March, 2011

Father and Daughter: An Oscar-Winning Animated Short Film

in Film, Video - Arts & Culture | March 31st, 2011

Dear Daniel B.,

Thank you for bringing the 2000 Michaël Dudok De Wit short, Father and Daughter, to our attention. We always appreciate reader suggestions.

We must take issue, however, with your warning: “Be advised, it will indeed break your heart.” At Open Culture we  approach the arts with a discerning, engaged and unsentimental eye — our heart does not break, it blogs.

It will therefore take much more than an 8-minute cartoon, no matter how artfully rendered, understated, critically lauded, or Dutch, to move us. Please keep this in mind for the future.

All best,

Open Culture.

P.S. OK, fine you win. This post was typed from the floor, drowning in the puddle we’d been reduced to by the 6 minute mark. And yes, bawling like babies.

P.P.S. Per your suggestion, we’ve added it to our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.. Thanks again.

Sheerly Avni is a San Francisco-based arts and culture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Weekly, Mother Jones, and many other publications. You can follow her on twitter at @sheerly.

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Japan’s Earthquake & Tsunami: How They Happened

in Science, Video - Science | March 31st, 2011

On March 11th, Japan suffered a 9.0 earthquake, followed by a massive tsunami. Just weeks later, NOVA has produced a 47 minute documentary that does an impressive job of explaining the science behind these twin geologic catastrophes. The program follows Roger Bilham, a seismologist at the University of Colorado, who arrived in Japan two days after the quake. And what you get is a blow-by-blow account of the unfolding events, coupled with some sound analysis and stunning footage (like the ground splitting open and pushing water to the surface.) This is by far the most substantive treatment of Japan’s quake/tsunami that we’ve encountered to date…

via Science Dump

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Do Look Back: Pennebaker and Marcus Talk Bob Dylan

in Film, Music, Video - Arts & Culture | March 30th, 2011

D.A. Pennebaker’s classic 1967 documentary Don’t Look Back will be re-released on Blu-Ray on April 24. As a featured extra, it will include this terrific reminiscence between Pennebaker and music journalist/cultural critic Greil Marcus, who wrote two of our favorite Dylan books:  The Old, Weird America: Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes and Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads.

Our other favorite is of course literary critic Christopher Ricks’ nutty and wonderful Dylan’s Vision of Sin. Ricks and Marcus approach the artist through very different prisms — for a fun chance to compare and contrast, check out their recent joint lecture at the Heyman School for the Humanities. (The video clocks in at over an hour and forty minutes, too long for some, not nearly long enough for the Dylan-obsessed.)

via Flavorwire

Sheerly Avni is a San Francisco-based arts and culture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Weekly, Mother Jones, and many other publications. You can follow her on twitter at @sheerly.

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The Billion-Bug Highway You Can’t See

in Video - Science | March 30th, 2011

When you look up in the sky, what do you see besides the blue sky, clouds, the occasional bird and plane, the Sun, and the Moon? In this whimsical animated video from NPR, we learn about the various insects – the wasps, aphids, beetles, etc. – that inhabit the upper levels of the troposphere. What’s incredible is that in the peak summer months, there are billions of these insects high in the sky, with some cruising at an altitude of 19,000 feet, equivalent to the height of Mount McKinley!

For the botanists out there: the title of the video is a little misleading, as the word bug actually refers to an insect of the order Hemiptera; to be precise, we have to call it the billion-insect highway…

Highly recommended: the accompanying NPR story from Robert Krulwich.

Eugene Buchko is a blogger and photographer living in Atlanta, GA. He maintains a photoblog, Erudite Expressions, and writes about what he reads on his reading blog.

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Kinetic Strandbeests on the Beach: Alchemy of Art & Engineering

in Art | March 30th, 2011

Since 1990, Dutch artist Theo Jansen has given life to Strandbeests. They’re made of nothing more than a mass of yellow plastic tubes. But these kinetic sculptures feed off of the wind. They roam the beaches on their own. And they evolve. Soon enough, Jansen says, you will see Strandbeests living in herds, and who knows what the alchemy of art and engineering will bring next.

This clip comes from a BBC production, Nature Knows Best, that aired late last year. You can also catch Jansen introducing his self-propelling beach animals at TED.

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Dementia 13: Coppola’s First Full-Length Feature

in Film, Video - Arts & Culture | March 29th, 2011

Would the 1963 horror film Dementia 13 be remembered today without the subsequent achievements of its young director, Francis Ford Coppola? It’s hard to say. Contemporaries seem to have thought otherwise: The New York Times reviewer described the film’s direction as “stolid” and its cast as “unlucky,” and the producer, B-Movie king Roger Corman, furiously took the reins from his protege the minute he saw the first cut.

