Brain Pickings

Author Archive

20 OCTOBER, 2011

A Collection a Day: An Obsessive Homage to Order

By:

Why we’re drawn to things organized neatly, or what sea urchins have to do with vintage erasers.

On January 1, 2010, artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon embarked on an unusual project — for 365 days, she was to photograph, draw, or, in the case of imaginary objects, paint one collection a day. She documented her process online and recently joined our own collection of blogs so great they became books.

A Collection a Day catalogs all 365 of Congdon’s quirky, obsessive, endlessly curious collections of tchotchkes — erasers, pencils, vintage stamps, mushrooms, receipts, medals, maps, sea urchins, and just about everything in between — in a beautiful volume that’s somehow calming and centering in its neatness, a rare oasis of order amidst the chaos of the everyday stuff that surrounds us.

Since I was a young girl, I have been obsessed both with collecting and with arranging, organizing and displaying my collections. This is my attempt to document my collections, both the real and the imagined.” ~ Lisa Congdon

For a peek inside Congdon’s creative process and what makes these collections so alluring with her wonderful recent talk from the San Francisco chapter of Creative Mornings — bonus points for the Ursus Wehrli, Andy Goldsworthy, and Edward Tufte references.

I think that ordinary objects become something different when they’re arranged with other like things… Seeing things with other like things helps us to see them in new ways.” ~ Lisa Congdon

Beautifully photographed and illustrated, A Collection a Day is a charming meditation on objects and stuff, part Obsessive Consumption, part Things, part its very own peculiar project with its own peculiar character.

Images courtesy of Lisa Congdon / UPPERCASE

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount.





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

20 OCTOBER, 2011

Spike Jonze’s Handmade Stop-Motion Love Story for Bibliophiles

By:

How to punch a whale, or what Dracula has to do with Faulkner and Macbeth.

When beloved director Spike Jonze, he of Being John Malkovic and Where The Wild Things Are fame, met handbag designer Olympia Le-Tan, he fell in love with her intricate embroidery and asked for an embroidered cover of Catcher in the Rye to put on his wall. Le-Tan agreed, but asked for a film in return. The result was Mourir Auprès de Toi (To Die By Your Side) — an absolutely beautiful stop-motion animation for book-lovers that’s part This Is Where We Live, part Going West, part creative magic only Spike Jonze can bring.

Set inside iconic Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company, the film tells the story of the skeleton from the cover of Macbeth, voiced by Jonze himself, who falls in love with Mina Harker on the cover of Dracula. He sets out to meet her, but loses his head to a French version of The Big Clock on the way, trips and falls into Faulkner’s Sartoris, and is then swallowed by Moby-Dick. Harker, voiced by French singer Soko, springs to his rescue, punching the legendary whale in the face with a mischievous smirk. The happily-ever-after ending comes only after an appropriately dark and grim twist.

(We also seem to have a running theme of whales this month, first with the stunning Moby-Dick in Pictures, then the poetic animation about the afterlife of a whale, and now this embroidered stop-motion goodness.)

You just start with what the feeling is. For this one the feeling definitely started with the handmade aesthetic and charm of Olympia’s work. Instantly I had the idea of doing it in a bookstore after-hours, imagining the lights coming down and these guys off their books. Me and Olympia both wanted to make a love story, and it was fun to do it with these characters. It evolved naturally and it all just started with the feeling. From there you entertain yourself with ideas that excite you.” ~ Spike Jonze

Here’s Jonze on the inspired making of the film:

via Slate

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 an example. Like? Sign up.

20 OCTOBER, 2011

I, Steve: Steve Jobs in His Own Words via 200 Quotes

By:

A first-hand tour of the heart and mind of one of our era’s greatest visionaries, culled from 30 years of wisdom.

While writing my personal remembrance of Steve Jobs last week, I sifted through the dozens of quotes I had clipped to Evernote from his many interviews, speeches, and keynotes over the years — for all his visionary entrepreneurship, Jobs was also a rare outlier in being incredibly eloquent and articulate about his vision, a master of speaking his mind, even in the face of resistance and controversy, and using his specific expertise to extract general insight about design, psychology, behavior, and just about all of the human condition. So I’m thrilled for the release of I, Steve: Steve Jobs in His Own Words — a wonderful anthology of more than 200 quotes and excerpts from his many appearances in the media over the years.

(And if you’re quick to write this off as a heartless exploitation of Jobs’ recent death, it turns out the publisher had the book in the works since last spring, set to publish in March 2012, but they moved it up after Jobs resigned as CEO in January.)

Edited by George Beahm, the volume is a wonderfully curated curtain-peeler that offers a singular look at Jobs’ mind as an entrepreneur, his heart as a passionate visionary, and Apple’s fundamental DNA. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

On broad-based education:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country… I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating. None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me.” ~ Commencement address, Stanford University, June 12, 2005

(Be sure to watch his entire Stanford commencement address, it’s a piece of existential poetry.)

On the importance of broad life experiences:

A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. They don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions, without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better designs we will have.” ~ Wired, February, 1996

On being the best:

We’re not going to be the first to this party, but we’re going to be the best.” ~ Apple event for iPhone OS 4.0, April 8, 2010

On media monopoly and lowest-common-denominator content:

When you’re young, you look at television and think, There’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That’s a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want. It’s the truth.” ~ Wired, February 1996

On Bill Gates:

I wish him the best, I really do. I just think he and Microsoft are a bit narrow. He’d be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.” ~ The New York Times, January 12, 1997

On the importance of saying “no”:

And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” ~ Business Week, October 12, 1994

On selling out:

The problem with the Internet startup craze isn’t that too many people are starting companies; it’s that too many people aren’t sticking with it. That’s somewhat understandable, because there are many moments that are filled with despair and agony, when you have to fire people and cancel things and deal with very difficult situations. That’s when you find out who you are and what your values are. So when these people sell out, even though they get fabulously rich, they’re gypping themselves out of one of the potentially most rewarding experiences of their unfolding lives. Without it, they may never know their values or how to keep their newfound wealth in perspective.” ~ Fortune, January 24, 2000

On Apple’s existence:

What if Apple didn’t exist? Think about it. Time wouldn’t get published next week. Some 70% of the newspapers in the U.S. wouldn’t publish tomorrow morning. Some 60% of the kids wouldn’t have computers; 64% of the teachers wouldn’t have computers. More than half the Websites created on Macs wouldn’t exist. So there’s something worth saving here. See?” ~ Time, August 18, 1997

On computers:

What a computer is to me is the most remarkable tool that we have ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.” ~ Memory & Imagination, 1990

On creativity and cross-pollination:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” ~ Wired, February, 1996

On deadlines:

Real artists ship.” ~ Folklore.org, January, 1984

On legacy:

Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” ~ The Wall Street Journal, May 25, 1993

An invaluable treasure trove of inspiration and insight, I, Steve captures the essence of one of our era’s greatest hearts, minds, and souls with the candor and precision only self-revelation can unlatch.

via Boing Boing

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 an example. Like? Sign up.