How Peter Jackson Made His State-of-the-Art World War I Documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old: An Inside Look

There are very few working directors today who can do what Peter Jackson does so well—create extraordinary spectacles on the grandest of scales while also staying tightly focused on character development and emotional depth. He’s made missteps. His Hobbit trilogy felt bloated, busy and unnecessary, but one reason it so disappointed was because he’d already shown himself a master of fantasy filmmaking with what many considered the unfilmmable Lord of the Rings.

Of course non-Tolkien-related Jackson films like Heavenly Creatures also showcase these strengths, on a smaller scale: the ability to retain the human dimension amidst cinematic spectacles and inhuman darkness (a quality he mined explicitly in his years as a horror director). All of these sensibilities, including a pronounced streak of dark humor and talent for manipulating his audiences, make him the ideal director for a documentary on World War I.




It's a conflict that makes little historical sense to most of us, that unfolded on a scale few of us can imagine, with few identifiable heroes and villains and a complicated geopolitical situation that can feel out of our grasp.

Many documentaries on the war are informative but, frankly, quite dull. In striving for objectivity, they lose sight of humanity. Rather than adopt the voice of god and newsreel look that characterizes the usual fare, Jackson has taken an active role in shaping the narrative for us with cutting-edge blockbuster cinematic techniques. He gives us characters to care about in showing the horror of trench warfare, the confusion and camaraderie of war. Though he uses original footage, it is digitally enhanced and colorized, screened in 3D, with recordings of remembrances from the soldiers themselves dramatically overlaid to create the sense that the figures we see onscreen are speaking to us.

The result, as Guy Lodge writes at Variety, “is a technical dazzler with a surprisingly humane streak…. So dazzlingly transformative is the restoration of this footage that it may as well be the product of a movie shoot.” Indeed, once the credits roll, viewers see the same “veritable army of magic-working technicians’ names” as they would on any big-budget action movie. Jackson has, in effect, produced “the world’s most state-of-the-art educational film,” applying all the emotional levers and pulleys of feature filmmaking to a historical archive.

Like most of us, students have trouble understanding the scale of the war and connecting with the lives of people so indistinctly photographed and far away in time. Jackson makes sure that they can do both, and his film will be sent to every high school in the U.K. Those schools will not, of course, be able to reproduce the 3D effects. Yet even these, though they sound “gimmicky on the face of it,” writes Lodge, prove “to have an experiential purpose, conveying the juddering movement and chaos of a conflict many of us have largely viewed through calcified still images.”

In the interviews and behind the scenes videos here, we learn how Jackson and his team solved the film speed problem to make the old reels look natural, how they created a color palette and removed blurriness and blemishes. Jackson also talks about his own personal stake in the project, imagining what his grandfather endured in the Great War. This connection seems to have spurred him all the more in the effort.

"To memorialize these soldiers a hundred years later," he says, "is to try to bring some of their humanity back into the world again, to stop them being a black and white cliché.” In creating this moving memorial, Jackson goes far beyond the mandate of an educational film. He has used all the techniques at his disposal to make good on the promise in Robert Laurence Binyon’s 1914 poem “For the Fallen,” from which the documentary takes its title:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Related Content:

Peter Jackson’s New Film on World War I Features Incredible Digitally-Restored Footage From the Front Lines: Get a Glimpse

Watch World War I Unfold in a 6 Minute Time-Lapse Film: Every Day From 1914 to 1918

The Great War: Video Series Will Document How WWI Unfolded, Week-by-Week, for the Next 4 Years

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

The Solar System Quilt: In 1876, a Teacher Creates a Handcrafted Quilt to Use as a Teaching Aid in Her Astronomy Class

Dedicated teachers often go well beyond the call of duty, sacrificing large amounts of free time for the betterment of their classrooms and their pupils.

Any teacher who’s ever paid for supplies out of their own pocket, then spent the weekend constructing an elaborate bulletin board display, will appreciate the herculean efforts of Sarah Ellen Harding Baker.

Baker, a teacher and astronomer in Cedar County, Iowa, is rumored to have spent 7 years embroidering a beautiful appliquéd quilt to use as a visual aid in lectures.




Finished in 1876, the quilt is large enough that even a near-sighted student could see its planets and moons from the back row.

Orbits are indicated with silken threads against a black background.

A comet in the upper left is thought to be Halley's Comet, whose last appearance would have been in 1835, 12 years before Baker’s birth.

