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Optimism

1 minute

Spacesavers

4 minutes

Can food nourish your soul?

2 minutes

Birth control your own adventure

5 minutes

The acrobatic fly

3 minutes

In the persistence and resilience of life, there is cause for hope

‘More and more I have come to admire resilience…’

A collaboration between the US poet Jane Hirshfield, the US animator Kelli Anderson, and Bulgarian-born, US-based writer Maria Popova, Optimism is a brief yet powerful celebration of ‘the persistence of life against all odds’. Inspired both by a moment in which Popova stopped to marvel at a tiny weed emerging from a San Francisco sidewalk and by Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem ‘Song of Winnie’ (‘Wherever life can grow, it will. It will sprout out, and do the best it can’), Anderson’s stop-motion animation springs tiny, vibrant paper plants to life out of concrete cracks and crevices around Brooklyn. Read more about the project on Popova’s blog Brain Pickings.

Video by Kelli Anderson

Writer and Narrator: Jane Hirshfield

Concept: Maria Popova

The peculiar Boston tradition that (mostly) keeps the winter parking peace

After snowstorms in Boston, street parking tensions tend to rise, especially when car owners clear out spaces near their residences only to later find another driver has swiped their hard-earned spot. But walk the city’s streets in the wake of a blizzard, and you’ll notice a uniquely Bostonian visual language that aims to keep the parking peace – even if it isn’t always successful. In a decades-old winter tradition codified by a former mayor, residents in most Boston neighbourhoods are allowed to hold their spaces for up to 48 hours using everyday objects. The formerly Boston-based director Sarah Ginsburg explores the peculiar practice in her film Spacesavers. Shot during the winter of 2015 – a record-breaking season for snowfall – the wry observational short offers a distinctive vision of Boston’s winter streets where everything from lawn chairs to walkers and golf bags become ‘keep out’ signs.

Director: Sarah Ginsburg

Producer: Will Lennon

Liberation of the soul through diet – how a Jain ascetic lives

‘Soul requires spirituality. Soul does not require food.’

Nonviolence towards all forms of life is a cornerstone of Jainism, a nontheistic Indian religion that dates back to the 6th century BCE, and today has around 7 million followers. To Jainism’s strictest adherents, even a walk through the grass or drinking tea with honey can be a morally perilous proposition, given the soul-possessing living things, from plants to insects to microbes, that can be harmed in the process. Part of a video series on the intersection of food and spirituality by the Italian-born, London-based filmmaker Matan Rochlitz, this short features a Jain ascetic discussing how a restricted diet (mostly water and dry grains) guides his spiritually.

Director: Matan Rochlitz

Period drama: one woman’s journey through birth control

The multitude of female birth-control products on the market hardly means there’s a perfect option for everyone. From the combined oral contraceptive (commonly known as the Pill), to the IUD (intrauterine device, aka the coil) to the NuvaRing, the availability of choice can mask one major downside: for some, the side-effects of birth control are a problem in their own right. In her short film Birth Control Your Own Adventure, the Pakistani-American filmmaker Sindha Agha presents her personal journey through all the options, starting at age 11, when she was prescribed the Pill for the pain of endometriosis. Agha relates her struggle to find the least-worst option with witty visuals and a vivid design. In its intimate detail, the short is especially enlightening for those who don’t menstruate, prompting the question: what about male birth-control products?

Director: Sindha Agha

Feet of strength! Spotlight on the amazing agility of houseflies

Pesky though they might be, houseflies are remarkable biological specimens – strong enough to carry up to half their own body weight and, as you’ve likely noticed when trying to swat one, exceptionally quick and nimble. For his 1910 short The Acrobatic Fly, the pioneering British naturalist and filmmaker F Percy Smith put the strength and dexterity of houseflies on display, filming one as it juggled items including a cork and a miniature barbell. Perhaps most impressive, however, is a sequence that features a fly rotating a ball with another fly balancing atop it, like a tiny circus act. For more slightly creepy early film fun from F Percy Smith, watch To Demonstrate How Spiders Fly.

Director: F Percy Smith

In the persistence and resilience of life, there is cause for hope

‘More and more I have come to admire resilience…’

A collaboration between the US poet Jane Hirshfield, the US animator Kelli Anderson, and Bulgarian-born, US-based writer Maria Popova, Optimism is a brief yet powerful celebration of ‘the persistence of life against all odds’. Inspired both by a moment in which Popova stopped to marvel at a tiny weed emerging from a San Francisco sidewalk and by Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem ‘Song of Winnie’ (‘Wherever life can grow, it will. It will sprout out, and do the best it can’), Anderson’s stop-motion animation springs tiny, vibrant paper plants to life out of concrete cracks and crevices around Brooklyn. Read more about the project on Popova’s blog Brain Pickings.

Video by Kelli Anderson

Writer and Narrator: Jane Hirshfield

Concept: Maria Popova

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Essay/
Cognition & Intelligence
The broad, ragged cut

Aptitude and IQ tests are used to distinguish those young people who deserve a chance from those who do not. Do they work?

Elizabeth Svoboda

Essay/
Social Psychology
Make up your mind(s)!

A pair of cognitive scientists, married for half a century, explain why two argumentative heads can be better than one

Uta Frith & Chris Frith