Monday, March 18, 2019

Pirates and Emperors - Schoolhouse Rock

Jasmine Archer Sep 17, 2006
 
A political schoolhouse rock cartoon about terrorist/robbers/killers and US leaders.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Insane Taekwondo stunts in 4K Slow Motion

The Slow Mo Guys  Mar 13, 2019 12 min. 8 sec.

Gav and Dan travel to South Korea to film the Kukkiwon Taekwondo Team’s amazing high flying martial arts combined with gymnastic feats in slow motion. Team members can launch themselves 30 feet into the air smashing wooden boards on their way down. Their spectacular flying, flipping, spinning, twisting, gravity-defying theatrics, showcasing the board smashing is a thrilling spectacle in slow mo.

Forget Everything You Think You Know About Time

Studying time “is like holding a snowflake in your hands: gradually, as you study it, it melts between your fingers and vanishes.”Image by Mobilos / Wikicommons
Last April, in the famous Faraday Theatre at the Royal Institution in London, Carlo Rovelli gave an hour-long lecture on the nature of time. A red thread spanned the stage, a metaphor for the Italian theoretical physicist’s subject. “Time is a long line,” he said. To the left lies the past—the dinosaurs, the big bang—and to the right, the future—the unknown. “We’re sort of here,” he said, hanging a carabiner on it, as a marker for the present.

Then he flipped the script. “I’m going to tell you that time is not like that,” he explained.
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The Physics and Philosophy of Time - with Carlo Rovelli

The Royal Institution Jun 13, 2018 54 min 53 sec.
 
From Boltzmann to quantum theory, from Einstein to loop quantum gravity, our understanding of time has been undergoing radical transformations. Carlo Rovelli brings together physics, philosophy and art to unravel the mystery of time. Subscribe for regular science videos: http://bit.ly/RiSubscRibe Watch the Q&A: https://youtu.be/FIgYmNYXMas Time is a mystery that does not cease to puzzle us. Philosophers, artists and poets have long explored its meaning while scientists have found that its structure is different from the simple intuition we have of it. Time flows at a different speed in different places, the past and the future differ far less than we might think, and the very notion of the present evaporates in the vast universe. Carlo Rovelli is a theoretical physicist who has made significant contributions to the physics of space and time. He has worked in Italy and the US, and is currently directing the quantum gravity research group of the Centre de physique théorique in Marseille, France. His books 'Seven Brief Lessons on Physics' and 'Reality Is Not What It Seems' are international bestsellers translated into forty-one languages. This talk and Q&A was filmed in the Ri on 30 April 2018.
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Rovelli went on to challenge our common-sense notion of time, starting with the idea that it ticks everywhere at a uniform rate. In fact, clocks tick slower when they are in a stronger gravitational field. When you move nearby clocks showing the same time into different fields—one in space, the other on Earth, say—and then bring them back together again, they will show different times. “It’s a fact,” Rovelli said, and it means “your head is older than your feet.” Also a non-starter is any shared sense of “now.” We don’t really share the present moment with anyone. “If I look at you, I see you now—well, but not really, because light takes time to come from you to me,” he said. “So I see you sort of a little bit in the past.” As a result, “now” means nothing beyond the temporal bubble “in which we can disregard the time it takes light to go back and forth.”

Rovelli turned next to the idea that time flows in only one direction, from past to future. Unlike general relativity, quantum mechanics, and particle physics, thermodynamics embeds a direction of time. Its second law states that the total entropy, or disorder, in an isolated system never decreases over time. Yet this doesn’t mean that our conventional notion of time is on any firmer grounding, Rovelli said. Entropy, or disorder, is subjective: “Order is in the eye of the person who looks.” In other words the distinction between past and future, the growth of entropy over time, depends on a macroscopic effect—“the way we have described the system, which in turn depends on how we interact with the system,” he said.

