Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘film’

20 JANUARY, 2012

The First Kiss in Cinema, 1896

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How Thomas Edison made the kiss Hollywood’s favorite audience-courting device.

Thomas Edison is responsible for some of the most significant technological innovations of modern history, and is even credited as the inventor of the movie industry itself. But besides his visionary take on technology, he also had a keen eye for what audiences wanted, from his YouTube-like 1984 boxing cats to his 1901 footage of legendary aerialist Charmion’s trapeze strip-tease. It comes as no surprise, then, that Edison is also responsible for the very first on-screen kiss in cinema, featuring Canadian actress May Irwin. A mere 23 seconds in length, it was filmed in his Black Maria studio in New Jersey in 1896., at a time when public kissing was greatly frowned upon by Victorian society. In that era, the act of kissing was referred to as “sparkin'” if it took place indoors, usually the parlor, or “spoonin'” when performed outdoors, in a secluded spot far from the public’s eye.

This footage is often confused with another kiss scene, mistakenly credited by some as cinematic appearance of a kiss — it was, however, filmed in 1900 in Edison’s new glass-topped studio in New York City, and was quickly banned in most theaters. The two lovers remain anonymous.

For more on the evolution of kissing, see Joanne Wannan’s Kisstory: A Sweet and Sexy Look at the History of Kissing. For a scientific lens, my friend Sheril Kirshenbaum wrote the excellent The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us.

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13 JANUARY, 2012

A Beautiful Animated Adaptation of Bukowski’s Poem “Bluebird”

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Visual whimsy to make Bukowski’s magic shine.

Charles Bukowski’s poem “The Bluebird,” originally published in his 1992 anthology The Last Night of the Earth Poems (public library), is a quietly profound meditation on an all too familiar facet of the human condition — our compulsion to conceal and stifle our most tender and vulnerable selves underneath tough, controlled, meticulously architected exteriors.

This mesmerizingly beautiful animated adaptation of the poem by Cambridge School of Art student Monika Umba is the perfect piece of visual whimsy to bring to life Bukowski’s magic.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
you.
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he’s
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do
you?

Complement with Bukowski on the ideal conditions and myths of creativity and his magnificent letter of gratitude to the man who helped him quit his soul-sucking day job to become a full-time writer.

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12 JANUARY, 2012

The Hidden Beauty of Pollination

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We’ve already marveled at the macro beauty of pollen, nature’s love-making mechanism. From Louie Schwartzberg’s film Wings of Life — an homage to “the love story that feeds the Earth,” inspired by the worrisome vanishing of the honeybees, nature’s irreplaceable Cupids — comes this stunning montage of high-speed images, revealing the intricate beauty of pollination:

Schwartzberg contextualizes the footage in his talk from TED 2011:

For a related moment of humility, treat yourself to Schwartzberg’s moving and rewarding TEDxSF talk on gratitude — it gets truly extraordinary at around 3:55:

You think this is just another day in your life. It’s not just another day — it’s the one day that is given to you, today. It’s given to you, it’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life, and the very last day, then you would have spent this day very well.”

HT Smithsonian Retina

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11 JANUARY, 2012

The Joy of Books: A Stop-Motion Rainbow Intervention

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If you, like me, are a lover of books, you’ll find yourself enamored with this husband-and-wife duo’s imaginative stop-motion reconfiguration of the bookshelves in Toronto’s Type bookstore — the best thing since Spike Jonze’s stop-motion love story for book lovers.

Some of my favorite books make cameos in the film — French illustrator Blexbolex’s People, the vibrant PANTONE: The Twentieth Century in Color, Christoph Niemann’s relentlessly delightful I LEGO N.Y., Brooke Gladstone’s The Influencing Machine, a graphic novel guide to the media, and 1493, the untold story of how Columbus changed the world.

Last July, the duo warmed up by giving their home bookcase the stop-motion rainbow treatment:

(One thing that’s always drawn me to stop-motion as a storytelling medium, particularly such labor-intensive executions, is the peculiar, paradoxical way in which it bends our relationship with time, at once compressing its scale and making its passage all the more palpable.)

Where to next? Try some inspired bookshelf designs, or the bookcases of famous authors.

Thanks, Alex

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