Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘culture’

02 MAY, 2011

Mabel Pike: Portrait of a 91-Year-Old Moccasin Maker

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What ancient beadwork has to do with the blessings of the digital age.

91-year-old Tlingit Native elder Mabel Pike learned beading when she was six and her great-grandmother taught her how to sew moccasins in the 1920s. In 1926, after their village in Douglas, Alaska burned down, Mabel’s parents moved the family to Juneau, where Mabel and her sisters began making and selling handcrafted Native wares. Mabel eventually became a Tlingit master artist, going on to teach beadwork at Stanford and pass on the traditions of her clan’s culture.

In this lovely video portrait, part of Etsy’s Handmade Portraits series, Mabel talks about the traditional patterns of her culture, her deep passion for her craft and everything it stands for, and her hate for the word “abstract.” It exudes the same kind of bittersweet poeticism you might recall from these 7 short documentaries about dying crafts, but it’s also lined with Mabel’s steady, quiet optimism.

When I finish a pair of moccasins, I sure hate to part with them. I’m not in this for money-making. I do my sewing because that’s my life, it’s always been my life, from the day I was six years old.” ~ Mabel Pike

I just lose myself in my sewing. I don’t know how to describe it. You know, when I start beading, it’s like I’m so absorbed in what I’m doing, I forget everything. I’m sewing, and I’m creating, and I’m designing. And I just don’t know how to describe it. I just lose myself in it.” ~ Mabel Pike

The way Mabel describes her work — this state of total engagement, of complete immersion — encapsulates the state renowned psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined as “flow,” the true mark of creativity in action.

For your daily pause moment: It’s utterly remarkable that we live in an age when online platforms like Vimeo and Etsy and Twitter and WordPress are allowing us to not only learn about the fascinating cultural heritage of ancient traditions, but to also actively support these indigenous artists in ways that would’ve never been possible a mere decade ago.

To support Mabel’s work and that of other indigenous artists, do visit Alaksa Native Arts Foundation’s online shop.

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02 MAY, 2011

Analog Infoviz: Handmade Visualization Toolkit

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What 99 red balloons have to do with the spam economy and Lady Gaga.

We love data visualization and have a soft spot for analog art. We’ve previously explored several examples of physical data art and now, from Bogotá-based designer Jose Duarte comes this ingenious Handmade Visualization Toolkit, exploring simple ways to visualize information quickly. Using ordinary materials like chalk, string, stickers and balloons, you can experiment with various visualization techniques, from area charts to bubble graphs to — yes, you guessed it — Venn diagrams.

Using the kit, he made these lovely lo-fi visualizations of data from the 2010 State of the Internet report, revealing, among other things, that Lady Gaga is bigger on Twitter than Obama and the majority of the world’s email volume is spam.

Internet users by country

The most popular twitter accounts

Internet users 2000-2010

Spam vs. real email sent every day: 90 out of every 100 emails are spam

And it seems like Jose will send you a kit for free if you shoot him an email — what’s not to love?

via Flavorwire

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29 APRIL, 2011

Arabic Graffiti: An Eastern Voice in the Global Street Art Dialogue

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Diplomacy by way of street art, or what Gaza has to do with Banksy.

We love street art, but the majority of coverage on the subject has a severe geographic bias — every street art encyclopedia, every showcase of notable work, every documentary on graffiti culture tends to focus on Western lettering and imagery. Until now. Arabic Graffiti is an ambitious new anthology by Berlin street culture tastemaker Don Karl and Lebanese typographer Pascal Zoghbi exploring the use of Arabic script in urban context. The lush hardcover tome curates graffiti artists and typographers from the Middle East and around the world, who incorporate Arabic calligraphy styles in their artwork — a beautiful intersection of tradition and contemporary creativity.

Images courtesy of Slanted

Part cultural anthropology, part study in creative ingenuity, Arabic Graffiti is one of the most exciting design books to come by this year and a timely cross-cultural bridge of visual communication in the context of today’s global political climate.

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29 APRIL, 2011

7 Brilliant Book Trailers

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How to connect haberdashery to Zach Galifianakis in under three minutes.

