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Why everyone should blog

Everyone should blog. You do not have to publish 500 words a day. You do not even need to post at all. In fact, writing comes easier when you can write for yourself, in private.

Use a smartphone journal like the Day One app or the ever popular Morning Pages Journal where you write by hand. When it comes to blogging effectively, you have to be a little vulnerable. Don’t tell all but don’t hide everything either, especially if your advice will benefit the lives of other people.

I have been blogging for years (btw, I recently wrote a blog post about how to start one on WordPress). It is harder to get an audience who cares to read your stuff today than it has ever been. You have to assume nobody wants to read your shit because he or she is busy or would rather be social networking or playing games instead. However, for those readers who do read your blog frequently, they have subscribed for a reason.

'Everyone should write a blog, every day, even if no one reads it. There’s countless reasons why it’s a good idea and I can’t think of one reason it’s a bad idea.' — Seth GodinClick To Tweet

Luis Suarez has been blogging since 2002 and recently offered some advice about using your blog to reflect the real you.

“It’s all about having a meaningful presence and how you work your way to make it happen, to leave a legacy behind, to share your thoughts and ideas others can learn from just like you do yourself with other people’s vs. pretending to be who you are not…Just be yourself with your own thoughts and share them along! It is what we all care for, eventually. The rest is just noise.”

People like to say blogging is dead. But not only are new platforms emerging like Medium, but blogging is just writing. Words will always be a powerful way to say something meaningful, whether it is in print, online, graffiti, or the walls of a cave.

I started this blog so I could show the world what interests me. It is no surprise that what you read here is information I learned from other blogs. In other words, blogging acts like a canvass where you synthesize, remix and interpret in your words. Above all, blogging is free, what Seth Godin calls “the last great online bargain.” Blogging gives you a voice, and it is an excellent incentive to think in a world that just wants us to consume.

Blogging is a bicep curl for the brain. Write daily, and practice the art of conviction.

“Use your blog to connect. Use it as you. Don’t “network” or “promote.” Just talk.” — Neil GaimanClick To Tweet
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Are video games design objects?

René Magritte’s ‘’Le Blanc Seing’ (1965) © National Gallery of Art, Washington

Do video games belong in the museum? 

I remember checking out the old Tetris and Pong video games at a MoMA exhibit in 2013. They certainly seemed to fit as artistic artifacts. 

The world’s leading museum of art and design in London, V & A, is making its new exhibit Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt even more contemporary. 

The show’s curator Marie Foulston wants to illustrate the concept work behind mid-2000s video games by showcasing the notebooks and paintings that influenced the designers. She tells the Financial Times:

“We’re trying to position games as design,” says Foulston. But how do you display games? Surely the point is to play them, and that hardly needs a museum. Wouldn’t it be better suited to a website?

“As with all design,” says Foulston “the process usually begins with a notebook, with pencil sketches. Games designers are always looking at other parts of the culture: at film, painting and architecture. We have the Magritte painting ‘The Blank Signature’ [from 1965], which influenced the design of the game Kentucky Route Zero. Then there’s the controller for the game Line Wobbler, which was inspired by its designer watching a cat on YouTube playing with a sprung doorstop. It’s such a tactile thing.”

What digital art could museums adopt next? My guess in addition to video games and iMacs, iPhones, and Angry Bird could be the worldwide sensation of the invisible digital, like Bitcoin.

The bookstore that inspired JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series

Livaria Lello is the name of the notable bookstore in Porto, Portugal that inspired JK Rowling in writing the Harry Potter series. 

Known as a reader and writer hangout since its inception in 1906, the bookstore includes the fantastical twisting stairwell reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts.   

‘Believe it or not, the Internet is actually underhyped’

The internet railroad keeps on trucking and bringing all its anxieties with it.

Given my day job — an investor in early-stage startups — I have a bias towards optimism and the future. Being pessimistic doesn’t bring any solutions, and the past can’t be reinvented. And if the passage of time has taught me anything, you need to take a long view. Back in 1999, John Doerr commented: “Believe it or not, the Internet is actually underhyped.” And we didn’t believe him. But he was so right. Just as Marc Andreessen who astutely remarked: “software is eating the world.”

