Brain Pickings

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23 FEBRUARY, 2011

Waiting for Hockney: Documenting a Dreamer’s Determination

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Patience and devotion are necessary ingredients for almost all art. But for Baltimore artist Billy Pappas, they exist on an entirely different plane. After becoming obsessed with the idea of drawing the richest, most real portrait in history, Pappas spent eight years meticulously crafting a reproduction of an iconic Marilyn Monroe photograph, pouring up to a day into a single hair of microscopic anatomical accuracy. When he was finally done, he realized it would take a special kind of eye to truly appreciate his feat. So he set out to put it in front of iconic contemporary artist David Hockney, who Pappas came to believe was his ticket to success in the art world. But what happens when Pappas, flying from Maryland to Los Angeles armed with a cake his mother baked for the occasion, finally scores the big meeting?

Waiting for Hockney is filmmaker Julie Checkoway‘s fascinating documentary about Pappas’ obsession, narrated by the artist himself and featuring interviews with his unusually supportive family and friends, revealing the anatomy of an eccentric obsession.

Though about art, Waiting for Hockney, isn’t an art documentary. Rather, it’s the moving and deeply human story of a dreamer’s determination, exploring the extreme end of the same spectrum of single-minded dedication across which all of our aspirations slide.

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23 FEBRUARY, 2011

Visions of the Future: Isaac Asimov’s Unrealized Pilot

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What vintage computers have to do with unrealized TV series and the future of humanity.

We love iconic science fiction author and futurist Isaac Asimov, whose keen insights on creativity in education were a favorite last month. Two years before his death, Asimov recorded a pilot for a TV series synthesizing his visionary ideas about where humanity is going. When he passed away in 1992, the pilot for the series was adapted into a tribute documentary titled Visions of the Future, now available on YouTube in four parts, totaling 40 minutes of rare footage and biographical background on the great thinker.

The series was intended to cover new breakthroughs in science and technology, preparing people for the coming future — essentially, the antithesis to the Future Shock series narrated by Orson Welles.

Most fascinating of all are Asimov’s thoughts on computers, which may seem like common sense today but in fact presage the modern applications of computing, from mobile technology to consumer electronics to artificial intelligence, by two decades.

Perhaps the most revolutionary development of recent years has been that of the computer. Because for the first time we’ve discovered a machine that can substitute, at least in part, the human brain. Before that, it was just a matter of saving human muscles, of using machinery to spare what human muscles couldn’t do very well.” ~ Isaac Asimov

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22 FEBRUARY, 2011

The Last Lions: NatGeo Photographers Tell an Urgent Story

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Last month, National Geographic photographers Beveryly and Dereck Joubert took the TED stage to share some moving lessons from big cats and pull the curtain on the making of The Last Lions — their beautiful and urgent documentary about the dangerous fate of the lions in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, told through the story of one lion family. Though the film is only screening in theaters across New York, LA and DC, the remarkable book of the same name is now out and an absolute, albeit unsettling, treat.

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'Will this lonely little survivor of this grand adventure be allowed to grow up, grow into a mane, and live to dominate a territory? That, as we say in the film, will depend on us.' | Image credit: Beverly Joubert

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'With two cubs left, Ma di Tau holds them close. She is a good mother in an impossible situation struggling to hunt alone with two cubs to feed.' | Image credit: Beverly Joubert

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'Against a constant backdrop of buffalo, the lions of Duba are highlights on a dark canvas.' | Image credit: Beverly Joubert

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'Ironically, the young males of the Skimmer pride may be the best hope for the future of the Tsaro pride, even though they are enemies right now.' | Image credit: Beverly Joubert

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'A new male on the island seemed familiar and very calm. Then we found his spot pattern in an old photograph, a grown male cub from the Skimmer pride. He is the future of the Tsaro legacy now.' | Image credit: Beverly Joubert

Bittersweet and poignant, The Last Lions is a stride-stopping story of urgency and hope, reminding us of our duty to honor and protect these powerful yet surprisingly fragile beings of poetic pride and mythic magnificence.

Images via Flavorwire

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