Brain Pickings

Eastern Eggs: Bot-Etched Art Eggs for Japan


Contemporary artists, modern bots and, erm, Jesus come together for Japan.

This month, while much of the world is celebrating Easter, Japan is rising from the rubble to its own slow and painful rebirth. Earlier this week, we featured an inspired Twitter-sourced anthology of art and essays by and for Japan’s earthquake survivors, benefiting the Japanese Red Cross. Now, an ambitious new effort from the UK brings the same spirit to Easter. Eastern Eggs offers a series of limited-edition wooden eggs adorned with artwork by a handful of brilliant contemporary artists. The designs are tattooed onto the eggs by the one and only Egg Bot and, once you pick our design, you can even watch it being made via webcam. There’s a suggested donation of £10, though of course you’re welcome to contribute more, and all proceeds go to the British Red Cross tsunami relief efforts.

Easter eggs are a symbol for rebirth and the start of a new life. Over the coming months and years, Japan has to rebuild — not just a country but homes, families and lives.”

The project is the brainchild of the fine folks from TBWA London. If you are, or know, an artist who would like to get involved, they’d love to hear from you. Otherwise, be a good egg and grab yourself one.

Thanks, Sermad

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.

Bompas & Parr, Jelly Architects


Last year, we looked at artists creating incredible edible landscapes out of food, condiments and spices. But hardly does the unusual medium become a greater feat of architecture than when its raw material is the least architectural of substances: jelly. Just ask British food consultancy Bompas & Parr, better known as Jellymongers.

In this short documentary, Sam Bompas and Harry Parr talk about the whimsical “food experiences” they’re known for, and how they rendered everything from St. Paul’s Cathedral to Buckingham Palace in gelatinous form using their signature blend of science, cutting-edge technology and architecture — just the kind of cross-pollinating of disciplines we believe is fundamental to creativity.

The whole reason we events is to give people their own stories. They’re very active participants. If you go into a restaurant, you don’t want to be talked at by a waiter the entire time. Actually, the really important thing is the conversations you have with your diners around us and around the food.”

The film comes from the fine folks at Berlin-based visual culture mongers Gestalten, who also brought us the excellent Shepard Fairey interview on copyright, Big Brother and social change, among other fantastic micro-documentaries about creative culture mavericks and pioneers.

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.

How Cancer Became Cancer and What Its Future Holds: A Pulitzer-Winning Biography of the Dreaded Disease


The highly contested nonfiction category of the Pulitzer Prize is as much a measure of good writing as it is a reflection of the era’s cultural concerns. The 2011 nonfiction winner was The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (public library) by Columbia professor of medicine Siddhartha Mukherjee — an intelligent and illuminating medical and sociocultural history of the ubiquitous disease, from its origin to the first recorded cases to modern medicine’s ongoing struggle to find effective treatment.

Mukherjee writes:

When I started writing this book, I thought of cancer as a disease. But as I wrote more and more about it, it seemed as though it was not just a disease but something that envelops our lives so fully that it was writing about someone. It was like writing about an alter personality, an illness that had a psyche, a behavior, a pattern of existing.

The book begins with the stories of pathologist Sidney Farber and philanthropist Mary Lasker, who is credited with launching the war on cancer by urging scientists and the government to race for a cure of the little-understood killer.

The second half of the narrative shifts from the cultural to the scientific context of humanity’s battle with the disease, focusing on the incremental yet game-changing discoveries of a various brilliant scientists over the past half-century as the scientific community raced to understand how cell become cancerous in order to better address prevention and treatment.

So fascinating is the book that one dedicated fan used its narrative to extract a visual timeline of cancer from 1950 to the present:

With its blend of cultural anthropology, rigorous research, and genuine empathy, The Emperor of All Maladies is, as the Pulitzer unequivocally implies, a pinnacle of nonfiction that oscillates between the profoundly distressing cultural tyranny of a presently incurable disease and the relentless scientific exhilaration embedded in the very possibility of unraveling this great and all-consuming mystery.

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.

Everything Is Going To Be OK: Aesthetic Anesthesia for the Soul


An antidote to cynicism by way of typography, or what it’s all right to have everything you want.

In a world brimming with cynicism, it’s a rare and wonderful occasion to find an oasis of sincerity and optimism. That’s exactly what we found in the recently released Everything Is Going To Be OK — an absolutely lovely pocket-sized anthology of positive artwork from a diverse lineup of indie artists, designers and illustrators, including Brain Pickings favorites Marian Bantjes, Marc Johns and Mike Perry. What makes the book exceptional is that it manages to take existential truisms we’d ordinarily roll our eyes at, reframe them in a context of honesty and simplicity, and deliver them through such outstanding graphic design that the medium itself becomes part of the delight of the message.

Everything Is Going To Be OK is reminiscent of the lovely Live Now! project and Mico Toledo’s Music Philosophy, an absolute treat of design and a priceless existential reminder of what we too often forget: Life is beautiful, our fellow human beings are good, and happiness is within our reach.

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.