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B-Sides and Breakaways

Dancing in the streets, digital Dickens, time retold, LEGO on Times Square, 34841003122 reasons we’re devolving, what Etruscan vases have to do with skin rashes, and how to out-BlackBerry the BlackBerry.

SING IT LIKE IT IS

Independent music is an art all its own, but when you add phenomenal cinematography to it, it becomes a cultural masterpiece. And that’s what French filmmaker Vincent Moon is doing in La Blogotheque: “take-away” impromptu live shows by some of the most iconic indie artists, shot beautifully in some of the world’s most breathtaking cities.

No crowds. No stages. No equipment. Just the musicians and their talent, in the raw.

The project’s About page has nothing but Greek copy — we suspect because the films speak so strongly for themselves, no explanation is necessary. And if you parlez français, you can indulge in even richer content by way of articles, exclusive interviews and other artist- centric digressions. Still, the films themselves are the real indulgence.

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Some of our favorites: The Shins on a street corner in Paris, José González outside a torn-down house in Marfa, TX, and Dappled Cities on a San Francisco sidewalk.

But, really, they’re all absolutely brilliant — so do indulge.

UNMAPPED TERRITORY

Down with the old book smell. Penguin, in a brilliant bout of innovation, is fully embracing new media and social collaboration.

As part of the “We Tell Stories” mantra, Penguin is collaborating with 6 authors who tell 6 stories in 6 days, each inspired by a timeless classic.The first one, The 21 Steps (inspired by The 39 Steps), is told entirely on Google Maps, following the main character around the world.

In week 2, Slice (inspired by The Haunted Dolls’ House) was told via tweets. (That’s Twitter messages, for the media geezers.) Next we have the mad-libs-like custom Fairy Tales, a take on the classic genre where readers fill in parts of the story. This week, a married couple of authors live-blogs the story of a relationship: Your Place and Mine, inspired by Émile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin.

Weeks 5 and 6 are yet to happen, but we know the upcoming stories, authored by a DJ-ing media whiz and a Pakistan-born London-based Harvard Law grad, will be inspired by Dickens’ Hard Times and 1001 Nights.

So what’s it gonna be? A Facebook group? Flickr? A YouTube channel? Time shall tell.

NEXT TIME AROUND

Time-keepers. While their price tags can be exorbitant enough to push any budget, there’s an overwhelmingly underwhelming cross-industry sameness that hardly ever pushes the design envelope. Well, no more.

A finalist in the Signity Watch Design Competition 2008, the Orb bracelet watch is the work of young Serbian designer Djordje “Djo:Djo” Zivanovic. It displays time on the ends of three lines of different thickness representing time-size: hours, minutes and seconds.

Watch-averse? The Verbarius clock tells time like no other — literally. It tells it the way people do: with words. It comes pre-loaded with five languages (English, German, Spanish, French and Russian) and has a USB port, which you can use to upload additional languages from your computer.

Available June 15, but you can pre-order now for the ironically down-to-the-digits amount of $184.92.

HISTORICALLY ENLIGHTENED

What are the great classics for if not for great reinterpretations? British photographer Mike Stimson does just that: he takes on the classics…in LEGO.

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “Behind the Gare Saint Lazare”? He’s got it. Alfred Eisenstaedt’s “V.J. Day Times Square”? Done. And he doesn’t stop at classic photography. Hollywood’s fair game, too — Indiana Jones, Dart Vader, Stormtrooper. Even Rembrandt portraits.

And while we dig the sheer novelty of this concept, we must also admit Stimson’s mastery of lighting is a whole separate art form.

UNTRIVIA

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Plastic. What a love-hate relationship we have with it. And while the recent badmouthing of plastic bottles has done a bit to raise awareness, it hasn’t done nearly enough. How many bottles have been landfilled in the US so far this year?

34,841,003,122.

Only a fifth of those get recycled, down from a third in 1996. Progress? Not so much. Watching the real-time counter is even more chilling.

And while other materials are doing a bit better, recycling is still declining: 54% of aluminum cans get recycled, down from 59% in 1996. Glass is at 20%, down from 30% in ’96. Let’s hope the new (pseudo) green mass movement results in some face-saving numbers at the next data collection.

The point here? Get with it, son: go ahead and buy that Sigg already.

ITCHING FOR ART

Here’s to taking life’s lemons and making lemonade. Artist Ariana Page Russell has done that, and then some: she has a rare skin condition called dermatographia that causes red, raised lines to appear on skin whenever it’s lightly scratched. Basically, hyper-hypersensitivity with bells and whistles.

So Page Russell is using this unusual condition as a tool in her body-as-canvas art: she draws on her body and takes pictures of the patterns once her skin’s hypersensitivity embosses the artwork. Thirty minutes later, it’s all gone — the body has “[become] an index of passing time.” Her patterns are inspired by anything from Greek and Etruscan vases, to Medieval wall coverings, to Renaissance pottery, to contemporary clothing and wallpaper.

And although the rest of the artist’s body of work is also quite stunning, we can’t deny the sheer category-creating brilliance of her skin art.

SPEAK TO THE HAND

You’re curt. Brusque. Terse. Hell, you’re even rude. At least if you have a BlackBerry. At least that’s how people perceive your one- liner emails. And now there’s a fix.

Remember Jott? The nifty speech transcriber service now has a BlackBerry platform that lets you reply to emails with your voice. The download is seamlessly integrated with the email app you use on your BB. Best of all, it ups the ultimate BlackBerry ante: using your voice is 3-5 times more time-saving than thumbing your way through that Re:. And it’s still free.

So go ahead and be a better person.


Published April 11, 2008

https://www.brainpickings.org/2008/04/11/b-sides-and-breakaways/

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