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20 DECEMBER, 2011

I Want My Hat Back: Charming Children’s Illustration by Jon Klassen

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“My hat is gone. Nobody has seen it.”

Somehow, I missed Jon Klassen’s lovely I Want My Hat Back in the omnibus of the year’s best children’s books.

But it’s here, and it’s wonderful — part Charlie Harper, part Oliver Jeffers, part Edward Gorey, part something charmingly, entirely its own — a delightful dark story, whose understated narrative and deadpan heroes read, somehow, incredibly expressive.

HT vintage kids’ books my kid loves; images courtesy of Jon Klassen

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20 DECEMBER, 2011

Move Your Story Right Along: The Elements of Style Rap

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“Here to teach you how to put the pen down right.”

In 1918, William Strunk penned The Elements of Style, which his former student E.B. White revised in 1959, more than a decade after Strunk’s passing. This expanded edition became one of the most influential nonfiction books ever written and went on to sell more than 10 million copies. Nearly a century later, Columbia grad students Jake Heller (“Strunk”) and Ben Teitelbaum (“White”) pay homage to the iconic style manual, delivering what’s easily the most delightful take on the classic since Maira Kalman’s illustrated edition.

Behold the Elements of Style rap.

And with lines like…

…always write with intent / each word precious / like Benjamins that you spend…”

…what’s not to love?

HT @flavorpill

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20 DECEMBER, 2011

Arrested Development & Philosophy: They’ve Made a Huge Mistake

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From Dr. Fünke to Freud, or what the use and abuse of language can teach us about family dynamics.

It’s been a grand year for Arrested Development fans, from the merry-making announcement of a new season to a LEGO rendition of the Bluth universe. This month, it gets even better: Arrested Development and Philosophy: They’ve Made a Huge Mistake enlists 23 contemporary philosophers in dissecting the cult comedy through the kaleidoscopic lens of various schools of thought, from Plato to Aristotle to Freud. Part of the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series (which features other such fine titles as Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser, Doctor Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside, and The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles), it offers a witty yet surprisingly — or, perhaps, unsurprisingly — insightful meditation on everything from the follies of blind religion (“Don’t Know Thyself: Gob and the Wisdom of Bad Faith” by Daniel P. Malloy) to gender identity (“To Bias Tobias” by Darci Doll) to narrative and how we find meaning (“And Now the Story of a Wealthy Family Who Lost Everything” by Tyler Shores).

We philosophers really need to know the truth (about everything!); we need to know so badly that we even need you to know. If you don’t, we’re unhappy. On the other side of the debate is…basically, everyone else. Sure, when we’re being uncharitable, we’ll point to the MR. F’s and “moron jocks” (Steve Holt (!)) who prefer ignorance, but when we’re being fair, philosophers will admit that there are plenty of smart people who seem to think we’re wrong about self-knowledge being the key to happiness. Since there are no smart people on television, let’s take the Bluths as our guides in reconsidering whether ignorance really is bliss.”

Enlightening, entertaining, and all-around refreshing, you can be sure Arrested Development and Philosophy is no huge mistake.

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In 2011, bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings took more than 5,000 hours. If you found any joy and stimulation here this year, please consider a modest donation.





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.