Each week I like to highlight some the articles written on this blog in a condensed format. It reminds me to take a step back and review why I thought it was worth posting in the first place. If you enjoy these reads, you can sign up here to get the weekly newsletter delivered directly to your inbox.
How taking an afternoon ‘nappuccino’ increases productivity. If you start to zone out around 2 and 3 pm (thank you circadian rhythm), you may benefit from a pre-nap coffee. Remember: “The caffeine won’t fully engage in your bloodstream for about 25 minutes, so drink up right before you lie down.”
Tesla: American Experience. Motivated by wonder and awe, he exploited his imagination to foresee the wireless networking and cell phones we have today. Tesla was an artist working with dreams and visions but “his medium was electricity.” Excellent documentary on the magician on PBS.
This is what happens when you reply to spam email. In a hilarious TED Talk, comedian James Veitch details his emails with one spammer who contacted him about a business deal. Into the second week, James got the spammer to start replying in ridiculous code revolving around candy.
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Thought of the week
‘I’d rather be a lightning rod than a seismograph.’
The web talked up a storm yesterday over an audio clip that purportedly pronounced one of two words depending on your ears: Yanny or Laurel.
Here’s the clip. Which do you hear?
While the majority of listeners report hearing “Yanny,” myself included (I listened on my laptop), hearing scientist Brad Story at the University of Arizona reveals that that waveform actually reveals “laurel.”
So, with a low quality recording (as is the one in question) and a wide variety of devices on which people are listening, it is not surprising that some might hear something like ‘yanny.’
Your auditory perception ultimately depends on your sound card and your ears, with higher or lower frequencies impacting the results. But your brain and previous experiences are also variables, as is how people see the cue in their timelines and fill in the rest with the imagination. Writes The Verge:
…the visual prompt that comes with the audio, Yanny or Laurel. That might help shape what people hear. Here’s another example of how prompts shape what we hear: the same word can sound like “bill,” “pail,” or “mayo” depending on what’s on-screen.
The sound debate reminds me of a quote I read recently in one of Paul Theroux’s travel books. He writes: “I’ve got a theory that what you hear influences – maybe even determines – what you see.”
A lot of people get dumber after college. It’s not entirely their fault. A job takes up all their time. Besides spending time with family and friends and doing chores — getting on with the business of living — a lot of free time is spent on staring at lite brites for entertainment.
As we age, we’re able to resolve practical matters with less effort. But therein lies a skewed perception. We accidentally interpret how things usually go as facts rather than acknowledging that’ that’s how the world works now. Change is constant, the possibilities infinite.
An educated person should never stop learning. They should revel in their ignorance, not as an excuse to know less but as a means of staying interested in understanding more.
The rules of spacing have been wildly inconsistent going back to the invention of the printing press. The original printing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence used extra long spaces between sentences. John Baskerville’s 1763 Bible used a single space. WhoevenknowswhateffectPietroBembowasgoingforhere.Single spaces. Double spaces. Em spaces. Trends went back and forth between continents and eras for hundreds of years, Felici wrote.It’s not a good look.
We learned in typing class growing up to put two spaces after a period. No questions asked. Some professors even deducted points for anything more or less than two spaces.
Even work in the 20th century trained us to adopt a two-spaced etiquette on word processors. The double taps on the spacebar mimicked the typewriter which needed the extra spaces after a period to be more pleasing on the eyes.
But then Twitter and mobile phones came along. Tweets required no more than 140 characters. We texted and emailed rapid exchanges to friends, family, and coworkers. One space felt plenty, especially since the font appeared clutter-free. Using two-spaces in text message looked like you were trying to too hard!
What does modern science say about the two-space rule?
The Washington Postreports that three psychology researchers from Skidmore college tested 60 students to test out their spacing inclinations. The majority of the students typed one space after the period. But, when the same students examined text, they read better with two-spaces after the text.
Reading speed only improved marginally, the paper found, and only for the 21 “two-spacers,” who naturally typed with two spaces between sentences. The majority of one-spacers, on the other hand, read at pretty much the same speed either way. And reading comprehension was unaffected for everyone, regardless of how many spaces followed a period.
The major reason to use two spaces, the researchers wrote, was to make the reading process smoother, not faster. Everyone tended to spend fewer milliseconds staring at periods when a little extra blank space followed it.
