Yes We Can: American Stories of Hope

Yes We Can: American Stories of Hope

Qasim Basir is a young filmmaker living in New York City who has been inspired by Barack Obama. In an article on The Huffington Post, Qasim wrote that, “He has inspired me, a usually self-motivated individual, to try to be a better person overall. I sometimes find myself in situations where I have a choice to do my best or just get by. And something in me refers back to something Obama may have said about making this country better. Then I realize that if I can do better in all of my endeavors and we all do the same as a collective nation, this place can actually get better.”

As a filmmaker, Qasim wanted to do something in support of the man that he so admired. By chance, one of his filmmaker friends in Los Angeles, Mike Lynch, was thinking along the same lines. Late one night, Qasim received a call from Lynch in his small Manhattan studio. Lynch said, “Qasim, we need to do something to support Obama.” That call sparked a flame in Qasim that inspired him to stay up all night and draft some ideas for a short film series. He wanted the series of short films to capture the quality that he most admired about Barack Obama.

It was by no means easy for Qasim to achieve his vision. It took everything that he and Lynch had to pull together enough resources to be able to finish the series of films. Along the way, they received free assistance from some usually highly paid professionals and raised most of the financial support for the film series through friends’ donations. Qasim feels that, “That’s why what we did here is so significant. We took a page out of Obama’s book and were successful at it. Almost like a prototype, test, or a living example of how his plan for this country can really work. A grass roots effort, people pulling together with a common purpose, even without all the necessary means, can make something positive and significant happen. I like to say that we accomplished this with nothing but Hope.”

Entitled The Inspiration of Barack: “Yes We Can” Film Series, Qasim refers to them as “Seven American Stories of Hope.” Each of the short films is about different people who, in the face of suffering and hardships in their lives, were inspired by Obama to confront their hardships and take an essential step forward. Each of the titles begins with Yes We Can, which is followed by College, Economy, Family, Housing, Immigration, Vote and War.

A screening of The Inspiration of Barack: “Yes We Can” Film Series, along with a “behind the scenes” video, is scheduled to place at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 12th at Tribeca Cinemas (54 Varick St., New York City).

Yes We Can: College

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Flicker: Animals in Unsupported Transit

Flicker: Animals in Unsupported Transit

Flicker: A Moment in the Life of Eadweard Muybridge

Flicker is a short one-minute experimental film that was directed by Hamish Anderson, a talented young English filmmaker. Flicker is presently on The 2008 Shortlist of Filminute, a juried international one-minute film festival that challenges filmmakers to develop and submit the world’s best one-minute films. Hamish Anderson is a university student who is the son of the British film artist Peter Anderson. Prior to making Flicker, Hamish created a documentary made in Zambia with UNICEF and a three-minute film, Canned Spirit, about an English graffiti artist.

Hamish lives in Oxford, England, and the film set for Flicker was created in his home there. In addition to filmmaking, Anderson’s other creative talents include drawing and design; accordingly, he drew the dogs that appear in the film with a fine black pen, and he also made the zoetrope (the spinning device that shows the drawings of the dogs).

Flicker is a film that uniquely and explicitly reveals an image of artistic convergence. Anderson describes his film as “a filmic representation of a moment in the life of the pioneering photographer, Eadweard Muybridge.” Muybridge is legendary for his “Horse in Motion” high-speed photographs of a trotting horse, which resolved the long-running controversy over whether all of the horse’s four feet ever leave the ground at the same time. The “Horse in Motion” photographs are considered by many in the know to be the world’s first motion pictures.

Curiously, Anderson describes his film as the portrayal of “a moment” in the life of Muybridge, but he doesn’t further specify what he intends that particular moment to be. Actually, Flicker depicts a convergence of moments. At one level, the film could simply be taken as an illustration of “the moment” in which Muybridge was first able to display his photographs as moving pictures. But it’s important to note that Anderson is not displaying Muybridge’s own photographs in his film. Instead, he’s using drawings of Muybridge’s photographs, which in fact replicates another significant “moment” or event that actually took place in Muybridge’s own life.

That “convergent moment” involved the relationship between the mercurial Muybridge and his financial patron, Leland Stanford (a Former California Governor). It was the “moment” in Muybridge’s life when their relationship completely broke down after Stanford commissioned a book called The Horse in Motion as Shown by Instantaneous Photography. That 1882 book omitted the actual photographs that had been taken by Muybridge, relying instead on drawings and engravings based upon the photographs, and at the same time the book gave Muybridge little credit for his work.

Flicker: Animals in Unsupported Transit

Eadweard Muybridge’s Horse in Motion: The World’s First Motion Pictures

The Horse in Motion: Freezing Time

He was one of the most famous people of the 19th century, but the name of Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) is nearly unknown today. In 1855, Muybridge left England and settled in San Francisco, starting his career as a publisher’s agent and bookseller. He left San Francisco at the end of that decade, and after a stagecoach accident in which he received severe head injuries returned to England for a few years. Muybridge reappeared in San Francisco in 1866 and rapidly became successful in the photography profession, focusing almost entirely on landscape and architectural subjects.

