Brain Pickings

Friday FYI: Auditory Freedom

By:

We’re starting a new thing: every Friday, you get a quick everyday good-to-know. So go ahead, know.

GET A SONG UNSTUCK FROM YOUR HEAD

Blame your brain for that horrid Britney track stuck in your head since Monday’s morning drive — a glitch in your auditory cortex is causing the record to spin round’n’round endlessly.

Two ways to get it out:

1. Listen to the song in its entirety

2. Do some math

No joke, folks. This stuff works like magic.

>>> via Wired

Layman Voyeurism

By:

Postcards from the afterlife, fridge-peeping, and why George W is buying people Stormtrooper outfits.

The chicken or the egg: did tabloid culture raise us to crave a glimpse into other people’s lives, or are we psychologically pre-wired with voyeuristic tendencies? Whatever the case, we’ve noticed a fairly new trend: our inner Peeping Toms have zoomed in less on Joe DiMaggio and more on Average Joe — we call it layman voyeurism, the draw of peeping into random strangers’ lives for no other reason than basic human curiosity, and perhaps a teeny little bit of self-comparison to make ourselves feel better.

POST SECRET

Ah, the granddaddy of layman voyeurism: PostSecret. Part art, part cathartic confession, this ongoing collaborative community project introduced us to the rich emotional world of suppressed human sentiment.

Through homemade postcards scribbled with personal secrets, it has brought to light thousands of never-before-spoken anonymous confessions since its inception in 2004.

It all started with an installation for Artomatic that year, but it wasn’t long before creator Frank Warren took the project online — because, after all, what better medium to indulge anonymous confession that the Interwebs? Today, there’s a Facebook page with over 150,000 fans. And, of course, there are the books — which could easily be the most moving read you’ve savored in a long, long time.

Often dark, sometimes funny, and always sure to move, the PostSecret phenomenon could easily have ignited the fuse on this whole rush for peeping into the lives of everyday strangers.

So go ahead, free-fall right into it and mail in a secret of your own. You’ll feel so much lighter.


FRIDGEWATCHER

Not all layman voyeurism has to be dark. It can, in fact, be very, very light — especially when you open the door. We’re talking about FridgeWatcher — an offbeat project that simply invites people to open their fridges to others — because “every fridge tells a story.”

We suspect this one is all about the self-comparison factor: peek into a fridge healthier than yours, and you might just guilt yourself into stopping by the produce aisle on the way home. See a sloppier one, and you’ll have a comeback for next time your mother comes over to nit-pick your life.

We dig the concept — so much, in fact, that we opened our own fridge to the world. Go ahead, be judgmental.

via getTRIO

HOW I SPENT MY STIMULUS

Sure, Bush may not have gotten the can’t-buy-me-love memo. But $152 billion in “economic stimulus” later, we’re for once reaping the benefits of W’s questionable judgment calls — and we’re all doing it in different ways.

HowISpentMyStimulus chronicles what exactly Americans are spending their give-or-take $600 on. From the rational debt-relievers, to the hopeless gadget geeks, to the unapologetically self-indulgent, to those we’ll try not to judge, the entire project is one big, rather pointless endeavor. But we dare you to close that browser window once you start stimulus-peeping.

And while we’re at it, what did you spend your $600 on?

via Josh Spear

Birdseye Visionaire

By:

How a paraglider, a camera, and a blooming field of lavender will change the way you see the world.

THE WORLD AS WE NEVER SEE IT

Ecology. Our collective discourse on the subject ranges from hipster t-shirts to scare tactics by various nonprofit apocalypticists. But rarely are we faced with a gripping eye-opener that uses the beautiful rather than the frightening and ugly to challenge how we think about the future of the planet.

Bulgarian photographer Alexander “Sasho” Ivanov does just that in his stunning 360° BULGARIA exhibition, a collection of breathtaking aerial photographs taken from a paraglider over the course of 8 years.

The project aims to awaken our emotional connection to the environment and remind us what exactly we’re losing as we’re squandering our planet.

The 58-year-old photographer’s inspiration is movingly honest and raw:

I was born here. I grew up here, together with the grasses, the stones, the trees, the rivers and the winds. They taught me who I am, they showed me how to see, hear and feel, but most importantly – what it means to love and be free. This nature is a part of me, a part of my memory of myself.

We find the collection powerfully humbling. The birdseye take reminds us of our own smallness, of what a tiny fraction of the grand natural equation humans are and how full of marvel the world beyond us is — a world we’re slowly losing as we continue to stomp our little feet on every fiber of it.

