Elkhart Express: The Glenn Cunningham Story

Elkhart Express PosterI find that I learn best when I’m thrown headfirst into a project.

To be honest, I figured that piece of advice out after I decided to produce a digitally animated short film about Glenn Cunningham.

And what did I learn from doing the film? Well, here’s a list:

  1. My drawing is not the best.
  2. Troubleshooting at two a.m. will not give the best results.
  3. Juggling two film productions (this being one, and The Electric Sheepdog being the other), along with school finals is not a good idea.

Yes, it was a lot of pain and a lot of work.

But after several months of working through weekends, I finally managed to finish producing Elkhart Express: The Glenn Cunningham Story.Continue reading “Elkhart Express: The Glenn Cunningham Story”

Harry Potter vs SpongeBob: the great gulf between children’s books and shows

I’ve noticed a world of difference between what children read and what they watch.

I’m going to ask you a question and you don’t even need to google it for the answer. What’s most popular children’s book series of all time?

Yep, Harry Potter.

Bonus question: What’s the most popular children’s TV show?

Doesn’t matter what you answered. Chances are, it’s probably as dumb as SpongeBob SquarePants.

SpongeBob Characters

Harry Potter vs SpongeBob SquarePants. Just comparing the two, one could draw the conclusion that while children’s books are thoughtful and deep, children’s television is… shallower than Bikini Bottom. (If you chuckled at that lame joke, you should be ashamed of yourself! How many seasons did you watch?)

But this phenomenon is larger than just a boy wizard and a talking sea sponge in pants. On one hand, you have books like Charlotte’s WebThe Chronicles of Narnia, any book by Dr. Seuss or Roald Dahl, and on the other, you have TV shows like Phineas and FerbPower RangersPaw Patrol and Pokémon. (I’ve excluded specifically educational shows like Sesame Street to make a fair comparison.)

Are these examples oddities, or is there an actual “gulf of meaning”, with children’s books having far more depth than children’s shows?

I think there is a major disparity in the profundity between children’s books and children’s shows. This is a problem. On screen, when we feed our young ones with inanity, we starve them of thoughtful entertainment. We are doing them a disservice.

But what can we do about it?Continue reading “Harry Potter vs SpongeBob: the great gulf between children’s books and shows”

Advertising: the great justifier for all that’s stupid on the Internet

By now you’ve probably heard about the incident with Logan Paul, the YouTube star who posted a video about his visit to Aokigahara, the so-called “suicide forest” near Mt. Fuji where he discovered the body of a suicide victim.

You’ve probably also heard about the backlash. He’s received widespread criticism for his insensitivity.

Embed from Getty Images

However, he’s not the first to post such an insensitive video on the Internet. Nor will he be the last. Just a cursory glance through YouTube or Facebook shows that more than ever, people are doing stupid, insensitive and sometimes dangerous stunts just to gain Internet popularity.

But this problem isn’t confined to the realm of reckless antics and entertainment. I think most of us can agree that watching videos of people pranking each other or just horsing around is relatively harmless. Relatively dumb and relatively mindless, too, but harmless overall.

The problem, then, is that this recklessness has found its way into news media.

You know what I’m talking about: fake news. It seems that more and more, fake information is being peddled around, and sadly, the biggest purveyor of this dubious information has been the Internet.

Now, both dumb videos and fake news are clear problems. Sometimes reckless antics become fatal. Sometimes fake news can change the course of democracy. (I’m not saying that it did, but in the case of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, it could have been a factor.)

And the Internet giants have reacted. Facebook has been working on systems that allow people to flag fake news. Google has started donating money in order to support companies that fact-check fake news.

But neither of these solutions actual solve one of the root problems, which is this: why do people even write/share fake news? And why do people keep trying to get attention via doing outrageous things on the Internet?

I think that the root problem is advertising.

Continue reading “Advertising: the great justifier for all that’s stupid on the Internet”

How school helped us get to a post-truth world

For several months, nearly every day, the BBC headlined either outrageous or idiotic statements made by Donald Trump. Thankfully, more recently, the BBC stopped headlining these statements lies. Mostly.

Since Trump’s election, I’ve heard repeatedly that we now live in a post-truth world. A world where news isn’t based on fact. A world where people can say whatever they want without being fact-checked.

But that doesn’t change because of one election. You don’t go from a society that values truth one day (not that society ever did, really) to a post-truth society overnight. So the question is, how did we get here?

I believe that part of the reason we now live in a post-truth world is due to the education system. Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of other factors to consider. Some with probably larger impacts than education. Like social media. Or the Internet.

But, seeing that I’m a high school student, I find the education system is an easier target.

Specifically, the humanities.Continue reading “How school helped us get to a post-truth world”

Does the Nobel Peace Prize even mean anything anymore? (Hint: it doesn’t.)

Just a couple of days ago, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

ican-regular-logo

The Nobel committee gave ICAN the award for its work in highlighting the consequences of deploying of nuclear weapons and getting treaties signed to prevent their creation. Thanks to their lobbying, the UN adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Treaty prevents states (who signed the treaty) from building nuclear weapons. Existing ones have to be dismantled.

 

Pity no nuclear power signed it.

No U.S., no Russia, no China, no NATO. And of course, no North Korea.

In other words, we’ve got a piece of paper signed by the good kids promising not to be bad. No matter how “landmark”, the deal is, if no nuclear powers sign it, it’s just a landmark. It looks nice until you realise tax money paid for it.

