Innovative Pinscreen Animations of Kafka’s “Before the Law”, Gogol’s “The Nose” & Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” (1932-1972)

What do Franz Kafka, Nikolai Gogol, and Modest Mussorgsky have in common? They stand alone among their peers for their darkly humorous sensibilities, fascination with the grotesque, imaginative takes on cultural traditions, and a predisposition for the proto-surreal. Like the odd figure lurching through the first movement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, they are gnomic artists: enigmatic and ambiguous, given to the aphoristic in stories and tone poems of monstrous and marvelous beings. It’s easy to imagine the three of them, or their works at least, in cryptic conversation with each other.

We might imagine that conversation as we watch three works by these major European artists—all of which we’ve featured on the site before—animated via the painstaking pinscreen method pioneered by husband-and-wife, Russian-and-French duo Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker. The two invented the technique in the 1930s. Dedicated to this extremely labor-intensive process, they made 6 short films over a period of 50 years, including adaptations of Kafka’s “Before the Law,” narrated by Orson Welles, Gogol’s “The Nose,” and Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain.

We know the Mussorgsky piece as a terrifying vignette from Walt Disney’s Fantasia. Seven years before that marriage of classical music and animation came out in 1940, Alexeieff and Parker released their version, at the top. Steve Stanchfield at Cartoon Research calls it “one of the most unusual and unique looking animated films ever created.” Its “delightful and at times horrifying imagery… challenge the viewer to comprehend both their meaning and the mystery of how they were created.” The same could be said of “The Nose” (1963), whose improvised soundtrack by Hai-Minh adds dramatic tension to the eerie animation.

Each of these films uses the same method, a handmade pinscreen device in which thousands of pins are pushed by hand outward and inward for each frame to create areas of light or dark. The pair intended to move beyond the flatness of conventional cel animation techniques and capture the depth and contrast of chiaroscuro. They achieved this through the most achingly slow process imaginable, yet “the illusion of dimensional drawing in animation has rarely been created better,” Stanchfield writes, not even in the most sophisticated computer-generated imagery.

Alexeieff and Parker’s “Before the Law,” from a parable in Kafka’s The Trial, takes a picture-book approach to the animation that would reward younger viewers. Welles’ narration anchors the production with even more than his usual gravitas. In 1972, they returned to Mussorgsky, in the short Pictures at an Exhibition, above. Here, after a prologue in French and the stylizations of the opening Prelude, the figure of the “The Gnome” appears, a translucent homunculus hatching from an egg and dancing across the piano keys. I like to think Mussorgsky, Kafka, and Gogol would find this imagery irresistible.

Related Content: 

Kafka’s Parable “Before the Law” Narrated by Orson Welles & Illustrated with Pinscreen Art

Night on Bald Mountain: An Eery, Avant-Garde Pinscreen Animation Based on Mussorgsky’s Masterpiece

Nikolai Gogol’s Classic Story, “The Nose,” Animated With the Astonishing Pinscreen Technique (1963)

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

A Magical Look Inside the Painting Process of Studio Ghibli Artist Kazuo Oga

The magic of Studio Ghibli’s films owes much to their characters: the high-flying Princess Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind; the World War I-fighter ace-turned-swine Porco Rosso; the spirited ten-year-old Chihiro, spirited away into the realm of folklore; the dog-raccoon-bear-cat forest spirit known only as Totoro. But to understand what makes these figures come alive, we must remember that they inhabit living worlds. A Ghibli production stands or falls (which would still count as an artistic triumph at most other studios) on not just character design and animation but background art, which demands the kind of careful and inspired work you can witness in the video above.

The artist at the desk is Kazuo Oga, a veteran background artist credited as art director on Ghibli’s My Neighbor Totoro, Only Yesterday, Pom Poko, Princess Mononoke, and The Tale of Princess Kaguya, among other anime projects. His work begins at about 9:30 in the morning, as he brings out a modestly size sheet of paper and prepares its surface to receive paint.




24 different colors of Japanese-made Nicker Poster Color brand gouache stand ready right nearby, and with them Oga applies the ground, or first layer of paint. Even before he takes a seat, a forest scene has clearly begun to emerge. Then downward strokes become the thin trunks of its trees, which by the early afternoon have branches.

