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Similarities: Because It’s All Been Done

What Einstein has to do with copyright, where indie bands get their concert posters, and why there’s no such thing as creativity.

“Everything’s been done.”

Or so goes the adage drilled into every budding art director from the start. Now, we have proof, thanks to Similarities — a Flickr set that pits pairs of similar images against each other, exposing their striking aesthetic and conceptual similarity.

Substantiating Einstein’s bold contention that “the secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources,” Similarities takes pairs of cultural artifacts, often separated by decades, and exposes anything from well-meaning homages to blatant rip-offs to the unfortunate overlaps of equally twisted minds.

The thing to keep in mind, though, is that Similarities isn’t out to point the finger at the potential (and often clear) theft of ideas — rather, it’s there to shed light on the creative process, to illustrate something we very much believe here at Brain Pickings: That creativity is simply the sum total of your mental resources, the catalog of ideas you’ve accumulated over the years by being alive and alert and attentive to the outside world.

So when you explore Similarities, challenge yourself to question the subconscious influences and stealthy inspiration that creep into your own creative output. What you find may surprise you.

BP

GOOD Magazine: The Real Stimulus Package

How the best magazine around got better, or why taking a slight financial hit can get you an intellectual grand slam.

We love GOOD Magazine. Always have (well, at least since their launch party in Philly’s Reading Terminal in 2007), always will. And now we have yet another reason to.

goodsubInitially, an annual subscription to GOOD used to cost $20, all of which went to your choice of charity from their list of nonprofit partners — great already. (Ours went to WWF.) But imagine our delight to discover that GOOD is now pushing the innovation front with a pay-what-you-want model – you can subscribe for anything from $1 to $1,000, all of which still goes to a charity of your choice.

Your choice of subscription also gets you various tiers of perks: Anything over $20 gets free admission to Choose GOOD parties (and good they are, take our work for it), $10o or more gets your name immortalized in the magazine, and if you have the good will and appropriate pocket depth to afford the $1,000 subscription, we’re talking lifetime subscription to the magazine, lifetime free admission to Choose GOOD parties, your name printed in the magazine, and a signed, limited edition bound copy of GOOD.

Genius.

We’ve seen this sort of approach in the music industry, with acts big and small, from Radiohead to Jill Sobule, redefining the traditional business model. But we’re all the more excited to see it in print publishing, an industry struggling to stay afloat in the digital ocean of content.

More importantly, it’s a particularly good metaphor for the broader concepts GOOD stands for: Cultural contribution. Empowerment. Freedom of choice.

choosegoodWe can’t recommend GOOD enough — they go so far beyond “good enough” in every respect, from the compelling content, to the fantstic design and art direction, to their sustainable choice of paper stock. So go ahead and get your subscription to GOOD — it’s a solid investment, in both your personal growth and in your contribution to causes larger than yourself.

BP

Geek Tuesday: Data Immersion Gone Wild

Making sense of the world one dataset at a time, or what Mahnattan men and the poverty line have in common.

It’s no secret we’re huge (HUGE) data visualization junkies here. So we’re all over UUorld, a fantastic new immersive mapping environment that helps you makes sense of the data through highly intuitive visual analysis.

UUorld, pronounced [world], uses four-dimensional mapping — an approach that exposes the spatial and temporal context implicit to virtually all data, revealing insight far deeper and more compelling than any brain-numbing array of numbers splattered on an Excel spreadsheet could. (Which doesn’t surprise us, given the overwhelming evidence for the visual-spatial sketch pad’s role in cognition, comprehension and memory.)

While UUorld is capable of analyzing international trends and patterns, it also allows you to zoom in on sub-national elements like states, counties and even cities. The software comes with an enormous portal of free data, or you can import your own to visualize. The maps you build are highly customizable, so you can flex your creative muscle and art-direct your data visualizations to aesthetic perfection.

Visualizations and maps are downloadable in a variety of formats, including KML — which means you can export your data creations to Google Earth, plotting your data in its planetary context. And because Google Earth has an open API, we can only begin to imagine the fascinating potential for crowd-sourcing data visualization from UUorld users, eventually building an immense global library of trends and patterns that help us better understand our world and each other.

We’d love to see UUorld eventually explore the dynamic, creative potential of rich data analysis by partnering with data visualization artists like Chris Jordan, Aaron Koblin and Jonathan Harris.

A robust non-commercial version of UUorld is available for free, or you can go Pro for just $49, which we think is beyond reasonable for you get.

And if you aren’t ready to commit just yet, go ahead and explore the data gallery — you’ll find such delightful edutainment as the percentage of households run by single mothers, U.S. magnetic field intensity, a state-by-state dissection of the Obama stimulus package, and the average earnings of Manhattan men.

BP

Monday Music Muse: First Aid Kit

How two Swedish teenagers are redefining indie-folk rock, or what mountain peasants have to do with Fiona Apple.

For most teenage girls, the world of indie music is reduced to the angst-driven overconsumption of Fiona Apple wannabes, preferably blasted in volume that sparks daily yell-fests with mom. But for Swedish duo First Aid Kit, composed of sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg, 15 and 18, respectively, indie music is for the making. And make it they do — brilliantly, at that.

Their music, indie folk-rock with a distinct Scandinavian twist, sounds like something that belongs on the Juno soundtrack — boldly quirky vocals, backed by an infectious acoustic guitar, with the occasional perfect drum beat. And while the duo is altogether phenomenal, we were particularly taken with their cover of Fleet Foxes’ Tiger Mountain Peasant Song — an extraordinary outpour of vocal delight, utterly chill-inducing in a way that blows all the Fleet Foxes covers of late out of the water.

First Aid Kit‘s debut EP, Drunken Trees, releases tomorrow. But if you absolutely cannot wait, you can thank Jeff Bezos and pre-order it on Amazon today.

Thanks, Minna

BP

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