The science that supports the double space is thus conclusive but not 100% convincing. In practice, we should feel free to to be one spacers or two, but never both. And we should avoid two spaces after a comma at all costs: “Putting two spaces after a comma, if you’re wondering, slowed down reading speed, so don’t do that.”
Amazon buffets the shores of brick and mortar retailers. No business is Amazon-proof. No business is sacred in the internet-era.
We have to assume that everything we do today will at some point be replaced by something quicker, cheaper, and more personalized.
Dumping the problems on tomorrow will get us rekt.
How do we remain anti-fragile?
The first thing Darwin’s finches did was grow adaptive beaks. They survived by optimizing their behavior for the micro-market. Some formed specialized beaks just for eating seeds, other grubs, buds and fruit, and insects.
Specialization prolonged their survival.
Sure, the big companies have all the data. But their experience at harvesting attention often fails to attract the customer in search of a unique experience.
There is no perfect idea. There is no such thing as the perfect idea. As Rebecca Solnit writes in Hope in the Dark, ‘Perfection is a stick with which to beat the possible.’ Or as novelist Iris Murdoch instructs, “Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.”
Thought of the week
‘Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.’
Students from the University of Tokyo developed a hover backpack that frees you from gravity’s pull so you can jump and hang in the air like Michael Jordan. The rotors in the device thrust downward, allowing humans to jump 3 times higher than normal.
Hearing impaired photographer Kate Fichard teamed up with a former design school classmate at the Paris-based F&D studio to create a fashionable hearing aid.
Called the H(earring) project, it just won first prize for accessories at the most prestigious festivals for young designers, The International Festival of Fashion and Photography in Hyères, France. Kudos to the F&D team for injecting some style and design into hearing aids, what some would consider high-fashion.
The tangible items feel like they have more cash value than the invisible digital bits. The sheer abundance of internet items not only shrink their value, they curb our attention. Whether it’s a feed of Instagram images, tweets, or new music playlists, there is simply too many things to pay attention to and not enough time to consume them.
Even though vinyl today is mass produced to meet the growing demands of nostalgic record collectors and millenial hipsters, the magic of vinyl is in its transactional and physical experience. You paid for it and now you have to store it somewhere.
The great thing about record sleeves is that they can also serve as wall art. They’re like real-life square Instagram hanging in your hallway or in your bedroom that also demonstrates your taste.
But the awe of tangibility is not restricted just to records. It’s all formats. CDs still create the same return on a relationship with its consumer, at least in Japan. The reason Japan’s CD industry is still thriving is that Japanese fans love to show direct support of their artists; they want to ensure their money talks.
Yet even something as ubiquitous as a coke can create a visceral experience. Access is egalitarian. Said Andy Warhol in his 1975 book, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol.
What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.
It is still possible to tame abundancy and simulate ownership in a virtual environment. Shopping on the music store Bandcamp recreates a record-store experience. Writes music editor Ben Ratliff for the New York Times:
the online music site known for its equitable treatment of artists, and one of the greatest underground-culture bazaars of our time. From it, you can stream music to the extent each artist allows, or buy songs at a price set by the artist — which is sometimes “pay what you wish” — or order physical products from the site. The artist gets 85 percent. Always, the artist gets to know who’s buying, without a third party in the way.
Bandcamp is a mashup of both virtual and physical worlds. Buying and selling Bitcoin feels the same way. What gives a bitcoin value is an assumed relationship between buyer and seller, not to mention the scarcity layered on top of it. There are only 21 million Bitcoins that can be mined. Bitcoin and the emerging interest in blockchain exemplify the shift toward the value on bits and bytes and not just hard goods.
Record sleeves persist because we give physical objects extra value. But the virtual sleeves on an all-access catalog to Spotify library can feel similar. It’s amazing how real things feel when you pay for them 😉
If you’re interested in more reads about vinyl, check out the below:
The Financial Times sat down with “musician, artist, thinker” Brian Eno in the studio of his Notting Hill home. Here are my favorite snippets from the interview:
On the transactional value between art and bitcoin:
It is not so different from bitcoin. Art is the ultimate cryptocurrency. What the art world is doing is engineering the consensual value of something, very quickly. It only needs two people, a buyer and a seller.
On fusing music and art vocations:
I had this real struggle inside me, on whether to do music or art. I worried about it a lot. And then one day, I decided I didn’t have to do one or the other, I could do both. I glimpsed the possibility of making each one more like the other, a sort of fusing together.
