‘The price of being a sheep is boredom. The price of being a wolf is loneliness.’

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“The price of being a sheep is boredom. The price of being a wolf is loneliness. Choose one or the other with great care.”

Hugh Macleod, Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity

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Do you hear ‘Yanny’ or ‘Laurel’ in this audio illusion?

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The web talked up a storm yesterday over an audio clip that purportedly pronounced one of two words depending on your ears: Yanny or Laurel.

Here’s the clip. Which do you hear?

While the majority of listeners report hearing “Yanny,” myself included (I listened on my laptop), hearing scientist Brad Story at the University of Arizona reveals that that waveform actually reveals “laurel.”

 So, with a low quality recording (as is the one in question) and a wide variety of devices on which people are listening, it is not surprising that some might hear something like ‘yanny.’

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Via Brad Story

Your auditory perception ultimately depends on your sound card and your ears, with higher or lower frequencies impacting the results. But your brain and previous experiences are also variables, as is how people see the cue in their timelines and fill in the rest with the imagination. Writes The Verge:

…the visual prompt that comes with the audio, Yanny or Laurel. That might help shape what people hear. Here’s another example of how prompts shape what we hear: the same word can sound like “bill,” “pail,” or “mayo” depending on what’s on-screen.

The sound debate reminds me of a quote I read recently in one of Paul Theroux’s travel books. He writes: “I’ve got a theory that what you hear influences – maybe even determines – what you see.”

Like the disputed blue and black or white and gold dress, the Yanny vs Laurel divide will rage on.

What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

The illusion of a sole genius

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Upon winning the MacArthur Fellow award for creating unconvential, immersive opera experiences, Yuval Sharon didn’t feel like he was a ‘genius’ in any sense of the word.

The fellowship is also known as “the genius grant” although the organization steers clear of using the term in its to describe MacArthur Fellows ““because it connotes a singular characteristic of intellectual prowess.” Yuval Sharon felt the same way.

In his LA Review op-ed, he elaborates:

The Foundation probably takes pains to say this because so many people find something deeply uncomfortable about the concept of “genius” — its exclusionary implications and air of elitism; a Romanticism that seems out of step with contemporary (let alone everyday) life; the affirmation of canonical standards set by … who exactly? Any person mature enough to strive for self-awareness finds the moniker embarrassing, and only an unstable narcissist could ever self-apply the title without shame.

Perhaps there are only a few true geniuses: Leonardo Da Vinci, Einstein, and most recently, Steve Jobs. The author Walter Isaacson has written biographies on all three.

But no genius is truly original, as Brian Eno alludes to. A genius is merely part of what he calls a ‘scenius,’ a community of fellow artists who share similiar interests and collaborate, helping prop up the most notable. Says Yuval:

Moments, ideas, a single poem in a collection — a work of genius, no matter how individually wrought — is never the product of a single individual. We should stop thinking of genius as an attribute and instead start to think of it as a condition, a circumstance.

Genius is social and participatory

This notion of a sole genius reduces the collective nature of people. The world participates in the process of creation no matter how one artist tries to individuate their craft. Yuval sums it up nicely:

I spent part of the day reading about the other Fellows in my class and found myself feeling so inspired by their dedication and accomplishments in fields far removed from my own. The world seemed bigger. This may be where the “genius” moniker is still useful: by calling out examples of how and where the endlessly searching attendant spirit still visits the world. Because anyone, anywhere, can participate in it.

These owls in a Tokyo cafe are named after musician and band names 🦉

James Mollison of TOPIC ventured into one of Tokyo’s animal cafes where you can sip your coffee with your animal of choice (cats, dogs, and rabbits). But this coffee shop was a little different.

Tokyo’s Pakuchi Bar is apparently one of eight owl cafes in the big city. The owner, Tomo Nanaka, owns 30 of them which she allows in public on the weekends and on special holidays. Even more, she’s named them after musicians and bands.

Below are a some of my favorite.

From left to right: Kurt Cobain, The Chemical Brothers, Beck, and The Cure.

There’s a video too.

(All images via James Mollison)

The placebo effect of a good luck charm

NASA engineers eat peanuts before every launch as a lucky charm. Picasso held on to his fingernail clippings to maintain his spiritual “essence.”

You can more read about artists and their peculiar amulets in Ellen Weinstein’s new book Recipes for Good Luck: The Superstitions, Rituals, and Practices of Extraordinary People.

Why do some creators hold onto some strange and unique amulets?

The primary reason for holding on to such talismanic devices is to establish an aura of positivity. As artists, the muse sometimes works against you, wanting you to fail or hide. Hanging on to or wearing an object of fortune allays those fears and sets the tone for confident action.

Elle photographer Gilles Bensimon likes to surround his photo shoots with items from his collection. You can see them on display at the Gobbie Fine Art gallery in New York. Writes Quartz:

Crafted from found objects—string and bottle caps from Phuket, a cracked mask from Venice, a piece of sea glass from Long Island, New York—the 74-year-old celebrity photographer uses them to ward off bad vibes on his set.

But lucky charms go beyond the workplace and creative endeavors. They also have everyday importance.

