A short film made in the early 1950s about the elevated rail line that traveled from the base of Manhattan, up the Bowery and 3rd Avenue, to Gun Hill Road in the Bronx.
New Yorkers, how many places do you recognize as they zoom by? What brewery was that on 3rd Avenue?
The characters are an arty type, a drunk, a little girl, a young couple, and the drama or plot, such as it is, revolves around a nickel stuck in the wooden floorboards of the train (also notice the padded seats). The main characters here are really the subway and the city.
Here, the late, great, Maynard Smith talks about what it means to say something is living. Like many virtuosos, he makes something difficult seem simple, with utterly clear explanations – the lecture is a small masterpiece.
He considers that what some biologists (such as Stuart Kauffman) define as life i.e. self reproducing things that metabolize, does not differentiate between life and something like a flame and that we must always add heredity (of infinite possible variety) to account for what we consider to be truly alive.
This leads to life as seen from an information perspective i.e how we transmit information between generations, and he outlines 9 milestones in the evolution of life from this vantage point, from replicating molecules to electronic information communication.
This has to be the most extreme example of what Smashing Telly set out to promote, the antithesis of ‘moronic 30 second dog on skateboard’ clips, this is 42 hours of gloriously intelligent video.
With people not much older than Fuller, like George Orwell, having not a single audio or video recording of themselves in existence, Buckminster Fuller fans can consider themselves lucky that such a film legacy exists.
In 1975 Buckminster Fuller recorded these sessions entitled ‘Everything I know’, in Philadelphia. This is the first film in the series, the entire set is available at the Wiki below.
Gell-Mann is possibly the single most important human being alive. Worth a listen. I particularly like his innocent, eccentric giggling at his own jokes and his enthusiasm – the mark of someone who has never been coached in public speaking by a PR flack, because he transcends that kind of crap and appears genuine.
Playwrights and poets currently garner more cultural prestige than innovative computer makers, but this may be partly because the present rarely has the prestige of the past even if the here and now is where great art is born. The most prestigious art form of Ancient Greece was Lyre playing, hardly a venerated activity now.
I would argue that in a hundred years people will not have heard of most of the people that cover the arts sections of the broadsheets, but that Steve Jobs will be remembered not just as an industrialist, but as a cultural innovator – an artist.
Jobs is considered sartorially elegant, yet he dresses from the waist down in high waisted, beltless, over-length, bleached jeans and sneakers – like an average suburban mall shopper. He is though of as a great speaker, but his delivery is sometimes horribly rehearsed and his voice thin and nasal. But, listen to this speech from when he had just recovered from cancer, it is a masterpiece. For me this is the thing above all others, to show people who don’t get what all the fuss is about when he speaks at a tawdry trade show, tomorrow at the Moscone Center, and people cover it like it was the sermon on the mount.
If people had behaved in the 20th Century as they did in the Bible, several billion people would have died in war, not several hundred million. There are more people alive today, meaning that the raw numbers of deaths are higher, but people are fundamentally far less violent and in percentage terms violence has continually decreased since the enlightenment.
Steven Pinker is a Canadian psychologist with a talent, rather like Richard Dawkins, for thinking logically and writing clearly, while still remaining poetic. His books about language and the brain are popular science classics.
Here he talks at the famous TED conference, on the subject of violence, demolishing both the conservative fallacy of a morally superior past, and the liberal delusion about benign pre-scientific cultures.