Pre-Flight Safety Demonstration Gets Performed as a Modern Dance: A Creative Video from a Taiwanese Airline

Taiwanese airline EVA Air’s pre-flight safety video is a genuine oddity in a field littered with creative interpretations.

Ten years ago, airlines were straightforward about complying with the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Federal Aviation Administration, and other governing bodies’ requirements.  These instructions were serious business. Children and other first time travelers paid strict attention to information about tray tables, exits, and inflatable life vests that jaded frequent flyers ignored, confident that most take offs and landings tend to go according to plan, and the overwhelming number of planes tend stay in the air for the duration of one's flight.




What about the ones that don't though? There are times when a too-cool-for-school business traveler seated next to an emergency exit could spell disaster for everyone onboard.

Virgin America’s 2007 animated safety video, below, was the first to recapture passengers' attention, with a blasé narrative style that poked fun at the standard tropes:

For the .0001% of you who have never operated a seatbelt before, it works like this…

The cocky tone was dialed down for more critical information, like how to assist the child in the seat next to you when the yellow oxygen masks drop from the overhead compartment. (Imagine the mayhem if indie animator Bill Plympton had been in the pilot’s seat for this one…)

The irreverent approach was a hit. The FAA took note, encouraging creativity in a 2010 Advisory Circular:

Every airline passenger should be motivated to focus on the safety information in the passenger briefing; however, motivating people, even when their own personal safety is involved, is not easy. One way to increase passenger motivation is to make the safety information briefings and cards as interesting and attractive as possible.

For a while EVA Air, an innovator whose fleet includes several Hello Kitty Jets, played it safe by sticking to crowd pleasing schtick. Its 2012 CGI safety demo video, below, must’ve played particularly well with the Hello Kitty demographic.

...looks a bit 2012, no?

A few months ago, EVA took things in a direction few industry professionals could’ve predicted: modern dance, performed with utmost sincerity.

Choreographer Bulareyaung Pagarlava, a member of Taiwan’s indigenous Paiwan community, and a small crew of dancers spent three months translating the familiar directives into a vocabulary of symbolic gestures. See the results at the top of the post.

You’ll find none of the stock characters who populate other airlines’ videos here—no sneaky smokers, no concerned moms, no sleepy businesspeople. There’s barely a suggestion of a cabin.

Unfettered by seats or overhead bins, the brightly clad, barefoot dancers leap and roll as they interact with 3D projections, behavior that would certainly summon a flight attendant if performed on an actual plane.

Does it work?

The answer may depend on whether or not the plane on which you’re traveling takes a sudden nose dive.

In “No Joking,” an essay about airport security, University of Ottawa professor Mark B. Salter writes that it is “difficult to motivate passengers to contemplate their own mortality.” The fashion for jokiness in safety videos “naturalizes areas of anxiety,” a mental trick of which Freud was well aware.

What then are we to make of the EVA Air dancer at the 4:35 minute mark, who appears to be falling backward through the night sky?

Would you show a jet's worth of travelers the modern dance equivalent of Airplane 1975, Fearless, or Snakes on a Plane before they taxi down the runway?

Mercifully, the narrator steps in to remind passengers that smoking is prohibited, before the digitally projected dark waters can swallow the writhing soloist up.

There’s also some question as to whether the video adequately addresses the question of tray table operation.

Readers, what do you think? Does this new video make you feel secure about taking flight?

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

David Lynch Teaches Typing: A New Interactive Comedy Game

Typing programs demand some patience on the part of the student, and David Lynch Teaches Typing is no exception.

You’ve got 90 seconds to get acclimated to the cruddy floppy disc-era graphics and the cacophonous voice of your instructor, a dead ringer for FBI Deputy Director Gordon Cole, the hard-of-hearing character director David Lynch played on his seminal early 90s series, Twin Peaks.

Things perk up about a minute and a half in, when students are instructed to place their left ring fingers in an undulating bug to the left of their keyboards.

That second "in"? Not a typo (though you'll notice plenty of no doubt intentional boo-boos in the teacher's pre-programmed responses...)




The bug in question may well put you in mind of the mysterious baby in Lynch’s first feature length film, 1977’s Eraserhead.

On the other hand, it might not.

David Lynch Teaches Typing is actually a short interactive comedy game, and many of the millennial reviewers covering that beat have had to play catch-up in order to catch the many nods to the director’s work contained therein.

One of our favorites is the Apple-esque name of the program’s retro computer, and we'll wager that frequent Lynch collaborator, actor Kyle MacLachlan, would agree.

