believe them."

"Inspiration is for amateurs," says artist Chuck Close. "The rest of us just show up and get to work. Every great idea came out of work, everything." Chalk up another point in favor of Thomas Edison's famous breakdown of genius as one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration — but what kind of perspiration? As professional skateboarder Ray Barbee sees it, "most people start off by mimicking something, but then it turns into their own thing because they don't really have the ability to mimic it precisely," a process that produces "originality from copying."

"Whenever I finish a story," says New Yorker writer Susan Orlean, "I go through a period of time where I feel like I will never again have an idea." But it never lasts as long as it feels: "One day you fall onto something, and it just looks you in the face and says, 'I'm the one.'" That "one" could take the form, according to the video's contributors, of a chance encounter, a sentence in a story, a yellow ball bouncing down the street, a solitary lawn chair seen from a train window, a dump trick, or many other even less expected entities besides. You just have to be primed and ready to connect it in an interesting manner to other things in your head, in your environment, and in the culture. "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity," goes a well-known quote often attributed to Seneca — and so, it seems, is creativity.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, 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.

Russian History & Literature Come to Life in Wonderfully Colorized Portraits: See Photos of Tolstoy, Chekhov, the Romanovs & More

Colorized episodes of I Love Lucy verge on sacrilege, but Olga Shirnina, a translator and amateur colorist of considerable talent, has unquestionably noble goals when colorizing vintage portraits, such as that of the Romanovs, above.

In her view, color has the power to close the gap between the subjects of musty public domain photos and their modern viewers. The most fulfilling moment for this artist, aka Klimblim, comes when “suddenly the person looks back at you as if he’s alive.”

A before and after comparison of her digital makeover on Nadezhda Kolesnikova, one of many female Soviet snipers whose vintage likenesses she has colorized bears this out. The color version could be a fashion spread in a current magazine, except there's nothing artificial-seeming about this 1943 pose.

“The world was never monochrome even during the war,” Shirnina reflected in the Daily Mail.

Military subjects pose a particular challenge:

When I colorize uniforms I have to search for info about the colours or ask experts. So I’m not free in choosing colors. When I colorize a dress on a 1890s photo, I look at what colors were fashionable at that time. When I have no limitations I play with colours looking for the best combination. It’s really quite arbitrary but a couple of years ago I translated a book about colours and hope that something from it is left in my head.

She also puts herself on a short leash where famous subjects are concerned. Eyewitness accounts of Vladimir Lenin’s eye color ensured that the revolutionary’s colorized irises would remain true to life.

And while there may be a market for representations of punked out Russian literary heroes, Shirnina plays it straight there too, eschewing the digital Manic Panic where Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Bulgakov are concerned.

Her hand with Photoshop CS6 may restore celebrity to those whose stars have faded with time, like Vera Komissarzhevskaya, the original ingenue in Chekhov’s much performed play The Seagull and wrestler Karl Pospischil, who showed off his physique sans culotte in a photo from 1912.

Even the unsung proletariat are given a chance to shine from the fields and factory floors.

Browse an eye popping gallery of Olga Shirnina’s work on her website.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The World’s Oldest Multicolor Book, a 1633 Chinese Calligraphy & Painting Manual, Now Digitized and Put Online

We think of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press (circa 1440) to have begun the era of the printed book, since his invention allowed for mass production of books on a scale unheard of before. But we must date the invention of printing itself much earlier—nearly 600 years earlier—to the Chinese method of xylography, a form of woodblock printing. Also used in Japan and Korea, this elegant method allowed for the reproduction of hundreds of books from the 9th century to the time of Gutenberg, most of them Buddhist texts created by monks. In the 11th century, writes Elizabeth Palermo at Live Science, a Chinese peasant named Bi Sheng (Pi Sheng) developed the world’s first movable type.” The technology may have also arisen independently in the 14th century Yuan Dynasty and in Korea around the same time.

