• Signing off.

    Jesse Brown, a BoingBoing guest blogger, is the host of TVO's Search Engine podcast.


    Today marks the end of my guest blogging stint here at BoingBoing.

    It's been awesome (for me anyway). Thanks to BB readers for letting me share my projects, interests and ideas with you. And thanks for engaging- the comments often taught me more about a subject than I had to impart in the first place.

    Thanks also to Cory and Rob and the rest of the BB crew for having me!

    Please keep in touch! I'm particularly interested in story ideas and freelance pitches for my podcast.

    Email: jesse at jessebrown.ca

    Twitter (link)

    Podcast/Blog (link)

  • You and the Pirates

    Jesse Brown, a BoingBoing guest blogger, is the host of TVO's Search Engine podcast.


    Canadian literature (or CanLit, as some insist) has gradually become a genre of its own- one of books that are bleak, desperate, *meaningful*, and above all, dull.

    New DIY publisher The Workhorsery aims to do something about that by releasing You and The Pirates, Jocelyne Allens' superfun debut novel.

    The book dares to star you (a snarky prairie-girl expat) in its second-person wackjob tale of terrorists, cats and pirates in modern-day Tokyo. Check it out!

    Free chapter (PDF)

    Amazon page (link)

  • 500 Pound Planet: Chapter Three

    Jesse Brown, a BoingBoing guest blogger, is the host of TVO's Search Engine podcast.

    Professional animators script, record, and "lock" audio before animating a frame. Josh Dolgin and I are not professional animators.

    We wanted 500 Pound Planet to have a loose, improvisatory feel. So we decided on a general plot outline, a handful of settings and scenes and a cast of characters. For each character, we animated a number of facial expressions, hand gestures and lip-positions, so that we could figure out what they're saying at any point and drop it in.

    This "worked" in a sense, but also made for a lot of crazy, since everything was infinitely malleable. We could always record more, tweak a line, second-guess a plot point- whatever. The process became so maddening that we bickered constantly over every detail and bit by bit, that's what the film became about- our spiteful, imploding "marriage", which we kept alive for the sake of the children- our deformed, clay puppet kids. Enjoy!


    500 Pound Planet: Prelude

    500 Pound Planet: Chapter One

    500 Pound Planet: Chapter Two

  • Comics in the Classroom

    Jesse Brown, a BoingBoing guest blogger, is the host of TVO's Search Engine podcast.

    When I was a kid I was often reprimanded and sometimes even kicked out of class for drawing comics in school. Now, research has shown that comics are a great way to turbo-charge literacy in reluctant readers (especially in boys), and comics are suddenly being welcomed into classrooms all over the world.

    With this in mind, my partners at Bitstrips and I have developed Bitstrips for Schools, an educational comic-making service. We piloted it last spring in a handful of Ontario classrooms, and the kids went crazy for it, creating almost 3000 comic strips in six weeks time (see video). Their creativity has astounded me, as have the incredibly cool and dedicated teachers I've had the chance to work with (link).

    Bitstrips for Schools has since been licensed by the Ontario Ministry of Education, which means that 2 million kids now have at their fingertips the tools to make their own comics.

    We also just introduced a "self-serve" option that lets teachers outside of Ontario buy cheap one-classroom licenses.

    So yes, in interests of full disclosure, this is a plug for a website I have an interest in. But it's also a website I'm super proud to be a part of!

    Bitstrips for Schools.

  • Katie Couric's salary exceeds combined budgets of NPR's top news shows

    Jesse Brown, a BoingBoing guest blogger, is the host of TVO's Search Engine podcast.

    Michael Massing of the Columbia Journalism Review digs up some startling info that helps explain why network TV news is knee-deep in FAIL while National Public Radio thrives:

    Katie Couric's annual salary is more than the entire annual budgets of NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered combined. Couric's salary comes to an estimated $15 million a year; NPR spends $6 million a year on its morning show and $5 million on its afternoon one. NPR has seventeen foreign bureaus (which costs it another $9.4 million a year); CBS has twelve. Few figures, I think, better capture the absurd financial structure of the network news. (link)

    It also captures a hard reality that news folk should keep in mind as they protest the collapse of their industry: most money in journalism, isn't spent on journalism.

    Thanks, Cyrus

  • 500 Pound Planet: Chapter Two

    Jesse Brown, a BoingBoing guest blogger, is the host of TVO's Search Engine podcast.

    The best part of making 500 Pound Planet was that it turned life into a big scavenger hunt. Our mashup style let us animate using clay, stop motion puppets, photo montage- anything! In this chapter, we actually manipulated a piece of raw chicken.

    As a result, wherever we went we were always collecting material. We drove from Montreal to New Orleans and sifted through dozens of thrift stores along the way, two grown men searching for Barbie clothes. Josh voraciously photographed Montreal for our backgrounds (much of what he captured is now gone). Even conversations were useful- we'd secretly record our friends talking and then beg them to let us "sample" the best parts in our cartoon.


