From Paris to London to Southern California, by way of Austin, Texas.
By Maria Popova
We’re still making our way through 140+ hours of SXSW music, having found less than twenty 5-star-worthy tracks to date. But but with foot planted firmly among them is Kat Edmonson — a refreshing oasis of raspy, jazzy goodness among the barren landscape of indie punk-pop-rock mediocrity.
Her latest album, Take To The Sky, is a delight from start to finish, including the best cover of Summertime we’ve heard in quite some time. In fact, it’s the best new jazz vocal we’ve heard in quite some time, period.
Part Duffy, part Madeleine Peyroux, Edmonson blends the magnetism of French jazz with the British school of raspy vocals, intertwined with notes of social responsibility reminiscent of the California indie scene — all by way of Austin, Texas.
The only election that matters, or what Linkin Park have to do with the UN Secretary General and your Saturday night.
By Maria Popova
Today’s edition is really a call to action, one very simple yet very important action — switching off your lights for an hour tomorrow night. Because tomorrow, March 28, between 8:30PM and 9:30PM local time (whatever your locale), is Earth Hour.
Earth Hour is a global sustainability movement ignited by WWF. It began two years ago in Sydney, when 2.2 million homes and offices switched off their lights for one hour in an effort to raise awareness about the urgency of changing our daily habits in order to combat climate change. By 2008, 50 million people had joined the movement. Iconic landmarks like the San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House, and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness.
This year, Earth Hour stands for something much bigger — a global vote for change, aiming to draw 1 billion people into the voting booth that is the light switch. Although this is political, it’s not about national politics — it’s about planetary politics.
The propaganda materials for this year’s event were designed by none other than Shepard Fairey, whom it’s no secret we respect on more levels than we can count.
The effort, dubbed VOTE EARTH, is a global call to action for everyone — every office, every housewife, every partygoer and bookworm and sheep herder. Over 74 countries and territories have pledged their support to VOTE EARTH, with anyone from the UN Secretary General to Edward Norton to Linkin Park endorsing the effort and urging us to join in.
So here’s what to do:
Sign up — commit to make your planetary vote count.
Tell your friends — darkness is always more fun in company.
Make an event of it and, really, have some fun with it — take photos, make a video, follow Earth Hour on Twitter and tag any of your related tweets with #earthhour or #voteearth and your #location.
That’s it, it’s that simple. So, um, just do it, willl ya? We ceartainly will.
How to one-up the Greeks and what Shepard Fairey has to do with Copenhagen circa 1891.
By Maria Popova
Libraries have a special place in history as a hearth of culture that kindled the greatest feats of science and the grandest works of art. Yet today, they’re in danger of being left precisely there — in history. As our collective use of libraries dwindles in the digital age, five brave efforts are innovating the concept of “the library” in ways that make it as culturally relevant today as it ever was.
PENTAGRAM FOR L!BRARY
Almost nine years ago, NYC design studio Pentagram got involved with the Robin Hood Foundation in an inspired effort to build new elementary school libraries throughout NYC’s five boroughs — the best architects were to build them, private companies were to fill them with books, Pentagram were to design the inspirational atmosphere and craft the entire identity for what became The Library Initiative.
But they found something interesting — even though the libraries were mostly located in high-ceiling old buildings, shelves could only be as high as the kids could reach, leaving a lot of space between the top of the shelves and the ceiling. Pentagram saw this space as a canvas to fill with something wonderful, so they partnered with a handful of top-notch designers to create murals that are just that — absolutely wonderful.
Today, these inspired murals can be found in more than 60 libraries across the five boroughs, featuring the work of designers and illustrators cherry-picked by the Pentagram team — from a series of photographic portraits by Dorothy Kresz, to a visual interpretation of words through silhouettes by Rafael Esquer, to books hidden in images in the iconic illustration style of Christoph Niemann.