Despite these innovations, xylography remained the primary method of printing in Asia. The “daunting task” of casting the thousands of characters in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean “may have made woodblocks seem like a more efficient option for printing these languages.” This still-labor-intensive process produced books and illustrations for several centuries, a good many of them incredible works of art in their own right. In 1633, a Chinese printer named Hu Zhengyan invented a technique known as douban, a form of polychrome xylography that led to the creation of the world’s oldest multicolor printed book, Shi zhu zhai shu hua pu (Manual of Calligraphy and Painting), containing, perhaps, writes Cambridge University Library, “the most beautiful set of prints ever made.” And now thanks to Cambridge, the manual has been carefully digitized and made available online.

Published by Hu Zhengyan’s Ten Bamboo Studio in Nanjiang, this manual for teachers contains 138 pages of multicolor prints by fifty different artists and calligraphers and 250 pages of accompanying text. “The method” that produced the stunning artifact “involves the use of multiple printing blocks which successively apply different coloured inks to the paper to reproduce the effect of watercolour painting.” Kept untouched in Cambridge’s “most secure vaults,” the book was unsealed for the first time just a couple years ago. “What surprised us,” remarked Charles Aylmer, head of the Library’s Chinese Department, “was the amazing freshness of the images, as if they had never been looked at for over 300 years.”

The 17th century copy is “unique in being complete, in perfect condition and in its original binding.” (Another, incomplete, copy was acquired in 2014 by the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA.) The book contains many “detailed instructions on brush techniques,” writes CNN, “but its phenomenal beauty has meant from the outset that it has held a greater position” than other such manuals. Like another gorgeous multicolor painting textbook, the Manual of the Mustard Seed Garden, made in 1679, this text had a significant impact on the arts in both China and Japan, “where it inspired a whole new branch of printing.”

Considered “one of the most historically and artistically important illustrated books of 17th century Chinese woodblock art,” notes Liesl Bradner at the L.A. Times, Hu Zhengyan’s text reflects a time when literacy levels were rising. Along with them came “increasing consumer demand for the printed word and images, which ushered in a golden era of Chinese pictorial painting.” You can page through digital scans of the entire book, from cover to cover, at the University of Cambridge’s Digital Library. Note: There are 388 pages in total. Click on the arrows at the top of this page to move through the text.

via MetaFilter

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

Google’s DeepMind AI Teaches Itself to Walk, and the Results Are Kooky, No Wait, Chilling

In 2014, Google acquired DeepMind, a company which soon made news when its artificial intelligence software defeated the world's best player of the Chinese strategy game, Go. What's DeepMind up to these days? More elemental things--like teaching itself to walk. Above, watch what happens when, on the fly, DeepMind's AI learns to walk, run, jump, and climb. Sure, it all seems a little kooky--until you realize that if DeepMind's AI can learn to walk in hours, it can take your job in a matter of years.

Watch a primer explaining how DeepMind works here. And find more AI resources in the Relateds below.

via Twisted Sifter

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Director Michel Gondry Makes a Charming Film on His iPhone, Proving That We Could Be Making Movies, Not Taking Selfies

What's director Michel Gondry up to these days? Apparently, trying to show that you can do smart things--like make serious movies--with that smartphone in your pocket. The director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the Noam Chomsky animated documentary Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? has just released "Détour," a short film shot purely on his iPhone 7 Plus. Subtitled in English, "Détour" runs about 12 minutes and follows "the adventures of a small tricycle as it sets off along French roads in search of its young owner." Watch it, then ask yourself, was this really not made with a traditional camera? And then ask yourself, what's my excuse for not getting out there and making movies?

According to Europe 1, the film took about two weeks to make, during which Gondry used the video software Filmic Pro, which costs $14.99 in Apple's app store.

"Détour" will be added to our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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How Aristotle Invented Computer Science

In popular conceptions, we take the computer to be the natural outcome of empirical science, an inheritance of the Enlightenment and subsequent scientific revolutions in the 19th and 20th centuries. Of course, modern computers have their ancient precursors, like the Antikythera Mechanism, a 2,200-year-old bronze and wood machine capable of predicting the positions of the planets, eclipses, and phases of the moon. But even this fascinating artifact fits into the narrative of computer science as “a history of objects, from the abacus to the Babbage engine up through the code-breaking machines of World War II.” Much less do we invoke the names of “philosopher-mathematicians,” writes Chris Dixon at The Atlantic, like George Boole and Gottlob Frege, “who were themselves inspired by Leibniz’s dream of a universal ‘concept language,’ and the ancient logical system of Aristotle.” But these thinkers are as essential, if not more so, to computer science, especially, Dixon argues, Aristotle.

