Brain Pickings

Tree of Codes: A Literary Remix


In our present culture, we’ve come to see the art of remix as a product of digital media. But author Jonathan Safran Foer (of Everything Is Illuminated fame) reminds us of its analog quintessence in his brilliant Tree of Codes (public library) project — a book created by cutting out chunks of text from Foer’s favorite novel, The Street of Crocodiles by Polish author Bruno Schulz, rearranging the text to form an entirely different story. The die-cut narrative hangs in an aura of negative space, adding the necessary touch of designerliness to what’s already a hipster-ready concept.

The result is a beautiful blend of sculpture and storytelling, adding a layer of physicality to the reading experience in a way that completely reshapes your relationship with text and the printed page.

Vanity Fair has an excellent interview with Foer talking about his creative process on this project and contemporary art at large.

I thought: What if you pushed it to the extreme, and created something not old-fashioned or nostalgic but just beautiful? It helps you remember that life can surprise you.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer

The making of the book is a true marvel of human ingenuity:

Tree of Codes is part Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books, part Brian Dettmer’s carved book sculptures, part something else entirely — and wholly recommended.

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In The Dark: A Documentary about Rollerblading


Those of us who came of age in the 90s may recall rollerblading as a particularly prominent fad du jour, one that can be traced as far back as the freewheelin’ 1960s. (Janis Joplin’s Rollerskate Song, anyone?) But unbeknownst to most, the death of the rollerblading fad has actually sprouted a thriving subculture, brimming with passion, competition and community.

In The Dark is a fascinating documentary about the rollerblading subculture by Boston-based filmmaker Kyle Couture, featuring some of the world’s top masters of the sport.

There’s no real games to win or lose at. You’re battling yourself, basically, every time you go out.”

via Fubiz

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Andrew Zuckerman’s Powerful Portraits of Music Icons


What the power of curiosity has to do with the most universal human language.

We’re longtime fans of photographer Andrew Zuckerman. Last year, he brought us Wisdom — an absolutely beautiful, both aesthetically and conceptually, book and film capturing profound existential insights by 50 of our time’s greatest writers, artists, philosophers, politicians, designers, activists, musicians, religious and business leaders over the age of 65. This year, we’ve been anxiously awaiting his latest project and it has finally arrived: Music — a fascinating journey into the souls of 50 of today’s greatest living music icons.

The book, a breathtaking hardcover beauty, features portraits of the 50 musicians — including Yoko Ono, Common, David Crosby, Ani DiFranco, Ben Gibbard, Philip Glass, Herbie Hancock, Karen O, Kid Rock, Lenny Kravitz and Iggy Pop — photographed in Zuckerberman’s signature style of intimate closeups on crisp white background, alongside interviews that reveal everything from their creative process to intimate insight into their relationship with music and the world.

My curiosity, I think, is the thing that drives everything.” ~ Herbie Hancock

Of all the languages that human beings use to communicate with each other, [music] is the language which is the most eloquent and the most universal.” ~ Philip Glass

Each copy of the book comes with a unique code for downloading the companion film, which features beautifully shot, deeply moving interviews with the 50 music icons:

Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music. And I will never have enough time to know what I want to know and to be able to contribute what I possibly could. So, I keep working at it.” ~ John Williams

The project even comes as an iPad app, for a touch of smart transmedia storytelling.

Zuckerman recently spoke at the excellent Creative Mornings series by Swiss Miss. Keep an eye out on their Vimeo channel, where his talk — a guaranteed blockbuster — should appear shortly.

The impressive behind-the-scenes footage demonstrates just how much work, thought and creativity went into the project:

Zuckerman’s work remains a Brain Pickings favorite and Music is among the best books you could give, get and indulge in this holiday season. Do.

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A Brief Visual History of Cookery


Several weeks ago, we featured 5 delicious cross-disciplinary cookbooks and today, in a nice segue from this morning’s edible landscapes, we look at the meta umbrella over them all: Visual History of Cookery, a comprehensive and graphically gripping global journey into the history of our relationship with food and its preparation. In 350 glorious pages, editor Duncan McCorquodale traces the evolution of culinary images over time through gorgeous photographs, paintings, illustrations and vintage ads.

'Summer' by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1573, made from the seasonal fruits, grains, and vegetables

British Ministry of Food poster promoting the importance of culinary thrift

Divese and wide-spanning, the book covers everything from the development of food branding to cross-cultural culinary influences to the 21st-century cult of celebrity chefs. It explores the culinary heritage of France, England, Italy, Spain and America through rich imagery and a selection of original recipes from each region, contextualized by contributions from leading food writers and restaurateurs like Anthony Bourdain, Elizabeth David and Alice Waters, as well as profiles of celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Julia Child, Jamie Oliver, Delia Smith, James Beard and (the fictional) Betty Crocker.

A dessert table at a barbecue in the 1950s. The tradition of barbecues as a community staple in the American South dates back to the settlers of the 19th century, whose 'pic-pickins' celebrating the capturing and cooking of wild hogs became the precursors of contemporary barbecues.

Vibrant peppers and spices in a Valencian store, a culinary legacy of the Moors' 500-year rule in the region.

Beautiful and fascinating, Visual History of Cookery is as much a crash-course in culinary history as it is a stunning survey of our collective visual appetite for the craft of food.

Images courtesy of The Guardian

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