Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘animation’

03 SEPTEMBER, 2010

ThoughtBubbler: Visual Storytelling for What Matters


What a pig that can’t walk has to do with mental pollution and the DNA of kindness.

Last week, we looked at The Beast File‘s brilliant infographic storytelling.

Today, we turn to The Smart Bubble Society — a wonderful nonprofit motion-graphics studio promoting social justice, self-education and awareness about critical issues through stunningly animated motion-graphics shorts called Thought Bubbles.

As humanity progresses, cultural shifts affect our individual thought bubbles. These shifts change our primary sources of in formation and, today, we live in a world where entertainment and distraction have seduced us.”

Sample their brilliant brand of visual storytelling with these three Thought Bubbles by thinkers who peel away important layers of issues that matter.


Adbusters editor and activist Micah White takes a somewhat extreme but nonetheless thoughtful approach to an increasingly important issue in the information age: Just what are we filling our minds with?

Tragically, with the changing meaning of pollution, we’ve become increasingly concerned with the contamination of our external, natural environment, while ignoring the desecrations of our internal, mental environment.” ~ Micah White


A few months ago, the healthcare debate sparked some of the most heated, volatile conversations in American history, both around the oval table and the dinner party table. Here, John Greene‘s now (in)famous discussion of the American healthcare system comes to life in a visual narrative that only adds to its impact.

It’s the inefficiency of our socialized medicine that in the end makes healthcare so much more expensive than it is anywhere else in the world. Is healthcare a privilege or is it a right?” ~ John Green


Amy Krouse Rosenthal is part bestselling children’s book author, part modern philsopher. In this Thought Bubble, she touches on Western philosophy and Eastern spirituality, from market economies to Confucianism, making a compelling case for our inherent propensity for kindness.

At the end of life, at the end of YOUR life, what essence emerges? What have you filled the world with? In remembering you, what words will others choose?” ~ Amy Krouse Rosenthal

And for what it’s worth, we second Rosenthal’s heartfelt recommendation for Born to be Good — it’s truly one of the most important books you’ll ever read.

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25 AUGUST, 2010

The Beast File: Infographic Storytelling


Catholic priests, Greenpeace terrorists, and what Tim Burton has to do with Obama’s entourage.

We have a soft spot for infographic storytelling — from a data-driven take on The Little Red Riding Hood to animated infoviz for kids to an infographic breakdown of web history. We’ve recently discovered a wonderful Australian program, The Hungry Beast, whose series The Beast File hits right in the middle of this sweet spot — part modern muckraking, part typographic animation, part data-driven storytelling. Sadly, Hungry Beast got pulled from the air in April, but we’ve curated five fantastic episodes to immortalize its infographic legacy.


In the past 50 years, some 30,000 people in 25 countries have reported abuse by Catholic priests. The Beast File takes a critical look at a serious problem that has been well-documented yet unresolved in over 2,000 years of Catholic church history.


Hungry Beast pulls back the curtain to probe a bit deeper into the world’s premiere purveyor of “Don’t be evil” philosophy, from the Big G’s impressive media portfolio to their 187 patents and the many subtle ways in which the search giant has penetrated our daily lives.


Controversial environmental activist Paul Watson was among the most influential early members of Greenpeace, but was notoriously axed from the organization for supporting strategies of direct, radical action that conflicted with Greenpeace’s philosophy of nonviolence. Though his work was pivotal in enforcing marine regulations against illegal whalers and sealers, The Beast File nails Watson’s aura of controversy by calling him “one man’s freedom fighter, another man’s terrorist.”


MDMA, or 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, was synthesized by accident in 1912 and enjoyed a long career of illicit use as ecstasy. Because of its reckless recreational use, MDMA was quickly pulled from the world of medicine and banned as part of the war on drugs, but doctors continued to campaign for its use in medical research, uncovering some evidence for the drug’s efficiency in treating PTSD and anxiety disorders.


A job consisting solely of keeping track of throat lozenges may seem like the kind of absurd occupation you’d encounter in a Tim Burton film, unless these are Obama’s throat lozenges. Then it becomes a matter of national security — and the very non-fictional job of one man on the president’s 500-person entourage. In this episode, The Beast File introduces us to some of the more curious portable White House staffers that go everywhere Obama goes.

And is it just us, or did the voiceover lady slip a Bushism in there with her “nucular” pronunciation?

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16 AUGUST, 2010

How To Be Alone


Dancing with yourself, how to talk to statues, and what squirrels have to do with love.

UPDATE: Now available as an illustrated book.

Modernity offers a curious paradox of connectedness and loneliness. Our perpetually networked selves cling to constant communication in an effort to avoid the deep-seated sense of loneliness we so dread. Somewhere along the way, we forget — or maybe never even learn — how to be alone, how to stay contented in our own company.

Poet and singer-songwriter Tanya Davis and filmmaker Andrea Dorfman address this forgotten art in How To Be Alone — a beautifully hand-illustrated, simply yet eloquently narrated visual poem full of all these things we so often need to tell ourselves and believe, yet so rarely do.

You could be in an instant surrounded if you needed it. If your heart is bleeding, make the best of it. There is heat in freezing, be a testament.

Davis’s illustrated book adaptation is just as lovely.

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