Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘Flickr’

13 OCTOBER, 2008

Mad Men Illustrated

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What Madison Avenue and Upright Citizens Brigade have in common.

We love Mad Men. We also love illustration. And we’re obsessed with Flickr.

So, naturally, we’re all over the Mad Men Illustrated series by NYC-based freelance illustrator, designer and comedian Dyna Moe.

Mad Men Illustrated

Mad Men Illustrated

If her style seems familiar, it’s because Dyna Moe’s credentials include posters and other work for cult comedy outfit Upright Citizens Brigade, for whom she’s been the “unofficial official house designer” since 1999, plus a ton of album artwork for various indie labels.

Mad Men IllustratedThe illustration look and style are inspired by the work of commercial artwork legends from the Mad Men era, including Aurelius Battaglia, Alice & Martin Provensen, and J. P. Miller. The collection started with a holiday card capturing the Mad Men Christmas party from last season, after which Dyna Moe, um, didn’t stop. Right now, all of the images are available as desktop wallpaper downloads, with the most popular up for sale as custom prints at Zazzle.com.

We, for one, are all the more inspired by the far-reaching resonance of this show, which has revolutionized the scripted drama television genre, rekindled some of history’s most taboo controversies, spurred intense debates on consumer culture, been credited with skewing retail fashion, and now inspired an art following.

We bet it can even do our laundry.

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06 OCTOBER, 2008

Image Search Redefined

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How to hunt down interestingness by its hexadecimal color.

It’s been a while since we’ve stumbled across something along the lines of PicLens, retrievr and the Flickr Related Tag Browser.

Today, we bring you another inspired algorithm that revolutionizes the image search experience.

The Multicolr Search Lab, offers color-based search, spitting out images in up to 10 colors you’ve specified. Out of the equally inspired Idée Labs, a self-proclaimed “technology playground for visual search,” Multicolr utilizes the proprietary Piximilar visual similarity search technology that scours large collections of images without using keywords or metadata.

The Multicolr Search Lab is currently available for Flickr and Alamy Stock Photography. The Flickr version extracts the colors from over 10 million of Flickr’s most interesting Creative Commons images. The notion of “interesting” is actually one of Flickr’s own cool algorithms that assesses an image’s “interestingness” based on various meta elements like where the clickthroughs are coming from, who comments on it and when, who marks it as a favorite, its tags and more.

Because these factors are in constant flux, so is the “interestingness” of any given image — something meant to inspire more exploration and discovery inside Flickr.

And while our 8th-grade English Lit teacher used to say that “interesting is what you call an ugly baby,” we have to admit this brand of interestingness falls squarely on the baby pagent side.

18 SEPTEMBER, 2008

Globe-Trotting Goodness

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The big picture gets bigger, P2P filesharing gets legal, why the Japanese are better smilers than us, what Kentucky and Lithuania have in common, and how to replace the White House with a potato.

EARTH IS IN THE AIR

Today, we tour the world of ideas by touring the world of, well, the world — and we start our cultural journey in France, with photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

His entire body of work comes from an incredibly inspired humanistic and planetarian perspective, but we’re particularly taken with his project Earth From Above, a collection of 500,000 breathtaking aerial photographs shot across 100 countries on 6 continents. (You may recall our fascination with aerial photography from the Birdseye Visionaire special issue a while back.)

Each photograph in Earth From Above includes a caption by an expert on sustainable development, making the bigger picture all the clearer: the world is a precious, fragile being whose beauty and heritage we must try our hardest to preserve.

In Holland, for example, chemicals have seeped into the water and are causing a deterioration of the soil, endangering the 5-century-old tradition of flowering bulbs and The Netherlands’ astonishing crop of over 800 tulip varieties.

In 2005, Yann Arthus-Bertrand founded GoodPlanet.org, a nonprofit aimed at promoting and educating about sustainable development across the world through various creative projects.

Our favorite: the Alive Exhibition, a collection of stunning photographs that raise awareness about biodiversity and the need to look beyond our own species in caring for the planet.

MUSIC GOES DUTCH

Next, we move a little north towards those tulip-covered lands of Holland, where we take a look at up-and-coming Dutch indie rock band Silence Is Sexy.

Besides loving their sound — it’s distinctly unique, yet somehow makes us think of what would happen if Thom Yorke sang to the beats of Coldplay with the lyrical sensibility of Vampire Weekend — we have tremendous respect for their industry-revolutionizing choice of distribution.

We’ve long been singing the same old song about how the music industry’s business model is undergoing massive tectonic shifts. Now, Silence Is Sexy are joining our choir — their new album, This Ain’t Hollywood, was just released as a free, legal download on peer-to-peer torrent network Mininova.

Mininova actually has a powerful, free Content Distribution service aimed at doing just that: Helping indie artists and filmmakers discover new audiences, and helping musicologists discover up-and-coming acts.

Take that, Steve Jobs.

via Mininova Blog

KEYBOARD SAYS CHEESE

In honor of brilliant Japanese director Nagi Noda, who passed away at the pitiful age of 35 last week, we bring you a more obscure piece of Japanese culture you probably never knew about: Japanese smileys. These little weirdos are Japan’s answer to the sideways smileys that we all know (and often abuse), invented by Scott Fahlman in 1982.