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where Baker’s quilt is housed, notes that astronomy was deemed an acceptable interest for 19th-century women, which may explain the number of celestial-themed quilts that date to the period.

Author and quilt historian Barbara Brackman includes a few on her Material Culture blog, while her Historically Modern blog visits some more recent examples, including one that makes use of a stars-and-earth hot-iron transfer published in Good Housekeeping magazine, to accompany an article celebrating the winners of its 1939 World of Tomorrow Quilt Contest.

Baker got just ten years out of her quilt before succumbing to tuberculosis at the age of 39, the mother of 7 children, 5 of whom survived her.

via Messy Nessy

Related Content:

A Massive, Knitted Tapestry of the Galaxy: Software Engineer Hacks a Knitting Machine & Creates a Star Map Featuring 88 Constellations

The Ancient Astronomy of Stonehenge Decoded

Too Big for Any Museum, AIDS Quilt Goes Digital Thanks to Microsoft

Watch Nina Paley’s “Embroidermation,” a New, Stunningly Labor-Intensive Form of Animation

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC this December for the 10th anniversary production of Greg Kotis’ apocalyptic holiday tale, The Truth About Santa, and the next monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Pachelbel’s Chicken: Your Favorite Classical Pieces Played Masterfully on a Rubber Chicken

Music lovers bracing against the annual onslaught of the Singing Dogs’ "Jingle Bells" may find their savage beasts soothed somewhat by Eddy Chen’s performance of Pachelbel’s Canon, above.

Never mind that the instrument on which he plays four different tracks is a rubber chicken… or more accurately, as per Amazon, a Screaming Yellow Rubber Chicken Non Toxic Bite-resistant Squeaky Toy.

It retains its relaxing musicality. Chen, one half of Australian duo TwoSetViolin, plays that bird like the disciplined, classically-trained pro he is.




Classical chicken covers became a surprise hit for Chen and his partner, Brett Yang, veterans of the Sydney and Queensland Symphony Orchestras, whose virtually sold out world tour was the first of its kind to be entirely financed by Kickstarter donations.

The duo describes its mission as “upholding the integrity of classical music” while making it “relevant to the modern generation through fun, humour and simplicity,” noting, in a joint interview with Violinist.com:

There are people out there who are ready to love classical music, and we have to actively find them. It is the way classical music has been presented so far that makes it so austere. We were lucky that we learned the instrument for 20 years; if we were not musicians, it would be very hard to get into.

Everyone has the potential to like it, but sometimes musicians alienate and scare potential listeners with our pride.

Back when classical music was new, it was not 'classical'; it was just music.

Today our (classical music audience) is very small, but there are many great musicians

 Granted, the standards for classical music are there for a good reason: people want the best art, and that is a standard we should uphold. At the same time, sometimes we see people breaking down and freaking out because of those standards. It is sad to think of all that lost potential and love for music. We feel we are losing audiences; we are losing people who used to love music.

The chicken definitely appeals to young listeners, though surely there’s no age limit for enjoying its take on Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No.1...

Or Johann Strauss’ "The Blue Danube" Waltz, wherein Yang squeezes a chicken in each fist whilst Chen mans the violin…

Or the opening trumpet solo of Gustav Mahler 's Symphony No. 5

Or Beethoven’s "Für Elise," a favorite first classical piece for pianists and chicken players alike…

Others on TwoSetViolin’s classical chicken playlist include Handel’s "Hallelujah" chorus and the "Waltz of the Flowers" from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.

Catch up with TwoSetViolin on the final leg of their American tour and subscribe to their YouTube channel for their insights into the classical musician's life and the importance of practice.

Related Content:

Watch the World’s Oldest Violin in Action: Marco Rizzi Performs Schumann’s Sonata No. 2 on a 1566 Amati Violin

Behold the “3Dvarius,” the World’s First 3-D Printed Violin

New Order’s “Blue Monday” Played with Obsolete 1930s Instruments

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC this December for the 10th anniversary production of Greg Kotis’ apocalyptic holiday tale, The Truth About Santa, and the next monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

RIP Todd Bol, Founder of the Little Free Library Movement: He Leaves Behind 75,000 Small Libraries That Promote Reading Worldwide

"The Little Free Library: Billions and billions read."

In the 2013 Ted-X talk above, Todd Bol, founder of the Little Free Library movement, expressed the desire that one day, he might be able to boast that his labor of love had surpassed McDonalds with regard to the number of customers’ served.

It's closing in...




