Brain Pickings

Friday FYI: You’re Richer Than You Think

By:

How to instantly feel more fabulous and why not watching Goran Visnjic can save Haiti.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Ever find yourself couch-vegging in front of VH1’s Fabulous Lives of… only to end up contemplating just how unfabulous your own life is? There’s help — because there’s nothing like some good ol’ downward social comparison to make yourself feel better.

Enter Global Rich List — just plug in your annual income, and you’ll get just how many people you’re richer than and what wealth percentile you fall into. We’re proud to say we’re the 173,043,479th richest in the world, in the top 2.88% on the bling scale. (Never mind we barely make rent.)

Even a minimum-wage American burger-flipper making $16,140 a year is still the 719,547,292nd richest person in the world, in the top 11.99%.

And as much as we enjoy feeling pimp, we dig the concept behind the Global Rich List — feel richer than you thought you were, appreciate your own fortune and share it with the less fortunate. The project is currently supporting CARE International, a global organization fighting poverty by providing families with the food they need to survive in the short term, then helping the communities create sustainable solutions for the future.

If you’re still not feeling rich, fortunate or generous enough, here’s some more food for thought — to help you turn it into food on some malnourished child’s table.

  • $8 could buy you 15 organic apples, or 25 fruit trees for farmers in Honduras to grow and sell fruit at their local market
  • $30 could buy you an ER DVD box set, or a First Aid kit for a village in Haiti
  • $73 could buy you a new mobile phone, or a new mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda
  • $2400 could buy you a second-generation High Definition TV, or schooling for an entire generation of school children in an Angolan village

So: just how rich are you?

Re:Perception

By:

Adult wonderland, adult telecommunication, 229 miles of patriotism, why George Lucas is going head-to-head with a D-lister, and what NASA has to do with the MoMA.

RE:PERCEPTION

We’re all about redefining perception by exploring new ways of looking at things normally taken for granted. And, apparently, so are you — some of our most popular content has been just in that vein. (Like this, this, this and that.) So today, we do exactly that: re-perceive.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Most of us secretly wish the world had remained as we saw it when we were kids — bright, colorful, full of simple shapes and yet full of wonder. What would happen if that childhood world came to life in our adult reality?

That’s exactly what Korean artist Yeondoo Jung explores in his photoseries Wonderland. He collected over 1,000 drawings from 5-to-7-year-old South Korean children, curated the few best suited for the project, then recreated the depicted scenes with live models, dramatic costumes and flamboyant colors.

Wonderland

The result: a stunning, visually and conceptually dazzling collection of surreal photography that leaves us dreamsome and a little sad at the same time, the eerie bittersweetness of an imagined reality we’ve long dismissed as unattainable.

Also, it makes us wanna do psychedelic drugs.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

And speaking of the harsh clash between childhood dreams and adult reality, how about that all-important what-do-you-wanna-be-when-you-grow-up question? If we all ended up doing exactly what we answered at age 6, Capitalism and the entire Western civilization would have to depend on a dysfunctional army of astronauts, Yankees pitchers and Broadway starlets.

One answer we bet was quite uncommon: “phone sex operator.” Which makes us wonder about the persons behind the personas — who are the people who end up in this bastard child of the sex industry, the faceless strangers who inspire such blind and uninhibited intimacy? Are all of them really tall 36DD blondes?

In his new book, Phone Sex, photographer Phillip Toledano explores the complex human element behind the sexy voice through a crosssection of art and sociology that makes us reconsider the purely transactional nature of that industry.

“I’m 60 years old, have a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Columbia University, and married for 25 years. I have a son in his last years of college who lives at home. He’s a 4.0 with a double major in English Literature and Religion. Men call me for an infinity of reasons. Of course, they call to masturbate. I call it “Executive Stress Relief.” It’s not sex; it’s a cocktail of testosterone, fueled by addiction to pornography, loneliness, and the need to hear a woman’s voice. I make twice the money I made in the corporate world. I work from home, the money transfers into my bank account daily. I’m Scheherezade: If I don’t tell stories that fascinate the Pasha, he will kill me in the morning”

Read the fascinating interview with the artist at The Morning News and marvel at the gallery, complete with insight from the subjects ranging from the mundane to the unexpected to the utterly bizarre.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Just like the fundamental currency of the phone sex business, many of the relationships we form in life are with virtual strangers little pieces of whom we get to know through random glimpses, strangers we build up into idols and antagonists, heroes and villains, based on how we put those random little pieces together.

Take celebrity culture. Or politics.

Some of the greatest American idols have inspired tremendous reverence and unconditional empathy in us common folk. Which is why their deaths become a national tragedy we experience and grieve like the death of a close friend. In 1968, a train between New York and Washington carried one such national tragedy: Robert F. Kennedy’s coffin. That train also carried Look Magazine photographer Paul Fusco.

Originally assigned to shoot the funeral procession, Fusco soon realized that the greater ceremony took place along the tracks of the 8-hour ride: Americans of all walks of life saluting the fallen hero, some barefoot, some wearing their finest church clothes. The Fallen was born.

