Saturday, May 28, 2011

2011 National Film Registry Inductees Game

Can you match the screenshot with the inductees from the last post?


























2011 National Film Registry Inductees

If I had my way, these would be the next movies inducted. I give explanations for the irregulars. I'm amazed some aren't already included.

Appalachian Spring – documentary, 1959. Why?: Recreates the influential 1944 premier performance choreographed by Martha Graham.
Apollo 11 Moon Landing Footage – documentary, 1969. Why?: Is the first film shot on another celestial body.
The Big Lebowski – narrative feature, 1998.
Camille – narrative feature, 1936.
Clerks – narrative feature, 1994.
Der Fuehrer's Face – animated short subject, 1942. Why?: Exemplifies WWII anti-Nazi propaganda.
Fiddler on the Roof – narrative feature, 1971.
A Fish Called Wanda – narrative feature, 1988.
Hearts and Minds – documentary, 1974. Why?: One of the most influential American documentaries of the 1970s, with extensive footage of the Vietnam War.
I Like America and America Likes Me - experimental film/short subject, 1974. Why?: One of the defining moments of performance art by Joseph Beuys.
Jason and the Argonauts – narrative feature, 1963.
Jurassic Park – narrative feature, 1993.
The Minds Eye: A Computer Animation Odyssey – animated short subject, 1990. Why?: Was a pioneer in computer animation technology.
Monterey Pop – documentary, 1968. Why?: Documents the first great American rock festival, before Woodstock.
The Old Mill – animated short subject, 1937. Why?: First use of the multiplane camera.
Plan Nine from Outer Space – narrative feature, 1959.
President Nixon's Resignation Speech – newsreel, 1974. Why?: Documents a critical moment in American politics.
The Princess Bride – narrative feature, 1987.
Pulp Fiction – narrative feature, 1994.
The Purple Rose of Cairo – narrative feature, 1985.
Superman – animated short subject, 1941. Why?: Was the first film adaptation of the comic book icon, heavily influencing future depictions.
The Times of Harvey Milk – documentary, 1984. Why?: Preserves documentary footage of the early gay rights movement in America, and its leader Harvey Milk.
Treasure Island – narrative feature, 1950.
The Truman Show – narrative film, 1998.
Twice Upon a Time – animated feature film, 1983. Why?: Only example of a feature-length animation to use lumage.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Historical Mindset

I was trying, and failing, the other day to explain what the historical mindset is. History as a way of seeing the world. The best I could come up with is the feeling you get when you embrace a new ontology or metaphysics, a new philosophical scheme of making sense of the world. You know you've understood a philosopher when you see the world through their thoughts. Viewing the world as a Humean is different from viewing it as an Aristotelian or Phenomenologist.

We all see the world, even if blind, in our own way, a synaptic conjuring act of memory and influence. But we can, most of us, step in to another way of seeing. Or, if you prefer, change our goggles and tint or distort the world differently.

An easy example of this is seeing the world as a photographer – which is increasingly common as photography gushes into the mainstream from the formerly reserved 'artistic' pool. You see a building and consider its line, its light, aperture and focus. Consider the angle and element of black. And then you literally put the camera to your eye (although less so now) and view the building through the photographer's lens.

Considering this I wonder whether religion is applicable, but I think not. Religion is either academically understood, or one has faith. You can't, really, flip between seeing the world through a Christian and a Hindu's eyes.

The historical way of seeing is to constantly create the past of the object in question, and to temporalize it on a timeline of assumed past and presumed future. It re-enhances the present, as a result.

Example: concrete. I know that the concrete lining the sidewalks of Singapore is pretty much the same as it is elsewhere – a western formula developed in Europe relatively recently in it's current incarnation. I know that the Romans had concrete that was far superior to the stuff we use now, with a different formula much stronger than our wimpy solutions overrun by tree roots. How, if it has rebar in it, it will take only a few hundred years to oxidize and crack, sloughing away the facades of skyscrapers. I recall through photographs and paintings what Singapore used to look like when the concrete wasn't here, when the ground was a relatively dense but sandy soil providing firmament for the tropical trees. I consider, looking out of the balcony into the horizon, how this city, too, will look like Angkor Wat in the jungle when it was refound. Or Tikal in Guatemala – how the tropics will bend a little to accommodate our technology, but in the end will swallow it and leave only our ruins – if we we built them well enough.

