Paddington: A Fish out of . . . um . . . A Bear out of the Jungle

15810316086_62a83999d1_zPaddington is one of my favorite movies that I saw last year. Much more than just a kids’ movie, it was nominated for best film at the UK’s 2015 Empire Awards, and won for best comedy. It also carries a 98% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

The story in a nutshell is this: When Paddington comes to London, it’s not quite what he’s heard it would be. And as if it weren’t enough of a culture clash for an orphan bear to arrive in the big city, this cub comes from “Darkest Peru.”

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you should. It’s a great family film for Christmas time. And if you have seen it, here are some clips to refresh your memory.

First Contact: Meeting the Brown Family

BSL: Bear as a Second Language

Bathroom Etiquette: Those Aren’t Ear Brushes.

Sign Language: Why Do I Need a Dog for the Escalator?

[photo: “Paddington Bear Trail, Special Delivery By Ben Whishaw,” by Martin Pettitt, used under a Creative Commons license]

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Roads, 2, 3, 4

Silent Darien: The Gap in the World’s Longest Road

Stretching from Alaska to the pencil tip of Argentina, the 48,000km-long Pan-American Highway holds the record for the world’s longest motorable road. But there is a gap—an expanse of wild tropical forest—that has defeated travellers for centuries.

The gap stretches from the north to the south coast of Panama—from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It’s between 100km and 160km (60-100 miles) long, and there is no way round, except by sea.

It was only in 1960 that anyone managed to cross the Darien Gap by car—in a Land Rover dubbed The Affectionate Cockroach and a Jeep. It took nearly five months, averaging just 200m per hour.

Carolyn McCarthy, BBC News, August 14, 2014

Telling Stories of Perseverance from Afghanistan and Kilimanjaro

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Mt. Kilimanjaro

My alma mater, the University of Missouri, is known for its School of Journalism. And the School of Journalism is known for the quality of work done by its graduates.

Two of those graduates have been featured this year in Mizzou Magazine for their international-themed documentaries, in which people courageously face the challenges before them.

Afghanistan: No One Should Be Forgotten

In the winter issue, Mo Scarpelli talks about her motivation for making documentaries. “The stories I’m interested in,” she says, “inform and provoke people to learn about something or start questioning things in their world.” It is this mindset that led her, and fellow director/producer Alexandria Bombach, to film Frame by Frame, which follows four photojournalists in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

One of those four is Massoud Hossaini, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for his photo showing the aftermath of a suicide bombing in Kabul.

When the Taliban were overthrown, taking photos became legal again. But with the withdrawal of US troops, Hossaini and others are concerned that their rights will once again be lost. “This is a big possibility that the world . . . I mean . . . forget us again,” Houssaini says in the documentary. He doesn’t believe that anyone should be forgotten:

The world now is like one body, so all the member of this body should know that one member has a pain. And they should feel this, and they should know, and they should find out.

Kilimanjaro: More than a Hike

Steve Remich, another MU alum, is the videographer and co-editor behind Life in Motion: Kilimanjaro 2014. The short documentary shows Alex D’Jamoos, a young man without legs, and others climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Their trek was sponsored by the Happy Families International Center (HFIC), a non-profit that helps disabled children in orphanages get the medical care they need.

In Mizzou Magazine‘s fall issue, Remich says his hope in the documentary is to show something larger than just a climb up Kilimanjaro:

With the video, I really wanted to tell a short story that was about more than a hike. Sure it’s physically difficult and you wonder if you can make it to the top, but the entire point of hiking the highest mountain in Africa on prosthetic legs is about the symbolism of the act. Alex said something very powerful in one of our interviews, essentially that walking—for him—is not about mobility but about being normal. That really stuck with me, and I did my best to build a story around that idea.

D’Jamoos came to the US for surgery when he was 15 and was adopted by a family in Dallas soon after. He’s now a student at the University of Texas, planning to become an international lawyer.

“Even now, it’s surreal to me that I am a UT student,” D’Jamoos tells The Alcalde, the alumni magazine of The University of Texas. “It sounds a bit crazy. You know, ‘disabled Russian orphan comes to America, goes to college, climbs Kilimanjaro?’ Well, yeah.”

