Origami: An Inspirational Journey Between Generations

Origami: An Inspirational Journey Between Generations

Origami (2012) is a thoughtful, visually stunning animated short film that was created in the Japanese Noh tradition by five students, Joanne Smithies, Eric De Melo Bueno, Michael Moreno, Hugo Bailly Desmarchelier and Camille Turon, at L’Ecole Supérieure des Métiers Artistique (Montpellier, France). In the film, a young boy spends time alone with his grandfather, but the difference between the generations cannot be more marked. Combining artistic skill and imagination is something that cannot happen without inspiration, and eventually the boy has to embark upon a journey into his own mind’s eye to connect both to his art and to his grandfather.

Origami: An Inspirational Journey Between Generations

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The Hiroshima Photographs: Ground Zero 1945

The Nuclear Weapon “Little Boy” Exploding on Hiroshima, August 6, 1945

Rooftop View of Atomic Destruction, Hiroshima, October 31, 1945

The Landscape of Hiroshima, Looking Northeast, October 27, 1945

Ruins of the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall , October 24, 1945

Distorted Steel-Frame Structure of Odamasa Store, Hiroshima, November 20, 1945

Ruins of Chugoku Coal Distribution Company or Hiroshima Gas Company, November 8, 1945

The Hiroshima Photographs: Ground Zero 1945

Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945 is a new exhibition of once-classified images of atomic destruction at Hiroshima presently on display at New York City’s International Center of Photography. The collection of photographs both repels and fascinates the viewer, with its powerfully ugly portraits of an unpeopled and obliterated city. The photographs were originally part of a governmental analysis of the atomic bomb’s effect on concrete, wood and steel, and this catalog of devastation was meant to be seen only by postwar architects and engineers tasked with erecting the “bombproof” cities of the future.

The Hiroshima photos have a strange and contorted history. In the mid-1990s, the owner of a diner in Watertown, Massachusetts, was walking his dog when he spotted a beat-up suitcase sitting in a pile of trash. It turned out that the photographs inside had once belonged to Robert L. Corsbie, an engineer and expert on the effects of the bomb. Just how those photos wound up in his possession remains unclear. Corsbie belonged to a cadre of ordnance experts, engineers, photographers and draftsmen who were sent by President Truman to analyze the nuclear devastation.

The Hiroshima photographs are fundamentally different from the more familiar World War II pictures of European cities, such as Cologne, where the stones of the cathedral rise from the debris, and blown-out buildings loom like hollow-eyed zombies. Those ruins have a perverse but palpable grandeur, a gothic desolation that is missing from the scenes of Japan’s ravaged emptiness. In hauntingly stark contrast to the images of European destruction, the Hiroshima photographs are eerily mute. There are no people, only twisted metal, blistered walls and miles of rubble. Except for a few skeletal structures poking out of flattened wreckage, the city simply vanished. Hiroshima didn’t look like a bombed city; it looked instead as though a monstrous steamroller had passed over it and just squashed it out of existence. The Japanese city centers, constructed mostly of wood, simply went up in smoke when bombed.

Wary of the conquered people’s anger and grief, the US government imposed strict censorship in September 1945, confiscating pictures and ordering that no image be printed which might, directly or by inference, disturb public tranquility. It was not until 1952 that Life Magazine published a handful of photographs taken in the first days after the attack. Even now, such images are rarely displayed. That is why this cache of photographs is so important. Once part of a classified archive, then buried in a basement, thrown away and resurrected, it counteracts the universal tendency to aestheticise violence. There is nothing awe-inspiring here, or even poignant, just plain devastating facts.

Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945

Grave of the Fireflies: A Japanese Anime Masterpiece

Grave of the Fireflies is an acclaimed Japanese anime masterpiece, a dramatic animated film written and directed by Isao Takahata. The film tells the story of two children from Japan’s port city of Kobe, who have been made homeless by the WWII American firebombing of the city. The film is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Nosaka Akiyuki, who was a boy at the time of the firebombs, whose sister died of hunger and whose life has been shadowed by guilt. Roger Ebert considers Grave of the Fireflies to be one of the most powerful anti-war movies ever made, describing the film as “the most profoundly human animated film I’ve ever seen.”

Grave of the Fireflies: A Japanese Anime Masterpiece

Photo-Gallery: Hiroshima, Ground Zero 1945

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Machine Civilization: We Are All One

Machine Civilization: We Are All One

Machine Civilization is the fabulously choreographed music video by World Order, the celebrated Japanese music/dance performance group led by former martial artist Genki Sudo. The video features  slow-motion breakdance voguing Japanese businessmen, released along with some words of hope following the recent earthquake and tsunami devastation in Japan. Genki Sudo accompanied his video with these words of inspiration:

The unprecedented disasters unfolding in Japan; earthquakes, tsunami, and nuclear explosions, will somehow change things to come. And to send my message about this, I have expressed it here with World Order.

