Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘history’

02 NOVEMBER, 2009

Esoteric Creativity: Michael Paukner’s Visualizations

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What 100 monkeys have to do with Atlantis, Indian yoga and Stonehenge.

One of the reasons we love data visualization and the infographic arts so much is that at their best, they can bring a level of intuitive understanding to overwhelmingly esoteric subjects. Which is why we’re head-over-heels with Austrian visualization artist Michael Paukner, who tackles the obscure and the enigmatic with creative quirk and a unique graphic style.

The Hundredth Monkey Effect: Theory, which posits that a learned behavior or idea spreads instantaneously within a group, in an almost paranormal fashion, once a critical number is reached. Click image for details.

His work is a kind of modern artistic alchemy, exploring both real phenomena and the eeriest corners of quasi-science, those fringe worldviews that have always coexisted with and challenged the dominant scientific dogmas of the time.

The Celtic Zodiac: 13-month lunar calendar dating back to around 1000 B.C., devised by Celtic priests known as Druids and constituting the ancient origins of Halloween. Click image for details.

Kundalini: Sanskrit word meaning either 'coiled up' or 'coiling like a snake.' The Kundalini movement in Indian yoga deals with 'corporeal energy' that circulates in and around the human body in an artificial electromagnetic flow. Click image for details.

Stonehenge Rebuilt: Click image for details.

Metatron's Cube: Pattern believed to have sacred geometry with religious value depicting the fundamental principles of space and time. Click image for details.

Capital City of Atlantis: Reconstruction of the mythical city based on a German plan Michael found on an obscure website. Click image for details.

See more of Michael’s work in his relentlessly fantastic Flickr stream.

via Coudal

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0375869832/ref=as_li_ss_til?tag=braipick-20&camp=0&creative=0&linkCode=as4&creativeASIN=0375869832&adid=02YXM5MD2VFTBCC5WMM6&Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

29 OCTOBER, 2009

Strange Maps: The Book

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What George Orwell has to do with the Amazons of California and Utopia.

Today is the day we’d been waiting for for a long, long time. For today, Strange Maps — an absolute favorite blog of ours, a frequent source of inspiration, and one of the shiniest hidden gems on the Interwebs — is finally gifting the world with its eponymous book.

Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities features 138 of the most fascinating, absorbing and remarkable maps from the blog’s 3-year history of culling the world’s forgotten, little-known and niche cartographic treasures.

From the world as depicted in Orwell’s 1984, to a color map of Thomas More’s Utopia, to the 16th-century portrayal of California as an island where people live like the Amazons, the book is brim-full of priceless anecdotes from our collective conception of the world over the centuries.

But what makes all these maps really special is that they somehow capture and reveal a great deal about human psychology and thought — the humor of political parody (Hey there, United States of Canada vs. Jesusuland), the tragicomic bias of a New Yorker’s vantage point, the odd propositions of science gone awry (No, we won’t rename the stars after famous dictators), the inflation of political ego (Sorry, China, you’re not the Middle Kingdom at the center of the world), the absurdity of rampant religious fundamentalism (Really? The final battle between God and Satan in Armageddon will take place exactly at the Megiddo Valley in Israel?), the universal and age-old mistrust of cabbies (Who knew a hexagonal layout of London would prevent passengers from getting ripped off?).

Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities is certainly unusual and idiosyncratic — in the most wonderful way possible. At the intersection of history, design, politics and humor, it’s one of those rare beasts that tackle so many facets of culture with utter ease, readability and can’t-put-it-down magnetism.

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27 OCTOBER, 2009

The Real Godfather: Il Divo

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Scorsese meets Coppola, or what the Vatican has to do with assassination conspiracies.

Known as Divo Giulio — from the Latin Divus Iulius, “divine Julius” — Giulio Andreotti has reigned as the most enigmatic, revered and feared politician in Italy for over 50 years, serving seven terms as Prime Minister. Then, at the pinnacle of his political career, Andreotti faced a scandalous investigation, accusing him of orchestrating a massive Neo-Fascist mafia conspiracy, with the Vatican involved, and ordering the assassinations of judges, journalists and members of the Christian Democratic party — his own.

In 2008, director Paolo Sorrentino swept the international film circuit with Il Divo, an ambitious and powerful biopic about Andreotti’s epic career, which won the coveted Prix du Jury at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, among numerous other prestigious film awards. And today marks Il Divo‘s much-anticipated DVD release.