(Kelsey Allen, “Frame by Frame,” Mizzou Magazine, November 11, 2014; “Life in Motion,” Mizzou Magazine, August 19, 2015; Rose Cahalan, “The Climb,” The Alcalde, Jan/Feb 2015)

[photo: “Kili 56,” by Sam Haley, used under a Creative Commons license]

Rain, 2, 3, 4

Making Perfume from the Rain: Indian Villagers Have Found a Way to Bottle the Fragrance of Monsoons

The mitti attar was in an inch-tall glass bottle on the counter. I twisted off the little gold cap, closed my eyes, and breathed in the scent of the Indian rain. It smelled like the earth. It smelled like the parched clay doused with pond water in the Siyarams’ backyard. The aroma was entirely different from the memory of rain I carried from my childhood and my part of the world—ozone-charged air, wet moss, Wolfe’s “clean but funky” scent of the south. But it was entirely appealing: warm, organic, mineral-rich. It was the smell of waiting, paid off: 40 years or more for a sandalwood tree to grow its fragrant heartwood; four months of hot, dust-blown summer in northern India before the monsoons arrive in July; a day for terra-cotta to slow-fire in a kiln.

Cynthia Barnett, The Atlantic, April 22, 2015

4 Ads for Your 4th

Here are 4 new advertisements in honor of the 4th of July. The first one actually commemorates the 4th. The others actually don’t. But it’s not July 1, so I needed 4 of them.

4 de Julio
Who knew that Honey Maid makes documentaries? This one’s about American immigrants. “When you first come here to America, you’re kind of like invisible. You don’t seem to be noticed, but at the same time you see that they’re looking at you.”

Hello Pizza
Last year, Brazil’s CNA language centers put English learners in contact with senior citizens in the US. Now they’re having them answer phoned-in pizza orders from the States. By staying on the line, customers can get their pizzas free. It’s a win-win with double cheese.

Are We There Yet?
You can use this to each your kids how to be annoying in five languages. This one came out late last year, but it’s new to me, which leaves me wondering: Have you seen it yet? Have you seen it yet? Have you seen it yet?

Great Chinese Names for Great Britain
“This was the first time in history that a country had invited the citizens of another to come up with names for its major landmarks.” What say we pop over to the Street for the Tall, Rich, and Handsome?

By the way, just in case you’ve never heard it asked before: Do the British have the 4th of July?

Of course they do. What else would come after the 3rd?

Steve Saint: Serving with Scars

8628515338_c776ab1942_mAfter hearing the news of Elisabeth Elliot’s death, I went back to the post I had written in 2013 about her and Steve Saint.

That led me to look for an update on Saint, as it’s been three years since he suffered a severe spinal-cord injury, leaving him an “incomplete quadriplegic.” What I found was another “next chapter” video produced last year by his Indigenous Peoples Technology and Education Center (I-TEC).

In it he talks about the value of using our suffering, our scars, to help others who are suffering in the same way. He refers specifically to Christians ministering to those who don’t know about Christ’s love, but his advice can also be applied to Christians sharing honestly with each other, not hiding the hurts they have faced, not “with makeup over all their wounds.”

People want to see Christ followers who have scars where they have wounds, so that they know that, hey, this person has been where I am, and then they trust us. So it’s time to take the makeup off, time to quit buttoning our collars up to our throats and wearing masks. People want to see that we have hurt.

I appreciate Saint’s willingness to show us how he is doing, even when he’s not doing as well as he, or the rest of us, would like. The whole of “God Doesn’t Waste Hurts” is well worth watching.

A few months before this video was posted, Saint spoke at the 2013 Global Missions Health Conference. During his presentation he fell, and used that moment as an opportunity to talk about North American missionaries. As people from the audience rushed to his aid, he said, “Wait a minute. I can do this.” And as he worked to get himself into a chair, he added,

You know, this is like missions. Whenever something happens that we don’t expect, we North Americans  always want to run in and fix it. And sometimes what we need to do is we need to just wait and give the people there a chance. . . . I can do this, I just need a chance.

