Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘film’

17 NOVEMBER, 2011

Choosing to Die: Sir Terry Pratchett Comes to Terms with His Death

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Befriending the Grim Reaper, or what Swiss sunshine has to do with the ultimate personal freedom.

In 2008, having just turned 62, beloved fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with a rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s. Three years later, he began the process to take his own life. Terry Pratchett: Choosing To Die is a powerful and fascinating film, in which Pratchett explores the cultural controversies and private paradoxes surrounding the issue of assisted suicide, which remains illegal in most countries. From the “small but imbalancing inconveniences” of the disease’s earlier stages to the loss of his ability to type to witnessing a terminally ill man peacefully choreograph his own last breath in Switzerland, Pratchett explores what it would be like to be helped to die, and what it would mean for a society to make assisted death a safe refuge for the dying.

What you’re about to watch, may not be easy, but I believe it’s important… Is it possible for someone like me, or like you, to arrange for themselves the death that they want?” ~ Terry Pratchett

When I am no longer able to write my books, I am not sure that I will want to go on living. I want to enjoy life for as long as I can squeeze the juice out of it — and then, I’d like to die. But I don’t quite know how, and I’m not quite sure when.”

Snuff: A Novel of Discworld, Pratchett’s latest and possibly final novel, came out last month.

HT @sociografik

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16 NOVEMBER, 2011

Blok: Playful, Voyeuristic Vintage Polish Experimental Animation

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A whimsical cinematic children’s book for grown-ups.

In 1982, young Polish screenwriter, director and music teacher Hieronim Neumann created a captivating experimental animation titled Blok, after the term “block” used in much of Eastern Europe to describe the common apartment buildings erected mostly during Communism. In what appears to be a single continuous shot, you get a voyeuristic glimpse of a series of vignettes that take place inside various apartments. It’s kind of like HBO’s Voyeur Project stuffed inside a praxinoscope and transformed into a Rube Goldberg machine — or, as MetaFilter puts it, “like a children’s book for adults.” Enjoy:

Blok can be found on the altogether excellent 3-disc collection The Anthology of Polish Experimental Animation, alongside nearly 40 other gems.

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15 NOVEMBER, 2011

Celestial Navigations: 5 Conceptual Vintage Science Films by Al Jarnow

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Education meets entertainment in experimental animation, or what Big Bird has to do with the dawn of computing.

Last week, Jason Kottke reminded me of how much I love the vintage short films of painter, educator, museum designer, and software developer Al Jarnow. Between the 1970s and the 1990s, Jarnow created short segments for PBS’s 3-2-1 Contact series, Sesame Street, and various other children’s television programs, using stop-motion, timelapse, cell animation, and other experimental at the time techniques to bring everyday objects to life and illustrate scientific concepts by blending education and entertainment. (Sound familiar?) The films are now collected in Celestial Navigations: Short Films of Al Jarnow — an absolute gem restored from the original 16mm prints, featuring remastered sound, a 30-minute documentary about Jarnow’s work, and a beautiful 60-page book.

For a taste, here are five of my favorite Jarnow films:

COSMIC CLOCK

Cosmic Clock compresses a billion years of time into two delightfully vintage animated minutes.

FACE FILM

Face Film explores human behavior through the computational operations of a typewriter, using a large canvas to tease our inability to recognize an image using incomplete data.

ARCHITECTURE

Architecture was one of Jarnow’s most elaborate and labor-intensive shoots — which makes this photo of the set getting destroyed upon completion all the more mischievously delightful.

TONDO

In Tondo, Jarnow places rectangles on grids made of meticulously measured horizon lines, then moves the camera or leaves each rectangle still for a near-impossible to achieve 3D effect. In fact, this technique is rarely used in animation precisely due to its tedious and time-consuming nature — doing away with the familiar shortcuts of cell animation, Jarnow had to come up with an entirely new kind of shortcut to fill out the 24 frames per second of traditionally projected films … in 1973.

CUBITS

In 1978, Jarnow created one of his most ambitious and groundbreaking films. Far from a mere mesmerizing meditation on the craft of animation itself, Cubits was also essentially a paper model of a computer — the cube sheet on which the film is based consists of a horizontal cubic rotation and a diagonal pan for diagonal rotation, combining these primary moves into complex rotations to explore the relationship between animation procedure and logical numerical operations.

A time-capsule of incredible visual and conceptual innovation, Celestial Navigations is the kind of cultural treasure that makes you sigh with appreciation.

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