Getting to the last common notion of time, Rovelli became a little more cautious. His scientific argument that time is discrete—that it is not seamless, but has quanta—is less solid. “Why? Because I’m still doing it! It’s not yet in the textbook.” The equations for quantum gravity he’s written down suggest three things, he said, about what “clocks measure.” First, there’s a minimal amount of time—its units are not infinitely small. Second, since a clock, like every object, is quantum, it can be in a superposition of time readings. “You cannot say between this event and this event is a certain amount of time, because, as always in quantum mechanics, there could be a probability distribution of time passing.” Which means that, third, in quantum gravity, you can have “a local notion of a sequence of events, which is a minimal notion of time, and that’s the only thing that remains,” Rovelli said. Events aren’t ordered in a line “but are confused and connected” to each other without “a preferred time variable—anything can work as a variable.”

Even the notion that the present is fleeting doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. It is certainly true that the present is “horrendously short” in classical, Newtonian physics. “But that’s not the way the world is designed,” Rovelli explained. Light traces a cone, or consecutively larger circles, in four-dimensional spacetime like ripples on a pond that grow larger as they travel. No information can cross the bounds of the light cone because that would require information to travel faster than the speed of light.

“In spacetime, the past is whatever is inside our past light-cone,” Rovelli said, gesturing with his hands the shape of an upside down cone. “So it’s whatever can affect us. The future is this opposite thing,” he went on, now gesturing an upright cone. “So in between the past and the future, there isn’t just a single line—there’s a huge amount of time.” Rovelli asked an audience member to imagine that he lived in Andromeda, which is two and a half million light years away. “A million years of your life would be neither past nor future for me. So the present is not thin; it’s horrendously thick.”

Listening to Rovelli’s description, I was reminded of a phrase from his new book, The Order of Time: Studying time “is like holding a snowflake in your hands: gradually, as you study it, it melts between your fingers and vanishes.” 

Brian Gallagher is the editor of Facts So Romantic, the Nautilus blog. Follow him on Twitter @brianga11agher.

How a Guy From a Montana Trailer Park Overturned 150 Years of Biology


Biology textbooks tell us that lichens are alliances between two organisms—a fungus and an alga. They are wrong.

The Atlantic via 3 Quarks Daily Ed Yong  Jul 21, 2016 

 I'm lichen your style.Conor Lawless / Flickr
 
In 1995, if you had told Toby Spribille that he’d eventually overthrow a scientific idea that’s been the stuff of textbooks for 150 years, he would have laughed at you. Back then, his life seemed constrained to a very different path. He was raised in a Montana trailer park, and home-schooled by what he now describes as a “fundamentalist cult.” At a young age, he fell in love with science, but had no way of feeding that love. He longed to break away from his roots and get a proper education.

At 19, he got a job at a local forestry service. Within a few years, he had earned enough to leave home. His meager savings and non-existent grades meant that no American university would take him, so Spribille looked to Europe.

Thanks to his family background, he could speak German, and he had heard that many universities there charged no tuition fees. His missing qualifications were still a problem, but one that the University of Gottingen decided to overlook. “They said that under exceptional circumstances, they could enroll a few people every year without transcripts,” says Spribille. “That was the bottleneck of my life.”

Throughout his undergraduate and postgraduate work, Spribille became an expert on the organisms that had grabbed his attention during his time in the Montana forests—lichens.

You’ve seen lichens before, but unlike Spribille, you may have ignored them. They grow on logs, cling to bark, smother stones. At first glance, they look messy and undeserving of attention. On closer inspection, they are astonishingly beautiful. They can look like flecks of peeling paint, or coralline branches, or dustings of powder, or lettuce-like fronds, or wriggling worms, or cups that a pixie might drink from. They’re also extremely tough. They grow in the most inhospitable parts of the planet, where no plant or animal can survive.

Lichens have an important place in biology. In the 1860s, scientists thought that they were plants. But in 1868, a Swiss botanist named Simon Schwendener revealed that they’re composite organisms, consisting of fungi that live in partnership with microscopic algae. 

This “dual hypothesis” was met with indignation: it went against the impetus to put living things in clear and discrete buckets. The backlash only collapsed when Schwendener and others, with good microscopes and careful hands, managed to tease the two partners apart.