With a killer combination of animation, motion graphics and music, what’s not to love about book trailers? We couldn’t think of a thing, which is why we’ve rounded up seven of our favorites. As provocative, funny, and poignant as the books they represent, these videos prove that ideas are the ultimate teasers. And despite the publishing industry’s alarmist prophecies, these trailers bespeak the power of books to appeal to readers with their core, age-old value proposition: Compelling storytelling, creatively delivered.

GOING WEST

Gorgeous production values and jaw-dropping papercraft animation earned the trailer for Going West by the New Zealand Book Council our top spot. Created 15 years after the book’s publication in 1994, the BBDO-produced spot perfectly captures the haunting tone of Maurice Gee’s hybrid mystery-travelogue.

The pages of Going West literally rise up to depict the world of mid-20th-century Auckland. It’s a show-stopping feat that left us totally intrigued about the story inside its pages.

WISDOM

We’re longtime admirers of Andrew Zuckerman’s ambitious projects, like the beautiful Bird series. With Wisdom: The Greatest Gift One Generation Can Give to Another, Zuckerman asked 50 of our time’s greatest thinkers and doers — writers, artists, philosophers, politicians, designers, activists, musicians, religious and business leaders — all over 65 years of age to impart some knowledge for posterity. (Zuckerman subsequently divided the great tome into four smaller, more digestible sub-volumes, each with its own thematic DVD: Wisdom: Life, Wisdom: Love, Wisdom: Peace, and Wisdom: Ideas.) Clips of the accompanying film comprise this trailer, which for its sheer star power is tough to beat.

Love something. I think we’ve got to learn to love something deeply. I think it’s love. It sounds sentimental as hell, but I really think it is.” ~ Andrew Wyeth, artist

LOWBOY

Speaking of stars, we love this LOL-worthy trailer for the novel Lowboy featuring funnyman Zach Galifianakis.

The actor trades identities with author John Wray, who plays an interviewer trying to find out about the book. The resulting improvised hijinks have the same slightly uncomfortable, dark comedy as Lowboy itself. Bonus points for the 9-to-5 movie reference and cutaways to Galifianakis using a binary typewriter.

13 WORDS

We expect no less than wonderful from a collaboration between Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman, and the trailer for their book 13 Words doesn’t disappoint.

It’s a clear winner in the cool-for-both-kids-and-parents genre, all in Kalman’s delightfully analog, decidedly non-Pixar style. Animated images from the book — which illustrates 13 essential English words — combined with Snicket’s narration results in a charming combination for all ages.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO POCKET GUIDES

The title alone is promising: Worst Case Scenario Pocket Guide: Breakups aims to satisfy the person looking for a little post-heartbreak humor.

Smart motion graphics augment the trailer’s tongue-in-cheek narration about how to trick out your online dating profile when it’s time to get back on the market.

How could you go wrong with such solid advice as the following:

Use euphemisms: avoid the word unemployed by saying that you are currently enjoying a sweat-free lifestyle while you search for new challenges.

SHOCK DOCTRINE

Naomi Klein’s 2008 book Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism enlisted the skills of Oscar-nominated director Alfonso Cuaron, and it shows. The trailer functions as both a teaser for the book and a mini-documentary for Klein’s argument: that economists and politicians take advantage of crises to push through social policy, often to the detriment of billions.

Whatever your view of Klein’s politics, the power of this trailer – as either advertising or propaganda – is undeniable.

IT’S A BOOK

The trailer for illustrator Lane Smith’s It’s A Book provides a rebuttal to the terminably app-addicted. A donkey asks his monkey pal whether the object he’s holding can scroll, text, or tweet, to which the latter invariably — and each time more exasperatedly — replies, “no, it’s a book.”

Smith provides a sweet reminder that the written word can still rock one’s world.

We hope these trailers have piqued your interest about the books they present. They suggest that, though a book’s main delivery mechanism may have moved online, readers themselves are still moved by curiosity.

Kirstin Butler is writing an adaptation of Gogol for the Google era called Dead SULs, but when not working spends far, far too much time on Twitter. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA but still stubbornly identifies as a Brooklynite.

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