Award-winning writer/director Paolo Sorrentino packs this incredible true story of corruption and murder with explosive action, stunning cinematography and startling surprises to capture perhaps the most fearless and breathtaking depiction of a public figure in modern cinema history.

Beautifully shot, with extraordinary acting and a superb soundtrack, Il Divo is part Scorsese, part Coppola, part ambitious new breed of contemporary film.

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23 OCTOBER, 2009

Vintage Album Covers

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Private collections, public perceptions, and all that jazz.

We love jazz. We love album cover art. And we love vintage design. So we’re incredibly excited to bring you three fantastic collections of vintage jazz album and LP cover artwork.

VINTAGE VANGUARD

Vintage Vanguard may be an obscure Japanese website, but it’s brimming with remarkable cover designs of classic and rare Western jazz albums from the iconic Blue Note record label.

LP COVER LOVER

LP Cover Lover is both an archive of “the weird and wonderful world of record covers from the golden age of LPs” and a social bookmarking platform where anyone can submit a cover and everyone votes on the artwork. And while we wish the collection were browsable by rating, it’s still an absolute treat for musicologists and vintage design junkies alike.

BIRKA JAZZ ARCHIVE

In 1938, Columbia Records hired designer Alex Steinweiss who, at the age of 23, invented the concept of the album cover. Until then, records came in plain brown paper wrappers. Steinweiss’ idea was not only a pivotal moment in packaging history, but also a monumental shift in the relationship between music and art which, through the introduction of illustration, typography, vivid color and bold graphics, completely revolutionized the record industry.

Columbia Records’ Birka Jazz Archive houses rare and beautiful album covers by Steinweiss and other iconic designers from the golden age of jazz — some from private collections not previously available to the world. Sorted by label and country, the artwork also features fascinating historical notes about the labels, designers, photographers, and the music itself.

Explore this incredible cultural gem and, if you find yourself fascinated by the history and heritage of jazz, we recommend the Jazz + Culture course on iTunes U, a free podcast from Arizona State University. While it may lack the charm and production value of a TED talk, the course is a densely informative and captivating journey through the evolution of a cultural movement much grander than its musical foundation.

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12 OCTOBER, 2009

Journalism Redefined: The Photographer

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A photographer, a graphic novel, and the remarkable story behind the headlines.

As we observe the eighth anniversary of Afghanistan’s latest occupation, the world would do well to reflect on the history that brought us to this most recent impasse. That complex history deserves a fittingly complex treatment, which it gets in the genre-breaking masterwork The Photographer.

First published in 2003 in French, The Photographer was reissued in English this year. Melding a graphic novel, photo essay, and travelogue, it tells the story of photographer Didier Lefèvre’s journey through Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

Lefèvre documented the group’s harrowing covert tour in 1986 from Pakistan into a nation gripped by violence in the aftermath of the 1979 Soviet invasion. While a few of his 4,000-plus images were published upon his return to France, years passed before Lefèvre was approached by his friend, graphic novelist Emmanuel Guibert, about collaborating on a book that would finally tell his remarkable story.

The resulting effort, assembled by graphic designer Frédéric Lemercier, is a seamless tour de force of reportage unlike anything else in modern journalism. Through hybrid forms of history, The Photographer tells one tale of what is of course an ongoing narrative in a part of the world we usually hear about in abstract headlines. We were moved by the courage and strength of the Afghani people and the MSF doctors who risk their lives to help them under exceedingly difficult conditions, especially the team’s young, female head of mission. Although we know how this particular piece of the story works out—against long odds Lefèvre makes it back to his native France, and MSF will stay until forced to abandon its operations temporarily in 1990—that does nothing to diminish the book’s suspense.

The Photographer is a true hybrid of artistic approaches. Frames of photos run in succession to provide parallax views of a scene, and Lemercier’s coloration of the drawn panels enhances the immediacy of the experience. (The Persian script in several scenes was even penned by Persepolis artist/author Marjane Satrapi.) Moved along by interwoven panels of photography and illustration, we were completely absorbed by the action and had to be pulled away to tell you about it.

For a singular storytelling experience, let The Photographer take you on a trip through time to a place we still need to understand better.

Kirstin Butler has a Bachelor’s in art & architectural history and a Master’s in public policy from Harvard University. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn as a freelance editor and researcher, where she also spends way too much time on Twitter. For more of her thoughts, check out her videoblog.

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