Brain Pickings

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15 DECEMBER, 2011

Viewers Like You: Edward Gorey’s Animated Intro for PBS’s Mystery

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Lessons in giving from the master of the macabre.

I have a well-documented soft spot for legendary mid-century illustrator Edward Gorey, whose stories about mischievous children and curious creatures influenced generations of creators as diverse as Nine Inch Nails and Tim Burton, and who even eleven years after his death managed to delight us with one of the best children’s books of 2011. But what catapulted Gorey into cultural cachet were his animated introductions for the PBS show Mystery! in 1980 — an absolute micro-treat of Goreyesque grim whimsy.

As a regular supporter of public media (and myself the proprietor of what’s essentially a donation-based public service), I’m particularly delighted by Gorey’s refreshing take on the familiar “viewers like you” message — easily the most charming way to ask for a donation.

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15 DECEMBER, 2011

Maira Kalman + Daniel Handler Illustrate a Breakup Through Significant Objects

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What sugar and a pinhole camera have to do with the ephemeral ephemera of impossible love.

Few things can steer me towards fiction these days, but a collaboration between Daniel Handler (better-known to the world as Lemony Snicket) and the great Maira Kalman is positively among them. Such is the case of Why We Broke Up, which tells the poignant, bittersweet story of a teenage romance gone awry through objects of special significance, which make cameos in a letter Min is writing to break up with her boyfriend, Ed. These emotional ephemera, each imbued with a specific memory of their ephemeral but monumental love, are captured in Kalman’s signature childlike artwork, and bespeak a kind of truth at once more fluid and more infallible than fact.

And if you’ve ever found yourself in love, in impossible love, you’ll relate to the heroine’s objectified lament.

I stand entwined in fire on the inextinguishable bonfire of inconceivable love.”

The book’s companion Tumblr lets you voyeuristically read other people’s break-up stories and share your own. Stories are divided into amusingly titled categories, ranging from the petty (“I can’t believe how disgusting you were”) to the outraged (“I just can’t believe it”) to the vulnerable (“I’d take you back in a minute”).

The story, of course, exudes Handler’s unmistakable wit and intelligent humor, underpinned by a kind of self-consciously self-conscious humanity.

Why We Broke Up comes a little over a year after Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman’s first collaboration, the lovely children’s book 13 Words.

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15 DECEMBER, 2011

Sir David Attenborough Narrates Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” to Glorious Glimpses of Nature

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“The colors of a rainbow, so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people going by…”

For nearly half a century, Sir David Attenborough has captivated the world as one of our era’s most prominent natural history storytellers. Best known for his Life and Planet Earth series for the BBC, a kind of gold standard for nature documentaries, he is now back with Frozen Planet. The teaser for it bound to put a smile on your day — an adaptation of Louis Armstrong’s classic “What a Wonderful World”, read by Attenborough to scenes of nature at its most breathtaking. Take a breath, and enjoy.

Here is the trailer for Frozen Planet, breathtaking in its own right:

via Open Culture

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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.