In 1872, the former Governor of California Leland Stanford, a businessman and race-horse owner, had taken a stance about a then popularly-debated question of the day: whether all four of a horse’s hooves left the ground at the same time during a gallop. Stanford sided with the assertion that they did, an idea called “unsupported transit“, and took it upon himself to prove it scientifically. To prove Stanford’s claim, Muybridge developed a new photographic technique that facilitated instantaneous motion picture capture. In 1877, Muybridge settled Stanford’s question with a single photographic negative that showed Stanford’s racehorse Occident airborne in the midst of a gallop.

By 1878, encouraged by Leland Stanford to expand his experiment, Muybridge had successfully photographed a horse in fast motion using a series of twenty-four cameras. The first public demonstration of his new moving picture technique successfully took place on June 11th, and it was attended by members of the press. Muybridge used a series of 12 stereoscopic cameras, set 21 inches apart to cover the 20 feet taken by one horse stride, taking pictures at one thousandth of a second. The cameras were arranged parallel to the track, with trip-wires attached to each camera shutter that were triggered by the horse’s hooves.

This series of photos is known as The Horse in Motion, and it shows that the hooves do all leave the ground, although not with the legs fully extended forward and back, as contemporary illustrators had tended to imagine. Rather, it occurred at the moment when all the hooves are tucked under the horse, as it switches from “pulling” from the front legs to “pushing” from the back legs.

Few people remember that those photos were just a beginning for Muybridge. Through further work, he was able to develop his new technology so that it took the extended series of images and transformed them into the first moving pictures. Twenty years before Thomas Edison popularized his own projector, Muybridge was filling auditoriums across the United States and Europe with audiences eager to see the first motion pictures. Later, Edison did all that he could to obscure the true origins of the cinema, in order to protect his own patents.

Horse in Motion: The World’s First Motion Pictures

3D Computer Graphics: The Horse in Motion

The Photographer: A Gentleman’s Honor

In 1874, while still living in the San Francisco Bay Area, Muybridge found a letter that had been sent to his wife, a letter revealing that she had a lover, a certain Major Harry Larkyns. On October 17, 1874, he sought out Larkyns, saying to him, “Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here is the answer to the letter you sent my wife.” Muybridge then killed the Major with a gunshot. He was put on trial for murder, but was acquitted by the jury with a verdict of “justifiable homicide.”

An interesting aspect of Muybridge’s defense was a plea of insanity due to the head injury Muybridge had sustained years earlier in his stagecoach accident. His friends testified in court that the accident had dramatically changed Muybridge’s personality from genial and pleasant, to unstable and erratic. Although the jury dismissed the insanity plea, it is not unlikely that Muybridge did experience some emotional changes due the earlier head injury. This episode in Muybridge’s life was the subject of The Photographer, a well-known 1982 opera by Philip Glass, with words that were drawn from the trial and from Muybridge’s own letters to his wife.

Philip Glass: The Photographer/A Gentleman’s Honor

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Empathy: A Foundation for the Complexities of Love

Empathy, Mutual Recognition and Feelings of Love

I truly hope that readers won’t mind my writing this message that attempts to convey some sense of tranquility. One of the most wonderful opportunities made available and nurtured by writing on the internet is that there arise moments of inspiration which can beget an artistic container enclosing, and a liminal space that relates to, differing personal and public interests with a variety of perspectives. In my case, the art of blogging or writing on the internet evolved or transmuted into a focus upon creative blog composition. My earlier compositions were somewhat lengthy expressions of my understandings of and perspectives on contemporary psychoanalysis, clinical psychology, art, photography, diversity (including the rights of persons in the GLBTTQSA community and other ethnic/minority groups), politics, multimedia and music.

My current blog compositions tend to be short and condensed, but which at the same time embrace several layers of meaning. For example, this composition simply consists of a photograph, this descriptive and interpretive introductory text and a 60-second short-film. A later post might consist of just a single thoughtfully chosen photograph. Regarding this particular composition, in the midst of our current climate of heatedly divisive national political discourse, worrisome economic stressors, environmental and energy concerns and ongoing involvements in international crises, I thought that it might be helpful to offer readers a small oasis, a few moments of thoughtful calm and, perhaps, serenity.

Empathy is a one-minute short film that was a Regional Winner in the 2008 British Academy Film Awards. It is a film of elegant simplicity, which demonstrates how people of different generations can briefly be united by even small gestures of empathic mutual recognition. Empathy reveals how even very young children are capable of showing their passions from an early age. In this short film, the brilliant young actor is able to convey a deeply touching sense of truly heartfelt empathic compassion from which many of today’s adults could well learn.