Bol, who passed away earlier this month, was inspired by Andrew Carnegie's mission of repaying his own good fortune by establishing 2,509 free public libraries.

The Little Free Libraries are vastly more numerous if less imposing than Carnegie’s stately edifices.

Some, like the prototype Bol crafted with lumber salvaged from a garage door in his late mother’s honor, resemble doll houses.

One in Detroit is a dead ringer for Doctor Who’s TARDIS.

There’s a bright yellow one emblazoned with characters from The Simpsons, autographed by series creator Matt Groening.

Others are housed in repurposed suitcases, storage cabinets, or newspaper honor boxes.

While the non-profit Little Free Library store sells several sturdy, weatherproof models and its website hosts a healthy collection of blueprints and tips for DIYers, Bol was never doctrinaire about the aesthetics, preferring to leave that up to each volunteer steward.

He seemed proudest of the libraries’ community building effect (though he was also pretty chuffed when Reader's Digest ranked the project above Bruce Springsteen in its 2013 feature ”50 Surprising Reasons We Love America.” )

While not entirely devoid of naysayers, the goodwill surrounding the Little Free Library movement cannot be underestimated.

A steward who posted news of his dog’s death on the side of his library received sympathy cards from neighbors both known and unknown to him.

A steward who specializes in giving away cookbooks, and invites patrons to snip herbs from an adjacent garden, frequently wakes to find homemade quiche and other goodies on the doorstep.

And when an arsonist torched a Little Free Library in Indianapolis, the community rallied, vowing to get enough donations to replace it with 100 more.

To date, stewards have registered over 75,000, in 85 countries, in service of Bol’s “Take a book, Leave a book” philosophy.

Find a Little Free Library near you, learn how to become a steward, or make a donation on the project’s website.

Related Content:

The New York Public Library Lets Patrons Check Out Ties, Briefcases & Handbags for Job Interviews

The Rise and Fall of the Great Library of Alexandria: An Animated Introduction

Download 150 Free Coloring Books from Great Libraries, Museums & Cultural Institutions: The British Library, Smithsonian, Carnegie Hall & More

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, November 12 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The New York Public Library Puts Classic Stories on Instagram: Start with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Read Kafka’s The Metamorphosis Soon

I'd be happy if I could think that the role of the library was sustained and even enhanced in the age of the computer. —Bill Gates

The New York Public Library excels at keeping a foot in both worlds, particularly when it comes to engaging younger readers.

Visitors from all over the world make the pilgrimage to see the real live Winnie-the-Pooh and friends in the main branch’s hopping children’s center.

And now anyone with a smartphone and an Instagram account can “check out” their digital age take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandno library card required. See Part 1 here and Part 2 here.




Working with the design firm Mother, the library has found a way to make great page-turning use of the Instagram Stories platformmore commonly used to share blow-by-blow photographic evidence of road trips, restaurant outings, and hash-tagged weddings.

The Wonderland experience remains primarily text-based.

In other words, sorry, harried caregivers! There’s no handing your phone off to the pre-reading set this time around!

No trippy Disney teacups...

Sir John Tenniel’s classic illustrations won’t be springing to animated life. Instead, you’ll find conceptual artist Magoz’s bright minimalist dingbats of keyholes, teacups, and pocket watches in the lower right hand corner. Tap your screen in rapid succession and they function as a crowd-pleasing, all ages flip book.

Elsewhere, animation allows the text to take on clever shapes or reveal itself line by linea pleasantly theatrical, Cheshire Cat like approach to Carroll’s impudent poetry.

Remember the famous scene where the Duchess and the Cook force Alice to mind a baby who turns into a pig? Grab some friends and hunch over the phone for a communal read aloud! (It’s on page 75 of part 1)

Speak roughly to your little boy,

 And beat him when he sneezes:

 He only does it to annoy,

 Because he knows it teases

CHORUS

 (In which the cook and the baby joined)

 ‘Wow! wow! wow!’ 

Navigating this new media can be a bit confusing for those whose social media fluency is not quite up to speed, but it’s not hard once you get the hang of the controls.

Tapping the right side of the screen turns the page.

Tapping left goes back a page.

And keeping a thumb (or any finger, actually) on the screen will keep the page as is until you’re ready to move on. You’ll definitely want to do this on animated pages like the one cited above. Pretend you’re playing the flute and you’ll save a lot of frustration.

The library plans to introduce your phone to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis via Instagram Stories over the next couple of months. Like Alice, both works are in the public domain and share an appropriate common theme: transformation.

