Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘technology’

27 JUNE, 2011

Molly Landreth’s Tender Vintage Portraits of Modern Queer Life

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What Victorian photography has to do with a watershed moment for modern democracy and human rights.

Late last Friday, the New York State Senate passed a marriage equality act, making New York the sixth and largest state to legalize same-sex marriage — a momentous occasion Mayor Bloomberg called “a historic triumph for equality and freedom.” To celebrate the occasion — though it’s utterly embarrassing we’re just doing that in 2011 — here’s a look at the wonderful work of photographer Molly Landreth, profiled in Etsy’s lovely Handmade Portraits series.

For the past five years, Landreth has been documenting queer and transgendered life using a vintage 4×5 large-format camera. Her tender, poetic portraits aim to redefine what it means to be queer today, exposing her subjects’ most vulnerable and human sides.

Real strength and real tenderness at the same time, in one frame, is something that I go back to a lot. In queer relationships, there [are] so many times when it’s so tender and soft but, also, you have to have so much strength to show yourself and to be who you are.” ~ Molly Landreth

Cooper, Oakland, CA, 2009

Rory and His Uncles, Brighton England

Simon and West, 9am Seattle, WA. 2007

Jo and Joann, Seattle, WA. 2007

Ronni and Jo, Seattle, WA. 2005

Michelle and Janis, Bellingham, WA. 2007

Cubby, Portland, OR. 2009

EJ Scott, Brighton, England. 2010

Meg and Renee, Seattle, WA. 2007

You can find Molly’s beautiful prints on Etsy.

HT @kvox

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24 JUNE, 2011

Kurt Vonnegut Interviewed on NPR Inside Second Life

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What it means to be a man without a country, or what Marx has to do with improving life through technology.

Kurt Vonnegut is one of my big literary heroes, a keen observer and wry critic of culture and society. His Armageddon in Retrospect is an absolute necessity and his wildly entertaining series of fictional interviews with luminaries, God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian is an absolute gem, firmly planted on this year’s edition of the annual Brain Pickings summer reading list.

In 2006, NPR interviewed Vonnegut from inside the virtual world Second Life, as a part of their Infinite Mind series. Recorded shortly before Second Life reached its peak and mere months before Vonnegut passed away, the interview is a rare cultural time-capsule in more ways than one, as well as a fitting meta-wink to God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, which is premised on the idea that Vonnegut would conduct fictional interview with dead cultural luminaries and ordinary people through controlled near-death experiences, allowing him to access the afterlife, converse with his subjects, and leave before it’s too late.

It’s actually possible to get a better life for individuals [through technologies like Second Life] and I have frequently inanimated new technologies, but I love cell phones. I see people so happy and proud, walking around. Gesturing, you know. I’m like Karl Marx, I’m up for anything that makes people happy.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

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21 JUNE, 2011

Shapes for Sounds: A Visual History of the Alphabet

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What the anatomy of your tongue has to do with ship flags and the evolution of human communication.

I’m endlessly fascinated by the intersection of sight and sound and have a well-documented alphabet book fetish. So I absolutely love Shapes for sounds by Timothy Donaldson, exploring one of the most fundamental creations of human communication, the alphabet, through a fascinating journey into “why alphabets look like they do, what has happened to them since printing was invented, why they won’t ever change, and how it might have been.”

While the tome is full of beautiful, lavish illustrations and typography — like 26 gorgeous illustrated charts that trace the evolution of spoken languages into written alphabets — it’s no mere eye candy. Donaldson, a typographer, graphic designer and teacher, digs deep into the cultural anthropology of how letters were crystallized from sounds, scripts invented, words formed, and linguistic conventions indoctrinated.

The alphabet is one of the greatest inventions; it has enabled the preservation and clear understanding of people’s thoughts, and it is simple to learn. It still has great significance; while the advent of type — printed alphabets — has curtailed any real development of the shapes of letters, the alphabet has been more greatly utilised in the last 500 years than ever before. Typography is the engine of graphic design, and writing is the fuel. But more than that, the alphabet has been the enabler of mass communication technologies from Morse code to the internet.” ~ Timothy Davidson

Though the Latin alphabet is the focal point, Donaldson explores an incredible range of related history, from ancient calligraphic traditions to semaphore, to bar codes and binary code, exposing the magnificent cross-pollination of disciplines — design, typography, anatomy, phonetics, sociology, linguistics, psychology and more — that gave birth to one of our civilization’s oldest and most powerful technologies.

I would love to have the experience of having envelopes drop through my door with no address, just a picture of me and my house on the front. I would like to buy a newspaper full of nothing but pictures and graphic devices, and to find my way home using road signs that are just arrows and drawings, but I think these events a re a long way off. To cross national borders still requires a textual document; a passport is not just a picture of your face. The obligator tax-return, a document that, if ignore, will make you a criminal, contains no images. The highway code features many image-based signs, yet must be explained with words. The interent is 95% text.” ~ Timothy Davidson

Shapes for sounds comes as yet another gem from the fine folks at Mark Batty, my favorite indie publisher, who brought us such excellence as Notations 21, Cultural Connectives, Drawing Autism and more.

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