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Stanley Kubrick's Letters

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The Telegraph has posted a series of letters and telegrams from Stanley Kubrick's archive. They are at turns bizarre, amusing, and revealing -- often showing his frank interactions with actors and studio representatives. Here's a sample of the correspondence related to 2001: A Space Odyssey:

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, 1968

The process of collaboration between Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke begins.

March 31, 1964
Dear Mr Clarke, It's a very interesting coincidence that our mutual friend Caras mentioned you in a conversation we were having about a Questar telescope. I had been a great admirer of your books for quite a time and had always wanted to discuss with you the possibility of doing the proverbial really good science-fiction movie. My main interest lies along these broad areas naturally assuming great plot and character.

1. The reasons for believing in the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrial life.

2. The impact (and perhaps even lack on impact in some quarters) such discovery would have on earth in the near future.

3. A space probe with a landing and exploration of the Moon and Mars.

Would you consider coming sooner with a view to a meeting, the purpose of which would be to determine whether an idea might exist or arise which could sufficiently interest both of us enough to want to collaborate on a screenplay?"

He approaches Robert Shaw to play the Moon-Watcher character, eventually played by Daniel Richter.

February 17, 1965
To Robert Shaw

I am enclosing a sketch of an Australopithecine man-ape from Raymond Dark's "Adventures with the missing link", without wishing to seen unappreciative of your rugged and handsome countenance, I must observe there appears to be an incredible resemblance.

Kubrick allows "cross plugging" for the film and asks companies to redesign their products for the future world of 2001.

May 14, 1965
To an unnamed executive at MGM

I have hired Roger Caras [Polaris Productions] to implement the plan to obtain co-operation and exploit cross plugging from companies such as General Electric, General Motors, etc.

September 22, 1965
To Roger Caras

Dear Roger We are badly in need of a mad computer expert who can be around and advise on dialogue and jargon to use in computer scenes. It should be someone who has his eye on the future of computers and not just a stick in the mud type. Can IBM assign someone from England to serve as this part-time liaison. Stanley.

Read the rest for a bunch of nice anecdotes. (Via Daring Fireball.)

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
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‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
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Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:

via GIPHY

This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.

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