Brain Pickings

Tina Fey Makes Google’s Eric Schmidt Really, Really Uncomfortable

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What ladyparts have to do with Mark Twain and making Google blush.

We love Tina Fey. (Really, who doesn’t?) It’s been a grand year for her, from becoming the third female and youngest ever recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor — and giving a brilliant acceptance speech that unequivocally validates it — to the publication of Bossypants, her most excellent and impossibly funny new book about modern comedy, that whole gender thing and, well, life.

Once in a generation a woman comes along who changes everything. Tina Fey is not that woman, but she met that woman once and acted weird around her.”

This month, she brings Bossypants to the fantastic Authors@Google. Besides Fey’s characteristically awesome brand of awkward, it’s particularly priceless to watch Google’s Eric Schmidt — who’s had quite a year himself — fumble with various politically incorrect phrases and, you know, “women things.”

via Open Culture

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Mark of Cain: The Language of Russian Criminal Tattoos

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What encrypted visual communication has to do with the Russian justice system.

The Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia is among Brain Pickings‘s most popular books of all time. Its curious subject — the poetic, fading art form and language of Russian criminal tattoos — is also the subject of filmmaker Alix Lambert’s 2001 documentary, The Mark of Cain, which is now available online under a Creative Commons license.

Lambert traveled on a shoestring budget to document the complex social hierarchy of Russia’s prison system, where inmates use highly symbolic tattoo art as a mark of rank. Since its earliest documented cases in the 1920s, this practice has remained largely a taboo and is actually illegal in Russian prisons, yet some estimates suggest that in the last generation alone, more than 30 million of Russia’s inmates have been inked. The unique visual language of the tattoos encrypts everything you need to know about an inmate without ever asking, from the number of convictions an inmate has to his rank in the crime world.

The Mark of Cain explores this fascinating subculture and its duality — its role in prison survival on the one hand and, on the other, the permanent mark it leaves on inmates as they try to reintegrate into society — though a layered look at everything from the actual creation of tattoo ink to the devastating conditions of the prisons to the intimate first-hand stories of prisoners revealed in hard-earned interviews.

The film is also available on DVD and served as source material for David Cronenberg’s excellent Oscar-nominated 2007 film Eastern Promises about the Russian mob in London, starring Naomi Watts and Viggo Mortensen.

via Meta Filter

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Tony Orrico: The Human Spirograph

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Mock-mathematics, or how to turn the human body into a graceful precision instrument.

Tony Orrico — artist, dancer, human spirograph. He creates remarkable large-scale mock-mathematical drawings with a savant’s focus and a marathoner’s endurance, sometimes drawing for up to four hours continuously, hitting our soft spot for the intersection of art and mathematics with delicious precision.

See him in action and marvel:

What makes Orrico’s art most remarkable is the complete grace and fluidity with which he renders seemingly mechanical drawings, transforming the human body at once into a precision instrument and a delicate paintbrush of the abstract.

Watch him work his magic at the National Academy of Sciences in D.C.:

via BOOOOOOOM

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Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.





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Samuel Price’s Incredible Dog Portrait Collages

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What recycled magazines have to do with the essence of the canine soul.

We love dogs. From Tim Flach’s extraordinary dog portraits to the great mystery of how to photograph a black dog, we have a particularly soft spot for unusual ways to capture (wo)man’s best friend. That’s exactly what San Francisco collage artist Samuel Price does in his stunning dog portrait collages made of hand-cut photographs from recycled magazines.

And while the whole eco-art card may have been played and played again over the past few years, it’s worth noting that a single ton of glossy virgin paper, like that used for magazines like National Geographic, requires 15 trees to make about 1,100 magazines. Sam collages about 20 recycled magazines every day, or 48,000 over the ten years he’s been making his stunning collages — that’s 650 trees saved over the course of his creative career.

I study the image and focus on the details and subtle nuances of the mouth and eyes that make every animal unique. The relationship between the owners and their pet is special and I look forward to mirroring that affection in my work.” ~ Sam Price

For the dog lover in your life, Sam’s work can be commissioned for custom collages.

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