Brain Pickings

Page 1409

Live Responsible is the New LIVESTRONG

We’re still astonished at how Lance and team managed to take a charity and transform it into a cultural badge, a fad of astronomical proportions, through the simple LIVESTRONG yellow wristband back in the day. Say what you will about the questionable motives of those wearing the wristband because of the fad, not because of the charity it stood for, but the fact remains: it all served its fundraising purpose brilliantly.

These days, the cultural concern du jour revolves around sustainability issues — a concern well-grounded in our increasingly warming reality. Which is why we have high hopes for environmental newcomer GreenLaces — a nonprofit aimed at promoting personal responsibility towards the planet through a simple badge: a pair of green laces.

The idea: you make a personal pledge to make one small, actionable change in your day-to-day MO that will benefit the environment. You then get yourself a pair of green laces, which serve as a constant reminder of your pledge and ignite the word-of-mouth engine as friends notice the (rather cool-looking) accessory on your kicks.

Founded by Swedish professional soccer players Joanna Lohman and Natalie Spilger, GreenLaces was originally promoted mainly through athletes. The laces and the cause, however, seemed to resonate with “the general public” and took on a life of their own. Barely 6 months after it launched, GreenLaces already has 1000+ people sporting the laces, plus over 50 Olympic athletes strutting them around Beijing.

Their goal is to get 1 million pairs on people’s feet by 2009. That’s 999,999,997 to go — we just bought 3 and vowed start making the 10-foot trip to the recycling bin instead of trashing everything under the desk. Join us, we can be lace buddies. Plus, trendsetting anyone? This has the potential to be the next LIVESTRONG, reaching critical mass with hipsters and posers alike.

But, as long as the environmental purpose is served, we won’t judge. Plus, the laces go great with our new Simples. (And we already know 34 scientifically proven ways of tying them.)


Monkey See Monkey Make NBC Look Bad

How rocks stars are making capitalism look really, really, really bad.

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You’ve seen the promos. You’ve heard the promos. You’ve smelled the promos. The 2008 Olympics have been a long time coming, and now they’ve finally come. And while we have high hopes for U.S. Olympic teams, we sure hope the performance of the American teams tooting the horn is no predictor of the nation’s competitive edge over other nations.

Case in point: the BBC promo for the Olympics make NBC look like a bunch of sponsor-grubbing YouTubers.

“Journey to the East” is based on the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West and follows the adventures of Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy as they make their way to the other end of the world using Olympic athleticism to overcome the literal and abstract hurdles.

If this looks and sounds familiar, it should be: the enachanted short film (because we can’t bring ourselves to call it a mere video) is the brainchild of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, the duo behind the pseudo-band Gorillaz. (Albarn is perhaps better known as the frontman of Blur and the mastermind behind The Good, the Bad & the Queen.)

The 3,000-frame animation took 12 weeks to complete and required 12-13 drawings per second of screen time, eating up 50 pencils and over 8,000 sheets of animation paper. If you think that’s quite a production, just wait for the audio: it was recorded on unusual Chinese instruments, 20 of them total, with a choir of 38 Chinese singers studio-dubbed to sound like 76 people. The two parts — the animation and the music — were developed simultaneously over the course of the 4 months so they woud fit together in the most perfect, organic way possible.

…And now it’s back to “This segment brought to you by Exxon-Mobil.


Inner Kid Fodder

Cat herding, bionic lobsters, how to finally understand your mother, and why Ian likes the Over Under.


We work too much. We stress too much. We talk about politics and use words like “ecru.” It’s official: we’re adults. And we don’t like it. We’ve decided it’s time for an antidote: today, we’re all about the inner kid. Come on, climb into our treehouse.

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Lately, we’ve been getting hung up on the lack of a culture of appreciation. Whatever happened to pats on the back? Where did the random nicely-done’s go? It all seems to have died with the last gold star sticker we got from Mrs. Johnson in the 4th grade.

We need an intervention. And what better way to go about it than with merit badges for adults? The Boy Scouts have our back with a hefty collection ranging from the necessary (like the Adult Beverage Drinking Merit Badge) to the niche (like the Bald Growing Merit Badge) to the undeniably questionable (like the Fart Lighting (Blue Darts) Merit Badge.)

The Blogging Merit Badge, naturally, struck a chord with our kind and is consequently sold out. As is, curiously enough, the Cat Herding one.

We suspect the people from LOL Cats went to town on both.

>>> via Coudal

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When we were little, we used to dream of setting the lobsters in the grocery store free. The closest we ever got involved a pair of meat scissors and a very, very disgruntled store employee yelling “Cleanup in aisle 6!!!” over the loudspeaker.

Imagine our delight at this chance to live the childhood dream vicariously through our new favorite hero: Bionic Lobster.

Try bisquing this one.

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We like to believe that even the stuffiest, most straight-laced adults have a mischievous kid still living inside. A kid who gets easily amused by goofy stuff that makes little to no sense by adult measures.  And what better place to pull that kid out by the messy hair than over at Perpetual Kid?

This virtual warehouse of coolness tickles our mischief bone with goodies that inspire anything from a hearty chuckle to asking-for-trouble prank ideas. Some of our favorites: Pee & Poo plush duo, “The Ex” knife set, the Hillary Nutcracker, the Understand Your Mother Breath Spray, and the Whatever Wall Clock.

But, really, picking favorites margins on impossible — we’re like a kid in a candy store. Go ahead, see if you can do better.

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Unlike most kids, we used to love tying our shoelaces. We had our own technique we still use to this day, which frequently receives comments and eyebrow-raises from friends. (Seriously, people: tying the laces behind the tongue makes more sense on so many levels.)

Which is why we dig Ian’s Shoelace Site — an impressive library covering 34 of the mathematically-proven 2 trillion ways to lace a shoe, complete with instructions, handy diagrams and even a legend showing technique complexity, speed of lacing, comfort level and more.

The methods range from the expected, like the Over Under, to the uber-cool, like Checkboard Lacing, the site’s most popular.

Our favorite: Lattice Lacing.

So: how do you lace?

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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.


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