Newsletter: The end of theory 🤔

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Hi everyone, below is a list of links worth checking out this week.

web gems

  1. “Marketing is knowing how to communicate what’s special about what you’ve made to the right people.” In this video, author Ryan Holiday explains why artists should take responsibility for both making and marketing their own work. Creative side = business side.

  2. Red was considered the world’s “first color” — “the basic color of all ancient peoples” — before the 12th century writes historian Michel Pastoureau before the color blue gave it some competition. While blue initially represented a “hot” color, it came to represent pacification and peace after the 14th century.

    + Speaking of color consciousness, we celebrated #WorldEmojiDay this week. The Museum of Modern Art holds the original 176 emoji, designed by artist Shigetaka Kurita.

  3. “Over 40% of our creative ideas come when we give ourselves a break.” So give your brain some rest. Says Lin Manuel Miranda “A good idea doesn’t come when you’re doing a million things. The good idea comes in the moment of rest. It comes in the shower. It comes when you’re doodling or playing trains with your son. It’s when your mind is on the other side of things.”

  4. Check out this excellent piece from The Verge on how How Artsy finally convinced galleries to sell art online.

  5. “Stare at the world, not at your model,” warns MIT economics professor Arnold Kling in his review of Richard Bookstaber’s book The End of Theory“The world could be changing right now in ways that will blindside you down the road.” Buyer’s beware.

New Track on loop

Deep Summer (Burial Remix)

Digging in the crates

Barrington Levy ‎– Murderer (1984)

Thought of the week

“There’s a whole category of people who miss out by not allowing themselves to be weird enough.” — Alain de Botton

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!

Wells Baum (@bombtune)


This is my daily collection of interesting reads and new music. I spend a lot of time digging the web for cool stuff and remixing them here. If you dig the blog, please consider making a donation or buying a book. A cup of coffee to helping out with hosting goes a long way.

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The taste makers

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 “We are just beginning to scratch the surface of what happens when a molecule binds with the tongue, and then all of the biochemical events that happen after that to get a perception. If you imagine a domino trail, we’ve knocked off maybe four or five dominoes, and have a thousand more.” Taste receptors are blunt instruments. With taste alone, one cannot distinguish a grape lollipop from a watermelon one; coffee is like hot water with a bitter aftertaste, and Coke a bland sugary solution. The limitations of taste are unsurprising when one considers its evolutionary purpose. Our biological progenitors, living in the wilderness, needed to know only what was worth eating and what wasn’t. If something tasted sweet, there was a good chance that it provided energy; saltiness suggested the presence of minerals; sourness indicated the level of ripeness, and bitterness the presence of poison.

Read The Taste Makers: The secret world of the flavor factory

Making for the micro

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People always made art. Now, we just make it and share it in abundance.

But all the noise makes it impossible for aspiring creators to stand out.

On the flip side, the bell curve is widening from the masses to the niches. We can build an audience around sub-genres at scale for the first time ever; the Internet helps us stay connected.

Once we shift our strategy from marketing to everyone to the marketing to the micro, we set ourselves up to make deeper work that lasts.

Your weirdness is not only acceptable, it’s mainstream.

“Stare at the world, not at your model.”

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Photo by José Martín

Continually learning, constantly changing. The human mind is as fickle as the seasons. It is not mathematical models that predict the future but the law of nature.

Writes Richard Bookstaber in his book The End of Theory“The world could be changing right now in ways that will blindside you down the road.”

Nothing is linear and predictable; rather, everything emerges from its highest, heuristic probability — the upshot of the freedom of trial and error.

“Humans are not ergodic, however. We move through the world along a single path, and we get only that one path. Where we are on that path, our experiences, our interactions, the view we have of the world at that moment all determine the context for our actions. That path is not repeatable; we are not taking draws from a distribution.”

Even the rare anomaly becomes the impetus for our actions. People try stuff on a whim to check their pulse.

It is futile to aggregate behavior so we can algorithmicize systems. The world is unpredictable, especially the economic one.