Another reference that has thus far eluded online gaming enthusiasts in their 20s is Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Take a peek below at what the virtual typing tutor’s graphics looked like around the time the original Twin Peaks aired to discover the creators of David Lynch Teaches Typing’s other inspiration.

David Lynch Teaches Typing is available for free download here. If you’re anxious that doing so might open you up to a technical bug of nightmarish proportions, stick with watching the play through at the top of the page.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her March 20 in New York City for the second edition of Necromancers of the Public Domain, a low budget variety show born of a 1920 manual for Girl Scout Camp Directors. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Judd Apatow Teaches the Craft of Comedy: A New Online Course from MasterClass

School just got fun. And funny. Days after announcing that New Yorker author Malcolm Gladwell will teach his first online course on writing, MasterClass revealed that Judd Apatow, the director of umpteen funny films (The 40-Year-Old VirginKnocked Up, This Is 40, etc.), will present his own course on comedy, offerings lessons on how to "create hilarious storylines, write great stand-up, and direct comedies that leave audiences laughing."

In 32 video lessons, students will learn how to: find comedic inspiration; mine your life for material; outline and structure stories for film and TV; write stand-up material; write comic dialogue; pitch projects to studios and networks; work with actors; and navigate the entertainment industry. Now open for pre-enrollment, the course will officially get started this spring. Anyone looking to study comedy can also immediately get started with an existing comedy course taught by Steve Martin.

Each MasterClass course costs $90. But, for $180, you can get an annual pass to every course in the MasterClass catalogue.

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If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Note: MasterClasss and Open Culture have a partnership. If you sign up for a MasterClass course, it benefits not just you and MasterClass. It benefits Open Culture too. So consider it win-win-win.

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A Supercut of Buster Keaton’s Most Amazing Stunts–and Keaton’s 5 Rules of Comic Storytelling

Joseph Frank Keaton was born into showbiz. His father was a comedian. His mother, a soubrette. He emerged into the world during a one night engagement in Kansas City. His father’s business partner, escape artist Harry Houdini, inadvertently renamed him Buster, approving of the way the rubbery little Keaton weathered an accidental tumble down a flight of stairs.

As Keaton recalls in the interview accompanying silent movie fan Don McHoull’s edit of some of his most amazing stunts, above:

My old man was an eccentric comic and as soon as I could take care of myself at all on my feet, he had slapped shoes on me and big baggy pants. And he'd just start doing gags with me and especially kickin' me clean across the stage or taking me by the back of the neck and throwing me. By the time I got up to around seven or eight years old, we were called The Roughest Act That Was Ever in the History of the Stage. 

By the time of his first film role in the 1917 Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle vehicle, The Butcher Boy, Keaton was a seasoned clown, with plenty of experience stringing physical gags into an entertaining narrative whole.




Like his silent peers, Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin, Keaton was an idea man, who saw no need for a script. Armed with a firm concept of how the film should begin and end, he rolled cameras without much idea of how the middle would turn out, fine tuning his physical set pieces on the fly, scrapping the ones that didn’t work and embracing the happy accidents.

Could such an approach work for today’s comedians? In later interviews, Keaton was generous toward other comedy professionals who got their laughs via methods he steered clear of, from Bob Hope’s wordiness to director Billy Wilder’s deft handling of Some Like It Hot’s farcical cross-dressing. His was never a one-size-fits-all philosophy.

Perhaps it's more helpful to think of his approach as an antidote to creative block and timidity. We’ve cobbled together some of his advice, below, in the hope that it might prove useful to storytellers of all stripes.

Buster Keaton’s 5 Rules of Comic Storytelling

Make a strong start - grab the audience with a dynamic, easy to grasp premise, like the one in 1920’s One Week, which finds a newlywed Buster struggling to assemble a house from a do-it-yourself kit.

Decide how you want things to finish up - for Keaton, this usually involved getting the girl, though he learned to keep a poker face after a preview audience booed the broad grin he tried out in one of Arbuckle’s shorts. Once you know where your story’s going, trust that the middle will take care of itself.

If it’s not working, cut it - Keaton may not have had a script, but he invested a lot of thought into the physical set pieces of his films. If it didn’t work as well as he hoped in execution, he cut it loose. If some serendipitous snafu turned out to be funnier than the intended gag, he put that in instead.

Play it like it matters to you. As many a beginning improv student finds out, if you let your own material crack you up, the audience is rarely inclined to laugh along. Why settle for low stakes and diffidence, when high stakes and commitment are so much funnier?

Action over words Whether dealing with dialogue or exposition, Keaton strove to minimize the intertitles in his silent work. Show, don’t tell.