Fusco only had one shot at each scene and, unable to change his position or perspective throughout the entire ride, but he made the most of it in a way that revealed the pure patriotism lining those 229 miles.

Using color-intense Kodachrome film, the photographer captured what history books never could: the raw impact Kennedy had on the people, stripping away all the political pretense to unveil the deep-felt human connection.

See The Fallen in its entirety at New York Times Magazine, with a deeply moving voiceover from the photographer himself.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

On a much lighter note, a much less artistically talented but no less experimentally brave guy takes on another kind of hero culture: movie heroes and superheroes. (Yep, we’re at it again.) D-list actor Andrew Goldenberg has taken to doing something so random and so bizarre that it’s simply brilliant: putting lyrics to movie theme songs.

Tux-clad and shakily on-key, he merges the worst of Broadway with the best of Comedy Central for a whole new level of spoof hilarity.

From Superman to Batman to Indiana Jones, he spares no blockbuster hero. Our favorite: Jaws. If Lucas were dead, he’d be rolling in his grave. Laughing. RIGL is the new ROFL.

>>> via LA Metblogs

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Remember our wildly popular Maps issue and that insanely artistic-looking NASA map of the moon? Well, the government’s space crusaders are back with more. The guys over at Environmental Graffiti bring us a collection of the 30 Most Incredible Abstract Images of Earth — we’re talking stuff better suited for the MoMA than the science classroom.

The collection represents the crème de la crème of the 400,000 images taken by NASA’s Landsat 7 satellite, hand-selected by NASA’s own scientists for an exhibition at the Library of Congress in 2000 — reassurance that at least some of our tax dollar is going to, um, the arts.

The images remind us of David Gallo’s stunning TED footage of those wondrous, color-shifting deep ocean creatures. Most of all, they remind us how amazing Earth is at its rawest, deepest core — and how overwhelming the sense of urgency about preserving it is.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Friday FYI: Itchy Throat

By:

Doing what you couldn’t the way you should.

It could’ve been that not- quite-ripe kiwi. Or your overcarbonated caffeine fix. Or a cat hair from your roommate’s annoying feline. Whatever it was, your throat is itching and it’s driving you crazier than said cat’s dry-humping habit. Worst part: you can’t exactly scratch it.

Well, actually, you can.

Pull on your earlobe and massage it between your thumb and index finger. This stimulates the nerves in the ear, which creates a reflex in the throat, which in turn causes a tiny muscle spasm. That spasm does what your hand can’t — or shouldn’t — and “scratches” that maddening itch.

We’ve got a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays, offers the week’s main articles, and features short-form interestingness from our PICKED series. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

Inflated Claims of Art

By:

Soundtrack to the sidewalk, subway zoo, and why the British tabloids insist on harassing a 65-year-old lady.

Today, we’re looking at art that blows — literally. Think of this as a niche appendix to our best-of graffiti and socially-conscious street art series a while back, with a nod to the superhero issue. Yep, we’re multi-pronged like that.

D.BILLY

As much as we respect comic book culture, we’ve always wondered what it is exactly about the action illustrations that inspires such unconditional reverence, such loyal followings and such… dedicated… fan conventions. Could it be the unique intersection of visual and sound effects on the printed page, creating a POW! new reality of WURRRG! mixed media and OOH! non-linear perception? Perhaps.

And street artist D.Billy has decided to explore that intersection in our very real reality with his visual representations of sound effects through installations of colorful media like balloons and party steamers.

He works in “found scenes” of urban landscape and, after photographing the finished creations, he leaves the installations on the scene to engage passers-by and inspire a new awareness of the surroundings normally taken for granted.

We love the idea of bringing surreal elements to the most mundane corners of reality, and doing it in a way that plays with how we’re used to experiencing our own senses. Check out D.Billy’s Flickr stream and think about the visual action soundtrack to your own neighborhood. WOWZA!

JOSHUA ALLEN HARRIS

While bursts of color splattered throughout the otherwise mundane environment sure can be stride-stopping, it’s all the more fascinating when the stride-stopping stuff comes from the most mundane of materials. Case in point: artist Joshua Allen Harris, who uses plastic bags and subway vent air to create inflatable sculptures.

Harris has animated anything from a giant ape to a giraffe to the Loch Ness monster to an entire zoo. New York Magazine recently interviewed the artist for a look behind this unique breed of urban surrealism.

The magic of it is that it looks like plain ol’ trash until a train passes underneath, animating the sculptures and bringing entire scenes to life. And since Harris works mostly in the streets of New York, we find his work to be a brilliant, playful way to engage the world’s most notorious intentionally-oblivious pedestrians.

BANKSY IN, BANKSY OUT

Finally, Banksy is outed?

We won’t include a photo here because we think half the fascination of it is in the mystery — leave the man/woman be.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Oh, Conan

By:

Life rule #387: always do as Conan says.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Apparently, late-night comedy doesn’t pay enough.

Bottoms up, kids.