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Cinematic Enlightenment: The Auteurs Project

The long tail of film culture, or why content curation really is the future of everything.

Some time ago, we did a run-down of the top 3 sites for hardcore film buffs. And we wish The Auteurs — Europe’s visionary cinematic enlightenment project — had been around.

It’s a fascinating film library spanning everything from the timeless classics to the hidden gems of the world’s most prominent independent festivals — foreign language, art-house, documentary, animation, experimental, short films, and everything in between.

With its inspired long-tail view of cinema, The Auteurs revolves around the idea that popular doesn’t always mean good.

And it’s not your grandma’s YouTube, either — The Auteurs harnesses bleeding-edge technology that lets you stream feature-length films in high definition, something the team spends a lot of energy on and thus takes great pride in.

Four things that were on our minds when we first dreamt the Auteurs: Number one: why can’t you just watch In the Mood for Love in an airport lounge? Number two: why is it so hard to get hold of Antonioni’s complete filmography? Number three: Wouldn’t it be great to instantly send Tati’s Playtime to a friend if you think they need it (there’s nothing like film therapy)? Number Four: why do films on the Internet look just awful? And that was that.

It requires no software installation (take that, Netflix), works on both Mac and PC (take that, Blockbuster), is available anywhere in the world (take that, Hulu), and it’s beyond affordable — most films cost just $5 to watch, with some being completely free.

It’s also highly social, brimming with a vibrant community of fellow film buffs hungry to discuss anything from the best dream sequence to the most overrated director.

Our favorite part is the Auteurs Cinemateque — an editorially curated rotating online film festival, further proof for our content-curation-is-the-future-of-culture theory.

So go ahead, take the tour and dive into this brave new world of film culture. If anything, just imagine all the dinner party talking points it’ll give you.


Focus on Focus: Rapt

Happiness, ADD, and why multitasking doesn’t work but denial might.

A few weeks ago, I came across Sam Anderson’s excellent New York Magazine article about the benefits of distraction. Sure, it took me a week to read — let’s face it, who has the luxury of single-task attention these days — but that was half the point.

In it, Anderson cites an intriguing book by cancer-survivor-turned-behavioral-science-writer Winifred Gallagher.

Rapt is a fascinating, thorough, yet brilliantly digestible foray into the power of attention. It’s solid science — from psychology experiments to fMRI studies — wrapped in Gallagher’s moving personal story: She turned to the focused life when her own life was disrupted by a grim cancer diagnosis.

From evolutionary theory to psycho-social science, Rapt is part descriptive expose on how the mind works, part prescriptive recipe for how to make it work better, live more richly, and inhabit each moment more fully.

You can’t be happy all the time but you can pretty much focus all the time. That’s about as good as it gets.

For a closer look at productivity, why creative people pay attention differently, and how to train ourselves to focus, watch this excellent interview with Gallagher on Australia’s equally excellent FORA network.

In this epidemic of what I call “skim culture” — the inability to give our attention fully to any one thing, stirred by the constant anxiety that there’s something better, more interesting, more urgent happening elsewhere simultaneously — Rapt comes highly recommended. If only to find out just why multitasking — brace yourself — doesn’t even remotely work, but denial actually might.


Illustration Spotlight: Plan 9.001

The 1’s and 0’s of home, or what the Olsen twins have to do with John Locke and God.

Every once in a while we stumble across something we don’t quite get, but can tell is brilliant. Case in point: The Plan 9.001 Flickr set from an artist by the cryptic name of 9000.

Full of wondrous, beautifully art directed charts, graphs, diagrams and other fascinations that capture the human condition, the illustrations are part poetry, part art direction, part homage to geek culture — and all genius.

Most of the images are left to exist in their self-contained reality, with no caption or explanation, inviting you to make sense of them ever which way you wish.

And some are brimming with keen cultural commentary, oozing both from the images themselves and from the quotes accompanying — mismatched at first glance, like this odd psalm that we had to Google-translate, but deeply profound in context.

Indeed, there’s a certain preoccupation with the God — a quest for divinity in the godless, lonesome, conflicted world the artist seems to inhabit. Or, you know, it’s just a mockery thereof.

And while we’re not quite sure what to make of it it all, we urge you to explore the Plan 9.001 set and the rest of 9000’s rather diverse but uniformly bizarre body of work — if for no other reason than that it has intrigued us more than anything we’ve come across in a long, long time.


Revolutionary Fringe-Think: Sputnik Observatory

Why big minds play in small spaces, or what bacteria and architecture have in common.

We love Jonathan Harris. And his latest project is nothing short of brilliant.

Two years in the making, Sputnik is an “observatory for the study of contemporary culture” — an effort to document, catalog, and share ideas that shape our cultural era by interviewing global thought-leaders in the arts, sciences and technology. With its ambitious mission and inspired vision, the project is a piece of cultural anthropology of the most precious, sorely needed kind.

Our philosophy is that ideas are NOT selfish, ideas are NOT viruses. Ideas survive because they fit in with the rest of life. Our position is that ideas are energy, and should interconnect and re-connect continuously because by linking ideas together we learn, and new ideas emerge.

Sound familiar? The project is part TED, part BigThink, part — we like to think — Brain Pickings. It’s a celebration of the cross-pollination of ideas and the interconnectedness of everything — something we’re big on around here — based on the central premise that topics and ideas that may appear niche and left-of-center are actually the playground of human genius. Sputnik‘s aim is to give these fringe ideas a platform for expression, so the world can begin to make sense of them.

Our goal is to encourage life-long learning, and we have created this website as a portal of possibilities. A democratic space where people can listen and engage with ideas that inform contemporary history. Ideas that we believe will empower everyone to be a part of today’s cultural conversation.

Currently, the site features about 200 interviews across architecture, quantum physics, neuroscience, video games, biology, economics, digital art, computer science, music and more. These conversations, conducted over more than a decade and previously unavailable to the public, offer a glimpse into humanity’s most progressive, visionary thinking.

The site’s functionality mirrors its conceptual premise, offering a stream-of-consciousness experience that invites you to browse paths, people, themes, and conversations.

The Paths tool is particularly interesting, as it adds a customization layer to your Observatory experience, letting you record, save and share what you found most fascinating — a neat research and publishing tool that acts as a powerful medium for Sputnik’s fundamental message: The dissemination of great ideas.

The biggest challenge of such high-concept projects is that it’s easy to slip into a pattern of merely broadcasting content — however compelling it may be — at people, rather than engaging the viewer-participant with it. And we like how Sputnik doesn’t just aim to build a museum of human thought — a static, linear space — but actually encourages a dynamic, customized, shareable experience that’s part collaboration, part exploration, part cultural curation.

So go ahead, explore Sputnik for yourself. Here’s a good place to start.

via TEDChris: The untweetable


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