“It’s through drawing that your head starts working” – The New Yorker’s cartoonist Joost Swarte

“I can tell stories in a single panel. That’s important for a cover. In one drawing, it should be clear what the story is inside.” Joost Swarte is used to making the most out of small spaces. In fact, the Dutch cartoonist, designer and architect has spent most of his professional career working within certain borders – whether that be for buildings, on designs for stained glass windows or inside the panels of comic books. Most notably, added to this is a significant body of work for The New Yorker that now forms the basis of his very own publication, New York Boek. Chronicling over twenty years’s worth of drawings for the weekly magazine, the book contains over 450 documents, from previously unseen sketches all the way through to finished covers and spot illustrations.

“You can play with how a viewer looks at an image, and make something important by making it bigger or closer to the camera. But details in the background are also essential in the story.” The result is a remarkable ability to simultaneously communicate the bigger picture while remaining mindful of the minutest of details. “As a comic artist you should never feel framed within the format of comics,” he explains. “If I’m telling my story in one image I can mix the different elements that normally go from left to right or top to bottom in a comic page, so that there is something in front of you, in the background, and even further. It’s not a formula. You can play with this in a million ways. That makes it fun. It’s a democratic way of working!” The design of New York Boek follows suit. The journey from draft to final drawing is laid bare, with finished examples running at the bottom of pages and scans of work in progress arranged above. Both are given similarly equal weighting, neither sketch nor finished specimen overpowering the page...more

Lack of Intellectual Humility Plagues Our Times, Say Researchers

Researchers from Duke University say that intellectual humility is an important personality trait that has become in short supply in our country.

Intellectual humility is like open-mindedness. It is basically an awareness that your beliefs may be wrong, influencing a person’s ability to make decisions in politics, health and other areas of life. An intellectually humble person can have strong opinions, say the authors, but will still recognize they are not perfect and are willing to be proven wrong.

This trait is not linked to a specific partisan view, with researchers finding no difference in levels of the characteristic between conservatives, liberals, religious or non-religious people. In fact, the scientists possibly managed to put to rest an age-old stereotype, explained the study’s lead author Mark Leary, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke....more 

15% of Deforestation Is Due to Toilet Paper Alone. Here’s How We Can Fix This.

Every year, the environmental nonprofit Global Footprint Network quantifies the amount of waste humans produce by tracking the annual Earth Overshoot Day—the day on which we’ve consumed more resources than the planet can regenerate in a single year. In 1971, back when we were a bit more sustainable, we made it all the way until December 21 before tapping out the planet’s yearly allocation of resources.

In 2017, however, the date was August 2, making this the most wasteful year of the past 46 by the organization’s calculations. If we continue on this path of mass consumption and pollution, they estimate, our resource needs will be equivalent to the bounty of two Earths by 2030 (spoiler: We only have one Earth at the moment).

We’re in serious debt. If we don’t scale back on our reliance of natural resources, we won’t have any left to use.

As humans consume, so too do we waste. We waste things we never even think about using, and we do so at a spectacular rate. Take toilet paper, for example. Americans spend $6 billion on toilet paper every year, more than people in any other country in the world. And have you ever thought about the environmental cost of TP’s production? Annually, it takes 1.7 trillion liters (437 billion gallons) of water, 253,000 tons of bleach, and 15 million trees to feed America’s toilet paper habit....more 

Amazing, Rare Photographs of the Berlin Wall Coming Down

photo by Alexandra Avakian
Photojournalist Alexandra Avakian traveled to Berlin based on rumor, and she ended up becoming a witness to history

1989 was already a dramatic year. Working for Time magazine and the New York Times, I had already covered the Palestinian Intifada, the start of war in Nagorno-Karabakh, glasnost and perestroika in Moscow, the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, among other stories.

On the evening of November 5, I was sitting on a friend’s couch in Paris glued to my shortwave radio. Hour by hour, the story grew in excitement: rumors abounded that the Berlin Wall could very well be coming down within days. So that morning, about 5 a.m., with no assignment, I jumped on a plane headed to West Berlin. By the time I landed, I had the assignment for Life.
I found a cheap two-star hotel, The Hervis, whose best features were close proximity to the Wall and a gossipy owner who passed on the latest whispers he’d heard.

The morning of November 7, I awoke before dawn and walked along the Wall, ready to take pictures. Yet the coming fall was still just an unconfirmed rumor.....more

Lessons in Stillness From One of the Quietest Places on Earth

THE OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK stretches down coastal Washington and east toward Seattle on a thumb of land known as the Olympic Peninsula, some 60 miles long by 90 miles wide. Around a three-hour ride by car from Seattle, it feels much farther, as if you have passed into an otherworldly realm. Within it are volcanic beaches scattered with the remains of massive Sitka spruces, evergreen-crowded mountains, broad, flat valleys and the Hoh Rain Forest, through which 12 miles of hiking trails and the glacier-formed Hoh River run. The Park, in total nearly a million acres, is home to what may be the most complex ecosystem in the United States, teeming with big-leaf maples, lichens, alders, liverworts, Monkey flowers, licorice ferns, club mosses, herbs, grasses and shrubs of remarkable abundance. Today, thanks to federal protections, it is home to some of the largest remaining stands of old-growth forest in the continental U.S.

It was an unusually warm and sunny day in August when I arrived in Washington. I was walking the grounds of my hotel in Kalaloch Beach, less than an hour’s drive from the rain forest, when I heard another guest call out. “Whales!” he said. “Do you want to see some whales?”

I climbed up into the gazebo beside him and looked where he was pointing, at the vast, pounding ocean. A delicate spout of water breached the air. And then another. And another. And then — a fin of an orca arcing over a wave....more 


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