On ‘how simplicity can produce complexity’:
When I first came up with the idea of utilitarian music, it was very, very unpopular. It meant muzak. It was music reduced, stripped of its fundamental cultural importance. And that was my biggest hurdle. Artists were supposed to want people’s 100 per cent attention.” What interested him instead was, “what was the least that I could do with music; how much could I leave out? What if I made music that was just like an atmosphere?
He criticizes pop musicians for being too close-minded, using the metaphor of a light bulb: “nobody looks at the bloody bulb. And that is what has been happening in music. We’ve been looking at the bulb.”
Eno illustrates the complexity from simplicity theory on paper by drawing out what it isn’t. He draw a pyramid and inserts lines from top to bottom:
This is God, or the Pope, or the orchestra conductor. And information flows this way only. There is no feedback, other than something dramatic like a revolution.
The symphony: it is inspired by the divine; it enters the composer’s head; he writes it down and passes it to the conductor, and then the leaders of the orchestra, then the section principals, and then down to the rank and file. There is this idea that the music is already in existence, in the mind of God or the composer, and it is our purpose to realise it.
Now, as a working musician, I know it doesn’t happen like that. I have seen a lot of music come into existence. It is a mess. It is a lot of complex things bouncing off each other, until suddenly something beautiful and intricate exists. It wasn’t in anybody’s mind. Nobody had conceived it up to that point.
On the left’s provincialism and the urge to speak out against the rise of nationalistic tribes:
“But now there is engagement with politics. I have so many American friends, they were so apolitical. Politics was something you never admitted to doing, like masturbation. But that has changed now. We all thought these [Trump and Brexit supporters] were this little bubble of weirdos. But we discovered that we were the ones in the little bubble.”
If you’re interested in more Brian Eno reads, peep the below:
Hi Friends, below are some interesting links I discovered this week.
Summary: Yet more evidence that standing at work is better for you than sitting. Millennials love their house plants. Meet the woman who never forgets anything. Photographer Alex Bartsch retraces reggae record sleeves in London. Tyler, the Creator gives us a throwaway track entitled “Okra.” Check out all these links and more after the jump.
I’ve tried all the writing platforms (Squarespace, Tumblr, Weebly, etc.) but if you’re a blogger, there’s no better platform than WordPress. You can also snag a .blog domain name instead of the usual “.com.” The folks at BlueHost also make setting up on WordPress crazy easy with one-click installation.
To Focus Attention, Think On Your Feet, Not Your Seat. A recent study done by researchers at Tel Aviv University validates standing desks. Not only is standing better for your health, it also strengthens your focus. This is because the stress of holding your posture improves selective attention.
Millennials are turning their apartments into “house jungles”. Hilton Carter keeps 180 plants in his house. Apparently, he’s part of a millennial trend that’s obsessed with houseplants. Says houseplant author Tovah Martin: “I think the current cycle has a lot to do with people hunkering down. A houseplant is therapeutic. It gives you something to nurture.”
The woman who never forgets…anything. Imagine having a “highly superior autobiographical memory” (H.S.A.M). That’s the case for Australian Rebecca Sharrock who remembers everything from the time she was born to what she did on any particular Saturday a decade ago. ALL in clear detail.
Thought of the week
“Perfection is a stick with which to beat the possible.”
Alex Bartsch spent the last ten years photographing the original locations of some of his favorite UK reggae vinyl covers from 1967 to 1987. Holding each sleeve up to arm’s length, he meshes the past and present of London’s surroundings.
Just ran across the new Tyler, the Creator track in Benji B’s radio show. Apparently, the new tune “OKRA” is a ‘throwaway song’ per the video’s YouTube page. Yet, it’s one of the best tracks I’ve heard this year. And the music video is equally delicious as the juicy bass and spit-filled rhymes.
Reader in Music and Media at the University of Gloucestershire and author of PJ Harvey and Music Video Performance Abigail Gardner, writes an interesting take in Quartz on the recent trend of collecting and reissuing African music.
Are Western crate diggers the new colonists?
John Peel liked the freshness of The Bhundu Boys, they were contemporary. He didn’t live long enough to experience this recent race to the past in music, this tracking down of the undocumented curiosity, this search for music that sounds old but is new, this new colonialism. If he were alive now, he’d be playing Ata Kak’s new songs and moving things forward.