Schwendener wrongly thought that the fungus had “enslaved” the alga, but others showed that the two cooperate. The alga uses sunlight to make nutrients for the fungus, while the fungus provides minerals, water, and shelter. This kind of mutually beneficial relationship was unheard of, and required a new word. Two Germans, Albert Frank and Anton de Bary, provided the perfect one—symbiosis, from the Greek for ‘together’ and ‘living’.

When we think about the microbes that influence the health of humans and other animals, the algae that provide coral reefs with energy, the mitochondria that power our cells, the gut bacteria that allow cows to digest their food, or the probiotic products that line supermarket shelves—all of that can be traced to the birth of the symbiosis as a concept. And symbiosis, in turn, began with lichens.

In the 150 years since Schwendener, biologists have tried in vain to grow lichens in laboratories. 

Whenever they artificially united the fungus and the alga, the two partners would never fully recreate their natural structures. It was as if something was missing—and Spribille might have discovered it.
He has shown that largest and most species-rich group of lichens are not alliances between two organisms, as every scientist since Schwendener has claimed. Instead, they’re alliances between three. All this time, a second type of fungus has been hiding in plain view.  
“There’s been over 140 years of microscopy,” says Spribille. “The idea that there’s something so fundamental that people have been missing is stunning.”  

The path to this discovery began in 2011, when Spribille, now armed with a doctorate, returned to Montana. He joined the lab of symbiosis specialist John McCutcheon, who convinced him to supplement his formidable natural history skills with some know-how in modern genetics.

The duo started studying two local lichens that are common in local forests and hang from branches like unruly wigs. One is yellow because it makes a strong poison called vulpinic acid; the other lacks this toxin and is dark brown. They clearly look different, and had been classified as separate species for almost a century. But recent studies had suggested that they’re actually the same fungus, partnered with the same alga. So why are they different?

To find out, Spribille analyzed which genes the two lichens were activating. He found no differences. Then, he realized that he was searching too narrowly. Lichenologists all thought that the fungi in the partnership belonged to a group called the ascomycetes—so Spribille had only searched for ascomycete genes. Almost on a whim, he broadened his search to the entire fungal kingdom, and found something bizarre. A lot of the genes that were activated in the lichens belonged to a fungus from an entirely different group—the basidiomycetes. “That didn’t look right,” says McCutcheon. “It took a lot of time to figure out.”

At first, the duo figured that a basidiomycete fungus was growing on the lichens. Perhaps it was just a contaminant, a speck of microbial fluff that had landed on the specimens. Or it might have been a pathogen, a fungus that was infecting the lichens and causing disease. It might simply have been a false alarm. (Such things happen: genetic algorithms have misidentified plague bacteria on the New York subway, platypuses in Virginia tomato fields, and seals in Vietnamese forests.)

But when Spribille removed all the basidiomycete genes from his data, everything that related to the presence of vulpinic acid also disappeared. “That was the eureka moment,” he says. “That’s when I leaned back in my chair.” That’s when he began to suspect that the basidiomycete was actually part of the lichens—present in both types, but especially abundant in the yellow toxic one.

And not just in these two types, either. Throughout his career, Spribille had collected some 45,000 samples of lichens. He began screening these, from many different lineages and continents. And in almost all the macrolichens—the world’s most species-rich group—he found the genes of basidiomycete fungi. They were everywhere. Now, he needed to see them with his own eyes.

Down a microscope, a lichen looks like a loaf of ciabatta: it has a stiff, dense crust surrounding a spongy, loose interior. The alga is embedded in the thick crust. The familiar ascomycete fungus is there too, but it branches inwards, creating the spongy interior. And the basidiomycetes? They’re in the outermost part of the crust, surrounding the other two partners. “They’re everywhere in that outer layer,” says Spribille.

Despite their seemingly obvious location, it took around five years to find them. They’re embedded in a matrix of sugars, as if someone had plastered over them. To see them, Spribille bought laundry detergent from Wal-Mart and used it to very carefully strip that matrix away.

