Sunday, November 30, 2008
Students from all universities and majors, as well as recent graduates, are welcome to apply. Students will earn 3 units of journalism credit through the SFSU College of Extended Learning. Students will learn various aspects of digital storytelling -- including photography, video, writing for the Web, blogging, and Web design -- and will produce an online multimedia documentary about the local community.
For Urbino contact UrbinoProject@gmail.com; for Armagh contact ArmaghProject@gmail.com. For more information and an application visit http://www.ieimedia.com/.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Previously, in "Unforgettable," we introduced you to Brian Williams, whose condition (labeled hyperthymesia) enables him to remember in vivid detail every single day of his life, from what he ate to what was in the headlines and on TV.
Tammet, however, has a different sort of abnormality. He has a relationship to numbers and words that has drawn the scrutiny of scientists in his native Britain and in the U.S. They marvel at his staggering mathematical calculations and ability to become quickly fluent in new languages. Apparently because he is mildly autistic and has suffered epileptic seizures, he developed an ability to perceive numbers and words as shapes, textures and patterns -- a trait that scientists hope may hold the key to unlocking similar superior mental abilities in all of us.
How does one capture such cerebral subjects on video?
Both "Unforgettable" and "Boy with the Incredible Brain" feature dramatic Man vs. Computer segments, and each does an excellent job of trying to get inside the head of a remarkable individual in a visual way. They're good examples of "showing, not telling." You'd be smart to view them!
The second-oldest person in the world now is Gertrude Baines (pictured), the daughter of former slaves, who is also the oldest person of African descent in the world. Baines is 114 and lives in a nursing facility in Los Angeles. When she voted for Obama this month, she became the subject of a Los Angeles Times video, featured here on KobreGuide.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
However we found ourselves charmed by a series of video profiles that are part of a feature-length work-in-progress. They are the first-time documentary efforts of Eric Williams, whose previous big-screen credits are limited to the screenplay for Mad City, which, despite the star power of Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta, was forgettable.
His personal project, however, is "Unforgettable." As a lesson to all would-be documentarians, who fail to see great stories right under their noses, Eric found gold in his own backyard. "Unforgettable" is the story of his own brother. Brian Williams is, by all appearances, an ordinary radio news guy, except for one exceptional trait. He has a memory that can't be beat -- even when pitted against the entire internet.
It's a phenomenon known as hyperthymesia, the curious ability to remember every excruciating detail of every day of your life. Brian is one of very few who is known to possess that condition. Thanks to his brother's skillful videomaking abilities, we can share in the marvel and wonder of having a memory like a steel trap, as we observe his superhuman ability to instantly access the tiniest minutae -- from what he ate for breakfast 30 years ago to who Johnny Carson's guests were that night.
We think it's a story you'll long remember!
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Now Erik is back with an ambitious video report on the devastation of millions of acres of North American forests, all because of an insect the size of a grain of rice. The tiny mountain pine beetle is responsible for the largest insect infestation in the history of the continent. It's a big problem with far-reaching consequences and no easy solutions. View it here: America's Disappearing Forests.
Decades later the elder Core’s grandson (Dwight Jr.'s nephew) found and restored that footage. He used it, along with contemporary video of the then-adult Dwight, Jr. to create a documentary, "Think of Me First as a Person." It was praised at film festivals for its honest portrayal of the lives of the disabled during an era of mental institutions. The Library of Congress chose the documentary from hundreds of films to be preserved in the National Film Registry.
Now the Virginian-Pilot has created a heartwarming two-part video story about Dwight, Jr. and his four loving and supportive sisters today, inspired by (and incorporating footage from) the heralded documentary -- and by the recent passing of Dwight at age 48.
View it here: My Favorite Child.
This week on KobreGuide, we spotlight two inspirational video sports stories that champion those long forgotten ideals.
They're both about two very different coaches who each came from surprising places to bring opportunities and new perspectives to disadvantaged kids at their respective high schools.