Needless to say, we love the idea. Design is only as valuable as the change it ignites — in our understanding of beauty and truth, our conceptual and aesthetic literacy, yes, but also in our greater social sensibility. And harnessing the power of design to enhance “literal literacy” by turning libraries into cooler, more inviting hangouts for kids, well, that’s just pure beauty and truth.
So for today’s refresher purposes, his fantastic TED talk should get the job done.
We’d love to see Jay open up his library to those with the greatest urgency of fostering the spirit of human imagination — children. Because whatever is behind the doors of our cultural library, a school bus should be in front of them.
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS ON FLICKR
It’s always a delight to see the stiffest and most traditional of institutions embrace fundamental elements of today’s social spirit.
Go ahead, get nostalgic over ages you didn’t really live in to remember. It’s okay, we did too.
LIVE FROM THE NYPL
Turns out, you can actually talk in libraries. Some even hand you a mic — at least if you’re on one of the NYPL Live panels, a fantastic talk series by and at The New York Public Library. The events are available as free audio podcasts on iTunes, with short video highlights viewable online.
We were recently taken with NYPL’s REMIX event, an excellent discussion titled Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Moderated by cultural historian Steven Johnson and sponsored by Wired, the conversation between Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig and now-legendary street artist Shepard Fairey, whose Obama “HOPE” poster became the most iconic political design of all time, offered a fantastic discourse on the intersection of creativity and “fair use” — a particuarly timely discourse amidst the AP’s preposterous lawsuit against Fairey.
Watch the full program online for brilliant insight into the absurdities of today’s copyright legislature and the unnecessary ways in which it hinders the inevitable mergence of today’s mashup culture.
Web entrepreneur, activist and digital librarian Brewster Kahle, possibly the most influential figure in today’s digitization movement, is out to gift the world with universal access to knowledge.
Since 1996, his Internet Archive has amassed an enormous collection of cultural artifacts — text, audio, moving images, software, even archived web pages — offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars and anyone else interested in the cultural anthropology of our civilization.
We really need to put the best we have to offer within reach of our children. If we don’t do that, we’re going to get the generation we deserve — they’re going to learn from whatever it is they have around them.
Inspired by an inscription above the door of the Boston Public Library — Free To All — Kahle set out to, essentially, “one-up the Greeks” by building a hub of culture that puts Egypt’s Library of Alexandria to shame, using technology to bring all of the world’s knowledge to as many people as want to make use of it — everything that was ever published and meant for distribution available to anyone who ever wanted access to it.
Kahle’s TED talk is an excellent introduction to the many facets of this monumental movement, which will no doubt reshape today’s relationship with history and tomorrow’s conversation with today.
Explore the Internet Archive and, while you’re at it, consider that the very act and opportunity of doing so makes you the envy of the Platos and the Gutenbergs of history. And, really, how incredible is that?
VINE-YL is the self-admitted bastard love-child of a wine geek and a record freak. And we think the kid is a wunderkind.
It’s simple. They pair a record and a wine that go together beautifully, film a video that tells you just why the two are such an exceptional match, and give you a review of both that’s as professionally sophisticated as it is unpretentious and relatable.
We’ve featured mixed media artist Daniel Edlen‘s brilliantly inspired work before. But his Vinyl Art deserves all the credit it can get — it’s a truly unique message-meets-medium portraiture technique, using the physical canvas of artists’ talent — their records — to paint portraits of them in white acrylic. The result is simply stunning.
Daniel has painted some of the most iconic performers of our time, from Armstrong to Zeppelin, but bur favorite has to be Sinatra — captured in his mischievous youthfulness, Old Blue Eyes peeks at you from behind a record label the color of his legendary nickname.
It also doesn’t hurt that Daniel is one of the brightest people we’ve met on the Interwebs — and there’s something about respecting the artist beyond the merit of their art that makes the art experience itself all the more gratifying. So do check out his phenomenal work, and follow him on Twitter for a glimpse into the mind of incredible talent.