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Railway Maps of the World

What the evolution of standardized time zones has to do with train travel in Zimbabwe.

We love maps, especially subway and train-related maps. So we’re all over Mark Ovenden’s Railway Maps of the World — the fantastic follow-up to his excellent 2007 Transit Maps of the World and 2009 Paris Underground. The lavish, large-format tome culls the world’s most interesting railway maps, posters and related ephemera, from the historical to the modern.

From early maps-printing techniques to beautiful vintage travel advertising ephemera to the latest digital real-time maps for mobile devices, Ovenden scours rare archives and architectural dreams alike, from the Liverpool and Manchester Railway of 1830 to China’s proposed 2020 high-speed train networks, to explore the evolution of cartography and the social role of train travel. Besides the lust-worthy design candy, the book also offers fascinating historical context and tells the story of how railroads became the vehicle for cultural change, bridging nations, driving economic growth, changing our diets by putting previously unavailable foods on the table, and even giving us standardized time zones.

With over 500 images and maps representing more than 120 countries from Algeria to Zimbabwe, Railway Maps of the World is a beautiful treasure chest of fascination for map lovers, design aficionados and history geeks alike, a rare record of a civilization in perpetual motion.

BP

7 Brilliant Book Trailers

How to connect haberdashery to Zach Galifianakis in under three minutes.

With a killer combination of animation, motion graphics and music, what’s not to love about book trailers? We couldn’t think of a thing, which is why we’ve rounded up seven of our favorites. As provocative, funny, and poignant as the books they represent, these videos prove that ideas are the ultimate teasers. And despite the publishing industry’s alarmist prophecies, these trailers bespeak the power of books to appeal to readers with their core, age-old value proposition: Compelling storytelling, creatively delivered.

GOING WEST

Gorgeous production values and jaw-dropping papercraft animation earned the trailer for Going West by the New Zealand Book Council our top spot. Created 15 years after the book’s publication in 1994, the BBDO-produced spot perfectly captures the haunting tone of Maurice Gee’s hybrid mystery-travelogue.

The pages of Going West literally rise up to depict the world of mid-20th-century Auckland. It’s a show-stopping feat that left us totally intrigued about the story inside its pages.

WISDOM

We’re longtime admirers of Andrew Zuckerman’s ambitious projects, like the beautiful Bird series. With Wisdom: The Greatest Gift One Generation Can Give to Another, Zuckerman asked 50 of our time’s greatest thinkers and doers — writers, artists, philosophers, politicians, designers, activists, musicians, religious and business leaders — all over 65 years of age to impart some knowledge for posterity. (Zuckerman subsequently divided the great tome into four smaller, more digestible sub-volumes, each with its own thematic DVD: Wisdom: Life, Wisdom: Love, Wisdom: Peace, and Wisdom: Ideas.) Clips of the accompanying film comprise this trailer, which for its sheer star power is tough to beat.

Love something. I think we’ve got to learn to love something deeply. I think it’s love. It sounds sentimental as hell, but I really think it is.” ~ Andrew Wyeth, artist

LOWBOY

Speaking of stars, we love this LOL-worthy trailer for the novel Lowboy featuring funnyman Zach Galifianakis.

The actor trades identities with author John Wray, who plays an interviewer trying to find out about the book. The resulting improvised hijinks have the same slightly uncomfortable, dark comedy as Lowboy itself. Bonus points for the 9-to-5 movie reference and cutaways to Galifianakis using a binary typewriter.

13 WORDS

We expect no less than wonderful from a collaboration between Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman, and the trailer for their book 13 Words doesn’t disappoint.

It’s a clear winner in the cool-for-both-kids-and-parents genre, all in Kalman’s delightfully analog, decidedly non-Pixar style. Animated images from the book — which illustrates 13 essential English words — combined with Snicket’s narration results in a charming combination for all ages.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO POCKET GUIDES

The title alone is promising: Worst Case Scenario Pocket Guide: Breakups aims to satisfy the person looking for a little post-heartbreak humor.

Smart motion graphics augment the trailer’s tongue-in-cheek narration about how to trick out your online dating profile when it’s time to get back on the market.

How could you go wrong with such solid advice as the following:

Use euphemisms: avoid the word unemployed by saying that you are currently enjoying a sweat-free lifestyle while you search for new challenges.

SHOCK DOCTRINE

Naomi Klein’s 2008 book Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism enlisted the skills of Oscar-nominated director Alfonso Cuaron, and it shows. The trailer functions as both a teaser for the book and a mini-documentary for Klein’s argument: that economists and politicians take advantage of crises to push through social policy, often to the detriment of billions.