And, in the light of the increased rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang, it seems that there’s no hope of the nuclear powers signing the treaty in the near future. Or ever.

So, considering all these problems, why did the Nobel committee give ICAN a Peace Prize?Continue reading “Does the Nobel Peace Prize even mean anything anymore? (Hint: it doesn’t.)”

The real reason we have school

Every time I walk out of a particularly gruelling or boring class, my classmates ask this question: “Why do we need to know this? It’s so useless.”

The short answer? You don’t need it, and yes, it’s probably useless.

Wait, you argue, what you learn in school does apply. Sure. Engineers use physics. Doctors use biology. Business people use math. Politicians use whatever class is taught in the principal’s office.

But for the rest of us, we won’t use many of the subjects we learnt in school.

So if school doesn’t teach us how to do our jobs, then what’s it for?Continue reading “The real reason we have school”

The invented language more popular than Klingon

In the 1880s, in an attempt to create a universal language that would ease international communication and encourage global peace, a medical doctor, L. L. Zamenhof, published Unua Libro. In it, he provided an introduction to his invented language, dubbed “Lingvo internacia”.

For his work, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twelve times. And while he never won, his invented language has had a lasting effect.

Today, “Lingvo internacia”, now called Esperanto, has an estimated 2 million speakers. It has its own Wikipedia with 241,000 articles. Google Translate offers Esperanto as one of its languages. And you can learn it on Duolingo.

But while Esperanto enjoys growing usage today, its beginnings were far from glamorous.

The birth of an ideaLudwik L. Zamenhof, um 1900

Since young, Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof, or L.L. Zamenhof, as he became known, dreamt of peace. His hometown of Białystok, in modern-day Poland, was composed of a diverse mix, and there was constant strife between groups.

Zamenhof could have labelled many things as the root of this strife. Culture, race, class. However, to him, the biggest culprit was language. The lack of communication, he believed, promoted misunderstanding, which led to quarrelling.

For Zamenhof, there was only one solution for this: a universal language. It is from this dream that his lifelong work began.Continue reading “The invented language more popular than Klingon”

Dunkirk review: a story that emerged through the apparent chaos

Bombs drop. Ships sink. People drown. In war, all of our finely conceived ideas of purpose and reason seem to fall apart, if only due to terror.

It is from these elements of disaster that Dunkirk, the latest film by Christopher Nolan, is built.

The result is a masterpiece.

And yes, there are SPOILERS ahead.

Three perspectives, one narrative

From the beginning, the film makes it clear that there are three perspectives being shown: land, sea and air.

It is through these three perspectives that Dunkirk manages to retain Nolan’s classic non-linear storytelling elements. The show cuts from perspective to perspective as if they happen sequentially, except that they don’t. The battle on land is a week-long ordeal. At sea, only the last day of the battle is shown. In the air, it’s a single hour.

But while the perspectives are initially out of sync, as the show continues, they begin to synchronize. As a result, scenes that initially seemed lacking are completed, as more perspectives are added to them, giving a fuller picture. These realisations on the viewer’s part create a great deal of tension, and a gripping narrative.Continue reading “Dunkirk review: a story that emerged through the apparent chaos”

Boku no Hero Academia review: thoughts and themes

While I’m not often impressed by the booms and the bangs of superhero shows, once in a while, I find an exception.

Boku no Hero Academia, a manga and anime, is one of them.

But first, SPOILERS AHEAD.

The setting

Here’s the premise: in a world where superpowers (called “quirks”) are commonplace, a quirkless (AKA powerless) boy, Izuku Midoriya, wants to become a hero. Without a quirk, however, his chances are slim. But a chance encounter with the greatest hero, whose powers can be inherited, sets him on the path to becoming a great hero himself.

And his path begins with having to attend high school. Hero high school.

That’s where most of the story occurs.

Photo Courtesy of Bones

One of the story’s main strengths, really, is that it’s set in a school. School is an environment that almost everyone has an emotional connection to. As Sir Ken Robinson notes, education (and schools, by extension) is “one of those things that goes deep with people,” and Boku no Hero Academia certainly uses that deep emotional connection that people have with schools skilfully.

As you know, no matter the school, most schools suffer the same problems. Some teachers are biased. Some are nuts. Some students are annoying. Some are downright weird.

Again, Boku no Hero Academia tackles all of these characters, making it more than just a glitzy performance. It’s a story with the grit of real school problems in it.Continue reading “Boku no Hero Academia review: thoughts and themes”

Heist

Heist PosterSometimes I find that genres are very tiring labels.

I mean, I like genre movies. I’m an unabashed fan of sci-fi. And fantasy. And steampunk.

And as a amateur filmmaker, I liked the idea of playing around in these genres.

But in all my (short) years of making stories, if anyone had told me that I would be doing a western, I would have called them crazy.

To be clear: it’s not that I don’t like westerns. It’s just that I have had incredibly few experiences with westerns. To date, I have read one western novella (“All the Flavours” by Ken Liu), one “western” movie (Rango) and part of a western TV show (Firefly). (Also: I read/watched those after I made this film.)

If you’re familiar with any of them, you probably know that none of them are very traditional westerns.

But I think that it allowed me to make stuff up and fiddle as much as I wanted with the genre, and I think it gave me the freedom to explore.

See for yourself.

Whatever the case, again, this was a school project, and last I checked, this was still my animation teacher’s favourite film from a student. (He likes westerns, though, so… yeah.) Again, I think that I did a fairly good job given my past experience and such.Continue reading “Heist”