Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘film’

13 DECEMBER, 2011

Eames: The Architect and the Painter

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From fiberglass to James Franco, or what Ice Cube has to do with designing the American imagination.

It’s been a grand year for Charles and Ray Eames, from the rediscovery of Charles Eames’ fantastic 1982 Q&A on design to architect-turned-rapper Ice Cube singing the duo’s praises. The Eames, of course, very much warrant cultural paeans — they not only gave a shape and style to the American twentieth century, but they also defined a new cultural role for designers as architects of imagination who invite people to look at the world differently. Today marks the highly anticipated DVD release of Eames: The Architect and the Painter — a fascinating documentary about the legendary husband-and-wife design duo, exploring their personal lives, their creative process, and their enduring influence on the American aesthetic, design sensibility, and outlook on life.

Oh, and it’s narrated by James Franco.

Beautifully filmed and brimming with insight, Eames: The Architect and the Painter is easily the most exciting design documentary since Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica / Objectified / Urbanized trilogy.

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07 DECEMBER, 2011

What is Generative Art? A 7-Minute PBS Micro-Documentary

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The rhetoric of data, or how to reconcile human and algorithm in the age of collective intelligence.

After their fantastic 7-minute documentary on typography, the fine folks at PBS Off Book are back with another micro-documentary, this time spotlighting generative art and featuring creators like generative composer Luke Dubois, game designer Will Wright, and software artist Scott Draves, who discuss everything from new narratives in visual storytelling to negotiating the relationship between humans and algorithms to the rhetoric of data.

This century is the century of data, that’s the defining thing. Last century was the century of electricity.” ~ Luke Dubois

For more on this ever-fascinating and increasingly relevant subject, don’t miss this omnibus of 7 essential books on data visualization and generative art.

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06 DECEMBER, 2011

How Bananas Became a Global Commodity

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What the silent film era has to do with the architecture of atmospheric control.

Over on Edible Geography, Nicola Twilley has a fantastic longform piece tracing the painstaking production that is the life cycle of bananas as they make their way from tropical Ecuador to your fruit bowl. This reminded me of a fascinating vintage documentary from the end of the silent film era I’d come across some time ago. The 11-minute black-and-white film, currently in the public domain courtesy of the Prelinger Archives, was produced in 1935 and zooms in on the banana industry, from virgin jungle being converted into banana plantations to the fifteen-month growth cycle between root planting and banana bunch to the shipment of the fruit into the American markets, and even ends with a stop-motion visual jingle about the health virtues of bananas.

Bananas are more than a delicious fruit — they are one of America’s most important foods…”

Now, contrast that — the manual farming and inspection, the pick-up locomotives, the “specially constructed ships of the Great White Fleet” — with today’s sophisticated banana-ripening facilities and their “evolving architecture of atmospheric control.”.

In other words, in order to be a global commodity rather than a tropical treat, the banana has to be harvested and transported while completely unripe. Bananas are cut while green, hard, and immature, washed in cool water (both to begin removing field heat and to stop them from leaking their natural latex), and then held at 56 degrees — originally in a refrigerated steamship; today, in a refrigerated container — until they reach their country of consumption weeks later.”

And in observing how far we’ve come technologically, it’s bittersweet — like a green banana, perhaps — to observe how much further we’ve gone from the groves.

HT Andrew Sullivan

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