Brain Pickings

HyperCities: Every Past is a Place

By:

What 17th-century Manhattan has to do with Peru’s grid and the Renaissance in Berlin.

We love cities, maps and urban storytelling. So we’re all over HyperCities — a digital research and educational platform for exploring the layered histories of cities and public spaces, based on the idea that “every past is a place.”

The fundamental idea behind HyperCities is that all stories take place somewhere and sometime; they become meaningful when they interact and intersect with other stories.”

From a digital recreation of Manahatta in 1609 to an archival print of Berlin’s 1772 geometric grid, the project is absolutely fascinating and a treasure trove of urban time travel.

Most recently, HyperCities mapped real-time voices from Cairo using social media, offering an entirely different way to experience the news, not by digesting static newswires and frontpage headlines but by actively hearing the reality of the people on the ground — something last week’s Tweets from Tahrir tried to capture in a different medium.

The project, which received a Google Digital Humanities Award last year, is the brainchild of Todd Presner, Yoh Kawano, and David Shepard and is a collaboration between UCLA and USC.

HyperCities is currently available for 19 cities, including London, Shanghai, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles and Mexico City. You can contribute to the project by adding your own georeferenced map — here’s how.

via @kirstinbutler

We’ve got a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

Animated Infographic: Unspilling the Gulf Oil

By:

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the Gulf Oil Spill, one of the largest environmental disasters in history. On Monday, we revisited photographer Edward Burtynsky’s gripping Oil series as a visceral reminder of just how dependent we are on this highly politicized resource. Today, Brooklyn-based animator Chris Harmon approaches the same subject from an entirely different angle: A numbers-driven infographic animation illustrating the exact scale of the spill by exploring what could’ve been done with the 205,000,000 (that’s million) gallons that poured into the Gulf.

The 205 million gallons of oil lost in the Gulf is the same amount the United States consumes in less than 7 hours.”

For a more serious and in-depth look at the oil economy, you won’t go wrong with Pulitzer Prize winner Daniel Yergin’s The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power.

We’ve got a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

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

By:

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

Donating = Loving

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:





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:





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.

Mark of Cain: The Language of Russian Criminal Tattoos

By:

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

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.