They say London swings: It doesn’t. Not even the King’s Road, Chelsea. But here and there, among the conformist fat-cat crowds, is a lean cat or two, looking like it might swing, given some encouragement. And there among the chain stores and supermarkets is here and there a shop that may have something all its own to say. To the character who can send up a mass-production car. To people who can put living before a living.”
And the lollipop says what the toy car said: It’s all about that tiny colored womb, warm and gentle, in its way an escape from the H-bomb, television and other horrors of worker-day world.”
It’s particularly interesting to see the emergence of cultural phenomena we tend to see as nascent, from vintage revivalism to hipsterdom, in London’s “antique supermarkets,” predecessors of today’s vintage stores, and boutiques like I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet, an impressively more hipsterly-named then-version of Urban Outfitters. In fact, the program’s entire tone is oozing the same blend of genuine fascination, not-so-subtle condescendence and marginal mockery that you’d find in much of today’s media conversation on hipster culture.
One way of saying ‘no’ to authority is to parody it. Some of the young, with little to say ‘yes’ to, come to Soho — that pulsating heart of swinging London where girls join clubs to see old men strip… or is it vice-versa… and at the cutely named I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet, buy uniforms of the past to affront the uniformity of the present.”
Filmed, narrated and scored with delightful cinematic retrostalgia, the series does for the history of cultural innovation what James Burke’s Connections did for the history of technological innovation.
For more on the subject, we highly recommend Ready, Steady, Go!: The Smashing Rise and Giddy Fall of Swinging London — a sweeping review of the era that gave us mod, bob cuts, and a new paradigm for freedom of expression. From profiles of cultural icons like designer Mary Quant and photographer David Bailey to the sociology of Beatlemania to LSD, the book offers keen insight on a geotemporal phenomenon that crossed cultural borders and shaped the taste, style and sensibility of decades to come.
A year’s worth of ideas, inspiration and innovation from culture’s collective brain.
It’s that time again, that very special day on which we turn back on the year whose end we celebrate tonight and take a look at the tastiest tidbits of interestingness that made our radar during the 4,500+ hours we poured into Brain Pickings in 2010. (And if you found any of them marginally interesting, stimulating or smile-inducing, please consider supporting us with a marginal donation — it’s what keeps the cogs a-turnin’ here.)
An animated adaptation of Mark Twain’s The War Prayer gave us pause about the state of the world today, more than a century after Twain’s poignant reflection on war and morality. These 7 must-read books by TED speakers became one of our most read articles all year and MoMA’s Paola Antonelli echoed our own philosophy on design and innovation in her metaphor of the “curious octopus.”
Divergent thinking isn’t the same thing as creativity. I define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. Divergent thinking isn’t a synonym but is an essential capacity for creativity. It’s the ability to see lots of possible answers to a question, lots of possible ways to interpret a question, to think laterally, to think not just in linear or convergent ways, to see multiple answers, not one.” ~ Sir Ken Robinson
Silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa), a flowering deciduous tree native to South America's tropical forests
Image by Cedric Pollet
We explored the psychology of choice from five perspectives and rushed to grab Bill Moggridge’s ambitious new book on media innovation, featuring interviews with some some of today’s most celebrated media thought leaders.
We were thrilled that James Burke’s iconic Connections series, a BBC history of innovation, was released online for free. We celebrated Christmas with a fascinating documentary about the history of the holiday and a heart-warming story of humanity amidst war from 1914. We commemorated the 6th anniversary of our favorite author’s death with a trifecta remembrance and took a delightfully dark, beautifully illustrated look at Armageddon.
In 2010, we spent more than 4,500 hours bringing you Brain Pickings. If you found any joy and inspiration here this year, please consider supporting us with a modest donation — it lets us know we’re doing something right and helps pay the bills.
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Earlier today, we spotlighted National Geographic‘s Great Migrations — a fascinating look at how large numbers of animals move as one. But perhaps even more fascinating, often in a troublesome kind of way, is how humanity’s ever-growing legions adapt to inhabiting a planet that seems to shrink. This preview for 7 Billion, a year-long series National Geographic is doing on overpopulation — an issue so enormous and far-reaching few of us truly grasp its gravity, and also one of the “elements” in yesterday’s A Is for Armageddon: An Illustrated Catalogue of Disasters — delivers some jaw-dropping facts in beautifully animated kinetic typography.
In 1975, there were 3 megacities — Tokyo, Mexico City and New York City. Right now, there are 21. By 2050, 70% of us will be living in urban areas.”
Standing shoulder to shoulder, all 7 billion of us would fill the city of Los Angeles.”
Brain Pickings has a free weekly interestingness digest. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week's best articles. Here's an example. Like? Sign up.
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