Watch an Animated Documentary About the Pioneering Journalist & Feminist Icon Nellie Bly

While no longer a household name, the trailblazing journalist Nellie Bly (1864-1922) is definitely an enduring American icon.

Her likeness has graced a postage stamp and a finger puppet.

Her life has been the subject of numerous books and a made-for-TV movie.

Some hundred years after its completion, her record-breaking, 72-day round-the-world trip inspired an episode of The American Experience, a puzzle-cum-boardgame, and a rollicking song by history fans the Deedle Deedle Dees.




And now? Meet Nellie Bly, cartoon action hero. (Heroine? Hard to say which honorific the opinionated and forward-thinking Bly, born in 1864, would prefer...)

Filmmaker Penny Lane's "Nellie Bly Makes the News," above, is not the first to recognize this sort of potential in the pioneering journalist, whose 151st birthday was celebrated with an animated Google Doodle and accompanying song by Karen O, but Lane (no relation to Lois, the fictional reporter modeled on you-know-who) wisely lets Bly speak for herself.

Not only that, she brings her into the studio for a 21st-century interview, in which an eye-rolling Bly describes the resistance she encountered from the male elite, who felt it was not just unseemly but impossible that a young woman should pursue the sort of journalistic career she envisioned for herself.

She also touches on some of her most famous journalistic stunts, such as the undercover stints in a New York City “insane asylum”and box-making factory that led to exposés and eventually, social reform.

Biographer Brooke Kroeger and brief glimpses of archival materials touch on some of the other highlights in Bly’s audacious, self-directed career.

The cartoon Bly’s hairdo and attire are period appropriate, but her vocal inflections, courtesy of broadcast reporter and voiceover artist Sammi Jo Francis, are closer in spirit to that of Broad City’s Ilana Glazer.

(Interesting to note, given Bly’s complaints about how prominently the one dress she took on her round the world trip featured in outside stories about that adventure, that dress is a preoccupation of The Appreciation of Booted Newswomen blog. Respectful as that site is, the focus there is definitely not on journalistic achievement.)

via Aeon

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, September 9 for another season of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Simpsons Reimagined as a Russian Art Film

Animator Lenivko Kvadratjić has re-created The Simpsons' famous opening scene. And it's bleak--as in post-Chernobyl bleak. Watch at your own risk.

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via Neatorama

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Segregated By Design: An Animated Look at How African-American Enclaves in U.S. Cities Is Hardly an Accident

From historian Richard Rothstein comes a sobering animated video called "Segregated by Design."  Author of the 2017 book The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, Rothstein has created a video that's as informative as it is visually captivating. Here's what ground it covers:

Examine the forgotten history of how our federal, state and local governments unconstitutionally segregated every major metropolitan area in America through law and policy.

‘Segregated By Design’ examines the forgotten history of how our federal, state and local governments unconstitutionally segregated every major metropolitan area in America through law and policy.

Prejudice can be birthed from a lack of understanding the historically accurate details of the past. Without being aware of the unconstitutional residential policies the United States government enacted during the middle of the twentieth century, one might have a negative view today of neighborhoods where African Americans live or even of African Americans themselves.

We can compensate for this unlawful segregation through a national political consensus that leads to legislation. And this will only happen if the majority of Americans understand how we got here. Like Jay-Z said in a recent New York Times interview, “you can't have a solution until you start dealing with the problem: What you reveal, you heal.” This is the major challenge at hand: to educate fellow citizens of the unconstitutional inequality that we’ve woven and, on behalf of our government, accept responsibility to fix it.

Learn more about the film at the website, Segregated by Design. And find it added to our list of Free Animations, a subset of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

via Aeon

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Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away Opens in China 18 Years After Its Original Release: See Beautiful New Posters for the Film

Animation fans all over the world love the films of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, but animation fans in China have never, until very recently, been able to see them on the big screen. Part of the problem has to do with the sensitivity of Chinese authorities to what sort of media enters the country — especially media from a country like Japan, with which China has not always seen eye to eye. "Miyazaki films did not open theatrically in China until a re-release of My Neighbor Totoro in December 2018," writes Indiewire's Zack Scharf, "one sign that the relationship between Japan and China is getting less tense."

Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli has produced few characters as winning as Totoro — the outsized guardian of the forest who resembles a cross between a cat, an owl, and maybe a bear — and his winning over of China's censors seemed to have opened the gates to the Middle Kingdom for the rest of Miyazaki's beloved filmography. "The Totoro release was a huge box office success with more than $26 million," writes Scharf, "and Spirited Away is widely expected to perform even better given its enduring popularity." Having opened in Japan back in 2001 as 千と千尋の神隠し, or "The Spiriting-Away of Sen and Chihiro," it stands not only as the top-grossing film of all time at the Japanese box office, but one of the several undisputed masterpieces among Miyazaki's works.

