How Mushroom Time-Lapses Are Filmed: A Glimpse Into the Pioneering Time-Lapse Cinematography Behind the Netflix Documentary Fantastic Fungi

Mushrooms are having a moment, thanks in part to pioneering time-lapse cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg’s documentary Fantastic Fungi.

Now streaming on Netflix, the film has given rise to a bumper crop of funghi fantatics, who sprang up like, well, mushrooms, to join the existing ranks of citizen scientistsculinary fansweekend foragersamateur growers, and spiritual seekers.




Schwartzberg, who earlier visualized pollination from the flower’s point of view in the Meryl Streep-narrated Wings of Life, is a true believer in the power of mushrooms, citing funghi’s role in soil creation and health, and their potential for remedying a number of pressing global problems, as well as a host of human ailments.

Fantastic Funghi focuses on seven pillars of benefits brought to the table by the fungal kingdom and its Internet-like underground network of mycelium:

  1. Biodiversity

A number of projects are exploring the ways in which the mycelium world can pull us back from the bring of  desertization, water shortage, food shortage, bee colony collapsetoxic contaminants, nuclear disasters, oil spills, plastic pollution, and global warming.

  1. Innovation

Mushroom-related industries are eager to press funghi into service as environmentally sustainable faux leatherbuilding materials, packaging, and meat alternatives.

  1. Food

From fine dining to foraging off-the-grid, mushrooms are prized for their culinary and nutritional benefits.

  1. Physical Health and Wellness

Will the humble mushroom prove mighty enough to do an end run around powerful drug companies as a source of integrative medicine to help combat diabetes, liver disease, inflammation, insomnia and cognitive decline?

  1. Mental Health

Researchers at Johns HopkinsUCLA, and NYU are running clinical trials on the benefits of psychedelic psilocybin mushrooms as a tool for treating addiction, depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal ideation.

  1. Spirituality

Of course, there’s also a rich tradition of religions and individual seekers deploying mind altering psychoactive mushrooms as a form of sacrament or a tool for plumbing the mysteries of life.

  1. The Arts

Director Schwartzberg understandably views mushrooms as muse, a fitting subject for photography, music, film, poetry, art and other creative endeavors.

 

With regard to this final pillar, many viewers may be surprised to learn how much of the 15 years Schwartzberg dedicated to capturing the exquisite cycle of fungal regeneration and decomposition took place indoors.

As he explains in the Wired video above, his precision equipment excels at capturing development that’s invisible to the human eye, but is no match for such natural world disruptions as insects and wind.

Instead, he and his team built controlled growing environments, where highly sensitive time lapse cameras, dollies, timed grow lights, and more cinematic lighting instruments could be left in place.

Set dressings of moss and logs, coupled with a very short depth of field helped to bring the Great Outdoors onscreen, with occasional chromakeyed panoramas of the natural world filling in the gaps.

Even in such lab-like conditions, certain elements were necessarily left to chance. Mushrooms grow notoriously quickly, and even with constant monitoring and calculations, there was plenty of potential for one of his stars to miss their mark, shooting out of frame.

Just one of the ways that mushrooms and humans operate on radically different timelines. The director bowed to the shrooms, returning to square one on the frequent occasions when a sequence got away from him.

Providing viewers an immersive experience of the underground mycelium network required high powered microscopes, a solid cement floor, and a bit of movie magic to finesse. What you see in the final cut is the work of CGI animators, who used Schwartzberg’s footage as their blueprint.

Netflix subscribers can stream Fantastic Fungi for free.

From October 15 – 17, filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg is hosting a free, virtual Fantastic Fungi Global Summit. Register here.

You can also browse his collection of community mushroom recipes and submit your own, download Fantastic Fungi’s Stoned Ape poster, or have a ramble through a trove of related videos and articles in the Mush Room.

Related Content: 

John Cage Had a Surprising Mushroom Obsession (Which Began with His Poverty in the Depression)

Algerian Cave Paintings Suggest Humans Did Magic Mushrooms 9,000 Years Ago

The Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants: Discover the 1977 Illustrated Guide Created by Harvard’s Groundbreaking Ethnobotanist Richard Evan Schultes

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

Watch 15 Hours of The Pink Panther for Free

Remember Saturday mornings?

If you’re an American of a certain age, you probably spent a good chunk of them sprawled in front of the TV, absorbing a steady stream of network cartoons peppered with ads for toys and sugared cereal.

One of Saturday morning’s animated stars stood out from the crowd, a lanky, bipedal feline of a distinctly rosy hue.