Use these links to go directly to part 1 and part 2 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on Instagram Stories. Both parts are currently pinned to the top of the library’s Instagram account.

Related Content:

Behold Lewis Carroll’s Original Handwritten & Illustrated Manuscript for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1864)

Alice in Wonderland: The Original 1903 Film Adaptation

The Psychological & Neurological Disorders Experienced by Characters in Alice in Wonderland: A Neuroscience Reading of Lewis Carroll’s Classic Tale

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Join her in NYC on Monday, September 24 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Steven Van Zandt Creates a Free School of Rock: 100+ Free Lesson Plans That Educate Kids Through Music

When I think of rock ‘n’ roll high school, I think of the Ramones, but in the 1979 Roger Corman film no one really learns much. In reality, however, another legendary musician, still going strong after five decades in the business, has put his cred to serious use, leveraging stardom as a musician and actor to create a music curriculum teachers can use for free, with lessons on rock history, Native American politics, Bob Dylan’s poetry, immigration and the blues, civil disobedience, the fight to end Apartheid, and much more. That man is Steven Van Zandt—aka Little Steven of the E Street Band, or Silvio Dante of The Sopranos, or Frank Tagliano of Lilyhammer, or a few other aliases and fictional characters.

“For the past decade,” writes John Seabrook at The New Yorker, the bandana-clad guitarist has been “working on a way to recreate” a “dynamic, out-of-school learning experience inside classrooms, through his Rock and Roll Forever Foundation.” Working, that is, to recreate his own experience as a disaffected youth who “had no interest in school whatsoever,” he recalls. What interested him was music: the Beatles, at first, but as he learned more about them, he picked up “bits of information” about Eastern religion and orchestration. He learned about literature from Dylan.




“You didn’t get into it to learn things,” he says, “but you learn things anyway.” At least if you’re as curious and open-minded as Van Zandt, who came to value education through his non-traditional course. Over ten years ago, when the National Association for Music Education told him that “No Child Left Behind legislation was really devastating art classes,” he confronted Ted Kennedy and Mitch McConnell, telling them, “did you ever hear that every kid who takes music class does better in math and science?" They apologized,” he says, “but they said they weren’t going to fix it.”

So Van Zandt decided to do it himself with a program called TeachRock. Working with two ethnomusicologists, he built the curriculum to connect with kids through music. “Instead of telling the kid, ‘Take the iPod out of your ears,’” he told a crowd of teachers gathered at Times Square’s Playstation Theater in May, “we ask them, ‘What are you listening to?’” Van Zandt calls his curriculum “teaching in the present tense,” and while his own back catalog may not necessarily be streaming on kids’ current playlists, he incorporates not only his music and the fifties and sixties rock ‘n’ roll he loves, but also hip-hop, pop, punk, and the “Latin rhythms of ‘Despacito.’” He even uses Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” video to prompt a discussion on the slave trade.

The focus on popular music as a force for change is fully in keeping with Van Zandt’s own path. His self-education led him into activism in the 80s when he wrote and recorded “Sun City” with 50 other artists to protest South African Apartheid. Unlike some other benefit songs of the time (like the cringe-inducing “Do They Know It’s Christmas”), “Sun City,” with its accompanying video (above), took effective political action—a blanket boycott of the Sun City resort—and didn’t sugar-coat the issues one bit (“relocation to phony homelands/separation of families, I can’t understand”). The Sun City boycott gets its own module.

As Van Zandt told Fast Company in 2015, “I had been researching American foreign policy post-World War II just to educate myself, which I had never done, being obsessed with rock ‘n’ roll my whole life. I was quite shocked to find that we were not always the good guys.” His discoveries compelled him to visit South Africa and to “dedicate my five-record solo career to that learning process, and also combine a bit of journalism with the rock art form.” That same passion for justice informs all of the TeachRock lessons, which you can browse and download for free at the TeachRock site. The multi-media units incorporate video, audio, images, activities, informative handouts, and other resources.

Each lesson also explains how its objectives meet Common Core State Standards (or the state standards of New Jersey and Texas). “TeachRock is rooted in a teaching philosophy that believes students learn best when they truly connect with the material to which they’re introduced,” notes the site's “Welcome Teachers” page. “Obviously, popular music is one such point of connection.” Perhaps not every kid who learns through music as Van Zandt did will go out and try to change the world, but they’re more than likely to stay engaged and stay in school. And that’s exactly what he hopes to accomplish.

