Brain Pickings

Angles, Visions and Illusions

by

Art hearts, saving cyclists, 16 feet of genius, whiteboard wonders, surfing with your posse, mouthing off online, what sex triangles have to do with printing, and why the paranormal is a matter of shutter speed.

THE ART OF THRIFT

Back in the day, we introduced you to Tiny Showcase, the brilliant enterprise that lets artists and art enthusiasts pursue their passions through affordable prices, even donating a portion of profits to a charity of each artist’s choice.

Today, we bring you another art visionary: we*heart*prints, a compilation of great sticker- shockless prints from contemporary artists.

For anywhere between $20 and $150, you can get your art-lovin’ hands on original, anything-but-bland work from folks who do it for anything but the money — while still helping them make rent.

But wait too long and it’s gone — stuff sells out fast. Great for artists, bad for slacker art lovers.

SPIRIT OF GIVING

This year, we’re spreading the holiday guilt-trip-giving spirit early.

Relax, it’s all cool stuff — literally. Like those LED Christmas lights you can get instead of the traditional incandescent variety to save energy, maintenance efforts and “fuck, that was hot!”exclamations upon touch. That’s right, these nifty suckers consume 90% less energy than the standard fare, have a lifetime 10 times that of incandescent ones (so they’re like the CFL’s of mini-lights), and don’t heat up at all (which is why they can afford to be covered by thick plastic rather than “shit, what did I just step on?” glass). And, just like CFL’s, they may cost a bit more, but you’ll be sparing that billboard-powering cycling volunteer some major pedal time. (Remember that from Brain Pickings 1.0 a year ago?)

DAMAGED / GENIUS

The human brain. We’re a little bit obsessed with it here. Its touch is everywhere, from the art inspired by its inner storms, to the complex software modeled after it, to the humor that tickles it. In fact, we’ll argue it’s the greatest product in existence.

But like all products, the human brain is susceptible to glitches in the assembly line. Glitches that result in what society deems “damaged goods.” Glitches like Alzheimer’s disease, Autism, Tourette’s Syndrome and other neurodevelopmental or neurodegenerative diseases.

And based on this social yardstick, Stephen Wiltshire is damaged goods. The 33-year-old British man was diagnosed with Autism when his was a kid and spent his childhood as a mute because he couldn’t relate to other humans. He was sent to a “special school”, where he spent most of his solitary time drawing. Soon, the hobby became his only way of communicating with the world and it became apparent that Stephen had an extraordinary talent.

But the school decided to use the gift to “normalize” him — they took away his drawing supplies so he would have to ask for them, forcing him to speak. And speak he did — his first word was “paper.” By age nine, he was fully verbal. Far more impressively, he was also fully able to draw areal images from imagination (like the imagined effects of an earthquake) and recall to astounding detail.

Stephen is an artistic autistic savant. In 1987, ex-president of the Royal Academy Sir Hugh Casson called him “the most talented child artist in Britain.”

Today, Stephen’s talent has reached new heights. He flies in a helicopter over major cities (Tokyo, Rome, Frankfurt, Hong Kong) and draws panoramic views of the city on a 16-foot-long canvas, down to the most amazing details like the exact number, proportion and position of windows on each building.

Read Stephen’s full life story, check out the gallery of his mind-blowing work and/or buy some prints of this testament to the capacity of the human brain. Meanwhile, see how he crafts a panorama of Rome after he hovers over the great city.

Damaged goods? You be the judge — if you can wrap your own brain around the magic of this one.

THE FLIPSIDE

While seeing a depiction of the world so perfectly linear, static and accurate is impressive, it’s also fascinating to look at the kind of art that interprets the world much like our brains operate: in a non-linear, dynamic, constantly shifting fashion.

Which is why we dig this stop-motion by artist Kristofer Strom, done entirely on a whiteboard — just like the blank slate of our perception uses static shapes and time to interpret complex motion.

See more of the same great art/design vision at Ljudbilden & Piloten.

THE SOCIAL SURFER

Ah, the social web. It stopped being a catchphrase ages ago and now it’s just a fact of life. As is multitasking. So to address the seemingly omnipresent web multitasker, a bunch of web masterminds have just released Flock.