Everyone needs some type of pacifier to calm down, whether it’s the lucky necklace, rock, or prayer they cling onto before takeoff. These items act as security blankets, placebos, and in doing so, instill the confidence to proceed.

As they say, let go (or rather hang on) and let God…

When sharing is forgetting

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We are not only taking too many photographs and spending little time looking at them, but we’re also inhibiting in our memory in the act.

In a recent study done by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, those who document and Instagram their images are consistently less likely to remember their experience compared to the camera-less participants.

Across three studies, participants without media consistently remembered their experience more precisely than participants who used media. There is no conclusive evidence that media use impacted subjective measures of experience. Together, these findings suggest that using media may prevent people from remembering the very events they are attempting to preserve.

Just as we outsource our memory to Google — knowing it’s all too accessible with just a click — so to do we our experiential minds.

While we know our digital images will be archived in iPhoto or Google Photo libraries for eternity, we’ll be unlikely to recall vivid details of the event when we return to look at them.

Writes Susan Sontag in On Photography:

“A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it—by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir. Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.”

Externalizing events is not just limited to the camera. We can impair our memories with a notebook in hand.  Similarly, if we take down every note the teacher repeated in class we are less likely to remember the most important takeaways. If we want to better remember the things we experience, we have to remember to look up every once in a while.

We must compel ourselves our see in order to notice the interesting things in the world around us. Perhaps our inner eye cameras are all we need to remember what we want.

Tesla’s American experience

He left Thomas Edison’s lab. He relinquished his Alternating Current (AC) royalties to Westinghouse to prevent the company from going bankrupt.

Motivated by wonder and awe, he exploited his imagination to foresee the wireless networking and cell phones we have today. “Why can’t we photograph thought?” he once asked.

Tesla was an artist working with dreams and visions but “his medium was electricity.”

'If hate could be turned into electricity, it would light up the whole world.' — Nikola Tesla Click To Tweet

Six months after his death, the US Supreme Court gave the patents for Marconi’s invention of the radio to Tesla: “Telsa, not Marconi, invented radio.”

Tesla was a magician who combined science with science fiction.

This is what happens when you reply to spam email

For three years, writer and comedian James Veitch answered spam email.

“All I’m doing is wasting their time. I think any time they’re spending with me,  is time they’re not spending scamming vulnerable adults of out their savings.”

In a hilarious TED Talk, he details his thread with one spammer who contacted him about a business deal. Into the second week, James got the spammer to start replying in ridiculous code revolving around candy.

Advises Veitch, if you’re going to reply to spammers do it from an anonymous email to avoid a barrage of even more SPAM.

Is flying the last escape in our constantly connected world? ✈️

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Soon enough the good old days of shoddy airplane wifi will be behind us.

The airplane seems to be the only place — the antithesis of the coffee shop — where we have no choice but to disconnect. The internet is either too expensive or too slow to bother using.

And it’s within this big flying capsule that we have no choice but to do other stuff: read, draw, play games, or talk to a seatmate. Riding a plane is a blessing in disguise, showing flashes of the old world of slow media.

In the air, we can’t edit our best selves, nor carve our futures. We are stuck in parallel time, squeezed into intertia by wind and fuel. Unlike the smartphone, airplanes are still stuck in the past.

Writes the Financial Times:

The devices we use daily today are a million times more powerful than any machine from the 1970s. If air travel had improved at the same rate, then you could have left London and arrived in Sydney in less time than it took to read this sentence.

The second we land and grab on to devices, the rectangular glow erases all traces of the conscious tortoise. We are driven back into distraction by candy-colored apps.

Still ignorant, not stupid

A lot of people get dumber after college. It’s not entirely their fault. A job takes up all their time. Besides spending time with family and friends and doing chores — getting on with the business of living — a lot of free time is spent on staring at lite brites for entertainment.

“We think we understand the rules when we become adults but what we really experience is a narrowing of the imagination.” — David Lynch, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity

Experience makes us wiser but not smarter

As we age, we’re able to resolve practical matters with less effort. But therein lies a skewed perception. We accidentally interpret how things usually go as facts rather than acknowledging that’ that’s how the world works now. Change is constant, the possibilities infinite.

An educated person should never stop learning. They should revel in their ignorance, not as an excuse to know less but as a means of staying interested in understanding more.

Hypnogifs by Chris McDaniel

Chris McDaniel is a plumber at a hotel chain in Tampa Bay, Florida. But he’s also a talented GIF artist.

He recently partnered up with illustrators from online print store Society6 to animate some art pieces.

Artwork by Sofia Bonati

I’ve always loved the world of psychedelic art and how people would turn the original art into flashy gifs. I wanted to add to the world of it because I always saw the same things. I ran across some work that George Redhawk did and was fascinated by the motion art. It took me about a year to find out what it was called and how to did it. Once I found out the method, well, you can say the rest is history.

Artwork by Nicebleed

I have a lot of people asking to show them how I do it. But I can’t. If you’re truly passionate about motion art, then you’ll take the time that is required to learn your own style.

Artwork by Kerby Rosanes