And even when the basidiomycetes were exposed, they weren’t easy to identify. They look exactly like a cross-section from one of the ascomycete branches. Unless you know what you’re looking for, there’s no reason why you’d think there are two fungi there, rather than one—which is why no one realised for 150 years. 

Spribille only worked out what was happening by labeling each of the three partners with different fluorescent molecules, which glowed red, green, and blue respectively. Only then did the trinity become clear.

“The findings overthrow the two-organism paradigm,” says Sarah Watkinson from the University of Oxford. “Textbook definitions of lichens may have to be revised.”

“It makes lichens all the more remarkable,” adds Nick Talbot from the University of Exeter. “We now see that they require two different kinds of fungi and an algal species. If the right combination meet together on a rock or twig, then a lichen will form, and this will result in the large and complex plant-like organisms that we see on trees and rocks very commonly.  The mechanism by which this symbiotic association occurs is completely unknown and remains a real mystery.”

Based on the locations of the two fungi, it’s possible that the basidiomycete influences the growth of the other fungus, inducing it to create the lichen’s stiff crust. Perhaps by using all three partners, lichenologists will finally be able to grow these organisms in the lab.

In the Montana lichens that Spribille studied, the basidiomycete obviously goes hand-in-hand with vulpinic acid. But is it eating the acid, manufacturing it, or unlocking the ability to make it in the other fungus? If it’s the latter, “the implications go beyond lichenology,” says Watkinson. Lichens are alluring targets for ‘bioprospectors’, who scour nature for substances that might be medically useful to us. And new basidiomycetes are part of an entirely new group, separated from their closest known relatives by 200 million years ago. All kinds of beneficial chemicals might lie within their cells.

“But really, we don’t know what they do,” says McCutcheon. “And given their existence, we don’t really know what the ascomycetes do, either.” Everything that’s been attributed to them might actually be due to the other fungus. Many of the fundamentals of lichenology will need to be checked, and perhaps re-written. “Toby took huge risks for many years,” says McCutcheon. “And he changed the field.”

But he didn’t work alone, Watkinson notes. His discovery wouldn’t have been possible without the entire team, who combined their individual expertise in natural history, genomics, microscopy, and more. That’s a theme that resonates throughout the history of symbiosis research—it takes an alliance of researchers to uncover nature’s most intimate partnerships.

Ed Yong is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers science.

Indigenous Cuisine Is Being Served in the Back of a Berkeley Bookstore

Louis Trevino (left) and Vincent Medina (right) get ready to serve a meal in the Ohlone Cafe.
Louis Trevino (left) and Vincent Medina (right) get ready to serve a meal in the Ohlone Cafe. Courtesy of Cafe Ohlone
Café Ohlone features traditional recipes and foraged ingredients.

Atlas Obscura by Richard Foss March 13, 2019
  
When Europeans first arrived in California, they met Native Americans who enjoyed one of the most varied diets in the Americas. The staples of corn, beans, and squash had never crossed the deserts from Mexico and the inland Southwest, but other edible plants flourished in the mild coastal climate. A dense network of tribes lived on acorns, piñon nuts, wild vegetables, seafood, and game.

The Spanish almost immediately set out to destroy this way of life. They forced the Native Americans of California to labor on missions, farms, and ranches, and made them dependent on European crops. Thanks to superior weaponry and the diseases that ravaged the indigenous population, they were successful in eroding the connection of native peoples to their lands and foods. This created a bitter legacy, one where even recently, native Californians who practiced their old traditions and religions were labeled as backward.

Today, there is only one place in California serving the cuisine of these peoples, and it’s not in a national park café or a tribal casino restaurant. Behind a bookstore in Berkeley, surrounded by the city that covered their forest and grasslands, members of the Ohlone people offer a taste of an enduring culture.