    500 Pound Planet: Prelude (link)

    500 Pound Planet: Chapter One (link)

  • The World of Adam

    Jesse Brown, a BoingBoing guest blogger, is the host of TVO's Search Engine podcast.


    Adam Shecter makes whimsical, clever, stupid, pretty little blips of cartoons. He's been doing it for a while and has slowly amassed a fantastic Saturday Morning Cartoon broadcast from another planet. Have a look!

    Adam's website (link)

    Germans! Adam Shecter is exhibiting right now at the Bielefelder Kunstverein (link).

    UPDATE: New Yorkers! Adam is also exhibiting right now at Eleven Rivington (link).

  • 500 Pound Planet: Chapter One

    Jesse Brown, a BoingBoing guest bloggger, is the host of TVO's Search Engine podcast.

    Yesterday I posted the prelude to 500 Pound Planet, the cartoon I spent a few years making with my buddy Josh Dolgin when I was younger. Here's chapter one, wherein we meet our "heroes", Spencer and Blue, voiced by me and Josh.

    Josh and I were your typical college film geeks at the time; we had just been exposed to Italian Neo-Realist cinema, Film Noir, Cassavetes- all that stuff. But we were also comic book/animation geeks.

    We were curious about how much of these styles and techniques could be applied to animation. We came up with rigid "naturalist" rules for 500 Pound Planet: all music had to come from actual sources in the scene. Characters would talk like normal people talk- stepping over each other, mumbling… The camera would be a fly on the wall, intruding as little as possible. We played with Orson Welles' "deep focus" technique. In our minds we were visionaries, auteurs, pioneers! In reality, we were pretentious nerds.

    Previously: 500 Pound Planet: prelude (link).

  • China's homicidal net-addict bootcamps.

    Jesse Brown, a BoingBoing guest blogger, is the host of TVO's Search Engine podcast

    This week on my podcast, Beijing journalist Jennifer Pak delivers a chilling report on China's Internet addiction "rehab" centers, where one youth was recently beaten to death. I also look at last week's 9/11 hoax in Germany and compare it to a media/web hoax I pulled 11 years ago, in which I convinced the local news that I had 6-month old babies around the world surfing the web. The question: is the press actually dumber about the Internet today then than it was back then?

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  • 500 Pound Planet: Twin Peaks meets the Muppet Show

    Jesse Brown, a BoingBoing guest blogger, is the host of TVO's Search Engine podcast.

    When we got out of college, my buddy Josh Dolgin and I set out to make an eight-minute cartoon. We figured it would take us three months. The plan was to use the cartoon to get a TV show and become rich and famous. None of this came to pass.

    Instead, we spent three years making a 45-minute weirdo sci-fi hiphop buddy film. We nearly lost our minds and our friendship in the process. The resulting cartoon (we were told) was too strange for TV and too long for film festivals. The whole thing amounted to nothing: a fiasco, a waste of time. Had we spent three years playing with Lego and poking each other in the gums, it would have been just as productive. We ended up selling a 25-minute cut of the thing to the CBC, who never aired it, and then we got as far away from each other as possible. Josh went on to international success as the Hiphop-Klezmer weirdo Socalled, and I became a public radio host.

    The other week I watched 500 Pound Planet for the first time in five years. I was afraid it would make me cringe, but it didn't. I like our cartoon! It's messy and ambling, but I think it's got soul and does a pretty good job of capturing what our lives in Montreal were like at the time. Instead of feeling guilty about wasting three years making it, I now feel guilty at having abandoned it. Parents should treat their kids better than that, even if they're deformed. Especially if they're deformed.

    So enough preamble. Here is part one of our bastard cartoon, 500 Pound Planet. I'll post the rest, a chapter a day over the week. Hope you like it, feedback welcome!

  • Will a clean fridge get you laid?

    Jesse Brown, a BoingBoing guest blogger, is the host of TVO's Search Engine podcast.

    My friend Corey Mintz is so proud of his well-stocked, spotless refrigerator that he sends pictures of its interior to girls he's wooing and has used it in place of a headshot on his online dating profile (high-rez link).

    Now, this is no ordinary fridge- Corey is a chef and food writer (a good one, for the Toronto Star) so his fridge is filled with wonderful delights- top-notch doggie-bags, fancy mustards, homemade pickles and the occasional action figure. He obsessively packages and labels his sauces and glazes and eliminates any item at the first sight or smell of rottenness. He's actually indexed and published his fridge's contents (link).

    So ladies, I put the question to you: does this fridge turn you on?

  • Happy 5770!

    Jesse Brown, a BoingBoing guest-blogger, is the host of TVO's Search Engine podcast.

    Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

    Let's hope it's a sweet one! No better way to kick it off then with this sweet classic from Moishe Oysher and the Barry Sisters, Halevai.

    What a tour de force! Check Oysher's vocal gymnastics as he bounces off of the Barry Sisters' harmonies! He coulda been one hell of a freestyle rapper…

    This song makes me happy every time I hear it.