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.”

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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.


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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.

Consider ‘social snacking’


Social media allows for light touches. You can snack on a relationship by sending a friend a text or simple email just to remind them that you still value their relationship.

Even sending a happy birthday message on Facebook can help keep you top of mind.

What makes communication awkward are the long periods of silence in between. Even though people are ambiently aware of each other, they still need to follow up. 

A quick text, a like or comment, an email, or better yet, a phone call or handwritten letter, keeps you relevant. Small acts of care help preserve relationships in the long term.

If anything, social smacking helps break the ice when you do meet again face to face.

Newsletter: Emotional agility

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Web Gems

WHEN IT COMES TO OUR LIVES ON SOCIAL MEDIA, ‘THERE’S ALWAYS ANOTHER STORY’

We usually post things that we wish were, not as they are. Social media presents the best of the best, an online Truman Show that excludes the beautiful struggle in between. At the very least, social media is pseudo-news that often omits context. “There’s always another story,” indeed.

Listen to Hidden Brain: Ep. 68: Schadenfacebook

EMOTIONAL AGILITY: GET UNSTUCK 

Our inner dialogue is all over the place. The harder we try to tame the monkey mind, the crazier it gets. But instead of anxiety loop, we can “step back and ask: “Is this useful?”

“During the average day, most of us speak around sixteen thousand words. But our thoughts – our internal voices – produce thousands more.”

Recommended book: Susan David Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life

  • Bonus Read: Dutch soccer player Meijer Stad survived Nazi execution with ten bullets in his body.  Read this fascinating story. ⚽ 
  • Video: Watch health psychologist Kelly Mcgonigal explain how to make stress your friend in her Ted Talk.

CHAPPELLE BREAKS DOWN THE MILLENNIAL CONDITION

Have we grown immune to catastrophe?

Perhaps Huxley was right: we’re so inundated with screens and breaking news that we forget to care. The long-term consequences for such insouciance mean that evil can seep through unperturbed.

EXPERTISE MATTERS

“Having equal rights does not mean having equal talents, equal abilities, or equal knowledge.”

We’re all created equal but we’re not all experts. Experts are the hedgehogs, the servants; they do one thing well. They’re indispensable like doctors. Yet, the internet came along and unleashed a free for all of know-it-alls.

Recommended book: Tom Nichols’s The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters:

GET HAPPY: FOUR WELL-BEING WORKOUTS

Happiness doesn’t come easily to everyone but thankfully there are some exercises. Bicep curl you brain with these mental exercises:

  1. Identify Strengths: “Write down a story about a time when you were at your best.”
  2. Find the good: “Set aside 10 minutes before you go to bed each night to write down three things that went really well that day.”
  3. Make a Gratitude Visit
  4. Reply Constructively

QUOTES I’M CHEWING ON

“The camera is just as capable of lying as the typewriter.” — Bertolt Brecht, War Primer (1955)

“If you suppress the spirit of spontaneity, you will destroy the true democratic spirit of revolution which has to be unpredictable.” — In Our Time Podcast on Rosa Luxemburg

“If I do something what I do not understand, I force myself to think about it in my dream, and thus find a solution.” — Tesla

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” — Upton Sinclair

“Some of us are turtles; we crawl and struggle along, and we haven’t maybe figured it out by the time we’re 30. But the turtles have to keep on walking.” — John Goodenough, To Be a Genius, Think Like a 94-Year-Old

“Don’t get caught doing more than you need to but less than you want to.” – Seth Godin


Digging In The Crates

Flako is Dario Rojo Guerra, a Berlin-based producer known for his helter-skelter beats. I first discovered him in 2010 with his jaw-dropping Pharcyde sample on the track ‘Love.’

Now releasing music under his rebranded name Natureboy, Flako has done some reworks most notably with Malian Wassoulou Oumou Sangaré’s track ‘Yere Faga.’

LISTEN

Kara-Lis Coverdale is “one of the most exciting young composers in North America,” proclaims The Guardian. It’s not hard to understand why.