Om Malik

The change game

The older you get, the less inclined you are to care what other people think. Individuality hardens with age.

It is not for lack of interest. The wise person is always looking for new ways to challenge their views. They separate their emotions from the facts. But experience also teaches them they’ve seen enough to corroborate their angle on life’s issues.

Still, there are plenty of folks who resist change. The current American leadership is a testament to the power of nostalgia. They want to fence out the future and move forward with all the benefits of the past. Stuck in inertia, better never gets to see any daylight.

When you’re young, you’re more receptive to outside influences. We’re in the service of diversity, progressing through the chaos of disparate opinions. The media’s propaganda can be both contagious and confounding.

The gravitational pull of echo chambers grows with time. There’s no such thing as a tranquil flood of information; most of it is poisonous. Brands and partisanship colonize parts of our mind and pose dangers to individual thought. We mistakenly fall in love with other people’s shit.

Believing more is believing less. Clenched too tightly, stubbornness and myopia will always render us out of form.

Humans intend to question throughout life, and that’s that.

The pigeon camera, a precursor to the drone

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Before airplanes, skyscrapers, Google Earth, drones, and GoPros brought us aerial views, there was pigeon camera.

In 1907, just a few years after the Wright brothers lifted off in Kitty Hawk, and while human flight was still being measured in metres and minutes, Dr. Julius Neubronner, a German apothecary, submitted a patent application for a new invention: the pigeon camera. The device was precisely what it sounds like—a small camera fitted with straps and equipped with a timer so that pigeons could carry it and take photos in flight.

Neubronner developed the pigeon camera for practical purposes. At first, he was simply hoping to track the flights of the birds in his flock. But his invention also represented a more sublime achievement. The images his pigeons captured, featured in “The Pigeon Photographer,” a recent book from Rorhof, are among the very early photos taken of Earth from above (the earliest were captured from balloons and kites) and are distinct for having the GoPro-like quality of channelling animal movement.

Naturally, the photos captured by the pigeons were randomly timed. This resulted in images with feathers and swooping side shots.  

How complaining effects the brain

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The positive brain versus the negative brain

“Don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t make excuses, just do the best you can do,” said UCLA coach John Wooden.

It turns out coach was on to something.

Recent studies show that complaining every day changes the structure of the brain.

Harmful behaviors such as complaining, if allowed to loop within the brain continually, will inevitably alter thought processes. Altered thoughts lead to altered beliefs which leads to a change in behavior.

Our brain possesses a something called the negativity bias. In simple terms, negativity bias is the brain’s tendency to focus more on negative circumstances than positive.

Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuroscientist and author of Buddha’s Brain, explains negativity bias:

“Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than do equally intensive positive ones. They are also perceived more easily and quickly.”

Fortunately, the brain is plastic, which means it can allow more positive emotions to work alongside more negative ones. Writes Alex Korb, author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time:

“In depression, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the brain. It’s simply that the particular tuning of neural circuits creates the tendency toward a pattern of depression. It has to do with the way the brain deals with stress, planning, habits, decision making and a dozen other things — the dynamic interaction of all those circuits. And once a pattern starts to form, it causes dozens of tiny changes throughout the brain that create a downward spiral.”

Your hopes and fears may be in your genes, but that doesn’t spell doom. One of the most practical things we can do to counter negative thinking is practicing meditation. “Neurons that fire together, wire together,” said neuroplasticity pioneer Donald Hebb. 

If forcing positive thinking feels inauthentic, try watching your thoughts instead. Being a neutral observer will help you rise above the whole notion of emotional sidedness. As with any self-improvement mechanism, daily practice and momentum is the key to long-term success.

Voice acting with Tara Strong

Tara Strong is a voice actor for cartoons like “The Powerpuff Girls,” “Rugrats” and “The Fairly OddParents.” In this video, she talks about her process in coming up with the character voices for babies, villains, and teens.