COURTNEY HAWKINS COMES HOME
Former NFL receiver and All-American college star returns to his Michigan hometown to coach and re-energize his high school football team. (Detroit Free Press)
BOYS IN THE SCRUM:
For members of the nation's first all-African-American high school rugby team, the sport has opened up new possibilities. (New York Times)
Friday, November 21, 2008
Animation has been a viable component of documentaries for nearly a century, starting with Windsor McCay's 1918 animated re-creation of the sinking of the Lusitania three years earlier (no film footage available!), through all those high-school sex-ed films you had to endure, up through segments of Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine." Recent PBS documentaries have featured animation, including a re-creation of the Sixties' "Chicago 10" trial.
For a real treat, see Annie Leonard's "The Story of Stuff" -- "a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns." It's the most engaging environmental film you'll ever see, and it's just a woman talking in front of black-and-white cartoon drawings.
Next month brings us the much heralded Israeli film, "Waltz With Bashir," about the 1982 Lebanon war and massacre. A hit on the festival circuit, it purports to be the first feature-length animated documentary. Despite its gritty subject matter, it is a strong Oscar contender for Best Animated Film, along with the likes of "Wall-E" and "Kung Fu Panda."
Here's the synopsis:
One night at a bar, an old friend tells director Ari Folman about a recurring nightmare in which he is chased by 26 vicious dogs. Every night, the same number of beasts. The two men conclude that there’s a connection to their Israeli Army mission in the first Lebanon War of the early Eighties. Ari is surprised that he can’t remember a thing anymore about that period of his life. Intrigued by this riddle, he decides to meet and interview old friends and comrades around the world. He needs to discover the truth about that time and about himself. As Ari delves deeper and deeper into the mystery, his memory begins to creep up in surreal images …
Folman has explained that he eschewed the traditional documentary approach -- of having now middle-aged men talk into a camera, telling stories from 20 years ago, mixed with archival footage -- because it couldn't accurately capture the imagery of his nightmares. Filmgoers seem to agree.
However, the film is not entirely animated. In the final minute, we see real footage of the massacre's aftermath in all its horror. As the director explained: " I don't want you to go out of the theater and think, 'Yes, this is a cool animated film: nice drawings, good music.' In order to put the whole film in proportion, those 50 seconds were essential to me," he said.
Sometimes reality simply cannot be trumped.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Even though YouTube is a huge success with its audience, the site itself is a mess. It is visually distracting, and I never can find what I want when I want it. On Hulu, it is a lot easier to understand what is going on and find the episodes you may want to watch.
Let’s say you wanted to relax and watch a movie on your computer. What does Hulu have? One click at the top of any page gets a list of some movies and ways to find more. How do you find all the movies on YouTube? I spent five minutes wandering around the site and I still don’t know.
So maybe before Google sends more people to Hollywood seeking films, it might want to build a better online theater in which to watch them.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
But now it seems that even Hollywood is beginning to lose its way, according to this New York Times report about a new MIT Media Lab project called The Center for Future Storytelling.
The center is envisioned as a “labette,” a little laboratory, that will examine whether the old way of telling stories — particularly those delivered to the millions on screen, with a beginning, a middle and an end — is in serious trouble.
Its mission is not small. “The idea, as we move forward with 21st-century storytelling, is to try to keep meaning alive,” said David Kirkpatrick, a founder of the new venture.
Once president of the Paramount Pictures motion picture group, Mr. Kirkpatrick and company are not alone in their belief that Hollywood’s ability to tell a meaningful story has been nibbled at by text messages, interrupted by cellphone calls and supplanted by everything from Twitter to Guitar Hero.
“I even saw a plasma screen above a urinal,” said Peter Guber, the longtime film producer and former chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment who contends that traditional narrative — the kind with unexpected twists and satisfying conclusions — has been drowned out by noise and visual clutter.
What do you think? Is traditional storytelling structure dead?
Friday, November 14, 2008
The directors of "Lioness" produced a video op-ed piece for The New York Times, arguing that it's time for U.S. legislators to acknowledge female warriors and properly train and equip them for battle.
