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Blame It on the Weatherman

Why World War II put Al Gore in business, and how Mae West helps keep it 72 and sunny.


Every once in a while, we uncover an utterly unexpected and rather bizarre connection between seemingly random and unrelated elements. That’s exactly what University of Pennsylvania grad student Roger Turner has done with his accidental-discovery-turned-thesis about the link between comic books, military training and weather reporting.

In ‘Toon with the Weather is an audio slideshow revealing the fascinating historical reason for why the 8 o’clock weatherman delivers his spiel the way he does.

It all comes down to the IQ of WWII aviators. Turns out, the military hired pilots for their physical ability, sight and mental endurance, not necessarily for their… erm… cognitive capacity. So when said pilots had to be taught basic weather knowledge from meteorological textbooks, the military had to dodge more blank stares and huh’s than they did Nazi airplanes.

The solution, as usual, was to make things simple — so the military borrowed from the emerging comic book culture and decided to use cartoons to illustrate the weather. The pilots got it, the Nazis got theirs, and the military was happy. A whole culture of weather comics was born, full of weather-based characters (think mean bully-like cumulonimbus clouds), humor, even pop culture references to anyone from FDR to Mae West and other pin-up girls.

After the war, many of those first-generation TV weathermen were ex-military meteorologists who decided to present the weather to the general public in the same style they had used to educate the pilots. They used simple maps and cartoon-like imagery, which we still see today — those sun-behind-cloud graphics, red and blue arrows, and rain illustrations that grace the nightly forecast behind the hot chick who looks nothing like a retired WWII pilot.

Some things stay the same, some things luckily change.

Even as the discussion on climate change gets more and more heated, we see the same iconography and graphics used to illustrate the process — take Al Gore’s latest TED talk, chock-full of those same simple shapes and cartoon-like graphic sensibility.

Watch the slideshow and learn something cool to make you sound all intelligent and well-read at the next dinner party.


Scrabulous Down, Scrabble Downer

Why the if-I-can’t-have-it-you-can’t-have-it mentality produces nothing but a generous serving of loser.


What a week for the vocabulary-obsessed. Scrabulous fans are 32 hours into the offline jitters as Hasbro has finally pulled the legal plug on the lovable impostor. This time, it seems like all the group-joining, petition-signing, general bitching-and-moaning in the world will help.

Meanwhile, Hasbro has launched their own Facebook Scrabble application.

Or, erm, tried to.

Does anyone else see the utter irony and hypocrisy of it all? Here’s Hasbro‘s largely flawed logic: they can take down Scrabulous because it’s a rip-off of Scrabble, but Scrabble can go ahead and rip off Scrabulous on Facebook.

Because, really, who are we kidding? The true innovation at stake here isn’t in the age-old game itself, it’s in engaging with people where they are and how they choose to engage. And Scrabulous came up with that part — a true testament to the medium being the message. We bet a number of kids picked up the game of Scrabble from their experience with the Scrabulous application — good news for Hasbro, one would think.

Instead, Scrabulous fans are left bitter and disgruntled, possible converts to the Scrabble app are left high and dry, and we’re left thinking no one — not Hasbro, not Scrabulous, and certainly not us users — will get to put down a bingo in the end.

Here’s to another marketer grossly, severely, chronically not getting it.


Street Pickings: Riding Rebels

Sticking it to the man one Kryptonite at a time, and then some art.


As seen in the oh-so-rebellious streets of Philadelphia:

Notice also the little (decapitated) red guy on the sign — a seemingly brand new addition to the infamous Toynbee guerrilla mystery. (Remember that?)

Meanwhile, if you’re in Philly and bike-minded, be sure to check out the velo + city: the social history of the bicycle exhibition at the Lisa M Reisman gallery — a collection of vintage prints, posters and ephemera, from the penny-farthing to the diamond frame.

Conveniently, it’s right off of Rittenhouse Square (1714 Rittenhouse Square St), the very locale of the above fence — so savor the Philly bike scene experience in its entirety with the delectable combo of art and law-breaking.


Friday FYI: You’re Richer Than You Think

How to instantly feel more fabulous and why not watching Goran Visnjic can save Haiti.

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Ever find yourself couch-vegging in front of VH1’s Fabulous Lives of… only to end up contemplating just how unfabulous your own life is? There’s help — because there’s nothing like some good ol’ downward social comparison to make yourself feel better.

Enter Global Rich List — just plug in your annual income, and you’ll get just how many people you’re richer than and what wealth percentile you fall into. We’re proud to say we’re the 173,043,479th richest in the world, in the top 2.88% on the bling scale. (Never mind we barely make rent.)

Even a minimum-wage American burger-flipper making $16,140 a year is still the 719,547,292nd richest person in the world, in the top 11.99%.

And as much as we enjoy feeling pimp, we dig the concept behind the Global Rich List — feel richer than you thought you were, appreciate your own fortune and share it with the less fortunate. The project is currently supporting CARE International, a global organization fighting poverty by providing families with the food they need to survive in the short term, then helping the communities create sustainable solutions for the future.

If you’re still not feeling rich, fortunate or generous enough, here’s some more food for thought — to help you turn it into food on some malnourished child’s table.

  • $8 could buy you 15 organic apples, or 25 fruit trees for farmers in Honduras to grow and sell fruit at their local market
  • $30 could buy you an ER DVD box set, or a First Aid kit for a village in Haiti
  • $73 could buy you a new mobile phone, or a new mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda
  • $2400 could buy you a second-generation High Definition TV, or schooling for an entire generation of school children in an Angolan village

So: just how rich are you?


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