Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘vintage’

24 NOVEMBER, 2010

Mad Men: The Illustrated World


Tips for the modern metrosexual from the 1960s, or what martinis have to do with Twitter.

Yes, we love Mad Men goodies, who doesn’t? Nearly two years ago, we featured NYC-based illustrator, designer and comedian Dyna Moe‘s absolutely wonderful Mad Men illustrations. The series eventually charmed AMC into launching the popular Mad Men Yourself app, which has since populated countless Twitter streams with Mad-Menified avatars.

This fall, Dyna Moe released her dynamite work in Mad Men: The Illustrated World — a truly, truly fantastic book that captures not only everything we love about Mad Men, but also the broader cultural landscape of the era, from fashion and style to office culture to lifehacks like hangover workarounds and secretary etiquette.

Mad Men Illustrated

Mad Men Illustrated

Mad Men Illustrated

With stunning, vibrant illustrations inspired by the aesthetic and artistic style of vintage ads from the 1960s, the book is a priceless and colorful timecapsule of an era few of us lived in but most of us romanticize.

Mad Men Illustrated

And, of course, effort to capture the spirit of the era would be complete without the spirits of the era.

Mad Men Illustrated

Conceptually playful and artistically ambitious, Mad Men: The Illustrated World is the perfect gift for the vintage revivalist, illustration aficionado or Mad-Men-holic in your life, and a fine addition to your own collection of paper-based design gems.

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18 NOVEMBER, 2010

A Photographic History of Bromance, 1840-1918


In the spirit of exposing the old-timey roots of seemingly modern concepts — take, for instance, social networking — here comes a historical look at “bromance.”

Contrary to what Judd Apatow movies may lead you to believe, “bromance” is actually an old and surprisingly well-documented phenomenon, as evidenced by David Deitcher’s Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together, 1840-1918 — a collection of more than 100 photographs depicting what the era’s comfort levels would have described as platonic male affection.

The book is a treasure trove of early photography gems, including rare daguerreotypes, cartes des visites and vintage photographic postcards, insightfully contextualized by art historian and cultural critic David Deitcher.

Curiously, the images have been longtime prized collector’s items for gay men, who saw in them a sort of indirect validation in lieu of real representation of homosexuality in portraiture — something we covered last week with Hide/Seek, which explores the history of gender identity and sexual difference in art.

David Deitcher writes:

[In the late Victorian period] men posed for photographers holding hands, entwining limbs, or resting in the shelter of each other’s accommodating bodies, innocent of the suspicion that such behavior would later arouse.

Tender and often funny, Dear Friends is both a fascinating timecapsule of an era and a powerful implicit reminder of all the artificial behavioral norms we have since imposed on our conception of masculinity and friendship.

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20 OCTOBER, 2010

Frames of Reference: Clever Vintage Film Makes Physics Fun


Saying that reality is merely a matter of point of view may be a tired truism. But illustrating it with irreverence and ingenuity can be utterly original. Such is the case of Frames of Reference, a lovely example of how cross-disciplinary creativity, blending architecture, design and cinema, can make physics tremendously more fun and digestible. The fascinating film released by the University of Toronto in 1960 utilizes ingeniously placed furniture and a rotating table to demonstrate how we make sense of space and motion.

All motion is relative, but we tend to think of one thing as being fixed and the other thing as being moving.”

The clever cinematography by Abraham Morochnik is part Hitchcock, part Lynch, part dorky Discovery Channel scitertainment — and totally brilliant.

You can download a hi-res version of the film over at the Internet Archive.

via Coudal

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11 OCTOBER, 2010

Five Visualizations to Grasp the Scale of the Universe


What coffee beans, dinosaurs and lakeside picnics have to do with Isaac Asimov and formalized figments.

Since yesterday was 10.10.10, we’ve decided to celebrate this cosmic alignment of numerical symmetry by illuminating the measurements of magnitude. Today, we are taking five different looks at one of the most difficult concepts for the human brain to quantify and understand: The size and scale of the universe.


What better way to celebrate 10.10.10 than with Charles and Ray Eames’ iconic Powers of Ten film, an adventure in magnitudes circa 1977?

The film opens with a lakeside picnic in Chicago and branches outward into the universe, jumping to a vantage point ten times further out every ten seconds until our galaxy becomes a mere speck of light among many, then speed-zooms back to Earth, magnifying the view tenfold every ten seconds. The journey ends inside the proton of a carbon atom within the DNA molecule of a white blood cell.

Powers Of Ten is among our absolute favorites, a beautiful intersection of design heritage and scientific curiosity — we highly recommend adding the DVD, companion flipbook and breathtaking photography hardcover to your collection of cross-disciplinary cultural trophies.


From Primax Studio comes this interactive infographic illustrating the scale of the universe, inviting you to zoom from the quantum foam of Einstein’s space-time theory to the outer limits of the cosmos an estimated 900 yotameters away.


Isaac Asimov aptly captured our muddled relationship with size and scale he said that “a single particle of sand is a large 32km-by-32km room.”

Universcale is a fascinating interactive infographic by Nikon, exploring the measurement units of the universe, femtometers to light-years. From historical background on when and why the different units of scale were created — because, let’s face it, none of this is absolute and “objective” but, rather, a set of mutually agreed upon conventions that humanity has crafted — to recent scientific developments to near-philosophical insights, Universcale is a treasure trove of knowledge.

The site was created five years ago — which feels like a previous era in the scale of life of the digital universe — and though it’s still a treat, we think it lends itself brilliantly to an iPad app and we’d love to see it as one.


Take a visual tour of what’s hot or not in the universe, from the strictly theoretical concept that is absolute zero to the 141,679,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000ºK of Planck, the temperature immediately after the Big Bang.

Heat Scale of the Universe


The wonderful xkcd gets educational with this map of the universe’s gravity wells — from Titan’s feathery pseudo-gravity to Jupiter’s powerful suck — scaled to Earth’s surface gravity so that you can visualize the energy it would take to escape from each planet’s gravity. The deeper the well, the stronger the pull.


Though not related to the universe in the cosmic sense, this fascinating interactive exploration of cell size and scale from the University of Utah does glean an understanding of our living world that is very much a part of the universe.

As the best of information visualization does, it uses what’s familiar (a coffee bean, 12-point Times New Roman font) to depict what’s hard to grasp (a carbon atom) and, in the process, illuminates the magnitude of difference between these sizes.

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