Example: pigeons. Rock pigeons that originated in Eurasia and Africa which have replaced the Passenger Pigeons which the American Great Plains were once famed for, when introduced by colonial settlers. How the pigeon came to become the feral animal of the city – replacing cliffs and canyons with scarce food reserves with skyscraper living befitting their omnivorous appetites. How their traditional predators were bullied by humans, who as a rule have been intolerant of most carnivores they don't own. Why, due to the very human excess the pigeons depended on for food, humans wouldn't eat them, and why all that refuse and filth was in the cities in the first place – why garbage heaps exist, and the history of American consumerism that made them possible. Manhattan in the 1920s when pigs still roamed the Burroughs and legislation was being enacted to keep the horses out of the financial district putting the night-time manure collectors, usually black, out of work from distributing the waste to the farms outside the city. When that system broke down, when the poor couldn't find dinner outside their door, the filth was cleaned up by well-meaning sanitation agitators and Fresh Kills is born, garbage is collected regularly, but not dealt with nightly, and accumulates to allow the gulls, and Eurasian Rock pigeons, plenty of pickings.

This is what it is like to look at the world historically. You see the causes of events. I'd say objects, but they are only events in slow motion. If you've studied your causes, your patterns, well then you can see where the objects are going and what they'll likely be next. The landscape is a pastiche of things in different stages of their pattern, time having effected some more or less, needing more or less time to effect change. Its sort of like seeing a number of stop-motion and time-lapse reels playing all around you, at differing speeds. Gardens become lessons in migration patterns of settlers and domestication. Rooms display a goosebumping display of modern industrialism, the factory system, the rise of global capitalism and telecommunications history. People are no less exempt. I read the features, the clothes, the make-up and gesticulations, the haircut, smell and speech and the various historical forces behind them all. How does this person exist? Are they a likely candidate to be carrying Neanderthal DNA? What consequences made their moment as an object possible?

For we, too, are merely objects: a short patterned sequence of events. One may chalk up their characteristics to capriciousness, but the historical mindset knows that there were forces in play – a whole array – which made you who you are and how you think and why you act. There is a limited determinism to it all, as any physicist might tell you, and even if you store faith in God there are still rules: for a miracle is defined only by the rules it can break. Our conceptions of reality are still limited by the mind, our senses, spacetime, atoms and what you will. True: I cannot predict the next word out of your mouth – sometimes. But the desire to pre-write cards of a conversation is tempting. The cues are predictable, the phrasing rehearsed through experience. Events like us have only very limited possibilities, and while those left open to us are succor to our minds that predict future and imagine past, they only get interesting when complicated – multiplied and compounded by other factors. That is why a human's history is relatively the same in fundamentals, but humanity's is not. And while I can guess what Singapore will look like when swallowed by the trees who knows what will really occur? If the island is used to mine something, or bombed with nuclear weapons, or suffers a cataclysmic earthquake tomorrow the whole picture changes.

In the meantime, however, the historical mindset brings us face to face with the present – reminding us that the future is illusory and the past unchangeable. We can only look at the events around us and realize that they'll never again align in this unique way. What patterns we make of that will be solely our own.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Helping Out the Uninteresting Ones

So here’s an idea. Some countries aren’t interesting. Painful, but true. My standard measurement is the UNESCO World Heritage list, on which most countries have at least one entry. But there are, sad to say, 43 states that aren’t yet cool enough to make the cut. I went ahead and did some research into these countries to find what they had to offer. Here’s the best I could do.

Angola – Cangandala National Park. Pretty much the only one not ravaged by their Civil War, needing protection for wildlife.

Antigua and Barbuda – English Harbour. Horatio Nelson was commander of these dockyards, an outstanding examples of British Caribbean colonialism.

The Bahamas – Blue Holes. Blue holes are underwater sinkholes, fascinating geological formations of which The Bahamas boasts many, including the largest in salt-water.

Barbados – Morgan Lewis Windmill. One of the two last operational sugar mills in the world the Mill was included on the 1996 World Monuments Watch for sites of value.

Bhutan – Simtokha Dzong. The oldest of the region’s fortress-monasteries Simtokha was built in 1629 to aid in the military unification of Bhutan.

Brunei – Ulu Temburong National Park. A wonderful preserve for Borneo wildlife includes habitat for the Bornean Gibbon.

Burundi – Kibira National Park. An ecological preserve also known for primate protection, being considered for UNESCO status.

Chad – Zakouma National Park. A megafauna reserve which the Chad government has already tried to get recognition for from UNESCO.

Comoros – Coelacanth Waters. More coelacanths are found in the waters around Comoros than anywhere else. It is important to preserve the habitat of this unusual and still poorly-understood species, and has been submitted to UNESCO for consideration.

