Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘animation’

21 NOVEMBER, 2008

I Met The Walrus: Lennon’s Brain Animated

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Truth, aged like a good whiskey, from the cellar of a cultural legend.

In 1969, a brave 14-year-old boy named Jerry Levitan armed with a tape-deck snuck into John Lennon’s hotel room in Toronto and charmed the legend into doing an interview about peace, music, the USA, life and the Bee Gees. Thirty-nine years later, Levitan offered the interview to the world.

Only he did it brilliantly.

I Met The Walrus is an animated short, in which Lennon’s original voiceover comes to life through wonderful pen animation by the tremendously talented James Braithwaite.

Listen to Lennon’s detached yet passionate musings on politics, human nature and marijuana. And appreciate the irony of how true some of what he said 39 years ago rings today.

It’s up to the people. You can’t blame it on the government and say, ‘Oh, they’re doing this, they’re doing that, oh, they’re gonna put is us into war.’ We put ’em there. We allow it. And we can change it. If we really wanna change it, we can change it.” ~ John Lennon

And as we throw a hopeful glance of relief towards the President Elect, we can’t help thinking, Amen.

*** UPDATE ***

Levitan’s once-in-a-lifetime Lennon adventure is now available in book form, as the wonderful I Met the Walrus: How One Day with John Lennon Changed My Life Forever — a priceless first-hand recollection of the unusual encounter. It features Jerry’s memorabilia from the day — notes from John and Yoko, the secret code to contact him, drawings, John’s doodles and more — as well as the animated film and the original audio interview. It is, as we certainly don’t need to point out, a cultural treasure and a Lennonphiliac must-have.

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09 OCTOBER, 2008

The Mother of All Music Visualization

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What global warming has to do with the formative role of music in 20th-century culture.

Two of our most popular recent stories, the fan-made Goldfrapp music video and the brilliant new album by David Byrne and Brian Eno, meet today in the mother of all music visualization.

After observing how reactive traditional music videos are, with their meticulous film direction, legendary motion graphics designer and ex-DJ Jakob Tröllback began an experimental animation project. He took David Byrne and Brian Eno’s 25-year-old track Moonlight in Glory and completely removed the human producer/director element, letting the music itself be the voice that the animation follows.

The result is a stunning visualization that makes the music, as well as its message, all the more impactful — and we’re particularly mesmerized by it because it tackles the rather timely, pressing issue of environmental apocalypse.

The Rest Is Noise Watch Jacob Tröllback’s full (and by full we mean 4-minute) TED talk about it.

Meanwhile, enrich yourself with New Yorker music critic Alex Ross’ freshly released book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century.

If there ever was a grand revelation of music’s formative role in social psychology and cultural anthropology, that would be the one.

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25 SEPTEMBER, 2008

You Better Believe It

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Why we drink, scandal!, the world’s most expensive clock, theft-worthy animation, what Radiohead and Goldfrapp have in common, and how diarrhea can save the planet.

LIFE & BEER, EXPLAINED

Enough said.


Inspired by the ever-amusing Indexed blog — if you’re not already familiar, we strongly suggest you fix that cultural mistake ASAP.

I’M A MAC, AND I’M A MAC POSING AS A PC

The horror! The scandal! You know those annoying new “PC Pride” TV spots for Microsoft that attempted to shove the Seinfeld fiasco under the carpet? Well, an overzealous conspiracy theorist decided to look at the EXIF information of the campaign photos sent to the media — that’s the little piece of file information that shows what program the file was created in.

Guess what — those Microsoft ads were made on…gasp…a Mac. And if you think Microsoft and Crispin, their ad agency, have the relationship equivalent of a Catholic priest caught with his pants down at a gay bar, it gets worse. Turns out, Dell’s agency, Enfatico, did the exact same thing with their client’s campaign. Except in their case, those Macs were actually bought on the Dell dollar.

And just when we thought no one could out-whore-out the ever-irreverent Improv Everywhere…who actually revered quite quickly at the sight of corporate bling.

via Tribble Ad Agency

WE EAT TIME FOR BREAKFAST

Speaking of Seinfeld, here’s something that sounds like one of Kramer’s ideas but is, in fact, completely real:

Corpus Chromophage

One of our heroes, brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking, has just unveiled the world’s strangest clock. Called

Chronophage, which means “time-eater,” the beastly time-keeper cost $2 million and was developed over 5 years in Cambridge’s Corpus Christi College by Dr. John Taylor, a renowned inventor and horologist.