The message is loud and beautifully clear: it’s time to rise above our petty sense of entitlement and look — really look — at the big picture. Because, unless we do, its magnificent vibrant color will continue to fade into the man-inflicted grayness.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Superhero Superdose

By:

The pop of culture, catwalk catfights, vintage yard sales, why sidekicks kick more ass than side, and which masked hero is changing the face of the music industry.

Superheroes ooze all kinds of super. Between the powers and the flashy outfits, they’ve brought a touch of super to some of the most timeless and inspired aspects of culture — our collective imagination. Today, we take a look at the unexpected, innovative, out-of-this-world superhero-inspired art. Up, up and away!

SUPERHEROES: FASHION AND FANTASY

It wouldn’t be The Met if it didn’t probe the most complex of issues through the quirkiest of channels. This month, the ever-innovative Metropolitan Museum of Art explores hope, ideals, sexuality, notions of beauty, and our social and political realities through the Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy special exhibition.

The project strips superhero iconography of the triviality often associated with it to reveal the complex, the serious and the socially-relevant found beneath the skinsuit. It’s about fantasy and escapism, but also about so much more — it’s about metamorphosis, freedom and aspiration, notions excruciatingly relevant in our ever-increasingly boxed up, routine, utilitarian world.

The exhibition explores 8 aspects of the body as a canvas for ideas — the patriotic, the graphic, the virile, the paradoxical, the armored, the aerodynamic, the mutant and the postmodern. We dig it because it probes the very notion of popular culture — what is it about cultural elements that make them become “popular”? Could it be that same freedom, that aspiration, that promise of escapism that draws us so powerfully to certain symbolism?

That, and Catwoman is just hot stuff, period.

VOGUE MAY

Speaking of superheroes and fashion, The Met and Vogue seem to be on the same page as us: the cult fashion mag’s May issue is all about superhero-inspired glam.

Gracing the cover is Gwyneth Paltrow, all futuristic and golden and Iron Womanish, shot by the legendarily provocative Steven Klein. Inside, they’ve got you covered with bodysuit-meets-Haute-Couture masterpieces from the likes of Gaultier, Armani, Dior, Galliano, and more. (Armani, in fact, actually sponsored the Met exhibition.)

And while we dig the throwback to superheros and the revival of this slightly dusty yet relentlessly imaginative part of culture, we’re a little taken aback by the clear smell of a well-coordinated marketing machine at work: Iron Man promo anyone?

Plus, curiously enough, this whole context of mild superhero violence is seeping through the ranks of the fashion world and sparking some serious catfighs: like the glossy yet vapid scuffle between the dictator of the fashion world, Vogue editor Anna Wintour, and cult innovator Giorgio Armani. Ah, the intersection of beauty and ugly.

Humph. Divas. Go figure.

via Style Frizz

VINTAGE COMIC BOOK COVERS

Ah, Flickr, what an endless library of the wonderful. It’s like a neighborhood yard sale — if you dig through the random personal crap long enough, you’re sure to walk away victoriously with some absolute gems.

This week’s gem: a collection of vintage comic book covers from around the world, and beyond.

You’ll find Italian heroes, Japanese villains, American sidekicks, and all sorts of extraterrestrials. Best of all, you’ll find your inner teenage nerd, taking a detour from your mad race to hipster world and making an indulgent rest stop in the land of dorky coolness.

Also in the mix: the original Star Trek comic book covers. Now that alone is worth more than the entire yard. And possibly the house, too.

BEST SUPERHERO SIDEKICKS

Okay, so enough with all the superhero attention. Sometimes, half the legwork comes from those trusty, make-it-happen sidekicks. After all, the spotlight only shines on a fraction of the grand stage.

Luckily, the awesome guys at Wired have done the heavy lifting and lined up the best sidekicks of all times, complete with their fairly and snarkily assessed strengths and weaknesses.

Except for Robin. Poor kid.

via Wired

BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES

And speaking of Batman, here’s one of the most inspired derivative records we’ve stumbled upon in a long time. Batman: The Animated Album is a groundbreaking project by up-and-coming Philadelphia-based MC/producer Blame the Kid.

The idea: melodic and vocal samples from the cult cartoon Batman: The Animated Series cut and crafted into 18 phenomenal tracks. They take you on a compelling journey into the deeper issues of eco-terrorism, corporate exploitation, slave labor, and other social challenges lurking beneath the cartoonish technicolor surface of the story.

