Green to Blue: A Modest View of a Serious Problem

Green to Blue: A Modest View of a Serious Problem

Green to Blue is an animated short, which was named to the Top-Ten Shortlist of Friends of the Earth’s 2008 one-minute film competition. Green to Blue is a stop-motion animation that was made to promote global warming awareness. Elizabeth Klein, the film’s creator, explained that, “I made this stop motion to promote global warming awareness. Sometimes the simplest messages are the most powerful, so I’ve tried to present a child-like view of a serious problem.”

Green to Blue: A Modest View of a Serious Problem

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Disappearing Storefronts: The Edifice Complex and the City’s Changing Face

Disappearing Storefronts: The Edifice Complex and the City’s Changing Face

New York’s neighborhood storefronts have long had the city’s history carved into their unusual, distinct facades. Each of these little stores is as unique as the neighborhood residents that they serve and are run by shopkeepers committed to providing a special service. Many of these shops have long served as essential parts of their communities, vital to the residents who depend on them for a multitude of everyday needs. But the storefront shops are quickly disappearing, as their neighborhoods are transformed by both rapid gentrification and quickly escalating rents in the real estate market.

The dwindling number of these commercial relics in the city’s rapidly changing streets range from tiny, humble “mom and pop” neighborhood stores tucked away on narrow side streets to well-known institutions on historic streets. The photographs of the city’s disappearing storefronts shown here provide a view of the rapid social and economic changes that are threatening the life of unique enterprises that have long made the city’s neighborhoods distinctive.

From photographs and text by James and Karla Murray.

Disappearing Storefronts: The Edifice Complex and the City’s Changing Face

(Please Click on the Image Above to View Photo-Gallery)

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Krazy Cupcake Dayze: Everything from Epicurean Blather to Fancy Cupcake Explowgions

Krazy Cupcake Dayze: Epicurean Blather, Cake Waltzing and Cupcake Explowgions

Nowadays, writers have been talking about cupcake-lovers as a foodie-cult, about how some kind of cupcake-craze has swept across most parts of the nation. In The Atlantic, Corby Kummer has written that even in the too-too au courant New York City, cloyingly cute little cupcake shops may seem like they’re passé, but they still continue to thrive there. Moreover, new ones seem to be opening across the land by the month, even though they’re often disappointing and downright silly. Nevertheless, according to Corby Kummer, the craze is worth keeping, if only, like the opera audiences at La Scala, to keep applauding until the performers finally do better.

In keeping with these Crazy Cupcake Dayze, I’ve put together this little article composed of three takes showing different viewpoints about this “fairycake” fad: the first is about faux haute-cuisine blather; the next is a frivolous illustration of silly cupcake capers; and finally, the morbid voice of cupcake-doom, which visually pronounces that the cupcake “plague” is a downright horrible, stinking calamity. The three different takes on our krazy cupcake dayze are entitled, respectively: Frosting on the Cake; Silly Kultured Kupcakes: Doing a Ditzy Dancing Waltz Thingee; and Demise of The Very Fancy Cupcake Kids: Huge Explowgions!

In The Frosting on the Cupcake, Atlantic Magazine’s Corby Kummer holds forth at length on the cupcake craze and demonstrates how one should properly perform a gastronomically correct cupcake taste test. Silly Kultured Kupcakes: Doing a Ditzy Dancing Waltz Thingee is a stop-motion animation created by a fellow who ruined a batch of cupcakes. Rather than throwing them out, he made the dilapidated cupcakes repent by doing a bit of dancing (waltzing, to be specific). Now, most of us would sigh and just toss the ruined batch of forlorn cupcakes out, but these little cupcakes got a second chance, even if only just long enough to perform their schmaltzy-waltz for this short-animation. No doubt, someone out there is asking, “What’s next, krumping cupcakes?

The last piece is the voice of cupcake-doomsday, Demise of The Very Fancy Cupcake Kids: Huge Explowgions! Specifically, it’s the visually macabre account of a legend about how some fancy, luscious cupcake kids were living the carefree good life, famously enjoying their little tasty selves in what was left of a still dangerous part of earth, most of which already had been destroyed by years of awful war. But, according to legend, a big worrisome question still remained about these fancy little treats: Would they be able to survive? Or have cupcakes always just been too delicately fancy and sshhtuupid?

Epicurean Blather: The Frosting on the Cupcake

Silly Kultured Kupcakes: Doing a Ditzy Dancing Waltz Thingee

Demise of The Very Fancy Cupcake Kids: Huge Explowgions!

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The Horrible Obsession: Today’s Recession for Men

The Horrible Obsession: Today’s Recession for Men

OHMIGOD, what the hell, Jesus Christ, the entire world economy is collapsing all around us at this very moment. And the financial crumbling is worse than it’s ever, ever been. Housing, banks, Wall Street, huge industries….everything is falling down worser than the old Humpty Dumpty story. Everything’s being torn into a shattered heap. Yep, it surely is.

And what about all the poor men peoples who are caught up in this nightmare…lost their jobs, losing their homes, pensions suddenly vanished into thin air, savings just disappeared, cars been repossessed. Here our men folks are sposed to stand up so tall through sweaty toil and the worst of troubles, trying to be strong like the Rocks of Gibralter. But they’ve got feelings too, you know, and now they’re just suffering like they’re all bent down, tired and weakened-out by all this stuff. This financial collapse has turned into a bunch of horrendous nightmares for our country’s men folks. Even stolen away their menliness, ’cause now all they have left to do is think and think about this downright Horrible, Stinky Obsession, this Recession for Men calamity. And the short little video below really shows just what I mean about this Recession for Men thingee!

