Newsletter: The History of Nostalgia, The Advantage Of Being A Little Underemployed, new tunes from Yasmine Hamdan and more

63.350.202.38.38
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.”

collaborativefund.com

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

shanti-184-770x513 (1)

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

17545342_1032753060157788_9164693181444430355_o (1)

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.


For more interesting reads and new music, follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or the Twitter feed. You can also subscribe to the blogs: wellsbaum.blog and bombtune.comIf you dig the blogs and want to support them, make a donation, buy a book, or email this post to a friend.

Advertisements

Storytelling released humans from the prison of biology

liz-bridges-74733

We control the world basically because we are the only animals that can cooperate flexibly in very large numbers. And if you examine any large-scale human cooperation, you will always find that it is based on some fiction like the nation, like money, like human rights. These are all things that do not exist objectively, but they exist only in the stories that we tell and that we spread around. This is something very unique to us, perhaps the most unique feature of our species.

You can never, for example, convince a chimpanzee to do something for you by promising that, “Look, after you die, you will go to chimpanzee heaven and there you will receive lots and lots of bananas for your good deeds here on earth, so now do what I tell you to do.”

But humans do believe such stories and this is the basic reason why we control the world whereas chimpanzees are locked up in zoos and research laboratories.

— Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

The mind helped humans escape the prison of biology but not all of its fabrications; some of us still think a map represents the territory and that the Earth is flat.

Stimulation to zero

eugene-triguba-142944.jpg

What’s new isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s simply an adaption of something old. Facebook is the modern newspaper. Google is the modern phone book. Wikipedia is the newest encyclopedia. Spotify is the record store. Netflix is Blockbuster, etc.

Digital technology is constantly reformatting experiences from the real world. But occasionally something completely new emerges and transforms society forever. The first transformative innovation was the railroad. The second was the Internet. These discoveries changed society and culture in every way. We still ride trains. And we’ll be using some iteration of the Internet 100 years from now.

But unlike the old days, all this technology provides too much choice. All you can eat subscriptions and ubiquitous connectivity create a constant need for discovery. There’s zero scarcity. Files are in infinite inventory and the web is the biggest copy-paste machine.

People crave newness today faster and more than ever. We expect the likes to come in the second after we share something on Instagram. Newton laid the groundwork: for every action, there’s a reaction, but I don’t think he imagined a world where the return would be so instant.

Newness fulfills nowness. Stimulation is the newest obsession.

via Daily Prompt: None

Think about what you want to do, not be

img_5674

Nothing goes to waste. It all cross-pollinates.

Picasso’s sculpture work bled into his paintings, as did his work in theater.

What we want to pursue are our interests, not what they should amount to. Seek a lifestyle rather than a categorization.

“Work as hard as much as you want to on the things you like to do the best. Don’t think about what you want to be, but what you want to do!”

Richard Feynman

via Daily Prompt: Lifestyle

Deep state

img_4487

The power of continuous small actions from a plurality of groups can, when added up, deconstruct a traditional organized system.

You don’t have to be an elected official or celebrity artist to influence the outcome of larger events. Like a swarm of bees, a group or groups of groups can suffocate the whole.

But it’s not quite clear who exactly, professionals, lobbyists, or the collaborative stealth is playing the most rational actor. Such is a deep state.

via Daily Prompt: Control

The history of braille

giphy-8

Braille has its roots in the French army. In the early eighteenth century, a soldier named Charles Barbier de la Serre invented a code for military messages that could be read in the trenches at night without light; it used patterns of twelve raised dots to represent phonemes. The system was too complicated for the beleaguered soldiers to master, but when Barbier met Louis Braille, who had been blind since boyhood, the latter simplified the system into the six-dot version used ever since. Braille is not a language per se but rather a code by which other languages, from English to Japanese to Arabic…

Originally posted on wellsbaum.com