Tag Archives: documentary

A Fascinating Film About the Last Day of Hot Metal Typesetting at the New York Times 

On July 2, 1978 the New York Times made a significant technological leap when they scuttled the last of 60 manually-operated linotype machines to usher in the era of digital and photographic typesetting. When working at 100% efficiency with an experienced operator the Linotype machines could produce 14 lines per minute cast on the spot from hot lead. That number would increase to 1,000 lines per minute the very next day using an array of computers and digital storage.

Typesetter Carl Schlesinger and filmmaker David Loeb Weiss documented the last day of hot metal typesetting in a film called Farewell — ETAOIN SHRDLU (the obscure title is poignantly explained in the film). This amazing behind-the-scenes view not only captures the laborious effort to create a single page of printed type, but also the the emotions and thoughts of several New York Times employees as they candidly discuss their feelings about transitioning to a new technology. One man decides he’s not ready for the digital age and plans to retire on the spot after 49 years, while others seem to transition smoothly into the new methods of production.

This historically significant documentary was digitized in 2015 and made available online in HD from Linotype: The Film, another documentary about linotype printing that includes portions of Farewell. While I’ve always been somewhat familiar with the history of typesetting and printing, I didn’t fully grasp the absurd mechanical complexity and scale required to print a newspaper before the digital age. Each newspaper page was cast in a 40 lb. block of lead!? A huge number of employees were deaf!? If you’re a graphic design or typography professor, here’s a great way to spend 30 minutes.

If you’re super interested, the New York Times TimesMachine has a complete high resolution scan of the final hot metal typeset newspaper made in the film. (via Reddit)








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An Upcoming Documentary About Tall Bikes and a Family that Prizes Creative Expression Above All Else 

Part film trailer, part home video, part testament to the power of unbridled creativity, this extended teaser gives us a glimpse into the unusual life of the Zenga Bros and their obsession with absurdly tall bicycles. Born and raised in Vancouver, the 6 brothers come from an eclectic family of 9 children who were taught from a young age to explore their own creativity, no matter where it lead them. This belief was embraced so thoroughly it became a lifestyle complete with a set of three intersecting tenets called the Three Beans: Create Everywhere, Redeem Everything, and Be a Fool.

The Zengas have engaged in community art projects since 1999, but the most notable has been the design and fabrication of tall bikes. They first encountered photos of similar bike designs in the late 90s in a zine and soon the boys were singularly obsessed with building their own unwieldy cycles. The bikes have connected them to makers from around the world, taken them on a trip across Africa, and will culminate in an upcoming tall bike tour and film currently in production by one of the brothers, Benny Zenga. The Zengas also produced a film last year with Booooooom titled Skate Heads that’s definitely worth a watch.

The film’s trailer is currently premiering as part of the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival in New York. You can learn more on their website or by following them on Instagram.





Photo by Dave Zenga


Photo by Dave Zenga


Photo by Dave Zenga


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New York City’s Last Accordion Repairman 

Since the 1960s, Alex Carozza has been repairing and building accordions in New York City for customers around the world. Now, at the age of 88, he’s reportedly the only person left in the city still repairing these complicated instruments in a cramped studio with his 93-year-old assistant. Great Big Story sits down with the “Sultan of Squeezeboxes” for a brief but charming interview. (via Devour)

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Glass: An Oscar-Winning Documentary Short on Dutch Glassblowing from 1958 

Glass is a 1958 non-verbal documentary short by Bert Haanstra that contrasts glassblowing techniques used inside the Royal Leerdam Glass Factory with more modern industrial machines. The first half shows several men at work using traditional glassblowing to create ornate objects like vases and mugs set against jazz music, while the second part shifts abruptly into the mechanized world of industrial glass production set to a whimsical score of more synthesized music. Also, there’s a ton of great smoking! It’s a really unusual little film that went on to pick up an Oscar for Documentary Short Subject in 1959.

Glass was made available by Aeon as part of their wonderfully curated selection of videos on art, design, culture, and news topics. (via Vimeo)




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Earthships: Meet a Community in New Mexico Living in Incredible Off-The-Grid Homes Built From Trash 

Fresh out of architectural school in 1972, Michael Reynolds immediately started to question much of what he had just learned. Why build houses with trees when forests are something we want to preserve? Why pay for electricity, water, and heat when all of it can be provided off-the-grid using existing materials and renewable resources like wind, rain, and solar?

Reynolds set out to design a home built from dirt, tires, aluminum cans and other repurposed objects and so successful others began to take notice. Now, an entire community lives in these unusual homes called ‘Earthships’ in Taos, New Mexico. Filmmakers Flora Lichtman and Katherine Wells recently stopped by to learn more. (via Devour)








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Anila Quayyum Agha’s ‘Intersections’ Sculpture Installed at Rice Gallery 

Pakistani-American artist Anila Quayyum Agha has installed her impressive shadow sculpture Intersections at Rice Gallery. Inspired in part by her interpretation of patterns and images found in Islamic temples, the laser-cut 6.5′ square wood cube is illuminated from the inside by a blinding 600-watt light bulb that casts a dizzying shadow throughout the gallery. The piece becomes experiential as viewers who move through the space have the shadows cast on their bodies, incorporating themselves into the artwork. From Rice Gallery:

Intersections is inspired by Agha’s visit to the Alhambra, an Islamic palace originally built in 889 in Granada, Spain. Struck by the grandeur of the space, Agha reflected upon her childhood in Lahore, Pakistan where culture dictated that women were excluded from the mosque, a place of creativity and community, and instead prayed at home. As she explains, “To my amazement [I] discovered the complex expressions of both wonder and exclusion that have been my experience while growing up.” Agha translates these contradictory feelings into Intersections, a contemplative space of her own making that is open to all.

While we’ve shared photos of this piece before, Angela and Mark Walley of Walley Films were invited to do this insightful profile of Agha and her ArtPrize-winning installation, providing a deeper and immersive treatment than images alone. Intersections will be on view at Rice Gallery through December 6, 2015.

Photo by Nash Baker

Photo by Nash Baker

Photo by Nash Baker

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