'Sita Sings the Blues' released on web with CC license

still from Sita Sings the BluesIf you haven’t yet heard about Sita Sings the Blues, then I’ll let Roger Ebert introduce you to it:

It hardly ever happens this way. I get a DVD in the mail. I'm told it's an animated film directed by "a girl from Urbana." That's my home town. It is titled "Sita Sings the Blues." I know nothing about it, and the plot description on IMDb is not exactly a barn-burner: An animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. Uh, huh. I carefully file it with other movies I will watch when they introduce the 8-day week.

After Ebert decides to watch it he writes:

Still from Sita Sings the Blues featuring Sita, Rama, and Hanuman on the way to PushpakhaI am enchanted. I am swept away. I am smiling from one end of the film to the other. It is astonishingly original. It brings together four entirely separate elements and combines them into a great whimsical chord. You might think my attention would flag while watching An animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. Quite the opposite. It quickens. I obtain Nina Paley's e-mail address and invite the film to my film festival in April 2009 at the University of Illinois, which by perfect synchronicity is in our home town.

To get any film made is a miracle. To conceive of a film like this is a greater miracle. How did Paley's mind work? She begins with the story of Ramayana, which is known to every school child in India but not to me. It tells the story of a brave, noble woman who was made to suffer because of the perfidy of a spineless husband and his mother. This is a story known to every school child in America. They learn it at their mother's knee. Paley depicts the story with exuberant drawings in bright colors. It is about a prince named Rama who treated Sita shamefully, although she loved him and was faithful to him.

Despite rave reviews like this one,--and winning a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival--Paley’s film has remained unavailable to most people because she was unable to clear the rights to the songs she used in the film, and the cost securing those rights scared off most distributors. Fortunately, some of these issues have been resolved, and the film is now being released to a wider audience.

If you live in New York, WNET/NY will be airing Sita on Saturday, March 7 at 10:45 (thereby atoning for this). In the meantime, you can watch the entire film online via WNET’s streaming player or download the film to watch at your leisure.

Update: here's the trailer from YouTube:

Fish Porn

I am a desperately addicted fly fisherman, (click here to see my favorite fly fishing blog, Sexyloops) and I recently took note of the pornographic qualities of a genre of angling pictures. In an era of catch-and-release fishing it's customary for fishermen and fisherwomen to pose for impressive shots with their catches before returning their catch (hopefully) safely to the water. Consider this typical example:

angler posing with large trout

Crowd Sourcing for Context

Anatomical model of a human headFirst spotted at boingboing, the Lane Medical Archive at Stanford University has posted some mystery photos to Flickr hoping someone out there might be able to provide some context. Although I love the idea of harnessing the power of the Internet to enrich the context of the archive, they may not get what they were looking for: one of the first commenters reaches for snark, the official language of the web:

I may be a layman but it appears these people are examining X-Rays of a patient's abdomen. If this information was helpful I may be able to speculate further as to the color of their lab coats and the genders of the people shown.

Image credit: boingboing via Flickr via Lane Medical Archive, Stanford University (copyright holder)

Promotion: CWRL on Vimeo

Hardworking Assistant Directors in the CWRL have posted videos of this year's lecture and workshop series to Vimeo.com, including this presentation on using Google Maps in the classroom. You can subscribe to the "CWRL Lecture Series" channel and the "CWRL Workshops" channel to see future updates.

Using Google Maps as a Writing Tool from CWRL on Vimeo


Terror and Visual Semiotics

The March 9, 2009, issue of Newsweek Magazine inadvertently draws attention to a pathic characteristic of graphic design: the capacity of visual images to create emotional appeals.

newsweek cover radical islam

The design of this magazine cover uses color--the pure green background--to evoke the political flags of nations like Libya and Saudi Arabia and political parties like Hamas. The surprising thing is the text itself. The Arabic script here, though meaningful in itself to those who can read it, is reduced to a simply visual signifier as its 'literal' meaning to the readers of Newsweek is made parenthetical. The Arabic text here seems geared solely toward evoking fear and apprehension in the non-Arabic speaking audience.

However, I would certainly praise Newsweek for their decision to avoid the stereotypical images that have become iconic of radical Islam in Western media (chanting crowds, burning flags and effigies, suicide bomb vests, 'Quranic' calligraphy, etc.) in favor of a simple textual presentation.

But why the seemingly gratuitous use of the Arabic script?

The article in question is available to read online.

New Interview Posted -- Roberto Tejada

A new interview has been posted to our views section. Viz. contributor Dale Smith speaks with author Roberto Tejada about Twentieth-Century Mexican Photography.

Roberto Tejada is a professor of art history at the University of Texas at Austin, and the author of Mirrors for Gold and National Camera, as well as a founder of the periodical Mandorla.

Check out the interview.

http://viz.cwrl.utexas.edu/files/tejada.jpg alt="sexist helvetica ad" class="center" width="180">

Are some protest images too graphic?

*Today's post is more of a question, and rather than reproduce the images of the discussion, I will write about them.

Helvetica and Shapes of Things to Come

A few weeks ago I caught an episode of Independent Lens on PBS about the font Helvetica.

In the undisputed manifesto of modern graphic design, The New Typography, author Jan Tschichold argues in vaguely Heideggerian terms that modernity requires a typeface consistent with its worldview. In fact, typeface has always been consistent, in his opinion, with the worldview of the civilization that used it, insofar as he sees that worldview as an expression of the relationship between with individual, the whole of society, and the technae they employ to shape and frame the world around them.

Then over the last week I caught sight of this pair of advertisements for the typeface Helvetica font featured on Ffffound.com.

http://viz.cwrl.utexas.edu/files/helvetica-ad.jpg alt="sexist helvetica ad" class="center" width="180">

Image from Ffffound.com.

neue helvetica ad

Image from Ffffound.com.

Witness the artifact of the process

Derek Mueller over at Earth Wide Moth posted an interesting meditation on Google's recent mapping of the famously lost city of Atlantis.
image from Google Earth

Google's spokesperson addressed interest in the image by clarifying the lines, taken for ruins, that mark the ocean floor. S/he said in an email: "What users are seeing is an artifact of the data collection process...The fact that there are blank spots between each of these lines is a sign of how little we really know about the world's oceans."

Derek's post (found here) focuses on this very issue of method, of the discovery of the trace even if it is not the trace of a lost civilization. Instead, on the map, we are left with signs or remnants of the mapper. Derek says:

"The conspiracy doesn't interest me all that much. Instead, I'm struck by the impression: the stamp left by the "systematic" tracing, the residue of the surface-to-sea-floor method (a term others have smartly untangled it into meta-hodos or something like 'beyond ways', even 'ways beyond'; this etymological dig lingers with me). The deep blue grid of "bathymetric data" elicits questions: why don't we see these in the adjacent areas? What was it about this boat, this collection process, this translation from sound to image, that left behind the vivid trails?"

The Magic of Photography (and Photoshop)

An idealized picture of the Egg McMuffinImage credit: http://www.thewvsr.com/adsvsreality.htm

A friend sent along a link to this story at urlesque.com touting a web site with side-by-side comparisons of the official photographs of fast food menu items alongside their rather depressing real-world counterparts. The Platonic Ideal has never seemed so far away.... Meet the *real* Egg McMuffin, after the jump.

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