Her new 22-minute track ‘Grafts’ is gorgeous, rolling in hypnotic piano layers and echoes, “never fully coming to a resolution,” as Boomkat describes it, “Lingering on like a slowly dispersing plume of smoke.”

LISTEN

After a long series of original mixtapes, Thrupence has crafted a debut album called Ideas of Aesthetics.  The nine-track album represents a collection of songs he’s produced over the last six years, including two collaborations with his brother Edward on vocals. “It has become a diary of places I’ve lived and people I’ve met over this time,” says the artist.

‘Forest On The Sun’ and ‘Rinse Repeat’ are my two favorite tracks on the album, mixing elements of soft piano and choppy electronic beats that’ll make you nod your head and smile 😉

LISTEN

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The life of an Instagram post

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Image by Wells Baum

The first five minutes in the life of an Instagram post are key. This is your ‘hype’ period where the velocity of likes predetermines the organic reach of your content.

As the clock strikes 11 AM, your goal is to publish something you know people will like, not what you think they’ll like. Predictability is the name of the game. There’s little room for experimentation, the freedom of trial and error.

Instagram went from a tool for seeing to a competition of optimizing an algorithm, which seems to emphasize its users’ activity on the platform. Instagram rewards its members with more attention if they like and follow other people’s accounts. The social network wants you to act like a bot so it can sell your rabid activity to advertisers.

We are all Instagram’s participants and its workers, chomping at the bit for more followers and thus more credibility. The expectations hamper creativity and reward conformity and mechanical behavior. It’s all a bit banal, addictive more than exciting.

If you care about the art of photography, you’ll have to go elsewhere.

One infinite loop

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  • Smart watches
  • Kindle books
  • Spotify streams

The newest technologies erode their physical counterparts, but they also revitalize interest in the old stuff.

The sensory, tactile experience of analog items as those listed above literally feel more special. They are stimulants: the subtle noise of a telltale “tick-tock,” the fresh smell of an unopened book, or the surface noise of vinyl, not to mention the album art that doubles as real-life Instagrams to make fancy wall art

People want reality. They want to disconnect from the internet’s dizzying pace and reconnect to those micro moments.

Nature nurtures and refocuses our sense of being. We are more than just robots seeking the temporary therapy of distraction.

Love and science

The micro-moment is an interaction, between you and hugging your neighbor, between you and smiling at the baby on a plane, between you and the temporary connection to the stranger in the UPS delivery truck.

The warmth of everyday greetings makes you healthier, says Professor Barbara Fredrickson in her book Love 2.0: Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection

“When you really connect with another person a beautifully choreographed biological dance is unfolding.”

The micro-moments add up, from the brain to the heart via the vagus nerve. Every interaction is, therefore, an opportunity to increase your happiness. So tune up the love: give and receive to improve your heart health.

 

“I work on what matters.”

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Derek Parfit (image via Gail Campbell)

How many of us toil with trifling matters, some of it out of economic frailty, but most of it out of the indecision to do what we think we’re here on Earth to accomplish. For philosopher Derek Parfit, philosophy was his calling, and he worked on it diligently until the day he died.

“I work on what matters.”

What matters isn’t necessarily chasing a pipe dream, being a Hollywood star, or even a political activist, what is important can just be something of calling. In other words, what matters isn’t always what’s popular.

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Postponement…

Image via Ander Burdain

The foundation pen: it slows down your writing thereby strengthening the complexity/simplicity of your thoughts. At some point the prose will need to be digitized.  

Global warming: it accelerates the seasons so the weather is fickle all the time. We are living in the data without imminent catastrophe, hence the lack of urgency. 

Nationalism: its rerise imbalances world order, making countries ripe to engage in games of zero-sum. An empire falls. 

We sacrifice the long-game for short-term gains. The little things add up until they trigger an emergency. Yet, the alarm was on the whole time. 

Searching for solitude

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Image via Elisabetta Foco

We live in an era of the abundance of information, disinformation, and echo chambers where “people select their own reality by deliberately avoiding information that threatens their happiness and wellbeing.”

