Category Archives: film/video

My life in typefaces

Are you geek enough to watch a TED about typefaces? I am. (Granted, I’m an editor privileged to work with talented graphic designers.) Type designer Matthew Carter (you’ve seen his work) talks about design and the constraints of technology. His words are helpful, I think, whatever your creative endeavor.

“Does a constraint force a compromise?” he asks. “By accepting a constraint are you working to a lower standard?” During Carter’s career, constraints have been imposed by the limitations of printing, screen display, and information technology. But every form of creativity faces constraints of one kind or another. The question is, how do you respond? And can overcoming a particular technical challenge lead to aesthetic discoveries?

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Why you must read John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars”

TFIAS jacketYou must read this book. I realize it’s been out for a while and is already being made into a movie, and as usual I’m late to the party. But if you haven’t read it…

OK, this is a book about teenagers with cancer. Terminal cancer. This could have been a depressing book, but I didn’t find it so — though it certainly has its share of sadness. Even the dust jacket warns you:

“Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.”

You’ve probably heard it said, “Young people think they’re immortal, and that they’ll never grow old.” (The last part is true enough in Hazel’s case.) And today’s generation of young people, just like every recent generation before it, is often dismissed as spoiled, narcissistic, shallow, and lazy. If that’s true, why is this smart, unflinching story so wildly popular with said young people? Why does a book for teenagers deal with the issues of mortality more seriously and more intelligently than most of what you find in the adult world? And this isn’t an anomaly. Both the Harry Potter books and The Hunger Games trilogy face death pretty squarely. (I can’t comment on Twilight — I haven’t read those.) Continue reading

A History of Our World in 18 Minutes

…And he doesn’t even talk especially fast.

One of the helpful things about history is the way it gives us perspective on our own lives. Issues that we think are new or unique to our day have usually appeared before in some form or other. History helps us see the large trends rather than getting lost in the day-to-day details of current events.

“Big History” takes this even further. As David Christian’s talk demonstrates, the idea of Big History is to step way back and look at the broad scope of events in terms of various time scales… including the largest time scale of all. Not only is it a great way to induce awe, but it will also change and deepen the way you look at not only current events, but history itself. Continue reading

“Mt. Head”: 10 minutes of darkly hilarious Japanese weirdness

Atama Yama stillAtama Yama (Mt. Head) is a highly strange but thoroughly engrossing short film (10 minutes) from 2002. I’m not able to embed it, but you can watch it here.

Directed by Japanese animator Kōji Yamamura, it is a modern interpretation of a traditional story from a type of comic storytelling called rakugo.  Yamamura’s surreal animation mixes hand drawn images with CGI. The story is narrated by Takeharu Kunimoto, a musician and storyteller who speaks and sings the narration while accompanying himself on the shamisen, a traditional three-stringed instrument. The effect, at least for this American viewer reading the English subtitles, is to heighten the strangeness and wonder of the tale. I can’t understand a word Takharu is saying, but I can hear the humor and exaggerated theatrics in his voice. Continue reading

Which is better, “Asturias (Leyenda)” on guitar or piano?

John Williams plays “Asturias (Leyenda)” by Isaac Albeniz

It’s fun to take something you think you know, change it up a little, and hear what happens.

Like “Asturias (Leyenda)” by Isaac Albeniz. I’ve heard it a number of times before and thought I knew it fairly well (for a non-musician). More about that below. First, the video above. What I like about it (aside from the music itself and the virtuoso performance of it) is that you can watch Williams’s hands and fingers – you see up close the music being made. A rock concert, even a symphony, is larger than life. Nothing wrong with that. But this is intimate, music that invites you to come close, music at your fingertips. Continue reading

The impotence of proofreading

Just for fun. This has been out for several years, but a colleague just sent me the link. As an editor I’ve warned writers and students before about the dangers of failing to proofreading, or of trusting spell check… but never as memorably as this guy. Continue reading

Animated poem about a kite… and so much more

I’ve featured animated poems a few times before on this blog. Here’s one I enjoyed after finding it on Open Culture. This video of Leonard Cohen’s “A Kite is a Victim” is an example of how a good reader and clever animator can add something to a poem that you won’t find on the printed page… even though the performance feels faithful to the original.

The poem itself is rich in metaphor. It’s about a kite but so much more.

The video may be new to me, but it’s been around a long time. It’s part of Poets on Film No. 1, an animated short released by Canada’s National Film Board in 1977.