Column: This Week's Web Picks: spoken like a mind; art fare; life's sideshows; what the Dickens
This is the next in a series of posts highlighting useful and interesting websites.
In only a few years, the TED organization has become the international leader in thinking by video. TED talks are now referred to as glowingly — and sometimes as disparagingly — as TV shows, movies and YouTubes.
And why not? Most TED talks are on YouTube. TED is Technology, Entertainment, Design. It speaks the language of buzz. "Global, green, god, meaning, learning, invention, collaboration...." The mostly illustrated talks last 15-20 minutes and feature thinkers and doers being positively brilliant about the future.
TED sponsors a now-legendary triennial conference where speakers "are challenged to give the talk of their lives." Attendance is by application only and costs $7,500. Bill Clinton, Isabel Allende and Richard Branson have done it in their spare time. It offers a prize too: a million dollars for the best "wish", if you can convince them to realize it. Anyone can enter.
It can be comforting and inspiring to hear positive thoughts these days, and many folks just tune in for a daily TED talk, even if they've never heard of the speaker. You can choose talks thematically ("technology") or adjectivily ("persuasive"). They're tagged by the hundreds on this superbly organized site.
Who are these speakers you should pay attention to? TED's site gives bios of over 1100 of them, each one explaining "why you should listen." And why doubt them when a TED search of "skepticism" brings up over 400 results?
The 53rd Annual Ann Arbor Art Fair has come and gone. Had enough booth art? Well, maybe it's time for Van Gogh and Banksy again.
What happens to all the fair art that wasn't bought? Is it at another art fair? Is it art if nobody wants it? What is art, anyway? It's the question we dare not speak aloud.
If you were in Ann Arbor last week, you know there are two kinds of art: art that we remember and art that we forget. This site, now meticulously managed by the U of M's own School of Art & Design, is a major engine driving our memory. It is the most comprehensive portal we opening us to art that has been celebrated, studied, taught, photographed, copied, canonized, criticized, collected and museumed.
Here are links to dozens of image collections, like The Fluxus Portal and The Kyoto National Museum. Digital art is represented. There are links to the major Fine Arts departments, like Arizona State University's.
Want a grant to study art history, curating, or sociology in China? Try this. And where are all the art museums? Are there any in Finland ? Look no further. Hundreds of libraries, books, databases, encyclopediae, journals, linguistic sites, archives and exhibits are listed, like Feminae.
Though you'd expect such a site, hosted by such a prestigious institution, to be searchable, sadly it isn't. Deduct half a star. But then, anyone looking for art's enlightenment should know that it's never where you expect it to be,
Let's face it: we live in times when it's risky to call anyone disturbingly noticeable a freak. I don't mean the everyday freaks we all love, or those seen on reality TV. The very idea of someone being truly freakish, in looks or behavior, is repugnant — even alien — to many. And yet, we're drawn to them anyway.
This site is a tribute to the bizarre human bazaar, whether genetic or acquired, to the people never needed to come out, their supporters. imitators and exploiters. Their stories are cloaked in historical accounting and deliriously outrageous imagery.
Honor is given to the outsized, the undersized, the oddly shaped, the animal-faced, the improbably human, the apparently ill-fated people who were often smarter and cagier than their oglers, and the shows, posters, films, circuses and entrepreneurs that brought them to a public less constrained by guilt, political correctness or self-importance than today's. As often happened, the freaks sold themselves. They still do.
There are links here to current shows, podcasts, flea circuses, daredevils, knife throwers, medicine shows, museums, magic acts, business links like the Sword Swallowers Association, and accounts of lives spent managing, working and performing in sideshows, up to the present day. And if that's not enough, there's also a terrific theme park audio and video archive.
For many readers, serious and casual, there are only two supreme writers of English: Shakespeare and Dickens. While Shakespeare showers us with words like heavenly rain, Dickens talks from the ground up, where it's easier to map things. And in fact a map of Dickens' London is one of the many wonderful places David Perdue's much-honored site takes you — with each location on it hyperlinked to his works, to earlier maps and more.
Perdue is the best kind of guide: a lover, not a scholar, and offers uncritical coverage of Dickens' characters, illustrations, his career in the theatre, a filmography, dozens of web pages, readings, a glossary, and of course the novels, most of which, like Dombey and Son, can be read online.
This is not a scholarly website, though it links to several that are. But it's easy to read, and is presented with the kind of clarity, intelligence and love that devotees bring to any subject they want the world to celebrate. Though who can imagine a time when we'll need to be reminded that Dickens once ruled?