Brain Pickings

Author Archive

19 MAY, 2011

How Shakespeare Changed Everything

By:

What Central Park wildlife has to do with Freud and Abe Lincoln’s assassination.

An ambitious and entertaining new book by Esquire columnist Stephen Marche explores the many, often unsuspected ways in which the great playwright shaped just about every facet of contemporary culture. How Shakespeare Changed Everything is equal parts homage to the iconic bard and rigorously researched, fascinating look at how his work permeated aspects of pop culture and everyday life far beyond his genre and his era.

From how Romeo and Juliet introduced the concept of adolescence to the 1,700 words Shakespeare coined (including lackluster, fashionable and the name Jessica) to how his plays provided the foundation for Freudian psychology and concepts of healthy sex life, Marche blends light trivia-worthy historical factoids with a deep respect for the legendary writer’s legacy.

Shakespeare is the foremost poet in the world. All of the scriptwriting books cite him as the dominant influence on Hollywood. He has had more influence on the novel than any novelist. The greater the artist, the more he or she was influenced by Shakespeare. Dickens and Keats were more inspired by Shakespeare than anybody, and their familiarity with Shakespeare seems to have made them more original, not less.” ~ Stephen Marche

Perhaps most fascinating of all is to consider how mind-boggling this wide-spanning influence would’ve been to Shakespeare himself. Unbeknownst to him, he “founded” spiritual movements, informed war strategies, validated romantic rituals, and shaped the very core of our moral codes. He even changed North American wildlife when, in 1890, one man decided to release 60 English starlings in Central Park in an effort to introduce every bird Shakespeare ever mentioned to North America.

[Shakespeare has] been the unwitting founder of intellectual movements he would never have endorsed and the secret presence behind spiritual practices he could never have imagined. He has been used as a crude political instrument by all sides in conflicts of which he could never have conceived. His vision has been assumed by saints and by murderers. At the bottom of all these slippery chains of consequences and perverted manifestations of his talent dwells the unique ability of Shakespeare to place his finger on people’s souls.” ~ Stephen Marche

For a taste of How Shakespeare Changed Everything, the National Post has a handsome excerpt.

Thanks, Julia

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

19 MAY, 2011

LE GUN 1,2,3: Bleeding-Edge Illustration from Around the Globe

By:

What flying to Paris has to do with creative entrepreneurship and global provocations.

In 2004, a small group of graduates from London’s Royal College of Art founded art collective LE GUN and quietly started publishing one of the most compelling art and design magazines to come by in decades. Dedicated to celebrating the work of illustrators from around the globe, LE GUN instantly charmed audiences and critics, but its small scale and indie roots made access to it limited and coveted. Now, my friends from Mark Batty Publisher have gathered the first three issues of the magazine in LE GUN 1,2,3 — an impressive, handsome tome that captures LE GUN‘s rich spectrum of creativity and provocative, relentlessly original artwork.

In the book’s introduction, RCA professor Andrzej Klimowski, who advised the founding team, tells the project’s inspired story — a tale of imagination, transformation and creative entrepreneurship.

Many middle-aged people turn to their medicine cabinets for vitamin pills or, more drastically, turn to the knife for cosmetic surgery or the botox injection in a desperate attempt to hold onto their youth. I need only brush shoulders with the artists of LE GUN to be imbued with the elixir of life, which is so vital that it makes my hair stand on end.” ~ Andrzej Klimowski

With 400 pages and weighing in at over 6 pounds, the tome is, without any exaggeration, enormous.

Esoteric and beautiful, LE GUN 1,2,3 is an absolute treat of imagination, artistry and visual eloquence from cover to heavy cover.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

18 MAY, 2011

Partitura: Mesmerizing Music Visualization Software

By:

What neurological phenomena have to do with software and the future of live performance experiences.

Music visualization deeply fascinates and inspires me, from how it’s manifested in outlier phenomena like synesthesia to how it’s codified in the visual language of music notation to how it’s leveraged in artistic expression. Partitura explores this topic from a software standpoint with spellbinding generative real-time graphics that visualize sound. A collaboration between London-based visual artist Quayola and music visualization artists Pedro Mari and Natan Sinigaglia, the software churns out endless, mesmerizing, ever-evolving abstract shapes that can respond both the structure of recorded music and manual gestural inputs.

Partitura aims to create a new system for translating sound into visual forms. Inspired by the studies of artists such as Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Oscar Fischinger and Norman McLaren, the images generated by Partitura are based on a precise and coherent system of relationships between various types of geometries.” ~ Quayola

Partitura feels like a three-dimensional version of the wonderful Soy Tu Aire, equal parts fluid and vibrant, with incredible potential for live performances and multisensory ambient experiences.

via Create Digital Motion via ArtsTech News

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

17 MAY, 2011

A Design Ethnography of South African Barbershops & Salons

By:

What the history of Apartheid has to do with signage design and communal storytelling.

In his fantastic 2009 TED Talk, Steven Johnson explores how the English coffeehouse of the Enlightenment was crucial to the development and spread of one of the great intellectual flowerings of the last 500 years. This tendency for physical places to transcend their mere utilitarian function and serve as hubs of (sub)cultural development is evident throughout history, from the cave fire pit that sparked the dawn of communal storytelling to today’s coworking spaces that offer fertile ground for innovation through collaboration.

In South African Township Barbershops & Salons, photographer Simon Weller explores the peculiar cultural and social hubs of South African townships, salons and barbershop, which too transcend their mere function as places to get your hair cut and serve as pivotal places for the local community to gather, gossip and exchange ideas. Weller contextualizes the rich and vibrant photographs of the shops and portraits of their patrons with fascinating essays that expound on the aesthetics of these hubs and their signage though interviews with the owners, customers and sign designers.

In many was, South African Township Barbershops & Salons is both a parallel and opposite of last month’s Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York, the vernacular design of the barbershops’ signage standing in stark contrast to the overdesigned vintage type of New York’s storefronts and yet just as evocative of its community’s spirit, the social norms and function of its physical place, and the cultural traditions of its location.

Out of — of courseMark Batty, my favorite indie publisher.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.