Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘music’

22 DECEMBER, 2009

Gift Guide Part 3: Free

By:

DIY goodness, intellectual enrichment, and how to go cheap without being cheap.

This is the final installment in the curated 3-part Brain Pickings holiday gift guide. Today, we’re saluting thrift and last-minuteness with five priceless yet free gifts that show off your creative connoisseurship without making a dent in your wallet.

INTELLECTUAL MIXTAPE

itunes.gifEveryone loves a good mixtape. But, let’s face it, it isn’t the most original — or, for that matter, the most intellectually enriching — of gifts. So why not put a personal growth spin on the cultural classic? iTunes is actually a fantastic resource for free podcasts and lectures from the world’s best universities, across a multitude of disciplines. Show off your eclectic yet refined taste by burning your giftee a mix of selected episodes from a few smart podcasts — think part sampler, part mixtape, part gift certificate to self-improvement.

Here are a few of our favorites to get you started:

Perfect for: Lifelong learners, personal growth fiends, the eclectically curious

NOTHING

We sung the praises of nothing a while ago, and it’s still one of the best gifts out there. It’s cheap, but you aren’t — it’s a clever and tongue-in-cheek choice that serves as a powerful antidote to our culture of excess. Your socially-conscious friends will appreciate it, and they won’t have to regift it along with that bizarre snow globe from grandma.

Perfect for: The environmentally concerned, those with a good conscience and good sense of humor

PHOTO COASTER

Here’s a wonderful DIY gift that’s both super cool and doable even with the craft skill level of a six-year-old — cork photo coasters.

All you need: Some photos, a pen, an X-acto knife, a few very, very basic art supplies and sheets of cork. Depending on your choice of photos, you can make the coasters artsy or personal, but either way, they’re bound to delight — not to mention save a coffeetable or two from those dreaded mug circles.

Perfect for: Everyone

ORIGAMI FORTUNETELLER

Ah, the paper fortuneteller — what a fond childhood memory. But, if you’re like us, your adult self couldn’t make one to save your life. Thankfully, the good folks at eHow have put together a simple how-to video that revives this nostalgic gem.

Ramp up the cool factor by getting creative with the paper itself and/or slipping in a few clever, inside-jokey fortunes.

Perfect for: Retrostalgics, the kid at heart, those who value personal, non-generic gifts

BRAIN PICKINGS

Yes, we’re being shamelessly self-promotional — but that’s only because we fervently believe in our mission, and there’s no shame in that.

Brain Pickings aims to enrich people’s creative and intellectual scope by taking them on a curated journey into the great creative unknown — because we believe indiscriminate curiosity and exposure to cross-disciplinary interestingness fuels our inner capacity for creativity. So tickle a friend’s brain by introducing them to Brain Pickings — you can sign them up for our newsletter for a sampler, or just send them a simple note/email with our URL.

Inspired information is, after all, the greatest gift of all. So who cares if it doesn’t come in giftwrap and a red ribbon?

Perfect for: Everyone — especially the chronically curious, those immersed in creative culture

Psst, we’ve launched a fancy weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays, offers the week’s articles, and features five more tasty bites of web-wide interestingness. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

18 DECEMBER, 2009

A Stop-Motion Treat from BBC Radio 1

By:

42,000 antidotes to anonymity, or how to close the feedback loop by opening up the silo.

We’re all for openness and transparency. Which is why we love BBC Radio 1′s Access All Areas initiative — a weeklong experimental exercise in cracking open the silo and offering listeners a gritty, live look behind the scenes of the iconic studio.

As part of the project, Radio 1 launched the Meet The Listeners campaign, negotiating with all the mobile operators to drop charges for picture messages to Radio 1 and asking listeners to send in pictures of themselves in order to put put a face to the loyal audience that defines Radio 1.

In a single day, they received 42,000 photos, then used them to stitch together this lovely stop-motion film:

Simple, wonderful.

We’ve got 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.

09 DECEMBER, 2009

Gift Guide: Kids & The Eternal Kid

By:

From thinking to tinkering, by way of color, music and photography.

This is Part 2 of the three-part Brain Pickings holiday gift guide. Today, we’re looking at goods and goodies for kids of all ages and the eternal kid in everyone.

HERE COMES SCIENCE

Indie rock icons They Might Be Giants are among the most revolutionary musicians of our time. Their critically acclaimed Here Comes Science children’s series lives up to their relentless thinking-in-all-kinds-of-directions innovation and consistent excellence. The 2-disc CD/DVD album is a bundle of creativity and entertainment, tied with a ribbon of education. Although aimed at the K-5 set, the playful lyrics and brilliantly animated videos are an absolute treat for musicologists and design junkies alike — we can attest.

We reviewed it in full, with trailers and more, here.