He shared Bugs Bunny’s anarchic streak, without the hopped-up, motormouthed intensity.

In fact, he barely spoke, and soon went entirely mute, relying instead on Henry Mancini’s famous theme, which followed him everywhere he went.




Above all, he was sophisticated, with a minimalist aesthetic and a long cigarette holder.

Director Blake Edwards attributes his lasting appeal to his “promiscuous, fun-loving, devilish” nature.

John Cork’s short documentary Behind the Feline: The Cartoon Phenomenon, below, details how Edwards charged commercial animators David DePatie and Friz Freleng with creating a cartoon persona for the Pink Panther Diamond in his upcoming jewel heist caper.

DePatie, Freleng and their team drafted over a hundred renderings in response to the character notes Edwards bombarded them with via telegram.

Edward’s favorite, designed by director Hawley Pratt, featured the iconic cigarette holder and appeared in the feature film’s trailer and title sequence, ultimately upstaging a star studded cast including David Niven, Claudia Cardinale, Robert Wagner, and Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau.

The cartoon panther’s sensational debut prompted United Artists to order up another 156 shorts, to be released over a four to five year period. The first of these, The Pink Phink, not only established the tone, it also nabbed the Academy Award for 1964’s best animated short.

Although he was created with an adult audience in mind — the narrator of the original theatrical trailer asks him about bedroom scenes — his wordless torment of the simplified cartoon Inspector proved to be money in the bank on Saturday mornings.

The Pink Panther Show ran from 1969 to 1980, weathering various title tweaks and a jump from NBC to ABC.

Syndication and cable TV ensured a vibrant afterlife, here and in other countries, where the character’s sophistication and reliance on body language continues to be a plus.

The plots unfolded along predictable lines — the groovy panther spends 6 minutes thwarting and bedeviling a less cool, less pink-oriented character, usually the Inspector.

Every episode’s title includes a reference to the star’s signature color, often to groaning degree – Pink of the LitterPink-A-BooThe Hand Is Pinker Than the EyePinkcome TaxThe Scarlet Pinkernel….

We won’t ask you to guess the color of Pink Panther Flakes, manufactured under the auspices of Post, a Pink Panther Show co-sponsor.

“I thought it was just fine for the film,” Edwards says of the animated Pink Panther in Cork’s 2003 documentary, “But I had no idea that it would take off like that, that it would have that kind of a life of its own… that kind of a merchandising life of its own. Thank god it did!”

Stay cool this summer with an 11-hour Pink Panther marathon, comprised of the following free compilations of Seasons 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Related Content: 

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The Animations That Changed Cinema: The Groundbreaking Legacies of Prince Achmed, Akira, The Iron Giant & More

Peter Sellers Performs The Beatles “A Hard Day’s Night” in Shakespearean Voice

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

Meet the Linda Lindas, the Tween Punk Band Who Called Out Racism & Misogyny and Scored a Record Deal

“Sticks and stones may break my bones,” we chanted as kids, but “words will never hurt me.” The saying seems to both invite physical violence and deny the real effects of verbal abuse. Maybe this was once effective as a stock playground retort, but it’s never been true, as anyone who’s been picked on as a child can attest. When the taunts are racist, the damage is exponentially multiplied. Not only are kids being singled out and mocked for immutable characteristics, but their family and entire culture of origin are being targeted.

What to do? Lash out? Fight back? Ignore it and pretend it isn’t happening? To quote another cliche, “the best revenge is success.” More appropriately for the case at hand, take an original line from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke: “Be constructive with your blues.”




The Linda Lindas, a four-piece punk band ranging in age from 10 to 16 would agree. When one of the girls was harassed by a classmate, they got bummed about it, then rallied, wrote a song, went viral, and scored a record deal. Dealing with bullies will rarely lead to such joyful results, but it’s worth paying attention when it does.

The song, “Racist, Sexist Boy” has “become something of a 2021 anthem,” writes NPR, with its gleeful call-outs (“Poser! Blockhead! Riffraff! Jerk face!”) and crunchy power chords. “In what has become a very familiar cycle to music-industry watchers, the band landed a record deal almost as soon as its video went viral,” signing with L.A.’s Epitaph Records. “By Friday, the band’s performance of ‘Racist, Sexist Boy’ had been posted on Epitaph’s YouTube channel.” The video comes from a performance at the Los Angeles Public Library, which you can watch in full above, with an introduction and interview with the band. (See a setlist on YouTube and don’t miss their cover of Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” at 35:56.)

