Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘music’

10 JUNE, 2008

Just Press Rewind


What Beethoven, your high school sweetheart and a boombox have in common.

Every once in a while, we like to glance back into the past. And if what we see makes us raise a knowing eyebrow, let out a bittersweet sigh, or laugh a little — all the better. Today is one of those days, so warm up your eyebrows, take a few deep breaths, and dig out your funny bone.


Beethoven — not exactly known for making funny. Black-and-white silent film — could go either way on the humor scale. So who would’ve thought that combining the two would cause supreme hilarity to ensue, thanks to the immaculate comedic timing of the unexpected audio/video sync?

Ah, simple genius. Can’t beat that.

via VSL


Speaking of musical blasts from the past, the formative years of our relationship with music can easily be traced back to those precious mixtapes from high school sweethearts and college loves. Which, sadly, are getting washed away by the flood of 1’s and 0’s that is the digital age we live in.

Luckily, FOUND Magazine co-founder Jason Bitner and his team of like-minded creative nostalgics (including music producer Damon Locks and SMITH Magazine founding editor Larry Smith) have brought us Cassette From My Ex: a project that brings so many of those musical gems, and the stories behind them, to light — to our delight.

You’ll find hundreds of digitized Side A’s and Side B’s, oozing that unmistakable butterflies-in-the-stomachness of first crushes and young love. And you’ll get to read the heartfelt recollections of the relationships they were the soundtrack of.

We love the concept almost as much as we loved Danni in the 8th grade. Besides, it’s been a while since we saw Sinead O’Connor and Dire Straits sharing anything other than the glove compartment of our parents’ Oldsmobile.


But before we get too boggled down with reminiscence — there’s no reason why you can’t relish the past and reconcile it with the present. And you can do it for under $200.

We’re talking about what must positively be the awesomest iPod dock in existence: the Lasonic Boombox. When you’re done gushing over the overwhelming retro-coolness of the gadget, let’s focus on the specs: this baby has separate bass and treble controls, a solid AM/FM tuner, a beastly speaker system, an alarm function that lets you wake up to your favorite blast-from-the-past Barry White, and a ton more nifty stuff that almost makes that Michael Jackson playlist of yours cool again.

via Thrillist

30 MAY, 2008

Friday FYI: Auditory Freedom


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


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

21 MAY, 2008

Superhero Superdose


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!


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.


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


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.


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


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.

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07 MAY, 2008

5 Ways to Get More of Life in the City


Ideas that claim our urban space back from the gruesome grip of commercialization, concrete and the general ugly of the city.

Urban clutter is easily the biggest pitfall of city life. There’s just too much stuff out there. Consumer psychologist Barry Schwartz calls it “the paradox of choice” — the more that’s available to us, the more frustrated we get with it all and the less likely we are to enjoy or even choose any of it.

Luckily, we’ve got 5 ways to help you navigate all that choice clutter, nail those special city gems, and get the most out of all your social activities.


Here’s the thing about friendship: it’s all about compromise. Especially when making social plans — you want one thing, your friend wants another, so you kinda have to meet each other halfway. Well, now you can do it — literally.

Thanks to, a nifty Google Maps mashup, you can let an algorithm pick your hangout — so there are no ego gauntlets involved. Here’s how it works: you simply plug the starting-point addresses of all the people in the would-be get-together, say what you wanna meet for (like, coffee or ice cream or Italian), and the app spits out a handful of establishments that offer just that in the area halfway between the attendees’ addresses, complete with directions and contact info.

See? Compromise and complete geographic fairness make everything taste better, we promise.


Okay, so maybe you’re a bit more of a control freak. You wanna know the place you’re headed is up to par with your refined palate and sophisticated expectations. Heck, you want nothing short of a fab experience.

Sit back, relax, and let fabsearch do the work. The human-powered engine pulls content you can’t normally find on the Interwebs from editorial icons like Vogue, British Harpers Bazaar, Town and Country, New York Social Diary, Vanity Fair and other give-it-to-you-straight, Zagat-sans-the-fluff sources. The fabsearch team is damn serious about it, too — they spend months sifting through old magazines to really hone the recommendation quality and bring you the ultimate best of the best in hotels and restaurants.

You can search by source or by location — and by “location” we really mean location: from Abu Dhabi to Aspen to Atlanta, they’ve got you covered. We checked out their Philly recommendations and, we must say, these guys are dead-on.

via Give it a shot for your locale and see how your favorite going out staples measure up. Thrillist


But what if you’re out on the town with that all-important extension of yourself — your laptop? Looking for those precious free wireless hotspots can be a hassle, especially if you’re traveling in a new city. Guess what: there’s a way that you can not only find a solution but also be a part of it.

FON is the world’s largest WiFi community, aiming to make WiFi universal and free. The concept is simple: you give some, you get some, and everyone gets a ton. All you do is get a La Fonera community router (just $29.95) and hook it up to your home internet connection. Obviously, you get WiFi at home — but that’s not the point.

The point is that La Fonera is your membership ticket to the FON worldwide community.

This means whenever you travel, you have free access to the FON WiFi that thousands of other users, or Foneros as they call themselves, have shared. And they’re everywhere.

The entire network is 100% safe and, best of all, not only do you get free WiFi across the world, but you can also make a bit of cash whenever non-Foneros connect to the FON network.

But, really, we just dig the idea of claiming our urban web space back from the nasty, unscrupulous monopoly of present.


The bigger your city, the more frustrating that “paradox of choice” thing can get. Which is why those of us in the biggest metropolitan beehives need a bit more help with a bit more stuff — not just dining, but also shopping, nightlife, style, travel and various insider perks.

That’s what Urban Daddy is all about — currently in four of the world’s most culture-overloaded cities (New York, L.A., Las Vegas and San Francisco), and also available in a broad U.S. National edition, the exclusive daily email magazine offers city life pickings carefully curated by a team of professional cool hunters.

And just so you get the level of exclusivity we’re talking here, Urban Daddy is currently invitation-only. But the good news is you can swallow your pride, sign up for their waitlist and hope you’re soon invited to sit at the cool kids’ table in the huge cultural cafeteria that is city life.


One of the great things about city life is that it offers a music experience you can’t get on iTunes: anything from wait-in-line-for-hours megastar live shows to intimate indie gigs in neighborhood cafes. Navigating all the options, of course, is a whole different story.

Luckily, there’s BandsInTown — a cool service you may remember from pickings past that lets you know about upcoming shows by your favorite artists whenever they pop into town. A little IP address birdie tells the algorithm your location, so all you do is say what music you dig. It then spits out a tag cloud of bands and artists, letting you narrow things further by show date (tonight only or not), distance from the city, max price range, and label type (unsigned, indie or major). On top of that, you can also filter results by genre or tag.

It’s all free, super nifty, and it’s telling us Rilo Kiley are playing right across the street on June 5, so we diggidy mucho. Check it out and get ready to show your friends who’s boss in music town.

Missed parts 1 and 2?

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