The main reason I stopped using Twitter was that it hijacked my focus, made me think in 140 characters which is a beautiful constriction but also one bereft of context. Twitter also made me feel trapped in a room of sameness, where people agreed with each other and sang each other’s hosannas. In the search for silence and deeper thinking, I had to remove myself from contributing to the noise.

Says co-authors Justin Talbot-Zorn and Leigh Marz in a recent HBR article: searching for silence in the era of distraction is more important than ever.

Cultivating silence, as Hal Gregersen writes in a recent HBR article, “increase[s] your chances of encountering novel ideas and information and discerning weak signals.” When we’re constantly fixated on the verbal agenda—what to say next, what to write next, what to tweet next—it’s tough to make room for truly different perspectives or radically new ideas. It’s hard to drop into deeper modes of listening and attention. And it’s in those deeper modes of attention that truly novel ideas are found.

Perhaps I was short-sighted in arguing a few years ago that we should produce as much as we consume. We snack in excess and therefore feel compelled to create/reshare in abundance. Perhaps more significant is saying and doing nothing with our time.

It is in boredom we find ourselves and originate our own private thoughts.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”— Ralph Waldo Emerson

What’s your brand’s ‘leitmotiv?’

Image via Radek Grzybowski
Burberry’s Britishness. Red Bull’s energy and fearlessness. Prada’s edginess and bold product design.

The leitmotiv, as the German composer Richard Wagner called it, is the signature concept of your brand that makes it impossible to ignore. For Wagner, his music was the key ingredient to his theatrical performances.

Similarily, brand leitmotiv makes the businesses listed above so memorable. They all produce a variety of content evoking their imaginations. They create emotional experiences across all touch points whether you’re in the store or streaming one of their live events online.

Whether a brand, band, or individual, it’s important to project an ethos that represents your inherit values. You shouldn’t have to reveal your message, the crowd should already feel it.

What do you stand for? What do want to be known for? And what things do you make and market to lace it altogether?

Read The Power Of Leitmotiv

Newsletter: Ideas are sensory stimulants 💡

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web gems

  1. “The greatest secret of a powerful memory is to bring information to life with your endless imagination.” I’m reading World Memory Champion Kevin Horsley’s book Unlimited Memory so I can learn how to make better mental movies.
  2. Everything is design. These images of abandoned insane asylums show architecture that was designed to heal. Meanwhile, photographers have photographed the eerie industrial cities in China where no one lives.
  3. CEO of 3D Robotics and former Wired editor in chief Chris Anderson explains why “phones and drones are “negentropic” devices” that get better over time because of upgrades in software. Cars and homes, on the other hand, are ‘entropic’ devices that decline with age.
  4. “As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence,” said Lao Tzu. Democracy is nimble. Here’s a primer on the term deep state. Like me, you may be asking so who’s really in control?
  5. Quote I’m chewing on: “I don’t really worry about the reward, but to set in motion the machinery to achieve it. My contribution will be the measure of my reward and success.” — Bruce Lee
  6. Minimalism is “one of the most gratuitous displays of privilege out there.” Here’s a Louis Vuitton an iPhone case that costs seven iPhones.

digging in the crates

  1. Greymatter is Brighton-based electronic producer Graham Luckhurst. After a two-year hiatus of being “pigeonholed into deep house,” he’s back with his new album No Blood Without on his very own label Unique Uncut. | LISTEN
  2. Forest Swords is The Wirral/Liverpool-based electronic producer Matthew Barnes. On his latest track ‘The Highest Flood,’ Barnes continues lacing smooth dub to haunting ghostly hooks. I suspect there are more “ancient grinds” to come. | LISTEN
  3. Parisian producer Edn Hak makes his own Burial-esque interpretation on his new Reapers EP. ‘Wanderer’ is one of the standout cuts. It crackles on the surface before dipping into delicate, heartwarming samples and kicks. | LISTEN

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