Spirited Away tells the story of a ten-year-old girl who, lost in an abandoned amusement park, finds her way into a parallel world populated with the countless spirit creatures enumerated in the Japanese folk religion of shinto — which, as revealed in Wisecrack's video essay "The Philosophy of Hayao Miyazaki," figures heavily into some, and perhaps all of the master's work. As displeasing as the presence of religion, let alone a Japanese religion, may long have been to Chinese higher-ups, the Chinese public's enthusiasm for Miyazaki's films can hardly be disputed.

That powerful force could even return to Spirited Away the title of most successful Japanese animated film ever, which it held until Makoto Shinkai's Your Name came along in 2017. The marketing of Spirited Away's eighteen-year-late Chinese theatrical release, which includes this series of posters newly designed by artist Zao Dao, will certainly help give it a push. Every Ghibli enthusiast in China will certainly come out for it, and with luck, they may also be able to see the upcoming How Do You Live? — Miyazaki's next and perhaps final film, for whose production he came out of the latest of his retirements — in theaters along with the rest of the world.

via @MadmanFilms

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

 

Watch The Meaning of Life: One of the Best Animated Short Films Ever Made Traces the Evolution of Life, the Universe & Beyond

They say creativity is born of limitations. If that's true, then is any animator working today more creative than Don Hertzfeldt? "The stars of his movies are all near-featureless stickmen with dots for eyes and a single line for a mouth," writes The Guardian's David Jenkins in an appreciation of Hertzfeldt, whose "method of making grand existential statements with almost recklessly modest means" — animating everything himself, and doing it all with traditional hand-drawing-and-film-camera methods that at no point involve computer-generated imagery — "has made his cinematic oeuvre one of the most fascinating and enjoyable of all contemporary American directors."

As an example Jenkins holds up 2005's The Meaning of Life, which "tackled nothing less than the nature of organic life in the known universe, addressing the painstaking development of the human form through a series of (often highly amusing) Darwinian transmutations."




You can glimpse its four-year-long animation process, which appears to have been almost as painstaking, in time-lapse making-of documentary Watching Grass Grow. At Short of the Week, Rob Munday writes that, though The Meaning of Life takes on "a subject already familiar to the format (evolution has also been portrayed in short film by animators Michael MillsClaude Cloutier and I’m sure many more)," it also sees Hertzfeldt adding "his own distinct take to proceedings with his unmistakable style and injections of dark humor."

That special brand of humor has long been familiar to the many viewers who have stumbled across Hertzfeldt's earlier Rejected, a short composed of even shorter shorts originally commissioned — and, yes, rejected — by the Family Learning Channel. As one of the first animations to "go viral" in the Youtube era, Rejected not only made Hertzfeldt's name but paved the way for projects at once more ambitious, more surreal, more comic, and more serious: take the 65-minute It's Such a Beautiful Day, which follows one of his signature stickmen into prolonged neurological decline. The Meaning of Life might seem positive by comparison, but its cosmic sweep belies Hertzfeldt's underlying critique of all that evolution has produced. As Jenkins paraphrases it,  "Were we really worth all that effort?"

The Meaning of Life--which Time Out New York named the film one of the "thirty best animated short films ever made"--has been added to our list of Free Animations, a subset of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Jeff Tweedy Explains How to Learn to Love Music You Hate: Watch a Video Animated by R. Sikoryak

Punk rock peer pressure forced Jeff Tweedy, founder of Wilco, to shun Neil Young and other  "hippie"musical greats.

Ah, youth...

Were Tweedy, now a seasoned 51-year-old, to deliver a commencement speech, he'd do well to counsel younger musicians to reject such knee jerk rejection, as he does in the above animated interview for Topic magazine.




Not because he's now one of those grey beards himself, but rather because he's come to view influence and taste as living organisms, capable of interacting in surprising ways.

That's not to say the youngsters are obliged to declare an affinity for what they hear when venturing into the past, just as Tweedy doesn't fake a fondness for much of the new music he checks out on the regular.

Think of this practice as something similar to one millions of childish picky eaters have endured. Eat your vegetables. Just a taste. You can't say you don't like them until you've actively tasted them. Who knows? You may find one you like. Or perhaps it'll prove more of a slow burn, becoming an unforeseen ingredient of your maturity.