Whatever your view of Klein’s politics, the power of this trailer – as either advertising or propaganda – is undeniable.

IT’S A BOOK

The trailer for illustrator Lane Smith’s It’s A Book provides a rebuttal to the terminably app-addicted. A donkey asks his monkey pal whether the object he’s holding can scroll, text, or tweet, to which the latter invariably — and each time more exasperatedly — replies, “no, it’s a book.”

Smith provides a sweet reminder that the written word can still rock one’s world.

We hope these trailers have piqued your interest about the books they present. They suggest that, though a book’s main delivery mechanism may have moved online, readers themselves are still moved by curiosity.

Kirstin Butler is writing an adaptation of Gogol for the Google era called Dead SULs, but when not working spends far, far too much time on Twitter. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA but still stubbornly identifies as a Brooklynite.

BP

Mark of Cain: The Language of Russian Criminal Tattoos

What encrypted visual communication has to do with the Russian justice system.

The Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia is among Brain Pickings‘s most popular books of all time. Its curious subject — the poetic, fading art form and language of Russian criminal tattoos — is also the subject of filmmaker Alix Lambert’s 2001 documentary, The Mark of Cain, which is now available online under a Creative Commons license.

Lambert traveled on a shoestring budget to document the complex social hierarchy of Russia’s prison system, where inmates use highly symbolic tattoo art as a mark of rank. Since its earliest documented cases in the 1920s, this practice has remained largely a taboo and is actually illegal in Russian prisons, yet some estimates suggest that in the last generation alone, more than 30 million of Russia’s inmates have been inked. The unique visual language of the tattoos encrypts everything you need to know about an inmate without ever asking, from the number of convictions an inmate has to his rank in the crime world.

The Mark of Cain explores this fascinating subculture and its duality — its role in prison survival on the one hand and, on the other, the permanent mark it leaves on inmates as they try to reintegrate into society — though a layered look at everything from the actual creation of tattoo ink to the devastating conditions of the prisons to the intimate first-hand stories of prisoners revealed in hard-earned interviews.

The film is also available on DVD and served as source material for David Cronenberg’s excellent Oscar-nominated 2007 film Eastern Promises about the Russian mob in London, starring Naomi Watts and Viggo Mortensen.

via Meta Filter

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A Rare Look at Antarctica, 1911-1914

In the summer of 1911, a group of Australian scientists, adventurers and explorers set out to make history by undertaking the first Australian expedition to Antarctica, a three-year journey into the frozen unknown. Under the leadership of Dr. Douglas Mawson, they set sail for Macquarie Island and the virgin parts of Antarctica. Today, we look at what they encountered and recorded on the way not merely as a rare and fascinating glimpse of long-gone world frozen in time, but also as the source of important information that made a major contribution to how contemporary science understands the region and laid the groundwork for claims that in 1936 were formalized as the Australian Antarctic Territory.

These images come from James Francis (Frank) Hurley, the official photographer to the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, and other members of the expedition who compensated for their lack of photographic acumen with sheer enthusiasm and visceral curiosity about the novel landscape that unfolded before their eyes.

Huskies pulling sledge / Format: Silver gelatin photoprint
Harold Hamilton with skeleton of sea-elephant / Format: Silver gelatin photonegative
Blizzard, the pup in Antarctica / Photograph by Frank Hurley /Format: Silver gelatin negative
Ice cased Adelie penguins after a blizzard at Cape Denison / Photograph by Frank Hurley / Format: Glass negative
Hamilton hand-netting for macro-plankton from Aurora / Photograph by Frank Hurley / Format: Silver gelatin photoprint
Wreck of the ‘Gratitude’, Macquarie Island, 1911 / Format: Silver gelatin photoprint
King penguins, Antarctica, 1911-1914 / Photograph by Frank Hurley
Ice mask, C.T. Madigan, between 1911-1914 / Photograph by Frank Hurley / Format: Glass negative
Wild & Watson in sleeping bag tent on sledge journey
Shags defending nest, Macquarie Island / Photograph by Harold Hamilton
Arthur Sawyer with sea elephant pup / Format: Silver gelatin photonegative

Perhaps most fascinating — in a bittersweet kind of way — is the duality of human progress found in the stark contrast between these images and contemporary iterations of them: At once a living hallmark of the remarkable advances in photographic technology and a gripping reminder of how quickly we’re losing this precious ecosystem.

For a closer look at this fascinating and tender world, you won’t go wrong with Sara Wheeler’s classic, Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica.

BP

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