Broadly speaking, Oga works from the large details in toward the small, arriving midway through the 2:00 hour to the stage of adding light purple flowers. These are Paulownia, called kiri in Japan, where these “princess trees” (that also appear on the official Government Seal) carry a certain symbolic weight. The final painting, Paulownia Rain (or kiri same), emerges only at 3:40 in the afternoon, after six hours of painting. This evocative forest landscape attests to the truth of an inversion of the Pareto principle, in that the parts of the job that seem smallest require most of the work to achieve — and to the truth of the Ghibli’s apparent artistic principle that every pain is worth taking.

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Watch Hayao Miyazaki Animate the Final Shot of His Final Feature Film, The Wind Rises

A Virtual Tour Inside the Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli Museum

Studio Ghibli Makes 1,178 Images Free to Download from My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away & Other Beloved Animated Films

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletterBooks on Cities, 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.

Animation Pioneer Lotte Reiniger Adapts Mozart’s The Magic Flute into an All-Silhouette Short Film (1935)

When Lotte Reiniger began making animation in the late 1910s, her work looked like nothing that had ever been shot on film. In fact, it also resembles nothing else achieved in the realm of cinema in the century since. Even the enormously budgeted and staffed productions of major studios have yet to replicate the stark, quavering charm of her silhouette animations. Those studios do know full well, however, what Reiniger realized long before: that no other medium can more vividly realize the visions of fairy tales. To believe that, one needs only watch her 1922 Cinderella or 1955 Hansel and Gretel, previously featured here on Open Culture.

It was between those productions that Reiniger made the work for which she’s now best remembered: the 1926 One Thousand and One Nights pastiche The Adventures of Prince Achmed, the very first feature in animation history. Nine years later, she turned to source material closer at hand, culturally speaking, and adapted a section of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute.




You can watch the result, the ten-minute Papageno, at the top of the post. A bird-catcher, the title character finds one day that all the avians around him have become tiny human females. Though none of them stick around, an ostrich later delivers him a full-size maiden, only for a giant snake to drive her away. Will Papageno defeat the serpent and reclaim his beloved, or submit to despair?

“The magic of the fairy tale has always been her greatest fascination, yet her own interpretations attain a unique quality,” says the narrator of the 1970 documentary short just above, in which Reiniger re-enacts the thoroughly analog and highly labor-intensive making of Papageno. “The figures she cuts out and constructs were originally inspired by the puppets used in traditional Eastern shadow theaters, of which the silhouette form is the logical conclusion.” This hybridization of venerable narrative material from Western lands like Germany with an even more venerable aesthetic from Eastern lands like Indonesia has assured only part of her work’s enduring appeal. “Ms. Reiniger will continue to have a strange affection for each of her figures,” the narrator notes. This is “an understandable affection, for in their flexibility they have almost human characteristics of movement.” It’s an affection anyone with an interest in animation, fairy tales, or Mozart will share.

Related Content:

The Groundbreaking Silhouette Animations of Lotte Reiniger: Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and More

The First Animated Feature Film: The Adventures of Prince Achmed by Lotte Reiniger (1926)

Mozart’s Diary Where He Composed His Final Masterpieces Is Now Digitized and Available Online

See Mozart Played on Mozart’s Own Fortepiano, the Instrument That Most Authentically Captures the Sound of His Music

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, 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.

Studio Ghibli Makes 1,178 Images Free to Download from My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away & Other Beloved Animated Films

Studio Ghibli make lush and captivating animated films. So, on occasion, do other studios, but of how many of their pictures can we say that each and every still frame constitutes a work of art in itself? As a test, try putting on a Ghibli movie and pausing at random, then doing the same for any other major animated feature of similar vintage: chances are, the former will far more often produce an image you’d like to capture in high resolution and use for your desktop background, or perhaps even print out and hang on your wall.

Now, Studio Ghibli have provided such images themselves, in an online collection (click here and scroll down the page) that offers more than 1,100 stills from their films, all free for the download. This trove has grown considerably since we first featured it this past fall here at Open Culture.




