Brain Pickings

A Story for Tomorrow: A Cinematic Meditation on the Human Condition

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“Did you enjoy your story?”

It is extremely rare when the cinematography and writing of a film are equally exquisite, converging in a poignant meditation on the secrets of happiness and what it means to be human. That’s exactly what creative duo Dan Riordan and Dana Saint, better known as gnarly bay productions, accomplish in a story for tomorrow — the most breathtaking, heart-stirring film I’ve seen since Radiolab’s Symmetry.

Watch with headphones, watch until the end, and watch with your whole heart.

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Lessons in Conveying Complex Ideas with Simple Graphics from the World’s Best Information Designers

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What Frank Zappa’s life has to do with e-waste, whale songs, and the black market for body parts.

Much has been said about visual storytelling and how to tell stories of data in the information age, and there is no shortage of great books on data visualization. But count on Taschen to tackle a big conceptual challenge with a big, beautifully designed book: Information Graphics by art historian Sandra Rendgen explores the four key aspects of visualizing data — Location, Time, Category, and Hierarchy — through exemplary work from more than 200 projects, alongside essays by information architect and TED founder Richard Saul Wurman, Guardian Datablog editor Simon Rogers, Density Design’s Paolo Ciuccarelli, and Rendgen herself.

'Geek Love,' The New York Times, newspaper article, 2008

Exposed to Dungeons & Dragons Early in Life. Design: Sam Potts. Art Direction: Brian Rea

'Medallandssandur,' a blend of the sound specters form sonar and whale song. From a series of drawings, 2010

Design: Torgeir Husevaag. Article: Adam Rogers

'The Very Many Varieties of Beer,' poster, 2010

Design: Ben Gibson, Patrick Mulligan (Pop Chart Lab)

'Two Mindsets,' Stanford, magazine article, 2007

Data Source: Carol Dweck: 'Mindset: The New Psychology of Success', 2006. Design: Nigel Holmes

'Body Parts,' Esquire, magazine article, 2006

Design: Peter Grundy (Grundini). Art Direction: Alex Breuer

'Frank Zappa Chart,' painting, 2008

Artist: Ward Shelley (represented by Pierogi Gallery)

'The Growing E-Waste Situation,' GOOD, website, 2010

Data Source: CBS News; ABI Research; US EPA; Basel Action Network; Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. Research: Brian Wolford. Design: Andrew Effendy (Column Five Media). Art Direction: Ross Crooks

'Mission(s) to Mars,' IEEE Spectrum, magazine article, 2009

Data Source: Cornell University; European Space Agency; NASA; RussianSpaceWeb.com. Design: Bryan Christie, Joe Lertola. Art Direction: Mark Montgomery, Michael Solita

Information Graphics features work by a number of Brain Pickings favorites, including Stefanie Posavec, Nicholas Felton, Ward Shelley, Hans Rosling, Nathalie Miebach, David McCandless, Toby Ng, Michael Paukner, Christoph Niemann, Sam Potts, and Jonathan Harris. The cover image is, of course, the unmistakable Web Trend Map by Information Architects.

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Orson Welles on Work-Life Balance and the Gift of Ignorance (1960)

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“There is a great gift that ignorance has to bring to anything, you know.”

We’ve already seen how ignorance fuels science, but most any creator would also attest to its centrality to the creative process. Whether we call it “ignorance” or “beginner’s mind,” this radical openness to uncertainty is central to the act of creation. In this excerpt from The Paris Interview, conducted in his Parisian hotel room in 1960, Orson Welles testifies to the gift of ignorance:

I didn’t know what you couldn’t do. I didn’t deliberately set out to invent anything. It just seemed to me, ‘Why not?’ There is a great gift that ignorance has to bring to anything, you know. That was the gift I brought to [Citizen] Kane… ignorance.

At a different point in the interview, Welles is asked, “Would you say that you live to work or work to live?” His answer embodies the secret of finding purpose and doing what you love, or as Sir Ken Robinson has put it, working from your element:

I think that working is part of life, I don’t know how to distinguish between the two… Work is an expression of life for me.

Now for a related rant, which isn’t actually a rant so much as a Very Important Point: Last week, Coudal posted a link to the first video on Vimeo, which I watched in the morning and kept open in a tab to write about in the evening. By the evening, however, the video had been pulled down from Vimeo for copyright violation. (Luckily, I was able to transcribe the dialogue from the cached player and use it to search for the interview elsewhere; I found it on YouTube, where it remains apparently undetected so far.)

Somewhere, some rights-holder — in this case, Kultur Video — decided it was better for the world that no one see the interview online than that people see it and no one profit from it. This, right here, is the deepest, saddest brokenness of current thinking on intellectual “property” as a wealth of humanity’s greatest intellectual and creative treasures rot in the clenched talons of rights-holders unable to monetize their properties and unwilling to make them available for free. As long as we continue to place commercial profit above cultural profit, especially when it comes to archival materials and cultural preservation, we are doomed to a future bitterly divorced from its past.

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