‘Life is a movie; death is a photograph’

Intelligence is really a kind of taste- taste in ideas.”- Susan SontagFailure is notan option (4)

“Life is a movie; death is a photograph.”

— Susan Sontag, from her first published novel The Benefactor (1969)

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What remains of it

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Photo by Wells Baum

A person who hesitates is not necessarily lost. They could be chewing on their thoughts, piecing together what’s worth remembering.

Pausing does not make a procrastinator, just as disinfluency does not unsettle the words of a writer.

The advantage of doing things slowly is doing them with consistent intent. What remains is important.

We can gather string for years, researching a topic for days on end. But we have nothing to show for it unless we spend the time to piece it all together.

We act, think, edit, curate, and deduce all at the same time, to align reality and imagination to the speed of our pen.

A brain without a body

Artificial intelligence is like a brain without a body. Instead of billions of neurons, computers contain bits and bytes of varying voltage levels so it can do stuff like provide directions or beat humans at chess.

Deep Blue beat Kasparov not by matching his insight and intuition but by overwhelming him with blind calculation. Thanks to years of exponential gains in processing speed, combined with steady improvements in the efficiency of search algorithms, the computer was able to comb through enough possible moves in a short enough time to outduel the champion.

Machines have faster processors. Even the most effective Ritalin in the world would leave a person at a loss. Yet, AI is a factory of nothingness without human programming. It is ‘competent without comprehension,’ although the human mind often falls guilty to automatic pilot.

The future superhuman will no doubt combine the two to make a cyborg.  We’re a brain chip away from the computer-powered brain, scampering closer to a new culture of memes galore.

 

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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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If you’re struggling to get started, do it badly

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Perfection is the antithesis of inspiration; it prevents you from getting started.

The trick to getting going is to do it badly. Be intentionally messy.

Producing crap isn’t the end-goal. The point of taking small actions is to create enough momentum to feel like we’re winning.

What sustains persistence are small improvements. You’re looking to go from one pushup a day to two the next week. You’re trying to walk five thousand steps a day before graduating to six thousand. You’ll need to write one-hundred words day after day before developing the muscle to get down two-hundred words on a consistent basis. By the way, there is no such thing as writer’s block!

Do small things to get started — not matter how poorly — to avoid second-guessing yourself and to prime the motivational pump.

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.

Trust your internal compass

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One of the oldest surviving maps (the Babylonian Map of the World) is “about the size and shape of an early iPhone.” But it too was artifice and spin.

“The map is not the territory, said Polish-American scientist Alfred Korzybski. Maps are deceiving representations of reality. 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.”

Maps drive conquest, gentrification, taxes, and voting polls. Google Maps, as Google does, gives us the turn-by-turn directions to a final destination. But we trust GPS a little too much yet remain frustrated and bewildered when the software leads us into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on the way to Rhode Island.

And we thought Google had all the answers! Blame the humans, not the machines.

Faulty computer intelligence reminds humans that our devices are imperfect just like us and that perhaps, we should continue to leverage our internal compass.

Noticing things 

Photo by Wells Baum
It’s difficult to notice things when we’ve seen them a thousand times. So we walk the same path, use the same apps and listen to the same music, without noticing the notes in between. 

We become accustomed to our habits and surroundings we do things on automatic.

Everyone’s got an eye for something. The difference is in how we compel ourselves to see.

Let’s take up the observational challenge to travel in our own backyard to take notes, snap pictures, and try to get unfamiliar with fresh eyes. 

In making the banal interesting, we can live more inspired lives.

Fear is never as bad as it seems

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Most fears are irrational.

When we let what we’re scared of drive our decision-making, we seek safety which mostly means inaction. Like algae, we prefer to stay local, isolated from the from the sun that feeds us with its light.

So how can we get where we want to go when a constant state of dread lies in our way?

When stuck in doubt, heed the words of Stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger: “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” The amygdala exaggerates our anxieties.

If we’re courageous enough, we’ll say yes and do it anyway.

Fear is both natural and artificial; if used wisely, it can be the impetus for action.

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.