Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘TED’

14 FEBRUARY, 2011

Bohemian Rhapsody 5 Ways


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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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07 FEBRUARY, 2011

The Heroic Imagination Project


What the root of evil has to do with a summer in 1971 and the untapped capacity for good.

Psychologist Philip Zimbardo is best-known for the infamous Stanford Prison Study, one of modern psychology’s most unsettling experiments on human nature. (Insights from which are distilled in Zimbardo’s excellent The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil — an absolutely essential text of social psychology, timeless and all the more timely in today’s global atmosphere of increasing social and political unrest.)

Zimbardo’s latest project, however, approaches the good/evil dichotomy of the human condition from precisely the opposite angle. The Heroic Imagination Project is an inspired nonprofit that aims to advance everyday heroism though programs designed to harness people’s inherent, extraordinary and often untapped potential for good within.

At HIP, we believe everyone has the potential to transform the private virtue of compassion into the civic virtue of heroic action, and we are dedicated to helping individuals internalize and express their ‘heroic imagination’ in service to humanity.”

In this excellent TEDU talk, Zimbardo delivers a compelling primer for the project:

If you’ve found your moral imagination tickled by the project, there are three ways to get involved and take action: You can take the hero pledge, take the hero challenge and/or join the HIP community on Facebook and Twitter.

via TED Blog

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26 JANUARY, 2011

Democratizing Publishing: TED Launches TEDBooks


Yesterday, we were thrilled to hear that TED is launching TEDBooks — an imprint of short nonfiction books. Using Amazon’s freshly released Kindle Singles imprint for books under 20,000 words and designed to be read in a single sitting, the $2.99 books are available on the Kindle and Kindle Reader apps for iPad and Android.

The project launched with three promising all-star titles:

The Happiness Manifesto by Nic Marks of Happy Planet Index fame debunks the notion of using economic factors to measure a nation’s well-being and instead explores how people and nations can build real, lasting foundations for well-being — a timely addition to our selection of 7 must-read books on happiness released earlier this week.

Homo Evolutis by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans is a bold vision for the next human species, portraying mankind as a species in transitions not only through a life science map of evolution but also through a compelling discussion of how the core principles of our civilization — government, religion, social structures — are shifting.

Beware Dangerism! by Gever Tulley takes on the culture of fear perpetuated by mass media and often embedded in parenting, which he terms “dangerism,” with surprising statistics and insights indicating that play and pursuit of curiosity — something we’re big proponents of — is the better model for raising kids to be high-functioning, entrepreneurial, creative, successful, happy people.

The effort is an “idea worth spreading” in more ways than one — it serves not only as a powerful vehicle for some of today’s most compelling thinking, leveraged by the TED brand, but also bespeaks a new frontier of publishing that bypasses the stagnant traditional model of the industry to democratize how authors’ ideas reach their audience. Bravo, TED.

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