Brain Pickings

A Book of Sleep

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“Some sleep with both eyes open, they don’t even blink!”

This week, I buckled down for my grueling (but delightful) annual roundup of the year’s best children’s and picture books. I’ve also been spending lots of time with a certain owl-loving friend and sleeping very little. The confluence of these reminded me of a lovely 2009 children’s book titled A Book of Sleep — the American debut of Korean illustrator Il Sung Na, whose beautifully textured drawings tell the poetic, quiet story of creatures going to rest.

When the sky grows dark
and the moon glows bright,
everyone goes to sleep . . .
except for the watchful owl!”

A delight for the wee ones, A Book of Sleep is also the charming, earnest, snark-free parallel to Goodnight iPad, extending a gentle reminder for us grown-ups to close our eyes, unplug, and surrender to the quiet.

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Charade: Lessons in Creative Vision from a 1984 College Student

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What Goethe has to do with pioneering animation.

In the summer of 1984, Sheridan College student Jon Minnis set out to complete an ambitious project, armed with only PANTONE markers and paper. (Cue in this morning’s PANTONE history of the 20th century.) After four months of writing and polishing a clever script, he spent another three meticulously storyboarding and animating it into an elegant, minimalist 4-minute film titled Charade, which Minnis voiced himself.

The gem went on to win the 1985 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and remains a heartening example of dreaming up a project and bringing it single-handedly to life. Or, as Goethe almost put it:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin It! Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

Charade is available on the altogether excellent 1994 collection World’s Greatest Animation, featuring Academy Award winners and nominees from the years 1978-1991.

via Animation Graduate Films; thanks for the quote, Liz

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PANTONE: A Color History of the 20th Century

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From Gatsby to Apple, or what the 1939 New York World’s Fair has to do with the evolution of color theory.

Mine is PANTONE 803-C, what’s yours? More than mere aesthetic fetishes, our favorite colors — and color in general — speak to us in powerful cyphers of symbolism, memories, associations, and emotional undertones. What is true of us as individuals is also true of culture at large. The twentieth century brimmed with color, from the Almost Mauve (PANTONE 18-1248) of the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris to the Midnight Navy (PANTONE 19-4110) of the countdown to the Millennium, framing the visual language of our era through this most fundamental of alphabets. In PANTONE: The Twentieth Century in Color, longtime PANTONE scholars Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker explore 100 years of the evolution of color’s sociocultural footprint through over 200 works of art, advertisements, industrial design products, fashion trends, and other aesthetic ephemera, thoughtfully examined in the context of their respective epoch.

We see color with everything we are. What starts as a signal passing along the optic nerve quickly develops into an emotional, social, and spatial phenomenon that carries many layers of vivid meaning. Light with a wavelength of 650 nanometers or so is seen as red. But it is experienced as warmth or danger, romance or revolution, heroism or evil, depending on the cultural and personal matrix in which it appears… The context within which color unfurls its rainbow of symbolism and emotion is history itself.”

From the glamorous Silver (PANTONE 14-5002) and Jet Black (PANTONE 19-0303) of the “roaring twenties” jazz age to the rosy optimism of the 1950s to the exaggerated flair of the 1980s economic boom and social liberation, each decade comes with a detailed color palette contextualized in an essayistic history of the era’s sociocultural trends and milestones.

Josephine Baker 'La Vie Parisienne' ad ca. 1920

Poster for National Park Service, NYC Art Project, Work Projects Administration, 1936-1938, Richard Halls

Poster for New York World's Fair, 1939, Joseph Binder

1952 Studebaker Commander

Audrey Hepburn in a publicity photo for Funny Face, 1957

Paisley cotton ca. 1976, sourced by Patricia Nugent Design and Textiles

Because color is such a fundamental element in the human experience, a book about color ends up being a book about human experience itself. Part textbook and part fairy tale, part biography and part novel, our history of color is designed to start each reader on his or her personal and creative exploration of color.”

PANTONE: The Twentieth Century in Color is as much an ultimate treat for color-lovers as it is a fascinating and uncommon lens on familiar cultural history, a vibrant volume among the year’s finest design-and-beyond books.

HT @kirstinbutler; captioned images courtesy of Chronicle Books

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