What a pair of sneakers has to do with a bridge in Manila and mobile cinema in South Africa.
When Gym Class Heroes front man Travis McCoy traveled to South Africa, India and the Philippines last June, he met the leaders of three projects funded by the
Staying Alive Foundation, MTV's global grant-giving organization fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS by empowering young leaders. Inspired by his incredible experience, Travis launched the Unbeaten Track project and wrote the single One At a Time
, which drops today – World AIDS Day – with 100% of proceeds going directly to the Foundation to fund even more AIDS-fighting projects around the world.
Today, we sit down with Travis and pick his brains about the Unbeated Track project, how social entrepreneurship differs from philanthropy, and whether there's a shift in the economy of cool.
Hey Travis, good to have you. Straight to the point – what's your story of getting involved with the Staying Alive Foundation?
I first became involved with Staying Alive back at the Europe Music Awards in 2008. I was asked to do some filming on the red carpet on behalf of Staying Alive where I would ask fellow artists questions on their attitude towards HIV and AIDS, and other related issues like relationships, cheating and condom use. After spending more time with Georgia – the founder of the Foundation – and seeing what amazing work they did, I immediately asked what else I could do to help. They asked me to be their next Ambassador, and that was that.
It's a cause that's important to me because I lost somebody close to me to AIDS when I was younger. At the time I was uneducated about HIV and AIDS so I was afraid. I'd shared the same cutlery as this person; we'd used the same shower... I had so many questions – and looking back – a lot of what I thought to be true about the virus was incorrect. Unfortunately, I think that a lot of people out there still don't know enough about it and that's why I think it's important for those of us in the public eye to educate and set a good example. My life has taken me to a point where I am in the position to influence my fans, and if I can influence the way they dress, the music that they listen to and so on, why can't I get them to think and be more aware about more serious issues like HIV and AIDS?
It's often the littlest things that give you the greatest a-ha moments. Do you recall any such seemingly small but monumentally telling anecdote from your travels in June that really opened your eyes to the impact of the Foundation?
Getting to actually meet the young projects leaders and get to know them a bit better, for me, was a definite highlight. Bulelani
, Alex and Mandakini are three of the most inspiring people I've ever had the pleasure to meet. Their work is tireless, their attitude selfless.
There are few real standout moments though... In South Africa, Bulelani took me on a tour of Site B in Khayelitsha, which is where he lives. It's the second largest township in South Africa and has an incredibly high HIV infection rate. Bulelani spreads HIV prevention and awareness messaging through a creative filmmaking process with local youth. He then shows the films produced using his
Mobile Cinema, which is funded by the Foundation.
I was walking along with him chatting about his work and I asked him what he'd do if Hollywood came knocking with a million-dollar deal... His response cemented my original thoughts about him – without hesitation, he said that he'd turn them down because his work as a filmmaker is in Khayletisha where he sees a problem that needs to be addressed. I love the fact that...
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Contortionists, negative space, and what Claymation has to do with the Kama Sutra.
We love books. And we love nontraditional takes on the traditional. Recently, we've looked at hypertextual books
, ambitious carved-out reproductions of history books and Pictorial Webster's. Today, we look at three inspired examples of innovation on the most rudimentary gateway to language and literature: The alphabet book.
THE HUMAN ALPHABET
In 2006, we had the pleasure of meeting the phenomenal Pilobolus dance company, an incredible group of choreographers and dancer-athletes who produce some of the best original work in modern dance today. So imagine our delight when we discovered photographer John Kane's
The Human Alphabet – an ambitious and striking alphabet book, using the bodies of Pilobolus dancers to construct each of the letters through ingenious grips, bends and twists of the human form.
With its superb photography, vibrant colors and jaw-dropping acrobatic contortionism, The Human Alphabet is bound to astonish. If language had a Kama Sutra, this would be it.
