Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘culture’

04 JULY, 2012

The Surrealist Chart of Erotic Hand Signaling

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“You think no one understands / Listen to my hands”

In the early 1920s, Surrealism emerged as a new cultural rhetoric and aesthetic rooted in using the element of surprise to open up new frontiers of the imagination, blending the playful with the philosophical. A Book of Surrealist Games (public library), originally published in 1991, is part activity book for grown-ups, part essential art history, featuring word and image games that the surrealists — including Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Pablo Picasso (to a degree), Max Ernst, and André Breton — developed to create their written and graphical art. Among them is this (very not safe for work, but then again so was the entire decade) erotic hand signaling chart, a naughty adaptation of the standard American Sign Language manual alphabet:

First person to adapt this into an animated GIF gets a piece of candy.

UPDATE: Reader Jamal Qutub did the honors:

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03 JULY, 2012

Digesting the Most Important Food Politics Book of the Past 50 Years

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Up close and personal with a book whose highest aspiration is to one day be quaint.

BOOKD is a new bi-weekly series from THNKR, spotlighting “game-changing books.” The inaugural episode zooms in on Michael Pollan’s 2006 classic, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (public library) — rightfully called “the most important food politics book of the past 50 years,” and an essential lens on understanding our place, as well as our responsibility, in the natural and industrial ecosystems we inhabit and participate in. A number of famous chefs and food writers — Tom Colicchio, Dan Barber, Katie Lee, Jennifer Pelka, and of course Michael Pollan himself — discuss the book’s core claims, the urgency of its message, and its impact on contemporary culture in the half-decade since its publication.

One meal at a time is how you turn this ship… It’s not going to happen overnight. I would hope at some point in the future this book would seem quaint — that things would have changed so much in the food system that people would read it as a historical curiosity.

Realistically, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I mean, we’ll get as far as we can, but it’s going to be a lot of little maneuvers. Cheap food is baked into our economy. So we’re going to need pressure from both the consumer, voting with his or her fork, and it’s going to take changes in policy.” ~ Michael Pollan

For more essential Pollan, see his follow-up, Food Rules, illustrated by Maira Kalman — one of the best food books in 2011 — as well as this delightful stop-motion adaptation.

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03 JULY, 2012

Ralph Ellison on Race and the Power of the Writer in Society: A Rare 1966 Interview

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“Power, for the writer….lies in his ability to reveal if only a little bit more about the complexity of humanity.”

In 1953, celebrated novelist Ralph Ellison gave a remarkable National Book Award acceptance speech, arguing for fiction as a soapbox for injustice and a chariot of hope. Thirteen years later, in 1966, he gave a rare interview for the National Education Television, in which he discusses a number of timeless, timely topics — national identity, race, the purpose of literature — with extraordinary eloquence and grace, complementing E.B. White’s insights on the role and responsibility of the writer and George Orwell’s thoughts on the writer’s motives and political purpose.

Power, for the writer, it seems to me lies in his ability to reveal if only a little bit more about the complexity of humanity. And, in this country, I think it’s very, very important for the writer to, no matter what the agony of his experience….he should stick to what he’s doing, because the slightest thing that is new, or the slightest thing that has been overlooked, which would tell us about the unity of American experience — beyond all considerations of class, of race, or religion — are very, very important. I think that the nation is still in the process of becoming, of drawing itself together, of discovering itself. And when a writer fails to contribute to this, then he’s played his art false, and he probably does violence to our political vision of ourselves.

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