“Chaos is the law of nature; order is the dream of man.”

— Henry Adams

Read The Practitioner’s Challenge
 

 

Richer by design

What if we had everything we already need? We can give value to things that already exists and instantly feel richer.

Say you don’t own a car so you have to take the train or bus to work. Outsourcing the driving frees up your time to do something else like plan your week, catch up on the news, or get some more sleep. Time is extra money earned.

Owning a car can be a burden. And while it makes grocery shopping and running errands on the weekends, we can appreciate the benefits of an automobile’s absence during the week. 

Just as constriction begets creativity, we can find value in our limitations to find our own happiness. It’s all the complaining that drags us down.

We’re all weird

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We’re All Weird by Seth Godin

Inspired by Alain de Button’s tweet, below is a collection of highlights of the word weird from Seth Godin’s 2011 book, We’re All Weird.

Weird by choice, on the other hand, flies in the face of the culture of mass and the checklist of normal.

The epic battle of our generation is between the status quo of mass and the never-ceasing tide of weird.

It’s human nature to be weird, but also human to be lonely. This conflict between fitting in and standing out is at the core of who we are.

The way of the world is now more information, more choice, more freedom, and more interaction. And yes, more weird.

The weird are weird because they’ve foregone the comfort and efficiency of mass and instead they’re forming smaller groups, groups where their weirdness is actually expected.

The next breakthroughs in our productivity and growth aren’t going to be about fueling mass. They’re going to be relentlessly focused on amplifying the weird.

Pre-historic cultures, not nearly as productive as ours, show little evidence of the weirdness our culture has recently developed.

When you don’t feel alone, it’s easier to be weird, which sort of flies in the face of our expectation that the weird individual is also a loner.

We don’t care so much about everyone; we care about us—where us is our people, our tribe, our interest group, our weirdness—not the anonymous masses.

The weird are now more important than the many, because the weird are the many.

There’s a long tail of channels, and at least one matches every person’s precise definition of weirdness (if there’s no match, go ahead and start another channel).

My proposed solution is simple: don’t waste a lot of time and money pushing kids in directions they don’t want to go. Instead, find out what weirdness they excel at and encourage them to do that. Then get out of the way.

It’s human nature to be weird, but also human to be lonely. This conflict between fitting in and standing out is at the core of who we are.

Newsletter: Against conventional thinking

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Hi everyone, below is a list of links worth checking out this week. If you’d like to receive this email in your inbox, subscribe right here and never miss an issue.

web gems

  1. The above GIF represents 6 million years of human evolution. But the video is even more psychedelic. Watch it from the start.

  2. “Never look back unless you are planning to go that way. ”It was Henry David Thoreau’s 200th birthday this week. His work seems ever more relevant in the age of distraction and climate change deniers.

  3. “Every year that passes without extinction doubles the additional life expectancy.” That’s how economist Nassim Taleb describes the Lindy Effect which predicts the durability of books, restaurants, etc lasting years from now. Ryan Holiday details the art of longevity in his new book Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts

  4. I shared this a while ago but it’s worth rereading in the Google Era: How the Humble Index Card Foresaw the Internet

  5. From marketing to making decisions, Vice-Chairman Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy gives us a lot to chew on in Things To Hang On Your Mental Mug Tree. Watch it with your favorite morning brew.

New Track on loop

Ross From Friends — Romeo Romeo

Digging in the crates

Twinkle Brothers – Faith Can Move Mountains (1983)

Thought of the week

“If you say the name Andrew over and over it turns into Duran Duran. Try it.” — Doug Copeland

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!

Wells Baum (@bombtune)

 


This is my daily collection of interesting reads and new music. I spend a lot of time digging the web for cool stuff and remixing them here. If you dig the blog, please consider making a donation or buying a book. A cup of coffee to helping out with hosting goes a long way.

Donate with PayPal

ORGANIC

The human shadow is a lack of light

Photo by Wells Baum

Humans rent Earth. It is for no lack of light we tend to do it harm, avoiding recycling and willingly spoiling the air with carbon emissions that heat up the seas.