Republic of the Congo – Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park. Estimated by National Geographic to have the densest concentration of fauna per square mile than anywhere else in Africa, under consideration by UNESCO.

Djibouti – Day Forest National Park. A threatened oases in the desert with multiple endemic species.

East Timor – Nino Konis Santana National Park. Comprising both a rain forest habitat with endangered species as well as part of the world's most diverse coral reef habitat.

Equatorial Guinea – Monte Alén National Park. Described by Lonely Planet as a “hidden gem of Africa” this park has a wide variety of African fauna.

Eritrea – Italian Art Deco of Asmara. Attesting to the Italian colonial and architectural presence in Africa from the zenith of the Art Deco movement, this city has one of the best concentrations of the style in the world and is being considered for UNESCO status.

Fiji – Great Astrolabe Reef. One of the world's largest barrier reefs and an important breeding ground for many species, notable for concentrations of manta rays.

Grenada – Colonial St. George. Historic downtown that preserves the legacy of the French Caribbean empire. Being considered by UNESCO.

Guinea-Bissau – Bolama. An island designated as a biosphere region both terrestrially and aquatically, pending UNESCO status.

Guyana – Shell Beach. Half of the world's sea turtle species breed here, including three endangered and critically endangered species. Submitted to UNESCO for consideration.

Jamaica – Port Royal. A unique partially sunken city with a treasure trove of underwater archaeological finds from the 16th and 17th century as well as more modern findings. Being considered for UNESCO status.

Kuwait – Majlis Al-Umma (Parliament Building). Designed by Jørn Utzon whose limited oeuvre includes the Sydney Opera House.

Lesotho – Sehlabathebe National Park. Combining a remote plateau's ecosystem with a cultural heritage including rock art it is currently pending UNESCO status.

Liberia – Sapo National Park. It “has 'the highest mammal species diversity of any region in the world', according to Conservation International.”

Liechtenstein – Vaduz Castle. Has been, and currently is, the royal residence since the 1100s.

Maldives - Male' Hukuru Miski. Built in 1658 out of coral stone with intricate lacquer and carving this mosque is fine example of Islam's progression through Southeast Asia, and is being considered by UNESCO.

Micronesia – Rai Stones. Monumental stone currency, queried from limestone overseas and transported to the island of Yap, attesting to a fascinating and unique cultural practice.

Myanmar – Bagan. A series of 11-13 century Theravada Buddhist stupas and temples that has been under consideration by UNESCO.

Nauru – Phosphate Mining Sites. A spectacular limestone karst has remained from years of guano farming which the island economy was originally based on.

Palau – Ngaremeduu Conservation Area. A major biosphere reserve off the main island.

Qatar – Khor Al-Adaid. A natural reserve of an inland sea, being considered by UNESCO.

Rwanda – Volcanoes National Park. A critical gorilla habitat, notably where Diane Fossey worked, and hopeful recovery site after the Civil War ravaged the area.

St. Vincent – Kingstown Botanical Gardens. Perhaps the oldest botanical gardens in the Western hemisphere or in any tropical region Kingstown has been conserving rare species since 1765.

Samoa – Fagaloa Bay and Uafeto Tiavea Conservation Area. “The largest tropical rain forest of any Pacific island.” Being considered by UNESCO.

São Tomé and Príncipe – Obo National Park. The islands' largest conservation area, consisting of 30% of the country with endemic species.

Sierra Leone – Gola Forest. Sierra Leone's largest area of conserved forest that borders on Liberia, a habitat preserve for a variety of species.

Singapore – Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. A small slice of traditional ecosystem of the Malay peninsula, preserving the mangrove swamps and local fauna of the region before human development.

Somalia – Laas Gaal. A collection of caves with paintings from 11, 000 years ago that are amongst the oldest in Africa.

Swaziland – Ngwenya Mine. The world's oldest, and humanity's first mining site from the 43,000 years ago. Under consideration by UNESCO.

Tonga – Lapita Pottery Sites. The Lapita were the common ancestors of all Pacific Island peoples, whose ceramic legacy is perhaps best seen in Tonga. Site proposed to UNESCO.

Trinidad and Tobago – Colonial Legacy of Tobago. What would be Trinidad and Tobago was held by nearly every Caribbean colonial power over the centuries of conquest, leaving an interestingly unique heritage of Europeans vying for the critical land.

Tuvalu – Funafuti Marine Conservation Area. A lagoon and series of islets being saved for their habitat including Green Turtle nesting sites.

United Arab Emirates – Al-Ain. The oases town has been settled by humans since the Neolithic, and been prominent in the region for four thousand years as a trading hub, proposed to UNESCO.