Look for it here on KobreGuide:
LIONESS: WOMEN IN COMBAT
There's a disconnect between what U.S. policy says female soldiers can do and the fighting they are actually doing, so they're not getting the training they need.
Other KobreGuide video reports on remarkable women this week:
ALEXANDRA MORTON's SALMON FIGHT
In northern British Columbia, a self-trained biologist is battling fish farms in hopes of saving the orca whale population.
MAYA LIN's 'WAVE FIELD'
The artist found fame at 21 by designing the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. Look at what she is creating now.
Tens of thousands of America's former nuclear bomb builders are sick, dying or already dead because of their exposure to radiation and other poisons. After decades of stonewalling, the government started a compensation program in 2000. After four years of bungling, Congress reformed the program, demanding that it be "compassionate, fair and timely." Today only one in four claimants has been compensated and millions more of your taxpayer dollars have been wasted creating hurdles instead of help. For many of the nation's cold warriors, the government's game is deadly denial.
View Deadly Denial, an investigative video series about tens of thousands of nuclear arms workers who unsuccessfully applied for compensation for severe job-related illnesses.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Network executives, newspaper editors and publishers, bloggers, Wall Street analysts and key players at Google and Yahoo! discuss the battle for market dominance in a rapidly changing world.
The primary challenge to both newspapers and broadcast networks is the growing power of the Internet as a news distribution platform, pulling consumers and advertisers away from more traditional media.
But Internet news providers like Yahoo! and Google say that they are not in the business of creating content, relying instead on traditional news-gathering organizations.
If not newspapers, who will create content for the Internet news aggregators? Bloggers? Self-appointed pundits? Anyone with Internet access and an opinion, informed or otherwise?
This is clearly no longer traditional "reporting." But is this journalism?
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
Before launching his bid for president in 1999, Bush decided he needed a home in Texas, other than the governor’s mansion. Both supporters and opponents agree that he moved there to enhance his regular-guy image, but even locals wonder why he chose tiny Crawford (population 700) to be his “Western White House.”
Hulu was founded by NBC Universal and News Corp as an online distributor of mainstream entertainment from Hollywood movie studios and TV networks. For their first feature-length online film, they curiously selected the 75-minute documentary, "Crawford."
However, if you watch "Crawford," about the impact of Bush's tenure there on the local citizenry, you'll agree that, whatever your political leanings, it is indeed hugely entertaining, and in many instances hilariously funny. Suffice to say, you just can't make this stuff up. It combines the best of Hollywood storytelling with serious video journalism, and should serve as a beacon to all news outlets who yearn to inject quirkiness and levity into non-fiction multimedia stories, without sacrificing gravitas. So: kudos to Hulu!
In any case, you can understand why "Crawford" seems like an especially topical "end-of-an-era" selection this week for KobreGuide. It's longer than the videos we normally showcase, but we encourage you to carve out some time this weekend to savor it.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Video Haiku: The Campaign in Moments
An eclectic collection of offbeat images and short videos from the long and whimsical campaign trail. (Washington Post)
From Iraq to the Campaign Trail
Iraq War veterans are turning to politics with the same sense of duty that pushed them to enlist. Meet two on the trail. (New York Times)
Race in the Race
Mixed-race Angelinos smartly address the role of ethnicity in their lives and in the Presidential election. (Los Angeles Times)
We hope you'll elect to view all of them. Then exercise your freedom of speech and let us know what you thought about them.
The circuitous route I took between Santa Barbara and Washington totaled nearly 5,000 miles, but in a nation riveted by perhaps the most historic election in American history, it was also so much more. A month ago, I went to Google Maps to define a route that would take me across America, through mountains and desert, big cities and small towns, and, inevitably, through parts of this country both red and blue. After three rental cars, 17 states and almost a month on the road, I returned with a snapshot of this nation wracked by economic crisis and fears of the future, where Americans of every stripe have one eye on the problems of the present even as the other looks nervously toward nation’s next chapter after Election Day.