Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘culture’

02 JANUARY, 2012

Advice to Sink in Slowly: Designers Share Wisdom with First-Year Students in Poster Series


Unpacking the secrets of happiness and creativity one poster at a time.

What better way to kick off the new year than with words of wisdom from those who have threaded before us? That’s precisely the premise of advice to sink in slowly, a wonderful project enlisting design graduates in passing on advice and inspiration to first-year students through an ongoing series of posters — part Live Now, part Everything Is Going To Be OK, part Wisdom, part something completely refreshing, based on the idea that we all have subjective wisdom we wish we’d known earlier, but often don’t get a chance to pass it on to those who can benefit from it in a way that makes them pay heed.

Advice is subjective. But, by passing on advice in a creative way, it is possible to create something that lasts, that people will want to live with and which can let the advice sink in slowly and help out later on.”

'to create ideas is a gift, but to choose wisely is a skill' by Ryan Morgan

'Do what you love' by Andy J. Miller

'Take Time' by Temujin Doran

'Use your library…you'll miss it when you leave' by Rebecca Cobb

'Finish what you start* *it may seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.' by Irina Troitskaya

'Ignore both of them' by Eleni Kalorkoti

'Go and look outside' by Robert Evans

'You have to leave your room to get there' by Ben Javens

'if in doubt, make tea' by Owen Davey

'trust your gut instincts' by Carys Williams

'Don't be afraid, everything will be alright' by Ben Javens

'collaborate' by Simon Vince

'Believe in the marks that you will make' by Stephie Ginger

'how to make friends in your first term' by Temujin Doran

'eat breakfast' by Always With Honor

'Be free!' by Anna-Kaisa

'don't keep your worries to yourself' Rebecca Cobb

'Find some place to stop & be quiet' by Lizzy Stewart

'everything is possible' by Lee Basford

Free posters are available to first-year students across the U.K. upon request. Four of the posters are available for purchase in a fundraising effort, with 100% of the proceeds feeding back to support this wonderful project — so go ahead and grab one, then let its wisdom sink in slowly.

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02 JANUARY, 2012

Mail-Order Mysteries: Real-World Stuff from Vintage Comic Book Ads


What hypno-specs and atomic pistols have to do with the duality of the human condition.

We’ve already learned that comic books can be a remarkable medium for nonfiction, but it turns out they can also be a vehicle for the most fantastically fraudulent fringes of fiction. Pop-culture historian Kirk Demarais set out to explore the artifice of childhood by ordering the curious, outlandish, improbable products marketed to kids in the ads on the back of comic books from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. He shares his findings — funny, bizarre, a little bit heartbreaking — in Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads!, a compendium of over 150 such peculiar collectibles, each dissected through the entertaining lens of what was promised and imagined versus what was actually received.

To [young] me the ads’ seductive nature was the result of a powerful combination of factors. Most obviously, the products were otherworldly: X-ray vision, karate courses, a money-counterfeiting device — they almost seemed too good to be true. For the first time, I wasn’t thinking in terms of playthings; these were life-enhancers that offered the means to satisfy a familiar range of wish-fulfillment, including power, glory, revenge, and romance.” ~ Kirk Demarais

While infinitely amusing, Mail-Order Mysteries also pokes at the architecture of our deepest-running wiring to fall for fads, to seek shortcuts, to suspend our disbelief in the hope of becoming a better version of ourselves with minimal effort. Equal parts optimistic and tragically flawed, these parallel capacities for wonder and for guile capture one of the most tender dualities of the human condition.

In 2011, bringing you Brain Pickings took more than 5,000 hours. If you found any joy and stimulation here last year, please consider a modest donation.

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30 DECEMBER, 2011

Marshall McLuhan on New Forms and Old Assumptions (1960)


What the golden age of television has to do with human nature and today’s Internet intellectuals.

It seems fitting that we conclude the year that marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of iconic media theorist Marshall McLuhan with one of his timeless and remarkably timely observations, which in just 30 seconds manages to capture in 1960 a folly of human nature that rings all the more true in 2011 as we trek forward into this constantly evolving media landscape.

When any new form comes into the foreground of things, we naturally look at it through the old stereos. We can’t help that. This is normal, and we’re still trying to see how will our previous forms of political and educational patterns persist under television. We’re just trying to fit the old things into the new form, instead of asking what is the new form going to do to all the assumptions we had before.”

The segment comes from the tribute site Marshall McLuhan Speaks, originally featured here in July. (Though, it warrants noting, the lack of embedding capability for their footage is particularly ironic in light of McLuhan’s words above.) It is also adapted in Understanding Me: Lectures and Interviews, edited by McLuhan’s daughter and with a foreword by Tom Wolfe offering a 21st-century perspective on McLuhan’s life and work. (To be supplemented with Douglas Coupland’s fantastic Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work!.)

What McLuhan gets at, of course, could also be said not only of media but also of media theory itself, especially today. As Internet scholar Evgeny Morozov writes in The New Republic:

Our Internet intellectuals lack the intellectual ambition, and the basic erudition, to connect their thinking with earlier traditions of social and technological criticism. They desperately need to believe that their every thought is unprecedented. Sometimes it seems as if intellectual life doesn’t really thrill them at all. They never stoop to the lowly task of producing expansive and expository essays, where they could develop their ideas at length, by means of argument and learning, and fully engage with their critics. Instead they blog, and tweet, and consult, and give conference talks—modes of discourse that are mostly impervious to serious critique.”

(Thanks, Kristen.)

So, where does this leave us as we round out McLuhan’s centennial? With more questions than answers, no doubt, but the questions about the future of information abundance, the future of journalism, and the future of the Internet might be a good place to start.

Thanks, Bob

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In 2011, bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings took more than 5,000 hours. If you found any joy and stimulation here this year, please consider a modest donation.

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