Empathy: A Foundation for the Complexities of Love

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MIT’s Technology Review Selects 2008 “Young Innovators Under 35″

MIT’s Technology Review Selects 2008 “Young Innovators Under 35″

M.I.T.’s Technology Review has just announced the selection of its TR35, the annual listing of leading young innovators. The editors of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology magazine have created this list every year since 1999 to honor young innovators whose inventions and research the editors find to be the “most exciting” in fields such as medicine, electronics and nanotechnology, among others. The selection of the 35 men and women this year, all under the age of 35, was made from a pool of more than 300 young persons who were nominated on the basis of the remarkable technologies they’ve invented and the discoveries that they’ve made so early in their careers. The selection of this year’s TR35 was made on the basis of their accomplishments as researchers, inventors or entrepreneurs.

This year’s group of young innovators is transforming everything from the cars we drive to the way we use computers, treat heart attacks, and manage e-mail. Several of them are working on ways to conserve and more efficiently produce energy, others to help us collaborate and connect; still others are taking advantage of the body’s capacity to heal itself. As they fight disease, global warming, and the complexity of life in the 21st century, the TR35 innovators aspire to truly improve the world.

Click here for a complete list of the 2008 TR35.

MIT’s Technology Review Honors 35 Young Innovators

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For Motorcycles, The Future is Now

For Motorcycles, The Future Is Now

There are several out-of-this-world motorcycles traveling amongst us. This is probably caused in part by the rapidly increasing sales that motorcycle-industry designers and executives are now enjoying, in turn due to the craziness of soaring prices at the gas pump.

To take advantage of this newfound popularity, motorcycle designers are introducing new ideas, with many creatively original approaches to design and functionality. There is a noticeable outpouring of radically different concept and production motorcycles hitting the scene, which challenges our preconceived ideas about motorcycles as we known them in the past.

Many of these bikes are designed like pieces of art, with a conviction that experienced and wealthy motorcyclists would like something more exclusive. The following videos and photo-gallery convey some idea of what many of these creative designs are like.

Yamaha’s Deus Ex Machina and Other Futuristic Designs

The Incredible Yamaha Morpho II

For Motorcycles, The Future Is Now

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The Stork: It’s a Bird of War!!

The Stork: It’s a Bird of War

The Stork is one of Nina Paley’s earlier animated films. The Stork starts out as a pleasant children’s cartoon, but before long it turns into something more sardonic and sinister, closer to Apocalypse Now. It’s a decidedly provocative, but at the same time very funny look at the perils of population explosion.

When Paley first began work on this short film, she predicted that it would provoke lots of anger, “be extremely unpopular, and possibly end my animation career.” Nevertheless, The Stork went on to play at The Sundance Festival and numerous other festivals, winning awards all along the way.

The Stork: The Bird of War

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Jeff Han: The Amazingly Orgasmic Pixel Guy

Jeff Han: The Amazingly Orgasmic Pixel Guy

The Emergence of Multi-Touch Technology

When Steve Jobs first introduced Apple’s iPhone at Macworld last year, the feature that evoked the most excitement was its touch-screen interface, allowing more than one touch at a time. The multi-touch technology added innovative new functions, such as allowing the user to easily zoom in and out of pictures and web pages by pinching the screen with two fingers.

But a more advanced version of the amazing power of multi-touch technology has been unleashed upon screens much larger than those on the iPhones. Over the past few years, Jeff Han, a research scientist at New York University, has developed a relatively inexpensive way to make large multi-touch screens that can accommodate 10, 20, or even more fingers. He foresees applications that range from interactive whiteboards to touch-screen tables and digital walls, any of which can manipulated by more than just one person. Han’s company, Perspective Pixel, is based upon the unique multi-touch technology that he’s pioneered.

The Amazing Perspective Pixel

Han’s touch display is made of clear acrylic with light-emitting diodes that are attached to the edges, which illuminate a six-millimeter-thick acrylic piece with infrared light. Normally, the light from the diodes reflects along predictable paths within the acrylic plate, a physical phenomenon called total internal reflection. However, once a finger or other object touches the acrylic, the internally reflecting light diffuses at the point of contact, scattering outside the surface. Behind the acrylic surface, there is a camera that captures this light and using simple image-processing software, the captured scattering is interpreted in real time as discrete touches and strokes.

Many researchers who’ve been working for decades on touch technology have been extremely excited to see these developments. “For almost two decades, we’ve been trapped by the tyranny of the screen, the mouse, and the keyboard,” observed Don Norman, professor at Northwestern University, in Chicago, and the author of The Design of Future Things. “It’s nice to think we’re breaking away from that and going toward touch-screen manipulation in the real physical world.”

What follows below is a video that presents a fascinating demonstration of Han’s Pespective Pixel, an exhibition that he made of “Perspective Pixel” at the annual TED Conference in Aspen, Colorado.

Jeff Han Presenting Perspective Pixel at TED

You can read more about Jeff Han’s groundbreaking Perspective Pixel in The Technology Review here.

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