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23 DECEMBER, 2010

Len Kendall Sketchnotes the Best of Brain Pickings 2010

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This year, we asked some of our favorite visualization artists to each capture the 10 most popular Brain Pickings articles of 2010 in a single piece of artwork, and we’re revealing them one by one this month. After Stefanie Posavec, Sam Potts, Tiffany Farrant and Christina Tsevis, we continue with a longtime favorite — sketchnote master Len Kendall, whose work you may recall from the Brain Pickings 500.

The articles, in order of popularity:

  1. Mythical Beasts & Modern Monsters — three humorous takes on the relational understanding of the monsters ecosystem.
  2. Mapping European Stereotypes — a Bulgarian designer based in London pokes fun at Europeans’ xeno-bias and the subjective reality of nationalism.
  3. 7 Image Search Tools That Will Change Your Life — 7 visually-driven image search interfaces that change how we look for, find and catalog images.
  4. 7 Must-Read Books by TED Global Speakers — selection of the 7 most compelling books by speakers at this year’s TED Global in Oxford.
  5. How Do I Explain It To My Parents — Dutch abstract artists sit down with their parents and try to explain to them what they do, to a delightfully amusing effect.
  6. Vintage Posters for Modern Movies — a look at the faux-vintage design trend as it applies to film poster design, spotlighting the work of seven contemporary designers with a retrostalgic aesthetic.
  7. How To Be Alone — a poetic manifesto for the art of solitude.
  8. Strange Worlds: Miniature Condiment Landscapes — remarkable miniature landscapes made out of spices and condiments by artist Matthew Albanese.
  9. What Does It Mean To Be Human? — three disciplines (evolutionary biology, philosophy and neuroscience) tackle the grand question of existentialism.
  10. Literary Action Figures — you know you want them.

And as if Len’s signature style wasn’t enough of a treat, the artwork is actually image-mapped, which means you can click on the different elements to read the actual articles they represent.

Image Map

Want to go bigger? Grab the image as a PDF.

For more of Len’s work, do check out his brilliant the3six5 project and follow him on Twitter.

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22 DECEMBER, 2010

Walt Disney’s Man In Space: Retrofuturism from 1955

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Before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, Walt Disney took audiences there. Man In Space is a fascinating and rare 1955 Disney program exploring humanity’s obsession with the cosmos with equal parts scientific futurism and historical investigation. The entire segment is now available on YouTube in four parts, gathered here in a convenient playlist for your retrofuturist bemusement.

From prehistoric rockets to the science of the moon to space medicine, each segment explores a different aspect of man’s last frontier of conquest. The series culminates with a vision for launching man’s first foray into space, a purely hypothetical and, for many, unimaginable proposition at the time. The cherry on top: The segments is narrated by Dick Tufeld, the voice of the robot from cult vintage TV series (and subsequent 1998 film adaptation) Lost in Space.

Man In Space appears on the excellent Walt Disney Treasures – Tomorrow Land: Disney in Space and Beyond — a priceless two-disc collection of the “science factual” Disney programming that aired in the 1950s, covering multiple facets of the pre-modern fascination with outer space.

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.

22 DECEMBER, 2010

Rare Photos of Jazz Icons by Herman Leonard

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Last winter, The Jazz Loft Project was one of readers’ favorites — a rare and fascinating look at the secret life of a New York loft, where some of the most iconic jazz musicians of the 1950s came to play at night. This season brings us a greater treasure still: Jazz — a humbly titled yet absolutely amazing retrospective of the work of legendary photographer Herman Leonard, who passed away a few weeks before the book was published. Leonard had been photographing jazz musicians since the 1950s and developed close friendships with greats like Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, which gave him unique access to these innovators and their larger worlds beyond the stage. The book reveals a rare glimpse of the underbelly of a cultural revolution through stunning, luminous never-before-seen images of icons like Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald and more.

Frank Sinatra

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard

Louis Armstrong, Paris, 1960

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard via NPR

Billie Holiday, New York, 1955

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard via NPR

Thelonious Monk, Minton's Playhouse, New York, 1949

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard via NPR

From backstage parties to afterhours sessions to private get-togethers in musicians’ apartments, Jazz is both a bittersweet remembrance of one of the greatest entertainment photographers in history and a remarkable record of an era whose legacy shaped everything from music to pop culture for decades to come.


Percy Heath, Miles Davis and Gerry Mulligan, Newport Jazz Festival, 1955

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard via NPR

Dizzy Gillespie, San Francisco, 1990

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard via NPR

Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, NYC, New York, 1948

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard

Frank Sinatra

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard

Charlie Parker

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard

Lena Horne

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard

Doc Cheatham

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard

Ella Fitzgerald

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard

Duke Ellington

Image courtesy of Herman Leonard

Alongside the images is a fascinating essay contextualizing the stories behind the photographs, as well as an interview with Leonard pulling the curtain on his signature techniques and unique creative vision.

With its vibrant, exhilarating record of live performances and its intimate portraits of musicians’ off-stage personas, Jazz is a priceless timecapsule of the glory days of “the sound of surprise,” a cultural icon in its own right.

via NPR

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21 DECEMBER, 2010

Christina Tsevis Illustrates the Best of Brain Pickings

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This year, we asked some of our favorite visualization artists to each capture the 10 most popular Brain Pickings articles of 2010 in a single piece of artwork, and we’re revealing them one by one this month. After Stefanie Posavec, Sam Potts and Tiffany Farrant, we continue with one of our favorite artists — Greek illustrator Christina Tsevis, whom we interviewed last year and whose enchanted Alice in Wonderland work we featured earlier this year.

The articles, in order of popularity:

  1. Mythical Beasts & Modern Monsters — three humorous takes on the relational understanding of the monsters ecosystem.
  2. Mapping European Stereotypes — a Bulgarian designer based in London pokes fun at Europeans’ xeno-bias and the subjective reality of nationalism.
  3. 7 Image Search Tools That Will Change Your Life — 7 visually-driven image search interfaces that change how we look for, find and catalog images.
  4. 7 Must-Read Books by TED Global Speakers — selection of the 7 most compelling books by speakers at this year’s TED Global in Oxford.
  5. How Do I Explain It To My Parents — Dutch abstract artists sit down with their parents and try to explain to them what they do, to a delightfully amusing effect.
  6. Vintage Posters for Modern Movies — a look at the faux-vintage design trend as it applies to film poster design, spotlighting the work of seven contemporary designers with a retrostalgic aesthetic.
  7. How To Be Alone — a poetic manifesto for the art of solitude.
  8. Strange Worlds: Miniature Condiment Landscapes — remarkable miniature landscapes made out of spices and condiments by artist Matthew Albanese.
  9. What Does It Mean To Be Human? — three disciplines (evolutionary biology, philosophy and neuroscience) tackle the grand question of existentialism.
  10. Literary Action Figures — you know you want them.

Christina unleashes her signature textured whimsy in this absolutely beautiful illustration incorporating visual elements from each of the top ten stories:

[Click image to enlarge]

See more of Christina’s wonderful work here and follow her on Twitter.

We’ve got a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays, offers the week’s main articles, and features short-form interestingness from our PICKED series. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.