The album is out later this year, but you can sample some of the tracks on Blame’s blog and the album’s MySpace page. And while we’re all about bobbing our heads and tapping our feet to the mesmerizing beats, we find Blame’s broader mission even more compelling: like all of his previous albums, Blame is making the Batman album a free download, taking an empowered stance against the antiquated corporate shackles of the current music industry business model.

And that’s a tune we’ve been singing for quite some time.

UPDATE: Batman: The Animated Album is out and free to download here.

We’ve got a weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. 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.

Hodgepodge of Cool | SHEEP!

By:

We continue our weekly tribute to all the random, eclectic awesome stuff out there. Welcome to Part 3 of the Hodgepodge of Cool issue: SHEEP! …or what 10,000 strangers, the BBC and Soulja Boy have in common.

When we promise random, we deliver random. But, really, there’s a ton of sheep-related awesomeness out there. In fact, we think sheep are the new penguins — you know, that awkward yet adorable “it” species of popular adulation that gives rise to all kinds of trends. You heard it here first, kids — Happy Hoofs, anyone?

FLOCKS

Knowing the name of the individual animal you’re eating for dinner: kinda creepy. Knowing the name of the animal you’re wearing to dinner: kinda cute. FLOCKS, the brainchild of Dutch designer Christien Miendertsma, is a knitwear line that explores the long-lost connection between producer and consumer.

In simpler terms, you can buy a cozy wool sweater (or scarf, or mittens, or socks, or hat) that comes with a photo and a short bio of the ovine contributor, so you can confidently answer you fashionista friends when they ask who you’re wearing.

The project is a collaboration between the graphic designer, a knitter, some spinners, and the farmers and felters who tend a flock of sheep. Each sweater comes with the sheep’s “passport” and a yellow RFID tag that matches the one on the sheepie’s ear.

And we’d so much rather wear something that comes from a happy fluffy sheep than from the hands of an overworked Chinese 6-year-old.

via GOOD Magazine

PEDRO AND FRANKENSHEEP

The BBC, always the beacon of underappreciated entertainment (hey there, The Office original), has just upped the ante for sheep-related entertainment with the latest work of cult animators The Brothers McLeod.

Pedro and Frankensheep, a series of 10 5-minute episodes for CBBC, is part Robot Chicken, part Sesame Street, part something else entirely. It’s the story of a crazy guinea pig scientist and his cyborg pet sheep, delighting British kids in those bedtime hours with quirky, weird-voiced, crazy-eyed animation magic.

Ah, nothing beats a Mexican accent with a British accent.

THE SHEEP MARKET

Why on earth would 10,000 strangers get together to draw sheep?

Remember Mechanical Turk, Amazon’s labor distribution system where you can pay web workers small amounts of money to complete simple tasks for you? Artist Aaron Koblin did just that for his project The Sheep Market he created a simple drawing app and simply instructed Turkers to “draw a sheep facing left.”

10,000 people got to it, for 2 cents each. In 40 days, they drew at a rate of 11 sheep per hour with an average draw time of 105 seconds per sheep. And little did they know Koblin was also recording their drawing process. He then collected all the drawings and turned them into a series of collectible stamps. But because the entire project is the ultimate experiment in collaborative digital art, he also crafted The Sheep Market website where you can see all the drawings and watch each one being drawn.

662 sheep were rejected. We feel really bad for them.

via Wired

LITTLE KNITTING SHEEP

Where else would you find a little knitting sheep by the name of Rose but at the relentlessly wonderful Etsy?

Rose stands at a little over an inch, clutching tiny bamboo knitting needles, and is made from 100% real sheep wool. She comes from Canadian crafts designer fantiny, who can ship one of Rose’s siblings your way if you’re so inclined.

Rose is most positively the cutest little knitting sheep we’ve ever encountered.

SHAUN THE SHEEP

Shaun the Sheep does Soulja Boy.

‘Nuff said.

USB SHEEP

Forget all bucolic stereotypes — sheep have gone 2.0. Or at least that’s the case of Jan, the USB sheep from Swedish animal-themed gizmo maker Minimoo. Jan comes in 1GB ($43), 2GB ($58) and 4GB ($74) memory sizes.

Jan looks rather grumpy. But we empathize — we too would be rather grumpy if we had a USB flash drive stuck in our business end.

via Geek Alerts