Animating the Word, with LEGOs
Mitch Hanley, Senior Producer
Back in February we produced a radio/web package on the manuscript preservation work of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at Saint John’s Abbey in central Minnesota. The Abbey is also responsible for commissioning The Saint John’s Bible, a new hand-written, hand-illuminated Bible using the tools of vellum, quills, pigments, gold leaf, and time-honored processes that declined after the advent of the printing press. The hope of the project’s champions is to illuminate “the Word of God for a new millennium.”
Another approach to that end is that of Reverend (he’s not really a preacher) Brendan Powell Smith — an actor, author, musician, and past theology student who has chosen a staggering collection of LEGOs, a hobby knife, permanent marker, and a camera to “animate” the Word and bring it to life in books and online. Smith’s Brick Testament has seen a lot of press worldwide and so you may have come across this before, but if not, I thought you might enjoy seeing just a handful of the highly imaginative and resourceful uses of LEGOs that Smith snaps together to retell Scripture.
You may notice that some of the dialogue in the images is black and some is grey. The black is actual Scripture and the grey, well, the grey might be called apocryphal or simply playful, or what Smith imagined what might have also been said at the time. His translation of choice is the New Jerusalem Bible, with some things updated in Smith’s wording to avoid copyright issues. Please note: some of the images and “playful” language of The Brick Testament may not be suitable for all audiences, but there is a content code to point out sections that some may find objectionable.
Illustrations courtesy of The Brick Testament.
Video Snack: One Ethereal Paper Plane
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
Sometimes the magical, the transcendent resonates in the seemingly mundane. I know; I just flew a Spider-Man kite with my three-year-old son for the first time. An image I had taken for granted as being fun came to life in a moment while looking at the awe on his face as he commandeered the strings.
This 8.5” x 11” piece of folded paper floating across the Brooklyn cityscape has that same affect. Take a bite of your lunch and enjoy.
Shiraz Janjua, Associate Producer
After a group conversation about which Star Wars movie was the best one (discounting the new trilogy, obviously, my favorite The Empire Strikes Back has a strong following), I went out for lunch. In the food court nearest to our building, I saw at a distance a man sitting at a table, pencil in hand, his palm squeezing his forehead. He was looking down at some paper, and looked like he had to figure out a way to balance his finances or die. As I got closer, I saw what he was working on: a crossword puzzle. He was completely taken.
As I walked back to the office, I thought, “Gee, I should take up a new hobby.” I thought of just a few weeks ago when I was playing with my cousin’s son, following the instructions of a Lego jet, sifting through the pieces to find a red block with two studs, and feeling this kind of meditative calm come over me. I remembered being lost, as I would be in childhood, sifting through the blocks the same way. Maybe I should become a Legomaniac as an adult. (Unfortunately, sitting on the floor isn’t much fun anymore.) I guess I’m noticing all this because we just recorded some promotional language for our upcoming rebroadcast of Play, Spirit and Character.
(photo: “crosswords" by m_m_mnemonic/Flickr)
Taking Play Seriously
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
Our program on the spirit of play continues to garner attention. This time Krista’s appearance at the New York Public Library with Stuart Brown is the entry point for Robin Marantz Henig’s long-form piece in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.
The program’s trajectory has been a curious one, with a long tail no doubt. I watched the PUSH participants gasp in awe when Stuart Brown showed images of a polar bear and tethered sled dog frolick in the Canadian tundra. The collective sigh amounted to more than an “oh, isn’t that cute” sentiment.
I suggested the topic and Stuart Brown as a potential guest. To my surprise, Krista liked the idea. The idea of play didn’t explicity touch on religion or spirituality, but its implications spoke to the humanity of our nature, as children and now as adults.
We received a healthy number of comments after the radio broadcast/podcast release. And, more unexpectedly, the companion narrated slideshow of animals at play was so successful that it crashed APM’s Web servers. It’s been viewed by more than 2 million people - getting picked up by social recommendation engines such as Digg and by newspaper blogs in Boston and Seattle.
For me, this program is a reminder that one obligation of journalists is to be proxy agents for the public, to stand in and report on events you aren’t able to attend and tell stories that are relevant to your lives. I think we exemplified this, and have inspired other journalists to do so as well.
(photo: Tom Schierlitz for The New York Times)