Brain Pickings

Author Archive

03 NOVEMBER, 2011

Stefanie Posavec on Her Obsessive Analog Data Visualization

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Inside the brain of one of today’s most creative information patternists.

There are no words to describe how much I heart the work of information designer Stefanie Posavec, whose Writing Without Words project remains one of the most poetic pieces of visual meta-storytelling you’ll ever see and who last year generously visualized the best of Brain Pickings. In the age of computational data visualization, part of what makes Posavec’s work so remarkable is that so much of it is code-free, done entirely by hand, with pencil and paper, extracting fascinating data patterns from ordinary subjects.

This wonderful feature by Protein offers a rare glimpse of Posavec’s creative process and a priceless tour of the wonderland that is her mind:

I spend lots of time reading and rereading text and counting words or counting numbers or just going through a subject matter repeatedly until I have all the data in a notebook, and then I use that data to create my graphics. By reading and rereading these texts, I’m able to understand more about a specific text or a specific subject matter than I would otherwise, than I would if I wrote a computer program to analyze that text for me.” ~ Stefanie Posavec

via feltron

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03 NOVEMBER, 2011

The Table Comes First: Adam Gopnik on the Meaning of Food

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A cultural history of our modern culinary obsession.

It seems to be the season of intriguing food-related releases. From Adam Gopnik, one of my favorite nonfiction writers working today, comes The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food — a fascinating journey into the roots of our modern obsession with food and culinary culture. From the dawn of our modern tastes in 18th-century France, where the first restaurant was born, to the kitchens of the White House to the Slow Food movement to Barcelona’s bleeding-edge molecular gastronomy scene, Gopnik tours the wild and wonderful world of cuisine, with all its concomitant sociocultural phenomena, to explore the delicate relationship between what goes on the table and what goes on around it as we come together over our food. It’s history, nutrition, philosophy, anthropology, and sociology all rolled up into one delectable streusel of insight and illumination, in Gopnik’s unapologetically intelligent yet charmingly witty style.

Having made food a more fashionable object, we have ended by making eating a smaller subject. When ‘gastronomy’ was on the margins of attention it seemed big because it was an unexpected way to get at everything — the nature of hunger; the meaning of appetite; the patterns and traces of desire; tradition, in the way that recipes are passed mother to son; and history, in the way that spices mix and, in mixing, mix peoples. You could envision through the modest lens of pleasure, as through a keyhole, a whole world; and the compression and odd shape of the keyhole made the picture more dramatic. Now the door is wide open, but somehow we see less, or notice less, anyway. Betrayed by its enlargement, food becomes less intimate the more intensely it is made to matter.” ~ Adam Gopnik

The book opens with Charles Darwin’s famous haikuesque meditation:

We have happy days, remember good dinners.”

Gopnik goes on to explore the two pillars of modern eating — the restaurant and the recipe book — both of which are modern developments, mere blips in evolutionary time, and reflects on their cultural history with his characteristically brilliant blend of keen analysis and ever-so-subtle smirk.

The restaurant was once a place for men, a place where men ate, held court, cooked, boasted and swaggered, and wooed women. The recipe book was traditionally ‘feminine': the kitchen was the place where women cooked, supervised, gave orders, made brownies, to steady and domesticate men. In the myth-world of the nineteenth century, the restaurant existed to coax women into having sex; the recipe book to coax men into staying home.” ~ Adam Gopnik

Deeply fascinating and absorbingly written, The Table Comes First is the kind of read you’ll want to devour in one sitting, despite its Thanksgiving-sized 320-page heft.

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02 NOVEMBER, 2011

The Art of Pixar: Behind the Scenes of 25 Years of Beloved Animation

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A peek inside the creative process of modern animation’s greatest gems, from sketchbook to screen.

For the past 25 years, Pixar artists have delighted the world with their whimsical short films and charming side projects. More than two years ago, animation historian Amid Amidi brought us The Art of Pixar Short Film — a wonderful journey into the charisma and visual eloquence of Pixar’s storytelling.

Today, to celebrate Pixar’s 25th anniversary this year, Amidi is back with The Art of Pixar: The Complete Color Scripts and Select Art from 25 Years of Animation — a priceless behind-the-scenes tour of Pixar’s 12 beloved feature films, old and new, including Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Up, Cars 2, and more. The art comes from the Pixar Living Archive, created during the development of A Bug’s Life. From the complete color scripts for each film published in full color for the first time to the stunning visual development art that took these stories from sketchbook to screen, the tome is an absolute treasure for animation aficionados and visual storytellers alike.

Color script: The Incredibles

Color script: Up

A foreword by the legendary John Lasseter adds the ultimate cherry on top.

With 320 magnificent pages of animation magic, The Art of Pixar offers an unprecedented peek inside the creative process of some of Pixar’s greatest gems, a fine addition to our favorite sketchbooks of great creators.

HT @openculture; images via The Awesomer

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