In that post, Ted Mills quotes Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki as instructing visitors to use the images “freely within the scope of common sense.” It was Suzuki, you may recall, who once taught us to draw the eponymous feline-ursine star of My Neighbor Totoro, the most beloved of the studio’s works — downloadable frames from which Ghibli put up only in November.

Along with Totoro came images from the acclaimed (and highly successful) likes of Spirited Away and Porco Rosso, as well as its lesser known romantic drama Ocean Waves, made for television by the studio’s younger animators in the early 1990s. The most recent update, made earlier this month, includes images from 1984’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, which is now considered Ghibli’s honorary first picture, having been directed by co-founder Hayao Miyazaki before the studio’s foundation. There are also stills from 2016’s The Red Turtle, the stark, wordless feature produced by Suzuki but directed by Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit.

Though the site is only in Japanese, anyone who’s seen at least a few Ghibli movies should have no problem finding their favorites, from the aforementioned residents of greatest-animated-films-of-all-time lists to highly respected but lower-profile works like Only Yesterday by Miyazaki’s Ghibli-founding parter, the late Isao Takahata. There’s also plenty to delight Ghibli fans of a more die-hard persuasion: take, for example, the visual materials from “On Your Mark,” the futuristic, nonlinear animated music video made for rock duo Chage & Aska. Whatever your own level of investment in the work of Studio Ghibli, you’d do well to assume that they’ve only just got started putting up their archives.

Related Content:

Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli Releases Free Backgrounds for Virtual Meetings: Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away & More

Studio Ghibli Producer Toshio Suzuki Teaches You How to Draw Totoro in Two Minutes

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Hayao Miyazaki’s Beloved Characters Reimagined in the Style of 19th-Century Woodblock Prints

Build Your Own Miniature Sets from Hayao Miyazaki’s Beloved Films: My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service & More

Software Used by Hayao Miyazaki’s Animation Studio Becomes Open Source & Free to Download

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, 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 Oscar-Winning “Gerald McBoing-Boing” (1950): It’s Ranked as the 9th Greatest Cartoon of All Time

To understand how revolutionary this short film from 1950 was to contemporary viewers, just consider the previous four decades (or so) of animated films. There were talking animals, singing animals, bouncing animals, and in Disney films humans based on rotoscoping live action. From its humble and humorous beginnings, animation was striding towards realism as fast as it could. But in the first minute of this adaptation of a Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel story, you can see that’s all been tossed out the window, a window shaped like a trapezoid.

This animation from the renegade studio United Productions of America (UPA) ushered in the space age look that suited the dynamic post-war American economy. The pace of life was frantic, sleek, modern, and the animated characters and backgrounds follow suit: laws of perspective are gone. Backgrounds are suggested with one or two objects, and color is impressionistic, not realistic. The characters are cute, but drawn with an economy of line.




Which would all suit a story by Dr. Seuss that already existed as a children’s record, told in his familiar rhythmic rhyming style.

The Gerald of the title is a young boy who doesn’t speak in words, but in sound effects. His parents freak out, a doctor can’t help, and his classmates and school reject him. But like many a Dr. Seuss story, Gerald’s problem is actually a gift, and the film concludes in a positive way, celebrating difference. The film went on to win the Oscar for Best Animated Short that year, beating out the established studios of Warner Bros., MGM, and Disney. It paved the way for the more minimal animation of Hanna-Barbera (Gerald’s dad has a proto-George Jetson look) and opened the door for more abstract films from the National Film Board of Canada, and influence the Klasky Csupo studio and others in the 1990s animation rebirth.

UPA was formed from the exodus of several top Disney animators after a creators’ strike in 1941. Head among them was John Hubley, a layout artist who bristled against Disney’s realism and wanted to branch out. At first known as Industrial Film and Poster Service, the studio made films for the United Auto Workers and for the Army, making educational films for young privates with the Private Snafu series after Warner Bros stepped aside. Chuck Jones helped direct these shorts. Anti-Communist sentiment put an end to government work, and, so by the late 1940s, UPA decided to take on the big studios with theatrical shorts and after “Gerald McBoing-Boing” was a hit, they continued with the Mr. Magoo series, several McBoingBoing sequels, and a TV version of Dick Tracy.

