Chris Higgins is the author of The Blogger Abides and writes for This American Life, The Atlantic, Breakfast on Mars, and The Magazine. You can follow him at chrishiggins.com.
"I want to be as well-informed as I can possibly be before I die" -John Cleese, in a speech on creativity, sleeping on problems, rewrites, and creating "tortoise enclosures" for your mind by creating boundaries of space and time. This is a brilliant little ten-minute talk for anyone who's interested in writing or any other creative pursuit. I wish it went on longer, as this man really does have a lot to say about his subject.
Here's a sample quote:
"When I suddenly discovered that I could sit... READ ON
On October 4, 1989, founding Monty Python member Graham Chapman, star of both Holy Grail and Life of Brian, died from cancer. At his memorial service, the remaining Pythons eulogized Chapman in truly appropriate style -- by cursing, joking around, but in the end, expressing love for their lost peer.
In this clip, watch John Cleese deliver a beautiful eulogy (including some rather tasteful swearing -- "anything for [Graham] but mindless good taste"), then Eric Idle leading the whole crew in the song... READ ON
Way back in 1977, the original Star Wars movie was released, and so began our battle against the Empire. Among many other amazing things, the film featured a computer-animated graphics sequence -- in which a 3D model of the Death Star is shown to pilots who are about to attack it. I remember as a kid seeing that computer graphics sequence and thinking, "Wow, computers in the future can do 3D!!!" Although it looks dated now, it was state-of-the-art at the time, and quite frankly it's better than some... READ ON
You've definitely seen them: commemorative state plates featuring landmarks and slogans from a particular state. I call them "state plates," but the official term among collectors is "souvenir state plates." They're often displayed in kitchens, and the designs range from kitschy to classy to impossibly bizarre -- see below for examples of each. According to CountryHome (in their "What's Hot Now" feature!), state plates have been around since the 1870s:
Souvenir state plates date back to the 1870s.... READ ON
In honor of today's post on the Elliott Smith documentary Strange Parallel, here's a collection of Elliot Smith playing some of his best songs. Smith died on October 21, 2003, at age 34. Read more about him at Wikipedia.
"Waltz #2 (XO)"
A beautiful performance of one of my favorite songs.
"I'm so glad that my memory's remote
'cause I'm doing just fine hour to hour, note to note
here it is, the revenge to the tune
you're no good
you're no good, you're no good, you're no good
can't you tell... READ ON
I'm a little shocked that I've gone so many years being an Elliott Smith fan, and living in Portland (where it is contractually obligated that you be an Elliott Smith fan), but had never heard of Strange Parallel, a 1998 30-minute documentary on Smith. Directed by Steve Hanft as a promotional film (never released commercially), it's hard to find -- but a copy has popped up on YouTube, and it's well worth a look if you like Elliott Smith. Part documentary, part experimental weirdness (as in the sequence... READ ON
Today I bring you a new "web series about dressing like a grownup" presented by Jesse Thorn of The Sound of Young America (a public radio show that's generally awesome) and Adam Lisagor of the hilarious podcast You Look Nice Today (A Journal of Emotional Hygiene). Anyway, Put This On is all about clothing -- what to buy, how to care for clothes, how to combine clothes, how to do grownup things (like wear ties, match your belt to your shoes, dress properly for an occasion, and so on) that you may not have... READ ON
This bit of musical virtuosity blew my mind, and I urge you to spend two minutes watching and listening. In the video below, 26-year-old Ukrainian Aleksandr Hrustevich plays a Bayan "Jupiter-Lux," a sort of mega-accordion with the capacity (in the right hands) to stand in for an entire orchestra (in this case, he's playing parts written for violin, string orchestra, and basso continuo). In this clip, Hrustevich is playing a portion of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" (Concerto in G Minor), I believe it's from... READ ON
Two weeks ago I wrote about The Story of Pi, a semi-educational retro video that visually explains Pi. One commenter (lynn) pointed out a song I hadn't heard before, The Pi Song by Antoni Chan and Ken Ferrier. I present it below for your weekend edutainment. Set to the tune of the classic Don McLean song "American Pie," this is kind of a hoot. (NOTE: the video below is just the first part; for the whole thing check out this video.)
Complete lyrics after the... READ ON
Today is International Animation Day, and YouTube is featuring some great animated films available on their site. My favorite is "Sita Sings the Blues," which is excellent, and has an amazing story behind it -- basically, the movie includes some old songs which ran into copyright troubles getting clearance for the songs (and the songs were critical to the movie), so the creator decided to give the movie away for free under a Creative Commons license. The movie is funny, sweet, and also informative. Note... READ ON
France's last execution via guillotine was in 1977.