Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘art’

26 APRIL, 2012

A Typographic Literary Map of San Francisco, in a Puzzle

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From Kerouac to Steinbeck by way of The Mission.

This week, I’m in San Francisco for the fantastic Pop Up Magazine, and what better time to dust off a thematic old favorite with a new twist? As a lover of maps in general and literary geography in particular, I was thrilled to learn that John McMurtrie’s fantastic 2009 typographic map of San Francisco literary geography, illustration by artist Ian Huebert, is now available as a jigsaw puzzle. And not just any jigsaw puzzle — a laser-cut wooden jigsaw puzzle.

With 152 pieces and several dozen authors, including Brain Pickings favorites Jack Kerouac, Mark Twain, Philip K. Dick, and John Steinbeck, the cartographic-typographic puzzle is a beautifully designed treat for the lit geek in your life, or in your heart.

The complete list of authors and works:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0375869832/ref=as_li_ss_til?tag=braipick-20&camp=0&creative=0&linkCode=as4&creativeASIN=0375869832&adid=02YXM5MD2VFTBCC5WMM6&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 what to expect. Like? Sign up.

25 APRIL, 2012

Dreamers and Storytellers: E. O. Wilson on Art and Reconciling Science and the Humanities

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“In the early stages of creation of both art and science, everything in the mind is a story.”

This month, the celebrated Harvard sociobiologist E. O. Wilson — who once famously said that “the elegance, we can fairly say the beauty, of any particular scientific generalization is measured by its simplicity relative to the number of phenomena it can explain” — penned a terrific Harvard Magazine piece on the origin of the arts. One of Wilson’s most urgent points is something we’ve already seen articulated by C. P. Snow, who in 1959 lamented a dangerous cultural dichotomy, and Jonah Lehrer, who spoke of a “fourth culture of knowledge” — the need for bridging the sciences and the humanities. Wilson writes:

Since the fading of the original Enlightenment during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, stubborn impasse has existed in the consilience of the humanities and natural sciences. One way to break it is to collate the creative process and writing styles of literature and scientific research. This might not prove so difficult as it first seems. Innovators in both of two domains are basically dreamers and storytellers. In the early stages of creation of both art and science, everything in the mind is a story.

Wilson’s great talent is perhaps the gift of bridging the poetic with the scientific:

If ever there was a reason for bringing the humanities and science closer together, it is the need to understand the true nature of the human sensory world, as contrasted with that seen by the rest of life. But there is another, even more important reason to move toward consilience among the great branches of learning. Substantial evidence now exists that human social behavior arose genetically by multilevel evolution. If this interpretation is correct, and a growing number of evolutionary biologists and anthropologists believe it is, we can expect a continuing conflict between components of behavior favored by individual selection and those favored by group selection. Selection at the individual level tends to create competitiveness and selfish behavior among group members—in status, mating, and the securing of resources. In opposition, selection between groups tends to create selfless behavior, expressed in greater generosity and altruism, which in turn promote stronger cohesion and strength of the group as a whole.

But the most expansive beauty of Wilson’s essay lies in his articulation of art, at the heart of which is a sentiment common to the greatest definitions of science and of philosophy:

A quality of great art is its ability to guide attention from one of its parts to another in a manner that pleases, informs, and provokes.

Image by Desert Stars

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25 APRIL, 2012

The Animal Fair: Vibrant Vintage Children’s Illustration by Alice and Martin Provensen

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“A little owl looked wise. ‘I think there’s going to be a parade,’ he said.”

As a lover of children’s books, especially vintage ones, I was instantly enthralled by the work of artist-author duo Alice and Martin Provensen, who began their collaboration when they got married in 1944 and went on to produce a wealth of vibrant, textured illustrations wrapped in heart-warming stories of curiosity and kindness. Among their most delightful gems is The Animal Fair (public library), originally published in 1952 and featuring 22 original stories and poems by the Provensens. Along the lively journey to the farmyard, zoo, and forest, we also find humorous semi-useful advice, like “how to sleep through the winter” and “how to recognize a wolf in the forest.”

(It isn’t hard to imagine that Kate Messer’s lovely modern children’s illustrations were inspired by the Provensens’.)

One day a hummingbird sat all by himself on a pole. A sparrow fluttered down and perched beside him. Then a chickadee, a titmouse, a finch, a pippit and other small birds joined them.

‘Is something going to happen?’ asked a wren.

A little owl looked wise. ‘I think there’s going to be a parade,’ he said.

Martin Provensen passed away in 1987. Alice Provensen is 94 years old and continues to illustrate.

Thanks, Jeremiah

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