Japanese Smileys Unlike those, Japanese smileys are read upright and their method of interpretation has a stronger focus on the expression of the eyes — which makes a lot of sense, since we remember from behavioral psych class that much of human emotion is indicated by the muscles surrounding the eye, just like we’re wired to distinguish a genuine smile — also known as a Duchenne smile — from a fake one through the presence (or absence) of those small crows-feet wrinkles in the outer corner of the eyes.

Most Japanese smileys can be created with a Western keyboard and your usual UTF-8 character set. For ones you can start texting to your friends immediately, check out this list. Meanwhile, a few of our favorites:

(^_^) Hi

(#^_^#) Blushing

(-¡-)y-~~~~ Smoke a cigarette

((+_+)) Ummmh

o(^-^o)(o^-^)o o(^-^o)(o^-^)o Dancing

(^_^)/~~ Bye

via Google Blogoscoped

ACCENT ON THE U

Are feeling all worldly and cultured yet? Don’t let it get to your head — let the good folks of Language Trainers Group show you who’s who with the Accent Game, an interactive quiz that puts your knowledge of different accents to the test: Folks from across the globe read Rudyard Kipling to you, then ask you to guess where they come from.

It’s harder than you think — take it from us and our ego-devastating score. Think you know a Finish accent from a Norwegian one, or Lithuanian from Estonian?

Don’t think you’ll get away with just the country, either. After each correct guess, you’re drilled on the country region the person comes from — Kentucky vs. Chicago may be on the easy side, but let’s see you do Cape Town vs. Pretoria or York vs. Birmingham.

And if you’re reaching for the map just reading this, shame on you and your middle school geography teacher.

via Very Short List

THE WORLD IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND

Eifel TowerWe’ll wrap up with an ultimate culture-crosser: Since 1999, London-born, Berlin-based photographer Michael Hughes has been trekking the world and dabbling in the simple wonders of perception — his collection Souvenirs playfully replaces some of the world’s greatest landmarks with their toy replicas using nothing but a camera and some strategic perspective.

In much of the collection, Hughes’ subtle and not-so-subtle snark comes through — like the image of the Trabant car model, a brand synonymous with all the ills that lurked behind the Iron Curtain, seemingly bursting through the remains of the Berlin Wall.

Souvenirs is part of an ongoing book project, so we’ll be sure to keep an eye on Hughes. Meanwhile, we got the sudden urge to go photo-replace the White House with a potato.

via Very Short List

09 SEPTEMBER, 2008

Sky Blue Sky

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Staycation takes to the sky, NASA’s gift for your next dinner party, how legends spend the summer, and what 15,000 optical fibers have to do with high fashion.

CLOUDS, CAMERA, ACTION

Summer has come and gone, and Americans are already filling their scrapbooks with photos from their 2008 staycation — you know, the stay-put vacation alternative enforced by those notorious gas prices. And while some have tried to make lemonade with it all by re-discovering and re-appreciating their home states (one has to wonder what a two-week appreciation of, say, Wisconsin entails), others have gone the other way: thinking up fun, creative stuff that can be done just as well in Manhattan as it could in the Maldives.

Case in point: Flickrer hb19’s sky play photo set, using nothing but the sky and a simple object to create clever scenes that take us back to those magical childhood days when clouds were dragons and unicorns and exotic fishes.

Our favorites: the brilliant smoking pinkie, the timely Space Needle as the Olympic torch, the subtle brush stroke, and the Luke Skywalkerish finger light sabers.

Proof for our conviction that there’s little better than the combination of free time, a camera, and human imagination.

via Photojojo

NASA 1, MAGIC 0

Before you get too enchanted with the heavenly magic of the skies, let us be the kid who told you there was no Santa Claus: NASA has finally discovered what causes the wonder that is the aurora borealis.

A year and a half after the start of the THEMIS mission (that’s Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms… what, it’s the government, they’re no catchphrase pros), a fleet of five satellites probing Earth’s magnetic field, scientists have pinned down the reason why the Northern Lights dance their magic dance: magnetic reconnection, a sudden burst of substorms, brightenings and rapid movements that occur when stressed magnetic field lines suddenly “snap” to a different shape, much like snapping open an overstretched rubber band.

This phenomenon, it turns out, is common throughout the universe and in our particular case happens about a third of the way to the moon.

So think of us next time you share this at a dinner party to boost your smart-cool factor, will ya?

COUTURE FOR THE EYE

That fascination with the summer sky seems like something Flickr amateurs share with the photographic legends of our time.

This summer, legendary duo Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott shot legendary model Giselle Bündchen for W Magazine‘s “Kiss The Sky” editorial, styled by the legendary Alex White. (See? We mean business with all that legends stuff.)

Besides the oddly brave use of seemingly safe color, we’re mesmerized by the enchanted play with light.

Stuff of legends, indeed.

via Fashion Nation

GEEKS FOR FASHION UNITED

Keeping with the theme of clouds, fashion and scientific geekiness, there’s a different kind of cloud extracting oohs and ahhs from its observers: the smart kids at MIT have built the Fiber Optic Cloud, a mind-blowing sculpture made of 15,000 optical fibers, each individually addressable and responsive to human interaction through hundreds of sensors.

The 13-foot cloud, constructed of carbon glass, contains over 40 miles of fiber optics and expresses context awareness — which means that when admirers interact with it through touch, it reflects emotion and behavior through sound and lightness-darkness signaling.

The cloud lives in Florence and launched as an ongoing project to rethink the fashion trade show concept on an interactive, sensory level.

We just hope it’s not nearly as moody as the divas of haute couture.