Maya Angelou on con men

6 minutes

Lake

5 minutes

Andy Clark: virtual immortality

13 minutes

King of Saxony: otherworldly calls

4 minutes

How to make a rainbow

16 minutes

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Turning the blindspots of bigots into business opportunities in the Jim Crow South

‘You use the white man’s bigotry against him.’

In this 1970 interview resurrected for PBS’s animated series Blank on Blank, the US writer and civil-rights activist Maya Angelou recalls the ‘education’ she received from her stepfather – a pool- and gambling-hall owner who ‘lived by his wits’ – and his con-man friends. Growing up at the height of the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, the men had few prospects for jobs in which they could use their intelligence to contribute to society. Instead, they made ends meet by running elaborate, large-scale cons on greedy white ‘marks’, who would incorrectly assume that there was no way a black man could outsmart them.

Animator: Patrick Smith

Producer: Amy Drozdowska, David Gerlach

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Come ice-fishing in the deep Canadian winter with an all-Indigenous, all-female crew

‘Indigenous labour is never just work. It’s cultural practice, our Indigenous knowledge. It’s how we are in the world,’ says the Cree filmmaker Alexandra Lazarowich, discussing her inspiration for her latest short documentary, Lake. Produced as part of the Five Feminist Minutes initiative of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), this observational short by an all-female, all-Indigenous crew follows Métis women on an ice-fishing outing at Lesser Slave Lake in central Alberta. The sweep of the landscape, the crunch of ice and snow, and the whipping wind evoke the sublime vastness and frigid temperatures of the deep Canadian winter. Within this frozen world, the women are masters of their craft, punching a hole in the ice, dropping their nets through, and eventually pulling their catch to the surface. A richly crafted testament to Indigenous expertise drawing on the style of verité documentaries of the 1960s and ’70s, the film is also an understated acknowledgement of the challenges that Canada’s Aboriginal peoples face in accessing fishing rights – rights that have long been subject to government encroachment.

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Your body is scanned, destroyed, then reproduced. Do ‘you’ live on the copy?

For centuries, philosophers – and more recently, science-fiction writers – have been concocting riffs and variations on a particular thought experiment: if every bit of your body could be perfectly scanned and replicated, in what ways would the replica still be ‘you’? In this interview from the PBS series Closer to Truth, Andy Clark, a professor of philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, dissects a version of this experiment posed by the US philosopher Daniel Dennett, in which a body is scanned, destroyed, and replicated in a distant place. While science hasn’t yet brought us close to putting Dennett’s conundrum to the test, we can still grapple with the intriguing and perhaps troubling metaphysical questions it raises, questions that might become even more material as we careen further into the information age, including: would ‘you’ be dead, or would your sense of self perpetuate in the copy? And, if you were recreated several times, where exactly might you expect to find your embodied sense of self?

Video by Closer to Truth

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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

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‘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

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Turning the blindspots of bigots into business opportunities in the Jim Crow South

‘You use the white man’s bigotry against him.’

In this 1970 interview resurrected for PBS’s animated series Blank on Blank, the US writer and civil-rights activist Maya Angelou recalls the ‘education’ she received from her stepfather – a pool- and gambling-hall owner who ‘lived by his wits’ – and his con-man friends. Growing up at the height of the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, the men had few prospects for jobs in which they could use their intelligence to contribute to society. Instead, they made ends meet by running elaborate, large-scale cons on greedy white ‘marks’, who would incorrectly assume that there was no way a black man could outsmart them.

Animator: Patrick Smith

Producer: Amy Drozdowska, David Gerlach

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Essay/
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Jamie Mackay

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