We are buried in short-sightedness, unable to foresee the attrition of the very planet that is our terra firma. 

Nature can only solve so many problems. The rest is self-inflicted. 

Without a shock interruption, we’ll become the destructive tenants of our surroundings. 

Photo by Wells Baum

When ugly is beautiful

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In a selfie-obsessed world, it pays to be ugly. Fashion houses across the world make eye-cringing designs on purpose. The crazier, the better.

Says Prada’s head fashion designer Miuccia Prada“The investigation of ugliness is, to me, more interesting than the bourgeois idea of beauty. And why? Because ugly is human. It touches the bad and the dirty side of people.”

Why do people love using Snapchat over other social media services? Because it celebrates authenticity. When people try to be real, they can be flawed, which is relatable.

Beautiful gets boring. Ugly is pervasive and unforgettable. It stands out with a clear message.

Balenciaga nailed ugly when it designed clothes inspired by the Bernie Sanders logo.

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Photo: Catwalking/Getty Images
Gucci’s Dapper Dan jacket is an attempt to throw back to an era of displeasing design.

 

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People preferred Madona when she displayed her natural gap tooth. Ugly is about breaking the rules and doing things a little different. Models never smile on the runway because they want to be unshakeable.

But people view the world as it relates to them. Letting go of perfection and designing for ugly creates a sense of communion with the viewer.

Normal is boring

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Paddington Bear
– The Purple Cow
– An Albino Giraffe

Standing out is what it means to be remembered. To be remembered is to be unique.

Never has the conformist or the lemming lived on to make a name for themselves.

Normal is too forgettable. Life is cooler at the edges.

When you know you’re different, you’re condemned to accept it.

The internet saves your individuality. It celebrates weird and flattens the middle of the bell curve of normalcy.

 

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From Seth Godin’s book, We Are All Weird

 

Now you have no choice but to show people who you really are and what you believe in.

Your tribe awaits and it wants you to break the status quo.

The shipping high 

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It took nearly two hundred years to build the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Those who built it never saw it finished. Now we can 3-D print a building in 17 days, like “baking a cake and applying whip cream on it.

The Notre Dame is still around while most buildings will be destroyed and rebuilt. The same goes for media: pictures, books, music, and blog posts.

We are making too much stuff and not spending enough time enjoying it. Consumption is ephemeral; information is fast food. Writes Ben Callahan for Offscreen Magazine:

“Ray Kurzweil wrote about the Law of Accelerating Returns back in 2001, suggesting that the rate of technological evolution grows exponentially. This means we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century. It will be more like 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate. His work explains why we can build amazing structures faster today than ever before. What it doesn’t explain is how this impacts us as makers: how the immediacy with which we can create changes us.”

The urge to keep making, to keep shipping, means more creations will be forgotten and therefore less likely to be timeless.

Newsletter: ‘Find the torture you’re comfortable with’

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Harper’s: July Edward Penfield (1866–1925): The MET

web gems

1

Why Do Anything? A Meditation on Procrastination

Procrastination is the purest form of idleness. Our brain’s neurons ultimately dictate what we decide to do. “Who you are depends on what your neurons are up to, moment by moment,” writes David Eagleman in his book The Brain: The Story of You.

We are stuck between thinking and action, for which we have little choice but to finish what we conjure up in our minds or actualize in real life. “The procrastinator is both contemplator and man of action, which is the worst thing to be, and which is tearing him apart.” Humanities professor and author Costica Bradatan explains why procrastination is more than doing nothing.

nytimes.com

2

From Ptolemy to GPS, the Brief History of Maps

One of the oldest surviving maps (the Babylonian Map of the World) is “about the size and shape of an early iPhone.” While maps continue to guide us, they also exploited to drive conquest, gentrification, taxes, and voting polls.also have always lied. To quote the author Mark Monmonier of How to Lie With Map, “No map entirely tells the truth. There’s always some distortion, some point of view.”