The studio dried up in the 1960s and instead of animation teamed up with Toho Studios in Japan and helped introduce a generation of American audiences to kaiju (giant monster) films like Godzilla by re-cutting and distributing many of their films.

Along with its Oscar, “Gerald McBoing-Boing” is now part of the Library of Congress’ Film Registry as a significant American Film and often gets voted as one of the greatest animated films of the 20th Century. (It was voted the 9th best animation of all time, by 1,000 animation professionals.)

Lastly, Gerald’s last name lives on as the inspiration for the “happy mutants” zine and website, boingboing.net.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

The Internet Archive is Saving Classic Flash Animations & Games from Extinction: Explore Them Online

Flash is finally dead, and the world… does not mourn. Because the announcement of its end actually came three years ago, “like a guillotine in a crowded town square,” writes Rhett Jones at Gizmodo. It was a slow execution, but it was just. So useful in Web 1.0 days for making animations, games, and serious presentations, Flash had become a vulnerability, a viral carrier that couldn’t be patched fast enough to keep the hackers out. “Adobe’s Flash died many deaths, but we can truly throw some dirt on its grave and say our final goodbyes because it’s getting the preservation treatment.” Like the animated GIF, Flash animations have their own online library.

All those lovely Flash memes—the dancing badgers and the snake, peanut butter and jelly time—will be saved for perplexed future generations, who will use them to decipher the runes of early 2000’s internet-speak. However silly they may seem now, there’s no denying that these artifacts were once central constituents of pop culture.




Flash was much more than a distraction or frustrating browser crasher. It provided a “gateway,” Jason Scott writes at the Internet Archive blog, “for many young creators to fashion near-professional-level games and animation, giving them the first steps to a later career.” (Even if it was a career making “advergames.”)

A single person working in their home could hack together a convincing program, upload it to a huge clearinghouse like Newgrounds, and get feedback on their work. Some creators even made entire series of games, each improving on the last, until they became full professional releases on consoles and PCs.

Always true to its purpose, the Internet Archive has devised a way to store and play Flash animations using emulators created by Ruffle and the BlueMaxima Flashpoint Project, who have already archived tens of thousands of Flash games. All those adorable Homestar Runner cartoons? Saved from extinction, which would have been their fate, since “without a Flash player, flash animations don’t work.” This may seem obvious, but it bears some explanation. Where image, sound, and video files can be converted to other formats to make them accessible to modern players, Flash animations can only exist in a world with Flash. They are like Edison’s wax cylinders, without the charming three-dimensions.

Scott goes into more depth on the rise and fall of Flash, a history that begins in 1993 with Flash’s predecessor, SmartSketch, which became FutureWave, which became Flash when it was purchased by Macromedia, then by Adobe. By 2005, it started to become unstable, and couldn’t evolve along with new protocols. HTML5 arrived in 2014 to issue the “final death-blow,” kind of…. Will Flash be missed? It’s doubtful. But “like any container, Flash itself is not as much of a loss as all the art and creativity it held.” The Archive currently hosts over 1,500 Flash animations from those turn-of-the-millennium internet days, and there are many more to come. Enter the Archive’s Flash collection here.

Related Content: 

The U.S. National Archives Launches an Animated GIF Archive: See Whitman, Twain, Hemingway & Others in Motion

36,000 Flash Games Have Been Archived and Saved Before Flash Goes Extinct: Play Them Offline

What the Entire Internet Looked Like in 1973: An Old Map Gets Found in a Pile of Research Papers

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

Watch Digital Dancers Electrify the Streets of Istanbul

Are you open to the idea of otherworldly beings moving amongst us, benign but unseen?

Director Gökalp Gönen seems to be in the above video for jazz innovator Ilhan Ersahin’s “Hurri-Mitanni” (Good News).

Things kick off in a decidedly low key manner—a young woman sets off for a nighttime stroll through the streets of Istanbul, her face deliberately obscured by a snugly tied black and white cloth.

Turning a corner, she passes an anonymous figure, wrapped head to toe in similar stripes.




Does this unexpected sight elicit any discernible reaction?