“Teaching kids something they’re not interested in,” he told the teachers in New York, “it didn’t work then, and it’s even worse now. We have an epidemic dropout rate.” Then, in his refreshingly honest way, he concluded, “Where are we going to be in twenty years? How are we going to get smarter looking at this Administration? You know, we’re just getting stupider.” Not if Little Steven has anything to say about it. He's currently on tour with his Disciples of Soul, and offering free tickets to teachers, provided they show up early for a TeachRock workshop. Sign up here!

Related Content:

Cheap Trick’s Bassist Tom Petersson Help Kids With Autism Learn Language With Rock ‘n’ Roll: Discover “Rock Your Speech”

David Byrne & Neil deGrasse Tyson Explain the Importance of an Arts Education (and How It Strengthens Science & Civilization)

New Research Shows How Music Lessons During Childhood Benefit the Brain for a Lifetime

The Concept of Musical Harmony Explained in Five Levels of Difficulty, Starting with a Child & Ending with Herbie Hancock

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

 

Cheap Trick’s Bassist Tom Petersson Helps Kids With Autism Learn Language With Rock ‘n’ Roll: Discover “Rock Your Speech”

You can’t fault people for turning away from current events these days, but there are many pockets of light, even if they rarely make headlines or get curated by gloom and doom algorithms. Some optimism has come to us by way of musicians like David Byrne, whose good-news aggregator “Reasons to Be Cheerful” showcases positive developments around the world. Indie rock drummer Thor Harris has encouraged fans with tips on how to stay healthy in trying times, and he has announced a run for governor of Texas. And last fall, Cheap Trick’s bassist Tom Petersson started a project called Rock Your Speech, which “leverages the power of music to build language skills in children who are working to overcome speech delay associated with autism.”

As Petersson and his wife Alison explain above, they were inspired by their experience with their son, Liam, who, “until the age of five,” reports David Chiu at Huffington Post, “had difficulty communicating,” They discovered that music could help when Liam began singing along to one of her favorite Elton John songs. Petersson wanted “to help other parents,” he told HuffPo, “and to let people know they’re not alone.” An L.A. benefit concert harnessed the collective power of celebrities and indie artists to jumpstart the project, with bands like the Dandy Warhols and Red Kross and actors Ed Asner and Billy Bob Thornton participating.




Rock Your Speech is not the only such initiative, but it is probably the most high-profile, and could bring attention to similar efforts like Auditory-Motor Mapping Training, developed by Dr. Gottfried Schlaug of the Music and Neuroimaging Laboratory. At the Autism Speaks blog, Schlaug writes, “as many as three in ten children with autism are nonverbal. Yet many children with autism have superior auditory skills and a particular attraction to music.” Like Rock Your Speech, his approach uses “forms of music-making that encourage vocalization as a pathway to developing language.” Musician and psychologist Adam Reece has also written about his research showing the positive role music therapy can play in language acquisition for kids on the spectrum.

Petersson’s project puts a rock star face on music therapy and comes “from the point of view of the parent,” he says. Rock Your Speech not only raises autism awareness but also offers original music and videos designed to stimulate and inspire kids. Hear "Blue" from the Rock Your Speech, Volume 1 album above, one of several songs Petersson wrote that “employs actual rock music," Chiu writes, "not necessarily the gentle, kiddie-type of sounds that are generally prevalent in children’s music.” Videos on the Rock Your Speech site for “Blue” and other songs “not only show the words but also demonstrate to kids how those words are formed and mouthed.”

The project’s Vimeo channel shows the Petersson family involved in Liam’s speech development through music, including his older sister Lilah coaching her brother with a song called “Wash Your Hands.” (See Lilah's video above for her song "All the Same," written for Liam.) Liam, now ten, has come a long way. “He’s in school,” says Petersson, “He loves music… He’s definitely on the autism spectrum, but he speaks, he’s social. He’s the sweetest little guy.” His musical family has a lot to do with that, but Rock Your Speech offers even non-musician parents a wealth of catchy tools to help kids struggling with speech to connect with language through rock ‘n’ roll. For many families, that could be very good news indeed.

via HuffPo

Related Content:

New Research Shows How Music Lessons During Childhood Benefit the Brain for a Lifetime

Music in the Brain: Scientists Finally Reveal the Parts of Our Brain That Are Dedicated to Music

Sun Ra Plays a Music Therapy Gig at a Mental Hospital; Inspires Patient to Talk for the First Time in Years

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

More in this category... »
Quantcast