NFB Online!

The National Film Board finally went online today. Canadian classics like The Log Driver’s Waltz, The Cat Came Back, and Neighbours are now in reach of the people they were created for, Canadians! (you other folks from around the world are welcome too).

They’ve included links to various social networking bookmark sites and enabled embedding. Here’s a 2008 movie by Murray Siple, Cart of Darkness, about “a group of homeless men in North Vancouver who’ve married their love of shopping-cart racing with their business of bottle picking.” (NSFW for language).

They still have some kinks to work out, like the embed code linked to the wrong video and it isn’t standards compliant by default (nobody else does that yet either) — but in general it looks like they’re on the right track.

Late Bloomers

Malcolm Gladwell’s new article Late Bloomers is up at the New Yorker.

Genius, in the popular conception, is inextricably tied up with precocity—doing something truly creative, we’re inclined to think, requires the freshness and exuberance and energy of youth. Orson Welles made his masterpiece, “Citizen Kane,” at twenty-five. Herman Melville wrote a book a year through his late twenties, culminating, at age thirty-two, with “Moby-Dick.” Mozart wrote his breakthrough Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-Flat-Major at the age of twenty-one. In some creative forms, like lyric poetry, the importance of precocity has hardened into an iron law.

Are you still a genius if it’s only later in life that you do anything truly brilliant?

Gladwell discusses the article in a podcast and will be answering reader questions about it later in the week.

Dave Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous

If you’ve got an hour to spend, this Google Tech Talk by David Weinberger is worth a listen. In it he explains how the breakdown of categorization designed for physical objects when applied to digital or abstract objects (such as thoughts) can be overcome through new kinds of categorization—ie. tagging.

The Hippies

I just finished watching “The Hippies”, a made for TV documentary about the Hippie culture of the 60’s and 70’s that aired on the History Channel. Though flawed with its overarching, borderline ridiculous right-wing condemnations of hippie culture, it offers a fascinating glimpse at the drug-fueled, youth-driven counterculture of the era.

Too much time, unfortunately, is wasted on sensationalist, irrelevant side-stories and not enough is spent on the substantive contributions of the hippie aesthetic to the culture at large. There are also a few glaring historical accuracies; for example, one could easily conclude from the film that the Vietnam War ended after 1969 — which would certainly come as a surprise to the soldiers who served there from 1970-1973. But at least the film, at its end, correctly, if only briefly, touches upon some of the many lasting contributions of the hippie ethos to the culture at large; these include the consciousness movement, the environmental movement, and the computer/technological revolution which led to the democratization of information by the Internet.

[The Hippies – Google Video]

The mention of famed “satanist” Aleister Crowley caught my ear, especially when the narrator explained how his image was “featured” on the cover of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Truth be told, Crowley is merely one of the 85 people and objects featured on the cover.

The commentary also claims Sgt. Pepper’s was “the greatest masterpiece of the psychedelic era”. As any Beatles fan will tell you Sgt Pepper’s was Paul’s baby and while Lennon’s Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds* or George’s Within You Without You have that psychedelic sound, Paul didn’t embrace the drug scene in the same way that the others did and while it may truly be a masterpiece of musical genius, I’d venture to say that later albums like Magical Mystery Tour are more psychedelic.

*Fun fact: Lennon always denied Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was about LSD despite rumours to the contrary.