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31 OCTOBER, 2011

Vintage Halloween: Haunted Postcards from the Early 1900s

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Visual snark from the early 20th century, or what haunted mirrors have to do with the lover of your dreams.

In the olden days, Hallowe’en provided another reason to send friends and family celebratory postcards. (These days, it provides another reason to don a slutty outfit and make out with strangers.) Culled from the New York Public Library digital gallery of vintage ephemera, here are some wonderful public domain archival images of haunted postcards from the 1910s.

One thing yesteryear’s Halloween festivities had in common with today’s were the popular parties for young adults to celebrate the occasion. A common superstition from the era held that if a young woman looked in a mirror on that night, she’d see the face of the man she was meant to marry. True to the period’s typical snark, many of the postcards poked fun at the hooey.

And in another wink at the past’s visions for the future of technology, here’s a card that depicts a high-tech witch with her “charms new and all up do date,” flying an “Aeroplane” instead of broom.

An NYPL digital librarian notes:

The playful style and breezy content of the postcards vividly evoke an era of frequent correspondence on every possible occasion, in which postcards served as the ‘email’ of their time.”

(Cue in omnibus of vintage versions of modern social media.)

As a lover of public libraries, I make regular donations to NYPL, a small token of gratitude for their tireless preservation of the past, thoughtful lens on the present, and keen eye on the futurejoin me in supporting them.

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31 OCTOBER, 2011

The Recipe Project: Recipes by Rock-Star Chefs Set to Song

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What moussaka sounds like, or how to cook The Beatles’ White Album like a culinary virtuoso.

After exploring the intersection of music and political protest this morning, we turn to the much lighter intersection of music and cuisine, on the heels of this month’s intersection of cuisine and graphic design. From freshly launched quirky indie publisher Black Balloon (whose launch email included the word “amazeballs”) comes The Recipe Project: A Delectable Extravaganza of Food and Music — a delightful and nerdy treat for the foodie-musicologist, transforming delicious recipes into singable, danceable songs, a straight shot to our omnibus of favorite cross-disciplinary cookbooks. (We’ve previously seen science, history, tennis, color, civic complaints, and the weather set to music.)

The beautifully illustrated recipes come from a roster of famous chefs — including Mario Batali, John Besh, David Chang, Tom Colicchio, and Andrea Reusing — contextualized amidst chef interviews and essays by acclaimed food writers like Melissa Clark and J. Dixon, pondering such complexities as the culinary connotations of The Beatles’ White Album and what moussaka has to do with Metallica.

Masterminding the project is Brooklyn-based band One Ring Zero, who for the past couple of years have been working their favorite rock-star chefs to each choose the musical genre for his or her song, all included on the CD that comes with the book. One Ring Zero’s Michael Hearst got the kernel of this genre-bender in college, when he composed a choral piece around a recitation of grocery store names.

The book also comes with a delightful free iPhone app that lets you enter up to 5 ingredients you have on hand and dishes out a delicious, speedy singable recipe to make with them.

Utterly charming and a formidable feat of multi-sensory deliciousness, The Recipe Project is the kind of whimsical cross-pollination of disciplines that speaks to the Brain Pickings ethos of indiscriminate creative curiosity.

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28 OCTOBER, 2011

My Faraway One: The Love Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe & Alfred Stieglitz

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How to woo like an artist, or what the overuse of the dash has to do with finding the most generous muse.

There is something relentlessly alluring about unearthing the private letters of luminaries — young Hemingway’s missives, the illustrated correspondence of beloved artist Edward Gorey, cultural icons’ letters to their 16-year-old selves, letters to children by 1970s luminaries on the love of books. But make them love letters, and we’re on a whole different level of mesmerism. Such is the case of My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz (public library | IndieBound), the product of an ambitious digitization project by Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, a fine addition to these 7 favorite digitization projects in the humanities.

This exceptional volume gathers 650 meticulously selected and annotated letters exchanged between one of the most prominent couples in art history, photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946) and legendary artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986), who over the course of their 30-year romance exchanged more than 5,000 letters — roughly 25,000 pages — on everything from the rich detail of their daily lives to the breathless angels and demons of their passion.

Culled by editor Sarah Greenough, these missives — sometimes sweet (“Dearest Duck”), sometimes steamy (“the sensuousness of you touching the sensuousness of me”), always profoundly heartfelt (“I love you, Dearest One, if I am capable of love”) — reveal a rare glimpse of the tender humanity behind the cultural icons and, along the way, offer a richer understanding of their creative process as artists.

Photograph of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz kissing at Lake George, 1929

Letter from Georgia O'Keeffe to Alfred Stieglitz on letterhead 'Los Gallos, Taos New Mexico,' May 14, 1929

From one of O’Keefe’s spicy letters, which seem to somehow mirror the fluid, light urgency of her floral paintings:

Dearest — my body is simply crazy with wanting you — If you don’t come tomorrow — I don’t see how I can wait for you — I wonder if your body wants mine the way mine wants yours — the kisses — the hotness — the wetness — all melting together — the being held so tight that it hurts — the strangle and the struggle.

And from Stieglitz, as O’Keeffe became his photographic muse:

– How I wanted to photograph you — the hands — the mouth — & eyes — & the enveloped in black body — the touch of white — & the throat –

(As a compulsive dasher myself — sometimes to a painful degree — I found their excessive use of dashes both comforting and charming.)

Letters from Stieglitz to O'Keeffe, November 2-4, 1916

Letters from Stieglitz to O'Keeffe, November 8-10, 1916

How much we have in common. — Traits. — Both turn everything we touch into something really living — & amusing — for ourselves. — Both can laugh — really laugh — even at our heartaches… 300 years you want to live!! — I wish I could give you that as a gift –

Perhaps most poetic of all is that the couple’s romance, captured in the 600 stirring pages of My Faraway One, embodies those highest ideals of being not merely lovers but also each other’s finest muses, greatest fans and most constructive critics — which makes it as much an invaluable piece of art history as it is a personal yet universal fragment of human aspiration.

Images courtesy of Alfred Stieglitz / Georgia O’Keeffe Archive, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library // HT ArtInfo

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