The ancient Greek thinker did not invent a calculating machine, though they may have existed in his lifetime. Instead, as Dixon writes in his recent piece, “How Aristotle Created the Computer,” Aristotle laid the foundations of mathematical logic, “a field that would have more impact on the modern world than any other.”

The claim may strike historians of philosophy as somewhat ironic, given that Enlightenment philosophers like Francis Bacon and John Locke announced their modern projects by thoroughly repudiating the medieval scholastics, whom they alleged were guilty of a slavish devotion to Aristotle. Their criticisms of medieval thought were varied and greatly warranted in many ways, and yet, like many an empiricist since, they often overlooked the critical importance of Aristotelian logic to scientific thought.

At the turn of the 20th century, almost three hundred years after Bacon sought to transcend Aristotle’s Organon with his form of natural philosophy, the formal logic of Aristotle could still be “considered a hopelessly abstract subject with no conceivable applications.” But Dixon traces the “evolution of computer science from mathematical logic” and Aristotelian thought, beginning in the 1930s with Claude Shannon, author of the groundbreaking essay "A Symbolic Analysis of Switching and Relay Circuits.” Shannon drew on the work of George Boole, whose name is now known to every computer scientist and engineer but who, in 1938, “was rarely read outside of philosophy departments.” And Boole owed his principle intellectual debt, as he acknowledged in his 1854 The Laws of Thought, to Aristotle’s syllogistic reasoning.

Boole derived his operations by replacing the terms in a syllogism with variables, “and the logical words ‘all’ and ‘are’ with arithmetical operators.” Shannon discovered that “Boole’s system could be mapped directly onto electrical circuits,” which hitherto “had no systematic theory governing their design.” The insight “allowed computer scientists to import decades of work in logic and mathematics by Boole and subsequent logicians.” Shannon, Dixon writes, “was the first to distinguish between the logical and the physical layer of computers,” a distinction now “so fundamental to computer science that it might seem surprising to modern readers how insightful it was at the time.” And yet, the field could not move forward without it—without, that is, a return to ancient categories of thought.

Since the 1940s, computer programming has become significantly more sophisticated. One thing that hasn’t changed is that it still primarily consists of programmers specifying rules for computers to follow. In philosophical terms, we’d say that computer programming has followed in the tradition of deductive logic, the branch of logic discussed above, which deals with the manipulation of symbols according to formal rules.

Dixon’s argument for the centrality of Aristotle to modern computer science takes many turns—through the quasi-mystical thought of 13th-century Ramon Llull and, later, his admirer Gottfried Leibniz. Through Descartes, and later Frege and Bertrand Russell. Through Alan Turing’s work at Bletchley Park. Nowhere do we see Aristotle, wrapped in a toga, building a circuit board in his garage, but his modes of reasoning are everywhere in evidence as the scaffolding upon which all modern computer science has been built. Aristotle’s attempts to understand the laws of the human mind “helped create machines that could reason according to the rules of deductive logic.” The application of ancient philosophical principles may, Dixon concludes, “result in the creation of new minds—artificial minds—that might someday match or even exceed our own.” Read Dixon’s essay at The Atlantic, or hear it read in its entirety in the audio above.

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


Archaeologists Discover the World’s First “Art Studio” Created in an Ethiopian Cave 43,000 Years Ago

Images via PLOS

If you want to see where art began, go to a cave. Not just any cave, but not just one cave either. You'll find the best-known cave paintings at Lascaux, an area of southwestern France with a cave complex whose walls feature over 600 images of animals, humans, and symbols, all of them more than 17,000 years old, but other caves elsewhere in the world reveal other chapters of art's early history. Some of those chapters have only just come into legibility, as in the case of the cave near the Ethiopian city of Dire Dawa recently determined to be the world's oldest "art studio."