It’s absolutely fascinating how she can convert the director’s body language into actionable sounds such as a character tumbling off a cliff or fighting bad guys. Cool nugget: she uses her own original voice as the voice of Batgirl.

What a talent!

Triggering and cementing habits

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gif by Alex Trimpe

The weakness of will drives our worst habits.

Remove the cookies, and we’re less likely to snack on them. Refuse the cafe down the street and drink the Starbucks office Keurig pods instead. That’s $3 saved!

Surroundings dictate our behavior. They are unconscious triggers for experiences.

So the reverse is also true.

Pack your gym bag the night before, and you’ll be more likely to work out the next day. Know what you’re going to write about tomorrow and let it the mind mull it over in your sleep.

With a little preparation, you let the decision thaw. By programming the unconscious, you leave yourself little choice but to follow through.

This is not to say that life is all about repetition. Even the dancer or the author needs rest. Stemming the stimulus is ok. However, it’s not ok to quit just because you broke the chain.

“When the mind is merely consistent it becomes mechanical and loses vitality, the glow, the beauty of free movement.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti, Think on These Things

Creation and discovery is the result of serendipity. Yet, it is smart habits that build competency and help remove the nagging confusion of getting started.

When sharing is not so self-caring

Social media is a world where everyone tries to out self-promote each other and in doing so, stretch their lives further from reality.

Even the destinations — whether it be a restaurant, hotel resort, or kayaking trip — want to make their experiences more Instagrammable.

Sharing has commoditized life, turning us into an avalanche of rotating ads, blurring the lines between paid and organic. Every post is anad in some way, shape, or form. Like TV, we start to develop an imaginary relationship with those on screen, doubtful we’d ever met in real life.

The blizzard of images droughts perception with seeing. We feel envious of those in our feed before we know why we may feel so. The contagion of jealousy spreads like a virus. The upshot is a homogenization of lives and content.

We all want what we don’t have. Social media generates a false narrative of unnecessary desire. Instagrams are just pictures on a wall, temporarily surfing over the hopes and fears in our genes. It feels good lying stuck in the ludic loop.

But irreality is ephemeral. The long-term narrative eventually wakes us up to the fact that we’re barking up the wrong tree. Life is here and now, attracting itself and trying to love you back.

Moving sculptures

Dutch artist and kinetic sculptor Theo Jansen builds wind propelled sculptures that live on beaches.

Each sculpture contains a rotating spine that allows it to rotate forward and backward. Even more interesting, these moving pieces of art can detect and avoid waves when they get too close. 

But don’t expect to see these mesmerizing “mobile animals” on a beach near you any time soon. You can only find these skeletons in the Netherlands. 

Over time, these skeletons have become increasingly better at surviving the elements such as storm and water and eventually I want to put these animals out in herds on the beaches, so they will live their own lives. 

Theo Jansen, Dutch Artist/Sculptor 

Mechanical paper tech

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These popup contraptions are extraordinary, to say the least.

Created by artist Kelli Anderson, This Book Is a Planetarium book contains interactive constructions of a planetarium, a musical instrument, a speaker and more.

Writes the artist on her blog:

I published a pop-up book of mechanical paper tech.
Expanding out of This Book is a Planetarium’s pages, you’ll find: a stringed instrument, a perpetual calendar, a decoder ring, a spiralgraph drawing generator, a smartphone speaker, and—yes—a constellation-projecting planetarium. With a little tinkering, turning, and futzing: the resulting paper objects actually work! (despite of being made from “almost nothing.”)

The book was designed to showcase the potential of the material world—while making a case for the inherent educational value of lo-fi experiences.

In their clunky way of functioning, the past’s technology served this unacknowledged secondary function to humanity: These objects helped us glimpse—and therefore connect to —the magic of the physical world. By being glitchy and fussy (and by sometimes requiring manual tinkering or duct tape), lo-fi contraptions more transparently revealed the underlying laws of the world to us.

You can find out more about the book here.

