Brain Pickings

Missing Sarajevo: A Political U2 Rockumentary


What beauty pageants have to do with war tragedy and the power of rock.

Between 1992 and 1996, The Siege of Sarajevo claimed tens of thousands of lives and its place in textbooks as the longest siege of a world capital in the history of modern warfare, as the rest of the world stood idly by. In the summer of 1993, American aid worker Bill Carter smuggled himself out of Sarajevo and into U2’s backstage in Verona, telling the band about the situation there. Bono immediately sprang to action, wanting to play a concert in Sarajevo, but was told not to go because the situation had gotten too dangerous. So, instead, he decided to do something that had never been done before — send a satellite dish instead and play a satellite show, long before the age of telecommuting and digi-presence.

But the satellite show wasn’t enough for Bono and he resolved to eventually play a real concert. In 1997, he kept his promise, making U2 the first major artist to play a concert in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina — an extraordinary event that brought together people of different ethnicities who had fiercely clashed during the war. Missing Sarajevo is the story of this epic concert’s making, a fascinating microdocumentary about the political power of rock.

From the formidable setlist, including the song “Miss Sarajevo,” which Bono and Brian Eno wrote about a beauty pageant held at the peak of the war, to this profound human moment on stage, the concert was a poetic exercise in human connectedness in the midst of social and political turmoil. The documentary is available on YouTube in two parts, gathered below for your edutainment:

In many ways, that U2 concert played the same role Twitter did in this month’s Egyptian revolution — giving a voice to the repressed and oppressed to break the silence of the world. And regardless of which way the debates on whether or not that constitutes “real” activism, one thing is clear: Voice is always better than voicelessness.

via MetaFilter

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.

Jules Verne: The Man Who Invented the Future


Last week marked the 183rd birthday of iconic science fiction writer and futurist Jules Verne, who coined the term “imaginary voyages.” (And Amazon celebrated by offering a slew of his work as free ebooks, which you can still grab.) Today, we turn to the beautiful mid-century illustration of Peter P. Plasencia for Franz Born’s 1964 book Jules Verne: The Man Who Invented the Future — a light but excellent biography of the great novelist and a powerful primer for his literary legacy.

Jules Verne: The Man Who Invented the Future is currently out of print, but you might be able to snag it from several independent sellers through Amazon or look for a copy at yoru local library — the screen doesn’t do Plasencia’s artwork justice.

via Wardomatic via Right Brain Terrain

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.

Pioneers of Spanish Graphic Design


Spain has a rich and widely recognized art tradition — Picasso, Goya, Dalí — but its equally noteworthy design legacy hasn’t achieved the same level of exposure and acclaim. Emilio Gil’s Pioneers of Spanish Graphic Design is a bold and visually striking effort to rectify that by spotlighting 15 groundbreaking Spanish graphic designers whose work between 1939 and 1975 defied the political circumstances and visual vocabulary of post-war Spain to ignite a provocative new culture of visual language.

Alongside the artwork are essays by some of Spain’s finest art historians and design writers, tying the era’s design landscape to the social and political realities of the period. From advertising to expressionism, the book covers an extraordinary range of graphic expressions in the context of their cultural belonging.

Pioneers of Spanish Graphic Design is the kind of book that not only unearths a treasure trove of vintage eye candy, but also makes a compelling case for design as art.

via 50 Watts for But Does It Float

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.

All the Buildings in New York, Illustrated


What deli signage typography has to do with the connectedness of the universe.

A couple of years ago, illustrator Jason Polan set out to draw every single person in New York City. Now, Australian illustrator and creative nomad James Gulliver Hancock is drawing all the buildings in New York. He started the blog when he first moved to Brooklyn, as a way of getting to know his surroundings and recording his relationship with his new home.

I’ve started to see all the buildings intersect, all the areas locking together. A lot of the drawings seem to reflect this interlocking of manmade structures, i.e. it’s all connected. I started out wanting to hug all the buildings in some autistic reaction to love, awe, shock… but now they are slowly becoming just friends.” ~ James Gulliver Hancock

With his playful style and mix of drawing tools and techniques, from Sharpie-on-notebook to digital illustration to screenprints, Hancock offers a refreshing lens on the world’s most overexposed city, filling it with the kind of childlike wonder so easy to lose amidst New York’s chronic hurry.

In this talk from Harvest HQ’s excellent HOBBY series, Hancock pulls the curtain on his creative process

The interesting thing about drawing is that it makes you look at objects in more detail. Instead of just passing by a building, you realize that there’s this weird little sign and it says these funny things about what the deli sells.” ~ James Gulliver Hancock

Many of Hancock’s lovely drawings are available as prints on the project site. We’re particularly loving the How New York Works one. (Sorry, no direct link — look in the blog’s right sidebar.)

via Quipsologies

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.