Akira Kurosawa and the New

And four other intriguing things: a $500 million YouTube video maker, Birdcast, religious synesthesia, and the networks of Junot Díaz.
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1. Akira Kurasawa was born on March 23, 1910. Here, Lionel Trilling reflects on what he and the filmmakers of his generation meant

"If it is new, it is good, some people feel. I will go along with the reverse—that if it is good, it is new. The idea of newness for its own sake, it always seems to me, is rather a questionable one. However, the true artist is the man who has a newness of vision. The man who is responding to the life around him must be working in an idiom that is not of another century, another country, or another time. With films, we have become particularly aware of the importance of this personal vision in the years since the war, and we have me personal visions of men like Bergman in Sweden, of Kurasawa in Japan, of Sayajit Ray in India, of Fellini in Italy, of al the New Wave film makers in France— people who have used the form, as it has been developed, of motion pictures, but who have stamped each of their films with a very personal feeling, with their own way of looking at the world, and their own way of handling the camera. As a result, it would be impossible, even if you take the credits out of the picture to confuse a film of Bergman's with a film of Sayajit Ray's, or a film of Fellini's with a film of Kurasawa's. There is the body of conventional film-making techniques, but these men have transformed it and used it to create their way of looking at the world."

 

2. Disney bought a YouTube-video production company called Maker for $500 million

"'Short-form online video is growing at an astonishing pace and with Maker Studios, Disney will now be at the center of this dynamic industry with an unmatched combination of advanced technology and programming expertise and capabilities,' Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in the statement. With more than 55,000 channels, 380 million subscribers and 5.5 billion views a month on Google Inc.’s YouTube, Culver City, California-based Maker has established itself as one of the top online video networks for young audiences, Disney said."

+ If you'd like a sample of their work, check out Epic Rap Battles of History: Nikola Tesla vs. Thomas Edison. 22 million views, y'all.

 

3. Tune into BirdCast for daily avian migration predictions

"BirdCast will allow, for the first time, real-time predictions of bird migrations: when they migrate, where they migrate, and how far they will be flying. Knowledge of migratory behavior will aid conservation on the ground by informing decisions for placement of wind turbines and identifying nights on which lighting of tall buildings could be reduced to prevent the deaths of millions of birds. Accurate migration models also have broader application, allowing researchers to understand behavioral aspects of migration, how migration timing and pathways respond to changing climate, and whether linkages exist between variation in migration timing and subsequent changes in population size."

 

Labeled: "Vague Intellectual Pleasure."

4. When synesthesia was a religious, not a neuroanatomical, phenomenon.

"Colors stood at the core of theosophy as practiced by Madame Blavatsky and Anne Besant, and indeed it has played an understudied role in the whole arc of Western occultism. In his 1704 book Opticks, Newton’s arbitrary division of the spectrum into seven colors (ROYGBIV) resulted in the quasi-color indigo, whose questionable differentiation from blue befuddles schoolchildren to this day. This was not the act of Newton the scientist, but Newton the alchemist: he had been guided toward the number seven by the seven musical notes and the seven planets, not by scientific necessity. In her book The Secret Doctrine (1888), Blavatsky built on these ancient numerological resonances and the Newtonian theory of color to construct an entire cosmological system around the seven colors, which she called the seven rays. Each ray corresponded to a group of historical figures ('Masters' or 'Mahatma') who were reborn in an unending cycle, and each had a characteristic color."

 

5. Examining the reception of novelist Junot Díaz by critics, lay readers, and recommendation algorithms

"This essay includes close reading and cultural arguments as well as empirical evidence, shuttling back and forth between academic registers to make its claims. It approaches Díaz through networks, but not vast and impersonal ones — they are familiar, culturally localized core samples that still carry idiosyncratic traces of individual critics and actors. Even the recommendation networks on Amazon reflect the organic engagement of humans and algorithms in feedback loops, producing a far more surprising selection of texts than we might expect from a bookstore or library’s shelving system. In this sense I believe we need to expand 'close' reading by looking carefully at the full context of a literary network at a particular point in time, particularly the new dynamic influences of algorithms and digital reading, and to mark that expansion with the term 'middle ground' as I have above."

 

Today's 1957 American English Usage Tip

Babbitt (from the Sinclair Lewis character), now est. usage as an exponent of middle-class business success and convention. So Babbittry (sometimes not cap.).

Can you believe it? We've made it to the Bs. Only 25 letters to go.

 

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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