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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!

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.

BP

Hodgepodge of Cool | SHEEP!

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 Markethe 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

BP

Hodgepodge of Cool | Mindless Fun

We continue our weekly tribute to all the random, eclectic awesome stuff out there. Welcome to Part 2 of the Hodgepodge of Cool issue: Mindless Fun, or what blue balls and Stephen King have in common.

You know those times when your brain just gives you the cold shoulder and refuses to cooperate in any sort of efficiency-oriented task? Those are the times when you need a good, solid time-waster — something so utterly pointless but oh-so-indulgent to do until that mind of yours comes back home. And we’ve got you covered with the best 5 things to mindlessly savor — stuff to shrug and giggle at, to unleash your frustrations on, or just stare blankly and blissfully at.

THINGS YOUNGER THAN MCCAIN

Political catfights, with their ugly jabs and relentless undercutting, can get dangerously close to Jerry Springer territory. Normally, “good-natured fun” is the last thing that springs to mind in trying to describe them. But one Obama fan brings us a gem that injects a dose of playful, tongue-in-cheek humor into political campaigning — while still making its point.

Things Younger Than McCain is just that: a list of everyday objects and cultural items who came to be after Republican presidential candidate John McCain did. Part This Land, part Stuff White People Like, blatantly ageist as it may be, the concept is brilliantly amusing.

From the slinky to the chocolate chip cookie to the Golden Gate Bridge, you may actually nab a handy cultural lesson or two while relieving your brain of the stifling, boring, overcomplicated political climate currently melting our mental ice caps.

BIG BAG OF CRABS

Every once in a while, something so head- scratchingly absurd comes around we just can’t help but grin and embrace it.

Which is why we dig Big Bag of Crabs — a nondescript loop of imbecile animation scored to ridiculously campy music that’s somehow the most cheek-burstingly hilarious thing we’ve seen in a long, long while.

It comes from mysterious getup Skammich, which seems to exist for the sole purpose of making people explode into fart-like laughter.

These guys don’t stop at craps — there’s also lalala (if you ever thought mascots were hilarious just by virtue of their existence, you’re gonna need a diaper for this one), spinning leek (we like to think of it as vengeance against all those anime-heads who take it all too seriously), and pirate, which we think pretty accurately reflects the intellectual sensibility of the current copyright legislation.

VIRTUAL BUBBLEWRAP

Sometimes, there’s nothing more mind-soothing than unleashing all your chest-stuffing frustrations on some unsuspecting office supplies. Like the age-old practice of cubicle grievance exorcism: bubblewrap popping.

Well, you can now do it from the privacy of your computer screen — thanks to virtual bubblewrap. It’s perfect for anything from the 3 o’clock slump to those times The Boss is being a more-than-usual jerk. So go ahead, pop your flustered heart out without worrying about the expressive sighs and massive eye-rolling of irked office mates.

…although, we must admit, half the fun of the real-world version is in the irk factor. Mwahahahaha. (Haaa. (Ha.))

BLUE BALL MACHINE

Few mindless fun gems are so supreme that they require nothing more than staring blankly at to get the job done. The job, of course, being getting you into that blissful state of hypnotic mental purging. And nothing purges the overwhelmed mind better than little blue balls.

Yep, you may remember the Blue Ball Machine we’ve grown to know and love — a gigantic pinball factory full of tiny little men pushing, packing, moving along and inspecting tiny little blue balls. For no apparent reason. Endlessly. To the mind-drilling yet somehow soothing score of circus music.

Best part: the little guy who gets repeatedly decapitated only to have his head replaced by a blue ball. Oh joy.

ZOOMQUILT II

A great time-waster knows not issues of datedness — which means it’s great every time, even if it’s another blast from the Brain Pickings past. And if the mindlessness comes with a touch of serious art, then it’s all the better.

We’re talking about Zoomquilt II, the collaborative art project that unleashes on you an endless mashup of various artists’ work, all Flash-woven together into a seamless and never-ending loop of interlocking illustrations.

It’s like your favorite Disney characters took psychedelic drugs and decided to have a tea party in Stephen King’s living room, reading Alice in Wonderland out loud to each other. And they’re about to pour your mind a cup.

Here’s to living vicariously through the eeriness of others.

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BP

Incredible Edibles

What Skoda has to do with Chinese monkeys and Salvador Dalí.

Apart from air, there’s hardly anything more integral to our existence than food. Which makes it easy to overlook as utilitarian fuel for ordinary life. But there’s a whole crazy world of extraordinary food-related coolness out there, and we’ve gone and digested it all for you: Here are our top 5 picks for goodies that satisfy both stomach and brain.

EDIBLE.

Rarely would a company have trouble doing business under any other name. But sometimes the need to convey the nature of your product with utter conviction has such a sense of urgency that it has to start as early as possible: at the name.