These disasters can be interpreted as a turning point for civilization. I think that we have arrived at a time of revolution, shared with all the people of the world, in today’s society, economy, and political systems.

Incidents themselves are neutral. I believe that every single one of us, wandering through this deep darkness, can overcome anything, if only we let go of our fear, and face the it all in a positive light.

The world is not going to change. Each one of us will change. And if we do, then yes, the world will be changed. It is darkest right before the dawn. Let’s all rise up to welcome the morning that will be so very bright for mankind. We are all one.”

World Order: Machine Civilization

(Best Viewed in HD Full-Screen Mode)

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Little Japan: A Wonderful Tiny Tokyo

Little Japan: A Wonderful Tiny Tokyo

Little Japan is a wonderful tilt-shift three-minute short film created by Fershad Irani, with music by Jack Johnson. The film was shot during early February 2011, in and around Kyoto and Tokyo. Irami began working on the film while watching news coverage of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, and sends his message, “To everyone in Japan, stay strong, thoughts are with you.”

Little Japan: A Wonderful Tiny Tokyo

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Photos of the Day: The Taxi Lights of Tokyo

Photos of the Day: The Taxi Lights of Tokyo

Photography by: Joseph O. Holmes, NYC

The Taxi Lights of Tokyo is a wonderful collection of color photographs by New York City street photographer Joseph O. Holmes. It’s an incredible series of images, which captures the spirit of a city that glitters and shines much like Times Square. The photographs reflect a nighttime urban mood that seems always the same, with scenes that are enhanced by the colorful out-of-focus background of other lighted signs.

In light of the devastation unleashed by the recent massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan, readers might wish to consider making a donation to the Japan Society’s Earthquake Relief Fund, or to Doctors Without Borders.

Tokyo Taxis: The Colorful Taxis of the City

Taxi Stand: Taxi Lights in Tokyo

Japan: The Devastation of the Massive Earthquake and Tsunami

Slide Show: The Taxi Lights of Tokyo

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Japan: The Devastation of the Massive Earthquake and Tsunami

Japan: The Devastation of the Massive Earthquake and Tsunami

A massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Japan triggered a tsunami that damaged much of the country’s coastline. The quake set off a huge oil-refinery fire north of Tokyo, where high-rise buildings designed to withstand major earthquakes swayed for several minutes. More than 30 aftershocks were reported, the largest measuring 7.1.

The tsunami waves that followed reached upwards of 30 feet high and devastated Japan’s northeastern shoreline. Waves pushed over ships, carried smaller vessels inland, knocked buildings off their foundation, tossed cars about like toys, and reversed the direction of a river. The tsunami was so devastating because the quake happened near a deep trench in the sea floor that marks the boundary between two plates of the earth’s crust.

In addition, the quake resulted in a nuclear crisis unfolding at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, unlike any seen in history: multiple failures, fires and radiation leaks from at least four separate reactors. While damage from the earthquake and tsunami was instantly visible, the nuclear impact has taken days to unfold and could affect far larger swaths of Japan and neighboring countries.

What the sea so violently ripped away, it has now begun to return. On Monday, various reports from police officials and news agencies said that as many as 2,000 bodies had now washed ashore along the coastline, overwhelming the capacity of local officials. About 350,000 people have reportedly been left homeless and are staying in shelters, awaiting news of friends and relatives among the many thousands who remain unaccounted for. The national police said early Tuesday that more than 15,000 were missing, though just 2,475 deaths had been confirmed since the quake.

Japan: The Devastation of the Massive Earthquake and Tsunami

Slide Show: Japan/The Devastation of the Massive Earthquake and Tsunami

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Junko’s Shamisen: A Mini-Epic of Poetic Revenge

Junko’s Shamisen: A Mini-Epic of Poetic Revenge

Junko’s Shamisen is a super-stylized samurai tale by Canadian filmmaker Sol Friedman. The short film is an exquisite chanbara mini-epic of revenge, suffused with manga and kabuki theater. Junko’s Shamisen flawlessly integrates traditional cell animation, 2D “cut out” style set animation, comic book dialogue bubbles and even some stop-motion to round things out. All of this is woven into the live action base of the film, which leaps off the screen with vivid color, depth and texture.

Set in the dark and densely-forested, rural backwoods of feudal-era Japan, Junko’s Shamisen is the quiet story of a young peasant girl named Junko living with her blind grandfather, who plays a three-stringed instrument called a shamisena. One day, Junko returns to their simple home to discover that her grandfather has been brutally murdered. Devastated and filled with despair, Junko, accompanied by a mystical fox spirit, abandons her old life and sets off for the village in search of better fortunes. While she goes begging from house to house, young Junko inadvertently encounters the ruthless Samurai Lord Yamamura, who was responsible for killing her grandfather. Emboldened by the influence of the fox spirit, Junko breaks out of her petite and unthreatening shell and avenges her grandfather through an act of gruesome poetic justice.

Junko’s Shamisen: A Mini-Epic of Poetic Revenge

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