Films excerpted at top:

Three Ages
Cops
Day Dreams
Sherlock Jr.
One Week
Hard Luck
Neighbors
The General
Steamboat Bill, Jr.
Seven Chances
Our Hospitality
The Bell

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Improbable Time When Orson Welles Interviewed Andy Kaufman (1982)

"Sitcoms are the lowest form of entertainment," declares Andy Kaufman as portrayed by Jim Carrey in Milos Forman's biopic Man on the Moon. "I mean, it's just stupid jokes and canned laughter." The scene comes in the period of Kaufman's life in the late 1970s when, growing ever more well-known on the back of acts like his "Foreign Man" character, he receives an offer to take part in ABC's Taxi. The real-life Kaufman, eventually convinced to join the show's cast, developed the Foreign Man into the unplaceable mechanic Latka Gavras. Quite possibly Taxi's most memorable character, Latka also won the appreciation of no less demanding a cultural figure than Orson Welles.

Guest-hosting the Merv Griffin Show in June of 1982, Welles describes Taxi as a show that has "kept television from being a criminal felony" just before bringing Kaufman on for a brief (and uncharacteristically straightforward) chat. He heaps praise on Kaufman's performance as Latka, adding, "I want to know why it is that you go and wrestle with people when you can act so well." Kaufman had shown up wearing a neck brace, an accessory signifying the end of his stint as a professional wrestler, one of the many inexplicable but somehow compelling choices in a short career that blurred the lines between comedy, performance art, and life itself.




"Nobody ever came from nowhere more completely," Welles says, drawing a big studio-audience laugh with this description of not just Latka but Kaufman as well. Asked how he came up with such a distinctive character voice, Kaufman says only that he "grew up in New York, and you hear a lot of different voices in New York" ("You don't hear that one," replies Welles). He also cites the accents of a high-school friend from South America and a college roommate from Iran. Less than four years later, both Kaufman and Welles would be gone (and actor Ron Glass, looking on from the other side of the couch, joined them this past November).

Or at least both men would be gone if you don't credit the rumors about Kaufman having elaborately faked his death. "I don't know whether it's the innocence of the fellow or the feeling you have that he is not stupider than everybody, but maybe smarter, that adds to the fascination," Welles says. Again he speaks ostensibly of Kaufman's Foreign Man/Latka persona, but his words apply equally to the man who not just played but periodically — and sometimes unpredictably — became him. 33 years after Kaufman's death, or in any case disappearance from life, that fascination remains as strong as ever.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities 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 or on Facebook.

An Innocent Christmas Typo Causes Sir Patrick Stewart to Star as Satan In This Animated Holiday Short

In certain sectors, over-the-top ad agency greetings are as much a part of the holiday season as A Christmas Carol and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!.

Anomaly London put in their thumb and pulled out a plum when Sir Patrick Stewart agreed to voice their latest effort, above.

And what better way to top his celebrated turn as Ebeneezer Scrooge than by tackling the most Christmas-y role of them all?




Santa, is that you?

No, dear child, ’tis Satan, summoned by an innocent mis-spelling on the part of a young girl eager for a Christmas puppy.

When the post office delivers her similarly misaddressed envelope to hell by December 25, the buff and tattooed Lord of Darkness’ heart grows three sizes. Everyone likes to be told they’re special.

Next thing you know, he’s traded the fiery furnace for a gluten-free bakery in Shoreditch, where he’s a happy team player, making latte art and wearing a goofy cap.

The ending is a sweet mix of “I hate you, you ruined Christmas, go to hell!” and “God bless us everyone.” Santa doesn’t survive, but the childlike capacity for wonder does.

Those with sensitive stomachs may want to go easy on the eggnog while watching this soon-to-be-holiday classic. The projectile vomiting rivals the Exorcist’s.

And happy holidays from all of us at Open Culture!

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Dr. Demento’s New Punk Album Features William Shatner Singing The Cramps, Weird Al Yankovic Singing The Ramones & Much More

Calling all fans of the Dr. Demento Show. The new album, Dr. Demento Covered in Punk, features "demented" covers of classic punk tunes and "30 covers of songs originally aired on the Dr. Demento radio show." Think "Fish Heads."

On the nostalgia-inducing album, you can notably enjoy two fixtures of American oddball culture, William Shatner and Weird Al Yankovic, singing "The Garbageman" by The Cramps (above) and The Ramones' "Beat on the Brat" (below). The Misfits, Joan Jett, Fred Schneider of the B52s, the Vandals, The Dead Milkmen, The Meatmen--they all make an appearance on the album too. It's due out today.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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