Perfect for: Musicologists, science lovers, those into creative and non-traditional education

FUJIFILM INSTAX MINI

Polaroid may have barely escaped the kiss of obsolescence, but instant film cameras will always hold immeasurable nostalgic charm in the digital age. The new Fujifilm Instax MINI offers a lovely twist on your dad’s old Land Cam, packaged in a gorgeously designed Mac-ish white body that’s just a joy to hold and look at. It prints credit-card-sized photos and, for those interested in the technical shenanigans, has a built-in flash, four exposure settings for indoor and outdoor shooting, and — our favorite — a wicked wide-angle lens that makes for some gorgeous, gorgeous shots. It’s a return to simpler times of no memory cards and USB cables and i-anything. But it gives you more creative control while still being a no-brainer to operate.

Sure, we love (love love) the design, but we’re even more taken with what it stands for — an analog connection to the fleeting moment, celebrating the essence of the presence in a way that preserves it for the future.

Perfect for: Budding photographers, creatively inclined kids, design aficionados, hopeless nostalgics, retro lovers

ABC3D

Who doesn’t love a good pop-up book? Marion Bataille‘s ABC3D takes the familiar genre it to a whole new level.

Slick, stylish and designerly, it’s hard to capture its tactile, interactive magic in static words — you have to have it in your hands to truly appreciate it.

We took a closer look, along with 4 more creative alphabet books, last week.

Perfect for: Designers and their kids, bookbinding geeks, paper craft lovers

PART OF IT

It’s never too early — or too late — to introduce the idea of the conscious consumer. And when it’s done with quirk and creativity, it’s bound to engage, inspire and, well, effect change. Enter Part Of It, a wonderful venture founded by illustrator duo Christopher Sleboda and Kathleen Burns in 2007, working with artists to create products for causes they are passionate about.

From Helvetica alphabet t-shirts to a lovely tote bags, profits from these goodies benefit charities chosen by the artists. (Who, by the way, include Brain Pickings darling Adrian Johnson.)

Perfect for: The socially-conscious and design-driven

THE INDIE ROCK COLORING BOOK

Indie music defines itself through the colorful quirk of its artists and evangelists. Without that, it would blend in with the grey mediocrity of the mainstream. For the past two years, obscenely talented UK illustrator Andy J. Miller has been working on a project that celebrates this whimsy. Today, he finally releases the Indie Rock Coloring Book — a wonderful collection of hand-illustrated activity pages, mazes, connect-the-dots, and coloring pages for indie icons like Bloc Party, The Shins, Iron & Wine, Broken Social Scene, Devendra Banhart, MGMT, The New Pornographers, The National, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

We reviewed it in full, with trailers and more, here.

Perfect for: Indie music fans and their artistically inclined offspring

THE ELEMENTS

Photographer and all-around geek Theodor Gray spent 7 years gathering objects, from the fascinating to the mundane, that embody and exemplify the 118 elements in the periodic table. Then he shot them brilliantly, producing The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe — an utterly captivating exploration of the matter that we, and all the things around us, are made of.

Set to the first authorized video version of Tom Lehrer’s iconic eponymous song, The Elements video gives you a taste for what to expect from this gem of a book.

Perfect for: Neo-geeks, science junkies, photography lovers, visual learners

MAGNA TILES

We’re firm believers in the power of tinkering in developing creativity.

And there’s nothing more stimulating to the creative brain than playing with simple, flat shapes and basic colors to produce a near-infinite variety of 3D whimsy. Which is why we love this 100-piece set of clear-color magna tiles. Sure, kids will be all over it, but we dare you not to love it yourself.

Perfect for: Tinkerers, builders, color lovers, budding industrial designers

POOH’S COMEBACK

In 1926, English author Alan Alexander Milne took a shelf of his son’s stuffed toys and turned them into some of the best-loved books ever published — the Winnie-the-Pooh series was born. This year, 81 years after Christoper Robin and the gang left the Hundred Acre Wood, they are back for a new adventure.

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood is among the most epic comebacks in English literature. Although Milne himself is long dead, the new book is written by David Benedictus — who also produced the audio adaptations of Winnie-the-Pooh, starring Dame Judi Dench — and meticulously based on Milne’s Pooh stories, with artwork by Mark Burgess in the style of original illustrator E. H. Shepard.

We reviewed it in full here.

Perfect for: Readers, nostalgics, Pooh lovers of all ages

LEGO ARCHITECTURE

We love LEGO — who doesn’t? And what better way to learn about the man-made hallmarks of our civilization than by building them with your bare hands?

No, you won’t be lugging mastabas across the Egyptian desert — we’re talking about the LEGO Architecture Series. From the Taj Mahal to Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces, you — or your little one — can get down and dirty with humanity’s greatest architectural achievements.

Perfect for: Tinkerers, builders, architecture lovers

CRAYOLA EXECUTIVE PEN

Ah, Crayola. Easily one of the most beloved brands of all time. Even just saying the name evokes that distinct, wonderful smell of your first crayon.

Now, you can resurrect your inner kid with a lovely, desk-job-safe Crayola Executive Pen, in orange, green, violet and yellow. Need we say more?

Perfect for: Everyone!

We’ve got a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays, offers the week’s main articles, and features short-form interestingness from our PICKED series. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.