Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘bizarre’

08 DECEMBER, 2010

PICKED: Poetry Animations

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Just as we thought we’d seen every YouTube meme, every cat falling down a toilet, every famous pop song turned history lesson, we stumble across poetryanimations — a bizarre yet addictive series of famous poets “reading” their classics via quasi-animated archival photographs.

The project is the brainchild of London-based videographer sound recordist Jim Clark, who takes his work as seriously as someone with an endearingly quaint @hotmail email address would.

Bizarre as these audiovisually missynched ghosts may be, the description text on each video offers surprisingly rich information on the author, the specific poem and its historical context.

Whether poetryanimations are a budding meme remains to be seen, but they’re certainly a treat for lit geeks with a penchant for the quirky.

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01 DECEMBER, 2010

The Englishman who Posted Himself

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In 1898, British prankster W. Reginald Bray decided to test the limits of the Royal Mail. He began a series of experiments, mailing everything from turnips to rabbit skulls to Russian cigarettes — and, on three occasions, himself — up until his death in 1939.

This fall, author John Tingey is telling Bray’s fascinating story in The Englishman who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects — a detailed chronicle of the bizarre and ingenious ways in which the otherwise ordinary Brit hacked the information system of his time.

Perhaps even more curiously, over the course of his long correspondence-pranking career, Bray also amassed the world’s largest collection of autographs, including ones from Charlie Chaplin, Laurence Olivier and Maurice Chevalier.

The book, absorbing and visually captivating, also features a photograph of Bray being delivered to his own doorstep in 1900, when he became the first person to send a human being through the mail. (Though he did previously pilot-test it with an Irish terrier, who made it through the postal system in one piece, albeit a barking and disgruntled one.)

via VSL; photos HT Acejet 170

In 2010, we spent more than 4,500 hours bringing you Brain Pickings — the blog, the newsletter and the Twitter feed — over which we could’ve seen 53 feature-length films, listened to 135 music albums or taken 1,872 trips to the bathroom. If you found any joy and inspiration here this year, please consider supporting us with a modest donation — it lets us know we’re doing something right.





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01 DECEMBER, 2010

Historical Milestones As Famous Pop Songs

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What Lady Gaga has to do with the guillotine, or how ABBA took down Henry VIII’s wives.

We’re big proponents of remix culture and today we have something from its most bizarre yet brilliant fringes: Behold historyteachers, a “History for Music Lovers” project adapting famous historical events and figures to famous songs.

From the French Revolution via Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” to The Canterbury Tales via “California Dreamin’” to Pompeii via Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang”, the pairings are done with a bit of a thematic insider’s wink that only adds to the kooky genius of the concept.

Despite the decidedly absurd proposition, the videos actually feature surprisingly excellent vocals, lyrical adaptation and production value, not to mention impressively accurate impressions of the original performers, out-Gagaing Gaga and nailing Debbie Harry’s famous mic-dance-hop to the T.

The brainchild of a Hawaiian history teacher duo, mysteriously titled Mrs. B and Mr. H, the project is a piece of pure remix genius. Catch all 47 videos on the historyteachers YouTube channel and marvel at the wonderful intersection of geekery, creativity and quirk.

In 2010, we spent more than 4,500 hours bringing you Brain Pickings. If you found any joy and inspiration here this year, please consider supporting us with a modest donation — it lets us know we’re doing something right and helps pay the bills.





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.