So, who are the Linda Lindas? On their Bandcamp page, they describe themselves as “Half Asian / half Latinx. Two sisters, a cousin, and their close friend. The Linda Lindas channel the spirit of original punk, power pop, and new wave through today’s ears, eyes and minds.” You can meet the multi-talented tweens and teens in the video above, made in 2019 by a fifth grade teacher to inspire his students. The girls are hardly new to the music business. Clips in the video show them performing with Money Mark and opening for Bikini Kill. They got their start in 2018 at Girlschool LA, “a celebration of females challenging the status quo,” and they’ve been mentored by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

The Linda Lindas also captured the attention of Amy Pohler, who featured the band in her Netflix documentary Moxie. See a clip above. Not every kid who fights bullying with music — or art, science, sports, or whatever their talent — can expect celebrity, and we shouldn’t set kids up to think they can all win the internet lottery. But the Linda Lindas have become heroes for millions of young girls who look like them, and who dream not of fame and fortune but of a united front of friendship and fun against racism, misogyny, and the pains of growing up.

Related Content: 

Venerable Female Artists, Musicians & Authors Give Advice to the Young: Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson & More

Elementary School Kids Sing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” & Other Rock Hits: A Cult Classic Recorded in 1976

Hear 11-Year-Old Björk Sing “I Love to Love”: Her First Recorded Song (1976)

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

Watch Blondie’s Debbie Harry Perform “Rainbow Connection” with Kermit the Frog on The Muppet Show (1981)

Do you dig songs about rainbows?

The host of one of the very last episodes of The Muppet Show — Debbie Harry, lead singer of Blondie – does, and in 1981, she seized the opportunity to duet with Kermit the Frog on his signature tune, “The Rainbow Connection” — its only performance in the series’ five season run.

Many of us associate the folksy number with The Muppet Movie‘s pastoral opening scene. This rendition transfers the action backstage to the kimono-clad Harry’s dressing room.




Who knew her sweet soprano would pair so nicely with a banjo?

She also exhibits a game willingness to lean into Muppet-style hamminess, responding to the lyric “Have you heard voices?” with an expression that verges on psychological horror.

Midway through, the two are joined by a chorus of juvenile frogs in scouting uniforms.

A little context — these youngsters spend the episode trying to earn their punk merit badge.

No wonder. By 1981, when the episode aired, Blondie had achieved massive mainstream success, with such hits as “One Way or Another” and “Call Me,” both of which were shoehorned into the episode.

As creator Jim Henson’s son, Brian, recalled in a brief introduction to its video release:

…I was in high school and my father knew that Debbie Harry was, like, the biggest thing in the world to me. And he booked her to be on The Muppet Show during a vacation week from school and he didn’t tell me. We went out to dinner the night before shooting and they made me sit next to Debbie Harry at this fancy restaurant. And I just remember this whole dinner I was just endlessly sweating and all I knew was that I was aware of Debbie Harry sitting on the side of me. I don’t think I ever said a word to her, I don’t think I ever looked at her, but she did a great episode, she’s a great performer and she’s a lovely lady.

With punk permeating the airwaves, the fan site Tough Pigs, Muppet Fans Who Grew Up laments other guest hosts who might have been booked before the show ended its run:

It’s a shame Debbie Harry was the only member of her scene to make it to The Muppet Show. Can you imagine special guest stars, The Ramones, The B-52’s or even Talking Heads? … Harry’s guest stint reveals that the Muppets’ chaotic and textured world has more in common with the punk scene than one would initially expect.

The finale finds the Frog Scouts moshing to “Call Me,” with a reasonably “punk” looking, rainbow-clad backing Muppets band (Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem sat this one out due to their pre-existing associations with Motown, jazz, and a more classic rock sound.)

Related Content: 

The Muppets Sing the First & Second Acts of Hamilton

Witness the Birth of Kermit the Frog in Jim Henson’s Live TV Show, Sam and Friends (1955)

When Debbie Harry Combined Artistic Forces with H.R. Giger

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

Harvard’s Digital Giza Project Lets You Access the Largest Online Archive on the Egyptian Pyramids (Including a 3D Giza Tour)

Nothing excites the imagination of young history-and-science-minded kids like the Egyptian pyramids, which is maybe why so many people grow up into amateur Egyptologists with very strong opinions about the pyramids. For such people, access to the highest quality information seems critical for their online debates. For professional academics and serious students of ancient Egypt such access is critical to doing their work properly. All lovers and students of ancient Egypt will find what they need, freely available, at Harvard University’s Digital Giza Project.