But Dementia 13 was still the first full-length feature of a man who would go on to direct three of the greatest films ever made, and so it’s tempting (and fun) to scour Dementia 13 for early manifestations of genius. Watch it and judge for yourself — and look out for the dolls.

Coppola’s film appears in the Noir, Thriller and Horror section of our collection of Free Movies Online, along with other Roger Corman movies. The Internet Archive hosts an alternate version of the film as well.

Sheerly Avni is a San Francisco-based arts and culture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Weekly, Mother Jones, and many other publications. You can follow her on twitter at @sheerly.

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Scifoo: How Would You Spend a Billion Dollars?

in Science, Technology, Video - Science | March 29th, 2011

Scifoo is an annual “unconference” c0-hosted in Mountain View, California by Google, O’Reilly Media and Nature publishing. It’s participant-driven, cross-pollinating, and highly unstructured, relying more on brainstorms and erasable white boards than PowerPoint presentations and lecture halls. According to Nature’s page for Scifoo 2011:

200 leading scientists, technologists, writers and other thought-leaders will gather once more at the Googleplex for a weekend of unbridled discussion, demonstration and debate.

The event is invitation-only, but if your own position as global thought-leader has not yet been recognized, you can take comfort in these engaging short videos from past Scifoo conferences. In addition to filming the obligatory general overview, Nature also asked some of the attendees – including a climate scientist, an astrobiologist, and a Nobel laureate in physics – for short answers on specific topics, like fears for the futurepredictions for the next decade and our personal favorite question: “If you had $1 billion to spend on just one project, what would it be?

Something that should inspire teachers: A good chunk of these experts’ dream projects involved pushes for widespread education reform and dissemination of existing knowledge, rather than financing for advances in their particular specialties. We particularly liked skeptic Michael Shermer’s vision of worldwide critical thinking programs that would teach students “not what to think, but how to think.” (2:34)

For more information on Scifoo Camp, click here.

Sheerly Avni is a San Francisco-based arts and culture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Weekly, Mother Jones, and many other publications. You can follow her on twitter at @sheerly.

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James Earl Jones Reads Othello at White House Poetry Jam

in Literature, Poetry | March 29th, 2011

Not long after taking office, President Obama hosted the first White House poetry jam – an evening dedicated to the spoken word and bringing verses to life. Esperanza Spalding’s performance was a high point. And later came James Earl Jones, arguably the best special effect in Star Wars, who recited lines from Shakespeare instead of Dr. Seuss (since Jesse Jackson already covered that literary territory back in 1991). The reading comes from Othello. Specifically, we’re witnessing Othello’s address to the Venetian senators.

You can read Othello, along with the rest of Shakespeare’s complete works, at MIT’s website for free. Or you can download the works as a free ebook via iTunesU. We have more on that here

via DIY Scholar

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Passages from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake: The Film

in Film, Literature | March 28th, 2011

Due to its stylistic and linguistic complexity, James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake ranks among the most difficult works of fiction. And that is why virtually no filmmaker has ever tried to adapt Joyce’s final work for the screen. But after Mary Manning Howe adapted passages from the book for the stage (listen to her reading from Finnegans Wake here), American animator Mary Ellen Bute accepted the challenge and turned Manning’s play into a film.

Sadly, Mary Ellen Bute’s short films are almost forgotten today, but from the 1930s to 1950s her abstract musical shorts were known to a wide audience. Don’t miss her first color film from 1938.

Between 1965 and 1967, Bute created her last film, and only feature film, Passages from Finnegans Wake. The movie was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and named Best Debut of the Year (1965). The video above shows only the opening sequence, but the whole film can be enjoyed online courtesy of UbuWeb.

Bonus: You can read Roger Ebert’s 1968 review of Bute’s film here. He admits that he didn’t enjoy it too much, but concedes this may have been because he hadn’t actually read the book.

By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.

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Steve Martin Writes Song for Hymn-Deprived Atheists

in Music, Religion | March 28th, 2011

Brilliant comedian. Playwright. Contributor to The New Yorker. And now songwriter for hymn-deprived atheists. Steve Martin – who comes into focus within 10 seconds – performs here with the Steep Canyon Rangers at Merlefest 2010…

You can find an alternate/more polished version recorded on the David Letterman Show here

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