Smithsonianmag.com

3

How to Live With Critics (Whether You’re an Artist or the President)

Criticism is democratic, integral to an informed democracy. Argues literary critic and poet Adam Kirsch: “Everyone brings his or her own values and standards to the work of judging. This means that it is also, essentially, democratic. No canon of taste or critical authority can compel people to like what they don’t like.”

nytimes.com

4

Schedule Nothing

“We like lists because we don’t want to die,” said Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco. But in the age of digital distraction, we make records of things we’ll simply never complete. This cartoon explains why.

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wellsbaum.blog

5

Tell Us 5 Things About Your Book: ‘The End of Advertising’

“Devoid of advertising, television was elevated to arguably the world’s most relevant mass art form.” Former advertising executive Andrew Essex tells the story about the dual nature of today’s ads, following the example of Bayer which developed both aspirin and heroin in 1898.

nytimes.com

quote of the week

“Your blessing in life is when you find the torture you’re comfortable with.”

Jerry Seinfeld


digging in the crates

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  1. Laurence Guy – Wichita Falls
  2. Laurence Guy – Drum Is A Woman (feat. Steve Spacek)
  3. Rothadam – I Was Born To Be A Rebel
  4. Bruce – Before You Sleep
  5. Sudan Archives – Come Meh Way

LISTEN


I spend a lot of time digging the web for cool stuff and remixing it here. If you dig the blog, please consider making a donation or buying a book. A cup of coffee to helping out with hosting goes a long way.

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Obligate users

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We don’t have a choice as to how to check out: it’s either cash or credit card. Soon enough it’ll be standard practice to pay using only our phones.

In the technology world, change is persistent. But new developments never spread as fast as we think.

In the case of digital checkout, it assumes that both seller and buyer own devices that can talk to each other. It took the most popular coffee shop in the world to introduce the phone as a wallet.

Like magnets, we are obligated to stick to mainstream systems. But new habits usher in new problems. We buy in excess on Amazon Prime because of the ease of checkout. Meanwhile, hackers can splinter daily operations with an injection of malicious code.

‘No one does it that way anymore’ is only good until the lights go out. Obligate users attuned to computer technology also risk the domino effect of its inter-connected destruction. A broken system is no longer smart.

Don’t confuse social media with your diary

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Authenticity is the bread and butter of developing an attractive online persona. People relate to users that share bits of their personal lives.

But a lot of people confuse social media with their diary. The viewer cringes at over-admissions of vulnerability. Too much info!

What followers want are real stories, not overly planned content, digital manipulation, sympathy-provoking posts, and canned responses.

“Use your blog to connect. Use it as you. Don’t “network” or “promote.” Just talk.”

Neil Gaiman

The world already has enough actors and curated lives that entertain and inspire. It’s a relief to see people that act off-screen like they do offline.

On criticism

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The doer wants acknowledgement for their work. They want people to scream their hosannas. But criticism is democratic.

Not everyone likes Radiohead’s last album. Every Trump tweet draws liberal contestants. Where you fall in the Messi versus Ronaldo or Jordan versus Lebron debate could be a preference based on your birth date. Opines literary critic and poet Adam Kirsch:

“Everyone brings his or her own values and standards to the work of judging. This means that it is also, essentially, democratic. No canon of taste or critical authority can compel people to like what they don’t like.”

As an artist, athlete, CEO, US president, some criticism is better than none at all. My newest book Train of Thought has zero reviews. I’d rather have one star and a bad review just to confirm that someone had a look.

Criticism is integral to an informed democracy. Even the maker is a critic. Their rebuttals are neither valid nor invalid but mere reason. Conversely, the reviewer is also a professional; even a stream of invective is a manifestation of analysis and interpretation.

Perhaps it is the inner-critic that is the most annoying of all. It’s the one that wants both artist and analyst to say and do nothing but remain in a state of paralysis.

What’s most important therefore is the opinion itself. Consent is an illusion reserved for lemmings. Now feel free to criticize this post in the comments below.