“Children and specialized scholars alike may study the material culture of this ancient civilization from afar,” Harvard’s Metalab writes, “often with greater access than could be achieved in person.” The project opened at Harvard in 2011 after spending its first eleven years at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston with the goal of “digitizing and posting for free online all of the archaeological documentation from the Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition to Giza, Egypt (about 1904–1947),” notes the about page.




The Digital Giza Project was born from a need to centralize research and artifacts that have been scattered all over the globe. “Documents and images are held in faraway archives,” the Harvard Gazette points out, “artifacts and other relics of ancient Egypt have been dispersed, stolen, or destroyed, and tombs and monuments have been dismantled, weather-worn, or locked away behind passages filled in when an excavation closes.” Other obstacles to research include the expense of travel and, more recently, the impossibility of visiting far-off sites.

Expanding far beyond the scope of the original expeditions, the project has partnered with “many other institutions around the world with Giza-related collections” to compile its searchable library of downloadable PDF books and journal articles. Kids, adult enthusiasts, and specialists will all appreciate Giza 3D, a reconstruction with guided tours of all the major archeological sites at the pyramids, from tombs to temples to the Great Sphinx, as well as links to images and archeological details about each of the various finds within.

For a preview of the multimedia experience on offer at the Digital Giza Project, see the videos here from project’s YouTube channel. Each short video provides a wealth of information; young learners and those just getting started in their Egyptology studies can find lessons, glossaries, an overview of the people and places of Giza, and more at the Giza @ School page. Whatever your age, occupation, or level of commitment, if you’re interested in learning more about the pyramids at Giza, you need to bookmark Digital Giza. Start here.

Related Content: 

Who Built the Egyptian Pyramids & How Did They Do It?: New Archeological Evidence Busts Ancient Myths

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What Ancient Egyptian Sounded Like & How We Know It

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

Watch Cartoonist Lynda Barry’s Two-Hour Drawing Workshop

We know you’re Zoomed out, but might you make an exception for the pre-recorded drawing and writing session above with legendary cartoonist and illustrator Lynda Barry?

Under the auspices of Graphic Medicine’s participatory online series, Drawing Together, the notoriously playful Barry led participants through a series of exercises from her book, Making Comics, and seemed genuinely pleased to be back in teaching mode. (All of her in-person classes at the University of Wisconsin have been cancelled until further notice due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as has her usual summer stint at the Omega Institute.)




Barry endeavored to loosen her students up right away, brandishing toys and dancing to an amazing playlist in a friend’s borrowed attic, confiding that the wifi situation here was far superior to that in her old farmhouse.

Teacher divided the large group in half by birthdays, as a way to organize viewing each other’s work after each timed exercise.

This couldn’t quite replicate the experience of the live classroom, where students have the opportunity to handle each other’s work, and more time to take it in, but still fun to see the incredible diversity—and in the case of closed-eye exercises—thrilling similarities on display.

Barry’s delight extended beyond the confines of the page, imitating the way some students beam like swaying sunflowers throughout the 60-second closed eye sessions, while others knit their brows, lower their chins and power through.

A series of self-portraits followed, with prompts designed to tap into the sort of imaginative powers that frequently seep away in adolescence—draw yourself as an animal, an astronaut, a member of a marching band, any fruit that’s not a banana…

Longer exercises involved turning random squiggles into monsters, with an extra minute granted after the timer went off to add whatever missing things the artist felt each drawing needed, then choosing one of those monsters to star in a family album of sorts.

Barry, who has, over the course of her career, filled a number of panels with hilariously out-of-touch teachers making life a hell for child characters, is audibly appreciative of her students’ efforts, frequently congratulating them for bringing something into the world that didn’t exist a few minutes prior:

This is the thing about comics! They come intact, they come all together and the most important thing you need to do is just make time to draw them, the uninterrupted time, even if it’s just 2 minutes.

Truth!

The final exercise of the day drew on some of the writing techniques Barry featured in Syllabus, with participants, quickly jotting down memories after a prompt, then choosing one  to explore more deeply, with special attention devoted to sensory recall.

To play along from home after the fact, you’ll need a couple of hours, ten or so sheets of paper, a pencil or pen (Barry favors black felt tips), and your “original digital devices” (hint: they’re attached to the ends of your arms).

Find information on how to participate in upcoming free Drawing Together sessions here.

All drawings used with the permission of participant Ayun Halliday.