And we dig it because these guys seem to share our passion for a genuine understanding of consumer behavior — the online reflection of which has changed tremendously in recent years, but the fundamental application that propels it — the web browser — hasn’t necessarily kept up. So how about a browser’s that’s the intersection of media, people, and discovery?

flockscreen.pngDubbed The Social Web Browser, this smart newbie aims to give users the most fulfilling experience across all information platforms, from gathering to exchange to self-expression to interaction, as well as across all media. As soon as you login to all your favorite social networking and sharing services, Flock pulls your friends from them into the browser so you can access them whenever. You choose how much you want to see and how often so you can keep track of when your friends have updated their profiles, access their shared media, share web stuff with them, and stay generally connected via whatever services you’re craziest about. See how the magic happens.

A bunch of new themes and extensions are coming soon, but the Flock crew promises a best-of-Firefox fiesta.

Although it’s compatible with Mac, Linux and PC operating systems, its interface and functionality decidedly have our beloved Mac feel — sharing with friends is a drag-and-drop heaven. At the top of your browser window, you get a scrollable filmstrip view of photo and video streams from Facebook, Flickr, PhotoBucket, Piczo, Truveo, YouTube and others. And, of course, the whole ordeal is appropriately open-source so you can code-write your heart out.

Our only caution: not ideal for those 12″ screens. But, hey, now you have yet another excuse to get that spiffy 15″ MacBook Pro.

UNTRIVIA

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And speaking of social, we keep drumming on and on about the power of word of mouth, about how online reviews can make or break a consumer product, and guess what: it’s been confirmed.
Turns out, there’s a particularly WOM-hungry group of net dwellers out there now called “social researchers.” In the yet-to-be-released “Social Shopping Survey 2007,” PowerReviews probed 1,200 people who regularly shop online and spend more than $500 annually. They found that a good 65% of these folks are “social researchers” — a set who actively hunts down consumer reviews before buying stuff and bases final purchase decision on them. More on those WOM-ravenous shoppers:

  • 78% spend over 10 minutes reading the reviews for a single product they’re interested in
  • 64% research products online at least half the time, regardless of where they end up actually buying
  • 82% prefer sifting though consumer reviews to finding out about the product from a knowledgeable store staffer

Ok, we’re off to finally buy that PowerShot we’ve been lusting after with the stellar Amazon reviews.

RAG DEPARTMENT

Okay, the last thing we wanna be is an industry tabloid: enough people talking about Wal-Mart sex triangles and Dentsu upskirt shots of Kournikova already. But we just heard something too gotta-spill to keep to ourselves.

hp2.jpgFresh from our Rumors Allegations, and Gossip department: seems like Hewlett-Packard is cooking up a new web-based service to address the marketing, design, production and printing needs of small business. There’s also some sort of personalized marketing consultancy involved. The mystery creative solutions service will offer pretty much everything an old-school ad agency would: logo design, direct mail, website hosting and design, collateral, online banner advertising, search optimization, print design and production, copywriting and more. And, of course, a promise of affordability.

We’re not exactly sure how HP will attempt to pull this off. (Craigslist wanteds for unemployed creative folk come to mind. And more stock photography than should be legal.) But we’re not surprised: HP has been pushing the “creativity” message big time lately, mostly thanks to some fresh work from Goodby and the recent Gwen Stefani endorsement with its various extensions.

We’re just not exactly convinced their end products won’t end up a tad too close to a certain NASA page.

GHOST OF ART

Yes, it’s real.

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It’s William Hundley‘s completely in-camera, completely haunting, completely brilliant photography. The Entoptic Phenomena project isn’t a product of Photoshop, the wind, or paranormal forces. It’s the work of Hundley’s creative mind…and his social circle.

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The secret: Hundley has his friends jump completely covered in fabric and snaps shots of them mid-air. We love the eerie vibe of the result. Also not too shabby: the photographer’s boldness with colors, patterns and textures.

See his the full project and its interesting extensions. (Our favorite: Friends, in which the Entoptic Phenomena awkwardly share space with static everyday characters.)

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