Brain Pickings

Tim Flach’s Extraordinary Dog Portraits


From photographer Tim Flach and Creative Review editor Lewis Blackwell comes Dogs — a series of incredibly artful, soulful portraits of man’s best friend.

With a potent blend of playfulness and profound respect, Flach captures the remarkable diversity of dogs, both of appearance and of character, and our complex, 150-century-old relationship with them in a poetic and spellbinding visual narrative.

They can entertain us, protect us, teach us how to love, do what they are told, and tell us what is going to happen next. They can even extend our lives. We think we train them to do the work, but they have in turn found a way for us to provide for them. This great form that has forged so many different kinds of dog is the inspiration for this book. The result is an unprecedented insight and visualization of what dogs are and can be.”

From shelter dogs to show-winners to dogs who sniff out explosives, the book spans an incredible range of personalities, portrayed in beautiful images generously stretched across full-bleed double-page spreads and lined with insightful commentary on everything from dog racism (did you know that there are more black dogs in shelters than any other fur color?) to historical background on how different breeds came to be and curious facts about them.

Dogs is as much a visually ambitious feat of photography as it is a rich and tender chronicle of our intense connection with these much-loved creatures — a beautiful intersection of humanity and, well, caninity.

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Ralph Ginzburg’s fact:, Vintage Wikileaks?


Inconvenient truths, or what groundbreaking typography has to do with the justice system.

Between January 1964 and August 1967 Ralph Ginzburg published a quarterly magazine entitled fact: — a provocative blend of satire and investigative journalism exploring controversial issues across American politics, consumer advocacy and public policy. Art directed by iconic graphic designer Herb Lubalin and printed entirely in black and white, the magazine set a new standard for ambitious and innovative typography as a bold visual statement complementing its anti-establishment editorial angle, bringing a new level of credibility to the role of the designer as an editorial, not just aesthetic, visionary.

Lubalin and I worked together like Siamese twins. It was a rare and remarkable relationship. I had no experience or training as a graphic designer. Herb brought a graphic impact. I never tried to overrule him and almost never disagreed with him.” ~ Ralph Ginzburg

In some ways, fact: was a lot like Wikileaks. Despite being separated by nearly half a century and living on vastly different media platforms, the two served a remarkably similar social function — to bring to light that which is uncomfortable, controversial but ultimately necessary to the reader’s informed citizenship — and triggered ire of similar magnitude among the political players whose reputation and credibility the publication’s content brought into question.

The parallel, however, becomes even more uncanny: In 1963, a drawn-out libel case was brought against Fact and Ginzburg himself. Two years after the case finally came to a close in 1972, Ginzburg was sent to jail — but not for libel. He was sentenced to three years in prison for distributing pornographic material through the mail — a striking similarity to Julian Assange’s rape charges in lieu of a solid Wikileaks case, bespeaking a systemic practice of not only keeping inconvenient journalists quiet by any means necessary, but by manufacturing charges for offenses as socially unacceptable as possible, with sexual transgressions being the pinnacle of social condemnation.

Rare issues of the magazine are available online, for surprisingly little. For more of Ginzburg’s keen cultural curtain-pulling, take a look at 100 Years of Lynchings — a compilation of newspaper clippings between 1886 and 1960 capturing vivid and unsettling accounts of lynching to offer insight into the history of racial violence.

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PICKED: The Solar System at Your Fingertips


Last year, author Marcus Chown took a fascinating look at what everyday objects tell us about the universe. Now, he’s back with Solar System — his first-ever iPad book, a visually stunning and remarkably knowledge-rich interactive exploration of our corner of the cosmos. Created by the team behind Theodore Grey’s acclaimed The Elements and with original music by Bjork, the $14 app is worth every cent as it puts a mesmerizing 3D model of the Solar System at your fingertips, literally.

Solar System is the sophisticated cousin to the American Museum of Natural History’s Cosmic Discoveries and is the kind of cultural artifact that gives us true pause about the technology-enabled frontiers of human knowledge and curiosity in our era.

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Wreck This Box: Keri Smith’s Activity Books for Grown-Ups


Author, illustrator and guerrilla artist Keri Smith is a master of the interactive journal. Wreck This Box is a recently released box set of her three masterpieces: Wreck This Journal, a lovely illustrated journal inviting you to conjure your best mistake-making skills and indulge your destructivist demons as part of the creative process, This Is Not a Book, which rethinks the purpose and function of a book and invites you along for the journey, and Mess: The Manual of Accidents and Mistakes, a potent antidote for your lifelong conditioning for overthinking and fear of being wrong.

Images by Kimberly Ripley

So vibrant is the cult of Keri Smith’s creations that there’s an entire How to Wreck a Journal Flickr pool, 2121 members strong. The box set, too, comes with instructions for how to wreck it and ample encouragement to “make a mess with the box.”

Wreck This Box is as much a delightful activity for parents to do with their kids as they foster an environment of playful acceptance of imperfection as it is much-needed play therapy for grown-ups as we try to shed our lifelong layers of painful perfectionism and, in the process, unleash our inherent, uninhibited creativity. It’s a quirky, hands-on companion to Brené Brown’s intelligent and research-driven The Gifts of Imperfection.

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