Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘health’

29 AUGUST, 2012

Beautiful Stop-Motion Animated Film About the Progression of Alzheimer’s


A textured, tactile journey of abstraction.

Art, with its capacity for expressing in abstract form experiences and emotions too complex or confusing to name explicitly, has proven itself a powerful medium for exploring mental health issues — from artist Bobby Baker’s diary drawings of borderline personality disorder to children’s illustrations of what it’s like to have autism. Now comes Undone, a beautiful and bittersweet stop-motion film by animator Hayley Morris, inspired by her grandfather, which captures with tender abstraction the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

A behind-the-scenes look at Morris’s production setup and sketches:

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03 JULY, 2012

Digesting the Most Important Food Politics Book of the Past 50 Years


Up close and personal with a book whose highest aspiration is to one day be quaint.

BOOKD is a new bi-weekly series from THNKR, spotlighting “game-changing books.” The inaugural episode zooms in on Michael Pollan’s 2006 classic, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (public library) — rightfully called “the most important food politics book of the past 50 years,” and an essential lens on understanding our place, as well as our responsibility, in the natural and industrial ecosystems we inhabit and participate in. A number of famous chefs and food writers — Tom Colicchio, Dan Barber, Katie Lee, Jennifer Pelka, and of course Michael Pollan himself — discuss the book’s core claims, the urgency of its message, and its impact on contemporary culture in the half-decade since its publication.

One meal at a time is how you turn this ship… It’s not going to happen overnight. I would hope at some point in the future this book would seem quaint — that things would have changed so much in the food system that people would read it as a historical curiosity.

Realistically, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I mean, we’ll get as far as we can, but it’s going to be a lot of little maneuvers. Cheap food is baked into our economy. So we’re going to need pressure from both the consumer, voting with his or her fork, and it’s going to take changes in policy.” ~ Michael Pollan

For more essential Pollan, see his follow-up, Food Rules, illustrated by Maira Kalman — one of the best food books in 2011 — as well as this delightful stop-motion adaptation.

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27 APRIL, 2012

The Human Body: What It Is and How It Works, in Vibrant Vintage Illustrations circa 1959


“Two hearts could provide enough energy to drive a truck around the world in two years.”

Much of our inquiry into what makes us human focuses on understanding consciousness, yet we spend the whole of our lives in our physical bodies. As a lover of anatomical art and vintage science illustration, I was instantly enamored with The Human Body: What It Is And How It Works — a stunning vintage anatomy book, depicting and explaining in more than 200 vibrant mid-century illustrations the inner workings of the body. Originally published in 1959, this colorful gem was inspired by German artist and researcher Fritz Kahn, who in his 1926 classic Man as Industrial Palace described the human body as “the highest performance machine in the world” and used industrial metaphors to illustrate its remarkable capacities.

From the nine systems of the body — skeletal, muscle, nervous, digestive, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic, endocrine, and reproductive — to the intricacies of the different organs and senses, the tantalizing tome demonstrates, in delightfully illustrated detail, just how magnificent our physical complexity is.

A gorgeous four-page centerfold illustrates full-body views of the various systems — muscles, blood vessels, nerves, digestive organs, and the gastrointestinal tract.

The introduction traces the history of our modern understanding of the body:

Almost nothing, it seems, could be more important to man than the human body. It is the solid part of “I”; it is with us as long as we live. Yet thousands and thousands of years passed before man really learned about this physical part of himself.

Among the ancients, health was something given by the gods. If you had an accident or got sick, it was because you had displeased the gods, or a demon had entered your body. The demon had to be eliminated, the gods made happy, before you could get well. Breathing and digestion, the circulation of blood, the working of the brain — these functions that kept a human being alive and active were not understood. The few real facts that were known were badly mixed up with superstition.

For more on the pictorial history of how we understand the body, see The Art of Medicine: Over 2,000 Years of Images and Imagination from the Wellcome Collection and Hidden Treasure from The National Library of Medicine.

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