‘Whatever diminishes constraint, diminishes strength’

Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons, books

“I shall go even further: my freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles. Whatever diminishes constraint, diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self of the chains that shackle the spirit.”

—Igor Stravinsky, Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons

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Susan Ressler’s photographs document the absurd corporate life of the 1970s

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Diver © Susan Ressler (1979)

Photographer Susan Ressler released a collection of black and white images capturing the corporate culture of Los Angeles in the 1970s. From the clunky computers to the banal office plant and male-dominated executives, she captures the industrial economy perfectly.

Ressler writes on her website:

Executive Order” depicts corporate America in the late 1970s, mostly in Los Angeles and the Mountain West. The sunbelt was exploding and so was corporate excess. Daylight Books is publishing this work in Spring 2018. Why 40 years later? Because now, in the era of Trump, we face the same dangers that ensue when corporations are deregulated and when profits “trump” people.



Her images are stark reminders of a culture that was and still is prevalent today.

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‘Time is to clock as mind is to brain’ 🕰️

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time

Time is to clock as mind is to brain. The clock or watch somehow contains the time. And yet time refuses to be bottled up like a genie stuffed in a lamp. Whether it flows as sand or turns on wheels within wheels, time escapes irretrievably, while we watch. Even when the bulbs of the hourglass shatter, when darkness withholds the shadow from the sundial, when the mainspring winds down so far that the clock hands hold still as death, time itself keeps on. The most we can hope a watch to do is mark that progress. And since time sets its own tempo, like a heartbeat or an ebb tide, timepieces don’t really keep time. They just keep up with it, if they’re able.

— Dava Sobel, Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time

Freedom from the to-do list: ‘The Art of the Wasted Day’ by Patricia Hampl

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The pace at which we move is extraordinary. Look out the window. Stare at the seagulls. Nobody has time for that!

Obsessed with productivity or the pursuit of distraction, we’re never not doing something. Even when we’re bored, we’re making lists or planning them out in images on a Pinterest board.

As Umberto Eco once said, “We like lists because we don’t want to die.”

But Patricia Hampl’s new book The Art of the Wasted Day wants us to reconsider time management by removing the burden of the to-do list and daydream instead. She encourages us, especially in our old age — what she calls the third stage after youth and middle age — to let go of the over-scheduled life.

The to-do list that runs most lives through middle age turns out, in this latter stage of existence, to have only one task: to waste life in order to find it. Who said that? Or something like that. Jesus? Buddha? Bob Dylan? Somebody who knew what’s what

Wonder, rather than pursue

Why keep adding to the list tasks like meditation and yoga? The urge to scratch the itch or check the boxes means more doing rather enjoying the freedom of idleness.

Patricia Hampl encourages us to be ok with making unscheduled time and doing nothing at all. She wants to remind us that it’s ok to pause and dance with pure nothingness. We can always get going again.

Loafing is not a prudent business plan, not even a life plan, not a recognizably American project. But it begins to look a little like happiness, the kind that claims you, unbidden. Stay put and let the world show up? Or get out there and be a flâneur? Which is it? Well, it’s both.

Stephen King lists his top 10 favorite books

Goodreads asked Stephen King to list out his top 10 favorite books of all time. The voracious reader and prolific writer never felt satisfied with his answers but he played along anyway.

“Of course, any list like this is slightly ridiculous. On another day, ten different titles might come to mind, like The Exorcist, or All the Pretty Horses in place of Blood Meridian. On another day I’d be sure to include Light in August or Scott Smith’s superb A Simple Plan. The Sea, the Sea, by Iris Murdoch. But what the hell, I stand by these. Although Anthony Powell’s novels should probably be here, especially the sublimely titled Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant and Books Do Furnish a Room. And Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet. And at least six novels by Patricia Highsmith. What about Patrick O’Brian? See how hard this is to let go?

How many books on the list have you read?

Stephen King’s Top 10 Favorite Books

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Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter

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Watership Down (Watership Down, #1) by Richard Adams

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The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

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The Hair of Harold Roux by Thomas Williams

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Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

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Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy

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1984 by George Orwell

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American Pastoral (The American Trilogy, #1) by Philip Roth

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The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)

(h/t Open Culture)

Steal like an artist: ‘You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes’

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Who to copy is easy. You copy your heroes—the people you love, the people you’re inspired by, the people you want to be. The songwriter Nick Lowe says, “You start out by rewriting your hero’s catalog.” And you don’t just steal from one of your heroes, you steal from all of them. The writer Wilson Mizner said if you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism, but if you copy from many, it’s research. I once heard the cartoonist Gary Panter say, “If you have one person you’re influenced by, everyone will say you’re the next whoever. But if you rip off a hundred people, everyone will say you’re so original!”

