Big Daddy’s last dance

2 minutes

Phrenology: the weirdest pseudoscience of them all?

4 minutes

Samurai rules for peace and war

20 minutes

Colette

25 minutes

Light and microscopy

13 minutes

The reverence and revelry of a New Orleans jazz funeral procession

Drawing from West African, Haitian and European colonial influences, jazz funerals are a tradition almost entirely exclusive to New Orleans, and as culturally rich and multifaceted as the city itself. The processions generally open with a brass band performing solemn marches and dirges as family and friends accompany the deceased to a burial. Eventually, the band breaks out into more upbeat and swinging numbers, allowing mourners cathartic release in music and dance, and onlookers to form a ‘second line’ and join the festivities. In what director Caitlyn Greene describes as ‘a love letter to New Orleans’, Big Daddy’s Last Dance captures the arc of a jazz funeral, in all its reverent, jubilant glory.

The ‘dangerous nonsense’ of phrenology shows how pseudoscience takes hold

In the 19th century, the Viennese physiologist Franz Joseph Gall placed a formidable thumb on the scales of the ‘nature vs nurture’ debate when he proposed a simple – and, as we now know, false – solution to the age-old conundrum. Everything you need to know about someone’s character, he argued, could be predicted by the shape of different brain regions – and by extension, the contours of their head. That phrenology, as it became known, was built on conjecture rather than empiricism was clear to a great many scientists of the era. Still, it caught on in the public consciousness, and often with sinister consequences. This animation from BBC Reel provides a brief history of phrenology, shedding light on why facile solutions often gain traction over rigorous empiricism, and how pseudoscience can sometimes open gateways for the real thing.

Video by BBC Reel

A samurai rulebook offers guidance on how to kill enemies and refrain from gossip

From the 10th century till their abolition in the 1870s, samurai were a class of Japanese military nobility who inherited lives as warrior protectorates (bushi) for feudal lords, and had a notoriously strict and intricate honour code. This video from the YouTube channel Voices of the Past explores two scrolls from the famed samurai school Natori-Ryu’s 17th-century rulebook. The first scroll has codes of conduct for peacetime, with guidance ranging from the universal, such as the pitfalls of talking behind someone’s back, to the extremely samurai-specific, such as keeping a home garden that doesn’t leave you vulnerable to enemy attack. The second scroll lays out the rules of engagement in wartime and paints a much more violent portrait of samurai life, built around intricate rules for killing and being killed. These primary sources offer an intriguing window into the samurai value system, in which loss of reputation was considered a fate far worse than death.

A French resistance fighter reluctantly revisits her past in this Oscar-winning portrait

During the Nazi occupation of France, 14-year-old Colette Marin-Catherine joined the French resistance alongside her family. ‘We were playing cat and mouse. And playing with fire. Or rather, fire was playing with us,’ Marin-Catherine, now 92, recalls. Sadly, not everyone in her family would live to see France liberated. Her brother Jean-Pierre was just 17 when he was arrested for stockpiling weapons. He would die in the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp in March 1945, just three weeks before the camp was liberated.

In this short documentary, Marin-Catherine faces her trauma with the support of a history student named Lucie Fouble – only 17 years old herself. For the first time in her life, and with Fouble ever by her side, Marin-Catherine travels from France to Germany to visit the camp where some 20,000 Nazi prisoners including her brother died. The US director Anthony Giacchino and the French producer Alice Doyard won the 2021 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) for this poignant portrait of bravery and healing amid the long, painful echoes of the Second World War. An accomplished and moving piece of filmmaking, Colette is a reminder of the tremendous power of individual stories to humanise history.

Director: Anthony Giacchino

Producer: Alice Doyard

Website: Guardian Documentaries

There’s no one way a microbe looks, only different clever methods to see it

In one sense, there are many ways to see a microbe, but in another, truly none at all. That’s to say, the array of microscopy methods developed since the Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek first peered into the microbial world in the 1670s are, by necessity, extraordinary distortions. Each represents a means of manipulating light to translate creatures that are, by definition, too small for the human eye to see. The result is a microbial world in which a single creature can look entirely different depending on the microscopy method used to capture it. This video from the YouTube channel Journey to the Microcosmos takes viewers on a tour of the many clever methods that scientists have developed to shine a light on small-scale life. The result is both an intriguing slice of science history and a highly illuminating visual investigation.

Via Kottke

Video by Journey to the Microcosmos

Host: Hank Green

Producer: Matthew Gaydos

The reverence and revelry of a New Orleans jazz funeral procession

Drawing from West African, Haitian and European colonial influences, jazz funerals are a tradition almost entirely exclusive to New Orleans, and as culturally rich and multifaceted as the city itself. The processions generally open with a brass band performing solemn marches and dirges as family and friends accompany the deceased to a burial. Eventually, the band breaks out into more upbeat and swinging numbers, allowing mourners cathartic release in music and dance, and onlookers to form a ‘second line’ and join the festivities. In what director Caitlyn Greene describes as ‘a love letter to New Orleans’, Big Daddy’s Last Dance captures the arc of a jazz funeral, in all its reverent, jubilant glory.

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Photo by Martine Franck/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of religion
Reincarnation now

Modern mindfulness strips Buddhism of its spiritual core. We need an ethics of reincarnation for an interconnected world

Avram Alpert

John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and Art Davis, live in Copenhagen, 1961. Photo by JP Jazz Archive/Getty

Essay/
Quantum theory
Quantum music

Physics has long looked to harmony to explain the beauty of the Universe. But what if dissonance yields better insights?

Katie McCormick