This seems to be the case for Edible. — an uber-gourmet virtual shop that caters to the most gastronomically adventurous of us. A delicacy heaven for the foodiest of foodies and a Fear-Factoresque hell for the mere mortals, the online store offers unusual edibles from around the world, all falling outside the realm of ordinary, everyday food and all likely to elicit anything from a raised eyebrow to an uncontrollable gag reflex.

Edible. (whose name actually includes the period that follows it, as in “Trust us, this is edible, period.”) includes an array of foods rarely seen in the Western world but regarded for centuries as delicacies in more exotic cultures.

Chocoholic? They’ve got you covered — with chocolate- covered giant ants from Colombia. Party animal? Scorpion vodka is your thing. Snack junkie? Salted and read-to-eat mopani worms from Africa are calling your name. An all-natural, organic-only eco-nut? It doesn’t get better than monkey-picked tea from China.

And if you feel your confidence in the whole thing begin to shake at any given moment, remind yourself they’ve got that all-convincing period.

EUGENE & LOUISE BAKERY

Oh, the ways in which food can seem inedible. Just like you may have reservations about eating stuff that looks gross, you could have just as hard a time eating something that looks so perfect it might as well belong in a museum.

That’s exactly how we feel about the edibles of Eugene and Louise Bakery. Their cute-as-a-button marzipan treats look like the adorable lovechild of LEGO figurines and those trendy anime-inspired vinyl toys.

The sweet enterprise is the brainchild of three Belgian friends: Glenn D’Hondt and Sylvia Meert (a.k.a. Eugene and Louise) and Tinne Mermans. From the too-sweet-to-eat marzipan treats, to the in-your-face,-Charlie chocolate factory, to their fairytale-like journal, the entire thing tickles our inner child and takes us back to those precious Hansel-and-Gretelesque times when food was full of magic and fun.

LES DINERS DE GALA

There’s long been an intersection between food and art — heck, most chefs would be offended if regarded as anything less than artists. But when one of history’s greatest surrealists lays his art on food, it’s something else entirely.

Melting clocks and table-dripping eggs notwithstanding, Salvador Dali actually illustrated the complex relationship between art and food — literally. In between redefining modern art and stirring up political controversy, the mustached Spaniard wrote and illustrated Les Diners de Gala — a spectacular cookbook that features 136 recipes across 12 categories of supreme European deliciousness, stunningly illustrated and bound with color-illustrated cloth boards in a dustjacket embossed with gold foil.

To our utter befuddlement, the book is now out of print. But you can get your art-hungry hands on a copy for a few hundred bucks and serve a piece of art history at your next dinner party.

>>> via GOOD Magazine

POLYFACE FARMS

The real art of food starts at the production level. We’re not talking about your basic eat-organic, buy-local, humane-farming credo. We’re talking about the deeper, incredibly complex agricultural ecosystem that feeds our food supply.

And no one understands, or utilizes, that ecosystem better than Polyface Farms — a revolutionary Virginia-based farm that works with the ecological, economical and emotional aspects of agriculture, truly brightening our relationship to nature. Founder Joel Salatin says the farm is “in the redemption business: healing the land, healing the food, healing the economy, and healing the culture.”

Polyface has six different species of animals growing in an elaborate symbiotic ecosystem of sustainable agriculture, or permaculture. They’re all engaged in a fascinating bio-ecological dance where they keep each other free of parasites and the manure of one species makes for the grub of another. (Oh man up, this is world-changing stuff here, save the “poop” giggles for 30 Rock.)

Here’s one in-action example: a heard of cows spends a full day grazing a grass area clean. Salatin waits 3 days, then takes the “eggmobile” — a dingy cart full of 350 chickens — onto the grazed land. The hens then cluck their way straight to the cow manure and start digging for their favorite food: maggots. These are the larvae of flies, which would’ve hatched on the 4th day, creating a huge fly problem. (Salatin has waited until they’re as juicy and nutritious as possible to give the chickens maximum protein.)

Meanwhile, the hens are not only spreading the cow manure onto the field, but also contributing their own highly nitrogenous kind. The result? The entire cycle has both the cows and the chickens all happy and full, but it’s also fed the grass: thanks to the brilliant fertilization mechanism, it starts growing madly — 4 weeks later, the entire cycle can repeat itself.

And the only man-made equipment involved in the whole process is the fence surrounding the grass area.

To truly appreciate the incredible importance of such permaculture, check out food ecologist Michael Pollan’s brilliant TED talk and read his eye-opening book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Now that’s food for thought.

SKODA FABIA CAKE

Sure, food is a serious thing these days. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun with it. And it’s all the more indulgent when it’s scored to one of the most classically elating and playful songs of all time.

Plus, the word “schnitzel” just makes anything exponentially more fun.

Courtesy of Fallon, London. Yum.

BP

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