“Goldsmith Work” by Celsius Pictor

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I’m sure that for me collage is a tool, another vehicle to express myself and to communicate my ideas, and I think that for me collage is a means, not an end in itself. In fact lately I’ve started drawing again and like Max Ernst did, sometimes I draw parts of my pieces that are integrated with collage images without being able to differentiate, in a mixed technique. I think that’s my point, I’m an illustrator and I use collage as I could use pencils or acrylics, as a tool and not as a purpose.

Celsius Pictor, an illustrator and collage artist who describes his craft as “goldsmith work.”

‘The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now’

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“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now,” goes the old saying.

Waiting to start almost always means never.

The work in the head of a perfectionist will never match the reality it takes to get there, a path fraught with failure and mistakes.

But you have permission to error. In fact, your best work is simply an accumulation of trials. Time melts the mess.

Behind every tree is a seed that kickstarts it all. What you do today, right now, sets you up for a chance of bloom tomorrow.

I’ll leave you with this from Teena Selig’s book What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20.

There was once a man named Goldberg who wanted nothing more than to be rich. So each day he went the synagogue and prayed to God to win the lottery. This went on for days, weeks, months, and years, but Goldberg never won. Eventually, Goldberg was at his wit’s end. Praying to God, he said, “You have really let me down.” Suddenly the silence was broken and God responded in a booming voice, “Goldberg, you’ve got to help me out here. You could at least buy a ticket!”

Stand out of our light

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Huxley predicted that the deliberate flood of information, perhaps a more lethal strategy than Orwellian censorship, would dent our interest in reading books, having active opinions, and therefore make us passive.

The internet, of course, puts information distribution on hyper-speed, skipping from one issue to the next. People consume and quickly forget what’s important, all the while externalizing everything onto the screen. We have lost our ability to pay attention, not just because of tweeting politicians but because of screaming merchants.

There’s yet another book dissecting this very topic of how technology hijacks the brain. Author James Williams of Stand out of our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy writes: 

“The liberation of human attention may be the defining moral and political struggle of our time. We therefore have an obligation to rewire this system of intelligent, adversarial persuasion before it rewires us.”

The former Google strategist has witnessed the intentional creation of distractive technologies that overpower human will so we no longer “want what we want to want.”

The Financial Times book review writes:

In an attempt to invent new linguistic concepts, the author plays with three types of attentional light: spotlight, starlight and daylight, pertaining to doing, being and knowing.

In this respect, Williams admires the free-speaking Greek philosopher Diogenes. One day, while sunning himself in Corinth, he was visited by Alexander the Great, who promised to grant him any wish. The cranky Diogenes replied: “Stand out of my light!” Williams wants a handful of West Coast tech executives to stop blocking out our human light, too.

Perhaps if we regain our detachment from irreality we’ll be able to look back and pinpoint attention distortion with fresh eyes.

Confuse the eye

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Tim Newark’s 2007 book Camouflage

There’s a fantastic piece about the history of camouflage in Topic Magazine this week.

Before camouflage hit the runway, French artists (camoufleurs) in World War I used creative techniques to disguise soldiers and protect them from aerial reconnaissance and long-range enemy fire.

To learn how to blend in, the French military turned to an unexpected group—the people who knew best how colors and textures could be used to trick the eye, a resource France had in abundance: artists. Known as camoufleurs, these artists became part of a special military unit that provided camouflage services to the Allied armies during World War I. The camoufleurs would join soldiers in the trenches, painting camouflage patterns directly on weapons, or painting canvas covers with disruptive patterns: brown, black, and green splotches or bold stripes, to make it difficult to see where the weapons’ edges started and stopped. Sometimes devotion to this artistry was dangerous, and in one instance, an artist was shot in the hand when he left a trench to put the final touch on a camouflage pattern.

The camoufleurs also provided the army with color charts that showed different tones of the terrain, depending on the area and season. One such color chart, featured in Tim Newark’s 2007 book Camouflage, looks like an impressionist painting, with golden hues that resemble the sun hitting leaves in the fall, or white and brown tones, like peeking through the leaves of a tree.