What to copy is a little bit trickier. Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

‘Excellence is often irrational. Greatness is often strange. Beauty is often odd’

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“Isaac Newton spent just as much time obsessively decoding biblical prophecies and predicting the end of the world as he did revolutionizing our understanding of physics. Florence Nightingale revolutionized the practice of health care even as she was racked with intense despair for much of her life. John Nash, the founder of game theory, was a paranoid schizophrenic.

I am not telling you to go out and contract a case of clinical depression or paranoid schizophrenia. I’m just reminding you that excellence is often irrational. Greatness is often strange. Beauty is often odd.”

— Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life (Amazon) by Eric Greitens

The Dog Photographer

William Wegman is a photographer famous for his portraits of dogs.

For the last 45 years, Wegman has been dressing up his Weimaraners in human clothes and making them do everyday poses.

“Dogs are always in a state of becoming something: they become characters, objects…when they’re lying down they’re becoming landscapes.”

His dogs have since appeared in children’s books, videos for Sesame Street and an appearance on Saturday Night Live.

Over 300 of his images appeared in William Wegman: Being Human (Amazon link), released last year.

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All images courtesy William Wegman

Famous artists and their recipes for good luck

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Creatives obsess with how other successful creators do their work. Witness the 2013 bestseller Daily Rituals by Mason Currey.

But instead of focusing on the productive habits of successful artists, author Ellen Weinstein highlights their oddities.

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Her book Recipes for Good Luck: The Superstitions, Rituals, and Practices of Extraordinary People contains some fascinating and funny habits.

  • Thom Yorke prepares for live concerts with a headstand ritual
  • NASA engineers eat peanuts before every launch as a lucky charm
  • Picasso held on to his fingernail clippings to maintain his spiritual “essence”
  • Frida Kahlo painted plants and flowers from her desk, looking over her garden

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Creative people can be a bit superstitious, to say the least. As Seth Godin likes to say, “we’re all weird.”

Whatever you do to keep your edge, do it.

(All images courtesy Chronicle Books)

Think Small: The Tiniest Art in the World

Handshake by Salavat Fidai.[Photo: courtesy Chronicle Books]
Handshake by Salavat Fidai (Image courtesy Chronicle Books)
Star Wars Crayola carvings by self-taught artist Hoang Tran
Star Wars Crayola by Hoang Tran (Image courtesy Chronicle Books)
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Hermit Crab by Aki Inomata (Image courtesy Chronicle Books)

Los Angeles based writer and journalist Eva Katz collected 200 miniature artworks of 24 artists around the globe for her new book Think Small: The Tiniest Art in the World.

Included in the 208-page volume is the piece from Russian artist Salavat Fida who’s intricate lead pencils mimic that of Games of Thrones. Other works include a glass hermit crab shell designed by Aki Inomata and Star Wars Crayola carvings by self-taught artist Hoang Tran.

Small-scale art makes a big impression.

Eva Katz is also the author of Creative Writing.

‘Every civilization depends upon the quality of the individuals it produces’

children of dune by frank herbert

“What you of the CHOAM directorate seem unable to understand is that you seldom find real loyalties in commerce. When did you last hear of a clerk giving his life for the company? Perhaps your deficiency rests in the false assumption that you can order men to think and cooperate. This has been a failure of everything from religions to general staffs throughout history. General staffs have a long record of destroying their own nations. As to religions, I recommend a rereading of Thomas Aquinas. As to you of CHOAM, what nonsense you believe! Men must want to do things out of their own innermost drives. People, not commercial organizations or chains of command, are what make great civilizations work. Every civilization depends upon the quality of the individuals it produces. If you over-organize humans, over-legalize them, suppress their urge to greatness—they cannot work and their civilization collapses.”

Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

Why great athletes enjoy suffering pain

Author Malcolm Gladwell sits down with Alex Hutchison, author of the new book Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance to discuss how great athletes come to enjoy suffering pain.

Says Hutchison, “Great athletes don’t necessarily feel pain differently. They reframe pain differently.” Hutchison calls the suffering a type of benign masochism.

“Some day we’ll be able to identify that some people are wired to enjoy pain.”Click To Tweet

Being uncomfortable is a ‘psychological coping mechanism’

The best performers also suffer more in training, says Hutchison. This reminded me of Michael Jordan who once said that he practiced so hard that the games were often easier. As the Marines like to say: ‘pain is weakness leaving the body.’

How much are you willing to suffer to be the greatest?

#sports #boxing #ali #muhammadali
via giphy

‘I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing’ 👁🌲

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“Standing on the bare ground, my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space, all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God.”

Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

As seen in The benefits of walking in nature

‘Good work only comes through revision’

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“After a lifetime of hounding authors for advice, I’ve heard three truths from every mouth: (1) Writing is painful— it’s ‘fun’ only for novices, the very young, and hacks; (2) other than a few instances of luck, good work only comes through revision; (3) the best revisers often have reading habits that stretch back before the current age, which lends them a sense of history and raises their standards for quality.”

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr