The moon hoax, why Nixon lost the debate, and what dinosaurs have to do with Gerald Ford and a chicken.
By Maria Popova
Despite our general dismissal of history as a boiling pot of mistakes that humanity never learned from, we have to admit it offers a great and telling tale or two. And the History Channel is out to prove it.
The Great and Telling Tales of History is a brilliant series of 1-minute films in which history’s walking encyclopedia, historian Timothy Dickinson, tells us, in a grandfatherly voice and an endearing British accent, little-known and fascinating facts about the history of politics, pop culture and the world at large.
But what makes the films truly marvelous is that we’re taken through the unexpected twists and turns of history by artist Benjamin Goldman‘s wonderful animation — dark and delightful at the same time, every bit as full of unexpected twists and turns as the stories themselves.
The talks aren’t just mere recaps of history, either. They’re full of Tim Dickinson’s own, often unapologetic and unorthodox, theories about the world — like the rather snarky short on drugs, in which he shares this uneuphemistically true sentiment about human nature:
The point is, we are fundamentally dissatisfied with our standard biological condition, and we’ll find one way or another of altering it.
An elderly Englishman, a copyright violation, and 25,000 explorations of music’s deepest obscurity.
By Maria Popova
Retro revival is everywhere. We see it today’s web design trends, we see it in Fashion Week’s latest output, and we see it in retro-inspired artists taking SXSW by storm. But the only way to do the trend right is to be inspired by all the right things, the deepest and most authentic roots of what we now call “retro.”
That’s where Sir Shambling’s Deep Soul Heaven steps in — an immense archive of rare and unreleased “deep soul” (a unique musical genre that explores deep human emotion and existential philosophy in the unlikely realm of “popular music) from the Golden Age of soul between 1960 and 1980.
The project comes from an eccentric elderly Englishman who goes by “Sir Shambling” and whose obsession with black music began about 35 years ago and resulted in a personal collection of over 25,000 records. Most of them are B-sides and rarities from music history’s most indulgently obscure heroes. And many of them are available as free mp3’s, digitized from the original 45’s for your culturally enriching pleasure.
As you can guess, this goes against the legal grain of copyright law and P2P filesharing — but Sir Shambling shares a certain conviction with us:
The widest possible exposure to music is the best way to keep it alive, to promote interest in the artists themselves and to generate activity in the legitimate reissue business.
Sight, sound, motion, and more beauty than your beholder eyes can handle.
By Maria Popova
The notion of beauty is among the most subjective, abstract concepts out there. (Despite what the cookie-cutter “beauty industry” may tell us.) But every once in a while, something comes by that is so fundamentally sublime in concept, execution and emotional charge that it’s hard to contest its beauty.
Case in point: Advanced Beauty, an ongoing exploration of digital art influenced by sound. A collaborative project between artists, programmers, musicians, architects and animators, Advanced Beauty offers a wonderland of sight and sound through a series of audio-reactive “video sound sculptures,” creating a moving sensory experience in what’s become known as sisomo — the powerful intersection of sight, sound and motion.
And while the work by all the artists collaborating on the project is truly phenomenal, we particularly dig Fernando Sarmiento from Argentinian animation and character design get-up Pepper Melon (whom you may recall from the critically acclaimed Mama Lucchetti TV spot that made the creative rounds last month) and their fascinating sound sculpture for Advanced Beauty.
Another brilliant, could-be-a-bit-over-our-head-but-fantastic-nonetheless effort:Enerugii, a responsive, generative sound sculpture by Karsten Schmidt of London-based design studio PostSpectacular — a hybrid idea merging volumetric modeling with marker shapes that only respond to certain user-defined dynamics to produce a truly hypnotic piece that sweeps you up with sound, tosses you into a sea of shape and color, and leaves you floating in the fluidity of the moment.
Go ahead, explore the artists for yourself. And check out the Advanced Beauty podcast on iTunes, spotlighting some of the most compelling works from the project.
Why design will save the world and a potent remedy for your quarterlife crisis.
By Maria Popova
Design is at its best when it truly gives something back to the world. Which is why we love industrial design icon Yves Behar. And while his credits include a long list of brilliant products, today we’re focusing on one: the XO laptop of One Laptop Per Child fame — a (near) $100 laptop for children’s education in the developing world.
And while business strategy has certainly been one of the propelling forces behind the project’s success, OLPC would be nothing without the computer’s brilliant design, which makes all of the device’s technological and cultural feats possible.
(For more on the project, watch founder Nicholas Negroponte’s incredibly inspirational TED talk.)
About the size of a small textbook, the rugged learning tool has built-in WiFi that enables the XO to communicate with nearby peers. The unique screen, which rotates 360 degrees, is readable even under direct sunlight — for children who go to school outdoors. It’s extremely energy-efficient and resists high temperatures and high humidity.
The brilliant design extends to even the minutest of details, like the logo — the “X” and “O” on the back of the screen each come in 20 color options, making for 400 possible combinations so that each kid in a large classroom gets a distinctive XO laptop — both a way for kids to connect with their laptop better and a clever tactic for avoiding mix-ups.
Yves Behar reveals the inspiration, the technology, and the meticulous thought behind the design process:
Some say the notion that design will save the world is a stretch. But the XO laptop is a testament to the fact that design will certainly play a strong part. Because we believe that the real epidemic drowning the third world is ignorance and the lack of access to information — deadly yet preventable diseases like malaria and AIDS can be halted through simple education about their mechanisms; poverty and armed conflict over resources can both be ameliorated by educating citizens about simple business models that enable them to lead self-sufficient, self-reliant lives.
And it has to start with children’s education, laying the foundations for a more economically sustainable society of tomorrow.
So why are we bringing this up now, when OLPC has been around for quite a while?
Let’s face it, the holidays are pretty much upon us — a time for giving, a time for getting. And we’re all about efficiency here, so we like the idea of a two-birds-one-stone approach to the whole giving/getting thing. Especially if it means “giving” in the true, altruistic, make-yourself-feel-like-a-better-person kind of way. Case in point: OLPC’s Give 1 Get 1 program.
Initially a two-week experiment in raising donations, G1G1 launched in November 2007 under the premise that anyone donating $399 to OLPC would not only get a laptop sent on their behalf to a child in the developing world, but would also get one of their very own. G1G1 was so wildly successful that it got extended beyond the two weeks into the entire holiday season and well into the spring of this year.
This year, G1G1 is back for seconds. So if you’re a fan of world-changing design and are feeling altruisic this holiday season, or you’re looking for a perfect gift for your kid relative, or you’re simply undergoing a severe quarterlife crisis and need to feel like you’re giving back to the world, consider G1G1.