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kottke.org posts about Ric Burns

Oliver Sacks: His Own Life, a New Documentary Film

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 29, 2020

Oliver Sacks: His Own Life is a new documentary film by Ric Burns about famed author and neurologist Oliver Sacks.

A month after receiving a fatal diagnosis in January 2015, Oliver Sacks sat down for a series of filmed interviews in his apartment in New York City. For eighty hours, surrounded by family, friends, and notebooks from six decades of thinking and writing about the brain, he talked about his life and work, his abiding sense of wonder at the natural world, and the place of human beings within it. Drawing on these deeply personal reflections, as well as nearly two dozen interviews with close friends, family members, colleagues and patients, and archival material from every point in his life, this film is the story of a beloved doctor and writer who redefined our understanding of the brain and mind.

The film is playing in virtual cinemas around the country right now: you can check out the list at the end of this page for more information and showtimes.

Building the Empire State Building

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 04, 2010

New York, the documentary film by Ric Burns, contains a great segment on the Empire State Building that is available on YouTube in three parts.

The first two parts are particularly interesting, especially the construction stuff that starts around the five minute mark of part one. Oh, and don’t miss the steelworkers throwing red hot rivets around to each other…that starts right near the end of part one and continues into part two. Some other highlights:

- The original Waldorf-Astoria hotel was torn down (with no small amount of glee from the ESB’s developers) to make room for the new skyscraper. The hotel was built by William Waldorf Astor, heir to the forture created by his father and grandfather (John Jacob Astor & John Jacob Astor III), on the site of his father’s mansion. WW Astor’s cousin, John Jacob Astor IV, went down on the Titanic and the Senate hearings into the disaster were held at the hotel.

- The steel beams were custom forged in Pittsburgh and shipped immediately to the building site…some arrived still hot to the touch from the furnaces.

- At the peak of construction, the workers were adding 4-5 stories a week. During one 22-day stretch, 22 new floors were erected. From start to finish, the entire building took an astonishing 13 months to build, about the same amount of time recently taken by the MTA to fix the right side of the stairs of the Christopher St subway station entrance.

- The building didn’t become profitable until 1950.

(thx, lily)