This culinary project has two names: Café Ohlone in English, and mak-’amham, which means “our food” in Chochenyo Ohlone. It’s the brainchild of partners Vincent Medina, a member of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, whose traditional lands span the East and South Bay, and Louis Trevino of the Rumsen Ohlone from the Carmel Valley. The two met in 2014 at a conference on native languages and bonded while listening to old oral histories of their people recorded by anthropologists. Many of the narratives were reminiscences of traditional gathering and cooking practices.

Menus at Café Ohlone are written in both English and the Ohlone language.
Menus at Café Ohlone are written in both English and the Ohlone language. Richard Foss
As they listened, the two men became curious about Ohlone food. “In the 1920s and 1930s, our ancestors talked about where to gather these foods, the recipes for them, how much they loved them and missed eating them,” says Medina. They started going to wild spaces to gather the ingredients described on the century-old recordings in order to recreate the old recipes. The results were successful: enough so that they decided to make Ohlone food the centerpiece of a project combining education with dining. In September 2018, Medina and Trevino held Café Ohlone’s first lunch in a space behind Berkeley’s University Press Books, an academic bookstore. Now, it’s a weekly event.

Medina starts every lunch with a welcome and a prayer in his people’s Chochenyo language. Trevino adds commentary and anecdotes over the course of the meal. Before anything is served, the two introduce the day’s ingredients and their origins. The introduction combines grim history, gentle humor, and solemn ritual, including setting aside a plate for the ancestors. “We want our ancestors to be at the table with us, because we believe that they are guiding our work,” Medina says.

One recent meal included a salad of watercress mixed with sorrel leaves, blackberries, gooseberries, and popped amaranth seeds, all gathered from nature around the Bay Area. The cress has a mildly peppery herbal flavor that mixes well with the citrusy sorrel and tart berries, and the amaranth adds a satisfying crunch and slight nuttiness. The salad was topped with roasted hazelnuts finished with salt gathered from tidal pools, along with a subtle walnut oil and bay laurel dressing.
Trevino and Medina hold a salad of watercress, berries, and hazelnuts.
Trevino and Medina hold a salad of watercress, berries, and hazelnuts. Richard Foss
Ohlone cuisine uses berries and sumac for tart and sour flavors, along with a variety of savory vegetables, seeds, and herbs. Their seasonings don’t include anything like the fiery chili sauces of the desert Southwest. Instead, their traditional culinary aesthetic accents natural flavors. This was evident in the salmon, flavored only with salt and an agave rub before being smoked and baked. Maidu tribe members caught the meal’s fish north of the Bay Area. While the same species once teemed in Bay Area waters, now most are too polluted by shipping, industrial activity, and street runoff. 

Traditionally, Ohlone cooks staked the fish next to smoky fires or slow-cooked them in underground ovens, but Café Ohlone uses modern techniques to create the same rich flavor.

The chia chocolate pudding was a blend of flavors from Central and North America. Chia seeds are high in protein and were a traditional snack for Ohlone message runners who needed a lot of energy. Their crunch added texture to the chocolate pudding lightly sweetened with agave. All of the dishes are offered on one plate, as dividing meals into courses is not a native concept. A blackberry and bay laurel sauce that was served as a complement to the dessert had tart herbal notes that were also a fine counterpoint to the oily, smoky fish.

To drink, diners were offered stinging nettle tea, with lemon added to balance the earthy, grassy flavor of the herb. Raw nettles cause blisters on skin contact, but heat neutralizes the irritants, leaving behind a mild tea with anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties. 

Like many other items served at the meal, it put an unfamiliar ingredient into an approachable context. Meals at Café Ohlone don’t involve flashy innovations or novelties. Instead, Medina and Trevino want to honor the ingredients and techniques of their ancestors, while introducing them to a wider audience. “Twenty years ago, only a handful of these foods were eaten by our tribal members, but today they are on our dinner tables on a regular basis,” says Medina.
Along with lunches, Café Ohlone holds Saturday dinners and Sunday brunches.
Along with lunches, Café Ohlone holds Saturday dinners and Sunday brunches. Courtesy of Café Ohlone
While the food is the focal point, after the meal guests are invited to hear songs in Ohlone languages and learn a traditional game of chance played with shells, using sticks as counters. The two-hour window allotted for the event passes quickly. A visit to Café Ohlone is a cultural introduction to the original denizens of the Bay Area, and one that’s been a long time coming. As Medina noted in closing remarks, “We hope that through eating our food, hearing our language, playing our games, you will be motivated to stand up for our community away from this table.”