THE HIDDEN ALPHABET
Curiosity is the fundamental fuel of learning. Mix that with children's boundless imagination, and you've got a powerful recipe for inspiration-education. That's exactly what illustrator Laura Vaccaro Seeger does in The Hidden Alphabet – a visual gem of a book, where a black mat frames an object on each page, then peels away to reveal its starting letter.
Risking to live up to a designer cliche, we do love our negative space. And The Hidden Alphabet
plays with it brilliantly – when the black mat is lifted, each object becomes a significant building block of the letter's negative space, with a clever perspective shift from foreground to background that plays on the popular figure-ground optical illusions.
Besides the innovative visual format reinterpreting the traditional approach of matching each letter with a word, Seeger's choice of the words themselves – "inkblot," "partridge," "quotation mark," "yolk" – is equally refreshing and adds a whole new layer of sophistication to the artwork.
We're suckers for a good pop-up book, but Marion Bataille
's ABC3D takes it to a whole new level.
Slick, stylish and designerly, it's hard to capture its tactile, interactive magic in static words – you have to have it in your hands to truly appreciate it.
An architectured pop-up with the i and j sharing the same dot.
The Washington Post hit the nail on the head:
Does for paper what Claymation did for mud. It's a three-dimensional, interactive, cinematic treat for the littlest fingers right up to the oldest eye.
And just when you think ABC3D
couldn't possibly delight and surprise more, it does: We've seen a trailer for an album, a trailer for a typeface, but a trailer for a book? ...
UPDATE: We've just been alerted (Thanks, Coudal!) to an absolute gem we had no choice but to include here.
Remember The Indie Rock Coloring Book? Now, from the wonderful Paste Magazine
, comes An Indie Rock Alphabet Book -- an equally wonderful delight for hipster parents and their hipster-to-be kids.
From Animal Collective to The Zombies, by way of Joy Division, Tom Waits and ?uestlove, the book is written by Paste editors Kate Kiefer and Rachael Maddux, and brilliantly illustrated by so-indie-he's-off-the-Google-radar artist owen the owen.
An Indie Rock Alphabet Book is a get-'em-while-they're-young necessary tool for engineering tomorrow's musicologists. After all, the first step to that Rolling Stone internship application is spelling your name correctly. And, really, who wants to learn with "cat" when you can have "Cat Power"?
What five rooms and bleeding-edge software have to do with the cultural heritage of music.
We love, love
, love jazz. And we have a soft spot for good animation
. So we're all over Silhouettes of Jazz – a brilliant animated short film from SIGGRAPH Asia 2009, outlining the history of jazz in a virtual shadow art museum.
Shadow art is a unique form of sculptural art that exploits the fact that we can recognize objects from their shadows or silhouettes. Improvisation, a key ingredient of jazz music, is mirrored in the ambiguity of a shadow sculpture: many different 3D shapes can cast the same 2D shadow.
The film focuses on five milestone eras in the evolution of jazz – the early music of field workers, ragtime, New Orleans jazz, swing, and bebop – each represented by a separate room, in which 3D sculptures cast complex shadow images in different directions simultaneously, making each form interpretable as multiple symbolic objects.
The animators used a novel computational method, building 3D shadow volumes through global geometric optimization that allows the artist to later edit the silhouette using 3D modeling tools.
Silhouettes of Jazz does for jazz what This Is Where We Live
did for book publishing, a visual and conceptual delight from start to ...
Four years and 12 million feelings later, a book that lives up to its grand expectations.
In 2005, visionary artist-storyteller Jonathan Harris
(whom we've already established
we love) embarked upon an ambitious experimental journey into human emotion. The project, titled We Feel Fine
, soon became an icon of interactive storytelling and data visualization. The premise was simple: Every few minutes, an algorithm would scrobble the world's newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases "I feel" and "I am feeling," and harvest human emotion by recording the full sentence and context in which the phrase occurs, identifying the polarity (happy, sad, depressed, etc. ) of the specific "feeling" expressed. Because the blogosphere is lined with metadata, it was possible to extract rich information about the posts and their authors, from age and gender to geolocation and local weather conditions, adding a new layer of meaning to the feelings.
