A day in Pompeii

9 minutes

King of Saxony: otherworldly calls

4 minutes

How to make a rainbow

16 minutes

Daybreak express

5 minutes

I signed the petition

11 minutes

Aeon for Friends

Find out more

From eruption to obliteration – the sights and sounds of 48 fateful hours in Pompeii

Before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 24 August 79 CE, Pompeii was a thriving Roman port city and commercial hub near modern-day Naples, and home to an estimated 15,000 people. Closer to the mountain’s base and on the other side, the nearby town of Herculaneum, estimated population 5,000, was smaller, wealthier and a popular resort for elite Romans. After the eruption, both remained buried, their memories lost to time, until they were excavated and identified in the 18th century. In the years since, the continuing excavation of their eerily preserved buildings, artifacts and human remains have given archeologists and researchers an invaluable window into ancient Roman life.

The only firsthand account of the eruption comes from the author and lawyer Pliny the Younger. In his correspondence with the historian Tacitus, Pliny describes helplessly watching from nearby Misenum as the tragedy unfolds: 

Some wishing to die, from the very fear of dying; some lifting their hands to the gods; but the greater part convinced that there were now no gods at all, and that the final endless night of which we have heard had come upon the world. 

This animation, produced in 2009 for an exhibition at the Melbourne Museum, brings his harrowing words to stark and vivid life. Transporting viewers back to the morning of the eruption, the video recreates sights and sounds from that fateful day through to the following night, at which point both Pompeii and Herculaneum already lay buried deep in volcanic ash and debris.

Video by Zero One Studio

Aeon for Friends

Find out more

This bird-of-paradise in New Guinea sounds like something from another planet

Endemic to the mountain forests of New Guinea, the King of Saxony bird-of-paradise (Pteridophora alberti) is best-known for the flamboyant, mate-attracting efforts of its males. The bird’s courtship displays – which often double as a means of keeping competitors at a comfortable distance – make use of bright yellow breast feathers, wildly waving head plumes and peppy dance manoeuvres capped off with an exceptionally outsized, almost otherworldly bit of squawking. This video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a rare glimpse into the world of this idiosyncratic little bird, which has proven notoriously difficult to photograph in its rugged natural habitat.

Director: Tim Laman

Websites: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birds of Paradise Project

Aeon for Friends

Find out more

‘I live with a girl papa!’ Two years in the life of Alaizah and her trans mother Jade

How to Make a Rainbow is a glimpse into the life of a young girl, Alaizah, and her single mother, Jade, during two especially challenging years. Together, they face the challenges of Jade’s transition from male to female – including new pronouns, unsympathetic family members, stretches of homelessness and top surgery – with high spirits, love and honesty. Ryan Maxey, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and Jade’s longtime friend, traces the nuances and contours of the duo’s relationship with skill and affection, offering a gentle and intimate rendering of family, and a tribute to the openheartedness of children.

Director: Ryan Maxey

Producer: Jade Phoenix Martinez

Aeon for Friends

Find out more

D A Pennebaker transformed documentary filmmaking. This is his first film

The US filmmaker D A Pennebaker – a pioneer of the documentary form – died on 1 August 2019 at the age of 94. He is perhaps best-known for his feature films Don’t Look Back (1967), a remarkable portrait of Bob Dylan while on a concert tour near the height of his fame, and The War Room (1993), which followed Bill Clinton’s run and eventual surprise victory in the 1992 US presidential election. Coming of age at a time when portable 16mm cameras with the ability to record sync sound on the fly allowed filmmakers newfound levels of freedom, Pennebaker was one of the first US documentarians to use the tools and aesthetics of cinéma vérité (or direct cinema), which emphasised recording reality with authenticity and representing stories truthfully.

With its frenetic pace, early morning hues, avant-garde touches, and playful use of shapes and patterns, Pennebaker’s first short, Daybreak Express (1953), made for a precocious debut. The sounds of an eponymous Duke Ellington composition form the film’s clattering backbone, as Pennebaker crafts an urban mosaic from Manhattan’s soon-to-be demolished Third Avenue elevated train line. While more experimental than much of the work he would be celebrated for later, Pennebaker’s career-long knack for kinetic editing, adventurous storytelling and skilfully marrying music and images still permeates nearly every frame. Today the impressionistic short plays not only as an ode to the dizzying dance of New York City transit, but the very power and potential of the documentary form itself.

Director: DA Pennebaker

Aeon for Friends

Find out more

Two Palestinian friends debate the merits of boycotting a Radiohead gig in Israel

The Palestinian filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel was born in Dubai, raised in the Ein el-Helweh refugee camp in Lebanon, studied at the National Film and Television School in the UK, and now lives in Denmark. His debut feature documentary, A World Not Ours (2012), is a personal, melancholic and humorous exploration of his family’s experience of living as permanent refugees across three generations, and received widespread critical acclaim upon its release. 

His most recent film, the short documentary I Signed the Petition, takes a different approach to questions of Palestinian identity. From his apartment in Berlin one morning, the filmmaker calls his friend Faris in London, waking him up with an anguished question: did Fleifel make a mistake by signing a petition urging the UK rock band Radiohead to cancel their performance in Tel Aviv in July 2018? While Fleifel supports the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, he worries that adding his name to the Radiohead petition might bring unwanted attention from the Israeli government. As the phonecall progresses, the conversation moves beyond the potential consequences of signing, and the two friends grapple with the political and personal meanings of being Palestinian, the corrosive effects of intergenerational powerlessness, and the tangled contradictions of market morality. A complex account of how individuals make their own politics, Fleifel’s short was a favourite on the 2018 film festival circuit, winning honours at Visions du Réel, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and the Sarajevo Film Festival, among others.

Director: Mahdi Fleifel

Producer: Patrick Campbell

Website: Nakba FilmWorks

Aeon for Friends

Find out more

From eruption to obliteration – the sights and sounds of 48 fateful hours in Pompeii

Before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 24 August 79 CE, Pompeii was a thriving Roman port city and commercial hub near modern-day Naples, and home to an estimated 15,000 people. Closer to the mountain’s base and on the other side, the nearby town of Herculaneum, estimated population 5,000, was smaller, wealthier and a popular resort for elite Romans. After the eruption, both remained buried, their memories lost to time, until they were excavated and identified in the 18th century. In the years since, the continuing excavation of their eerily preserved buildings, artifacts and human remains have given archeologists and researchers an invaluable window into ancient Roman life.

The only firsthand account of the eruption comes from the author and lawyer Pliny the Younger. In his correspondence with the historian Tacitus, Pliny describes helplessly watching from nearby Misenum as the tragedy unfolds: 

Some wishing to die, from the very fear of dying; some lifting their hands to the gods; but the greater part convinced that there were now no gods at all, and that the final endless night of which we have heard had come upon the world. 

This animation, produced in 2009 for an exhibition at the Melbourne Museum, brings his harrowing words to stark and vivid life. Transporting viewers back to the morning of the eruption, the video recreates sights and sounds from that fateful day through to the following night, at which point both Pompeii and Herculaneum already lay buried deep in volcanic ash and debris.

Video by Zero One Studio

Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter
Aeon is not-for-profit
and free for everyone
Make a donation
Essay/
Information and communication
Reddit, with wigs and ink

The first newspapers contained not high-minded journalism but hundreds of readers’ letters exchanging news with one another

Rachael Scarborough King

Essay/
Economic history
The economics of bubbles

Market booms and busts might be irrational, but we can understand why they happen – and what to do to mitigate the damage

Brent Goldfarb & David A Kirsch