Brain Pickings

Archive for May 6th, 2011

06 MAY, 2011

A World Without Moms

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What going to school without underwear has to do with ruling the world.

A few months ago, our friends from Acumen Fund launched the Search for the Obvious initiative — a quest to find everyday objects and ideas that dramatically improve quality of life. In its latest iteration, SFTO challenged people to imagine a world without moms in an effort to raise awareness about the 7 million women who are injured and 350,000 women who die from complications due to childbirth every year — yet of the world’s 1,000 childbirth deaths per day, 800 are preventable by providing simple, basic maternal health care.

The challenge received dozens of submissions from all over the world across a variety of categories, from video to tweet to guerrilla. This poignant entry by the Jubilee Project, reminiscent of the beautiful Fifty People One Question, won the video category with its candid, deeply human journey into the richness and multiplicity of mothers’ impact on who we are and how we go through the world.

This video was inspired by our desire to help moms around the world because of the love and care we received from our own moms. We wanted to capture a genuine and raw spectrum of voices that spoke to just how much moms mean to all of us.”

See the other category winners and find out about ways to help save moms around the world on the official challenge page. For more on Acumen Fund’s work for maternity hospitals, don’t miss this excellent ABC News interview with founder Jacqueline Novogratz, whose TED talk on the life of immersion remains an all-time favorite.

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06 MAY, 2011

Notations 21: 165 Musicians Visualize Sheet Music in Unusual Ways

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What the color wheel has to do with Beethoven and supporting arts education.

There’s something especially mesmerizing about the cross-pollination of the senses, particularly in visualizing music. That’s exactly what Notations 21 explores. Inspired by John Cage’s iconic 1968 Notations and originally released for its 50th anniversary, the ambitious 320-page volume by Theresa Sauer and Mark Batty Publishers reveals how 165 composers and musicians around the world are experiencing, communicating and reconceiving music visually by reinventing notation.

From acclaimed musicians like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Earle Brown, Halim El-Dabh, Joan La Barbara, and Yuji Takahashi to emerging global talent, this magnificent tome examines how both the technology and the expectations of this unique synesthetic language have changed over the past half-century.

I sincerely hope that this book motivates the reader to further research contemporary music and the artists that compose it, to seek out their recordings, attend performances, and support the arts in education. We live in an incredible time in music history — here is only a small sampling of the evidence.” ~ Theresa Sauer

With its visual eloquence and remarkable diversity of perspectives, Notations 21 isn’t merely an anthology but also an ambitious thesaurus of sensemaking for the art and science of neo-notation.

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06 MAY, 2011

BBC: The Making of The King James Bible

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What Medieval catacombs have to do with remix culture and the evolution of the English language.

This week, the King James Bible celebrated its 400th anniversary. The third official translation of the Bible in English, it was completed by 47 scholars from the Church of England over the course of 7 years, with the grand goal of bringing new life to the churches. To this day, the King James version is commonly considered the greatest piece of English Literature ever produced (regardless of whether you consider it fiction or nonfiction) and remains a key to understanding not only one of the world’s largest religions but also a pivotal era of European scholarship, the history of collaborative creation. and even the evolution of the English language. (Did you know that many modern phrases and idioms — “by the skin of your teeth,” “flesh and blood,” “labour of love” — originate from the KJB?)

When God Spoke English: The Making of the King James Bible is a fascinating new BBC documentary exploring the surprising story of the great volume, from it uncanny similarity to the Millennium Dome to rare recently discovered 17th century manuscripts to the actual translation process itself, revealing why this antique work of art and science is anything but antiquated.

17th-century England was a chaotic, violent, often bureaucratic place. The most unlikely beginnings for a book that would change the world. So how did they make it happen? In this program, I look back to a world of religious power and majesty, of immense seriousness and linguistic skill, fraught with religious and political passions, to show how and why it produced the greatest book of all time.” ~ Adam Nicolson

For a related journey into the history of the epic tome, do see the newly released documentary, KJB: The Book That Changed the World (trailer), in which beloved Welsh actor John Rhys-Davie tours historical landmark and explains essential relics that shaped the culture and context of the King James Bible.

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