Newsletter: ‘No worry before its time’

Below are five links I think you’ll find interesting. As always, listen to a new tune and old gem after the jump.

Edward Penfield, 1896 (via The MET)

Kiss The Good Times Good Bye. We’ve gone from horses to cars to what will be, ‘standardized modules.’ The former product head of General Motors predicts the inevitable future of the auto industry that everyone knows is coming but no one wants to talk about: “nobody will be passing anybody else on the highway. That is the death knell for companies such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. That kind of performance is not going to count anymore.”

Podcast: Ellen Langer with Krista Tippet. Ellen Langer is a social psychologist who has spent 35 years studying mindfulness. She argues that most people go on living mindlessly, not noticing their surroundings until they go on vacation. Instead of forcing ourselves to be present “which doesn’t mean anything,” she encourages people to pursue “the simple act of actively noticing things.” She also agrees with the Stoics that the imagination is always worse than reality; our labeling of experiences (bad or good etc.) shapes our reality. Her adage for treating anxiety: “No worry before its time.”

What Boredom Does to You. Treat boredom as a process, a skill essential to the 21st-century hyper-speed of mobile internet addictiveness. As Steve Jobs once said: “I’m a big believer in boredom. … All the [technology] stuff is wonderful, but having nothing to do can be wonderful, too.”

Why Leonardo da Vinci wrote backward? Leonardo da Vinci wrote backward (mirror writing) because he didn’t want others stealing his ideas. Writes Da Vinci biographer Rachel A. Koestler-Grack: “The observations in his notebooks were written in such a way that they could be read only by holding the books up to a mirror.” But did a genius who combined art and science so brilliantly really need to hide his work? Some authors think he did it to avoid smudging his writing.

Video: Religion Is Nature’s Antidepressant. American neuroendocrinologist and author Robert Sapolsky is an atheist who still believes in the health benefits of religion, highlighting its benevolent and social qualities. “If it is a totally heartless indifferent apathetic universe out there you are far more at risk for all the logical things which is to conclude it is an utterly depressing universe out there. Rates of depression are much higher among atheists… Go figure.”

Thought of the week

“Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.”

Iris Murdoch

New track on loop

Chaos In The CBD – Pressure (2017)

Digging in the crates

Burial – Shell of Light (2007)

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!

Wells Baum (@bombtune)


The freedom of unforced attention

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gif by Wells Baum

We end up aligning with nature’s intent. We see the world through the lens we grow up with. We are the products of our environment, the sum total of our existence.

Yet, we can become a variety of human. We can develop an expanded toolset that includes others. We can shut off stray thoughts and ignore droll distractions, replacing them with dreams of boredom. However, we stay light and loose.

We set the brain roaming with no clear destination in mind, only a feeling of intuition. The freedom of unforced attention makes harmony in the auditory wilderness. The brain functions in a mysterious way to find parity between the blind and the deaf.

Religion is an antidote to stress

American neuroendocrinologist and author Robert Sapolsky is a self-proclaimed atheist but he still believes in the health benefits of religion, with an emphasis on its benevolent and social qualities.

When you’re religious you have fewer lifestyle risk factors. The mere ability to perceive causality, reason, benevolence—“Benevolence especially for people like me if I say the right combination of words and fervently believe in it”—that’s wonderfully protective and there’s health benefits to it.

If it is a totally heartless indifferent apathetic universe out there you are far more at risk for all the logical things which is to conclude it is an utterly depressing universe out there.

Rates of depression are much higher among atheists… Go figure.

It feels good to believe

Religion is a useful tool that provides comfort against the unpredictable nature of life. If it works for you, keep practicing it.


Ta-Nehisi Coates on words that don’t belong to everyone

On a book tour for his lates tbook We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, bestselling author Ta-Nehisi Coates answers a white student who asks if it’s acceptable to sing along with songs that feature the n-word.

Watch how he tees up the answer.

“For white people, I think the experience of being a hip-hop fan and not being able to use the n-word is insightful. It will give you a little peek into the world of what it means to be black. To be black, is to walk through the world and watch people doing things that you cannot do.”

Every variety of thought

Photo by Wells Baum

When we’re young, we’re incorrectly taught to think in absolutes. We apply certainty to everything. The sky is blue. One plus one equals two.

But when we think about it, there are always exceptions and different ways of looking at the obvious. You can stick two pieces of gum together to make one. Says neuroscientist David Eagleman:

“If you could perceive reality as it really is, you would be shocked by its colorless, odorless, tasteless silence.”

We infer the truth based on the probability of our surroundings. But it is in pausing to question the obvious that we stretch our curiosity. If the mind likes to play, let it dance.

The world means nothing without the inquisition of nature.

Stripped of bias

Photo by Wells Baum

Mushy in the middle, stuck amid choices that cancel each other out. We all hear different things.

The pragmatist razor skins down contradictions and chooses the strongest case on both sides.

Rising above sidedness is a lofty goal, the aim of an idealist. But who’s to say one shouldn’t try?

Clinging to the past, never shaping the future. The biggest risk is doing nothing; virtuality is not a panacea for society’s ills.

No ifs, no buts.

The smartphone functions as a proxy for personal identity 

via giphy

The smartphone is an extension of the body. We know when we lose it because we feel empty without it.

“Though its precise dimensions may vary with fashion, a smartphone is fundamentally a sandwich of aluminosilicate glass, polycarbonate and aluminum sized to sit comfortably in the adult hand, and to be operated, if need be, with the thumb only. This requirement constrains the device to a fairly narrow range of shapes and sizes; almost every smartphone on the market at present is a blunt slab, a chamfered or rounded rectangle between eleven and fourteen centimeters tall, and some six to seven wide. These compact dimensions permit the device to live comfortably on or close to the body, which means it will only rarely be misplaced or forgotten, and this in turn is key to its ability to function as a proxy for personal identity, presence and location.”

