Brain Pickings

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18 MARCH, 2011

Words Without Words: A Visual Dictionary


If we could re-learn our SAT words, this is how we would do it.

We love, love, love words and language, especially whenever lingo-love and beautiful design meet. So we’re all over Words Without Words by Slovakian-born, Stanford-educated, Los-Angeles-based designer Veronika Heckova — a lovely visual dictionary of words with abstract, complex or underused meanings.

The project is part Radiolab homage to words, part Johnny Carrera’s visual dictionary of curiosities, and altogether wonderful.

Thanks, Yuriy.

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17 MARCH, 2011

PICKED: Waste Land


The world’s largest landfill, Jardim Gramacho, lies in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, where an eclectic group of local “catadores” — self-assigned pickers of recyclable materials — live, work and play. Jarred by the disconnect between these pickers’ bold creative spirit and the desolate conditions of their lives, acclaimed artist Vik Muniz decided to help. So he set out to change their lives through the very material of their livelihoods, creating powerful portraits of the garbage pickers that hover between dignity and desperation, selling them as high art, and giving all the money back to the community.


Waste Land is British filmmaker Lucy Walker‘s fantastic documentary about this beautiful social experiment, following Vik from his homebase in Brooklyn to his native Brazil for nearly three years as he collaborates with the pickers on these portraits and eventually helps them form a political association that empowers their existence. The film swept Sundance last year, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary (Thanks, Carr!), and is out on DVD this week.

The moment when one thing transforms into another is the most beautiful moment. That moment is really magical.” ~ Vik Muniz

It’s not just that Waste Land is a beautiful piece of cinematic storytelling. It’s also the kind of film that will make you look a bit more closely at your own life in a heartfelt, non-pedantic way, and maybe, just maybe, make you want to live a richer, fuller life.

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17 MARCH, 2011

Enchantment: Guy Kawasaki’s Guide to Success


De-fluffing authenticity, or why your cause is your only yellow brick road to success.

Why is it that we caress our iPhones so tenderly? What is it about putting on a pair of Nikes that makes us run faster and jump higher? How come merely seeing Facebook’s blue logo gives us a rush of connectedness and belonging? Business guru Guy Kawasaki may be equally celebrated and reviled for his unique brand of media entrepreneurship, but one thing is certain: The former Chief Evangelist at Apple knows a thing or two about stirring passion and building cults around it. That’s precisely what he captures in his new book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions — an essential handbook for making ideas resonate, sitting at the intersection of business, creativity and persuasion.

It causes voluntary change of hearts and minds and therefore actions. It is more than manipulating people to help you get your way. It transforms situations and relationships. It converts hostility into civility. It reshapes civility into affinity. It changes skeptics and cynics into believers.” ~ Guy Kawasaki

Kawasaki offers a thoughtful guide to transforming both personal and professional interactions from transactional what’s-in-it-for-me’s into lasting, trusting, meaningful connections. Ultimately, he makes a case for what we all intuitively believe — that success is the product of, above all, being a good person — but wraps this ethos in grounded case studies and examples from some of the world’s most passion-driven brands.

Enchantment of others, or yourself, is a process, not an event. It’s like fitness: you don’t stay fit without continuous effort. Maybe it’s an Asian thing: simple to learn but a lifetime to master. The best way to keep yourself enchanted is to enjoy the process. We had a saying in the Macintosh Division: “The journey is the reward.” If you can embrace this attitude, you’ll be enchanted and enchant others for a long, long time.” ~ Guy Kawasaki

We couldn’t help but find Kawasaki’s thinking remarkably similar to the ethos of Polaroid inventor Edwin Land circa 1942, perhaps bespeaking an essential ingredient of entrepreneurship.

The 99% has an excellent interview with Kawasaki. Still not convinced you actually need to read it? Take Guy’s Realistic Enchantment Aptitude Test — a 23-question self-exam that tests just how masterful your enchantment skills are and where you may need help.

The pillars of enchantment are likeability, trustworthiness, and greatness. Greatness refers to the quality of your product, service, idea — in other words, your cause. Sharing your dream is a key part of enchantment.” ~ Guy Kawasaki

Enchantment is out this month and is already shortlisted for our selection of the best business books of 2011.

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16 MARCH, 2011

The Coca-Cola Case


What Colombian laborers have to do with American foreign policy and the history of soda.

Labor rights are among the most pressing human rights issues in industrialized nations. But what makes the subject most devastating is how remote it feels to most of us yet how deeply infused our everyday lives are with its enablers, from the inhuman factory conditions in the Chinese factories that churn out our favorite shoes to the impossibly low wages of the Indian farmers who grow our afternoon tea. The Coca-Cola Case is an unsettling feature-length documentary by directors German Gutierrez and Carmen Garcia exploring the subject through the lens of America’s favorite soft drink, investigating the allegations that Coke orchestrated the kidnapping, torture and murder of union leaders trying to improve working conditions in Colombia, Guatemala and Turkey.

Of the 4,000 trade unionists killed in Colombia since 1986, only five have been successfully prosecuted. Five. It’s the trade union capital of the world, by far.”

The filmmakers zoom in on two labor rights lawyers and a human rights activist as they attempt to hold the beverage behemoth accountable in a vicious legal and human rights battle. Regardless of whether or not the allegations are true — though, as the film progresses, it becomes increasingly hard to believe otherwise — the film exposes the ugly underbelly of corporate politics, PR spin and the ruthless pursuit of competitive advantage.

After months of investigation into Coca-Cola, all evidence shows that the Coca-Cola system is ripe with immorality, corruption and complicity in gross human rights violations, including murder and torture.”

The film is available on YouTube in 9 parts, which we’ve conveniently collected in this playlist:

For a closer look at Coke’s alleged transgressions around the globe, take a look at Mark Thomas’ Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola. And for more on the broader subject of corporate spin and human rights abuse, we highly recommend Thinker, Faker, Spinner, Spy: Corporate PR and the Assault on Democracy.

via MetaFilter

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