Brain Pickings

Rainn Wilson’s SoulPancake: Exploring Life’s Big Questions

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Last year, actor Rainn Wilson surprised us with his insightful and utterly un-Dwightlike thoughts on creativity. As it turns out, Wilson is scholar of human nature and the creative process. His newish book, SoulPancake: Chew on Life’s Big Questions, explores the human condition from a rich and fascinating array of angles, spanning life and death, art and creativity, sex and relationships, the brain and the soul, science and technology, and just about everything in between.

When I got so well-known for The Office, I just wanted to create something positive on the Internet. There’s so much crap out there. I wanted to create something really positive and uplifting, and this blends philosophy, creativity and spirituality.” ~ Rainn Wilson

Beautifully written and exquisitely designed, the book is based on Wilson’s site of the same name (another fine addition to our running count of blog-turned-book success stories) and is the product of his collaboration with social media entrepreneur Devon Gundry, photographer and writer Golriz Lucina, and award-winning journalist Shabnam Mogharabi.

With stunning art by nearly 100 up-and-coming artists and designers, as well as essays by like creative thinkers and doers like Amy Sedaris (whom you know we love)a, David Lynch, Jesse Dylan, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Josh Ritter and Saul Williams, the book is a remarkable feat of philosophical inquiry and creative discovery.

SoulPancake: Chew on Life’s Big Questions is a treasure trove of insights, poems, art, quotes and thought starters on pretty much everything that matters in life — a visually astounding and conceptually compelling journey into being human.

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Everything is a Remix, Part 2

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We’re big believers in remix culture and the idea that creativity is combinatorial. Last fall, we featured the first installment in filmmaker Kirby Ferguson’s Everything is a Remix — a four-part documentary about the history of sampling and collaborative creation. This week, he’s back with the second episode, this time squaring in on movies to demonstrate that even the most critically acclaimed films, those hailed as masterpieces of originality, borrow heavily from other creative products — an idea we’ve already seen to be true in art, music, graphic design and animation.

We’ve got stories that have been told, retold, transformed, referenced, and subverted since the dawn of cinema.

To illustrate his point, Ferguson goes after the monolith of modern cult cinema, Star Wars, and traces its many surprisingly direct influences across everything from mythology to the Flash Gordon series of the 1930s to the work of iconic Japanese director Akira Kurosawa.

Even now, Star Wars endures as a work of impressive imagination. But many of its individual components are as recognizable as the samples in a remix.”

And in true meta fashion, Ferguson collaborated with Robert Grigsby Wilson on a visual “case study” dissecting Kill Bill and exploring the many other films that influenced Tarantino’s blockbuster.

Ferguson’s work is incredibly important in making sense of today’s ever-evolving ecosystem of creativity, originality and derivative work, and perhaps a step towards inspiring and informing new, attuned legislation that fosters remix culture and collaborative creation rather than hindering it, so please consider supporting him with a modest donation — we did.

via Daring Fireball

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5 Painfully Hilarious Politically Incorrect Books

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What pedicured pets have to do with Hitler and the supremacy of Y chromosomes.

There’s just too much political correctness in the world these days, stiffening up society like the sun does roadkill. So, today, we turn to five books that flip political correctness on its head and help us loosen up with irony, mockery and sarcasm aimed at the very pillars of PC. Unabashedly offensive and outrageously absurd, they let us, as we laugh through our tears, engage in timely and relevant social commentary through the lens of humor.

STUFF WHITE PEOPLE LIKE

We’ve been fans of Christian Lander’s Stuff White People Like since it first launched nearly 3 years ago. In fact, it was so excellent that it wasn’t long until it joined the ranks of blog-turned-book success stories and Stuff White People Like: A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions was born: An ingenious portrait of today’s “white” person as a psychographic subset, not an ethnic one — you know, the troops of organic, iconic, iPhone-slinging, Prius-driving educated liberal twenty- and thirtysomethings — that will make you feel distinctly less unique than you think you are.

Browse the full list of stuff and you’ll see what we mean.

PETS WHO WANT TO KILL THEMSELVES

People love their pets. Some just love them a tad too much. Pet pedicures, doggie gyms and an entire thriving mini-fashion industry of pet apparel all speak to a frighteningly frivolous obsession, never mind how its objects might actually feel about it. Pets Who Want to Kill Themselves: Featuring Over 150 Suicidal Pets! is a collection of photos depicting miserable-looking pets, paired with laugh-out-funny captions that capture the most absurd extreme of this domestication abuse epidemic — a tragicomic encapsulation of today’s most outrageous petkeeping.

120 FUNNY SWASTIKA CARTOONS

From acclaimed New Yorker cartoonist Sam Gross comes We Have Ways of Making You Laugh: 120 Funny Swastika Cartoons, which we’ve featured before — a collection of outrageous and poignant visual reflections on the reactions, emotions and controversy the notorious symbol has been triggering for more than half a century. Part exercise in purging some of humanity’s heaviest burdens through humor, part witty meditation on one of history’s darkest episodes, the book lives up to the promise of its title: It will make you laugh.

MEN ARE BETTER THAN WOMEN

This is where things start to get really hairy: The unequivocally titled Men Are Better Than Women by the appropriately named Dick Masterson (surely, a pseudonym) is a practical handbook for the art of chauvinism. The magnum-sized volume offers a plethora of affirmations of man’s greatness, backed by solid man-logic and offering “an immediate payoff.”

If Sacha-Cohen-type humor is your thing, let Masterson — let’s just call him Dick, shall we? — take you for a dance along the line between outrageous offensiveness and amusing absurdity.

LOOK AT THIS F*CKING HIPSTER

Another blog-turned-book deal, based on the popular Tumblr of the same name, Joe Mande’s Look at This F*cking Hipster is belly-achingly hilarious collection of photos, paired with appropriately snarky captions, alongside short essays poking witty fun at the cultural phenomenon that is the hipster.

From a taxonomy of hipster types to a brief history of the hipster through the ages to celebrity hipsters, the book is a kind of fascinating remote people-watching that, finally, lets you stare, point and judge like you always wanted to in The Burg.

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