"The Porc-Epic cave was discovered by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Henry de Monfreid in 1929 and thought to date to about 43,000 to 42,000 years ago, during the Middle Stone Age," writes Sarah Cascone at Artnet.

There, archaeologists have found "a stash of 4213 pieces, or nearly 90 pounds, of ochre, the largest such collection ever discovered at a prehistoric site in East Africa." The "ancient visitors to the site processed the iron-rich ochre stones there by flaking and grinding the raw materials to produce a fine-grained and bright red powder," a substance useful for "symbolic activities, such as body painting, the production of patterns on different media, or for signalling."

In other words, those who used this ochre-rich cave over its 4,500 years of service used it to produce their tools, which functioned like proto-stamps and crayons. You can read about these findings in much more detail in the paper "Patterns of change and continuity in ochre use during the late Middle Stone Age (MSA) of the Horn of Africa: The Porc-Epic Cave record" by Daniela Eugenia Rosso of the University of Barcelona and Francesco d’Errico and Alain Queffelec of the University of Bordeaux. In it, the authors "identify patterns of continuity in ochre acquisition, treatment and use reflecting both persistent use of the same geological resources and similar uses of iron-rich rocks by late MSA Porc-Epic inhabitants."

The Ethiopian site contains so much ochre, in fact, that "this continuity can be interpreted as the expression of a cohesive cultural adaptation, largely shared by all community members and consistently transmitted through time." The more evidence sites like the Porc-Epic cave provide, the greater the level of detail in which we'll be able to piece together the story of not just art, but culture itself. Culture, as Brian Eno so neatly defined it, is everything you don't have to do, and though drawing in ochre might well have proven useful for the prehistoric inhabitants of modern-day Ethiopia, one of them had to give it a try before it had any acknowledged purpose. Little could they have imagined what that action would lead to over the next few tens of thousands of years.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, 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.

Wes Anderson Names 12 of His Favorite Art Films

Image by Raffi Asdourian, via Wikimedia Commons

Asked to list their favorite films of all times, most directors tend towards the canon. And why not? 8 1/2--loved by Scorsese and Lynch and many others--is an indisputable masterpiece, for example. So is The Godfather, Rashomon, Vertigo, and any number of movies that make top film lists over and over. The point is, most of the time, these lists are samey.

That’s why this list from Wes Anderson is a hoot. Here he’s not asked to list his favorites of all time, but rather to create a Top 10 list of Criterion titles. Yet here's his M.O.: “I thought my take on a top-ten list might be to simply quote myself from the brief fan letters I periodically write to the Criterion Collection team,” he says.

A lot of these films are rarities, and Anderson admits he’s only just seen some of them for the first time. Martin Ritt’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is one. Roberto Rossellini’s The Taking of Power by Louis XIV is another. Of the latter, he says, “This is a wonderful and very strange movie. I had never heard of it. The man who plays Louis cannot give a convincing line reading, even to the ears of someone who can’t speak French—and yet he is fascinating.”

Anderson’s comments are often questions, not definitive statements. Like us, he is just as mystified by a film, and that feeling is probably why he likes them in the first place.

Of that Rossellini film he wonders “What does good acting actually mean?” And of Claude Sautet’s Classe tous risques he asks, “Who is our Lino Ventura?” referring to the Italian-born French actor who was once described as “The French John Wayne.” (So, the real question is this: who is our modern day John Wayne?)

We’ll leave the rest for you to read, but for a director so invested in artifice and nostalgia it was a surprise to hear how much he loves surrealist Luis Buñuel:

“He is my hero. Mike Nichols said in the newspaper he thinks of Buñuel every day, which I believe I do, too, or at least every other.”

Wes Anderson's Criterion Collection Top 10

1. The Earrings of Madame de... (dir. Max Ophuls)
2. Au hasard Balthazar (dir. Robert Bresson)
3.Pigs and Battleships/The Insect Woman/Intentions of Murder (dir. Shohei Imamura)
4. The Taking of Power by Louis XIV (dir. Roberto Rossellini)
5. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (dir. Martin Ritt)
6. The Friends of Eddie Coyle (dir. Peter Yates)
7. Classe tous risques (dir. Claude Sautet)
8. L’enfance nue (dir. Maurice Pialat)
9. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (dir. Paul Schrader)
10. The Exterminating Angel (dir. Luis Buñuel)

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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 and/or watch his films here.