The Horrible Obsession: Today’s Recession for Men

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Drux and Flux: The Flow of Progress into Tragic Social Decay

Drux and Flux: The Flow of Progress into Tragic Social Decay

It is only for the sake of those without hope
that hope is given to us
.”

Walter Benjamin

Drux and Flux: Visual Comments on Today’s Deepening Economic Crisis

Drux and Flux won the Canadian Film Institute’s 2008 Award for Best Canadian Animation, as well as an Honorable Mention for Best Experimental/Abstract Animation at the 2008 International Animation Festival in Otowa, Canada. Director Theodore Ushev’s Drux and Flux presents an oppressive and miserable vision of how both the contemporary commitment to an over-arching belief in progress and to the ever-expanding industrialism in society have effected modern life. The five-minute short film opens with shots of a printing press, which are used to present the film’s opening titles. That scene then switches away and shifts, through rapidly choreographed cuts, to an elevated train, a dimly-lit manufacturing city-scape, the interior of a factory, then to the manufacturing building’s inner workings. The cuts are rapid, and the fast pace is maintained throughout the film.

The quickly cut scenes track the rise and fall of industry and are accompanied by increasingly discordant sounds on its background music track. Scenes from Soviet propaganda posters and the clashing of gears and girders are juxtaposed, along with almost subliminal flashes of the words “1932” (the year of Hitler’s first election-run for Chancellor of Germany) and “Juggernaut” (a possible reference to perceptions of WWII Germany as an “unstoppable force”). The latter disturbing associations between ever-increasing industrialization, exponential technological advance and the rise of totalitarian political regimes can be quite unsettling. Drux and Flux culminates with clip-art style images of a human skeleton that is reinforced with building materials, yet it’s still unable to support itself. The overall result for the viewer of this film is a vision of the potential horrors of modern-day industrialization, which has been summoned like a nightmare brought about by watching too many hours of late-night horror films while listening to a constantly-looping off-speed recording of Verdi’s Il Travatore Anvil Chorus.

Ushev drew his inspiration for Drux and Flux from a variety of sources. Sociologist-philosopher-political radical Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man (1964) is cited as his starting point, a work that presents a wide-ranging critique of both advanced capitalist and communist societies. This book theorized about the inevitable decline of revolutionary potential in capitalist societies and about the development of new and potent forms of social control, especially over the common working person. Marcuse argued that “advanced industrial society” created false needs which fused individuals into homogenized particles that comprised the existing system of production and consumption. Advertising, industrial management, politicians and the mass-media cooperated to brainwash members of the working class, eliminating their potential for effective expressions of negativity, critique, and opposition. The result, according to Marcuse, was a “one-dimensional” universe of thought and behavior, in which the very aptitude and ability for critical thinking and for developing either opposing or alternative social positions was withering away.

As Drux and Flux travels through its series of dismal industrial scenes, one is left with a deeply sad mood about the frightening impressions of the enormous slabs of metal and rust, the smells of rotting death. By the end of this short five-minute journey, the viewer is left to wonder whether this is what things actually might be like when our industrial world finally reaches its end.

Drux and Flux: The Flow of Progress into Tragic Social Decay

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The New Boy: One Day When I Was Lost

The New Boy: One Day When I Was Lost

New Boy has been nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Live Action Short Film category. The film has already won numerous awards, including Best Irish Short at the Foyle Film Festival 2007, Best Short Film at the prestigious Irish Film and Television Academy Awards 2008, Best Narrative Short at the Tribeca Film Festival 2008 (USA), Best Short Film at the 2008 Rhode Island Film Festival (USA), the Melbourne International Film Festival 2008 (Outstanding Short Film Promoting Human Values) and a Special Mention at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival.

New Boy takes us inside the mind of a young boy named Joseph during his first day in a new classroom. But Joseph’s not just any new boy, he’s an immigrant African child in an Irish classroom, seated right in front of the local bully. He’s also a boy who recently had lost his father (who was also his teacher) to war. Joseph witnessed first-hand the brutality of soldiers against his father in Africa, saw his father’s crumpled body and learned something about dealing with a potential enemy.

Joseph has to negotiate between a violent past and a future that looks as though it’s headed the same way. Straddling two worlds, the new boy must struggle to fit in without giving in. And living with the ever-present memory of his father, Joseph must find a way to stand up for himself while acting responsibly, just as his father would have wanted. The day that Joseph initially felt he was lost eventually came to be a day that he ultimately found a renewed sense of self, as well as the fulfillment of deep yearnings for reconciliation with his lost father.

While this deeply touching short film illuminates the more particular feelings of being the “new kid” at school, it also stands as a broader metaphor for our struggles with feelings of being an outsider in more general settings (at work, in a group, in a different city or country), as well as for the painful feelings of alienation suffered by persons and groups experiencing rejection by society. The film is an excursion into complicated contemporary multicultural realities. However, rather than attempting to teach or preach about simplistic lessons in social tolerance, New Boy shows how very tricky such lessons can be, either to teach or to learn.

New Boy: One Day When I Was Lost

A wonderful slideshow of images from the ten contending Academy Award short films can be viewed here.

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Bush’s Farewell Address: Delusional From Beginning To End

Bush’s Farewell Address: Delusional From Beginning To End

Arianna Huffington Talks With Rachel Maddow About Bush’s Farewell Address: “Bush Was Delusional From The Beginning To The Very End!!

Arianna Huffington appeared on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow” show Thursday night to discuss President Bush’s farewell address to the nation, which took place earlier last evening. When asked by Maddow what the big headline from the speech was, Arianna suggested paraphrasing Paul Simon’s: “Still Delusional After All These Years!

President Bush: Delusional From Beginning To End

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