Our guess is no, but we can’t say for sure, as the camera loses interest in the young woman, opting to linger with the svelte and exuberant mummy, who’s dancing like no one is watching.

Elsewhere, other increasingly colorful beings perform variations on the mummy’s box step, alone or in groups.

As their outfits become more fanciful, Gönen employs CGI and 3D animation to unhitch them from the laws of physics and familiar boundaries of human anatomy.

They pixellate, sprout extra legs, project rays reminiscent of string art, appear more vegetable than animal….

Some grow to Godzilla-like proportions, shedding little humanoid forms and bounding across the Bosporus.

A small spiky version ignores the paws of a curious kitten.

These fantastical, faceless beings are invisible to passerby. Only one, performing on an outdoor stage, seems eager for interaction. None of them seen to mean any harm.

They just wanna boogie…

…or do they?

The director’s statement is not easily parsed in translation:

A group of anonymous wandering the streets. Everywhere is very crowded but identities are very few. Trying to be someone is as difficult as writing your name on the waves left by this fast-moving giant ship. Everyone is everyone and everyone is nobody anymore. This silence could only exist through glowing screens, even if it found itself nooks. On those loud screens, they reminded who actually had the power by entering the places that were said to be inaccessible. But they didn’t even care about this power. The areas where we had passionate conversations about it for days were a “now like this” place for us, but they looked like this to say “no, it was actually like that” but they did not speak much. They had the charm of a cat. When they said, “Look, it was like this,” they became part of everything that made it “like this” and became unnoticeable like paving stones. They just wanted to have a little fun, to be able to live a few years without worry. In five minutes, fifteen seconds at most, they existed and left.

A few creatures who got left on the cutting room floor can be seen dancing on Gönen’s Instagram profile.

via Colossal

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

Watch How to Be at Home, a Beautiful Short Animation on the Realities of Social Isolation in 2020

I think, as social primates, we want to feel a strong sense of belonging either in a relationship or to a community—or both. But also intrinsic to our humanity is a feeling that we are truly alone.

—Filmmaker Andrea Dorfman, 2010

When they first became friends, poet Tanya Davis and filmmaker Andrea Dorfman talked a lot about the pleasures and hardships of being alone. Davis had just gone through a break up, and Dorfman was just embarking on a relationship after four years of flying solo.

These conversations led to a collaboration, 2010’s How to Be At Alone (see below), a whimsical videopoem that combines live action and animation to consider some of solitude’s sweeter aspects, like sitting on a bench as signal to the universe that one is available for impromptu conversation with a stranger.




That bench reappears in their 2020 follow up, How to Be At Home, above. Now it is cordoned off with black and yellow caution tape, a familiar public health measure in 2020.

As with the earlier project, a large part of Davis’ purpose was to reflect and reassure, both herself, and by extension, others.

Although she has become a poster child for the joys of solitude, she also relishes human contact, and found herself missing it terribly while sheltering alone in the early days of the pandemic. Writing the new poem gave her “an anchor” and a place to put her anxiety.

Dorfman notes that the project, which was commissioned by the National Film Board of Canada as part of a short film collection about Canadians navigating life during the pandemic, was “essentially catalyzed by COVID.”

As she embarked on the project, she wondered if the pandemic would be over by the time it was complete. As she told the CBC’s Tom Power:

There was this feeling that this could go away in a month, so this better be finished soon, so it’s still relevant. So as an artist, as a filmmaker, I thought, “I have to crank this out” but there’s no fast and easy way to do animation. It just takes so long and as I got into it and realized that this was going to be a marathon, not a sprint, the images just kept coming to me and I really just made it up as I went along. I’d go into my studio every day not knowing what lay ahead and I’d think, “Okay, so, what do we have up next? What’s the next line? And I’d spend maybe a week on a line of the poem, animating it. 

It appears to have been an effective approach.

Dorfman’s painted images ripple across the fast turning pages of an old book. The titles change from time to time, and the choices seem deliberate—The Lone Star Ranger, Le Secret du Manoir Hanté, a chapter in The Broken Halo—“Rosemary for Remembrance.”

