Hokusai’s great wave: a lesson in pertinacity

Can we improve our craft over time? The Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) seemed to think so.

“Until the age of 70, nothing I drew was worthy of notice. At 110, every dot and every stroke will be as though alive.”

He only lived until 89, but he proved his theory of incremental improvement. He finished his most famous work, The Great Wave, at the age of 71. Van Gogh, an artist that only sold one painting during his lifetime–to this brother– remarked: “These waves are claws, the boat is caught in them, you can feel it.”

5.The-Great-Wave
Under the Wave off Kanagawa (The Great Wave)” (1831)

Hokusai’s other works also revolve around Mount Fuji in series that became to be called Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. 

3. Pink-Fuji
“Clear Day with a Southern Breeze (Pink Fuji)” (1831)

Story short: age is but a number. Life is about continuity. You may have more energy to practice when you’re younger, but the only difference between you and others will be how long you’re willing to stick with it. Hokusai played the long-game, acting like professional with pertinacity.

You can check out the Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave exhibit at the British Museum, London, until August 13th.

 

 

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Newsletter: The History of Nostalgia, The Advantage Of Being A Little Underemployed, new tunes from Yasmine Hamdan and more

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Schreiber’s Hummingbird, from Birds of the Tropics series (N38) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes (1889) : The MET

Arts and Culture

Maria Loh On Lives Of Artists

We may live in the age of selfie but we’ve always been self-absorbed. Maria Loh, author of Still Lives: Death, Desire, and the Portrait of the Old Masteroutlines five books which address the history of the curated self with an emphasis on artists who painted their own portraits to cement their legacy.

“Art was a form of visual philosophy written with brushes and chisels rather than with pen and ink”

fivebooks.com

+ Before the self-portrait, the rise of ownership of mirrors in the 15th century gave people their first feeling of individuality.

Look back with danger

Nostalgia didn’t always have a positive tone. In fact, before the 20th century, the word was used in the pejorative sense.

Nostalgia in those days was a technical term used and discussed primarily by specialists. In the twentieth century, however, the word has become fully demedic­alized. It now means little more than a sentimental attachment to a lost or past era, a fuzzy feeling about a soft-focus earlier time, and is more often used of an advertising campaign, a film or a memory of childhood than with regard to any strong sense of its etymology, “pain about homecoming”.

the_tls.co

Philosophy & Productivity

The Advantage Of Being A Little Underemployed

It’s crazy to think that a hundred years after the Adamson Act passed, we’re still working the same eight-hour shifts designed for railroad workers. Given that most of us work in front of computers and our best ideas come when we step outside it, how can we free up more time to think? Writes Morgan Housel:

“Tell your boss you found a trick that will make you more creative and productive, and they ask what you’re waiting for. Tell them that your trick is taking a 90-minute walk in the middle of the day, and they says no, you need to work.”

collaborativefund.com

Platonically irrational

We think modernity is superior to the past. But we too can be intellectually overconfident. “When Kahneman writes that we are ‘blind to our blindness’, he is reviving the Socratic idea that wisdom consists in seeing one’s blindness: knowing what you do not know.” Within all facts and reasoning, there’s still a little room for doubt.

This is only a preliminary step in Plato’s dialogues – a (good-natured) reaching after fact and reason should and does occur – but an initial tolerance of uncertainty is a capacity without which individuals and societies cannot adequately self-correct and improve. 

aeon.com

Social Media & Technology

Notes From An Emergency

The internet companies are not only American-based, but their manifest destiny also makes them look like hegemonic colonizers.

“This is a dilemma of the feudal internet. We seek protection from these companies because they can offer us security. But their business model is to make us more vulnerable, by getting us to surrender more of the details of our lives to their servers, and to put more faith in the algorithms they train on our observed behavior.”

idlewords.com

The Library of Congress Wants to Destroy Your Old CDs (for Science)

CDs were once expensive, plastic things. But they were built really cheap. I just tried popping on an old Chemical Brothers mix, and it didn’t even play. Blame the sharpie.

It’s also better not to muck up the top of your CDs with labels—the adhesive creates chemical reactions that quickly eat up data—or even permanent markers. “The moment you start to write on that top layer, you’re setting yourself up for degradation.”

theatlantic.com

Digging in the Crates

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Shanti Celeste is an up and coming house producer from Bristol, England. Her latest 2-track EP features the jungle healer ‘Make Time,’ combining a rich collection of synths and electronic breaks. A real treat.

Listen

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Yasmine Hamdan is a Parisian-based electronic musician who grew up in war-torn Lebanon. While’s she gained a reputation in the Middle East as an underground artist, her latest solo record Al Jamilat plans to unleash her to a broader audience. The track ‘La Ba’den’ offers dreamy electronic Arab vibes. Compelling stuff.

