Brain Pickings

PICKED: Macro Kingdom

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We’re longtime fans of Austrian filmmaker and multimedia artist Clemens Wirth, better-known as Clemento, whose magnificent Macro Kingdom series looks at ordinary phenomena, from water bubbles to dripping honey to icicle formation, with an extraordinary lens of visceral curiosity and otherworldly whimsy.

After releasing the first film a year ago and a sequel a few months later, he is back with the third and arguably most breathtaking installment. Gathered here are all three parts, for your jaw-dropping pleasure. Enjoy.

If this ongoing visual poem doesn’t give you pause about the remarkable world we inhabit, we don’t know what would.

And if you enjoyed this, you won’t be disappointed by Refraction: The Alphabet.

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The Strange Case of Edward Gorey

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Last month, we featured the whimsically macabre, Tim-Burtonesque work of mid-century illustrator Edward Gorey, who was an oddball character in his own right. Today marks the release of The Strange Case of Edward Gorey — an appropriately uncommon and colorful portrait of the eccentric artist by Gorey’s best friend, Alexander Theroux.

With his unique access to Gorey’s extraordinary wit, intelligence and creative genius, Theroux delivers a brief but lively read that’s equal parts loving memoir and fascinating cultural collectible.

It is a falsehood that Edward Gorey refused to give interviews. Nevertheless, to those acquainted with his hundred or so menacing little books, written as if by moonlight, the very thought of tracing out this eccentric artist (for Gorey was a solitary) might somehow have seemed to recapitulate to a nervous heart the monstrous dread felt in approaching the unholy chambers of the demented Ambrosio or the trap-doored of the satanic Caliph Vatek of the Abassides.” ~ Alexander Theroux

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Bohemian Rhapsody 5 Ways

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What The Muppets have to do with hearing disabilities, self-cloning and TED.

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” from Queen’s 1975 album A Night at the Opera, is one of the most iconic songs in modern music history. And like any creative icon, it has been the subject of countless covers, remixes, parodies, mashups and homages. Today, we look at five of our favorites.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY IN SIGN LANGUAGE

Could this be a new form of syneshtesia? ASL interpreter Sam Farley rocks out to “Bohemian Rhapsody” in his car and we don’t care that his handless wheel is a road safety hazard — we’re just grateful his sister secretly captured him on film from the driver’s seat, because he’s that hat-tip-worthy.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY ON FOUR VIOLINS

Joe Edmonds arranges and performs the classic on four violins, all written out by hand without any sheet music. Pure joy. He’s also kindly made the track available as a free download.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY ON SLIDE WHISTLES

He’s kooky. And he’s wonderful. Watch LA-based artist Joe Penna, better-known as Mystery Guitar Man, perform the classic on slide whistles. Don’t miss the excellent making-of.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY BY THE MUPPETS

A huge cast of the Muppets takes on Freddie & co, and it might just be the best “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover in history — and they’ve even got a Webby win to show for it. From the ingeniously modified lyrics to the priceless a-cappella, it’s equal parts hilarious and brilliant. Lo and behold, the track is even available as a fully legitimate download, proof that the Sesame Street empire can merchandise anything. (But we love them anyway.)

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY ON A UKULELE

We loved it when we saw it live, and we love it still — Jake Shimabukuro’s phenomenal, virtuoso performance of the Queen classic on a tiny Hawaiian ukulele at TED 2010 is a heart-stopper.

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Thomas Edison and the Invention of the Movies

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Today marks the 164th birthday of Thomas Edison — inventor, businessman, scientist and idea maverick of gargantuan historical proportions. We may know him from science class as the man who invented the light bulb, but his contribution to creative culture and the moving image was his true passion and, many would argue, his greatest legacy. He invented the phonograph and developed the first motion picture camera. Geroges Méliès may have been the first cinemagician, but Edison was the man who made film both a mass communication medium and a creative craft, framing many of the conventions of modern cinema.

Edison – The Invention of the Movies (1891-1918) is an ambitious collaboration between Kino Video and MoMA, celebrating Edison’s legacy and the birth of cinema with 140 of the first moving pictures ever seen. The four-disc treasure chest features not merely the masterfully restored films, but also over two hours of insightful interviews with scholars, museum archivists and cultural critics.

Edison’s films include such rare gems as boxing women…

…boxing cats (presaging the kind of cat-related interwebz entertainment by over a century)…


…and the only known footage of Mark Twain.

From the fascinating technology that fueled Edison’s films to the sociology and cultural anthropology of the era’s stereotypes depicted in the films, Edison – The Invention of the Movies (1891-1918) is a priceless slice of creative and cultural history.

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