Read A Sociology of the Smartphone

Newsletter: Music is not for ears 👂🎶

“This Roman god is in fact unlocking his iPhone X using FaceID.” — Tom Standage

Below are five links I think you’ll find interesting. As always, listen to a new tune and old gem after the jump.

web gems

Music is not for ears. Music is a ‘fundamental human experience.’ It is intuited like laughter, a proxy for thought, notes and theories. Sound perception is more than a ‘straightforwardly acoustic phenomenon’ because of the way it conjures ‘imagery, memories, stories, movement and words.’ 

The Future of Fashion. Fashion is losing staying power. The pendulum of trends changes along with the hyper-speed mobile world. The industry’s constant reinvention means that the leading designers are the ones making ‘bold moves and upheavals.’

The Web scientist Michael K. Bergman has compared plugging search terms into Google to dragging a net across the ocean. You may catch something, but there are fathoms you can’t fathom. That’s where we are right now with the impact of digital on design.

Nike’s bestselling Huarache only exists thanks to a disobedient employee. Tinker Hatfield’s Nike Huarache was a prototype that never was supposed to see the light of day. That is, until of the product managers sold 5,000 pairs in three days in New York. The Huarache exoskeleton design is now a Nike staple.

New futuristic Tianjin library is the coolest place to read a book in China. Despite censorship, China has built one of the coolest libraries in the world with 1.2 million books. Check out the gallery. Also worth perusing: Japan’s lonely vending machines by Eiji Ohashi

A smartphone photography study. We are taking more pictures than we have time to deal with. But it’s not all for aesthetics. This graph shows that ‘information to remember’ of wishlists, shopping lists, books to read, etc., is second to ‘scenery’ on the list.

Thought of the week

“The zoo is the epitaph to a relationship.”

John Berger

Musical vitamins

New track on loop

Portico Quartet — A Luminous Beam (2017)

Digging in the crates

Balil – Choke and Fly (1993)

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!

Wells Baum (@bombtune)

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Why food chains are non-places 🍔🌮

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gif via Poly

Chains are the least memorable places we flock to, yet we always know they are there, clustered like neighbors amongst each other. Next to an Applebees is a Target, a Burger King, and a Starbucks. In “Dear Olive Garden, Never Change,” Helen Rosner writes:

“What it means to be a non-place is the same thing it means to be a chain: A plural nothingness, a physical space without an anchor to any actual location on Earth, or in time, or in any kind of spiritual arc. In its void, it simply is.”

Chains are like cues, they remind that they are but they don’t produce a valuable experience. Their strangeness lies in their hookable consumption and their immediate forgottenness. They are just utilities that in the long-run that meet nothing but our hyper-speed desire to eat or drink something quickly.

From New York to California, “chain begets chain.” Like tweets, when there’s too many of them, they drown each other out so that none of them are worth paying attention to until they disappear, like RadioShack.

We never know where we’re going until we get there

All photos by Wells Baum

We never know where we’re going until we get there. Sprinkles of clues pique our curiosity along the way, our mind attracted to them like a magnet.

Gathering years, we take in ideas, perspectives, and discover insights. The mind hunts for grains in the obvious, the obscure, both in the environment and in other people’s minds. Gathering string, we lace it through the freedom of trial and error.

Propelled by the unknown road ahead, we keep walking through the maze of uncertainty. Thoughts simmer in the back of our minds.

It is the contradictions that always make the journey more interesting. A hesitant radical, we dissect what’s clear and unclear in unquenchable persistence.

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The round jumpman

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Photo by Wells Baum

The original Jumpman wasn’t Michael Jordan; it was Mario! But the name didn’t stick because it wasn’t marketable enough according to Minoru Arakawa, Nintendo’s American boss in the early 1980s. Luckily, he got some outside inspiration.

From the Economist:

“His name was an afterthought. Top billing on the game was always going to go to the gorilla. (“Kong”, in the context, was more or less a given; “Donkey” was found by consulting a Japanese-English dictionary for a word meaning silly or stupid.) The protagonist was simply called “Jumpman” for the one thing he was good at. But Minoru Arakawa, the boss of Nintendo in America, wanted a more marketable name. Around that time, writes David Sheff in “Game Over”, an authoritative account of Nintendo’s rise, Mr Arakawa was visited at Nintendo’s warehouse outside Seattle by an irate landlord demanding prompt payment. He was called Mario Segale, and he had a moustache. Thus does destiny call.”

By 1990, the pudgy plumber who gained energy from mushroom fluff became more recognizable than Mickey Mouse. And if the lost hat from a Halloween costume I found on the street yesterday morning is any proof, Mario is still king!

Photo by Wells Baum

‘The zoo is the epitaph to a relationship’


“The zoo is the epitaph to a relationship,” once wrote John Berger. And while this analogy pertains to human domestication of animals in faux environments, it also serves as a metaphor for the fragility of today’s human bonds.

We are alone together separated by a fence of technology. We sit next to each other but share our true thoughts online, hiding behind the protective masks of our glowing devices. We emphasize the “I” without the confidence to look at each other eye to eye.

Combine this narcissistic phenomenon with the hyper-speed race to the bottom of name-calling and provoked antagonism plus the inability to focus on one issue at a time and we lose all sense of objectivity. Compassion, respect, and gratitude vanish into artifacts of the past.

How do we build ourselves back up? For starters, we can slow down and cultivate human decency. After all, we’re all in this together. Recall that the birds turned into fishes only out of the urge of curiosity.