Related Content:

Lynda Barry’s New Book Offers a Master Class in Making Comics

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Lynda Barry’s Illustrated Syllabus & Homework Assignments from Her New UW-Madison Course, “Making Comics”

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She most recently appeared as a French Canadian bear who travels to New York City in search of food and meaning in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Blob Opera Lets You Create Festive Music with Ease: An Interactive Experiment Powered by Machine Learning

Tis the season when we’re never more than one singalong Messiah away from wishing we had a better voice.

David Li’s interactive Blob Opera allows us to pretend.

The machine learning experiment takes its cues from four opera singers—soprano Olivia Doutney, mezzo-soprano Joanna Gamble, tenor Christian Joel, and bass Freddie Tong—who provided it with 16 hours of recorded material.

The result is truly an all-ages activity that’s much easier on the ears than most digital diversions.




Click and drag one of the gummy-bodied blobs up and down to change its pitch.

Pull them forwards and backwards to vary their vowel sounds.

Once all four are in position, the three you’re not actively controlling will harmonize like a heavenly host.

You can disable individual blobs’ audio to create solos, duets and trios within your composition.

Press record and you can share with the world.

The blobs don’t sing in any discernible language, but they can do legato, staccato, and shoot up to incredibly high notes with a minimum of effort. Their eyes pinwheel when they harmonize.

As Li describes to co-producer Google Arts & Culture below, it’s not the original singers’ voices we’re channeling, but rather the machine learning model’s understanding of the operatic sound.

Click the pine tree icon and the blobs will serenade you with the most-searched Christmas carols.

Begin your collaboration with Blob Opera here.

If you find yourself wanting more, have a go at the interactive Choir Li created for Adult Swim.

Related Content:

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She most recently appeared as a French Canadian bear who travels to New York City in search of food and meaning in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Why Humans Are Obsessed with Cats

A house cat is not really a fur baby, but it is something rather more remarkable: a tiny conquistador with the whole planet at its feet —Abigail Tucker

As part of its Annals of Obsession video series, The New Yorker invited science journalist Abigail Tucker, author of The Lion in the Living Room, to reflect on “how felines took over the Internet, our homes, and our lives.”

It goes without saying that cats and humans have co-existed for a very long time.

Most of us are acquainted with the high regard in which Ancient Egyptians held Felis catus.

And we may know something of their seafaring history, beginning with the Vikings and continuing on through Unsinkable Sam and other celebrated ship’s cats.




An overwhelming majority of us have spent the last decade or so glued to online examples of their antics—riding robot vacuumsreacting with terror to cucumbers, and pouncing on humans, some of whom have had the temerity to write and record voiceovers that suggest they have insight as to what goes on inside a cat’s hat. (As if!)

It’s gratifying to hear Tucker echo what cat lovers have long suspected (and emblazoned on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and decorative pillows)—the cats, not the owners, are the ones running the show.

Forgive us. Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.

Cats took a commensal path to domestication, motivated, then as now, by the food they knew to be stored in our settlements.

Tucker describes it as a series of cat controlled takeovers—a process of artificial selection, undertaken on the cats’ own initiative:

House cats are supremely adaptable. They can live anywhere and, while they must have plenty of protein, they eat practically anything that moves, from pelicans to crickets, and many things that don’t, like hot dogs. (Some of their imperiled feline relatives, by contrast, are adapted to hunt only a rare species of chinchilla.) House cats can tweak their sleeping schedules and social lives. They can breed like crazy.

In certain ways the house cat’s rise is tragic, for the same forces that favor them have destroyed many other creatures. House cats are carpetbaggers, arrivistes, and they’re among the most transformative invaders the world has ever seen—except for Homo sapiens, of course. It’s no coincidence that when they show up in ecosystems, lions and other megafauna are usually on their way out.

Aloof as many of their number may be, cats have engineered things in such a way as to be physically irresistible to most humans:

Their big heads and big eyes are so cute!

Their fur is so soft!

We can carry them around!

Dress them in doll clothes (sometimes)!

Their cries mimic the cries of hungry human babies, and elicit a similar response from their human caregivers.

We may not love litter box duty, but with 1 in 3 humans infected by Toxoplasma gondii, we’ll likely be tethered to them for all eternity.

For better or worse, we love them. And so do dog lovers. They just don’t know it yet.

But do not ever imagine that the feeling is reciprocal.

They’re archcarnivores who cannot open their own cans. As Tucker wryly observes:

I think it’s fair to say that we are obsessed and they are not.

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How Humans Domesticated Cats (Twice)

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She loves cats, but most recently appeared as a French Canadian bear who travels to New York City in search of food and meaning in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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