Listen

Thought of the Week

“Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

Martin Luther King Jr.


For more interesting reads and new music, follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or the Twitter feed. You can also subscribe to the blogs: wellsbaum.blog and bombtune.comIf you dig the blogs and want to support them, make a donation, buy a book, or email this post to a friend.

The music we play


Vinyl, cassette tapes, CDs, and MP3s were at one point mass produced. They were placeholders, meant to expire at the mercy of technological change and evolving listening habits.

So if we take the stream, a file-type that’s in infinite cloud-based inventory, what type of file emerges next?

The next development will focus on the quality of sound, just as mobile cameras improve the quality of resolution. And like photography’s countless editing tools, we’ll be able to work backward to tweak or filter out the type of sound we want to hear.

For instance, we can manipulate music files so they project a sound mimicking vinyl’s surface noise. We reshape it, like putting a black and white or red preset on an image.

The next evolution of music is therefore a personalized sensory experience, whether you want to hear sound in its cracked, hissy, compressed, raw state, or in its mass-marketed radio format.

Music will always be the “killer app” that people make their own.

16th century self-promotion

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Before the rise of ownership of mirrors in the 15th century, people mostly identified themselves with others. It was their reflection that made them appears as individuals.

The portable oil canvass in the 16th century accelerated the self-absorbed trend. Self-portraits became the predominant way to flaunt one’s importance and durability. Artists, in particular, were the first to latch on to painting technology to curate their image the way people edit their selfies today.

Modern day photography with software editing tools like Photoshop wishes to make people look better than they actually are, unlike the television which adds five pounds.

Either way, we’re not going to be remembered for how we looked but rather for what we contributed to the world. The work, not the selfie, is what’s going to last.

Fidget spinners

via Gizmodo 

Fidget spinners are having their biggest moment since their emergence in the 1990s.

Except this time the main problem isn’t ADD or anxiety relief but rather our mobile phone addiction.

The main reason fidget spinners are hitting mainstream is to help escape the glow of our devices.

Our smartphones are dopamine producers. When something is your wallet, camera, phone, and computer it’s nearly impossible to resist.

Boredom is scarce. People rather zap themselves than deal with their own thoughts.

Have we forgotten the benefits of solitude? The best ideas come when we’re disconnected, such as in the shower or going for a walk.

The fidget spinner is a real plea for help.

Einstein: “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction.”

All images by Wells Baum (NYC)

“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”

— Albert Einstein

All images by Wells Baum (DC)

Draining the knowledge worker

The 8-hour workday goes back to the Industrial Revolution. We used to put in 10 hour days before the unions demanded reduction and the Adamson Act got passed.

But now we’ve moved on from hand work to head work, which is mentally draining.

We are told to think all the time, pushing on the brain like we used to push on a machine. It’s draining, made worse by the lack of time we get to step away.

Writes Morgan Housel:

“Tell your boss you found a trick that will make you more creative and productive, and they ask what you’re waiting for. Tell them that your trick is taking a 90-minute walk in the middle of the day, and they says no, you need to work.”

Rest almost never happens in knowledge-based jobs. Vacation is only granted maximum two weeks a year. We can’t even take walks. We run our brains into inanition.

We feel fresh after vacation because we get to step outside the routine. Our operations only become clearer when we stop doing them and hit pause to reflect.

We can’t gain perspective and think creatively when we’re stuck in the day to day, moment to moment, grind. We need some time to be in solitude and think more deeply about our roles.

“the secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours.”

Make time to relax, unwind, and ponder. It may be the most important shift we do all day.

Great expectations

via giphy

When was the last time the ATM machine gave you incorrect change?

When was the last time a student schooled the teacher?

When was the last time you saw someone using a dumb phone?

For the most part, outliers are rare. The world’s largest samples fall into a center bell curve.

We believe in the consistencies that we see. But it all takes is one weird thing or strange occurrence to change our mind.

It appears that everyone uses Facebook and drinks Coke, until the normal distribution encounters a hiccup.

Life as simulation 


Is life is a simulation? Are humans genetically programmed automatons?

We can increase our chances of consciousness if we decide to live with intention and go beyond the robot.

Homo sapiens pretend to be wise men and proclaim that their knowledge and expertise are right. They are certain that they can tame the monkey mind. But we all have a tendency to be ‘blind to our blindness.’

Perhaps the most human characteristic is doubt, admitting to the vulnerabilities of our own mental software. We are broken machines.

If reality is a game, points go to the people that embrace discomfort, struggling to cope with the admission of their ignorance and dying in search of the truth.