Brain Pickings

All Facts Considered: 276 Esoteric Facts from NPR’s Librarian

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We all know the Sahara is the world’s largest desert. Well, turns out we all know wrong — Antarctica is. You’ll find this and 276 more esoteric, surprising, utterly fascinating facts about history, language, science, religion and the arts in All Facts Considered: The Essential Library of Inessential Knowledge — a new book by Kee Malesky, NPR’s lovable and totally librarianly librarian.

From the precise duration of a “New York minute” to the last building Elvis left to

The book, despite its delightful dorky promo — or perhaps even more so because of it — is a knowledge geek’s bonanza, not to mention a powerful street-cred booster for your next dinner party conversation.

All Facts Considered is Wikipedia on interestingness steroids, a compendium of what you always wanted to know — and wanted others to know you know.

In 2010, we spent more than 4,500 hours bringing you Brain Pickings — the blog, the newsletter and the Twitter feed — over which we could’ve seen 53 feature-length films, listened to 135 music albums or taken 1,872 trips to the bathroom. 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.





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One Hello World: Tuning the Human Condition

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Zen in the ocean of humanity, or why connectedness is the panacea of pain.

Ever wondered how the soundtrack to your thoughts would sound like? Call (316) 247-0421, leave a voice-mail, and you might find out. One Hello World is a touching project by a mysterious pianist from Wichita, Kansas, who one day decided to compose music over the anonymous voicemails of strangers. Inspired by his love of film scores and relentless curiosity about the human condition, the project is turning into an audio catalogue of personal experiences, thoughts and feelings, sometimes shared playfully, others with heartbreaking honesty. It’s part PostSecret, part The Apology Line, part We Feel Fine, part something else altogether.

He’s my friend and that’s okay. I guess this is just kind of my way of telling him I think he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.”

The short tracks have the quality of Zen koans one could meditate on. Despite their different tone and theme, they all seem to encapsulate the core of the human condition — the need to experience, feel, understand, communicate, and share the world we live in. Most of the entries become micro-metaphors for the project itself, bespeaking the same hunger for connectedness.

I’ve always thought of life as a kind of canvas, and people as different colored paints; each decorates your canvas in a different way.

You are still my favorite color.

I learned one thing… no matter how bad it is, you always have to tell someone how you feel.

When we get older we stop communicating with those around us and we isolate ourselves. We could do so much if we all looked around one day and smiled, or said ‘Hello.’

One Hello World is the shore upon which all those “voice-messages in a bottle” wash up, tossed into the ocean of information in hopes of reaching their destination — be that a person, an answer, or a certain quality of self.

In 2010, we spent more than 4,500 hours bringing you Brain Pickings — the blog, the newsletter and the Twitter feed — over which we could’ve seen 53 feature-length films, listened to 135 music albums or taken 1,872 trips to the bathroom. 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.





Teddy Zareva is a young filmmaker and photographer currently located in Sofia, Bulgaria. She is prone to excessive dancing and impulsive traveling. Her favorite activities are eating chocolate, hunting for music, and shooting humans.

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.

Steve Shapiro’s Taxi Driver: Rare Photos of Cinema History

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Taxi Driver is revered as one of cinema’s greatest masterpieces, the powers of Scorsese and DeNiro converging to create a milestone that would influence generations of filmmakers to come and forever imprint film audiences worldwide. In 1976, it was a piece of ambitious cinematic innovation, blending the noir and crime thriller genres in an unexpected way unlike any film had dared before. Today, the world gets a rare new look at the set of the iconic film in the form of Steve Schapiro, Taxi Driver — a stride-stopping 328-page volume of never-before-seen photographs by Steve Shapiro (of The Godfather Family Album fame), the special photographer on the set of Taxi Driver in 1975.

The limited-edition comes in only 1,000 copies, each numbered and signed by Shapiro himself, at $700 a piece. (Then again, we suspect serious cinema lovers and Scorsese fans would gladly give a kidney for this Taschen gem, so the pricetag may indeed be quite alright.)

With a foreword by Martin Scorsese himself and priceless images of a young De Niro, as well as a rare glimpse of a long-lost New York City, Steve Schapiro, Taxi Driver offers a priceless timecapsule of film history bound — and clamshell-boxed — to delight film buffs, New York lovers and vintage photography aficionados alike.

In 2010, we spent more than 4,500 hours bringing you Brain Pickings — the blog, the newsletter and the Twitter feed — over which we could’ve seen 53 feature-length films, listened to 135 music albums or taken 1,872 trips to the bathroom. 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.





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