Café Ohlone is also experimenting with their outreach. They host lunches every Thursday and dinners most Saturdays, along with a Sunday brunch featuring acorn flour pancakes and duck-egg frittatas. The duo recently hired a tribal member to assist with events, but they don’t plan to make the café a daily operation because both are deeply involved in other projects. These include teaching both language skills and cooking to other tribal members, as well as campaigning for state recognition of Ohlone historical sites. Instead, the cafe’s schedule is on their website, and they prefer that guests make reservations in advance.

The few dozen people a week who go to Café Ohlone both sample local flavors while learning about the people who quietly kept their traditions alive for centuries. As they leave, they might momentarily imagine what this landscape was like when the bay could be seen through the trees, and when more deer roamed than students and commuters.

I Grew Up in a Corset. Time to Bust Some Myths.

(Ft. Actual Research)

Bernadette Banner Mar 2, 2019 17 min. 5 sec.

I accidentally wrote an essay whilst researching for my corset project, so enjoy. Stay tuned for the actual making adventures of said corset. More interesting analyses on corset myth things: "Busting Corset Myths" on Foundations Revealed: http://foundationsrevealed.com/articl... "The Edwardian Silhouette Emerges" by Cathy Hay https://thepeacockdress.com/2015/02/t... SOURCES Arnold, Janet. “Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen’s Dresses & Their Construction C. 1860 - 1940”, 1982. Bradfield, Nancy. “Costume in Detail: Women’s Dress 1730-1930”, 1968. Flower, B. O. “Fashion’s Slaves.”, 1892. https://archive.org/details/fashionss... Flower, William Henry. “Fashion in Deformity”, 1881. https://play.google.com/books/reader?... Kim, Alexandra and Mida, Ingrid. “The Dress Detective”, 2015. Langley Moore, Doris. “The Woman in Fashion”, 1949. O’Followell, Ludovic. “Le corset; histoire, médecine, hygiène”, 1908. https://catalog.nyam.org/cgi-bin/koha... Schwarz, G. S. “Society, physicians, and the corset”, 1979. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti... Steele, Valerie. “The Corset: A Cultural History”, 2003. Thomas, Theodore Galliard. “A Practical Treatise on the Diseases of Women” (6th edition) 1892 https://books.google.com/books?id=3OH... (specifically the heading ‘Impracticalities of Dress’) The Toronto Daily Mail issue dated 5th May, 1883. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id... Measurement chart taken from ‘details’ on this dress: https://www.forever21.com/us/shop/cat... Portals to Other Realms: Instagram, for real-time progress: http://www.instagram.com/bernadetteba... (@bernadettebanner) Patreon, for more vloggish and bloggish content: https://www.patreon.com/bernadettebanner Ko-Fi, if that’s more your thing: https://ko-fi.com/bernadettebanner Prints of costume renderings: https://www.etsy.com/shop/bernadetteb... For business enquiries only, please: bernadettebanner@gmail.com (Sorry, I do not take personal dressmaking commissions!)

'East of the Rockies': Reliving Japanese-Canadian Internment


The Japan Times  by Cullen Bird  Contributing WriterCOURTESY OF NFB AND JAM3
It is July 4, 1942, months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. A 17-year-old girl named Yuki and her family leave their home in Vancouver for the last time.

Like thousands of other Japanese-Canadians, they are forced inland by the Canadian government under the War Measures Act to internment camps in eastern British Columbia.

When Yuki and her family arrive in the old silver mining town of Slocan, they find harsh, cramped conditions.