In other words, better to sample widely from the unending musical buffet available on the Internet than conceive of yourself as a wholly original rock god, sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus, capiche?

The narration suggests that Tweedy's got some problems with online culture, but he gives props to the digital revolution for its softening effect on the ironclad cultural divide of his 70s and 80s youth.

Was it really all just a marketing scheme?

Unlikely, given the Vietnam War, but there's no denying that educating ourselves in our passion includes approaching its history with an at-least-partially open mind.

If you want to snap it shut after you've had some time to consider, that's your call, though Tweedy suggests he's never comfortable writing something off forever.

If nothing else, the stuff he dislikes teaches him more about the stuff he loves—including, presumably, some of his own impressive catalog.

Kudos to director Keith Stack and Augenblick Studios, animator of so many Topic interviews, for matching Tweedy with cartoonist R. Sikoryak, an artist who clearly shares Tweedy's creative philosophy as evidenced by such works as Terms and Conditions and Masterpiece ComicsHere is another who clearly knows how to make a meal from mixing old and new, traditional and experimental, high and low. One of the bonus joys of this animated life lesson is catching all of Sikoryak's musical Easter eggs—including a cameo by Nipper, the face of His Master's Voice.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist ofthe East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City June 17 for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch “Critical Living,” a Stop-Motion Film Inspired by the 1960s Movement That Rejected Modern Ideas About Mental Illness

Along with Michel Foucault's critique of the medical model of mental illness, the work of Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing and other influential theorists and critics posed a serious intellectual challenge to the psychiatric establishment. Laing’s 1960 The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness theorized schizophrenia as a philosophical problem, not a biological one. Other early works like Self and Others and Knots made Laing something of a star in the 1960s and early 70s, though his star would fade once French theory began to take over the academy.

Glasgow-born Laing is described as part of the so-called “anti-psychiatry movement”—a loose collection of psychiatrists and characters like L. Ron Hubbard, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Foucault, and Erving Goffman, pioneering sociologist and author of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. For his part, Laing did not deny the existence of mental illness, nor oppose treatment. But he questioned the biological basis of psychological disorders and opposed the prevailing chemical and electroshock cures. He was seen not as an antagonist of psychiatry but as a “critical psychiatrist," continuing a tradition begun by Freud and Jung: “the alienist or ‘head shrinker’ as public intellectual,” as Duquesne University’s Daniel Burston writes.




Like many other philosophically-minded intellectuals in his field, Laing not only offered compelling alternative theories of mental illness but also pioneered alternative therapies. He was inspired by Existentialism; the many hours he had spent “in padded cells with the men placed in his custody” while apprenticed in psychiatry in the British Army; and to a large extent by Foucault. (Laing edited the first English translation of Foucault’s Madness and Civilization.) Armed with theory and clinical experience, he co-founded the Philadelphia Association in 1965, an organization “centred on a communal approach to wellbeing,” writes Aeon, “where people who are experiencing acute mental distress live together in a Philadelphia Association house, with routine visits from therapists.”

Based not in the Pennsylvania city, but in London, the Philadelphia Association still operates—along with several similar orgs influenced by Laing’s vision of therapeutic communities. In "Critical Living," the animated stop-motion film above, filmmaker Alex Widdowson excerpts interviews with “a current house therapist, a former house resident, and the UK author and cultural historian Mike Jay, to explore the thinking behind the organization’s methodology and contextualize its legacy.” For Laing, mental illnesses, even extreme psychoses like schizophrenia, are personal struggles that can best be worked through in interpersonal settings which eliminate distinctions between doctor and patient and abolish methods Laing called “confrontational.”

Laing’s work began to be discredited in the mid-seventies, as breakthroughs in brain imaging provided neurological evidence for mainstream psychiatric theories, and as the culture changed and left his theories behind. A friend of Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, and Allen Ginsberg, and an intellectual hero to many in the counterculture, Laing began to move into stranger territory, holding workshops for “rebirthing” therapies and giving people around him reason to doubt his own grasp on reality. Burston lists a number of other reasons his experiments with “therapeutic community” largely fell into obscurity, including the significant investment of time and effort required. “We want a quick fix: something clean and cost-effective, not messy and time consuming.”

But for many, Laing’s ideas of mental illness as an existential problem—one which could be just as much a breakthrough as a breakdown—continue to resonate, as do the many political and social critiques he and his contemporaries raised. “In the system of psychiatry,” says one interviewee in the video above, “there’s a huge emphasis on goals, and on an ending. In the more in-depth therapies, they’re more sensitive to the fact that the psyche can’t be rushed, it takes time.”

via Aeon

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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