Enter a Huge Archive of Amazing Stories, the World’s First Science Fiction Magazine, Launched in 1926

If you haven’t heard of Hugo Gernsback, you’ve surely heard of the Hugo Award. Next to the Nebula, it’s the most prestigious of science fiction prizes, bringing together in its ranks of winners such venerable authors as Ursula K. Le Guin, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Neil Gaiman, Isaac Asimov, and just about every other sci-fi and fantasy luminary you could think of. It is indeed fitting that such an honor should be named for Gernsback, the Luxembourgian-American inventor who, in April of 1926, began publishing “the first and longest-running English-language magazine dedicated to what was then not quite yet called ‘science fiction,’” notes University of Virginia’s Andrew Ferguson at The Pulp Magazines Project. Amazing Stories provided an “exclusive outlet” for what Gernsback first called “scientifiction,” a genre he would “for better and for worse, define for the modern era.” You can read and download hundreds of Amazing Stories issues, from the first year of its publication to the last, at the Internet Archive.

Like the extensive list of Hugo Award winners, the back catalog of Amazing Stories encompasses a host of geniuses: Le Guin, Asimov, H.G. Wells, Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, and many hundreds of lesser-known writers. But the magazine “was slow to develop,” writes Scott Van Wynsberghe. Its lurid covers lured some readers in, but its "first two years were dominated by preprinted material,” and Gernsback developed a reputation for financial dodginess and for not paying his writers well or at all.

By 1929, he sold the magazine and moved on to other ventures, none of them particularly successful. Amazing Stories soldiered on, under a series of editors and with widely varying readerships until it finally succumbed in 2005, after almost eighty years of publication. But that is no small feat in such an often unpopular field, with a publication, writes Ferguson, that was very often perceived as “garish and nonliterary.”

In hindsight, however, we can see Amazing Stories as a sci-fi time capsule and almost essential feature of the genre’s history, even if some of its content tended more toward the young adult adventure story than serious adult fiction. Its flashy covers set the bar for pulp magazines and comic books, especially in its run up to the fifties. After 1955, the year of the first Hugo Award, the magazine reached its peak under the editorship of Cele Goldsmith, who took over in 1959. Gone was much of the eyepopping B-movie imagery of the earlier covers. Amazing Stories acquired a new level of relative polish and sophistication, and published many more “literary” writers, as in the 1959 issue above, which featured a “Book-Length Novel by Robert Bloch.”

This trend continued into the seventies, as you can see in the issue above, with a “complete short novel by Gordon Eklund” (and early fiction by George R.R. Martin). In 1982, Ferguson writes, Amazing Stories was sold “to Gary Gygax of D&D fame, and would never again regain the prominence it had before.” The magazine largely returned to its pulp roots, with covers that resembled those of supermarket paperbacks. Great writers continued to appear, however. And the magazine remained an important source for new science fiction—though much of it only in hindsight. As for Gernsback, his reputation waned considerably after his death in 1967.

“Within a decade,” writes Van Wynsberghe, “science fiction pundits were debating whether or not he had created a ‘ghetto’ for hack writers.” In 1986, novelist Brian Aldiss called Gernsback “one of the worst disasters ever to hit the science fiction field.” His 1911 novel, the ludicrously named Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 is considered “one of the worst science fiction novels in history,” writes Matthew Lasar. It may seem odd that the Oscar of the sci-fi world should be named for such a reviled figure. And yet, despite his pronounced lack of literary ability, Gernsback was a visionary. As a futurist, he made some startlingly accurate predictions, along with some not-so-accurate ones. As for his significant contribution to a new form of writing, writes Lasar, “It was in Amazing Stories that Gernsback first tried to nail down the science fiction idea.” As Ray Bradbury supposedly said, “Gernsback made us fall in love with the future.” Enter the Amazing Stories Internet Archive here.

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


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