Brain Pickings

The Cult of LEGO

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Inside the world of 8 quadrillion possible combinations.

Who doesn’t love LEGO? (I certainly have a soft spot, and even believe it to be an apt metaphor for combinatorial creativity.) Since LEGO’s dawn in the 1940s, more than 4 billion minifigs have been manufactured — that’s more than one for every two people on the planet — and the love of LEGO has become so cross-cultural and enduring that it might even be called a cult. That’s exactly what MAKE Magazine’s John Baichtal and BrickJournal founder Joe Meno explore in The Cult of LEGO — a sweeping illustrated journey into the world’s love of LEGO and its obsessively devoted community, from the most extravagant and complex models built to the uses of LEGO in therapy, teambuilding, and prototyping to curious factoids about the LEGO universe. (Did you know that more than 4,000 different minifigs have been manufactured since 1978… frustratingly, with a male-to-female ratio of 18:1.)

Here’s a sneak peek of what’s inside:

As much a geek treat of the finest kind as it is a fascinating piece of subcultural anthropology, The Cult of LEGO is an essential staple for your favorite nerd’s coffeetable. (And if you’re particularly brick-bewitched, don’t forget Christoph Niemann’s utterly brilliant I LEGO N.Y.)

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The Hare and the Tortoise: 1947 Dramatization with Live Animals

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Slow and steady wins the race… or does it?

From Encyclopedia Britannica Films — the same folks who brought us this fantastic manifesto for the spirit of journalism (1940), a vintage lesson in democracy and despotism (1945), and a drug addiction PSA explaining how different drugs work (1951) — comes this 1947 dramatization of Aesop’s iconic fable, The Hare and the Tortoise, featuring live animals. A menagerie cast, including an owl, a fox, a goose, a rooster, a raccoon, and a rabbit, reenacts the famously ambiguous moral story in a narrative that’s so boring and redundant it quickly becomes comic, a piece of inadvertent, almost Seinfeld-like vintage comedy. But what makes the film curious is that while the Aesop classic leaves the question of how the tortoise beat the hare unanswered, inviting centuries of interpretation, here a very specific, seemingly plausible answer for what happened is given.

The film is in the public domain and available for free, legal download courtesy of the Prelinger Archives.

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Oscar Wilde: The Rise & Fall of the 20th Century’s First Pop Celebrity

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‘He had a musician’s sense of a sentence.’

111 years ago today, the world lost the great Oscar Wilde — poet, playwright, action figure. This fascinating 1997 documentary from Omnibus traces Wilde’s life, loves, and legacy, from his intellectual upbringing to his infamous imprisonment at the height of his fame and success for “for gross indecency with other men” — basically, for being gay and out in Victorian England — to his exile and untimely death. The film features cameos from Stephen Fry, who played Wilde in the film of the same title, Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant, and prolific British playwright Tom Stoppard, who explore what made Wilde the 20th century’s first true pop celebrity.

He had perfect pitch, perfect touch. He had a musician’s sense of a sentence.”

[Prison] was where Oscar discovered that life does not imitate art, and that the reality of a prison sentence was miles away from the ivory towers of martyrdom he had previously assumed it to be.”

For a proper Oscar Wilde remembrance, you won’t go wrong with The Happy Prince and Other Tales and, of course, The Importance of Being Earnest. (Which, for some almost sacrilegious reason, is going for just $1.50, it seems.)

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Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.