“It’s almost as though the way the poem is written there are many chapters in the book. (Davis) moves from one subject to another so completely,” Dorfman told the University of King’s College student paper, The Signal.

In the new work, the absence of other people proves a much heavier burden than it does in How To Be Alone.

Davis flirts with many of the first poem’s settings, places where a lone individual might have gone to put themselves in proximity to other humans as recently as February 2020:

Public transportation

The gym

A dance club

A description from 2010:

The lunch counter, where you will be surrounded by chow-downers, employees who only have an hour and their spouses work across town, and they, like you, will be alone.

Resist the urge to hang out with your cell phone.

In 2020, she struggles to recreate that experience at home, her phone serving as her most vital link to the outside world, as she scrolls past images of a Black Lives Matter protests and a masked essential worker:

I miss lunch counters so much I’ve been eating [pickles and] toasted sandwiches while hanging unabashedly with my phone.

See How to Be at Home and the 29 other films that comprise The Curve, the National Film Board of Canada series about life in the era of COVID-19 here.

How to be at Home

By Tanya Davis

If you are, at first, really fucking anxious, just wait. It’ll get worse, and then you’ll get the hang of it. Maybe. 

Start with the reasonable feelings – discomfort, lack of focus, the sadness of alone

you can try to do yoga

you can shut off the radio when it gets to you

you can message your family or your friends or your colleagues, you’re not supposed to leave your home anyway, so it’s safe for you

There’s also the gym

you can’t go there but you could pretend to

you could bendy by yourself in your bedroom

And there’s public transportation

probably best to avoid it

but there’s prayer and meditation, yes always

employ it

if you have pains in your chest ‘cause your anxiety won’t rest

take a moment, take a breath

Start simple

things you can handle based on your interests

your issues and your triggers

and your inner logistics 

I miss lunch counters so much I’ve been eating [pickles and] toasted sandwiches while hanging unabashedly with my phone

When you are tired, again of still being alone

make yourself a dinner

but don’t invite anybody over

put something green in it, or maybe orange

chips are fine sometimes but they won’t keep you charged 

feed your heart

if people are your nourishment, I get you

feel the feelings that undo you while you have to keep apart

Watch a movie, in the dark

and pretend someone is with you 

watch all of the credits

because you have time, and not much else to do

or watch all of the credits to remember 

how many people come together

just to tell a story

just to make a picture move

And then, set yourself up dancing

like it’s a club where everyone knows you

and they’re all gonna hold you

all night long

they’re gonna dance around you and with you and on their own

it’s your favourite song 

with the hardest bass and the cathartic drums

your heart pumps along/hard, you belong

you put your hands up to feel it

With the come down comes the weeping

those downcast eyes and feelings

the truth is you can’t go dancing, not right now

not at any club or party in any town

The heartbreak of this astounds you

it joins old aches way down in you

you can visit them, but please don’t stay there

Go outside if you’re able, breathe the air

there are trees for hugging

don’t be embarrassed

it’s your friend, it’s your mother, it’s your new crush

lay your cheek against the bark, it’s a living thing to touch

Sadly, leave all benches empty

appreciate the kindness in the distance of strangers

as you pine for company and wave at your neighbours

savour the depths of your conversations

the layers uncovered

in this strange space and time

Society is afraid of change

and no one wants to die

not now, from a tiny virus

not later from the world on fire

But death is a truth we all hate to know

we all get to live, and then we all have to go

In the meantime, we’re surrounded, we’re alone

each a thread woven in the fabric, unravelling in moments though

each a solo entity spinning on its axis, forgetting that the galaxy includes us all

Herein our fall

from grace from each other from god whatever, doesn’t matter

the disaster is that we believe we’re separate 

we’re not

As evidenced by viruses taking down societies

as proven by the loneliness inherent in no gatherings

as palpable as the vacancy in the space of one person hugging

If this disruption undoes you

if the absence of people unravels you

if touch was the tether that held you together

and now that it’s severed you’re fragile too 

lean into loneliness and know you’re not alone in it 

lean into loneliness like it is holding you

like it is a generous representative of a glaring truth

oh, we are connected

we forget this, yet we always knew.

How to Be at Home will be added to the Animation section of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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

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