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Brendan O’Connell is blocking the bread aisle

4 minutes

This adorable sea slug is a sneaky little thief

4 minutes

The human voice

3 minutes

Mobilize

4 minutes

Frames of reference

27 minutes

An artist finds rich pickings in the sprawling mundanity of a Walmart store

For many, a Walmart store is the foremost symbol of the supposed cultural and economic mediocrity of the United States over the past half-century. But might we someday find ourselves nostalgic for the era of the big-box retailer? The US artist Brendan O’Connell, known for his impressionistic paintings of famous US brands, thinks it’s likely. Brendan O’Connell Is Blocking the Bread Aisle follows the artist’s attempt to depict the (perhaps fleeting) cultural moment of big-box bargain-shopping through a series of paintings that celebrate unremarkable moments inside Walmart stores. In doing so – first as an intruder, and later as Walmart’s invited guest – he reminds us of the contingency and temporality of our ideas about what constitutes culture and art.

Director: Julien Lasseur

Producer: Jamie Thalman

An artist finds rich pickings in the sprawling mundanity of a Walmart store

For many, a Walmart store is the foremost symbol of the supposed cultural and economic mediocrity of the United States over the past half-century. But might we someday find ourselves nostalgic for the era of the big-box retailer? The US artist Brendan O’Connell, known for his impressionistic paintings of famous US brands, thinks it’s likely. Brendan O’Connell Is Blocking the Bread Aisle follows the artist’s attempt to depict the (perhaps fleeting) cultural moment of big-box bargain-shopping through a series of paintings that celebrate unremarkable moments inside Walmart stores. In doing so – first as an intruder, and later as Walmart’s invited guest – he reminds us of the contingency and temporality of our ideas about what constitutes culture and art.

Director: Julien Lasseur

Producer: Jamie Thalman

Far from sluggish: the remarkable sea creature that weaponises its dinner

Nudibranchs, also commonly known as sea slugs, are a group of snail-like sea invertebrates. Despite appearing more or less defenceless, nudibranchs broadcast their whereabouts with their flamboyant, brightly coloured bodies. From an evolutionary standpoint, it might seem like a curious move, but their luminous skin actually serves as a warning to would-be predators to let them know they’d make for a dangerous meal. While some nudibranchs accumulate toxins and other defensive chemicals in their bodies, others – like the star of this film – have an even craftier method of warding off enemies. This remarkable short from the science and nature documentary series Deep Look details the clever way that some nudibranchs protect themselves by stealing defences from stinging sea animals known as hydroids. You can read more about this video at KQED Science.

Video by KQED Science

Producer and Writer: Josh Cassidy

Narrator and Writer: Lauren Sommer

‘My God! Where’s the human voice?’ A charming reflection on our pre-recorded world

From to Siri to subways to customer service calls, pre-recorded and robotic voices are becoming an increasingly inescapable part of the human experience. In this short animation from StoryCorps, the US author, historian and broadcaster Studs Terkel (1912–2008) reflects on this trend away from human interaction and toward disembodied sentence fragments. Recalling a scene from a tram ride at Atlanta airport with exceeding wit and charm, he considers the richness of the human voice, and what we lose when it’s replaced.

Director: The Rauch Brothers

Producer: Lizzie Jacobs

From canoes to cities, a frenetic celebration of the power of indigenous Canadians

In her short film Mobilize, Caroline Monnet – a Canadian filmmaker and artist of French and Algonquin origin – uses archival documentary footage to honour the restless diligence of Canada’s indigenous people. Given access to more than 700 films from the National Film Board of Canada for the project, Monnet crafts a fervent visual collage that spans the country’s rural north, where indigenous craftsmen are seen fashioning canoes, to scenes from skyscraper construction in the urban south. According to Monnet, in making the film, she sought to explore the trajectory of her own family’s history, as well as to simply bombard viewers with ‘images of indigenous people kicking ass on screen’. Heightened by a feverish score from the Inuk artist Tanya Tagaq, Monnet’s film offers a deeply original and personal perspective on the indigenous Canadian experience.

Director: Caroline Monnet

Score: Tanya Tagaq

Producer: Anita Lee

Website: National Film Board of Canada

This clever and stylish 1960 film is the most fun you’ll ever have at a physics lecture

Directed by the pioneering UK documentarian Richard Leacock, Frames of Reference is a slick and surreal dive into physics fundamentals and, in particular, why everything is indeed relative. Produced for high-school physics classes, the 1960 film features the physics professors Patterson Hume and Donald Ivey of the University of Toronto explaining, through an intertwined series of lectures and clever demonstrations, how frames of reference shape perspective. Using rotating sets, camera tricks and a visual style that suggests the film noir of Alfred Hitchcock, this is perhaps the most peculiarly entertaining half-hour physics lecture you’ll ever have.

Director: Richard Leacock

Visual restoration by Jeff Quitney with audio from the 1960 original, found at the Internet Archive.

License: CC BY-SA 3.0

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Essay/
Music
Musical pleasures

We know music is pleasurable, the question is why? Many answers have been proposed: perhaps none are quite right

Roger Mathew Grant

Essay/
Stories & Literature
Ghosts on the shore

In Japan, ghost stories are not to be scoffed at, but provide deep insights into the fuzzy boundary between life and death

Christopher Harding