The result was a database of millions of human feelings, growing by about 20,000 per day.
This week, Harris and co-author Sep Kamvar release We Feel Fine: An Almanac of Human Emotion
, a remarkable book exploring the 12 million human emotions recorded since 2005 through brilliantly curated words and images that make this massive repository of found sentiment incredibly personal yet incredibly relatable. From despair to exhilaration, from the public to the intimate, it captures the passions and dreams of which human existence is woven through candid vignettes, intelligent infographics and scientific observations.
With its unique software-driven model, We Feel Fine
is a revelation of emotion through a prism of rational data that only makes the emotional crux deeper and more compelling. It's the rich symphony to PostSecret's scattered and sporadic soundbites, transcending mere voyeurism to offer a complex, layered context that spans sociology, psychology and digital anthropology.
From sentiments about cities to approval ratings of celebrities
to the effects of gender and age on emotion, We Feel Fine picks at the fabric of feeling and thought from all sides and angles to reveal a complex portrait of human essence.
You can peek inside the book online and even download many of the pages as PDF's.
For more about the challenges of translating a web narrative onto a print medium, how the idea for the book first came up, and what's next for Jonathan, check out our exclusive Q&A with him for Wired UK
. And grab a copy of We Feel Fine: An Almanac of Human Emotion – for yourself, or as one of the smartest holiday gifts out there.
How to increase the statistical probability of finding a clown, Malcolm Gladwell, and a rocket scientist in the same room.
It’s no secret that we’re huge TED fans here at Brain Pickings
, but we also follow other conferences with a great deal of interest – ambitious alternative events determined to make oft-repeated phrases like "design thinking" and "interdisciplinary innovation" mean something. These expansive – but not prohibitively expensive – experiences also aim to create communities that live beyond the initial flurry of inspiration. And while we certainly don’t believe the world needs gratuitous gatherings of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things, we do believe in incubating ideas and connecting inspired changemakers.
So here's a list of the top-10 non-TED alternative live conferences – and we use the term loosely – bound to make your brain sparkle.
Named after Thomas Edison’s dictum, "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% Perspiration," the 99% conference
has a unique raison d'être: "making ideas happen." In a twist to traditional conference talks, the speakers are asked to share the stories behind the execution of their great ideas, rather than the ideas themselves. (And with a brand-name lineup featuring Michael Beirut
and Seth Godin, attendees were already familiar with the speakers’ main ideas anyway.)
Produced by the creativity consultancy Behance
, the inaugural 99% conference took place in New York in April of this year; next year’s is already on tap for April 15-16, 2010.
Inspired by Tim O'Reilly's famous invite-only hacker summit, Foo Camp,
BarCamp borrowed from the hacker slang foobar to create a set of guidelines for an alternative, open-to-all, ad-hoc event around a common topic or theme that anyone can host anywhere. (These user-generated experiences are also sometimes called unconferences or non-conferences, after legendary eccentric curator Hans Ulrich Obrist's experimental non-conference in Jülich, Germany, in the 90's.)
A self-organizing community of diverse interests, BarCamp participants are also its presenters. Attendees spend the first part of each event brainstorming and voting for session subjects, and can then choose among the various breakout groups. As you might imagine, the quality of a BarCamp can vary considerably depending on who’s present – we’ve had mixed experiences, accordingly. But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for; and BarCamps are typically free.
As with the 99%, the Do Lectures
have the proactive premise "that the Doers of the world can inspire the rest of us to go Do something." Fewer than 100 attendees, speakers, and staff gather in west Wales under a tent for a weekend of cross-disciplinary inspiration. Speakers at this year’s second-annual Do session included mountaineer Paul Deegan
and Tony Davidson, Creative Director of ad agency Wieden+Kennedy.
The Do Lectures were started by David and Clare Hieatt, founders of the activewear brand Howie's.
See the rest