“We know how the country sees us. The signs in Vancouver told us we were hated. Since we’ve been here, nothing has changed. The newspapers tell us so. Politicians say so,” an excerpt from Yuki’s diary reads.


This depiction of a dark chapter in Canadian history is the subject of “East of the Rockies,” an interactive, augmented reality storytelling app launched on March 1.

Yuki is a second-generation Japanese-Canadian girl, and her story — a 50-minute journey through memories and words — is narrated by her granddaughter Anne, who reads Yuki’s diaries in the present day. The characters are fictional, but the history is behind the tale is true.

During World War II, Vancouver’s Japantown neighborhood was forcibly emptied. More than 21,000 Japanese-Canadians were sent inland to internment camps, sugar beet farms, prisoner of war camps and other holding places. All Japanese-Canadian property — farms, fishing boats, houses and businesses — were seized and later sold by the Canadian government. For years after the war, Japanese-Canadians were not allowed to return to the British Columbia coast.

In “East of the Rockies,” users can see a 3D rendering of Yuki’s story on devices pointed at a flat surface. It works best on a table or desk the user can move around easily. The story advances as the user taps and swipes glowing objects to have characters perform chores and actions such as turning on a record player. There is also a non-augmented reality version.


“From a storytelling perspective it’s kind of like a bigger metaphor to see this kind of injustice or story play out in your own environment,” says Jason Legge, co-director of the app, which was coproduced by design studio Jam3 and the National Film Board of Canada.

Yuki’s story was written by celebrated Japanese-Canadian author Joy Kogawa, who was herself interned in Slocan, British Columbia, as a child during World War II.

“Dirk (van Ginkel, co-director) and I were looking for a project to do around Canada 150,” Legge says, explaining how “East of the Rockies” was conceived as a timely project related to the 150th anniversary of Canada in 2017.

“There was a lot of rah rah rah; very positive stuff about Canada. It was like ‘Canada the beautiful,'” he says. This led to a conversation about the darker parts of Canada’s World War II history. That, in turn, sparked the idea of creating an interactive app to teach others about the Japanese-Canadian internment and its aftermath.


Legge had read Kogawa’s semi-autobiographical book “Obasan,” years before, which he says taught him the most about the Japanese-Canadian internment.

After brainstorming the general storyline of the app, he and van Ginkel reached out to Kogawa, who says she “leapt” at the opportunity to rewrite the app’s script, even though she had never done a project like it before.

“It’s not a novel, it’s not a documentary,” says Kogawa, pointing out that using an app for the story has both strong and weak points. “But it’s a presentation of a piece of history and I hope that it will be helpful.”

To narrate and serve as the voice of Yuki’s granddaughter, Anne, the team brought in Kogawa’s real-life grandchild, Anne Canute.

“I think the fact that (the app is) interactive means that it really demands attention,” says Canute. “You have to make choices, you have to interact with the story.”

A strong theme throughout the app’s storyline is that despite their treatment during the war, there is an enduring love for Canada by both first- and second-generation Japanese-Canadians.

“Most of these people who were interned, they wouldn’t have (had) that kind of belonging in Japan either, because they had been in Canada for so long. Canada was home,” Canute says. “So really, what could they do besides be intensely loyal to their home?”


Yet the sad reality of Canada’s dispersal policy for Japanese-Canadians is that it was very successful. There is no Japantown in Canada now. After the war, the Canadian government pressured Japanese-Canadians — whose confiscated property had not been returned — to choose deportation to Japan. In the end, about 4,000 left Canada.

“Canada wanted to disappear us altogether,” Kogawa says. Truth, she says, needs to be remembered and people need to be healed of past wounds. “And you cannot be healed without truth.”

Canute hopes that sharing such stories will not only educate viewers about mistakes of the past, but also that “by bringing them to light we can reflect on them and we can, most importantly, not repeat them.”

“East of the Rockies” is now available for free in English and French on Apple’s App Store, and playable on iPhones that support the app’s augmented reality system (iOS 6 or newer) and iPad Pros. Japanese and Mandarin subtitled versions are planned for release before the end of the year.