Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘vintage’

18 NOVEMBER, 2010

A Photographic History of Bromance, 1840-1918

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In the spirit of exposing the old-timey roots of seemingly modern concepts — take, for instance, social networking — here comes a historical look at “bromance.”

Contrary to what Judd Apatow movies may lead you to believe, “bromance” is actually an old and surprisingly well-documented phenomenon, as evidenced by David Deitcher’s Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together, 1840-1918 — a collection of more than 100 photographs depicting what the era’s comfort levels would have described as platonic male affection.

The book is a treasure trove of early photography gems, including rare daguerreotypes, cartes des visites and vintage photographic postcards, insightfully contextualized by art historian and cultural critic David Deitcher.

Curiously, the images have been longtime prized collector’s items for gay men, who saw in them a sort of indirect validation in lieu of real representation of homosexuality in portraiture — something we covered last week with Hide/Seek, which explores the history of gender identity and sexual difference in art.

David Deitcher writes:

[In the late Victorian period] men posed for photographers holding hands, entwining limbs, or resting in the shelter of each other’s accommodating bodies, innocent of the suspicion that such behavior would later arouse.

Tender and often funny, Dear Friends is both a fascinating timecapsule of an era and a powerful implicit reminder of all the artificial behavioral norms we have since imposed on our conception of masculinity and friendship.

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20 OCTOBER, 2010

Frames of Reference: Clever Vintage Film Makes Physics Fun

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Saying that reality is merely a matter of point of view may be a tired truism. But illustrating it with irreverence and ingenuity can be utterly original. Such is the case of Frames of Reference, a lovely example of how cross-disciplinary creativity, blending architecture, design and cinema, can make physics tremendously more fun and digestible. The fascinating film released by the University of Toronto in 1960 utilizes ingeniously placed furniture and a rotating table to demonstrate how we make sense of space and motion.

All motion is relative, but we tend to think of one thing as being fixed and the other thing as being moving.”

The clever cinematography by Abraham Morochnik is part Hitchcock, part Lynch, part dorky Discovery Channel scitertainment — and totally brilliant.

You can download a hi-res version of the film over at the Internet Archive.

via Coudal

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11 OCTOBER, 2010

Five Visualizations to Grasp the Scale of the Universe

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What coffee beans, dinosaurs and lakeside picnics have to do with Isaac Asimov and formalized figments.

Since yesterday was 10.10.10, we’ve decided to celebrate this cosmic alignment of numerical symmetry by illuminating the measurements of magnitude. Today, we are taking five different looks at one of the most difficult concepts for the human brain to quantify and understand: The size and scale of the universe.

POWERS OF TEN

What better way to celebrate 10.10.10 than with Charles and Ray Eames’ iconic Powers of Ten film, an adventure in magnitudes circa 1977?

The film opens with a lakeside picnic in Chicago and branches outward into the universe, jumping to a vantage point ten times further out every ten seconds until our galaxy becomes a mere speck of light among many, then speed-zooms back to Earth, magnifying the view tenfold every ten seconds. The journey ends inside the proton of a carbon atom within the DNA molecule of a white blood cell.

Powers Of Ten is among our absolute favorites, a beautiful intersection of design heritage and scientific curiosity — we highly recommend adding the DVD, companion flipbook and breathtaking photography hardcover to your collection of cross-disciplinary cultural trophies.

PRIMAXSTUDIO’S UNIVERSE

From Primax Studio comes this interactive infographic illustrating the scale of the universe, inviting you to zoom from the quantum foam of Einstein’s space-time theory to the outer limits of the cosmos an estimated 900 yotameters away.

UNIVERSCALE

Isaac Asimov aptly captured our muddled relationship with size and scale he said that “a single particle of sand is a large 32km-by-32km room.”

Universcale is a fascinating interactive infographic by Nikon, exploring the measurement units of the universe, femtometers to light-years. From historical background on when and why the different units of scale were created — because, let’s face it, none of this is absolute and “objective” but, rather, a set of mutually agreed upon conventions that humanity has crafted — to recent scientific developments to near-philosophical insights, Universcale is a treasure trove of knowledge.

The site was created five years ago — which feels like a previous era in the scale of life of the digital universe — and though it’s still a treat, we think it lends itself brilliantly to an iPad app and we’d love to see it as one.

HEAT SCALE OF THE UNIVERSE

Take a visual tour of what’s hot or not in the universe, from the strictly theoretical concept that is absolute zero to the 141,679,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000ºK of Planck, the temperature immediately after the Big Bang.

Heat Scale of the Universe

XKCD GRAVITY WELLS

The wonderful xkcd gets educational with this map of the universe’s gravity wells — from Titan’s feathery pseudo-gravity to Jupiter’s powerful suck — scaled to Earth’s surface gravity so that you can visualize the energy it would take to escape from each planet’s gravity. The deeper the well, the stronger the pull.

BONUS

Though not related to the universe in the cosmic sense, this fascinating interactive exploration of cell size and scale from the University of Utah does glean an understanding of our living world that is very much a part of the universe.

As the best of information visualization does, it uses what’s familiar (a coffee bean, 12-point Times New Roman font) to depict what’s hard to grasp (a carbon atom) and, in the process, illuminates the magnitude of difference between these sizes.

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06 OCTOBER, 2010

Conversations with Mr. Lois

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Legendary art director George Lois, an original Mad Man, came of age in the 1960’s, when his Esquire magazine covers revolutionized graphic design and shaped the aesthetic direction of magazine publishing for decades to come.

Conversations with Mr. Lois is a series of four short clips of Lois, charmingly profane and non-linear and curmudgeonly as ever, sharing his thoughts on everything from the moral state of advertising the essence of magazines to the sensual sterility of tablets. The series was timed around MoMA’s George Lois retrospective and the publication of the fantastic companion book earlier this year.

There are too many assholes in advertising now.” ~ George Lois

People say the magazine is dead — bullshit it’s dead!” ~ George Lois

When you read a magazine, you put it on your lap, it’s like a lap dance. [With tablets], you’re just looking at a screen.” ~ George Lois

Hat tip to the SPD filmmakers for using Cat Power’s “The Greatest” as the score for the final part of the series.

When you do a magazine with great content and real visual excitement — oh my God! — pages of it, or spreads of it, every week, every month — wow, that’s fun! Let’s do this, let’s do that — it’s terrific stuff. It’s stuff where you can really influence the culture. I don’t care what magazine you do, any kind of magazine [should be] a cultural provocateur.” ~ George Lois

The series was a teaser for an event where Wired creative director Scott Dadich sat down with Lois to talk about his iconic Esquire covers. You can watch the hour-long program below:

We highly recommend George Lois: The Esquire Covers, MoMA’s beautifully curated anthology of Lois’s most influential work. You may also enjoy our recent look at the evolution of magazines over the past century.

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