Its shtick: It has no hands — time is displayed by a series of blue LED lights illuminating the 24-carat gold surface through various slits and lenses. The design itself was inspired by the work of legendary innovator John Harrison, who came up with the “grasshopper escapement” mechanism almost 300 years ago.

The clock is only accurate every five minutes, but is wired up to an electric motor that will keep it running for the next 25 years.

We’re fascinated by the idea of a device that captures the relativity of time and how its passage mercilessly eats away at our lives. That, and we like shiny things.

via BBC Technology

AND THEN THERE WAS FLASHLIGHT

On the cool-LED-stuff note, we’re obsessed with chronophage art collective PIKA PIKA. They make abstract animation using LED flashlights, which “draw” an image by tracing its outline over and over. Their movement is recorded in a series of photographs using long exposures, which are then spliced together into an animated sequence.

In 2005, the team was invited to a conference, where they presented the back-end of how the animation worked. They noticed that the audience of people interested in the concept was incredibly diverse, so they came up with a way to make the animation more interactive and inclusive, recruiting audience members in its production.

PIKA PIKA Today, PIKA PIKA films are made by that audience: Each person gets a flashlight and becomes a part of the animation. The films have since traveled the world and won various awards across a number of art and film festivals.

So that’s where Sprint stole the idea from.

SOLAR-POWERED MUSIC

From one cool audience-made light-employing video to another: After Radiohead’s In Rainbows fan-made video contest, a Goldfrapp fan got inspired to animate the track “Lovely Head” from their first album.

It’s essentially a visualization of the sound data, with the lyrics superimposed, producing the visual equivalent of what we’d imagine goes on in one’s brain when listening to the track on psychedelic drugs.

It was made through a process that’s way over our head, which makes us dig it all the more. It also reminds us of binary data sculptor Paul Prudence his video stream data visualizations.

via Coudal

BEYOND THE WC

And since we’re getting into things way over our head, here’s something that blows everything else out of the water. Or, as it just so happens, out of the oil.

Plastic-Producing E. coli

Scientists have developed a new strain of that same pant-pooping E. coli bacterium that can make butanediol (BDO), the material used in stuff like spandex, car bumpers and plastic cups, from scratch. Which basically means they can make plastic without using oil or natural gas, taking a huge energy load off the current plastic production methods.

That’s what we call research-grant-justifying progress. (Unlike, say, the one that measured methane emissions from farting cows.)

Now, if they can only get them to make tacos…

via PSFK

08 AUGUST, 2008

Monkey See Monkey Make NBC Look Bad

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How rocks stars are making capitalism look really, really, really bad.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

You’ve seen the promos. You’ve heard the promos. You’ve smelled the promos. The 2008 Olympics have been a long time coming, and now they’ve finally come. And while we have high hopes for U.S. Olympic teams, we sure hope the performance of the American teams tooting the horn is no predictor of the nation’s competitive edge over other nations.

Case in point: the BBC promo for the Olympics make NBC look like a bunch of sponsor-grubbing YouTubers.

“Journey to the East” is based on the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West and follows the adventures of Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy as they make their way to the other end of the world using Olympic athleticism to overcome the literal and abstract hurdles.

If this looks and sounds familiar, it should be: the enachanted short film (because we can’t bring ourselves to call it a mere video) is the brainchild of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, the duo behind the pseudo-band Gorillaz. (Albarn is perhaps better known as the frontman of Blur and the mastermind behind The Good, the Bad & the Queen.)

The 3,000-frame animation took 12 weeks to complete and required 12-13 drawings per second of screen time, eating up 50 pencils and over 8,000 sheets of animation paper. If you think that’s quite a production, just wait for the audio: it was recorded on unusual Chinese instruments, 20 of them total, with a choir of 38 Chinese singers studio-dubbed to sound like 76 people. The two parts — the animation and the music — were developed simultaneously over the course of the 4 months so they woud fit together in the most perfect, organic way possible.

…And now it’s back to “This segment brought to you by Exxon-Mobil.