You can watch his complete presentation on YouTube. It’s titled “Let God Write Your Story (But What If We Don’t Like the Next Chapter).”

[photo: “Cracks,” by Jamie Johnson, used under a Creative Commons license]

Three Ads: Pretentious Pronunciations, a Never-Before-Seen Oz, and a Lying Dad (get a Kleenex for the last one)

6088059547_f927b9db32_zI don’t have much of an intro for this—just that I saw these three commercials on Adweek, and I like them.

The first one gives us the “correct” pronunciations of some brand names—many are foreign, and expensive. I sometimes pronounce Adidas as “Ah-dee-dahs” just as a joke, because it rhymes with la dee das and sounds so highfalutin. Didn’t know how cultured I am. After hearing several of the “right” pronunciations, my eight year old said, “Yeah, I think people are going to stick with the old ones.”

The next one is an extended commercial that gives the back story for Comcast’s XFINITY, a system that lets blind people select their own movies. Watching this is a step beyond seeing the world through other’s eyes—especially since that world is Oz.

And this last one is from MetLife Hong Kong. Made me cry . . . each of the four times I’ve watched it so far.

[photo: “Old Philips TV,” by King-of-Herrings, used under a Creative Commons license]

Empty Videos: Where Have All the People Gone?

Imagine the busiest, most crowded place you know . . . in the middle of the day . . . but without a single person.

It’s hard to form that mental image, because some places are what they are because of all the people.

429575638_4d0c1b16da_zWhile we were living among the 6 million people of Taipei, all we had to do was stand at the corner of a major intersection to get a feel for how dense the city is with people—on foot, in cars, in buses, on bicycles, and on scooters . . . so, so many scooters. That’s what made it so shocking when once a year, a seemingly random (at least to a foreigner) military drill chased everyone off the streets. In fact, during the half-hour Wan-an drill (萬安演習), all vehicles need to pull over, and it’s illegal for pedestrians to be outside, except for the officers stationed at nearly every corner telling everyone to vacate the streets.

In 2004, Hong Kong pop star Jacky Cheung saw this in person when he was in Taipei to film an MTV show. When the streets cleared, Cheung and his record-company crew thought they’d found the perfect backdrop for a photo shoot, so they snapped a photo of Cheung standing out in the street all alone. When the photo hit the Internet, the National Police Agency was not amused, and they promised a fine (though I’m not sure if they followed through).

There’s something about seeing places that are normally teeming with people when they somehow become un-teeming. It’s oddly alluring. Or maybe its just odd. Or eerie. Think ghost town, the Apocalypse, The Day After, or The Day after Tomorrow.

But thanks to some video wizardry, we don’t have to survive Armageddon to see what the world would look like without people. Take, for instance, Ross Ching’s vision of Los Angeles in Running on Empty (Revisited). At Vimeo, he even offers this step-by-step process for how to remove all the cars from the highways of LA:

1. Record for 20-30 mins.
2. Go frame by frame and grab pieces of the road that aren’t obstructed by a car. Eventually, you will have every piece of the road.
3. Put the static image of the road in with the moving background.

And then there’s the Empty America series from Thrash Labs, including New York, usually a pretty busy place in its own right, and Washington, D.C., Seattle, and San Francisco.

The music in these videos takes away some of the eerie feeling that can come with the visuals. That’s not the case with para l l el, a short film from the globetrotting French couple Claire & Max. Their music choice is “Dark Places.”

“What if parallel worlds existed?” they ask at Vimeo. “What if in one of these worlds mankind disappeared? What if the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty had never existed?” (Their vision of London is pretty creepy, too.)

In case Ching’s step-by-step instructions for creating an empty world seem a bit simplistic, Claire & Max provide their own how-to video tutorial. It’s step-by-step-by-step-by step. In their list of needed items, the last one is patience. Indeed.

Or you can pretend that You Are Legend, and you’ll have all the time in the world.

(Jimmy Chuang, “Pop Star’s Photo Op During Air-Raid Drill Could Net Big Fine,” Taipei Times, September 26, 2004)

[photo: “On Your Mark,” by h4rrydog, used under a Creative Commons license]